Rewatching Groundhog Day in 2021

Warning: this post contains spoilers. I know the film is nearly 30 years old but I’m a conscientious kinda guy.

2nd February is Groundhog Day, a North American tradition derived where a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil comes out of its burrow and declares the season for the next six weeks:

  • If it sees its shadow, there’ll be winter for six more weeks
  • If it doesn’t see its shadow, spring will arrive early

By the way, Punxsutawney Phil has predicted 6 more weeks of winter this year.

If you’re wondering how accurate Punxsutawney Phil is, here’s what Live Science says:

Not very, it turns out […] According to the Groundhog Club’s records, the various incarnations of Punxsutawney Phil have predicted 103 forecasts of more winter and 20 early springs (including this year). (There are nine years without any records, and even the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce, which keeps track of these things, doesn’t know what happened to Phil during those years.) Data from the Stormfax Almanac’s data shows that Phil’s six-week prognostications have been correct about 39 percent of the time.

But when most people talk about Groundhog Day, they’re referencing the film starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell. In it, Phil Connors (Murray) is a weatherman who visits Punxsutawney for the Groundhog Day festivities only to find himself trapped in the town—and the same day—reliving it over and over.

It’s a brilliant film and its cultural impact has travelled as far as Tibet and the Buddhist monks who live there. I’ve seen it many times but decided to watch it today since it’s 2nd February after all. Rather than write a film review (I’ve given up review writing and I’m no Roger Ebert), here are some of my napkin thoughts as I watched it through today:

  • Firstly, I found it on Prime Video and it was in 4K UHD which meant I could take advantage of my new 4K UHD lockdown TV. It was also the first time I’d seen it in this quality.
  • This is a very 2020 film. A white man relives the same day over and over, taunts the police, gets arrested without violence and jailed, and wakes up in his own bed without charges.
    • He also does a PUA impression to get with a random woman he liked the look of. And he stole money and got away with it (naturally).
  • He had a thing for Andie McDowell’s character, Rita, from the moment he saw her (which he mentioned at the end) which is nice to see in a movie rather than it being forced.
  • It was also nice to see an egotist work through his flaws and become a better person.
  • The Jeopardy scene was hauntingly brilliant (RIP Alex Trebeck).
  • Phil couldn’t get what he wanted and soon descended into depression which had fatal consequences (on multiple occasions).
  • It’s interesting that the scene where Phil believes he’s a god (“not the God”) comes after everything rather than at the beginning where it could have been attributed to his egotism.
  • The scene where Phil declares his love for Rita while she’s asleep is so beautiful and I always stop and really listen to it.
    • For the first time, I started to think that maybe Rita was some kind of guardian angel or spirit to Phil that started his journey towards nirvana? He alluded to that himself in his declaration.
    • It always felt like Rita knew a bit more than someone who wasn’t in the same time loop; as if she had grown to love Phil too but over more than just a single day but without realising why? It’s a threadbare theory.
  • The final act where Phil becomes more selfless and wants to better himself is endearing.
  • The bit where he tried to save the old homeless man was hard to watch. It was a reminder that, as his nurse said, “sometimes people just die”. It stung more than ever given how badly older people have been treated during the COVID-19 pandemic, homeless or otherwise.
  • It felt like he knew the last day was his last but even if it wasn’t, he was at peace and comfortable with his being (which probably unlocked him from the time loop)
  • Larry’s auction spin is one of the best highlights of the movie.
  • Imagine living the same day over and over, possibly for years, trying to get with the woman of your dreams and waking up the next day to find her next to you.
  • I don’t know if I’d live in Punxsutawney.

See also: Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog Day, explained

(Image courtesy of Eddie~S on Flickr; shared using the CC BY 2.0 licence)

Places I want to go when it's safe

A plane wing above clouds in the sky

COVID-19 has ruined a lot of things and while people are still travelling for their own reasons, holidays shouldn’t be one of them. And so I’m staying home until it’s safe to travel for that reason.

But when I can, I hope to visit these 5 cities at some point.

Lisbon, Portugal

I visited Lisbon for the first time in 2017 for my birthday and it was a revelation. I’ve never felt so comfortable in a new city in my life. The food was awesome, the architecture was breathtaking, and it cleansed my soul. I returned in 2018 but I’ve not been back since (I went to Nice to spend time with my parents for my 30th birthday).

It’s my mission to go back as soon as it’s safe and legal to fly.

Nice, France

It helps that my parents live there now but before that, I’d visited with my parents on holiday a few times, and my then-partner in 2015. Another Mediterranean city, it’s gorgeous in the summer, lovely food again, and more great architecture as well as a cool modern art museum featuring works by the likes of Yves Klein.

Leeds, UK

I was born in Bradford but never really spent time in Leeds besides the carnival as a kid. In my adult years, I’ve been a few times and it’s a really nice city. My last visit was last year for a solo Valentine’s vacay and my hotel was kind enough to do this:

Shout out Clayton Hotel. I will be back soon!

Chicago, USA

Last visit: July 2012. I went to see friends and, prior to Lisbon, it was my favourite city in the world. It still holds a place in my heart and I hope once it’s safe in all aspects of the word, I would like to go back and see my friends.

Tokyo, Japan

This is the only city on the list I’ve never visited but it’s on the proverbial bucket list. Besides experiencing the culture, trying the food, and taking lots of photos, I want all the Pokémon things and all the Game Boy things. And some vinyl. I’ll probably need £1000–£2000 spending money and an extra suitcase and I’m not joking.

Related: Photography by Liam Wong in Tokyo and Japan travel tips for first timers

James Baldwin on the American Negro image

james baldwin

I saw this on Instagram (sidenote: follow @retrosoul__ on Instagram for more of the same) and thought it was poignant, given the last 4 years of American politics and what the future holds now President Biden is in office.

“One of these facts is that the American Negro can no longer, nor will he ever again be controlled by white America‘s image of him. This fact has everything to do with the rise of Africa in world affairs. At the time that I was growing up, Negroes in this country were taught to be ashamed of Africa. They were taught it bluntly, as I was for example, by being told that Africa had never contributed ‘anything’ to civilization. Or one was taught the same lesson more obliquely, and even more effectively, by watching nearly naked, dancing, comic-opera, cannibalistic savages in the movies. They were nearly always all bad, sometimes funny, sometimes both. If one of them was good, his goodness was proved by his loyalty to the white man.”

James Baldwin—”A Negro Assays the Negro Mood”, New York Times Magazine (12th March, 1961)

What does the future hold for Black America? Only time, hope, vulnerability, and strength will tell. But it will always be on Black people’s terms.

Related: The world according to James Baldwin, James Baldwin on the meaning of liberty, and love from a Black perspective.

(via Daana Townsend on Instagram)

This Is Your Life with Buster Keaton

buster keaton

While looking through YouTube today, the algorithm suggested a video about Buster Keaton. He was an actor I never looked into much but knew him by name and the reverence held by so many.

Further digging led me to this episode of This Is Your Life from 1957 featuring special guests Louise and Harry Keaton (his brother and sister), fellow colleagues Eddie Cline, Donald Crisp, Donald O’Connor, and Red Skelton and his wife Eleanor.

Buster remained straight-faced throughout (not a contractual obligation as once rumoured) and relatively quiet.

Comedy actor related: My obsession with Michael Keaton’s Easter Candy-SNL skit (Michael’s choice of stage name but has no connection to Buster) and was Jim Carrey a douche on the set of Man on The Moon?

This is Your Life: Buster Keaton

Aditya Singh lived inside O'Hare Airport for 3 months unnoticed

Aditya Singh

I’ve always wondered how long you could stay in an airport before someone noticed. For Aditya Singh, that was 3 months.

The 36-year-old man from California told officials after landing at O’Hare Airport in Chicago on 19th October, he was so afraid of COVID-19, he didn’t fly back home and stayed in the airport until 16th January. That means he spent Christmas and New Year’s alone at the airport.

And no one noticed.

Mr Singh was later charged with felony criminal trespass to a restricted area of an airport and misdemeanour theft. The judge presiding over the case was surprised he’d gone undetected for so long.

“So if I understand you correctly, you’re telling me that an unauthorized, nonemployee individual was allegedly living within a secure part of the O’Hare airport terminal from Oct. 19, 2020, to Jan. 16, 2021, and was not detected? I want to understand you correctly.”

As of now, he’s still in police custody with a bail set at $1,000.

Related to airports: Tom Comitta’s airport novella could have kept him company

Officials: Man lived inside O’Hare Airport for 3 months before detection

(via Oddity Central)

I'm obsessed with Michael Keaton's Easter Candy SNL skit

While looking for Michael Keaton movies to buy/rent on YouTube, I came across this skit from SNL Season 40 Episode 17 (2015) starring Michael Keaton.

Entitled “Easter Candy“, it shows Keaton as himself but in a very creepy way showing all the easter candy he has in his basket. He’s joined by Portia (played by Kate McKinnon) and a cameo from his friend Jordan (who’s “a nut” as you’ll see later on, played by Bobby Moynihan).

Keaton started out in comedy but pivoted towards more serious work during the late 80s and throughout the rest of his career, thanks to impressive roles in Clean and Sober, Batman, and Batman Returns. He then came back to prominence in 2014 in Birdman, winning a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and receiving a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor.

What I love about Michael Keaton is his range and having grown up knowing more of his serious stuff—that happens when you watch Batman and Batman Returns hundreds of times each in 28 years—I thoroughly enjoy his comedy, past and present. In “Easter Candy“, there are some hilariously creepy moments and some new quotables added to my repertoire.

Stream it below.

Easter Candy - SNL

Detroit's real life Carl Brutananadilewski

Carl Brutananadilewski

In 2012, Detroit’s 7 Action News tracked down a man called Ihor Stetkewycz who was accused of dumping tree parts. He claimed it was accidental but when asked why he left them there, he decided to show his misogynistic colours.

Man Tells Female Reporter He Won't Take Orders From Women

“You don’t have to ask me, and I don’t take no orders from no woman by the way. By the way, I don’t take no orders from no women […] I don’t listen to women yelling. I tell them to shut up.”

Ihor Stetkewycz, male chauvinist from Mars

He then dubbed himself “Mr. Clean Up” in response to being asked whether he’d clear the tree parts and then told Action News he was from Mars.

A year later, ChiliConQueso on YouTube uploaded “Real Life Carl Brutananadilewski” which showed a comparison of Carl Brutananadilewski from Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Ihor Stetkewycz. The resemblance is uncanny. Sarcastic, brash, and terrible behaviour towards women.

Real Life Carl Brutananadilewski

Asshole related: Was Jim Carrey an asshole on the set of Man On The Moon? And Picasso: the misogynistic douchebag.

Amen and awoman

women praying

To paraphrase Ross Geller, congresspeople say all kinds of… stuff.

On 4th January, The New York Post reported on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver closing Congress’s opening prayer with the phrase “amen and awoman”:

May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us and give us peace,” Cleaver said during his two-minute invocation, “peace in our families, peace across this land, and dare I ask, o Lord, peace even in this chamber.

We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and ‘God’ known by many names by many different faiths. Amen and awoman.

I’m no stranger to this kind of gendered prayer; the God interlude from OutKast’s Speakerboxx/The Love Below uses a similar variation:

Amen
Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry
A-lady

But that was in jest. Cleaver meant what he said. Victor Mair from Language Log dissected the utterance, with etymologies of the word “amen” and, for those who didn’t know, it isn’t connected to the word “man” in any way.

Old English, from Late Latin amen, from Ecclesiastical Greek amen, from Hebrew amen “truth,” used adverbially as an expression of agreement (as in Deuteronomy xxvii.26, I Kings i.36), from Semitic root a-m-n “to be trustworthy, confirm, support.”

There’s something to be said about the trustworthiness, confirmation, support of men but that’s for another day. Needless to say, you don’t need to feminise the word “amen” but what Congress should do is make women’s lives better—especially women of colour—with better legislation for their rights and their bodies.

The hidden history of Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton addressing the public

It’s hard not to have a visceral reaction to Judas and The Black Messiah. The new trailer dropped earlier this year and as Daniel Kaluuya turns around in the first second of it, donning a beret and being viewed only through a keyhole, we wait with a big, held breath.

“Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party”

The music drums through to intensify a legacy of a man many of us have never heard of. But his words blast the screen.

“I AM. A REVOLUTIONARY.”

He is pictured standing, invoking his audience’s emotion and reminding them that it is not him who is the key to their salvation, it’s each other. Black people, Latinx people and white people can be seen in the meeting hall where he is speaking. We know that the film will touch Fred Hampton’s time in the Black Panthers and the start of his Rainbow Coalition.

Many people may have come into contact with Fred Hampton for the first time. And if there’s anyone you should read about, it’s Fred Hampton. But if they weren’t going to teach us about Malcolm X in school, they sure as hell weren’t going to teach us about Fred Hampton.

So who was he?

Before we get into Fred Hampton, we have to understand the time he came up in, what he was walking into, and why he died so young. When the Chicago PD gunned him down, Fred instructed the FBI that in cold blood, as he lay sleeping next to his 8-month pregnant girlfriend, he was only 21 years old.

COINTELWHO?

Let’s talk about COINTELPRO.

COINTELPRO was a program by the FBI that targeted Black activists in the civil rights movement. Fred Hampton was many things but his death sparked the unmasking of a very concentrated, racially motivated eradication of Black revolutionaries that people, up until that point, could only chalk up to conspiracy theory. Black revolutionaries kept on being murdered and assassinated, and although everyone knew that it WAS the Feds, they couldn’t prove it until Fred came along.

The program was started in 1956 by J. Edgar Hoover. It aimed to infiltrate, discredit and surveilling and disrupting American political organizations. They targeted the Communist Party USA, anti-Vietnam war organizers, environmentalist and animal rights organizations, the American Indian Movement, The Young Lords and they even lightly monitored the Ku Klux Klan, and when I say lightly? I mean LIGHTLY.

But… the organizations that they thought were the most threat to national security in America? Black Nationalist groups and civil rights movements. But they had a real concentrated pressure and violence on the Black Panthers. They were billed the NUMBER ONE threat to National Security.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the classified documents:

Prevent the rise of a “Messiah” who could unify and electrify the militant Black nationalist movement. Malcolm X might have been such a “messiah”; he is the martyr of the movement today. Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael and Elijah Muhammed all aspire to this position. Elijah Muhammed is less of a threat due to his age. King could be a real contender for this position should he abandon his “obedience” to “white, liberal doctrines” (non-violence) and embrace Black Nationalism.

My Man Fred

Fred was the Black Messiah they were talking about. But we can’t talk about Fred unless we talk about his political ideology. Often we get wrapped up in singular speeches or moments. It happens with Martin’s “I have a dream” speech and Malcolm’s pilgrimage to Hajj. Fred gets wrapped up in the Black Panthers, naturally, but he was above all else, a revolutionary socialist.

He saw the most important factor in the fight for freedom. The real enemy was capitalism, fueled by white supremacy which permeated everyone’s struggles from poverty to xenophobia, islamophobia, sexism, anti-Blackness, anti-Semitism, transphobia and everything else. He knew that to be truly free, you had to mobilize everyone in the lower classes, to lead a revolution and that racism was a vehicle of distraction to keep us from tackling capitalism and the 1%. This was the key to making him one of the most feared Black revolutionaries of the time. That and the normal COINTELPRO tactics weren’t working.

Fred walked into the Black Panthers just before a power vacuum. Bob Brown stepped down because of all the tricks the FBI were doing. These included:

  • Anonymous letters which contained lies, blackmail and threats to violence (Martin Luther King had been blackmailed to try and make him kill himself.)
  • Illegal wiretaps.
  • Forged documents.
  • Informers

This is what Fred walked into. He’d been being watched since he was 18, anyway, but as he ascended to power through his charisma and socialist ideals, he became the FBI and Chicago PD’s biggest target. But there are things in his legacy that have changed the whole landscape of activism and socialism.

While Fred was Deputy Chairman, the Black Panthers started their Free Breakfast Program for children. Health Clinics and ambulance services were quickly started too. Although the Panther’s legacy is deeply rooted in the right to bear arms and create their own police force to protect Black and marginalized folx from the police, their programs strived to educate, feed and protect communities. When these nationwide programs gained success, they branched into services for blood banks and buses for relatives’ prisons. With all this going on, the Chicago chapter’s membership and credibility grew.

But Fred wasn’t stopping there. He thought turf wars between gangs were counter-productive towards real progress, so instead of leaving them to do their own thing, he tried to tackle it. He held meetings with rival gangs. They related to him because he was their age, and he could cut through to explain to them that the real enemies weren’t other gangs. It was the rich, running Chicago for their own means. This made a lot of sense to the gangs, especially the Young Lords. They said Fred helped them uplift their aims, and provide for their communities and they agreed that they didn’t want to lose their turf to developers. Fred helped “bring them out of right of the gang and start organizing the community” (José “Cha-Cha” Jiménez, leader of the Young Lords.).

This was essentially the heart of Fred’s revolutionary thinking; a broad coalition of all the oppressed that could rise against the rich capitalists that were gutting communities and keeping people in poverty. He knew he couldn’t stay mobilizing just Black people and Black Nationalists—he had to unite everyone. He saw the importance of strength in numbers. So as he began to change people’s thinking, he started crafting a broad coalition.

He reached out to the Brown Berets, the Young Patriots, the Red Guard Party and the Blackstone Rangers. He called them Rainbow Coalition. This in itself, was the only way towards a revolution, and the powers that be knew it. It would have changed history, but it put a target on Fred’s back, that sealed the fate of a life taken too soon.

The FBI was shaken to its core. In 3 short years, Hampton had mobilized a strong group living in poverty, and their gang affiliations meant they were done for a revolution, no matter how bloody. They couldn’t have it. They knew they’d found their Black Messiah and they knew he had to be stopped before he even started. Hoover had targeted Garvey in the 20s, and through the 60s, it was Malcolm, Martin and Fred. With Fred’s leadership skills and his universal communication, the usual tactics were trash. So Hoover had to come up with another plan, that was vicious.

Hoover originally contacted the Chicago Police who said hell no at first. Next on the list, Edward Hanrahan was an upcoming and coming democrat, and Cook County’s State Attorney. They came to an agreement, which probably had something to do with Hanrahan’s ambitions to take over from his mentor, Richard Daley, as mayor. Hanrahan put in an informer, William O’Neale.

Okay, let’s talk about William O’Neale.

He was a petty criminal who was recruited by the FBI extremely early on. He had been tracked as early as 1966. FBI agent Roy Martin Mitchell caught him driving a stolen car over the state line to Michigan. He was told these charges would be forgotten if he agreed to be an informant. So he did. He infiltrated the Black Panthers, and eventually ended up as their head of security. He had taken out leases for flats and had keys to nearly all of them, including Fred’s.

Unjustified murder

On December 4, 1969, Hanrahan chose 14 officers from his office and Neale put an X on the floor plan he had provided of Fred’s flat for the feds. The X was Fred’s bed. The night before, Fred had been teaching a class and Panthers had been at his flat, where O’Neale had drugged Fred’s drink and cooked food for the other Panthers. Some Panthers stayed, but O’Neale and a few others left.

At 4:20 AM, the police stormed the flat. They pounded on the door and the Guard, Mark Clark asked who was there. The first group of cops yelled “Tommy gun!”, and started to shoot. Clark was dead on impact. As a reflex, his trigger finger flinched and a bullet flew into the ceiling. This is the only shot the Black Panthers were able to shoot off. Now both teams of Feds were inside, and they continued shooting a spray of bullets at everyone in the flat.

Hampton’s pregnant girlfriend, Akua Njeri, laying next to him recalls the murder:

“I saw bullets coming from…the front of the apartment…Sparks of light. I had slid over on top of Chairman Fred. I don’t know what I was thinking, or what I was doing, I just moved over and covered his body,”

“He didn’t move. Just lifted his head up. It was like he was going in slow motion.”

“He never said a word, he never got up out the bed”

“[Someone] kept calling out, ‘Stop shooting! Stop shooting! We have a pregnant woman, a pregnant sister in here.’ At the time, I was 8 and a half, 9 months pregnant. Pigs [police] kept on shooting.”

When the shooting stopped, she said she slid over Fred’s body and put his house shoes on. She thought of all the things she needed to do to get her and her baby through a life or death night.

“Keep your hands up. Don’t stumble. Don’t fall. They will kill you and your baby.”

“There two lines of police, they were laughing. [They] grabbed me by the top of my head, slung me to the kitchen area.”

“Somebody said, ‘He’s barely alive, he’ll barely make it.’. . .The shooting started back again. The pigs said ‘he’s good and dead now.’”

Fred’s ghost

In the aftermath, several Black Panthers were severely wounded. They were all charged with aggravated assault and attempted murder, which was bullshit, so the charges were later dropped. Hampton, 4 months after his 21st birthday, and just as he had signed on to be the spokesman for the BPP Central Committee, had been slaughtered in his own bed.

While the raid had been swift, the coverup could be hailed as one of the most incompetent in history. They claimed they’d been in a shootout, but tests came back disproving it. The Panthers had only got off one shot from Clark, and that was obvious. Cops had fired at least 90 bullets for Clark’s one. They looked like murderous, callous, fools.

This wasn’t a victory, though. The coroner ruled “justifiable homicide”. Isn’t that some bullshit? The pigs went to my man’s flat when he was DRUGGED and shot up everyone in the thing and… justifiable homicide? Of a 21-year-old? Really? But if there’s one thing we know, the system is run by bitch boys who can’t take real opposition because the capitalist ideology is so weak. It barely stands up to criticism, or we wouldn’t lose so many of our revolutionaries. Their opposition wouldn’t be so callous, uncivilized and downright criminal.

After Fred’s death, the police’s incompetence was still thriving, and they unsealed his flat. The Panthers gave tours of it, showing the “bullet holes” that had been circled as their shots in the coverup, were actually nailheads. An understandable deep trauma of rage, anger and disdain swept across the Black community and the communities that had been aligned with Fred. When Hanharan tried to get re-elected, he was destroyed by his opponent and his career was done. Hoover always remained invisible, and his career was highly decorated in white circles whilst he was alive. But…

In 1971, 8 activists from Pennsylvania, set up a citizen’s commission to investigate the FBI and its dodgy dealings. One thing we have to remember about the FBI, CIA and all secret services around the world, they’re not for us, the people. They’re criminal sections of “intelligence” that work to uphold the murderous system we have now and instil fear and intimidation, so we all tow the line. They’re not for us; they’re for the criminals.

These absolute Gs, raided the Media, PA FBI office and stole a thousand documents. They found:

  • The FBI informers reported every single meeting and action on the Black Panther Party, the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee and lots of others.
  • They used informers to discredit and create distrust amongst the ranks of organizations.
  • Hoover had a special bias towards Black revolutionaries and had a personal vendetta in destroying Black freedom movements.

Now, these were things that were widely known in the community; you just needed proof. Nonetheless, seeing it all on paper? Wow. So, there was an investigation and the start of a Senate Investigating community. By this time, the state tried to say that COINTELLPRO was dead. I call shit on this and think it’s still operating today, just more carefully, and Hoover escaped any fault, dying in 1971.

But for once, the state was up for conviction. Black Panthers members had long been defendants and the tables had turned. The families and survivors sued. The trial took place years after the case was filed and the case lasted 18 months. In 1977, the jury had deadlocked on a verdict and the judge threw out the case. In 1979, the Court of Appeals found that the Government had hidden documents relevant to the case and demanded a new trial.

Njeri wrote in her book “My Dance with Justice”: “It got to the point that the plaintiffs didn’t trust each other; we were sick of the lawyers and they were sick of us. . . .The survivors just wanted this nightmare to be over.” While there was anxiety happening with the filing survivors, the police department defendants were getting increasingly paranoid that damning evidence was going to be revealed and their lives would be over.

In the end, both sides agreed to a settlement of $1.83 million which is just over $4.9million today. Each government branch, City, County and Federal paid about a third.

So what happened to O’Neale? Well… He admitted he didn’t feel bad for his part in it. In a 19984 interview with the Tribune, he stated he chose his sides early and didn’t feel bad about his part. He’d slipped drugs into Fred’s drink, he’d given the layout of Fred’s flat to the feds and he’d willingly given the feds intel in his time infiltrating the Panthers. But he did seem genuinely horrified at the murders. Fred’s body was dragged out and a pool of blood followed the trail; that’s how nasty it was. In O’Neale’s head, he thought it was only going to be a raid, and his uncle, speaking in 1990, says he got caught up, in far too deep. What started as him trying to learn a charge, turned into being the accomplice and the facilitator of one of the most gruesome and influential assassinations on a Black revolutionary.

O’Neale had gone into the witness protection program, as word of his work started to spread and he feared for his life. On the eve of Martin Luther King Day in 1990, he spent the day with his uncle, a retired truck driver. His uncle said he kept spending a long time in the bathroom and tried to get out of the back window. His uncle pulled him back a few times, but eventually, O’Neale got loose, ran down the highway and was struck by a car. His death was ruled a suicide.

After coming back to Chicago secretly from California secretly around 1984, he’d tried a similar suicide attempt in 1989 but was only injured.

Bill Hampton, a brother of Fred said:

“The act (of being an informant,) he committed was unjust. He tried to live with it and couldn’t”

And that’s how arguably, one of the biggest traitors in Black revolutionary history lived his last day. He was always adamant that he felt no remorse but the feelings of being a pawn in a bigger plan that became overwhelming must have weighed on his mind, along with the gruesome crime scene photos afterwards.

A long legacy

There are a few things we can learn from Fred. Read about socialism. Recognize that struggle is international, and the pull of white supremacy and capitalism are inexplicably linked. If we are to have a socialist revolution, we must unite the underclasses together. Educate yourself. Learn to separate communism and socialism from the dictatorial regimes that have used it to gain popularity and as a vehicle to get egotistical, power-hungry people into power.

And don’t let romance pull away from the horror. He was 21 years old. He was gunned down sleeping, in his bedroom, with his 8-month pregnant girlfriend next to him. Severely outnumbered and drugged, he was a sitting duck, brutally murdered for being too powerful. He was a socialist revolutionary with a call to action for all the oppressed. He knew that racism was just a vehicle for capitalism to continue to exploit from the masses. He knew of the importance of alliances and the power of education and knowledge. Ultimately, the murder of a far too young Fred Hampton tells us a few things. He was too smart for them. He was on the right track. He may have been the closest one to spark a socialist revolution.

It pains me deeply to remember Fred. For how young he was. What he was, could have been and what he could have started. His death sparked just as much like his life, but that doesn’t make it any less unjust. His death went on to expose the unconstitutional and murderous operation of COINTELPRO, sparked the formation of an operation that would shine a light of the truth of all of the FBI’s shady workings, and went on to get at least a settlement out of all 3 stages of government. So even in death, he was ruffling feathers and inspiring changemakers to carry on organizing.

But above all, he reminds us that organizing outside of the system, in our communities is vital for a socialist revolution. We can’t depend on the government that is killing us to make a stand for us. We must do it on our own streets and with the same message, Fred Hampton shouted in his short, short life.

“We don’t think you fight fire with fire best; we think you fight fire with water best. We’re going to fight racism not with racism, but we’re going to fight with solidarity. We say we’re not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, but we’re going to fight it with socialism. We’ve stood up and said we’re not going to fight reactionary pigs and reactionary state’s attorneys like this and reactionary state’s attorneys like Hanrahan with any other reactions on our part. We’re going to fight their reactions with all of us people getting together and having an international proletarian revolution.”

Long live Fred Hampton’s spirit.

The closest we ever came, to a true revolution.

Commercial Break: a YouTube channel for archiving commercials

I love old commercials and I like digital archiving. So when I found out about this YouTube channel, I jumped at the chance to subscribe.

Commercial Break is a way to archive the commercials of an era for future generations to appreciate.

Growing up in the 90’s, most kids would record their favorite shows from TV, those kids grew up and archived those commercials on YouTube. But what about kids growing up today? No one is recording live TV on physical media anymore. Sure there’s DVRs, but people (myself included) would just watch the recorded show and eventually delete it to make more room. I realized no one was saving this stuff, so I wanted to start archiving commercials again for future generations to look back on.

Commercial Break started in February 2019 and each video shows US commercial breaks with time tags for each commercial. As of today, there have been 290 volumes covering channels such as:

  • ABC
  • Cartoon Network
  • Fox
  • NBC
  • Nickelodeon
  • CBS
  • MTV

It’s funny how we wanted a way to watch TV without the adverts in between—and got it with things like TiVo and PVRs—and now we’re finding ways to capture nothing but the adverts.

Stream all the commercials from 2019 and 2020 below. And if you like the idea of the digital archiving of TV, check out the story of Marion Stokes.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - action figure commercial.

TMK Creamery makes vodka from milk

Cowcohol vodka

The classic White Russian cocktail comprises of vodka, a coffee liqueur and cream, served with ice. If you don’t have cream, milk will do. But what if you could make the vodka out of milk too? That’s where TMK Creamery comes in.

Todd Koch is the owner of TMK Creamery and his idea of making vodka from milk came after reading about Dr. Paul Hughes—an Assistant Professor of Distilled Spirits at Oregon State University— who had tested whether a way to ferment whey into a neutral spirits base solution that was “both environmentally sustainable and cost-effective for small creameries”.

Large, corporate-owned creameries can afford the expensive equipment that converts whey into profitable products such as protein powder. But at his family-owned, 20-cow farmstand creamery, Koch and his wife simply fed their whey into the fields through a nutrient management system. Rather than continue to bury the byproduct, Koch decided to ferment as a means of profitably upcycling the whey while bringing visibility to his animals. He teamed up with Dr. Hughes and a nearby distiller to manufacture the creamery’s newest product: a clear, vodka-like liquor they call “Cowcohol.”

Cowcohol. Genius.

But, according to Atlas Obscura, Koch isn’t the only “cowcohol” distiller in the world.

Read the full story at Atlas Obscura and check out how they make vodka from tulips in the Netherlands.

The Black American collages of Tay Butler

The best kind of revisionist history is when people of colour revise textbook history to give us the truth. Tay Butler does just that with his blend of collage, photography, music, and video.

Constructing revisionist histories that are fictional but true, authentic yet imagined, the stories and scenes created act like braids and weave together a rich tapestry that can last longer than human memory. 

Butler, an artist based in Houston, Texas, has worked with the likes of Jansport J, Reggie Bonds, and Haz Solo and produced work featured all around his hometown.

He uses historical artefacts that tell stories through literature, folklore, local and national magazines and newspapers, and then goes through a lengthy process of digitising, photographing, interpolating and collaging into something new via the old. The results are unique but familiar.

See his portfolio on his official website.

15 awesome LEGOⓇ sculptures

Interesting Engineering covered 15 of the best LEGOⓇ sculptures ever created including the tallest LEGO tower in the world in Israel, LEGOland swapping their general manager’s car for a LEGO replica car, and a giant LEGO robot from the US:

Amount of LEGO pieces used: 2.8 Million Bricks

Location: Minnesota Mall of America

Called Herobot Nine Thousand, this robot sculpture is one of the most impressive LEGO structures of all time. It stands at about 38ft (11.6 meters) and weighing in at 6 tons it’s a real testament to the talent of its builders.

Frankly, you’d be amazed it isn’t the ‘Real McCoy’.

LEGOⓇ related: Arndt Schlaudraff, the LEGO® brutalist and Ekow Nimako’s Afrofuturistic LEGO® universes

Salt Bae: the King of Steaks

Salt Bae

I always thought Salt Bae was an overrated gimmick thing but I’ve watched this compilation and I’m more of a fan and incredibly hungry.

Salt Bae, real name Nusret Gökçe, is a Turkish butcher, chef, and owner of Nusr-Et, a chain of steak houses. In 2017, his famous Ottoman Steak video went viral and he became known as Salt Bae, due to the way he sprinkled salt on his meat.

His unorthodox style of cutting and cooking meat is almost mesmerising, if not poor kitchen etiquette. But it’s all for the ‘Gram and he’s served for the likes of David Beckham, Karim Benzema, and even posed with Fidel Castro before he died.

But amongst the salt sprinkling and weird meat slicing, are his steak houses any good? No said critics of his New York branch describing it as “overpriced”, “Public Rip-off No. 1”, “mundane” and the hamburgers “overcooked”. But rich people aren’t known for good taste and, given Salt Bae’s penchant for entertainment, that’s probably why they frequent his establishments.

Backhanded compliments aside, stream the video below, and if you get wasted at Nusr-Et, make some İşkembe Çorbası, an authentic Turkish hangover cure.

La California: Italy's home of unofficial US polling stations

In a small Italian village called La California, people set up fake polling stations every 4 years for US elections. Atlas Obscura published an article about the settlement and its origins on Tuesday.

With a population of just over 1,000, as a settlement it dates back to the Paleolithic, and reached a peak during the Etruscan civilization in the first millennium BC. But it wasn’t until around 1860, when Tuscany joined the Kingdom of Italy—just a decade after California became America’s 31st state—that Italy’s own California was born. Eventually it would come to feel a kinship with its much larger namesake half a world away.

There’s a debate over where the name came from—the most famous related to Italian conmen promising Sicilians the joy of California, only to take them to Tuscany and keeping their money.

Lost and bamboozled, it is said, the Southern migrants named the town after their hoped-for destination. But Andrenacci has proven this story wrong, with evidence that the village called La California before that time.

There’s also a story starring Buffalo Bill:

Another legend involves the 1890 European tour of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West circus, and a challenge to local cowboys, called butteri. Andrenacci throws cold water on this one as well, and in his book California, Oltre il mito (California, Behind the Myth) offers another solution to the mystery: a man named Leonetto Cipriani.

Whatever the origin, the genesis of the unofficial polling stations started in 2004 and they’ve been going ever since. I wonder whether Las Californians will vote for Trump or Biden.