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Posted on Oct 14, 2011
Mr. Fish

By Mr. Fish

While visiting the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., at age 11, I found out that the transparent bubble on a warplane from which a gunner fires his machine gun is called a blister. This seemed somehow appropriately unsettling, as if any aircraft misappropriated for the purpose of wreaking havoc on the soft gooey insides of human beings would, as a matter of cosmic jurisprudence, end up being covered with welts and vesications. It was like cirrhosis being visited upon an alcoholic, or syphilis upon a whore, this sudden appearance of gigantic, non-aerodynamic blisters on the lower back and belly and ass of an airplane made morally corrupt by a bug-eyed addiction to violence. Had I visited the museum only a year previously, I might’ve been less attuned to the engineering specifics of military aggression, preferring instead to while away the afternoon lolling around the Apollo 11 command module or gazing up at the silver underside of the Spirit of St. Louis and reveling in the pride and optimism once promised to America by famed Nazi sympathizer and eugenics enthusiast Charles Lindbergh. As it happened, however, I had recently been shown a tattered photograph of actress Susan Dey without a shirt on and my priorities had changed.

The picture, which showed every evidence that it had been burglarized with great haste from a magazine and passed around so rapaciously by the entire sixth grade that its texture had become less like paper and more like chiffon, depicted Laurie Partridge herself laying topless on an unmade bed, her mouth like a tiny bow, her pert breasts like upturned teacups, her nipples as pointy as rosebuds squeezed from a pastry bag. As base and vulgar as this description might seem to me now, there was no other way for an 11-year-old to process a naked woman as there was a newness to the female anatomy then that made objectification just another 15-letter-word that like health insurance, I’d eventually get around to caring about. That said, upon seeing the image in 1977, which I would later find out was a still from a movie called “First Love,” my politics aligned in an instant with those espoused by the character that Dey portrayed on TV. As if suddenly freed from the confines of a very dark cave, I found myself groping to gather the light that was Laurie Partridge’s corny pacifism and unconvincing feminism and cheerful dedication to social justice for refuge in my soul, assuming that only a fellow hippie would ever be given access to what I knew existed beneath her fringed and floral poncho.

I thought about Susan Dey and blisters and being a hippie last Thursday when I found myself driving around outside the Air and Space Museum looking for a place to park. I was in D.C. for the purpose of lending my body and rancor to the Occupy Wall Street protesters gathering in Freedom Plaza for their first day of rabble-rousing. I was traveling alone—everybody else I knew had to work—and I couldn’t wait to engage with likeminded strangers and experience the unique thrill that comes from finding camaraderie among beatific and morally anchored interlopers. “What—?!” shouted my wife through the earpiece on my cellphone, her voice made puny and metallic by the wafer-thin technology I held in my hand.

“I’m lost!” I shouted back above the cacophony of car and foot traffic surrounding me. “I thought I’d see other protesters carrying signs and sleeping bags and just follow them,” I said, looking this way and that, “but there’s nobody like that—just assholes in suits!”

“I can’t hear you!” she hollered.

“Where’s Freedom Plaza?!” I screamed.


“Freedom! FREEDOM!” I said, turning heads with my inadvertent channeling of famed anti-Semite and red-faced, Jesus-loving misogynist Mel Gibson.

After being directed remotely to the protest site by my wife, who guided my trajectory expertly from a windowless room a hundred miles away, I passed through an archway at the southeast corner of Freedom Plaza that was made from a pair of papier-mâché RQ-1 Predator drones mounted on long poles, the irony of the parallelism too ham-fisted for me to appreciate. For the next two hours I read homemade signs and chuckled at sloganeering T-shirts and spoke with revolutionaries about doomsday, foreclosure and what tomorrow should look like, listening peripherally to event organizers and enraged speakers shout into a microphone from the makeshift stage and reconfigure Marx and Debs and Guthrie into cheap rhymes and bumper sticker shorthand. “Wall Street executives are nothing but a bunch of bullies!” shrieked a bearded 30-year-old who was skinny enough to have his posture affected by the weight of his gigantic glasses. “And bullies are big! And they’re mean!” he concluded, giving everybody in the audience the chance to cheer and pump their fists into the air in contempt of all the team captains in grammar school who chose them last for kickball. Cameras biopsied the scene from every angle, creating the uneasy feeling that many of the participants were not really participants at all and, instead, were spectators hoping to get a contact high from the small number of real hell-raisers trying with all their might to recast this Fuck You Mardi Gras against modernity, itself, into a culturally viable sit-in against rich white people, specifically.

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By Forrest Greene, October 18, 2011 at 2:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yipes stripes! To inspire such venom as offered below, Mr Fish must be doing something. Maybe even something right.

In the nation of the blind, the one-eyed person is not king. The one-eyed person is in a freak show.

‘N’ who is this Thomas Dylan guy?

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By DesertMac, October 17, 2011 at 7:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well said, JDmystic. This piece was just a session of mental masturbation that had no point, no message, just a pained general malaise that wanted to be nostalgic for some thought that was never quite clear. Kinda sounds like he was for it before he was gainst it, whatever it was.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, October 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm Link to this comment

@ John Poole

Have you ever seen a WWII souvenier necklace of Japanese ears???

A truly vicious bloody affair, but we won didn’t we???

And now we are the masters of the planet!!!

TWO atomic bombs!!!


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By John Henry, October 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)      The last lines are.                 
The Hammer is on the table,  The Pitchfork is on the shelve.  For the love of god
you ought to take pity on yourselves….

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By John Poole, October 17, 2011 at 11:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Perhaps if Mr. Fish had visited the much more inclusive air and space museum at
Dulles airport he would have a different take on war machinery. The Enola Gay is
there but so is a truly horrific little airborne killing device dreamed up by the
Japanese military. It was a torpedo device where the rider could steer it somewhat
and I assume meant to be dropped out of bombers. This was way before Slim
Pickens rode that nuke out of the bomb bay doors in STRANGELOVE.  So, there
you are- mounted on a bomb with a tiny windshield and the means to steer it
most likely towards an American carrier. It sort of makes tail gunner blisters seem
quite mundane.

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By jon, October 17, 2011 at 9:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Unfortunately your amoral fellow travelers will
ascribe to you great wisdom”

Really? Not.

Fish is a cartoonist. A satirist. A humorist. CLEARLY
he likes to make people think. Can’t he be permitted
to blog sometimes, too? Or is that too threatening to
your intellect?

Maybe you don’t recognize that he’s a cartoonist,
satirist, etc. who also happens to be human. At least
he bothers to walk the protest and see for himself
what’s happening. I don’t know anyone personally who
would read this account of a cartoonists visit to an
Occupy site as a “wisdom filled” essay.

I’ve also wandered through 2 protest sites, one
several times; spent about 4 hours total observing
listening, and chatting. I keep returning to try and
better understand just what is really motivating whom
to do what… something most non-dogmatic thinkers
need to know before they commit to a movement. 

Honestly the first thing that comes to mind when
reading these ridiculous overly intellectualized
comments attached to a cartoonist’s blog post is that
you’re just as much of the problem as the congressman
who takes $100k from a corporation and immediately
starts promoting an eco-harmful bill they want passed
into law.

You apparently think you know better than anyone
actually doing anything about the status quo, and you
are willing to openly criticize action as inadequate
or ineffective (so long as you can collect
intellectual kudos and receive enough self-satisfying
external validation for your mental efforts spent
“thinking about it”).

The frustrated, ignorant, hungry peasants of the
Chinese cultural revolution were aimed at people like

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, October 17, 2011 at 8:27 am Link to this comment

“...remembering something Noam Chomsky said in 1967 when asked about Bob Dylan’s perceived abandonment of the protest movements of the day. “If the capitalist PR machine wanted to invent someone for their purposes, they couldn’t have made a better choice [than Bob Dylan].” What Dylan’s detractors failed to recognize then, and maybe they still do, is how hard it is to find a rhyme for antiestablishmentarianism when you’re trying to create art that warms the heart and feeds the soul and gives a person more than just an expert opinion upon which to rely when facing down self-righteousness.”

That is exactly the way I feel about John Stewart, since before the “Rally To Restore Sanity”.

I have only seen a dozen or so episodes.

Anyway… AMERICA NEEDS TO GET OFF HIS DICK, if they haven’t done so already.

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By examinator, October 17, 2011 at 12:25 am Link to this comment

it’s official I’m a philistine….I haven’t a clue what was the point of this article.

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By kerryrose, October 16, 2011 at 11:51 pm Link to this comment

By the way,

Bob Dylan’s namesake is the REAL poet.  Dylan Thomas is an amazing visceral poet without political pretensions.

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By rumblingspire, October 16, 2011 at 6:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

i feel your dismay.  the conflict between Billy (the stoner) and Capt. America (the intellectual) in Easy Rider still says it for me.  an eternal love rivalry.

i tuned into occupystl the other day to listen to high schoolers discussing drinks and hangovers, joking about weed and a ladies hot body.  Then i wondered about the wilder elements of the French Revolution.  then i decided to stay home for now.

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By Dave G, October 16, 2011 at 5:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Its interesting to look at the Wall Street Protest,
and to think that the conventional view is to “diss”
Phil Ochs for only writing “finger pointing” (not
true, actually, listen to Pleasures of the Harbor)
songs while praising Dylan for his supposed genius.
But as the days events prove, sometimes finger
pointing is just what is needed. Furthermore, there
is something to be said for solidarity. While Ochs
and few others braved Chicago, other “entertainers”
were not to be seen at the last gasp of the protest
movement of the time. Postively 4th Street, indeed
Mr. Dylan.

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By kerryrose, October 16, 2011 at 4:56 pm Link to this comment

I think Noam Chomsky’s comment was deeper than Fish gives him credit. Hedges writes that capitalism needs and uses spectacle and illusion to dull the masses and fill its pockets.  I think the point Chomsky is trying to make falls along this line.  Dylan Thomas is filling corporate pockets, he is allowing the public to wallow in self-evolving consciousness.  To many (in fact to me as a young artist) this self-societal reflection and pain feels fulfilling in itself. I feel the pain, your pain, my pain, his pain… there is no pressing need to act.  The wallowing is enough.  We are evolved.

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By john crandell, October 16, 2011 at 9:40 am Link to this comment

I might as well put on a clown suit, go out on Highway 41 and hold up a sign that
says “Hillary Needs A Jock Strap!”

Maybe that would kill someone in their bright red shiny Corvette… They could
laugh themself to death.

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By sallysense, October 16, 2011 at 6:27 am Link to this comment


“say dad… what’s worse… a fish’s memory ?... or his use of illusion ?...


“well son… maybe it depends on which current got him swimmin’ into some murkier water in the first place”...

(bob dylan’n’his neat songs motivate the being’s state to validate its part!... now how’s that for activism?!)... smile

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By Scattered Ranks, October 16, 2011 at 3:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Jesus, what a terribly written mess.  Tediously vain, devoid of even the most banal insight, and full of irritating nudges to the reader to notice the author’s affected detachment masquerading as authority.  His self-conscious attempts to emulate you-know-who are as transparent as they are hackneyed. 

And while we’re on the killing floor, let’s slaughter that sacred cow, too.  That overblown grand-daddy of ‘gonzo’ was the first of a preening breed of half-journalist-half-novelists who devalue both pursuits by staining their tongues with the communion wine of the cult of cool.

Anyway, bravo.  Put this stinker in your portfolio, next to a photo of you looking fashionably apathetic.

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By gerard, October 15, 2011 at 5:13 pm Link to this comment

—“For me, there has always been a huge difference between seeking inspiration on how to experience life through poetry versus searching for clear instruction on how to live life through religion or politics or economics.”  Fish, if the situation continues much longer where the vast majority of American do not, will not, cannot “seek inspiration on how to live life through poetry”—it’s probably curtains for the human race.  Thanks for that thought.

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By donschneider, October 15, 2011 at 6:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There are those who so love to hear themselves .

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