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…

 

 

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…

 

 

The Clown that Destroyed Creation

I’ve walked catacombs in Austria and seen rooms full of nothing but human bones from the black plague.   I’ve seen ruins in Italy where Saints were martyred.  It doesn’t take a brilliant leap of the imagination, on a rainy day especially, to imagine what ruins we’ll leave behind.  There will certainly be a lot of plastic nonsense.  Certainly a lot of the plastic I have used will long outlast me.  Alas, I took a wrong turn on the road to perfection.  As a society, is this the kind of thing we wish to be remembered for?

Suppose at the bottom of a plastic trash mountain future inhabitants of earth find a Donald Trump poster.  I saw a particularly garish, clownish one recently.  Will these future citizens of the planet see it as just one more memento of a careless and indulgent culture, or will it represent something darker?  Or will they see it as the moment when the most powerful country of our time, the Roman Empire of the now, decided to completely stop giving a shit about not only its own future, but mother nature in general?

There will some of you that will find all this absurd.  The truth is, I hope those of you that feel this way are right.  But Trump, having just released his energy policy, isn’t thinking about life on earth more than a couple years out.  Trump  more fossil fuels, less renewable energy, wants to build a new pipeline, and wants to cancel the Paris climate agreement.  (The climate agreement, as good as it was, actually should have gone further.  We’ll take what we can get.)

Now truth be told, Trump changes his opinions about as often as the weather changes in Texas.  (When I first moved here people often said, “If you don’t like the weather, wait awhile, it will change.)  Trump is an entertainer more than a politician, willing to say or do anything in the moment for the applause of the crowd.  He knows his audience and he knows what schtick they like.  But do we really want an ethical and moral black hole in the Oval Office, a man that will simply do whatever will get him the most power?

Kurt Vonnegut, in his novel Mother Night, once said that, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”  If Trump is empowering racists and climate deniers, is he not of them, no matter what he might think privately in his own bedroom every night?

Trump is appealing to the very worst in our culture, and therefore is amongst the very worst of our culture.  (I’ve learned recently to never utter the phrase, “Things can’t possibly get any worse.”)  How we meet the challenge of this election will depend upon how we are remembered by future generations.  Do we really want to be remembered as the people who elected the clown that destroyed creation?

 

 

That’s Life

I have been on tour for the last two weeks, greatly diminishing my ability to write.  Touring doesn’t always do this, but I’ve been a little under the weather this tour, leaving me blankly staring at the wall between gigs.  I’ve been to Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, and Tennessee.  I’ve read a Lou Reed biography and am now reading a Prince biography.  I’ve listened to more hours of music than I could possibly count.

Ted Cruz has fallen by the wayside, as Donald Trump has risen.  Bernie Sanders still hangs on by the skin of his teeth.

Do I really want to live in a world where Prince is dead and Donald Trump represents the face of one of our two main political parties?  It seems like some weird sci-fi movie where someone went into the past and fucked something up.  But it is here and it is now and that’s life.

I’ve read some interesting articles:

Andrew Sullivan tries to make sense of the rise of Trump.  I don’t agree with everything in his article, but it is a brilliant piece of writing that deserves to be pondered.  Sullivan dives into history and political theory to try and communicate just how dangerous Donald Trump is at this moment in our history.

Brittney Cooper has an interesting piece over at Salon that uses the death of Prince to talk about how our economy and culture has not only devalued black lives, but literature, music, and art as well.

 

……..

There is more, so much more, but right now I need to get my day underway before I head out to a sound check.  Just a few records worth checking out:

Kanye West – The Life of Pablo – West continues his winning streak.  For all those of you that don’t understand, West simply dreams bigger, goes further than most recording artists hight now.  He is simply one of the best producers and creates gigantic, imaginative soundscapes.  This record mixes the sacred and profane on equal levels.  A futuristic gospel record with lots of swearing?  Something like that.

The Wedding Present – Seamonsters – An early 90’s album that got lost in the shuffle between 80’s rock and the 90’s alternative movement.  A devastating series of relationship songs recorded by Steve Albini.  The textures of this album are so vivid that you feel like the album is in 3D, like you could chew on them.

Prince – 1999 – Never forget that Prince is a great album artist.  One of the things that I find shocking with this album is how he is using technology that is completely of its time, yet somehow hasn’t aged.  He is using synthesizers and drum machines that are now long outdated, but he uses them so well that it never for a second gets in the way of the enjoyment of the record.  Also for an artist often associated with sex, one should always remember that his music was always stuffed full of ideas as well.  The title track ends with a group of voices intoning, “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb?”  I only wish there were more modern artists subverting our radio stations.

 

 

 

Michael Moore’s ‘Where to Invade Next’ and The Allegory of the Cave

I wish that Americans could discount whatever bias they may have for Michael Moore and see his new movie, Where to Invade Next.  Moore travels the world to look at ways of life different from the U.S., things that foreign countries do better than us through their governments.  This is an extremely patriotic movie, as Moore not only wants to see America get better, but also makes note that many of the ideas in the film were originally American.  He also makes it clear that the countries have these things because their populations were politically motivated enough to make them happen.

Now I know some cynics will say that these countries have other problems.  Moore does not try to paint other countries as utopias.  He is simply trying to get Americans to take the best ideas from around the world and put them together to benefit our society.  There are alternatives to our current state of affairs, which if you look at our election cycle it is clear that, despite our differences, people feel something needs to change.

I keep thinking of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

Plato has Socrates describe a gathering of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from things passing in front of a fire behind them, and they begin to give names to these shadows. The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, for he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.

I have traveled quite extensively and I have seen some of the things presented in the movie with my own eyes.  However, I was unaware of many of the things in the movie, though they jive with what I have seen in the countries I have visited.  I think what Moore is trying to do is to show a world that is not often presented in our terrible celebrity driven corporate media.

If we could get out of our whole right/left paradigm and view Moore’s film as a set of ideas to be discussed I think it would do us a lot of good.  Although our country often disagrees about the cause of our ills, many people of different political persuasions realize there is something deeply strange going on in our culture and in our politics.  How do we create a government that benefits the most amount of people possible?  Due to our media, which thrives on scandal, tragedy, and covering our political discourse like a horse race, ideas on how to fix things, many of which already exist in other parts of the world, are often left behind in the shadows.

Moore’s movie is the work of an optimist.  If people could only see things as they truly are, they would make better decisions on how they govern and want to be governed.  Kurt Vonnegut once called the idea that the American people would do the right thing if given the right leader, “Hunter Thompson’s disease”.  Thompson, despite the dark nature of much of his writing, believed that that was the case.  That is why he actively participated in the public arena.  (Though I don’t think Vonnegut would have written the things he did if he thought there was no hope, even if at times, especially near the end of his life, he viewed our prospects as bleak.)  Are people like Thompson and Moore dreamers?  Are we merely a country that is driven by our tribal allegiances.  Are we too easily manipulated to ever discern right from wrong?  If I’m honest, I have my good days and bad days with that whole deal.  But I still have hope that if more people were presented with information, that enough of them would make the right choice.  (“There are some people you just can’t reach.”)  I think Moore’s film is a fountain of ideas that are worthy of debate.  It’s a great conversation starter.  If we can at least have a debate based on ideas, if we can have that conversation, maybe, just maybe, we can find a path through the darkness.

 

To the Dead We Owe Only Truth

I was interested in this paragraph from a Salon article:

George Orwell once noted that when an English politician dies “his worst enemies will stand up on the floor of the House and utter pious lies in his honour.”  Antonin Scalia was neither English, nor technically speaking a politician, but a similar tradition can be witnessed in the form of the praise now being heaped on him.

I was reminded of the quote by Voltaire:

To the living we owe respect, to the dead we owe only truth.  

A friend of mine recently wrote the following about Scalia, one of the best things I’ve read:

Wild to realize Scalia’s been “judging us” for all but two years of my life. Can’t begin to get into the litany of destructive positions he took. Rights for The Other: women, gays, minorities… forget about it. He opposed habeas corpus and due process for Gitmo detainees. He vehemently defended the death penalty – even for “mentally retarded” – and pissed on Miranda rights. He said burning a cross in someone’s front yard was defensible under the First Amendment. When you build obstacles to stick it to those looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, you’re a jurisprudential asshole. I’m sure his loved ones, and people who share his P.O.V., are sad he’s dead. But he died on a hunting trip, and you can be sure his would-be-prey isn’t mourning his loss. I know the feeling. Peace and love!

Why do we often choose to whitewash the lives of the recently deceased, at the expense of truth? What strange ancient customs make us feel obligated to start lying when someone dies?  Eventually history will be told, the truth will come out.  At some point someone will realize the folly of our ways.  Isn’t better that we might recognize folly in our own time, and perhaps change course before it is too late.  Scalia did a great deal of damage to our country.  The time to recognize it is now, before we too are dead, and it’s too late to do anything about it.

A Disagreement with Ta-Nehisi Coates

I think Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the best and brightest writers of his generation, but lately I have had a problem with his approach to politics, especially his criticisms of Bernie Sanders.  I think it was Chuck D that said that when white people face a recession, black people face a depression.  (Paraphrased)  I totally think that is the truth.  There is no doubt that black people face inequality, not only in income, but across the board when it comes to rule of law.  One can simply look at the violence directed towards black people by the police in comparison to white people.  And these things are only touching the surface.  However, I can’t help but feel that Coates addresses everything through a one issue lens, while also misunderstanding the realities of presidential politics.  I want the same end goals as Coates does, but I feel that his approach is misguided.

America made progress on a whole host of issues from Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, through the Civil Rights and other movements of the 60’s,  until the rise of Ronald Reagan.  Since Reagan the working and middle class of this country have have seen tremendous setbacks.  There is no doubt that these setbacks have affected blacks and other minorities worse than whites.  One of the truths of American power, since the Civil War, that has been more or less effective at different time periods, has been to divide and conquer.  Lower class whites and blacks, which in reality have much in common, have been pitted against each other.  (Often all too easily I’m afraid.)

Aside from rare achievements like Obamacare, which many of us on the left think didn’t go far enough, true progressive goals have been sidelined.  This is due to the Republicans ability to siphon off white working class voters.  But this is also due to the fragmented nature of the left, where each group has their pet issue, instead of uniting for the greater common good.  In a capitalist society, money is power.  Unions have been destroyed.  Healthcare still doesn’t reach enough people.  Education has been robbed of the kind of value that allows people to think critically, not only making people less intelligent politically, but preventing the kind of fluid intelligence that allows people to change jobs with changing times.  The right and left argue over culture matters.  The left is guilty of this for sure.  Instead of addressing issues that will lead to a fairer system, inequality is attacked in a series of patchwork attempts, always leaving some other hole for problems to arise.

Politics is also largely a realm of the realistic.  One can only harness energy and attention for so long.  How do you do the most good with limited energy?  What topics does one tackle first?  A president must not only try to balance the wishes of many groups simultaneously, but is also constricted through very real laws that balance the power of government between different branches.  That is how the presidency has been since the founding of our country.  The founding fathers did not create a dictatorship.

It is true that there is a need for certain kinds of extremists and dreamers in the political realm.  You need people that push the envelope, that hold those in power accountable.  I am by no means saying that these people don’t have their place.  But when this becomes the norm, I think you will see that a political party stands a very slim chance of getting anything done that will last.  There have to be those that understand the reality of law, how to get laws actually passed, etc.  As a musician, I am a dreamer.  But as a History and eventually an American Studies Major, I also know that there needs to be those in power than understand the mechanisms of government.

One of my favorite writers is George Orwell.  Orwell was a democratic socialist that was also highly critical of the utopian left.  He understood that if you wanted to raise the living of the working class, you had to get them on your side.  Orwell understood the plight of miners in Northern England, even if intellectually and culturally he was quite different.  He understood why these people had certain religious and cultural beliefs.  A certain kind of culture and education influences the way one thinks.  Attacking something someone holds dear, if it is not related to the matter at hand, especially if in all other ways they would be open to an important political goal, is foolish.  In politics, you have to be willing to meet people where they are at.

I believe that overall Sanders and Coates want the same end goal.  They both want to live in a fairer country where there is more opportunity for all people, where everyone is treated equally under the rule of law.  But Coates as been critical of Sanders for not taking up one of his explicit political causes.  If he was attacking a sitting political power I would deem what he is doing as noble and necessary to the political process.

However, in an election cycle, especially when the opposing choices are so horrendous, I can’t help but think of what he is doing is foolish.  Sanders largely shares the same goals, even if he views getting there differently.  Why, when critiquing someone, would you pick Sanders?  Coates explains this, but I just can’t agree with him.  (And anyone that thinks all politicians are the same needs to merely think how recent historical events would have played out if Gore would have won instead of Bush.  At least Bill Maher is honest enough to admit he should have not voted for Nader.  And if you don’t believe voting matters, that politicians are the same, there are probably thousands of dead Iraqis that would say differently, if only they could.)

In a perfect world there would possibly be a greater variety among the candidates.  But politics is again partially dealing with the realities of a situation.  These are the candidates that we have.  Sanders might not be checking off every box for Coates, but doesn’t he run the risk of helping to elect someone that is either completely part of the status quo, with Hillary, or someone that is actually opposed to Coates brand of politics?  This is an election cycle where certain candidates are outright demonizing minorities.  Well this might be election year B.S, I can’t help but feel that there is a dark undercurrent in the right that will actually see the light if one of the Republicans is elected.

I view income inequality and climate change as the two biggest issues of our day.  With climate change, if that isn’t addressed, all other issues may be worthless, as we might all end up sharing a world that isn’t worth living in.  There is also a clock on that issue.  We only have so long to get it right.  The Democrats are much better on that issue than the Republicans.  It is also worth saying that the poorest people in the world will be affected the most by climate change, many of them minorities.

Income inequality affects people from all races, even if it is disproportionately affecting minorities.  How long can we live in a world where 65 people hold more wealth than the bottom 3.5 billion, before there is a revolution that doesn’t not happen through the comparatively peaceful channels of politics?  Sanders is the best candidate on this issue.  Again, I’m not saying his platform would go far enough in addressing all wrongs, but I think it is the platform that would do the most good for the most people.

These is not saying that there are not other issues that this country needs to address by any means.  But a candidate that can make a difference on these issues can do good for a great amount of people, including minorities.  In a year when so many things are on the line, should not those of us that share common goals, do our best to put away our differences for the time being?  I have my own personal checkbox of things I would like to see changed, but I know what is first and foremost of importance.  I’m not even arguing that Coates should not be adding to the dialog, saying certain proposals don’t go far enough.  But I find his particular criticism of the candidate closest to him to be troubling.  I just can’t help but feel Coates is doing some harm right now, along with some good, when it comes to the political future of this country.

 

 

It Ain’t a Privilege to be On TV

An album I really love is Neil Young’s Greendale.  It’s a strange album, a collection of songs that tell a story, but in a somewhat rambling fashion.  It’s Young’s way of riffing on modern culture, sometimes well within the guise of story, and sometimes using the story as just a jumping off point for Young to get across certain ideas.  Unlike most song lyrics, the lyrics are often somewhere between prose and poetry.  It almost sounds at times like Young spent a lot of time creating the backstory, learned the characters inside and out, and then when it came time to cut the songs just improvised what was running through his characters’ heads.

In the song above, one of my favorite from the album, along with the opening song and the song Bandit, Young has a line that is always with me:

It ain’t a privilege to be on TV
and it ain’t a duty either.

In our society fame seems to be a value in and of itself.  But there is nothing noble about celebrity, especially if it doesn’t stem from anything worthwhile.  One is either creating or doing something worthwhile or not.  Whether one gets known for doing that, or something that is a waste of time or a drain on society, is another thing completely.  There are things one can do to benefit, enlighten, or help other people.  One can also do things that, if not outright destructive, muddy the waters and add to the fog of ignorance.

Now this is where it gets tricky:  There are certain kinds of escapism that I think are altruistic.  In a chaotic, overstimulated world, sometimes it helps to have places one can escape their daily troubles through for a couple hours a day.  The human brain needs time to disconnect.  Also certain kinds of escapism can sometimes let ideas in the backdoor.  You might watch a fantasy movie that is mostly entertainment, but might have something to say about warfare or some other problem in the human condition as a secondary function.  But sometimes, even just a well constructed alternative universe, as long as one doesn’t spend all their time there, is a good thing to have after a hard day of work.  (Especially if murder is the alternative for letting off steam.)

Orwell argued that all art is propaganda of one kind or another.  Does a certain kind of art, or essay, or article, or whatever, have a positive function?  And I don’t mean positive in the sense of cheery.  Almost anything, even escapism, has some kind of political judgment in it, whether it is explicit or implicit.  It’s hard to judge for oneself if something has value or not. There is no easy solution.  The world is complex.  Especially when judging something someone else does, there can be a lot of gray area.

However, I think is gauging what oneself is contributing, it must be under the attempt to do something the best that one can do.  If someone is creating something just for their own glorification then one is just contributing to the ever growing ocean of bullshit that the world is drowning in.  Death and taxes are always around the corner, and one must earn a living.  But aside from that, I think if one is going to give birth to anything in this world, they should try their best to make sure it is something that is not just muddying the waters.  It is better to create nothing at all than to create something meaningless, even if that meaningless thing somehow brings about the applause of the crowd.

When I view something someone else has done, I would always rather see a noble failure than a middle of the road success.  (If those are the only two options.  I am most happy to see worthy things get their due.)  I don’t think achieving anything is all that spectacular.  It is the reaching for something grander than I find noble.

So again:

It ain’t a privilege to be on TV
And it ain’t a duty either.  

A Strange Goodbye to David Bowie

Let me tell you a story.  During Christmas break I made an album with my brother, drummer Alex Moralez, and Dave and Christine from Marah.  (They produced, engineered, and played some of the instruments.)  It was recorded in their farmhouse in rural PA.  This isn’t really a story of that record, which is yet to come.  One of the songs I demoed was called Hand Coming Down.  (The title, as the song, was changed at the last minute.)  On the demo it has a bluesy feel, sounding somewhat like some of the work Paul Westerberg has done in the last 10 yrs, but slightly spookier.  It is a one chord song, which Dave had encouraged me to write some months earlier, long before there were any plans to work together.  The thing about a one chord song is that, due to its simplicity, you can take it almost anywhere.

Through the collective will of everyone, we decided to take it in more of a European direction.  Bands like The Cure, Joy Division, and Bauhaus were mentioned.  The musical track, recorded live, but without vocals, turned infinitely more spooky and menacing.

I sang the demo version, but when it came time to cut the vocal for it, I knew my brother was the only one that could do the vibe of the song justice.  We talked, before he cut it, about going in more of a David Bowie/Iggy Pop route vocally, as all of us love the work the two of them did together in the 70’s.  My brother knocked it out of the park.

The point of this story is not to talk about the record, but to point out that here in 2016, there is still music being made that is still directly influenced by the work that Bowie did many moons back.  We all know that, and we know it will continue.  Just last year I became fully reimbursed in the recordings of Bowie’s Berlin period.  This year, I started to also reinvestigate the albums that he made with Iggy Pop.  My brother has long been a torch bearer for Bowie’s work.

And although I see the world as random, last night, as I mentioned in my previous post, I was watching a movie about Marlene Dietrich.  The documentary was called Marlene.  In it she sings a slow melancholy version of Just a Gigolo.  Bowie is in the cafe with her, dressed stylishly, sitting at a table slightly removed from the main action.  It had a dreamy resigned quality to it.  And even though I don’t believe in such things, when I heard the news today, it seemed like last night the universe was speaking to me.  It was a goodbye to someone who’s work I have loved very much over the years.  It was one of those moments that makes you question things, if only for a moment, before you realize that you should know better…