Friday, September 30, 2005

William Bennett inspired me to come up with a wild idea.

Y’know, I just realized that, if we just aborted every single Republican family’s baby, the environment would improve, jobs would stop leaving the country, schools would have more resources to provide a quality education, everyone could afford medical care whenever they needed it, and we wouldn’t be getting shot at in the middle of some other nation that we had no business invading in the first place. And that would just be the tip of the iceberg. Oh, and thanks to the improved quality of life, the crime rate would probably go down as well.

But of, course, snicker snicker snuckle, that would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do. But I just thought I’d throw it out there nonetheless. Uh, yuh, that’s all I’m doing. Just showing you how ridiculous it would be. Yeahrite.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Phil Ochs- There But For Fortune (1989)

Some time ago, in a land not far from where Dubya was schtupping college co-eds and pretending to be serving in the Army National Special Air Reserve something-or-other, there were a class of troubadours with a goal to influence the national psyche through an acoustic guitar and a loud and angry voice. These tunemongering rabble rousers eventually earned the label from various sources of illiterati of the time as Freedom Singers. Such luminaries of the modern folk genre as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger brought in and after the Depression era this musical movement, seen as noble by some and dubious by others, into mainstream America’s ears and concert halls. It helped line the wallets of Bobby Dylan and Joan Baez. And it produced a frontlining Hellraiser with probably the most impressive street cred of the 1960's protest folkies, one Phil Ochs.

There But For Fortune is a choice assortment of selections from Ochs' early work on the Elektra label. When I first spied the track listing for this in the record store, it appeared as only half done as far as collections go. I presumed that any purported Ochs anthology would include later classics such as "Outside Of A Small Circle Of Friends" and "Chords Of Fame". But those were done in his later stint with A&M. Elektra after all, released this. Besides, the slice of time captured on this anthology shines the brightest light possible on Phil Ochs as the textbook example of the American Protest Singer.

Ochs may strike many novice listeners as just another public radio darling of the gourmet beer sipping Trader Joe's crowd. For one thing, occasionally he broke into that smooth yet stilted "I am self-righteous and you know I am right" tone of voice. Sort of like a politically charged Jonathan Richman with a snootier tone mixed in there somewhere. But once you tell your conditioned dismissal defenses to just shut the fuck up for a minute, Ochs' incredible ability to push the message and tell the story through the music registers loud and clear.

Even though songs like "Draft Dodger Rag" and "Here's To The State Of Mississippi" are now coated in the dust of history, they give an unwavering editorial on the State Of The Nation, circa 1965. And there are so many tunes pulled for this collection alone that will withstand the test of time. "What's That I Hear", "One More Parade" and "Is There Anybody Here" are filled with a compelling mix of cynicism and discontent. And yet by their relative negative tone they are crafted to instill hope in the targeted listener. Word for word I would dare to opine that they equal or even surpass the meaning and significance of much of the collected works of the artist formerly known as Zimmerman.

Maybe something that kept Ochs from the level of superfolkie status enjoyed by many of his peers of the era was the fact that his general appearance and demeanor seemed a bit too goshdarn cleancut. Sure, he could drink Dean Martin under the table, but alcohol has always been accepted by the status quo of Establishment America. But really, there was not a shred of latent hippie-dippiness in the guy. He was someone you could just as easily picture in the booth of a truckstop as strumming tunes on a bench in People's Park. Too "male" to some, not rock n'rolled out enough to others.

I only wish that he'd decided to live past '76. Who knows what kind of response we'd get from, "So Phil... heard these Sex Pistols yet? Whaddya think? Wild shit eh?" We need an equal to Ochs today, now more than ever. But if one did step up, for starters, he or she would never get a major label deal. So, the next Ochs would have to have enough shit together to put out self-produced and self-marketed releases. But then, some self-righteous hacks would just shoot it down. They'd ignore the lyrical content altogether and whine and wring their hands over the lack of instrumental ability and use lazy, unjust labels like "sloppy" and "boring". Hmmm, in the closest comparison, I think that there’s a young lady from Buffalo carrying that cross nowadays, but the name escapes me…

Saturday, September 03, 2005

In a nutshell, here’s the basic breakdown of the overall descriptive representation of the victims of Hurricane Katrina,
as described by Establishment Television News:

WHITE PEOPLE: escapees, survivors, casualties, adapting, finding food for survival, triumphant and resilient victims.

BLACK PEOPLE: refugees, killers, rapists, thugs, looting, stealing food for survival, pathetic and helpless victims.

Yes, I do think that is a fucked up thing. No, you’re not being overly judgmental, that WAS how the shit was being
played out.

When Kanye West broke away from the teleprompter during NBC’s “A Concert for Hurricane Relief,” and started to tell the nation what he REALLY thought about the situation down in the Gulf Coast, he was just saying what too many of us were thinking of at home. "I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family, it says they're looting. See a white family, it says they're looking for food." Yup. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Here’s the (mostly) black people of the New Orleans Superdome slowly starving and thirsting to death, wondering what the HELL happened to the evacuation that was promised, among dead bodies and the stench of backed up toilets, and then let’s cut to Mississippi, where the (just about all) white folks are mugging their somehow freshly scrubbed faces for the camera as they push their fully loaded carts out of fuckin’ Lowe’s Hardware declaring, “yeah, wanna tell my kinfolks in (insert name of quaint lil’ mostly Caucasian town here) that we all right, everybody’s ooookay.” Cut to New Orleans cops grabbing their fellow ethnic minority citizens by the collar, making them dump their pile of freshly acquired goods, and then tossing them into the toxic lake of floodwaters in the street. Then let’s segue to yet another town and talk to some clean cut ol’ WASP gent warmly cooing over “Big Bertha”, or whatever he called the shotgun in his hand, and telling anecdotes suggesting to the effect that “she” makes him feel safe from “certain o’them kinds of people.”

Then we have fuckin’ Dubya (who took two whopping days off his vacation time just to get his ass in gear and get down to the disaster site) eventually showing up and bellying up for the prime photo op. Oh, look at our POTUS warmly embracing not one, but TWO African-American ladies! Hear him as he gently gives them fatherly kissies on the forehead. Then he hops over to New Orleans and takes a quick looksee at the “progress” on the levee repairs, then makes some feel-good rhetorical observations from the portable Presidential press podium at the airport before getting the Hell out of there.

In the coming months, we’ll be hearing and seeing the spotlight on the “heroes” who stepped up to the challenge of rescuing and aiding all of these poor people, many of whom lost everything, and realistically, Mother Nature tends not to discriminate with anyone in her path. But I put forth the sentiment that the REAL heroes are the thousands who lawfully and peacefully showed up at the locations where they were instructed to go, only to be left on the shelf for days at a time, and yet somehow staying alive until Uncle Sam finally got his shit together and shifted the aid machine into gear.

To add a fitting final note to my rant, I leave you with this brief snippet from a story by Mary Foster of the Associated Press re: the final evacuation from the Superdome:

"At one point Friday, the evacuation was interrupted briefly when school buses pulled up so some 700 guests and employees from the (nearby Hyatt Regency) hotel could move to the head of the evacuation line — much to the amazement of those who had been crammed in the Superdome since last Sunday."

Gee! What do you suppose was the ethnic profile of most of THOSE folks, eh?

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