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Carolina Chocolate Drops – drop it like it’s sweet

This is what’s making me happy today…

Carolina Chocolate Drops, “Hit Em Up Style” – from the album Genuine Negro Jig

Ann Powers over on NPR’s All Songs Considered turned me on to this.  And turned on is right. Jazzed up. Knocked out.  Normally, in the past, this kind of roots music didn’t appeal to me, but I think Gillian Welch kind of opened my eyes/ears to being more receptive to what I had dismissed as “country” in the past.  This new alt bluegrass and roots music is amazing stuff.  New and old, deeply American, but in a way that is authenticate and interesting.  The racial dimension of Carolina Chocolate Drops is also compelling.  So much of what we take as American music comes out of this weird amalgam of Irish folk music and slave music that grew out African and Afro-Caribbean folk and native sounds.  As the LA Times described it, they “underline the connections between American bluegrass and folk with the genres’ little-known ancestry in Africa.”  And later that met up with Klezmer and Jewish music, when the other stuff hit New York and the songwriters and musicians working there, so many of whom were Jewish, starting working with it.

That’s the real American experience right there: Irish and British immigration, poor Irish getting off the boat and going straight into the maw of the American Civil War and ending up in Appalachia, slavery, Eastern European immigration in huge waves at the beginning of the 20th Century.  And it led to jazz, blues, r&b and rock. And then to alt bluegrass.

That’s what I like about America. That’s what people around the world like about America. Mitt Romney is the other America: lazy, stupid, arrogant, complacent, greedy, loud, utterly self-absorbed, contemptuous of other people and other cultures,  convinced that there is still a Manifest Destiny entitling people like himand his friends to get rich off the despoliation of the planet, and the exploitation and emiseration of others.

For more….

Filed under: Music, , , ,

Clint Eastwood’s Comedic Timing

I’m not best pleased that one of America’s greatest filmmakers, Clint Eastwood, has chosen to throw in his lot very publically with America’s worst political party, and at what is possibly the lowest, most appalingly stupid time in its history.  In fact, Eastwood’s appearance at the RNC convention is likely to be the only highly-praised Eastwood performance I never see.

But I am kind of fascinated, from a geek/interwebz observer perspective, with the publicity/search engine optimization going on around it. Do a Google search on “clint eastwood comedic timing” and you get a full page of entries all with exactly the same heading:

Republicans Praise Clint Eastwood’s Speech: ‘His Comedic Timing 

I thought all the dot commies and Google code monkeys were on our side, but there are clearly some effective, interwebs-savvy publicists working for the RNC.

Anyway, there’s no way his performance at the RNC could match his gifted timing in such classics as Kelly’s Heroes or Paint Your Wagon

Filed under: Movies, , , , , , ,

Game of Thrones and the severed head of George W. Bush

HBO Yanks Bush Head ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode, Halts DVD Shipments:

HBO is continuing to do damage control after producers confirmed that a model of President George W. Bush’s severed head appeared in the season one finale of Game of Thrones.

The premium cable network has pulled the 10th episode of the drama from rotation on digital platforms — including HBO Go and iTunes — and halted all future shipments of its best-selling Season 1 DVD set, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

In addition, the dramatic end to the freshman season of the series adapted from George R.R. Martin’s books will be edited for all future airings both domestically and internationally, according to a new statement from HBO, which further reprimanded showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. (via Hollywood Reporter

So do what I just did and order your copy now, while you still can enjoy this politically charged easter egg-ish bit of in-movie humor:

Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season – on Amazon.com

I have to confess – I haven’t watched any of the show yet.  I suppose I was put off by my increasing discomfort with the violence, particularly the sexual violence, in the books, of which I read the first three.  I also “cut the cord” with cable, and that has drastically changed my viewing habits – shifting me from the current trends back to my first and most fundamental love, old movies.  That, plus what I can get through the library, and as you might imagine, “Game of Thrones” has a long waiting list.

If you want to start with the books before watching the TV show, and from what I have heard that’s a pretty good idea, they are available through Powells.com:

Or of course through your local library (eg, the San Francisco Public Library, which has it in both electronic and old-fashioned paper copies).

 

 

You know… It’s possible that putting in the severed head of our last president was a clever plan to boost DVD sales and/or interest in the show, ready to be leaked when needed. In which case, I’ve just been the victim of viral marketing. Oh well.  I can always give it to some Republican friend for Christmas.

Filed under: TV, , , , ,

I learned 3 fascinating things on public radio this morning

NPR Morning Edition logoIn the space of 20 minutes, I learned three fascinating things this morning, all of which seemed directly relevant to me and my concerns, listening to KQED on my drive to work. (I normally bike, but I have a lot of stuff to carry today.) According to a story on NPR’s Morning Edition, autism may be caused, at least in part, by an interconnectivity problem between different parts of the brain.  From KQED, I learned that one in every $3 donated to California state campaigns since 2000 came from a tiny group of just 100 individual and group donors who together gave over $1 billion, and that more than 40% of registered voters in California are new voters, or people who only turn out occasionally.

The latter two facts/figures obviously reflect troubling trends in our political system that are only getting worse, and are skewing politics dramatically to the right.  The autism study seemed particularly fascinating to me because it held out the hope of limited treatments in the present, which was discussed in the story on NPR, and because it suggests that possibility of discovering why there has been an apparent increase in the prevalence of autism; if improperly functioning fibres in the brain are to blame, in whole or in part, we can begin to investigate what might be damaging the formation of these fibres or discover which genes regulate their structure and function. It’s pretty exciting.

I felt charged up in different ways and different directions by these three fascinating facts – but definitely charged up, and grateful to have learned them. So I joined KQED.  I get more out of KQED and NPR over the course of a year than I do from a lot of the other media and entertainment I pay for. Easily more than any five books I might buy during the course of a year. So donating $100 seems the least I could do.

That’s what I feel good about this morning.

For more…

Filed under: Feel Good, , , , , , , , , ,

The Strangeness that is Twitter: Clint Eastwood and the UK Riots

Hollywood director and movie star Clint Eastwood doesn’t seem to have a Twitter feed. Too bad: the pithy one-liners he’s known for in movies such as Dirty Harry seem well suited to the medium. “Go ahead—make my day.”

But there is a Clint Eastwood on Twitter. Actually more than one, but the first one that turns up if you do a search is @Eastwood_, with a handsome black&white photo and a locale of California. It’s actually the account for a fan website, as is fairly readily apparent if you follow the posted URL - http://www.clinteastwood.net. But significantly, that URL isn’t giving much away, and clearly many Twitter users have been fooled into thinking this account belongs to the real Clint Eastwood. Many Twitter users:

Without ever posting a tweet, @Eastwood_ nonetheless managed to accrue 13,000 followers.

It says something about the meaninglessness of so much of Twitter—the lists of followers and following, the number of tweets, the desire for glimpses into celebrity lives, the willingness to be marketed to…

On the other side, speaking to the possibilities for meaningfulness in Twitter—and very much in the news this past week—the riots in the United Kingdom have also had a social media angle, with rioters and looters reportedly using social media networks—including Twitter—to call people to action.

One teenage has been charged with a crime for her use of Blackberry Messenger to encourage friends to join in the mayhem:

UK riots: teenager charged with BlackBerry incitement 

The 18-year-old, from Clacton, was accused of intentionally encouraging or assisting in the commission of an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007, Essex police said.

She allegedly sent a message on BBM on Monday Aug 8 encouraging friends in the seaside town to copy scenes of violence and looting that were spreading across England.

(via The Telegraph.)

In the face of this and similar reports coming out of the riots, the British Prime Minister is reportedly considering restrictions on Twitter and other social media services (UK riots: tougher powers could curb Twitter – Telegraph).

There’s a savage irony at work here, though. When Facebook, Twitter and other social media systems were being used during the upheavals in Egypt and Iran, they were hailed by Western politicians and newspapers as tools for democratic change:

To be clear: the visionary products created by Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook and Evan Williams at Twitter are foundation stones of what is becoming a regional revolution. (via Sharon Waxman: How Egypt’s Social Media Revolution Could Spread Across the Middle East.)

Now the shoe is on the other foot and it is pinching.

Taken together, @Eastwood_’s 13,000 followers and the use of Twitter for encouraging looting in London (or democracy in the Middle East) suggest both the power and some of the perils of this strange new form of communication.

For more…

Filed under: Interweb, , , , , ,

Song of the Day: From Red to Blue – by Billy Bragg

One of my favorite tracks from what is perhaps my favorite Billy Bragg album…

Billy Bragg, “From Red to Blue” – from the album William Bloke

William Bloke comes at what feels like something of a midpoint in Billy Bragg’s career. It’s roughly at the half-way mark in terms of chronology and discography, but more than that it seems to mark a musical shift, and a maturation of sorts. Among other things, it’s simply so good, so clearly the album he’s been building towards, that some sort of change was necessary after.

It was followed by the Mermaid Avenue albums – studio and live – and then his two most recent works, England, Half English and Mr. Love and Justice, which continue the musical and thematic interests that have marked Bragg’s career, but which also seem qualitatively different from the work prior to William Bloke. I’m not sure yet how to characterize the change, but these last two albums definitely represent a shift, more sonically, musically, than thematically, but maybe there as well.

It’s fitting, then, that coming as it does at a sort of middle age for Bragg’s career one of the songs on the album addresses the issue of aging and change, of the changes that middle age can bring, head on.

In “From Red to Blue,” Bragg sings to a friend who has grown older and become a father, but who in the process has let his political commitments and engagements lapse, subsidy – who has “opted out” of the ideals that he used to share with the singer.

Bragg acknowledges that there have been changes, and in particular that parenthood brings changes:

Should I vote red for my class
or green for our children?

But the “blue” is not a change like the “green” – it represents a loss of principles. The green vs red distinction is still a matter of political commitment, of ideals and principles. Blue is giving up.

Listening to the song in the United States, the red and blue must surely resonate with the trope that has now become a fixture of political life and commentary: the red state/blue state split.  But that of course could introduce an element of confusion. In this US political context, red signifies the right/conservative side of the political split:

Red states and blue states: “The terms ‘red states’ and ‘blue states’ came into use in 2000 to refer to those states of the United States whose residents predominantly vote for the Republican Party or Democratic Party presidential candidates, respectively. A blue state tends to vote for the Democratic Party, and a red state tends to vote for the Republican Party…” (via Wikipedia.)

In the English and also more general context, red of course refers to the the left, and more specifically to socialist and communist tendencies. And green of course to ecology and environmental commitments and values. What about the blue? Removed from that American red state/blue state context, the blue can only refer to a degree of sadness, melancholy, depression.

It’s in this sense that the trope of “from red to blue” doesn’t work so well when you look at it closely, though lyrically it is still brilliant and catchy. We are shown a man who has become a father and gained a measure of financial success, which he has spent on “the best [his] money could buy,” selling his soul “for their bright shining lie.” Bragg may feel sad about this change – I certainly do when I see it in my friends, or feel elements of it in myself – but there is no sense that the subject of the song, the man it’s about/to, feels the same way, feels blue about these changes. While we may see that this man has lost what Bragg calls, on another song on the album, “a socialism of the heart,” he doesn’t seem heart-sick about it.

Still, despite any quibbles with the central trope,  it’s a wonderful song, one of my favorites from the album – though I have to admit that I would class about half the songs on it as “favorites,” which somewhat attenuates the distinction.

A quick final note: the obvious song to think about in relation to this one, thematically, is The Clash, “Working for the Clampdown” from London Calling:

Well you grow up and you calm down
And you’re working for the clampdown.
You start wearing blue and brown
You’re working for the clampdown.

For more…

(lyrics below the fold)

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Song of the Day, , ,

PETA Porn [SFW]

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I quite enjoy these pictures, but the dour, humorless leftist in me can’t help but raise some objections…

When PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was objecting to the meat industry, there was a real critical and subversive edge to their use of naked women to draw attention to the fact that the “meat industry” is in fact the slaughter of other creatures on a massive scale. Marking out sections of a woman’s body with the lines of the different cuts of meat had great rhetorical power. Those lines cut both ways: they drew attention to where those shrink-wrapped cuts of meat really come from (this or that area of the body of another living creature), while at the same time pointing to our objectification of women, our “meat market” attitude towards women.  So—at least potentially—those PETA anti meat eating ads simultaneously critiqued our unethical treatment of animals and our unethical treatment of women.

But as PETA ad campaigns have branched out to look at issues like spaying/neutering pets, the circus, and leather and fur, the double edge of that critique has been blunted. Now it sometimes feels perilously close to all those other advertising campaigns based on the premise that “sex sells”—using those attractive unclothed or semi-nude bodies to hook us. The fact that what they are selling might be something we see as good shouldn’t change our response to how this message is conveyed. If using objectifying images of women to sell cars or beer or whatever is wrong, then it is still wrong when those images are being used to “sell” the idea that our treatment of animals in the circus is bad.

A related issue is the use of porn stars such as Sasha Grey and Jenna Jameson as tools in the PETA marketing machine…  Back in the day, vegans and “people for the ethical treatment of animals” would have been natural allies with, or even the same people as, those attacking patriarchy in general and porn in particular. I think that the original feminist critique of porn got it wrong in all sorts of ways, but given the fact that women and girls are still routinely trafficked, around the world, and essentially sold into slavery as part of that other meat industry, the sex trade—an industry in which porn plays a role—we clearly need to spend a bit more time thinking about such old school feminist concerns as the objectification of women, attitudes towards sex and sexuality, the sex trade… and porn.  The PETA ads simply blow off all these issues in their concern to save the fluffy bunnies.

I am also a bit troubled by PETA’s call to spay/neuter our pets.  I think we should spay/neuter our pets. I also think that spaying/neutering is, when you get right down to it, “elective” (in the sense of not medically necessary) surgery performed on animals against their will in order to make it more convenient for us to have pets—literally cutting them to fit our lifestyle.

I don’t think there’s any easy way around it: if we are going to keep pets, particularly in built-up areas, then they really do need to be spayed/neutered. But it is something we do to them, which it seems unlikely they would choose, to make them fit into our world, our lives, our needs.  It may be that there is no way to reconcile a truly ethical treatment of animals with our desire to keep dogs and cats in our city apartments and suburban homes. If so, we should face that fact; we should at least be talking about it. But PETA gets its funding and support from animal lovers, and saying that pets are possibly simply unethical would cut into their base.

Finally, in keeping with journalistic standards of disclosure, I should say that I own pets, and the dogs and cats have always been spayed, own porn and consider myself a feminist, and recently started eating meat again but feel guilty about it… Make of all that what you will.

Filed under: Stuff, , , , ,

Waking from a Magic Sleep, in a Golden Land now Ruled by Fear

For the last 30 years, I have travelled away from and returned to San Francisco more times that I care to contemplate—to Australia, to Europe, to Michigan, and back, returning at least once a year (a necessity for maintaining my immigrant status).

Each time, it is like waking from a heavy, dream-ridden sleep. At first, you’re groggy, moving slowly and blinking around uncertainly, trying to figure out, to remember where you are. But very quickly, your consciousness shifts back into the realm of the waking, and the dream fades, disappears.

That’s what it’s like for me coming back to San Francisco. At first I’m a bit shell-shocked, hesitant, trying to get my balance, but soon it’s almost as if I never left, and the previous six months or a year is just a fading dream, unreal, a wisp blowing away in the breeze off the Bay.

This time, I feel a bit like Sleeping Beauty or Rip Van Winkle, slumbering for years, enchanted, under the spell of a evil sorceress (hi, sweetie). And now that her spell has melted and I have awoken, I find that I am older than I was and life has gone on around me, without me. My world, my home is still recognizable, still itself, but some things have changed or are gone—some people are gone, too, and I missed these passings, the chance to say goodbye, to mourn with the rest. A lot of life passed me by, my family is gone, my job is gone, my home is gone (you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?) and I have to start over, from well behind the pack.

And the kingdom in which I have awoken is suffering under a great evil. But I’m no fairy tale hero, and the evil that is crushing the kingdom isn’t some dragon or cruel tyrant—globalization and neoliberalism, and the terrible plague of the global financial crisis that they helped spawn, are not going to succumb to a well-placed thrust of a shining sword or a spell of vanquishing. I wish.

And anyway, even if it were as easy as that, as finding the one vulnerable spot in the dragon’s armored hide, I’m not that guy, not the hero. I’ll always be the hobbit, and even then more Merry or Pippin than Frodo or Sam. Steadfast in friendship, willing to love and follow, and to respond to the demands of the moment, to rise to the challenge of an heroic act if it is thrust on me, but I won’t be the one looking for battle, and choosing to walk alone and unaided into the darkness to vanquish evil. I’ll be the one looking for the comfy chair by the fire and a pint of ale…

We are all still waiting for the hero, the knight in shining armor who will slay the dragon, and rescue our jobs and bring back our savings and pension plans and underwater mortgages from whatever stolen horde of loot they have ended up in…

Meanwhile, I’m staying in my mom’s guest bedroom and lamenting the fact that my useless family lost the cool bike I left with them (a Surly Long Haul Trucker) , and I can’t even afford a fucking bus pass—I need to save my small stash of cash to “rent” a table and internet time in a cafe for my job hunting… Where is the hero we need? Where’s my ale and mushroom pie?

Filed under: Autobiography, ,

xkcd: Worst-Case Scenario

Filed under: Humor, ,

Song of the Day: Billy Bragg, “The Price of Oil”

Well, there is another song about oil. Not aimed at oil spills, but rather at the role that the insatiatable appetite for oil in the USA, and Europe, has played in the conflicts in the Middle East and the wars in Iraq.

Billy Bragg, “The Price of Oil” – released as a free download on his official website ( Billy Bragg ).

Filed under: Song of the Day, ,

Where’s Osama? Washington, DC

“Rest assured that he’s in Washington.
I think there’s a high chance he’s there.”

– Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Osama bin Laden.

Central to Ahmadinejad’s argument is the idea that bin Laden might be hiding out with his old pal and supporter, George Bush. But since the Bushes have largely decamped from DC, maybe we should be looking up in Kennebunkport, Maine or, given bin Laden’s presumed preference for hotter weather, deep in the heart of Texas – Dallas County or Crawford. Of course, if bin Laden gets wind of the hunt, he might flee. But given his skin tone and the way he dresses, I advise him not to try going through Arizona. Talk about your illegal alien…

Or perhaps this is a genius piece of viral marketing, cooked up by Morgan Spurlock to hype his new movie:

Which would raise the question: What kind of deal did Spurlock cut with Ahmadinejad for the marketing coup of the century?

Filed under: Humor, Politics, ,

Paris, May 1968

Paris, May 1968: icônes de la révolution / Icons of Revolution.

Filed under: Art, ,

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zerode

is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, film buff and occasional reviewer, and former private detective. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.

 

What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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