As I was looking through the gallery of art (or photoshopping) in the wake of the police brutality at UC Davis, I came across this photograph. The first thing I thought was ‘This is the kind of yoga photograph my friend Patrick might take.’ Then I noticed that the photographer in the bottom left corner WAS indeed my friend Patrick Haley. Patrick moved to Bangkok recently and has been trying to stay afloat there as a photographer, getting work, in the wake of the flooding, where he can find it. He was extremely upset by the photograph. You should be, I said. He hadn’t seen the video of the pepper-spraying cop. He said that the Thai people were sensitive and that it was uncool (he actually used the phrase fucked up) to use the yoga master’s practice in this way. I assured him that his yogi was in good company — the pepper-spraying cop has been shown attacking everything that peace-loving people deem sacred from The Declaration of Indepedence to Gahndi and Bambi. Still, his reservations made me think about it. Was it it my American tunnel-vision urging me to say Bully and Right On? Or was it my belief as an Artist that little is sacred in comparison to the kind of just and peaceful world the cop violated when he attacked peaceful demonstrators?
Another question altogether is whether or not this sort of lampoon inches us toward real change. As I was reading Flaubert today, he described in the aftermath of the 1848 revolution in France posted depictions of the deposed king as a pastry cook, an acrobat, a dog, or a leech.  Things were looking good for France, a new more just republic was declared by the poet Lamartine, soon to be overthrown by another Napolean. We make cartoons to vilify what we we hate (the violence used to enforce an unjust system), but I wonder if making something abominable seem funny takes away the horror-value. I’m sure there are Americans out there who applaud the cops for getting tough with the bearded hoolligans asking for free education… So the question is what sort of art or action is necessary to change those minds? Does every single one of them have to lose her job, his pension, or his house to see that people are suffering?
wrote in my Book of Books that “one book leads to another” though I cannot explain why I picked up Gustave Flaubert’s Sentimental Education (1869) after Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958). Especially 25 years after reading Madame Bovaryin college. I have to say I’m loving it. The grand river of detail Flaubert provides seems to be stimulating my neurons like water coursing the rocks of a narrow rapid. Though I don’t agree with this character’s sentiment about the mob (Standing against top-down decision making with Rouseeau who said The populace is never corrupted, but often tricked, and only then does it appear to want what is bad) I find the speech illustrative of my own exaltation.
I don’t want any of your hiedeous realty! What do you mean by reality, anyway? Some see black, some see blue, and the mob see wrong. There’s nothing less natural than Michaelangelo, and nothing more powerful. The cult of external truth reveals the vulgarity of our times; and if things go on this way, art is going to become a sort of bad joke inferior to religion in poetry and inferior to politics in interest. You’ll never attain the purpose of art – yes, its purpose! – which is to give us an impersonal sense of exaltaion, with petty works, however carefully they’re produced. Sentimental Education 53
LA versus Ozark – DAY ONE – I drove Angela and her mom to LAX >>> so they could fly out to her family re-union in Ozark, MO. Talked to her on the phone briefly and she reported that she was walking by the river where her cousin said ‘Look at the frog.’ OK,no big deal. We’ve all seen frogs. Her cousins property butts up against a national park there in the Ozarks, and from what I hear boasts a sublime wooded area. When Angela looked a snake swam up and swallowed the frog whole right in front of her eyes. Wow. I can’t say I saw anything comparably surreal in LA, though I seized the opportunity to hang out with my friend Gina Kowerko. She took me to get some vegan food (no shortage of tasty menus to choose from here) and we hiked up through Runyan Canyon, which on a less hazy day offers a fantastic view of Los Angeles in its uber vastness. We went to a party in a loft downtown later that night with Rich Ferguson. A beautiful live/work space ran by a poet named Tiger Moon. She runs a regular gig there called the POets Perch, though tonight was Tiger’s birthday. A score of musicans and poets including Rich Ferguson and myself ended up taking the stage, but the highlight was an appearance by Redbone, the Native American rock group, who played a beautifully harmonized acoustic version of their 1974 hit “Come and Get Your Love.” The space was absolutly relaxing, mood lit, governed by a rule of silent respect for the performers, smelling of incense and bathed in red light. I’d say between 40-50 people sat at tables, on pillows, couches or stood by the bar. I drank just enough wine to be able to take the stage after the fantastic poet Rich Ferguson.
On Saturday, THe Global Day of Rage, Angela and I decided to occupy Morley Field with a group of radical 2-4 yr olds.
Our Demands: 1) More cake. 2) Sustainable toys. 3) A statue of Dora on the national mall. 4) Shared decision-making. 5) Face painting, a klown, and a piñata!
We will add that the working class in the United States, because of its high standard of living, does not clearly see the contradictions existing in US society. To the US working class, these contradictions, which are blunted, appear incomprehensible and they cannot gain clear consciousness of their own exploitation as long as they continue to get the crumbs that US imperialism tosses to them from the feast – Ernesto Che Guevara
It’s such an interesting problem. My desire to give my kids everything they deserve versus the desire to live in a more just and equitable world. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Kids don’t really need much. Love. Intellectual stimulation (fun). Attention. I’m sure if they could articulate it they would appreciate wholesome food and appropriate shelter. And if they had a sense of history they would be happy not to have to work in the mill. The children’s birthday party might be a good metaphor for the system. You can’t show up at these things without a gift. The culture demands it! The economy depends on you and I to buy things we don’t need. The economy demands that people waste their time doing meaningless work. The parents who throw the party are going to feed you and you want to show that you like their kid so you go to a store and buy something. We almost got the little girl here a Mr. Potato Head. And then we wondered what happened to our Mr. Potato Heads? They have probably already floated up out of the landfill, migrated into the ocean where some poor dolphin choked on the spare funny nose. The world just doesn’t need any more plastic crap. We ended up getting a cloth Dora-the-Explora doll, thinking, at the very least, it would biodegrade. We didn’t check to see if it was made by a less-fortunate kid in a sweatshop in Mexico. We should have. There’s no excuse. How can we change our rituals? How can we change the system? How can we preserve what’s good about children’s birthday parties – enjoying a beautiful day in the park, sharing delicious food, community bonding, watching kids laugh – without screwing up this two-year old’s environment, or forcing some kid half way around the world into slavery? tChe Guevara didn’t have faith that we could change as long as our kids were living the good life. He claimed that we couldn’t see what was going on in Africa, say, as long as we were so well fed. Apparently, we can’t see what’s going on in Detroit or Los Angeles or New York. The people occupying streets and public squares around the country are starting to see. Circumstances are forcing them to see. They seem to have come to the realization that the system has to change. They don’t know how to do it. No one does. They are ordinary people. But a more just world can only be built by ordinary people. We don’t need leaders or scientists or politicians to tell us what is good about a children’s birthday party.
Angela has been trying to get ready to travel with her mom to visit her family in Ozark, MO.Spending 10 days with your family can be a traumatic experience for someone following a vegan diet. When Angela expressed this concern to her mother, she said ‘Just eat what they eat.’ Then you have to ask what they eat. Besides meat and dairy they eat a lot of processed foods with weird chemical preservatives, colors and sweetweners that we have chosen to avoid. Travelling to the middle of the country presents two distinct challenges. One, acquiring food that doesn’t contain animal products and two resisting temptation of all the sweet and fat laden foods that people typically bring to family parties. If we were at home, Angela would just bake her own deliciously tempting desert using some sort of egg replacer (flax, NRG…) and soy milk. But in Ozark this ain’t happening. Angela’s cousin who lives out there said they could stop at Mama Jean’s in Springfield, Mo which is only 60 minutes from Ozark. One problem solved.
When we started our vegan diet five years ago, the first thing we said was ‘It’s not a religion. We don’t have to feel guilty if we mess up.’ Of course, whenever Angela has a few glasses of wine and someone walks by with a pizza Angela goes ‘freegan.’ It’s not so much the guilt, as the fact that she may be lactos intolerant that haunts her the next day. I have been more militant. I have a few glasses of wine, and have no desire to reach for the pizza. It just doesn’t interest me, because the food we’ve been eating since simply tastes better to me. Since I’m not traveling to Ozark with her she thought she should watch a series of propaganda films to bolster her resolve. Netflix offers many choices: Food Inc, Ingredients, What’s On Your Plate, Fed Up!, The Future of Food, Deconstructing Supper, Food Matters, Radically Simple, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and Forks Over Knives.
I sometimes avoid these kinds of movies because I think I know this stuff already. It’s funny to me when people question my vegan diet as not providing proper nutrition. ‘You don’t get enough protein’ is the most common refrain. Most of the vegans I know think about getting a balanced diet all the time. Most Americans, in contrast, with their fast food and tv dinners, never stop to ask if they are getting proper nutrition. Forks Over Knives, shows how the American obsession with protein has lead to a pandemic of heart diesease. There was one interesting anecdote about how the nazis confiscated all the cattle in Holland during WWII leaving the Dutch people to survive on a plant-based diet. Statistics for heart disease fell dramatically. After the war, as people started eating meat and cheese again, rates of heart disease started to go up.
You may remember how much fun we had during the recent blackout. Kinsee Morlan, a reporter from SD City Beat, found the same kind of communal joi de vivre, and so organized a monthly ‘blackout party.’ She’s calling for people to organize small gatherings in their own local parks on the second Thursday of each month. Angela and I decided to check it out. We took the shortcut through Switzer Canyon, through the grove where we go to see the great-horned owls, which proved very Blair Witch Project after dark. I brought my handcrank lantern and some red wine in the backpack. We found about twenty people having a picnic in Bird Park. One nice young lady offered us a blanket right when we got there. Another offered a beer, and Misty from the Pubcakes bakery handed us a vegan cupcake. There was a guy from Utah Strret playing an acoustic guitar and singing David Bowie’s ‘Starman’, but I don’t think he was the same kat from Cowles Mnt. My friend David showed up with a suitcase full of precussion instruments and the small group proceeded to bang out a half dozen songs by The Beatles and The Who. The kids are alright!
Climbed Cowles [kölz] Mnt. with a bunch of guys ’round midnight using the lamp of the full moon. The moonlight illuminates the well-trod trail enough so you don’t need a flashlight. Per wikipedia you climb 956 feet or so in a mile and half. You can see the sprawling lights of the whole Tijuana-San Diego metropolitan area in a 360° panorama from the summit which clocks in at 1593′– the highest point in the city. When we got to the top ‘stupid and sweating like animals’ as Nietzsche would say, there was one guy who was a little bit higher, out on a boulder, bare-chested, yelling WE ARE HUMANS! He seemed to be addressing the Starman that David Bowie sang about, or the denizens of Santee down below. He acknowledged our presence with a yelled request to share any marijuana we had toted up the hill. Ha. The motley band of usual suspects pictured below was called together by my friend David Klowden, using a facebook event. It’s really a great organizational tool, although a few people who rsvp’d “attending” squelched on the deal, as well as everyone who marked ‘maybe.’ The amazing photograph, taken by Sean, there with the ghosted image, used a long exposure and he sort of painted our faces with light to capture the image. We tried to figure out where the north star was and pointed out various landmarks– the span of the Coronado Bridge, Mt Soledad, the beautiful dark leviathan of the Miramar landfill. I liked the idea that I didn’t necessarily know my fellow hikers. Of course, I’d seen some of them on stage in bands I liked. And they all seemed to come with interesting facts about the proper pronunciation of ‘Cowles,’ or how ships get a magnetic signature when they are built, or about the musical promise of Kate Bush’s 19-year old cousin. We sat and talked while Sean took some photographs of the city at night and were up there more than an hour before heading down around 2 am. We left a few fellow humans still howling in the dark and actually passed two guys with a dog on their way up.