Monday, May 2, 2016

Straight Outta Compton

Short Review? Watch it! Good movie, kept the pace going, entertaining, and, unlike almost all biopic movies, mostly true.

Oh sure, there were incidents taken out of time context, a little embellishment here and there, but still true to form. As has been noted before, you have to kill the book to make the movie. So it is with biopics, even though there was no book.

Now, you might ask, how does a elderly white boy like me know anything about NWA? Well, truth to tell, I did my research after the fact. That's how I know what's what.

But, Sherman, set the swayback machine for 1989. What's this white boy doing? He has recently moved to Illinois from Hoosierland and gotten a consultant's job coding mediocre fixed asset inventory software for clueless empty suit business types in a multibillion dollar company that is making monies despite it's own best efforts not to. In his spare time he drinks and smokes weed, takes drawing classes at a local community college, and plays video games. He is being paid a large sum of money to do nothing of worth.

Does he wish he had that time back? Yes, he does.

He is only peripherally aware of rap and rap music and hip hop. He likes the beat but finds the rhymes juvenile. He is not the rabid weirdo who says that rap music isn't real music. ("I like all kinds of music except country and rap" goes the archetypical single's ad). But at this stage of his life, the closest he comes to listening to rap is Parliament/Funkadelic. Which, on the scale of whiteness, makes him positively orange. He is also aware that the principle cultural export of the US of A is not polka, accordion, or marching band music. As such, there is a certain cultural debt that necessitates remuneration... just not from him.

So, what's happening in California? It is in full lockdown mode. Business stooge Reagan, having successfully wardened the garrison state as governor, has exported the model nationwide. True, his Veep is now in charge, cleaning up the budgetary mess, but we are just getting started with the prison system and the occasional pockets of luxury walled off from national squalor.

(I did spend a brief period in California in the late '80s, and that is when I found that if you are not cop (or cop owner) you are little people. Why it took a visit to California to discover that, I couldn't tell you. Maybe my brain finally grew into the front of my skull pan).

California is an interesting place. People think of it as a liberal bastion, a people's republic of pussy hippy types, but one must remember that California gave us both Nixon and Reagan. It is, in many respects, the reddest of red states. For one, it had (or has) one of the most brutal and extensive prison systems in the world. California gave us Charlie Manson. Charles was fucked in the head from the get-go, but it was the California correctional facilities that put the finishing touches on him.

California has been, for as long as it has been a state, a very successful criminal enterprise. The feudal ethos is well embedded there, the oligarchy rules the land with an iron fist.

California is probably one of the cutting edge examples of a near approach to the Platonic ideal of the free market that you can find. Which is to say, it is pure criminality, force and fraud are well established and well celebrated there as foundational business principles. There's a giant grinding machine, well hidden and distributed about the state, that people can be sent to should they run afoul of California.

People will be ground down there regardless of race, creed, or color. But oh, that color. Oh, that race.

Which gets us to the movie. It's pretty much the way it is, and the movie told it all the way it is. It sucks. It sucks to be black in California. It shouldn't suck like that, if you read all our high sounding government documents, but it does. Inequality abounds, when, honestly, the only inequality that matters, or should matter, is talent.

What is talent? Talent requires a work function to describe it. Talent is, if you will, intelligence, plus energy equals work. Talent must be made manifest to be talent. It's not a fucking IQ test. I don't care if you are IQ-160. Show me what you can do.

Now, the interesting thing about the whole Horatio Alger story is that once talent is recognized, it is exploited. Horatio Alger had a nice way of putting it with mentors helping out hard working boys (sorry, no boot straps in the real world, unless, like Athena, you appear out of the shining void fully equipped with all your powers fully formed), and eventually the hard working boys become mentors in their own right by finding more talent. Mentoring, yes, is a selfless and sacrificial act, but is not without its rewards.

These guys had talent.

A few movie observations. I notice Jerry Heller wrote a book to counter his portrayal in the movie. I notice Suge Knight, if the movie has accuracy, pretty much got what he deserved. I couldn't help but raise my middle finger during the "Fuck Tha Police" performance scene in Detroit, and had big fucking grin on my face when I did it. And I know that the real thugs are not the kids, not the stooge cops, but the feudal oligarchs that hide in the sharp-edged shadows of sunny California.

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