Knockin’ On Mine

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Alright, you read common knowledge, stockpile your brain
You get burned in the sun, you get wet in the rain
What they teach you to fix, needs to be broke
I say, he who laughs first didn’t get the joke
Go on, untap your mind, quit knocking on mine

An English teacher from Vancouver
She asked me to write something for her students
I wrote knowledge adds, wisdom let slide
She says now really? I wanna tap your mind

Quit knockin’ on mine
Walkin’ on
Knockin’ on mine

Knowledge is power, got your books go read ‘em
Wisdom is ignorance, stupidity, I call freedom
Knockin’ on mine, get out

Comic books, the Bible, road maps, pornography
Anything you wanna read
Go out and sit in a field sometime

Quit knockin’ on mine
(Knockin’ on mine)
Quit knockin’ on mine
(Knockin’ on mine)

Power got your books go read ‘em
Wisdom is ignorance, stupidity, I call freedom
Quit knockin’ on mine
(Knockin’ on mine)

You read common knowledge every day
You’re as common as that newspaper you throw away
You get burned in the sun, you get wet in the rain
Won’t you ever change, won’t you ever learn?

Quit knockin’ on mine
(Knockin’ on mine)

Knockin’ On Mine by Paul Westerberg.  I remember hearing this song when I was around 13 or 14 and being surprised that there was a rock n roll song about reading, one that actually rocked no less.  I was used to the songs that were on the radio that were about having fun and partying all of the time.  As I grow older I realize that it’s ideas that are most subversive of all.  Anyone just singing about whiskey all of the time is selling you fake rebellion.  

My Favorite Blog

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http://www.dish.andrewsullivan.com

You can also just type in andrewsullivan.com into your browser.

My favorite blog is Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish.  It is definitely one of the models for this one.  I like several things about the site, from its content, to the way it is set up.  Sullivan has interest in a wide range of topics.  He can jump from political topics to lighter ones, such as what is the best cover song ever, from post to post.  Many blogs try to focus on a specific topic so that they can find a niche.  However, that is just not the way most people think.  I am a musician and my number one passion is music, but I love reading about politics, film, nature, and literature as well.  But really I like reading about just about anything if it is presented in a clear and insightful way.  Most people have more than one interest.

Although Sullivan has moved to the left in recent years, or at least stayed in the same place as the right has gotten crazier, I don’t agree with him on everything.  However, it is the clarity of his thought, and the fact that he is willing to evolve as time moves along, that makes him interesting to read.  He is also willing to admit that he is wrong.  Life is like that; where you change your opinion and make mistakes.  It takes a smart person to know that they don’t know everything.  Andrew Sullivan can occasionally come across as harsh on TV, but in writing he is almost always very thoughtful.

Blogging interests me as a form for two reasons.  You can get in insightful information in short bursts.  Also, you can follow someone’s real time thinking on issues.  A good blog, in my opinion, should be like a well written diary entry, that focuses on the world, and not oneself.  But like a diary entry it charts how you feel about the world at that place and time.  As Facebook pages shows us, mine included, there are very few people that have lives interesting enough that we want to know what they are doing every single moment.  That’s why I choose to only talk about myself, in terms of what I am doing, only when it is relevant to some other topic.

Not everything I write is a home run.  However, hopefully I will keep you coming back as I explore the world around us, as it is an endlessly fascinating place.  I don’t understand how people can be bored in this world.  There simply isn’t enough time to explore all of the strange, mysterious, fascinating, frustrating, wonderful, horrible things out there.

Listen, Read, and Watch this Weekend

'Sunday Brunch' TV Programme, London, Britain - 06 Jan 2013

I thought about writing something about ten times today.  But nothing came.  Could it have been the fact that it was as hot as Africa out?  Could it have been the drinks I had last night?  A few recommendations for the weekend is all I have today:

Listen to:  If you love great singing over pop music, and are looking for an album this weekend, check out Frank Sinatra’s Watertown.  It was recorded in 1969 and it is Frank’s one attempt to play the 60’s pop game.  It’s a concept album and a masterpiece and I hope to write more about it at some point. The song I Would Be in Love (Anyway) alone is worth the price.

Listen to:  With Weird Al at number one in the Billboard album charts, and the soundtrack to Frozen still selling units, I think we can safely proclaim that mainstream America has lost their minds.  If you want to support music that is actually intelligent, melodic, extremely musical, and sad and funny as hell in equal measures, check out Morrissey’s new album, World Peace is None of Your Business.  It’s the best thing I’ve heard in years.  Yes, I’m going to keep pushing this album on you.  It’s that good.

Read:  I finished the Brendan Behan play The Quare Fellow.  It takes place in Mountjoy prison.  It’s the first dramatic piece of Behan’s that I’ve read.  It’s subversively hilarious, poetic, and rings true in every word.  I’ve been thinking about the death penalty in Texas lately, and this play will make you dead set against it.  It does so without ever becoming some kind of self righteous morality tale.  In fact it is the fallen nature of everyone involved that makes it’s final sequence seem like some kind of sad cosmic joke.

Watch:  If you want to see things in the world you have never seen before and laugh your arse off while doing so, check out the Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant produced An Idiot Abroad.  The show stars Karl Pilkington, as the little Englander and title idiot.  This is someone that doesn’t like to travel hosting a travel show.  The show could easily descend into reality show brainlessness, but the footage is excellent.  In often trying to torture Karl they send him to places that most travel shows would never go to.  Also, although most of Karl’s commentary duly earns him the title phrase, he occasionally stumbles his way into truth as when he compares Jerusalem to Pac-Man.  There is also something strangely lovable about Karl.  His words and deeds are often at opposites.  He will say something completely offensive and then show kindness towards someone that most people never would.  The full series is available on Netflix.

That’s all for today kids.  I am throwing a party for my brother tonight, so the bottle calls again.  To quote Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, “I’m too old for this shit!”  (P.S.  Another hilarious watch is the It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia espisode Dee Reynolds: Shaping America’s Youth.  In this episode they spoof the Lethal Weapon series.  You haven’t lived until you have seen Danny DeVito having sex to the cheesy 80’s saxophone music that they play in those movies.)

Passport Propaganda

Last night I forgot one of my books and was stuck in a situation where I had nothing to read.  I started reading the quotes in my passport and realized that almost everyone was propaganda and most were easily disproved.  They are all part of, as George Carlin would say, “the national bullshit story.”  I thought I would post the quotes and then follow up with why a response to each one:

The principle of free government adheres to the American soil.  It is bedded in it, immovable as the mountains. – Daniel Webster

Ok, total bullshit.  First of all soil cannot be bedded with principles of anything.  Our soil, aside from possibly the particular chemical makeup of it, is no different than any soil.  Also, democracy and free governments are never immovable.  They are things which need vigilant citizens to maintain.  Just look at the history of our voting rights.  Look at the current NSA scandal or things Hoover’s FBI did or any of number of things to learn how free government and democracy are easily eroded. 

We have a great dream.  It started way back in 1776 and God grant that America will be true to her dream.  – Martin Luther King

I am nitpicking with this one.  Martin Luther King was obviously a great man.  The quote itself is fine in a kind of whitwashed way.  However in 1776 they did let slavery remain legal.  Also, whether or not there is a God, it is again going to take actual people to make us stay true to the founder’s more noble ideas. 

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.  – John F. Kennedy

Again, I like John Kennedy fine, but this is simply untrue.  If we look at the history of Guatemala or the Congo or many other examples, there are plenty of times that we let liberty be snuffed out. 

This is a new nation, based on a continent, of boundless possibilities. – Theodore Roosevelt

This might have seemed more true in Roosevelt’s time.  However, with our modern environmental problems we are seeing that even our vast continent is not boundless in its possibilities.   Nothing physical is boundless. 

Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come from the heart of America. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

This is a very vague statement.  What exactly is the heart of America?  Is it the people?  If so there have been many times when presidents passed things by executive order without the outright consent of a large amount of people.  Is it Washington?  If that place always has a heart I’ll shit myself.  Besides, the decisions they make there, look at Iraq, don’t always pass in the world as planned.  Again a vague statement that is a bunch of meaningless feel good nonsense. 

For this is what America is all about.  It is the uncrowded desert and the unclaimed ridge.  It is the star that is not reached and the harvest sleeping in the unplowed ground.  Is our world gone? We say “Farewell.”  Is a new world coming? We welcome it – and we will bend it to the hopes of man. – Lyndon B. Johnson

Again vague feel good nonsense, this time rooted in American exceptionalism.   Johnson himself found the limits to our power in Vietnam.  Case closed. 

May God continue the unity of our country as the railroad unites the two great oceans of the world. – inscribed on the Golden Spike, Promontory Point, 1869

This refers to the transcontinental railroad.   It should be noted that much of the work was done by Chinese laborers.  Although it is disputed how many, varying wildly, many of these workers died. 

We send thanks to all the Animal life in the world.  They have many things to teach us as people.  We are glad they are always here and hope it will always be so. – Excerpt from the Thanksgiving Address, Mohawk version

There is nothing wrong in and of the quote itself.  However when you use it as a selling point for our country it helps to remember how we treated the Indians and how we have exploited animals.  The Mohawks also fought against us in the Revolutionary War and The War of 1812.  We also took their land.  Also, look how we treated the buffalo, which we almost wiped out of existence during the western Indian wars.  Look now at how we treat animals in factory farming.  Again the statement is fine, but when you examine it closely as a selling point for America, it kind of makes you wonder. 

The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or sect, a party or a class – it is the cause of human kind, the very birthright of humanity – Anna Julia Cooper

This statement is another one that is fine in and of itself as an idea.  However, it is false when used as a selling point for America.  Also, first of all, you are not born with the right to anything.  Rights have to be fought for and maintained by vigilant citizens.  If we were born with rights we wouldn’t have needed the Civil War or the women’s suffrage movement.  Also if one looks at gerrymandering today, you can still see that our freedoms, in terms of the right to truly govern ourselves as a true democracy, are still being eroded.  We are also not free in a lot of ways.  If I get caught with weed in Texas, a victimless crime that hurts no one, what freedom I do have will dissappear.  

My point is not to be a killjoy or to say we should stamp out attempts at using language to aspire to greater things.  It is just that we need to, as individuals,  to think.  Democracy and freedom are not birthrights, are not unique to America, and do not come from God.  Only by being vigilant citizens, paying attention to what is going on, and by standing up for those that are oppressed,  can we truly have a democracy that represents all.  Also, total freedom is an illusion.  To be free in a way in which we can all persue our own version of happiness, as long as we don’t hurt others, is still along ways off. There is much work to be done.

Pity Our Enemies

I finally finished reading Borstal Boy.   In the afterward Benedict Kiely writes about what made Behan so special.   Kiely knew Behan and at the time was teaching Borstal Boy  to female students at a college in Virginia.  If only we could all be more like this:

They were, not surprisingly, impressed by words not customarily in use in respectable American homes: but much more they were impressed by the author’s vast and obvious humanity, by his humorous acceptance,  his abounding life and love of life.  His people, from the roughest screw (prison officer) in Walton to the gentlest boy in the open prison camp by the North Sea (and with the possible exception of the R.C. Chaplain who, quite without authority, cut him off from the sacraments), are almost all looked upon with sympathy, or, at any rate, with a sort of pity (“for very oft we pity our enemies”), or with defensive enmity that becomes perverted brotherhood.  You feel that if the worst of them had met him elsewhere,  and under less claustrophobic circumstances,  the unpleasant things might not have happened.  

Borstal Boy  is an account of Behan’s time in prison and reform school as a young prisoner.

The Danger of Too Much TV

I just read a quote the other day, and I believe it to be by Werner Herzog, that “Those that read gain the world, and those that watch TV lose it.”  (I am currently in a van with limited Internet service so I have no way to check the source.)  Today while in the hotel breakfast room the local news was on.  I overheard the local yokel anchors, or cue card reading Ken and Barbie dolls as I like to call them, reported that Mitt Romney might run for president again, they were building a waterslide in the area.  After that the Ken and Barbie dolls feigned mock surprise at legalized weed in Washington State.  “Jesus Christ,” I thought, “this shit is fucking depressing.” 

Last night on I took a beautiful brilliant ferry ride across Lake Michigan.  After awhile it got to cold and windy on the upper deck.  Downstairs, before I was able to escape into my headphones, I heard a clip from Fox News where Bill O’Reilly and some other faceless stooge talked about how President Obama might be the worst American President ever.  Really?  Worse than Herbert Hoover and George W. Bush?  Even if you don’t like Obama certainly you can comb the annals of American History and find several presidents whose use or misuse of power make Obama look like an ancient sage. 

You often hear that this is the golden age of television.  In terms of the long form drama this is definitely a time where there are many worthy and intelligent shows.  Comedy is also not restricted by so many puritanical rules, and therefore there are several really great programs in this form as well. 

However, overall TV remains a place of soul stealing degradation.   It so often plays to the lowest common denominator,  champions meaningless consumerism, and beats the drums for mindless patriotism and barbaric foreign policy.  When it is not doing any of that it takes full use of the culture wars and keeps us divided and ignorant.  The jury is still out, as far as I am concerned, as to whether this is just the inevitable result of the free market or purposeful manipulation by the powers that be.   Someone like Rupert Murdock is actually doing both.  He is fulfilling a demand of the market and furthering his political and economic interests at the same time. 

I can’t help but feel that if more people read and less people watched TV, that we would be a more enlightened and intelligent nation.  Maybe this is just wishful thinking. 

I am currently reading Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy.  It is his account of his time spent in jail and reform school as a young prisoner.  Behan was a vociferous reader.  What strikes me is his empathy for others and his tolerance for those different than himself.  He is serving time because he was caught with I.R.A. bombs in England.  However even at a young age he sees complexity rather than simplicity.  He comments that it is the system of the British Empire that he is against.  He befriends many English prisoners and realizes that some of the Irish that are part of the British Empire and British legal system are some of the worst of the lot.  He judges people as individuals and not based on predetermined catagories.  He even defends Oscar Wilde’s homosexuality to other prisoners, Wilde was a favorite writer of his, at a time when such behavior made one an outcast. 

There seems to be a strong political debate going on about guns in our country right now.  Maybe we need a strong debate about the role of TV in our society, which may be far more dangerous to us as a nation in the long run.

The Hot Air Balloon of Reading

Sometimes I view reading like going up in a hot air baloon.  It allows you to see farther than you did before you read something.  You also get a more complete picture of what is going on.  However, sometimes that same change in view allows you to miss what is right beneath you.  I have read a good deal, more than many, less than some, but I don’t feel that it makes me superior in anyway.  It is just a different set of knowledge and tools than some other people have.  I envy someone that can, let’s say, change the breaks on a car or start a fire in the woods with no modern tools.  The two kinds of knowledge are not necessarily exclusive.  However, we need and should value people with different skill sets.  Other than people who purposely spread ignorance, refuse to learn anything, or use what they have learned only for their own enrichment, we all need each other in this world.