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Young Geoffrey

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My tweets [Aug. 23rd, 2014|12:02 pm]
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My tweets [Aug. 22nd, 2014|12:02 pm]
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My tweets [Aug. 21st, 2014|12:02 pm]
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My tweets [Aug. 20th, 2014|12:03 pm]
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[Repost] Frog, meet boiling water [Aug. 19th, 2014|02:31 pm]
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The following is from the Livejournal blogger Sabotabby, one of the best political minds I know. Their thesis is not a happy one, but because of that, is even more worth reading and thinking about that it otherwise would be. Originally posted by Sabotabby at Frog, meet boiling water

While you're at it, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (yes, that Abdul-Jabbar) has written a powerful piece on how Ferguson is less about race and racism than it is about class war. Possibly a little more hopeful than the below, but equally frightening.

People shocked by Ferguson—and a lot of good, intelligent people are—and by the militarization of thuggish local police appear, to my jaded eyes, to lack a certain historical perspective.

There was a blip in North American history, lasting less, I think, than a century, where this sort of atrocity outraged the general population for any length of time. The Lawrence Textile Strike and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire were horrible but up until the Reagan-Thatcher era, that violence begat basic protections for workers. The war in Vietnam, the first televised war, meant that the US had to tread a bit more carefully internationally. But essentially the armed wing of the state has been beating on marginalized and, in particular, racialized populations, regardless—and this is important, would-be pacifists—of whether they resist or not or resort to violence or not, as long as it's been in existence, to a chorus of shrugs and sighs from those too privileged to be directly affected.

Ferguson dominates the media cycle at the moment, not because it is radically different in content from similar crackdowns in the past, but because it is the first of a thing. The first time many people have seen the active deployment of police outfitted with military gear. (Unless you've been at a protest in the past twenty years. Or you're not white.) The first time it's not just televised, but livestreamed, tweeted, reblogged. The first time people have been able to hold out long enough without being crushed to get it into the news cycle. Among the first times the citizen media has been able to loudly counter the mainstream narrative. But beyond the technological angle, it's not shocking or surprising or any sort of historical aberration; if anything, the aberration is the aforementioned few decades where speaking truth to power actually had an effect.

The next time this happens, the militarized police response, the almost inevitable murder of demonstrators, will be routine. That's how it works. That's why it's happening now, unfolding in the way it is; to pave the way for the new normal. So that next time we can just sigh and remember that getting outraged didn't work last time so why bother now? That's just how things are.

The other day on the radio, I was listening to an interview with Ken Jarecke, the photographer who, in 1991, took a picture of an incinerated Iraqi soldier just before the Gulf War ceasefire (this is the photo, if you need to see it; here is an interview—with the man's face blurred out—about the photo's significance). The photo was suppressed in the North American press; at the time, the trend in news reporting was to sanitize the war, to make it look like there were really no casualties at all on either side. I was 12 in 1991; I knew what war was, that obviously people were dying, but the essential truth of it, the genuine outrage and the horrific human cost, didn't hit me until several years later, when I came across that photo. Nowadays, such images are commonplace, and Jarecke was speaking about how photos of dead bodies from war zones had completely lost their power to shock. I think he's mostly right; the photos of dead kids in Syria and Gaza splashed all over my Facebook feed have never changed a single person's mind on the issues at hand. In 1991, the AP felt the need to suppress that photo for no reason I can see other than that it might make people question the war, might make them not go along so readily with the next one, might—and this would have been the worst thing—recognize the humanity of the enemy. It had power, back then. Now, we understand that the Other is human, suffers horribly as the result of our actions, and we don't give a fuck.

We are able to briefly give a fuck about Ferguson because it still has the power to shock—this time, and not completely; open racism is socially acceptable again in the US, and so the KKK can raise money to smear the reputation of the murdered child in question. When it happens again—and make no mistake, Ferguson is the future of policing—we will all understand the collective truth that this is the way it always happens, the way it's always been done.

This entry was originally posted at http://ed-rex.dreamwidth.org/263807.html. Comment there using OpenID, or here as per normal.

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My tweets [Aug. 19th, 2014|12:02 pm]
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My tweets [Aug. 18th, 2014|12:03 pm]
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My tweets [Aug. 17th, 2014|12:02 pm]
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Group-think, Michael Brown and Mansplaining [Aug. 17th, 2014|04:46 am]
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Some brief thoughts on Michael Brown
Mansplaining, group-think and the need
To my big mouth shut while on duty

Sweet Jesus. Having to keep quiet while two (white, male) pilots mansplain the Micheal Brown killing and subsequent riots to their (black, female) flight attendant was 20 minutes of psychological torture for an opinionated Young Geoffrey.

Horribly fascinating, though, to learn that even the flight attendant mostly accepted the dominant media narrative.

That Michael Brown DID jostle people and steal the cigars. That the riots were ONLY riots.

No mention of peaceful protests. Police over-reaction only admitted in reference to press being tear-gassed and in context that everyone (whatever gender, colour, creed) would be wise to shut up and obey when confronted by cops. Couldn't help but think of comments about what rape-victim was wearing.

The flight attendant did, tentatively, hint at systemic issues but agreed that, of course, no one knew exactly what had happened in this case. (But again, all three believed that Brown stole the cigars. No one asked why that 'fact' only came out yesterday.)

Customer service can be another kind of hell. But not nearly the hell that must exist in the hearts and minds of the people of Ferguson, Missouri.

This entry was originally posted at http://ed-rex.dreamwidth.org/263651.html. Comment there using OpenID, or here as per normal.

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I really did leave my heart in San Francisco [Aug. 17th, 2014|03:34 am]
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Miracle by the Bay

(In which Young Geoffrey walks all over paradise and finds it Good)

Image: El Capitan Hotel, Mission District, San Francisco. Barred front door.
Portal to paradise? Not quite, the Mission District is not nearly as scary as it looks.

San Francisco is a magnificent folly of a city, a surrealist's vision or child's dream, but always humane and always on a human scale.

Fresh from a stay in LA, where it can seem as if you need to hop in your car just to brush your teeth, in San Francisco, we walked, Raven and I. We walked and we walked and we walked. From the barred gates of our hotel, exiting upon the dirty but not-quite slum-like Mission District, down to the old port and the glittering, tourist-infested Fisherman's Wharf. Up hills and down, through Chinatown and along Columbus. And always, I found myself gaping in delighted surprise, laughing and shouting for joy, boring poor Raven with variations on the phrases, I love this city! and This is so beautiful.

My pleasure was as a child's at Christmas, as a teenager's when the object of their desire says yes.

How could I not call out that I was in love with with this extraordinary assembly of construct and landscape?

Look on my landscapes, ye builders, and despair!

Image: Map of San Francisco via SFGate.com</a>
A map of San Francisco, screenshot from SFGate.com. The horizontal line near the bottom of the square white box gives the scale: 1 mile/1.61 km.

If you've never been, there are two key features of geography that define — that bind and constrain, and so, liberate — San Francisco.

First, it is a small peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides. Like the Montreal, or any island city, there are practical limits to its physical size. Although the city proper only boasts a population of around 800,000 people, it is the second densest city in the United States; further significant growth would require paving over its parks or building a lot more high-rise condos than it has now.

Second, that small geographical area is extremely three-dimensional. More than fifty sudden and steep hills dot the peninsula, like a perverse god's challenge to human ingenuity. Look on my landscapes, ye builders, and despair!

Seriously, the city's geography is crazed, a madwoman's sketch of a potential city-scape or a stoned teenager's impossible dungeon, designed to test his buddies to destruction. No rational planner would look at that landscape and muse that — why yes! — here is an ideal place to build a city! Never, no matter how fabulous a natural harbour lay upon its shore.

And yet, there the city is, in all its audacious and rugged glory ...

Geography rules . . .

When I say we walked, I mean we hiked. No few of those streets have grades of more than 25 percent! Some are well over 30. If you haven't walked such roads, that means steep! Driving, you can't see beyond your car's hood when you crest a hill, or start to nose down one.

And then there's fucking Lombard Street.

If you didn't really look at the photo above, stop reading and look again. Really look at it. Those are cars making their way down among the bushes and flowers (except for the grey Volvo, midway down on the left. That's just parked. Presumably in front of its owner's house). And it's every bit as steep as it looks. So take a minute to have another look.

Done? Okay, onwards ...

When I first saw that stretch of so-called road above, I scoffed. Truth is, when Raven insisted we walk it, I did so reluctantly, complaining that we were just walking into the ultimate tourist trap, like every other gawking yokel in that never-ending crowd around us.

And maybe we were.

Image: The author trudges up a stretch of Lombard Street.
The author trudges up a stretch of Lombard Street.

But if this stretch, which a convenient historical plaque says is "known as the 'Crookedest Street' in the world" (strangely, hedging its bet), is a tourist trap, then at least it is a tourist trap in which people live (and park!).

And, as Raven managed finally to show me, despite my loutish refusals to see the beauty right before me, lest some local take me for a rube (and kudos to her for putting down my snobbish pre-conceptions), if it is a tourist trap, so what?

It is still gorgeous, it is still real, the view is awesome and it takes a lot of work to walk to the top of it.

With all with its deliberate switchbacks and its ostentatious flower-beds, Lombard Street might be extreme, it might even be the joke I first thought it was but, if so, it is a humane joke, because it only demonstrates by exaggeration the extreme landscape on which this city was built.

. . . If we're willing</em>

Despite the roller-coaster terrain, San Francisco is laid out on a pretty standard urban grid. (More precisely, it is built upon several discrete grid systems, cut through with a few, seemingly random, diagonal roads to make things even more confusing.) Cross-streets are everywhere, even on the steepest hills.

Lombard Street notwithstanding, most of those streets — whether North/South or East West — mostly ignore the hills and just carry on. When you're driving and you can't see what's beyond the hood of your car, you go slow, that's all.

Image: View from a car: A street in San Francisco</a>
View from a car: A street in San Francisco.

A planned city — a rational city — would have shaved the hilltops flat and filled the valleys with the rubble.

But San Francisco's houses and apartments, its shops and restaurants, they all rise and fall like the jagged risers of an escalator, up and down, up and down. (As Raven pointed out, this is a hard city for the disabled or the elderly.)

Or, a rational city would have reserved the hilltops for the rich, and maybe a park or two; for being admired, instead of to be lived upon and with. San Francisco chose instead to (not so) simply, build its streets and buildings up (and down) those steep slopes.

And in that acceptance of place lies the foundation of San Francisco's beauty, an seemingly Zen-like willingness to take the world as it is, to work within its limits, rather than the hubris that insists on altering the bones of the earth to suit our own short-term interests.

San Francisco is bat-shit crazy, but that is what makes it such a jewel, such a human environment, no matter that it is built of concrete and stone, of brick and of steel. After all, we are a building animal.

What a joy to witness — and to encounter, for whoever short a time — such a living example of the power of the human imagination when its focus is on living, not domination.

When I wasn't laughing during all that walking, I was sometimes fighting back tears. Love has a way of doing that to a man, too. And I fell hard for the city by the bay.

This entry was originally posted at http://ed-rex.dreamwidth.org/263197.html. Comment there using OpenID, or here as per normal.

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My tweets [Aug. 16th, 2014|12:02 pm]
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My tweets [Aug. 15th, 2014|12:03 pm]
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My tweets [Aug. 14th, 2014|12:03 pm]
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My tweets [Aug. 13th, 2014|12:02 pm]
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My tweets [Aug. 12th, 2014|12:03 pm]
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My tweets [Aug. 11th, 2014|12:02 pm]
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My tweets [Aug. 10th, 2014|12:02 pm]
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  • Sat, 13:04: Young Geoffrey no more? Found while organizing my desk ... http://t.co/GDlPcwdfPM
  • Sat, 23:52: First, I get a seniors' discount for a bag of milk, then my balding is pate stung by a wasp at my own kitchen door. Cheers to Old Age.
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My tweets [Aug. 9th, 2014|12:02 pm]
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My tweets [Aug. 8th, 2014|12:03 pm]
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My tweets [Aug. 7th, 2014|12:02 pm]
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