Aug 11 2010

Smoke & fire

 The prior entry (about the “Wonderful” poster at Maxine’s) elicited this prompt response from my also-gracious Norwegian friend Børre after I instroduced it with, “Here is a reminder that [even in the middle of Arkansas] the world’s best propaganda apparatus cannot block out every glimmer of truth:”

[Jacques],

I don’t disagree with your interpretation of “a glimmer of  truth”, but begging your pardon for my “insensitivity”, I do  find it particularly offensive that such a “cause” be turned  into just another commodity. It’s also particularly  characteristic of our age of indifference that such things are  allowed to pass with little debate or comment – the questioning  of commodification being the first of that triumverate of  taboos of the age, the second and third of which are advertising and  commercialized television.

There are no indications on the MySpace pages of either  “Maxine’s” or the particular band in question that they are not  using the Gaza prison theme as yet another branding of a  lifestyle now deemed palatable enough with the target generation  not to elicit a commercially negative backlash by those meant to  be provoked.

As ever, I am perfectly willing to be proven wrong, but stop a  moment to consider the closest thing ‘TheirSpace’ comes to  expressing a political (normally defined as relating to the  public affairs of a country) statement – and with such a  seemingly powerful poster in mind, one would expect dome sort of  statement: “We are just a huge group of people that create,  think and do things that make us feel great and happy.”

The poster itself is quite representative of what the  ‘Palestinian Cause’ has become to most of the generation  dedicated to “creating, thinking and doing things that make them  feel great and happy”. The weaponry, so long commodified that a  significant portion of US males will know the brand names of the  helicopter and its armaments by heart, even without having had  the leave to serve the nation’s interests as canon fodder. Those  walls and watch towers were commodified, first by the victory  industry that served (and continues to serve) our generation’s  apparently insatiable appetite for the documentation of the  suffering of others, fictional or otherwise. One needs only to  be reminded of the presidencies of Eisenhower, de Gaulle and  Ronald Reagan to understand the industry’s success. In it’s  wake, the Haulocast Industry has also done rather well off the  same iconography. The most perverse commodification of all, and  I suppose so far most widespread in Europe, is the  white-and-black kafiyeh. To Mr or Ms Latuff’s credit (is that an  americanization of “Lateef”?) the kafiyeh appears mostly  correct, mimicking that over-used to the ridiculous by that  master of corruption Abou Ammar. In its most recent incarnations  produced in Bangladesh in green, yellow, red, orange and very  blue – there is, inexplicably, a version with the Star of David  in the cross pattern!

All that aside, there is no indication whatsoever that either  Maxine’s or the band themselves will in anyway waive their fees  (thus making the event a political demonstration) or contribute  the proceeds to the Gaza that appears to be advertised (making  it a charity event). Which leaves me no alternative but to  conclude that this is indeed the marketing of a lifestyle event  meant to “make us feel great and happy”. (I am secretly hoping  that such information might purposely have been withheld in  order not to provoke ‘the lobby’.)

Maybe counter propaganda through commodification is the only way  of getting the message through in our commercialized age, but it  does take politics (the public affairs of a country) away from  us, putting it into the hands of the men (and a few females) at  the service of those intent on even shorter returns on  investment than four (or even the hopelessly longer term of  eight) years.

[Jacques], your Polish proprietress was gracious indeed, but then the  people of Central Europe have a traditional propensity in that  direction.

– Børre


To which I replied (with a few subsequent refinements):

Sheesh, Børre, I didn’t expect that!  Were you channeling Thom’s inner (outer/all-over) curmudgeon?  I thought there was sublime anti-anti-Semite irony in the juxtaposition of “The Most Wonderful People Ever” over the image of a young Palestinian (with a teddy bear, no less — hardly the swarthy stereotype) about to be violently aborted by “God’s chosen people” flying a made-in-the-USA death chariot.

These kids are hardly “celebrities” (they’re about the same age I was when I was hanging PLO posters on my dorm-room wall in Oklahoma).  I did not hear “Wonderful People” perform but did talk to them a bit as they were setting up Friday night.  Their music, to judge by what’s on their MySpace billboard, is so awful (to this generationally-challenged listener) that I have to assume they are playing/performing mainly for themselves and their friends.  As for Maxine’s, there were probably no more than 20 people last night when I stopped by for the poster;  I suspect the average band that plays there is desperately hoping for enough money for gas and food just to make it to the next gig down the road.  Hardly commodities in the sense of what is considered successful in this mostly insensitive culture…

…for what it’s worth, the “Wonderful People” had the decency to leave Mr. Latuff’s signature intact on their poster.  Finally, thank you Børre for your kind words about a plurality of Poles having a propensity for amity; that has been my observation as well, though my sampling is hardly statistically significant.  Lest any reader think I am likewise surprised that this woman was gracious, let me affirm that it has also been my observation that most women are far more gracious than we men deserve (and that, friends, is borne of a lifetime of diligent study of a statistically significant sample).

[Jacques]

PS — we had the pleasure of stopping by Maxine’s last Thursday to hear Sad Daddy (http://www.myspace.com/saddaddyband) for an hour or so.  If you like what our local blues expert terms “Acid Bluegrass” then you should check them out — they’ll be at several locations around Austin later this month.

PPS — any Beirut readers out there?  A month ago John Nemeth (rising Bluesman from San Francisco — http://www.johnnemethblues.com/) passed through our wee blip on the map.  He just wrapped up four/five days in “Bar Louie” in Beirut — did anyone catch the act?

Permanent link to this article: http://levantium.com/2010/08/11/smoke-fire/

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