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That time David Duke and KKK patrolled the Mexican border…


A 27-year-old David Duke (the then Grand Dragon of the KKK) helping to keep the Mexican border safe, 1977.
 
On October 27th, 1977, David Duke the then 27-year-old Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan held a press conference to announce that the members of the KKK would start independently patrolling the Mexican border in Southern California, New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. Duke dubbed his plan the “Klan Border Watch.”

According to Duke, Klan members would be disbursed throughout the 2000 mile border with 230 assigned to monitor and detain illegal aliens attempting to cross the Mexico/California border, 150 in Texas, 75 in New Mexico and a scant few in Arizona. During the first night of the KKK’s unofficial duties as border watch dogs actual Border Patrol agents said they didn’t see a single white hood. According to others there were apparently at least ten Klan members and six vehicles with cheap signs taped to the doors that read “Klan Border Watch” (classy!) sighted along the California/Mexico border. Much like you-know-who (whose father might have been a Klan sympathizer in his youth), Duke made statements to the media saying that he had the “full support of the American people” when it came to the Klan’s efforts to block Mexican immigrants from entering the country illegally and “taking jobs away” from American citizens.

The U.S. Border Patrol refused to work with the Klan, and their independent actions were denounced by government officials and minority activists. The rejection of the Klan’s plans to patrol the border led to a large coalition of anti-Klan activists protesting the Klan’s unwanted help along the border in San Diego. The U.S. Ambassador to Mexico at the time, Patrick Lucey, also released a strong statement condemning the Klan’s actions saying that in “no way would the Klan be allowed to patrol the border.”
 

 
Despite all the push back and assurance from government officials and the Border Patrol itself, Duke continued to spin yarns about how he had met with members of the Justice Department as well as other federal agencies insinuating that he had somehow received authorization for the klansmen to add “border patrol agent” to their resumes along with cross burning and you know, good old-fashioned lynching. Of course all of this was just a way for the attention-hungry Duke to shine a spotlight on himself and the Klan in an effort to somehow convince the general public that the KKK was trying to protect them from job-stealing illegal immigrants. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

If you perhaps think that over the decades the Klan has changed their perspective on how to secure our borders, you’d be correct. In 2014 during an television interview two KKK members in North Carolina dressed in their best white sheets and hoods advocated for shooting Mexican children (or “popping” them off) as they attempted to cross the border then leaving their corpses behind to rot in order to reinforce how “serious” they were about “immigration.”

If you voted for a candidate that the “modern” version of David Duke and the KKK vividly supported and endorsed during the election, that’s your burning cross to bear. After all, you could have taken a look at who all the bigots and white nationalists were going for and in the privacy of the ballot box voted for someone else instead. But you didn’t, did you?

And sure, sure I know the president-elect eventually denounced these endorsements (after trying to lie about having no knowledge of who Duke was), however he didn’t do much of anything outside of appear straight-up annoyed at all the fuss. And he only did it under duress. He gets no points whatsoever. Perhaps Trump could have taken a queue from the GOP’s beloved St. Ronald Reagan and copied the Gipper’s response to the hate organization that endorsed him in both 1980 and again in 1984. You see, even Reagan clearly understood how vile the KKK is and even wrote a letter to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in April of 1984 about how dangerous the Klan, and organizations like them really are. It read in part:

Those of us in public life can only resent the use of our names by those who seek political recognition for the repugnant doctrines of hate they espouse. The politics of racial hatred and religious bigotry practiced by the Klan and others have no place in this country, and are destructive of the values for which America has always stood.

Trump voters, though you can try all you want to rationalize that your vote was for “change,” your IQ test at the voting actually just confirmed that you—yes you—are in fact “okay” with racism. Which actually makes you a racist, too.

More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Class Warfare: Radical French philosopher Guy Debord’s Situationist board game


Guy Debord and Alice Becker-Ho playing Kriegspiel in 1977. Photo by Jeanne Cornet via Cabinet
 
After he disbanded the Situationist International in 1972, one of the obsessions that consumed Guy Debord was a board game he invented. Kriegspiel, or Le Jeu de la Guerre—German and French, respectively, for “war game”—was based on Debord’s reading of the military theorist Carl von Clausewitz. The London-based group Class Wargames describes Kriegspiel’s purpose concisely:

For Debord, The Game of War wasn’t just a game - it was a guide to how people should live their lives within Fordist society. By playing, revolutionary activists could learn how to fight and win against the oppressors of spectacular society.

So convinced was Debord of the game’s utility and revolutionary potential that, in 1977, he founded Les Jeux Stratégiques et Historiques (Strategic and Historic Games) to produce a limited run of Kriegspiel sets. Ten years later, Debord and his wife Alice Becker-Ho published a book about Kriegspiel, Le Jeu de la Guerre. Debord opens the sixth chapter of his memoir Panegyric with these reflections on his game:

I have been very interested in war, in the theoreticians of its strategy, but also in reminiscences of battles and in the countless other disruptions history mentions, surface eddies on the river of time. I am not unaware that war is the domain of danger and disappointment, perhaps even more so than the other sides of life. This consideration has not, however, diminished the attraction that I have felt for it.

And so I have studied the logic of war. Moreover, I succeeded, a long time ago, in presenting the basics of its movements on a rather simple board game: the forces in contention and the contradictory necessities imposed on the operations of each of the two parties. I have played this game and, in the often difficult conduct of my life, I have utilized lessons from it – I have also set myself rules of the game for this life, and I have followed them. The surprises of this Kriegspiel seem inexhaustible; and I fear that this may well be the only one of my works that anyone will dare acknowledge as having some value. On the question of whether I have made good use of such lessons, I will leave it to others to decide.

The Atlas Press English-language edition of Becker-Ho and Debord’s book, A Game of War, comes with a board and punch-out pieces, but Board Game Geek warns that this edition “has a faulty translation of the rules, making it more or less unplayable.” The Radical Software Group’s web version of the game has been down for some time. So if, like me, you enjoy using things without paying for them, the best bet seems to be Class Wargames’ printable boards, pieces, and battle maps. Their website also has the free book Class Wargames: Ludic subversion against spectacular capitalism, plus information about such radical board games as Imperialism in Space, which promises to give players “a critical understanding of the political and theoretical arguments of Vladimir Lenin’s famous 1916 pamphlet Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.”

After the jump, an explanation of Kriegspiel’s rules….

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Poor Donald Trump hates pics of his double chin, so the Internet decided to help
12.01.2016
10:18 am

Topics:
Art
Politics

Tags:
Donald Trump
double chins


 
We have not yet reached full-on buyer’s remorse on the election of Donald Trump to be our nation’s president, but we’re getting there at a rapid pace. Not everybody regrets voting for Trump, to be sure, but he’s the first president to have an approval rating south of 50% after the election since we’ve been measuring that kind of thing, and I think we all know that Trump doesn’t have the kind of personality that’s going to thrive under the peculiar pressures that the presidency affords.

Which doesn’t mean that he’s been unable to use the same Trump distortion vortex that has served him so spectacularly well for the last year and a half, because it hasn’t failed him yet. Yet.

Still, there have been no shortage of episodes demonstrating Trump’s manifest unfitness for office. His meeting with the news media before Thanksgiving surely was one of the more striking examples of this. The network reporters in attendance expected the meeting to be about “the access they would get to the Trump administration,” but they underestimated the shallow form of vanity that constitutes the primary personality trait of one Donald J. Trump.

As the New Yorker reported, “Trump whined about everything from NBC News reporter Katy Tur’s coverage of him to a photograph the news network has used that shows him with a double chin. Why didn’t they use ‘nicer’ pictures?” Even worse, a participant at the meeting observed that our president-elect “truly doesn’t seem to understand the First Amendment. He doesn’t. He thinks we are supposed to say what he says and that’s it.”

Awwwww. Poor little Trump doesn’t get that a free and unfettered media is permitted to write what they please about him. The citizenry at large. of course, is also armed with similar freedoms…

When Trump threw down the gauntlet on angrily demanding that media and media consumers alike conspire to pretend that he does not have an unsightly double chin, the Internet responded. Boy, did it respond, with hastily slapped together Photoshopped montages that (when taken in all at once) somehow reveal something about the true nature of our future president. Everything from Jabba the Hutt (so. many. Jabba. the. Hutt. references.) to Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote became fair game for the legions of self-appointed “First Amendment People.” Here are some of the best results:
 

 

 

 
Tons more after the jump…....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Girls and guns: Brave female freedom fighters from around the world on the battlefields of war


The first female combat veteran Margaret Corbin helping to load a cannon being shot by her husband John Corbin during the Battle of Fort Washington on Manhattan Island, 1772. Though Corbin is depicted in the painting above wearing a dress she disguised herself as a man in order to contribute to the efforts on the battlefield.
 
During the Revolutionary War it was commonplace for the wife of a soldier to accompany her husband to war only to mostly perform activities such as doing laundry, preparing meals and attending to he injured. Though this is exactly what Margaret Corbin did initially when she joined her husband John as a member of the Pennsylvania military at the age of 21, four years later Corbin would disguise herself as a man to help her husband load his cannon during the Battle of Fort Washington on Manhattan Island. During the fighting John was killed leaving Margaret alone to “man” the cannon. Which she did until she nearly lost her left arm due to British army fire. Corbin would survive and for her participation in the Battle of Fort Washington she was officially recognized as the first woman “combat veteran” and subsequently became the first woman to receive a military pension.

Many other women would follow in Corbin’s pioneering footsteps including Deborah Sampson who dressed as a man in order to fight in George Washington’s army in 1782. Sampson’s heroic charade lasted for a year until she became injured and was no longer able to hide the fact that she was a woman and was honorably discharged. During the Civil War and the Spanish American War in 1898 there are several accounts of women masquerading as men in order to fight on the front lines along with their male counterparts, as well as serving their country assisting with war related activities such as espionage. Though women would participate in WWI and WWII and lose their lives as a result, it was not until 1976 that women were allowed to enlist in the military. Instances of women fighting in other wars and acting as snipers, and members of resistance efforts in places like France during WWII were common.

Speaking of snipers, the story of Red Army sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko is a compelling one. Pavlichenko was an expert female sniper from Ukraine who fought the Nazis during WWII and was credited with killing 187 Germans during her first 75 days as a member of the Soviet resistance. That number would grow to 309 with 36 of her total kills being German snipers, though it’s widely believed that her actual kill count is likely much higher as there was not always a third-party to witness them all. The German army was rightfully so terrified of Pavlichenko they took to broadcasting appeals over loudspeakers to have the 25-year-old killing machine join their troops instead of wiping them out. Pavlichenko would of course turn down the offer (which according to historians included the promise of “candy”). There were 2000 female snipers who fought with the Red Army during WWII—and Pavlichenko would be one of the 500 who walked away with their lives.

Below, I’ve included some pretty stunning images of women taking up arms. I’ve also posted the trailer for the 2015 film based on Lyudmila Pavlichenko’s brave exploits Battle for Sevastopol. Stay strong, sisters.
 

Red Army sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko.
 

Armenian guerilla fighters during the Hamidian massacres, 1895.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Morbid and grotesque Italian anti-German propaganda postcards from WWI


‘Danza Macabra Europea’ number 23 by Italian artist Alberto Martini.
 
Alberto Martini was a prolific Italian active during the late 1800s and a good portion of the 1900s who dabbled in many disciplines including painting, illustration, engraving and graphic design. During WWI Martini was enlisted to create a series of postcards called the “Danza Macabra Europea” that were used as propaganda, grotesquely lampooning figures such as German Kaiser and king of Prussia Wilhelm II as well as members of the Austro-Hungarian empire such as the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef. 

Martini’s cards are absolutely horrific, filled with depictions of dismemberment, cannibalism and executions. Sometimes the Germans in Martini’s propaganda cards are pantless or appear to take on feminine forms. Copies of 54 lithographs of the Danza Macabra produced during 1914 and 1916 were widely distributed to Allied forces fighting against the rising Austro-Hungarian empire. According to cultural historians familiar with Martini’s work for “Danza Macabra Europa” the artist’s goal was to show the “horror” of war by using barbaric symbolism such as portraying the neutral country of Belgium as a child whose hands have been severed off at the wrist.

Most of the approximately 450,000 prints of Martini’s exquisitely grim postcards, captioned in both Italian and French, were sent to those fighting on the front lines of the war to help create a clear understanding of the horrific atrocities being committed against soldiers and civilians. Many consider Martini’s work a precursor to the surrealist movement. I’ve included many images of the 54 lithographs done by Martini in this post—all of which are absolutely NSFW.
 

‘Danza Macabra Europa’ number thirteen.
 

 
More ‘Danza Macabra Europa’ after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
That time the ‘Star Trek’ crew took on Nazis from outer space
11.28.2016
02:37 pm

Topics:
Politics
Television

Tags:
Nazis
Star Trek


Captain James T. Kirk (played by actor William Shatner) and Mr. Spock (played by actor Leonard Nimoy) in a scene from ‘Patterns of Force,’ show during season two of the original ‘Star Trek’ television series.
 

“You should make a very convincing Nazi.”

—Mr. Spock complementing Captain James T. Kirk’s snazzy Nazi uniform in the 1968 ‘Star Trek’ episode ‘Patterns of Force.’

 
If just reading the title of this post gave you a sudden case of the “what the fucks” then you better sit down, because if you’ve never seen the episode titled “Patterns of Force” from the original Star Trek television series (season two, episode #21), then your mind is about to be blown.

Like many of you, I spent a bit too much time on my couch last week watching movies. I happened to catch a sweet Star Trek marathon on the tube that was in the midst of showing some groovy early episodes. After thoroughly enjoying the amusing “I, Mudd” (season two, episode eight) I decided to see what other episodes were coming up and caught an image of Spock dressed like a Nazi. Was I drunk? Yeah, sure, probably a little, but my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. As the episode unfolded things only got weirder.

“Patterns of Force” was originally broadcast back in February of 1968. Just a bit over 20 years since the end of WWII making it reasonable to assume that people who had opposed the Nazis during that time, or who were, you know, survivors of the Holocaust, were probably sitting down to watch one of the most popular shows on television. Only this time beloved intergalactic odd couple Captain James T. Kirk and his adroit Vulcan pal Mr. Spock (along with Dr. McCoy) end up on planet Ekos, a place that has embraced every aspect of Nazi culture and German society from the 1940s. Shortly after the episode begins we even get treated to images of Adolf Hitler and the ugliness of Nazi Germany in an authentic newsreel that is playing on a video monitor on the streets on Ekos. “Patterns of Force” plays the Nazi card to the hilt utilizing images of swastikas, actors costumed in Nazi-esque uniforms, and plenty of those nasty “seig heil” salutes we’re once again seeing thanks to some of the alt-reich supporters of our president-elect. Dialog for the show included the use of the word “Fuhrer” which was used to address Ekos’ fictional leader, the mundane sounding “John Gill.” 

It’s worth mentioning—as I know that many of our readers are history buffs—that there are several inconsistencies with the Nazi costumes that would have made Lemmy Kilmister cringe. Such as the black “Gestapo” uniforms that were modeled after the garb worn by the Waffen SS in “Patterns of Force” and the fact that you can clearly see the name “Adolf Hitler” embroidered on both McCoy and Kirk’s cuffs during the episode. Which makes little sense to begin with as Hitler didn’t actually exist on Ekos. That said Patterns of Force is nothing short of chilling given the current circumstances we’re all supposed to be “getting used to” here in the U.S. Especially when you consider that the plot line focuses on Ekos’ desire to eliminate inhabitants of neighboring planet “Zeon” who they refer to as “Zeonist pigs.” Sound familiar? Despite the grim parallels to horrific past events and the deeply disturbing ones that are occurring with increasing frequency now, it’s an absolute must see moment of television history which I for one will never be able to scrub out of my mind. Because once you see Mr. Spock dressed up like a member of the SS, you can never unsee it.

And here’s another interesting factoid about “Patterns of Force” that helps reinforce my thoughts about the episode: In 2011 “Patterns of Force” was shown in Germany for the first time since it aired in the U.S. back in 1968. Though it had been released on video in the mid-90’s with German-language dubbing, it had never been shown on television. And even then it was only allowed to air after ten o’clock with a warning that the content should not be viewed by anyone under the age of sixteen. And that was a full 66 years after the end of WWII. I’ve included an array of stills from “Patterns of Force” as well as a short clip from the episode featuring Kirk and Spock trying to figure out how the fuck what happened during WWII could actually be happening again in outer space.

Imagine that...
 

 

Kirk, Spock and McCoy all decked out in their “Adolph Hitler” designer Nazi uniforms.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
A slow-motion, underwater fart
11.28.2016
10:16 am

Topics:
Art
Politics

Tags:
fart
Hypernormalisation
underwater


 
I had thought that this morning I might prepare a post about Adam Curtis’ excellent documentary, HyperNormalisation, which is certainly the best documentary of the year, in my opinion.

It’s an examination of US and Middle Eastern affairs and how they relate to the power structure shift from the political to the corporate, and how this new power structure has created a “truth” out of lies designed to simplify complex world dynamics, and how this false narrative is held in place by mass human interaction with a cyberspace that allows people to exist in insular narcissistic bubbles that reflect the user’s selves back at them. This depressing document can be viewed, at least for the time being, on YouTube HERE.

HyperNormalisation suggests a false reality that is at this point so complex that there may be no hope of unraveling it, and it’s the reason whereby atrocities like Brexit and Donald Trump can happen completely under the noses of the groups of people who might have been able to create opposition.

But, yeah, I’m not going to post about that today…

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
From Brexit to Mr. Brexit: An Englishman in Texas on Election Week
11.17.2016
01:09 pm

Topics:
Current Events
Politics
U.S.A.!!!

Tags:
Donald Trump


Photo: Christian Benavides

Here’s a picture of what, to an English, London-based US politics junkie, amounted to a peculiar sort of heaven…

It is Election Day, and I am riding shotgun in an SUV through unsmiling Texas…The back of the truck, covered in bumper stickers (‘SECEDE!’ ‘LIBERTARIAN!’ ‘Got shave ice?’), is also piled high with firearms… Rush Limbaugh is on the airwaves.

I’d heard “Rush” do his stuff before, online, back in the UK (that is, as a leftish, foreign voyeur). Now though – due to the place, the setting, and the others in the vehicle – “Rush” is no longer addressing some distant, crazy demographic, he is addressing us – and even, me.

“The bigger government gets, the less freedom there is. That’s just the way of the world, folks… “

I can feel, suddenly, how warm it must be tucked in beneath the dragon’s wing of American conservatism.

For the previous twelve-fifteen months, I had consumed at least two hours of US election news and commentary a day back in London. Chance had turned that 2-D experience into a 3-D one: I was staying in Austin to make an (unrelated) short film, and only after arranging everything realized I would be there for the vote.

Well, we had finished filming that afternoon. The driver of the SUV, Jim, was the local cameraman I’d hired. He was a conservative, a Christian, a libertarian and a sure-fire ‘Second Amendment’ sort. He’d supported Ted Cruz in the primaries, and had a modest, Glenn Beck-type aversion to Trump. He had already voted for Gary Johnson, but would very likely have gone Republican in a swing state.

In the back was Jim’s assistant and best bud, Lloyd, a thirty-six-year-old handyman. Jim and Lloyd lived a few minutes away from one another, in the pious and paranoiac suburbs of Pflugerville, where (as I witnessed) residents actually wave hi to one another, bagged-up AK-47s swaying from shoulders. Lloyd was a former Cruz supporter too, but had long since came around to – and voted for – Trump. 

Limbaugh was now reciting, with that gropingly intimate gruffness, the right-wing LIBERTY catechism. He was putting his whole self into it, too, in honor of the Historic Occasion. This catechism more than touched upon the Second Amendment. Meanwhile, my new friends and I, on our way to firing some guns, were also (politely) arguing about them.
“But what would ya do,” said Lloyd, keen to cut right to the heart of the matter, and leaning right up between the front seats. “If someone broke into your place in London, to rape your wife and kill your kids? What would you do, Thomas? Ask ’em to leave?”

Despite the facetious note at the end, this was no rhetorical question. Lloyd wanted to know.  So, by the looks of it, did Jim, who kept glancing over from his big Texan steering wheel, equally curious how one could even go about conceiving of such an event in a country that prohibits lethal weapons. (Had I, perhaps, cultivated some dangerous hand-to-hand ninja skills?)

“But that’s a ridiculously unlikely event.” 

“You can’t be too careful, Thomas,” said Jim.

“You can though!”  (Indeed, I was increasingly convinced that America was the definition of Being Too Careful.) “A piece of masonry might drop on your head and kill you, that doesn’t mean you go around carrying a metal umbrella.”

This journey is taking place because, the previous day, I had been (naively) scandalized to discover that my small crew were walking Austin’s squeaky-clean streets armed. I had never, I confessed, even held a gun. Jim and Lloyd had decided, there and then, to initiate me, intimating that the first whiff of cordite would see my English soul born again hard.

Jim flipped the dial to The Glenn Beck Show. To his amusement (take it as a testament to how closely I’d followed the damn election), I could hum along to the show’s sickly theme ditty.
 

Photo: Jordan Bunch

Finally, our SUV pulled into the Eagle Peak Firing Range.

I had half expected to encounter a devil-may-care joie de vivre therein. But no. All in all, the spirit in which “Second Amendment People” go about their pastime is achingly careful, like a weird mixture of model railroading and snake handling. I even had my wrists slapped by one of the Eagle Peak Firing Range attendants (bald and bent-double, with bright white mustache) for firing one of Jim’s semi-automatics too quickly.

“Yer Limey’s gettin’ carried away!” he told them.

Far more interesting than all the latches, barrels and banging was the thought of those millions of Americans simultaneously inching towards the voting booths, and of the mind-boggling political significance of what we were doing. Jim and Lloyd, for instance, both admitted to being “scared” by the prospect of a President Trump. He scared them – not enough, but somewhat– because of that overt streak of megalomania. Clinton, on the other hand, scared them more solely because of her perceived threat to those “second amendment rights.”
Were Americans proportionally more scared of death – or at least violent death – than other nationalities? Is it precisely this that makes them – paradoxically – so fucking dangerous?

America’s Other Half
For election night itself I was off to attend the Travis County Democratic Party’s shindig at Austin’s Driskill Hotel. Jim, very kindly braving a couple of hours of Austin traffic, dropped me off. (Conservatives, I have to say, are pretty kind people.)

It was long clear to me that, to many, Trump was a hero figure– a swaggering maverick macho sent by God to heave back the clock. What hadn’t occurred to me from the UK, however, was that cautious, data-driven, super-scripted, center-cleaving Hillary might be viewed as a hero, too. A Straight White Male want of imagination on my part, this, to be sure: taking the Driskill attendees as a local sample, it was immediately clear that Hillary was a hero to (at least) millions of American women.

This was of course in part because of the clear symbolism of the fight – ignoramus pussy-grabber versus shattered glass ceiling, and all that. However, I saw it had something to do with Hillary as an individual, too. Many of the supporters, covered in doubly pointed buttons (“I’m with HER!” “The Future is Female!” “Let’s Make Her-story!”), were ambitious, professional, young women, and were gazing up at the early election coverage with proportional but tangible admiration for the professionalism and (thus far) effectiveness of Clinton’s ascent.
After all, their candidate had done what had to be done, had worked hard, and had (again, up to that night) largely succeeded. It was a philosophy many a careerist lived by, yet for a woman, maximal establishment success in 2016, conventionally achieved vis-à-vis the unremarkable method of the Long Game, still required a fortitude that was arguably heroic.

Due to the time difference, I’d never watched US results come in live before (let alone, ‘in the flesh’), and to my virgin, outsider eyes, the main event resembled nothing other than (American) Football: an interminable, attritional contest of hard-won yards and mind-numbing strategic rumblings.

We all know, of course, how the game ultimately went.

Afterthought
Once the whole sorry contest had run its course, I got a cab back to where I staying (North Loop). The driver had voted for Hillary, and was depressed as hell.  Then he told me (upsetting my simple outline) that he was relieved he already own five guns himself: under a President Trump, he suspected he might just end up needing them.

“I think there’s going to be a war,” he put in, as an afterthought.

He was right about that, I reckoned. For all Trump’s isolationist rhetoric (the only OK thing about his campaign) it is almost impossible to imagine the Trump Era coming to term without a significant conflict. And conflict evidently remains America’s grand passion, not to mention its net surplus: the globe sits braced for export.

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Leave a comment
Abbie Hoffman’s mournful musings on watching Janis Joplin shoot up


 
Abbie Hoffman’s 1969 Woodstock Nation is an essential read for students of the intersections of rock music and politics. Hoffman wrote it in 1969 while he was awaiting the Chicago Eight conspiracy trial in which he was a co-defendant for inciting the 1968 Chicago DNC riots, and it’s a stream-of-semiconsciousness musing on the state of American youth culture, specifically as of the massive and zeitgeist-altering Woodstock music festival.

That festival was famously full of bummers—rain, the brown acid, goddamned Sha Na Na—and Hoffman himself was one of them, too. He worked hard to establish a “Movement City” on the Bethel, NY concert site, intending to try to radicalize concertgoers. But the tent was so far from the stage as to seem to marginalize politics from the festival. Hoffman, in protest, famously took the stage during The Who’s set to scold the audience for having fun while John Sinclair rotted in jail for having two joints. (In fairness there were probably way more than two joints worth of weed per audience member on that site so he maybe kinda had a point, though he was inarguably a peevish dick about making it. Also, interrupting THE WHO for fuck’s sake seems a poor way to win converts.) Just as famous as Hoffman’s tirade was Who guitarist Pete Townshend’s unequivocally disapproving removal of Hoffman from the stage—by swatting him off with his guitar. That move alone earned a huge swell of applause.

Hoffman targets Townshend in one of Woodstock Nation’s more memorable passages, but what concerns us today comes from “The Head Withers as the Body Grows,” an epilogue Hoffman wrote especially for the 1971 Pocketbooks reprint of the book. Excerpts from it were reproduced in the October 1971 issue of Circus under the provocative title “Woodstock: a Tin Pan Alley Rip Off,” and they offer a poignant view of Hoffman’s disillusionment about the failure of the revolution, the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and the ascension to complacent millionaire stardom of most of the other important rockers. And the article opens with a terribly sad, elegiac passage about watching Joplin shoot heroin, and what her death would mean, not to music, but to the music business.
 

 

Somewhere deep inside the bowels of the monster born in Bethel also lay the kernel for its destruction. Perhaps it was the egocentric greed of the Rock Empire itself. Maybe it was the strain of cannibalism inherited from our parents and exaggerated when cramped into railroad flats in the slums or on muddy shoes in front of the gargantuan stages. The rapes, the bad acid burns, stealing from each other, they, too, were part of the Woodstock experience, if not the Nation. Smack and speed didn’t help. “Shooting up” is more than just a casual expression. It is symbolic of the suicidal death trip, the frustration, the despair. It is another way to bring the apocalypse a little closer.

Janis was the heroine of the Woodstock Nation. Bold and sassy, her energy could ignite millions. I saw her perform all over the country. In the funky old Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, in the Fillmores West and East, on TV, backstage where she would line up a row of twenty studs, in the Chelsea Hotel bar and on the street. She used to drop into our place at all sorts of weird hours when we lived around the corner from the Fillmore East. She was the only person I ever saw use a needle. When she popped in a load and pulled out the works, she’d cluck her tongue making a sucking noise and her face would break out into a shit-eatin grin. The very thought of it makes me shiver. You couldn’t know Janis without knowing her death was near and you couldn’t know the Rock Empire without knowing her death would mean a bundle to the horde of enterprising vultures who choose to pick at the corpse.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Dancing on the grave of civilization (New York in the 80s & why I refuse to remove my boogie shoes)


Paradise Garage
 
When I got to New York in 1977 it was to play on a Monday night with my band at CBGB. At the time, CBGB was becoming a magnet for bands from all over the world. But despite its growing rep as a music mecca, CBGB’s early days had the feel of a clubhouse for a very specific type of rock fan: A hang for rebels who loved rock distilled to its essence, poets who found their muse in the mayhem of loud amps and the thunder of drums and a handful of rock critics who desperately needed something fresh to wrap their heads around. Playing to a nearly empty house, my band saw CBGB in a less romantic light. It was a dump. But on those nights when The Ramones, Patti Smith, The Damned, X-Ray Spex, The Dead Boys etc. played, CBGB was the center of the rock and roll universe.

Whether playing CBGB or not I probably spent most nights in 77/78 either there or at Max’s. It was the last great era of rock and roll as far as I’m concerned. We’ll be talking about The Ramones, Talking Heads and Patti Smith long after grunge bands like Alice In Chains and Soundgarden are long forgotten (if they’re not already). As far as music of this new century goes, I’m not sure much of it will be remembered 20 years from now. I’m not hearing anything that really blows me away. I wish I did. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just an old fuck living in the past. But that past, particularly the glorious whole of the New York Club scene of the 70s and early 80s, was pretty fucking wonderful. Seen from a passing satellite I can imagine Manhattan, Brooklyn and The Bronx looking like a giant throbbing meatpit glimmering with copious amounts of sweat and dripping with… (use your imagination).

Punk, rap, disco and Latin music were drifting in and out of each other and the barriers separating uptown from downtown were being shattered. Blondie, B-52s and DEVO were being played at Studio 54 and bands like Liquid Liquid, Bush Tetras and Konk were taking disco’s four-on-the-floor beat and putting some angsty urban edge into the mix. The bottom line is people were dancing everywhere, even in clubs where people had been too cool to get crazy. Leaning on the bar and striking hipster poses looked pretty square when hundreds of people were going mad on the dance floor to The Gun Club’s invocation to “explode to the call… move, move, sex beat, go…!”

My own circuit included Danceteria, Peppermint Lounge, Mudd Club, Club 57 and Hurrah’s where new wave, post-punk and ska bands played regularly and deejays like Mark Kamins, Anita Sarko and Dany Johnson kept the crowds in perpetual motion.The segue from live bands to vinyl was an art that was being mastered as the scene unfolded and the best deejays were being born on the spot.

At downtown clubs like The Paradise Garage and The Saint deejays Larry Levan and Alan Dodd spun dance floor filling beats for predominantly gay clienteles who embraced divas Loleatta Holloway, Donna Summer, Grace Jones and Sylvester as well as euro-disco and the very beginnings of house music. These were the test markets for new singles by new artists and the latest dance re-mixes. If a 12-inch extended dance mix worked at The Paradise Garage it would work anywhere. It wasn’t long before rock bands like The Clash and Blondie were hitting the studios to re-work their tracks into dance mixes. No one was listening to radio. We were all too busy nightclubbing.
 

 
Tim Lawrence’s epic new history of nightlife in the city that never sleeps, Life And Death On The New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983, captures everything I’ve been talking about and so much more. In its six hundred thrilling pages, Lawrence gives us a close-up view of a scene that lasted from 1980 to 1983 before AIDS blew out the lights on a party that felt like it would go on forever. San Francisco in the 1960s had hippies, free love and psychedelics. It was the place to go to shake off the straightjacket of religious repression and cultural oppression for a generation of young people. In the less sunny and distinctly more frightening New York of the seventies and eighties, young people also gathered but with fewer support systems in play and far more obstacles than the free-flowing Aquarian era. Still, we made our own new version of paradise. It was rough-edged and more cynical but it was alive with energy that made us all feel that the future was ours. If there’s anything that makes Lawrence’s book ultimately a sad one is how quickly it all ended and how random and bewildering that end was. The openness and freedom we were all feeling was suddenly thrown under the wheels of some demonic subway train that had come rumbling out of nowhere.

When AIDS descended on New York it was a quiet bomb that shattered our world. For me, it hit home when I got a call that a friend of mine was dying from this new mystifying disease. I put down the phone not knowing exactly what it all meant. What the fuck was going on? My friend who was dying was Klaus Nomi. I had known Klaus for several years and had encouraged him in the very early stages of his music career. I helped him pick out a guitar (blue Fender Jaguar) and taught him three chords, enough to get him started. Ironically, we ended up on the same record label. Klaus epitomized New York’s multi-faceted music scene by crossing every possible boundary and creating something modern and new. He was ahead of his time, both wonderful and tragic.

Life And Death On The New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983 is a remarkable achievement as history and as entertainment. A sequel to his Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-1979, it’s a celebration and a eulogy of a New York that we may never see again. Dance floors and rock clubs have been replaced by chain stores and condos. The funky storefronts and theaters that housed music venues and discotheques are now homes to the rich and fabulous. No one dances anymore. Everyone is too busy making money to pay for their little bit of real estate that once was the breeding ground for artists, musicians and writers. Where bodegas, pizzerias, bakeries, dive bars and cheap ethnic restaurants once stood we now have Starbucks, The Gap and $100 sushi handrolls. Tim Lawrence’s book is a reminder that the heart and soul of any culture, any city, is in its art. From the great Times Square jazz clubs to the Boogie Down Bronx and CBGB on the Bowery, New York has always been one of the world’s great music centers. Once we lose touch with that magic we’re left with an island of commerce and concrete. We not only lose part of our soul we lose our collective identity. The value of cities are measured by their art. No one comes to New York because it has a better Starbucks or Chili’s. People flocked to Manhattan even in the worst of times because we had clubs, theaters and museums no one else had. People were willing to brave the Bowery because there was something magic going on in a dive bar that stank of beer and urine but seemed like heaven to fans of adventurous new music. CBGB’s heyday really only lasted a couple of years but those years were game changers for rock music and musicians. The good stuff is eternal.

In the past few days I’ve been in a state of shock and awe. Despondent to point of paralysis. This piece I’m writing now is helping me get a grip on myself. As I write it, I am remembering all the battles I’ve fought since I was 15 and marched on the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam War. I am remembering Nixon and Reagan and I’m also remembering that during every dark era the arts have flourished. As war raged and friends were drafted and killed, we saw a golden age of rock and roll emerge in the sixties. The Beatles, Fugs, Sly Stone, Jefferson Airplane all sang songs of peace and insurrection based on liberating our bodies and minds. The art scene of the ‘60s was a massive detonation of mind-expanding paintings, films and literature. In the 1970s, when New York was dying and the government under Ford fucked us off, there seemed to be no light nowhere. But punk rock reared its beautiful spiky head like a pus-filled boil bursting and expelling the poisons that had been building in a city and citizenry under siege. We didn’t run, we didn’t hide. We partied! Dance floors exploded with free spirits moving, grinding, slithering to beats that were sexy, tantric, primal and emancipating. The songs were anthemic invocations to stand up against the machinations of death and doom. Gloria Gaynor led the charge with lyrics that were a call out to each and every one of us to not despair, to not lose hope and to survive!

Do you think I’d crumble
Did you think I’d lay down and die?

Oh no, not I, I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive
I’ve got all my life to live
And I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive
I will survive

So as we face this very uncertain time it’s important to not crumble to not lose your anger. For me, my anger right now is what clarifies who I am and what I believe in. This is not a time to go soft and get warm and fuzzy and talk about healing. Keep your anger close. Consider it an ally. But be precise and informed when you use it. In the meantime, this is the perfect time to find avenues to articulate and express your feelings without risking your freedom and safety. Nixon once quoted the old proverb “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  Fuck him. I have a different angle: “when the going gets tough, the tough get down.” Let’s dance this mess around!
 

Dany Johnson
 
Here’s a mix to get down to. It’s based on a set list from Dany Johnson who was the house DJ at Club 57 circa 1980. Get happy, get healthy and get ready. We have work to do.

Blondie – I KNOW BUT I DON’T KNOW
Joe Cuba Sextet – BANG BANG
Delta 5 – MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS
Bootsy’s Rubber Band – BOOTZILLA
Talking Heads – WARNING SIGN
Lynn Collins – ROCK ME AGAIN….
Pylon – GRAVITY
The Cramps – I’M CRAMPED
Spoonie Gee – MONSTER JAM
B52s – DANCE THIS MESS AROUND
Frankie Smith – DOUBLE DUTCH BUS
Marie and Les Garcons – RE-BOP
Fatback Band – KING TIM III
Lulu – THE BOAT I ROW
Bush Tetras – TOO MANY CREEPS

 

 
Update: New York City dance club visionary DJ David Mancuso who hosted groundbreaking Love Saves The Day dance parties and opened The Loft on Lower Broadway in 1970 died yesterday (Nov.14). He was 72. He created an inclusive club scene where everybody felt at home and set the tone for virtually every dance club that followed in his wake.

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