On the Street: On the Trail of Considerant, A Hat Over a Helmet, Inverting Blaxploitation, and Alefest Voyeurism

“Faces in the Crowd”

Letters (to the On the Street Penthouse Suite)

#1 Fashion + Bicycle Helmets?

Lady Vick writes in with this notice from the world of bike fashion (bike fashion!)

It's a HAT over a helmet! (genius).


#2 San Antonio — A Fount for Socialism?

Through an angle that is too convoluted to recount, there has been some minor investigation on my part of a French Utopian Socialist who spent some of his late but formative years in San Antonio before and after the Civil War. That's right, we're talking about Victor Considerant, as if I had to even say it.

Before his arrival in Texas, Considerant was â??tight' with Karl Marx, so much so that Karl came close to visiting Victor, though it never materialized. After Considerant returned to Paris he seems to have been all up in those upheavals of the 1871 Paris Commune, which set the stage for other upheavals and some historical fantasies for those sipping on Molotov cocktails in the Spring of 1968 while watching Godard films.

Considerant, it also should be noted, was a proponent of economically self sufficient communities (aka Fourier Utopias), which with the recent downturns of the economy, scientists calling for a world pandemic to lower the population, and other invocations of the Apocalypse, in a sense, make Considerant almost relevantâ?¦ but not really.

Anyway, here is an abridged (abridged!) version of an exchange I had with a professor at UC Santa Cruz who is a Considerant scholar (Considerant scholar!)

Dear Mark,

It's good to hear from you and to know that someone in San Antonio is on Considerant's trailâ?¦One thing that would be worth looking for is the site (and remains?) of the cabin that the Considerants' lived in during their later years at San Antonio (1860-1869). It was on the bank of the San Antonio River near the old Spanish Mission Concepcion.

San Antonio was a low point for Considerant. But he was there a long time--close to 15 years. And his years in Texas gave him a new identity. After his return to Paris in 1870, he signed official documents "Victor Considerant, citoyen américain, and he spent his last years wearing a sombrero and a serape--dressed in what he believed was the garb of a transplanted Texan or Mexican farmer.

The important detail to latch onto is that Considerant was representing San Antonio style when he was back in Paris and doing important things that most people don't remember, but that doesn't mean we can't inflate them to ridiculous proportions.

Impossible Cinema

The Spook Who Sat by the Door — that is the film (and novel) written by Sam Greenlee and directed by Ivan Dixon (“Kinch” from Hogan's Heroes, the communications expert who often sent messages for Hogan to London submarines, somehow.)

Though lost in the vaults of blaxploitation, in reality, the film is an inversion of the genre. Whereas many blaxploitation films only touched upon legitimate issues superficially before then drifting into escapist but entertaining fantasy, this film, in contrast, is nothing but content.

Basically, the film is about a man who gets recruited into the CIA to be their first black agent, though in reality it's just a publicity stunt to get a white Senator re-elected and regain his lost “Negro vote”. The would-be agent makes it through training but then is stuck in the mailroom for five years making copies. Nonetheless, he did learn valuable covert, revolutionary tactics from his trainingâ?¦

He quits the CIA and goes back home to Chicago to work at a community non-profit. Everyone at the CIA thinks of him as harmless and their friend. Little do they know he ends up organizing Chicago gangs and training them in the tactics he learned in the CIA so that they can begin their own revolutionary army.

The film is a depiction of this process and an embrace of the Black Power movement (though not specifically.) In that sense, The Spook Who Sat by the Door is a unique part of cinema history. Though it isn't instructive in how to wage an insurgency in the way of the film Battle of Algiers, it does call for open revolution against America in a way that no other studio film probably ever has. Whereas a film like Fight Club involves morality and regret (and the Pixies?) to distance itself from it's own message, TSWSBTD never for a moment questions its own agenda.

Not surprising, the film was pulled after only 3 days in release. It's pretty much been a mystery ever since but after Tim Reid (aka DJ Venus Flytrap from WKRP in Cincinnati) released it on DVD it is available for screening.

I probably wouldn't have come across if I hadn't first stumbled across the film Coffy with Pam Grier (which, by the way, is an incredible revenge film, and without a doubt a major inspiration for the Kill Bills by Tarantino.)

Sam Greenlee also wrote a novel called Baghdad Blues. Perhaps Tarantino might someday adapt it? Or mangle it?

What Ales You

Ale fest seems to bring out two types of people: those who really like to drink and those who really like to drink but also like to complain about it throughout the process.

Okay, that's basically a joke.

But the flipside is that if there weren't lines and people everywhere then some would feel like it wasn't really a party and they would complain about that. In all I would say the event was a huge success.

There were lots of people. So much so that even the singer from Spoon was seen walking around by the end (though I'm not sure if he was lost looking for the Alamo or something.)

From the vantage point of the t-shirt booth I was able to observe people via my zoom lens. Here are some of the random moments, none of which may be spectacular individually (or together for that point) but a sense of group identity is loosely formed.

And so goes another week on the streets of San Antonio. As always, to be continued...


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