|RE/SEARCH Newsletter #34, February 2005|
|HERE’S THE NEWS FROM SAN FRANCISCO….
**Dear Friends: Please note that our email address has changed to:
All readers are invited to send contributions and feedback!
1. CounterCulture Hour Saturday, Feb 12 **(tomorrow!)**, 2005, 6:30pm, Cable Channel 29 (Sorry, Bay Area only, but watch for video releases on our website.) The 4th episode will feature a conversation with the highly engaging Winston Smith, artist behind the Dead Kennedys’ album covers, author of 3 books of political-punk, socially-critical, graphic, anti-totalitarian Americana Art…all published by San Francisco’s Last Gasp. Winston’s credentials as an early “proto-punk rocker” is established by his presence at the very first Ramones show in August 1976 at the Savoy Tivoli on Grant Avenue, San Francisco, and at the first Crime and Mary Monday [R.I.P.] shows at the Mabuhay Gardens. All these shows are noted historically in the very first Search & Destroy #1, published by V. Vale and still available athttp://www.http://www.researchpubs.com
The first CounterCulture Hour aired Nov 13, 2004, and featured Dirk Dirksen of the Mabuhay Gardens, S.F.; the second featured Oberon Ravenheart and Thorn Coyle from our Modern Pagans book; the third featured R.U. Sirius and Dan Joy, authors of “Counter Culture Through the Ages.” The program airs the 2nd Saturday of each month at 6:30pm, on an ongoing basis. Your interviewing host is V. Vale, and the program is produced by Marian & Marian (aka Wallace and Wilde).
2. Death of a Punk: “They Killed Mary Jesus at Xmas-time, just before her 33rd Birthday!” N.B.: By sheer coincidence, there is an Insaints Reunion concert **tonight** Fri Feb 11, at Bottom of the Hill, S.F. Mary Jesus would have been there, if she could.
The following was written by V. Vale and printed in Street Spirit (2/05), an American Friends Service Committee publication ($3 from 1515 Webster St #303, Oakland CA 94612). The article was “inspired” by the spectacular suicide of Mary Jesus Brazil, who threw herself off the Oakland Tribune Tower Dec 10, 2004, to protest her “illegal eviction” (her opinion) after 13 years in the same low-rent apartment. Here’s the article:
I’m known as a punk rock book publisher in some circles, and for this reason Mary Jesus called me up, out of the blue, back in 1999, wanting me to publish a book by her. She called late at night and we talked for several hours. She told me she had been a hardcore punk rocker starting at age 15 when she ran away from home [Modesto?] in 1984, and started telling me anecdotes about the punk underground. [She had been a close friend of Marian Anderson, singer from the Insaints, who did possibly the most outrageous live shows of the ’80s-’90s S.F. “punk scene.”]
She was very intelligent, witty, charming and acerbic–absolutely full of ideas and opinions on everything wrong with society and the world. So I listened. Every couple months she would call me up, always late at night, and we’d talk for hours. She was very entertaining.
Mary Jesus continued to call me every couple months. When she first called me, she had told me that she lived in a 15-unit apartment building in Oakland, and that she was the manager of the building. Her apartment was her refuge from the world and she almost always stayed at home. The only place she could normally afford to go was the public library.
We finally met in person, June, 2001. The S.F. Art Institute hosted a book release party celebrating my new book, Real Conversations, featuring Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jello Biafra, and others. The event was so hectic I could only spend a couple minutes with her. She asked me to sign her book, which she had splurged on for the occasion.
At some point, her beloved apartment building was sold to investors or real estate speculators who apparently terminated Mary Jesus as manager, but I didn’t find this out until last year when she started telling me her about tenancy problems.
Around August 2004, she told me she was in danger of being evicted: “My new landlords want to evict me because I’ve been here a long time and they think my rent is too low–they think they can get two or three times what I’m paying.”
But she was intelligent, proud, and literate, and she told me she was confident she was going to win if things went to court, because she was in the right, and because she had started spending weeks at a local law library learning the laws, and was determined to get a jury trial for her case. She believed in justice and her own honesty.
If I had life to live over again, I would have immediately said, “NO! You **need** to get a lawyer *right away*. There are pro bono (free) lawyers.” But I just listened to Mary Jesus and silently applauded her determination to argue her own case in front of a jury and judge.
Later, after the case had progressed to her appeal, I tried to help her find legal representation. It then became obvious that if your case has already gone to court, no free lawyer will touch you with a ten-foot pole.
When she finally called, she said, “If I’m evicted tomorrow, I have no choice but to kill myself. I have no resources, no savings, no money, and nowhere to go. I live on permanent G.A. (about $336 a month) and am classified as ‘totally disabled.’ It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.”
I invited her to stay at my place. She said, “But I love my apartment–I’ve been here 13 years. It’s full of all my beautiful things. I can’t start over. I just can’t.”
Finally the day came, December 8, 2004, when Mary Jesus called late in the afternoon and said, “I’m in the loony bin. Last night I set fire to my apartment and tried to hang myself in my closet.” She seemingly joked, “It’s not so easy to kill yourself.” But I was just on my way out, and couldn’t talk to her then, and just quipped back, “At least you have a place to stay tonight.” She left a phone number — the pay phone in the ward, which netted no answer the next day.
But that afternoon Mary Jesus called while I wasn’t home, and talked to my wife Marian. Mary Jesus asked if it was still OK if she stayed with us. Marian said, “Yes,” and Mary Jesus turned the phone over to a hospital administrator (a woman) who merely asked for Marian’s name and address, then handed the phone back to Mary Jesus. She apparently released Mary Jesus to her “custody,” oddly early, in retrospect, after a suicide attempt.
Mary Jesus came over and spent the night. Foolishly, I assumed she had gotten “suicide” out of her system, and had no idea that when she left for Oakland the next morning, she would throw herself off the Oakland Tribune Tower, or I wouldn’t have let her leave. She left with a list of errands which we had helped her plan out the night before in the order of getting her life back on track: cashing a money order at the post office, putting in a change of address notice, getting a new G.A. card (all had been lost in the staged fire).
I learned another lesson: if someone threatens to commit suicide, you had better take the threat ultra-seriously, AND do anything you can to make them feel 100% safe and secure. I wish I had told her, “Listen. Whatever it takes to get you into a new apartment, we’ll take care of it. Don’t worry about not having money. We’ll take care of it.” We can always find money for what **has to** be done.
When somebody kills herself, especially someone smart, intelligent, sarcastic and funny, it makes you feel very disturbed. I felt I knew Mary Jesus quite well through our lengthy phone calls over six years, yet had spent almost no time in the same room with her, ever. If she hadn’t been evicted, I feel she would still be alive today [at 1515 Alice Street in Oakland], living the life of a mostly-recluse in her beautiful apartment-refuge, and hopefully writing her manuscript.
If indeed the act of eviction killed her, then something is wrong with the social system that inadequately protects low-income persons from being evicted from apartments they’ve inhabited a long time. Maybe a mandatory legal defense procedure with a tenant defense lawyer must be instituted? I don’t know. But there is something very wrong with this picture.
3. City Lights Bookstore will host a special RE/Search event at their store (261 Columbus, S.F.) on Feb. 24, featuring the JG BALLARD QUOTES book. We are busy planning this, and may send out a last-minute reminder to you.
4. Latest release: J.G. Ballard: Quotes A mini-review from an avid RE/Search reader: “This book is like a travel guide to your own mind. No matter what the subject, Ballard nails it. Nobody else has predicted the future as well as Ballard–why don’t more people know about him?!”
EAST BAY EXPRESS, January 26, 2005
Futurism, Fabulism, Terrorism
Tomorrow never knows — or does it?: As the man credited with launching the contemporary tattoo and body-modification movements almost single-handedly, UC Berkeley grad V. Vale has been called a prophet. His 1989 book Modern Primitives (RE/Search, $19.50) inspired a generation to ink, pierce, and decoratively scar itself, not to mention branding itself with hot metal and rerouting its genitals. But the native San Franciscan writer and publisher, whose own flesh has reached middle age without a mark, is now crusading to make America venerate an even more illustrious seer. J.G. Ballard Quotes (RE/Search, $19.99) compiles thousands of tidbits from the author of Crash and Empire of the Sun, both of which were made into films.
The author of more than forty books, Ballard — who lives in Britain and has been scarcely published Stateside — has always predicted the future with amazing and eloquent accuracy. Forty years ago — eons before porn Web sites and chatrooms — he wrote: “Sex times technology equals the future.” Eons ago too, he mused darkly that the future would be governed “by competing systems of psychopathology.” He has called cell phones “the protective cocoon” that allows users to “discreetly theatricalize themselves.” Perhaps his darkest prediction of all was: “Does the future have a future?”
In 1972, Vale discovered Ballard’s book Love and Napalm: Export USA [aka The Atrocity Exhibition] in a secondhand bookshop. “It was completely prophetic. He predicted the election of Ronald Reagan 25 years before it happened.” Ballard’s 1973 novel Crash explores “the psychosexual implications of owning an automobile. He posited that a lot of people latently wish they would be in a car crash, because for most people today, a car crash will be the single most exciting event that they live through — if they live through it.
“J.G. Ballard is the most relevant living philosopher. He’s virtually unknown in America, yet he has psychoanalyzed the predicament of the near future, of the — I hate to call it — technofascistic society we’re becoming.” The death of Ballard’s crony William Burroughs in 1997 “made me wake up and think, ‘Hey, I’ve gotta do something about Ballard,'” says Vale, whose huge collection of rare Ballardiana assembled over three decades provided source material for this book.
And will Vale’s daughter, now nine, be getting tattooed or pierced? “Not while I’m paying the rent,” the trendsetter asserts.
“The Arab world, the Moslem world, may well take the place of the Communist world as the great bogeyman of the future.” (JGBallard, 1993)
“How do you run a society where a large proportion of people will never work?” (JGB, n.d.)
“People seem to enjoy being infantilized. The future before us is a nightmare marriage between Microsoft and the Disney company…” (JGBallard, 2003)
JG BALLARD QUOTES available from http://www.http://www.researchpubs.com or call 415-362-1465 to place order.
6. Our latest inspirations…
Mark Pauline, his wife Amy & son Jake hosted a small party at their home for visiting Australian performance artist STELARC, described by our pal Pesco as doing art which “investigates the relationship between the body and technology.” We found Stelarc to be funny, unpretentious, earnest and definitely important in his thinking and work, which Bay Area programmers like Karen Marcelo are aiding and abetting. We’re happy to report that a future “Counter Culture Hour” will feature Stelarc. Google him to learn a lot more…
We finally got around to reading William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition (found it in a thrift store) and highly recommend it as the author’s “best” book since his debut “demi-classic” Neuromancer in 1984, which was widely acclaimed as furnishing the blueprint/archetype for the “cyberpunk” — a hacker-post-punk-almost Modern Primitive-resourceful hipster trying to survive the future treacherous techno-totalitarian nightmare urbanscape. Who said, “Kill all Cool Hunters!”?
We also read Henning Mankell’s Firewall, guest-starring a young hacker genius. Ed Hardy reports that Mankell’s latest, featuring the daughter of fifty-something, about-to-retire, angst-ridden Swedish detective Kurt Wallender, is “good–maybe not quite so good as the earlier ones, but still worth reading.” (Is that a recommendation, or what?) There’s also a new Andrea Camilleri detective novel, just out…Camilleri is a personal favorite of V. Vale…
Other books in our lives: G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. Hegel. W.S. Burroughs.
The 7th Annual S.F. Independent Film Fest (sfindie.com) features a film directed by Vladimir Vitkin based on local writer Michael Blumlein’sScience-Fiction novel X, Y (those are chromosomes, duh, which obviously are ripe for “personal” genetic manipulation). The plot sounds very interesting, especially relevant for certain avant-garde San Franciscans! (How many frontiers are there left to cross?). The director reports being heavily influenced by our Modern Primitives book. Incidentally, this SF Indy Film Fest is yet another example of Bay Area Do-It-Yourself, in this case curated by the near-omniscient film fanatic, Bruce Fletcher. The last screening of X, Y is at the Roxie, Sun Feb 13, 9:30pm.
A Brief RE/SEARCH History
February 2005 RE/Search eNewsletter written by V. Vale & Marian Wallace
DISCLAIMER & PROMISE (borrowed this from City Lights–thanks!) — V. Vale’s eNewsletter is a free service to our esteemed customers, comrades and critics. If you’re receiving this email, it’s because you or someone you know has sent your address to us here. We will NOT trade your address, sell your address, or in any way make your address available to anyone else, EVER.