Saturday, May 5, 2007

It doesn't take a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing

The top five on the pop charts just isn't that impressive any more. Sales are tanking: January 2007's top five recordings sold about 1/3 of what January 1997's top five sold. That's quite a drop. Total sales aren't quite that dramatically down, but still sufficient to raise eyebrows.

On the one hand, I agree that the pop music coming out now isn't any worse than what was out a decade ago. On the other hand, today's pop music isn't any better either as it's been so long since the recording industry supported any artistic innovation - instead preferring to play it safe with rehashes of decades past. A lot of the stuff my son is listening to reminds me of Cheap Trick or Pearl Jam out-takes with maybe slightly slicker production gimmickry, but without quite having the soul that those bands had in their heyday. Too many years of getting by on that strategy and the potential audience will begin catch on, and once they do, they'll hold on to their wallets. Nothing against the Dream Girls soundtrack (what I've heard sounds just fine and dandy), but why would one want that when one could simply listen to some vintage Motown? If we're going to live in the past, why not hold out for the real thing?

The real action is with the indies, as usual, regardless the genre one might consider. Most of what I'd be familiar with would come from the jazz and hip-hop underground, but I'll hazard a guess that other genres have some tremendously creative artists worthy of listening to again and again over the long haul. I'll also guess that support in the form of CD sales for independent artists and their labels is probably staying consistent relative to what's coming out of the conglomerates (keep in mind that's only a guess), given that overall music sales haven't plunged to quite the extent that the Top 5 has. With money getting tight in uncertain economic times, $15 on a CD of rehashed retro retreads is a luxury that one cannot afford. There's no lasting value in a Nickelback or Daughtry recording (I'll get a lot of flack from my wife and son on that statement, I suppose).

What we're seeing is the slow implosion of a moribund industry. The world of corporate music has been degenerate for a very long time (in the sense that the industry, like mainstream American culture continues to live in the past). The empire is crumbling, but pay it no mind. There is still a lot of great music to be found, by artists who put themselves 100% into their craft, and by small recording companies that aren't try to support some CEO's bloated salary. Seek outside the mainstream and ye shall find. Bet on it.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

America the beautiful

The land of the free, eh?

See also ANSWER, Women of Color Blog, Marisacat, Indymedia, Infoshop News, Guerillas in the Matrix.

Wonder how long it'll be before the LAPD blog stops allowing comments.

About walls:

Walls are meant for smashing!

So Where's The Change?

As time has moved on, I've witnessed a lot of people come and go. They always seem to have good intentions, but, for one reason or another, the commitment just isn't there. It's no use asking where they went because they probably weren't there in the first place. How can one possibly be "aware" when he/she is out of it 99% of the time? If anarchy's nothing more than an excuse to get wasted and fall over, I'll have no part of it.

Beware of the person who would rather listen to records instead of thinking for him/her self. The bombs will be dropping and they'll be listening to their stereo.

Music is one of the greatest forms of free expression in the world today, and a powerful inspirational tool, but music, in itself, will never change a thing. The real change lies within you. Working for change requires thinking, creating, acting, writing, reading, learning, and, most of all, living.

If you aren't right with yourself about what you're doing, you're wasting your time. The contradictions are endless. Don't talk to me about unity if you're not willing to join hands. Don't talk to me about peace while you're bashing heads. And please don't bore me with half-witted statements about how things could be, if you're not prepared to give 'em a fight.

That was the intro to an old friend's zine, Pressure #4, from around 1986. A couple more issues would come out before my friend folded it for good in 1988 (his zine ended up being the first place to publish any of my work; an act of kindness on his part for which I am eternally grateful). I lost touch with that friend about a decade ago, and was thinking about him recently and decided to dust off some old zines from back in the day (for the kids out there, zines were the precursor to today's blogs, and as a form of communication seem to have plenty of life left in them). A lot has changed in the last couple decades (we'd no longer be talking about records and stereos but rather mp3s and Ipods, for example), but a lot has remained constant. Folks with good intentions continue to come and go, giving plenty of half-witted statements about how things might be if only we vote for their candidate or donate before splitting for the greener pastures of exurbia.

Whether we're talking about some dope lyrics from an aware band, or the words on a blog, keep in mind that these are tools that will hopefully inspire you to look at the world in a different way, or to make a difference in you particular corner of our aching planet. They do no good if you try to be a passive recipient - you have to think, feel, create, improvise on whatever you're reading or listening to in order to get anywhere. That much, my friends, has not changed one bit since the days when an old friend was giving me a copy of his zine to check out.

The good news is that even in these dark days, there are many more good people than I could ever begin to count who are doing what they can to increase the pressure today. My old friend was on to something, as tomorrow we will explode.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

So many wankers, so little time

First at bat: Thomas Sowell:
When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup.
Next up, Rep. Shimkus, likening the Iraq War debacle to a Cardinals/Cubs game:
Imagine my beloved St. Louis Cardinals are playing the much despised Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals are are up by five, finishing the top of the ninth. Is this a cause for celebration? Is this a cause for victory? No. Unbelievable as it may seem, the Cubbies score five runs in the bottom of the ninth to throw the games into extra innings. There the score remains until 1:00 AM, five innings later. However, at the top of the 15th, the Cardinals fail to field a batter. The entire team has left the stadium. It seems that they are more worried about next day’s 1:00 PM game at home than finishing the game at hand. Who wins? We know it’s the team that stays on the field. Arbitrary deadlines and a date certain accept defeat before the conclusion of the contest. It is our national security interest that continue to take the field and support a moderate Arab state. Leaving prior assures a loss for us and victory for our opponents which will lead to another extremist Islamic state.
Geez, and the month has barely begun.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Shorter Junior Caligula

I was for timetables before I was against them.

Oklahoma May Day rallies

I know of at least one, in Tulsa later this afternoon. The details:















Salient to Oklahoma immigrants is OK state house bill 1804, which apparently is pretty damned draconian. As I understand it, the onus is now on Gov. Henry to veto the bill. Whether or not he does so is hard to predict. Every once in a while he shows evidence of a backbone, so perhaps there is yet hope he'll veto.

Hat tip to The Anti-Essentialist Conundrum.

A friendly reminder from Notes From Underground

Today's May Day.

If you're curious about the origins of May Day, read here. It may well be the most ancient religious festival worldwide - primarily a homage to fertility goddesses as well as the renewal of life that we see in the spring time.

In more modern times, May Day is significant as the original labor day, and is tied with the struggle by organized labor movements to get the 8-hour work day that many of us take for granted recognized.

And of course, it is also the day of the Great American Boycott 2007, an event that some of my amigos are covering (e.g., here, here, and here).

Turns out that it's Nezua's first blogversary, so go over there and say hey!

¡En solidaridad!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Shorter Holy Joe Lieberman

‘Bloggers Have Added Another Dimension of Vituperation Toxicity’ To Politics
Those awful bloggers keep calling bullshit on my Crusade against Arabs and drove me to the Republican Party. Assholes.

When you're an admirer of an empire addicted to power...

columns such as this one make perfect sense. Otherwise, one might ask, what in the hell is the point? It doesn't even take much more than a cursory look at the last nearly 230 years of US history to realize that this nation has not been at peace ever in its entire history. That constant drive to expand by any means necessary and no matter what the cost (in both material and human terms) is bound to have created more than enough friction with those who have ended up in the line of fire. Continuing down the same path will not decrease that friction but rather will only serve to maintain and/or increase that friction. The last several years should have set that point in sharp relief against the backdrop of the fantasy of America as "gentle giant" intent on making the world a better place.

If the spilled blood isn't enough to sway an American these days, how about the financial costs of increasing the size of the military? Where is the money going to come from? The US runs both budget and trade deficits. Aside from the banking industry's exotic financing products, does the US actually produce anything any more? A bit hyperbolic perhaps, but let's face it, this is an empire dependent upon the kindness of strangers who are less and less eager to be kind. Would the US elites be willing to accept higher tax rates in order to finance an army? Doubtful. Will the burden of paying both in taxes and blood be placed increasingly on the shoulders of US workers? Bet on it. Maybe the continued onslaught of bread and circuses will keep us from noticing that we're being ripped off or notice the stench of rotting corpses from too many goddamned wars to count.

How about some sanity? We really don't need 700 military bases, nor do we need to keep massacring whole nations under the pretense of making the world safe for democracy. How about actually living within our means rather than acting as if we can forcibly extract resources and goods from others indefinitely. Now there's a concept.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

¿Justicia Infinita?

The picture was snagged from Marisacat's place. It was a Spanish street painting from 2002, that pretty much says it all.

Looks like Arthur Silber is back to blogging after a bit of a haitus, and the cat is on fire. Check in particular Living Under the Guillotine's Blade. He captures the vibe of this country quite well. He's also very astutely noticed that the A-list and B-list bloggers haven't even begun to seriously voice anything even remotely resembling an orchestrated opposition to any proposed war against Iran (a war that would be even more of catastrophe than the ones currently being waged). It's at best cold comfort that some of us Z-listers will continue to act as voices in the wilderness - we noticed the guillotine's blade well before it began to drop and tried to say something. By the way, if you can kick a bit of change his way, it would be most cool.

Eric Garris at the blog spotlights an interesting candidate who emerged from the most recent Democrat party presidential nomination debate: Mike Gravel, who appears to be as close to a genuine anti-war candidate as one will find (Kucinich being the other anti-war Dem, and Ron Paul being the lone anti-war libertarian running as a Republican). Not surprisingly, there is now some scuttlebutt that Gravel might be kept out of future Democrat party debates. Wouldn't surprise me in the least, as we are At War and anyone advocating anything other than blowing someone up to smithereens simply cannot be tolerated. Never mind that public opinion has been swinging solidly against the Iraq debacle, even in spite of the finest propaganda machine money can buy. The "responsible" elites are convinced that the voters' wishes are entirely irrelevant on matters of expansion of empire, and will no doubt make certain that "progressives" will have to swallow yet another bitter pill come 2008 in the form of Clinton, Edwards, or Obama. If it comes to that, I might just write in Gravel's name for the pure hell of it.

Mickey Z plays compare and contrast with Pat Tillman and Muhammad Ali. In my book, Ali is still The Greatest.

There is a lot of great blogging on those internet tubes - make sure to check some of it out.

Shorter Condoleezza Rice

From Wolf Blitzer's Late Edition transcript
We all thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (except for those who actually gathered the intelligence, skeptical pundits and middle east experts, and well, darn near everyone else on the planet).

Like I said, there are plenty of scandals to focus on

Read and weep:
As the winds and water of Hurricane Katrina were receding, presidential confidante Karen Hughes sent a cable from her State Department office to U.S. ambassadors worldwide.
Titled “Echo-Chamber Message” — a public relations term for talking points designed to be repeated again and again — the Sept. 7, 2005, directive was unmistakable: Assure the scores of countries that had pledged or donated aid at the height of the disaster that their largesse had provided Americans “practical help and moral support” and “highlight the concrete benefits hurricane victims are receiving.”
Many of the U.S. diplomats who received the message, however, were beginning to witness a more embarrassing reality. They knew the U.S. government was turning down many allies’ offers of manpower, supplies and expertise worth untold millions of dollars. Eventually the United States also would fail to collect most of the unprecedented outpouring of international cash assistance for Katrina’s victims.
Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.
And while television sets worldwide showed images of New Orleans residents begging to be rescued from rooftops as floodwaters rose, U.S. officials turned down countless offers of allied troops and search-and-rescue teams. The most common responses: “sent letter of thanks” and “will keep offer on hand,” the new documents show.
Overall, the United States declined 54 of 77 recorded aid offers from three of its staunchest allies: Canada, Britain and Israel, according to a 40-page State Department table of the offers that had been received as of January 2006.
I suppose this is par for the course when your government is what Chomsky and others might call a failing state (if not an outright failed state). Nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina came and went, people in the Gulf Coast region were still suffering. In fact one could readily say the same nearly two years on. Of course Kanye West's reaction to the government's non-response had more than a few grains of truth to it.

Hat tip to Madman in the Marketplace.

A sex scandal that just might shake the status quo?

You never know. In this age of tabloid journalism and neo-Puritanical moralistic posing the latest DC scandal to hit the presses will certainly make some lawmakers, lobbyists, White House insiders, and other fellow "movers and shakers" sweat. Be implicit in war crimes and no one will bug you. Be a client of an escort service and you might just get some publicity (albeit not the good sort). I suppose to the extent that many of the folks potentially exposed in the coming days and weeks are probable "family values" poseurs, seeing them knocked off their moral pedestals will offer up some entertainment value.

That said, I really wish we Americans would just grow up a bit and accept that humans are sexual creatures and that consensual sexual encounters are an inevitability - rather than be shocked and outraged when adults satisfy their sexual needs. The notion that all humans will somehow one day seek lifelong heterosexual marital relationships is a form of wishful thinking that our culture would do well to jettison. No amount of public humiliation, legal action, or whatever punitive actions one might imagine will change the simple fact that humans never have and never will behave the way the Old Testament or other religious texts might demand. If these scandals could get a few more Americans to actually question the culture's very quirky sexual mores, that would be wonderful. I'm personally not that optimistic that such questioning will ensue.

In the meantime, let's keep our eyes on ending a set of wars that should have never been started and on preventing a potential future war against Iran. There's plenty of scandal to be found in the manner in which the current "War on Terra" was initiated and continues.