John Oliver On Ayn Rand

John Oliver Demands to Know How Ayn Rand Is ‘Stil…: http://youtu.be/oSk-C7W0L28

John Oliver and the the staff of Last Week Tonight are truly brilliant.  In a little over three minutes they completely and hilariously take apart conservatives strange worship of Ayn Rand.  It is a thing of beauty!

The Greed of Beyonce

The other night in the hotel I caught part of Beyonce’s HBO special and ever since I have been trying to figure out why it was so vile.  It is true that is was style without substance, that it was music without musicians, that it featured politics of the shallowest kind, and that it was more Las Vegas show than concert.  But even none of these things really get to the core of why it was so awful. 

The part of the concert I saw was championing feminism.  But that was it’s explicit premise.  Implicitly it was really championing materialism of the worst kind.  If you believe in yourself you too can be rich and successful and this is the height of human achievement.  This was really nothing but Joel Osteen without pants. 

Earlier this year I saw Buffy Sainte-Marie.  She spoke about how the way we treat others, and not money, should be our defining purpose.  There was something not only powerful about her, but subversive as well.  You felt as if you were seeing a great spiritual warrior for good. 

Buffy Sainte-Marie was, once upon a time, blacklisted by President Johnson for her brave political stances.  Beyonce has been invited into all of the halls of power, even the White House,  because at the end of the day she rubber stamps the status quo. 

During the concert I saw there was a giant sign behind Beyonce that put up words pertaining to feminism.  Subliminally it was saying the same thing as Wall Street’s Gordon Gecko:  Greed is good. 

What is Selling Out These Days?

As I creep slowly up the music business food chain and have thought about the state of the music business, I have had to think about what the term selling out means.  I grew up when the music business was healthy.  I also grew up following the punk and independent music scene quite closely.  There were people who “sold out” and who “didn’t sell out”.  It meant various things to various people, and was never clearly defined, but it was more so than today.  Lou Reed made a Honda commercial, but I don’t think anyone could ever accuse him of selling out.  Meanwhile a band like Fugazi never even allowed themselves to be interviewed in magazines that had booze or tobacco ads.  Johnny Rotten, John Lydon, did a butter ad a couple years ago, but he claimed this was only to get Public Image Ltd, a very avant garde band, back to making records.  Sometimes things stick to artists and sometimes they don’t.   Really I think you have to measure someone’s whole career and determine if they have artistic integrity.

Back in the renaissance,  in Italy, there was a rich and powerful family named the Medici family.  They funded the arts heavily.  They were patrons of such artists as Michaelangelo.   Basically in one way or another artists need their Medici family.  It is preferable if this is done through funding through the general public, as lots of small patrons cannot really force an artist to compromise their vision. 

However, what do you do in an age when no one is buying records the way they once were?  Art costs money to make.  Bills still need to be paid. 

You see more and more artists making corporate partnerships in order to survive.  More and more artists also appear in commercials as mainstream radio has been neutered almost completely.   This makes me uncomfortable because large corporations often act unethically.  Part of the purpose of art is to speak truth to power.  It becomes harder to do, though it is not impossible, if an artist is funded by that power.  No one will accuse John Lydon anytime soon of biting his tongue.  But he was well established by the time he made a commercial.  I do think that the relationship between corporations and artists is corrupting,  if not to every artist, then at least in the industry overall.  If it is hard to pinpoint exactly who has been corrupted,  it does seem like there is less art speaking truth to power than during the 60’s or the punk rock era. 

I don’t have the answer to these questions.  I just think it is worth thinking about.  I do think that it is important that individuals support artists with their own money through buying of records, supporting radio stations that don’t have corporate playlists, etc.  In a capitalist society you vote with your money.  If you want art that means something you need to be willing to pay for it.  I am still a person that buys almost all of my records, because I view it as investing in an art that means something to me.  Music has, if not literally saved my life, definitely kept me sane.  I want there to continue to be artists that aren’t afraid to speak their mind and to expose their soul. 

Bibi the Thug

Watching Benjamin Netanyahu on TV right now.  I despise that man.  I wish we would tell Israel we won’t give them one dime until they get rid of that crooked war monger.  He is as much an impediment to peace as anyone else.  He is a thug and not to be trusted.  We talk about our interests in this country all the time, that we must do what we can to protect our way of life.  As long as someone like him is in control of Israel, and we support them, we are doing damage to our interests and endangering our way of life.

The Unknown Known and the Meaningless Language of Donald Rumsfeld

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My last post featured John Oliver on drones.  In that video Oliver talks about a government memo in which the word imminent is robbed of all meaning.  Recently I watched the Errol Morris documentary The Unknown Known, which is a documentary about Don Rumsfeld.  A better title would have been The Man Who Wasn’t There.  Rumsfeld talks in a bureaucratic language that robs everything of meaning.  He speaks almost entirely in euphemisms.  The more you watch of this movie, the less you know.

That does not mean that it is without value.  While you start the movie thinking it is going to be a movie trying to hold Rumsfeld accountable for the mistakes, namely the Iraq War, that he made while in government, it becomes that almost seems more to be about the manipulation of language.

Having just read Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, I couldn’t help but think but to compare Rumsfeld to Eichmann.  Now let me be clear, I am not comparing Rumsfeld’s crimes to Eichmann, or saying that they have an exact personality match.  However, both seemed to be characters in bureaucracies that used a kind of empty language that masked the horrible realities of their actions.  Both men also seem to be very shallow thinkers.

Rumsfeld, in this movie, rarely seems to reflect deeply on what he has done.  He has kept an amazing amount of records.  He dictated so many memos that he called them “snowflakes”.  He doesn’t seem to be consciously misleading Morris.  It is more that he answers the questions directly, but in a way that is devoid of any deeper meaning.  It is an interesting movie with an extremely frustrating subject.

John Oliver On Drones

This is an absolutely excellent on The United States drone program.  While most news is entertainment posing as news, this is news posing as entertainment.  You will see a far more in depth discussion on our drone program than you will see on almost any cable news channel.  It just happens to be delivered by someone that can pepper the information he is delivering with some great jokes.  Our use of drones is one of the moral and ethical dilemmas of our time.  The fact that we are not having a greater discussion on this is troubling.  I have admitted to supporting Obama in the past.  This is one issue that he is terrible on and should be held accountable for.

Care Downwards

I apologize to those of you that subscribe for getting this twice.  I accidentally deleted and wanted to repost it.  

I was recently talking to someone that worked for a large company that was laying people off.  They told me those who had been with the company the longest were getting laid off first, because they made the most money.  You know, the people that had been loyal to the company?  Unfortunately, stories like this are all too common.

Today I am staying at a hotel where the woman at the front desk is kind as could be.  She is very helpful, and I realized how rare it is that someone takes pride in their job and leaves an impression through great customer service.

These large companies often do not give a fuck about you.  However, usually if you are in a business, you are dealing with people who have problems and needs that depend on you.

I worked in sales and customer service for years.  I think people should follow a policy of “caring downwards”.  People that are dealing with the general public are often dealing with working stiffs just like them.  One should try to be kind and help these people, because often these people are frustrated, they sometimes have little money, and quite frankly could use the help of someone that cares.

However, while you are doing that you should stick the company in anyway that you can, without getting fired of course. (Although sometimes getting fired is a blessing.)  These companies, again, do not care about you, and will get rid of you as soon as they see fit, especially now that so many unions have been neutered.

When I worked in those professions I would always side with the customer when possible.  When you work with the general public in a sales or customer service context you usually have a certain leeway in how you treat problems.  Management does not want you asking a manager every time a customer has a complaint.  Not only are managers often lazy, but this is a money saving practice.  Every time you call a company it costs them money, this is why most companies try to shake you with long automated prompts.  The longer the call and the more people you talk to, the more expensive the call is to the company.  When I worked at a wireless company I had a certain amount of money I could credit a customer before going to a manager.  When possible I would always credit the customer as I knew not only did the company not give a shit about me, but they were trying to nickel and dime good honest working people as much as possible.  And trust me when I say this is a fact and not an opinion.

I want to make it clear that I am mostly talking about large corporations and not small businesses where personal interaction with top management is a much more personalized affair.

So I would like to spread that thought, like fairy dust, throughout the land:  Care downwards and stick upwards…