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In Which White People Can’t Keep Their Grubby Mitts Off Anything

March 1st, 2013 No comments

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Anti-Rock: The Opposition To Rock ‘n’ Roll isn’t, per se, about how white people stole rock and roll from the blacks who created it but the theme runs strong through the book. As with most things American, the original art form scares the living bejesus out of John and Mary Whitebread so steps must be taken to either kill it or to suck out what makes it great. I mean, really? Pat Boone??

The lobotomizing of rock began when white men started fraternizing with the help. This isn’t a bad thing but, sadly, rather than hang out at the help’s houses they grab their food and anything that’s not nailed down and take it to our own houses where the help is not welcome. It’s not that they wouldn’t invite them into their  homes but…ya know…society is so cruel and maybe one day that will change but…until then, keep your eyes on the prize, proud, noble, black people!

Public Enemy got into a shitload of trouble with the lyric

Elvis was a hero to most
But he never meant, shit to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain
Mother fuck him and John Wayne

But this is what they talking about.

“HUH? Elvis Presley didn’t write Hound Dog?”

No. No, he didn’t.

“But Elvis was a champion of black music! He loved black people!!”

I’ve heard arguments that Elvis did black people a lot of good by stealing songs from black people. I think Big Mama Thorton would disagree with that. Again, back to Public Enemy

Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps

The plot goes like this – you get white people “discovering” rock and roll. The parents get outraged over their kids listening to “nigger music” even if it’s performed by white people. The “good music” industry tries to literally kill rock and roll but, in the end, it’s too profitable so they allow it to live.

Kind of.

What they actually do is take Little Richard, straighten his hair, bleach him white, put a suit on him and nail his feet to the floor so he can’t move. Then they attach their names to the songs he wrote and take his money. It’s enough to make you quit rock and roll. Which Little Richard did for a time.

More insidiously, you replace Alan Freed, who truly loved rock and roll and played the original black versions of songs, with some smiling zombie like Dick Clark. This industry did this on purpose and Dick Clark knew what he was doing. The industry invented a payola scandal and pinned the blame of Freed. Payola, of course, existed well before rock and roll and Clark took his fair share of it. But, not so oddly, Congressional hearings at the time believed Clark when he shunted away owning a stake in the music he was pushing as simply “promotion” and condemned Freed for accepting money from the industry that was behind his own prosecution.

Clark came away smelling like a rose because he was so boring and drenched in industry-approved deodorant that his shit literally didn’t stink. The government continued to hound Freed until he drank himself to death.

Read that again – “The GOVERNMENT continued to hound Freed until he drank himself to death.

Yes, the government. Freed spent his last years simply trying to cobble together a living as the IRS continue to break down his door demanding back taxes on the over-inflated amount of payola they accused him of taking.

Obviously, Dick Clark won because now we have Justin Beiber.

But the extent of the victory, the sheer Genghis Khan devastation of rock may shock  you and, hopefully, make you weep.

Rock and Roll started as black music. Budding white rock and roll bands knew this, covered the originals and sometimes did a great job. But what’s the end effect? I did a very unscientific poll with my Facebook friend asking, “When you think of rock and roll, who or what band first pops into your head?”

With the exception of two people, everyone thought of a white band. There was one black guy that said Jimi Hendrix and a white woman that said Chuck Berry.

Such is the extent of the theft of rock and roll that black rockers like Lenny Kravitz, Fishbone and Living Color prove the exception rather than the rule. And, to my shame, when Lenny Kravitz first came on the scene, my first thought (and I wasn’t alone) was, “black people don’t play rock and roll! What the fuck?”.

While this book focuses on rock and roll, the pattern shows itself in jazz. How do you go from Louis Armstrong to Glen Miller? When you hear “jazz” what first pops into your head?

Thus far, rap/hip hop seems to have broken this pattern. But let’s remember it took MTV seven full years to recognize rap and, if I recall, Blondie’s horrible “Rapture” got play before actual rap music did. But despite the Beastie Boys, Vanilla Ice and Eminem, rap manages to keep it roots intact.

So maybe that’s progress.

In Which It’s Almost Too Confusing To Title

January 25th, 2009 2 comments

[Note – I started this before I broke my leg so it’s not a topical as it was]

The New York Times had an article about immigrant charter schools that pretty much made my head explode trying to wrap it around the ever deeper shades of what it says about America and the folks clamoring to live here.

Fartun Warsame, a Somali immigrant, thought she was being a good mother when she transferred her five boys to a top elementary school in an affluent Minneapolis suburb. Besides its academic advantages, the school was close to her job as an ultrasound technician, so if the teachers called, she could get there right away.

Her sons informed her that this was the way things were in America. But not in this Somali mother’s house. She soon moved them back to the city, to the International Elementary School, a charter school of about 560 pupils in downtown Minneapolis founded by leaders of the city’s large East African community. The extra commuting time was worth the return to the old order: five well-behaved sons, and one all-powerful mother.

The article goes on to talk about how some Muslim immigrants find the lack of morals in America problematic.  Their reaction is to set up their own communities that are more or less insular rather than risk the souls of their children to whatever the Muslim version of Hell is.  Thus, they find public schools breeding grounds of…well…vice and dissension.

In the case of the mother, it’s about control.  Actually, all parenting is about control.  Most parents would rather not raise children who run wild in the streets, break laws, get pregnant too soon or are regarded by the general populace as “bums”.  There are exceptions, of course.  Some parents can’t monetarily afford to monitor such things.  Some can but, in the name of “openness”, choose not to. (I’m thinking here about an upper middle class mother I met whose 15yr old daughter was openly doing drugs and dating well above her age bracket.  She was just fine with it.)

Confusing thing #1: Immigrants want to move here but can’t stand the culture.  I understand this completely.  I’m a card-carrying liberal and American “culture” is broken.  Or perhaps it never actually congealed to begin with.  We are a nation made up overwhelmingly of self-professed “christians” that don’t actually care about the religion.

[I know what that last sentence sounds like and you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’ve gone over to the dark side but I haven’t.  And that’s the confusing part.  There is a HUGE difference between morality and religion and they are NOT interchangable.  Religion generally exists as a structure for external rewards for doing the right thing and punishment for doing the wrong things.  conservatives want to paint liberals as immoral or a-moral.  That’s simply not the case.  At fifteen and twelve, neither of my daughters haven’t done drugs, drank, been arrested or gotten pregnant.  Raised presbyterian, I’d gotten two out of four and I just hadn’t gotten caught shoplifting.  And we haven’t raised our kids christian nor voted republican.]

Allah requires more from the believer than Jesus does.  Seven times a day v. once a week?  I’d think Allah was watching my every move, too.  Jesus, though, only guilt trips believers on Sundays.  For the rest of the week, they’re free to rob, rape, lie and pillage.  And so they do.  The article speaks of kids doing drugs, committing crimes and doing the whole baggy-pants thing but the author, who makes a lot of connections, misses something important – the mother seemed unable to keep her kids under “well-behaved” within the framework of public school.  Only through NOT integrating with the society they choose to join (ie – charter school) could she retain control of her kids.

That seems a little counter-intuitive.  I realize that we live in a fairly stable community with a low crime rate but this is far from an exclusively white suburban community.  Every year our elementary schools do a census that shows we have kids from 20-40 different countries here.  As one parent said snarkily, “the private schools can only dream of that diversity.”  So I think the charge of “white suburban privileged” can get tossed out.  Sure, we have the usual assortment of punks and ne’er-do-wells.  We know one family whose son got busted for smoking weed.  They weren’t happy about it.  But they didn’t blame the school to the point where they went private or charter.  I’m not going to claim that parents can have 100% control over their kids but school choice won’t solve the problem.

Confusing thing #2

Getting lost in America, Mr. Somo explained, means losing your culture, your language, your identity. It means acting like the teenagers the parents see on the street — wearing baggy jeans, smoking, using drugs, disrespecting elders.

As shown above, it’s just not a national truth that all America is a crackhouse.  But let’s say that it is.  Let’s say that moving your family to American means turning your back on your old way of life and offering your family to Satan in a red, white and blue top hat.  This brings up Bill Hicks four question – “Yeah? And? So? What?”

You make a massive life change and you want everything to stay the same?  That’s nuts.  You want all the benefits of America and none of the theoretical downsides?  That’s nuttier.  AND you want federal financing of charter schools to facilitate your detachment from the country you just moved to?

Again, I know what it sounds like – but I’m really not a wingnut.  The fact that wingnuts support financing charter schools – ALL charter schools including Muslim charter schools – is baffling to me.

This, then, is my liberal dilemma.  To tell you the truth, I tear up sometimes when everybody’s singing the Star Spangled Banner.  Stupid?  Maybe, but this fucked up country is my home.  I don’t say that in a “freedom isn’t free” way.  I mean that in a “I’m allowed to say ‘fuck America’ and not (generally) be carted away by my government” way.  I mean that in a “my country doesn’t censor web content like China or (amazingly) Germany” way.  Everyone is welcome here.  But what winds up happening is NOT the melting pot of old where you started out in your ethinc enclave and the whole point was to move away but to establish a permanent Minnestani or Calimexico.  And why?

To protect themselves from the influence of America.

It’s not a right/left issue.  It’s so much deeper than that.  The problems immigrants want to protect themselves from are not political.  People don’t come here for the politics.  They come here because for some odd fucking reason they STILL believe the streets are paved with gold.  You might frame immigration to the US in terms of “greed” or simply “wanting a better life”.  Take away the morality, though, and it’s about money.

And, to wrap this up, it’s about risk free money.  It’s about getting the benefit while keeping yourself and your loved ones as far away from the risk as possible.  Muslim charter schools, christian charter schools – both want their agendas of separateness publicly funded.  Neither want to join the wicked, wicked world but are willing to benefit from it.

And what’s more American than that.

In Which It The Message Was Distilled Into One Axiom

June 4th, 2008 1 comment