Tuesday, November 25, 2014
We played "Killing in the name" at the end of our radio show last night, which was right before 9pm, the time of Prosecutor Robert McCulloch's press conference in Ferguson, Missouri. In this incendiary (but rather bizarre) press conference, he announced the grand jury had not returned an indictment, and there would be no trial for the murder of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson on August 9th.
All three of us are seasoned activists, and we knew what was coming. Even though 99% of grand juries return indictments... we knew THIS CASE would be an exception.
And so, driving home, I thought of the song we had played ... and then I thought of Rage Against the Machine's "No Shelter"--which I heard in my head, over and over... there be no shelter here/the front lines are everywhere. I wondered, is that really true?
By the time I got home, America was burning.
I was going to write a post-election synopsis, but I think this post is going to stand in for it. My feelings about Ferguson and the 2014 election are forever entwined. One has in fact brought about the other. You are seeing the results of the election in action: the arrogance of power.
Rarely has an election had such a catastrophic effect on my morale. I have been plagued with self-doubt and disgust at the Left (or what passes for the Left in the USA), particularly the young folks who didn't vote and thus turned over the election to the Republicans. The election of Ronald Reagan left me deeply depressed, and this has been almost as bad. I just have to keep remembering: most people didn't vote, midterms belong to the base, it wasn't an actual mandate, blah blah blah. But right after the election, I was most upset at all the pseudo-radical tumblrites, the kids who talk a good game and do nothing, those people who claim there is no difference between the parties, when the lack of Medicaid expansion here in most southern states means that thousands will die with no health care.
They don't seem to care about that, or at least, not enough to vote.
Now see, when you put it that way, they howl in disagreement and indignation. But that is exactly what they did. They chose to sit out the election, and as David Brooks smugly reminded us on PBS, not voting is a vote, and the Democrats "failed to mobilize the base." Both true.
But see, the youth are all fired up over Ferguson. They tweeted furiously, almost more than I did. What's up with that? Drama attracts attention, but boring elections don't? (Do they understand the election was also a matter of life and death?) I was amazed at all the young people I saw in the Ferguson footage, all races, raising fists in the air and blocking the interstate. I once helped block an interstate highway (at the 1980 Republican convention in Detroit that nominated Ronald Reagan) and it is a powerful feeling. (We delayed Reagan's acceptance speech by almost an hour.) GODDAMMIT, PAY ATTENTION is what these actions scream out loud. It is as if they have decided elections are old school, and yet, the only way to get more minority cops and minority representation, IS ELECTIONS. However, considering all the votes habitually dropped down the toilet, along with gerrymandering and right-wing hijinks, we ALSO see that elections are stolen regularly, and that has created an epidemic of electoral cynicism.
I feel like the country is going down the road described so frighteningly in the (very entertaining, highly recommended) novel California, by Edan Lepucki. She describes a time when "the internet goes dark"--scary but totally believable, since it is obviously a threat to hegemony. People pay to live in "communities" that are safe and protected. If you can't afford to live in one of these, too bad. In Margaret Atwood's trilogy, Oryx and Crake, Year of the Flood and MaddAddam, there are likewise "compounds" populated by the employees of the international corporations, and if you can't make it into one of these, you are consigned to the "pleeblands"--which are pillaged, torched and trashed with regularity.
Watching the news reports last night, I momentarily felt like I was in a compound, while Ferguson is a pleebland.
At left, Curtis McLaughlin on our radio show right before the election. He was the Libertarian Party candidate for congress in South Carolina's 4th district, against Trey Gowdy.
There was NO Democratic challenger.
Gowdy won 85% of the vote. Welcome to the South.
There is also some good news, as the first gay marriages in South Carolina have now become legal. I went to the demonstration last week at Greenville County Square, to cheer on those couples going in to get their licenses and thereby make history.
A little light in the darkness. A little bit. Some light, but no shelter.
There be no shelter here.
No Shelter - Rage Against the Machine
Comments welcome, but pro-Wilson/pro-cop comments will be dealt with harshly, and possibly deleted. Be advised.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
From Dennis at PoliticsUSA:
You all know the back story of the South Carolina governor’s race. The current governor, Nikki Haley, an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) puppet, wants to continue the states abysmally low rankings in almost every social and practical category of meaning. As I’ve written many times before, in a highly competitive field, Haley is, based on these rankings alone, the nation’s most inept governor. But, in the Palmetto state all that’s required of a governor is hate.....
Then there’s Haley’s arrogant disdain of human life in refusing to expand Medicaid to a certain group of low-wage earners. A move that is not only heartless, but will kill people. A Harvard study estimates as many as 1,300 annually in South Carolina alone. What kind of governor doesn’t care about killing people? We should throw her ‘hatred’ of environmental regulations into the mix. Regulations that minimize and control chemical releases that kill who knows how many of her fellow citizens.Ouch! He actually called her DISHONEST?
This is not only a worthless, unfeeling governor; this is a worthless, unfeeling human being. And yet she commands comfortable double-digit leads in virtually every legitimate poll over her holdover opponent from her last gubernatorial run, State Senator, Vincent Sheheen.
Back to Ervinized and why that recent phenomenon is suddenly creating a modest opening for Sheheen in the governor’s race. Those who have followed this race are aware that there are five candidates. The two major parties, Independent Republican petition candidate, Tom Ervin and two political ciphers. The latter two are meaningless in terms of the outcome. Ervin is definitely meaningful, especially in light of recent developments. Tom Ervin is a 62-year-old former two-term state house member as a Democrat and a 14-year circuit court judge who currently practices law with his wife. He is philosophically still a moderate Democrat, though a few years ago, he declared himself a Republican to run for a couple of offices he craved. He lost both elections, but remained a Republican. Given that Haley won the Republican primary, Ervin was, by law, forced to run as an Independent in the general election.
He was a very effective candidate, giving both the major party candidates a dressing down on assorted issues. He was especially hard on Haley. His presence created vote switching that one would think would benefit Sheheen, the Democrat. As indicated earlier, while Ervin gained supporters, Sheheen lost them and Haley made a big move.
Now, all that could change. The ball, as they say, is squarely in Sheheen’s court. Ervin, who funded his own campaign to the tune of $4 million, suddenly dropped out of the race freeing roughly 8-10% of the total vote. I guess he felt he had made enough of an impression on the electorate and fully realized that, while certainly influential, he stood no chance of winning. One of his first post-dropout steps was to email an expression of strong support to Sheheen contributors under the Sheheen letterhead. The obvious question is, what difference will it make? Won’t Republican Ervin votes simply find a home in the Haley camp?
Maybe, but, as in TV reality shows, there’s a twist. Ervin has officially endorsed Sheheen. Some voters are now going to take a close look at why. In a local phone interview with reporter Jason Spencer, Ervin made the following statement, “It was a difficult decision, but I felt like it was time to put aside my personal ambition and try to do what’s best for our state.” Gee, what a novel approach to public service.
And Ervin has spelled out three reasons that it makes more sense to vote for the Democratic State Senator. According to the local press, those reasons are, ethics reform, domestic violence and economic development. He actually used the word “dishonest” in condemning Haley’s leadership on the issues.
Will any of this work? Haley is estimated to have a 10-point lead in the polls, or at least those are the figures I hear dutifully repeated everywhere, in most South Carolina media outlets. I heard it down at the coast, in Columbia, and here in the upstate. This is the OFFICIAL figure that the ruling class of SC has agreed upon.
which came FAR TOO LATE in the campaign to suit me and others in the opposition), it is a forgone conclusion that Sheheen will still lose, but probably by a lower margin than expected.
It would be great if we could get out the African-American vote for this election. In addition to her ongoing attempts to deny thousands of the state's black residents the right to vote, Haley has just defended the confederate battle flag. Is it possible that African-Americans will finally reach a boiling point? Or has all that creative gerrymandering in SC finally done its job and that simply can't happen now? (Note: This is the real reason Mark Sanford was handily elected in SC's District 1.)
And my God, Haley is utterly shameless in pandering to the white vote.
From Talking Points Memo:
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) said that voters should not be concerned that the statehouse flies a Confederate flag because she has gotten no complaints from the CEOs.She has totally forgotten that in 2001, on her voter registration, she claimed she was white. Oh wait, she wasn't running for office back then. Never mind. She's back to being an Indian-American now.
During the Tuesday night gubernatorial debate, Democratic candidate state Sen. Vincent Sheheen called for the state government to no longer display the Confederate flag, noting that many young people leave South Carolina "all too often."
Haley retorted by claiming that the Confederate flag has not kept companies from coming to the state.
"What I can tell you is over the last three and a half years, I spent a lot of my days on the phones with CEOs and recruiting jobs to this state. I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag," she said.
She also said that she herself has helped combat the state's image problem.
"But we really kind of fixed all that when you elected the first Indian-American female governor," Haley said. "When we appointed the first African-American U.S. senator, that sent a huge message."
Libertarian candidate Steve French said that while he doesn't mind if individuals display the Confederate flag, he doesn't think businesses should be able to.
"So, if you want to paint your house in the Confederate flag, I am completely fine with that," he said.
Outside of making her a laughingstock (which she never seems to mind), will the confederate flag comment hurt her chances?
At least she is honest that the continuing racist insult to black people doesn't concern her, only what the rich say and do.
Sums her up perfectly, doesn't it?
Stay tuned, sports fans.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Its been awhile since I shared some old music with yall.
This first one was on the soundtrack to the movie "Car Wash" (1976)--which I once reviewed for the (very) long-defunct Focus Rock Entertainment, back in the day. I wrongly predicted it would be a hit; instead, the theme song "Car Wash" was the big hit. (sigh) But it did become a funk classic and was popular in the discos, as the B-side of the hit ballad from the film, "I wanna get next to you."
Produced and written by the late, great Motown-powerhouse, Norman Whitfield, this song features the legendary funk bass of Lequeint 'Duke' Jobe--an amazing groove. All punctuated with beautiful big brass noise, which defines 70s funk for me.
To this day, now and forever, when someone says "put your money where your mouth is"... I mentally finish the sentence: "or you ain't said a damn thing"...
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is - Rose Royce
I know I have played this here before, probably more than once. Its one of my favorite pieces of instrumental music, ever.
(PS: Link for those who missed the old instrumentals post! I never did get around to posting part 2, so consider THIS part 2.)
Although I love the original studio version (and most live renditions), the Allman Brothers video clips currently on Youtube have some fuzzy audio and are not as good as simply listening to (Allman Brothers guitarist) Dickey Betts play it as an 8-minute guitar lesson (with his son Duane) for Guitar World magazine... elegant, spare, and oh so lovely.
They have to slow down at around the 3:45 mark (the "second theme"), where it gets somewhat complicated and psychedelic. Other than that, this version is almost good enough to stand on its own.
In Memory of Elizabeth Reed - Dickey Betts
Aside: I didn't know Betts had named his son Duane, which gets me rather choked up.
Time for working class proletarian bluegrass. You can blame the election. Class consciousness uber alles!
This is an old union song I grew up with. The Blue Diamond mines in Kentucky are still going strong, in case you didn't know. The union? Not as strong.
You old black gold you've taken my soul
And your dust has darkened my home
And now that we’re old you're turning your back
But where else can an old miner go
It’s Big Leatherwood and it’s Algoma Block
And now it’s Blue Diamond too
The pits they are closing - get another job
But what work can an old miner do
John L. had a dream but it’s broken it seems
And the union is letting us down
Last night they took away my hospital card
Saying why don’t you leave this old town.
The union didn't let you down, the Rockefellers did. Now they have decided they were wrong; they are divesting and fast-dissociating themselves from fossil fuels. And how many miners died to make them rich?
A day late and a dollar short. Not our dollar, though.
Blue Diamond Mines - Jean Ritchie
Monday, October 27, 2014
South Carolina residents, you've been looking at that baby long enough, yes? I even got a complaint on my last blog post, remarking about the ubiquitous, never-ending, look-at-my-cute-baby!-i-might-be-on-Bravo-but-I'm-heterosexual! ad campaign, featuring infamous Reality TV star, Independent senatorial candidate, former SC Treasurer and celebrated convicted cokehead Thomas Ravenel and his adorable little offspring. He assures us, he cares so much about the little darling, you should definitely elect him. After all, he comes from a rich family with a fancy-ass bridge named after them and he's on TV!
These annoying, cloying commercials have been non-stop, the little Ravenel darling foisted on us morning, noon and night.
And then, he... well, he dropped the baby in the pool. Something about a stylist. And then... well, he has since broken up with his long-suffering babymama, Kathryn Dennis, 29 years his junior. People are shocked, shocked I tell you. (okay, not really)
During our trip to Isle of Palms and Sullivan's Island, Mr Daisy and I decided to drop in for a bite at the aptly-named Page's Okra Grill in Mount Pleasant, for some delicious fried okra and other southern goodies. And at the next table, I heard some old fellas with deep low-country accents, chortling in a decidedly Democratic fashion, about Rav-inn-nell and what he had done last Frad-dee (low-country version of Friday), whilst passing around their iphones for emphasis. Chortle, chortle, snort, and one fella collapsed in a true belly-laugh. I was dying to know, and nearly interrupted their lunch to ask what Rav-inn-nell had done THIS time.
Luckily, I didn't have to wait long... it was all over the low-country, from Democrat to Democrat and from iphone to iphone.
Ravenel's baby, the dearly beloved infant in the commercial, fell into the pool. With Ravenel, apparently. (Everybody keeps adding, the one in the commercial!)
You know, some convicted cokeheads might actually get arrested for blundering into the pool with a seven-month-old, but then, most cokeheads do not come from one of the most powerful Republican families in the state.
From Charleston City Paper:
A woman told Charleston police that Thomas Ravenel, a U.S. Senate candidate and star of the reality show Southern Charm, assaulted her last Friday night at his Charlotte Street home. According to the Charleston Police Department, an investigation into the incident is ongoing and Ravenel has not been arrested.They don't??!? Nah, go on.
The alleged victim, Lauren Moser, told police that she is a friend of Kathryn Dennis, Ravenel's girlfriend and mother of Ravenel's child, and is also Dennis' stylist. Moser says she was invited to Ravenel and Dennis' residence at 29 1/2 Charlotte St. on the evening of Oct. 17 "but was concerned about going because she had had previous run-ins with the offender [whose] behavior is unpredictable especially when under the influence," according to a police incident report.
Moser says she arrived at the house at about 11 p.m. and relieved the nanny since Ravenel and Dennis had not yet arrived home. She told police that "everything was fine for a while" after the couple arrived home until later in the night when she was sitting outside the residence talking with Dennis. At that point, Moser told police that Ravenel "stormed out of the house with the 7-month-old juvenile and yelled to Kathryn that she needed to take care of the sleeping child," according to the report.
Then, as Ravenel was walking toward Moser and Dennis, he reportedly slipped and fell into the pool with the baby. Ravenel reportedly pulled the baby out of the pool and handed her to Dennis. At this point, Moser says she pulled out her cell phone and started recording the incident "because she felt that more was about to transpire," according to the report.
The report continues:The victim stated that as she was walking behind the offender into the house he swung the door hard (as to close it) when he cleared [the] doorway and it bounced off of the victim's knee. The victim stated that when the offender saw that the door did not close he turned and swung the door again and this time the door struck the victim on the inside of the right arm due to the fact that her hand was raised because she was videoing the episode. The victim stated that the door hit her so hard it caused her to topple backwards down three steps and into some bushes.Moser told police that Ravenel then went to the second floor of the house, and she went into the living room to sit down and "gather her thoughts and to make sure that the baby and Kathryn were fine before she left," according to the report. Then Ravenel reportedly returned to the living room naked and screamed, "Bitch, get your stuff and get out" while bringing Moser's belongings to her. Moser says she gathered her belongings and left.
Moser did not report the incident until Monday night at about 8 p.m. She says she waited to file the report because she "wanted to think about the incident and to wait until her emotions died down." She told police she was in pain the next day but did not have any broken bones. Police observed bruising on the inside of her right arm.
Ravenel did not immediately return a request for comment at his office. The police report indicates that Moser shot video of the incident, but a Charleston Police Department spokesman says police do not have a copy of the video.
That same memory hole that allowed Ravenel to abuse coke for years, see it? The rich, as we see, can do whatever the hell they want.
The update on this story, from Thomas Ravenel himself:
UPDATE, 5 p.m.: Thomas Ravenel released the following statement in response to the allegations:And so, there it is.I learned through a news report that the Charleston Police Department is investigating this incident, and I am totally confident that once the investigation is completed, the truth will come out and any allegations against me will be found to be without merit. I look forward to meeting with any member of law enforcement if they believe it will be helpful to their investigation.Reached by phone, Ravenel also said he would not participate in filming any further episodes of Southern Charm until after the Nov. 4 election.
Some fun mental exercises: imagine if this was you or me. Now, change the race of the perp, and the neighborhood. I can imagine somebody actually getting shot over this, if they were the wrong color. Imagine if this was a black hip-hop star or NFL player. Mix and match, play the privilege game. Always remember: THIS IS AN ALREADY-CONVICTED COKEFIEND, not someone without a police record. He was arrested only a year ago for drunken driving, as well. (guilty)
Some people, with a record like that, would have their babies taken AWAY from them for this behavior. Not Ravenel. Never Ravenel.
It just makes for good TV.
Being rich means never having to say you're sorry.
We will be discussing Ravenel and other stuff tonight on Occupy the Microphone, WOLI radio, 910AM and 105.7FM on your upstate radio dial. Join us at 8pm and weigh in! You can listen live here.
Monday, October 20, 2014
TONIGHT on Occupy the Microphone----Michael Thompson, Democratic candidate for South Carolina House District 34, will be joining us. LISTEN LIVE HERE at 8-9pm, WOLI radio, 105.7FM and 910AM on your upstate radio dial.
This will be Michael's third week on our show, which is where I took the above photo. THREE WEEKS! (((trumpets))) Such a brave man, to take on the Green Party extremists/talk radio crazies! That alone, should be sufficient to impress you.
An upholder of Democratic values, a veritable MAN OF THE PEOPLE, an intrepid laborer in the halls of democracy and the House Democratic Caucus... and a most hardy soul indeed! DEAD AIR unabashedly and enthusiastically endorses Michael Thompson~!
Vote for him, Sparkle City residents and others in District 34. (map of district - PDF) He will serve Spartanburg and the surrounding areas very well.
(Michael on Facebook, Michael on Twitter.)
Rumors of this blog's demise have been greatly exaggerated!
My energies have been scattered.
Mr Daisy says, "The internet was cool before social media took over." Whether you agree with him or not, blogging as the standard certainly has gone by the wayside in so many respects.
I tweet my various pop-culture distractions and share old-school historical footnotes and strange art on tumblr. I now take my musician-photos straight to Flickr and no longer announce them here. Facebook and Google+ take up the rest of the slack, as I prefer to share personal information only with friends and not the entire world.
The longer one blogs, the more the Blue Meanies take aim, and the less one can feel welcome, even (unbelievably!) in one's own space.
I now blog here when I specifically have something important to say that it seems few (or no) folks are saying online. Since everybody is now talking at once, that tends to be my yardstick. It concentrates the mind wonderfully, and focuses on what is genuinely crucial, not just whatever catches my fancy.
The main thing that brings people to this blog is: information here that you simply can't find anywhere else, although you once could. Now we have paywalls, broken links, countless bad acts dropped down the memory hole, bloggers disappearing into the ether, mainstream media (newspapers and magazines) folding left and right, etc. It has a been a real surprise for me to learn: the much-heralded information superhighway makes it just as easy to "lose" facts and figures as it ever was, maybe even easier. (If the net is "wiped clean" of someone, it truly seems as if they never existed; if there is no internet account of an event, it can be judged never to have happened.) The more facts and events one can report in such an environment, the better.
And then, there is the fun fact that bloggers can focus on whatever we choose; we can report gossip in the manner of the NATIONAL ENQUIRER: rumors say _____. Rumors are good enough for us. Bring on the rumors. Sometimes, we have often learned, the rumors are TRUE. Boo-yah!
When the Bravo network, for example, started airing the rich-people-porn show "Southern Charm"--suddenly everybody wanted to know about (former SC Treasurer) Thomas Ravenel's history as a cokehead. Back in the day, the mainstream news organizations, obediently kissing the ass of both government AND the rich, were very polite about that sordid mess and tip-toed around it. If you wanted the real dirt, you had to go to alternative media and bloggers. Thus, that is where the story remains today. I got tons of hits when "Southern Charm" first aired, and I just got a ton more now that Ravenel has announced he is leaving the show. (Ravenel is currently running for the Senate as an Independent against Lindsey Graham)
New blog slogan: All the news that's fit to print, that (mostly) nobody has yet. (Plus old music. When I get to it.)
I think that is a fine tradition to continue, so I will.
Off to the coast, see you in a week or so. Join us on the show tonight!
Thursday, September 25, 2014
All my life, I have been listening to justifications for war. All my life.
Constantly, whether acted upon or not.
I realized, driving down the road today... this is not the experience of non-Americans. And I was suddenly starkly jealous of all of you. It must be nice to live in Brazil or Nepal or Paraguay or Iceland or Canada or someplace where your country's population and artillery-soaked media is not always always always talking about the need for military intervention in some area of the world most people have trouble locating on a map.
My God, I am so tired of it. I am weary. I am also SICK over the fact that innocent civilians have already lost heat, water, food, roads, medicine, the necessities of life, all because I have a cowardly president afraid to stick to his bullshit lying campaign promises. And let me tell you, with ONE exception ((waves to the peanut farmer from Georgia)), I have had that same exact damn president ALL MY LIFE. Yes, totally interchangeable presidents. We always think THIS ONE (dubbed President Hopey Changey by witty blogger Lotus) is gonna be the one to NOT act like the others. We always think THIS ONE will be better. Somehow, in some way better.
HAHAHA, yeah I was taken in, as this blog makes clear. I have considered deleting my entire blog out of sheer embarrassment, but then, that would be unfairly presenting myself as someone smarter than I was, less gullible than I was. Instead, I was someone A HALF-CENTURY OLD, yet I nonetheless believed the okey-doke, even after I had already seen decades of lying American presidents. There can be no excuse, except that yes, I was operating on HOPE. My HOPE VALVE was on automatic pilot, cruise control... I wanted so desperately to believe.
And now, I see. I see clearly.
I have talked about strategic voting many times on this blog. And with that in mind, I can't say I will never vote for Democrats again. Certainly, here in South Carolina, that would be utterly suicidal. The Republicans hate poor people and openly seek to eradicate us. I can't trust them. We are left with inferior choices in this election year, as we so often are. Why won't the good people run for office? Why do decent ordinary working people vote for politicians who openly despise them?
And why do they promise peace when they intend no such thing?
I am heartbroken and distraught. This attack on ISIS is bullshit to make Lockheed Martin and the other endless munitions makers and military contractors staggeringly rich. I don't believe anything the media tells us; I often wonder if Americans are now as cynical as the citizens of the late-stage Soviet Union were, as the stories we are given change every day, even several times a day.
Lotus, linked above, provided an amazing quote from George Orwell... as always, timely as ever:
Every war when it comes or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.Yes.
And to the media-pundit hacks like David Gergen and the others? When are you enlisting? You were not in Vietnam, you were working for RICHARD FUCKING NIXON... so tell me, WHEN ARE YOU ENLISTING FOR THIS WAR YOU SO ENTHUSIASTICALLY EXHORT US TO GET INVOLVED IN? If I hear another made-to-order Harvard/Yale "pundit" or "expert" (translation: a well-trained media toadie/lackey, who promptly reports whatever they are told to report) from the cushy white suburbs say "Right on!" about poor and already-exhausted rednecks, blacks and Latinos doing another tour of duty in the silos pushing buttons on people, I will SCREAM and SPEW... which is one reason I finally turned off the cursed television. I can't stand to hear their lying filth one more minute.
I am meditating, and I am thinking of all the other people not able to meditate, as their homes fall around them.
All I can say is: I am sorry, Syrian sisters and brothers, my fellow humans.
I was not consulted on your fate when they decided to tax my money to make bombs to destroy you. In fact, I was lied to and told that my votes might even prevent that. And I was dumb enough to believe, since I did not know what else to do.
Please forgive me.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Well, maybe not from Marvel Universe... but there are these cool things called INDIE MOVIES, and I now hereby recommend one: Europa Report was sheer joy from beginning to end.
I had almost forgotten how old shows like The Twilight Zone and the early Star Trek were made: on the cheap, with the emphasis on provocative, interesting scripts, excellent acting and cool, otherworldly ideas. Europa Report (2013) reminds us that IDEAS and DRAMA are behind good sci-fi, and no amount of razzle-dazzle special effects can take the place of these compelling and enthralling story-telling elements.
Europa Report was made on a scant budget (less than $10 million) and occasionally, it does seem like it. But the whole concept of watching an upload of the first mission to Jupiter's icy moon Europa (a mission by a private company, of course) is a creative way around not having the razzle-dazzle. As in the original version of ALIEN, we are watching the everyday blahblahblah-boredom of a long space mission, where people might easily become stir crazy and act silly. And then shit happens, somebody goes drifting off into space (I hate it when that happens), and we are suddenly reminded of the tenuousness of life, especially millions of miles away, "sitting in a tin can"--as in David Bowie's famous lyric.
The landing on Europa is terrifying. I felt almost-dizzy watching from that point onward, but in a good, delicious way. I could identify with the crew, who kept saying how they couldn't believe they had actually arrived and how long they had dreamed of it, how long they had waited. As I said in my review of Another Earth, I looooove invented-scenery of enormous planets in the sky, and they give us a great view of Jupiter-in-eclipse, which they see from their landing site on Europa. They are nearly hypnotized by it, as I surely would be.
And one of the best things? When it seems their landing site is on ice too thick to get the samples (the whole reason for the trip), one of the women crew-members announces she is walking out onto the ice to get it herself. NO MAN HAS TO DO IT! It's not even a man's IDEA! Praise the Lord, a woman decides to save the mission! Huzzahs! (And she isn't even the baddest bitch in the universe, as Gamora is, but just another scientist.)
The crew's collective devotion to the mission, in and of itself, is intense and moving; in fact, it is quite wonderful. I often think the science-freaks (those irreverent atheists) have no respect for anything, but after seeing this movie, I get it: they respect the scientific process above all else, even above their own lives. The sample-collector (played by Karolina Wydra) doesn't know if radiation will fry her out there on Europa's surface, but dammit, they need the specimens and she plunges out onto the strange unearthly ice with no hesitations whatsoever. Her voice quavers with emotion when she finds a small one-celled creature in the ice, which she says appears Precambrian. It is like they have found God or something, and it is hard not to imagine the emotional intensity of seeing such a thing, close-up and for real. The acting is fantastic and always believable.
I don't want to ruin it for you, but the ending is brilliant and understated, both scary and amazing (terrifying and wonderful, said some reviewer I now can't find to link). Science is like that, right? The closing of one door and the blasting open of still another you never even knew existed. You can't go back, once you know.
And did I mention that this lovely understated but brilliant ending is made possible by (more huzzahs!) another woman crew member who ain't scared? (And let's be clear: by this point in the story, I would be a raving hysterical maniac, so that is truly saying something.) I can't tell you how proud of her I was.
Just as we involuntarily grimace when Gamora needs rescue (and try to forget that we just saw the baddest bitch in the universe floating around like zero-gravity-Sleeping Beauty, waiting for Chris Pratt to scoop her up in his manly arms), we are unaccountably PROUD when these Europa women kick some scientific ass and do important stuff without waiting for men to tell them.
This tells us how far we have to go.
Check out the movie. If you like drama and don't need a bunch of bells and whistles (as I admit Guardians of the Galaxy has a parcel of em), you won't be disappointed. If you have ever had intense dreams or fantasies of visiting other planets, you will find it mesmerizing, and it will stay with you a long time.
The women come out great, but the science is the thing. It's the real star.
Monday, September 15, 2014
I now present to you some of the worst campaign commercials you will ever see. Get out your barf bag now.
Well, okay, maybe not the worst, but... dreadful, simply dreadful.
First up, Governor Haley shores up her lady-voter base that put her over the top in 2010, by addressing BULLYING.
Say what, you ask? Bullying? We can't drive on our shitty roads; we have kids dying in Protective Services; we are going flat-ass broke... and we suddenly have the Governor playing Big Mother and assuring us that she CARES! (Note: she cares about nice white middle class girls like the one in the commercial; obviously, those dead kids in foster care can suck it.)
This commercial would never be made about a male candidate. That's enough reason to hate it.
Further, do teenagers send suicide notes to the Governor? Seriously? (More on the ad here) And what exactly would a governor do, to stop bullying?
"Nikki Haley Makes a Difference"
I told you it was bad.
And now from Haley's Republican/Independent challenger on the Right, here is Tom Ervin, who is some kind of relation to Senator Sam Ervin of Watergate committee fame (son or grandson?).... but right now, it is interesting that he seems to be downplaying that connection. (notice their kinship isn't mentioned on either Wikipedia entry) On the Right, Sam Ervin was hated for helping bring down Richard Nixon, while on the Left, he was hated for being a Jim Crow politician. It was the great middle that loved Sam Ervin, who unexpectedly became a star during the televised Watergate proceedings, as he would periodically huff and puff, become amusingly annoyed and pointedly lecture the witnesses on the meaning of the Constitution. He was a huge hit, and I am surprised Ervin isn't reminding voters of his famous TV-star relative.
Maybe Tom Ervin figures its better to leave good ole dad/granddad out of the campaign, especially when you are running against a nonwhite woman, the first nonwhite and the first woman to be elected governor of SC.
Anyway, here is the ad, targeting older voters and veterans.
Is that the most sentimental, treacly thing you ever saw? Argh.
As we said on our radio show last week, the idea is that you can call some politician any time you need help, the way Haley famously promised: "If you have trouble voting with the new rules, just call me and I will make sure you can vote!" Politicians want the old-bubba network of making lots of personal friends by getting stuff done for them, as in those old, well-oiled Democratic machines of the North (and the Dixiecrat machines of the South). Notice the ad subtly trashes the VA, yet makes no overt criticism, much less suggest what should be done to make improvements. The overriding concept is that these faceless bureaucracies sure do suck, but a nice guy like Tom can make it alright.
These are the choices on the Right. This means we will probably end up with one of them. Watch em and weep.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
All photos in this post are of the Lake Conestee, SC nature preserve.
I have not been updating regularly since I have been hanging out in the swamp. Hope you like my photos of Lake Conestee swamps! It is an amazing and beautiful place. (As always, you can click all photos to enlarge.)
I decided my whole motif would be SWAMPS, since I realized, SWAMPS is where its at. As we used to say.
Which swamp should I cover first?
First up, the swamp of the kkk, which has been organizing here in South Carolina. They scheduled a rally for July 25th, so we had a "counter-rally" here in Greenville--although I would have preferred going down to Abbeville, where they are. Scary, but not so bad if we went in a large group. As I have written here before, I have disrupted one kkk rally (where I also got on the History channel) and nearly got killed at the second one (mentioned in passing here), so I appreciate the importance of traveling in a large group.
But the peaceniks organizing the rally didn't want any possibility of violent altercations. This is totally understandable, but... meh. Hey, the kkk invited everyone to come, didn't they? That is accepting an invitation, not starting an altercation. But yes, I guess that's quibbling.
It was a good protest rally, extremely well-behaved, where I saw the wonderful Camille Lewis and we did a selfie together. I was pleased by all the positive vibes, but I was aggravated that anyone believed the kkk would care what we were doing. I would like to MAKE THEM CARE. Like that guy years ago who drove his car into the Redneck Shop (kkk outpost) in Laurens County. Okay, maybe not that extreme, but something to garner serious media attention.
It is interesting that when I posted about the uptick in kkk activity on Tumblr, I was ignored. (I guess the kkk is just too "Mississippi Burning" for their taste? Old school. Not hip-hop enough.) At least they do seem to care about the recent racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, which is pretty bad. The police shooting of Michael Brown has ignited days of turmoil and rioting. The National Guard is there now, and it isn't any quieter.
No Justice, No peace.
The conservatives often claim that slogan is a "veiled threat"--but actually, it is simply a naked fact.
One of the pieces I was working on was about the last year I have spent on Tumblr, which is most assuredly one of the major cesspools of the world wide web. My time there is fast winding down, although I still enjoy all the photos of baby goats, weird art and old rock stars. (Not to mention stunning photos of LIZ!)
My consigliere Gregg asked me, live on the radio* even, why I went to a place that drives me crazy, and I answered honestly: because its where all the "social justice warriors" are now, and as a lefty, feminist, vegetarian (etc), I felt that it was my JOB; I needed to keep tabs on the place. And of course, I got sucked right in... swamps can be dangerous, especially when they FLOOD ALL OVER THE PLACE. Yigh!
Some of the arguments I engaged in were fairly predictable, especially after I posted THIS about one of the main Tumblr stars who is likely a cop (or equivalent), and after I figured out who some of the primary shit-stirrers are over there. Lo and behold... this gang includes people from Salon Rose, that old email list I was on. I am not surprised at all, since I could spot some of the same arguments that were first presented on the list, arguments I once decided were far too outlandish to be taken seriously. These arguments are now considered acceptable, i.e. you shouldn't say penises are male, since (some) trans women have them too. This is patently ridiculous. (Some humans don't have legs, so should we not say humans have legs? And there are far more humans missing legs than trans women with penises.) The recent article by Michelle Goldberg in the New Yorker about radical feminism vs trans feminism got everybody all worked up again. Lots of people who didn't know how "bad" the whole feud had become, are now reading this stuff for the first time. Tumblr is the incubator for most of this madness.
I found it well-nigh impossible not to get pulled into the swamp, since due to the email list, I know the colorful (and constantly-rewritten) personal histories of many of the instigating parties. Many are fakes; some are "trans women" not even living as women at all (but that doesn't stop them from knowing absolutely everything about womanhood). They have repeatedly told me they are far more woman than I could ever be. When I ask them what "woman" means, no answers. None will define this thing, WOMAN, that they claim they are. So I guess they ARE more woman than me, since it is apparently whatever they say it is.
In addition, there was the rape of a trans woman that has been covered up, and the rape-apologist squad have acted exactly like any other marauding gang, denying any responsibility towards the mentally ill person who was targeted. This made me furious, and when I mentioned it (and asked why are they covering it up), they accused me of trying to use this person's rape as a weapon to hurt trans women, which infuriated me even more. (The details, including names, links and circumstances, are in comments on this post.) I guess when a trans woman is ACTUALLY harmed, well, that is of no real consequence. Why are cis women supposed to take violence against trans women seriously, when the trans women themselves won't do it? Oh wait, did I mention the perp is another trans woman, a popular, charismatic organizer of conventions? Of course she is. And she has the enthusiastic backing of other trans women, so the violence perpetrated against Elle doesn't really count.
It only counts when they say it counts.
Forgive me if I don't take your bullshit seriously, gals.
But even as I argued with people who are (obviously) far more woman than me, I also argued with people who know feminism better than I do. The self-described "Michael Jordan of radical feminism", Nextyearsgirl, announces (regularly) that anyone who is in favor of rights for sex workers is anti-feminist.
This is like saying whoever is pro-unions cannot also be anti-capitalist; it makes no sense.
I asked her (without a single cuss word and totally respectfully) if she realized that for some women, sex work is a step UP the economic ladder? Is working a grueling and horrific 48-hour work week in a textile mill REALLY better than 3 hours of web-cam work, if you make the same amount of money? I had extensive varicose veins surgery for standing on my feet at work for hours, days, weeks, months, years. Why is that supposed to be ethically superior to a couple of hours dancing in the buff or showing one's body parts on a webcam, anonymously? Both are exploitative occupations--is one really more exploitative than the other? And why? I went from scrubbing toilets to dancing wearing pasties (it was against the law to be totally naked in those days, she said, sounding terribly old) and made 3 times the money. Which work do you think was harder? (Are more hours supposedly more holy or something?)
Of course, nextyearsgirl is an upper-middle-class college girl who has been supported by her parents and has never had to make these kinds of choices. She has no children and no worries, and didn't answer a single one of my questions listed in the above-paragraph, which were asked honestly and in the spirit of feminist debate. She simply made fun of me for even asking. Unbelievably, this is a heavy theory-head too, this is no rude adolescent. I am a feminist activist of over 40+ years standing, one of the people responsible for many of the changes she takes utterly for granted. And yet, she told her followers to unfollow me en masse since my mind was "scrambled by drugs decades ago." (about 20 of her followers obediently took her orders and instantly made me persona non grata--she is obviously a very important Tumblr swamp feminist, which should probably not be confused with real feminism. More about which in due course.)
And by the way, did you catch that?
Yes, nextyearsgirl claims to "care" about the sex workers, but then makes fun of a drug addict who quit 32 years ago. I wonder what she thinks of women who are still suffering from addiction? Wait, she told us, didn't she? They are not to be listened to.
Since it is estimated that drug addiction among sex workers is very, very high (figures range from 75-95%), nextyearsgirl makes it very clear she doesn't think sex workers with addiction issues should be listened to. I mean, *I* don't even qualify as worthy of listening to, and I am a 56-year-old grandma/Second Waver, my drug abuse safely 32 years in the past.
I think we know what she must think of drug addicts in the PRESENT, and by extension, what she thinks of sex workers with these problems: NOT TO BE LISTENED TO. BRAINS SCRAMBLED.
These are the "feminists" who purport to care about sex workers. Scratch the surface, and observe the unbridled contempt bubbling to the surface.
Swamp, I say, swamp.
I was also working on a companion piece titled "How fundamentalist Christianity gave birth to Tumblr's Social Justice Activists"--so I could finally explain the whole thing to Tumblr-skeptics like Gregg, but then decided it wasn't worth it.
Besides, I realized I could say it in a paragraph or two, during my many conversations with South Carolina Boy about the entire phenomenon. (He went to a southern Christian college, so he knows this stuff.)
As Harold Bloom said in The American Religion, there is a heavily-gnostic strain in American Christianity. The Reformation abolished sacraments (for the most part) as arbiters of belief or religious devotion. No intermediaries between Man and God! The result: A Christian was no longer who the Church said it was, a Christian is whoever claims they are one.
This is how we have arrived at the unfortunate point where we have Christians who are pro-global warming and pro-war. Because Christian is whatever they say it is, they are answerable to no one. If some preacher gives them static, they just move on to another one. And if that preacher wants their money/donations, he will not challenge them when they do unChristian things or offer unChristian politics. He will look the other way.
Fundamentalist Christianity owes no one anything, it is entirely internal. "You ask me how I know He Lives/He Lives within my heart!" goes the Protestant hymn. It is about your state of mind. You can now do whatever you want, short of living openly as gay (although many Christians do, and see no contradiction in doing so) and/or being a pimp or dope dealer (ditto). Divorce, carousing, drinking, gambling, porn, all is fine as long as nobody sees you (and sometimes, even if they do). Your politics can defy Jesus' orders to feed the poor and visit the imprisoned; in fact you can spit all over the poor and KILL the imprisoned, and its all okay, just as long as you call yourself a Baptist.
And now we have the same thing with those magic words, SOCIAL JUSTICE ACTIVIST.
People say they are, so... they are. Poof. No work required. In fact, nothing is required, that I can see.
The actual words though? Social justice? What does that mean? And WHERE (pray tell) is this mythical ACTIVISM? Answer: there isn't any. If you want to shut the kids up on Tumblr, just ask what they have actually DONE in real life. (Some of them reply with really offensive crap such as, "That's ableist to ask what we've done!"-- as if disabled people didn't build one of the most successful social justice activist movements of ALL TIME!!!! Yeesh.)
So we now have a collection of "social justice activists" who have no actual experience in activism. None. Zip. And when you refer to the failures and successes of past social justice activism, they have no clue what you are talking about (this is how I figured out they were mostly posturing fakes). This is why we have someone claiming to "care" about sex workers and yet doesn't hesitate to show their class contempt and open derision for drug addicts... no actual experience on the ground. Or she would KNOW who the sex workers are and she wouldn't say something that makes her look like a society-girl dilettante. Michael Jordan, indeed.
And that's how fundamentalism impacts social justice: you think, therefore you are. You are not required to actually do anything, but think the right thoughts. Use the right language and position yourself the right way. Follow the right people on Tumblr. Reblog the right people. But actually get out in the streets and DO anything?
No. They don't know how. They are resoundingly ignorant of even their own streets and neighborhoods. They can't organize the people on Tumblr who already talk exactly like they do and recognize all of their arcane cultural references, so how do they think they will organize people who don't think like they do and don't understand what they are talking about?
Answer: They don't plan to do any such thing. They simply type their deep thoughts and heavy theory on Tumblr, and hopefully, some grunt will do the job. Is that what they expect to happen?
And after thinking about this awhile, that's when I remembered Shelby Steele.
Author Shelby Steele wrote about his experience as a black teacher who opposed Affirmative Action, which he believes actually harms black kids. His proof was that many (most?) black students drop out of college in their 2nd or 3rd year. He felt these students were not fully ready for academic life, since the poor-to-mediocre public schools they came from were not up to par in the first place. Further, he believes their "failure" in college set them back psychologically, made them feel worse than it would have if they had not been given any extra help. This is the old argument about how charity can be harmful, only this time, he was talking about his own kids and his own observations as a college professor. He also wrote about being raised under Jim Crow, and what it was like to attend segregated schools himself.
So what happened?
Well, after Steele started to label himself a conservative, nice liberal white people refused to sit next to him at upscale dinner parties. (Apparently, the irony of this situation was totally lost on the whites, if not on Steele.) His opinions were beyond the pale, you should pardon expression. White liberal students from places like Beverly Hills and Central Park West started screaming at him during speaking engagements. Whites not allowing a black man to speak, now where have I heard THAT before? But its okay, since this is a conservative black man they are policing.
So we have spoiled brats who have been pampered since they were in utero, screaming "Racist!" at a black man who was raised under Jim Crow. An appalling and sordid spectacle, but it describes Tumblr social justice perfectly. I can think of no better illustration.
How does this situation happen, asked Steele, in his book A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America. He has facts and figures suggesting that Affirmative Action is an overall negative and he is ready to debate the subject with whomever is willing. Blacks will, he said, but whites won't. Why not?
Steele says that for white people, being in favor of Affirmative Action is not about what is good for black students. They have no idea what is good for black students; they probably don't even know any. For whites, taking the correct liberal position is about LOOKING GOOD TO OTHERS. If you are white, to declare oneself anti-racist is to be A GOOD PERSON. It doesn't mean actually doing anything or thinking about things in depth, it means having the correct opinions and thereby proving you are on the side of the angels. It means posturing. Because if you argue, you might say the wrong thing, you might give yourself away as not having a clue... since you likely don't. Better to pretend you know everything, repeat the popular boilerplate, and shut up.
And so it is now with the Social Justice crowd on Tumblr. It isn't about honest and well-meaning debate, as I tried to discuss things reasonably with nextyearsgirl. It is about HAVING THE CORRECT OPINIONS. It is about LOOKING GOOD and being A GOOD PERSON. If you actually compromise yourself (as I have, as Shelby Steele has) and DO THINGS, well, you leave yourself open to criticism. You also garner some real experience and make observations, as Steele did over a lifetime of teaching African-American students. Disagree with him all you want, but he is the father of black kids and has taught black kids for eons, and was one himself; he knows his stuff. He speaks out of concern for the educational system and how it impacts African Americans in general. Show respect for his process, if you want respect for yours, and MAKE THE ARGUMENTS.
If you can't, he has won, and you should have the good grace to admit it.
But this is the swamp. Where they dump dead bodies and stuff. Its muddy, the water isn't clear. Strange noises and gurgles. We can expect more of the swamp as long as fakes and frauds contaminate the internet. At least, we can keep the troublemakers confined to their gurgling, oozing swampy spaces. As long as Reddit and Tumblr exist, perhaps it will keep the lunatics away from the rest of us.
Or does it just emit that nasty swamp gas that covers everything with its stench? Ewwww.
I have to thank the wonderful HBO series, TRUE DETECTIVE, which also inspired my recent swamp fixation. My spouse and I recently binge-watched the whole first season (Matthew McConaughey is a revelation! Who knew he could do that shit?) and it was terrific. After our binge-watching, I even dreamed about swamps... and the next day, my husband announces that he has located a real one. The rest, as they say, is history. We have spent a lot of time there since.
My apologies for a month-long unannounced blog-break. I will try not to let it happen again. But just look at these photos! Wouldn't YOU get distracted by such a beautiful swamp?
*GOOD NEWS: We are back on WOLI radio! Our show (still called "Occupy the Microphone") is on every Monday at 8-9pm, so we are not doing the daily thing at the present time (which simply exhausted everyone trying to come up with appropriate and timely topics). We don't have a podcast up and running yet, since we are still getting our radio-selves together. In addition, Gregg's mother-in-law passed away at home this weekend after a long illness (see this post for more).
Rest in peace, Martha.
Our best wishes are with Gregg, his spouse and children; as well as Martha's caregivers, Krystine and Josh, both beautiful people. (this being a small town, I once worked with Josh elsewhere too.) I can only hope to be able to depend on such gentle, sweet souls when I am old and frail.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
I recently realized I had never posted any songs by BS&T (as they used to be called, and everyone knew the acronym too). These are two songs you won't hear on the oldies radio stations.
I never noticed there are (gasp) VIOLINS in this song. Sung and co-written by Al Kooper, who would soon depart the band, I just adored this record and listened to it every single day when I was about 13 years old. Which is probably why I never noticed the violins. The melody is lovely!
I Can't Quit Her - Blood, Sweat and Tears
And this is the Blood, Sweat and Tears most of you will remember; BEAUTIFUL BIG BRASS NOISE, headed up by singer David Clayton-Thomas.
Go Down Gamblin - Blood, Sweat and Tears