Sunday, December 06, 2009

Book: The Battle of Seattle

Jim: This is a book discussion. Repeating: "Book discussion." This is not a book report. This is a book discussion. If you're not a critically thinking adult, you should probably find something else to read. We're discussing the new book from AK Press, The Battle of the Story of The Battle Of Seattle which is written by David Solnit and Rebecca Solnit. We've limited this roundtable to a small set of people, The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Dallas who is our link locator and an honorary Third-er; and Wally of The Daily Jot. Except for Elaine, everyone's read the book. I've asked Elaine to participate for another reason that will be obvious near the end of the discussion. Ty, give us an overview of the book's topic.

the battle of seattle

Ty: The World Trade Organization scheduled their Ministerial Conference in Seattle in 1999. The conference was to begin on November 30th; however, activists turned out in huge numbers and shut the conference down. The Seattle protests were seen as the start of a a new era of activism. In many ways, September 11, 2001 would be used to attack them as if al Qaeda in Iraq were somehow activists. Many tactics of suppression and distortions and attacks followed 9-11. Attempts at re-writing the Seattle activism to attack the activists pre-ceded 9-11 but a stronger wave of attacks emerged post-9-11 along with a stronger wave of government repression. David Solnit and his sister Rebecca Solnit were among those organizing against the WTO back in 1999. In the press release on the book, it's noted: "From dawn to dusk on November 30, 1999, tens of thousands of people shut down the World Trade Organization meeting, facing cops firing tear gas and rubber bullets, the National Guard, and the suspension of civil liberties. An unexpected history was launched from the streets of Seattle, one in which popular power would matter as much as corporate power, in which economics assumed center-stage, and people began envisioning who else they could be and what else their economies and societies might look like."

Jim: We'd planned to review the book the Sunday after it was released. That did not happen. We'd ordered copies at our local bookstore and were left waiting and waiting. We also heard from people who ordered it from AK Press who were also waiting. Dona's going to address some of that.

Dona: We contacted AK Press last week when our copies finally came in because that meant we could do this book discussion and one of the things we needed to address was whether or not AK Press could fulfill orders for the book? AK Press advises: "We apologize for the delay in getting David Solnit & Rebecca Solnit's new book out to folks who preordered it - it arrived from the printers a week later than expected as the truck carrying it was involved in an accident, but luckily no one was hurt, and the books arrived safe and sound, if a bit late. So feel free to order copies through the AK Press website, or from your local bookstore, we'll be filling orders ASAP now that we have books in stock."

Dallas: And that's fine but I need to speak to reality. I took off last weekend because C.I. asked me to. She knew if Jim found out what I'm about to share, he'd want to do a story last Sunday. I'm one of the many who ordered the book from AK Press. In fact, I pre-ordered. I pre-ordered and I chose priority shipping to be sure I'd have the book in time for the discussion that was planned here. November 24th, I phoned their number, (510) 208-1700, to find out what was up with the order since my book had still not arrived. I was told I pre-ordered, which is true. I then pointed out that the book was now a week late. At which point, I was told that there had been an accident, presumably the truck accident Dona just referenced. "Are the books in?" I asked. I was told they were. "Okay," I said, "so I can expect my book to be sent out today?" That was Tuesday November 24th. It needed to be sent out, I had paid for priority shipping. I was told it would be sent out today. It wasn't. I've got the envelope and we can scan it in if we need to. The postmark is November 27th. So we've got a nice little story about a truck accident -- no one was hurt! -- that delayed the book by a week but the reality is that November 24th, I was told the books were in. I was told that by AK Press. They told me the books were in on the day before. I really shouldn't have had to ask if my book would be sent that day because if they got them on Monday and I asked for priority mail shipping and the books were already a week late, the ordered books should have been sent out on Monday the 23rd.

Jim: Agreed. To repeat, you spoke to AK Press on November 24th, the books were in, you were told your book would be mailed that day. That didn't happen. It was instead mailed Friday, November 27th?

Dallas: Correct.

Jim: Thank you, Dallas. Dallas helps us out each weekend. He hunts down links, he's a sounding board and he does a great deal more than that. We've repeatedly offered to list him as one of us here at Third but he respectfully declines. And if I had known about that last weekend, I would have insisted we write an article because we have gotten e-mails on this subject, from people who pre-ordered the book and didn't get it. We're moving to Betty now. Betty, before you go into your comments, explain your site's name.

Betty: Sure. My site is called "Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man." For the first years, it was a comic novel. Betinna was a 'third-worlder' whom the 'great' Thomas Friedman had so kindly made his wife. Betinna's life was poverty and drudgery. She frequently remembered things that made no sense, flashes. And after she stopped taking the 'vitamins' Thomas Friedman provided her with, her memory slowly returned. She wasn't from another country, she was from New Jersey. She'd been kidnapped by Nicky Kristoff and Thomas Friedman. The novel dealt with globalization and much more. Thomas Friedman is not a great man, as Betinna quickly learned. My site's now just a blog. I wasn't prepared to see it through to the end because the ending was very dark and required the death of Betinna whom I liked forever but I really grew to love and she became like a real person to me. So that's the backstory on my site. In the early days, I'd usually have each chapter be a twist on or a response to a recent idiotic statement or column by Thomas Friedman. So I had to read his columns and, yes, his bad books. All of which I offer as a preface to point out that page 16 contains an error. Thomas Friedman's book is The World Is Flat, not The Earth Is Flat. That would especially stand out to me. Other than that, I didn't spot any errors. I did frequently feel lost in the book's first pages.

Ava: I would agree with that and include the foreword by Anuradha Mittal. My own opinon is that Rebecca Solnit's chapter should have opened the book because it's the one that deals clearly and chronologically with what happened in Seattle in 1999 -- and the lead up to Seattle.

Betty: Going in, I knew a very small bit about Seattle. Basically enough to nod along during a conversation and toss out one intelligent sounding sentence. So I really did need a walk through and, like Ava points out, that comes in Rebecca Solnit's chapter which starts on page 57. And by the way, we recommend this book. We think it's a book you need in your collection. If we haven't already gotten that across, note that we're doing a book discussion and we don't enjoy doing those anymore.

Jim: Right. We think this is an important book, we think it's one you need to read. And, Betty and Ava, it's going to get a lot more critical as the discussion goes along, so speak freely. Trust me, you're not going to be perceived as "antis" by the end of the discussion.

Betty: Good to know because I like this book but it's a serious book and it requires a serious discussion. As Ava pointed out, Rebecca Solnit's providing the walk through. David's got too much to cover and he skips around in the time frame and he's actually focused on many years after the Battle for Seattle.

Jim: Wally?

Wally: I'm going to focus on one aspect only. That's because Kat, Ava and I heard C.I.'s thoughts during a campus visit last week, a professor was doing a teach-in with photocopies of this book. That's, in fact, how Ava, Kat, C.I. and I read it on the road last week, from those photocopies. So I'm going to go to something else. This book has many, many illustrations. Most of these are historical ones, ones used to get the word out on the protests long before September 1999. Dana Schuerholz's has a "Globalize This!" poster that runs on page 72 that especially stands out. But there are posters and fliers and photographs that are really important to telling the story and a lot of care was obviously taken in selecting which ones to include. On the illustration, my negative criticism is that a map appears of the Seattle area for the protests and that map's on page 107. I would have put it much further up in the book, possibly in the first pages of the book, just so everyone would have some idea of the area the protests took part in.

Jim: So the "Globalize This!" was your favorite? Why?

Wally: It had a . . . insolence? It had an attitude. The main image is a guy with "Who What Me?" on his chest. It was kind of the Beastie Boys of protest. And there's an interesting play of light on the guy and a differing contrast on the guy standing a little behind him. It's just an arresting image for a number of reasons. It grabs your attention instantly. And I want to mention the artist one more time, Dana Schuerholz.

Jess: And in terms of the police repression and brutality in Seattle, Lauren E. Sayoc provides a number of strong photos.

Jim: Jess, what's the big point of the book? If the authors have a message, what is it briefly?

Jess: The 1999 Seattle protest took months and months of planning and that people who ignore the planning and the networking and buy the 'spontaneous' angle are doomed to have less than successful actions.

Jim: I'd agree that's the take-away. Ty, you had a big surprise and this would probably be a good place to go into that.

Ty: David Solnit's pages, which start the book, are about what he sees as the distortions of the actions in Seattle and that includes dismissing the activists as "anti-globalists" when they are anti-so-called 'free' trade, not anti-globalization. Solnit's point is that the battle against 'free' trade is a global movement and the activists in Seattle were part of a global movement. And why I find that surprising is because -- remember Ava and C.I. call it "Crapapedia" -- I went by Wikipedia when Jim told me he was going to ask me for background. So here's my surprise. David Solnit's written at length about various distortions he feels various outlets have made -- including a film -- and yet, Wikipedia, which anyone can edit, isn't something David's taken on. Here's just one paragraph from Wikipedia's brief entry:

Anti-globalization activists made headlines around the world in 1999, when they forced the Seattle WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999 to end early with direct action tactics. The goal that they had, shutting down the meetings, was directly accomplished by placing their bodies and other debris between the WTO delegates and the building they were meant to meet in. Activists also engaged in property destruction as a direct way of stating their opposition to corporate culture.

Ava: And as Ty noted, C.I. and I have long called it "Crapapedia" -- and for reasons like that. The activists did not engage in property destruction. That's a generalization and the bulk of the activists did not engage in property destruction. Solnit writes that out of the thousands and thousands of activists, only a dozen, those were with a group known as "black bloc," were engaged in that and that was after the battle as I understand it from the book, I wasn't there.

Dona: Right and I agree with Ty, it is rather strange that David Solnit and others involved in the 1999 actions haven't taken on Wikipedia which a huge number of people use. As Ty points out, it was one of the stops he made while looking for background information and we are all rightly skeptical of Wikipedia because we've found so many errors there. But it is a huge resource and the resource for many so it is distressing that no one's bothered to take on Crapapedia.

Jim: Okay, we may or may not come back to other elements. The next section may just be C.I. I asked Elaine to participate because there's a college story I need her to share. I know it from her and from Rebecca and I doubt C.I. will tell it the way I want it told. Now David Solnit does not start at the beginning with his section of the book. He starts, more or less, with learning Stuart Townsend is going to make a movie on the subject. He is not happy with the movie. He is not happy with it at all. Ava, after it's been made, he talks to a documentary film maker, Donna Read, who states, "To not go directly to the people directly involved -- the source of a story -- goes against all the training and experience I have had making documentaries, your first step is talking to the people who were there and it's even more important to do this for a docudrama." Your response before we go further?

Ava: Documentary film makers should stick to what they know which, hopefully, is documentaries. She knows nothing about the making of a theatrical film and she needs to sit her ass down. Townsend's making a film years after an event took place, it's an event that's been heavily covered by the media and he's done research and read various things on it including the accounts of some activists. He's not required to speak to anyone, he's not making a documentary and I wouldn't call the film a docudrama either. Donna Read would do well to shut her mouth and sit her ass down. She doesn't know the first thing she's talking about and I have a feeling that's the aspect you, Jim, are going to tackle with C.I.

Jim: You are correct. C.I. read the book and disagrees with nearly all of David Solnit's judgment calls, assumptions, etc. re: film. In his part of the book, that's all he's covering: the film. Anything he brings up otherwise, he's only bringing up to discount the film. David Solnit's section of the book is pages five through fifty-five. The film, directed by Stuart Townsend is The Battle Of Seattle. The book is, in David Solnit's section, about the the battle for the story of Seattle with the film. He makes several assumptions and I guess I'll toss to C.I. there.

C.I.: He says at one point, as he's trying to impact a film in progress, that it's better to do that then than just show up and protest after the film's made. No. It's not better, it's the exact same. Certain things can be changed. A line can be dropped, for example. But once you're shooting the film, it's too late for the kind of changes David Solnit thought he could do. The ending, for example, is already set. And this is not a studio film so the vision will be followed, meaning there will be no reshoots because preview audiences didn't like some aspect. David Solnit got involved way too late.

Jim: C.I. wasn't a drama major in college. She did take part in a play largely because she was really disgusted with sexism and racism that she felt were in the productions and tired of arguing about it afterwards. So maybe David Solnit should become an actor? I'm joking but I actually wrote the first two sentences ahead of time and it's funny how well it dove tails with what C.I. just said. Okay, Elaine and Rebecca went to college with C.I. and I wanted one of them in on this. Elaine, tell me about the play and I mean the reaction. In other words, what C.I. will omit or down play.

Elaine: Gotcha. C.I. was amazing. I knew C.I. could move a crowd with a political speech, obviously. We had classes together and we were on the road together speaking out against America's earlier illegal war and quagmire. But this wasn't C.I., this was a character. It was a character she was playing on stage. The play itself was an embarrassment. It was 'experimental' which really means the one in charge didn't know what they were doing. It cobbled together some prose and some other things and then tried to make it a play. And what it cobbled together were showy moments. And those moments went to the drama pets. And they should have walked away with that play but C.I. stole that play. C.I. came on stage and you could feel a charge. I'm talking about the opening night. There were attempts at humor in the first five minutes of the play and no one laughed. C.I. came on stage the first time about seven minutes in. She got a huge laugh right off the bat. It was amazing. She then grabbed the audience with other elements and you could feel all this energy. Then she was gone until the end of the play at which point it perked up again. The director immediately had to find more spots for C.I. because she was the only thing about the play that worked. You should have heard the ovation she got. She wasn't a drama major, she didn't do play after play. The director's boyfriend came to see the play at a Sunday matinee, by which point C.I. was one of the stars in terms of time on stage and clearly the star to the audience, and he immediately offered C.I. a role in his upcoming off Broadway play. She was amazing and it completely took me by surprise. I assumed she would be good because she usually accomplished everything she set her mind to but this shocked me, how amazing she was. She had to be injected into a funeral, her character, for example and the director -- who hated C.I. -- just put her in the scene with no lines. You could see everyone looking at her in the audience -- I went to almost every performance, if I couldn't Rebecca did and that's because we knew what a battle it was for C.I. -- and they were all waiting for her to do something. She had no line, but she did grab a moment following a big speech in that scene where the play just seemed to die and do this little bit of physical business that actually had some in the audience doing audible heavy sighs. The audience loved her. The director had to give her lines in the funeral scene after that. The play was wretched. It was about war and about this and about that and just gobbled and cobbled together. From about every public domain source in the world with the director's name slapped on as a "writer." If you can believe it. But C.I. made it work. And by the fourth performance, the play was solid. Not because it was written well but because C.I. had been added to at least every other scene and you couldn't take your eyes off her. For example, her character's husband is going off to war in an early scene. And she's got a few lines that really aren't that much on paper. She's paired with a drama major who's all over the stage and C.I. just brought this stillness to the scene, this weight to it that added what was missing which was war is not a game. The scene was supposed to play as the guy's big scene and he was yammering away about the fun he'd have with the boys fighting and "slogging up hills" -- I remmember that line because late in the run, C.I. would toss it back at him in an adlib -- and, remember this was while the US was in an illegal war and C.I. seemed the only character on stage outraged by war or effected by war. The play itself could easily, take C.I. off the stage, have been a homage to war.

Jim: So there's the review. And Rebecca and Elaine have both told me that story over the years. If I hear it from C.I., I don't hear any of that or any of the praise but I do hear about the work, so I want you to talk about that experience, C.I., from the work point and start with the attitudes going in.

C.I.: Okay. I wasn't a drama major, as Elaine pointed out. I was offended by one play after another, including the staging of a Moliere. I always went to the productions on campus to show support but they were really bad. And there was a play right before this that was so racist and so sexist and it didn't come from the text, it came from the staging. And I'd had it because it was so offensive and was complaining to everyone including the head of the theater department and everyone wanted to offer a hundred and one excuses and finally the department head said if I really wanted to change things like that, I should participate. Meaning be in one of the plays. That required an audition and I got picked. Then came rehearsals. I was repeatedly ignored. The director ignored me in rehearsals, if I asked a question before or after rehearsal, I would be told we'd get to it in a rehearsal and we never did. We had a two hour bloc scheduled on a Friday, the actor playing my husband going to war and myself, with the director. I'd assumed we'd finally address my questions and issues in that two hour bloc. We didn't. It was all about the male character -- and the actor wasn't to blame on that, it was the director. After that, I knew I was on my own and I knew I could look like a fool because I'd had no direction. There was no character on the page. That's because, as Elaine pointed out, public domain scenes cobbled together from different sources. So I had to figure out the character on my own. And I did that and in rehearsals I wouldn't be allowed to say my lines because the director wanted to work on something else. I wasn't even given blocking. Fine. He, the director, never saw what I was going to do until the dress rehearsal. At which point he had a fit. He got in my face and yelled and screamed at me and I slapped him and told him no one talks to me like that. I don't think anyone had ever stood up to him. He said something to the effect of "fine, I'm done with you, you'll embarrass yourself at tomorrow's opening." That didn't happen. I was okay on stage. But that was a really pivotal point because you have to listen to yourself and that's what I took away from that. I had to listen to myself to find that character. Then once I found her, the director didn't care enough to know about her. Suddenly, he cares in that he wants me to change this and change that and do this and do that. No. I know the character, I know what she thinks, I know what she feels. The character is alive and no one's going to change her. And you have to stand up for it and if you don't you've lost because if you give up what you believe in and get applause, you didn't earn it. And if you give up what you believe in and don't get applause? You're a loser twice over because you let someone else talk you out of what you believed in and they were wrong. After we opened, he still hated me but the audience was comfortable with me and he had to give me more scenes. He would try to tell me how I would play these new scenes. He didn't even know the character and he's telling me how to play scenes? No. And that's what I said. And I would and still do say "No" on almost every creative suggestion. People know that about me. I will say "no" right off the bat unless I really trust you. And that's to protect the integrity. Now I will think about what you said and if you're right, I'll come back and say, "You're right about that." But you have to fight to create. And that's part of the power of "no" that I've always spoken of online. A lot of people think I got the idea from rape issues or activism, the slogan "No means no!" No, I got it from knowing that you don't let someone mess with what you're creating and I carried that over into projects that I would accept or that I wouldn't. No is very powerful and most artists know that.

Jim: So let's pretend Dave Solnit's coming to you with notes as you're directing?

C.I.: I would've cussed him out. I would've first off explained to him how limited his vision was. He's all upset in the book -- and I like the book and I like his writing and I recommend the book, but we're talking about art and that's my field. He's all upset in the book about how he and others weren't talked to. But do you see him bringing police officers from Seattle to the set? No. It's not David Solnit's story. There's no character named David Solnit in the movie. It's the story of Seattle and Seattle's the only character that matters. Everyone else is being created and that includes the activists, and that includes the police, and that includes the reporters, everyone. It is not David's story. And the refusal to grasp that is really amazing. He is a part of what happened in Seattle but he's not a part of Solnit's movie. And I feel bad because I don't think David's going to grasp that. And disclosure, I know Charlize [Theron] and Stuart [Taylor] and attended a viewing of this film early on. Stuart was very nice to have taken input but what David doesn't seem to understand is the director is going to do what the director wants to do.

Jim: Okay, from an acting standpoint?

C.I.: David seems to think that if Stuart didn't use something it was just because Stuart didn't like it. That's not true. Some of David and his friends' suggestions and work were shown. The actors loathed it. For obvious reasons that escape David. Antonia Juhasz is not a screenwriter. Screenwriting is visual. And to try to write the ending for a film when the director is already happy with the ending already written? That's insane. But in terms of acting, let's say I was an actor in the film. Let's say I was Woody [Harrelson]. I'm not wanting notes at this late date. We're filming. The notes I need at this point are blocking and "more" or "less." I don't need you trying to reconfigure my character. I read the script a long time ago, I signed on based on what I read. That's the character I felt I could play and now you -- someone who is not the producer and is not the director -- is trying to monkey around with my role or my characterization? That's insanse. It's offensive from an artistic standpoint. What's next? Line readings!

Jim: I'm glad you brought that up because, along with Juhasz attempting to write the film's epilogue, the group tried to 'fix' things by writing suggested dialogue. Your thoughts?

C.I.: The two examples given are not dialogue. They're a bad parody and both, despite being dialogue for two diferent characters -- Lou and Jay -- read the exact same. Are they the same character? No. So why are they talking the same way? In addition, it's on the nose dialogue and, no, not everyone speaks like that, not everyone says exactly what they're thinking. Solnit's collective wrote dull, leaden dialogue. And they seemed unaware that it was way too late for that dialogue. Let's say I'm playing Lou and we're filming and Stuart comes over to me and says, "Hey, this collective of outside activists have written this piece of dialogue that they think would make your character better." I'm going to look at that and see this blah-blah-blah nature of the dialogue and object but, more importantly, I'm going to object that their dialogue is exposition and it is explaining my character -- my character I've already created a backstory for and my backstory didn't include a younger sister or a love of the Zapatistas. I've been using my backstory to play the scenes filmed thus far and now you're saying I should play like I have a kid sister and a love for the Zapatistas? Do we also want to, mid-movie, suddenly add a limp for my character? There is a creative process here that is not being understood. When the cameras have started rolling, you can fine tune but you cannot ask an actor to suddenly alter their entire portrayal. It's an insult. If I'm Lou, I know Lou, I have a concept of a day in the life of Lou before the scenes for the script begin and after the scenes end. I know what she eats, I know which side of the bed she sleeps on, I know all these details because what wasn't in the script are details I've created on my own. And now, as I'm playing this character and, as we're already shooting, some people not even involved in the film are showing up making suggestions for changes and new dialogue? No, I will not be receptive. Betty was talking about, earlier, how Betinna, the lead in her online novel, became real to her. That's what happens when you're creating. The characters become real to you. I'm still haunted by some characters. And this idea that lines are the way to create or fix a character? I mean come on. And that's probably why Jim wanted that story. The play back in college, it wasn't a character on the page. I made the character. I created the backstory, I made sense of it, I turned it into a full-bodied person on stage and did that even in scenes where I might not have a significant line. The sign of a film noivce? Someone who piles dialogue onto the character to explain who the character is. In film, "it's show, don't tell." That's the key phrase.

Jim: David Solnit feels Woody's character comes off more sympathetic and that changes would have made the other characters more sympathetic.

C.I.: Would you read his critique of other characters.

Jim: Sure. "The four organizer characters in the movie are involved in forest issues and animal rights -- one of them burned down an animal lab. Although animal rights/liberation and forest organizers have clearly articulated the connection, many people don't see these struggles as related to themselves or their communities. Jay, one of the Direct Action Network characters in the movie, has an axe to grind since his brother was killed in a forest protest, and Lou seems to have a personal issue with her father. The myth here is that people protest or rebel because they -- not the system -- have a problem. The activists, though intended to be humanized, are actually protrayed as 'fringe' or non-mainstream without jobs, families, homes, or lives beyond the protests, in contrast to the very mainstream cop with a family, home, and job, who is played powerfully by Woody Harrelson, the most three-dimensional and, I supsect for many movie viewers, the most sympathetic character."

C.I.: Thank you. First, Woody's an incredible actor. He's amazing. He's going to be amazing in almost any film because he's an amazing actor. As for 'fringe' characters, last time I checked, Jim Stark was a 'fringe' character, Bree Daniels was a 'fringe' character, Stanley Kowalski was a 'fringe' character. I could go on and on but Rebel Without A Cause, Klute and A Streetcar Named Desire are all memorable because of their lead 'fringe' characters. David Solnit, surprisingly, seems to be imposing some sort of morality trip on these characters. He's afraid most will identify with Woody's character but, at the same time, he's upset that someone's given a brother killed in a protest when that backstory explains a character and can create sympathy for the character with the audience. David's critique, in the quote Jim just read, is scattershot and all over the place. He's a bleeding wound on the page. I'm not making fun of him in that statement. It was very difficult for me to read his section of the book because his pain is very real and not at all hidden. But part of his pain goes to the fact that he doesn't understand film -- just because you rented a DVD doesn't make you an expert on film -- and because he doesn't understand dialogue, doesn't understand characterization and a host of other things. What he needed most was someone to tell him, back when the film was being shot, the truth and no one did.

Jim: Meaning what?

C.I.: I have a friend who wrote a book that mainly exists to rebut her portrayal in a film -- where she was portrayed by another friend of mine, by the way. I told her it was too personal for her and she would not be happy and she shouldn't cooperate with the film. And that's before we even get into who the director was. But I warned her that she cared too much -- for obvious reasons -- about what would go onscreen and that the smartest thing to do was to have no involvement with the film. At first, that's what she was going to stick to. Then, after casting, she changed her mind. She would speak with the director. She would loan things from her life to be used in the film. She couldn't understand why the actress playing her didn't want to meet her. Why would she? She's not playing you as you are today, she's playing you thirty years ago. Now you have wisdom and can make sense of the events. You couldn't back then. The actress, my friend, made the decision not to meet her and made it for those reasons and I respect those reasons and explained them to my other friend. But it never sunk in. And it's this ugly issue to this day. And that's going to happen when you're that into something, when you feel it's your life, that's going to happen. And if someone else is in charge of a film, you cannot impose your vision on them because they're not going to listen -- no matter how nice they are to you, they are not going to listen. It's not how the creative process works. David thinks if certain things were done, he'd be happy. He was never going to be happy with The Battle Of Seattle. Someone should have told him that and the film could have been made and he could have ripped it apart in a blistering critique after it started showing up at theaters. Instead, he's clearly hurting over this still and he's clearly blaming himself as much as he's blaming the film makers.

Jim: Okay. Interesting. Anyone else see any wounds?

Ava: Absolutely. What's that s**t in his section where he's suddenly attacking celebrities and lumping in Angelina Jolie with Bono? That's nothing but David Solnit having a tantrum on paper. And Angelina and Bono are not the same. Angelina works with the United Nations which requires a whole set of protocol that is set in stone. People never seem to grasp that. Now you can be opposed to the UN -- many people are -- and you can call out her work on those grounds and many other grounds but don't confuse what she's doing with what Bono does. Bono's not working with the UN and Bono's responsible for his statements and actions.

Kat: And --

Jim: Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills).

Kat: -- who was the idiot who didn't see it coming on Bono? Bono is the whore currently slobbering over Barack Obama. He's the whore who previously slobbered over George W. Bush. Rolling Stone -- as this site and my site repeatedly point out -- asked him his thoughts on the Iraq War and he wouldn't give them. This idea that he's political is a damn joke. I've documented all the war games he tries to push, his war on Hugo Chavez and much more. You have to be pretty foolish to listen to Bono when he comes calling.

Jim: That was Kat and she said she wasn't participating, she was just listening. She changed her mind, that's fine. But I think C.I. wants to say something on Bono.

C.I.: Bono was given his political coming out in the US by Tom Hayden. That should tell you all you need to know. He's a fake and he's a phony. That includes his laughable reputation for being faithful to his wife. He's always been a fraud and your first clue should have been that when he emerged he refused to discuss Ireland while repeatedly wanting credit for being raised in 'war-torn' Ireland. He's a fake and he's a fraud. That didn't happen last year, that didn't happen this decade. He's been a fraud forever and a day and I knew that before I attended his 1987 coming out party in LA. I do know Angelina and I'm getting damn tired of people attacking her. I've known Angelina since she was a little girl. There's no reason for David Solnit to include her in the book and it struck me as bitchy on his part and the only thing I disliked about the book.

Jim: Okay. But someone's going to e-mail -- -- and say, "But you're disagreeing with him." Because on the faux left, everyone agrees and they do that, on the faux left, because they're pretty much all funded by George Soros. I'm only semi-joking. But someone's going to say, "you're disagreeing with him! How can you say you like the book!"

C.I.: I recommend the book strongly. I think it's got many strong parts and that includes the sections I'm responding to above. I think David Solnit will write a more encompassing book further in the future on this subject as he gets more distance from the fresh wounds. But I like the book. I also like art and I defend art and I won't sit by silently and pretend like David's criticism is full-bodied. He sees things only from his end which is fine but when he not only wants to critique but also wants to complain that his ideas weren't utilized the way he wanted, well he should have tried to learn about the creative process.

Jim: We're pausing for a moment because Ava's got her hand up. C.I.'s taking notes right now but Ava's finishing up with what C.I. just said. And now she's done. Ava?

Ava: I think that's very much a key to David Solnit's section. He only sees it from his end. That's why he and the other activists are talking to Stuart and he's complaining, in the book, about Stuart not speaking to them but he's not at all concerned that Stuart's not spoken with the police. It's not about the best movie for David, it's about his own advocacy and his own interest group and I think that's especially clear in the celebrity section. He's whining in that section. It was one-sided and featured a lousy quote.

Jim: Lousy quote?

Ava: He quotes Stephen Duncombe who argues that celebrities are interesting because "in present-day politics citizens are barely noticed." So we love celebrities because they get noticed. How far back does "present-day" go? Do we want to go back to Clara Bow? We can go back further and use stage celebrities. There is a serious issue of facile responses that passes itself off as thought on the left -- and I am a lefty -- and there's a real lack of interest in seeing any side but your own. It's hurting us on the left.

Jim: Wally, Strongest section of the book for you?

Wally: I'll go with the illustrations. The posters and the photos really tell the story, especially in the first fifty pages.

Jim: Betty, same question?

Betty: I'm going to say Rebecca Solnit's section. And I'm going to say that because she's taking on The New York Times and its distortions as well as because she's writing in a more linear fashion. But I did enjoy David Solnit's section as well. A criticism, negative one, that I have would feed into what Ava's addressing. First, there's no such thing as a little bit of a police state. Okay? It's a police state or it isn't. So I really didn't need the tribal drums beating regarding the RNC convention last year. Was their violence there? Yes, there was. Big surprise a lot of people wanted to bring violence. They didn't want it at the DNC. They wanted it at the RNC. And I'm not in the mood for any s**ty ass liar telling me otherwise. Ava and C.I. didn't just write about the DNC convention for this site, they reported on it in the community newsletters. We saw the fliers for it and we saw the pamphlets and we saw the differing for the RNC. So my point is the DNC and RNC were both police states. In one of them there was more violence and that's because the activists wanted violence there. Imagaine if they'd shown any guts when Barack punked them with the lie that he'd meet with them? He never met with them. He wasn't going to. But they were about to become a press story. Ava and C.I. flew out of Denver thinking that was going to be the big story of that day. But instead, the group fell for pretty lies. So my point here, both were police states. One was more violent? A police state in the US is violent enough. Quit minimizing. Protest pens? They'll seem normal as long as sorry excuses refuse to call out the notion of protest pens.

Jim: Okay. The Battle of the Story of The Battle of Seattle is now out from AK Press. The list price is $12. It's written by David Solnit and Rebecca Solnit. Chris Dixon contribute a sizeable section as well. It's a book worth reading that we all recommend and it's the only book of 2009 that we felt was important enough to do a discussion on. When Martha and Shirley send out their ballots for the best book of 2009, we'll be voting for The Battle of the Story of The Battle of Seattle and encourage you to pick up the book. Get the book. This is a rush transcript.
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