Monthly Archives: December 2011

“A Christmas Carol”

Here’s Alistair Sim as the definitive Scrooge. The film celebrates its sixtieth Christmas this year. This is a pristine hi-def print. The entire thing runs at the single link above.

Russell Perkins’ “Northrop Frye on the Meaning of Christmas” here.

Saturday Night Video: Public Enemy

“Brothers Gonna Work It Out”

Twenty-five years ago Public Enemy brought hip-hop into the mainstream. Before the bling-and-ho silliness of more recent hip-hop, Public Enemy was delivering dispatches from the front. If you want to see the trajectory of the concern for social justice in youth culture over the last few decades, Public Enemy is a good place to gain some perspective. If you wonder why white suburban kids listen to hip-hop, it starts right here.

It’s impossible to convey here the cultural significance of hip-hop. But it is worth emphasizing that its roots run very deep into the oppressive conditions of poverty, and hip-hop, like gospel, blues, and jazz before it, is the musical response to the temptations of despair. The sampling that most characterizes hip-hop is suggestive of the necessity to pull together whatever spare materials are available in the rubble of urban life; in this case, primarily old vinyl records and still-functioning turntables in a world that had already gone digital. In the early days, the samples were primarily from 1970s funk, which made it easy to pick up the beat as a thread through otherwise unfamiliar territory.

Public Enemy, unfortunately, made cumbersome videos that got in the way of the music, so I’ve excluded them here in favor of audio tracks. The track up top, “Brothers Gonna Work It Out” is probably not the one most people think of when they remember Public Enemy: it would more likely be “Fight the Power” or “911 Is a Joke,” both included after the jump. But I’ve posted it first because it may be their best work. The album from which it and the other two tracks are taken, Fear of a Black Planet, was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2005. When I was searching YouTube for the version with the best sound quality, I noticed that a lot of the comments from various postings of it said something along the lines of, “the best hip-hop recording ever.”

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Frye on Democracy 7

From “The Critical Discipline”:

[T]he democracies seem to be forgetting their revolutionary traditions, and their will to face the future seems to be sapped by a morbid fear of losing what they now have. But both religion and democracy teach us that ordinary society is highly expendable. Christianity insists that man’s ordinary actions are worth very little in the sight of God. Democracy was not founded on a maudlin enthusiasm for the common man, but on inference from original sin: that men are not fit to be trusted with too much power. Our students have been conditioned to regard such doctrines as depressing, although they were part of the vision of life that inspired Milton and Lincoln. Without the sense of expanding possibilities that such a vision brings, it is hard to see how the democracies can mentally adapt even to the social changes that will be forced on them, much less develop the creative energy to make their own. (CW 7, 114-15)

Frye on Democracy 6

Here’s a quote on democracy as anarchism, which, unfortunately is not cross-referenced in the index, so it has not, up until now, been included in our earlier compilation, Frye on anarchism. To discover it now, however, is like unearthing treasure.

Democracy is anarchistic in the sense that it is an attempt to destroy the state by replacing it with an expanding federation of communities, a federation which reaches its limit only in a worldwide federation. (“The Analogy of Democracy,” CW 4, 271)

Elijah and Michele and Right Wing Concern Trolling


An earlier target of right wing rage: a brain damaged 12-year-old boy.

There is some controversy today over 8-year-old Elijah’s confrontation with Michele Bachmann about his gay mom. The favored meme, being pushed very hard on the right, is that the child was reluctant and that, in any event, it is wrong to coerce children to say something they might not say on their own. That’s a lot of unsafe assumptions about motive and circumstance. Here’s what an eyewitness to the scene who subsequently posted the video says about it:

I was standing in line with Elijah and his mom. His mom was going to say something to [Bachmann], but she got nervous and told me she wanted to leave. We were about to step out of the line but Elijah cried out, “Nooo!” He grabbed onto her coat and pulled her back in the line, saying he wanted to talk to her.

It is a familiar tactic on the right to ignore the message and attack the messenger or the means by which it is relayed. To express concern for the child in this instance has the marks of concern trolling, especially as advocates on the right — including elected officials — do not worry about the well-being of children if a direct and sustained personal attack has been determined as necessary, whatever the reason. A notorious example is Graeme Frost, whose story is outlined in the clip above.

It is also important to remember that Graeme is not the only one: this is a pattern of behavior.

Frye on Democracy 5

From “The Analogy of Democracy”:

One difficulty about defining the word “democracy” is that it is not the name of a specific form of government, like republic or monarchy. It represents, rather, an informing idea, a process, which, because it has developed out of the past, is traditional, and, because it is moving toward a future goal, revolutionary. . . Thus democracy is to be judged, not by what it does, but what it aims at in spite of what it does. The supremacy of civil over military power, the full publication of all acts of government, the toleration of unpopular opinion, are all recognized to be unchangeable principles of democracy even when they are flouted as often as exemplified. (CW 4, 27)

Tar Sands Update

Having lost out on the Keystone XL deal, the Harper government now wants to run a pipeline west through the Rockies to make good on a threat to ship toxic tar sands oil to China. Aboriginal leaders, however, say that’s not going to happen.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the Harper government has been secretly backed by the Conservative government of David Cameron in tar sands development.  Everywhere politicians on the right appear determined to develop fossil fuels for short term corporate gain, whatever the long term cost to the environment. That determination is increasing fatal in its consequences.

Finally, proving that he is a pulled-wool Republican after all, presidential candidate Jon Huntsman backflips and sticks the landing with marble-mouthed equivocation on global warming.

Email of the Day: “Subject: Occupy Our Homes”

Here’s an email sent out yesterday by Bank of America regarding today’s “Occupy Our Homes” day of protest. Full text below.

For context, Matt Taibbi on foreclosure fraud here.

On Tuesday December 6th there is a potential nationwide protest planned that could impact our industry. We believe protests will likely take place tomorrow at auction sites, homes that are being foreclosed, homes in the eviction stage and vacant homes. We need to be prepared.

  1. Your safety is our primary concern, so do not engage with the protesters.
  2.  While in neighborhoods, please take notice of vacant BAC Field Services managed homes and ensure they are secured.
  3. Remind all parties of the bank’s media policy and report any incidents to 800*796*8448 or email at

The website has a story posted of a Bank customer we are researching. The web site has an event finder that can help identify upcoming protests. You can find additional information at the following link:

Thank you for your continued partnership.

Perhaps this latest action by OWS will satisfy those who insist that the movement has no aims, policy or program.

We’ll be providing a further update on Occupy activity shortly.