The link above is to a Cracked article that has clips from old horror movies from early in movie history. The title is theirs. However, I think the clips are interesting. They are visually striking and some of them are quite artistic. Plus, in looking at them you realize that there is this whole world of lost history out there, things that many people saw that you aren’t even aware of. It’s like looking through a portal into another time and place.
The other day I mentioned that I was watching the David Milch created Luck. While reading more interviews with Milch I came upon this fascinating article. There is a mini-documntary here that you can watch about Milch’s Deadwood, one of the greatest shows of all time. You can also read the script for the documentary below if you don’t feel like watching it. It’s truly fascinating not only for the information about the show, but the ideas inherent in the show and therefore the documentary as well dealing with our country. The title above has to do with the idea that history is a, “lie agreed upon.” I found the following passage really interesting and a good sample of the kind of ideas inherent in the show and article:
He said, “An agreement that creates a community is an agreement upon an illusion, an agreement upon an intoxicant. Our founding document jumps off from, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident,’ which to me means a frank agreement upon illusion – not that these are self-evident truths, but that we agree upon an illusion that these are fucking truths.”
The above article is an interesting read about the history of the Democratic party. It also deals with recent events and the friction between different elements of the party. The other day I saw this map, which shows which areas of the country have the most racist tweets. I was surprised, maybe not totally surprised having grown up around that region, but at least slightly surprised that the region that looked the worst on that map was Appalachia. (I grew up in central Pennsylvania and went to college in West Virginia.) Now there may be reasons that this map is slightly misleading, though I have no proof of that. The fact that it is Twitter and not some kind of more scientific poll may change results. There are also less blacks in that region than in other parts of the country that are more traditionally thought of as racist, so maybe people feel they have less reason to hide what they are saying? Anyhow, anyway you cut it, it is deeply troubling for that region. (I should also add that as someone that travels a lot, no one should be stereotyped just because of the region they come from. There are great people in the South and Appalachia, just as there are terrible people in regions that are not as negatively stereotyped for racial issues.)
One of the things that the right has been so good at doing is dividing and conquering. Economically minorities and white working class voters would both benefit from a less conservative agenda. Having better access to good jobs, good education, and having more regulations, especially in areas of pollution, leads to a higher quality of life. However, these social issues have always been used to divide our country. United we stand, divided we fall, is now as true as ever. If we can’t overcome our differences in this age, when jobs can move anywhere in the world and environmental issues require a united front, we are truly doomed.
I would never argue to ban a flag. Not because there are any flags that I’m expecting to wave anytime soon, but because I believe in freedom of expression, even the freedom to express views that are misguided. However, there is a big difference between giving people the choice to wave their own flag and putting it up over a statehouse, where it carries the weight of law with it. I know there are some that say the Confederate Flag carries history and heritage with it, but if you look at that history it is troubling to say the least. Up above Ta-Nehisi Coates makes the argument that the Confederate Flag should be taken down, with the weight of history on his side. I picked Coates because I know that he has done a great deal of time studying the history of slavery, The Civil War, and the legacy of those times. I’ve read him long enough to know that he has done the heavy lifting, the research, on these questions. Anyone can spout their opinion, but Coates has long been interested in these very things. I’ve read enough history myself that, while I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on such things, Coates words ring true to me in that they stack up with the things that I have read.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t like culture wars for the sake of them and I don’t like acts of symbolism. I’d much rather know that racism was stamped out than to see a flag taken down. However, again the fact that this flag is hung up on a public building is what I find troubling. Taking the flag down in no way means that issues of institutional racism are stamped out. But at the same time flying a flag that has stood for institutional racism over an institution is a little strange, especially if you are one of those that claims there is no institutional racism. Taking it down is a symbol and a gesture and no more. It doesn’t solve anything in and of itself, but it at least says, “we’re working on it,” doesn’t it?
If you want to hang that flag on your house or put it as a bumper-sticker on your car, as they say in Deadwood, “That is between you and your god.” But I think, given what that flag has represented over the years, taking it down from government buildings is a pretty damn good idea.
When I was in Oklahoma a couple weeks ago I noticed, while we were driving through a commercial zone, that there was a car wash named after an Indian tribe. I don’t remember what tribe, but it struck me as both tragic and comic at the same time. Oklahoma was once the home of many tribes, including the Kiowa, Pawnee, and Shawnee. (There are obviously still Native Americans in Oklahoma, but not as they once were of course.) The white man came into Oklahoma, killed or displaced its indigenous people, and now uses their images and names to promote cheap commerce. It would be like Germans deciding to paint the faces of Jews on the inside of beer halls, just to provide some quaint atmosphere. Oklahoma is not alone, by any means, in this kind of behavior, it is just where the idea crystalized itself in my mind. People commit genocide and then name some tacky businesses after the victims. If that’s not insult to injury I don’t know what is. Next time you go to a family restaurant with your kids, make sure to tell them that the Indian on the wall was probably killed right there! That will add some interesting vibes to an otherwise drab family occasion!
Ireland has just voted in favor of gay marriage. This is a victory for sanity, dignity, and love. Ireland, a country that was oppressed by the Church for many years, is now officially more progressive than parts of our country on this issue. Although I know we will get there eventually, it is shameful that so many people here in the USA are still firmly rooted in the ideas of the past. All sane people know that those who were against Civil Rights in the 60’s will look eternally foolish when remembered in history books. So will those that oppose gay marriage now. However, today is a day to celebrate. Today brings the world one step closer to justice and equality.
The Elvis Presley versions of Blue Moon is such a fantastic recording. It is a whole universe in less than two and a half minutes. I found a site where you can read the history of Blue Moon. (Though the first two paragraphs should be skipped.) A sample:
“On August 19 they spent hours doing take after take of ‘Blue Moon,’ in an eerie, clippity-clop version that resembled a cross between Slim Whitman’s ‘Indian Love Call’ and some of the falsetto flights of the r&b ‘bird’ groups (the Orioles, the Ravens, the Larks). After it was all over, Sam wasn’t satisfied that they had anything worth releasing, but he never uttered a word of demurral for fear of discouraging the unfettered freshness and enthusiasm of the singer.”
Take 4 that evening, the one that RCA would eventually release two years later, reveals Elvis’s unusual interpretation of the song. Music historian Colin Escott describes it thus: “Elvis skips the bridge and the final verse that contains the happy ending, neatly transforming the 32-bar pop classic into an eerie 16-bar blues.” Hart’s original lyrics describe a man whose longing for love is finally rewarded. Elvis used only the following two opening stanzas, repeating and separating them with falsetto moans (that’s how I categorize the sound now):
One thing that really strikes me about the recording is how primitive it is. Yet this does nothing to detract from its enjoyability, and in fact this actually helps to create the timeless mysterious quality of the recording. Mood and emotion always win out in music. What is good music if not sounds that create emotion? In modern recordings you can make everything clear, but that is not necessarily an advantage. When there is a bit of murkiness or misdirection, it allows the imagination of the listener to fill in the missing qualities. Even knowing the history of Blue Moon, how it was recorded, cannot detract from the recordings strange beauty. I think one of the reasons that something like Blue Moon is with us, aside from the fantastic performances, songwriting, and place in history, is that no matter how much we know about it, it remains a mysterious puzzle that will never be solved. We might know the pieces that were in place on August 19th, 1954, but there is a strange alchemy, another presence, participating in the events of that night.
A friend posted the article up above on Facebook today. It’s strange, being from Pennsylvania with family in Philadelphia, that I have never heard this story before today. I was only 6 when it happened. A group that preached black liberation and back-to-nature lifestyle was bombed by the police 30 years ago. I don’t know enough about the incident to comment on it, but I think in general that the story poses a lot of interesting questions, especially with all of the police brutality that has been dominating our news cycles lately. The article says that six adults and five children were killed in the bombing. 65 homes were destroyed as well.
I recently read Candide by Voltaire. I will add my voice to the many over the years that have deemed it a classic. I think I would even say it is one of my favorite books I have read. If you were to tell someone to read a book that was written by a French intellectual in the 1700’s, many would imagine something dense and challenging. However, despite the amazing wealth of ideas in the book, it is direct, accessible, funny, and full of truths that still resonate in the modern day. I almost felt in certain ways that I was reading a precursor to Carlin or Vonnegut, people that are able to speak truth to power in very direct and clear way, while making you laugh out loud at things you shouldn’t be laughing at.
I was a history major at WVU for several years, before finally graduating with an American Studies degree from Penn State. One of the things in history that always comes up is trying to justify or condemn someone for what they did based upon the times that they live in. “Well so and so owned slaves, but you have to understand the times that they lived in.” I think something like that is only completely true if you know how far thought had progressed in certain societies. If slavery or some other evil is accepted by almost everyone, then you might not be able to judge someone if the light of truth hadn’t been shown on that particular evil yet. On the other side, if people knew something was evil, or unethical, than you can judge those people in their own time.
Reading Voltaire makes me think that the argument, you have to understand the times, doesn’t hold water as much as I thought. Voltaire satirizes almost all of the evils of his time and ours: Violence over religion, colonialism, exploiting other humans for profit, violence against women, war, and on and on. The book was written in 1759, before the United States even existed, yet there is a passage where he points out how absurd it is to treat those of another race cruelly, especially in the name of God and country. He is constantly satirizing different religious sects for fighting with each other over beliefs.
The book basically follows the title character, a well meaning but naive man from Germany who is told by a court philosopher that all is for the best, that all is part of some natural order. When Candide gets kicked out of the castle he is living in, for being with a woman that he shouldn’t be, his story becomes a downward spiral of the tragic and comic as one bad thing happens after another. The language is very direct and simple, but the amount of terrible deeds listed almost becomes poetic in its scope. It certainly is one of those works where things are so terrible it goes through the looking glass, where the awful becomes funny as a result of perceived absurdity. The book holds a mirror up to the human race, asking the question, almost screaming, “What are you doing?!!!”
The forward to the book makes the case that above all, Voltaire was against superstition. It was superstition, belief in things that have no basis in nature, that is man’s biggest folly. He understood the cruelty that humans could do to one another through created orders like religion and nation states.
Although Voltaire doesn’t have any answers, he does have a direction by the end of the book that at least points towards ways in which humans could lead lives worth living. Although this is a book largely of darkness, even if hilariously conveyed, this is not a book completely without light.
Although the world has progressed in certain ways since the time of Voltaire, many of these problems are still with us. I couldn’t help but ask myself several questions: How did he have such a clear view of the world before modern science and so much other knowledge existed? If he had such a clear view of the world of the world, why were so many others in his time so lost in the dark? If he had such a clear view of the world in 1759, why is it that so many of these problems still persist? How is it that someone writing in the 1700’s could see the world, when so many people, SO MANY PEOPLE, of right now are so lost in the woods? Why do so many idiocies associated with religion and superstition still exist, if he knew so much then and we have gained so much knowledge since his time?
Who knows such things…