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.