Sunday, February 28, 2010

Harry Does Dallas: Ghosts Of Deep Ellum (Photo Essay)

Deep Ellum is Dallas's own little slice of a Bohemian arts district. Were my location one of choice in the DFW area, I would hope to find a home near there for artistic people lower my guard and ease my breathing. Dallas is a corporate city with unflattering insecurities lying underneath. There's much of a "Please like me for my BMW" mindset here which like all pretensions is fatally boring. But that ain't Deep Ellum.

I'd decided on spending the day in Dallas, starting it off with an always fantastic turkey burger from Twisted Root Burger. Here's a helpful tip on going there: get there early, like five-minutes-before-they-open early. I was fourth in line and by the time I finished my meal the line was 20 deep - and that's just the people outside on the sidewalk.

Twisted Root

But it was while I was sitting there munching away, reading a delightful article in the Dallas Observer about a resurgence in the Oak Cliff area that I got the idea to do a photo essay on Deep Ellum. Hell, I was there already and I make it my custom now to bring my camera along. Bad news was the temperature had dropped 15 degrees and a very steady drizzle soaked my unprepared ass as I strolled along the streets. But we artists must suffer!

Unfortunately, Deep Ellum as of 2010 is dead:

Blue

Caged Entrance

Velvet Hooka
The sign says "Velvet Hookah". Catchy, huh? Shame it's closed.
Here's some artwork on the side of the building:

Velvet Hooka Art

Deep Ellum has artwork all over the place. Here are just a few examples:

Earth Art

Bone Art 2

Norah  Jones
You might recognize Norah Jones here

Elm Bar Art

There area was originally an industrial one. From wiki:

The area got its start in 1884 when Robert S. Munger built his first factory, for the Munger Improved Cotton Machine Company, in what is now Deep Ellum. In 1913, Henry Ford opened an assembly plant here to supplement the manufacture of the Ford Model T at the Detroit plant. In 1916, the first building built for and by blacks in Dallas—The Grand Temple of the Black Knights of Pythias—was built in Deep Ellum at Good-Latimer and Elm Street, later turned in to the Union Bankers Building

Remnants remain from its original roots:

Clicks

Adam Hats Full

Adam Hats

Yellow

Deep Ellum is situated due East of downtown Dallas. Its name stems from a corruption of "deep Elm street". Elm street cuts all the way through downtown, leading past the School Book Depository at the other end. The de facto dividing line between downtown and Deep Ellum is the I-45 highway and its merging overpasses.

Overpasses

Downtown

Elm
A straight shot down Elm.

But Deep Ellum's richest tradition, though, is its heritage of blues music and back in the day it had its share of heavy hitters:

Deep Ellum became distinguished as a prime jazz and blues hotspot in the South. Artists such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson, Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, and Bessie Smith played in Deep Ellum clubs like The Harlem and The Palace.

In 1937, a columnist described Deep Ellum as:

“ ...[the] one spot in the city that needs no daylight saving time because there is no bedtime...[It is] the only place recorded on earth where business, religion, hoodooism, gambling and stealing goes on at the same time without friction...Last Saturday a prophet held the best audience in this 'Madison Square Garden' in announcing that Jesus Christ would come to Dallas in person in 1939. At the same time a pickpocket was lifting a week's wages from another guy's pocket, who stood with open mouth to hear the prophecy.


Deep Ellum in more recent times has cycled between thriving and dying. And while it's more dead than alive now, there are some large scale plans in the works by a couple of developers to buy up huge swaths of real estate and restore things to their former glory. The timetable for that depends on when (if?) the economy gets rolling again. In the meantime, some legendary places have closed:

BoneDada
The Bone (Club Dada to the right)

Dada
Club Dada, proving ground for the Old 97s and the New Bohemians

DaddyJacks
Daddy Jacks, an upscale eatery

Some places have thrived even through the down turns, having developed a loyal following:

StPetes
I actually went to church camp with the owner, Pete Zotos.
I haven't looked him up because he, uh, might remember me.


Tiggers
Tattoo joints do well here.

Brazil
This place is straight out of Austin with its cool funkiness

Regardless of what its current condition may be, Deep Ellum is always a must-see stop when visiting Dallas. So if you get the chance, come on down!

Art Festival

------------------------------



Walked up Ellum an' I come down Main,
Tryin' to bum a nickel jes' to buy cocaine.
Ho, Ho, baby, take a whiff on me

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Slaying Dragons With One Hand Tied Behind My Back


There's an evil in the Forest. Nameless and dark, no one speaks of it openly but rather in whispers with tentative looks over the shoulder. It's as if to admit it exists is to admit one's own doom. Yes, deep within the gloomy, towering trees beats a heart of death, hungry for the souls of men...

Do you ever practice maneuvers in your home? You should. Using complete tactical precision, I slide from wall to wall, tumbling across the living room from behind the couch to the easy chair station, awaiting the movements of potential enemies. When - not if - they come, I'll be ready. Close quarters fighting, diversionary devices, cleverly concealed booby traps - I pity the storm troopers who storm me!

My TV plays an endless loop of film clips designed to keep my mind razor sharp at all times, rotating between Rambo, The Professional, Scarface, Enemy of the State and The Princess Bride. It goes something like this: "I always thought the mind was the greatest weapon"..."Is life always this bad or does it get better when you get older?" "Always this bad"..."Say hello to my little friend!"..."But if this is somebody's unilateral wet dream, that somebody is going to jail!"..."Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." "Stop saying that!"

I guess you could say being a hero just comes natural to me.


***

The Forest hides its evil well. Only the purest of hearts can pass through alive - and all must pass through. Like a spider's web, no movement is undetected, deception can lie only from within. The story is the branches grow so thick, so intermingled, sunlight never reaches the shrouded ground and in this unholy union festers a will to bend human souls...

I fasten the tripwire across the front door. If opened, the pin is pulled from a fuse-shortened grenade giving any intruders an education they'll learn only too late. On my wall a samurai sword, a 32 inch razor to slice through the foolish impudence of any adversaries. On top of the fridge - behind my oh so innocent Igloo cooler - lies my Glock, ready to pounce at a moment's notice. But the pantry holds the greatest surprise of all: an Uzi in my Cocoa Puffs. No need to add milk.

Like the world, I keep my power hidden, putting on a hypocritical display for the mindless masses. The truth suits them like a pungee stick to the eye, but a lie? The fear-filled fools will stand in line just to swallow a glimpse of paradise lost. That's my real protection; their own self-delusions keep me safe. I can hide where they dare not look in themselves. I imagine shooting the sheep with my spiritual shotgun. They never duck!


***

Ancient is the Forest, since long before man put air into his lusty lungs. Unconquerable are these musty woods for they are also the wellspring of life. "Do you have something to hide?" query the timbering giants, luring you into the "safety" of their lightless environs. My opponents reside there, planning my demise with impunity. No, the Forest cannot be beaten, only resisted.

A white car. I see it through the blinds this colorless, generic beast. Government cars aren't allowed to have personality. Two men, in suits - that's part of the act - looking official, intimidating the little people. They don't get out right away, talking to one another, making preparations, doubtless spitting on photos of me when I know they are the true traitors. What's that? An ear piece! A tactical unit must be close by! This means war!

I'm surprisingly calm - it's a relief to face the final showdown. But I'm not the willing sheep they hope I am! I institute emergency order 12, connecting my doorbell to a directional charge of C4. Yes, killing my truth will be harder than you think you moronic minions! Kiss my oppressed ass! Feel the love! Maybe next time you'll think about giving peace a chance! Die fuckers, die! Here they come to lose the day!


The takedown went something like this


***

The firefight was glorious! I made it out alive - which really pissed them off. Yeah well, fuck 'em. I made bail. But I bet they won't be sending any more census takers to my door!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

God Doesn't Care


Who you are


What you are


Where you are


How you are


What you do


What you think


What you believe


What you know


If you know


What you say


What you pray


Who you trick


How you live


What your dreams are


If you've lost all hope


If you've lost everything


If you're ugly or beautiful


If you're a hero or a coward


God doesn't give a flying flip if the whole world is falling apart and dying!


Not for a second or a minute, not now or ever or in dimensions with no time, under no circumtances that ever have been or will ever be, God doesn't care: your needs will never change.



Monday, February 22, 2010

America Is Like A Jewish Garden In WWII

In ignorance we trust

"You just want me to feel bad."

That's what every junkie says when you take away their needle. But what does one say to the willfully ignorant? The truth. There's a book (and great film) called The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, about a Jewish family insulated on their estate as the dark winds of anti-Semitism blow in around them. They work on their love lives and forehand strokes as store shop windows are smashed in and "Juden" scrawled across the doorway. There are warning signs of the coming danger but they don't want to feel bad and leave their estate.

Maybe they thought nothing would happen to them if they were "good". Maybe they fancied themselves as "optimists" on the world (confusing that with being optimistic on life). Maybe they were just weak. Whatever the case, their fate was that of a cattle car ride to a concentration camp. At that point - when it was too late - voices of "enemies" who told them to give up their worldly life were revealed as their true friends - and their "friends" who whispered sweet lies revealed as no friends at all.

I just finished reading Jeremy Scahill's shocking expose book Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. While I read hearts to know what the truth is, I love reading books that expose our true actions and the details are riveting. In it he describes a de facto coup d'etat by American corporations to the point of threatening our sovereignty. Sounds alarmist, doesn't it? Chicken Little crap just to draw attention. Some people protect life in the garden, some people protect the truth.

I'll meet you in the cattle car


As of summer 2007, there were more "private contractors" deployed on the U.S. government payroll in Iraq (180,000) than there were actual soldiers (160,000).

I don't say America is on the path to destruction because of Blackwater, I say it because of the reasons forces like Blackwater are allowed to rise. Our military can no longer operate without the crutch of private contractors. Take them away and our war machine collapses. Pay up or pull out, pal. Military decisions no longer rest solely with our commanders. And corporations - the Caesars of our times - want only more power because that means more profits. These are the same corporations who blackmail us on our healthcare. They'll stop at nothing.

If you took an alien from another planet and plopped him down during the height of our outright rape and oppression by the American occupation, that alien if having even an once of justice within him would have been rooting for the death and slaughter of every American there. We carried out this evil with lust and abandon, ruthless in its infliction, howling in manufactured rage. It was free market principles applied to war: if you can be killed, you deserve to be killed. Doing it in the name of democracy and freedom made it all the more vile.

The only thing we wanted to liberate in Iraq was their oil.

From Naomi Klein:

[Occupation overlord Darth] Bremer enacted a radical set of laws unprecedented in their generosity to multinational corporations. There was Order 37, which lowered Iraq's corporate tax rate from roughly 40 percent to a flat 15 percent. There was Order 39, which allowed foreign companies to own 100 percent of Iraqi assets outside of the natural-resource sector. Even better, investors could take 100 percent of the profits they made out of the country; they would not be required to reinvest and they would not be taxed. Under Order 39, they could sign leases and contracts that would last for forty years. Order 40 welcomed foreign banks to Iraq under the same favorable terms. All that remained of Saddam Hussein's economic policies was a law restricting trade unions and collective bargaining.

If these policies sound familiar, it's because they are the same ones multinationals around the world lobby for from national governments and in international trade agreements. But while these reforms are only ever enacted in part, or in fits and starts, [anti-Christ] Bremer delivered them all, all at once. Overnight, Iraq went from being the most isolated country in the world to being, on paper, its widest-open market.


This brings no outrage


To be fair, we did give candy to their children. But the son of darkness Bremer's final order was his best: it was the one excluding private contractors from all possible prosecution. Which was a good thing for the Blackwater thugs, they were going to need that exemption.

Incompetence is a particularly rabid fetish of the conservative mind - which is natural considering conservatism is based upon irresponsible desire. Lacing our invasion with incompetence is like lacing pot with PCP, the damaging aspects increase exponentially. In their blind bid for profits, Blackwater recklessly sent four poorly informed and misguided mercenaries right into the thick of Iraqi resistance where they were duly killed and their dead bodies paraded around. This happened in the city of Fallujah.

I already posted on the Blackwater murders in Nisour Square but that's nothing compared to the siege of Fullajah triggered by Blackwater's profit lust. In order to make an example of the city, we bombed and snipered anyone and everyone, even seizing control of Fallujah's main medical facilities to prevent treatment of the wounded. Its power plant was also bombed so only mosques and clinics with generators had power. Not that mosques weren't bombed as well.

"It's hard to differentiate between people who are insurgents or civilians," said Maj. Larry Kaifesh. "It's hard to get an honest picture. You just have to go with your gut feeling." Now there's a comforting thought on our revenge filled fantasy.

You want outrage? Simon, shut yo mouth!


As reported by independent U.S. journalists: "Snipers fired indiscriminately, usually at whatever moved...friends of mine who went out to gather in wounded people were shot at...every single ambulance I saw had bullet holes in it...Of 20 people I saw come in the clinic I observed a few hours, only five were 'military-age males'. I saw old women, old men, a child of ten shot through the head; terminal..." But this is war and we were "forced" to go there and inflict indiscriminate collateral damage.

Mercenaries are now the private armies of politicians (morons need to read up on samurai history to learn the dangers of that), used when our military is not politically viable. Ever hear about our intervention in Azerbaijan in 2004? That's where we went to the Caspian sea to protect our oil and gas interests. That was a Blackwater solo operation because "sending a contingent of uniformed U.S. military would be a provocative move. A private contractor helps keeps things under the radar." A rose by any other name is just as lethal. With our private armies, the old rules don't apply, no Congressional (or popular) approval needed.

But if there's one thing Americans as a whole could care less about it's a dead foreigner. It's not like they're doing shit here, right? Blackwater is set apart from simple war profiteers by the defining characteristic of its executives' very long view. They...have set out to carve a permanent niche for themselves for decades to come. Blackwater's aspirations are not limited to international wars. Its forces beat most federal agencies to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina as hundreds of heavily armed mercenaries fanned out into the disaster zone...billing the government $950 a day per Blackwater soldier.



Nothing like guys with automatic rifles with out-of-control egos wandering around bound to no rules of engagement such as the military and police. This is on American soil, folks. [The anti-Christ 43rd President] used the Katrina disaster to try to repeal the Posse Comitus Act (the ban on using U.S. troops in domestic law enforcement), and Blackwater and other security firms initiated a push to install their paramilitaries on U.S. soil, bringing the war home in yet another ominous way. "This is a trend," said one Blackwater mercenary in New Orleans. "You're going to see a lot more guys like us in these situations." Now there's a prophet I trust.

But these are loving, kind, caring people seeking justice for all and rescuing cats from trees. Do we really need a constitution in this country when we already know everyone's trying to do the right thing? I think not! That's why I don't get upset when I read CCR's Michael Ratner's comments: "Their actions may not be subject to constitutional limitations that apply to both federal and state officials and employees - including First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights...These kind[s] of paramilitary groups bring to mind Nazi Party brownshirts, functioning as an extrajudicial mechanism that can operate outside the law. The use of these paramilitary groups is an extremely dangerous threat to our rights."

Yeah, whatever.

"We must promote a more entrepreneurial approach: one that encourages people to be proactive, not reactive, and to behave less like bureaucrats and more like venture capitalists."

These literally insane words were written by Donald the Duck Rumsfeld in summer of 2002 in an article titled "Transforming the military". Private armies are a wet dream for the-powers-that-be, for sale to the highest bidder, with loyalty only to the almighty dollar, to be used any way their masters see fit. It's only a matter of time before oil spikes again, hitting $300 a barrel and more, wrecking the economies of the world and choking food supplies. Think Blackwater will find work then?

Hard to eat freedom of speech


So as the dark winds of greed blow in around us, we ache only to stay in our garden a little longer, avoiding all the "feel bad" news and gossiping excitedly about the tennis club. We're not ready to give up our ways just yet. Anyone who doesn't believe America is capable of fascism has never been unemployed. Wait long enough and the time for choice will pass. None of the Finzi-Continis survived.

Take it from someone who knows: if we really want to feel better, it comes only from facing our solutions.