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Category Archives: America God-Damn

Political Commentary From The Projectionists’ Booth

One of the happy discoveries I’ve made in the course of this Crash Course in movies was Les Vampires, a freewheeling French crime thriller serial.  It’s one of my favorites so far, largely because of how it throws a bumper crop of oddball plot twists and details into the pot and still manages to all hang together.

And by far, one of my favorite bits is an assassin whose weapon of choice is a cannon.  His technique – which is demonstrated at least once in the film, if not twice – is to scout out the nearest hotel to his target, and then book a suitably-located room.  He then arrives, in disguise, with an unusually large number of trunks and bags, and a couple manservants to help portage everything.  Inside all the luggage, of course, is the disassembled cannon, which he and his men put together once they’re in the room.  Then, at just the right moment, they load the cannon, one of his accomplices opens the window, he aims at his target – and fires.  Then, he and his men take apart the cannon, pack everything away again, and check out.  It is completely and utterly ridiculous, and that is why I loved it.

….I just watched a clip of Trevor Noah’s reaction to the events in Las Vegas.  And something he said jumped out at me – that apparently, after the shooting, there is a growing call for an increased stringency in hotel security.  Pundits point to the sheer number of guns Stephen Paddock had in his hotel room – and the question they are asking is, how did he carry them all in?  Didn’t anyone notice anything?

Well, you know something…you could ask the same question of the cannon assassin in Les Vampires.  He also carried an unusually large number of bags into a hotel room, with the intent to commit murder.  And, in the unlikely event someone actually did try to pull off such a stunt, it would be equally as deadly.

However – the other thing that would happen is that we wouldn’t be asking how he got the cannon into the hotel.  We would be instead focused on how he was able to obtain a cannon in the first place, and bending over backwards to stop other people from getting their own.

…A movie about ninja jewel thieves should not be making more sense than real life, y’all.

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Hey, Wait……

I had a bit of an epiphany this morning.

A lot of the white supremacist groups claim that they are simply “expressing pride in being white”.  However – have you ever noticed that they can’t seem to do that without insulting others in the process?

Speech After Long Silence

It’s hard to blog when you think the world is going to end, and you are watching your country turn into a fascist state.

Like many, I was thrown by the escalating tension between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un, and the threat of nuclear weapons.  I think I’ve mentioned in here before that I was very young when I learned about the existance of nukes, and because of that, nuclear weapons basically became my biggest fear.  You know how when you’re a kid, you know exactly what the Monster Under Your Bed or The Thing In The Closet looks like? How you’re afraid to go into a dark room because you just know that when you turn on the light, it will be standing there, and you know in perfect detail what it is going to look like?  Starting at about age eight, my Thing In The Closet was a mushroom cloud.

And it’s hard to write when your inner child is cowering in fear that the Thing In The Closet that you thought went away has suddenly come back.

And then fear gave way to sorrow at the events in Charlottesville.  …Although, to be honest, first there was anger – which I turned into jumping on Twitter and ripping off snarky comebacks against any supporters of the Unite The Right march, and to writing to employers and teachers for any of the men who had been confirmed and identified.  But there were just so many of them, and the breadth of the ignorance they had about history, the First Amendment, and racial equality was making me feel like it was all futile and adding to the problem.

I’ve also just been low-energy in general for the past couple weeks (taking steps to fix it, I think I know what’s going on), but that plus fear and anger and sorrow has left me without much energy to do anything except for fart around on Youtube watching kitten videos.

But you know, that’s okay.  I believe that you don’t have to have to turn yourself into a total ascetic when you are trying to work towards improving the world; you can speak out against apocalypse and at the same time notice and appreciate fun and joyful things. I’m sure even the most militant of activists, one whose Facebook feeds are nothing but reposts of notices about rallies and one who spends all of their spare time making things for the next action, feels comforted and gladdened by the feeling of companionship they get from their fellows. There is always a way to step back and notice what’s good.  You can do both.  In fact, you should do both; it’s how you keep your spirit together and give your soul a chance to rest, catch its breath and get ready for the next round.

I think I’m going to start to take more notice of things each week that have pleased me like this.  Big, small, ridiculous, corny, inconsequential – it doesn’t matter.  I’ll post them at the end of the day Saturday, or on Sunday morning; I suspect that the more good I take note of and write down, the more I’m going to see.  Things like:

  • As I was running errands on Saturday, a man on a bike rode past me – and he had his two children on the oversized seat behind him, giving them a ride.  One of the kids was holding on – but the other had arms flung out wide, pretending that they were flying.

America, God-Damn

I am ashamed to be an American today.

I have nothing more to say right now.

Again

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New York City, God-damn.

Less Than 24 Hours Later

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Fresno, California, God-damn.

Kansas City, God-damn.

Back To The Front Lines

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The last time I was in any kind of political protest was in 2004.

I used to be a little more active – not hugely so, but I was in a few marches in the 90s and early 2000s; something about unemployment in ’92, an anti-war march in October of 2001, another couple more in 2003.  In 2004, I joined the big march outside the GOP convention organized by the group United for Peace and Justice.  Most news about that particular march noted that it was one of the biggest such marches ever; and that it was largely peaceful, except for one little thing.  As Wikipedia notes:

“The only major incident during the march occurred when some individuals of unknown affiliations torched a large dragon float between Madison Square Garden and the Fox News building. The float turned into a huge fireball, and the march was halted until firefighters were able to clear the street of debris.”

As it just so happened, I was twenty feet away of that dragon float when they set the fire.

I was there with my friend Colin, who’d joined a loose group of fellow Green Party members.  We’d all noticed the dragon float in the crowd as we’d been marching – it was a huge papier-mache sort of puppet thing, beautifully decorated, carried by a group of about 20 people dressed all in black.  But it was one of a lot of other things we’d been looking at as we marched, and didn’t pay it much mind.  The march had started down on 14th Street and we’d just made it all the way north to 34th, Colin and I making a point of looking for a news camera and hollering towards it as we passed.  The crowd was thinning out just after the convention center; the route turned east and then continued back downtown at that point, but a number of people were dropping out. Colin and I had gotten separated from his friends and were discussing how to find them back at Union Square – the march’s end point – when we started smelling smoke.

I turned around and saw the flames leaping out of the crowd behind me about three or four stories high. “HOLY God,” I blurted out as Colin turned to look too. It was the dragon puppet we’d seen at the start of the march. A number of cops peeled away from the barriers and ran for the fire. People were all asking each other what happened. “They set it on fire!” one woman exclaimed, running past us, and I first thought she meant a counterdemonstrator attacking us. But Colin said he’d seen the people carrying the dragon suddenly crouch down and cover themselves over with a whole bunch of umbrellas and banners; “I figured they were up to something,” he said.

We were drifting around the corner, eyeing the crowd carefully. I looked back to the path ahead of us, and suddenly saw a flying wedge of cops in riot gear heading right towards us — while Colin, blissfully unaware, was looking back at the fireball and chanting, “THE ROOF! THE ROOF!  THE ROOF IS ON FIRE!”

OH sweet JESUS.

“Okay – Colin?” I barked, grabbing his arm. “Colin? Come on. This way. NOW.” I tugged him away from the cops, further up the street. I let go once the cops passed us; then even more cops in riot gear started coming up through the crowd behind us, joined by the rest of the crowd finally breaking out of their daze and starting to stampede away to safety.  I started a run-walk up the street myself, wanting to get out of the way but not wanting to lose sight of Colin either, and finally broke and ran myself. Someone ran past me hollering, “The edge! Head for the edge!” and I took his advice and moved towards the sidewalk (even in the midst of my panic, I was gibbering “pardon me, excuse me” to people as I passed them). I slipped through a gap in the barricades just under one of the awnings for Macys and huddled there with three other strangers, catching my breath. I waved Colin over when I saw him again, walking calmly but briskly away from the chaos; he chided me a bit for running, but then apologized when I saw how freaked out I was.

We waited there a moment longer until we saw a crowd of at least 20 people heading back towards the cops, legal-aid advisors in green baseball hats and marchers with black bandannas covering their mouths and noses. A team of riot cops was heading up the street towards them, another couple of black-bandanna’d marchers running alongside and catcalling them. Behind them, another team of cops was repositioning the barricades to bar the rest of the crowd from moving onto the block. Colin had already started shepherding us up the street as the two groups met in the middle of the block, and then further on again as team of mounted officers suddenly swept into the intersection behind us, shutting police barriers behind them with a clang.  A couple of Colin’s friends found us at that point, and we completed our share of the march together, the five of us walking down an eerily-deserted stretch of Fifth Avenue as the police held everyone back behind us.  Colin had proposed getting ice cream after the march, but I left as soon as we got to the park, heading straight for home – staring up at a quote by Yeats on the bus:

“Things fall apart, the center cannot hold,
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

I did not join any march of any kind after that.  I’d been invited to – Colin asked me along to several – and there were several causes I supported which held them.  But I’ve always bowed out, and if pressed, I always explained that this was why.  Starting a bonfire in the middle of a huge crowd of people is a tremendously stupid and fucking dangerous thing to do.  I’d rather keep myself safe, thanks, and since protests are clearly going to draw the kind of people who do think torching dragon puppets in the middle of crowds is actually a good idea, the best thing would therefore be for me to keep myself away from protests.  QED.  I once got a scolding from someone who said that they’d heard about the incident and that it was a police-operative undercover double-cross sort of thing; I didn’t care, I said, because who did it, and for what cause they did it, didn’t so much matter as that they did it.

So at first when I saw a march was starting up tonight, in support of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, my initial reaction was to think “good, but I’ll sit it out.”  Best to go home and stay away from an unsafe place.  And then it hit me that – I have the luxury of having safe places.  Sterling probably thought he was safe where he worked, and Castile probably thought that his own car, with his wife and child, was also a safe place.

Or maybe they didn’t.  My workplace and my car would be safe places for me – but they weren’t safe for them.  My “safeness” is only due to the color of my own skin.  My sitting out the march tonight is only going to underscore the fact that I have the privilege of having a safe place inside my skin, whereas Sterling and Castile – and Treyvon Martin, and Mike Brown, and so many others – have no safe place.

So I’m going to be joining the march tonight.  It might be dangerous, but not as dangerous as it was for Alton and Philando to be black men in the United States.  I can’t not be there.