Friday, April 29, 2005


Originally uploaded by Ravenmn.
Update to the flyer I did yesterday. The previous version had the date above the circle and under the ANTI-WAR PROTEST headline. Ravenhub missed the date -- especially with the time and location being below the circle. So I moved the date down with the rest of the location information. It's cool.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

You Know You're From Minnesota When...

The weather is usually 80% of your conversation.

When you say "down south" you're referring to Iowa.

You call highways "freeways."

Snow tires came standard on your car.

You've never taken public transportation.

75% of your graduating high school class went to the University of Minnesota.

"Perkins" was the only hangout option in high school.

You assume when you say "The Cities" people know where you're talking about.

You can list all the "-dales."

People from other states love to hear you say words with "o"s in them.

In a conversation you've heard someone say "yah sure, you betcha" and you didn't laugh.

You could pinpoint exactly where each scene in the movie "Untamed Heart" was filmed.

You hate the movie "Fargo" but realize you and your entire family have that same accent.

You get mad at people who think Fargo is in Minnesota.

You know what Mille Lacs is and how to spell it.

You have fish boiled in lye for Christmas.

You know what "uff-da" means and how to use it properly.

You know the 2 sports-related reasons why we hate Dallas.

Nothing gets you madder than seeing a Green Bay sticker on a MN car.

The only reason you go to Wisconsin is to get fireworks.

You're a loyal Target shopper.

You've frozen your tongue on a metal handrail before.

You own an ice house, a snowmobile, and a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

You wear shorts when it's 50 degrees outside in March, but you bundle up and complain in August when it goes below 60.

You have gone trick-or-treating in 3 feet of snow.

You've not only walked across a lake, you've driven across one.

Everyone you know has a cabin or, at least, access to one.

You know that Lake Wobegon isn't real and you know who made it up, where they live, and exactly what you want to do about it.

You have friends who schedule their wedding in the middle of January without a thought about weather conditions.

You consider a six inch snowfall a blessing for "the cities" because it provides instant urban renewal.

You keep the snow tires on your truck all year because it ain't worth taking them off for only two months.

Your local Dairy Queen is closed from December through February.

You believe the only REAL vehicles have skis in front and a loud motor under your seat.

You consider snow banks to be "just another rough" on the golf course.

You have worn shorts and a parka at the same time.

You were delighted to get a miniature snow shovel for your 3rd birthday.

Your town isn't trying to be ironic when it plans a "winter carnival."

The temperature in March is above freezing for three days in a row, and you think it's summer.

You laugh out loud every time you see a news report about a blizzard shutting down the entire East Coast.

You think happiness is owning a "piece of lakeshore."

You never meet any celebrities except The "BODY"

You know what and where "Dinkytown" is.

When you talk about "opener" you are not talking about cans.

You have refused to buy something because it's too "spendy."

You believe that the Vikings would have won four Super Bowls by now if they were still playing in Metropolitan Stadium.

You are convinced the Twins will never win the pennant because the owners are too cheap to pay the good players, so they all leave.

Your town has an equal number of bars and churches.

You grew up thinking rice was only for dessert.

You think that ketchup is a little too spicy.

Your gas station thinks "full service" means filling your gas tank, washing the windshield, checking the oil and being friendly to the customers.

You (or your parents) voted for Mondale.

You've seen "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" in Uptown.

You know that everyone has a city preference -- Minneapolis or St. Paul.

You can honestly claim Germanic / Scandinavian ancestors, and have been known to say "ya" instead of "yes"

Upon seeing an ocean for the first time, you say, "Hey! That looks like Lake Superior!"

You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends from Minnesota.


Originally uploaded by Ravenmn.
Another flyer for another anti-war event. Big doings this weekend, including the Mayday march, so we needed to get the word out.

The Iraq: end the occupation NOW! is a type treatment on a button I found on the web. Maybe I can make larger signs as well.


Monday, April 25, 2005

Oy vey! This is where the intellectual mafia hangs out and tries to meet each other: The London Review of Books personals:


Woman, 43, would like to meet a man – any man – whose evolutionary path isn’t that of Homer Simpson. Suspecting that’s too difficult, I may go lesbian. Box no. 08/10

Bi-zarre! I love to challenge my mind and will subject myself to more extreme levels of intellectual hair splitting than most people I know. But there are times when I can clearly see the vast gulf between my life and the life of an academic intellectual! :)

On the other hand, I have greater respect for those who can skillfully executive various crafts: including skillful operation of a machine lathe, skillful manipulation of a bandsaw, and/or skillful execution of graphic design through digital means. Which brings me to a great series of events in St. Paul.

The St. Paul Public Library's series: Untold Stories is a free program celebrating Labor History Month. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a calendar of events on-line. I have a printed copy that I will retype if I can't find a decent link. The first event is Thursday, May 5, so there's time.

On a sad note, I went to a memorial service for a local activist who recently died of breast cancer. Damn, that makes me angry. She was good people. The service was distinctly odd: focusing only on a portion of her life and neglecting to encompass the entire life of goodness and activism that was Mary. It was very strange. I am quite sure she's raising a ruckus wherever she is today.

For sheer joy of life, I copy here, for those without access to the L.A. Times, a great

story about a street poet:

April 21, 2005


Happy to Feed 'Em a Line

Whether reading for old ladies or young radicals, poet Colin McIlvoy keeps the meter running on the streets of San Francisco.
By John M. Glionna, Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Old ladies prefer love poems. They stand frozen on the sidewalk staring into space as though listening to faraway music, letting Colin McIlvoy's spoken imagery wash over them like whispered compliments.

To a 60ish woman wearing a purple hat, he reads the Margaret Atwood charmer "Variations on the Word Love":
 … This word is far too short for us, it has only four letters, too sparse to fill those deep bare vacuums between the stars that press on us with their deafness.

The woman announces that her knees are weak.

"Read it again," she says. "Once is not enough."

McIlvoy knows his audience. He knows that mothers and daughters like nature themes and will wait quietly through a five-stanza walk in the woods. He knows young radicals want shock treatment, outlaw verse with hip-hop immediacy. Hammer me, they say, with a bruising blow. Or an insult.

And McIlvoy complies. On days off from a community organizing job, the 20-year-old New Mexico native packs a dozen dog-eared tomes into an oblong red toolbox and takes to the street. He assumes a spot in a middle-class neighborhood called West Portal Village, just over the hill but a world away from counterculture Haight-Ashbury, where poets and philosophers rule the roost.

Outside a Charles Schwab brokerage office, he posts a sign announcing that all his offerings are free. Then he patiently solicits passersby to disengage from their cellphones and big-city routines and appreciate an all-but-forgotten public art form.

"Like to hear a poem?" he asks. "It's not a very long poem."

People pass as though hypnotized, their eyes downcast, shoulders tense. A few make eye contact, but most shake their heads.

"You sure?" he says to a dog-walker. "How can you turn down free poetry?"

"No time," the man says.

"I'm very, very busy," says a woman in a stoplight-red jacket.

One person in 10 stops, like the lady with a leopard-skin purse who pauses for Pablo Neruda's "Ode to My Socks."

As McIlvoy reads, he looks up to catch the woman's eye, sharing a private moment on a public street, before resubmerging into the ocean of words:

The moral of my ode is this: beauty is twice beauty and what is good is doubly good when it is a matter of two socks made of wool in winter.

"That's lovely," she says.

The troubadour sees opportunity. "Want to hear another?"

She hesitates. "Why are you doing this?"

"No one reads poetry anymore," he responds. "I want people to have poetry in their day. It's a hobby. People build model airplanes. I read poems."

He writes them as well. But McIlvoy — who calls himself Mack — never reads his own work. Instead, on an average day, he'll read 40 poems by contemporary stylists such as John Updike, Billy Collins, Rebecca Bagget and Heather McHugh.

McIlvoy is no poetry jukebox. He reads poems he likes. Sometimes he'll even offer to feed a listener's parking meter to win a few more moments. He takes the occasional request, like from the woman who asks: "Hey, you got something to do with wisdom? I need a wisdom fix."

There's no artistic pretense to McIlvoy's poetry performances — no pseudo-beatnik berets or bohemian dress. He drives a decidedly un-hip white Oldsmobile with Illinois plates his grandmother willed him. He wears Oxford shirts, and his hair is cut schoolboy short. Many people assume he's a missionary.

Sometimes, the poet hits his mark — as he does with the woman who rushes past mumbling before wheeling about to hear two poems.

"I can't believe I just said 'No' to a poem," confesses Cecelia Wambach. The college math teacher is leaving for Prague and is crazy with final details. But how can anyone, she asks, be too hectic for a quiet moment?

"We run the globe with glazed eyes but don't have time for each other," she says. "I almost walked past a free poem. But I want to change. This is a start."


McIlvoy has a strict rule for the 100 poems in his street-reading repertoire. He likes them short, never abstract. Funny or sad, they must hit home instantly, like breaking news.

The son of a novelist father and a psychologist mother, McIlvoy began making up poems before he could spell. He winces over how poetry is taught in school, where works chosen for analysis are too often dense and make most teens view poetry as they would Latin: as a dead language.

After studying architecture at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, he canvassed in 2004 for presidential candidate John F. Kerry. For months, he went door to door asking for campaign contributions. He stood on street corners and hit up passersby. All the while, he read verse to fellow campaign workers.

"I have this bad habit," McIlvoy says. "If I'm around my friends long enough, they all know that eventually they're going to hear a poem."


His curbside readings began last November, when he read bursts of verse to friends canvassing for an environmental cause in West Portal. He also stopped a few strangers and found he liked engaging people with poetry. Canvassing made him practiced in the art of the sell, prompting a name for his endeavor: the poetry canvass.

The poetry reader has taken his verse across San Francisco. In pricey Pacific Heights, he's knocked on doors, saying, "My name is Mack. I don't represent any group, and I don't want your money. I just want to read you a poem, and then I'll go."

He has also read poems in Bayview Hunters Point, the city's poorest neighborhood — once approaching five youths throwing dice on a staircase. From "The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry," he read "I Am the Bomb" by Mike M. Mollett:

I am most wise.

I play for keeps.

I am the unimaginable.

I have not been created for nothing.

When he finished, McIlvoy recalls, nobody said anything. The poet turned to leave.

"That's cool," one kid said, not looking up. "Read another."

McIlvoy follows a long tradition of believers spreading the word on poetry. Experts know what he's up against.

"Poetry is the poor little match girl of the arts, but at least that girl was selling something useful: a match that can light a cigar," says Billy Collins, a two-time poet laureate of the United States. "But what do you do with a poem? It's useless. That's why some people love it and some people scratch their heads: Why do they need it?"

Collins has pushed to publish verse on buses and subways and persuaded an airline to briefly feature an in-flight poetry channel: "To read poetry is to join the community of human feelers, because a guy writing an Italian Renaissance poem felt exactly what you feel when a girl leaves you."

Yet even a poet laureate sees limits for the art form's mass appeal. "Lots of cool things have small audiences," he says. "Like jazz and collecting tropical fish."

Still, Collins applauds McIlvoy's guerrilla tactics. "He's ambushing people, and I'm all for that: poetry coming out of unexpected places. I like the way he apprehends people. Like a stickup man."


McIlvoy performs in a culture with too little privacy, where solicitors hassle people at home and on the street. Some see his act as just more public noise.

He describes how, when he approached a couple, a woman snapped: "Can't you see we're here talking to people we really want to be talking to!"

Another woman climbed into her BMW and observed: "You know, this really isn't working out for you. You need to get a life."

Others welcome the intrusion. Liz Burnham, 42, who works three jobs yet describes herself as an "anti-establishment slacker who walks on the beach and does a lot of yoga," recites for McIlvoy one of her own works: a heroin-related riff on a nursery rhyme she calls "Mary Had a Little Smack."

Then she adds sheepishly: "That was a bit too punk, huh?"

McIlvoy meets people with too little time — and too much. A homeless man with unruly blond hair heckles him regularly. "He hated the poem I read him," McIlvoy says. "He insists that I should be reading Shakespeare."

A college theater major complained that his readings showed too little passion. Still in the thrall of a McIlvoy love poem, a woman returned with a valentine. When a streetcar passed, drowning out a poem, George Shoblo wanted to hear it again.

"I've always got time for a poem, that's just me," says the 63-year-old hairdresser. "God gives you unique little experiences. It's as simple as that."

McIlvoy is still learning to read his audience. As he was reciting nature verse to a 9-year-old girl and her mother, he said, the child pointed to a John Updike work called "Dog's Death."

McIlvoy advised against the poem, saying it dealt with sadness and loss. "You won't like it," he said.

The girl insisted. So McIlvoy read — he and the mother finally fighting back tears.

In the car to the vet's, on my lap, she tried

To bite my hand and died.

I stroked her warm fur

And my wife called in a voice imperious with tears.

Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her,

Nevertheless she sank and, stiffening, disappeared.

McIlvoy said that when he was through, the girl looked at him and sighed. She said she loved the poem.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Your Inner European is French!

Smart and sophisticated.

You have the best of everything - at least, *you* think so.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

"Habemos Popa."

After a week of deathwatch for John Paul II, a week of funeral ceremonies, and a couple of days of conclave, a new pope has been named. The word is Pope Benedict XVI is conservative, hardline and a blast from the 18th Century. Same old same old.

Our entire media has been "All Pope, All The Time" for weeks now -- which is all out of proportion to the amount of Catholics in the U.S., in the world, etc. Why all the attention? Have we all become religious? Have Catholic values become "common sense"?

Nope. It's all about power. The old guy had power and the new guy will have power. How that power is translated into the world is of concern to world leaders. But is it going to make any difference in your life or mine? Not hardly.

I've spent the last few days reading Cynthia Enloe. She's terrific at questioning assumptions and examining power relations. Reading about feminist analysis of world events while watching this uber-masculine Vatican spectacle has been a curious experience. When you look at the amazing Catholic clergy who have made a profound difference in the world: people like Archbishop Oscar Romero, you can see that not one of them was represented at the College of Cardinals. A bunch of bureacrats picking the head bureacrat. And we have to see this on the news day after day.

Forecast is for another week of this obsession, until Benedict is formerly installed, and then the media can go back to its regularly scheduled spectacles. Praise be.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

I attended a local conference called Globalization, Modernities and Violence on Friday and Saturday and my mind became filled to the brim with interesting perspectives, ideas and hope. Speakers included: Cynthia Enloe, Rashid Khalidi, Naomi Klein, Mahmood Mamdani, Vandana Shiva. If you visit the conference site, you can download whole chapters from the speaker's books to get a feel for the fantastic thinking these people bring to questions of international relations. The conference was well-attended, despite the unfortunate name. It sounds like postmodern mumbo jumbo. I'll try to write more later and provide links. The people I had read the least: Mamdani and Enloe, turned out to fascinate me the most. So I will have to do more research.

I was up late last night thinking and reading. Today I have been napping pretty much all day. Finally, I convinced Ravenhub to go for a walk with me just as the sun was setting so I hadn't wasted the entire day. It's a warm, calm night after all-day rain yesterday. The trees are just about to burst out in their finest green dress. For the past couple of days they've been in that bizarre state that allows us to still see the brown and black skeletons, but the tips of the branches have their first open buds of bright green. Instead of looking black or green, the trees look blurry. With the rain and warm temperatures, the transformation will take place this week and winter will be a memory.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Last weekend was very busy. On Friday I saw the play "In the Mirror" by Pangea Theater. It was directed by Dupankar Mukherjee, the man who directed a play I was in last year. The play examined media, but not in the superficial ways that have become popular in the blog word: love/hate Dan Rather, celebrity profiling, etc. There's a pretty good review here. I enjoyed the show and it has stayed with me over the past couple of days. Not bad for a couple of hours on a Friday night.

Saturday night and Sunday I went to events sponsored by Veterans for Peace. The local chapter brought in one of the co-founders of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Jimmy Massey spoke about his years in the Marines. It brought up memories of talks I'd had with returning Vietnam War veterans 30 years ago. Massey wanted to talk less about Iraq and more about his overall experiences in the Marines and how those experiences had led him to distrust the military altogether. He especially needed to talk about his years as a recruiter and some of the underhanded techniques he used to meet his quota of recruits.

The audience, I suspect, wanted to hear more about Iraq and his experiences there. However, when veterans start to talk and reason out their experiences, it seldoms results in discussion that meet the needs of the audience. Soldiers need to talk -- they have to talk -- about what they have learned and what they have experienced. And I am torn between wanting to help this one man heal and wanting to know that his story can help somebody else come to understand what is happening in Iraq and what the soldiers are dealing with over there. I want his talk to motivate people to get active and to do whatever they can to bring this occupation of Iraq to a close. We're not there yet. But Jimmy Massey does have important things to say. Readd more about Iraq Veterans Aginst the War here.

Also, I've been reading about Andrea Dworkin, the feminist, who died last Friday. She was an amazing fighter for women who had suffered violence in a world that tolerates violence against women. A memorial site is here and does a great job of describing the effect she and her writing had on women around the world. She allowed herself to become a stereotype of the angry feminist in order to remind the world that the violence continues and that much of our culture still glorifies the victimization of women. Many blogs linked to a comment posted on Susie Bright's blog about Dworkin. I was disgusted by how many commenters posted about the way Dworkin looked. She was hairy and fat in comparison to our culture's absurd standards. So the fuck what? Why is her appearance fodder for commentary, even in her obituaries? Bah!

Dworkin made the world stand up and look at itself and the war that continues against women throughout the world. We have come a long way since the days when women were expected to stay home and shut up. And yet, there is still much to do. More than a million women currently live in sexual slavery. We are still living in a world where one in four women suffer sexual abuse in their lives. Dworkin wrote about this world and her words deserve to be read and read again.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Early in life, I attended the Universalist Church with my family. This was a good fit for my family. My father was a German Jew, adopted by American Socialists (followers of E.G. Debs). My mother was raised in a Congregationalist church and wasn't particularly Christian. The Universalists believed in Universal Salvation. They believed that God wasn't picky -- that he'd take everybody. The Universalists fought for civil rights long before it became popular. However, in the 60s (??), the Universalists joined with the Unitarians -- a Christian but very liberal faith. We moved, several times, and ended up in a town small enough that it had no Unitarian-Universalist Church. It did have a Unitarian Fellowship. Which was a convenient place for local Jews to congregate as well. Otherwise they had to travel 80 miles to the nearest synagogue. The Fellowship had volunteer leaders every week and celebrated holidays of several different religions. Because it was largely made up of professors and workers at the local university, the place closed for Christmas, since most members would go out of town to visit relatives.

The benefit of my "religious" upbringing is that I have learned several Unitarian jokes. To wit:

I was brought up by Unitarians. We were taught to follow the Ten Suggestions.


News reports warned residents to look out for roving bands of Unitarians burning questions marks on people's lawns.


What do you get when you cross a Unitarian and a Jehovah's Witness? You get somebody who will knock on your door for no reason at all.

I am reminded of this by a link I received to an article at


Friday, April 8, 2005

The following is the first communique from a group calling itself Unitarian Jihad. It was sent to me at The Chronicle via an anonymous spam remailer. I have no idea whether other news organizations have received this communique, and, if so, why they have not chosen to print it. Perhaps they fear starting a panic. I feel strongly that the truth, no matter how alarming, trivial or disgusting, must always be told. I am pleased to report that the words below are at least not disgusting:

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism -- 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression!

People of the United States, why is everyone yelling at you??? Whatever happened to ... you know, everything? Why is the news dominated by nutballs saying that the Ten Commandments have to be tattooed inside the eyelids of every American, or that Allah has told them to kill Americans in order to rid the world of Satan, or that Yahweh has instructed them to go live wherever they feel like, or that Shiva thinks bombing mosques is a great idea? Sister Immaculate Dagger of Peace notes for the record that we mean no disrespect to Jews, Muslims, Christians or Hindus. Referred back to the committee of the whole for further discussion.

We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.

Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for "balance" by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues.

We are Unitarian Jihad. We will appear in public places and require people to shake hands with each other. (Sister Hand Grenade of Love suggested that we institute a terror regime of mandatory hugging, but her motion was not formally introduced because of lack of a quorum.) We will require all lobbyists, spokesmen and campaign managers to dress like trout in public. Televangelists will be forced to take jobs as Xerox repair specialists. Demagogues of all stripes will be required to read Proust out loud in prisons.

We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: "Sincerity is not enough." We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it's true doesn't make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn't mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up. The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone.

Brother Gatling Gun of Patience notes that he's pretty sure the world is out to get him because everyone laughs when he says he is a Unitarian. There were murmurs of assent around the room, and someone suggested that we buy some Congress members and really stick it to the Baptists. But this was deemed against Revolutionary Principles, and Brother Gatling Gun of Patience was remanded to the Sunday Flowers and Banners committee.

People of the United States! We are Unitarian Jihad! We can strike without warning. Pockets of reasonableness and harmony will appear as if from nowhere! Nice people will run the government again! There will be coffee and cookies in the Gandhi Room after the revolution.
Startling new underground group spreads lack of panic! Citizens declare themselves "relatively unafraid" of threats of undeclared rationality. People can still go to France, terrorist leader says.

Michael row the boat ashore, and then get some of the local kids to pull the boat onto the dock, and come visit with

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Recent reading:

Blink by Malcom Gladwell. This book has gotten a lot of press. From the author's website: "It's a book about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye." For me, the book was a padded-out magazine article. He talks about how our first impressions often get to the truth more directly than prolonged thinking. He also talks about how our first impressions often are biased due to our prejudices and assumptions. He makes no effort to explain the difference, which is pretty much the very next question any intelligent person would ask given these facts. He does say that we can train ourselves to recognize when our first impressions are based on information we gather so quickly that we are not able to explain why we react. But he doesn't say how, why, or when. He highlights people who have this skill, but treats them as if they were freaks of nature. Mostly, it's not a good book.

Monster: Living Off the Big Screen is a short book by John Gregory Dunne. It's about the process he and his wife, Joan Didion, went through as screenwriters for the movie, "Up Close and Personal", which started out to be about Jessica Savitch, a television reporter who died young and led a crazed life. The movie ended up being a star-based movie for Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer, having little to do with the original book. Dunne describes the long process a script goes through: the many changes in producers, directors, actors, executives, writers and agents. By the end of the book, I was surprised any movie gets made. Yet Dunne and Didion seem to enjoy this bizarre way of living. Dunne is as much a name-dropper as his brother Dominick Dunne, who makes his living these days simply by publishing his personal celebrity sluttery in Vanity Fair magazine. "Monster" has that familiar Dunne-like, "I know all these people who are far too classy to brag about knowing all these people." I first heard about this book many years ago when it was touted as one of the best books to read to understand how the film industry works. J.G. Dunne has another book called "The Studio" that is purported to be equally revealing.

Whenever I read this sort of thing I have to wonder how all those people would handle holding down a real job at the Ford plant or in a canning factory. Not very well, I presume. The thing is, Hollywood is full of real workers: the grunts who work construction, sound, catering -- all sorts of jobs that are relatively boring and require skills and dedication. Unlike people like me, the lives of their bosses get publicized all over the tabloids and the "news" broadcasts. I wonder how the rest of us could handle knowing just how silly and absurd the personal and professional activities of our own bosses are. Seriously, it's best not to know!


Originally uploaded by Ravenmn.
Here's a flyer I was happy to create. Coming up this weekend: a visit from one of the founders of Iraq War Veterans against the War. Massey was interviewed by the local free paper, The Pulse, and I'll copy the article here since it's worth the read:

Thursday 07 April @ 03:58:41

Soldier of Conscience

Returning Iraq veteran says U.S. is committing â??genocideâ??

by Bert Berlowe

There was a time, not long ago, when Jimmy Massey believed in war. For 12 years, he was a self-described â??gung-hoâ?? Marine Corps officer, recruiter and boot camp instructor, leading fellow Marines through the most grueling of military indoctrinations. As he once said, â??boot camp is designed to dehumanize and desensitize a person to violence.â??

Even as he recruited others to go to war, Massey began to question the Marinesâ?? methods, taking advantage of economically depressed youth by misleading them on the benefits of military service. His recruiting career ended when he wrote to his commanding officer, outlining his personal concerns about the enlistment process.

In March 2003, Massey went into Iraq as part of the initial U.S. invasion. He was put in charge of a platoon of machine gunners assigned to secure roadways in Iraq. In that capacity, he both witnessed and participated in the killing of many innocent civilians. The impact of that combat turned him against the war.

After complaining to his superiors about the roadside carnage, Massey was shipped out of Iraq and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He also claimed conscientious objector status. He was given an honorable discharge from the Marines in December 2003.

Since leaving the service, the North Carolina native has been touring the country speaking out against the Iraq War and has written a yet-to-be published book on his experiences, called â??Cowboys From Hell.â?? He plans to use the proceeds from the book to start a post-traumatic stress disorder foundation.

Massey is a founding member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), established in early 2004 by Mike Hoffman and Tim Goodrich, who met at a Dover, Delaware, to Washington, D.C., peace march. The organization made its official debut during the Veterans for Peace national convention in Boston in July. Since then, it has joined with other anti-war groups to demand an end to U.S. military involvement in Iraq.

These organizations are leaders in a rapidly growing movement of military personnel who are leaving their posts in protest. Some have fled to Canada or into anonymity. Others, like Massey, are traveling widely, speaking out against the war and U.S. military policy.

Next weekend, Massey will be the featured guest at three gatherings sponsored by Minnesota Veterans for Peace and the Iraq Peace Action Coalition. Co-sponsors include the Anti-War Committee, First Unitarian Society, Twin Cities Peace Campaign-Focus on Iraq, St. Joan of Arc Peacemakers, Women Against Miltary Madness and others.

Massey will be making three appearances in Minneapolis this weekend. On Friday, April 8 at 7 p.m., he will be the featured guest at a fundraising reception and social gathering at the CWA Local 722 Union Hall (3521 E. Lake St. Songwriter and Vietnam veteran Jerry Rau will perform. Suggested minimum donation is $10. On Saturday, April 9, Massey will be the guest speaker at the Vets for Peace annual meeting at 7 p.m. at the St. Stephens School and Community Center, 2123 Clinton Ave. S. On Sunday, April 10, Massey will speak at the First Unitarian Society, 900 Mount Curve Ave. The free event begins at 3 p.m. and features music by local musician â??Popâ?? Wagner and readings by local writers. The public may attend free of charge.

Pulse: I understand that you have been on the road recently doing speaking engagements, prior to your upcoming visit to Minneapolis this weekend. Where have you been travelling?
Massey: I have been in some New England states and will be going to Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota. I am speaking primarily at colleges, universities and high schools.
Pulse: What do you tell people in your speeches?

Massey: I talk about my experiences in Iraq, but also about the economic conscript of working class youth into the military. For a lot of kids getting ready to graduate high school, the military looks pretty good, because their families have no money to send them to college. They are at a point in their lives where they donâ??t have many options and are susceptible to recruiters. The recruiters convince 19- to 25-year-olds who canâ??t get a good job that they can get job skills in the military.
Pulse: What kind of a reaction do you get?
Massey: I have been getting a good response. I donâ??t tell them not to enlist. I encourage them to make their own choice and give them the information they need to make it. Many of the kids have been already approached by recruiters, so they know what Iâ??m talking about. In some cases, Iâ??m reinforcing what they already knew. I am encouraged by the anti-recruitment campaigns some students are doing on their campuses to counter the recruiters.
Pulse: When did you enlist in the Marines, and why?
Massey: I enlisted in 1992. I was a 19-year-old senior in high school in New Orleans. My stepfather had lost his job and didnâ??t have the money to send me to college, so I dropped out. I was working as a tool head but then I discovered Bourbon Street. I lost my job and apartment and my car broke down. I was homelessâ??living in a park and on the street for about a month. Then one day, I came across a Marine recruiter while he was pumping gas into his car. He took me to lunch. He told me that I needed self-discipline and said I could get that in the Marine Corps. He challenged me to do that. I called my mom collect and then rode the Greyhound bus to visit her. She had come from the Vietnam War era and was supportive of the military. She didnâ??t encourage me to join, but she didnâ??t discourage me either. She just said that once I got in the marines to do what I was told to do.
Pulse: What was your military training and experience prior to going to Iraq?
Massey: I went to boot camp at Camp Pendleton where I literally got the shit beat out of me within the first several months. Boot camp is designed to dehumanize and desensitize a person to violence. If you donâ??t conform, they beat you up. When I had a bad day, I got taken aside and beat up. When youâ??re in the military, itâ??s a lot like being in a Mafia family. You donâ??t step outside the family. If you break away from the family, theyâ??re going to do whatever they can to keep you quiet. After boot camp, I served in the Marines for 10 years in the United States before being sent to Kuwait. I was a recruiter and boot camp instructor. My career as a recruiter ended when I wrote a mission statement to the commanding officers, expressing my personal concerns with the issues of recruitment. But no one listened.
Pulse: When were you sent to Iraq? What did you think or expect would happen there?
Massey: I was sent to Kuwait on January 19, 2003, and to Iraq on March 22. I was a gung-ho Marine. I thought we were doing the right thing. We were told that Saddam [Hussein] had weapons of mass destruction. I knew, from reading Iraq history, about Americaâ??s history of supporting Saddam as a dictator, that he had treated his people cruelly, and that we were to â??take him out.â??

It was pretty evident when, eight months before we even left to go to Kuwait, the Marines were training to shut down and take over the Ar Rumaylah oil fields. We had detailed schematics and terrain models of all the oil fields outside of Basra, and once we took care of those, all that was left was the ride into Baghdad.
I also was coming into contact with groups like the War Resisterâ??s League while I was out on recruitment duty. I started reading some of the literature they were handing out at high schools. I became curious and started doing my own research, finding out certain things about Americaâ??s involvement in other countries. I knew about our imperialistic and political intentions.
Pulse: What happened once you got into Iraq?
Massey: The first time I came under fire, we were moving north in a group when our vehicle was attacked. We jumped out of our vehicle and returned fire. They ran away. It all lasted five or six seconds. I just assumed that they were enemy forces, some kind of gang, sort of like the Crips in America. We were like a bunch of cowboys who rode into town shooting up the place. I saw charred bodies in vehicles that were clearly not from the military.

There wasnâ??t a whole lot of direct fighting to speak of. There were some firefights â??I mean I had bullet holes in the side of my Humveeâ??but it wasnâ??t like major combat action. We took the highway the whole way to Baghdad. They had no artillery, no air support. They were weakened by the sanctions. Most of their hardware was leftover from the war against Iran. The first Gulf War had devastated them. I donâ??t think they had the will or the opportunity to fight.

As far as Iâ??m concerned, the real war did not begin until the Iraqis saw us murdering innocent civilians. There were two incidents that turned me against the war. The first was my experience with recruitment. The second was when I was stationed with a machine gunner guarding the checkpoints that came in and out of Baghdad. We were to give hand signals to moving vehicles and if they didnâ??t [respond], we assumed they had ammunition that would go off, so we â??lit them up.â??

(But) they were innocent civilians. We found no weapons, no explosivesâ??nothing. Somehow, I donâ??t know how he could have done it, but one guy got out of a car we had â??lit upâ?? and wasnâ??t badly wounded. It turns out he was the brother of another man in the car who had been killed. He looked at me and asked, â??Why did you kill my brother? What did he do to you?â?? That hit me like a ton of bricks.

All told, I was involved in five checkpoint â??light-ups.â?? We even once lit up a rally of civilians after we heard a gunshot. They were young Iraqis with no weapons.

There were 30-plus civilians killed over two days at those checkpoints. The military wouldnâ??t make a distinction between what they call â??collateral damageâ?? and murder. I said that if it happens once, itâ??s collateral damage; after that, itâ??s murder. The bottom line is that [commanders] donâ??t see the need to teach culture and humanity to men whose singular purpose is to kill.

I killed innocent people for our government, for what? What is the good coming out of it? I feel like Iâ??ve taken part in some sort of evil lie created by our government. I just feel embarrassed, ashamed about it.
Pulse: When you became so concerned about shooting innocent civilians, what did you do about it?
Massey: I went to my commanding officer and said, â??If you want my honest opinion, sir, we are committing genocide over here.â?? He just made my job more difficult, giving me extra work to do. Later, I was basically put under house arrest. There were other Marines who were afraid to speak out who would tell me, privately, that they supported me.
Pulse: I read in one of your previous interviews that you developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the war. When did that happen and what was it like?
Massey: While I was in combat in Iraq, I began having the symptoms of PTSDâ??nightmares, flashbacks, agitation, jumping at any crackling sound. I didnâ??t know what it was at the time. Finally, I went to see a psychiatrist. At our first appointment, he said, â??Youâ??re a conscientious objector.â?? I said, â??How can I be a conscientious objector when Iâ??ve killed people?â??

Initially, they tried to trick me into staying until retirement. I told the Sergeant Major â??I donâ??t want your retirement and I donâ??t want your benefits. We killed innocent civilians and you have to face that responsibility, and Iâ??m going to tell everyone what happened.â?? I remember his face turned red and he said that there was going to be legal repercussions. I later contacted a lawyer, Gary Meyers, whose practice dates back to the My Lai trials during the Vietnam War. In the end, they backed down. There was no trial, and I was given an honorary discharge.
Pulse: Do you still have PTSD?
Massey: Yes, Iâ??m getting treated for it now.
Pulse: Tell me about your plans for a PTSD foundation.
Massey: I am currently publishing a book about my experiences called â??Cowboys From Hell.â?? All of the proceeds will go to setting up the foundation.
Pulse: What do you think should be done now about the Iraq war?
Massey: Iâ??m for total withdrawal of all U.S. troops immediately. Then, we should help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq.
Pulse: What do you plan to do after this trip?
Massey: I keep hanging on to the one thing my grandfather used to say to me: â??The truth shall set you free.â?? Iâ??ll keep talking as long as people listen.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

It's been a busy week and I haven't blogged. A week is like an eternity in blog time! Mea culpa.

I've been running around from 8 a.m. this morning. Drove 160 miles and ended up back where I started. Worked, attended meetings, talked politics and came home.

More tomorrow.