Monday, August 31, 2009

Travelin'

I woke up in Montana and am now going to sleep in Minnesota. On my way back to where I lived. Learned some things this trip, for instance that Montana is indeed a state that is very, very, wide, and that North Dakota is actually more settled and hospitable than South Dakota, for some reason. Yesterday I played The Damned's album "Machine Gun Etiquette" for five hours straight on the drive. I think it's a good album. Today, Iggy combined with Bowie and Black Flag predominated. It's a very strange world that we live in.

I've been trying to come up with some sort of scheme about how the U.S. flows from the west coast to the midwest. So far I have the coast itself, then the coastal mountains, then valleys, then interior mountains followed by a Great Basin-esque world of beautiful desolation....then the Rocky Mountains, some more kind of weird hill/mesa business then the Great Plains, followed by the Midwest itself. Maybe when I say Midwest I'm thinking really of the Great Lakes region. Certainly the Great Plains are part of the Midwest.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Endless posts everywhere

Expression must go on, and I'm finding that if a forum I write for can't accommodate a certain topic then I find another outlet where the topic is more acceptable to write about, but it continues no matter what.

Art, and complications from it if you're a writer

I'm doing a lot of visual art now, and it's a very strange thing in that I can't really talk about it on this website. It's not that I'm unable to, but rather that part of the game or the show is not banking yourself on some sort of notoriety or familiarity that comes from another part of your life. Most websites that artists have to showcase their work don't have a picture of them on it, and their biographies that they provide are usually very brief, unless they've had show after show. The reason for this is that they want their work to be evaluated based on how their work looks, not how they look or on what cool stuff they've done in the past. There's usually only very, very, brief statements about the works themselves, if they're there at all. I can tell you a story, make myself into a figure that's cool, explain how my art fits into all sorts of world historical and cosmic patterns and is the best thing ever to hit the art world, but it doesn't change the essential nature of the work. If the work is crap, the work is crap, and all of that window dressing is just that: potentially tarting up a turd to look like something it's not. Therefore, while I would love to talk about art and art in general, and what I'm doing with it, it's sort of not a good thing because that would turn into being impressed with my writing about the art I make rather than with the art itself.

So a wall has to be built. I may talk about aesthetics and about my personal take on them, but I can't use this site to promote my artwork; it would be dishonest and cheap, and if some people fell for it originally the whole thing would come out in the wash in the end as more sober observers made their evaluations of all of it.

The Cocteau Twins, singing

Lately I've started to get into the Cocteau Twins. I have a CD of their singles and EPs, and it's very nice music, but there are limitations: although they have nice voices they really only sing one or two notes. This is something that makes the most sense to people who have studied chorus or music theory in some way. You see, I can vary my voice a lot in speaking, but the tone of my voice stays relatively the same. It's not singing. Singing, real singing, is where you intentionally go beyond normal variations within one general band of tone and instead go fundamentally up and down. The best way to explain it would be to contrast people speaking in monotone with opera singers. Opera singers are made fun of because the different notes they reach seem exaggerated, but in reality it's very disciplined and only sounds weird because we're not used to voices reaching that range of notes within a phrase. Usually we only hear tonal variations like that with instruments. The Cocteau Twins, while having good voices, aren't opera singers.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The best music store in Seattle: Easy Street Records

At least in my not-so-humble-opinion. I was randomly there shopping last night, accidentally catching some of Jay Reatard's performance, and just marveled at the selection of European psychedelia and general obscure music that they have. Maybe an indicator of how wide their scope goes is that they had three different CDs by Conrad Schnitzler, who is a German musician who was half of the Krautrock psychedelic band "Kluster" before going on to an extensive career on his own. They also had a tribute album to his fellow Kluster member Hans Joachim Roedelius the last time I was there. Considering that these names will mean nothing for 90% of the music stores out there, and I'm possibly being generous with that, the presence of several representatives of their albums at one store in Seattle is quite impressive. While not "Aquarius Records" in San Francisco, which is the best store in the entire country for Euro and South American psychedelic and experimental music--an this is no exaggeration--it's sort of like what's the point in quibbling over some details?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The reason I scare some folks

After much self observation I've decided that possibly the main reason some of my writing and opinions scare people is not because they're anti-bourgeois but because they ignore bourgeois society altogether. My thinking comes from the social strata before the bourgeois and, strangely enough, from that which is so rich it hates the bourgeoisie as well. I never experienced typical bourgeois values. I didn't live in a suburb in a tract house, with piano lessons after school and a soccer mom helping me along. My life never resembled that, and the values I grew up with are foreign to it as well. Ok, I had piano lessons for a few months. But, I was basically shunned in the Cub Scouts because my family didn't have that much money, so there. Now I want a pony. Just kidding. But my hatred of large parts of society doesn't come from a simple reversion of what I grew up with, it comes from watching these people from afar and developing a resentment towards them that way.

And people don't know how to handle that. Oedipal revolt, sure, but revolt against society by someone who chooses to not even acknowledge bourgeois values altogether? That's another. I just do what I do, and I'm reminded that bourgeois society exists when I walk out my door or go for a drive and go past more conventional middle class people and setups. Beyond that, I don't give a fuck about them. I have my own life to lead, and the thought of sitting stone quietly in a front room somewhere drinking tea with the folks is absurd.

Which is why I like Proletkult and the autonomous workers' movements in Europe and elsewhere. The Proletkult, the Ministry for Proletarian Culture in early Soviet Russia, was all about developing a new society based on workers' culture, as opposed to one based off of some variation of bourgeois culture. The working class has a unique culture, but the problem is that it's never been allowed to flourish as a dominant culture. It's always played second fiddle, unlike upper class culture, which is semi-feudal and aristocratic, and bourgeois culture, middle class and ignorant. But it's not just an adaptation to circumstances, it's a whole way of life, one that in its essence potentially prefigures what life in a workers' state should be like. Working class culture is much more collective than bourgeois culture. I come from working class culture, although I've experienced its polar opposite as well. Compared to working class culture the cold world of academics and college was a really inhospitable place, where alienation like I'd never experienced before lived. Interestingly enough, and I'll leave the post with this, working class culture did exist prior to the massive expansion of capitalism in the 19th century, but it had been much smaller before, limited to the working traditions of urban towns and things like mining communities. So it's not a flash in the pan but something that has roots.

Confirmation on a joke/observation about hipster behavior

From here in Seattle. The joking observation in question was made by a cartoonist who said that hipsters tend to believe that anything from their childhood is cool, despite its actual worth. Another comment made by another cartoonist, Ruben Bolling in this case, was that people think that any music they heard when they were twelve is the best music ever made. Well, had coffee at a very hip and very good coffee shop on Capitol Hill that I go to a lot, that shall remain nameless. Last time I was there they played an entire Steve Miller Band album on their sound system. This time I heard "Pour some sugar on me" by Def Lepard. Wasn't a fluke. Instead of finding truly talented albeit obscure bands and musicians like Nick Drake the hipsters in question have seemed to have turned to utter shit that they happened to hear on the car radio when they were little kids. Steve Miller Band makes me want to off myself because of its fucking overplayed fraternity rock psychedelicism. No one in that age old time called the '90s thought that these folks were cool; instead, they formed part of the heavy rotation 'Classic Rock' schlock that people avoid both then and now like the plague. Except hipsters it seems. They're being 'Retro' by liking shit, so I guess it's...is it ironic? Post Modern? No, it's just personal memories from way back being turned into models for coolness, no matter what the subject actually is.

"A mean streak in the U.S. Mainstream"--by Mary Dejevsky

Yep. The article is about health care in the U.S. and the belief that actually giving health care to everyone is a bad thing;

"The second response, as automatic as the first, is to blame heartless and ignorant Republicans. To Europeans, a universal health system is so basic to a civilised society that only the loony right could possibly oppose it: the people who cling to their guns, picket abortion clinics (when they are not trying to shoot the abortionists) and block funding for birth control in the third world. All right, we are saying to ourselves, there are Americans who think like this, but they are out on an ideological limb.

***

The unpalatable fact for Europeans who incline to think that Americans are just like us is that Democrats are not solidly behind Obama on this issue. Even many in the party's mainstream must be wooed, cajoled and even – yes – frightened, if they are ever going to agree to change the status quo. Universal healthcare is an article of faith in the US only at what mainstream America would regard as the bleeding- heart liberal end of the spectrum."

On the whole, Dejevsky kind of goes overboard not in estimating our mean streak but in overestimating the intellectual thought that goes into opposing health care. Further on in the article she talks about people opposing it because of concerns that they'd have to finance sick people, and that that would cost them money. I don't think that most discussions or opinions about health care in the U.S. really go that deep. There's just a knee jerk response that says don't raise taxes combined with a knee jerk fear about being denied coverage.

America does have a mean streak, but it also has a stupid streak that's usually combined with it--and that cuts across ideological lines to apply to both Democrats and Republicans. It's amazing that we're in the position of being a world leader with the amount of willing ignorance that we have here--proof that guns can get a person farther than smarts if they have no morals. In reality, the U.S. should be quarantined and demoted in status until the population can prove that it has the basic intelligence needed to participate in politics on the world scene.

We don't deserve what we have internally or what we possess in terms of power globally. If Europeans really saw the vast wasteland of consumerism in the U.S., and were aware that this is the mainstream, not a crass subculture, they'd start a visa approval process for U.S. citizens entering the EU. Which would probably be a good thing considering how American in general shit all over Europe's cultural treasures and historic cities once they get over there. The ugly American is more the mainstream American than people really want to believe.

Monday, August 24, 2009

New Age and social revolution

It seems to me that I read a lot of stuff, or am rediscovering a lot of stuff, from the eighties about the New Age and, while agreeing that some of the things talked about are coming to pass, still believe that Revolution is a necessity. One of the problems in the past seems to have been seeing social progress in relation to these things as being either/or: either everything is New Agey and not Revolutionary or everything is Revolutionary and not New Agey at all. I don't see why both couldn't be true. Most New Age stuff has to do with spirituality and ecological living, while social revolution focusses on the basic social structure of society. The way I see it, you can be for radical change while still, in other areas of your life, being sympathetic to New Age ideas. The problem comes when you try to fuse New Age thought with social Revolution. That gets into bad territory because it weds something that's essentially religious and spiritual with something that has to do with concrete reality right in front of your face. But as long as there's some distance I don't see why the two can't get along.

Looks like we're bifurcating here--Obama backlash, Progressives disappointed yet again

That Obama would disappoint Progressives is something that many people, many smart people, like myself, predicted long before the election. However, so far he hasn't moved as far enough away from his original positions as I thought in my more cynical moments that he would, so that's good. What's not quite so good is that it looks like the inevitable backlash against a president who is both not Bush and black has started. I'm talking about the health care town hall fake rioting and gun toting.

Unlike some folks I believe that health care is just the surface level of a much deeper wave going on. The Hitler comparisons, the whole "death panels" business, all convince me that what's really going on is a basic Republican/conservative reaction against a liberal and non-Bush president. The riots, whatever you want to call them, look like a convenient excuse for the Bush loyal to regroup and press their case once again.

These folks weren't going to go away, not after over seven years of post-9/11 supremacy. Especially with a black president. For me, the gun toting aspect is particularly racist because it brings to mind decades upon decades of klan intimidation of blacks in the segregated south, where the threat of violence was used to keep blacks in line and 'in their place'. I wonder how direct the path would be between people who literally intimidated civil rights workers in the South and the people who are carrying guns at the town halls. So it appears that the interregnum is over.

There's been a really strange dynamic going on since the inauguration. Initially, there was a wonderful outpouring of happiness and hope that Bush was finally gone and someone who was actually intelligent and sane was in the driver's seat. Then, there was a weird sort of ambiguous period that turned up after the initial glow subsided, a sort of long waiting period to see what would happen next, driven in part possibly because progressive and liberals didn't believe that Bush would ever get out of office and because right wingers most likely didn't believe that their precious post-9/11 worldview would be challenged and go the way of the dinosaurs. The dialectical tension, the tension between forces and interest groups in society that define how exactly politics precedes wasn't at all apparent. Now it is.

The only thing that I really hope for now is that centrism doesn't come back. Because that would really suck. Otherwise, there can be work and progress, which will open up room for pressing for Progressive change even if Obama doesn't stay on a strictly Progressive agenda. If he deviates too much from it, on the other hand, and somehow becomes Clinton II, we'll really be fucked, but I don't see that happening.

*on edit: dialectical tension in the way that I'm describing doesn't refer to just economic struggle, rich versus poor, workers versus owners and bosses. Instead, it refers as well to the political and social movements that embody different class, economic, and power interests. These expressions of the underlying reality often fight each other as proxies for the interests of their ultimate source. So, with the Obama gun toters, white conservative free market interests that are ultimately based on white privilege and the wages of whiteness gotten through that structural advantage, that they don't want to see infringed by socialized medicine, which puts these folks on the same side as the insurance companies and the large corporations.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

You can always tell how fancy a community is by what it calls its mall

Case in point: Bellevue, part of the East Side of the Seattle Area, is one of the fanciest, most upscale places around, and is just west of Redmond. Bellevue's mall is called "The Bellevue Collection". Redmond's mall is called "Redmond Town Center" and is an open air one. Northgate, the mall in Seattle itself that functions most as a general purpose mall, is simply called "Northgate Mall". If it's called something else I've never heard anyone refer to it as that, and I go there somewhat frequently (for shame!).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Okay, road book ordered

I'm going on a road trip starting the 30th and have ordered a book I'm planning to read on it. Traveling always stimulates interesting writings, and the magic of laptop computers and of the internet guarantees that I'll be able to read the news and transmit those writings in real time. The book I've chosen is "Cassandra" by East German author Christa Wolf. About matriachy/patriarchy and the fall of Troy. Said to be stylistically innovative with lots of stream of consciousness stuff.
Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The metaphor of something being refined through heat and fire in reality

Usually used to talk about experiences that separate and expel bad material from a person and make them stronger in the end. Well, I've now seen the process that it's based on in action, albeit in one of the most limited ways it can happen. I was fortunate enough to be part of a class that involved casting objects in bronze. When the bronze pour happened they melted down 150 pounds of the stuff, and in the process had to purify it so that everyone's statues and art objects ended up being made of pure bronze instead of bronze plus contaminants. Not exactly smelting tons of iron, but still a refining process.

What happened was simple: the bronze liquified and the impurities floated to the top of the crucible, forming a kind of scum. Then, the folks doing the pouring took long metal rods that had special attachments on the end and picked up the scum and threw it on a scrap heap next to it. Simple as that. The metal separated into pure and impure when heated to a huge temperature and the impurities were fished out, then the bronze reformed after the pour as solid, much cleaner, metal.

The wit and wisdom of Scalia, or what "original interpretation" really means

From Common Dreams:

""This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent."

"The decision [giving the guy a new trial] comes after seven witnesses recanted their testimony against him, several people implicated a main witness as the killer, and 27 former prosecutors and judges filed a brief supporting Davis."

Ted Rall: "What if they gave a war and nobody knew why?"

Very good article about Afghanistan:

"When the U.S. began bombing Afghanistan in October 2001, America's war aims were clear: capture or kill Osama bin Laden, overthrow the Taliban government, deny Al Qaeda training camps and a safe haven.

Of course, two out of three of these goals were based on lies; both bin Laden and most of Al Qaeda's camps and personnel were in Pakistan, not Afghanistan.

***

But, unlike Bush, he still hasn't told us why we're in Afghanistan.

When he took office, Obama's stated war aims were muddled: propping up U.S. puppet Hamid Karzai, training local Afghan police, and reducing opium cultivation. The first two led to no clearly-enunciated end; how long would they take? If we really cared about number three, we might as well have put the Taliban--who'd had some success in getting rid of opium--back in charge."

...and Democracy works unless we decide it doesn't: the U.S. opposing Iraqi plebiscite to kick the troops out

Here, from the ever obliging Washington Post. The basic story is that an all Iraq referendum is going to be held determining if the troops should go faster or stay for a while, and the U.S. government opposes it....because they feel that if they withdraw there'll be chaos. But that's not their call to make. It's the Iraqi people, which includes the Kurds and the Sunnis that the U.S. government says that it now has to protect against the central government, which it didn't seem to have a problem with before, that rightfully have the power to decide this. Expect propaganda about how the Iraqi government, which conservative U.S. lawmakers lionized through painting their fingers purple in praise of the voting verification device used in Iraq, is a tyranny, something that somehow justifies us staying in a country that is not ours and that we are illegally occupying.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Looking for the meat in the Beat Generation

Very oddly, two of the three main products of the Beat Generation aren't works of art in an absolute sense but are instead meta-commentary on ways of life that were ongoing when the stuff was written. I'm talking about "Howl" and "On the Road", with Howl being more meta than On the Road, and Naked Lunch rounding out things as the third major product. All of it brings me to the question of what was substantial in the Beat Generation's corpus that wasn't in and of itself a commentary on the Beat generation? I know it goes beyond just a subculture, but a series of works by a subculture, written about the subculture, where the subculture itself doesn't produce anything that isn't a commentary on itself, is meaningless. Which is why finding Beat works that engage the fundamental questions of art and life, without talking about themselves, are necessary to honestly get what's going on. Burroughs, Ginsberg, and Kerouac are famous, as famous as rock stars, but for what? Two of them, Ginsberg and Kerouac, are pretty much famous because they're the progenitors of the Beat generation...no matter if folks can't express just what the Beat generation was or what it stood for.

A good way out of all of this comes from Ed Sanders and Gary Snyder, both of them Beats who have contributed positive ideas about art and society and haven't just talked about themselves. Burroughs as well, but Burroughs is a special case in that he really went his own way.....and in that he consistently kept writing and publishing up until his death instead of resting on his laurels.

I think that for the post-modern generation that we are, meta on meta on meta is not getting us anywhere. We have to reconnect with something solid beneath all of it. In the process we may have to kill our idols, including the Beat triumvirate, in order to really understand where they're coming from.

The other side of it

While nice comments are pleasant and provide fuel for working, on the other hand they too can be disheartening. The way they can get to be that way is simple: I've had a lot of praise in other areas of my life with other things, but oh so commonly when it comes to doing anything with work I've produced that might actually cost people something on their bottom lines, i.e. that they'd have to do stuff for beyond just putting nice words out there, suddenly folks back off. It's become almost cliched, and seems to me to be hypocritical in the extreme at this point. You like my work, you really like my work a lot, think it's great, but yet refuse to lift a finger with regards to things like promoting it or distributing it. I feel at this point like telling people who say that about these things to fuck off, quite honestly, and to come back when they actually are willing to back up their words with actions of some sort.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Look, the coverage of these health care riots is way, way, overblown

Sadly, I checked out the website of fellow ur-blogger Dave Neiwert, and found that all alarms are going off because of these health care town meeting things. While it's disturbing, the idea that we're just around the corner from Fascism is really unfounded. These were small groups of people at small events, comparatively---not exactly an organized Fascist movement. I think that honoring these people by going ape shit crazy is just as harmful as dismissing their presence as not meaning anything. And finally, the notion that by comparing Obama to Hitler they're inciting violence is not credible, and I'll tell you why:

I, and lots of other people, particularly political cartoonists who I like, made similar comparisons to Bush all the time--although mostly in a semi-ironic fashion. The Bush regime as Nazis or Fascists was a theme, a very important theme I might add, that was played lots of times on this website. To my knowledge there were no acts of violence against the Bush administration as a result of all that, and I and others didn't make those comparisons in order to incite violence. To suddenly say that this is the case when the shoe is on the other foot is a dangerous inconsistency, one that you'd have to have been blind for the last four or so years not to see.

I used the comparisons, although when I was serious about it I compared the Bush regime's ideology more to Fascism than to Nazism. I'm not going to turn around and complain about people on the other side who are doing the same things that I did.

Friday, August 14, 2009

In response to the question "Do we live in a post-scarcity society?"

That's actually an interesting question. I think that in the '50s and '60s, when the economy was much better, it was possible to argue that we lived in a post-scarcity society a la Murray Bookchin's book "Post-Scarcity Anarchism", but since the economic stagnation of the 1970s, and especially with the current downturn, I think that premise has gotten shakier. Besides, post-scarcity as a concept takes for granted the idea that the ability to create wealth on a level necessary for eliminating basic wants for everyone is shared evenly throughout society. I feel that even during the Golden Age, as the era from the '50s to the mid '70s is sometimes referred to as by economists, the internal distribution of wealth and power was still stratified, although for various reasons, including a bigger labor movement and a more progressive tax system, this was partially mitigated. Since the '70s that internal inequality has only increased, rising very quickly during the Reagan/Bush years and only leveling out, not really improving much, during Clinton's presidency. It continued to rise during the Bush II years, although because of 9/11 this issue was largely obscured from public view.

That, with neo-liberal governmental policies and a general neo-liberal international trade framework, and now financial instability due to high risk deregulated financial transactions, has made scarcity now an issue in the United States, whereas it didn't use to be.

But, and I don't know if you're coming at post-scarcity through Bookchin's ideas or through some other channel, some of the stuff, actually a lot of the stuff, that people focussed on in the '60s and '70s that went beyond traditional left proposals, things like ecology, appropriate technology, ways of life that were both simpler and more fulfilling, New Urbanism, critique of bureaucracy and of alienation caused by excessive development of things like tract housing and strip malls, things like that are still valid issues, on top of more traditional Left ones.

Thank you for the recent support

It's always easier writing this when you know that at least a few people give a fuck about what's on here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fascism, yet another tinkering and working out of the theory

It's a strange thing. I used the idea of being anti-Modernity in a previous post about something unrelated and I realize that that sort of phrasing is actually somewhat hot button because the New Right in Europe, neo-fascists, use rhetoric like that all the time. With that out of the way, it seems that ideologically Fascism was a combination of anti-Modernism sentiments manifested through a late Romantic framework, combined with a point of view produced by intense alienation that was likely the result of changes to the social structure brought on by industrial capitalism, all wedded to an intense revanchist conservatism. You look at the roots of the hyper nationalist, violent, conservative movement and you see sentiments along the lines of the modern industrial world destroying all sorts of social relationships that anchor a person, with what would be considered "Family Values" pointed to as things that would improve the life of individuals if reinforced. The traditional social relationships referred to, whether idealized totally or only partially, are frequently melded into the idea of "The Nation", so that in Italy, for example, being a patriot and being pro-Italy meant under Fascism also respecting the Church and respecting traditional values, and seeing what was truly Italy's in terms of culture as emanating from that sort of background. Alienation fits into all of it as its own characteristic, not just as a contributing factor. I believe that many of the people who committed lots of violence, the hard core, were extraordinarily alienated to the point where violence against opponents and murder in the service of the traditional idea became a feasible proposition. The cult of violence seems to be born out of terrible situations for a few, and is then spread to folks who aren't quite so alienated for them to imitate. Is something like this happening in the United States? Sure, but that issue is a little bit more complicated as the U.S. is something of a stealth country in that many different sectors of society coexist without even being aware that the others are there, until something like 9/11 brings out the fault lines that have previously been somewhat obscured. What I mean by that is that there obviously were lots of people who were proto-Fascist in the U.S., but they were under the radar until 9/11 happened. Personally, I don't think that a sizable portion of Americans really made the transition from a semi-peasant viewpoint to a bourgeois one under capitalism...the idea of what could be considered bourgeois rights is foreign to many of them.

There's obviously much, much, more but I'll leave it here.

*on edit: and let me be clear about something, that is to say that it's possible to be critical of some of the changes that modern industrial capitalism wrought without suggesting that conservatism is the answer. Not just now, but especially at the turn of the century in Europe, where you had huge slums consisting of people who had moved from the country to the city looking for jobs, there has been much to criticize. I think that the Socialist movement presented a much better alternative, something that combined the freeing aspects of modern capitalism in terms of personal freedom and freedom from the family and from the village with both economic non-alienated work structures and more integrated, humanistic cultural and leisure life. At its best. At its worst all of this was sacrificed on the altar of economic development. But a progressive Socialism remains a good solution to the problem of modernity.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Obama birthers-7% of those who voted for McCain do not believe Hawaii part of U.S.

True; this was too delicious not to comment on:

"One part of PPP’s data might reassure sentient readers somewhat: 7% of those who voted for John McCain do not believe Hawaii to be a part of the United States. Now perhaps this is just another irrational expression of Obama hatred. But, it may also be older voters who never quite absorbed the news that our 50th state is indeed our 50th state."

"Canadians Back ‘Public Solutions' to Improve Care, Poll Finds"

Amazingly, they don't side with the American fascists who are rioting and calling Obama a Nazi: "An overwhelming 86 per cent of Canadians favour “public solutions” for bolstering medicare, according to a new poll." Here. I wonder why? When it comes down to it, America only represents itself when it comes to its health care system.

"Der Todesking" by Jörg Buttgereit

A film. Not as bad as "Nekromantik 2", which was purely commercial, but spotty even though it's serious. The film deals with an interconnected series of suicides and murders happening on different days of the week, in ordinary situations, as a criticism of modern alienating life. It's good up till Thursday, which is just a bunch of names of people who committed suicide or were murdered taken from papers. This really breaks up the film, and the days that happen after are also less incisive than the first three. Saturday and Sunday are particularly bad, even though conceptually Saturday should have been interesting.

As it is, it's hard to blanket condemn the movie, but the first Nekromantik is much better in general.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Something nice for a change:"Birmingham, Alabama mayor pardons civil rights protesters"

From The Guardian:

"The mayor of Birmingham, Alabama is issuing a blanket pardon for thousands of people who were arrested in the city during civil rights protests in the 1960s.

Mayor Larry Langford announced the pardon during a city council meeting today. He said the pardon for those arrested for nonviolent protests.

A longtime civil rights leader, Calvin Woods, accepted the pardon on behalf of thousands of people arrested during demonstrations against racial segregation in the city."

Monday, August 10, 2009

What's really popular on this site according to the hits I get: Sex and Nazis

Specifically, a post dealing with sex and Wilhelm Reich and graphics of a Nazi flag used in a sarcastic post about something kind of trivial. It's kind of disturbing, because I realized that if you do an image search for my name you'll come up with tons of Nazi and Fascist imagery that's up there because I've used it on this site for social commentary.

Nekromantik 2: not really worth it.

The original Nekromantik, by Jörg Buttgereit, is a good film that raises interesting questions. I've written about it Here. Nekromantik 2, on the other hand, is sort of a predictable knock off. I should have known something was going on when the quotes on the back of the box referred to its ending without saying anything about the film itself. Both deal with necrophilia. But, there isn't any of the deep psychological examination in Nekromantik 2 that there is in the first one. Instead, it's a kind of conventional horror film.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Bylines of western media in Israel

Reading a good article by Jonathan Cook on Counterpunch, I remembered how rare it is for there to be an article in an American paper about Israel written by someone who doesn't have an obviously Jewish surname. It's always struck me to be, ahem, somewhat of a conflict of interest, but I guess is regarded as being as normal as possible by editors. I mean, who better to report on suicide bombers killing Jews and Jews killing Palestinians than Jews themselves. I mean, sure, they probably aren't formal Israeli citizens, but of course living in Israel shouldn't effect them any more than it would effect someone from New Zealand, right?

*on edit: here's a response to preemptive criticism. You know from the below post that I'm reading a book on Nazi Germany right now, right? Quite honestly, I don't think that pointing out a conflict of interest like this constitutes anti-semitism.

"Germany: Jekyll and Hyde", good book, Fascists

"Germany: Jekyll and Hyde: An Eye-Witness Analysis of Nazi Germany" is the best account of Nazi Germany that I've come across. Written by someone who amazingly stayed from '33 to '39, it dissects it layer by layer, as people have noted. One thing struck me, or has struck me. Actually, several things really struck me but I'll keep to this one right now. It's the notion that the second generation, the people who grew up in Nazi Germany and who were Nazis themselves, were the people who were the biggest zealots.

I say this because I had the unfortunate fortune of meeting someone who was a member of the Fascist youth movement in Italy before and during World War II. The circumstances relating to this are obscure, and I won't get into them. The thing is, that even though nearly sixty years had passed since the end of the war this guy was still a zealot. He still admired Mussolini, still believed that Fascism with a big "F" was a good thing, thought that the U.S. needed a Fascist government etc... I'd be curious to know how many of these people survived and kept the faith as it were in Germany itself. I know that if you go to certain places in Italy it's sort of like Fascism never ended since the amount of former Fascists and young acolytes is so thick.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Non ego-Ego-non ego, a thought

A thought about why sometimes cultivating the Self is a good thing. Based on my personal experience, I know that techniques that negate the ego are very attractive to people who have an ill defined ego for whatever reason---and by that I mean low self esteem and things of that nature. Latching onto something that says that a strong ego isn't a good thing is a way to reinforce the problem, to avoid fixing your self. But it's also invalid from the point of view of cultivating non-attachment, which I think is always a good thing even though I'm not a Buddhist, because you haven't truly experienced attachment yet and so can't appreciate the opposite. The solution to this, paradoxically, or one solution, is to build up the self, to develop the self and to flex it and realize it, to fix whatever problem lead you to latch onto the negation of ego as an easy way out of it. Then, after some amount of self realization has occurred, try to ween yourself off of unnecessary attachments, or off attachment in general. This, strangely enough, has consistently been one of the things that people in the East have commented on with regards to Westerners who are seekers, albeit using different language.

Doug Boyd, who wrote some very good books about his travels with true Native American medicine men (as opposed to hucksters), Hindu Swamis, and Buddhist near-Bodhisattvas, relates that some of the people in the East consistently said that spirituality wasn't an excuse to hide from the world. That even though practices that seemed self negating were being used, the world existed as the source material, and that running away from your problems by joining a monastery or an ashram wouldn't really get you anywhere.

A hard lesson, but there seem to be no shortcuts, and weakness and problems that appear to be strengths because of their resemblance to the state you're supposed to attain really aren't. So the better process could be expressed by the series of non-ego.....the flawed state.....leading to Ego.....the fixed state.....leading to non-Ego once again.....the sort of attachmentless state that people are aiming for.

But folks who have problems shouldn't be spat on, on the other hand, but helped. Everyone has the right to self development and to fulfillment, and the way to that shouldn't be barred because of some internal weakness.

So, summing it up, development of Ego and Self can be good and can be a good stop on the way to non-Ego, if it is a corrective measure.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Yay! Sotomayor confirmed!

Thank goodness the screams of the right wing weren't able to stop this....and the vote was 68-31, indicating that it wasn't something that Republican Senators truly wanted a showdown over.

I am a ghost and a Joycean epiphany

I am a ghost and an epiphany, drifting through life, visiting friends that I once had, remembering times we once had together. I drift into parties, gatherings, get togethers, and make my presence known, not indicating to people that I'm one of the dead and that my presence is impossible. After the affairs they realize what has happened, and it brings them reflections, but it doesn't bring me peace. I still wander, examining the structures of a world I left long ago. I appear corporeal but disappear like smoke, a remnant of a far gone age that shared the same space with these places. And the snow falls, and we all remember, some of us ensconced in townhouses, some of us inhabiting much different places. But for one night, for one moment, we can dance and we can imagine what once was and what may have been. We can pretend the reality that's around us, that we both live in, doesn't exist for a moment. We can suspend our disbelief and our divisions, overlook the cruelty that has accrued to some of us and the fortune that has encrusted others. Temporarily equals, to be quite different later, we can pretend that our fantasy is reality and conjure up dreams that can grow and twist more and more intricately up into the sky. Then I have to go. It's always like this, I leave my trace, but my essence was defeated long ago, lost in fields where playing gave rise to violence, shattered innocence, the death of the soul.

My life died in the Elysian fields of youth and purity; I exist somewhere on the side of a country road in late spring or early summer,my home, with no hint of discord, no awareness of what's really out there, or of the hard lessons that we all have to learn.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Deleuze/Guattari, Schizophrenia, the Internet

My requisite "theory" post of the month. Deleuze and Guattari of Anti-Oedipus fame would no doubt be impressed by how the internet has aggravated, not mitigated, the things that they saw in consumerism as contributing to a schizophrenic outlook on life. The central thesis of their argument is that consumer capitalism wants to take over and colonize every aspect of life, does this through advertising and marketing, is aided by the State in this, and that all of it contributes to a kind of disempowering schizophrenic like state on the part of regular consumers. We have ultra-consumerism, interacting with us on every level, on the one hand, but correspondingly dull and disappointing lives outside of our identities as consumers, namely with our lives as producers. The similarity between that state of being and schizophrenia is that schizophrenics also have delusions that are often extraordinarily detailed and in depth, not just general conspiracy theories but a sort of word salad almost of stimuli perceived by their subconscious mind being vomited back up in a world of almost total fantasy. Almost total, because it's all based on something real out there, even though what's real may have become totally and completely garbled and mixed up. Buy buy buy, you have to have this, have to have that, watch the newest show, look at our flashy quick editing on our ad, faster, faster, do it some more, that's the style of this sort of consumptive capitalism, with the State being the handmaiden and servant of it all. The internet...well...the internet has turned out to be less a positive replacement for TV and possibly more of a continuation of it.

True, no one owns the internet, not in the sense that TV channels, on cable or otherwise, are owned, but the ultra-consumption has picked up and now invades sections of our lives, sections of our minds, that didn't use to be easy to get to. Our writing, our personal thoughts and interactions with others, our specific tastes, our intellectual interests if any, are now up for grabs, and are all being marketed to now, most especially through social networking websites.

Social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace, and the internet in general, are great correctives to the social anomie and alienation that people face in contemporary America, that has in fact been produced by capitalism and television. But the machine, the beast, has found out about this strategy against dead architecture, so to speak, and has counterattacked by deciding to co-opt the whole thing. The marginal spaces that once opened up on the edges that proved to be exploitable as centers for resistance have now themselves come under the scrutiny of the all seeing eye. And not only in getting a leg in for advertisers, but also advancing the model of capitalism further against these very tendencies that once threatened to undermine some of it. And then internet is the ideal schizophrenic hideaway.

Unlike the old media, the interactivity of the new media, combined with the extent of information available, means that it just takes some Google searching to come up with an information overload, which, I would argue, feeds tendencies that feed the capitalist process, through the easy accessibility of basically any good, that you can buy with a click of the button. Just like you can search for any info with a click of the button. And your interaction is no longer with a store or with real people, but with a little screen filled with graphics, and possibly with the mailman or UPS guy/gal who delivers the packages. With the exception of work, which tends to have to be done in the real world although there are of course some options for doing things online, an entire social existence can be lived online. That it's acknowledged that such a thing isn't really desirable is of no account. Everyone said and knows that spending hour after hour parked in front of the television set wasn't good either, but that didn't prevent lots of people from doing it, and still doing it.

The State, taken as a big 'S' and standing for the social status quo, is lurking in the background seeking to reestablish control over this unruly part of society by having capitalism do the work for it. There still is a wild west on the internet, but if mainstream media and advertisers get more control through their web presence then the values, like obedience and some conformity, will be replicated de facto, albeit modified. Television proved a challenge to structure of power at first, and still does to a low extent, as events like the mass hysteria regarding Janet Jackson's nipple prove. But, at first, news gathering, for instance, proved to be a potentially radical activity through coverage of the Vietnam war, for example. Standards were modified because of new openness, but later control was reasserted, first through its aiding of the Reagan reaction, and then culminating in the stage managed Gulf War coverage, prompting Baudrillard to sarcastically ask if it really happened at all.

Something like that could happen to the internet, making it a mass force for conformity like nothing ever seen on the one hand, while preserving sectors of extreme freedom on the other.

Turn on, tune in, sign on, buy. Or drop out.

*on edit: I don't think that the State is just a handmaiden to capitalism. I think that the State is semi-autonomous, autonomous enough to have its own agenda, which varies depending on what party or tendency is formally in power. Both liberal and conservative serve capitalism with different levels of enthusiasm, and both have their own desires regarding what's appropriate behavior and appropriate ideas. The difference is that the conservatives are usually out there with what they think while the liberals often pose as something akin to Anarchists, even though they really aren't that far to the left. With the social democratic parties the situation is more complex, because anti-capitalism is written into the constitution of the parties themselves. Just as liberalism is a step forward from conservatism, which I suppose in turn is a step beyond authoritarian royalism, socialism is a step forward from liberalism, even though all States tend to have or to form their own agendas.

It's interesting, though, that in some social democratic countries socialism is paired with a kind of watered down corporatism, which is usually associated with the far right. Unions are given power as collective agents, then businesses cartelize themselves into corporate groups who deal with them, and the State stands in the middle, pushing its particular program and sometimes acting as a referee. It's strange to think of this as happening.

No matter what personal agenda the people who control the State have, the State always seems to be okay with serving power.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

A message to Paul Constant of The Stranger regarding his recent review of the new Thomas Pynchon book

Named "Inherent Vice". I'm a Thomas Pynchon fan too, so I'm not going to destroy your review over this, but there was one phrase there....you described the interior monologue of the main character as making "Vice a tone poem constructed from American cultural detritus.." Well...come on now. I know you like the book but don't you think that describing this part as a "tone poem" is going a little too far, laying it on a little too thickly? I know exactly what you're talking about, but don't you think that elevating this stuff to Joycean heights is a little excessive?

Why we need amnesty and support for illegal workers

I noticed an interesting headline about a month ago: "Injuries to Hispanic workers up 75%". The implication is that Hispanic workers are seen as being expendable if they're here illegally. I'm fairly certain that it's undocumented workers who make up the bulk of those hurt because I can't see folks who were born in the U.S. or are here but aren't vulnerable to deportation putting up with those types of policies.

"Whistleblower: Bin Laden was US proxy until 9/11"

Here:"In an interview last month with blogger Brad Friedman, whistleblower Sibel Edmonds dropped a bombshell when a caller asked a question about 9/11.

The former FBI translator carefully replied, “I have information about things that our government has lied to us about. I know. For example, to say that since the fall of the Soviet Union we ceased all of our intimate relationship with Bin Laden and the Taliban - those things can be proven as lies, very easily, based on the information they classified in my case, because we did carry very intimate relationship with these people, and it involves Central Asia, all the way up to September 11.”

Australian blogger Luke Ryland has now filled in more details of the Central Asian operations to which Edmonds was referring, quoting Edmonds as saying on other occasions that al Qaeda and the Taliban were used by the US as proxies in “a decade-long illegal, covert operation in Central Asia by a small group in the US intent on furthering the oil industry and the Military Industrial Complex.”

Came at dawn to a warm misty place---the Keys, the SOA, Central America

So...when I was 19 I dropped out of college and moved to the lower Florida Keys, about an hour away from Key West. Previously, I had been going to a Quaker peace school in Indiana known as Earlham, a classical liberal arts program. While there I became involved in studying politics and current events. Interestingly enough, when WTO happened, I was in a radical political economy class there that was studying globalization, studying the IMF and the World Bank. We even had a guy who went out there from Indiana and came back with a nasty black eye. Even then, in the run up to WTO, I joked with a girl I knew from Eugene about the dreaded "Eugene Anarchists" coming up to Seattle to fuck shit up. My personal contribution to all of this was going down to the School of the Americas and protesting.

The SOA, for those who don't know, which has recently been renamed something that sounds better and whose acronym is WHINSEC, is an officer training school for folks from armies in Central and South America. Specifically, it trains right wing murderers on how to conduct counter-insurgency campaigns, which is a nice way of saying things like going into a village at night, killing a random person, and then nailing them to a post in the middle of the village to send a message.

A number of these officers have been implicated in war crimes and in atrocities of various kinds, but because of the largesse of the United States in offering its support to them and to the governments that they were part of they on the whole have not been brought to justice and likely will never be brought to justice, unless revolutions happen in these countries. And that's just what the School of the America's was set out to stop from happening.

In Central America in particular almost all the land in the various countries is owned by a tiny oligarchy who then employ peasant labor to farm it on behalf of U.S. companies, who then import the produce and sell it here. There's no effective democracy in many of them, and the landlords own the government, own the police, and own the military. So, sort of naturally, revolutionary movements sprung up in many of them attempting to overthrow these types of regime and put something in that was more democratic and had more of a socially just arrangement in it, particularly in land. The Sandinistas formed in Nicaragua, and after fighting a civil war actually won, and then were subjected to the wrath of the U.S. based Contras operating out of Honduras. They eventually forced the fall of the Sandinista government and the restoration of a somewhat modified business as usual state of affairs. In El Salvador the force was the FMLN, like the Sandinistas named after a famous revolutionary from earlier on in that country's history. The Sandinistas took their named from Sandino, while the FMLN, The The Farabundo Marti (movement) for National Liberation, took their name from, Farabundo Marti. Nationalization and redistribution were the common themes.

The FMLN was crushed even more severely than the Sandinistas, with atrocity topping atrocity, including the assassination of the Archbishop of El Salvador, Archbishop Romero, while he was saying mass in church and the rape of young nuns who were helping out in solidarity with the FMLN movement through liberation theology. Years later, I heard an account of some of what went on in El Salvador at an event that was a benefit for CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, which is still working for a democratic and just social state of being down there. At the event a person who was a doctor who went down there during the civil war spoke and related to us an incident where he met with one of the Contra leaders to try to reason with him. The officer chose to meet him in a room where one wall was filled with bullet holes and splashed with blood, and that had shards of glass bottles embedded in it. On the table in front of him, there while they talked, there was a large glass jar filled with alcohol that contained human ears. Which was what the U.S. was supporting, and what the School of the Americas taught people to do. Terror is an essential part of counter insurgency, where part of the point isn't just to kill people but to send a message to other people that this will happen to you if you continue to side with the rebels. Sometimes in El Salvador this took the form of the Contras finding a small village in an area where there was significant rebel support and graphically killing everyone in it, often raping women and even grandmothers before actually killing them and mutilating the bodies.

So that's what I protested. WTO happened the week after, I left for Florida and the Keys two weeks after that, and cheered on the secondary protests against the IMF, the World Bank, and the DNC and RNC while at home watching it all on C-SPAN.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Free Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier has just had his parole hearing and needs support from people to persuade them that letting him out is something that has public support. Please spread the word and spread awareness of his case.

Our wonderful drug laws.

Insanity: Marijuana is scheduled higher on the federal system than methamphetamine, meaning that it's officially more dangerous. Anyone who lives in the Northwest has seen what methamphetamine has done to people. It's swept through and destroyed person after person, just ravaged people. Even the added threat (ha!) of mystical high powered pot doesn't do much besides feed the snack food industry and encourage cable tv