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Pop music argues with itself about itself

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Sarah, guest-blogging at Feministe, has a post up about how David Bowie is an inspirational figure to her as a feminist, because his whole act in the 70s was about subversion of gender and traditional ideas of performance, and it’s a very liberating thing. I agree with all that, of course—there’s not many Insufferable Music Snobs who aren’t giant geeks for David Bowie—but I just wanted to point out that Bowie has one more feather in his cap. He’s also the force behind the best, probably only, concept album that really held together as a story. (I think it’s safe to say that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon holds together as a concept album, but it doesn’t tell a story, so I’m leaving it out of this estimation.) Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars gets sort of lost in the IMS shuffle because of Bowie’s later collaborations with Brian Eno, but it really is remarkable not only for kicking ass, but also holding together as a narrative that tells an incredibly effective story.

It’s kind of ironic, I realize, to point that out, because Sarah’s post is about the power of rock and roll salvation, and of course, the whole point of Ziggy Stardust is to take a giant piss on the possibility that rock could be this liberating force. Ziggy starts the album as a hero who will save humanity from itself before the end of the world, and after a haze of fame, drugs, and sex takes him over, he ends up as a burnout who achieved fame but didn’t save anyone.

It’s just one entry in an endless dialogue pop music has with itself on the liberating power of itself. It’s funny, because on the tour for Ziggy Stardust, Bowie made it a point to cover Velvet Underground songs. Now, there was a band that was cynical about a lot of things, but also wrote one of the sweetest, most optimistic rock-and-roll-will-save-your-soul songs ever.

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I have an idea floating around in my head for a mix tape based around these themes. I haven/t really settled on the entire list of songs, but I know I want to put these two next to each other, because I feel like they’re arguing with each other:

I don’t have much of a point. I just think all this stuff is pretty interesting. You could literally go on for hours in this vein, dealing with songs about pop music and the potential for liberation, or lack of it.

One thing is certain: If it’s not bigger than Jesus, it should be. With apologies to John Lennon.

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A historian explains why 2019 marks the beginning of the next 74-year cycle of American history

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A century ago, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. argued that history occurs in cycles. His son, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., furthered this theory in his own scholarship. As I reflect on Schlesinger’s work and the history of the United States, it seems clear to me that American history has three 74-year-long cycles. America has had four major crisis turning points, each 74 years apart, from the time of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 to today.

The first such crisis occurred when the Founding Fathers met in Philadelphia in 1787 to face the reality that the government created by the Articles of Confederation was failing. There was a dire need for a new Constitution and a guarantee of a Bill of Rights to save the American Republic. The founding fathers, under the leadership of George Washington, were equal to the task and the American experiment successfully survived the crisis.

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Self-preservation fuels the Democratic base’s lurch to the left — before the rich take it all

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In 2016 all the corporate news media outlets, NPR included, predicted that Trump would lose. They just did not recognize the discontent in America’s rust belt because the economic dislocation that had, and continues to define life there, was just not part of their personal frame of reference.

They thought the country was several years into a recovery and the national aggregate unemployment data they had commissioned confirmed it. But nobody lives or votes in the aggregate. And it wasn’t until Trump flipped the 200 counties that Obama had carried twice, that the corporate news media started paying some attention.

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Experts discuss the distorted impeachment debate at a propaganda forum — and how real debate can untangle it

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“Would you be upset if the Democratic nominee called on China to help in the next presidential election?” That’s the concrete question we should ask ourselves about Robert Mueller's report and the issue of impeachment, according to University of California, Santa Cruz, social psychologist Anthony Pratkanis, speaking at a recent Zócalo Public Square event, “Is Propaganda Keeping Americans From Thinking for Themselves?

This was a week before President Trump’s interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, apparently welcoming foreign interference in the 2020 election. Impeachment wasn’t the ostensible subject of the event — which also featured Texas A&M historian of rhetoric Jennifer Mercieca and UCLA marketing scholar and psychologist Hal Hershfield — but it was never far from mind.

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