January 27, 2010

What They Want

At work today, another one of those interminable conversations, drowning in banality . . .

"I just don't get it. What do they [the terrorists] want, anyway?"

Well, they don't want your women, your cars, your cash, your lifestyle.

Here's what they want.

They want to be the matter of your obsessions. They want to be the fabric of your fear. They want you to never forget.

You have defined their victory.

January 24, 2010

We Built this City on Something Which May Once Have Resembled Rock and/or Roll, But Now Is Muzak (At Best) or Bamboo Under the Fingernails (At Worst)

We've got that ad all over TV with Eric Clapton pimping the new T-Mobile limited edition Fender phone, and a thought occurs: is there a less rock -n- roll song supposedly about rock -n- roll than Clapton's "I've Got a Rock 'N' Roll Heart"? Excluding, of course, the all-time classic (and hands down worst song ever) "We Built This City".

This is group participation, folks. Let me know your picks for the lamest "meta-rock" songs (songs about rock -n- roll). Leave them in the comments below . . . along with your playlists, of course.

In Rotation
  • Eugene Chadbourne: Country Protest Anew
  • Henry Flynt: New American Ethnic Music Vol. 2: Spindizzy
  • Debussey: L'Apres-midi d'un faune, Nocturnes, La Mer
  • MX-80 Sound: Crowd Control, Out of the Tunnel
  • Skeleton Crew: Country of Blinds
  • Mofungo: End of the World Pt. 2
  • Verdi: Requiem
  • Sunn O))): Monoliths and Dimensions
  • Various Artists: Frank Johnson's Favorites (a Ralph Records sampler)
  • Paul "Wine" Jones: Pucker Up, Buttercup
  • Pink Floyd: selections from the Syd Barrett era
  • Willie Nelson: Greatest Hits
  • Shostokovich: Symphony No. 5
  • LaMonte Young: The Melodic Version of the Second Dream of The High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer from The Four Dreams of China
  • Neil Young: On the Beach
  • Charles Ives: Piano Sonata No. 2 & Songs
  • Mekons: Slightly South of the Border & Edge of the World
  • Mono: Hymn to the Immortal Wind

January 23, 2010

Creative Editing

Found this on a random surf. Wish I could attribute it.

January 22, 2010

Close The Guantanamo Bay Detention Center Now

I didn't expect a lot out of Barrack Obama, so I haven't been too disappointed thus far. It's clear that the supposed "filibuster-proof majority" was actually a goat rodeo, capable of absolutely nothing of consequence. I give Obama credit for the attempt, and I'm happy to have him in office. Just having someone of conscience in the White House will have to do for now. There are, however, plenty of things that need to be done that Obama can do himself . . . governmental transparency is one, elimination of "don't ask, don't tell" is another. Chief among these is the closing of Gitmo which, coincidentally, was supposed to be done by today. In spite of my anger over the death of the public health insurance option, this, to me, is Obama's chief failure as president. Certainly, closing Gitmo can still can be achieved in a reasonable amount of time, but the clock is now ticking.

This, more than anything else, is at the moral center that Obama wants to establish as the keystone of his legacy. All his other proposed policy initiatives, from healthcare to financial reform, from environmental legislation to civil rights, all have to do with shaping the American government in his own image. Closing Guantanamo is beyond right and left (in spite of how the debate is going down here); it goes to the very values that we articulate as American to the rest of the world. The idea is simple and powerful: we posit ourselves as the champions of justice in the world, so why not make our systems of justice available to all?

There are, of course, complications*, even post-Bush. The justice department has tagged 50 of the remaining 196 detainees ("detainees"? They are PRISONERS, people) to be held indefinitely without trial because there is evidence that they are dangerous to the US but not enough evidence to convict them of a crime.

Well, okay . . . first of all, let's start processing the other 146. Charge them or let them go. As for the 50, that's what the courts are for. Present arguments for holding the prisoners to a judge. Let the appeals work through the courts. THAT'S WHAT WE HAVE THE JUSTICE SYSTEM FOR IN THE FIRST PLACE. If a dangerous man gets set free, then so be it. The guilty have been mistakenly exonerated in the past. Our justice system is based on the principle that it's better a guilty man go free than an innocent man get convicted. That, indeed, is part of the American system of justice that we so proudly project into world, so it's time we live up to our values.

"But we are at war, and these are the enemy combatants!" the Bushies protest. Perhaps we are at war . . . if indeed we are, then the battle will never end. The days of truces and peace treaties are past, and war is now a permanent state of affairs. America in the past has been largely insulated from foreign terrorism, but now we are starting to fall in line with other parts of the world. And, since the new war of terror is a permanent state of affairs, it can no longer be considered special, and therefore does not merit special considerations or circumstances when it comes to the justice system.

We always hear the phrase "Freedom isn't free". That often refers to the blood of the soldiers who have suffered and died in our wars. It also refers to the sacrifice that citizens have to make in a free society, but the true nature of that sacrifice is usually misconstrued. The price of freedom is security, the price of security is freedom. America has not chosen to sacrifice freedom for security, but rather security for freedom: that is the true price of freedom. Police states are secure; free states are sometimes dangerous. Letting a potentially dangerous prisoner go because we can not prove he is dangerous could have consequences for our security, but holding onto him because he is potentially dangerous has consequences for our freedom. It should be clear what path we have taken, what sacrifice we have chosen. Americans may die because of the men released from Guantanamo; that, unfortunately, is the price of freedom.

I hate to think Obama has lost his resolve. More likely, he has just gotten bogged down with the reality of trying to turn back years of conservative control without any help from a Congress which, despite being controlled by Democrats, is still conservative. Perhaps he underestimated just how difficult it would be to close Gitmo, and in spite of being behind on his own timetable, he is actually doing a reasonable job of getting it closed. Certainly, as an act that doesn't require Congressional support, he doesn't need to shove it into the face of the American public in the same way he does policies which do require support. Whatever the issue, Obama needs to make sure that the closing of Guantanamo remains on track. The credibility of his presidency depends on it.


* One "issue" that is not a real complication is the national security issues of incarcerating the Guantanamo prisoners in US prisons. This bogus objection is one of the most unfathomable grenades that the right has lobbed at the Obama administration. If Obama, or anyone else perceived as a liberal, would have raised this issue in a different context, they would be excoriated by Republicans as unpatriotic and anti-American for doubting the security of our American prison system. It is stunning just how completely Republicans have abandoned all values beyond simply opposing Democratic initiatives and winning elections. "Republican" can no longer be considered synonymous with "conservative", "right", or anything else besides "anti-Democrat". At least they understand what it means to be the opposition party, for what that's worth.

January 19, 2010

Radical Responsibility

The Postmodern mindset does not preclude an ethical orientation - far from it, as a matter of fact.

Avital Ronell:

Precisely where there's the pretense or claim for ultimate meaning and transparency - precisely where transcendental guarantors are stamping everything as meaningful, when no one needs to do the anxious guesswork of how to behave or what to do - that's when you are not called upon to be strenuously responsible, because the grammar of being, or the axiom of taking care of the Other, is spelled out for you. According to several registers of traditional ethics, things are pre-scripted, they're prescribed. You know everything that you are supposed to do; it's all more or less mapped out for you. What becomes difficult and terrifying, and what requires infinite translation of a situation or of the distress of the world, is when you don't have those sure markers. You don't have the guarantee of ultimate meaning or the final reward or the last judgement and must enter into unsolvable calculations, searing doubts. Anyone who's sure of themselves, of their morals and intentions, is not truly ethical, is not struggling heroically with the mandate of genuine responsibility. It is impossible ever to be fully responsible enough - you've never given or offered or done enough for those suffering, for the poor, for the hungry. That's a law shared by Dostoyevsky, Levinas, and Derrida: one never meets one's responsible quota, which is set at an infinite bar (hence the invention of the figure of Christ, our infinite creator).

You know, Plato created hell (thank you, Plato!) because he thought the citizens weren't up to the level of philosophical rigor. Why don't we invent hell, he offered, and give them a sense of this infantile punishment resort, or last resort, and let's add heaven - although he didn't occupy himself with heaven too much. It was hell that was supposed to strike fear into the citizens of the polis. And we still have that kind of habit of reverting to very simplistic and fantastical models that are supposed to keep people doing the right thing, keep their blinders on and fear factors in gear. But when those are lifted and you remember that it was a myth, a fiction, meant to scare people into behaving themselves and there's no clear prescribed remedial directive that you are supposed to follow, and there's no parental guidance on any level of being, then you are on your own. That's more work than having this kind of prefab superego-transmission system telling you "That's bad. That's good."

Regardless the efficacy of these thoughts, this is a clear picture of radical responsibility.

It should also be pointed out that, in spite of Ronell's anti-religious bias, religious thought itself does not preclude radical responsibility . . . though, in practice, that often seems to be the case. It's sort of a Philosophy 101 "so/necessarily so" problem: religious thought can take the form of a deep, never-ending personal quest for values, but more often seems to be a search for rules to live by, rules which relieve one of the responsibility for realizing one's own actions.

from Examined Life, edited by Astra Taylor

January 17, 2010

Peyton Manning on the Sidelines

"Peyton, seriously, shut the fuck up."

"See? Headphones. I'm not listening, so shut the fuck up. And you can pout all you want, because I'm not looking, either. No, I didn't look. I know you're pouting because you always fucking pout. Stop it. Stop it and go away."

"Yeah, I hear you. I been hearing you. And I'm tired of hearing you. Just shut the fuck up, will you? I'm tired of your whining. I'm tired of your stinking breath in my face. Just shut up, will you please?"

"I'm not listening, Peyton. See? Headphones. Just move along now."

"Didn't I already tell you to just shut the fuck up? Why don't you take off that helmet so I can punch you in your enormous fucking forehead. C'mon, take it off. It's not like it matters. I'll be back driving a beer truck in a couple weeks anyway. Fuck you. And pull Sorgi's nose out of your ass while you're at it."

"Fine. Fuck all you guys. Who are all you, anyway? I mean, Jim Caldwell? Curtis Painter? Who are you kidding? I'm Peyton Manning, and I spell my name M - V - fucking P. I don't need any of you."

"Fuck all those guys, anyway. Who needs 'em? At least you got my back, Eli."
"I will kill you in your sleep, Peyton."

Sympathy for Agent Zero

I'm not in the habit of feeling sorry for spoiled millionaires, but Gilbert Arenas's tumble from grace seems to merit more than the usual "just another NBA thug" dismissal.

As of today, Arenas has pleaded guilty to felony gun possession. He has been suspended indefinitely by the NBA. Formerly the face of the Washington Wizards, his image has been purged from all of the franchise's publicity. It seems to be a forgone conclusion that his stratospheric contract will be voided for cause. It also seems likely that the player's union won't put up more than a token fight on his behalf, since they need to save all their chips for the upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations with the owners. Arenas is far too talented to be filed away forever, but the question remains: when will we see him again, and how far will he be diminished, both personally and professionally?

Arenas is not a thug. He is a spoiled, clueless idiot, but he is not a thug. He is a gifted athlete that has been shielded his entire life from the consequences of his decisions. He is, even more than most athletes, completely unaware of behavior in context . . . a notorious practical joker, it was initially reported (and never completely refuted) that the display of weaponry that got him into trouble had a practical joke at its core.

Arenas looked stunned as he entered the courtroom the other day. He looked stunned as he left. He had that gape-jawed "what the hell is going on here" look in every media shot from that day. Perhaps this is his come-to-Jesus moment, the moment he finally, for the first time, gets it. Or maybe he'll just recast himself as the victim, and continue to live in his own private world, away from any kind of responsibility.

And, while we can't absolve Arenas of responsibility for his actions (that's the problem in the first place, isn't it?), we do have to acknowledge the responsibility that we have in the matter. We cheer the cheats when they win for our teams, we overlook bad behavior as long as the victories are coming. We insulate our athletes and tell them they are special - until they do something so egregious that we can't overlook it, then we dump them straight into the garbage.

I like Agent Zero; I hope he can reconcile with his situation and find his way back into the NBA, and the sooner the better. He really seems to be a decent guy, and he's definitely entertaining. And frankly, given the chaos of opinion over guns in American culture, I can understand, at least to a small degree, Arenas's confusion in this matter: this kind of behavior in the hills of Kentucky would barely raise an eyebrow.

* * * * *

Lost in the noise surrounding the Arenas story is the end of the line for another troubled NBA career: Shawne Williams was cut from the lowly Nets just before heading back to Memphis to face drug charges.

Williams was the first round pick for Pacers in 2006, and quickly found himself afoul of the law. Along with Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, and Jamal Tinsley, he became the poster boy for the supposed moral demise of the beloved Reggie Miller-era Pacers. He was traded to the Mavericks in 2008, where he was asked to leave the team after police talked to the Mavericks front office about some troubling behavior on Williams's part.

I remember Larry Bird commenting, during one of Williams's suspensions while playing with the Pacers, that Shawne was a good kid who hung out with the wrong crowd. Current Pacers coach Jim O'Brien expressed sympathy for Williams as well. His subsequent employers (Mark Cuban and Kiki Vandeweghe) had no such consideration.

Of the troubled Pacers forever marked by the Auburn Hills brawl, only Jackson and Artest have maintained their career paths . . . ironic, considering Artest and Jackson were the most active players in the brawl. The Pacers franchise crashed and burned, and Larry Bird (responsible for getting and retaining most of the players who caused all the trouble) holds on to his job solely based on his status as an Indiana basketball legend. Jermaine O'Neal has never been the same since. Tinsley, after frequent gunplay around Indy, was exiled by the Pacers, and when he finally became a free agent, no one called. Williams, with more potential than Tinsley, nevertheless still finds himself out of basketball, likely never to return.

Artest and Jackson, despite always eccentric and sometimes troubling behavior, still manage to hold it together just enough to stay in the NBA. It is, perhaps, because both Ron-Ron and Captain Jack honestly try to "be good", though neither one really seems to know how. The good seems to counterbalance the bad with these two guys. That doesn't seem to be the case with Williams or Tinsley.

Or maybe it's just because Artest and Jackson get it done on the court well enough that they get just a little more leeway for their foibles off the court. As a fan of both players, I'm not willing to concede that fact, but neither can I dismiss it.

January 16, 2010

The Death of Everything Pt. 2

Cornel West:
You know, Plato says philosophy's a meditation on and a preparation for death. By death what he means is not an event, but a death in life because there's no rebirth, there's no change, there's no transformation without death, and therefore the question becomes: How do you learn how to die? Of course Montaigne talks about that in his famous essay "To Philosophize Is to Learn How to Die". You can't talk about truth without talking about learning how to die because it's precisely by learning how to die, examining yourself and transforming your old self into a better self, that you actually live more intensely and critically and abundantly.

From the collection Examined Life edited by Astra Taylor

Day Off

Today, is the best day, because


January 10, 2010

If It's Too Loud, You're Too Old; plus, Son of In Rotation

Against my better judgement, I rented a copy of It Might Get Loud yesterday. I found it to be a charming, if inconsequential, little movie. If you think you might enjoy it, then pick it up. If it doesn't look interesting to you, take a pass. It won't dramatically affect you either way.

It Might Get Loud is a summit meeting of sorts between three generations of rock guitar gods: Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White. The Edge is as you expect him: soft spoken and even tempered, ridiculously (and genuinely) humble in spite of his huge world-wide rock star status, and always smiling. Jack White, also as you would expect, does his best to live up to his provocateur status to sometimes cartoonish results. Jimmy Page, though, is the true revelation here: I was a fervent Led Zeppelin fan in my teen years, and over time consumed all kinds of articles, interviews, and videos about the band, yet Page reveals far more of his personality here than anywhere else I've seen.

Some points:

  • Page, far from being the dark, mysterious avatar of heavy metal cool he has projected in the past, is an aging music geek . . . and I mean that in the best possible way. One of the highlights of the movie is watching Page's crazy joy while he plays records for the interviewer - jumping up and down and giggling with glee as Link Wray's "Rumble" blasts through the speakers at ridiculous volume, playing air guitar along with every song on the phono (and this is Jimmy Page air guitar, mind you, so that left hand is going crazy) - and just how thoroughly he loses himself in the music. In the past, Page on camera has always seemed so aloof and distant, as if speaking out from under a hallucinogenic blanket. Here he is, at all times, actively engaged and often quite animated.
  • You always knew that The Edge was heavily dependent on effects, but the sheer scope of his sound setup surprised me. They moved his rig into the shoot site with a freaking forklift, for the love of god. He has a full time engineer to help him set up and run the rig. To his credit, he is very up front about his dependence on effects. I also like the fact that he neither defends nor apologizes for his effects mania: it's just another way of playing electric guitar.
  • The Edge has a really cool home studio that overlooks some body of water. I like that. The master of machinery also pulls out his old Fostex cassette four track to play old demos. That was my little piece of nostalgia.
  • It's so cute the way Jack White discovered the blues, as if no rocker before him ever discovered the blues. He makes a strong case for Son House as a gateway drug. His experience on this count mirrors mine, for it was Son House who really got me rolling on my blues journey. For White, the song was "Grinnin' in Your Face"; for me, it was "Death Letter Blues", from the same '65 sessions as "Grinnin'". By the way, if you have any interest in music at all, you need to have Son House's Father of the Delta Blues: The Complete 1965 Sessions. It's even on vinyl, if you swing that way. And, while you're at it, pick up this Son House/Bukka White video. It is, in my opinion, the single most stunning musical document on film. For years, I made everyone who visited my Brown county house watch this video.
  • Jack White also makes an argument for the superiority of cheap guitars, and anything in general that makes you work harder to make music. The theory is that if you have to fight to play guitar, your music will be better for the struggle. At one point in some Raconteurs live footage, the director zooms in on White's bleeding right hand as he plays a lead, and then shows the bloody Gretsch in all its glory after the set. Speaking as a bloody-handed guitarist who played cheap guitars with bad action for years, I'm not sure how I stand with this idea. I can't speak to how all the Silvertones and Kays affected my technique over the years (well, I can, actually - my left hand is like a vice, and not particularly nimble), but I do know that when I finally picked up a couple guitars with good action, I became a better guitarist. Not just a more technically adept guitarist, but better . . . against Mr. White, I would argue that playing with the guitar is better in the long run, though playing against the guitar has its charms as well. I very much sympathize with the thought, and I agree that smooth proficiency has nothing to do with rock -n- roll.
  • White was showing off a mod they made on one of his Gretchs, where a luthier added a bullet mic on a cable spool to the body of the guitar. Now he can just reach down and whip out the mic when he wants to howl instead of play. That is one of the goofiest mods I have ever seen. It also reminds me of John Belushi, samurai guitarist, where he had that SG with a gooseneck mic stand bolted to the body.
  • Oh, and while we're at it, Jack, it's a little disingenuous to talk about cheap guitars when you have all those Gretschs lying around.
  • The Edge may be the "sound" guy, but White shows the true beauty of the electric guitar with a collection of busted up Kays and Nationals going through that Silvertone Twin Twelve (which looks like it has been modified to a six sixes).
  • In spite of his rep as a "sound" guy, The Edge busted out some beautifully lyrical (if way too brief) slide on the "In My Time of Dying" jam.
  • White tried to keep up a punk rock exterior throughout, but when Page plugged in his Les Paul and started wailing away, White sat there like a grinning, gaping twelve-year-old with his jaw on the floor. Both he and The Edge appeared as if they were in the presence of a deity.
All in all a pleasant, if non-essential, little movie.

* * * * *

I've decided to revive the In Rotation series in this blog. Looking back, I kind of missed it when it went away. Should you care? I don't know. But, how about this: anyone who reads this should feel free to post their playlists in the "comments" sections of the posts.

In Rotation:

  • Morton Feldman: Rothko Chapel
  • The Mekons: early 7" singles
  • Lupe Fiasco: Enemy of the State mixtape
  • Black Flag: Everything Went Black & Live '84
  • Sun Ra: Myth Science Arkestra 2000 & Heliocentric Worlds Vol. 1
  • John Coltrane: Ascension
  • Albert Ayler: Live in Europe
  • Debussy: Nocturnes
  • Cecil Taylor Unit: s/t
  • Scrawl: Velvet Hammer
  • The Rolling Stones: Let it Bleed
  • Sol Hoopii: Master of the Hawaiian Guitar
  • Sun City Girls: Juggernaut & Kaliflower
  • LaMonte Young: The Well-Tuned Piano
That will do for now.

January 9, 2010

And Now It's Over

The tree's down, I've torn the Christmas schedule off the fridge, and starting tomorrow (uh, today - it's already after midnight) I get two days off. The holidays are over and, as always, I'm glad.

Yesterday's snow was tolerable. No, yesterday's snow was beautiful. I had to head down to Etown to work, but it wasn't too bad on 65. I never really dropped the Maxx below 60 all the way down. Up here in River City, just enough snow to cover over the dirt and make things look nice. I don't usually enjoy snow anymore, but this was nice.

The cold, however, I can live without.

Our house here on Goss, though apparently insulated fairly well, isn't really meant for the weather. When it was first built, the attic and the basement weren't lived in, and the breakfast room hadn't been added onto the back of the kitchen. The living room, dining room, and both the downstairs bedrooms (the extra bedroom and Sharri's craft room) are warm and toasty, but no heat gets up to our bedroom, or down to the TV/music room, which is where we spend the vast majority of our time.

With that in mind, I'm in the living room in my old rocker typing this right now, all warm and toasty. We found some cool fake fire logs for the fireplace (complete with crackling ember sound effects!) which ratcheted and glowed until the timer shut off just a couple minutes ago. Usually on Friday nights I'm up watching the NBA, but I had no interest in tonight's Cavs - Nuggets matchup. Carmelo was out, I'm starting to get sick of Bron, and I was always sick of the Big Narc . . . so I'm up here running some downtempo hip hop on the Sony and spieling on this here blog.

Tomorrow, I'm-a gonna STAY IN FUCKING BED! No, no I won't. I'll knock around the house for most of the day, doing nothing in particular. Then, by Sunday, I'll get back in the gym, finish the paint in the spare bedroom, and tear up the old carpet. And, of course, fire up the dirty grits for breakfast.

Right now, I'm gonna wrap this up, bang out a couple chords on the resonator, and then head up to bed. I need to be warm again . . .

. . . and sleep, sweet, sweet, sleep. I'm turning into an amnesiac Proust. Pray for me, you non-believers.

January 4, 2010

Street of Crocodiles

Don't know why it took me so long to get around to Bruno Schulz, especially given my fondness for Eastern Europeans famous (Franz Kafka) and not-so-famous (Geza Csath). I am even a big fan of the Brothers Quay's famous adaptation of Schulz's Street of Crocodiles. I recently used an Amazon gift certificate to pick up Street of Crocodiles and Witold Gombrowicz's Ferdydurke (which, incidentally, had one of its first editions illustrated by Schulz, who was also a visual artist).

Here's a nice little passage from "Tailor's Dummies", a story from Street, wherein the narrator's father (the sole swatch of color in Schulz's winter) expounds on his "theory of matter":
"We are not concerned", he said, "with long-winded creations, with long term beings. Our creatures will not be heroes of romances in many volumes. Their roles will be short, concise; their characters -- without a background. Sometimes, for one gesture, for one word alone, we shall make the effort to bring them to life. We openly admit: we shall not insist on either durability or solidity of workmanship; our creations will be temporary, to serve for a single occasion. If they be human beings, we shall give them, for example, only one profile, one hand, one leg, the one limb needed for their role. It would be pedantic to bother about the other, unnecessary, leg. [. . . ] We shall have this proud slogan as our aim: a different actor for every gesture. [. . . ] The Demiurge was in love with consummate, superb, and complicated materials; we shall give priority to trash. We are simply entranced and enchanted by the cheapness, shabbiness, and inferiority of material."

That is so punk rock.

January 3, 2010

Sheets of Sound Live

I haven't posted any music for a little bit, so here you go. This is a live duet with me on guitar and Bart Galloway on drums. This was recorded last February at Derby City Espresso. Sooner or later we may see more excerpts of this show up at Adept Recordings.



January 2, 2010

The Government Does Not Fear Your Puny Guns

They love their guns in Elizabethtown. The little burgh just south of Fort Knox ("where they keep the gold") is a hotbed of everything 'mericn . . . guns, God, Ronald Reagan, John Birch, free markets, etc. Every other vehicle on the road here has a bumper sticker referring to random articles of true faith, even several different articles thrown together into a creamy right-wing custard.

The main ideas behind the gun stuff is anti-government. No, actually, that's not quite true: the main idea is fear, followed closely by an inadequacy that screams Freud . . . but let's leave that aside for a moment, and take these true believers as seriously as they take themselves. So: the idea seems to be that the second amendment exists to keep the government in line, and gun ownership is more than a right, it's a patriotic duty. Well, that's fine back when the country's army and police forces were a citizen militia, when it was the duty of the citizen to bear arms to help safeguard the fragile social contract, to actively participate in the policing of the state.

Today, the right to bear arms has taken the aspect of resistance, as opposed to the co-operative aspect of the citizen militia. The idea seems to be that "the government fears an armed citizenry" (verbiage taken directly from the bumper sticker of an F-150 that always seems to be commuting back to Louisville at the same time I do), and that, as long as we all have guns, we will keep the government "honest". The government has gone from being "us" to being "them".

For a moment, let's assume that we can all agree on what it means to keep the government honest, which we clearly do not. If we depend on our guns to control the government, then we are making two related errors: one, that our government can be broadly influenced by the level of force our "armed citizenry" can muster; and two, that those who bear the brunt of our violence would be the people repressing us.

You can be sure that the guy running around with the store keys hanging off his belt doesn't own the joint. In the same way, you can be sure you won't be shooting at real power. Just who do you expect to be prying your gun from your cold, dead fingers? That police officer keeping you from waving your guns around at your teabagger rallies may be the government's proxy, but he is NOT the government. As a matter of fact, the average police officer is more conservative than not (except, tellingly, when it comes to the subject under discussion: many, if not most, cops are pro-gun control). He (or she) is just a working stiff, trying to get home alive to live his version of the American dream. Incongruously, the knife's edge of what the teabaggers fear are the very law and order types they celebrate. As for the left, how can you claim you are fighting "the man" for the benefit of "the common man" when your guns are pointed at "the common man", not "the man"? The people who really run this country won't show up at your door with weapons - they have people that do their dirty work. The people between them and the muzzle of your gun are very much like you, no matter what you claim your politics to be. They are the ruling elite's shock absorbers, isolating them from the bumps in the road - and you, friends, are never more than bumps in the road to them.

"So that's the way it has to be", you claim . . . "you're either with us or against us". "Unfortunate collateral damage," maybe. Or, the old "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem" nugget. Okay, fine. That's how revolutions normally run, it seems. But do you think your guns are really going to make a difference?

Let me clue you in to a little secret: THERE ARE ALWAYS BIGGER GUNS. AND THE GOVERNMENT HAS THEM. Got yourself a little stash of nines? They'll show up with the SWAT team, all sniper rifles and night vision scopes. Pull out your AK, and they'll show up with tanks and flamethrowers. Get yourself a seriously strapped posse, and they'll whip out their joysticks and fire up the Predator drones. There's always more weaponry, and the government has it. Talk about insurgencies all you want, but at the end of the day, insurgency is only as successful as the masters will let it be . . . you could go all Israeli on an insurgency, and it wouldn't last long. Or, it would only last as long as it takes to kill the insurgents. As long as you make violence the game, then those capable of the most violence will win. And no man, no group of men, is as versed in the art of violence and domination than the historical pillars of state and capital.

Indeed, the next war for independence will not be fought with muskets. And you're just as fucked if you're trying to fight it with an AK. Who do you think did the most for the black civil rights cause: King or the Panthers? We lefties fetishize the Panthers' revolutionary chic just like the teabaggers fetishize their guns . . . but ultimately, it is will, not violence, that wins the day. Beyond that, if you still think your AK is the ultimate fashion accessory for the next revolution, you're an idiot. "Lawyers, guns, and money?" Leave the guns at home, pal.

Ask the Chinese what it takes, since they apparently know: cash and computers. Kim Jong Il shakes his fist at Sam with some missile tests, the Chinese get into Pentagon computers. Who's gonna make you paranoid? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talks about vanquishing the infidels, and the Chinese buy up huge chunks of our national debt. Who really keeps you up at night? I'm not advocating another bogeyman for our nightmares, but I am pointing out that the distribution of power is becoming (at best) tangentially related to weaponry on the macro level . . . and as above, so below.

* * * * *

I've been pro-gun control most of my adult life. I have lately come to count myself in the "guns don't kill people, people do" camp. The places that resist gun control most strenuously (the wide-open west, rural areas, etc.) probably don't need gun control. Gun control is not a bad idea in places like Baltimore, D.C., Detroit, etc., where people support it. See how well that works out? Guns aren't the problem, people shooting people is the problem. Gun control should always be considered a stopgap measure, a treatment a symptom rather than a solution to a problem . . . which doesn't mean it can't be useful in places where people are shooting each other at a ridiculous rate.

Unfortunately, guns have become fetishized, not just by the far right, but also the far left. They have become symbols far beyond their practical measure, both to those who want them and those who would rid the world of them. In the end, guns are just another silly obsession that distracts us from what is really going on.

January 1, 2010

Aughts Down

I suppose it's all a matter of perspective, but this decade's gone & I'm cryin' no tears.

There were high points for sure, the highest being on Leap Day 2004, when me & my baby got hitched in a bar here in Louisville. Lots of my brothers and sisters got hitched too, so there was a lot of good family times, as well as a lot of great new people coming into our already huge family. And, let's see . . . I was in not one, but two very good bands early in the aughts, and . . . well, I'm not coming up with a lot.

On the downside . . . yeah, I'm not getting into that. It's pretty all over everywhere right now. If the narcissistic '90's were a remix of the solipsistic '70's, then the chickens of the '80's clearly came home to roost in the '00's.

Ten years ago this time, I was chillin' with a cocktail over on Adams Street, trying to decide if I was going to go over to Elijah Pritchett's house on Texas and kick off his mains at midnight. Elijah, see, was one of the more hardcore Y2K doomsayers I knew personally: so much so, in fact, that I decided to pass 'cause it might have been too much for him. Instead, I ended up over on Rufer Avenue blowing in the new century with the posse and a bunch of horns out on the front lawn. Tonight? As I type this, I'm cranking These Immortal Souls' I'm Never Going to Die Again in honor of Rowland S. Howard who did, unfortunately, die again just yesterday. I'll be wandering off to bed in an hour or so, and as this diatribe auto-posts at 12:01 in the new decade, I will be snoozing away peacefully in my bed.

Fuck it. Happy New Year. Death to history. Louisville peeps, hope to see y'all out & about this weekend. If not, soon.