Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Exquisitely English (and Amazingly Lucrative) World of London Clerks

It's a Dickensian profession that can still pay upwards of $650,000 per year.

Alex Taylor of Fountain Court Chambers.
Photographer: Nick Ballon for Bloomberg Businessweek

Simon Akam
May 22, 2017, 9:01 PM PDT

At Fountain Court Chambers in central London, the senior clerk is called Alex Taylor. A trim, bald 54-year-old who favors Italian suiting, Taylor isn't actually named Alex. Traditionally in English law, should a newly hired clerk have the same Christian name as an existing member of the staff, he's given a new one, allegedly to avoid confusion on the telephone. During his career, Taylor has been through no fewer than three names. His birth certificate reads "Mark." When he first got to Fountain Court in 1979, the presence of another Mark saw him renamed John. Taylor remained a John through moves to two other chambers. Upon returning to Fountain Court, in 2008, he became Alex. At home his wife still calls him Mark.

Alex/John/Mark Taylor belongs to one of the last surviving professions of Dickensian London. Clerks have co-existed with chimney sweeps and gene splicers. It's a trade that one can enter as a teenager, with no formal qualifications, and that's astonishingly well-paid. A senior clerk can earn a half-million pounds per year, or more than $650,000, and some who are especially entrenched make far more.

Clerks—pronounced "clarks"—have no equivalent in the U.S. legal system, and have nothing in common with the Ivy League–trained Supreme Court aides of the same spelling. They exist because in England and Wales, to simplify a bit, the role of lawyer is divided in two: There are solicitors, who provide legal advice from their offices, and there are barristers, who argue in court. Barristers get the majority of their business via solicitors, and clerks act as the crucial middlemen between the tribes—they work for and sell the services of their barristers, steering inquiring solicitors to the right man or woman.

Clerks are by their own cheerful admission "wheeler-dealers," what Americans might call hustlers. They take a certain pride in managing the careers of their bosses, the barristers—a breed that often combines academic brilliance with emotional fragility. Many barristers regard clerks as their pimps. Some, particularly at the junior end of the profession, live in terror of clerks. The power dynamic is baroque and deeply English, with a naked class divide seen in few other places on the planet. Barristers employ clerks, but a bad relationship can strangle their supply of cases. In his 1861 novel Orley Farm, Anthony Trollope described a barrister's clerk as a man who "looked down from a considerable altitude on some men who from their professional rank might have been considered as his superiors."

Fountain Court is among the most prestigious groups in London practicing commercial law, the branch that deals with business disputes. One day last summer, Taylor gave a tour of the premises, just north of the River Thames. The waiting room had been recently remodeled, with upholstered sofas, low tables, and asymmetrically hung pictures that called to mind an upmarket hotel. Taylor explained that the barristers had tried to walk an aesthetic line between modernity and the heritage that clients expect of people who are sometimes still required to wear a horsehair wig to court. Barristers are self-employed; chambers are a traditional way for them to band together to share expenses, though not profits. The highest-ranking members, barristers who've achieved the rank of Queen's Counsel, are nicknamed silks, after the plush material used to make their robes. But even the silks cannot practice without the services of clerks, who operate from a designated room in each chambers, matching the ability and availability of barristers to solicitors in need.
One woman working at a chambers that threatened clerks' power was spat at. Another found rat poison in her desk

In the Fountain Court clerks room, Taylor sat at the head of a long table, flanked by subordinates wearing telephone headsets. Clerking has historically been a dynastic profession monopolized by white working-class families from the East End of London; Taylor's son is a clerk. Predominantly, clerks hail from Hertfordshire, Kent, and above all Essex, a county that's ubiquitously compared to New Jersey in the U.S. Many clerks rooms in London remain male-dominated, but several women work for Taylor, including two team leaders.

Each morning, a platoon of Taylor's junior clerks sets forth into London pushing special German-manufactured two-wheeled trolleys, equipped with chunky tires for navigating the city's streets and stairs. They're laden with hundreds of pounds of legal documents that must be delivered to Fountain Court barristers at various courtrooms, from the nearby Royal Courts of Justice to the Supreme Court, more than a mile away. Hard physical labor doesn't really correspond to the more senior work of clerking, which is phone- and email-based, and trolley-pushing is often pointed to as a reason for the relative dearth of female clerks higher up the career ladder. One junior Fountain Court clerk, Amber Field, 19, described how on one occasion, when she took hold of a trolley's handlebars and tried to muscle it into a rolling position, it didn't budge—she lifted herself up instead, like a gymnast on the parallel bars.

But the idea that time "on the trolleys" is necessary persists. British commercial courtrooms have been slow to adopt technology; barristers at Fountain Court and elsewhere remain adamant that they can only advocate properly with stacks of paper on hand, rather than off a screen. Some clerks argue that the trolleys help juniors absorb skills, learn the city's legal sites, and meet important people. But additionally, the trolley work serves as an unglamorous rite of passage, guarding the gilded summit of clerking from interlopers. Trolleys keep a closed shop closed, well into the 21st century. In the era of Brexit, as Britons turn inward, few professions better embody their abiding interest in keeping things as they are.

Clerks at work: Fountain Court's Maisie Taylor (no relation to Alex).
Photographer: Nick Ballon for Bloomberg Businessweek

London's barrister population is getting more diverse, but it's still disproportionately made up of men who attended the best private secondary schools, and then Oxford and Cambridge, before joining one of four legal associations, known as Inns of Court—a cosseted progression known as moving "quad to quad to quad." In short, barristers tend to be posh. Being a successful clerk, therefore, allows working-class men and, increasingly, women to exert power over their social superiors. It's an enduring example of a classic British phenomenon: professional interaction across a chasmic class divide.

One of the most peculiar aspects of the clerk-barrister relationship is that clerks handle money negotiations with clients. Barristers argue that avoiding fee discussions keeps their own interactions with clients clean and uncomplicated, but as a consequence, they're sometimes unaware of how much they actually charge. The practice also insulates and coddles them. Clerks become enablers of all sorts of curious, and in some cases self-destructive, behavior.

At Fountain Court, I spent an afternoon with Paul Gott, one of the chambers' star barristers. He stood surrounded by packing cases—he was in the process of moving his office from an annex across the street, where it had become a small tourist attraction. Visitors would stop outside to stare through a window at Gott's extraordinary collection of objects: antique barristers' wig tins, an original wax-cylinder Dictaphone, a deactivated Kalashnikov assault rifle and hand grenades, stamps, and an assortment of vintage medical instruments of alarming purpose.

Like many top barristers, Gott had effectively won the English educational system: He has a double-first-class degree (top marks in preliminary as well as final exams) from Cambridge. As he spoke about his work—Gott specializes in securing injunctions against striking workers—he cut open a packing case with a metal device that he identified as a fleam, an obsolete surgical implement used for bloodletting. Outside of work, Gott divides his time between two homes: one in a Martello tower—a kind of defensive fort built to fend off Napoleon—and another in a converted military landing craft moored on the Thames that he calls the "Houseboat Potemkin." The Chambers and Partners legal directory describes Gott as "phenomenally intelligent," but his eccentric professional demeanor is only possible because he has a hardheaded Alex Taylor to intercede between him and the world, wrangling with clients and handling payments. Taylor creates the space for Gott's personality even as he's employed by him.

A more unsavory side of this coddling relationship is apparent elsewhere. At a chambers called 4 Stone Buildings, a clerk called Chris O'Brien, 28, told me he was once asked to dress a boil on a barrister's back. Among clerks, tales of buying gifts for their barristers' mistresses are legion. But they maintain a level of sympathy for their employers, whose work is competitive and often profoundly isolating. Clerks speak of how their masters, no matter how successful, live in perpetual fear that their current case will be their last. Counsel, the English bar's monthly journal, recently ran a major spread on mental health. John Jones, a prominent silk at Doughty Street Chambers who'd represented Julian Assange, died last year when he jumped in front of a train.

Richard Evans at Fountain Court.
Photographer: Nick Ballon for Bloomberg Businessweek

John Flood, a legal sociologist who in 1983 published the only book-length study of barristers' clerks, subtitled The Law's Middlemen, uses an anthropological lens to explain the relationship. He suggests that barristers, as the de facto priests of English law—with special clothes and beautiful workplaces—require a separate tribe to keep the temple flames alight and press money from their congregation. Clerks keep barristers' hands clean; in so doing they accrue power, and they're paid accordingly.
I asked more than a dozen clerks and barristers, as well as a professional recruiter, what the field pays. Junior clerks, traditionally recruited straight after leaving school at 16 and potentially with no formal academic qualifications, start at £15,000 to £22,000 ($19,500 to $28,600); after 10 years they can make £85,000. Pay for senior clerks ranges from £120,000 to £500,000, and a distinct subset can earn £750,000. The Institute of Barristers' Clerks disputed these figures, saying the lows were too low and the highs too high. But there's no doubt that the best clerks are well-rewarded. David Grief, 63, a senior clerk at the esteemed Essex Court Chambers, spoke to me enthusiastically about his personal light airplane, a TB20 Trinidad.

Money is tightest in criminal law. One chambers, 3 Temple Gardens, lies 200 yards from Fountain Court but might as well inhabit a different dimension. Access is via a plunging staircase lined with green tiles similar to those in a Victorian prison. The clerks room, in the basement, is stacked with battered files detailing promising murders, rapes, and frauds. The senior clerk is Gary Brown, 53, who once played professional soccer. Even the barristers appear harried and ashen in comparison with their better-fed commercial-law counterparts.

The mean income of a criminal barrister working with legal-aid clients is £90,000, meaning even a successful criminal barrister likely makes less than a top commercial clerk. At Fountain Court, once described as a place so prestigious that "you could get silk just by sitting on the toilet," I watched Taylor casually negotiate a fee above £20,000; at 3 Temple Gardens, the clerks wrangled deals for a few hundred pounds. The best-paid criminal clerks make perhaps £250,000 per year—and yet there's an excitement and pressure to a criminal clerks room that's absent in the commercial field.

One day I sat next to Brown's deputy, Glenn Matthews, 41, as he worked out the running order for the courts the next day. For several sultry hours, Matthews juggled the availability of his barristers with the new cases coming in from solicitors and more that moved off a wait list. Some barristers only work as defense counsel, some only prosecute, and some alternate roles, depending on the case; Matthews balanced all this and also made elaborate plans to match barristers who'd already be in a certain provincial town with other cases nearby, to save on travel. It was complex, skilled work done with panache.

Many in the criminal field are motivated by a belief that they're a crucial part of the British judicial machinery, and their work closely corresponds with the public's imagination of what it is to work in the law. Silk, the preeminent British legal TV show of the past few years, focuses on a criminal chambers. It features a lupine senior clerk, Billy Lamb, who bullies, cajoles, bribes, and often appears to have the most fun.

Brown of 3 Temple Gardens; in criminal law, money is tight, but the work can be electric.
Photographer: Nick Ballon for Bloomberg Businessweek

As a chancery chambers, dealing with wills, trusts, banking, and other matters, 4 Stone Buildings is an establishment from the old school, with a facade still pockmarked by World War I bombs. Guests stride down a corridor with deep red wallpaper to a waiting room equipped with a fireplace and shelved with aged lawbooks. The best of the silks' rooms face out across a low dry moat to the gardens of Lincoln's Inn—one of the four Inns of Court, along with Gray's Inn, Inner Temple, and Middle Temple, all less than a mile apart.

There are 34 barristers at 4 Stone, including Jonathan Crow, whose office features a stuffed crow on the mantelpiece. The clerks room is downstairs and furnished significantly less smartly, with desks set behind a shoplike wooden counter. When I visited, the clerks were exclusively white and male, and five of the six were from Essex. At the helm was David Goddard, 64, in charge since 1983. One legal handbook notes that his nickname is "God," for his grip on the chambers.

I sat for two days in God's room, observing clerks' interactions with barristers across the wooden transom that were redolent of the upstairs-downstairs dynamic of Downton Abbey. The barristers spoke with "received pronunciation"—the polished accent traditionally spoken by the social elite and which, unlike lower-class accents, doesn't vary by region; the clerks, fluent Essex—a nasal accent, with elements of cockney. One vital function clerks play is finessing a "cab rank" rule, set by the Bar Standards Board, that states a barrister must take the first case that comes, regardless of their interest. Clerks can invent or manipulate commitments to allow their barristers to turn down work that doesn't appeal. (I didn't witness this at 4 Stone.)

Taylor performs a clerking rite of passage: trolley-hauling.
Photographer: Nick Ballon for Bloomberg Businessweek

Before the U.K. decimalized its currency in 1971, clerks received "shillings on the guinea" for each case fee. Under the new money system, the senior clerks' take was standardized at 10 percent of their chambers' gross revenue. Sometimes, but not always, they paid their junior staff and expenses out of this tithe. Chambers at the time were typically small, four to six barristers strong, but in the 1980s, they grew. As they added barristers and collected more money, each chambers maintained just one chief clerk, whose income soared. The system was opaque: The self-employed barristers didn't know what their peers within their own chambers were paid, and in a precomputer age, with all transactions recorded in a byzantine paper system, barristers sometimes didn't know what their clerks earned, either. Jason Housden, a longtime clerk who now works at Matrix Chambers, told me that, when he started out in the 1980s at another office, his senior clerk routinely earned as much as the top barristers and on occasion was the best-paid man in the building.

One anecdote from around the same time, possibly apocryphal, is widely shared. At a chambers that had expanded and was bringing in more money, three silks decided their chief clerk's compensation, at 10 percent, had gotten out of hand. They summoned him for a meeting and told him so. In a tactical response that highlights all the class baggage of the clerk-barrister relationship, as well as the acute British phobia of discussing money, the clerk surprised the barristers by agreeing with them. "I'm not going to take a penny more from you," he concluded. The barristers, gobsmacked and paralyzed by manners, never raised the pay issue again, and the clerk remained on at 10 percent until retirement.

Since the 1980s, fee structures have often been renegotiated when a senior clerk retires. Purely commission-based arrangements are now rare—combinations of salary and incentive are the rule, though some holdouts remain. Goddard told me last summer that he receives 3 percent of the entire take of the barristers at 4 Stone; later he said this was inaccurate, and that his pay was determined by a "complicated formula." (Pupil barristers, as trainees are known, start there at £65,000 per year, and the top silks each make several million pounds.)

The huge sums that clerks earn, at least relative to their formal qualifications, both sit at odds with the feudal nature of their employment and underpin it. In some chambers, clerks still refer to even junior barristers as "sir" or "miss." Housden remembers discussing this issue early in his career with a senior clerk. He asked the man whether he found calling people half his age "sir" demeaning. The reply was straightforward: "For three-quarters of a million pounds per year, I'll call anyone sir."

Most chambers have become less formal, even as the class distinctions between barrister and clerk are in many ways intact. At 4 Stone, Goddard refers to the heads of chambers, John Brisby and George Bompas, as "Brizz" and "Bumps." The traditional generic term used by clerks for a barrister is "guvnor," though this appears to be fading. The intimacy of the long-term clerk-barrister relationship is nuanced. Goddard once walked into the room of a senior member of chambers who was proving particularly truculent. Goddard asked, "Why are you being such a c---?"
The barrister's eyes lit up. "I love it when you talk to me like that," he replied.

Ryan Tunkel of 4 Stone Buildings.
Photographer: Nick Ballon for Bloomberg Businessweek

The origins of clerking, like much of English law, run to the medieval period. In the 14th century, a lawyer would employ an individual known as a "manciple" to look after his house, in return for "a bed and a reasonable dinner," the legal historian Samuel Thorne once wrote. Clerks as we might recognize them today existed by the 1666 Great Fire of London and were firmly established by the Victorian era. Efforts to modernize the clerking system have flickered in recent decades, with some success and a lot of rancor.

Around 1989 a former peace activist named Christine Kings attended a dinner party in East London where a group of barristers were complaining about their clerks, who they said terrorized them, ran their lives, and also earned much more than they did. The barristers had an idea: to set up a new sort of practice unfettered by ancient quirks of the bar, including the power of those uppity middlemen. They asked Kings, who had no legal background, to join them, taking on many of the duties typically performed by a senior clerk, but for much reduced pay.

Doughty Street Chambers, as they named their new association, controversially set up its operations outside the footprint of the four Inns of Court. As an interloper, Kings wasn't popular with clerks. When she was a few months into the job, standing at the top of Chancery Lane, one tried to spit in her face. As others began to take on similar roles at various chambers—ex-military men at first, who met with little success, and then women—Kings organized informal gatherings to promote solidarity. One attendee said she'd found rat poison in her desk drawer.

Kings became the first professional chief executive officer of a barristers' chambers in London. At a mass meeting of some 300 barristers and other personnel in the early 1990s, she spoke about her new role and the ways it broke from traditional clerking. When someone asked what she was paid, she replied that the Bar Council suggested £44,000. The barristers gaped—it was a fraction of what they paid their chief clerks to run their establishments. Since then, several chambers have experimented with professional heads from nonclerking backgrounds, under titles ranging from CEO to director, with varying responsibilities. At Fountain Court, an administrator deals with logistics, while the core part of clerking—the routing of incoming cases to barristers and fee negotiations—remains in traditional hands. (Kings, 59, now works at Outer Temple Chambers.)

Doughty Street Chambers has thrived. It's best known as the professional home of the accomplished human-rights lawyer Amal Clooney. Another outfit that eschews the more suffocating traditions of the English bar is Matrix Chambers, which sits in a former police station at the northern fringe of Gray's Inn. Matrix emerged in 2000 when a group of mostly human-rights barristers, including Cherie Blair, the wife of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, splintered off from seven other chambers. Together, they aimed for a funky, fresh aesthetic, installing a DayGlo-illuminated reception desk inherited from an ad agency and refusing to pose for the traditional portraits of staff standing in front of lawbooks. Those who resented such modernizations referred to Matrix as Ratmix.

3 Temple Gardens' Sam Edwards.
Photographer: Nick Ballon for Bloomberg Businessweek

Seventeen years after its founding, Matrix is an established part of the London legal landscape, with a particularly strong reputation in public, media, and employment law. (Matrix has represented Bloomberg LP, the owner of Bloomberg Businessweek.) Matrix doesn't use the term "clerk." Instead, there are three teams, called "practice managers," that each deal with solicitors in different areas of the law. At the top is a chief executive, Lindsay Scott, a former solicitor who takes on many of the strategic duties of a senior clerk.

On a Friday morning, I watched as Hugh Southey, one of Matrix's silks and a descendant of the Romantic poet Robert Southey, gave a presentation to the practice management team on "terrorism prevention and investigation measures." The British government introduced these controversial legal maneuvers in 2011 to manage potential terrorists who can't be charged or deported. Most chambers pay limited attention to the legal education of their clerks, who as a consequence sell a product they don't understand. Matrix's crew, with more women and nonwhite faces than most clerking staffs, are routinely given opportunities to learn.

Some in London legal circles regard Matrix's reforms as semantic, noting the staff is thick with men from classic clerking backgrounds. Housden, Matrix's practice director, started work as a teenage clerk, and one of his colleagues has been a clerk for 25 years. As different as Matrix or other reformers might want to be, they're in the same marketplace as more orthodox chambers, and they play by a common set of rules and expectations that goes back centuries. One prevailing understanding of last year's Brexit vote is that it signaled a desire to be more British, less beholden to outsiders' notions of progress. Essex, the spiritual home of the clerk, had two of the five districts that voted the most overwhelmingly to leave the European Union.

As I spent time with London's clerks, I had the impression of a group of people who'd learned some of the language of modernity, but weren't themselves fully of the modern world—their boozy pub lunches attested to that. Some of the staff at Matrix have newfangled titles, it's true. But as Taylor might observe, all that's really changed is the name.

(Corrects the photo captions identifying Richard Evans and Sam Edwards.)

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Coulter: If Trump Does Not Keep His Promises in 2018, GOP Will Be Wiped Out, Dems Will Impeach - Breitbart

by Pam Key
22 May 2017

Monday on Fox Business Network's "Varney & Company," conservative columnist and "In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!" author Ann Coulter said if President Donald Trump does not keep his campaign promises, Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections and then attempt to impeach him.

Coulter said, "I love the tweets. Almost everything that everyone else dislikes about Trump are what I consider his strong points. I love his tweets. That is how he defends himself. I love that he had steak—he brought his own steak to Saudi Arabia—everything others attack him for. What I'm concerned with—I'm not—I mean, we had no choice. What were you going to do, vote for Rubio? No. Both political parties for years and years have been pushing whatever Wall Street and elites want. Trump was the only candidate who is going to put Americans first. I just want him to get back to his campaign promises, but I love his 3 a.m. tweets. I think they're hilarious."

"I hope Trump notices that if he doesn't keep his promises, Republicans will be wiped out in the midterm election," Coulter warned. "Democrats will have the House of Representatives, and they will absolutely impeach him. It doesn't matter. He could be purer than Caesar's wife. They will impeach him. The left-wing base is obsessed with that. So Trump better keep his promises."

She added, "I blame the Republicans in Congress the most, but we always knew that. I know they were traitors again, working for the lobbyists, the Chamber of Commerce and Wall Street, and not for the American people. We knew that Trump would have a tough road to hoe, but he was supposed to go down and be a bull in a china shop. We're still waiting for the bull in the china shop. I mean, there is obviously still time. It has only been a few months now, but so far, that budget deal, it was, it was like a George Soros practical joke. I mean, sending Washington bureaucracy $18 million to study misogyny in the Marines, funding for a wall specifically prohibited, funding for, you know, Planned Parenthood. No, this isn't what we voted for, And I do think Trump meant what he said. You wouldn't go through what he went through for 18 months, being attacked by both political parties, the entire media, the Washington bureaucracy, it is tough when he is up against. It's what he promised. That is what we want."

(h/t Grabien)
Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN

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Yankees, JetBlue join list of those boycotting the Puerto Rican Day Parade

May 23, 2017 1:50am |

Oscar Lopez Rivera at a gathering in Chicago. His presence at the Puerto Rican Day Parade has led many prominent officials to boycott the event.

Sponsors and government officials marched away from the Puerto Rican Day Parade on Monday — with the New York Yankees, JetBlue and even the city's top cop ditching the event over its decision to honor a deadly terror organization's kingpin.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill cited the bloodshed caused by the Puerto Rican nationalist group once run by Oscar López Rivera, who will be hailed at the June 11 march by the organizers of the annual celebration.

NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said Monday he won't join Mayor...
"I can't support a man who was the co-founder of an organization that engaged in over 120 bombings, six people killed and seriously injured police officers," O'Neill said.

"I usually do march in most of the parades with the fraternal organizations, but I am not going to be marching this year . . . I am not going to march."

Before President Barack Obama commuted his sentence in January, López Rivera spent 36 years in prison for his role as a leader of the FALN, which was behind a series of bloody attacks, including the 1975 bombing of Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan that killed four people and a blast that maimed a cop at Police Headquarters in 1982.

López Rivera's defenders say he never directly participated in plotting a terror attack.
The Yankees and JetBlue had been slated as sponsors of the parade, but both issued statements Monday announcing they would not take part, citing the López Rivera furor. They join another major sponsor, Goya Foods, which also recently bailed out.

The Yankees' boycott particularly stings. Bronx Bombers who have graced the parade include Puerto Rican native Bernie Williams.

"The New York Yankees are not participating in this year's Puerto Rican Day parade," the team said in a statement.

"However, for many years, the Yankees have supported a scholarship program that recognizes students selected by the parade organizers. To best protect the interests of those students, and avoid any undue harm to them, the Yankees will continue to provide financial support for the scholarships, and will give to the students directly."

The Yankees had no further comment.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is expected to march in the parade, said he had "respect" for O'Neill's views, but defended his own decision to participate.

"This is a very important event in New York City," he told NY1 Monday night. "Look, the parade decided to honor a certain individual, but that does not change the basic nature of the parade, and what it means to the city, so I look forward to marching."

JetBlue, which was named the official airline of the parade, said it pulled out because "it became clear that the debate about this year's parade was dividing the community and overshadowing the celebration of Puerto Rican culture that we had set out to support."

JetBlue said it would direct its funds to support scholarships for "Puerto Rican students in both New York and Puerto Rico."

"We did not make this decision lightly and hope all sides will come together to engage in a dialogue about the parade's role in unifying the community at a time when Puerto Rico needs it most," JetBlue said in a statement.

It was unclear if other sponsors will bail out. They include AT&T, Coca-Cola, CUNY, the Daily News and the United Federation of Teachers.

A police union is urging the companies to back out or face boycotts by its members.
"We are asking our members not to participate in the Puerto Rican Day parade. More importantly, as long as Oscar López Rivera is allowed to participate, we will be asking our members to boycott any corporation that continues to help fund this event," said Lou Turco, president of the Lieutenants Benevolent Association.

He said his members should remember come election time which politicians supported the release of a "convicted terrorist."

"We support the NYPD members who were seriously injured and the families of the innocent people who lost their lives during these attacks throughout the United States and in our city," Turco said.
"We took an oath to protect and serve the people. Unfortunately, this year's views and values of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade committee do not conform with the society's mission of promoting peace and unity."

Detectives' Endowment Assocation president Michael Palladino slammed City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her role in advancing López Rivera's release and parade honor.
"When elected, the speaker took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Mark-Viverito violates that oath every time she celebrates this terrorist," Palladino said.

The speaker, a native of Puerto Rico, said she was "disappointed" by sponsors that quit the parade, saying they acted based on "misinformation" and "lies." She said the police unions put out "inflammatory statements."

She said the support for López Rivera was about "human rights," not politics.

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Trump Budget Based on $2 Trillion Math Error

By Jonathan Chait
Budget Director Mick Mulvaney struggles with arithmetic. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

One of the ways Donald Trump's budget claims to balance the budget over a decade, without cutting defense or retirement spending, is to assume a $2 trillion increase in revenue through economic growth. This is the magic of the still-to-be-designed Trump tax cuts. But wait — if you recall, the magic of the Trump tax cuts is also supposed to pay for the Trump tax cuts. So the $2 trillion is a double-counting error.

Trump has promised to enact "the biggest tax cut in history." Trump's administration has insisted, however, that the largest tax cut in history will not reduce revenue, because it will unleash growth. That is itself a wildly fanciful assumption. But that assumption has already become a baseline of the administration's budget math. Trump's budget assumes the historically yuge tax cuts will not lose any revenue for this reason — the added growth it will supposedly generate will make up for all the lost revenue.

But then the budget assumes $2 trillion in higher revenue from growth in order to achieve balance after ten years. So the $2 trillion from higher growth is a double-count. It pays for the Trump cuts, and then it pays again for balancing the budget. Or, alternatively, Trump could be assuming that his tax cuts will not only pay for themselves but generate $2 trillion in higher revenue. But Trump has not claimed his tax cuts will recoup more than 100 percent of their lost revenue, so it's simply an embarrassing mistake.

It seems difficult to imagine how this administration could figure out how to design and pass a tax cut that could pay for itself when Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush failed to come anywhere close to doing so. If there is a group of economic minds with the special genius to accomplish this historically unprecedented feat, it is probably not the fiscal minds who just made a $2 trillion basic arithmetic error.

Trump Budget Based On $2 Trillion Math Error

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Empire Files: Buying a Slave – The Hidden World of US/Philippines Trafficking

Human trafficking is a hidden industry that brings in $150 billion in illegal profits every year. In the United States, tens of thousands are trafficked annually—the biggest clients being major hotel chains and foreign diplomats. 

The Philippines is one of the largest labor exporters in the world. 6,000 Filipinos—mostly women—leave the country every single day to work, because of mass unemployment and poverty. Tricked by placement agencies, thousands end up living as virtual slaves.

Damayan, a New York-based organization led by Filipina domestic workers, is fighting this underground crisis. Abby Martin speaks to several members of the organization about how this exodus of women has devastated a generation of families, and how they are fighting back.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

72 Year Old Prophecy: The Earth Will Be Swept By Extraordinary Rapid Waves Of Cosmic Electricity!

The prophecy was written 72 years ago.. and it's absolutely mind-blowing!

Peter Konstantinov Deunov, also known as Beinsa Douno, born in 1886 and who later passed away in 1944, left a prophecy that he had obtained through a trance based state. The prophecy was therefore dated as 1944, a few days before his death in December that year. The prophecy Beinsa Douno left fits right into the times we are going through right now, in relation to the shift in consciousness, the earth changes and our golden age. Back then, Douno was aware and taught that we were moving into the age of Aquarius, as per the astrological age system.

The Prophecy

"During the passage of time, the consciousness of man traversed a very long period of obscurity. This phase which the Hindus call 'Kali Yuga', is on the verge of ending. We find ourselves today at the frontier between two epochs: that of Kali Yuga and that of the New Era that we are entering.

A gradual improvement is already occurring in the thoughts, sentiments and acts of humans, but everybody will soon be subjugated to divine Fire, that will purify and prepare them in regards to the New Era. Thus man will raise himself to a superior degree of consciousness, indispensable to his entrance to the New Life. That is what one understands by 'Ascension'.
Some decades will pass before this Fire will come, that will transform the world by bringing it a new moral. This immense wave comes from cosmic space and will inundate the entire earth. All those that attempt to oppose it will be carried off and transferred elsewhere.

Although the inhabitants of this planet do not all find themselves at the same degree of evolution, the new wave will be felt by each one of us. And this transformation will not only touch the Earth, but the ensemble of the entire Cosmos.

The best and only thing that man can do now is to turn towards God and improve himself consciously, to elevate his vibratory level, so as to find himself in harmony with the powerful wave that will soon submerge him.

The Fire of which I speak, that accompanies the new conditions offered to our planet, will rejuvenate, purify, reconstruct everything: the matter will be refined, your hearts will be liberated from anguish, troubles, incertitude, and they will become luminous; everything will be improved, elevated; the thoughts, sentiments and negative acts will be consumed and destroyed.
Your present life is a slavery, a heavy prison. Understand your situation and liberate yourself from it. I tell you this: exit from your prison! It is really sorry to see so much misleading, so much suffering, so much incapacity to understand where one's true happiness lies.
Everything that is around you will soon collapse and disappear. Nothing will be left of this civilization nor its perversity; the entire earth will be shaken and no trace will be left of this erroneous culture that maintains men under the yoke of ignorance. Earthquakes are not only mechanical phenomena, their goal is also to awaken the intellect and the heart of humans, so that they liberate themselves from their errors and their follies and that they understand that they are not the only ones in the universe.

Our solar system is now traversing a region of the Cosmos where a constellation that was destroyed left its mark, its dust. This crossing of a contaminated space is a source of poisoning, not only for the inhabitants of the earth, but for all the inhabitants of the other planets of our galaxy. Only the suns are not affected by the influence of this hostile environment. This region is called "the thirteenth zone"; one also calls it "the zone of contradictions". Our planet was enclosed in this region for thousands of years, but finally we are approaching the exit of this space of darkness and we are on the point of attaining a more spiritual region, where more evolved beings live.

The earth is now following an ascending movement and everyone should force themselves to harmonize with the currents of the ascension. Those who refuse to subjugate themselves to this orientation will lose the advantage of good conditions that are offered in the future to elevate themselves. They will remain behind in evolution and must wait tens of millions of years for the coming of a new ascending wave.

The earth, the solar system, the universe, all are being put in a new direction under the impulsion of Love. Most of you still consider Love as a derisory force, but in reality, it is the greatest of all forces! Money and power continue to be venerated as if the course of your life depended upon it. In the future, all will be subjugated to Love and all will serve it. But it is through suffering and difficulties that the consciousness of man will be awakened.

The terrible predictions of the prophet Daniel written in the bible relate to the epoch that is opening. There will be floods, hurricanes, gigantic fires and earthquakes that will sweep away everything. Blood will flow in abundance. There will be revolutions; terrible explosions will resound in numerous regions of the earth. There where there is earth, water will come, and there where there is water, earth will come. God is Love; yet we are dealing here with a chastisement, a reply by Nature against the crimes perpetrated by man since the night of time against his Mother; the Earth.

After these sufferings, those that will be saved, the elite, will know the Golden Age, harmony and unlimited beauty. Thus keep your peace and your faith when the time comes for suffering and terror, because it is written that not a hair will fall from the head of the just. Don't be discouraged, simply follow your work of personal perfection.

You have no idea of the grandiose future that awaits you. A New Earth will soon see day. In a few decades the work will be less exacting, and each one will have the time to consecrate spiritual, intellectual and artistic activities. The question of rapport between man and woman will be finally resolved in harmony; each one having the possibility of following their aspirations. The relations of couples will be founded on reciprocal respect and esteem. Humans will voyage through the different planes of space and breakthrough intergalactic space. They will study their functioning and will rapidly be able to know the Divine World, to fusion with the Head of the Universe.

The New Era is that of the sixth race. Your predestination is to prepare yourself for it, to welcome it and to live it. The sixth race will build itself around the idea of Fraternity. There will be no more conflicts of personal interests; the single aspiration of each one will be to conform himself to the Law of Love. The sixth race will be that of Love. A new continent will be formed for it. It will emerge from the Pacific, so that the Most High can finally establish His place on this planet.

The founders of this new civilization, I call them 'Brothers of Humanity' or also 'Children of Love'. They will be unshakeable for the good and they will represent a new type of men. Men will form a family, as a large body, and each people will represent an organ in this body. In the new race, Love will manifest in such a perfect manner, that today's man can only have a very vague idea.

The earth will remain a terrain favourable to struggle, but the forces of darkness will retreat and the earth will be liberated from them. Humans seeing that there is no other path will engage themselves to the path of the New Life, that of salvation. In their senseless pride, some will, to the end hope to continue on earth a life that the Divine Order condemns, but each one will finish by understanding that the direction of the world doesn't belong to them.
A new culture will see the light of day, it will rest on three principal foundations: the elevation of woman, the elevation of the meek and humble, and the protection of the rights of man.
The light, the good, and justice will triumph; it is just a question of time. The religions should be purified. Each contains a particle of the Teaching of the Masters of Light, but obscured by the incessant supply of human deviation. All the believers will have to unite and to put themselves in agreement with one principal, that of placing Love as the base of all belief, whatever it may be. Love and Fraternity that is the common base! The earth will soon be swept by extraordinary rapid waves of Cosmic Electricity. A few decades from now beings who are bad and lead others astray will not be able to support their intensity. They will thus be absorbed by Cosmic Fire that will consume the bad that they possess. Then they will repent because it is written that "each flesh shall glorify God".

Our mother, the earth, will get rid of men that don't accept the New Life. She will reject them like damaged fruit. They will soon not be able to reincarnate on this planet; criminals included. Only those that possess Love in them will remain.

There is not any place on earth that is not dirtied with human or animal blood; she must therefore submit to a purification. And it is for this that certain continents will be immersed while others will surface. Men do not suspect to what dangers they are menaced by. They continue to pursue futile objectives and to seek pleasure. On the contrary those of the sixth race will be conscious of the dignity of their role and respectful of each one's liberty. They will nourish themselves exclusively from products of the vegetal realm. Their ideas will have the power to circulate freely as the air and light of our days.

The words "If you are not born again" apply to the sixth race. Read Chapter 60 of Isaiah it relates to the coming of the sixth race, the Race of Love.

After the Tribulations, men will cease to sin and will find again the path of virtue. The climate of our planet will be moderated everywhere and brutal variations will no longer exist. The air will once again become pure, the same for water. The parasites will disappear. Men will remember their previous incarnations and they will feel the pleasure of noticing that they are finally liberated from their previous condition.

In the same manner that one gets rid of the parasites and dead leaves on the vine, so act the evolved Beings to prepare men to serve the God of Love. They give to them good conditions to grow and to develop themselves, and to those that want to listen to them, they say: "Do not be afraid! Still a little more time and everything will be all right; you are on the good path. May he that wants to enter in the New Culture study, consciously work and prepare."

Thanks to the idea of Fraternity, the earth will become a blessed place, and that will not wait. But before, great sufferings will be sent to awaken the consciousness. Sins accumulated for thousands of years must be redeemed. The ardent wave emanating from On High will contribute in liquidating the karma of peoples. The liberation can no longer be postponed. Humanity must prepare itself for great trials that are inescapable and are coming to bring an end to egoism.

Under the earth, something extraordinary is preparing itself. A revolution that is grandiose and completely inconceivable will manifest itself soon in nature. God has decided to redress the earth, and He will do it! It is the end of an epoch; a new order will substitute the old, an order in which Love will reign on earth."

"The whole world bows to me, but I bow to the Master Peter Deunov from Bulgaria" – Albert Einstein (whether this is true, check topic 3)

World War II Bulgaria didn't have a Schindler, and it didn't have a list. It had a white-bearded mystic named Peter Deunov and an entire nation standing behind him. Together, they saved Bulgaria's 48,000 Jews from the Holocaust.

Originally taken from: The Event Chronicle, David Icke Forum

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Master of Light

Cinematographer Roger Deakins uses his blog to pull back the curtain on the lighting tricks that have made him famous.

Roger Deakins, 2004, via Buena Vista.

Sometime in the late nineties, cinematographer Roger Deakins took a kind of pilgrimage to visit his friend and mentor Conrad "Connie" Hall, who was living in semiretirement on a tiny island off Tahiti. The timing found Deakins visiting the older Hall—a three-time Academy Award winner and sort of tribal elder to directors of photography—as the industry-wide shift toward digital cameras was being met by a renewed nostalgia for film, and Deakins was excited to share how he'd recently remodeled his LA home to include a darkroom. "My expectations were shattered," Deakins later wrote, "when Conrad pronounced the photochemical process 'antiquated.' " Hall praised the possibilities of digital, telling Deakins he was happy to indulge any "technique that might have helped him develop as a visual storyteller." That was Hall's guiding mantra, and one the younger artist soon took up: "Story! Story! Story!"

I came across this anecdote a few years ago while reading Deakins's blog, Looking at Light, where practically every day, and especially when he's between projects, the sixty-seven-year-old writes what must be among the most admiring and detailed prose about lampshades and light bulbs, fields questions about his own movies, and gives advice to readers about their own low-budget projects. Lately, his posts have been explanatory notes about Denis Villeneuve's forthcoming Blade Runner 2049, which is due out in October, and detoxifying rants about Hail Caesar!, Deakins's twelfth movie with the Coen brothers and the first he'd shot on film in many years. He likened the return to film to riding a bike—except that, as Deakins later admitted, he doesn't know how to ride a bike. "But I'm sure it's the same," he said.

Looking at Light can be numbly dense with jargon, but the stories and curio knit together into a narrative of Deakins's career, which now spans an epochal forty years and nearly all genres. His IMDB page reads like a list of reliably rewatchable movies from the late-night nineties and aughts. He was the DP for Shawshank Redemption, every Coen brothers' movie since Barton Fink, more than a few great directors' beacon achievements (Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind, Sam Mendes's Skyfall), and at least a handful of movies that are, to my eye, more visually striking than they are coherent (House of Sand and Fog, Kundun, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). He's been nominated for thirteen Academy Awards (a tie for the most by a DP), and may well be the most in-demand cinematographer alive; the actor Josh Brolin apparently agreed to do Sicario only after hearing Deakins was in, the sort of nod you mainly hear about auteur directors. When Robert Elswit accepted the American Society of Cinematographers Award for There Will Be Blood, he joked that the ASC should establish a separate category for "films shot by Roger Deakins."

Part of what makes Looking at Light such a weird and wonderful Internet forum is that Deakins is so freely and readily available there. I'm not aware of anywhere else a fan or student can peer inside the craft of a transcendent artist with such lucidity. And I do mean artist—there's little hint of a Hollywood persona at work. Deakins says he created the site partially to ease his ability to answer fan mail, but it also seems to demystify an art form that, despite its direct interface with the public's eyeballs, isn't written about or understood all that much. He responds to even the most squeamishly artless questions ("Do you like documentaries?") in just a few hours—and kindly. In a recent thread called "Contrast ratio: Skyfall vs Sicario" he and "simon m" have this exchange:
simon m: Hi Roger, I've noticed that, in general, the images from Skyfall have a higher contrast than those from Sicario … I enjoyed the images of both movies but am wondering why you chose this different look for each. Thanks for your time.
Roger Deakins: I can't say I am aware of the difference. Could it be in the way you are viewing the films?
simon m: Oh—I don't think so … Perhaps what I'm seeing is not more contrast in Skyfall but in the image above from the opening sequence. For example, it looks to me that the highlights are brighter than the image from Sicario.
Roger Deakins: That makes sense as I was timing the opening of Skyfall to look quite bright and 'hot.' That shot from Sicario, on the other hand, was an early-morning shot.
"Bright," "hot"? "An early-morning shot"? There's such a weird anthropological air to the encounter, it takes a moment to realize Deakins is describing his creative approach to a movie that grossed over a billion dollars, a movie that earned him an Oscar nomination. But it's an exchange typical of the website: Deakins is polite, vaguely esoteric, yet also friendly and self-effacing. His description seems to draw on, as if from the very wisdom of Hall, the notion of an art form uncomplicated by the anxieties of craft.

There's plenty of craft in cinematography, of course, but what you gather from Deakins's blog is that the form aspires not toward the creation of startling images but the absorption of a seamless narrative. The highest achievement a cinematographer can garner, Deakins says, is to have his or her work go unnoticed. If the viewer is made aware of a frame's composition, the thinking goes, they're taken out of the narrative, maybe not unlike a reader noticing a novel's font as they stumble over a cluster of adjectives. A cinematographer should have style, in other words, but only in service of story. Deakins puts it this way: "people confuse pretty with good cinematography."

Still from No Country for Old Men.


Deakins was born in 1949, in the seaside town of Torquay, England, and began painting and photographing in his teens. His people were construction workers and fisherman, but Deakins earned entry to the Bath School of Art and Design, going on later to the National Film & Television School, where he was at first denied admission for not being "filmic" enough. He next spent a year wandering the countryside, photographing woodsmen, seeking out a looser, uglier form of realism. He liked Tarkovsky, the grit of seventies Hollywood, especially the washed-out, noon light of movies like Fat City. But much of it also seems to have struck him as needlessly contrived—photographic realism, professionally lit. Deakins wanted the camera to see the world as he did. "I always had an interest in seeing people within their environments," he says.

That way of seeing merged easily with documentary work for British TV, which sent him to war zones in Rhodesia, Ethiopia, Sudan, as well as on an around-the-world yacht race. Deakins brought, to each assignment, his own immersive style—an intense sensitivity between cameraman and subject that could verge on the humanitarian. One day, during a shoot in a psychiatric ward, he was jolted from behind the lens when a schizophrenic patient broke down. Stopping to assist her, some illusion, already too thin, seems to have broken in him, and he hasn't returned to documentary since.
Deakins's artistic origin story is tinged in an offhand assuredness. He swears he never aspired to shoot movies, so when he wound up doing so, in the early eighties, he brought the journalistic sensibility he knew to his early films: 1984, Sid and Nancy, David Mamet's Homicide. "My life just sort of gradually grew into my dreams," he says. He doesn't so much share this past with his readers for insight as refer to it as hard evidence of the work's difficulty. Asked by "rileywoods," a film student, how he came to master lighting, Deakins replies, "I have been lucky over the years and have been pretty constantly working." He continues, "I do think observing is important in learning"—meaning, observing the world, not others at work. In a recent thread about how to create the look of a thunderstorm, film students go back and forth on the right diffusion gels and light screens before Deakins chimes in with a one-sentence solution: "You could always shoot at night."

One of Roger Deakins's "battle plans," from Looking at Light.

It isn't difficult to make the connections between the triage training Deakins got shooting in the field and the work habits he's now famous for. He insists on handling the camera himself, something most cinematographers delegate to a camera operator. He likes shooting on handheld and without zoom lens. "I like to feel someone's presence in a space," he says. He doesn't like any format in which the depth of field is too shallow or anything in the frame out of focus; background, he seems to feel, tells the viewer as much as the actor in the foreground. A story goes that during the shooting of No Country for Old Men, the Coens had storyboarded a simple close-up of a watch, as Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) checks the timing of a possible ambush. Deakins suggested a slight change: that Moss hold the watch up, framing it against the desolate West Texas landscape. It's onscreen for only a blip—an "insert shot," they call it—but when you rewatch the scene, you find you're better inside the vigilance of the character. Not just looking out at the landscape but feeling the stretch of desert lengthen with dread.

Deakins explains these decisions to his fans with an almost absentminded clarity. "The balance of the frame—the way an actor is relating to the space in the frame," he says, "is the most important factor in helping the audience feel what the character is thinking." Watching him reduce a technically complex art to "story-character" gives one the sense of being in the presence of an artist who has achieved stylistic stability, one who can't be bothered to overthink it. He has no truck with "mystery of cinematography"–type talk. "Don't get distracted with technique" is perhaps his most consistent piece of advice.

Readers will often compare their images, side by side, with similar ones from Deakins's movies and want to know why their shots don't look as "cinematic" as his. "There is no 'trick' to making one image more 'cinematic,' " he writes back, "other than what you see." Even if I can't begin to comprehend what's involved in pulling off what Deakins does, I understand what he means here—one can train their eye too much. On a thread titled "Ways to create a feeling of isolation and being lost," for instance, Deakins advises against the character actually looking isolated and lost:
Perhaps your character can be motionless, silhouetted against a bright window, whilst the bustle of the city takes place around him. He could be static, in silhouetted close profile against the moving crowd out of focus in the background or against the headlights of moving traffic.
A strange but beautiful thing you will hear cinematographers say is that they conceive of each frame as, at first, completely black. The creative act lies in what to light and how—where to send viewers' eyes, using each beam like a stroke or word. And Deakins thinks about this canvas of blackness not unlike the way blues guitarists—I'm thinking of the Keith Richards quote here—do the beats between notes: "The lighting of a film makes the pauses speak as eloquently as the words."

Deakins wades deeply into the technical aspects of making such abstract ideas possible. He posts reams of what he calls battleplans, carefully drawn lighting schematics indicating how to hang bulbs and where to place lamps, all of it notated in candle feet (a perfect-sounding unit for light intensity). Gaffers on Deakins's sets are apparently given stacks of these, many of them necessitating DIY fixtures and rigging. He likes using household bulbs, bare fluorescents even, for the naturalism of it. Like his mentor Hall, he has become known for using "motivated-source" light, where a scene is lighted by sources already in the frame, such as the lanterns carried by Jesse James's crew in The Assassination. In movies with darker palettes, like Villeneuve's kidnapping-thriller Prisoners, you also see a lot of "single-motivated source"—a sole bulb, say, dangling in a bathroom.

Still from Prisoners.

Technically speaking, what source lighting allows for is a reality "just slightly enhanced," as The Deer Hunter's Vilmos Zsigmond once put it, a subtle act of illusion that requires intricate discussions down at the level of wattage. The trick, Deakins says, is blending the illumination necessary for the frame into the very verisimilitude of the scene, so you don't have a nighttime shootout in True Grit looking brighter than the nineteenth century should. Asked by "zola_rad" how he decides on such light intensity, Deakins writes, "I might look at the photometric specs of a lamp if I am unsure what level of light I will get at a certain distance." Notice that he's hedging against using technology here; for Deakins, usually the archetypal Brit, such questions can reveal sides of a soulful, almost devotional, connection to light (he once told NPR that slashes of light gave him a kind of high). It's a level of obsessiveness that can lead him, on occasion, to working at the very edge of physics. In one thread, he shares in "tumbleweed"'s frustration controlling the shape of soft cuts of light on skin, asking the message board for ideas.

Such exceptional sensitivity helps assure, first and foremost, a movie's continuity—which can be a task of nightmarish proportions if a scene has to be shot, as many do, over multiple days. Among the most demanding scenes of Deakins's career, he writes, was the one early in No Country for Old Men when Moss is chased on foot by a floodlit truck at sunrise. Because of the movie's schedule, Deakins had to shoot some of the frames on different days, and not necessarily in order, forcing him to blend several dawns into one. To prepare, he rose early for a week before the shoot and walked through each frame of the sequence, studying the timing and contours of West Texas daybreak. It was a means, he says, of disguising the machinations of making a movie, but also of getting all the preparation out of the way—metering the light, recording the distances—so he might concentrate solely on positioning Brolin in the frame.

Famously, Alfred Hitchcock storyboarded so meticulously he sometimes found himself half-bored on set. For him, a movie wasn't being created so much as realized. A similar taste for preparation, it seems, has kept Deakins and the Coens collaborating for the past twenty-six years. And I am struck, going over Deakins's posts, by how his work-style reads like an exercise in "freedom within constraints." You might even look at his entire track record, stretching as it does across genres and formats, as proof of the fact that photographic sensibility probably matters less for a cinematographer than script planning. And this is why it can seem, falsely, that cinematographers are closer to technicians than artists. They're simply not in control of enough factors, some say, to be responsible for a movie's artistic effect. Only rarely does a cinematographer get to pick fundamental stuff like focal length, format, camera type, or color. More often they're in charge of the technical aspects of making the fundamentals expressive: the lighting, focus, depth of field.

Deakins's name and talent has insured him a larger creative role in these decisions (the Coens now bring him in as early as storyboarding), but the fundamental truth of the profession still applies: his job is to act as an intermediary—a translator—of his director's vision. Which is partly why I understand him to mean it humbly when he says he'd rather have his art go unnoticed; as a cinematographer, it's professionally unwise to develop a recognizable style. But now that I've read Deakins blog for a few years, I also understand how he might mean it artistically, and honestly so. How having one's work go unnoticed might in fact be an achievement.

For most of my movie-watching life, this would have sounded absurd to me. What liking cinematography has meant to me, over the last fifteen years, was that I liked watching movies at home; I've always liked pausing and rewinding movies to better admire certain shots as still photography. I began watching movies this way with American Beauty, which I rented nearly every week of 2002, when I was fifteen. My family lived in rural northern Colorado, and movies weren't a thing we went to with any regularity. More often they were DVDs rented long after the release date and brought home to be consumed, then picked over, like cultural relief packages.

And I can still picture, with a strange, framed brightness, the movie's unforgettable red door, which Annette Bening's character, Carolyn, reveals to the viewer by rolling her window down during a night rainstorm. At the center of the shot: a door, deeply saturated, lipstick red, lighted by a single overhead bulb. The radiance of the porch light in the darkness makes it appear as though the rain is parting around the door, like an island in a stream. The image is gaudy, rudely symbolic of the murder to come—but it also feels, in a movie too full of hard thinking. As a teenager, I watched the scene over and over, conscious suddenly of the presence of photography in movies. (Only years later did I learn the movie was shot by Conrad Hall.)

Which is why I wasn't a little horrified to learn that my habit of pausing and praising still frames, which I'd been doing for years, thinking myself a thoughtful noticer of an "underappreciated" art, was anathema to what many cinematographers considered their art. Still, it seemed somewhat disingenuous to me that cinematographers would say they weren't trying to create memorable images. (Could a painter avoid it?) But Looking at Light offers clear proof of Deakins's belief that "there's nothing worse than an ostentatious shot"—a belief even more convincing when refracted through the reality that many of cinematography's most celebrated shots were "happy accidents," as Conrad Hall called them. Deakins never bothers to point this out, but it's there in a thread about the trailer for Blade Runner 2049. A fan inquires about what he or she sees as a brilliantly off-center shot, and Deakins writes back: "the framing was probably just 'human error.' "


Not long ago, after reading some of Deakins's recent posts about Prisoners, I rewatched it, trying to notice what Deakins hadn't wanted me to. He describes the practicalities of shooting the movie—arriving early to interior sets to change all the bulbs, the good drizzly days of wan light—but also of finding himself inhabiting its mood:
Denis [Villeneuve] was keen on seeing things in obscured ways with more complex frames. You know, you talk in general terms during prep but these things carry over when you are setting up the camera. It's not always conscious but you have these ideas in your head and when you are on a film there is nothing but that film in your head, so that's what comes out.
What came out, exactly, I initially couldn't see. In fact, the first time I watched Prisoners, I don't think I noticed what now seems its most remarkable moment. It's during the first few scenes, when the families come to accept their daughters have been kidnapped. Inside the living room, nearly all the lamps are turned on, despite it being mid-afternoon. Deakins probably needed a light source in the room; but the way it's done, it doesn't appear like a contrivance. Partly that's because of the lighting's subtlety—the drapes are drawn, it's raining—but more because you can so easily imagine grieving families huddling inwardly in this way, turning on lamps to fend off the darkness. The beauty is: we don't see them do it. We see only the moment after, as they stir in their private anxiety. And it's suffocating. A logic of grief expressed almost solely through lamp light. As Hall used to ask Deakins: "Does the story tell without sound?"

Noah Gallagher Shannon lives in New York. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Oxford American, Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere.

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The Arc Of Stanley Kubrick: From ‘Killer’s Kiss’ to ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ by Noel Murray

Stanley Kubrick made just 13 feature films in his nearly 50-year career, and from the '60s through the '90s—the era in which "a Stanley Kubrick picture" had a meaning—each new project went through more or less the same press-cycle. During production, reports would leak out about the grueling shoot, and how the reclusive Kubrick was testing the boundaries of cinema and propriety. Then the film would come out, and the critical reaction would be mixed to muted, with some declaring the new work a masterpiece and others calling it a disappointment—or even a pretentious fraud. Years would pass, and with time to sink in, each movie would be extensively reevaluated, eventually landing on "best of the decade" or even "best of all time" lists. It was as though each picture had to re-teach the audience how to watch a Stanley Kubrick film.

Eyes Wide Shut is the best case-in-point. Shooting began in the November of 1996 in London, and ended in June of 1998. Throughout that year and a half, there was gossip galore about what Kubrick was up to. The press knew primarily that the film starred Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman—Hollywood's most popular couple at the time—and that it was going to be sexually explicit. Once filming completed, Kubrick spent nine months working with editor Nigel Galt, fine-tuning. Less than a week after he completed a final cut and showed it to Warner Bros. and his stars, he died.
So when the movie came out that summer, for a good long while the conversation surrounding it was about everything but what Kubrick had actually made. Instead, the press was preoccupied by…
… the decision to digitally obscure the orgy scenes, to avoid an NC-17 rating.
… whether Cruise and Kidman had wasted a year of their careers making stilted softcore porn.
… how American audiences reacted to seeing two of the biggest movie stars in the world in a slow-paced art-film.
… whether the Pinewood Studios version of Manhattan looked real enough.
… whether Warner Bros. was going to make its money back.
… if this was the proper capper to a prestigious career.
By the end of 1999 though, a film that had generally been tagged as a "letdown" was being rehabilitated. Roger Ebert taped a special edition of his syndicated TV series, wherein prominent Chicago critics extensively unpacked Eyes Wide Shut—and thus subtly rebuked the large number of well-known New York critics who'd initially shrugged the movie off. The film made a healthy handful of best-of-'99 lists (including in New York), and in the decades since it's generally become regarded as one of the '90s supreme cinematic achievements, and indisputably worthy of its maker.
Most of the shift in conventional wisdom was due to Kubrick himself. When artists produce outstanding work throughout their careers, it's easier to trust that they knows what they're doing—and that if we don't "get it" right away, we should look again. It's also true that once a film is out of the multiplex marketplace, questions like, "Did you like it?" become less pressing. Opinion takes a backseat to analysis. And with Eyes Wide Shut, there's as much to pick through and puzzle over as in any of Kubrick's films—even though almost nothing that happens in the picture is left unexplained.
Based on Arthur Schnitzler's Traumnovelle, the movie has Tom Cruise playing Dr. Bill Harford, a successful New York general practitioner who lives in a lavish apartment with wife Alice (Kidman) and their young daughter. The story begins with the couple going to a lavish Christmas party thrown by Bill's patient Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack), where the pair flirts with other guests before the doctor's called in by his host to attend to a nude, overdosing woman. The next night, Bill and Alice have a testy argument about sexual desire, during which Alice confesses that she's recently lusted after another man. Still fuming, he leaves the apartment to go on a house call, and begins a winding two-day odyssey that sees him sexually tempted multiple times. A combination of desperate arousal and burning envy nearly puts him in mortal danger, after he crashes a bizarre masquerade party at a country estate.

For a long time, Bill's journey into the night feels like an erotic dream that keeps threatening to become a nightmare. (In fact, Traumnovelle is sometimes translated in English as A Dream Novel or Dream Story.) But at the end, Bill meets again with Victor, who offers a different interpretation of the previous 48 hours. Bill's anxious because the morning after he was ejected from the masquerade, one of his friends went missing and a woman who helped him turned up dead. Victor insists that the friend just left town, the woman was a junkie prostitute, and the masked men at the party weren't really threatening Bill, they were maintaining the theatrical illusion of an event meant to resemble a decadent, dangerous gathering of some ancient clandestine tribunal.

Victor could be lying. Or more likely he's acting as Kubrick's surrogate, telling the audience not to think too hard about shadowy cabals and unsolved murders, because that's not really what Eyes Wide Shut is about.

For those who prefer to focus only on plot, Eyes Wide Shut is the story of a couple who live comfortably, but only because they offer something of value to those even richer than themselves. Bill's most embarrassing experience at the masquerade is his discovery that even when he knows the right people, he's not really in their league. Alice, meanwhile, in one of her few big scenes, admits to a lecherous older man that she's out of work, as he paws at her and makes promises to reintroduce her to the art world.

According to Kubrick's closest confidantes though, the real reason he wanted to make Eyes Wide Shut wasn't to explore class, but to scrutinize marriage. That may seem dubious, given how little screen-time Bill and Alice share. But as far back as the early '60s—when he was making his frustratingly neutered version of Nabokov's Lolita—Kubrick reportedly talked about making a movie that dealt frankly with sex in the context of a committed relationship. The mysteries of married life are mostly covered in one scene, when Alice admits that she feels closest to Bill when she's attracted to other guys. Her argument makes a perverse sense, but the thought that she lusts after strangers but comes home to him doesn't comfort Bill, who's so haunted by her confession that he immediately goes out and spends two days trying (and failing) to have sex with anyone, anywhere. He becomes every husband who's ever been told "not tonight honey" and then spent the weekend acting really pissy about it.

Critics and audiences in the summer of 1999 didn't miss any of Eyes Wide Shut's underlying themes, because again, Kubrick made them pretty plain. The question instead was whether he needed to spend two-and-a-half hours on something so seemingly slight, with performances so… spacey. Whenever Kubrick gets tagged as "detached," "chilly," or even "misanthropic," it's usually because of his preferred style of acting. His characters tend either to over-emote (like Jack Nicholson in The Shining or R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket) or speak slowly and flatly (like everybody in 2001 and Barry Lyndon). Kubrick also likes to break up the lines of dialogue with long pauses, which slows the pace further and makes reactions seem less natural. Viewers who dislike Eyes Wide Shut—which included the large numbers of 1999 cinema-goers who lined up to see two movie stars get naked—often trash the performances as "bad." But it takes a lot of skill to maintain poise and charisma while the director's shouting, "Do it again, but slower."


The discord between the affectless and the over-the-top in Kubrick's films dates all the way back to his earliest work—though in the likes of Paths Of Glory, the artificiality was disguised by an overall swiftness of pace that Kubrick would later eschew. There was a gradual evolution to the director's style. What unites Kubrick's awkward early independent films and his later big-budget studio work is a sophistication and worldliness, far removed from the palliative approach of other movies from their era. As a young filmmaker he'd treat each shot and each scene as a unique creative exercise, in effort to make audiences say, "Well, that's new." Early on he wove his preferred stylized acting into images that were strikingly lit but otherwise steeped in photographic realism. Meanwhile, his scripts that make liberal use of narration and time-jumps, suggesting fresh, inventive ways of telling stories through cinema.

Kubrick became a filmmaker as an extension of his day job as a Look magazine photographer. He taught himself how to operate a cheap movie camera in his early 20s, so that he could make some money from a newsreel company that needed shutterbugs. Building off of that experience, Kubrick made the hourlong 1952 fiction feature Fear And Desire, with his family's money. Though the ultra-low-budget war movie is so ponderous and clumsy that the director later disowned it, it showed enough promise to impress a few critics and get limited theatrical distribution in 1953—rare for an indie. So Kubrick reunited with his Fear And Desire screenwriter, future Pulitzer Prize winner Howard Sackler, to make 1955's Killer's Kiss. Kubrick's second feature film is less of a grand statement on human existence and more of an attempt to show off his eye.

Killer's Kiss has barely any story. Jamie Smith plays Davey Gordon, a boxer on his last legs, while Irene Kane is Gloria Price, a dancer-for-hire who lives in the apartment across from his window. Like Robert Wise's classic 1949 noir The Set-Up, Kubrick and Sackler's peek at urban squalor uses the fighter and the hoofer's separate preparations for their jobs as an way of exposing city life at its most sweaty, exhausting, and lurid. Then Gloria gets harassed by a mob-connected thug, and when Davey intervenes, Killer's Kiss turns into a minor-key romance, broken up by long chase scenes. Almost the entire last 20 minutes consists of shots of people on the run, strikingly framed atop and betwixt towering skyscrapers.

On the Criterion Collection Blu-ray of the 1956 thriller The Killing (which contains the entirety of Killer's Kiss as a bonus feature), critic Geoffrey O'Brien narrates a video-essay about Kubrick's second film, praising its "tremendous sense of possibility" and its "made up as it goes along quality." What he's mainly referring to is how much of the 67-minute running time is dedicated to simple, docu-style New York street scenes. Unlike the studio-shot artificiality of Eyes Wide Shut's NYC—which was so phony that residents of the city, critics included, griped about all the geographic and architectural inaccuracies—the New York of Killer's Kiss is almost frighteningly real, depicting a metropolis always teetering on the edge of mayhem. O'Brien and other critics have compared Kubrick's cinematography to the stark crime-scene photographs of Arthur "Weegee" Fellig.

That shouldn't be surprising, given Kubrick's past. He started filing photo essays for Look as a teenager, after catching the magazine's attention with a staged photograph of a New York news vendor reacting to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's death. As a photographer, he specialized in mocked-up scenes of city life, from paddy wagons to college campuses, all viewed from skewed and cynical perspectives. He frequently arranged his subjects in series of shots to create a narrative—often steeped in irony—but because he couldn't control the environment, the snaps contain a lot of spontaneity.

Kubrick brings those gifts to Killer's Kiss, particularly in the scenes that take place in Davey's apartment, where he peers into a tiny fishbowl while the tight spaces and big open windows behind him reveal him as his own kind of animal trapped behind glass. Killer's Kiss features a number of standout visual experiments: a graceful ballet sequence; a boxing match playing out in quick cuts (with views from the canvas and the ropes); a nightmare sequence constructed from polarized footage; a special effect that makes the screen look cracked after someone throws a glass toward the camera; a fight in a mannequin warehouse; and an over-the-top corny "letter from home" from the rural northwest, heard in voiceover while the hero rides in a grubby subway car. But what's most impressive is that—over three decades before Eyes Wide Shut—Kubrick tours through a New York where characters feel like they're on display, and where they can't disguise their base desires.


By the time Kubrick crossed over to the mainstream with the tough, taut genre pieces The Killing and Paths Of Glory, he'd acquired a distinctive style and tone: a sort of detached disgust. But in all the conversations about Kubrick's technical mastery and bleak vision of humankind, what often gets missed is that the man had a mischievous wit. He was known to have late-night transatlantic phone calls with his American friends and colleagues where he'd gush enthusiastically about his favorite TV sitcoms and movie comedies. Dr. Strangelove is his most overtly comic picture, but there's a strong element of wry humor in nearly all of his films, even if it's just in the contrast between the pretensions of high society and its baser impulses. That's evident throughout Barry Lyndon, for example, where all the powdered wigs and finery can't cover up the characters' greed and cowardice.
Tom Cruise has rarely gotten enough credit for how funny he is in Eyes Wide Shut as Dr. Bill: an earnest man accustomed to winning friends and clients with his skill for saying exactly the right bland, inoffensive thing at the right time. As he investigates the sexual underground of New York—flashing his medical certification like a police detective's badge—he becomes increasingly pathetic, and comic. Eyes Wide Shut is especially perverse in the way Kubrick keeps undercutting the eroticism and elegance. The film opens with a shot of Alice's bare backside, then a few minutes later shows her sitting on a toilet. Later, when Bill gets lured by what appears to be a high-class hooker, he steps into an apartment cluttered with dirty dishes and drying laundry. The women in Eyes Wide Shut are impeccably made up and coiffed, but Kubrick subverts the "painted doll" effect by adding a pair of glasses, or putting them in unflattering nude poses. If the movie has one keystone shot, it may be the seemingly random cut back to Alice sitting in her kitchen eating Snackwell cookies while Bill's out testing his manhood.

That fascination with minutiae ultimately is the best rebuke to the notion that Kubrick sneers at humanity. Again and again in his films the characters are seen in small moments where their guard is down and they're being endearingly human. Almost as much as its magnificently choreographed battlefield scenes and dark ironies, Paths Of Glory is a masterpiece because of scenes like the one where two French soldiers talk about how they'd prefer to die—sounding like a couple of caffeinated dudes in a dorm, not warriors on the frontline. In Eyes Wide Shut, while Kubrick's orchestrated gliding camera moves through Bill and Alice's apartment, he has the two of them talking about the name of the babysitter, and saying that they'll hold their cab for her when they get home from Victor's party.

It'd be wrong to say that characters in Kubrick films talk like regular people talk. But they are often preoccupied with the mundane in ways that are conspicuous, given how deep and heavy his movies are so much of the time. The filmmaker may have been short on faith in mankind, but he loved and understood his fellow homo sapiens in his own weird way.

So why did it always seem to take so long for even Kubrick fans to unpack everything his movies had to offer… including the humor, and the subtle empathy? Blame—or credit—his dense and imposing style, which was often the only thing critics could notice about his work on first viewing. It's much easier to appreciate what's happening in Killer's Kiss, where Davey in voice-over openly admits to being turned on by how Gloria is "all smiles and yawns" when she invites him in for breakfast. The fumbling, the fawning, the fear… it's all right there on the surface in Kubrick's earliest films. His vision of the world didn't change much between the early '50s and the late '90s. He just started wrapping it in layers.

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