Wednesday, October 31, 2007

October 25 Anti-War March Los Angeles

Last Saturday October 25 I went to the anti-war march downtown Los Angeles. I took the subway and as the subway car was approaching 7th and Metro, I noticed who else in the car was going to the march by the signs they were carrying: a middle aged woman holding a sign and a couple youths about college age. I'm a citizen so I always go to the anti-war marches, even if five people were marching. Actually, right have the Iraq War started I went to a poet's vigil against the war in North Beach in S.F. which had six people! Six poets! That was my all-time favorite anti-war act, as we six poets tried to light candles when the big wind blew through the North Beach park trying to blow out our candles just as the big winds of war from Washington D.C. were trying to blow out our anti-war voices, so we six poets relit and relit and relit our candles. We talked Quaker style how we were against the war.

As a poet and a citizen I always have to go. I got out the subway, went up to the corner of 7th & Hope to wait for my friend Anna and get a cup of coffee. Soon Anna arrived, and we walked east on 7th to Broadway seeing more anti-war people with signs and banners--always encouraging. Then we walked down Broadway through the crowds of Saturday Latino shoppers to Olympic where there was about 20 bike police and then the anti-war crowd of thousands on Broadway just south of Olympic. On the lead truck a rapper was rapping to a crowd, but Anna and I were too far away to hear.

I think of the anti-war people as what is called in the Bible the "shomer," or guardians of democracy who never rest. Doris Lessing once said that a writer has that still, individual voice of conscience in her writing, and oftentimes she in her writing was the small voice condemning all of segragation and colonialism in Africa. Yes, it would be great if we had 100,000 rather than 5,000 here in Los Angeles today, but what's important is each of us being our own voice of conscience.

The march goes north on Broadway, with many banners demanding that the Bush regime leave Iran alone. To me even the thought of bombing Iran is horrifying. There is no proof and I mean no proof they are developing nuclear weapons. The Bush people give estimates that maybe Iran will have weapons in 10 years? maybe in 8 years? maybe in 5 years? It's all war propaganda based on speculation without facts without evidence. The most ugly kind of war propaganda to justify bombing a country that has done nothing to the U.S.

We all walked north down the middle of the street through the heart of downtown through the heart of the city between two walls of tall brick buildings. At the end of the march was a group of young Koreans banging their drums and dancing, then a group of Koreans carrying a large altar, then a group of Korean men in long yellow robes. Lastly was a group of Aztec mostly male dancers dancing against the war all the way up Broadway. Seeing the Aztec dancers dancing up Broadway for peace I felt I must love Los Angeles I mean really really love this city when the Azetc warriors do all that exhuasting dance to bring us peace up broad way!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Berkeley" the film

Last Saturday I saw the feature film Berkeley, which is playing for a week at the Sunset 5 movie theater on Sunset strip. Berkeley was a look back at a the years1968-1970 through the eyes of Ben Sweet, a college freshman at UC Berkeley. Though working on a tiny budget as an independent film, the movie did capture it's hero Ben Sweet's transformation from a conservative golf-playing accounting major who plans on entering his father's carpet business to a radicalized rock musician young protester. Most independent films are focused on tiny apolitical themes, but this film is audacious, aiming at showing epic personal and social transformations.

Henry Winkler did a fine job as the hero's father who is appalled at his son's actions while Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave is good as the hero's housemate Vietnam veteran. Bonnie Bedalia also does a fine piece as Ben Sweet's professor/mentor. In one of the funnier scene's Sweet tells his professor that he doesn't want to go to work for Ronald Reagan, while she tells him she does work for Reagan as he signs all her paychecks! The film makes good use of music from the period, including County Joe McDonald's music. County Joe composed a special song which ends the film and also Morello plays in the band that Sweet and his friends form.

Afterwards, as a surprise out came the filmmakers to talk to us: Bobby Roth, the writer/director; Jefferey White, the producer; Nick Roth, the lead actor who is the son of Bobby Roth; and Steve Burns, the Director of Photography. The filmmakers said they didn't pay for any locations but basically snuck onto the UC Berkeley campus to shoot. When someone from Berkeley noticed this, s/he notified Roth who then did pay for a small fee. Both Roth, the writer/director, and White, the producer, went to Berkeley in the late 1960s while Nick Roth graduated from Berkeley in 2006.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hurrah for Doris Lessing!

It's terrific that Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize for literature. She's been the leading novelist in English since her 1962 book The Golden Notebook, which I read in the 1970s and thought was the best novel by a woman I'd ever read until then.. The Golden Notebook was the novel that affected me the most as a young writer. Then I read her multi-volume series of novels Children of Violence, which I always thought splendid.

Doris Lessing taught a whole generation about honesty and courage. She taught us a woman writer can write honestly about anything. The author is scrupulously honest about her heroines' lives: marrying the wrong man; falling in love with the wrong lovers. The heroines like Lessing herself join the Communist Party and then leave it. Also her heroine in The Golden Notebook can be a devoted mother as well as go mad for a while.

Her heroines in both the one volume The Golden Notebook and the multi-volume Children of Violence have serious political lives--they live in Southern Rhodesia and fight to end segregation. They befriend refugees from the World War II. They have complicated love lives. They are at times very foolish and at other times very brave. In the Children of Violence series the first novel Martha Quest is a fine tale of a passive, directionless adolescent who floats her way into marriage with a man she doesn't care for; A Proper Marriage, the second volume, is a comic assault on the bourgeois marriage with its compromises and petty infidelties. But my favorite is A Ripple from the Storm, where the heroine leaves her bourgeois marriage for a unsuitable 2nd husband and the Communist Party but both leave her unfulfilled. Her flawed heroines do show great courage in growing up in provincial, conformist white Southern Rhodesia to totally break with their bourgeois lives when young to be political against British colonialism.

Yes, I loved Jane Austin and Emily Bronte but but they were 19th century women whose heroines lived in a domestic sphere but not in the wider world. I loved Virginia Woolf but she writes early 20th century heroines who clearly are struggling with the angels in the house--the angel of sacrifice as well as the angel of purity. Lessing wrote complicated mid-20th century women in their books. Her women don't follow the Angel of Sacrifice who sacrifices her life for husband or children. Yes, her heroines have children but they also insist on having political, erotic, and work lives. A women in her novels even describe menstruating--they have bodies. They describe their sexual experiences. Her women and also her men don't avoid the politics of their times but face it full on--segregation, colonialism, Holocaust, world wars, etc. etc. They may make flawed choices, but always face up to it.

If you point to one author who created heroines who were mothers to 21st century women, it is Lessing. Doris lessing is the mother of us all!