Protests Erupt Over Opera

The opera The Death of Klinghoffer is causing all kinds of drama in NYC.  I just read the following New York Times article about it:

New York Times The Death of Klinghoffer

If you want to read a basic description of the plot and what people find controversial about it you can find it on Wikipedia:

Wikipedia The Death of Klinghoffer

I am not going to pretend that I understand the opera having not seen or heard it.  I do think Rudy Giuliani is an ambulance chaser, but that can be a conversation for another day.

Here is my question:  When is the last time that a pop song, let alone an opera, started a serious political discussion?  This is what art is supposed to do, to bring up subjects in a way that get people discussing things in a peaceful manner.  The opera may be great or it may be terrible, but it has gotten people talking about an important political topic, one of which there isn’t enough discussion on.  It doesn’t seem as it is, by design, meant to anger or offend people.  It seems like it is the work of a serious artist that is trying to get people to think.

People have the right to peacefully protest anything they want.  If they find the opera offensive it is their right to stand outside and provide people with an alternative viewpoint, as long as they do not threaten or harass those that want to see it.

However, when it comes to art I would rather see a free exchange of ideas.  I would rather see some kind of in depth and honest criticism of the work than a protest.

However, in this case, I think the protestors lose in two ways.  First they are meeting complex ideas with something simple.  Second, they are drawing attention to something that they don’t want people to see.  That never works.  Protests are a a great way to bring attention to things that aren’t receiving enough attention.  Let’s face it, operas have about 0% effect on popular culture in America.  I don’t even know the names of any newer operas other than this one and I listen to a ton of music, including on occasion opera.  Now I am interested in seeing this one at some point just to see what all the racket is about.

I remember when The Passion of the Christ came out.  There was a lot of controversy over that.  I don’t like to let others make up my mind for me, so I went to see a movie that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen, because I wanted to decide for myself what I thought about it.  I did not like the movie, because I thought it dwelled on all the wrong aspects of Jesus, but I was glad I went because it was a large part of the cultural conversation at the time.  In my opinion anything that makes one think is a good thing, even if at the end of the day what you think is that you don’t like it.

Vanilla Ice, Anthrax, Mushroom Clouds, and Ebola

How do you explain your set at a preppie cowboy college bar being followed up by the sound man blasting Vanilla Ice’s song from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at concert volume?  You cant, but the next thing you know, you are in a pitch black van chewing tobacco alone. 

I understand nostalgia up to a point.  It can be a powerful emotion when a song transports you back to a place in time or brings up a strong emotion.  But when something that no one liked in the first place, for good reason, has a bunch of kids pining for a time they weren’t old enough for, you have to ask yourself if the sun is setting on the empire. 

Is the present so fucked that a Vanilla Ice song makes people dream of a era they weren’t even born early enough to enjoy?  Maybe these kids are the canaries in the coal mine.   They can sense the end coming down: Mushroom clouds, anthrax, and ebola, in one giant shitwind turning mankind into nothing but space dust.  It was a good run while it lasted. Go ninja, go ninja, go…

Alonity

I would like to go hang out in the desert for awhile.  I really took to that place when I first went out there.  The desert knows about the alonity.  Yes, the alonity.  That’s my word.  It’s being alive and living with yourself.  Sometimes the alonity hurts because it’s real.  It hurts, scars, and strengthens.  I spend lots of time in the alonity.  Most people busy themselves with meaningless rituals and assorted bullshit.  They fear the alonity.  I don’t.  I feel at home with it.  They get caught up in how they think their hair should be cut.  If they could see inside themselves they would freak out.  It’s a crime against time, to waste it on such bullshit.  I don’t beg for understanding.  I live on earth.  I just wonder if I got the wrong address.  

Henry Rollins from Get in the Van

I have mixed feelings about Henry Rollins.  I really like Black Flag and I love the Rollins Band album The End of Silence.  I’m also enjoying reading his book.  I also admire his discipline.  However, he also is pretty good at putting his foot in his mouth and has said some really stupid shit over the years.  I like his book because it is honest and he does have some keen insights.  He also does a lot of things that can best be described as insane, and at worst be described as stupid.  To his credit I will say that he does seem willing to evolve and change his opinions over time, which is a trait I respect in anyone.

The reason I picked the above quote is I do think that idea that most people busy themselves with meaningless rituals and assorted bullshit, in order to not have to face the truth of life, is true.  I am guilty of it at times, everyone is, but some people more than others.

Lately my Dad and I have been talking about how to be a realistic idealist.  You want to see the world be a better place, you know that from history that people are capable of changing for the better, but you also don’t shy away from the hard truths of life and what the human race is up against.  I think it’s important to try to be a dreamer and a realist.  Martin Luther King had a vision and a dream, but those in the Civil Rights movements had to face the harsh realities of racism to work towards that dream, and that work isn’t over yet.  Before you can fix something you need to realize what the problem is.  You need to realize the failings of not only yourself, but of your fellow human beings.  You need high minded rhetoric and people that are willing to put their neck on the line for change.  People that fought for civil rights were beaten, put in jail, murdered, and attacked by dogs.  How do you look at the reality of the world and not become a cynic?  How do you dream of a better world without becoming a pie in the sky utopian?

I’m talking about the Civil Rights Movement as an obvious example of where there was some real world gains, although we are a long way off from the perfect in that deal.  But really, this could apply to any social movement.  Lately I’ve been thinking of the climate movement.  The same rules apply.

A lot of my posts lately have been talking about the meaninglessness of popular culture.  There is so much in our culture that not only allows you to turn your head the other way, but actually wants you to.  People spend much of their lives focusing on assorted bullshit.

Now, that being said, not all bullshit is equal, and entertainment and escapism do have their place.  As a mortal being you only have so much energy.  There are times when you need to turn the brain off and recharge the batteries.  There are times to just enjoy something in life.  People are different.

I have commented several times that I am an introvert.  I can not constantly engage other people or I will burn out.  There are times when I need to be alone just watching a ridiculous action movie, or what have you.  Trying to find that proper balance for yourself, of how you can be most effective, is important.  How does one enjoy life and also find the time to make sure that your time on this planet was not wasted on meaningless bullshit?  I don’t have the answer myself, let alone for anyone else, but it is worth thinking about.

Good Morning America: Happy Horseshit

Last day of the road as we are heading back to Austin. Good Morning America is playing in the hotel.  My god this stuff is depressing.  A bunch of a shallow people talking about meaningless nonsense.  Or, even worse, a bunch of intelligent people acting like shallow people pretending to care about meaningless nonsense.  The low point today was when Carson Daily came on and they debated whether a Joan Rivers Saturday Night Live skit was too soon.  If you are sitting around your house worrying about a Saturday Night Live skit, then the brain is dead, but the body still lives. 

I know I have been harping on the same stuff lately, but I can’t help it.  I remembered a very useful term that I used to use in college a lot: Happy Horseshit. 

This morning TV stuff is happy horseshit.  It is happy on the outside, but empty on the inside.  It can’t really even qualify as entertainment instead of news.  Entertainment allows you to escape and disconnect your mind.  It serves the altruistic purpose of letting you recharge your batteries.  This stuff gives you just enough real world info to make you worry or to make you think in a real shallow way, but not in anyway that is actually relatable and useful to your daily life.  Good Morning America: Happy Horseshit!

The Lowering of the Bar

I don’t have cable, but I see a lot of TV on the road.  It is fucking troubling how much senseless shit is pumped out over the airwaves.  There was a commercial for, I think it was the local Fox South Carolina News Morning Show, though constant travel makes things blurry, where one of the selling points of the ad was the morning news team dancing.  Is all it takes to be a newscaster to look presentable, be able to read a teleprompter, and have the ability to dance like the Caddyshack gopher on camera? 

Last night when we got in from the gig there was an infomercial for someone that had apparently designed a revolutionary pillow that makes you smarter.  We were all laughing in total disbelief. 

Now there are two shows on that are based upon the fact that the participants are naked.  These shows would be Naked and Afraid and Naked Dating. 

The bar is constantly being lowered.  Where will we be five years from now?  Sometimes swearing is the most appropriate response:  Holy fucking shitballs!   

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. 

Freedom!

Recently I was at an event, which will remain nameless, that consisted of well to do white men.  It was in Texas and most of these men were dressed as cowboys.  They had on white cowboy hats and what I call cowboy jeans.  Think of a group of Rick Perry supporters and you kind of get the idea.  There was something very tribal about it all.  What was funny was that I heard several homophobic and racist remarks, although to be fair a few members of the group tried to talk sense into their less enlightened brethren.  Why is this funny and not horrible?

First, I find it funny when homophobic people have selected to stay at an all male camp for a week.  It is especially funny when they get to drinking at night and end up dancing together.

Second, the people making the racist remarks were making them while playing dominoes, which fairly or unfairly is a game that many people imagine black people in the hood playing.

Third, these people that would probably say they believed in freedom of the individual above all else were dressed like clones of each other.  You aren’t very free or very much of an individual if you dress, talk, and act like everyone else around you, no matter what you believe.

I entered as a guest, as a musician, and not a reporter, so I don’t feel that I should point out who this group was exactly.  I still believe people have a right to privacy on private property even if it means the privacy to act ignorant.  However, the next time you hear someone parroting thoughts about freedom, look at how closely they resemble their peers, and ask yourself how free hey really are.  Too often freedom is just the right of one kind of group to impose its will on another.