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Archive for March, 2016

Clam Fake Album Cover_edited-1I hope it doesn’t seem perverse of me, but I like criticism of my creative projects. I used to be a critic and now appreciate the turnabout, which I feel is good for cleaning out any karmic havoc I might have caused. Here’s a not-entirely-positive-sounding review of my album, “Clam Fake,” my favorite line of which is “I have to hand it to de la Guerre for giving zero shits.”

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Brussels …

Seeing or hearing children in pain or danger is something that has come to cause me physical pain since I’ve become a parent and I’m sure most people feel the same way and have to do something to overcome the feelings of base impotence. Turning your rage on Muslims (or giving power to those who tell you it’s OK to do so) is one of those things you would likely be tempted to do. It’s wrong. It shows an incapacity to understand your own place in the world. It narrates the innocent into guilt by association. And worst of all, it doesn’t even show comprehension of the nature of the attack today, which in Brussels specifically concerns a matter of assimilation of minority communities. Trying to recreate those conditions here does no favor to the living and does not honor the dead. My heart goes out to Brussels, as an American and as a person who has lived in a city targeted by terrorists.

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A new study from a prominent journal by an expert of some kind was not paid attention to today because a voice in your head you have not identified as your father’s told you not to believe it.

The study concerned an important matter possibly relating to public health, economics or political strife but was not received due to the insistent reflex inspired by a husky Dad voice buried deep in the cerebral cortex warning you that it was not content he would approve of. This triggering voice first entered your sub-conscious brain when you were a child and continues to influence executive cerebral and limbic systems of your body (as well as the house-cleaning functions performed by your digestive system) and thus will not allow you to receive this important breaking news on a topic of critical importance.

The study was full of useful statistics and percentages that might help you adapt and make contingencies for emergencies, as well as anecdotal evidence relating to something that might affect your financial status or one or two ways you might not use a hammer, but its salient points were masked to you by the persistent social conditioning you received by a certain grey eminence whose early rules set down as an exchange for simple nourishment were indispensable for a helpless young homo sapiens facing a hostile world of animals. This conditioning severely affected your ability to assimilate new information, mainly because of the gruff, stern tone of the hunter gatherer, as well as implied and now subconscious threats that a challenge to him meant risking the loss of family members and peers and their body warmth—things at the time critically important to a child’s survival and well-being.

“We are definitely headed for trouble,” said a credentialed and educated person whose face you could barely be brought to look at as he or she offered countervailing information that challenged the prevailing norms, value systems, semiotics and archetypes laid down in your neural pathways by the patriarchal strongman and lawgiver whom you still in moments of stress and discomfort call “Daddy.” The story mentions several things you could do to address the critical issues raised by this news story, which might have been about gold prices or the flammable liquid in your house but whose message conflicted with your father’s opinions and threatened to upend the folkways and learned behavior that are now an immutable part of your psychological profile—offering you your ego, your identity and cultural belonging and likely your entire concept of self, a sense of belonging your brain feels is vitally necessary on this tiny planet totally alone in the universe and vulnerable to expanding stars, asteroids and heat death. As the spirit of your father says, there is a heavy price to pay by questioning tribe loyalty and listening to the plea of an outsider that you listen to him about this important topic which might be about lead toy paint or STDs or municipal bonds or global warming but which is not, unfortunately, powerful enough to get through your impressively large Dad-filter or appeal to your brain’s otherwise rugged and impressive neuroplastic cells.

“The time to act is now,” said a person of authority, perhaps a politician or priest or business leader, “but there is only so much time we have before it will be impossible to act on this [issue your dad has already made up his mind about] whose dire consequences cannot be minimized, unless it is by the comforting and unrelenting voice that gave you the gift of fear when you were still learning to crawl, the voice whose dissent against which offers perilous pitfalls, sickness and likely a hideous and prolonged death.

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Media Monopoly

In journalism school, in a class on ethics, we were assigned to read “The Media Monopoly,” a thoroughly depressing screed about the onset of media consolidation with dire, unrelenting bad news that we young journalists were about to enter a field of whoredom owned by a handful of self-interested media conglomerates. These companies were filtering out far-ranging, dissenting voices (it was a prep of sorts for Noam Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent.”) It left a big mark on me. The book’s author Ben Bagdikian has just left us now.  RIP. (You can read his obituary here.)

I feel two ways about his book in hindsight. In one sense he was absolutely correct: Most of the big media is owned by the same conglomerates who pollute our water and build war materiel and would indeed like to keep us in the dark. At the same time, the Internet has recreated journalism as cottage industry where even the most extreme voices (communists and global warming deniers alike) are free to put their wares in the marketplace of ideas and have them amplified. That’s given us the multiplicity of voices, but it’s also given us a lot of echo chambers for aspirational opinion havers to confirm their own biases with selective research. To the new voices, pretenses to objectivity are boorish, arcane and disingenuous. The kind of serious investigative, bias-free journalism we used to rely on from professionals becomes harder to find and fund, and must often be paid for by philanthropist billionaires –the patronage of the modern tech Medici. Meanwhile, a lot of old-time professional journalists are simply getting out of the business because there’s no money in it and going into PR.

The Internet age has led us to a kind of anarchy of opposing realities where you can choose your own facts and deny things that are indisputable–global warming, the Sandy Hook massacre or the fact that the Sept. 11 attacks were planned by Muslim extremists. The Internet has given people the confidence to say they trust nothing they read. But it hasn’t confronted them with the consequences of that sentiment: You now have more work to do in scrutinizing what is real by taking multiple viewpoints into account and understanding your own subjective interference in it, including the value system given to your by your peers and parents. Somebody somewhere on the Internet right now will be very happy to let you off the hook for this work by coddling you and your values, and in this you are just as manipulated as you would be by General Electric trying to bury a pollution story.

In this light, the handful of sober conglomerate voices Bagdikian warned us against don’t look all that bad, frankly.

But here we are. Change is change and not to be judged, least of all by me. Powerful money interests have lost a great deal of power over information. It happened quite naturally in a technological upheaval. Power over it has come back to the people, even sweaty, frustrated schizophrenics sitting on their laptops at night. Many people, however, will likely not know what to do with all the conflicting information they have. They will be confused and they will turn to the people they trust, and once again risk becoming tools of somebody else’s will. They will repeat others’ ideas, not innovate on them, and act as if this is some sort of emancipation. The power only to repeat.

So mission accomplished. Patriarchy smashed. Hope you have some idea what you’re in for.

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