Immigration Essay

The following is an essay I wrote in reaction to the documentary Farmingville for my Politics class this past semester. I like it, so I thought I’d share it with y’all.

In the town of Farmingville, many values were competed between the townspeople and the undocumented workers, of these values the most significant was America itself. Not in the physical sense; sure you could argue the residents were fighting for the land they were indoctrinated to believe was being invaded, but more importantly they were fighting for their abstract perception of America. Oddly enough, the undocumented workers were fighting for this same value, or at least a similar one- a place to find work and a make a living to support their family, in other words have a life. For much of the (white) people in Farmingville, these new workers were far too threatening by their presence alone, they were foreign to their white world and seemingly caused a disruption to their perfect American Dream. In reality, that American Dream was already fading and the Mexican workers were merely targets of fear, ignorance, and even hatred. Most of Farmingville’s denizens are not bad people, but they do foster some, even if minor, racist tendencies that alas seem to be augmented when they feel threatened by their new “neighbors.” They feel abandoned by the system: losing jobs, unable to afford that American Dream, and rightfully pissed off. When finally they win the vote to not have the hiring center there is a feeling of triumph that they never have never experienced; they sing “God Bless America,” an apropos number for this context. Clearly, their choice of… music… was purposeful. They love their country and their rendition of the patriotic song displays this. When most of us win some sort of competition we sing Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” though this would be oddly amusing if the women sang this, it would not have the same effect. Point being, the song had to be American to reflect the underlying motif of Americanism in the film. The workers, by and large, see Farmingville as an opportunity for jobs, a land of opportunity, if you will. Sound familiar? It’s about as American as it gets; essentially both groups of people share the same values, yet the tension (racial, social, political) between them has caused this competition.
It is incredibly difficult for both sides to come to any agreement, let alone, get along because they are foreign to each other. Both parties are foreign to one another, for the most part, and this causes tension. In general, there is always some sort of tension between whites and Mexicans within a large community (not necessarily between individuals) and now there is this racial problem consuming (figuratively and literally) the small community of Farmingville. All of their prejudices are going to explode making it extremely troublesome to meet halfway or even try to meet each other at all. It should be noted that overwhelmingly much of this lack of interest in coming to an agreement comes from the residents of Farmingville and not the Mexican laborers. They see it as their community, why should they give it up, why should they compromise. They already feel threatened and powerless, making any compromise can only weaken them, it seems. Naturally, that is not really the case, but you can’t blame them for feeling that way. It appears that the undocumented workers understand this and are perhaps far more willing to cross the aisle, but the opportunity never seems to arise. They do, however, make admirable attempts to become a part of the community through organization: the Soccer game(s), cleaning up the fields, and so forth. Also, it is understandable for these workers to be disinterested in getting along or coming to an agreement with a bunch of people that do not want them there and possibly hate them for the same reasons their (the white folks) ancestors came here in the first place. Farmingville hasn’t exactly given them a gigantic welcome sign, to say the least.
Discussing who is right and who is wrong within this case is far too simple. Like just about everything else in life, depending on who you are the response will change. Firstly, we have to ask ourselves what is right and what is wrong? and then whether or not one group or another fits under either category. This is an exceptionally subjective issue to label official rights and wrongs on either side. But, for me, the people of Farmingville are “understandably wrong.” I sympathize with them, but their rational is the weaker of the two. They are not being “invaded,” as the reactionary right wing media has fed them, their loss of jobs for the most part cannot being attributed to the new workers, and overall they demonize these Mexican people, reducing them to “aliens.” Many of them complain that when their daughter rides her bike to 711 she has to ride by the MEXICAN WORKERS as if they are some group of Gargoyles preying on their next victim. I am sure these parents have the best of intentions (the safety and well being of their children) but it does not justify such prejudice comments. One could argue that the workers are wrong for coming over here illegally. Well, there was never a statistic to show how many were legal or illegal, but for all intents and purpose let’s say most of them were illegal. I suppose this is wrong because they violated the law, but I do not place the law above all morals. It would be better if the workers migrated legally, but the process may be too strict and harsh that they have to come over illegally to make it over at all. If I was in their shoes I would probably do the same thing to make a living for my family. Either way, let’s say all of them were legal immigrants and we can prove it. I bet you there would be just as much of a fiasco or at least just as much anger. To put it bluntly the people of Farmingville do not want this massive influx of immigrants in their tiny community. The illicit nature of their migration merely serves as a point of justification for the citizens’ frustration. In the end, we can only hope that overtime when people see that the world isn’t over, their town is still intact, and Betty Sue is free to ride unscathed, that maybe both groups can come to some sort of consensus about this ongoing issue in America.

Charles Manson: An American Superstar

Charles Manson: An American Superstar

He is a beloved recording artist, his image has been plastered everywhere from tee shirts to tattoos, and he has legions of devoted fans. No, not Bob Dylan, this 60s icon spent his entire youth in and out of prison. His name is Charles Manson, a name practically synonymous with mass murder. Manson and his followers, known as “The Family” were convicted of the Tate-LaBianca murders in 1971. In spite of or because of this, he has been given celebrity status as if he was a movie star or baseball player. His infamy is eerily commonplace in various areas of our pop culture. One can turn on the TV and catch his character portrayed in such comedy shows as “South Park” or “Family Guy.” In fact, it was through an episode of “South Park” where I attribute my earliest memory of Manson. I remember watching a SP Christmas special as a child in which Manson appeared as a character with redeeming qualities. Even though it was satire, at the tender age of nine my brain was already invited into the world of one of America’s most feared individuals. Ever since then, his name kept coming up over and over again; I knew he was associated with murder, but even at a young age, I thought of him as another famous name from my parents’ time period. Most people seem to be intrigued by the man and in the American media, Charles Manson has been glamorized to the degree of a superstar. For the television viewing public he has become an object of personal entertainment; just another fascinating celebrity in the league of Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson.
To begin to understand how or why this character of Charles Manson is so fascinating to the media and the American public as whole, we must start with a look at his childhood. Charles Manson was born on November 12, 1934 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His mother was a sixteen year old prostitute that spent some time in prison when he was a child and he never really knew his father. Unlike most Americans, Manson did not live in a comfortable house on a safe street with at least one, if not two loving parents/guardians and all the other things we associate with typical upbringings. Manson by his own claims and he would claim this over and over again, lived on the streets. He did not know the world of the average American. At an early age it was reinforced that he was different from the rest of America. He was essentially abandoned by the very people whom should have loved him and spent the rest of his childhood years from this boarding school to that boarding school, often running away multiple times from each of them. One time, he tried to be with his mother, but she rejected him. Manson, felt unwanted and unloved and learned to never trust anyone for the rest of his life. With such a troubled past behind him it does not take Sigmund Freud to figure out that Manson would soon find himself deeply invested in petty crime. This included breaking into grocery stores all the way up to armed robbery at the young age of thirteen. He was in and out of juvenile hall centers. According to Manson, he was constantly raped and beaten at said centers and in fact he would run away upwards to eighteen times. His crimes continued into adulthood, basically making prison his new home. In 1967, he was finally released from prison, ironically against his own will; by this time he had spent seventeen years (more than half of his life) in prison.
When Manson left the penitentiary a new world awaited him. A generation had come of age and the Summer of Love was kicking. The 1960s counterculture, particularly in San Francisco, had taken over the nation, so to speak. Long hair, antiwar protests, and psychedelic drugs became ubiquitous seemingly overnight. Young people disdained their parents’ traditions and trashed anything representing the establishment. These kids related to the rebellion of Rock and Roll bands like The Rolling Stones and The Doors and admired the outlaw image of figures like Bonnie and Clyde and Che Guevara. They dug leaders that stood for a new kind of America, one that buried all the traditional values of the America they were raised in and felt abandoned by. Enter Charles Manson, who himself stated, “When I got out all your children would come to me because nobody else had told them the truth.” Of course this was far from the truth as certainly all children did not go to Manson for enlightenment. Naturally, most kids, no matter how drugged up and doped out they were, had enough sense not to join Manson and become part of his “Family.” But, just a few were enough. The man recruited several young, impressionable people, mostly women and was able to brainwash them (often with the assistance of LSD) into thinking he was Jesus Christ or a similar Godlike figure. These women essentially became Manson and would do anything he instructed them to. Even at this juncture in his acting career, Manson dazzled his audience with his intense and fascinating philosophies on life. He had so much control over them that he was able to mastermind his minions into committing the horrible massacre of the Tate-LaBianca murders in August of 1969. Though, Manson was not present, his underlings followed his orders to murder actress Sharon Tate and several others at her home in Death Valley. In prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi’s book, Helter Skelter he describes the terrifying scene of the crime, “Sharon Tate Polanski-murder victim. Eight months pregnant, she pleaded for the life of her child. “Look, bitch, I have no mercy for you,” one of her killers replied… Only on getting closer did the officers see the bizarre message the killers had left. Printed on the door, in Sharon Tate’s own blood, were the letters PIG” (142). The next night they committed similar murders at the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Subsequently, the police made the connection between both massacres and the killers and their ringleader were brought to trial. Finally, the whole world got to see Charlie and his angels perform and they loved the attention. This was the beginning of the Charlie Manson Variety Hour, a program the media has eaten up ever since.
During and after the trial (he and his Family were all convicted of murder), Manson’s image became one of the most recognizable in the world. Most famously, his face graced the cover of Life magazine (though he also made the cover of Rolling Stone, amongst others) and this has since become the most famous photo of Manson to date. The mainstream media loved Manson, but obviously portrayed him (rightfully so) as a monster. Of course, if they had made Manson a christ figure they would have lost most viewers, but just by giving him so much attention, he was given all the glamour he needed. The underground press or much of it anyway had no issue with portraying Manson as not only a victim, but another hero of the Revolution, another freedom fighter. At the time, the Vietnam War was boiling and people were taking sides. On one hand was the establishment (Western Civilization) and on the other was anti-establishment, which it turns out in many cases could very well be solely those that opposed the establishment. Thus, Manson became an icon of sorts for the counterculture. Fellow outlaw, Jerry Rubin wrote of visiting Manson in prison following the trial. Rubin, however was not a murderer, but rather one of the leading social activists of the era with a radical sensibility. In his 1971 book, We Are Everywhere, he wrote, “I fell in love with Charlie Manson the first time I saw his cherub face and sparkling eyes on national TV…Manson’s soul is easy to touch because it lays quite bare on the surface. He said he was innocent of the Tate murders and was being persecuted by the pigs because of his lifestyle… Is Charlie innocent or guilty? What is innocence and what is guilt? Can Amerika, after all it has done to Charlie Manson, now put him on trail?” (239-240). Rubin’s sympathy and endorsement of Manson was not uncommon during this era, particularly amongst other subversive and/or underground figures. In fact, in some interviews/speeches, Rubin and others radicals almost sounded like Manson: militant and dogmatic in their attitude and always condemning the American society that turned them into who they were. Of course, the former spoke of liberation, while the latter spoke of domination and annihilation, hardly a freedom fighter,
In the years since his imprisonment, Charles Manson’s stardom has only increased. He has become a massive figure in our American pop culture, he might as well have his star on the Hollywood walk of fame. From books to movies to documentaries, Manson is everywhere. To this day people, particularly young people, follow, worship, or are at least fascinated by Manson. Why? This can be attributed to Manson’s lack of respect for authority. His sense of anti-authoritarianism, at least on the surface, and individuality is attractive to young people, whom are finding themselves as well. Secondly and more significantly, in general the public loves a juicy story, and when it is a celebrity, it is all the more entertaining. The bizarre, the unusual is a big dollar. And the Manson murders were anything but usual and have since become one of the most famous murder cases in history. After his imprisonment, he received numerous interviews on national TV from some of the most famous reporters of all time including Geraldo Rivera, Charlie Rose, Tom Snyder, Diane Sawyer, and others. With the help of the Victims’ Rights Movements, this trend of interviewing serial killers has dyed down over the years. Ultimately this media coverage does very little to nothing for society, except make us crave Manson and other serial killers all the more. When we watch said interviews we do not gain any knowledge or further understanding. Admittedly, they are entertaining, but they mask themselves as something more. But, there is truly no moral purpose to interviewing Charles Manson and giving him the time of day for millions of Americans to tune in to him in their homes. When all is said and done, it is nothing more than cheap entertainment, which is okay, but should be acknowledged as just that. It is no different then any other tabloid, celebrity story. Though Manson is still quite famous, it is for the best that he receives less and less attention, so instead we can focus on real issues rather than fascinating stories to satisfy our taste for the peculiar. In one of his famous prison interviews, Manson was posed the question, “People look at you today, twenty years later and they still have no idea what you’re about. Tell me in a sentence who you are.” After making a series of comical faces, he replies, “nobody.” And there you have it, no one knows Manson as well as Manson himself. For once, I agree with Charlie, he is “nobody,” just another celebrity in a sea of celebrities.

Greatest Concert Experience Ever!

The following is an essay I wrote for my Essay Writing course. This is the first draft, but this is how I intended to tell the story. I may or may not post the final draft. Enjoy!

Sea of Blasphemy

Annually, my comrades and I look forward to seeing our favorite band, the Black Lips! when they come to town. This year was no exception, well except it was. One of our other favorite bands, the Box Elders would be opening. As a fairly frequent concertgoer (roughly twenty or more shows a year), whenever two or more of my favorite bands are on the same bill, this usually translates into a phenomenal show, one deeply etched into my music loving heart. On March 25, 2010, the Black Lips and the Box Elders did just that and then some!
The Black Lips! represent everything great about Rock and Roll, Punk, and music itself. They satisfy all the tastes one looks for in the greatest rock band: catchy songs, excellent showmanship, unmatched integrity, unique character, and best of all, an unflinching ode to youth rebellion. Though, there is far more to the Black Lips! craft than the bedlam they are known for, it is worth noting that their shows are notorious for wild, anarchic behavior such as vomiting, urination, nudity, amongst other havoc inducing shenanigans. As an enormous fan of anti-authoritarian art, I naturally found this quite appealing. My buddies, my fellow devotees of obscure Punk Rock, and I are so dedicated to following music (particularly of the underground variety, with the Black Lips! high above all) that we started our own subversive blog entitled, Kids Like You and Me or KLYAM (pronounced clam, go figure). The moniker derives its name from the lyrics to one of our most beloved Black Lips tunes, “Bad Kids.” The line goes “Bad kids ain’t no college grad kids. Livin’ life out on the skids. Kids like you and me.” Though the lyrics do not directly relate to us, we have kind of made it our own. Only a band like the Black Lips and their amazing shows can have such a life altering effect on a young, frustrated man, boy- boyman, such as myself.
I have heard some folks describe special shows as religious experiences; for Black Lips fans, seeing these Flower Punkers’ live is the equivalent of journeying to Mecca for Muslims. Okay, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but if you look at the audience at their shows, you might think differently. For the Klaymers (what we call those who contribute to the aforementioned blog), waiting months for a Black Lips! show is as painful as Guantanamo Bay torture. The anticipation just keeps building and building. Three months. One Month. Two Weeks. One Week. One Day. The Show! And when that glorious day finally arrives, words cannot describe how ecstatic I am.
As 6:30 P.M. rolls around, my pal Travis (the guy that introduced me to the band) picks me up and we hit the road. Naturally, when we arrive at the Middle East in Cambridge we are there way too early and the doors have yet to open. More waiting! As if, months of anticipation was not enough. Finally, the doors open and of course no one is there. Typical. My amigos and I like to be the first there and secure our cozy spot in front of what would become bassist Jared Swilley’s stage monitor. To kill time, we waltz over to the merchandise table. Whilst taking a gander at the various vinyls, CDs, seven inches, cassettes, t-shirts, and pins, I spot a long blonde haired hippie looking dude, which looks a lot like Clayton McIntyre, singer/guitarist for the Box Elders, one of my top ten favorite bands and the second group on the bill. Wait a second, yes it is Clayton! “Hey Clayton, I really dug Alice and Friends, I thought it was one of the best records of 2009,” I yelp. He smiles and appreciates the accolades. I inform him that “Atlantis,” is my favorite Box Elders song and he agrees, saying it is his favorite too. Then I notice drummer/keyboardist, Dave Goldberg beside him. I keep my cool and inform the man of my admiration for his band: “When I saw you guys open for Jay Reatard, a few months back, I experienced something I have never felt before with any band, I found myself immediately singing along to the songs, even though I had never heard them before.” Dave graciously accepts my compliments and various music driven conversations ensue. I am struck by what Dave tells me about his lifestyle, how little they make and yet how little that seems to matter in the grand scheme of things. The man seems driven to succeed or more apropos not fall back. Explaining his outlook, he cites a Butthole Surfers’ quote from the book, Our Band Could Be Your Life, but he cannot think of the title, until I tell him. And after name dropping some early Buttholes’ LPs, he claims “Shit, you’re very well-versed.” I get that a lot, but coming from one of my favorite musicians means far more.
After the chit chat, the show finally begins with the band, Movers and Shakers. Alas, they neither move nor shake me. No worries, up next was the Box Elders! and as soon as they start their set the crowd is more than moving and shaking. They play all their essential, brief, but incredibly catchy ditties. Not to mention the fact that the BE on stage are a sight to be seen. Specifically, one cannot forget the antics of Dave as he simultaneously commands the drum kit and plays the keys, and then occasionally makes aerobic movements, when he has a hand free. The highlight of the performance for me is when Clayton introduces my favorite, “Atlantis,” as “here’s a song this kid will like,” with his finger pointing to me at the front of the stage. Without a doubt, one of the best opening bands I have ever seen; it would have been one of my favorite concerts if the show had ended here.
Now, was the time I have been waiting for all year, like waking up on Christmas morning times a thousand and it still does not scratch the surface. The place is packed, sold out and we are ready to go! The entire crowd initiates the universal chanting “ohhhhhhhhhhhh” that opens every Black Lips! show. It is not as exciting on paper, kind of akin to the wave ( but way cooler), you cannot describe it to someone, it simply will not have the same effect as if you are present. But, as the chant builds and builds, you can feel the rowdy audience members on your back as you discover there is no place to breath and you are in a sea of drunkards, stoners, and possibly the insane. Then you realize you are amongst this sea of wild men and women and anything seems possible. The Lips- Cole, Jared, Ian, and Joe hit the stage and launch into “Sea of Blasphemy,” immediately chaos ensues: beers, saliva, and bodies a flyin, you never stay still for the entire show. In fact, you have to hold onto the people around you or the monitors in order to stand up and not die. The Black Lips are an attack on all the senses. Whilst the loud, noisy wall of music wipes out what is left of my hearing, I can taste the hair of various femmes getting caught in my mouth and I can smell some puke, blood, and certainly, unbelievable amounts of sweat. It is like I dove into a pool of sweat and I am saturated in it. Everyone is sticking to each other, when they are not crushing themselves in undeniably euphoric moshpits. Meanwhile on stage, the pandemonium is duplicated as the boys hop and bop around as energetic and crazy as ever. Singer/guitarist, Cole Alexander, ever the charmer, hawks a giant loogie in the air and then catches it in his mouth. He proceeds to make out with lead guitarist, Ian St. Pe. Much more of this “entertainment” continues as they play classic after classic from all over their discography. The evening culminates with their signature closer, “Juvenile,” in which many patrons rush the stage and dive off, just barely escaping the clutches of uppity, conservative security.
All in all this is easily one of the greatest experiences of my life. Concerts are measured musically, viscerally, visually, and as an overall experience. I would say the visceral is the key ingredient in the memorable concert dish. That is the difference between most concerts and “crazy” shows like the Black Lips. It is like an altered state of consciousness, for me at least, for others this is literally the case! Seemingly, time is suspended and everything is possible. You feel more alive than ever, an amazing feeling. If you have experienced viscerally, what I am speaking of, and if you attend one of their shows and are amongst the fun, wild, tornado in front of the stage, then you know what I am saying. I am making no exaggeration, when I say, you do not know what will happen next. I cannot imagine it any other way. And what better a band then the Black Lips to experience this visceral abandonment with?! This all sort of hits me while I am wandering around, practically tripping over the empty beer cans and beer bottles covering the floor. Extremely tired and ready to pass out, I decide to sit on the stage and wait to see my friends, in my dirty, sweat and beer drenched Jay Reatard shirt. “Hey, that’s a cool Jay Reatard shirt,” I hear a voice say. Looking up, I discover it is none other than Cole Alexander. There are about a thousand things I want to ask him, but at the time I can only muster a few sentences about how inspiring his music is to my life. I am sure he gets that all the time, but I truly mean it. Looking back, I think the lyrics to the Lips’ anthem “Drugs,” articulate my sentiments best, ” We’ll laugh about this tomorrow.
It’s times like this I hope we’ll follow me. I hope they follow me. I hope they follow me. oh oh I hope they follow me.”


Not from the Boston show! lol

Summer 2009 Blockbuster Comparison

The following essay was for my Cultural Studies class, therefore it’s not of the same quality as my other material. Read it anyway lol.

Inglourious Transformers
I see a few newly released films each year and sadly most are of average quality. Last Summer, I saw two movies in particular that stood out; one was quite exceptional and the other was pure garbage with some mild entertainment. The former was Quentin Tarantino’s war film, Inglourious Basterds and the latter was Michael Bay’s Science Fiction film, Transformers: The Revenge of the Fallen. Both pictures are similar in some ways and at the same time, there is a world of difference between them. In terms of culture, Inglourious Basterds is of much higher art than it’s counterpart, Transformers because director Quentin Tarantino has far more “cultural capital” than his rival, Michael Bay.
Both Inglourious Basterds and Transformers are action films in their own unique ways, but Basterds does not rely solely on special effects and fun filled mayhem to dazzle it’s audience. There are various similarities between the two movies and it should be noted that each obtained well beyond it’s fair share of box office/commercial success. Both had gun shots, explosions, “good guys, “bad guys,” gorgeous females in leading roles, and a healthy chunk of humor. Without seeing both features, a cultural theorist may rush to rule both films as equally “mass art,” merely manufactured products to be gobbled up by millions of dumb Americans as Matthew Arnold would contend. Of course major corporations financed both films and as I previously mentioned each profited quite well at the box office, but it seems clear that there is much more to IB than simply “action” that makes up most of Transformers. IB focuses on World War II and particularly the fall of the Third Reich at the hands of the “Basterds,” a band of Jewish American soldiers. Of course this is not historically accurate at all, but it still gives the film more depth than a light hearted flick about robots. IB also features various references to older, spaghetti western films and obscure war films as well as other aspects of both American and European culture. Tarantino’s cultural capital certainly adds to the “higher quality” of the film.
As I previously explained, both movies can fall under the action genre, but the styles of action displayed in each film makes one high art/culture and the other low art/culture. In Inglourious Basterds, scenes are built up with suspense and clever dialogue. This suspense then erupts into bloody battles and shoot outs and so on. In contrast, in Transformers, the action is not stylized and is mostly non-stop, relying on special effects and very little suspense. The film utilizes most of the conventional techniques Hollywood blockbuster/popcorn movies usually employ, but no substance to balance out the mindless mess. The old phrase, ” a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down” comes to mind. In this case, there is no medicine and moviegoers are being inundated with pounds and pounds of sugar, mentally consuming as much junk as they purchase in movie snacks. Clearly, if Arnold was alive today he would use Transformers as a chief example of low/mass art.
In short, although both films, Inglourious Basterds and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen can be seen as action movies and worthy of commercial success, Basterds definitely is of higher art/culture than Transformers. Writer/Director, Quentin Tarantino effectively used his cultural capital of historical and cinematic knowledge to make a greater film. The action was entertaining, but carefully balanced with extraordinary acting, memorable dialogue, and superb character development. Michael Bay, on the other hand, merely made a big special effects movie, he knew people would rush to the theaters to see, enjoy, and never ponder over anything meaningful to the human experience.

Chris