How Game of Thrones is About Climate Change

How Game of Thrones is About Climate Change

Game of Thrones is a piece of fiction and therefore interpretive.  I have been thinking about how the story could be used to discuss the challenge of facing climate change for awhile.  However, Vox got there first, which is probably just as well, because they did a better job than I could have done.  There is even a video for those of you not familiar with the show.  Click on the link above to see how “Winter is Coming” could just as easily be “Summer is Coming”.

The show is one of those shows that just seems to get better and better every season.  It is one of those rare shows that allows you to escape while watching it, while at the same time giving you plenty to chew on after.

Tom Cotton Just Said One of the Dumbest Things I’ve Ever Heard

Huffington Post Tom Cotton Criminal Justice Article

Representative Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, says that America has a, “Under-Incarceration problem.”  Holy fucking shitballs!  The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world.  In fact, from The New York Times:

The United States has, for instance, 2.3 million criminals behind bars, more than any other nation, according to data maintained by the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College London.

China, which is four times more populous than the United States, is a distant second, with 1.6 million people in prison. (That number excludes hundreds of thousands of people held in administrative detention, most of them in China’s extrajudicial system of re-education through labor, which often singles out political activists who have not committed crimes.)

China is a DISTANT second.  Do some research on the Prison Industrial Complex.  Look up how our prison system destroys untold numbers of lives over victimless crimes.  Cotton’s stupidity has stripped me of the strength to do all of your research for you tonight.

Hey, I’m all about free speech, but when someone in power says something this stupid and immoral, my brain starts collapsing in upon itself and all reason goes out the window.  I think we need to give Cotton what he wants, raise the number of Americans in prison, and put him in jail.

Trump Is Killing the Republican Party

How Trump is Killing the Republican Party

Matt Taibbi wrote another great article.  I’m not saying that he is accurate on all of his predictions, but overall he really is able to translate the absurdity of this election cycle.  He is making the case not that the Republican Party is going to disappear, only that the party as we have known it for the past 60 years is in its death throws.

In the past I’ve felt conflicted on how to best make my political viewpoint understood.  I have friends of all political persuasions and I know we are often closer on certain issues than the left/right divide that we have been given as an option.  I don’t want to alienate someone that I could possibly sway to my side on a certain issue.  But Jesus Christ, if this current election hasn’t proven that the modern Republican Party has gone bananas, what will?  When Donald Trump, and formerly Ted Cruz, are the people you put closest to the to Presidency, reason has gone out the fucking window.

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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

The Molly Maguires – Free Download

MOLLY MAGUIRES, Sean Connery, 1970, mustache
MOLLY MAGUIRES, Sean Connery, 1970
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Make way for the Molly Maguires
They’re drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men
Make way for the Molly Maguires
You’ll never see the likes of them again

Down the mines no sunlight shines
Those pits they’re black as hell
In modest style they do their time
It’s Paddy’s prison cell
And they curse the day they’ve travelled far
Then drown their tears with a jar

So make way for the Molly Maguires
They’re drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men
Make way for the Molly Maguires
You’ll never see the likes of them again

Backs will break and muscles ache
Down there there’s no time to dream
Of fields and farms, of womans arms
Just dig that bloody seam
Though they drain their bodies underground
Who’ll dare to push them around

So make way for the Molly Maguires
They’re drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men
Make way for the Molly Maguires
You’ll never see the likes of them again

So make way for the Molly Maguires
They’re drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men
Make way for the Molly Maguires
You’ll never see the likes of them again

An old Irish folk song, recorded at 4am.  I love this song both as a song and for its topic.  My favorite version is Luke Kelly singing it with the Dubliners.  There is no point in even trying to match there version, which casts it as a celebratory drinking song, so I did something different with it.  I know where not to tread!

As the media drifts further on into the realm of the ridiculous, as income inequality builds, remember that people actually fought for the rights working people take for granted every day.  Though there is some dispute as to the exact story of the Molly Maguires, their story is not near the only one.

The photo above is Sean Connery and it is from the 1970  The Molly Maguires.  It’s a film I saw as a kid.

The Drug War’s Racist and Anti-Progressive Roots

I’m not the least surprised by this article that talks about the drug wars racist and anti-progressive roots.  I’ve read before about how certain people in the government will use political issues to destroy their opponents.  In Enemies: A History of the FBI journalist Tim Weiner documents how Hoover used his power to destroy the American left when it was possible.  So knowing that, and how absurd the drug war is, it’s no surprise that John Erlichman, who worked for President Nixon, said this:

“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black people, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Now can you imagine what a President Trump would do to silence his critics?

John Oliver On Donald “Drumpf”

Dear god this is fucking great!  If you haven’t seen this piece on Donald Trump, please take the time to do so, especially if you know anyone that would even consider voting for this mutant.  Oliver, despite operating under the guise of comedy, is actually a better reporter than most of those in our media.  “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” (Oscar Wilde)

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.

 

Thoughts On the Election

I wanted to write about the election in some fashion, but it’s fucking depressing, so I have delayed.  I’m not saying it is without hope.  In Bernie Sanders I believe there is a candidate that is addressing the main problem in America, that our economic system has completely corrupted our ability as a country to deal with the very real problems we face.  A system that values money above all else, and that is what our system truly values, has lead to obscene income inequality, environmental degradation, a mainstream culture that is largely meaningless, and more.  My hope comes from the fact that not only is Sanders bringing this issue to a larger audience, but that he is dong as well as he is so far.  At the beginning of the election I didn’t have much hope that a democratic socialist could go almost head to head with the Clinton machine.

That being said the rest of the election feels like the WWE is organizing it in a banana republic.  Send in the clowns.  Imagine if you were from another country looking in.  The most powerful country in the world, the country with the strongest military, was considering putting either a reality TV star or Ted Cruz at the head of one of its two political parties.  I don’t even know what to call Ted Cruz.  Words escape me.  I can’t tell if he is a charlatan of the worst kind, or a dangerous true believer.  There is something reptilian about him.  He makes George W. Bush look like FDR.  (Never ever say things can’t get worse.  The world will install a trapdoor in the abyss if you boldly declare you have hit rock bottom.)

In the middle of all of this you have Clinton.  I don’t know what to make of her either, but for a different reason.  Her husband was a corporate Democrat.  If you think otherwise go read about his presidency.  What does she believe in?  Does she share her husband’s values?  (There is no guarantee either way.)  How could someone that has been in the public eye this long still mystify me as to what her true political beliefs are?  In one sense I understand it.  She was attacked so vehemently from the outset, when she was First Lady, that it’s not hard to imagine that she would have to develop an impenetrable exterior to deal with it.  But armor can not only protect, but conceal.  I think she would be pretty centrist, but there are a few key issues, in terms of what kind of centrist, that could make all the difference.  (There is a potential for Clinton to be a great president.  She is definitely smart and capable.  I think she understands the machinations of the political system enough to get things done.  However, without knowing what she believes, I feel like choosing her over Sanders would be casting a vote into the void, just hoping for the best.)  Don’t get me wrong, I’d vote for her over this bunch of Republicans, as it would be a vote against total insanity.  But what does it say about our country that we might end up having to choose between middle-of-the-road and batshit crazy?

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On another note, I can’t help but feel that many on the right and left are angry about the same things, even if they can’t agree on the cause.  A lot of people are feeling the uncertainty that our economic system has caused.  But I also think both sides feel the meaninglessness that is inherent in our culture.  Those on the right might call it immoral, but I would just say meaningless, though what has created it is a certain kind of greedy immorality.  The main operating value is money.  Whatever makes money wins.  This is how we end up with so many things that just end up representing the lowest common denominator.   Although there are of course things that the right and left will never agree upon, I do believe that if both sides could recognize the meaninglessness of a lot of our culture, and the fact that greed has created it, there could be positive changes that would satisfy members of both groups.  But maybe I’m just dreaming?