last night at the salon, a nice older woman sitting next to me asked, “so what happened with the Occupy? why did it all go so bad? it makes me so sad, i watch the news and i want to cry. i wanted good things to happen.”
“You know what you don’t see much of these days? Those moist-eyed bloggers’ odes to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Gosh, remember the columns telling us these people had a noble political agenda? Seems like just yesterday the lefty bloggers were picking through polls, telling us the American people embraced the OWS gang. But then protest turned to filth, and high-mindedness turned out to be just plain-old stench.
To write such loving tributes to OWS took extraordinary discipline, I suppose. Not to actually look (or smell) and determine who the real Occupiers (as opposed to the Occupiers refashioned for the readers of the New York Times and the Nation) were must have taken real will-power, especially since the encampments in major cities (as in the District) were only a few blocks from the journalists’ offices. Had they taken a peek or inhaled on the way to work they would have discovered the real Occupy movement.
Zack Munson reports: “There are lots of bearded folks (male and female), lots of dirty tents, some college students, the unemployed, the career homeless, some white people dancing out of rhythm to rock music played over a loudspeaker. The ‘movement’ itself is still a jumble of anti-capitalist/police/
government rhetoric and pointless noise and pungent smells.” Oh, well, who wants to write about that?”
it’s true. i haven’t wrttien about OWS/OccupyOakland in over a month, but it is not because i think the shine wore off to reveal a bunch of dirty hippies. in fact, the opposite is true. i think once the new smell and initial popculture interest wore off, who was left was a bunch of super invested people who have since then been heads-down entrenched in making things happen, not out there in the camps but in smaller working groups, in meetings, behind closed doors. see: the Alternative Banking Working Group, for example.
and despite all the negatives, the movement has been effective — causing democratic change on issues local and global, from healthcare to home evictions to school funding, not only in the higher-profile cities like New York and D.C. but also in small towns across the U.S. …. not to mentioned having kicked the door open for a lot of other progressive non-Occupy NGOs and social and cultural groups to take a stand. The Media, of course, chooses to only focus on the the bad apples. this is true for nearly every single aspect of society, not just OWS, and everybody knows it. so why don’t people question what they see on the news more often?
i told the woman at the salon to try to look up other places to read about Occupy, and that while i am not actively involved much personally, i know many amazing, hardworking people who are and i know, without any question or doubt, that they are doing good things with the right intentions.
“The breadth of this movement is one thing, its depth another. It has rejected not just the particulars of our economic system, but the whole set of moral and emotional assumptions on which it’s based. Take the pair shown in a photograph from Occupy Austin in Texas. The amiable-looking elderly woman is holding a sign whose computer-printed words say, “Money has stolen our vote.” The older man next to her with the baseball cap is holding a sign handwritten on cardboard that states, “We are our brothers’ keeper.”
The photo of the two of them offers just a peek into a single moment in the remarkable period we’re living through and the astonishing movement that’s drawn in… well, if not 99% of us, then a striking enough percentage: everyone from teen pop superstar Miley Cyrus with her Occupy-homage video to Alaska Yup’ik elder Esther Green ice-fishing and holding a sign that says “Yirqa Kuik” in big letters, with the translation — “occupy the river” — in little ones below.” – Compassion Is Our New Currency
last weekend in Oakland there was another Occupy vs. OPD clash when Occupy tried to take over an empty building. before you keep reading, WATCH THIS VIDEO.
the press and City Hall reported that the Occupiers were breaking into buildings and harrassing police and that, 6 months into the movement, all this is is a temper tantrum on the part of entitled youth and rabblerousers who should find better uses for their time and stop being a public nuisance. but here is the perspective from Occupy:
“In Oakland, thousands of active community members chose to engage in true democracy by supporting the real and pressing needs of the people. The state, which supposedly represents these people, exercised extreme police brutality and violence to protect the 1%’s vacant assets. The explicit goal of the action was to build community—to open a desperately needed community center with a library, medical care, free education and emergency housing in a city that has suffered massive budget cuts, high unemployment rates and ravaged public schools. In response, the city government poured hundreds of thousands of dollars, bullets and canisters of tear gas into declaring open war on these parents, students, workers, artists, teachers, children and veterans. These people’s only offense was to believe so deeply in the American tradition of democracy, self-sufficiency, and sacrifice for the next generation that they were willing to put their bodies on the line to make this nation the empowering democracy that we know it can be.”
And here is a journalist’s first hand account of the situation, and being unlawfully arrested: http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/01/journalists-arrested-occupy-oakland
so yeah, there are obvious issues with people taking over public buildings and setting up DIY healthcare units etc. not up to code, health violations, blah blah blah. but what i don’t understand is why the City can’t just,……let them try? see what happens? wouldn’t that cost FEWER CITY DOLLARS AND RESOURCES than hiring an outside army of police to shoot rubber bullets at citizens, people trying to create for their communities what the government has neglected to protect or provide?
which leads me back to reiterate that the main success of this movement has been to get people to WAKE UP. maybe they’re waking up to an American Dream Turned Nightmare, but if that’s the case then if Occupy stands for anything it’s this: STAND UP AND FIGHT. OCCUPY EVERYTHING that matters to you.
The Ultimate Culture Jam
“We awoke one morning to the dark realization that humanity is being dragged into a black hole of ecological, financial and spiritual catastrophe … that our democracy has been seized by a corporatocracy … that every day two hundred species of plant, insect, bird and mammal become forever extinct … that a deluge of advertising is sleepwalking our civilization to the brink of insanity … and that unless we fight back in the most visceral and creative way possible all will be lost.
And yet, what sets our struggle apart in 2012 is that we are not fighting to save a distant future. We are not trying to prevent some terrible event that is still to come. This is not about our unborn grandchildren. Instead, many of us sense that the threshold has already been crossed; the tipping point has already happened and what we are fighting for is our present. We are living in that tragic moment of eerie stillness where the fatal damage has been done, widening cracks can be seen, yet the edifice still stands and business as usual continues … but for how much longer?
Our days may be shadowed by this dark realization, but there is reason to be deeply optimistic for “where danger is, grows the saving power also.” Never before has the tantalizing possibility of a Global Spring, a worldwide people’s insurgency for democracy, seemed as close. For perhaps the first time in human history, we just might be on the edge of an everywhere-at-once revolution against the financial fraudsters, corporate lackeys and the ideology of consumerism that has brought the Earth to the precipice of collapse.
In this, the era of the total and transcendent indignato swarm, we look to each other, not to the masters above, to find out what it will take to pull off the ultimate culture jam: spiritual insurrection.”
this post is to be continued, in the vein of CULTURAL TRANSFIGURATION: OCCUPY ART.Filed in culture and random linkage, politics and news, things you can do | Tagged with #occupyoakand, #occupywallstreet, #ows, adbusters, capitalism, oakland | Comment (0)
this is #occupy post #4.
(previous post from 10/26 for reference: http://www.amyleblanc.com/2011/10/occupyoakland)
let me preface this with a few caveats:
1. this is totally my subjective opinion and a place for me to dump my thoughts and i don’t claim to be either fair or balanced,
2. i do welcome feedback/debate (many thanks to everyone who has written/said to me that they’ve appreciated my input/POV, but i also welcome people to constructively respond to anything they feel i’ve misrepresented),
3. this post was written over several days since last Tuesday and my mind is a bit overwhelmed by this and things keep happening/changing so bear with me if it seems fragmented or inconsistent, and, finally,
4. some personal context for those who don’t know where i work: since 2000 (11+ years), i have worked in the field of collaborative public policy as a neutral. this means that i am steeped in the methods of consensual dialogue, trained to try to take a neutral point of view in order to hear and respect all sides, and have witnessed and documented dozens and dozens of highly contentious public policy and community disputes. i note this not to say that i know more than others about what should be done in this situation but because i think some people think i am being contrarian just to be contrarian. i am speaking from a point of view of having seen many dialogues and efforts fail because stakeholders refused to work with government, and so yes, maybe i am being overly cautiously pragmatic. i do not want to see this fail.
someone i don’t know posted a comment to my last blog on facebook that said:
“at school, there was this sort of ongoing joke. there were feminist studies majors and there were community studies majors. generally speaking, both majors = super leftist if not radical in beliefs, but you could generally count on a feminist studies major to prefer sitting around all day and theorizing on the most strategic and thoughtful possible actions you can take for resistance… the jargon was “what are the conditions of possibility for ______ situation?”/usually not ending up doing much but talk, read and discuss and you could generally count on a community studies major to be like “WE HAVE TO ACT! TAKE IT TO THE STREETS! THIS IS MY OVERSIMPLISTIC SLOGAN AND COPS ARE PIGS!” and spend less time wondering if it’s the best way and just going for it. Pros and cons in either place. I think it’s just an eternal thing probably says more about personality types than whatever the ‘right’ way to peace is.”
so first, let me say that that is totally true, and i will always agree that there are many paths and methods for achieving change, and if i don’t feel like taking to the streets, i should be thankful that someone else will and support their right to do so. that said, i am not inclined to cheerlead for actions that i don’t agree with just to continually support the movement. this is where we get into trouble and lose legitimacy, and the key to any successful grassroots movement is LEGITIMACY.
i have been a part of organized community efforts where 48 out of 50 people representing very divergent views/interests were working collaboratively to resolve a problem, and the 2 people who decided they didn’t like the “process” or thought they wouldn’t be getting what they wanted via the process tried to use more direct action/activist methods. and you know what happens? then no on gets what they want, nearly every time, because the whole thing was delegitamized and everyone has to go back to the drawing board. i know some people would point to this example as a sign of the failures of bureaucracy, and some of the anarchists/zero-government people will never agree that working with the government is necessary. but i hope they are also resigned to a long battle on the fringe.
Jon Stewart’s segment on the daily show Wednesday night aka “What the Fuck Happened in Oakland?”, showed peaceful Occupy protests in other cities, and then the tear gas/riot situation from Tuesday night in Oakland. to me, What the Fuck Happened in Oakland isn’t just about the police. it’s about how the Occupy community is interacting with the police and City Hall.
last week the #occupyoakland General Assembly booed Mayor Jean Quan and would not let her speak. someone responded to my query about this that she “didn’t wait her turn” and that if she wants to speak she needs to follow the rules like the rest of the Assembly. (news article says she was “standing in line”, #occupyoaklanders say otherwise).
i have been to/been following both SF and Oakland GAs, and i hear a lot more “fuck the police” and “tear down the walls” vocalized out of oakland and talk of plans of continuing to do/say/post antagonistic and agitative things. PROVOKING VIOLENCE is nearly as bad as committing it, IMO, and pushing to see how hard someone shoves back is not in my pacifist repertoire. so yes, the OPD and City Hall mismanaged that situation Big Time. but i think you can also need to look at how this group of Occupiers is functioning compared to others.
friday night i went to a halloween/birthday party where a lot of the attendees (aged approx 25 y.o, as it was a 25th bday party) had been arrested on Tuesday morning or night. one of the Occupiers stood and talked at us for a good 10-15 minutes about working together, community building, etc. i liked what she was saying. so then i asked, “where you there when the Mayor tried to speak?” and suddenly her tone totally shifted. she responded “yeah i was RIGHT THERE. and i wanted to PUNCH THAT BITCH.” and i just looked at her in disbelief for a second and then i said “do you really think that kind of thing is helping?” and she started to rant about how “we don’t need centralized government services, we can build our own schools and grow our own food and have our own libraries, and the MAYOR IS IRRELEVANT. we don’t need the mayor. we are trying to make the GOVERNMENT IRRELEVANT.” and then she huffily walked away and never talked me to again at the party.
this was the mood of the Arrested Occupiers for the evening, and while i find their romantic utopian self-sufficient decentralized fantasy charming if you live somewhere other than a large metropolitan area, i think the idea that can be true for 7 Billion human beings (the 7 billionth will be born today!) living mostly in huge cities is, frankly, ignorant. i am not defending huge government, but NO government? what are we trying to do, roll back to the beginning of time? the government structures of civilization exist and you cannot you can just wish them to disappear. if you want to build yourself a parallel universe and go live on a farm or like a gypsy somewhere, GO RIGHT AHEAD. people do it all the time! but to suggest this should be true and will work for everyone is ridiculous. if you want to live in a dense urban area that is safe and provides everything necessary for everyone living there, i’m pretty sure some sort of centralized government is necessary. having a 4 hour GA meeting every other night to decide everything where any one person can block probably wouldn’t work out when your numbers exceed a few hundred.
“As it is, the Occupiers’ brand of romantic participatory democracy can too easily render their decision-making vulnerable to a truculent few. In the most notorious example, Representative John Lewis, the revered civil-rights hero, was prevented from speaking at Occupy Atlanta—not because the crowd didn’t want to hear from him (the great majority did, as they signalled, in the movement’s semaphore language, with raised hands and wiggling fingers) but because one man clenched his fists and crossed his forearms, thereby exercising a consensus-breaking “block.”
“Unlike the Tea Party, which was born when the alien/socialist enemy held all three of Washington’s elected redoubts, Occupy Wall Street inhabits a different political world, one whose most prominent figure, the President, has fallen short of not only many Occupiers’ hopes but also his own—in large part because of the Republicans’ conscienceless exploitation of the perverse veto points of the congressional machine. Yes, O.W.S. has “changed the conversation.” But talk, however necessary, is cheap. Ultimately, inevitably, the route to real change has to run through politics—the politics of America’s broken, god-awful, immutably two-party electoral system, the only one we have. The Tea Partiers know that. Do the Occupiers?” –Hertzberg – “Occupational Hazards” – New Yorker 11/7/2011
at this point i will not publicly support the General Strike* but i am opening to hearing more about it as a thoughtful strategy (and will read through the comments on the OO website ASAP). you can say what you want about how oppressive/violent the American system is, but this is not taking out a single leader (e.g. Egypt) and i am frankly offended by the drawing of parallels to other world uprisings. the problem here is systemic (and most Occupiers more a part of it than they want to admit), and will take a systemic approach to resolve, and i am hoping that is where the Occupy movement evolves – to Occupying public meetings and government posts and leadership positions.
a lot of people seem to think there is only other Apathy or Anarchy wrt their feelings about organized government in the U.S. the point here is that
we need to take the government away from the 1% and make it EXTREMELY RELEVANT, not make it even more “irrelevant”.
look, i know it sounds like i am being a hater but i am not. i am for #OccupyEverything. i agree with i am taking the long-view here. I WANT THIS MOVEMENT TO SUCCEED. if OccupyOakland wants strong, broad-based community support (including the vast minority communities of oakland which are barely representing/represented), especially for the proposed General Strike on November 2, they are going to get much further approaching this with civic-minded intentions instead of a loosely-organized rebellion, which, as we’ve seen, does not go well.
*p.s. General Strikes have a super long history (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_strike#Notable_general_strikes) .
the last Oakland General Strike was in 1946 and one of the largest ever, which is where this idea came from:
“Oakland was the center of a general strike during the first week of December 1946, one of six cities across the country that experienced such a strike after World War II. It was one of the largest strike movements in American history, as workers were determined not to let management repeat the union busting that followed the first World War. Oakland, which had been racially harmonious and prosperous before the war, by the late 1950s found itself with a population that was becoming progressively poor and racially divided.” –wikipediaFiled in politics and news | Tagged with #occupyoakand, #ows, capitalism, oakland | Comment (0)
And that used to be what the American Dream was all about, right? You could be anyone from anywhere, but, if you were willing to work hard, then you too could improve your lot in life. Well, not any more. And the people I saw tonight, these decent, well-meaning Americans, they know it, they are acutely aware of this fact now, and they are bloody well pissed off about it. And they’re right to be pissed off. What’s a little tear gas, in face of crushing debt, burdensome college loans, medical bills that can’t be paid, foreclosure, a declining standard of living, and not much hope for the future otherwise?
Tonight, Oakland, you have a right to be proud of your citizens. And America, yes, and Planet Earth: You have a right to be proud of the people of Oakland. They stood up for you tonight, for all of you. For the idea that you — and everyone else — all have a right to lead a decent, dignified life, free of poverty and hunger and debt.
as i rode my bike home around 5:00pm i could see all the helicopters hovering over downtown, 1.5 miles from my home in west oakland. i knew that the #occupyoakland was preparing for a face-off, because at 5am on Tuesday morning their formerly-allowed encampment outside city hall had been forcefully raided. and i did, for a minute, think of turning my bike around and heading down there. but i had been downtown by accident during the Oscar Grant riots in 2009, and the memory of that, of seeing the riot police approach, of watching people run, of getting locked inside a downtown restaurant with my friend Sahar as the crowd smashed my car, was too strong. i didn’t want to go down there. and so i sat on the couch last night from 5:00-11:30pm watching this unfurl via the live streams and twitter.
THANK GOD FOR TWITTER, as the news kept cutting their feeds to “refuel” their helicopters at seemingly strategic times – like right before the first dose of tear gas went into the crowd. either the news didn’t want to show the footage live so that they could save it for their 8/9/10pm TV news reports (control of access to their footage), or they were cooperating with police to not show the moments of action in case something they didn’t want televised happened. some said it was the other way around – the police had radios that and knew when the TV choppers would go back to refuel, and timed their actions then. either way, Twitter was the only way to get actual real-time reports last night (see #occupyoakland in real time).
for those of you in my audience out there who might have been annoyed by my numerous tweets in that time period – i have this to say: as noted, twitter was how info was being disseminated. as someone NOT PRESENT, i felt like it was just as important to be spreading the info as it was to be there. participating in live, real-time twitter conversation is community-building. people do this during the Superbowl, the Oscars, earthquakes and tons of other collective experiences and i think it’s even more important during things like what happened last night.
so back to why i wasn’t in the streets, despite my strong support for the movement: i feel much the same way about this as i did about the oscar grant riots/protests: i support the movement, i feel the anger and frustration, but i do not support all of the actions. i polled a couple of friends after the 2nd or 3rd round of teargas had hit the crowd and @occupyoakland continued to call for more protesters and more pushback as to whether continuing to regroup and re-engage was the best strategy. perhaps it was me projecting my own personal fear of confrontation, but my gut feeling was that there must be a better way. most people answered that continuing to stand up was a show of resistance that was necessary, not only to show the resistance, but perhaps more importantly to show the world what the police and government were willing to do in response. and show the world they did.
but still, this morning, even after seeing that aftermath and all of the support from around the world, i am still unsettled about the path the protesters chose to take. during the middle of it all, the OPD tweeted their PR statement, and i have to say, taken at face value, i can’t disagree with much. i am not sure how much i agree that people should be able to build 24/7 tent cities on the city hall lawn that don’t have proper facilities or organization to be safe. if you want to show up there, every single morning and stay all day long, i believe that is your right. and yes, the OPD used excessive force to remove the people who refused to leave at 5am yesterday morning, slashing through their camp with no respect or regard and i know people are ANGRY. but i just kept imagining a different scenario, where instead of showing up at night with the objective to “take back the plaza”, the Occupiers had returned to city hall and cleaned up the mess the police had left, and agreed to regroup peacefully every single day from 6am to 10pm, fostering a civic mentality where families and children would feel welcome (see: Occupy Portland as an example) and leaving the plaza clean and empty every night. a scenario where the Occupiers were strategic, and not just reactionary.
perhaps that is ridiculous, but when the Occupiers in New York were told to vacate their space because of health concerns, what did they do? they cleaned it up and agreed to try to follow the rules, and the city has since (mostly) let them be. in contrast, in oakland, and someone please correct me if i’m wrong, there was no organized response to the City Hall decision on October 21 that the protesters had to leave at night because the park was unsafe. instead tensions brewed for 4 days until police action was taken.
i guess my point is that i’m not convinced it needed to be escalated the way that it was on the part of the protesters and that a more organized response would have been a better route. this is not a detraction – i agree with the above quoted piece that people should be proud and still support #occupyoakland, and yeah, i’m not down there in the middle of it and so maybe i have no room to talk. but i think that if the people down there in Ogawa plaza (and everywhere else in the U.S. that is being occupied) really want to have longstanding peaceful protests that are widely supported and not seen as riotous, there could have been ways to get the space back that didn’t involve physical resistance that might have been more successful and involved less tear gas.
i’m sure this is an unpopular opinion, and most will argue it was the Mayor and the OPD who were the instigators. yes, the police could have done like they did in Albany, NY and said “no” to spending their police resources hassling nonviolent protestors, or just stood there all night, in riot gear, without firing a shot or doing anything. they could’ve just held the line (despite reports things were being thrown at them. you have on riot gear – small projectiles shouldn’t be a problem.) and, as stated, standing up to them shows how far the Police are willing to go, highlighting one of the main problems in oakland that people are standing up against – excessive use of force. but that is not what the OPD did – and what that OPD did was, sadly, expected.
i am hoping that for the sake of the longevity of the movement and also to promote and model peaceful conflict resolution, more creative ways to resolve conflict around things like Use of Public Space can be found – for the Occupy movements to take the higher ground and really try to find peaceful, organized responses, working WITH our city governments and elected officials to get what we want. not fighting against.
people are regrouping down there again this evening, and i know people are angry. i just really hope that anger can be directed into something better, not worse, than what happened yesterday.
Filed in politics and news | Tagged with #occupyoakand, #occupywallstreet, #ows, capitalism, fuck oakland, oakland, oscar grant riots, twitter | Comment (1)
(In response to “50 Reasons to Love San Francisco” which was a response to “50 Reasons to Be Pretty Damn Euphoric You Live in New York City,” which, in its response to the NYC Haters, called for everyone to make a list for their city. so i did.)
in no particular order and without catering to anyone:
50. it’s usually at least 10 degrees warmer (and sunnier) than SF, sometimes 20, especially during fog season (July)
48. the hills: Joaquin Miller and Redwood Regional Parks
47. the Oakland Museum of California
46. Jack London Square, especially the First and Last Chance Saloon
45. the cranes!
44. conscious hip hop, esp The Coup
43. The Fox + Paramount Theatres
41. American Steel
40. Old Town bars & restaurants
39. “donettes” and french press coffee for brunch at Flora
38. the Chapel of the Chimes
37. the Piedmont Rose Garden
36. International Blvd – like the Mission before hipsters!
35. the Bordello
34. The Vulcan
33. The Crucible
30. Mama Buzz cafe, where the hipster watching is almost as good as their veg/vegan food (last time there: a table of 3 next to us: a chick knitting and smoking a joint saying really nonsensical “i’m so high” things while another girl read her facebook page out loud to the other 2 and a guy doing the total Joaquin Phoenix “I’m still Here” thing with the bushy beard and sunglasses. dude, that was 2009.)
29. people in oakland really are as weird as they look/act/seem, they’re not just TRYING to be
27. the A’s / Raiders – keepin’ it real
26. the Grand Lake Theatre marquee
25. the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market (sunday mornings)
24. Trestle Glen – so white-picket!
20. the Oakland Zoo, which i like better than the SF Zoo.
19. the Oakland Coliseum Swap Meet,, where you can find everything from on-site Chinese cupping services to your stolen bike
18. tapioca drinks from Chinatown
17. Temescal – awesome foods from Lanesplitters to Dona Tomas + now there is a Burma Superstar!
16. all the crazy incarnations of Eli’s Mile High Club
15. the Stork Club + The Uptown + 21Grand
14. the Parkway Speakeasy (RIP?)
8. cheaper rent for more space than the West Bay
7. Cafe van Kleef
6. Piedmont – Rockridge Shopping
4. Art Murmur!
1. being part of a truly multicultural urban renaissance
this list is not meant to be comprehensive or exclusionary. these things are off the top of my head and based on my own lifestyle/experience living in oakland – so please add more! and i know it was very hard for me to not to not list a bunch more restaurants…so i ask for you to please add things to do/places to go, not more places to eat unless they are *really* special
and yeah, i remember the KML spoof “Oakland Tourism” video of 2009. spare me.
UPDATE 11/10: TK has now done a “30 Reasons to Hate San Francisco“. i’d take his lead again and do the same for Oakland, but outside of “gangbanger crime”, actually i’d have a hard time coming up with as many, as we don’t have your SF problems! we can park almost anywhere!Filed in bay area gems, most linked/commented on, personal favorites, things you can do, travel | Tagged with NaBloPoMo, oakland | Comments (4)
friday night: went to ariel’s offbeat bride v2.0 book reading in the upper haight (backstory: we’ve been online friends for years, via hooping, and have met up in-person a few times). i’ll admit that when i arrived i wondered for a second why i was there, actually (outside of seeing Ariel, but i didn’t necessarily have to go to the book reading for that), as i have zero intentions of being a bride (yes, still. please let us not talk about it AGAIN.) and i have already been to see her do this book reading once, when it was first published. as i listened to the reading and the questions, i flipped through the current issue of sports illustrated swimsuit issue (aside: swimsuit models are so much better to look at than runway models. duh, you might be saying. but i spend most of my time looking at fashion, not men’s magazines.)
it was when Ariel started talking about how the main reason she started and continues her interest with OBB even though her marriage is way past that i perked up, and remembered why i continue to read (ok, SCAN) the OBB website even though i don’t intend to get married. weddings entail and wrap up so much of our culture, from fashion to what we hold sacred (not that those are totally separate), and the process of planning a wedding isn’t just about where/when/who/whatdoiwear; as many brides and grooms have discovered, really complicated cultural questions can come up (case in point: there is currently a very long live email thread on one of my womens’ lists about changing your last name, sparked by THIS link suggesting doing so could have negative impacts you might not have expected). weddings are a bit of microcosm of culture, and since i’m super into cultural habits/themes/rituals etc, it makes sense that it interests me. plus, i find out about all the hot underground fashion designers/dressmakers that way (i am not however, reading Offbeat Mama, even though I understand the same thing applies (parenting is a much about culture as it is about offspring), it holds almost no personal interest for me.) the book reading was lively and amusing, and it was great seeing how much people are enjoying the Offbeat Empire and good to see the Electrolicious family in real life again.
saturday morning was an absolutely glorious sunny spring day, jay went mountain biking, and i found myself in another context that you wouldn’t usually find me: a baseball game. it was my longtime friend JB aka Windigo aka The Fox‘s birthday, and a bunch of us went to the A’s game to celebrate. the first 8.5 innings were fairly uneventful, game-wise, but the group of 20ish people assembled amused ourselves quite well. and then, in the bottom of the 9th, the A’s pulled it together and somehow managed to load the bases and score 2 runs to win the game. the crowd went wild! it was great.
later that afternoon we went for sushi at Ozumo and then that evening, jay and i donned the only green outfits we had (yes, my wardrobe is fairly monochrome: black) and went off to celebrate the birthdays of 3 of our favorite women in a emerald city themed birthday party that only sort of got busted by the cops. WTF, SoMa? not even midnight on a saturday night and you’re telling us to turn it down? jeesh. sometimes it’s just too hard to party in this city.
yesterday was also glorious, so we headed north to China Camp State Park in marin and jay and the neighbor went mountain biking while i took a leisurely 2-hour/5 mile hike. i found myself doing this thing where i have imaginery conversations with people about things that have not happened, as if i need to prepare a script in case it does. i won’t get into the topic, but at a certain point i literally said to myself “why are you thinking about this and not something good?”, at which point i developed a little chant to try to empty my head and also provide a bit of a rhythm for hiking faster, like a march. it went something like “shoulders back! chin up! irises! green plants! blue sky! sunshine! the hum of the insects. shoulders back! chin up!….” yeah, i know it’s weird maybe, but sometimes chanting is the only way i can stop my brain from going all kinds of directions, and even then i noticed that i was thinking about things while chanting. actively trying to clear your mind is difficult.
we returned and stuffed ourselves silly @ Vik’s chaat, still the best Indian in the bay. they have instituted a 3-part solid waste system of compost-recyclable-trash (THANK YOU, VIK’S!), and it was amusing, sitting next to the waste station, to watch all of the people who looked like they’d never encountered such a complicated system in a restaurant stop, read the signs, and then sort their waste, *usually* correctly. it’s amazing how effective some signage can be, and i’m betting that a number of people learn something new about waste disposal when they go there, and not just greenwashing to make yourselves look better. this is an example of DOING IT RIGHT.
and then went home and watched The Life Aquatic.
life is good. the end.Filed in autobiographical, culture and random linkage, friends, tv, books and movies | Tagged with oakland, restaurants | Comment (0)
this has been slapped in large typewriter print on 8.5×11″ paper onto telephone poles all over my neighborhood, and i’ve been reading it/meditating on it while waiting for the bus at peralta and 24th street all this week. thx to oaktownart.com for typing it up (and for all the other stuff about oakland art/music/food they’ve been posting too…). i added some line breaks, because i wanted to.
There are millions and millions of people in the city. There are people arguing in the streets. People looking out their windows to see what all that noise is about. People driving their cars, riding bikes, walking, staying put, people moving just because they can’t stand to stay still. Cowboys doing tai chi in the park. Single moms jogging. Cops giving tickets. Haters hating. Old Asian ladies playing hacky sack. Kids throwing fits on the bus. Scam artists sitting outside of grocery stores with a typewriter, selling what he calls poems. Baristas getting hit on. Hipsters calling each other hipsters. Teen girls wearing pajama bottoms and flip flops.
People are putting their trash outside of their houses, cuz Earth Day is once a year but trash day is every week. Some people are taking that trash home, sleeping on it, dusting it off, eating it, hanging it on their wall and then throwing it away again after a week.
This one kid was killed by a cop who meant to taser him. People are rioting because of that kid. This one girl is saying that it’s lame they should torch some innocent stranger’s car and this one guy is saying that some white artist hipster slumming it up in what she thinks is the ghetto being more concerned about the destruction of property than the violence against youth of color is a part of the reason that kid was killed. Oh snap, those people aren’t talking to each other after that shit!
Someone is just going to work, minding her own business. Someone around the corner used to be in a popular band in the 90’s, The Counting Crows I think. Someone is quietly doing charity work. Someone is spitting on the liars and hypocrites in the name of Jesus Christ. Someone fell asleep on the bus.
People are playing music. They’re walking down the street, rapping. They’re performing for elementary school children. They’re only playing to the sound guy. They’re making country music, city music, fifth wave ska, traditional Balkan dance songs exactly like they have been played for centuries (they imagine). They’re taking old music and adding electronic dance beats, beats antique. They’re making the newest sounds. They’re imitating their favorite bands. They’re playing music alone in their room.
Everyone’s dumpster diving. Everyone’s watching lots and lots of TV shows on DVD. Everyone’s littering like crazy. Everyone drives up on the weekends to hit up the bars. Everyone’s wearing oversized white t-shirts and baggy jeans so the cops can’t tell them apart. Everyone’s jaywalking inhumanly slow. Everyone’s having unprotected sex. Everyone’s putting up signs saying they reserve the right to refuse service, for any reason. Everyone’s playing dice on the sidewalk. Someone’s saying its a pity. Someone’s gonna call the cops if you don’t get out of here this very second. Someone else lives here too, you know.
She’s getting the shit kicked out of her. She’s singing the Dead Kennedys songs while she bikes home. She’s teaching yoga. She loves the Lord, Lordy Lord. She walks into a restaurant, sits down at a table that still have food on it and eats.
He’s applying for a job at every goddamn corporate eatery on this goddamn street. He’s waiting for the library to open. He’s telling every young woman who walks by that she’s beautiful, but in the most obnoxious ways possible. He’s going to night school so he isn’t pushing a broom when he’s forty. He’s selling bootleg DVDs and drugs.
They’re reading the Koran, books on how to fix appliances, Found magazine, Chick tracts, the whole Harry Potter series for the 2rd time and the newest issue of Cometbus.
You are being racially profiled. You’re dressing up like a goblin for your jug band’s concerts. You’re looking good! You’re hooking up with people from the internet. You aren’t racist or anything, but you won’t go to certain parts of town after dark. You’re just looking for a decent cup of coffee. You have the right to remain silent. FOR FEAR THE HEARTS OF MEN ARE FAILING.
is this the work of some white neo-beatnik from LoBot? or a conscious hiphopper from the other end of the hood? who can tell, but i like it.Filed in art, bay area gems, not poems | Tagged with oakland | Comment (1)
i haven’t done a ‘this is what i’ve been up to’ bulleted post since the end of may, which means this one covers June, July, and August. wow. so i guest that makes this a “Summer 2009″ who/what/where/when summary. much of this has already been referenced in singular posts or tweeted, but if i don’t summarize like this i lose track.
after the beautiful zimtrix wedding came JUNE:Filed in art, autobiographical, bay area gems, burning man, events, fashion, friends, phish | Tagged with badunklsista, false profit, mexico, oakland, priceless | Comment (0)
Filed in bay area gems, politics and news | Tagged with bartshooting, oakland, oscar grant riots | Comment (1)
Protesters angry over a deadly New Year’s Day shooting of a young black man by a transit police officer erupted into violence in downtown Oakland on Wednesday night while investigators struggled to determine what prompted the officer to fire his gun into the unarmed man’s back.
After an afternoon of peaceful demonstrations and a memorial service, protests turned chaotic after dark as a small clutch of protesters set trash cans and cars afire and busted windows on police cruisers and storefronts. Police in riot gear responded with tear gas and billy clubs and at least 14 arrests were made, according to local television reports. Several major downtown streets were closed, and helicopter footage showed small groups of protesters roaming through the city’s deserted center. There were no immediate reports of injuries, but sirens continued to echo into the late evening.
Mayor Ron Dellums pleaded for calm as anger continued to build in the city’s black community over the shooting of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old butcher’s apprentice who was shot in the back while lying on the platform at the Fruitvale station of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.
“We’ve got to have a real investigation that people can have confidence in,” said Mr. Dellums on Wednesday night. “And my sense of it is that part of this reaction is that people have lost confidence.”
Mr. Grant, who had been involved in a scuffle aboard a train after leaving a New Year’s Eve celebration in San Francisco, died at a local hospital several hours after being shot. The bullet, which had passed through his lower back, ricocheted into his lung. The officer, Johannes Mehserle, resigned on Wednesday, but investigators said efforts to interview him about the circumstances of the shooting had been rebuffed by his lawyers and police union leaders, according to Linton Johnson, spokesperson for the transit districtThe incident was captured by at least four cellphone cameras held by passengers on a train idling next to the platform. The videos, which have been widely broadcast and streamed online, show Mr. Grant lying face down when Mr. Mehserle, 27, pulls his gun and fires a single shot. Mr. Mehserle looks stunned for a moment, and then handcuffs Mr. Grant with the assistance of another officer.
John Burris, a lawyer for Mr. Grant’s mother and his live-in girlfriend, said he had asked Tom Orloff, the Alameda County District Attorney, to consider filing criminal charges against Mr. Mehserle.
“If you can’t file charges in a case like this,” said Mr. Burris, “I don’t know what kind of case you can file in.”
Mr. Orloff said he was still investigating the case, as was the BART police department. Federal law enforcement were also reported to be looking into whether Mr. Grant’s civil rights were violated in his killing.
Filed in bay area gems, photos, politics and news | Tagged with bartshooting, oakland, oscar grant riots | Comment (1)