Issue 857 Open your eyes. “A great revolution in just one single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a society and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of humankind.” -Daisaku Ikeda
INSIDE:: OCCUPY AMERICA THE NEW RIOT GRRRL: A LOOK AT ROLLER DERBY AND BURLESQUE LIFE NOTES ON A NEW CONSCIOUSNESS THR FRUGAL LIFE A THANK YOU LETTER FROM BIG BANKING AND FINANCE
Page 16 Page 20
Page 32 Page 39 Page 47
© DILATE magazine, 2011. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the express written permission of Lauren Antrosiglio and DILATE magazine. DILATE magazine and the DILATE magazine logo are either trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective organizations. All text and images contained in this publication are the property of their respective owners, and protected under the Copyright Act and the laws of the United States government. Occupy Photos Taken By: Carwil Bjork-James; Paul Weiskel; f-l-e-x; and Mat McDermott, used with attribution rights under Creative Commons license. “From Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Everywhere” article republished with express permission from The Nation. Portrait of the editor painted by Reagan Schmissrauter.
AMERICA’S BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH A.D.D. Authoritarian Domination by Distraction Update your facebook status. tweet what you’re doing on twitter. American idol is on. The jersey shore is on. Flip through 257 channels. Open up your ikea catalog. Read perez Hilton’s gossip site online. Watch perez hilton on tv. Buy a new tv. Lcd, the thinner the better. That show about spoiled 16 year-old girls getting extravagant sweet sixteen parties is on. Go to Starbucks. Drink a
couple lattes. Turn on your ipod, and don’t look around when you walk through the city. Do your homework and pretend that the college education you are taking $100,000 in loans out for is free. go shopping every weekend. Go shopping every day. Put it on your American express card. Lindsay lohan got arrested again. Kim kardashian might be getting divorced. Update your facebook status. tweet what you’re doing on twitter. Drink a couple beers. Shop on amazon.com. go to target because you need more
scented candles and decorative vases and bracelets. Be a good worker bee and never question the corporations you work for. Play bejeweled 3 online. Go to starbucks. Drink a couple lattes. Drive thru jack in the box. Watch
porn. go to wal-mart. Labor day sale at macy’s. Update your facebook status. tweet what you’re doing on twitter. Read about Paris Hilton’s hair extensions. Open a bank account. Open a credit card account. 4th of july sale at jcpenney. Flip
through 257 channels. Download a new app for your smartphone. Watch a football game. Go to Starbucks. Drink a couple lattes. Dancing with the Stars is on. Get up early, it’s black Friday and you have to be at walmart by 5am. Put it on your visa card. Drink a couple beers. Update your facebook status. tweet what you’re doing on twitter. Your
freedoms are being taken away from you. Millionaires are paying less in taxes than you. People are dying
in wars that don’t have to be fought. Everybody’s in debt. The American dream is dead. Some of our state governments are being run by white supremacists.
The u.s. government is being run by corporations.Wake up.
Psychedelic Cow ÂŠ 2011 by Reagan Schmissrauter
WHY AMERICA NEEDS PEACE AND LOVE, NOW MORE THAN EVER Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few years—a very, very large rock, perhaps with sound-blocking headphones and a blindfold on—you have noticed a change in the world. As Buffalo Springfield sang in his protest song from the 1960’s, “There’s something happening here”. The citizens of the world are standing up and fighting for what they believe in, oppressive governments are being overthrown, hurricanes and natural disasters are breaking historical records. This is it, people—we are at a climax, change is not just coming, it is here. The problem with this universal uprising, however, is that anger and hatred are bubbling up as well. Political groups like the Tea Party are becoming more driven by hate and anger than by the real, true issues at hand; American lawmakers are directing more resources and energy into military occupation, prisons, immigration reform, protecting corporate interests, and denying gays the right to marry, while education, health care reform, human rights, and our environment are neglected or fought over to the point of stalemate. This recent uprising of people points toward a very important reality—change is needed, and it is needed now. No matter what stereotypes come to mind when you think of the Peace and Love movement of the 60’s, the general idea was right—if you look at the basis for most religions in the world, love towards your fellow human beings is the keystone of those ideologies. With that in mind, no matter what our beliefs and ideologies are, we need to put aside anything that is based on hate or anger, and start acting with peace and love in mind. The very survival of our species depends on it. We must show love to the Earth by doing everything we can—I must stress this, everything we can, not everything we feel like doing—to stop (or at least significantly lower) our negative impact on the environment. We must show love toward one another by stopping to think before we act in hatred or anger, and showing love and respect instead. Imagine that you are stuck in a traffic jam all morning, someone cuts you off at some point, you go into a coffee shop to get a coffee, and everyone you meet shows you respect and makes friendly conversation with you. That 7 or 8 minutes changes your whole day. We all have the power to take an atmosphere of anger, hate and violence, and turn it into a peaceful, loving atmosphere—we can do this, one person at a time. Before you dismiss those who call for love and peace as slacker hippies, really think about that —you are angry or annoyed because there are other human beings who want people to treat each other with respect and love; these are people who don’t want countries to explode in the midst of wars; these are people who don’t believe in violence as a proper or humane response to anything. How ridiculous is it, then that we as a people, with beating hearts and families and lives all alike, don’t stop our negative reactions? How is it that we are not all calling for a peaceful, loving world? Ask yourself these questions as I ask them of you, and of myself, as well. We can think of our anger as the weapon with which we cut apart the very fabric that holds us together. Not only is the pen mightier than the sword, so is love—so is respect, so is a smile, and a flower, a phone call, a kiss, a warm handshake, a hug, and a bit of friendly conversation in a long line at the coffee house. Peace, love, and respect to you all,
“I dreamed I saw the bombers Flying shotgun in the sky, And they were turning into butterflies Above our nation.” -Joni Mitchell
IF YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT A DEBIT CARD... Why You Should Close Your Bank Account and Get A Prepaid Debit Card
Do you know what you could do with $37? You could pay all or part of your gas/electric bill. You could go out to dinner, 3 or 4 times even. You could adopt a pet. You could buy 37 gallons of water. You could buy seven 6-packs of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. $37 is a hell of a lot of money—and the exact amount of the overdraft fee my previous bank charged. Imagine if you got three overdraft fees! That is twenty one six-packs of PBR, my friend. Banks are a rip-off, and if you aren’t good with managing your money (as I am not), banks are muggers in alleyways that leave you with a black eye, a broken rib, and no wallet. We used to have no choice but to deal with these fuckers—until Prepaid Debit Cards came along. Most people don’t know too much about prepaid debit cards, and many assume that they aren’t good for much and wind up being expensive. Not so. Many of the prepaid debit cards out there act pretty much like a checking account, without the muggings. My paycheck gets direct deposited into my Green Dot prepaid debit account on every payday. It costs $4.95 to reload (deposit money into) the account, but when you either make 30 transactions in a month or use direct deposit, that fee is refunded back to you. To reload the card, all I need to do is go to the gift card section of Walgreen’s, Safeway, CVS, or a bunch of other places, purchase a Green Dot Moneypak for $4.95, and tell the cashier how much I want on the card. Then, I go online, type in some numbers, and the money is in my account. My account can never be overdrawn, there is no fee for transactions being denied if there’s not enough money on my card, and I get free access to tons of ATM’s nationwide. If you are another person that lives from paycheck to paycheck scraping to pay your bills only to find that your bank is stealing your hard-earned money, close your account. Put the power back in your hands. Walk right in and close your account with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Compass Bank, whatever, they’re all Satan’s Houses of Worship. Below are the websites for the best prepaid debit cards. Keep in mind, however, that the best way to fight the banks is to forego debit cards and bank accounts altogether, and use cash. See the article on the Use Cash movement on page 45 for more information. TAKE THE POWER BACK! http://www.greendot.com http://readydebit.com http://www.netspend.com http://www.bankfreedom.com
Poetry â€œThe maker of a sentence launches out into the infinite and builds a road into Chaos and old Night, and is followed by those who hear him with something of wild, creative delight.â€? -Ralph Waldo Emerson
To submit Poetry or Short Fiction to DILATE, send no more than three poems, no length maximum, or two stories, 1200 words or less, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My People Simon Alexander Diamond My people have bus passes And 4th of July cookouts on fire escapes. My people will call your people: Lets do lunch at McDonalds Where my people work at. My people sell slices of pizza, And 1.1 grams of schwag weed, to pay for the bus fare, Between their 2 part-time Minimum wage jobs. My people get stopped For Driving While Broke. My people don’t drive with insurance My people forge signatures With stolen bank checks. My people fall asleep in class From working all night before. My people sleep on the bus With brown bag in one hand And themselves in the other. My people are depressed Downtrodden, dying, For your people. My people Listen to party songs With lyrics that’re as ridiculous as the lines at D.M.V. My people get denied ID cards Not because they’re illegal But because they can’t afford A birth certificate. My people are waiting in line To pay ten dollars to get in the club Just to pay ten more for a shot of Hennessey. My people pay for their liquor with fake ID’s. My people believe in the impossible... We’ve seen pigs fly with helicopters and searchlights. My people are more focused On Snooki from Jersey Shore Than they are about pirates in Somalia, My people have found Other uses for Top Ramen: (Cont’d on the next page)
As a paperweight, a nightstand. As a weapon in a street fight, And as an aid in television reception With 1983 Quasar black and white T.V sets. My people hang out at twelve step meetings For the free coffee. My people are wondering What’s taking so long for gas prices to drop. My people are more inspired By Jon Stewart’s ranting Than they are by a president’s speech. My people want to know Where the job training’s at. And my people live Where the only thing vacuums and hookers have in common Is that they both don’t suck And have a few loose bolts.
A Commentary on Genesis 19:28 by R. Joseph Capet Nigredo ―The smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.‖ So sayeth Moses, to whom God had revealed the vision of corkscrew curls tracing the lengthening sky. Through empty walls a charred wind of dust and ash and burning brimstone swept, lit like sapphire in the sun, a blue as black as tarry heaven—benighted home of departed angels. Albedo Beyond the dawn-lit seer's vision, beyond the carboned flesh of men and shadowed stones, a pillar lustres in the moonlight, a lace of crystal kissed by silver, quickened by Sin's lofted lantern— the shining apple of His sky. Hydrargent rays, pale as the serpent-bitten, grace the salty cheeks of time. Rubedo Round the frozen feet pools melted brimstone, red as blood, and pools of blood besides, lit by crackled embers drifting— apocalyptic fireflies pressed to the bosom of the night. Aurum The sulphur sets in sheets of yellow snapdragons green in leaf and stem. The moon dissolves the saline pillar freeing the feet once trapped within. Lot's wife steps out into a world of gold—a promised land now newly born behind the smoke, where Moses neither sees nor enters.
you want soul? well I have a pair of brass balls by Johnny No Bueno I didn't write this for the Amiri Barakas, or the d. a. levys, or the Sapphires, or the feeders of the soul, but for us. we misshapen mutants, made from mistakes of essence nurturing generation before us. we punx. we skins. we crack pipe metal head seraphim. we are the eaters of souls. souls left behind by Duke Ellington, dandled upon Burroughs pedophilic knee, forced through a rusting sax by the rest of the neuvo-hippie beatniks. left behind, forgotten sons. Chinese neo-nazis, 12 year old Croatian hookers, left to dumpster dive, wipe off the mold and maggots and feast on with such desperation one may think us famished. hungry? yeah, but not in the literal sense, like a need to fill the belly to wash away taste of hipster semen. but hungry for the blood of those who left us to rot. depraved animals we be. smiling at the thought of gnawing on the bones of our heroes, pissing upon their graves marking our territory like feral cats,
stomping through their ghettos with such bravado that would make mighty Rome tremble, to it's knees. America! we are writing about the disdain and disenfranchisement which you have given birth to. And yet we point no fingers; fuck, we practically idolize you idolatrous imbeciles. I just hope I don't end up like Anne Waldman; shouting another boring rendition of "Howl" to upper echelon Buddhist social activist (vilifying the necessary violence only the poor could know), who having paid a hefty six hundred dollars, sit and meditate in rundown barn in rural Massachusetts Still shouting lines from "Howl". still shouting; as if it still means something.
The Poet on America, 2011 By Lauren Antrosiglio We have come to write the end of Our America, The invisible dust of the middle class sprinkled over land, The toothless vagrants, expired bus transfers Scarecrows hung at city hall The blue sky stretched over the country with clouds Banks counting the remnants of the American Dream, Decisions that must be made, bombs waiting to be dropped People still talking about Hiroshima and the infallible American Ego People still talking about Katrina and the bomb of bureaucratic ambivalence, Countries in nuclear standoffs each with a finger lingering above their death-button, The robotic pace of life under the rule of Oz, New York City and Tokyo and L.A., the malignant operas of advertisements and blinding lights under the guise of ―state of the art‖, imprisonment under the guise of artfully designed pandemonium, Dreams that die in rapid succession, the tired philosophies of American life: To suffer now, years of work and consumption and grasping for the last dollar, To wait to retire and to die, To drown and crumble in the ménage of the world— O the industry! O the fire and iron that makes the wounds of the world open and fester and bleed, O the encyclopedia of time upon which we lay our words and watch them burn, O liberty! O life, the perpetual riot of days, and our eyes, our witness, the workers and the bourgeois and the vacant carbon paper faces of the youth, the upside-down pages of crazy, our words, symphonies like mushroom stars played upon the night sky— We are writing America in all its cock-out glory America the bomb dropped on the world America the 24 carat gold plated watch, America lover of the dollar, America the Plutocracy, America the Phoenix, America that will cry golden tears.
YOWIE-POW-ZOWIE!! By H.E. Mantel this dilemmage of sensation, every morsel is great – great movie, great play, great song, great group, great food, great guy, she’s great!, great pass, great catch, great line, great team, great moves, great act, you were… great – a minor event majored like a superbowl not so super, er great, all at an hysteriambreaking-records, er CD’s, great announcer makes 200K per… what a great grandma, was a great marriage, er wedding we had a great time didn’t she look great, the food was great, great band, er DJ, what a great answer, great car none of greatness not of Socrates or Mozart or a great book, great teacher…
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS FROM A STUDENT OF THE
FOURTH DIMENSION BY KAREN MASON My Mid Term Exam There’s been so much homework and class work that it’s been an education just keeping up with the notes. Exploring important lessons, new studies, ideas, visions, concepts with many new instructors as well. Now, that I am here, in the warm desert, with wide open space and time, I can release it… to the keyboard. “Expect two days of darkness.” cautioned a respected instructor of indigenous lineage in class one day. As one of the Wisdom Keepers, she shared a possibility as to what the upcoming consciousness rebirth might look like. She also added; “Now is the time to stay near loved ones.” I gasped. “Shit … a surprise mid term exam.” This assignment was heavy, taking me down to a deep, dark place. I was grateful when AZJoe came to the rescue with a recorded phone message, reminding that the only assignment due that day was to be of love and joy. Mid Term Exam; Two Days of Darkness by Karen Mason What would it would be like…2 days of darkness? Darkness so dark, you can’t see your hands in front of your face. So dark, it felt heavy with presence, surrounding you, suffocating you. No electricity, no internet, no cell phone service. Screams echoing panic in the density of nothingness. My first thought would be to hop in the car and head home to be with my love ones, I bet I could get from the forest to the desert in 90 minutes. Easy. Nope. In the hysteria, everyone would be trying to GO somewhere. This was not a good idea. The safest place for me to be, is the place I was self-directing to be for this sacred moment …right where I am. Can I remain centered and calm, aware that this is what we have been waiting for? Would I be able to hold on to that inside me, that which I have been nurturing so well. Remembering, I am of light. I have been waiting for this moment, with great anticipation. Could I smile, for the time has finally arrived? With no sun, how cold could it possibly get? Would I be strong enough to resist the under tow of fear pulling me, as I try to shut out the noise of fear that I hear in the darkness, shouldering under my blanket, trying to keep warm.
Many will parish in the energy of fear, as I burrow deeper into my cocoon, perhaps releasing myself to death in my sleep, knowing in death we are reborn. In this release, fear is replaced with calm and I am filled with peace. But what if…. I had a little water stored, and some food, and I found a way to stay warm, with a fire. Perhaps I would stay in my little space…until when there is quiet I am urged to step out, trying to remember were my flashlight is, and not to think about what I might discover in the darkness, things I might not want to see. Stepping out to see whom of my neighbors decided to do the same. To hold tight. Could I do that in thick darkness? Find others to pull together for strength and assurance that all will be well. People can lose their self in fear, reacting in fearful ways, in danger of harming themselves and others. How slow can two days go with no measurement of time? It will certainly be my final exam of the lower dimensions. Then perhaps in that instant… … the sun returns, and it is so bright in contrast, that I shield my eyes as they struggle to focus, to adjust, looking around to see what might be there, in our enlightenment. Perhaps….. just then, I am greeted with a big slobbery kiss by a bundle of love, with a wagging tail, ready for a brand new day, and I can’t help but giggle as my warm loved one pulls me in close and asks….“How’d you sleep?” What if everything in my life up to that moment was a dream? I get it now…the lesson she was offering… to examine the remaining dark corners of my spiritual landscape, because in doing so, it helps to further define my light. The darkest shadows are cast by the brightest light. We are pregnant with the new field of consciousness, and we will give birth to it soon. It may be uncomfortable because it’s different, and it may be scary because it is unknown, and it may happen in the blink of an eye. Just in case, for practice, I am choosing nonjudgment and trust. No one knows for sure how this will happen, what it will look like….this is perhaps much greater than our simple three dimensional brains can handle. The possibilities are unlimited…if it’s all energy, than I will imagine…many perfect scenarios, filled with joy and celebration. In holding space like this, perhaps I begin to understand that We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the heroes and the miracles we are expecting. We have been called to be here now, to push Consciousness forward into the New World, because we have been preparing, and we are ready. What a way to finish off school this week, just before I head to the warm desert to spend a weekend with love ones. I am present holding that space of love and joy…getting prepared to embrace a sweet goodbye to this old world. "All experiences are a gift. It is the unwrapping that we become illuminated. It is in the illumination we can see our own highest potential."
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL INDEPENDENT COFFEE SHOPS LOOK FOR COFFEE SHOPS THAT ADVERTISE FAIR TRADE, ORGANIC COFFEE!
LOCAL & UNRULY Comics by Meredith Hobby
Check out Meredith’s Local & Unruly blog at: http://localandunrulyinne.blogspot.com *If you’d like to read the Riot Grrrl Manifesto, turn the page.
The New Riot Grrrl Part 1:A Look at Roller derby and Burlesque Theater
By Lauren Antrosiglio 20
R IOT GR R R L M A N IFE STO By Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, 1991
BECAUSE us girls crave records and books and fanzines that speak to US that WE feel included in and can understand in our own ways. BECAUSE we wanna make it easier for girls to see/hear each other's work so that we can share strategies and criticize-applaud each other. BECAUSE we must take over the means of production in order to create our own moanings. BECAUSE viewing our work as being connected to our girlfriends-politics-real lives is essential if we are gonna figure out how we are doing impacts, reflects, perpetuates, or DISRUPTS the status quo. BECAUSE we recognize fantasies of Instant Macho Gun Revolution as impractical lies meant to keep us simply dreaming instead of becoming our dreams AND THUS seek to create revolution in our own lives every single day by envisioning and creating alternatives to the bullshit christian capitalist way of doing things. BECAUSE we want and need to encourage and be encouraged in the face of all our own insecurities, in the face of beergutboyrock that tells us we can't play our instruments, in the face of "authorities" who say our bands/zines/etc are the worst in the US and BECAUSE we don't wanna assimilate to someone else's (boy) standards of what is or isn't. BECAUSE we are unwilling to falter under claims that we are reactionary "reverse sexists" AND NOT THE TRUEPUNKROCKSOULCRUSADERS THAT WE KNOW we really are. BECAUSE we know that life is much more than physical survival and are patently aware that the punk rock "you can do anything" idea is crucial to the coming angry grrrl rock revolution which seeks to save the psychic and cultural lives of girls and women everywhere, according to their own terms, not ours. BECAUSE we are interested in creating non-heirarchical ways of being AND making music, friends, and scenes based on communication + understanding, instead of competition + good/bad categorizations. BECAUSE doing/reading/seeing/hearing cool things that validate and challenge us can help us gain the strength and sense of community that we need in order to figure out how bullshit like racism, able-bodieism, ageism, speciesism, classism, thinism, sexism, anti-semitism and heterosexism figures in our own lives. BECAUSE we see fostering and supporting girl scenes and girl artists of all kinds as integral to this process. BECAUSE we hate capitalism in all its forms and see our main goal as sharing information and staying alive, instead of making profits of being cool according to traditional standards. BECAUSE we are angry at a society that tells us Girl = Dumb, Girl = Bad, Girl = Weak. BECAUSE we are unwilling to let our real and valid anger be diffused and/or turned against us via the internalization of sexism as witnessed in girl/girl jealousism and self defeating girltype behaviors. BECAUSE I believe with my wholeheartmindbody that girls constitute a revolutionary soul force that can, and will change the world for real. (Story Contâ€™d on Next Page)
The Art of Burlesque is a form a theater that has been around since the 1800’s, and has enjoyed a revival since the early 1990’s in the United States, as well as in cities around the world. Burlesque acts are stylish, often humorous, artistic, titillating, and above all—entertaining. This form of theater is mainly run by women, although men are occasionally involved in putting on the shows. The art form includes women of varying races and body types, as well as queer and transgendered women, and is a labor of love for many involved in its’ production. I had the pleasure of interviewing two women who are in the burlesque industry; Hai Flesch (pictured right), a Portland, Oregon area burlesque performer who is part of the Rose City Shimmy troupe, and Mia Malone-Jennings (on Page 24), burlesque performer and proprietor of Dr. Farrago’s Burlesque Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota. DILATE: When did you discover Burlesque, and what was it that drew you into it? HF: When I was a teenager I was fascinated by vintage fashion, old movies, Ziegfeld Folies, Bettie Page, and drag queens. I loved to make costumes and was beginning to get involved with theater productions. All of this all led me to Burlesque. It was around the time of the big Neo-Burlesque revival so articles were popping up in Magazines like Bust. The first show that I saw was The Velvet Hammer Burlesque from Los Angeles, and Picture Courtesy Tyler Spencer, I left completely inspired. The format was so freeing, being Coffee for Drew Productions onstage for one song, maybe two, usually under 5 minutes to do whatever you wanted onstage. I have always been inspired by characters from the past, and by music, and burlesque performers often tie these things together in fun and clever ways. Also, the costumes! I could tell that they were made out of love, not bought at stores and they were fabulous! So big and bold and glittering, like Dolly Parton or Divine! I didn't actually start performing until many years later. I've never been a dancer or performer so I was shy at first. A friend told me someone was starting a troupe, which was less daunting than going it alone. Initially it was a mostly queer, gender-bending troupe, and one of my first performances involved red, white & blue strap-ons and presidents masks. I was supposed to be the group costumer, that's why I got into it, but I surprised myself by relishing being onstage. MMJ: I began as a go-go dancer for Ground Zero nightclub in Northeast Minneapolis, eleven years ago. As I danced high on a catwalk, they would play vintage burlesque flicks on several large movie screens throughout the crowded, noisy club. When I wasn’t deep in the zone dancing, I was watching a myriad of vintage, burlesque classics. I loved the old school style, the elaborate costumes, the talent, and the twirling, glittering pasties. I was most enchanted by Bettie Page. I loved her playfulness and her free spirit. I also loved her classic look. Sometimes I would get the chance to act on Ground Zero’s large stage, with the lovely and talented Jean Bardot. Sometimes our acts were very burlesque in style, only I didn’t really know the name for it at the time. The revival of burlesque was still very new. I thought it was performance art where in the end I generally stripped down to sexy panties and pasties. I didn’t know that the proper name for it was burlesque. That I learned when I attended and performed at an erotic writers conference in New Orleans in May, 2002 – Eroticon, hosted by erotic author Jamie Joy Gatto of MindCaviar.com – when I met this very beautiful woman, Miss Bonnie Dunn. We were introduced to each other at Jamie Joy’s home the night before the event. It was a pre-party, crowded with erotic authors and entertainers from all around New Orleans and the U.S. Miss Bonnie Dunn was a New York City burlesque star, owner of Le Scandal. She had to be the most stunning woman I had ever seen! She held herself at this party with such beauty, finesse and grace - a true, classic beauty. She had a warm presence and was very easy to converse with. The following evening, during our event in the French Quarter, I saw her perform on stage with two beautiful, turquoise blue, ostrich feather fans as she sang a sultry song. She lost a pastie during her performance, but that
didn’t stop her act. She just continued on, nonchalantly, as if nothing had happened. It was during this visit to NOLA that I learned what burlesque was and that I had a deep urge within to perform it on stage. I dreamed about having ostrich feather fans, like Miss Bonnie Dunn had, the entire way home, which was a slow ride by Greyhound bus. I received 25 dollars a night to go-go dance at Ground Zero, two nights per week. It took me almost two months to save for my first, black, ostrich feather fan. Shortly after Eroticon, I was using my feather fan on Ground Zero’s stage. Soon thereafter, the first Minneapolis burlesque show opened, Le Cirque Rouge de Gus, and I was performing burlesque two nights a week. One of my acts was with my feather fan and the other was a classic balloon costume/popping act. The entire cast was amazing! It was exciting times for all of us, because burlesque was so new in the Twin Cities. It was also a time where I had many challenges to face just to get to a show. It was the beginning of the recession. It took me many days and hours to sew my costumes and make my pasties. I had a low budget. We had no gas to heat our home or water heater. I had to boil four large pots of water on the stove, four times, just to take a bath before a show. I hated living life like that then. Yet, it makes me appreciate my roots as a burlesque performer. I did whatever it took just to perform on stage. My creativity thrived back then! I was determined to spit in the recession’s face. I lived through dark times, yet felt rich because of being able to do what I love - burlesque! Months after Le Cirque Rouge opened, which is a show dedicated to the past (1920’s-1950’s) I started my own show, Dr. Farrago’s Burlesque Theatre, the first modern, 21rst Century burlesque show in the Twin Cities. We pushed boundaries and explored new ways to present burlesque. We began our adventure at First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis. DILATE: A lot of people dismiss Burlesque as just "being a stripper". For our readers that don't know the difference, how would you differentiate the two? HF: First I'd like to say that I get this question all of the time and there usually seems to be a lot of negativity behind it, which is disappointing to me. I've also worked as a stripper, and there are differences, but I see them more as a matter of aesthetic than anything. Before dancers were spinning around on poles to Motley Crue Burlesque WAS Stripping. The industry changed over time and a lot of theatricality and respect for dancers was lost sadly, but that doesn't mean that there aren't still strippers that enjoy their jobs and are incredible performers. I am a little biased because I live in Portland where there are a lot of "alternative" clubs, meaning that there is more acceptance for different body types, personal styles, and tattoos than in some other cities. The stereotype of the bleach-blond airhead with fake boobs and nothing else going for her is extremely rare. We have the most strip clubs per capita and because of this women have gotten pretty creative in order to keep business coming their way. We have incredible pole acrobats, fire dancers and contortionists, girls wear costumes and do theme sets. What separates this from Burlesque today? Full nudity? When customers go to a strip club they want to see naked women, and performance comes second. Except maybe in Portland. People here expect to be entertained. Strippers, although a lot of them genuinely love what they do, are employed to pay the bills. Burlesque is always theatrical and it's rare that we can depend on the money to live, so it's a labour of love. When an audience comes to a burlesque show they want to be entertained first, and titillated second. Strip clubs are very sexually charged places whereas Burlesque shows are a safe place for people to enjoy sensuality, and playful sexuality without any expectations beyond fun. I almost never get hit on at Burlesque shows. It's rare that anyone even says anything suggestive to me, but they tell me they enjoyed themselves. It is hard to say because there is no single definition of burlesque. Usually clothing is being removed in (hopefully) a creative way to reveal pasties and maybe a G string, but I've seen performers start in almost nothing, and some who don't remove much at all. MMJ: If I was a stripper, I would be getting paid a substantial amount of money, instead of putting every penny I have into a burlesque production. I have been both a stripper and a burlesque performer. My time as a stripper wasn’t as glamorous. I had a few songs to strip to and dance to and a few more songs to bump and grind, pleading for tips. I didn’t last long as a stripper. When I do burlesque, I am onstage, loving what I do! I put every ounce of energy into my imagination, my costumes, my props, my productions. Sometimes it takes me a few weeks to sew a costume and rehearse a number until I get it right. Sometimes I use many choreographed dance moves in my number, which take time to rehearse. Sometimes I use an adorable monkey puppet, who I named Henry Miller, to perform with. It takes a lot of time rehearsing with mirrors to get both of our reactions and moves right. Sometimes I use magic, which takes hours of practice. Sometimes I do an elaborate Geisha number, where I unveil many beautiful robes. This number requires a lot of my time and attention. I perform with an array of colorful fans and Japanese swords, mixing this number with some magic as well. If it wasn’t a passion for me, I wouldn’t spend my every second of my day, living the life of a burlesque performer. I also get much more recognition as a burlesque performer in the art community and the Twin Cities area. Because it’s an art form, I feel that I’m treated differently. I receive a lot of respect for what I do. I feel proud of who I am and what I create on and off the stage. To me, burlesque is liberating. It completes me as a woman. It’s a passion into which I’m so happy to have invested so much of my life. DILATE: Do you think Burlesque is feminist in nature, and if so, why? HF: I do. It's unrealistic to depend on Burlesque to make a living these days everybody who's in it is here because they were drawn to it.. No one is being forced to be sexual in order to support themselves, they're up there because they love it! It is predominantly women performing and women producing, but some men are involved as well; Boylesque performers, producers, MC's, etc. And, with the exception of the occasional revue, the vast majority of performers are independent contractors, meaning they create their own acts, set their own prices, represent themselves, and express themselves however they see fit. (Cont’d Next Page)
MMJ: Yes, Burlesque can be feminist in nature. It brings out the little girl in me. I get to play big girl dress-up with shiny, sparkly, and sometimes frilly costumes. I get to use interesting props, my imagination, sometimes puppetry and magic. It’s hard for a girl to ignore the spotlight, glittering rhinestones, and beautiful costumes. But it also brings out the male as well. I have an amazing drag king/burlesque performer, Fox Smoulder, and many boylesque acts like Johnny M in my show. I even have a drag queen, Melora Moxie, who likes to do stripteases in my show, shocking the crowd when she reveals her true identity. If it wasn’t for drag queens, who are generally male, I don’t believe that I would’ve been as prepared as a burlesque performer. It was several drag queens from the Gay 90’s, who taught me how to act, to perform as a glamorous woman, to put on makeup, etc. They knew just how to be confident divas!
Picture Courtesy David Gustafson
DILATE: As a female-driven enterprise, what kind of impact do you think Burlesque has (or could have) on the amount of women-owned businesses in the U.S.? HF: I know that through my experience as a performer I have learned a LOT about business. I have been my own choreographer, costumer, booker, PR agent, and producer, as most dancers are. From the moment that you contact a producer, to meeting the other dancers in the dressing room, to the stage, to mingling with the crowd after the show, even in your on-line profiles, you are always representing yourself as a performer and as a business woman. If you behave unprofessionally you will lose gigs because no one will want to work with you. You can still be yourself, it's not an office obviously- it's a lot more fun- but it is professional. I've always been involved in art in some way and before I started doing burlesque, as a naturally shy person, I struggled with the concept of ―marketing myself,‖ and networking. Unless you come into Burlesque as a wealthy person you are forced to do those things yourself, and after a while they come quite naturally. I've seen so many women blossom in this art-form and they did everything themselves. I've gained so much experience from this that I never expected, and while it's not my only source of income its helped me build my costume portfolio for theater work, and it's been an absolutely invaluable education as someone pursuing a career in the arts. I wouldn't be on-stage today if I hadn't worked my ass off. I recommend it highly! I've also seen a rise lately in Burlesque inspired clothing and accessories. I think that because it is such a flagrantly feminine enterprise it inspires a lot of women craft makers. MMJ: It has a huge impact. Every minute there is a new burlesque show being produced by female producers, all over the world. If a show isn’t being produced, burlesque classes are being taught by more experienced female burlesque performers. There are a multitude of females authoring books on burlesque, or doing videos like Yoga Tease (burlesque). There are female-owned vintage and costume stores, and female vintage clothing and corset designers are profiting as well. So are the female pin-up artists and photographers. And there are even females who profit off the manufacturing of glittering pasties. I’m sure there are a million other ways women have profited from the revival of burlesque. DILATE: What kind of effect (if any) does being a Burlesque performer have on body image and self-acceptance, both for the dancer and the audience members? HF: Personally I grew up in a pretty open family where nudity and sexuality weren't shameful but I've always been a bit of a tomboy and part of that is because of the way that I look. I'm very tall and had curves from a young age, at a time when I was extremely insecure, so I was getting a lot of attention from really predatory men, so to protect myself I learned how to neutralize my sexuality. That and I don't agree with gender roles anyways. I like to get dirty. I like to wrestle and ride bikes and climb fences so wearing jeans and T shirts is just easier most of the time. But I do have a very ―feminine‖ side, that likes to wear makeup and heels and do her nails and flaunt it. Dressing up to go out I was constantly harassed. Some people see someone who is beautiful and daring and they are threatened, they want to cut you down to size and I refuse to accept that as a barrier. If I'm going to be the 6'5‖-in-heels woman braving the night, I might as well take it all the way, really throw it in their face. YES, I'm wearing this, NO, I'm not ashamed. Burlesque has been an opportunity to embrace that side, to take ―femininity‖ to an extreme. I started in San Francisco and was very inspired by the local drag scene, which is incredible; smart, campy, over the top, very Divine- inspired. Through performance I've become more comfortable with both sides of myself, and my sexuality. I've even become a bit of a flirt. MMJ: I think burlesque advocates for every type of woman to celebrate her body, regardless of its appearance, shape
or size. With my show, Dr. Farrago’s Burlesque Theater, I have the sexy, intellectual girl in glasses, I have the voluptuous vixens, and I have the slim, tall and shapely beauties. I think when you showcase a variety of women in this way it makes it easier for other women to come see your show. They don’t mind coming to the show with their date, husband, or significant other. They appreciate the eclectic cast of performers and maybe think that if someone with their body type can do that, they can too. They don’t have to fit into a certain body type. They just need the passion, the talent, imagination, and the tenacity to perform. I don’t have the perfect body. I have had two children. Burlesque has taught me to accept myself as I am, imperfections and all. I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to be comfortable and confident being me. I have also learned tricks of the trade to accentuate my positives and downplay what I think are flaws with costumes, lingerie, props, etc. DILATE: If you could, please describe what you think the state of women’s empowerment is in this country. HF: I think we’ve got a ways to go. I see a lot of backlash, a lot of young women saying, I’m not a feminist, without even thinking about what that means. Some woman just came out with a book stating that women’s independence is robbing men of their power, turning them into children, and I’m reading about this in magazines, seeing her on talk shows, as if this is an exciting new theory. It’s an archaic idea, that women are meant to play backup to men, and people still buy into it. It doesn’t make men look good either, I’d be insulted if I was one. And the focus of women’s bodies is just ridiculous. We’re a gender in financial and spiritual depression because of the constant focus on impossible physical standards. When I think about all of the female brain power that’s being squandered on personal appearances it makes me ill. And then there’s the rape and violence against us. I have this discussion with men a lot. Because they don’t live the daily reality of being a woman they think that everything’s all hunky dory, we’re equals, can’t we please hush up now? When you deal with this reality every day- when you have people assuming that you don’t know how to do something technical because you’re a woman, or intimidating you because you wore a skirt, or you have strangers telling you that you should lose some weight because they think that a woman’s body is public property- then you know everything is not fine. MMJ: I think the state of women’s empowerment is strong! It’s okay for me to feel okay with who I am and what I do for a living, without any shame. Today, there are so many strong willed, confident, passionate, outspoken women who don’t let anything get in their way! I think we’ve come a long ways. I still think we have a long ways to go! I am proud to be a free spirited woman! I’m a strong confident woman, because I have had many role models to look up to. My mother’s family escaped from North Korea into South Korea, when she was very young. She didn’t have all the freedoms I had growing up. When my mother was barely in her twenties, she risked everything coming to America. Today, because I am an American citizen, I can live my life freely. I don’t have to live in fear or shame for being a woman. I can be confident with my body, my sexuality and with who I am. DILATE: How has working in the Burlesque industry made you feel about the women you work with, and/or women in general? MMJ: It has made me realize everyone has their place in life. Not every kind of woman will suit my personality. Nor will mine suit theirs. However, I’ve learned to appreciate everyone’s role and try not to find fault in their character. I like to allow each performer to grow, develop and evolve without interference, to let them be themselves, as they are. I have learned to just observe and appreciate the roles each one plays, which is an integral part of the show. Each part is necessary to the whole. We don’t all have to agree. We just need to thrive and work well together to create a great show. I’ve also learned that if I want order in my show, instead of chaos, I have to assert myself as the matriarch figure, and not put up with any unnecessary drama or bullshit. However, I’d do anything to protect each of my performers, who I regard as family, from any kind of harm much like a tigress would with her cubs. I take care of these girls/performers like family, helping burlesque girls along the way with costuming, props, etc. I find pleasure, passing on dresses, costumes, props, etc… And, if and when I can, I like to help the new female performers who are starting out and who don’t have much of a budget to work with. Its fun to see some of the costumes I’ve made, or saved months to purchase in the past, continuing to be used by beautiful performers today. I find ways to work with performers from all over, instead of treating them with vindictiveness and competition. HF: I’ve met some of my favorite women through doing Burlesque, and a couple of the absolute worst. Fortunately, the worst were far outnumbered by the fabulous ones! Unfortunately I think that the draw of the stage has the potential to bring out people’s egos. The worst women that I met were not only ego-maniacs but manipulators taking advantage financially of other women in a small professional pool with no regulations. It took a few years to get the small Portland scene stable enough to fend off these kind of predators, and that took a lot of really wonderful, caring, strong, articulate women to make that happen. The characteristics that it takes to make a great burlesque performer- charisma, stamina, drive, independence, creativity, grace, and a sense of humor- add up to make some wonderful people. I really appreciate the whimsy and joy of living that I find in most performers. I’ve also found that the confidence that it takes to be a selfmade performer, and one that takes their clothes off, makes my burlesque friends bold in other areas of their lives. I feel that a lot of women are so beaten down by our society that they are afraid to truly be themselves. They never feel good enough. There’s a lot of broken women that want to drag other females down to their level of misery and insecurity. It is refreshing to be around women who aren’t ashamed of their bodies, that don’t spend their time worrying what they look like naked, who aren’t afraid to be seen and heard, to express themselves. I think that Burlesque opens women up to support each other to be as fabulous as we want to be. That’s my utopia.+
Full-Contact Sport? Check. Old School Quad Roller Skates? Check. Bad ass chicks of all body types, races, and backgrounds ? You bet your ass, it’s Roller Derby! A challenging, wholly entertaining full-body-contact sport that originated in the US in the 1930’s, Roller Derby has spread across the world, and has thriving scenes in Canada, Japan, the UK, and Finland. I got a chance to interview a couple bonafied Derby chicks about this female-powered sport—Jesse ―Ka Pow Wow‖ Johnson (the player on the far left pictured above) of Arizona, and Marsha Shady of Toronto, ON. Here’s what they had to say. DILATE: What made you join the roller derby? KPW: My mother wanted to play when she was younger and she never got the chance. I love to skate, and I love a sport that women can be themselves in, plus hitting other girls on skates is so much fun too. MS: Truthfully, one day I saw a bunch of tattooed chicks on roller skates at a park, and they looked completely rad. I went up and talked to a few of them, and they told me they were into roller derby, and invited me to the next fresh meat event. The next day, I bought some skates, and started practicing! DILATE: Roller Derby has experienced a worldwide resurgence in the past decade or so, which is pretty awesome. Why now? And what do you think that resurgence in popularity is a sign of? KPW: I think it's a movement of women of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds finding something they can thrive in doing. The camaraderie, the DIY [aspect] of the sport is kept going by women running these leagues all over the world. I think Roller derby is reminding women and the world just how strong we can be!
MS: Well, I think after the ―girl power‖ Riot Grrrl stuff in the early 90’s kind of faded out, strong women were looking for another outlet, another way to assert our feminine power and have fun with other girls. I think Roller derby has been around so long it was just there, ready for the revival. DILATE: How many injuries have you had? What's the worst injury you've seen on a fellow Derby chick? KPW: This is my first season so I have only has a few bruises here and there. So far my CoCaptain broke her fibula and will be out for a few months but I love when girls come back as soon as they can after an injury, [which] most always do. MS: Sometimes it’s like you had a rough night in a mosh pit. Sometimes it’s a little worse and some girls end up with broken ribs and bruises that are a thousand colors. I injured the left side of my ass after a fall—I wouldn’t say I broke my ass, though. I walked funny for a couple weeks after, and skating was a little painful. DILATE: Do you think Roller Derby is feminist, and if so, why? KPW: In a way yes and no. Women run and keep the sport going but there are men who have a hand in it as well, as coaches or [referees] and there are men who play derby although the sport is predominantly women. MS: Definitely. Feminism is really women empowering themselves and fighting for equal rights. Roller derby is a rough sport, and women take a beating, but it’s all for the love of derby. It’s like a family, and we all watch out for each other. There might be some competition and egos being thrown around, but in the end, we’re all part of a powerful sisterhood. DILATE: How do you feel when you've just scored a point? KPW: Scoring points for your team feels amazing and it feels just as great when you stop the other team from scoring points by blocking the hell outta their jammer. MS: Amazing. DILATE: What do you think constitutes a bad-ass chick? KPW: Any woman who has the strength to be herself and do what she loves no matter what it is or who agrees. MS: I think a bad ass chick is a girl who asserts her prowess, her power, her intelligence, and her beauty without worrying about society’s expectations or definitions of those things. She’s herself, unapologetically. DILATE: What advice would you have for a chick who is curious about joining her local Roller Derby team? KPW: I would say not to give up it's worth every bruise, every time something is sore or you feel like you can't do it, push through and YOU CAN! Also GET LOW! The lower you skate the easier everything is, hitting, getting hit, passing blockers everything is easier when you are LOW. (Cont’d Nxt Page)
MS: Don’t try and fit any stereotypes of what you think a Derby girl should be—this sport is all about being yourself, in a group of other strong women being themselves. Also, know that Derby isn’t easy—it’s a thinking game. You have to be thinking, conscious of everything around you, know all of the rules and have a solid strategy, plus play offense and defense at the same time, all while on roller skates. But no matter what, have fun with it. DILATE: With the sad excuses for female role models in pop culture and for teenage girls in general, Roller Derby could be a great way for girls to claim their power and develop some real self confidence, outside of mainstream society's ideas of beauty and female roles. With that in mind, do you think that movies like "Whip it" are bad because of the over-glamorization and misrepresentation of the sport, or do you think these movies are a way to get through to girls who might not find out otherwise, or both? KPW: They are what they are; movies. Movies like "Whip It" are a way to bring the sport to peoples’ attention in the mainstream and to young women, who hopefully take from it that if you want to do something you can. As long as you work hard and you really want it. [The movie] is different especially between flat track and banked track which is how they played in the movie. The idea and positions are the same just some rules and a few other things are different, but it's fun to watch Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page and other talented actresses get on skates and do what we do, [because] even if it's just acting I'm sure it was not easy. There is always a sense of entertainment, whether someone is watching a hometown roller derby bout or in the theater. MS: A lot of derby girls I know were pissed off because they thought Whip It kind of glamorized the whole thing and created a stereotype—I think when something is really important to you, you can be protective of it. But I loved the movie, and I think there needs to be more press about what we do, because there are too many girls out there starving themselves to be pretty or trying to imitate Beyonce or Paris Hilton. One thing about Whip it that I didn’t like was the absence of diversity in body types. It’s not just skinny women that are in Derby, and that’s the beauty of it—literally.
CHECK OUT THE DECEMBER 2011 ISSUE OF DILATE FOR PART 2 OF THIS SERIES, WHICH WILL INCLUDE AN INTER VIEW WITH ERYKAH BADU!
“I HATE PRO-LIFERS.” “I HATE BABY KILLERS.” “I HATE BLACK/MEXICAN/ASIAN/INDIAN PEOPLE.” “I HATE HIPSTERS.” “I HATE CATS/DOGS.” “I HATE HIPPIES.” “I HATE RAPPERS.” “I HATE COUNTRY SINGERS.” “I HATE TRENDY PEOPLE.” “I HATE REPUBLICANS.” “I HATE DEMOCRATS.” “I HATE OBAMA.” “I HATE LIBERALS.” “I HATE PEOPLE WHO DRIVE FANCY CARS.” “I HATE DILATE MAGAZINE.” “I HATE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS.” “I HATE NASCAR FANS.” “I HATE THE BOSTON RED SOX.” “I HATE THE YANKEES.” “I HATE BASEBALL PLAYERS.” “I HATE WOMEN.” “I HATE GAYS, LESBIANS, AND TRANSGENDERED PEOPLE.” “I HATE CHRISTIANS.” “I HATE ATHEISTS.” “I HATE MEN.” “I HATE JEWS.” “I HATE MUSLIMS.” “I HATE FEMINISTS.” “I HATE OLD PEOPLE.” “I HATE BABIES.” “I HATE FAT PEOPLE.” “I HATE FOREIGNERS.” “I HATE BUSINESS EXECUTIVES.” “I HATE REDNECKS.” “I HATE CANADIANS.” “I HATE THE WORLD.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction ... The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation. “ -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
By Lauren Antrosiglio After scanning many a grocery store’s magazine aisle and seeing the front pages of tons of women’s magazines bearing headlines like “How to make him crazy for more in 8 easy steps” or “6 Ways to find your Soul Mate”, I felt compelled—no, obligated—to give a voice to those of us who are very comfortable being single, thank you very much. Not to say that I (or We) don’t want a relationship—no, human interaction and intimacy is a natural desire and impulse in all of us, for sure. But there are two ways to be single: The first is fairly healthy, where being single is a state of being where one is concentrating on bettering themselves, strengthening relationships with friends and family, and experiencing personal and spiritual growth, as well as having fun! The second way to be single is narrowly focused on mostly one thing—trying to get into a relationship. Obviously, the first way of being single is much more positive, and when you are living that way, it is easy to see that being single is truly awesome. Plus, there are so many perks. I have many different friends, and I don’t have to worry about having a solid group of “our” friends—friends that all have a bit in common and get along with a significant other. I walk around naked, most of the time (at home, of course—if I did that in public, this would be a different sort of article). When I file my taxes, I don’t have to worry about my spouse’s financial shortcomings that could take a chunk out of my refund, or worse, cause me to pay more. If I don’t feel like cleaning my apartment or doing the dishes right away, guess what—I don’t have to. If I decide to change something in my life, I don’t have to run it by anyone—so if I am going to change gyms, or dye my hair, or get a tattoo, no one can say anything (except perhaps my mother—even then, I end up doing it anyway). I have one less gift to buy at Christmas and for birthdays—dude, I don’t even have to remember that special person’s birthday, or the anniversary of our first date/kiss/cab ride/etc/etc. I make decisions, every day of my life, to better
myself and to move my life forward and help myself grow—these are things we forget about sometimes while we are wrapped up in relationships. I get pure, uninterrupted, silence. I don’t have to plan it—I can just stop what I’m doing and go meditate for an hour. I have a full-size futon mattress on the floor (that no one can tell me we shouldn’t have on the floor), and I don’t have to share it with anyone but my cat. Hold on, WAIT A SECOND MISTER—don’t start in with the crazy spinster cat lady jokes. There is no research to support some stupid theory that all single women own a bunch of cats and knit all day. That is a sexist notion, by the way. How about, to make things even, I throw out a stereotypical theory about single men—they all are addicted to video games, and sit around their generic apartments where everything is from IKEA, and where their Friday night activities consist of eating Red Baron pizzas and signing up for yet another porn site membership. Ahhhh… that feels better. Do me a favor, girls—spread that like wildfire. Anyway, enough of the war of the sexes, what was I saying? Oh yes, so you know what else is awesome about being single? Casual dating. Going on dates with new people is always fun (and sometimes annoying and ridiculous, but funny a year or two later—ask my friend who went on a blind date after putting out a personal ad looking for a tall, athletic black female and got a 2 ½ foot tall Caucasian woman). Flirting is fun when you don’t know where things are going—it is suspenseful and you get butterflies in your stomach, which is an awesome thing in and of itself. If I want to, I can go out and party with my friends. In the morning on the weekend, I wake up to my cat nudging me awake and usually have a text or two from my great family and friends, serving as a reminder of just how awesome my single life really is. The best thing, though, is that my time being single has been spent getting to know me and going through serious growth and maturity— and now, I know what I really want from a relationship, because I’ve had this time with myself to figure it out. My sense of self-worth and self-confidence is not as easily shaken like if I were in a relationship, trusting a bit of that self-worth to that one person, hoping they handle it with kid gloves. I turn up Blondie on my record player and dance around my living room in my own personal dance club. No one sees this, and that… is awesome.+
The Non-Violent Protest against Corporate GreeD
From Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Everywhere By Nathan Schneider
It all started with an e-mail. On July 13 Adbusters magazine sent out a call to its 90,000strong list proclaiming a Twitter hashtag (#OccupyWallStreet) and a date, September 17. It quickly spread among the mostly young, tech-savvy radical set, along with an especially alluring poster the magazine put together of a ballerina atop the Charging Bull statue, the financial district’s totem to testosterone. The idea became a meme, and the angel of history (or at least of the Internet) was somehow ready. Halfway into a revolutionary year—after the Arab Spring and Europe’s tumultuous summer— cyberactivists in the United States were primed for a piece of the action. The Adbusters editors weren’t the only ones organizing; similar occupations were already in the works, including a very well-laid plan to occupy Freedom Plaza in Washington, starting October 6. Websites cropped up to gather news and announcements. US Day of Rage, the Twitter- and web-driven project of a determined IT strategist, endorsed the action, promoted it and started preparing with online nonviolence trainings and tactical plans. Then, in late August, the hacktivists of Anonymous signed on, posting menacing videos and flooding social media networks. But a meme alone does not an occupation make. An occupation needs people on the ground. By early August, a band of activists in New York began meeting in public parks to plan. Many were fresh off the streets of Bloombergville, a three-week encampment near City Hall in protest of layoffs and cuts to social services. Others joined them, especially artists, students and anarchists—academic and otherwise. (US Day of Rage’s founder was there too.) This “NYC General Assembly” met first at the Charging Bull, then at the Irish Hunger Memorial along the Hudson River and then at the south end of Tompkins Square Park. The turnout was usually around sixty to 100. The General Assembly, which would eventually morph from a planning committee into the de facto decision-making body of the occupation, was a hodgepodge of procedures and hand signals with origins as various as Quakerism, ancient Athens, the indignados of Spain (some of whom were present) and the spokescouncils of the 1999 anti-globalization movement. Basically, it’s an attempt to create a nonhierarchical, egalitarian, consensus-driven process— the purest kind of democracy. Of no small significance was that this was taking place in direct contradiction of what Wall Street has come to represent: the stranglehold on American politics and society by the (Cont’d Next Page)
interests of a wealthy few, a government by the corporations and apparently for them. In its initial call Adbusters had posed the question, “What is our one demand?” Echoing the determination to oust Hosni Mubarak that temporarily unified Muslim Brothers with Christians and feminists in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the idea was that an occupation like this in the United States could similarly mount enough pressure to enact one critical, game-changing policy proposal. Adbusters, as well as people at the General Assembly, pitched in their suggestions: a “Tobin tax” on financial transactions, reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act or revoking corporate personhood. (Nicholas Kristof later rehearsed some of these in the New York Times.) But the discussions never seemed to get anywhere. No single demand seemed like enough to address the problems of the system, and few of these upstarts relished the thought of begging for anything from the powers that be. Tabling that discussion week after week, the General Assembly focused on more practical matters. There were debates about tactics, fundraising, food and wrenching ones about how to build the GA’s website. Over time, the sense emerged that demands weren’t the right thing to be after. In the first place, it didn’t seem likely that the 20,000 people Adbusters hoped for would appear anytime soon. (Even if they did, when 20,000 people had marched for a day on Wall Street in May, it hardly made a dent.) The more realistic and strategic goal, it seemed, was movement-building. Just as assemblies like this one had spread through Spain in the summer, and through Argentina after the economic crisis in 2001, they would try to plant the seeds for assemblies to grow around the city and around the country. These, in turn, could blossom into a significant, even effective, political movement. Specific demands might come later, after the movement grew. To give you an idea of where this was starting from: the occupation began with just a few thousand dollars on hand and no idea who would show up. *** When September 17 finally arrived, people came from all over the country. Most of them had no idea what the General Assembly even was, much less what it had been up to. They came for their own reasons, united by the aesthetic appeal of swarming the money-changers at their own temple. But their numbers were closer to 2,000 than 20,000. The initial gathering point was the Charging Bull at Bowling Green, a few blocks south of Wall Street. People picketed around the barricades that protected the sculpture. Reverend Billy, an anti-consumerist performance artist, preached while a team of protest chaplains in white robes ministered with a cardboard cross. There were a surprising number of recommendations to invest in silver. LaRouchePAC furnished an excellent choir. Nobody knew what would happen next. The plan—publicly at least—was to hold a General Assembly meeting at the Chase Manhattan Plaza terrace and then figure out the next step from there. But the terrace had been closed off the night before. Leaflets showing a map and alternate locations were circulated through the crowd. And after the tactics committee held some hasty, whispered huddles during a free-for-all open mic session, the decision was made to head for option two: Zuccotti Park, just a few blocks up Broadway, right between thoroughly barricaded Wall Street and the World Trade Center site. And so it happened, without a hitch. After a few minutes’ march, the crowd was packed together under a canopy of honeylocust trees for the first General Assembly meeting of the occupation.
As the day continued, as some people got settled in and others left, a few poked around on their smartphones to figure out just where they were. The skeletal Wikipedia entry for Zuccotti Park was enough: it is privately owned by Brookfield Office Properties, renamed in 2006 after Brookfield chair John Zuccotti. The name it once had is still displayed on the building across the street: Liberty Plaza. Like Tahrir (“Liberation”) Square in Cairo. Or Freedom Plaza in DC. Too perfect. That night the crowd continued to thin, down to perhaps 200. As the evening wore on, police massed. More than twenty empty vans drove by slowly in a line, their sirens flashing. Two rows of officers, with white plastic cuffs dangling from their belts, lined up along Broadway. A dispersal seemed imminent. White-shirted commanders and other higher-ups whispered. Would-be occupiers assembled, discussed and then broke up into smaller groups. A meditation-and-massage circle formed to help people relax. By 11 pm, though, an order had been given to stand down. The second row of storm troops disappeared, and the remaining officers seemed to be there only as spectators. Protesters, now occupiers, got out sleeping bags, or found cardboard, and tried to sleep on the granite. The following week was a sequence of ups and downs for those on the plaza, who started calling themselves, in interviews and chants, “the 99 percent.” There were never more than a few hundred of them, and police made incursions and arrests nearly every day, which kept everyone on edge. After tents donated by rapper Lupe Fiasco were put up on September 19 for fear of rain, police responded with seven violent arrests in three visits the next morning. But by September 21 videos of occupiers being grabbed and dragged had gone viral, and the story had made the front page of New York’s free Metro newspaper. Each time there was an incident with the police, media attention increased; the police, it sometimes seemed, were trying to do the occupation a favor. Young women pepper-sprayed without provocation, teenagers slammed onto the pavement, about 700 arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge—each episode brought more cameras, more sympathy, more people and more momentum. At first, the reporters wanted to talk only to the banged-up and bloodied. Then they started asking just about everyone on the plaza, including one another, “Why are you here?” The wide array of responses they got, together with those on display in the plaza’s collage of hundreds of cardboard signs, became a common excuse for reporters to declare the whole thing incoherent. Trained to work from press conferences and sound bites, many of them were lost on the peculiar process of the General Assembly An Occupy Wall Street Protester after having milk poured in his eyes to help stop the burn from Mace sprayed by the NYPD.
and the message clearly implied by a utopian encampment in the middle of the financial district. Expecting to find the usual formula of an ineffective leftist protest, they were sent reeling by their inability to find some vague, though catchy, overarching slogan. Instead, they ogled the handful of women protesting topless. (Cont’d Next Page)
With much of the coverage centered on the arrests, what bled led and what didn’t was forgotten. Protesters tended to be portrayed as passive victims of police mistreatment. But in many cases they weren’t. Few reports mentioned that while the 700 protesters were waiting to be arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge, they sat down, sang songs, recited chants and held a discussion about dispelling fear. When the first arrest videos went viral, it was rarely noticed that protesters were arrested while committing conscious acts of civil disobedience: holding down an illicit tarp that was protecting equipment from the rain, continuing a speech about having courage after being ordered to stop, writing the word “love” on the sidewalk in chalk. (Some later incidents of mass arrest took place less purposefully, and less on the protesters’ terms.) Nor has it been much remembered what kind of backdrop these early moments stood against: the police commanders wandering through the plaza and waking people at dawn, the ever-present worry of a forced dispersal, the sense of isolation when the TV trucks were gone. Working with the activist habit of ressentiment, acquired by seeing protest after protest fail to make headlines, the organizers planned much more for creating their own media than serving anyone else’s. From day one, they had a (theoretically) twenty-four-hour lifestream, allowing thousands of people around the world to watch what was going on in the plaza and on marches in real time. The plaza’s generatorpowered media center blasted out tweets, YouTube videos, blog posts and more, keeping savvy supporters informed and giving Anonymous lots of material to disseminate. But the level of preparation for more traditional media, with much greater reach and potential to expand the movement, was limited. At first it was mainly just one valiant, black-clad college student with no previous media experience who was assigning interviews, posting communiqués online, keeping reporters informed and, unintentionally, spreading false rumors. It’s rare, to say the least, to find a place so full of people under 30 for whom being on national television has so quickly become commonplace. People began getting the message nonetheless. After two weeks, and two Saturdays of mass arrests, the kinds of groups that previously didn’t want to be caught dead near the dirty radicals on Liberty Plaza started to join in, to see themselves as occupiers too: labor unions, student clubs, an ex-governor of New York, parents and grandparents. Surprise celebrity visits started becoming the norm. Just over two weeks in, more than 10,000 people marched down Broadway to Liberty Plaza. Meanwhile, the food committee added a dishwashing area, outreach turned from a box of fliers to a well-staffed table and sanitation got a new set of brooms. Sister occupations have been appearing all over the country and the world, in big cities and smaller ones, often using a similar assembly model, taking back public space and turning it into an agora, a place where politics might, finally, be about people. #OccupyWallStreet—the action, the idea, the meme—has become #OccupyEverywhere. It has started a movement.+
Occupy Photos Taken By: Carwil Bjork-James; Paul Weiskel; f-l-e-x; and Mat McDermott, used with attribution rights under Creative Commons license. Article republished with express permission from The Nation.
Declaration of the Occupation of New York City As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies. As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known. They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage. They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses. They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of oneâ€™s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization. They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices. They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions. They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right. They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workersâ€™ healthcare and pay. They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility. They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance. They have sold our privacy as a commodity. They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press. (Contâ€™d Next Page)
They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit. They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce. They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them. They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil. They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save peopleâ€™s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit. They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit. They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media. They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt. They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas. They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*
To the people of the world, We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power. Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone. To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal. Join us and make your voices heard! *These grievances are not all-inclusive.
NATIONALIZED HEALTH CARE MAKES SENSE.
More than 47 million Americans do not have health insurance because they can’t afford it Americans have reported the highest number of medical, medication, and lab errors in a survey of seven countries (Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States) 42% of Americans with chronic conditions pay well over $500 /year in prescription costs, and skip health care, drug doses, or doctor’s appointments because they simply can’t afford it. In the United Kingdom, 95 percent of doctors are paid, in part, according to the quality of the care they deliver. In the U.S., that number is only 30 percent. Out of the seven countries surveyed, Americans have the highest rate of chronic disease.
We spend more money on health care than any other country in the world.
...No wonder corporate-sponsored politicians don’t want to nationalize health care, it is one of their biggest cash machines. 39
By Lauren Antrosiglio My $100/Month Grocery Budget One hundred dollars is a lot of money. Yes, when you think about one hundred dollars with respect to the cost of groceries nowadays, it may not seem like it is a lot of money, but it is. Last month, I decided to lower my grocery budget from $200 per month to $100 per month, as a measure to save more money. Keep in mind that I am a person that buys organic whenever possible (and reasonably-priced), and eats fairly healthy, non-processed foods, so I knew that this might wind up being quite a challenge. These are some of the luxuries that I had to give up with my new budget: Eating mainly organic foods Going grocery shopping without a list Buying ready-made food like frozen pizzas and meals Another thing is that I include alcohol in the monthly grocery budget. So, if you drink a couple of beers a day and you want to go on this budget plan, you better be prepared to drink a cheap brand. I bought one bottle of Barefoot Moscato wine for $5, because I don’t drink that much. Of course, you could decide to exclude alcohol expenses from your own grocery budget, but just know—that is pretty much cheating. Good starting rules for when you are doing the $100 grocery budget plan: Only buy things that are on sale (and I mean, on a good sale, not 10 cents off). If you want pears, but apples are 88 cents a pound, then get apples instead. Stock up on cheap healthy staples for your pantry. Brown rice, pasta, canned lowsodium beans or raw beans, flour, etc. Buy meat/Poultry in bulk for cheaper and freeze it. Eggs are a great thing to always have in your fridge. Make homemade snacks instead of buying snacks. Stay away from cheap processed foods like ramen. You might save money now, but you’ll be paying more in doctor’s bills later on! "Crazy ass people, crazy ass world. I know why this world is crazy, too. I've been checkin’ this bullshit out... You know why we fucked up? Cause we keep eatin them Oodles of Noodles, that's why... Raymen noodles, Roman noodles, you know what I’m talking about. That shit ain't lunch. When you had Spam, you didn't do no crazy shit. Now you got some bullshit that all it take is water, three minutes, only costs a dime a pack. That's a trap, that ain't no fuckin meal!” –Adele Givens, Queens of Comedy
Feng Shui Saved my Wallet
In the astrological world, Virgos are known as the neat and tidy organizers of the signs—their houses are completely spotless, and they spend a good chunk of their extra time cleaning. I am a Virgo, and anyone who knows me will tell you that the image of the neat tidy Virgo keeper of the house is not accurate—at least not with all Virgos. However, organizing is one of my favorite things. It’s almost a vice. I would definitely rather organize than clean—so, when I started
researching Feng Shui, I was in heaven. I already love decorating/re-decorating, and this was a nice project for me to embark on . Now, let me tell you right now, Feng Shui isn’t easy. It isn’t so simple as moving your desk so it faces a certain way—if you really want to do Feng Shui, as I did, you need to get a couple of books on the subject (or go to a bunch of websites), and really figure out where you want everything to be, what you need to get rid of, and how to organize everything. A huge principle asserted in Feng Shui is to simplify your life by simplifying your surroundings. When I Feng Shui’d my apartment, it took about two full days and a couple trips to Goodwill to drop things off, and when I was done, my house (and life) felt refreshed and simplified. Once you have Feng Shui’d your surroundings, possessions take on new meanings— clutter isn’t allowed anymore, so you wind up not buying things you don’t need. When I saw something I wanted in the store after I did Feng Shui, I would ask myself ―How much will I use this in the next year?‖, and ―Could this be something I give to Goodwill or sell next year?‖. If the answer was yes or maybe, I wouldn’t buy it. Feng Shui not only balances your energy in your home, but it can be a blessing for your bank account balance as well.
My No-Spend Month “You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.” -Chuck Palahniuk Towards the end of September, I was sitting in my apartment adding up in my head all of the money that I’ve spent on ―extra‖ things—eating out, shopping at thrift stores, etc.—and I was blown away by how much money I wasted in a month. Granted, it has gotten a lot better over the years, but the money spent solely on eating out was just ridiculous. I decided then and there that I was going to go an entire month without wasting money. At that point, I had already spent my $100 for groceries, and so I took any extra money I had and saved it. I got sick in the middle of the month, but used herbal and home remedies mostly, and then cheated and bought a generic decongestant for $4 . When I made my vow not to spend money, my van was on empty, which was fine because I have a bus pass—however, it isn’t good to let a car sit for a month without being driven, so I put $15 in the tank. Keep in mind that the bare necessities—Rent, bills, utilities, etc.—those all are things that obviously have to be paid, no doubt about that. Anything beyond those necessities was what I was cutting out. These are the things I learned from my ―No -Spend‖ month: It is really easy not to spend your extra money when you go to the bank and get it all converted into nickels. Most people have a lot of stuff in their freezer or pantry that they just forget about, eventually throwing it away because of freezer burn or expiration dates—use everything in your pantry, and you don’t need to spend as much on groceries. You should drive your car like you ride the bus—plan your trip, so that you get all of your errands done in one shot, instead of making multiple trips throughout the week, wasting gas and money. I need to really ask myself if I am buying something (like food from a restaurant or products I find online) because I need it, or because I am bored/angry/lazy, etc. It might be a good idea to do this with your friends, or else you might wind up not being invited to things because people assume you can’t leave your house. Don’t ask me why, but if people know you aren’t spending money, they assume you can’t do anything. You can make up pretty good recipes with the random stuff you find in your pantry. See my (Cont’d Next Page)
recipe for Recession Corn Cakes at the end of this article. I’ve been able to learn where my ―spending weaknesses‖ are. This is really helpful, because it helps you keep yourself in check in the future (FYI, my top weaknesses are used books/vinyl records on amazon.com, and eating out). When you have to put off a purchase—something you really want to buy now, for a month—you very well may realize you didn’t want it as bad as you thought you did. All in all, my No Spend month was awesome. I really learned a lot about myself and my relationship with money. Besides the money I saved from not eating out, I also lost 20 pounds, just from cooking and eating snacks at home! As consumers, we are constantly bombarded with messages to buy, collect, consume, throw away, and start the cycle over and over again. What a no-spend month does is it puts you outside of that whole spending-consuming-discarding circus and lets you see the reality of your own financial situation, and most importantly, helps you realize what you can live without.
Recession Corn Cakes:
Ingredients 1 Egg 1 can of corn 3 Tablespoons honey ½ cup cheap cornbread mix (jiffy is good) ½ cup Pancake mix 1 ¼ cups milk, rice milk, or soy milk Mix all ingredients except corn and beat with a wire whisk. Add in corn and stir to mix thoroughly. Heat up the pan, cook the cakes until golden brown on both sides (usually only takes a couple minutes), and enjoy! Drizzle honey on them or top with fruit or powdered sugar. I personally made a huge batch of them, froze them, and took them out when I wanted a snack.+
Norfolk, VA Graffiti by James Davis
Use Cash: A People’s Movement towards Banking & Monetary Reform
By Chaz Valenza, usecashmovement.org
Okay, let’s explain this to ourselves as if we’re five year-olds. Churning money on Wall Street makes nothing of value. Printing money at the Fed feeds nobody. A corporate merger, in and of it self, is intrinsically worthless. And, a bailout of a failed company or bank just punishes viable competitors. Spin the money all you want, without the sweat of the worker or some other energy input it all grinds to a halt. According to Paul Volcker, this is something Wall Street didn’t know. Really?!? Mr. & Mrs. America, your money and jobs are going, going... gone. So, what are you going to do now? More importantly, what will your children do in General Electric’s Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow? We need to force change. Not slogan change, real change. Read no further if you like the fairytale of the politicians making everything better. First, please raise your hand if, by now, you don’t realize that collateralize debt swaps and obligations, and other “sophisticated” (Ha!) derivatives, are nothing more than subterfuges for the Biggest Con every perpetrated, a masterpiece that continues today unabated. No hands? Just you over there at Goldman Sachs? We don’t need or want you. Second, digest this: There is no free lunch in the absolute worlds of physics, economics and politics. You get what you put in. That’s right, there’s no such thing as a perpetual motion machine, a wind-up Obama that produces change without an ounce of fuel. Is it the Internet’s virtual world that has somehow convinced us that words are enough to get us what we want? Yes, it was easy to be seduced by election narrative of the new transformative leader. But, now it’s time to grow up, dear parents. Bitching and moaning on websites – this piece included – is nothing compared to forces so powerful they can put the fix in for their con with nearly every agency in Washington, DC. Do we still think we’re going to get fair healthcare reform by calling our congress people? A few hands? You over there, still wearing the Yes We Can t-shirt, you’re not excused. Listen up. You want change? Okay, sign petitions, write the letters, make the phone calls, send the emails, bitch and moan online, but don’t expect any of that to work unless… You’re also willing to vote with your feet and deny our corrupted system of the money and, therefore, the power that enables our abuse.
Here’s a swift, legal, crafty action you can take today, tomorrow and forever until we get change. Deny Big Banking an important revenue stream by eschewing their, oh so easy and convenient, payment system of credit and debit cards. Instead, opt for the more cumbersome payment method called Cash. If you haven’t heard about this yet you are forgiven. It’s new and taking subversive market action is not yet in the lexicon of virtual world protests. Visit: www.UseCashMovement.org to learn more. Short story, just by using more cash and less plastic, en masse, we can deny Big Banking & Finance billions of dollars a year. And, if the movement gets big enough, it will send a message to all those who derive their funding and power on the backs of workers and citizens. By using more and more cash, we can send a clear and punitive message. If the system refuses to administer justice, then we the people must. If the system won’t punish Wall Street, the Federal Reserve and the now way, way too big to fail banks, it’s our job. Yes, to do this we must suffer some small inconveniences. If we’re not willing to be inconvenienced, we do not deserve meaningful change. So, I challenge you to make this work. Use more Cash starting now to punish Big Banking and Finance. I also challenge the Huffington Post, Alternet, Truthdig, OpEd News, etcetera to get the word out. Get behind Use Cash as a first, significant action of innovative market based protest of the new century. Please, come up with similar actions we can take against other corporate transgressors, like the healthcare insurance companies and the government that keeps sending our jobs overseas. If we are not capable of this, we do not deserve change. If we can not take direct actions like Use Cash, what will we tell our children? That we did a lot of bitching and moaning online and it didn’t work? +
ÂŠ by Mia Malone-Jennings
Dear Mr. & Ms. America, I'm writing this holiday season to thank you for paying with credit and debit cards for most of your purchases. From all of us here at Big Banking and Finance, the $48 billion we make year after year in merchant interchange and discount fees is most appreciated. You might be asking why is Big Banking and Finance thanking you? Shouldn't we be thanking the stores and business that accept credit and debit cards? Well, no. It's really you the consumer we have to thank. Please don't take offense at the term "consumer." It's just our little inside joke that all suckers like you do is buy crap and stuff your face. But, I digressâ€Ś Big Banking can't thank you enough! See, here's how we do it. We spend about $7 billion a year to convince you that plastic is the easiest, smartest, best way to pay for everything. First, we talked a lot about having your money lost or stolen and scared you. Thanks for buying that one. Identity theft, now that's what should really give you nightmares. Thanks, for putting that out of your mind. Then, like any good pusher, we gave you a free taste of purchasing with our alternative payment system, 0% introductory rates and no interest charges on balances paid in full. Thanks for giving us a try. You were pretty much hooked at that point. Did you know that when you don't pay in full, we charge interest even on the amount you did pay? Thanks for not paying attention to the terms. After that, we seduced you with revolving credit. Suddenly you could have anything you wanted even before you could afford it. Thanks for taking a loan from us at between 8 to 18% APR with payment terms of 10 to 20 years for us to charge you interest. We really appreciate it. Next, we created rewards and cash back programs and cash advances and frequent flyer miles, etcetera. Thanks for believing you're getting all these perks for FREE! Of course, someone has to pay for them. That's why the merchants have a love-hate deal with us. Thanks for staying in the dark about how all these FREE "rewards" actually get paid for. We told the retails and businesses you wouldn't buy from them if they didn't accept our cards. And that you would spend more if they did accept credit and debit cards. A little carrot, a little stick, if you will, all to help make it easy for you to use plastic. We weren't lying. It's exactly what you did, and why wouldn't you? You believe it's all FREE! Well, we just slam the merchants for all those goodies we give you for FREE! In fact, depending on what card and rewards and miles and cash back you're getting, we just charge the merchant different rates, from like 1.2% to over 4% when you use your card. Debit cards are no different, by the way. Thanks for thinking they're like a check or cash. We make a ton of money off those things. Oh, dear yes, the merchants squealed like pigs. After all, for a small business doing under $400,000 in plastic sales those fees can be over $16,000 a year! There were some smart ass retailers out there who tried to tack surcharges on to credit and debit card purchases. Don't worry, Mr. and Ms. America, we fixed that. Don't bother thanking us, it was the least we could do for the over $400 per year per American family we get from the merchant fees alone. Yes, that was one of the first things we bought in Washington D.C.: a law making those pesky surcharges illegal. Ditto for not accepting plastic for small purchases. After that, merchants bent over and took it where they had to. After all you, the cardholder, was in charge. Thank you for getting every merchant to raise all their prices to cover our fees no matter how high we make them.
Yes, that's right. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Consumer, for paying those merchant fees in the form of higher prices for everything. It's a dandy system. We inflate the cost of everything you buy, and tell you that when you pay with our cards it's all FREE! Thanks for insisting everyone accept our cards. We would be laughing all the way to the bank, but we are the bank. So, we laugh everywhere else: restaurants, designer stores, gorgeous resorts, first class airline cabins, on the tennis courts, at the best sports events, on the slopes, deep sea fishing, you get the idea. But it doesn't end there. Thanks to you, we are now raking it in big time. I don't have all day to be telling you thanks for all the other ways we're making money on you. I've got a tee-time at Pebble Beach and a plane to catch to get there, but let me mention a couple more things for which you deserve our thanks. Since that derivatives scam we had going fell apart, you remember, the one that nearly brought down the entire world financial system. The one we had the media calling the "sub-prime mortgage" mess. Well, thanks for letting us blame you. Business has never been better. Have you looked at your credit card or banking statement lately? You really should. We've jacked almost everyone's interest rate up to 29%, and that's usually retroactive on your entire balance. Thank you, this has improved our bottom line and balance sheets to where we can return some of the billions of dollars Uncle Sam made us take, allowing us to take ridiculous bonuses again this year even though we're not making many loans. We've also lowered you credit limit so you're more likely to go over limit, oops! which entitles us to a $35 fee. Ditto with the debit cards, they're not really FREE either. We love it when you overdraw your account. $35, $35, $35 on each and every purchase you didn't have the available balance to cover. What can I say, other than, thanks. We also send your monthly statement out just a few days before the payment is due. I'll tell ya', to pay by mail you better send a check pretty darn quick or risk a late payment penalty, a ding on your credit report and an increase on the interest rates on all your cards. Thanks for letting the statement sit on the coffee table a couple of days. And thanks again for using our $8 pay by phone service when you realize the payment is otherwise going to be late. It's a great country, isn't it? Aren't debit and credit cards wonderful? You probably wouldn't pay any other way. Thank you for not even thinking there's another way to pay for things. And finally, thanks for thinking you can't live without credit or debit cards. Well, we've made it pretty hard not to have one. This has been fun but I've got to run downstairs. The limo is waiting. Thanks a trillion dollars, or thereabouts, for using plastic. We love you. Sincerely, Big Banking and Finance
*By Chaz Valenza
Published on Oct 29, 2011
Inside: The New Riot Grrrl, The Use Cash movement, Why America need Peace and Love, Occupy America, DILATE Comics, and more!