Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving Prayer William S Burroughs

Here's a video of this classic that I hadn't seen before. 

It's getting even easier these days to see Bill's reality behind the agitprop, isn't it? 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

John Coltrane "Body And Soul"

You know, I'm still working on this "where did the black musicians go?" thing.  I mean, there's still great black musicians around, but do you really want to argue that the situation is as great as it was in the days of Louis, Duke, 'Bird, Pres, 'Trane and Miles?  No.  I didn't think so.

But I'm just thinking here, just blowing smoke, but what if it has something to do with the fact that for all of those guys, expressing their inner feelings just matter-of-factly was impossible.  They didn't have the option of coming out and saying, "what do you mean, I can't eat in your restaurant?  That shit is fucked up."  Well, that shit would get you hung from a Goddamn tree, back in those halcyon days.

So what about it?  Maybe those O.G. jazzboes were just trying to figure out a way to let their emotions out without anybody getting wise.  Mister Charlie listens to "Body and Soul," or even "Chasing the 'Trane," and he just says, "I don't like nigger music," he doesn't reach for his rope and his gun.

Now the brothers can just tell anybody, "fuck you man!  I'll eat wherever I want to!"  And it's kind of true too.  Times change, and every little thing changes along with the times.  Some for better (the eating anywhere part), and some for worse (the no more Coltranes part).  C'est La Vie, motherfucker.

Navy Boot Camp: Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

I entered the United States Navy in August of 1967, two weeks before my nineteenth birthday.  Why would anyone do such a thing?  The short answer is that I was sick of school, and afraid of getting drafted into the Army after I dropped out. 

A longer answer would include the fact that I had always been favorably disposed to the Navy.  As a boy I loved to read books about the Navy, from Steven Decatur up to World War II.  I’d read about Butch O’Hare, and his nephew was, in fact, a friend of mine.  I had a cousin and an uncle in the Merchant Marine.  I thought it would be a fine adventure, and a great way to avoid having to sleep in the dirt and get shot at.  Three hots and a spot!  On a warship!  Maybe I hadn’t really thought it through.  Honestly, if I had it to do over again I’d just wait for my draft notice, go to the physical, and tell them I was gay or something.  I knew they didn’t check any of that, they just took you at your word and stamped you “4F.”  With the benefit of hindsight, I now know that no harm ever came to anyone who used that tactic, no repercussions at all.  But I joined.

So, the Navy.  Boot camp was very interesting, but then I find almost everything interesting.  At the time I would not have described the Great Lakes Naval Training Center as a great place, and I would still not say that it was fun.  Even at the time though, after the ten weeks of training was over, I would have admitted that they sure knew what they were doing, and that they had made a very good job of it as far as I could tell.  From this perspective I would go further and say that they had a deep understanding of their raw material, and the task at hand, that they went about their work with outstanding efficiency, and that they got good results.  Top marks, really. 

The Program

Part of the program was to get us in shape, physically.  A big part of it was to teach us to do what we were told, almost instantly, without giving it a moment’s thought, simply because we had been told to do it.  They drilled a love of spic-and-span cleanliness into us, because who wants to sail on a stinky ship?  They wanted to instill some pride in us too, and some confidence in ourselves.  Almost every aspect of the training was designed to help us survive the situations in which we might find ourselves before too long. They wanted to save lives.

This was not an idle fear on their part, this fear that we might come to harm.  Think about it, a ship at sea, everything is made of metal, everything is wet, half the time the sea is throwing the boat around like somebody making a cocktail, and everything is run by electricity.  There are explosives all around, and flammable materials, and the outside chance, even in the Vietnam era, that somebody might shoot at you.  The electricity scared them the most.  “Over the next four years, statistically speaking,” our company commander told us, “one of you assholes will electrocute himself.” 

The Company Commander

We didn’t have “drill instructors,” we had a company commander.  He told us we’d never forget him, and as it turns out he wasn’t bragging or blowing smoke.  He was a first class petty officer, a Bosun’s Mate.  They and the Gunner’s Mates are the top sergeants of the Navy.  He was a trim, fit man who made average height and weight look powerful and menacing.  Maybe it was his hands, which were oversized and looked like they could drive nails.  He spent the first six weeks yelling at us and calling us terrible things, waking us up at three a.m. by banging on trash can lids, marching us around in the rain until we were ready to drop, and then a little more.  This was the break-down phase of training, that’s when you learn to suspend judgment and just do what you’re told.  He was good at it. 

This was followed by two weeks or so of him beginning to grudgingly give us some credit for being slightly better recruits than he had initially thought.  For the last two weeks he treated us like his children, children that he actually liked.  You may recall this pattern from the movie, “Full Metal Jacket.” It’s the way they do it. 

The Trials Of Hercules

We did some crazy stuff, you know, when we weren’t just marching around or furiously cleaning our spaces.  Stuff like running what is commonly called “the obstacle course.”  They don’t really call them that, not when they’re talking together or writing about the program.  Officially, I suppose it’s the obstacle course, but really they call if a “confidence course.”  It’s full of stuff that you think is impossible when you first see it.  A few minutes later you’re standing at the other end, quite satisfied with your heroic performance of every bit of it. 

Right at the beginning is a seven foot high wooden wall, which you are intended to simply jump over.  Not on the fly or anything, you can grab it and pull yourself up.  The first great amazement is watching your asshole friends just run up to it and disappear over the top.  The whole course goes that way.

We had something called “firefighting day.”  The idea was that the first time you find yourself in a closed space packed with other men, a space that is full of smoke, or tear gas or something, well it shouldn’t be the time that your life is actually on the line.  Same with operating a fire hose, the first time shouldn’t be when you are faced with a huge, life threatening fire.  The first time you turn on a fire hose shouldn’t be a surprise, those things will kill you and your friends PDQ if there’s not a half dozen of you holding on for dear life before you turn it on. 

Ever consider the problem of swimming in fire?  They taught us how to handle that eventuality.  We had a swimming day.  They got us all into this huge pool, all eighty of us in the company, and they put us through our paces.  They’d taught us some of the principles in classrooms beforehand.  They stood around with clipboards like it was the first day of baseball tryouts, making notes about who was good at what and who was hopeless.  You swim in fire about six feet under the surface, but what about when you need to breathe?  Simple, you come up and brush your hands around to make a hole in the fire.  Then you come up in the hole and do a quick surface dive, taking a deep breath and pushing yourself back to swimming depth.  You’d probably get burned a little bit each time, but you’d probably get better at it in a hurry too, in a real flaming water situation.  I’d hate to try it, but they convinced me that it would work, and they made me practice the drill without the fire part. 

We also jumped from a ten meter platform, and here it gets interesting.  I’m pretty sure that it was not everybody that jumped.  I don’t quite remember, but it might have been that they asked us if we’d do it.  You jump wrong from a height of thirty three feet or so and land wrong and you can paralyze yourself.  Maybe they just pulled out some of the weak swimmers from their note taking and said, “sit this one out, dufus.”  I jumped, myself, without any problem.  It was, confidence building! 

The Assholes Themselves

Taking irresponsible young men from all over the country and throwing them into a stressful situation together is challenging.  There was no cable TV at the time, so regional accents were stronger.  Regional cultural differences stood out in stronger relief too.  What to do?

My company consisted of about half guys from New York and Philadelphia, that whole area.  The other half came from the Old South, and not just the southern states but from small towns in the south.  We could hardly understand each other’s speech, and it was like we were from different planets as far as preferences for food and music were concerned.   Better we got a chance to get used to each other in the closely observed environment of boot camp than out on a ship somewhere. 

There were “scrounges” in the mix, guys for whom cleanliness was a new and unpleasant concept.  They got peeled out and gathered into “Mickey Mouse companies.”  Those poor souls had three sets of clothes:  one on their backs; one drying on the clothes line; and one buried in the ground.   Every day they washed the clothes that had been buried, buried the clothes they had on, and the next day they’d wear the clothes from the line.  They scrubbed their barracks with such a terrible intensity that the color was washed out of every surface.  Most of us were within a certain range of body type.  I was in fairly good shape, but I was slightly overweight.  I just went to a normal company, and was issued clothes that would become a little big on me.  Not a problem, I lost a few pounds and got in better shape.  Guys that were actually fat, too fat to keep up, physically, they went to “Elephant companies.”  While the rest of us could eat as much as we wanted, those guys were fed a controlled diet and marched relentlessly.  They performed the “Ninety-Six Count Physical Exercise Drill” even more than the rest of us did, way more.  They lost weight, and snappy. 

The Real Credit

The amazing thing to me now is that they were so very, very tuned in to what we were experiencing, and how we were feeling at the time.  They know which parts of the training would be most stressful for us, and they knew exactly when we needed a morning to sleep “late,” like getting up at seven or so.  They knew at what point we’d all have developed a cold from exposure and lack of sleep.  Every company took a turn working in the huge galley (the cafeteria).  They place this task right in the middle of the training.  It was a break of sorts, we had to get up much earlier than usual but there was no marching to speak of and they laid off on the inspections for a week.  We still had to shave, but not like we were digging for gold.  In between meals and polishing every surface at the galley, we had an hour or so twice a day to just sit around, smoke cigarettes, shoot the shit and listen to the radio. 

In no way were they coddling us, but we were, after all, their sailors.  We were going to operate their precious warships.  We had joined their outfit; we were in the club (at least the enlisted men’s end of that pool).  I think that they did a great job of training us. 

No Credit For Me, Please

I will tell you that I joined the Navy of my own free will.  I joined the military during a war.  I’ll accept a little credit for that, but only a little.  I did fine at boot camp, no problems at all, no demerits, no punishments.  After that I did my job.  My service was characterized as “honorable,” and at the end of it I was given an Honorable Discharge.   I will tell you, though, that beyond that, well, the less said the better.  I was not one of their shining stars. 

There’s still the matter of a flag for my coffin.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Own Proust Questionnaire

This is a feature that shows up frequently in Vanity Fair magazine.  Vanity Fair reminds me of a humor book from the 1930's, by Benchly I think, titled "David Copperfield, or Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea."  It seems to have two purposes that are very different, cross even.  When reading Vanity Fair, I suggest immediately tearing out all of the pages that do not have to do with luxury or celebrity and stapling them together.  Throw the remainder away.  You may need to get a license to properly dispose of something as bulky as the pages devoted to luxury and celebrity. The rest of it becomes a very good magazine that that point, and much easier to carry.

"The Proust Questionnaire," I think that Marcel Proust was the first person that was subjected to it.  It's not his invention, is it?  I decided to try it myself, with as little malingering as possible.  I took the questions from a couple of different ones, so this is a little longer than most.

The Proust Questionnaire

1. What is your most marked characteristic?
2. What is the quality you like most in a man?
3. What is the quality you like most in a woman?
4. What do you most value in your friends?
                Clean personal habits and a cooperative spirit.
5. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
                No guts.
6. What is your favorite occupation?
7. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
                Sex; watching a good movie in a theater; eating in a restaurant.
8. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
                Unfocused depression.
9. In what country would you like to live?
                Holland, if I were Dutch.
10. Who are your favorite writers?
                Modern: Jonathan Franzen and Haruki Murakami.  Classics: Joseph Conrad and Patricia Highsmith.  Genre fiction: Charles Williford, George V. Higgins, and H.P. Lovecraft.   History: Rick Atkinson, Richard B. Frank, Antony Bevor and Barbara Tuchman. 
11. Who are your favorite poets?
                Modern: Robert Haas.  Classics: Rainer Maria Rilke and Walt Whitman.
12. Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
                Tom Ripley.
13. Who is your favorite heroine of fiction?
                Amy, in “The Passage.” 
14. Who are your favorite composers?
                Beethoven and the Russians.
15. Who are your favorite painters?
                Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Robert Williams.
16. What are your favorite names?
                French Fowler, Milan Panic and the family name, “von Turn und Taxis.” 
17. What is it that you most dislike?
                Corrupt politicians.
18. Which talent would you most like to have?
                The ability to get things done.
19. How would you like to die?
20. What is your current state of mind?
                Depressed.  What else is there?
21. What is your motto?
                “Why can’t we all just get along?”
22. What is your greatest fear?
                Old. Sick. Poor. Alone.
23. Which living person do you most admire?
                The Japanese musician, Cornelius, my friend O, and Paul Krugman. 
24. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
25. What is your greatest extravagance?
                Taxis and eating in restaurants.
26. What is your favorite journey?
                The California Coast Highway.
27. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
28. On what occasion do you lie?
                To protect people, or if I’m getting paid to lie (Disclaimer: I’m a lawyer, although I always avoid saying things that are actually untrue.) 
29. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
                Formerly, my hair. Now, my lack of hair. 
30. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
                I curse like a room full of sailors.
31. What is your greatest regret?
32. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
                What: pizza.  Who: my second grade teacher, Sister Josita.   
33. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
                I was an okay father.
34. What is your most treasured possession?
                My records.
35. Who are your heroes in real life?
                Currently alive: My friend O, who is slow to get angry, quick to forgive, and who has figured out how to win without ever getting the good cards.  No longer alive: my Aunt Mary.  
36. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
                I can’t think of anybody.
37. Which living person do you most despise?
38. When and where were you happiest?
                Summers at Lake George, as a boy.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Charlie Parker Early Recordings 1943 ~ Body And Soul

For one thing: when we lose this fabulous, all purpose music library, and we will, because it's free and they can't fucking stand it, it will be a terrible, terrible loss, because it enriches us, it does not merely entertain us; and

For another thing: did black Americans suddenly forget at some point that music, real music, is an important thing?  What's up with that?  Where are the 'Birds, my brothers, where are the 'Tranes?  Kanye who? 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tranquila Relaxation Shot

This is a product of some kind, an energy drink, I think.  The language in the advertisement that I saw was either a highly entertaining use of a very personal brand of English or someone's misguided reliance on a machine translator. 

“. . . exclusively tipple guaranteed to carry far-off the palm you fancy superabundant!” 

“Our all surprised syndication of herbs and aminos is Dr. formulated and proven to commend relief, proceeds magnify cusp unusual and in annoy of raise your wisecracks!” 

Sometimes I wish they would just ask me first.  The translation software that can handle Thai/English hasn't been invented yet.  

The Curse Of Intersting Times

You'd be forgiven to think that things getting really interesting would be the best thing that ever happened to a blogger.  You'd be forgiven to think that the blogger would most likely raise his eyes to God and give a sincere prayer of thanksgiving: thank you lord, thank you for this vast swamp of fascination that I will now cheerfully describe in detail for my faithful readers!  But . . .

I might have suspected so myself.  But now I can tell you, that when the cornucopia of interesting plenty hits way, way too close to home, a blogger may be forgiven if he finds himself not in the mood to write about it.

So forgive me if I'm quiet.  Maybe I'll be motivated to get busy again, maybe soon.  Right this second, things are a bit too interesting.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Jetsprint Boat Racing 2008 Rnd 1

I get the darnedest things on TV here in beautiful South East Asia.  Like Jetsprinting on an Australian outdoor channel. 

These tiny boats have huge motors in them.  Lots of big block V8's, very big actually, 705 cubic inches is a popular motor.  Lots of custom built rotary engines with four rotors.  Over a thousand horsepower is the norm, 1,400 hp is common.  This stuff is nuts. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thomas The Tank Engine Crash Compilation

All you fans of Thomas the Tank Engine might find this a little disturbing.  But all of the fans of Death Metal will have a great time.

Thanks to for the heads-up on this one.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Restraint In These Troubling Times

Still quiet, and believe me, it's a blessing to y'all that I'm not sharing the furious typhoon of horror that I'm feeling these days.

Some day, maybe all of that will change.  As we speak, I'm only sixty-five years old.  I still semi-give-a-shit about what people think of me, and I still believe that protecting other people's feelings is a worthwhile endeavor.  Within ten years, that might all change.  Within twenty, DEFINITELY.

So there might be a much more entertaining "Spin Easy Time" in the more-or-less future.  Entertaining, unless you don't care much for blisteringly abrasive.  A future in which the lunch at the end of every fork suddenly comes into focus might just be a mixed blessing. 

Look to the sun for a warning.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Possession Of A Crack Pipe, And Other Small Crimes That Earned Thousands Of U.S. Prisoners Life Without Parole

Possession Of A Crack Pipe, And Other Small Crimes That Earned Thousands Of U.S. Prisoners Life Without Parole: Life without parole is the harshest U.S. sentence short of death. But thousands are living with that punishment for nonviolent offenses, mostly drug and property crimes.

Thanks to

And may God find a way to forgive me for not being more aware of this problem.  What has happened?  Where did this whole wonderful experiment called "America" go horribly wrong?

Yes, I know.  Be careful, Fred.  Somebody is listening.  But who knows?  Guantanamo might be nice this time of year.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Time To Forget

Evidently a little time off the seat and I've forgotten how to post things from YouTube.  (See below post.) 

Time to do some homework.

Invasion Of Planet X / Gorath Trailer (German)

Not merely the German trailer for "Gorath," no.  It's a cornucopia of German language Kaiju trailers. 

Like ABBA records, Godzilla movies are more entertaining in German.  "Befehl aus dem Dunkel!"  ("Command from the darkness!")  Let's see, how can we add some gravitas to a man in a rubber monster suit?  Answer: discuss it in German. 

This is a confluence of two things that I really like, 1) the German language; and 2) Godzilla.  Thanks, YouTube.