Making Light: Archive #2
Monday, July 23, 2001 - Thursday, August 15, 2001
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Thursday, August 15, 2001
From a letter written late afternoon on Monday

I've just made it home after one of the hairiest driving experiences I've ever had. I was trying to run an errand that took me up to White Plains, then down to the Bronx. When I left home, it looked like it might rain at some point later that day. By the time I was onto the Jackie Robinson Parkway (nee Interboro), the sky was full of fast-moving dark gray-blue clouds and the light had turned a strange flat greeny-yellow that made the trees look like bad color photo processing. Cool, I thought. I'll get a really good storm.

I peeled off toward the Van Wyck and the Whitestone Bridge. Whoops, No go: solid traffic, barely moving. I could see some of the other freeways feeding in at the same spot, and they were blocked too. Bad scene. I phoned Patrick and left a message asking him if he could find out whether this was a Long Island Express jam that would clear up in a mile or two, or a Whitestone Bridge jam that would require that I bail out and take the Throg's Neck Bridge if I wanted to get anywhere.

It was starting to rain.

Patrick called me back. It was neither, he said; there was flooding at the Throg's Neck approaches, and at the Whitestone Bridge as well. Northbound traffic was nearly immobile, and my best option was to bail out and try it again early the next day. I slowly squeezed through the lines of cars, got out onto an equally clogged exit road, turned around on Jewel Avenue, and came south again on the same freeway I'd been on before.

Back onto the Robinson. For a few minutes I thought the sky didn't look nearly as dark as it had before. Then I came around a curve and realized that I was wrong -- the really dark bit was up ahead. I kept driving, off the Robinson and onto Eastern Parkway: Lightning flashes overhead. Booms of thunder, muted by the noise of the surrounding traffic. Rain, and more rain, and then heavier rain. Then it really started drumming, rapidly increasing until it was raining as hard as I've ever seen. Since my AC's dead, my windows fogged up completely. I swabbed at them vainly with a washcloth I keep in the car, but they fogged up again almost immediately. At most I could keep a little porthole-shaped patch clear enough to see through.

I usually take storms in stride, but this was bad. I couldn't see well enough to pull over. I rolled down the window, looked out, and still couldn't see well enough to pull over. The situation was too dangerous to keep driving, but I couldn't get out of it. I rolled my window back up and cautiously kept moving.

The traffic wasn't terribly heavy, but it crawled through Grand Army Plaza. I approved. By then I was following tail lights and navigating by the dimly seen shapes of buildings around me. I didn't realize until I was in the midst of it that the other cars had slowed down on account of flooding. That spooked me. Grand Army Plaza is not a low point, yet the water was running across it in fast-moving sheets. I rounded the curve of the traffic circle and managed my one dangerous rightward merge, across Flatbush toward Union Street. That part wasn't bad -- other cars were crawling across Flatbush too, so I had cover. Running water splashed up as it broke against my left front tire. I turned onto Union Street, into Park Slope proper, still frantically trying to swab my windows clear.

It was still raining pigs and chickens. I decided to turn onto Seventh Avenue, on the upper part of the Slope, to avoid the flooding I knew must be happening further down. But Seventh Avenue itself was flooding, running like a shallow river, water pouring down at me as it turned to run down Union. I turned right a couple of blocks later. That was rough. I couldn't see a thing to my right -- my windshield and side window were completely fogged up. Downhill, downhill, downhill, heading west to Fourth Avenue where I could turn east onto my block of my one-way-eastbound street.

I could see that there was some flooding on Fourth Avenue. That was as I expected. But because the right side of my windshield and my right passenger window were completely fogged, I couldn't see the magnitude of it until I'd turned. Bad move. Fourth Avenue was flooded straight across, and I was in trouble. SUVs were hugging the shallower water, hubcap-deep in the left lane, and I wasn't in the left lane. This was no place for a little Honda to be. No help for it; I know better than to sit still in the middle of a flood. I put my hand down against the carpet at the bottom of the door: dry. Good. I hit the gas and pushed on, trying for the shallower bits.

I started to turn right onto my own block. Yipes! I swiped at the right side of my windshield in disbelief. No can do. It wasn't that the water there was too high; it was that the waves were too high. I couldn't see how far up my block the water reached, but the flood at the corner was deep and choppy and bright with silt. There was a city bus stalled in the middle of it. I had to get out of there unless I wanted to wind up on the evening news. Someone behind me honked, of course. So I drove slowly forward through a light that mercifully stayed green -- engine, don't fail me now -- and turned right, uphill again, some distance further along. Came around and down, and parked at a meter a few blocks from my house. I walked to the head of my block and looked down to the Fourth Avenue intersection. There were pieces of furniture floating in the middle of my street on the other side of Fourth.

When I got home I found our street-level floor was okay, though the garden was beaten flat. I was going to look at the basement, but I keep wondering whether it'd be full of refugee rats and giant cockroaches, or maybe all my stuff would be floating in sullen pools of dirty water, so I waited until Patrick got home. (It didn't flood, and wasn't invaded. Great relief.)

So, okay. It wasn't as bad as the time my hood came unlatched when I was driving on the NJ Turnpike. It was bad enough. It wasn't the flood that got to me, it was not being able to see out or pull over. But I did it; I mean, I got home.

Thursday, August 09, 2001
Cheap trick

Wash and pat dry a pound or more of nice cherries. Pile them loosely in a lidded container and freeze. Later, take one out and let it defrost in your mouth. The cooling effect lasts several minutes, and the frost-ruptured cherry juices itself as it melts. Repeat as needed.

FrozFruit bars are good too, but they're more a recreational than a maintenance drug.

Forecast temperature today will be in the upper 90s, with haze, and right now the humidity's at 79%. Can't wait for this weather to break.

If you don't feel like staying home, allow me to point out that CB's Gallery (313 Bowery between Bleecker and 2nd, next door to its tetragrammatical parent club) is dark, cool, air-conditioned, and serves cold beer, and that Patrick will be playing there tonight with Lori Behrman (plus Jamie Krents, Paul McKenzie, and a percussionist named Sage) from 7:00 to 7:40.

Wednesday, August 01, 2001
Eating history

Marion Watson has found a fascinating piece of social history encapsulated in an old card game. It's called "Menuette", and it came out just after WWII. The cards show different menu items -- appetizers, fish, meat, vegetables, desserts, and drinks -- which have varying numbers of points attached. The object is to collect a complete meal with the highest possible score.

It's the game design that interests her. For instance, pheasant's at the top of the meat hierarchy with nine points, but right after that comes chicken with eight -- it was a luxury, eaten on special occasions. Steak, on the other hand, was near the bottom of the list. Many items in the dessert hierarchy have simply disappeared from our menus, and a good thing, too. ("Even if we bother with a sweet at all today," as she puts it, "we are not likely to eat some of those on offer.") The vegetables, in that pre-Birdseye age, are downright uninspiring.

But that's only a sampling of her observations, and her version is much more interesting, so go read it. She also reproduces the game rules. (No great interest there; it's just a Gin Rummy variant.) It's all part of the Great British Kitchen website, worth a visit in its own right if you're interested in food.

Sparkler bombs

Daniel Rutter's From Orbit website gives directions for one of those splendid imprudent projects we're forever telling kids not to try at home: sparkler bombs.

The principle is that while your garden-variety sparkler is a tame entertainment, a tight bundle of five hundred or a thousand sparklers has very different properties: a possibility undreamt-of in state and municipal legal codes governing pyrotechnics.

This is from the firing instructions:

Once the plinth is formed, flip the bomb the right way up, insert the fuse sparkler in the middle of the top so that a couple of inches stick out, show the bomb to the crowd, and set off for the firing zone. The qualities a firing zone should have are as follows:

1. No groundcover you're very attached to. The bomb will scorch a circle about a foot across on the ground, so it is impolite to set one off on, say, the local putting green. The bomb will also leave an indelible white blast-mark on non-flammable surfaces, so don't set one off on priceless mosaic tiling.

2. No overhanging trees, power wires or anything else. Make no assumptions about the height the spark blast will reach. If there's something between ground zero and the sky within a 20-foot radius, find a new site.

3. Nothing nearby that can't stand a falling spark or two. Most of the sparks go out before they make it back down to the ground, but not all do. Priceless Lamborghinis, high-strung Chihuahuas, and piles of dry leaves should not be in the area. It is also quite possible for a spark to fall into the eye of a too-close spectator, so keep 'em back. If a breeze is blowing, it will blow the sparks; bear this in mind and stand upwind.

4. No law-abiding neighbours who will get prodigiously alarmed and call out the National Guard when a Bloody Great Tower Of Flame erupts outside their bedroom window. This is not an unreasonable response. If you're doing Weird Things, have the decency to do them in unpopulated areas where there's nothing of value. This makes it much harder for anybody to complain.

Hideous as a David Hartwell necktie

Heinz has come out with pastel purple ketchup, in a squeeze bottle that lets diners achieve delicate calligraphic effects on their fries. It's enough to put you off your feed.

Hot news on the Ice Man

Jim Macdonald dropped me a note to tell me that the cause of death has been determined for Otzi, the 5200-year-old Italo-Austrian ice mummy: he took an arrow in the chest. It took an upward path into the left side of his chest, destroying nerves and blood vessels along the way, then broke Otzi's shoulder blade.

It wouldn't have been the easiest of deaths. Nevertheless (said Jim, who was writing during a quiet moment in the ER), prompt EMT attention could probably have saved him.

Okay, here's the setup:

You're a thief. It's 11:00 at night. What's the last place you should try to rob?

Tuesday, July 31, 2001
Terrible news: Poul Anderson. Hospice care.

Greg Bear's letter about it.

One finds oneself wanting to say such odd things at these moments. Like: I've never believed the line about the beer money, and I've never understood why anyone else did.

M. J. Rose: E-book Outcast

"The Web made me a successful author, but getting people to respect me as a 'real writer' has been harder to come by," Rose says in this piece in Salon. She's distressed and confused by the way people's eyes glaze over when she says her work is published in e-books. Why won't they see that she's a real author too?

I take off my glasses, I pinch the bridge of my nose, I shake my head ... I don't even know where to start.

Monday, July 30, 2001
A spectacular piece of bragging can be found here ...

...but if you're under 18 you didn't hear about it from me.

It was followed a little later in the discussion by the inevitable usenet response: "You know, personal ads aren't allowed here."

Maurizio Paoluzi has been heard from ... some length. More to come. Watch this space.

Police in Almaty, Kazakhstan, are cracking down on Tolkien fans

As reported in the Independent News, the police are going after "people who dress up like hobbits"; but from the sound of it they're going after all the other Middle Earth ethnic groups as well.

The Lord of the Rings has been very popular in the former USSR states since 1988, when it was published in translation. Anyone familiar with the history of the Mythopoeic Society, Society for Creative Anachronism, and asst'd FRPGs could have predicted what would follow:

Several hundred Tolkienists gather in Moscow on Thursday evenings in summer in Neskuchny Park overlooking the Moskva river. One enthusiast, Askar Tuganbaev, a computer salesman, said: "In Yekaterinburg [in the Urals] they even built a fortress and fought a battle a couple of years ago with everybody dressed up."

Mr Tuganbaev says the police in Russia are tolerant of the Tolkienists and it is only in Kazakhstan that they are accused of "being Satanists and conducting dark rituals".

Under an equal-opportunity policy of repression, the Kazakhstan police also disapprove of buskers, gays, lesbians, anarchists, hippies, punks, alternative artists, and dissident religious sects. In short, they're a dull and backward lot. I expect they'll disapprove of all manner of other lifestyles, amusements, enthusiasms, and harmless vices, as soon as they learn of their existence.
Diary de la Vex

It's as plain a site as you're likely to see; and reticent, too, as public journals go. All it has going for it is its writing. Which is charming. This entry is called "A Brief Moment of Clarity & Sadness During Wretched Hangover":

My boyfriend is booksmart, cat-eyed, has a big, sweet, absent-minded heart, & a capacity for neglect that can break anybody else's. He is sitting at home watching cartoons and Oprah because he applied the same innocent neglect to his work for too long, and they fired him.

Ah, February, you stylish whore, you.

My best friends are suddenly jobless for much less than that. The department I fled at the end of the year has been ravaged like Bishop at the claws of the alien Queen--and as suddenly; some of them got 2 minutes to gather their beloved plants and anime calendars and get the hell out. I hope they were given taxi vouchers. A bloody shame.

Thank god I quit my job before they could do that to me. I am a paragon of outward calm, but that kind of treatment would have short-circuited my manners. I hesitate to admit that I would throw Healthy Choice frozen lunches and scream, but I would have.

I hammered out a message to my ex-work mailing list, thrilled for an excuse to touch base, & entreating home email addresses from the fallen. (The Blonde was the first to reply, I fell under my desk in gleeful intoxication).

"How well you sound!" was the overall tone of their dear responses.

I am craftier than I thought.

Click here to read more.
I was attacked by invisible brain weasels.

That's the only explanation I can come up with for having spaced out Starhawk's gender. Which is female.

Friday, July 27, 2001
"Two Japanese Mormons wear red noses while selling the plastic appendages in Sydney ..."

"... as part of a national campaign to raise money for research into the cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome," says the caption in Japan Today.

Okay. I guess. If it makes them happy. But the comments in the public discussion area that follows have me stumped. Sample:

In the context of my message from 30,000 feet, you're right to call it a "bottom line" approach. On the other hand, if the two Japanese Mormons feel their lives have been bettered, then arguably all them bicycle-riding, nametag-wearing, tie-and-slacks 20 somethings have been successful on some level. Is this what you mean?
Perhaps there's some context I'm missing.
I am grieved to learn ...

... that sightseers in Australia have displayed such insane stupidity that authorities there are now considering imposing an "exclusion zone" rule to keep them from coming within 100 metres (1.3 football fields) of a dead whale. They already have a similar rule that prohibits close approaches to live whales.

This was prompted by an incident in which boats containing hundreds of sightseers flocked to see white sharks, in a feeding frenzy, tearing apart the carcass of a dead whale that was floating just off the coast of Adelaide. Sightseers were patting the noses of the feeding sharks. Some sightseers climbed out onto the whale's back -- one of them, reportedly, while carrying a young child.

Stating what I'm sure he'd previously thought was obvious, South Australian Environment Minister Iain Evans said, "These creatures are not toys. ... It is clear the state government will need to look at changing the law in order to protect people too stupid to protect themselves."

Thursday, July 26, 2001
The Great American Used Truck Ad

It's on eBay, right here. And over here, a sample of the text, from the "Things this Bronco has going for it" section:

10. The front seatbelts look reasonably, uh, seatbelty.

11. Manual transmission and manual 4wd selector and manual hubs. None of this automatic crap that breaks down and leaves you stranded 2 blocks from home because you're afraid to drive beyond the 7-11... uh.. nevermind. If nothing else your left leg and right arm muscles will become huge in a matter of days, so your time at the gym is cut in half.

12. Runs pretty well once it's warmed up. I drove it on several 100-200 mile trips helping friends move from one side of the bay area to the other. Said friends always seem to have medical conditions that required them to ride in their own vehicles, thus I have no eyewitnesses that the engine actually ran well.

Hacking the Cat

Digital Convergence's CueCat was such a lame piece of hardware that even the fact that it was being given away free couldn't redeem it. Basically, it's a hand-held product code (UPC, ICBN, EAN) reader. You were supposed to use it to scan product codes in magazines and on package labels, and automagically be whisked to the appropriate web address. Like, you'd point it at a can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, and your screen would pop up a tempting new recipe for Minnesota Hot Dish. Lame.

But then it occurred to someone that inside the CueCat is a perfectly useful hand-held product code scanner, yearning to breathe free. All it takes is a new driver.This may, alas, explain the inoperability of Digital Convergence's setup for ordering your free CueCat.

Hey, look at that. The street really does find its own uses.

If you're interested, look quick,

Because I cannot believe that an elaborate Wally Wood illustration showing dozens of Disney characters engaged in lewd activities is going to stay up long.

Self-assembling nanotube antibiotics

They've developed

...self-assembling nanotubes, disk-shaped amino acid molecules that stack themselves into tubes whenever they encounter the proper chemical environment. That environment varies depending on which amino acids the researchers select.

The trick in turning such molecules into antibiotics ... is to select a set of disks that assemble themselves inside the membrane surrounding a bacterial cell, punching a hole in the membrane and exposing the microbe to the outside world.

With tiny tubes springing up inside its membrane, a bacterium becomes leaky as a sieve, and dies as its contents spill out and the bodily fluids of its host rush in.

They've gotten it to work in mice. That's a long way from getting it to work in humans, but it's still way cool.

Wednesday, July 25, 2001
Quite a lot more on that dead protester in Genoa.

I did some poking around on the web, looking for stories and pictures. I also got helpful email pointing me at specific sites. I know you'll be shocked to hear that the story is far more complicated than that original report I linked to. The photographic record is extensive, thanks largely to Dylan Martinez, a Reuters photographer who by all appearances has fast feet, a great eye for a shot, and no sense of self-preservation.

What actually happened? The version suggested to me in email by Maurizio Paoluzi fits all the data I know of:

The article from monkeyfist you linked seems more superficial and partisan than necessary. What probably happened is that the carabinieri car was isolated and was the target of stones and other object thrown by people who were assaulting it. Inside the car there were three young carabinieri and they probably panicked and one of them, only twenty years old, fired his gun twice hitting Carlo Giuliani in the head. Then trying to move away as fast as possible the driver didn't notice the body and ran over it.
If you look at all the photos in order, you can practically watch it happen. I'd have handled these pictures as links, if that were feasible; but mainstream newsfeeds don't reliably leave their stories up. So:

Cue the first slide tray. (148K)

1: Carlo Giuliani, before.

2, 3: General photos of the rioting in Genoa. Some commentators have mistaken these for pictures of the attack on the Carabinieri Jeep that preceded Giuliani's death, but it's clearly a different vehicle.

4, 5: The attack on the Jeep. These are two different versions of the same photograph. I include them both because one's sharper and the other's more extensive. Giuliani is the one in the white tank top and balaclava. He's about to pick up a fire extinguisher and throw it at the car. One of the guys inside already has his handgun drawn. It's a tense moment, but not the attempted lynching some Italian government and police officials have claimed.

Second slide tray, please. (152K)
6: The attack continues. Giuliani is partially occluded by the foreground figure, but you can see him starting to pick up the extinguisher. It's a handy large heavy object, good for throwing; and while it's possible that some thoughts along the lines of "Hey, that looks like an explosive device, I think I'll scare the bejesus out of those carabinieri with it!" passed through his mind, I somehow doubt that's what happened. I also doubt that he or the other rioters have registered the presence of the drawn handgun, because the natural tendency once you've noticed a gun is to keep looking at it. I have to think the carabinieri should have waved it about more, for a stronger deterrent effect.

7: The attack continues. Giuliani prepares to throw the extinguisher. You can see in pictures 6 & 7 that the carabinieri have let themselves to be stopped, trapped, isolated from the rest of their forces, and overrun by rioters: a basic tactical error. In picture 7 you can see that the Jeep has its nose up against one of the overturned garbage bins the rioters used as barricades. It can only escape by backing up.

8, 9: A close shot of Giuliani preparing to throw the extinguisher. You can see the gun in the car. This is what I mean about the photographer having no sense of self-preservation.

10: The canister in flight. I can't tell whether it's entering or leaving the Jeep. Giuliani isn't visible, and may already be down.

Third slide tray. (164K)
11, 12, 13: Three shots of Giuliani, down on the ground, bloody, and about to be run over. He's in the driver's blind spot. Looks like the other rioters are scrambling to get out of the way, but I can't tell whether they're running from the Jeep, or away from possible further gunfire.

14: Giuliani is run over by the Jeep. It seems to have done a K-turn and exited stage left, so this may be the second time they're running over him.

15, 16: The other protesters seem to be milling around; some try to help. I expect they're stunned and confused; it's the normal reaction.

Fourth slide tray. (152K)
17, 18, 19: More reinforcements are arriving. Giuliani has gone down very hard indeed. I now believe that what looks like a white border around the bloodstain in photo 19 was produced by light reflecting off a surface made shiny by large amounts of very fresh blood.

20: The police regain control of the area, moving in phalanx. (One of the odder features of modern riots is their resemblance to pre-gunpowder warfare. Here and elsewhere, the basic formation is the shieldwall. Helmets and shields have become standard for police; now the rioters have them too. One of the protesters in photos 15 & 16 is wearing greaves. Any day now, they're going to go back to using caltrops.)

Fifth and last slide tray. (224K)
21, 22: The firefighters and EMTs come in and get to work behind the shieldwall ...

23, 24: ... but there's only so much you can do for someone who's been shot twice in the head and then run over a couple of times. In this case, it probably consisted of taking his nonexistent vitals and writing down the time.

25: One dead protester, a few journalists, and a bunch of awkward-looking riot police in tuff gear.

So that's very likely what happened. But there was more to Maurizio Paoluzi's letter. He also said:
What I don't understand is why someone so young, inexperienced and not trained (he is doing is ten months obligatory draft in the army) for this kind of action was there.
It's an apposite question. Young carabinieri who're doing their required ten months in the military aren't going to know how to deal with a major urban demonstration. They're going to know just enough to get themselves into trouble, and meanwhile their uniforms will make them a target. Any administrator with a lick of sense could see that one coming a mile off. If they'd been my carabinieri, I'd have sent them out to the suburbs to direct traffic until it was all over. But Genoa didn't do that. It threw them into the middle of the fray.

I can think of one explanation, but I don't like it. I have a friend who used to commit mayhem on a professional basis when he was in the employ of a large tax-supported organization. He's occasionally talked to me -- in a purely theoretical way, you understand; he's very discreet -- about the PR uses of demonstrations that turn violent.

I remember one time when I was being slow to understand what he was telling me. He finally said, "Look, suppose you know there's going to be a demonstration. What you want to do is make sure you have your women and children up front. Then you rent a second-floor room right above the place where the demonstration is going to happen. Make sure it has venetian blinds. Your people show up, their people show up. When everybody's there, you put one or two shots into the police from behind and over the heads of your own people. Make sure you use a .22 -- it's harder to track by ear where a .22 gunshot came from."

I still wasn't getting it. "But-but-but," I said, "you can't do that! The police will start firing on you, even if you do have all your women and children up front!"

"They sure will," he said. "That's why you want to make sure there are cameramen around when it happens."

So then I understood his point. Demonstrations aren't just about getting your message out and making sure your own guys behave themselves. If you're a complete bastard and don't mind deliberately getting people hurt or killed who are not only innocent but are on your side, demonstrations can also be about making the other guys look bad. It isn't even very hard to do.

Here's a hypothetical answer to Maurizio Paoluzi's question. Imagine for a moment that you're a cynical, amoral SOB. If you throw undertrained conscripts into a difficult situation like the Genoa G-8 protests, and they, being inexperienced, wind up doing something heinous to a citizen protester, their actions are easily disavowed: Just kids doing a ten-month stint as carabinieri, not a lot of training or experience; bound to be a few unfortunate incidents in a complex, volatile situation like that. But if the unfortunate incident happens to your hapless young draftees, that's even better -- it's the law-enforcement equivalent of having a bunch of women and children shot during a peaceful demonstration.

Purely hypothetical, as I said.

But these odd first-person reports keep trickling out of Genoa about how large groups of peaceful, well-behaved protesters were pinned down, immobilized, and in some cases attacked, while small groups of violent extremists (whom nobody seems to have recognized from any previous context) were given free rein. That's a good way to generate a stream of photos and stories about Those Awful Rioters to feed to the world press. Meanwhile, the tens of thousands of peaceful, respectable citizen protesters get ignored, along with the issues their presence was meant to address.

It works. I've met mosquitos that had longer attention spans than 90% of the global mainstream media. If Dylan Martinez and others hadn't taken all those photos, world opinion about Carlo Giuliani's death would have divided along the usual overworked simpleminded lines, people on both sides would have dismissed the others' opinions for all the usual tired old reasons, the mindspace that might have been given to the issues around the G-8 conference would instead have been given over to a pointless argument, and in short, everyone involved would have gotten stupider for the duration.

Data. It's a wonderful thing.

Maurizio Paoluzi's letter ended:

Now I am heading for a march organized here in Rome to show our disappointment with the police and government actions of these days. If you are interested later I may write more on what happened last week and what it's happening here in Italy (and why I am worried about it).
I haven't heard from him since then, though I wrote back immediately to say yes, I was interested. I hope he's all right. If I do hear back, I'll post it here.

The march he mentions did take place. Here's one story, in the Guardian. If you want to follow the whole developing story, try Italia Indymedia. It's a scruffy site, only sporadically and nominally bilingual, and if you're one of those people who have an automatic allergic reaction to any use of the word "comrade" you may have trouble with it. But they have the virtue of sticking tenaciously to the whole story, and they get their news first-hand.

And speaking of first-person accounts ...

I received the following as a forward, with a "please pass it on to anyone you know who's interested" note attached. It's for real. Whether or not you think Starhawk has a silly name, he's definitely real. You can a full account of the raid in The Guardian, or in a shallower account from CNN, or in great detail, in energetic Italian and patchy English, at Italia Indymedia. They'll have a broader view of the event than you'll find in Starhawk's letter, but there's nothing like a first-person account to put you in the middle of a story.

Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2001 10:47:58 -0700
Subject: Starhawk in Genoa please help
From: [A person known to me]

HI Everyone just got this from STarhawk, please send it on to as many folks as possible..

Due to AOL and Yahoo's screwup with messages this info may not be getting out. The situation may not be good in Genoa. Please read the following and pass it on to whoever you think might be interested in helping. Especially folks who are on AOL and may not have gotten word via the lists that usually update on this and anyone else on your personal lists that you feel would have an interest.

Thanx and blessings

----- Begin forwarded message -----

July 21, 2001
Report from Genoa, Italy
by Starhawk, via email

I think I'm calm, that I'm not in shock, but my fingers are trembling as I write this. We were up at the school that serves as a center for media, medical and trainings. We had just finished our meeting and were talking, making phone calls, when we heard shouts and sirens and the roar of people yelling, objects breaking. The cops had come and they were raiding the center. We couldn't get out of the building because there were two many people at the entrance. Lisa grabbed my hand and we went up, running up the five flights of stairs, up to the very top. Jeffrey joined us, people were scattering and looking for places to hide. We weren't panicking but my heart was pounding and I could hardly catch my breathe. We found an empty room, a couple of tables, grabbed some sleeping bags to cover our heads if we got beaten. And waited. Helicopters were buzzing over the building, we could hear doors being slammed and voices shouting below, then quiet. Someone came in, walked around, left. I couldn't seem to breath deep and I had an almost uncontrollable cough-but I controlled it.

I lay there remembering we had lots and lots of people sending us love and protection and I was finally able to breathe. The light went on. Through a crack between the tables, I could see a helmet, a face. A big Italian cop with a huge paunch loomed over us. He told us to come out. He didn't seem in beating mode, but we stayed where we were, tried to talk to him in English and Spanish and the few Italian words I know: "paura" "fear" and "pacifisti."

He took us down to the third floor, where a whole lot of people were sitting, lined up against the walls. We waited. Someone came in, demanding to know whether there was someone there from Irish Indy media. We waited. Lawyers arrived: The police left. For some arcane reason of Italian law, because it was a media place we had some right to be there, although the school across the street was also a media center and they went in there and beat peopleup.

We watched for a long time out the windows. They began carrying people out on stretchers. One, Two, a dozen or more. A crowd had gathered and were shouting "Assessini! Assesini!" The brought out the waking wounded, arrested them and took them away. We believe they brought someone out in a body bag.

The crowd below was challenging the cops and the cops were challenging the crowd and suddenly a huge circle of media gathered, bright camera lights. Monica, who is hosting us and is with the Genoa Social Forum, came up and found us. She'd been calling embassies and media and may have saved us from getting hurt once the cops finished with the first building. All the time there were helicopters thrumming and shining bright lights into the building.

A few brave men were holding back the angry crowd, who seemed ready to charge the line of riot cops that was formed up in front of the school, shields up and gas masks on. "Tranquilo, tranquilo," the men were saying, holding up their hands and restraining the angry crowd from a suicidal charge. I was on the phone home, then back to the window, back to the phone. Finally, the cops went away. We went down to the first floor, outside, heard the story. They had come in to the rooms where people were sleeping. Everyone had raised up their hands, calling out "pacifisti! Pacifist!" And they beat the shit out of every person there. There's no pretty way to say it. We went into the other building: there was blood at every sleeping spot, pools of it in some places, stuff thrown around, computers and equipment trashed. We all wandered around in shock, not wanting to think about what is happening to those they arrested, to those they took to the hospital. We know that they have arrested everyone they take to the hospital, taken people to jail and tortured them.

One of the young Frenchmen from our training, Vincent, had his head badly beaten on Friday in the street. In jail, they took him into a room, twisted his arms behind his back and banged his head on the table. Another man was taken into a room covered with pictures of Mussolini and pornography, and alternately slapped around and then stroked with affection in a weird psychological torture. Others were forced to shout, "Viva El Duce!" ! ! Just in case it isn't clear that this is Fascism. Italian variety, but it is coming your way. It is the lengths they will go to to defend their power. It's the lie that globalization means democracy. I can tell you, right now, tonight, this is not what democracy looks like.

I've got to stop now. We should be safe if we can make our way back to where we're stayiing. Call the Italian Embassy. Go there, shame them! We may not be able to mount another demonstration tomorrow here if the situation stays this dangerous. Please, do something!

----- End forwarded message -----

Monday, July 23, 2001
Dead in the street in Genoa.

Reportedly, Dubya said "I reject the isolationism and protectionism that dominate those who would try to disrupt the meetings in Genoa." And Tony Blair said, "We would prefer to be out there in a normal setting being able to meet people, but we can't because some of these demonstrators are so violent."

On second thought,

I'd like to see an uncropped photo of that dead anarchist. There's something funny about the blood on his balaclava -- shouldn't it be a darker red, not bordered in white, and not (if you zoom in on it in Photoshop) significantly smoother than the rest of the photo? For that matter, why isn't there more blood? If that's a fatal head wound, there should be pints more of it on the street.

Why is there a drag mark next to him? It has to be a drag mark. Those aren't tire marks. The vehicle would have had to have run over his upper chest to make such tracks, and that part of his body is clearly unscathed. It can't be produced by flow, either -- there are breaks in the flow path.

I'm not saying that some guy didn't get killed by the Carabinieri during the protests in Genoa. I see no reason to doubt that Dubya and Blair made the quoted remarks. I just think it's a weird picture.

Happy Birthday, Mitch Wagner!

(Archive #1, May 27, 2001 - July 22, 2001)

(Archive #3, September 10, 2001 - October 01, 2001)

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Copyright 2001 by Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.
Don't mess with me; I'm an editor.