Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cannot Exist no.3 is out. It's really good, such a variety of intensities that I find it difficult to read.


The Nonsense Company will soon be part of a very unusual production of King Lear. Five groups, five desserts.


"Pardon me while my intraproprioceptive wife has a breakdown."


What I'm reading (listed to work off a bit of caffeine energy before rehearsal):

Kevin Davies, The Golden Age of Paraphenalia
Marcel Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah
T.J. Clark, The Sight of Death
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
Cannot Exist no.3
submissions for no.4
Robin Blaser, The Holy Forest
Michael Palmer, Active Boundaries
Cesar Vallejo, The Collected Poems
Eduardo Galleano, Genesis
Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness
Ron Silliman, The Alphabet (Rick's copy arrived today, and I expect mine tomorrow, but can't wait. Whoo-ee!)

... and about fifty other things. There are the books I read at least every other day.
Lists are fun.


The kind of access that comes with the internet makes me so very aware of mortality.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

a few further post-RNC reflections, facts, fragments

Sarah Palin is dangerous. This strategy has worked before: take an ignorant, inexperienced, smug and nasty psychopath and run them for office on the platform of ordinariness. She's Bush, with more rhetorical skill.

The left should have a massive series of theater workshops.

a securitization of major
preemptive raids of alleged

Dakota occupation of Coldwater Spring site near Minnehaha Park expected to end peacefully today... to reclaim the site for their tribe... but federal officials disrupted the plan from the start, granting a permit for the occupation, even though protesters hadn't requested one.

(Compare to the march-blocking strategy on Thursday)

In full riot gear, jokingly
refer to themselves as "turtles"

More arrests (818) than
at any convention except
NYCs in 2004 (1781)
(Chicago's '68 DNC had 589)
19 felony charges, 30 journalists

Cmdr Steve Frazer, head
of one mobile division, called
the parade route's end "Ground
Zero," called thrown shit
and piss "bio attacks"

mobile force field units
officers moving about "subtly"
"in soccer-mom minivans"

former Mpls police chief:
St. Paul could've handled security
with a few hundred extras. Instead,
an orgy of overtime
subsidized by the federal government
via the National Security Act

(much of this from the Star-Tribune, whose reporting has become worse, writing as if the police were constantly reigning in crowds of people bent on chaos and destruction, whereas they generally were blocking the progress of peaceful marches moving down clearly defined routes. These people weren't "keeping the situation under control"--we were.

The paper, however, is still emphasizing the gap between the language of counter-terrorism and the reality of the protests--a degree of nuance lacking in the "nonpartisan" CityPages, the Minneapolis paper that, like many free weeklies, features a broadly cynical tone, attempting to sound hip in the apparent absence of any work to actually find out what's going on. The latest issue describes the anarchist march on the 1st as "a cross between a disco and Hamas," and the writer doesn't seem to have taken the ten minutes required to find out that that march left an hour earlier than the official parade because the anarchists decided well beforehand to separate, spatially or temporally, their actions from those officially permitted.

But I'm getting away from the main point: the detached, "with-it" cool of the weeklies, uninvolved and uninvested, is worse than the police repression of the protesters. This is the attitude that renders anything it touches (which include the whole surface field of culture) unimportant, an object of easy mockery, a series of empty appearances for the entertainment of all. That's it--for the free weeklies, everything is "entertainment," presented by people who relish their power to dismiss. The invulnerability of such an attitude combines with a lack of real inquiry to produce a form of "news" much more conducive to totalitarian culture than any of the more obviously ideologically invested forms of journalism.)

The most important issues--they're not "issues"--are still poverty and imperialism, the techniques (they're not just "techniques") used to maintain them and their destruction of the basis for any acceptable form of human social existence.

Friday, September 05, 2008


We go to the student walkout and march. Mostly high-schoolers, enthusiastic and charming. It's still early in the day, cool and misty. Ska with very bad lyrics, to be reperformed tonight at the high-profile, basically pointless Nader rally. Songs that say "We say." Careerism in leftist culture. When syntax runs into corners, the voice of the collective of non-individuals speaks in readily available phrases. Then he remembers counter-recruitment, of vital importance. Pronounces "Clean Water" as "Clean War Act." "The more out of tune, the better," claims Shannon from Riot Folk. "The Christian icon is not stars and stripes, but a slaughtered lamb." Joe Hill as odd but good soundtrack for transgender Make-In. This ragtag bunch is the group that should be listened to by older activists and moralizing liberals. This song is about accepting your own criminality. "If the fetus you save turns out to be gay, will you still fight for its rights?" A handful of actual Republican delegates for peace (who then say stupid things about immigration). "This is what a jumble of thoughts & observations looks like!" Ensure safety by having everyone repeat, "I have an announcement. Cheney, Big Oil Bob, and General Betrayus are goint to try to escape arrest by boarding a boat at the Harriet Island Yacht Club. We're going to camp out here on the hay for about half an hour, then march down to the park to surprise them. While we're here, we'll eat some kick-ass food provided by Seeds of Peace--but we're going to stay out of the middle of the street, because the police... uh, there's no diplomatic way I can say this... you know." The last part, repeated en masse, is particularly funny, and the whole idea has a theatrical sense far superior to that I associate with the usual things we're asked to repeat as groups. Rick and I walk down to the island a half-hour before the students get there. The three arrestees, well-made big puppet heads on smaller bodies, are there, with little to do, so while Tao Rodriguez-Seeger sings "Guantanamera" Dick Cheney holds a mic and gently boogies, as if performing the song in a hotel lounge. It's hilarious; all movement songs should include some such odd juxtaposition. Then the puppets are placed on trial.

We find the bigger march stalled on a bridge just a block from the Capitol, flanked on two sides by battalions of riot cops on horses, bikes, trucks, standing with batons, bulldozers behind them. Apparently the well-advertised 4 p.m. march was only given a permit that lasted until 5--an idiotic idea, the police only asking for trouble. It's obvious to me that the best way to keep the situation "under control" would've been to let the march proceed to the Xcel Center without harrassment. Instead, the cops pepper-sprayed the crowd at the Captiol before the permit was even up, ordering them to disperse. They've already been on this bridge to downtown for at least an hour by the time we arrive, folks on bikes endlessly circling in the middle of an intersection, a moving wall between the cops on its east side and the many hundreds of people still on the bridge to the north. We run into Roy Zimmerman as we walk up, and the three of us explore and join the crowd for a while. A nice example of solidarity: a woman on the bridge has to pee, so friends form a dense circle with their backs to her on the grassy median. As the three of us start to leave for the evening's performance at the Bedlam, the cops rush the crowd, trying to get them off the bridge, routing them back toward the Capitol. Instead, the crowd suddenly turns on the Captiol lawn and rushes to the next street over, trying to get across that bridge. The cops block them off again. This could go on for a long time (and, I find out later, does, with another 200 or so arrests).

The performance goes well, the Myshkins and Roy with the WYXY News Team followed by another performance of Wallace Shawn's The Fever, even better than Tuesday's, leaving me thoroughly exhausted. But there's more to do. We swap songs with David Rovics and Jim Page for a couple of hours. I've never met Jim before; he's a great performer and songwriter, a lovely person onstage and off. As with Bryan's performance of Shawn's play, Jim starts off very softly, only gradually arriving at a moment of normal audibility, charged with intense attention, everything that happens in it opened up. He gives a great intro to a song about the 1999 WTO protests, in which he says "People tend to feel morally superior to those young folks who break windows and such. What did those windows ever do to them? Well, I've lived in Seattle for 27 years, and I know what was there before those windows were: low-income housing. When that housing was knocked down for Planet Hollywood and Nike Town, people who'd lived there for ten years had nowhere to go, and had to turn to government aid. Now, the first symptoms of being forced out of a place you've lived for ten years are migraines and dental problems. Those are the first symptoms. A lot of people die within five or six years. So I don't think those windows are innocent." He made a similar point about the Caterpillar tractors used to knock down houses in Palestine. They're not built for road construction; the company knows exactly what they're for. I'd like to write a poem of objects, seen as resonating not only with their history, but with the histories they're intended to create.

Today is Ryan's birthday, so we're going out on the town before our penultimate 10 p.m. performance as the Nonsense Company.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Yesterday, more reports of raids by the cops, arrests for blocking streets and rushing police officers, but also for simply moving too slowly. Someone apparently threw a rock through the window of a bus full of Republican delegates from Connecticut. Not sure how I feel about that. The papers here, so far, have been pretty good about maintaining the distinctions between the anarchist "elements" and the protesters engaging in permitted activities. The anarchists themselves are trying to promote this distinction--basically, everyone's doing a better job of it than the police.

The "March for Our Lives" took place yesterday, organized by the Poor People's Coalition for Economic Human Rights. The rally, like Monday's, boasted a wide ethnic diversity and age range, reflecting the sense that poverty is THE most important issue--that economic injustice is the umbrella under which the most social problems can be gathered. There was some troubling rhetorical conflict between the organizers and the anarchists: at one point in the rally, a bunch of people suddenly ran off to (I think) block one of the intersections next to the park. The main organizer urged everyone to stay focused on the stage--which I decided to do; I felt like the event, with its focused topic, deserved a concentration that would promote its theatrical presence. At the same time, the organizer's continued chiding rubbed me the wrong way. She accused the anarchist rush of being "a deliberately orchestrated distraction" from the attempt by poor people to make their voices heard. This seems like paranoia to me. There can be a debate over tactics, but the anarchists aren't obligated to stand there and listen to the speakers, and they've also decided not to criticize the techniques of pacifists. As often happens, the anger and condescension directed at anarchists made the organizers look bad. On the other hand, the point of another speaker--that the working class in the Twin Cities already sees violence and property destruction on a daily basis, and that a multiracial, pacifist action would be more of a shock to the police who assume a tendency toward violence on the part of people of color--made a lot of sense. It threw the techniques of the anarchists into the light of a question, rather than a moral condemnation. It's a question that seems entirely appropriate for anarchism: is a given action responding in the right way to the immediate specificity of a context?


It seems like, earlier in the day, the astonishing mob of police in riot gear have usually been pretty calm. It's as the afternoon goes on that they start splitting peaceful marches arbitrarily into smaller sections, detaining large groups of people for hours on single city blocks, raiding various spaces. Last night there were three attempted police actions at the Bedlam Theatre, where I'm performing every night--the first a response to an anonymous call asserting that the Bedlam was selling "more than beer and wine." Fortunately, the folks there run a very tight ship, ID'ing people rigorously, etc., so the officer who showed up was shown around the building to her satisfaction. When told that the theater was hosting evenings of political art in response to the RNC, she said "I'll try to come back for that. I'd be protesting if I didn't have this job." Later in the evening, a fleet of bicycle cops showed up, and an hour later seven or eight squad cars; neither found anything illegal going on, so they left. The sort of luck not found by the people at the RNC Welcoming Committee Convergence Center, who had their dangerous pamphlets and unspecified "weapons" confiscated.


At the Bedlam last night (after music by the Prince Myshkins David Rovics and Jim Page, and mock news by the WYXY News Team), Bryan Bevell gave a magnificent performance of Wallace Shawn's monologue The Fever. Bryan's acting was subdued, quiet, even with the gradually increasing noise from the bar outside the theater, and this mode of performance got the audience into a state of intense concentration. It's a fantastic piece, done here with admirable vulnerability. He'll do it again on Thursday. Tonight, more of the Myshkins with guests, WYXY, and the Nonsense Company performing "Great Hymn of Thanksgiving / Conversation Storm."




Tuesday, September 02, 2008

more from the twin cities


We joined the silent march of Vets for Peace and an anti-torture group, in which we dressed as Guantanamo prisoners, in orange jumpsuits and hoods. Participating in a march with an actual dramatic idea behind it was pretty satisfying (though I still felt grouchy about the left's inadequate ability to perform--we could have been absolutely silent, and maintained militaristically straight rows and columns).

At the end, I saw the back of a t-shirt that gave me yet another reading of the opening sentence of Ron Silliman's Tjanting: "Not THIS!", it read, under a picture of a football player, down on one knee with a ball and one finger pointing triumphantly into the air. The front turned out to be a photo of two collaborating baseball players, with the caption "We need more of this..." and the logo for the Revolutionary Communist Party--all of which, the socialist politics and the privileging of baseball, made the connection with Ron seem even stronger.

(Reiko points out the important mistake in my reading of the shirt's front in the comments box. Check it out.)


The big march on the RNC. Already hotter today than under a hood yesterday. Undocumented immigrant among the first casualties of the Iraq war. Emma's Revolution turns out to be performing at the opening rally, and we get to chat with them awhile. "Whoever it is in power, and whoever you are, they've got a plan for you." Toothed blasts rip through the sound system; they clearly don't know which channel is which. A huge number of Ethiopians demonstrating. This constant motion of many of us, restless inquisitive citizenry, mobile polis. Riot police surround, at various unpermitted intersections, the anarchists who've set off well before the official march, who dance their asses off, ebullient music pouring clear from rolling speakers, not "doing their thing" but revelling in their mutual presence and possibility, a height of joy and thoughtful, thorough organization for which they hardly ever get credit (how I've missed them during the Bush administration, in which they seemed almost invisible). They dance again in a fenced-in alley near the energy center, in front of a troupe of pro-war protesters; the encounter is non-confrontational and hilarious, the cops (I think) afraid to advance into this block with their gas masks and rifles, not wanting to appear over-reactive in the face of such committed, energetic, subversive yet non-threatening activity.

The main march is gigantic--every time it seems we've come to its end (moving backwards along the route toward the car, which we'll take to our tech rehearsal at the Bedlam Theatre) another dense three blocks' worth of people comes into view. Billionairesses in elaborate, buxom costume sing "Oh, show us the way/to the next little war..." Later in the day, of course, the reports start to come in of a dumpster set aflame and pushed into a cop car, of people arrested for moving too slowly down the street, of the main march split into sections, hundreds of people delayed for half an hour at a time, some still not permitted to leave a city block hours later.

At the end of a night at the Bedlam Theatre that includes us (as the Prince Myshkins and the Nonsense Company), Roy Zimmerman, David Rovics, and the WYXY News Show, the punk/folk band Blackbird Raum plays and utterly blows my mind. They're all fine musicians, well-rehearsed--but it's the washboard player who floors me most thoroughly, outdoing the accordion, banjo, washtub bass, musical saw and mandolin, playing ridiculous fills, constantly varying rhythms at blinding tempi. All this unamplified, saturated with friendship between the band members. A young woman with a sprig of fern in her hair dances with another woman, and their closeness is the perfect beautiful compliment, until I forget about them completely in the thrill of the songs. They kept me energetic, as exhausted as I am from marching, tech-ing, organizing... but now, sleep, with no reason to get up before 11.