Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Berkeley versus the World

I had lunch today in berkeley at a downtown thai-vegetarian spot. The food was okay and as I was talking to my friend I remembered why I dislike Berkeley so much, it is boring without a night life and most of all it has pretensions to be a garden city (The sustainable city here)

The idea that you can green your city is a preposterous one and ignores what a city is; a vast landscape of concrete. The buildings, the roads, the infrastructure of modern cities are cemented into the ground. By introducing trees, plants play pyschosocial roles, as stand-ins for natures.

"Simultaneously evocative of the raw, dark power of forests and the generous perfection of the Garden of Eden, trees symbolize man's uncomfortable relationship to the natural world. But this is an inversion of the natural order. Wild nature, or what may be left of it, seems all but removed from collective experience. Instead our cities become dioramas, providing us with the safe experience of, and carefully pruned effects of, nature in episodic demonstrations and specimens."
The Infrastructural City (I'm part of an online reading group. The latest chapter on trees can be looked at here.)

The greenery of Berkeley gives the residents the illusion that nature is still with us. Obviously there are benefits to having trees in modern urban environments; "A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 pounds/year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support two human beings. In one year an acre of trees can absorb as much carbon as is produced by a car driven 8,700 miles, roughly the same number of miles that an average driver in California drives every year." (Infrastructural city)

Yet despite the pyschological, and environmental benefits of trees in urban landscapes I can't help but feel as if its a big facade. Cities are not environmentally sound, we look at any city and see the slow suck on nature; Vegas and LA's constant need for water are good examples. I don't think that you can have ecologically sound cities in the same way that you can't have working green capitalism.

Furthermore there is nothing "natural" left, the urban sphere of society now borders every wild preserve touching it with its civilization. The majority of earth's inhabitants now live in urbanized areas now. The city is everywhere.

That said I like the blight of industry, I realize that it is unsound, violent, not "sustainable" and creates ugly angry people. I think there is a raw honesty in the landscape of the city desert that is West Oakland. I'd rather the thugs of west oakland to the bland hippies of berkeley.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Like a Natural Woman

As much as the portrayal of gender diversity has been provocatively acknowledged by Thai audiences, Teerawat Thongmitr of Shade of Divas ladyboy troupe still hope for changes for the better, and more doors of opportunity becoming available for transgenderists.


"While male and female actors are commonly cast as different characters in showbiz, when it comes to transgender or transvestite roles, not many producers care to cast the actors. They usually just take the same old actors, let alone adopt scripts that would break the stereotypes involved with the issue," said outspoken transgenderist Teerawat, who prefers to be addressed as Tina.

At the end of last year, while performing a small showcase with her friends in Udon Thani, Tina began to take such thoughts more seriously, and the result was the birth of talented ladyboy group Shade of Divas.

Comprised of members with different career backgrounds - emcee, fashion stylist, former ladyboy band member - as the leader of the group, Tina explained that the idea of the project was also ignited by the fact that she found great talent among her friends, and uniting as a group could possibly gain the attention of others and offer them a chance at success.

"Most people have had very little contact with transgenderists or transvestites, and they usually assume that katoey work only as make-up artists or cabaret performers," she said. "But, actually we exist in various corners of society. Every year, many of us graduate with good degrees or possess great talent, but there are only limited careers available to pursue," said Tina, who received a degree in Fine Art and works as a graphic designer.

Amatya ‘Lukpad’ Chaiyakam

"We hope to create a group or an agency for transvestites and transgender women. For those film or television producers out there, if you are looking for a 'unique' katoey character, you know where to go now," said Tina, laughing.

On top of their full-time responsibilities, members of Shade of Divas have continuously been bombarded with offers for gigs, from modelling to dance shows. According to Tina, for such a new and small project, the feedback has been beyond expectations. Earlier this month, Tina fulfilled her dream by impersonating her admired diva Christina Aguilera as part of a promotional campaign in Thailand for the star's new album. But her most coveted offer came when German theatre director Nir de Volff was in Thailand to stage his debut physical theatre at Patravadi theatre early this year.

"Together with some friends from Shade of Divas, I attended the auditions for the show," said Tina. "Luckily, I was offered the chance. The experience of being part of the show was amazing."

Entitled Ministry of Truth, the performance was inspired by the famous reality show Big Brother, and has gained rave reviews and filled audiences. Tina was allowed to be herself and offered her ideas in order to develop the script with the other performers.

"The show centred around a mixed group of Thais and foreigners who shared days and nights together in a house, with one to emerge as the winner. My role was to express my thoughts on being a transgender woman. I found it fascinating for a show to dig deeper in the issue of gender, going far beyond the usual portrayal of ladyboys. As my first professional acting role, it was a great challenge, but I was so glad to be part of it," said Tina.

Teerawat ‘Tina’ Thongmitr performs in the theatre production, ‘Ministry of Truth’.

"More importantly, while working on the show, I learned to appreciate foreigners in the way respect you for who you are, regardless of your gender. If you have good ideas to share, they will listen to you," she added, noting that although Thai society is amazingly open about issues of gender, there is still a gap in equality to be filled.

"Working as a graphic designer, there have been a few cases where clients seemed to have liked my ideas, only to change their minds when they learned of my sexuality," said Tina.

After the groundbreaking success of the performance in Bangkok, Tina and other cast members of the Ministry of Truth travelled to Berlin last week as the show was commissioned to stage under its new title, On Air, at Tape Pub and Gallery, with the premiere scheduled for Friday.

"I feel lucky to have been given the chance to go to Berlin, I will see if any opportunities arise out of the Shade of Diva performances," she said.

At the photoshoot, Tina introduced 'Outlook' to the magnetic members of the group. An owner of flawless skin, a petite body and a little voice, Amatya "Lukpad" Chaiyakam, who is rather hard to imagine as a boy, was the first to share her story.

"When Tina told me about the Shade of Divas project, I thought it was a great idea to be able to work with our friends and start a strong community among transgenderists and transvestites," said Amatya, who was crowned the first runner-up at Miss Alcazar in 2005 and the winner of Miss Alcazar Lip-sync Contest 2008, marking her name among the top transgenderists in showbiz today.

Tay ‘Taya’ Peeraya, known as Cool Venus during her days with Thailand’s first ladyboy group Venus Flytrap.

Born to a Chinese family with a father who once served as a soldier, Amatya has been through a tough time fighting for her identity.

"My family runs an elephant show in Pattaya and when I was a little boy I helped my family business by riding an elephant and being a tour guide for foreign tourists. I was really good at it and, at that time, my parents thought I was going to be the one to continue the business in the future," recalled Amatya.

"It was very difficult at first. I began wearing make-up during junior high school. My family, my father in particular, couldn't stand it. We would fight often," she said. "I was very obstinate, and he eventually realised there would be no turning back for me, and stopped fighting it."

After years of guilt, she finally made amends with her parents. While competing in the Miss Alcazar beauty pageant, she took to the stage and apologised to her parents for the past and thanked them both for their support and understanding.

"Now, my parents introduce me as their 'daughter'," she said, flashing her sweet smile.

Besides being a member of Shade of Divas, Amatya is among the top performers at the Alcazar, one of the leading cabaret shows in Pattaya.

On the other hand, another member Tay "Taya" Peeraya, has a different background story.

"I was blessed for never having to struggle to be who I am," said Tay. "My family has always been very supportive."

While completing her degree in Textile Design in Australia, Taya followed her friend to attend another renowned transgender beauty contest, Miss Tiffany, and ended up with the first runner-up title in 2005. Shortly after, Taya became a member of Thailand's first ladyboy group, Venus Flytrap.

"I have always love singing and dancing, so being part of the group has been a great experience," said Taya, who currently works as a presenter of an entertainment programme on cable network Live TV's Fame Channel.

This year, her contract with the group has reached the final chapter, however, with the emergence of Shade of Divas, and Taya hopes to be able to do more of what she loves doing with her dear friends.

While the group is waiting for the completion of its official website, Shade of Divas can now be reached at its temporary house, http://www.facebook.com/shadeofdivas. And, an opportunity for other transgender women and transvestites to become new divas is now open.

"Although, all our members have been through a beauty pageant, it is not a prerequisite to join the team. What we need most is talent," explained Tina.

"To make others understand and accept us, we must show them our capabilities," she added. "And one day, a change for the better will come. Who knows? In the future, a member might be the first transgender women to play a born-woman character."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

An Ode to the S and a cry of the M

I haven't been that into Adam Ant but recognize his talent. He was actually a fierce competitor with Crass back in the day. The synth pop group hated Crass, and vice versa. Crass was too hard nosed with their politics, Adam Ant didn't give a shit about anything. The battle is recounted in The Story of Crass which I reviewed a while ago.

This is a recently found gem. Who taught you to torture!?

When I met you you were just sixteen
Pulling the wings off flies
When an old lady got hit by a truck
I saw the wicked gleam in your eyes

Your sadistic suits my masochistic
And there's a whip in my valise on yeah

Who taught you the torture?
Who taught ya?
Who taught you the torture?
Who taught ya?
Who taught you the torture?
Who taught ya?
Who taught ya?
Who taught ya?
Who taught you?

Describe the special punishment room
Over my garage,
There's a whipping post, a vertical beam
You have to be in charge*

I paid a packet
For a new straight jacket
There's a whip in my valise oh yeah

Who taught you the torture?
Who taught ya?
Who taught you the torture?
Who taught ya?
Who taught you the torture?
Who taught ya?
Who taught ya?
Who taught ya?
Who taught you?

You put my head into the stocks
And then you went to choose a cane
But hey, your cat has got nine tails
You like to leave me lame

I can't thank her, my Sunday Spanker
There's a whip in my valise oh yeah

Who taught you the torture?
Who taught ya?
Who taught you the torture?
Who taught ya?
Who taught you the torture?
Who taught ya?
Who taught ya?
Who taught ya?
Who taught you?

I'm also a big fan of Iggy, especially when he was with the Stooges. Raw Power is a great thrashing garage album! I was thinking of this song the other day when I was looking at my young asian friend. She's naive, impressionable, and horribly moral. I'm pretty sure she's going to hell!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Blocking all lanes

I've been part of a reading group for a few weeks. Its not a physical group, but rather one from the internet over at mammoth blog (here). The book, The Infrastructural City, contains a series of short, and pictorial essays about L.A. The latest chapter is about traffic. The author makes an interesting point about the history of traffic.

"Tracing the history of the word, traffic originally referred to the movement of commodities. Only in the last two centuries did it explicititly take on vehicles and people. In terms of the modern defnition, we are traffic (which reminds us that it was once quite acceptable for one to be a "computer" or a "typewriter.") If course we don't talk that way: we say that we are "in traffic," but we never admit to being traffic.

...The automobile, the capitalist vehicle par excellence, promises freedom while the often-fustrating experience of driving leaves us feeling quite out of control. We hold on to the idea that although we might be stuck now, there is a way out. But what if our agency were underpinned by an organizing, computational mechnanism? We stop. We go. WE turn. We yield. What if these were not simply rules to follow (code as law), but instructions to follow (code as program), an instruction that gives a green light."

The first paragraph points to the commodity aspect of travel. The car is "the capitalist vehicle par excellence" not only for its high price in gas, maintenance, highway cost, initial sale, but also in that it is a moving commodity from one point to another. Driving is movement from and to different points of consumption. This fact is schellacked over not only by the idea of freedom, pointed out by the second paragraph, but by people's lack of desire to be reified. This latter point is seen in the idea that we are stuck in traffic and never we are traffic. Reification is the process by which human relations are turned into things. The traffic jam is a thing, a social process, that happense to others that we are not a part of. By keeping ourselves separate we alleviate the burden of culpability yet the world works according to the laws of constant reproduction. Here I'm reminded of Fredy Perlman's "The Reproduction of Everyday Life (here)."

Are we responsible for traffic jams or is it a process of the machine? Tools are not neutral and carry with them their own way of interacting with the world...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Goodbye Ian Curtis

The other day I saw a picture of my friend in a Cold Cave shirt. I remember watching one of their videos on his blog then forgetting about them. In a recent wave of torrent downloading I went back to the band. I enjoy their low fi sound. Obviously they've been extremely influenced by one of my favorite bands; Joy Division along with New Order. Their synth pop style probably comes from the latter while their vocalizations and mood the former.

Its worth noting that the lead singer of Cold Cave was a sXe kid whom dropped the edge and became a full fledged drug toting hipster. Do this mean that all kids who break edge make better music?

The beginning of this song sounds pretty similiar to Q Lazzarus' "Goodbye Horses," made famous in "Silence of the lambs."

Cold Cave plays the idea of gender in this video, a trope in these modern days for sure but its still a pretty good song.

What I see in Cold Cave is the way in which music returns to itself. The bands that we love and admire disappear, they are recreated by later generations, a perpetual reincarnation.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Music Round up

Camouflage- Love is a shield

The Chameleons- Swamp Thing

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Are Cameras the New Guns?

Are Cameras the New Guns?In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.

Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists.

The legal justification for arresting the "shooter" rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where "no expectation of privacy exists" (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.

Massachusetts attorney June Jensen represented Simon Glik who was arrested for such a recording. She explained, "[T]he statute has been misconstrued by Boston police. You could go to the Boston Common and snap pictures and record if you want." Legal scholar and professor Jonathan Turley agrees, "The police are basing this claim on a ridiculous reading of the two-party consent surveillance law - requiring all parties to consent to being taped. I have written in the area of surveillance law and can say that this is utter nonsense."

The courts, however, disagree. A few weeks ago, an Illinois judge rejected a motion to dismiss an eavesdropping charge against Christopher Drew, who recorded his own arrest for selling one-dollar artwork on the streets of Chicago. Although the misdemeanor charges of not having a peddler's license and peddling in a prohibited area were dropped, Drew is being prosecuted for illegal recording, a Class I felony punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.

In 2001, when Michael Hyde was arrested for criminally violating the state's electronic surveillance law - aka recording a police encounter - the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld his conviction 4-2. In dissent, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall stated, "Citizens have a particularly important role to play when the official conduct at issue is that of the police. Their role cannot be performed if citizens must fear criminal reprisals…." (Note: In some states it is the audio alone that makes the recording illegal.)

The selection of "shooters" targeted for prosecution do, indeed, suggest a pattern of either reprisal or an attempt to intimidate.

Glik captured a police action on his cellphone to document what he considered to be excessive force. He was not only arrested, his phone was also seized.

On his website Drew wrote, "Myself and three other artists who documented my actions tried for two months to get the police to arrest me for selling art downtown so we could test the Chicago peddlers license law. The police hesitated for two months because they knew it would mean a federal court case. With this felony charge they are trying to avoid this test and ruin me financially and stain my credibility."

Hyde used his recording to file a harassment complaint against the police. After doing so, he was criminally charged.

In short, recordings that are flattering to the police - an officer kissing a baby or rescuing a dog - will almost certainly not result in prosecution even if they are done without all-party consent. The only people who seem prone to prosecution are those who embarrass or confront the police, or who somehow challenge the law. If true, then the prosecutions are a form of social control to discourage criticism of the police or simple dissent.

A recent arrest in Maryland is both typical and disturbing.

On March 5, 24-year-old Anthony John Graber III's motorcycle was pulled over for speeding. He is currently facing criminal charges for a video he recorded on his helmet-mounted camera during the traffic stop.

The case is disturbing because:

1) Graber was not arrested immediately. Ten days after the encounter, he posted some of he material to YouTube, and it embarrassed Trooper J. D. Uhler. The trooper, who was in plainclothes and an unmarked car, jumped out waving a gun and screaming. Only later did Uhler identify himself as a police officer. When the YouTube video was discovered the police got a warrant against Graber, searched his parents' house (where he presumably lives), seized equipment, and charged him with a violation of wiretapping law.

2) Baltimore criminal defense attorney Steven D. Silverman said he had never heard of the Maryland wiretap law being used in this manner. In other words, Maryland has joined the expanding trend of criminalizing the act of recording police abuse. Silverman surmises, "It's more [about] ‘contempt of cop' than the violation of the wiretapping law."

3) Police spokesman Gregory M. Shipley is defending the pursuit of charges against Graber, denying that it is "some capricious retribution" and citing as justification the particularly egregious nature of Graber's traffic offenses. Oddly, however, the offenses were not so egregious as to cause his arrest before the video appeared.

Almost without exception, police officials have staunchly supported the arresting officers. This argues strongly against the idea that some rogue officers are overreacting or that a few cops have something to hide. "Arrest those who record the police" appears to be official policy, and it's backed by the courts.

Carlos Miller at the Photography Is Not A Crime website offers an explanation: "For the second time in less than a month, a police officer was convicted from evidence obtained from a videotape. The first officer to be convicted was New York City Police Officer Patrick Pogan, who would never have stood trial had it not been for a video posted on Youtube showing him body slamming a bicyclist before charging him with assault on an officer. The second officer to be convicted was Ottawa Hills (Ohio) Police Officer Thomas White, who shot a motorcyclist in the back after a traffic stop, permanently paralyzing the 24-year-old man."

When the police act as though cameras were the equivalent of guns pointed at them, there is a sense in which they are correct. Cameras have become the most effective weapon that ordinary people have to protect against and to expose police abuse. And the police want it to stop.

Happily, even as the practice of arresting "shooters" expands, there are signs of effective backlash. At least one Pennsylvania jurisdiction has reaffirmed the right to video in public places. As part of a settlement with ACLU attorneys who represented an arrested "shooter," the police in Spring City and East Vincent Township adopted a written policy allowing the recording of on-duty policemen.

As journalist Radley Balko declares, "State legislatures should consider passing laws explicitly making it legal to record on-duty law enforcement officials."

Wendy McElroy is the author of several books on anarchism and feminism. She maintains the iconoclastic website ifeminists.net as well as an active blog at wendymcelroy.com.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Shrooming Cage Fighter Ripped Friend's Heart Out and Face Off, Allegedly

MMA fighter Jarrod Wyatt has been charged with the most violent murder of the year after allegedly cutting an 18-inch hole in sparring partner Taylor Powell's chest, tearing his heart and tongue out, and ripping his face off while shrooming.

.Shrooming Cage Fighter Ripped Friend's Heart Out and Face Off, Allegedly

According to the Sgt. Elmwood Lee of California's Del Norte County Sheriff's office, Lee arrived at the scene of carnage to find Wyatt covered in dried blood, uttering "I killed him."

Lee was able to cuff Wyatt without incident, and then he proceeded to look at the body on the couch. The body had had the majority of its face removed, and an 18-inch incision in its chest cavity. Lee said that he did not attempt first aid because he could see the man was dead.

In continued rambling, Lee said that Wyatt told him that "Satan was in that dude."

Lee said that Wyatt told him he'd done some bad things, and that he'd cut Powell's heart out and burned it because he felt that Powell was still alive and he was trying to "stop the devil."

Wyatt's lawyer says his client suffered a "psychotic break." The prosecutor says cutting out someone's heart, tongue, and face takes a long time and thus proves sustained intent. Hopefully Wyatt pleads out, because forcing jurors to look at these crime scene pictures will cause the worst case of heebie-jeebies ever. [NYDN, Times-Standard]