Workingmans Death, Kansas and Winter Games


Workingmans Death

I just had a chance to view the documentary Workingmans Death which is a German documentary by director Michael Glawogger. The doc gives the viewer an eye into some of the worlds nastiest and most daerous professions. It shows you bootleg coalminers in Ukraine and shows you their families, sulfur workers in Indonesia who are mining just enough Sulfur to get money for hookers and booz, Nigerian butchers who slaughter cows and goats in a bloody and chaotic and filthy urban market and those who roast the meat ( most of these guys are Muslims), workers in a Pashutn run ship wrecking yard in Pakistan that have an extremely dangerous job and like the Nigerians they are shown praying, and a modern Chinese steel mill. The film ends with us getting to look at an old German steel mill that has now been turned into an amusement park where young couples go and make out. This was a nice doc and it also contains a lot of humor ( even though you would never know it as the sterile Manhattan crowd made no reaction to the film other than to shiver at the site of animal throats being slit).

Whats the Matter With Kansas
I started to read this book by Thomas Frank like a year ago and even talked to the writer on the telephone but this weekend I finally got the chance to sit down and read the whole thing. For those of you unfamiliar with the premise of the book it is basically about how conservatives have taken over he Midwest and seeks to answer the question as to why many Americans are voting against their class-interests and voting Republican. In order to answer this question Frank deals heavily with religion and hot button issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Frank is a native Kansan, from the suburbs of Kansas City, MO, and takes us all over the state of Kansas ( but not to the Democratic stronghold of Lawrence) and tells us of how Sen. Sam Brownback, a Republican stalwart has said ” Kansas voters don’t care about economics” which would seem to be true as the poorest Kansans are voting for Republicans who implement polices that will only make them poorer. We are told of Republican candidates speaking in tongues while campaigning and fistfights over yard signs accusing people of being ” Pro-Gay”.

Particularly Frank is upset with the caricature David Brooks makes of urban liberals and it is here where I disagree with Frank. I firmly agree with him that most Americans are voting against their class-interests by voting Republican and I also agree when someone in the book said ” how can anyone work for someone else and vote Republican”. But the root of the problem, as I see it, is what one Wichita union worker says. He said that after Clinton supported NAFTA and when he saw the Democrats supporting Free Trade he knew they were no longer representing his economic interests. So he then starting voting for other issues he cared about, like the cultural ones, and on those issues he was closer to the Republicans.

The Democratic Party has allowed itself to be hijacked by a group of urban liberal elitists, and I do think there are liberal elitists contrary to what Frank says, and in the process has become a party that cannot win nationally ( or even in some regions). If the Democrats want to keep in fighting for  issues like that they are going to lose every time outside of Lower-Manhattan ( where they even lost because of culturally liberal Republicans). The Democrats win when they fight for the economic interests of the masses; social security, health care, public education, minimum wages, public transport, jobs programs, etc. .

Winter Olympics
I have to admit that I am a big fan of the Olympics and I enjoy watching them a lot. Like most Americans I enjoy the summer games more than the winter games though. There are many reasons for this but I think the major one is that in the summer games people play games that not only are Americans familiar with; but they re games played by people we actually know. Sports like track and field, boxing, baseball, softball, soccer, table-tennis and badminton are blue-collar sports that are practiced by a lot of Americans. Then you have sports that may be elite sports, like tennis, swimming, diving and gymnastics but at least they are pretty easy to follow the rules of what is going on. Other sports like skeet shooting are easy to figure out as well.

The summer games are also very diverse in the sense that you see many people of color competing and winning and the American team has a lot of participants from working class backgrounds. As a Muslim I am also happy that during the 2004 Athens games a number of Muslims rose to prominence in winning the medals.

Now the winter games I like as well bu I think like most Americans I don’t feel a real connection to the games. Half of the sports I have either never heard of or don’t know the rules of and the only sport that I knew anyone who ever competed in the sport is hockey. Most of the sports are those that are practiced by the upper-crust in American society. I’ve never seen two Italian guys in Bensonhurst or two Irish guys in Dogtown St. Louis talking about Alpine Skiing, speed-skating or bobsledding. Having said that I do appreciate these sports when I watch them especially bobsledding, luge and curling and they look fun even if I am not really sure of what I am looking at and that goes for the skiing events as well.

What Have I Been Reading?

I am going to pass along a few gems that I have found.

A friend of mine gave me a short memoir by writer Paul Auster about his life as a young man and a writer called Hand to Mouth which was very good. It tells the story of Auster as he struggled in New York and Paris and struggled with finishing college. He also amuses us with tales of his job working on a ship and his invention of a baseball card game that he tried to shop around in vein. The reason I liked this memoirs was that it reminded me so much of many of my struggles in trying to pursue my vision and the things that are important to me such as my writing and political activism. Like the young Auster I have always been broke; the difference, of course, is that I don’t have a Columbia degree or any monied family to help me when time gets tough. When shit gets tough for me then I’m just ass out.

After reading Hand to Mouth I walked into a bookstore a couple of days later and just happened to see his new novel The Brooklyn Follies. At first I just thumbed through it; but when I realized that the book was set in Brooklyn, had a character who was a cabbie and another indie bookstore owner ( I have two good friends who own an indie book store in St. Louis and it made me think of them) I realized I had to read this book. As the pages turned it had more of things that I like; stories about Brooklyn neighborhood people, a hot Latin waitress, a religious fanatic preacher who thinks his dick is an instrument from the Lord, and a messed up family like many I know ( including mine). I read the fist 254 pages of the book at the bookstore and then about a week and a half later I went to 7th Ave in Park Slope Brooklyn and read the last 47 pages and that was fitting because most of the book took place in Park Slope and as the book ended the hero was walking down 7th Ave on 9-11 after getting out of Methodist Hospital and as I finished the book I headed down 7th Ave in the same direction.

The United States of Europe by TR Reid and How Soccer Explains the World by Franklin Foer are two other books I have been thumbing through. Reid makes a lot of interesting points about the economic power of Europe and the power that Europe yields in being the world regulators in most areas. He also does a good job ( even if he got some facts wrong regarding the American unemployment and welfare system, Americans get much less than what Reid states) in contrasting the European Model and Welfare State to that of America; where the term “welfare state” is one that is used in menacing terms. What Reid neglects in the book, in my opinion, is a real examination of how the demographics of Europe and the fact that people are not having children in Europe is going to affect the future. For example Muslims are only mentioned once in the book.

DA, from the now defunct Crime of Aquinas blog, recommend How Soccer Explains the World and the only chapter I have read so far is titled Soccer and the Jewish Question and it is a fascinating look at European Jewish Football clubs in the early twentieth century and their relation to politics and Zionism. Earler this year I found out, and I am sure that Abu Sinan and other European football fans already knew this, that a lot of football clubs have political affiliations.

Internet Cafe, Brownsille and Snow Balls

Using the Internet at an Internet Cafe can be tricky. There is one in Brooklyn that I like. It is owned by a Muslim brother, it is quiet, you can print and scan and there is a pretty good mix of people at the place and it is close to a masjid. Sometimes, such as now, I have to go to Manhattan and I stop in and use the computer at one of the big Internet Cafe places and for the most part they suck. The keyboards are filthy, the place is filled with sex perverts booking reservations to toe sucking parties and sessions in a dungeon and then you have people who are scamming or loud in the place. So when I come here, and I have been coming on and off for years, I always try and carefully select where I will sit. If I see an empty computer in between one of these Bobo men wearing a purse and three scarves around his neck chances are he is up to some cray shit and if on the other side of him there is a sweaty guy with a big grin on his face and his hand in between his pants then I know not to sit there.The best people to sit around are non-homeless females because more often than not they are online looking for a job or chatting without masturbating and not trying to seduce a nine year old online like a lot of men. About a week ago Long Island police raided a whole group of men’s homes who were online doing precisely that and it turns out that a Lieutenant Colonel in the military was arrested. The thing that made me laugh when watching the news is the detective said ” he emailed what were supposed to be photos of his body…and when we got him in custody we were able to find out that wasnt his body.” Meaning he sent the supposed kid he was trying to fuck a picture of a porn-sized dick and he wasn’t packin all that.The area that I am staying in Brooklyn is strictly African-American and Latino and one Arab Muslim family I have found. It is in Brownsville, where boxers Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe both grew-up ( and John Gotti in an earlier generation). It is one of the most crime-ridden areas in New York City and gentrification ( thank God) has not visited yet. At night you can fall asleep to baby mama drama and gunshots and the mornings are dead-silent as everyone is sleeping.Brownsville, where I have lived before, is temporary for me. I am looking for an apartment in other places a little more quiet like somewhere in Southern Brooklyn ( Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, Sheepshead Bay, Boro Park or Flatbush) or even the Bronx ( is is the cheapest boro and the best place to get away from the Bobos…for now).This is also not the first time I have been the only white person in a neighborhood I have lived in and this has never been a problem with me. Since I was a kid people also thought if that whiteboy is crazy enough to live around or hang around here he must be crazy or tough. That is no longer the case. When I go to Bed Stuy now to go to the masjid or to Crown Heights there is a lot of gentrification going on in those areas and a lot of Bobos and as a rule almost all Bobos are pussies. These are grown men who get mugged when the other guy has no weapon. These are grown men who let school kids beat their asses and throw snow balls at them. Why these Bobos would want to live in such a place I do not know other than that they just see themselves as old school white settlers. This creates a problem for me; because unlike the latte sippin Bobos I’m not getting mugged without a fight and I for damn sure am not going to let some kid throw a snow ball at me. In previous years this was never an issue, for the reasons earlier stated, but the other night a kid threw a snow ball at me, and missed. When I turned around to look at him the kid was shocked and I told him as I picked up a brick ” now, come on lets play this game, you throw your snowball and Ill throw the brick and lets see what happens”….the kid ran inside.