July 2007

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(In debt a post, again…)

This may be my single favorite scene ever in a feature-length film. If you haven’t seen the Down By Law, essentially what’s going on here is that three losers (John Lurie, Tom Waits, Roberto Benini) are in jail, and go hilariously apeshit. I don’t care to make an essay about it–let alone, start trucking with Adorno and Horkheimer–but I feel sure that around in here somewhere there’s a real insight about when apparently insane behavior is an appropriate and even joyfull response to life.

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Xiamen Protest One

Activism for Dummies has, on page one, the saying “One Dollar, One Vote”. It’s the simplest way to make a statement without actually having to stand up and make it, less demanding of your time then writing letters to the intern who volunteers for your congress-person and more hygienic than slopping gruel in tin cans at your local soup kitchen. Everyone buys shit so there’s only the slightest impact on your day to day lifestyle– feel the warm rosy glow? Some chapters in you’ll see inspiring pictures of groups of people wielding signs and marching. Pretty popular in these parts but probably less of an every day event where the thermometer carries more weight in daily planning. Mass inaction has been credited with

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drawing (un)popular attention to issues that some find important as well as, in some rare cases, prevented unsavory meetings between powerful men and women from proceeding, trains from carrying nuclear waste, scabs from crossing the picket line. In recent years the advances in communications technology have enabled these group whine-fests to more effectively occupy the police and cause general disruption. Cell phones allow people to orchestrate without immediate contact. After the US invasion of Iraq (Part Deux) downtown SF was “pure anarchy” according to the police and business was hardly carried on as usual. Those of us who were home or at work could follow along with events by watching the constant updates provided by Indymedia or various pirate radio stations. Obviously we have quite a homegrown history of these sorts of actions and we’re a pretty cutting edge town when it comes to having the coolest, latest gadgets science & business can concoct but the rest of the world seems to be catching up. Recently in the coastal Chinese city of Xiamen a Taiwanese company began construction on a chemical plant which, according to the Xianglu Group responsible for the factory, would produce massive amounts of P-Xylene and would be doing so about a mile from the city limits. Citizens were understandably concerned and requests were made through government representatives to relocate the site. Despite these efforts the local environmental bureau announced that the plant passed its evaluation, saying the plant would discharge half the national standard of various toxic waste. Of course, the national standard is lowering average lifetimes throughout China but context is context. So the people of Xiamen took to the streets as per usual, waving banners and shuffling along the accepted route into the wall of bored police. But the numbers grew, and continued to grow. Pressure began to mount on local government officials– the usual motley collection of hippies and pensioners suddenly was a swell of popular reaction against the plant. As a result the local bureaucrats rubbed heads and decided to stop development until a second (possibly even a more stringent) environmental evaluation could be performed. (more…)

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