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Alternative Vegan on Entertainment Realm

By Amy Steele
Entertainment Realm
March 2012

One of my favorite Simpsons scenes finds Marge and Homer at some vegetarian friends home. Chickpeas and something is the answer every time the Indian couple gets asked what’s in a dish. I love chickpeas. I love lentils. And quinoa and kale and tomatoes and cauliflower. In this cookbook, chef Dino Weierman shares recipes for what he calls “international vegan fare.”

He remains chatty throughout and says things such as:

“Veganism is a moral stance. It’s a political statement. At its core, it states unabashedly that the exploitation of animals is wrong.”

“Veganism is not a diet . . . It’s understanding that your “choice” to use animals means that you deny the animals’ choice in their own lives.

Sections on kitchen tools; cooking techniques; meals in one pot; basic dishes; more complex; sauce; dished to impress and easy peasy

I made some Simple Spiced Cauliflower. Curry. Yummy. New way to prep cauliflower.
The potato rounds are super simple too.

Will make the more difficult biryani and try the Quick Chickpea Soup. Usually I don’t follow a recipe to make a salad but often I copy something I ate in a restaurant [the Mediterranean salad from John Harvard’s Brew House or the Waldorf salad from Not Your Average Joe’s for example]. His Palm Hearts salad sounds quite delicious and I intend to make it soon.

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New American Vegan in San Francisco Book Review

by Holly Scudero
San Francisco Book Review
March 19, 2012

Vegan cookery remains a new frontier for many home chefs; many new vegans are not sure where to start, while experienced vegans may still have a hard time building an appealing meal that is also both nutritionally balanced and tasty. Fortunately, an ever-growing library of vegan cookbooks help to bridge that knowledge gap, and New American Vegan is a worthy addition. Vincent Guihan has assembled quite a collection of recipes here, ranging from vegan standbys such as Tomato Herb Sauce and Simple Vinaigrette Salad Dressing to more unique offerings like Tofu and Kale Hot Pocket and Tangy Pumpkin, Tomato, and Jalapeño Soup. There is an entire chapter devoted to sauces alone, which can be mixed and matched with different pastas, salads, and entrees, such as Tofu Cutlets and Light Seitan Cutlets, for endless mealtime possibilities. The recipes are extremely detailed, almost to the point of being tiresome for anyone used to cooking at home. Also included are tips on cooking techniques, which could be invaluable for new cooks, as well as listings of recommended kitchen equipment and pantry necessities, both of which seem to be staples in most vegan cookbooks. The main thing these recipes lack is an estimated yield; not knowing approximately how many people each recipe will feed makes meal planning difficult.

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Gilbert's Memoir Helps Us Understand Our History

by Rick Ayers
The Rag Blog
March 7, 2012

This is the third review of David Gilbert's Love and Struggle published on The Rag Blog. We have run multiple reviews of the same book in the past, when the articles have covered different territory and when we have considered the material to be of special interest to our readers. And we consider this to be a very important book. Also see the Rag Blog reviews of Love and Struggle by Ron Jacobs and Mumia Abu-Jamal.

As I write this, four presidents in Latin America are veterans of revolutionary guerrilla struggles of the 1960s. Pepe Mujica of Uruguay was a member of the Tupamaros and among those political prisoners who escaped from Punta Carretas Prison in 1971; Mauricio Funes of El Salvador is a member of the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN) and his brother was killed fighting in the Salvadoran civil war; Daniel Ortega was a leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front which fought an eighteen-year guerrilla war; and Dilma Rousseff of Brazil was a member of the urban guerrilla group National Liberation Command (COLINA) which carried out armed attacks and bank robberies in the late 60’s.

David Gilbert, who is of the same aspirational generation, is living a dramatically contrasting life—presently doing life in a New York prison. His recently released memoir, Love and Struggle, My life in SDS, the Weather Underground and Beyond, opens the door onto a world that mostly exists as some distorted corner of the political imagination of the U.S. in 2012.

But it’s a world and a story that is vivid and compelling—and one worth paying attention to at precisely this moment as a young generation of activists is generating its own stories on Wall Street and beyond.

Like Mujica, Funes, and Rousseff, Gilbert was a militant fighter in the '60s and '70s—but he found himself at war from within what Che Guevara called the “belly of the beast.”

The actor and activist Peter Coyote had this to say about the memoir: "Like many of his contemporaries, David Gilbert gambled his life on a vision of a more just and generous world. His particular bet cost him the last three decades in prison and, whether or not you agree with his youthful decision, you can be the beneficiary of his years of deep thought, reflection, and analysis on the reality we all share. I urge you to read it."

Written under the appalling conditions of imprisonment in the massive U.S. prison-industrial complex—under the endless dangers, harassments, and frustrations of life in various New York prisons—the existence of this volume is itself an amazing accomplishment.

Gilbert explores crucial issues of the '60s and today: racism, imperialism, the oppression of women, and the crisis of capitalism. The fact that it is self-critical without being maudlin or self-pitying, the fact that he has crafted a reflective, modest, and ultimately hopeful picture of his life and times, makes Love and Struggle particularly welcome.

We were, as a generation, born into war. After the “good war” to defeat fascism in the 1940s, the United States continued a series of military engagements designed to defeat liberation movements and assure its economic dominance in the world. While most everyone today agrees that the war on Vietnam was at best a mistake and more accurately a genocidal horror, it is curious how the American narrative has twisted even that memory.

Those who seek to draw the United States into more military adventures cynically extol the veterans of the war as heroes while leaving a record number of homeless vets to fend for themselves on the streets or to populate the prisons. At the same time, they denigrate the veterans of the resistance. Those who were right, in other words, are never honored in the corporate media—they are erased and disappeared

While David Gilbert represents an extreme of the resistance movement, and while the Brinks robbery which landed him in prison was thoughtless and harmful, Gilbert reminds us that it is essential to confront the many war crimes the U.S. committed in Vietnam—and continues to commit here and around the world—with no consequences.

David’s life sentence does not square with Lt. William Calley’s sentence of three years house arrest for the massacre of 104 Vietnamese civilians at My Lai in 1971 or John McCain’s record of bombing civilians from the air, wanton crimes against humanity; and it does not make sense against the other My Lai’s that occurred on a weekly basis.

Beyond the actions of troops on the ground, a just society would have prepared war crimes trials for top military and political leaders who ordered carpet bombing of civilian areas, the vast deployment of napalm and Agent Orange, the CIA’s “Operation Phoenix” assassination program, the decade-long, “secret” aerial bombardment of Laos, as well as the Cointelpro attacks against African American and Native American activists in the U.S. that resulted in hundreds being killed and imprisoned.

David Gilbert does not ask us to forget the costly human consequences of the 1981 Brinks robbery in which three people were killed and which landed him in prison. But his memoir forces us to encounter and understand much more about the struggles of the '60s and '70s.

Since the release of Sam Greene and Bill Siegel’s film Weather Underground in 2002, there has been a resurgence of interest in those in the United States who went from protest to resistance and from resistance to clandestine actions. Five or six “Weather” memoirs have come out in the past decade—each with a different approach or take on the history.

Two excerpts will perhaps capture some of the intensity of his insight and analysis. In discussing the work of the Weather Underground to build a clandestine movement against U.S. international wars, he reminds us of the example of Portugal:

"1974 brought an unanticipated but exhilarating boost to the politics of revolutionary anti-imperialism. On April 25, the dictatorship that had ruled Portugal with an iron hand since 1932 was overthrown. Popular discontent had been central and radicals, including socialists and communists, were major forces in the new constellation of power. The new government soon ceded independence to all of Portugal’s remaining colonies. The series of colonial wars in Africa had drained Portugal’s resources and economy, and that created the conditions for radical internal changes.

We saw the relatively poor imperial nation of Portugal as a possible small-scale model of what could happen to the far more powerful United States after a protracted period of economic losses and strains brought on by "two, three, many Vietnams." The costs of a series of imperial wars could crack open the potential of radical change within the home country."

And he often counters narrow and stupid characterizations of the '60s and '70s, reminding us of the human faces behind the mythology of the radical movements.

In discussing the death of Teddy Gold, his old friend from Columbia University, he seeks to set the record straight:

"When Teddy and two other comrades were killed in the tragic townhouse explosion, J. Kirkpatrick Sale immediately published a piece in The Nation defining Teddy as the epitome of "guilt politics." I don’t think Sale ever met Teddy; he certainly didn’t know him. Sale’s rush to judgment probably came from his urgency to discredit any political push toward armed struggle. The "guilt politics" mantra just didn’t fit the deep level of identification we felt with Third World people; and far from feeling guilt, with its condescending sense that we are so much better off than they are, we were responding to their leadership.

The national liberation movements were providing the tangible hope that a better world was possible. Those who caricatured him never saw Teddy on his return from Cuba—the very picture of inspiration, energy, and hope. The word that captures Teddy’s psyche as he built the New York collective was not guilt but exuberance."

Whether you agree with much that David says or very little, Love and Struggle is a book you won’t soon forget.

Rick Ayers was co-founder of and lead teacher at the Communication Arts and Sciences small school at Berkeley High School, and is currently Adjunct Professor in Teacher Education at the University of San Francisco. He is author, with his brother William Ayers, of Teaching the Taboo: Courage and Imagination in the Classroom, published by Teachers College Press. He can be reached at rayers@berkeley.edu. Read more articles by Rick Ayers on The Rag Blog.

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London Peculiar and Other Non-Fiction on SF Crows Nest

by Eamonn Murphy
SF Crows Nest
January 3, 2012

This book contains a wide range of Moorcock’s non-fiction, mostly from the last ten years or so but with a few earlier pieces. There is an introduction by Iain Sinclair and an editor’s forward by Allan Kausch. These are followed by two odd pieces, "Scratching A Living" which is a sort of day in the life of a writer and "A Child’s Christmas in the Blitz" which is an interesting autobiographical essay. Moorcock, it seems, was reading Edgar Rice Burroughs and George Bernard Shaw before he started school. Many modern youths can’t read them after they leave. That’s progress. Following this, the content is divided into six categories as follows: London, other places, absent friends, music, politics and introductions and reviews.

The section on London held no great interest for me because I am neither a Londoner nor particularly in love with our capital, though it is undoubtedly one of the great cities of the world. However, the title essay, "London Peculiar" had a bit more autobiography and it struck me that Moorcock has led an interesting life and should write it down.

The section on other places consisted of diary entries between 2001 and 2010, nine in all. They were originally published in the Financial Times and are interesting on world events and the geography of Moorcock’s life. He has homes in Paris, France and Austin, Texas and makes valid comparisons of the health services in the two places. Apparently Wal-Mart sells do-it-yourself wound sewing kits because even skilled American workers cannot afford routine medical care. Oh say, can you see the fun of it! Like most English people I do not anticipate that more free market in the NHS is going to be of much benefit to me, though the big corporations, accountants, lawyers and insurance companies are no doubt rubbing their hands with glee. Lest US readers go forth and lynch Moorcock, I should add that he is full of praise for ordinary Americans, adores the country and describes it in loving detail. It’s just the health service he’s not keen on.

The absent friends section is testament to one of the problems of living quite a long time: your friends die. Here Moorcock pays tribute to J.G. Ballard, Ted Carnell, Thomas M. Disch, Arthur C. Clarke and others. Clarke, it seems, was nicknamed "the ego" since childhood and threw "parties" where tea was served and home movies of the great barrier reef were shown to bored, sober guests. Apparently everyone knew he was gay but he was an easy-going, loveable soul and everyone liked him. They just tried to avoid his parties. Thomas M Disch, we learn, hated Phillip K. Dick for his hippie guru pose which he thought false. Disch committed suicide. It is probably the case that highly strung artistic individuals are more likely to perish through drink, drugs or suicide than us ordinary mortals. It kind of goes with the territory.

Music and politics are brief sections but mildly interesting. "Living With Music: A Playlist" has some surprises, the classical mostly. He cites the albums "American Beauty" and "Workingman’s Dead" by the Grateful Dead as favourite listening. For some reason I have always been under the impression that the Dead produced an awful racket but these albums (I sampled them) are almost as melodic as the Beach Boys. Moorcock is also a big Woody Guthrie and Mozart fan.

Introductions and reviews is the longest part of the book and too extensive to go over in detail. It features the obvious Science Fiction and fantasy writers: Leigh Brackett, Philip K. Dick, Aldous Huxley, HG Wells, Mervyn Peake and a few oddities like Robert Crumb. There are also reviews of some London literati. Having been around a long time and mixed in with the London avant-garde, music and literary scenes for almost as long, Moorcock knows a lot of people in the arts. He has been or is friends with Iain Sinclair, Peter Ackroyd, Alan Moore, JG Ballard, Mervyn Peake and many others. He’s not quite as fruitful a name dropper as Gore Vidal, who knew really famous people like Jack Kennedy, Orson Wells and Tennessee Williams but he does okay. When literary cliques review each other’s books and praise each other to the skies it can look suspicious and the ‘must read’ lists and reviews that come out every Christmas and summer holiday are always mocked in the English satirical magazine "Private Eye." This is too cynical. I prefer to believe that these literary cliques are friends because they like each other’s work, not friends pretending to like each other’s works for promotional reasons.

To appreciate everything on display here, one’s tastes would have to be as wide ranging as Moorcock’s and mine are not. I certainly share his love of pulp fiction and graphic novels but I am not really into the high flown literary stuff or not the modern’s anyway. Moorcock likes low, alternative and high art but has little interest in the middlebrow stuff, which he would probably call mediocre. It’s hard to imagine him settling down with the latest John Grisham.

This is probably the sort of book to keep by the bedside and dip into occasionally. Having a deadline to meet, I read the pieces in commercial breaks while watching, on the television, crime scene investigators at various locations across the United States. However you do it, it’s an entertaining and enlightening gaggle of stuff. Moorcock is many things but he is never boring.

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London Peculiar and Other Non-Fiction on West End Extra

by Dan Carrier
West End Extra
March 8, 2012

Michael Moorcock is a London landmark who could stand proudly alongside Nelson’s Column and the Albert Memorial, or have a space reserved for him on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth.

The writer, novelist, musician and commentator has a new collection of his works published: essays, diaries, assorted journalism including obituaries and reviews, and general musings on friends, work, books and, above all, the capital in which he grew up.

Moorcock is renowned as a science fiction author and 1960s underground magazine editor—and for playing guitar in the prog-rock band Hawkwind—but his range and breadth is so vast that he sits just as easily at high tables penning think pieces for the Financial Times as he does turning up to talk Martian at American sci-fi conventions.

In his piece, "Heart and Soul of The City," published in 1990 in the Observer, he wrote of a London he remembered and one that had been swiped away by developers, by weak-minded planners, by the rampant organism of economic growth.

“As a boy I wandered across vast acreages of docks still full of the world’s ships,” he says. “I climbed piles of bombed brick bright with Rosebay Willowherb, the fireweed brought from the slopes of Vesuvius and which took so happily to our ruins.

“If the little foetid canals and waterways under the rotting jetties have given way to dainty fountains and ornamental streams at least we are no longer as likely to die from some nameless toxin as we were when steam was king. For better and for worse, the times as well as the Thames, are changing.”

The Thames reappears in the essay with musing on how it is no longer the reason for the city to exist, rather an appendage to it.

“From what was predominantly a working river, the Thames has become a profitable scenic resource.

“Not very long ago, the GLC built fairly imaginative blocks of flats looking over the water.

World’s End was transformed to give many residents a chance to live with a view instead of a damp problem.

Now the idea of local government wasting such important real estate on its ordinary citizens is received by many pretty as much as [Salman Rushdie’s] The Satanic Verses was received in Bradford.

There is more profit in leisure than in product.

The river is a facility, no longer the reason for London’s existence.

“If, for me, the river has lost some of its romance, it has admittedly lost most of its danger,” he says.

“The dark mysteries of Dickens’s Thames have gone but the benevolent Thames of Jerome K Jerome still exists.”

London comes alive through his pen—a London he says has disappeared and that he now strains to catch glimpses of Sid James sitting on a bus in a Carry On film, or as the backdrop for an Ealing comedy.

He also reveals wonderful confidences with an uncle. “My family opened their homes to the American flyers, some of them friends of my RAF uncle who had disappeared while ferrying a Spitfire in Rhodesia and was disappointed to be found in the bush by rescuers,” he states.

“He hadn’t wanted to be rescued, he admitted to me many years later. He had enjoyed his African Christmases and has several African wives, extraordinary status in the village and no chance of being shot at . . . and his wife, one of my mother’s many powerful sisters, he confided, was a bit if a harridan.”

Music appears: in the article "The Deep Fix," published in 1994, he writes of Ladbroke Grove in the 1960s and 1970s, recalling Island Records having a studio ten minutes from his house, and how it took on the mantle of Soho in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the London music scene.

“Everybody knew everybody and it was quite often possible to be involved in a session with someone like Charlie Watts on drums, Long John Baldry doing vocals and Pete Green on guitar.

I cut my first demo with EMI in 1957 and it was considered, even by the standards of the day, too dreadful to be released.” Moorcock’s anthology works for numerous reasons, not least the simple fact it is a collection of lovely lines.

Examples abound on every page: “Talbot’s elaborate brass-and-mahogany steampunk paraphernalia constantly add to the visual delights of the tale, demonstrating his mastery of the graphic narrative,”  he writes in one book review, while the obituaries he has penned, including one for his close friend the feminist Andrea Dworkin, are simple eulogies.

Of Dworkin he writes the memorable lines: “Even now when I see her picture, I can’t emotionally come to terms with her death. In her most despairing, painful moments her vitality informed all she did and thought.”

He also writes passionately of the loss of his friend Angela Carter, quoting the letter she sent him when she knew she had lung cancer.

It’s a privilege to have such a collection of humanistic and touching articles between the covers of one book.

In the introduction, editor Allan Kausch says: “Compassion and anger can be used against the bastards who enslave us, that the only art that matters is the truth.”

This book illustrates such a sentiment perfect­ly—Moorcock’s works combine truth, beauty, insight and humour in well-measured portions.

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London Peculiar and Other Non-Fiction on The Electric Review

by Bryan "zepp" Jamieson
Electric Review
February Spotlight

Michael Moorcock’s latest collection of essays, London Peculiar and Other Non-Fiction is a mixed bag. It’s divided into sections: London, Other Places, Absent Friends, Music, Politics, and Reviews and Introductions. “London Peculiar” presumably refers to the toxic black miasmas of sulfur dioxide that famously enveloped London from the time of Shakespear until the 1960s, the infamous soft-coal “fogs.”

As someone who, like Moorcock, was raised in London, I read his accounts of the city with a fair bit of interest. His was the more dramatic childhood since I came along about fifteen years later and missed that whole “insane-Germans-lobbing-high-explosives-at-my-head” thing.

The most strident Londoner will probably find little of interest in grumbles from 1980 about how zoning panels are permitting gentrification to ruin some of the more interesting parts of the city. For all that, I had a huge laugh at Moorcock noting that surprisingly little of post-war London was preserved on film, and what there was existed in “Carry On” movies, and usually blocked by Sid James’ head. I’ve found myself watching those old flicks and sharing the same complaint. “Hattie! Move over! You’re blocking Islington! You’re blocking ALL of Islington!” Yes, I scream at long-dead comedians in fifty year old black and white movies. I need help.


“Other Places” is mostly about Texas, where Moorcock resides, and is singularly lacking in the expected fish-out-of-water element. Moorcock likes his new neighbors, and seems tickled that he’s better known to them as an amateur musician than as a writer. His stance on politics, less surprisingly, is puzzled astonishment at the American flat-earth right.

“Absent Friends” is a discussion of people who are dead, usually people Moorcock liked and respected. Andrea Dworkin, JG Ballard, Phil Ochs and Thomas Disch get loving attention, as they should. Moorcock has a deep respect for voices which are unique and fearless, and for originality of thought. This stance informs the entire volume from this point onward.

The most striking thing about this volume is the level of erudition. It isn’t enough to say that Moorcock read thousands of books; he ABSORBED them. He sounds like he did a stint in Disch’s “Camp Concentration” and survived. He had little use for work he considered facile or derivative—he dismisses Heinlein, and by extension much of American “golden age” science fiction—with the single word “mechaporn.” Moorcock loves the Titus Groan series, found Lord of the Rings a bit of a slog, and has no use for the Harry Potter books. That’s a good nutshell encapsulation of his view on literature.

There’s a sense in the essays themselves of looking back, rather than forward. He’s likely to write about HG Wells and Conan Doyle, but little or nothing about present-day writers such as Gaiman, the Foglios, or Stephenson. About the only active writer he deems worthy of more than cursory mention is Alan Moore.

Not many people will read every article in the book. But everyone who reads it will find jewels along the way, and come away with the realization that the things Moorcock treasures in his surroundings, his friends, and his fellow artists are among the very best that life has to offer.
 

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Abe in Arms on Children's Books Heal

by Patricia Tilton
Children's Books Heal
March 4, 2012

Opening/Synopsis:
“What’s your name boy? He stares into the mirrored sunglasses. Words don’t come out. I’ll tell you mine, then you tell me yours. What’s behind those mirrors? All he can see is himself. What’s inside the camouflage uniform? My name is Grant. See, it’s easy. Now tell me yours. He finds a voice. It comes out: James.”  Abe in Arms is a gripping novel about a teen who has survived the war in Liberia, escaped the rebel army, and is adopted by an American doctor and his loving family. Abe may have survived the war and started a new life, but his scars are so deep that his senior year begins to unravel as he deals with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is a story you will not easily forget, or want to forget. It evokes a powerful response within you.

Abe is a high school senior on his ways to a Division 1 Track scholarship.  He is an honor student, has a girlfriend and has developed a close relationship with his brother, Niko, and parents. Abe is at a track meet at the starting line with the other runners when he hears the gun “BANG.” Abe leaps forward, but is suddenly  transported to another place and time where he hears the BANG of rebels guns shooting randomly at people in his village. He has collapsed at the starting line and is curled in a fetal position.  His coach is shouting his name. Abe is rushed to the hospital. Over the following months, Abe suffers disabling flashbacks and seizures as he relives the events of his young life in war-torn Liberia, where he loses his mother and sister. At home, his brother Niko, observes his flashbacks at night and his explosive temper over silly things. At school he is zoning out in classes. He fights with another runner and knocks out his teeth. He distances himself from his girlfriend. His father, Dr. George Elders, recognizes Abe is in trouble and has him work with a therapist who specializes in PTSD. Abe journeys into a dark world where he has suppressed his memories. He finds himself facing the demons of his past life as a boy soldier—something he wants to bury. This action-packed novel is full of suspense, twists and turns, surprises and hope.

Why I like this book: Pegi Deitz Shea has written a powerful book for teens about young boys forced to become soldiers in war-torn countries like Africa. She isn’t afraid to take her readers to complicated and uncomfortable places. These boy soldiers suffer unimaginable violence and are made to do things by rebel armies that are horrific. They are robbed of their childhoods. How will those who survive, ever live normal lives? Abe in Arms is just one shocking story about a teen coming to grips with his past. Fortunately, Abe is grounded by the support and love of  his family who long to see him heal. Click here on the Reach and Teach  resource link for Abe in Arms. This site has information from Amnesty International, resources, lessons plans, ways to get involved and a very moving video about a boy soldier. Published reports estimate that there are approximately 250,000 children enslaved as soldiers around the world.

Pegi Deitz Shea is an award-winning children’s author, who has brought the worlds of refugees, immigrants, child laborers and historical figures into the minds of readers of all ages through books that include The Whispering Cloth, Tangled Threads, Ten Mice for Tet, The Carpet Boy’s Gift, Patience Wright, and Noah Webster: Weaver of Words.

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Love and Struggle in Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
March 5, 2012

Though Gilbert is still in prison after almost 30 years for the botched 1981 Brink’s robbery, these are not prison memoirs. Rather, Gilbert (No Surrender) reflects thoughtfully on his development as a leftist organizer and revolutionary in the context of the social tumult of the 1960s and ’70s, driven by a fundamental desire “to get America to live up to its ideals of democracy for all.” In a conflicted and conflict-ridden period of cold war anticommunism, civil rights struggle, Black Power, antiwar organizing, class divides, a burgeoning youth counterculture, and second-wave feminism, Gilbert’s political education and personal growth sometimes painfully intertwined, as he relates in candid passages detailing his failings as well as advances vis-à-vis colleagues, peers, and lovers, including longtime partner and fellow revolutionary Kathy Boudin. Some sections of this loosely chronological narrative, spiced with older diary entries, are more grounded than others. Inside knowledge of flashpoints—the breakup of SDS, the Weathermen’s springing of Timothy Leary from jail, or the beginnings of a rift between the renamed Weather Underground and Black Panthers—add to the historical record or underscore the complexities of the movement, while glosses on larger historical events or figures (the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Bob Dylan) prove less novel. However, such lively ruminating from someone on the inside of important recent history makes for vital reading. (May)

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Send My Love in The Mystery Gazette

by Harriet Klausner
The Mystery Gazette
December 12, 2011

This eighteen story anthology pulls no punches or switchblades as the compilation focuses on rebellion by rebels with and without a cause. Fifteen of the entries are new while one of the reprints is actually a first time translation into English (“Bizco’s Memories” by Paco Ignacio Talbo II starring soccer played under the underground convict rules of a prison). The other previously published contributions, “Gold Diggers of 1977” by Michael Moorcock is one of the Cornelius tales looking at the Sex Pistols mythos (may not survive the test of time), and “I Love Paree” by Cory Doctorow and Michael Skeet in which Old Paree is in trouble due to the foreign invasion. In “Nickels and Dimes” by John A Imani, riots come to UCLA in 1972 but not daring to disturb the Wooden NCAA run. Kim Stanley Robinson looks at a slave revolt on the moon in “The Lunatics.” In “Murder . . . Then and Now” by Penny Micklebury, he claims to be X at the Black Student Union. This is a gripping timely collection in which people past and present across the spectrum rebel against those they believe are their oppressors.

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Text as Folk Art: Black Flags and Windmills

The Anvil
February 19, 2012

We could create change and resist the destruction that they wrought on the world. I felt joy and hope in all the possibilities we could continue to create, rebelling against their hallowed message that we should give up and give in.

I had to climb the hillside to see what was on the other side.

Once I did, I saw the giants everywhere. I continued onward with curiosity and courage. I saw others doing the same and many of us walked together in mutual support (42).

From Rousseau’s infamous noble savage to a fascination with tourism, western capitalist society has found many ways to both maintain and exploit the image of some people as Other. One of the more pernicious flavors of this is to see some people as more authentic, more in touch with their humanity and their experience. This increased authenticity can be attributed because they have suffered more, or because they are not seen as fitting into the model of the Normal Person ™ (who is supposed to be some combination of [sub]urban, white, middle class, straight, certified sane, etc). A particular kind of interest in folk art is part of this alienation.

In Europe, psychiatric collections, mediumistic art work, and paintings by autodidacts such as Alfred Wallis (1885-1942) and Henri "le Douanier" Rousseau (1844-1910) were held aloft by modernists, along with colonial plunder from Africa and the Americas as salvation from industrialization’s increasing ravages (Gale 1999:16 and 17). Across the Atlantic, a similar fascination with "naive" expression was taking place. Championing the romanticized notion of a fast-fading authenticity inherent in Anglicized American heritage, certain collectors, scholars, gallerists, and museum professionals turned their attentions to folk traditions.


The definition for folk art is quite contested: how is it distinct from crafts (or is it)? What is its relationship to fine art and schools of art and art schools? Must it be completely untouched by the art market, or can folk pieces be in dialog with fine art pieces? Can fine artists do folk art? Should folk art be an umbrella term that includes naïve art, art brut1, tribal art, tramp art, self-taught art, etc, or is it a thing distinct from any of those? And so on.

For our purposes, wikipedia gives a reasonable entry:

Folk art

a) encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic
b) expresses cultural identity by conveying shared community values and aesthetics. It encompasses a range of utilitarian and decorative media and

c) is practiced by people who have traditionally learned skills and techniques through apprenticeships in informal community settings, though they may also be formally educated

As with all attempts to define a group as outside of capitalist, western, urban values or experience, this can be read optimistically (the definers are dissatisfied with the status quo and are reaching for something, trying to understand the world in different ways), or pessimistically (the definers are attempting to integrate all difference into the status quo, to flatten differences even while they trumpet how “different” they are).2 More to the point, the members of the given group are both inside themselves and outside themselves at the same time. The Situationists were brilliant in their analysis of the Spectacle as something that divorces people from our own experience, an alienation that we are all subject to, but that members of Otherized groups are subject to differently. Vine Deloria’s article “Anthropologists and Other Friends” is intense and paradigm-shattering in its depiction of the relationship between anthropologists and the people-being-defined, negating (among other things) the idea that any of us can be untouched by the society that envelopes us.

Organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts rightfully define folk art as art coming out of a specifically identifiable tradition. Folk art is “learned at the knee” and passed from generation to generation, or through established cultural community traditions, like Hopi Native Americans making Kachina dolls, sailors making macramé, and the Amish making hex signs. From the website for the American Visionary Art Museum Hopi-Native-Americans-making-Kachina-dolls (et al) are not just involved in a deeply spiritual and practical effort that their people have done for generations, they are also operating as Authentic Others within a capitalist model. These two ways of existing are diametrically opposed – are even mutually exclusive—and yet this paradox is embodied in these Hopi (et al), and to varying degrees in all of us.

Our truck sped along the highway, our thoughts in a tumult. Few cars moved our way, apart from the occasional military vehicle. In the other direction, the roadway was overflowing with evacuees. They began to look like refugees from another place (45).

In Black Flags and Windmills (BF&W), scott crow—the best known (or at least the most interviewed) of the founding members of Common Ground Collective (CGC)—explains how he grew up and in to a world view that promotes a certain way of looking at race, class, disenfranchisement, responsibility, and privilege. BF&W is a reflection of that world view—one that has been called variously anti-racist, anti-colonialist, leftist—with many of its strengths and weaknesses.

While the group had many contributors and co-creators, it is fair to say that CGC (now a non-profit called Common Ground Relief) was initiated by a local ex Black Panther, a local woman, and an anarchist, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when New Orleans was traumatized; entire neighborhoods had been emptied—sometimes through force; the government was demonstrably more interested in controlling the behavior of those who were left, than it was in meeting their needs. CGC, like many other efforts that seek to serve people’s needs without government or NGO mediation, has been lauded by some as an example of direct action, and criticized by some as a charity. In fact it was probably both, depending on when and on which people or subset of people one focuses on. Scott crow makes clear that there was an ongoing negotiation between working with people who were not anarchists, not used to dealing with anarchist horizontal process and mostly probably not interested in learning to deal with it, and the anarchists who made up most or sometimes all of the volunteers who were coming in from outside the area. Differences that were not made any less challenging by the different racial, economic, and cultural compositions of the two groups.

Naïve art:

The main characteristic of naïve art is a rejection, or strained relationship to, the formal qualities of painting, especially the three rules of perspective (as defined by painters of the Renaissance):

The rules of perspective are

    1.    decrease of the size of objects proportionally at distance,
    2.    enfeeblement of colors with distance,
    3.    decrease of the precision of details with distance.

The lack of these characteristics leads to an equal accuracy brought to details, including those of the background, which would be shaded off in fine art paintings.

BF&W is an exercise in folk and naïve art, because it is less a cohesive story (or even set of stories) than a record of part of a conversation. The book does not abide by any of the rules normal for books on any of the themes that it includes. It is more than a memoir of CGC (it includes some of scott crow’s childhood) but less than an autobiography—crow mostly discusses his childhood, political development, and part of his life during the existence of CGC. It includes a history lesson but only for a few disconnected and very specific pieces of history, without a larger context (primarily the Black Panthers and the Zapatistas). It is a political text by an anarchist who seems to have been most inspired by non-anarchists. It is a manual for disaster relief without much step by step information to duplicate specific success(es). It is an adventure story about fighting cops, vigilantes, snitches, and entitlement, as well as surviving the environment, without a clear ending. People who already know a bit about CGC might read this book for more information on Brandon Darby, who was a significant part of the story for scott crow, and who gained notoriety first from to his self aggrandizement, and later when he came out as an informant to the FBI. However, where scott crow discusses Darby, it has more to do with crow’s process of coming to terms with the fullness of Darby’s perfidity, than it does with an analysis or accounting of Darby’s behavior.

More fundamentally, the text does not follow a single line at any point. All of the threads are woven together in the way that spoken conversations sometimes flow, but that seem quite random on paper. Because there are so many threads that all seem to get equivalent attention, it’s hard to know which is foreground and what background.

This conversational style, in which bits from all the various themes are mixed together–biographical fragments with stories about the Spanish Civil War and crow’s alliances with ex-Black Panthers (a description that is featured heavily throughout the book), etc–is so pronounced that it makes the book seem like something new, perhaps a book that is for people who don’t read, who don’t like or want to be limited by the patterns or habits in more traditional books.

So Folk as a description operates here in two ways. First is that of “a set of practices learned by watching other people,” in the sense that crow learned his activism by watching and listening to ex-Black Panthers, and from them received a particular take on identity, society, and liberation that he faithfully represents here, even when it is in conflict with much of anarchist thought. In a chapter called Of Anarchists, Panthers, and Zapatistas, crow explains his own eventual embrace of the label anarchist (after rejecting it initially because of his distaste for punk anarchists in his youth), when he decided “it was time to shock the political system.” For some it will be odd that in this chapter the examples of actual action that he uses are two groups that have no anarchist affiliation at all.

It is not hard to find criticism of the authoritarian practices of many within the Black Panther Party; one example is this quotation from Paul Glavin’s friendly review of Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party (edited by Kathleen Cleaver—who wrote the preface to BG&W—and George Katsiaficas).

The authoritarian, top-down structure of the Panthers, combined with their reliance on Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, is objectionable from an anti-authoritarian perspective. The Panthers saw themselves as a vanguard Marxist-Leninist style Party with hierarchical ranks and they were influenced by Mao. For example, Michael L. Clemons and Charles E. Jones’s essay, “Global Solidarity,” points out that fifty percent of BPP political education classes were devoted to Mao’s Little Red Book. Key members were given State titles, such as Minister of Information and Minister of Defense.

In this collection, Mumia argues it is hard to generalize about the BPP because it had many offices and a diverse membership reflecting regional and cultural differences. Yet by the 1970s the BPP did become increasingly authoritarian and centralized (http://www.newformulation.org/1pantherinsurgency.htm).

And the Zapatistas, as exciting as they have been for people looking to create mass movements, are themselves not even anti-state.

The EZLN has not hidden their agenda. Their aims are clear already in the declaration of war that they issued at the time of the 1994 uprising, and not only are those aims not anarchist; they are not even revolutionary. In this declaration, nationalist language reinforced the implications of the army’s name. Stating: “We are the inheritors of the true builders of our nation”, they go on to call upon the constitutional right of the people to “alter or modify their form of government.” They speak repeatedly of the “right to freely and democratically elect political representatives” and “administrative authorities”. And the goals for which they struggle are “work, land, housing , food, health care, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice and peace.” In other words nothing concrete that could not be provided by capitalism. Nothing in any later statement from this prolific organization has changed this fundamentally reformist program. Instead the EZLN calls for dialogue and negotiation, declaring their willingness to accept signs of good faith from the Mexican government.

From THE EZLN IS NOT ANARCHIST

crow’s book exemplifies a conundrum for a particular kind of anti-racist activist, which is the question of how much one constrains their ideas to fit into models that have been approved by people of color. When one is an activist, as crow decidedly is, the models of the panthers and the zapatistas are too practical and successful (within limits) to be denied. But if anarchy is something more than a set of tactics, then one must admit that anarchy is impractical. It is not practical to have a beautiful vision of the potential in all of us, a potential that demands the overthrow of so much that so many take for granted or in fact demand. This dilemma continues to be acted out in many people’s political activities and organizations, and the scott crow book is (among other things) a story of the balancing that he was trying to do between its horns. "Anarchism means not waiting for the other to do something. It means knowing what the right thing to do is, recognizing we have the power to do it, then doing it" (73).

But Folk can also apply to the way that a work is understood to be outside of institutions; counter to what is considered learned or erudite; easy for the Common Folk to understand.

When the point of a work is to replicate cultural norms that are not scholastic or outside of a particular form-of-life, to be—for example—accessible to a group of people who are not used to reading, then the conversational flow and familiar language will be a comfort and an encouragement. These might be the people who take the story of Don Quixote’s windmills as an expression of hope and a refusal to concede, rather than as a sign of an old man’s delusion.

Reading this book brought up for me questions of habit and form, formality and structure.

Arguably, scott crow took the format—papers bound together with glue and a cover—and made it his own. A practice that egoists, among others, might be able to appreciate.

1. aka outsider or visionary art—i.e. art by people who are considered insane or far outside of social convention)
2. Of course both pessimistic and optimistic views are true simultaneously.

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