Positivity and Relevance in Hip-Hop

I have never been the biggest fan of hip-hop.  Sure, I liked me some old school rap in the 90’s, RunDMC, Onyx, Will Smith, y’know… back when rap was “safe” and “fun”, at least in the main stream.  They even hung out with the likes of Aerosmith and Anthrax, it was a great time for music.  Unfortunately, as time moved on I lost almost all interest in rap entirely, especially after Biggie and Tupac had their whole thing and the entire scene seemed to turn rather dark, violent and sectarian.  Gangsta this, fuck that, gang this, bling and drugs – I couldn’t relate.  It took a great many years and a rapper named Eminem to get me to pay attention again.  I didn’t really even want to like Eminem at first, but it’s hard not to pay attention to some of the things that man says, and he says them well.

Now, I know it’s the most cliché thing possible, that Eminem not only brought me back into the hip-hop scene in some way, he also became my favourite rapper… but it’s true.  Eminem struck a chord with many people obviously, not just me, but in 2002 he released “White America”, and it was a massively relevant song.  He wasn’t just slinging the lyrics that had gotten him in trouble to begin with, but he was speaking directly to the people he knew would be pouring over every word of his next album.  He had written a song about a topic that actually mattered, had done it extremely well, and it was hip-hop.  I was floored.

The last time I felt any kind of relevance of positivity of this magnitude from the genre was Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise”, and even then… it was a re-imagining of a Stevie Wonder classic.  I also would like to give a nod to some underground rappers that have remained relevant, I’d be remiss not to, Immortal Technique’s “Dance With the Devil” is another powerful and poetic hip-hop song, that if nothing else, makes you think.  Unfortunately, these are underground artists, and you wont hear something like that on Hot97.

I know some of you might be saying, “How could he consider songs like this positive?”  To answer that, in my mind, anything that calls attention to hypocrisy, anything that shakes people up, wakes them up to a a reality (unpleasant or otherwise) that they were unaware of before – is a positive thing.

That brings me to what actually inspired today’s post.  In 2012, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis released an album called “The Heist” that has to date generated four singles.  While I enjoyed each of them because I found them to be fun and upbeat songs, the one that struck a chord with me in particular was a song called “Same Love”, and I want to share it here.

If I could say one thing to these two gentleman, it would be a simple, “Thank you,” and it would be well deserved.  Not only did they write an excellent, relevant song, but these two men have had the courage to stand up and do something – as upstart artists – that was essentially unheard of before.  Macklemore says it best in the opening to the song, “If I was gay, I’d think hip-hop hates me.”

No freedom ’til we’re equal.

*NOTE: The banner above supports a website that shares the music of hip-hop artists that agree with my sentiment.

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Meanwhile, in Florida

Statue of Liberty Ashamed

So the country, the internet and apparently the city of Oakland exploded in a fury after hearing the “Not Guilty” verdict handed down to George Zimmerman by a jury of his peers yesterday evening.  I wish I could say I was surprised.  This was one of those highly publicized trials that everyone and their mother seems to have an opinion on, regardless of whether or not they were following the case, kept abreast of the facts, or even knowledgeable of the laws being brought into question during the trial.

We see this phenomenon from time to time, the OJ Simpson and Casey Anthony trials are two I can think of off the top of my head during which the national media created a feeding frenzy, and that the nation has reacted with the same fervor towards.  The Zimmerman/Martin trial stands out at this particular point primarily because it is fresh in all of our minds, but also because it brings self-defense/stand your ground laws into question and because law enforcement (or at least 911 operators) were involved during the entire scenario.

The facts of the case are not up for debate.  Zimmerman reported a ‘suspicious person’ to 911 operators.  The 911 operator ordered Zimmerman to stand down – he followed Martin, was then confronted by Martin, a physical struggled ensued between the man and the boy (during which Zimmerman was struck and had his head smacked into the concrete), then Zimmerman drew his firearm and shot Martin at point blank range, ending his life.  These are the facts, like them or not.

Zimmerman’s trial defense was simple, self-defense, as set forth by the Stand Your Ground law; a law first approved in 2005 which has been recreated in many areas of the country.  This law states that, “People fearing for their lives can use deadly force without having to retreat from a confrontation, even when it is possible.”  In receiving  the “Not Guilty” verdict, the trial’s jury is stating that they cannot prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Zimmerman was guilty of 2nd Degree Murder or Manslaughter via analysis of the facts that they are given during the course of the trial, the facts I stated above.

Personal Note: I, in good conscience, cannot stand on the side of this verdict and call it “justice”.  I believe our system has failed us in this case.  As far as I can tell, this man ignored a direct order from law enforcement, and then in being confronted – decided that his only form of self-defense was to end this boy’s life.  Zimmerman stands 5’7″ and weighs 185 lbs.  Martin stood 6’1″ and weighed 158 lbs.  I am a martial artist, and in any fighting arena – Zimmerman would have been considered to be in the higher weight class – and would be considered to have the advantage in nearly any physical confrontation he’d have with Martin (regardless of their height difference).

In my humble opinion, the jury and court which passed down this verdict, are setting a precedent that it’s now okay to murder someone that ‘beat you up’.  I believe we witnessed an extreme miscarriage of justice in this case.

Agree with me, or not, it is how I feel.  While I do not believe Zimmerman should have been found guilty of 2nd Degree Murder, I think the Manslaughter charge should have stuck.  He put himself in the situation after being advised against it and ended this boy’s life with zero consequences.  I simply cannot believe that Zimmerman was incapable of defending himself with anything other than a gun.

Normally, I’d say that this is just status-quo for how things are these days.  Normally, I’d tsk, sigh, shake my head, and move on.  I’d make a mental note not to forget, but I’d move on.  Normally, I wouldn’t feel that this would warrant a blog post – especially not one this long…  but I’d done it again.  So help me, I did it again, I read the news.

That’s where I found this: FL Mother Gets 20 Years for Firing Warning Shots and that’s when my head fucking exploded.  I immediately decided to research this and found that The Huffington Post has an incredibly detailed article citing the facts of the case, I will place some quotes from the article here:

On Aug. 1, 2010, a fight between Alexander and her husband, Rico Gray, 36, left her cornered in the couple’s home. She fled into the garage to escape but was trapped behind a jammed door, she stated in court documents. She said she grabbed the gun she kept in the garage, returned to the house and, when Gray threatened to kill her, fired a single shot to ward him off.

Gray ran out of the house with his two sons and called the police. Alexander was arrested and charged. She unsuccessfully invoked her right to stand her ground in court. Alexander’s sentencing comes 435 days after the shooting. It took a jury 12 minutes to find her guilty.

Gray himself admitted in a deposition to abusing “all five of his babies’ mamas except one,” and to hitting Alexander. Alexander’s family and supporters say that Gray’s testimony should not be trusted, because he perjured himself by changing his account of events on the night of the shooting between his early depositions and later court hearings — a claim that was not disputed by Corey, the state attorney. *NOTE: Angela Corey was also the prosecutor for George Zimmerman.

Corey stated, “I feel like when someone fires a loaded gun inside of a home with two children standing in the direction where the bullet was fired, we have to have tough laws that say you don’t do that,” Corey told HuffPost. “Justice, with the laws of the state of Florida, was served. But I don’t believe her supporters will ever believe that.”

Alexander has maintained that she wasn’t trying to hurt anyone and that she was standing her ground against a man who had over the course of nearly a year punched and choked her on several different occasions. Alexander says that she believed she was protected that day under the state’s Stand Your Ground Law, which gives people wide discretion in using deadly force to defend themselves.

Alexander, whom did not have a criminal record before the shooting was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for firing into a wall.

I don’t think I actually need to specifically point out the hypocrisy of these two verdicts, in the same state’s courts no less.  There are so many things wrong with the things I’ve read in the past 24 hours that simply cannot be reconciled.  This isn’t a simple fix, but nothing worth doing has ever been easy.  It’s time for us to wake up, be aware, start thinking and take some action.  Write letters, show up to protests, make your voice heard by any means possible.

If you want to help Marissa Alexander and learn more facts of the case, there has been a blogspot made to give her voice a platform: Justice for Marissa.

Thanks for reading.

So I went and did it again…

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…I read the news.

This act, by and large, is always a mistake for me.  It only truly ever succeeds in making me angry.  This reaction can be caused by any number of things that are prevalent in the news: acts of terror, religious extremism, hate, celebrity bullshit, torture – but today – today it was politics, today, I found this absolute and inane pile of bullshit on Huffington Post: North Carolina GOP Attaches Abortion Restrictions To Motorcycle Safety Bill With No Public Notice.

Which almost immediately sent me into a sort of blind, frothing rage.  I have railed against the piggybacking and stacking of pork on legislation irrelevant to the name or initial purpose of the bill for a long time now, in conversation, on my facebook amongst friends, it is something that has been used for decades in the United States as a method to sucker punch our civil liberties and here is another prime example of why it’s such a big issue, not to mention it’s an often used method our elected officials take advantage of to ‘pay back’ their campaign contributors… that they do not need to identify. (Which is a whole other can of worms that would require its own post.)

I immediately thought of this meme I had seen of sign on the back of a red pickup truck that said something along the lines of, “My Five Step Plan To Fix This Country”, and it itemized 5 ideas (some better than others) but one of those ideas was the prevention of irrelevant legislation.  I tried to find it to share here, but I simply can’t seem to locate it.  (If one of you happens to know what I’m talking about, please share it in the comments below.)

Anyway, when I searched for it, I instead came across this petition created by an organization called No Labels: 12 Ways to Make Congress Work! The title was obviously something I found attractive. They should be working at least as hard as we do. This is a petitioning campaign that introduces some ideas that force them to not only work, but communicate. I like it.  The only problem is, even this petition does not include any measure to prevent legislative piggybacking.

I’m currently seeking a campaign that is concerned with this practice as much as I am, if anyone knows of one, please alert me to it.

My Favourite Shelf

I recently reorganized my book shelf after spending some cash at Barnes & Noble, and this is currently my favourite shelf on it.  If you happen to be a hardcover fan, the leather bound classic series they carry are beautiful.  I definitely plan to purchase more in the future.

Having done this, I’m rather proud of how it looks, and thought I’d share it.  Aren’t you a bunch of lucky devils?Image

Reflection Results in Rage

Still totally flabbergasted that I was plagiarized. Processing this has been interesting.

I began equal parts angry and flattered, but the more I think about it, the angrier I get. If he wanted to share it on his journal, it’s simple enough to provide a link.

I’m becoming less sure why I was anything but angry to begin with the longer I consider it.

I’ve Been Burgled! (Sort of?)

So in considering the topic for my next blog post, I decided to reflect back upon the miniscule amount of work I have posted on the internet before choosing one.  As I said earlier regarding free form role playing: it has been the bulk of my effort and practice, and I have essentially nothing to show for it.

Aside from that, I had a Live Journal, y’know, back in the long-long-ago.  It is also just as useless.  Nothing of merit ever really went up there and it was more the rantings of a confused teenager, than the rantings of a slightly less confused adult.

I did the MySpace things for a minute too.  It was even more useless than my LiveJournal, and I deleted it many years ago.

Then there’s my facebook, which anything I actually deem worthy may make its way onto this blog eventually, I have not had the time to go through it yet.  Even when I do, it will all likely be edited or expanded upon for placement here.

The only thing I had left was my articles for vampires.com from 2010.  I don’t have access to login as a writer for them anymore, so I can’t check the stats that way, so I did the first thing I could think of – I googled it.  This led to my shocking discovery: I’d been burgled!

I could not believe my eyes.  There, right in front of me, was the article I had written copy and pasted into this guy’s journal, verbatim.  Now, he did not sign it at all… but he did remove the signature “-Fate” from the bottom. (I wrote as Fate because the owner liked his writers to use ‘edgy’ names, the lead writer’s name is Moonlight for example.)

Now, even though it wasn’t signed, it was in a journal! Does that not automatically entail him claiming ownership of it?  I’ve been thinking about this all morning and I just keep coming back to the mind blowing fact that I’d been plagiarized! I mean, it’s a mediocre article (at best), and this guy totally jacked it.

I found it strange as well because I just read a really great blog by Patton Oswalt the other day, in which he touched upon this very topic.  I really did not feel like I could relate, but in it he expresses his obvious anger at this being done.  In his case, it makes a lot of sense.  It’s his career, his livelihood, he has a reputation to maintain as a comedian, etc., etc.

I for one, at least at this moment, am not sure if I’m angry about it having been stolen.  I mean, this probably isn’t even a real profile.  I highly doubt anyone saw it, but does that matter?  I’m still too surprised to really even feel flattered by it.  I can’t help but wonder, “How should I feel?”, and that seems like the entirely wrong question to ask.

 

Musings on Times Gone Bye

I have always loved to write.  It’s something I enjoy immensely, and I found myself at a young age immersed in the online world of text based roleplaying.  If only I had the thousands and thousands of words I typed over the years, time thoroughly enjoyed would also not feel so thoroughly wasted, as I would at least feel I had something to show for my efforts.  Alas, that is not the case.

The part I liked the most about the dynamic of group, share-a-story, turn-based style of roleplaying was that I could find inspiration in the slightest thing.  My over-active imagination and ADD-esque constantly mercurial thoughts had found a way to unleash themselves.  I never had to really think about what I wanted to write, I found my niche and just wrote. Hopped right in there, both feet, never looked back.

Even after all these years it’s a hobby I thoroughly enjoy, but I am concerned it has gone from a tool I intended to use to find inspiration to a crutch, or rather an excuse to not actually write something that ideally, would be publishable.  At the very least a complete story that could be sent to a publisher.

Regardless, I am wondering if this blog might be able to assist in my endeavor in some way.  As I do not know what to write, I have always been told to, “Just write!”, so here’s that.  At the very least a blog is a place to record story ideas between my rants, random thoughts, inspirational/motivational/philosophical quotes, and of course my cat.  This IS the internet after all.

Non-existent audience, please meet, Hansi Jones:

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Probably the coolest cat ever.  He is named after the lead singer of Blind Guardian Hansi Kursch & everyone’s favourite archeologist Indiana Jones.  He’ll likely appear here from time to time.