Wednesday, November 09, 2005

1) Organizer Jacob Knabb tells me that tonight's panel (see first item) is at 33 E. Congress, not 30.

2) Sasha's not the only one screwing up. Last night, I utterly failed to locate Fulton Recital Hall for the Susan Howe/David Grubbs performance. (I'm pretty sure it wasn't behind the muffler shop I ended up in front of.) Too bad, as I enjoyed their record, and wrote a pick for their NY show. (Explaining "Melville's Marginalia" in the available space and appropriate vocabulary for Time Out New York isn't the same endeavor as explaining grills and screwtapes to NYer subscribers, but it felt like pulling teeth.)

3) After a good deal of necessarily unsystematic surfing, I find that I have little in the way of a settled understanding of the riots. To say the most banal thing possible: events await their interpretation. The "l'intafada" dog won't hunt, that's clear enough if you can read past the hot-button phrase "predominantly Muslim youths" in U.S. news reports, but I must admit -- as someone who's been slapping SI graffiti on weak-ass pop records about ruined banks and storefronts since 1993 -- that I'm as wary of Jane's version as anyone's. [Update: This post was written just before Jane's Voice piece went up. But I'm not changing it. The quotations from a seven year-old as reported by her architect/theorist aunt are beneath the author.] Again: what has "happened" depends on what happens -- if these events come to be understood and responded to as a way of demanding recognition within existing civil society, then their destabilizing energy will likely be absorbed for the time being. Is "we can't get jobs" merely to be understood as "never work" under false consciousness? On the other hand, some of the suburban violence also seems to have the end of emphasising what is already implicitly known: this is our turf. I don't imagine that the residents who organize anti-violence marches and stand guard at local buildings at night are especially ready to locate a common cuase with the rioters. (These, of course, are not "direct actions," because they're not fun enough.)

All that said, I think it's bizarre to be smug-yet-relieved about the seeming fact that tourist-life goes on. No more morally perverse, perhaps, than tourism in "normal" times -- but, I would think, more difficult to sustain without a strain. Yet this co-exists with alarmism: this strikes me as an odd headline for a story reporting car-burning down to 190 from over 1,000 in two nights. (This piece reports the number as 617; I also want to know -- who has the time to count?)

Much of what I've read, I don't care to link to -- many of the interpretations that aren't overtly racist are covertly so, especially in dismissing the violence as the stepped-up activity of already active small-time criminals. But, with the caveat that I do not necessarily endorse any link that takes you off this blog: No Parasan! seems to be one of the most frequently updated sites of relevance. Its authors' main source of energy seems to be schadenfreuede w/r/t the French govt.'s confusion, so make of it will you will. Here is the only item I've turned up that attempts to claim the "border-jumping" could extend to America, specifically Los Angeles. I think the author is, if I can put it this way, too optimistic: the most relevant question that emerges is why more didn't happen after the Devin Brown and Tony Mohammad incidents, which are, if anything, more clear-cut particular incidents of police racism than the one that was match to the flame in France. Preemptive Karma sounds more conflicted, and offers a good deal to chew on, inc. thoughts on what this means for Le Pen, and further connections to U.S. events.

From a more academic angle, this book looks as though it might be interesting, though I obviously can't vouch for that on the basis of the review. The author's view is that France's socio-economic problems are a result of a the welfare state's inegalitarianism, with entrenched (white) public sector workers benefiting unequally, as against immigrant and immigrant-descended communities. "Considering that France's bloated, grossly inefficient, and absurdly highly paid public sector also has the worst strike record in Europe does not inspire confidence that it will give up its privileges easily. In 2000, for instance, the nationalised SNCF rail workers, who constituted one per cent of French workers, accounted for forty per cent of all the nation's strike days." If that is so, it colors my view of Kristin Ross' attempts to see latter-day strikes in France as '68 (slight return).

Someone whose French is better than mine will also want to get on translating the songs of Ministre Amer, who appear in the soundtrack of La Haine. (See also members Stomy Bugsy and Passi.)

And -- do I need to say this? -- manifestations involving lighting bus passengers on fire or striking passersby with dumbbells from 15th story windows (somewhere further down on No Parasan!, w/ heavy-handed sarcastic commentary) are not to be condoned or celebrated, either as festival or rhetoric. Things are things, and their destruction may even unmask their illusory claim on us; persons are not. Call me sentimental. I hope that whatever further direction these events take, it is not this one.

I may continue to post relevant material as I encounter it, but I believe I will leave interpretation and position-taking to my betters.

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