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I attended the march to protest the invasion of Iraq today in New York City. The crowd of 100,000 to 200,000 stretched from Times Square to Washington Square--this thing was big. As with the Feb. 15 rally, the mood was passionate and upbeat, with spontaneous cheering and chanting: "Money for health care! Not for war! Money for schools! Not for war! Money for libraries! Not for war!" As you can see from this picture, it was a family event, on a beautiful Spring day, and you could almost close your eyes and believe that the suits weren't raining death and madness on a faraway country, at hideous cost to all of us.
The crowd was mellow but a lot of the signs were angry. How could you not feel that way if you'd spent a couple of days watching Wolf Blitzer and Peter Arnett screaming "Whoa! Whoa! Look at the size of that one!" as downtown Baghdad was ripped to shreds? Here's the grrlpower antidote to the wargasm boys: one of the signs said "Eat my Bush."
And then there was this guy. This is a bold piece of agitprop, but of course it represents an extreme view that this page cannot in any way endorse. Can you imagine, comparing Bush to you-know-who and the WTC massacre to the Reichstag fire? Irresponsible, irresponsible.
Unlike Feb. 15, cop presence was at a minimum. I guess they figured out that the crowds of kids, moms & dads, and seniors that turn out for these events don't merit the plastic handcuffs and riot gear. Also, virtually no "pro-war" demonstrators to be seen: just a couple of disgruntled souls standing on the sidewalk shaking their heads or holding thumbs down. No hardhats screaming "Death to hippies!" I certainly have the impression that this city, which you'd think might be baying for militaristic revenge for 9/11, in fact feels emphatically the opposite. Maybe that's why Bush has decided to sacrifice us.
Salon has just posted a super-smarmy interview with "liberal hawk" Paul Berman, who espouses the Christopher Hitchens line that "Islamofascism" is the deadliest threat facing the world today. Forget that we're talking about mostly Stone Age countries riven with tribal and nationalist infighting, and forget that what he calls Baathist (pan-Arab) and Islamist tendencies are utterly opposed (he describes them equivocally as "rivals/cousins"). Yes, henceforth these people will unite and goosestep together in one great, monolithic nation that will make the Ottoman empire look like a high school chess club. That is, unless we stop them. And by "we" Berman means George Bush, even though he whines that the interviewer is "trying to pin him down" in expressing support for the Iraq takeover. He spits venom at antiwar protesters, comparing them to the French socialists who ignored the Nazi threat, and asks a loaded question: How horrible must they feel seeing photos of tearful Iraqis embracing their "liberators"? (Duh, don't you think those are precisely the images Bush & Co want us to see?) Berman thinks protesters should stop demonstrating and start agitating for more democracy in Iraq. It rattles the brain that he's so focused on stopping fascism abroad he can't see it growing at blitzkrieg pace in his own country.
Ironically, those alarm bells are being rung much more loudly by the hard, libertarian right than the "help others even if it kills them" left. An essay in the Moonie-owned Washington Times, by archconservative Paul Craig Roberts, actually compares Bush to Hitler! Here, at least, is someone who is worried about the Administration's use of forged evidence as a pretext for war.
The news media are really into this war thing, huh?
I'm following all this on the Internet because I can't bear the TV coverage. I don't have much to say that other weblogs aren't saying more eloquently, except, if you're reading this outside the USA:
Sorry, not all of us agree with the current government. We're having a little "Nazis taking root" problem and hopefully we'll have it fixed by the next election.
Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors" trilogy (Blue, White, and Red) was recently released on DVD, and I just watched White again, after having seen it in the theater in '94. It's the least discussed but for some reason my favorite of the trilogy--it's certainly lingered longest in my memory. The plot in a nutshell (spoilers): Karol Karol is a Polish hairdresser ditched by his beautiful French wife Dominique (Julie Delpy) because he can't "consummate the marriage." Dead broke and on the lam because she has falsely accused him of setting fire to her shop, he ships himself back to Poland in a suitcase. Communism has just fallen and he uses some lucky inside information to get rich in a real estate deal. Still desperately in love with Dominique, he hatches a weird plot, making her co-executor of his estate, faking his own death, and framing her for murder. After the funeral he shows up in her hotel room and they make passionate love, but she goes to the slammer nevertheless; at the end of the movie he visits her in prison (presumably by buying a guard's silence) and she communicates a message, using Charades-like hand gestures, from a barred window high above him: "When I get out, I will not run away; I will (re)marry you." In the last shot of the movie, Karol lowers his binoculars and we see tears of happiness streaming from his eyes.
The commentary track clarifies the confusing, albeit moving, ending. When I first saw it I just assumed Karol was wealthy and influential enough to officially resurrect himself and have the charges against Dominique dismissed, once she'd sworn to be faithful to him. She cried at his "funeral" so he knows she still loves him, even though the renewal of her vows is coerced. The audio commentator (a Kieslowksi expert) says that deleted scenes make it clear that Karol tried and failed to get the charges dropped and was still "dead" when that last scene takes place. A Spanish critic opined that Dominique's hand gestures were only Karol's fantasy, and the movie ends with him just as frustratingly removed from his wife as he was at the beginning. Yet the DVD commentator notes that in an earlier (non-deleted) scene we hear that "the lawyer is making progress" (toward Dominique's acquittal) and in the movie Red, you see Karol and Dominique together among the ferry survivors, so there's a belated happy ending.
Feminist film critics have condemned Kieslowski (and this movie in particular) for misogyny, and it's true Dominique is one-dimensional--she serves mainly as Karol's tormentor and object of longing. The plot revolves around him, and he's enormously sympathetic. Dominique is a memorable harpy in the film's first reel--when Karol fails to satisy her, she files for divorce, cuts off his bank cards, and accuses him of arson. In view of this terror campaign, Karol's use of the Polish prison system to break her will seems like a perfectly reasonable countermeasure. But, then, once he gets his mojo back she becomes genuinely affectionate. In truth, they're both strong and determined people, even though he's the better drawn character; the movie's more about him conquering his co-dependency than shackling her. And his bounce back in the middle of the film from utter humiliation truly exhilarates.
Here's a quick cultural core dump for the past couple of weeks. Sorry, it just builds up. Also, trying to keep my mind off the horror that's about to unfold abroad. I just don't understand how pundits like Joshua Marshall can sit and talk about this calmly, as if nice, normal people were running the government. Everyone should be standing outside the White House right now, holding signs and screaming at the top of their lungs. As someone who lives within a couple of miles of Ground Zero, I have to say, frankly, our leaders scare me shitless.
Armory Show, NYC. Times are hard: beautiful abstract painting sells, and so does lasciviousness, I guess, judging from the photos of attractive young people I saw sprinkled throughout the many booths (I have to admit I do like Katy Grannan's work a lot--for all the wrong reasons). Enjoyed Austrian artist Constantin Luser's installation of adolescent, pseudoscientific wall diagrams and matching sleeping bag (playing the Beatles' Something over and over on his portable stereo gave the work a touch of the nightmare). Lots of Martin Kippenberger paintings, which is always good.
Road trip to Pittman, NJ to see a double bill of The Evil Dead and Equinox. The latter may be the best film ever made--and no, it's not the 1992 Alan Rudolph movie but the Dennis Muren/Jack Woods trash horror classic from 1970. Woods himself plays the sinister park ranger, Asmodeus, who promises "All the money in the world, kid!" to Frank Bonner, who would later play Herb Tarlek on WKRP in Cincinnati. The tree r4pe scene in Evil Dead is possibly more shocking now than it was in '82. Hard to believe Raimi's now directing superhero blockbusters.
Saw David Cronenberg's Spider yesterday. The closest thing I can compare it to in terms of look and theme is his fellow Canadian Atom Egoyan's Felicia's Journey. Lots of English gloom and bad teeth. Good, though.
Picked up a new Dopplereffekt 12" and Barbara Morgenstern's Nichts Muss CD yesterday. Enjoying both. Also noteworthy is The Mover's Frontal Frustration on Tresor, which Simon Reynolds describes as a "glorious slab of doomcore." The best things I've bought lately, though, have to be the reissues of The Black Dog's Parallel and Temple of the Transparent Balls. This was music I knew had to exist 10 years ago but didn't have a clue how to find. I used to stand at the Techno bin and just gape (or tape stuff off the radio without a clue what it was). Now there are books and websites that can steer you to the absolute best music from that period.
Here's another picture from Useful Photography #2, which I posted about earlier. These are images of things being sold by everyday entrepeneurs on ebay, saved and re-presented by the curators as found photography. My friend John picked up a copy of this book at Printed Matter and was carrying it around with him as he made the rounds of Chelsea galleries in NYC. A young woman working the desk at one of the biggest spaces noticed it and asked if she could look at it. John said she held onto it for about 15 minutes, slowly studying each picture. When she handed it back she said, in so many words, "This is what photography should be, not the big lavishly-produced objects we sell in this neighborhood." My sentiments exactly.
Sealab, 1997, acrylic paint, ink, paper, linen tape, 21" X 29"
Media Hos, Do Your Thang
Today's AP story on the Bush ultimatum to Saddam subtly favors the Pres, as usual. Check out the wording of this paragraph, near the end of the story:
The American public, by a 2-1 margin, generally supports military action against Iraq to remove Saddam, a slight increase from recent weeks, according to a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll out Monday. Opinion was evenly divided when people were asked about an attack without an attempt to gain U.N. backing.But why phrase it that way if Bush has ditched the UN? I'd say my rewrite below is more fair--and, yes, free of "liberal" bias--now that the UN is out of the picture.
The American public is evenly divided (50/50) on whether military action against Iraq is proper without UN backing, according to a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll out Monday. Military action with UN approval, which Bush makes clear is no longer an option, was favored by a 2-1 margin.