What ISIS Really Wants

What ISIS Really Wants

Sent to me by a friend, this Atlantic article is the best piece of writing I have seen yet on what ISIS believes.  It appears they are not driven by political beliefs, but ideology.  Although I have seen some erratic and foolhardy comments in the US recently, regarding refugees,  personal freedom,  and other things that exaggerate the threat of terrorism, especially when you put the numbers against things like car accidents, there is no doubt in my mind that ISIS needs to be dealt with.  If what this article says is true, I don’t see this as a group that can be dealt with through anything other than force.  I’d like to believe otherwise, but when people have an ideology such as this, and they act upon it, I don’t think there is any other option.  I am curious if any of you out there disagree?  I believe in helping the refugees.  I think any force should be usd through an international coalition.  I also think that force should be used carefully, in a way that is least likely to create more enemies.  But I don’t see ISIS as a rational group where anything other than their outright destruction will solve this problem.  I have never advocated military action on this site.  I’d like to be proven wrong if I am.  Any takers?


Where I’ve Been

Recent days have found me with my first week off (well almost a week) in many moons.  This particular post will probably only be of interest to those that have been reading along consistently.  By I felt i owed an explanation for those of you that come here often as to the slow positing rate as of late.  I’ve been catching up on things I have needed to do, on things I have ignored for too long due to travel.  I have also been writing and working on things music related.  But a good bit of the time I have been replenishing the well, diving into books, records, and films that I have been meaning to finish or check out.  This is definitely stuff I want to be doing, it’s what I enjoy.  However, as I am trying to make this a fully functional site, I also need to consume enough information that I can make this site interesting on a regular basis.

I’ve been reading S.C. Gwynne’s Rebel Yell: The Violence, the Passion, and the Redemption of Stonewall Jackson.  I think the Civil War is a period worth understanding if you want to understand many of the national issues of our day.  So many of them have their roots there.  I am trying to finish Patti Smith’s great memoir Just Kids, and because of her I finally got around to reading Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell.  I am also trying to finish Alain de Botton’s The Architecture of Happiness, Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm, and Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose.  I finished Pete Townshend’s autobiography, Who I Am, a week ago and can definitely recommend it to anyone that is even slightly interested in him.  He has had a tremendous impact on our culture, even if he has never directly meant anything to you.

Musically I have been diving into the career of Big Star, as well as Chris Bell’s and Alex Chilton’s respective solo careers.  Although I had some kind of bootleg Big Star compilation growing up, and I knew many of my favorite musical artists were influenced by them, this is the first time I have truly understood their brilliance and the arc of their careers.  This is largely due to the excellent documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, which is streaming on Netflix for free right now.

I am a bit obsessive compulsive about music.  As soon as I become interested in a band or artist, I tend to want to understand everything that I can about them.  With literature I try to always keep one fiction and one non-fiction book going.  I feel like reading fiction is better for songwriting and that non-fiction helps the kind of writing I do here.  I usually do not read this many books and have definitely bitten off more than I can chew!

Unlike some people who need to be forced to read anything, the opposite is true for me.  I could easily get lost down the rabbit hole of books, sometimes failing to take care of things in the real world.  But there are so many interesting things out there, and as always, so little time…



Burning Witches in 2015

They Burn Witches Here

One would think in the year 2015 that burning witches was behind the human race.  However, as this Huffington Post article goes to show, it still goes on in parts of the world.

Reason and science are why much of humanity has moved beyond such practices.  We should remember that when we make choices on how to proceed concerning a whole host of political issues.  Before one reads the article, one should think about what choices we, as a people, are making due to “belief”.  Perhaps someone far away is looking upon us in dumbstruck horror.

Lou Reed’s ‘Brandenburg Gate’ and the Joy of Discovery

I would cut my legs and tits off
When I think of Boris Karloff and Kinski
In the dark of the moon

It made me dream of Nosferatu
Trapped on the isle of Doctor Moreau
Oh wouldn’t it be lovely

One of my favorite albums from the last five years is Lou Reed and Metallica’s Lulu.  Just the opening lyrics to the first song alone, Brandenburg Gate, make my heart sing.  I’ve written about this record several times, but I never tire of singing its praises.  Look, I understand the reasons that some people don’t like this album; The lyrics are disturbing, the music will go off at times into discordant soundscapes or heavy metal brutality, and at times Lou Reed sings without care for melody or pitch.

But in general I feel bad for people that don’t get this record.  It is a beautiful, dark, fever dreamscape of a record.  It’s a Viking raid, a horror freak show, a psychotic hallucination, an Edgar Allen Poe poem, Victorian London, and nighttime in the Tiergarten all at once.  If it were a movie it would be Herzog’s Aguirre: The Wrath of God or Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto.  If it were a painting it might be by Goya or Bosch.  The record is batshit insane in the best way possible.

But the record isn’t all dark.  There is a sense of fun, of the thrill of reaching new ground, as well.  Lou Reed was near the end of his life when he made this.  He was physically in decline.  He used Metallica as a way to go once more into uncharted territory.  They were his musical armor.  Like George Carlin, Reed kept growing as an artist.  There was never any self-congratulatory victory lap or a watering down of his talents to finally cash in.  He remained true to his vision right until the end.

But I don’t love this record, truly love it, because others don’t get it, or because I think the best art should always be bleak.  I enjoy it.  In it’s own strange way it is full of joy.  It feels free.      Reed is not bound by the normal conventions of society.  He is out there on a limb, living in the new.  After all, he’s just a, “small town girl.”

James Brown, Iron Maiden, and Total Commitment

Iron Maiden Book of Souls 2

I don’t like to write anything here unless I feel I have something original to add to the conversation.  If I can’t write something that I feel is worth reading, I’ll try to link to someone that has something interesting to say.  The few times I have broken this rule I usually end up disgusted with what I have written.

I’ve wanted to review the new Iron Maiden record, The Book of Souls, for several reasons.  I really love the band and the album.  I also have seen that the few posts I have put up about Iron Maiden have found an audience, and I am happy to discuss things that other people like if they mesh with my interests.  But I haven’t felt that I have a definitive take on the record.  I also haven’t seen any piece of writing about it that has really struck me.

The only thing that I find at all interesting to add to the conversation is that whenever I listen to the record I can’t help but think of the James Brown double albums of the early 70’s, especially The Payback.  Stylistically these records are worlds apart from Iron Maiden.  However, both James Brown and now Iron Maiden have crafted double albums with very few songs.  The Book of Souls features 11 songs clocking in at 92 minutes, while James Brown’s The Payback is 8 songs at close to 73 minutes.

I know that there are many double albums that have long song structures.  But it is not just the surface level of things that I have made me connect the two.  Both artists have taken an established sound and, while adding new elements on the margins, have expanded their artistic universes by creating epics.  And the thing that really strikes me is that these records are great in part because of the physical stamina that is inherent in the recordings.

These kinds of records actually require a great deal of physical endurance to perform.  Almost a superhuman level.  While that is impressive in one kind of way, that alone doesn’t create a piece of great art.  But in each of their respective worlds, James Brown and Iron Maiden are at the top of the artistic heap. (I want it to be clear I am not equating the two artists.  Brown had a personality and a message that reached far outside the realm of the standard pop artist. I am simply trying to draw a comparison and a conclusion out of a certain musical aspect.)

Albums, like films, have a recommended length.  Although there are many exceptions to the rule, most albums work best between 40 and 50 minutes.  It’s the ideal amount of time to listen to an album in one complete sitting, multiple times, so that you can grasp the full intention of what an artist is trying to do.  Many double albums have worked, but in different ways.  Sometimes it is because they are separated into two distinct halves, like acts of a play.  Other times it is the sheer volume of output, an eclectic array of styles, where the ambition and variety take add up to more than the sum of the parts.

But the new Maiden, nor the James Brown album I mentioned, are like this.  These are records where a groove or sound is stretched until the breaking point. Where the length that something goes on creates its own kind of sonic universe. It takes not only a certain amount of stamina to do this, but also for an artist to have their own definitive thing.  It’s like you take a piece of music that would be good at three or four minutes.  At five you may begin to question how much longer it can go on.  But at some point they punch through some kind of mask and they go from the great to the exceptional.

Everyone knows that music can communicate sadness, happiness, anger.  But this is the sound of passion and commitment.  Not commitment like in a relationship, but a commitment to an idea.  Not only do you have to be physically committed to play a twelve (James Brown’s Mind Power) to eighteen minute song (Iron Maiden’s Empire of the Clouds), but you have to be truly committed to the idea behind that song.  (And songs that just feature endless instrumental noodling don’t count.  There is a difference between what I am talking about and self-indulgence, where the artist’s ego is stroked and the crowd is bored stiff, especially without the proper medicine!)  That’s why only artists that are great, that are full of passion, can pull these things off.  Music at this point takes on an almost shamanistic energy.  They are working the crowd into a frenzy.  Even if a crowd doesn’t realize it on any kind of intellectual level, I really believe that is what they are responding to.  They are responding to someone that has a great deal of passion, as that is always a quality that attracts others.

I think this is an interesting kind of feat to try and achieve, but beware; There are very few that can consistently achieve the desired results!  James Brown was a freak of nature and Iron Maiden didn’t get to such a point, other than a few songs, until they were far into their careers.

What Two Famous Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Popularity of Trump

What Two Famous Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Popularity of Trump

A friend sent me the above Washington Post article today, which is an interesting read.   The article uses the work of Adam Smith and Jean-Jacques Rousseau to try to understand Trump’s popularity among the working class conservative base.

What Planned Parenthood Really Does

Planned Parenthood

I can’t even begin to fathom the attack on Planned Parenthood by conservatives.  (Here is a brief article that details what Planned Parenthood does.)  How could an organization that does so much good for so many come under such virulent attack for something that only makes up 3% of its services?  Here too is the funding behind Planned Parenthood’s abortion services:

What does the law say on funding abortions?

Title X does not allow federal funds to be used for abortions. Medicaid, however, doesallow government money to be spent on them — in very restricted cases.

The 1977 Hyde Amendment dictated that federal Medicaid funds could only be used to fund abortions in cases of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother. However, some states have expanded cases in which they will provide funds. Currently, 17 states allow funds to be used for “medically necessary” abortions. In those cases that these states count as medically necessary but that are not permitted by the federal guidelines, states cover the cost alone.

Clearly Planned Parenthood is a political football for darker forces that have nothing to do with people’s best interests in mind.  Distract, destroy, confuse, etc.  Planned Parenthood helps women in need, end of story.  Even if you are completely against abortion, why wouldn’t one try to change that aspect of Planned Parenthood instead of tearing down the entire structure?

I found it highly disturbing in the Republican debate when Carly Fiorina lied boldfaced into the camera about a video that doesn’t exist.  In her own way she is as shameless as Donald Trump.  She only disguises it behind a more reasonable facade of corporate doublespeak.

If you care about people and women in particular, supporting Planned Parenthood is a no brainer.  Even if you are morally opposed to abortion there is a good argument to be made that Planned Parenthood actually decreases the number of abortions that would exist otherwise.  The conservative attack on Planned Parenthood is a fake outrage, and a particularly ridiculous one in an age full of them at that.

Another Look at the Republican Debate

The more I think about the Republican debate the other night, the more the insanity of it seems to ratchet up in my mind.  It was like some kind of propaganda rally in Stalinist Russia, or like something out of the book 1984, where the ministry of defense was called the Ministry of Peace.  Everything was backwards.  It was so vulgarly absurd I found myself laughing out loud while watching it.

Look, I have friends of all political stripes.  A couple weeks ago a conservative friend told me a negative statistic about the Obama administration and the War On Drugs that I didn’t believe, because of the overall decriminalization of weed over the last few years in some states.  However, this friend’s fact was correct.  I am happy to listen to people I don’t see eye to eye on if they argue with reason.  It’s good to be challenged and to be forced to think outside of your comfort zone.  We need people in our lives to shake up our very human desire to feel comfortable intellectually.

But this debate wasn’t like that.  This wasn’t people with a different set of beliefs trying to appeal to reason to get a point across.  These were people that were alternating between ad hominem attacks and magical thinking.  This was performance art.  Pseudo-science, bigotry, and warmongering were all pandered to.  Cut the budget, build a wall, tear up an agreement, demonstrate strength, belittle diplomacy, demonize minorities, and worship money were the themes that were brought up over and over.  And this is the party that is always waving the Christian flag!

Holy fuck, it was amazing!