Saturday, December 30, 2017

My Problem With Net Neutrality and Political Correctness and Clickbait Headlines...

You can stop reading if you wish to find an essay about why I think Ajit Pai is right and that political correctness is destroying society.

Over on Facebook, one of the groups I belong to is asking for the "worst song ever". Danny Peary, author of three volumes of books about cult movies expressed his ire regarding people who go to "Bad Movie Festivals" and view them with an air of superiority, knowing that they and their hip friends have all deemed ____ a bad movie.

All that to say that when you (apparently) ask the lay public what is the worst song ever, you are going to get several responses:

1. Truly bad songs. Badly played bad tunes with poor singing or some combination thereof. Sometimes, you have a perfectly well-sung or performed song, but with a creepy message. 

2. Songs that were MEANT to be bad. For example "There's a New Sound" by Tony Burello was supposed to be a commentary on the quality of music ca. 1953. It even came out on Horrible Records! He cannot sing, the melody is awful, it is repetitive, it has no chorus and it has weird sound effects

It became a hit, oddly enough.

3. Songs or genres that people don't like. I'm not fond of this school of thought, because that means that the hip have won. "Oh, ____ is just so bad! You aren't one of the cool kids if you like ____!"

Here is one candidate for my worst song ever:

Shaddap You Face” by Joe Dolce.  It's a personal opinion.

Before the popular use of the internet, there was a number people could call in San Diego, CA to leave a message about what was on their minds, or hear what other people said. The song they used on the recording that told you what the concept of the phone number was Dolce’s. One day, I called and I heard this. Keep in mind that I heard it 37 years ago, so it isn’t verbatim:

“I’m a reasonable guy, but some things bother me, like when hear some dude, shaking his booty to some jungle boogie...”, and so on and so forth. Well, there’s a jerk, I thought. The voice didn't mention race, but it was not hard to discern who he meant. 

On a subsequent day, with no knowledge of who owned what car, my brother and several other people found a business card under the windshield wipers of their cars. It was from the W.A.R.: The Wives of the American Revolution.

Actually, it was the White Aryan Resistance.

So, my brother and I decided to call the number on the card. What fun one could have in the days before caller ID. We got a recording:

“[urgent music]...The time? Not too far in the future. A marauding army OF (emphasis his) Blacks are coming for you, boasting about what THEY are going to do to your wives and daughters. “ Where are the guns? WHERE ARE THE G***D***N (asterisks mine) GUNS!?”, and so on and so forth.

It was the same voice from the message line. It chilled me then as now. I can still hear that voice.

This, of course, is no fault of Dolce's. I could make a minuscule case about the record playing into some Italian stereotypes,  but that is low-hanging fruit and not really more than eyebrow-raising in its content.

While certainly not my favorite, holds the dubious honor of worst song, but for an entirely different reason. I cannot think of that song without hearing that nazi's (de-emphasis mine) voice on the phone line.

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. The man that you see on the background of this blog I reconnected with, because his daughter and I were friends when we were kids. We met online again and conversed for the first time since 1976 and for that I have Facebook to thank. She passed away and I got a chance to restart my relationship with her father, who told me after the funeral, "I always thought of you as my son". How much richer was my childhood thanks to people like my actual parents and an inherited one?

I was able to write and thank people like Marvin Kaplan for all the years of laughter he gave me in shows like "Top Cat" and "Becker". He was gracious enough to respond, too. He passed not long after, so I was able to "give him his flowers while he could see them", as it were.

Then, of course there is the other side of all of this personal connection. It has an addictive side, it can reinforce bad thoughts or behaviors because not only do you believe it to be so, you can have a chorus of people that agree with you. Hillary Clinton ran a sex ring? Sure! Here's "proof". Donald Trump said the GOP is gullible? Sure, and here is the "proof".

Idiots can always find each other. Via phone line, mail, yelling down the street, they'll hook up. The drag is that, in part because of Net Neutrality, it's boatloads easier now. Here is an excerpt from an article about John Boehner from Politico

"...Boehner worries about the deepening fissures in American society. But he sees Trump as more of a symptom than the cause of what is a longer arc of social and ideological alienation, fueled by talk radio and Fox News on the right and MSNBC and social media on the left. “People thought in ’09, ’10, ’11, that the country couldn’t be divided more. And you go back to Obama’s campaign in 2008, you know, he was talking about the divide and healing the country and all of that. And some would argue on the right that he did more to divide the country than to unite it. I kind of reject that notion.” Why is that? “Because it wasn’t him!” Boehner replies. “It was modern-day media, and social media, that kept pushing people further right and further left. People started to figure out … they could choose where to get their news. And so what do people do? They choose places they agree with, reinforcing the divide.”

It's a sad development, but it's true, BUT it is not an effective argument against Net Neutrality, as some might interpret this. The 'net has to stay unfettered. Sure it can be abused, but I'd hate to think that someone deems that my car is illegal because someone decided to use a car as a weapon. To quote Peter Parker's Uncle Ben (LOVE his rice...), "...with great power there must also come -- great responsibility!"


That is my opinion of Political Correctness. Be responsible for what you say. In this ever-changing world in which we live in, language evolves much faster. "Eskimo" and "Gypsy" are not only outmoded but to some, deeply offensive. I have no issue purging them from my vocabulary. If it means that Inuit or Yupik or Romani people can read this and not furrow their brow, I'm for it. Anything can be taken to an extreme. You can either be of the "Ya can't even call a broad a chick anymore" school, or you can scold someone because they said they were complained about "niggardly portions" at a restaurant at the other end of the spectrum.

I cannot say I'm immune to this. Someone posted a YouTube video regarding homophonic attitudes on Friends and as I watch, I'm having a tough time seeing how many of the excerpts are homophobic and I don't know whether it is due to me or poor choices on the compiler's part.

I do know that there were a lot of Korean-Americans that didn't mourn M*A*S*H's demise. I can understand that. Some of the actors portraying Koreans weren't Korean, a lot of them were incidental to the plot at any given time, none of them were regulars on the show. Some of them were cast for the "Ho, ho! Listen to them mangle English" factor. So, while I still do like a lot about the show, it is tempered by cultural insensitivity. This brings me to another point.


It is tempting to take today's morals and imbue them on an earlier time. In the "Watchmen"'s opening sequence we see a murder scene and graffiti written in blood over two women, that said, "Lesbians". Now, I don't doubt that in the 30's and 40's there was rampant and violent homophobia, but I don't believe that someone that targets two Gay women would write "Lesbians" in blood.

THAT is PC thinking gone slightly wrong. They would have written "Dykes" or some such. It undercuts the drama of the scene.

Now, when I was a boy, the Our Gang comedies ran every day. At first blush, there is a lot to cringe about. Some of the Black* boys are named for grains (Buckwheat, Farina), one scene had Spanky shake his finger in one of their faces, saying, "Don't show your ignorance". The "Kid from Borneo" features an ooga-booga native that keeps saying, "Yum-yum, eat 'em up" and he's mistaken for a cannibal.

Now, let's take a look at the times.

Certain musical sequences were put in a film with Colored (that was one of the words of the times, gang) entertainment that could be excised from certain prints so certain audiences would be spared seeing the occasional chocolate face. In the "Our Gang" comedies, all the kids are in the same gang, playing together. That was HUGE for the time. The series has been lauded for that, but society should not think that this is the pinnacle of diversity and stay in that spot. I was even schooled, unwittingly, by Mom about Lois Lane. As a boy, I saw her solely as a damsel in distress, getting in trouble and being saved by Superman. One day, I was looking at a Superman comic and Mom said, "Lois Lane was a hero to us girls! She was running around, getting those stories...". It took a while and I thought, for the time, that WAS a big deal and that's great, but why STAY there? We, as a people were not content to just be able to live until the end of the film and in 2008, I lived to see Barack Obama through TWO Presidential terms.

How bad is lack of context? Read this article and then read the comments. The comment thread is lousy with people that feel that the Hallmark channel is being unfairly criticized for its lack of diversity.

One comment reads, "So it's OK if we complain that BET is all black people?"

To which I say, "No, of course not."

White people have never needed their own TV network. There is no need for White-only movies or a Caucasian line of books. Why? For the longest time, it was ASSUMED. It's the default setting. People like Oscar Micheaux started film companies because of the lack of opportunities for Black actors. There are at least four Afrocentric TV networks on cable. BET, BET Her, Aspire and TVOne.

Four. And they were created for roughly the same reasoning that Micheaux used.

That is not a takeover. Why are people feeling persecuted? To be fair, the Hallmark Channel has not been where I looked to see cutting-edge comedies or gritty drama, but it never was. I think that raking them over the coals for what they've been doing for years is mildly disingenuous, even if it is spiking in popularity under the current administration. Hallmark is decidedly old-fashioned for better or for worse (and the worse is delineated pretty well in the article. IT'S NOT NEWS.

Far more sinister is Sinclair's wheedling its way into the cultural landscape. THIS is news.

Far more sinister is a poll that shows interesting numbers on discrimination.

You won't believe what happens next...

And there ^^ is your clickbait.

*No, I don't mind Black or African-American, but I do capitalize Black and request you do the same. Black's faster to type, too!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

"A Good Old Boy."

The only picture of Steve, Dad and I as adults.
My Brother from another Mother, Jason Stone and I are going to host a regular DJ night and if you asked me about our favorite DJ, I'd be a bit torn between our first night at Grits and Gravy in Charlottesville with the Rum Cove (Robin Tomlin) and DJ Colin Powell or our first Hip Drop at Ponderosa Stomp, but the title of this is MY favorite DJ gig and I know the answer to that one.

My family loves music. I grew surrounded by a lot of albums. Mom and Dad dug the classics, like Mussorgsky, Respighi and Bach, Mom liked Johnny Mathis and ANYTHING Hawaiian and Dad like Latin and various Island musics and could even tell you where a song came from either by style or by translating the lyrics.

Steve was big into Osibisa, Mandrill and Jimi Hendrix, which, before he got a Sylvania unit with a flip-down turntable (!) he played on a portable, but heavy Electro-Phonic turntable at the foot of his bed, which is why I call myself Electro-Phonic Brian.

Dad and I had a checkered history. Mom and Dad divorced, which devastated Mom and neither Steve nor I took it well, either. In the movie "Out of the Past", one of the characters was described as, "...a bit cold around the heart", which describes me, on some occasions. It put a bad seed of distrust in me for some time. In 1984, I reached out to him. He had remarried and gotten sober AND stopped smoking in a way that can only be described as typical Orva Phillips resolve. Two times, the doctor told him, if you continue to do _____, you're going to die.

So, he stopped. Cold turkey, no patches, no, "I only drink on holidays or at social events", he stopped.

When I called, he genuinely didn't believe it was me. After three or four, "reallys?" we started mending fences. I'm happy to say that we had a good relationship for the rest of his life after roughly eight years of not talking. 

Sometime before the divorce, Dad passed out at a funeral and that is when we found out that he had cancer. It destroyed one of his kidneys and a bit of his spleen. He recovered, or so we thought. Some years later, the cancer returned and it went after his brain. He could barely walk and if he tried to sleep he would have dreams that he was falling and wake up violently.

Dad didn't talk much, unless he was comfortable. He didn't say he was quiet, he preferred "reflective". If chemistry was the topic, well, then he could go on for days. It seemed like days. The disease pained him, so his sentences were not too horribly long, but he was cognizant in his last days. 

I can't speak for every child, but I have to have a report card. I need to know how I did sometimes, ESPECIALLY in my parent's eyes. He was facing his demise and he knew it. It is something when your Dad tells you that he's not scared of dying, because you know that he IS dying. It was not a happy conversation and it didn't end on a good note.

When I lived in Montebello, east of East L.A. (Dad lived in NY), I found a great compilation called "Bravos del Ritmo" at the local library and I couldn't get enough of it. It had so many wonderful names, like Arsenio Rodriguez, the La Playa Sextet, Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz, Ocho and Tito Rodriguez. I made a cassette of the highlights and tacked on a song by Miguel Poventud (backed by Yomo Toro) from the 1950s. 

By the way, the Miguel Poventud song was, "Si Me Pierdo en la Vida" which I later found out means, "If I Get Lost in Life".

I called him sometime after that. Of all things we talked about that day, Dad mentioned the tape I made for him. He was not perfect, nor am I. We could have done things differently, but I didn't want him to go to bed angry with me. It was one of our last conversations. Had I waited too long, I would have had to live with the words of our last conversation.  He was in such pain, all he could say was, "Can't talk...can't talk".

The night I called after I knew he received the tape, though, he said, "That! You're a good old boy, do you know that?" My best gig, to an audience of one.

Thanks, Dad. Come see us at El Myr. I'll play Hector Rivera for you. You'll love it!

I love you.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Blood, Soil and Fields.

It's not my full-time job, but I am a DJ. I play vintage music, mostly Soul and Rhythm and Blues. It's not an act of defiance or bravery, it's just what I do.

I've done this several times in Charlottesville, to very appreciative crowds. I don't know where they came from, but I know where they were the nights we spun records. My memories of younger and older people, African-American and Caucasian, even, memorably, a woman in a wheelchair dancing to wonderfully obscure music brought out by my friends and I. No fights, no rancor, no death.

Three people are dead, others are injured, because of hate. My people are injured and dead.

I'm a Christian. Yes, I play secular music (and some Gospel too!), but I am a Christian. The white nationalists that marched and those that sympathized felt they were doing this in the name of various and sundry reasons, the loss of a statue, the "threat" of diversity and some have the nerve to say that they were doing it with Christian motives. Then James Fields of Kentucky and Ohio came along in a car and drove through the crowd, which injured many and killed one person.

This person hurt my people. My Savior would not endorse this. He didn't ride into town and trample disbelievers. A 32 year-old woman is dead because of Fields. Because of these hateful people, Berke M.M. Bates and H. Jay Cullen are dead. 22 families' lives have been disrupted, because of Fields. He, just like Dylann Roof, was apprehended, alive.

Eric Garner's family must be relieved about this.

One of the things chanted was "blood and soil". I have walked on the soil of Charlottesville, as well as the streets where the attacks occurred and the horror of the bloodshed that has resulted from the action of fools shakes me to the core. We are at once, goading war with one country, taunting another, failing to unite with many as a result of our non-support of the Paris Agreement and at home, we awaited the word of the government that seemed to say that these unabashedly racist attacks were to be condemned, BUT softened it to say that "all sides" were a concern when bigotry is concerned.

There is no mistake here. None. These people came out with a clear and concise message to hate and they did. David Duke favorably invoked Trump's name, or brand, if you will, hoping that this protest was a turning point for the country.

"Condolences to the family of the young woman killed today, and best regards to all of those injured, in Charlottesville, Virginia. So sad!"


"Deepest condolences to the families & fellow officers of the VA State Police who died today. You're all among the best this nation produces."

One tweet came after the other. Three lives were lost. The above seems to imply that his depth of condolence changes. Three people are dead because of this atmosphere of hatred. Death is the deepest of tragedies. There is no level to it.

A quick note here: As ironic as this will sound, electronic communication is horrible for nuance.

Another small aside: Does anyone else find it a bit odd that a pro-white protest used tiki torches?

What am I to find, should I decide to spin records in Charlottesville, which I hope to? Will I see more dancers or will someone deem that I am part of the tragedy of diversity and try to harm me? My prayers go out not only to the families of the dead and injured, but also to those who stood up against the marchers.

However, I feel I cannot call myself a Christian if I didn't say this as well. I pray for the white nationalists, too. In the Bible, Saul persecuted Christians and instead of condemning him, God saw that he was fervent, but wrongheaded. He then became Paul and there can be no doubt that he became a true man of God. It is my prayer as well that someone among them will realize the error of their ways. I pray for Trump as well, since he is at the head of the country. I HAVE to. It's in the contract.

It's difficult, though. The atmosphere of this country has either changed, or it is merely being reported more than it was previously.  I do feel that it is either being fostered.

It needs to be ended. It needed to be ended in 1866.