Notes from the Weather Underground

I saw the documentary on the Weather Underground on Tuesday with Lil’ Dy. I had forgotten how much 12 Monkeys and Fight Club refer to the Weathermen.

The Weathermen were a splinter group of the peaceful anti-war activist group Students for a Democratic Society. In “12 Monkeys,” Brad Pitt’s character and his friends decide they are tired of excessive verbiage without action, and split off from their peaceful animal rights activist comerades, forming The Army of the Twelve Monkeys. With their idealistic and proactive determination, the Weathermen made off with most of the SDS members much to the irritation of the existing leadership (late 1960s). Appalled by the atrocities being committed by the US government in Vietnam, they believed that they had to overthrow the government to stop the war that was being fought in their name. They made frequent use of a tape recorder to issue their press releases, and 12 Monkeys also refers to this.

In “Fight Club,” the members of Operation Mayhem live in devoted secret “cell houses,” vowing to drop completely out of capitalist consumerism and blow up the occaisonal Starbucks. The actual Weather Underground lived in secret cell houses, only spoke to each other on a “need to know” basis, and really did blow up buildings- notably the Capital and the ferry building here in San Francisco. One woman interviewed left the Underground involuntarily- after she publicly disagreed with a senior member, she simply was not invited to the next meeting- without knowing where the next point of contact was, she had no way of reaching her friends!
The film is very timely- the Weathermen were horrified by Vietnam and frustrated by how little the government seemed to care about their voice, just as the current administration chooses to ignore hundreds of thousands of anti-war demonstrators in San Francisco. Just as today’s Democratic Party has completely abandoned a huge segment of the population, the political spectrum of the late 1960s left little room for pacifism and none for the student left.

Watching accounts of their idealism is sometimes painful- In one stage of their campaign, the Weathermen planned to establish themselves in lower-class urban communities, assuming that once poorer America knew the truth of the war and how they were being dominated by the rich, they would join the Movement. Of course, there were few recruits- most people are too preoccupied with paying rent to think about overthrowing the government. Interstingly, this is a familiar mistake among revolutionary student groups- more than 80 years previously, the “Narodniks” in czarist Russia believed that the Russian serfs were the key to the revolution: From Marxists.Org:

In the spring of 1874, the conflict between the kulaks and peasantry brought turbulence to Russia’s urban centres, and the Narodnik intelligentsia left the cities for the villages, going “among the people” (hence their name), attempting to teach the peasantry their moral imperative to revolt. They found almost no support.

I think a similar effort would be even more difficult now- in the 1960’s, most of the public was simply unaware of the greusome slaughter happening in Vietnam, and had great faith in the government. Now, there is less faith in the government, but people are very aware of the kind of atrocties committed in modern warfare. Jaded, they simply do not care if innocents are killed, so long as the innocents in question are not someone they know. I remain convinced by these (repeated!) lessons of history that the only kind of revolution possible now does not involve the simple destruction of buildings or people.

Who is Heino?

When I first saw Heino I thought he looked like a blonde Roy Orbison.
Apparently there is a genre of German music called “Schlagger” which a friend described as “elvis meets sinatra and lost of heimatlieder.” (?!?!) Schlagger is apparently “a distinct genre for old german ladies…”

If you like kitsh, you’ll love Heino!

BRIAN: I still have yet to hear Heino
DANH: HEINO is inhuman
BRIAN: he’s like the blonde german elvis right?
BRIAN: like an undead roy orbison?
DANH: yeah
DANH: he has a lazy eye so he has to wear those huge sunglasses all the time
BRIAN: oh is that why?
BRIAN: frightening

Microwave Popcorn

OK new pet peeve.
You know how it’s possible to screw up coffee?
Like how hard could this be?
You put in the grounds and you pour the water in.
But no.
Sometimes you end up with yucky coffee.
Microwave popcorn, same thing.
It IS possible to screw up microwave popcorn
I should know… I just ruined an entire bag of “kettle corn” style.
Now everything smells like a fire in a cereal factory

Life in the Godzilla Universe

I was reading about the flooding in Kyushu today- Japan is made of 4 islands, the main one being Honshu, the one with the second-largest population being Kyushu- and saw a bunch of news photos of people wading through the 3-foot deep floodwaters to get to work.

Hello? The city is FLOODED. And yet people are STILL going to work. The salaryman in suits have their slacks rolled up. We were thinking that maybe the idea “you don’t have to go to work during a disaster” hadn’t come up for these people. While most Americans would be thinking “Oh my god, I wonder if there is any city left? Are we going to starve?” the Japanese are thinking “Oh man, now that the city has been destroyed, getting to work is sure going to be a pain.”

You know what this is like? The Godzilla movies. Every so often in the Godzilla universe, a random monster tries to destroy Tokyo. Why Tokyo? Why not say Beijing? San Francisco? Obviously not New York; that’s on the Atlantic, and everyone knows most of the monsters come from the South Pacific on the very edge of the Co-prosperity Sphere. But the point is, the monster shows up and wrecks most of the city.

Now what would happen if everyone stopped going to work EVERY TIME a monster arrived? Nothing would get done! You think Japan’s economy is in the toilet now, imagine if people dropped what they were doing just because something was wrecking the city. Slacker!

Periodically the government deploys the Maser Tank to shoot death-rays at Godzilla. These things are classic examples of government defense spending- obviously some lobbyist made bank over the Maser Tank because they make a piece of crap like the Bradley look like Voltron. From Michael’s Godzilla vs Destoroyah Page:

Why do they keep making those maser tanks? Those things must be prohibitively expensive, but they never hurt a monster and end up getting smashed in every movie. And yet, they keep making new ones!

Fortunately for the taxpayers, the Maser Tank isn’t all the Japanese military has up its collective sleeve. There is a whole pantheon of all the crazy-ass weapons that decades of taxes on the inflationary real estate market have paid for. My personal favorite is the Super X which is basically a giant metal bug.