Touring and More

Heading to Montana and back over the next week on tour with Shinyribs.   Like whenever I go on tour I come stacked with books and records to digest.  Countless hours in a van, often without service, leave me with a focus that I don’t always have when at home, especially when it comes to reading.

I haven’t watched any of the conventions.  I have read about them and checked out small clips.  Partially this is because I don’t have cable.  But a lot of it is also preservation of sanity.   I tried to watch Donald Trump’s speech and realized that watching that man speak for an hour and fifteen minutes was a hell I didn’t need to conjure up for myself.  I have long known whom I would be voting for, and any information is now for sheer entertainment value.  If I can’t watch Trump for an hour plus, I can’t watch him for four years.  Dear God in heaven, no!

I’m interested to see the speeches from last night, and perhaps I will, but preparing for a tour left me running around like an ape on speed.

I voted for Sanders, I think the DNC acted shamefully, but cannot understand those that want to sit the election out.  (I honestly wasn’t surprised or shocked by the DNC scandal as much as I don’t like it.  Believing politics isn’t a dirty business is like believing faries are real.)   In politics you have to hold opposing thoughts at the same time.  You have to imagine a better world to strive for and deal with the reality in front of you at the same time.  The DNC is corrupt and needs reformed and the candidate of the DNC is easily the better of the two roads before us.  Just because one road is long and winding doesn’t mean the other path is better.  I’d rather go over the mountain than take the tunnel with the werewolf in it.  Only one leads to grandma’s house, even if it takes longer than we thought.

Funnily enough I was watching Madmen with my brother this week.  In it they show one of Nixon’s law and order commercials.  You could have just swapped Trump’s name in for Nixon and it could have been now.  Don’t tell me who wants to take us backwards.

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Am Voting For Hillary

One only has to read a little history to know why someone with my beliefs is not a huge fan of the Clintons.  No, I’m not talking about Benghazi and the email scandal.  Those are much to do about nothing.  But read Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes to learn about Bill Clinton’s dysfunctional relationship with the CIA.  Read about the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to see how Clinton put our media in the hands of big business in ways that are harmful to this day.  There is also NAFTA, welfare reform, etc.  In many ways Clinton was a continuation of Ronald Reagan.   He allowed corporations to have a stronger grasp on the political power of our nation.

And although those things cloud my judgment of Bill Clinton, I know that he also did things that were good.  Northern Ireland and Serbia were positives in the foreign policy area.  The economy was in good shape while he was president.  He did things on the healthcare front that were positive.  (He was great on helping those with AIDS and he also passed a bill that allowed mothers to stay in the hospital longer.  If he had not faced stiff Republican opposition he might have actually passed universal healthcare.)

However,one can’t judge Hillary by Bill alone.  Wives are not their husbands.  But you know this.

Hillary made a colossal mistake in voting to endorse the Iraq war.  Aside from that she did a respectable job as both a Senator for New York and as Secretary of State.

While Hillary might not be the massive change in this country that I was hoping for, there is no doubt that she is a intelligent and capable.  At worst I see her being an effective manager that will steer clear of outright catastrophes.  The world might have to wait for massive change, but I don’t see her sinking the ship.

That being said she might surprise us.  Hillary was the one that pushed for healthcare reform, even if it eventually was defeated.  She has moved to the left economically.  This may be pure election year calculation, I’m not naive.  That being said smart politicians usually let the electorate lead them.  (Look at LBJ and Civil Rights.)  One needs to have a base for change before making that change realistic.  (That’s not to say great leaders can’t change peoples minds, only that even great leaders need a certain percentage of the population with them to make change a political reality.)  She was Secretary of State when we finally got Bin Laden.  I also do believe Clinton wants life to be better for the average American.  In a world where women make 79 cents to every dollar that a man makes, I see having a woman as President as being a positive.

More than anything she knows what it is liked to be judged based on nothing other than being born as a woman instead of a man.  (Remember the healthcare battle?)  In most people this creates understanding for others that have been treated similarly.  I’ve got to hope that this will give her some empathy for those suffering from social injustice.  There is no guarantee of this.  But what is the alternative?

The alternative is madness.  Whether Donald Trump is a narcissistic bigot or just playing one on TV makes no difference.  The writer Kurt Vonnegut once wrote in his novel, Mother Night, “We are what we pretend to be, so be careful about what we pretend to be.”  A Trump presidency would be a cruel joke.  It would be a win for the baser instincts of the human race: greed, fear, and hate.  Any of you that may be right wing reading this should watch ESPN 30 for 30, Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?  It is not a political film, but it shows Trump as he really is, an egomaniac that only cares about himself and his interests.

Although I disliked Mitt Romney and his proposed policies, I never felt like if he won the country would be in true danger.  Meanwhile I see Donald Trump as a despicable conman whose ego cannot be trusted with that much power.  If one is willing to do anything to win, to sink to any depth, what does that say about them?  He is demonizing those on the margins to better his own position.  I don’t like using the term evil in the political world, but that is evil.  Evil is when the strong feed upon the weak.

I realize this is a strange endorsement, but despite any mistakes or past flaws, I believe that we must vote for Hillary in this election.  I do not see this as voting for the lesser of two evils.  I see this as voting for someone that is competent over someone that is completely incompetent to be the leader of our country.  There is even a chance that Hillary could be a great President.  She certainly understands the machinations of the political system at this point.  She’s saying the right things.  With her there is at least hope of a better world.  I see this election as a chance for hope vs. giving up. I know what I want to take a gamble on.

The Origins of White Trash

The Origins of “White Trash

This is one of the most interesting articles I have read in awhile.  History Professor Nancy Isenberg is interviewed over at Salon about her new book, White Trash.

She sheds light on how class-consciousness, as well as racism, has been with us since the founding of the country.  She also delves into how poor whites and poor blacks have been pitted against other by those that have neithers’ interests at heart.

 

 

When Ignorance Went Mainstream

Children look into a cage containing model baby dinosaurs inside a replica Noah's Ark at the Ark Encounter theme park during a media preview day, Tuesday, July 5, 2016, in Williamstown, Ky. The long-awaited theme park based on the story of a man who got a warning from God about a worldwide flood will debut in central Kentucky this Thursday. The Christian group behind the 510 foot-long wooden ark says it will demonstrate that the stories of the Bible are true. Its construction has rankled opponents who say the attraction will be detrimental to science education. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Children look into a cage containing model baby dinosaurs inside a replica Noah’s Ark at the Ark Encounter theme park during a media preview day, Tuesday, July 5, 2016, in Williamstown, Ky. The long-awaited theme park based on the story of a man who got a warning from God about a worldwide flood will debut in central Kentucky this Thursday. The Christian group behind the 510 foot-long wooden ark says it will demonstrate that the stories of the Bible are true. Its construction has rankled opponents who say the attraction will be detrimental to science education. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Ocean Researchers Discover New Type of Eel-like Fish

Noah’s Ark to Open Ready to Open

I read these articles back to back this morning.  The first one is about how scientists found a new type of fish 1.5 miles below the surface of the ocean.  The second article is about a Noah’s Ark Museum that is opening in Kentucky that features, I’m not making this up, dinosaurs in cages as some of the animals that Noah supposedly saved.

We live in a world where some people have the intelligence and technology to go far below the surface of the ocean in a quest of discovery and enlightenment.  And at the same time we live in a world where certain people, despite all data to the contrary, believe that Noah had dinosaurs on his ark.  My brother asked me today, when I was telling him about this second story, “Why would people believe that?”  I didn’t have an answer then or now.  It’s not as simple as religion as there are plenty of religious scientists that know this is pure ignorance.

I mentioned recently that my writing output had declined recently due to the fact that I was working on several music projects.  This is true.  However, lately, the news has often left me feeling befuddled.  (Befuddled is definitely a euphemism there.)  Often I start to write and then just say, “Ah, fuck it!”  When a daily scanning of articles leads you to things like Donald Trump for President and dinosaurs in cages, one can’t help but feel some threshold has been crossed.  It’s hard to debate people that are existing in a different reality, one in which humans and dinosaurs romped the earth together.

Don’t get me wrong, ignorance has always been with us.  There has not only always been ignorance, but the kind of of bold ignorance that we are seeing now.  However, I can’t help but feel that this is the year that ignorance has gone mainstream.  It’s not only bold, but almost celebratory.

I was also reading another interesting article with the creator of Mad Men, Matthew Weiner, about poetry.  In it Weiner says the following:  “Which is funny because all of the predictions not reading were wrong. People are reading plenty. They’re just not proud of it. Or using it to communicate.”  There is definitely an anti-intellectual populism going on.

I know for a fact, having done research on it, that education has been distorted by big money.  Science has particularly been under attack due to the unfortunate scientific fact that humans are causing global climate change.  We also have an economy that often, though not always, rewards the lowest common denominator, as whatever makes the most money wins.

Yet there are still those that care, as the first article demonstrates.  There are still those with a thirst for knowledge, that want to see the world be a better place, that want this generation to be more educated than the last.  Hopefully intelligence wins in the end, or dinosaurs won’t be the only things in cages…

 

 

Stay

Eternity dreamed
And then we awoke
In some beautiful cosmic joke
With a hole in our hearts
But with hearts all the same
Yearning to hear a lover’s name

Oh, I know you’ll go
We all leave alone
But with you here today
Tomorrow fades away

Stay, while you can
You make it all seem part of some plan

We found fruit in the trees
Fish in the streams
We ran through the Garden unaware
We mapped out the stars
Named Venus and Mars
We found patterns when there were no patterns there

Oh, I know you’ll go
We all leave alone
But with you here today
Tomorrow fades away

Stay, while you can
You make it all seem part of some plan

They say you came from my rib
But that’s just a fib
I could never create anything so beautiful
You took the apple from the tree
I hope your conscience is free
Cause I’d do it again and again and again and again

Stay, while you can
You make it all seem part of some plan

Lyrics to a song I wrote that my band, The Savage Poor, were working on today.  We’ll be at the Rattle Inn in Austin, Texas this week at 10pm.

Blood Orange and Cultural Appropriation

I enjoy pop music that has a subversive quality to it, especially when there is still an accessible melodicism to it.  The music that Blood Orange makes reminds me of the melodic genre bending soul of someone like Prince, but with the cold beauty of modern indie acts like Chromatics.

There is no doubt that there are a lot of homoerotic undertones in shots in this video.  I was reading with  Dev Hynes, the man behind Blood Orange, and he said this in an Interview article:

I find New York, early 80s gay culture so amazing—the ball culture, what they created, how they expressed themselves. I admire them endlessly for their bravery. I can’t even imagine how difficult it was to be young, black, and gay 30 years ago. When I was younger growing up in Essex—a small town in England—I dressed pretty weird, and a lot of my friends were gay, so I essentially grew up as a gay kid even though I was straight. I had all the abuse—was spat on daily, called a fag, was pushed around. The whole aesthetic of Blood Orange is basically a celebration of gay culture. I want to celebrate people who I feel represent freedom, for example Octavia St. Laurent, who I’ve done a little tribute to on the Myspace.

There are lots of talks in the media about culture appropriation concerning different artists.  As long as an artist admits who they are taking, and politically stands up for those that they are taking from, I think it is not only OK to take things from different cultures, but essential to art.  They only way that new genres are created is when two (or more) things are combined that were never combined before. Also, it can expose elements of different cultures to people that may not have been accepting to them otherwise.  There is no doubt, for instance, that the Rolling Stones helped lead people back to many black blues artists.  Morrissey steals lines from different writers, while putting them in a new context, and through him I have discovered and read those artists.

There are only three times when this becomes problematic:  When an artist steals without adding anything new (This would be, if not plagiarism, than unimaginative art.), when an artist steals without credit (straights up plagiarism), when an artist steals something from a culture without supporting that culture politically (hypocrisy).

The Savage Poor

The Savage Poor - Logo

The Savage Poor

I have a new band.  We’re three shows in.  We have an album under way.  Up above is a link to our brand new website.  It’s all new and exciting and only time will tell where it goes from here.  Since late last year I’ve spent a lot of time on music.  There’s some demos streaming at the new website.  The band is more rocking, more beautiful, and more everything than the home demos.  I’ve spent so much time getting this band going that my writing here has declined in the last few months.  Hopefully I’ll be able to find a balance soon.  Next show in Austin is at the Rattle Inn on July 7th at 10pm.  Come see what it’s all about.

The Pure Expression of the Cocteau Twins

There is nothing harder in pop songwriting than coming up with a great lyric.  It’s true, lyrics aren’t everything.  Great singers paired with the right melody can allow one to overlook an average lyric.  But nothing lasts longer in my stereo than a song with lyrics that are complex enough to allow the song to be reinterpreted over time.  I don’t necessarily mean complex like Dylan, although he obviously has written an unbelievable amount of great lyrics.  Something like Stand By Me is quite simple, but has a certain Biblical depth to it that seems bottomless.

But sometimes it is great to get away from lyrics and into pop songs that sound like pure expression.  No one does this better than the Cocteau Twins.  Not only is Robin Guthrie an exceptional guitar player, whose echoey sound can be seen as a precursor to many 90’s acts like My Bloody Valentine, but singer Elizabeth Fraser has one of the most expressive voices of all time.  The songs are drenched in reverb and delay, making it hard to tell at times if she is using words at all or singing in her own made up language.  (I think she does both, but which she is doing is often hard to tell.)  I’ve written about them before, but diving back into their music has made me think that they don’t get the amount of attention they deserve.  Although they share certain sonic characteristics with their peers, they are definitely unique.

There really isn’t better music to dream to, whether that is at night while falling asleep or on a long walk while daydreaming.  It’s like stepping into a strange sonic fairytale or a beautiful renaissance tapestry made out of sound.  Whether it is a clear and starry night or a rainy day trapped indoors, the music seems to fit.  Yet all of this is almost pointless.  It’s pure emotion captured in sound, and really defies easy description due to this.

All of their music is not the same.  They did start out very early on almost like a goth band before quickly finding their feet.  There were some later records that were less impressionistic.  But for the most part they were who they were.

Strangely enough singer Elizabeth Fraser has only released a couple songs since the demise of the band.  It’s almost like she was channeling the spirit and then woke up one day and realized her time had passed.  As a starting point I really love their collection Stars and Topsoil which covers their 1982-1990 period.  Many of their albums are worth owning, but fans debate as to which ones.  (Though Treasure seems to be loved by almost all.)  As far as getting your feet wet I think this not only demonstrates what made them unique, but is also highly accessible.

When Morrissey Ruined Bill Cosby’s Tonight Show

When Morrissey Ruined Bill Cosby’s Appearance On the Tonight Show

A great read on many levels, and definitely so if you are a Morrissey fan.  Just reading about Cosby, Johnny Carson, and Ed McMahon bewildered by an audience they weren’t expecting has its own charms.

However, another part of the article deals with Morrissey’s highly successful tour during almost complete neglect by MTV and radio:

Two weeks prior to his scheduled Tonight Show appearance, Morrissey touched down in the United States to embark on the six-week leg of a worldwide tour to promote his third solo release, Kill Uncle, after having just wrapped up a successful 11-show run of Europe. The Kill Uncle Tour kicked off in California, where there were six dates lined up: San Diego, Costa Mesa, Inglewood, Santa Barbara, Berkeley, and Sacramento. The shows sold out fast. The entire tour sold out fast, but the West Coast stretch sold out faster. Much of Morrissey’s popularity in the area could be attributed to heavy rotation from the area’s influential radio station, KROQ, one of the few outlets to lend support. 20,000 tickets to the show at the San Diego Sports Arena went in a flash, gone in less than an hour, faster than any predecessor, including Madonna and Michael Jackson. Tickets for The Forum in Inglewood went even quicker18,000 in just 15 minutes.

Aside from the Tonight Show appearance and KROQ airplay, Morrissey was almost never played on MTV, and not at all during normal hours, and barely played on mainstream radio. (Despite selling out venues faster than the biggest pop stars of the day.)  There may be reasons for this that are specific to Morrissey, but I must wonder about the bigger picture.  (Morrissey is a highly subversive artist that has always threatened many mainstream forces.)  After the 1996 Telecommunications Act corporations, such as Clear Channel at the time, consolidated their control of radio playlists.  One can remember songs such as John Lennon’s Imagine being banned after September 11th on radio stations owned by Clear Channel, now known as iHeartMedia Inc.

So here are the questions:  What large forces shaped musical culture before that act?  How is music of today shaped by forces outside of consumer demand?  One thing that is a no-brainer is that people, unless one is an obsessive seeking things out, can only like what they are exposed to.  Why is it that so many pieces of pop music today sound so similar and are so often completely devoid of any substance or ideas?   Aside from substance and ideas, which have been lacking at other times during popular music, why is pop music that is readily available for the general public delivered by performers lacking strong personalities?

Questions, as always, questions…

Why is This Happening Again?

Where are we going?  Who are we as a people?  Why are we here?  Why is this happening again?  The man that shot so many, I won’t even type his name, was evil and deserves to be dead.  It is a hard thing to admit, but the world is better off without certain people in it.  But even one so focused and disturbed could not have carried out this act on his own.  Politicians, radio hosts, arms manufactures, and citizens who traffic in fear are also partially to blame.  If you are so afraid of the world that you need an assault rifle to face it, know that no gun owned by a citizen has stopped a mass shooting since 1982.  (And even then people were killed first.)

There is no reason that assault rifles should be sold to the general public.  There are only two uses for them:  Killing and profit.

There are some that might say firing them at target ranges is their hobby.  A hobby should be given up if it leads to the death of 50 plus, let alone all the shootings that have happened before it.  No, not all people that have these guns are partially responsible, but going forward anyone that fights for the right to sell more of these weapons is.

Do you really think that as many politicians would support our current gun laws if they weren’t receiving campaign money from the NRA or gun manufacturers?  If they are selling out for those who profit off such weapons, then they are partially to blame.

If a radio host goes on the air and helps to create a climate of fear so that more people believe these weapons are needed, they are partially to blame.

Those who sell these weapons to the public are partially to blame.  They are partially to blame as merchants of death.

I have come along way.  I used to not care about gun laws as they aren’t, and still aren’t, the most pressing problem in our society.  But when one person is given the power to hurt and kill that many people things need to change.  When mass killings become the new norm things need to change.

None of this means that sects of Islam aren’t insane and dangerous.  They must be dealt with too.  None of this means that there aren’t real problems with our mental health system.  This too must be looked at.   None of this means that the shooter isn’t more to blame than anyone else.  Thankfully he has already been dealt with.  I don’t know what happens when we die, but I can assure you he isn’t with 72 virgins.  If somehow he was then the universe has no meaning and should just collapse upon itself now and get it over with.

I’m not against someone having a pistol at home for personal protection.  I know someone whose home was broken into just this week.  I’m not against owning a hunting rifle.  Although I am not a hunter, I know that for some these kind of weapons have practical purposes.  But an assault rifle is not a practical tool by anyone’s standards unless you are in the armed forces.  If an instrument allows one person to do that much harm then it needs to be done away with, same as the people that would try to use them for such harm.

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people is a completely asinine argument.  If the shooter, however evil and crazy he was, could not buy such a weapon legally, then more people would be alive.

How many lives have been affected by this shooting?  I’m not talking just about the people that were killed or injured, but their friends and family?  Look how many friends you have on Facebook and then multiply that times the number of people killed and wounded.  That will at least give you some idea. (And yes not everyone on Facebook is our real friend, but we also have people in our lives that have smartly declined to join such a thing.)  Think of that many people being completely devastated today.  Now think of the people that are devastated by past shootings and people who have yet to be devastated.  Wouldn’t you gladly ban a weapon, a weapon that wasn’t even around when our founding fathers wrote the Constitution, to make the pain for all those people go away?  If you can say no to that, then I simply don’t understand your point of view.

But to those of you that would say no, that view gun restrictions as some form of tyranny, let me speak directly to you:  I don’t want there to be more cops on the streets.  I don’t want the government to have more of a say in our private lives.  But these weapons do not prevent violence, but merely create it.  A more violent world will become a world where freedom is restricted.  Death on this level cannot be allowed to go on.  To give up selling a weapon that didn’t even use to exist will erode far less freedom than allowing violence to continue on this scale.  Do you really think this kind of weapon would protect you from tyranny anyhow, if it really were a threat?  To some degree guns are primitive next to the kind of weapons that the US government uses all the time.  If the government really wanted to come for you in your house they could simply fly a drone over it and make a giant crater where you and everything you hold dear used to be.  We’ve already said that these kinds of weapons don’t prevent any mass shootings.  So not only are you not protecting yourself from any threats real or imagined, but you helping to create a world where there will actually be more restrictions on our freedom.  If this kind of thing keeps happening, how long do you really think it will be before clubs, schools, and other places of mass gatherings have stricter safety measures?

I apologize if I am rambling a bit.  I am angry.  But I am also tired.  I’m not only tired for real, as the hour is late, but I’m tired of living in a country where reason is so often shown the door over tribal allegiances, profit margins, and a fake morality driven by primitive notions.  I’ve said all that I have to say.  Think of those poor souls that cannot sleep tonight due to grief over recent events.  Goodnight…