On May 1, 1903, an African-American man named Will West entered the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth. Like any other new prisoner, West was subjected to the standard admission procedure: prison clerks took photographs, a physical description, and eleven anthropometric measurements.
At the height of the events in Poland, just at the time when the trade union Solidarnosc was being outlawed, I received a letter stamped NIE CENZUROWANO. What exactly did these words mean? They were probably supposed to indicate that the country from which it came was free of censorship. But it could also mean that letters not bearing this stamp were censored, a token of the selective nature of this office, which apparently mistrusts certain citizens while trusting others. It could naturally also mean that all letters bearing this stamp actually did pass through the censor’s hand. At any rate, this symbolic and ambiguous stamp gives a profound insight into the nature of censorship, which on the one hand wants to establish its rightfulness, while at the same time attempting to camouflage its very existence. For, while censorship considers itself a historical necessity and an institution destined to defend public order and the ruling political party, it does not like to admit that it is there. It sees itself as a temporary evil, to be applied during a state of war. Censorship, then, is only a transitory measure which will be scrapped as soon as all those people who write letters, books, etc are politically mature and responsible, thus exonerating the State and its representatives from having to act as guardians of their citizens.
The underground labs of the original Half-Life were set somewhere among New Mexico’s towering desert canyons. It wasn’t your prototypical blockbuster locale, but it was still Hollywood-esque, reminiscent of Cold War-era sci-fi films like Them!, where US Army men battled against giant irradiated ants below a blistering American sun. The setting of Half-Life’s sequel, on the other hand, felt markedly different: colder, darker, and altogether more otherworldly.