Guilty Pleasures

Our personalities are often subjugated into the parameters of "haters." People who are unsatisfied with the lack of fulfillment in their own lives so they want to limit the extent of other people's happiness. We label ourselves fans of certain films, books, or music. We often feel we need specific examples of things we enjoy to describe ourselves. I want to address a phenomenon, that I myself, have experienced on a number of occasions. What happens when one of these "likes," ventures outside our normal wheelhouse? Have you ever been made fun of for liking a certain song or artist? I myself have a very eclectic taste in just about everything, music, movies, even religions. But I, like you, am not immune to the internal struggle, the competition, of persona and enjoyment. I am, once again, guilty of liking something "uncool" or "corny." Have you ever seen a 300-pound biker singing Miley Cyrus? What about a teenage inner-city youth belting out Celine Dion? Sometimes we have to push our boundaries. Sometimes we have to try new things. Getting to the point. My current guilty pleasure is a song by two artists, who I have publicly condemned and criticized in my own life.
I applauded Jay-Z's Death to Autotune for its unabashed execution of T Pain's career. Or so I thought. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy his music, I just thought he was a faux musician, who used computers to make his tunes. He took the beautiful art form of pure talented singing and turned it into a do-it-yourself. Can't Sing? Try autotune. But what I realized after hearing so many others use the technique is that he was, ironically, an original. His voice simply, works, with autotune.
Next, Wiz Khalifa used to be one of my favorite up and coming rappers. Being a native of the Steel City, I had respect for Wiz. Show and Prove was one of the best mixtape freshman albums I had heard in a long time. Pittsburgh Sound was a throwback beat with catching lyrics. Gonna Ride was an ode to old westerns with its Spanish trumpets that inspired a feeling of "ride or die." But I chastised Wiz for selling out. I thought he cheapened himself and his lyrics. Maybe he smoked too much. In my book, both men are vindicated in this song. Maybe its Lily Allen the soulfully classic English siren. Either way, I am guilty of my criticisms. But, I am not guilty of liking this song. My jam of the week:

Money Grows On Trees

George Washington, the father of America, our Patriae Pater, who said, "I cannot tell a lie," also said, “make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere.” He was a proud supporter of the hemp seed, but today only thing more suppressed than an honest politician is hemp. You see hemp and marijuana go hand in hand, if you legalize the production of hemp, marijuana will follow. For some reason, congressional roadblocks prevent any research into hemp as a source of ethanol. Even though extracting ethanol from hemp uses fewer fossil fuels, fewer chemicals, less water, and less time than extracting it from corn. And as we all know Presidential candidates have long sucked up to Iowa corn farmers for votes. It's basically a rite of passage to the White House.
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for they have no tongues.”
- Dr. Seuss (The Lorax)
Enter the presumably incorruptible Harry J. Anslinger to spearhead this "War on Drugs." He immigrated to the United States to work on the Pennsylvania Railroad and after making his name as a hard-lined fraud investigator he set his sights on a defenseless plant. Anslinger, anointed the head of the newly minted Federal Bureau of Narcotics along with his media tag team partner William Randolph Hearst sought out to destroy hemp. First order of business, divide and conquer. They demonized marijuana to the point of ridiculous calling it Indian hemp of all things. This anti-hemp propaganda skyrocketed into the stratosphere of the absurd when Anslinger and company published articles and police reports about the dangerous plant. In1933, their campaign gained its most powerful ally and scapegoat in a 19-year-old Italian man named Victor Licata who killed his family with an ax. This was just the hard proof they were looking for. Licata claimed to have blacked out after smoking marijuana and didn't remember committing the crime. The American Magazine published an account of the incident: “An entire family was murdered by a youthful addict in Florida. When officers arrived at the home, they found the youth staggering about in a human slaughterhouse. With an ax he had killed his father, mother, two brothers, and sister. He seemed to be in a daze. He had no recollection of having committed the multiple crimes. The officers knew him ordinarily as a sane, rather quiet young man; now he was pitifully crazed.” This segment was published as the entirety of the story. 
“You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”
- William Randolph Hearst
Anslinger and Hearst used this to propel reefer madness onto the national stage. They left out information that they saw as either non-vital or unusable. Leaving out that Licata was a lunatic and murdered his family in a psychotic episode. He escaped from two hospitals after the trial and his mental exams were missing from Anslinger's testimony before Congress during the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act hearing. The ensuing media onslaught plunged marijuana down the substance ladder passed alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine, and even heroin. He also used racism as a tool to divide the nation on an issue that wasn’t even related to race. “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz, and swing result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.” Well, Harry, I don’t think Marijuana had anything to do with it. Rock stars who don’t smoke weed still get laid. That was then, but this is now. Mr. X said, “Until prohibition ends make hay whilst the sun shines.” We took this proverb to heart. It didn’t just become a motto or mantra; it became a creed. With the help of Newsie hating William Randolph Hearst, they created a sensationally absurd anti-marijuana campaign. 
"Hemp is the first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country." - Thomas Jefferson
Hearst once said, “You can crush a man with journalism.” They crushed their competitor. The crushed it in Congress and in the free market, claiming it was not a viable alternative to wood pulp and nylon. Anslinger said you couldn’t outlaw hemp without outlawing marijuana. In 1936, He reported that his experiments with the harvesting of hemp were not successful. It was all about competition. They knew what they were doing. It was a tool for Dupont to gain complete control of the petrochemical industry. Maybe they knew, maybe they didn’t, but the real money wasn’t in textiles and binding, but energy. Fossil fuels are the only commodities that we can never make more of.  All available sources for alternative fuels are crucial to our nation's future. 
“Any man who has the brains to think and nerve to act for the benefit of the people of the country is considered a radical by those who are content with stagnation and willing to endure disaster.”
- William Randolph Hearst
Modern Drug Regulations are Nixonian. He probably realized what it was doing to teenagers in America and soldiers in Vietnam. He pushed forward legislation as a scapegoat. It was a good distraction from his shortcomings and Watergate. He needed a cause to get behind and reinforced the stigma against marijuana users. He and the DEA took a hardline attitude toward offenders that only made things worse. The counterculture was amplified to what it is today.  In 2001, a Nova Scotian native named Rick Simpson found a cancerous spot on his skin. He did some research and read an article about the benefits of applying topical oil made from marijuana to one’s skin. He discovered that a spot on skin disappeared after a few days after applying the ointment. Researchers in Spain confirmed that THC kills brain-tumor cells in human subjects and shows promise with breast, pancreatic and liver tumors. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has no accepted medical use. Unlike Schedule II drugs, like cocaine and methamphetamine, which they believe may provide medical benefits. John Adams once said, "We shall, by and by, want a world of hemp for our own consumption." Today, over 10% of Adults in the US smoke marijuana on a daily basis. That’s 22 million users a DAY. If everyone one of those users buys a gram of marijuana a month, at the market price of $20 a gram, and it is then taxed at roughly the average sales tax of 8% leaving out any additional taxes or fees they see fit to impose, like the ones on cigarettes and soda, would equate to around $1.60 per user per month. That's $35 million a month and yes, of course, it is, $420 million annually. All of this pales in comparison to the money they would save. The United States government this year alone spent $15 billion on the War on Drugs. That’s $500 a second! 
"If the words 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' don't include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn't worth the hemp it was written on."

An Unoccupied Philadelphia

Philadelphia's City Hall stands a modest 548ft including William Penn’s six-foot likeness in the heart Center City. It is the world’s second tallest masonry building behind than Mole Antonelliana in Turin by a mere 40 oz bottle. Beautiful and ornately decorated with limestone, granite, and marble, it was the tallest habitable building in the world from 1901 to 1908. It was the first secular building to have the record and the first building to have that record that could actually be lived in. It was surpassed during its construction by the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower respectively, which brings me to the point of all this architectural madness. You can judge a society by the extremes of its decadence. Before City Hall, all the tallest structures in the world were religious. Mostly European cathedrals and prior to that for 3,800 years the record was held by the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Religion once ruled the world, traditions passed down through generations, but by the turn of the century, it was government, reason, and progress. City Hall would remain the tallest building in the state of Pennsylvania until 1932 when the Gulf Tower in Pittsburgh overtook it, but, it remained the tallest building in the city of Philadelphia. Until the 1980s when the greatest cultural shift in mankind's tattered history happened in the blink of an eye. A fifty-year metamorphosis, a transmogrification if you will, leading us away from the greatest generation to its antithesis. The repressed militaristic 50s of Chesterfields, Sock Hops, and unadulterated imperialism amalgamated with the free love revolutionary cluster fuck of the 60s to train wreck into the Cirque Du Soleil on crack that was the 70s and finally crashing into the 80s. An equal and opposite reaction. The antithesis and the answer. Capitalism was our cure. Our renewed faith brought with it an end to the Cold War and the communal socially enlightened orgy of the left. What remained were a group of devious self-serving dregs known as the yuppies. Thus dawned the age of Wall Street.

I'm not talking about the David Brooks Ben Franklin kind of yuppy, but the manipulative sociopathic Patrick Bateman kind. An era ruled by paper, suspenders, and closeted homosexuals who ran our economy into the ground by the time most of you could get a job. I can’t say for sure that this was the straw that broke the camels back, but I’d bet a dollar on it. Housing bubble? Debt Crisis? Nervous lenders? All of these words are just words from the eternal Rolodex of catchphrases and Babylonian thesaurus of taglines. Scanning the pages of this vast infinitely expanding library of words I snap my fingers celebrating my epiphany: greed. That's what I was looking for!

Because the building that overtook Penn’s illustrious monument to freedom, prosperity, and brotherhood is ironically named One "Liberty" Place. Financed by Willard Rouse nephew of developer James Rouse, who is Edward Norton’s maternal grandfather, which is off topic, but interesting nonetheless. The construction of One Liberty Place was highly contested by architect and “Father of Modern Philadelphia,” Edmund Bacon, who was city planner at the time. Willard Rouse broke the longstanding “Gentlemen’s Agreement” in Philadelphia agreeing that no building would be taller than William Penn’s statue on City Hall. The New York Times ran an article saying Bacon did not attend the groundbreaking ceremony in 1985 saying, “I think it’s very, very destructive that he and he alone has chosen to destroy a historical tradition that set a very fine and disciplined for the city.” But he WAS at the ceremony. Why? Because he’s a gentleman. Not at the ceremony was Mayor Wilson Goode, who had his hands full with the deaths of five innocent children in Cobbs Creek at the hands of Philly PD. Goode was in support of the building even though the building plan was flawed leaving the future of Philly’s downtown unsure. One Liberty Plaza became home to Smith & Barneys, the financial hub of Philadelphia, and Starbucks. It remained the tallest building in Philadelphia for more than a decade until another generation would stake its claim.

Okay never mind, I guess that's when it happens. Comcast, the cable conglomerate, was now King. If there was a sarcastic font, I’d use it, big surprise. It wasn’t anything new or groundbreaking, it was inevitable. Aldous Huxley was right and I didn't need a four hundred dollar history class to realize it. Quakers testify in front of God that they will live in opposition to gambling, capital punishment, and slavery. Oddly they also oppose time itself and seasons. They also oppose oaths. Seems counter-intuitive I agree, but we digress. What Quakers do promote is more relevant: integrity, truth, temperance, moderation, and sustainability, relief of suffering, penal reform, plain language, and peace. They had this idea that our pleasure would take over our world and we would become complacent in our comforts.

William Penn had high hopes for his new land. Religious freedom, inventive thinking, and a country whose wealth far exceeded her need were his goals.  The betterment of all, which includes the less fortunate. A bountiful harvest capable of feeding both native and newcomer. Whether he planned it or not, from the right angle, his statue looks like he’s taking a piss all over his wondrous creation. Standing at the top of the tallest building in Philadelphia, the founder is committing public urination.
     It shall be unlawful for any person to urinate or defecate on any public right-of-way, underground platform or concourse, elevated passageways used by the public, railroad or railway passenger stations or platforms, or on the steps leading to any of them, or any private property used to accommodate the public, or on any private property without the permission of the owner. The penalty for violation of said law is subject to a fine of $300.

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