Thursday, September 24, 2009

Coldplay gives more than You!

Let’s face it—in terms of helping people in need, giving money is the easiest thing to do. It only takes a couple of minutes to write or check, or better yet, swipe a card so those poor struggling banks can take a cut also. In the end there is no real sacrifice involved—the giver doesn’t really suffer. Slavoj Zizek states that “a sacrifice, in order to work and to be efficient, must be in a way ‘meaningless,’ a gesture of ‘irrational,’ useless expenditure or ritual…[that] can restore the immediate faith that will deliver us and heal us of our modern spiritual malaise.” Now it would seem that the cold, rational way of picking and choosing whom among the needy to give money to does seem to be a symptom of rational, “enlightened” capitalism. But really how are we to proceed with such a gesture, or does that type of gesture perpetuate the system that creates such problems and horrors in the first place? Is giving to charity any different than buying stock in General Electric? After all, how does giving to charity strike at the root cause of the problem? Isn’t it simply a painkiller given to relieve of ache of a hangover?

Maybe the issue is that we have two issues compounded here? I would like to think that most people would like to see the causes of poverty, injustice, ecological disaster, racism, sexism, etc. removed. But the problem is that the issues and even the system that caused those problems appears harder to change than it is to relieve the symptom. After all, doesn’t the doctor give you a magic pill first and then give you a battery of tests? The problem is you feel better and then the results come in! Does that mean we should allow people to suffer before we deal with the underlying social structures that are the true cause of the suffering?

Maybe here is where the artist comes in. Doesn’t the artist occupy one of the places in society that can address both the symptom and the cause? The artist can be visible in both roles. Look at the good musicians did in New Orleans after the man-made disaster caused the city to flood after Katrina. Because of the way our lives are structured, we don’t know what our neighbor, that “bearer of a monstrous Otherness,” believes. (Is that because we don’t know what we believe?) Thus the possibility of coming together to either relieve a symptom or remove the cause is impossible! (Isn’t that one of the genius moves of capitalist ideology?) However, in their very visibility, artists can act as surrogates for that missing piece of social life. They can act as a point de caption for us, thus maybe their giving, as selfish as it could be, becomes for us a selfless act. So when Coldplay gives over $1.5 million to a charity that helps kids who have make mistakes and found themselves in situations with serious ramifications they should be seen in a positive light. They give more than their money, which is more than we do.

I need to end this post; I need to write a check to WWF and listen to the new Radiohead song.

(Zizek quotes from The Parallax View, MIT Press, 2006)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Obama to Kanye

President Obama has weighed in on the Kanye hates Taylor controversy.
Thanks to the BBC for this one.

A Summary of the Health Care Crisis in Song

Paul Hipp is a singer/songwriter/actor, who recently put out this song about health care in America. After pumping your fist to "Born in the USA," do the same to "We're Number 37." Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kayne vs. Taylor vs. Music

By now we’ve all heard about the Kanye West vs. Tayor Swift debacle that occurred on MTV’s Video Music Awards. If you haven’t seen it, here it is:

For obvious reasons, there hasn’t been much support for West’s display. To add to the criticism, what is fundamentally the problem here is that this award show exists as an advertisement for the media industry. (Not just music, viewers were subjected to three ads, via trailers or videos, for three movies.) Other than being rude and simply a move of one without much savvy, West’s support for Beyonce was ultimately conservative in nature for it was simply support for the music industry machine.

Taylor Swift’s last record, Fearless, was distributed by Universal Music Group. She has even shot a video parody of her hit “Love Story” with the rapper T-Pain called “Thug Story.”

Kayne West’s is on the label Roc-A-Fella. Roc-A-Fella just happens to be Beyonce's husband's record label! And just who is Rock-A-Fella a subsidiary of? Can you say Universal Music Group.

Who lost at the VMAs: Taylor Swift, who solely wrote about half of her last album and co-wrote the rest. Kayne West, who went on Leno the next night, nearly broke down into tears, and needs to worry about becoming so egomaniacal that he will tattoo his face a la Mike Tyson. (Did you notice his hair?)

However, we all know who the big winner was: Universal Music Group as people who feel so bad for 19 year-old Talyor Swift, they’ll be purchasing her album Fearless and buy Kayne West’s records just to hear what kind of music a crazy man makes.

Where’s punk rock when you need it?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fix It!!!

Now that Obama has finally offered his vision of “Obamacare” (let’s not forget that every plan up until this point has come from congress not Obama), it’s time to get some positive, progressive work done.

Some notes:

Health care spending as it relates to GDP [let’s look at some numbers here]:

Super-powers: Singapore 3.3%; Cuba 7.7 %; Czech Republic 6.9%; Greece 9.5%

Not-to-mentions: Canada, France 11%; Germany 10.6%; Japan 8.1%, and the UK 8.2%

The US—15.3% (more than any country in the world!!!)

What has spending the most money in world on health care gotten us?

Life expectancy—the US is 26th—behind such super-powers as Singapore, Greece and Puerto Rico (Not to Mention Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the UK)

Infant death mortality—the US is 29th—behind such super-powers as the Cuba, Czech Republic, and Greece (Not to mention Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the UK)

A report out of the University of Maine contains more than a few interesting points. Here are a couple:

The United States is ‘the only country in the developed world, except for South Africa, that does not provide health care for all of its citizens.’

The U.S. health care system ranked 15th in the world for overall attainment…and 37th in the world for performance.

Obviously those folks screaming at town hall meetings, calling Obama a liar, and generally decrying health care reform and making claims that ours is the best are more than misguided.

It’s simple. We’ve got a problem, and I say “Fix it!”

And I’m not the only one. One of this county’s best rock bands is now lending their name to the cause of health care reform. Well known for their socially progressive stance, R.E.M. has teamed up with and produced a video utilizing their song “You Are the Everything” and some striking images to further make the point that we need serious health care reform.

Truely, there seems to be few who question the need for reform. The question is what shape that reform takes. It is important to remember that the form of our health care does not define "America." What should define America are the values that we express as shown in how we take care of our citizens. Let's look at those countries that do it better than us. Let's do it better than those health care systems. Let's "Fix it!"

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Blake vs. Bunnies


It’s always fun when musicians and activist groups take each other on—even when I agree with one side more than the other. This case seems pretty innocuous though. Some country performer, Blake Shelton (whom I’ve never heard of, but I confess to not being up to date with the latest sounds coming from Las Vegas Nashville), has been making sarcastic comments about PETA’s tweets. The only problem is that the way the story is written, the author seems to implicitly endorse Shelton’s position over PETA’s. Granted the story come from AOL’s country music page “The Boot,” so we can’t expect much journalist integrity. Let’s do the math (so to speak): AOL is owned by mega-corporation Time Warner. Time Warner owns Time magazine (surprise), Warner Bros. (among other things (and it’s a long list of things) Warner Bros. Records (surprise), CNN, HBO, The CW Television Network, and on and on and on ad nauseam.

Add that to PETA getting a Time Warner Cable store to get rid of an animal display by Paw Prints a company that has repeatedly come under censure from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

So, this isn’t adding up yet, you’re saying.

Well the biggest variable to be added to the equation is that Blake Shelton is on Warner Bros. Records! Warner Bros. won’t be making their artist look like anything but a hero.

So next time you see what appears to be a funny back and forth between two opposing forces, check to see if there’s a conflict of interest in the reporting and whether or not what you are reading is news or public relations.

The Boot story:


The PETA vs. Time Warner story: