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Friday, October 14, 2011


     bullhead from air bellows

As I hear people talk on the radio, journalists largely, and as I talk with friends about what we see taking place in the world we live in, I hear much talk about how it's not government, it's not this, it's not that, it's everything going at once. We've become internationally interdependent through the corporations using cheap labor in Asia, Africa, the poor places where people will work for next to nothing. This, of course, brings our standard of living down, because American jobs have been "out sourced," to sweatshop labor in the poorest parts of the world. What's puzzling me is how it appears everything is crumbling at once, everywhere. I can't help but think of the end of a casino game when it's time to pay up. Credit, hypocrisy and lies have been the order for so very long that the world hypocrisy and lies created is, essentially, a house of cards. It's like the wind blew and the house of cards is falling. I talk with friends and the view from conservative and liberal is that hypocrisy and lies characterize our so-called representative government. Our representatives represent the ruling class, and that's it. They do not represent nor do they recognize the working class.

The Wall Street demonstrations are interesting, but I've seen in the past the corporate power of the press belittle and demonize the demonstrators, ridicule them powerless, infiltrate and arrest. I've heard speculation that these demonstrations, if they continue to grow, could become a political force. Like the demonstrators in the 60s/70s, they're naive, spontaneous, unorganized and easy to manipulate. Like the Indians, whose manner of warfare was individual, unorganized and spontaneous. The organized Army succeeded because the Indians were entirely unorganized. The corporate press and corporate control isn't going to back down from a bunch of completely unorganized non-rich people. They also control the military. They have the concentration camps waiting. Army might not open fire on Tea party activists, but they sure as hell will on Wall St demonstrators. This weekend on one of the comedy weekend shows like Whadayaknow?, somebody young was talking about the demonstrators, what the people were like, what they were about. Somebody my generation said to him for a moment of levity, "They shot us." Laughter of recognition from the audience.

One of the best demonstrations I've known of was the one documented in Michael Moore's FAHRENHEIT 911, the inauguration parade in DC after the Bush Administration coup by judicial fiat. That's the only place I've seen or heard of the demonstrations that day. The people all along the parade route were hostile. Corporate press didn't do much of a job of covering it. Like corporate press ignored the Wall St demonstrations as long as they could. I thank God for Michael Moore. He has put himself out there for character assassination and the very likely possibility of a hit by a "lone gunman," as happens in America. Johnson told the press what to report before the 1968 Vietnam demonstration, and they printed it as he directed. What the corporate press reported had nothing to do with what happened that day. And thank God for Norman Mailer writing THE ARMIES OF THE NIGHT where he told what happened at the press conference. He was there. He was independent of the corporate behemoth, even had his own power.

Whatever is happening, a big change is occurring. It's kind of like everybody's hand in a poker game is called at once. Time to pay up. We're in this crazy time of prozac and zoloft and viagra, crystal meth, etc, and our humor is all canned now through television. I've been seeing videos by a French guy, Remi Gaillard, who does something off the wall in public with a video camera watching, a surprise moment that is actually funny. Like doing gymnastics on the overhead rings for passengers to hang onto in the subway. He might snatch something out of somebody's hand and run off with it. It's zany, silly, goofball, everything he does. In one of his videos, Shark Attack, he put on a furry shark outfit like a clown and ran up to a guy fishing and sprayed him with shaving cream. He ran to somebody else standing nearby, squirted shaving cream on him. He ran and the man ran after him.

I've been fascinated by a trend that's been going on quite awhile in the big cities of the world, some people of an artistic mind create public events absolutely devoid of meaning, absurd moments in public for the entertainment of whoever happens to be there at the time. Sometimes they get arrested. A bunch in New York called Improv Everywhere. You can see them on YouTube too. In one, they put somebody dressed like a jockey into a merry go round situation, where he rode one of the horses pretending to be riding in a race. A couple guys had set up a temporary sports announcer spot where two guys called the race on the merry go round. The kids on it and the parents were laughing over what had become of their ride on the merry go round. At the end, they declared the little boy riding the rabbit the winner of the race, gave him roses and a trophy. The kid didn't know what was going on, but recognized it was nutty and fun, and he went with it, played his part.

There is Philippe Petit who stretched a cable between the world trade center towers and walked back and forth on it. He also did impromptu events by surprise in cities. He'd dress in black with a tophat like a mime, and ride a unicycle, especially good for a quick getaway from cops. I saw him once in NY walking around the lip of a fountain in robotic style, a smooth flow, unreal balance. He's as comfortable on a thin line as I am on the ground. I didn't know that was Petit I saw at the fountain until I read in his book MAN ON WIRE that he did things like that in NY. He was arrested regularly. Photographs of him in that time tell me it was him. He puts on a moment of street theater to lift the spirits of a random selection of people by surprise.

I can't help but put the two together, that "the end of the world as we know it" is here, a time when the absurd has meaning. It's like Yeats said at the beginning of his poem, The Second Coming,

     Turning and turning in the widening gyre
     The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
     Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
     Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world;
     The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
     The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
     The best lack all conviction, while the worst
     Are full of passionate intensity.

I like the comedy of people like Remi Gaillard and Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere. We have so little public art in our cities and towns and so little access to art, and we carry so much time-sensitive matter in our heads it makes us numb to whatever art we might see. Out in the world of other people and suddenly, out of nowhere, a bunch of people start singing and get the attention of all around, a performance, and then it's over. No admission fee. A moment all that witness it will never forget, like I never forgot the Philippe Petit moment. I'm glad civilization has reached a place where we have people who do these things. It had to get so bad we needed comic relief, so I can't say I'm completely glad. But it's the nature of how things are. Like it's cold in winter and warm in summer. I'm grateful to these people with that turn of mind to think up these clever things to do and set them in motion. We don't have street theater in the modern world. Against the law, I suppose. But we have these guerilla street theater artists and we have YouTube at the same time. It's not all bad.

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