Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Alex Ventoux's Journal

"Luminary" - I only saw this episode once, at its original airing in 1998, while Millenium was still an active series. I drifted off at some point during the series and didn't see it through to the end but this one episode made an impression on me. It was apparently inspired by the true story of Christopher McCandless (Into the Wild) and features the journal writings, done in voiceover, of Alex Ventoux - a young man who has abandoned his possessions and headed into the Alaskan wilderness in a search for the truth of life. These are his journal entries, written for his parents and his brother Ian, from the show:
I never thought it would it would end like this. To tell the truth, I never thought it would end at all.

There are forces acting on us, with or without our consent, forces sure of themselves as gravity. I thought knowing myself with the same certainty would keep me safe. Surprise! As they say, "What a long strange trip this has been."

You want to know why it happened, and I can't say. But I do know when. It was that moment when I turned my back on everything - and felt peace.



I was never honest with you why I came back here – I could never quite explain. But I'll try now while I still can.

It happened on the cruise we took through Prince Edward Sound. I was looking at the water and the mountains, which were beautiful of course, but for a moment up on the deck of that ship I couldn't swear it wasn't just an incredibly realistic simulation. Not just the scenery – my whole life. Back home the feeling never left. All junior and senior year while I studied, ran track, filled out college applications, I returned here to find my life again. I had to. I don't quite understand what draws me on, but that's OK because God doesn't move us by telling us the facts, he moves us by pains and contradictions. He's given me a lack of understanding, not answers but questions – an invitation to marvel. And here, for the first time, I have.

I never thought it would end like this. I never thought it would end at all. But, like they say, what a long, strange trip this has been.

My leg is broken. I've lost a lot of blood. It's starting to rain and I know I'll never make it home. Some day some kid will tell Ian, "You're an idiot just like your brother who threw his life away, walked into the woods, and died". I'm asking you as a last favor to put a better spin on it for him.

You two, and Ian, you have always been real. Please know I love you, I'm thinking of you in the end and I'm looking at the stars.


We are meant to be here. We step from one piece of holy ground to the next under stars that ask, "Imagine, for one second, you could drop in on a past life. What would you like to find yourself doing there? What would charm you? Make you proud?"

Ask yourself that. And the question of what to do in this life becomes so simple it's terrifying. Just to do that thing that would charm you. It would make you say, "Yes, it's the real me". Do that, and you're alive.

The character has just one line of dialog in the episode, when he is found badly injured, by a rescuer:
"It's that I didn't want to die. I wanted to be alive."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sweet Dreams

The Saudi King is giving women the right to vote in 2015. Well fuck you very much Mr. King. May I be so bold as to offer an alternate proposal? How about this: You get in your bed every night and hug your George W. Bush pillow while wondering if this is going to be the night that a bunch of Saudi women break into your room and dismember you. These women will then put your benevolent body parts on display throughout your palace and invite all your friends over for a tour. At which time, several cans of Saudi King brand gasoline and a match will be judiciously employed. And then women will decide how they want to live their lives and when they choose to participate in a political process of their own design which is unlikely to include any Mr. Kings.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Protest Survival Skills

Copied from Activism 101: Protest Survival Skills (which is now 404'd)

What we present here is a brief guide to surviving public order situations and slowing down or preventing the police from gaining the upper hand once a situation has occurred. Bear in mind that the police are much better equipped and trained for close combat than you or I. They will have been psyching themselves up for hours, have plenty of reserves standing by, and will feel confident with the law behind them, beating the police is about outwitting them, not necessarily hitting them over the head.

Don't be tempted to stand there and fight - get out to where you can cause some damage or disruption without the police around.

Keep moving around, as a group and individually, fill gaps, never stand still chaos puts the police off.

Police attempts to divide the crowd and the formation of police lines must be nipped in the bud.


Do everything in small teams, prepare in advance.

Think defensively, protect each other and escape routes.

Always face outwards, away from us and towards them.

Link arms as often as possible, form barriers, use your body.

Move quickly and calmly, never giving the police time to react.


Staying out of jail and hospital need not be hard work. Most people caught up in riots manage it even a fairly high proportion of the really pissed-off ones. But with a bit of forethought you can turn surviving a public order situation into living a public order situation!

The Aims of the Protesters

No one really wins at the end of the day, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that you are unhurt, still free and that some egg is still stuck to the face of your original target, after the police have come and gone.

With all that in mind, we suggest you stick to these 3 basic aims when you find yourself in a riot.

1 Getting you and your mates away safely, rather than fighting.

2 Finding a place to cause embarrassment and economic damage to your real target, rather than fighting.

3 Helping others in trouble by administering first aid and de-arresting, rather than fighting.

Sticking Together

Always try to form an affinity group before setting out and at the very least have a buddy system whereby everybody has one person to look out for them and to act with when a situation arises.

Affinity groups are just a handful of people who work together as a unit, as and when circumstances arise, they can meet beforehand to discuss issues and possible reactions, practice or role play scenarios, the more your group meets, the quicker the reaction times will get and your effectiveness will improve. Affinity groups can often act without the need for internal discussion, they naturally develop their own shorthand communications and can divide up skills and equipment amongst each other. Water, d-locks, paint, first-aid, food, banners and spare clothes is a lot for one person to carry, but divided up between 5 people its nothing.

Do pay attention to what you wear in advance. Although no one wants to go to a street party or demo dressed in full body armor, consider precautions that are discreet, adaptable, easy to apply and discard.

Thinking about these things in advance will help:

1 Surveillance Masking up makes it difficult to identify individuals in a crowd and if everyone masks up no one will stand out. The cut off sleeve of a long sleeved t-shirt makes a good mask. Wear it casually around your neck. If you wear glasses use a cut off section of a short stocking (hold-ups work best as they have thick elastic) instead of a t-shirt, this prevents glasses from steaming up. You can use it as a hair tie, if you're a hippy type, until you need it. A hooded top will cover most of your face and a baseball cap on its own provides good protection from most static cameras, which are usually mounted high up. Sunglasses give good protection against harmful rays including UV and CCTV.

2 Truncheon blows. A placard makes a good temporary shield and light strips of plastic under your clothing on the forearm could offer some protection. The best protective clothing however is a good pair of running shoes.

3 CS spray. The best authorities suggest a solution of campden tablets (used to clean home brewing equipment), some say use lots of water, but its effectiveness is unclear. WHATEVER YOU DO DON'T RUB IT IN or take a hot shower. If in doubt get clear and let the wind blow it away from your skin, this will take 20 minutes. It is highly recommended that you carry eyewash wipes that are provided in most first aid kits.

4 Someone needs to watch the police from a good vantage point, so that their next move can be preempted. On top of the sounds van is not a good place- -no one can hear you shout here come the dog handlers! fucking run! and any gestures you do will be interpreted as dancing

5 Sitting down is good for dissuading the police from charging, but you should only do it in large numbers and the crowd needs to feel confident. We advise you to sit down as soon as the shout goes up, hesitating is not good, you can assess the situation once you're down there. hopefully others will do the same. If it still looks viable 5 seconds later, link arms with your neighbors. There are times when sitting down is not really recommended horses are maybe too unpredictable but the authors have never seen horses charge into a seated crowd, the way they do into a standing crowd. Its a good way to avoid the crowd getting split up. Some particularly violent gangs of police just aren't worth it either. Only experience will teach you when to sit down.

6 Throwing stuff is a defensive tactic, it is not wise to throw stuff at the police at the best of times, it only winds them up so they hit you harder. We shouldn't stop having respect for life just because the police have. If you want to throw do it defensively, strategically, and en mass a constant hail of debris creates sterile areas into which the police don't want to go, thus keeping them at arms length.

REMEMBER: don't throw to attack or cause injury, only throw from the front, then disappear into the crowd, only wankers throw from the back.

7 Barricades can be more hassle than they are worth. A solid impassable barricade can reduce your own options when you need to run. Bear in mind that anything you build now you are likely to get dragged over later leave out the barbed wire. The best barricades are random matter strewn all over the place - horses cant easily charge over them, police find it hard to hold a line amongst them, but individuals can easily pick their way through. If you know police are advancing from only one direction and you have clear escape routes behind, barricading can be sensible. The tactics cops developed during the 1980s riots was to drive vans into crowds with TSG in the back, jump out and arrest everyone they caught. Barricades are an effective way of preventing this.

8 The best form of defense is CHAOS! A complicated hierarchy needs orders to act on and those orders come from individuals making informed decisions. If the situation changes constantly they simply cannot keep up. Keep moving all the time, weave in and out of the crowd. Change your appearance. Open up new directions and possibilities, be unpredictable. If you find yourself standing still and passive for more than a minute then you've stopped acting defensively.

Basic Police Choreography

With any crowd the police will be looking to break it up as soon as possible. Crowd dispersal is achieved with baton charges, horse charges, and sometimes CS gas and vehicles. Some particularly nasty or out of control units may pile straight into the crowd, but there is usually a gap between the time they arrive and the start of dispersal. This stalling time is often just dithering by the commanding officer, or psyching/tooling up time for the troops (the latter is easy to spot). this aside, there are only 3 more reasons why they aren't wading straight in, see if you can spot them next time they're waiting for kick off.

They first divide the crowd up into actors and viewers, small groups of officers will move into the crowd and start politely encouraging the timid ones onto the pavement. Once the crowd starts moving the way they want, those little groups of cops will get bigger and start joining up. Before you know it, there's two crowds on two pavements with two lines of cops penning them in. let the head cracking commence, or

Don't stand and watch them

Don't look like you'll let them anywhere near you

Spot gaps in the crowd and fill them in

Work out which space they want to take and get there with your mates first

Get long tarp banners to the front to stop them advancing and filming

Protect your escape routes by standing in them

Get those who have turned into spectators off the pavements, back in the crowd and moving around

Of course, now having resisted being split up and penned in, they may just let fly with the baton charge. Fair enough, but you're in a stronger position to deal with it and escape. Whatever happens next, don't just stand there waiting for it. If you've managed to get their line drawn far away, you've bought valuable time and space so use it! Even if their line is right up against you, they still haven't broken down your numbers.

However, its only a matter of time before the police try and get closer/break you up again use the time to get out of there slowly and in one block. (This is the last thing they want a large mob moving around freely.) Whatever you do, don't stand there waiting for them to try again, you are now in control to go and do whatever you want, so do it.

If they have blocked your only exit, try
Counter Advancing

This involves moving your lines forward into theirs, thus gaining more space and opening up more exits. Use the front line as a solid wall, linking arms and moving slowly forward. Use the long banner like a snowplow. (This stops them from grabbing you or breaking the line, but they can still hit you with truncheons.)

Snow Plows

A line of crowd control barriers can also be carried by the front line like a snowplow to break into the police ranks. The point of the plow can then be opened once their line is breached and the barriers pushed to the side to contain the cops. This all needs a lot of coordination and balls. The advantage gained will not last long, so push all your ranks through the gap right away.

Using Your Body

Your body is your best and most adaptable tool. It is best used in concert with others. for instance it could take a long time for twenty to scale a wall, but stand two people against the wall, bowed together with their arms locked with two more crouched at their feet and you've got a set of human steps! (Those waiting to climb can link arms around the steps to protect them.) Always look for ways to use your body to escape.


Keep looking for ways of increasing your numbers, by joining up with other groups and absorbing stragglers, everyone has to get out and you'll stand a better chance of getting out unharmed, with all your belongings and equipment if you leave together at the same time.

Snatch Squads

When the police want to isolate and arrest an individual in a crowd they will usually employ a snatch squad.

Watch for groups of 10 or so fully dressed up cops, rallying behind the police lines, they will be instructed by evidence gatherers and a superior (you can often spot them pointing out the person to be snatched), the lines will open temporarily to let the snatch squad through. Half the officers will perform the snatch, the other half will surround them with batons, hitting anyone who gets in the way. Once they have their target he/she is bundled away behind police lines.

Try and beat the snatch squad by:

1 Keeping the crowd moving around.

2 Spot the squad preparing.

3 If possible warn the target to get the hell out of the area.

4 Linking arms in an impenetrable wall in the squads path.

5 Surround the squad once they are in the crowd and intimidate them so much that they panic and give up.

6 If you are being grabbed or pressure pointed, keep your head and arms moving.


The best time to do this is as soon as the snatch has happened, you need a group who know how to break grips and some people to act as blockers, once you've got your person back, all link arms and move off into the crowd, the police may try and snatch back or arrest one of the de-arresters.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mental Health Break: Edward Gorey

I have often wished my name was Kate.

Take Action to Save Troy Davis

via Amnesty International:
Fax or call the Parole Board and ask them to reconsider their decision and grant Troy clemency. Fax: 404-651-8502 and 404-651-6670 (try both as they will be busy), Phone: 404-656-0693 and 404-656-5651

Fax or call the Savannah District Attorney, Larry Chisolm, and ask him to urge the local judge to vacate the execution warrant. Fax: 912-652-7328, Phone: 912-652-7308.

Call the local judge, Penny Haas Freesman, and ask her to vacate the warrant. Phone: (912) 652-7252

Call the Governor, Nathan Deal, and ask him to use his influence to encourage the board to grant clemency. Phone: 404-656-1776.

In Georgia, stand with us, saying “NOT IN MY NAME!”
a) Capitol vigil – 6pm
b) Prison vigil – 5:30pm across the street from the prison at Towaliga County Line Baptist Church (153 Short Road, Jackson). Take I-75 to Exit 201 and head toward the Hess gas station (turn left (east) off the interstate if heading south on I-75) on Barnesville-Jackson Rd. (Ga 36) and turn right past the gas station.

This is a time to be heard, not a time to submit. And please remain respectful to those who answer the phones. There is no need to be rude or to yell – the strength of our message will come through the volume of calls we generate, not in the decibels of our individual voices.