Saturday, June 30, 2007

Locust Abortion Technician and other good albums

I have to retract my earlier statement, given last week, that "Electric Larryland" by the Butthole Surfers is better than the album "Locust Abortion Technician". I know this will come as a shock to some of you, but my fellow Americans, in these changed times of increasing insecurity, we have to come to terms with the unexpected, or else it will fester and erupt into a massive bacterial infection that will pollute the body of humanity, forcing us to amputate some of it's limbs and cook them up real nice, with a wine sauce or something, maybe make it like a big serving of Pad Thai, and then consume it so that we can be reborn in the grace of god and receive eternal life and salvation.

Ahem. My explanation for the change in policy is as follows: I did not realize that a listener of Locust Abortion Technician had to be in a certain "state" in order to fully appreciate it.

Albums similar to Locust Abortion Technician in this respect include "The Pod", by Ween, and "The Man Who Sold the World", by David Bowie.

That's all I have to say tonight, I thank you all for your patience, and good night and god bless.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

In the Realms of the Unreal

In the Realms of the Unreal is a collection of writings from people who have been labelled insane and are, mostly, institutionalized. I've been wanting this for a while and have gotten a hold of it and read quite a bit.

Why read writings from people who are crazy? Well, often the crazy people, in particular the schizophrenics who are hallucinating constantly and have religious visions, have particular insights gleaned from their particular state of mind that are very hard for people without that state of mind to have access to. By learning and getting exposed to particular schizophrenic worldviews it causes the mind of the reader to learn a new language, so to speak, and possibly get a few new ways of thinking about the world.

The writings by the mentally ill represent a particularly pure form of "Outsider Art", typified by untrained people who either write or, more commonly, make visual art. Outsider Art is valuable because although untrained, and possibly made by people with severe mental impairments, it expresses a purity of artistic vision that more refined work sometimes lacks. With writing it's not just a purity of vision but access to a certain purity of ideas, unencumbered by normal standards of what's appropriate, what's not appropriate, what makes sense, what doesn't make sense, what you should talk about, what you shouldn't, what's real, what's fantasy. Schizophrenic people tend to have a direct mainline to their subconscious, which they can't shut off. Indeed, if you ever meet a schizophrenic person the thing that you'll notice is that it's impossible to get them to shut up. They just can't. Their mental life is an ever evolving procession of images, ideas, conspiracies, paranoia, and religious phenomenon going on and on and on.

It's also hella interesting. Particularly so in this volume are the writings by Adolph Wölfli, a mental patient in Switzerland from the turn if the 20th century on, who wrote an "Autobiography" that totalled 2,700 pages, with drawings interspersed, and which drifted from straight autobiography into fantasy after the first couple of pages. There are excerpts, missives, and general letters. Unfortunately I could only find one monograph of translated work, which I probably won't be getting any time soon.

Here's an excerpt from "The Schüpfen Letter":

"Now listen. From the hour of my birth on, March 1, 1,864: I travelled with all my family members and over 5,000, male and female friends from our home and fatherland, Switzerland, with the almighty family and its whole, gigantic, Travelling-Avantt-Gaarde, in not less than 10, each, separate Travelling periods, on its tremendous Travelling-Object, Giant-Lightening-Transparantt, in all directions of the Wind-Rose, from Star to Star, through the whole and entire, highly proper, old and new, St. Adolph-Giant-Creation: As well as, a large part of the Endless and infinite, consisting of absolute, pure Nothing, eternity, at the occasion of which I saw, experienced and learnt much and, now one way, now another had to endure, a total of over 10,000 fatal accidents:...."
***

Interesting stuff. In fact, paying attention to the work of the mentally ill is only the last or latest step in the search for a method of short circuiting the conscious mind in order to let unfettered creativity through. The Surrealists did this through collective games, automatic writing, the deliberate breaking of all and every moral and ethical rule in their fiction, destroying the very structure of novels, stories, and poems, sometimes reassembling them into new forms, often not doing much with them. Drugs and alcohol, of course, but those are so tired and worn out; the artificial, non-chemical, means of getting new creativity going is much more interesting, unless you're one of those rare individuals who actually know how to use the substances to really effect creative flow. What else in terms of derangement of the senses....pursuing symbolism and symbolic images in writing to the detriment of realism, based on the quite rational belief that the world of imagination and symbolic reality, including myth, is a better way of understanding the meaning of the world, not what actually happens in an exact sense but rather how to interpret it, than is simply reproducing reality while trying to de-emphasize narrative intervention in order to present a more 'objective' picture. Myths, fairy tales, both are untutored and both are things remembered on the fringes of society. This impulse for finding stuff of this sort was what impelled the abstract expressionist painter Paul Klee to study the drawings of children.

Jean Dubuffet was the guy who started the formal search for outsider art, calling it "Art Brut", and whose style deliberately incorporated notions gained from studying outside art.

Oh, this is just an added note, how could I forget the 'Pataphysicians in discussing ways to get around the conscious mind and around conventional notions of reality? 'Pataphysics is essentially the art and science of inventing imaginary solutions, for instance systems of science that have nothing to do with actual reality, as well as machines which have no functional properties, and which might be actually impossible, well often impossible in fact, to actually construct in the real world, which are based on imagined scientific principles. 'Pataphysics is a mostly literary movement. Alfred Jarry, the author of the "Ubu Roi" series of plays, was the originator of the concept, including in his fiction such things as a fucking machine that's tested against a superhuman mutant in a competition to see who can last the longest in the act of love, as well as in his unpublished work "Adventures of Dr. Faustroll, 'Pataphysician" a copper wire bed that's used as a ship sailing across the sea of Paris, powered by the oars of a hapless passenger. It also includes the invention of a baboon with a set of buttocks implanted on its face whose only function is to interrupt people and say "Haw-Haw" when someone is going on too long, although according to Faustroll he also speaks some phrases in perfect Flemish.

Offended? Shocked? Good, you should be. You should see the erotica of Guillaume Apollinaire. It's so extreme that I'd probably be kicked off blogger if I reproduced some of it from memory.

Well, these are some examples of how to get around the conscious mind and around convention, in the case of the examples above by trampling it and burning it utterly to the ground, and then stamping on the little bits, getting naked, rolling around in them, and then running into a large crowd of people.

A Fragment of something I'll touch on more later

It's been argued that one of the main reasons for the rise of McCarthyism was the resurgence of labor activism after World War II, that McCarthyism was in part an attempt to beat back this labor militancy as well as the general left wing trend that had appeared in the United States during the thirties and forties. During the war workers chafed under commands not to strike in order not to hamper the war effort, but they also saw the companies that they were working for make massive profits because of the war. Several groups, interestingly enough tied to Trotskyists, did in fact strike during the war. The groups that were radical that were especially linked to the Communists were forbidden to strike because the United States was allied to Soviet Russia. After the war was over the built up tensions manifested in a wave of strikes.

****
I want to get away from boutique socialism, at least a little bit. Boutique socialism is a socialism that's rooted in a theory that isn't aware of the independent struggle of labor through the history of the country that it's aimed at. Strange to say, considering that a big whopping part of this blog deals with just that, but even people that are heavy on it sometimes realize what they're doing. It goes without saying that Marx didn't invent the socialist or the working class movement; neither did any of the socialist theorists. At best they were part of the movement already and based their theory on the experiences that they got from that involvement.

What's the history of independent worker activism in the United States? Everyone knows about the AFL, some people know about the IWW, and people at least know the CIO through its unholy merger with the AFL, but what about everything else? Surely there were worker associations, both craft based and based on unskilled labor before the AFL and the IWW. What's the history of that? What's the history of independent labor unions after the war, like the Association of Revolutionary Black Workers in Detroit? What about even during the era, roughly from the end of the 19th century to post-World War II, that starts traditionally with the founding of the AFL and ends with the expelling of the Communists from the CIO and the formation of the AFL-CIO?

The history of the IWW should of course be much more well known; it provided an alternative to the often elitist craft based unions, that as a matter of course didn't let unskilled workers in. It also was committed to organizing everyone, was much more than a labor union, was a social movement of workers with a revolutoinary perspective.

The Vietnamese in America

Represent one of the few instances that the U.S. government has done right by a group of people whose lives it has affected.

It surprised me when I got out here how big the Vietnamese community is. Mainly because I'd only lived further east before coming out here and there really aren't large Vietnamese communities out there. The only place I'd been with a substantial Vietnamese community was Orlando, where I suspect the people in the community work very cheaply for Disney.

Anyways, the people who are out here are either people who supported the U.S. backed regime in South Vietnam during the war or people who for whatever reason decided it would be a very bad thing to stay in Vietnam after it became Communist. They were either spirited out via the U.S. government or they took off in boats, being intercepted and transferred to refugee camps before coming to the United States.

It's somewhat impressive that the United States let them in instead of leaving them to whatever fate awaited them in Vietnam.
Regardless of one's feelings about the war, if you help put someone in a compromising position I think you have some sort of obligation to help them out when the tide turns on them.

Hopefully we'll do the same thing for Iraqis once the Iraq war is over.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A reason for going back to college and finishing my degree

That I'm done with.

It happened like this: I was living in Gainesville Florida, home of the University of Florida, doing my own thing, doing research on topics that were interesting to me, eventually making extensive use of the University library itself, when, after a while of living there I began to realize something. Gainesville is one of the binge drinking capitols of the college circuit, second only in Florida to FSU in Tallahassee, and on any given Friday, and Saturday, you can go out at night and see immaculately dressed university kids stumbling around, drunk, screaming at each other, going from bar to bar. Frat people, general preppy people, you name it. Eventually I realized that a lot of these people weren't that smart and that they were just drinking and partying their way through school, but that despite this, at the end of their four or five years, they'd have a college diploma and would be eligible for all sorts of opportunities that people without college degrees don't have. More importantly, at least for me, they'd be seen as successes, even though they were total fuckups in their time during college, while people who didn't have that magic degree, no matter how smart or knowledgable they were, would be regarded as failures.

I essentially didn't want to be seen as more of a fuckup than these folks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bush authorized Castro's death?

So he has said in an essay, with the title link of this post pointing to the original article. There are two things going on here. First is that the U.S. has indeed tried to kill Castro, over and over, and that Cuban exiles have...either on their own or with support from the CIA.....tried to kill Castro. The second thing is that the constant littany of publicized attempts on Castro's life, whether imagined, concocted, or real, has proved to be a potent propaganda weapon for the Cuban state against the Cuban people. By claiming that Castro is always in danger of being assasinated they can justify a continual sense of emergency. Imagine if Bush was constantly claiming that people were trying to kill him. Chavez tried this tactic a few years ago, when there were a spate of iffy announcements of attempted assasinations, but it seems that the Venezuelan people weren't buying it.

Other people have been to Cuba, a surprisingly high number in fact, people of all ages, but I haven't ever been, so this may be a little prejudicial, but the impression I get is that the Cuban government uses mass rallies and massive remembrences of key events in the official history of the Cuban revolution, repeated over and over and over again, to try to morally compell people to do a good job and to support the regime. There's Che, but of equal importance is possibly that heroic historical narrative of the Cuban Revolution. Any time that you hear or read someone who's really part of the Cuban system talk about Cuba you're sure to hear reference to the storming of the Moncada Barracks, which was the first abortive attempt by the Cuban revolutionaries to overthrow the Batista regime. If that's mentioned, surely you'll hear about the ship Granma, overloaded with revolutionary soldiers, sailing from Mexico to Cuba in order to spark the struggle. And this is just the people who speak English.

Cuba has made many advances, has gone from being an island owned by the mob and adminstered as an American playground to being a country that's in control of its own destiny, albeit after being in the Soviet sphere for decades. From what I understand there really is a lot of equality there, there's racial equality unlike anything that existed before the overthrow of Batista, education is good, and the standard of living is improving. The state of the public health system is especially good. But that doesn't mean that everything is all right.

Hopefully Cuba will turn into a country where the government doesn't have to try to motivate the people with false assasination attempts.

For every ten sites the U.S. Government blacklists there's one that's worth checking out

Title link leads to a story about ten sites mentioned in a State Department paper on disinformation in relation to Iraq and the Middle East. The site has the link to the paper itself as well. The ten sites are as follows:

1. Rense Program www.rense.com
2. Roads to Iraq www.roadstoiraq.com
3. Vialls Investigations* www.vialls.com
4. Aljazeera aljazeera.com
5. Conspiracy Planet www.conspiracyplanet.com
6. Jihad Unspun jihadunspun.com
7. International Action Center www.iacenter.org
8. Free Arab Voice www.freearabvoice.org
9. George W. Bush - Terrorist in the White House nogw.com
10. Islam Memo (in Arabic) www.islammemo.cc

Out of all of them the one that seems to be rational and not really deserving of the title of disinformation is Aljazeera.Com. It isn't related to the TV network Al-Jazeera, and despite the claim by the State Department doesn't try to "trick" people into thinking that it is. All you have to do is click on the "About Us" link to find out that it isn't affiliated with the network.

Some might argue that the International Action Center is also undeserving of the label, but I'll just say "No comment" on that one.

Added "Anarchist Voices" and "Socialism in America"

To the sidebar. Both of them are documents from the socialist movement as it actually existed in pre-WWII America, Anarchist Voices being a series of interviews with people from all over the U.S. and Canada who belonged to the Anarchist movement, Socialism in America being a compilation of speeches and documents produced by people and groups starting with religious and utopian socialists and going on through the Leninists and hitting everything in between.

I'm adding these two for the same reason that I added "Socialist Thought: A Documentary History" (available used for cheap!), which is to say that these books deal with socialism as it actually existed, moving away from a purely theoretical analysis and to a practical analysis of how in fact these things could manifest as a movement or in future societies.

I don't buy the argument that you can't predict how socialist society is going to look like and that, therefore, you shouldn't write about it. I mean, what the hell are you fighting for if you don't have any idea what exactly the end point is going to look like or be? These authors try to fill in that blank.

People are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and yet...

And yet the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case has made it to the Supreme Court, been heard, and a decision has been made.

I guess that just shows you the difference between life in the first world and life in the third world.

People being killed by American soldiers as a consequence of two invasions vs. some high school kids who unfurled a banner about bongs. We sure have our priorities straight here don't we?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Maoism and the Fourth World

Now onto slightly more serious stuff. The type of interpretation of Chinese Communism given in the below post, i.e. that it attempted to figure out what equality and socialism meant for non-capitalist economies, has a big flaw, actually two big flaws that are intertwined.

The first one can be seen when looking at the sort of indigenous societies typically referred to as the Fourth World, but the same idea could apply to many Third World societies as well. In these societies the line between the distribution of wealth and the distribution of power, on the one hand, and cultural and religious leadership, on the other, isn't really defined so well. This leads to the situation where if a group wants to establish a sort of socialist equality for their society they may end up attacking not just inequality but the very foundations of the worldview on which that society is based. This situation leads to the second flaw.

The hardcore Maoists would say sure, you can't separate the two sorts of functions, that's why you need a cultural revolution to destroy the cultural and religious traditions that keep people oppressed or that allow the oppression based on power and economic inequalities to exist. This not only doesn't help the situation that the first problem revolves around, it in fact deepens the crisis considerably. After all, now you aren't just talking about infringing on people's religious and cultural traditions in order to create economic and political equality, you're actually talking about eliminating those traditions entirely.

This was the justification for suppressing Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism in China. The idea of Confucianism was about the most straightforward, because it was the court religion/philosophy, but it's also a major part of the Chinese cultural heritage.

Although it's perhaps not the biggest issue involved, there's also the question of what replaces these things. My understanding may be flawed but the impression I get is that Mao and company tried to impose a bastardized Westernism on China, i.e. Westernism with Chinese characteristics.

The justification of having a cultural revolution to truly allow for economic and political equality was also what was used to explaion the invasion of Tibet by China, although there were also long standing territorial interests on the part of China, with Tibet being something that Chinese governments had tried, sometimes succesfully to take in the past.

But no matter what the other issues, once China took over Tibet it carried out a cultural Revolution there as well, shutting monasteries and labelling them parasites on the backs of the people, and after the Dalai Lama left labelling the entire society as a corrupt theocracy run for the benefit of the Dalai Lama and the monks, with the actual conditions of the Tibetan people ignored.

The Dalai Lama has been careful not to either paint too rosey a picture of how Tibet was, i.e. that it was a paradise on earth, or, of course, to endorse the Chinese view more than is justified.

I'm going to write a musical (satire)

It's going to be titled "14 Feet of Shelf Space" and will be about the epic struggle of a man to find furniture for an apartment in the city.

I have an apartment in Seattle now and am moving my stuff up from Olympia to it, a process that'll probably take aa few weeks.

I don't know, "14 feet of Shelf Space" should be a topic that'd be a hit, considering some of the "Tales of the City" type Broadway shows that have come out in the last couple of years....

Where are the Middle Eastern Christians?

It's a question to ask, and one which has a straightforward answer, considering that the Middle East was the birthplace of Christianity, which was a succesful faith. The answer, as given by noted scholar of Islam Frank Peters, who I was lucky enough to take a class with, is that the middle eastern Christians largely became Muslim. Sure, there are substantial Christian communities in the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon, but they're a distinct minority. However, the ancestors of many of today's Muslims in the Middle East were the people who converted to Christianity in the first centuries A.D.

This is an answer that doesn't jibe with the current propaganda surrounding Muslims, i.e. that Islam is a foreign, alien, thing, believed in by people of a different race who have always been Muslim, been a member of the Other, ignoring for the time being that Islam started in the seventh century A.D. The people who are considered to have no history that the group confronting them can identify with are the people who are most likely to be abused by the dominant group. Maybe if people recognized that many of today's Muslims are ex-Christians that wouldn't be so easy, even though it would be a shame that it might take something like tha to convince people to treat people in the Middle East with dignity and respect.

I give you the "superior man"

There's a white supremacist who claims not to be a white supremacist who has the unique distinction of having his books available at chain stores like Borders nationwide. I'm not going to write his name, although by saying that he co-wrote a book about Scandinavian Black Metal that was published by Feral House you should be able to find out who he is quite easily.

He's translated a book by an Italian fascist/mystic about how life should be ordered, with the elite on top and everyone else serving them, as well as headlined a band that can't get their records stocked by even non-non-non mainstream record stores because of fascist lyrics.

So what is he up to these days? Well, he has this website that generally puts forward his ideas. I went over there about a week ago to see what this "superior man" is saying these days. Turns out that he's engaging in a lot of juvenile name calling, calling people with bad fashion taste "Queers" and giving his opinion that the move to ban junk food in schools is like a dictate from a central committee. Ah, so this is what the Superior Man does all day! Engage is name calling that even jock highschool students would shy away from as being immature, and complaining about junk food being banned from schools because, get this, liking junk food is manly. He means it in a non-ironic way, although the sentiment is something that could have come out of Maddox's "The Best Page in the Universe".

Ah, how superior! No doubt this is why he feels that he's one of the elite, who's born to have others serve him.

I wrote him an e-mail outlining all of this, fucking with him and taunting him, and he's gotten back to me, but the thing is that try as he might he can't really deny what I outlined.

So, to quote Nietzsche "Ecce Homo---Here is Man". Here is the "Superior Man" unveiled, showing how he really is, something that Nietzsche himself would no doubt be entertained by.

My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult: The Filthiest Show in Town

Now for something a little lighter. "Filthiest Show in Town" is the new album by seminal industrial band My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, or TKK. Thrill Kill Kult are known for campy, hedonistic, lyrics and samples. They started out consistently darker then they are now, but from the '91 album "Sexplosion!" on the camp angle has predominated.

They're known for their treatment of gay themes in their music, although I suspect that in reality their sexuality is more complex than that. Which brings us to "The Filthiest Show in Town".

TKK has been exploring the gay angle for a long time, culminating in the recent release of "Gay, Black, and Married", a tribute to disco era sounds and themes. But with Filthiest Show in Town they try to return to heterosexual themes in their lyrics. And, unfortunately, it doesn't work.

They lyrics are totally unrealistic, things that people in reality would never say to women, even if the person saying it was particularly sleazy. The lyrics are wooden, sounding like an imagining of what straight dialogue and interchange is, coming from a gay perspective, rather than what it actually is like. This is really bad because the actual music is both really good and an interesting evolution of the Thrill Kill Kult sound.

Some of the lyrics are just mystifying---like the chorus in "Jet Set Sex": "Jet Set Sex, Let's have Sex". What? Are people actually supposed to be saying things like that to women in reality, in the real world? Or "Take your low heels off and put your whore heels on", from "Jive Ass ave". I understand the concept but I highly doubt that real women would go for someone straight out asking them to put on clothes that make them look like a whore. "Sophisticated Living" has the problem of describing the life of a star in a way that makes you think that it's written by a kid imagining these things, rather than by members of a band who surely have some actual experience in this area.

"Gay, Black, and Married" is, overall, a much better album. The sound, the imitation of disco, is very good, and the lyrics are honest.

The lead members of Thrill Kill Kult may have their feet in both the heterosexual and homosexual camps but they've been gone from the straight world for so long that they seem to have a hard time protraying it with much realism.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Palestinian is an interesting term

But one that I think is misleading. After all, there's Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, but the concept of a "Palestine" is unfamiliar. The phrase "Palestinian State" is troubling as a phrase in that it amplifies the obfuscation. Who Palestinians are could be defined a hell of a lot simpler than by making reference to the Mandate system. A better, much more clearcut, definition of who the Palestinians are is this: they are the Arabs that preceded the Jews, who are now Israelis, in the area that is now Israel.

That's it.

The Arabs of Palestine lived there for centuries and centuries, then during the 19th century there started sporadic, usually small, waves of Jewish colonization, starting under the Ottomans and continuing under the British. Eventually, the people who had been colonizing Arab land fought against the British for political power, got it, and proceded to expel the residents who lived there before they started to arrive.

That's a good one paragraph summary of the origin of the state of Israel and of the origin of the Israeli-"Palestinian" conflict.

It's one that removes obfuscations like the Zionist movement from the picture. The Zionists were a European phenomenon and a parallel could be made between them and the colonists of New England who fled there for religious reasons: Sure, the New England colonists were motivated by a complex series of events that happened in England, but that doesn't change the fact that they stole the Indians land and launched a war of extermination against them

I think the stealing of the land and the extermination is more important than the religio-politic causes of the emigration of Puritans and Pilgrims to New England in the first place, just as the actual fact of Jewish colonization of Palestine is probably more important than the ideological movements that caused it to happen.

If people in the U.S. are trying to reimagine things from the point of view of the people who were the victims of American colonization, as a necessary corrective to how the history had been normally presented, then why not do the same thing with Israel/Palestine by looking at the origin of the conflict from the point of view of Palestinian Arabs, instead of loading it down with baggage that's not appropriate?

Interestingly enough, the Holocaust doesn't really figure in to this. Israel got independence in 1949, which was four years after the fall of the Third Reich. Obviously the machinery that was put in motion to make that possible didn't create itself in four years, or even in eleven years, if we pre-date back to 1938, when Kristallnacht happened, which is the conventional date people ascribe to the start of the movement of the Nazi state from brutal oppression to the path of extermination.

This was happening before then.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Speaking of the RCP

While the RCP is content to concern itself with meaningless questions like defining a Marxist ideology and a Marxist worldview that's absolutely comprehensive and absolutely true in a "Scientific" way, the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party pre-Cultural Revolution is actually fairly interesting. The main question that they set out to answer was what would a revolutionary change mean for a country that has no industrial working class but is instead dominated by farming communities. They answered the question by rethinking what equality meant in a pre-capitalist environment, then implemented it in the areas that they controlled. Redistributing land, breaking down the traditional power structure in the village and creating more participatory ways of decisionmaking. The concept, from what I gather, was to go from this sort of proto-socialist equality to full blown socialism through a managed process that cut out the need to go through a traditionally capitalist phase.

The whole capitalist phase of society in general proved to be utterly meaningless for most of the third world, which exists largely in a non-capitalist or semi-capitalist state. I mean, the reason that people were proposing socialism was because of the exploitative nature of capitalism where as Marx noted "All that is solid melts into air". Why should people want to go through that?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Observations

I'm convinced that the reason the more indiscreet Trotskyist groups, as well as the LaRouche-ites and the RCP people, sell newspapers on street corners and set up tables to talk to passers by has little to do with actually propagating the message and more to do with brainwashing people in order to bind them closer to the group.

I'm sure they get some converts that way, but think of what it does to the person selling the papers or running the table: if you're a zealous, or not even that zealous, follower of one of these groups you're essentially facing an impossible task, i.e. win over people that are hostile to your very presence. You stand out there for hours, trying to sell the paper and to engage people in conversation, facing insults, hostility, and general indifference. Since you care about the organization that you're selling the paper for the reactions of people don't convince you that it's wrong or pointless to sell the paper, rather they make you pissed off at the people not paying attention and instead convince you that the group is more right then ever.

You build up a sort of shared comraderie with other people that have gone through the same experience.

How do I know this? Beyond general observation and experience in the political arena I've gotten som every interesting e-mails from the Seattle chapter of the Revolutionary Communist Party that suggest this to me. I got on their mailing list because I bought a book from them via their online bookstore. Every once and a while an e-mail will show up in my box asking me to help out selling their newspaper, the Revolutionary Worker, at some event. Now, I'm not a member of the RCP, have never gone to any RCP meetings, but because I'm on their mailing list they're asking me this. Imagine a person who buys an RCP book, who actually cares about the RCP and has read some of their material, who gets this e-mail and goes down to whatever event these folks are going to be at. They most likely give some talking points to the guy or gal, have a little conversation, load them up with papers, and send them on their way. In the next hours they'll receive harassment, indifference, engage in conversations that might be a sign of sincere interest, engage in others where the people are honestly just fucking with them.

At the end of the day, after enduring all that, they'll either decide not to do it again or they'll emerge believing in the RCP even more. They might even start going to meetings and become a member.

It's a psychological trick. If you believe in something and you're put in a position where that belief is denigrated you'll tend to react, or may react, by getting defensive and finding yourself caring even more about the thing that's been challenged. I mean, you care about it, right? But this response, which happens normally in the course of life, can be made to happen by people who want it to happen by sending people into situations where those beliefs are almost guaranteed to be challenged.

It goes beyond just left wing and somewhat crazy sects (LaRouche)....look at the Jehovah's Witnesses, banging on peoples' doors and trying to sell people "The Watchtower" and convince them that they're sect is right. Think of Mormon missionaries in the U.S. doing the same thing, only unlike the Jehovah's Witnesses they're often far from home and living communally in a religious setting.

At the end of the stint of knocking on peoples' doors and getting insulted they'll probably be ultra-hardcore about the belief system. Since they're religions and not just political groups, deciding not to be involved after doing this work no doubt has more ramifications than just deciding not to be involved with a Trotskyist sect or the RCP.

And about the justification for the paper selling that goes that Lenin dictated in "What is to be Done?" that every group had to have a paper? Well, the Bolsheviks had been organizing underground for many years and even though they did have a paper it was highly illegal to possess, as well as to print and distribute, or write for, etc... and the Bolsheviks were an illegal underground party. They weren't exactly selling these things on street corners. Instead, the vaunted paper was distributed through an underground network.

Finally saw "Lost Highway"

Which shares a name with the former name of this blog, "Lost Highway Times". My use of the name is based on a Hank Williams song, but many people think there's a connection between the name and the movie.

What I have to say about the movie is that it was so uninteresting and boring that I turned it off under halfway through, at about the time the main character switched with the other guy.

Sure, I get the "Noir" theme and the homage to the sort of fifties hardboiled beat culture, but a lack of anything resembling an interesting story cripples the film. There's no reason to sit through something that fucks up so badly, for so long, so early on. Like the guy with the white makeup and the lipstick that he meets at the party. Ooooh, scary! I'm freaked out, really.

Pathetic excuse for a movie, no wonder people panned it when it first came out in '97.

It's like the band "Death in June"

This is building on the previous post's discussion of how things acquire a different context in the media. Death in June is a neo-folk band that uses a lot of symbols that derive from the Third Reich. Douglas Pierce, the core of the group, has gone to pains to explain that they're not using them in the conventional way. But at the very least, no matter what he might believe, in his personal interpretation, that these things stand for, in the eyes of people at large they still symbolize Nazism, and, again, at the very least, his use of these symbols proves that he really doesn't care about allegations of sympathy to Nazism or that he's using symbols that the rest of the world sees as Nazistic.

Same thing with his disturbing use of the word "Holocaust". In a long letter that he penned to the German government in response to a potential ban on his work because of potential racist themes he pointed out that "Holocaust" originally had several meanings before The Holocaust and that the song with "Holocaust" in its title was inspired by volcanoes in Iceland, that regularly burned up everything with fire and lava. This may be true, but it overlooks the simple fact that virtually everyone on the planet, when they hear the word "Holocaust" think of the destruction of the European jews by the Third Reich and its puppet states. To use the word "Holocaust" so brazenly demonstrates the same non-caring attitude about being assocatied with being pro-Naziistic or even with being a Holocaust denier. Whatever the truth, the fact that he uses the word in a title for his song "Rose clouds of Holocaust", which, let's see, could it refer, or possibly be taken to refer, to the clouds of ash coming out of Auschwitz? is a sort of thumbing of the nose at people who actually care about things like the Holocaust.

It's hard to maintain that "you didn't mean it" like that, or weren't trying to goad people on, when you entitle a CD of early songs "Holocaust Hymns".

People may wonder why I'm talking about DiJ, but the fact is that despite assertions to the contrary Death in June is a substantial mover and shaker in the industrial/neofolk scene. Plus, many of the assertions of questionable content have come from people who aren't familiar with or who are automatically hostile to all of Industrial Music and Neofolk. I'm actually familiar with both and so am sort of beyond accustaions of that sort.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I'm proud of the progressive media for not racializing what happened in Texas

On June 19th a group of people beat a person to death in Austin after a car the person was in hit a child, causing non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the car had stopped and gotten out to see how the child was doing when the group of people approached and started attacking him. The passenger of the car attempted to shield the driver from the crowd and was beaten to death.

That's what happened on June 19th. The fact that the victim was hispanic and that the assailants were black, and that they were returning from a celebration in Austin of the emancipation of Texas' slaves....well, let's put it this way: even though this is all true, these elements, when combined in a certain way in the media, mean something else than that a group of people who are black attacked a guy who is hispanic after the driver of the car he was in hit a child. Instead, the subtext, unless you're really careful, would imply that this was a black on hispanic hate crime. Additionally, it's hard to talk about a group of black people attacking someone without making it seem like racist stereotypes are involved in the portrayal. It might be true, but in the media it has an automatic double meaning because of the history of that idea.

So it's a welcome thing that the progressive media, in this case Rawstory and other progressive news aggregation websites, reported the crime in ways that didn't deny that the assailants were African American but didn't promote the idea either.

In the story that Rawstory quoted, Juneteenth was explained, it was said that the people were coming back from a Juneteenth celebration, said that the victim was Hispanic, but consciously didn't connect the dots to say that the assailants were black.

This is a really good lesson in how to cover stories without falling into using racial stereotypes that could be used but that would be misleading if they were used.

Peter Linebaugh...popularizer of ideas not his own

The author of "The Many Headed Hydra", among other books, has another piece on Counterpunch dealing with his sort of bullshit rip off of autonomist history...where he advocates the existence of something called "Atlanticism", which is his theory that ideas of democracy where transmitted to England and to the U.S. by Pirate ships. That's an interesting fantasy to base a children's book on but in terms of real history it has about zero relevancy. So mr. Linebaugh takes ideas from lesser known historians like Peter Lamborn Wilson, author of "Pirate Utopias", as well as the authors featured in "Gone to Croatan", as well as E.P. Thomspson, author of "The Making of the English Working Class" as well as "Whigs and Hunters: The Origin of the Black Act,", which is a history of resistence to the centralization of state power in England that set the stage for the beginnings of capitalism. Harry Cleaver's "Reading Capital Politically" is also pilfered for ideas, just as the general thought of C.L.R. James regarding working class self organization and activity. Freddy Pearlman, author of "Against Leviathan, Against His-Story" is also heavily relied on.

But the difference between them and Linebaugh is that while all of them, except perhaps E.P. Thompson, are extraordinarily obscure and hard to find (not to mention the fact that three of the people mentioned above are dead), Linebaugh's books are available at better bookstores everywhere, no doubt read by people who don't know anything about the people he draws on and who have no idea that his books are derivative and unoriginal. So they become automatically impressive.

Yeah. And he plays the Irish angle up in the piece the Counterpunch link leads to, this absurd belief that the Irish were some sort of born Autonomists in America, believed in by people who like to beat a Bodhrain drum and play act that they're Irish. It's like people wearing kilts with knives tucked into high socks believing that they're Scottish. The only reason that the Irish are getting so much attention as being potentially "Subversive" is that there're so many people claiming Irish ancestry in the United States, and they like to get a kick out of pretending that they're oppressed, even though their pasty faces are whiter than the whitest Englishman. They're completely integrated into white American society, they completely benefit from the Wages of Whiteness, and yet they seem to feel that they have to invent some sort of present history of oppression in order to assuage their white guilt.

But I shouldn't get off on a rant...

Needless to say, it appears that Linebaugh, in this article, has taken the kool aid of Irish subversiveness in America full throttle by quoting an equally insane book called "How the Irish invented Slang", which asserts that words like "Jazz", among others associated with African-American culture, are really derived from Gaelic.

All the Jazz musicians danced with the wee Leprechauns and were taught their rhythyms by the oppressed Irish, who danced jiggs that later became black music. None of it went back to Africa, of course. I exagerrate, but not without cause.

It seems that once you let pasty white people claim that they were very, very, oppressed and still bare the features of a culture of oppression they start to want to co-opt everyonew else's oppression. Nice.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Huxley, Orwell, and Fascism

George Orwell wrote an essay prior to writing 1984 where he analyzed Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" and made the case that it didn't really address all the questions and problems of modern life. The novel is about a futuristic society where everyone is given drugs that make them happy, everyone is given things that satisfy their biological needs and drives, and people in general are kept content by consumption so that they don't realize what's really going on. This scenario could be updated for today's consumer and media driven society, where constant consumption and work to fuel that constant consumption as well as a dominance of life by the media, particularly by television, are facts of life.

Orwell made the case that just being drugged by consumption and by media control wouldn't really be ultimate form of dystopia, negative utopia, because people possess drives other than hedonistic fullfilment. People also possess drives that urge them to seek to have power over others, to hurt people, to dominate, to control. They have drives that urge them on to war on other peoples and to enjoy a vicarious thrill of a strong leader. People have the urge to exalt the group and to demonize people outside of the group.

These types of things, Orwell argued, were what the negative utopias of the future realized in the present would be based on. I believe that Orwell specifically mentioned the nationalism of the first world war as proving this.

It's a good description of Fascism, and the ideas from that essay informed 1984 directly. You have "Big Brother" who is fighting a perpetual war for the defense of the world against whatever enemy is there at the time. Instead of drugs, besides the alcohol that's readily available, you have the "5 Minutes of Hate", where people are encouraged to yell and scream at what the official traitor, Emmanuel Goldstein, is supposedly doing. This is coupled with extreme paranoia about enemy agents infiltrating and constant vigilance to protect the state against subversion.

Not exactly a happy hedonistic society.

But it addresses all those urges that are, or were, officially ignored in the media. Since 9/11, in the United States, that's changed.

Anyways, part of what Orwell was saying was that socialism on its own wouldn't be enough to address society's problems because even if we lived in a substantially equal society there would still be the issue of power. That observation has been confirmed. With a rough equality established in the socialist countries, despite the countries being poor, the will to power manifested itself in the behavior of the beaurocracy, the party, and the state, with a will to dominate prevailing.

The concentrations of power itself need to be addressed; the ability of a small group of people to command and control things, playing on the spirit of nationalism, playing on the spirit of these negative drives while pursuing them, has to be addressed.

The structures of power that turn some people into the exercizers of power and other people into the victims of power have to in some way be overcome.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Videodrome

This is a kind of montage of things from David Cronenberg's film "Videodrome".



Several of Brian Oblivion's speeches pasted together.

Interestingly enough, this video clip is in itself an example of video art...

Hell of a dishonest music review there.

That Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips did to "Nevermind" by Nirvana.

From this article from "The Guardian" out of England, entitled "Sgt. Pepper must die!", which is overall a funny and entertaining take down of cherished albums:

"Nevermind had a poisonous, pernicious influence. It legitimised suffering. The sainthood of Kurt Cobain overshadows the album: Kurt's lyrics, his attitudinising and navel-gazing, were hard to separate from the band's image."

Ah, that damn suffering! Can't have that on rock albums, specifically not alternative rock albums right? Not like R.E.M. ever wrote a song about suffering....

Then there's this lovely one: "You're going to think, "Who is this band that sounds just like Nickelback? What are these drug addicts going on about?"

Wow, imagine that, drug use by musicians. Never heard of it. What are these drug addicts going on about....I'm assuming he's putting the Velvet Underground into this category as well.

What these quotes translate out to is this: they make different music than the Flaming Lips, Coyne doesn't like that, therefore they're bad. Especially since the Flaming Lips have turned into a mainstream money maker. Nirvana and Nirvana sounding bands cut into their market share.

And about that navel gazing: another commenter noted that Coyne released an album on four records or CDs designed to be played simultaneously on four record players or four CD players. Hmm. Self indulgent?

I mean, in terms of lyrics now, who needs navel gazing drug addicts talking about life when you've got people talking about a girl who "Don't use Jelly, she uses Vaseline" on her toast.

The Case for Belligerant Design

The title and concept of this post come from a Jesus' General. The poster had a song up with it, but I'm not concerned about that.

Yes, as an alternative to "Intelligent Design", "Belligerent Design" makes a lot of sense. The basic concept seems to be that whoever created the world was angry and hostile to man, punishing him with a world that get progressively fucked up. Or maybe I'm just projecting the current political situation in the U.S. onto some sort of creator entity.

Anyway, even without post-9/11 politics it does seem more reasonable to believe that if someone created this planet that he/she/it did so to fuck over people rather than to guarantee a good society. This must be where the impulse for believing that man was cast out of a garden of eden came from. However, I don't have much use for the Eden stuff, unless as some sort of millenial goal that people should be working to. Instead, it makes more sense to just say that whoever created us had it in for us from the start, that there was no fall from grace but instead we've been fucked since the beginning. Maybe our job is to trasnced this.

Happy Sunday to you all!

Murnau's "Faust"

The German silent film from 1926.

I really have very little interest in writing this, having little to do with the movie itself, but since I said I was going to do it in the Nosferatu post here it is.

Murnau's Faust is so well put together on every front that you'd swear it was from the '50s, not from the '20s. The cinematography is excellent, the angles the camera uses and the use of lighting are extraordinarily innovative and modern. The special effects are seamless and, again, reminiscent of the quality of American films in the '50s rather than what people associate with silent films.

The story is portrayed with great depth and complexity, virtually the opposite of Nosferatu, which is almost chilishly simplistic.

The acting is very good, especially the parts of Gretchen, played by Camilla Horn, and Mephisto, played by Emil Jannings.

See it. Get it from your video store. The Kino video version of this is one of the better versions, if my understanding is correct, because there were different versions made for different countries.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Apocalypse written across the sky

A lecture by William S. Burroughs about art.

Listening to Butthole Surfers

Electric Larryland to be exact. They're a great band, innovative psychedelic punk.

"They were all in love with dyin' they were doin' it in Texas"

Ah, that brings back some memories. These guys are from Austin.

***on edit. I've heard "Locust Abortion Technician", which is supposed to be their heaviest album and ,although it might have been revolutionary at the time it was released, it sounds like a hell of a lot of other stuff that's out there today. Electric Larryland, by contrast, still has a sound that you don't hear too often.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Would there be two Europes?

If the Byzantine Empire hadn't fallen to the Ottoman Turks? It's an interesting question and one that's not looked at very much. What we know as Europe, at least Western Europe, was created by a synthesis of late Roman culture and Roman Catholic religion with the cultural influences that the barbarians brought. The tribes that sacked Rome and had their rulers crowned Roman Emperors eventually assimilated the culture that they originally dominated. Some scholars, like Perry Anderson, author of "From Antiquity to Feudalism", locate the division between east and west in what tribes had a Roman influence and what tribes didn't. But that's too easy a distinction to make, first of all because a lot of what we think of as "Eastern Europe", i.e. Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and at least Croatia, were actually assimilated into Western Europe and were, until after the second World War, thought of as being part of the west, at least in Europe.

The other problem is that the Byzantine Empire was spreading its own culture, its own way of government, and its own religion at the same time, bringing the Romanians, the Bulgars, the Ukrainians, and the Russians into its cultural sphere. The reason why the ruler of Russia was called the Tsar is because that model of government was partially supplied by the Byzantine Empire, where the Emperor was referred to as the Caeser, which was actually pronounced "Chaisar". The Russians weren't the only ones to have a Tsar; the Bulgarians, who for a time had an empire in Southeast Europe, also referred to the ruler of their empire as the Tsar.

There was also cultural interchange in terms of philosophy going on between the Byzantine empire and the priests and monks of the Orthodox churches, although this is an obscure subject. What finally interrupted all of this was the conquest of the Byzantine empire by the Ottoman Turks. There were a lot of tensions before this, an obvious one being the increasing encirclement of the Byzantine Empire by peoples who had converted to Islam, but theoretically the influence could have extended and deepened, ultimately giving rise to a second Europe that could have been as culturally sophisticated as Western Europe. It would also have been much more multi-ethnic as a lot of the peoples living to the north of the black sea were recent invaders from the steppes. But, the Bulgars, who were part of this, were assimilated into Eastern Christianity much as the Hungarians, who also came out of this movement of peoples were assimilated into Catholicism and into the Holy Roman Empire.

Things to think about. One of the consequences of having a distinct, united, European cultural zone of the East like this is that it would provide an intermediate state between Western Europe and the Islamic lands of the middle east and central asia so that it would be easier to trace the continuum of cultures from the Islamic East to the West. This would be in contast to how it is now, where the perception is that there are very funamental cultural divides between western Europe and the Islamic east. That's not exactly how it is but the lack of any middle term makes it appear so for people living in the cultural sphere derived from Western Europe.

Commencement is going on right now

At Evergreen. I remember last year Christine Gregoire, Washington's neoliberal governor, spoke. She quoted from Thomas Friedman, reminding us that the world was "flattened". Actually, Thomas Friedman said that the world was flat; that was the title of his book, by which he meant that the world was now dominated by a single monoculture of neo-liberal markets, although he wouldn't have used those terms. But Gregoire didn't have the guts to go up there and tell the graduating class that the world was now flat, and that she parodoxically saw The Evergreen State College, which had a lot to do with the organizing for the WTO protests, as preparing students for life in a new flat earth.

It would have been really funny if she had said that, and would have been more to the spirit of what she was saying, which was essentially as illogical as saying that the earth was flat.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Obscurity and not

I've noticed a distinct upturn in hits since posting about Nosferatu. It's the same as the bump I got while posting about how the Clash suck, at least in my opinion, as being Amphetamine laced posers...at least in London Calling.

This is to be expected. After all, most people know about Nosferatu and most people know about the Clash, especially the people who read this website. But, in a way, the site is more about the things that no one has heard of that get a few hits than things like these two. It's not because of some sense of elitism so much as it is because if these types of things are so obscure that they only get a few hits on my site, and a few more via Google, then even though a it's only a few more people reading about them that's a few more than otherwise would be aware of them. If you want to make things known you've got to start somewhere, and posting about them on a blog is a step up from having them locked away in some university library or some other generally inaccessable place.

Nosferatu

It's been F.W. Murnau night, or nights I should say, around here, first with "Faust" and then with "Nosferatu", both silent films by the director.

I'll comment on Faust later, probably in the morning.

As for Nosferatu, you know I don't think it translates well from the time it was made to now. Part of it no doubt is the fact that pretty much anyone who's ever watched a documentary on TV about horror movies has seen the vampire from Nosferatu, therefore making it common place. To me, the creature looks kind of hokey, just for that reason---i.e. that I'd seen images of it since I was a kid and there were so many better done vampires since then....

But, towards the end of the film I realized what Albin Grau, the special effects artist, was trying to convey: Nosferatu is set up to resemble images of the devil's minions painted in religious art from the middle ages on. This is something that people living in an era where not everything was geared towards moving images would get. I guess if you look at it that way the film is better, but you have to consciously try to see it differently for that to work.

Additionally, the Kino Video release suffers from a soundtrack that's made completely on synthesizers instead of on live instruments. It's not synthesizer music but synths trying to imitate strings, brass, and these terrible throaty sounding pan pipes. Even the one scene where there's a drum has it synthesized.

Chalk Nosferatu up to being important for historical significance and being hard to understand in the way the audience understood it due to changing cultural attitudes.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Of course Iran is helping the Taliban

By sending them weapons across its borders. We've seen how well Sunni and Shia militants work together in Iraq....why can't that bond of friendship exist between a radical Shia state and a fundamentalist Sunni movement?

By asserting this, as a pretext for going to war with Iran, the administration is proving yet again that irony is not dead.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fucking microeconomics....

Writing about SubCin's excellant prices made me think of this. One of the basic ideas in microeconomics is that if a person is willing to pay more for something then they want it more than someone who's willing to pay less.

For example, Subterranean Cinema charges a really, really, great price of about $16.00 per disc for movies that are inaccessable anywhere else. They potentially could charge more.

Now, while this is in general a good price for the discs, that $16.00 means different things to different people. For one person, spending $16 dollars on a DVD is a real choice because their monthly, or biweekly, disposable income is really limited; so spending that money is a sacrifice with a trade off involved. For another person spending $16 dollars on a DVD is nothing. They could walk into a store and just, on a whim, buy three new CDs that they don't really care about and it wouldn't hurt them in any way.

Does the fact that one person could, and maybe would, pay much more for a rare DVD mean that they want it more than someone who's only able to pay less? Or is this amount of satisfaction tied more to the class system than it is to money being an honest measure of the positive utility that an object purchased brings?

Clarification

I notice that either I or a post I wrote has been featured on the subsection of Topix.net dealing with gay writers from Macomb County Michigan, where I'm mostly from. This is not accurate.

I hate to say it, it's been something that I've been struggling with for many years, but despite my most valiant attempts I've found that I have heterosexual tendencies. Yes, I know, it's hard to come to terms with but it's nonetheless true.

By the way, the original version of the above joke came from Derek Jarman's book "At your own risk", where he turns around statistics about gays in society and looks at it from the other angle. Particularly funny is a simulated headline saying "15% of all clergy in the Church of England found to be heterosexual".

But the thing relating to me is true.

Subterranean Cinema---a good resource

Got a few films from Subterranean Cinema a few days ago and have been very happy with them.

Subcin sells movies that are literally impossible to get any place else. The guy who runs it has gone to film archives at major universities and museums and procured the films, put them first on video, and now sells them on DVD-R.

One of the ones I got from them was "Lonesome Cowboys", Andy Warhol's gay cowboy movie satire. Very funny....where should I start? The double entendres? The overt homosexuality between the cowboys? Suggestions of unnatural love between cowboys, the local madam, and a horse?

Well, I'll leave it at this: A funny line where two cowboys, who are sleeping side by side, are talking. One of them has been out east, and the other cowboy is asking him why, suggesting that he should have stayed out west. "You should be out here, leaning up against cactus and getting pricked." (he says with his New York accent. Everyone has them in this movie).

All of Warhol's films are impossible to find. There's been a suggestion that some are available in Australia on PAL format, but I don't know anything about this. The films that are marketed as Andy Warhol's films that are available are actually directed by Paul Morrisey, films like "Flesh" and "Trash". If you look close at the boxes you'll see that they say "Andy Warhol presents"...usually followed by the title and then "A Paul Morrisey Film". This is how major motion pictures like "Andy Warhol's Dracula" got to be made. In the early films Morrisey stayed close to Warhol's technique but increasingly diverged from it as time went on.

Enter SubCin. Through SubCin you can get Warhol's masterpiece "Chelsea Girls", about the Chelsea hotel and it's residents, in the original version where the screen is split into four parts, which tell four stories simultaneously. It works, actually. I've seen it. You can get Lonesome Cowboys and pretty much everything else. The only drawback is that "Blue Movie", which is basically one shot, over an hour long, of a couple talking about life while in bed, is only available in a version that's dubbed into German with no subtitles.

But, ce la vie. Objections too could be made to the film quality of "Cowboys", which is spotty, but since it's literally unavailable anywhere else, I guess it's a question of going with the film that you have, not the film print you wish you had, as Donald Rumsfeld might say.

The best part of SubCin, though, is that despite being the only source in North America for these movies each of them costs about as much as a new CD.

Considering that orthodox economics says that society works better when you jack the price up on something until people stop buying it, the persistence of cheap prices at SubCin is a breath of fresh air.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bush and Albania

Much is being made of Bush's visit to Albania in the mainstream media. The progressive and left blogosphere has a much more balanced opinion of all this, noting that people in Albania held signs saying, among other things, that Bush was God's messenger.

It would be too easy to quip that the only place in Europe that Bush can get a positive reception is in a place ruled through terror and intense cult of personality for over thirty years. But that would be to underestimate the situation. Bush got a reception like that there because a generation of Albanians have been trained to respect authority figures that project a strong image.

These are people that spent most of their lives, certainly all of the formative period of their lives, immersed in Stalinist hero worship, with the various alternatives to it taken away because they were considered threats to the state. It takes a lot to undo that sort of thing, even if people are personally glad that the Communist regime is gone. Bush, the capitalist anti-terrorist, has stepped into shoes that were once filled by objects of worship like Hoxha.

The gay bomb

In case you didn't know, new revelations have come out about the Pentagon trying to develop a drug that can be dropped on enemy lines that would make the soliders passionately make love to each other instead of fighting. Actually, this isn't a new story. It's been revealed about two times in the past....six?...yeah, just about six, years. But we of the short memories don't realize this, even though the last revelation was like last year.

Some people are objecting to the concept, but I think that this weapon could easily follow military aircraft and radar as a military product found to be quite useful when brought over into civillian life. I mean, can you think of the parties? What if there were gay gas parties that people could sign up to go to. You'd be issued condoms at the door, it would be chosen, there wouldn't be anything surreptious about the dosing. People would fill up on drinks and start dancing to disco music, then at the appointed time the gas would be piped into the club and the next level of enjoyment would begin.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Detroit

Sorry for the lack of posts. I've been trying to find housing in Seattle, which is roughly an hour and a half from Olympia, so much time has been used up.

Anyways, thought I'd post something on Detroit, which is the area I'm from. Detroit is going through some really, really, rough times right now. The Big Three have been destroyed and with it the remaining industrial base of the area, which has roughly 2.5 million people. It's so bad that the Detroit Free Press ran an editorial about a month ago saying that innovative small businesses would be the way for Detroit to move forward. When newspapers say that you know that the area they're talking about is fucked.
Innovative small businesses are something that small to medium sized towns use to revitalize and build their economies, not major metropolitan areas. It's like asking Chicago to revitalize, not that it needs it, with some tech companies and a few small factories that make chairs. It's not exactly going to serve the needs of that city.

But the downhill slide has been going on for a while. It's been going on for as long as I've been alive, in fact, and I'm in my late twenties at the moment. The strange thing was I didn't realize that the Detroit area was generally worse off than most other cities until I left the Detroit area, going first to New York City for a little while, then living in small towns but traveling all over the place, then moving to the general Seattle area, or as they call it the Sound, referring to Puget Sound, where everything from Olympia up to, well, up to the northern Seattle suburbs is included in that.


When I was growing up and living there the perception was that the outside world just didn't understand the Detroit area.The bad press about Detroit, blew it off. Not real. Detroit itself was viewed as dangerous but the general consensus was that it was no where as near dangerous, or shitty, as people were making it out to be.

I was actually born in Warren Michigan, the same city that Eminem was from. That's where my mom grew up. Eight Mile, if there ever was a movie that gave a bad impression of Warren, that was it. Warren is actually the third largest city in Michigan and is divided between the lower half, roughly between eleven mile and eight mile, that's run down, and the half from there on up, which is a regular, mostly working class, town. It's not that bad.

Yeah, but getting back to Detroit as it actually is and my perception of Detroit while living there, there were things that just weren't there that are normal in other places, like a downtown. Detroit's former downtown is a ghost town, despite sporadic attempts at revitalization. The only real cultural area isn't in the city of Detroit itself but is in Oakland County, which borders Detroit on the north. Woodward avenue is the place, going from eight mile roughly up to fifteen mile, with innovative restaurants over on side streets, nice record stores, cool clothing stores, coffee shops, bookstores, that sort of thing, as well as two independent cinemas.

Neighborhoods are another thing. In Seattle, in other places, definitely in New York in the form of Queens and Brooklyn, there are a series of neighborhoods that make up what the city is. In Detroit you have little oases of neighborhoods interspersed with an enourmous number of broken down and abandoned houses as well as streets where people are desperately poor and where the name of neighborhood really isn't appropriate.

Anyways, it was a revelation to find out that other mid sized cities and metro areas weren't like this.

Diametric opposite of Detroit=Portland Oregon, although I haven't been to Northeast Portland, which is the rougher area.


***on edit. I lived in both Macomb county and Oakland county, which are the two major counties directly north of Detroit, and thinking about it people in Macomb county definitely were afraid of Detroit, but the reasons unfortunately were more racial than anything else. Macomb county was and is the county of white flight for people who are less affluent, and for years enforced an informal segregation through real estate agents with regards to everything from lower middle class houses on up. This general sentiment only got worse, much worse, after the riots in '68.

The irony is that I actually went to Detroit itself more, actually got to know it more, in about three years of living in Oakland county than I did in the sixteen years I lived in Macomb county. The irony is even deeper when you consider that Oakland county, which is the much more affluent of the two, actually has better relations with Detroit than does Macomb county, which is much more like Detroit itself than Oakland county could possibly ever be.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sex with Sun Ra

Sun Ra was a very talented and influential avant-garde jazz bandleader. He also claimed to be an incarnation of an archangel from Saturn, I believe. This is COIL's tribute to him. The film is a film by Sun Ra entitled "Space is the Place". He was also a very good poet.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Expect lighter than normal blogging

I'm apartment hunting in a major city near Olympia.