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:
I'm Tired
Too Late (sung by Milton Bennet)

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?"

, 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!

So Bored wishes a happy (if slightly belated) birthday...

... to fellow Libra John Lennon, wherever he may be.

As it is in Jena, so shall it be in New York

I don't even know if I have stupified words enough for this, but: A hangman's noose was found tied to the door of a Black professor at Columbia's Teachers College yesterday. The noose was found on the door of professor Madonna Constantine, who teaches a number of courses on racial issues. It will be telling to see how this is handled by the school administration and the media up here in the supposedly non-racist north. I wonder if the harmless term 'prank' will come up...

Monday, October 1, 2007

Senior Bush Official: "I hate all Iranians"

I plucked this one from the skewers of kabobfest. Oh, lordy. The pleather-drag stormtrooper above is Debra Cagan, Bush's hardline "Deputy Assistant Secretary for Coalition Affairs". She recently hosted a group of British MPs at the Pentagon. During a visit that some of the MPs have characterized as "forceful" and "alarming" Cagan said -- read these unambiguous words very carefully -- "I hate all Iranians."

"I hate all Iranians."


WHAT IN THE HELL KIND OF A WORLD DO WE LIVE IN!!!??? This is a person who is going to have a direct hand in deciding whether men, women, and children in Iran live or die en masse. This bullshit is even worse than "My God was bigger than his".

So: Iran, a country that is still wishing for the most primitive forms of nuclear energy and whose politicians say vaguely threatening things about a POLITICAL SYSTEM, is worse than the US, a country that has thousands of Nth generation nuclear weapons and whose politicians say vicious things about ENTIRE PEOPLES. Why? Because Iran is magically destabilizing the world all by itself? By Congress' own confession (the same Congress that is labelling the Iranian military 'terrorists'), the US is the world's biggest dealer of arms to the third world. I guess somehow we're the good-guy arms dealers. Like "Q" from James Bond or some shit. Sigh...

How much brutal hypocrisy can we as a nation engage in before our collective head a splodes?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Licensed to Drive?: Saudi Women Behind the Wheel -- on TV, Anyway

Hassan Fattah, a Times reporter that doesn't always annoy me, has written an interesting piece on the quiet movement for Saudi women's right to drive. Well, as long as men are allowed to, women should be allowed to as well, obviously. Hm. Here in the US, it might be a better place if ONLY women were allowed to drive.

But honestly, I think that the 'right' to drive is much like the 'right' to be in the military: ultimately destructive to humanity. *All* of our rights to drive should probably be more limited than they are -- and public transportation should be more prioritized.

Says the guy who grew up three blocks from the Ford Motor Company's first factory. In fact, growing up I also saw many an mhejaba* behind the wheel of a minivan. Ah, globalization...

*woman who wears a hejab

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

So are we waiting for the glowing '666' to appear on some general's forehead, or what?

I was first made aware of this story by the AP* via foxnews.com (yes I read them -- they are to be ignored at our peril!). The above is an aerial photo of a US Navy barracks complex in San Diego. I couldn't make this stuff up. Apparently it's been standing there for like 40 years...

The advent of googlemaps and satellite photo, though, have made this image more widely available. And the military honchos are feeling the heat. Taking a bold, courageous moral stand, one official said "We don't want to be associated with something as symbolic and hateful as a swastika". I like the syntax there, as if the swastika's symbol-ness is as bad as its hatefulness. But anyway. Amidst a public outcry, the Navy will spend $600,000 to change the shape of the complex. That's fine -- money that could be going to a warship going to make things look less Nazi-ish. But how much do we have to pay to have the US government stop *acting* so Nazi-ish?

*I'm pissed, BTW, at the AP. Their usually relatively responsible reporting has been leaning to the far right on Iran for some reason. The Associated Press has perpetuated the "wiped off the map" lie about Ahmadinejad (using quotation marks no less!) numerous times in the past week or so.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Very Much Worth Watching: Ahmadinejad Schools Bush/60 Minutes on war (and Katrina!)

Well, as I type, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is at Columbia University. New York is in an Islamaphobic frenzy right now. Kudos to Columbia for holding their ground.

I actually tussled once with the University's President, Lee Bollinger, back when he was Prez of UMich. The issue at hand was the sweatshop conditions under which "U of M" gear was being made. We ended up occupying his office and he ended up adopting many of our demands, though he pulled underhandedness along the way and wussed out on things he didn't need to wuss out on. Thank God his backbone seems to have grown firmer since those days. And thank God many New Yorkers are insisting on the importance of free speech. But it disturbs me that even most liberals are willing to let the racist demonization of Ahmadinejad stand. The "he's a monster, but even a monster should be allowed to speak" camp.

Not that I love MA. I just don't think he's any more of a monster than Sharon or Sarkozy or Bush or Cheney or Bill Clinton or Musharraf or Blair or... You get the idea. The Leaders Of Men tend to be sleazy and violent.

Anyway, Ahmadinejad, before leaving Iran, gave an interview on 60 Minutes.* This reporter sucks. And I don't mean Anderson Cooper- or even Wolf Blitzer-level sucks. I mean Bill O'Reilly -level sucks. But Ahmadinejad's responses are cutting and hilarious. At one point, he's like "You're like the CIA here! This isn't Guatanamo! This isn't Abu Ghraib! This is Iran! I'm the President, Bitch!!"**

*Apologies, but the video link is on some cornball conservative's site. Better than making y'all sit through a commercial, though.
**OK, so I added the "Bitch", but it was there, hanging in the air, unspoken...

POSTSCRIPT: CNN has some highlights of the Columbia talk. Notable:

- U. Prez Lee Bollinger's insulting treatment of MA -- how bizarre that I sat across a bargaining table from the guy and saw that same smug wealthy white man posturing!

- MA's ominous, disturbing comment "we don't have gay people in Iran". Right, dude. Not only are there gay Iranians, there are apparently enough gay Iranians to suppot a whole webiste called www.iraniangaydoctors.com!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

So Bored is So Tired...

...of the dehumanization/demonization of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Now they won't let him visit ground zero to lay a wreath! Since the towers fell, I've had to listen to probably twenty parties of clueless pudwucker tourists on the subway go on about the cool pictures they just took at Ground Zero. Like it's Mt.-fucking-Rushmore or something. And now the PRESIDENT of another country -- a country that condemned the attacks on 9/11 and offered condolences along with the rest of the world -- wants to, in his own words, "pay respect to the innocent victims", but he can't. The treatment Ahmadinejad has received from New York City's government and from politicians and the press in general is disgusting. The cops are claiming operational issues in denying a visit. But pretty much everyone else is spouting invective, from City Council people to Bush's pet/token ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to Rudy "The evil skull *shall* be president!" Giuliani. Is Ahmadinejad a power-hungry strongman who loves the cameras too much? Yes. But the racist, belligerent 'logic' that says Ahmadinejad should be prevented from visiting Ground Zero because he's 'like' al-Qaeda is...well, racist and belligerent.

Another Reason That Bowie Rules

There's a long list of reasons to give props to David Bowie. He's written some of the best rock songs ever. He's reinvented himself numerous times without getting too cheesy (for the most part). He was one of the very few white artists to be on Soul Train in the 70s*. He's a diehard New Yorker but sings "I'm Afraid of Americans". He's aged with more dignity than any other rock star. And he married Iman! Now my #1 "must see in concert before I leave this earth" act has added to his list of accomplishments. He's donating $10,000 to the Jena Six's legal defense fund. "There is clearly a separate and unequal judicial process going on in the town of Jena," the Thin White Duke said in an email to the AP. "A donation to the Jena Six Legal Defense Fund is my small gesture indicating my belief that a wrongful charge and sentence should be prevented." Cool.

*(I tried to post a link to a youtube clip of this, but I got the awesome message "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Don Cornelius Productions, Inc" -- Make that money, Don! Solid! )

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Republicans shout "Kick protestors' asses!", Democrats mumble "Umm, err, maybe you shouldn't" -- is there a difference?

On Monday, during a campus Q & A with Senator John "we will kill the terrorists" Kerry, University of Florida student Andrew Meyer was Tasered and arrested by several punk-ass doin-whatever-The-Man-tells-them-to-do slabs-O'-pork...err, police officers. Meyer, according to various accounts, shouted, jumped to the head of the question line, and/or refused to stop speaking when his time was up. In the aftermath, video of the incident has spread all over the Internet.

All sorts of people have pointed out that Meyer's behavior was theatrical and obnoxious. That he was a bit of a doofus ("Don't Tase me, bro!" he shouts in the video). That he had a history of pulling pranks and that he was performing for the camera. Fine. But none of that justifies police brutality! There were at least five cops there, and this guy was not exactly a powerhouse. They had this kid ON THE FLOOR and they still Tasered him! A Taser is not just a little electric shock. It is a torturous, potentially lethal weapon -- classified, in fact, by police and manufacturer literature as a "less lethal" (as in not NON-lethal) alternative to firearms. Why didn't they just drag him out?

After the incident, the officers were placed on PAID leave -- a vacation, essentially. The Kerry machine and the school administration released some generic 'we regret this incident'-type statements -- as if this was a tornado or some other act of nature, and not a human act for which guilty parties should be held accountable. More than anything, this incident is a telling instance of mainstream-liberal culture's failure to check the police state in any meaningful way. In the video, one can hear Kerry mumbling half-assedly "OK, I think if everyone just calms down we can all...blah blah blah". Why is he not shouting at the cops to stop!? He later claimed that he didn't know the kid was being Tasered (just like he didn't know Bush was lying about Iraqi WMDs)!

Sigh. Given Kerry's record, I suppose we shouldn't be surprised -- in fact, it is precisely this kind of complicity with foul forces that Meyer was asking about: his questions had to do with a) Kerry conceding the 2004 election even though there was clear evidence that the Black vote was distorted (in Bush's favor) in Ohio b) Kerry's refusal to even consider impeachment proceedings against Bush and c) Kerry's membership in the same elitist Yale secret society (Skull and Bones) as Bush. All valid questions for people (the Senate Democrats) who are claiming to oppose the way Bush does things, but who, in practice, are not a whole lot different.

As an aside, it's lucky for Meyer that he's white, otherwise the response would have been even worse. As we learned last November, just going to the library can get you Tasered if you're Middle Eastern.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Peaceful Journey to Robert Jordan

Bestselling fantasy author Robert Jordan has passed away. I've been a fantasy novel nerd since...well, since forever, and Jordan has always been one of my favorites. We were worlds apart politically, and his later books were notoriously slow, but I must have read The Eye of The World five or six times now -- no small thing, as it's something like 700 pages long! It's also one of the best fantasy novels ever written. Maybe it's time to re-read The Great Hunt for the fifth time...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Damn, they couldn't even send him to Disneyland?

CNN today reports on the latest solution to the mass murder and deprivation that the US invasion has sparked in Iraq: theme parks! Youssif [his last name is being kept confidential] is a very sweet-seeming Iraqi kid that has been in the American media spotlight since he was savagely attacked and burned by masked men earlier this year. Unlike the vast majority of Iraqis, Youssif's family was able to escape the chaos and come to the US. But to hear CNN tell it, you would think that going to Universal Studios and hugging some weird guy in a Spider-Man costume can erase war trauma, physical scarring, forced migration, the loss of everything known or familiar, coming to a country that is at war with other Iraqis, lack of a job, etc. Thank God Youssif and his family are relatively safe now, but what about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children who have died since the US first invaded a decade and a half ago? What about the hundreds of thousands that are deformed from our sanctions and our depleted uranium bombs? What about the kids that can't go to school because of the post-Saddam chaos? What is Captain America going to do for them?

Waitaminute, isn't Cap dead? Aaagghhh! Run Youssif! It's a zombie Captain America!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

At Last, A Roll O' Blogs

At long last I've added a list of visit-worthy blogs. It's right there, on the left-hand side of your screen. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Songs About Places

Hey people.

It's been a hectic week -- getting a new crop of students, starting a killer commute (four hours total four days a week!), trying unsuccessfully to get some decent writing done, meeting some cool SF/F writers, seeing Talib Kweli (& Jean Grae & Smif N' Wesson) in Ft. Greene Park, etc. Thus the delay in posting (here and on other blogs).

No political rant today. Today's post is a rip-off of a post by one Dr. Kenneth Noisewater. Dr. Noisewater asked about songs with girls' names in them. I'm asking about songs with place-names in them. The following is an alphabetical list of songs with proper noun mentions of places in the title. The place must be a "named" place, though not necessarily a real one (thus "The Fool on the Hill" is not admissible, but "Strawberry Fields" is). The songs here are simply the first ones to come to my mind, with a consultation or two with my own music library. It's more fun if you only use the 'net for a last resort. Please send your complete or partial lists!

Alphabet Street - Prince

Bombs Over Baghdad - Outkast

Warm California Sun - Ramones version

Panic In Detroit - David Bowie

Egypt, Egypt - The Egyptian Lover

Moving To Florida - Butthole Surfers

Georgia On My Mind - Ray Charles version

(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go - Curtis Mayfield

Istanbul - They Might Be Giants

Welcome to Jamrock - Damian Marley

(I've Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo - Glen Miller

London's Burning - The Clash

Mexicali Blues - The Grateful Dead

N.Y. State of Mind - Nas

Oakland - Too Short

Penny Lane - Beatles

[Thoroughly stumped!]

Wayn a Ramallah - (Palestinian Folk Song)

San Ber'dino - Frank Zappa

Trenchtown Rock - Bob Marley

Back In The USSR - Beatles

Venus - Bananarama version

Wild Wild West - Kool Moe Dee

Xanadu - Olivia Newton John (I think)

A Song of Yorkshire - "Honley" [Ok, at this point I was doing a desperate internet search!]

Zabriskie Point Soundtrack [Not an actual song title, but again, I'm at a loss!]

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Holywood does right for once?

As an Arab kid growing up in the states, I have many of the same movie memories that any guy my age has: catching (original trilogy) Star Wars mania, sneaking into the movies to watch R rated classics like The Untouchables, crushing on various Hollywood starlets, etc, etc. But I also have vivid memories of feeling hated by the movies: see, practically every Arab I ever saw onscreen as a kid was being gleefully murdered by Chuck Norris, Schwarzenegger, et al. I think only Native Americans have had a cheaper, higher, more faceless body count in American movies.

Not a whole lot has changed since I've grown up, though nowadays Hollywood occasionally seems to feel obliged to include a token minor American-loving Arab good guy in its A-rab-kill-o-thons. Despite this "progress", my general sentiment toward Hollywood flicks that have anything to say about the Middle East is still best summed up by quoting Public Enemy.

Imagine my surprise, then, when my wife put me on to the upcoming movie Rendition. Now, don't get me wrong -- I can tell from the trailer alone that there are still some false and problematic assumptions here: an Arab man's life doesn't count until he marries a white girl, the government is still mostly good but there are some bad neocon apples, the US has a distaste for torture (ha!), but Arab governments love it, etc. Still, I never, ever thought that Hollywood would make a movie like the one advertised in the following trailer. I can't wait to see it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Turn that frown upside down, you snotty little A-rab!

There's a lot of depressing/infuriating shite that I could post about today. In the New York Times alone:

- We learn that Congress is simultaneously blaming Iraqis for the chaos that the U.S. has wrought in Iraq and making imperious "suggestions" to Maliki's puppet government.

- A guest columnist tries to convince readers that buying knockoff purses on Canal Street means supporting kiddie porn, human trafficking and terrorism. (I wonder if she works for Coach!)

- We see that the attempt to criminalize baggy pants is not just a one-town ass-backwards (as it were) fluke.

- And we find out that one of So Bored's favorite playwrights (and one of the most seemingly ethical of 20th century American writers) dissed his retarded son.

Bummers, all. But instead of focusing on these bits of grimness, I'd like to focus on the positive. Even though the world has lost its dog, so to speak, there's always a bright side:

Don't y'all feel cheered up? I know I do! On another note, I've been doing this bloggy thing for about a month now and my tech-deficient ass is just now learning about feeds and blogrolls and other neat stuff. Very soon I'll be adding a list of my favorite blogs to the site...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

This face on a McDonald's tie-in cup?

Well, we're one step closer to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: The Movie. Oliver Stone has repeatedly expressed an interest in making a film about the Iranian president but has been rebuffed by Ahmadinejad's underlings, who pronounced Stone to be a part of the Great Satan despite his oppositional stance. Stone took the rejection in stride, quipping "I've been called a lot of things, but never a 'Great Satan...I wish the Iranian people well, and I only hope their experience with an inept, rigid ideologue president goes better than ours". Apparently Ahmadinejad didn't get that memo, b/c the Prez himself has now said that he might not object to Stone's film idea.

It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. I suspect it will go nowhere, likely getting shut down on the Iranian end. But even if it gets the OK over there, Stone's real challenge will be here in the States. The right-wing pundits of course are up in arms. But even "liberal" Hollywood will be afraid of such a flick, unless (and probably even if) it takes on the feel of a 1990s History Channel Hitler documentary (i.e. "The Face of Evil!"). Because, um, you know, he's like Hitler, because, you know, he, um, wants to kill all the Jews.


I'm no big fan of M.A.'s. He's an ex-jock, he's ex-army, he's bossy and he's full of himself. Add state power to this mix and you've got a fine recipe for militaristic asshole souffle. But as long as Americans can make and watch stupid, glowing movies about American presidents that "owned" kidnapped human beings and ordered nuclear strikes on civilians, they really need to shut the fuck up about the supposed evil of small-change dictators like Ahmadinejad.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"U.S. Americans" without maps/Nuking Dearborn, MI

Today's post is basically a straight bite from brilliant Arab American blog kabobfest.com. This is nefarious enough that it needs wide exposure, though!

Xanax is awesome, huh kids? "U.S. Americans"? "The Iraq"? Yeesh. "I personally believe" this kind of ignorance helps contribute to a scary, scary world.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Ask me why and I'll...

Hey everyone -- sorry I've been away so long.

Thanks to everyone who wrote in with responses to this post. Here are a few more semi-random thoughts on patriotism and obligation. Feel free to respond!

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
--Samuel Johnson

"Being here in America doesn't make you an American. Being born here in America doesn't make you an American....I'm not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag- waver-no, not I."
--Hajj Malik Shabazz/Malcolm X

"I decreed today that life is simply taking and not giving/England is mi-i-ine/And it owes me everything./But ask me why and I'll spit in your eye/Ask me why and I'll spit in your eye.""
-- The Smiths

Also, I've been thinking about this stuff (and the questions of property that Mel raised) in relation to the stories we grow up with. Has anyone out there seen Hometsar Runner's "cheat commandos"? The best parody of GI Joe ever. The theme song goes:

"Cheat Commandos -- they're fighting for freedom and each is sold separately!
Cheat Commandos -- they're battling evil; buy all our playsets and toys!"

Which, in some strange way, sums a lot of things up.

PS - "Ibn Bint Jbail", what's up!? My wife and I have one of your prints hanging above our couch in the living room. And your little ones are adorable! More soon...

Monday, August 20, 2007

"We can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy!"

Like many a disgruntled person with a "foreign" name, I'm often asked "If you're so unhappy with the US, why don't you just leave?" Well, a) I was born here (as were my folks), b) Everyone I love is here, c) Living on a piece of stolen land does not ethically oblige one to obey the nation-state that occupies it, and d) I love New York City, which belongs to the world as much as it does the US.

But the biggest reason is that American power is, at this point in history, a *global* force that can't be avoided. Which is why I need my own planet to exercise my benevolent but authoritarian rule over! According to the following quiz, that planet would be Saturn. Join me in my conquest! Or find out what planet *you* should rule.

You Should Rule Saturn

Saturn is a mysterious planet that can rarely be seen with the naked eye.

You are perfect to rule Saturn because like its rings, you don't always follow the rules of nature.
And like Saturn, to really be able to understand you, someone must delve beyond your appearance.

You are not an easy person to befriend. However, once you enter a friendship, you'll be a friend for life.
You think slowly but deeply. You only gain great understanding after a situation has past.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

No, really, it's "edgy", not blackface...

I'm somewhat speechless at American Apparel's recent quasi-blackface spread in Britain's i-D magazine. Of course, loudmouth that I am, "speechless" just means an angry rant that is less coherent than my usual rants! Let me just say, then: Dov Charney (AA's punk-ass founder and CEO) is not a rebel or an envelope-pusher or a "cool capitalist" or an anti-sweatshop progressive. He's a stupid, ugly, overpaid, prep-school rich kid who really, really deserves swift kicks-in-the-nuts-o-plenty. And then a couple of swift kicks in the teeth for good measure. Here are a few reasons why.

If I could get that millionaire prick in a corner I'd say "Sexually harassing your employees, union busting, and using exploitative ads are not edgy behaviors, you little hipster twit. They're just more of the same ol same ol." Then the swift kicking mentioned above would commence. Too bad bodyguards and cops work for rich people... But a man can dream about shuttin 'em down, right?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The World Done Blew Up! Who Are You?

Hey, folks. What with all the gripe-y doomsaying that goes on here at So Bored, I figured it would be useful if readers could catch a glimpse of what their lives will be like after the end of the world as we know it. Thus, this handy quiz. Apparently, my post-apocalyptic self is a cyber-punk. Check me out -- I've got a great rack!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"Hey, Ahmediwhatever, Only *we* get to destabilize Iraq!"

Well, the hypocritical hawks are at it again. The Bushies are preparing to declare Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps a "ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world". Oh, wait, that's COBRA. Anyway, the basis of this charge is Iran's supposed destabilization of Iraq and alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons. Of course, the US govt. -- in the first Gulf War as well as the current one -- has destabilized Iraq to the tune of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives And what about the *fact* that the US govt. not only possesses nukes, but has used them on civilians twice?!? Gotta luv those neocons and their nonexistent sense of irony. I swear, these fools got a camel clutch comin' to them!

Monday, August 13, 2007

W(h)ither the Turd Blossom?

Karl Rove, Evil Republican Mastermind extraordinaire, is leaving his official duties at the White House. In this administration Rove, also known as "Turd Blossom" and "Bush's Brain", is surpassed only by Dick Cheney in greed, belligerence, deceitfulness and general keep-that-creepy-bald-white-guy-away-from-my-kids-iness. I guess he's gettin' while the gettin' is (sort of) good. And, in his bid for the "most obvious symbolic recreation for a psychotic warmonger" award, he has announced that his first activity after leaving DC will be to go dove hunting. No, I'm not making that up. Would that Dick "Buckshot" Cheney were going with him.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

What's the difference between the New York Post and Park Slope?

I'm so angry about this that I can barely communicate. The principal of Khalil Gibran International Academy, a Bklyn middle school set to open this fall, has been forced to resign. Her offense? Explaining the meaning of the word "intifada". The resignation comes amidst pressure from Bloomberg, the New York Post, and the President of the United Federation of Teachers (*my* union!). None of these Islamophobic fuckwads surprise me in showing their true colors. What does surprise me slightly (though I should know better by now) is that the supposedly liberal parents of Park Slope and Boerum Hill are themselves so blatantly racist. Fake-ass Free Tibet Organic Co-op pseudo-multicultural bastards!!! Reminds me of somethin' Phil Ochs used to say :

Ah, the people of old Mississippi
Should all hang their heads in shame
Now I can't understand how their minds work
What's the matter don't they watch Les Crain?
But if you ask me to bus my children
I hope the cops take down your name
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Bazaar of the Bizarre

With apologies to Fritz Leiber, a few no-comment items-of-freakiness:

Serpico meets Hello Kitty in Thailand .

Keith Richards snorts something new, even for him.

If you need to rock out bad enough, Sweden will cut you a disability check!


Do as we say, not as we nuke. Yo Joe!

HBO Films is showing a new documentary on the U.S.'s nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thank goodness -- it's a chapter of recent history that is being rapidly forgotten. In a CNN piece, the head of HBO's documentary division stresses that such a film faces hurdles in circulation. No kidding! I'm glad this made it onto the air.

It's disgusting how many Americans ignore the fact that ours is the only country to have used nuclear weapons on human beings. Twice. And it didn't have to happen. Furthermore, the bombings were not just "a bad thing" this government did in its past, but a foundation for American supremacy in the post-WWII world. Yet we dare to lecture "rogue" nations on trying to have, wanting to have, thinking about having, and talking about wanting to have weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. has them and has used them! So long as a good part of the American public is convinced by arguments like "That's OK, we're the good guys!", we are in desperate need of films like this one.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Why do I always feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone?

I've been away for a little while, but am back with this bit of scary Bushery. Note that many Democrats (as well as almost all the Republicans) voted for this foulness. And if a Dem, or "Mr. Integrity" John McCain gets elected Prez, do we believe they'll turn this around? Arab Americans have been very used to a state of community-wide surveillance for a long time now. It's almost funny. But now it's basically effortless for the Feds to conduct such surveillance. I guess that click I keep hearing on my cell phone isn't just my imagination...

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Charles Simic named poet laureate

Charles Simic was named poet laureate of the US today. In interviews, Simic tends to be of the seemingly-naive "poetry is not political" school. But I think his poems are much, much, more complex and radical than he himself comes off as.

I'm a big Simic fan, so this beats the heck out of Robert Pinsky, et al. But I think we're in need of a demographic shift. The LAST EIGHT poets laureate have been white. Only one of the last eight was a woman. Our country is more than half female and almost half not-white. What does this sequence of laureates say about who we think makes 'real culture'?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Walking in the Reign

A NYTimes article today makes it very clear that Barack Obama, like Hillary Clinton , isn't at all against the belligerent, bossy and inevitably murderous sort of foreign policy that has defined the US from the beginning. He's just against the Bush brand of it.

Do people really see this "we're bombing the wrong country -- we should be going after Pakistan/The Taliban/South Korea, etc. " doctrine as an alternative to Bush? Do people believe that this doctrine is so much better because it uses the UN and tosses around the word 'diplomacy'? The Dems talk a lot about diplomacy, but if history is any indication, mostly they mean dictating agreements to propped-up 'friendly' regimes that are barely even friendly.

When you're as big and as dangerous a country as the United States -- the only country to use nuclear weapons on people, and you say "if President Musharraf won't act, we will", you're warmongering. Plain and simple. Now close your mouth, 'cause you're cold busted!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ingmar Bergman's Last Chess Game

So Bored wishes a peaceful journey to Ingmar Bergman, who passed away earlier today at age 89. Damn, The Seventh Seal and Fanny and Alexander are amazing movies! If you haven't seen them, you should.

Public Art = Decades in Prison

KET, an acclaimed graffiti artist, is facing decades in prison. Decades. For spray paint. Seems the semi-retired 80s graff writer's tag has been appearing on subway cars again recently. The police have no evidence that this is not the work of a copycat, but when has circumstantiality ever stopped cops? A legal defense benefit is happening here.

This brings to mind the recent NYC ordinance that allows anyone under 18 to be arrested for carrying a wide-tipped magic marker. I guess this is what we need to keep New York safe for all the sex-in-the-city/Maxim magazine little shits that are moving here. And this (in addition to its being middlebrow twaddle) is why I hate Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point: he gave legitimacy to the theory that you can keep a city safe by arresting artists. I, for one, would rather see pretty colors and bubble letters all over my city than ads for liquor and jeans and slasher movies. But corporations get to force me to look at their offensive nonsense every damn day, while a painter gets ripped away from his family.

This country stinks.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Why NYC Needs Pelicans

Though newly-born, "So Bored" has already been accused of being an all-complaint, no-solution blog. To address this, I'd like to propose a civic improvement project for New York City: hire pelicans. Our pigeon problems are out of control. Let's give this guy a job, and find out if he has friends

Do sports matter?

I generally hate sports. Especially in the US, professional sports is about sheep-think corporate macho bullshit. Hyper-competitiveness over things that don't matter. Americans who can't even find Iraq on a map or name the last ten presidents know absolutely everything about "their" team (which isn't actually *theirs*, but rather some billionaire's).

But sports as national/cultural drama is hard to resist. Cassius Clay becoming Muhammad Ali. Iran's victory over the US in the World Cup. Fun stuff. In that vein, I say mabrouk (congrats) to the Iraqi national futbol team for their inspiring win.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

"America is back" -- kinda like Jaws

A New York Times article today details the depressingly tepid foreign policy "debate" between the Hillary and Barack camps. It seems the Senators are in disagreement about how best to regain the U.S.'s lost prestige on the world stage. Hillary, trying desperately to appear as hard-headed as any man, insists that there should be preconditions on any diplomatic contact with "dictators" like Ahmednijad or Chavez (Chavez was, unlike our own prez, *elected*, but never mind that for now). Obama, playing good cop, says:

“Our standing in the world has diminished so much because people think that the United States wants to dictate across the world instead of cooperate across the world. When we start sending a signal that we are ready to engage in serious diplomacy, then we’ve got the opportunity to stand before the world and say: We’re back. America is back.”

This ostensibly open-minded approach is what has liberals loving Obama, I suppose. But "'back' to what?", we might ask. We've heard a lot lately about America's diminished prestige. But I've got bad news, folks: America's "standing in the world" has never been very high. Why not? Because we *do* want to "dictate across the world".

We're a country full of mofos who petulantly demand our SUVs and Nike shoes regardless of the cost to the rest of humanity or the planet. None of the Democrats (excepting perhaps Kucinich) is proposing any sort of challenge to that mentality. The "difference" in the philosophies of the candidates -- Democrat and Republican -- amounts to the difference between stealing from the rest of the world with a smile on our face or with a scowl. As Malcolm X once said of liberals vs. conservatives, “One is the wolf, the other is the fox. No matter what, they’ll both eat you.”



Hi Folks!

This is my very first post. Mostly I'm just testing things out. To introduce the blog, though, I present you with two quotes that sum up what I'm doing here

"One of the amusements of idleness is reading without the fatigue of close attention; and the world therefore swarms with writers whose wish is not to be studied, but to be read."
- Samuel Johnson

"Terrorist? That's what the big army calls the little army!"
- Wolverine (to Captain America c.1984)