US shock jock Rush Limbaugh thinks The Dark Knight Rises is an anti-Romney conspiracy

When you name your company "a source of ruin, harm or trouble", these things will happen.

Media Matters has a transcript of some interesting (?) comments made by US shock jock Rush Limbaugh on Monday:

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Have you heard, this new movie, the Batman movie -- what is it, the Dark Knight Lights Up or something? Whatever the name of it is. That's right, Dark Knight Rises, Lights Up, same thing. Do you know the name of the villain in this movie? Bane. The villain in the Dark Knight Rises is named Bane. B-A-N-E. What is the name of the venture capital firm that Romney ran, and around which there's now this make-believe controversy? Bain. The movie has been in the works for a long time, the release date's been known, summer 2012 for a long time. Do you think that it is accidental, that the name of the really vicious, fire-breathing, four-eyed, whatever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bane?

[...]

LIMBAUGH: Anyway, so this evil villain in the new Batman movie is named Bane. And there's now discussion out there as to whether or not this was purposeful, and whether or not it will influence voters. It's going to have a lot of people. This movie, the audience is going to be huge, lot of people are going to see the movie. And it's a lot of brain-dead people, entertainment, the pop culture crowd. And they're going to hear "Bane" in the movie, and they are going to associate Bain. And the thought is that when they start paying attention to the campaign later in the year, and Obama and the Democrats keep talking about Bain, not Bain Capital, but Bain, Romney and Bain, that these people will think back to the Batman movie --"Oh yeah, I know who that is." There are some people who think it will work. There are some people think it will work. Others think -- "You're really underestimating the American people who think that will work."

Ignore the fact that Bane as a character was introduced in 1993's Batman: Vengeance of Bane, by Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench and Graham Nolan, and rose to prominence later that year as "the man who broke the Bat", crippling Batman and leading him to retire the cowl - for a bit (um, spoiler warning for a twenty-year-old comic?).

Ignore the fact that the dictionary definition of the word Bane is "a slayer, a murderer; a thing which causes death or destroys life; murder, death, destruction; ruin, woe; or a souce of ruin, harm or trouble", and that maybe Bain should have thought about homonyms before they named their company.

And certainly ignore the fact that Limbaugh seems to believe that people will literally think that Romney used to work for a supervillain bulked up to improbable levels with the super-steroid "venom" who wears a luchadore mask and snaps peoples backs over his knee.

Rush thinks Bane is a "fire-breathing, four-eyed, whatever-it-is"? How has he managed to avoid any publicity for this film to that extent? I've been actively trying, and I've still seen the trailer enough times to know that Tom Hardy has put on a ridiculous amount of weight to play the villain.

Rush Limbaugh is your weird uncle who came up to you in 2002 and asked if you'd heard of the Spice Girls.

Mitt Bane vs Batman Obama.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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The lute master and the siege of Aleppo

Luthier Ibrahim al-Sukkar's shop was bombed; when he moved, militants came for him. Over WhatsApp, he told me what's next.

Aleppo was once a city of music, but this year the 400,000 residents who inhabit its eastern suburbs can hear nothing but the roar of Russian warplanes, and ear-shattering blasts from the bombs they drop. To the north, west and south, the city is encircled by ground troops from the Syrian armed forces, Hezbollah and Iran. Most residents are afraid to flee, but soon, now that supply lines to the city have been cut off, many will begin to starve. We have reached the crescendo of Aleppo’s suffering in year five of the Syrian civil war.

One clear August morning in 2012, in the early weeks of the battle for the city, a man approached a street corner shop and found a hundred shattered lutes scattered across the floor. Ibrahim al-Sukkar, the engineer who had made the lutes (Arabs know the instrument as the oud), was overwhelmed. He wandered between the tables of his workshop and peered up at the sky, suddenly visible through holes in the roof. He wept on the floor, amid the dust and ash.

Some of the wooden shards that lay around him had been lutes commissioned by musicians in Europe and America. Others were to be used by students in Damascus and Amman. Each oud was built for a specific purpose. In every shard Ibrahim saw a piece of himself, a memory scattered and charred by government bombs. He packed his bags and headed for Idlib, a few hours to the west, where he set up shop a second time. A year later, his workshop was destroyed again, this time by Islamist militants.

It was at this point that Ibrahim came to a stark realisation – he was a target. If barrel bombs from government helicopters could not succeed in destroying him, the Islamists would. The cost of sourcing materials and getting goods to market had become unmanageable. The society that had inspired his desire to make musical instruments was now trying to lynch him for it.

The 11 string courses of an oud, when plucked, lend the air that passes through its bowl the sounds of Arabic modes known as maqamat. Each one evokes an emotion. Hijaz suggests loneliness and melancholy. Ajam elicits light-heartedness and cheer. An oud player’s competence is judged by his or her ability to improvise using these modes, modulating between them to manipulate the listener’s mood. The luthier, the architect of the oud system, must be equal parts artist and scientist.

This is how Ibrahim al-Sukkar views himself. He is a trained mechanical engineer, but before that he was a lover of classical Arabic music. As a young man in the Syrian countryside, he developed a talent for playing the oud but his mathematical mind demanded that he should study the mechanics behind the music. Long hours in the workshop taking instruments apart led him to spend 25 years putting them together. Ibrahim’s ouds are known for their solid construction and, thanks to his obsessive experimentation with acoustics, the unparalleled volume they produce.

Ibrahim and I recently spoke using WhatsApp messenger. Today, he is lying low in the village where he was born in Idlib province, close to the Turkish border. Every so often, when he can, he sends some of his equipment through to Turkey. It will wait there in storage until he, too, can make the crossing. I asked him if he still felt that his life was in danger. “All musicians and artists in Syria are in danger now, but it’s a sensitive topic,” he wrote, afraid to say more. “I expect to be in Turkey some time in February. God willing, we will speak then.”

Ibrahim’s crossing is now more perilous than ever. Residents of Idlib are watching the developing siege of Aleppo with a sense of foreboding. Government forces are primed to besiege Idlib next, now that the flow of traffic and supplies between Aleppo and the Turkish border has been intercepted. And yet, to Ibrahim, the reward – the next oud – is worth the risk.

I bought my first oud from a Tunisian student in London in autumn 2014. It is a humble, unobtrusive instrument, with a gentle, wheat-coloured soundboard covering a cavernous, almond-shaped bowl. Some ouds are decorated with rosettes, wooden discs carved with dazzling patterns of Islamic geometry. Others are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. My instrument, however, is far simpler in design, decorated only with a smattering of nicks and scratches inflicted by the nails of impatient players, and the creeping patina imprinted by the oils of their fingers on its neck.

My instructor once told me that this oud was “built to last for ever”. Only recently did I discover the sticker hidden inside the body which reads: “Made in 2006 by Engineer Ibrahim al-Sukkar, Aleppo.” 

This article first appeared in the 11 February 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The legacy of Europe's worst battle