David Bowie Dead, just in Time

David Bowie is Dead. Hmm. There’s a joke by comedian Doug Stanhope that goes something like this; maybe Kurt Cobain didn’t die too young. Maybe he was just out of stuff. can you imagine if Jimmy Hendrix had lived and then you see him doing half-time duets with Elton John, singing Rocket Man. And you’d say, how sad is that, why didn’t he just die? What if Lenny Bruce took over for Andy Rooney, some crusty old man bitching about ATM fees…

This society clings a little, rather, a lot too hard to the quantity of life instead of the quality of it. I’ve had people brag how they never have had a major accident or broken a bone. I’ve broken 11 major bones, excluding most of my fingers and toes, caught a ricochet bullet in the shin, suffered so many concussions that a neurosurgeon friend once said he wouldn’t even guess at a count. The scars on my body are a road map of my life. Car accidents, bike accidents. I’ve been shot at more times than I can count, not to mention being bombed and shelled as well, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I’ve written 11 books, published 5, had 2 critically acclaimed plays, and painted artwork that is now all over the world. I’ve done everything, live a war, seen the worst man can do and see the most we are capable of. I’ve fought for the least among us and against injustice without financial reward; and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I strove for experiences, to break out of my comfort zone and to explore fully the spectrum of human emotion. I will carry those in the only suitcase I can carry from this life, happy there isn’t room for anything else in that bag. I’m not David Bowie, but he wasn’t me either.

As for David Bowie’s passing? Funny, yesterday morning, driving the wife to work, I was suddenly in the mood to hear some of his music. Working on the new novel later that morning, I casually explored some of his lesser known work. When the wife announced that he’d died this morning, my first reaction was, well, that’s the end of an era.

One thing is certain, just being born is responsible for more human suffering and carries, by responsible estimation, nearly a 100% mortality rate. Trust me, I spent all night double checking the statistics. Which begs the question of which David Bowie, or you, would you rather have? David Bowie, fans of Ricky Gervais will recall, played a bit part in the TV show Extras, little more than a decade ago. His song parody of Gervais’ character was about not selling out, which Bowie never did.

So, again, which Bowie do you want? How much sadder would it be to see him years from now, hobbled in a wheel chair, oxygen tubes up his nose, bent and mumbling to himself grasping desperately against eternity for every breath, clinging to an ever more distant past in which he is less and less a shadow, or the man who bowed gracefully when he was finished, walking proudly from the stage of life to eternity?

The lesson here is live a life of quality. Experience, suffer, exalt, explore, fail, rise up again in as passionate a life as you can dare. That’s the stuff of our lives. back to Stanhope, “your sins are the only thing that make you interesting!” one of my grandfather’s, many years ago, as he was dying of cancer, remarked to me that being eaten by a bear was the better fate. I put that in my first book 25 years later.

And it’s true. Recall the guy some years back you got killed by an escaped tiger at the San Diego zoo. What happened to Bob? He got eaten by a tiger, in California! Wow, that’s incredible. As opposed to, did you hear about Bob? yeah, after an unfulfilling life as a middle manager in an actuarial firm, all those high calorie lunches finally got the better of him. Died right at his cubicle, just as his divorce was about to be final as well.

Quantity is a beggar’s game, because in the face of eternity, it is meaningless. Quantity is the existential equivalent of a flat line. Take a page from Bowie and good theatre people and know when its time to take a bow, and leave them wanting more. Rock on, David Bowie!

Feeling Punked over Guns

Everyone knows by now I just am in love with everything democrat. The two party system is the best system ever. In fact, if god himself/herself could have invented the perfect political system it would be one in which two dominant parties could become so confident of their divine calling that they would nobly and bravely ignore all of the voters in the nation and instead tell them whom they should vote for, rather than having to suffer the strain and indignity of having to decide for themselves.

We sure did hear a lot about guns this year. Every time Obama said something like, “whoa, guns” the rightwing media erupted with screams decrying gun grabs by the government. Recall Des Moines and Salt Lake City, in which Obama goons in black armor helicoptered in and confiscated all of the guns. But the media hysteria was the alarm to a public to rush out and buy guns before they were banned. The result, despite an, eh, year for the stock market saw gun profits were through the roof.

I naively asked why Obama was essentially silent and action-less on gun issues of any kind, save for the occasional laconic “somebody ought to do something, sometime,” which translated into “FOX-ese,’meant, of course, GUN BAN! But what if it was all just a game? Hmm. What if both parties really were the same, except to make it competitive and compete for individual fortunes and privilege through the dichotomy of their respective bases. Sort of like, people from both parties went off to lobbying firms, Monsanto, weapons industries, banks and oil companies? Wouldn’t that be a co-inky-dink?

So maybe Obama, who spent far more energy getting TPP passed than he did on single payer, who could have paid the mortgages of damn near every foreclosed homeowner instead of the trillions given to banks, is in the pocket of the gun industry. Okay, maybe just in the pocket of the corporate America, you know like giving insurance companies a windfall which is enforceable under penalty of law, or a backdoor boost to companies who no longer need to offer insurance or fulltime work as part of a compensation package.

And maybe going after whistleblowers as if they were public enemy number one is all just a coincidence, sort of like fining an oil company within their profit margin after a historic oil spill destroyed tens of thousands of lives, killed as many as three dozen (including suicides, but not cancers) and ruined the Gulf of Mexico. That’s all probably coincidence.

So the gun industry finishes the year with record profits. How to start the new year, at a time when the economy is struggling and the stock market is getting pounded by the China market? Let’s put our heads together and find something that isn’t affected by China. I know, GUNS!

So Obama has been silent, or at the very least ineffectual about anything on guns. So why now? Within hours before Obama even said a word on gun violence the gun industry, gun legislation or gun banning. Where were the presidential orders to stop straw purchases or gun show loopholes? So why now? The Gun industry and NRA will happily tell you. It’s because its a new year. Profits are up just on the word of the industry’s best salesman, according to ex-congressman Joe Walsh. And that may be the only time I ever agree with that child support abandoning, self-felating, gun pornographer-pushing, tea bagging, anti-Christian, lying, pretend tough guy, hypocrite and cat raping, Joe Walsh.

I just threw in the cat raping part for purely satirical and political commentary purposes, pursuant to my first amendment rights and antipathy for cats. Still, I can’t help feeling I have been punked, and while my disdain for the right and gun-porn industry remains peaked, I have a feeling Obama’s hands are hardly clean on this one too.

Hey, Dork. Pithier, not a louder Left

Ted Cruz said show him one mass shooting that gun laws prevented. Which mass shooting did guns prevent? Leftie’s and reasonble gun owners need to get more sarcastic not louder. Take these examples:

1, Not all Muslims are terrorists, but nearly all terror… Okay, then not all white people are KKK, but all KKK is white people.

2. That child you abort might one day grow up to cure cancer…or, that child you fail to abort might one day grow up to kill the person who would have cured cancer.

3. It was a cool summer in Des Moines, where’s your global warming now? Answer, the world is round and your head is square.

4. “So-called” Muslims need to clean up the extremists in their midst if they really are a religion of peace…to, does that also apply to “so-called good” cops?(Also will accept “does that apply to leagal gun owners?)

5. Gun laws won’t prevent criminals from getting guns. Um, do laws prevent criminals from breaking any law?

-or-

6. Gun laws won’t prevent criminals from getting guns. Car thieves still steal cars, does that mean you shouldn’t have a license, or car insurance?

7. I can’t vote for a socialist like Bernie Sanders, well then, you definitely wouldn’t have voted for Washington, Adams, Jefferson or Lincoln. “We the people?” or “Union” let alone “more perfect union,” or “welfare,” in the constitution? Or is it that the Right only believes that its only about the guns and Blacks as 3/5 a person?

8. also not in the constitution, the word freedom, internet, porn, gay, abortion, AR-15, big gulp, god, Christian, apple pie, Chevrolet or immigration.

Sometimes the only cure for stupid is a good strong whack to the head.

On Gun Porn. Did you know:

Israel is more anti-gun than Obama.

They regulate, ownership, the type of weapon and the amount of ammo an owner can have or buy. Sales and transfer of guns and ammo are strictly regulated, with stiff penalties for violations. Gun ownership is very low, and so are homicides and gun suicides. The US is first in ownership, Israel 80th. All weapons and ammo are marked. Gun manufacturers must keep records of every weapon produced. In Israel, the law does require that a record of the acquisition, possession and transfer of each privately held firearm be retained in an official register, unlike the US. In Israel, gun owners must re-apply and re-qualify for their firearm license every three years, unlike the US.

In Israel, authorities maintain a record of individual civilians licensed to acquire, possess, sell or transfer a firearm or ammunition, unlike the US. The minimum age for gun ownership in Israel is 27 years. Applicants for a gun owner’s license in Israel are required to establish a genuine reason to possess a firearm, for example self-defense, hunting and sport, unlike the US. The US ranks 91st in the world for per capita murder rate, compared with Israel at 144th.

So the next time you hear gun pornographers from the right and the NRA say we should look to Israel as an example on guns, maybe the Right is, well right!

http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/israel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_guns_per_capita_by_countryjesus with guns1

Exclusive: Anita Alvarez on Que4 Radio

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez will hold a very exclusive press conference on Que4 Radio’s Revolution and Beer program Saturday at 11am. Alvarez, embattled over her handling of the Laquan McDonald case, which took more than a year before charges were filed in that case, reports that her office will file charges in a case her office reports will be groundbreaking, shocking and historic. We don’t know many details and have been asked not to report or speculate ahead of the announcement Saturday at 11am. What we do know is that the murder investigation spanned several continents and involved tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of investigators. Reports are that the victim was killed by a knife or knives, but details remain very sketchy right now. One unconfirmed report from Que4 Radio indicates a possible connection that includes the Cooking Channel. That is all we know. Ms. Alvarez and her office is keeping a very tight lid on this, and is deflecting inquiries with “No comment at this time,” or complete denial.

A photo from the crime scene leaked to Que4:
bloody_knife_by_uchihavenger1_xlarge


Listen Saturday’s from 11am-1pm to WC Turck, Brian Murray with Jack Hammond and guests on Chicago’s real alternative media, AM1680, Q4 radio, streaming at www.que4.org.
CAM00236WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. His new book “A Tragic Fate: is an unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit www.revolutioandbeer.com

Mass Shooting Rating System

Love me or Hate me. Tomorrow I guarantee it will be one or the other…

Be honest, do you really care about the shooting in San Bernadino, except for the same fleeting outrage you feel over any other reality TV story? The happiest man in the world right now is the guy who shot and killed three, including a police officer and a war vet, at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs last week. Both of whom were forgotten by a Press that routinely uses cops and vets to argue for guns and against the Black Lives Matter movement. The unhappiest group in the world? ISIS who thought this would engender some sort of backlash against a national minority, reminding the world yet again how hypocritical we are about fake phrases like “civil liberties,” and “freedom.”

We’re still hypocrites on all of that, don’t get me wrong, but surprise, this reality series featuring endless episodes of carnage and mass murder, about which America reacts like an 8 year old on a school playground just doesn’t drive Americans into the streets with pitchforks and torches to smite the wrong-doers. They certainly aren’t serious about the perverse gun religion and violence porn paraded daily on the news.

Incidentally, at my local grocery store Cleavage the cover of Cosmopolitan is covered by a plastic shield, while Guns and Ammo; no shield. The lesson is simple, America loves gun violence. its like someone gave us video game, and every American could own one even though each year the video game was guaranteed to explode in the faces of 33 of every 100 thousand people and would kill 11 of them. To be fair we aren’t the worst for gun violence. We are still beat handily by Swaziland, Guatemala and El Salvador. Still, not as safe as Bosnia and Ukraine, despite their ongoing civil war. No figures currently for North Korea, although they definitely lead us in Anti-Aircraft gun deaths, so that’s something.

Mass murder in American is entertainment. Its a game show. Who’s going to get shot tomorrow? Let’s spin the wheel of potential shooters. Muslim zealot of antiabortion white Christian? Anti-government nut or crazed kid off his meds? How about the crazy bat-sh@t “Its not Happy Holidays, its Merry Christmas,” mongrels? Will it be a church? A school? A mall? Will there be video? Hey mom and dad, look, that’s me leaving the scene with my hands in the air, I’m the 8th in line!

So, taking a page from George Carlin, in a great bit he did on terrorism years ago, let’s not be shy. Let’s really turn this into the proper industry it has become. I am proposing a Mass Murder rating system. The worst, you know, no one killed and no good video would get a Single Bullet rating, one and a half if the shooter goes down in a hail of bullets. Sand Hook Gets 4 1/2. San Bernadino, eh, 2 1/2. It just wasn’t that exciting. Not even the out of their minds Right wing media could muster any hysteria.

Honestly, the lack of real national hysteria over this latest massacre has me rethinking the whole brand. Paris would have gotten 5 bullets easily, except that it didn’t happen here. Sorry, Ricky Gervais’ The Office-the British version- didn’t qualify for an Emmy; wasn’t made here. Maybe time just to cancel the whole series. Doubt if America will do that any time soon.


Listen Saturday’s from 11am-1pm to WC Turck, Brian Murray with Jack Hammond and guests on Chicago’s real alternative media, AM1680, Q4 radio, streaming at www.que4.org.
CAM00236WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. His new book “A Tragic Fate: is an unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit www.revolutioandbeer.com

Justice for Laquan McDonald march, Friday, Nov. 27 

laqJustice for Laquan McDonald!
Justice for Jamar Clark!
Police and Vigilante Terror Must STOP!

Friday, November 27
11:00 a.m. – North Michigan & Wacker Drive, Chicago
Look for the Stolen Lives Banner!

Join the Stop Mass Incarceration Network contingent in the Justice for Laquan McDonald march, Friday, Nov. 27 and take defiant and determined action to make clear to everyone that MURDER AND TERROR BY POLICE AND WHITE VIGILANTES MUST STOP! Many different forces, with many different demands, have called for this demonstration. Our position is clear.

Chicago:

After a year of foot dragging, video of the execution of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was released and the cop who gunned him down charged with murder. Laquan was simply walking away when Jason Van Dyke, who had many previous complaints for excessive force and use of the ‘n’ word, shot him 16 times. Watch the video here. (The murder of Laquan McDonald begins at the 5 minute mark of the video. Warning: Very graphic video)

“Chicago authorities are calling for calm now that Van Dyke has been indicted. As Carl Dix said, “NO! HELL NO! People in Chicago and everywhere else must come out on Friday, November 27 to let the powers-that-be know in no uncertain terms that this officially-sanctioned murder—which they have tried their damnedest to cover up—is absolutely unacceptable and illegitimate. ….People everywhere should go out with signs and whistles and begin agitating and raising hell, forming up actions on the spot.

“What are we supposed to do? Wait calmly while the district attorney who forgot how to prosecute when the defendant was the cop who gunned down Rekia Boyd handles the prosecution of another killer cop? While the legal system that denied the family of Darius Pinex even a shred of justice even though it got brought out into the open that the cops who had murdered him had spent years lying about how the killing went down oversees this case?”…

Now that he’s indicted – Convict Jason Van Dyke and Send Him to Jail!

Statement on Laquan McDonald’s murder by Carl Dix

Minneapolis:

“On Sunday, November 15th, 24 year old Jamar Clark was killed by police (in Minneapolis). The cops claim that Jamar tried to grab one of their guns – but many, many witnesses say that the cops handcuffed Jamar, knocked him to the ground, and then shot him in the head. For nine days a determined, angry encampment at the 4th District Police Station demanded that the video of Jamar’s shooting be made public.

“Last Monday, after days of threats, a group of white supremacists opened fire on the people demanding justice for Jamar, shooting four (none fatally). People in the encampment reported that the police, when they arrived, were more concerned with suppressing the protesters than capturing the attackers. On Tuesday, thousands of people of all nationalities marched in the streets of Minneapolis, demanding justice for Jamar and opposing the cowardly and vicious shooting. The courageous resisters in Minneapolis must be supported.”

Statement on Jamar Clark’s murder by Carl Dix

Join the Stop Mass Incarceration Network contingent at N. Michigan Ave & Wacker Drive, Friday Nov. 27, 11:00 a.m. Come early! Call and bring your friends!

STOP Police Terror!

Donate to Stop Mass Incarceration Network now
Support the Work of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network

Stop Mass Incarceration Network – Chicago
StopMassIncarcerationChicago@gmail.com • (312) 933-9586
www.facebook.com/SMINChicago

@StopMassIncChi

stopmassincarceration.net

Thoughts on Censorship, Oppression and Revolution

My wife’s grandmother lives near the center of Sarajevo. from the window of her small two room flat is a stunning view of green slopes of Mount Trebevich, its lowest approaches a patchwork of terra cotta rooftops. in a sheltered alleyway, pressed between buildings and shaded by small tress is a cluster of small booths; something of a flea market for books, clothing, and kitchenwares. Near the center, almost directly beneath Ana’s grandmother’s window was a small booth where a couple local boys sold music CDs. I would show up with beers and ask the guys to play for me local artists. It was just after the war and before the internet had proliferated to any meaningful extent around the planet. I was eager to discover local music and, with the abject destruction of the war, even save and preserve some of that lost culture.

Yugoslav Rock musicians throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s had been eager to show relevancy and solidarity with the audaciousness inherent in Rock, punk and other genre’s of contemporary music that heralded, it seemed a cultural revolution. I found, however, that Yugoslav Rock musicians, as well as emerging Bosnian, Serbian, Slovenian and Croatian Rock musicians always incorporated strong elements of regional folk. there was always a traditional element regardless of how contemporary the banded intended to be. It caused me to look at contemporary music in the US differently. bands I’d grown up with like Three Dog Night relied heavily on songwriters like Hoyt Axton and Paul Williams whose roots were in folk and country. Paul Williams penned the lyrics for “The Love Boat” theme.

all too often those who run the spectrum in society between discontent and revolutionary forget or ignore their own traditional underpinnings. Rarely if ever is anyone truly transformed completely in their humanity. The relics, the attitudes and ideas of our times and places are woven deeply within each of us. nit is imprinted, or becomes imbued without our realizing just how fully we are compromised, or incorporated into our world, our history and our culture.

It has become vogue in our culture to extol and demand the right of free and unencumbered expression. We can insult the police, berate the president and verbally assault one another with relative impunity. The First amendment becomes our shield and our burden. never in human history has the common citizen held this degree of expectation of free speech. It is revolutionary, but is it so revolutionary that we are free of those traditional underpinnings of a past in which speech was much less free. We all believe in our right to free expression while conjuring ways to curb the expression of those we disagree with.

I am in broadcasting. Broadcasters are the one place in which it is possible to understand the hypocrisy of what it means to assert truly free and independent and unencumbered speech. Stations in the past have cautioned me about certain limits about what I could and could not say. One station promoted verbal attacks on one political party while quietly forbidding dissent against its opposition. Today I was researching FCC rules on obscenity. In training new hosts I brag about the station’s policy of non-censorship, then advise them that they can be fired for not supporting the station’s policy of defending diversity in the community.

While I defend the right of groups, minorities and traditionally oppressed segments of society to fight against the willful and blatant use of offensive language and terms I also understand that there is a right of free expression that even protects offensive speech. The goal there should be to teach and build a society that respects the rights and sensibilities of others, and that often speech is the cornerstone of oppression. Offensive and oppressive speech should go out of vogue rather than be legislated out of existence. Words must never be banned, because words by themselves are not culprits. We are the culprits.
book
The American tradition is strongly rooted in reactionary politics and justice. While a narrative has arisen that positively challenges the reactionary and oppressive rhetoric and systems it also has characteristics of that other heritage. We have seen it with attempts to ban certain types of speech. Groups like Anonymous, which has done great work against oppression and injustice too often condoned by society and government, also at times acts extra-constitutionally as judge, jury and executioner. There is tremendous responsibility in that, and great peril as well. Across colleges and universities there are movements to highlight oppressive and offensive speech. That effort is vehemently resisted by the powerful forces benefitting from and supporting oppression. The frustration level pushes one to the point of restricting speech, but that ultimately is a zero sum game.

The effort is never to trade one type of oppression, one oppressor for another. the ideal is to create true revolutionary change, not merely have the oppressed and the oppressors change hats in an endless cycle.

The ideal should be not only justice; but fair, honest and humane justice. It should be equitable and accountable. The system change we champion must be that or we become the oppressors, while the newly oppressed, or those who believe they are oppressed scheme and conspire to overturn the balance.

The same is true for the incarcerated and those who have been incarcerated. What sort of justice and society do we pretend if those who have been sentenced and deemed to have paid their price are forever branded and excised from society. We eschew other cultures for the barbarism of cutting off a hand, or a foot, or putting out eyes, and yet we do the same to those who have been punished. There is no evolution of thought or justice or society. We are the lynch mob on the lawn circa the early 1900s. We are not learning from and evolving out of the relics of the past which have done nothing but perpetuate societal cancers.

Revolutions should be by revolutionaries, striving to create something new with a critical sense of where our common shortcomings exist and where are common strengths lend themselves to actual and demonstrable positive progressive change. anything less shows we are as culpable and guilty and destined to repeat the mistakes and injustices of the past as our reactionary predecessors.


Listen Saturday’s from 11am-1pm to WC Turck, Brian Murray with Jack Hammond and guests on Chicago’s real alternative media, AM1680, Q4 radio, streaming at www.que4.org.
CAM00236WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. His new book “A Tragic Fate: is an unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit www.revolutioandbeer.com

So Long Mustafa. A Great artist passes

An excerpt from “Everything for Love,” WC Turck, available on Amazon and at barnesandNoble.com

Mount Trebevich loomed high above the school and city center. Smoke drifted lazily from the Serbian trenches there. Those trenches could see up and down every street and alley in Sarajevo. They weren’t shooting today, despite the clear weather. They didn’t have to. Fear and unpredictability were as formidable to maintaining the siege as bombs and mines and bullets.
It was dusty and cold inside. The walls were covered with graffiti, so much that it seemed like something of a work in progress, a final assertion of a dying city, or the cynical conscience of the world. The building became a living history of lives that faded like echoes. There were declarations of love, calls to revolution, an homage to Che Guevara, filthy words and phrases in a dozen different languages and scripts. There were sketches, cartoons, Rock bands, rap verses, poetry and bits of prophetic wisdom like:

Ever since Tito died the world has gone to shit!
Elvis


Hasan was waiting for us in one of the first floor sculpture studios. The room was empty. Everything that could be burned had been pilfered. The books, desks and easels were all gone. Hasan looked so forlorn surrounded by that emptiness. He looked up smartly as we entered. His face was filled with worry.
“Where have you two been?” he asked.
“It’s my fault,” I said. “I had to deliver some things to a friend at the hospital and we got held up.”
He said we were late to meet with one of Sarajevo’s premiere artists. His name was Mustafa Skolpjak. He lived in the Academy of Arts building across the river. We hurried across the Princip Bridge, the spot where a young Slav nationalist had assassinated the Austrian archduke Ferdinand in 1914, beginning a series of events precipitating the First World War. The academy was an odd looking building with a prominent silver dome. At a glance it appeared abandoned. The tall windows had been blown out and shells had punctured the dome. The once carefully manicured lawns were overgrown with tangled weeds.
The heavy wooden door groaned loudly on its hinges. For a moment we stood in a narrow channel of daylight, illuminating part of a long staircase to one side, and a dark hallway to the other. We followed the hall past deserted studios to the small office where Mustafa lived.
“So would you like to meet Sarajevo’s greatest artist?” Hasan asked.
“Besides you and Nadja?” I winked, with a grin. He chuckled and said something about going into politics as he knocked at the door.
There was a long pause before a shadow disturbed the sliver of light beneath the door. I had read a good deal about Mustafa in the Press back home and was expecting someone fiery and philosophical, someone who exemplified the defiant persistence of the Sarajevo Arts community. Instead the man who opened the door was rather short and kind of dull. He had a thick, brushy mustache and heavy gray stubble. He smiled broadly when he recognized Hasan, though it seemed a terrific effort for him, as though it was not at all a natural act.
In jeans and a beat up leather jacket, his hair somewhat askew, Mustafa was more like a character from a Kerouac novel than anything else. He was quiet, hardly an egoist like Picasso, and certainly not the swashbuckling sort like Hemingway. At first impression Sarajevo’s greatest living artist was rather mundane.
“You’ve gotten big,” he rubbed Sulejman’s head. He invited us inside, apologizing that he had nothing to offer.
Stepping into the studio was like stepping into a small attic crammed with undreamed of treasures. The air was stale like an attic and filled with dust that hung like constellations among nebulous clouds of cigarette smoke. Midday sun flooded through a translucent sheet of UNHCR plastic covering a small window. The light was quickly scattered by abstract constructions of colored glass collected from around the city. Renderings and small paintings covered the walls or were stacked around the room. To one corner a mattress was braced between two burgeoning file cabinets. A tiny sink was filled with dishes and a pair of socks. Below the sink was the obligatory collection of buckets and jugs. At the end of his cluttered desk was a giant stack of magazines and newspapers from around the world. I mentioned that I read articles about him in America.Mustafa_Skopljak_vertikala
”America,” he pondered. He stroked the stubble of his square jaw. “What do they say for me in America?”
“Mostly how you’ve led Sarajevo’s art scene, and how you’ve triumphed and found inspiration in the war.”
“Hmm,” he considered. “I don’t find inspiration in the war. Other people’s words. I only find survival, but that doesn’t pass the time quite so well, and certainly doesn’t feed the soul.”
“All of these magazines and newspapers have stories about Mustafa,” Hasan motioned to the stack on the desk.
“Amazing,” I said.
Mustafa seemed almost ashamed of the attention. “It was only necessary to destroy a nation and murder two hundred thousand people so that I could become famous.”
We all looked to the window as a shell exploded on the mountain. The long, low rumble could be felt through the floor. It shook free more of that ever-present dust, but there was more to the sound. It made Mustafa’s life and talent so fragile and fleeting. Like every other man in the city he was a soldier, and if the Serbs tried to take the city his celebrity would afford him no special privilege. A single bullet or shell could instantly extinguish his rare gift. The artists of Sarajevo were a brave and resilient bunch, but they were also mortal.
We didn’t stay long at the academy. Mustafa was a private man, and despite his graciousness, our visit was something of an intrusion. Besides I was still suffering from the day before and wanted to go home and take a nap.
Hasan was headed back to school. Sulejman wanted to meet his mother at Markale (pronounced MARK-A-LAY), but Hasan didn’t want him to go there alone. The boy begged me to go with him, but I wasn’t really interested. Hasan could see that I was beat and scolded Sulejman about pestering me. With that Sulejman pouted and complained that he was sick and tired of sitting in the house with nothing to do. Out of sympathy I relented.
The Markale outdoor market filled a small square just off Marshal Tito Street, at a place where the street was at its narrowest. Markale was protected on three sides by the high walls of surrounding buildings. It was more than a market. It was an integral part of the city’s social fabric. Neighbors met to swap news and gossip. That simple function was even more important during the war.
Hardly a year had passed since a Serbian mortar slammed into the market killing sixty-eight, but old habits were hard to overcome. Within days of the attack Sarajevans returned to reclaim the market. As Sulejman and I crossed the street it was already jammed beyond capacity with shoppers, beggars and gawkers. I recalled Serbian assertions that the Bosnians had inflated the number of dead by dragging out cadavers. As packed as the market was on any given day it was a miracle that only sixty-eight had died that day.
Shopping was, of course, a relative term in besieged Sarajevo. People were crowded among the tightly packed tables, ogling a pathetic offering of goods. There were putrid looking chicken and pigeon carcasses, some washes with bleach to kill the smell. Not that it mattered. Even at ten or fifteen marks for a scrawny one the price was well out of reach for most. The NEW YORK TIMES some months earlier had celebrated the falling price of food in the city. Over the summer a pound of beef had plummeted from around a hundred Marks to twenty-five. The paper failed to mention that twenty-five marks represented one or two month’s income for most families. Prices fluctuated wildly with the fighting. A single egg might cost a few Marks in the morning, and go for six or eight or ten by afternoon.
Nadja was at the back of the square, looking over a paltry collection of small vegetables grown in the many war gardens that sprang up around the city. I stepped across the small crater punched by the February shell to reach her. It struck in a corner reflecting the full force of the blast into the square, turning tables and body parts into lethal missiles.
Nadja and Hasan had just been paid for the month with a carton of smuggled Drina cigarettes, or roughly the equivalent of one small chicken. She was haggling over a pile of little potatoes, scrawny carrots and some mangy garlic cloves. I gave Nadja a twenty Mark note, but the old Gypsy woman behind the table complained she couldn’t possibly make change for that. Nadja was a shrewd negotiator and managed enough vegetables to make a pot of soup for the next couple of days. She stuffed the precious goods into her tattered purse and, clutching it tightly, hurried out of the market.
“Did we do good?” I asked.
Nadja nodded. “I’m satisfied.
The street opened to a wide boulevard. Cafes had sprouted along sun drenched sidewalks as an assertion of the city’s undying spirit, as if the war was a distant thing. But reminders of the war were never very far away. There was the shriek of a patrolling NATO warplane, a firefight on the mountain and the grating annoyance of a passing UN tank. Just beyond the fringes of the cafes, where patrons chanced a Mark for a moment of normalcy, disowned refugees and the homeless begged for mercy or some small hope from those who had lost both a long time ago. Only the dead or the insane could truly escape the war, and at every given moment everyone in Sarajevo teetered at the edge of one or the other.

So long, Dear Friend

A Place for Eternity

There is just one moment I return to again and again. It is October 14th 1994. I think it is around 4 in the afternoon. I am a continent and an ocean from home. Soft blue-gray clouds temper deepening shadows. I am leaning on the rail of the Latin Bridge. I can feel the cold metal of the railing through a sweatshirt and thin jacket. The burned out oriental library overlooks tall and defiant just across the road. The city is still and feels like a painting, rendered in hues akin to the flowing blanket of clouds. The faintest light at the far end of the valley reminds of the waning day. The war is in momentary respite. The silence thunders, rushing into the void, demanding to be remembered. A breeze down the mountain carries the warming scent of wood smoke, weathered stone, pine and the mineral coolness of the Milyatska River trickling beneath my feet. Ana is beside me. Her warm shoulder is touching mine. She is new to me; an undiscovered land. I have known her only a few hours. Each new moment falls like notes in a symphony. I could fall in love with the sound of her voice alone. She falls silent at well, breathing in the chilling air. I am in a dream, curious if she is in fact the answer to my prayers. There is no heaven so perfect. The speculation of a long journey to this moment, searing in my bones and muscles, is realized fully. At the end of every road home awaits, even if it is not the home envisioned. Breathing deeply I resolve one day, when life is exhausted and time used up, that I shall return to this place where I will remain forever standing beside her, my undiscovered land…
IMG_0802


Listen Saturday’s from 11am-1pm to WC Turck, with Jack Hammond and guests on Chicago’s real alternative media, AM1680, Q4 radio, streaming at www.que4.org.
CAM00236WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. His new book “A Tragic Fate: is an unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit www.revolutioandbeer.com