First you ban them from your political convention, then you threaten their funding, now the puppets are rising up and fighting back with a Million Puppet March in Washington DC three days before the election. That should be some photo op — humor is a powerful tactic.
(Protest image courtesy of Nikkolas Smith.)
The water puppet form was invented around 1,000 years ago in the rice paddies of north Viet Nam. Once a tradition in the flooded fields, the form is now firmly folkloric, performed in the captial on a contemporary stage flooded with water. Wooden puppets are held up on bamboo poles hidden under the water and controlled from behind a curtain at the back of the stage. Our show in Hanoi consists of 12 short vignettes along with a musical prelude.
Many of the stories take place in and around the water: fantastic tales of magical fish, swimming and spitting dragons and other animal deities, moments of legendary history, and — most interesting to me — scenes mundane, every day life. Why would people living and working in the fields need to tell a story consisting of people living and working in the fields? Is it a celebration? A means of education or identification? That this is who we are, and these are our stories? Planting rice and catching fish takes place in the same narrative space, on the same stage as the emperor who returns his sword to the giant turtle in the lake, within the same frame as the dancing dragons, mating phoenix birds and other gods of nature who tease us and manipulate the world.
After the climactic, splashing dance of the four holy animals is the curtain call. The curtain rises, the players and bamboo mechanisms are revealed — it is the puppeteers who manipulate the gods.
UNICEF has a brief publication online discussing puppetry as a medium for education and social change. It quotes practitioners in Indonesia, South Africa, Iran, and Hong Kong. Another twenty or so examples from around the world, primarily focusing on public health, are listed here. (via)
See also this brief history of radical puppetry in the U.S. and Europe.
What a day. There were so many images and messages out there — though by now so many have become familiar. There is no doubt that folks think Bush is a liar.
It probably goes without saying, but the most striking image was the sheer number of bodies.
That, and the fact that there were not many arrests before 8pm put coverage on the evening news into a favorable light.
On a smaller scale, I was struck the most by one man with a sign that read simply: “MY BROTHER IS ON HIS THIRD TOUR OF COMBAT IN IRAQ. BUSH IS A LIAR.” He stared down the cops and security reps at Madison Square Garden with such a look of intensity. It was an emotional moment.
My favorite part, though, had to be when we reached 34th street. Rather than the usual ads for Lancôme or Nike Sport, the big screen on the side of Macy’s was showing Fox News. Just then, the coverage turned to the preparations for the convention inside the Garden and at Ellis Island where Cheney and friends were speaking. Having just passed the Garden, everyone was already riled up, but when Cheney came on the screen folks really got into it — booing, hollering, chanting, and waving their signs at the giant TV screen.
- The coffins. You’ve seen the photos. There were just so many of them. When I first heard the idea, it sounded a little goofy to me. But I think they pulled it off well. It was not a very somber mood on the ground, but in photos the impact is clear.
- When a marching band started playing “Crazy in Love” it was a real energy boost for folks who had been on their feet for 4 hours or so.
- So many people wearing and selling political T-shirts.
- The puppet head of Bush with the tongue/speech that continually rolled out of his mouth in a big fabric loop. It was pretty clever.
- The counter-protestor holding the sign that read “Support Bush. Trust Jesus”... interspersed with silhouettes of military vehicles of various kinds.
I’m increasingly realizing the importance of designers taking the initiative to put their messages out. I recognized several posters printed off of various Web sites. People had made their own posters with these, pinned the images to their shirts, their bags, etc. Folks were eager to use images and signs created by others. United for Peace and Justice had printed up a bunch of signs and flags available for people to pick up and use. People were happy to have something to hold up. I experienced this last March when I brought a few extra signs and folks snapped them up enthusiasitically.
The day ended for many with a picnic in Central Park — defying the Mayor’s refusal to permit a rally there, but also a nice, leisurely action against the politically motivated “elevated” terror alert.
From the New York Times:
“Four years ago that children’s television show began broadcasting an Israeli-Palestinian co-production, conceived in the afterglow of the 1993 Oslo accords. The collaboration produced 70 half-hour shows, each one containing Hebrew and Arabic segments.... Under a new co-production agreement, which now includes Jordanians, the project has run into difficulty. The name ‘Sesame Street’ has been changed to ‘Sesame Stories’ because the concept of a place where people and puppets from those three groups can mingle freely has become untenable. The original shows were built around the notion that Israeli and Palestinian children (as well as puppets) might become friends. Now, reflecting the somber mood in the Middle East, producers see their best hope as helping children to humanize their historic enemies through separate but parallel stories.”
The segreation strikes me as a failure. The article also mentions various travel restrictions that are hampering production.