A Late Encounter With the Idiot

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I’ve seen horrors… horrors that you’ve seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that… but you have no right to judge me. It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror… Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies! I remember when I was with Special Forces… seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn’t see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember… I… I… I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn’t know what I wanted to do! And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it… I never want to forget. And then I realized… like I was shot… like I was shot with a diamond… a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, my God… the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand that these were not monsters, these were men… trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love… but they had the strength… the strength… to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men, our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral… and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling… without passion… without judgment… without judgment! Because it’s judgment that defeats us.

- Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now

The reason I am starting with the above quote will become clear later.  Last night I had the extreme displeasure of playing The Redneck Country Club in Stafford, Texas.  I want to make it clear this was not because of its patrons or staff, as the staff were very kind to me and the crowd was a mixture of people, but because of the owner:  conservative radio talk show host Michael Berry.  

I also believe as entertainers that one should play for any audience as long as one does not rubber stamp an audience’s worst tendencies or ignorant political positions.  There were people in the crowd last night that I know and who I am sure do not share Berry’s political views.  However, even the people that do, it is possible that art may, at its best, change them, and at its worst relieve them of the daily pain of being a human being for a few hours.  We can’t know their life experience and how they arrived at such closed minded political positions.  Possibly they are even kind to people in their real lives, and are just fans of an idiot.  Unless you have committed a crime, or have the power to influence people, I try not to judge people other then based on my own individual experience with them.  My main distaste for playing the club was not only that it was owned by Michael Berry, but that it seemed to be a brand extension of his radio show.  I didn’t like playing a place where people might think that I agreed with his often disgusting and moronic political positions.  

I did not know quite what I was getting into last night.  I simply showed up like I would to any gig, not aware that Michael Berry owned the club, or not even completely aware of who Michael Berry was.  

During soundcheck I started to see signs that I was not in Kansan anymore.  (Although, being how conservative Kansas is, I possibly could have been in Kansas.)  First even if Berry wasn’t conservative, it is clear that he is a supreme egoist.  His venue was full of pictures of the man.  Now I’m not talking pictures of a club owner with famous musicians or whatever, as is often common in the club world.  I am talking about giant posters of Berry hocking his various products.  Also, when his radio show came on, the club decided to pump it into the place at concert volume.  Make no mistake, at every moment you were supposed to be aware that Michael Berry owned the club, and that this club was again part of the Michael Berry brand. 

Let me give those of you that don’t know who Michael Berry is a taste of his brand.  Throughout the club there were bumper stickers that said, I shit you not:

Micheal Berry
Country Fried – Southern Pride – On Your Side

‘Merica

This was all printed over a confederate flag.  Also, while listening to his show, which I couldn’t have avoided unless I put an ice pick in my ear, he kept referring to his audience as “white people”.  I should also note two other things.  When I walked into the club there was an exact replica of the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazard.  The other being that there were all kinds of dumbass slogans strung up around the bar like “The 2nd Amendment – The First Version of Homeland Security.”  

While I was at soundcheck a very in the know Houstonian messaged me and told me that I was, “playing the most racist club that I will ever play.”  

How did i justify playing such a place?  Trust me, i thought many times over about getting in my car and driving straight back to Austin.  However, I decided that one should experience everything once.  People that had bought tickets and were coming out were possibly coming out to see us and in no way supported Michael Berry, and even people that supported him may have some kind of artistic experience that might slightly alter the way that they view the world. (We do plenty of covers of black artists, one of our horn players is Mexican, and one of our horn players always wears a Rasta hat.)  I decided that if Michael Berry was going to be giving me money, I would use it to spend a day not working and writing about what a dumbass he was.  I also decided last night I would give some of the money to a charity that is in direct political opposition to something Michael Berry believes in.  

Now despite all of these troubling signs all around me, both literally and metaphorically, the staff was actually very kind to us.  Other than the clueless man that I saw wearing a Ted Cruz for President t-shirt, I have no way of knowing if these people were actually believing the bullshit that was around them, or were just Americans that were hard up for money and needed a job.  Even if they were died in the wool believers, I don’t believe that they would have been mean to anyone of a different race.  If the club had hired a group of black blues musicians I still believe they would have been treated kindly.  Often people that hate the “other” have enough cognitive dissonance going on in their brain to allow their hate to exist on some imaginary plane that effects their voting and what they talk about in private, but not their face to face behavior with other human beings.  Don’t get me wrong there is a certain percentage of these people that are just extremely hateful, but most of them are just hard up looking to blame someone else for their problems.  They are preyed upon by people like Berry to hate the “other” instead of focusing their anger on the corporations and leaders that are fucking them up the ass every day.  People like Berry rely on corporations to sponsor his behavior.  

Now this is where things get strange.  While spending time in my car, to avoid spending any more time in this bar than I had to, I did some research on Michael Berry.  Apparently he has an Indian wife and two black sons.  Now this is someone that is often anti-immigrant and who takes shots at minorities on his radio show.  How do you square the two things?  The first being that Michael Berry, if he is a true believer, is really attacking not minorities because he is an across the board racist, but because he must be able to view them in different categories.  There are the ones that are American and upstanding, and the ones that are destroying the America that he loves.  Basically he dislikes the poor ones.  There is no greater sin in America then being poor.  If he is not an true believer then he is simply gaming his audience because being a conservative talk show host is highly lucrative.  I am unwilling to guess what goes on inside Berry’s head, but being that his bar was filled with posters of himself hocking products…you get the idea…

And this is where the Kurtz quote comes into play.  Although I believe that there is a certain amount of gaming going on with his audience, I also believe that he is someone that loves his family and in some way thinks he is doing good things for the community.  Much like Kurtz, but in a much stupider way, he is embracing the evil in the world because it allows him to provide for his family and because he believes at least in part that what he is doing is will help “the cause”.  

I am not going to go into all of the idiotic things that Berry has said on his radio show.  A quick google search will supply you with a wealth of information.  I would just like to mention a few things based on last night.  (A quick search will bring up things like, although he apologized for it and still wished it had never been built, he said the the mosque built near Ground Zero after 911 should be blown up. “I hope that someone blows it up.”)  Here is some more dumbass comments from when he was a City Councilman!:

http://watchingthewatchers.org/news/1194/houston-councilman-stop-apologizing

When Berry showed up he looked like the stereotypical shock jock.  In fact, something about him reminded me of Jeff Bridges at the beginning of the movie The Fisher King.  He was constantly walking around with a cigar in his mouth just like good old Rush.  He introduced the band on stage.  In order to avoid looking like I supported him, I came out on stage late so that I didn’t have to shake his hand.  In private I would be happy to meet with anyone, even someone that has wildly different views than me.  I have many conservative friends.  I just didn’t want to look buddy buddy with someone in a public way that could be misconstrued.  

His introduction was long winded as this man clearly loves to hear himself talk.  I guess anyone that creates a bar and puts pictures of himself everywhere is going to want to be the center of attention.  The speech was filled with the kind of the middle of the road unthinking patriotism that fills so much of our public discourse.  Support the troops, support traditional marriage, love of the tribe, etc.  He clearly had a giant hard on for the troops because he called anyone that served to the front of the stage for a giant round of applause.  On the front of it this may seem like a nice gesture.   But I believe this is the kind of feel good nonsense that allows people to feel good about themselves while supporting politicians that would gladly send the troops into harms way to be killed or mutilated.  Let’s applaud the troops when they come home all fucked up from the war front, but let’s not actually talk about peace and understanding and try to make sure that they never go on another mission of imperial conquest again.  Anyone can say let’s support the troops now that they have PTSD and get a big round of applause.  It takes a much bigger person so say that we have started too many wars and that these poor troops should have never been sent anywhere in the first place.  The best way to support the troops isn’t to applaud them while you are drinking and smoking a cigar, but to try to get a real conversation going about about peace, so that these poor men and women never have to come home mangled and full of trauma, if they come home at all.  An empty gesture by a lesser mind.  In fact, clapping while drunk, is one of the easiest and least committal things a human being can do.  He was also happy to talk about loving your wife, traditional marriage, while never bringing up that maybe there are people that aren’t married or that are gay that love who they are with with the truest commitment.  He also kept going on about how great the cops were.  This is at a time when our justice system is completely corrupt and our cops more and more look like they are soldiers in occupied territory.  There was also the usual conservative shout out to small business owners.  (Trust me, I have worked for small businesses and there ain’t nothing that separates the leaders of those fine organizations from the general public.  I knew a small business owner that was such a drunk, that after he was busted for a DUI and had a breathalyzer installed in his car, he started driving the company vehicles to the bar.)  It wasn’t so much that he was bringing his radio personality into the bar, saying the stupid and often ignorant shit he says on the air, but that he was going for easy soft applause lines that don’t really mean anything if you think about them, and actually muddy the waters if you really think about them.  I never once heard him make a plea for humanity, peace, empathy, or understanding.  It is easy to support your tribe.  We need people of influence that are going to go outside of tribal mentality.  

Michael Berry couldn’t quit lapping up attention all night.  He came out on stage, or came to the side of it where the audience could see him, more times then I wished.  Every time he did, I kept wishing to make myself smaller, unseen, but there I was, in a compromised position, wondering what fucking gods I had offended to end up there.  

So my senses were destroyed by the end of the night.  I had to sit around with idiotic slogans plastered around me.  I had to listen to dumbass gibberish.  One more thing, I don’t get this whole championing of redneck culture, as I didn’t grow up in the South.  I am part Irish.  To me claiming that you are proud to be a redneck would be like an Irishman claiming that he is proud to be an alcoholic.  It is such a low bar.  

There also was reportedly someone from Duck Dynasty there.  In the words of Richard Pryor from Moving, it was like an, “asshole convention.”  

I’m still trying to make sense of last night.  Even though I was in hell, I was glad for the experience, to see what is going on out there is this strange and often frustrating country.  Even in a crowd that came out to a bar that was owned by Michael Berry, there were still decent and kind people.  We need to not do what Berry does and condemn people just for the way they look or what tribe they belong to.  

I must thank Michael Berry last of all.  Thanks Mikey, for paying me, so I could sit around this morning and write this.  Also thanks again for the money.  I look forward to giving some of it to a charity that works in opposition to your closed minded rhetoric.  

One Nation Under SWAT

One nation under SWAT: How America’s police became an occupying force http://www.salon.com/2014/08/14/one_nation_under_swat_how_americas_police_became_an_occupying_force_partner/ via @Salon

An interesting article about how our police are becoming more militarized.  If there is any good at all to come out of Missouri,  it is that the news media, in part because reporters are being brutalized, are waking up to this militarization.  Here is a key paragraph from the article:

Pause here a moment and consider that these violent home invasions are routinely used against people who are only suspected of a crime. Up-armored paramilitary teams now regularly bash down doors in search of evidence of a possible crime. In other words, police departments increasingly choose a tactic that often results in injury and property damage as its first option, not the one of last resort. In more than 60% of the raids the ACLU investigated, SWAT members rammed down doors in search of possible drugs, not to save a hostage, respond to a barricade situation, or neutralize an active shooter.

David Vitter: The Life of a Douchebag

David Vitter: Cancer prevention, wildlife nonprofits are “bogus propaganda disguised as science” http://www.salon.com/2014/08/10/senator_vitter_cancer_prevention_wildlife_nonprofits_are_bogus_propaganda_disguised_as_science_partner/ via @Salon

Other than my title what more is there to say?  The above article is about how Vitter is trying to destroy environmental regulations while he has a spot on the Environment and Public Works Committee. 

High Speed-Rail

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/07/us/delays-persist-for-us-high-speed-rail.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpSumSmallMediaHigh&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

This is an article about why we have failed to implement more high-speed rail in our country during the Obama years.  There is plenty of blame to go around as the administration, Republicans, and local governments have either made mistakes or directly opposed progress on this issue.

When I was in Japan last year I was blown away by how great the public transportation was.  In seeing the traffic around most U.S. cities, I will never understand why there isn’t a greater public push for more public transportation.

Powerful World Peace is None of Your Business Video.

 

The above video is an extremely powerful unofficial video for Morrissey’s World Peace is None of Your Business.  It is a collection of real world clips that underscore the song’s meaning.  Both the video and the song are exceptional.  It was endorsed by the man himself at the official site http://www.true-to-you.net with the following statement:

I am indebted to three sources that have placed their own well-crafted videos on You Tube for the songWorld peace is none of your business. The three individual sources are named as Sharon Jheeta, Héctor González and wpeace123456. These videos fully understand the intent of the song, and I am relieved that these films exist. Yes, a similar document ought to have been harvested by the record label, but please understand that the pop or rock industry can be as dedicated to perpetuating public deception as the world of politics itself. God bless social media!
Liberty, equality and fraternity are the essence of the song; no monarchic rule, no political hierarchies, no bought-and-paid-for government thugs, security forces no longer beyond prosecution, and an end to megalomania, repression and corruption. Meat consumption is climate change, and if ever there were a self-evident lost cause it is the British so-called “royal family”. Societies have never been so nervous; Pan Am Flight 103 differs not a jot from Malaysian Flight 17. The United Nations failure to imprison Tony Blair and George W. Bush for war crimes against Iraq has told us all that there can never be enough bloodshed, and the world is suffering its worst nervous breakdown. Do not feel powerless!
Many apparently powerless causes have succeeded in shifting political stupidity and greed. You are intellectual sanity. It is possible for nonviolent change; there are more people than there are aging despots; there are more people than there are world leaders. In truth, the world is leaderless. Please stop watching Fox News; anti-monarchial Britain has given up on the BBC – we know that every slot is paid for. We know that the number 1 position on the pop charts is “bought”; this is not 1955.
Thank you to all of my friends in Israel, Chile, Sweden, Poland, Argentina, Hungary, Romania, Finland and Italy who bought World peace is none of your business. It is 30 years on since The Smiths album entered the UK chart at number 2 with zero airplay and zero promotion, and the struggle for the airwaves remains difficult. Yet, I am writing this to you now, and you are reading it.
In answer to many people who have asked, I should like to finally make it clear that I have not received any television invitations – worldwide! – to either discuss World peace is none of your business, or even to sing any songs from the album.

Thank you for reading this. We have our first World peace is none of your business concert booked in Lisbon (Portugal) on October 6th.

All we have is each other.

for the animals, for intellectual sanity …

MORRISSEY
5 August 2014.

Sullivan on Torture

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http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/08/03/obama-torture-transparency-and-the-rule-of-law/

 

A pretty powerful post by Andrew Sullivan about the torture.  Although he views Bush and his gang as war criminals, he also finds Obama’s unwillingness to address the issue in any kind of meaningful way deeply unsettling.  

How Images Can Lie

I was just updating my instagram and looking back over the photos.  I was thinking how images lie.  Although sometimes you can tell they were taken from a van window, at times it looks like I was prancing across magical fields.  Also, I only post photos I like, so one is seeing a selected view of what I have seen.  This is not to say that my tour hasn’t been nice, or that I haven’t seen a great deal of amazing imagery.  It is just that it gives one a false sense of my reality.  They don’t capture how tired I have been at times, for instance. 

We judge so many things these days by images.  I have noticed an uptick in my blog stats once I started including more photos.  An image can change our perception of a politician or a celebrity.  Plus we watch shows that claim to be “reality”, when they are highly manipulative in their edits and are often even scripted.  This is all old news. 

Another example is the less outrageous travel shows.  Heat, cold, and bugs don’t make their way into an image.  Even if they are highlighted by what an image shows or by commentary we don’t feel them.  We just see the scenery that the camera focuses on.  We rarely see the really impoverished parts of a country on a travel show. 

Also important in imagery is what is not in the photo.  The politician smiles for the camera, but do we see the protesters in the crowd? 

Again, these aren’t new ideas, but I believe they are important things to remember in our increasingly image focused society. 

Never the Tribe

Reading Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem in the van.  No group in Europe comes out clean, although some come across as marginally better.  Obviously the Nazis are at the center of things.  But plenty of other countries, especially Eastern European countries, played a role in the Final Solution.  Even the French, for instance, who quit deporting Jews once they learned what that deportation truly meant, contributed.  The Nazis couldn’t have done what they did without collaboration.  In fact many Jews even collaborated with the Nazis towards achieving their sinister goals. 

The point of this all being that we should treat people as individuals.  Whenever we point the finger at an entire group of people, whether to point out something good or bad, we simplify things and lose our ability to see reality. 

I can’t help but feel that those that identify with a group or a tribe first of all, can’t help but one day be dissapointed.  Unless of course they are willing to blindly accept whatever it is that group may do.  And that is nothing but unthinking stupidity.  We should put people first at times, before ourselves, but never the tribe. 

I don’t feel that this is a particularly hard truth to arrive at.  But in America these days one never knows…

A Take On the Politics of World Peace is None of Your Business

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http://www.nationalreview.com/article/384154/peace-summit-its-morrisseys-world-we-just-vote-it-armond-white

 

The above link is an interesting review of Morrissey’s World Peace is None of Your Business.  It should be interesting to the non-fan as well, because it deals with ideas about political music.  There are definitely parts of the review I don’t agree with, and others that I am mulling over, but it will definitely will make you think.  

 

 

Comic Radicals on the Left

I give the right a lot of shit on this blog.  I don’t feel guilty about it as the new right is batshit crazy.  However, there are those on the left that are figures of fun as well.  Even those that I agree with politically can often feel like another species when confronted with face to face.

One time when I was looking for a part time job to supplement my music career, I applied at Green Peace. (I want to say that I have no problem with Green Peace.  This story focuses on one particular office, although that office was typical of some other left wing organizations I have been to.)  First of all I wore a suit and tie to the interview, because it was an INTERVIEW.  I am someone that only wears ties to interviews, weddings, and funerals.  Most of the people looked at me like I was in the FBI when I walked through the door.  I instantly felt like I was in the Man in the presence of a bunch of radicals, even though my politics are in many ways as far left as Green Peace.  But these were very comical radicals as they all looked like they were trying to outdo each other in the how poorly they were dressed category.  I’m a jeans and t-shirt guy 99% of the time.  But they looked like they were having a contest to show how much they did not live by societies standards.  I’m talking sweaters with holes in them and jeans that were more ill-fitting than the jeans I have seen on homeless people.

The boss was the same, and yet somehow different.  He looked like a coffee house communist intellectual.  High and tight haircut, ratty sweater, thick 1950’s looking glasses, and an overly serious expression on his face.  In fact I don’t remember him smiling the whole time.  And this was a group interview, so even if he didn’t like my shit, he should have liked someone!

We were interviewed in a circle.  Questions that I had mentally prepared for, like why I would be good at this job, were never asked.  (If I had been asked I could have told them that I grew up with an environmentalist Dad talking over those issues nightly, I believed in Green Peace’s policies, and I had experience raising money, which is what the job was for.)  But we were asked who our political heroes were.  Not expecting that question I said Robert Kennedy off the top of my head, as most of my political heroes are people that are writers or artists.  I said this not because I am not aware of some of the earlier ill informed policies that Kennedy had supported, but because he was someone that was smart enough to evolve and change and become more progressive as he grew older.  Wrong answer!  I should have said Gandhi like the office boss.  Is there any more easy typical self-righteous answer that you could give than Gandhi?  Plus, Gandhi, for however great he was on so many things, had some pretty backwards ideas about women.  So clearly this intellectual wasn’t as smart as he thought.  His answer was no less complicated than mine, he just didn’t know it.

Anyway, I didn’t get the job as I clearly didn’t pass the holier-than-thou interrogation.  The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.  It was like a contest between people to show how righteous they were.  Even worse than this righteousness was a complete lack of any humor.  If you are going to take a hard look at the injustice of the world you need a sense of humor.  Not only because you need it as a shield against the insanity that is out there, not only because it will endear you to people that otherwise might turn away from your beliefs, but because there is so much absurdity out there, that the horrible is often outright funny.  These people, clearly without knowing it, were the exact kind of people that give the left a bad name.  Someone like that office boss was going to turn as many people off to his cause as he was going to turn on, if he ever interacted with the public at large.

George Orwell, who believed in socialism, spent a great deal of his time criticizing the left, exactly because of people like this person.  Orwell believed in the ideas of the left, but he was highly critical of how people went about trying to implement them.

That day was dispiriting.  We both wanted to “save the planet”, but if we succeeded, I was glad it was big enough that I would never have to see that fool again.