Excitement in Cascadia - Mount St. Helens is acting up again. According to USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory (CVO), little earthquakes are happening on the mountain at a rate of about 4 a minute!
Cool. Maybe we'll be bathed in ash soon.
In a few weeks I will be on another travel adventure southward. I'm going to try to write about what my rough plans are and what the details and background is.
This time I will not be going quite so far, but I still, again, have this feeling of being about to drop off the edge of the world. Of course it's really just the edge of my little "world as usual," and of course that usuallness is one reason i go on these trips.
My main destination is one of the largest border communities in the world, El Paso/Ciudad Juarez. Believe it or not, I've never been to Mexico; the closest I've ever been to it is El Paso. I remember, on our way moving from Austin to Los Angeles in the summer of 1995, my girlfriend and I stopped in El Paso for lunch or something. It seemed to be mostly a city of strip malls. And I could look across the Rio Grande and see the sort of brownish-grey blur of short buildings on the other side: Juarez.
At that time the issue that is my reason for going there now was just getting started: hundreds of mysterious murders of women in Juarez in the last 10 years. No one knows who is doing it or why. Most of the women were workers in maquilladoras, the border factories that serve the free trade sweatshop needs of U.S. companies. So there are several theories about why: perhaps something to do with the women trying to organize in the maquilladoras, perhaps men jealous that the women were hired instead of them... recently the Mexican police were reportedly rounding up random criminals and blaming them, just to appear to be doing something about the killings. And the latest news is that the state government seems to be trying to buy off the families of the victims.
The Mexico Solidarity Network is organizing a caravan from points all over the U.S. to converge on Juarez, and then a 5-day delegation to various locations and events in Juarez. I've decided to go on both of these. I'll be joining the west coast leg of the caravan in San Francisco.
First, though, I will be spending a week in the bay area., starting October 16. I'll be attending a friend's wedding, and presenting my collection of Bolivia videos at ATA in San Francisco, on October 21. I'm also looking for a place to show a collection of Portland bicycle videos that a friend and I have put together. I'd also like to meet with some bay area indymedia people.
After the delegation, my plans are quite a bit more vague. I'd like to show my Bolivia videos in some other places, so I'm trying to set up a little tour in the southwest - Albuquerque, Santa Fe, maybe Tucson and Phoenix. I'd also like to spend some time in Mexico and study Spanish and travel around. Ideally, I'd like to spend all winter there, but financial concerns and other factors are going to make that a little difficult, I fear.
If you're reading this and you live in any of these places and would like to help in any way, please add a comment. thanx!
Today and the last few days have been full of computers and other machines being difficult. I know nothing about and do not believe in astrology, but once I heard that when Mercury is in retrograde, communication and technology goes wrong. So I always think about that when machines start really fucking up more than usual - and the usual is a lot, actually.
So, yesterday I took my ibook into MacForce. The video cable was frayed, stupid design flaw on Apple's part. This MacForce place is one of those parasitical places that preys on people who are either ignorant, or have expense accounts, or both. I saw one poor guy who was bringing his G5 tower in to have a new harddrive added to it. Dude, you could do that yourself in 15 minutes, don't pay these slobs $90 for an hour of labor!!!
Anyway, they also preyed on me because taking apart an ibook's display is not on my list of desired activities. Luckily it WAS only the video cable, so they do the work and i'm only $190 poorer (that's a month's living expenses for 4 Bolivian peasants). So anyway I get it home and I have almost zero wireless reception. I'd already read about how the Airport antenna is in the display, so obviously the repairdude had fucked up the antenna during his operations. So I'm pretty mad, and then today I take it in and i have to keep coming back cuz they take longer to correct their error than then predict, and it just fucks with my whole day, so finally when they're done I stand up for myself, which I don't normally do, and I say, hey, I think you should compensate me for this, and so I get to talk to a manager and he almost laughs cuz he's apparently so shocked that someone would ask this but i stick to my guns, is say, well, it's your mistake, I'm a consultant, I get paid for my time and i've lost lots of time today because of your mistake. Eventually he reluctantly agrees to knock $25 off the original repair charge.
Might not seem like a big deal but like I said, I don't usually stand up for myself like that. Normally i'd rationalize to myself how it's not really their fault and shit happens and blah blah and then just meekly shuffle off. but not today.
Meanwhile, "indian summer" has kicked in here, it was BEAUTIFUL today and that's great if only i wasn't so damn busy and i could enjoy the sun and the warmth. I'm too busy getting stuff done so that I can go to Mexico and enjoy sun, warmth, and the fallout of globalization. More on that soon...
I'm not really into following all the 911 conspiracy stuff, because I think that ultimately we will never, ever know the truth. It will be just like the JFK assasination, with people 40, 50 years later still writing books and making movies explaining what they think "really" happened. But it's like arguing about the bible, there will be no way to ever know for sure.
However, my housemate just pointed me to
a great video called "Pentagon Strike" that does a really good job of asking some good questions about what really happened at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Also notable is the style of the video - very hip, fast-paced, attention-grabbing, great graphics and animations. Kind of like GNN's style, which has always been a big inspiration to me. This kind of documentary work is really important in getting people informed who would otherwise not sit through documentaries. Draw in the MTV couch potatoes with Marilyn Manson music and lots of footage of fire and wreckage, but then hammer them with some really shocking quotes and analysis. yes.
Winter seems to be starting early here in Portland, screwing up all sorts of hoped-for "last nice days of the year," at least in my humble opinion.
Yesterday was the Geek Fair at Free Geek, which was fun but would have been a lot funner if it was warmer and sunnier. Like, warmer than 55 degrees F. But it was cool, there were bands and printer smashing and geek quiz shows and videos, including a new rough draft of a video i've been working on about worker collectives.
Now today the weather looks to be about the same and we're having Portland Car Free Day. I'll probably be inside most of the time anyway, working on a documentary about zines that is almost done. Joe from Microcosm Publishing has been working on it all summer at my space, Gavel, and he asked me to clean up the audio now that the editing is done.
I'll probably stop by the last couple hours of Car Free Day, but the event really seems like such a tiny, futile gesture. The city allowed us to do it but only on a Sunday and only on one short block that hardly anyone drives on even on weekdays. The only people that will be there will be the already converted hardcore bicyclists, especially on a shitty day like today. So, it seems sort of pointless.
In other news, my neck really really hurts. If I bend it a certain way, it's that kind of pain that is so intense that it makes one nauseous.
Beautiful sunny rainy day. Weather forecast says 10 days, at least, of rain, but today we are rewarded with strange 5-minute showers while the sun shines. Typical Portland Spring or Fall weather.
I'm sitting at Tiny's Cafe on the porch. It's one of my favorite wireless access points cuz there's a porch with tables, and it's not RIGHT on the street, though there's still busy Hawthorne Street nearby. Portland needs more outdoor places to eat and drink that are not on fucking heavy traffic streets. But I guess that's not a big priority. If people really liked being outside a lot they wouldn't live here.
Anyway it started raining so i moved inside with my laptop, and then it stopped after 5 minutes so now i'm back out. yay.
The Yes Men are touring the country, mostly visiting swing states in their special "Yes, Bush Can!" bus. They're in Oregon right now!
I'm just gonna whine about various stupid personal things right now. Don't mind me.
( I think ultimately this mood i'm in, which has been around for awhile, is due to the fact that I know I have to leave this town that i love, and I have to figure out where I'm going and how, very very soon.)
First, my ibook's display is dying, or rather some connection between it and the rest of the computer seems flaky. As I move it back and forth the display flickers on and off. It's out of warranty so i'll probably have to spend mucho plata to get it fixed. Which I don't really have.
Someone's been sawing something with a loud power saw in my neighborhood for the last 20 hours or so and it's really fucking annoying. Why does there always have to be a fucking powertool going all the time?
It's a beautiful day but I have a buttload of stuff I need to do, stuff that involves sitting in a dark cement basement staring at a computer... My life is this constant struggle between Production and Relaxation. I just want to live a stress-free, care-free, relaxed life, I want to drift like a taoist and enjoy every shred of nice weather that i posisbly can before there is no more or before I die, but I also have all these ambitions, these videos I want to make and shit it's just maddening.
I keep thinking of Derrick Jensen's "A Language Older than Words" in which he talks about how our culture values production over anything else, over people and community, especially. When I distilled his thesis down as far as it would go I came up with:
Production = Murder
But escaping that aspect of our culture is about as hard as escaping commerce. I mean, we are soaking in it. And if you have goals, even the goal of tearing down the master's house with the master's tools, well, shit, you need to produce. You're not going to dismantle the system by lying on the beach. Unless we can get everyone in the whole world to lie on the beach instead of going to work. But that involves production right there, getting that message out there.
In other news, first thing in the morning today one of my housemates put on a Shellac album, the one that starts with "Prayer to God," which is a song I dearly love, one of my favorite songs ever, for it's sheer ferocity and the lesson it conveys about religion and hate and love. But it's one of the last songs I would pick to listen to first thing on a beautiful cloudless saturday morning full of possibility. I just don't understand people sometimes. Well, most of the time. I think maybe my use of music as precise emotion-matching ambience, something to positively support your mindset at any given moment, is something most people don't think about very deeply. It's just "good music" and it doesn't matter what mood you're in or how it might change that mood.
It made me want to do something drastic like sell every one of my CDs.
ok, enough griping. thanx.
I was just pointed to the excellent Campaign Desk, analyzing campaign coverage, and this entry in particular, a summary and praise of a very good election prediction article with facts and good stats to back it up. A good conclusion reads:
Unlike so many political writers, Cook doesn't try to force-feed a prediction upon his readers. Rather, he takes them by the hand and guides them, fact by incontrovertible fact, through the probabilities at work in any election, and the known facts at work in this election -- and at the end of the trail, he leaves them to make their own way home, informed by real information, not by bluster or one-sided passion or crystal ball readings.
Mark Morford has brought us another great and timely rant, Who The Hell Is "Undecided"? / And why do so many election polls leave you angry and stupefied and drunk? He talks about how ridiculous it is that Kerry was ahead after the DNC and suddenly Bush is ahead after the RNC, and just barely hints at the manipulation going on, that of course the candidates are neck and neck because that gets people to watch TV and buy newspapers.
He also links to an interesting story about a poll that says most people in other countries, by a 5 to 1 margin, want Bush out. Of course, yeah, I believe that, but I still think that poll is as useless as all the others, and even more useless is the way it was reported. Never did they mention the list of 35 countries that were surveyed. 35 is not a lot, it would have been easy to list them. Never did they question that maybe 35 thousand is not a sufficient sampling of 6 billion. Oh well. Again, I'm not saying I disagree, I of course believe with all my heart and head that the people of the world for the most part hate Bush with a burning passion. It's just disturbing how statistics are spun.
A local artist on a local art mailing list (that I'm not on) posted something about a big warehouse in the southeast central industrial district being sold for 3 times market price. This warehouse is the location of studio space for many artists, and the writer was bemoaning the situation and proposing some sort of vague struggle against the further gentrification of the area.
So the message was forwarded to another list that I am on and the whole thing reminded me so much of what happened in the Mission District in San Francisco when I was living there. I decided to write a little rant about it:
This whole thing seems rather sadly comical too me, especially in light of the SF gentrification battles of a few years ago that I witnessed, which is why i had my tongue firmly in cheek when i sent the link i did. Now I'll be serious.
I think it's sad and shameful that, just as in SF before, most
artists and their friends get outraged and activated only after
their own little privileged bubble gets threatened, blind before
then to the identical or worse plight of other groups who had
been threatened by the same forces long before.
The only just, sustainable, and long-term way to fight the
struggle we're talking about is by forming a larger
community/alliance with other groups, like the working poor,
minorities, the homeless, small local industrial companies and
other businesses, community improvement groups (like City
Repair), and other stakeholders (heck, even skateboarders!) in
the neighborhood(s) of concern.
In SF this didn't happen until it was too little too late, or not
at all. The Mission's dancers and painters and wacky performance
artists rose up with their street protests and clever posters but
only long after tons of the poor latino families, blue-collar
workers, and small businesses that formed the fabric of real
Mission District culture had already been forced out of town.
Without their being the sort of solidarity with the rest of the
community that I'm talking about, it's hard to feel much sympathy
for these mostly white, middle-class artists who never really
cared before they found out that their cheap studio space was
Wow, here's another good article on Portland Indymedia about political violence. I only saw this because there happens to be a little controversy on our internal mailing list over whether we should feature it. There's a lot of partisanship within our IMC, and this kind of article falls right across the battlelines, so to speak.
Anyway, I haven't read it all, it's long, but I really am excited to see it, because the debate is really very important in today's movement(s).
Just found this story on the portland imc site about Columbia Sportswear and the conditions there. This is the kind of great local articles that makes Indymedia great. Wow.
I'm particularly interested in the sweatshop issue because clients I have had are in the apparel industry. I don't feel good about that at all, but consequently I try to do what I can to get the word out and do other activism around the issue.
The murderer of Archbishop Romero in El Salvador was found liable in a civil lawsuit for crimes against humanity and for "an extrajudicial killing," and was fined $10 million. (I love that phrase, extrajudicial killing - killing outside the law, killing not sanctioned by a court. The government has a monopoly on killing - a subject for another time, perhaps.)
My friend Josť writes about this in his blog today. I have had a few conversations with Josť, who about a year ago was considering going to law school, about the power of litigation in our society today. How legal action, and often civil suits, are now the primary way that things get accomplished, the way people are forced to stop doing bad things, and punished for having done them in the past.
Another example is the detainees at Pier 57 last week during the RNC. The police piled people into a former bus garage full of toxic chemicals and held them there for longer than the 24 hours maximum stipulated by our constitution. Now they are using legal action to hold the City of New York acccountable.. In an email I was forwarded that came from one of the detainees, I read that one of the chants they chanted while inside was "WE WILL, WE WILL, SUE YOU!" (to the tune of the Queen song We Will Rock You).
Other examples abound, like forest defenders who use legal action to stop logging. I think it's great that the people have learned to harness the power of the judicial branch, to employ those modern sorcerers called lawyers (there are actually some good ones on our side) to fight for good.
I do find it ironic, like many related ironies, that even those progressives who preach the most radical of social change, the complete dismantling of "the system," employ this tactic. I'm not attacking them, or at least all of them. Some may wave the flag of violent revolution in one hand while holding their cell phone talking with their lawyer in the other, not realizing the contradiction. However, many others may be like me, holding extreme beliefs but recognizing that the realization of those dreams will be a long process fraught with peril and careful, difficult work. Using the master's tools to take down the master's house. Where molotov cocktails fail, perhaps lawsuits will suceed.
I didn't really do it conciously, but in response to or in spite of my thoughts expressed in my earlier post this morning, I spent most of the afternoon at the Portland IMC space, helping out with the audio webcast. Before that I talked to friend on his cell phone who is in New York, and got news of everyone he knew who had been arrested or detained or was just missing. Then I wrote a story about it for the portland site.
All of this was fun and interesting and I felt very useful. It's hard to tell how useful it really is because we seem to be just duplicating the efforts of the NYC people, but I guess that's better than just passively watching from across the country. At least we're taking on some of the bandwidth load, and we have been getting lots of hits and listeners.
Again, I don't know if I should have instead worked on Bolivia videos today, or something. I'm really feeling indecisive lately. I wish someone would tell what was most important. No I don't, actually. But still, the Burden of Freedom is a heavy weight. sigh.
A friend got into the RNC yesterday and held up a sign saying "Girlymen for Arnold" - he consequently got lots of mainstream press attention. Now he's selling the sign
on ebay. Proceeds go to getting his friend and fellow video producer out of jail.
As the arrest count spirals upwards in Manhattan all eyes not there, including my own, turn that way, when they're not doing whatever they need to do otherwise - working to pay september rent, trying to concentrate on other projects, trying to figure out what i'm doing with my life. Etcetera.
I'm feeling notably distanced, confused, and unempowered right now. I felt, months ago when I was deciding, as though I could not go to New York and that was okay because I could work on other things, other activist project that I've been involved in. But now I sit and stare for hours at indymedia and other sites, reading the frustratingly brief accounts of what is happening at the RNC protests and desparately looking for photos or something that will connect me more to what is going on.
Meanwhile the rest of the world continues to exist off in our peripheral vision. For example, who is now paying attention to Bolivia, where things continue to boil and bubble, as described in this Narco News article? Is a lot of alternative, independent media just as guilty as corporate media of neglecting other stories when something big and flashy is happening in one place? The global IMC site has 5 of 11 current features stories that are related to the RNC protests in New York.
But other indymedia centers continue to report what is happening in their communities. That is encouraging. We must remember that other things are happening, important things. We must also remember that the protests in NYC are not about mostly white, mostly middleclass activists from North America getting arrested and brutalized.
We must remember the original point: our country is brutalizing the rest of the world. New York is temporarily the locus and focus of this abuse, because the current leader of the Imperium is there with all his cronies. I must remember this too. It is so easy to forget, to turn and focus and exclude. It's not (just) about our friends in lockdown on Pier 57 - did we all not expect that this would happen? Did those people not go to New York expecting this? Let us support them and give them solidarity, but always remember that they are there in solidarity with the millions of others around the planet who are being crushed under the boot of the U.S.A. and global late capitalism....