Archive for July 2008

New at zombietime: McCain in San Francisco

I’ve just posted at zombietime a mini-report about two competing rallies outside a fundraiser featuring John McCain in San Francisco:

McCain in San Francisco: Fundraiser Rally, July 28, 2008.

Nothing particularly newsworthy happened, but I did capture a few interesting vignettes and memorable photos — including this one:

An “allegory” is a symbolic representation of an abstract idea, sometimes used in artworks to evoke concepts that can’t be depicted directly. Allegorical photographs, however, are extremely rare, because (unless they are posed studio photographs) one cannot arrange or construct the elements of any candid image to convey a particular philosophical notion. Yet this picture I took at the rally strikes me as a perfect example of an allegorical photo, because the accidental figures in the foreground (a Muslim woman in traditional garb, turning away sadly and leaving the scene — while a young westernized woman arrives to take her place) perfectly encapsulates the real “Bush legacy” announced on the side of the bus in the background; the idea being that the modernizing and westernization of Middle Eastern culture may be Bush’s actual long-term legacy, and not the temporary (and debatable) legacies mentioned on the bus itself. What do you think?

Code Pink Garage Sale

While cruising up Solano Avenue in Albany on Saturday, I noticed something unusual: Code Pink was having a garage sale at their Bay Area headquarters. I stopped by to have a look.

I was hoping to pick up some interesting Code Pink detritus, but (as I later found out when I looked it up online) most of the stuff for sale was not actually from Code Pink itself but rather was donated to them by others. So it was mostly just random household doodads, not revolutionary leftovers.

The only interesting artifact for sale was a poster praising Mordechai Vanunu.

Back in May of this year, I wrote about an anti-John Yoo protest at the Boalt Hall law school graduation, spearheaded by the communist group World Can’t Wait. What I didn’t include in that report is the fact that I followed World Can’t Wait to an entirely different protest immediately afterward — an “Armed Forces Day” protest in front of (where else?) the Marine Corps Recruiting Office in Berkeley.

In the spirit of recycling, the World Can’t Waiters arrayed all their torture-themed and John Yoo protest material from earlier in the day in front of the Marines office. Marines, John Yoo — hey, it’s all good. Close enough for horseshoes.

Armed Forces Day is a little-known holiday honoring all military members in the country. WCW took the opportunity to dishonor them.

The usual crew of crazies lined the sidewalk. All in all a pretty desultory affair.

But wait! Things picked up when a crew of Marines veterans arrived to counter-protest. You can see them off to the right in the picture, holding American flags.

But there were never any fireworks. A significant police presence kept everybody on their best behavior.

Members of the Marines Motorcycle Club surveyed the scene from across the street.

The moronic “tree-sit” at the Memorial Oak Grove above the U.C. Berkeley campus (in which a group of protesters are trying to stop the construction of a new sports training facility by “occupying” the trees on the site) gained notoriety last year when the the tree-sitters threw their urine and feces on police officers trying to remove them.

Well, I was combing through some old photos and found this short series of photos I took at the oak grove on September 22, 2007. Nothing special about that day — just a random day that I happened to find myself passing by the ongoing (and interminable) protest. I never used the photos, and was about to throw them away, when I noticed a couple of details about the photo above. For all the media mentions about the urine-throwing, I’d never seen an actual photograph of the urine in question. Until now, that is.

Here are some close-ups from the same photo. Notice the jugs of piss dangling from the tree.
The weaponized urine — revealed at last!

This “Wishist” (with some futile attempts at orthography: “carribeaners,” “solar pannels,” “spiget,” “penut butter”) ominously contains a request for “funnels.” You can just imagine what they’re for.

Here’s what the tree-sitters’ info table used to look like. A complete mess. (Now, nearly a year later, this part of the sidewalk has been cleared away and permanently blocked off by the police in an attempt to isolate the sitters.)


A parting message.

Injured seal on nude beach

Recently, while at an undisclosed location in northern California, I saw a seal which seemed to be in some kind of distress haul up onto shore and start crawling inland. When I went over to investigate, I saw that the seal had a gaping fresh wound behind its left flipper.

Soon it reached an area where people were sunbathing, and began to attract attention.

But instead of being scared off as seals often are, it stopped to rest directly in front of the sunbathers, as if wanting to join us. I told the other people there that it appeared to be severely injured. A discussion ensued about what to do.

Eventually someone called the park rangers, while the seal turned to give me a pleading look, as if trying to communicate that it had come up onto the beach to seek help from the humans.

But what could I do? I don’t know how to give medical attention to an injured seal. While we waited for the park ranger, the seal eventually seemed to give up hope of rescue by these strange land creatures, and sadly crawled back into the ocean. We never saw it again.

Nothing has ever so epitomized Berkeley’s self-parodying political desolation than the spectacle that presented itself outside the Berkeley Public Library on May 12, 2008.

On that day, the library had announced it was going to celebrate Malcolm X Day (which is a city-wide holiday in Berkeley) with a public reading of The Autobiography of Malcolm X (pdf of the flyer advertising the event here).

Berkeley loves Malcolm X. Not only is his birthday a city holiday, but one of the public schools is named after him. The municipal library is bursting with Malcolm X-related books and videos, and there are posters of him on the walls. You might say he was the city’s patron saint, of a sort.

So everything was geared up for the big day. Librarians were going to take turns reading from his (ghostwritten) autobiography to adoring crowds. The flyer specified all the ways disabled citizens could take advantage of this historic performance (“To request a sign language interpreter, real-time captioning, materials in large print or Braille, or other accommodations for this event, call 510-… or 510-… (TTY). At least 5 working days will help ensure availability. Please do not wear perfume or scents to public performances. Wheelchair accessible.”).

Then reality hit.

I swung by Berkeley to record the festivities, and to my absolute amazement, no one else was in the audience. Not a single person had shown up, aside from the two homeless people seen in the photo above, sitting behind the librarian who was reading the autobiography, but not paying her the slightest attention.

One after the other, librarians came out and took turns reading from the book to an empty audience. (Some, such as the one shown above, were wearing retro hipster sunglasses, to keep in the early-’60s spirit of the event.)

What a pitiful scene. The truth is, the Old Guard of radicals who run Berkeley are stuck in their own dream world of Malcolm X and flower-power and the Vietnam War — and no one cares any more. Life has moved on, but Berkeley’s power-structure hasn’t.

(Yes, this event happened over two months ago, not today; I just finally got around to posting this photo long after the fact.)

WWAGD? (What Would Al Gore Do?)

Spotted at a natural foods store in an undisclosed location in the San Francisco Bay Area:

If you ever had any doubts that Al Gore is now the messianic figure of a Global Warming Religion, this should dispel them.

The message on the bag is not poking fun at Al Gore. It is completely serious.

Update (hat tip: Ringo): Also see Americans for Prosperity Crashes Al Gore’s Speech, July 17, 2008.

Back in March, I posted a short report about a protest against Chinese oppression in Tibet, put on by the large Tibetan community of Berkeley. Well, that ongoing protest is still happening four months later; every week, and sometimes more than once a week, a substantial contingent of Tibetans parade through downtown Berkeley around rush hour, decrying China’s occupation of Tibet.

Code Pink’s ongoing protest in front of Berkeley’s Marine Corps Recruiting Office (actually just one block away from where this picture was taken) gets tons of media attention — as do the tree-sitters trying to save the oak grove above the U.C. Berkeley campus; but this Tibetan protest is actually much larger, much better organized, and is (in my opinion) on a much more important topic than either of those other “standing protests.” And yet, aside from the few mentions on this site, I’ve seen nothing at all about the Berkeley Tibetans in the press.

Today I wrote a large update to a report I originally posted at zombietime a year ago:

Update to the zombietime “Al-Haramain v. Bush Surveillance Hearing” report.

If you’ve never seen this before, click here to start at the beginning.

The Obama Meme: Chapter 1

Yesterday I visited a craft fair in San Francisco. I wasn’t there as “zombie,” or looking for something political to blog about — I was just looking to shop for craft-y arts and accessories.

Luckily, I followed my new rule: Never leave home without a camera.

Because even here, in the most unlikely of places, the Obama Meme cropped up again. It seems there’s no way to avoid it. Amongst the handmade earrings and stuffed animals and trendy silkscreened t-shirts were images of our culture’s new folk icon, Barack Obama.

Unfortunately, I was more than halfway through the fair before I recognized the pattern of Obama imagery around me, so I didn’t photograph many of them. But I did catch a few snapshots of Obama idolatry as I strolled through the remaining booths.

Keep in mind that the craft fair was in no way political, and needless to say I didn’t see any other candidates mentioned or depicted. It’s just that iconic pictures of Obama have already become a standard feature in the fashion world. Is Obama the new Che?

Here’s a handmade greeting card featuring Obama as a Pez dispenser — or, in his case, “Prez” dispenser.

Here’s a hand-printed poster showing Stern Obama, making us feel guilty for our extravagances.

This blurry picture (sorry) shows a poster which optimistically refers to him already as “President Obama.”

Later, apropos of nothing, after I left the fair I noticed this “Commie” disguise in a novelty shop above a sign that said “Ready. Set. Hope.”

Right above it was an “Obama Rama” air freshener. (Note to company that makes this product: Wouldn’t “Obamaroma” have been a much better name?)

Any time I encounter further examples of the emerging “Obama Meme,” I’ll post them here.

UPDATE: The “Chicagoist” site posted this excellent collection of Obama folk designs several months ago. I didn’t realize that Obama meme-spotting was already a well-established sport!
(Thanks to reader Linda L. for finding the link.)

UPDATE #2: The “magpie and cake” crafting blog has another gallery of Obama-themed crafts from earlier this year.
(Thanks to reader Ringo the Gringo for the link.)