“Now people, especially Arab Metalheads, are stepping up and are voicing their opinions regarding our existence, discussing if we should be allowed.”

May 3, 2010

Via Reason.

With songs like “Ilahiya Khinzir! (All Hail Allah the Swine),” the band does not play down its opposition to the religion of peace. In a merrily dyspeptic interview with MetalStorm.net, frontman Reverend Filthy Fuck takes issue with popular “First Anti-Islamic Black Metal” descriptor only because he wants other anti-Islamists to get some credit:

We received this reputation because we are against Islam as individuals. Yet we are not the first and we are not only that. In any case, this is the only thing people talk about when they mention Ayat and we’re sick of it. So here it is again: AYAT IS AGAINST THE RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENT IN ALL ITS FORMS.

Is Ayat, to Americans (or at least me), a novelty act? Yes. But given the threats against the South Park guys following their spot-on episodes on how too many Muslims lack a sense of humor, I think a Lebanese “Anti-Islamic Black Metal Band” is worth noting.

I’m a somewhat religious person myself, so I don’t think I have it in me to pen an anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, or anti-Judaism song or writing. But I reserve my God-given right to do so.

I don’t like Cookie Monster music, so I’m not embedding Ayat’s video. (You can follow the Reason link if you’re curious.) Instead I’ll give you these two rap gems.

Ice-T – “Freedom of Speech”

(I wish my term papers in college were that easy! …Well, maybe not.)

Eminem – “Square Dance”

“Don’t think I won’t go there. Go to Beirut and do a show there.”

Would I really? I have no show to do, so it’s not like the issue is going to come up. But I like to think I would. I’m certainly considering joining “Everybody Draw Muhammed Day.” My drawing would be a stick figure, because that’s about all I’m capable of, but it would be a respectful attempt that would not offend Muslims not offended by images of the Prophet (many of them).

But if it does offend? Well, it’s my God-given right to offend and no one can take that away from me.


Political Humor: “Healthcare Reform Will Not Be Televised”

January 22, 2010

As a general rule, we don’t talk politics here at On Deaf Ears. First, because it’s not that kind of site, and second, because our writers’ views are all over the place, from solidly conservative to very liberal with some stops in between.

But music and politics do intersect sometimes, and we’ve occasionally had coverage from the perspective of both our liberal writers and our conservative, uh, writer (who happens to be me).

This one I had to share.

Older readers, counterculture types, and music geeks are likely familiar with Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Scott-Heron’s compelling proto-hip-hop blend of beat poetry and jazz has been a leftist anthem for decades now, even lending its name to the title of a documentary generally viewed as pro-Hugo Chavez.

Gil Scott-Heron – “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

Enter conservative musician, comedian, and guerrilla filmmaker, AlfonZo Rachel.

Zo (as he is affectionately known) serves up a brilliant parody, mocking President Obama’s repeated and transparently false claims that the congressional debates on the planned government takeover of health care, which is one-sixth of the economy and affects the lives of every American, would be aired on C-SPAN. Instead, we got shady backroom deals that handed out privileges to labor unions that the rest of us won’t enjoy and bought the votes of Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) and Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana). It finally reached the point where even a liberal like Jack Cafferty was calling the president a liar on national television and even a deep-blue state like Massachusetts was willing to elect a Republican to the Senate in an effort to stop the bill.

Healthcare reform was not televised. If it was, maybe the bill wouldn’t be hanging by a rapidly-fraying thread.

AlfonZo Rachel – “Healthcare Reform Will Not Be Televised”

The parody is so perfectly executed, I have to think that even that ol’ lefty Gil Scott-Heron got a kick out of it.

(Wikipedia has a good guide to the references made by Scott-Heron in “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”)

“Stand by Me” by Andy, Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora & Friends

July 3, 2009

Ryan Mauro has a piece today over at Pajamas Media that explains why the boys from Bon Jovi recording “Stand By Me” with Iranian musicians (and partially in Farsi) is more than just an empty gesture:

The Green Revolution, like all similar revolutions, lives on morale. Bon Jovi needs to be praised by all quarters for his contribution to this most essential element, and if the music can make its way to the Iranian people, I believe people will be surprised by the effect it has.

The technologically proficient Iranian population will make their own videos, playing the music in the background with images of the mixture of pain and hope that defines Iran today. It will be played in their homes as a form of protest and it will be played at rallies and demonstrations. It will be impossible for the regime to silence the music if each Iranian plays it loudly on their cell phones, laptops, portable music players, or even from speakers in their homes. The comfort they will feel as they walk down the street, fighting back the tears as they think of their loved ones being detained and beaten, while faintly hearing the music from another Iranian passing by will be immense. The rest of Hollywood needs to follow Bon Jovi’s lead, making awareness ads, fundraising for humanitarian aid if avenues to get it to the Iranians can be found (star power has a way of making things happen), and making similar videos so that Iranians can know that our short attention span hasn’t caused our ears to turn away from their voices.

Good for Bon Jovi for publicly standing with these brave people, and for doing his part to keep our attention focused on this important issue.

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Music for the Failing Economy: John Rich – “Shutting Detroit Down”

March 19, 2009

In case you haven’t been paying attention to the news in the last several months or so, America seems to be caught in the sharp teeth of a pretty awful recession.  While we have yet to reach the devastating unemployment levels of the Great Depression, a large portion of our society is experiencing the worst economic crisis of our lifetime, and the prognosis for a speedy recovery looks fairly grim.

Meanwhile, both the previous administration and the current one seem to believe that the best way to combat this ugly downturn is to give unfathomable amounts of money to those giant corporations whose questionable business practices have been largely responsible for the current economic crisis.  In  an ugly turn of events, the front pages of every local newspaper are littered with stories of those same failing companies giving huge bonus payouts to their executive teams, in many cases the same upper level management officials who were responsible for the faulty decisions that have led their companies to the brink of collapse.  And they are financing these payouts with the money of every Joe Six Pack and Jane College Diploma who pay taxes on every hard earned dollar.

Debates are raging over the validity of these bonus payouts.  The argument can be made that the bonuses are necessary to retain executive talent that might otherwise farm itself out to other opportunities and leave these struggling companies without the leadership necessary to pull themselves out of their current downward spiral.  However, that argument is a tough pill to swallow for every Joe Six Pack and Jane College Diploma out there who are fighting to put food on the table for their families on a daily basis.

I will be the first to say that I don’t know the answers to any of the tough economic questions that our country and indeed the whole world is facing right now.  I didn’t pay enough attention to my economics class in high school to even be able to fathom the complexities of our nation and our world’s financial systems.  However, it is inevitable that a populist bent will surface in these times of crisis.  On a local level, it becomes much easier to view things in relation to how they are affecting the people that you know and love in your everyday life. 

As a music afficionado, I have been waiting for the surfacing of several populist anthems to arise from the fiery wreckage of today’s economy and the seemingly futile efforts of our government to stem the tide of recession.  Well, I finally heard a very relevant and timely song that addresses the concerns of the everyday American citizen, and it’s no surprise to me that it comes in the form of a country song. 

The song that’s getting a lot of radio play on at least one Austin country radio station is “Shutting Detroit Down” by John Rich of Big & Rich fame.  As is typical of many country songs that try to tackle big issues (Toby Keith comes to mind), the song takes a pretty simplistic view of today’s economic events, but I believe that is kind of the point.  While Wall Street executives fly on their corporate jets and accept unwarranted bonuses subsidized by taxpayer money, many everyday Americans worry about where their next meal will come from.  I can’t honestly say that I like this song or agree with every bit of its message, but I’m glad to hear that someone is at least making an effort to verbalize the worries of the majority of American citizens.

While I would like to avoid comment on the fact that John Rich is probably doing just fine despite today’s economic climate, I don’t remember seeing his name on the list of Bernie Madoff’s victims, so he’s probably doing just fine right about now.  Apologies for the quality of the video; it’s the best I could find.

“Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” by The Ramones

January 24, 2009

These days, Ronald Reagan is respected by nearly everyone except for the far left–the guys who pass out newspapers on campus asking you if you’re interested in revolutionary politics, and, if their writing skills are good enough, go on to work for Rolling Stone and The Nation.

This was not always the case.  Like all great presidents, Reagan made tough decisions, and tough decisions inevitably piss some people off.  The far left wanted nuclear disarmament, many in the center-left to center-right favored détente with the Soviet Union, and Reagan said, implicitly, fuck all that.  Or to quote the man in his own words, “Here’s my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose.”

Most of Reagan’s hard decisions paid off, as a large percentage of his former political opponents now recognize.

But even the greatest of presidents make bad decisions.  Lincoln appointed many wrong generals to lead the war effort before anointing the right one in Ulysses S. Grant.  FDR interned American citizens of Axis-country descent and tried to rig the Supreme Court.

Reagan’s biggest blunder was probably his handling of Lebanon.  Some would also argue Iran-Contra, but the long-term fallout from that affair does not appear to me to be significant.  His visit to the Bitburg Cemetery pales in comparison to either, but it was a disaster at the time, even if the incident is nearly forgotten today.

In 1985, Reagan and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl agreed that Reagan would visit a German military cemetery as part of Reagan’s European tour to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of V-E (Victory in Europe) Day.  This would demonstrate the reconciliation between the two former foes.

After the agreement but before the visit, it came to light that of the 2,000 or so graves, 49 belonged to soldiers who were members of the Waffen-SS.  This set off a firestorm of protest.  Jewish groups were understandably angry, as were veterans groups, and they were far from the only ones.

Reagan was in a bind. Canceling the visit would be seen as deeply offensive by our ally West Germany. Going through with the visit would enrage many others both domestically and internationally.  Reagan wanted out, but in the end decided that he had to go through with it.

Reagan had a great appreciation of the horrors of the Holocaust. Seeing films of concentration camps in 1945 had a deep impact on his psyche, and he talked of those films and their impact on him many times. (Witnesses say that on a couple of occasions he claimed to have actually been at the camps and taken the films himself, which I suspect was a miscommunication on the part of the Great Communicator–Reagan was a public figure in 1945 and it was well known that he served in the Army stateside because the military would not send him overseas due to his eyesight.)  Having Holocaust survivors and the American soldiers who had liberated them angry at him and accusing him of being disrespectful of their past must have stung deeply.

Reagan had not wanted to draw attention to the Holocaust on an occasion that was supposed to be about reconciliation with the country where it was perpetrated, but a visit to the former site of a concentration camp was added to the schedule.  Speaking at that site, Reagan said:

All these children of God, under bleak and lifeless mounds, the plainness of which does not even hint at the unspeakable acts that created them. Here they lie, never to hope, never to pray, never to live, never to heal, never to laugh, never to cry…. And then, rising above all this cruelty, out of this tragic and nightmarish time, beyond the anguish, the pain and suffering, and for all time, we can and must pledge: never again.

I don’t know how many people’s feelings those and other words Reagan spoke during this disastrous visit soothed, but Dee Dee and Joey Ramone were not among them, because they then wrote “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg.”  The lyrics are worth quoting in their entirety.  Read along as you play the song (posted below):

You’ve got to pick up the pieces,
C’mon, sort your trash,
You better pull yourself back together,
Maybe you’ve got too much cash.

Better call, call the law,
When you gonna turn yourself in? Yeah,
You’re a politician,
Don’t become one of Hitler’s children.

Bonzo goes to Bitburg then goes out for a cup of tea,
As I watched it on TV, somehow it really bothered me.
Drank in all the bars in town for an extended foreign policy,
Pick up the pieces.

My brain is hanging upside down
I need something to slow me down

Shouldn’t wish her happiness, wish her the very best,
Fifty-thousand dollar dress,
Shaking hands with your Highness

See through you like cellophane,
You watch the world complain,
But you do it anyway,
Who am I, am I to say?

Bonzo goes to Bitburg then goes out for a cup of tea,
As I watched it on TV, somehow it really bothered me.
Drank in all the bars in town for an extended foreign policy,
Pick up the pieces.

My brain is hanging upside down
I need something to slow me down

If there’s one thing that makes me sick
It’s when someone tries to hide behind politics.
I wish that time could go by fast
Somehow they manage to make it last

My brain is hanging upside down
I need something to slow me down.

What strikes me most about this song is the sense of betrayal. And I suppose it’s understandable. Unfortunately for President Reagan, he had put himself in a position where no matter what he did, he was going to betray someone.

Playing guitar on this song must have driven Johnny Ramone, a conservative Republican and great admirer of Ronald Reagan, crazy. I’m glad he sucked it up and did it anyway. As a huge admirer of Reagan myself, I think the Ramones and everyone else should have cut him some slack. But bad politics can make for great art, and, in the case of “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg,” it did.  It’s one of the greatest songs the Ramones ever recorded.

I guess we can say this about President Reagan’s ill-advised trip to the cemetery at Bitburg–at least one good thing came out of it.

I should add that the shots that (I think) are directed at Nancy Reagan in the second verse are entirely unwarranted.  She was opposed to the visit.

(I have drawn on the Wikipedia article on Bitburg and Lou Cannon’s President Reagan in writing this piece.)

One Last Campaign Song: “Bush Was Right” by The Right Brothers

January 20, 2009

Well, I guess this is my last chance to post this gem!

Here’s a song about President Bush.  It’s stupid as hell and catchy as hell.  It’s better than most of the Obama songs.  It’s indisputably better than all of the McCain songs I’m aware of.

I realize that this is the farthest thing from cool to do, but I would like to thank President Bush for eight years of service to our country in very tough times.  I think history will be much kinder to him than current opinion polls, and it’s quite possible that in a few decades we will realize that Bush was right after all on a number of things, as we now do with presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Reagan.  I hope he enjoys not having the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Please no Bush-bashing in the comments.  Today is not the day for that.

Congratulations to our incoming president.  He’s got his work cut out for him, and I wish him the best of luck.

Only three years or so until I start posting the next batch of stupid campaign songs!  I know you can’t wait.

Big Hollywood: Conservatives Rock!

January 12, 2009

Andrew Breitbart, who co-founded The Huffington Post and was (is?) heavily involved in The Drudge Report, has just launched new site called Big Hollywood, which tackles the entertainment industry from a conservative perspective.

As On Deaf Ears‘ token conservative, I mention this not to promote the site (it certainly doesn’t need my help), but it’s worth checking out no matter what side of the political fence you’re on.  Big Hollywood runs a fascinating array of material, including Variety-style box office tracking and predictions, and movie reviews by the extremely capable John Nolte.  In the first few days after launch, liberal scribe John Ridley dropped in to explain that his script for Three Kings was neither “neo-con” nor filmed the way it was written, Jonah Goldberg hypothesizes (quite correctly, I bet) that The Watchmen movie will not be any good and explains why, and Scott Johnson has a piece on the rather odd circumstances under which Elvis and Nixon met for that famous photograph.  There is much, much more, and I’ll be reading this site regularly.

But, being eternally juvenile, my favorite piece so far is “Conservatives Rock!” by “Red Eye” host Greg Gutfield, which is about the top conservative musicians of all time–you know, musicians like Rage Against the Machine and Jackson Browne.  Or the Dixie Chicks:

Without question, the most ardent supporters of the policies of George W. Bush, they boldly released a romantic tribute to the man, called “Cowboy Take Me Away” – knowing it would reduce them to playing small venues. When they followed that up with “Wide Open Spaces,” a sexually-charged song describing how their bodies felt after making love to the commander in chief, perhaps it was “too much information.” Sometimes, certain things are better left unsaid, ladies.

I’m not sure how I didn’t realize “Cowboy Take Me Away” was about a fantasy trip to Crawford, and other fantasies, too!

The thought of the steam coming out of Natalie Maines’ ears if she read this warms my cold heart.