A Few Words on George W. Bush Caring About Black People

You’ve probably read parts of Matt Lauer’s amazing interview with our former president by now. To recap:

“[Kanye West] called me a racist,” Bush tells Lauer. “And I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now. It’s one thing to say, ‘I don’t appreciate the way he’s handled his business.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘This man’s a racist.’ I resent it, it’s not true.”

Lauer quotes from Bush’s new book: “Five years later I can barely write those words without feeling disgust.” Lauer adds, “You go on: ‘I faced a lot of criticism as President. I didn’t like hearing people claim that I lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction or cut taxes to benefit the rich. But the suggestion that I was racist because of the response to Katrina represented an all-time low.’

President Bush responds: “Yeah. I still feel that way as you read those words. I felt ‘em when I heard ‘em, felt ‘em when I wrote ‘em and I felt ‘em when I’m listening to ‘em.

Lauer: “You say you told Laura at the time it was the worst moment of your Presidency?”

Bush: “Yes. My record was strong I felt when it came to race relations and giving people a chance. And it was a disgusting moment.”

Lauer: “I wonder if some people are going to read that, now that you’ve written it, and they might give you some heat for that. And the reason is this — “

Bush [interrupting]: “Don’t care.”

Lauer: “Well, here’s the reason. You’re not saying that the worst moment in you’re Presidency was watching the misery in Louisiana. You’re saying it was when someone insulted you because of that.”

Bush: “No, and I also make it clear that the misery in Louisiana affected me deeply as well. There’s a lot of tough moments in the book. And it was a disgusting moment, pure and simple.”

…and we have particularly hellacious bingo.

Where do we even begin? That Bush has the gall to call Kanye’s remarks “disgusting”, an adjective he does not apply to his budget cuts, which ended necessary work on levees, leaving New Orleans vulnerable. Or the budget cuts to FEMA that halted planning for hurracaine preparedness in New Orleans. Or his buddy-buddy rich white guy network appointment of the completely unqualified Michael Brown to head FEMA. Or his own well documented inaction while a US city was being destroyed.

Dear Bush, you were the president of the United States. We care about how you behaved in that capacity. We don’t care what you feel in your heart of hearts, or the innermost thoughts you may murmur to Laura as you drift off to sleepytime. Maybe, deep down, you were thinking “How did my caring-a lot-about-black-people self ever end up enacting policies that disproportionatly harm the very people I care about so much? I am bursting with pain and empathy for the countless suffering people I could have made markedly safer, but didn’t because it was politically expedient to sell them down the river. My god, the death and destruction in New Orleans will haunt me for the rest of my life.” Actually, no, I’m sure your head has consistently been way too far up your own ass to ever think anything like that, but even if you had, it hardly matters. What matters is what you did.

Through his immoral budget cuts, negligent nepotism, and woeful inaction, George W. Bush is directly responsible for the deaths of a whole lot of black people, and the horrible suffering of many more. His priorities were things like his bullshit wars, his cronies, and making sure he beat every other US president ever for most vacation time while in office. Black people–in general, and in New Orleans specifically, here– were not his priority. It might even be fair to say…he didn’t care about them?

Yet Bush really resents that Kanye effectively called him “a racist” because “that’s not true”. And we know it’s not true because Bush said it’s not true and, well, who knows the man better than himself? Just like all the asshole bloggers and trolls who brilliantly deflects analysis of the racism in what they type, and thus invalidate all criticism from anyone attempting to tar them with the r-word, because they’re not racist. Why? Because they said so.

After all, just like the countless PC police officers on the internet who just wanna make racism arrests by manufacturing the appearance of racism where it totally wasn’t at all, Matt Lauer is apparently manipulating the audience and twisting Bush’s words by reading them exactly as written, in context. He said Kanye’s dis was the lowest point in his presidency? Well, while “lowest” may mean that there were no lower points–ie Katrina itself, 9/11, etc etc etc–it does not mean that really, because he cared about those things also! A lot! Stop saying “but not as much”, stupid lying liberal media tricking the folks at home with heathen, basic logic! He cares because he says he cares! Political leaders should be judged based solely on what he says, no fair judging based on what they actually do! Mean!

I love how Bush sees an apt criticism of his murderous mismanagement primarily as a chance to whine about his own perceived victimization. Poor widdle W. Very presidential. Also very much like how a whole lot of people–very often (though by no means exclusively) privileged white men–deal with criticism of racist things they did or said. Turn it into a personal issue. Not an issue worth discussing because their words or actions perpetuate racist ideology and systemic racism, which affect actual people in the real world. You know, that world that’s outside of their own racist ass.

RIP Ari Up

Where to begin. It’s been a few days and I’m still sad, still a bit shocked, still listening to The Slits a lot, but the latter is nothing new. I always listen to The Slits a lot because they continue to be a reliable source for joy and inspiration. And they’re always just a lot of fun.

Ari Up

I’m sorry I didn’t see Ari Up live more, I took her constant stream of New York shows for granted. I did see a reincarnation of The Slits open for Sonic Youth’s live presentation of Daydream Nation a few years ago. I was delighted by Ari’s undying punk spirit, spitting in the eye of confused, misogynist hipster who were horrified to see a woman in her 40s unapologetically jumping around the stage in a flippy little skirt while singing odes to shoplifting. Ari Up exuded boundless love for her audience and herself, at the same time as flipping off all the bullshit surrounding us and within us.

A friend recently asked why I single out Vampire Weekend for criticism for cultural appropriation when the entire history of pop music is of the same. It would be an injustice to the question if I tried to fold a real response into this post, but a short answer is: compare Vampire Weekend and The Slits. The difference (besides one being boring and the other revolutionary) is a matter of sincerity and respect. With the encouragement and mentorship of Don Letts, the Slits began incorporating reggae into their punk rock, creating a mind blowing new sound with all kinds of interesting and complicated implications. While one could critique The Slits and Ari Up on grounds of cultural appropriation, their orientation towards the music that influenced them was more one of sincere engagement and exchange than opportunism, gimmicks, and entitlement.

You can hear the difference in the music. The music still moves me so much. The funny thing is, when I first started listening to The Slits as a high school Riot Grrrl, I liked their earlier, dirtier, straight-forward Punk Rawk more than the reggae stuff. At that point I really connected to loud messy guitars and cared less about rhythm than the energy with which one hit the drums. I loved the first half of In The Beginning and tended to skip the second. Everything reasonable I read about punk history was like “Cut, Cut, Omg Cut is the classic of classics” but when I first heard it, it was like the premiere performance of Rites of Spring. My brain just couldn’t make sense of it–how was this punk rock? That delightful puzzle is what has kept me listening for more than a decade, new gifts unearthed each time I hear these songs.

Apart from the Slits contribution to The Punk Rock, where would pop music be without them? The lineage runs directly into so many vital artists–Bjork, M.I.A., Madonna…

Almost everything I love about Ari Up can be heard on The Slits cover of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”, a song that by all means should be a gimmicky train wreck. Instead it’s transcendent.

“New Town” is one of my favorite songs on Cut. Budgie (better known for Siouxie and the Banshees) is drumming here, and while he was only briefly a Slit, I wanna give him his due because I fucking love his work on this:

“New Town” is a great example of Ari Up’s imaginative and emotionally resonant lyrics.

Since we’re on it, here’s another of my favorite Slits songs, “Shoplifting”. This is a beloved Peel Sessions version, more up my high school alley. Ari was just a young teenager herself:

Here’s the song as performed by a recent incarnation of the group less than a year ago:

“Ten quid for the lot? We pay fuck all!”

A good in-depth look at The Slits can be found in Zoe Street Howe’s Typical Girls? The Story of The Slits.

Rock the Bells!

Rock the Bells is weird. In many different ways. First, the main stage should really be called the “Nostalgia Stage” as it was completely devoted to past glories. DJ Premier’s opening set was a tribute to J. Dilla. Slick Rick, Rakim, and KRS-ONE performed most of The Great Adventures of…, Paid in Full, and Criminal Minded, respectively. Lauryn Hill did tracks off The Miseducation and The Score, almost exclusively (more on that in a minute). A Tribe Called Quest was joined by Busta Rhymes to recreate Midnight Marauders, Wu-Tang did Enter the 39 Chambers (ODB’s son came out, ostensibly to do his dad’s parts), and Snoop did every song off Doggystyle, filmed recreations of the album skits and all. He was wearing a floor length, Crip-blue bandana print dress. The guy dancing around on stage in a big dog costume was blue bandana-ed as well. The set highlight for me was The Lady of Rage, who sounded great. Has she been working all this time? Some of the other rappers who have been out of the limelight were a l’il rusty, but she was on her game. She also doubled the day’s previous tally of female rappers on stage (“Cock the Bells”, indeed).

Also, for me, personally, “Ain’t no fun”, as expected, lived up to its name. I also want to take a moment to appreciate Slick Rick’s reassurance that he meant “no disrespect” by performing his classic track, “treat her like a prostitute”. Unclear if he meant towards prostitutes or the women discussed in the song, who are not actually prostitutes. Sadly, his advice regarding women who are not prostitutes was not to give them money.

I saw Public Enemy a few weeks ago in Central Park and the Hip Hop nostalgia circuit thing is weirding me out. I don’t have some big analysis of it, it’s just weird. Or maybe it’s just continually weird to me that I’m old.

The second, or “Paid Dues” stage was the place to hear any remotely recent music. I was mostly soaking in “whoa, La-di-da-di…twice in one day!” over at the big stage, so I missed Immortal Technique, Murs, and other people I’d like to have seen but have seen before and will likely see again. I did catch Brother Ali, who I haven’t listened to before and was great, and Street Sweeper Social Club who, as I’d hoped, put on a hell of a show. Most of the crowd bolted after Brother Ali’s set. The remainder seemed both largely confused as to who SSSC were and angry that they took so fucking long to set up (it wasn’t actually long at all, but in the blazing sun, it sure felt like it.) Once Boots Riley and Tom Morello and their quite capable band took the stage, all was forgiven, the crowd was wowed and won over. A few dudes were so moved by the raucous rocking that they exploded into a real live mosh pit, which was kind of charming but kind of annoyingly, aggro-ly executed and impinged on my ability to focus on the Paper Planes cover that had just begun, seeing as I was suddenly, nonconsensually on the front lines and having to mind my Mosh Safety. Still, it’s a testament to how thoroughly SSSC rawks live, bursting with energy, immediacy, and joy that gets lost in the music’s translation through the studio. If you can see them live, do it.

Everyone else was fun. Lauryn Hill: the songs had such drastically new arrangements (and I was so far away and mostly unable to see shit) that it took a bit for me to really connect with the material. Then she did “Ready or Not” and I started to cry.

I wish she’s rap again. Her singing voice isn’t what it was–whose could be, unless maintaining said voice was still your full-time job–but she still brings it. Her set and that just-released song off Corin Tucker’s new album got me thinking about how unfriendly the music industry is to parents who are primary caretakers. Usually mothers.

Pictures!
Boots Riley, Street Sweeper Social Club
Boots Riley

Tom Morello with SSSC
Tom Morello

Tom and Boots, Street Sweeper Social Club
SSSC in action

Brother Ali
Brother Ali

Snoop...
…and this would be Snoop. I think.

Activists protest slaughtering of Canada geese in front of Bloomberg’s mansion

On August 9th, Friends of Animals organized a spirited demo protesting city plans to kill more geese, right across the street from Chez Bloomberg. I went over to check it out, and chatted with some friendly people. I didn’t actually join the demo because I felt underinformed and a little weird about standing amongst signs decrying the “animal holocaust”. Not that these same thoughts hadn’t already gone through my mind–I mean, they did round up the geese and gas them to death, for god’s sake–but I tend to oppose citing the holocaust for shock value when making an animal rights point. Or any activisty point.

I’m glad they were there, though.

If you want to tell Bloomberg’s office how you feel regarding geese killing you can:

Call the Mayor’s office at 311 (in NYC)
Call 212-NEW-YORK.
Fax a message: 212-788-8123.
Email the Mayor.

While you’re at it, the man does deserve a thumbs up (for once) for his support of Park 51. Its worth voicing your support in the face of so much opposition.

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Good Things This Week

The Power Remix dropped. I love it. I’ve listened to it countless times. I wish Kanye didn’t regress to “don’t put out? I’ll put you out!” style misogynylol at the very end, but annoyance is somewhat ameliorated by how nice it is to hear what a good rapper he has become.

Seriously. Let’s talk about this now, because I don’t think I ever wrote a blog post about my fucking anger at how many times The College Dropout made best of the aughts lists over Kanye’s later albums, or was referred to as Kanye’s breakthrough-and-best. It’s not. It’s just not. If it’s your favorite, fine, and it’s a really good album and has its specific charms, but Late Registration and definitely Graduation (and, because I’m feeling bitchy, I’m going to argue 808s and Heartbreak as well, even) are all better albums. Kanye’s songwriting keeps getting better, his production keeps getting more ambitious and he keeps pulling it off. The most striking thing to me is his rapping, it keeps improving by leaps and bounds. On TCD I liked him as an emcee, which went a long way, but his rapping was only okay. Now he has verses that are better than Jay-Z’s when they go head to head on a song. What is that? His rhymes are better and more versatile, his flow has become a distinct, serious weapon, and he keeps switching it up. It’s something. It’s pretty inspiring, really, the man keeps pushing himself as an artist in the way few who taste pop success with what could be formulaized do. He could have become College Dropout kitsch, but he keeps moving forward in accordance with the artistic waves that seem to genuinely inspire him. I wish that Gaga/West tour would happen now. Or, better yet, a West/M.I.A. tour, the Hated On tour. It would be great.

Anyway, apart from the brief sexist detour, the song is just great. Really. Five mics. I wonder if all those pics of Kanye and Swizz and Mos Def in the studio were a fakeout, as I didn’t hear anything about Jay being on the track ’til I actually heard the song. It’ll be nice if Mos is on something on the new album, though.

Seriously though, I’ve listened t the thing like ten times today. It makes me feel so much better.

-If I weren’t listening to the Power Remix so much, I’d probably listen to this more:

It’s Jean Grae on a 2001 Mr. Len album called Pity the Fool. Matador put it out; I guess something went sour there because on Jean Grae’s own excellent solo debut, Attack of the Attacking Things, she has a track called “Knock” on which she wishes “a big ‘fuck you’ to bitch Chris Lombardi at Matador”.

Here is some sort of fairly official looking video, though Jean Grae is not in it, It’s also not the full 9 minute song, which is very worth hearing in its entirety. But, if you’re interested:

Gaza flotilla video mashup: Internet Killed Israeli PR

This made me smile.
It’s been blocked in Israel for the moment, supposedly because Hitler is in it for a second.

How democratic.

Nevermind that, as the film makers say (and is clear in the video):

[The Hitler] clip was used to illustrate the idea that the IDF’s “go back to Auschwitz” release constituted an accusation that flotilla passengers were supporters of Nazism.
It would be difficult to misread this as any sort of glorification.
All of us in Minor Demographic Threat are in 100% agreement that Hitler was a complete putz.

My Feelings and Opinions

1. I am glad that American apparel looks like it’s going bankrupt.  I would like to think that at least a small part of their sales drop was due to people stopped buying their crap cuz it was 1-waaaay too expensive for the quality and 2-almost anyone who is not themselves a really fucking creepy person fucking hates Dov charny.  JESUS.  Can he and fucking Terry Richardson (why, why do magazines hire him to shoot everyone now?  Does he work really cheap?  His one fucking schtick has gotten So. Fucking. Old.  And it was never even good!) just go off in a deserted cabin somewhere and jerk off to 70s porn together and sexually harass each other or do whatever the hell  to pass the time until the inevitable slasher villan comes to call?  I used to sometimes get wholesale AA stuff at Friedmans, but I haven’t even done that in awhile.  The only AA stuff I ever get is if some band uses the brand for their t-shirts or something.  Except for the 2 for $5 shirts I bought the other day at Filene’s.  Hell, if savings as they crumble keep getting passed on to me, I might start wearing the stuff again!  I like 2 for $5 tank tops!  2 for $5 tank tops are my jam!

2. I am pro-Kanye’s Twitter feed.  I like seeing horses and goblets.

3. Fantastic Mr. Fox was neither fantastic nor foxy.  I appreciated the stop motion animation, the art direction, some of the cinematography, and some of the voice acting (the thing would have been unwatchable without George Clooney and Meryl Streep) but I’m tired of Wes Anderson’s cereal box daddy issues and lack of soul.  He has an eye, his movies always look great, and after the trilogy of flat-out awful movies I’d seen previously, I was extra appreciative. (The trilogy of dreck was Prime, The Women, and Feeling Minnesota, I can explain how these seemingly random atrocities made their way into my DVD player!  Maybe that should be its own post.)  Maybe Wes Anderson should get into home decorating instead of film making.

Fantastic Mr. Fox did not pass the Bechdel test.  Apparently 95% of whimsical woodland creatures are male, and the female 5% exist solely in relationship to the males.  Oh I’m sorry, the Meryl Streep fox painted.  That’s character development, right?  I’ll suck up this casual structural sexism when I’m watching Olde Tyme movies, but have little tolerance for wankers churning it out today.

Circus Tightrope

I say Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus while it was running at Film Forum a few weeks ago and just died of happiness. By far the best summer movie I’ve seen in 2010.

I’ve also been listening to Janelle Monae‘s awesome The ArchAndroid a lot this summer, natch.

The Circus made me think of “Tightrope“, and then every time I heard “Tightrope” I revisited The Circus in my head.  So I made the following.  Because I’m a huge nerd.

M.I.A. Again

This quote from a recent Time Out London interview is getting a lot of internet mileage:

…Oprah seemed really pissed off with me. Also she made this huge speech at the ball praising Lady Gaga and about how she [Lady Gaga] is helping Americans to be the best of themselves. There’s millions of other Americans who represent that for me. Is [it] about numbers? About how much you’re selling? Is it truly about the journey? Because [Lady Gaga’s] journey isn’t that difficult: to go from the fucking Upper East Side to a fucking performing arts school and on to a stage at the museum of fucking wherever. That journey’s about four miles.’

Most of the internet thinks this is notable because

1. M.I.A. supposedly dissed Oprah

2. Gaga/M.I.A catfight continues!

3. More evidence that M.I.A. is OOC and needs “a time out

This is a predictable shame.  There was other way more interesting stuff in that interview.  Like:

‘I thought my [New York Times Magazine] cover was gonna be a part of… America’s campaign to soften the “them” and “us” thing. That’s what I thought I was being used as a tool for. That’s what I’m fucked off about: it felt like they were embracing the other and stabbing the other in the back at the same time.’

I read another interesting piece about M.I.A. last week, in Rolling Stone. It contains this quote:

My approach to politics is that I never said I’m smart, but why aren’t I allowed to write about my experience?…Why can’t I say, ‘Oh. my God, my school got shot by the government?’ I can’t say that, yet they can do it.

The piece then briefly recounts an incident from when M.I.A. was about eight years old, shortly before her family fled Sri Lanka for London, in which government troops surrounded and shot up her school, while class was in session.

Let’s backtrack to the quote people are talking about.

1. M.I.A. didn’t take a shot at Oprah.  She was obviously displeased at Oprah’s Gaga-boosting, but she hardly insulted the titan herself.  M.I.A.’s commentary regarding Oprah herself may have been gossipy, TMI, characteristically unfiltered, and unwise, but the whole “Ooooh, she went after Oprah!” meme is a little too shades of middle school.

2. The catfight meme is predictable and depressing.  Additionally, I don’t think Gaga’s notably privileged upbringing voids her artistry, if you think there’s anything otherwise worth admiring there.  That said, M.I.A. has a point.

I think US media and the internet mob are largely incapable of actually listening to what this woman is saying.

And I still don’t understand why the truffle fries fiasco was even a thing.  Even if she had ordered them herself rather than having them foisted on her by Lynn Hirschberg in an attempt to set up the singer as “hypocritical”, who the fuck cares?  Let the woman eat a fancy french fry.  Why is this a “contradiction”?  One can criticize economic stratification and still enjoy gourmet food.  Bono doesn’t get this kind of shit when he jets around wanking about third world debt relief in Armani.

Roseannarchy

I’ve been watching a lot of Roseanne on DVD to fall asleep recently. I watched the Fisher-is-hitting-Jackie episodes the night I heard the first Mel Gibson audio on that skeezy Radar site I’d happily never heard of before. After turning away from the internet, I turned on my Hello kitty tv/dvd player that a wonderful friend of mine no longer wanted and just gave to me (Hello Kitty bouncing around is the screen saver. She dances when you turn the volume up and down. etc,) and that’s where we were in the season. The episode was such a relief after all the internet chatter that condemned Gibson for being an asshole and “racist”, but failed to utter words like “sexism”, “misogyny”, “rape”, “domestic violence.” Now, I don’t think most gossip blogs decrying Gibson’s “racism” but not his misogyny really care more about racism than the oppression of women, they just know Racism = The N Word = Scandal=we do that, and it allows them to link to their off-point John Mayer and Kramer coverage.

Roseanne is a really, really, really good show. That’s its own post or twelve.

Anyway, I stumbled across this on Roseanne Barr’s own RoseanneWorld:



Roseanne’s running for President of The United States & Prime Minister of Israel (“it’s a two-fer!”) Idk, I think I’m probably voting for her.