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Nude in Black and White

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Posted on Oct 14, 2011
Mr. Fish

By Mr. Fish

(Page 2)

There was a pissed-off Santa Claus in a putrid red velvet suit at the north end of the square, speaking in solidarity with the protesters yet addressing them with disdain, as if they were rabbits in his garden. “America is a fascist/corporatist state!” he spat, his big spooky old-man hands going every which way. “There hasn’t been any truth in this goddamn country ever since November the twenty-second, nineteen-hundred and sixty-three!” Then he started singing “God Bless America,” insisting that everybody join in.

There were Photoshopped posters of Barack Obama wearing a Hitler mustache, Benjamin Netanyahu wearing a Hitler mustache, Hillary Clinton wearing a Hitler mustache, Sarah Palin wearing a Hitler mustache, Bill O’Reilly wearing a Hitler mustache and, for those trapped in a nostalgia for simpler times, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush wearing Hitler mustaches, the little black square having become the progressives’ most destructive boomeranging metaphor—a rallying cry, really, for those who prefer the big bang of moronomy over the subtle pop of irony.

There were tourists from West Palm Beach and Buffalo and St. Paul cutting through the plaza with pinched faces and raging telepathy that said, “How dare you filthy beatniks ruin our vacations by corrupting our concept of what Washington, D.C., is supposed to signify by exercising the First Amendment rights deemed sacred by every single statue and monument in town!” 

There was no nuance as far as the eye could see.

“Did you ever wonder why there aren’t any songs about peace on the radio?” I heard someone say over the rally’s PA system as I made my way across the street, having spotted a Starbucks whose Wi-Fi signal I was hoping to cop for free through the glass. “It’s because all the radios are owned by corporations!” said the voice, inciting the crowd to go apeshit with booing, many of them wearing T-shirts adorned with peace signs from Walmart and Old Navy and Urban Outfitters. Locking eyes on the wide lip of an enormous concrete planter where I noticed an empty space in between two Wall Street protesters typing on laptops, I quickened my pace, motivated by a sudden impulse to re-examine a photograph taken 67 years ago near Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific during the Second World War. “Corporations hate peace and that’s why you don’t hear Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary on the radio anymore!” The lone yelp of approval told me that half the audience was too young to know who Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary were and the other half seemed reluctant to throw their vocal support behind a movement that was demanding to see the safe return of “Guantanamera” and “Stewball” to commercial radio.

There’s a famous black and white picture taken in 1944 by Time/Life photographer Horace Bristol of a naked PBY blister gunner during a rescue operation in Rabaul Bay. The young Navy gunner is unnamed and photographed from the back, his slim build much more gazelle-like than bull, the inhibition expressed in his body language reminiscent of the boy bathers in Thomas Eakins’ 1885 masterpiece, “The Swimming Hole.” Tiny droplets of either sweat or seawater cling to the sailor’s shoulders, back and in a sublime patch of sunlight gathering in a graceful swoop at the top of his ass crack.  His hair is mussed and he is wearing headphones, the wartime sky seen through the giant blister that he occupies alive with the lethal bumblebees of Japanese antiaircraft fire. 

Most remarkable to me about the photograph is how well it depicts the bewitching vulnerability of a human body. Here is this naked kid, no doubt thousands of miles away from his home, caged inside the ghoulish skeleton of a giant metal machine designed to both stave off and initiate the most brutal sort of mass cruelty devised by modern man, yet his political affiliations and religious convictions and cultural prejudices are rendered completely inconsequential by the tenderness of his age and the beauty of his skin and the fragility of his predicament. His existence, like the stark honesty of his physique, is elemental and harrowing and tenuous without requiring either corroboration from the intellect or rationale from some bureaucratic narrative to make sense, forcing the viewer’s own human vulnerabilities to be likewise exposed and made precious and beautiful by association.

This, to me, was poetry and a much more convincing call to universal amity than Bob Gruen’s photograph of John Lennon flashing the peace sign in front of the Statue of Liberty or Alberto Korda’s iconic picture of Che Guevara scanning the horizon for the red dawn. 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. 

“All right, losers! Either buy something or get out of here!” said a Starbucks thug waving us off the concrete planter like we were pigeons. “Go use the Internet at McDonald’s!” he said, looking just as tattooed and pierced and disenfranchised as the protesters he was shooing away. I slid my computer back into my bag and returned to Freedom Plaza, 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. 


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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!!!

HELL YEAH!!!

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By John Henry, October 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RPkJeziNyI      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
you.

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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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examinator's avatar

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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kerryrose's avatar

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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kerryrose's avatar

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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sallysense's avatar

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

,,,,
00
o
o

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

\\\
00
o
o

“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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