Josh McNeill

Language, Music, Louisiana.

Month: January 15, 2009

Fight genocide with genocide.

I came across this video today:

At first, it’s easy to watch this and come to the conclusion that Jewish people are terrible and hypocrites but this is how these things get perpetuated. What you have here are Jews reacting to Muslims who were reacting to Jews who were reacting to Muslims, ad infinitum. Apparently, it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in what’s happening right at the moment without considering how we got to this point.

Right now, Israel is pretty much obliterating Gaza. Some Israelis have died too but the difference in deaths is so drastic that you might as well just say that no one in Israel has been killed in the current conflict. This is why what the people in the video above are saying is absolutely crazy. Sometimes I really wonder how someone comes to the point where they’re willing to march in the streets in support of one side of a controversial issue that they seem to know absolutely nothing about. For instance, the girl in the middle of the video who claims this is the holocaust all over again, she either doesn’t have any clue that this holocaust she speaks of is being carried out by Israel on Gaza or she’s so full of hatred and bitterness that she just doesn’t care. Whatever the reason, these people really need to step back and take some deep breaths and I’m not only referring to Jews and Israelis.

Palestinians shouldn’t be turned into martyrs either. They’re far from innocent in all this. Really, the issue here is that both sides have various reasons to be angry at the other. That’s the nature of controversy. Controversial subjects only exist when there are valid points being made on both sides of the argument. With that in mind, when one comes into contact with a topic of this nature, the immediate reaction should be to acknowledge that both sides have some solid ground to stand on. Unfortunately, humans, as a whole, are apt to act before they think and are not exactly fans of compromise.

A turning page.

William Zantzinger just died the other day at the age of 69. If you’re a part of my generation, you probably have no idea who he was. I certainly didn’t know who he was until I decided to read about him today and I’m not too sure whether that’s a good or a bad thing.

Zantzinger was a well-off tobacco farmer who, in 1963, in a still segregated Maryland, killed a 51 year old black woman named Hattie Caroll while she was working. She was guilty of not getting his drink fast enough for him. He called her a “black, son of a bitch” and hit her in the head with a cane. She died eight hours later of a brain hemorrhage. Zantzinger was given six months in a county jail and a $500 fine and had his imprisonment deferred so that he could take care of his tobacco crop yield first.

This most likely wouldn’t go down in history as anything different from all the other screwed up things that were done to blacks in America during the first half of the 20th century except for one thing, Bob Dylan wrote a song about it:

Zantzinger was made famous because of this song which Dylan, so I’ve read, still plays up to this day.

To me, not to downplay the tragedy of the event, there’s a lot of symbolism in all this. This man, who was by all accounts a terrible racist, who was able to murder a black woman and practically get away scot-free, has died less than twenty days before a black man enters into the presidency of the United States. Also, the fact that he is, most likely, completely unknown to people born after 1980 (yeah I know I’m conjecturing) says a lot about where we are with race relations in this country.

We could very well be past the point where we need these types of stories to remind us of what racism can do. Or maybe we’re just ignorant and don’t realize, or aren’t told, how often these types of things still happen. Maybe they don’t happen anymore. Maybe we’re giving people like Zantzinger their just rewards by relegating them to the position of relics that will be happily forgotten. Maybe we’re being foolish by forgetting.

My opinion is that we just don’t need to feel angry anymore. We don’t need to ignore racism or let it slide or anything like that, but grudges from 46 years ago will no longer move us forward. It was probably a good thing that every time Zantzinger showed up in the paper that Dylan’s song showed up as well. It was probably a good thing that he has never stopped playing that song. The man is dead now, though, and the current racial challenges are different. The generation that was capable of committing such acts is disappearing and a generation that is willing to make a black man into the most important figure in our country is now at the helm. We’re one step closer to finding a balance.

Looks like I’m heading toward stupid.

Word is that living in cities makes you stupid. Take that city dwellers! Actually it just wears out your brain according to some new studies. On the other hand, living in a city also causes innovative thinking because of the constant stream of unpredictable social interactions. It’s pretty fitting that I came across this article just as I was finally deciding to get out of a small town and head to a big city. Here it is, by the way:

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/01/04/how_the_city_hurts_your_brain/

Fortunately, there are various ways to counteract the stupefying effects of city life. Essentially, just stare at some trees. That’s right, nature puts your mind back into focus, for real. This whole thing is starting to sound like some sort of hippy propaganda. Maybe it is. You never know when those sneaky little devils are trying to inject the idea of love of nature subliminally into your head. I blame Al Gore. He’s not really a hippy, but.. whatever.

Honestly, I’ll buy this argument. Hell, I’ve already decided to leave at least one of my two blinds open. Previously, they remained closed at all times. I’m paranoid, and hiding things. Not really, I think I just don’t like having to pay attention to whether I need to watch the window or not. But yeah, why not keep a tree in your periphery at all times? It’s not hard to do. Even taking a walk through a natural area once in a while isn’t a big chore, especially when it has real results for your well-being.

The next big thing that no one will hear.

One of the most exciting things about music to me is finding out what will come next. There are always people out there claiming that they’re pushing the envelope but, generally, those people are full of it. So, when I do finally come across a sound that truly feels unique and new, it’s always thrilling to me and usually quite surprising. With that, I want to share what I think is coming next.

Recently, I’ve been enjoying the music of Kaija Saariaho quite a bit. She’s a Finnish composer, in her fifties, living in France. Her background is in something called spectral music, which you most likely have never heard of. There was a movement that started in France in the 70s where composers tried to use texture as the driving force behind their music. They didn’t care at all about harmony or melody, they wanted the focal point to be the texture of the music and how it changes. Generally, this led to a lot of extremely weird and, to me, awfully boring music. There were some gems though, like Gerard Grisey’s Partiels, but, for the most part, I think they were building the foundation for later composers to design great cathedrals on.

Saariaho is one of those new architects. She’s the first “spectral” composer that I have ever heard where I don’t say to myself, “If it weren’t for my interest in the theory, this would sound like utter crap.” Her music simply sounds good regardless of the fact that it’s a million miles away from any semblance of what most people would consider “music”. Honestly, most people want their music to be predictable and reassuring hence we’re stuck with pop music that’s still thoroughly embedded in the compositional ideas of the 18th century. Music that’s meant to be art left these ideas, returned to them, put them through a blender, and left them again, long ago. There’s this delay between the time when someone, probably poor and pathetic, creates something miraculous and when the rest of the world realizes that it’s good. By that point, no one even knows where it came from or who started it.

I’m kind of getting off on a tangent here but my is point is that this sound could very well be equivalent to Wagner breaking tonality. Maybe in two hundred years pop music will be all about exploiting the ideas expressed by Saariaho in some dumbed down, overdone drivel. If I could live that long, I would probably complain about how outdated and predictable everything you hear in the future mass media is too. I hope so, because it would be kind of neat to be right about what’s next right now.

If you listened to this and liked it you might want to check out her opera, “L’amour de Loin“, which is available on Netflix and probably other places as well.

Microsoft resurrects Y2K via Zune.

Yesterday I got in my car to go to work and plugged in my Zune to find it frozen. Not frozen as in cold, even though it could have been but the software was frozen. I chalked this up to the thing possibly being broken and figured I’d take a look at it later when I had more time. I vaguely remember hearing about someone else’s Zune also having problems somewhere in that day. This morning I get up and I check out the videos on the front page of Google and find one that’s referring to all 30GB Zunes, the model I have, crashing. I watch that and then search the news for Zune and sure enough, every 30GB Zune out there has crashed because Microsoft didn’t program the software to be able to handle leap years.

Awesome, eh? I guess the idea was the none of these Zunes, as this is a two year old version, were going to last long enough to make it to a leap year anyway. Apparently, they didn’t foresee bad sales that left retailers with stock of this model even after the next year’s model came out. That’s right, many of us are using a two year old model that was only purchased one year ago. You can see how Microsoft tries to spin this into a good thing:

Early this morning we were alerted by our customers that there was a widespread issue affecting our 2006 model Zune 30-GB devices (a large number of which are still actively being used)

http://www.informationweek.com/news/personal_tech/music/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=212700344&cid=iwhome_art_Digit_mostpop

You see that? This is a good thing because it shows how many people are still using a model that they’ve owned for two years! These things hold up great, don’t they?

When it comes down to it, this is simply a matter of incompetence. I was planning on my next MP3 player also being a Zune, maybe one that I could fit my whole library on, but if they could screw up something as simple as this, which comes after having horrible issues with their music management software, I’m not too sure I want to go that route. You want to know what their magically solution was? Let your battery die and wait until after a certain hour on January 1st to plug it back in and all will be well. Gee, that’s swell. Good thing I didn’t want to listen to anything on my player on New Year’s Eve.

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