Visiting Day got a really nice review in the August 2017 issue of MRR. Check it out:
$3 / 32 pgs
is a fascinating black and white zine about visiting someone in Rikers
Prison. There's three perspectives here: that of the inmate, Jarrod, and
his trip from general population to the visiting area; Jarrod's partner
Maud preparing for and coming to the prison; and a little bit of
Jarrod's friend Nate who comes along. The three perspectives all come
with different style art, which all fit the people well it seems.
Overall this is a really tender, thorough, and engaging breakdown of
what it's like to be visited or visit someone in prison. There's nothing
really about what they talk about in the actual visit -- which is
fantastic because it keeps you focused on how difficult it is to see
someone in jail (ex: you have to bring quarters to pay for a cubby to
store the personal effects you are forced to removel inmates wait for
hours between stages of transport before getting to actually see their
visitor). Get this zine to learn more about how prison works on the
ground and to appreciate the journeys the state forces people to take
just to see those they love. Just get the zine, really. (KS)
I have a piece in the September Brooklyn Rail detailing the political history of the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association (COBA), NYC's jail guard union, and its relationship to the plan to close down Rikers Island. Read it here, or get off your stroke carpet and pick up a print copy in real life.
Join us Sunday July 16th at 2pm to celebrate the joint release of Hard Crackers: Chronicles of Everyday Life #3,and Visiting Day, a new zine about the visitation process in the New York City jail system. In addition to the New York crew, Hard Crackers editor Noel Ignatiev and Visiting Day illustrator Nate McDonough will both be visiting from out of town. We will have copies of both publications on hand, and a few mercifully short readings.
About Hard Crackers #3: A unique publication: political but not absorbed in elections or program, literary but not inflated, scholarly but not scholastic. Includes “Into the Hollows,” a report from someone who campaigned for Barack Obama in Pike County in 2008 -- raw material for those seeking to understand how popular consciousness can change in a short time. Previous issues can be purchased online, and selections are available to read on the Hard Crackers website.
About Visiting Day: In the summer of 2016 zinesters Maud Pryor (Marmalade Umlaut) and Nate McDonough (Grixly) visited their pal Jarrod Shanahan (Hard Crackers) while he was locked up at Rikers Island. Maud and Nate documented the visit from the visitor’s perspective, and Jarrod from the inmate’s. The result is Visiting Day, the story of their experiences and an illustrated first-person guide for visiting (and being visited by) loved ones at Rikers.The zine can bedownloaded in its entiretyfor free.
When I was locked up last summer my zinester pals Nate and Maud came to visit me. Our idea was to document the visitation process at Rikers from both sides. Over the last year we have compiled our experiences into the zine Visiting Day, an illustrated story of our experiences, and a guide to visiting (or being visited at) Rikers Island. Our goal is to share the entire zine online for free, and we'll do that as soon as we find a good host. If you'd like a shiny paper copy, Maud and I will have copies at the 8-Ball Zine Fair in Manhattan on Saturday 6/3. If you can't come out for that, pick up a copy online thanks to our friends at Gnarly As I Wanna Be!
At this year's Left Forum, CUNY Struggle will be presenting our analysis on the CUNY system and the way forward for a militant public university movement. This is a slight variation of the panel we did at HM, which was received very well. Check out this generous essay by Louis Proyect on the HM panel.
The panel is Sunday at 3:40. I'll be joined by comrades Andy Battle, Claire Cahen, Chris Natoli, and Sonam Singh. Click here for the details.
Also, Hard Crackers is doing a bit of crowdfunding for our third issue, which we hope to be out by the end of the summer. If you like HC and in the very likely case I just gave you a free copy and told you not to worry about it, check out the Go Fund Me page we've set up.
Last week I had the privilege of joining four comrades from CUNY Struggle in a debate with the incumbent New Caucus slate at the Graduate Center. The debate featured a good amount of inside baseball that might not be terribly interesting to folks not engaged in day-to-day labor organizing in the CUNY system, but we were able to cut through the minutia and outline a different vision for how workplace organizing can function at CUNY. I'm not saying we definitively won, but let's just say only one slate is publicizing the existence of this video. Check out the rest of the literature from our election here, and come see CUNY Struggle on our panel at the Historical Materialism conference on Saturday, April 22nd, where I will be expanding on the closing remarks presented at our debate.
I'm honored to have a new piece in The New Inquiry entitled "Days Spent Doing Too Much of Fucking Nothing". It's an essay on Lil Wayne's Gone 'til November that situates the book's mind-numbing banality in the history of a facility near and dear to my heart, the Eric M. Taylor Center at Rikers Island. Check it out here, and consider subscribing to TNI!
This coming Sunday join Insurgent Notes for a day-long series of discussions around the Trump presidency and the way forward for the revolutionary left. In addition to co-organizing this conference I will be offering some prepared remarks along with comrades Shemon Salam and Amiri Barksdale on the panel "Against Whiteness Again". Here is the day's program:
Agenda for Insurgent Notes Public Meeting
Sunday, February 5, 2017
CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue/Room 5409
10:00 AM – 11:00 AM Coffee/Registration/Introductions
11:00 AM – 11:30 AM Getting Started—Welcome and Review of Agenda
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM Making Sense of the Election Campaigns & Their Results: A Conversation
Claire Cahen, Loren Goldner, Arya Zahedi
12:30 PM – 1:15 PM Anti-Fascism and the Alt-Right: Presentation by Matthew Lyons, Three Way Fight
1:15 PM -- 1:45 PM Lunch & Informal Conversations
1:45 PM – 2:30 PM For Women’s Liberation in an Age of Reaction: A Conversation
Zhana Kurti, Wilson Sherwin
2:30 PM – 3:15 PM Against Whiteness Again: A Conversation
Amiri Barksdale, Shemon Salam, Jarrod Shanahan
3:15 PM -- 3:45 PM Brief Reports on Organizing Projects
3:45 PM -- 4:30 PM Open Discussion—Reactions to the Meeting/Unanswered Questions
4:30 PM – 5:00 PM Wrapping Up—Possible Next Steps
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM Social Gathering
1. At least half of the time in all sessions will be reserved for participant discussion.
2. Lunch will be catered; we’d like to ask participants not to leave the building during lunch.
3. The Graduate Center is wheelchair accessible.
4. We will have a video connection—via google hangout— to enable remote participation. There will be an easy sign-in by way of a web link. Interested individuals should send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 31, 2017 to request the link.
5. Contributions will be solicited to cover meeting costs.
6. A picture ID is required for admission to the Graduate Center.
7. Pre-Registration—we strongly encourage pre-registration. Send an email message with name, best email address and cell phone number to email@example.com. Preferably by January 31, 2017.
8. We hope to have audio, and possibly video, recordings of the presentations and discussions. 9. If you have any difficulties getting to the meeting, please send an email to the editors’ address on February 7th to obtain assistance.
Hard Crackers is honored to be hosting historian Ted Hamm for a release of his book Frederick Douglass in Brooklyn. Join Ted and the New York editors of Hard Crackers for a reading and discussion. Copies of the book will be available.
Earlier this Fall I teamed up with some very bright comrades in the City University of New York (CUNY) system to draft an accessible guide to CUNY's political history and the challenges we face today. Even if you aren't in the CUNY system, I'd reccomend this text to anyone grappling with the battle over accessible public services under the coming presidential administration. If you're organizing around these issues, or if you're just in New York and would like to connect, drop us a line!
The full text and a printable version of the guide can be found here. To order paper copies, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Sunday (11/20) join Noel Ignatiev and other contributors toHardCrackersfor a discussion the unfolding political situation in the United States. We will also be launching our second issue.
dedicated to taking the pulse of everyday life in the US -- the good,
the bad, and the ugly. Our writing has focused on examining race, class,
wage labor, incarceration, and the madness of life in the contemporary
United States, from standpoints of everyday working class experience.
the merchants of conventional wisdom pluck the typical low hanging
fruit to explain the upset victory of Donald Trump, it is more urgent
than ever to push against easy answers and face the complex realities of
daily life that contributed to this moment. In other words: What the
hell is going on in this country?
Hard Crackers #2 is now available for purchase online! I have a short piece about fine dining behind bars, which I wrote before I realized that dude Prodigy from Mobb Deep has a book of prison recipes out this year. Oh well. Below is Noel Ignatiev's editorial introduction to this issue, which really sets the table for what you're in for this time around:
Welcome to the second issue of Hard Crackers: Chronicles of Everyday
Life, with reports from north and south, New England to California and
up and down the Midwest, depicting life at work, in prison, on the
street, efforts to save communities, reminiscences of growing up in
another time and comments on films old and new. There are obvious gaps
in our coverage, which we hope to fill in future issues.
As we send this issue off to be laid out and printed, we note three
things happening in the country: 1) the prison strike called for
September 9; 2) Standing Rock, North Dakota; 3) Charlotte, North
Carolina. It is too soon to provide analyses; for now it is enough to
know which side we are on. From a correspondent:
CNN interviewed an unnamed person in Charlotte who assisted a protestor:
UNNAMED PERSON: “I left the hospital after an asthma attack. I went to Buffalo Wild Wings. I was
walking down the street with my wings. I saw a man on the ground
bleeding. I helped carry him into the Omni hotel. The police were not
helping. Gosh! They held me there in custody. I ended back in the
hospital with an asthma attack.
CNN INTERVIEWER: “You mean you had a second asthma attack in the tear gas, and you are back out on the street again tonight! Why are you there?”
UNNAMED PERSON: “I used to just walk around. Now I have to walk
around with an inhaler. But you have to take a stand. If you do not
stand for something you will die for nothing.”
I wrote a piece on a work stoppage at Rikers Island for the Insurgent Notes journal. It can be read here.
If you're in Brooklyn on Saturday 9/10, come by a talk I'm giving at 1pm, along with some friends, on this piece and other observations from EMTC. We'll be speaking at Freddy's Bar, 627 5th Avenue in South Slope. Here's the event page. This event is sponsored by Insurgent Notes, and Hard Crackers.
And if you're near Providence the following Saturday, 9/17, check out a reading Noel Ignatiev and I are doing to celebrate the release of Hard Crackers Issue I. We'll be at the IWW union hall, 375 Smith St, Providence, at 6pm. Here's the event page.
Death Wound Publishing has been generous enough to publish one of the strangest essays I've ever written, "The Marriage of Maria Braun, Sequel to Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS" in a short fiction anthology available now! It's a must-read for all fans of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the most execrable dregs of exploitation cinema, and Michel Foucault's 1978 lecture series The Birth of Biopolitics. So, basically... nobody.
The essay appears in an anthology entitled Morbid Tales: An Anthology of Weird Fiction, alongside nine other stories that are equally, if not more, bat shit insane. Needless to say I recommend everybody get a copy, along with DW's other dope publications.
This essay is part of a planned "Sequel To" series. I have also written "Bad Lieutenant, Sequel to Blue Collar", which may see the light one of these days. Say something nice about this one and I may write another.
The articles in the premiere issue of Hard Crackers were just the kind that I dote on. They remind me of Harvey Swados’s classic 1957 Bildungsroman “On the Line”, a collection of stories about being an auto worker in the Mahwah Ford Plant. Or Michael Yates’s In and Out of the Working Class. Or even the novels and short stories of Charles Bukowski, who while by no means being a Marxist, conveyed through his fiction the observation made by Karl Marx in Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844: “…the worker feels himself only when he is not working; when he is working, he does not feel himself. He is at home when he is not working, and not at home when he is working.”
We're working on Issue 2 right now, and I don't think Louis will be disappointed.
On the workplace front, my group CUNY Struggle has been part of an exciting grassroots campaign to defeat a terrible union contract being rushed through without debate in the summer while many people are away. Check out CUNYStruggle.org for a number of fantastic pieces making the case for a NO! vote. We had an action two weeks ago that got some press, and have otherwise been getting a little publicity here and there. I wrote a position piece on a NO! vote, which I left unsigned since the ideas came from everyone, especially Ruth Wangerin. I was also quoted to this effect in the Chronicle of Higher Education, in a piece languishing behind a paywall. Here is the video I made as a part of our "Faces of the NO! Campaign" project, where I expand on the same points.
Hi readers! I have a new piece in my favorite hand made punk rock vegan zine with a strong female lead, Marmalade Umlaut. "Cruelty Free in a Cruel World" documents the struggle to keep a vegan diet behind bars. It can be done!
To order, click on over to Food Feud and order Issue #34 (and all the other issues!) in the right sidebar. Thanks to MU for having this piece, and stop eating animals, it's just tacky.
Thanks to everyone who came out to the release event last month, the other readers Mike Morgan, Tony Maniscalco, and Andy Folk, John Garvey and Noel for emceeing the event, and to Andy B for making actual hard tack! It was disgusting but strangely compelling. "Tough and edgy", as Marcus Rediker called issue #1. Here's a photo of me reading. Thanks to Maud for the photo, and to Ben Sherman on Mercer Street for going out of business and providing me with such a snazzy shirt.
Celebrate the release of Hard Crackers with editors and contributors! We want to share our new journal with you, hear suggestions for future issues, and twist your arm into becoming a contributor.
Readers will include HC editors and contributors Jarrod Shanahan (It's A Tough Economy!) and Mike Morgan (Lurch).
Come and show your support for this new project!
"Hard Crackers is a new periodical looking at the lives of “ordinary people,” among whom there exists the capacity to overturn the present mess and build a new society. A place where black people can express their bitterness at the prolonged mistreatment they have suffered at the hands of whites, and where the resentment on the part of many whites at being blamed for a history they do not think is their fault can also be heard. “The alliance between a real estate tycoon and the people who live in shacks and trailer parks cannot endure.” This publication grew out of discussions among people who had been involved with the journal Race Traitor and virtually every article deals directly or indirectly with race."
Issue I of Hard Crackers is now available for purchase through AK Press. Founded by Noel Ignatiev of Race Traitor (and a fantastic editorial team of which I am lucky to be part), these "Chronicles of Everyday Life" aim to document the complexities of daily life in the present, with an emphasis on the liberatory potential (and risk of reaction) of day to day life. In the time of the Trump ascendancy, our wager is, to quote Noel's introduction: "The alliance between a real estate tycoon and people who live in shacks and trailer parks cannot endure."
Presently there isn't any content online, so you just may have to buy this slick little commodity. I contributed a new essay "Some Bullshit", dealing with an experience all too common to many New Yorkers. Other essays revolve around topics like hospice care, factory work, running track, growing up in Brooklyn, life on the margins of white society in Apartheid South Africa, and a nice primer on the basic race politics of the US Civil War. Anyone interested in contributing to future issues should contact me or Noel.
For the past six months I've been organizing in the CUNY system, where I work as a graduate teaching fellow while earning a PhD. My union the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) has been mounting an increasingly confrontational strike campaign. A group of my fellow rank-and-filers started a small ad hoc
grouping called CUNY Struggle, to help facilitate a broader-based CUNY movement, while serving as a platform for cooperation and debate.
Earlier this year we launched CUNYStruggle.org, a resource for news, analysis, and debate around CUNY activism. This week, as the PSC prepares to vote on authorizing a strike, I offered up my analysis on the role of trade unions in our society, and the CUNY situation in particular. The piece is entitle "I'm Voting Yes on Strike Authorization", and while the analysis is by no means perfect or complete, it represents my attempt of some years to come to grips with the role of trade unions in the US class struggle. If you're in the CUNY system or have some writing you think would fit on the site, email email@example.com.
Two of my and Nate's chapbooks are featured in a fantastic comic show at Interference Archive in Gowanus called "Our Comics, Ourselves". Here is how the curators describe it: The exhibition Our Comics, Ourselves: Identity, Expression, and Representation in Comic Art presents the graphic stories that describe the complexity and diversity of our collective experience, and examines the social and historical contexts within which they emerged. Through comics we are not only able to recognize ourselves and our own experiences, but also the experiences of others. We can deepen our understanding of the world around us by reading these stories and engaging with their intricacies.
The curators selected "Satan Was So Over It" and "Sobertime!!1", which appear alongside many truly excellent zines and comics from all kinds of rad weirdos. I think I forgot to tell Nate this was happening actually. Man I haven't talked to Nate in a while and I really miss that guy. Anyway, Nate, if you're reading this, your art finally made it to Gowanus.
Thanks to Jan for having us, and thanks as always to Interference for their non-stop awesome programming. Sorry it took me so long to check this out.
The show is up through April 17th, at 131 8th St in Brooklyn.
I'm honored to be on the editorial board of Hard Crackers, a new journal spearheaded by my good friend Noel Ignatiev (Race Traitor, etc.). Below is the introductory essay, written by Noel. Get in touch if you'd like to participate.
American society is a time-bomb where the big explosion, whatever its form might be, is endlessly hinted at by the more or less horrifying “little” degradations of daily rape, murder, stupid violence of different varieties (perhaps most notably urban gang violence), episodic mass killings (with or without apparent motive), drug and alcohol-induced stupors, drug overdoses, callous health care and classroom teaching,
apparently crazy people talking on subway platforms, and so forth. We “see” these kinds of events in different ways—sometimes up close and personal, other times by reading the local newspapers or the online media or watching cable TV.
Hey Jarrod there's a line about you in my new chapbook!
Oh yeah, what is it?
"We saw a depressing Russian movie and now you're in a psychiatric hospital".
I am so fuckin' excited to be joining my bestie Jasmine Gibson for the release of her new chapbook DRAPETOMANIA, from Commune Editions. Verso has been on a goddamned mission to make me feel bad for all the fun I have made of their press over the years, and has opened their dope loft to this very special evening of poetry and debauchery. If these people have any damn sense at all I'll be reading early and for not very long at all. Maybe Jasmine will finally teach me how to get other people to publish your shit.
It's a party for my chapbook, Drapetomania, released off of Commune Editions. You shd wear a costume. Get witchy and weird.
@ Verso Loft (that place you got drunk and embarrassed yourself after Left Forum that time)
20 Jay Street, Brooklyn
With readings by:
R U B Y B R U N T O N ::: is a New Zealand-raised poet and performer who now lives in Brooklyn. She spends a lot of time thinking about how to create community and education alternatives. Find her on twitter & tumblr @rubybrunton :::
S T E P H O N L A W E R E N C E ::: is a Brooklyn born & based writer, poet, & artist. She goes to art school, watches anime, & shouts at white people. You can find her on twitter @nnohpetss::
S A D E M A R T H A M A RY M U R P H Y :::is a poet and artist from Houston, TX. Sade is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, the author of Dream Machine (co-im-press, 2014), and a columnist at Real Pants (Lonely Britches and What's the Tea). They are pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and Activism at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. They are the current chapbooks editor for Horseless Press and co-curate a reading series held at Pete’s Candy Store.:::
J A R R O D S H A N A H A N :::is a writer, activist, zinester, retired truck driver and mad scientist at the CUNY Grad Center. Jarrod's work has appeared in VICE, The New Inquiry, Keep This Bag Away from Children and the Gothamist. His chapbooks include "Satan Was So Over it" and "Twilight Reflections on a Ethically Raised Life" and "I Gave You The Gowanus!", and his debut novel It's a Tough Economy was released by Grixly in 2014::
A R T U R O C A S T I L LI O N
::aka Artie the One Man Party::
Art work by K Y L E M O W AT will be available for purchase.
Wake up sheeple! I'll be performing selections from one of my latest chapbooks, "I Gave You The Gowanus!" at Animal Farm Reading Series, August 18th at Over the Eight in Brooklyn. A few years ago I had a really shitty job delivering equipment to construction projects and I delivered the sign to this bar. Now I get to see what it looks like inside!
ANIMALFARM is NYC's destination for the newest and best satirical and/or critical writing in any genre. Join us Tuesday, August 18 for a combination including writing about travel, unemployment, Satan, cartoons, short films, and music--a combination that has never previously existed in any form--with JOSEPHINE LIVINGSTONE, A.M. GITTLITZ, HALLIE BATEMAN, and JARROD SHANAHAN.
We start at 8 pm at OVER THE EIGHT, 594 Union Avenue in Williamsburg (L to Bedford or G to Lorimer/Metropolitan).
JOSEPHINE LIVINGSTONE recently received her PhD in Medieval Literature at NYU and is Marketing Director at n+1.
A.M. GITTLITZ is a freelance writer, essayist, and delivery boy living in Bushwick Brooklyn. He is a frequent contributor to The New Inquiry and has contributed to Vice, Gothamist, Salon, and Truthout. His essays and journalism focus on counterculture, radical politics, and punk, and he recently released the 6th issue of his personal zine ⒶFOLK, a collection of travel essays about squatting and leftist nostalgia in Berlin, Rome, and ex-Yugoslavia.
HALLIE BATEMAN is a writer & illustrator living in Brooklyn. Her work can be seen regularly on The Awl, and... all over the internet. Follow her on twitter & instagram @hallithbates.
JARROD SHANAHAN is a writer, activist, zinester, retired truck driver, and mad scientist at the CUNY Grad Center. Jarrod's work has appeared in Vice, The New Inquiry, Keep this Bag Away from Children, and Gothamist. His chapbooks include "Satan Was So Over It" and "Twilight Reflections on an Ethically Raised Life", and "I Gave You The Gowanus!", and his debut novel, It's a Tough Economy, was released by Grixly in 2014.
PATRICK W. GALLAGHER is Host of AnimalFarm (HOAF). His writing has appeared in Vol. 1 Brooklyn, n+1, the New York Times, the Adirondack Review, and elsewhere, and he has a PhD in Comparative Literature from New York University. Ask him about his novel, Pollen. ANIMALFARM ANIMALFARM ANIMALFARM ANIMALFARM ANIMALFARM
Against their better judgment, the fantastic Popsickle liverary festival has invited me back, yet again, to poison the minds of poets from all over North America who have made Brooklyn their home (and this one dude from Bed Stuy who may be there). Join me and the inimitable Jasmine Gibson on June 20th and 21st (we read Saturday), for what promises to be a sweaty day with lots of words and a train rumbling by every 10 minutes. On a nostalgic notes, the first Popsickle was five years ago, right down the street at the space above Mr. Kiwi, and the JM trains provided some of the most boisterous contributions to the day, Its nice to have the J back this year, as it is equally wonderful to hear New Yorkers complain that the train runs too much.
POPSICKLE is Brooklyn’s literary arts festival. Now in its sixth year, the fest aims to unite Brooklyn’s array of reading series, publishers, and literary organizations into one weekend-long megareading. POPSICKLE 2015 is coordinated by Niina Pollari, Zane Van Dusen, and JD Scott. POPSICKLE is free and open to the public.
POPSICKLE 2015 will take place on Saturday and Sunday, June 20th at the Living Gallery (1094 Broadway, Brooklyn), and Sunday the 21st at Soda Bar (629 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn).
I'm back in the news, with a new release and a spot at this years BK Zine Fest!
"Twilight Reflections On An Ethically Raised Life" is the first person account of an "ethically raised" cow facing his fate on the eve of a one-way trip to the Park Slope Food Co-Op. Written by yours truly, illustrated by the inimitable Nate McDonough, and released on the indefatigable Grixly imprint, this tale is sure to quell any doubts the reader may have about ethics, humanism, and the future of reason. It is now available online (along with a number of other Jarrod and Nate works) from the Gnarly store, in addition to NYC locations Desert Island, Book Thug Nation, Human Relations, Bluestockings, St. Marks Books, and Carmine Street Comics, and Copacetic comics in Pittsburgh, which was gracious enough to host Nate and me for a memorable release event earlier this month.
OR you can come find me this weekend to pick up this and all existent Jarrod releases (except for the "Shhh..." chapbook, still haven't found a hard copy of that) at the fourth annual Brooklyn Zine Fest. I will be tabling on SUNDAY. There are also some great discussions on Saturday, including my vegan buddy Maud heading up a yummy food panel at 1pm, and a panel on zines and the Black Lives Matter movement at 3.
Things are looking up! Your pal, Jarrod
UPDATE: This was awesome! Thanks to the organizers, to Marmalade Umlaut, and everyone who came by to check out my work. Quite unexpectedly I sold a ton of shit and actually ran out of "Satan...", so if you missed the boat on this red hot commodity pick one up from the Gnarly store today!
Good news Jarrod fans! Next week Nate and I are debuting our fourth collaborative effort, "Twilight Reflections On An Ethically Raised Life" — being the tortured last testament of an "ethically-farmed" cow facing his imminent execution, dwelling in the loneliness of his very own Gethsemane, and, well, ruminating on the meaning of his fate, all in the interest of fresh, locally-murdered dead flesh stocking the shelves of the Park Slope Food Co-Op.
Nate and I will be celebrating this and our other new(ish) collaboration "SOBERTIME!!1" in Pittsburgh on Wednesday April 8th. I'll be reading a
story or two and we'll have mad shit for sale. This reading is brought to you by the generosity of $1 Megabus tickets.
In other awesome news, Nate and my luminous joint effort SOBERTIME!!1 and my boring non-illustrated prose chapbook I GAVE YOU THE GOWANUS! are now available for purchase on the almighty Gnarly As I Wannabe webstore. Also available for purchase are past collaborations of Nate and mine, the inimitable SATAN WAS SO OVER IT, and the almost-maybe-can-I-call-it-a novel IT'S A TOUGH ECONOMY!. In other words Nate and I have mad shit out there right now! I've been meaning to reprint my first chapbook "Shh... It's A Secret" (read it online here, from my tender days before I discovered caps lock) but have embarrassingly lost my only copy. I heard this also happened with The Sufferings of Young Werther, not to invite the comparison or anything. If any of you out there in Jarrodland have a copy of this rare classic I can borrow for a day or two, I'd love to run some off.
The audio for the Hunger Games panel I did in November is now available online. Thanks to Unity & Struggle and Insurgent Notes for hosting, my braniac fellow panelists for teaching me all kinds of things, and Mylo for hooking up the crisp recording! I hope these folks keep doing events like this. I'd love to come back ;)
I'm also pasting below the full text of my (nerd alert) prepared remarks for anyone interested. You can watch Aelita: Queen of Mars here, which I highly recommend.
Prepared Remarks for "The Hunger Games and Revolution" Jarrod Shanahan
The American revolutionary Ken
Lawrence writes: “Because popular culture is a reflection of the status of the
mass imagination – albeit shaped and distorted by the dominant ideas of the
rulers of society – measurable changes in the cultural interests and activities
of large numbers of ordinary people can provide an important index to the
development of a world view which has not yet emerged as a mass consciousness.”
Before I discuss the importance of
The Hunger Games to understanding the world view which has not yet emerged
as a mass consciousness, I’d like to briefly mention another science
fiction epic which took the box office by storm during uncertain political
In 1924 working class filmgoers in the
newly formed Soviet Union flocked to Aelita Queen of Mars, one of cinema’s
earliest science fiction classics. In Aelita a Russian scientist escapes
the pressing problems of the workers’ revolution by imagining a visit to Mars,
where he and his colleague find a class society ruled by an exploitative
monarchy. The Soviet scientists immediately impress their revolutionary Bolshevik
ideals on the Martian workers, and naturally this ignites a workers’ rebellion
against the monarchy, and the formation of a Martian soviet. So far, a typical,
albeit creative exercise in Soviet propaganda at a time when Soviet filmmakers
Eisenstein and Dovzhenko were perfecting the art of political cinema.
But there’s a twist: once the
worker’s movement gains momentum, Aelita, the Queen of Mars, claims to have
broken from the monarchy and proclaims herself the leader of the workers’
rebellion. The workers are torn, and face a decisive political reckoning:
strong leadership, versus the abolition of leadership itself. Ultimately they
decide Aelita cannot be trusted, and along with the original struggle – against
the ruling class – they must now wage a second struggle, within the revolution
itself. They must bravely battle the forces within the revolution threatening to
return society to conditions of exploitation, wage labor, hierarchy, and state
power. Small wonder that this film was later banned by the Stalinists! Aelita
Queen of Mars stands today as a grim monument to the true revolutionary sentiment
which would take Josef Stalin over a decade to decisively defeat, using all manner
of manipulation, deceit, and atrocity, toward the reestablishment of class
Ninety years later the revolutionary
fervor which characterized the early twenties is supposedly long gone. Conventional
wisdom says we have all accepted that there is no alternative to capitalism,
and that communism – which supposedly happened in Russia, and continues to
happen, miraculously, in the capitalist superpower of China – is a long discredited
bit of dangerous romanticism. Now, I would be more inclined to believe that
people have given up on revolution, if revolution wasn’t in the air everywhere
I look! Whether in the streets of Ferguson Missouri, East New York just last
night, or in the pages of a runaway young adult bestseller and box office
buster with a strong female lead, a collective intuition of the necessity of revolution
could scarcely be more present in the public imagination than it is today.
To be fair, some critics mockingly describe
the commercial genre of “Hollywood Marxism” as follows: there exists some
cartoonish class-based injustice, usually with innocent doe-eyed Disney damsels
oppressed by evil monstrous overlords, and with ample product placement on both
sides. Struggle is then made by one person, usually from the ruling class,
usually white. After some predictable action sequences, our hero delivers and the
wrongs of the world are righted once and for all. The audience goes home or the
reader closes their book with their own longing for revolution satisfied for a
while. And in an advanced capitalist society like ours, anti-capitalism itself might
be the ultimate commodity! Many such critics lump The Hunger Games into
Now, if the series ended with Catching
Fire – when Katniss, mostly acting as an individual, takes decisive action,
destroys the game, and meets the revolution’s secret leaders who spirit her
away to the bright future ahead – I would agree. This would put the series in a
genre ranging from The Matrix to Ernest Goes to Camp. But what
sets The Hunger Games apart is what made Soviet censors ban one of their
countries greatest cinematic achievements: the struggle within the struggle. In
Mockingjay Katniss wrestles with the role of mascot for a revolution not
controlled by the people but managed from above by an expert class. She
criticizes the cult of “revolutionary leadership” that we continue to see on
America’s streets today. Katniss knows that an egalitarian society cannot be
built using hierarchy, an honest society cannot be built using deceit, and that
a revolution willing to sacrifice its very values in the name of victory will
be defeated whether it wins or loses. In her dealings with President Coin and the
revolutionary leadership of District 13, Katniss comes to recognize that the
revolution itself must be the site of struggle, just as much as the society
that produced it.
If we follow Ken Lawrence’s words,
the success of this series is just the latest reminder that revolution is never
far from the contemporary imagination, and that the struggles of the Arab
Spring, Burkina Faso, Mexico, Hong Kong, and right here in the United States are
only a taste of what’s to come. Further, Katniss’s experiences in The
Mockingjay, tell us that not only do millions of people know deep down that
revolution is the only way out of the present economic, political, and
environmental crises, but also that the struggle will be waged not only against
capitalism and the state, but against the elements within the revolution which
will try to prevent it from going all the way: whether charismatic politicians,
self-appointed social movement police, left-talking non-profit organizations, pro-capitalist
trade unions, famous Occupiers, or historical re-enacting revolutionary
In closing I’d invite you to imagine
ninety years into the future, when people will marvel at The Hunger Games as
we today marvel at Aelita Queen of Mars. Will they say, as we say of Aelita,
that The Hunger Games stands as a tragic monument to a mass revolutionary
sentiment which was defeated by counterrevolution shortly thereafter? Will the revolution
of our lifetime be waged without compromise toward the end of capitalism and
the state, the end of wage labor, the end of production for exchange, the
abolition of all forms of hierarchy, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and
an immediate stop to all practices destroying our planet? And will we build in
the place of today’s sick world a society based on production for need, radical
equality, and the full development of human creative capacities in a harmonious
balance with the planet and all of its sentient beings? Or will our struggle
succumb, as in the Soviet Union, to the would-be Aelitas, waiting in the wings
to seize power from us as soon as we assume it?