Monday, December 21, 2015

Why Do Despotic Regimes Hate Music?

From the Nazi’s to the so-called Islamic State / Daesh, does anyone ever wonder why despotic regimes and despotic political movements are “music haters”? 

By: Ringo Bones 

The recent siege on the Bataclan theater during that fateful Friday evening back in November 13, 2015 by the so-called Islamic State or Daesh only seem to remind us yet again that despotic regimes and despotic political movements more often than not tend to hate music. Despite the tragic terror attack that made a previously relatively obscure metal band The Eagles of Death Metal being catapulted to fame and the venerable U2 fulfilling their promise to their fans in Paris to play in Bataclan after their concert slated for Saturday November 14, 2015 was cancelled due to the tragic terror attack had made U2 a household name again since that time when together with Sir Bob Geldof they made history by starting Live Aid back in 1984. 

When Adolf Hitler came to power, he together with his Nazi thugs disparaged German fans of American Jazz – a then newfangled musical genre established by mostly African-American musicians – and labeling it as “degenerate art”. Weird, given that Adolf Hitler was obsessed with Wagner’s opera.
During Chairman Mao’s “Cultural Revolution”, not only Western forms of music – from Classical to Rock N’ Roll – but also Chinese folk and stage music. And most of the Cold War, tales of despotic Marxist-Leninist regimes, like the Khmer Rouge amongst others, enforcing draconian ban of Western music was a salient theme of the “soft power” struggle between NATO and Warsaw-PAC. 

Back in 1996 when the Afghan Taliban came to power after a protracted civil war that plagued Afghanistan after Soviet troops exited back in 1989, the whole word witnessed how an Abrahamic Theocracy based despotic regime performed yet again its own version of a “cultural purge” by imposing death penalties to anyone caught listening and performing music. The entire Afghan music and film archive were burned by the Taliban in the name of their misguided theocracy. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Farewell BB King.....

Anyone wanting to be as good as BB King has pretty big shoes to fill, but will there be ever be another BB King?

By: Ringo Bones

Like most wannabe guitar player who became aware of blues based music’s life changing – especially in the financial front – effects during the 1970s and the 1980s, it is quite hard to live in a world deprived of one of the greatest bluesman who ever lived named BB King who, sadly, passed away in May 14, 2015. Born back in September 16, 1925 in Berclair, Mississippi to parents who were sharecroppers in the pre Civil Rights era south and like most African American music enthusiasts at the time, the segregated church is mainly the only means to learn the rudiments of musicianship via Gospel. But during his teens as a guitarist with above average abilities, the young BB King soon found out that playing the blues pays better than playing Gospel in church.

His big break for all intents and purposes came in 1969 when he opened for the Rolling Stone’s American tour and thus acquired an international fanbase that even his favourite Gibson semi-hollow electric guitar in which he christened “Lucille” became inextricably linked with his avant garde and yet likable style of blues. I mean his signature fast vibrato has influenced generations of musicians who first heard of him during the latter half of the 1960s. And let’s not forget that BB King will be immortalized in the pantheon of African American music gods when he played with James Brown during the Rumble of the Jungle’s musical festivities.

Younger fans probably knew BB King during his Rattle and Hum sessions with U2 during the latter half of the 1980s. And as a hallmark of his guitar playing skill, BB King managed to make a solid-state guitar amplifier that was well-known as a “bargain-basement” product during the 1970s – i.e. the now legendary solid-state Gibson Lab Series guitar amplifiers sound like a full blown vacuum tube gear that made every guitar enthusiasts wanting to emulate his tone and technique assumed for years that BB King had always played the 6L6 vacuum tube equipped 1965 Fender Twin. The musical world will be a sadder place without him.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Abrahamic Theology: Bad For Rock Music’s Creative Process?

With a lot of rock and pop musicians creative “crapping out” after their newfound stricter versions of Abrahamic Theology, is this sort of belief really bad for rock and pop music’s creative process?

By: Ringo Bones

Maybe it was a resurgent 1996 era “Republican Jesus” with a climate change denying stance that alienates most of rock music fans from such “belief systems”, and unless you are living in a really remote cave since the heyday of The Beatles, you and maybe a few others probably now found out that strict and extremist versions of Abrahamic Theology could really strangle out the creative process that kept the vitality and freshness of rock music for the past 50 years or so. Your point of view may vary depending on which facet of the prism of history you are looking through but “conservative” right-leaning belief systems tend to be an anathema to rock music’s creative process.

After former U.S. President George W. Bush’s “belief system” resulted in the unnecessary deaths of more than 4,000 American men and women in the prime of their lives looking for nonexistent WMD’s in Iraq back in 2003, liberal-leaning fans of the metal band Korn were probably crestfallen when the band’s guitarist Brian “Head” Welch left the group, saying his newfound belief in “Jesus” – which by 2005 longtime Korn fans see as “Republican Jesus” – made Welch want to try “another sort of music”. And there had been fairly successful other “rock stars” in the past who have taken up stricter versions of Abrahamic Faiths.

Back in 1977, famed folk-rock troubadour Cat Stevens converted to Islam and adopted the name Yusuf Islam and has since that time seems to have disappeared of the face of the Earth – only to resurface after his name appeared in a U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “No Fly List” immediately after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. When “liberal Jew” Bob Dylan found a newfound faith in Christianity back in 1978, it seems that his conversion inspired album – Saved – had set Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower era creative vitality straight to Hell. It was only when Dylan released the agnostic leaning Infidel that his longtime fans faith in him was renewed. Well, at least Cat Stevens and Bob Dylan’s conversions are less convoluted than Madonna’s conversion to Kabbalah back in 1996 and adopting the name Esther – as if Madonna plans to learn first hand how to turn base metals into gold by joining into such obscure mystic Jewish sect.  

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Sound of Music’s 50th Anniversary Revelations

Even though it premiered in theaters 50 years ago, the much beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein musical still has its own surprises to offer to both old and new fans? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Recent revelations about the much beloved 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical turned cinema blockbuster – i.e. The Sound of Music – says that this 50 year old cinema classic isn’t just for your grandmother anymore. But what factoids – both esoteric and revelational - could it offer to both old time fans and the uninitiated? 

Just like The Golden Age of Stereo still fascinates young ones who’ve just discovered their soldering skills to cobble up single ended triode and pentode vacuum tube amplifiers that represent 1950s era high resolution sound that contemporary solid-state audio amplifiers from big consumer electronic firms still have trouble matching in sound quality terms, it seems like The Sound of Music – especially the movie version that stars Julie Andrews – still offers a unique zeitgeist of how the world view countries who pledge their loyalties to the Third Reich 20 years after their defeat and surrender. 

Even though it was later dubbed “The Sound of Money” weeks after its runaway blockbuster success after the initial March 2, 1965 opening in the United States, it seems like the producer and director Robert Wise has been blinded by the glory of the Marshall Plan as its lifesaving economic aid sweeps across Europe that were formerly controlled and then ravaged by the Third Reich. Take the song Edelweiss for instance, which is a cornerstone of the movie’s soundtrack and to be sung by Captain von Trapp. In truth, Edelweiss was a Rodger’s and Hammerstein construct and it is not an actual folksong in Salzburg, Austria signifying loyalty to the Austrian nation. Thus Robert Wise’s headache when he found out that no native Salzburg resident knew how to sing the song in either English of German. 

And let’s not forget the iconic boat scene where Julie Andrews is singing with the von Trapp kids. It seems to be the most idyll scene of the movie but almost ended in tragedy when the boat tipped over and one of the von Trapp kids almost drowned. And given the 50th Anniversary of The Sound of Music is a year long celebration in 2015, who knows what other revelatory factoids will emerge about this iconic cinema classic. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Can Napalm Death’s Frontman Change The Mind of Indonesia’s President?

Can Napalm Death frontman Barney Greenway convince Indonesian President Joko Widodo to spare the lives of three convicted narcotics smugglers? 

By: Ringo Bones  

Given that the current Indonesian president is a huge heavy metal music fan (remember that exclusive Christiane Amanpour interview?) and counts Napalm Death as one of his favorites, can Napalm Death’s frontman Barney Greenway change President Joko Widodo’s mind not to execute three convicted narcotics smugglers of Australian nationality when one of the president’s platform that he ran on was a tough crackdown on narcotics smugglers? But the story behind the three convicted narcotic smugglers convicted back in 2005 is a bit more complex than your typical prima facie case Lindsay Sandiford – who is a grandmother, was coerced into smuggling heroin by local Indonesian drug lords who threaten her grandchildren – with Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran could be executed within the next few weeks after being denied the chance for a judicial review of their sentences. 

An excerpt of a letter written by Napalm Death frontman Barney Greenway to Indonesian President Joko Widodo goes as: “As a follower of our band Napalm Death, you would appreciate that our lyrics and ethos challenge the unbroken cycle of violence in the world, whether it comes from a state or individual. If these things are not challenged and ultimately changed, I believe we will truly move forward as humankind.” From a social media perspective, it seems that Barney Greenway is the best hope for a commuted death sentence for Lindsay Sandiford, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. 

According to avid fans, Napalm Death’s moniker was inspired by that iconic Pulitzer Prize winning picture of a 9-year-old South Vietnamese girl named Kim Phuc who was running away from a napalm strike at the height of the Vietnam War as she ripped away her burning clothes to avoid the sticking burning napalm from causing further burns. Since I’ve heard of them back in 1989, Napalm Death has a preference of writing songs about man’s inhumanity to his fellow man that is quite rampant during the second half of the 20th Century at the height of the Cold War. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Taylor Swift Copyrighting Her Song Lines: A Fool’s Errand?

Even though some unscrupulous fashion accessory manufacturers had taken advantage of the “hooks” of her most recent and most popular songs, does patenting them a “fool’s errand”? 

By:Ringo Bones 

So Taylor Swift is already in the process of “patenting” the hooks of his latest hits because she thinks everyone is ripping her off. It is very Quixotic in every sense of the word, but does Taylor Swift’s “reactive” action against fashion accessory manufacturers riding the coat-tails of the popularity of her recent hit singles and album – i.e. 1989 – nothing more than a fool’s errand? 

From my own perspective – and past experiences as a working musician on of copyrighting your own works – I think “This sick beat” is probably stood out as one of the more unique of Taylor Swift’s hooks. Then again, it might have already been widely used by either hip-hop pioneers Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash back in 1976. And the most difficult to copyright of all – “Party Like Its 1989” – had been oft used by music critics since 1992 to poke fun at hair metal groups who still crack the Top 10 of the Billboard Album and Singles Charts at a time when Nirvana and other “Seattle Grunge” bands were already reaching multi-platinum status, so good luck with that, Taylor Swift. 

Even though Taylor Swift – like she said – “We’ll Never Probably Go Out Of Style”, even if she succeeds in copyrighting and patenting the hooks of her most recent hit singles, other more soulful working musicians may hate her for it. Given Taylor Swift’s US Republican Party leanings while adopting a “Bohemian” lifestyle as a well-paid musician could easily make her be labelled as “hypocritical”, liberal haters – even though they shun away from violent acts – are the most persistent of all. Will she be able to “Shake It Off” like those leaked racy Instagram photos from former lovers John Mayer and Jake Gyllenhaal?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sony Pictures Entertainment: Cyber Terrorizing Online Music Lovers?

The famed multinational entertainment company may have gained the world’s sympathy after the cyber attack by North Korea and other rogue hackers that almost brought it to its knees near the end of 2014, but is Sony nothing more than a de facto cyber terrorist group? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Ever wondered why the famed multinational entertainment company Sony Pictures Entertainment has become the proverbial “whipping boy” of rogue hackers (Guardians Of Peace) and state sponsored cyber-terror groups (North Korea’s Bureau 121 and Unit 61318 of the Beijing 50-Cent Cyber Army) years before the brazen cyber attack aimed at the Kim Jong Un assassination spoof movie titled The Interview on its scheduled Christmas 2014 release? Well, US President Barack Obama might have used Sony Pictures Entertainment as a platform of the entire planet’s last bastion of free speech in a world increasingly inching towards “illiberal democracy” and thus making Sony, Seth Rogen, James Franco and some the world’s sympathy when it comes to one’s right of free expression. Unfortunately, virtually all of the world’s population remains clueless of a “grave crime” committed by Sony Pictures Entertainment in the form of its “XCP Rootkit copy protection software”.  

There might be some truth to the fact that Sony Pictures Entertainment might have “inadvertently” made themselves into one of the world’s first cyber terror groups by the multinational company’s first attempts to secure its own intellectual property and other copyrighted works from online piracy at the height of the NAPSTER debacle back in 1999. Copy protection and Digital Rights Management (DRM) measures that date back to a Sony Pictures Entertainment meeting back in August, 2000 when statements made by Sony Pictures Entertainment’s US Senior Vice President Steve Heckler foreshadowed the events that eventually led to the creation of the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit copy protection software when Heckler told attendees at the Americas Conference on Information Systems that: “The industry (Sony Pictures Entertainment) will take whatever steps it needs to protect itself and protect its revenue streams…”       
The debacle that resulted in the “over zealous” copy protection measures of the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit copy protection software that eventually became the Sony Digital Rights Management copy protection rootkit scandal of 2005 to 2007 might have “inconvenienced” everyone wanting to clone an expensive rare CD for use in their car stereo or portable players in line with existing Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Fair Use laws might be overshadowed by a greater debacle of former US President George W. Bush’s handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina back in Autumn of 2005. It unfortunately swept the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit debacle and the dangers it poses under the rug from the radar of the general public. 

According to his personal blog entry in October 31, 2005 of Microsoft’s information technology researcher-in-residence Mark Russinovich who – amongst countless others – who were the first to have uncovered the main dangers posed by the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit copy protection software are as follows: 1) It creates security holes that can be exploited by malicious software such as worms or viruses. 2) It constantly runs in the background and excessively consumes system resources, slowing down the user’s computer, regardless of whether there is a Sony BMG XCP Rootkit protected CD playing. 3) It employs unsafe procedures to star and stop which could lead to system crashes. 4) It has no uninstaller and is installed in such a way that inexpert attempts to uninstall it can lead to the operating system to fail to recognize existing drives. Soon after Russinovich’s first blog post, there were several Trojans and worms exploiting XCP’s security holes. Some people even used the vulnerabilities to cheat in online games – i.e. Sony’s Playstation consoles’ online games capabilities. 

At the height of the Sony Digital Rights Management copy protection XCP Rootkit scandal, there were 22 million Sony BMG CDs equipped with the “copy protection software” that allowed them to install one of the two pieces of software which provided a form of Digital Rights Management (DRM) by modifying the operating system to interfere with CD copying via your personal computer. Both programs couldn’t easily be uninstalled and they created vulnerabilities that were exploited by other malware. Sony claims this was unintentional. 

Following public outcry, government investigations and class action lawsuits in 2005 and 2006, Sony BMG partially addressed the scandal with consumer settlements, a recall of 10 percent of the affected CDs and suspension of CD copy protection efforts in early 2007. Sadly, the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit copy protection software still wreak havoc in donated computers often used in computer labs of public schools in developing countries set up by set up by leading charity groups like the Clinton Global Initiative / Clinton Foundation since free online antivirus software programs are powerless against the Sony BMG XCP copy protection software. Some IT experts say that only premium antivirus software packages costing 50 US dollars and above are the minimum required to keep the Sony BMG XCP Rootkit copy protection software at bay in infected desktop PCs.