June 2008 Archives

A Homeless Person - Courtesy of Joshua Sherurcij



The number homeless people in the United States can vary greatly at any single point in time. The vast majority of homeless Americans are only homeless for a short period of time; and usually it is due to very specific circumstances, after a natural disaster for example, or a long period without work after a job loss, a death in the family, things like that.

Using the current flooding problems as a current example, there will be a short term influx of homeless people in the United States without a doubt, but the vast majority of those people will have a home again very soon.

The real issue is all of the people that are homeless and have been homeless for a very long time now. These people are not going to find a home any time soon. The majority of them suffer from mental health issues, often times very severe mental health issues, or they have substance abuse problems; and the help available to them is vastly inadequate for how extensive the issue is.

Another part of the equation that needs to be taken into account is the fact that the amount of homeless veterans is hugely out of balance with the percentage of American veterans as a whole of the population. It clearly shows that veterans are not receiving the level of treatment that they deserve here in the United States. Our veterans need and deserve proper care, no matter what their problem is.

I have currently estimated the amount of actual homeless people in the United States at over .0333% of the population, over one hundred thousand of our fellow Americans. As I said above, the number of homeless people in the United States varies greatly at any point in time; but what I am concerned with here are real homeless people that have very little chance of getting out of their homelessness.

Real homeless people are what we need to focus on. Over one hundred thousand Americans: Men, women and children, usually with extreme mental or substance abuse problems, problems that they have little hope in overcoming, problems that they have little support for.

Leni Riefenstahl Directing Tiefland

 

Leni Riefenstahl's next cinematic work was very likely made specifically for Adolf Hitler himself. The film was financed by Hitler through the German government; it is a film version of Adolf Hitler's favorite opera: Tiefland by Eugen d'Albert.

Based on the great Catalan writer Àngel Guimerà's 1896 play Terra baixa; Eugen d'Albert's Tiefland was his seventh and most famous Opera; though not immediately popular, the opera would garner international acclaim shortly after it was reworked by d'Albert in 1907.

Tiefland would be Leni Riefenstahl's last full length feature film. Once again she would direct, write, star, edit, and produce the film. I've seen the film and it is a very high quality work, it's a very artistic film and I feel that Leni Riefenstahl's vision is well supported, especially taking into consideration that the film was created during such a hectic time in her life, and of course a very hectic time for the entire world.

 

Leni Riefenstahl Writing Tiefland

 

While Tiefland is not quite as much of a breakthrough as Leni Riefenstahl's great work done in Triumph of the Will and Olympia; Tiefland is full of extremely high quality, beautiful shots, and I believe it to be a fine film overall.

The one draining issue with Tiefland is that some of the actors were taken out of concentration camps and put to work on the film. Both Sinti and Roma gypsies were taken from concentration camps nearby wherever the shooting location was at the time.

It's said that the actors in the film were later put to death at some point after returning to the concentration camps. Whether that is true is unknown to me, but it seems that it was likely unknown to Leni Riefenstahl if it were true, as she denied anything like that ever happening. Regardless of the fact that many of the actors in the film were gypsies, or whether they were being forced into doing the work or not, or whether they were killed by the Nazi's at some point after the filming was finished; we have to realize that it was a terrible situation for them, as well as many other people during World War II, but it is a fact of Germany from that period in time, one that we have to accept and deal with.

It's unknown to me how Leni Riefenstahl treated her actors, but I can't see it as having been too bad, certainly not as bad as what was happening to them inside of their concentration camps; taking into account the fact that she was acting right there along with them. Who can say how they were treated while in her presence and working with her though.

Leni Riefenstahl's Portrait

Leni Riefenstahl's next film was another work for Hitler and the Nazi party, filmed and released the same year that Triumph of the Will was released, 1935. It is another documentary / propaganda piece filmed at the annual Nazi rally held in Nuremburg, entitled Tag der Freiheit! -- Unsere Wehrmacht! (Day of Freedom! -- Our Armed Forces!). It's a short film glorifying the German army. It is not quite up to the artistic merits of her previous works, especially Triumph of the Will, but it is a quality work for what it is; basically it's a showcase of the German army and how they operate.

The film was created due to the German army's lack of exposure in the brilliant Triumph of the Will. As such they were upset and wanted a film of their own, they went to Hitler with their concerns and Hitler accepted their idea and put it through to Riefenstahl.

Sadly the 1935 Nazi party rally in Nuremburg was the point in which the Nazi ideologies on the Jewish people would begin to further come to light and be implemented. Known as the Nuremberg Laws, they are one of the first of many black marks on the history of Leni Riefenstahl and her work, Adolf Hitler, the Nazi party, and much of the German population. The Nuremberg Laws were of course some of the first official discrimination laws against the Jewish people by the Nazi party.

 

Leni Riefenstahl Directing Olympia

Riefenstahl's next film was Olympia, in which she brilliantly documents the 1936 Summer Olympics. It is Leni Riefenstahl's last groundbreaking work in film (though not her last film). It is another masterwork, along with Triumph of the Will, Olympia is her greatest work in film; I can't quite say for sure which one I enjoy more or which was more of a breakthrough, both are cinematic masterpieces.

Olympia is a truly brilliant work. Known for its technical achievements, Leni uses advanced techniques in the process of creating the film, such as; tracking shots, everyone is aware of tracking shots today, but they certainly weren't as aware of them before Leni Riefenstahl; extreme close-ups, everyone knows what an extreme close-up is now, but very few knew what it was in 1936; smash-cut editing, which is now commonly used to give the viewer a quick snap, a wakeup call if you will, they weren't happening before Olympia; as well as cleverly angled and designed shots and lighting techniques; slow-motion techniques; and much more. The film showcases her absolute brilliance as a director in film and as an artist in general.

Before Olympia the vast majority of shots in cinema were done from stationary positions, little camera movement was involved and little variation on top of that. Certainly there were plenty of other great filmmakers both before and during the time of Leni Riefenstahl's classic directing works and I do not mean to discredit them at all. But the fact is that Leni Riefenstahl truly was a great artist and a cinematic visionary; Leni Riefenstahl was a pioneer and she should be seen and respected as such.

Leni Riefenstahl Standing


During the filming of Das Blaue Licht, Leni read Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, and in 1932 she attended a Nazi (National Socialist German Workers' Party) rally, as a great number of Germans did; and as with a great number of her fellow Germans, she was enthralled by Adolf Hitler's rhetoric. Shortly after she had a meeting with Hitler, who told Leni that he enjoyed her work in Das Blaue Licht and elsewhere and would like her to film the upcoming fifth Nazi party rally, in Nuremberg.

Whether she wanted to create the film for herself, or had some sort of incentive or other motive behind its creation is unknown to me. Certainly she must have known that it would be used as a propaganda piece for the Nazi party and for her country; this isn't something that we should be upset over though, many great artists have created pieces for their countries that are seen as propaganda.

Through the opposition of much of the Nazi party and with the support of Hitler she was able to document the rally. The film that Riefenstahl created out of the 1933 Nazi rally in Nuremberg was Der Sieg des Glaubens (Victory of the Faith); which is a film that I haven't seen personally, but a film that I plan on seeing at some point in the future.

Shortly after its release the film was hidden away due to Hitler's orders to execute Ernst Röhm, the leader of the Sturmabteilung (the SA or the brownshirts); as well as many of his lieutenants and other people involved in the initial rise of Nazi power, and the rise of Hitler himself for that matter. The incident is known as the Night of the Long Knives; during which, over several days 90 people were murdered by the Schutzstaffel (the SS) and the Geheime Staatspolizei (the Gestapo). Leni Riefenstahl's feelings on the situation are unknown to me, I'm not aware of her speaking a word about it myself, but I can't imagine that she was too happy over her work being hidden away at the time.

Although the film had to be shelved, Adolf Hitler thought positively of her and her work on Der Sieg des Glaubens and asked Riefenstahl to create another film for the upcoming 1934 Nazi party rally in Nuremburg.



Leni Riefenstahl Directing


The film that Leni Riefenstahl created from the 1934 rally was another breakthrough, this time both a cinematic breakthrough and an artistic breakthrough. That film is Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will).  Riefenstahl shows her masterful control of the camera here; thanks to her tremendous artistic vision, Leni was able to create shots that had never been seen or even dreamed of with a camera. The sheer technical detail and effort that went into making the film is incredible; Leni used 30 cameras and had 120 technicians at her disposal; she had bridges and posts built in the center of Nuremburg; all of the camera placements, the movements, the lighting gantries, everything was specifically set up to Leni Riefenstahl's exact specifications.

Triumph des Willens is truly a great work, one that Leni Riefenstahl worked painstakingly to create to the absolute best of her ability, to fully meet her vision in every possible way. She recorded just over 66 and ½ hours of footage of the rally. Of those sixty-six and one-half hours of footage she edited the film into the brilliant 2 hour long documentary that we know today. The film received many awards, including the 1935 Venice International Film Festival Coppa dell'Istituto Nazionale LUCE award, the National Film Prize for 1934-1935, and the Medaille d'Or & Grand Prix de France in 1937.

The film was lauded at the time of its creation around the world and it has been highly praised by film enthusiasts, it is to this day praised by authorities of the cinematic and artistic realm, as it has from its very first showing. It truly is a masterpiece in documentary and visual filmmaking; no matter if it is considered propaganda or not, no matter if Leni Riefenstahl meant for it to be a propaganda piece or not. The facts remain: The artwork and the mastery of Leni Riefenstahl's work speaks for itself.

Leni Riefenstahl


Leni Riefenstahl has been a very controversial figure for many years now. In this series of articles, I will go over my thoughts and feelings on her life and her work. This is part. 1, covering her early life and first foray into film:

Born Helene Bertha Amalie Riefenstahl in Berlin, Germany on the 22nd of August, 1902; she began her professional and artistic career as a dancer, her dancing style was uniquely her own and widely popular at the time. She continued to express herself through interpretive dance until she injured her knee in her early 20's, at which point she began her acting career.

Her acting career began shortly after the injury to her knee brought her career as a dancer to an end. She had a couple of undocumented and minor rolls, until 1925 when she was finally given the lead role in Arnold Fanck's new mountain film: Der Heilige Berg (The Holy Mountain) as the dancer Diotima.



Leni Riefenstahl Dancing


The role of Diotima was written by Fanck specifically for Leni Riefenstahl. It is the first film that I watched in which Leni Riefenstahl was in front of the camera rather than behind it; it's a quality work with a great many interesting shots and scenes, Fanck does a great job filming the environment. At the time of my first viewing I was not familiar with Leni Riefenstahl's acting, as I said; nor was I familiar with Arnold Fanck's directing; and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by both aspects of the film.

Riefenstahl gives a lovely performance as Diotima; the film also allows us a bit of insight as to what her dancing style and abilities were, which is wonderfully interesting, and I can only imagine that she was an even better dancer before her knee injury.

Leni went on to star in many other mountain films that were also directed by Arnold Fanck, of which I have now seen several. Generally she played an outgoing young girl, a very entertaining part and one that she did very well, which perhaps gives us a bit of insight as to what he personality was like in her youthful days.

Then Leni began her career as a director when the offer was made to her. Her first attempt at directing resulted in the breakthrough film Das Blaue Licht (The Blue Light) in 1932. With the support of Arnold Fanck, Béla Balázs, the production team at Henry R. Sokal-Film of Berlin, and many others; Riefenstahl was not only able to direct her first film, but she also starred in the leading role of the film as Junta; and not only that, but Leni also co-wrote the film, edited the film, and helped to produce the film.

The work was an absolute breakthrough for Riefenstahl. The film launched her new career as a complicated director. One that would lead her to be both praised and criticized, one that was undoubtedly one of the most influential in the history of cinema and film making.

So Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama are leaving their church, the Trinity United Church of Christ. I ask: What is the point of leaving now?

Someone should have told Barack Obama that this is not something that he can just walk away from. You can not erase the past Obama buddy, I'm sorry to break the news to you. You're going to have to live with it. As much as you and your followers don't like the idea of having to deal with the consequences of your own personal actions; I know... It's a hard concept to wrap your head around.

Thankfully I have little doubt that the vast majority of my fellow Americans realize the very same things that I do; as such there is no way that Barack Obama will win the presidency; no matter whom he disowns. Seriously, who's next Obama, your wife Michelle perhaps?

This is nothing more than yet another calculated move made by Barack Obama for his own personal gain. First he didn't want to disown his mentor and pastor, Jeremiah Wright; he then hypocritically does exactly what he said he would not and could not do, but only after Jeremiah Wright made him look bad in public.

Only after coming to realize, or more than likely being told, that disowning Jeremiah Wright was the best decision for his presidential campaign did Barack Obama do so. Only when he realized that there was more to gain on a personal level by disowning him than by keeping him around did Barack Obama do so.

Only after the polls and his handlers told him that leaving his church would be beneficial did Barack Obama so do. That is hypocritical and cowardly. Stand up for what you truly believe in Barack; you can't sit in a "church" for over 20 years listening to hate spew forth from the alter and not believe at least some of is, can you Mr. Obama?

Of course you can't. It's clear to everyone that actually wants to open their eyes and look at the situation logically and without political prejudice, such as me, that Barack Obama is nothing more than a politician, an empty suit, trying to do whatever is best for Barack Obama.

That is all Barack Obama cares about. He doesn't care about the American people or our country. He wants to be the President, it is all that he has on his mind, and it is all that he cares about. Whatever he has to smash through and trample to reach his goal, well they are just sacrifices that must be made for the great good, isn't that right Mr. Obama?

He doesn't care about the Democratic Party or its members. He doesn't care about its leaders or its oldest supporters. He cares about winning this election, above all else. This is extremely obvious, Barack Obama would not have thrown his mentor Jeremiah Wright under his political bus; Barack Obama would not have removed himself from his "church", or which he was a member for over 20 years.

Those are not things that people easily walk away from. Looking back on Barack Obama's much lauded speech on race only confirms this.

Our website is hosted on a dedicated server that is operated by The Planet: For those of you that do not know what The Planet is, they are the world's largest privately held dedicated server company. They merged with Everyones Internet, which ran the EV1servers brand, in mid 2006, which gave them their title of the largest privately held dedicated server company in the world. They have over 22,000 customers and 55,000 servers, their servers host over 2.8 million websites; a massive operation.

Anyway, The Planet had a major fire in their Houston H1 data center and all of the servers there were brought down, our box along with the rest. A transformer in their H1 data center in Houston caught fire, requiring them to take down all of their generators, as they were instructed to do by the fire department. All of the servers in the Houston H1 data center were brought down, some 9,000 servers, which affects over 7,500 of their customers, including us.

It happened Saturday evening at 4:55pm CDT, 5:55pm EDT, in their H1 data center. An electrical gear shorted, creating an explosion and a large fire that knocked down three of the walls surrounding their electrical equipment room. Thankfully no one was injured by either the explosion or the fire.

A good thing for them is that the explosion and the fire did not have any impact on any of their other five data centers. Though that doesn't change the fact that it did impact 7,500 of us, and whatever number of secondary customers they have; countless websites as well, I don't even want to think about the number of sites that had prolonged downtime due to this explosion.

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