I finally got the new Merle Haggard album, I Am What I Am. Amazon has it for $5, and it's worth a whole lot more. I love it. The Bakersfield Sound lives on.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Here is an interesting quote from Sir Elton John delivered on-stage at a show in Arizona:
"I have read that some of the artists won't come here. They are fuckwits! Let's face it: I still play in California, and as a gay man I have no legal rights whatsoever. So what the fuck is with these people?"
There is a debate to be had about the efficacy of the boycott; ultimately, such a boycott hurts local promoters, venues, and vendors, and by turn, the music industry and local economy in Arizona, which is obviously not responsible for the law in question (there is a similar debate about the BP boycott hurting individual gas station owners who have no agency in the safety schema the corporation chooses to employ). However, name-calling artists who, out of moral conscience, choose not to play in Arizona is hardly useful to this debate.
Further, Elton John's rhetoric is a little intense here; true, Proposition 8 was a huge disappointment to progressives in California and beyond, but the statement that gays have no legal rights in California is a bit over the top. Unlike many states, we do have domestic partnerships and protections for LGBT people in the workplace; while California is not an equality utopia in any sense, this hardly constitutes having "no legal rights whatsoever".
The comparative logic is also flawed. While marriage equality is an important cornerstone of civil rights for all people, not being detained, questioned, and hassled because of the color of one's skin is absolutely necessary in a free society. As far as I know, the Redlands Police can't legally detain me if I'm walking down the street holding hands with another dude.
As I said, there is a debate to be had about who the boycott actually hurts, but slinging mud and name-calling is a pretty juvenile response, especially when one is working with a fairly flawed premise. Even if one doesn't agree with the boycott, or won't participate in it, it is good to remember that in most cases, the impetus to boycott Arizona in light of this stupendously misguided legislation comes from a morally reasoned and responsible place.
The struggle for civil rights for all segments of society would be much easier if we all started playing team ball a little more.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Is Bruce Bickford even human? I’ve seen pictures of the guy and he appears to be of my species, but what Earth-bound mind could possibly conceive of the monstrosities born of his work? Between his hands and a ton of clay lies a magical, undulating world of Bickford’s unique vision that is, at once, violent and sexual, disturbing and beautiful, and always complete genius.
Bickford’s public body of work is unfortunately slim, but by no means does this indicate a stagnant artist. Instead, the detail needed to create these figures and landscapes demands extreme labor and patience. Eighteen years of that patience resulted in the astounding CAS’L’, forty-five minutes of contained insanity and animated wonder. While Bickford’s style hasn’t changed much since his word first appeared to a relatively mainstream public in the Frank Zappa film, Baby Snakes, the scope of CAS’L’ is far more broad and fully realized than anything he has ever created.
Trying to glean a plot from CAS’L’ is a fool’s game, one that I won’t pretend to play. Bickford works off of themes and blunt-force imagery, not story. CAS’L’ moves like a river as clay overtakes clay in waves on mayhem, rising up to consume what came before and waiting to die by the grostesquery that follows. The style lends an impression of stream-of-consciousness while being anything but spontaneous. Bickford’s clay animation is as deliberate as you’ll find; it had better be because once a figure is gone, it’s destroyed forever.
Bickford’s morphing, bleeding style isn’t some gimmick he uses to overshadow second-rate work; he has it down to a science. It’s often said that, in art, it’s important to have a broad enough perspective to kill your babies. On that level, Bickford is a serial murderer. Committing gleeful infanticide with every meticulously constructed frame, his figures are born and eat, then killed and eaten to make way for a rebirth in a different, equally hungry form. Giant nude women wielding swords yield to tiny versions of themselves, who are then smashed into hamburger (or, more accurately, a hamburger) to be eaten by a living human and have their insides poured onto the landscape to recollect as a group of gun-toting Sandinistas built to wreak even worse havoc on the next generation.
We get four loose slices of this world that have only a tenuous connection to one another. The interpretation of each scenario is certainly up for debate, but themes of war and consumption are ever-present. Whether you’re watching a rendition of the Globe Theater or perusing the outskirts of the “Crum’L’ Brand Criminal Cigarette” factory, you can be guaranteed of three things: swords, blood, and clay devouring clay. Everything moves in and out of each other; it’s an awe-striking thing to behold. Colorful and creative on one hand a virtuosic level of detail on the other, CAS’L’ is a nearly perfect balance between the aesthetic and the technical.
Great as Bickford’s images are, CAS’L’ is silent on its own and would be slow to watch, let alone to market, without a top-notch soundtrack. In 1979, that was provided by Zappa. Today, that duty falls to Greg McClellan, who edited the film in addition to writing the music, playing bass and keyboards, performing the sound effects, and appearing in the film as “Giant with Swords.” Fairly, McClellan is no Zappa (who ever has been?), but that doesn’t change his impact on the film. Along with Bill Barkley on guitars and Daren Pullen on drums and percussion, McClellan provides a Carl Stalling-esque mash-up of styles, from flamenco to jazz to metal and just about anything in between. The seconds-long snippets of music remind me of Mike Patton’s Fantomas or John Zorn’s Naked City projects (comparisons that couldn’t be more complimentary), and add levels of humor and irony that do nothing but enhance the often nasty, always hilarious effect of the film.
I loved CAS’L’ from top to bottom and start to finish. I can’t say I understand every little thing about it, but I don’t want to. CAS’L’ is an aesthetic feast, a film that should be seen by far more than ever will. No matter how many eventually witness Bickford’s greatness, art like this is two decades well spent.
So it's come to this...using my real name on a blog. In trying to get more independent work, it is a confusion to want my real name credited on a DVD, but have the post authored by Lyrad Simool. It happened once before early on, for my review of Deepa Mehta's Water, and it has irritated me since the day it posted. Who knows if this Daryl guy will actually blog more, but that's in the future.
For now, Lyrad Simool, c'est mort...vive Daryl Loomis!
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Between driving across the country, attending weddings in random cities, preparing to move to Ohio, and working on my book proposal, I haven't had time to blog lately. But I do want to point you all to one piece I found the time to write.
I am very interested in the state of activism in America. I have a general thesis that the biggest problem with progressive activism is the lack of an ideological framework in a post-socialist world that can help us fight the extremist ideology of right-wing capitalism. I have been writing at Global Comment for some time and my next several articles, probably coming out every other weekend, will be focused on this issue. Here's the first, discussing what I call the "architecture of activism" and how it is very difficult to build a broad-based movement in an individualistic and niche based world. Here's a piece:
These and all movements had what I call an “architecture of activism.” In brief, this is a shared set of symbols, heroes, songs, and other cultural reference points that provide an umbrella of common understanding necessary for organizing. For example, statues of Vladimir Lenin in the Soviet Union spoke to devoted communists around the world in specific ways that helped shape their ideology and activism. Each line in his face conveyed meanings to devotees. All movements, regardless of size, have an architecture that binds members together in solidarity. Political movements certainly have this, but so do, for instance, hipsters or underground rock scenes.
Freedom songs such as “We Shall Overcome” provided an architecture for the civil rights movement. These songs brought people together. Old and young, radical and conservative, black and white, civil rights workers united around these songs. They provided sustenance during beatings and while in jail. The songs, the shared history of suffering, the past and present leaders, food, and music: all of this brought people together to provide them inspiration, guidance, and collective identity.
The broad architecture that sustained civil rights activism could not hold up by the late 1960s. As the civil rights movement splintered into ethnic nationalism, feminism of various shades, the antiwar movement, and other social movements, each acquired their own cultural symbols. But these radical movements still shared much even if they didn’t often work together. Che Guevara and the doctrine of world revolution provided an ideological framework for many of these groups. Malcolm X gave them a hero and a path to accomplish their goals. Rock and roll, marijuana, and LSD gave these increasingly youth-dominated movements common cultural touchstones.
At the same time, youth culture began eroding the architecture that allowed for broad-based, multi-generational movements such as the early civil rights movement and the labor movement of the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries. The rebellion of the Baby Boomers rejected the ideas and forms of their elders as out of date. Creating a culture defined as oppositional prioritized exclusivity. Organizing communities split by age. Boomers also had massive consumer power. Hippies began their own businesses to sell age and culturally-specific products to each other.
Read the whole thing and such.
Posted by Erik Loomis at 3:34 PM
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
From the LA Times:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't exactly the most-liked man in Sacramento.The governor is now just as unpopular as Gray Davis was when Californian voters recalled him and crowned Schwarzenegger.
This makes me happy; I lived in California for the first time under the Davis administration, and despite the rolling blackouts / electricity crisis (which had more to do with the scumbags at Enron and the dysfunctional legislature than any administrative mishandling on part of the governor's office), he was a pretty good governor. Schwarzenegger rode into office on a wave of misinformed ire leveled at Gray Davis and a lot of celebrity power. With an approval rate of 22%, the experiment of electing a man who made two terrible movies with Danny DeVito (seriously?) seems to be a failure.
Anti-incumbency is all the rage right now, which seems to be fueling a lot of this, and in fairness, Schwarzenegger shouldn't shoulder all the blame (or even most of it, really) for the state of the state. Until we scrap things like Prop 13 and the 2/3 majority needed to raise taxes, well... I can't imagine a job I'd want less than governor of California. At the end of the day, the buck stops at the top, and the Schwarzenegger story seems to be coming to a rather weak final act.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
Friday, July 09, 2010
It really tears me up inside to see the Yankees crying about being "used" by the Mariners in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes. Really fucking tears me up. And every time Justin Smoak homers, I'll feel even worse.
Posted by Erik Loomis at 8:15 PM
Thursday, July 08, 2010
I swore I wasn't going to feed this anymore. I figured the media had driven it to absurdity months ago; I didn't need to contribute. But there's one thing I have up on almost all of the media, sports journalists, etc. I'm from Akron. And this hurts Ohioans. A lot. Sports fans are by definition emotionally invested in their teams, and this was a particularly high (and, while it lasted) great investment for Cleveland-area fans. To be spurned by the hometown hero, after all his alleged and professed love for his hometown not only feels like being rejected, but also being lied to. In short - it's really one of the cliched perfect storms for heartbreak.
Posted by Mr. Trend at 8:44 PM
Jamelle Bouie slams on this utterly insipid Howard Fineman column.
Fineman is trying to figure out why Obama is doing things. He just can't understand why he would try to reform so much so fast. Why would he take on health care and the economy and Afghanistan and arms treaties and immigration and energy? Of course the real question from Fineman or David Brooks or David Broder is always, "Why would a president move on anything without consensus from the pundit class?"
Fineman surmises that Obama is primarily concerned with his place in history. While there's probably a smidgen of truth in this, Fineman completely misses the real reason why Obama is doing so much:
Because this country was really fucked up after 8 years of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the gang.
Isn't that why Obama was elected? I may disagree with the moderation of his changes and his ways of trying to get things done, but that he is trying to create change isn't because he wants to go down in history. It's because this country needs reform in just about every sector.
I realize that Fineman and others think politics is a big game. But I really don't think Obama thinks this way at all. He is trying to put the country back on the right track after it went really, really off the rails. Even if you hate Obama, isn't it blindingly obvious that he's acting because he thinks the country is screwed up?
The editor of the Eatonville (WA) Dispatch during the 1920s was great. Not only did he eulogize Warren Harding like one of our most incompetent presidents was Jesus Christ, but he was prone to saying other totally insane things as well.
He had an obession with Latin America for awhile. Nearly every week for about 6 months, he wrote that Mexican President Plutarco Elias Calles was a Bolshevik who threatened the United States.
Then there was his take on the Bolivian uprising of 1927:
The recent armed uprising of 80,000 Indians against the ruling caste of whites in Bolivia brings out the fact that about 70 per cent of Bolivia's population are descendants of the so-called Indians who inhabited South America when the Spanish conquerors came. If the Spanish had as effectively disposed of the native population as did whites in the present United States, there would not be 70 per cent of the Bolivian population descendants of the Indians [sic] alive today to make trouble for their white masters.
Ah, the 1920s. When newspaper editors could chastise other countries for not being racist enough!
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
It seems that changes to Social Security are coming, centered around raising the retirement age.
Progressives are very unhappy, but I actually can accept this. Franklin Roosevelt definitely did not design Social Security to give people a 30 year retirement. He meant it so that old people wouldn't die alone on the street, which was happening at shocking rates. I am glad that the system has worked so well that it has become a cherished institution. And I love that advances in health care have extended life for so long, at least if you are white and middle class. But I'm not sure that multi-decade retirements are something the government can pay for. Europe is facing the same problems. The recession has made all of this a lot worse, with rising deficits and an uncertain future.
But shouldn't people remain productive citizens for a little longer. The proposal may include a very slow rise in the retirement age to the age of 70. Given that people are living into the 80s or later with great commonality, this doesn't seem entirely unreasonable.
I think the greater problem is that it creates lower turnover in employment. Since we have exported our entire industrial base, we are already having a tremendous time finding work for people. I believe this will remain a problem and that long-term high unemployment is a real concern. I remain entirely unconvinced that an information economy can actually bring us anywhere near full employment. Longer working lives isn't going to help the employment situation, even as it dents the welfare state.
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
I spent today reading microfilmed copies of the fine newspaper, the Eatonville (WA) Dispatch.
As many historians will tell you, looking at microfilmed newspapers kind of sucks. I actually don't mind it all that much, but it is slow going when you are looking broadly for a variety of subjects.
On the other hand, you can find some pretty amazing things. For instance, the editor of the Dispatch really loved Warren Harding. I mean, who didn't, right? Oh yeah, maybe not. But here is his heartbroken cry when Harding died in 1923. From the August 10, 1923 issue:
The death of President Harding is a personal loss. He loved people. That is why he was loved. Even with the reams of 'copy' that have been written on him, one realizes the barrenness of adjectives to describe this man.
A person will follow the even tenor of his way until confronted by an emergency. It is then that the test comes. Warren G. Harding's elevation to the highest office in the gift of man brought out the where all could see the true character he possessed.
There was a beauty about his life which won every heart. In temperament, he was mild, conciliatory, and candid;* and yet remarkable for an uncompromising firmness.** His life was an open sesame to the hearts of others. *** He followed in the footsteps of his Master by letting the sunshine of human sympathy and happiness into the dark places of life.
It is impossible to think of him in death's cold shroud of sororw [sic] **** and despair, but rather smiling on us from the sunset halo that marks God's farewell to the day--smiling with all the well remembered grace of his manhood, love and devotion, and saying to us:
"The sunset speaks but feebly of the glories of another day. All is well."
*Improper semicolon use was off the charts in the Eatonville Dispatch.
** I heard Harding's many mistresses said similar things about his uncompromising firmness.
*** I hope someone says that my life was an open sesame to the hearts of others when I die. I have no idea what this means of course.
**** To say the least, editing was not the Dispatch's strong suit.
I'm still on John Kerry's e-mail list from 2004. I usually just delete the e-mails, but today I received one entitled "Vote for Youk." Knowing he was talking about Red Sox 1B Kevin Youkilis, who is one of 5 players on the ballot for the last AL All-Star spot, I thought I'd take a look.
Kevin Youkilis of the Red Sox is an All Star in anyone's book. He plays the game the way it's supposed to be played, he hustles, he has a great bat and a glove to match, and he brings with it the kind of intensity we respected for years in guys like Trot Nixon. Youk deserves to be in the All-Star game -- while the team has grinded it out in spite of injury after injury, he's been a rock. But now he needs to win a fan vote to make it to Anaheim next week.I've proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the New York Yankees are the Republican Party of baseball and are, along with the Republicans, one of the 2 most evil entities in the United States. But is there any question that the Red Sox are equivalent to the modern Democratic Party. They are very rich and privileged, but just not quite as rich as the Yankees. They benefit from free market baseball more than anyone than the Yankees, but like the Democratic Party, we are supposed to believe they are the team of the little guy.
The stakes are also just a little personal: in the fan voting, currently Nick Swisher of the Yankees is in first place. Swisher's having a fine year, but Youk is better in just about every category, batting average, slugging, homeruns, everything and he plays Gold Glove defense to boot. Please don't let anyone say that Swisher beat Youkilis because Sox fans have gone a little soft after '04 and '07. Let's show we're still the most ravenous fans in baseball.
Meanwhile, as the AL ballot battle is a popularity contest between Red Sock Youkilis and Yankee Nick Swisher, the real little guys, Michael Young of Texas, Paul Konerko of Chicago, and Delmon Young of Minnesota, are forgotten about by both parties.
Oh please, please, please, please, please!!!!
I actually think Rick Perry could win the Republican nomination. He moved far enough right to win the Republican nomination for governor, something that was in question for awhile. So he's probably not going to be out-righted in a national primary. He comes from Texas, which Teabaggers love. He's completely insane, which they also love. Of course, he has the hair. He has the ambition almost for sure. He might even be able to unite the Republican Party more or less.
Of course, he's almost completely unelectable. This would be the greatest campaign ever, maybe even better than Palin. A Perry-Palin ticket would be the greatest gift I've received since the Yankees traded Jay Buhner to the Mariners for Ken Phelps.
And I know I can't wait for Perry's forthcoming book, which I'm real sure he wrote himself!
I am writing a 2 part series placing the Tea Parties in historical perspective for Global Comment. In writing the first, I came up with the term "The New Racism" to describe conservative talking points on race in a post-civil rights era. Essentially, the code words such as "property rights," "individual responsibility," and "personal choice" that run through current conservative rhetoric:
While most Tea Party leaders dismiss the extreme racist rhetoric and signs as a few whackos, they certainly embrace what I call the New Racism. By this I mean the subtle shift in language necessitated by the Civil Rights Movement that the Right employs today to defend white privilege without resorting to overt racism.I certainly didn't write any of the books that led me to this term, but I do think it's quite useful. Progressives have struggled to fight against the New Racism's power, which appeals to white privilege without directly addressing race. But those who coined these terms had race in their minds and those who responded to them did too. Ronald Reagan sure did when he gave his famous states rights speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the town where the 3 Freedom Summer workers were murdered in 1964. Newt Gingrich sure did when he wrote the Contract with America.
Historian Kevin Kruse, in his excellent book on white resistance to civil rights, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism, demonstrates that as traditional racism increasingly became unacceptable in American political discourse, Atlanta whites began using code words to express racist sentiments in ways that would attract larger numbers of voters made nervous by civil rights. Terms like “law and order,” “property values” and “individual rights” become synonymous with unofficial segregation and anti-black attitudes.
The New Racism profoundly changed American society. By campaigning on a platform of white rights veiled by the New Racism’s language, Ronald Reagan succeeded in pulling white voters from the industrial states of the North. These so-called Reagan Democrats wanted to keep their schools and neighborhoods white and to reject school desegregation.
Kruse points out that it’s hardly a coincidence that Newt Gingrich comes from the Atlanta suburbs. The Contract with America was an exercise in the New Racism, ensuring that the government did as little to break down white privilege as possible.
By framing health care as a privilege rather than as a right, the Tea Party suggests the same language used by opponents of school busing and welfare: that those who deserve don’t need government help and those who do need government help don’t deserve it because they don’t work hard enough. That most of the “undeserving” just happen to be black and brown reinforces what they already think about nonwhites.
With a likely fight coming over immigration, watching the Tea Party negotiate race will be fascinating. At the movement’s heart is a desire to keep America white-dominated. The claim that President Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore ineligible for the presidency comes from this sentiment. Tea Partiers simply cannot accept the idea that a non-white could lead this nation.
Immigration strikes straight to the heart of the Tea Party’s cultural concerns. Can their leaders keep the rhetoric within the boundaries of the New Racism, using “law and order” rhetoric to paint Latinos as gangsters who threaten our (white) neighborhoods or will anti-immigrant fervor lead to openly racist attacks?
The New Racism manifests itself in many ways--school choice, the obsession with property values, including the rise of Neighborhood Watch in the 1980s; the differences in prison sentences for those convicted of possessing crack as opposed to cocaine, etc.
We've lost an understanding of what racism means in this country. We've forgotten that it's race hate combined with power. A white person being harassed in a black neighborhood is not experiencing racism--that person can call the police and get a response. My students refer to anything other than whatever they think of as Martin Luther King's dream as racism. Like with so many other words, conservatives have won the rhetorical war. We need to define racism as what it actually is and reclaim the rhetorical ground on moving toward real equality.
Maybe this term will help us do that.
Friday, July 02, 2010
Many people have a right to be complaining about the horrible officiating at the World Cup. However, Diego Maradona, whose Argentina squad never should have been allowed its first goal against Mexico (changing the entire complexion of the game), is about the last person who can legitimately complain.
California is such a wreck right now, though this is no secret. Once again, we have no budget and are set for some really tough wrangling in the next few months. In order to gain leverage, the Governator has decided to use state workers (once again) as leverage. His brilliant idea? Back the legislature into a corner by reducing state workers' salary to the federal minimum wage until a budget is passed. What's more, the threat of this allowed the state to strong arm 37,000 state workers into a new contract recently, by providing an exemption to the looming cuts.
If using working people as political pawns isn't bad enough, remember that California's budgeting process is a game set up to be fraught with delays and failures. Any tax increases must be approved by 2/3 of the legislature, and even a strong Democratic majority can't muster that up. Without revenue increases, this is going to be a long fight.
Allies of the governor are quick to point out that the wages will be restored and back-pay awarded once a budget passes, but that just doesn't fly with me. If you are a working person, trying to provide for your family, not having your entire wage on time is really, really expensive. How many of these people will have to live on credit cards or take out payday loans at exorbitant rates, just to get by while Sacramento plays its game? This will cost most state worker families a lot of money and stress. Republicans just don't understand that, apparently-- it is astounding how out-of-touch these people are.
State Controlled John Chiang has said that he will not follow the governor's orders, like the last time this happened. Chiang's office was sued by Schwarzenegger; the governor won, but the case is on appeal.
Oh, and Arnold's other great idea? Make California the only state without a welfare-to-work program. Race to the bottom-- here we come, Arkansas!