Tag Archives: music

Comment of the Day #1: Ethics Quiz: The Looney Tunes Cartoon Disclaimer

coonsongs

The Looney Tunes post was the latest in along line of those that I never anticipated provoking the rich discussions that they have, and this fascinating post by SamePenn really took off into an unexpected direction—ragtime and racist songs—that is  still relevant to the post. Just read, enjoy, ponder and learn; I did.

Here is SamePenn’s Comment of the Day, and there’s a second COTD coming,  on the post, Ethics Quiz: The Looney Tunes Cartoon Disclaimer: Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, History, Popular Culture, Race

Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic, Racist Hate….and The Dick Van Dyke Show

Forget what your dad is telling you, kid: listen to Buddy.

Forget what your dad is telling you, kid: listen to Buddy.

Question: If Ta-Nehisi Coates’ racist and hateful, anti-white, anti-US essay for The Atlantic is respectable public discourse, why isn’t Dylan Roof’s manifesto?

I think it is fair to that we know what the standards, or rather double standards, are in Barack Obama’s America. We have repeatedly been told by progressive activists that “hate speech” either isn’t or shouldn’t be protected by the Constitution, but the essay “Letter to My Son” by a regular Atlantic contributor, published by the magazine as literature, shows that “hate speech” is a narrower category in the progressive universe than its catchy name would suggest. Pompous, pretentious, labored, and smug anti-white, anti-American speech isn’t hate, apparently, but rather wisdom.

I just want to know what the rules are now.

Blogger/law professor Ann Althouse threw a link to the long piece by Coates to her readers without comment, as is often her technique. Actually, she highlighted a comment to the essay by one of the readers of Metafilter, who gushed,

I sat in the parking lot of my gym for 30 minutes reading that amazing, amazing piece. I’m rendered inarticulate by its power, by its purpose, by how fucking important it is and how I wish every person in this country would read it and really hear what he’s saying. And, just, goddamn. It’s so good. It references MLK in the same breath as Wu-Tang, and it’s all woven together so fucking effortlessly, but the references aren’t winky nods to pop culture, they’re buttressing an argument that is already so strong and undeniable and.

Althouse left off the last line, which was…

God. I know this sounds hyperbolic, but fucking hell, I hope this letter is taught in civics classes and literature classes for decades to come.

The Professor is correct: the positive reactions to this monstrosity are at least as fascinating as the essay itself. Read it all the way through, if you can. I found the long article extremely hard to get through. The prose is the sort of over-worked, straining-to-be-poetic slog that black revolutionaries and poets of the Sixties used to excel at, often from prison; Eddie Murphy did some hilarious imitations of them. Style and pretentiousness aside, the essay is tragic, frustrating and deeply sad: if this or anything even close to this is a common state of mind among African Americans, then it is small wonder progress in U.S. race relations is regressing. Continue reading

34 Comments

Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Race, U.S. Society

Missouri’s Unethical Food Stamps Bill

Sometimes you just need a good lobster. I'm from Boston. Trust me on this.

Sometimes you just need a good lobster. I’m from Boston. Trust me on this.

Years ago, my wise and wonderful first year Contracts professor at Georgetown Law Center, the late Richard Alan Gordon, made a permanent impact on my conscience with a spontaneous rant. He was discussing a case involving a welfare recipient who had been sued by a Washington department store for failing to keep up with installment payments on a Hi-Fi system. The court voided the contract, saying that it was unconscionable for the store to intentionally create incentives for poor people to spend public assistance money on “non-essentials” like music systems. (I wish I remembered the name of the case, but then I only got a C+ in the course.)

As the students nodded their heads in agreement with the opinion, Professor Gordon cut them short and thundered (I am copying from faded old notes: Dick’s rants were always eloquent and memorable, and I began reconstructing them after class for posterity):

“Outrageous! Who are you, or a court, or a government, or any authority to tell another human being that feeding his body is more important than feeding his soul? Music is “non-essential”? I suppose that means that literature, culture, inspiration, wisdom, knowledge…or a moment of joy, the thrill of discovery, experiencing a concert, admiring a great work of art, or sharing an intimate and timeless moment with the love of your life is “non-essential” too! Neither the law nor any court nor a government authority has a right to dictate what is essential to any human being, whether he is receiving public assistance or not. Being poor imposes its own cruel restrictions on liberty and autonomy. Imposing more still is both an abuse of power and a violation of basic human rights. This is an assault on human dignity.”

Continue reading

55 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Rights

A Political Correctness Tolerance Level Musical Ethics Quiz: “Speedy Gonzalez”

speedy-gonzales

My mind was still on the topic of political correctness after finishing the previous post when, by chance, the pop song that has a fair claim to being the most politically incorrect of all time came on the radio. It was “Speedy Gonzales,” sung by Pat Boone, a 1961 chart hit written by Buddy Kaye, Ethel Lee and David Hess and featuring the voice of the cartoon Speedy (whom you almost never see on TV anymore because, well, you know), Mel Blanc. Here it is…

Your musical Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is this…

Is the recording inherently offensive and bigoted, and thus inappropriate for play on the grounds that it stereotypes Mexicans, or is it obviously intended to be funny, and ultimately harmless?

Continue reading

19 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture

The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 1)

Cosby3

2014 was the year of the Ethics Train Wreck. They were coming so fast that they were getting tangled up with each other, and old wrecks from past years started rolling again, or the damage that was triggered a year ago or more started kicking in. I don’t know if every year really is more ethics free than the year before, or that it just feels that way because I’m getting better at sniffing it out. By any standards, it was a wretched year, with epic ethical misconduct across the culture. But I can’t stall any more: let’s wade into it. There will be more installments this year, so the misery is coming in smaller bites. You’re welcome.

Ethics Train Wreck of the Year

trainwreck

It’s a tie!

The Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck and The Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck

The obvious winner is the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, which has managed to hook up with the 2012 winner, The Trayvon Martin- George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck, as well as a the sub-EthicsTrain Wreck attached to the death of Eric Garner, to further degrade U.S. race relations, undermine the stability of numerous cities, get several people, including the recently assassinated NYC police officers killed, revive race riots, give vile demagogue Al Sharpton unprecedented power and influence, and pick up such distinguished riders as President Obama,  Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, New York Mayor de Blasio. It is also still barreling along at top speed after many months, and is a good bet to continue its carnage well into 2015. 

Yet, it became clear to me this summer with this post that the entire Obama Administration has become an Ethics Train Wreck, and one that is neck-and-neck with the one spawned in Ferguson in threatening short and long-term damage. Incompetence, dishonestly, lack of transparency and arrogance have hardened cynicism in the public, corrupted the ethical values of defenders, let journalists to disgrace themselves, and fertilized festering potential disasters internationally and domestically. This is also, I now see, a wreck of long duration that started in 2009, and had gathered momentum with every year. It also has sparked other wrecks, including the one that now keeps it from being the sole 2014 winner. How much damage will The Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck do in 2015? Which agency or department will prove itself to be corrupt, incompetent and mismanaged, which official will continue in a post after proving himself unfit to serve, which inept pronouncement or abuse of power will further degrade American trust and freedom?

I’m not looking forward to learning the answers.

Fraud of the Year

The U.S. Justice Department, which allegedly participated in a plot to force  Sierra Pacific Industries and other defendants  to pay $55 million to the United States over a period of five years and transfer 22,500 acres of land as settlement of charges brought against the company by DOJ for causing a 2007 wildfire that destroyed 65,000 acres of land in California. Naturally, the national news media has barely covered this scandal, which is still in litigation. Runner Up: The Victoria Wilcher scam, which made KFC pay for plastic surgery for a little girl when there was no evidence that the company was in any way involved with her injuries. After the fraud was discovered, it didn’t dare ask for its money back. Well played, fraudsters! Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Professions, Rights, Workplace

Comments Of The Day: “Remembering Christmas Music”

Xmas music

This is a rare collaborative Comment of the Day, as texaggo4 and Penn combined for a fascinating discourse on the trend in Christmas holiday music and its significance in response to my December 23 post, prompted by listening to one too many renditions of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause” and “Santa Baby.” It’s a wonderful job by both participants here, reinforcing my conviction that the the debates following the posts are as valuable, or more so, than the posts themselves.

First up is tex, followed by Penn’s response. Here is their combined Comment of the Day on “Remembering Christmas Music”:

Christmas only exists because of Christ. That being said, pull the religion out of the holiday and ultimately the holiday disappears and all of its associated trappings.

Christmas music has several “genres”, not classified nor exclusive:

1) Theological or religious: directly communication the story or the theology of the Incarnation.

2) Modern references to the festivals associated with the Christ-Mass.

3) Modern references to the neo-pagan Christmas folklore…Santa Claus, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, etc.

4) Modern references to the American folklore… Frosty the Snowman, etc

5) Modern references to the post-materialist Capitalist associations with Christmas— Christmas party songs.

6) Modern references to the post-narcissist associations with Christmas…songs about sex….

great.

We all saw this coming…it is predictable. take the religion out of a religious holiday and you can only assume that artistic messages (songs included) pertaining to the Holiday will have less and less to do with the ethical message of the holiday until eventually, watered down, it isn’t even worth playing the secular versions of that Holiday’s music.

What are the secularists complaining about? They asked for this.

Here is Penn’s reply: Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Popular Culture, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

Remembering Christmas Music

nativity

It is slowly dawning on me that Christmas music, one of the annual joys of my childhood and perhaps yours, is in a perilous state, both culturally and aesthetically. The best of the songs musically are religious in nature, which means that schools won’t pass them along to their charges as happened routinely when I was a child, and even playing them on the radio is likely to be regarded as a religious statement. I just loved the music, as I think most kids would if they ever got the chance before they were brainwashed into believing the ancient songs were subversive.

A full court cultural press is underway to make those songs as rarely heard outside of church as hymns, and I don’t see the trend as reversible. One obvious bar to a comeback: current pop stars don’t have the pipes to sing most of them without causing a sound pollution emergency. Or, if one of the few singers who could actually hit the notes dared to cover a carol like “O Holy Night,” he or she would feel required to apply flourishes of the sort that make every rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at a major sports event an invitation to PTSD.

Even for the more secular Christmas repertoire, the clock is running out. The most listenable versions, and the definitive ones in most cases, are by performers of the past who are not just dead, but also long forgotten by the current culture. An hour of classic Christmas recordings on the radio is now a reminder of how old I am and close to joining great singers like Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Andy Williams, Nat King Cole, Jo Stafford, Burl Ives, Gene Autry, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis—dead, dead, dead. I guess Brenda Lee is still alive, so “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” is a little less depressing, but it’s a minor classic at best. It’s gotten so bad that when I hear “The Little Drummer Boy,” I find myself wondering if the whole Harry Simeone Chorale is dead too—Harry died in 2005, and the recording is 56 years old, after all.

Meanwhile, our post-modern culture is sneering at the whole idea of Christmas songs, and Christmas itself. Most modern Christmas songs either are making fun of Christmas, about sex, or just lousy. The tradition is being undermined in more creative ways, too: this week I watched a 2012 straight-to-video movie called “12 Disasters of Christmas,” based on the loopy premise that “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was really a coded recipe for stopping the 2012 apocalypse predicted by the Mayan calendar. “The Mayans knew that the knowledge would have to be preserved for centuries, so they devised a song that would carry the secret and would be passed on and learned by children for generations,” explains the old codger who’s figured it all out. (But why would they choose such a monotonous and stupid song?) Come on, guess: How does the “Chosen One” stop the end of the world? [Answer below.]*

The movie is on to something, though. The Christmas songs that have the best chance of persevering though this age of  cynicism and cultural illiteracy may be those that either tell a story  or that have an interesting one related to their creation. The simple and beautiful tune of “Silent Night,” for example, as one of those films they used to show in school assemblies every year before some anti-religious hysteric sued, was composed for guitar in response to a Christmas Eve crisis for a small church in the Austrian alps in 1818: the church organ wasn’t working.  I have found that Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”  affects me far more deeply since I learned that the Berlins’ infant son died on Christmas day, and that while his children celebrated Christmas as a cultural holiday, Berlin and his wife did not. They spent each Christmas after their son’s death in mourning. The song is a wistful remembrance of a happier time that the composer will never experience again.

Maybe another Christmas song will persevere if its origins are remembered; I was reminded of its history this week as a result of the thaw in U.S. relations with Cuba. Though my wife hates it, the song is one of my favorites, perhaps because it brings back warm memories: I watched the song’s first national broadcast with my sister and parents, and the Marshalls bought the recording the next day.

It was 1962. Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne were a husband and wife songwriting team of modest success. They were saddened by the lack of any spiritual content in popular Christmas songs then; imagine what they would think today.

Like all Americans, they were petrified during the thirteen days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the world stood on the brink of nuclear annihilation. As the crisis intensified, Regney found himself inspired to write down a simple poem with a Christmas theme. (Later, the couple would say that neither of them could ever sing the song through, because of the strong emotions it recalled.) When the nation could finally take a deep breath of relief as the threat ended,  Gloria devised a melody for her husband’s words, though he had always been the composer when he and wife wrote songs together.

The result of this unique variation on their collaboration was recorded before the end of 1962, but it wasn’t until the following year, when Bing Crosby sang the team’s creation live on ABC’s  “Hollywood Palace,”  that it became widely known. The song written during the Cuban Missile Crisis became a best-seller, Crosby’s last hit Christmas record, and also the last popular Christmas song to have a religious theme.

It was, and remains, a prayer for peace.

____________________________

* By finding and wearing FIVE GOLDEN RINGS, of course!

23 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, History, Popular Culture, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society