Columbia Journalism Review Interviews Errol Morris

The Columbia Journalism Review has posted an excellent long-form interview with documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, entitled Recovering Reality: Errol Morris on Abu Ghraib.

The interview covers Morris's new project (undertaken with Philip Gourevitch) Standard Operating Procedure, which will examine the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs and their true context. Now, I've talked about Morris several times on this blog, so it's fair to say I'm a fan. But ever since I saw an online video from last October showing Morris and Gourevitch discussing Abu Ghraib for The New Yorker, I've been dying to see the new film -- but also dreading it, due to its subject matter. The film isn't here yet (it comes out on April 25), but there's certainly plenty of discussion with Morris to tide me over in the meantime.

The CJR interview has much to do (unsurprisingly) with issues of journalism and truth. Here's a representative sample:

None of your films has been particularly concerned with what we might call balanced journalism. In Standard Operating Procedure, the point of view largely belongs to the soldiers who took the photographs and were subsequently indicted. What is your aversion to stories that employ a more traditional weighing of arguments?

I don't believe that's journalism. I'm sorry. [laughs] Take a clear example: I made this film, The Thin Blue Line, about a murder case in Dallas. Is the job of a journalist simply to have everybody weigh in on what his or her viewpoint might be? Or should the journalist find out what really happened? Is it a matter of indifference whether [the suspect] is guilty or innocent? Is it just something that we should have a vote on -- as if a vote can determine what actually transpired in reality?

That doesn't mean you don't interview people with different points of view, different beliefs, different ideas. Of course you do. You interview lots and lots and lots of people, and look at lots of different kinds of evidence. But a journalist's job -- and I do think of myself as a kind of journalist -- is to try and ferret out what really happened; to ferret out the truth. Did these soldiers, these "seven bad apples," create all of this stuff? One of the things that we learn in the movie is that when they arrive at Abu Ghraib, a lot of this stuff is already in place: the stress positions, the cement bags, the hooding, stripping prisoners naked, sleep deprivation. It was there to begin with. It was there when they walked in. I think that is a very, very important detail. People know very little about this place: what happened there, where these policies came from, whether they were in fact policies, what they were hoping to achieve.

After the jump, check out a (beautifully shot) video showing part of the interview.

Note that the video doesn't cover the entire text of the interview. Morris fans will likely want to read the printed interview as well.

See also: Standard Operating Procedure web site; Errol Morris's web site.

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Courtesy of October Films
This Scientist's Idea of the 'Perfect' Human Body Is Kind of Terrifying
Courtesy of October Films
Courtesy of October Films

The perfect human body has the legs of an ostrich, the heart of a dog, and the eyes of an octopus, according to anatomist Alice Roberts. And it’s utterly terrifying.

With the help of anatomical artist Scott Eaton and special effects designer Sangeet Prabhaker, Roberts created a life-size replica of herself that fixes many design flaws inherent to the human body, Motherboard reports. Roberts unveiled the sculpture on April 23 at the Science Museum in London. On June 13, the BBC released a documentary about the project.

Among the flaws Roberts’s sculpture corrects are humans’ inferior ears, spine, and lungs. Roberts borrowed anatomy from reptiles, birds, and other mammals to create a Frankenstein-esque creature straight from the island of Dr. Moreau.

The sculpture of Alice 2.0, left, with Alice Roberts, right
Courtesy of October Films

The sculpture has legs like an ostrich because, as Roberts says on her website, the human knee is complex and prone to failure. Like humans, ostriches are bipedal, but they are far better runners. Bird-like lungs that keep air flowing in one direction, not two, make running and other aerobic activities easier for the perfect human to manage. And a chimpanzee’s sturdier spine and a dog’s heart (which has more connected arteries, leading to lower heart attack risk) make Roberts’s alternate self more resistant to injury and disease.

Robert’s ideal human body also has skin like a frog that can change shades based on the environment, and large, bat-like ears that amplify sound. Roberts also fixed humans’ backwards retina, which produces a natural blind spot, by borrowing from octopus eye anatomy.

Perhaps most disturbing of all is the baby head poking out of the sculpture’s marsupial pouch. Roberts says marsupial pregnancy would be far easier on the human body and more convenient for parents on the go.

“This could be a human fit for the future,” Roberts says at the end of a trailer for her BBC documentary.

[h/t Motherboard]

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iStock
Employees at Antarctica's McMurdo Station Are Throwing a Party for Pride Month
iStock
iStock

Employees at Antarctica's McMurdo Station are gearing up to celebrate Pride month in one of the world's harshest environments. On Saturday, June 9, the station will host what Hannah Valian, who deals with the center's recycling efforts, calls "one of the larger parties ever thrown" at the station.

McMurdo Station is an Antarctic research facility owned and operated by the United States. The station is more sparsely populated during Antarctica's colder autumn and winter seasons (which run from March to September), but employees tell us there's still a decent-sized LGBTQ scene to celebrate this June.

About 10 of the 133 people currently at McMurdo identify as LGBTQ, says Rachel Bowens-Rubin, a station laboratory assistant. Valian said the idea for a Pride celebration came up in May at one of the station's regular LGBTQ socials.

"Everyone got really excited about it," she tells Mental Floss via email. "So we ran with it."

Ten individuals are wearing coats while holding a rainbow-colored Pride flag. They are standing in snow with mountains in the distance.
"I hope when people see this photo they'll be reminded that LGBTQ people aren't limited to a place, a culture, or a climate," McMurdo's Evan Townsend tells Mental Floss. "We are important and valuable members of every community, even at the bottom of the world."
Courtesy of Shawn Waldron

Despite reports that this is the continent's first Pride party, none of the event's organizers are convinced this is the first Pride celebration Antarctica has seen. Sous chef Zach Morgan tells us he's been attending LGBTQ socials at McMurdo since 2009.

"The notion is certainly not new here," he says.

To Evan Townsend, a steward at the station, this weekend's Pride event is less a milestone and more a reflection of the history of queer acceptance in Antarctica.

"If anything," Townsend says, "recognition belongs to those who came to Antarctica as open members of the LGBTQ community during much less welcoming times in the recent past."

This week, though, McMurdo's employees only had positive things to say about the station's acceptance of LGBTQ people.

"I have always felt like a valued member of the community here," Morgan tells us in an email. "Most people I've met here have been open and supportive. I've never felt the need to hide myself here, and that's one of the reasons I love working here."

Saturday's celebration will feature a dance floor, photo booth, lip sync battles, live music, and a short skit explaining the history of Pride, Valian says.

"At the very least, I hope the attention our Pride celebration has garnered has inspired someone to go out and explore the world, even if they might feel different or afraid they might not fit in," Morgan says. "'Cause even on the most inhospitable place on Earth, there's still people who will love and respect you no matter who you are."

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