Thursday, March 29, 2007

Land of Enchantment

It has been four years since I was in the South West. I forgot how beautiful it is. The auto licenses call this The Land of Enchantment.In Carl Sandberg's children's book, Rootabega Stories, the clouds are called cream puffs. He was talking about the sky over the prairies, but those cream puffs are also over the desert.I am in New Mexico visiting Nancy Holt.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Atlanta Airport

There must be a special terminal at Kennedy and LaGuardia where the military embarks because in four years of traveling I haven't seen such a crowd of soldiers. Maybe it's the surge. The airport was full of sand colored uniforms.I spoke to some, but they didn't want to be filmed. But all of the dozen or so soldiers I spoke said they wanted the US to get out NOW.I remember around the time of the beginning of the war, I did see some troops in Saint Louis. The sight made me really angry. I wanted to shout at them, to kick them, to protest their even being in the military. This time I felt very different. I could only feel total sadness. How cruel to send these guys away from their families and homes. How sad to think of the Iraqis whose lives they have altered (or lost). These soldiers had been there before. Some were on their third or fourth "tour".

From the Food Court to Germany to Baghdad.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Que Puerto Rico!

I'm on the board of the Instructional Telecommunications Foundation. Our group has sister orgs in Portland, the Twin Cities, Chicago and Colorado and we decided to have a meeting of all the groups together. It was hard to convince all the committed and busy folks on these boards to take the time, but having the meeting in Puerto Rico convinced us.We stayed at the Normandie, an art-deco hotel near Old San Juan.Here's the group.At a restaurant called Jibarito in the center of Old San Juan there were two pictures of Don Pedro Albizu Campos on the wall. Years ago I interviewed Conrad Lynn, a civil rights lawyer who defended Albizu Campos when he was tried for conspiracy by the US for advocating Puerto Rican independence. Albizu Campos spent years in prison and his health deteriorated. Many believe he was subjected to radiation experiments, which is consistant with his symptoms and also the sorts of experiments that were going on in the 1950's using prisoners. You can read about the continuing struggle for Puerto Rican autonomy at the Claridad web page. You can also check out the Democracy Now! archive for the segment on Puerto Rico on March 22, 2007. didn't really explore any other parts of Puerto Rico-- just Old San Juan, which is full of contradictions. The streets are paved with blue-glazed bricks and are incredibly beautiful. There was a great museum call Museum of the Americas with an interesting exhibit about native peoples.But the exhibit is sponsored by ATT.Most of the exhibitions are sponsored by corporations.Pancha and I went to a service at the cathedral.There were pigeons flying around inside the cathedral and a dove design on the stained glass window.During the service a homeboy came in and crossed himself at the font and then continued with a bunch of hand signs (gang signals). After the service he stayed on the bench praying intensely.Even the cathedral has a corporate sponsor.The youngest member of our group is Pascal, who at 14 months can navigate a cell phone.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

RIP Bleeker Street Cinema

In the 1960's the Bleeker Street Cinema was the only place you could see alternative films downtown. It was there that I first saw Rules of the Game, Breathless, and Ikiru. It was before VHS machines and Netflics.

Once I even entered the hallowed garret where Lionel Rogosin, the owner of Bleeker Street, had his office. It happened when my friend Julius Lester came back from North Vietnam. He brought me a set of Vietnamese cutouts-- a traditional art form of deft scissor cutting. The US was bombing the North every day. Julius had gone there as part of the Bertram Russell World Tribunal on the war. I thought that maybe I could use the sweet little folk cutouts to show people in NY the humanity of the country we were bombing. So I approached a few art galleries and exhibition spaces. No interest. But I noticed that there were occasionally exhibitions in the lobby of the Bleeker Street Cinema. My friend Leo Dratfield, founder of Contemporary Films and great supporter of alternative media, suggested that I go to Lionel Rogosin. I made my way up the stairs to his top floor office. Huge cans of 35 mm films lined the stairs and were stacked around his office. On the wall was a giant poster of the film Rififi, made by black-listed director Jules Dassin. I recall Rogosin being a blunt but cheery guy. He shuffled through my examples. "Sure", he said. "Good idea. But you gotta figure out how to hang them." So after cutting myself several times finally got them all matted and fixed with dime store hooks to hang. I made a little sign with a short history of the art form and their origin, omitting Julius' name. (He was falsely accused of anti-semitism by the JDL for something he said on WBAI and was quite worried about their vengeance.) The exhibition stayed up for two months until Rogosin called and said I had to take them down because there was an exhibit of Cuban film posters coming.Rogosin's classic film "On the Bowery" is playing this week at Anthology Film Archives.

My other connection with the Bleeker Street building was with the print shop down below street level. My friend Peggy Leo and I printed up a children's art calender for several years during the 60's and early 70's. For the first two years we used a press that was owned by the great pacifist Igal Rudenko. He published many posters and flyers for the peace movment in the cellar of the cinema. I remember there were little windows where you could see the feet of people waiting in line to see the films.

George Stoney gave me one more detail about the Bleeker St. Cinema building: from l972-75 it was the location of the
ALTERNATE MEDIA CENTER where Red Burns and George created the first course of training for students who would
ultimately define the nature and practice of Public Access Cable TV. They also organised the Alliance of Community Media (though for many years it was the National Federation of Local Cable Programmers).

Later the building hosted the first of (now many) Kim's Video, which was the only place you could get vhs copies of the sort of alternative films that Bleeker Street Cinema used to play. For a while there was a rumor that NYU's Center for Media, Culture and History program was hoping to purchase the building and actually raised some money towards that purpose. Although I am usually quite hostile to the prospect of NYU owning even one more inch of Lower Manhattan, the idea of that valuable media program being there at least continued the connection with great cinema of the past.

When I saw that Duane Reade had usurped this historic Village landmark, I cried.

PS I will search my attic for those Vietnamese cutouts and post them here soon.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Drip Drip Drip: It's Spring!

The buckets are out on Sickler Road.For the best book about Maple Syrup check out Scott and Helen Nearings classic.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Sol Maria Gets Perfect Score

My granddaugher Sol Maria Halleck goes to school in Nicaragua. She has always been a dedicated student, both in academics but also in her violin playing. She has been out of touch with us for many years. So long, in fact that I have no idea which person she is in this photograph. It is from the Nicaraguan newspaper, La Prensa. This is the article. I always think of her around this time of year. She was crazy about rabbits and one day she fell in love with a stuffed rabbit at a Ralph's Easter display. I bought it for her and for about ten years that rabbit was her constant companion. She took it everywhere and each night covered it gently next to her in bed. I have dozens, no, probably hundreds of photos of her and that rabbit because any time you took a photo of her, that rabbit, getting gradually more droopy and dirty would be there in her arms. I will post some of the pictures. I hope someday she will get back in touch. Her father and I miss her very very much and don't really understand why she won't speak to us. I wonder if she still loves rabbits. You can see her and her bunny at

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Left Forlorn

This weekend I set up a table at the Left Forum. It has been a tradition since my daughter Molly was five or six and used to run around with Nadja Miller-Larsen urging people (it was then called the Socialists Scholars Conference) to buy a Paper Tiger tape. The annual conference has been an important way to connect with people to be interviewed for our programs or professors who might have budgets which enable their schools or libraries to purchase programs. Those "institutional sales" have been an important "income stream" for both Paper Tiger and Deep Dish. Mara from Paper Tiger and Brian from Deep Dish helped set the monitor and tapes up, but it is a lot of schlepping. Yesterday we took in around $300--which is what the table costs. But the best thing is connecting with the crowd. Many people at the conference appreciate the work of both Paper Tiger and Deep Dish and have used our programs for years in their classes and organizations. There were many old friends. This is Victor Wallis and Hobart Spaulding at the Socialism and Democracy table. times between panels the tables had many visiters. But our slot was in a corner off the beaten track, so we didn't get much traffic.Johanna Lawrenson and Danny Schecter stopped by. Johanna was Abby Hoffman's "running partner" and is the guardian of the enormous archive which he left. Danny is the "media dissector" and author of the first blog I ever read. It took me about five years to catch up and do a blog of my own. One of the specials Paper Tiger is offering is "Gone But Not Forgotten", a DVD with four Paper Tiger programs of great leftists of the past. I realized looking at the list of Paper Tiger shows that many of the "readers' have passed on. So a celebratory DVD is one way to pay tribute to their memory. This is Conrad Lynn, who made a program about the magazine Commentary in 1983.The only panel I had time to attend was one which was billed as a tribute to Brad Will. I'm sure that Brad Will would never have sat through that panel. Not that the people weren't saying anything interesting. It's just that the whole format of the conference lacks the sort of poetry, spontaneity, energy and action that he embodied. Kat's blog has a piece on it: There are certain people, and Brad is one, Abby Hoffman is another, and even Conrad Lynn, whose loss makes those of us who remain realize our need to break the strictures of conformity which bind even a "Left Forum".

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Letter (M) to Iwo Jima

from Rolf, via Geert

Monday, March 05, 2007

We Are Many

The Danish "Youth House" was demolished today. This historic building was once a forum for Lenin.
Video of police brutality against demonstrators is at

The following text is from a comment on
This weekend we have proven once and for all, that we are not a marginalized subculture, but a large, and growing, group of young people. When people riot on a scale like this weekend, it is proof that something is totally wrong. In a democratic country, all the alarms should be ringing, when you send in the whole police force to fight down a social and cultural uprising. But a social and cultural uprising can take on many forms. One thing is burning cars, something else is taking the fight into our everyday lives.
Now it is Monday morning. And the weekdays are back. The kind of weekdays where you go to work and school, shop for dinner and take the bus. And maybe doubt is beginning to kick in. Will the system get the last word, if you get up this morning, and drink your coffee and go to work as usual? The capitalist society has got us by the throat, but we have shown them that it doesn’t have to be like that.
When doubt sticks its head out, that is when we have to learn form it. It is there for obvious reasons. Our friends have been unjustly imprisoned in huge numbers. We have been poisoned with gas, beaten with clubs, and had our homes raided. It’s all right to be afraid. But can we continue our lives like nothing happened? NO! Cause this Monday is not like the others. The creativity and energy that has been released can be used to keep the struggle going, and we are the ones who will decide how to carry on the fight. We will keep on coming back again and again. Time after time we break the systems frames of perception. We will keep on doing the unexplainable and selfexplanatory things. The unexpected and unpredictable. We want everything.
We took a big step and showed how important this social and cultural struggle is. A struggle where so many will risk so much to get the attention of the world around them. But the struggle for more free spaces, where we can show our resistance against a tendency of normalization that only wishes to make people more effective, docile and obedient, must be fought in the schools, at work and on the social security office.
The energy we exhibited in the weekend, is the core in a society, the holds more than cafe latte, nuclear families and pension funds. Its about much more than a house. Its about our lives and the future, about how society as a whole should develop.
We have drawn the eyes of the world to a fight, that is fought everywhere. We have created history, and history will not be forgotten in one day. Even though today is Monday, the struggle continues. Don’t push away the daily routine like it can’t be changed. Use it. Tell your fellow students and colleagues about our struggle. Remember that we are many.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Something's Rotten in Denmark (SWAT AMOK?)

Photo from
The swat teams surrounded the youth house and started pouring in tear gas, using fire hoses. Combat troops were lowered from helicopters. In reaction for the past four days there have been street battles in Copenhagen as young people react to these repressive moves and the closing of a vital community center. The following text from indymedia Denmark explains the history:
"The house was GIVEN to the autonomous scene in KPH in 1982, if they in return would give up some places that were squatted at the time, and they did, the anarchists kept their end of the bargain. It was the council that broke this deal, and not only did they come clean about it, no, they tried to sell the house (that WASN'T theirs!) behind the backs of the people that rightfully inhibited the place. And so they did, to Faderhuset, a fundamentalist Christian cult that has been noted to have strong racist (anti-Muslim) tendencies! How's that for getting slapped in the face? .......

"How do you expect people to react when they've been continually marginalized, criminalized, spat on and shoved aside? Because that's exactly what the city council of KPH did. What they basically said was "we don't want you here, we don't give a fuck about who you are, what you stand for and what you're fighting for" and to let you feel this, we'll sell your building. Your ONE building where you have put all your time, energy and enthousiasm in, the ONE place where you can be yourself and get the bands to play that you like, get the (vegan) food that you can afford and can do whatever you feel like doing. Look, not everyone is interested in going to disco's and listening to shitty R 'n B! Not everyone is happy living in a city that is being homogenized into a shopping centre for dumb yuppies with too much money to spend!! And Ungdomshuset provided a place for those people, whether you like them or not, and now they're angry. Gosh, I wonder why..." ...from a comment posted on indymedia

And this from
"This morning at 7:00 AM the anti-terror squad landed on the roof of the "Ungdomshuset" via helicopters, while later in the day activists from all over Copenhagen rushed to protest the eviction of "Ungdomshuset", they were met by aggressive policemen in riot gear blocking the street arresting suspected troublemakers with many resulting injuries. The demonstrators fought back and tried to reclaim the "Ungdomshuset", but were repelled and activists took to the nearby streets and started building barricades, while engaging police in skirmishes.

"The neighbourhoods has been entirely shut down by local residents and activists: actions and demonstrations have taken place all over Copenhagen with more planned for the following days and weeks. While sympathisers from all over Europe have been rushing in, although police are attempting to detain suspected activists at the borders. Furthermore solidarity demonstrations are under way in Germany, Norway and Sweden.

"The house has functioned as a political and cultural centre, home to political demonstrations, political debates, concerts and many more cultural events since 1982. It has served as a basis-democratic remainder that 'another world is possible' until this morning. The actions of solidarity taking place all over Europe, as well as Russia and Australia are greatly appreciated. Please join in and support the struggle for autonomous commons and the resistance against the neoliberal repression. The homepage of "Ungdomshuset" has been shot down but a mirror has been set up (in English). "


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Eclipse March 3

From the backyard through the trees.