Windup Wire

A Reflection on Art, Justice, and Meaning in Our Time

Month: November, 2013

Terry Jones, Libertarians, and Liberals

Whether you are an antigovernment libertarian* or a antiwar liberal, I highly recommend that you read Terry Jones’s book Terry Jones on the War on Terror.  I got it off of Amazon for $2.00 used, with another dollar or two for shipping.  I have read a lot of books and articles on the War on Terror.  I have never before read a book, which is actually a collection of articles, which disassembles the absurdity of this war in such a clear way.  Being that he was one of the founding members of Monty Python, who were all great bullshit detectors, it should come as no surprise.  He’ll have you laughing the entire time, at least until you realize that the farce that he is describing is our lives.  Comedy when done right is the ultimate form of truth telling.  This is the kind of book that takes ideas that have already probably been percolating in your head, and brings them to the surface with the upmost clarity.

I’m actually surprised that the true libertarians and the liberals haven’t joined forces on a lot of issues concerning the long running War on Terror and the civil liberties that it has destroyed.  I feel like this is one issue that certain elements of the right and left should be able to find unity.  The fact that we still allow our government so much power over our lives because of this joke of a war is still beyond me.  I would assume that between the antigovernment libertarians and the left wing that stands for protecting civil liberties, that we should be able to get some kind of movement on these issues if people were organized right.  Not the first time that I’ve been confounded.

*I mean true libertarians.  I do not mean the antigovernment Christian corporatists that just want to impose their form of government upon you.  You know, the one that protects corporate interests over the rights of individuals and tells you what God to worship at the same time.    I am a liberal.  I personally only feel like libertarians are right half of the time, but I’m happy to find common cause with them when they are.

Life is but a Dream

That man’s life is but a dream -
is what we now come to know.

Its house abandoned,
the garden has become home
to butterflies.

Poem by Monk Sogi.  Monk Sogi was a Japanese poet 1421 and 1502.

Going to Japan

I am heading out for Japan tomorrow for eleven days.  I will have computer access and will try to post on here as much as time allows.  That being said I’m sure it will slow down a good bit.  I hope those of you that come here on a regular basis will understand.  One cannot write about the world if one does not engage with it. 

And yes would-be criminals, there are people watching my house.  Although, one would definitely not get rich robbing me anyway.  If you don’t go to a pawn shop within twenty miles of my house you might come out with a negative profit margin in the gas vs. stolen goods expenses.  

Terry Jones on the War on Terror

What really alarms me about President Bush’s “War on Terrorism” is the grammar. How do you wage war on an abstract noun? It’s rather like bombing “murder”.

“We’re going to bomb ‘murder’ wherever it lurks,” announced President Bush. “We are going to seek out murderers and the would-be murderers wherever they are hiding and we are going to bring them to justice. We are also going to bomb any government that harbors murderers and murderers-to-be.”

Terry Jones in 2001.  I am reading Terry Jones’s book Terry Jones on the War on Terror.  Terry Jones is a founding member of Monty Python.  I am only a couple of pages in, but to refer to a point I made in my previous blog, Terry Jones talks about how the neocon website www.newamericancentury.org leading up to 911 didn’t exactly hide the fact that they wanted to invade Iraq.  That is again supporting my point that most conspiracies, the one’s that are deemed secret, often seem ridiculous to me.  Those in power rarely hide their tracks so well, if they even hide them at all.  Criminals on that scale don’t usually feel the need to worry about things like law and order.  They often see themselves as above the law.

The Kennedy Assassination

Today marks the 50th Anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.  I have read enough history to know that conspiracies led by powerful people to do unscrupulous things are a real part of the human experience.  However, much like the Tea Party base, that has a right to be angry, but misdirects its anger at the wrong things, I often feel like conspiracy theorists believe in things that aren’t real, while spending less time on things that have been duly noted in the history books.  I am someone that believes in human fallibility.  The larger the conspiracy the less chance I believe it has of being real, because I don’t believe you could get a large group of people to keep quiet if something was a success.  It is well documented knowledge that the CIA used LSD on people.  We know about Presidents have used distorted information to lead this country to war as in the Gulf of Tonkin incident.  Even the “black sites” created in the war on terror didn’t last long before the general public became aware of them.  The list could go on and on.  So while again conspiracies by governments and people of power to do unscrupulous things behind our backs is a very real part of history, keeping them quiet for a long time is not something that appears to be done very well. 

However, the Kennedy assassination is the one large conspiracy where there just seems to be too many weird coincidences and troubling facts.  How do you explain Jack Ruby?  How do you explain Oswald shooting so quickly and accurately with such a cheap rifle?  We now know that even Robert Kennedy was suspect of the Warren Commission Report.  There are many facts about the assassination that sow the seeds of doubt in my mind. 

I have only read about the Kennedy assassination with mild curiosity.  I am no expert.  There are plenty of books and websites which you can turn to that give facts supporting both sides of the argument.  You should make up your own mind.  I go back and forth on the issue myself.  However, I don’t think people that believe that Oswald was not the lone shooter are crazy.  Although it may be an event of highly unlikely coincidences coming together, as nothing is impossible, I think there are enough reasons to at least be suspicious of the official story.    

This Place

Sparkle on the ocean
Eagle at the top of a tree
Those crazy crows always making a commotion
This land is home to me.

I was talking to my neighbor
He said, “When I get to heaven, if it is not like this,
I’ll just hop a cloud and I’m coming right back down here
Back to this heavenly bliss.”

You see those lovely hills
They won’t be there for long
They’re gonna tear ‘em down
And sell them to California
Here come the toxic spills
Miners poking all around
When this place looks like a moonscape
Don’t say I didn’t warn ya…

Money, money, money…
Money makes the trees come down
It makes mountains into molehills
Big money kicks the wide wide world around.

Black bear in the orchard
At night he’s in my garbage cans
He’s getting so bold but no one wants to shoot him
He’s got a right to roam this land.

I feel like Geronimo
I used to be as trusting as Cochise
But the white eyes lies
He’s out of whack with nature
And look how far his weapons reach!

Spirit of the water
Give us all the courage and the grace
To make genius of this tragedy unfolding
The genius to save this place.

This Place by Joni Mitchell.  It’s really hard to write song lyrics about the environment that have some kind of poetic weight to them.  Joni is, of course, a genius.

All Music is Political

This is post 310 since the beginning of August when I started this blog, so if there are occasions that I repeat myself, I apologize.  Consider it like an artist touching upon one of their favorite themes again, and not the accident of a squirrel memory.  You can guess which one is probably true.

I was thinking today about how all music is political, even music that doesn’t haven’t anything even closely resembling politics at its core.  Of course there are topical folk songs, rock n roll diatribes, the entire career of Public Enemy, and any number of pieces of music that are explicitly political in their intent and design .  That is obvious and I’m not going to talk about them here today.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to declare Neil Young’s Living With War a political album.

However, there is also the kind of music that doesn’t saying anything overtly topical or political that is still highly political in nature.  This is because it challenges existing social norms of the day.  I would put many works by Morrissey, Lou Reed, and Leonard Cohen in this format.  That’s not to say that those artists didn’t write overtly political songs as well.  (Margaret on the Guillotine, Sex With Your Parents, Democracy)   It’s just that in singing from the position of the outsider, or in commenting that there is not something quite right with the world, even if it’s a sort of spiritual malaise, they are helping you to think against the grain, which is in itself a political act.

There is also work that’s pure passion makes it political.  Think of Levi Stubbs singing Bernadette.  He sings that song with a burning urgency and fire.  Put that on against a modern top 40 song and your mind can’t help but be a little freer than it was.  It’s not necessarily telling you what to do, only to feel strongly and do something.  It breaks the chains of the spirit.

Also think of any female singing with sexual passion.  I’m thinking of someone like Tina Turner.  She may be singing nothing but a pop song.  However, she is expressing female sexual power through sound.  I imagine it would be hard as a female to listen to her music and go back to the kitchen brain dead, barefoot, and pregnant.

So what about bland Top 40 music that has no soul or passion?  That music is political as well.  It is telling you that everything that is going on in the world is ok.  Don’t think, do not pass go, do not collect $200.  In having nothing to say, in having no meaning in thought or sound, it is confirming the legitimacy of the existing social order.

So while I love Neil Young’s Living With War, Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet, and many other overtly political albums, I often feel just as inspired to go against the grain by things that are not.  Once you have heard something like Joni Mitchell’s In France They Kiss On Main Street, how could you go back to normal life with your head in the sand?

Revenge in the Office

When you work for companies in which you are nothing more than a number, you have very little recourse.  However, there are things you can do to make life more livable.  I always have a very general policy that I will work only as hard as my pay and treatment demand.  Want to pay me peasant wages and make me clock out to use the bathroom while working a telemarketing job, guess what, I am probably going to give the company’s money away to as many customers as possible.  And at another job where the husband and wife bosses were both former meth addicts and now partly self righteous Jesus freaks:  “Oh the answering machine is full? Well guess what, it’s not full now because I just deleted the messages while I drank my coffee and smiled to you across the room.”  These are the tried and true tricks of the average office worker, I’m saving my best revenges for myself.

What corporate American needs to understand is, if you pay people a decent living wage and treat them well, they are going to care more and work harder.  If not your employees, at least the smart ones, are probably trying everything in their power to stick you while still holding onto their job.  In fact, hope of the great payback sometimes becomes the only reason that they stick around.  I stayed at the moving company with that same husband and wife team long enough to witness its downfall, knowing that the two bosses were slowly dooming themselves with their ignorance and casual cruelty.  When it went under it was one of the few times in life that karma seemed real.  It was like some giant leviathan arose from the depths to swallow those people whole.

The funny thing is that it takes so very little to make the average worker happy.  Just pay them a living wage and treat them like human beings, and I bet you’d be surprised how much more work they get done.  Treat them like wild animals and they may appear broken, but they will bite your throat out if they are ever lucky enough to get you alone in a cage.

Lawyers in Love

I can’t keep up with what’s been going on
I think my heart must just be slowing down
Among the human beings in their designer jeans
Am I the only one who hears the screams
And the strangled cries of lawyers in love

God sends his spaceships to America, the beautiful
They land at six o’clock and there we are, the dutiful
Eating from TV trays, tuned into to Happy Days
Waiting for World War III while Jesus slaves
To the mating calls of lawyers in love

Last night I watched the news from Washington, the capitol
The Russians escaped while we weren’t watching them, like Russians will
Now we’ve got all this room, we’ve even got the moon
And I hear the U.S.S.R. will be open soon
As vacation land for lawyers in love

Lawyers in Love by Jackson Browne.  One of my favorite sets of lyrics ever, and proof that Jackson has a much better sense of humor than he is often credited with.

Illusion and Artistic Control

Spoiler Alert:  I discuss the ending of the show Deadwood in this post.

One of the hardest things in art, as in life, is knowing when to let go of something.  If you worked on something a little harder could it have been better?  Can you work something over until that original spark and passion has been extinguished?  I’ve made mistakes on both sides of that equation at times.  One has to have enough of an ego to see a project through, but one also has to not let the ego get in the way of letting things happen naturally.  Things are going to turn out like they do.  At some point control is only an illusion.

If you are making a record for instance, unless you record every single instrument yourself and do all the engineering yourself, assuming you even know what you are even doing at every step of the way, things are not going to turn out exactly as you planned.  As soon as other’s hands get on something it is going to change no matter how carefully planned your original intentions were.  Although it is true that this can occasionally be your downfall, if you are open to new ideas you might just end up in some magical place that you hadn’t planned.  Even if you are controlling as many factors as possible, you still run up against the limitations of personal talent and technology.

One of the reasons I find most session players so dreadful is that they are not confined by as many limitations as most people.  They can almost play or do anything musically that one can ask of them.  The problem is this usually leads to something that is imitative.  It’s usually technical ability over passion. Passion most often comes out of struggle.  Soul and originality is most often created in art and music in that struggle between real world limitations and the endless potential of the imagination.  In that space is where something new is most often forged.

There are outliers and freaks whom can seemingly do anything with ease, and can still do it with soul, but those people come at the rate of only a few in a lifetime.  If we relied on people like that our record collections and art museums would be very small indeed.

Sometimes things end seemingly prematurely, but in hindsight seem to almost end as if touched by perfection.  It’s at times like these that the universe almost seems to be speaking to us.  As much as I wish Lou Reed had made ten more records, if you listen to Junior Dad, his final song on his final album, it’s almost impossible to imagine a more perfect end to his career.

The Smiths’ ended their last album with the song I Won’t Share You.  “I won’t share you / With the drive and the dream inside / This is my time.”  It’s like their unconsciousness knew they were going their separate ways even before their conscious minds did, even though everyone claims that the recording sessions for that album were amicable. Plus, as always, Morrissey has razor sharp wit.

I was thinking about the show Deadwood today.  Deadwood is a show that not only tells the story of that town, a real historic town fictionally imagined, but also tells the story of how society comes to order itself.  This show that was canceled before the shows creator, David Milch, could finish the story that he wanted to tell.  Unlike most westerns the “bad guy”, if you could call him that in a show filled often with moral ambiguity, rides out of town unharmed.  His character represents the large corporate interests in American life that come in and destroy the natural balance of things in a community.  To many fans, myself included, this ending was originally completely unsatisfactory.  Not only did it not fulfill what we had come to expect in a traditional story arc, as nothing had really been tied up, but those of us that followed the show knew that this was not the way the creator had intended it to end.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was a perfect ending for that show.  The show’s ending is truthful to the very real outcome that we tragically see too often in America.  Too often we see corporations come in and destroy the balance of our communities, only to get off with little if any harm done to them.  Also in a strange example of life imitating art, or vice versa, the corporate suits killed off the show in the same way that George Hearst had destroyed the balance of the town.  Every time I watch the ending of that show I have knots in my stomach, but as with the rest of the show, it rings true.

One should work as hard as possible to make something the best that they can and stay as true to their vision as possible.  However, one should also remember that control over the outcome is often an illusion.  Don’t let that scare you.  It could very often be the thing that infuses it with magic in the end.

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