Monday, February 23, 2009


the masque graffiti
I. Various graffiti found throughout L.A. punk club The Masque (1977-79):

The Doomed
The Metro Squad Stole From Arthur J.
Fuck a Dog—Statutory Rape
Eraserhead — ALRIGHT!
I love bondage by Marcy
I don't care if C. Loves Bruce, if you're happy, do it
White Dopes on Punk
Masque Confussion!
Punish or be Damned
Monitor—art rock
"The only way to escape horror is to bury yourself in it." Jean Genet
The Fucked
Rock Bottom's a faggot
Jerrys suck
Not all fags are wimps
DIE, NAZIS! Nope; not so simple.
Remember the Plungers
Crickets make tasty snacks for reptiles
The Germs are microscopics
Darby is microscopic
The Germs steal stuff
I Knew This Would Happen
Anarchy = Peace
Freedom is Loss
Let All the Poison that Lurks in the Mud pass out
Brainless Sten Guns in Bel Air
Blow God
Suicide Pole — Hit head here 50 MPH
Fear has only one homosexual — me, Derf Scratch
Punks Rule — fuck disco
Kay Oss
Kill the 70s
Sell out now!
Everything is wrong
Fuck punks
Kill yourself
Kill a pig
Kill Hippies
Long hair forever!
Peace, Pot and Microdots
No No No!
No Drugs No Pussy No Future No Bags
Quadraplegics Can't Masturbate
Barry Manilow was here
Quoth the Raven; "Nevermore!"
Mercy is 30 years old — ha ha!
Cal Worthington Was Here — He's a Commie!

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II. Various graffiti found throughout Paris in the 50s and 60s, mostly inspired or made by the Situationist International:


never work graffiti guy debord situationist art ne+travaillez+jamais
arbeit macht frei concentration camp

Sunday, February 15, 2009

This is what you shall do:

"Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body."
—from Preface to Leaves of Grass, 1855

walt whitman

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Protecting the delusion: Clean coal and the MTR mining war

the price of coal mountaintop removal mining poster virginia clean coal
Below is an excellent article on mountaintop removal mining written by Bob Kincaid, a resident of Fayette County, West Virginia. It does an excellent job of expressing how the corporate (and economic) mentality of "everything has its price" has seeped into our everyday definitions of the world to the point where so many people view it not as a worldview but as unchangeable reality. Following the piece is a comment made by someone that reflects this short-sighted view of the world, followed by Mr. Kincaid's perfect response.

There is a crucial documentary called Burning the Future: Coal in America (I assume it never found distribution) that you can purchase on DVD HERE. (It should be seen by all Americans, especially since MTR mining is mostly ignored by the media, and most of us are ignorant about where our electricity comes from. So find a few friends, pitch in 5$ each, and then give it away after you've watched it!) The trailer can be seen HERE and it provides a good overview of the effects of MTR mining, serving as a quick primer for those who know nothing about what's going on in certain parts of America. (UPDATE: This is now available to rent from Netflix!)

I've prefaced the article with a very apt quote by Oscar Wilde that will probably read differently if you revisit it at the end.

* * *

"Misery and poverty are so absolutely degrading, and exercise such a paralysing effect over the nature of men, that no class is ever really conscious of its own suffering. They have to be told of it by other people, and they often entirely disbelieve them. What is said by great employers of labour against agitators is unquestionably true. Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community, and sow the seeds of discontent amongst them. That is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance towards civilisation. Slavery was put down in America, not in consequence of any action on the part of the slaves, or even any express desire on their part that they should be free. It was put down entirely through the grossly illegal conduct of certain agitators in Boston and elsewhere, who were not slaves themselves, nor owners of slaves, nor had anything to do with the question really. It was, undoubtedly, the Abolitionists who set the torch alight, who began the whole thing. And it is curious to note that from the slaves themselves they received, not merely very little assistance, but hardly any sympathy even; and when at the close of the war the slaves found themselves free, found themselves indeed so absolutely free that they were free to starve, many of them bitterly regretted the new state of things. To the thinker, the most tragic fact in the whole of the French Revolution is not that Marie Antoinette was killed for being a queen, but that the starved peasant of the Vendee voluntarily went out to die for the hideous cause of feudalism." --Oscar Wilde, 1891

Essay on the MTR War in WV

I live in Fayette County, West Virginia, the heart and soul of West Virginia’s whitewater rafting tourism industry. Thousands and thousands of people come here every year to raft the New and Gauley Rivers. They roar down gorges as old as the earth itself, past the ghost towns that are all that’s left of the mine wars of a century ago; towns where Mary Harris “Mother” Jones worked to organize the slaves of the coal industry: Thurmond and Glen Jean and Brooklyn and Cunard and Hawks Nest and Prince and McKendree; places that are little more than wide mossy spots by the riverside, with a few squared stones marking where entire generations played out. These are the Dodge Citys and Tombstones of Appalachia.

If asked, most folks would tell you that the days of the mine wars are a long gone piece of West Virginia’s violent past. Most folks would be wrong. I saw on Saturday, April 5 that the past is never so far away that we can’t see it come to life before our eyes. There’s a war going on in West Virginia again, only the combatants have changed a bit.

A hundred years ago, when my Great-grandfather was mining coal in these hills, he and his folks understood that human dignity required a community to stand together against the coal bosses who treated them like slaves. They knew they were slaves and resented it. A lot of blood got spilled, but in the end, the coal miners of the early twentieth century won the right to form a union, be paid a living wage (in actual U.S. cash, no less), have health care and a pension for their old age; but you probably know all that.

Anyway, about fifty folks from my hometown went up on Gauley Mountain Saturday for an event termed a “Blessing of the Mountain.” See, the mountain in question is presently in the early stages of its execution. A coal company has gotten a permit to utterly destroy the mountain right up to the boundary of the New River Gorge National River, all in the name of seams of coal that are sometimes as thin as six inches. The company controls 18,000 acres or more that almost completely encircle my town. The mountain’s drainages are the Gauley and New Rivers themselves. The coal company has begun the process of blasting the mountain to death from the top down. Here at my home about four miles from the site, we already hear the distant rumbles, like bombs going off, as the blasting of Gauley Mountain proceeds.

Like I said, that mountain’s been mined before. Like all played-out coal mines, it’s full of water. Heaven help the mariner when some blast breaks the mountain open and sends those millions (if not billions) of gallons hurtling down onto our HeadStart Center right before it washes the rest of our town and its people down the creek and into the New River. By the way: the coal company owns the HeadStart Center’s property, so HeadStart won’t even complain about little poor kids being the first to go. See how it works?

We drove up the winding mountain road, intending to go up to the scene of the crime. Where the road turns to rock and dirt, we found it had been barred by the Company, and a hastily spray-painted “No Trespassing” sign erected on steel cable crossing the road. The Episcopal priests who were leading the worship service weren’t fazed. They began setting up to hold the service where we were. Prayers for Justice, after all, being prayers, can reach the ears of the Almighty whether those doing the praying are standing over the victim’s bleeding heart or standing at her feet. So the fifty or so of us prepared for the little service that was planned. Folks passed around flyers with the Order of Worship. Photocopied song lyrics were passed around in lieu of hymnals. My three children and I stood together among the assembled congregants.

That’s when everything changed. Charging around the further curve came a couple of four-wheelers, roaring up the road past our group. Immediately following them were all manner of vehicles (mostly pick-up trucks). Out of the vehicles poured what looked like the majority of the coal company’s demolition crew, along with their wives and even some of their children. They were all clad in identical sky-blue t-shirts with a logo on the back and the slogan “Protect An Endangered Species- Save a Coal Miner” or some such corporate drivel. They deliberately blocked our little group in between the mouth of the road and the No Trespassing barrier, like some group of penned animals they planned to slaughter just like the animals that die when they push the filth from their “mining” into the valley below.

Since we’re fairly new to having our homes attacked by Mountain Top Removal here in my neck of Fayette County, some of us were surprised at the show of force. I checked with my friends down in the Southern WV Coal Fields, however, and they said it’s a typical company tactic. Here’s what happens: the coal company tells its people that the Evil Environmentalists (who, they’re told, love trees, fish and numerous species of snails more than people) are trying to take away their jobs. The bosses tell their people that America can’t have electricity without blowing the hell out of the oldest mountains on the planet. The company people are told that they’re actually even “patriots.” They get some spiffy new t-shirts and are told, not asked, to take the wife and kids to help intimidate the “Environmental Wackos.” Failure to do so can mean one of these peoples’ jobs.

Of course, the bosses DON’T tell their people that as quick as the last seam has been scraped from the earth, as soon as they’ve pushed the last bit of mountaintop over into the valley that is my home and killed every living thing that walks, creeps, swims, hops or crawls, the Company will be gone like all companies do when the seams play out. They don’t tell their “associates” that two or three spins of the Wall Street roulette wheel will reduce those much-vaunted “profit sharing plans” to the value of your Great-granny’s cache of Civil War Bank of Richmond Confederate notes. Nope. All those pathetic company people hear is that “Coal Keeps The Lights On.” All they know is that as long as they keep up the bombing, the paychecks keep coming.

MTR mining removal strip mining environment waste pollution
As the mountaintop removers swarmed up the little dirt road in their bid to intimidate a couple of priests and a bunch of mostly fifty- and sixty-something activists, I looked at my own kids (14, 12 and 11). I told them “Kids, these people are more to be pitied than despised. They’re slaves. They don’t even have the freedom to wear their own clothes. See? On the job and off, they have to wear what the Company tells them. They go where the Company tells them to go. They say what the Company tells them to say. They’re not even allowed to think for themselves.” Amid shouts of “Turn your lights off, then!” and “Coal keeps your lights on!” from the company people, my kids looked at me and nodded in understanding. One of them said, “Go talk to them, Daddy.”

It was what I call an “Atticus Finch” moment: a moment when a parent can’t do anything but be straight with his kids, knowing that everything he’s tried to teach them before hangs in the balance. “I can’t talk to them, baby. They’re past learning. They’re past comprehending the harm they’re doing. They’re hurting themselves and their own children with what they do, and they don’t even care. They’re slaves. Slaves live in fear of the Master. Nothing I can say can take away the fear their Master has put into them. They think the only thing in the world they’re capable of is dynamiting our mountains so they can have a payday.”

I didn’t have to say any more. My spoken lesson was interrupted by a much more visceral one. The service started, with Father Roy leading the call and response. My kids learned the truth as the company people snickered and guffawed as the priest said “We invite the mountains to worship with us” and the people responded “Deep forests, babbling brooks and clear mountain streams.”

The cat-calls and jeering rose to outright mockery when, responding to the priest’s confession that “We remember and confess that we have become alienated from the earth. . . ” the people replied with “We have polluted rivers with waste from mountain mines . . . We are sorry.” Forced laughter rose from the people who were paid and threatened to compel their attendance. More cries of “Coal keeps the lights on” and “Turn off your lights.” As it turned out, the company people knew their catechism far better than we did ours.

west virginia mining waste pollution acid drainage MTR
Acid mine drainage, Logan West Virginia

Undaunted, the priests continued on. There was some singing. Then Father Stan moved into his homily. He began preaching facts about mountaintop removal. Some of the company wives ratcheted the tension up, beginning to scream at the priest. They hollered “stop lying” as he described the toxic effects of mountaintop removal.

When Father Stan got into the meat of his homily, a short, squat company man came storming down from the Company’s hastily-erected, makeshift gate, yelling at the priest all the way. “I worship the same god you do,” he cried, as though addressing some be-robed shaman from an alien, distant land, “but I ain’t gonna let you tell these lies! Who’s gonna feed my family? Who’s gonna send my kids to college,” never managing to identify just what “lies” had slain him in the Spirit. Suffice to say, at no time had any of us suggested his children starve for want of either food or education. That bit of mendacity had come, of course, straight from corporate HQ.

People around the man gently explained to him, “Sir, this is a worship service.” It didn’t matter. The company people had managed to put an end to it. They began hollering their same, tired, chants of “Coal Keeps the Lights On” like some holy, soul-saving mantra, and waving their “Friends of Coal” placards like pieces of the True Cross. A company wife standing in the bed of a pick-up truck began squealing again about putting her children through college and what she apparently thought was her husband’s constitutional right to destroy anything upon which he set his eye, as long as they made a nice living at it; as long as it came with a new truck every couple of years, some clothes and a big screen TV from some slave-labor sweatshop in China.

At the height of the tension, a clear, pure voice rang out among us. One of our folks sent “Amazing Grace” onto the air. It was quickly picked up by the rest of us, silencing the coal people.

Once it was clear that the service would go no further, that Almighty God would no longer be implored to save our community from mountaintop removal, the company people seemed content.

It looks like the mine wars are on again here in West Virginia. Those of us who are struggling to save our communities are committed to principles of non-violence, emulating Dr. King, the fortieth anniversary of whose murder had passed only the day before this confrontation. The company people, however, have shown their hand. Kept in the depths of pitiful ignorance darker than any of the underground mines in which my Great-granddaddy, Granddaddy and Daddy labored, they will bluster, scream, shout, intimidate, threaten and perhaps engage in actual violence to protect not themselves, but their Masters. That’s the saddest part of this whole tableau: these people are so far gone down Big Coal’s toxic garden path that they don’t realize we’re struggling for their children’s future every bit as much as we are for our own.

As I looked at the company wives in attendance, smirking, cat-calling, hooting and hollering, I couldn’t help recalling a statistic that stays on my mind: because of all the mercury coal has put into our lives, every company wife there, like my own wife, and my own daughters, had within her body enough mercury to ensure that every child she bears will suffer at least a ten point IQ deficit. Her very breast milk contains enough mercury to qualify as toxic waste under the EPA’s own standards. Her husband’s proximity to the blasting, not to mention the poisons he’s forced to work with, in and around, promises a tormented old age, if the couple have mind enough left to comprehend it. Yet, that gray April Saturday in the oldest mountains on earth, she saw me as the enemy.

After they left Pharaoh’s bondage and ran into some tough sledding in the desert, it’s said that a great number of the Children of Israel preferred a return to Pharaoh and his three-hots-and-a-cot. The preacher in Ecclesiastes said “There is nothing new under the sun.” I reckon he was right.

why mountaintop removal is good clean coal

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Comments: (to read all comments click HERE)

: How will these workers feed their families if we dont mine the coal. I have not heard one person who opposes mountain top removal suggest anything to take the place of those jobs.

Bob Kincaid: Anthony's comment above highlights the degree to which the coal corporations have succeeded in distracting the debate from its primary inquiry.

I can't help asking these coal company employees what right they think they have to destroy entire communities in order to feed their families. Most other undertakings that require people to assault the rest of their community are generally illegal. People can't "feed their families" by burglarizing their neighbors' homes. They can't feed their families by killing their neighbors. They can't feed their families by giving dangerous chemicals to children in the schoolyard.

Yet in the case of MTR, that's exactly what the workers are doing: robbing their communities, killing their neighbors and hustling chemicals into the bodies of schoolkids.

While the MTR opposition actually IS involved in exploring sustainable alternatives in the work force to MTR demolition jobs, Anthony displays the classic diversionary tactic of the MTR industry in demanding that the workers be compensated by the people trying to save their communities before they'll stop killing the communities. Most folks I know call that extortion.

I realize that's rather harsh, and apologize. To paraphrase the Book, the MTR people won't light a candle and dare not curse the darkness, for fear their masters won't approve of either. They have my abiding pity.

Finally, Anthony, the fact that you've not heard one person . . . suggest anything to take the place of those jobs does not prove that such suggestions have not been made. You've made a fundamental logical blunder. Your lack of knowledge is not proof that the knowledge doesn't exist.

Those of us who are trying to save our communities are actively engaged in seeking renewable, sustainable, good paying jobs to replace the destructive jobs the MTR workers are doing. We could use a little help, though. A nice start would be getting our elected representatives to stop throwing stones in our path as we seek those jobs. Let's encourage the development of wind energy in this windy region. Let's explore solar and solar-geothermal. Let's make the future a part of the present.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

the World Words create II

I. The word

We need new words to express love. Love the emotion (if that's what it is), love as the stuff we read about in Romantic fables, but also "love" as a way to express the way we feel about certain non-human things. I try not to say "I love that movie" or "I love that book" because it trivializes the word, in my view, since it is a wholly different thing from what we mean when we say "I love you" to a person and really mean it. There are no words, at least not in English, to express what it means to love a person and also to express what it means to "love" something like a work of art. The Greeks had the right idea.

Many years ago I wrote a terrible poem which expressed my dissatisfaction with how the word 'love' had become trivialized. The poem took place over the course of a day in the home of a married couple. It started with them eating a meal together. The man said: "I love this food!" There was no response from the woman. Then they would go somewhere and the man would say: "I love this car!" No response. He went through the day performing various activities: "I love this song!" "I love this television show!" "I love this book!" etc. At the end of the day his wife finally turns to him and asks: "Do you love me?" He replies: "Sure, why not?"

I feel like -- even in trying not to use the word myself so as to not trivialize it -- I feel like it has still lost all meaning because of how it's constantly thrown around without thought. This probably starts in childhood where we are taught to repeat I love you to our parents until it finally becomes a habit, long before we know what it means. In our culture the word 'love' does not have a special value, and words themselves are defined and contextualized through their culture.

II. Role playing: the love as object (or: the role of love, the love of role)

My mother's boyfriend, Bill, sometimes refers to her as "honey" and "babe." Originally I thought I found this off-putting for the obvious reasons: it's hokey, and I don't want to hear my mother referred to in that way (I suppose because it sexualizes her). But when I heard the two of them arguing in the car and noticed that Bill was calling her "honey" throughout -- using a term of affection when he was showing anything but affection for her -- it was then that I realized that not only is this word a form of meaningless habit but that terms of endearment in general are not terms of endearment and familiarity at all, but terms that place people into roles. This is obvious enough on the surface, but I don't think most people give the implications much thought. By calling my mother "honey" -- which I assume is the same thing he called his previous girlfriends (likely every single one) -- Bill reduces her to a concept/abstraction (girlfriend) where she is no longer an individual. (This only reflects his point of view of course and is no doubt completely subconscious.) It is the reduction of a person to a role, an individual to a group. (I think this is why these generic terms of endearment always sound patronizing to me.) In this sense, (re)using a term of endearment can be a very subtle way of objectifying someone. Do his past "honeys" and his current "honey" have any real distinction in his mind? If so, why has he called them all the same thing? Perhaps on his deepest level what matters most to him is their role, their function. By using language in this way, there is a real possibility that this viewpoint has been (or will be) planted somewhere in his mind over time. And simply by using the word "honey" Bill has reduced himself to a role, consciously and willingly performing it just as he's seen on television and in the movies. (This might even serve as a better (read: more accurate and precise) way to filter everything I mentioned above.)

I find it interesting that the word "dear" has been stolen from its place as a term of endearment (it still works for starting a letter, though rarely used) and is being held hostage as a form of resigned contempt. When a husband says "yes, dear" to his wife around his male friends to "appease her," his male friends know that what "yes, dear" really means is closer to "shove it, nag!" His wife knows this too, but they must both act out their roles. (I choose to blame this -- all of it! -- on Everybody Loves Raymond.)

III. To have and to hold: possession

The following excerpt from The Ecology of Freedom provides insight into how language grows around (and helps to create and reinforce) ways of life. Language changes, adapts, and forms to express the world around us in terms of whichever system is in place. Not only does this system come to define reality, but language itself grows from this system like a vine, often strangling us.

"The absence of coercive and domineering values in organic cultures is perhaps best illustrated by the syntax of the Wintu Indians, a people that Lee studied very closely. She notes that terms commonly expressive of coercion in modern languages are arranged, in Wintu syntax, to denote cooperative behavior instead. A Wintu mother, for example, does not "take" a baby into the shade; she goes with it. A chief does not "rule" his people; he stands with them. "They never say, and in fact they cannot say, as we do, 'I have a sister,' or a 'son,' or 'husband,'" Lee observes. "To live with is the usual way in which they express what we call possession, and they use this term for everything that they respect, so that a man will be said to live with his bow and arrows.

The phrase "to live with" implies not only a deep sense of mutual respect for person and a high regard for individual voluntarism; it also implies a profound sense of unity between the individual and the group. We need not go any further than an examination of American Indian life to find abundant evidence of this fact. The traditional society of Hopi was geared entirely toward group solidarity. Nearly all the basic tasks of the community, from planting to food preparation, were done cooperatively. Together with the adults, children participated in most of these tasks. At every age level, the individual was charged with a sense of responsibility for the community. So all-pervasive were these group attitudes that Hopi children, placed in schools administered by whites, could be persuaded only with the greatest difficulty to keep score in competitive games."

Wednesday, February 04, 2009