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New Years Critical Mass; The Sorrow and The Pity

Very soggy new year weekend in San Francisco. Heading downtown for New Year’s Critical Mass I realized that we’ve really gone digital… No calendar pages littering the streets! I recall back in the early 1980s, even into the mid-90s, it was de rigeur to throw out the year’s daily calendars into the Financial District streets… but I didn’t see a single one this year! Everyone’s doing it on computers or PDAs now I guess…

Critical Mass on New Year’s Eve was really fun, about 100 showed up amidst intermittent downpours. It was one of those sweet rides full of old familiar faces and a bunch of exuberant strangers, delighted to be riding in SF on New Years. I detected at least one and maybe two or three new ‘gangs’ of cyclists speeding about, signaling and calling to each other. It was a sweetly acoustic evening too, since the certain rain mitigated against big expensive electronic sound systems. I made my usual mini-cacophony of bells and in so doing, failed to strike up a conversation with anyone new… but I was groovin’ on the vibes, so to speak.


The rest of the weekend has been cozy and wet. Took in the “Birdhouse Factory” show of the Pickle Family Circus. Was blown away by a few of the acts, the amazing contortionist who has at least two double-jointed places on her back, the pole act that involved two of the strongest people I’ve ever seen: the guy went up the pole with his bare hands and no feet, with full arm extension just gripping the pole and moving his hands quickly upward. It was stunning!

Then after failing to get in to see “Sideways” we rented Ophuls’ “The Sorrow and the Pity”… a famously great 4-hour documentary about life in France under German occupation during WWII. It is in fact well worth seeing, but be ready for a movie that moves rather slowly, and often tracks into details that might lose you. They also fail to identify anyone who is interviewed, so unless you were alive and very aware in 1969 when this was shown in a small left bank cinema to scandalize Paris, you may find that a bit frustrating, as I did.

There are many things to say about it, not the least of which is the striking parallels between the attitude of the German occupiers and that of the U.S. towards Iraq and Iraqis. One former Nazi officer, interviewed during his daughter’s wedding in 1969, went on at length about life in Clermont during the years 1942-44, and how things got worse after a while, when they were repeatedly attacked by “terrorists” (i.e. the French resistance). The film does an amazing job of reconstructing the little ways that people decide to go along, the subtle capitulation to a mostly invisible barbarism, and the stark class divisions that are thrown into relief by the decisions made.

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One Response to “New Years Critical Mass; The Sorrow and The Pity”

  1. 1
    Jym:

    =v= Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, 300 New Yorkers did Critical Mass and only one got arrested. We’re hoping this is a sign of things to come, but as you may remember, the S.F.P.D. took over a year to leave us alone. Who knows what the N.Y.P.D.’s schedule will be?

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