“Asking Me Lies”

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Do you ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?  It’s the question Johnny Rotten (nee, Lydon) asked at the end of the final Sex Pistols concert in the 70s.  (“Final,” of course, until they reunited with original bassist Glen Matlock in the 1990s.  I saw them in L.A.; it was awesome.)  That’s kind of the feeling you get from “Asking Me Lies.”

Not like you’ve been cheated by the song, mind you.  This is a fabulous song by an even more fabulous band.  (The Replacements, the true voice of my generation, remain to this day Criminally Underrated.)  But the narrator of the song–who for argument’s sake lets just agree to assume is the ‘Mats lead singer and main songwriter Paul Westerberg–is pointing out there is something of a disparity in the world: “The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting drunk.  In a black and white picture, there’s a lot of gray bunk.”  He’s feeling just a little cheated.

Can’t blame him.  Nearly thirty years on, this song is still relevant.  He is still getting cheated (most recently by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which still hasn’t admitted the Replacements).  We all are.  We are living in a fucking Orwell novel; I’d feel less dystopian about things if the Cheeto in Chief had not literally said that what we are seeing and hearing is not what is happening.  (For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, google it; I’m not kidding.)  The gap between the ultra wealthy and the rest of us just keeps growing.  The climate has gone to hell, or at least it feels that way.  There’s even word that the Trump-driven EPA wants to relax rules governing the restrictions on asbestos.  Asbestos.  You know, that horrible thing that causes mesothelioma, aka the disease that killed Warren Zevon way too soon.  There’s more mass shootings, more public bigotry, more of everything that’s bad.

I get that this is part of the political cycle.  The price we are paying for having had a black president is this spray-tanned yahoo who’s only goal is to undo any and everything that has Barack Obama’s name on it.  And it will pass.  If nothing else, we’ll get a new president at the next major election, although I think it will happen sooner with a proper impeachment.  The bricks for that are falling into place slowly, but Mueller is building the wall that Trump promised.  Too bad for him it’s going to be a wall that closes in around him.  And for every step backwards, there will be a commensurate step forward.  It’s just kind of hard to remain zen about the whole thing when all this injustice and unfairness and damage is being wrought with the United States’ stamp of approval, even if it is just nominal.

I have to admit, I didn’t really expect a political rant when I chose this song.  I heard it this afternoon on my way to buy grapes and strawberries on sale.  It’s kind of stuck with me ever since.  But the sadness and anger lends itself to the times.  They are indeed “telling you questions and asking me lies.”  Just don’t expect me to shut up and take it.

“King Tut”

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Note: The obligatory obituary post for AC/DC’s Malcolm Young will be coming soon.  But I’ve got to get this little rant off my chest first.  Plus, I think Malcolm would’ve really enjoyed hearing this tune again.

 

One of my dear friends on Facebook recently posted this article about some students offended by Steve Martin’s 70s novelty hit “King Tut.”  Something about the performance being “blackface” and akin to using the n-word.  Assuming they meant that literally, that means they’re assuming Tutankhamun was a black man.  That may or may not be the case; depictions of Tut pretty much run the gamut colorwise.  But seeing that he was born in a land of much sun, he probably had a bit more melanin in his skin than, say, your average Scandinavian.  (Skin color is directly related to how much sun your ancestors were exposed to when evolving.  Period.)  But the song wasn’t meant as a commentary on race.  It was meant as a commentary on the blatant commercialization surrounding the Treasures of Tutankhamun tour.  It came to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1978, and my family went.  (My original post of this song focused on that, written while Daddy the amateur Egyptologist was still around.)  It was glorious.  And it was also crass and expensive.  We alone purchased I don’t know how many silly souvenirs from it.  The entire country was gripped with Tut fever at the time.  Why shouldn’t Steve Martin have a little fun with it?

Of course, if the instructor of the class had played this version from Saturday Night Live, then they would’ve seen Martin’s introduction and contextualization of the song.  If they paid attention.  And if they didn’t decide to reflexively get their hackles up over the obvious stereotypes and pure silliness of the song.  He wasn’t making fun of Tutankhamun; he was making fun of all the idiots who acted like they knew something about him or ancient Egypt just because of one really spectacular art & artifact tour.

I don’t fault these kids for being aware of the bias against African-Americans in our society.  I don’t fault them for trying to fight for equality.  I certainly don’t fault them for fighting back against the brutality and violence many black people are faced with every day simply because of the color of their skin.  They’re right, dammit.  But I do fault them for not understanding the joke in this case.  They missed the point.  And the instructor probably missed it, too.  I imagine this was presented not in the cultural light it was meant to be seen, but as a case of racial stereotyping.

Really, these kids would be offended by pretty much anything from SNL back in the 70s.  You know, back when it was kind of offensive.  And really, really, really funny.  And truly insightful and satirical.  They only know about the tame buffooning that they see today.  They didn’t watch the good old days when the Not Ready For Prime Time Players and the show’s writers were both vicious and fearless.  If they’re offended by “King Tut,”  then they really better not ever see the Job Interview skit.  They’ll really lose their shit over that one.

Hail to the King

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It’s been forty years since Elvis Presley shuffled off this mortal coil.  While he’d slipped into pop culture irrelevancy in the last few years of his career, the musical landscape was just as shaken by his death as it had been by the earthquake of his arrival in the 1950s.

But Elvis holds an odd relevancy today.  See, when he started out, Elvis explicitly tried to blend two different musical worlds: Black R&B and white Country & Western.  I know there have been a lot of critics who say he “stole” that music from the blacks, but considering that he was always friends with and surrounded by a vital African-American community in Memphis, then I think it might be a little harsh to say he willfully took from black artists for his own profit.  He used the music he loved and that influenced him to develop his own unique sound.  If people want to lay blame for the magnificent, brilliant black musicians that didn’t get the credit or reap the financial rewards of fame, then blame the music industry; they’re the ones who exploited people.  Elvis just made the sound he heard in his head and heart manifest.

Some people reacted badly to Elvis.  Besides being kind of lewd in some people’s eyes, he was also committing the worst sin any white man from the South could commit: He liked black culture and black people.  He freely associated with them.  He sounded like them.  To these people, Elvis was some kind of traitor.  The people who thought this were what I like to call racists.  This was the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, and Jim Crow was still the rule of law throughout the South (and the rule of custom in so many other places).  Things were changing, and racists didn’t like it.  They didn’t like the idea that their pure white children might go to school with those nasty black folks.  They didn’t think they should have to serve or sell products to people they had decided were subhuman simply because the color of their skin was different.  The racists still held on to the notion that the South would “rise again,” a phrase I’m pretty sure is code for “reinstate slavery and destroy all those dirty n*****s once and for all.”  They were afraid that their “way of life” would be taken from them and they would be forced to treat black people equally.

So they fought back by beating sit-in participants.  By turning fire hoses and police dogs on Civil Rights marchers.  By lynching and shooting both black and white activists who committed sins like registering black citizens to vote.  They didn’t call themselves racist.  They didn’t even call themselves white supremacists for the most part.  They called themselves good, honest, hardworking, Christian Americans.  They really truly believed God was on their side.

Does any of this sound familiar?

It should.  Because it’s still going on today, some sixty-odd years after the Civil Rights Movement began in earnest and Elvis Aron Presley burst onto the scene.  What happened a few days ago in Virginia, before, during, and after a so-called “Unite the Right” rally was pretty much the same thing.  These neo-Nazis, these white pride adherents, these alt-right followers–whatever the fuck they’re calling themselves–were as sickening as the racists back then were.  They carried torches, for crying out loud!*  All they needed was a couple of white hoods and a giant cross to burn, and we would’ve gone back in time a few decades.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  And because of the Cheeto masquerading as president, these imbeciles think it’s okay to come back out of the woodwork and show their pathetic faces.  They think it’s okay to intimidate and beat counter protesters.  They think it’s okay (and it actually is okay in a lot of places) to carry assault weapons to a supposedly peaceful protest.  With all the racist, xenophobic rhetoric coming from the Cheeto, these racists think they can do whatever they want to anyone they think is an inferior because the idiot they voted for says it is.  He refuses to call them out largely because he agrees with them.  They are essentially his unpaid army of thugs.

Now I support the right to free speech.  That means I also support the right of these racist fucks to say what they want.  It’s a hard, bitter pill, but I will swallow it because they do have the right to speak their minds and express their opinions.  I hate what they have to say, but I will defend to the death their right to say it.  But they surrender any Constitutional right to free speech the second they start carrying weapons and torches.  They give up any and all First Amendment protections when they assault anyone who dares to disagree with them.  They deserve to be arrested and prosecuted when they do things like drive their cars into a crowd of pedestrians and counter protesters.  These so-called people, these useless piles of flesh and bones, are the living breathing definition of terrorism.  They always were, going back generations upon generations, and they should be treated as such.

Like the racists who resisted both Civil Rights and Elvis, these terrorist neo-Nazis are scared because they think they’re losing something when other groups, primarily the groups that they hate, gain something.  They see society changing and progressing, and they see it as an assault on their power.  It is.  And it isn’t going to stop.  As more and more marginalized people gain greater and greater rights, the social order these terrorists want to see will continue to die out.

I’ve gotten a bit farther away from Elvis than I thought I would, but I think that’s kind of a testament to his power.  He brought musical styles together and created something magical.  Today, no one even really thinks about how revolutionary his sound was.  Imagine what would happen if we could finally, FINALLY, stop dividing ourselves by the colors of our skins and unify.  Think of what we could accomplish if we actually stopped treating each other differently because we look or speak or pray or vote differently.  Then the real revolution would finally begin.

 

*Okay, they were tiki torches, but that would’ve only leant the scent of citronella to the cross burning.

“America”

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I’ve been so disheartened by what’s happened in this country.  Not the “divisiveness” that everyone on the interwebs is bitching about; we’ve been divided socially, politically, economically, and any other -ally you can think of pretty much since Europeans moved their sanctimonious asses into this country.  Yes, the Native Americans had their wars and disagreements; it wasn’t all some egalitarian paradise.  But there wasn’t a wholesale genocide or systematic demonization of anyone determined by the group in power to be “other” before white folks showed up.  Fucking own it, people.  I like political divisiveness.  I like protest.  I like resistance.  I think they are part of what it means to be a patriotic American.  Remember, boys and girls, the First Amendment also protects the right of the People to criticize their government–or anyone else–without fear of prosecution or persecution.

No, I’ve been disheartened by what the Cheeto has been attempting to do to this country, with varying levels of success.  There are people who say he’s a dictator.  Or a tyrant.  Or that what he really wants is to be emperor.  No.  He thinks the government is just another business and he’s the CEO.  In Trump’s worldview, the president has the right to do pretty much whatever the fuck he wants because it’s his company to run into the dirt.  He’s wrong, of course.  Government is one of the things that should never, ever be run like a business (schools, hospitals, and courtrooms are the others in case you were wondering).  The point is not to turn a profit or run a lean, mean machine.  The point of government is to serve the People, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are a LOT of fucking people in this country and very few of them are identical in every way.  We need a large government because we have a large country with a lot of very diverse needs.  Anyone in favor of a small government should go right ahead and give up public schools, public libraries, fire departments, labor protections, police departments, and any of the other multitude of services the various levels of government provide.  And before someone says, but the cities and states provide most of those things, I wish to point out that especially in rural areas or states without silly things like income taxes, the Federal government is who steps up to fund all the stuff you think is your right to have (which it is, btw).

Have y’all noticed that I’m just the tiniest bit pissed off?  Have I not used a form of “fuck” often enough for that to sink in?  I am angry.  I expected to be basking in the glow of the first woman president at this point.  (For the record, I don’t particularly like Hillary all that much either, but at least she knows how to do the fucking job.)  I was not expecting a cheeto who lacks a brain-to-mouth filter and who thinks dismantling the federal government is a good idea.  What the fuck did he plan on doing?  Outsource all governmental functions to Russia?

Which brings me to the actual reason for tonight’s rant.  Russia.  And all the obvious entanglements it so obviously has with Trump and virtually all his back-biting, slimy, little toadies.  I live in the fucking United States of America, and while I do not subscribe to outdated Cold War prejudices, I do not believe that a foreign government has any fucking say whatsoever in any aspect of the running of MY fucking government.  (Is that enough fucks for y’all, yet?)  It’s all beginning to come to light, just like I knew it would.  I wasn’t certain it would be Russia that brought the Cheeto down, but I knew he’d do something before the end of this year to finally get those spineless dickfaces in Congress to rev up those old Articles of Impeachment.  Hell, they impeached Bubba because he couldn’t keep it zipped–something everyone on both sides of the political divide always knew.  The fact that he liked having sex with women not his wife was the only thing they could nail him for is why he was ultimately acquitted.  It’s not like he was, oh I don’t know, REVEALING STATE INTELLIGENCE TO THE RUSSIANS, or anything like that.  Or firing the FBI director because said director was conducting an investigation into his ties with Russia via his bloodsucking cronies.  Or trying to completely dismantle the fucking federal government.

Yeah, I’m pissed but I’m also feeling kind of optimistic.  Because all the stupid shit that Trump and his minions have been doing is starting to come to light.  I predicted to some friends a month or so ago that by the end of this calendar year the impeachment will either have happened or be in progress.  That doesn’t mean those of us in favor of progressive goals should be smug and sit back.  We need to keep resisting and fighting and shouting our displeasure from the fucking rooftops.  We need to vote with our pocketbooks, email and social media accounts, and especially out ballots.  Don’t whine or complain that nothing you do makes a difference, because when you do nothing then it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Democracy is a participation sport, kids.  Capitalism, evil fucking system that it is, works for you when you play by their rules and use money as power.  No political system was EVER changed from the outside.

So why did I choose this particular song from Simon and Garfunkel to punctuate my ravings?  “America” is such a quiet tune, beautiful and sad.  Disaffected.  Disenfranchised.  The characters in this song are disconnected from each other, from their society, from themselves.  From their country.  Do not be these people.  This is your fucking country.  Take it back from the bastards.  Declare at the top of your lungs, “I’ve come to look for America.”  And you sons of bitches better not have sold it to Russia.

“I Am a Patriot”

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I’m not quite sure why the Colin Kaepernick story has become such a big deal, except maybe that sports tends to draw a more conservative crowd both in participants and fans.  And more conservative folks tend to be more concerned with visual displays of patriotism, such as saluting the American flag and wearing cute little flag pins and tying yellow ribbons on every single thing they’ll fit around.  These folks also tend to be critical of anyone who does not display what they believe is an appropriate amount of public patriotism.  They also tend to be very critical of anyone who criticizes any aspect of the government that they themselves think is good.

A good example, perhaps, might be anyone who disagreed with the military actions in the Middle East after 9/11.  You were a liberal, commie, Muslim peacenik who clearly supported jihad and should probably be jailed just because you didn’t think we should be invading and bombing other countries without direct provocation.  These were the same types of people who got upset with anyone for criticizing any other war we’ve been involved with, oh, since the inception of the country.  None of this is new, or terribly surprising.

These more conservative folks also tend to get upset if you support something they disagree with–say, same-sex marriage.  Then, you’re suppressing their First Amendment rights.  Anytime someone they are opposed to tries to do anything these über patriotic types don’t like, they scream that the opposition is trampling on their rights and that they pay too much in taxes and that they’re under attack by liberals who are going to hell because they don’t believe in the exact same brand of Christianity these über patriots claim to believe in.  Name calling is very popular with this type of person.  Please note that name calling is not just a conservative trait; there are plenty of liberal name callers, too.  I am often guilty of it myself.  Name calling is juvenile and kind of silly, but it’s also an expected part of these kinds of public spats between ideologies.

What I think these outward-seeming patriots don’t quite get is what the American flag actually stands for, or what the Bill of Rights actually means.  They have been listening to the Donald Trumps and Rush Limbaughs and Bill O’Reillys of the world for so long, they forgot what these things stand for.  The American flag is not a symbol meant specifically to honor the military or war, although it is used in those applications.  The Flag is a representation of the unity of the country.  It is a symbol that represents us, ALL of us, in all our glorious diversity and weirdness.  And the Bill of Rights was designed to protect us from government excesses, not from opinions we don’t like.  The First Amendment is one they especially don’t seem to get, so I quote it here in its entirety:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.[1]

This means that the government cannot stop you from praying any way you want, nor can it demand you follow any set of religious beliefs.  It cannot stop the press from printing any news, specifically any news that may be critical of the government.  It cannot stop anyone from peacefully protesting for or against something they believe in, and it cannot stop citizens from going directly to the government to complain.  It’s the peacefully protesting one that applies to Colin Kaepernick’s (you thought I forgot about him, didn’t you) decision not to stand during the National Anthem because he believes that the United States has a problem with racism and racial oppression.

What Kaepernick is doing is not illegal.  It is not even against any NFL or team regulations.  There is no requirement anywhere that people stand up and salute the Flag during the playing of the National Anthem at any time under any circumstances.  To do so would kind of go against the freedom to protest.  More importantly, Kaepernick is not being obnoxious about it.  He’s not demanding his teammates do the same thing, or even agree with him.  He’s not booing or hissing or otherwise disrupting the National Anthem.  He’s not throwing things at anyone.  He is, and please notice the wording here, peacefully protesting.  He is exercising his First Amendment rights.

Now anyone who disagrees with him has the equal right to say so; many have done just that.  And almost all his superiors and peers have said they might disagree with his method of protest, but they respect his right to do it.  But anyone who says Kaepernick is un-American or that he ought to leave the country is kind of missing the point.  He is being about as patriotic as you can be.  He just isn’t wrapping himself in the American flag to do it.  And that’s what’s got all these über patriotic conservative types in such a tizzy.  He refuses to salute the flag.  You can’t be patriotic if you don’t worship a piece of cloth in their minds.  You can’t support American values and rights if you don’t do it in the red, white, and blue.  Except for the part where you can.

I’ve said many times that true patriotism has nothing to do with how many flags you fly or how often you claim to love your country.  It has nothing to do with waving at veterans during a parade, or paying for their hamburgers at a McDonald’s (although that’s a cool thing to do for anyone).  True patriotism is educating yourself on the issues and voting your conscience.  Patriotism is paying your taxes so that the police departments and fire departments and public schools and libraries and utilities can all keep functioning.  Patriotism is going to jury duty when you get called.  Patriotism is protesting (peacefully) when you think something is wrong.  Patriotism is writing to your elected representatives when you think they need to do something.  You wanna be a patriot?  Then fold up your flag, roll up your sleeves, and get your ass out there.  And shut up about anyone else who stands up for something they believe in.  Or in this case, sits down.

“Words”

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Dear Counter-Protesters at White Supremacist Rallies:

I get it.  I do.  White Supremacist groups are horrible.  They are bigots and all they seem to want to do is spread violence and hatred.  But they are people.  And they do have rights, including the First Amendment right to free speech and to peaceably assemble.  When I heard about what happened today in Sacramento, my heart sank.  Those people (racists and bigots, but I feel the need to stress again that they are people) had a valid permit to hold their rally or protest or whatever they were calling their gathering.  There were only about thirty of them, so you know just how unpopular these kinds of things really are.  They had the right to be out in public at the state capitol spewing whatever nasty opinions they have.  Several hundred counter-protesters showed up.  While this is not necessarily bad, the counter protesters arrived only with the goal of preventing the original groups from using their rights.  A brawl broke out and seven people were stabbed, many others hurt less seriously.  This is wrong.  I don’t like bigots, either, but they have the same Constitutional rights as you do.  They have the right to express their opinions.  You do NOT get the right to infringe on their rights because you don’t like what they have to say.  Yes, bigots of all stripes are coming out of the woodwork more publicly these days, emboldened by eight years of racist hatred toward our black President and certain spray-tanned presumptive Republican nominees.  But if they follow the rules and laws, then you need to as well.  It’s that simple.  Shouting them down, preventing them from using a valid permit to assemble, deliberately infringing on their rights does not send the message that racism is bad.  It makes you look like racists and bigots.  Speak out.  Get your own permits and hold counter-rallies.  Acting illegally this way makes you look like the people trying to keep little black children out of schools in the South.  It makes you seem as irrational as judges and county clerks who refuse to recognize same-sex marriages.  You are sinking to their level by acting this way, and I am ashamed.

So quit it.  You may not like what they have to say, but you need to remember that they have the right to say it, period.

“Your Racist Friend”

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Now that my class is finished, I’ve got a bit more time to go back to one of my favorite activities: ranting. (I don’t know whether to envy you poor fools or pity you.)

I’ve actually had a bit of a bee in my bonnet lately (the only one, I swear. . . see what I did there?  No?  Well, maybe you should go back to some of my older jukebox entries.)  So I’ve been listening to They Might Be Giants on the iPod lately, which always makes me smile.  But yesterday it dawned on me that they were, scarily, kind of prescient.  After all, have you gotten a look at the presumptive Republican nominee for president?  Yeah.  This song suddenly has a whole new dimension to it.

I wavered between this song and another frighteningly apt TMBG song, but the nasty bitterness of “Your Racist Friend” won out.  (By the by, I’d like to extend my thanks to the YouTubers who took the time to create videos to match the narrative in both songs.  Really nice work!)  And since the Blowhard hasn’t actually won anything yet, anointing him anything, even in jest, would just play into his enormous ego.

My message to anyone who would come to this craven, narcissistic, misogynistic, xenophobic, spray-tanned slime bucket’s defense is simply this: He is just as awful as he appears.  He always has been.  This man tears down historical buildings and replaces them with ugly phallic symbols (you just know all his skyscrapers and mega casinos are over-compensating for something).  And he is a racist.  He’s made that clear right from the get go.  Some poor deluded fool out there might try to argue he wants to improve our security, but he just wants to pander to the same disgusting ignorance and bigotry that he’s been carrying around his entire life.  I’ll give him this, he’s damn good at it.

I honestly thought he’d have imploded by now.  That the Republicans would’ve shunned him, and then he’d have run as a third-party candidate and confused all the bigots like him trying to decide which hateful idiot to vote for.  (Let’s face it, Kasich was the least objectionable of the bunch, but only because he lacks any sort of personality whatsoever; it’s a miracle he lasted as long as he did.)  But he’s managed to fool bluff hornswaggle convince enough people that he’s got something legitimate to offer this country.

He doesn’t, of course, and I doubt he’ll be able to get enough moderate Republicans and independents to vote for him.  He’ll get enough votes that he’ll be able to say that he’s important.  But he won’t win.  And, hopefully, his mere existence in this political race will wake up enough of the reasonable conservatives (yes, they do exist) to do something about the hideous demagoguery that has been masquerading as the GOP platform for the last few decades.