The Art of Protest

Since “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again”, the American variation protest anthem for the civil war, art has been an incredibly powerful form of protests. This includes all different types of art, from music, to paintings, writing and movies. Famous artist Willie Bester of South Africa created many pieces to protest the Apartheid period in his country. Also Picasso famously painted Guernica in 1937, which was in response to the Bombing of a Basque country by Italians and Germans at the request of Spanish Nationalist during the Civil War. Guernica became a anti-war symbol, referenced quite often in protest still. Also political cartoons are satire, but in a lot of ways they are meant to enlighten or caution, sometimes outright protest the issues they are making cartoons about. Concerning movies, in the past their was “Battle of Algiers” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest” which both technically protested individual issues. The History of Art in Protest is quite large, but these issues don’t greatly effect my generation and the generation to come. The protest or the caution in art about social alienation, discrimination and prejudice has been the most powerful and most renowned since the end of World War II. It all started with Marvin Gaye’s Soulful ballad, “What’s Going On”. Which was in response to not only the racial tension and chaos that had destroyed the lives of so many brothers and sisters in the 60s and the 70s, but also to Vietnam and the way he saw police treating protestors. All together, the name of the track said it best, it was a heartfelt plea to everyone to just get along. It felt very real, to the point where many people cried. Because chaos is sad, and by listening to a song that is protesting the chaos and everything causing it you can become very emotional.

The world has evolved, as has everyone in it. “What’s Going On” is brilliant, nevertheless no piece of art has ever come close to being as honest, intense, cautionary, angry and brilliant as “La Haine”, or Hate in English. It’s a 1995 drama set in a culturally diverse French ghetto that is about explode with rage. The movie highlights a stark difference between the suburbs La Haine takes place in and the Suburbs that Americans are used to. Suburbs in France are used for public housing only, projects like in Chicago. They are high rises, with the exact same structure as Housing projects in America. The introduction of the film is a montage of videos and images, of a protestor being gunned down for standing in front over fifty riot police, other police brutality, looting, fires and overall destruction most people wouldn’t normally associate with France. France has become a melting pot of different cultures, races and religions. For the most part a lot of Africans and Arabs have immigrated to France, which has led to a racist and negative response from the original French residents.

One unique piece of the movie is that the three characters Vinz, Said and Hurbert are Jewish, Arab and African in that order. The biggest statement of protest in the movie is that the film is shot in Black & White, so you wouldn’t judge characters by the color of the skin. You could still see their ethnicity for the most part, but more then anything its just a huge statement because it really plays a factor for the film. A non-judgmental view of the film is the best, also the conflict that is established from the beginning in La Haine, is that it’s the “Ghetto Dweller” v. Police. It’s a bleak situation, so one can also argue that there is a second reason why the movie is black & white. La Haine is bleak, but its also incredibly cool, from the revolutionary camera angles, to the flawless script, to the first time actors and just the chemistry that they all have. The raw violence, creates an open wound in most viewers minds, and its hard to heal it. Social Alienation and Prejudice has never been presented as good as this.

The plot of the movie, is that the group’s “Bro” Abdel is beaten nearly to death by the police. Few details are ever presented as to what happened, but its pretty clear that Abdel’s crime didn’t warrant massive head trauma and a coma. Its unfair, which leads to the second part of protest in the film. Nobody is there to represent them, to watch over them or to watch the police. They’re alone in a well developed country, which at that time was a battlefield. The film made it mirror 2007 Gaza Strip; burnt buildings, gunfights with police, burnt cars, tension and the intimidating presence of riot police all day around the corner. The guilty easily blend with the innocent, so that nobody is truly safe. When good deeds and staying clear from trouble still leads to police harassment and brutality, it causes people to act out and look for trouble. They almost partially lose their minds. In reality, what was there not to be bitter about?

So following the news of the police’s beating on Abdel, hothead Vinz, who stole a cops gun at the same riot the previous night, vows to kill a policeman if Abdel dies. As the French rendition of the ultra popular golden era rap song “Sound of Da Police” rings through the projects, its balanced by Edith Piaf. Not very metaphorical, just suggestive to the tone for the remainder of the movie.

“Hate Breeds Hate, Vinz?”- Said

When the group is arguing about the gun, Said makes this statement and everything changes. It’s a very early part of the movie, near the beginning, its extremely memorable as well. After that quote the journey through tear gas and blood ridden France finally begins. La Haine, inspired me so much, creatively I felt the raw energy and the realistic grit that the movie possessed and it gave me so many great ideas. It inspired me to not be judgmental because I never know where someone is from or how he was brought up. Its about equality, it takes watching La Haine a few times to see anything beautiful from it. Nevertheless it has a influential message to it, and it is surprisingly very neutral. After seeing La Haine id thought id never see or hear about any other type of protest or cautionary movie, song, book quite like La Haine. I knew for a fact, Social Alienation could never be handled quite like La Haine. I was wrong though, the issue was tackled sensationally in three minutes by one of the United Kingdoms finest.

“Ill Manors”, a song from London rapper Ben Drew (aka Plan B). Ben grew up in the East End of London, and had been known for his violent, horrifying and socially conscience lyrics. His first album was strictly rap, slamming street life and giving a realistic and truthful glimpse into the life in London Ghettos. Also more importantly, it made it clear there aren’t many differences between American Ghettos and English. On his second Album, Drew relied more on his Alternative Hip-Hop/Soul origins with The Defamation of Strickland Banks, which sold over five million copies. It showed his versatility, which has incredible range. Both drew considerable recognition, however the release of “Ill Manors” brought Plan B to a new level of success. Many newspapers in the UK such as its most prominent, Guardian, called it Britain’s greatest protest song ever. It went Number 1 and hasn’t left the top five in seven weeks. What has drawn massive criticism is the video. The lyrics blatantly pit poor against rich, slamming politicians, David Cameron the Prime Minister, the sacrificed welfare of the youth, newspapers who use derogatory language to describe people who live in council estates and the opportunities that aren’t given to youth who grow up in poverty. The word is Chav, and its very offensive to people in England, it’s a big stereotype. The origin of the word was from the late 1900s, when somebody would describe a young boy with a cigarette, chain, track jacket, didn’t listen to their parents and was always up to not good. For the most part, preparing to rob you if given the chance. A Council Estate, is the British variant of an housing project in America. These are all very valid points, but the Protest Rap song embraces the edge of a Hardcore thrasher song with the video, displaying  real footage of violent and bloody fights, massive fires, riot police dashing towards masked protestors, images of youth carrying knives and throwing up gang signs, the destruction of cars and most of all it portrays the anger of a nearly forgotten group of a people with such realism that it scares you. For some it makes you want to close the computer and watch a PG movie, but for others it makes you want to put on a bandana and grab any tools you have to destroy things.

One line that sticks with anybody who hears the song:

“Oi! I said Oi! What you looking at, you little rich boy! We’re poor round here, run home and lock your door. Don’t come round here no more, ya could get robbed for real. Cause our manors Ill!”

This is the defiant chorus and the centerpiece for the song. Ben Drew fluidly shifts from one topic to the next, the Olympic games being focused on instead of more important things, parliament’s lack of effort, his animosity toward politicians, and closing down community centers are things that really seem to disturb Drew. He then switches the tone with a violent threat, or in my opinion a realistic threat. When he gets to his monologue, his message couldn’t possibly be clearer.

We’ve had it with you politicians

You bloody rich kids never listen

There’s no such thing as Broken Britain

We’re just bloody broke in Britain

What needs fixing is the system

Not shop windows down in Brixton

Riots on the Television

You can’t put us all in prison!

            Guardian UK and many other newspapers, websites and media personalities have compared its impact through England, to the likes of the classic song “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye. Most did argue that while Gaye’s soulful plea was created to offer healing and caring during a time when it was nonexistent, Ill Manors is a song about alienation, the psychology of the class system, Britain’s prejudice, that sounds just like a riot. It offers little hope, because he is realistic that we don’t live in a kind world.

The same goes for La Haine, it is a fairly neutral Movie, because it isn’t a call to go out and love each other or destroy things. It fits somewhere in the middle. Nevertheless, what La Haine and Ill Manors have in common, is the idea that if you treat someone like a dog, they’ll act like a dog. The failings of the system have bred the so called trouble makers to become what they are. Once you realize that, seeing La Haine or hearing Ill Manors, becomes much more of an experience then a leisure activity.

NEWS OF THE DAY “MICHAEL PITT CAST IN HANNIBAL”

The sickest show on television starring one of the worlds most talented (and dare i say good looking) actors, Hannibal has cast another devilishly good looking actor with the acting chops to back it up. Mads Mikkelson of the Pusher Series, After the Wedding and most recently The Hunt, is Denmark’s shining star. He has come across to America before with his villainous role in James Bond Reboot Casino Royale. Now he is back in the states with Hannibal, playing the title character excellently. 
Michael Pitt joins the cast as Mason Verger, the role previously played by Gary Oldman in Silence of the Lambs. I’ve read the Hannibal series and i’ve seen the movies all once. What really drew me into this series is the direction and the great acting. Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelson deflect energy off each other well. The story at times gets confusing because it’s not always presented in the best way and it’s a little wordy and disgusting. 
Despite the small problems its a great show, and you can pick it up right away and figure it out pretty fast! Give it a try, #SUPPORTMADS

First Radio Show Interview!

I’m proud to announce i will be doing my first radio show with Ralph Rramja at American Desi Music & Talk. I will be linking it up here once it’s complete!

To check out the BOOK TRAILER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrgv3RUOtk8

For more information on my book CHECK OUT: http://www.amazon.com/City-Breaks-Its-Promise-ebook/dp/B00I467LKE/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1390674109

Song of the Day “Remember” by IceAge

They called it Punky Joy Division From a band that has exploded on the scene with a real Jakobinarina vibe. I think they are from Denmark, and they produced arguably the Album of the Year in the Alternative world. All the influences come together so beautiful on this jam, called “Remember” from 2011’s New Brigade
Today’s SONG OF THE DAY!

Cigarettes and Snowflakes

 

 

 

Ability to Dream

 

I’m attempting to live life long enough to where I can afford a vacation

Yeah, do drugs on beaches and flirt with sexy foreign girls

See swirls on some foreign made shit and maybe never come back
Look at cracks, make jokes that are whack and find some happiness I can contract

Yeah, I’ve got a mask to my face trying to understand the place I’m in and blow up with pace

Trying to live a life with pills on the dash
Trying to understand that there is more to live then success and cash
But then there comes a memory or two,

Of my father or of my old crew, holding our breathes floating through air until our faces turned blue

And it’s true that you only live once, but is that a good thing?
If you have a disease or a lack of rings and bling, you are tortured within yourself

Religion can’t do the trick so you call up a magician and watch your friend’s dick desecrate who you love

At least for that one day, you had a lot to do and even more to say        

On your brain, all hate comes into play

But what if life was a chair of bowlies or some type of abstract shit, if we could fall down a bottomless pit and find some rhymes to spit, find some canvases to paint and some essence that’s already been lit

All the incomplete in life is art, we all can’t draw but we have the ability to dream and think

 

 

 

My hair is wet whipping around as I bang my head against the wall, no surrender to never fall

No feelings when you call and no emotions in that bloody bathroom stall

No life to live beyond the pieces I possess now, I can’t hear you anymore you are to loud

The days when the music stopped

The moments when the temperature plummets, and your clothes dropped

The times when I had nothing except the blood coming from my cut

Gun to my head as I run out of luck
You thought you knew me before, but now I’m locked behind this steel door
Crawling through oblivion on all fours

In all of the land, I haven’t found a smile with less meaning then yours

I haven’t seen anything so horrible in my time, your heart rots not your teeth
All the bodies buried beneath you buried alive, trying to contrive reason to break from your clutches

Ashes falling from your cigarette like snowflakes in winter, but this is humid summer in the town center
I’ll bet my wrist, my neck and you’d best understand I’ll be around to get some gold dentures
I’ll be around to mend my scars, hop a few bars and spit for the stars

The moments when the hair on my arm stands up

 

 

Rat (Poem)

 

In the kindest way i am your love slave

Don’t look at me that way, i’m here for you

I’m your dog, rolling around in the mud just to get dirty for you

Hurt myself just to get dirty for you

Keep myself chained in, just to get dirty for you!

What do you think this is?

This isn’t playtime, there is to much pain involved

This is weird but i kinda like it

Strapped to the ground just waiting for you

Chained to the bed just waiting for you

We aren’t in this together, we are just friends

We tend to destruct, and my words don’t leave much to pontificate

Religion had it’s reign but now i’m stretched out naked going insane

Gaunt and looking plain, put makeup on my stains to help make there feel like there is some sort of fucking gain to the way we play

To the way I get dirty for you, just waiting for you to show on up

I’ll be your dog, your rat or a boy fiending for more blood to keep him from suicide

 

Netflix Movie Recommendation! (Chaser)

Chaser

What a good movie this is, it is a masterpiece that you could only expect from South Korea’s revolutionary filmmakers. They blend comedy, violence, trills, more violence and even more comedy. They are just great Crime Thrillers, genre bending masterpieces. Chaser is no exception. It’s a film that takes a little patience, but once you start up there is so much going on. So much entertainment from our Hero, a cop turned pimp and the supporting cast. A Murderer is on the loose killing prostitutes, and the investigation begins from the cops as well as the police.
The pimp is a sarcastic, weary soul who is as street smart as they come. He ultimately catches up with the perpetrator and starts a deadly and fast paced game of cat and mouse.
Its a very good movie, puts american action films to shame. It’s violent as all hell, but its ok because its not unnecessary. Its just a great movie, very entertaining and one of the best movies that Netflix has to offer!

Happy Veterans Day

I really want to thank all of the veterans who have served this country. It’s a daunting task, one that takes extreme heroism that must of us don’t possesses. I had quite a few veterans in my family, however i knew that it wasn’t in my future to represent my country in that way. When we Support our troops, we should appreciate our troops with no political undertone, no other context or anything. Just support no matter what

Warning Shot (Chapter 1)

            My name is Pyotr Tchermoeff. But that didn’t matter much to me anymore. My name was nothing, as I was just a spectacle blowing in the wind. I was someone that nobody cared about, nobody knew and that would never make a serious impact on the world. When they tortured me to death I wouldn’t get my name in the paper. We didn’t even have papers like that in Chechnya. This wasn’t the United States, we didn’t have nightly news. If we did then news would be flooded with innocent Chechen children riddled with bullets and burned for decades, heinous and relentless torture of my people.

            I had joined the freedom fighters knowing that we’d never actually be free. We were just making a statement to the Russians that we wouldn’t sit around and let ourselves be killed. I became a shadow, they taught me to use a sniper rifle when I was twelve. I didn’t fire one until I was fifteen, instead while I was progressing in age I learned everything there was about the Sniper Rifle. My sniper rifle at the time was a Remington. It was far less technologically advanced as the Alias CS5 that I had. It looked absolutely amazing. It was high quality, advanced technologically with a custom design. The exterior was mostly red with some streaks of black. It didn’t blend in with anything but I knew if they saw me I was dead anyway so why not die with a cool looking rifle.

            I didn’t care about much, I wasn’t a Muslim and I didn’t want a wife. I was an outcast in Chechnya but I loved the country. I grew up there, I knew the people that lived in this country and especially my village. I decided to become a sniper when my brother was killed by a bombing. I couldn’t believe that it happened. I was absolutely in disbelief, and I was feeling as though I was suffering from shellshock. I already hated Russians, they treated us poorly and they were always very cruel. They beat us, terrorized us by raiding our homes and shot our people. It was unacceptable and nobody did anything about it, so it was our duty to do something.

            For the most part I would lay still on the fifth floor of a building that was in one of the few abandoned cities of Chechnya. Nearly decimated by the bombings and the first war, few people still lived there and if they did they’d stay on the outskirts. My assignment was to kill a high ranking Russian officer. The city was usually a gateway to Grozny, the capital. So often the Russian pigs would roll through. They had done so four or five times since I had been on the fifth floor but I couldn’t identify a good target and they were to close.

            The side of the fifth floor that I was on, was opened from a tank shell that went through the side of the wall. There was a large hole in the ceiling as well, and bullet holes all around the room. I lay in the rubble and kept watch, keeping my binoculars handy. Next to me, was an old Uzi, my CD player, a picture of my brother, a Penthouse magazine and a cell phone. In the other room was some food, I would usually get some food delivered every week. I ate very little and I always would conserve everything, but now I was running out of pills.

            Days got long and time didn’t always pass as quickly as I wanted, so they would give me a couple hundred painkillers a month. I went through them quick and this time I finished a week early. It worried me, and I didn’t want to call them up to ask for more but it seemed as though I was going to be forced to. I didn’t want them thinking that I was some kind of drug addict even though for the most part it was true. They didn’t even make me feel good like they used to, I just needed them to feel sane. My job up on the fifth floor was so boring that sometimes I didn’t know what to do with myself.

            That day I thought about everything before I was shot and killed. Your life really does flash before you when you die, and I’m telling you all this as the bullet rips toward my head. That day, I lay on the ground with my rifle positioned on the bipod. I looked in the scope to see what was going on. There was a plastic bag flying around the streets that ended up getting caught up against a pole. I was just getting ready to go to sleep when I heard a yell. I didn’t think much of it, because there were a group of kids who came around playing and would usually throw me a signal or two if the coast was clear.

            I stayed alert for a couple of minutes but then my attention started to drift off. I figured it was just some kids playing football, so I put my head down and rested against my pillow which was conveniently placed right near where I’d lay with the rifle. But when I closed my eyes I heard a second even louder yell. My heart raced as I shot myself up. I grabbed my Uzi and took cover and peered down. I saw a kid running with two fingers up, he was missing one finger from it get cutting by the Russians so it was slightly awkward. But he made the devils horn sign which made me chuckle but then when I really thought about it this seemed like it could be bad. The little boy made another sign that frightened me, he put his thumb up to the side.

            My heart dropped and I put the thumb to the side back to him, I wasn’t sure if he could see it or not. But I knew what the thumb to the side meant, it meant that there was a high ranking Russian official near me. I was scared to be honest, I had only pulled the trigger a few times but this was the real deal. I could be a hero, a martyr. But I could also be just another death.

            My hands were sweaty and sticky and so was my face. I didn’t know what to do to prepare, I was scrambling. Then I decided to go back to the basics. I sat with my legs crossed and sat up straight. I started to deep breathe, slowly but surely my anxiety went down. After ten minutes of completely going to my zone I departed from it calm, cool and collected. I reached for my rifle and got into position. I set up the bipod and then grabbed the binoculars. I had excellent vision on the fifth floor, basically I could see the whole city. And there I saw a group of soldiers and then what looked like an high ranking Officer.

            The Russians believed that the whole city was a ghost town, like us they believed the only people that lived there were in the outskirts and that they were peaceful. It was the perfect cover for me, so there I lay watching them and continuing to deep breathe. I dropped my binoculars just as the boy who signaled me ran off. The troop was far from him anyway but he must have seen or heard them. Another boy ran behind him, he must have been hiding. I realized I needed to be more aware because I didn’t even see the little bastard. I wasn’t some shitty sniper they put out on the fifth floor of a decimated building to eventually be shot, I was a damn good sniper who was there to kill a high ranking official. The problem was when I got killed I wasn’t going to go to a bunch of virgins, instead I was just going to leave this cruel world. Sometimes I wondered if it was a mistake not continuing to pursue the Muslim faith, what if there really was a afterlife of some form. The Chechen Command initially didn’t want to even put me in a big position despite my skill, due to a complete lack of faith on my part. Instead they decided to take a risk, one that would now pay off.

            So I looked into the scope still calm and cool, I made sure to continue to breathe normally. I saw that they were two streets away and I knew that I had to act. There weren’t many of them in the troop so it was time to make the kill. I put the scope to my eye, positioned the gun and put the crosshairs on his head. He was wearing a hat reminiscent of a high command, I started to get shaky and fearful when the hat reminded me he was an officer. I didn’t know whether or not to pull trigger. I was covered in sweat and I started absolutely panicking. I took a deep breath and then pulled the trigger, I watched the officer’s head whip back.

            Everyone in the troop got down and I jumped back myself. I ran to the back of the room and then jumped into the closet. I smiled as I closed the closet door, I felt accomplished because I did it. I was just about to celebrate in my closet when shots were fired into the room. I started to panic again because I didn’t know what to do. First I ran out to grab the Uzi and fire back but then I decided to stay hiding. I closed the closet door again and started to cry.

            I had no idea what to do so I stayed. Time passed, I thought I was safe. I was as quiet as possible and closed my eyes. I had acted as though I was completely ready to die, but when the opportunity came up I was terrified. I was scared of the unknown, I wasn’t sure what would be up in the afterlife or if there even was one. And if there wasn’t one, everything would just end. And then I remembered that I didn’t have my Uzi.

            Ten minutes had passed and I decided that I had to go for the Uzi. It would end up being the worst choice of my life, and as I dived out of the closet to grab the gun I heard someone in the hallway. I reached for the Uzi but it was to late, I felt the bullet rip through my bicep. I screamed, in the face of death I was absolutely shocked. I lay on the ground looking up at the barrel of the gun.

            They spoke in Russian, and I didn’t even have time to move. Instead I had time to go over my whole life, the first time I had sex, my first true love, my breakups, my mother and father, my favorite things like playing Call of Duty and killing Russians or watching Manchester City with Sergio Aguero or Daniel Silva. There was a moment where I finally felt free, I know I didn’t begin my story years ago but I’d like to start at my death. Life was like that, I have all the time in the world before I go so I can tell you the whole story. In a bizarre way, this end is only the beginning. It was time to tell my story.