(Songs for) Debt Servitude

I have read a lot lately about the spiraling forces of income inequality: student-loan debt, new possible mortgage fears, and the breakdown in the basic social compact of which education is a central and collapsing piece (Thomas Frank, why do you have to make me so sad?). During my sister’s recent visit when we got to celebrate the Red Sox’ most recent World Series win and even during the good news of my brother landing a real teaching job, discussions have been sobered by the reality of crushing student loan debt.

So, before the pretty lights of the holidays distract us, here’s a re-post and reminder that we live off tomorrow’s wages today.

My brother recently wrote about one of the influences on the pervasive depression–the seasonal affective disorder–in our hometown and similar regions. I think there is more to be said about it. But I want to warn you before you start reading: this post is one of those times when I am going to start ranting. I will definitely get political and personal.

Yeah, I am getting up on it

Yeah, I am getting up on it

I will talk about music, but I will mostly talk about something that should concern all of us: the widening gap in prosperity in our country, the broken promises of the American dream and a system that really can bear no better name than debt servitude.

(Ok, ok. I originally wrote “debt slavery” but the younger j thought that this was historically insensitive. In my mind, I countered that this is a big deal too, but words mean a lot. I’ll save the histrionics for the end.)

What does this have to with music? A relatively small amount, if you think about the issue directly—yet, it has to do with the hopes and fears that fuel our music and give it its themes (both high and low), the twisted values that dominate the commercial end of music in this country, and the real-life effects that send many of us rushing to our headphones for escape or with the fragile hope that someone else may communicate what we’re feeling in a better way.

Here’s the dramatic pitch. There is something really, really wrong about our system. We all buy into a series of values and promises that turn out to be worse than empty–they are filled with negative space.

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New Heroes (Mike Michaud), The Proposition Returns

Last year I wrote about the fight for Marriage Equality in Maine and explained how the upcoming vote was not  merely an issue of justice but it was also about the state’s character, that tolerance and acceptance of our differences was the state’s core identity. Over the weekend, one of the state’s political sons running for governor–Mike Michaud–publicly conceded his identity as a gay man while also asserting that his sexuality is besides the point, that the state (which has certainly suffered under the leadership of the current governor) needs good leadership.

Michaud’s bravery to be who he is (and he would be the first openly gay governor) despite the fact that it shouldn’t matter at all, that whatever his personal life includes he has already shown his character through the life he lives, is not only inspiring, it is exactly the type of no-nonsense honesty that best characterizes my home state.

So, here we go again, a re-post in honor of Mike Michaud. May his campaign go well; may he always live in a world where he can be true to himself.

In the final episode of the first season of Showtime’s series Homeland, Sgt. Brody (Damien Lewis) takes his family to Gettysburg as he prepares to turn himself into a suicide bomber.  Before the battlefield, he tells them the story of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain to justify his actions (in his own mind) before they even know what he’s talking about.

Chamberlain taught himself Ancient Greek, became a Professor at Bowdoin College and led the defense of Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg with an insane bayonet charge against superior numbers. (He was later awarded the Medal of Honor.)

Sickly (and meaningfully for the show), Sgt. Brody tries to claim Chamberlain’s bravery, resourcefulness and patriotism for his planned act of domestic terrorism. (Equipment failure and a change of heart alter his plans.) But his repeated praise of the bravery of a teacher from Maine stuck with me well after the end of the show

Continue reading

(Songs for) Debt Servitude

My brother recently wrote about one of the influences on the pervasive depression–the seasonal affective disorder–in our hometown and similar regions. I think there is more to be said about it. But I want to warn you before you start reading: this post is one of those times when I am going to start ranting. I will definitely get political and personal.

Yeah, I am getting up on it

Yeah, I am getting up on it

I will talk about music, but I will mostly talk about something that should concern all of us: the widening gap in prosperity in our country, the broken promises of the American dream and a system that really can bear no better name than debt servitude.

(Ok, ok. I originally wrote “debt slavery” but the younger j thought that this was historically insensitive. In my mind, I countered that this is a big deal too, but words mean a lot. I’ll save the histrionics for the end.)

What does this have to with music? A relatively small amount, if you think about the issue directly—yet, it has to do with the hopes and fears that fuel our music and give it its themes (both high and low), the twisted values that dominate the commercial end of music in this country, and the real-life effects that send many of us rushing to our headphones for escape or with the fragile hope that someone else may communicate what we’re feeling in a better way.

Here’s the dramatic pitch. There is something really, really wrong about our system. We all buy into a series of values and promises that turn out to be worse than empty–they are filled with negative space.

Continue reading

Political Songs

I am incredibly sick of the presidential election, the media frenzy and, basically, politics as a whole. So don’t be concerned in the slightest that this post will be all preachy trying to get you to vote for whomever I am voting for because that is not at all my goal. Truthfully, I don’t want to vote for any of the presidential candidates or  the senators or anyone else because I think to be a politician at all, you have to be intrinsically crooked. This why my faith in the whole thing is pretty much non-existent. However, I do feel that everyone who should vote can because the whole idea of democracy means nothing if you don’t.

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The Proposition: An Open Letter to Mainers

Note: This post is politically oriented and strongly felt. If you think it might help change minds, share it wherever you may–pseudonymity be damned!

(And for the politically disinclined, tune back in this weekend for our regularly scheduled programming)

In the final episode of the first season of Showtime’s series Homeland, Sgt. Brody (Damien Lewis) takes his family to Gettysburg as he prepares to turn himself into a suicide bomber.  Before the battlefield, he tells them the story of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain to justify his actions (in his own mind) before they even know what he’s talking about.

Chamberlain taught himself Ancient Greek, became a Professor at Bowdoin College and led the defense of Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg with an insane bayonet charge against superior numbers. (He was later awarded the Medal of Honor.)

Sickly (and meaningfully for the show), Sgt. Brody tries to claim Chamberlain’s bravery, resourcefulness and patriotism for his planned act of domestic terrorism. (Equipment failure and a change of heart alter his plans.) But his repeated praise of the bravery of a teacher from Maine stuck with me well after the end of the show

Continue reading

Hank Jr Playlist

The Hank Jr. Playlist

So, not too long ago, on a relatively good radio talk show that I frequently listen to, they were playing and discussing two things. The first was Hank Williams Jr’s rant on Fox News channel, known for its blatant conservative views, comparing a golf game between President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner to a fictional round of golf between Hitler and Netanyahu. His point was the absurdity of the meeting but it immediately turned into him comparing Obama to Hitler. He was kicked off of Monday night football and lambasted in the press while Tea Partiers were regaling him with praise  for “ saying what he really thinks”. They seem to miss the point that what he really thinks is not being stated, rather all that is stated is what he said foolishly on a Fox news show.

In my view, both sides are stupid but for different reasons; Hank’s side because what he said was dumb and his repeated comment that people are trampling over his freedom of speech is even dumber. He works for a major TV company, they pay him to use that song and if his public statements alienate someone of course they are going to can him. They want viewers regardless of their ideology. The other side is dumb for villainizing him for saying something stupid. He never called Obama Hitler but that’s what it’s become.

Between that and the Occupywherever movement, I’ve had it up to here with bullshit political rhetoric. I guess I could stop looking at the news or listening to talk radio, but then how could I bitch about it? What music does this make me want to hear?

1. “Volunteers”-Jefferson Airplane

I think this OccupyWall Street thing is kind of bullshit. I mean, so is the whole current socio-economic system and certainly bank rules and high interest rates on loans, but I mean people having the time in the worst economy in 80 years to go sleep in a park to make a point is also an issue. I agree with everything the protesters want and some part of me wishes I could go protest the wrongs in our society too. But I have student loans up the wazoo among numerous other bills and in no way could afford to drive to NYC and spend days protesting.

Hell I work three plus jobs, I couldn’t even get the time off. How do these kids do it? I know many of them have the same situation as me, massive student loans and no job to pay them off, so how does that shit work? When I heard about this movement, the first thing I thought of was this general rant above and this song by the Airplane with the chorus “Got a Revolution”. Check out the Woodstock cut, it’s in the morning and quite amazing.

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