IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #12.7
J Church / Honey Bear Thang
Too Hot - "We are the sons of Reagan. Heil!"

 

MORE MERCH

I've started a little store at Café Press just for fun. It's a little expensive as they make everything to order. Some of the stuff is cool. Some of it is obviously a joke. I've got a couple of shirts I designed, a couple of Cringer flyers made into shirts and some other odds and ends. I've also got a book I put together of all the J Church lyrics from the `90s titled Notes, Blurbs and Random Thoughts: `90s Lyrics for Pseudo-Intellectuals and Weekend Revolutionaries. If people dig it, I'll expand the designs. You can check it out at www.cafeshops.com/honeybear

 

THE ALBUM AND STUFF

Society Is A Carnivorous Flower will be out before the next newsletter (hopefully). I'll get more into all that stuff next time around. But for now…

 

RONALD REAGAN DOES NOT EXIST

Ronald Reagan is gone. There is no Ronald Reagan anymore. He doesn't exist. There's just a decaying corpse that's not even a metaphor. A symbol maybe… Good riddance.

When I found out that Ronald Reagan had finally died I felt a wave of relief that I really didn't expect. For me, Reagan's death was no cause for mourning, but celebration. I soon found out that was true for many, many people as I started getting mass e-mails from everywhere saying how happy they were that he was dead and some saying they were gonna have a party to mark the occasion.

So much of my life has been affected and distorted because of Reagan, it's weird that a guy so far away (and who is the antithesis of everything to me) would have such an impact even before he became President in 1980. I remember when he first ran for the Republican nominee and it was such a joke. Nobody thought that the U.S. was stupid enough to vote for an extremist, right wing, ACTOR to run the country. But four years later he was swept in, and it was a real epiphany for me.

This was before I even knew what he was capable of. It was before I knew that he had used his power to make sure the hostages in Iran weren't released until it best suited his needs. I just knew he was an evil person from what he had done to California and couldn't believe that anyone knowing that would want him to be President. Of course, I was an Anderson supporter AND I was in the 8th grade. But that just shows that I was ideologically precocious as a kid…

I was a real happy kid before Reagan. I know now that I was pretty deluded. But I thought American was a pretty liberal place. I wasn't patriotic. But I wasn't not patriotic. In Hawaii, it seemed like people championed the freaky, hippy, underdog politicians. Marijuana's virtual legality and the distrust of the military presence was a way of life. I vividly remember (like some people saw of the Kennedy assassination) when Nixon resigned. I remember my step dad taking me aside and telling me that I should always remember that day. It was a great time to be a kid.

Everyone knew that Reagan was the guy that busted up UC Berkeley's faculty because of the school's history of dissent and it's reputation of being a politically radical campus. He shut down the radical Criminology program (among others) because of their liberal discourses on criminology that sparked national debate. One of his first acts as governor was to oust UC president Clark Kerr (and he was no saint either) who had refused to crack down on the campus Free Speech Movement. Reagan's the one that dispatched the National Guard on students protesting in People's Park. Despite the fact that UC Berkeley at the time had the #1 rated graduate program in the country, Reagan was determined to destroy it by gutting it saying that state universities should "not compete with Stanford". When the graduating class of 1968 decided to have a "Vietnam Commencement" to show opposition to the war, Reagan tried to shut them down claiming the act of free speech would be "so indecent as to border on the obscene".

Reagan was the one that drastically cut the funding for California's mental health programs in 1967. Using "de-institutionalization" he saved the state millions effectively dumping thousands of people on the streets most of whom couldn't care for themselves. De-institutionalization is now regarded by leftists and conservatives as being responsible for the massive number of disabled people living in the streets and prisons.

It was all right there in front of everyone's faces. Why would they want this bastard for president? I think it was an epiphany for me and probably what lead me, in a state of despair, to join the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade when I was 14. My growing anarchist tendencies would eventually get me isolated and ignored by that group. But the fact remained that I was feeling like an outsider, completely, for the first time.

Teen alienation is one thing and is a big part of why a lot of smart people got into punk rock back then. But the level of isolation I was feeling practically directly resulting in Reagan's presidency made me react even more intensely. It was like taking acid for the first time. Reality as I had known it began to peel away and I was learning about how society and America was the big lie. American's weren't stupid or evil. They were being lied to. How do you defend yourself when no one is playing by the rules?

Today I have a much more refined political outlook. But it's still a version of that teen alienation started by Reagan. It's a bit of disappointment and a lot of humiliation. But the anger that results has been tempered with ideology and the hope of a better tomorrow.

Reagan does not exist. But his legacy does. We can't let people start remembering him as a great statesman. It's essential to remember.

Here's a couple of great resources:
Counterpunch
(I love this site. Alexander Coburn is my favorite columnist these days.)
Z Mag (ditto for this and Chomsky)
Michael Moore
The Nation

 

IN THE J CHURCH VIEWING ROOM

PING PONG (directed by Fumihiko Sori)

There's a lot of great stuff coming from Japan these days and it's not on horror flicks about stylized spirits and discordant ghostly sounds. Ping Pong has something and it captures a feel that many people I know who have visited Japan felt on first viewing Lost In Translation. It looks like Tokyo and it looks like hyper-real Tokyo at the same time.

But this is a very, very different story from Lost In Translation. Based on a manga, this is a surreal and existential and neo-Zen comedy about the competitive world of young ping pong players in modern Japan. Peco and Smile are two players who have been friends since their youth. Peco (Yosuke Kubozuka of Go and Tomie: Replay) is the brash and outrageous champion who crushes all opponents while rubbing their face in it. Smile (Arata from Afterlife) is the better player (he's called Smile because he never does ­ Excellent!) but isn't especially interested and often loses on purpose to Peco out of some sort of loyalty. Not only does this anger his coach (a former ping pong star) but it gives Peco a further inflated ego.

During an interschool competition, both are defeated. Peco loses to the champ of the disciplinarian, militaristic school of skinheads named Dragon (newcomer Shido Nakamura). Smile loses to China (Sam Lee of Gen-X Cops and Public Toilet), so named, as that's where he is a pro and he's just in Japan to kick start his career (sort of like when a ball player gets sent back down to the minors for a tune-up). Needless to say, the rest of the movie involves the two needing to pick themselves up off the floor solving the inequities of their friendship along the way. And of course, it all is heading back to a great rematch.

This is a lot of fun as the competitions are startling in their originality and quite beautiful at times. There are some amazing epiphanies from one character re-christening himself in a river, one of the skinheads getting his due and when Dragon learns to play ping pong completely for pleasure.

I'll also say this; the soundtrack is amazing. I don't know who any of these groups are. They're all Japanese. But we were all jumping up and down to the music the first time we saw it. If you have an all-region DVD player, I would suggest you get the Japanese disc as it comes with a feature where you can watch the whole movie with just the music soundtrack.

 

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