September 23, 2003
As part of the $87 billion dollars they want to spend in Iraq, the White House is planning to devote $878 million towards providing health care to needy Iraqis.
Uhm. I'd like to point out that there are something like several million AMERICCAN citizens without health care.
This is just one of the many obscene disparities present in Bush's current policies, as outlined here by the Washington Post.
Quote of the Day
“A true Patriot Act is not born out of fear, but out of trust; it is not born out of division, but out of community; it is not born out of suspicion, but out of faith in each of us."
- Howard Dean, at a rally today in Boston, in a speech entitled "Democracy, Freedom, Action".
Hate for Hate's Sake
OK, I admit it.
I hate George W. Bush. He's a liar and an elitist who has tricked the majority of Americans into thinking he has their best interests in mind when he's really raiding the fortunes & prestige of this country to line the pockets of the richest 1% of the population while wrapping himself in a false cloak of Christian piety.
I know lots of people on the opposite side of the political spectrum hate Bill Clinton. They think he's a liar and an elitist who had tricked the majority of Americans into thinking he has their best interests in mind he's really giving their hard earned money away to people who don't deserve it while simultaneously receiving adulterous oral sex.
See how, in this article from the New Republic, why we all hate at least one of these guys, although some hate is more legitimate than others.
The Bad Guy Returns
I don't think I fully appreciated the phenomenon that is the 1983 remake of Scarface, written by Oliver Stone and directed by Brian DePalma, until I went to see it on the big screen.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the film's release, so Universal & Focus Features is releasing a special edition DVD and a digitally remastered 35 mm print of the film in select theatres around the country. Here in L.A., it's playing for a few more days as the late show at the Cinerama Dome (imagine sitting inside a golf-ball the size of a small stadium, with a curved, three pane movie screen) at Arclight Cinemas.
Now, I've seen the movie before, and I love it, but I hadn't seen it with a crowd before. Last Saturday night, waiting in this sea of predominantly Latino teenagers & Gen-Xers, where an usher only allowed a handful of people into the theatre at the time, where LOTS of these kids wore Scarface T-shirts (mind you, most of them where only a couple of years older than the movie itself), I really felt like I was going to an Al Pacino rock concert. It was surreal.
I overheard one guy say to his girlfriend, "Aww, see! I knew I should have worn my Scarface shirt. Or at least the black one."
"At least the black one."
Everytime I see a show like Cribs go behind the scenes in the home of some rapper or Black pro athlete, the ALL have at least one picture of Tony Montana on the wall.
But, underneath the drugs and the violence and the rediculous financial excess of the film, there is a fundamental statement about the American dream, and it's deeply cynical.
Or, to quote Scarface himself, after he's finally acquired the outrageous wealth that he craves:
"Is this all there is? Eating? Drinking? Fucking? Sucking? Your 50. You got a bag for a belly. You got tits, that need a bra, they got hair on 'em. You got a liver, with spots all over it, and your eatin' dis fuckin' shit and lookin' like these fuckin' rich mummies...."
Something Tony never understood until the very end: Money does not necessarily guarantee you power. Observe Microsoft.
Anyway, this NY Times article touches a little bit on the pervasiveness of this film in hip-hop culture, which has it's own problems with capitalist excess.
Personally, I just wanted an excuse to put a picture of Tony Montana up on my blog. Guilty as charged.
They Only Want Me For My...
Fancy that my first contribution to Macroscope has something to do with the aesthetics and iconography of that classic figure from black culture...the pimp. Perhaps I'm late into this game, but I only recently heard of this new venture of Nelly's. Pimp Juice. And I must admit that I have mixed feelings about it.
Just to rewind things a bit here, I suppose I should first acknowledge my mixed feelings about Nelly in general. When he first came on the scene with "Country Grammar", I didn't really have strong feelings either way, and was as likely as anyone else to turn up the car radio a bit when it came on. Of course, with subsequent offerings like "#1", I began to feel like he was just a little too comfortable with his "pop" location in the mix of things for me to personally stomach. Then, I heard "Pimp Juice". And man...I loved it. There may be a host of reasons why...personal issues at the time, a funky guitar riff in the hook that I could really get my mind into, whatever. But if nothing else, it at the very least got me to publicly stop hating on this cat, and allow him to comfortably settle somewhere into my landscape of black culture.
So, when I heard that an "energy drink" was being marketed under the name Pimp Juice, I didn't quite know how to react, particularly in the context of my mixed feelings about it's front man. My first reaction was to be upset about yet further appropriation of cultural iconography by, well, the Man.
But then, I began to read the criticism of Pimp Juice from what I guess is the official Anti-Pimp Juice-Brigade. Featuring the likes of such notables as Clarence Page (okay, maybe that was just hateful...read up on Mr. Page and draw your own conclusions). And now I'm quite confusedly caught up trying to decide whether my enemy's enemy is my friend. Because on the one hand, I'm not quite sure that I like the undertones of why a large commercial beverage concern would want to use the imagery of a black pimp to sell products to black people. But on the other hand, the religious right is almost always wrong (as far as I'm concerned) on these type of issues. Which isn't to say that there are some valid points on their side of the argument. Women being physically, sexually and emotionally abused by pimps (or men responding to some sort of pimp-influenced masculinity) is surely not a good thing. And alcoholism (brushing aside the minor point that Pimp Juice isn't actually an acloholic beverage for a moment) is certainly a problem in the black community.
But is there any denying that the figure of the pimp is deeply intertwined with whatever black masculinity is? Not to say that it's defining of black masculinity, but in some sense, should not the pimp be regarded in the same way as the jazz musician, the athlete, and the rapper? Complicated for sure, certainly reactionary in part, but subversive in the context of a would-be hegemonic white-masculine power structure nonetheless. And not to give Nelly too much credit for this, but did anyone actually listen to the lyrics of the original song? Sure, they don't totally make sense, but it should be plain to the casual observer that the figure of the pimp embedded in these words is somewhat more nuanced than the one that his critics are reacting against.
Which brings me back to my point of departure. Perhaps I'm overidentifying with Nelly here (g-d forbid), but it seems to me that in some sense this is a microcosm of the struggle to define a black masculine identity. On the one had you have a (presumably?) largely white economic interest trying to market black male identity in a somewhat irresponsible way. And on the other you have a reactionary element of the black community struggling so hard to prove that they're not different that they miss the opportunity to define themselves. And in the middle you have the one creative person in the mix, who (though he quite possibly does not) might actually have something new and interesting to say.
Let 'em loose.
Headshaking Colloquy of the Day
"Do you know, Charlie, why we're hated so much?"
"I really don't know, Mr. President"
"Because they're evil, Charlie. Because they're evil."
- George W. Bush and Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY). Rangel has been trying to introduce legislation to re-instate the draft, under the assumption that the President & Co. will be less eager to send their own children to go get the evildoers and maybe put a little more thought into this thing.
And the moral of this story? "It's easy to be a crusader when your blood isn't being shed."
Incidentally, Rangel, a decorated Korean War vet, is a strong supporter of Wesley Clark for President.