Sunday, June 28, 2015

Yeezy's New Clothes

So a funny thing happened on the way to Glastonbury this fine weekend:

It would be a little too fish-in-a-barrel to simply pronounce Kanye West as a talentless twat who needs to stop trying to punch above his meager weight. He has no business being at Glastonbury, any more than he had being at Bonnaroo. And he sure as hell has no business trying to perform Bohemian Rhapsody, a difficult song even for people who can actually sing.

(And I'll even give him credit for the sample from 21st Century Schizoid Man in his song Power. There is no upside for him to do that for money or popularity; I'd wager my salary for the next five years that very few of West's fans have even heard of King Crimson. I think he did it because he thought it was cool. I can respect that, whether or not I like the song.)

But this....Jesus Christ, is he completely deaf? Bad enough that he's simply swaying on an empty stage to a recording of the song, bathed in lights, letting the audience do most of the work. But when he does finally start vocalizing, it's the sort of karaoke croaking you generally hear from random drunks at the airport lounge, despondently hoping some wayward stewardess or bored milf will spot them and impulsively blow them right after their master performance.

I have to wonder what West's fans and followers think about this, no doubt they'll have their excuses and demurrals. He's a genius because he attempted to perform an iconic rock song in front of a couple hundred thousand people, without apparently learning or rehearsing it at all beforehand. Something like that. If anything, it should make them wonder the obvious -- if this is really what he sounds like "live", then just how much sugarcoating and backing tracks are they paying for when they see him?

It's a truism these days that since music is for the most part free, musicians have to perform and sell swag to cover their nut. This applies less to established people (I hesitate to refer to him as an "artist") like West, but it still applies to some degree. He's not some indie group cobbling together their demo with Pro Tools on the drummer's laptop; he probably dumps money into his magna opera, from licensing samples to paying producers to hobbit wax.

Going to a concert as a fan, especially a large stadium or festival, is obviously about more than just the music, it's about the event. But there has historically been at least the implicit agreement that there would be some spontaneity to the music, that you would get something special in return for paying through the nose for tickets and swag and refreshments, and battling traffic and a gigantic mob for a glimpse at your musical wampeter.

But for musicians to provide that truly live experience, they actually have to be able to do something musical, to sing or play an instrument with at least some competence, to improvise, to be spontaneous.

[Side note:  That last link is a terrific example of what I'm talking about, in a good way. I first heard Suit Fugue at least fifteen years ago, have listened to it countless times since, and it still makes the hair on my neck rise. In barely two minutes of running time, Kevin Gilbert took Bach's canon principles of composition and counterpoint, and used them to accurately eviscerate the shithead music industry. It's an outstanding piece of music, and qualitatively superior by itself to West's entire catalog put together. If you've got an hour to spare, check out Gilbert's live performance of Genesis' Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. It's fucking amazing, and captures the magic of what live music used to be about, those fleeting moments that will never happen quite the same way again, but happen anyway because of work, skill, and genuine passion. It's a refreshing contrast to today's canned, pre-recorded, choreographed pseudo-performances, each the same as the last and the next.]

One of the worst things about West is his utter dependence on AutoTune. Here is an instance where you quickly find yourself wishing he'd used it.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ipse Dixie

It's somewhat heartening to see how quickly The Market Has Spoken on retailing items emblazoned with the 'murkin swastika. If I were of more cynical mind and heart (I know, I know), I'd probably come up with some catchy bullshit slogan about the noble resistance to political correctness and move some "collectible" swag on CafePress or such like. Git 'em now before they take yer guns!

Do rednecks really think anyone buys their bullshit rationalizations about what that flag "means" to them, that it somehow no longer means what it has always meant? Since when do symbols of genocide and brutality and institutionalized cruelty get to magically shuck off their history and start over again? More importantly, why would you want to do that?

The idea that the Traitor Loser flag now just stands for "courage, family, and good times" is just ludicrous. It cannot escape its history so easily, or indeed at all. It is the emblem of the eternally butthurt, of people who take some perverse pride in being descended from people who fought against their own country for the right to own and brutalize other human beings. It is not a point of pride, it is a point of shame.

Slavery and its vile structure is a stain on this nation's soul, one that the Founding Fathers saw and understood, and regrettably did not move to correct quickly enough. But once they finally did move to correct it, the southern states felt more obligated to their disgusting institution than to their country.
They lost, and paid a more than fair price; if anything, in retrospect, the Union clearly didn't finish the job and beat the stupid out of 'em.

Now, while it can no longer stand that public places show open support for this, I really couldn't care less if people choose to fly the rag as individuals. Freedom of speech and all; if people want to tell the world that they're assholes, I encourage them to speak loud and remove all doubt. But by the same token, they should expect their self-serving nonsense to be repudiated by people who have actually watched Selma and 12 Years a Slave, and read the Corner Stone speech, and understand exactly what "states rights" and "heritage" they are referring to.

Ordinarily I root for losers and underdogs, I like rebels and people who tell The Man "fuck you, I won't do what you tell me". But this is just plain pig-headed obstinacy for its own sake. The default excuse for the rapists and killers and vicious oppressors of the good ol' days is that they were people of a different time. They certainly were, and it certainly was a different time, and the best way to ensure that the mores and rationales of that misbegotten era stay in the past is to stop memorializing the schtick and totems of that era. They need to either let go and get rid of the damned rag, or get used to the rest of the world calling them on their bullshit.

Person of Influence

Pro tip for all you folks who might be thinking of making a living telling other people how to live their lives, just because your mommy is famous for being a burbling quitter:  Remember, you can walk away at any time, if you find the kitchen getting too hot for comfort. Just a thought, but maybe you can spend the free time overcoming whatever it is in your life that finds you with three broken engagements and two out-of-wedlock children (by two different men) by the time you're 25 years old.

(Not to mention that the assumption that former fiancé Dakota Meyer is the father of this child may not necessarily be true, which would be really scandalous 'mongst the fambly valyews types. This is what happens when you don't take your whore pills.)

It's bad enough that Bristol Palin makes decent money doing nothing more than being a sanctimonious, hypocritical dunce, but what's unforgivably obnoxious is the "respect our privacy" nonsense. There's no one stopping you from going away, sweet cheeks. Trust me, no one will miss you. Go get a real job, toil away in obscurity with whatever other skill you might possess. No one's stopping you, and no one will check up on your comings and goings at the burger stand. You chose to put yourself in the public eye, no gun was put to anyone's head.

Ah, but that's always the problem in our "reality" teevee addled excuse for a society -- whenever one of these morons steps on their dicks, their first impulse is to exercise their right to privacy, but they still want to keep their public platform, their show, their blog, whatever revenue source they have to monetize their meager talent. They think they should be able to have it both ways, to use said platform to influence behavior and promote their social causes, and then when they're caught being hypocrites (which, you know, tends to undermine whatever value is created by their promotions), they want a pass and privacy. No. It doesn't work that way, unless you want to do the right thing and just go away already.

But that won't happen. The only that terrifies them more than having the easy money spigot turned off is finding out that they could completely disappear and nobody would notice.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Audacity of Pope

It's interesting to watch liberals and environmentalists make common cause with the pope on the subject of climate change, since chances are they profoundly disagree with him on many other issues -- not the least of which would be the proximal causes of said environmental shift. I guess you take support where you can get it, but this a pretty tough one to get around.

Don't get me wrong, compared to his predecessors, the current pope is relatively (dare I say it?) progressive. He has made overtures to other faiths, gays, even atheists. Credit where it's due and all.

But I don't see how you can logically separate the acknowledgement of an ongoing climate crisis, and the worsening problem of overpopulation. Consumerism is certainly a substantial part of global warming and environmental degradation, but it doesn't account for, to name one egregious example, the mass extinction we're now in the middle of.

Somewhat oddly, the major areas that are and will be experiencing continued population increases are India and Africa, regions which are not necessarily attuned to what the head of the Catholic Church has to say about much of anything. China has some responsibility to bear as well, not just for the sheer scale of their population, but because they are the primary consumers of these endangered species that are being poached. Americans are obese and vulgar, but they're not buying ivory and eating tiger penis soup.

It is sickening to think that within another generation or so, we will almost certainly be without any tigers, rhinos, lions, elephants, lemurs, and many other amazing graceful creatures that used to share the planet with us. But we'll have somewhere between nine and ten billion humans by 2050, many of them scavenging and poaching and pillaging and overbreeding their way through what passes for a life, each putting toxic drops into an ocean of impending catastrophe (I defy you to find a more purple metaphor in the next, say, 24 hours).

His Holiness has very little to say about all that; in fact, he's taken the opposite tack. It's as if he recognizes that we are falling off a cliff, on the verge of a perilous precipice, and yet would rather ignore that whole pesky gravity thing.

This is not a small point. The church is never going to budge from condemning abortion, and one assumes that even the most ardent atheist or pro-choice advocate can at least understand that stance. But a smart -- and truly progressive (ugh) -- pontiff would strike a creative and useful balance by moving the dial on contraception. Again, the parts of the world most in need of that are not Catholic in the first place. But it can't hurt, and you have to start somewhere.

There's a phrase I've oft repeated in this here venue, and I sincerely believe it should be the motto or operational guideline for virtually every governing body of any size or importance:  People (in the collective, aggregate sense) will not change their behavior until they understand that the cost of not changing is greater than the cost of changing. This is as true and axiomatic as noting that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow. The corollary to this is that it usually takes some sort of catalyzing event to get them to realize this; life has to break one off in their asses before the light bulb finally goes on and they see that their current path is unsustainable.

You used to be able to at least count on the basic principle that individuals wanted to leave the world as good or better than they found it, for future generations, that they wouldn't want to leave a toxic shithole for their children and grandchildren. The boomers squashed that long-held precept; those motherfuckers refuse to compromise on a goddamned thing as they dodder off into senescence. They fucked us, and they're entirely cool with it. Very well then, at least own the damage you've wrought. Consider yourselves lucky we don't shut off the payout valve the second you've recouped exactly what you paid in, and then set you out on a fucking ice floe with a crate of Matlock and Murder She Wrote DVDs.

This groaning, overburdened planet cannot take much more of what we're giving it. A deity that wants countless individual souls to be actualized, only to perish early in an impending mass die-off if we continue down this road, is no friend to its believers. Like any politician, a pope has a balance to strike between the intellectual, the spiritual, and the practical. (Yeah, I know.) But time gets shorter, and the practical must start taking precedence.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Lazy Train

When Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush are the voices of reason on your side, maybe it's time to reconsider your basic premises. This is about to be the next entrant in the Tedious Summer Fake Debate sweepstakes, now that the required shark attacks and Trump announcements are already out of the way. At least one half-assed "tradition" will be "scrutinized" and Both Sides Will Be Heard.

The tradition of flying a flag that celebrates systemic racism and plunder will be said to come down to the noble voters of South Carolina, who will get their backs up in righteous indignation, drawl some obvious untruths, and tell everyone to go fuck themselves. Short of a tourism boycott, you're not going to talk these rubes out of their stupid tree. They're fine with lying to themselves and everyone else about the nature of that hateful rag and what it represents.

Ordinarily you'd just say, well, let morons be morons and leave it at that. And perhaps that's where we'll end up. But nine people got slaughtered in a church a few days ago because some deranged dipshit decided that he'd had enough of something. The same mindset that defends that damned flag is precisely the same mindset that composed said dipshit's actions.

Another tradition is that of giving South Carolina -- a state notable for exactly two things:  being the first state to attempt to secede, and having about 1.5% of the US population -- a prominent role in selecting the next president. To the extent that the electoral process for picking imperial custodian even matters, with its perpetual campaign machine and roster of mostly worthless choices, the insistence on giving tiny states where no one lives first choice on legitimizing candidates undermines the validity of that process. Larger, more populous states such as California and New York -- and yes, Texas and Florida as well -- don't have a voice until Iowa and South Carolina and New Hampshire have had their say.

It's bad enough that a depopulated ghost state like Wyoming has exactly the same number of US Senators as California, a state with about 66 times as many people, and at least four cities each with more people than all of Wyoming. It's ridiculous that preliminary choices are entirely ceded to small states that are not representative of anything but themselves.

I've felt increasingly that the post-Westphalian nation-state paradigm is increasingly outmoded, that what worked to preserve order in 1648 has perhaps run its course nearly four centuries later. Maybe the fifty states would work better as a loose confederation of regional entities that regulate trade, and leave each other to their picayune bullshit.

Maybe the taker states, adding nothing of value in the first place and no longer having their nonsense supported by the maker states, would be forced to get honest with themselves, and join the 21st century. Or not. With that sort of setup, what goes on in the backwaters would have as much relevance as news from Pakistan or Gambia.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Carthago Delenda Est

"The past is never dead. It's not even past." -- William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun
"Y'all are raping our women and taking over our country. This must be done." -- Dylann Storm Roof

There is some sort of twisted irony that bowl-haircutted domestic terrorist Dylann Stormfront Roof, who shot up a church full of Christiansblack people, is about to find out what the racial demographic is in gen-pop. Good luck, shitbird. I don't make jokes about dropping the soap, because this nation's penitentiary system is a nasty disgrace of privatized enslavement and institutionalized sadism. But there are some people whom you just can't muster sympathy for, and this is one of them.

More interesting is how this is yet another of those inane pretend "national discussions" that are supposed to cut 'murka's perceptions about race in sharp relief, yet do anything but in practice. It does provide small respite from the endless jabber about Rachel Dolezal, a woman who clearly has some issues about identity but is essentially a harmless goofball.

I have trouble finding an opinion about a seemingly misguided white person pretending to be black, it's about as pressing an issue as the countless suburban cracker mooks trying to up their puny game. They grow out of it when they either have to get a job, or get tired of people laughing at them instead of with them. Sooner or later Dolezal would have encountered an actual black person who, rather than giving her funny, inquisitive looks, asked her point-blank what the fuck she thought she was pulling. Still and all, as I said, dopey and harmless. But you would have thought by the verbal kerfuffle that it Meant Something.

This is how we pretend to talk to each other about race, primarily because the southern states understand the issue differently, as they have never and perhaps will never get over having their asses sorely kicked in the Woah of Nawthun Aggresshun. So they pretend that their worthless, traitorous rag is a profound statement of "heritage" rather than hate or racism. On that, as Ta-Nehisi Coates wisely points out, we agree -- but it's a heritage of plunder, torture, mayhem, rape, murder, cruelty.

So fuck Huckleberry Closetcase and the horse he rode in on, and the heritage of institutionalized theft and misery he takes such pride in. It's not that much of a wonder that assholes like Roof germinate and take root in the polluted soil of the south, with its monuments and highways and cities dedicated to the people who fought and died for the right to enslave and terrorize other human beings, to treat them literally as pieces of property, to be divided, sold, or discarded at will.

It's the most cowardly, chickenshit thing to pretend that Roof set out to murder Christians, when Roof himself said he set out to murder black people. He made no bones about it. But we live in a society where a bunch of biker gangs can shoot up Waco, kill close to a dozen people, and people just go, "huh, that sucks," but when people in Baltimore riot because they have no other recourse, and burn down a drugstore and torch a few cars -- but kill no one -- it's an endless litany about what "thugs" those people are.

(And, as a parallel side note, the Waco shootout may turn out to be a serious over-reaction by our paramilitarized law enforcement. But the fact is, as the known facts lay immediately after the incident last month, the chatter revolved largely around romanticizing the "outlaw" mentality of the bikers, who are rugged individualists in comparison to the "thug" outlaws in the inner cities. It's as if they're never heard of or read Hunter S. Thompson.)

Already Roof is being characterized as mentally ill, or a drug addict, or both. And perhaps he is. (In which case maybe Roof's father ought to be charged as an accessory, seeing as how he saw fit to give the little prick a fucking .45 handgun for his birthday in April, just weeks after getting busted for drugs and trespassing.) But maybe he really just hates black people, because he's been raised and steeped in a bullshit "culture" that still goes out of its way to find ways to relegate non-whites, to reframe an epic struggle that sundered a nation, whose combatants were abundantly clear about what precisely they were fighting to preserve.

I have completely run out of fucks to give about these people. Fuck them, fuck their stupid two-ply flag, fuck their bullshit rationalizations for systemic theft and brutality, fuck their heritage. There are like ten backwater welfare states that continue to resist common sense. It is time for the rest of the country and the world to stop coddling them. We need to find the graves of everyone from Jefferson Davis to Pitchfork Ben Tillman and Lester Maddox, take a collective dump on them, burn a traitor flag on the shit, and piss out the embers.

A boycott would definitely get through to them, something along the lines of "take your flag down or we stop coming to Myrtle Beach". The games of shitholes like Missuhsippuh refusing to ratify the 13th Amendment need to be done with. Playtime is over.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Crime and Punishment

By now you've seen some or all of the viral video of the Texas cop going a little gung-ho on busting up a pool party made up largely of those people. (Check out Starsky's barrel-roll about five seconds in, like something out of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. This clown probably practices sliding across the hood of his squad car.)

It's a none-too-subtle reminder of how minor incidents that did not used to require police involvement now routinely involve guns being pulled on unarmed kids, and said kids being physically assaulted by cops. Very often these incidents culminate in people being brought in, and entities and institutions with vested interests in getting citizens on the hook of the prison-industrial complex.

It can result in poor people (and it's always poor people; people of means generally aren't taken into custody in the first place, and when they are, they can usually buy their way out of a jam) being held in custody because of their inability to make bail, and thus have to wait for months or even years on end for due process to run its course.

Such is the case of the unfortunate Kalief Browder, who spent three years locked up in Rikers Island on suspicion of stealing a backpack. Browder, who was kept in solitary confinement for two-thirds of his stay, and captured on video being beaten by guards and inmates, tragically took his own life over the weekend, unable to cope with the severe treatment he endured in New York's Kafkaesque metropolitan prison system.

It's safe to assume that most people, regardless of political sentiment, believe that Browder's experience is the norm, not an aberration, and that very few people would survive a week in a hellhole like Rikers, or any state or federal facility. These are places where physical, mental, and sexual abuse are not just tolerated, but actively used as means of control. Even county jails are no picnic, especially in metropolitan areas.

To assert that bad people deserve to be treated miserably, like animals, is one of the more hideous human teleologies, especially in the US, but certainly in every third world country as well. It is a temptation that all of us, including yours truly, give in to when presented with individuals who commit truly monstrous acts. There really are some folks whom it's difficult to see what redeeming value would be achieved by warehousing them, letting them victimize other inmates and attack guards for years or decades on end.

And yet we have to figure that at some point, most of the people in prison will have done an appropriate amount of time for their transgression, and then must return to what passes for civilized society here. And it's in our best interest to make sure those people have not been traumatized by an experience that none of us would endure in our worst nightmares. Chanting the mantra of "don't so the crime if you can't do the time" doesn't cut it; the time they do is not supposed to include the constant threat of deadly violence, and it's hard to expect them not to carry those experiences back out into the real world.

We made the decision, under the guise of public safety, that rehabilitation was not a priority, that it was more important to beat them down and keep them there than to make attempts to change them in order to get them back on the track of living productive lives -- or at least not victimizing others.

These events that pop up in the news routinely now, cops assaulting kids for getting a little rowdy, kids being kept in custody for minor bullshit far longer than any reasonable person could deem fair, people coming out of the system so traumatized that they can no longer function normally. It would be nice to think that something might be done about it, but we all know that nothing will. And the odds are, at this rate, sooner or later you or someone you know or care about will find themselves in the system at some point, either on a financial hook or actually incarcerated. And there won't be anything you or they can do about it.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

The Golden Rule

So it looks like Emperor Bloomberg is testing the waters now (via No More Mister Nice Blog). The money paragraph (bearing in mind that this is from a Bloomberg media site) is here:

The former New York City mayor seems like the perfect solution for Wall Street's problems with the current field of presidential candidates. The Street sees him as a centrist technocrat who adeptly managed one of the most complex cities in the world. They think he understands the global business community.

You could just about FJM every syllable in that paragraph, but what it all boils down to is this: Only a man who made billions from finger-banging spreadsheets and sending American jobs to third world countries can possibly understand the sheer anguish that is endured by other men who finger-bang spreadsheets and send American jobs to third world countries. It's a complicated political recursion, you see.

Where did these people come so untethered from reality that they seem to genuinely think that completely unfettered, unencumbered hyper-capitalism is the only true path to prosperity for all? The events of the last decade have clearly shown that that is not remotely true; such an arrangement promises only wealth for the oligarchy running the perpetual-motion machine scamming the rubes out of their hard-earned pittance. All the wealth generated goes to the top 1% (or smaller). The math does not lie, only the people do.

So what would "Wall Street's problems with the current field of presidential candidates" consist of, that they don't genuflect quite enough? What the fuck do they want, blowjobs to completion on the steps of the NYSE? Isn't that what CNBC is for?

"They think he understands the global business community." Yeah, run that one through Google Translate into Lower Middle Bullshit and see what you come out with. I would almost respect these shameless bastards more if they just flat-out said, "We don't have enough money. We will never have enough fucking money. You might as well resign yourself to that fate. It is our expectation that American politicians will deliver for us, first and only, alpha and omega, with the understanding that if we are in the mood, we might share a crumb with the proletariat. Otherwise, have a nice bowl of go fuck yourself."

We see what "understand[ing] the global business community" really means -- more of the same, and to a greater degree. The idea that these shameless spreadsheet diddlers have been challenged whatsoever in their unholy pursuit of filthy pelf is one of the more remarkable conspiracy theories, right up there with lizard men and such like. These motherless fucks already run the entire world to their own benefit, and it's still not enough. Keep that in mind whenever you trudge to the so-called ballot box, even in a midterm.

Realistically, Bloomberg has to know that there are giant sections of the US that will not vote for him simply because he's a J-O-O. Ugly but true, and Bloomberg is a lot of things, but he's not an idiot. It's just as likely that he's testing the waters on NY governor, as Andy Cuomo is likely to be a veep contender.

As for the idea that Wall Street might have issues with Jeb Bush, give me a fucking break. He'd be even easier for them to control than Hillary. The thing that is always most disgusting is that most people get what's going on and vote for their approved "choices" anyway.

Boat People

Hey folks, if you've got a few shekels to spare, go help out Dmitry Orlov, who needs a new boat engine to continue his spare, peripatetic lifestyle.

Dipshits On Parade

Is the Westburble Batshit Cult still a thing, and how many of these inbred assholes could there possibly be since Crazy Grampa shuffled off to the lowest ring of hell?

It's too bad they probably don't pay much attention to the internets, because as polarized as America is on most issues, aside from ISIS and child rapists, we're pretty much all in agreement on the WBC. There can't be much reward in being part of a dopey club with a couple dozen members, whose main activity is pissing on the graves of combat veterans, and thus is reviled by literally everyone else.

Even people who hate Joe Biden despise the WBC way more. They're a bunch of idiot cocksuckers; their patriarch is smoking Satan's pole and getting spit-roasted (in the porn sense) by his dark minions for all eternity. If they had any goddamned self-respect they'd pull a fucking Jonestown already. No one would miss them, and they'd get their fondest wish -- to meet their "creator", a being who apparently had nothing better to do but shit out cretins, spiteful morons who literally do nothing but defile their fellow citizens, people who have more guts and integrity in every atom of their being than the entire WBC could ever dream about.

It's just a shame no one's convinced them to do the right thing yet. In the meantime, we'll all say a silent prayer that at the next vet funeral they picket, some of the bikers who help block their view finally lose their shit and go on a rampage.