Who’s Streets?

I found a call for recordings for a politically themed musical thing, which always makes me happy because this sort of thing motivates me a lot. It’s got an item for consideration, “How do we view the fact that our instruments for organising sounds are linked to instruments designed to control? Is there a relationship between organising and controlling?” (the whole thing is at http://www.sonoscop.net/pop-up/convzepp09ENG.html)

So I was thinking I could use some recordings I made of people chanting at the G20 protests in London and then juxtapose that with recordings of military chants that I could steal from YouTube.

And I am astounded, perplexed and unnerved that pretty much, crowds watching troop drills sound exactly like crowds at protests with chanting. I would not be able to listen to a recording and know if I’m watching an implicitly normative crowd cheering for marching at a football game or a bunch of leftists out to reclaim the streets. (I mean, the words are different, but playing recordings for a non-english speaking audience looses that signifier.)

This is kind of worrying because it suggests that there’s not so much difference between how these positions are articulated or perhaps even between the positions themselves as they manifest in a public space.
Which manifestations are empowering and which are alarming would only seem to have to do with whether your own advantage is the one being promoted. Of course, I think there’s more to it than that. Are we supporting the rights of people who already have power or people who do not? But this suggests that both positions might fill the same needs for observers and participants. And somehow that’s disturbing me. Maybe people are more empowered by being reactionary. How can we reach out to them in that case?
Speaking of protests, there’s one today about biofuels and I don’t know whether or not I want to go. Burning acres of rainforest to grow soybeans for fuel has a worse carbon footprint than burning a whole lot of petrol. Is there a role for non-waste oil biodiesel in a green, sustainable model for fuel? I don’t know. I really believed in biodiesel.

Hexing

I went to a hexing this afternoon. In the past few months, I’ve made it a point to say yes when somebody asks me to do something that I wouldn’t normally do. So when an old friend forwarded me an email about a hexing ritual, open to “both women and men,” once I found out the targets were hate crime committing rapists, I said ok.

We went to Ceasar Chavez park in Berkeley, which is also an off-leash dog area, so I’d been there loads of times before. We were in a stone circle, built to be a solar calendar, with the waters of the San Francisco Bay on three sides of us. Nearby, there were a million happy dogs, kids flying kites, a guy with a remote controlled glider. The grass was green from the recent rains and there was a cool breeze blowing from the West. It was all rather lovely.

As it happened, I was the only guy to go. All but around two of the women were Baby Boomers. Most of us were white, also. I went to Mills – a woman’s college, so I’d dabbled in wiccan stuff and been to a few rituals, but didn’t go on to do it after that. So I’d been to do pagan stuff a few times before and had mostly found it empowering, but not enough to overcome my atheism.

Despite this atheism, I was raised in a superstitious household and come from a superstitious country, so I couldn’t help but think that going to a hexing might be marinating myself in some bad energy. What goes around, comes around. If I wish ill on others, it’s going to come back to me, I guess I believe. I wonder if this sort of thinking is to keep women from being angry or from stewing in it. In any case, I was taking the negative energy seriously, as were the women there.

However, once things were under way, my mood changed from trepidation. The organizer had a bunch of 8.5×11 sized printouts of the Virgin of Guadalupe. She had cut eye holes in them to sort of function as masks and she passed them around with string. So I tied a sheet of paper with a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary to my head. And they set up some banners of her also.

I spend all day yesterday with a member of the Catholic clergy, so the sacrilege was actually getting to me, as much as feel goofy wearing such an odd non-mask. But also, the Virgin of Guadalupe is a symbol which belongs to the Hispanic populations of California, of which, as far as I was aware, nobody was present. My biggest negative issue with wiccans is not that it violates my unbelief, but that it appropriates the beliefs of others. And borrowing this symbol is cultural appropriation. So I felt kind of goofy and awkward and the only guy there and guilty for violating a heritage that both belongs to my people and belongs to others.

We formed a circle and she set up two very small cauldrons. We started by smudging everybody with incense. The woman who did the smudging sang a song while she did it. I didn’t know what to think when she singingly called me her sister. I don’t think she did it in response to me not passing, but because I did pass. Because if a guy was going to come into this space, he could deal with being left out of the language like women have to deal with it too, more often and in more places. Or maybe as she sang that I belonged, she sang the opposite also.

After we were all smudged, we hummed and then the leader invoked the four “grandmothers” of the four cardinal directions. Some coals were put into the cauldrons. She put frankincense on one of them. She had some yarn which represented the four rapist gay bashers who we were hexing. And their younger brother who knew about their crimes and was going to rat them out. I think she had a psychic vision of the brother. She cut the yarns and put them into the empty cauldron. And then she put in extremely foul incense. And we chanted about how they were bad people who were going to get caught and have bad things happen to them, while holding out our arms towards it.

Some of the dog walkers stopped to watch this, but only for a few moments. And also, one of the women had a movie camera with which she was documenting us. It’s Berkeley, so I don’t know if people thought we were making a fictional film or if a bunch of middle aged women dancing in a circle around the BVM, hexing rapists in the dog park is just entirely unremarkable.

The yarn she used was bright red. I don’t know what it was made of, but it was clearly treated with some sort of flame-retardant chemical and wasn’t burning as quickly as expected. So this required dumping on additional incense and some flammable stuff while we clapped and walked in circles around the altar thing.

At the end, when it finally, burned, we were to go around the circle and give blessings. Because calling for justice is positive. So even though it was a hexing, it was a positive thing to do. Thus neatly sidestepping the problems of calling up negative energy or other unseemliness. The first women to give a blessing was the smudger and she went on at length about womyn, and the womyn of the circle, etc. The next was my friend, who made a point of saying “people.” Then it was my turn, so I said “queers.” We all said something and afterwards, people said “blessed be” and then, thank goodness, it was time to remove the Virgin Mary from my head.

My friend and I took off right about then, without helping to tear down, as my friend could tell I wanted to escape. She said, “I swear they said ‘all genders.'” I wondered if I felt more uncomfortable about being in a women’s space or wearing such a goofy mask.

I think the most striking thing about the whole proceedings was that it was not symbolic for the women involved. It was not a protest. It was taking action. They believe that they’ve done something concrete in response to a terrible hate crime.

When I got home, I washed my face and hands, to get the smell of incense off of me, but it also felt like a kind of ritual, getting the previous ritual off of me. And it felt concrete too.

Fortunately, there is more concrete action that can be taken. There’s a fund set up to help the victim. Unfortunately, this kind of hate crime is way more common here than you might guess. What’s unusual is how much attention this one is getting. Gay and lesbian people are especially politicized since the election. Hopefully this energy continues. And as people take away our rights and and say we’re like deforestation and literally assault us, hopefully, our protests and our actions create change, so hate crimes become uncommon, our rights are restored and people are ashamed that homophobia was once so apparent.

Berkeley Politics

My home town, the city of Berkeley, California is in the public eye for objecting to a US Marine Corps recruiting station downtown, near both the university and the high school. The right wing blogosphere went kind of nuts at this and you can read more about it here, at the Berkeley Daily Planet.

I went today to see the protests. Code Pink in Berkeley The anti-war group, Code Pink was set up in front of the City Hall. They had camped over night. This is a women’s group and most, but not all, of the women seemed to be retirement age. There were also a lot of very energetic young people running around, most ly on the other side of the street. Activists in Berkeley
Also across the street were a bunch of right wing pro-war types. Even in Berkeley, alas. Pro-war vs Youth They had a very loud sound system set up playing Sousa marches and country songs. While I was mingling with the Code Pink types, somebody I knew from Mills came up to me. She said that when the pro-war folks showed up at 5AM, they started chanting “Burn! Burn! Burn!” at Code Pink. “They just seemed very angry.” She said.
Parked behind all the action were a bunch of news vans. Code Pink in Berkeley Whenever the police started herding people around, something they were fairly aggressive about, the news cameras sprung into action.
I didn’t stay at the demo long. I was enlisted to help distribute water to the Berkeley High students. Many of them had cut class to go protest. I heard one girl telling her friends that her “mommy” had given her permission to skip school and protest. The kids involved seemed to be very diverse – girls and boys, many races, many teen sub groups. Skaters, goths, and jocks were all out there, all having a good time.
I quit distributing water when the kids started throwing it on each other. I’m not going to carry several liters of water around on my shoulder so they can play with it. As I got on my bike to leave, I went very near one of the news vans. Inside, I heard the anchor ranting about how this sort of thing has been going on for 40 years. The unbiased media was full of scorn for the peace movement. Isn’t it tired to spend the last 40 years advocating for social justice and non-violent conflict resolution?
Even if some individuals have been advocating the same thing in the same way for almost half a century, that doesn’t make their cause less right. Peaceful Hippie in Berkeley

Back from France

I’m back and I want to share all. I wasn’t sure where to start, especially since the trip ended much as it began: biking across Paris, towing a dog, trying to make a train connection. The second trip was a bit more hectic than the first because it involved a much farther away train station, a shorter time and a case of wine. Some Parisian yelled «Bravo!» as I struggled uphill across and intersection, trying to pick up speed to make the train on time. We had an hour and 5 minutes, two foldy bikes, a foldy trailer, dirty clothes, camping gear and the aforementioned dog and case of wine. And a medieval-style bugle that I bought in Orléans. 20 minutes to unfold everything. 20 minutes to bike from Montparnasse to Gare du Nord, 20 minutes to refold. I highly recommend sprinting across Paris with so many things, especially down the hill from the Sorbonne to the Seine.

We arrived in Paris the day of the election. The streets were crawling with Gendarmes, prepared for possible unrest following the results.
First stop, was the bakery near where my apartment used to be. God, they make the best bread in the world. First thing off my bike and I step in dog shit. Yay Paris. Some older French ladies approached me and spoke to me about my dog trailer. Maybe it was the nice weather. Maybe it was the expectant air around the election, but probably it was the dog. I almost never had conversations like that when I lived there.
The streets were full of flics and first-time roller bladers. At every corner, there were grim-looking cops in riot gear and young people on wheels desperately clinging to phone poles. Xena was trying desperately to escape her trailer as we slowly crossed the city. Nicole rode behind me, repeating “good dog!” over and over again. She said the scowling gendarmes broke into amused smiles as they spotted the dog.
We arrived in Orléans later that evening and went to the tourist office, which was closed. They also had cops everywhere. I tried to call the campground listed in the guidebook, but they didn’t answer their phone. Rather than ride the 5km to the campground with the risk of having to ride another 5 km back, we went to the Ibiss, a 2 star hotel chain in Europe, roughly equivalent to the Motel 6 in the US.
And everywhere I went that day, I head over and over «C’est un chien!» It’s a dog! but I felt very proud of myself when a kid added, «C’est genial!» That’s brilliant! indeed. My goal was to take my dog with me and avoid the hassle of trying to find a sitter, but I don’t mind amusing the French also.
Over dinner, I learned that Sarko had won. I hate that guy. He said several months ago that the (poor, immigrant) suburbs should be cleaned out with a pressure hose, a comment that contributed greatly to the riots that followed shortly thereafter, leaving many cars burned. His parents were immigrants! He’s like the Ward Connerly or Clarence Thomas of France. In the time leading to the run off, he actively courted supporters of Le Pen, the ultra-right nationalist who adores Joan of Arc. Not because she was an awesome cross dresser who could place a cannon, but because she drove France’s foreign enemies out of France – you know, like um, immigrants. Because immigrants are totally against the country they want to live in (yeah, I hate France and want to destroy it). And Joan of Arc was not accompanied by a huge bunch of Scots who were also foreign and there to help her.
As I was walking back to the hotel, I heard whistling and shouts. A huge crowd of youths came up behind me on the Rue de Jeanne d’Arc. They had a bedsheet banner that had an anti-sarko slogan on it. Other folks were joining them as they marched. The joiners had their cell phones in hand and busily SMSed and called their friends to let them know to join in. (I heard one guy saying something about “le podcast.”)
as they marched down the largest street in town, towards the cathedral, under the huge patriotic banners and flags the town hung for it’s yearly festival, the older, whiter, richer Orléanaise leaned out their apartment windows and looked worriedly on the crowd below. In the expensive apartment, old white folks worried. In the street, a young, diverse crowd marched, whistled and gave speeches.
WhenI heard Sarko won, I was disappointed, but not surprised. The poll numbers were in favor of him. He was running against a woman. Her “yay I won” speech after the first round was wooden and boring in a manner unsurpassed by even John Kerry or Al Gore (although maybe Bob Dole could give her a run). But still, I hoped somehow she would win and I was angry that she hadn’t. But then, I saw these other angry kids and marched with them for a while. They were unhappy, but engaged. Their actions demonstrated hope. They weren’t in the street just because they were angry. They were in the street in their smallish town because they knew it mattered. Their participation in this semi-spontaneous march meant something, not just to them and the worried old folks, but to their whole nation.
I felt tears in my eyes. How can such a great country be so stupid? I went back to the hotel to sleep.

Xtain Pacifists

So right before fall break, I happened upon a very small peace vigil in “downtown” Middletown. It was a few old guys with peace signs standing in front of the episcopal church. So I stood with them for a while, holding a sign with a pro-peace message on it and decided to come back the next monday after fall break. Being active is important. Maybe more so in tiny towns than in big cities where everyone expects you to be.

today I came back and it was raining, not hard but apparently enough to make the ink run on their signs, so they were standing in the church door, instead of down on the sidewalk. They were all fired up about the march on Washington, which they had gone to, but I did not. I stuck my bike in the vestibule and went to stand with them. Only one guy was holding a sign and it said “Jesus is the Prince of Peace.” I picked up some sign about the administration lying and we stood in the church door while they stood around and dissed the Green party. The Greens in CT are apparently less together than they are in CA and are apparently looking to get some of the peace crowd to join the party. These guys were tired of the Greens trying to convert them, especially since they’re so inneffective (because they have so few members) blah blah blah. Uh, yeah. I’m a Green. they’ve been tremendously successful in Germany. then the subject switched to SUVs. A woman there was talking about how tiny women drive SUVs. tiny women! They have no buisiness driving that kind of car! they get in accidents!
I switched the subject to SUVs as a symptom of class warfare, lest I start defending the right of tiny women to drive any car they damn well please. and it went around for a while until the Quaker woman standing next to me said that she was uncomfortable with the Jesus sign. I pointed out that it was impossible to tell whether the guy holding it was a pacifist or a bible thumper. He got adamant about how this was a religious peace group and he was not taking Jesus out of it. It was bad enough that they had to quit carrying the pro-Palestine signs because the local Rabbi had complained. and then the subject wended around to Jews.
It’s a small town. folks in a small town might not know the difference between Zionists and Jewish people as a group. The problem with Jews . . .. Oh but that one guy that spoke at the march was Jewish . . . blah blah blah. yikes. So I ran away.
As I was retrieving my bike, they seem to have come back to their religious (Christian) identity. “We’re a religious group!” the guy with the Jesus sign was saying. Quakers. Catholics. etc. “Actually, I’m an atheist.” I said as I snapped on my helmet. yes really. maybe, indeed I would turn to God on my deathbed, who can know the future?
they want me to come back next week, maybe so they can convert me back to being catholic, or maybe so I can convert them all to being Green.
I reported all of this to Aaron, my housemate, and he said, “wow. Greens. Women. Athesists. you’re lucky they didn’t start talking about gay people.”
indeed. I need a new peace group.

Day of Homeland Resistance

so after staying up too late last night wasting my time and money and hours of my life, which I will never have back by watching something on a par with Bulletproof Monk, I got up early this morning to go to a protest outside of San Francisco City Hall. I showed up 15 minutes late and there was no one there. the date on my watch is mis-set, so I became convinced I had the wrong day. I started to leave when someone approached me and asked me where the protest was. so we went looking for it and found some other members of the band. We played one song and the sherrifs said that we had to stop since the protest did not have a permit to be near city hall yet. So we marched and played over to where the rest of the protesters were (by the bart station) and then listened to some stock speeches covering all leftist issues in one breath. We need jstice, housing, healthcare, peace equality, and end to evil and more good. Yes.
then we marched back to city hall, but the band did not play, because the protesters wanted to chant. then we listened to more speaches for good and against evil. then we did not play because the protesters wanted to chant. Then everyone was assembling into a freedom for Palestine march to the Isreal consulate. It was a funeral procession. so we figured out some funeral songs to play. But the protesters started chanting again and I decided that I didn’t want to carry a tuba over to a consulate and not play it. And i don’t know as much as I should about the Isreal/Palestine conflict as I should anyway. I bought a Chomsky book on it, but haven’t read it yet. so I took bart over to Christi’s office
I have recordings of all the speeches and one of the two songs that we played. I also have recordings of comments people made to me about the tuba on bart. the best/wort one, “wow, that’s kind of sexual.” thank you. goodbye.

Sousaphone Protesting

I meant to post first about Tennis Roberts and then talk about the protest that I went to today, but I ended up digressing so much into tuning that I feared Tiffany would just stop reading the post, since she has no patience for rambling about tuning. So I’ve broken it into two posts.
Christi’s uncle came over today to pick up our old imac. Late last night, I reofrmatted the purple imac’s hard drive and put OS9 on it and a few applications. It’s really much happier as an os9 machine. It runs fast and has a ton of hard drive space. But there’s something very sad about about reformatting a computer and not restoring it. It’s soul is gone. even if azll your data is moved over and you finally figured out how to move your bookmarks, it’s still… No two computers are exactly the same. They all have bit rot. But they all have it in different ways. I should light a candle or something for the repose of the soul of the purple imac.
Um, anyway, Christi’s uncle came over and we chatted for a while and then got lunch and then Christi started showing him how to use word. Christi’s uncle, Forrest, works in a dump. He drives the forklift around. Maybe he runs the whole place. Apparently he sees imacs at the dump all the time, but he didn’t know what they were until now. He just fished a plasma cutter out and now has a very nice welding rig. He says that he’s seen every item in our house at the dump. He didn’t know people were like that. What are they thinking about, throwing away their imacs?? Anyway, Christi asked him to fish them out. We could do some cool super-array of imacs runnign supercollider or something. It would be awesome.
So I left them to go play at the Okalnd docks protest. Last month, protesters formed a picket line across the entrance to the docks for APL, a military contracter that ships war materials around. The Oakland police shot at the protesters with “non-leathal” weapons and ended up also hitting some longshoremen and others. This was roundly condemned. I was in Seattle for the first one and missed it (which is ok, since I don’t really want to be shot at). But the BLO was playing this time, so I lugged my sousaphone on to BART. My poor horn is covered with duct tape, which is sealing off several leaks. Many people felt obligated to make duct tape jokes about it. Yes, it is ready for biochemical attack. I just used the tape cuz I like John Ridge. Anyway.
A large croud of people was assembled outside of the West Oakland Bart at 5:00. At the same time, a group of people was protesting outside of the APL building in Seattle. Cool cross-costal actavism. People were handing out flyers and maps and stuff. Other folks were addressing the croud about non-violence and strategy and various important annoucements, whcih I ignored in favor of adding duct tape to the horn. You can’t have too much duct tape.
some body gave a me a free newspaper that had in the mast head linked female signs with fists in them an a hammer and sickle. I was very excited to get the radical, communist, anarchist lesbian newspaper, but I can’t find the queer content in it. Anyway, One of the organizers, named Gopal, decided that the band should lead off the march to the docks. I was darn hot and it’s a long way to the end of the docks. I had to stop and pant several time during songs, none of which I had ever played before. The sax player who was being drum major would give me a quick run-down of the notes in the bass line, which I would promptly forget. But I was getting the hang of it the more we marched. and it was very nice to get a break at the last dock. I laid on the ground next to my horn and was then surrounded by press taking my picture. I guess exhausted sousaphone pkayers are picture-esque. Also, the horn is quite a bit bigger than me. I can see the captions now, “tiny sousaphone player can’t actually play horn.” Anyway, I might be in the Oakland Tribune tomorrow and the Daily Cal.
The rest of the band was coming in a 6:30 shift and was marching up from the bart station, so we decided to march back to gate 3 and meet up with them. The BLO is cool, because it has a strong emphasis on improvisation. We’ll play the head of the song and them maybe a verse or something and then the drum major will point at somebody and they’ll solo over the chord changes of the head. This goes on for a long time. Some of the folks a great solosists. Then we’ll play the bridge section, then maybe the head again and then maybe end the song. Some times we’ll sing the words instead of playing. So we played several songs on the way back to the gate and then played a bunch of songs there. We had just finished playing a very upbeat rendidtion of “We Shall Overcome,” when Gopal announced that we had oversome and had sucessfully stopped work at the docks for the shift.
So we all marched very triumphantly back to the BART station. It was a huge, jubulant crowd. when you see pictures in the news papers of giant crowds of leftist europeans carrying signs and celebrating because they won some thing. It was like that. We played and sang “Le Internationale,” but I only know the Billy Brag words and so couldn’t sing along. During the entire evening, the cops just sat and watched. Some of them bobbed their head a long with the music. They were completely hands-off. A definite improvement.
During the triumphant march back, my back was having no more of it. I had already been playing and carrying the horn non-stop for more than three hours. It’s a heavy horn. So I staggered back to the BART station, without playing anything. I felt vaguely guilty, but it hurt more than I wanted to deal with. Pain while playing music is not a good thing.
It doesn’t make you better, it just makes you hurt. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have a reputatiuon for being the whiny new tuba player or something. I’m very embarassed that I couldn’t keep it up the whole time. I ought to be able to handle my horn. I expect that taking the sousaphone back up will get me back into shape though. And I expect that my shoulder is going to be screwed up for several days. All the weight goes on the left shoulder, high up, on the neck paert, right where I gave myself a nastly sunburn on saturday. But it wasn’t bad until the bitter end.
We got back to the bart station and I laid on the ground again. I think more news types may have taken my picture, but I’m not sure. After a while, my shoulder no longer felt like it was on fire and played a couple more songs with the band. Then I staggered towards the BART platform while they were still playing.
So we won! It was awesome! (“awesome” is the word of the day.) And very high energy the whole time. I couldn’t beleive it when I realized it was past 9:00 and I had been marching around for almost 4.5 hours. It’s also great because I don’t like going to things by myself and can’t always find anyone to protest with me. I can’t wait until next time. Maybe I’ll do some pushups between now and then to build some strength.

the BLO

I have an mp3 of the BLO playing the commie anthem. I coudl tell you why I haver just this exerpt, but I would have to kill you. Disk 3 exerpt. It’s short, low-fi and loud. It’s also a recording of what tuba players hear in disorganized marching bands. You could use this for a paper, if you had to.

Field Recordings

Sounds of the peace protest on March 20th. Use a client that plays as it downloads. some of these files are large.

Total time is approx 74 minutes. There is some overlap. This is a very rough set of cuts, with mistakes and low-fi sounds, but it’s cool cuz it’s recorded with binaural mics, which means that if you listen with headphones, the stereo is awesome.