Thursday, August 17, 2017

Scattered thoughts about Trump's incompetency and the tragedy in Charlottesville.

If there's one thing, perhaps ONLY one thing Americans can agree about when it comes to Donald Trump it's this: he is a polarizing individual. Not so much in the typical "you either love the guy or you hate him", although this is not far from the truth. With Trump the polarization is 100% divisiveness. Not exactly a desirable character trait for anyone holding the office of the Presidency but he's done little if anything to alter the situation. In fact he seems to revel in stereotyping his constituency and breaking them into two basic groups. Up until a few years ago Trump threw his hat in with the liberals he despises today but now "he's on the other team", dug in and "fighting the good fight" for the conservatives. The second group, though I'll refer to them as liberals, are not progressives with a Utopian agenda so much as they are simply people who oppose Donald Trump (and/or his policies). Most of them ARE actual liberals but ideology is not the point with our president. As we've seen he will crucify high ranking members of his own party for the simple sin of disagreeing with him. So we need to be honest from the start. He's gleefully playing a game of Us and Them and he's the King of "Us". America being an entertainment-addicted society has been more than happy to play along. But now...Charlottesville. As a polarizing, divisive man Donald Trump could have channeled his gift into a plea for social and racial harmony, after all he did say he wanted to represent all races when he was campaigning (remember the condescension of "What have you got to lose?"). Of course he said a lot of things when he was trying to secure the vote, that's another gripe (of many). Right now, with wounds still fresh and too many still sitting on the fence, I think there are a couple of important points that should be made (not that I'll be able to succinctly elucidate them but I can't just sit back and not say anything about this...I'd like to think everyone feels that way).

On Friday night we all saw a group of assorted hate organizations band together under the "alt-right" umbrella, take to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia sporting Nazi flags, raising up their left hand in the traditional Ku Klux Klan salute, carrying tiki torches (since burning crosses would have been too obvious, nevertheless quite reminiscent of KKK rallies held outdoors in the evening) and spouting mantras lifted straight from Mein Kempf (the sentiment if not the actual words, although "Blood and Soil" was a popular slogan often employed by Nazis so the reference is not lost to me).

Okay, that's Friday night. No violence but's my opinion that any reasonable, intelligent president would have gotten in front of this thing as soon as possible. Trump should have said something that very night condemning that "collection of clowns" (to use White House chief strategist and World of Warcraft enthusiast Steve Bannon's words). I don't see any logical excuse for why he didn't but I'm guessing he thought it was a First Amendment issue, that these alt-right troll-powered dissenters were entitled to the exercise of free speech. After all, they had a permit, right? It's not against the law to belong to an extremist group even if said group, at their core, celebrate hatred and the death of Jews and African Americans (among others).

They had a permit and anyone with half a brain knew they were testing the President to see if he was really on their side, or if that's too much to expect, to see how far they could take it while still remaining within the boundaries of the law (we're still talking about Friday here...obviously they weren't able to restrain themselves...nothing in the world a skinhead loves more than a fight, they were probably overjoyed when counter-protesters, including members of ANTIFA showed up [the anagram stands for "anti-facism"...the main difference setting them apart from peaceful protesters is sort of like the difference between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X].

But I digress. My point was that Trump, if he really cared about the American people and if he wasn't concerned with what his alt-right cronies might think, should have, in the words of Deputy Barney Fife, "nipped it in the bud". He did not. It wasn't a requirement so it's doubtful any message was sent by his inaction, other than the one the alt-right Hitler youth divined from his silence.

Before I continue...though I originally had wanted to write about these events outside of the political spectrum, insomuch as that can actually be done, I made the mistake of starting off with a comment about Trump. Sorry about that but I don't think it could have been helped. Like every other issue unfortunate enough to get tangled up in his weird spin machine  this one has become "about Trump". Conservative skillet-head Allen B. West wrote that "liberals blame Trump for Charlottesville" but nothing could be further from the truth. "Liberals" (and anyone else who was paying attention) didn't start piling onto Trump until it became evident he was in no hurry to make a public statement. It was his tardiness, the limp and ineffectual content of  his original statement made TWO DAYS LATER and the perception that such sloth and relative indifference could only embolden the hate groups that turned him into a pariah of this issue. Deservedly so, in my opinion.

A half-assed press release followed, as we all know, in which some White House intern was paid to speak for the president (joking, it probably wasn't an intern but the point is IT WASN'T THE PRESIDENT so strike two). And then soon enough Trump realizes he has to try and appease the people in his base who don't sport Swastika tattoos. And he spits out the typical mumbo-jumbo, not exactly sounding sincere but he never does so I don't hold that against him. "We condemn hatred of all kinds, including this that and the other", you know, all headline, no article. But then he did something so typical and yet I'm still scratching my head asking, "What in the world?" But I have a pretty good idea and it all comes back to what I originally said in reference to his divisiveness.

As far as I can tell Donald Trump made up a new label. He found a way to turn what should be a battle between the better angels of our nature against forces of hatred and death...into a battle between liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, Patriots and Traitors, the alt-right it comes, don't miss it..."the alt-left". It's binary with him, either/or, if you don't think so you haven't really been watching.

So if the alt-right is a collection of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, racist agitators (and a few "really good people") then what does the newly christened alt-left stand for? Or maybe the better question is "what does the alt-left stand AGAINST?"  I've read Trump supporters insist that ANTIFA were the yin to the alt-right's yang...folks, that's bullshit. ANTIFA is the yen to FACISMS yang, I don't support their tactics but they had every right to be there because if this fubar party wasn't the very definition of fascist consolidation then I don't know what is. Trump talks tough but he doesn't have the spine to stand up to bigotry and insidious hate even were it to come knocking on Halloween all decked out in silly costumes (well, it wasn't October 31st, the costumes did tend to stick out like a sore thumb). Trump assigns blame to neo-Nazis/white supremacists/etc. for a spectacle that cost three people their lives...with one caveat: blame must also be equally assigned to the people who were there fighting Nazis. You know, kinda like your grandfather or great grandfather did in World War 2.

Okay, will probably stray off topic again but there are a couple more things before I sign off.

Have you noticed that practically no one on facebook has the ability to argue a point in comments without turning the conversation into a flame war/insult fest? 1st dude: "First amendment freedom of speech violated by Spotify removing albums by white supremacist bands". 2nd dude: "First amendment doesn't apply to commercial entities, what the hell is wrong with you? Go dust off your copy of the Constitution and get back with me after you've comprehended it." 1st dude: "Up yours, 2nd dude, I went to Hollywood University of Constitution study, I know that like the back of my hand. I think  you're the one who needs to go to the library." 2nd dude: "I live in a (expletive deleted) library, what do you mean? You obviously don't understand what makes businesses exempt, they can do what they want." 1st dude: "Hey, don't get me wrong. I'm a Bernie supporter so I know the constitution in seven different languages." 2nd dude: "You ain't no Bernie Sanders supporter! Quitcha lyin'! You probably voted for Hillary." 1st dude: "That goes to show what you know...I voted for Trump."......okay, you get my point. It's one of facebook's flaws in that even though it allows you to express yourself personally it also tends to facilitate division and provides a platform upon which silly wars are fought. It's ridiculous, you know it and I know it.

On one level I know that facebook is a place where you can cherry pick characteristics of your own personality and present them to the world (or at least to the middlin' number of friends who actually read your posts). I find it quite nice to know that everyone who has ever read my posts eventually is exposed to the ethereal music of Sigur Ros. Not quite so musical is the chainsaw snoring my wife knows so well. That awesome Mexican restaurant's food was so good I had to take a snapshot and post it to my timeline. I will not, however, be searching for my camera as I prepare the hearty bowl of Ramen noodles I'll be feasting on for lunch today. My dog's real cute, isn't he? You should see him when he's laying down turds in my neighbor's yard. Hopefully that point has been made...

But some people show their true colors on facebook. People I thought I knew have posted stuff that I (or any other person with a sense of decorum) believed crossed the line in many different areas. I try to look at those posts with a proper perspective and the majority get off with a warning (read: an imaginary conversation with that person in which I say "if you do that again I will have to warn you once more."). But I have lost a couple of friends who apparently thought I crossed their own red lines. And I have "un-friended" a couple of people, begrudgingly mind you, for what I perceived to be if not radical views then troubling trends. One of those people might be surprised to know that I still look at his profile practically daily, that many times I've wished to express an opinion and discuss a topic reasonably but refuse to enter back into the republican/Trumpian/evangelical echo chamber his timeline has become.

So take that as you will, I realize I've resorted to a sort of meandering stream-of-consciousness personal whatever you want to call it. This is why I'm no writer. If I could only master the outline, but no, I'm too lazy and distracted. What do the last few paragraphs have to do with Trump? I don't know, probably nothing. Perhaps I could make a case that Donald Trump is without a doubt THE social media president. He's allowed himself the luxury of limiting his primary communication with the country he supposedly "serves" to 140 character tweets. The kind of dissension he foments plays really well on facebook and there are more than enough disenfranchised voters in his base to make a helluva splash.

What I wish for the most in this country is for people to stop seeing each other as enemies simply because we don't agree about the issues, regardless of how important they are or how passionate we feel for them. Went to the grocery store yesterday and some older guy bagging items was on a roll, "blabbedy blabbedy blab, next thing you know you'll get sued for looking at someone the wrong way. This liberal society has gone crazy." Come on, man. There has never been a time in my life (or probably his either) when society HASN'T been "going crazy", why you wanna drag the liberals into it? I don't get out enough to know if that kind of shit talk is fashionable in these parts, I have to just hope there's some balance in this small town. You may hear me talk that particular stripe of talk about Donald Trump but you'll not hear me say anything hateful to or about his supporters (talking about real people now, not names and pictures on a computer/phone screen).

If anyone has read this far you deserve a medal...but seriously, if you made it down this far I appreciate you letting me whine on your bandwidth. As always I am eager to discuss anything, everything and nothing I've said here. I'm against Trump and have been since long before he became a candidate but I will not judge you or even deride the President when speaking to you about him. If that goes against your perception of what a liberal is then I apologize and would like to think that other liberals would do so as well. Then again, human nature being what it is you're going to find radicals and extremists on both sides. Besides I only call myself a liberal because in this binary world of political affiliations I can't bring myself to embrace the conservative mindset. I don't completely embrace the liberal mindset but am more aligned to the left than to the right.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Son of God" - to go or not to go

You know, I don't know why but I seem to be a little put off by the prospect of watching the new movie "Son of God". And I'm not sure I know the exact reason why. Sure, there was no way I was going to catch it during the initial release when I knew the parking lot would be filled with church busses transporting who-knows-how-many devoted followers eager to hear/see the story told yet again through the lens of a different director/producer/et. al. Not that I have a problem with most devotees so much as I hate a crowded theater. Even if I were the only one there, the fact of the matter is that it IS a theater.

Theaters are where I go to be entertained. Of course there are numerous moral lessons to be gleaned from practically any movie. It's the nature of the "story" to have moral to it. But the gospel isn't something you go to for entertainment. In the grand sense it IS a "story", but should it be presented as that and nothing more? And if it IS presented as "something more", is the theater the place to do it?

I remember when "The Passion of the Christ" was in theaters. Even the most god-hating atheist would have to admit that it's an incredibly powerful film. It's too visceral and evokes sympathy, you cannot remain unmoved. In my work at the time I had occasion to see it not once, but twice. The second time I had a completely different reaction. It was like watching a collaboration between George Romero, Quentin Tarrantino and Ron Howard. All I could think was "what am I doing watching this level of violence in a theater? What am I getting from it? Is it packing a more brutal punch than it would had I only read about it?" And the biggest question of all, "what's the point?" Indeed, what's the point.

Evangelism? Okay, fine. It's certainly not the medium I would use, but I'm not out there waving bibles so I don't know. It would, however, explain why there are so many Christians in the USA who think Jesus looks like Jim Cavaziel. (that's a joke). If someone had come up to me after I'd seen "The Passion" and tried to use the movie as a springboard for whatever message they were selling I would brush them off with contempt. Who are you to exploit my emotions and assume you have all the answers to any questions I might have had about what I've just seen in the film? Surely a Cinema Center conversion must be difficult to maintain.

Viewing "The Passion" twice made me consider the reasons I wanted to watch it in the first place. "It's so historically accurate", they say, "the actors even speak in Arabic!". That's nice and intersting, but I don't think it would make me want to buy a ticket. "Oh, but the acting is first rate, and the cinematography so realistic!" Ah, yes, but that should be the state of any good movie. "It sticks pretty close to the actual biblical account!" I guess that seperates it from "Jesus Christ Superstar", but I'll bet there are no rock songs... "But..." and? "But"...and? "But.............

"But it has the most REALISTIC DEPICTION OF JESUS' SUFFERINGS AND CRUCIFIXION"........okay, now I'm intrigued. Now I'm in line at the box office. No, I'm not a sucker for gratuitous violence. I've seen my share of blood in the movies. Somehow it's different when the subject matter is so controversial. As much as I want to deny it, I sat in that theater because I wanted to cringe when the whip tore the flesh. I wanted to jump when the first nail was driven into his hand. I wanted to cover my eyes when the Roman soldier thrust the spear into his side. But most of all I wanted to walk out of those theater doors and be able to join the chorus, "Man, that was the most realistic depiction of the crucifixion I've ever seen!" And I KNOW I'm not the only one. I may be one of the few who will ADMIT it, but I would bet there are many, many, many whose primary reason for watching it was to see a man get flogged, beaten and nailed to a cross...not unlike the people who lined the road to Calvary back when it was all going down.

Then again I expect the sadistic element in "Son of God" will be played down if for no other reason than because of time restrictions. Not saying it will be less powerful or gruesome. But the effect of maybe a ten or twenty minutes given to the Stations of the Cross will surely be less of a blow to the senses than Mel Gibson's two hour marathon.

I don't need to see the crucifixion. I don't want to see it. There's nothing they could present, with all their CGI and method acting degrees that could make it appear any more graphic and upsetting as it already does in my mind. I don't want to see Jesus walking on the water because it will look like a really unconvincing magic trick next to the incredible vision that's in my mind. Speaking of magic tricks, how are you going to make the feeding of the 5,000 look like anything more than a parlour stunt on film? And yet for me it is one of the most amazing miracles. In my imagination I can almost see Jesus gathering those fishes and loaves as they seem to manifest from another dimension.

Any movie about God...any movie about going to be a letdown. It's going to be a waste of money. Like watching Justin Bieber in the lead role of a John Lennon biopic. Like One Direction headlining a Joy Division tribute show. Like Honey BooBoo on the Board of Education. It's not going to tell you anything you didn't already know. It's not going to provide any context with which you can formulate your own understanding of the material.

So I have to face it. As far as I'm concerned it's a fact. "Son of God" is entertainment. Plain and simple. As such it cheapens the original, which I think we can all agree was not written for such meager purpose. I think that's the core of why I'm not so psyched to watch it. I'm not saying I WON'T eventually go. Who knows, I might go see it tomorrow night in lieu of church services. Which is a funny joke, at least I think so, until you realize that there are probably thousands of people who actually did just that last week.

By now the crowds have dwindled down, who knows but I might get bored between now and "Son of God" closes.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Radiohead + Sigur Ros @ Goffert Park, Nijmegen


This is a review written in 2000 about the legendary Sigur Ros/Radiohead double bill.

Live Reviews

Radiohead + Sigur Ros @ Goffert Park, Nijmegen

22 September 2000

by Andrew Pycroft | 22 September 2000

When I heard that Radiohead had announced a European tour, I bought tickets straight away over the internet and then the day after they announced some UK dates! Annoying at the time yes, but having now been to Holland and seen the show I am glad I made the extra effort. Also I am extremely glad I don’t live in America after the queues and the $2,500 tickets.

At Goffert Park, Nijmegen, support was from Sigur Ros, a very strange but beautiful band. The lead guitarist uses a violin bow to create fantastic sounds from his guitar. I had brought the album before going and knew that they were going to be good although I wasn’t sure how a Radiohead audience would take to them. They didn’t do themselves any favours by only playing only one song from the new album and by making all the songs merge into one, but the audience did seem impressed by the sound coming from the bow and guitar method.

Sigur Ros left the stage to a smattering of applause; then we had the torment of the crew setting up for our headliners which seemed to take forever! Eventually on came Radiohead to rapturous applause and cheering. They started with the almighty The National Anthem, the bass line almost bringing the big top down. Paranoid Android, however, was definitely the highlight of the show. Simply fantastic – when the big guitars came out the whole tent lit up with tube lights running up to the top of the big top! This was always my favorite song but seeing it played live was even better!

How to Disappear Completely sounded really fantastic too. And when I thought it couldn’t get any better along came Idioteque – my favorite new song. Having heard the album version of this song I wasn’t sure it would come across live – but it was even better with Phil drumming and Johnny providing extra beats and Thom dancing around like a crazy fool…

The last song before they left the stage the first time was Everything In Its Right Place, another highlight which witnessed Thom leaving the stage while his voice still reverbrated around the tent. The rest of the band then left the stage one by one with Johnny leaving last as he was still playing with Thom’s voice. The crowd knew they would come back on at least once so we didn’t have to cheer to loud to persuade them.

When they came back on to great applause they played Airbag and it was a truly brilliant version which showed even though the new record is more ambient Radiohead still rock. After the song was finished Thom said “We can’t top that – as much as we try we can’t top that”. The second encore track was I Might Be Wrong, a new song which is very good and should definitely be released on an EP or the fifth album. They then left the stage again and this time we didn’t know if they would come back so we cheered very loudly.

When they came back for the second encore, Thom’s keyboard was brought to the front of the stage while Johnny programmed his to harp. They then played a version of Motion Picture Soundtrack. After the song Thom wasn’t happy with the harp so he went over and seemed to be showing Johnny how to play it properly (even though Johnny wrote the harp part…). The last song of the night was Karma Police and they had every person in the tent singing “this is what you get” back to them!

This gig was fabulous. I had been waiting for three years to see them live and after seeing them I can tell you the wait was worth it. I am a diehard Radiohead fan but I can’t see why anyone would not love this show. I love the new album but I also think that it comes across better live – even Idioteque, which you would imagine would be difficult in such a circumstance. Next time they tour, if you get the chance go and see them. It is well worth it.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Here’s a Phish video for you

While I figure out how to work with this Windows Live Writer I figure I’ll post this Phish video. Only recently becoming enamored with Phish, though I have tried for a long time.

Big changes for this blog, seeing as how I”ve more or less abandoned it. This could be a huge train wreck but I don’t really care anymore. From now on I’m going to be using the Windows Live BlogThis tool to post crap here. I don’t even know exactly how it works yet but regardless, this is how it’s going to be done IF it’s going to be done.


All of this has been made possible by Spotify’s crashing constantly and my trying to get it back up and running. In the course of my as yet futile attempts I have decided to lay low and do what this computer tells me to before reinstalling after a total system recovery. That means I’m going to use Internet Explorer for the first time in years. We’ll see how this works, but I’m surprised to note a couple of features I’ve wished Chrome would implement which are already available here. It all comes down to speed. I’ve been very patient in the past and if being overly cautious about my Spotify means doing it again with IE then that’s what I’m going to do.


So here we go…a new journey…

(I blogged this from the MSN homepage, hence the title and link.