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February 2008

No Justice: why I'm not ready to move on

The corporate media is now telling us how the American people are tired of arguing over Iraq and tired of talking about George Bush. They suggest that we are tiring of the bitter, "partisan" arguments that have divided us. They echo Obama's message when they tell us that we are ready to come together, put the past behind, and start dealing with the issues of tomorrow.

What they are asking us to do is to make nice, to forgive and forget.  "We all agree that George Bush is a bad guy and maybe we did mess up Iraq, but that's behind us."  So we're told.  But there is one thing missing.  Do we believe in justice or not?

Maybe we're living in a post-justice era.  I mean, if someone were to murder a member of my family, I'd probably just forget about it and move on.  You know...the loved one is already dead...what's done is done. I wouldn't let it eat me up.  Hell no, I'd expect justice! I'd expect someone to be punished for the wrongs they have committed.  Only when justice has been served can one even contemplate moving on and starting the healing process.

So we've had 8 years of rule by not just war criminals, but white collar criminals who have bankrupted our country for their own personal gain. Billions of dollars of our tax money is unaccounted for in Iraq. The list of criminal activity that *we know about* is too long for anything shorter than a book.  Yet, the "opposition party" isn't able to assure us that anybody will be brought to justice? Let's all just pretend that the murderers and thieves who have exploited us are good guys who can continue with business as usual! Come on!

First justice, then we move on.  Without justice there can be no healing.  Our society can never be healthy if we are not able to speak plainly about what was done to us, and by whom, and punish them accordingly.  Until that day all hope is empty, all unity feeble, and all progress reversible.  If a society is no longer capable of bringing its own corrupt elements to justice, then it is no longer capable of maintaining its own existence.

But never mind all that.   We're Americans.   We obey.   If we're told by NBC, CBS, Fox, and CNN to move on, then we shall move on.

My debut solo album, "Midnight Snow"

Today I'm deeply excited to start the release of my acoustic album, "Midnight Snow".  You can follow the links on this page to download every track from the album and learn more about it.

I might even say that "Midnight Snow" has turned out even better than I expected.  When I started recording just 3 months ago, I actually had no idea what sound I was going for.  All I knew is that I wanted it to be a dark, soft acoustic album.  After so many twists and turns and dead ends, I finally feel that I may have discovered a sound that is slightly different.

When I listen to the album, I realize that it is "me".  In fact, it is so deeply personal that it makes me slightly shy to share it! 

Well anyway, this morning I made my final edit on the album, and now there is nothing I would change.  It may seem a bit strange or even foolish to work so hard on something for months and even years, and then just give it away for free from a weblog.  But I learned from releasing "Imperfect People", the Sungod Abscondo album, that I'm no longer interested in investing thousands of dollars and months of my time getting radio airplay only to reach the small fraction of music fans who are willing to buy an album from an unknown band.  So while "Midnight Snow" will be made available on iTunes and other on-line outlets, it will also be given away for free and licensed under a Creative Commons license that allows anybody to do anything they want with it as long as the give me credit.

I know you've heard a lot of crappy, ameteur independent music.  I sincerely think you'll agree that this does not fall into that category.  I hope you put me on a good set of headphones or a decent stereo, sit back, have a drink, and enjoy.      

How money and success destroy art

Eddie Vetter of Pearl Jam has said that his music was originally fueled by anger, and that it was challenging for him when that anger went away and was replace by happiness and contentedness.  Even the style of his music, itself, was originally a product of the angst and frustrations of a common life.  What meaning could it possibly have within the context of overwhelming success and riches? 

Did Eddie's success choke his ability to create the kind of meaningful music we knew and loved?  Consider his early song Jeremy in relation to the following lyrics from a recent song, Big Wave:

I scream in affirmation
Of connecting dislocations
And exceeding limitation
By achieving levitation

Got me a big wave, ride me a big wave, got me a big wave.
Got me a big wave, ride me a big wave, got me a big wave

OK that's just embarrassing.  You have to hear the song, set to the angst-ridden sounds of grunge music (a sound, by the way, that he hasn't bothered to evolve so that it might more accurately reflect his daily reality) in order to get the full picture of how badly this song misses the mark.

We see the same thing happen in Rap music all the time.   The art form itself is a reflection of the brutal realities of inner-city life.  Throw some money at it and what starts out as meaningful, anger-fueled and angst-ridden lyrics so quickly turn to boasting of cars and brands. 

Meaningful art has to arise from the life and experience of the artist.  One might expect the successful rocker or rapper to experiment with new, happier or more blissful sounds.  But in the case of both the rapper and the grunge-rocker, their style of music cannot be allowed to change so that it might more accurately reflect their new lives.  To do so would be to risk losing the very foundation of that success...the support of fans who originally loved them for who they once were.

And so it is, with overwhelming success and subsequent riches, art itself becomes inauthentic crap as the artist becomes a salesmen just trying to continue fueling an excessive lifestyle. 


Listening to Thom York interviewed as a guest DJ on NPR's All Songs Considered podcast, someone mentioned to me that to be famous must be the ultimate accomplishment in life, the ultimate way to live.  While I originally agreed with this sentiment, I later realized that there are two distinct types of fame. 

One type of fame, that of the Hollywood actor or international supermodel, arises out of a need to replace the metaphorical question mark on the cover of every magazine, the open spot for a cast-member of some film.  They come to be famous by fulfilling an archetype, doing exactly what has been done before and will be done again. 

Then there is the fame of Andy Warhol, Leonard Cohen, Thom York, Noam Chomsky, or Milan Kundera.  These people have, indeed, achieved the highest state possible in any human life.  Their fame was based on an ability to fully develop and contribute that which makes them unique and authentically themselves.  They aren't simply fulfilling a role set up by some corporation that is pushing a product (magazine, film, TV show, or Pop Idol album).  Instead, they offered up a unique genetic mutation and as the sum of their create "that thing" out of nothing.

That kind of fame is the only kind worth having.  More importantly, these are the only kinds of celebrity worth admiring.