Friday, April 29, 2011

Mailer on the Corporation

Chris Hedges, in books like Empire of Illusion and The Death of the Liberal Class, and in articles on, warns of the tyranny of the corporation. In his view, we have undergone "a coup d'etat in slow motion" and we are now, as a nation, in the grip of the soulless and merciless claw of the Corporate State.

Chris Hedges' Feet, March 19, 2011
One would be excused for thinking this idea of the corporation as tyrannical entity was a recent development, an analysis and perception emerging in the last ten years or so on the Left. But that would be a mistake. Allen Ginsberg, for one, in The Fall of America: Poems of These States 1965-1971, raised the alarm by merely pointing out, in any number of poems within, the omnipresence of the corporation in American culture and daily life. Ralph Nader has raised righteous hew and cry against corporations for decades.

Another longstanding and prescient anti-corporatist was none other than Norman Mailer. Mailer, too often derided by those with limited knowledge or familiarity with his work, was a principled intellectual, a ferocious defender of the art of writing ("the spooky art"), and an acutely insightful observer of America. Consider these comments from an interview on the Charlie Rose show in 1996.

The topic of the conversation was Bill Clinton and his second term. Mailer took exception with Clinton's avowal to move the country to a "vital dynamic center", complaining that he (Clinton) hijacked the Democratic party ("My party is now the party of Nelson Rockefeller!") and that "... he does not have a vision that will move out of the center."

Norman Mailer circa 1996
Rose: You don't think leadership can be found in the center, you have to have some kind of vision of where you want to take the country and it's not to the center if you'e gonna' change things?

Mailer: I know it can't be found in the center and for a very simple reason - the center is the U.S. corporation and the U.S. corporation is in my modest opinion wrecking America. They're wrecking America aesthetically. They're putting up the ugliest buildings in the history of Christendom. The ugliest buildings in the last 2,000 years have been put up in America since the 1950s and now it's all over the world."

Mailer adds, after some interim comments: But let me go back to the point. I'm saying the "vital center" cannot solve anything in America because that's the corporation and the corporation is the root of our evils at this point. You know we have, eh... the discrepancy between the wealthy and the poor in America is now the greatest of the 15 major nations in the world. That's something to be ashamed of.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rushdie for Ai

Salman Rushdie, whose article in the Telegraph calls on the Chinese government to release Ai Weiwei, knows from first hand experience what it's like to be persecuted for one's art. His article raises other cases of authors and writers disappearing into the Chinese security apparatus and posits gloom for the future of free expression in China.

The lives of artists are more fragile than their creations. The poet Ovid was exiled by Augustus Caesar to a little hell-hole on the Black Sea called Tomis. He spent the rest of his days begging to be allowed to return to Rome. So Ovid’s life was blighted. But the poetry of Ovid has outlasted the Roman Empire. The poet Mandelstam was murdered by Stalin’s executioners, but the poetry of Mandelstam has outlived the Soviet Union. The poet Lorca was killed by the thugs of Spain’s Generalissimo Franco, but the poetry of Lorca has outlived Franco’s tyrannical regime. We can perhaps bet on art to win over tyrants. It is the world’s artists, particularly those courageous enough to stand up against authoritarianism, for whom we need to be concerned, and for whose safety we must fight.
~ Salman Rushdie, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ai On Point

This is an interesting On Point radio show with Tom Ashbrook on Ai Weiwei and the current crackdown on dissent in China (from 4/11/11). The Chinese authoritarians are keeping a tight reign on any form of opposition. They're afraid that what has happened in the Middle East could happen there. Perhaps they intrinsically realize that their oppressive policies toward personal liberties might be cause for resistance.

Ai WeiWei

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Blackjack and Ai

In an interesting development, it turns out that the blackjack-playing community knows Ai Weiwei as one of its own and is expressing its displeasure at Ai's detention in China.

Since his disappearance the news has spread among the international blackjack community, who know WeiWei betters as a top notch blackjack player rather than a world renowned artist or a human rights activist. There are currently talks between multiple casino insiders to hold a series of fund raising blackjack and poker tournaments to lobby the US government to impose trade restrictions against China unless Mr. Ai WeiWei is released.

Solidarity sustains community.

Ai Weiwei Global

When was the last time an artist commanded this much attention on an international scale? Ai Weiwei has still not been heard from or released, and China is indignant at the world's outcry of protest. Why the fuss for one lowly criminal? seems to approximate the Party line .

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei says Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is a suspected criminal and foreign support for him has confused and angered the Chinese people. (article)

Blaming "foreign support" is the indefatigable accusation made by unwanted, corrupt, and despicable regimes of repression the world over. It's always "foreigners" fomenting uprising and revolution, it couldn't possibly be that people are sick and tired of living under the ruthlessly dangerous rule of megalomaniacs.

Instead of persecuting artists of Ai's stature and global awareness (instead of persecuting artists of any stature!), we as civilized nations should celebrate artists.

Interesting related material:

Allen Ginsberg knew Ai Weiwei in the 1980s when Ai lived in New York City.

The New Yorker has published a profile of Ai in the past and blog entries by Evan Osnos continue to inform on Ai's situation and fate.

Dollars Against the Wars, Frame #11

The last frame. The last three dollars of $33 against the miserable fucking wars. This is the unexpurgated post, the rant piece, the unfettered invective, as in;

Fuck Obama and his Afghanistan War expansion;

Fuck Bush & Co for Iraq, that cataclysmic crime against humanity, he and his people should be tried before an international court of justice and compelled to answer for their depravity;

Fuck both cowardly political parties for endlessly hand-jobbing the military industrial complex (a term that, come to think of it, obscures and obfuscates the true nature of that 'industry' which is, in reality, the industry of war profiteering);

and yeah, and Fuck the "security contractor" mercenaries employed by US in Iraq and Afghanistan;

and just for good measure, Fuck the covert & overt drone operations murdering people in Pakistan and Yemen and elsewhere.

Three last dollars that went into the great yawning hungry maw of homelessness in D.C. and across the country, this permanent fucking war economy is killing people.

Dollars Against the Wars

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Infinite Study

David Foster Wallace's unfinished, posthumous novel The Pale King has just been published. The web is awash in articles about the new book, about Wallace himself, and about the legacy of the writer who, since taking his own life in 2008, has been almost universally acclaimed as one of the most important American writers of the last two generations.

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin acquired DFW's archives, including manuscripts, notebooks, and many books from his personal library, all of which is available to scholars and enthusiasts. Coinciding with the release of The Pale King, the Ransom Center presents material associated with the writing of the book, accessed here.

One of the plethora of articles that have emerged since Wallace's death  is "Inside David Foster Wallace's Self-Help Library" by Maria Bustillos. When I came upon this piece, my first reaction was 'Gad, this whole DFW scholarship thing sure got excessive and pointless in a hurry.' And then I read the article. It's fascinating and anything but trite or pointless and offers what the best of these sorts of articles can, a unique and considered insight into the life and thinking of an artist hailed, admired, and read by many, many people, any number of whom themselves are serious working artists. The Bustillos article is first rate literary journalism.

Dollars Against the Wars, Frame #10

Still no word from China about Ai Weiwei, except the announcement that he was being investigated for "economic crimes." Additional news reports suggest the Chinese government is attempting a smear campaign by alleging that he's a plagiarist and by accusing him of producing "obscene art." Whatever the rubric under which Mr. Ai has been arrested, few doubt that the real reason is China's desire to intimidate and silence dissent, particularly in the wake of the Middle East uprisings and similar calls for rebellion across China itself.

In this second to last frame of Dollars Against the Wars, we suggest a link between the three ongoing wars the United States is enmeshed in, and the vast network of arms sales and munitions trafficking. The US, it should be noted, is the world's leading arm's dealer. For more on the role of the US in supplying the world lethal weaponry, link to this page at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

Here's just one fun fact you can find from the above link:

Foreign Military Financing:  Foreign Military Financing refers to congressionally appropriated grants given to foreign governments to finance the purchase of American-made weapons, services and training. Since 1950, the US government has provided over $91 billion in FMF to militaries around the world. The vast majority of these funds goes to Israel and Egypt to reward them for making a cold peace in 1979.

This is just great, isn't it? Some "free market." The US gives money to foreign governments to buy American-made "weapons, services and training." Well, fuck! We're using tax money to pay other governments to buy weapons made by private US companies. What a racket!

Nevertheless, it's a safe bet that these three dollars will not end up in a wad of bills exchanged in some back alley in Cairo for the purchase of a RPG.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ai Weiwei

Two images from Ai Weiwei's "Finger" Series.

White House

Eiffel Tower

His Sunflower Seed installation at the Tate Modern in London last year captivated and astonished. Read Adrian Searle's essay on the show in the Guardian (Oct, 2010).

Numerous international media articles, like this one from Aljazeera, report that the artist was detained by Chinese authorities on Sunday, April 3rd at the Beijing International Airport as he was boarding a flight to Hong Kong. Later, his studio was raided by police. He has not been seen or heard from since.

Call the Chinese Embassy in D.C. and demand that Ai Weiwei be released from detention - (202) 495-2266

Dollars Against the Wars, Frame #9

Today's post is in honor of Ai Weiwei, an artist of grand scale and prodigious energy, an artist who has unfortunately been detained by the Chinese authorities and whose exact whereabouts at this moment are unknown. See a short slide show of images from the New York Times here.

Meanwhile, the wars go on and these three domestic dollars cycle in and out of hands and pockets and cash registers.

Dollars Against the Wars

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dollars Against the Wars, Frame #8

In 2009, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison took home $84.5 million. For the 2010 Major League Baseball season, Alex Rodriguez was compensated for his labor to the tune of $33 million. The net worth of the richest 400 Americans in 1910? $1.37 trillion. Bill Gates tops the list at a modest $54 billion fortune.

Three cheers for the Free Market!

These three dollars will never navigate the free market beyond street level, the urban equivalent of the subsistence farmer.


Dollars Against the Wars