01/19/12

SOPA

Today’s song blog is necessarily unavailable out of protest to its own self.

11/17/11

Taking Damage

I’m telling you, this is the future of music right here. Song blogging. I love it. People can just imagine a song topic they’d like to hear done, and I oblige. It’s greatly invigorating. Others will eventually do it better. Just remember, it started here first.

I received a request concerning a song topic. Sam, a member of our armed services and current law student, suggested, in light of Veterans’ Day and last week’s release of the latest installment of Activision’s video game blockbuster series, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (MW3), that I do a song concerning the disconnect between the hyper-real but emotionally bankrupt experience of the video game and actual combat.

As it turns out, I’m unqualified to opine either. I’ve never even been in a fist fight and I play exclusively sports video games (to the extent I play anymore at all). But, a want of personal knowledge or even basic information on a topic has never discouraged me from forming a really adamant position on it. So, here goes.

No one is ever psychologically prepared for what they face in war for the first time. No one. And, with the exception of a few, we’ve largely used artifice and exaggeration to get people to go. In other words, we could never market participation in war by showing what is really involved in its combat elements. We focus on things like honor and valor and education and vocational training and camaraderie and patriotism. We’re somewhat slower to emphasize the hysteria and terror and agony and dismemberment and loss and confusion and odor and unemployability and personal cost of war. That’s not a critique. It can’t really be done. A thousand hours of footage wouldn’t substitute for a minute on the ground, I imagine.

And, so it is with video games. Of course, they are no simulation. They are leisure. Modern Warfare 3 looks like war. Like, crazy can’t tell which way is up or down combat. A quick interruption: I’m excited to mention that today’s post marks the first time that I did any real and original research for an entry (always use secondary source materials, of course). I rented MW3 and played it for at least 17 minutes, roughly, around the time my eyes started to bleed from the strain of trying to distinguish combatants from piles of rubble. If you’ve never played the “first person shooter” style video game, as the name suggests, you play from the internal vantage of your own self. You are not out-of-body, so to speak, able to see your own avatar. Instead, you are viewing the action first person. Of yourself, you can see only your weapon and hand. Anyway, I maybe made it a block and half on the first portion of the first mission of the easiest campaign in the game. In my best moments, I was brutally gunned down and, at my worst, fired unknowingly but with regrettable accuracy upon my own team. My wife was working on her photographs and was mortified to see me either hiding in virtual corners of this fictionally besieged Manhattan, waiting for the assault to pass, or yelling, “I think I shot something!” with some sense of real accomplishment.

Even as I would emphasize that video games are not real, I was (a) pretty paranoid/terrified of being shot and (b) otherwise behaving exactly as I might in real life — like a baby.

So, the public concern is that somehow young people might become desensitized to the real cruelty and horror of war, specifically, and violence in general. And, that in it’s glorification/romanticization some might either race to it unwittingly or act out in criminal ways. Wiser people than me have certainly encouraged humanity to think on those things which are good and lovely and pure. I think it goes without saying that, on balance, our children are healthier consuming, in greater volume, emotionally enriching content. But, I’m not on any real high horse about it.

Truth is the oldest way to cope with war and violence is desensitization. That’s what happens in the Middle East and Africa where children grow up with berettas in their hands (maybe I mean AKs; sheesk, I don’t know, I’m not a gun trafficker, just a news rapper). Our psyche would be paralyzed with suffocating pain and terror if we were forced to internalize the unmitigated truth of war. It’s a natural and healthy defense mechanism. It’s why we don’t feel comparable empathy for the tragedy of others. You can call it selfishness but if I had a commensurate reaction to the death of others’ children, whenever I heard of it, as I would if, God forbid, I ever lost one of mine, I would be institutionalized. We would short circuit to be equally affected by all of the world’s tragedy as we are by the ones personal to us.

That’s what PTSD is. That’s what Rambo flashbacks are. That’s what happens when we can’t keep ourselves sufficiently desensitized to, or distanced from, the atrocity of it all. Our inside crashes. We aren’t built to know war.

So, I don’t know that these games do anything our minds wouldn’t do eventually, when confronted with the real thing. In other words, Afghanistan isn’t any more shocking when an 18 year old gets there after having played 1600 hours of fraudulent war in Battlefield 3 at his mom’s house. Either way it’s mind blowing and our minds respond by trying to reduce the effect. Sort of like a video game.

Don’t gain the whole world of war and lose your console.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by pumpkinFoot.

Today’s song blog here:

First Person Playa

11/15/11

Top Flight

In its “Americans of the Year” Edition, Esquire has given Mark Kelly the cover. Kelly is the husband of Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was shot earlier this year at a public appearance, along with others. He has been noble at her side. And, she has made an against-all-odds recovery, even so far as a return to Congress. Kelly also happens to be an astronaut, which is pretty much the coolest thing you can ever be.

I covered the Giffords shooting and the privatization of space exploration earlier this year, here and here, respectively.

On this cloudy day in South Carolina, I thought I’d pull them back out to share. See below.

Performed by ipoet. Music for A Safe Way produced by pumpkinFoot. Music for Private Rocket produced by Sundance.

Today’s song blogs here:

A Safe Way

Private Rocket
 

11/2/11

At Least They Have Great Meatballs

Has anyone else noticed how heavily this site traffics in/relies upon infantile ethnic and cultural stereotyping? Wait until tomorrow. It gets worse.

So, news has come in that Julian Assange, the principle editor of WikiLeaks, has lost his court battle against extradition back to Sweden to face the sexual assault charges pending against him there. I’ve stayed sort of neutral on the propriety of the WikiLeaks service. I see the arguments for and against. Assange is definitely either a creepy or highly contemplative guy, maybe both. Although in the hair I favor one, I’m not an English barrister. But based on the information available, the extradition decision is not any sort of comment on the merits of the pending allegations against him.

I am Order of the Coif, however. (Another brag brag, not to be confused with the more artful humble brag.)

My WikiLeaks blong was one of the first on this site. So, it holds a good deal of sentiment for me in that respect. Plus, it’s over a super fresh Manny beat. The brevity of the copy portion of the post will give you some insight into the evolution of this site in a year’s time. Plus, only like 4 people were following me at that time (2 of whom were being compensated — in personalized rap news songs, of course), so you probably missed it.

Performed by ipoet.  Music produced by DJ M@nwell?

Today’s song blog here:

Top Secret

10/8/11

Give and Take

Steve Jobs passed this week. I don’t need to fill you in on his story. He’s an accepted technological genius of our time. Apple’s products have changed the way we live our lives. I’m not an Apple or Jobs worshiper but our family has nearly the entire product line, in various specs, and has been Apple exclusive for some time. It is hard to overstate the difference in the execution of my daily living pre and post iphone and macbook and ipod, for both the better and the worse. Certainly other brands have designed similar or superior devices but Apple always seems to be the first to market and the one most sensitive to subtleties of style and self awareness. They are of course now the corporate conglomerate that in some ways they always spurned.

For me personally, I have this weird dream of simplicity that couldn’t be any more incongruent with the way I actually live. And, the convenience of the Apple lifestyle invites all these simultaneously efficient and distracting incidents of modern living.

A lesser publicized story is that of Occupy Wall Street a, maybe grass roots/maybe contrived, Financial District sit in by protestors, of Lord knows what demographic, decrying the excesses and abuse of Wall Street and its Government regulators and enablers. In addition to my glorification of simplicity, I also have this romantic idea that I’d like to be brave in protest standing against the many injustices of our western lifestyle, government and personal.

The two stories, Jobs’ death and Occupy Wall Street, stir so much of the same tensions in me. I have these competing desires to simultaneously worship the progress of our society and burn it down. I’m sure I’m not alone. I don’t have the wisdom or the time to postulate an answer. But, I suspect that living life is finding some middle ground. Not as a cop out or compromise but because in every generation humanity has been called upon to find virtue in its advancement. Our portable technology is not evil. Our digital lives are not evil. But, they are susceptible, just like the buggy and the plow, to distraction or to misuse or to self-aggrandizment or to laziness.

I guess I’m just trying to learn a little bit better about how to give and take.

May God bless the Jobs family in this time of grief and sadness.

Performed by ipoet. Music sequenced by the ipoet from Yael Naïm’s “New Soul.”

Forbidden Fruit

08/18/11

Next Gen

My son and his homeboy are making their ipoetblog.com debut with an ode to stackable blocks.

Not really rap news. Just raps by 8 year olds.


Written by J-Willis & E-Scrilla. Performed by J-Willis. Vocal Percussion by E-Scrilla.

Today’s song blog here:

I Love Legos, Man.

06/8/11

My bologna has a first name . . .

Man, I didn’t want to touch this with a ten foot pole. But the story just kept growing. (Too easy.)

It’s embarrassing. It’s awkward. It’s not any sort of real news. But Weinergate has persisted for over a week now. For those that don’t know, Representative Anthony Weiner was exposed for ironically sharing indiscreet photos of his, well, . . . wiener. As a cultural story, I felt ultimately compelled to address it because that’s what a rap news blog does I suppose. A sort of sequel to Craig’s Got a List. Which was, in part, the reason a song about the controversy felt like a retread. The same sentiments are in play. Inexcusable. Tawdry. But, inescapably human. For me, these stories are about a corporate rather than an individual sin. Technology has enabled inclination in, as Weiner himself admits, new and destructive ways. We have to figure this out together, even as there will never be any sort of complete answer to it.

On a related-unrelated note, I had a discussion this evening with friends concerning the unwritten urinal rules present in men’s bathrooms.

Today’s song blog is not only a juvenile double entendre but it also doubles as a tribute to my homey, Playdough’s, new record, Hotdoggin’. Buy it.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by 2bit.

Today’s song blog here:

Hotdoggin'

04/14/11

Over the Moon

I missed covering this news item a couple months back at the last launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery. But, NASA’s recent announcement concerning the final resting place of its remaining space shuttles has given me occasion to address it. NASA is discontinuing its space shuttle program. Why exactly NASA has to wholesale abandon entire genre of spacecraft is beyond my ability to guess. It’s a little known fact that we couldn’t get back to the moon today if our continued existence depended on it. They dismantled the necessary apparatus decades ago.

Anyway, the announcement drew some ire for having not included Houston as a destination. Without knowing all the facts, I would have to agree that it seems a regrettable slight.

The Space Shuttle defined a generation, in tragedy and hope. The great interstellar Orca.

President Obama has championed legislative initiatives, which have, and will, continue to move us towards commercial space flight. I’m excited for it. My hope is that the direction will only increase the chance that our kids and their kids will travel with increasing frequency as passengers and pilots. It’s on my bucket list too. When this rap news blog thing starts raking in the cash, I’m booking a flight out of the New Mexico terminal (oh the irony).

But, as always, there are two sides to every matter. Many think the privatization of our space program is detrimental to a healthy and controlled exploration and an affront to the institutional expertise and dedication of NASA’s excellent personnel over these many years. My Uncle-in-Law is a retired rocket scientist from NASA. I think his views on it are mixed to say the least. Like with commercial air flight, there is likely some balance of government regulation/participation/oversight and the sort of private enterprise and ingenuity, which has been the engine for all of our significant progress and innovation.

Take me back to the moon.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by Sundance.

Today’s song blog here:

Private Rocket

02/10/11

Personals: man seeking dignity

Man, I hate this.  Hate it.  I hate the public shame of it all.  A congressman resigned his post last night for having been ostensibly caught advertising himself on Craigslist, the infamous online and localized classifieds.  I hesitate to even cover it but for the opportunity to make sure we keep some perspective.  His acts were deplorable, as alleged.  He has a family and a high public duty.  His position necessarily makes the story news.  But, we live in a society that invites, in culture and accessibility, the behavior and then parades private failures to our mutual shame, as though we’re repeatedly stunned that it occurs.  This is not a puritanical appeal to close the interwebs.  Or even some self-righteous critique of the attention the story justifiably attracts.  It is a reminder of the value of human dignity and privacy that must be rediscovered even as we learn to live in public.

It’s also a request to please be careful.   Temptation is a lion.

Performed by ipoet.  Music produced by DJ Transform.

Today’s audio classifieds here:

Craig's Got A List

11/1/10

Friendly Skies

And getting friendlier.  A cadre of delayed passengers almost killed the boarding pass handlers last night at Charlotte Douglas International’s C10 gate who had, only moments before, permitted the departing plane to taxi away, notwithstanding information that a companion flight had been substantially delayed.  No one seemed particularly relieved that they might have instead just had the good fortune of missing a bomb-ladened aircraft, which is, now, always some risk. 

This song was by the skin of my teeth.  The first real test of my song-blogging resolve.  I wrote and recorded this in under an hour on my way out the door for Halloween with my three babies and then on to New Hampshire last night for business.  (So, of course it’s brilliant.)  I didn’t think I was going to get it done.  Themes include recent terror plot, apparently originating out of Yemen; proposed additional security measures; and the balance between liberty and security in the war on terror.

My plan is to do something different for the Tuesday midterms.  Running diary, maybe. But I will be returning home that night.  It’s  going to be a hectic week.

This is going to complicate your enjoyment of the song, but please turn off all electrical devices and stow them in the overhead bin or safely under the seat in front of you.  We should be departing shortly as the Captain has indicated that we are no less than plane #43 on the tarmac.  Thank you for flying with us, we no you had little choice.

Performed by ipoet.  Music produced by DJ M@nwell?

Today’s audio here:

High Alert Pt. 1