Friday, December 30, 2011

Rise of the Communist Apes?


When re-watching "The Rise of the Planet of the Apes" on DVD earlier this month, many of the scenes in the movie made me think of Vladimir Lenin, and especially one of his most famous--and important--polemics, What Is To Be Done?

This Summer 2011 movie is a prequel to the 1968 classic, "Planet of the Apes," that explains how it is that earth's apes evolved their human-like intelligence to later become the dominant species on the planet: Turns out it was just an accident by scientists who were doing experiments on apes as they tried to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease.

One of the unforeseeable consequences from the drug is that it's passed down genetically, and that's how we get the main (ape) character in the film, Caesar, whose mother was experimented on. Caesar is born--almost secretly--in the lab and is sneaked out by the drug's creator, Will Rodman (James Franco) who, in turn, raises him like a child.

However, an unfortunate string of events occur that result in Caesar getting taken away from his human family and locked-up in an ape sanctuary where he starts to yearn for freedom and equality for him and the other apes. Caesar quickly realizes though that he cannot organize his fellow apes while in their current form, so he escapes one night to get canisters of the drug that he inherited to give to the other apes. This, to me, was an allegory of what Lenin said regarding class-consciousness coming to the proletariat from "without," from "educated representatives of the propertied classes." From What Is To Be Done?:

Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is, only from outside the economic struggle, from outside the sphere of relations between workers and employers. The sphere from which alone it is possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere of relationships of all classes and strata to the state and the government, the sphere of the interrelations between all classes.

Also, in the movie there is a scene that shows the importance of leadership--of protecting leadership. It was actually a very touching scene where one of the strongest apes of Caesar's army sacrifices himself to save his life. This was very interesting to me. Of course, without someone actually pointing these things out to you, it would be very difficult to learn these lessons. The movie, however, is still very much worth watching

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Poetry Review: Poetic Injustice

I never knew death/ until I saw the bombing/ of a refugee camp

With these three lines, (from the poem, “A Poem for Gaza”), Remi Kanazi opens his collection of poems, Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine. The message is clear: this ain’t no romance poetry book!

As the title of the book suggests, the poet makes no secret of shaping these pieces to be raw expressions of the injustice that Palestinian people face on a daily basis. In fact, in one of the blurbs promoting the book, Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges writes, “There is more truth, and perhaps finally more news, in Remi Kanazi’s poems than the pages of your daily newspaper or the sterile reports flashed across your screens.”

Besides poems about daily life/struggle in Palestine, other themes that are explored throughout the book are Palestinian-American Identity, War, and American Chauvinism.

Kanazi seems to write his best lines in pieces where he talks about coming of age in America, perhaps because these kinds of pieces force him to be as honest as possible. For instance, in the poem “Home,” he says:

still can’t comprehend
why kids in my neighborhood
picked on David
for being Jewish
was ten years old
the first time someone
called me a sand nigger
and I don’t hate the town
I grew up in
but I don’t forget
those experiences either

And later in the same poem, this observation is shared: “don’t feel the need/ to dream up an alternative/ American childhood/ as if America’s vision/ ever intended to include me.”

The collection lacks a proper amount of poetic elements, but still manages to have stanzas like the following, which provide an image in the last lines that is both sad and beautiful at the same time:

I can’t remember his face
they never told me his name
parents hugged the sky
hoping to feel him
once more

One of the special things this book includes is a collection 48 three-line poems for Palestine that are divided into four sections, (each of which represents one of the poet’s displaced grandparents). These very short poems retell memories, offer creative metaphors, or sometimes just sound good. For instance, my favorite one, (from the Leonie section):

She doesn’t want the American dream
or the Palestinian dream
She just wants to dream

The other special thing about this book is that it includes a CD with the author reading 15 of the pieces, which only enhances this collection because many of the poems are spoken-word pieces that deserve to be heard, not just read.

I can only hope that more people will discover this young poet; and that said poet provide us with more of his work.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Shepard Fairey Remixes 'Hope,' Twice!

When it was announced that world-famous street artist Shepard Fairey had remixed his famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) "Hope" poster that was made a household image during the Obama presidential campaign, I had mixed reactions to it. On the one hand, he modified it to support the Occupy movement! However, it was still showed illusions that Obama was on the side of the people, as the bottom of the poster read, "Mister President, we HOPE you're on our side." On his blog, Fairey said:

"This image represents my support for the Occupy movement, a grassroots movement spawned to stand up against corruption, imbalance of power, and failure of our democracy to represent and help average Americans. On the other hand, as flawed as the system is, I see Obama as a potential ally of the Occupy movement if the energy of the movement is perceived as constructive, not destructive. I still see Obama as the closest thing to “a man on the inside” that we have presently. . ."

Obviously, Obama--who hasn't defended the Occupy movement, much less defended it--is not on the side of the 99%. Clearly, many people--who didn't know--have realized that Obama was put in power to represent the 1%.

Apparently, I was not the only one disappointed with the image. Turns out that some Occupy Wall Street organizer sent him a response thanking him for his artistic contribution, but also recommending some changes because he believed the image was not "non-partisan" and seemed like it could misconstrue the Occupy Movement as a front for an Obama re-election campaign. In his blog, Fairey responded to the suggestion, and although he did not fully agree with him, he did revise the Occupy Hope poster! (See below: it reads, "We are the HOPE").

I believe Fairey should be commended, not only for the new version, but for being open to such suggestions.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Miley Cyrus' new radical video

Look, I know what most people are thinking already. I know many people's first instinct is to not care that Hannah Montana is on the side of Occupy Wall Street protesters. But, I actually think this is a pretty big deal.

I mean, this is definitely not the best sounding pop-song ever, and the lyrics are very simple, but the video to this song, ("Liberty Walk"), is fuck'n great!

First of all, the video starts with these words: "This is dedicated to the thousands of people who are standing up for what they believe in..." How can you be against that?

Secondly, the video is nothing but footage from recent protests from all over the world, of people standing up to their governments, corporate greed, and even capitalism. Most of the footage is actually of the Occupy protests around the U.S. (like New York, Oakland, Davis and other cities).

Obviously, Miley's image has been very well crafted by Disney to make them millions, so it's astonishing to me that she's been allowed to make a pro-protest song, and even more that the video contains footage that exposes police brutality. If anything, this video is worth tripping out on. (The last final seconds are very nice).

Original source: Dangerous Minds

Monday, November 21, 2011

'Beat Poets, not beat poets.'

A lot of people have been beaten with batons at various Occupy protests. A few weeks ago, the Harriet blog reported that at OccupyCal, at UC Berkely, former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass was pushed around by police, along with other faculty and students.

Hass, professor of poetry and poetics at UC Berkeley, and who also signed the Occupy Writers statement, published an opinion piece for the New York Times on Saturday describing what he saw (and felt):

LIFE, I found myself thinking as a line of Alameda County deputy sheriffs in Darth Vader riot gear formed a cordon in front of me on a recent night on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, is full of strange contingencies. The deputy sheriffs, all white men, except for one young woman, perhaps Filipino, who was trying to look severe but looked terrified, had black truncheons in their gloved hands that reporters later called batons and that were known, in the movies of my childhood, as billy clubs.

The first contingency that came to mind was the quick spread of the Occupy movement. The idea of occupying public space was so appealing that people in almost every large city in the country had begun to stake them out, including students at Berkeley, who, on that November night, occupied the public space in front of Sproul Hall, a gray granite Beaux-Arts edifice that houses the registrar’s offices and, in the basement, the campus police department.

It is also the place where students almost 50 years ago touched off the Free Speech Movement, which transformed the life of American universities by guaranteeing students freedom of speech and self-governance. The steps are named for Mario Savio, the eloquent undergraduate student who was the symbolic face of the movement. There is even a Free Speech Movement Cafe on campus where some of Mr. Savio’s words are prominently displayed: “There is a time ... when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part.”

To read the rest of his piece, click HERE.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pop-culture support for Occupy Movement

The Occupy Movement, which started with Occupy Wall Street--and has exploded all over the country, has garnered much support from various types of people across the nation, including a lot of people well known in popular culture. I have listed a few and some of what they've said:

Occupy Writers- This started out as a couple dozen writers who pledged to "support Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement around the world," but quickly grew to more than 200 authors. They include some very well established authors like Margaret Atwood, Alice Walker, Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Naomi Klein. (Rick Remender, who writes X-Force for Marvel Comics, is also included). Some of the writers have also contributed essays about the Occupy Movement, like children's author Lemony Snicket who wrote a very clever piece, "Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance."

Henry Rollins- A former singer of one of the best hardcore punk bands, Black Flag, wrote a lengthy column in support of the Occupy Movement for his LA Weekly blog last month. In it, he says things like, "People will understand that the Occupy protests are truly organic -- which is why it sometimes looks like there is confusion amongst them. As the weeks go by, every police officer who stomps on and attempts ruinous harm to the First Amendment with arrests will only attract more people to the protests."

Boots Riley- If you're looking for someone on Twitter for insights and information on Occupy Oakland, Boots is the guy to follow! It's not surprise that he has been out there taking over the streets with other Bay area natives, as his music with The Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club is highly political. On November 12, he tweeted, "#OccupyOakland scares em cuz we make connections w labor&studnts&push fightin WallStreet n the workplace.They try2discourage those connects."

Christopher Nolan- The director of such films as "Memento," "Batman Begins," and "Inception" was actually going to film scenes from his current Batman flick, "The Dark Knight Rises," with Occupy Wall Street in the background. However, they changed their minds because, as one website put it, Nolan did not want to "co-opt what’s happening there and around the country."

Superheroes- Click HERE for a funny link that has fictional characters like Superman and Luke Skywalker showing their support for the 99%.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cartoonists on Occupy Movement

Today, the Cartoon Movement website started a series of cartoons related to the Occupy Movement. The cartoons are from three different artists, covering three different cities. Some of them show the encampments, but most of them do a very good job of describing some of the protesters and various types of people that are participating in this movement.

From their website:

Over the last two months, the Occupy movement has captured worldwide attention. Cartoonists have been on the scene sketching, reporting, and participating. So we asked some of our contributors to share their drawings. Susie Cagle, Sharon Rosenzweig, and Shannon Wheeler bring us sketches from Oakland, Chicago, and New York respectively. We'll have another batch from different cities next week.

My favorite cartoons were from Shannon Wheeler, whose work I'm familiar with because of his Too Much Coffee Man cartoons. Definitely looking forward to the next batch.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Support this: Occupy Comics

I was very excited to find out about this, this past weekend: Some one has taken it upon themselves to organize comic-book writers and artists to create an anthology of comics related to the Occupy Movement, that will also be a fundraiser.

Their web-site and kickstarter page gives these details:

Unless you're living under a rock, you've heard about the Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread across the country and around the world. We believe this is an incredibly unique movement that transcends the usual partisan gridlock and could have a profound affect on all our futures. Even if it dissolves completely, it has changed the conversation in the country and around the world in a way that deserves to be remembered....

This book is intended to be a time capsule of the passions and emotions driving the movement. We are comic book & graphic novel artists and writers who've been inspired by the movement and hope to tell the stories of the people who are out there putting themselves at risk for an idea. What is that idea? Most of the media will tell you the idea is a vague and befuddled mess, but movements don't coalesce around vague, befuddled messes. We hope that through the medium of comics we can share some of the ideas and experiences driving this movement.

What stood out to me about this project is that the contributors are a mix of indie artists and more well-established comic-book creators. Some of the creators who have already signed on to participate are long-time Marvel and DC writer J.M. DeMatteis; "Manhunter" scribe Marc Andreyko; indie artist Molly Crabapple; "30 Days of Night" creator Steve Niles; illustrator Ben Templesmith; "Hack/Slash" creator Tim Seeley; and many others.

I can't wait to donate to this project and check out the finished product (which unfortunately, will take many months). Support this!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Chilean student movement inspires new Ana Tijoux single

Recently, the French-Chilean MC Ana Tijoux released a single from her upcoming album, "La Bala" ("The Bullet"), which is very much inspired by the current student movement currently happening in Chile. Students have taken to the streets, almost daily, since June, protesting for free public education--sometimes even going up against riot police, tear gas and water cannons.

The song is called, "Shock," and it refers to the book by Naomi Klein, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," in which the author gets into "how America’s “free market” policies have come to dominate the world-- through the exploitation of disaster-shocked people and countries."

She was quoted as saying (loosely translated), "In putting together this song, I was inspired by this cross-sectional social movement and came at it from my roles as mother, a musician, and citizen. It seemed perfect to be able to pay homage to this movement through my music."

Below are some loosely translated lyrics:

Tu estado de control
tu trono podrido de oro
tu política y tu riqueza
y tu tesoro no.

La hora sonó, la hora sonó

NO permitiremos más, más tu doctrina del shock

* * *

Your state of control
Your rotting throne of gold
You politics and your riches
and your treasures, no.

The time has come, the time has come

We will NOT permit more, more of your shock doctrine

Tijoux started becoming better well known this year after she was nominated for a Grammy for her second album, "1977," in the Best Latin Rock, Alternative or Urban Album category.

Original source: Cambio Politico (Click on the source to hear the song and watch a cool video from the FAUNA Collective).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Coming Soon: Volcanic Sunlight

In anticipation for a new album, Volcanic Sunlight, the poet/artist/performer, Saul Williams, sent out a newsletter where he talks about many things: including his view of music; his travels and meeting new people; current popular-culture; and commercial music.

But most importantly, he talks about who his audience is--who he is aiming to reach--and how he sees his new work as "an alternative form of energy."

Below are just two paragraphs from the letter he sent out:

"When you talk to record execs, they want to be able to see exactly where you'll fit into the commercial playing field. They want to be able to envision your song being played between Kanye and Drake on the radio. They want to be able to easily locate your audience. I'm pretty certain that much of my audience is out occupying cities across the world, protesting against corporate giants, squatting in city parks, following the same compulsion that led many to poetry slams and readings some years back; to raves, hip-hop, and punk rock shows, when music was more counter-culture than over-the-counter culture. All those seeds that were planted, the voices unlocked, the envisionment of the world that is possible and the pledge to make it real, are all coming full circle now.

"Volcanic Sunlight is my contribution to the times. It is my way of sharing that through all the necessary fighting for change behind, ahead, and within us, I have found it most helpful to think of it as a dance. I danced through a lot of bullshit (and fun shit) in order to get here... (don't forget the fun shit!). Yeah, it's been fun. Hella fun (415/510). And, honestly, I ain't really trying to fit in. (See: Talk To Strangers). But I've decided to sell my album to you, this time. As if to say, here is my idea of a 'product' that, I hope you will consider, worth more than it's asking price. As if to say, "invest in alternative energy." 'Cause, basically, that's how I think of Volcanic Sunlight: as an alternative form of energy. Something a bit more conscious of it's global imprint that whole cities, and possibly, new worlds, or, at least, new thoughts, can run on. My intention is for it to serve as a generator, a power source, that remembers the beauty of it's engine as it serves to transform the system."

I look forward very much to listening to this new album. In the summer of 2010, when I traveled to Arizona to protest against the racist anti-immigrant laws that were being put into place, one of the songs we heard over-and-over again (for inspiration and what not), was his "List of Demands." Anybody who follows Saul Williams on Twitter knows that he has been inspired by the Occupy movement that have exploded in this country. I expect this new album to somehow compliment the actions of all people who are out there trying to change the world.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Recommended: 'Juan and John' at LATC

About a decade ago, I was at the Los Angeles Theatre Center to see Roger Guenveur Smith's one-man performance of "A Huey P. Newton Story," and was blown away by the actor and the way he delivered the radical politics of the Black Panther Party on stage. Last night, I saw this same actor and was even more impressed as he used only a bench, historical projections on a screen, simple lighting, but mostly acting skills, to tell another great story.

"Juan and John," focuses mostly on a baseball-field brawl that took place in the summer of 1965 between San Francisco Giants Hall-of-Fame pitcher Juan Marichal and Dodgers catcher John Roseboro and the aftermath of that incident. Smith's work shows how a man from Ohio and a man from the Dominican Republic have much in common, and how they eventually became friends after 10 years of not speaking to each other.

There's a lot of history in this play: local L.A. history, as well as national and world history. Smith was a big Dodgers fan when he was a kid so he retells what he saw on television that day, as well as his experience during the Watts rebellion that also occurred that same summer. He also talks about what the White House, (under the leadership of Lyndon B. Johnson), was doing at the time--including the U.S. escalation in Vietnam and the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic.

Of course, Smith was able to weave all this historical information (and political commentary) into his work in a way that it works, thanks to his acting range, (and lots of clever jokes that you will get if you're paying attention to current events). Watching him switch from one character to another was amazing.

The one thing that really surprised me about the play was how much Smith also plays himself, and the personal things he reveals about himself and his relationship with his daughter. I didn't get it at first, but it's because, in the end this play is about human relations and reconciliation.

Juan and John is playing through November 13, 2011. Tickets are $20 to $40 dollars and available online or via phone at 866-811-4111. (There's also a special $10 show next Thursday during the LA ArtWalk).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Recommended: Asco at the LACMA

There are many things to like about the current Asco exhibit at the LACMA, "Asco: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972–1987." For one, it is the first major retrospective of this pioneering Chicano art collective.

Second, it is good, quality, high-brow art that was doing new (crazy) things in the art world--and doing a lot of them in public! (In the streets of East L.A. nonetheless).

Third, there is the historical side of it. I, for one, was very giddy to see photos and art that featured early East L.A. punk bands, Los Illegals and The Brat. (Also, a treat to see pics of a young Marisela Norte, an L.A. poet).

The exhibit itself is very wild, as it tries to capture the essence of the group. A lot of different mediums, like paintings, video, costumes, but mostly, photographs make up the exhibit. An article from the NY Times best explained their style in the following manner:

Asco’s method was a kind of bombastic excess and elegant elusiveness that would have made Tristan Tzara proud, not to mention Cantinflas and Liberace. The Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight wrote that the group “brought Zurich Dada of the late-1910s to 1970s Los Angeles.” But it was a distinctly Chicano brand of Dada, by way of David Bowie and Frank Zappa, drag and Pachuco culture, telenovelas and oddball UHF television stations, and New Wave and silent movies.

Exhibit closes December 4, 2011.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Quick Thought on Street Art & the New Society

I've been wanting to blog about some thoughts I've about this article from KCET SoCal Departures since I first read it a few weeks back. First, a quick summary of this article, "Mural Conflict Has Artists Calling for 'Respect," in which the unwritten rules of street art are discussed. Apparently, a non-profit organization made some street artists (and street art fans) angry when they covered up a wall, (with a well-intentioned wheat paste installation), that had been completed by local street artist, Revok, and a few others in December 2010.

Well, people familiar with the underground culture, know that the only proper thing that should go over a "piece" should be a "better piece." (The rules kinda go like this: 'tag' > 'throw-up' > 'piece' > 'better piece'). But, what happens, when things like poster art, and wheat pastes in general, are not covered under these unwritten rules?

And what made the situation even more particular is that the wall was a private-owned wall where the owner of the wall gave the non-profit and artist permission to put up their installation, called, "I Want Peace in Congo." It was some street artists and their fans who had a problem with it. Luckily, in the story mentioned above, public apologies were offered and nothing too dramatic resulted. (Although, the manager of the building did say, "I there is anymore drama, I will sand blast the whole thing").

So, this makes me wonder about what the laws or rules will be for street art under a different future socialist society? I do think that in this type of new society street art will, not only be allowed, but be would be much more highly visible and play a larger role in society. (I think about the large public murals of Diego Rivera and the big Chinese character posters, and poster art, of the Cultural Revolution as evidence). Of course, a lot of organization would need to go into it. Input from the community, a public art commission/board, and designated spaces will definitely be needed. What do you think?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Review: Orchid #1


This Tuesday was the release of Tom Morello's first penned comic-book, "Orchid," (which will be a 12 issue series). It's filled with good art by Scott Hepburn, and lots of background, story set-up and character introductions by Mr. Morello.

The first couple of pages show scenes of how a dystopian future came to be: where the majority of earth's survivors live horrible lives, lorded over by a few people who control small armies, (and don't forget all the scary mutant monsters that have now come to exist due, most likely, to pollution).

We first meet Simon, who's part of a small "Shadow Rebel" enclave that, in the book, is being chased by a caravan of armed soldiers loyal to local dictator, Tomo Wolfe. Simon luckily escapes the solders--in a very dramatic way--and then we then follow him as he walks around his home, among the rest of the "Bridge People."

We actually don't meet Orchid until much later in the book, and we learn that a horrible existence as a teen prostitute has made her callous, clever and tough. She tries to show no sympathy for others except herself, but we also find out that she's been secretly using her earnings, (and what she can manage to steal from her pimp/owner), to support her mother and young brother. How her character transforms throughout this series will definitely be worth paying to see/read each month.

Speaking of paying, this first issue is only $1.oo. so it's definitely worth going to your local comic book shop to check this out. There is also a variant cover by Shepard Fairey/Obey (pictured HERE) that costs more: $3.50 and up, depending on where you buy it. I highly recommend this book--especially if you've never picked up a graphic novel before.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Review: 'It Calls You Back'

Last week saw the release of Luis J. Rodriguez new memoir, “It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, and Healing.” It is being promoted as a sequel to his best-selling memoir, “Always Running: La Vida Loca; Gang Days in L.A.” Indeed, the book starts off with the last time the author was arrested and released from jail.

My favorite part of the book is the early chapters because they get into how radical politics finally dragged the author away from gang life, (after a few false starts). He writes: “And yet, I managed to attend political meetings among Chicano activists in East L.A. and then a mixed group of revolutionaries in Watts and the Harbor Area.” And in the same chapter he later writes, “Because of the pull I felt toward intelligent revolutionary activity, as well as the artistic pursuits I was dabbling in, my relationship to the gang changed again.”

The author then talks a lot of all the different factory jobs he had and the organizing work he did while working those jobs, and also his good and bad experiences, especially when dealing with racism. The book doesn’t really take a turn until chapter eight when he decides to become a writer. It was a big and risky step, but it proved to be the right choice to make.

From there we see the author doing different things to learn, and then practice, his craft. He hooks up with the Los Angeles Latino Writers Association, takes writing classes at East L.A. College, gets a job at a small community Eastside newspaper, and then gets a big opportunity, a summer program at UC Berkeley where he learns reporting and writing skills from journalists that work for big publications.

Later on, there is another turns in his life when the author moves to Chicago where he gets into the Chicago poetry scene, (something that would prove pivotal), and starts writing for the People’s Tribune newspaper, which allows him to visit different cities to write articles. One great story involved the Appalachian coal country of West Virginia and some young KKK members. Apparently they heard him speak and wanted to talk to him afterwards, so he went to meet with them at a shack in a wooded area. They told him their situation; that they couldn’t feed their families, but no one except for the Klan would come around to talk to them. They told him, “We got your words, your message—that we’re having the same problem as other people and that we have more in common with them than rich folk.”

One thing that bothered me, is that intertwined with all these different stories, the author spends a great deal of time going through what seems like every detail of every single relationship he’s ever had, (and there was a lot of them)! I understand that there is something to learn from these experiences—but not all of them—and sometimes not much.

One of the best things about this book, (which I hope people will notice), is that it shows that life is full of big risks. Most people don’t dare to take them, but this brother did. Not only did taking big risks help him get out of the gang life, but it also helped him become a good writer and one of the best poets out there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tom Morello at OccupyLA

The LA Weekly's West Coast Sound blog had a good piece today about Tom Morello's recent visit to Occupy LA this past weekend. He was there performing as The Nightwatchman on Saturday as part of a music festival to celebrate the one-week occupation of City Hall.

The author of the post mostly gets into the role of music in protest -- specifically in this Occupy movement that started in Wall Street (NYC) and has spread to hundreds of towns in cities and towns across the nation. (The Nightwatchman is also set to perform at OccupyWallStreet tomorrow).

Morello had some great lines in the interview, like: "I think that music's combination of harmony, rhyme, truth and groove speaks to the reptilian brain of human, in a way that's different from the written or spoken word...Check the historical record -- you don't win unless you've got an excellent soundtrack."

There were many other musicians at the festival, but Morello was probably the most popular. (In fact there has been a lot of cool bands playing at OccupyLA since day one and I hope to blog more about these bands next week).

Here are links to a few official videos from the Occupy LA media team: The Nightwatchman performing Maximum Firepower and Worldwide Rebel Song.

By the way, Morello has been pretty busy lately. He had a new Nightwatchman album recently released, and today was the official release of the first issue of a comic book he is writing, (which I hope to review soon)!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

L.A. Rebellion: A New Black Cinema

Just found out about this film retrospective starting at UCLA tomorrow (Oct 7, 2011) that will highlight films that were created by African and African American students who entered the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in the late 60s and came to be known as the, “L.A. Rebellion.”

An article in the LA Times mentioned that these students were very much influenced by the Black Power politics of the time and were trying to create films that were very different from the Hollywood Blaxploitation films that were being made in those days.

At the end of the article, one of the series programmer's, Jan-Christopher Horak, is quoted as saying, "There is a certain iconic person who turns up again and again in these films: Angela Davis. She's an icon to these filmmakers and a heroine of the first order. This is a generation … that for the first time was able to express what they feel is authentic African American culture."

The UCLA Film & Television Archive website describes this film movement as follows:

Occasionally called the “Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers,” and perhaps more frequently “L.A. Rebellion,” the group’s significance is too far reaching to be fairly contained by any one name. In this exhibition, we proudly present more than fifty representative works that range from well-known films securely in the canon, to others seldom seen since school days. This series reveals a panoply of visions that do honor to individuals and the collective. Many films are presented here in new prints and restorations undertaken by UCLA Film & Television Archive.

There will be film showings--with many of the filmmakers present--and panels, some of which will be free.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Race & Class in Comics: The New Spider-Man


In a previous blog post I talked about a new Spider-Man that was introduced by Marvel Comics last month, and all the outrage it caused among right-wingers because he was a bi-racial teen named Miles Morales. (By the way, he's a Spider-Man set in the Ultimate Universe, which is different from the regular Marvel Comics universe, and where a white Peter Parker still continues to be the regular mainstream Spider-Man).

Well, this month saw the debut of the all new Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 where we learn how Miles got his Spider-like powers! It is a very interesting story so far, which is being written by Brian Michael Bendis, (Marvel's top scribe).

More interesting to learn, however, is Miles background. It doesn't seem like he's from a better-off neighborhood. In fact, we learn that the school in their neighborhood is so bad that his parents have added his name for a lottery to get into a charter school, the Brooklyn Visions Academy. Unfortunately, there's only about 40 spots and 700 from his neighborhood have applied.

There is one very touching scene where his parents have all but given up hope, but then the last name--his name--is called and they jump for joy. But Miles sees all the distraught faces on some of the kids who didn't get picked and he does not feel the same joy. "It shouldn't--all these other kids. Should it be like this?" he asks.

This was a very good first issue. We met most of the central characters and found out his origin. I think it's going to be real fun reading this book. Not only watching Miles learn how to be a hero, but also seeing the struggles that any inner-city youth might have growing up. Highly recommended!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Race & Class in Comics: The New Superman

For those of you that don't usually read comics, you should know that there is currently a big event going on with one of the two big comic-book company's, DC Comics. They are re-numbering ALL their titles and even re-imaging some of the characters to try and bring in new readers who are not familiar with the years of story-lines and confusing continuity.

One of these books is Action Comics starring Superman, who is getting somewhat of a whole new origin story in this first issue. Almost instantly you realize that this is not your father's Superman. This new Superman is younger, brasher, and totally aware of class status! Even Entertainment Weekly noticed this in their review of the book. Below is what they had to say:

"Superman is something of a wiseguy and, dare I say it, a radical: In the first few pages, Superman seizes a super-wealthy law-breaker, holding him helplessly aloft, as the police ask him to put the guy down. 'Sure, officer, I’ll put him down, just as soon as he makes a full confession. To someone who still believes the law works the same for rich and poor alike. Because that ain’t Superman.'"

Another great scene involved a building that i s getting demolished. At the moment that a wrecking goes crashing into a building, Superman comes in to rescue the inhabitants--many squatters, including kids, dogs and whole families. However, right after he rescues them he is suddenly attacked by military tanks. (All part of the uber rich and super smart Lex Luther, who is working with the military). Superman destroys one of the tanks but is weakened, and before one of the tanks can deliver another blow, the masses of people who he just saved come to his rescue! One of the squatters, standing in front of the tank's cannon, yells at the tanks, "Enough! This guy just saved our Lives! My Kids!"

I'm not saying this new Superman is totally class-conscious or anything, but this new take, written by one of the best comic-book scribes out there, Grant Morrison, is worth checking out. There is also great art by Rage Morales who does some great work in this issue, drawing mostly people who are not in costume.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Poets Also Occupy Wall Street

The mainstream media is going out of their way to make sure you haven't heard about a movement going on in New York City called Occupy Wall Street, but that has been slowly changing. And, although I don't see this movement as a revolutionary movement, I do think it's a great thing that is going on and it could lead to some very interesting things!

The other day, I was very excited to find out that poetry has now become a part of the #OccupyWallStreet movement. They started a poetry page on Facebook and it seems like they are organizing events and even established a Poetry Corner at Liberty Plaza where many people are camping out (for 12 straight days now).

Below is one of the short statements they have posted up:

"The poetry corner is now open on the northeast corner of the park. It is a public, democratic site. Anyone can organize a reading or event there as long as it is done through consensus with those present. This is leaderless movement. We would like to be the community we seek. Please respect everyone through the use of a vote. Ask for permission from others to speak. Listen to one another. Let everyone’s voice be heard. In doing so, we’ll perform not only poetry but true, participatory democracy."

Original Source: Harriet Blog

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Saber speaks

(Just a quick update to a previous blog I posted last week). In the 7th Letter blog, Saber talked about why he hired jets to sky-write over City Hall. He said:

"The reason I hired five jet planes to sky write over City Hall and downtown Los Angeles is to bring awareness to how ridiculous a moratorium on public art is.

The city states that all public murals are signage, effectively banning art from the walls of Los Angeles. And it is removed at the taxpayers’ expense. Money is given to private graffiti removal companies, who have broken onto private property to paint murals beige. The owners of small businesses where murals have been painted have been harassed and threatened with fines if they do not remove the artwork. Police officers raid homes and places of work, intimidating artists and building owners. During this time of economic crisis, “mural signs” are an easy target for the city to extract money. This moratorium is a clear violation of the first amendment right to free speech and enforcement for these unreasonable laws is a complete waste of taxpayer funds.

To put things in perspective I recently visited the beautiful set of murals inside the Terminal Annex Building on Alameda. This mural was painted in 1941-44 and was funded by the “Works Progress Administration” (WPA). Murals are just a part of the legacy of a national program that put the country to work during the Great Depression.

Fast-forward to the Great Recession, taxpayer money is now used to obliterate all traces of the artwork my generation have created. I believe this is city-funded censorship pushed by lawmakers with personal vendettas. Potential jail time is more probable for us than the opportunity of creating an artistic legacy for the next generation. In a city that used to proudly call itself the “Mural Capitol Of The World,” the officials who enforce this ban should be ashamed to call themselves “Angelinos.”

Art Is Not A Crime… End Mural Moratorium."

Saber also provided an online petition for people to sign and you can donate money to the cause by buying an #ArtIsNotACrime t-shirt. (Also, check out the 7th Letter blog for more info and cool videos of the "sky-bombing action").

Petitions by Change.orgStart a Petition

Monday, September 26, 2011

Recommended: Kevin Smith's 'Red State'

Kevin Smith’s latest film, Red State, is very different than anything he’s done before. Although he’s always taken jabs at conservative beliefs in his comedies, (and even made, “Dogma,” a whole film attacking organized religion), this is the first time that he has made an entire film attacking conservative beliefs with a serious tone throughout the film.

We are quickly introduced to the villains of this film, the members of the Five Points Church, who are out protesting the funeral of a local gay boy who was found murdered. It’s no mistake that this fictional church was inspired by the Westboro Baptist Church, who are infamously known for their, “God Hates Fags” protests.

In the movie, members of the congregation kidnap people who are homosexuals (or who they view as sexual deviants) to kill them and to “send the sinners straight to hell.” But, what at first seems like just another torture-porn movie, turns into a suspenseful film. Some of the would-be victims find a way to get free and a shoot-out ensues with government agents from the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency (ATF).

While this shoot-out is going on, many interesting things are happening. The lead ATF agent in charge, (played by John Goodman), is conflicted weather to kill everyone in the compound, or disobey a direct order and save some of the children and hostages that are still in the heavily-protected compound. Also, Cheyenne (Kerry Bishé), daughter of one couple’s in the compound, realizes that the ATF views the members of the congregation as terrorists and wants to find a way for the children to be spared. She comes up hard against her parents beliefs, which she has always accepted blindly, but in this desperate moment does some unexpected things.

Indeed, the whole film is filled with unexpected moments. (In fact, the person who you think would provide comedic relief in the movie is killed off almost immediately—just to show you that this is a serious film). Smith, even takes time to attack the Patriot Act and does not provide any kind of Hollywood ending. Perhaps, the best line in the movie, (and the director’s main idea), is delivered by Goodman’s character, during a monologue at the end of the film, he says, “People always do bad things when they believe that they are entitled, and they do even worse when they just believe.”

Red State got limited film screenings in theaters and is currently available for view on cable Video On Demand (Pay-Per-View) and will be available on DVD next month.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

'Boardwalk Empire' as Allegory of Capitalism

This Sunday will see the premiere of the second season of Boardwalk Empire on HBO, a period drama that critics have been raving about since its inception last September. Indeed, it is the best writing that I have witnessed since The Wire was on television.

Some have pointed out that the show describes how "criminals became our leaders," as the show reveals levels of government corruption, from the City Treasurer all the way up to the highest office, the President. I, however, would go a step further and say that the show, not only reveals the beginnings of capitalism, but is an allegory for capitalism imperialism itself.

In the pilot, we meet Jimmy Darmody, a young man coming back from War World I, who is very impatient with the tasks he has been given by the show's main character, Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, the City Treasurer who runs Atlantic City. Jimmy sees all the money going through Nucky's hands and is not content with just being a driver. He confronts Nucky and tells him, "All I want is an opportunity." To which Nucky eloquently responds, "This is America, ain't it? What's stopping you?" Jimmy views this as permission to pull a truck heist that sets many storylines in motion. Later on, in this same episode, after Jimmy gives Nucky his cut of the heist money, he reminds him that he can't be "half a gangster" anymore. Indeed, some of the first season does revolve around just how much Nucky is willing to do to insure his place as crime lord of Atlantic City.

Early in the first episode we also meet some of the big gangsters from New York and Chicago who are there to meet with Nucky, and throughout the series we see them teaming-up, double-crossing, killing, and making deals with each other. It's never personal; they care only about profits and expanding their territories. And everyone knows that in capitalism the number one rule is, "expand or die."

Not sure how much this new second season will explore these topics, but it will be fun to watch as the entire cast is very talented and the writing is top-notch.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Saber protests with 'Skybombing'

West Coast graffiti legend, SABER, best known for creating the world's largest graffiti piece (in the L.A. River, back in the 90s), just took graffiti bombing to a whole other level today!

As his way of protesting the Los Angeles' mural moratorium he got some skywriting jets to "tag" over City Hall. The planes "threw up" Twitter hashtags like #ArtIsNotACrime and #EndMuralMoratorium. The planes also wrote monikers of some of the crews and graffiti artists that Saber associates with (and/or respects), such as: Risk, Retna, Revok, Obey, Dream and many others.

The LA Taco blog was the first to report and post photos of this unique art installation. They also had some very good commentary, saying, "The Mural Capital of the World, has been able to find massive amounts of public space for corporate advertisements, but not for works of art. The city spends more than $10,000,000+ on graffiti abatement programs, but none on mural programs that divert young artist to legal walls to display their art. Existing murals are crumbling and the city’s best artists are forced to go to Europe and other US cities to display their largest and best works."

Indeed, as the LA Weekly also pointed out, it has become OK for the city to flood skyline with billboards for advertisements, but it's not cool to have beautiful public art. Some might remember, earlier this year, a property owner had to cover up some very-well done graffiti art that had been commissioned by young artists because the city deemed it as "illegal advertising." And, just today, the beautiful work that had been done on private property in Santa Monica to raise awareness for Heal the Bay, also had to be taken down.

So, much props has to be given to Saber for calling out City Hall on this. Let's see if anything happens. Also, stay tuned to The 7th Letter site for more pics and updates...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Councilman wants your info if you buy spray paint

Here's a quick summary from an LA Weekly blog I missed last week....

* * *

And even after the rousing success of the Museum of Contemporary Art's "Art in the Streets" exhibition, [Dennis]Zine don't stop.

He's now targeting people who buy aerosol paint:

Zine has introduced a motion that would require stores to get and keep your name and address if you buy spray cans and "graffiti paraphernalia"such as "spray paint nozzles, paint pens, glass cutting, and etching tools," according to a statement from the councilman's office.

Stores would ask for your ID and copy down the info.

* * *

This Councilman has also been in the news because he was demanding that Aaron Brothers, an art supply store, stop from offering a "Graffiti Starter Kit" during its back-to-school campaign because he thought it was glorifying graffiti. (By the way, he actually got his way in this case).

Luckily for us, the LA Weekly reached the ACLU for a comment and they suggested that it might not be constitutional and that such an ordinance would have a hard time surviving court challenges.

Take that, ignorant art-hating Councilman, (who used to be a cop/pig).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Beautiful and illegal

Last week, property-owner Adam Corlin unveiled a four-story art installation filled with a lot of color and meaning, but today--unless some drastic can happen, Corlin will have to take down the installation.

The art-work was a collaboration between west-coast graffiti legends, Risk and Retna, (both recently featured at the record-breaking "Art in the Streets" exhibit), who created it to help promote a Coastal Clean-Up Day (Sept. 17) by the non-profit environmental group, Heal the Bay.

However, not long after the unveiling, Santa Monica city police and code-enforcement officers showed up at the property and have threatened him with fines. Corlin told the LA Weekly on Friday that if it is not taken down by today they will even take the case to the L.A. County District Attorney's office. He was quoted as saying, "I think they just used the build department as an excuse to get me to take this down. . .There's a double standard going on here. Somebody doesn't like the art or the message or the artists."

This is something for all art-lovers to ponder: What kind of fucked-up society are we living in, when good artists and building owners, after teaming up to bring awareness of a much-needed pro-environment message--and doing it in a beautiful and creative way--are then told by city officials that the art has to come down!?

How would you handle this if this you were running things? It's pretty obvious to me, that the only thing keeping us away from this beautiful installation, are some real wack city officials with little appreciation and understanding of art.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Props to Manu Chao for FREE concert!

“For the past year, we’ve carried the people of Arizona in our hearts as we witnessed them suffer under such ignorant laws. We’ll be proud to perform with the community to show that love can conquer hate.” -Manu Chao (from press release on his website).

Not surprising at all that a stand-up dude like Manu Chao would do a free show for the immigrant people of Arizona and those that support immigrant rights. You can tell from his music--the lyrics and music videos--that he has a real love and respect for the people. For people all across the world, actually, as he's known to sing in various languages: French, Spanish, English, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic and a few others.

He knows about immigration all too well because, although, he was born in France, his parents are from Spain--said to have fled the country because of the Franco dictatorship. One of his most popular songs, "Clandestino," is about migration as a way of survival. Below, some of the lyrics, followed by some loose translation:

Solo voy con mi pena
Sola va mi condena
Correr es mi destino
Para burlar la ley
Perdido en el corazón
De la grande Babylon
Me dicen el clandestino
Por no llevar papel


I come only with my shame
There comes only my conviction
Running is my fate
In order to deceive the law
Lost in the heart
Of the great Babylon
They call me the Clandestine
'cause I don't carry any [identity] papers

The show is being coordinated by Alto Arizona!, (who are also covering the expenses), and although I don't agree with their tactics--because they're way into "urging President Obama" instead of just taking the streets and making just demands--I do think this will bring thousands of people together and people should donate if they can to make sure this concert happens!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Charles Bukowski and the American Dream

My favorite poem by Charles Bukowski is called, “stew,” (from Burning in Water Drowning in Flame: Selected Poems1955-1973 [1997], Black Sparrow Press). It’s a poem that begins with a lunch time meal, goes into describing mundane routines for the day, and then ends with—what I believe—are some of the four greatest lines ever put into a poem: “after we eat/ let's sleep, let's sleep./ we can't make any money/ awake.”

Not sure how other people would interpret this, but to me it reads as an indictment of American capitalism—of the so-called, “American Dream,” in particular. When I read these four short lines, (only 13 words), what I really hear is: “You know why they call it, ‘the American Dream,’ right? It’s because you have to be asleep to believe it.” (I think George Carlin said that).

The poet’s conclusion doesn’t come out of nowhere. As a matter of fact, earlier in the poem, he says, “poverty is a small game you play/ with your time.” This gives the poem a kind of class-character, which is needed because Bukowski was never known as a political poet. But anyone who puts any thought into this piece can come to a similar conclusion of what the poet must have thought of what kind of future this type of society holds for average working-class people. Of course, none of this makes up for the large amount of misogyny that is found throughout Bukowski’s work--nothing can, really. But, still, those last stanzas are worth repeating and pondering over. (Sorry I can’t post the entire poem, but I might get sued).

Paris can wait.
more salt?

after we eat
let's sleep, let's sleep

we can't make any money

Monday, August 22, 2011

Long Live Joe Strummer! 1952-2002

In honor of Joe Strummer, here's a snippet from an article that appeared in Revolution newspaper a few weeks after his death:

"Thinking about The Clash really brings to mind the space and the oxygen provided by the people's bands. The great revolutionary artists do not simply create inspiring music that exposes people to ideas and politics to change the world. They are a force of attraction that people gravitate towards. Millions come to live their lives by what these artists say, do, mean, and come to exemplify.

You see, The Clash had so much disdain for the bloodsuckers running the world, especially the Yankee fools. As one of the seminal bands of the late '70s punk explosion, where various bands embodied a straight-up fuck-you attitude to the status quo, The Clash also had and gave hope for the future.

From the days of '77 until the very end, Strummer was an internationalist. When The Clash jumped on the scene in England their music fostered and promoted common cause between the white working-class youth, Black people, and immigrants, especially the Dreads who had such an influence on them, helping define much of the band's sound. They embraced and fused dub reggae into their music, and even incorporated the early rap sound when hip-hop was only a baby.

Though I never saw The Clash live I did have the chance to meet Joe four or five times, and all in one night. Last year after I saw Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros he brought a few dozen people out to the bars. And all through the night Joe was talking it up with the people--old friends, new friends, people who didn't know who he was. He would approach you, ask you questions, dis you, talk to you about music, politics, the world, all interspersed with countless anecdotes about his many years making music and meeting people all over the world. With whatever struggles they went through as a band, and the bitterly painful breakup, Joe was so proud of The Clash and what they had done. It was so good to see Joe and his new band. He was carrying the torch, and in listening to their albums and seeing them live it felt like they could come to mean a lot to people. When you saw Strummer on stage, with the younger musicians behind him, it was something else. He was beaming with rapture and had more heart than most artists half his age these days. He stepped to each show like it was a battle, and they were gonna win."

Also, check out this video of Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros cover of "Redemption Song". It's a bad-ass tribute video filmed in New York's Lower East Side when graffiti artists Zephyr and Revolt where painting a mural in his honor. It has a lot of cool cameos, including one from the author of the article above. I really love the intro to the video; Strummer says some really beautiful things: "I'd like to say that people--people can change anything they want to. And that means everything in the world. Show me any country and they'll be people in it; it's time to take the humanity back into them--the center of the ring, and follow that for a time. You know, think on that: without people, you're nothing."

Friday, August 19, 2011

More L.A. Rising Afterthoughts

Some of you might remember my blog post from earlier this month after attending L.A. Rising. Well, the latest issue of Revolution newspaper also has an article about the big concert, but focused more around building the movement for revolution and also what some of the concert-goers are thinking about these days, (which I thought was pretty cool). Here's a small sample:

"Tens of thousands of young people from different backgrounds (with lots of 20- and 30-somethings as well) came from all over California; Arizona, New Mexico and Texas; Minnesota and Wisconsin and Boston, Massachusetts; from Canada, France and beyond... to hear a unique lineup of bands at the Los Angeles Coliseum that featured Rage Against the Machine, Muse, Lauryn Hill, Rise Against, Immortal Technique and El Gran Silencio from Monterrey, Mexico.

"The July 30 concert was called L.A. Rising, and it was a phenomenal event, in many different ways. The coming together of these groups, each known and loved by their fans for their powerful, moving sounds and their unmistakably radical political content, created an extraordinary atmosphere. For a whole day and into the late night hours, thousands shared and contributed to this breath of fresh air. The performers were inspired, and so was their music. When Rage took the stage in the late evening, the 60,000 or more fans leapt to their feet and never sat down again! We're not able, in this article, to review the fantastic music heard at this concert—but we wanted to let our readers know about some other exciting and important things that went on at the event."

And later...

"The Re-Education Camp connected with a searching that's going on among many of those who'd come to the concert. A couple from Santa Fe, New Mexico said: "We drove 12 hours non-stop. We came for the music and the movement... I feel like they brought the people here who have like minds who feel the same way. There's a lot of people here... This is the most important time for this to be happening. Right now. This is the tip of the iceberg around the world. So here we are. Hopefully we'll see some political change."

Click here to read the entire article.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mixtape for London

If you don't know about what's going on in London you need to get from under that rock you've been living in. In light of that, I thought I would throw some songs together as a sort of soundtrack for the last couple of days over there. Some of them are very meaningful; and others just for fun. (Each link below is for a YouTube video).

The Clash - Know Your Rights
"This is a public service announcement...with guitar!" I love the way this song starts. It's also very appropriate, as the current rebellion in London got started because the police killed a young man named Matt Duggan. The video is also great: it's mostly coverage of various protests and cops being assholes.

The Business - Panic
"Panic in the streets of London..." This is a great Smith's cover!

Rancid - I wanna Riot
Too bad I couldn't find a good video for this. The lyrics aren't great or anything, but the music is awesome.

GBH - White Riot
Had to include this Clash cover from these English street punk legends! This was the best sound quality I could find, as they usually close-out their shows with this song and I don't think it's actually on any of their albums. Lyrics are great tho: "All the power's in the hands/ Of people rich enought to buy it./ While we walk the street/ too chicken to even try it."

Dare to Defy - Shoplifters of the World Unite
Just for fun, really.

Rage Against the Machine - Fuck the Police
Zach and company's cover of this NWA rap classic. They make it sound even angrier than the original!

Sex Pistols - Anarchy in the UK
Honestly, what kind of compilation would this be if I didn't include this song? (Also, nice video with lots of old footage of the band and the youth from that generation).

Muse - Uprising
Not usually my type of music, but I was reminded that this was a great song and video. Plus, these guys are also English. Check out the chorus: "They will not force us/ They will stop degrading us/ They will not control us/ We will be victorious."

Outernational - Fighting Song
This is an awesome song that I wish all the youth in London (and all over the world) would listen to. The video has no images, but it has all the lyrics. "I've got my dreams/ when I sleep./ And I've got these dreams/ that really could be."

The (International) Noise Conspiracy - Smash It Up
"I wanna smash it up/ for all the workers/who spent hours into nothing." This is one of my favorite bands ever and this is the official video from Epitaph Records. Very catchy.

Black Lips - Bad Kids
Lyrics are OK, but the sing-along video is better, as it shows a lot of street-fighting with cops footage.

Nouvelle Vague - Guns of Brixton
A french band I like doing a Clash cover to bring it back around where we started, and just a good way to end this. "When they kick out your front door/ How you gonna come?"

Friday, August 5, 2011

Global Warming...and SpongeBob

The other day, Politicus USA reported on how the Fox News show, "Fox and Friends," attacked SpongeBob Squarepants for promoting the issue of Global Warming, which they are very angry about because they feel it is "unproven science." This, despite a 2009 survey in which 82% of scientists believe that human activity has been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures. (By the way, some of the scientists who don't believe in Global Warming are usually the ones who work for the oil industry).

This, however, is not the first time that SpongeBob has had to face the wrath of right-wingers. Some years back, SpongeBob was attacked by Christian Fascists when he participated in a video, that included other animated characters, for the purpose of promoting tolerance. Of course, James Dobson, and his Focus on the Family group, believed that "...Kids should not be taught that homosexuality is just another 'lifestyle' or that it is morally equivalent to heterosexuality."

SpongeBob is actually a pretty cool guy. I interviewed him this one time...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

FYI: That Banksy is Now Hidden

Some of you might remember one of my first blog posts about a Banksy piece in South L.A., on Washington Blvd and Compton Ave, (by the Washington Blue Line station). Well, that Banksy piece is now covered up by a giant metal fence that now surrounds the empty lot next to the piece. Someone once tried to vandalize the piece, but failed because it had already been protected. But, that's not the reason why the metal fence has been erected. Not sure, but possibly because a lot of people used to tag the building where the Banksy's piece is located. (To try and get a little fame, I guess). This is bad news for anyone who wasn't able to go see the piece in person, but you can still kinda see it from a crack in the fence.

If that's not good enough for you, you still have a few days left before the Art in the Streets exhibit closes at MOCA and they have a whole room full of Banksy's work! But don't wait until the last day.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Some Very Late Afterthoughts on L.A. Rising

Gotta call myself out here for not bringing up, (blogging about), the LA Rising Festival when I first heard about it. It was a very important music festival and I should have given it more exposure. Maybe it was because I just wasn’t very excited about many of the performers, or maybe I was too focused on the high ticket price. But, the fact of the matter is that, Rage Against the Machine, (with the help of Goldenvoice Productions), actually set out to create a type of counter-culture music festival--the type of which that we have not seen in a very long time.

Unfortunately, I didn’t fully appreciate that until recently when I was reading Bob Avakian’s, “Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon.” In the beginning of Part 2 (Building the Movement for Revolution), the first paragraph ends like this:

“There can be, and must be, struggle—and a real, living alternative brought forward—in the realm of culture and ideology (including morals), even now, before the current system is swept aside—and as a critical part of building a movement for revolution to sweep away the current system.”

A few pages later, speaking more specifically about culture, he says:

“In short, we need, in today's circumstances, a counter-culture that contributes to and is increasingly part of building a movement for revolution—in opposition to a counter-revolutionary culture. We need a culture of radical opposition to the essence of everything that is wrong with this society and system, and the many different manifestations of that; we need an active searching for a radically better world, within which revolution and communism is a powerful and continually growing pole of attraction.”

So, this was the sixth time I’ve seen RATM live, and it wasn’t my favorite performance by them, but that’s not the point. I don’t really like the type of music that Rise Against or Muse play, but—again—that’s not the point. Those two bands have made some very powerful music videos and are coming from a different place, (politically), than most mainstream bands. The audience, also, was encouraged to visit the “Re-Education Camp” where more than 30 nonprofit organizations were invited—at zero cost—to promote their causes and raise awareness.

More evidence of this show’s powerful impact can be found in a show review that the Los Angeles Times did:

“Rage’s PLUR is more like protest, liberate, unify and revolt, and it’s a message that resonated at the Coliseum, no doubt because the band's crowd is right in the thick of things, economically speaking. Primarily comprising twenty- and thirty-something blue-collar Angelenos that as a group have been hit hard by the recession, it’s a tribe that has as its spokesmen a band that formed in Los Angeles in 1991 while the city was simmering. As with two decades prior, it’s a demographic that sees before it an uncertain future and bears with it resentment at the mansions of Beverly Hills and all that they represent.

“So when Rage Against the Machine lead singer-provocateur Zack de la Rocha stood before 60,000 people, raised his fist, barked out wicked smart, superbly flowed calls to action, pointed out the disparity between rich and poor, spit venom at the billionaires and wondered on their power, the sense of no future that has ignited unrest throughout the world in 2011 felt shockingly, palpably present.”

This was a powerful festival. I hope we have many more like it. We’re going to need them if we want to build a whole different kind of revolutionary culture.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fear of a Black Spider-Man


The comic-book world was a buzz this morning, as it was revealed that the new Spider-Man in the Marvel Comics Ultimate Universe, (not the main universe), would be a half-black, half-Hispanic teen named Miles Morales.

For those of you non-geeks, the Ultimate Universe line of comic-books from Marvel comics was launched in 2000 and featured re-imagined and updated versions of super-heroes from the regular Marvel Universe. This was done, mostly, to attract new readers who did not have to worry about knowing any of the back-story of the original characters--who after being around for many decades do have a lot of back-story!

The Ultimate Universe is constantly making big changes, like killing-off characters. Most recently, they just killed their Ultimate version of Peter Parker, so a new person had to step into the role of Spider-Man. Today, USA Today revealed that in Ultimate Fallout Issue #4, (which will be in stores tomorrow), will make his first appearance as he prepares to take over the gig.

Many fans are excited about the news; This includes, Black actor Donald Glover, who a year ago had started a campaign to get the role of Spider-Man for the upcoming movie reboot. Thru Twitter, he sent one of the writers, Brian Michael Bendis, a message saying, "just wanted to say "wow" and thank you for doing something really cool and interesting! You're tops."

Of course, this news also brings many detractors, some of which are outright racists and others who try to hide their racism with lame comments like, "You cannot reinvent characters." If you look thru the comments in the USA Today article you will see a lot of racist remarks. I won't reprint any here, you can go see them for yourself if you really want; or you can go pick up the book tomorrow and see what the hoopla is all about.

I think comic-book writer, Ron Marz, said it best today (on his Twitter account): "If Black/Latino Spidey, written by a Jewish man and drawn by a woman, is making racist heads explode, I'm totally cool with that."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The story of Rayhan Mazin


Of course, once again, I am late on informing you all of an interesting story! I just recently caught up on my issues of Power Girl and was surprised to read a really great two-issue story arc involving a super-powered individual named Rayhan Mazin. He is very unusual because he's one of the few Muslim-Americans I've ever seen presented in a comic-book. He is from the fictional country of Qurac, and had never used his powers because he feared what people might think of a super-powered person of Middle Eastern descent in America. Basically, the story is about how exactly right he was!

The story starts six months ago when he is on a plane that is about to crash. Knowing how it might look to the other passengers, he decides to use his power (of controlling the weather) to lift the plane up and prevent it from crashing by increasing the wind speed. Unbeknownst to him, Power Girl and Batman have arrived on the scene to be heroes. So, when the plane lands, everyone blames him and we see him cuffed and scurried away.

The next scenes in the book deal with him being constantly interrogated and being denied contact with any friends, family or even a lawyer. Through the whole situation he keeps thinking that if he just keeps cooperating, they will eventually realize that he is not some kind of terrorist and that they will just let him go. They don't; and to make matters worse, he finds out that his father is dying of cancer and they won't even let him visit him in the hospital. That proves to be the last straw and he decides to breakout. (He had the power to do that all-along)!

This is where Power Girl and Batman jump back in the story because they have been asked to capture him. Telling more would be ruining the ending, so I'll stop here. But, this was an obviously great story that's a current reflection on U.S. policy and the way people of Middle Eastern descent are treated in this country. The ending was a little rushed, but still a nicely-written story by Judd Winnick. I strongly recommend you look for Power Girl #24-#25 in your local comic-book shop.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tom Morello Writes a Comic Book

Last weekend, at the annual San Diego Comic-Con International, (the biggest pop-culture event in the world), Rage Against the Machine guitarist, Tom Morello, announced that Dark Horse Comics will be publishing a comic-book that he is writing.

The 12-issue series, “Orchid,” (which has an October 12 release date for its first issue), is said to be about a “16-year-old street prostitute who learns that she is more than the role society has imposed upon her.” The synopsis that has been circulating on the Internet says:

“When the seas rose, genetic codes were smashed. Human settlements are now ringed by a dense wilderness from which ferocious new animal species prey on the helpless. The high ground belongs to the rich and powerful that overlook swampland shantytowns from their fortress-like cities. Iron-fisted rule ensures order and allows the wealthy to harvest the poor as slaves. This is the world of Orchid.”

What is exciting to me, as a Communist, is that Morello will definitely inject some class-consciousness into his story. In a recent article he said, “It’s like Lord of the Rings meets Battle of Algiers…I wanted to craft a story that has the same visceral impact and political clout as the music I’ve been involved in.”

Other people are also excited that Morello is also providing music for the book as well! He told Rolling Stone, "When you buy the comic book you’re going to get a free song, which is the musical score for that issue. Over the 12-issue arch of the story, there will be 12 musical pieces that make a complete musical score for it."

There is already some buzz on the net about this book: Click HERE for a look at some of the cover and interior art; Go HERE for more information on the Shepard Fairey variant cover; and check out this VIDEO where Morello talks about this project and also reveals his previously unknown comic-book geek history, including how he collected thousands of comics!