CONVICTED OF ESPIONAGE: Cayla is a Snitch

Attention all 8-year olds! Your friend Cayla is a snitch!

According to BBC News, Germany’s telecommunications regulator, Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), has finally sounded the alarm. The multi national talking doll that hails from Dutscheland was revealed two years ago to be vulnerable. Back in the UK, the Retailers Association isn’t worried even though researchers have been able to talk to children from up to 33 feet away. They’ve even been able to accomplish this THROUGH WALLS!

Speaking of walls, Germans on both sides are, again according to the BBC, very suspicious and intolerant of surveillance. Penalties for possessing banned surveillance devices can result in up to two years in the big house.

Parents have been advised to destroy Cayla. She poses and a friend but may be your enemy.

 

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“Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz” – Catch it Where YouCan

The Hollywood Fringe is an annual festival of live theater that brings players from all over the world to small theaters throughout Hollywood. It’s mostly centered on theater row on Santa Monica Boulevard between La Brea and El Centro, but several other small theaters are also involved. It offers a chance to take in a live experience and to see something unique. After all these years in Los Angeles, and being an actress, for crying out loud – and I’d never been to the festival before last Sunday!

I heard about “Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz” through an actor in the play named Alan Tafoya. I ran into him at Callenders Grill during their groovy jazz evening on Fridays and we got to talking. Turns out he’s an Apache from near my neck of the woods in northern New Mexico. He told me about the play and I went on down for opening night to find that it’s part of the Fringe.

“I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifle”

– so said the defiant Chief Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa Lakota. 

Sitting Bull, also a holy man of his people, had many visions, including the defeat of General Custer and his bunch of marauders at the battle of Little Big Horn. Later, a meadowlark spoke to him in a vision of his own death at the hands of his own people.

Sitting Bull had a really bad rep with the U.S. government. He was super worried for his people since they were often starving after having their food supply purposely eliminated or being kicked out of their homes or murdered outright. Custer may have lost back in 1890, but the descendants of the Europeans were coming out west by the hundreds of thousands and stealing land from the Lakota Sioux right and left. Someone came up with a nice word to call them – “settlers.”

Sitting Bull was a real thorn in their side because he could tell a whopper of a story with a song. The Sioux people love that. People were inspired by him to continue to resist. Then came the Ghost Dance. The Indians have always been big on ceremonies and this one turned into a movement. The Ghost Dance was a ceremony that promised that the Indian people would get their way of life back so it was pretty popular as you might imagine. The idea that the Indians could get their way of life back was also very threatening to the occupiers since that would interfere with their own plans for their destiny being made manifest.

The actors of “Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz” tell the story of the men and women from this piece of our country’s history with visible passion and remarkable talent. The story is narrated throughout by Little Sure Shot herself, an effective theatrical device, which makes for an interesting angle. What unfolds beautifully before us in the small theater is a story that is heartbreaking to be sure but it is also an inspiring example of resistance to oppression and of a love for a life that is whole and unbroken.

The tone of this resistance is mostly told through the art of song. Described as a “post-punk musical,” the score brilliantly and viscerally depicts the passion of the conflicts; and the power of the relationships between the various characters and the land itself.

This show is bound to go places. The writing is superb and the musical pieces are excellently written and performed. I’d love to see the soundtrack come out. I’ll keep City Watch readers informed of that eventuality. This is an important performance piece. Not only because it causes us to know who we are as a country but because its’ message of the struggle against wanton oppression boldly resonates today as we stand on the brink of the destruction of our planet.

In the words of Black Elk on the massacre at Wounded Knee, which took place not too long after Sitting Bull was murdered:

“I did not know then how much was ended….I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.”

We need to learn from that dream.

 

American Crime – Who Killed Matt Skokie? [SPOILER ALERT]

BINGE WATCHING

It’s a work night about two months ago. I’m just about ready to hit the hay, when I decide to cap off my night by catching a new show I’d been hearing about on ABC called, “American Crime.” I was interested in the show for these reasons:

  1. The billboard on the show over there where Olympic/Fairfax and San Vicente meet looked gritty and seedy, just like real American crime.
  2. The billboard had a bi-racial couple on it.
  3. The show is written by John Ridley, who wrote “Undercover Brother,” starring Dave Chapelle – one of the funniest damn people on the planet. Here’s a scene from that movie, which is one of my faves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubV3t9_CwDc
  4. I think Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton are dang good actors.

WOW!

I was pretty tired. When I started, I thought I might even just catch part of the pilot, but DAMN! – this story woke me right up! Here is a network television show, hitting it hard with issues of race, gender and class, right here in the doggone US of A. So, of course, there was nothing to do but BINGE…

… which I did with great fervor.

Still, a working girl’s gotta get some kip. Fast forward to…

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND

Turns out, I’ve got a four-day weekend on hand here; so, on Thursday night, I got all caught up with the show and witnessed the shocking finale. Here’s my run down on the whole thing:

  1. Who killed Matt Skokie? Could have been just about anybody. His family didn’t want to admit it, but Matt Skokie was a sadistic, bigoted, violent criminal. He had many enemies. I’m pretty sure Rick and his gang on “The Walking Dead” would have had to kill him.
  2. The most likely killer that we actually met during the show: Aubrey. The most shocking thing to me is how Matt’s family was so certain it could not have been that poor messed up junkie.who did it. Her story stood up.
  3. Hooray for Hector. He got a lucky break in Mexico. He got back together with his girlfriend/wife and kid. He got the job that depended on his bi-lingual skills. He is ready for a new start
  4. Mr. Gutierrez also appeared to manage to get off his old school funk long enough to really meet minds with his troubled son Tony – and good ole Jenny will probably do fine with Aunt Commie and Uncle Socialist.
  5. Definitive question of the series (maybe) raised by Mark Skokie’s Asian fiancee, Richelle: “You’ve got to decide what you want from this life. Do you want hate?” Even though it isn’t her biological family, Richelle is obviously super dedicated to relations with the in-laws – perhaps another cultural comment in and of itself.

The big lose is Carter and Aubrey. Although innocent of killing Matt Skokie (I believe), Carter’s short life was marked with turmoil. It’s worth noting that the sole reason Carter is released is the political pressure brought to bear by Carter’s sister Aliyah and the Black community.

WITHOUT A POLITICAL MOVEMENT, HE WOULD HAVE BEEN JUST ANOTHER BLACK MAN IN JAIL – OR DEAD.

Carter had just begun go clean and to re-assess his options when he is cut down by a white man who could not believe, in spite of all the evidence, that it wasn’t Carter that killed his son.

Aubrey: quite the complex character. Everyone knows drug addicts lie, right? Still, no one ever believed Aubrey – or at least no one wanted to. After her stint in the foster care system, she was probably disturbed before she ever came into the Taylor home.

In real life, The U.S. Foster Care system is messed up.

Last year, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared the system a “State of Emergency.” According to an LA Times article on April 10, 2014, some 40 infants per day are reported as possible victims of abuse and neglect.

This after a blue ribbon commission was appointed in 2013 to bring reform to the system after the death of an 8-year-old who was found “with his skull cracked, three ribs broken, bruised and burned skin, and BB pellets embedded in his lung and groin.” Apparently, as of this writing, the changes recommended by the commission have yet to be implemented. A cursory look at the internet reveals this to be epidemic all over the United States.

Now, do you believe Aubrey?

John Ridley’s American Crime isn’t your usual crime story. It explores the root of crime. What precedes crime? Where are no easy answers.

Broken GlassWho do you think killed Matt Skokie?

Reflection on MLK Day: From 12 Years a Slave to Trayvon Martin

Photo by ANSWER Coalition Photo by ANSWER Coalition

Last night, I sat at home, managing to endure the God-awful scenes from “12 YEARS A SLAVE” that showed the way Blacks were treated in the 1800s. Those slave masters were sick.

The end titles tell a partial story of what happened to protagonist Solomon Northrup after he found his way out of that hell. Apparently, no one knows what came of him. One thing is for certain. He became a strong abolitionist and a supporter of the Underground Railroad.

Another thing that’s certain is that the men who drugged him, kidnapped him and gave him into slavery were exonerated.

With those wretched images still fresh on my mind, I awoke this morning to Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Civil Rights Act, which millions of people fought for and which Dr. King gave his life for, was enacted fifty years ago.

It took over a hundred years and countless lynchings, beatings, and countless other injuries before black people and their allies were able to achieve the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Today, significant portions of that Act have been gutted. Once again, many states have made it harder for black people to vote.

The outcome of the Trayvon Martin case and countless others have proven that a black teenager can be murdered with no consequences, using the same racist law that a black woman (Marissa Alexander), is not allowed to use in her defense against a man who threatens to kill her. In Marissa’s case, she didn’t even shoot the abusive husband who was threatening to kill her. She shot at the ceiling!

Meanwhile, characters who pride themselves on bigotry, parade like turkeys across television screens around the country, rousing up hatred – proclaiming that gays are beasts and black people were better off during the good ole days of Jim Crow. As long as it sells, the networks who’ve seized the airwaves for their own profit are happy to broadcast these views far and wide.

So, you have your TV clowns. But you also have those like Dr. King, who, in spite of being hounded by federal agents throughout his life, steadfastly stood by the right of all people to the basics.

Dr. King only got broadcast because he was in the streets with millions of people. Today, you might find those like him not on broadcast TV, but again, in the streets.

As Dr. King understood it, the civil rights movement and the labor movement had the same goals:

“…decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old-age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community.”

In a speech to the Illinois state convention of the AFL-CIO in 1965, King went on to say:

“The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress. Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, government relief for the destitute and, above all, new wage levels that meant not mere survival but a tolerable life. The captains of industry did not lead this transformation; they resisted it until they were overcome. When in the thirties the wave of union organization crested over the nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society.”  [Source: Now Is the Time. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Labor in the South: The Case for a Coalition. Booklet prepared by the Southern Labor Institute under the auspices of the Labor Subcommittee of the King Holiday Commission, designed by the AFT and printed by AFSCME. January 1986.]

Today, those same captains of industry are trying to take back what they were forced to give over. They’ve convinced some of us that it’s in our best interests to get on board with this plan.Others know better. They can’t live working full time on what they’re paid and they’re organizing for better wages and working conditions at the lowest paying jobs in the country – fast food jobs, car washes…

King’s words ring as true in 2014 as they did in 1955 during a speech he delivered at Holt Baptist Church during the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

“You know my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled by the iron feet of oppression. There comes a time my friends, when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of humiliation, where they experience the bleakness of nagging despair. There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November. There comes a time.”

Will this be our time?

Martin Luther King, Jr.

RIP