I Was Never a Surrealist

In which a woman bitterly resents America.
A letter by Frida Kahlo to herself, written in Detroit in August 1932. Any resemblance to real people is purely intentional. Carta: Mater Dolorosa. I am eager to survive. Let's leave this place. Long dining room tables scare me. To rejoin the revolution is a hope I still carry. I am not nothing. I am a small thing. Small thing with a dead small thing in an urn. DEDICATED TO: My first cell. An egg laid in Coyoacán. I am determined to stay resolutely bright Despite the unpredictable phenomenon of my disintegration. Feet. Cells. New nations. Grease. Inhalation. Phony smiles. Terrible pain but I am grateful to be LIVING. 'To live' — the irony of writing those words on a day of death. 'Colorado.' They told me it is white. (To be white and colored!) There are no colors. Supposedly we… Read More...

My Years of Militant Surrealism

In which a man moves to America.
A letter by Luis Buñuel to Paramount Pictures. Any resemblance to real people is purely intentional.   TO: Ms. Alice Velotta, Secretariat, Paramount Pictures SPAIN, ONCE RED has taken on a gray-yellow pallor. I no longer view my presence here As anything more than a heavy sack— A boat filled with the hollow shavings of deadwood trees, A set of outdated almanacs gathering aluminum-white dust. So you will excuse my ready tone. Don't believe them When they turn my pride against me. I am not too good For Los Angeles, knowing angels never Forsook a degenerate. Since my christening at the Urselines Theater when all of Paris stood on its feet for some reels of celluloid We scarcely agreed to show our own friends I have been nurturing this spiritual connection To America, its soil and people So astonishingly unlike Spaniards.… Read More...

Wikipedia Politics

In Wikipedia’s earnest and well-intentioned struggle with its own ineluctably political nature, we may be seeing how an online community begins to think like a state.
The following is a guest post by Matthew Battles. The invitation to post at South/South came to mind the other day as I was driving fast down a country road in Illinois: a gravel-dusted, two-lane blacktop, of all places, a blistered seam between corn and beans. A quarter mile or so down the lane, a flock of birds wheeled against the molten sky—a token of disaster, a sign of impending crisis brought by drought and industrial agriculture. Or so it seemed; as I drew closer, the birds lost focus, grew tattered and uncanny, until passing beneath I managed to reread the apparition as mere shreds of dried cornstalk twirling in a stately vortex of slow-turning air. Now, arguably, the image was a more-fitting symbol of agricultural apocalypse: these were after all actual crops, withered and torn from the ground, turning… Read More...

How to Shop Better?

There is something primal about going shopping and going to war. Both come from a hunger to be our best, to compete, to exercise a right or a belief.
The following is a guest post by Christina Kral and Adriana Valdez Young.  SETTING The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has a desk space for 1,000 staff and 619 blast-proof apartments, the sealed compound includes a cinema and retail complex, a food court, schools, and medical facilities as well as its own power generation and water purification systems. A perfect American container city within a war-torn Baghdad. The first shopping mall was born in post-World War II America. Émigré architect Victor Gruen was nostalgic for his home city of Vienna, which he had fled in 1938 after it was annexed by Germany. In 1956, he created the Southdale Center in Edina Minnesota, the world’s first enclosed shopping mall. Gruen had a dream of the mall as a harmonious city. He planned for schools, apartments, cultural institutes, hospitals, parks and more to be attached to… Read More...

I Have No Memory of It

The fate of some paintball gunshots, flames, hammers, pig's legs, and bottles of acid in August 2012 in the United States of America.
Transcribed data on the fate of some paintball gunshots, flames, hammers, pig’s legs, and bottles of acid in the first half of August 2012 in the United States of America.   ONTARIO, California. Worshippers said two women threw the three legs onto the driveway of the proposed Al-Nur Islamic Center in Ontario shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday and sped away in a white pickup.     NORTH SMITHFIELD, Rhode Island. Muslims from a North Smithfield mosque are asking for extra protection after a sign outside their place of worship was vandalized over the weekend. North Smithfield police confirmed they are studying surveillance video recorded around 3:30 a.m. Sunday. That's when a person was seen driving into the mosque's parking lot and smashing the sign with a hammer.     MORTON GROVE, Illinois. The shots were heard by worshipers who were outside the… Read More...

Preferential Immunity

The argument that we are all at risk, bare and naked against a transcendent virus, actually serves the opposite function. Rather than making us feel vulnerable, we feel safe in our shared vulnerability.
The following is a guest post by Elliott Prasse-Freeman. I visit Uganda’s capital Kampala regularly, and so the city’s recent Ebola outbreak might have seemed relevant to me. And yet, oddly, I didn’t really think much of it. Indeed, despite the generally horrific deaths that befell those folks in that 1990s-era mass-contagion movie, and the fact that the film was inspired by real events in east Africa, my first reaction upon hearing the Ebola news was casual curiosity. It was only upon a doctor friend impressing Ebola’s “it will kill you” nature upon me did I even consider canceling my upcoming trip: Are you in Kampala? Just don't go to Mulago hospital, which you shouldn't be going to anyway. And don't go to Kitaale. Otherwise you're probably fine. If it gets to more than a few hundred cases, I would… Read More...

“Healthy” Nationalism?

The opening ceremony of the Olympics distorted the image of a country that was burning just one year ago and whose economy is yet waiting to cool off. Maybe the broadcasters figured there would be no audience for the re-enactment of the British slave trade, imperial torture, or people losing their jobs en masse.
The following is a guest post by Linnéa Hussein. It's called Slumdog Industrial Millionaire and the Ecstasy of Victoria. Not even the Nazis could top this shit. —Danny Boyle on the Opening Ceremony, "Fuck the Olympics" in If You Can Read This You're Lying During the Olympic opening ceremony I sat outside in a beer garden in Germany trying to have a conversation with an old friend, when my visiting friend from Luxembourg kept pointing at the television screen behind the windows mumbling about Britain’s idiotic ways of spending money and distorting their history. That was my first glimpse at the Olympic Summer Games 2012: a muted screen full of bizarrely arranged Mary Poppins, Shakespeares, steelworkers, and 007. I didn’t think much of it until I came home and saw the flood of enthusiasm and national pride on Facebook coming from… Read More...

Army Realness from NATO to NBC

Pairing the realness of celebrity participants with the real of former combatants has generated the most mainstream military drag show in American television history.
Stars Earn Stripes is a freshly pressed NBC drag show reality television series which debuts its two-hour premiere on 13 August, or 'Monday after the Olympics at 8/7c!' as its promotional spots blared all throughout the station's Olympic Games coverage. The emphatic promise of militarytainment—a real NATO ex-general, real ex-Navy SEALS, real ex-Delta Force commanders, real ex-Green Berets, real celebrities, etc.—outranks previous shows of its ilk. It also makes the Pentagon Channel look like the army version of the perpetuated congressional yawn that is C-SPAN. Here is the show's self-description: Hosted by General Wesley Clark (retired) and Samantha Harris, "Stars Earn Stripes" is an action-packed competition show that pays homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and our first-responder services. The star-studded cast includes four-time undefeated world boxing champion Laila Ali, actor Dean Cain ("Out of Time," Five… Read More...

There’s Still So Much to Say

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys.
  Giddy-Up I have been abducted by the final chapters of my dissertation. The Stockholm Syndrome effects are setting in nicely. (Occasionally—let's call these photosynthesis breaks—I get water and sun.) A friend once described the hackneyed fantasy of the dissertation writer, and how much it unnerved him. The fantasy's genre is the western, he said, and the dissertation writer is a cowboy mounting a steed. Fastening on the horse's harness followed by his own holster (on the buckle of his brass belt, which keeps up his perfectly faded Levis), he dreamily looks out onto the haystacks where the entire cast of his family and friends have gathered to see him off. He is, after all, star of his own film. Occasionally a damsel wipes away a tear on a lily-stitched handkerchief. His mother nods wordless affirmations. A child approaches the… Read More...

Five Questions with Nikki Giovanni

Didn’t Miles Davis once say to John Coltrane: Whatever you play, play the blues?
Five Questions with __________ is an experiment with flash interviews. The series on poets continues with poet, writer, civil rights activist, and educator Nikki Giovanni. I read her poem 'Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why)' in a library once—or was it in a classroom? On a neighbor's book shelf? To the immigrant child of immigrant Muslim parents everything about that poem was a confusing shock to the system.  Paths would cross again. At 16 I entered The Washington Post's now defunct poetry e-slam†.  It turned out Nikki was the judge. The chosen theme was forks. She picked me as a finalist and wrote an evocative two-line reaction I committed to memory for awhile. That pretty much beat out anything else that happened that year, save for my best friend fitting tens of helium-filled balloons in her car and bursting into the house with them… Read More...

A Bandit is a Bandit

Maniacal evil has a face, and that face nearly always glints darkly.
In January 1969 a man named Carlos Lamarca, an officer of the Fourth Infantry Regiment based in Quitaúna, São Paulo, led a group of soldiers in a raid on the regiment’s arms depot. The officers, members of the clandestine Popular Revolutionary Vanguard (Vanguarda Popular Revolucionária or VPR), loaded an army truck with heavy munitions and escaped unscathed. Six months later, an organized armed group of men conducted an unprecedented mass escape of political prisoners from the high-security Lemos de Brito prison facility in Rio de Janeiro. These and other frequent, high-risk guerilla ops—during the roughest years of Brazil's rule by military junta—shared two strategies and outcomes: bank robberies, which provided a well-padded financial beehive, and military ambushes, which furnished a freer flow of cached weapons. The redeeming potential of rising criminal activity (whether it was 'revolutionary' is a related but… Read More...

Five Questions with Dan Beachy-Quick

When the breath was loud and long enough, I could simply cut out the section of tape and splice it back together. After 4+ hours of doing this, I looked down, and saw these ¼ inch sections of tape all of which contained this man inhaling for another breath. The ground was littered with his
Five Questions with __________ is an experiment with flash interviews. The series on poets continues with poet, critic, and professor Dan Beachy-Quick. Dan barely needs a formal laureled introduction, which I am never prone to giving in this space anyway. Instead I offer a personal one. When I was 22 I was accepted to an experimental writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a program Dan directed at the time. The enormous tuition and fee costs (during a period of hand-to-mouth existence) made me decide against going. Dan's response to my letter of decline was kind and encouraging. Though we did not stay in touch his work has often found its way into my self-made syllabus. His latest book centers on reading. If 'reading is a method of entering' and 'entering is a form of initiation,' what better knife-polishing apprenticeship than reading… Read More...

Field Notes on Fashion and Occupy (Part Two)

Women's Wear Daily: 'Graffiti lettering adds realism to the disheveled sign.'
    Soon the whole bridge was trembling and resounding. The uncouth faces passed him two by two, stained yellow or red or livid by the sea, and as he strove to look at them with ease and indifference, a faint stain of personal shame and commiseration rose to his own face. Angry with himself he tried to hide his face from their eyes by gazing down sideways into the shallow swirling water under the bridge but he still saw a reflection therein of their topheavy silk hats, and humble tapelike collars and loosely hanging clerical clothes... Their piety would be like their names, like their faces, like their clothes.        —James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man   11. Women's Wear Daily picked an Occupy Wall Street demonstrator for their 'Man of the… Read More...

Five Questions with Lisa Russ Spaar

What makes a habit "bad"? A rut of overusing genitive-link metaphors. An addiction to certain kinds of low-end television, like The Real Housewives of New Jersey.
Five Questions with __________ is an experiment with flash interviews. The series on poets continues with poet and professor of English and creative writing Lisa Russ Spaar. I came across her work after an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education called 'Eating the Days: Thoughts on Off-Line Learning at UVa.' A critical and personal reflection on the University of Virginia fiasco ('like children forced to wait in the hallway while the grown-ups sequestered themselves in the bedroom to squabble about whether or not to get divorced') through a close reading of Seamus Heaney's poem 'Oysters,' it remains the most evocative writing I have come across on the subject. Lisa's poems—like 'New Year's Eve'—are no less potent. What is your worst bad habit? Your good question invites me to think about what constitutes a habit [something done habitually, in terms of behavior or… Read More...

Iranophobia 2.0

One might come to cynically expect the trickle-down discriminatory treatment Iranians (including those with U.S. citizenship, which both Sabet and Jafarzadeh retain) from the government, who views Iran as its number-one enemy. Facing it while picking up an iPhone at the mall is disdain cut from an unexpected cloth.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=La6ev1r_pjY According to a local news channel a woman was denied her purchase of an iPad at the Apple Store in Alpharetta, Georgia because of her Iranian origin. When an employee heard Sahar Sabet speaking Persian‡  he refused to sell them an Apple product. When we said 'Farsi, I'm from Iran,' he said, 'I just can't sell this to you. Our countries have bad relations.' Not only was Sabet's account confirmed by WSBTV's Amy Napier Viteri (who used an iPhone to film an exchange with the same Apple sales representative that denied Sabet her purchase, reiterating that Apple will not sell to anyone from Iran), but another Iranian had an identical experience. Zack Jafarzadeh tried to buy an iPhone at a mall in Atlanta: I would say if you're trying to buy an iPhone, don't tell them anything about Iran. That would… Read More...