Part One: Never Mind the Butter…just give me the guns

News of the Dead….December 31 – January 6 

rev·o·lu·tion [rev-uh-loo-shuhn]

noun

1.a riddle, the answer to which involves a pun or play on words, as: What is black and white and read all over? A newspaper.

2.a bottle, a child with outstretched arms, a drunk’s brain…a yarn.

nineteen fifty-seven.  the year of Kurosawa’s throne of blood and Bergman’s the seventh seal.  of Kerouac’s on the road, of leave it to beaver, ofsputnik and the Cat in the Hat.  nineteen fifty-seven was the year of the Little Rock Nine, the year Tunisia became a republic and the year the gold coast merged with togoland to become Ghana.

nineteen fifty-sevenwas the year that a twenty-eight year old freelance journalist on assignment for the weekly Paris Match, smuggled himself into Cuba by posing as a refugee from the Galician Isles. with the help of Vilma Espín, leader of the 26th of July Movement’s underground spy network,Enrique Meneses (October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013) slipped past batista’s cordon of the Sierra Maestra and awoke one morning in a campesino’s shed looking into the face of Fidel Castro.

the Sierra Maestra was already a mythic terrain, full of history and legends of resistance.  it had sheltered the Taíno Indians during their unrelenting war against spain.  it embraced the refugees from the sugar plantations of the low lands who escaped to the mountains to form autonomous Cimarrón communities, feeding on the bounty of its lush vegetation and defying the racial phobias of the colonial project.  there they hid and there they survived. 

four months after entering what must have felt like an alternate universe, Meneses emerged with a collection of negatives that sparked the imagination of militants, philosophers, intellectuals, artists and social movements from Africa to the San Francisco Bay…they were photographs that revolutionized the very idea of revolution itself…

meneses

Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

what armchair radical hasn’t at one time or another dreamt of spending at least a three-day weekend sitting around a campfire trading stories with rugged and battle hardened comrades; roasting Hutia on a stick, drinking rum from a silver flask, smoking phallic cigars to the sound of gunfire on the distant horizon.  of waking at sunrise to take a piss and pot-shots at gloomy, irredeemable fascists… the zombies of history lurking forlorn and adventureless in the valley below? Meneses’ portraits of young but disciplined guerrilla fighters locked in a david and goliath showdown with the batista regime shimmer with masculine intensity; making guerrilla warfare look like an outward bound program beckoning to the alienated outcasts of the western world.

whatever one’s view of the Cuban Revolution, or even the idea of militancy itself, Meneses’ bold images remain one of the signature achievements of modern photojournalism — their power long outliving the insurgent context of nineteen fifty-seven. he gave the world its first intimate look at Fidel and Raul and helped transform Che Guevara, Celia Sanchez, Vilma Espín and Camilio Cienfuegos into icons of anti-imperial, anti-capitalist resistance.

himself an exile from franco’s fascist spain, during his brief time with the rebels Meneses was apparently more than a quiet bystander taking pictures unobtrusively from the margins of armed conflict.  according to one Castro biographer, Robert Quirk:

Meneses embraced the life of a guerrilla fighter with enthusiasm.  On one occasion he rashly took part in an attack on an army post.  He hiked with the rebel band, up to thirteen hours a day, forded rivers, ate malangas and yucca, and slept in a hammock, strung up each night between two trees.

FidelCastro-RaulCastro-EnriqueMeneses_

from left to right: Fidel, Raul and Enrique Meneses

despite the sentimentalism they nurtured, there is an undeniable fortitude in the human dimensions of Meneses work that compels us to feed our imaginations…to stay one step ahead of the opium of futility that poisons our fight against the power of the police-state and the apparatus of trans-national capitalism.  as a photographer, for me the strength of Meneses images ultimately derives from their ability to illuminate what Henri Cartier-Bresson called the decisive moment:  he is a master of capturing the casual glance, the unguarded gesture, the nuance of everyday sentiments. the ability to bathe his images with the circulation of affects was, no doubt, a reflection of his immersion not only in his subject matter as noun, but in his own process as verb.

Enrique Meneses- Fidel-Castro

A break in the fighting, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

Enrique Meneses - El Che Guevara, Fidel Castro y Camilo Cienfuegos

Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Camilio Cienfuego and soldiers prepare for an assault during the battle of pina de agua:

Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

Castro_jungle_11

In thought, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013.

castro_jungle_09

Consultation, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

castro_jungle_07

Creation of (a new) man, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

CASTRO FIDEL ET LES REBELLES CUBAINS

Empty pop bottles, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

Enrique Meneses - Celia Sanchez and Vilma Espin 2

Celia Sanchez and Vilma Espín, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

Enrique Meneses - Castro Reading

Reading by candlelight with help, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

castro026

Examining arms, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

Castro Crossing River

Crossing over, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

CHESierraMaestra

The arrival of Che, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

camilio

Camilio Cienfuegos, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

enrique-meneses2

Raul Castro with child, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

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Celia Sanchez laying low, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

Baby Crying Siestra Maestra

Crying child, Sierra Maestra, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

Che Guevara

Che discussing strategy, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

castro_jungle_10

Che Guevara interrogates captured soldier, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

Death in the Sierra Maestra

A casualty, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

538767968_1810641144

Target practice, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

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Disarming, Sierra Maestra, Enrique Meneses 83, photographer, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013

more than a half century after Meneses’ photographs were taken they remain potent emotional artifacts; a force drawing dreams of subversion and the romance of political resistance into their orbit.  but if they capture a desire to overthrow oppression, they also offer a sobering guidepost by which to measure just how fundamentally the conditions of struggle have changed on the ground in the years between the revolutionary uprisings of the fifties and sixties and our fight for social justice today.  although we resist and organize, we engage the challenges of our time under the digital glare of space satellites, unmanned drones and surveillance cameras…those of us who would smash the state and dream of an anti-capitalist future for our children and planet long for the haven of a Sierra Maestra today.  no, the moments collected by Meneses’ careful eye are as much a reminder that history is more apt to crawl forward on its hands and knees than bound fearlessly into a future utopia with an “utter rupture…a grandiose break with history.”

the parents of today are the children of tomorrow.

enrique-meneses-para-jot-down

Enrique Meneses 83, October 21,1929 – January 6, 2013.

and then there is the noise.

Disclaimer: if an artist is on this set list it does not necessarily mean that they have passed away.  For a list of the dead referenced, represented or symbolized in this playlist, I will be adding information to the bottom of this post.

Musical References:

SolYurick_ftrmjr

Sol Yuric, 87, January 18, 1925 – January 5, 2013 American author of cult classic, The Warriors.  From lung cancer.  I went back and watched this movie again for the first time in more than twenty years.  it is absolutely mesmerizing…looking at it today is like stepping into a time capsule.  shot in 1979, it captures that liminal moment just before hip hop and b-boy culture came rumbling out of the Bronx…a must, especially if you lived in New York during the 70s or early 80s.

Keith Ratliff, 32, American gun enthusiast, producer of the FPSRussia YouTube channel, shot.

ratliff

If Enrique Meneses was the biggest discovery from the week of december 31 – january 6, the award for unintended irony goes, without a doubt, to Keith Ratliff, (1981 – January 3, 2012), a high-tech gun designer, distributor and manufacturer.  as many of you know by now, in addition to his community service in arming the population, Ratliffwas the producer of the internet’s most popular gun show: a youtube channel with something like four million subscribers called FPSRussia.  a redneck boy scouts wet dream that features the alter-ego of a snotty amerikan with a fake russian accent who blows shit up with the latest in high capacity firearms and an assortment of modified explosive gadgets.

anyway, depending on who you ask, Ratliff, who was found sitting at his desk with a single bullet hole in the back of his head, was either murdered in a business dispute or assassinated by agents of barack obama for his outspoken views on the second amendment.

I’ll have more to say about the second amendment in Part Two of Fuck the Butter…I mean, Never Mind the Butter…just give me the guns.

speaking of russians, we can say goodbye to Konstantin Kobets, 73, July 1939 — 31 December 2012, a soviet-era military commander

Konstantin Kobets

this pompous fuck (anyone who walks around with medals on their chest is, in my opinion, a pompous fuck) made the smooth transition from the soviet autocracy to boris yeltsin’s regime…helping him establish the russian armed forces for which he ultimately served as the defense minister.

on a more tender note, we lost Stephen Resnick, 74, October 24, 1938 – January 2, 2013, a lefty American economist from leukemia.

resnick

Resnick was actually a pretty damn good Marxist economist.  i read some of the work he did with Richard Wolf, particularly their book Knowledge and Class which helped me make the leap from Capital to understanding the value of ideological work and non-traditional forms of labor…sort of a more early theory of “immaterial labor” than that put forth by Hardt and Negri…hats off to you Mr. Resnick!

Ahhh, yes…and then there is that ever so American of American darlings, Miss Patti Page, 85, November 8, 1927 – January 1, 2013,singer of such magnificent smash hit blockbusters as, “Most People Get Married” and “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window”…yes, this woman, ladies and gentlemen, sold over 100 million records and was the number one singing female artist of the 1950s…sorry Ella.

archive patti page 020113

how does she get her hands to stay like that anyway? is that a white gang symbol from the fifties? it’s kind of creepy.

Finally, definitely worth mentioning, is the fact that the world lost two people who participated in the “Quit India Movement”, a central chapter in India’s revolutionary anti-colonial struggle against the british.  the first of these was Annapurna Maharana, 96, November 3, 1917 – December 31,  who was an Odisha freedom fighter and women’s right activist:

Odisha_freedom_7485

and the other was Salik Lucknawi (16 December 1913 – 4 January 2013) an Urdu poet and journalist who spent over a year in prison for his commitment to non-violent resistance against the british empire.

Friends, why do you call my fatigue death
I tossed, turned and fell asleep
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~ by dAlton Anthony on January 16, 2013.

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