Sunday, June 11, 2017

Current Listening - June 2017

I thought I'd share some of my recent listening. Some old, some new...and at least 1 artist I've been challenged to over-come a life-long prejudice.

  • Tinariwen - Elwan: I started listening to this band in 2010 when I read raves by artists such as Robert Plant and Radiohead. The band consists of Mali Toureg natives that play a blend a traditional Mali-style guitar music (ala Ali Farke Toure) along with elements of Moroccan folk, Rock, and Blues. On their latest album, they have a guest appearance by Mark Lanegan (QOTSA, Screaming Tree). All the songs on this album are really good but the two that really stick with me is Ittus, a sparse piece with just acoustic guitar and vocals, and Talyat, a building and repetitive "call and answer" piece. I haven't a clue what they are singing about but I love the music. 

  • Roger Waters - Is This The Life We Really Want?:  His 1st Rock album in 25 years is a mellower but no less angry album by the lyrical architect of the great Pink Floyd. The production quality is very contemporary but some of the vibe calls back to Animals. The lyrics are typical Waters brilliance. I had the chance to see him in concert this month and, even with the worst seats in the arena, was blown away. 

  • Grateful Dead - Dead Set: I've owned this album for 35 years and played it maybe 5 times before last weekend when I was convinced by a long-time acquaintance to overcome a common prejudice we've had against the Dead, the prejudice being more towards the stereotypical view of the fan base and the overwhelming cult-of-personality surrounding the late Jerry Garcia than the music. There have been bits of The Dead's legacy that I've enjoyed and I certainly appreciate their impact. However, I could never understand the hard-core devotion they inspired. That said, after listening to this album, I still don't "get it" but I did develop an appreciation for this album that has languished in my vinyl collection for much of my life. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Fear and Loathing in America

2017 seem metaphorically darker than normal. The news seems to leap from one bad story to a worse one. I do my best to keep news, with the inherent bias of the reporter, in proper perspective. But I don’t discard news as propaganda, though it certainly is used as such. I temper my digesting of the news of the day with skepticism on the reporting, trying to discern the facts from the opinion. But even taking away the commentary and opinion, it feels bleak…and its too easy to get worked up…AND GET ANGRY...AND FALL INTO DESPAIR…AND BRING THAT ANGER AND DESPAIR HOME…AND START SLAMMING DOORS…AND YELLING AT THE CAT….AND YOUR SPOUSE…AND…ARGH!!!!!!

Let me take a step back. I’ve been as guilty as anyone of getting worked up into a place of fear as a result of a steady diet of news. And, in recent weeks, the topic of the reliability of news has been front and center, thanks, in large part, to the current U.S. president. But, as I see it, it’s a recurrence of an age-old theme.

I want to avoid getting all “political” in this space…though I must declare that I am not a supporter or fan of Mr. Trump. That said, I’m not willing to give in to the hysteria that is both a response to as well as a result of his intentions.  I will respond in kind, as I’ve always done, to issues that affect me. But, as a core belief, I refuse to be motivated by fear. I believe that fear is the root of all negativity and must be combatted deliberately, with the primary “battlefield” being one’s own heart (a battle I’m constantly waging with varied results).
Back to the news: From my experience, the best way to avoid fear is to be informed, to educate, and to be objective. This requires proactivity and critical thinking.
Much has been made about “fake news” and I’ve seen/heard people state that there mainstream new is nothing more than propaganda, liberal bias, fake news, “…letting the public down by not doing their job”…yada yada yada… I find such comments annoying to be honest.  Let me address them with my own thoughts (as meaningless as they may be):
  • ·         “Bias”: I chaff at the specificity of “liberal media bias” because this is usually stated by someone who identifies themselves as “conservative” (who then define what I means to be “liberal”). But, that said, I’m fully aware that there is bias (even “not conservative” bias). How can there not be bias of any sort? Any human endeavor will be biased by those doing the endeavoring.  I contend that it’s the responsibility of the consumer to weed through the bias, opinion, etc. Facts are there but it’s the responsibility of the reader/watcher to discern the fact from opinion….Someone once said they don’t have the time to “weed” through news. Fair enough…but the same person would repeat talking points of their preferred news outlet’s paid “talking head” which clearly aligned with their political viewpoint. In my opinion, that is gross intellectual laziness. Seek the truth…don’t get spoon-fed the facts mixed with opinion of others.
  • ·         “News in propaganda”:  There are multiple definitions of propaganda. One or more do apply. But my rhetorical response is “what ISN’T propaganda?”…news, advertising…we are awash in propaganda of one sort or another. Again, its up to us to weed through the chaff.  
  • ·         “Fake News”: Instead of restating points, click here for a helpful resource

 On the topic of “fake news”, this isn’t something that was a recent invention, though the present manifestation of the problems such new presents is exacerbated by present technology (e.g. social media, internet). But I believe we have new circumstance for an age-old problem. Bottom line, being informed and seeking truth isn’t a passive activity….and neither is combating fear.