Martin Luther King Day is perhaps one of the better excuses for James Brown that our holiday-scarce American year provides, and so I’ll give you a live performance of “I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door, I’ll Get It Myself)”. I suppose even seasoned soul aficionados may have somehow missed the excellent recent book The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved the Soul of America, where Boston Globe writer James Sullivan recounts the chain of events around JB’s legendary Boston Garden concert shortly following MLK’s 1968 assassination. There were no riots in Boston that year, and it might be overselling to credit Brown solely for that; but many of America’s visionary Black artists of the 60s spoke out, in one way or another, against the frustration-fueled violence that leveled formerly vibrant communities in places like Detroit and Newark (cf. Sly Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On, for one). In an era where “white folks focused on dogs and yoga” are driving African-Americans out of the inner city to former “sundown towns” in the suburbs, Brown’s message of self-empowerment and equality is perhaps as relevant for the larger American community as it ever has been. Plus, of course, he’s the greatest American musician of all time. So here you are.

 

 

In a way, blogs have proven to be the Citizens Band radio of the oughts — and “10-4, good buddy” has become rarer as other forms of “social media” take over the role once played by the Internet’s independent proprietors of commentary and cat pictures. Still, as we get older we ought to accept (at least those of us watching Swervedriver videos on YouTube ought to accept) that we will not be “forever fresh”; and in contemporary society, it is perhaps surprisingly and usefully true that there is little more immutable than paranoid psychosis. I’ve been feeling better: after fifteen years of floating with the more dysphoric parts of the universe, you get used to things being not quite as you would have them and even not necessarily being the way you perceive them. Furthermore, some of the things I have successfully been in my lifetime (cultural journalist, radical social democrat, not-particularly-militant atheist) seem to be a little more au courant than when I was darkly dreaming that a creature named “W.” had never existed and that “cold calling” people in email was a valid pastime for a grown adult. So I am restarting the blog, to compile a record of a sort of madness and its theoretical sequelae; don’t say you weren’t warned that your kids shouldn’t grow up to be zeroworkin’ “Western Marxists”, though.

If Ray Manzarek has just died at 74, that would have made him a sprightly 40 when he produced and played organ on X’s Los Angeles thirty-odd years ago. Remarkable.

 

The May 1 worker’s rights march in Portland was a resounding success (I have to admit it was, for all my purported radicalism, the first one I ever attended: people seemed to think I was an undercover cop or conservative.) A multicultural crowd “occupied” the streets of downtown Portland for a full hour, without incident — though the Black Bloc’ers became most strident as the march ended. Some mood music:

Exciting news for readers with some Italian: the whole of the Quaderni del Carcere and prison letters by Antonio Gramsci have been put online by the International Gramsci Society at GramsciSource. For those unaware of Gramsci, he was (with Lukacs and Lenin himself) one of the brightest intellectuals in the Communist camp; imprisoned by Mussolini for a decade or so, he wrote — using very interesting euphemisms for Marxist topics — “prison notebooks” that deal with every aspect of historical science, sociology, and Marxism. Famous for his adaptation of Romain Rolland’s dictum “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will” and his concept of “hegemony”, Gramsci is one Red whose importance can hardly be said to have faded.

The interface is nifty and will certainly aid new Marxist thought around the world; hopefully we will see similar “intellectual portals” open up for other important thinkers. (For those — like me — who are not Italianate: people may yet be unaware that the Joseph Buttigieg translation of the Prison Notebooks in their entirety has been completed, and is available as a paperback three-volume set. No way around it, comrades.)

A useful album a decade ago:

Margaret Thatcher funeral set for next week

The funeral of Baroness Thatcher will take place on Wednesday, 17 April, Downing Street has announced.

The 87-year-old former prime minister died on Monday, after suffering a series of strokes.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22079749

Penis size a marker of male attractiveness, study suggests

A new study of women suggests size truly does matter when it comes to choosing a man.

Australian researchers showed female university students images of naked men, and determined that penis size is a predictor of male attractiveness. The researchers explained the attractiveness might be rooted in evolution.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57578705/penis-size-a-marker-of-male-attractiveness-study-suggests/

Coincidence? I think not. Granted, the study didn’t cover rigid members…

Let us say North Korea is an example of leftism gone awry.

Though they were once the prosperous Korea — thanks to the largesse of the Soviet Union — the state of the country since Kim Il Sung died has been horrific, and their status in the world community atrocious. Though there is an element of hypocrisy in the international “nuclear club” going after smaller, angrier countries trying to develop nuclear weapons, I think most people can agree that nuking Seoul (or Washington, for that matter) is not an intelligible protest against global capital. Shame on the DRPK.

I hope it all ends well.

 

I imagine everybody in the world has heard by now that Hugo Chavez has died from cancer at age 58. The extent of the analysis has been gratifying — we saw very little discussion when Lula left office, for example. Although not every facet of the Chavez phenomenon was salutary, I think a consensus is emerging that Chavez was indeed a great man, who challenged the ingrate W. on everything North Atlantic consensus was ready to let slide. Chavez’ career and the simultaneous one of the chavistas required not a little courage, for the example of Allende and the Argentine desaparecidos would put a chill on any socialist movement not motivated by an immanent understanding of the people’s needs (and a dynamism inspired by Cuba’s long and largely successful experiment with popular democracy).

Instead of opting for “smart” austerity or curling up in a little ball, the Venezuelan left rekindled Latin American populism and made an example for the whole world; though violence in Venezuela is endemic, the crushing poverty of the old Venezuela and the devil-may-care insouciance of its elites are gone forever — and there would certainly never have been an Evo Morales, and possibly no Rafael Correa, without Chavez. The era of “banana republics” has definitively drawn to a close.

With a character as colorful and forceful as him in charge of a country, everyone is bound to find fault. I personally do not view the Iranian Islamic Republic as a “Bolivarian” riposte to the New World Order, and Chavez did not spend very much time institutionalizing his revolution — we shall see how hard the pushback is. But a charismatic leader of the people finally did “demand the impossible”, and we have seen just how “impossible” it really is. RIP, Presidente Chavez; when will we have a North American leader to show the way like you?

This business about section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is sickening. In their quest to prove that Founders hagiography constitutes the Absolutely Correct View on Everything, the Republican-appointed justices seem willing to engage in a breathtaking act of judicial activism by striking down portions of the landmark 1965 law that first provided effective tools for challenging “literacy tests” and other segregationist dodges intended to keep blacks “down on the farm”. The Bizarro Warren Court finds the cudgel of disenfranchisement charges aesthetically displeasing, as it proves a reminder that not every social ill is solved by faith-based charity and freely willed contract; but Barack Obama is not the only black person in America, and race prejudice is alive and well (at least here in the North — perhaps Bubba Sparxxx put an end to it in Dixie). More proof that “originalism” is a failed philosophy of law that merely embodies a certain, blinkered political perspective. Say no to stoned Republicans, OK?

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