“Eliza Dushku has more going on than just her much-talked-about starring role in television guru Joss Whedon’s new upcoming series, Dollhouse.
The Bring It On beauty just told me she’s co-producing a movie about the life of Robert Mapplethorpe, the late photographer who caused national headlines with his controversial homoerotic work.
“Literally this week after quite some time, we finalized the deal with the Mapplethorpe estate,” Dushku told me at Gatorade’s G-Gym at Sundance’s Village at the Yard. Dushku’s brother, Nate, will star as Mapplethorpe, who died of AIDS in 1989 at age 42.”
“It’s a summer night in Oz Park and Michael Zernow, whom everyone here knows as “Frosti,” is undressed for action. Wearing nothing but black shorts, yellow sneakers, and a black skullcap, he stands on a two-inch-wide plank and prepares to run a precarious route on, over, and around the play lot equipment he’s using as an obstacle course.
Frosti takes a flying leap from the top crossbar of a wooden play set to a ledge on another playset several yards away that looks like a castle rampart. His feet land with perfect precision. He then winds in and out of the structure’s various openings like a centipede. After crawling along the exterior of the play set, he takes another flying leap, about four feet down to the ground. His landing makes barely a sound. His bare torso—inscribed with a tattoo that says change yourself, inspire the people, save the world—is glistening with sweat.
The discipline he has just demonstrated is called parkour, which in France, where it originated, means “obstacle course” and is also known as “the art of displacement.” Parkour is based on finding ways to get from point A to point B in the quickest manner possible. Typically, that means jumping over, climbing on, or flipping off of any obstacle in your path. Frosti’s version of parkour also incorporates elements of “freerunning,” a variation that emphasizes stunts more than speed. If you saw the 2006 Bond movie Casino Royale, you saw Daniel Craig chase the creator of freerunning, Sebastian Foucan, up, down, and around a construction site, including the cranes.”
“Marko Manriquez is the founder of The Freegan Kitchen, a site that promotes cooking found food. He’s been diving in dumpsters for food going on three years now. As a result his lifestyle is both environmentally and socially responsible. I recently became aware of freeganism through a mutual friend. Then I got to interview Manriquez about how he’s been off the agri-business grid since. Photo by electromute.
Kelly Abbott: When did you first become interested in the freegan lifestyle and what drew you to it?
Marko Manriquez: I’ve always considered myself an environmentalist (as well as a bit of cheapskate), so it was a natural fit for my lifestyle. My friends kept finding amazing things from the dumpster, including food. At first, I was apprehensive to eat any of it, taking only timid bitefuls. But, I was surprised at both how much perfectly good food was being thrown away (~14% by conservative estimates) and that no one really knew about it. And it also bothered me that most of our garbage was being literally entombed in landfills rather than composted or returned into the ecosystem. The United States is a culture of enormous consumer appetites (obviously)—we consume (and waste) so much but it never really seems to satisfy our desires. The impulse to buy our way out of anything is very strong, rarely questioned and conditioned into us perpetually from a very early age. I wanted to share this revelation with others. I created FK as a way to both satirize our consumer media bubble (how better than with a cooking show?) while at the same time empower others to alternative forms of sustainability—all the while leveraging the tools of the system to critique itself.”
“It has been 15 years since Damien Echols was sentenced to die for the murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis. He claims he and the other two convicted of the heinous killings have what they need to prove they are innocent. Surrounded by guards in Arkansas’ only super-max prison, Damien Echols is shackled at the hands and feet. (Damien Echols, Death Row Inmate) “Every single morning for the past 15 years I’ve had to wake up in a prison cell knowing I should have never been there in the first place. They took from me the entire decade of my 20’s. I’m now in my 30’s. They are taking my 30’s. I’ve lost 15 Christmas’, 15 Thanksgivings… my son has had to grow up without his father.” Treated as one of the most dangerous criminals in the state, Echols is one of only about 40 inmates on Arkansas’ death row.
(Echols) “I can take exactly 4 steps from the back of the cell to the front of the cell. Everything is made out of concrete except for the door which is steel. .” Now 15 years after being locked up, as he spends day in and day out in solitary confinement, Echols believes he is the closest he has ever been to getting a new trial.
(Echols) “Ever since the minute I was arrested 15 years ago, I’ve tried to tell them that I did not do this and they just weren’t interested in listening. They said well that’s what everyone says. And that’s why for me the dna evidence is so important now because finally there is concrete forensic evidence that I can point to and say look I told you.”
This article was original written for Key 64‘s Guns, Dope, and Fucking in the Streets PDF zine. I have no idea when the zine will see the light of day, so I’m running this here now.
If you have a fixed idea of what a “typical gun owner” looks like, the coffee table book Armed America may surprise you. If your main exposure to “gun culture” is the mainstream media, or magazines like the American Rifleman or Guns and Ammo, you could be forgiven for thinking all gun owners are rural, middle aged white men who dress in cammo and are desperately worried about protecting the families from gun toting “urban youth.” Armed America, a collection of photographs of gun owners by Kyle Cassidy, includes Montana survivalists and young urban black men, but also tattooed punk rockers, single moms, and American families who couldn’t look any more normal without being creepy.
It turns out, in the United States anyway, the typical gun owner could be just about anyone. According to the introduction of Armed America, 39% of the US population owns guns. Chances are, even if you did have a stereotype in mind for the “typical gun owner,” you actually know a few people who don’t fit the stereotype. Guess what? Those people aren’t the exception: they’re the rule.
So with such a large and diverse range of people owning guns, why is the gun culture – the magazines, shooting clubs, lobbying organizations, etc. – seemingly so homogeneous? Partially because most people who happen to own guns don’t make a lifestyle of it. Partially because some gun owners are quiet about it because they belong to communities that frown on firearms. Cassidy told ESPN.com “There was a guy in California I really wanted to photograph. He eventually declined. He said, ‘It’s like you’re asking me to pose with my pornography collection.’ It was something he just didn’t want to be known as owning.”
And partially because the established gun culture’s authoritarian and socially conservative agenda alienates many unapologetic gun owners. There are many proud gun owners interested in fighting for the 2nd amendment, promoting individual gun ownership, reading about guns, and socializing with other gun owners. Ostracized by the established gun culture, they are creating their own.
Take the Pink Pistols, for example. According to their web site they were established in 2000 to sponsor shooting courses for sexual minorities, and help them get concealed carry licenses. There are now 45 Pink Pistols chapters in the US (and one in Canada), and each group sponsors monthly shooting outings.
They even gained a bit of notoriety with a bizarre mention on Fox News. On the June 21, 2007 episode of the O’Reilly Factor, “gang expert” Rod Wheeler warns viewers of the “Pink Pistol-Packing Group” – a dangerous lesbian gang active all over the country. In an article on their web site, the Southern Poverty Law Center note that while Wheeler claims there are over 150 active lesbian gangs in the DC area alone, other crime experts say there are only 150 to 175 gangs TOTAL in the entire DC area. According to SPLC, Wheeler now claims he wasn’t referring to the law abiding, gun advocacy group known as the Pink Pistols, but to some other group using the same name (that no other law enforcement agency in the US seems to have ever heard of).
The alternative gun culture now has their own voice, a zine called The American Gun Culture Report. AGCR provides an alternative to culturally conservative, authoritarian gun magazines. In the introduction to the first issue, AGCR editor Ross Eliot writes “Supporters of censorship, unaccountable court systems, secret prison camps and torture have claimed gun rights as their private issue far too long. It’s time to take it away from them.” AGCR publishes views from the likes of socialists, libertarians, pagans, and queers – anyone alienated by the mainstream gun press.
The pages of AGCR feature articles on “unexpected gun owners” such as Eleanor Roosevelt, analysis of the political positions espoused by the mainstream gun press, accounts of discrimination at shooting clubs, impassioned defenses of gun ownership, and much more. Eliot, who describes himself as a “non-doctrinal socialist,” says he publishes many things he does not agree with. “I’m not the best writer or editor,” Eliot says, “But I’m putting together a magazine I want to read, which is why I’m not pushing a specific social agenda.”
The zine was conceived one day in mid-2005 when Eliot was reading an issue of Guns and Ammo in the break room of the factory he works in. He says the magazine was “pissing him off” and he decided it was time for an alternative. He’d never made a zine before, but “There was this huge void not being filled, so I figured I might as well fill it.” Ross published the first issue in 2006 and the second in 2007. Both are available from zine and book stores across the US, or from their web site.
Eliot bought his first gun, a Mossberg 12 gauge shot gun, in late 2004 because “I was feeling more and more socially irresponsible for not having a gun.” The Rwandan Genocide changed how he viewed social violence, he says. “It was the most effective genocide in recorded history, about a million people were killed in three months. There have been have been much larger genocides, but this happened with unprecedented speed, and it was done with machetes. One person with a gun could have made a difference.”
Surprisingly, Eliot has received no negative responses to the zine from the left, even though he distributes it at anti-war protests. “The only negative response is from the mainstream gun press and their audiences.”
Eliot says he hasn’t really considered writing for the mainstream gun press, citing the plight of writers like Dean Spier Dean Speir who were blacklisted from the mainstream gun press after criticizing major advertisers. Instead, he’d rather grow AGCR to the point where it can compete with mainstream gun magazines.
Update/Correction 9/28/09: Dean Speir commented below correcting both the misspelling of his name and my description of him as “blacklisted.” The error is my own, and not Eliot’s. Speir writes:
It’s important to note that calling my absence from the “gunzines” a “blacklisting” isn’t really accurate.
I spent the better part of three years trying to get a gunzine byline, and discovered it was pretty much a closed shop.
Then I got my foot in the clubhouse, and everyone wanted whatever I could provide.
But once “inside,” it became apparent that, like the special interest ‘zines which appeal to the automotive, boating and photography hobby-ists, there was precious little critical writing being done.
And after 12-13 years of trying to get something other than “puffery” in the “mainstream gun press,” and with the advent of the Internet as a more direct conduit for free expression, I retired, bloody but unbowed.
Is there one published who wouldn’t touch my byline with a 12-foot Chechnyan? Absolutely! Harris (Combat Handguns) in NYC.
But I still get inquiries from other Editors wondering if I’m working on anything that might interest their readers.
For the past nine-plus years, whatever fit that category, is self-published at http://www.thegunzone.com, free of advertiser interference and nervous editorial oversight.
And competing with, or ignoring, the mainstream may be their only choice. The Pink Pistols actively try to build bridges with the established gun culture. The August 2001 issue of Guns and Ammo featured a short article about the Pink Pistols and concluded “Once again, maybe we need to shrug off the things that don’t affect shooting and gun rights and step up to the firing line with our fellow shooters.” Nearly seven years later, that hasn’t happened yet. Not that it matters much for the Pink Pistols or the American Gun Culture Report. They’ve proven they need no acceptance or approval from the mainstream to build successful communities.
The current economic crisis has some people showing an an interest in survivalism, frugal lifestyles, etc. This fascinating documentary focuses on one particular group of people who live according to their own rules.
“Twenty-Five miles from town, a million miles from mainstream society, a loose-knit community of eco-pioneers, teenage runaways, war veterans and drop-outs, live on the fringe and off the grid, struggling to survive with little food, less water and no electricity, as they cling to their unique vision of the American dream…”
“He was known as the king of the Yosemite lifers, that proud band of rock climbers, tightrope walkers and seekers who made camp on the margins of the law, sleeping under the black oaks and sequoias and California stars. On his shoulders he carried an 80-pound constellation of canvas stowage, books and sweatpants, bottled water and mushy food, a sleeping bag and a reserve sleeping bag meant for some encountered companion of the road. To the government, he was Charles Victor Tucker III, scourge of Yosemite National Park, fixture of the lodge cafeteria. To acquaintances, he was Chuck, harmless and stoned jester of the mountains. And to climbers the world over he remains Chongo, the Monkey Man, named for the sticky soles he had once fashioned from Mexican rubber. ‘I learned a lot from Chongo,’ said Ivo Ninov, 32, an accomplished guide from Bulgaria, ‘because he was the father of big wall climbing.’
But the fullness of Chongo’s legacy would appear only through his disappearance from rock climbing, a passage from sylvan to urban wilds that has made him a stranger to his sport and an outcast from his home, now reduced to sleeping under a tractor-trailer. Along the way, he would find a new kind of homelessness, and a new sense of mission. Even among outliers, Chongo, 57, had always diverged. In a time of corporate sponsorships, he lived on charity, scavenging and bartering handmade wares. In a time of brand-name gear, he rigged worthy contraptions from found parts. In a time of speed-climbing records, he gained renown for his comically deliberate ascents. Once, he stretched an assault on El Capitan across two weeks, including three days spent pausing to consider some half-forgotten existential puzzle.
Dumb jokes congealed around his legend, for he projected a familiar and comforting sort of weirdness. Around a campfire or a cafeteria table, tourists and weekend warriors could find in Chongo a certain box to cross off, the obligatory aging hippie recounting unintentionally hilarious misadventures, denouncing the prison-industrial complex and rhapsodizing on junk science.”
As I read the dense, long reviews and letters explaining the merits of this or that tool, it all seemed comfortably familiar. Then I realized why. These missives in the Catalog were blog postings. Except rather than being published individually on home pages, they were handwritten and mailed into the merry band of Whole Earth editors who would typeset them with almost no editing (just the binary editing of print or not-print) and quickly “post” them on cheap newsprint to the millions of readers who tuned in to the Catalog’s publishing stream. No topic was too esoteric, no degree of enthusiasm too ardent, no amateur expertise too uncertified to be included. The opportunity of the catalog’s 400 pages of how-to-do it information attracted not only millions of readers but thousands of Makers of the world, the proto-alpha geeks, the true fans, the nerds, the DIYers, the avid know-it-alls, and the tens of thousands wannabe bloggers who had no where else to inform the world of their passions and knowledge. So they wrote Whole Earth in that intense conversational style, looking the reader right in the eye and holding nothing back: “Here’s the straight dope, kid.” New York was not publishing this stuff. The Catalog editors (like myself) would sort through this surplus of enthusiasm, try to index it, and make it useful without the benefit of hyperlinks or tags. Using analog personal publishing technology as close to the instant power of InDesign and html as one could get in the 1970s and 80s (IBM Selectric, Polaroids, Lettraset) we slapped the postings down on the wide screens of newsprint, and hit the publish button.
While on that flight, Brand came up with a solution: to publish a magazine in the vein of the LL Bean catalog-which he’d always admired for its immense practicality-that would blend liberal social values with emerging ideas about ‘appropriate technology’ and ‘whole-systems thinking.’ He decided to run NASA’s photograph of the planet on the cover and to call the publication the Whole Earth Catalog (WEC). The first WEC, published in July 1968, was a six-page mimeograph that began with Brand’s now-legendary statement of purpose: ‘We are as gods and we might as well get good at it.’
The WEC lasted four years (along with some special editions since). During that time, the magazine published a flood of articles about species preservation, organic farming, and alternative energy-but it was also a resource for ‘tools’ as wide ranging as Buddhist economics, nanotechnology, and a manure-powered generator. Comprehensive in this way, the WEC was a catalyst, helping transform a set of disparate individualists into a potent community. As Lloyd Kahn, the catalog’s shelter editor, says, ‘The beatniks had a negative, existential vibe. They weren’t into sharing. But the hippies came along and wanted to share everything. Whatever they discovered, they just wanted to broadcast. The WEC was the very best example of this.’
It is now 40 years later and the WEC’s avalanche of influence continues to flow. Cyberculture, the blogosphere, companies like Apple and Patagonia, websites like Craigslist and worldchanging.org, sustainable building, ethical business practices, and the gamut of alternative-energy industries were all shaped by its pages. Its ecological legacy spans everything from new cattle-grazing techniques to major environ?mental legislation. What follows is an oral history, compiled from 30 hours of interviews, that takes a look at the Whole Earth Effect-the long-lasting impact of this short-lived journal, as told by the people directly in its path.