As the Media Spins

Why do I read the news anymore? Well, why do I read news headlines? I have good sites to go to, but they still spin the schlock people want to read most. The past few days, I’ve been watching how the right-wing spin-mongers have totally wound their panties so tight, that their eyeballs are popping out. I just Googled “obama socialist” and got a pile of hits on this meme. Which makes me laugh since Obama isn’t really anything unless the Democratic corporate backers tell him what he is.

I got angry today when I saw the NY Times spin the Obama school address non-issue on their site. In the lead off paragraph, which is about all anyone reads these days, the Times said that the address “has set off a revolt among conservative parents, who have accused the president of trying to indoctrinate their children with socialist ideas.” Last night, on the Huffington Post, I watched as current media darling Glen Beck connected Obama to the Rockefellers to socialists and fasciscts via all the artwork on the Rockefeller Plaza by way of Van Jones (the current punching bag for the right wing mudslingers). Beck’s main piece of art was a Diego Rivera mural that is no longer in the Plaza, which most Americans have never seen in person. Finally, on the Drudgereport tonight, a link to a local news site stated that elected official U.S. Rep. Paul Broun “told a meeting of the Morgan County Republicans on Wednesday night that Obama already has or will have the three things he needs to make himself a dictator: a national police force, gun control and control over the press.”

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Yes, Mr. Pynchon, “the beach” indeed!

Steeped in Metaphor

I like the hearse on the new book jacket for Thomas Pynchon’s new novel Inherent Vice. It’s a surf bum hearse, with painted pictures on top of the paint job. I have a hearse on my book shelf, reminding me of my father. Getting ready to start a new fiction story gets me excited for the new metaphors within the pages. The first line of the book, perhaps Pynchon’s set-up for a good joke, is the quote “Under the paving-stones, the beach! – Graffito, Paris, May 1968” If that’s the beginning of the gag, then I’m already in on it!

I just watched a movie where an unwitting hero battles a well-armed military-focused corporation in the slums of South Africa. This guy’s a dupe for the corporation, which is power-hungry for using their conventional technology and hopefully getting more from the aliens. The government barely exists in Johannesburg, and Nigerian thugs make seem to control District 9. They make a living doing a brisk trade with cat food.
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First-Hand News fm Iran

CNN is on here at my hotel room in Buffalo, and the main news story is how “citizen journalists” in Iran continue to cover the breaking stories with cell phones, Twitter, and FaceBook. Iranians are risking their lives to submit video footage to network news stations. Over on Huffington Post, Nico Pitney is blogging about Iran, using sources from all over the web, and doing a bit of vetting to discount some fake citizen journalism.

As some of you may know, I have stencil work from Iran over on Stencil Archive. I don’t know the artist’s real names, nor any details about their lives. But I do understand that doing graffiti in Iran comes at a great risk. Larger than the risks that other artists face, since graffiti is considered an evil Western-influenced activity by some fundamentalist Iranians. Since the protests started, I have been concerned about the artists, fearing their safety and hoping that they’re keeping things real in the streets. They’ve gotten in touch and are OK. But extremely excited and concerned about losing their votes in the recent election.  They have reacted by doing what they do best during these amazing times in Persia. They’re keeping art in the streets!

My data mining has dug up some blogs, and Dub Gabriel has started blogging for a friend in Iran who is telling his version of the story. Here’s a photoblog that I have gone to to look at photos. Here is a Flickr stream of some current art in the Iranian streets. Iran is blocking some major web sites (like YouTube), but Flickr seems to be available. And it’s easy to get around the government blocking: Dub Gabriel is easily helping his friend in Iran post information, probably via simple email exchanges. So posting some of these sites is a simple act that I can do to help the thousands of green-clad people in the streets of Iran.

Twenty years ago, Chinese students occupied Tianamen Square, and were eventually brutally crushed by the People’s Army. Last night at my presentation at Hallwalls, I showed some photos of the street art and stencil work in Iran. I made the comment that things might have ended differently in 1989, had the students used cell phones and cameras to let the whole world instantly watch and witness their experience with seeking freedom and democracy. I don’t know if today’s coverage in Iran will bring a huge change with their culture, but I know that our ability to witness it first hand is a sweet experience. CNN is showing international rallies supporting the Iranian democrats, and I am sure that those attending these rallies are snapping pics and taking phone vids of the scene. And they’re MMS’ing them to friends in Persia. And they’re instantly posting them online.

Together, we can witness what is happening half the world away, and thus our compassion expands for those who desire the basic freedoms we all should have. Hopefully, this will drive change in the world and bring lessons of unity and equality that we should’ve learned over and over again. If not, then we will once again have to see similar uprisings happen, and have to relive the painful images of oppression. That being said, don’t forget the recent struggles in Tibet, the ongoing pain in Palestine, and other suffering around the world of people who don’t have the technology to give us the first-hand experience.

SN: Online Radio Panel at Pirate Cat

Andy Blue from the League of Pissed Off Voters called me up yesterday to see if I had any plans last night. None, really. So he told me to stop by Pirate Cat Radio/Cafe before 7pm to sit on a panel and discuss graffiti on the League’s weekly show. All worked out nicely, so I met up with Reyes, Cuba, Chris (who co-created the new local books with Steve Rotman), Eddie, and Eclairacuda to have a one-hour talk about what’s going on in SF with graffiti and street art. The talk mostly discussed spray graffiti, so it was great to hear Chris, Cuba, and Reyes talk about what’s going on in their world. Chris has great thoughts and concepts about what’s happening. Eddie and I got to throw in some angles too. And the writers, including the always entertaining Eclair, kept things real throughout.

You can hear the discussion here. Make sure you scroll half way through the two-hour show to get to the graffiti talk.

Thanks to Andy Blue, a fan and grey-area participant of the scene, for pulling us together in what may become an ongoing dialog about the City’s Zero Graffiti stance, and how absurd that goal truly is.