Thursday, July 19, 2007

Why is this woman smiling?

You might call it Secret-dipity. While I sat here Tuesday quietly observing the second anniversary of SHAMblog, little did I know that some 9852 miles away, Head Secretron Rhonda Byrne was poised to mark a milestone of a different sort: She was about to become, the following day, the highest-achieving newcomer to BRW's* annual "Top 50 Entertainers" list, which ranks Australia's performers and celebs by annual earnings.

On the strength of the combined sales of The Secret book and DVD, pegged by BRW at 6 million**, Byrne came in just outside the top 10, with a single-year income of $14 million. That's modest by U.S. standards for an upper-tier celeb, but a chunk o' change that a lot of Byrne's starry-eyed, ever-hopeful American fans wouldn't mind attracting, I'm sure. (And don't worry, I'm equally sure she'll do better in 2008.)

BRW editor James Thomson described Byrne's sudden ascent to affluence as "stunning." Said Thompson, "It is a pretty impressive debut really, considering the DVD was released last March and the book was released later in 2006." He credited Byrne's two sit-downs with Oprah, who, in giddily touting The Secret, came as close as she ever will to acting as an outright spokesperson. (Winfrey later gave a copy to her hand-picked presidential candidate, Barack Obama...and there is now a member-only blog set up on Obama's official site that exhorts Secretrons to attract the presidency to him. You know, I really like the guy, but I almost hope he doesn't win the White House for that reason alone: so we don't have to listen to all those wack-jobs screaming, "See, I told you it works!")

I guess the takeaway here is that this becomes yet another compelling restatement of the old Mencken line (in its colloquial form), "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." Which is not to imply that only dumb people bought (or bought into) The Secret. Actually, I'd say it's more a matter of gullibility, and of a near-compulsive need to believe what Byrne says is true: a sort of opiate-for-the-masses phenomenon.

In making the BRW list, Byrne joins such Aussie notables as Nicole Kidman ($35 million), Hugh Jackman ($30 million), Kylie Minogue ($27 mill), Keith Urban (whose incremental $26 mill means that he and wife Kidman needn't struggle to get by on her salary alone), Cate Blanchett ($18 mill), and Russell Crowe, who put another $15 million into his emergency telephone-throwing fund. However, it pains me to say that topping the list at $50 million is/are The Wiggles, whom my grandkids adore, and whom I can tolerate for about three minutes—maybe—before I go looking for a gun, or a stiff drink (and I don't drink), or at least a way to make the TV appear as if the cable went out. (Where is David Chase when you really need him?)

* It's like the Aussie Forbes.
** That actually sounds light to me, which suggests that it's not a
n up-to-date figure, but just what counted in BRW's reckoning of last year's income. Maybe. (See comments made after the post went up.)


a/good/lysstener said...

Well Steve, I can certainly tell you that *this* woman is smiling- that last paragraph is one of the funniest and most clever things you've written! And belated congratulations on your two years of SHAMBLOG. We are all richer for it. I know I am.

Citizen Deux said...

I love the Wiggles! I have even been to one of their shows live. If nothing else, they demonstrate that Australians are not to be beat in developing cleaver ways to make a buck!

Steve Salerno said...

Ugh. I think the Wiggles should pair up with Rhonda Byrne and make an album or something; they appeal to the same level of sophistication... No offense, CD. :)

Steve Salerno said...

Then again, I love most rap music. So I guess I can't be holier-than-thou.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, I'm disappointed. You could have at least included a picture of Nicole Kidman to offset the one of Rhonda. Perhaps Ms. Byrne would at least *look* more credible without the scratch-n-sniff thingy on her forehead! :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Now, now, Ron... Seems to me it wasn't so long ago that you chastised me for taking a swipe at Joe Honoponobonogono's attractiveness, or lack of same. As I recall, you said that such appearance-based attacks were "beneath [me]." We wouldn't want our female faithful to surmise that there's a goose/gander double standard at work here, would we? ;)

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Steve and a worthy comment about the quickest road to riches these days. A very sad situation.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve - I didn't say Rhonda was ugly - just that the scratch & sniff on her forehead made her look less than credible. Even that could be argued as representing truth in advertising, however, so I guess I should withdraw the comment. :-)

Cosmic Connie said...

Hey, I'm "guilty" of making fun of Rhonda's forehead bling on my own blog. I think it's perfectly acceptable to make fun of people's affectations, which I consider the forehead jewel to be. One of my own affectations would be making everything blue; I'm not blue in real life.

Making fun of aspects of people's appearance or attractiveness that they can't help is a different story altogether. And even though I make fun of things about Joe V, I've gotten after people on my blog for making comments about his weight or his hairline.

PS - No offense, CD, but I don't really like the Wiggles either.
PPS - It's good to see you back here, Alyssa. I like your new pic.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually a little suprised it's just 14 million, they must be overlooking something. If my math is right that only adds up only to about $2 a book or DVD, I got the impression Bryne has a much bigger hand in the pie than that?

Steve Salerno said...

I thought the same thing, Carl, which is why I question how they arrived at the sales figure quoted and what it really means: Is the 6 million MORE than the number of books they included in reckoning her income for the purposes of the list (which had to have some cut-off date that applied across the board for everyone) but still LESS than the total number of books sold to THIS date? Etc. Whatever the case, she would, however, seemingly have a lot of people to include in her P&L: you know, all those "metaphysicians" and such, who no doubt attracted their own respective shares of the proceeds.

a/good/lysstener said...

Thank you, Connie, for the kind words. You always made me feel welcome and valued, unlike some other parties, who always seemed to look for opportunities to be condescending and belittling to both me and my ideas. But we'll move on from there, yes?

Anonymous said...

It figures given the nature of your blog that you would like rap music more than the Wiggles. Let's see, which is dark and which is light? Which is uplifting and which kills the spirit? Which emphasizes the positive and which constantly reinforces the negative? Now it all makes sense.

Cosmic Connie said...

Hey, Anon, I'm from the "dark side" too and I *don't* like most rap and hip-hop, although a fellow SHAMblogger who's a hip-hop artist has sent me some brilliant and funny anti-New-Wage songs he's written. So I'm willing to open my mind. OTOH, I *do* like some of what is normally categorized as New-Age music. But the Wiggles? Only in small doses. You can't judge the state of a person's soul by the kind of music they like.

Laura Meyer said...

I stumbled across your blog and love it. Why is this woman smiling - because she is a marketing genius! She took the work of others (all who are presently dead) and repackaged their work and has made a fortune off of it. AND, she left enough of the "Secret" off of the DVD and book to entice the masses to come back for more of what they 'missed' since the Secret is not working for them. I personally love the original works such as James Allen's poetic As a Man Thinketh which I bought for $3.95 a Barnes and Noble 8 years ago. I am amused that she is listed as an entertainer; that really says it all doesn't it?

Steve Salerno said...

Laura, glad you could make the party. All are welcome.

And you know--this is so weird--I stumbled across James Allen's work some years ago when doing the initial research for SHAM (he does not appear in my book), then his name never came up again until just this week, when a reporter for a Los Angeles business magazine called me to say he was doing a story on Allen--of all people--and wanted a quote or two from me. (I guess it's going to be one of those "most influential people you never heard of" stories.) And now here you bring him up again. What are the odds?

Glad you took the time to write.

Anonymous said...


Starting at the beginning - the entire catalogue of Kurtis Blow (and, later, De La Soul's "Three Feet High And Rising", or the work of Common, and a whole lot of other rap artists) - there is a long tradition of "positive" messages in Rap Music. Take a look at the lyrics to Dead Prez's "Mind Sex", and ask yourself, "Why haven't I heard this song?":

I'll tell you: You haven't heard it because you don't care to investigate music you're happy to stereotype. It's a prejudice - partially racial, partially feminist/sexist - that anyone, today, can indulge in without penalty.

People who claim they "don't like Rap Music" actually are declaring they have a problem with free speech: They prefer the New Age practice of using euphemisms - shaving the edges of right and wrong - instead of the "straight dope" that Rap/black people/black males indulge in. Also, they're saying they aren't capable of making distinctions:

Many - if not most - of the Rap songs that feature the word "bitch" are by guys who are giving guidance to an ignorant woman - someone they care about - who's bought into a Paris Hilton idea of life ("Bitch, stop being a ho!"). That's not seen as "good". But many of those same critics grew up singing along with Robert Plant's demeaning declaration, "Hey hey, Fellas, have you heard the news? You-know-what is back in town!" which is A-OK - even though there's no good intention in there, at all.

This obvious hypocrisy (which every Rap lover sees clearly) escapes the critics - who are always happy to announce they don't listen to Rap. Again - without penalty - for this self-imposed ignorance.

Go ahead: diss Rap. It doesn't care. Rap is America, and it's bigger and greater than you are. Even the lowest ghetto Rapper - a guy who owns nothing but his brains, morals, and talent - feels better about himself than the average white person with everything (let's talk about your weight, kids,...) and he'll tell you so. And black women - from Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott, to Mary J. Blige - will tell you so. And warn you to back off. Not that you'd care:

Being accepted - as part of the prejudiced "herd" - is just too much fun.

Later Gators,



Congrats, Steve, on Year Two. I'm looking forward to many more.

RevRon's Rants said...

"People who claim they "don't like Rap Music" actually are declaring they have a problem with free speech:"

Hogwash. I relish listening to Beethoven or Satie, yet cannot abide more than a few minutes of Wagner or Rachmaninoff. A person's taste in music is not necessarily a reflection on their ideology. Choosing to assert such a ludicrous idea, however, is.

I don't enjoy rap. If that makes me a racist in a rap-lover's mind, well, that's exactly where the "issue" begins and ends: in their mind.

Now, if you want to see a clearly uninformed and racist statement: "Even the lowest ghetto Rapper - a guy who owns nothing but his brains, morals, and talent - feels better about himself than the average white person with everything."

Steve Salerno said...

Hmmm. This could get interesting.

Yes, we certainly know who, you-know-who. And for what it's worth, I love the line about "shaving the edges of right and wrong." Though, like Ron, I'm a little uncomfortable about the sweeping sentiments expressed towards the end of your comment.

You do allude to one particular point, however, that I'm going to second, and more directly: Even if rap IS largely about negative messages--so what? Who said that such messages are necessarily bad? Throughout the centuries, and indeed, the millennia, art has served its most noble function when it illuminated the injustices in society and life (or at least the perceived injustices, since everybody's entitled to his opinion). Interestingly enough, earlier this week I dialogued with columnist Clarence Page, whom I've spoken with before, on this very topic: latter-day black leadership's sudden assault against rap music, which he favors and I strongly oppose. Black leaders basically painted themselves into a corner after the whole Imus thing, and they now feel that they almost HAVE to go after rap music to maintain mainstream credibility (though they're bound to lose some of their street cred in the process). I think that's a mistake. Rap may often be profane, obnoxious, vile, etc.--but it has its points to make, and those points (at least in my view) redeem the acrid vehicle it uses to make them. If you doubt me, listen--with an open mind--to, say, Gang Starr's "Tons o' Guns," and tell me if there isn't an important and powerful message there.

Steve Salerno said...

This is also, btw, why I love the music of Trent Reznor/Nine-Inch Nails. I think his musical sense is brilliant, but beyond that, listen to the lyrics--listen carefully, again, leaving behind your preconceived notions about right and wrong, order and disorder--and tell me if it doesn't go a long way toward explaining the estrangement and rage of the many young people who feel that they "just don't fit in."

Cosmic Connie said...

One of the things that has always irked me about new-age/New-Wage culture is that love of euphemism to which "you-know-who" alluded. I'm not out to diss rap, and "you-know-who" happens to be the one who's opened my mind a little bit to it. But it's just as ludicrous (Ludacris? :-)) to paint all rappers as taking the moral and cultural high ground as it is to condemn them all.

I do like Queen Latifah.

Anonymous said...

Rev (I've got to make this quick - I'll write more after work):

I listen to classical as well (Satie being a particular favorite) but - whoops - I don't find a lot of "words" or "opinions" in there.

About "taste in music": I work in music - selling it, right now - and I find that people who want "positive" music merely don't want to hear what they don't want to hear. It's a desire for a life with blinders on. Even worse, they want the rest of us to endorse it, which is where they start to offend me. And they get waaay pissed off - abandoning their "positive" message totally - if they don't get that endorsement. We've all seen that in the SHAM world. Those "positive" types turn brutally "evil" if their pastel world is critiqued.

Also, ask the average 300 pound black woman how she feels about herself and she'll tell you - "I'm beautiful" - while white women are tripping on any ounce of fat they can find. It's just a different set of values for determining worth. Rap embodies that.

Let society claim what it wants: Rap will, eventually (by bravely mulling things over publicly) determine what's what.

BTW - Gang Starr is "dope".

moi said...

It seems that labelling rap as negative doesn't really hit the mark. It stems from a long tradition of orality in African culture (my remarks are not informed, just speculating from knowledge I've gleaned over the years), and is brilliant, imo. Just depends on the way it is used, which I think is the point Steve is trying to make. I recently saw a rap show at SxSW- 3 white women rapping about politics and the environment. They were wonderful. I wish I could do that.
I guess I will just have to settle for yapping on this blog :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Why Moi, you should be ashamed of yourself! "Yapping"?? Nothing on this blog is mere "yapping"! :)

Seriously, I like to think we feature some of the most astute social commentary there is, yet without the dead-as-lead somnolence factor that typifies most of the talking heads elsewhere in today's "thought culture."

So keep right on yapping. SHAMblog readership has grown dramatically in 2007, and I credit that to the level of feedback and participation from people such as yourself.

Anonymous said...


I'm defending "free speech" - which Rap embodies, gloriously. Every possible idea gets space. New ideas get space - everything.

Do I like all the messages? Nope (there's a lot of dumb stuff out there) but I'll defend their right to say it to the end.

Rap music's EXISTENCE (in this world of Oprah-like logic) is a big positive to me.

RevRon's Rants said...

"It's a desire for a life with blinders on."

Might as well say the same about someone who prefers beef to fish. While I can understand your preference for rap, anon, I wonder that you don't find it at least a bit presumptuous to state that those who don't share your tastes are somehow avoiding life, much less to attribute ideological underpinnings to their preferences. Such assertions are typically offered by the New Wage crowd: "If you don't believe like I do, you must be somehow flawed." This is truly one of those situations where you would benefit from a peek in an unbiased mirror.

I do agree that some of the folks who push "positive" messages are the quickest to anger when their message is challenged. So many "issues," so little time! :-)

RevRon's Rants said...

"I find that people who want "positive" music merely don't want to hear what they don't want to hear."

Perhaps some people just don't feel particularly entertained or enlightened by performers who constantly whine about how badly they've been treated. Applies to a good bit of rap, as well as country & western.

I like the song "Chicago," by CS&N, and "Handsome Johnny," by Richie Havens, but wouldn't want a steady diet of either. Believe it or not, different people listen to different music for different reasons. Attempts to denigrate one genre because it isn't your preference - or elevate another because it is - speaks more to your own myopia (and perhaps even prejudice) than that of other listeners.

Steve Salerno said...

I gotta say--looking at the turn this thread has taken--that I wonder if we aren't at the point where we're best served writing this off to a matter of "personal taste," and leaving it at that. Or even, "There's no accounting for taste" (which is a very, very old phrase, used in Roman times), if one needs to put a pejorative spin on it.

a/good/lysstener said...

I enjoy all kinds of music, especially jazz and modern symphonic which I know is unusual for someone my age. But reading today's blog reminds me of what you wrote about religion and race, Steve. It seems people who are partisans of a genre of music can't just live and let live. They have to praise their musical preference as superior to all others, sometimes to the extent of attacking other types of music as being "not even music" at all. Why is that, do you think? Is it just human nature to think what we like, whatever it is, is automatically the best way to be? Even the only way to be?

RevRon's Rants said...

"I wonder if we aren't at the point where we're best served writing this off to a matter of "personal taste..."

Aw, c'mon Steve! Don
t tell me you actually like that scratch-n-sniff thingy on Rhonda's forehead! :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Don't get me started on scratch-and-sniff references, Ron. It's post-noon on Friday, and I am no longer responsible for what I say...

Steve Salerno said...

...which I think I just demonstrated in that previous comment.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I was with you when you started out here but you lose me when you start defending rap. How can you like that garbage? It is everything that's wrong with today's America. What are you talking about, the message, it sends a terrible message to the kids! It is all about violence and cheating and stealing and abusing women, I don't understand how anybody who writes a book like SHAM whcih is all about common sense and decency can stand up for rap?

Steve Salerno said...

Anybody else want in here? I think I've said what I had to say, and I stand by it, Carl.

Dr Swill said...

"the scratch & sniff on her forehead"

Has anyone here ever seen the British cult sci-fi series Doctor Who? (It was recently revived by the BBC and a worldwide TV hit all over again.)

Because that weird circular bling- thing stuck on Rhonda's forehead makes her look like the Dr. Who villain Davros, the evil genius and lunatic who created the Daleks, a mindless race of screeching robots bent on conquering the universe.

Here's a picture of DAVROS:

And from the Wikipedia entry for DALEK:

"A Dalek is a grotesque mutated organism.... a powerful race bent on universal conquest and domination, utterly without pity, compassion or remorse (as all of their emotions were removed except hate)..."

Then the Wikipedia article goes on to say, under the sub-heading "Dalek Culture":

"Daleks have little to no individual personality.... Dalek speech is characterised by repeated phrases, and by orders given to themselves and to others. Dalek vocal inflection suggests perpetual anger, sometimes verging on hysteria... The fundamental feature of Dalek culture and psychology is an unquestioned belief in the superiority of the Dalek race...

"The word "Dalek" has entered the Oxford English Dictionary and other major dictionaries; the Collins Dictionary defines it rather broadly as "any of a set of fictional robot-like creations that are aggressive, mobile, and produce rasping staccato speech"... The term is sometimes used metaphorically to describe people, usually figures of authority, who act like robots unable to break from their programming."

I guess the BBC were really on to something when they depicted a mad genius with a third "eye" bling-thing stuck in the middle of their forehead, who would go on to create a legion of screechy, hysterical, ranting, mindless robot-like entities devoid of compassion or fellow feeling with the less fortunate. Who ever said science ficton has a bad prediction record?

Steve Salerno said...

Doc, you and I don't always agree--as you know--but I gotta give you props for sheer entertainment value. And you come up with esoterica that's not your run-of-the-mill stuff. Flavorfully put, too. Kudos.

RevRon's Rants said...

Don't even get me started with "everything that's wrong with America," but rap is merely a small tempest in a very large teacup, compared to some of the problems we face - many of which are self-inflicted. I can recall a time when the same was said of rock and roll, and from the looks of things, we survived that, as well.

Granted, rock and roll didn't glorify the kind of behaviors that some of the "gangsta rap" does, and it was, for the greater part, focused upon getting along with each other, but it did seem to threaten the parents of that generation. Probably because it was part of the whole sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll phenomenon.

It's the nature of the young to rebel, and even to hold some fascination for anything that gets under the adult generation's collective skin. Hopefully, this generation's version of that anger will mellow, as has every generation's preceding it. What will remain will be the better examples of musical creativity. There will still be some who beat the drums of anger, just as there are some who cling to the youthful rage of earlier years. They will inevitably fall into the pit of irrelevance, however, where they can commiserate with their fellow throwbacks. The teacup will grow ever larger, the tempest will continue to shrink, awaiting the next one to come and take its place.

Mary Anne said...

When I read this, I was reminded of the "Saturday Night Live" spoof of the Secret with Julia Louis-Dreyfus playing a woman who was following the book and got a restraining order put on her by her ex-husband. Byrne was played by Amy Poehler with this startled crazed look. It was one of the best skits of the show last year. I laugh just thinking about it. Ever day someone is trying to shove that book down my throat. I refuse to read it, because there is no secret.

Steve Salerno said...

Hey, Ron, I really enjoyed that as a work of mini-lit. The last half of the last graph in particular reads like something Wallace Stevens would've crafted, or maybe Eliot; it has that same "not with a bang, but a whimper" cadence and mood. (Oh, it also makes sense, too. Which is still a plus, right, today?)

Anonymous said...


I dare you to listen to Will Smith and find one word - one word - of whining. (And I'm not talking about some jokey "Parents Just Don't Understand" stuff) You don't know anything about rap music - especially the breath and depth of it - and can't admit it is all. Obviously, if you think Country is all about pick-ups and misery, then you don't know much about it either. (Dolly Parton, anyone?) Don't penalize music because you're ignorant, man.

If you had said you didn't like a particular artist - say, Too $hort - I'd give you a pass. But to diss whole genres of outsider music - outsider music that dominates, at that - is PC nonsense. I have no myopia - I like ALL MUSIC - it's you, Rev, who decided rap is problematic. (I'm defending it, remember?) I have no preference. It's you guys who decided rap sucks. But, honestly, I don't think you guys know diddly squat about rap music. On this, you're a fool. I know there's rap music for any and all occasions. It's a varied as people. So please, just let it go, because you don't know what you're talking about.


No, man, this isn't a personal taste issue: rap's been attacked from the day it arrived. It's a prejudice. Rev not only doesn't know about the variety of rap music: he also doesn't CARE about the variety of rap music. He can feel morally superior dissing rap - like everyone else who keeps it far away on purpose. That sense of removal makes it easy to diss. (If they listened to it, they might find they're not so smart after all. As a matter of fact, the guys in The Wu-Tang probably know a lot more,...) I say let the debate go.


See, this is what I mean about rap: I'm black, and I'm defending rap, so I must be stereotyped as getting prideful, as Steve wrote about. Wrong. I'm defending country - all music - too. (And I ain't no cowboy.) It's the attacks on rap that are wrong. It's a badly maligned genre of music that succeeds despite the best efforts of people - primarily whites but others too - to destroy it through misrepresentation. It's just wrong.

RevRon's Rants said...

Don't go accusing me of making sense, Steve. Doing so will force me to re-read my offering, to see just where I went wrong! :-)

Steve Salerno said...


I know this is going to open a whole can of worms because of some of the personal venom contained in the foregoing. And I gave it all due deliberation before deciding to approve it for the blog. I do not want to set a precedent for name-calling (and I'd appreciate it if I don't get a lot of grief from people who have had milder comments censored). I've said all along, I take these things on a case by case basis. There are several factors here that figured in my decision. First, the comment isn't all name-calling; there's a fair amount of back-up and logical defense of his position, and in the overall, the argument is a fairly elegant one. Second, I believe that the commenter, here, is a member of the industry at the heart of all this, so in such cases I allow people somewhat more latitude in making their argument(s). Finally, this is the third or fourth comment in a developing thread that has taken on a life of its own and seemed to call for an air-clearing, getting-to-the-crux-of-it exchange. Clearly we're talking about a lot more here than music, per se.

I am inviting that exchange to take place on the blog--though I also hope that we can keep the level of discourse reasonably high. These points (above) could've been made without calling people on the opposing side "ignorant."

RevRon's Rants said...

I'll try to make this as simple as possible. I have listened to a fair amount of rap music, and I simply do not enjoy it. If you wish to tell yourself that it is a matter of ignorance, rather than taste, go for it. It'll be your little secret. Do I think rap is problematic? No. I don't think it's that important. You do? Doesn't matter to me in the least.

For the record, I don't feel morally superior because I don't care for rap. If I feel that way at all, it is because I am comfortable with allowing others to have different opinions, without feeling threatened or attacked. To state that people desire to destroy rap because they don't like to listen to it is frankly pretty paranoid. And to belittle others ("mostly whites") for not sharing your tastes is patently racist.

You say I don't know rap. I say you don't know Rev. And I've had a lot more contact with rap than you have with me.

a/good/lysstener said...

First of all how did I get dragged into this here? If anything I think my last comment is more supportive of what you're saying than critical. I'm attacking people's closemindedness about evaluating other people's musical tastes. Where do I say anything at all about race entering the picture? When I talked about human nature I was talking about it as an overall concept as it applies to individuals, not to one race defending its musical choices against another's. Where did you even get that from? I have to say, I think this is a case where *your* racial sensitivities are showing.

Cosmic Connie said...

I'll tell you what I hate: loud, booming music coming out of other cars when we're stopped at a stop light. The bass is generally at a frequency that stops just short of driving me completely bonkers. It has a physical and mental effect on me that is not at all good. There's no escaping it. And the music is -- you guessed it -- usually rap or hip-hop, at least in our neck of the woods.

Does this make me a racist? No, just a person with overly sensitive ears. To tell the truth, I never liked loud rock concerts when I was younger either. They jarred me.

I realize, of course, that the loud booming hip-hop and rap in the other cars is NOT the fault of the genre or the musicians, but the consumers. But it does add to the negative image of the genre. (The Rev always observes that the guys who have the loudest music going on are invariably alone or with other guys -- never with a woman.)

Having said all that, I am aware that rap and hip-hop can have positive messages. And for better or worse I think they are a significant cultural force. It's just the general sound I often find annoying, even when it's not played at full throttle. However, I've listened to some of Sam's stuff and it really is intriguing. So I've made an effort to open my mind to this genre.

But Sam, Rev's right. You really don't know him and you're making assumptions about him that are not accurate at all. And I'm confused about dissing rap being PC nonsense. Wouldn't it be more PC to embrace rap?!?

Alyssa, I agree that you were arguing for openmindedness and that if anything, you were being supportive of Sam.

PS - I prefer reggae, in any case, and have for many years. Though I used to be kind of a Yellowman fan...

Steve Salerno said...

I guess we're simpatico, in a manner of speaking, Connie--you liked Yellowman, I liked (and still like) Redman...though his early work was far better than anything he's done since he "went Hollywood."

moi said...

Well, since we're still on the subject, the only rap I've actually seen live is a 'Mystikal' concert about 10 years ago in new orleans. It was truly a cultural experience. For a moment, some pretty deep racial divides were bridged, as I found myself experiencing a little bit of how the other side lives.
That said, i agree with connie about the loud music, but am still in awe of people who have such mastery of oral expression. Sure, some of it is negative in a bad way, but it is still an art form that has the potential to enrich the culture.

Anonymous said...

Yowza! (Yikes!) Methinks I've gotten myself under a few folks's skin-skin. Sincerely: That wasn't my intention. Before I got home, I regretted calling Rev a fool and, whether online or in person, I will/would apologize - Sorry, Dude, really.

Apologies to Steve as well, because I think he does a good job that's helped me a lot, but baby-sitting doesn't have to be one of them. I have to admit though, to me, my language does somehow come off "harder", in print, than it does in person. Anyway, I'll be good.

That said:

Rev (and Connie - Hi Connie!) Anonymous, Steve, Moi, Alissa, Carl - everybody,

Louis Armstrong said there's really two kinds of music: "good" and "bad". Beethoven, Satie, Wagner, and Rachmaninoff, are all called Classical Music. Because Rev doesn't care for Wagner, or Rachmaninoff, does he tell people he doesn't like Classical? And Connie, as you said, if Rev starts feeling it one day and blasts Beethoven's 5th, are you going to say you don't like Classical?

See, while I agree "You can't judge the state of a person's soul by the kind of music they like", I say we're not discussing "like" but "dislike" and, from that, you CAN get what Rev called "a reflection on their ideology". Especially when those dislikes - without prompting - are being openly declared ("garbage") as we do with new age, and other "bad" things.

I don't think I called anyone a racist, did I? White, sure, but not racist. (It's not an argument I'm prone to making.) I'm reacting to, as Steve said, a(nother) "sudden assault against rap music" that Rev doesn't even think is that important - he doesn't even care - though he's been known to listen and comment on the behavior of Rap fans. As a bastion of Free Speech - without even having to consider it's many merits as music - I think Rap's vitally important, and, yea, you better believe I think everyone should care a lot.

Call me paranoid, Rev, but I don't think Clarence Page feels mistaken in his latest chosen choice of target: the one place where people can tell Clarence Page what his mother was - in no uncertain terms. (None of Mr. Page's niceties surrounding "the n-word", or any other word, in Rap's world of ideas. And being a Dalek - I like that - isn't really allowed; it, definitely, isn't respected.) The late Tupac Shakur wrote You Wonder Why We Call You 'Bitch' for the leader of a previous assault (Deloris Tucker) which seemed to do the trick, nicely. She was so embarrassed she, stupidly, sued and lost. Clarence better be ready, Steve, because unleashed Rappers can be brutal.

"Wouldn't it be more PC to embrace rap?!?"

Not after Imus. The PC attack on the imagined racial sexism of straight white guys (think of the Duke case) has swung the spotlight around to imagined sexism in the culture at large,...and Rappers are the new potential "vics" (victims). Though, in truth, it's Rappers who will more likely tell you the actual lay of the cultural landscape than any so-called feminists and PC types. I mean, who are you more likely to trust, for accuracy, regarding real women's lives:

Queen Latifah or Gloria Steinem?

Like Comedy has one rule - be funny - Rap Music has one rule: understand meter. All bets are off after that. Not all Rap has lyrics. (The DJ may not want to allow the rapper to speak. We all know that feeling. What's going on in Rap, as an art form, is far, far, more than the way it's depicted. Pick up a copy of Prefuse 73's Extinguished: Outtakes and tell me you know anything about what's been going on in Rap Music.) Tons 'O' Gunz is a good example of what most people think is happening (no offense, Steve: early Redman was the bomb-dizzle and Tons 'O' Gunz is still a great song) but lookee:

Tons 'O' Gunz may be a provocative anti-gun message, but people who REALLY listen to Rap also like knowing Kool Keith is out there, pointing his television remote at the sky, because he "controls the moon". We like De la Soul, a bunch of Long Island Family Men, mowing their lawns, checking for "potholes", and trying to keep it clean. We like that supposedly-sexist Rap Music introduced more top female artists in it's first 10 years (Queen Latifah being the most prominent) than in all of Rock's history. (None of those credibility headaches Heart, for instance, had to endure.) We like that Rap has broken racial and cultural barriers the Civil Rights Movement left dangling. We also like that the Anti-Pop Consortium has worked with Opera stars, A Tribe Called Quest conquered Jazz, and, well, we like that you just never know what Rap Music may do/become next.

Symphonies, Alissa? Rap's done symphonies - Chamber Music, all that. Brian Eno and Phillip Glass, combined, can't keep up with Rap's use of free expression and the studio art of production. I wouldn't know about the brilliant work of David Axelrod (jewish producer for Cannonball Adderly and Lou Rawls) if Dr. Dre hadn't revisited Axelrod's ideas in some of his biggest Gangsta hits. Grand, lush, productions that have won Dre, and Axelrod, several Grammy Awards.

The world of Rap Music, rather than being this macho, bullet-riddled, dark alley of hate and caution, is more like living in a potentially-ruder, potentially-cruder, more reality-based Sgt. Pepper's of sound. You just never know - sonically, lyrically, or culturally and politically - what'll come next. That's what I know - not feel but know - is being "threatened or attacked". I know it like I know Homeopathy is water. No one's shy about attacking it. Who's going to stand up for "gangsters"? Keep hitting Rap with the Rap-hates-women nonsense (because people can criticize women in Rap) or say it's not music (because much of music theory can go right out the window) or, of course, "the children" (sure, reduce us all to baby-talk - like saying "the n-word" - because people refuse to buy their kids Classical records) and you might get somewhere eventually.

Do I "paint all rappers as taking the moral and cultural high ground", even though I've spent a good deal of my career around them, and can assure you they're not always known for their smarts, morals, or small egos? (I've had guns pulled on me to produce their records - merely because they felt they deserved it.) In this - Freedom of Speech/Expression - I do. And I think it's silly, and dangerous, to especially say you don't like this kind of music when it's probably the most important one ever invented and it's world-wide cultural dominance is only one very-big sign of the proof of that.

OK - I think I got it all out - except I feel compelled to leave you with this extremely special, and pertinent, bit of obscure Rap history:

Grand Master Flash was a teen in his room, playing records, when his mother came in shouting for him to turn it down. He turned the outside volume off - but he accidently kept the headphone volume up - and, quite absent-mindedly, began to block his mother's anti-music tirade by cueing the record from side to side,....

True Story.

Steve Salerno said...

Sam, leaving aside the whole miasmic muddle of PC/un-PC, white vs. black, music vs. cacophony, etc., I simply have to say that I enjoyed reading this comment as much as I've enjoyed reading just about anything in recent years. You're an edgy guy, and I do think you're prone to hyperbole...but you never lack for passion, and you have a way of stringing the imagery together to create a forward momentum that makes people want to follow along, even as we know we're getting into deep, turbulent waters (in the same way that we keep following, say, John Carpenter, as he takes us right over the cliff with him...) ;)

My own Grandmaster Flash story: I was selling wall mirrors in Harlem in the 70s when I first became aware of GF and the nascent movement that became hip-hop. (That whole experience later formed the substance of my very first article sale, a memoir to Harper's in 1982.) The signature beats from that era now seem almost laughably primitive, judged by the complexity of what you'll hear anchoring today's rap. (My fave, btw--no surprise here--is the stuff that's heavily jazz-influenced, e.g. by Organized Konfusion.) But whenever I hear somebody playing GF (or the Fat Boys or Run-DMC), it never fails to evoke fond memories of a place I will always, always love for the sheer energy, friendliness and optimism, yes, OPTIMISM of its people. I think there are political reasons that help explain why Bill Clinton chose 125th St. (Harlem's "Main Street") for his office, but I can understand the choice on a personal level as well. Even with the risk (which was always overstated anyway, except for a short period in the early 70s when the BLA was ambushing cops and throwing white salesmen off rooftops), I'll take the honesty of Harlem over the pretense of Midtown any day. And if you're lucky enough to work over on the East--Spanish Harlem--you get the added benefit of being serenaded by the likes of Eddie Palmieri and Ruben Blades as you go about your business. Plus, all those beautiful little children's faces with those enormous brown eyes, smiling down at you through the broken glass of the tenement windows... I tell ya, the memory still chokes me up, after all these years.

Steve Salerno said...

P.S. And just in case anyone is wondering, this is not a "white guilt"/"Steve secretly wishes he was a brother" thing, either. Parts of Philly are also largely black (again, using the current racial definitions), and there are many such neighborhoods where I wouldn't hang out if you paid me Rhonda Byrne's salary from last year. In fact, overall, central Philly has become an ugly, inhospitable place, and something needs to be done.

RevRon's Rants said...

"And I think it's silly, and dangerous, to especially say you don't like this kind of music when it's probably the most important one ever invented..."

Well, Sam, we obviously disagree, both on the characterization of people who don't like rap, as well as its level of importance. Given that rap is key to your livelihood, I can certainly understand your sense of loyalty to it. But your tastes are not universally shared, and applying negative labels to those who do not share your tastes is destructive. If for no other reason, you would do well to realize that alienating people unnecessarily is bad for business. And if you believe that alienating people who don't care for rap is a necessary part of supporting rap as an art form, you might want to take a fresh look at your priorities, as well as the demands of the art form.

You have called me ignorant, a fool, dangerous, and clearly implied that "people like me" are racist. You are more than welcome to do so. It doesn't matter to me, because the labels you try to pin on people reflect more upon your awareness, openness, and bias than upon any qualities or shortcomings others may have. I neither like nor dislike black people, white people, or any other ind of people. I like individuals who will engage in civil debate, who will disagree, yet allow that other viewpoints might have their bases in well-reasoned consideration or personal tastes. I dislike people who attempt to coerce others into sharing - or at least parroting - their viewpoints. I have little patience for people who abuse their status - be it racial, economic, political, or ideological - in coercive attempts to promote their preferences, or who demand that others feel, think, and express themselves in a specific manner. Ultimately, I don't have to point out when another person is doing these things; their behavior speaks more loudly than any commentary I might offer.

As I'd said before, I do not like rap music. It does not appeal to me musically. Even though I will acknowledge that some examples of the genre do contain valid messages, if the medium itself is not aesthetically pleasing, the message is lost in the clutter. As a writer, I am keenly aware of the fact that it is my responsibility to communicate ideas in a manner that is both understandable and enjoyable to my readers. Were I to demand that readers comply with my concept of aesthetics, I would diminish the breadth of my audience. By placing strict demands upon listeners, you severely limit your audience to those who share your perspective. While I do not assert that all art forms must strive for universal appeal (a futile endeavor, at best), I do feel that stomping one's feet and demanding that people comply with your personal vision is both arrogant and self-defeating. The decision to follow such a path is, however, your choice.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve -
I have to agree with your assessment of Philly. While stationed there, I lived in one of the row houses that the city later firebombed, and eventually moved to South Philly (6th & Tasker). My salvation was that I spent most weekends touring the countryside on my motorcycle, and stayed pretty well stoned when I couldn't get away.

Steve Salerno said...

This is another one of those comments that's bound to annoy the bejesus out of the free-will crowd (let alone rabid fans of Empowerment), but I happen to believe that the mind spends a good part of its time engaged in the process of finding convenient "intellectual" reasons to justify things that we're already predisposed (if not hard-wired) to feel or do at a much deeper level. So, to me, the process of decision-making is the reverse of how most folks see it: I don't think we think about something, then decide how we feel; I think we feel how we feel (pre- or subconsciously), then think about it and decide on why it's OK to feel that way (i.e. by accumulating evidence, "analyzing" the facts, etc.): kind of like a jury trial where the vote for guilt or innocence comes first, and then jurors look at the evidence and pick out whatever supports their vote(s). This is pertinent to the canny observation Alyssa made some time ago in this thread, about human nature. It's also a slightly more expansive version of what I said earlier--that I think these questions, like most things, reduce largely to taste, and we freight them with all sorts of larger cultural significance (or positive or negative import) in order to justify that taste. Maybe I'm wrong. But that's how I basically see it.

RevRon's Rants said...

I agree that for the most part, our likes and dislikes develop independent of logical reasoning. I'll deviate from your assessment in that I think we frequently bypass the analysis until we are given a reason to justify or defend our tastes, or feel the need to impose those tastes upon others. Most things, we merely experience and enjoy - or not - sans rationalization. At least, that's the way I'm wired.

Anonymous said...

Rev and Steve,

These days, it's never lost on me that, as I speak to people, it's pretty obvious that I'm one of the few that has never been part of the believing culture - except to say I once lived with an increasingly kooky person that believed in something "good" that turned her malicious. I've never believed, never joined a group, or played a part in the industry. I think that's because I was a foster child and the realities of life - some of it's "spiritual" certainties - were laid before me at an early age. I've watched, and occasionally been negatively effected, by the surrounding herd mentality my whole life. Rev says "alienating people unnecessarily is bad for business" but it's never lost on me that the herd - which always claims to be made of compassion, or fairness, or something good - never worries about alienating, or hurting, anyone. I may seem to engage in "hyperbole" but it's actually a reflection of that observation and experience: My history has compelled me to care about principals - publicly and privately - preventing me from taking Rev's position (repeated over and over) that "It doesn't matter to me" because, it's my experience, that's the kind of disengagement that allows the herd to do the wrong things I've seen it do.

I've been beat up for not believing in God, and (regarding music) I've had to physically defend myself (from black people) to hear Led Zepplin, and Kiss, as well as Country Music. I didn't have to endure that. But was I wrong to "alienate" those people or was I, alone, fighting for principles that were good and right but - in isolation and with the convenience of situational ethics - no one else cared about as much as shutting down any dissension?

To me, it'll always be about the madness of crowds. A bunch of people want to start wailing on Rap Music - even calling it "garbage" - who am I, almost alone, to complain? I mean, the group is only alienating little ol' principled me, and - as my new age divorce proved - I, and those troubling principals (like there's no good basis - even taste - for dissing an entire genre of music) are expendable.

Rev says, "As a writer, I am keenly aware of the fact that it is my responsibility to communicate ideas in a manner that is both understandable and enjoyable to my readers". But I would counter that SHAM (Steve's book) is "challenging" to people who believe. It's an affront to them - because he's right - and THAT's what gives it it's worth. Not whether they enjoy the message that they've been taken. I responded to it's message because he, too, showed he understood principals that the herd chooses to ignore in it's pursuit of ideology. As Paul McCartney wrote:

When You Were Young And Your Heart Was An Open Book
You Used To Say Live And Let Live
(You Know You Did, You Know You Did You Know You Did)
But In This Ever Changing World In Which We Live In
Makes You Give In And Cry

Say Live And Let Die
Live And Let Die
Live And Let Die
Live And Let Die

What Does It Matter To Ya
When You Got A Job To Do
You Gotta Do It Well
You Gotta Give The Other Fellow Hell

I've been made to cry. So, no, I don't go in for the pastel-minded "be cool" idea of public discourse - maybe because I'm a Rapper. Either there is a right and wrong or there isn't and, if there is, then right comes from a vigorous defense of certain principals and wrong is what happens when no one is willing to do so. I say, if you're going to hold a particular position, then defend it, and if you're wrong then admit you're wrong.

You don't discount Classical Music because Wagner gets to you or some of the people who enjoy it are stuffy. Discounting Rap Music - which encompasses millions of records that range from "conscience" (peace-loving) to Gangsta - is, on it's face, wrong.

I await my public stoning.

Dr Swill said...

People people please!!

The question we all need to ask ourselves in heated moments like this is.... what would Rhonda do?

Now, putting myself in Rhonda's shoes (and slapping a Sticker of Enlightenment on my forehead), it's very easy to settle this question once and for all.

Does rap music make its creators rich? It does indeed. Therefore, the correct answer here is Sam's.

According to the Univer$al Law of Attraction, Rap = Great Mu$ic. Don't fight the power, Revron.

(In all seriousness, though, I don't think it's racist to dislike rap. After all, it's hard to think of any category of pop music from the 20th century that wasn't invented by blacks - whether rock, jazz, blues, reggae, or rap - well I guess country... that's about it. I think everybody has certain kinds of art they don't respond to, on a gut level... and you can't force yourself to like it.)

As to Steve's last post, I think that's pretty accurate as far as it goes (I think the brain really does work by feelings, instinctive reactions, intuitions, hunches), however when you say....

"like a jury trial where the vote for guilt or innocence comes first, and then jurors look at the evidence and pick out whatever supports their vote(s)"

Where does that leave an actual, non-metaphorical jury trial? if that's how we operate all the time, we sure as hell better be able to force ourselves to adjust our thought patterns (e.g. during jury duty, or voting someone into office), otherwise the whole criminal justice system is a farce that doesn't realize it's a farce. A trial is predicated on the notion that 12 ordinary people are able to make a decision by adjusting their mental model to fit the evidence, not forcing the evidence to fit their already painted picture of the truth.

And yet, as you say, that's not how we make everyday decisions. How can someone who operates solely by half-hidden feelings be expected to suddenly drastically change if summoned to jury duty? If human behavior is so far from the rational, Enlightenment model, then being tried by a jury of one's peers is actually not such a good or fair thing at all.

Anonymous said...

I'm at work and a woman comes in asking for The Herbaliser. I tell her he's in the Electronica Section and, I swear, the first words out of her mouth are "I hate Electronica!"

I smile.


moi said...

Sam, I enjoy hearing your point of view, and am learning new things from you, but the comment about Queen latifah and Gloria Steinem regarding women's lives is a bit off the mark:

"I mean, who are you more likely to trust, for accuracy, regarding real women's lives:
Queen Latifah or Gloria Steinem?"

If you were a woman , maybe you could make that kind of a atatement, but, in this case, I don't think you understand the issue as much as you do rap. Latifah may seem more accurate to some segments of the population, while Steinem to others. However, Steinem has devoted her entire life thinking about women's issues, and I would venture to say she is accurate much of the time. I know she has supported some things that are now passé, but she has done a lot of good and her ideas resonate with a lot of women. And, this may not sound very PC, but you should see her in person, 60 years old and still hot.

Cal said...

I'm kind of late to the party. There has been some interesting discussions. I was listening to the radio this morning and the ABC station has a show that is syndicated nationally called Perspective. Cynthia McFadden did a story on The Secret and Byrne.

I didn't know this, but Byrne has been incommunicado since Oprah. She refuses to do interviews. McFadden interviewed one of the other people who was on the Oprah show with her (I forget which one). The guy indicated that he e-mails her, but she doesn't want to interview because of the negative publicity the Secret has gotten. McFadden thought it was odd because usually an author wants to interview as much as they can. (Unless you are Jonathan Franzen).

On a positive note, McFadden indicated that when she went to a Barnes & Noble in Midtown NYC all of the Secret books and videos were sold out....sheesh

Steve Salerno said...

And finally--and, I'm thinking, thankfully (whew)--we've come full circle, back to where this post began. Btw, I'm going to be posting about some of what took place here.

Yes, Cal, the book is always sold out, or almost. I've found the same thing to be true in visiting bookstores here and there. (There's usually only one or two copies of SHAM, as well, but for a different reason, alas: As much as I'd like to delude myself into thinking that it's because SHAM is so incredibly popular, my royalty statement tells a different story; stores just don't order that many copies. Not anymore, anyway.)

Anonymous said...


I hope I can say this without being charged with being racial (some things, in America, just can't be described without black and white as labels) but it's my experience that most black women were turned off to the feminist movement because GS didn't speak to their lives - starting with the fact they weren't as mad at black men as most of the movement seemed to be, at men at large, and many of the other "important" issues just seemed like frivolous, middle-class spoilt-girl whining and so much notch-making. To this day, I hear blacks grumbling, because the women's movement - and the gay pride movement - didn't join to advance the civil rights movement, for blacks, but just sorta cynically lept over it - ignoring the original idea that, once we get ours, everybody wins. Now the whole enterprise just seems to have been perverted for many blacks - who, it must be said, are more conservative than their public image lets on. By their reckoning, they didn't march for people to have the right to have sex in alleys, or for huge parades where radicals show off their breast piercings.

As far as GS at 60, and being "hot", she's been charged with mega-hypocrisy for her speeches that denied women should marry (as she eventually did) or be feminine (as she eventually did) or pursue romance (which she eventually succumbed to - and even claimed to have always desired - despite her previous public pronouncements). Even worse, she's been cowardly about taking on those charges, kinda adopting a hypocritical "it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind" stance - after doing so much damage to other women's lives, the men she was dissing, the babies that were never born, and the families she helped destroy - and, then, compounding it all by just disappearing when the mood suited her. What kind of leader is that?

And I may be revealing too much but, since my divorce, I don't feel the whole being sexy thing anymore. Trying to rattle men's minds for advantage - if you're not on stage - just comes off as crude and shows you have no respect for propriety or boundaries. And I'm not talking about showing skin - which is the most extreme manifestation of it - but just adding "hotness" into the presentation (as opposed to being feminine) just shows women can't cut it in a world of equality and ideas. It's like "dignity" has become a foreign term. But, like I said, I've been rubbed raw by my ex's behavior and, admittedly, still have a lot of personal work to do on my feelings about women these days.

Queen Latifah, on the other hand, has always been a big, beautiful, proud, dignified, clear-headed, straight-shooting, Rap-defending, icon of upward-mobility and raw talent. She made it in Rap - in a time when it was known as a man's game - with the full support of men (She even had a male posse) and opened the door to other women, like Money-Love, to find success. What's not to like?


I don't see SHAM many places either, while all of the crap is prominently displayed, even in the library.

And - about the "Junk Food" analogy - did anyone else read this recent blog post, about "alternative" medicine, and the cultishly-metaphysical changes that have been occurring in nursing?:

It's much more informative than most articles I've seen, and I've been following this story for a long time, since it features a lot of the stuff my ex fell into. Unfortunately, the word "cult" never appears in it, but all the outlines are there. Here's another, earlier, one by the late Jeff Raskin (who was one of the inventors of the Macintosh, and a cognitive science researcher, married to a nurse) where he called it what it is:


I'm really sorry to pick a fight with you - about Rap Music, of all things - but I sincerely believe you're trying to defend the indefensible and should just admit it. Not because I like Rap but because of the experience I posted earlier (with the customer who came in looking for an Electronica artist but "hated" Electronica) and the questioning I did of myself as well:

I put on records I didn't like, all day yesterday, and asked myself - for whatever reason - can I slam a whole genre for my tastes?

And the answer was always a firm "no". It just isn't right. Personally, I'll be eternally grateful (black folks be damned) for the day I discovered Hank Williams Sr.. Because, not only did he save me, after my divorce - by allowing music to re-enter my life - but he allowed me, many years ago, to see the hearts of people (white people) I had been told, all my life, didn't have one. Music is cool that way.

Also, I kept thinking of this one Backpack Rapper, Pigeon John, who is so against the things you hate in Rap, and practically begging for things to be different - in Rap and your mind - check out these lyrics:

"Freak freak y'all
Can I speak y'all?
I'm feeling you so much
I really wanna reach all
Whether short or tall skater
Or a basketball player
Or a geek hiding
in the bathroom stall
I really love y'all,
do you love me?
Then why don't we connect
and redefine 'ecstasy'?
It's not a pill y'all,
it's not a thrill y'all
It's not a video
buddy, it's what you feel y'all
Cause we gon' die soon,
and we gon' be forgot
If we don't find out why we're here
and what's the main plot
It's so confusing,
it's so eluding
My name is Pigeon John
and I'm here to make it soothing
Cause times get hard,
and girls get scarred
That's why they not feelin' you
- and you're feelin' cold bars
And the men too,
they don't speak to kids
And the kids become sad
and depressed instead

Pigeon John will turn it
upside down
'bout to turn this party
upside down
Me and you and your crew
- taking over the town
Cause we 'bout to turn this party
upside down"

I'm not saying, Rev, you've got to like the guy but - as he states clearly - he wishes you would. And, whether you like his particular music or not, I wish you'd reconsider Rap as well:

It's only right.

Dr Swill said...

"she doesn't want to interview because of the negative publicity the Secret has gotten"

Sorry to beat a dead horse (or live guru).... but.... why doesn't she just use the Law of Attraction to elicit the positive vibes she wants from interviewers? If the Law always, ALWAYS works... why can't the Goddess from Down Under make it work in this context?

RevRon's Rants said...

"I sincerely believe you're trying to defend the indefensible and should just admit it."

Same song, just another verse. If you haven't gotten it by now, you aren't likely to after another round. Think whatever you will.

BTW - The word "but" effectively negates any apology, and turns it into further rationalization for one's behavior.

Cosmic Connie said...

I should have spoken up sooner, but I was drifting in and out of this thread when it was getting really heated, and I didn't take the time to review all of the comments until just a while ago.

Sam asks: "Can I slam a whole genre for my tastes?"

Sam, I think you are arguing about things that don't call for an argument. That's certainly no way to win friends for rap.

Earlier I wrote a throwaway comment about how obnoxious I think it is to be trapped at a stop light and subjected to loud booming rap music from a neighboring car. I noted that I was aware this wasn't the fault of the genre but added that I thought that for many folks, such incidents probably add to the general negative view of rap.

In retrospect I shouldn't have used that example because it detracted from the issues being debated and didn't really make clear the reason I don't like most rap.

And that reason is... I really just do not care for the sound of it.

Even at a more tolerable (for me) volume, I find most rap just plain annoying -- not because of the lyrics, not because of the message, not because I find it threatening, not because I think it is's just the general sound that I don't care for. I can take it in only in small doses.

I have been living with The Rev for nearly fourteen years and I can state with a fair amount of certainty that he feels the same way about rap for pretty much the same reasons. No big heavy sociopolitical implications -- it really is just a matter of taste.

So why is this ridiculous argument still going on? What the heck is Ron "defending" that is so "indefensible?" Sam, I saw that you apologized to Ron earlier for calling him ignorant, but in other posts you implied or said outright that he was dangerous and a fool, and that he was against freedom of expression, and you seemed to be saying all of this simply because he doesn't like the same kind of music you do. That's what it looks like to me, anyway.

You can argue for the next ten years, but no matter how eloquent or how fierce your arguments are, you are not going to bring Ron any closer to liking the sound of rap.

But so what? Ron isn't going around making a big public campaign about dissing rap, nor is he trying to get it banned, nor is he trying to discourage other people from listening to it or buying it. So what's the big deal?

Sam, I understand, or I think I do, what you've been saying about the social and political significance of rap. On this thread and others, you've made some very astute observations about civil rights and feminism, about the damage done by new-age "culture," and about the influence of music on society, among other things -- but you're dead wrong about Ron.

If I sound a bit defensive it's because I perceive that you were unfairly targeting Ron, and you really don't know him.

Steve Salerno said...

Connie, thanks for trying to negotiate a workable DMZ here. (If I ever get my own mob Family, we'll make you consigliere.) Ron, I'm not sure that I agree with your general statement about the use of the word "but." That stance seems to allow no room for ambivalence or qualification, and I think most of us are ambivalent about lots of things in life. I have had many arguments (too many) with my youngest son where I ended up apologizing for the fact that my words ruined his day, or whatever activity we were involved in when the fireworks started--I did feel genuinely bad about it, and I wanted him to do know that I felt bad--while also making clear that I still could not condone whatever he'd done that got a rise out of me in the first place. Now, does that really "negate" the apology, in the true sense of the word? I guess it depends on one's point of view. For the record, my son would agree with you.


I do agree with you, too, that it depends on the case and setting, and that many people do use the "but" as a prelude to reasserting their original slight, albeit perhaps in altered, more philosophical form. In that case the apology is a mere formality, and probably insincere.

moi said...

Sam, I didn't have time to read all of the new posts yet, but caught your comment about "hot":
"but just adding "hotness" into the presentation (as opposed to being feminine) just shows women can't cut it in a world of equality and ideas."

Wanting to be 'hot' or feminine doesn't mean that women can't cut it in world of ideas. Women also use the term 'hot' to describe men they find attractive. That doesn't negate men's intelligence in any way whatsoever. It may be an objectifying word, which is why i rarely use it, but as I mentioned in a previous post, I am just yapping here.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve -
I feel that if an apology is genuine, it needs to be offered without preconditions or disclaimers. I admit that I have offered apologies in the past with a "but..." tacked on, and the amendment, if you will, was notice that I hadn't finished with whatever were my own issues at the time. If one is honest, I believe they would acknowledge this to be the case in their own interactions, as well.

If we strike out at someone - especially if we do so intentionally - they deserve an apology that is untainted by the continuing desire to be "right." If there are issues yet to be resolved, they are best resolved when the emotions have been cooled in the waters of civil interchange, and not interspersed with further blows. I stand by my assessment; there are, granted, degrees of applicability, but the fundamental issue is pretty well universal.

Anonymous said...


I was saying this state of affairs is unfortunate - not that I apologize for my assessment of the Rev's opinion on Rap, which he put pretty clearly:

"performers who constantly whine about how badly they've been treated."

That's a picture of Rap that is *light years* away from what I know to be Rap Music: a form filled with so many perspectives it would be hard for me to say any one dominates - as opposed to the one y'all see that's filled with whining, violence, sexism, guns, etc.

Rev also stated "I don't think it's that important" and claimed "To state that people desire to destroy rap because they don't like to listen to it is frankly pretty paranoid." This, despite the fact Public Enemy's career was practically destroyed because The New York Times got in the habit of putting their lyrics on the front page.

I watched the comments devolve from Steve's back-handed endorsement to calling Rap "garbage". But, as Moi said, "labelling rap as negative doesn't really hit the mark." And hiding behind taste isn't a sufficient defense for such a perspective. I called you on it - because you can't claim to dislike records you haven't heard (and you've made it pretty clear, based on your tastes, you don't spend your time investigating it beyond what you think you already know about it.) because it's unfair.

Violence, etc., may be what gets the most attention but, to people who know the form, it's hardly Rap Music. Kurtis Blow - who has been around forever - has never uttered a violent/sexist word in his life. Rap's creators (Cool Herc, Biz Markie, etc.) are all "party" guys. Prefuse 73, as I said, may not even allow Rappers to speak on his "Rap" records. To listen to you guys, such people don't even exist.

My only point was - and still is - the genre deserves as much respect as any other music and to deny it that is a prejudice. Not necessarily a racial prejudice (I mentioned the claims of sexism from women) but a prejudice against a true American art form that's proved itself, over and over, despite everything people have chosen to throw at it. (Obviously, Country falls in the same category for me: a form that blacks choose to openly diss.) I'd take this same position if we were discussing Jazz, or any other form. It just amazes me that thoughtful people, including the likes of Clarence Page, could choose to keep this "assault" going against Rap.

I think I have proven that I'm willing to apologize for what I do. I'm willing to blame myself for my own obnoxiousness. I'm willing to learn, change my perspective, reassess - without blaming it on other's sense of being offended: I did it - no one else - and they're offended for good reason, not because they're insecure, etc.. And it doesn't matter if it's one person, or a group. And I'm definitely not going to start something and then claim "I don't care" when I'm called on it. Such behavior says you're not a serious person.

I like to think everyone here regularly is a serious person. But, as I alluded to earlier, I do understand that I'm one of the few people who has no connection to the ways of new age. But I do know it, now, and expecting people to be cool when you do something wrong is silly. Take the blame, like any adult, and just say you'll try not to do it again. That's the only penalty for it. You win no points, for calmness under pressure, when you're the one that caused a disagreement or problem.

Here is my position, one more time, clearly:

No one has to run around screaming "I love rap music!" but this group-think that there's something "wrong" with it, or there's a major difference between Eric Satie and Eminem - or John Cale and Kareoki - is bogus: it's "music" - an art form - and it deserves our respect, and protection, your (or my) particular tastes be damned.


RevRon's Rants said...

"Public Enemy's career was practically destroyed because The New York Times got in the habit of putting their lyrics on the front page"

And the lyrics were written by??? Yet the Times is responsible for the public's reaction to them?

Frankly, sam, I give up. You're welcome to take phrases out of context to prove your point, and if that's what you need to do in order to feel validated, or to convince yourself that rap is the musical equivalent of the Second Coming, knock yourself out.

I'll try and make it even simpler, just one more time: I don't find rap music musically appealing. If I find the underlying musical vehicle obnoxious, I don't feel duty-bound to suffer through it to see whether it has a message worth hearing. If you have some need to make my personal tastes a statement on a larger issue, that is your stuff, not mine. And if your message is clouded by your need to offend, you shouldn't be surprised when not everybody wants to listen.

As I'd said before, it is the writer's responsibility to reach the reader. Those writers who demand "purity" in their prose, yet whine when that prose doesn't find universal acceptance, are simply refusing to deal with reality, and are stuck in the pity party of "suffering for their art."

For my part, I've spent all the tokens for your clue bus that I'm willing to spend. If you repeatedly choose to miss the bus, that's your problem.

Steve Salerno said...

"Spent all the tokens for your clue bus," eh?

I like that...

moi said...

Sam, all that you say about GS may be your experience of her. I take it you're older than me. I was born in 65 and actually didn't know much about Steinem till I was in college. I come from a conservative single parent family and went to a conservative school. My experience with men was pretty bad my last year of high school and messed me up for quite some time after that. Also, my mother rejected the whole feminist trend, to her own detriment, and suffered considerably from the stigma of being a divorced woman in 1968. So, for me, personally, I know I would have benefitted from being exposed to feminism at an earlier age. From your male perspective,though, it might be different.

Steve Salerno said...

Moi, maybe I'm losing my mind entirely, but I could swear that I already read and approved this comment of yours. Did you also send it through in connection with another post? I don't know why you'd do that, or how it would even be relevant elsewhere...but I can't seem to shake the deja vu.

RevRon's Rants said...

It's a sign of aging, Steve. They say that the memory is the first...

What was the question again? :-)

moi said...

No , I didn't, Steve. I think your mind is being taken over by entities from the 4th dimension,
or possibly Rhonda Burne has hired a hit spiritualist to infiltrate your consciousness :-)

Steve Salerno said...

I'm afraid my consciousness was infiltrated a long, long time ago. Though as Ron suggests, I can recall exactly when...