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Everything You Know About Occupy Wall Street is Wrong


 
Well, perhaps not quite everything, but enough that were you to personally experience the demonstration and look around with your own eyes, you’d likely come to regard the mainstream media reports about Occupy Wall Street (especially the lamebrain stuff printed in The New York Post or heard on Fox News) more like loose gossip, bullshit or random fiction, than actual journalism or considered opinion.

I had the extreme privilege of visiting Zuccotti Park on three of the five days I recently spent in NYC and I’m here to tell you that I am much more excited about Occupy Wall Street—and prospects for real progressive change in this country—now than I ever could have been admiring it from afar. It was a life-affirming and quite moving thing to personally experience and hopefully I can get some of those good feelings across here.

On Wednesday, I was picked up at JFK by my old friend (and frequent Dangerous Minds Radio Hour DJ) Nate Cimmino. I checked into my hotel and since I hadn’t been to NYC for a few years, we decided to just walk from Houston Street to the OWS site. It was raining, not exactly a heavy downpour, but the rain had been steady for most of the day. When we arrived at Zuccotti Park around 4pm, it was starting to get dark and it was pretty much locked down with everyone trying to keep dry. Plastic covered everything and people huddled under makeshift tarps just trying to keep their shit together. It resembled a water-logged shanty town and hardly anything was going on. The lines for the brightly-lit food carts on the southern side of the park were the most noticeable thing at that time (these guys must be making bank, especially the falafel vendors). CNN had a mobile video van with a crane and a “crow’s nest” for getting aerial shots of the park. Dozens of NYPD officers in rain gear ringed the park, many of them female officers.
 

The medical area of Occupy Wall Street.

This wasn’t the right moment to get much of a feel for what’s been going on there, obviously, so I resolved to return on the weekend. Some initial observations though: Zuccotti Park isn’t much of a park at all. It’s more like a concrete plaza and it’s not very big. Keep in mind when you hear people scoffing at the size of the demonstration, that about a thousand people (give or take) is all this area would hold. If many more people tried to join in the demonstration, it would not be possible to move about. It’s already densely packed as it is.

It’s also right across the street from Ground Zero. In my mind, it was in a different (southeastern) part of lower Manhattan, so when we walked down Broadway, the sound of the drumming got louder and then all of a sudden there it was, that came as a surprise.
 

Greg Barris and me mugging for the camera on one of the OWS live video feeds.

On Saturday I returned to OWS with my friend Greg Barris, a stand-up comedian and restaurateur. Greg’s been taking pizza from his restaurant to Zuccotti Park since the demonstrations began. The festive carnival atmosphere that morning was a striking contrast to Wednesday’s wash-out. Colorful flags, costumed characters and people of all ages, races, creeds and personality types circulated around the square. You could see people who were arriving alone with a look of apprehension in their eyes, but soon afterward, that same person would be seen joining right in.

Several people distributed free copies of The Occupy Wall Street Journal and a lefty books lending library operated efficiently (there were even a few books that I had published). Everyone was smiling at one another and a feeling of fun and solidarity was palpable. I saw no overtly negative signs and I saw no placards whatsoever for either of the major political parties (I’d put the number of Republicans at Zuccotti Park at slightly north of “zero,” but still I saw not a single pro-Democrat or pro-Obama item anywhere, either). There’s a medical area where minor things can be tended to by volunteer nurses and medics and a food area manned by park residents. Greg pointed out one earnest-looking California blond skater-type and told me he’s seen that same guy dishing out plates of free food since the earliest days of the demonstration. The park was notably clean, not at all the unsanitary mess Fox News viewers have been repeatedly told about.
 

 
A woman who identified herself as “The Knitting Granny” sat knitting sweaters and scarfs to give to the occupiers. Children in face-paint or costumes carried signs marching with their parents. An elderly gentleman using a walker who must’ve been in his nineties told some of us that he’d been an engineer working with dams and waterways his entire career and what he knew about the “fracking” that’s planned for locations upstate less than ten miles away from New York’s main water supply scared him to death. He came to share his expertise, he told me, and to see OWS with his own eyes.

Several “super heroes” circulated around. A man in his early 30s, who came to OWS alone from Delaware, brought along a solar electrical generator and set it up so people could charge their cell phones. One fellow, who we later saw on the subway, was dressed in a barrel. He must’ve been cold. Another guy carried a “Ross Perot for President” sign and wore a Ross Perot t-shirt and badges.over his coat. He might’ve been the weirdest guy I saw there.
 

 
When you hear dismissive asses braying about how it’s “all white people”—that’s a bunch of utter nonsense. You’ll encounter as diversified a group at OWS as you would if you were in a New York City DMV office and that’s really saying something, so these sorts of haters and naysayers, can go jump in the lake. All white? Maybe in the first few days, but now, that’s simply not even in the slightest bit true.

There are TONS of attractive people at OWS and the mood is so festive and jovial that making conversation with members of the opposite sex is very easy to do. I may get shit for saying this, but it’s true: If more guys knew how many super hot women were milling around OWS, there’d immediately be a massive increase in attendance and foot traffic in the area around Zuccotti Park.

Gay? Fret not, there is a “Queer Camp,” too (look for the feather boas on the northeast side of the park). We even saw someone who identified herself as a “T-girl pornstar” make herself hoarse shouting anti-capitalism things and the very wonderful Reverend Billy is a frequent visitor. The age range is all over the place, as well. In fact, it’s hard to generalize anything at all about the people you meet there except to say that they’ve got their eyes wide open about the problems of advanced capitalism and American democracy. That’s the bottom line. THAT was the commonality amongst all of us.
 

Greg Barris and his sign.

Most people, it would seem, sleep at their homes but come downtown whenever they can. I got the feeling that there was a small percentage of the occupiers who were the ones who were sleeping there. When you walk around in the interior of the plaza, it becomes somewhat apparent that the folks who the media are derisively describing as “hippies,” “punks” and “homeless people” are in fact, quite often hippies, punks and homeless people. They form the more hardcore inner group that performs the very important task of holding down the park. Without their presence, Mayor Bloomberg would have put fences around Zuccotti Park in two seconds flat, so remember that when you’re there and drop a few bucks in their cans. They’re not merely scruffy panhandlers, they’re there in YOUR place if you support the aims of OWS. 

Aside from the resident demonstrators and the day-trippers getting their protest on, there are also thousands of tourists milling about taking pictures. The photos they take are then uploaded to Facebook, Flickr and their blogs. The stories they bring back home and to the water-cooler at work and to their online lives will continue to spread the word about what’s going on in Zuccotti Park.
 

 
Sunday afternoon at Occupy Wall Street, I met up with Em, the “undercover banker” who sometimes writes incendiary essays for DM, Nate Cimmino, his wife Nicole and my pal, noted photographer Glen E. Friedman. It was another gorgeous, glorious day like the one before it, with intelligent and engaged people joining together for a higher purpose. (I’ve already mentioned about all of the beautiful woman down there, but I’m going to mention it once more so it really sinks in, okay?).

My favorite moment—or moments, I should say—of my three visits to Occupy Wall Street was watching the open-air Big Apple double-decker tour buses drive past, full of tourists with their fists in the air! That was an amazing thing to see. Witnessing that sight, repeatedly, I might add, was as sure a confirmation as anyone should require that a little over a month after its improbably beginnings, OWS is becoming a mainstream phenomenon. When is the last time the mainstream media took up a progressive cause? The Civil Rights movement? The Vietnam War? This is a real thing, not a flash in the pan. The fist-pumping seniors on the tour buses are but one of the signposts of the shift that’s happening in this country. Is there anyone out there stupid enough to still ask “What is their endgame?” Even someone who only watches Fox News has probably figured THAT out by now!

The only disharmonious incident I witnessed in my three visits was when a dopey-looking born again Christian crew (I’m talking total Ned Flanders-types) started telling the people assembled there, but especially the ones sleeping in Zuccotti Park, that they were possessed by demons and bound for Hell. As you might imagine that message went over like a lead zeppelin. A late 40-something gutterpunk guy and a hilariously confrontational black kid got right up in their faces with such intensity (and volume) that they quickly left. When they fucked off, deflated, everyone cheered.
 

 
Having said that, the overall scene at Occupy Wall Street does feel, in some respects, almost biblical, with one thousand iPhone carrying Joshuas shouting down the walls of a very high tech Jericho. Let there be no doubts, dear reader, I, and everyone around me there knew that we were witnessing and participating in history. It’s not going to be an overnight change, but anyone who thinks that things can or will continue on indefinitely the way they have been are going to be in for a very rude awakening.

Obama and the Democrats are going to have to move quite far to the left to satisfy their base as we move into 2012 and from what I saw, I reckon that OWS is pretty much 100% bad news for the Republicans, who are going to get the free market and tax cuts for the 1% shoved right up their goddamned asses on election day (I’m looking at you, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan). I mean, shit, once the election season kicks fully into high gear next year, I expect to see some completely hilarious stuff happen, don’t you? It’s going to be the best election ever! Or the funniest, at least.

As the drumbeat for change in the way we “do business” in America gets louder and louder and louder, the elites will have no choice but to respond. 99% vs. 1%? Who’d be dumb enough to bet against odds like that? The changes that are destined to take place in the next decade of American life are going to make people of a conservative political disposition very uncomfortable indeed. The rest of us are going to be thrilled, though, so fuck ‘em.
 

 
From my point of view as an “old school” New Yorker parachuting into Manhattan after a few years away, Occupy Wall Street is functioning like a sun that is radiating its heat throughout all of New York City, and then via the media, to the rest of the planet. It’s extremely inspiring. As someone who lived in the city for the better part of three decades, NOW is the best I have seen NYC since the early 1980s. The energy in the streets is near an all-time high. New York is just killin’ it. Something is really happening at the moment and it’s an exciting time to be there. If you live in Philly, CT, New Jersey… go down there and check out Occupy Wall Street for yourself. If you live in the NY metro area and you haven’t been downtown, shame on you for watching it on tee-vee…

Trust me when I tell you that it pained me, absolutely pained me to be the old fart saying “New York used to be better back when I was young”... but I’ll never be tempted to say that again anyway, not after what I saw last week.

Believe.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The Original Occupy Wall Street: Stop the City, 1984

All photographs taken by Greg Barris from his Flickr page.

Posted by Richard Metzger
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10.26.2011
05:28 pm
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‘Batbaby’: campy Halloween fun from Fred Schneider’s The Superions
10.19.2011
08:02 pm
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Here’s a fun music video homage to B-Movies from The Superions, Fred Schneider of the B52’s other band (who unsurprisingly don’t sound a whole lot different). While the tune is reminiscent of “Rock Lobster” as replayed by Keyboard Cat, the hook will be running around in your head for some time. The video follows the adventures of the titular Batbaby, and features an intro from the very intriguing Babette Bombshell, who comes off like a cross between Elvira and Divine. Well, it is Halloween after all: 

The Superions “Batbaby”
 

 
The Superions’ Batbaby EP is available to buy on MP3 here.

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Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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10.19.2011
08:02 pm
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Harry Potter disarms the 1% at Occupy London


 
Go Harry!

Thanks to Gary Parkinson and Tim Bakker.

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Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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10.15.2011
05:01 pm
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Aleister Crowley’s ‘Abbey of Thelema’ for sale
10.12.2011
11:09 am
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Happy Crowleymas everyone. On today’s date, October 12th in 1875, the British occultist, poet, mountain climber, artist and eccentric was born. “The Great Beast 666,” as he liked to think of himself, was voted the “seventy-third greatest Briton of all time” in a 2002 BBC poll along with Johnny Rotten, J.R.R. Tolkien and Julie Andrews.

And here’s a timely item: The 1920s site of Crowley’s “Abbey of Thelema” in Cefalù, Italy is for sale. This dump can be yours for a mere 850,000 euros!
 

 
You can see a photo gallery from the real estate listing here.

One of the wall paintings by Crowley at the Abbey, via Hunter 333’s Flickrstream
 

 
Below, a goofy episode of Scariest Places on Earth that focuses on The Abbey of Thelema. There are some pretty hilarious moments if you can wade through the boring parts. I noticed that they’ve got edits from an obscure, early Psychic TV video intercut here whenever they want to indicate evil or malevolence. What’s with the voice over???
 

 
Part II is here. After the jump, a closer look at the Abbey of Thelema’s ruins.

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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10.12.2011
11:09 am
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Two Ghost Stories from Shelley and Algernon Blackwood
10.06.2011
03:44 pm
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I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’ll tell you of the time I saw one. It was summer, I was 18 and working in a 7/11.

Early one morning, at seven-thirty to be precise, I was awoken by someone pinching my toe. There, clearly at the foot of my bed, was my great aunt, dressed in a dark overcoat, as if she had somehow arrived to see me.

“I’ve come to say goodbye,” she said, but never opened her mouth.

We looked at each other for several moments. Then I rubbed my eyes, and she was gone.

Fifty miles away, in a hospital ward, my great aunt died at exactly seven-thirty in the morning. How to explain it, I can’t say, but there it is.

I’ve always had a fondness for ghosts stories, tales of horror and things unknown - they are fine entertainments. Of late, I’ve been collecting such stories recorded in journals and biographies, which often reveal a similarity in the haunting or, in the telling of the tale.

The following come from the journal of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the great writer of supernatural tales, Algernon Blackwood, a man whose stories chilled my schoolboy days. Like the tale of my great aunt, there is a similarity to these tales, of ghosts returning to visit the living.

IX. - Journal

Geneva, Sunday, 18th August, 1816

See Apollo’s Sexton,* who tells us many mysteries of his trade. We talk of Ghosts. Neither Lord Byron nor M.G. L. seem to believe in them; and they both agree, in the very face of reason, that none could believe in ghosts without believing in God. I do not think that all the persons who profess to discredit these visitations, really discredit them; or, if they do in the daylight, are not admonished, by the approach of loneliness and midnight, to think more respectfully of the world of shadows.

Lewis recited a poem, which he had composed at the request of the Princess of Wales. The Princess of Wales, he premised, was not only a believer in ghosts, but in magic and witchcraft, and asserted, that prophecies made in her youth had been accomplished since. The tale was of a lady in Germany.

This lady, Minna, had been exceedingly attached to her husband, and they had made a vow that the one who died first should return after death to visit the other as a ghost. She was sitting one day alone in her chamber, when she heard an unusual sound of footsteps on the stairs. The door opened, and her husband’s spectre, gashed with a deep wound across the forehead, an din military habiliments, entered. She appeared startled at the apparition; and the ghost told her, that when he should visit her in future, she would hear a passing bell toll, and these words distinctly uttered in her ear, “Minna, I am here.” On inquiry, it was found that her husband had fallen in battle on the very day she was visited by the vision. The intercourse between the ghost and the woman continued for some time, until the latter laid aside all terror, and indulged herself in the affection which she had felt for him while living. One evening she went to a ball, and permitted her thoughts to be alienated by the attentions of a Florentine gentleman, more witty, more graceful, and more gentle, as it appeared to her, than any person she had ever seen. As he was conducting her through the dance, a death-bell tolled. Minna lost in fascination of the Florentine’s attentions, disregarded, or did not hear the sound. A second peal, louder and more deep, startled the whole company, when Minna heard the ghost’s accustomed whisper, and raising her eyes, saw in an opposite mirror the reflection of the ghost, standing over her. She is said to have died of terror.

* Mr. G. Lewis, so named in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers - M. S.

The second story comes from Mike Ashley’s Starlight Man, the biography of the fantastic writer, Algernon Blackwood. In this extract, it is 1887 and the young Blackwood, just in his early twenties, has taken a keen interest in the Society of Psychical Research, an organization established by “some of the most notable men in the land and devoted to the series exploration of psychic phenomena.”

This group can be traced back to the Ghost Club, which was established at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1850. By 1882, this club had galvanized into the Society of Psychical Research (SPR), and conisted of “highly respected men - no charlatans. And early members to the SPR were of similar stature - Lord Tennyson, William James, John Ruskin, W. E. Gladstone, Mark twain and Charles L. Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) plus eight Fellows of the Royal Society, including the later Nobel Prize winner Joseph Thomson.”

Blackwood’s father Sir Arthur Blackwood was loosely involved with the group, but only as a debunker of spiritualism. Any evidence that the group provided to confirm Sir Arthur’s no-nonsense, rational view of life was to be commended. However, for Algernon, stories of ghosts, ghouls and things-that-went-bump-in-the-night proved far too attractive for the young man.

Of course, Algernon went on to become world famous for his chilling stories of the supernatural and the occult - as well as his more spiritual and esoteric tales, including the original book for Edward Elgar’s Starlight Express, which later formed the basis for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical. In 1887, Algernon was interested in joining the SPR after reading one of the group’s books

This was Phantasms of the Living (1886) and it was a book that young Algernon found fascinating. It includes several cases that he adapted for his own stories. Perhaps the best known was a case reported by Lord Brougham (1778-1868) while at Edinburgh University in 1799. He had made a pact with a university friend that whoever died first should try to appear to the other. Brougham was one day relaxing in his bath when he saw his friend sitting on a nearby chair. The vision soon faded but he made a note of the occurrence. Soon afterwards he returned to Edinburgh, only to receive a letter to say hat his friend had died in India. The core of the story is the same as Blackwood’s “Keeping his Promise”, also set in Edinburgh, where a dead friend keeps an appointment.

Blackwood rarely mentioned his involvement with the SPR, though he touched upon the subject in his last television talk “How I Became Interested in Ghosts”, in which he discussed the investigation of a haunted house. Blackwood is a superb horror writer, and is better than H. P. Lovercraft, who once said of him:

“Of the quality of Mr. Blackwood’s genius there can be no dispute; for no one has even approached the skill, seriousness, and minute fidelity with which he records the overtones of strangeness in ordinary things and experiences..”

He lived a rich and full life, worked at dozens of jobs, including farmer, undercover spy during the First World War, adventurer, writer, and lastly as a regular presenter of the BBC in the 1940s. His stories of the supernatural and the unknown are amongst the greatest written. They have also provided episodes for Rod Serling’s Night Gallery and his classic tale “Ancient Sorceries” was more than an influence on Val Lewton’s The Cat People.

With Halloween coming these stories may provide some atmosphere to all that Trick and Treating.

Now behave, here’s The Fall.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.06.2011
03:44 pm
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Queen Elizabeth’s Magician: a docu-drama about Dr John Dee
09.01.2011
09:07 pm
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A couple of months ago Damon Albarn premiered his new work Dr Dee: An English Opera as part of the Manchester International Festival. As the name would suggest, Dr Dee concerns the life of the Elizabethan mathematician, cartographer and magician John Dee, with original music composed by Albarn (singing and conducting a chamber group live on stage throughout the show). Well, maybe it was because I was so blown away by Bjork’s magical Biophilia show a few days earlier at the festival, but I found the opera to be a massive let down. You can read more of my thoughts on Dr Dee An English Opera here.

One of the main complaints levelled at Albarn’s production was that its oblique nature did nothing to explain the fascinating story of John Dee to an audience unfamiliar with the man. I was lucky enough to have some knowledge in advance and was able to spot some of the key moments in Dee’s life - but even then the narrative felt scrambled and made little use of some incredible source material (namely the man’s incredible life story). That’s despite this promising write up in the MIF’s program:

There was once an Englishman so influential that he defined how we measure years, so quintessential that he lives on in Shakespeare’s words; yet so shrouded in mystery that he’s fallen from the very pages of history itself.
That man was Dr Dee – astrologer, courtier, alchemist, and spy.

Queen Elizabeth’s Magician - John Dee is a 2002 television show produced by the UK’s Channel 4 for their Masters of Darkness series, and tells the man’s incredible story in a much more accessible way. While perhaps not revealing anything that the more avid Dee student wouldn’t already know, the show is informative and entertaining (if slightly cheesy) and serves as a good introduction to the man and his legacy. It’s also a good watch for fans of Alan Moore, who appears throughout the show and talks of Dee’s magical practices and their influence - and the three-note “spooky” sax motif is more memorable than anything in Albarn’s opera: 
 

 
Previously on DM:
Dr. Dee: sneak preview of new Damon Albarn opera about 16th Century Alchemist

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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09.01.2011
09:07 pm
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The Paranormal Peter Sellers
10.09.2010
07:23 pm
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Many actors are superstitious. Some like Peter Bull kept a collection of Teddy bears to bring him good luck; others like Jack Lemmon said the words, “It’s magic time,” before filming each scene. But none were quite as obsessed with superstitions and the Occult as comedy genius, Peter Sellers.

Sellers’ introduction to the Occult came via fellow Goon, Michael Bentine, the Watford-born Peruvian, who had grown-up in a household where seances and table-turning were regularly practiced. Not long after they first met, Bentine told Sellers of his psychic abilities - how during the Second World War, when Bentine served in the Royal Air Force, he had been able to tell which of his comrades would die before a bombing mission. Bentine claimed if he saw a skull instead of his colleague’s features, then he knew this person would be killed. How often Bentine was correct in his predictions is not known. No matter, Sellers was impressed by the shock-haired comic and was soon obsessed with all things paranormal.

From then on he collected superstitions, as easily as others collect stamps. He refused to wear green or act with anyone dressed in the color. If anyone gave him something sharp, he gave them a penny. He read his horoscopes every day, to divine what he should do.

Sellers often said he had no idea who he was: “If you ask me to play myself, I will not know what to do. I do not know who or what I am.”  This was his way of renouncing any responsibility for his actions.  He claimed he found comfort and stability in consulting clairvoyants and fortune tellers, which again only underlines the fact he did know who he was - a control freak, who wanted power over his future. It was inevitable, therefore, that once under the spell of sooth-sayers and psychics, Sellers was open to fraudsters, tricksters and con-men.

The clairvoyant who had most influence over his life was Maurice Woodruff, the famed TV and newspaper astrologer, whose syndicated column reached over fifty million people at the height of his career. Woodruff received over 5,000 letters a week, asking for advice and had a Who’s Who of of celebrity clients, including Lionel Bart and Diana Dors. He also famously predicted the death of President John F. Kennedy and the end of the Vietnam War. Sellers was devoted to Woodruff, consulting him before he accepted any roles, and regularly had Tarot readings performed over the telephone. But Woodruff was heavily in debt and open to the persuasion of a little cash earner when film studios asked him to suggest film scripts for the actor.

One famous tale, recounts how Woodruff was asked to suggest the initials of director Blake Edwards as being very important to him. Unfortunately, Sellers failed to connect ‘B.E.’ with the famous director. On return to the Dorchetser Hotel, his usual residence when in London, Sellers was smitten by the sight of a beautiful, young blonde-haired woman at reception. When he enquired as to who this vision of loveliness was, he was told Britt Ekland. Sellers recalled Woodruff’s prediction and married Ekland within weeks.
 
More on the paranormal Peter Sellers plus bonus clip after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.09.2010
07:23 pm
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