Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jeremiah Wright speaks for me

I know that given how pathetic are the bounds of acceptable mainstream political discourse in this country, that Barack Obama has to disown his pastor's comments in order to stay in the race for president. Of course, Hillary Clinton and John McCain have both got a free pass about their own creepy religious associations ("The Fellowship" and John Hagee, disrespectively). Still, it's hard to find anything I disagree with in the following:
“I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said Americas chickens, are coming home to roost.”

“We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.

“We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.

“We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.

“We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenage and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard working fathers.

“We bombed Qaddafi’s home, and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children’s head against the rock.

“We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they’d never get back home.

“We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.

“Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.

“Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y’all, not a black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised. The ambassador said the people we have wounded don’t have the military capability we have. But they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them. And we need to come to grips with that.”

(CNN, via This Modern World.)

Monday, April 28, 2008


Last week I had an accident while bicycling to work, and I fractured my wrist. So I got to spend two and a half days at home with nothing to do but put ice on my cast and eat pain pills. I feel better already, but my attempt to observe Mental Detox Week was something of a bust. All that time laid up at home wiped out my will to do anything but watch DVDs and surf the Net. One thing I noticed during my brief experiment, however, was the effect of not having my iPod plugged in constantly. I didn't have that cocoon of my own soundtrack to life, but became much more aware of my surroundings very quickly. And this was annoying at times, but also good to re-experience. So as a tool for examining how mediated our lives have become, I give Mental Detox Week two thumbs up.

But for now, and a few weeks to come, one of those thumbs is in a cast. So I won't be blogging much until it comes off.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mental Detox Week

Adbusters has expanded their long-running TV Turn Off week into "Mental Detox Week".

The idea behind it is that TV isn't the only part of the problem, it's that our entire lives are so mediated by information technologies and electronic entertainment that we're increasingly cut off from real human interaction (not exactly a new theme, but one that bears repeating), and that it would be a worthwhile experiment to try and sever oneself from the electronic umbilicus for just a week. I feel challenged but also pretty damn inspired by the idea, so I'll be using the Internet just to check email, leaving my Ipod at home, not playing any video games, and continuing not to watch any TV.

It's supremely ironic to blog about this, of course, but I'll probably post a report after the week's over. I think it's great that Adbusters has done this, because I know for myself that having quit TV a few months ago, I've held to that pretty well but for the most part spend just as much (if not more) time in front of a screen, and can see some of the signs of Internet addiction taking hold. Maybe it's time for a fast!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Packard Jennings

A few years ago I saw (must have been in Adbusters or somewhere I can't recall), a cartoon strip called "Business Reply". It is a culture jam piece, intended to be printed en masse and mailed in the Business Reply envelopes that typically accompany junk mail. It depicts, in a visual style reminiscent of airplane evacuation guides, a bored office drone opening the envelope, then flipping over his desk and inciting an all-out rebellion by his fellow workers against the office, destroying security cameras, barricading themselves inside, and eventually forming some kind of polyamorous anarcho-primitivist commune inside the decaying husk of the office tower.

At the time, I saw that and loved it, but didn't know it was part of a large body of work by someone. Recently, I read in one of the local alt-weeklies about an artist named Packard Jennings, who does culture-jamming work and recently hand-carved an "Anarchist Action Figure" (pictured above), surreptitiously placed it on the shelf of the toy section at a local Target store, and then used a hidden camera to film himself trying to purchase it!

The rest of his website includes his other works, as well as the hidden camera video from the Target action.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The story so far.

So after ignoring this blog endlessly, I figure it's time I started posting to it and using it for the reasons I actually decided to. It seems that every time I think about it, I have either no time or nothing relevant to say combined with the mood to blog. I guess having a day job where I don't use the Net is a problem.

But as an outlet for musings, brief observations, and linking, it could work, especially as I (hopefully) find my niche in the blogosphere. The important thing is to move from simply reading to participating in the conversation as well, even in a small way.

Anyway, a little about where I'm coming from. I'm a denizen of the San Francisco bay area, currently in Oakland and before that, the City itself. Since I moved to Oakland a few months ago I got re-activated doing organizing and political work with the anti-war direct action left, and finding community among fellow activists of many stripes. This has been a great thing, as I'd been inactive and frustrated for over two years before that, and feeling cut off. But now I feel good to be back doing the good work and fighting the good fight.

My political experience prior was mostly on anti-war issues, and more broadly within the anarchist community. I suppose I'll put aside describing my political thoughts and identification in depth for now, but if I had to use a word, I would say anarchist, or radical, or "anarcho-flexible" (just came up with that).

And the main challenge I'm having now is how to reconcile that and a committment to direct action with being in the regular workaday world where I have a full time job, a career plan that requires participating in institutions and broadly the "Establishment", and (lately) a full personal life.

So for now, I'll just leave it at that, and say also that I'm nearly done reading "Expect Resistance" by the CrimethInc collective, and wow am I amazed by it. It is a book that is actually two books, a sort of call-and-response structure of some of the propaganda and critical essays by CrimethInc that they've published over the last several years, and a memoir-like narrative by several activists trying to apply it in their own lives and their own work. It's a fascinating device and both parts are very engaging. CrimethInc as a group within the anarchist community is one that I think is very vital and full of useful insight, as well as producing some of the best anarchist propaganda I've ever encountered. And in my opinion, they produce work that is some of the only really engaging and accessible (which is *key*) that I've seen recently. So, the book is highly recommended for critical and revolutionary minds.

Anyway that's about it for me for now. More to come.