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Tag Archives: america
Posted: at 7:22 pm
Political correctness some call for it to be laid to rest. However, political correctness is not down, its stock value is.
Political correctness is definitely experiencing a decline. Looking at Donald Trumps Cabinet alone would make me sell my futures in political correctness. Trump fought political correctness throughout his campaign and cites saving time as a reason for not being politically correct. Recently on Face the Nation, Trump said that he thought America was being too politically correct on Muslims.
Political correctness in the chivalrous sense is dead, the attack on the politically correct has gone on even after the election. The alt-right are an easy target for examples of the death of political correctness.
After the Ghost Ship fire, there was an alt-right-linked call to hunt DIY spaces. Such spaces are known for being all-inclusive, but were labeled as liberal hideouts. Twelve spaces in total were shut down, Nashville being hard hit as well as California.
Chicagos scene had its casualties over the course of 2016 for unrelated reasons, but it remains a stronghold for the creative and the inclusive. The Oakland fire shined a light on an art scene in the midst of a housing crisis. The alt-right saw it as an opportunity to report all artspaces and illegal venues to crush the radical left.
Gabe Meline writes in an article for KQED Arts about the Oakland space: They dont understand why the floor is so rickety, the lamps dont have shades, the wall is painted three different colors and the table is made of scrap wood.
Meline says that those who criminalized the attendees of the Ghost Ship space asattendees of an illegal event dont understand why those spaces exist.
Often, spaces dont last. I remember seeing pictures of former Chicago venue The Keep being disassembled soon after attending one of its last shows. These venues are not often permanent fixtures. In recent years, the community has organized an annual poster listing the DIY venues and the deceased venues. The dead venue count and the currently active count are often close.
The Chicago DIY community reacted to the Oakland fire by calling for town halls to resume and for venues to have clearly labeled exits and fire extinguishers. While initially people tossed around ideas such as holding a benefit show to raise money for fire extinguishers for every DIY venue in the city, venues have already begun purchasing them on their own, if they did not already have them.
The reactionary witchhunting of safe spaces for dialogue and art is a sign of the downturn of political correctness. Ten days after the election, 867 hate crimes occurred, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 23 of which were anti-Trump.
In the defense of political correctness, the ACLU received record amounts of donations after the election, although Time magazine says this is because organizations like ACLU and Planned Parenthood may feel under threat from the Trump administration. Fear of retribution for not being politically correct may have driven some people in the past, however, fear of being politically obsolete may drive some people now.
Donald Trump tookoffice on Jan. 20, 2017. Whether or not this will result in even more hate crimes or donations to special interest organizations remains to be seen.
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Posted: at 7:11 pm
It is difficult not to view Donald Trumps administration, regardless of its politics, as combative towards at least some portion of the American public. Unlike previous presidents who ultimately relied on messages that conveyed some attempt real or theatrical at national unity, Trumps team has decided to draw very clear lines between his supporters and everyone else. Whether it is the press, radical Islam, or the politically correct, Trumps style of leadership appears to rely on scapegoats. This bitter political ideology will likely be ineffective in guiding the country through the next decade of developments in the economy.
As artificial intelligence, robotics, and new forms of automation continue to flourish, the forms of work that millions of Americans rely on are at risk. The political solutions to navigating these changes are going to require broad public initiatives that havent been accomplished in decades, and everyone is going to have to be on board.
Before leaving the White House, President Obama commissioned a report titled Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and The Economy, that provides an in-depth look at the changes that will occur as automation becomes more sophisticated. Far from the doom and gloom projections of a workplace without humans, the report charts the subtle ways that, at scale, AI will have a tremendous impact on how our economy, and labor force, functions. Citing the current wave of AI, which the report describes as having begun around 2010, the study describes how the the types of jobs available in the economy are rapidly changing, and these changes are primarily impacting low income and less educated Americans.
According to the MIT Technology Review, 83 percent of jobs that pay less than $20 an hour are under threat from automation. Simply put, as technology makes things like ordering a cheeseburger, buying groceries, and shipping goods, require fewer human beings involved, the number of jobs available for poor Americans will shrink dramatically.
Ford, a company whose name is synonymous with the dream of American manufacturing jobs, recently announced goals to provide fully autonomous ridesharing by 2021, and earlier this month, allocated $1 billion for the autonomous vehicle startup Argo. Trumps former candidate for Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that, in areas like retail and foodservice, increases in minimum wage were to blame for the increase in automation. Of course, he also cites consumer preference as The major reason.
Lots of high-minded technological thinkers, particularly Elon Musk, have proposed a universal basic income, a form of wealth distribution that ensures every citizen receives a baseline income whether or not they are employed, as a likely solution to the problem of workforce automation. But the White House report takes a more somber approach, describing a basic income as giving up on the possibility of workers remaining employed. Instead, the report suggests a number of policy proposals (like Obamas national free community college initiative, and expanded unemployment benefits) as ways of actively facilitating the transition into a more AI driven economy.
In an interview with the MIT Technology Review, Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution calls for what he calls a universal basic adjustment benefit. Unlike a universal basic income, it would involve targeted benefits for those left out of the workforce, providing tools like wage insurance, job counseling, relocation subsidies, and other financial and career help.
A McKinsey report estimates that 59 percent of manufacturing jobs can be automated.
Uber has already made significant strides automating cars and delivery vehicles.
Manufacturing in the US has actually increased just not with the help of human workers.
The White House report points out that the U.S. government spends roughly 0.1 percent of its GDP on programs to help people deal with changes in the workplace much less than similar developed nations. This funding has also declined over the past three decades.
This is where Trumps style of leadership appears, at worst, disastrously cynical, and at best, ignorantly short sighted. By invoking a bygone era of American manufacturing, Trump undoubtedly tapped into a significant form of anxiety present in a large portion of the country. But his solutions, a dramatic reduction in immigration and tax breaks for corporations who move sparse manufacturing jobs to the U.S., dont even take into account changes in technology.
The people left behind by the advances in automation have faced the steady creep of obsolescence, in the form of a shrinking number of available jobs, for the past decade, and Trump promised to rewind time, to a period before artificial intelligence. A post-election analysis from FiveThirtyEight found that one of the best predictors of whether or not a county voted for Trump wasnt unemployment or income, but its proportion of jobs that are considered routine, an economic term for jobs that are easily automated. Areas with a high percentage of routine jobs voted in significant numbers for Donald Trumps vision of an America stopped in time.
Republicans in the House and Senate, similarly, have no discernible plan for how to address technologys impact on the workforce. Theyve instead spent the past decade working single-mindedly on taking control of the government in order to enact an economic and moralistic vision frozen in the 1980s.
Im very worried that the next wave [of AI and automation] will hit and we wont have the supports in place, Lawrence Katz, an economist at Harvard told the MIT Technology Review. Katzs research is focused on how public spending on education in the 1900s helped America make the economic shift from agriculture to manufacturing. Theres plenty of reason to believe that, as Wireds Clive Thompson points out, the next blue collar job in America could be computer programming. An initiative to teach coding to the millions of Americans whose jobs will slowly phase out in the face of AI would take years to develop and enact, and it doesnt even appear to be on anyones mind.
The report from the final days of Obamas White House makes sure to point out that:
The next few years will find our government squabbling over a health care law that for the most part works, and passing dramatic forms of austerity that have never proven effective in the long term. The cost of attending college, a critical tool for finding a job in the new economy, will likely continue to rise unabated. All the while technology will continue to alter the way millions of Americans work, for better and for worse.
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Posted: at 7:10 pm
Is a threat to eliminate the tax exemption of churches that endorse candidates or political parties posed by a 1954 law called the Johnson Amendment a constitutional infringement on the rights of church leaders to freely express themselves from the pulpit?
At ColoradoPolitics.com, Deb Walker, executive director of Citizens Project writes, Government may not subsidize political endorsements through tax exemption, and that The Johnson Amendment ensures that citizens of all faith traditions (or no faith tradition) are not inadvertently financially supporting church-based politicking. There are two failures in reasoning here.
First, the reasons for exempting churches from taxation are distinguishable from those that apply to other types of charitable organizations. Whereas the law may exempt secular charities because it deems that the charitable purposes provide public benefits that outweigh the need to tax such activities, the principle of not taxing churches originates in the constitutional, philosophical and political foundations of our nation.
The Supreme Court examined this principle in Everson v. Board of Education, a 1947 case affirming the authority of a state to provide funding for school busses to transport children to Catholic schools in New Jersey writing, The centuries immediately before and contemporaneous with the colonization of America had been filled with turmoil, civil strife and persecutions, generated in large part by established sects determined to maintain their absolute political and religious supremacy. These practices of the old world began to thrive in the soil of the new AmericaCatholics found themselves hounded and proscribed because of their faithmen and women of varied faithswere persecuted. And all of these dissenters were compelled to pay tithes and taxes to support government-sponsored churches.
The people [of Virginia], as elsewhere, reached the conviction that individual religious liberty could be achieved best under a government which was stripped of all power to tax[in order to] interfere with the beliefs of any religious individual or group.
The establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment means at least thisno tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion.
This sounds as if the Court would hold that New Jersey has no authority to provide taxpayer-funded school busses for Catholic schoolchildren, but thats not case. What the Court pointed out in affirming that policy is that the amendment commands that New Jerseycannot exclude individual Catholics, Lutherans, Mohammedans, Baptists, Jews, Methodists, Nonbelievers, Presbyterians, or the members of any other faith, because of their faith, or lack of it, from receiving the benefits of public welfare legislation. (Emphasis in original)
The second error is that a tax exemption is not a subsidy. An exemption from a tax is not giving the person or group exempted something they dont already have. Neither a taxpayer not affiliated with a religious organization nor the government has something taken from them that goes to a church merely because the church doesnt pay a tax. Therefore, a tax exemption does not mean that the public is financially supporting church-based politicking, nor does it mean that the government is entangled in underwriting partisan political activity.
Where the Johnson Amendment and Walker go wrong is in failing to understand that when it comes to religion the taxing power of Congress has a constitutional hurdle it must overcome that doesnt apply to conventional non-religious charitable organizations.
The historic truths cited by the Supreme Court stand for the proposition that the government cannot tax religious institutions in ways that inhibit the free exercise of religion just as much as it does the proposition that it cannot tax anyone for the purposes of advancing religion.
Thus, when it comes to religious institutions its questionable whether or not the 501(c)(3) rules apply at all because it is the First Amendment itself that arguably prohibits the taxation of churches because religion-suppressing taxation has always been as formidable an enemy of religious freedom throughout history as religion-supporting taxation has, as the Supreme Court points out and as the Founders went to great pains to avoid.
Religiously motivated speech is a constitutionally protected aspect of religious liberty that cannot be suppressed by the threat of anti-religious, anti-free-speech government taxation. This includes the freedom of both ministers and others to preach in favor of or against any political party or candidate or any other matter that they believe would either threaten or support their rights to religious freedom.
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Posted: at 7:07 pm
Phobophobes rise into 2017 nestled atop a wave of attention focused towards the revitalized South London scene with new single ‘The Never Never’, due for release March 24th via Ra-Ra Rok Records. Following previous single ‘Human Baby’, an elegy to their late guitarist George Russell that was played every day for a week on BBC 6Music, ‘The Never Never’ arrives an ode to the precarious survivalism of society’s most disenfranchised. Swirling through repetitive slogans, rubbishing the adverts that promise a life we can’t really afford as pastiche, and asking earnestly, “what separates those treading water to survive from the religious idols who struggled so similarly?”
“The Never Never is a critique of today’s excessive consumerism. The repetitive and slogan-esque nature of the track evokes the reductive nature of advertising.” explains frontman Jamie Taylor.
In the wake of a tumultuous 2016, Phobophobes continue to forge their own path, taking whatever’s thrown at them and squeezing every ounce of inspiration from it. It’s the only way they know. Frontman Jamie Taylor has built studio space wherever he’s roamed, from Paris to Peckham to Primrose Hill. Even Pittsburgh, Iowa, Palm Beach and New York whilst working on a touring art exhibition across America, setting up a studio in each hotel room to work on new tracks. Even when invited to Abbey Road Studios to record with Ken Scott (Bowie, Lennon, the list goes on), bass player at the time, Elliot, took swabs of their oldest microphone and grew bacteria in petri dishes, the results of which are immortalised in Phobophobes’ artwork and in the centre of their 7″s.
This boundless DIY mentality echoes through Phobophobes’ every move. Having now found home in the basement of The Brixton Windmill, the nucleus of South London’s gig circuit where Phobophobes record, rehearse and also put on their own shows, playing alongside Shame, Goat Girl, Meatraffle, The Fat White Family, Childhood and countless others, they remain progenitors of the scene.
Following a single launch show at London’s MOTH Club, Phobophobes will tour the UK with LIFE through April on the dates below. The band are currently readying their debut full-length album and will release ‘The Never Never’ on 7″ vinyl this March 24th via Ra-Ra Rok Records.
PHOBOPHOBES New 7″ single ‘The Never Never’ due March 24th via Ra-Ra Rok Records
Stream ‘The Never Never’ https://soundcloud.com/phobophobes/the-never-never-single
UK Tour with LIFE begins April 1st
March 13 London, Moth Club (single launch)
April w/ LIFE 1 Hull, The Welly Club 2 Glasgow, King Tuts 3 Manchester, Gullivers 5 Birmingham, The Sunflower Lounge 6 London, Camden Assembly 7 Bristol, Crofters Rights
Phobophobes are: Jamie Taylor (Guitar/Vocals), Chris OC (Keys), Dan Lyons (Drums), Jack Fussey (Guitar), Bede Trillo (Bass) & Christo McCracken (Guitar).
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Posted: at 7:07 pm
Mail-order brides have deep roots in American history, dating back to the colonial period.
By Marcia A. Zug February 2017
Modern mail-order brides are often stereotyped as young foreign women desperate to escape their homeland, but there was a time when mail-order brides were seen as strong pioneer women. There have been mail-order brides in America as long as there have been Europeans in America but the course of time has changed the perceptions of these women. In Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches (NYU Press, 2016) author Marcia A. Zug traces the history of mail-order brides in America from colonial times to the present.
To find more books that pique our interest, visit the Utne Reader Bookshelf.
“As Catherine looks out across the water, she wonders what her life will be like when she reaches Virginia. She knows that conditions will be hard, but life in England was also hard. At least in the colony, there is the possibility of advancement. The Virginia Company has assured her and the other women that they will have their choice of marriage partners. They have promised that the men are wealthy, or at least will be with the womens help, and that the women will have a share of this wealth. Catherine knows it is a risk, but she has been assured she can always return home if she changes her mind. Regardless, Catherine expects to stay. There is little for her back in England. She will marry a colonist and help found a nation.”
The above thoughts illustrate what I believe one of the first mail-order brides might have felt as she traveled thousands of miles from England to settle in the Virginia colony. There is no actual record of the hopes and fears of these young women. Nevertheless, we do know that their arrival in 1619 was eagerly anticipated and desired.
Marriage was vital to the success of the colony. Wives were needed to create stable family units, produce and care for children, and cement Americas racial and cultural hierarchy. However, the difficulty was that few European women were interested in immigrating. In fact, female immigration to the colonies was so rare that when a group of forty women from La Fleche, France, began boarding a ship for Canada in 1659, the townspeople tried to prevent their departure because they were convinced the women were being kidnapped. Mail-order marriage helped resolve this problem. These women immigrated when others would not, and consequently, their presence was considered critically important.
The risks the early settlers faced were substantial. Most potential colonists had heard frightening accounts of disease and famine, and many of these stories seemed to indicate that women were particularly vulnerable. One horrific tale from Virginia involved a colonist who slue his wife as she slept in his bosome, cut her in pieces, powedered her & fedd upon her till he had clean devoured all her parts saveinge her heade. In the northern colonies, settlers such as the Puritans and the Quakers accepted these risks as the price of religious freedom, and as a result, these areas had little difficulty attracting large numbers of family groups. In contrast, the southern colonies, which lacked this religious draw, had a much harder time finding families willing to accept the dangers and hardships of colonial life. A handful of women came to the colonies shortly after the first male settlers arrived, but their numbers were small, and even fewer came with their children. Moreover, some families, like that of Sir Thomas Gates, sent their daughters back to England if their wives died. As early as 1609, a broadside (poster) produced by the Virginia Company of London demonstrated that the colonys governing body recognized the need to recruit women. The broadside was directed at family groups and specifically emphasized that both men and women were needed for the better strengthening of the colony. Nevertheless, despite such appeals, few families immigrated to the southern colonies. Instead, the majority of southern colonists were single men, primarily individual speculators and fortune hunters, who came to profit from Americas abundant land and natural resources and then return home. As colonial historian Julia Cherry Spruill has noted, these men were not interested in building permanent homes in Virginia or in cultivating lands to be enjoyed by future generations. They simply planned to make their fortunes and then return to England.
The transient nature of the southern population was problematic, and it quickly became clear that the lack of women was threatening the future of the fledgling colony. In 1614, the Virginia Companys lawyer, Richard Martin, spoke before the House of Lords and highlighted the threat posed by the colonys gender disparity. He informed the members, a significant number of whom had shares in the com- pany,that Virginia desperately needed honest laborers, with wives and children. He then recommended the appointment of a committee to consider ways to increase family immigration. Other members of the Virginia Company shared Martins immigration concerns. However, class politics ultimately prevented consideration of his proposal. Martin was only a lawyer and not a lord, so his requests, which went beyond legal advice, were considered presumptuous. One contemporary described his speech as the most unfitting that was ever spoken in the house. Consequently, not only were Martins appeals ignored, they resulted in punishment. The day after appearing before the House of Lords, Martin was arraigned for contempt. He was brought before Sir Randall Crew, the Speaker of the House, forced to kneel, and given following admonishment:
“The case was this a petition relative to the Virginia Company had been presented, and an order for the Council to appear, that he as their Attorney had represented himself with diverse Lords. That the House at first was disposed to listen to him with all due respect and love; that the retrospect of the Virginia Plantation was acceptable, for it had been viewed with the eyes of love. But afterwards, he has impertinently digressed, for it was not his place to censure and advise. The House had therefore brought him before them, and although many were his acquaintances, yet all now looked upon him with the eyes of judges, and not as private friends.”
After Martins censure, the issue of family immigration was dropped, but the lack of women remained a significant problem. Finally, in 1619, the Virginia Companys treasurer, Sir Edwin Sandys, who now controlled the company, decided to address the issue. He warned his fellow shareholders that if immediate action was not taken, the colonys gender imbalance would soon breed a dissolucon, and so an overthrow of the Plantation. Sandys recommended sponsoring the immigration of single women because he believed their presence would make the men more setled [and] lesse moveable and decrease the number of men who, because of the dearth of women, stay [in the colony] but to gett something and then return for England. This time, the recommendation to address the colonys female immigration problem was met with approval. After hearing Sandyss suggestion, Lord Francis Bacon, a founding member of the company, immediately expressed his public support declaring it time to plant with women as well as with men; that the plantation may spread into generations, and not ever pieced from without. Shortly after Sandyss request, the company began recruiting single women to marry the Jamestown colonists.
In the spring of 1620, ninety mail-order brides arrived in Jamestown. Their arrival was considered a success, and the next year Sandys requested funds to transport an additional one hundred women. By this time, the company was in financial difficulties and no longer had the necessary money. However, because Sandys insisted that more women were absolutely essential, the company agreed to raise the money by subscription. Due to these efforts, another fifty brides were sent to Jamestown. Altogether, the Virginia Company sponsored the immigration of 140 mail-order brides. The arrival of these women was intended to reduce the number of male colonists returning to England, but this was not the only reason female immigration was considered necessary. Despite the femaleless wasteland described by Sandys, the colony did not actually lack women. America was filled with indigenous women, and relationships between the male colonists and native women occurred almost immediately.
As early as 1608, after disease and starvation wiped out nearly a third of the original Jamestown colonists, a large number of the male survivors began taking Indian wives. By 1612, the Spanish ambassador to England reported that between 40 to 50 Englishman . . . had married Indian women. He also informed the company that nearly all of these men had abandoned the colony for their wives villages. Only two years earlier, the entire population of Jamestown consisted of sixty colonists. Consequently, the number of desertions described by the ambassador was shocking. Just as concerning was the fact that these desertions seemed unstoppable. Virginia Governor Dale had already decreed that deserters were to be hanged, some burned, some to be broke upon wheels, others to be staked and some to be shot to death. This law had little effect, and colonial men continued to leave the colony.
Desertions contributed to the already declining population, while also undermining the moral justification for the entire colonial endeavor. Virginia settlers had rationalized colonization by highlighting the supposed differences between themselves and the countrys native inhabitants. Captain John Smiths 1607 report on the native population of Virginia epitomized this trend, characterizing the local Indians as cruel, irrational, vengeful, treacherous, and barbaric. He also accused these tribes of Satanism. He described the Virginia Indians as devil worshippers who prayed to idols shaped with such deformity as may well suit with such a god and claimed they practiced child sacrifice. Such accusations seemed to confirm the English colonizers belief in their moral and religious superiority. However, intermarriage threatened these distinctions.
Britains recent colonizing venture in Ireland had demonstrated that settlers were extremely likely to adopt the customs and manners of native inhabitants with whom they intermixed. One typical report from the Irish colony bewailed the number of Englishmen who in small time have grown wild in Ireland, and become in language and qualities Irish. This report also noted the paucity of Irishmen who do in exchange become civilized and English. Virginias colonial leaders worried that marriage to Indian women would lead to similar results. Specifically, they feared that intermarriage would cause European men to abandon their civility and become indistinguishable from the heathen savages. This fear was then further exacerbated by the perceived sexual availability of Indian women. In John Smiths 1612 account of life in the early Virginia colony, he wrote about his visit to one of Powhatans (Pocahontass father) villages and noted that in any of these villages, an Englishman could expect a woman freshly painted red with pocones and oil to be his bed fellow. Smith also detailed his own experience. He claimed to have been greeted by 30 young women [who] came naked out of the woods (only covered behind and before with a few greene leaves), their bodies all painted, some white, some red, some black, some partie colour, but every one different. He then described being invited back to their lodging where they more tormented him than ever, with crowding, and pressing, and hanging upon him, most tediously crying, love you not mee? Similar, although less colorful, accounts were provided by colonist and company secretary William Strachey, who declared that the local women were most voluptious and eager to embrace the acquaintance of any Straunger.
In order to prevent desertions to the native villages and lessen the attractions of native women, colonial leaders described white/Indian relationships as religiously prohibited. In his 1609 sermon, the colonial Reverend William Symonds railed against the dangers of miscegenation. Symonds cited the biblical injunction that Gods people in Canaan keepe to themselves, and not marry nor give in marriage to the heathen, that are uncircumcized, and he warned that the breaking of this rule jeopardized ones chance for eternal salvation and risked all good succese of this voyage. Symondss religious admonishment did little to stem the flow of desertions, and even within the colony, some determined men found ways around this prohibition. The most famous intermarried colonist was John Rolfe. In his letter to Governor Dale seeking permission to marry Pocahontas, Rolfe acknowledged the heavie displeasure which almightie God conceived against the sonnes of Levie and Israel for marrying strange wives. Nevertheless, he argued that this concern was inapplicable to his own relationship, because Pocahontas was converting to Christianity and, thus, their marriage would actually be furthering Gods work and assisting with Rolfes owne salvation. Rolfes arguments were persuasive and earned Dales endorsement of the marriage.
By 1619, it had become clear that neither religious prohibitions nor capital punishment was a sufficient deterrent against intermarriage. The company, therefore, concluded that the best way to reduce desertions and ensure the colony remained racially and ethnically distinct was to provide colonial men with a viable marriage alternative to native women. Understandably, the women recruited to fulfill this important task were chosen with care. They were not prostitutes, criminals, or beggars. In fact, out of the thirty-eight women whose social status is known, eight had links to the gentry. According to the company records, four of the women were the daughters of gentlefolk; two others had uncles and one cousin (once removed) who were knights; and the eighth was described as the daughter of Mr. Gervase Markham, of the Nottinghamshire gentry. In addition, the company insisted that all the women had been received . . . upon good recommendation.
Posted: at 7:07 pm
There is a gross falsehood proliferated by those whose horizons stretch no further than the end of their nose. The fallacy is that all modern music is simply repetitions of ideas and concepts from yesteryear, that there isnt a single riff, lick, chord or note that has never been played before. Apart from the fact that this is an incredibly fatuous, narrow-minded view that completely ignores essential components of music such as craft, composition, personality, chemistry, technology, instrumentation, dynamics and tone (to name but a few), it also leads perfectly rationale people to spout nonsense;how many times have we heard the ridiculous notionthatThe Beatles invented every idea found in modern music and nobody’s come up with a solitary original idea since?
Unless theres an unreleased album of Black Metal mixed with African-American Slave music by Messrs McCartney, Lennon, Harrison and Starr hiding in a dusty Abbey Road vault, we can probably nip that particular falsity in the bud. Instead, this particular combination of disparate genres can be credited to songwriter Manuel Gagneux, the brainchild behind Zeal & Ardor. If you really do think youve heard every trick that modern music has to offer, you might want to listen to the stream of their debut album Devil is Fine above; its unlikely you will have heard anything quite like it before.
The genesis for Zeal & Ardor came when Gagneuxbecame frustrated workingon a different musical project, his incredibly diverse, difficult to define, alternative chamber pop projectBirdmask.Whenever Gagneux would run in to a creative stumbling block, he would go on to 4Chan, an internet bulletin board where anyone can post anonymously on a wide variety of topics, and ask people for two musical genres. He would then combine them and write a song within half an hour, purely as a means to get his creative juices flowing once again. It wasn’teven my idea to mix these two genres Gagneux says humbly I totally stole it! The first iteration of this combination was pretty horrible to be honest, but the idea stuck with me and I pursued it
Gagneuxs enthusiasm for black metal started, as it does for most fans of the genre, as a teenager. I was trying to listen to listen to the most extreme music I could find, you know how teens are. My friend introduced me to Burzum and Darkthrone and told me that they were the most evil people on the planet of course, I was intrigued! I became so enthralled by black metal because it’s all enveloping sound; its very aggressive but even tender in some moments.
Chain gang music, whilst not something Gagneux listens to on a regular basis, was introduced to him as a child by his Swiss father and American mother. My parents listened to these old Lomax recordings for a while when I was growing up. They were something I’d totally forgotten about but recently re-discovered and I dove into them for this project.’
Mixing genres is all well and good but if the individual strands of the hybrid are no good, youll be falling at the first hurdle. Gagneux has efficaciously captured the essence and sentiment of African slave music; the authenticity is so convincing, accusations were made against him, saying hed stolen old Lomax recordings and sampled them without permission (he didnt, he just sang loudly into a shit microphone with too much signal to get that authentic, lo-fi recording sound of the 30s and 40s).
As Gagneux began putting the music together, images began to form in his head of African chain gangs rebelling against their Christian captors by invoking Satanism. He took this idea and ran with it as a thematic thread to pin on to the record. Devil is Fines artwork shows signs of the extensive research Gagneux put into the project; the photograph is of a real enslaved African-American, Robert Smalls, who managed to free himself and 17 other slaves during the American Civil War by commandeering a Confederate transport ship stacked with Howitzer guns and several hundred rounds of ammunition. It was a daring escape for such a young man; Smalls was just 22 when he put his perilous plan into action and he lived to the age of 75, very respectable for someone born in the 19th century. Once he was free, Smalls lived a very full life, serving as a civilian pilot and armed transport captain for the military and later got into politics as a member of the US House of Representatives.
Superimposed over the image of Smalls is The Sigil of Lucifer, sometimes referred to as the Seal of Satan. One of the lesser known symbols in modern Satanism, its believed to hold connections to a greater, supernatural power, in this case, Satan himself. I think superimposing Lucifers sigil over the image of Robert Smalls neatly sums up the intention and theme of this record to me says Gagneux. Without trying to sound too corny, its meant to represent these African slaves summoning something sinister and liberating themselves through Satan. Imagine if slaves in America had rejected the Christianity that was foisted upon them and embraced Satanism instead. Rather than being forced to accept the will of God, they choose defiance and rebellion; thats the world in which this album is rooted. Im an atheist, I dont really believe in God, but parts of modern Satanism do gel with me whilst other parts dont. Its fiction at the end of the day but it’s well researched; I’ve put an embarrassing amount of time into reading occult books to get this stuff right!
The album artwork superimposes the Sigil of Lucifer over an image of freed slave Robert Smalls
Whilst the black metal and slave music hybridisation has got the most media attention thus far, theres actually a large pool of various genre influences that Gagneux is drawing from on Devil is Fine; elements of electronica, cradle songs, spiritual chanting, delta-blues licks and funk are all touched on throughout Devil is Fines 25minutes. Childrens Summon sounds like Dragonforce put through a Watain filter. Whats a Killer Like You Gonna Do Here? evokes a darker, more sinister Tom Waits. Given the somewhat purist attitude of a certain breed of metal fan, Zeal & Ardor have and will continue to provoke strong reactions, both positive and negative.
It’s not a primary intention of mine to aggravate those people but it is funny to see some of the reactions says Gagneux. Black metal used to be the most extreme music known to man, but now, it’s almost classical. It seems natural to want to evolve it and figure out alternatives and evolutions. There’s been quite a few polarising opinions but actually I really appreciate them because some of them mention things where there might be room for improvement. Zeal & Ardor to me is not done, I’m still trying to figure out how it could be better and some of these negative comments are quite helpful because they point out what I could do better.
Zeal & Ardor is just the latest in a long line of developments in the world of music, an artform that continues to develop and metamorphose, despite the protestations of those stuck in the past or who fear change. Music is a force that is constantly changing and evolving; the notion that the well will run dry and that everythings already been done is an idea that says more about the person expressing it than it does about the state of modern music. Some may dismiss Zeal & Ardor as a gimmick but Gagneux is determined to not let that happen. As a live unit, the project will be expanded from just Gagneux to six musicians, including two backing singers. It’s a fine line to walk because I don’t ever want the music to be secondary to the show, but I have a few ideas. The record is only 25 minutes long but if we do a 25 minute set, people will kill us and will have every right to do so! So theres a few new ideas and songs for people that come to see us live. I’m in the process of distilling the project, making it more extreme in both directions and gelling the two elements together a little more precisely.
Devil is Fine is released through MVKA on 24th February on vinyl, CD and digitally. Zeal & Ardor commence a European tour in March including a date at The Underworld in Camden, London on 20th April
Posted: at 6:48 pm
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Ping Wu
Ping Wu, MD, PhDJohn S. Dunn Distinguished Chair in Neurological Recovery Professor, Department of Neuroscience & Cell Biology University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston, TX 77555-0620
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Zika viral infection poses a major global public health threat, evidenced by recent outbreaks in America with many cases of microcephaly in newborns and other neurological impairments. A critical knowledge gap in our understanding is the role of host determinants of Zika-mediated fetal malformation. For example, not all infants born to Zika-infected women develop microcephaly, and there is a wide range of Zika-induced brain damage. To begin to fill the gap, we infected brain stem cells that were derived from three human donors, and found that only two of them exhibited severer deficits in nerve cell production along with aberrant alterations in gene expression.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Our study indicates that human genetic makeup may be a determinant for the severity of Zika-induced brain damage.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: Further studies are needed to identitywhat genes contribute to the human differences after Zika infection.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: It is known that not all Zika virus strains causemicrocephaly. Our study now shows that brain cells from different human individuals can respond to the same Zika virus strain differently.Understanding the molecular mechanisms of human and viral determinants in response to Zika injection will provide important insights into new strategies to minimize ZIKV-mediated fetal brain malformations.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Stem Cell Reports:
Differential Responses of Human Fetal Brain Neural Stem Cells to Zika Virus Infection
Erica L. McGrath10,Shannan L. Rossi10,Junling Gao10,Steven G. Widen,Auston C. Grant,Tiffany J. Dunn,Sasha R. Azar, Christopher M. Roundy,Ying Xiong,Deborah J. Prusak,Bradford D. Loucas,Thomas G. Wood,Yongjia Yu,Ildefonso Fernndez-Salas,Scott C. Weaver,Nikos Vasilakis ,Ping Wu10Co-first author Published Online: February 16, 2017
Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.
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