I am so angry and frustrated about what's happening in the Twin Cities this week. Not at the cops - no, they're just doing what's to be expected of them. If you're surprised by their response to the protests, you've been deluding yourself about the state of civil liberties and freedoms in this country for the last 4 years, at least.
No, what I'm irritated about is all the wasted energy and resources and passion being spent by activists and independent journalists. Imagine all the other places and causes that could be aided by all that attention and effort. Not only protesters and reporters, but all the other 'support' for the protesters. For instance, this fragment from an indymedia report about some street medics from Portland who went to the DNC and RNC protests:
...we treated hundreds of injured people and took into our care an unexpected number of activists with additional health concerns, both related and unrelated to the events, plus tended to people with various illnesses as well as some difficult cases with chronic conditions.
We treated injuries from pepper bullets, pepperspray, beatings, strangleholds, clubbing, cuts, scrapes, bruises, handcuff injuries, exhaustion, dehydration, heat illness, exposure to the elements, asthma attacks, psychological emergencies, and some serious medical emergencies.
What if those activists, medics, and indy journalists all descended on a place that really needed their help, like Juarez for instance? They could escort women at risk of rape and murder to and from work, give medical care to them and their children, and make news reports about what they see. They could act as human shields when the police or army show up to abuse citizens. They could refuse to smoke any pot that comes from Mexico and they could form a posse to take down small time narcos and document the violence of the cartels.
That is just one example. They could also be in New Orleans helping people there in the aftermath of Gustav. There are numerous projects and causes available.
But instead these people go somewhere where they'll make absolutely ZERO positive difference. None of the people there for the convention, the replublican delegates and what not, are going to have their minds changed or swayed. Others out in the world might be, but they'll never see it because the mainstream media will never show it. And just as many might be swayed the opposite way, with all the reports of caltrops in the streets and broken windows. More bad press for anarchists and activists in general. So these people are not only doing no good, they also CREATE their own crisis because the cops of course respond as usual with extreme force, and then the activists expect to be helped and supported. Selfish, privileged dimwits, why didn't you people stay home so the medics wouldn't have to waste their time bandaging your meaningless wounds? So the videographers wouldn't be wasting tape on your sorry asses?
It's just so sad and maddening. And I saw it all coming. It wasn't rocket surgery to predict.
I just discovered a cool site that is all about trying to develop a set of standards for sustainability in the media industry. I often think about how even as i make films about environmental destruction, the very supplies and tools i use to do that involve heavy impacts to the natural world, not to mention probable human rights abuses. So it's cool to see something like Greencode, and media activists should especially get behind it.
Last weekend at Dry River we had the honor of hosting Miguel, a Brazilian Indymedia videographer, and his new film, "Brad, One More Night At the Barricades," which tells the story of Brad Will, his (activist) life, and the "movement of movements" that he was a part of.
The film was really well-made, and really thought-provoking. It was told in a personal style, with the narration of Miguel tying it together with his own personal take on his murdered friend, along with the interviews with other friends of Brad, and it did a great job of depicting that feeling, which I have felt, of wondering, in a dangerous situation, when you should stop filming and take action to protect your own self. True, there was a lot of "riot porn," but overall it was a very thoughtful and powerful addition to the library of Indymedia films that try to tell the story of this struggle we're all in... Furthermore, it had the effect of softening some of my objections to the whole Oaxaca/Brad martyr/hero phenomenon.
I was going to call this post "Rich White People With Cameras Protecting Poor Brown People From Even Richer White People With Guns." But I thought that seeing that headline before reading some of the context of my thoughts would be a little too inflammatory.
It's complicated, but basically, Brad Will was one of a type of indie-journalists, a group that I'm a sometime member of too: privileged, globe-travelling white media activists, touching down in "oppression hot spots," nominally to try to document injustice and the fight against it, and get that documentation out to people who need to see it. I do that, I've done that, along with hundreds of others. And with each person, each member of this privileged group, their story is different, and the extent to which they pursue that mission with integrity is different, and varies over time, too.
Brad was no hero, and neither am I. Did I fly to Guatemala 3 years ago to go to school and improve my spanish so that I could interview the mothers of murdered girls in Juarez without an interpreter? Yes. Did I also go to Guatemala to escape winter and the boredom of everyday existence? Yes. Are there many young rich white kids with camcorders that travel to activist mobilizations with sometimes more ulterior motives than virtuous objectives? Yes.
There were similar, shall we say, complications in Brad's life, even personal imperfections I've heard about that I will discretely refrain from detailing here. However, overall, after seeing Miguel's film, I feel like Brad had a level of dedication and integrity that puts him at least at some level above the average in this group I'm talking about. He truly put his body on the line many times over the years in many places, from the Lower East Side to the Pacific Northwest to Northeast Brazil, before that day in Oaxaca where he filmed his own death. I believe now that his heart was in the right place, and though he made some mistakes, he made them for the right reasons. (Still, though the desire to not make a hero of Brad was mentioned in the film, its biggest shortcoming, I feel, is not following up on this desire quite enough.)
Greta and I talked about this with our friend Kai, a freelance photographer from Germany who has spent years in hotspots like Palestine, Iraq, and Kosovo. Do you ever think, as I do, I asked him, that it might be more effective to send or bring cameras to the oppressed peoples whose struggles you document, something like the Chiapas Media Project, and enable them to tell their own stories, instead of making trip after trip to these far-off places to tell their stories for them?
No, he said with confidence. Because white internationals won't be killed, at least not as often, and by their very presence they protect the people they're with. In fact, he said, "When in a place like that I always go with at least one other white person, so that if they kill me, at least he will witness it. 500 Palestinians claiming that I was murdered doesn't count, but one fellow white journalist does."
So what we came up with is this: Yes, we're privileged. But the mission before us is to use that privilege with integrity and purpose, as tools - tools that are a shield and a magnifying glass to protect from and reveal injustice. There are, for each of us, flaws and contradictions and failings in the day to day living of this mission, and there are people, frankly, that try harder than others. I now think Brad was probably one of those that tried at least somewhat harder than most.
Still, he shouldn't be made into a martyr, or an icon. I still flinch whenever I see his photo on the banners of indymedia sites. Honoring his memory is one thing, but making him into some sort of permanent patron saint of the Independent Media Center, turned into a logo next to a red star, is not appropriate. We do Brad an injustice by iconifying him, turning him into a symbol, just as my previous disapproval with him was really a disapproval of a stereotype that he came to symbolize for me, before Miguel's film taught me enough about him to de-symbolize him, make him real - a real person, with real dreams, commitments, desires and shortcomings, and real beliefs that he voiced in real words that had real pauses and "umms" and "uhs" in between them.
Thanks Miguel. Great job.
The Rio Grande Guardian is a great little web-only newspaper in the Lower Rio Grande Valley that covers Texas-Mexico border news. It unfortunately, for some reason, doesn't show up on Google News, but they do an excellent job, with some excellent writing, despite the fact that, as I understand it, it's really basically a one-man labor of love.
In other news (har har), The Monitor is one of the main old-style papers in the area. In many matters it appears to be fairly middle-of-the-road to conservative, but on the border wall it is openly critical. Yesterday's opinion section front page featured a scathing editorial about the supposed "compromise" announced Friday by Chertoff and the Hidalgo County officials who thought it up. "It looks pretty much like the fight is essentially over and there will be a sort of kind of structure at the border that maybe kind of might stop - or at least slow down - some illegal crossers," was their conclusion.
It's unfortunate that they conclude that the fight is over, since I was just at a meeting of a group called No Border Wall that is still plotting and scheming to keep the fight raging. The thing that makes it look more dismal is that the levee-wall compromise satisfies the homeowners in Granjejo, who were, in the words of one activist "the rock stars" of this battle. They were the ones that provided the human interest drama and juice to the story - poor Americans getting forced out of their homes by big bad Homeland Security. Now, their immediate needs looking like they might be satisified, they're apparently dropping out and selling out, along with the County.
Of course the other thing that the media seems to mostly be missing is that the levee-wall "solution" is only for about 23 miles of the Rio Grande. The rest of the area has no levee or need of one, and the rest of the area is still getting the same old steel wall. But it's really a clever move for DHS, since it's harder to fight a levee. What heartless bastard would be against protecting poor Texans from flooding?
Anyway, that amazing editorial is not showing up in google news or in the Monitor's own search engine. When I google it, I get 3 stories about Israel/Palestine. Which is chilling, no?
Here's a really great punk critique of MySpace:
Though it's a rough draft, it's really important, important enough that I made it into a printed-out, stapled zine that I plan to put in piles at Dry River.
I can't tell you how frustrating it's been for me to see all bands and even progressive political organizations and even Dry River, this anarchist radical anticapitalist venue that I help to manage, come to depend on MySpace. It's so sick and this little zine touches on all the main reasons why.
Read it and pass it around to your musician and activist friends.
I'm not sure how old it is but this is a great little satirical video from Pepperspray Productions in Seattle: (UPDATE: i guess there's a problem with Archive.org's embedding code so here's a direct link.)
I finally was given access to the server where the Indymedia Newsreal website is hosted, so I was able to update the site with the correct information about where to mail submissions, how long the segments can be, etc etc. It had been 3 years since anyone touched the site and a lot was out of date. I also put links to recent episodes and embedded the september episode on the front page.
It's amazing that even though there were recent feature stories on the US and global indymedia sites, and lots of emailing trying to get the word out, and lots of people saying stuff like, cool, good work, thanx for keeping this going, that I've not been receiving a huge avalanche of submissions. But, maybe it will just take some time for it to pick up.
Naomi Klein has what looks like another great book out, "The Shock Doctrine" (via Rabble), all about how governments take advantage of disasters to push through unpopular changes. She and Alfonso Cuaron, the maker of Children of Men, have made a film about the ideas in the book. I've always loved her work, both in film and written form. And I'm not just saying that because she quoted me in her first book, No Logo (see page 179). Heh.
However, something shocked me about the Shock Value film, or rather, how it's being displayed: via You Tube. Even on Klein's own website there is a page where she includes the embedded You Tube video. She of all people should know that You Tube is just another corporation and just another brand, and everytime we slather their logo across our web pages we're only helping to put more money in their pocket.
Of course I realize that You Tube is a great way to get video work out to a vast horde of people who wouldn't otherwise see it, and to not use it at all is just cutting yourself off from a great opportunity. That's why I even have a You Tube account and I have lots of my work there. But I only dance with the devil as much as I have to and remember there are other open and free resources out there. I always provide other ways of viewing my work too. And I always remind people of these points.. You Tube is not rocket surgery. The technology is out there to have YouTube-like easily viewable video on your pages, without helping to advertise big companies that are just exploiting our creativity.
(Yes, I realize the irony that I'm using Google to link directly to the page of Naomi's book that I'm on, while railing against a subsidiary of Google. But my whole point is that we need to be nuanced and smart about how far we cooperate with corporations. Where they offer us unique tools and opportunities, we should take advantage of them, if they don't make us puke too much. But at the same time if there are other ways of doing things that are free and open, we should take advantage of those. Little by little we must fight in all the ways that we can, build our own tools, while also turning the master's tools against him in order to destroy his house.)
Last night we of the Pan Left video collective had a public party to celebrate the launch of our new video-sharing bloggy drupal-powered website, panleft.net. I built this site, the most complicated Drupal site i've done, though the custom theme was not my work. I'm pretty happy with it, though there are still a lot of tweaks to do on it, like I still don't have flash display of the videos working yet.
The party was fun too. I made a timelapse video of most of it that is quite entertaining to watch.
Now O and I are getting ready to go on a 2-week roadtrip to Portland via Yosemite and the Oregon Dunes. It's a vacation we have been wanting to take together for quite awhile. I will be pretty non-online for a lot of the next 2 weeks, starting tomorrow, so be patient if you email me...
I've been the editor for the Indymedia U.S. Newsreal for a little over one year now, and while it's been a valuable experience for me and it's felt good to keep the project going, it has been a constant struggle to elicit contributions for it. The monthly program consists of short (1-10 minute, usually) segments sent in by videoactivists from around the country. Since the show is broadcast on Free Speech TV it seems like a great opportunity to get your work shown in front of potentially millions of viewers, and segments producers get $50 as well, but apparently this isn't enough to motivate people. I don't know what the problem is, frankly, but I'm getting tired of constanly cajoling people to send stuff in. That wasn't supposed to be my job, I was only going to be the editor, but pretty soon after I started, the outreach coordinator, Ethan, dropped off the face of the earth and stopped doing outreach.
Last month we received exactly zero submissions and Sonya, subbing for me as editor while I was in Europe, just barely managed to cobble together material for a July show. If there's still no submissions, and no renewed interest, I fear the whole project is going to have to be put to rest...
Nick Broomfield, one of my favorite documentarists, is working on a drama about the massacre in Haditha. He's in post-production and there's a preliminary trailer that looks great, and is really really intense and graphic. It's shot in a very documentary style, with documentary-like cinematography as well. Don't watch the trailer unless you're ready for how heavy it is. (Haditha, btw, is the village in Iraq where U.S. Marines went apeshit and killed a bunch of innocent people in revenge for insurgents killing one of their men.)
It turns out Broomfield also completed a previous non-documentary feature film, his first, last year called "Ghosts," based on a true story about a migrant Chinese girl. Wow. Maybe he has reached the same conclusion that I've been leaning toward, that to reach a larger, different audience and reach them more profoundly, fiction films may be the way.
Intrepid video journo-star Esteban Caliente was seen reporting from the road blockades around Heiligendamm yesteday:
You can also download this in ogg theora format via peer-to-peer networks (yeah, I know, what a pain in the ass, but y'know, it's ideologically great, right? like using Linux and clunky open source media tools... suspira...) from v2v.cc.
Ok, I'm off now to a big speech by Vandana Shiva, a closing keynote of the Alternative G8 Summit.
I can't believe it. This is the best news I've heard in ages. More proof that Brazil is extremely cool. Hopefully other cities, worldwide, will gradually follow suit, and someday there will be no advertising, anywhere, for anything.
I'm psyched that the 2nd season of Young American Bodies has begun. In fact, it's up to the third episode already. It continues to be extremely interesting and fresh and real, I think.
Hmm, I could have sworn I blogged about YAB before, but now I can't find it. maybe i just delicioused it? Anyway, briefly, it's a really smart, modern, intelligent and realistic web-based tv show about several 20-somethings in Chicago and their love/sex lives. It's featured content on nerve.com, but there's also a myspace page for it and its own web site: http://youngamericanbodies.com (new episodes appear on the nerve site first)
However there's 2 things I don't like about it: I'm disappointed that there's an ad one has to watch before each episode now, and I'm disappointed there's no RSS feed for the series. I can't be bothered to rememeber to look at episodic web content unless I can subscribe to it in my feed reader! wwaaaaaah.
saw an amazing film at dry river tonite. it's ecuadorian, called 'Cronicas'. it's about a tv news crew from miami covering a serial killer in ecuador, and they fuck everything up trying to get the story. it's an amazing look at journalistic ethics and integrity. and the person i want to be, professionally at least, is one of the characters. the cameraman/editor. i want to travel the world with a powerbook and a camera phoning in investigative news videos via satellite, sweating my ass off editing footage in a jungle hotel and smoking and drinking quetzalteco or chicha or pisco or cachaca or whatever the local rotgut is. and get paid for it. Of course I'd prefer to work for a show that was less cheesy than the one depicted in the film, which was called "Una Hora Con La Verdad" (One Hour With The Truth)
Interesting piece about participatory, serialized and multiple-media narratives, from the Obama campaign to Battlestar Galactica, and the opportunity through them for social good, or not... in Pitchfork of all places.
Does new media mean more to us than sharing clips of people mixing Mentos with Coca-Cola? Are we just duped rats chasing each other through ever-greater mazes? Or can we seize this chance to revitalize democracy?
A new addition to indyblogs, Turtel, in New York, posted a great entry (a while ago, but I guess it showed up on my feedreader now because the blog was just added to indyblogs) about the frequency on TV of depictions of violent acts against women and how that serves to portray those acts as okay.
As Cialdini writes in science-speak, the problem is that “within the statement “Many people are doing this undesirable thing” lurks the powerful and undercutting normative message “Many people are doing this.” In other words, all the shows that have tons of people killing and raping women give the idea that that is normal behavior, even though they do communicate that its bad behavior. Within the statement “Many people are killing and raping women, and its bad” lurks the powerful and undercutting normative message, “Many people are killing and raping women.”
Shades of Barthes' "Mythologies"...
Here's a test run of the Edirol R-9 from the day I got it. I was going to link to it before but something was weird with the site... anyway i just doodled around on guitar and sung a song by Cake that's been stuck in my head again a lot lately.... Sorry, indulge me.
This linkage also serves as a sneak preview of the new revamped, cms-driven version of Phonophilia, the site i set up like 6 years ago devoted to sound and field recordings.
I recorded a bunch of stuff over the last few days that i'll be posting soon. stay tuned.
Yesterday I received a present I ordered for myself on my birthday almost 2 weeks ago. It's a solid-state portable digital audio recorder, the Edirol R-09. I've been wanting something like this for a couple years now, something small i can take around and make high-quality recordings with - interviews, field recordings, music.
It's really a great device. Incredibly light, easy to use, very good sound quality, easy to get stuff off of it to the computer. I'm happy with it so far.
I say tool/toy in the title of this post because I feel a bit guilty about buying it. It wasnt cheap. But I hvaen't bought an electronic gizmo for awhile, and the deal is that I promise to myself i'm going to use it to make worthwhile stuff, media that matters, so to speak. So it will be a tool, whereas if i just used it for stupid crap or not at all, it would be a toy.
As this goes to press (heh) I have 6 photos in my Flickr photostream that I put there directly from my mobile phone. Yes, I figured out how to send a photo in an email, to Flickr, and even include tags and title and description.
This is a really cool thing to be able to do, especially for indymedia-type purposes. I wonder if any techies have made a nice fuzzy indy version of this technology. I seem to dimly remember some mention of this kind of thing, maybe at the 2004 RNC or whatever, but I'm not really aware of it as a commonly used tool. Imagine witnessing some injustice on the street and immediately being able to put a photo of it up on the web without even going home to your computer. That would rock.
I'm still reading old journals, and it continues to blow my mind. I've found the entry from the very beginning of the first Iraq War or Persian Gulf War or whatever it was called. Remember, Bush Senior gave the Iraqis a deadline of January 15, 1991, to get out of Kuwait? That night I was, in a way, doing Indymedia - I was a DJ at WCBN, the U of Michigan college station, and here's what I wrote that night:
Well, the deadline is up. I just got back from my radio show, from 11 to 2. I was on the air when the deadline went down. People were marching in the streets, and Charlie called and told me it was happening, and I announced it on the air, exhorting people to join in. Then Dave called and said the march had ended at the Art Museum, with people singing "Give Peace A Chance." I played nothing but war songs, and I got dozens of requests - one after another, people calling in, suggesting more war songs. It was incredible...
Wow. I had forgotten all about that.
Incidentally, later in the same entry I wrote, "I've got personal things I've been thinking about, too. I don't even want to write it, because it legitimizes it. Basically I have to decide if I should allow a certain emotion to enter my life again." I'm pretty sure I was referring to the very first beginnings of my feelings for the woman that I would end up being with for the next 11 years. 4 days later we were on a bus together to DC for a massive rally against that war.
Wow, reading this stuff is just so amazing. It's like travelling back in time. I'm so glad I wrote these journals and kept them safe.
Well, damn. I never really read Clamor Magazine until the latest issue, which has multiple muckraking articles about American Apparel and how the feel-good t-shirt company of choice for so many socially concious t-shirt wearers is actually not that great at all.
I've been meaning to blog about that every since I read that issue a month ago. Now I see that Clamor actually is folding due to financial problems. Sad. It seems like a really great publication.
(via Josh Breitbart's blog)
Brad Will, an indymedia videographer based in New York, was shot dead in Oaxaca, apparently by paramilitary PRI party supporters. The best story on the event I have seen is in Narco News. It's all over mainstream media too, which is horribly spinning it, saying it was a shoot out, gunfire coming also from the side of the APPO barricade (APPO being the teacher's union organization leading the strikes against Oaxaca governor Ruiz that have been going on for months and have shutdown the city).
I didn't know Brad but I knew of him. I can't reminisce about him. In fact the first I heard of him was not a positive anecdote at all. But he apparently did a lot of good work, and a lot of people knew him and are grieving. And I'm sad, even if just in principle. This I fear is a watershed moment for media activism and the indymedia movement. This has never happened before, not quite this way - it's really just incredible, like a nightmare. we all think, those of us priveleged with whiteness and 1st-worldness and with expensive cameras to hold up to our faces, that we have a shelter from being beat up or killed by thugs in corrupt "third world" lands. This has always been an illusion, and it's been proven an illusion before in small ways, but this does it in a big way.
I guess my hope is that this at least has some positive impact in the struggle, and serves to bring to light the horrible things going down in Oaxaca right now, and in larger sense, more of Mexico, and maybe the U.S. will do something, condemn this somehow.
Well, I'll stop there. I can't say anything else useful. There's a page on nyc imc where people are paying their respects.
In response to a callout for help from Indymedia Centers to fund an IMC in Nairobi for the upcoming World Social Forum, I wrote this:
I have very mixed feelings about the Social Forum model, especially
after going to my first one last weekend, the Border Social Forum.
I think Indymedia should only be heavily involved (in terms of time
and/or finances) if it is actively engaged in (constructively)
critiquing the social forums. I see them as fundamentally instruments
of liberal NGOs now, tho they may be rescueable. Therefore indymedia
MUST have a more critical and nuanced view of them than previous
Also if there will be an Alternative Social Forum in Nairobi similiar
to the one in Caracas, I would urge very strongly that imcistas get
involved with that and that more coverage is done of it.
Regardless, personally I have way too many things going on in this
hemisphere, especially in january, to go to the WSF or to do
fundraising or other activity around it.
my 2 cents
My father now has a blog. I seem to remember just a year ago him sort of poo-pooing the idea of him ever doing a blog. So many friends have blogs now I sometimes catch myself thinking of friends that don't have them and wondering why they havent posted to theirs in so long.
There are definitely some people I really wish had blogs, really wish I could have a more regular and detailed connection with their lives and thoughts. When will the direct neural RSS-feed get invented?
uugggh. just kidding [shiver].
In other, somewhat related, news, I finally saw Science of Sleep yesterday. It was pretty great, though not quite as great as I was expecting. It's all about dreams, and a guy that's always confusing dreams with reality, which makes it unsurprising that i was left with a feeling of "and it was all a dream" walking out of the theater. But I can't help thinking I wanted a little less dreaminess and more "reality" - the quotes mean that i thought the reality of the film would be a little more fantastic, less "normal world" - I guess I thought the story was going to be a little more science fiction, maybe sort of like Wim Wenders' "Until the End of the World" (which also had a lot to do with dreams), and that Stephane would be a little more of a hero-inventor, and a little less pathetic loser-inventor.
But, I still highly recommend the flim. Best Hollywood fare I've seen all year, I'd say.
Jessica wrote a short but good article in the new issue of the NYC Indypendent about Rising Tide, a new group focused on slowing global warming by slowing its source: fossil fuel use.
"...most other organizations who say they work for climate protection merely promote technological reforms to the capitalist economy, and shy away from demanding deep changes that address the common causes of war, social and economic injustice and ecological destruction."
After 5 days in San Francisco I have now zipped down to the City of Angels on a plane and am ensconced in the Los Feliz home of friends José and Ana. It was an extremely short flight without incident. The Burbank airport is extremely small and convenient to here.
San Francisco was great, for the most part. The two screenings went really well. One was attended by less than I expected, and one by more, so things evened out, I guess. The first one had some music beforehand by 2 of the musicians who did the soundtrack. So it was interesting because some fans of theirs came, and then there were people who came just to see the film, and I'm happy to kind of mix up those 2 demographics and jostle some expectations. Sadly most progressive activist types are culturally regressive, in my experience, so the music was a little "challenging" to some people. oh well.
It was really nice being back in SF. I got to spend one great afternoon at the beach with a friend. Put my DVD on consignment at 3 different places. Saw several people again that I like to spend time with. Sadly one person that I most wanted to see refused to see me, and that made me sad. She's my ex who has continued being my good friend for 4 years since we broke up, but now it looks like we won't be friends anymore and that sucks. I only got a couple hours of sleep last night because I was upset about that and talking to other friends about it all night. Tough times.
Well, now to explore the neighborhood. I want to see if I can impress myself with L.A. this time. I lived here for a year, 10 years ago, and didn't like it, but I think I just didnt go to the right parts, maybe.
Chris from NYC Indymedia writes on his blog about citizen journalism a lot. The other day he wrote about the idea that citizen journalism is really still quite a priveleged activity, and that even a lot of people who can do it just are not going to do it. He quotes lots of bloggers and also Subcommandante Marcos saying in 1997:
The world of contemporary news is a world that exists for the VIP's-- the very important people," Marcos said. "Their everyday lives are what is important: if they get married, if they divorce, if they eat, what clothes they wear, or what if they clothes they take off-- these major movie stars and big politicians. But common people only appear for a moment-- when they kill someone, or when they die." One of the original hopes of Indymedia was that it would empower the very people who were being increasingly ignored by the corporate press to cover themselves, to "be their own media." And while, as Josh Breitbart notes, the citizen's media revolution has succeeded, the poor and marginalized are still being left behind.
If my blogging software permitted, this post would be marked not only in the personal category but in every other category that I've defined, and more. That's because this entry is about how many different things I'm involved with and how that's a problem.
But before I get too far into that I will link to a post i just published on another blog that I seldom use, on the delete the border site, relating recent news about arizona border crossing deaths and stuff.
Now I move on into saying this: I'm doing too much and I need to figure out how to jettision some stuff if i intend to feel better about myself and stay sane, because very little of it is getting done in a quality way. Here's the list, or everything i can think of now:
The most important things are 2, 7, 11, and 12. A few other things are impossible to get rid of right now. The rest I need to just tell people "sorry, I can't be there." Sigh.
The nice thing, though is that, as usual, just making a list of everything makes it seem like a lot less of a problem. so, yay....
Just heard about a new book by Bob Ostertag, who was the first other artist I ever hosted on my website, Detritus.net, starting back in 1997. He's a professor at UC Davis now, and I didn't even know he was working on this book. since I know him exclusively as an electronic music composer, it was a big surprise to find out about this. tho I know that he took 10 years off from music to be a freelance journalist and activist in central america back in the 80s. (In the early 90s he released a CD that is one hour or so long piece made of a sample of a small boy in El Salvador talking and crying while burying his dead father who was killed by death squads. It's still one of the most heart-wrenching pieces of music i've ever heard. )
Anyway, looks like a good book, tho it seems to be only historical, not about present trends like indymedia. chronologically it only goes up through the 70s or so.
Saw a story about a pirate radio station basically in my home town, on Phlegm's blog (out of Urbana, Illinois), getting hassled by the FCC due to complaints from Clear Channel and Cumulus. And they're fighting back in interesting ways!
I say basically because it's in Bettendorf, one of the the 4 Quad Cities. I grew up in Davenport, the other quad city on the Iowa side of the river.
Who woulda thunk, pirate radio there? One set of my parents live in Bettendorf and they said it's been big news there.
It's so silly when people who have blogs but only write in them sporadically start every entry with something like "I haven't been blogging much, sorry." It's exactly like those zines that start every issue with an editorial that apologizes for being so late. I mean, come on - it's not like this is your job or someone paid you to meet a deadline. Newsflash: every single zine is always late. Unless you make a living from your blog, lighten up and stop apologizing.
I suppose it's sort of a wishful ego impulse. Everyone wants to believe that there are friends and/or secret admirers and/or colleagues just waiting, checking every morning, for some new nugget of wisdom or juicy life detail on one's blog. And every morning for 34 days they are disappointed, so of course one should give some apology and explanation, like "I've been doing more productive things." That'll make 'em feel better. Maybe get them to realize they're wasting too much time checking blogs. If you can't write 'em, why should they read them? Indeed.
Tonite was the first real night of the Arizona International Film Festival and I went to see the opening film, "Crossing Arizona," which is a pretty great documentary about immigration, specifically focused on Arizona and the border here. It's pretty well done. It's low budget, shot on DV, took them 2 years to do it. I would recommend it to anyone who's interested in border and immigration stuff, and if you're in the SF Bay area, it's being shown there now till the 27th at the Roxie. It's not a perfect film. They're a little too easy on the Border Patrol, and I think they didn't spend enough time on root causes like economics. But overall it's very good, and I hope it gets out to a ton of people and helps to raise awareness. It's a very moving film and I got choked up several times.
Tommorrow is going to be busy. I'm going to a filmmaker's breakfast that the festival is doing, and then going to a little bit of the community Earth Day festivities, and then the summer planning meeting for No More Deaths is happening. I've been wanting to get more involved in No More Deaths and this is probably going to be a good way to start. Then in the evening is the annual Earth First Journal Pie Party and Fundraiser. That should be lots of fun.
The Indypendent, NYC Indymedia's print publication, published a big spread about immigration that was a collaboration between me and 2 other Arizona Indymedia volunteers here in Tucson. I wrote the NAFTA sidebar. They chopped it up quite a bit, dropped some stuff out, and added some other stuff. I haven't decided if it's better or worse but it's different enough that I don't know if I should be alone on the byline. Strange feeling to have with an Indymedia publication.
The basic idea of the article is the same though - NAFTA forced tons of farmers off their land, and ruined the corn business there. And I can claim responsibility for obtaining the excellent quote from Tom Hansen of Mexico Solidarity Network.
A hilarious diagram from a Pasadena newspaper shows the telltale signs for parents of whether their kid does graffiti. It's so silly but it's a disturbing example of the kind of indoctrination that the media engages in all the time. And what it's teaching: that here's another thing to fear in your children; that it's okay to invade your child's privacy, and if he or she appears to be artistic and also wear a hooded sweatshirt, he must be a criminal; that all graffiti is a "problem" and a sign of gang activity; and a host of other assumptions.
The Urban Dictionary has some pretty funny, and mostly negative, definitions of Indymedia. One consistent theme seems to be that Indymedia is anti-semitic, a critique that sort of surprises me. I can see that that would be one critique, because most Indymedia coverage, where it needs to be, is anti-zionist, and zionists are going to label anti-zionists as anti-semitic. But for that to be the main thing people repeatedly harp on is kind of strange.
A chain of several localized websites where 16-year-old stoners with Che T-Shirts can pretend to be journalists and write bullshit news articles containing zero credibility or research. What better way to fight back against the corporate-controlled media by getting your news by some of the most blatantly agenda-driven sources in the world? YUH MAAN FOCK DA SYSTEM RAGE AGINST DA MACHINE!!!1!!
Oh Indymedia, what won't you blame on the Jews?
This lecture by Clay Shirky at Etech, a recent O'Reilly conference in San Diego, is really excellent and concerns how you manage web software that allows some degree of free posting by the public. He has some really really good ideas, many of which are very relevant to how Indymedia Centers manage themselves. Especially important is this concluding remark he makes:
Social software is the experimental wing of political philsophy, a discipline that doesn't realize it has an experimental wing. We are literally encoding the principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in our tools. We need to have conversations about the explicit goals of what it is that we're supporting and what we are trying to do, because that conversation matters. Because we have short-term goals and the cliff-face of annoyance comes in quickly when we let users talk to each other. But we also need to get it right in the long term because society needs us to get it right. I think having the language to talk about this is the right place to start.
I just heard from Free Speech TV that they're airing
29 hours of special programming in the days surrounding the Three Year Anniversary of the U.S. Invasion of Iraq. This programming is scheduled to coincide with numerous and diverse protest events taking place across the U.S. and around the world.
Cops of the World
Broadcast Date/Times: Saturday March 18 @ 6:51 am ET; 5:51 pm ET; 10:51 pm ET
A video for a modernized version of a Phil Ochs song, linking U.S. domestic police brutality to foreign policy brutalities.
Broadcast Date/Times: Saturday March 18 @ 6:56 am ET; 5:56 pm ET; 10:56 pm ET
A re-working of a President Bush speech reveals a potentially more accurate sentiment of his administration.
And there's a bunch of other great documentary pieces they're showing, including Robert Greenwald's "Uncovered: The War on Iraq."
Free Speech TV reaches 25 million U.S. homes through its full time channel (DISH Network, channel 9415), and part time on 170 public, educational and government access (PEG) channels. For a complete list of PEG stations carrying FSTV: http://www.freespeech.org/html/affiliates_list.html
I've always liked the blog about video blogs called We Are The Media. I often found it refreshing to tap into a non-radical, even non-political take on the simple idea of citizen participation in media production, without the usual party line so prevalent within Indymedia circles. It gave me hope that this alternative media revolution could be bigger. But today the dark side of that non-stance has reared its head with an entry bleating the wonderous coolness of Rocketboom's new commerce-soaked format. I could understand mentioning the fact that Rocketboom, the most popular vlog on the net, has sold itself for a week literally to the highest bidder and will spend a week making special advertisements that go at the end of its regular vodcast. But all the hyperbolic celebration of this as a beautiful and innovative new opportunity for advertisers is making me want to puke the more I think about it. Here's a choice quote:
When people download Rocketboom every morning, they have the episode on their computer and the Rocketboom team have taken this advantage and scored a touchdown. They made a commercial where the idea is simple, but the story is full of intruiging [sic] and subtle details. If you want to get it, you just watch it once, but if you want to really get it, you have to watch it over and over for all the easter eggs and cool details that lie just below the surface.
I just arrived in Flagstaff with 2 other imcistas from Tucson. We're here for an indymedia teach-in/workshop thing, trying to get activists and community members here in Flag more involved with indymedia. It should be interesting and fun.
It's snowing here. Big fluffy flurries of snow. On the way here at about 3000 feet I got to see the transition zone where snow was accumulating on saguaro cacti. That's a weird sight. Cool to have that range of climate in 4 hours of driving. But it is 5000 feet of altitude difference so, not that crazy, though this much snow this late in the winter is unusual, I'm told.
This evening KBOO, the cool community radio station in Portland, interviewed me over the phone about Rod Coronado's current situation. Not that I'm an expert, but I sort of got selected by the little group of supporters here in Tucson to do it. Maybe because I used to live in Portland. Maybe because no one else wanted to do it.
Anyway, it was a pretty by-the-numbers set of questions and I provided some pretty boring and almost awkward answers. I guess I was nervous. I'm usually not nervous talking in public or even on the radio or TV, but the fact that I'm supposed to be saying the right thing, that you can't just spout off and be irronsponsible when talking about someone in trouble with the law - that made me nervous. You can kind of hear that I'm choosing my words very carefully. Despite that I still screwed up, and said that Rod had given his lecture in San Diego last August when it was actually August 2003. drat.
I hate how they called him an "indigenous eco-anarchist" on the KBOO news archive page. KBOO of course means that as a compliment, but it sounds bad to me. Maybe I wouldn't mind if the mainstream media hadn't made "anarchist" into a dirty word. I dunno. I kind of wish they could just say "person who cares more about nature and wildlife than about property and money." But there always has to be these labels used all the time.
I just found out about a new documentary called "Living Room" that is touring around and that's about infoshops. I wish it were playing at our infoshop here in Tucson. The closest the tour will come is The Catalyst in Prescott.
Anyway it looks like it could be a good film, and they cover the Back to Back Cafe in Portland, a space I'm very familiar with, so I'm interested.
But a particularly interesting thing about it is that on their website there's a thoughtful essay about the process they went through to get funding and approval from their school. At the beginning of the essay I read that they received a grant for $2100 and I thought ooh, lucky. Then I read on about the hoops they had to jump through to get that money and decided it's not worth it and it was not lucky.
Apart from the problems they mention in the essay, it just amazes me that interviewing someone for a film is even considered "research" and that if you do that under the auspices of a University, you need to get approval from a "human subjects research committee." I just talked to someone else doing work on the Juarez situation as a thesis and she has to get the same kind of permission.
It's just a bit ridiculous to me. We're not talking about injecting chemicals into your arms, this is talking and either writing down or videorecording your answers. you're not a "human subject," you're a person.
I guess it's another case of a few bad apples spoiling everything. Because in the past some "researchers" abused their relationship with their interviewees somewhere, now poor well-meaning students have to subject themselves to this bullshit.
(I guess it's kind of ironic, too, that these people are making a film essentially about an alternative, DIY way of looking at information and information distribution (infoshops), and yet they do it from the auspices of a big university and spend months waiting for someone to give them the go-ahead and write them a check.)
The same kind of thing is going on in a completely different arena, or shall I say rink. In 2 different cities that I know of, Tucson and Portland, and maybe more, filmmakers are running into problems making documentary work about roller derby participants, largely due to (I believe) the recent debut of a new "reality" show on A&E called Rollergirls.
Bad apples ruining it for everybody.
This is pretty cool. The rights of an attention-giver. Nice.
Almost everyone left of center likes Democracy Now and is constantly listening to it, talking about it, linking to it in their blogs, and going to see Amy Goodman speak whenever she comes through town.
I'm here to say something I've been wanting to say out loud for a long time but have hestitated because of its possible controversial nature: I don't quite understand why people like the show and Goodman so much. I myself almost can't stand to listen to or watch it, and I certainly don't listen or watch regularly.
I guess the simple answer is: the content, and the fact that there's not really very many other shows out there that are like it. It's the only show of its kind with its level of resources and professionalism. And the good thing about Amy Goodman is at least she's not a wingnut. There are lots of left-wing news/analysis shows, especially on internet radio and such, that have hosts that just come off sounding like wacko conspiracy nuts.
But Goodman is simply one of the worst interviewers I've ever heard or seen. At first I thought it was because I was watching her on TV at first and she's really coming from a radio background, but whenever i listen to the radio version I feel the same way. Not because of what she says, but how she says it. Her whole manner is so wooden and tactless and impolite, it's almost offensive. Now, don't get me wrong, the subject matter rocks, Goodman has great people on her show and she's getting some really important information out to the world that is pretty underreported. But next time you listen to her check out how she talks when she's interviewing. Her phrasing is so awkward that I frequently even get confused about what she's saying. For instance, I was just listening to an old archived show where she was interviewing John Perkins, author of "Confessions of an Economic Hitman." Every once in awhile, as broadcasters always do, she mentions what you're listening to. Station identification, or whatever. But there's literally no pause between that and the previous sentence or her next question. For this case she would say stuff like "For those of you just joining us, you're listening to Democracy Now tell us about the dealings with the house of Saud and the agreements the U.S. government made with them." I'm totally serious, it was literally a run on sentence to the point where I got confused; and can't believe that a professional broadcast journalist would talk that way.
She's also just so brusque that it borders on rude. She will constantly say stuff like "You write about the assasination of Omar Trasero. explain," or "how closely did you work with the world bank." That's right, no question mark. Excerpt for the fact that there's a word like "how" or "when" or "why" at the beginning, her questions are not questions, there's no higher inflection at the end of the sentence to indicate that its a question, she just sort of snaps out a phrase. do you talk to people like that when you want them to tell you things? I sure don't.
It's so weird. How and why do people listen to this? Why do people appear on her shows? When are they going to fire her, or make her just a producer, and get someone else with a personality to sit behind the microphone? I just don't get how she rose so high with an interview manner like hers.
Maybe she's brusque and awkward like that because she's trying to seem to not be a wingnut, to be hyper-professional, and to counter the ditzy female newscaster stereotype, etc. But I'd say she's overcompensating and gone too far the other way. So, lighten up, Amy, be nice, and relax a little. Or step down, concentrate on writing the stories, and get someone else to read them.
Let's see how many flames I get about this....
This Volkswagon commercial is really fucked up - making light of terrorist suicide bombing to sell cars is just not acceptable, in my opinion.
The ad looks like it's intended for European audiences, given that I don't think the specific model (the Polo) is available in the U.S., and that the setting is obviously a European city. I wonder what reactions to it have been, and I wonder how they would differ in the States.
This also brings up a shortcoming with Google video. The interface is confusing, and there's very little information about where this thing came from. Who uploaded it? There's a "more from this user" link, but who's the user? How can we contact him? Why can't I leave comments? I'd prefer it be more like Flickr with tags, comments, messages, etc., rather than just some totally anonymous and under-described repository of media.
UPDATE: After being informed that Google Video doesn't offer playback for non-U.S. users, I downloaded the file and put it up on my own site here:
But note that it's a DIVX file so you may have to install that codec if you don't have it already. Though I find that VLC plays it fine.
This is scary and annoying. This company has a service called The Viral Chart where marketing and advertising videos distributed on the internet for "viral marketing" purposes have a little "sprite" embedded in them that "phones home" over the network, even if you're just watching the file locally on your computer, and tells them whenever you play the file. (So they can track how well the campaign is working, see?)
Ok, so, from now on whenever you watch something on your computer, ipod, whatever, discconnect it from the internet, or else open up the file with quicktime pro or whatever and strip out the little virus.
Or just learn to stop worrying and love the bomb, I guess.
The Blogosphere, or the little corner of it that I regularly monitor (read: that I subscribe to in my feedreader), seems to be slowing down, probably for Thanxgiving.
I bunch of Tucson folks I know went to the Seri Coast for the week. (I just spelled that phonetically espanol-style, because I don't know how it's really spelled.) It's on the land of a Mexican Indian tribe, the Seri, on the coast of the Sea of Cortez, about 8 hours from Tucson. Apparently it's really beautiful and completely primitive - you have to bring absolutely everything with you, water and all. I maybe could have gone, and wanted to, but I couldn't justify leaving for a whole week when I really should be concentrating on finding housing and work. I'm sure they're having a wonderful, "Y Tu Mamá Tambien" style paradaisical time on the beach right now. Err, I mean, just all the positive aspects of the film.
Anyway, for the holiday itself I will probably go to the Havoc House, which is a collective house inhabited by a bunch of anarchist people I know. That should be fun.
There is an odd but persistent rumor going around Tucson that the government is going to set off a "dirty bomb" tommorrow at the air force base here and pretend like it was the work of terrorists. So some people are acting like it's really important to get out of town for the holiday, though they are probably people who were already going to leave town anyway. Whatever. It would be just my luck to get bathed in deadly high-energy neutrons right after moving to Tucson, but I don't really believe it will happen, of course, or i'd be on an train out of town by now.... I bet you a pound of uranium that there are similar rumors in just about every city. The government needs some new disaster to wag the dog and increase approval ratings. In fact, with a quick google search I see that Boston at least had a dirty bomb scare going on, though that was back in January.
I have to say, though I've never been there, I'd rather Boston go than Tucson.
I cajoled the IVDN folks into putting an RSS feed up for the center column. Seems to work with Fireant, DTV, and iTunes. Maybe some vlogger types will get into it. I think it's important to make indymedia media files (audio, video) as accesible to the blogosphere as possible.
Once again the excellent blog about videoblogs, We Are The Media, gets me thinking with a great collection of links to vlogs that are covering the Katrina aftermath. What I'm thinking is, well, compare and contrast Indymedia with the more journalistic of the vloggers. There is a lot of very similar rhetoric about freeing the media and citizen journalism. However I don't see as much ideology in the vlogosphere. There are vloggers of all different political persuasions, and many are apolitical. I feel like Indymedia may have marginalized itself to the point where it is only for already very committed activists. The vlogosphere may be a chance to preach to more than the choir. So the questions are, how might Indymedia videoactivists broaden their scope to include the new "subtactic" of vlogging? And, where are the indymedia vloggers?
It reminds me of Slashdot's tagline, which I always found disturbing: "News for Nerds, Stuff that matters." It always turned me off, because it seemed to be an oxymoron. If it matters, then it matters, period, and it shouldn't be just for nerds. I just glanced at slashdot and only 1 or 2 of the dozen or so stories are really that nerdy. Most are really of general interest, though of course teh subject matter is always science or tech stuff. But if it's for nerds, then a lot of itdoesn't matter to others, or at least that is the assumption a lot of non-nerd people will have. The tagline sets up a separation, a self-marginalization. To be accurate, and to continue to marginalize itself, the phrase really should have a "to nerds" at the end, or, if self-marginalization is not the intention, it should be a completely different tagline, something like "News about Nerdy Stuff, that should matter to everyone."
Similarly, I sometimes think Indymedia has an invisible tagline: "News for 'Extreme' 'Radical' Activsts, stuff that matters to 'Extreme' 'Radical' Activists." Which is not to say that was the intention or even is currently, at least conciously (or is it?). But it may be how the IMC is perceived, at least when people are aware of it at all.
This post from the excellent blog-about-vlogs, We Are the Media discusses a technique/phenomenon that I have always found useful ever since Mort Subotnick, one of my composition professors at CalArts, mentioned it to me about 10 years ago.
The idea is that playing someone else your work, whether it's music or film/video, is really helpful, even if they don't say anything. Somehow just sitting there watching/listening to your own work with someone else there gives you a whole different perspective on it.
I don't know how many I need to actually get it accepted for airing on the channel, but you can definitely help by going to their site, registering, watching it, and greenlighting it. Plus, it's an interesting piece. you'll like it, I promise.
This is great, there's now a Chunk 666 blog. And Chunkathalon 2005 is coming up on September 4. A friend and I have a clever plan for an unusual and message-laden minivideo about the Chunkathalon. All the explosions and fire, but with extra meaning, too.
Okay I admit I'm now the 3rd indymedia blogger to mention this but I think I have a few bits of new information and/or value-added analysis.
Taking it from the top: This is insane. soldiers with camo, assault rifles and a helicopter break up a perfectly legal outdoor music event, beat people up, and even force the owner of the property to leave her own land.
see jebba's blog entry for photos and more. the video is especially chilling.
the portland imc article linked to at the bottom has more details including the
ones i cite above.
This is such a big story, or it should be, that I wondered what the mainstream media was saying, if anything. Of course the Salt Lake Tribune has a completely different version of the story. Although, to be fair, they have another story that goes more into the ravers' point of view. However, this brings up an interesting thing about mainstream media on the web. I looked to compare the posting times of the 2 stories, because at first I thought, why publish 2 stories? Then I thought, well, probably the first one was first, then they realized there was more to it, so they published the second one. Then I wondered what the delay time was between the first and the second. It turns out we may never know, because the first story was evidently edited after the second story was put up, because the first one says "Article Last Updated: 08/23/2005 07:25:48 AM" and the second one says "Article Last Updated: 08/23/2005 07:23:50 AM" - do I have it backwards? I don't think so. Read the articles and it's obvious which one came first. One is obviously the standard press-release cut-and-paste report, and the next is "oh wait there's more here the cops didn't tell us, and look there's video some raver escaped with." They're both by the same guy, too. You can't tell me the same guy would post 2 articles 2 minutes apart about the same thing. No, one or both were edited. When were the original posting times? Obviously there was enough separation and the reporter and the paper had enough journalistic integrity or fear of repercussions that they felt like they couldnt just go in and add the new stuff to the original story. So he published a new story, but must have then changed something in the original story, perhaps so it didnt contradict the second. Bad bad, reporter Michael J Nestley of Salt Lake Tribune, although I do applaud you for doing the second story at all - and for coming right out and calling bullshit on the cops, who claim things directly contradicted by the evidence of the video. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and I hope it gets more coverage than by this one little local paper.
So, I had noticed Current TV online last week but I wasn't chomping at the bit for it to launch. I've been too busy to pay attention to when new cable channels are firing up. But then last night I was taking a break and briefly channel surfing and saw Current TV right there on the channel guide for Direct TV. So I checked it out.
It's an interesting experiment. The basic idea is: short videos submitted by anyone. This concept is a double-edged sword. They call these shorts "pods." Possibly the coolest thing is the progress bar in the lower left corner, so if you don't like something, you can tell how long you have to wait before it's over.
There is an almost bewildering variety of "pods," from weird fluff pieces to heavy investigative reporting. (examples: There's one 2-part piece about suicide in Japan that's really great. There's a disturbing quick look at an African model bragging about her ass. There's a boring pod about how to buy real estate.) They divide things into categories and show pods from each category on a regular rotation, but they don't have a lot of content so there's a lot of repetition. All this is punctuated by young cute hosts and hostesses who say dorky things about each piece and stand there looking cute and dorky, in varying proportions of the 2.
I'm not sure what to think yet. There's a lot of other blogging about it going on, including one blogger that basically described the whole first day at the Broadcast and Cable blog. It will be interested to see how things develop. One observation and suggestion I would make is this: despite the variety of subject matter, all the pods seem to have a really similar narrative voice and videography style and production value. It's almost like all the producers went to the same film school at the same time, or something. I wonder if a lot of these first pods were produced in-house, or maybe they "finish" submissions with their own graphics and color correcting and stuff so everything looks the same. But that seems to defeat the purpose... If Current wants to be about everyone sending in stuff, about the multiplicity of media creators out there, then production values should reflect that variety. It shouldn't all look so slick and isotropic. However, maybe as they get more submissions their content will start to be more varied in look and form.