Saturday, December 31, 2016

Tony Joe White - Polk Salad Annie 1970

Tony Joe White . . . a cautionary tale of sorts. He wrote some good songs, including "Rainy Night in Georgia." Largely forgotten by now. History makes strange choices.

Death Proof - Hold Tight - Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich

Here's the studio version, and it's a good one. I'd add some commentary, but I think that I've been here before. Me, I don't mind repeating myself, not at all, but my family used to complain about my redundancy bitterly, and it made me sensitive about the whole thing.

Dave Dee ... - Hold tight 1966

It looks like they actually set up and played this version. Good for you guys! That's always a plus.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Barbara Lynn

And not a pick in sight! Great feel all around. Nice guitars, too.

Barbara's Esquire even has what we used to call the "Ash Tray" in place (the pick-up cover). Really, you don't see a lot of Esquires out there. It's just a Telecaster without the neck pick-up. So what do you save by buying it, twenty bucks? Lots of Tele players never turn on the neck pick-up, but for an extra twenty bucks, what the fuck, I'll take the neck pick-up too, just in case.

Telecasters, Esquires, either way you'll be hard pressed to find one with the Ash Tray in place, or even in the case. Those things just got lost. I made a conscious effort to preserve mine, but nope, it's gone. I've still got the original sales slip, but the Ash Tray is lost to history. No worries, though. The thing sounds great without it.

Royalettes - It's Gonna Take A Miracle

This was 1965, the year that I actually talked to black Americans for about the first time. For a few years already, however, I had been in spaces that were also occupied by black Americans, like public buses in New York, for instance. The Q66 was a bus that I occasionally took to visit my grandmother in Astoria. If the timing was right, there'd be some black high school girls in the back of the bus (by choice), and frequently they'd be singing these songs learned from the radio. I thought that they were the most talented, and beautiful high school girls that I had ever seen. My world was expanding. Thanks, girls, wherever you are. Fare thee well.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

My Reservations About Skype

Several of my friends and family members are Skype fans. I can see their attraction to it, it seems to be a good service. So far I am reticent to join them in such video calls, whether Skype, Line, Facebook or otherwise. I have my reasons.

E-mail, to me, is a much more manageable social situation. Most of us wear masks in life to one degree or another, and those masks are much easier to maintain in e-mails.

I teach a very basic primer on the American legal system at a Southeast Asian university. We, my Thai colleagues and I, keep the emphasis on developing the vocabulary and strategies necessary for discussing the law in English. American law should interest my students, but what I think is more important is that they will soon be required to discuss the laws of other Asian countries with lawyers from those countries. They will do this in English.  

Usually I’ll start by introducing some vocabulary; then I try to explain the law as best I can; and finally I tell them a story in Thai to illustrate how the law works. One such lesson concerns the requirement that witnesses actually show up in court and subject themselves to cross-examination in front of the defendant and the jury. This is the Constitutional “right to confront witnesses.” No one can just write out a statement and sign it “under penalty of perjury.” (With a nod to the twenty-six exceptions to the hearsay rule.) That’s not enough. We want the jury to look the witness in the eyes. After all, we’re going to ask the jury to decide whether they believe the witness or not.

And that’s where I tell them this story. “Imagine,” I tell them, “that you are on the phone with your friend, and her sound is not quite right, there’s something in her voice. You ask her, ‘is everything okay?’ and she answers, cheerfully, ‘yes! Fine!’” On the phone you are not able to see your friend’s face, so you probably think that everything really is okay.

“Same friend,” I go on, “but you’re talking together eye to eye. Something doesn’t seem right, so you ask her, ‘are you okay?’ She answers like this:” (I lower my eyes and knit my brow very briefly, and raise my eyes again with a smile.) “Yes! Fine!” Then I point out to them that they could all see what had happened, and that in person you can clearly see that, yes, something is bothering your friend. That's exactly why we require them to come to court. We need to look them in the eye while they testify and answer questions. 

And this is the same phenomenon that keeps me off of Skype. E-mail allows a greater degree of information management. If I am not in the happiest of moods, I can disguise that fact very well in e-mail. I can even wait a day until I am in a better mood. On Skype, eye to eye, I’m going to get nailed.

I’m protecting my correspondents as much as I’m protecting myself. I don’t want to be a worry to anybody. It’s best all around if people have the impression that my life is a wonderful adventure and an entire catalog of dreams that have come true.

So please accept my apologies, friends and family of the Skype generation. Be assured that I love you and that I would love the chance to talk to you face to face on occasion. In a room somewhere would be best. I’m sure that someday I’ll get around to joining the Skype team, and, in the manner of so many such new technologies, I’ll get used to it in no time. But for now, I’m hanging back. It’s nothing personal. Thanks for your patience. 

Ike & Tina Turner - Stagger Lee & Billy.

In the same vein . . . I love all of these songs about the Stagger Man. This is a very unusual retelling of the tale, in which Billy comes out on top. Great line: "Billy was hitting Stagger Lee so hard, the cops were scared to speak . . ." Another great performance by Tina, sure, but also another great song choice, production and band-direction by Ike.

Ike and Tina Turner - Two Is A Couple.

Here's another classic from the Ike Turner Band, featuring Tina Turner. Aka, Ike and Tina Turner. Tina is a great talent, no doubt. But sell Ike's contribution to music short at your peril, his other shortcomings notwithstanding.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Um Um Um Um Um Um-Major Lance-1964.wmv

In our benighted age, what can one do but embrace nonsense? I'm hoping that nonsense makes a comeback in general. We need a new Alfred Jarry to help us to understand all of this new craziness. A new Dali. A whole new Dada movement. Or at least we can comfort ourselves by listening to this kind of silly, but serious song from our past.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Wrapping - The Waitresses - Lightorama 16 channels

This is from the Ze Records release, "A Christmas Record," 1981. It's a good one. Thinking about my collection of Christmas albums, I almost forgot this one! Not to worry though, it's not old age. My memory has never been that good.

Christmas, More Or Less




The Christmases of my childhood were a little too exciting for a delicate flower like me. First there was a rushed examination of the presents; then off to Catholic mass; then off to Uncle Bob’s house. I rather liked that family; we’d get there by about ten o’clock. Uncle Bob was great, very funny, low key; Aunt Margaret was a kindhearted and worldly-wise woman with a coy smile; there were two (boy) cousins about ten years older than me. Very nice, but that was a quick trip. Maybe an hour or so, and then it was off to my grandmothers’ home. (Maternal.) That was a three-ring circus of off-the-hook weirdness, right there.

For one thing, she owned a funeral parlor. She owned two adjoining residential/commercial buildings in Astoria, Queens. The two downstairs units, and both basements, were the funeral parlor; upstairs the two units had been turned into one big residence, communicating in two spots along the way. Death taking no holidays, there was often a wake downstairs, and calls would come in making arrangements for the newly dead. None of that interfered at all with the wild fun preferred by my grandmother, my mother, and my aunts and uncles. (About twenty-five people were typically present; my father’s partying was more restrained.) As with death, life goes on.

There was always the unrestrained drinking of alcohol, Manhattans being the preferred drink. All of these people bought their whiskey by the case. Christmas dinner was about three o’clock, followed by the opening of presents (youngest first, etc.). By then almost all of the adults were well into the lampshade hat zone, literally. They’d have been into the Crème de Menthe, with the bright green teeth to prove it. This was the World War II generation, and every party was 1999 for them. Cigarettes were everywhere.

As a small boy, this was very strange and a bit frightening to me. As time passed, it grew into a bearable enterprise with a chance to see my cousins. By the end of the run I was married and my son was the first to open his presents, as the first grandchild and the youngest at the party.

The Rehabilitation of Christmas

My little family moved to California around this time. There were years when we didn’t really know a lot of people, and there were no relatives around. We started our own Christmas tradition of having a big turkey party for the friends that we did have. There were a couple of transplanted New Yorkers, and a few of their friends. All of them were writers with no family aspirations and nowhere else to go for the holiday. We had a couple of friends, coworkers of mine, who lived far from home and needed an invitation. This type of gathering grew over the years to include larger groups of people, mostly regulars, with celebrations on Easter and Thanksgiving, along with BBQs on Memorial Day and Labor Day. But we’re here to talk about Christmas.

We were blessed with a second son within a few years of the relocation, and we purchased a little house of our own. Our boys were always great about Christmas morning. They always woke up around first light, of course, but they never bothered us. They’d play in their room or go in the kitchen for some milk or something; they would just kill time pleasantly until we woke up and came out. We’d all be dressed in robes with tussled hair. And we’d open the presents. Our system was to distribute the presents and then take turns opening one at a time. We’d take lots of pictures and get a few sets made so that we could send sets to the grandparents. All OG stuff; film cameras; pictures sent as hard copies by U.S. Mail.

I would already have started playing my Christmas albums. Phil Spector; James Brown; “A Rhythm and Blues Christmas;” Der Bingle; Nat King Cole. That went on all day.

We’d have a little breakfast that included a certain amount of chocolate, and then get ready for the company. My wife would start the turkey. If the year had advanced somewhat, I’d be off to the Honey Baked Ham store for a spiral cut ham. We’d tell people to come between one and two, but there were always a couple who’d be there by noon, and they’d show up hungry and thirsty, too. They were innocent, so it was never annoying.

The conversations were wide ranging and entertaining. Writers may show up early, and empty-handed, but they do make the proceedings more interesting.

By this time I was starting to really enjoy Christmas. All of the old discomfort had been replaced by the warm feeling of having a nice family and being surrounded by friends.

Here’s my best memory of Christmas: even long after my sons had moved out of the house, they preferred to sleep over on Christmas Eve so that we could all wake up together and have our little Christmas morning together, just the four of us.

It all seems so distant now, in light of events, and I’ll admit that it can all be a little difficult for me, but I’ve had a nice Christmas this year in spite of my nature. We got a tree, a very nice five foot tall artificial tree, nicely decorated. (Previously my tree had been an eight by ten photo of a Christmas tree.) We threw two parties here at the condo, one last week for friends and one on Christmas day for family. Both were very nice affairs, very comfortable, with plenty of Christmas spirit and very little drinking. My gift giving this year was limited to cookies and chocolates for the ladies in five offices up at school (those that help me out with scheduling and getting paid), and Christmas envelopes for the staff here at the condo. There are eleven of them, security guards, housekeeping, and two mechanics. If I told you how much was in their envelopes, you might think that I was some kind of cheapskate, but it was more than a day’s pay for them, and I could tell that they were very pleased. Thailand is not a tipping country in general. The office staff at the condo got a nice box of cookies (their salaries are a bit higher, so I figured that they were taken care of).

2016 is shaping up to be an odd holiday season. At Christmas, we are expected to look back and be thankful for having gotten through another year with the help of our friends. This year most people would say that we have less than usual to be thankful for, the efforts of our friends notwithstanding. At New Years’ we are tempted to look forward to a new year full of promise and hope for the best, but this year that whole idea is also a burn.

We can hope for the best, but let’s also remember that when things seem like they could not get any worse . . . they can always get worse. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Military History Always Cheers Me Up

We live in what that famous Chinese proverb called, “interesting times.” For “interesting,” read panic-inducing; life-threateningly dangerous; revolutionary; or just bloody depressing. We need strategies to deal with the emotional impact. Reading military history always works for me.

Not the genre of military history that concentrates on the staff officers; the big picture; the order of battle; or the dates on which objectives were taken. You’ve got to find materials that dig deeper and include the nuts and bolts details of the lives of the guys who were in immediate danger of being shot, stabbed or blown-up. The mere mention of “infantry assault” doesn’t really convey much meaning. What was the emotional impact of infantry assault on the participating individuals, on either the giving or the receiving end?

Not just the infantry, either. Here’s an interesting fact about the six-month-long battle for Guadalcanal: total infantry deaths (combined U.S. Marines and U.S. Army), 1,700; total U.S. Navy deaths at sea, 5,000. Did I say interesting? More like shocking.

There were seven naval battles associated with the Guadalcanal campaign. Two of them were fleet/carrier actions; five were up close and personal gunfights that took place at night between groups of cruisers and destroyers. I just read a great book about those naval actions, “Neptune’s Inferno,” by James Hornfischer. Highly recommended.

It’s always the little tidbits that catch my eye, and stick in my memory. In the diary of one Japanese officer there was a little chart to show the life expectancy of a Japanese soldier that was slowly dying of hunger. Those poor guys were woefully undersupplied. Here’s the count-down:

Can still stand? Thirty days to live;

Can still sit up? Three weeks to live;

Cannot sit up anymore? One week to live;

Urinating while lying down? Three days to live;

No longer able to speak? Two days to live;

Has stopped blinking? Tomorrow is it, pal.

By December, 1942 there were 30,000 Japanese troops on Guadalcanal, and the supply situation was critical. Of the 30,000, there were about 4,000 that could be considered combat-effective. By the time of the evacuation in late January, 1943, there were only 10,500 to be evacuated from the island.

So that, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when push comes overpoweringly to shove. Take heart! Our little dramas with our Ayn Randian overlords and our new, exciting president are but a pale echo of the real problems that can overtake us in life. When I read about these historically factual adventures I feel a certain blissful calm come over me. Maybe, I think, things are not so bad after all.

Incidentally, those sailors who died did so in more sudden ways that ranged from spectacular to horrific. They were, by turns, blown up, burned up, impaled by bits of their own ships, drowned, and eaten by sharks.

So look for the good! Hey honey! What’s for dinner! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Band - Daniel And The Sacred Harp

What genre of song is this? I don't even want to venture a guess. Some kind of mysterious hybrid, that's my hunch. Which is probably a good description of The Band in general. This whole album was in frequent rotation in my house back in the day, and this song in particular always gave me the chills. I still can't put my finger on it, but I still close my eyes and just go with it until it's over.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Champion Jack And Cornell Dupree (Junker's Blues)



This is King Curtis’s band, featuring the great Cornell Dupree on guitar, with Champion Jack Dupree sitting at the piano. I have thought for decades that Champion Jack was Cornell’s dad.

It wasn’t just an assumption, and I didn’t get the idea from a rumor. I got it from an interview that Champion Jack gave to a magazine that I liked. It might have been Living Blues magazine, in the late 1980s. Jack died in 1992. On the subject of his children, Jack was asked if any of them were musical. His answer was that one of them was, “Cornell is having great success playing the guitar.”

William Thomas Dupree was born in New Orleans and had a hardscrabble upbringing. He learned to play the piano at an early age, and he had a considerable boxing career, during which he took the ring name “Champion Jack.” None of the biographies that I looked up the other day mentioned his personal or family life, other than a thumbnail sketch about his early childhood and the boxing thing. No mention of a family, or children.

I like Champion Jack’s music well enough, but I love Cornell’s guitar playing. Cornell has style and substance; he’s versatile and exciting. He knows when to step up, when to hang back, and when to lay out. You’ve heard a lot of his playing, even if you are not aware of that fact. The man played on over 2,500 recording sessions. Those included artists like Laura Nyro, Nina Simone (also as a sideman), Miles Davis, and Aretha Franklin. He’s uncredited on a lot of albums from the 1970s and 1980s; I can hear him in there sometimes. His own albums are very good, too.

Cornell’s parents were Cornell and Bernice Dupree. Champion Jack had nothing to do with it.

I can’t guess what would make Champion Jack claim parentage, other than the fact that anyone would be proud to be Cornell’s father. They obviously knew each other; they had worked together with the King Curtis band. Strange things happen. 

One of life’s mysteries, I suppose. 

Update, December 19, 2016: A Facebook page called Blues Power Radio had a post from November 24, 2012 that was another cut from the same concert as the above. The included comment said, ". . . Cornell West, son of famed piano bluesman Champion Jack Dupree . . ." 

Update, December 19, 2016: A nice stand-alone site called The Daily Music Break had a post on December 27, 2013 about Champion Jack Dupree, which included the statement, ". . . Cornell Dupree, who became an important guitarist and I believe is Jack's son, though I couldn't verify that on the webb." 

I'm going with the New York Times obituary of Cornell Dupree at this point. It never mentions Champion Jack at all, and it gave good background on the early life of Cornell and named his original home and his parents, Cornell and Bernice Dupree. The newspaper of record has spoken! 

The Velvet Underground - What goes on (1969)

Just listening to these old Velvets cuts is reward enough after a hard day of dealing with the Twenty-First Century, but the YouTube comments are the icing on the cake. Very entertaining, in a ridiculous kind of way. I don't mean to be cruel, but Jesus, Mary and Joseph, are people totally clueless or what? I'm no genius, no brilliante, I'm no rockologist, no musicologist, but I've got ears to hear, and a bit of historical perspective, and all that I can suggest is that most of the commenters just shut the fuck up.

The Queen's Speech - Addressing The Poor From A Golden Chair? Russell Br...

How much fucking trouble are we in if Russell Brand is one of our principal voices of reason? Seriously, it reminds me of that old Whoopie Goldberg routine from 1980 or so, the Fontaine routine. Remember that one? "Fontaine: Why I Got Straight." It's on the YouTube. That was a hysterical bit right there. Fontaine goes on about how the Reagan era is totally fucked up, not to mention reality itself being totally fucked up as well, and then she says, "I got straight for this?" Well, Russell Brand got straight and he noticed some very similar bullshit himself. I am informed, and believe, that when people get straight after spending years and years in a state that requires all of their attention, they have time on their hands in which to do . . . what? They need to find shit to do. I, for one, thank God that Russell Fucking Brand has decided to devote his "time on his hands" to helping the rest of us figure out this modern world in all of its terrible complexity. He's a lovely man, highly intelligent, and his heart is in the right place. Thanks, Russ!

Bobby Womack on Letterman

Very interesting performance by Bobby Womack on the Letterman show, a long, long time ago. When we all had hair!

Good performance, and a nice interview too. The Womack Brothers first record was "It's All Over Now," and it's a great record at that. It was never a big hit though, not for them anyway. The Rolling Stones got hold of it and then, wow, it was a certified hit. Bobby says that at first he was pissed, but after the first royalty check came in he was cool with it.

And so, boys and girls, the lesson is: the music business is all about the publishing. To make a living singing and playing, you'll be working your little hoofies to the quick and going home broke. Write the songs and get the publishing and you'll be sitting back at the crib with your feet up getting checks in the mail. Thus endeth the lesson.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Titus Tee Turner - Bow Wow

Look for the good. The Internet is chock full of great cuts that we haven't heard yet.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Visions - Cigarette

Please forgive my redundancy, but I'm up against it here. I gave up smoking cigarettes almost two months ago. Withing three days the monarch of my adopted country passed away. He was a positive force in our world, and we miss him very much, and we were very sad to see him go. Then, after another few days, The Great Unspeakable was elected President of the United States. "Of America," no less. Since then it has been a daily grind of new, weird disclosures and increasingly dangerous actions by our soon-to-be Commander in Chief, who seems to have less of an idea of what the president actually does than I know about what a nuclear physicist does. So yeah, it's a real challenge for me to walk by a 7-11 these days without thinking, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, please give me one good reason that I should not go in there right fucking now and buy a pack of Marlboro Menthols!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Here Be Monsters


Democratic institutions have been a theme of mine. I recently wrote about the danger of weakening them or losing them, with the resulting loss of democracy itself. Watching Herr Professor Doktor and President Elect Donald Trump pick his cabinet this week was an object lesson in what I was talking about.

Not only his cabinet, but also the heads of some agencies. Those Federal Agencies are also democratic institutions. They are very powerful. They have the power of regulation over various aspects of commerce and national security. The rules that they promulgate have the power of law. They are at the center of any effort to move American democracy forward.

Does anyone think that this recent crop of appointees will do that? Does anyone believe that they will make decisions based upon the best interest of the American people? I certainly don't. I fact, I see them as having been hand-picked to destroy the very agencies that they have been appointed to head. Ben Carson at HUD? Ms. DeVos at Education? The Cabinet is just as bad. The CEO of Exxon, a Putin crony, as Secretary of State? Come on.

And down the list. I don't feel like making that list right now; my blood pressure is quite high enough already.

If Der Trump makes it through the next few months and actually completes a term in office, our democracy will have taken a huge hit. Don't forget that the Republicans are in charge of all of those states as well. Voter suppression and extreme Gerrymandering will continue; the Supreme Court will have been packed and it will back up the Republican agenda; regulations that insure fair business practices, worker safety, clean air and water, safe banking practices, etc, will have been gutted. There will have been more freedoms taken away, and more people senselessly incarcerated, and probably more wars senselessly started.  I could go on with this list as well, but you get the picture.

It's enough to make one nostalgic for the "election" of W. Bush. His installation also required behind the scenes shenanigans. He was an unmitigated disaster, too, but perhaps soon we will remember him fondly. I was predictably verklempt when he took office, and I made my feelings known. The typical response from family and friends was, don't worry, how bad can it be? Well, it was very, very bad. He took the Supreme Court to an existential tipping point, and he ruined the government's finances by cutting taxes on the top earners, and squandering trillions on endless, pointless wars and new weapons. He deregulated banks at just the wrong moment in history, leading to a world wide collapse in financial markets that is still reverberating. ("just the wrong moment . . ." because computers had become routine agents of stock trading, increasing the number of transactions exponentially and allowing the creation of new instruments to create essentially valueless new money.)  He cost us, the world, umpteen trillions of dollars, and all we got, as the saying goes, "was this lousy t-shirt!" (Well, that and a zoom-climb in budget deficits that added a trillion dollars or so to the national debt every year.) But W., for all of his mischief, did seem to observe cultural norms in most observable ways, he had limits. He did seem like he was "of this earth."

What we are looking at now is a strange breed of monsters. Not since the "Ohio Gang" has there been anything approaching them for breathtaking corruption and self-interest. And leading them is a creature that does not seem to possess any human characteristics at all. Our new president has no respect whatsoever for the ordinary processes of government, you know, the balance of power, compromise solutions, etc. In fact, he's already actively at war with the intelligence community, peremptorily attacking the courts and the congress, and interfering with long established foreign policy.  What will become of us? Porca miseria! Our new leader is Porco Dio!

I should stop now, before I actually have a heart attack.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

An M.V. Powered Custom By Shinya Kimura


Another bike from Shinya Kimura.

I don't know about the frame, etc, but this motor is a 650cc M.V. Agusta. The original M.V. was for sale some time in the early 1970s, and I recall it looking more sedate than this one, if not by much. Mr. Kimura's bikes always feature a lot of parts that are hand formed, or machined from billets, in his shop. So I'm going to classify this as a Japanese Custom Motorcycle built by Shinya Kimura.

M.V.s were big winners at road races all through the 1960s, but by the 1970s they were having trouble keeping up with the higher tech Hondas. The motor is beautiful enough to use it on the basis of looks alone, but being an M.V. it would also be smooth and strong. This bike would move right along.

You should Google this guy. All of his bikes are amazing.

Historical Me


Friends sent me this picture in an e-mail last week. That's me in September, 1975, sitting on their deck in the Berkeley hills. So I'd be looking out at the San Francisco Bay and the city itself, and the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. That was some deck (and house).

I had turned twenty-seven the previous month.

Thanks, Bill and Chissie!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Pharaoh Akhenaten And President Obama; Similarities; Discuss

Pharaoh Akhenaten ruled Egypt for seventeen years, which ended with his death of natural causes in 1336 BC or so. He was the least popular of the Egyptian Pharaohs, and that’s putting it mildly.

He had taken over as Pharaoh under the name Amenhotep IV (“Amun is satisfied”). After four years he had some kind of religious epiphany and changed his name to Akhenaten (“Effective for Aten”). He created a new religion and built a new city called Akhetaten to serve as its administrative center. He seems to have tried to change the state religion of Egypt over to his new system, but the effort was not well received.

While he was alive, things proceeded along normal lines for the times. He built what he wanted to build; he did what he wanted to do; he had the usual half a dozen or eight consorts (including Nefertiti); he had children (including his son Tutankhamun, who succeeded him as Pharaoh); and many monuments were erected in his honor, with the usual elaborate statuary. But in Akhenaten’s case there was a personal twist to everything.  

There was, of course, the new religion, which even today would be a tough sell. The equivalent event in our day would be a pope of Rome announcing that he had received wisdom directly from God and that he was going to change everything about Catholic doctrine and move the administrative center of the resulting new church to Uganda.

The personal touch was also apparent in the art of the period. All art was royal at the time; all art was commissioned by the government. Suddenly, the style of representation was drastically changed. Where before it had been a bit on the stiff side, and the royal subjects had been idealized, the new style was very flowing and naturalistic. People like Akhenaten were shown with their faults. He was not a handsome man, and his physique was neither athletic nor military. Even beyond that, the features and the figures were stylized. Features were elongated; shapes were exaggerated.

This artistic explosion was weird enough to make the History Channel think that Akhenaten might have been an alien.

It may be that his own ministers also thought that he might have descended from another planet. Very soon after his death, official records began to refer to him as “that criminal,” or “the enemy.” There was a concerted effort to deface statues of Akhenaten, or at least get them out of sight somewhere. There was a movement to get him stricken from the list of Pharaohs. It occurred to me the other day that something similar could happen to President Obama after he’s out of office.

Soon-To-Be-Ex-President Obama

President Obama’s path to the presidency, like Akhenaten’s path to the throne, was completely orthodox. He was elected in the normal way; he ascended to the presidency in the prescribed manner; he was re-elected after four years and that election was allowed to stand; and it appears that he will serve out the remaining several weeks of his second term.

Also like Akhenaten, President Obama has met with as much resistance as the law allows for his entire time in office. Obama's desire to enhance medical security for many uninsured Americans was his goal analogous to Akhenaten's new religion. It upset the political apple cart. Obama is a neo-liberal, but he is a neo-liberal with a difference: he has a conscience. Sometimes I wonder if that makes him a Clintonian neo-liberal. I leave those fine points to the political scientists. The Republican neo-liberals, the only other brand available these days, certainly have no consciences. What a bunch of granny-starvers! So, the Affordable Care Act, that was Obama's new religion, that was one of the prime drivers for his opposition. 

He’s been disrespected and called a traitor. What, I wonder, would people think and do if he had not appreciably reduced the ridiculous deficits created by his Republican predecessor; if he had not avoided a second Great Depression; if he had done any of the things that they were afraid that he would do (like take peoples’ guns, or surrender America’s sovereign power to the United Nations)? What would they have done if President Obama had done even one of the egregious things that President Elect Trump has already done? Disqualifying things that he continues to do on a daily basis? What indeed.

So I also wonder what will happen after Mr. Obama officially becomes an “ex-president.”

And what, we may well ask, would the result have been in an alternate universe where Barack Hussein Obama was a white man named Robert Miller or something, who was married to a white woman named Jane, ne Taylor? What indeed. Can anyone honestly say that they believe that the experience would have been identical? I didn’t think so. Certainly it could not have been racism! We are post-racial now! We don’t see color! All of those people, and each of them, had policy differences of opinion with President Obama! His race had nothing to do with it! Why, it’s a total coincidence that they have no problems at all with a government filed with white neo-liberal globalists but that they just happen to hate the black neo-liberal globalist.

Polite Liberals will affect a continuing appreciation of and affection for President Obama. What about everyone else, though? Will time temper any of the hatred that large swathes of the population have shown for President Obama and his wife for eight years now? Many of the haters did not even wait for him to be out of office before calling him “the enemy,” or “that criminal,” much in the same vein as those very terms were used against Akhenaten.

Ours is a very new, very different, completely wacky world in the Twenty-First Century. Right now there are computer savvy teenagers over in Macedonia and the Ukraine and the Philippines inventing strategies for anti-EX-president Obama hit pieces for their fake news sites. “New evidence proves that Obama DID have a plan to take guns out of private hands!” “Obama’s father was an anti-British Mau Mau hit-man!” “Obama now secret lobbyist for Rothschild Bankers!” “Moochelle was a Chinese agent in the White House!” Hillary will continue to feature in fake news as well, because, why not? “Hillary was set to finalize Obama’s gun collections!” I’m sure those kids overseas will come up with better stuff then me.

I’m sure that this new Trump/Republican/Anarchist tidal wave would love to strike the name “Barack Hussein Obama” from the list of American presidents as well. They're still so desperate to force us to realize that OBAMA IS BLACK! (Why not transcend white purity and go for WASP purity at the same time? Maybe we can strike “Kennedy” while we're at it.)

My advice for Ex-President Obama is . . . no, he doesn’t need any advice from me. I’m sure that he’s got a handle on it. He has effortlessly absorbed all of the bile and vitriol that has been thrown at him during his presidency, and he’ll continue to do just that, while enhancing his reputation as a highly intelligent and level headed man, who also manages to be gracious, charming and witty.  

Graham Central Station - We've Been Waiting

These Graham Central Station albums were terrific. What enthusiasm! And I have always loved that they put these intro pieces at the front of side one. It's a nice touch.

Lethal Injection Should Not Be This Difficult

After my two cents is a rough paste from Think Progress, and I sure hope that they don't mind me borrowing it. It's just here to illustrate that problem that people are having with medically killing our unfortunate death-penalty inmates. 

And should it be so hard? I mean, really? 

It's like they were trying to do it in the most degrading and uncomfortable way possible. First they strap the person in whose honor the execution is being given to a specially designed killing table. Then they hook some kind of special IV device into his arm, or arms. Then they've got these three giant cylinders of medicine with plungers. Number one is supposed to knock the person out, but it often misses the mark. Why they use this Rube Goldberg device is a mystery to me. It should be very simple. 

All you need to do is sit the honoree in a comfy chair. Give him or her a cocktail while a priest give him or her a pep talk and rolls up a sleeve. Then while the priest says a prayer, give the patient a shot of sodium pentothal. The same shot that they'd get if they were about to undergo abdominal surgery. It works every time. 

I have had that pleasure. The anesthesiologist approached me with the needle and said, "you're going to feel a pin prick. When you feel it, I want you to count backwards from 100." I remember the pin prick, and I remember forming the present intention to say, "one hundred." That's it. They proceeded to open me up from pillar to post, search around for my wayward, burst appendix, cut out the offending organs, make a couple of stitches, lift out my intestines and hose out the body cavity, replace everything and sew/staple me up, and place me in a hospital bed with tubes hanging out in a few places. 

What would be wrong with that knock-out method? After that shot, I can tell you, they could just inject bubbles into the condemned person's veins. That would work, and it would be cost effective, and the deceased would be never the wiser. 

But no, Rube Goldberg it is. And here's what happens. 

(Everything that follows comes from Think Progress, with my sincere appreciation.)
  

"A botched lethal injection ends in agony

Ronald B. Smith appeared to be conscious and gasping for breath during his lethal injection.

On Thursday night, Ronald B. Smith became the latest death row inmate to suffer during a lethal injection. The Alabama prisoner heaved and gasped for air for 13 minutes on the execution table, and there were reportedly no attempts to stop the procedure.
Smith’s 34-minute execution, consisting of the injection of a three-drug cocktail, began shortly after 10:30pm. But after the first drug, midazolam, was administered to render him unconscious, it was evident that Smith was conscious and in excruciating pain.
According to AL.com, he “appeared to be struggling for breath and heaved and coughed and clenched his left fist.” The head of the Department of Corrections (DOC) stepped in to test his level of consciousness by “calling out Smith’s name, brushing his eyebrows back, and pinching him under his left arm,” but the coughing and gasping didn’t let up. Smith also moved his right arm and hand after a second consciousness test was conducted.
In total, Smith’s suffering lasted between 10:34 and 10:47, at which point the remaining drugs were injected. Per Alabama Prison Commissioner Jeff Dunn’s own admission, there was no talk of halting the procedure and that the executioners stuck closely to “protocol.”
Smith ultimately died at 11:05, but his torturous demise is just the latest in a spate of botched executions involving midazolam, a controversial sedative at the heart of major legal battles in the past two years.

Scientists and pharmacologists agree that “midazolam is incapable of inducing a ‘deep, comalike unconsciousness,” like other sedatives administered during past executions. The medical community, legal experts, and human rights advocates call the use of midazolam — an unregulated drug that isn’t approved by the Federal Drug Administration for lethal injection — cruel and unusual.
In 2015, the controversy made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which dealt a huge blow to opponents of the death penalty. In the final opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, the court ruled that there must always be a mechanism to administer the death penalty, regardless of its reliability.

Smith was one of five death row inmates who filed a lawsuit against Alabama for its new use of midazolam as the sedative in the three-part cocktail. They said that midazolam wouldn’t be effective in masking the pain associated with the other two drugs used to stop heart and lung function. In lieu of the three drugs, the five prisoners fought to be executed with one hefty dose of midazolam.+

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Visions - Cigarette

I know just how he feels. I quit, again, about six weeks ago. In my conscious hours, I do fine. I'm glad that I stopped. Sleeping, though, is a different story. Sleeping, I dream about cigarettes. In typical dream fashion, the dreams are a mix of cigarette cravings, cigarette terrors, and cigarette nostalgia. I'll get over it. Or I'll start again. You've got to die of something!

Talking Heads live - Cities with Adrian Belew on guitar

A gift! For Christmas! (Because you've all been so kind. No one has complained about all of the politics. Thank you; I'm sorry.) Talking Heads from this period, combined with Adrian Belew, reminds me of a Stephen Wright joke I heard long ago. "I made instant coffee in a microwave," he said, "I almost went back in time." Many, most, musicians work within some kind of framework. I love Earl King (see below), and it doesn't bother me in the least that he was part of a tradition. After all, almost no one in music breaks entirely new ground. And no, I'm not adding a list here, as much as I am fond of lists. Just consider . . . When Talking Heads hit the market in, what was it? 1976? After a couple of years of obscurity (weren't they on the Live at CBGB's album?). No one knew how to describe Talking Heads music. I loved their music myself, but I remember marveling at their lack of obvious influences. It was like they had grown up on a deserted island with access to human history but no musical references and had then discovered instruments at some point. The music press at the time was dumbfounded; they had no idea what to say about Talking Heads. And then to add Adrian Belew to that miasma of futuristic technicolor mist? Adrian "Mr. Wait, What Did He Just Do?" Belew. Why, it was almost enough to loosen one's attachment to the very space/time continuum itself!

Earl King - Street Parade

Welcome to December! I skipped Thanksgiving this year, but not to worry, no one seemed to notice. (But thanks, Tony, for being the exception!) Christmas? Am I forgetting Xmas too? Hint: I bought a Christmas Tree today! And decorations! And lights! LED! I have two, count 'em, two Christmas parties on calendar. So yeah, I'm not forgetting Christmas this year. I might just even play this song at both parties. It's Christmasy, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Jonathan Pie: Reporter gets angry about Matt Damon, David Cameron, Alan ...

"Jonathan Pie" turns out to be British comedian Tom Walker (in the role of, "creator of . . ."). Good job, Tom.

Lee Dorsey - Four Corners (Part 1) - '68 Soul-Funk

An Allan Toussaint production. Nothing cheers me up like an obscure Lee Dorsey cut that I've never heard before and it turns out to be first class all the way. Thanks, world . . . I needed that.

Part I? Part II? There seems to be something wrong with this picture. Every one on YouTube is this cut right here, although some say Part I and some say Part II.  Always room for a bit of mystery, I always say.

The College Point Window On This Election

One Coastal Small Town vs. Red State Mania

There have been wild demographic shifts in the United States over the last seven decades. Some, perhaps many, Americans have shown little or no discomfort over those changes and have moved on with the times; other Americans, perhaps many of them, have dug in their angry heels and now wish to unwind as many of those changes as possible. This election drew a bold line between the two groups.

Once upon a time, I was a boy. The time was the early 1950s; the place was New York City, the Borough of Queens, neighborhood of College Point. Most people, even most New Yorkers, would need a bit of clarification as to the College Point part. Let’s say that it is a part of the greater Flushing area, being north of Flushing proper, on and extending into the East River, on the north shore of Long Island, between La Guardia Airport (across the Flushing River) and the Whitestone Bridge.

College Point does make kind of a “point” of land, but neither the East River nor the Flushing River are real rivers. The East River is actually an estuary of considerable size, and the Flushing River is more or less an inlet about a mile long and culminating in a swamp. So from the geography on up, College Point is ridiculous.

The Whitestone Bridge is actually a bridge. It’s very beautiful. You can Google it.

That long-ago world was what I sometimes call “the white New York.” The city in general was something like 84% white. College Point, when I was a boy, was more like 99% white. That was back when the white folk were firmly in charge, the time for which many white people have grown nostalgic more recently. That College Point was almost entirely white was like an unwritten rule, and it was enforced with considerable prejudice by regular people without prompting from political or religious entities.

Did I say 99%? Let’s see. We were told that there were about 30,000 people in College Point back then. The 2010 census gave it as 24,500. Who knows? Maybe it’s been somewhere in that range for this entire time. The demographics, however, are radically different now than they were then.

Back then, to my knowledge, there were two black people who actually lived in College Point. They were a couple in their fifties; they worked the night shift at, I was informed, Flushing Hospital. I remember the building that they lived in, and I saw them coming and going from time to time. Sometimes getting the bus to go to work at about 5:30 p.m.; sometimes returning home in the early morning. If you saw them in the morning, they’d be carrying grocery bags from the Blue Star Market over in Flushing. Why, you’d think that they were consciously avoiding shopping in College Point, or even being seen on the street! Which was, I’m sure, the case, as ashamed as I am to admit it.

My tailor had an assistant who was a very kindhearted black man, and I know that there were other black workers at various businesses and factories. After hours they returned to their residences somewhere else.

That was the white world, which, as we shall see in a moment, has passed from history’s stage, never to return.

As for Hispanics in College Point, I did know that the mothers of a couple of my friends were Puerto Rican woman who had married local men. There were no Puerto Rican families, though. I didn’t think much about it. By the early 1970s the nice park in College Point had been discovered by Puerto Ricans from Flushing and Corona. They’d come over on Sunday and hang out on blankets, kick around a soccer ball. That made for a bit of tension, but none of them had moved in as yet.

No minorities successfully moved into College Point until after I had graduated from high school. There were stories of a few close calls, but people were scared off. Threats were made.

Of Asians, I only knew of two families. There was the Filipino family of my friend Alan A. In those days, and since, Filipinos are much more likely to be greeted as part of the American family than any other Asians. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe people remember that we fought the Japanese together. I guess there’s more to it, though, because we fought the Japanese together with the Chinese, too. Anyway, Alan’s was only one family. The other Asian family was Chinese, and, in an amazing burst of seeming racism, they owned the, wait for it! The Chinese Laundry. They were very nice and they seemed prosperous. I took my father’s shirts there.

Homosexuals are not, of course, a demographic, but let’s address that issue here as well. If there were any homosexuals at all, men or women, we would have had no way of knowing it. Back in the pre-Stonewall era, homosexuals kept their heads so far down it’s amazing that they could see a curb without tripping over it. And there were good reasons for that, too.  It was open season on homosexuals all year, every year, back then. A guy could get hurt.

Politically, everyone in New York City was a Democrat. Before the mid-1970s, Republicans couldn’t get arrested in New York. When John Lindsey got elected mayor in 1965 or so, he ran on both the Republican and the Liberal Party tickets. He was elected on the Liberal ticket. We were blue-collar, yellow-dog Democrats, with many of the working people being in unions.

Longing for a return to this world is like that short story, “The Monkey’s Paw.” The moral of that story, and all other “three wishes” stories, is, “be careful what you wish for.”  Those longings always cause enormous grief; those stories never end well.


New York, the Modern Era.

Everything has changed by now in such a comprehensive way that it really is a challenge to the understanding, even for people who, like me, embrace diversity.

Here are the stat’s for College Point from that 2010 census:

White:       32%

Asian:        28%

Hispanic:    36%

Black:        3%

By now it seems like New York also tolerates Republicans much better than in the past, while still voting largely Democratic. Hillary won New York, including College Point.

I have no statistics regarding the gay population, and my guess is that the actual numbers would remain about the same as a percentage of the population. That seems to be the way homosexuality works; it occurs naturally in the human population, and I’ve never seen or heard any speculation as to whether the percentage swings very widely, or at all. I would venture to guess, however, that the gay population is a bit more comfortable these days with identifying as gay. Certain demographics notwithstanding, most of the American people do seem to have grasped the fact that when one considers “homosexuals,” one is considering one’s own beloved family members, friends and co-workers, sports stars, dedicated police and firemen, doctors and nurses, soldiers and sailors, etc. For most people it was a small matter of discovering just who all of those gay people were. Having found out that they knew and loved multiple gay people, most Americans, to their credit, raised their eyebrows and said, “oh!” And that was more or less that.

But this is New York that we’re looking at in detail here. New York is a nice place, in many ways, but it is not America.

I have many friends from College Point that I am still in contact with. Quite a few still live there; the rest are spread out all over the east coast from Florida to Upstate New York, and all points west. Many of the friends who still live in College Point seem to resent the new diversity, and many of those who moved, moved because of it. Even though the area still went Democratic this time, this resentment bodes ill for the future of our politics.

The coastal people of America, including New York, voted for Hillary this time around, with a push, no doubt, from their diverse elements. Other reasons might include the fact that the white coastals are often better educated, more disposed to believe the evidence in scientific matters, less likely to take stories from iron age texts as facts, more able to resist shouted lies and flattery meant to influence their votes, and better able to think for themselves.

As for the diverse elements of the coastal states, the immigrants, minorities, subscribers to novel sexual theories, and others, I believe that all such groups have it rather harder in American society than we, the plain vanilla, and as a result there is a much greater flowering of common sense among them. They live more firmly in the world of reality, and are forced to look at things with greater attention. So Hillary, in this case, was a no-brainer for them. They know mischief when they see it.


The So-Called Fly-Over States

Middle America is a different story. Many of those states out there in what New Yorkers would call the middle of nowhere were almost all white back in the Fifties, and they’re still almost all white now. Those folks were fairly prosperous back then, and the white people like them were in charge all over the country. By now, those jobs and that prosperity are gone, and the coastal regions and the areas around big cities like Chicago seem to be chuck full of diversity. In fact, we’ve had a black president with an African name! How diverse is that! Maybe, the thinking goes, way too diverse.

Is there a certain tension between the fact that those urban and coastal regions have more diversity and the fact that they have more prosperity as well? Well, there might be at that. That could make people resentful. Maybe all of that diversity stole our prosperity!

Something happened in this election. I’m tempted to say that back in the white America of my childhood, or the World War II Era, let’s say, New Yorkers and Montanans, or Arkansans, etc., were racists or xenophobes in more or less the same measure. They would tolerate homosexuals to a very similar degree, each to the other (even if that was close to zero percent). They were Republicans or Democrats in approximately equal measure. They could talk together and get along, at least if the New Yorkers made an effort to speak slowly. (That’s not a dig, by the way; that shit is true.)

The bad news is that the two groups were all kind of racist and xenophobic back then, and they all hated homosexuals, but the point is that they had not yet learned to hate each other. That is the gift of the Modern World, the Modern America. Mutual contempt and hatred even within the white tribe is a recent development.

The worst news is that these “heartlanders” appear only to have gotten more racist and more xenophobic and more fundamentalist and more intolerant of other American demographics than they were in the past. This has happened over the last thirty years as they have watched their prosperity go up in steam. They have further hardened their hearts against those traditionally hated groups, and they have added many types of Americans to their hate lists. All of this while the coasts loosened up a bit.

They hate immigrants; minorities; homosexuals; the ungodly; Liberals; cosmopolitans; the poor (even though many of them are themselves poor); Muslims; culturally tolerant urban whites; Catholics and mainstream Protestants; the educated; anyone receiving government assistance (even though they themselves are very likely to be receiving government assistance); the Washington (and other) elites; Jews; and Democrats in general. They hate the courts; the Federal Government; science; diversity; and education. That is a breathtaking hate list.

Regarding the world, they do seem to tolerate Australia pretty well, and they appear to view Canada with mere suspicion and bemusement, while rejecting the rest of the countries of the world out of hand as either ungodly, socialist, communist, libertine, Muslim, brutish, or some combination of the above.

Now here’s the bit that I’ve been leaving out of all of my commentary until this point: they are empowered to hate all of these things by reference to their particular brand of the Christian faith.

It’s all about the Bible. Science has no validity at all. Many people in this situation believe that the earth itself has only been here for a very limited amount of time. Evolution is some kind of demonic trap for the faithful. White people were created in God’s image; all people of color are not purely white due to some curse directed at them by God. It’s a circus of anti-intellectual conformity out there out there in the plains states, and down south as well. No one in many of these areas is listening to the adults anymore.

These people, these Christian Reconstructionist, white supremacist yokels, are willfully ignorant, anti-intellectual and woefully uninformed. To simply call them “low-information,” or “low-education,” leaves off their most clearly defining characteristic. They are FUNDAMENTALIST Christians. Their minds are closed to debate. They know it all, as it has been shown to them in their revealed literature, and as it has been explained to them by their ministers, their mega-church pastors, their right-wing political echo chamber, and by a long roster of media celebrities from Alex Jones of the Info Wars to Shawn Hannity and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News.


And Here We Are.

For one thing, real discussion and compromise is impossible under these circumstances. Finding a solution to our current, growing problem is going to be very difficult without the ability to discuss differences of opinion or find compromises that are acceptable to all sides.

For another thing, unwinding history is impossible. Those jobs are gone; they’re never coming back. The discussion, if such a thing were possible, would be about new types of jobs, new industries, and better distribution of wealth. (Yeah, I said it. And within the last year alone I’ve read a few thoughtful pieces by ultra-rich tech guys or venture capital guys admitting that if nothing is done through the system, they’ll be hanging from lamp-posts before long.)

And there’s this, none of those minorities, or immigrants, or members of other sub-cultures that you don’t like, they’re not going anywhere. Most, by far, are American citizens. It might be possible to deport some of the undocumented, but that effort would elicit such screams of anguish from the business community that it would be shut down quickly. It might be possible to pull some Green Cards and get rid of a few students or something. We’re married to the rest. Get used to it.

And two things about religion: 1) Keep it to yourself, people. Keep your religion where it belongs, in your head, and in your church; keep it between you and your God; and 2) When it comes to OUR country, keep YOUR religion out of it. Make sensible reality based decisions about your votes, and don’t try to use YOUR right to vote to take OUR rights away. Or else we’ll start to wonder why you’re allowed to vote at all.

In the future, fundamentalist religiosity will be seen as a disabling mental condition. Do not hasten the day.

So now we are about to swear in Donald J. Trump as President of the United States. Reading it like that always looks like something in a movie script.

You could add: unless something happens. There’ll be no discussion of the possibilities here. I’ll wait until after the facts are in and then let the professionals discuss whatever has happened at that time.

No discussion of possible vote tampering, either. The strong tendency in America is always to avoid any discussion that could lead to a loss of faith in the system. So when it does happen, like in the year 2000, it turns quickly into “move along, people; nothing to see here.” We’ll see if anything develops this year.

It would be simplistic of me to blame the entire thing on the snake-handling Rubes. They couldn’t have done it all by themselves, although they were, no doubt, a big part of the victory. The Rubes got a lot of help. There are a great many yellow-dog Republicans these days; they’ll vote for anyone at all who appears on the Republican ticket. Many people have a big difference of opinion with Ms. Clinton’s policies and her style of politics; many people are opposed to globalization and Neo-Liberalism in all of their manifestations. Many people believed all of the lies that they read every day about Ms. Clinton. Many men, and women, just don’t think that the presidency is a suitable job for a woman. Many people just don’t like the woman.

Beyond the question of the results among the people who actually voted, there is the problem of the half of registered voters who didn’t bother to vote. Hillary’s negatives are so high that I’m afraid many of these stayed away rather than soil their hands voting for either candidate. It’s also important that all of the polls, right up to the morning of the election, had Hillary winning by a comfortable margin. This allowed unenthusiastic Hillary voters to just let her win without their having to go to the trouble of voting.

Let’s be serious. Voter turnout in America is always on the low side. It’s almost like many people just don’t care who wins, or who governs them. They’re all the same; the policies come from somewhere else anyway; why bother? That sounds very cynical, but it might be uncomfortably close to the truth.

That might be true in a normal election year, anyway.

2017: the year that normal was thrown straight out the window.


Now we will, unfortunately, see what will happen. Only one thing is for sure: it will all be described as “fantastic!”