“There are no coincidences, but sometimes the pattern is more obvious.”—Neil Innes
Attention, smart people! There is a MAJOR POLITICAL EVENT that’s happening—TODAY July 29th, 2015—across this nation that you might not have heard about for Bernie Sanders. Tonight Sanders will be speaking via the Internet to over 100,000 heavily-motivated people meeting for the first time at 3,520 Bernie-related house parties and get-togethers in bars and restaurants and union halls and church basements, etcetera, etcetera, all across the United States.
Yes, over 100,000 people have found other like-minded people in their area via this map and RSVP’d to get informed and to volunteer for Sanders’ increasingly astonishing campaign. I live in Los Angeles where there are well over 100 such gatherings. I’m married, but I would assume that a lot of smart, good-looking people would attend such events. Aren’t you even curious? Of course you are. Why not search for your zip code and see what happens?
Has there ever been a larger, more dynamic and more INSTANTANEOUS grassroots movement in American history? If there has been one, they must’ve kept it a secret. Even the Tea party movement didn’t grow nearly as fast as this. And after today’s event, what happens next?
I can’t wait to find out.
The sky’s the limit, but the goal is the White House. This can happen, people.
Recently, the “newsish” website Gawker ran a nasty little expose on the CFO of a major media company, who had allegedly attempted to purchase sex from a porn star. Many readers were livid, citing an invasion of privacy, or even perhaps a whiff of homophobia in the story (the CFO and the porn star were both men). Gawker argued that their mission has always been to dig up dirt on the rich and powerful, and though there was some debate on whether or not the subject of their story was rich and powerful enough to constitute such focus, they argued the story constituted public interest before eventually retracting it with apology.
The Condé Nast executive is seen as a legitimate subject for attack because of his wealth and class privilege. What the adherents to Gawkerism rarely consider is whether tabloid gossip is really the best tool for fighting a class war.
Unfortunately, Heer completely overlooks the fact that historically, gossip, libel and denigration have been an integral aspect of class war, and the tabloids have usually been the medium of dissemination. Just ask Maria Antoinette, for whom the libelle—a smutty little tabloid in the form of a political pamphlet—proved an incredibly effective piece of political propaganda. These were not sophisticated political tracts—they often simply depicted Antoinette in pornographic situations—orgies, incest, lesbianism—everything you could imagine. Sometimes the purpose of these cartoons was to actually accuse Antoinette of such acts, but often they were simply a form of degradation.
The cartoon above features Antoinette with the Marquis de Lafayette, a politician and general who fought alongside against England during the American Revolution. Considered a military hero, he was appointed to the National Assembly by the King, and though he remained a royalist, he sympathized with Revolutionary values and attempted to institute them politically. As a result, he was distrusted by both the revolutionaries and the monarchy. There is no evidence that he had an affair with Antoinette; the cartoon is actually intended to illustrate Lafayette’s allegiance to the crown. His “steed” is a pun, as the French word for “Austrian” is very similar to “ostrich,” and Antoinette was often referred to as “Austrichienne,” or “Austrian Bitch.”.
You may find the tabloids gauche, you may find their targets undeserving, you may even argue that we live in a more civilized time—a time when tabloids should be retired in favor of more dignified debate and politics; but if you’re wondering whether or not tabloids are effective in class war, I’d remind you that the road to the guillotine has always been paved with smut.
Marie was often depicted in lesbian trysts, generally assumed to be Yolande de Poligna or Princesse de Lamballe. The text reads, “I now breathe only for you, a kiss my beautiful angel.”
In a subtler comic, Marie stepping from Versailles to safety, bearing the King and Prince on her back, giving the French people a view up her dress in the process.
For the past few weeks I have been emailing friends links to YouTube editing genius Vic Berger’s “trash compactor” cuts of Republican Presidential campaign announcement speeches. I have laughed myself senseless at these things. They get funnier with repeated viewings. He really knows how to highlight the absurdity of these events (like the Jeb Bush one with the guy beating his “Jeb! sticks”—what would you call ‘em?—behind the candidate. I found this screamingly funny in a Tim & Eric kinda way).
Hard to say which is the best. They’re all different and each one is a gem. Stay with the Donald Trump clip, I thought it took a little longer to ramp up than the others did, but once it gets going, Berger takes it someplace you probably won’t expect.
I had seen the brilliant 1989 short film Ilha das Flores (translation, Isle of Flowers) before, but in the original Portuguese with subtitles. The narration is so poetic and coy, I was thrilled to find this wonderful version dubbed in English, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Writer and director Jorge Furtado actually said the piece was in part inspired by Kurt Vonnegut, and you can certainly hear it in the cadence of the narration (and subject matter), but there is also a Pythonesque humor to this absurdist little “documentary,” very reminiscent of the black humor in The Meaning of Life. I mean the opening credits land the first punch with, “God doesn’t exist.”
The “story” of the film begins with a Japanese-Brazilian farmer, who grows tomatoes that are later purchased in a supermarket by a nice middle-class door-to-door perfume saleslady. She then cooks these tomatoes into a sauce for her nice middle-class family—throughout all this the narrator is taking little contextual detours along the way on matters like evolution and the Holocaust. The story spins back and forth with cutting little observations on labor alienation and capitalism, until eventually we arrive at the titular Isle of Flowers, the tragic, ugly side of all our modern conveniences.
China’s air pollution is a serious issue, one that can be downright deadly, especially for small children. Predictably there is a lot of brutal Chinese environmental art out there, but this is one of the most legitimately creepy stunts I’ve ever seen—projections of wailing children and babies on columns of smog. My first impression of the spectacle was, “Oh, it must be a Chinese artist making an environmental message!” Nope, the installations and associated video are actually an advertisement for air purifiers. Yes, despite all those nifty overtures to communism, China is very much a country that runs on capitalism. The company’s statement on the ad:
Xiao Zhu wanted to stand out in a market that was almost as congested as the air. A market where half a million people, mostly children, have died due to air pollution related illnesses. So we decided to put a spotlight on air pollution’s biggest culprits—the factories—by using the actual pollution from the factories as a medium. People took notice, and the word spread.
Clear the air. Let the future breathe again.
Oh wow, I feel so hopeful about the future now that there’s a product to remedy this problem!
Remember kids, if capitalism caused the problem, you can certainly count on capitalism to solve the problem! (Right?)
As if the punk-is-dead crowd needed any further ammo, Virgin Money (yes, it’s a thing, and yes, it’s an offshoot of the record label/airline/cell phone provider/whatever) is issuing Sex Pistols credit cards. Because nothing says “ANARCHY” like a line of credit from MasterCard.
Quoted in The Mirror, Virgin Money exec Michael Greene had this to offer, evidently in total seriousness:
For a long time now, UK banks have all been the same.
In launching these cards, we wanted to celebrate Virgin’s heritage and difference.
The Sex Pistols challenged convention and the established ways of thinking, just as we are doing today in our quest to shake up UK banking.
Virgin mogul Sir Richard Branson added:
The Sex Pistols are an iconic band and an important part of Virgin’s history. Virgin Money is a bank that can be proud of its past and I love the fact that the team have chosen to celebrate it in this way.
Even after nearly 40 years, the Sex Pistols power to provoke is undimmed.
Of course, given the band’s history it’s easy to argue that there’s nothing inappropriate about this at all, and that furthermore a credit card that has the word “bollocks” on it is, in a way, actually kinda punk as fuck. I’m unable to find any information on how much the surviving band members themselves make from this.
Here’s Branson, in what amounts to a hagiographic infomercial for the cards:
“She came from Greece / She had a thirst for knowledge.” So starts “Common People,” the epic 1995 song by Pulp that combined a glam/arena aesthetic, punk rock vitriol, and a nuanced understanding of the lived experience of class-based resentment that even Thorstein Veblen would envy.
The entire song is structured as an obliterating rebuke to a female Greek student who claims to “want to live like common people,” with the sly, cutting afterthought “like you.” Along the way, the narrator (or the song’s writer, Jarvis Cocker, if you prefer) succeeds in utterly dismantling the unnamed Greek woman’s blithe acceptance of class inequities, reminding her that when the project of pretending to live your life “with no meaning or control” gets too unpleasant, what with roaches climbing the wall and all, “if you call your Dad he could stop it all” but also emphasizing the authenticity that “common people” have that she never will; she is “amazed that they exist” and “burn so bright.” The song is the third track on Pulp’s breakthrough album Different Class.
It seems that the identity of the woman who inspired the Britpop classic may have been revealed on a Greek website—none other than video and installation artist Danae Stratou, who is also married to Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. Cocker has been unhelpful bordering on coy, stating the following: “On that BBC Three documentary [The Story of “Common People”], the researchers went through all the people who were contemporaries of mine at St Martins and they tried to track her down. They showed me a picture and it definitely wasn’t her. I dunno. Maybe she wasn’t Greek. Maybe I misheard her.”
The Athens Voice reports that Danae Stratou met Pulp’s lead singer Jarvis Cocker while they were both students at St. Martins College of Art Design in London. She attended the school between 1983 and 1988. Cocker had previously told Brit-music bible the New Music Express that the song was about a Greek girl he met at the school. He added later that the girl told him that she “wanted to move to Hackney and live like ‘the common people.’”
St. Martins is, of course, mentioned in the song.
Furthermore, according to Farrell, “Danae Stratou’s father was a millionaire Greek industrialist,” which means that she didn’t marry into money but was wealthy when she was a student as well.
So is Stratou the slumming Greek socialite? We can’t be sure—yet—but right now the signs look auspicious.
If you haven’t heard the song lately, here’s your chance to have it in your head for the rest of today (and probably tomorrow, too):
Retrospectives on communist art and design are often dominated by some pretty inaccessible (and sometimes downright godawful) aesthetics. For example, many people find the grey boxes of GDR architecture a bit alienating, and while I personally adore it for kitsch value, most folks don’t dig on Socialist Realism paintings, as all that beatific portraiture of Stalin can get overwhelmingly corny. Dictators and stark buildings are not however, the whole and sum of communist aesthetics. There has been a lot of exoteric art produced in the name of the workers state, and with his unmistakable saturated colors and revolutionary tableaux, René Mederos was one such propagandist of the people.
Born in 1933, self-taught Cuban artist Felix René Mederos Pazos began his career at a Havana print shop when he was only 11 years old. By his mid-twenties he was Chief Designer for the big Cuban television station, and in 1964 he started making propaganda posters as head of a design team. In 1969 Mederos was sent to Vietnam to paint the war alongside the Vietnamese communists that were fighting it. Despite the brutality and violence he witnessed, Mederos often produced alluring, joyful images, a direction that some Cubans felt wasn’t dark and/or anti-American enough.
Mederos actually returned to Vietnam in 1972, and though he also did series on Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution, Vietnam remains his most famous subject, and a major touchstone in Cuban graphic design.
“Como en Viet Nam, Mes de la Mujer Vietnamita” (Month of the Vietnamese Woman), ca. 1970
Most Americans pay absolutely no attention to British politics, and frankly why should we? Our politicians are actual goddamn sideshow freaks, whereas the UK just has a bunch of drips, simps and wimps with only one actual lunatic in the person of Ukip’s unhinged dingbat, the Palinesque (and I don’t mean Michael) nincompoop Nigel Farage. BORING.
I do follow British politics (I lived there for a while during the Thatcher era) and like many actual Britons, I too believe this is one of the most important elections for the country in our lifetime. The UK is most assuredly at a pivotal juncture politically, with issues of wage stagnation, structural unemployment, immigration, the conservatives’ much hated NHS reform, affordable housing, tax cuts for billionaires and many, many other serious matters seeing that this election has an extremely high level of public awareness.
Again, most of my fellow countrymen couldn’t care less about any of that stuff, but now they have a reason to pay attention because there is a celebrity angle: Comedian and social activist Russell Brand has done a bit of a U-turn and decided that INDEED there is a reason to vote and he’s throwing his support behind the Labour Party and Ed Miliband. If you’re reading this and thinking, “Big deal, some celebrity big ups a politician, who cares?” Owen Jones writes at the he Guardian that “Brand matters” and why the comedian’s surprise endorsement of Miliband should have the Tories quite worried:
And however much bluff and bluster the Tories now pull – maybe more playground abuse from David Cameron, who called Brand a “joke” – his endorsement of Labour in England and Wales will worry them. More people have registered to vote than ever before: between the middle of March and the deadline to register, nearly 2.3 million registered, over 700,000 of them 24 years old or younger. In countless marginal seats, disillusioned voters who were either going to plump for a protest party or not vote at all could well decide whether we are ruled by David Cameron, George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith for another half a decade.
Even in a country as large as America, 2.3 million newly registered voters *SNAP* like that in would be seen as a somewhat staggering number, so in a nation the size of Great Britain, this should be seen as an incredibly significant development. Russell Brand’s opinions matter to young people, even if, it would seem, that (happily) many of them ignored his “Don’t bother voting” hectoring last year that he obviously doesn’t even believe himself anymore.
And don’t think any of this is lost on the current resident of #10 Downing Street as Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly spoken with scorn at Brand’s surprise endorsement of his political rival. In recent weeks this race has gone from merely tight to a real who-knows-what’s-going-to happen nailbiter and he knows it. Politically speaking, tectonic plates are shifting in Great Britain, this just makes the situation even more volatile.
Brand shot back at the Tory leader:
“David Cameron might think I’m a joke but I don’t think there’s anything funny about what the Conservative party have been doing to this country and we have to stop them.”
We’ll soon see how these newly registered voters tip the scales politically in the UK, but just hours away from the vote, the flux and uncertainty of the situation is impressive to say the least. Brand’s last minute endorsement of Miliband, and the effect this might have on the election’s outcome, is interesting to contemplate. Even if you’re only tuning in now and following the broadest strokes of the horse race, it’s worth paying attention because all bets are truly off.
Let’s hope Brand gets a chance to meet with Bernie Sanders soon, eh? Keep it inneresting, mate!
Socialist post-punk dance-floor agitators, Delta 5 were closely aligned with the Gang of Four, another Leeds-based group who mixed music and left wing politics. Formed in 1979 by vocalist/guitarist Julz Sale, fretless bassist Ros Allen, and second bassist Bethan Peters, who then added guitarist Alan Briggs and drummer Kelvin Knight. Their thumpy, double bass guitar-led funk attack, slashing guitars and flat, bored female vocals made them sound like a tighter version of the Slits mixed with the Gang of Four’s razor-sharp guitar lines. Both Delta 5 and the Gang of Four were associated with the Rock Against Racism movement. Delta 5, with three women in the group, also played several benefits to fight the Corrie Bill, an anti-abortion statute.
In late 1970s, the racist British Movement, a National Front offshoot that was unashamedly Nazi organized in Leeds and enlisted some local yobs to form skinhead groups to harass the “Communist” bands and to counter RAR. The concerts they organized were called Rock Against Communism (The notorious oi band Screwdriver sprang from this mucky milieu). One night Delta 5 member Ros Allen was recognized in a pub by eight British Movement members who called her a “Communist witch.” The members of the group were followed outside and beaten. Vocalist/bassist Bethan Peters told Greil Marcus in 1980 that the sight of skinheads doing “Sieg heil” salutes was common at their gigs and how she once grabbed one of them and repeatedly smashed his head into the stage.
Delta 5 did not last that long, just one album and some singles before they split in 1982. Their reputation was obscure for several decades, but in 2006, the Kill Rock Stars label released some early Delta 5 material called Singles & Sessions 1979-81, which saw renewed interest in the group.
Their best song (in my opinion): “Mind Your Own Business” performed at the Hurrah nightclub in New York City, 1980. The full set is available on DVD.