Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Thursday, September 22, 2016

There Was Never Any Peace

Vance's article also made me think of something else I want to get off my chest.

People argue.

That is all.

Okay, there is more to it than that but that is the gist of it. In this election, I have been hearing more and more people lament the loss of political civility. And I'm inclined to agree... to a point but it also seems like what people are wistful for is political agreement, national consensus.

And for I while I've wanted to take these people by the shoulders and shake them.
  1. With all the people who have been locked out of the political process throughout history can we really say the country has been agreement about anything?
  2. Do you really want an America without dissent, without argument, where everybody just does as the powers that be tell them? 
The price of freedom is chaos. You can't have one without the other. 

We're going to fight and that's okay.

Yes Everybody is A Little Bit Racist But That Doesn't Make It Alright



America had a stupid reaction to Hilary Clinton's "deplorables" comment. Most of the press wanted to stay far the hell away from actually confronting its content in favor of focusing on strategy and fall out everybody else well...

But  the New York Times ran an article by J.D. Vance explains why everybody is upset in a not crazy insane way and talking his article seems like a good way to address the matter.

He starts out by saying things I fundamentally agree with. Everybody is a little bit racist or at least tribalistic and judgemental (including myself).

We are most concerned about the wellbeing of ourselves and or people we can identify as being similar to ourselves. We view ourselves, our traits, views and the circumstances that inform all that as the default and believe any variation to be out of the ordinary rather than just a variation.

And yet despite all of that people are fundamentally decent.  

People are complicated and people are neither bad nor good they are just people.

But, here is the rub,  we aren't just talking about a person. We're talking about people and the thing about people is that they shape and are shaped by culture, social institutions, and social forces around them.

As a Black man in America, I've just gotten used to the idea that there is a certain amount of racism I'm just going to have to tolerate if I don't want to just write the whole damn country and most of the people in it off. While I fear racism I also fear what my anger at perceived racism could turn me into.

That being said, racism, sexism homophobia, and Islamaphobia have and can lead to people, not a person but people making horrifying macro-decisions. And on aggregate, there is no such thing as that stuff being harmless because it contributes to an environment that excuses or at least desensitizes people to those larger macro-decisions.

The "deplorables" comment was meant as a wake-up call, a way to acknowledge both societal and individual flaws, to recognize imperfection and if not fix it at least ponder its consequences, to at least entertain the question am I a little bit racist and if I am what does it mean. Is that racism hurting people and if so how?

Sure it was a naked political move in the hope that one of the obvious answers to that question is supporting a candidate for president who would make decisions based on that which would hurt people. But still.

Governments, specifically governments that are representative democracies, are made up of people elected into office by other people to enact policies they support.

The hard truth is that while Donald Trump is a racist, he is one racist in a vast ocean of racists. He could have only gotten this far, won the Republican nomination if a sizable portion of the country was alright ignoring the prospect of  an overt bigot in the white house or at the very least didn't understand what bigotry was when they saw it.

And that isn't on Donald Trump.

That's on his supporters.

Let me say it again. Either Donald Trump's supporters are fine supporting a bigot for the office of President of the United States of America, one of the most powerful posts in the world or they don't understand what racism is.

Either of those things is something that deserves to be called out or at least commented on.

Is it insulting and divisive?

Yes. Yes it is.   But it's also the truth. You can make the argument that they aren't voting in favor of Donald Trump BECAUSE of his racism but that doesn't change the fact that they are still voting for a racist candidate.

The word racist is more than an insult. It actually represents a concept. And the fact that being associated with that concept is stigmatizing doesn't change the fact that Trumps supporters have willingly associated themselves with a racist candidate and the overt more devout racists who also support him.

While that can be used as a moral judgment against them it is also a statement of fact.

Through that support, they are turning a blind eye to and excusing the racism of the rest of the Trump camp. That can have real consequences.

For the sake my argument I will limit myself to governmental consequences such as fairness in the appropriations process, government accountability in instances when policies are demonstrably disenfranchising minority groups and the defense of civil rights protections (which in many cases Trump's rhetoric already ignores), though there is a litany of other cultural ones.

I find that infuriating.

When discussing racism or any injustice really one of the hardest things to confront is societal complicity.

"Why don't we all do something?"

By not doing something, tacit approval is given, the message is sent that even if deemed unfavorable bigotry, that again can have real consequences, is acceptable.

In that complicity, lies the original sins of my country. Slavery and the Native American genocide, It was not just the deeds of evil men but willful blindness of  the country as a whole that allowed such horrors to triumph as they benefited from them.

That can not be ignored.  Both domestically and internationally the government is too powerful an institution to ignore how the policies it enacts at the behest of its people can negatively impact lives.

That being said I don't expect John and Jane Smith to join the revolution. People have lives and jobs.

But what I do expect is a little awareness and empathy. A desire to limit how much WORSE our actions could make others lives. One of easiest ways to do that is to take that into account when voting for leaders.

It is a sin to let people who don't off the hook in the same way I feel it is a sin to let the founders off the hook for slavery, Jackson off the hook for the Trail of Tears, FDR of the hook for internment,  or even Clinton herself off the hook for mass incarceration. And all of the people who supported all of that. It is a sin to let my country off the hook. We have too much wealth, power and influence not to take responsibility for the harm we do and have done and still can do.

We need to have the race conversation. And it needs to be a conversation. One side can't just get defensive.

How does race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and identity in general affect the way Americans interact with each other and the institutions that surround them? Finding truth is going to involve something I see rarely happen. How do these things affect how people perceive and are perceived by the world around them? The answers we find have to be deeper that racism is bad, I'm not bad, so I can't be racist.





Friday, September 9, 2016

Brain Go Boom (What Do Conservatives Stand For?)


I as a liberal left leaning libertarian (shut up it is to a thing) have values that I use to determine what policies I feel my government should enact and generally judge politicians based on the likely hood they will enact those policies and embody those values.

Right now the right, as personified by conflicts of media figures is trying to figure out what it stands for.

It's doing this during a contentious election the powers that be don't want to lose but all the same, it's something that needs to happen.

The right owns Trump.

They hate him but they own him.

Everything he is saying is stuff somebody down the line said before him, the questioning of birth citizenship,  disdain for critics of police brutality.  conflating religious extremism with Islam as a whole, general xenophobic and racist scapegoating and stereotyping (including that of the sitting, fairly elected president of the United States of America), dismissing claims about how gender, sexual identity, and race affect people's lives, military posturing towards the international community, using individual freedom as a shield from criticism for discrimination and structural racism, using free speech as a shield from criticism for bigoted statements.

The right owns all of that. You know what. I need to be blunt about it. There is no alt right. The distinction between the worst of the worst and the intelligentsia is one of degrees not kind.

But...

We need two parties damn it.

And if they can unfuck themselves they might actually have something meaningful to say.



You know what. The government IS run based on compulsion. Based on force. Based on the threat of violence or at least physical detention. That is inherent to government. ALL government.

And the question is how do we reconcile that with recognition of human rights. With the recognition that we know it is wrong to confiscate property, threaten, detain, or even kill.

For me the answers are political inclusiveness to allow everybody a say in when said force can be used and constitutionalism to guarantee basic human rights including access to that political inclusiveness. And by God those should be the bastions of the right who often call themselves constitutional conservatives.

But, the right has struggled to recognize a basic fact that most of the people in my life understand.



For the vast history of this country minorities and women could not participate in the political social or economic processes that governed their lives. They could not vote, hold office, sue for civil or criminal remediation, or hold property under the law.  Over time that silence has created a lot of built up infrastructure that has disenfranchised them. You can not argue against the statistics.

Now (for the most part) that they can participate in the process they very much want to walk back that societal infrastructure to make society just. They are not wrong to want to address things like the wage gaps, institutional funding disparities, voting protections, disproportionate prosecution, unfair hiring practices, gender roles, sexual harassment, discrimination, geographic segregation, police brutality, stereotyping, and cultural prejudice.

These are issues that they would  have been discussing all along if they had the political power of the ideal egalitarian system. If we truly lived in a representative democracy from the inception of this country.  If we truly respected majority rule and minority rights.

And it annoys the hell out of me that right-wing media has portrayed them as being in the wrong whenever they bring this stuff up and let's be honest a big part is if not racial animosity at least racial denial, indifference, and ignorance.


I've come to expect a certain amount of that. Never ascribe to malice what stupidity will explain and all, but Donald Trump is so racist that the stupidity is turning into actual evil.



A reckoning is coming. Is the right going own up to and purge the most racist parts of its ideology and coalition or become the party that's fine with racism.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Does Not Compute

Look I'm a lefty. So I seldom take right-wing media seriously. Okay, I do but I long ago realized that if I let it that stuff will make my head explode and I like my head. I already have high blood pressure. Why make it worse?



But some weird stuff has been happening that's worth mentioning.

A huge chunk of the right wing wants to repudiate Donald Trump, who by the way I find disgusting so good on them...to a point.

But what a lot of the right has been selling for the past few years has basically been a lighter shade of the stuff he's been selling.

  • Government institutions don't work and aren't worth investing in.
  • Blacks and latinos are on the dole and are taking your tax money.
  • There are too few economic resources to accept refugees and immigrants into the country. 
  • Authority figures such as police and the military have too little power and need to be given more to re-establish order.
  • Politicians are policing themselves too much not to look bad to women and minority constituencies at the expense of everyone else. 
  • Racism is over and remediation not worth discussing. 
At first, their major beef seemed to be in the few areas where Trump broke from conservative orthodoxy. Namely free trade and American interventionism (which by the way are ideas I believe are worth salvaging) but after Clinton's speech on the alt right they've been doing backflips to not just distance themselves from the man they've once supported but from logical conclusions of ideas they've been peddling for years.

Part of me think's it's funny.


But


Isn't that far removed from this. 




Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Work Is Way Smarter Than People Give It Credit For




So. I love Rihanna's "Work". I honestly think that it's one of the smartest songs we've had in a long time. And it irks me that while a lot of people like the production most are dismissing the lyrics which in mind make it one of the most clever songs about sex since "Kick/Push". (By the way that skateboard ain't a skateboard.

Evan Pushchak, The Nerdwriter, has already done a video essay about the style and influences of the song but I want to go deeper and talk about it's importance.

So part of the reason why I feel this song is important is because where it lies within' the context of other songs that came out around it.


So for the past few years people have been rolling their eyes at Iggy Azalea. Because of cultural appropriation. And before you start I know the sample in Rihanna's work is Jamaican rather than from Barbados but stick with me here.

Iggy's Work is all about establishing her roots but to a guy like me it comes across as a bit inauthentic. Yes because of her race.

I know next to nothing about Iggy Azalea and will be up front about it.

But still if you're going to have the came up from the bottom song you better sell it because very often in this rap game when people said they came up from the bottom and how they grew up flat broke they mean it.

And Iggy's Work doesn't.

And Rihanna's work very much seems to be a comment on not necessarily the song but the technique. She wants to drown you in the type of music she grew up listening to and show you where she came from as an artist.

Which is why she's putting on that accent. She's making a deliberate artistic choice and that deliberate choice has resulted in this.



You know what song everybody has  RIGHTLY dumped on.



The brilliance of  "Sexual Healing" and to a lesser extent "Let's Get It On" is they feel like songs actually about sex

And in media dealing with sex head on is haaaarrrrrd.

Oh don't get me wrong we can talk all day about sexuality. But actual two people doing the horizontal mambo and enjoying the experience that's something we have trouble with. And more over we also have trouble describing romantic complexity.


The idea that you might love somebody but not what they do. Or love somebody but not love them all the time. Or not want the same things they do.

Sex is complicated

Love is complicated.

People are complicated.

And that's what the lyrics of song are about.

It's basically about couples therapy mid-coitus. With both sex and the relationship itself acting as metaphors for each other as the characters Drake and Rihanna play in the song, "Work" it out.





P.S. How many times does she have to repeat the words, "Do me." for people to get it.

Northland August 23, 2016 Presentation at Southfield Public Library

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Remix Is The Spirit of Hip Hop: A The Get Down Review

So is The Get Down worth your time?


That is a boring question.  And The Get Down isn't a boring show. It would probably be enough if the show simply aimed to a recounting of the history of hip-hop but the series has a thesis of what hip-hop is and sets itself out to spiritually demonstrate it.

Hip-hop is the remix.  Taking something old and turning it into something new. The series seeks to not only say but demonstrate that the birth of hip-hop was the recombination of all of these other disparate cultural elements coming together to form something that people really hadn't seen before.

Historical Impressionism


To get to how it does this let me talk about what I call historical impressionism.

I'm pretty sure 10 years ago I read an essay regarding this in college but I barely remember it so I'll remix it into my own thing. That being said I don't know exactly who I'm riffing but this is an old conversation.



When talking about history one of the hardest things to communicate is the context of the story. We the audience are removed from yet familiar with what happened, It is hard beyond that to convey not what happened why? What contributed to the decision making of the people involved.

There is a difference between Truth and the truth. and it's up to the storyteller to decide which one has more value.



Enter Baz Lurhmann, who has consistently over his career chosen Truth.

When you're watching a Baz Lurhman production your always watching two movies separated by how you calculate his tics and style into the diegesis.

The plot as it occurs from our omniscient point of view and the plot as it is understood by the characters.

For instance people can and have argued that the vast majority of Mulin Rouge as we see it is taking place in the character's heads and all the weirdness we see is a translation of their emotional states. 

Are the characters actually singing a medley of the greatest loves songs of the last century?  It doesn't matter but that conveys how they feel at the time and explains why they do what they do in a way that the audience gets it.

Part of how this works is breaking the fourth wall and using our external context to communicate character's frame of mind.

Now this is Lurhman's schtick. If something has his name on it, you know that you're probably not going to get something to be taken literally.

But in the Get Down Luhrmann's style goes to the next level.

Let's Do The Time Warp
The Get Down is probably one of Lurhman's  more subtle works because this time he's remixing the 70's with.... the 70's or at least the 70's as pumped into the minds of the people who lived it via music, film and television.

The show uses costume changes that evoke everything from West Side Story, to Fame, to Grease, to Starsky and Hutch, to The Warriors, to Superfly, to Black Samurai flicks to show how the characters feel and who they are trying to be in that moment.

The same goes for the mannerisms of the cast as well as the sets.

The show is in effect a remix of the pop culture the time.

Yet it goes beyond mere references since in Luhrmann's style all of these things are meant to be communicative. All of the references add context to the action and dialogue in the piece, turning The Get Down into something of yet distinct from all its parts.



The Get Down is a filmic adaptation of the old school hip hop it's recounting. And that makes the point it's trying to make all the stronger.

What makes hip hop hip hop is the remix.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

My Patreon Page

I still need to make an intro video, and a thank you video wouldn't hurt either, but I decided to just go for it. And launch my Patreon Page.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Random Photos

I really need some channel art like yesterday. I'm probably going to modify my blog banner, but for a while I was tooling with idea of using some old photos so enjoy.



















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