Friday, April 24, 2009

So Bored has passed on, but...

saladinahmed.com lives! My new site is more focused on promoting my fiction than on rants about politics and culture. But I hope you enjoy it anyway :)

It's been real, folks!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Music and Politics

Well, I'd not planned to do any more posts this year, but as I'm sure my fellow bloggers know, wandering in the merry land of youtube can often spark random posts, so...

Did you all know/remember that Melle Mel, Hall & Oates, Lou Reed, George Clinton, Pat Benatar, Joey Ramone, Nona Hendryx, Run DMC, Peter Gabriel, and Jimmy Cliff once made a record together!? Ok, ok, so it wasn't so much a collaboration as a cooler "We Are The World", but still...



...and just like that, I'm 10 years old again.

Watching this, hearing a Phil Ochs song again recently, and re-watching the "History of Violence" video I'd posted a while back got me thinking about music and politics.

I'm hardly saying anything new here, but it seems to me that explicitly political art is one of the firmest taboos in our culture. It's not to say that such art doesn't get made, but it is too often either dismissed outright or praised in inverse proportion to its political outspokenness. "It hit me over the head with the issue" is a horrific charge, and "Even though it was about [insert issue here], it didn't preach at me" is a ringing endorsement.

Now, I myself (perhaps because I've internalized some of this anti-didactic prejudice) am not one to nod my head to Cornel West "rapping" or anything like that. But on the other hand, we should note that 'apolitical' art often ends up serving some hideous political agendas, precisely because it avoids certain topics and tones. More importantly, some fine fucking music has been made that was explicitly designed to "hit you over the head" and "preach". A recent example is Immortal Technique's track "Tell The Truth" f/Mos Def and Eminem. It has the savviest 20-second explanation of the Iraq "insurgency" I've heard yet and the ill lines (aimed at the Bush administration) "So I'm strapped like Lee Malvo/Holdin' a sniper rifle/These bullets'll touch your kids/And I don't mean like Michael"



Then there is the legendary Detroit anarchist band the Layabouts. "No Masters" from 1984 was perhaps their...err...masterwork, though they're still doing their thing today. I have fond, fond childhood memories of this record. They were family friends, and my stepmother played with them off and on. British punk-minded expats in the hood hook up with Latino drummer, various (30+ over the years) Detroit-based makers of reggae, rock and African music... What's not to like? A few favorite tracks:
Johannesburg
I'm Tired
Too Late (sung by Milton Bennet)
Fuckalot!

Finally, I really wanted to put some Phil Ochs stuff up here, but almost everything out there in quasi-public-domain-land stinks. Too bad. "When I'm Gone" is one of the most beautiful songs ever...

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Happy Eidkwanhanmastice! See you in 2008!


Hello folks! Long time, no speak. Well, the last month or so of the year -- from Thanksgiving to the upcoming holidays (Eid Al-Adha, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, New Year's Eve & Day) is a time of reflection for all sorts of people, and So Bored is no different. Like many bloggers 'around' me (thy passing is mourned, supernegro.com), I've been doing some hard thinking about why I started a blog, how much of my time it should take up, etc. And what I've decided is this:

Starting the first week in January, So Bored will become active again, but only once a week. My hope with this is that I can consistently put together a quality little 'magazine' of stuff without neglecting the eighty million other things in the life of Saladin.

In the mean time and in-between time, some diversions aimed at

Your memory banks:


Your disgust with politicians...

...and your sense of wonder at the power of misdirected human potential:

Happy Holidays, all. See you next year!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Guess Who's Back?"



Ok
, so maybe this 'comeback' isn't quite so welcome as Rakim's was (above). But I am back after a several week absence. Flattered thanks to the readers who emailed inquiring about (and even expressing sadness regarding!) the silence. I was surprised to learn that maybe like a total of ten people read this blog. That's five times as many readers as I thought I had!

Anyway, all I can say is sometimes one has to take an Internet break. Of course, then one must catch up with the million neglected emails, posts, etc. that one has taken said break from. "And so it goes", as a fine writer once put it.

In the near future So Bored will return to depressed grumblings about the swaths of destruction being cut across the world by nefarious neocolonial forces. There will be more whining about the intricate, insidious idiocies of powerful men. But today I'll just give thanks that I was able to see Stevie Wonder play Madison Square Garden last night. He gave us 2.5 hours of entertainment, did a haven't-slipped-a-centimeter kick-ass version of "Golden Lady", sang "Ribbon In The Sky" beautifully then turned it into a samba-ish ladies-and-fellas audience participation number, brought out Tony Bennett for a surprise duet of "For Once In My Life", then brought out Prince (yes, Prince!) to play guitar on "Superstitious".

Whew. Here's a low-quality clip of "Don't you Worry 'Bout a Thing" from the show.



And here are two good write-ups. Back to the world of the grisly and the deceitful soon...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

So Bored's Underrated Artist Theater

In the hopes of leavening the sometimes acidic political coverage here at So Bored, I am debuting a new feature: Underrated Artist Theater. As the name implies, this will be a space for featuring artists (mostly of past decades, mostly musicians) that deserve more props than they've received.

First up, the absolutely astonishing Chambers Brothers (not to be confused, fellow Michiganians, with the Detroit crack 'family' of the 1980s).

Four brothers born in the 30s to a sharecropper in Mississippi, the Chambers Brothers sang in their church choir before moving to Cali to try and make it as a recording group. They worked gigs for years, moving their sound toward the folk-rock they heard around them in California. In 1965 they brought on a *very* good white drummer, Brian Keenan, who plugged the group into the psychedelic and folk scenes, where they became a hit. Dylan booked them at the Newport festival, they got on TV, etc. Lester Chambers got heavily and brilliantly into the trippy psychedelic rock thing, and "Time Has Come Today hit #11. But the truly cool thing is, all that while the brothers remained dedicated to their choir group, and they returned home regularly to sing in their church!

As has happened to so many artists (especially Black artists) before them, the Chambers Brothers eventually got ripped off on royalties. They slipped into undeserved obscurity. But not here at So Bored!

Here is their freakin-awesomely harmonic version of People Get Ready:
And here is "Time Has Come Today". Unfortunately it's the short version, with all of the psychedelia edited out, but if you don't know the song, you'll get the idea:

God Bless Ye, Lester Chambers! More profiles to follow...

"I get listed -- up hi-igh"

CNN reports today that Bush's "Terrorist Screening Center" (I swear this administration just makes up new subagencies on a daily basis!) has been so meticulous with their research that the "terrorist watch list" has now ballooned to 755,000 names. As the ACLU points out, we are not far from the point where "we all become suspects in the eyes of the Terrorist Screening Center." Of course some of us - people whose names look like they rhyme with "Aladdin", for instance - are likelier to become suspects than others. I wonder if these fools have even one person working there who understands Arabic nomenclature?

Despite these police-state tactics, a Mexican national with tuberculosis -- tuberculosis! -- was able to cross the border into the US more than 20 times without being stopped, and there are other such glaring security breaches in the report. The US govt's combination of blatant despotism and utter incompetence is once again dazzling...

Not that I'm calling for a more effectively-run police state. No Mexico 'security' fence! No secret 'security' watchlists! Over the past 30 years, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush-with-a-vengeance have made it eminently clear that 'security' means protection of rich white guys' political power and corporate profits. It has very little to do with protecting ordinary peoples' lives.

There's only one group I trust to bring about the Security Of The First World!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

So Bored wishes a happy birthday...

...to the late, great Bela Lugosi. A delightful actor who made (mostly) lovable movies, Lugosi also inspired many neat things: Count Floyd from SCTV (+ for 80s Detroit kids, the rip-off Count Scary) , Bauhaus' song "Bela Lugosi's Dead" , The Count from Sesame Street, Martin Landau's ass-kicking performance in Tim Burton's Ed Wood ("no one geeves two sheets for Bela!"), and, as one reader pointed out, Count Chocula. I would add Blacula, but William Marshall is doing more of a Christopher Lee British thing in that role.

I asked my class of c. 20-yr-olds the other day if they'd seen the original Dracula. None of them had! Then again, last semester, none of my kids knew who Billy Dee Williams was...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Race and Biology (or, here we go again)

I generally attribute more of our behavior as humans to evolutionary biology than many of my equally-left friends are comfortable doing. But this is bananas.

The Independent reports today that old school scientific racism is not dead. American James Watson, 79 and a Nobel Prize-winning geneticist, has been (perhaps intentionally) generating controversy with remarks like "[I'm] inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really". Though we wish all peoples were equally intelligent, Watson says, "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true". Yes, I said he won the Nobel prize.

This is not a first for the guy -- he's also questioned women's biological capacity for intelligence and alluded to aborting gay babies.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

So Bored endorses a post-Y2K music video!?

I am an old fart when it comes to music, including hip hop. Not a "South Bronx only"-level old fart, but an old fart nonetheless. Give me 1986-1996 and I'm happy. Jazz and funk samples, neat, clean (aesthetically, not cuss-wise) rhymes. On the other hand, "Crunk" and fake-pimp sloppy, Shouty McShoutalot rappers give me a headache. Feh, let the kids have it, I say. I'll be over here listening to "Wrath of the Math" again.

But sometimes, if the truth someone is shout-rapping is urgent and different enough, and there are some good rhymes in there, and a great video, and nary a mention of an SUV or alcohol or a bitch, well, then, grandpa might nod his head to some post-millenial...hip-hop? Rap?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you "History of Violence" by Palestinian Canadian rapper Belly (these kids and their names! "Plies", "The Game"! Did we run out of "MCs" already!?). He's apparently a big sensation up north, which shows that tease the Canucks as we may, they have more room for sensible shit in their record industry than we do. [Yet again I am biting this link from the good folks at KABOBfest.com, but I would like for this video to get wide exposure]

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jimmy runs deep

Hey all. Multiple postings today to make up for a long silence. Last week, Jimmy Carter was getting all up in cops' faces in Darfur. This week he was interviewed on CNN*, where former AIPAC employee Wolf Blitzer somehow managed to restrain himself from bringing up Carter's contribution to the Israel/Apartheid comparison. Instead the topics were Iraq and the field of wack-ass presidential candidates. Carter has his problems: he's still nostalgic for the "good old" US, he's hesitant to call war crimes war crimes, he can't pronounce Abu Ghraib. But he says things plainly that none of the candidates will: Does he think the US uses torture? "I don't think it. I know it." What does he think of Rudy Giuliani's recent speeches about bombing Iran? "I could almost write it for him..I think he's foolish." Jimmy runs deep, indeed. Man, I hope I'm this sharp when I'm 83!

*Apologies for the obligatory corporate news pre-video commercial!