In a Moment of Truth, Jeff Dorchen reads an Atlantic article so dumb that his brain enters survival mode and can only engage with it by imagining Gary Oldman as Mrs. Doubtfire as Winston Churchill as Barack Obama, and finds the fight still the same, the enemy pretty consistent, and really just the mustaches are different.
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
The great British socialist standup comic, Stewart Lee, does a bit where he talks about the "iconic final scene" of the original Planet of the Apes movie, "one of the truly iconic scenes in cinema. Apparently, on their world, the apes have made an exact replica of the Statue of Liberty. And it's never explained why ... and Charlton Heston is angry, he goes, 'Dammit, why have you done this, you dirty apes, why? It's a society of apes, why would you make a statue of a human?' And the apes go, 'We don't know, we've just done it.' It's one of the most iconic scenes in cinema and it's completely meaningless and stupid."
He then goes on to explain that the author of the original novel the movie was based on, Pierre Boulle, was a socialist, thus the novel was clearly meant as satire, and he then helpfully defines satire this way: "If any ever asks you what satire is, and you want to appear clever, just say, 'Satire is where it's the same as it is now, except there's animals in it.'"
I haven't read the book, Durov's Pig: Clowns, Politics and Theatre, by Joel Schecter, in over twenty-five years, but it came to mind late this week. I'm not sure I ever owned a copy. I've had the chance to refer to a very difficult-to-navigate PDF copy I downloaded yesterday afternoon. In it, Schecter quotes US playwright George S. Kaufman's definition of satire: "Satire is what closes on Saturday night."
I now quote Schecter's description of Vladimir Durov's performance with his pig in Berlin in 1907:
"Durov placed a German officer's cap, or 'helm' as he called it, in the circus ring, and his trained pig ran to retrieve it. Using ventriloquism, Durov made the pig appear to be saying 'Ich will helm,' meaning 'I want the helmet.' But the phrase could also be translated 'I am Wilhelm,' thereby equating Germany’s Emperor, Wilhelm II, with a trained pig. 'The audience understood the pun at once and applauded it. The German police understood it too,' according to Russian critic Emanuel Dvinsky’s account of the event. Durov was arrested. The pig escaped without prosecution."
Schecter goes on to discuss politically satirical clowning in far greater depth than I can synopsize here. But he seems to conclude that theatrical satire as it was understood at this prewar moment, and between and during the wars as well, was not something that could happen... read more
In 1964 – (52 years ago) – police arrested almost eight hundred students on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, where several thousand had occupied the central plaza and administration building to protest the university’s rules against on-campus political activity. Some activists in what became known as the Berkeley Free Speech movement had already spent the summer traveling through the South with the Freedom Riders, registering African Americans to vote. Returning to Berkeley in the fall, they tried to seek donations for more civil rights efforts, but were stymied by the university’s tight restrictions on political speech, organizing, and fund-raising. When the resulting student protests led to a sit-in of the university’s administration building, California Governor Pat Brown authorized police to move in. But despite hundreds of arrests, and despite charges later brought against the demonstrators, many Californians thought the state had been too lenient. The conservative backlash led directly to the 1966 election of Ronald Reagan as California governor, which was a crucial step in his road to the US presidency.
In 1976 – (40 years ago) – in Kingston, Jamaica, reggae singer Bob Marley and members of his household were seriously wounded by three would-be assassins who invaded his home, shot up the place, and hurried away, never to be found. An upcoming national election had given rise to street violence between rival factions loyal to parties led by the socialist prime minister, Michael Manley, and the US-backed opposition leader, Edward Seaga. Marley was scheduled to perform two days later at a free outdoor concert — and while it was billed as a politically neutral event, he was widely perceived as backing Manley and the socialists. Though the bullet in his arm left him unable to play guitar, he could still sing, and in defiance of the death threat he surprised his fans by performing the full concert with his band. But he fled to the UK soon afterward, and within a year he was diagnosed with a malignant tumor under his toenail, which would eventually spread cancer throughout his body and cause his death in 1981 at the age of thirty-six.
In 1984 – (32 years ago) – in Bhopal, India, a city of more than two million people, a high-pressure gas leak occurring in the middle of the night at a Union Carbide... read more
Heather is author of the book Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy from Pantheon.
Kate and Steve wrote the article America needs a network of rebel cities to stand up to Trump at Medium.
Sarah will be updating us on the struggle for water and land she last talked about with us in September.
Annie is author of Dead Pledges Debt, Crisis, and Twenty-First-Century Culture from Stanford University Press.
Seth wrote the article A Blueprint for a New Party in the latest issue of Jacobin.
I don't know enough about pigs or German history to understand what this means, sorry reader.
Leila Al-Shami and Robin Yassin-Kassab
Jennifer Geist Rutledge
Katherine J. Cramer
Ibram X. Kendi
Arlie Russell Hochschild
Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy - Heather Ann Thomspon [Pantheon]
America needs a network of rebel cities to stand up to Trump - Kate Shea Baird and Steve Hughes [Medium]
Four Ways to Look at Standing Rock: An Indigenous Perspective - Kayla DeVault [YES! Magazine]
Dead Pledges Debt, Crisis, and Twenty-First-Century Culture - Annie McClanahan [Stanford University Press]
A Blueprint for a New Party - Seth Ackerman [Jacobin]
Ruth is author of America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness Is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks from St. Martin's Press.
Liza contributed to and edited False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton from Verso Books. Doug wrote My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency from OR Books.
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Alcohol is, among other things, a remedy for some of the symptoms of injustice. When abused properly, alcohol produces a hangover, which can seem more painful than injustice, though injustice is more chronic and intractable. Maybe that's why there are more remedies for hangovers than there are for injustice.
The hangover is a medical condition affecting the brain, mostly, but what affects the brain affects the entire body. The model where every part of the body corresponds to a part of the brain is called "Penfield's homunculus." It is. Look it up. Not coincidentally, Penfield's is also a brand of wine. Look that up. I believe people recognized at some point that when you drank too much Penfield's wine your brain turned into a Penfield's homunculus. I think that is the science of the thing.
There is also a Penfield's homunculus of the butt. The butt and the brain are analogous to each other. For example, they both comprise a pair of lobes. And like the brain, every part of the body has a corresponding region of the buttocks. This is the Gluteus maximal version of reflexology. Basically, the brain is like a peeled buttocks protected inside your skull instead of your pants. And because of the homunculus, it's basically a peeled YOU inside your cranium.
Now, when you drink too much alcohol, you get dehydrated. The lubricating fluids around the brain dry up. So in the morning, your brain scrapes against the inside of you skull, which is very rough. And it chafes. And the brain, being a peeled buttocks, is very tender. Very tender.
So what's a better hangover cure, coffee or more alcohol? Well, coffee is a diuretic, so it will dehydrate you more. And alcohol also dehydrates you. So neither is as good for you as a big greasy breakfast, in my opinion.
But a lot of America disagrees. We part ways on this. The George W Bush administration was like a miserable drunken Neo-conservative night of tearing up the town. We woke up at the end of spring, 2008, all our three trillion dollar surplus gone, we didn't remember how or where we spent it, we'd done things we don't remember to make all our friends hate us, and the global economy which we'd been driving was wrapped around a telephone pole.
So America said to itself, How do we cure this Bush hangover? Let's try coffee first. And Americans like... read more