promises are kept

thoughts from the mind of Mitch Brown

Month: August, 2012

My Thoughts On Pussy Riot, Obscenity, And Free Speech

This has been an interesting summer for news: the pro Chik-fil-A vs. anti Chik-fil-A war of words, two mass shootings, and now making the news is the trial of Russian punk, feminist, band/performance art troupe– Pussy Riot. I’ll have to admit, it was amusing and entertaining to hear serious journalists like Amy Goodman of Democracy Now say the words Pussy Riot over and over again. On Friday, the Pussy Riot trial came to an end with the verdict of the band being found guilty of “hooliganism” and a “hate crime” and sentenced to two years in a “labor camp.” In case you didn’t know, the trial is the result of Pussy Riot disrupting a church service and playing their song “Prayer For Putin.” The most fucked up element of the situation is that they were charged with a “hate crime.”

Hate crime legislation is absolute bullshit. A hate crime is a thought crime. It’s a matter of punishing someone’s motivation and adding a more ghastly label onto an already illegal act. Whether someone is killed because of the color of his or her skin or if someone is killed over five bucks, both victims are equally dead. At that point, the motivation for murder becomes a moot point. It’s not as if a different motivation would change the outcome in either case.

The other bullshit thing about hate crime legislation is that it is not unilaterally applied. If a bunch of psycho-ass rednecks tie a Black man to the back of a truck and drag him for a country mile, they are charged with a hate crime. If a couple of gang-bangers beat down a White kid for being the wrong color, in the wrong part of town, and at the wrong time of night, would they be charged with a hate crime? I doubt it. Laws that are not unilaterally enforced are unjust, bullshit laws, which is one of my major issues with the war on drugs, but that’s another issue for another day. Right now, I’m still talking about Pussy Riot and free speech.

So if Pussy Riot had staged their impromptu to disruption/ protest/ performance in a super-market instead of a church they would not have been smacked with “hate-crime” charges. What if they felt hatred towards the super-market. Ah-ha, now we reach the crux and bullshit of the matter: a religious institution has protected status, and a super-market does not.

To be honest I really don’t understand why the Pussy Riot story has been making waves. Let’s see, three Russian women in neon colored ski-masks disrupt a church service with performance art as a protest against Vladimir Putin. Isn’t this the type of shit that is usually relegated to a blurb in the news of the weird as opposed to head line,/cover-story content? As this chapter of the Pussy Riot saga comes to a close, I can’t help but feel grateful that I live in a country that has a First Amendment that protects artists and the rights of dissident voices, well some of the time.

I have a long memory, and I’m always doing a compare and contrast with all sorts of things, so when I found out about the Pussy Riot verdict, I started thinking about obscenity trials of musicians right here in America in the past: I thought about the obscenity trials of Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys, Luther Campbell and the 2 Live Crew, and Wendy O’ Williams and the Plasmatics. The aforementioned cases are really more dissimilar to Pussy Riot than they are similar, due to a few crucial factors: Along with all of the aforementioned plaintiffs being acquitted, in the cases of the Dead Kennedys, the Plasmatics, and 2 Live Crew, they faced obscenity charges because of the content of their albums or concerts that their fans bought or went to of their own free will.

Pussy Riot essentially forced their art on an unsuspecting audience; they aren’t entirely innocent. If they were living under a democracy, instead of an authoritarian state, they probably would have been charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct, which usually amounts to just a fine. In the case of Pussy Riot, the amount of time they were sentenced to does not match the severity of their action. I think the verdict is bullshit, but is it an injustice?, maybe a minor injustice, but not a major one. If the members of Pussy Riot fell into a time portal and were magically transported back to old Soviet Russia, what type of punishment would they face for pulling their little stunt? (a lot more than two years) What would have happened if they had staged their protest/performance in a mosque in Saudi Arabia? They would have probably been put to death.

I find it hard to get worked up over Pussy Riot. You won’t see me in a free Pussy Riot shirt anytime soon. I don’t view them as some type of righteous martyrs, regardless of what Madonna or the Red Hot Chili Peppers say. I do not view the group in the same light as people like Nelson Mandela or the Dali, fucking, Lama. As I follow this story, I simply shrug my shoulders and move on. But I must admit, those neon ski-masks look cool as fuck.

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New La Coka Nostra Video!!

A Few Words On Vinnie Paz

I guess Vinnie Paz is due to have a new album, entitled God Of The Serengeti, out on October 23rd of this year. The video above is the first video from the album. I still constantly play his last solo album “Season Of The Assassin.” I once told a friend he should check out Jedi Mind Tricks and Vinnie Paz. He then asked “who is, is it cool?” I said “Yeah, it’s really cool: he’s a white Italian Muslim from Philadelphia. My friend responded with “Oh, I’ve gotta hear that.”

When I first heard Jedi Mind Tricks’ “Servants In Heaven,Kings In Hell” album I was blown away. Both Vinnie’s identity and lyrics were like nothing I had ever heard before. A complexity and duality is prevalent in his lyrics, as gun talk and thug talk meshes with theology and a historical knowledge of the ancient world. Like KRS-ONE and Chuck D, Vinnie Paz is a true street scholar. Vinnie Paz represents the polar opposite of the mainstream swag rap. Sure, you can feel free to listen to Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane, Drake, and Waka  Flocka, but that type of stuff doesn’t even exist in my world. I’m too busy listening to Paz. Hip-Hop isn’t dead:people like Vinnie Paz are helping to keep it on life support. 

 

                                                                                                                                                                      Vinnie Paz-one of the coldest to ever hold a microphone

Random Thoughts Vol.6: Inside The Creative Mind

My friend Jesse once said “creative people need to stick together.” He said this after telling me “you are a really good writer.” Jesse is a musician who has since moved to L.A. He told me this as though he was stating an unofficial declaration, like he wanted to start some type of unofficial coalition of creative people. I got where he was coming from, but I really didn’t need a reminder. I think creative people are naturally drawn to each other. You could insert the cliché about birds of a feather flocking together. I think those who are involved in some type of creative endeavor have a similar mind frame, even if they are working in different creative ventures.

Throughout my teens and into my early twenties, I was surrounded by musicians. I was a teenage punk rock fanatic, and many of my friends were in bands, but I never was. I took guitar lessons for about a year, but I didn’t stick with it. I could put together a few chords, and the only song I could play was “Substitute.” (not the original by the Who, but a cover version by the Sex Pistols that I learned to play off a cassette, that’s right cassette, I had of the Greatest Rock’n’Roll Swindle album) I really wanted to get a band going, but it never panned out. All of my friends who played instruments were already in bands. I eventually put the guitar down, but by then, I was already starting to cultivate my true talent–writing.

At age 14, I started doing my own xeroxed fan-zine. I did it for four years. It wasn’t anything professional in the least bit, but that’s punk rock, a music scene where the more conventional conventions of the mainstream rock scene were diminished. I didn’t need press credentials to interview the bands I was listening to. I would just show up to the show with a tape recorder, and they would agree to an interview. That was the thing about punk rock,/independent music: the barriers separating fan from performer were diminished, but it wasn’t completely egalitarian. Human beings are human beings, and in any social environment, movement or scene, a social hierarchy will exist, even if that’s what someone says they are opposed to.

Punk rock helped me to strengthen my writing skill. When I would get a new CD, record or demo tape, I would write a review. I would send issues of my zine to the bigger, more established zines like Maximum Rock’n’Roll and Flipside, and in response to reviews in those zines, I would have people sending me their D.I.Y. Xeroxed works, along with bands sending music for review. As I didn’t have a knack for playing guitar, I did have a natural knack for writing.

As those who read this blog know, I have a major issue with the promotion of egalitarianism. I’ve come to view it as the biggest politically correct lie of the modern era. To those who say all people are all equally capable of anything and have equal capacity for all things, you can’t honestly believe that? For someone to believe that, they would have deny what the senses record, what the eyes see. They would have to ignore differences in personality.

I learned in a behavioral psych class that personality is a fixed trait. By the time you enter Kindergarten, the basic constructs of your personality have already been forged. Of course, life changes will occur, but many basic elements will stay the same. Behavior can be modified, but personality is a stable fixture, and in politically correct social circles to talk about personality being carried through genetics, through DNA has become a no-no, even when studies have been conducted that show a genetic influence on personality and behavior, see studies with twins who were separated at birth and united later and found they have identical personality traits, even right down to body posture and whatnot.

Have you ever thought that maybe some of my personality traits are part of the reason why I’m a good writer? I think a lot; I’m introspective and observant; I spend a lot of time in my own head. Friends have told me that I spend too much time in my head, so much so that it can inhibit social interaction. If I didn’t possess these personality traits, then maybe I would never have been drawn to writing and journalism in the first place.

I’ve never been one of those Ferris Bueller types, the type of person who can fit in with any crowd. There are certain types of people I get along and certain types of people I don’t get along with. On campus, that can even apply to particular majors. I’m really not to fond of PR majors. Conversely, I tend to seemingly naturally get along with broadcast media majors. We are both training to work in the media. I don’t know what it’s like to edit video footage or schedule a video shoot, but I do know what it’s like to stay up till 4 or 5 in the morning working on a story because I have a deadline to meet. The commonalty is in the sacrifices made by those who are serious about their craft , even if the formats differ.

A handful of students in the broadcast media department at UCM are really doing some things. I’ve done stories on some of their work. In all of these cases, they were not stories I was assigned: I saw a trailer/video of one these cats’ productions, and then went to the managing editor of the paper I write for, asked permission, had the story idea approved, and I was then off and running putting it together. The working relationship I have with some of the people in the broadcast media department is a symbiotic one. I’m helping them, and they are helping me: I’m giving them exposure, press coverage, and they are helping me by giving me something interesting to write about. I know the way the average student’s mind works: The average student is more likely to pick up the campus newspaper if the headline is about a student whose You Tube video is blowing up verses a story about the faculty senate.

I’m happy when I see that someone I’ve done a story on is happy with the outcome. In the case of the broadcast media students whose projects and productions I’ve covered: How many new fans did they gain because of the story I did? How many people were informed about something they didn’t know about before? I know what it’s like to work diligently on something and feel like your work is not being acknowledged. I also know the feeling of exhilaration when your work is finally acknowledged.