As Steinbeck wrote: “How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only
in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children?
You can’t scare him—he has known a fear beyond every other.”
From an article in a recent issue of The Economist about immigration. This is why undocumented migrants will keep coming, no matter how high the walls are. The author makes a skillful comparison between the Okies in "Grapes of Wrath" and the latin american immigrants who risk everything to make it the U.S.
Along the same lines, a newish documentary called The Other Side of Immigration that also looks at particular and personal close-ups of people immigrating and why seems to be something I want to watch and encourage. These kinds of explanations of individual experience and motivation are what need to be seen by as many gringos as possible. Read more>>>
I've always liked this song by Cat Power, "Maybe Not." I first heard it when I got it from the Protest Records website 7 years ago. It seems appropriate to blog about it today, especially because it popped up on my ipod shuffle while running this morning, and i had just been listening to a bunch of Cat Power yesterday. The song has many interpretations, and many video adaptations by fans, of varying quality, in addition to live renditions, covers, and a really mediocre "official" version. This is my favorite:
The lyrics are worth reading and thinking about:
There’s a dream that I see, I pray it can be Read more>>>
i wish there was a way to just limit freeloaders of wifi to low-bandwidth
use and just stop them from watching videos and doing big
downloads/uploads and other high-bandwidth stuff, because in principle
i'm for open networks. it'd be great if anyone could freely use our
wireless to get email or whatever low-impact stuff they wanted. it's
just that when the freeloading makes it impossible for us to do what we
need to do, there have to be limits. so we've finally Read more>>>
I've been reading an excellent book called "'They Take Our Jobs!' and 20 other myths about immigration", by Aviva Chomsky. It's a really straightforward, easy read, and I've been highlighting key summarizing passages as I go with the intention of blogging at least a couple of times to share them. I will get to some of those soon, but I want to briefly mention one "big idea" from the book and how it relates to some other things I've been thinking about.
One underlying lesson of Chomsky's book is that, as we all keep seeing, history is such a great way to get at the truth or part of the truth that's often been glossed over in many discussions. She looks not just at the immigration situation right now but at the history of labor in the New World to show that immigration is a simply one part in the puzzle of how capital has always fought to provide itself with cheap labor. Cutting labor costs depends on having a population of workers who don't have the same rights as the rest of the people. An underclass.
The reason we've always had an "underclass" in our society, whether it was slaves, indentured servants, immigrants, foreign workers in far-away foreign factories, or undocumented immigrants, has always pretty much been because business needs to reduce what it spends on labor. They need to cut costs so they can offer cheap prices to consumers, and so they can increase profits.
Furthermore, the need to reduce retail consumer prices has become especially important in the last half-century, because middle-class workers here, the "non underclass," in other words, the consumers, have had their (real) earnings drop steadily since the 60s. Income inequality has been increasing as money gets funneled from regular people to the upper class. This means things, to put it simply, life has been kind of bad and getting worse and worse for the last few decades, for most people in this country.
To make up for it, rather than offering a truly better, more just and fair life for most people, Read more>>>
This is the first in a series of postings about creative pursuits and other activities in my long-ago past. I recently digitized several old vhs tapes full of various things I've done, including short film, video collage, and various music projects. Here I'll tell you about a short-lived but very unusual and very fun band I was in almost 20 years ago.
In the early 90s I was part of an small circle of musicians in Ann Arbor, Michigan that did various experimental or "avant garde" sound projects, including a "band" called Ears Under Siege. Having its origins in one installment of a collagey, noisy radio show I did at WCBN called The Difficult Listening Hour, the group was basically about creating long, ambient, droney soundscapes, inspired by artists like The Hafler Trio, Nurse With Wound, Phauss, Eno, etc. There was sort of a revolving membership to this band but the core of the group was myself and Neil Chastain. I was into sampling and Neil had tons of old synthesizers, and we would include various other players of electronic or acoustic instruments, somehow always maintaining a sort of low-key, spacey yet challenging aesthetic. Every session would start with a long period of everyone tweaking their instruments, developing patches and editing samples and setting up elaborate chains of effects processors. Jeff Warmouth, mostly on bass guitar, and Kevin Lee on electronics, became quite frequent participants and the group was around for a couple of years, playing several gigs and recording lots of material.
Bu this is about a totally different band. At one point in the summer of 1993, Jeff, Kevin, and I met for an Ears Under Siege session at my apartment. I can't remember if we knew beforehand, but Neil did not show because he was out of town, playing drums with another group of his, the math-rock band Craw based in Cleveland. Anyway, we scheduled the meeting anyway and set up our piles of gear but then as we started fiddling with sounds we decided we wanted to do something different. Perhaps it was Neil's absence or maybe it was some other sense of a need for variety, but we decided to try playing a series of really short songs, instead of the long, 20 to 30 minutes drone pieces that EUS was so partial to creating.
The challenge to come up with something different that would be interesting in just a minute or two ended up Read more>>>
I look forward greatly to reading Jonathan Franzen's new huge novel, "Freedom," his work of the last 9 years, just out this month. But until that time, here's something about freedom that I love, from David Foster Wallace's own magnum opus, "Infinite Jest", which I'm nearing the end of (well, I still have about 200 pages to go, but on a 1000-page book that's something!). Here, a Quebecois separatist double-agent is speaking to an intelligence agent from the U.S.:
Always with you this freedom! For your walled-up country, always to shout 'Freedom! Read more>>>
A great post on the always excellent Sociological Images blog talks about what leads people to different transportation choices as part of their lifestyle. Car use tracks with how young your neighborhood is, basically. Our lifestyles, especially how we move ourselves around, are largely determined by the cities and neighborhoods we live in - the infrastructure. Income also determines this - whether we can afford a car. Of course in a larger sense, this is infrastructure too: who is poor and who is rich is largely determined by the structural makeup of society. Read more>>>
So, this is amazing,
Senator McCain evidently now believes in global climate change, according to a
canned reply to a letter i sent recently. "Human activities, including
the burning of fossil fuels, are the primary source of carbon dioxide
and other greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere....As Americans, we
can no longer ignore our significant contribution...The United States
must act responsibly ... It is also essential that we maintain our
leadership role as the world moves toward an international market for
greenhouse gas reductions."
of course, we MUST have a MARKET. of course. At all costs.
While I acknowledge there are some nice things about this nation that I've been lucky enough to be born a citizen of, today I want to think and write about the common belief held by lots of Unitedstatesians that their country is "the best". "We're number 1!" we hear them shout. Rah Rah.
Let's get right to it. Where are we, exactly, in the rankings? Are we Numero Uno? How do we compare? Read more>>>