August 2004 Archives

It was disturbingly quiet early this afternoon on 8th Avenue. It's Republican week in New York, and while the broad northbound artery is usually one of the busiest in the city, at least 11 blocks of it are totally closed to vehicle traffic from late last Friday night until midnight this Thursday.

Even pedestrians are unable to go above 30th Street unless they live or work in those blocks and are carrying photo identification. The only solution is a long detour to 9th Avenue on the west or 6th on the east, and then a resumption of the route north.

The avenue belonged to the police. I had only gone out to pick up something for lunch, but I counted 61 officers between 23rd and 24th Streets (even before I saw a few dozen more headed up toward midtown on bicycles). I don't think one of them managed to look anything but bored. It's a terrible indictment of an entire class of civil servants, but I don't believe cities are their thing.

Now I was drawn north, probably by the magnet of the empty street and the site of the temporary cross-avenue pedestrian press bridge visible way up on 33rd Street.

The designated block-long pen of the designated protest area, or "Free Speech Zone," looked almost empty; inside the total enclosure of the police barricade there were probably less than a hundred Postal Service workers harangueing their Republican targets insulated within Madison Square Garden two blocks north:


It's probably not a surprise that there are so few protesters in the "approved" area today, since August 31 has been designated a day of non-violent civil disobedience and direct action. That sort of thing doesn't work very well if the venue is more or less sponsored by the target.

[Note: see links on the previous post to check for news on today's protests]

"WELCOME." I turned back at 30th Street, one block below the southern extremity of the Garden. This image shows the increasingly forbidding barricades and walls* found as you go north (if anyone not authorized actually could go north these days):


Past a few virtually empty shops running down from the southwest corner on this deserted avenue and only about eight feet from the metal barricades of the pen shown in the first photograph, I spotted this entrepreneurial tavern owner's sign, "Happy Hour, 12 - 6." Somebody wasn't going to miss a business opportunity even in the midst of this blockade; I hope our publican is able to attract a larger trade during the remainder of the Convention. The suited gentleman with the cigar, perched on a stool in front of the door, was only part of the small crowd bemused by the energy of the people in the blue t-shirts:


* On The Daily Show tonight Rob Corddry referred to the barriers as "concrete liberty hurdles" and Ed Helms later explained, "Not even the appearance of martial law will stop [the Republican delegates]."

"Surfin' U.S.A."

For those of you who are newly-energized politically, and, impatient, frustrated and disgusted with the starvation rations of the commercial U.S. media, looking around for some really healthy fare, here are a very few online, radio and print suggestions, delivered in no particular order.

Of course each of these will also be useful beyond just the story of this week's events in New York. No more an 80 or 95-lb weakling, even with a little investment of your time, you'll find your friends will come to you for information or counsel (clearly much more enlightened than the competition, you'll also find yourself scoring better than ever in more intimate society; knowledge is sexy).

Democracy Now (national, daily, independent news program - Amy Goodman is terrific!)

Pacifica Radio (historic, self-sustaining educational radio network)

WBAI (even WNYC is useless or worse; go to this New York Pacifica outlook)

The Village Voice (really developing their website lately, but they're still available in print)

Indymedia (sort of problematic, since anyone can post just about anything they want, and there is no editing, but hard to ignore)

a-noise (fabulous, totally hot "participatory webstream," for news as it's happening delivered by the participants and other groovy sorts)

The Nation (weekly, printing since 1865, "will not be the organ of any party, sect, or body," now also online and with email updates)

Common Dreams (enormously wide-ranging progressive news wire)

Atrios/Eschaton (absolutely essential, smart, fecund political blog)

Daily Kos (ditto)

truthout (progressive site with text, audio and video reports of RNC week)

Happy surfing!

[image from Drexel University, Library News; sound from the Beach Boys]


I was hoping for a leisurely stroll to the Greenmarket in Union Square this afternoon, but seconds after I left the front door of the building I realized this wasn't going to be the usual hunter/gathering experience.

Late this morning the guys returning one of our heavy air conditioners from the repair shop called from their truck to tell us the police weren't allowing them to stop their van in front of our building. Eventually they found a parking place four blocks away and managed to wheel the unit here on a handtruck.

As I found when I stepped into 23rd Street myself later in the day, what they had described was only part of the story. Dozens of police scooters were lined up on the sidewalk only yards from our front door (only by some weird coincidence, I'm sure, exactly in front of the national headquarters of the Communist Party). Just as I had registered the presence of this unusual sidewalk furniture, with the roar of much larger engines a formation of eight motorcyle cops swept down the street toward 8th Avenue.

Then I noticed for the first time the flashing lights visible on all kinds of stationary or moving police and rescue vehicles, all within sight of where I stood.

The street itself was lined with traffic cones where normally vehicles would be parked on both sides, and the center two lanes were also deliniated by lines of cones. Vehicles were prohibited in that area. Regular traffic, including the large articulated buses, was barely crawling along in a single lane in each direction on what had been designed as a six-lane crosstown thoroughfare.

When I walked down 7th Avenue, where "stopping" was also proscribed for the entire week, according to the posted signs, I saw a number of delivery guys sweating in the heat while they hauled goods by hand or handtruck from wherever they had been able to park their vehicles.

At every single intersection I passed as I headed downtown I spotted between four and six city cops. I feigned naivety and asked one open-faced patrolman the question I knew from experience would not get a real answer: Is there some event going on today? He said no, but volunteered, "this is just a security lock zone."


20th Street, the residential street occupied by the headquarters of the Police Department's 10th Precinct, the building itself only about the size of two townhouses and hardly the only feature of the block, was closed to traffic altogether. There were checkpoints at either end of the block.

As I started to step across 19th street a large unmarked black Chevrolet rushed by, its siren doing the familiar New York police or ambulance vehicle "pop pop" employed for anything less than an emergency mission.

When I got to Union Square at first I couldn't see the usual mass of farmers' trucks and stands, there were so many emergency vehicles ringing the Park. I scolded myself for not checking online to see whether the Monday market had been cancelled for our Republican emergency, but then I realized everything was there as usual inside the ring of "security." The entire Park area was swarming with police; there were easily more than a hundred in plain sight.

I hurried through my shopping, taking no pleasure in the business, and, anxious to avoid more depressing encounters with armed aliens, made the unusual decision to return home by Subway rather than on foot.

Big mistake. At first I was too bummed out by what I had been seeing in the street to notice the police presence underground. I was also sweating from the heat and humidity and concerned with avoiding what looked like an imminent thunderstorm, But when I transferred from the L at 8th Avenue I was shocked to see police everywhere. Since I had the time while I waited for the E train, I was able to see that there was precisely one cop on the platform for every two cars, and that these guards seemd to be charged with, among other duties, ducking their heads into each car while the doors remained open in the station. The pattern was repeated at the station on 23rd Street, where I was delighted to be able to exit for home.

It's now late in the evening, six hours after I wrote the paragraphs above. I still haven't run across any terrorists (at least of the private variety), but I just got off the number 1 train at the 23rd Street station down the block from our apartment and I immediately counted 23 police at the street level of the intersection. When I got home our doorman told me that one of my neighbors had just told him there were 30, so it seems I'm not the only one noticing these pod people spread around the city.

I'm convinced that what we're seeing is only the beginning. This kind of governmental response to imagined or real civil threats is both cynical and ineffective, the proper application of the adjectives depending on which alarmists and which planners they are attached to, but the thing will feed on itself; in a climate of fear fed by ignorance we're already seeing that there is no effective way to object to increasing the government's control over our daily lives and our liberties when it invokes the spectre of terror.

What are they protecting, our security or their own? How much longer do they expect us to believe this is all about our safety and not their power? I'm afraid that in the case of too many of us the answer may be "forever."

For more on the neighborhood, look to the second half of this post on Bloggy.

Whatever it was, Sunday's massive protest (and even less so those which preceded it and those which are still to follow this week) was not a rally for John kerry or the Democratic Party

Sure, come November 2nd these angry New Yorkers, and their equally pissed-off friends who travelled from all over the country to be here during the Republican Convention, will vote for Kerry - unless they are registered in states in no danger of attaching their electors to George W. Bush - but right now and almost certainly going forward into the next administration, and even the one which will follow that one, they are and will continue to be voting with their feet and their bodies against the bankrupt policies of what Gore Vidal has called ". . . the one political party in the United States, the Property Party, with two right wings, Republican and Democrat." Even if he should win this fall, Kerry should take little comfort in what is happening on the streets of New York right now; in the most fundamental way, it's not at all about the man whom many of us call "Bush light."

There were plenty of Kerry t-shirts out on the streets yesterday, but they were merely undershirts, covered with, heavily armored with, props and signage representing dramatic imagery and insistent demands which have almost nothing to do with Kerry or his campaign. Neither Kerry's name nor his policy plans were the cry of the day. In fact, the ideas and practices condemned by this crowd's signs and their chants are associated with the cautious Democratic standard-bearer almost as much as they are with the execrable Republican incumbent.

Should the junior senator from Massachusetts be promoted two months from now, he will find that the larger national constituency represented in microcosm by the anger and determination exhibited by hundreds of thousands taking to the streets up and down New York this week is not going to remain any quieter for Mr. Anybody-But-Bush than it would for his disastrous namesake.

escorting one of the coffins included in the "1000 Coffins Project"

Barry and I were out on the streets for over six hours today, and I don't have the energy right now to do justice to a proper report. The 51 images in this gallery will have to suffice, at least for now.

Our own experience was of a very energized but ultimately very mellow crowd, but we've been listening to since returning home around 6 o'clock, and all is not well out there in Republicanland. It seems that among the many people being swept up off the streets to avoid offending the sensibilities of Bloomberg's Convention guests are a number of queers who staged a kiss-in in front of the Central Library [CORRECTION: it's now reported that it happened at 46th and Broadway] and just about anyone not carrying red NYTimes goodybags as they emerged from matinees in the Times Square late this afternoon.

Don't trust the mainstream media for information. They're either totally ignoring what's really going on in New York today or else their corporately-financed prattle simply mouths the words packaged by Police Department public information sources. Do some homework; you'll be amazed at what you'll find.

the Church Ladies for Choice out in the noonday sun today

"March for Women's Lives" It was both a summons and an appellation today. Thousands of activists ended up with a rally at the edge of New York's elegant little City Hall after a march over the Brooklyn Bridge this afternoon.

The enthusiastic crowd was intent on ensuring that the issues of reproductive health remain part of the national political dialogue. The idea was to defend all of these (global family planning, real sex education, accessible, safe and legal abortion, birth control options, the right to privacy regarding sexuality, and equal access to health care) in the face of increasing onslaughts from a powerful and fanatical radical Right Wing.

The marchers were very serious, but even on one of the hottest afternoons of the summer style and humor marched along with them.

For a few images captured under a hot sun today, go to this gallery.

little red convertible, dusk, Williamsburg Bridge

Barry and I had the delightful experience of being whisked to Williamsburg for an opening at Schroeder Romero Gallery on Wednesday evening in our friends' bright red open car, but the unfamiliar luxury of the carriage subtracted nothing from our experience of the political or aesthetic power of the show curated by Marc Lepson. The title of the exhibition, referencing the notorious post 9/11 warning delivered by former Bush press secretary Ari Fleisher, is "Watch What We Say."

Many of these provocative and very beautiful works are documented on the gallery's own site or that of Joy Garnet (who has two pieces in the show) but I managed to capture a couple of detail or installation shots which may still be useful to the curious.

William Pope L. Bill is Upset 1955-2004 (2004) mixed media 12" x 11"

Christopher Knowles Alert Paintings (2003) acrylic on canvas; five parts 4' x 10' installed [installation view]

Joy Garnett Smoke (2003) oil on canvas 54" x 60"

Carrie Moyer Psychogeographic Landscape v.2 (2004) acrylic on canvas 84" x 72" [detail]

Dread Scott Beloved (2003) silkscreenon paper 22" x 17"


This is the image which accompanies the lead story on the CNN site at this moment. The headline on the front page? "New York stands guard." I see it as, "Republican Guards hold up New York." We are an occupied city tonight, as I listen to the sirens wailing up and down the avenues and helicopters scanning with high-powered searchlights as they whop, whop, whop overhead.

I'm punching this post into my blog as we're listening to a remarkable webstream reporting tonight's ongoing, historical Critical Mass through the streets of Manhattan, including live accounts by the cyclist participants. There are reports that scores of people have been arrested already - for bicycling while smiling. The police are funnelling them into police vans and buses, chasing away the public and prohibiting photographs.

In the end, 50,000 cops in one city are going to find something to keep them amused.

Bloomberg and Kelly are doing Bush's work. Nothing could be more effective in radicalizing and provoking orderly protests than this outrageous over-reaction.

UPDATE: The Washington Post reports that nearly 250 bicyclists were arrested. This is insane!

One scene in the play we saw last night accounted for what I'll say was the scariest evening I've ever spent in a theatre. While I think it's generally billed as comedy (well maybe political satire) don't underestimate its seriousness. Yes it's hysterically funny and the players are really impressive, but there's much, much more in store for the brave souls who make it to a venue revealed (eventually) only to those who reserve tickets. Performances run through next Saturday.

I don't come across too many playwrights working with the kind of political material I find inside my own head. Barry writes, "I love a play where "moderate" is an insult."

Many, many thanks to the anonymous crew responsible.

protesting in the altogether

It's AIDS, stupid!

ACT UP pulled off a classic action this afternoon across from Madison Square Garden, the site of the Republican National Convention, scheduled to open formally on Monday.

In the spirit and the extremity of these strange times, the boys and girls did it while entirely naked, and a beautiful sight they were.

Excerpt from the ACT UP New York/ACT UP Philladelphia press release:

A dozen activists stopped traffic in front of Madison Square Garden and
stripped naked, exposing the fact that when it comes to AIDS, "the emperor
Bush has no clothes." Slogans were painted on their bodies that read "Drop
The Dept" and "Stop AIDS Now," while [two other activists] held a banner
with the same message - another was dropped over one of the trailers parked

We were protesting the Bush administration's refusal to agree with the
proposal of other G7 nations to cancel 100% of the debt of poor nations -
money that could be used to fight AIDS.

While Bush has promised $15 billion over 5 years to fight Global AIDS, poor
nations pay that amount each year in debt payments. Cancelling the debt
would have significant impact on money spent toward health care and other
desperately needed social programs.

After blocking traffic for 15 minutes, the naked activists were arrested and
taken into custody.

[image from Bloggy, via NY1, may be supplemented later]

UPDATE: As I had anticipated earlier today, I now have a photo of at least partial images of the action's neatly-lettered text messages, "DROP the DEBT" and "STOP AIDS:"


[second image from Health Global Access Project (GAP), via James Wentzy; there's much more on their site]

"life could be beautiful"

I really like him. Those who know William K. Dobbs know that's not so easy to say, but now that he's become the subject a modest but delightful profile in the NYTimes, written by Michael Brick, it may be easier for me to explain why.

Sure, from the very first time I heard him speak in front of an ACT UP meeting in the late 80's I've always respected him, as virtually without equal among some really tough competition, even if early on that also meant hoping I could stay out of the line of his fire, the kind of fire usually associated with biblical prophets. In the years since however I've managed to overcome some of my timidity and the rewards of knowing him just a bit better include (and he'd laugh at me for this) real affection.

He was admired for his mind and his integrity throughout the activist community from the very beginning, but he could be intimidating. His devotion to principle was uncompromising. We may have been wrong, but most of us had the strong impression that he would not be easy to know personally. Saints can be extremely tough to live with.

Dobbs stayed around. Within the AIDS and Queer movements the authority of his stentorian voice and his facile pen represented a strong focus and a highly-intelligent conscience within groups with many rivals for those roles, but few equal to or even faintly resembling Bill. I think we were all fascinated with our mysterious intellectual Clark Kent. There were certainly many crushes.

Today Brick describes Dobbs as "a main organizer and the official spokesman of United for Peace and Justice." How did he get to opposition to the Iraq war, the Bush administration and eventually both major political parties from the more narrow focus of his earlier activism? It's not a big step for for many of us, but here's Dobbs's account:

"Gay is the lens that I look at life through," he said, sitting recently in a diner near Madison Square Garden, the convention site. "Is there a connection between that and antiwar work? I feel a connection, but it's not easy to articulate. It's about power. It's a visceral need to stop war based on the lessons I've learned as a gay man."

. . . .

Mr. Dobbs says he is motivated to protest by the cruelty of fate, the nature of power and the virtue of free expression. "Life could be beautiful, but it won't," he says, paraphrasing Lily Tomlin. "What's wrong with the world?"

OK, but like Bill himself, we're still going to keep trying to make a difference. Let's get out there this weekend (and stay out there for as long as it takes), let's make it very colorful and let's keep it very safe.

[image from the NYTimes]


Area frozen!

We arrived back at the apartment tonight at midnight after an evening in Williamsburg and the first thing we spotted as we exited our friend's car was this sign.

How much of New York are the Republicans going to need? Even as of this morning we were still being told that few streets other than those immediately surrounding Madison Square Garden (which occupies the two blocks between 31st and 33rd Streets) would be impacted by police security measures for the Republican Convention. In fact, even the closing of 8th Avenue from 23rd Street to 34th Street was to be effective only during the hours the Convention was in session.

These signs are posted every few feet on both sides of the broad crosstown course of 23rd Street, at least along the block where we live, between 7th and 8th Avenue (I haven't yet looked further afield; maybe tomorrow).

Are we going to find a military staging area set up outside our windows on Saturday morning?

The judge has just said no to the coalition, United for Peace and Justice, but no judge can tell individual free Americans and their friends to stay out of Central Park on a Sunday afternoon.

It's still our park, not Bloomberg's, and we're going to be there four days from now.

At the end of the march up 7th Avenue, after the crowd passes the site of the Convention, the police may be successful in dispersing half a million people in every direction. Tens and hundreds at a time may be diverted east and west as they arrive at 34th Street, but everyone knows Central Park is the destination. Half a million people will end up in the Park, but now half a million people will have to obstruct more than just one avenue as they make their way north to our great public Commons.

What cannot be known is whether and to what extent this passage will be accomplished without police violence. While it would be of no comfort to liberty, to the movement or to individuals who might feel it physically, any violence will be the fault of one incredibly myopic mayor.

The war has finally come home, but the enemy isn't in Iraq.


Justice Jacqueline W. Silbermann wrote in her ruling that the protesters' group, United for Peace and Justice, was "guilty of inexcusable and inequitable delay" in bringing its case against the city, according to The Associated Press.
In fact, UfPJ applied to the City for the Central Park permit early last year, but received no reply until this past July.

Even when I try to just do a "culture" post these days I often find I have to add it to the "political" category as well. But it's a sign of our dangerous times, and if I have a complaint, it's about the times, not the signs.

Last night we visited the oddly festive, and certainly very social, opening of "amBUSH!" at the Van Brunt Gallery, recently installed on Washington Street in the former meat market district below 14th Street.

Historical note:

The clean, well-lit space occupies almost the exact site of the legendary 1970's-80's gay sex club, the Mineshaft.

In a routine which has become familiar in Bloomberg's New York, while we were with the crowd inside we were suddenly joined by several uniformed police (we seem to have a surfeit of these in the last few years, and especially this summer, but at least they weren't carrying assault rifles this time) who were very concerned about guests sipping wine outside the packed rooms and obstructing free passage on the sidewalk.

I never saw the police there on my rare visits around twenty-five years ago, but if they ever did make an appearance then, it would not have been the wine or the sidewalk which attracted their interest. On the other hand, decades ago there wouldn't have been a dozen miniature cameras documenting cops while they talked to the proprietor of the establishment. We love cameras.

The sensual goodies available last night, and available continuing through September 18th, were of a special kind. One of the show notices had announced, "The message of this exhibition is simple: Bush must go!" Some 36 artists exhibited twice as many angry works, with varying kinds and degrees of success, none of them leaving any doubts about their passion or commitment. For visitors who won't be satisfied with a passive political role even inside an art gallery, there are a number of participatory stations throughout the show. Raise some creative hell, or just tell the White House what you think.


Some time after 8 o'clock an additional dimension was supplied by a musical and video performance, "TERRORVISION," created and performed by Bill Jones & Ben Neill.

First screened/performed at Exit Art, Spring 2004, it consists of four linked computers--a "Power Book band"--that merge Neill's three-belled, computer interfaced mutantrumpet, keyboards, and other instruments with live MIDI controlled digital video. They play the moving pictures to create "video remixes" breathing life into real-time and recorded video. Expect everything from deep ambient soundscapes to funky electronic breakbeats.


Elise Engler showed a pencil-drawing quintych, "Wrapped in the Flag," begun last year, which now represents 1087 dead soldiers in Iraq, although it's unfortunately a continuing work.


Guy Richards Smit included "You Can't Kill Us, Man, We're Already Dead," in a statement still obvious to only a few Americans.


Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, with their installation, "The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One)," may be the most incendiary contribution. Phew.


David Humphrey's cardboard sign, "Bush is Offensive," might be considered in arguable taste in some circles, but it will be eminently practical in others, especially this week and into the next: It's equipped with a convenient handle.

but we won't let go of our own myth

Thirty years on, the Viet Nam War still has the power to enrage both those who survived its battles and those who stayed at home, and it now seems that a new generation may have inherited its unreason. The War remains a particular obsession for the American Right, and its memory is a fundamental component of the ideology of today's neoconservatives as well as a very useful political instrument.

We don't seem to have learned a thing.

It only took the Germans 25 years to get over their own stab-in-the-back legend (Dolchstoßlegende), even if 40 million people had to die first. In the U.S. our own version of the betrayal myth has already survived 36 years, and it has performed an ugly role in every major election since 1968. While we haven't scored numbers nearly as big as the old German militarism did beginning in 1939, the great and endless war declared after September 11 offers all kinds of opportunities for the future.

The beautiful new world I saw created by the end of the 1960's by what seemed to be a new Enlightenment seemed to be confirmed in its success with the victory of the antiwar movement and the end of the Viet Nam War. We had finally come to our senses in our politics both at home and abroad. I thought at the time that the absolute rightness of the movement had ensured the success, and would guarantee the permanence of both Liberalism and the Peace Movement.

Only a few years later, some time after emerging from living in a place and a period on the other end of the earth and of modern times (1970's Apartheid South Africa), I was shocked to find that virtually all that had been accomplished by the 60's was being gradually reversed by a new, subtle Reaction. I confess that although I had studied history almost all my (then) young life, my loyalties and my naivety allowed me to imagine things would just get better and better.

But even then I did not notice the degree to which this country had been unable to resolve the problem of Viet Nam. Of course I myself no longer saw any problem. Today however, because of the most recent absurd developments in the current Kerry/Bush campaigns, I believe that national divisions over that war are likely to survive even the death of the last participant, not unlike the way its nearest relation, the Civil War, remains an enormous presence almost 150 years after it began.

May we somehow still be saved from demagogues, fools and our own ignorance.

[image from Städtisches Louise-Schroeder-Gymnasium]


That's it! I'm not voting for Kerry. The man wants to be remembered as a hero, and with good reason, but he wants to hide the one part of his history which finally distinguished him as a truly great hero, his noble efforts to end the Viet Nam War. And the reason is that he's desperate to establish credentials as the same kind of warrior who thirty and more years ago ran the insane conflict from which he was fortunate to escape with his life. On war, including apparently even the War in Southeast Asia, and on just about every other subject he has addressed during his candidacy his position is almost indistinguishable from that of George W. Bush.

I have to admit that it's only because New York State has absolutely no chance of awarding its electoral votes to Kerry's Commander-in-Chief that once again I will not have to contribute to the end of the American experiment by voting for either of the Right-wing candidates held up by our two Right-wing parties.

Of course if I were unfortunate enough to find myself registered in one of those confused realms whose voters four years ago didn't seem to understand what was happening to them, I would probably find myself holding my nose tightly with one hand while I flipped the lever or touched the screen for the Democratic Party's candidate on November 2, hoping it might help my state swing toward Mr. Anything.

Kerry and the Democratic Party offer little more than somewhat inferior copies of what Bush and the Republican Party already represent very well. Most progressives would like to ignore this, operating on the now-familiar and almost universal, desperate principle of "Anything But Bush." Alexander Cockburn writes in The Nation this month,

Can someone win the presidency entirely on the basis of a negative asset? I wouldn't have thought so, but here's John Kerry, just about 90 days shy of election day, promoting himself as a man of presidential caliber entirely on the basis that he's the Anyone in "Anyone But Bush". Aside from the flag wagging , that's what it comes down to, unless you take the probably realistic view that when it comes to war-fighting in the service of Empire he's far more bloodthirsty. Come next January the Anyone behind the desk in the Oval Office may be a bit taller. There'll be medals on the book shelf showing he killed Vietnamese in the service of his country. Most everything else will stay the same. Kerry's been pretty clear about that, letting his core constituencies know that as President Anyone he's not going to cut them any favors.

One more, very prococative thought, and I'll close down for the night. In the same article Cockburn reports the real concern which Andy Stern, head of the Service Employees International Union, expressed to the Washington Post's David Broder on the floor of the Democratic Convention. Cockburn describes Stern as saying, "another four years of Bush might be less damaging than the stifling of needed reform within the party and the labor movement that would occur if Kerry becomes president."

Stern later recanted, but I don't think I'm the only one who wonders about the wisdom of his conversion.

Ralph Nader was there first, and he hasn't left, bless him.

[image from MSNBC]

I really liked both the luxurious commingling and the tight boundaries in the various flower beds.

This will be the last of the Getty Garden images, and the last, sigh, of any of Los Angeles, at least until next time.

"A REPUBLIC, IF YOU CAN KEEP IT" - Benjamin Franklin

The Mayor is playing with fire.

Michael Bloomberg has dug in his heels, insisting that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and their guests will not be given a safe or appropriate venue for a protest rally scheduled for less than two weeks from today. Americans don't need a "free speech zone" to assemble or speak freely, but everyone would be better off if the police weren't positioned out there as an enemy army on a quiet Sunday in August.

I'd like to think that the Mayor will come to his senses and, contriving to show that he is fair, find some way to recognize that for a group of the size anticipated that day only an assembly in Central Park can protect liberties he has sworn to protect.

Make no mistake, there will be a march, and its route has been "approved" by the Mayor and the Police Department. But at this point in time, as indicated by the map on the site of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ, facilitators for the coalition organizing the August 29 march and rally), the route of the march begins at 23rd Street and 7th Avenue, above a huge asembly area, and ends at Madison Square Garden, the site of the Republican Party's own rally.

This means that although it was never intended that it would stop with 34th Street, at the moment the march route "sanctioned" by the police is only ten or eleven blocks long, enough room for only a few thousand people. Members of the coalition say they will procede to Central Park. The City authorities say they will not be permitted to do so. Those worthies are led by a Republican mayor who wants to "make nice" for the Republican Convention, and he says he won't budge in his opposition to un-Republicans' right to dissent.

In fact, yesterday Bloomberg declared,

"People who avail themselves of the opportunity to express themselves ... they will not abuse that privilege," he said at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "Because if we start to abuse our privileges, then we lose them, and nobody wants that."
He seems to have learned well from the scoundrels in Washington who have already converted fundamental Constitutional rights into privileges available only at an executive's discretion.

But since very few in New York are going to roll over for Bloomberg or the Republican carpetbaggers for whose patronage he has paid so dearly, the Mayor and his friends are playing a very dangerous game.

Already in March, in testimony before the City Council Public Safety Committee, the Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said that he expects 1000 arrests per day before and during the Convention, and that his office would be hard-pressed to handle the dramatic increase.

The police are studying a specially-published guidebook on dealing with "dangerous" demonstrators, and they have been infiltrating the meetings of protesters and march and rally planners.

Only some demonstrators planning to appear August 29th will be aware that a little-reported exceptional court ruling will allow Morgenthau's office to introduce previously court-sealed records of prior arrests for civil disobedience in order to award harsher penalties to those arraigned for activity during the Convention.

For many weeks, beginning even before the Democratic Convention in Boston, the FBI has been terrorizing dissent through its questioning of potential political demonstrators, and their friends and their families, about their plans to protest, issuing subpoenas in some cases.

All of these statements and activities have a chilling effect on legitimate expressions of dissent, but they also have the effect of radicalizing both the police and demonstrators who will not be easily discouraged.

Public authorities charged with protecting life and property have assembled the ingredients for an extremely volatile situation. If there is a disaster twelve days from now, does the Mayor think anyone will be served - other than a radical Right which, having picked this town for the site of its celebrations in order to profit from New York's 9/11 grief, now somewhat disabused of the expectation that plan would work, may see advantage only in scenes of rioting or police confrontations?

Is provoking these confrontations, and possibly much more serious consequences, really part of someone's plan? Is Bloomberg's and his Party's current course in New York, and the outrageous activity of the police and the FBI, a way of keeping down the numbers of protesters, of making sure that nobody comes out on the day of the march and rally except the most radical? There seems to be no other explanation for these absurd restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly.

Finally, if it already seems like the streets of New York on August 29th may end up looking and feeling something like many German cities did in the early 1930's, then we won't be surprised when the contemporary equivalent of fascist Brownshirts arrive that weekend to engage the protesters.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

New York has no great square. Virtually every other city in the world has a major, central, open plaza which functions as the heart and soul of its people, and which has occasionally been the site of the greatest popular assemblies in its history, both glorious and mourned, but New York was historically always too busy or too greedy (ok, to put a good light on it, maybe just not autocratic enough?) to set aside a large piece of real estate just because it might come in handy. Times "Square" is only an intersection, after all. We do have Central Park however, and Central Park is our great Commons. It must be permitted to function as such on August 29th, and for the safety of every man, woman and child who will be out that day, and for the sake of their freedoms, Bloomberg and the Parks and Police departments must do what they can to make it go smoothly.

Those of us who will be there speaking with our bodies and our words will do our part.

We just want to show that we are still here; we must show that we are still here. Bill Dobbs, media spokesman for UFPJ, describes August 29th as one of only two opportunities we will have to say what we think of George W. Bush. We cannot miss either of them.

You can make a difference even before August 29

Bloomberg can't be suicidal. He may still listen to reason. Let him know how you feel about the rights of speech and assembly.

NOT IN OUR NAME reminds us, "It's not about the grass" (actually that was originally Dobbs's call) and suggests we "politely" protest the city's denial of a permit for the rally in Central Park on August 29 by emailing Mayor Bloomberg or by calling his office at 212-788-3000, and send a fax to 212-788-2460. Also let the Parks Commissioner, Adrian Benepe, know how you feel by calling his office at 212-360-1305.


Robert Irwin's Central Garden at the Getty Center includes three magnificent Bougainvillea trellises assembled from concrete rebar alone. Their shapes suggest small fanciful Baobab trees, and offer just about the same amount of shade to the benches arranged at their feet.


Luxurious miniature landscape: For a sense of scale, see a very small bee just to the left and above the center of the picture.


Santiago Cucullu Barricades from All D&D, Haiti, Prague that Fall, Fermin Salvochea (2003) Contact paper on wall.

Even a week after returning from the West Coast I'm still finding pieces of paper reminding me of things I wanted to write about. One of them is the wonderful wall installation we spotted on our way out of Los Angeles's Hammer Museum after visiting the exhibition, "Made In Mexico."

Although not on the scaffold at the time, Santiago Cucullu was still in the midst of installing a large temporary mural (not the work shown above) at the top of the main staircase, assembled from large sheets of all kinds of contact paper. I first noticed it when coming from behind the installation. I spotted a single section of cerulean blue hologram paper on the corner of a wall. I'm sucker for those papers, which give the uncanny impression you're looking into three dimensions and this one was gorgeous. But even incomplete as it was, Cucullu's piece was of course far more breathtaking. In its early form I assumed it was totally abstract. In fact, like much of his work it reads as both abstract and representational.

An excerpt from notes on the Museum's site:

Cucullu’s mural-scale drawing for the Hammer Museum is perhaps his most ambitious and freewheeling contact paper work to date. Its source imagery is almost comically disparate: some comes from the archives of the Federación Libertaria de Argentina (FLA), an anarchist library in Buenos Aires; other parts reference a drawing the artist made while in school (and subsequently lost) that depicted a pair of Doc Martens with the imagined name Dusty Springfield Rhoades written across the top; and still other fragments allude to Dusty Rhodes, a real-life reporter from Springfield, Illinois, whose name the artist came across coincidentally while listening to a radio report about a police officer dismissed from her force. Cucullu presents everything as a tangle of images on a nearly flat picture plane, which can lead almost to the point of visual abstraction—making it hard to see the trees for the forest, so to speak—but also calls to mind pre-Renaissance religious paintings, which often set down multiple narratives in a single space on a single canvas.

[image from the Hammer Museum and courtesy of Julia Friedman Gallery]


the future of political demonstration?

I won't represent or recommend anything other than non-violence on August 29, but I can't help wondering how we could expect a peaceful (if we're very lucky) demonstration involving 250,000 people, or even several times that number, to impact the Bush administration or the November U.S. elections. A year and a half ago, in sub-freezing cold, close to a million people marched in New York alone, joined by millions more around the world on the same day, demanding that the U.S. not engage in a pre-emptive war. Washington ignored us, the American media barely covered the phenomenon, and a few weeks later the Bush cabal invaded Iraq.

Like many others who watched these events, I'm wondering if traditional mass demonstrations have become irrelevant in a post-democratic society composed of a fat citizenry and a diseased media, and run by a corporate cabal. If so, what can we come up with instead? How can we effect change before the Republic is beyond repair if it is not already too late? I don't think we have the half century some of our older, more patient sages suggest it will take.

[image from The People's Korea]



Unfit for Bottom?
Then Try the Top

Of course it's Porter J. Goss the NYTimes is talking about, don't you know.

N.J. Gov. James E. McGreevey

I dunno, the news just broke and we don't know the whole story, but you gotta wonder, as Barry asked just now, "He resigned? Is being gay more shameful than being corrupt?"

[image from]

Leon Golub Disappear You acrylic on linen 77" x 165.9"

An artist who created "heroic-scale figures," but also a man of heroic-scale human commitment, Leon Golub died on Sunday. Holland Cotter memorializes him in today's NYTimes.

Leon Golub, an American painter of expressionistic, heroic-scale figures that reflect dire modern political conditions, died on Sunday in Manhattan. He was 82 and lived in Manhattan.

. . . .

His [work] was firmly rooted in a critically engaged version of Western humanism and in the tradition of history painting.

His subject was Man with a capital M - as a symbol of social and spiritual ambition, often irrational and destructive, depicted in paintings of monumental scale.

The work won't disappear.

Leon Golub Dream Song Oil stick and ink on Bristol 10" x 8"

[images from artnet]


"They should just have a unity government and be honest about it," said Barry when I mentioned the news report this morning that Senate Democrats are saying that they won't oppose the Goss nomination. Read the NYTimes story and weep.

Ed Ruscha Other color lithograph 11 1/4” x 14 3/4”

While in Los Angeles last week we stopped at the West Hollywood workshop and galleries of Gemini G.E.L. (Graphic Editions Limited). Ok, to be honest, the draw had been the building itself, whose interest had been touted by an artist friend of ours; we didn't know about the galleries, and hadn't really expected to get inside. In fact, we were really welcomed, and graciously invited to walk about the exhibition spaces on our own.

Gemini has collaborated with famous artists nationwide in a great portfolio of first-rate prints, "Artists Coming Together," to help ACT (America Coming Together) defeat Bush and elect Democrats in federal, state and local elections in November. The prints are available, for those with pockets ample enough, individually or as a series. Here's more information.

Back to the building. It's less than two blocks from the Schindler House, and shows curious references to that structure, which was erected more than half a century earlier. The architecture is that of Frank Gehry, but it's the really good Gehry, the one whose early modest originality excited an entire world now so eager for duplicates of Bilbao flamboyance. These are a couple of almost abstract images of the Gemini shelter's 1976 shapes and textures:



[travel tip from Dennis Kane]


These guys deserve some serious exposure - now! Check out the video link, fucknewyork.

[link thanks to Dennis Kane]


Seen on West 3rd in Hollywood last week.

Central Park from the air.jpg
peace and goodness in the park before 9/11 - and after 8/29

I'm not going to any rally on the West Side Highway. I am not a car. After marching past Madison Square Garden I'll be in our great Central Park on August 29th, and I expect a million others will be with me. Bloomberg, Kelly and all the Republican invaders be damned.

See the latest stories in the local paper, from yesterday and today.

This is an excerpt from an email received this afternoon from United for Peace and Justice:

WE ARE MARCHING! On August 29, United for Peace and Justice will hold a massive, impassioned, peaceful, and legal march past Madison Square Garden, the site of the Republican Convention, to protest the Bush Administration’s deceit and destruction.

But we will NOT be rallying afterwards on the West Side Highway. As we announced in a press conference today, exiling us to a remote stretch of sun-baked highway makes a mockery of our right to assembly: The deal is off.

Our medics have told us that the West Side Highway isn’t a safe place for seniors, children, and people with disabilities to rally. Our sound engineers have told us that it’s not possible to set up a quality sound system there. Many of our members have told us that they simply will not go to such an awful and marginal location. And our common sense has told us that this deal was a set-up by a Republican mayor openly hostile to free speech.

Central Park is the only sensible place for us to rally. We filed a new permit application today with the NYC Parks Department to rally in Central Park on August 29, using the Great Lawn, North Meadow, and East Meadow. We will keep you informed of the City’s response.

These guys (who are actually all of us) need help to pay for what has been and will continue to be a costly legal fight. If you can help, here's where to go:
You can donate in several ways:
* Using a credit card online at
* By calling in a credit card donation to 212-868-5545
* By mailing a check or money order to UFPJ, P.O. Box 607, Times Square Station, NY NY 10108

[image from]

CIA Hooded Sweat and Cap.jpg

To head the most imprtant part of an intelligence community already disastrously overly-politicized, the President whose party already contols the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, has proposed, yes, a Republican politician.

And Porter Goss is not just any politician but the one who currently chairs the House Committee on Intelligence, the Congressional watchdog which has rolled over for the Administration for more than three years.

A few minutes ago I heard him on NPR, speaking since his nomination. He says the CIA needs more muscle, that the U.S. shouldn't be loved around the world, but rather respected (read, feared), and that if, within the U.S., it's to be a question of Big Brother or dead brother, he would see to it that there are no more dead brothers.

Doesn't sound like intelligence to me.

Digby has more.

Let's just say that when push comes to shove, old Porter is a partisan Republican first and a guardian of the CIA second. Be warned.

[image from Capitol Shopping Mall]


Just down the ramp at the Getty Musem where I found the Bougainvillea were these magnificent white Hibiscus, and I had barely entered the larger Central Garden area itself.

not thinking

The man so many people hope will lead us back to sanity and save the Republic told us yesterday that he would have voted for the (current) war in Iraq even if he had known what he knows now about the absence of WMDs or a connection to Al Qaeda.

Is this the man we're told we've all chosen as our standard-bearer? Is this the man we must follow blindly, without questions, to the point where we excoriate or gag any who would demur? This is a man who himself blindly followed, without questions, an idiot and his cynical handlers, and now says he would do it again!

I'm thinking for myself, and I do not hope.

[image from Hermes Press]


More than 25 years ago a friend in Boston brought me a present she had carried all the way back from a visit to El Paso, where she had grown up. It was a peach-colored Bougainvillea plant, and it made the trip in the back of her little Ford Maverick. I was absolutely delighted with her generosity and her thoughtfullness.

At the time the plant could hardly have seemed more exotic to me, or in the interior of the simple 1760's house in Providence which became its home. The Bougainvillea was primarily something I had read about in novels set in Mediterranean climes, and the simple parlor on Transit Street contained nothing but 18th-century New England stuff, pretty modest but intensely curated. I found myself justifying its presence with the fiction that it had come to my quarters in the cabin of some sea captain returning from Brazil,* but the plant quickly took on a character of its own, and brought life to a beautiful room. Its branches and its flowers also showed intensely and stubbornly romantic through most of their existence, somehow haunting my memory of that very classical house.

The Bougainvillea survived for years, regularly pushing out at least a few brave blossoms in front of its curtainless window, but it never looked very happy in spite of the happiness it gave to my friends and to me. It didn't make the move to New York, but our relationship has made every sighting of its relatives, anywhere in the world, a sweet joy.

* Hmm. I just found out that the flower was discovered (for Europeans), in 1768.

[The image was captured last Wednesday afternoon, near the Central Garden of the Getty]


Schindler House, view at the driveway entrance of part of a very tall and dense copse of bamboo which runs along the front sidewalk (the pleasant sounds of a large, creaking wooden ship are heard when the wind blows)

Utopia. The house was built in 1922, and the grounds followed. The compound was an incredibly original creation and it almost totally baffled contemporaries. The people who built it and made it a happy place for themselves and their friends are long gone, and while no one has succeeded them in their residency, the Schindler Studio-Residence in West Hollywood has never failed to attract admirers, visitors and guests.

The original furniture is in storage, so as I tried to evoke the functions of the interior and exterior spaces in my reverential self-guided tour of this beautifully quirky place I had the odd impression I was walking through the remains of the palace of a sage or nobleman in a culture not yet discovered by the West. Actually that wouldn't be far from the truth.

Schindler House, view of the north wing from the walk leading to the architect's studio (the taller, white building is a neighboring apartment house)

Schindler House, view from the north wing of its private terrace and the plantings beyond, including the tall hedge shielding the walk to the architect's studio

Last year the NYTimes published an article about an important fight in which the foundation maintaining the house is currently involved, and it included this homage to Schindler's art on Kings Road:

Schindler was born in Vienna in 1887 and came of age amid the intellectual ferment that produced Sigmund Freud, Gustav Klimt and Arnold Schoenberg. He emigrated to the United States in 1914 and soon was working for Frank Lloyd Wright.

Several years later, Wright sent him to Los Angeles to supervise a project, the Hollyhock House, built for Aline Barndsall, an oil heiress. He decided to stay and open his own architectural practice.

In 1922, Schindler built his famous home, designing it, in the words of the British historian and critic Reyner Banham, ''as if there had never been houses before.''

Even today it is striking in its simplicity and originality. Glass, concrete and redwood are the principal materials. There are few doors, just sliding panels inspired by Japanese houses. Rather than bedrooms, there are canvas ''sleeping porches'' on the roof. Furniture is sleek and angular, and the boundary between indoors and outdoors is blurred.

What went on inside the house while Schindler and his wife lived there was at least as remarkable as the house itself.

Both were social and political radicals, and they turned their home into a salon for artists and all manner of utopians, from Communists to theosophists to vegetarians. Guests and tenants included the photographer Edward Weston, the composer John Cage and the novelist Theodore Dreiser.

Schindler died in 1953, and his wife continued to occupy the house until her death in 1977.

She established Friends of the Schindler House to preserve the property, and in 1994 the group received an injection of cash after arranging a partnership with the Museum of Applied and Contemporary Art in Vienna, of which [Peter] Noever is the director. Since then, the house has been used for concerts, exhibitions and cultural events.

(Because of structural deterioration at the Schindler House, the World Monuments Fund placed it on its list of 100 most endangered sites in 2002.)

See also this earlier post and the link there.

Schindler House, high, tight-foliage "hedge" bordering the entrance drive

Irwin3.JPGGetty Center, corner of zigzag pedestrian path through Central Garden

Los Angeles doesn't disappoint a visitor from the North, and for this pilgrim its charms always begin with the flora, even if much of what has become identified with the region is imported or artificially maintained. In fact, the boldness of both its humblest and most fabled gardeners must regularly surprise even Angelenos themselves. The "hedge" shown above is little over an inch deep, and is actually a vine attached to a cement wall. The 30-inch metal retaining wall in the image below it allows delighted visitors to literally walk through a large hillside lawn.

The most striking aspect of these two disciplined geometric creations may be that they are found in a hybrid environment. In both cases the larger gardens are a delicious combination of minimalism and wild abandon. For some of the gardens attached to Rudolf M. Schindler's Studio-House, see the next post; for flowers in Robert Irwin's inventions at the Getty, see the images which will go up over the next week or so.

political art, cruising Savannah streets

Crazy about bikes, but just can't get those Hummers out of your mind? Check out these guys and their wonderful full-size Green Hummer.

This bicycle is an attempt to make large numbers of people reconsider the ways that they move around their cites. Our SUV is the opposite of modern consumer culture, an anti-commercial. We want people to think independently of the corporations who program their televisions. We want people to see our pedal-powered, life-size Green Hummer cruise around a real city, and think about the contrast between advertising and the real world.

In advertising, cities are lifeless, cars are safe, drivers are happy, gas is clean, and you are not responsible whatsoever for traffic, pollution, your weight, the marring of our landscapes, or war.

Our SUV is for the real world.

Don't miss the wonderful short video clips!

[thanks to Derick Melander and his brother for the link]

Meier's ramp

Irwin's ramp

The overall design of the Getty Center is that of Richard Meier, but Robert Irwin was commissioned to create its Central Garden. Both jobs cried out for gently-sloping walking ramps, but each man arrived at an elegant solution appropriate to his own creation. Together they approach or surround a cultural temple atop a beautiful sun-drenched acropolis.

Terence Koh detail of Do not doubt the dangerousness of my butterfly song (Silver) (2004) Custom metal vitrine, speakers, ipod with unique song sung by artist, paint, male argyrophorus argenteus butterfly, broken mirror, star dust, 45 " long, 18" wide, 61" tall. Unique

This work is part of the artist's two great current shows, but they close today; my apologies to many people for posting this so late, especially since I've been so impressed with both the work of Koh and, at our remove, that of his gallery, Peres Projects. We visited the space in Chung King Road for the first time just one week ago.

We're home!

Since we only had a dial-up connection in the hotel room, I didn't try to post everything I wanted to while we were in Los Angeles. This item, and perhaps a few others to follow, will make up for some of this blog's relative "silence" of the past week.

We wanted to get out of the man-made environment for a day and get into the desert, so we left Wilshire Boulevard and drove northeast, eventually passing through the current greater-L.A. frontier around its fabled Victorville, soon after making a pit stop in the newly-created settlement of Summit Heights (where the mall was complete even if the tract homes were not). Beyond this new asphalt camp the (unpeopled) wilderness began. Going through open country baking in 105-degree heat (convertible top up, AC cranked), we turned back after Barstow, but well before approaching Needles, and drove back across the top of Edwards Air Force Base.

We had seen real and re-created ghost towns, but the two images below are descriptions of a special case, the community of Boron, which Barry called a "Sam Shepard town." We both thought it was pretty cool, if a bit of a commute from Manhattan. A special touch was provided by the excellent 80's rock coming from the white-painted repair garage with the "...troom" sign (the chamber indicated was of course the reason we had ended up there for this serendipity).

Historical note: The 20 Mule Team Rd. marker refers to the fact that this street was once the route, established in the 1880's, of the 20 mule teams which hauled borax from the borax Works in Death Valley and Amargosa to the railhead at Mojave (30 miles west of Boron).




The collection is spotty in its quality, but it shows beautifully. The architecture is a great pleasure, yet not revolutionary or breathtaking. Ah, but the gardens are an absolute, unqualified delight, all thanks to Robert Irwin and the uncredited gardeners who work their wizardry on the grounds of the Getty Museum.

Lots more garden images (including real flowers!) will follow over the next week or so.

Yowza! That's showing some really faith-based initiative!

It would seem that, a few years ago, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon purchased a small fleet of Russian ballistic missile submarines with the missile-launching hardware intact, then handed the subs over to North Korea. Now, according to Jane's Defense Weekly, the North Koreans have used that hardware to develop missiles that can threaten the United States.
Your tax-free cult's dollars at work.

Thanks to The American Prospect, linked above, Atrios and Jane's Defense Weekly.

untitled (palms in the blue)

These wonderful creatures could easily turn me into an animist. These palms were waving above the high terrace of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this afternoon.

But, at least on the surface, the current featured exhibition, "Beyond Geometry: Experiments in Form 1940s−70s," could hardly be more removed from these beautiful sentinals outside. It's a stunning show, even if I somehow missed the argument of its curatorial premise.

trucker hat.JPG

The poster was spotted on West Third Street in Hollywood this evening.

Thanks, guys.


In a combination which this northerner found unlikely (and accordingly so very spectacular), these bougainvillea and morning glories were entwined on the side of the drive to the Charles Eames house in Pacific Palisades this afternoon.

[thanks to Mary Baine for the tip which made the trip possible]

untitled (Chung King Road) 2004

The very pedestrian Chung King Road is the site of six or eight of the most exciting galleries in Los Angeles, but it's also still part of Chinatown.

Overheard outside the stall in the avant/cool men's room on the ground floor of the downtown L.A. Standard Hotel this evening: "Oh, he just left it there so his wife wouldn't find it," which was immediately followed by the addendum (from another voice), "Or his boyfriend!"

This page is an archive of entries from August 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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