Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: August 2006 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Monday, August 07, 2006

Finally, Texans have a true choice

Scalia rejects plea to get DeLay off ballot

Don'cha just love it? Texas Repubicans, who have had their way for the past decade because of their hold on the "morality" base, are now struggling to keep their power base. Why? Because their morality stance is finally being questioned on the moral and ethical means they use to maintain this base.

A last-ditch effort to have Tom DeLay's name struck from the ballot - because he withdrew amidst pressure about his ethical behavior - in order to throw another name on the Republican ballot for the mindless straight-party voters to cast their votes in the upcoming mid-term elections, has been denied by the U.S. Supreme Court, which recognizes it as an attempt to cirrcumvent Constitutional law in an effort to garner the straight-party vote.

I've always stressed that voters should look at the candidates' history and background before they vote. This stance bit me in the nether regions when, in the last election, it was apparent that straight-party voters won the day, even though the voters knew nothing about the candidates they voted for. People of limited intellegence voted their party, and when questioned about them, knew virtually nothing about who they voted for what they stood for.

Fool me once, it's my fault.

But you're not going to fool me twice. Ignorance may be bliss, but it's hurting our country. The Texas GOP wants a new name on the ballot under the Republican listing; but if they get it there, mindless lemmings will vote for that person just because he's a Republican - even though primary voters did not choose that candidate.

What happened is this: primary voters chose Tom DeLay as their candidate of choice for the upcoming election. DeLay, seeing a firestorm coming about his ethical behavior, chose to resign from Congress in order to avoid the scrutiny involved in his upcoming criminal trials. The Texas Republican party wants to replace him on the ballot in order to avoid the bad press and to place someone on the ballot so that mindless straight-party voters will have someone to vote for without thinking about it, and so that they don't have to think about how the person they voted for last time ended up the target of a criminal investigation.

The Texas Democratic party objected, and so far the courts (including Justices put in place by both Bushes) have agreed. Now the Texas GOP is appealing to the Supreme Court for a favorable ruling. We'll see how this plays out, but it appears that the premise is sound - just because DeLay resigned and is claiming to have moved out of state (what does this say to the people he claimed to call his own while he was in office), he still owns property in Texas, it's possible he may still reside there on election day, and is therefore still eligible to run for office.

The defense of the ruling is that the courts are denying Texans a choice on election day. This is not even close to the truth. First of all, Texans have plenty of choices on election day. There are at least two candidates running in the 22nd Congressional District on the ballot. Second, the courts didn't deny Republicans the choice, DeLay did by resigning from Congress. He won the primary, then withdrew. By doing so, he removed himself from the ballot, not the courts, and if they want someone to replace him, they should ask the voters who should replace him. Instead, they want to replace him with their candidate, and the voters have no voice in who they replace him with.

So now Texas voters have a true choice, if they're up to the challenge. I know, it's require some thinking, and some research. But if we truly want someone who will represent us in Congress, it's worth the effort to find out what our candidates stand for, and cast our vote based on how those candidates will stand up for the things we think are important.

You finally have a true choice, Texans. Use it wisely.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I never looked at music the same way again

25 years ago this week, a revolutionary new concept was introduced to the TV watching public - music television. No longer were we teenagers limited to just albums, cassette tapes, and FM radio. Now we could see our favorite bands perform, and if we were lucky, they would have some rock babes in their videos.

Sure, recorded visual music performances were around long before MTV came along. My first taste was the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. But somehow the canned performances on MTV were different than the canned performances on network television. It wasn’t so obvious that they were lip-syncing, and there were plenty of flashing lights and images to keep our adolescent minds entertained.

Not only that, but no longer did we have to wait until our favorite bands came to town to actually "see" them. Sure, it was recorded, but compared to just listening, it was a quantum leap forward in music appreciation. The younger generation probably won’t be able to grasp this, with music videos commonplace today ("like, what’s the big deal?"), but back then it was a breakthrough concept.

The first actual music video I ever saw was Meat Loaf’s "Paradise by the Dashboard Light". It was shown every weekend right before the midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at a theatre downtown. We saw it dozens of time and never got tired of it. In fact, it was a huge disappointment if we showed up late and missed the Meat Loaf video; although it never stopped us from staying for Rocky Horror anyway.

Then MTV came along, and you could get music videos right in your house (assuming you had cable, which less than half of us did). Bands that we had listened to for years took on a whole new dimension. Bands like ZZ Topp, Peter Gabriel, and the Rolling Stones embraced the concept with open arms and open legs.

Which brings us to the downside of MTV: by attracting fans with eye candy, it was no longer necessary to produce good music. The bands mentioned above were prolific with their videos, but the music produced was far from their best work. Pop buried rock & roll, and buff posers dominated airtime. Attractive crooners without talent became stars, and ugly rockers had to have a gimmick to get noticed; both of which contributed to the decline of the music’s quality.

Music video production became standard operations for bands as they rolled out new music; when they came out with a new album, the singles were made into videos. At first, the practice was used to sell more albums, like radio airplay. Eventually, though, the video became the medium of choice, and videos were made for the sake of making videos. Some bands used humor or drama to tell a story, but most just tried to push the envelope, using shock value and sex for the sole purpose of selling more videos.

Eventually, it wasn’t about the music anymore; it was about the culture. Within a few years, MTV dictated urban youth culture, and fans marched lockstep with the image presented by the artists. From the Pat Benatar look in the 80’s to Shakira wannabes in the aughts, every post-adolescent hipster wants to look like she just stepped out of the video studio. Pimpin’ rides and dissin’ playas became the new national pastime for the under-20 set. The east-coast/west-coast feud was played out all across the country, and what used to be called a waist ended up being worn around the thighs.

Nowadays, MTV doesn’t even play music anymore. I guess attention spans got even shorter, and now a three minute video is to long to spend without some kind of jolt to the adrenaline. Reality shows, talk shows - basically anything to keep the viewer from changing the channel - have replaced the novel concept of showing visual recordings of music performances.

One good thing has come from MTV, though. Once it was demonstrated that visual performances is marketable, a lot of good concert footage has been dug out of archives, dusted off, and put on a DVD. So even though I don’t watch MTV anymore, I’m building up a respectable collection of classic concerts, and I can watch them anytime I want.

And like the original MTV tag line said, I’ll never look at music the same way again.