Monday, March 27, 2017


Title shot: a film essay

Grant Slater ( and I share an alma mater, Northwestern University.  More accurately he shares Ivan Doig’s alma mater, since he is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism, as was Doig.  I was in what was then called the “School of Speech,” now called “Communication Studies” and quite different than it was.

Slater calls himself a “moving image maker” and that’s exactly right.  Behind his photography is always a story that is moving, not because it is video, but because it is so deeply emotional, down in the gut where we used to try to reach as actors.  So this blog post will “quote” a lot by giving you links.  It will be what we used to try to define as a “vook,” meaning a book that moved across media to include image, interview, music, and thought.  Some are meant to be marketing persuasion, which is somewhat stigmatized, so I’ll start there.  Here’s a nice piece for VISA.  You see how appealing it is?  

Here’s the second Slater vid I saw — I only found him this morning — and this one is marketing FEAR.  It’s about Trump, but more than that.  The title is SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS.  The epigram is “Tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy […] the greatest and most savage slavery out of the extreme of freedom.” From Plato’s The Republic.”  

I’m reluctant to post the link because I’m AFRAID some people are going to love this and repeat it a lot.  They will not see it as an advertisement meant to make it easier to drive us into obedience to tyrants, but rather as an advertisement for BECOMING a tyrant, even if only in drinking establishments among “friends.”  Or at home with women and children one can tyrannize.  Maybe it’s safer to provide this link now that Trump has proven what a lying fantasist he is.  But this is almost Leni Resinthenthal, famous as Hitler’s cinematographer who made Olympic Competitors into soaring supermen.

My other fear is that good people will be so afraid of these images that they will try to suppress them so they don’t have to think about them.  We’ve got to have the guts to really look.

Now here’s the link to Slater’s antidote, which is how I came to his work today because picked it up for the day’s set of essays.  I skip a lot of the print essays, but I always watch the short vids.  They never disappoint.  This one is relevant to prairie life, far to the north, where Bob and I once went moose hunting and where my father’s family pioneered for a while.

It’s about global warming, the thawing of the permafrost, in this case in Siberia, but the same phenomenon is happening here in Canadian territory.  The scientist who wants to bring back the woolly mammoth is a visionary.  We are more likely to send out elephants in sweaters, but at Harvard they’re working on reverse engineering elephant genes.  Since there are mammoth carcasses that were flash-frozen with browsed buttercups still in their mouths, the genes of mammoths are at hand.  But this man and his son are not waiting — they’re putting the original beasts: wild horses, musk oxen, caribou, back on the land.  Since these beasts are being crowded out of their habitat in North America, it’s only a transportation problem.  So far no grizzlies, but if we’re sending them to zoos, this might be an excellent alternative.

At a long ago conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment ( in Banff, there was a woman called “Barney” whose proper name has escaped my aging brain.  The premise of her talk was that sustainable prairie requires a balance between something like an elephant to knock down trees and something bovine to graze back brush.  The men in the permafrost project are imitating the elephant by smashing trees back mechanically, which is why they want mammoths back.  

They say that when the cities have been bombed to radioactive rubble by the Tyrants, since the glamour and power of humans have been conveniently gathered into targets, what will be left will be grass.  They say that the land around the Hanford Reactor in Washington State is radioactive but that the small animals — the squirrels and foxes — have adapted much better than they did to human doings.  Same in Russia and Japan where radioactivity accidents cleared out the people.

Now I’m going to shut up with the print chatter so there is time left for you to explore Slater’s work.  This long sequence he calls “longtelegram.

You can also find his work at

No comments: