Soul singer Curtis Mayfield died at the age of 57, a decade after an accident left him paralyzed. Mayfield was probably best known for his funk hit, "Superfly," but without his dedication to the civil rights movement with such songs as "People Get Ready," "Keep On Pushing" and "Choice of Colors," black music as we know it today probably wouldn't exist. Before James Brown's "Say It Loud--I'm Black and I'm Proud," and Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," there was Mayfield.
Also rest in peace, Clayton Moore--best known to most of us as The Lone Ranger--who died of a heart attack on December 28. He was 85.
Culture Club's Boy George, who escaped death by mere inches during a rehearsal as a 20-foot glitterball suspended above his head fell to the stage during a sound check. "It would have been both ironic and glamorous to be finished off by a four-foot glitter ball," he was quoted as saying. Better luck next time.
George Harrison, who survived a stabbing at his Oxfordshire mansion on December 30th. Harrison and his wife Olivia discovered they were being burgled by Liverpool resident Michael Abram, and when they confronted said thief, a scuffle ensued with both Harrisons being stabbed. Olivia suffered only minor wounds while one swipe at George nearly punctured his lung. The former Beatle was able to sit atop the thief until local authorities could arrive, cuff the idiot, and transport Harrison to a local emergency room.
24 restaurants in the Nickels chain (owned by Celine Dion and husband Rene Angelil) were served search warrants by Quebec officials in December, with seventeen of them being forced to close temporarily. The raids were conducted because of allegations that several of the restaurants used illegal software programs to make cash sales "disappear" from electronic cash registers. And further proof that Celine Dion isn't as squeaky clean as you think: last March and June, 7 of her restaurants were investigated for tax evasion. No comment from either the singer or her husband regarding this.
U2 singer Bono reported his laptop stolen from his car in Dublin in early December. Reported to be on the hard drive were Bono's entire lyrics for the band's next album. After posting a reward for its return, a Dubliner by the name of Paul returned the laptop, having said that he purchased it for 300 pounds from a "reputable source." Bono was so thrilled that he offered to buy Paul another laptop in return. As well, Paul stands to receive a 2,000 pound reward that was offered by U2's management team.
Key word: "reputable." Crime does pay...
Gartlan USA are producing a limited edition of John Lennon (R.I.P.) figurines that are made from melted down gun metal. Yoko Ono authorized the work and defends it as continuing the struggle for peace, something John would have wanted. Earpollution agrees that it is the best use of a gun yet.
In still more Beatles news, apparently female fans of Paul McCartney were offering free sex in exchange for tickets to his sold-out December 14th show at Liverpool's Cavern Club. Readers will remember that the Cavern Club was where McCartney's first band, The Quarrymen--which included John Lennon and George Harrison--played back in 1958, and where the Beatles also played numerous times. Sex and Paul McCartney in the same sentence...Lord have mercy.
Microsoft has threatened to sue Seattle artist John Vanderslice over his inflammatory song, "Bill Gates Must Die." In a letter to Vanderslice, Microsoft warns that the use of Microsoft trademarks and logos infringes copyright laws, and goes on to inform the musician, "Said recording has also been transcribed... We hope that you will consider these matters seriously and will cease any continued activity in relation to this recording."
Vanderslice replied by saying, "I'm just gonna write an even more inflammatory song about Microsoft. I'm not really worried about it."
The song is reported to be about a person who becomes addicted to Internet pornography and blames Bill Gates for his addiction.
And in the best news we've heard all month, the Justice Department has started an inquiry into MTV's dominance of the music video industry. A number of alleged practices are being investigated, including Viacom's (owner of MTV, M2 and VH1) demand that music companies give exclusive broadcast rights to newly released music videos. Such practice makes it difficult for competing music broadcasters to earn a living in the market. The investigation began with Viacom's buyout of The Box, a small competitor. About damn time...
"No, painting is not made to decorate apartments. It's an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy." --Pablo Picasso on his anti-war piece, Guernica.
As the week wore on live coverage showed the city's attempts to quell the "unrest," appease the WTO delegates and secure President Clinton's arrival by placing a curfew on downtown and declaring a "no protest zone" directly around where Clinton was staying and where WTO delegates were holding their sessions. In essence, they knowingly and purposely restricted the First Amendment right of free speech and the right to gather. Camera lenses captured local police and National Guard heading the barks of their masters by firing tear gas, rubber bullets and concussion grenades at protesters--the majority of whom were peacefully demonstrating--in an attempt to disperse them. At times, police could be seen aiming their "crowd control measures" directly at head level, even occasionally at point blank.
Clearing downtown to make way for the President's arrival on Tuesday was their number one objective. They corralled protesters into the nearby neighborhood of Capitol Hill, and for several days continued to brutally attack those who even innocently happened across their sights. Those who claim they were trying to maintain safety and civil obedience were misinformed or were not paying attention to the dynamics of the situation. Many of the protesters on Capital Hill were residents who came out to denounce the heavy police presence that was pushing violently through their neighborhood. The police replied by gassing any who got close enough.
Wednesday saw Mayor Paul Schell ban the sale or possession of gas masks in an attempt to make sure no one had recourse to their bullying control techniques. Also on Wednesday--and something that was barely even touched upon by the mainstream press--several hundred protesters returned to downtown to help clean up the graffiti and vandalism a few unruly persons had committed the previous day. [As an aside, businesses reported damage and lost income that week to be between $10 and $20 million. What they failed to report is that most, if not all, of the damages will be picked up by insurance, and that the lost shopping income was based on what they had earned that same week in 1998, not what they actually stood to make the week of WTO. Before the WTO even came to Seattle, most business had expected a steep drop in spending due to the upcoming conference and accompanying protests.] After helping tidy up downtown, many of the clean up crew rejoined those protesters gathered at Westlake Park and soon found themselves cuffed and arrested for demonstrating.
Later that night, Jello Biafra, Kim Thayil and Krist Novoselic (under the guise of The WTO Band), along with Spearhead, finally played their show downtown at The Showbox, still under the curfew of a police state that had been imposed in the downtown corridor by Mayor Schell. The show was originally scheduled to take place the previous night, but had been cancelled due to police sweeping the streets. For those few souls brave enough to challenge the police barricades and insist having a ticket to the show meant being able to enter downtown on "legitimate business," Biafra was in fine form, his perfect self. While Novoselic sported a gas mask (in defiance of the mayor's ban) The WTO Band gave the finger to the man, played classic Dead Kennedys songs, as well as a few new ones penned for the occasion. Biafra, incensed as ever, passionately ranted and raved against the corporate monsters of greed.
On the other side of the country and at the start of their most recent tour, Fugazi member Ian MacKaye commented: "How barbaric the police are, and also how barbaric the media are. Every now and then, a disturbance arises and you get to see the sexy new wear the police are sporting."
By Friday, over 600 people had been arrested. In a show of solidarity, thousands of protesters descended on the King County Jail and for two nights held vigils while they peacefully asked for their comrades' release. By Saturday, when the WTO conference drew to a haggard close and the retail core of downtown was "officially re-opened," all the major media outlets were on the street filming holiday shoppers; shoppers who were much relieved to "have their streets taken back," and their precious spending dollars left unhurt. "Those protesters don't reflect our city. The shoppers have retaken downtown!" was the new media battle cry, and everyone who watched anxiously from their couch or armchair over the course of that week were finally allowed to breathe a sigh of relief. "It's all okay. We can go back to sleep now."
Wrong. It's time for us to wake up and be counted among the living while we still can.
It's not necessary to be versed in the entire WTO rhetoric to have a valid dissenting opinion. It is necessary to have a willingness to educate yourself from a number of viewpoints and authorities and to draw your own conclusions on the matter. As Picasso said, your tools are both your offensive and defensive weapons. Art, music, words, voice, your heart, and at times, your fists. Know your enemy.
To side for once with paranoid conspiracy theorists, there is a group of shadowy men from a shadowy planet, and they have indeed come here to enslave us for their own diabolical purposes. Unfortunately, the only thing green about these little men are the dollar signs in their eyes. With total control of media and near complete obeisance from the world's governments, we will be trapped in front of our televisions sets, forever locked in servitude, unless we can stand up, recognize the issues and make a stand.
So, in a slight diversion from our normal music broadcasting, Earpollution would like to thank all those who stood up against the WTO in Seattle. Artists like Biafra and Michael Franti for their always passionate and politically charged music and spoken word. Organizations like the Direct Action Network for rallying people behind the battle cry. Weekly magazines Eat The State and The Seattle Weekly for their unbiased coverage of the WTO and their critical viewpoints regarding the city's actions against protesters and their right to dissent. The National Lawyers Guild for their documentation of police brutalities. 911 Media Arts Center and AEdigital Media for providing a source relay for hundreds of hours of unedited protest footage. And all those who took place in the protests and lifted their voices and fists in defiance. Your unfaltering spirit did not go unnoticed. What you did and who you so bravely stood up against that week will be long remembered.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes (Who watches the watchmen).