Category Archives: censorship

Pride and Shame

Bradley Manning pride contingent from a past parade.

Bradley Manning pride contingent from a past parade.

I don’t get out to the BIG San Francisco events these days. Where once my eyes looked up and watered over from hope and stray glitter, now they tend to look elsewhere for SF Pride and Folsom Street. There’s all the waste, the trash, the dominating force of Big Booze ™ shilling Absolut Vodka and Budweiser, and the huge crushing crowds, terrible food, and the heart palpitations all of this gives me. No, I don’t care to see a parade of massive corporations demonstrating how tolerant they are despite whatever implications their brand and profits might mean for people, animals, water, and the globe at large. No, I don’t care for the tons of plastic crap manufactured with pride.

Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg

Pride and Folsom have had brave sexual components because of the illegality of what they were displaying in public. It was a protest. I’m all for Bacchanalia, believe me. It’s also important to remember that it was about taking something that people were being arrested and brutalized over and putting out in public view. It was about challenging how and why people were being marginalized for what they were already doing in private. Blowing someone in public was the reminder that the sun didn’t turn to blood, the streets weren’t suddenly cracking open, and there was no legitimate reason why people were being pulled from their bars and bedrooms and subject to a criminal record and all the damages therein.

I heard about “Gay Shame” when I was in college and I didn’t disagree with them totally but I wanted to have my day in the sun, a party celebrating something that had isolated me as a kid and a teenager, and most of all a good goddamn time. I wanted to put down my politics, pick up a beer, and just let it all go. Those Gay Shamers seemed a little uptight and political to me. Sure, corporations had some pretty bad policies but having Bank of America come out to the parade meant that others would to, right? Mainstream acceptance meant safety. If those stodgy old banker dudes could see why an event like pride where they knew there’d be drag queens and naked guys in cock rings and little baby dykes stomping around in their first pair of big black boots and a miniskirt trying on subversive in public for the first time ever then surely “we” were winning, right? Right? There were too many politicians in convertible cars waving to the masses for us to be losers.

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Of Sex And Drugs

Despite the porn, I’m terribly naive about why our society has conniption fits when it comes to talking about sex and drugs. Both are very taboo and subject to numerous pieces of legislation and come with deep currents of conscious and unconscious stigma.

Trying to develop a career as a “professional” in either field is a tenuous path. Semantics mark the difference between the suit and coat crowd and the plebeians or worse yet the crackpots. Those who aspire to join the suit and coat crowd can be spotted at their industry’s events with marked civility to the crackpots by their subtle but very nearly ritualistic social performances best described by Roland Barthes and an avian behavior graduate student sharing drinks at happy hour.

In the drug world, the people talking about sex are regarded as the way to ruin the legitimacy of things. The ones who don’t get “the bigger picture.” In the sex world, those who talk about drugs can also ruin the legitimacy of things. Legality is a major issue. Drugs could blow the whole house down.

When you already have to speak in sotte voce about a very fundamental reality, the introduction of another pretty much leaves you to the fragments and the faintest lines of symbols creating galaxies of the inferred. This is the blend of religion, and of disease. The orbit is farther out with a much more tenuous grasp on gravity. The stakes are closer to death and not because of something inherent to them so much as their relationship to codified law that has a very class distinct application on the masses. Having “made it” is so often defined by the cocaine of an appealing ass. It’s not the Benz, it’s the room for a buzz that never ends and never has consequences.

Class is marked by the consequences you face for your own humanity.

Sexuality has been my trade but I keep my personal cards kept more keenly to myself. I do think ones pleasure practices are as sacred (for whatever that word means) as ones spiritual practices. I don’t think I really get a say over how any given individual choose to guide their perception of the world by chemical, religious, technological, biological, material, or what-have-you-tools so long as there aren’t material world consequences on other non-consenting people. You can’t just steal some shit. You can’t just instantly use someone as a tool of your experience. The fact that we imprison people for getting high is, in effect, a thought crime.

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A Tower Of Babel

Mt, Wilson observatory, iPhone photo from the trail. 14 miles up and down, 4,700 ft elevation gain.

Politics is the art of articulating control and some voices have more profound global impact. Our modern age has given us dogma in legal language codified as legislation that was born of cowardice, forged in privilege, and wielded against the marginalized.

The “Tower Of Babel” is a great Judeo-Christian story of incredible relevance here. This was the story that made me doubt the existence of god but also awoke a kind of panic about authority within me. The Book of Genesis, in general, turned me off from the idea of God because it reminded me too much of Stargate. As a text the Judeo-Christian Bible does pick up quite a bit with all kinds of great philosophy and tremendous insight. But as a child I could not get behind the fascist god of genesis. The story of the “Tower of Babel” presented us with a humanity that came to gather after god’s genocide with the flood. Now, ostensibly, you might think this was the lesson of the flood–to learn how to love one another again, to work beside one another, to share a common language.

I have always interpreted this to mean sharing the language of love. This sounds hippie-dippie but stay with me: think of the time a stranger went out of their way to help you out with something simple. Maybe you were a little lost and in need of directions, maybe it was a quick freebie snack, maybe it was someone who didn’t make you feel like shit when you had to mention a boundary about personal space and genuinely accommodated the situation with humor. That was a time when you shared the language of love with someone and it does let you peek into a view of what those from “Shinar” experienced.

When people are taking the time to be present one another as individuals with a different contexts that require calibration for full communication they tend to get a lot of shit done. This is why you may have been subjected to work retreats even though that’s an industry in and of itself that has forgotten the purpose of the exercise. Another quick glance into the extent of empathy would be those rare and precious moments when you feel uncertain where your body stops and your lover’s begins.

The people worked together to build a tower to God because they shared a language, a purpose, and a plan to accomplish it and they were getting shit done. “A tower to god” is a symbol from my understanding. Perhaps, though, it was a tower. I look to our space programs and global space stations, I see the beginnings of a Tower of Babel. When you get to such heights you stop splitting so many hairs about the differences between individual humans because you’re united as earthlings exploring the cosmos. That’s the dream we seem to come back to across the ages, at least.

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Born In Flames: A Film By Lizzie Borden

Real life activist and lawyer Florynce Kennedy in "Born In Flames"

There’s so much I love about Born In Flames , a film written, directed, and edited by Lizzie Borden. It’s a landmark film about some of the different stripes of feminism and how they might work together to overthrow a fictional US socialist democracy established after a bloodless revolution of (presumably) the 1960s. It’s a what-if experiment that has fun with editing and film art. It’s very low budget and homegrown but a fun and inspiring watch.

It’s a good film to watch now in the middle of the Occupy Wall Street Movement taking off because of the way it shows activism happening. Motion and action are the recurring visual themes of the movie as montages of women working, in casual settings, and engaging in activism play constantly. A condom rolls onto a penis in one shot, a woman wraps raw chicken in cellophane for a supermarket, people type, do construction, wheat paste fliers, and on and on.

In one of the most commented upon scenes in the film, the camera focuses on a woman being pestered by two men in a situation that escalates to assault. When it starts to become violently triggering the camera pulls back to an overhead shot of the street filling with women on bicycles who come to the rescue. They fend off the would-be rapists and comfort the victim. They activism begins with community work and street based outreach, one-on-one’s and pamphletting. The verite style of the daily real work of activism mixed with protest footage makes the bicycle action seem plausible even in an age without twitter.

Watching the film with the lens of activism today, it’s easy to dream of what we’re capable of accomplishing for equality. The film asks an important question: what would happen if women’s rights activists picked up arms to defend themselves? One of the protagonists, Honey, recites a Malcom X Speech in a powerful closeup changing the language to refer to women’s issues. Florynce “Flo” Kennedy makes an appearance in the film as a mentor and godmother of the revolutionary action of the film’s army of women.

Flo Kennedy was a brilliant hell stallion of an activist and lawyer. Her work remains very inspiring to me. In the film, her character takes the name “Zella” which also happens to be the name of her mother. Her autobiography is a really interesting take on “radicalism’s rudest mouth” and outrageous pioneer. One of her famous actions was a response to Harvard University’s absence of women’s restrooms. (Because how many women could be expected to be at Hahhh-varrrddddd?) She organized a mass urination to protest. That’s some provocative and effective activism right there. One of the film’s protagonists is talking to Zella about her fears and doubts as a leader and activist and the process of coming to her realization that it is time for her movement to pick up arms. It’s clear she’s worried about acceptance but Zella responds with a dead pan, “What took you so long?”

 The characters do not represent psychologies so much as they represent politics. The trio of female journalists represent the academic feminism which is very often moderate and centrist in nature. There is a brief commentary on this fact as they turn their attention and support to the women’s army. Punk anarchism, black liberation, African feminism, and queer politics are also represented in the film in a fictional harmony of working alongside one another and ultimately together.

The grittiness of the film makes it a very realistic watch. It was also good to see quick moments of eros and a principal character wearing a pro-marijuana shirt during a scene without too much time or attention spent on the backdrop of sex and drugs in the background of the revolution. Flo Kennedy understood the importance of laughter and good times and it’s important to show that radicals aren’t all 24/7 wired for the revolution and do take time to listen to some tunes, crack open a beer, spark up a joint, and enjoy some sexy times. What kind of a revolution could exist without that?

Setting the film in a socialist democratic America after a “bloodless” revolution also hearkened to the way that seemingly progressive agencies use words without action while acting as oppressors. Enemies of the women’s army frequently comment that there can’t really be discrimination against women because they’re an equal socialist democracy. Sure, sure, sure, there are rapes but there aren’t that many rapes. Women’s interests are selfish interests because they don’t have everyone in mind. There is a lot examined in the relatively short run time of the movie.

If you’re interested in feminism or activism or radicalism in general this film is a must see. Great film for discussion nights after a day of filming indie queer porn.

It’s worth checking out at Amazon or instantly on Netflix.

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Lenny Bruce

(With drum and cymbal accompaniment)

To is a preposition.
To is a preposition
Come is a verb.
To is a preposition.
Come is a verb.
To is a preposition
Come is a verb, the verb intransitive.
To come.
To come.
I’ve heard these two words my whole adult life, and as a
kid when they thought I was sleeping.
To come.
To come.
It’s been like a big drum solo.
Did you come?
Did you come?
Good
Did you come good?
Did you come good?
Did you come good?
Did you come good?
Did you come good?
Did you come good?
Did you come good?
I come better with you, sweetheart, than anyone in the
whole goddamned world.
I really came so good.
I really came so good ’cause I love you.
I really came so good.
I come better with you, sweetheart, than anyone in the
whole world.
I really came so good.
So good.
But don’t come in me.
Don’t come in me.
Don’t come in me, me, me, me, me.
Don’t come in me, me, me, me.
Don’t come in me.
Don’t come in me, me, me.
Don’t come in me, me, me.
I can’t come.
‘Cause you don’t love me, that’s why you can’t come.
I love you, I just can’t come; that’s my hand-up, I can’t
come when I’m loaded, all right?
‘Cause you don’t love me. Just what the hell is the matter
with you?
What has that got to do with loving? I just can’t come.

Lenny Bruce was a comedian, a social critic, and a strip show emcee. He attacked hypocrisy  and was arrested and challenged for the words he dared to say out loud. Namely, he was challenged for saying, “cocksucker” and “to come” on a stage with a mixed audience. He performed “to come” at The Jazz Workshop in San Francisco 1961 and faced yet another obscenity trial. He died in 1966, tragically, at the age of 40.

His essay, “The People of the State of California vs. Lenny Bruce” is an except from his book How To Talk Dirty And Influence People and originally published in Playboy Magazine in 1965.

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