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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Excuse me, Doctor, but who are you and what is this control that you hold over me?

I’ve always thought, at least in public, that I have pretty good taste in music. I’m not saying I listen to obscure bands just to reference them, but, at the same time, I never miss out on cracking a good Nicklback joke. I read music journalism, have an extensive iTunes library and respect my elders. You get the idea. So, in continuing this same train of thought, why did I spend all of last week listening to Katy Perry’s new single Teenage Dream? I don’t listen to Top 40 radio. I don’t like Katy Perry. And talk about misleading lyrics. Her jeans aren’t that skintight (NSFW). I literally listened to that goddamn song like 14 times in a row one day. WTF you’re thinking. WTF is what I was thinking too (we’re so alike). Gang, it was research time.

Research time lead me to the dude up top. His name is Dr. Luke (not his Christian name), and apparently he has a PhD in making me lose my mind.

Dr Luke is an American songwriter, producer and remixer. Born Lucasz (why the z?) Gottwald to a solid upper-Jewish-middle-class-Rhode Island family, the Lukemeister taught himself guitar, dealt the dope (but just to other dealers), and was the Saturday Night Live house band’s lead axe man for 10 seasons. No shit. The Doc then got all up in NYC’s underground hip hop scene, working with cool artists like Mos Def, Black Star, KRS-One and Rage’s Zach de la Rocha. Respect right? Eventually he became bored with being a bad ass and started producing monster, MONSTER hits. And he’s doing okay.

Doc Lucaz is behind:

•    Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” “Behind These Hazel Eyes”, and “My Life Would Suck Without You”
•    Pink’s “Who Knew” and “U + Ur Hand”
•    Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend”
•    Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl”, “Hot n Cold”, “California Gurls”, and “Teenage Dream”
•    Britney Spears’ “Circus”
•    Flo Rida’s “Right Round”
•    Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the U.S.A.”
•    Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok”
•    Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite”
Among others. See where this is going?
Because normally I wouldn’t give two, maybe even three shits about such a dude. But. But but but but. Remember how I found myself stuck on Teenage Dream? Well I can only think of two other songs that I similarly attached myself to. Since U Been Gone and Party in the U.S.A. Didn’t like the artists, didn’t like the genre, and didn’t get these fucking songs out of my head.

Dude scares me, making me love stuff I hate. He’s dangerous all right? I mean, Tea Party schmea party, Luke Luke could hoard like four or five crack addictive tracks, run for office, start dropping them on the public and I’d be humming that shit aall the way to the voting booth. Obama, you reading this? Well if you are, although I’m glad you’re not, I’d recommend getting Docca Docca to help you get your groove back. Have him write the slamming campaign theme that Will.I.Am wanted to write and put that mutha on REPEAT. It’ll stick. Don’t I know. You think I like admitting I love a Miley Cyrus song? If you are over the age of 15 and/or have a Y chromosome you do not like admitting it.

So seriously, Dr. Luke, really, who are you and what is this control that you hold over me?

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On May 21st, Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-8) introduced bill H.R.5353, “The War Is Making You Poor Act”. And it’s an important bill. Created in response to the $159,000,000,000 requested in next year’s budget to spend on our wars in the Middle East, this bipartisan legislation would take that extra money and give it back to you and I.

In my opinion, Grayson is a pretty cool dude. He’s from the Bronx (cool). He worked his way through Harvard as a janitor and night watchman (cool). He’s smart too (not cool…just kidding…but seriously), graduating from Harvard summa cum laude in three years, and then in four years earning a law degree from Harvard Law, a masters in public policy from the JFK School of Government and completing the course work and passing the general exams for a Ph.D. in government. He was even a cool lawyer (if such a thing is possible). In 2006, a Wall Street Journal reporter described Grayson as “waging a one-man war against contractor fraud in Iraq” and as a “fierce critic of the war in Iraq” whose car displayed bumper stickers such as “Bush lied, people died”. Cool. Oh, and he had the balls to introduce the Public Option Act, talk lots of shit to Republicans, vote for various civil rights bills, and otherwise take crap from no one. Cool. And with this latest bill, Rep. Grayson keeps the ass kicking coming.

Grayson’s bill, which is currently being co-sponsored by Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX), Walter Jones (R-NC), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) Barbara Lee (D-CA), John Conyers (D-MI), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), does three things.

1. It eliminates separate funding for the occupation of Irag and Afghanistan.

2. It eliminates federal income taxes for everyone’s first $35,000 of income (which a third of the country would qualify for).

3. It pays down the national debt by $15.9 billion.

GRAYSON: So I believe that the thing we need to do is to take that $159 billion that the President has set aside – we’re not saying he has to stop the war, we’re not giving a cut-off date for the war – we’re simply saying you need to fund that out of the base budget of $549 billion. And we take 90 percent of that and give it back to the American people.

With the country’s current obsession over the size and scope of government, it’s absolutely ridiculous that no one talks about how much we spend on our military. We spend as much as the rest of the world combined, and most of the other big spenders are our allies. Worried about the national debt and the economic crisis? Yeah, me too. Maybe we should talk about the role the trillions of dollars we’ve sunk into Iraq and Afghanistan have played in these issues.

If you like what you’re seeing, here’s a petition that you can sign to show your support. Hell, tell your friends too. And as always, thanks for reading.

Sources: Huffington Post, Wikipedia

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Religion is complicated. I’ve never been a particularly religious person. Like lots of people, I’ve always struggled to find the strength and courage to put my faith in that which will always be unknowable. Someday I will post my own manifesto on religion, but not today. Instead, I would like to give a shout-out to an institution that has constantly brought me back from the edge of atheism. It is the church I was brought up in, and I am honored to share it with you.

All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, OK is one of those rare institutions that I really believe in. I know it’s cheesy, but it is truly a place of love, tolerance, and inclusiveness. In a time when more and more people are moving away from institutionalized religion, and often for very legitimate reasons, All Souls is a shining beacon for what, in my opinion, religion should be.

I rarely attend services there, but like most God-fearing Americans, I was present for the Easter Sunday service. I’ll admit, the night before I was still conflicted over whether or not I would go or just sleep in. I thought, I’ve been to Easter service, and like Christmas Eve service, if you’ve been to one you’ve been to them all. Blah blah blah resurrection blah blah Amen. Luckily, my better half gave me the ol’ kick in the butt and told me to suck it up and go. So I went (thanks Sweetie), and it was beautiful. It was as if they knew what I felt and tailored the service specifically for me. I know everyone is super busy right now, but if you can spare 17 minutes please listen to the service so you can appreciate what I’m talking about.

Listen here.

Religion does not have to be what we see in the media everyday. It doesn’t need to be some man saying “Believe what I believe or you’ll be punished”. It needs to be something that makes you feel good and makes you want to be a better person. All Souls says that all souls eventually make it to heaven, and to all those that think this is foolish, you’re missing the point. I mean, think about how petty it sounds to say that people not like you should be subjected to eternal damnation. The point is, at least from my limited perspective, that if you can look for the good in everyone, if you can love your neighbor like you love yourself, and if you can achieve a peace in your own life and be a light of happiness shining unto the world, than it really doesn’t matter what you believe in.

I love you all, and thank you for reading.

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I found some cool photos here. Enjoy!

photos by David Fenton


March to Free the Panther 21, New York City, April 4, 1970


Nurses on the Sidewalk, Chicano Moratorium, Los Angelos, CA, February 28th, 1970


Protesters at a Welfare Demonstration Outside of Public School 15, New York City, September 11, 1969


Protester Runs Through Tear Gas During Demonstrations for the Black Panther Party, New Haven, May 2, 1970


Mark Feinstein and Baryl Epstein (?), Liberation News Service Collective, New York City, February, 1970


Reporter, Liberation News Service Collective, New York City, February, 1970


John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Jerry Rubin on the Drums, “Free John Sinclair” Rally, Ann Arbor, MI, December 10, 1971


Friday Night, Santa Barbara, CA, February 27, 1970


Central Park Peace March, New York City, April 5th, 1969


Revolution and Pirate Flag, Easter Be-In, Central Park, New York City (II), April 6th, 1969


Protesters at Columbia University, New York City, 1970


Anne LaVasseur, Park Concert, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, September 1971


Protest is Patriotic, Antiwar Rally, Washington D.C., May 9, 1970


March to Free the Panther 21, New York City, April 4, 1970


Rock Band Performing in Central Park, New York City, 1968


Demonstration Against Hubert Humphrey, New York City, October 9th, 1968


Peace Sign, Black Panther Rally, New Haven, October 12, 1968


Alan Harold (Standing), Baryl Epstein (?) and Other Members of the Liberation News Service Collective, New York City, October 12th, 1969


Black Panther Demonstration, New Haven, November, 1969


Protesters Arrested During the Days of Rage, Chicago IL, October 11, 1969


Weatherman and Supporters, (Peter Clapp and John Jacobs, Center), Days of Rage, Chicago, October 11, 1969


Bill Kunstler, Ken Kelly (of the White Panther Party), Buck Davis and Allen Ginsberg, CIA Conspiracy Rally, November 1970


Protesters at an Antiwar Demonstration Carry a Free Huey Banner, New York City, April 4, 1970


Prowar Demonstrators, Central Park, New York City, 1968


Pro Vietnam War People Opposing Antiwar Protesters, Central Park, New York City, 1968


Women Demonstrators Outside Fort Dix, A Major Transshipment Port for U.S. Army Soldiers Leaving For Vietnam, October 12th, 1969


Black Panther Demonstration, New Haven, November 1969


Nixon Inauguration, Washington D.C., January 20th, 1969

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Something to Ponder

I happen to possess a three-ring binder. It’s not a very nice binder, at least not aesthetically (personality-wise it’s charming, to say the least), but there are nice things inside of it. I tend to dick around a lot on the internet, hell I even have a blog, and in this dicking around I occasionally come across cool things. I print out these things and I place them in my binder. And this binder has lots of dumb stuff in it; I mean lots of dumb stuff. But every time I open it up, I read the very first entry, the entry that inspired me to start the binder because there are some things you just can’t cast aside. It is an entry that I think everyone should be exposed to, so I’ll share it with you.

Something to ponder

If you woke you this morning with more health than illness, you are more

blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of

imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are

ahead of 500 million people in the world.

If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest,

torture, or death, you are more blessed than

three billion people in the world.

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead,

and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish

someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If your parents are alive and married, you are very rare.

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful,

you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.

If you can hold someone’s hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder,

you are blessed because you can offer a healing touch

If you can read this message you’ve just received a double blessing in that

someone was thinking of you, and furthermore, you are more blessed than over

two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.

Have a good day, count your blessings, and pass this along to remind

everyone else how blessed we all are.

There is this massive undercurrent of cynicism rambling through our current existence, and it’s present every time you turn on the news, or visit your websites, or talk current events with your peers. We all tend to revel in how shitty everything is. We bitch and bitch and bitch about everything: politics, religions, work, personal relationships, family drama, money, and my personal reason for starting this blog, boredom. Do you know what a luxury it is to be able to be bored? It means all of my big problems are so taken care of that I get to focus all of my energy on things that after reading that list seem wholly insignificant and selfish. And we should all be so lucky.

Please, after reading this post, count your blessings. Don’t stress about the possible repercussions of passing or not passing health care or whatever is in vogue. Think about how good we all have it before demonizing anyone and anything that doesn’t agree with you. Because we all have problems, and problems admittedly really suck. I don’t mean to say that we shouldn’t concern ourselves with the world around us, but you can’t let yourself be defined by what worries you. If we’re able to step back and contemplate how fantastic things are for us, right now, in what’s supposedly the most perilous time we’ll ever see, versus how much worse they are right now for billions of people, we’ll see that yes, we are truly blessed. If you’re not happy now, will you ever really ever be happy? Embrace what you can control, don’t worry about what you can’t, and never forget that we live in the most comfortable time and place in the history of human existence.

Thank for reading, and have a wonderful day.

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Tea-baggin’ It

Are you happy with American democracy? According to a recent poll on CNN over half of you aren’t. And after listening to the Health Care Summit in Washington today I’m not either. Here’s why: it seems everyone can agree that our health care system is wack, it’s been wack for a while now, and we can’t do anything about it. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought one of the glories of democracy was that if a majority of the people feel something isn’t working right they have the capacity to change it.

Apparently in modern America that’s just not the case. And people are angry. The most vocal group is the ridiculous Tea Party.

This “Tea Party” thing is actually pretty interesting. When I first heard about it I was quick to dismiss it as some dumbshit redneck group. Especially after all the Foxnews rapture and astroturf talk, I thought “there is no way this will grow into anything. But after this year’s CPAC it seems to be heading that way.

Because it’s a movement dammit! It’s democracy, it’s people fighting for a cause, and it’s been boiling under the surface for a long time. It’s been boiling in all of us, in our dissatisfaction with the way the world is operating.

What really sucks is that this sort of thing is quickly politicized, and this politicization immediately draws it up out of the pure desire for something better and plops it into the arena of sleaze, of popularity, of the cable news cycle, and it’s quickly tainted.

If it could stay pure and hopeful, if it could speak to some basic human desire, then people from across the political spectrum could join in, but instead you’ve got people like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck latching on.

And because it has become political, it is less righteous and more dangerous. These people are fairly extreme in some of their views, some of which are culturally conservative, and the more the media disregards the Tea Party, the more people write it off as fringe movement full of crazies, the more its members are justified, not just feel justified but are actually justified, in their fight.

And yeah, the whole movement is hyper hypocritical in its positions, but we’re all hypocrites in lots of areas in our lives. Be that as it may, it would be cool if there were some way to bridge the divide between the Tea Party and the liberals who feel disenfranchised over the state of things. I’m pessimistic about any real revolutionary change, but if there was ever a time for it seems like now is as good as any.

If the Tea Party could just boil its message down to a more basic level, below the politics, and have some key points it might actually be productive:

  • Smaller Government (Especially less government intrusion in day to day life/a libertarian slant)
  • Lowering the national debt
  • Energy Independence
  • States Rights (Let liberal states be liberal, let conservative states be conservative
  • Campaign finance reform
  • Extremely limited special interest influence
  • A commitment to take the government back from big business and put it in the hands of citizens

A cool ticket would be a Tea Party candidate and someone like Ralph Nadar, or like a Ron Paul Dennis Kucinich ticket.

What sucks is that a big part of the Tea Party’s platform and momentum is a massive opposition to everything Obama, which plays right into Republican’s political wishes (and their politicians don’t really want anything to change, they just want to be back in power: see the George W. presidency).

The ultimate task would be to boil a message down to something below political ideology, something purely human that people could rally around despite differences in things like abortion and gay rights and welfare and other supercharged issues. Those things would take care of themselves, especially if you allow states to decide for themselves what they want (although I really think it’s preposterous that gays are still not equal citizens (I’ll save it for another post)).

If all the liberal groups just blindly oppose the Tea Party, then the cycle will keep getting worse. The liberals have got to take a proactive stance on it and find common ground on the most important issues. Namely:

  • What do we ultimately want from our government?
  • What are the fundamental flaws in the system and how can they be addressed and then remedied?

I think we should have sent an ambassador to the Tea Party convention and extended a peace-offering. Click the link below to hear my impromptu speech, and let me know what you think.

Tea Party Speech

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