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As you know, it is killing me that I can’t be at the Occupy Wall St protests. And it’s especially horrible and ironic that the reason I can’t go is that I can’t get time off from my corporate
slavery job to attend. But them’s the breaks, as my overlord boss tells me. But fortunately for me I have friends like Jason, an old classmate from Columbia, who managed to get himself down to the protests and has sent us a report from the field.
by Jason Fitzgerald
Note: This essay is also published on the Huffington Post’s Off the Bus series here, under a different title.
One of the most well-rehearsed axioms of the Occupy Wall Street event is that “the media does not know how to talk about it,” and, as a result, is talking about it to as minimal an extent as is possible. Fortunately for the occupation’s supporters, their presence is getting harder and harder to ignore. And so the media’s problem is slowly but steadily becoming the nation’s problem. When I joined in the Solidarity March today along with fellow students from Columbia, NYU, CUNY, and SUNY, not to mention an impressive number of labor organizations, I was approached by two different broadcast journalists for interviews. The first identified himself as “Kuwaiti television,” and the second identified herself as “from CUNY.” Each newscaster thrust a microphone in my face and asked the same question, “Why are you here?” I could not escape the feeling that they were speaking for the entire country, maybe the world, and that somehow, if the answer to the question could be “discovered,” all the cameras would pack up and go home, relieved not to have to be in downtown Manhattan anymore.
We must begin by acknowledging that the first fundamental fact of Occupy Wall Street is that it has no message. It is not a localized policy march, like a march for same-sex marriage equality or for a university living wage or for a political candidate. Occupy Wall Street is unlike any of these protest-type gatherings for the simple reason that it cannot be talked about in familiar terms. The “meaning” of the occupation will emerge over time, both by the intellectuals and journalists who are already trying to explain the event’s “goals,” and by history itself, which will measure the occupation by the way it concludes. I think it is worth considering, though, that the present incommensurability of the occupation, the fact that it cannot be explained away by being made to stand in for a “message” or a “platform,” is its greatest asset, and the marker of its significance.
I answered the question, “Why are you here?,” not by citing the degree of inequity between wealthy and non-wealthy Americans (the problem of the so-called “99%”), nor the oligarchy manifesto known as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, nor the bank and corporate bailouts, nor the refusal by any major Western state to take environmental climate change seriously, nor the decades of imperialist inefficacies of the IMF. What I tried to say—and what I am attempting to say better here—is that I came because by being physically present at Occupy Wall Street, I could increase, however marginally, the likelihood that more people would look in my direction.
If Occupy Wall Street is to be permitted any meaning at all, it is as deixis. Deixis takes place when a rhetorician points to something (figuratively or actually) without giving it a name (“here” and “that one there” are deictic terms). A deictic gesture changes the direction of attention, so that what it points away from is as significant as what it points toward. Occupy Wall Street, in other words, is not occupying anything. It is pointing toward and pointing away. It is pointing toward corporate power, through corporate power’s most transparent metonym, the short seven blocks north of Exchange Place that connect Broadway and the East River. And Occupy Wall Street is pointing away from Washington D.C., from the Senate, from the House of Representatives, from Barack Obama, from Rick Perry and Chris Christie, from filibusters, from debt ceilings, from “supercongresses,” from election polls, from Americans for Prosperity, from Karl Rove, from George Soros, from campaign ads, from everything that “the media”—particularly the socially engaged media like CNN, Fox, and MSNBC—understands to be “politics.” Occupy Wall Street turns away from these items and says: That is sideshow.
What is real? The flow of capital, the source of money and the direction in which it travels, who is paying for what, and how they are getting their money in the first place. Equally real are the consequences of these conditions on the lived experiences of the world’s citizens. No matter what the individual protestors’ “interests” and “demands” might be—and I insist that it is not to the occupation’s discredit that many protestors could not honestly and coherently answer “Why are you here?”—the occupation’s message could not be simpler: LOOK!
It is because Occupy Wall Street is, at least right now, nothing more than an act of deixis, and because that content-less gesture has grown in size and strength without any major institution willing it to, that it is significant. Regardless of what legacy Occupy Wall Street leaves behind, its existence matters in the world-historical sense. It is the genuine expression of a real deficiency at the constitutional level of our socio-political system that not only cannot be solved by structures currently in place, it cannot even be understood in those structure’s terms.
The day we—as individuals and as participants in a media apparatus—learn how to talk about Occupy Wall Street is the day Occupy Wall Street’s first and only “demand” will be met. That is the day when we learn how to talk about the world economy as something other than a given state of affairs, to be “managed” by policy decisions and morally sound corporate leaders. It is time to ask the question, “What are the obligations of a state to its people?” It is time we stop pretending that those obligations are not being met because of a surplus of legislators and corporate executives who are “greedy” or “ideological” or “political” or “evil.” It is time we ask the only real question worth asking of Occupy Wall Street—why is this happening? What are the political and socio-economic conditions of our country failing to achieve such that an increasingly large number of people feel they must go to the streets without solutions, without leadership, without message and point to a set of buildings that are themselves not the problem, filled with people who are working for a living and are also, as individuals, not the problem? And how will that be fixed?
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I think he’s on to something Puffin.
I have received a communiqué from one of our reporters in the field. Bigwig, of The Album Project and Animal News; The Podcast has been working in South Korea for last year or so, and has finally managed to smuggle out a dispatch hidden, as is traditional, in the navel of a lady who is beyond reproach and unlikely to be groped by the TSA. I decoded it for you Puffin, and here it is:
Dear MacGuffin and Puffin,
As a huge fan of your blog, I’ve been keeping my eye out for contributions to it. I love your Asshole stamped posts, and I really enjoy the internet tourism, but by far, my favorite is the various Art related posts that you guys do. So, when I stumbled across Tommervik’s Picasso inspired cubist Star Wars paintings, I knew that I had to send it in.
Look, I love Star Wars. I love the Original Trilogy. I appreciate the intent of the prequels. The iconic visuals of the series are actually embedded in my brain. I remember when I made my first home movies, I purposefully aped the whole thing. So, whenever I see the mask of Vader, or the lightsaber, or R2, I feel my body get involved.
This is why this was such a cool find. Picasso and Star Wars together?
Really, all of them are pretty damn beautiful, but my personal favorite is the Yoda one. I would love to get a print of that for my wall.
Anyway, hope you guys liked these as much as I did, and I hope you guys like this letter. It’s not as good as yours, but it’s words!
Well Puffin, what do you think? I think Bigwig has stumbled on something quite wonderful. I checked out Tommervik’s site, and there are more Picasso Star Wars pictures as well as some really neat sports paintings. He has a lovely expressive way with curves, which works well with the already exaggerated body shape of football players in their padding. The Star Wars ones would be golden purely for their nerd-cred, and I’m no art critic, but I think these are pretty damn fine art. Certainly a worthy addition to my over-crowded
bathroom nerd shrine. Why the hell do I keep my nerd art in the bathroom anyway Puffin? I must move them all at some point.
When I first heard about the new X-Men movie, I was terribly excited. Professor X and Magneto back when they were BFFs? That’s probably one of the most interesting storylines in all of the Marvelverse (Civil War aside). Sixties era setting? I appreciate go-go girls as much as the next person, and besides, this makes Magneto and Prof. X contemporaries with a certain Mr. Bond. Happens BEFORE the X-Trilogy takes place? Even better: Cyclops is still alive out there somewhere, we don’t have to deal with Rogue’s emo-tantrums, and we can all pretend that Wolverine: Origins just never happened. (And seriously, they came up with marketing stuff like this- MacGuffin). Then I saw these posters. I probably should have given up any expectations then.
Who thought this was a good idea? I get that this movie focuses on Charles and Erik’s roles as mutant forefathers, but did they have to make that point literally, by having their faces sprout from their loins? Unfortunately, these posters seemed to accurate predict the movie itself as a series of missed opportunities. I don’t know much about movie reviewing, but I do like to think I know a bit about storytelling. And I can recognize a missed opportunity when I see one.
1. Professor X and Magneto
In my opinion, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were excellent for these roles. Fassbender’s Magneto was a brutal, sexy version of James Bond, except darker and more vicious. McAvoy’s Professor X was perfect. Snarky and pretentious, I was delighted to be suppressing my urge to punch him in the face throughout the movie. Nobody can be that sanguine without having been a complete prick at some point; it was refreshing to see Professor X portrayed as something besides a saint.
Unlike some of the other characters (but more on that later), Professor X and Magneto were actually well developed. To be fair, given their detailed history in the comics, how could they have not been? What was disappointing, however, was that their relationship was not as well developed as they had been individually. Maybe the writers intended to emphasize each man as his own maverick. I’m not sure. What I do know is the main reason why I gave this movie a chance was because I was curious to see what the writers had come up with for the enigma of how Charles and Erik became friends.
The best we got was a cheap friendship montage: the young mutants get trained, Charles and Erik become best friends, and a good time is had by all until Kevin Bacon strolls by and rains on everybody’s parade. Instead of rehashing the first movie (yes, I think we can all take for granted by now that Magneto was a victim of the Holocaust–and by the way, when did that become a trope instead of a tragedy?), maybe they should have spent their efforts developing actual relationships between characters. Furthermore, the ending was a major disappointment. Rather than Erik blindly tossing bullets over his shoulder, it would have been more interesting if Erik, lost in a blind rage, intentionally shoots Charles. At the very least, it’s better character development than a mere accident. Once he has realized what has happened, he is penitent–but he also has a moment of recognition. He sees that Charles’s path of peace and reconciliation could never be his own. The moment becomes poignant because Erik sees himself for what he is: a monster. In one moment, he is horrified by what he sees and hates himself for paralyzing his best friend, but also is strangely excited and relishes in his power. The sun eclipses; the dark side wins. Charles grieves for his friend, but more importantly he grieves for himself and can’t help but resent Erik for what he has done. He knows he will spend the rest of his life confined to a wheelchair. He tries not to hold his condition against Erik, but he knows deep within him that he will never be able to rise above it. The actors were talented and certainly could have dealt with such a complex scene–its a shame that the writers couldn’t.
2. Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique
I’ve heard such promising things about Jennifer Lawrence. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see any of it during First Class.
Mystique’s development was such a missed opportunity in the movie. Yes, we get that she is young and vulnerable. We get that she wasn’t always the vicious, savvy villainness we typically see. And I don’t argue with her initial portrayal as your standard insecure teenager–I just wish that somehow throughout the movie, she moved beyond that. For being what turns out to be one of the most powerful female characters in comicbookdom, Mystique was sadly one-dimensional. She essentially played a stock character: insecure teenage girl with body image issues who has difficulty accepting herself for who she was. For Chrissakes, that’s the plot of She’s All That.
Her mutant power is a physical manifestation of a woman’s body image issues. Rather than using it to objectify herself in pathetic attempt to win attention by playing up male fantasies, we should have seen her using her power arbitrarily, recklessly, for the mere reason that she could. It would have established Mystique as a loose cannon and shown that she was more dangerous than the men had estimated her to be. Yes, appealing to male fantasies by shifting into female forms would have been a nice way to have her start the movie, but it would have been interesting if Mystique recognized her potential wasn’t limited to her feminine form. If she had shifted into the shape of a man, it would have been symbolic of her liberation and allowed her to evolve into Mystique, as I know her: an uncontrollable, unpredictable force to be reckoned with. She’s completely unrecognizable as Charles’s docile lapdog, cowering in the corner when any fighting occurs. And by the way, if Emma Frost remained the ditzy companion of Sebastian Shaw, this version of Mystique would have been a great foil to contrast the docile housewife to the independent, self-realized woman.
3. The Rag-tag Gang of Mutants
Forgive me if I’m mistaken, but I was under the impression that the reason comic book movies are made and funded is because they promise epic action scenes. X-Men boils down to the promise that the audience will see a handful of impressively powered mutants fight an all out battle with another group of somewhat less sympathetic mutants with equally impressive but slightly different mutant powers.
Somehow in First Class we ended up with Banshee. Banshee? Really? We also managed to snag butterfly girl and toanrdo man, too. The only person who could have been lamer than these sorry mutants would be Jubilee (sparkles!). I get that the first trilogy exhausted many of the more interesting and better known characters, but were these mutants really the best in show? There must have been lesser known mutants with cooler powers. Hell, they could have made up mutants with cooler powers.
In addition to having really, really lame powers, none of the auxiliary mutants were developed. At all. If the excuse for having less cool mutants was to introduce new characters to the franchise, then I don’t know, actually create real characters that are interesting and have some depth to them. We get it. Angel has daddy issues. (I’m still not sure why she defected. Was it because she saw some sort of acceptance from Shaw that she couldn’t get from the X-Men? Was that ever made clear?) Havok can’t control his powers. (But why? Could he maybe be trying to prove something/steal attention from his saint of a older/younger brother Cyclops?) Banshee… pretty much has no personality. Darwin is black. (Seriously–that was the extent of his character development. When did basing entire character profiles off race become okay?) I wasn’t compelled by any of these characters.
Instead of having the the ragtag team of no-name mutants, they should have just started off with the classic lineup. I get that we’ve seen Jean Grey, Cyclops, Iceman and Angel (Warren Worthington III) in the later films. It doesn’t matter. Cast them as their younger selves. We’re already tossing chronological consistency out the window by having Havok (who must have fallen into some sort of wormhole in order to be a teenager in the 60s if he’s Cyclops younger brother) and Emma Frost (who must have added backwards aging in addition to diamond form and telepathy to her powers since she’s about 12 in Wolverine) in the movie.
The classic lineup is good. And who cares that we’ve seen them before; we could have gotten a different spin on the characters. I would have loved to see a younger version of Jean Grey that foreshadows her development as Dark Phoenix. Wouldn’t it have been great if she were this rebellious, Beatles-crazed teenage terrified and fascinated by her power and throwing herself at poor Cyclops much to Charles’s dismay and Erik’s interest? She could have been what Rogue should have been in the first movie. I know we’ve seen this group of mutants before, but let’s be honest, their substitutes in this movie weren’t good enough to justify eliminating the classics. Jean could have been a rival for Charles’s affections with Mystique. Clearly, Jean Grey would ultimately win–which would provide more impetus for Mystique to leave and go rogue. All in all, the movie wasn’t terrible…but there were many things that could have made it great. For seeing all of its lost potential, it seems somehow a little more disappointing than if it had no promise at all to begin with.
MacGuffin here: as far as I’m concerned, this was the only good moment in the whole film. Click to see the animation, because apparently WordPress doesn’t like Gifs.
We have a guest blogger today. Willy Clark from the WVC6 SportsBlog has a pretty spot-on analysis of the Knick’s failure to heat up after the addition of Carmelo Anthony. Like most of the ex-pat Bostonian community in
New York HELL, my opinions of the local sports franchises range from ambivalence (the Islanders, the Mets) to antipathy (The Devils, the Rangers without Sean Avery) to absolute flaming hatred of the sort that even Joe McCarthy never equalled (the Yankees, the Rangers with Sean Avery, the Giants and especially, oh so especially, the fucking Jets). But I’ve lived in this state for almost 4 years now, and the one team I really don’t hate is the Knicks. Mostly because they have been mostly harmless for a pretty long time, and any team that poses no threat to my beloved Celtics is fine with me. Also Spike Lee is awesome. Anyway, here it is:
Some people just don’t get it.
This statement, while vague, is undoubtedly true. It applies to all aspects of life but is of particular significance in the world of sport. The New York Knicks recently pulled of a gigantic trade to get Carmello Anthony, one of the better individual players in the NBA. Yet mystifyingly since acquiring Carmelo the Knicks have not been any better. In fact they’ve been a little worse. They are clearly more talented than they were before so how has that not translated into wins? Simple: some people just don’t get it. Or in basketball terms: some players just don’t understand team basketball.
For exhibit A, look at the career of Stephon Marbury. Marbury was an immenselytalented point guard widely regarded throughout his career as the best in the league at getting to the rim and possessing numerous other talents. Yet for some reason every team that ever traded Marbury immediately got better after his departure and every team that acquired him slowly got worse. This really doesn’t make sense. He was one of the better point guards in the league for over a decade. How could he make teams worse? Some pointed to his personality – he feuded with Larry Brown while in New York, but this was rarely mentioned as the problem. Some point to his defense – while never a defensive star he was generally at least a decent defender. He had his flaws but his overall talent should have been enough to make teams better. But for some reason it just didn’t happen.
The answer is simple; Marbury just didn’t get it. He never really grasped team basketball. It just didn’t come naturally to him. In other words Stephon never fully understood all the intricate things he needed to do to help his team win. Maybe he wasn’t always a good teammate, but there were certainly times in his career when he was trying to be. Maybe he wasn’t always a good defender, but there were certainly times in his career that he was doing his best to be one. It just did not come naturally to him. Basketball in many ways is such an individual sport so dependent on one on one matchups that many times a good individual player may not do much to improve a team. Understanding how to beat your man and understanding how to help your team win are not always the same thing. Marbury was never able to fully grasp this distinction and unfortunately I see many of the same things developing in Carmelo Anthony. That is why I believe the Knicks were better of without him.
On talent alone Carmelo Anthony is one the very best players in the league. There really isn’t anyone who can guard him one on one. He makes more shots as the shot clock expires than anybody in the league. And he certainly has the ability to be a great defender when he makes up his mind that he wants to. Yet after eight years in the league he has yet to prove that he is anything other than a scorer. Too many times I watch Carmelo make a great shot then spend the entire trip back down the court whining to the official that he got fouled and his man ends up dunking the ball on the other end. Too many times I see him play great defense for one possession and then don’t see that again for the rest of the game. I never see him make any great play that isn’t a basket and this is not a recipe for success. To win in the NBA your best players need to do more than score. Being one dimensional is fatal and right now that’s what Carmelo is.
In addition it is about time that people called Anthony’s personality into question. Anytime a coach as good as George Karl is happy to see a player that talented leave it says something about that player. After fighting his way out of Denver in a way that made Lebron James’ “decision” look quiet and refined, only two weeks later Knicks star Amare Stoudemire publicly stated that some people weren’t buying into head coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. He didn’t actually mention Carmelo’s name, but the Knicks only acquired two new people at the deadline and he sure wasn’t talking about Chauncey Billups. I mean these are good coaches. If Carmelo can’t get along with either of them then he has a problem. What’s he going to do, go to L.A. and then not buy in to Phil Jackson’s system? Coaches coach and players play. That is a big part of team basketball, something Carmelo doesn’t seem to understand.
Now I’m not saying the Knicks can’t win with Carmelo. But for them to do so he is going to have to change his game. There was a point when my all time favorite player, Paul Pierce, was nothing but a scorer. In order for the Celtics to win it took Doc Rivers demanding that Pierce change and Pierce being willing to do so. If this hadn’t happened the Garnett and Allen trades probably would not have worked and the Celtics probably would not have won a Championship. For the Knicks to win Carmelo is going to have to change his game and become a more complete player. Until that happens Knicks fans will continue to scratch their heads and wonder why they aren’t better when their talent has clearly improved. Team basketball is not as easy as it looks. Just ask the Miami Heat and even they are doing a better job at it than the Knicks are.
Winning a Championship is not as simple as just signing a few super stars,