Thursday, March 17, 2005

Censorship in River City, and a career change for the Red?

Alright, so this is a story that the Red is still piecing together, but one with disturbing implications for a city that is still establishing itself as a regional center for the arts. John Daniel, who many of you may know as a local actor and artist, was scheduled to open a show at local coffee shop Prima Tazza, which has recently hosted great shows by the likes of Michael Moore, Leland Strebeck, Joanna Taggert and others. During my brief time back in Shreveport, I've only known John as a social acquaintance, not an artist, so I was looking forward to seeing the provocatively-titled "Cosby Sweater Collection" show.
However, I received an email from John just a couple of days ago that the show was pulled by the owner of Prima Tazza removed the show on the first day because of the political content of four of the pieces. According to John, the art was not cleared and there were no guidelines stated beforehand, implying, to this bystander at least, that the owner was accepting the work sight unseen. Therefore, it seems like a clearcut case of censorship, and John Daniel seems like the wronged party.
Where do we go from here, Shreveport? John says he will make the images available online, but it seems to this rabble-rouser that we in the engaged arts community need to put our noggins together and find another place to hang this show. We also need to voice our displeasure to Prima Tazza (I'll try to do so tomorrow) and make sure they know we will not tolerate such actions in our community. If businesses are going to make the commitment to display art, they need to accept the responsibility of evaluating it beforehand, or suck it up, grit your teeth for a month, and learn from your, your mistake. Let's see where this goes.

Finally, the Red River Red, America's Greatest Living Public Intellectual, might be looking at a dramatic career change soon. No, I haven't been offered the job yet, there's has been no press speculation about such a offering, and those making the decision might, possibly, think the Red lacks the proper credentials and experience. Nevertheless, it still seems only a matter of time before the Red River Red is offered the presidency of the World Bank. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, the disseminator of many of the most outrageous lies used to justify the invasion of Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi's bagman, the man who defecated in his pants when an insurgent mortar round almost got him in Iraq (I'm not kidding, he really did), a man utterly morally unqualified to be overseeing the deployment of U.S. troops, is opposed by every decent and intelligent person in the developing and overdeveloped world. As with social security strangulation (I mean privatization), Bush is overreaching, but this time with an issue that other countries have a say in. Since the U.S. typically gets to choose the World Bank head, they'll be looking for an under-the-radar choice to try to kill the bad press after Wolfowitz is rejected out of hand. America's Greatest Living Public Intellectual is an obvious choice, particularly after the electrifying lectures I delivered in December on "Corporate Globalization and the American Century" to my parents' Sunday School class at First Methodist Church. Remember, you heard it here first.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Well, the snake oil salesman in chief of the American Empire has come and gone, and somewhere around 150 engaged Shreveport citizens joined the Red River Red and his wife for a lively and very fun protest on the grounds of Centenary College.
About 15 of us joined together at Columbia Park just before noon on Friday, signs painted, flags flying, to march together to the protest zone. 82 year-old Elizabeth, who lives in the Red's neighborhood, was the first to join me, moving with the pace of someone half her age, reminding this awed activist for all the world of Doris Haddock, probably known to some of you as Granny D, the New Hampshire campaign finance reform advocate who walked across the country a few years ago, at the age of 93 (if I'm not mistaken), to call attention to the issue. Not content to rest on those laurels, she ran for U.S. Senate last year as the Democratic nominee, losing to a bland but apparently popular incumbent. Elizabeth claimed this was her first political action, beyond raising six children who hate Bush (an accomplishment in and of itself, to this parent of one), but I think there's no end to the hell she could raise in the next 10-15 years. Our next mayor, anyone?
Columbia Park to Centenary wasn't exactly a long hike, but it was quite successful, nevertheless. The anticipation of a protest can build up a lot of nervous energy, and the act of walking even a few blocks is good for centering oneself, focussing on the task at hand, and getting to know one's fellow citizens better. Of my 14 compatriots, I think I knew three of them before the whole organizing of this business got under way, so I can thank the Texas Death Yuppie for providing the impetus for meeting fellow Shreveporters with the inclination toward progressive politics. The weather was beautiful, and we moved on without much fanfare.
As we covered the few blocks on the very visible King's Highway, we received several supportive honks, waves, thumbs up and peace signs. Of course, this isn't supposed to happen in conservative, Barksdale-dominated, Baptist-church-on-every-corner Shreveport. Then again, we had two Air Force veterans among the dozen or so organizers of our march, plus a healthy contingent of God- and Goddess-embracing Unitarians. We should never be fooled into thinking this idiot is more popular than he really is, and we should also remember that the extremism of this administration is probably fueled as much by desperation as anything else, as they try to consolidate their power as much as they can just on this side of martial law, throwing out bread and circuses (tax cuts, low gas prices subsidized by military force, "protecting marriage," "saving" Social Security, "fighting terror") as fast as they can.
We reached the protest zone at Centenary by about 12:30, joining our fellow citizens, many of them students and faculty from the college, on the lawn in front of one of the residence halls. There was also a smaller contingent of Bush supporters, waving their mass-produced "Save Social Security" signs, looking like a well-scrubbed glee club next to our scrappy band of merry dissidents with hand-painted signs.
Some enterprising group of artists set up an installation on the lawn, with over 1500 tiny crosses symbolizing the American soldiers killed in Bush's folly. It was a constant, sobering reminder of why we were there, protesting a president who would never see us that day, who doesn't dare show his face in a spontaneous environment of any kind, with his puppet masters always afraid that the millions who have already seen behind the curtain will finally reach the critical mass needed to impeach the son of a bitch and hopefully put him on trial before the helicopter leaves the White House pad to take him into exile, Rumsfeld and Rice clinging onto the bottom.
Of course, such a moment is a long way away, my friends, but remember this. A friend of mine who was instrumental in organizing this protest told me the last time Bush came to town, three years ago, there were three people protesting. Three years later, 150. Tell you what, George, don't wait so long before the next visit. We've got midterm elections in a year and a half, and a visit from you would probably be just the thing to get our e-mail and phone lists and house parties on a solid footing. Come on, George, make our day.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Hello, friends. The Red River Red has been hellaciously busy the past couple of days doing his part to make sure our fair city prepares an appropriate welcome for the leader of the (still, but barely hanging on by our fighting fingernails) Free World.
We had a setback today, in that the use of Columbia Park, in close proximity to the Bush speech (don't forget to wear the wire you had for presidential debate, you fucking cheater) for an event requires a permit which must be applied for 45 days in advance. I'm sure that that ordinance was put in place precisely to prevent short notice exercises of free speech like the one we had planned, but the Red isn't getting discouraged, and neither should you.
I was told that marching on the sidewalk on Kings Highway would not present any problems. So we just have to figure out where we're marching from. There have been some ideas thrown around, & I believe we'll be fine by Thursday night at 6:00 when we'll have a final meeting, again at our house. You're all invited, of course, just get in touch through a post or email.
Given the short notice and secrecy surrounding the visit (especially compared to the transparency and enthusiasm of the protest), we'll be very dependent on word of mouth, email & phones to make or break us. I spoke to all the relevant people about press releases, & will probably get something out tomorrow, vague thought it will be.I spent a lot of time on the phone today, so the message is getting out there and people are excited. Our numbers won't necessarily be large, but we're laying the groundwork for some ongoing progressive political activity in our sleepy hamlet. Peace to all y'all, sisters and brothers.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Preparing to Meet Lord Vader

For the next few days, this space will be taken up by updates on the march and demonstration taking place Friday, March 11, when the current overseer of the empire, Resident Bush, comes to Shreveport to try to sell his Social Security strangulation (I mean privatization) plan. A group of engaged citizens met at the Red River Red's house this evening and began planning for the big day. Here's where we're at:
There is no firm time for the event yet, to take place at Centenary College's Gold Dome. I'm fairly sure we won't get a firm time for a couple of more days. But we will begin gathering at Columbia Park two hours before that time. Columbia Park is between Creswell and Line, just a couple of blocks north of East King's Highway. It's a short walk from the Gold Dome, but should still be outside the zone of greatest security. One hour before the event, we will march along King's, as close to the event as possible. It's possible we'll have a base of operations close to Centenary to rally, play music, do theater and the like. These details are being worked out, but signs, musical instruments and bikes are definitely encouraged. Flyers will be printed, press releases are being prepared for newspapers and radio, phone calls and emails are being prepared, and there is a place for you somewhere in all this.
You can contact the Red at mpbookfreak@hotmail.com or keep watching this space. You are not alone. Come join us and let the imperial overlord know that this will not stand. Power to the people, y'all.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Invasion of the Texas Death Yuppie

Well, it was bound to happen, I just didn't think it would be this soon and with this much firepower. It was inevitable that this corrupt, venal, weasely administration would come after the Red River Red, America's Greatest Living Public Intellectual. You can't speak the truth for all these weeks as the Red has been doing here without attracting attention. I just figured some FBI goons would come for a visit, muttering about homeland security and Guantanamo Bay and good Germans and the like. Maybe John Ashcroft himself, he must have a lot of time on his hands.
But no, citizens. Emperor George himself is coming to our city, to our very own Centenary College, to try to strike fear into our hearts. He is scheduled to be here Friday, March 11, futher details forthcoming. And, most importantly, he is obviously coming to try to silence the voice you're reading now, a voice as American as baseball (no steroids, artificial turf, DH, or failed oil businessman owners, please), apple pie (organic, please, with some Ben & Jerry's on top, and don't forgot to recycle the carton) and Mom (or Moms, if we're brave enough to embrace future trailblazed by Melissa Etheridge and Spongebob).
But gee, Red, I can hear you saying, he's been traveling around a lot (Bush, not Spongebob)pushing his Social Security strangulation, I mean privatization, plan, it's not that unusual that he would come to Shreveport, is it? True, true, all of it, but you're trying to tell the Red River Red, with all the deductive skills befitting America's Greatest Living Public Intellectual, that it's mere coincidence that this visit comes just weeks after the commencement of this blogging endeavor, and it's just coincidence that His Royal Highass will be speaking at a location only blocks from the Red's own residence? No, this is all too obviously a carefully calculated plot to intimidate the truthtelling of the Red River Red.
But the Red will not be intimidated, brothers and sisters. On the contrary, I am this very evening sending out a call to all the enlightened citizens I know, inviting them to a meeting at my house in three days' time to discuss our peaceful, nonconfrontational, witty, creative response to this invasion of our comunity. If you do not receive an invitation, it is a gross oversight on the part of the Red, and you should post a response to this with some contact info. Ms. Red, little Red and I will be gone for part of the weekend on r&r, but I will respond as promptly as possible.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Tinseltown Tribulations

So the wife and I went out to our local corporate megaplex to se Sideways the other night. It was a very good movie, I thought, not transcendent or anything, anchored by another solid performance by Paul Giammatti, whose character seemed pretty similar to his Harvey Pekar in the much superior American Splendor. That said, the overall moviegoing experience was awful, given the long lines (first to purchase tickets, then at the concession stand), then the generic little box theater we were relegated to. How in the hell did Shreveport, which has some pretty cool things going for it compared to when I last lived here 18 years ago, end up with exactly one movie theater, showing mostly corporate blockbuster fare geared to the teenagers and young adults we were surrounded by, including the two who unsuccessfully attempted to cut in line in front of us?
Movies, at their best, are an important part of our discourse as a nation and world. If enough Democrats had had the guts to nominate a street fighter like Dennis Kucinich or Howard Dean for president in last year's primaries, the grassroots popularity of Fahrenheit 911 would have achieved similar synergy to that between Abraham Lincoln and Uncle Tom's Cabin, and we might be talking about Bush's trial date right now. Instead, Kerry distanced himself from Michael Moore, in order to cultivate the votes of... I don't know, Bill O'Reilly? Sean Hannity? Ann Coulter?
When the parameters of discourse are strictly limited, such as the case of a city of Shreveport's size having one movie theater, we all suffer. Fortunately, we have David Nelson and minicine bringing indigenous and travelling exhibits of experimental films, and the Centenary Film Society and the Chris Jay-facilitated Louisiana Film Center's film club (also meeting at Centenary) filling in the gaps with showings of independent films and classics. Film buffs of the world unite, we have nothing to lose but the chains!