Someone actually believes this bullshit

Trial in the court of public opinion

A rare two post day!  Look at me!

One thing I find hilarious is how people will try to apply legal principles to everyday life, usually in the defense of something stupid.  Like when people say “I’m just exercising my First Amendment Right!” when they really mean “stop laughing at what I said!”.

I bring this up because I made a joke about Bill Cosby today on Facebook, basically about how I think it’s terrible that he raped women but that I enjoy the fact that it’s evidence for my theory that self-righteous people probably have something awful they’re trying to hide.

And without fail someone came along and said “He’s innocent until proven guilty!”

Yes.  In the legal sense, he can’t be sentenced to jail time until someone proves he raped them, and probably nobody ever will because the things he did took place long enough ago that the statute of limitations has run out.

And sure, I suppose I could be sued for libel for not appending my joke with allegedly.  If Mr Cosby or someone from his team wants to sue me for that, well fine.  This is all a joke!  You can’t sue me for joking!

At any rate, the point is, that I’m not going to send him to jail, so I don’t have to prove him guilty in my own mind in order for me to think he’s guilty.  That’s for me to decide because the legal system doesn’t reach the inner recesses of my skull.  Yet.

The other thing people bring up is- well his reputation might be ruined.  Yeah, apparently it is.  And a good part of his earning potential, but the man is 70 something and I’m sure he’s not relying on Social Security to pay the bills.

But the broader point is that people in the public eye are faced with an unfair burden- the public can turn on them at any moment if someone makes spurious charges.   I’m going to engage in a fairly glib line of questioning here, but here’s goes…

So what? 

Seriously, so what if the public turns against a famous person for reasons (possibly) beyond their control?

Let’s take this one step at a time.  First of all, the so what?

Actually, I don’t have that much to say about it because I don’t care.  If Bill Cosby loses his place as America’s Loveable Grouchy Old Man I couldn’t give two shits.  Don’t care any more about that than I care about the weather on Mercury.  I don’t care and you can’t make me care.  So there.

Second, really, so what?  Shit, people turn on famous people all the time for no good reason.  Do you think it’s fair?  Life’s not fucking fair.  It’s not like there’s always some great reason why the public started admiring someone in the first place.  Half of the celebrities in the world you can look at and think- what on earth are they famous for anyway?  If they disappeared tomorrow would you cry?  Would you hold a candlelight vigil?  No, you wouldn’t.  You’d move on with your life, only pausing to think – I wonder what happened to that guy like every ten years.

Finally, and most importantly- I am being serious here- we do not want to set the bar too high for people losing their reputation.  Because it’s fucking high enough.  Just think about all the terrible things that famous people have gotten away with.  Just the other day I was listening to this song:

and thinking- it’s insane that the Beatles could just casually mention wife-beating in a song, with no fear of any repercussions.  Now think about people like Jimmy Savile, a man who was able to molest hundreds of children, for decades and died before the truth was widely known because no one wanted to believe his accusers because people liked him.  Maybe most importantly, because he knew people wouldn’t believe his accusers, he was worse than he’d have otherwise been.  Or someone like Roman Polanski (whose movies I do enjoy, so yeah, I’m a hypocrite) who is a convicted child (as in, convicted in a court of law, i.e. proven guilty) rapist but still works.

The thing is, famous people have lots power to convince people they’re something that they’re not.  And that makes them dangerous.  I mean, not all famous people are dangerous, obviously, but celebrities can get away with terrible things if they set their mind to it.  And when they have wealthy, powerful people protecting them, often the only leverage the public has is to say “we won’t be your fans anymore.”  I’m kind of an amoral person myself and I believe in having whatever power I can accrue, and I’m not giving this one up.

So yeah, tough luck Bill Cosby.  Court of public opinion made you what you are and now they’re taking it away.  Oh well.

You say you wanna revolution

I had a funny thought the other day.  Image you were a twenty year old in Turn-of-the-Century Russia.  You were at the peak of that time in your life when you see everything that’s wrong in the world and you want to change it.  You’re living under and oppressive Emperor who opposes democratic change and cares nothing for his own wealth.  You know what’s really sad?  Unless you were blessed with an extremely long life, that was a good as life was ever going to get for you.

I’ve never been a fan of this song.  It’s just too long.

But it does have a great line

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

The song is a pessimistic view of violent revolution that came out at a time in history where there was a loud minority in the USA proposing such a step.  My only problem with the MTNBSATOB* line is that it doesn’t go far enough.  In lots of places, if your new boss was no worse than the old boss, you got off easy.

Being a part of the punk rock scene for a couple decades now, I’ve heard plenty of people claim that a leftist revolution is that solution to our problems.  A leftist revolution in the USA is highly implausible.  Also highly implausible is the revolution that certain right-wing extremists call for.

But let’s say for a second that one of these were possible. Would it be advisable?  Say there were tens of millions of armed, mohawked vegan punx out there ready to Smash the State and start over with something, would violent revolution be a route to consider?

The long answer:

The short answer:

I’d love to see the plan!  Please put it in writing and I’ll be glad to forward it to the FBI.  For real, I’m snitchin’ on you. 

No, hell no, I don’t want to smash the state.  I don’t want to overthrow the government and replace it with one that follows the exact letter of the Constitution.  I don’t want to devolve power into self-governing units of voluntary associations.  I don’t want to abolish private property.

At most I want to make a few tweaks.  There’s no need for a revolution for that.

Like I said, I’ve spent years considering my thoughts on this, and I’ve read up on the Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Mexican and several African revolutions.  I’ve read about many of the resulting dictatorships.  I have a BA in Classical Studies, so I don’t want anyone to think is my field- it’s not.  Just something I’m interested in.  So take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

War of Independence vs Revolution

People who want to overthrow the government like to claim that the government is illegitimate, or better yet, foreign.  Because the most difficult problem for revolutionaries is dealing with all the people who supported the previous government.

The government that you want to overthrow may or may not have been elected, but it’s a simple fact that governments can’t exist without some degree of consent of the governed.  That doesn’t mean it’s tremendously popular, it may mean nothing more than the fact that people are resigned to the devil they know.  They might not like it if you just up and replace it with something they don’t know.  Or they may like the general direction of the government, but they don’t think it goes far enough in the direction it’s going.  Or maybe only 30% like the government, but those people really love it and will be very angry if you destroy it.  At any rate, lots of people aren’t going to be happy with rapid change.

So what does a revolutionary do with those people?  Here’s where the difference between a violent and non-violent (or mostly non-violent) revolutionary becomes important.  The Fidel Castro or the Mao Zedong has already shown that he can shoot his countrymen for his cause.  He’ll have to protect the revolution’s gains.  If he has to shoot some more people he will.  That’s not a good way to start out.

Also, there’s the problem of defining goals.  If the goal is “throw the other country out”, that’s not hard to define.  You make it tough enough, they’ll leave.  If the goal is to overthrow this dictator who took power through extra-legal means and hold elections, that’s harder, because like it or not, some people did support that guy.  If the goal is upend the whole social order and create something totally different… how do you know when you’ve reached that goal?

That’s if the revolution succeeds.  If you cause too much trouble, the population can turn against you and pick someone even worse than the guy you started fighting against to lead them.  That’s not good either.

 Is it really that bad?

Because it could get worse.

If it’s that bad…

Say you’re in Stalin’s USSR.  How much worse could it get?  Probably not much, right?  But on a personal level, it could get a lot worse for you.  And more importantly, it could get a lot worse for everyone who joins your rebel squad so you’re going to get few takers.  And among those who do join your crew, there are going to be at least a few that are excited to sell you out and send you off to Room 101 to be eaten alive by rats.  Good luck getting that revolution going.

The lesson I take away from places like China, Russia, North Korea and Cuba is that once a totalitarian regime gets in power, they’re going to hold it for as long as they feel like.  If the elites decide that holding power isn’t worth ruling over an economic basket case, they might be like China and change course.  Or maybe some foreign power will swoop in and take the guy out.  But the worst dictatorships rarely face existential threats from within.  People have grown into old age in North Korea, waiting for the Kim regime to end.  With Kim Jong Un being a mere 31 years old, and giving no indication that he’s going to be anything different than his father and grandfather, we might be talking several generations that live and die there.

Of course North Korea is maybe a bad example since North Korea’s dictatorship was mostly just installed by the Soviet Union.  Or maybe it’s not, because that takes us all the way back to that young man in turn-of-the-century Russia who was joining up to overthrow the Emperor.  Thanks a lot buddy.

 

*Trying to start a meme here

Maya Angelou the last great poet

First, let me start off by saying, I don’t know much of anything about Maya Angelou and this post isn’t really about her.  I remember reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in school, but that’s about the extent of what I know about her.  I read a few tributes and she sounds like an amazing woman, so maybe it’s time to rectify that.

But whether I do or not, one thing that was interesting to me was how many tributes there were to a poet in 2014.  And my suspicion that this will be the last time in my lifetime that the death of a poet will be a national interest story.  Can you name another living poet with even half of the stature of Maya Angelou?  One that even learned people, let alone people who took high school English, could be expected to know?

I can’t.  The closest I can think of is Lawrence Ferlinghetti, author of Coney Island of the Mind, and currently 95 years old.  I saw him give a reading sometime in the 90s.  He’s maybe more important for publishing Howl, but either way, he’s not household name.  And he’s the most famous living poet I can think of.

The time of poets is over.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be any poets.  I’m sure there will.  There might even be some great ones.  But they’ll never capture the popular imagination the way they once did.

One reason I suspect is with greater media artists have greater control over their work.  In 1800 if you were an artist who wanted to give every person who experienced your art roughly the same experience, you had two choices.  You could paint/sculpt/draw something and display it for people or you could put it in a book and publish it.  That was it.

On the other hand, if you wrote a song, you work was going to be interpreted by numerous people and might sound completely different depending on how they played/sang it and what instruments they used.  If you weren’t famous enough to get your song published, people might not even know if was you.

You ever think about songs we consider traditional folk songs?  They didn’t just spring out of the ground, there was someone, somewhere who is lost to time who had an idea and made it into a song.  It’s kind of fun to think about.  As long as we have cheap digital recording, that may never happen again.  Imagine being able to trace House of the Rising Sun or Midnight Special back to its original owner.  Or finding out who really wrote The Iliad- some ancient Greek poet who sat down and wanted to tell the story of the war between the Greeks and the Trojans and put it in a blog post that we could search for.

But 200 years ago you could put your name on a book of poetry and be relatively certain your poems would always be attributed to you.  But nowadays why would you limit yourself that just writing poetry?  You could write a song for a larger audience and still be sure people would know it was written by you and would hear it in the way you’d want them to.  Or you could take that further- write a song and produce a music video for it.  Or make a 3D IMAX film.  Go nuts!

And the same goes for the audience.  Sure, you could just read a book of poetry, and I enjoy doing that.  But I also remember one time I found an old record in a library with TS Eliot reading one of his poems.  It brought a whole new life to the poem he was reading, just to hear him read it in his own voice.  Imagine if we had old recordings of Rimbaud or Whitman lying around!  Or Virgil reading The Aeneid.

I enjoy reading something on the page, because having the freedom to make the picture in my mind is a beautiful thing.  But in order to do so I need time and to not be distracted, which is a rarity in my life.  And even then I’m not sure I wouldn’t prefer to hear a recording because I’d trust the author to read it the best (though I’m not sure this is justified either).

I feel like I lost my train of thought here somewhere, but the point is, getting a book of poetry published is no longer the best transmission of ideas an author can hope for and it’s not the best an audience can hope for so the world has moved on.  I don’t think it’s a bad thing or a good thing, it just is.

What to do when someone whose music you enjoy turns out to be a crank

Punk icon Exene Cervenka claims Santa Barbara shooting a ‘false flag’ government hoax

Punk singer Exene Cervenka posted a series of tweets Wednesday questioning whether the government staged last week’s mass shootings in Isla Vista, California, to enact stricter gun control laws.

Now I don’t want to get into a discussion of guns, gun control, etc. here, but I hope we can all agree that thinking the government staged the recent UCSB shootings in order to justify new gun control laws is kind of nuts.  If that sounds plausible to you… well, you’re probably not going to be able to relate to the rest of this post.

I’m going to just assume that you agree with me from here and not spend a lot of time trying to argue against Exene, because if I’ve learned anything from conspiracy theorists, it’s that there is not point in arguing with them.

OK, I just have to say it or I’ll burst…. if the Sandy Hook Massacre didn’t result in new legislation, why would the government stage a less shocking massacre as a follow-up?  And if the government wanted to make a point about guns, why were half the victims stabbed to death?  OK I’m done.

So I’m left with the fact that someone whose music I enjoy believes some weird stuff.  Which isn’t normally something I puzzle over- lots of musicians/artists, etc. whose work I enjoy believe some weird stuff.  Lots of people whose company I enjoy believe some weird stuff.  But I saw a lot of confused questions as to how someone who makes interesting music and presumably has some brains could believe this sort of thing.

I have a theory, and it’s probably stupid, but I’m going to throw it out there because YOLO.

People who become famous punk musicians don’t generally get a ton of schooling.  Exene, for instance, was a high school dropout.  Punk rock is a movement with lots of free floating anger at society, the government, corporations, whatever.  Without the means to process some of that, people are going to be susceptible to people like Alex Jones- people who offer to explain it all.  Who will share with you the knowledge that THE SYSTEM is hiding from you.

Without some critical thinking skills and the experience of having to back up one’s theories regularly, in front of impartial strangers, it’s hard to develop the kind of healthy skepticism you’d need to see through these theories.  The kind you need to say “really, there’s a family called the Rothschilds and they live in a big castle together and rule the world, without fighting with each other all the time like other families do?  I’m not sure I believe that.”

There’s also the fact that punk rock, ever since The Clash, has often dealt with some heavy subjects- war, poverty, class, race, systems of government, religion.  Punk rock actually has a fairly healthy intellectual tradition.  I mean, I’ve never heard a song on the radio that mentioned Foucault or discussed the invasion of the Falkland Islands.

So people get lost in all that.  People sit around, get high and try to discuss things they read about in fanzines or hear about on records.  They want to do something.  They want to fight back against alienation, against boredom.  They want to understand how the world can produce so much misery.  And some of them become cranks.  It’s not that hard to imagine.

Dating advice from a guy who is totally unqualified to give advice- Lower your standards!

My first pet was a rabbit.  I didn’t get laid until I was like 19.  COINCIDENCE?  Salon doesn’t think so.   I initially ignored this story as one of those dumbass personal essays that Salon tries to pass off as interesting.  Salon publishes a lot of crap.  Mostly crap really,  I don’t even know why I click on it anymore.  But I read this response on Jezebel, and I was slightly amused at the response.

Just to save you the trouble of clicking through it’s a post about a guy who believes he can’t get laid because of his pet rabbit.  He’s trying to be tongue-in-cheek, but I am not fooled.

I’ve had friends who talked my ear off with  “I’m a nice guy, why don’t girls like me BLAH BLAH BLAH.”   So far no one’s blamed it on a rabbit though.  I guess that’s a new one.

I don’t know man.  I’m a nice guy, why can’t I play baseball like my hero Tony Gwynn?

There’s no reason to listen to these dudes because they’ll drag you down man.  When I was young the last thing I wanted was some Negative Nelly hanging around causing repelling women and now I’m old and I don’t need to be hanging around people who haven’t figured out something the rest of us figured out 20 years ago.

Dudes who are upset about not getting attention from girls and are bringing up their alleged niceness are ALWAYS pining after some girl who is waaaay too hot for them.  It’s always true.  It could be a Law of Physics.

OH FUCK I JUST READ THE RABBIT GUY STORY AND HE’S FROM SAN DIEGO

Now I just know I’m going to run into the rabbit guy somewhere.  Shit.

Anyway, here’s the thing I tell these dudes now- Lower your standards.

You’re a desperate creeper… find a desperate creeper woman, they exist!*

You’ve got an unmanly pet?  Find a woman who goes on dates with her pet monkey!  Hope to God it doesn’t rip your face off!

Seriously, all that stuff other people say about working out, getting a haircut, learning to brush your teeth is just too much work.  Find a woman as lame as you are and make peace with it.  I don’t know why this is even hard.

While I’m on the subject i had a friend tell me in all seriousness

“If I ever get married I am going to insist that my wife shaves her pussy every day.”**

Yes, and when I am playing right field for the Padres I am going to insist that everyone refer to be as the Father Baseball.

*OH BOY DO THEY

**Would it surprise you to hear that the dude had been single for years at that point?  No, of course not.

Drugs and making music

I realized recently that I don’t really know that much about drugs.  Like most people I have impressions from movies, I have some experiences with users, but I never had a drug phase and if I’m being honest I’m pretty much a square in that regard.  I’ve decided that any time I’m talking about them, I’m talking about things outside my experience and am just talking out of ignorance.  So maybe I should shut up from now on.

But for the time being I won’t.  Someone asked me the other day whether drinking helps me play music better.  The answer is no.  It makes me want to do anything besides play music.  And the handful of times I tried to have some drinks and then write music… the results were so terrible I don’t do it anymore.

I might agree that a beer or two helps me loosen up.  I might.  I’ve heard lots of people say that there is a sweet spot where after a few beers they can play pool or darts better because they’re relaxed.  I’m not sure that’s true.  I am naturally skeptical of just about everything and I wonder if it’s not just a case of relaxing enough not to get upset about all the terrible shots you make.  Or, in the case of music, all the notes you miss.  I played a show for the first time in a while having had nothing to drink and I thought- wow, I actually am pretty competent.  I have been trying to make a habit of that since.

I don’t really think drugs open your mind.  I don’t think drinking does.  I don’t think it makes people more creative.  Anyone can write psychedelic music- you don’t have to be high for that.  It’s a formula, an easy one really.  Either write down your dreams or just tell a non-linear story and use adjectives that don’t fit.  That’s all there is to it.  The only thing I can think of is that drugs might give someone the courage to share the art they created.  Playing a song for someone or showing them your painting doesn’t make you creative it makes you brave.

I shouldn’t say that drugs or drinking don’t do anything for creative people.  It does give you stories.

Is it worth it?  I don’t think so.  I drink beer because I like drinking beer, not because I’m trying to become the next Hunter S Thompson.  I’m certainly not going to start drinking all day hoping some sad, poignant shit happens to me.   How much of the idea that drinking makes someone more creative is really about the fact that a lot of people don’t agree that you should do something pleasurable for its own sake?  I wonder about that.

I’m kind of rambling here, but it’s something I wonder about.  Maybe other people are different, but I hear people who aren’t notably creative saying “wow, that guy must have done a ton of drugs” and to me that diminishes someone’s accomplishment.  More than anything else being creative takes work.

No people, you don’t get an easy guidebook to race relations

The Paula Deen deal is another sad episode in certain people’s attempts to dumb down our conversation on race.  The usual suspects are trying to narrow the argument down to when and where (and why) she said the word nigger, as if the use of that word is the only way we can tell if someone is truly racist.  I agree with a good deal of Charlie Cooke’s post here, especially this:

I have little time for those who can’t see the difference between Kanye West’s using the N-word and a racist’s hurling it at an African American in anger.

This question of “why do black people get to say it?” has been asked and answered so many times that anyone still asking it is being deliberately obtuse.

But this is kind of silly:

In the meantime, is it wise for us to pull her and her brand down because of something she may or may not have said privately in the 1980s?

In the 80’s?  That wasn’t that long ago.  Does it matter that is was said privately?  Doesn’t that offer that window into her heart that people are always harping on?  Paula offered her own defense:

“The day I used that word it was a world ago, years ago,” she said. “I had had a gun put to my head, a shaking gun because the man that had the gun to my head, unbeknowning [sic] to me was my customer at the main [bank] office.”

Did this man put a gun to her head and tell her to call him that?  What kind of a shitty excuse is this?

But I’m not really interested in why or when Paula Deen said what she said and I’m getting off topic.

Here’s the thing, I grew up around rednecks (their name for themselves), many of who didn’t know that I’m only half white, at least half, non-hispanic white.  So their filter wasn’t on and I’d hear this kind of talk all the time.  I got used to it.  I learned to deal with it.  What’s fucked is that I had to learn to control my anger at people making jokes and derogatory about people I am related to.   Because getting mad and yelling at rednecks for telling racial jokes was not socially acceptable where I grew up.  I had to learn to navigate that world.  I didn’t whine about it because no one would have given a shit.  The response would have been “get over it.”  I don’t really think less of most of those people, that’s just how things were back home.

But the world is changing.  It’s not acceptable to make those jokes so much anymore.  And certainly not if you’re a public figure.  Deen fucked up.  I got one thing to say about that- borrowing from George Lopez-

THAT’S HOW YOU LEARN

Paula Deen’s lesson is going to cost her a lot more than mine ever did.  But that’s life.  The fact is there is no guidebook for these things, just like there’s no real guidebook for picking up members of the opposite sex.  You have to learn.  Some of us the hard way.  I know I have.  Like Brad Paisley’s awkward accidental racist song (which, to get really meta, was widely regarded as an example of accidental racism), we’ve all fucked up.  It happens.

And there’s no way I’m taking that away.  Because when someone fucks up, their reaction to being called out tells you everything you need to know about that person.  I don’t really give a shit about Paula Deen and if she gets her sponsors or her job back it won’t make a difference to me one way or the other.  If, as Charlie Cooke points out, she’s guilty of what she is accused of in the civil case against her, then she should be.  If not, then maybe not.  But calls for one set of rules for everyone (why can rappers say it? it’s hypocrisy)  are premature.  We’re all just going to have to figure this stuff out on our own.