Saturday, January 31, 2009

Johhny Ramone on True Punk

Johhny Ramone:
JOHNNY: Yeah, that’s all hippies. Same thing as was going on in the late sixties. To me, I think punk should be right wing. That’s how I see it. The left wing is trying to destroy America by giving handouts to everyone and making everyone dependent on them. They only care about the voter base. They don’t really care about anything else. They don’t care about anyone. If they can get illegal aliens to become able to vote by motor registration, they will. They’re illegal aliens! They don’t even belong in the country, let alone voting. It’s just to keep their base of voters. Is it best for America? It’s not best for America.
Original interview here. Politics start towards the bottom.
Hat Tip to Joe Lima at Big Hollywood for posting the original link from this great post.

This is the essence of the punk movement and why I started this blog. Punk as a culture and a philosophy is skeptical, to say the least, of grandiose promises. Johhny's conservatism just as easily sees the con in televangelists and messianic Leftists. I only wish he were alive today to see Obama's impossible promises and cult like popularity. Johhny cuts to the chase: it's all about voting- meaning, it's all about Power. This is the essence of the punk movement, speaking truth to power and identifying the corrupt nature of government and humanity. Punk and conservatism both lack the starry eyed idealism and faith in humanity that has become so popular and cliche in western society, which is why neither wants the government to have so much power. We know they will abuse it.

God Bless you Johhny

Art as Religion

As one of the great mass of unwashed "heathen" out there, I am never surprised by the highly moralistic and preachy nature of contemporary art. Since the 90s we seem to have entered a new Medieval period where art for art's sake is forgotten in lieu of art for the sake of the cause, the oppressed, the marginalized, the hungry, black left-handed midgets, vertically challenged basketball players, et al. Historically, there is nothing wrong with this as primitive art was undeniably a method of communicating and reaffirming primitive culture and identity, usually in the form of religion. Art has always, to some extent, served this purpose. But that was in a culture that was relatively static and void of real diversity.

Fast forward to the present and you find something quite different. Art and the Arts continue to be dominated and ruled by a small group of likeminded elitists who all share the same values, beliefs, and culture. But the rest of the world has grown far more diverse. Neandertal man lived in a relatively static universe. When he encountered "the Other" it was usually in the form of a saber tooth or a mastedon. And therer was usually little doubt as to what their intentions were... But today we have Buddhists, atheists, Mormons, Muslims, Africans, Mexicans, Asians and more all mixing- each with their own unique universe based on their culture.

However, anytime "accepted" art depicts diversity or the Other it is stale and predictable. This came up recently talking with one of my students about art and why I dont care for it anymore. He volunteers at the local Museam of Contemporary Art and was telling me how he finally discovered what a certain piece "meant." Predictably the piece, which is beautiful in a technical and mechanical level, was about environmental degradation. Really? Am I supposed to be surprised. My student was surprised when I told him that I knew that already, because art is so boring and cliche, because it is enslaved to the leftwing establishment. He was mystified and perplexed, because art is so avante garde and transgressive!

Really? You mean you can't tell the whole story the second you know that the protagonist is gay, black, Muslim? We talked about it and he started seeing the Con pretty quickly. We talked about how Art has become church for the secular Left. It is a place to go and have all your values and beliefs reaffirmed. Theatre and concert goers hear predictable and stale messages about the same things over and over again. The music and cinematography may be beautiful and arresting, but far too often, the message is not. If you strip it away, there really ins't much difference between modern art and televangelists. One Con is just a little more slick than the other. but they are both soaking their gullible audiences for millions of dollars to present the same canned, boring message.

Given the wealth of western society, it is invariable that with so many "artists" out there that we should still have some great art, incredible music, and beautiful movies being crafted every year. And there are still some artists, even in the establishment, who give reign to their artistic nature more than their politics, but that is only because there are so many. The less practicioners of any art and the more you will notice its decay. Take theater and poetry for example. The drastic decline in these two art forms is due less to the barbarian appetites of the dirty masses who cannot appreciate the sublime intricacies of the current offerings. Rather it is that there are just so many "artists" whose work has all the depth and sensitivity of a jackhammer that the great ones like Billy Collins can't make up for all the really bad egocentric melodrama out there. These are the bad preachers who still attract followings, but lack the mass appeal that their more restrained colleagues offer.

More importantly, art has devolved into mere technical tricks and developments. The medium and the message are less important because the Art establishment has placed the same limitations on art as the Medieval Church. Iconography produced some beautiful works, in spite of the same predictable message much like our Arts today. But this situation does not allow Art to flourish as it should. We need another reformation.

Art should be free. And it has had some pretty amazing moments in the past. But right now it is enslaved to hypermoralism. A bad thing, especially in so diverse a culture.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

If 6 was 9

Jimi Hendrix's poetical bent ran head on into the coffee shop pseudo-philosophers of the 60s when he gave such a mysterious title to another guitar masterpiece that ends up simply being a reference to the song's 6/9 chords. Heavy Man. Millions of drug supported "deep" debates about the consequences of 6 being 9 were inspired by a guitarist with a poetical bent. I remember some hippie friends at Humboldt arguing that 6 must be 6 because otherwise the entire world of numbers would be deceived! Well, how about if liberal were leftist? We tend to think of them as the same thing when we should separate them. What's the difference? Well, think of war, lower taxes, and nationalism. All three were easily supported by liberal presidents of the past without any betrayal of their party or its ideals. But liberals today have serious philosophical problems with all three. The liberals and democrats of the past were still nationalists. Today, they are globalists. Yesterday, they believed in assimilation. Today, multiculturalism. Two completely different animals. If 6 was 9...

Why is it important? Because millions of people are like my grandfather, who kept on voting for FDR well into the nineties. He thought leftwing progressivism was the liberal progressivism of the past. But the left today is postmodern instead of classical liberal, socialist instead of big government. Leftists today have made a hero out of communist revolutionary Che Guevera, a man liberal heroes like Kennedy and Roosevelt would have opposed. The difference is profound and we need to clarify it and drag it out into the light so Americans can begin to see for themselves the dissonance and hypocrisies of the ruling elite. It is important because younger generations have zero understanding of America's founding values. They do believe that Health Care is a right, but can't explain why. They believe that Global Warming is a serious threat, but have never immersed their minds in Washington's farewell address. It is important for the same reason it is important to know and identify the enemy in the War on Terror. By facing reality we can at least discuss and think about it honestly.

Russell Kirk famously declared that he was a conservative because he was a liberal. The tragedy is that this poignant observation of American society was lost to all but a few intellectuals when it needed to enter into the popular mind. If this happens our new generations will at least be able to question where their ideas come from and see that there are alternatives. As things stand, they are all becoming "liberals" because 6 is 9.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Diversity Anyone?

I was talking to an evangelical Christian colleague the other day (there are a few in hiding in academia). The conversation turned towards politics, and my approach to her was, "I assume you are somewhere on the left side of the political spectrum." Now why would I say something like that? We all know that evangelicals are robots who do whatever James Dobson tells them, right?

Not exactly. First, last time I checked evangelicals are far more politically diverse than say, academics. Second, academia is so predictable and boring that I never believe a professor or colleague believes anything other than standard left wing orthodoxy. No matter how conservative or classical liberal they may sound it is always best to assume an academic is a leftist democrat. The most conservative (voted for W in 2000) prof I ever personally knew was a Marxist. No kidding. A Marxist evangelical to be exact.

Guess what? My colleague voted for Obama. Big surprise. Beyond the complete lack of diversity here, we are talking about a serious problem. Like Al Gore's famous hockey stick graph the level of intellectual and political diversity has declined at roughly the same rate that our diversity in our broader culture has increased. The person on the street could be a Buddhist, environmental conservative cross stitcher. But the academic... well, you know everything about them before they open their mouth. This makes for a very boring Academy.

On a more serious level, it is the elephant in the room. It is the reason unqualified idiots like Ward Churchill become Department Chairs at major universities. The reason impossibly flawed and just plain wrong books like Bellesile's Arming America win major academic rewards. The reason dozens of profs at Duke can condemn the lacrosse team before the police have investigated. In short, it is destroying true intellectualism and scholarship.

Open Source Software

For those of you who don't know "Open Source" means free software. It's stuff you can download off the Internet and install for free. Up until a few years ago most of this stuff was small, support type stuff. But now we have Operating Systems and major software bundles out there. In fact there is so much great stuff out there that I am currently designing a class for my grad students based entirely on open source software.

This has become important in light of the failures of Windows Vista and Apple's proprietary business model. The best and most user friendly OS out there is Ubuntu. Free and relatively easy to install. An added bonus is the Linux code its built on- way less viruses. An advanced user could even partition their hard drive and run Ubuntu as their primary OS, and keep Vista for things that only run with Vista- an oxymoron, since even basic Microsoft apps have bizarre issues with Vista. The other major software my students will be using is Open Office, which basically mirrors Microsoft Office and is even "supported" by Office, so to speak. I have been showing many students this suite and they have loved it. For anyone this side of an advanced user, Open Office is all they really need. It runs beautifully and its free!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Skateboarding then and now

Skateboarding has paralleled broader American culture in many ways. When it first went "big" in the late 80s it was still small and guys who rode were still considered misfits and outcasts, definitely anti-establishment. Like the greater establishment culture of today they still project an image of rebel outcast while making millions of dollars telling the rest of the culture to be just like them. Bam Margera presents the rebel image on MTV, but he dutifully believes and absorbs whatever the establishment tells him. In essence, it's all an act, and American youth are buying it big time. The dissonance can be hilarious and perfectly reflects the discontinuity of broader American culture. All of the entertainment industry supported Obama and they won big, but in their minds they still like to think of themselves as hip anti-establishment types fighting against the entrenched ruling order of America. Which would be... middle class Christians from Kansas? Skateboarders supported Obama with the same type of goofy "fight the power" attitude, even though a majority of youth wear their clothes, buy their shoes, worship at their altar. Skateboarding is the fastest growing sport in America and a billion dollar industry. The two videos I have posted below perfectly mirror this change.

Disclaimer: I may be nostalgic, and I am posting a "legendary" video of Ray Barbee, one of my favorite skaters in the world. But I believe even with my preferences the diference between the two is obvious. The first is a work of art in its simplicity. Both in filming and videography. The whole thing was probably filmed over the course of a few days in Los Angeles. He is wearing the same clothes in the entire video. Nothing fancy, just a guy skateboarding. In contrast, the second video of Chris Cole, took at least 6 months to film, and was shot all over the world: China, Barcelona, etc... Yet if you analyze the "image" and "attitude" presented in both you get a stronger sense of rebel punk from Cole's video, even if he is anything but that. Barbee's outfit was intentionally crafted to not have logos and brands prominently displayed, but Cole's entire ensemble, from the torn jeans, to the tattoos and wrist bands is a carefully crafted image designed to sell product and a lifestyle. In fact, when he first broke into the scene the manager and owner of his company had a quiet sit down with him to explain that his image wouldn't work. Skaters today, in spite of the rebel image, are actually meek peddlers of merchandise. When a skater gets sponsored they are not allowed to wear any clothing but their sponsors'. You only need to watch a few minutes of each video to see the contrast. The amazing irony is that skateboarding has built a corporate empire peddling its anti-corporate, anti-establishment roots.
Just like the rest of the entertainment big business fat cats, skaters live in a alternate reality where they protest the corruption of "big business." It's an elaborate mythology grown out of 60s counterculture that has yet to be honest with itself.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Or what? You gonna slap me?

One of my most visceral memories of the new president was an interview where he was "getting tough" on all those unjust critics of his wife. He was really playing the part well, but I remember my gut level reaction being, "Or what- you gonna slap me?" As he continued to present what he thought was toughness I started laughing. Because to anyone who grew up on the other side of the tracks Obama is not tough. He's an emasculated metrosexual academic. A Whole Foods guy. This was really clear to me when I read his description of rebellion from his college days. "We ground our cigarettes into the carpet and played our music loud..." (probably not an exact quote). I found those passages of his book, and there were lots of them, hilarious. Because from my real world lower class, barrio perspective, rich private school guys like Obama are rarely rebellious tough guys. Oh, wait, he tried Coke too. Wow. Never been threatened by gangs, never got into a real brawl, or went down to Watts or South Central to see what real tough guys were like. I always imagined him and his friends thinking a real "daring adventure" would be going to the kind of Mexican dive I grew up in and associating with all the"people." You can just imagine them sitting there looking around them at all the "diversity" and feeling really hip and cool. Just one of la gente ( the people). Or I imagine him hanging out at Whole Foods smoking herbal cigarettes making suggestive, but PC comments to all the ladies, "Did I ever tell you that you have a beautiful mind. Bet you're gonna brake the glass ceiling huh?" "Wanna experience totally equitable passion?" You get the picture.

Maybe I am not completely fair here, but I am closer to the truth than many would like to admit. The guy went to private schools his whole life and tried way too hard to rebel, but always in a politically correct, establishment approved way. This is the kind of black man you cross the street... and say hi to. Which is not all bad. let's face it. Barack Obama is a likeable man with some real sincerity, despite his political heredity of dirty Chicago. Neither is there anything inherently wrong with the "New Man" of the left. Like any image or persona, it has strengths and weaknesses. The New Man was obviously a reaction to some of the failures of the old masculine warrior type of the past. But like the masculine hard-edged cowboy type, the New Man has his inherent problems too. Specifically, he is not capable of instilling immediate respect or even fear in men who come from a more masculine culture like hispanic, or- and here's the kicker- Islamic culture. The gut level response from a male culture to a man like our new president is an instinctive awareness and probing for weakness. Obama's western, postmodern male is perceived as inherently weak and easily controlled.

So what does the hyper-masculine world of Islamists thinks about the New Boss? Definitely not the same as the Old Boss. He is not the kind of guy who takes you out to the wood shed. He's the new male, sensitive and thoughtful, attuned to his emotions, let's sit and talk about this, which is exactly what he has committed to do, unconditionally, with the world's most dangerous men. How do you think they are going to respond? How about, "Or what- you gonna slap me?"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Context is More Important than the Medium or the Message

One of the most maddening issues on the right is their obsession with technology and youth. That's all they have been talking about- but they obviously know little about the subject. I teach technology and work closely with college kids as a professor and academic librarian. Kids don't care. One day after the inauguration and they are already "over it." But a post by Michael Powell at New Majority (David Frum's new website) warns:
The Party has failed to fully comprehend how the young interact and communicate in an era transformed by the digital revolution. We do not yet appreciate their passions and their fears, nor pause to look at the world through their eyes. Battling to be a voice of technology and innovation is vital. In the world of youth, you must first “get it” before you are listened to.

Hugh Hewitt has been talking about the same thing and the enormous amounts of information youth are comfortable with, but if you read any academic journals or library journals, or secondary ed stuff you will hear teachers complaining about how kids only use the first few hits from Google and the wikipedia entry. Now I am one of those few academics who really likes Wikipedia, but I have to agree. These kids dont process enormous amounts of info and their technical skills are surprisingly minimal. They only learn what they need for the moment and rarely move beyond that.

Now Hewitt and Powell and the rest are absolutely right about the need for a conservative presence on the web. But even more important than that is establishing the context. I have discovered that it is possible to defuse the inevitable leftward tilt simply by stimulating youth to think about who the establishment is. As a lover of classical liberalism I abhor the Orwellian approach my colleagues take to education. I don't want my students to think the way I do, but rather "to think." One of the best ways to do this is to get them thinking about who really has power in our country. Who controls all the things that create and monitor our sense of self and identity. The Left has made this pretty easy by turning "tolerance" and "diversity" into laughable double standards. The greatest irony of contemporary society is that the current cultural establishment still pretends to be anti-establishment. When my kids realize that they can predict and even make their professors arguments (insert movie star, rock star, journalist, etc for professor) beforehand they start to "smell a rat" as Jack White would put it. They may even start to think.

Advertising professionals are discovering that Youth, especially millennials are jaded to coercion because they receive more advertisements and messages than any generation before them. They tend to turn off most of it except at the most subliminal levels, which is why their gut level instincts are leftist- they are saturated in those values even if they have not consciously thought about it. There are two answers to this challenge that advertisers developed. One is imaging. Think Apple and ipods. Now I think that many aspects of Apple computers are superior to Windows- especially Vista- but like many in the tech world I can't stand the whole Itunes philosophy and approach. But Apple has imaged themselves as the mp3 player to have just as the Left and the democrats have imaged themselves as anti-establishment, pro poor, pro environment, pro education, uncorrupt, and generally the party of the cool and the hip. When I ask my kids why they think ipods (or democrats) are better they never have any substantial answers. They have simply been trained to think that way, because those are the cultural myths that make of the foundation of our society.

The other things advertisers try to do is create grassroots movements that have a life of their own. The Cloverfield movie promotions were a good example. My favorite was Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails genius viral marketing scheme (must read). These movements are founded on a web 2.0 platform and philosophy. Make it interactive and make it communal.

I have used the second approach in revitalizing my dead library. And it was dead when I took over 3 years ago. But due to the fact that I embraced youth culture and used their modes of communication to rebrand and reimage the library we are one of the most popular places on campus.

Now reimaging the conservative movement is a thousand times more difficult because the fight is fixed. The ref is against us, the bookies are against us, the organizers are against us. Everyone who controls the game and its rules is pretty much against us. The left gets to start on our 20 yard line, but we start on our own goal line and only get 3 plays. You get the picture. Very discouraging. But this context is also the key to a comeback. Americans- and our next generation is no different here- hate a fixed game. They love the underdogs. We all cheered when the Giants beat the Patriots, and even people like me who don't like baseball root against the Yankees because they try to buy their way out of everything.

By pointing out what should be obvious, but isn't- namely that the left is now and has been for a number of years the establishment, I completely reorient students way of thinking about the entire situation. It's like suddenly discovering that the game is fixed. All this without even beginning to discuss "free market economies," "limited government," etc. The beauty of the approach is that the Left has made it too easy for us- not even my most ardent and radical leftists students have ever denied that every professor and teacher teaches the same thing. From there, it is a challenging but manageable jump to identifying who controls the rest of our culture. I like to use Rage Against the Machine's ( a radical Left band) chorus from "Killing in the Name", "Now you do what they told you, Now you do what they told YOU!" When students recognize the deep irony, even hypocrisy of the song, they have begun to think. It is hard to turn that off, and it sets them up to begin questioning authority in a meaningful way.

Finally, levity is good. I like to cover my mouth, breathe deeply and give em the old, "Luke, I am your Father." Image is critical. Darth Vader is cool, because he represents the new type of hero- a bad guy who earns redemption. The subliminal suggestion is that conservatism is edgy and dark- like Batman. Even though in all reality we are actually the "rebel scum."- The point is not that we need to get on Twitter, Facebook, and be cool. Youth can see that goofiness, and because we are not the establishment we can't get away with obvious pandering like President Obama did with his," Been to Whole Foods and seen the price of arugula?" cluelessness. Don't be cool. We don't have to be, because we are the ones who question authority, we are the anti-establishment. Get out there Sith Lords!

Who is the establishment

Growing up in the Southern California 80s skate culture I was keenly aware of the anti-establishment. Everything was about being against the establishment, questioning authority etc. Back then we knew who the establishment. It was the same establishment the 60s rebelled against. But a lot of things changed in the 90s. Ironically, this perfectly mirrors the current dissonance in skateboard culture. In the 80s we really were anti-establishment, even the pros weren't making that much money and skateboarding was countercultural. But now they are rock stars making millions of dollars peddling the illusion of being counterculture when they are in fact card carrying members of the establishment culture. The irony is rich, and so are they. And like all rich people who make money for nothing (thank you Dire Straits) their values and politics are predictably leftist.

The real issue though is how they are able to maintain the illusion of being counterculture rebels when they are in fact now the ones with power. Power and money go together and you can see that the new establishment is totally of the Left. The dissonance is that they still pretend to be anti-establishment when in fact they are the establishment. They own academia, k12, the news media, the publishing industry, every aspect of the entertainment industry. Every cultural center of power has less intellectual and political diversity than the average evangelical church.

Americans desperately need to make the paradigm shift and realize that times have changed. Power and money go together: hence, the new Establishment.