Saturday, March 3, 2018

Then and Forever the Andrew Jackson Jihad

The Bible 2
SideOneDummy, 2016
produced by John Congelton
Sean Bonnette - guitars, vocals
Ben Gallaty - basses (electric, and double)
Preston Bryant - keyboards, piano, guitars
Mark Glick - cello
Deacon Batchelor - drums

  • Goodbye, Oh Goodbye
  • Junkie Church
This band is pretty slick. I discovered them in 2007 when their song No More Tears appeared on the Plea For Peace vol. 2 comp released by Asian Man Records. They are considered Anti-Folk, a genre that lumps Regina Spektor, Laura Marling, Michelle Shocked, Death Cab for Cutie, and Beck all in the same group. 

A band with initials, or numbers, makes people wonder what the initials or numbers mean. AJJ changed their name in right before this album was announced. They are now referred to as AJJ, formerly known as Andrew Jackson Jihad. This, of course, explains the initials. The original name was super creative, and even though the band explained the official change as a desire to no longer be associated with the "odious" historic figure, nor with the "disrespectful" use of the term jihad (they aren't actually muslim, after all). 

The combination of the 7th US president and a term meaning both a religious armed struggle against unbelievers, and a praiseworthy struggle is a pretty good satirical way to describe Jackson's political career. He publicly waged wars against the budding American aristocracy, the National Bank, and American Indian tribes, and abolitionists. I guess I understand not wanting to be forever linked to America's most famous civil rights violator, and a politically/cultural/religiously charged term. But, changing your name to just the acronym isnt really changing anything, right?

Anyway, this album is pretty good. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

A New Place for Old Things

I started a new blog today. I've been thinking about moving like-minded posts into a separate blog for awhile now, and since I already have separate blogs for crown caps and gnome stuff, I figured why not also add all those Batman related posts to a separate Batman-themed blog?

So, there you have it, folks, I set it all up, linked it to this blog and vice versa, and now all my new Batman posts will be there instead of here. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Death of Chief Wahoo

If you've been reading this blog for awhile (doubtful), you'd be familiar with my interest in protesting the use of American Indian mascots in sports. I've posted a few entries about it on this blog. Feel free to search for them. Yesterday, this movement to end oppressive cartoonish depictions of cultures in sports got a big win.

Recently, the Cleveland Indians posted a press release about their own Indian mascot caricature, Chief Wahoo. According to the Cleveland baseball franchise, they will officially retire Wahoo in 2019 after 70 years. The New York Times corroborates.

Before I go on, it is important to remember that this is a big deal for a movement that, until now, has only been able to convince organizations in semi-pro and amateur sports competitions (collegiate, and undergraduate level) to divest from problematic identities. The fact that this is a major league professional franchise with a 70 year investment in their mascot and identity is huge.

However, this won't happen until 2019. Also, the franchise will continue to offer Chief Wahoo merchandise in their direct market (the Cleveland area). They want to maintain the trademark. So, basically, the logo wont be truly retired, but at least it will be off the uniform, stadium, official franchise marketing, and global marketplace.

Philip Yenyo, director of AIM (American Indian Movement), sums up my thoughts about this pretty well. He says this decision is a "step in the right direction", but "why wait? [...] if you're going to go this far and get rid of it, why not do it now? All they are doing is testing it out, because the name has to go too. The nickname absolutely has to go. It's not just the logo".

And so, although this is a good thing, and should be celebrated by the movement, there is still more that needs to be done. The mascot issue is a two part problem, not only are the logos caricatures, but the nicknames, the identities of these teams and fanbases, are also unacceptable.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Cultural Appropriation: What is it exactly?

Recently, and by that I mean in the last 10 years or so, there has been this trend toward social consciousness, a progressive reformation fueled by the internet's ability to bring people closer together and give voices to the previously ignored. One of the great things about social media platforms and the media that reflects that social media back at us as newsworthy, is the ability for the minority to be heard. While I think this is great, giving a voice to the voiceless, sometimes I am surprised by our ability as human beings to take everything a little too far.

Cultural Appropriation is the idea, best put, that dominant cultures, because they are the strong, majority culture, are able to take aspects of minority, oppressed cultures, and use them for nefarious means, often without the consent of the minority culture, and also often without adequate compensation. In short, Cultural Appropriation is an offshoot of Colonialist bully tactics and is inherently evil and should be called out and condemned.

I found this explanation somewhere too... "taking something from a culture that you do not belong to, and use it outside of that cultural context – usually without understanding its cultural significance, and often times changing its original meaning”
I wanted to give credit to the cartoonist. but no one seems to know
Already, with this definition, I have questions, and problems. My first question? What are these nefarious means? 

In many online articles from sites like The Huffington Post, Salon, Gawker (if it still existed), and other "liberal media" publications, the nefarious means are explained as using the cherry picked minority culture for monetary gain. Obvious examples of this include white musicians learning "black" music and then becoming rich off producing those styles, or fashion designers ripping off minority fashion and turning it into expensive high fashion products. Or the alternate medicine industry that often mines non-Western cultures for homeopathic remedies.

Less obvious, however, would be the underhanded scheme of borrowing minority culture and turning it into a fad which then serializes and undermines the appropriated culture turning it into no more than a caricature. The entire crux of the Anti-Indian Sports Mascot movement is built on this premise.  This is also the problem with ethnic themed Halloween costumes. My second definition above is important in this context. A dismissal of original context in favor of brand recognition, or profiteering is totally an appropriation as opposed to appreciation.

Typically, however, the Left, even with the best intentions of supporting the struggles of the less fortunate, and the oppressed minority, took this idea of Cultural Appropriation and over policed it to the point of madness. At times, it seems, the goal for some people is to completely shut out everyone who is of a different culture and revert back to a cultural isolationism. This cultural possessiveness doesn't appear to be a very progressive goal.

this is probably anti-Left propaganda. 

Which brings me to my second question: What cultures do we, as Americans, belong to, or not belong to, and who gets to make those decisions?

The United States of America is in a very unique place as far as culture is concerned. Everyone is welcome here, despite what fervent anti-immigration 'Mericans may say. And, because of that, the US, unlike every other country with stricter immigration policies (or no immigration policies), is a very interesting place culturally. This country has pockets of cultural influence that mirror every place on the globe. And in those pockets reside customs, cuisine, religious practice, fashion from everywhere. I think that is pretty remarkable, that one nation houses all of the diversity of the rest of the world. There are cultures here in the US that otherwise may never meet, and probably never meet under good terms.

Music, I think, gets a particularly bad rep for Cultural Appropriation. Music, the USA's greatest export, is steeped in cultural mixing and matching. All the great pop genres are rhythms and cords borrowed from "minority" cultures in America. Gospel, Blue Grass, and the Blues helped form Country, Rock n Roll, Reggae, Funk, Soul, and Hip Hop. It is almost impossible, however, to look at the history of modern music and not realize that, in every genre, there is a disproportionate number of minority innovators who died penniless while Eurocentric musicians often found exorbitant amounts of wealth and fame by playing "minority" music. At this point, however, I think the power structure in the music industry has shifted enough that all creators and innovators receive their due regardless of cultural identity. I could be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure contemporary Black and Latino artists are no longer largely ignored in favor of White copycats (award shows still have problems). And, on top of that, at this point, I think we, as a society, are informed enough to look back and recognize the primary contributions and importance of minority musicians and artists. I know, personally, I'd rather hear Fats Domino and BB King, and Big Mama Thornton than Elvis.

Speaking of receiving their due... anti-cultural appropriation groups don't seem to take into consideration the market for cultural appreciation, especially when lead by that particular culture. Basically, I'm pointing out the viability for minority cultures to sell themselves. Tourism is one of the biggest, sometimes the only, industry in developing nations. Caribbean nations are good examples. Hawaii and Puerto Rico are also good examples of American cultures outsourcing themselves to the rest of American culture.

Any ethnic specific cuisine is basically a business opportunity to sell a cultural experience. As a non-member of any of these cultures, am I supposed to not give my business? Should my mother return all those amazingly crafted ponchos and wraps? My point is this discussion could get off the rails real fast depending on how far down the hole you want to go.

Is it worth highlighting a fashion company's obvious appropriation of Native art to sell jewelry to college kids? Yes. Especially since there is a Federal law prohibiting the sale of falsely marketed Native American made products. But is it worth shaming that 8 year old who went on a Caribbean trip with her family and got her hair braided and wrapped? Probably not, now you're just an asshole.

And I think that is where the line of Cultural Appropriation and Cultural Appreciation lies... are you being an asshole? Is there really any harm in college aged idiots drinking tequila and wearing hats on May 5? Is there harm in a Mexican restaurant chain selling tequila and hats every day of the year? I think this really comes down to personal judgement all around. With some common sense woven in. This whole thing comes down to judgement: People judging others' lifestyle choices, other people making judgements about what is and isn't respectful and responsible. Is there really harm being done? What is the goal here?

So... no Karen, that white chick with the dreads is not trying to trivialize the struggles of the Rasta. And no, Chad, it's not ok to wear that headdress to Coachella. And yes, Linda, I can make sticky rice in my house and eat with chopsticks whenever I want. But also, ethnic themed Halloween costumes are never acceptable.

There is this myth in America that has been prevalent since my grandparents' day that cultural diversity should be celebrated. But instead of trying to live this myth, we use it as a way to further divide and spread hostility. Please, share the cultures, be open, be understanding, teach, learn, experience, be respectful, don't be an asshole.

Monday, November 20, 2017

New Ideas for an Old Franchise: Indiana Jones Edition

There have been many who have realized the corporate culture of movie making has ruined film. The tendency for capitalism to double down on a great success in order to continue to make profits has led the movie industry to continue to produce terrible sequels and reboots (followed by more sequels) of existing series and franchises instead of creating anything new.

This has been well documented by Ethan Anderton from First Showing, and by Andrew Allen from Shortoftheweek who both use the same infographic from Box Office Mojo. The guys at Cracked have also weighed in, like they often do, with 5 reasons. If you type in phrases like "Hollywood unoriginal", or "no new ideas from Hollywood" into google, there is a wealth of similar articles, tweets, blogposts, and commentary about this problem. We've also known about it for quite some time, most of these articles are 5 or more years old.

However, There are some franchises that I think we can all agree should never stop. James Bond is a great example, no matter who plays the characters, or what evil villain Bond is stopping, those movies are super fun, and never a bad time. If Disney were to remake those awful Star Wars prequels (pleeeease, pretty pretty please, make them not suck), I'd be the first in line to buy a ticket.

Also, on this list, is Indiana Jones. Now, I know Harrison Ford is super old, but so is Sean Connery, and that didn't stop the Broccoli's from making 24 films with 6 different actors. Like James Bond, Indiana Jones could potentially be played by anyone. Knowing this, I propose an idea for Disney and LucasFilm.

The mystical and cryptoarchaeological (is that a word?) themes of Indiana Jones is what makes the franchise, I think, so attractive. Aside from Harrison Ford's portrayal of the hero, the quests for macguffins based on legendary artifacts turn the plots of these movies into high stakes scavenger hunts full of far-away, secretive places, borderline illegal hijinx, and sinister competition and doublecross.

I would like to see Indiana Jones tackle the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft. 

Think about this: In my opinion, the most successful Indiana Jones films are Raiders and Last Crusade, both dealing with biblical artifacts. The mythology of apocryphal Abrahamic religions, the power imbued into seemingly worthless artifacts, surrounded in archaic mystery, unlocking ancient powers, but without relying on extraterrestrial origins made these movies special. Why not the Cthulhu mythos?

To my knowledge there hasn't been a successful adaptation of anything Lovecraftian. There sure have been plenty of science fiction/horror stories that are heavily influenced by the Cthulhu mythos, like Hellboy and Batman, Scooby Doo, Supernatural, X-Files, South Park, Rick and Morty, The Ghostbusters, True Detective, Evil Dead, and many others. But not yet have we seen a major motion picture explore the horror suspense created by Lovecraft, culminating in a situation where "top men" had to bury the evidence.

Just put it in a box, between the ark of the covenant and Jimmy Hoffa
Imagine Indiana Jones, searching for some kind of artifact... the Necromonicon perhaps, or eltdown shards, or g'harne fragments. Along the way he visits Arkham, Commoriom, The Nameless City, runs into the Black Brotherhood, the King in Yellow, The Great Race of Yith perhaps, and ultimately stops the awakening of Cthulhu.

I think there is great potential for this mashup. And, well, if Indiana Jones doesn't work out, I'm sure the Tombraider camp would take a crack at it.

Someone with Photoshop has the same idea