and I promise if you ever hear me contradict myself
it's not a sign of the apocalypse
in my view hip hop had two great phases: early-to-mid '90s and early-to-mid 2000s. the genre reached its maximum commercial potency - at least in one sense - in the former period, and also its mature production styles. so, you know, dre, snoop, tupac on the west coast, the wu and rza and biggie on the east. (the reason i say 'in one sense' is that though you hear less pure hip hop now, you hear it as an element in virtually all pop music all over the world, from nashville to the cote d'ivoire.)
but when i talk about 2000-2010 as a golden age as well, you may be puzzled. i don't mean commercial hip hop, though there were also some relatively interesting artists there, like eminem or lil wayne: i mean 'underground' hip hop. that people understood hip hop to have 'sold out' and (for one thing) become totally apolitical in that period, actually helped create a whole world of non- or anti-commercial artists. they were often extremely radical politically, but also many of them had amazing flow and good-to-great production (production got a lot cheaper in that period).
so, i might mention dead prez, jedi mind tricks, 7l and esoteric, brother ali, j-live, aceyalone, anti-pop consortium, bahamadia, aesop rock, demigodz. but there were many others, and there still are. i do rate immortal technique as the best mc, ever. (eminem is his only rival to my way of thinking.) one of the great artists of the period was atmosphere (minneapolis; mc = slug; dj = ant). "scapegoat" and "god loves ugly" are two of the best songs in hip hop history, i believe.
no wonder you're in love with your therapist. go to sleep my little time bomb.
and look that was not that long ago, and a lot of these people were quite young, and many are still recording, along with a couple of cohorts that they influenced. i want to point out that atmosphere sounds as good or better than ever on fishing blues. slug was never a verbal gymnast like wayne or tech; he was always a killer writer with a cool and accessible voice. he's writing great right now.
i think a number of these artists should have the status of american masters at this point, and atmosphere is just as good and relevant now as they were a decade ago. i also think the beats have steadily improved, and the underlying tracks are actually pretty various; i'm crediting ant with a lot of the excellence of fishing blues. "won't look back" actually sounds like a pop hit, but there are many cool elements and styles throughout.
one good thing you have to live with: hip hop was a completely inter or multi-racial genre by 00s, like jazz in the 30s and 40s, or blues in the 60s and 70s. call it cultural appropriation if you like; i call it music.
this renews my faith in humanity. before you go around authorizing people to keep everyone else under surveillance, drone-strike people, and so on, you'd better keep in mind that you are trusting this to idiots, really. the security state likes to portray itself as implacable, efficient, and so on. seems like folks like that wouldn't be able to convince you after twenty colossal blunders a week, but people want to believe i guess.
you don't want your government creating cyber-weapons, for one thing, any more than you want them creating new plagues (which no doubt they've been working on for decades), because they and you may end up being the victims.
after the inxs piece, i was rummaging around in my old clips. i can't seem to find the review of the inxs show, but i found a buttload of other stuff, including the interview with cyndi lauper. the album by her great baby-band blue angel (1980) - which i obsessively praised when i was talking to her, thus getting on her good side - is finally up on itunes etc. i say this album represents one of the greatest vocal performances in pop music history. no one ever sang like that.
actually as far as i can tell, cyndi only has a good side.
this is my review from the old washington evening star:
the star gave me my first shot as a music critic; i was working there as a copy boy. my daddy was a reporter there back in the '50s and early '60s. also i delivered the thing for what seemed like many years; i still remember my stack of papers floating away down nevada ave in hurricane agnes. the star died just a few months after this piece appeared.
I continue to blame Crispin for my writing just about anywhere. He invited me to share this space occasionally, and while we disagree about a lot of stuff, we're kind of brothers in some ways. This morning his very brief piece on the probable disintegration of the Republican party and the coming realignment of politics into something a lot more coherent than what we've had since the Southern Strategy took over the Rs and then the Democrats became less elitist and more mainstream while losing a lot of the mainstream Democrats.
I've been thinking and playing around with writing about class in America as a determining factor for a while. Reagan's big tent has turned into a bunch of conflicting smaller tents all having a revival at the same time. So, over at my new home on Veterans News Now, I wrote this.
I hope to hear soon that Crispin's exile of conscience has ended and he's back at Dickinson or maybe even someplace a lot better and more welcoming to him. He seems to be dealing with whatever the hell he's doing -- car theft, card sharking, publishing -- quite well. An actual job with a pay check can really fuck up your life.
it doesn't actually bother me that trump yaps the way he does, though i've seen plenty at this point. but i do think the russia connection might should prove fatal. it needs a hook in trump, but the whole thing is disturbing.
obviously, i am enthusiastic about the disintegration of the republican party, unless it leads to one-party socialist state. but the 'conservative' coalition or 'the right' never made any sense at all. is 'conservatism' isolationist or interventionist, for example, laissez-faire or evangelical christian? watch these parties vilify each other all day, but how far apart were obama and romney policywise by november 2012? so i think if there are massive 'mainstream' and security state republican defections to hillary, that is ideologically sensible, even as a permanent realignnment. meanwhille you have tea-party nationalists (that's really trump's crowd), and libertarian or 'constitutional' types, like paul or cruz on their good days. they should just split off permanently in different directions. but then the lindsey graham/hillary clinton party is going to have take a bunch of defections to the left, i would think, unless all lefties are going to vote for war and oligarchy.
this is just pathetic, but it's also characteristic of a whole demographic's response to trump. watch brooks really really struggle to formulate anything, then offer a 'diagnosis' in an deeply serious way: 'it's a condition.' what is the condition? it's following from one concept to another, or something. these people are showing themselves to be incredibly, literally stupid: they can't follow sarcasm, irony, hyperbole, or any sort of verbal play. they have no hermeneutic ability: they can't interpret words. they are our 'elite': they've been linguistically trained and anything that isn't a mechanical repetition of cliches and catch-phrases seems literally insane. tone of voice and triple entendres are not standardized-testable, hence they do not exist. our elites are unbelievably dull, and i think we live in an upside-down meritocracy.
the guardian, among others, is insisting on interpreting trump's banter as a threat of assassination. but meanwhile this is a hell of a story: assange hints that murdered dnc staffer was the source of the leaks. if so, obviously the murder is an issue, though who knows? and also, if he was the leaker, what was all this crap about the russians? definitely taking on that scandal/house of cards flavor. the first thing one would wonder is whether seth rich was a sanders supporter: that would be motivation for the leak. obviously, all is speculation at this point, but it does have that might-blow-sky-high smell right now. this could be the wildest presidential campaign in us history.
were i advising donald trump, i wouldn't be hitting him on 'message discipline,' etc. what i'd say is: show the famous charmer, the benevolent patriarch, and keep the funny. it's gotten too dark moodwise. like go all universal love all of a sudden: i love all god's children! black white and brown, gay straight male female and other, etc. i want a country and a world that works for us all. (and yes, we will build an incredible wall.) i love crooked hillary clinton, i really do! a beautiful person; she's literally an incredible person. i am praying for her immortal soul, and especially for bill's. then smirk. but then smile. invite hillary to dinner.
say you are a recovering bernista who has tumbled into the tub of goo known as clinton. how do you feel about the fact that all former cia directors agree on hillary? or perhaps you have a clash shirt and read chomsky or something. really, seriously, you're thinking about voting for hillary clinton? oops iraq war, patriot act, drones, bomb libya, wall street, no child's behind left, mass incarceration?
there are definitely some excellent young female country singers emerging. last year i praised people like maren morris, cam, hailey witters, and caroline spence. caitlyn smith's ep 'starfire' is more or less in the same vein. of them all, she might be the singiest: pretty stunning range and power. she reminds me of someone who i think of as one of the all-time female pop vocalists: cyndi lauper. it's kind of in a contemporary soul vein, not that far from morris. both, as also the very fine witters, have this love-gospel thing going, which is more or less the origin of soul music in the first place.
i definitely like the bluesiness of these artists. my only criticism of 'starfire' would be that the instrumental tracks are a bit inert; i would have given her a somewhat more stripped-down frame. but she sounds great. here she is from a few years back:
another excellent recent ep is crystal yates's 'the other side.' it's darker in tone: very dark indeed. but the smoky, swampy vibe is compelling.
the response to trump on the khans is universal condemnation. and it takes this form: you can't say that! you can't say that. you can't say that. what people don't understand is that for let's say a third of the country the fact that someone says what 'can't' be said according to all schoolmarms, left and right, is itself a qualification. the pall of boring repetitiveness, universally agreed-on formulae; the ban on a million locutions and ideas, the prohibition on talking like a human being in public, is an actual problem.
now each thing that trump does along these lines is a 'turning point,' the moment it went too far. not yet, i think! the ny times columnar staff is working itself up into a unanimous tizzy, day after day; it will prove hard to sustain. but the russia connection could end up being fatal. on the other hand, i think a fund-raising scandal could vitiate clinton at any time; i would look to come through terry mcauliffe, to take one angle.
but i will say this: as the first, as the gender-breakthrough, hillary is incredibly problematic, much moreso than obama with regard to race, or like jackie robinson or someone. that it's the wife of a president is problematic; that it's the wife of bill clinton is extremely problematic; that she has been his wife in the way she has is a big old problem from this angle too. it's definitely not maggie thatcher or golda meir. there are a number of other people already who could be the first female pres, and no doubt there will be many more. i want and expect it to happen. but she is in some ways an unfortunate choice, precisely in the way she's lived gender.
or perhaps she's emblematic of a certain sort of bourgeois white woman in a certain era, sort of just post-friedan, pill etc. she's got the notion that women must be strong and independent and equal, etc., but perhaps she's also got a set of desires that are in conflict with that. she's struggled with the expectation of wifely subordination, both rejecting and enacting it. she's caught between generating an independent power as a person and...manipulating men or the patriarchy to get what she wants or living through, contributing to, and using her husband as he rises, a kind of old-time form of women's power. but then, she still has to legitimize herself as a nurturer; we got a portrait of remarkably traditional mom, with mixed plausibility, and that extends into the presentation of the policy.
chelsea presented her as full-time homemaker, which just can't be right, even if she made efforts. there were attempts, if i remember rightly, to 'humanize' gore, but what it meant for hillary at the convention to 'show the personal side,' the 'human' hillary, was always to feminize her, to show her with the normative female activities, relationships, and values as they stood in 1960. like all the symbology is locked into a transitional and wickedly conflicted moment in gender history. if a younger woman was looking at her self-presentation at the convention, it was extreme 'super-woman': full-time mom and world-bestriding career woman! you can have it all! ! i think a lot of younger woman must have looked at that and rolled their eyes.
i'm imagining that gender in hillary clinton's head is a puzzle, a mess, a difficulty all the time, though who knows? but the public enactment is extremely complex and conflicted. of course, this thing has been pretty much a minefield for everybody, one way or another. i hope bill is deeply confused about it too, but i doubt it. more nostalgic, perhaps, like roger ailes.
it's often been remarked over the decades that the sort of feminism hillary embodies doesn't do very well at representing the experiences of black women, poor women, third world women, and so on. i think it doesn't do that well representing the experiences of younger women right now either, and i actually think that even women a decade or two younger than hillary but otherwise similar had somewhat different internal struggles, or perhaps just somewhat less internal struggle, though there were continuities in the probs too. but it also had a role in moving everybody some way and opening up possibilities.
so there are excruciating tensions. she's not alone; i think it's transitional, characteristic of a certain class-race-gender-age cohort. and i think that even if she were elected, we would await the real breakthrough, something that or someone who shows what women are really becoming outside the gender hierarchy, someone less confused and also less intent on being something general or a symbol; someone who is herself. hillary symbolizes the struggle against that hierarchy, but just as conspicuously she embodies it; she is herself a lot of what she's fighting against.
in every cohort, there have been many sorts of ways of being female, of course. but some in this situation were pretty buttoned-up; like you didn't necessarily see what was really going on with the junior leaguer etc unless there was a crisis. a lot of people were pretty focused on making it seem ok from the outside; sometimes people are more focused on what other people think about them than on what they think about themselves, or those two have merged (with tensions). i feel that hillary clinton has concealed herself, or is extremely focused on not letting her self leak into public space (the disaster of what's in those 30k emails; why she suddenly goes very strange right there); maybe that is characteristic too in a way, a sort of bourgeois respectability of which mom the homemaker is the preserver while dad gets to misbehave a bit unless it slides badly off the rails (note to my 12-steppers; she seems a bit al-anon? kind of 'chapter to the wives'? just sayin). she's the maintainer-in-chief of appearances, but you know boys will be b's etc. so that makes the later career pretty fraught.
if i were speculating on why hillary handled her email the way she did, i'd say she wanted privacy with regard to exchanges with and about bill, as well as, possibly, exchanges with huma or others about anthony weiner, etc. these might be amazingly blistering, as well as revelatory and completely destructive to her campaign. she didn't take the right approach if that was the goal, of course, but i'd say that accounts for the deletefest.
but i will also say, i think she would have a reasonable expectation of privacy on stuff like that. if you took the roughest exchanges between me and my ex-wife and made them public (which has happened to me to some extent), it would look pretty awful. really, i have emails to regret, and i'd want the apologies leaked too. but then i'd just look pathetic. you too? maybe not, but maybe. anyway, i do not look on the email scandal as disqualifying. i would no doubt read the emails if they were leaked (or the highlights in the media, anyway) with a certain voyeuristic glee. i think bill is incredibly gross, and i'm curious enough about their marriage to read about it for a day or two if it really gets spelled out. but i will also regret that the whole thing happened.
obviously, i have ragged hillary mercilessly; but man, i'm glad i don't live in that kind of spotlight. i don't see how i could stand it.
offhand, i'm going to say that this is the worst op-ed column ever written: opinion journalism after the end. i think new york times op-ed columnists like bruni are also focus-grouping both their views and their phrases and have conceived their task to be exactly that of the clintonian politician: manipulating people to agree with them. in this case, they're manipulating people who already agree with them to agree with them; that seriously seems to be how the times' opinion operation conceives its mission. it's devoted to enhancing its readers' self-esteem by enhancing the self-esteem of its staff. they speak with the collective, contentless voice of a certain class or demographic, chanting incantations in unison. or they've just been annexed by political consultants. there used to be fierce, independent voices in a lot of newspapers.
i think 'frank bruni' is the nom de rien of the same software that writes katy perry's lyrics.
it's the emptiness that kills me. people really think that creating a mood is the thing, and that you create a mood by saying the same words over and over: hope hope hope! 'progress is possible!' touts the washpost. it's 'a moment of reckoning' cracks the nytimes, zeroing in on the synonym-for-synonym rewrite of 'rendezvous with destiny' or whatever. hillary just robotically repeated her phrases. well, you could say the same about al gore or john kerry. it's chickenshit, i tell you; it shows a person with no convictions, willing to take no chances.
the clinton approach to politics is this: freed by a complete lack of commitment to anything, you swamp your opponents by agreeing with them or going one better. so they spent the first two days trying to outprogressive bernie, and the last two days trying to outrepublican republicans: extreme continual patriotism, flag-waving, militarism. you wouldn't think that you could do both more or less simultaneously, but there it was. bernie's revolution got swallowed as though it had tumbled into a huge tub of goo; its corpse is now suspended therein, decomposing. and then they did the same to paul ryan or whatever. to put every move and utterance at the service of political strategy like that: it shows a total failure of human personality. there is nothing there at all.
perhaps the worst moment in dnc history was when john kerry tried to out-militarize bush in 2004. it was outrageous hypocrisy - i'm the peacenik who will kill you if it's polling well - and it was just an application of the clinton victory formula. they ran it with rare incompetence, however, selling their very souls for nothing at all.
also i hatehate the 'cult of personality' they always construct around the nominee, with the videos and the hyper-repetitive tributes; watching that shonda rhimes vid for hillary last night was like watching a jesus bio-pic, and after days of that - using the same damn words every time out - 'tough' 'fighter' 'childrenchildrenchildren,' the actual appearance of the candidate, her actual words, her actual history, was just a lukewarm, filthy bath of bathos. that is your savior? then why isn't she saying anything? america really needs to know the real hillary clinton, on a very personal, human level. that means we need to conceal her utterly under a make-up cake of focus-grouped cliches. imagine being the sort of person - like a tv pundit, e.g. - for whom those two things are the same, or for whom the difference is irrelevant. she needs to somehow simulate authenticity!
here was something so much better: for a number of reasons, not least because he didn't just recite the same phrases. this is easily the best thing i saw from the dnc, or the only thing that was anything.
i've got a feeling that he actually wrote that himself, perhaps the only person at the dnc brave enough to speak his own words.
this 'trump committed treason' stuff is insane. people will say or believe anything if it suits their purposes, or if they like the conclusion they can reach from it. look, first of all, we are not at war with russia; we're coordinating with them in syria, e.g. second, it would be bad, for example, to leak secret emails to the russian intelligence services. but 'inviting' them to hack accounts to which you have no connection, or play-challenging them to hack or rather to leak what they might have already hacked, is nothing like that at all. and plus, man, have you no ear for irony and humor, or no idea what he's actually saying? just ragging hillary, alright? he's saying that she might well have made her emails available to the russian (or chinese, he said) intelligence services. ps i oppose trump. but i disapprove of self-deluded stupidity too. elected officials willy-nilly accusing american citizens of treason is an actual problem, however.
people really do have a problem interpreting trump. yes he was kidding around hoping that russia can find all of hillary's emails; just bantering from the stage like he does. what he's actually saying all the time is that the fact that people like the russians may have gained access to hc's emails is the problem, ok? watch the thing in context, for one thing. joaqin castro just said "experts have said this is very close to treason." that's just stupid, man. anyway, these talking heads who all say the same thing at once can't keep up with verbal playfulness.
on the other hand, he's got to be pretty psyched about the dnc email leak. if the shoe was on the other foot, etc.
the gender gap this year is going to be amazing. i think perhaps gender and political ideology are merging, and we're going to move toward some kind of apartheid or partition. we need a wall; we have no choice, folks. perhaps there can be a hole in it for mating purposes. #gloryholeinthewall. if you build it, they will come.
ps it's me, bill! hillary is the best little change-maker i know. she's so loyal: most people couldn't bear for a moment the humiliation and victimization i have inflicted on her over the years. man i have told her some whoppers! hillary's been rolling with it since the summer of '71, when i met a lot of girls. why? i have no idea. maybe it's my unbelievable 'charisma,' or my fund-raising acuity. she's such a fighter! she never stops fighting. she can be sort of passive-aggressive, though. but putin hates that.
i am so happy and proud that, thanks to her efforts, our emails haven't been published so far, or at least they hadn't been as of when i came out here to talk to y'all. it's like a blast-furnace in there, bro. a fighter, i tell you. but then it goes all lovey-dovey and sexy. desperate, even. women are so hard to figure out, like they're from mars and we're from venus, or whatever. anyway, they're like change-agents all the time; dude, it's a roller-coaster. but hillary knows they are humans.
hillary has had a lot of experiences, a lot of common-sense experiences, just like a real human being. let me be very, very personal. let me tell you some things you don't know about hillary clinton. she is a very human being; few beings seem humanner. hillary has scanned the statistics, and she knows how hard-working american families are struggling. hillary has processed a lot of information qua human, and no one knows better than she what it's like to be a black guy getting shot by the police. she's a lot like disabled immigrants who dream pathetically of a better life in america and end up getting redeported. like prince and michael jackson, she knows exactly what it's like to be addicted to opiates, america's new scourge. and like so many americans whose communities and hard-working families have been ripped apart, her life has been deeply affected by my idea of mass incarceration, a couple of points in the polls, maybe. she's virtually lived a deeply human life, and no one is more intimately acquainted with the patriarchy and how to work it to get what she wants. she's like a little raisin in the sun. still, she rises!
could i talk to my homeboys for a second? girls, fingers in ears. listen, hillary helped me a lot, i guess. but we all know who got her here. where would a person with her political skills be without your boy? she'd be wherever tipper is. so chill, it's going to be alright. ok girls, you can tune back in.
god bless america, and god bless america's women and girls!