Saturday, October 29, 2011

Oakland, occupy my skepticism

That's not a sarcastic title

I have not attended the protests. I haven't gone with my friends to participate and stand or march in solidarity. Despite any logical arguments I throw at myself, I still feel like shit about not being involved somehow. I'm internally contentious about the image of myself --as someone who cares about social issues, against friends who are actively doing something about them. There is no comparison, and there's unavoidable hypocrisy in my opinions vs the actions of people I more or less agree with. But I'm no more comfortable with populism, then I am dancing in public. I can't get myself to march down Broadway st thinking these following things:

Occupy Oakland is a smashing success. There is mass participation, continuing controversy, a notable victory under their belt, and even a martyr. Those successes were facilitated by incompetence in City Hall, and characteristic personality of local law enforcement. They're all separate matters from the larger issues that sprouted the occupy movement, and I find that disconcerting. I can't see, at least for now, a reasonable explanation for why Frank Ogawa plaza serves as the ideological arena for this, as opposed to Wells Fargo Headquarters or The Stock Exchange in Downtown San Francisco, or even Piedmont? Oakland is an expression of socioeconomic inequality, but the affect of this protest --desired or not--has been to spend city resources on contending the movement, when they could be attending to the problems that sprout the movement. Not to simplify the mechanics of accomplishing that anyway.

There is this amalgamation of different movements all collected into one --all with potentially contradictory ideas--  and to add to that shit circus the mayor throws everyone a curve ball and orders the police raid. So that only reinforces a sense of identification with this sub-sect of the occupy movement. This shifts the entire debate in a different direction, and that's not a local discussion. This event was all over the national news, there are protesters in Zucotti Park, Tahrir square, and who knows where else marching in solidarity. I'm not criticizing that happening, but what about:

the messages being sent because of events on the ground involving the protest 
the fundamental cause for the protest itself

Supporters of  occupy wall st probably span a large incongruous variety of political persuasions and opinions. Just think how easy it is for that consensus to be picked away by shifting the debate away from the fundamental question. Real change at a political level requires that fragile consensus. Here is a cause that could garner that, but we are so easy to fragment. I recognize that my complaining serves as an example of that, but I'm not the only person thinking this.

As for the police in Oakland, they have always been brutal. They're under a court order to reform or be taken under federal control. Oakland has a reputation, and the people that join the force know they're going to see some action, that fact alone attracts unwanted intentions. Not that any major city is any different, but mayor Quan should have been aware of that dynamic more then anyone else, after all she is the one pushing for community action to fill gaps in law enforcement. I'm not in city hall drudging over gritty details and th politics of decision making, but perhaps that's a good thing, because better choices seem to be obvious with all that out of the way. But in the end the Mayor is not an adversary to  the occupy movement, even if she makes herself into an obstacle.

It only diminishes hope to see a self styled progressive mayor make an enemy out of herself to a community that, for now, seems uninterested in giving her another chance to get it right anyway. I read in the Bay Citizen that a million dollars have been spent on both the raid and the cleanup. This city can't afford a million dollars worth of anything. So the whole picture becomes obscured. The movement has a great victory in being attacked and then persevering. That image, that idea is so strong and it's probably extremely unpopular to think this, but does it not galvanize support behind the wrong message? There is no Goldman Sachs presence in Oakland, and the fight feels like it's between good and evil, but are we not actually fighting ourselves? The forces of socioeconomic inequality are global, complex, and would still be here even if Oakland imploded, even if congress passed anything at all, even if we thought we won.

So what? I don't have any suggestions, and the movement has no demands. Maybe that's exactly how those two things should continue. I can only feel more conflicted knowing how pretentious it sounds to argue with a movement i agree with, but then having this instinctual skepticism about what is really making these events so powerful. Someone tell me where I'm wrong in this, because I'd rather believe in what's happening here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

This post is a video game idea.

You are on your merry way to Boston city hall to pay up for enormous fines regarding parking tickets, minor infractions, other behaviors you're being charged for. You're kind of a sensational person but that's only because you think life is a bit absurd, and you just can't get away with shit. Angry and irrational, you're cursing, spilling coffee, snapping at people, while walking up gratuitous stairwells to the main entrance. Breath a sigh...

You walk into the building--inside is a convoluted geometric nightmare. Not only are there multiple departments with similar names, but they are physically demanding to get to. Adding insult to injury, the space inside the building is obviously larger then the building outside. A clear distortion of reality, which really unnerves you.

The goal of the game is to pay these stupid fines. But every office has the same words in their names mixed around with different suffixes thrown in. On top of that, they give you forms which are incomprehensible and send you back and forth through the obstacle course of stairs, corridors, ambiguous offices, not to mention the many departments.

Attempt to achieve this insurmountable task before your temper goes, otherwise you'll be politely ordered to calm down and start the filing process over because you have caused a disruption, and that is unfair to the other people in line. Who aren't there. I'm being serious. A little bureaucratic humor mixed in with adventure and plat-former elements. It's like Mario except he's been fined for plumbing without a license.

I love you

Hamid Karzai is a fascinating character.

I listen to the news, probably too often. One day I might hear about the scandal and controversy surrounding this person.  I hear how his brother was involved in the drug trade moving opium, another day I hear his brother is killed and as the casket is prepared for burial, he dives in weeping; it takes scores of people to remove him. I hear how he once supported the initial Taliban ideal only to come to a conclusion in line with Ahmad Shah Massoud and the northern alliance. I hear how he is surrounded by corruption, and seemingly uncorrupted himself. How I would love, to sit and ask him all about it.

It's the conflict and aura that attract my attention. I know nothing about him in reality, only reflections of him delivered through media. But something compelling endures that translation, or is it a transliteration in some cases? There are so many events and ideas that surround his existence, that draw the attention of the world--It seems as though he is to be written off as a liability particularly where American politics are concerned, though he obviously possesses an understanding that trumps and theater produced for and perceived by most domestic audiences.

But theater is exactly what draws me to this character. It is such a good story. Imagine a film that captures his persona against the context of the chaos surrounding him. He has these particular flaws, that add so much texture to the story. I once heard that Karl Eikenberry or someone in the embassy staff said that Karzai was off his meds. Who would know what to think of their medication if they were the mayor of Kabul? There's a great fucking story here...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Disintigration loops live was bad

Compare the original to the anniversary performance

Where is the disintegration in this orchestra? Horn stops and bells don't have the flavor of a decaying tape loop. I thought for sure they had conjured some brilliant execution of the piece. All the musical technology in the world is readily available but somehow a glockenspiel is deemed more representative of the source material? Why didn't anyone try crushing the sound up a little bit? It could've been more interesting with a little more creativity in the instrumentation, like doubling the size of the orchestra and having each performer play softer dynamics. Or have the instruments prepared to give them different tonal qualities. How about no glockenspiel. Each performer could create a disfigured tape loop of their part, and play all the loops simultaneously. They could even have the orchestra play along with the loops.

The idea that the Disintegration Loops would be played live seemed promising. But now that I think about it, there was something off about it, it seems more like marketing the emotional impact; 'It's 9/11 so now feel this: original.' But I probably would have liked it anyway if it had been done differently...