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#Justice4Cecily and Solidarity

Hundreds of people gathered in Union Square on Sunday, May 18th, in support of and solidarity with Cecily McMilan, the Occupy Wall Street protester who was recently found guilt of assaulting a police officer for protecting herself when a police officer sexually assaulted her. Cecily is due to be sentenced on May 19th, facing 2-7 years. Supporters in Union Square demanded with chants ‘No justice no peace! / Cecily must be released!’

The Rude Mechanical Orchestra played a series of songs and led chants, before the People’s Court used actual testimony from the court proceedings, as well as information that was disallowed by the judge, to show how clearly innocent Cecily was, and therefore deserves no jail sentence at all. Chants of ‘Innocent! Innocent! Innocent!’

Cecily’s caretaker spoke of how ‘being a mother is political,’ thanked Occupy and everyone assembled for standing with Cecily, and reminded us that ‘a revolution starts in your own home, in your own family, in your bed, in your heart.’

The event as organized showed the kind of intersectionality and solidarity necessary to build movements. The Stop Mass Incarceration Network sent out the event to their supporters and tabled; Copwatch Patrol Unit (CPU) was also there to speak reminding us to ‘continue to fight for justice’ for all abused by police brutality; as well as a member of Black Veterans For Social Justice who said ‘We are calling for Cecily to be released tomorrow on Malcolm X’s birthday!’

Chants of ‘Our passion for freedom / is stronger than their prisons!’ Then chants of ‘No justice no peace! / Cecily must be released!’ mixed with singing ‘Which side are you on? Which side are you on?’

Afterwards anyone from the crowd was encouraged to speak out about their experiences with the criminal injustice system, the prison system, and with police brutality.

Nearby supporters of the Zapatistas had organized their own rally in support of Zapatistas in Chiapas, and people elsewhere in Mexico, who are being run off their lands, kidnapped, and murdered by drug traffickers and para-militaries while the Mexican government turns a blind eye and deaf ear. The McMilan organizers asked the Zapatistas to come speak out to the crowd assembled in support of Cecily, and two Zapatista women spoke of what was happening in Mexico, and sang a short Zapatista song.

Cecily’s letter from prison in Rikers, read by a supporter, quoted Eugene Debs: ‘While there is a soul in prison I am not free.’ Which side are you on?




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radical ideas (8)

To be successful (to‘make it’) you sacri- fice greatness.

– Cornel West

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cover (4)


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ways to squelch that smell (38)

Light an entire section of the news- paper on fire, wait for it to burn out. Toss ashes into toilet to complete the sacrifice .

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radical ideas (2)

Public restrooms. A vast complex of bathrooms and showers. Every neigh- borhood. 24 hours per day. For free. Problem: Who is going to hose all the late-night vomit off of the street if not public urinators?

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killing yourself for something to write about

I was given Chuck Klosterman’s cross-country journal about locations where famous musicians died in the continental U.S., Killing Yourself To Live, by a friend, Flynt, who thought I might benefit, as a novice critic myself, from its expoundings on music intermeshed with the critic’s personal reflections and awakenings. The book impressed upon me the desire to respond, perhaps Flynt’s intent; though in an opposite manner, as I found Live somewhat difficult company to keep.

Klosterman, jovially but inattentively, plays a game in his text in which he tries to defy obvious judgments and interpretations he foresees readers coming to, namely that since he “hates reading … many intellectuals consider me irrelevant” and, as he has a character in the book query, “…who wants to read another book about some death-obsessed drug addict who listens to Fleetwood Mac and lionizes the women who used to drive him crazy?” It is rather like a chef warning his restaurateurs that they may dislike the meal he has prepared for them but he is at least aware that they won’t like it, which ignores their enjoyment because well, I know it is not literature and that many thinking people won’t like it but if I make the claim in advance that it is not literature then I can be absolved fromresponsibility to the craft. Any criticism has already been deflected and can be shrugged off as banal or, even, inappropriate.

Mr. Klosterman has here not so much written a book of criticism in which contemplative analysis is given to specific works in their own context but rather has written an episodic road trip tale with involved personal back story about old flames and times and the music he happened to be listening to during these episodes. A lengthy explanation about how “Thom Yorke accidentally predicted the events of September 11 on Kid A,” is proceeded by the admission that “anything I had been playing that afternoon [9/11] would have felt like a terrorist attack … Except that it wouldn’t have.”  Then four pages are given to this “accidental prediction” and how Kid A is a timeline of the day for Americans.

The overall achievement is that Klosterman posits ideas that cannot possibly be true or genuinely intentioned. Thus, there is no real critic, no authority worth considering, only the personal. “There is no truth,” after all. “There is no culture.” The book is full of these grand statements and seem to be the extent of critical thought.

Late in the game it is claimed that “every straight man born after the year 1958 has at least one transitory period in his life when he believes Led Zeppelin is the only good band that ever existed.” That I and the six males I consider intimate friends report never having had this experience with Zeppelin must, according to Klosterman, mean that either we are all homosexuals (unknown to us as of yet, and also to five spouses) or that we weren’t born after 1958. But no matter, because the thought wasn’t meant to have any value beyond its immediate and transient impact. It is as though the book is gabbing at a party hoping that everyone else in the conversation is too inebriated or indifferent to think about what their fellow conversationalists are saying. The only value a thought has, then, is that it sounds “interesting,” not that it is correct or incorrect, or even relevant.

It seems obvious that Klosterman does not take his own grandiose claims seriously. Furthermore, his statements evidence a lack of careful, involved attention, which is what makes Live such a frustrating read and a discouraging  example of contemporary rock criticism: a tendency to make convoluted, involved declarations that are not meant to be considered accurate or inaccurate but only heard and repeated, as though each concept is only important in the immediate now and need not be true or false at any other time. The whole experience loses even the attempt (in a practical sense) at critical omniscience and becomes totally subjective; not necessarily an awful situation but one in which serious criticism and thoughtfulness play no part and art is solely for subjective consumption, never collective interpretation. Klosterman is not a serious critic or writer – “serious” meaning valuable in thought and action – because he is not striving for any objectivity, however illusory objectivity may be.

Indeed, Klosterman claims, “Artists who believe they have any control over the interpretation of their work are completely fooling themselves.” This is true if the audience does not believe in the existence or significance of an artist’s intent or that any artist actually takes the time to carefully construct a story/song/painting in the hopes of communicating something that the audience can not only identify with but also understand the intended meaning of.

Reported “arguments” from Klosterman and Live’s cast of characters concerning “whether or not Boston had three great songs or no great songs” or “why the Creedence Clearwater Revival song ‘Ramble Tamble’ illustrates a larger truth about Vietnam, despite the fact that the lyrics of ‘Ramble Tamble’ are not about war,” are not at all meant as arguments or explanations but brief stories of lackluster introspection in the life of a kid who grew up listening to rock and roll, not much caring what it was supposed to be about but only that it was about something to him. There is a sense that the writer is not at all serious about the implications and qualities he claims to admire about the object of his love, rock and roll. Indeed, it is as though the writer is so flippant and indifferent that he is able to toss off explanations and ideas without having to evaluate them with any critical study or thought because who would bother anyway?, is the tone of the explanations and thus the tone the reader must adopt in order to read the book. This indifference leaves the whole venture void of tension or significance since the writer has gone out of his way to convince his readers that he both cares and yet does not care about interpretation.

Many sentences, if thought about for a moment before rushing into the next, don’t make much sense and prohibit the reader from considering  Klosterman’s perceptions with any sincerity. “Technology,” he writes, “solves everything because technology is invulnerable. And this is what almost everyone in America thought at around 8:30 A.M. [on 9/11].” Or another pronouncement, this about Roger Staubach, “…whoever is your hero when you’re nine remains your hero forever.” It does not take much reflection to understand that these statements may ring true for the writer himself and perhaps for his friends, but can hardly blanket the population at large. (Again, if me and those whose opinions I sought on the topic are any sort of relevant counter-point. Perhaps me and mine live in a tiny pocket outside of the public for whom Klosterman reserves his proclamations, but it is doubtful.)

Klosterman’s unstated denial that people everywhere (or even limited to rock and roll fans, obviously his intended audience) are different in their behaviors and experiences is evidenced in a fantasy sequence envisioning his own  obituaries. “Jon [co-worker at Spin magazine] would likely compare me to some dead genius I’ve never even heard of (possibly Joseph Mitchell).”* That Klosterman is able to name the genius he has not heard of is irrelevant; in the world of this book the author may set rules for his text which he does not have to follow. Or another instance: “September 11 is the one issue every American can be completely earnest and unguarded about.” How I do wish the half-dozen people I’ve offended with my own “earnest and unguarded” recollections of the infamous day I myself spent in New York had read Live and been appropriately  instructed.

Live does on occasion spark a brighter flame and give cause for a chuckle. “Line dancing,” the writer observes, “reminds me of the way Great Britain used to fight land wars.” Unhappily, this proceeds his observation that, “It always fascinated me that the people who liked George Strait and Billy Ray Cyrus were equally enamored with linear, highly structured dance choreography that offered no spontaneity whatsoever.” Why is this puzzling, Chuck? The two forms – the music and the dancing – seem all too appropriately matched from this side of logic.

“‘Even when it’s merely an accident, dying somehow proves you weren’t kidding.” But that is all that Killing Yourself To Live seems to do: kid. In seeking to explain why dead rock stars have any significance the writer concludes that a) they don’t and b) they do. Wink wink, nudge nudge. “You’re killing me, Klosterman,” I thought throughout my reading. But it had little to do with living.

* For those, like myself, who in fact did not know who Joseph Mitchell was – as Klosterman didn’t? – our Britannica tells us he wrote for The New Yorker early/mid century and even claims “His vignettes … [about] eccentric denizens … were viewed as stylistic precursors of the subjective ‘new journalism’.” I’ll tackle that after I get to the rest of John Updike and Cheever. Not to mention the rest of Klosterman’s oeuvre. Cocoa puffs?


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First IJ post

Hey, IJ’ers. This is where you can post any questions or comments or whatever you’d like about IJ as we go through it. I’m not sure how many people are reading it, but I’m spreading the word like fever.

Two things: 1) There will be two sections for each 50 pages of text for comments/questions. The first ‘pedestrian’ one is for first time readers or anyone who doesn’t want to post/read any information that would be a spoiler, that is something that might reveal a future plot twist/point or could mar one’s first reading of the book. The second ‘SPOILER’ section is where you can post the other stuff, so don’t go in there unless you’re okay with spoiled plot turns/character developments or whatever.

2) Please be sure to sign your name to your comments or else they just sit there creepily anonymous.

Te Occidere Possunt Sed Te Edere Non Possunt Nefas Est.

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