Sunday, December 17, 2017

Dolly Parton Jolene High Quality sound



A remarkable song and performance from the great Dolly Parton. I bought the Jolene LP at the time, in amongst the Tangerine Dream and Roxy Music and Afrobeat and New York Dolls that crowded my shelves. I took it on the chin from my hipster friends, too. They all came around in the end.

It's a great LP.

Jolene at 33 rpm



I heard this years ago, and it's making the rounds again up on FaceBook.

I always wonder how the idea first came about. Was it an accident? Someone putting the 45 on the turntable and forgetting to change the speed? Or did someone think, this song is pretty fast; what would it sound like on 33? Serendipity or stroke of genius?

One thing for sure, it's damn entertaining.

The White Stripes - Jolene Under Blackpool Lights



I came across this the other day while looking for the original after listening to the slowed-down version in a FaceBook post. Curious, I gave it a play. It's got the "wow!" factor, that's for sure. Nice cover version.

Blacks Save America From Boredom And Roy Moore

Roy Moore lost that election the other day. Roy Moore, failed Biblical law judge, Confederate enthusiast, and big fan of purity, narrowly lost to Democratic candidate, Doug Jones. It was a remarkable election for several reasons.

Doug (“Who?”) Jones managed to pull out the win in spite of himself. Was I the only one wondering why he was the best candidate the Democrats could come up with? The whole election was like one, big Alabama joke. (Question: what do you call two cherry-bombs and an old coffee can? Answer: an Alabama vasectomy.) I’m sure that Doug is a nice guy, but he’s on the low-energy side and campaigning in his house clothes was a strange tactic. Mr. Jones came out the winner largely because he received 96% of the black vote, and Reality-Based America is very appreciative for the save. There were choruses of “thanks, blacks!” from all over the country. That black vote was a lucky thing, too, because the same degree of “virtually ALL” evangelical Christian white voters cast their ballots unironically for Mr. Moore.

That Christian vote proved once again that talking a good game is much more important to evangelicals than actually being a good person.

We are one step closer to learning what level of incompetent, unethical, racist, immoral, borderline-criminal beliefs and behaviors it takes in a candidate to make American voters say, “oh HELL no.” Now at least we know where black American voters draw the line.

(Of course, I am happy that Mr. Moore lost. Very happy! Unfortunately, our celebrity culture will keep him in the public eye for years, like Sarah Palin, but at least he will not become a United States Senator. That august body has suffered enough brand deterioration already.)

And I’m happy that our black Alabama voters were at the forefront of this effort to snatch back some of our dignity. Sure I’m grateful, but it comes as no surprise, because I’m grateful to American blacks every day. My two cents on the matter is that it should not take a remarkable event like this to direct our awareness towards our black brothers and sisters. It was not suddenly today that we awoke in their debt. I, and we, have owed them a tremendous debt of gratitude every damn day for a long time now.

For what, you ask? That’s a stupid question, but okay. For starters, for the life that they bring to our shared culture; the grace with which they treat the whites among us in spite of all of the negativity that they continue to suffer at our hands; the patience with which they wait for the day when they will receive equal treatment from their own government; and the dignity with which they continue to make the best of a bad situation, in almost every situation. For being great neighbors, co-workers and friends.

I particularly appreciate the talent and enthusiasm that they bring to almost any workplace that is lucky enough to have hired them, for anything from cleaning hotel rooms to playing the outfield for the New York Yankees.  

What, are you one of these Internet Libertarian geniuses that wants to bring up “statistics?” You think maybe blacks are trouble? I am embarrassed on a daily basis by the unfounded, horribly racist allegations that run around our circus-like modern media environment about black neighborhoods, black families, thug-life, jailbirds, and often blacks in general, coming from lying right-wing pundits on “balanced” news programs, or memes that probably originated in the Ukraine or the Philippines, or just from that “friend-of-a-friend” weird old ConBot* Facebook friend of yours who gets his ideas from Fox News. If I were black, I doubt if I would have the emotional wherewithal to refrain from making matters worse.

And that’s the point! Most actual black Americans DO find the emotional wherewithal to do just that. Refrain from fighting back inappropriately; refrain from striking back at their oppressors; graciously take the high road. I appreciate this self-restraint, but mostly I am grateful for the enormous positive gifts that they have given to our culture. Having black Americans in the mix enriches us; the least we can do is be grateful.

Disclaimer: There is no need to drag out on every occasion the terrible history about how so many Africans have come to be in America in the first place. Even my verbosity has its limits. Of that, and other less than optimal aspects of the relationship, by me and by us, I am humbly aware. This is a day of gratitude, for shit-canning Roy Moore, and for everything else.

How great it would be if this wave of enthusiasm for voting could be sustained through the next couple of decades of voting cycles! We’ve had thirty years of low turn-outs and bad votes, maybe the pendulum will swing back to common sense and human decency. That and people actually voting. Maybe we could even get the Millennials on board. Getting reasonable Americans to stop NOT VOTING could change the face of the country.

It’s a stretch, but I suppose anything is possible.


*ConBot, a Conservative robot. I may have coined this phrase myself. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The High Numbers- I Gotta Dance to Keep From Crying (Live 1964)



The soon-to-be Who's cover version is respectful, but personalized. That's always a good way to go with covers. Both versions stand equally well on their own merits.

I Gotta Dance to Keep From Crying Smokey Robinson.wmv



This is the original of this song. A great job, as you can always expect from Smoky and the fellows.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Dynamite - Slim Harpo.mov



Okay, this is the one right here. Slim is always entertaining, he always does a great job, but the guitar player on this cut really runs away with it.

Listen to that tone! Amazing! And the content is never busy, but somehow it always fills up all of the available spaces with wonderful musical ideas. It's flashy without being flashy. It's a clinic for sidemen: make it a hit without showing up the boss.

Required listening for aspiring guitar slingers. This is what they are supposed to sound like.

May It Please The Court

Your honor, may I be heard? The moving parties have had more than ample time to make their cases against me, and I have been listening patiently to their litany of grievances for what seems like forever by now. If it please the court, may I offer a brief defense?

Thank you, your honor.

We are dealt our cards early in life, and those are the cards that we must play. We cannot all receive four of a kind in the deal, and there is only so much that a person can do with a pair, however talented that person may be at the finer points of the game. You may use all of the finesse at your disposal, but even aces and eights beat a pair, and that’s the Dead Man’s Hand. Even if my pair had been eights or nines, a pair is still a pair. A pair is often not the lowest hand in the game, but neither does a middling pair often win the game. My hand was a middling pair. May the court judge me through the filter of my received gifts.

It would be manifestly unfair to judge me in comparison to the results obtained by individuals who received full houses in the deal. I suggest that a subjective test is called for in this matter. What could a reasonable man have accomplished with my gifts? I believe that choice to be within the discretion of this court, your honor.

One more point, your honor, and I’ll try to be brief. I ask you not to judge this matter until all of the small things in my favor may be properly added to the ledger. My offenses, of both commission and omission, may seem glaring, but they do not stand alone. The record includes many small acts of kindness, an amazing total in fact, since there have been any number of them on every day of my seventy years on earth. They speak quietly, but they are legion. Perhaps, in their weight as a whole, they may be enough to push the scale towards a balance.

Regarding the allegations against me, I am in general agreement, but I direct the court’s attention to the fact that the list of allegations is heavily weighted with instances where I either disappointed someone, or embarrassed someone. The court can decide whether the moving parties have sufficiently shown that those negative emotions were caused by me, or if they in fact arose from the nature of the moving parties themselves.

I will not waste the court’s time by pointing out that I was generally doing the best that I could manage under the circumstances. That’s all that anyone can do, or ever does, so it correctly carries no weight as an excuse. By way of explanation, however, let me say that I was trying the entire time to do better than what appears on the record at this point. I am certainly guilty of having much too little to show for all of the work that I put into this life of mine, but it was not for want of trying. I tried, but I was . . . impeded.

The defense rests, your honor, hopefully in peace. It will be the first peace that I have ever experienced, and I’m rather looking forward to it. If there is any afterlife at all, I will be the disappointed party, and you may expect me to file a grievance immediately upon the appearance of any such thing. Any afterlife at all would be torture for me, because, after all, I’d be there, and that has always been enough to ruin my happiness. So peace, to be clear about it, I’m praying only for peace. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Johnny Hallyday - Noir c'est noir



Here are some visuals for Johnny Hallyday, featuring the most important component of French pop music: attractive women.

SORRY! I am informed, and believe, that this video is "not available in the United States." This is an issue of first impression for me, although I am familiar with the concept in general. It happens to me all the time in my time zone. "This video is restricted from access in your country." It has to be a money thing at its core, but it does seem kind of silly. What do Americans care about Johnny Hallyday? And all of that NBC stuff that is denied me on news sites is available just fine over on YouTube. Another mystery, I suppose.

Johnny Hallyday est mort à l'âge de 74 ans

Johnny Hallyday est mort à l'âge de 74 ans.

Isn't French interesting? If you are a native English speaker with a good enough education you can understand rather a lot of it, as long as you can see the words on the page. In the air it's another story. The sound system for the French language is obscure and complex. There are many sounds that are not easy to make with a human head and vocal system. For me, the strange sound of French has always been a fatal obstacle for the enjoyment of French singing.

What you need for proper singing is a nice, neutral sounding language. Portuguese is the best, I think, and Italian is very good. English is a good singing language as well.

French singers are a puzzlement to me. I watch variety shows sometimes on TV5 Monde. The women are very decorative, that much is true. The men, well I wonder if they're just there for comic relief. The music is undistinguished, and I don't find the songs compelling. I do not understand French, but not understanding the language of a song has never been a barrier for my enjoyment. I love a lot of Japanese music, for instance.

I have been aware of Johnny Hallyday almost forever. I met a great friend who was quite the Francophile in 1965, and of course he had Johnny Hallyday records (among many others, Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, and a lot of pop music. His favorites were Les Etoile). I failed to be impressed, but he was undoubtedly a good looking man with a certain charisma. In photographs from the beginning of his career in the 1950s he appears as a beautiful teenager. He was hard-working and not untalented, and I would be pleased if anyone thought that much of me.

Well, he's gone now, so that's that. My sincerest condolences to the French people, who obviously had great love and respect for the guy. RIP Johnny H., aka Jean-Phillipe Smit.


Welcome To The New Civil War

In “The Sorry State of Things,” posted on November thirtieth, I discussed the situation in America as it stands right now and a little bit about how we got here. Before offering a suggested course of action, maybe I should give this situation a name and a description that suits it better than, “this shit-storm.”

There was a dangerous coalition formed after the presidential election in 2008. It consisted of the Republicans, the Koch brothers et al, those Tea Party assholes, every closet racist for whom Obama’s election was the last straw, the Sovereign Citizen/militia crowd, everybody who preferred the Bible to science, “Reagan Democrats,” everybody who longed for the "white America," or wished that homosexuals had never been allowed out of the closet, the Lost Cause Confederate flag wavers, a lot of people who totally forgot that their own great-grandparents had been immigrants, and probably everybody who owned a bass boat. They were joined in a holy crusade to terminate on discovery all evidence of Obama’s existence and make sure that he was a one-term president. It didn’t quite work out the way that they planned.

President Obama turned out to be smarter than the average Kenyan witch-doctor, and smarter than that whole coalition, too. There were positive lessons to be drawn from this, but unfortunately only Obama’s fans got the message. The coalition was driven to insanity by eight years of President Obama calmly ignoring them, getting elected for a second term, and generally doing a good job of holding the office. It was all very dignified and presidential, you’d have to say, unless you were in the coalition. If you were one of them, you declared war.

2008 was the beginning of our second Civil War. Actually, two civil wars that fit together like Russian nesting dolls.

Red v. Blue

The respective line-ups for this war are clearly illustrated on the blue and red maps of the 2016 election. There are marked similarities to the opposing line-ups that faced each other in the first Civil War (1861 et seq.), not only in the identities of the states involved, but also in the nature of their stated positions. 

The Blue States, like the Union (Federal) team in the Civil War, are more populous and more industrialized. They have more highly developed economies. They are, like the Union side, reality based, having goals and beliefs that mesh nicely with the progress of American democracy and world civilization.

The Red States, like the Confederacy once did, are struggling to preserve a mythical history that is already past its sell-by date. Both our modern Red States and the eleven old Confederate States represent beliefs that are deeply racist and xenophobic, with Biblical overtones. This Biblical aspect, as usual, takes people out of the realm of reason and into the swamp of fantasy.

Disclaimer:

Regarding religion and the Bible, my attitude should be clear even to casual readers. I own a Bible, and I have read it (not every word, but I have at least scanned every page, and I have read a great deal of it). I believe that it is an interesting document with great historical significance, especially if one is engaged in a close study of Iron Age barbarism. Religion, in general, I believe to be on a par with a belief in ghosts. Neither belief flatters a person who aspires to be respected.

Red v. Blue, Continued

Today, the United States is divided into two hostile camps: one that is made up of states that are well organized and civilized (California, Minnesota, New York, etc.); and another, which is comprised of states that are charismatic and primitive (Kansas, Alabama, etc.). Please forgive me if I speak frankly, for I have grown tired of mincing words. This has all gotten deadly serious.

All of this Red/Blue stuff had been percolating for a couple of decades through the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush period. It became an all-out Civil War when Obama was elected. During the Obama years the level of mutual hatred and violence rose year by year. Make believe battles over relatively trivial societal changes were elevated to the level of existential threats by conservative politicians and right-wing media figures who were pushing their own agenda. Abortion, women’s reproductive rights in general, homosexual rights, immigration, and other matters, became focal points for an assault on the Constitution itself.

During the run-up to the election of 2016 the entire thing reached a fever pitch, and the battle lines were cut in stone. The election itself was nothing less than a coup d’etat, which we can now see clearly in retrospect. The winners have never acted like they won an election, rather they act like they have taken over the government. They have never settled for the measure of control offered to them by the Constitution, rather they have assumed a degree of power more akin to a dictatorship.  All of them, from Trump down to the least significant member of the House of Representatives, have acted as though they have assumed all of the powers associated with an emperor’s crown.

These are the dimensions of the war that are visible on the battle field. Electoral politics are still involved, so there must be a framework on which to hang that narrative. There is, however, another way to look at the two sides of this new Civil War. One that is more obscure, but probably closer to the truth of the matter.

The Rich v. Everybody and Everything Else

Or should I say, “the Rich, and their hired stooges in government v. The Rest of Us.” One usually hears it described as, “the rich and the large corporations,” but just calling them “the Rich” is more accurate. I am not one to support the idea of corporate personhood, in fact I do not think that the idea is worth any credence at all, much less any legal backing. In every relevant way, corporations ARE the rich. Corporations are their stockholders, who are the Rich. So let’s just go with “The Rich” here.

The Rich have declared war on the rest of us, all of us. They seek to destroy every right that we have under the Constitution, and undo all of the little things that government has done for us to level the playing field and make our lives easier. (The government, please note, did not do those things altruistically, but rather to enable us to keep working and paying taxes and buying things, which makes a lot of sense.) The Rich want all of the little things that we have won for ourselves. They want our private homes (they seek to “increase their ownership share of America’s housing stock”); they want to own our personal automobiles (the new business model is to sell us “subscriptions” to automobiles, I shit you not); they want to claim the little bit of savings that we have in the bank (through higher prices for the necessities of life, like food and lodging). They have seen fit to declare war on us in order to steal it all. They wish to leave us with what I recently called, “almost nothing, but grateful that we have not been reduced to having nothing at all.”

There is ample proof of their intention to wage war in their daily actions over the last year. If you require final, smoking-gun proof that they have declared war, look no further than the recent tax bill that their stooges in congress passed with repulsive jocularity. You know, the one that takes money away from you and me and gives most of it to about 330,000 of the richest Americans, none of whom need a cent of it, and none of whom will use it to help anyone, except maybe a famous museum or two. (That’s .001% of the population.)

Who are these “stooges?” The Rich could not do this on their own, so they hired our so-called “elected officials” to do it for them. It has worked, and our officials have sold themselves remarkably cheaply. In return for everything, the Rich have paid out what amounts to about one percent of their wealth to politicians and officials. ($10 million out of every billion dollars.) It’s the greatest bargain in history. How did people that were stupid enough to sell out so cheap ever get elected? Even by an electorate like ours? This is the most amazing aspect of this whole thing for me.

It’s comical; it’s like Dr. Evil gloating over “one million” dollars. Those smirking idiots who are the current party bosses in the House and the Senate will retire someday with what they will stupidly believe is a lot of money. Why, a few of them may end up with tens of millions of dollars! At that, most of them will still have to beg their genuinely rich masters for the things that they themselves will still not be able to afford, like rides on luxurious private jets and Mediterranean vacations on huge yachts off the coast of France. Private islands will be out of the question, being reserved for the Rich alone. Oh, how the Walmart heirs and the Koch brothers must laugh at small-time political hacks.

 So, the Rich have, in effect, declared war on:

1.   The Federal Government of the United States;
2.   The United States Constitution;
3.   All of the States that did not vote for them (the Blue States);
4.   The Federal Judiciary;
5.   The National Intelligence Community;
6.   The FBI; and
7.   All American citizens with a net worth of less than about five million dollars and annual incomes of less than half a million or so, maybe a million. Note that this group includes virtually all Americans, including almost all lawyers, doctors, dentists, and management personnel; almost all professionals like accountants, nurses, and academics; all contractors from general to plumbing; and almost all sole owners of businesses. And all "working people." 

Make no mistake that this is a real war, complete with all of the violence that is usually associated with war. We are beset with militarized, trigger-happy police (over one thousand Americans have been killed by our own police this year alone); the availability of firearms and the constant drumbeat against minorities and immigrants leads to a huge number of gun-related deaths every year; the number of mass shootings every year, carried out by Americans against Americans, should convince us that a lot of people are right on the edge and ready to resort to violence; our legislators have criminalized everything and our District Attorneys charge everyone with everything, which has given us an amazing level of mass-incarceration (which is now being monetized by those same legislators). We live in a war zone.

Remember to factor in the loss of important elements of the social safety net that we all rely on. You may not benefit personally from some of the more obscure programs that are being cut, but you will definitely feel the pain of higher costs for health insurance, cuts or elimination to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. If you wish to educate yourself, or provide a university education for your children, you will suffer more to try to pay for it. More people will get sick and die, people of all ages. The “underinsured,” and their unfortunate children. God help the young parents whose child is born with Cystic Fibrosis, or any number of other not-so-uncommon colossally expensive ailments. In this war, you are on your own.

You may take my word for it, the prospect of making it through another year alive has become daunting and terrifying to people who are already of “retirement age.” What a quaint concept! Retirement! Most of us are already on the “work until you die” retirement plan. This is before the now inevitable cuts to programs that we rely on, like Social Security and Medicare. Perhaps you are still young, dear reader, and perhaps you take care of yourself and get your exercise, and perhaps you think that you will magically avoid the worst effects of the aging process. If you believe this, you are hilariously wrong. As careful as it is possible to be, by the time that you are in your sixties your biological clock will have worn down to half-speed or less. You will no longer be able to spring forth bright eyed and bushy tailed at six o’clock every morning and charge full at it until seven p.m. like you used to. If you tried to do that, five days a week, every week, like you used to do, you would likely die within six weeks or so.

We oldsters are going to be notable casualties of this war. More of us are leaving the United States because we can no longer afford to live there. This phenomenon is already observable. There are growing ex-pat retirement communities in northern Mexico, where they can easily nip back across the border to avail themselves of medical services that are subsidized by Medicare. Many retired Americans with some financial wherewithal have relocated to Costa Rica. I live in Thailand myself, and I have been noticing more gray-haired eminences sitting in the coffee shops of my local mall, reading the local English language newspaper. Many of us will die at our own hands because we have run out of money and options after becoming too old to work. 

We are the victims of a war that our side has not even begun to fight. All Americans are in this situation because we had no elected officials who were willing to fight for us. There are only two political parties in America, the Blue Stooges and the Red Stooges. They all work for the Rich.

The Future

Is there going to be a fight? Or perhaps we will begin to realize that the war is over, and we have been thoroughly beaten. Time will tell, I suppose, but I am not optimistic. If there is to be a war in response to this coup, there would have to be two sides willing to fight. If you believe that there are two groups in American politics, Democrats and Republicans maybe, or maybe you prefer Conservatives and Liberals, they would best be described as one group who actively fought for the Rich, and one group who merely stepped aside and allowed the Rich to take everything. (That would be overly kind to the side that claimed to be on the side of the working man and the future.) In any case, everyone of any importance on both sides was in the employ of the Rich.

In Part III I will offer some ideas about how this struggle for the soul of America could become a fair fight. It will all seem fantastic and impossible, and that is, in itself, very sad.

I am writing all of this all down in an attempt to process the terrible fate that has befallen the American Dream. There is the greatest likelihood that I am just getting it all out of my system so that I can proceed to give up completely. If anyone has had the patience to read up to this point, I am deeply grateful.

Second Disclaimer!

It occurs to me that this is the kind of writing that could one day be used in court as evidence that I was planning some kind of action against one or more of the complained about groups. I am not. I am no anti-tyranny pamphleteer, I am not like the Sons of Liberty, who actually put their lives on the line to give us our Constitution in the first place. I have my hands full trying to keep myself and my little family out of the poorhouse. I have never been a crusader or a protestor, and I am not expecting to change my personal style at this late date. This writing is simply my small effort on behalf of common sense and human decency.


I am just a cranky old man who wishes that things were better for the many American working men and women who still have a lot of life in front of them. Americans who are in the prime of life and not above the good-will cut off, which like I say is about five million dollars. I salute you and I wish you luck. You would have liked the America that my first wife and I raised our family in. We had no computers, nor smart phones, and there was no Internet. We had a lot more financial, personal, and medical security, though, and we had a lot less to worry about. We had a lot more freedom than people have now, for that matter. That world is gone. Please don’t blame its destruction on me. It was stolen out from under you by the Rich, and that prick, Reagan. We are all suffering its loss together. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

"Chicken Rock" Guru Guru



Guru Guru were part of that massive outpouring of KrautRock in the 1970s. I like music that was fun to make and is fun to listen to, and this certainly qualifies.

Thanks, Mani!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Sorry State Of Things

First let me say two things:

1.   I bear no ill will, nor dislike, nor even harsh feelings, for any of the genuinely stupid people in the United States, or in the world at large; and
2.   I have never thought, not even for a moment, that all of the people who voted for our fascinating and exotic Fabulous Prezzy D. John were stupid, although I will admit that from time to time it appears to me that voting for him was a stupid thing to do. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m sure of it, because I do stupid things myself on a regular basis, and I expect to be forgiven. We are only men and women, after all.

Something profoundly stupid has happened to the U.S. over the course of the last thirty-seven years, and it happened because all of us stupidly allowed it to happen. All of us, including me, and almost certainly including most of my fellow Americans out there, allowed it to happen. We have allowed a country with real potential and a lot to recommend it to be turned into a red-hot mess. In the process, we have lost many of our rights, our prosperity, our security, and our pride.

Maybe it helps to live overseas to see it clearly; maybe living in America the rest of you are too close to the problem to notice it. One still frequently hears the claims that America is the greatest country in the world, whereas this has been manifestly untrue for decades already. I’m not going to start rattling off statistics, but if you’ve been paying attention at all you know it’s true. There are a lot of countries that have higher standards of living and whose citizens have much greater happiness and security than citizens in the U.S. “Well,” you might say, “we still have the most aircraft carriers!” Yes, we do, that much is true. But aircraft carriers never buttered anyone’s parsnips.

Before you chime in with, “if you hate America so much, get out!” let me say that I love America now, and I always have. I worked and paid my taxes for decades, cheerfully. I owned property and kept it tidy; I was a good neighbor. I raised two sons who as we speak are fine men. I served in the U.S. Navy (which I joined during a war), and the U.S. Peace Corps, and I have done a lot more volunteer work than most people. I was a Cub Scout den leader and pack treasurer! I gave America more than America asked of me, and I’ve never been arrested. So I think that I have a license to have an opinion about what’s going on in America, even if that opinion is negative. Oh, and I have already left, by the way. I’ve been gone for more than ten years. I have no immediate plans to come back and live in America, and as time goes on the possibility becomes increasingly remote. All I have is eyes to see, and it’s obvious that America has been sold down the river. It’s obvious that the American way of life has suffered some severe degradation. It’s beginning to look like the entire American experiment is on life support, and in 2017 someone has pulled the plug. It’s last gasp time. And weirdly, it’s obvious that most Americans are in denial about this. Either that or they just don’t care, probably because they are among the lucky ones who are still relatively prosperous and secure.

Disclaimer!

America has never been perfect, but it was pretty good there for a while. For a few decades it was finally improving in meaningful ways, which is all you can ask of a country, if you are being fair. Up through the 1920s, the United States was a great place to be rich and ambitious, and a rough place to be a working stiff who just wanted to have a job and be left in peace. Women were stifled at home, in education, and in the workplace. Recall that women could not vote until 1919. Between 1932 and 1960, Liberal Democratic administrations created a thriving middle-class, albeit a white middle-class. (The only Republican president in this period was Dwight Eisenhower, who kind of kept the ball rolling.) It was still a terrible place to be black, or Mexican/Puerto Rican, or, God forbid, homosexual. (It was terrible even though things were improving somewhat for the blacks and Hispanics.)  The civil rights movement in the 1950s and ‘60s, and the women’s rights movement in the 1960s, and Stonewall, etc., in the 1970s, seemed to suggest that positive changes were possible, and maybe even on the way.

The Things That We Have Lost

While acknowledging the bad, we can highlight the good. Starting in the 1940s, and especially in the 1950s, ‘60s, and even most of the ‘70s, work was easy to find; retirement was more secure than it had ever been; university education was available to everybody, almost free; most jobs came with pretty good health insurance; housing was plentiful and affordable (buying or renting); the covenant of good faith and fair dealing was implied in every contract; providers of professional services owed their clients a fiduciary duty of care; and in retrospect, entertainments like sporting events, concerts, and movie theaters were amazingly cheap. During this period, the newspapers and the new electronic media kept a meaningful check on government in an environment featuring real competition.

Doesn’t that all sound nice? Now, of course, it’s all gone. If I were a Millennial, I’d be furious.

Who Has Done This To Us?

Allowing that wonderful, if imperfect, middle-class America to be destroyed required a citizenry who were asleep to the dangers at work around them. It required Americans who were satisfied to listen to and believe the pack of lies that they were fed. It happened because average Americans either failed to notice, or just didn’t care, that their security and happiness was being stolen from them. May I speak frankly? That was stupid.

Some days we are reminded that the stupid, like the poor, will always be with us. Some days, I, as one of the stupid, am the one doing the reminding. I will say that I had a sense of dread throughout this process, and that I often made dire predictions, but my family and friends laughed at me as though I were Chicken Little. And I was too busy trying to make a living and raise a family to shoulder any burdens on behalf of the country at large. Besides, it is easier, after all, to see these things in retrospect.

Back in the days when ruthless despotism was the general condition of humanity, the despots preferred that the majority of their subjects were stupid, or at least totally uneducated and slightly malnourished. Their preferred method of ruling was to provide a large majority of their populations with almost nothing, while always insuring that there were a certain number of people who had absolutely nothing at all. “Almost nothing” beats “nothing at all” seven days a week. People said, “Thank God that we have almost nothing! Look at those filthy beggars! That could be us!” Most people worked hard and kowtowed willingly to avoid the miserable fate that was “nothing at all.” 

A system like that works better on people who are on the stupid side. Education is one of the things that has suffered in recent decades. Our new plutocracy has succeeded in recreating that class of citizen that is barely hanging on, the members of which are desperate to avoid descending into the class that has nothing but unpayable debt, homelessness, and the prospect of prison.

Who is responsible? I peg the beginning of the end with the election of Ronald Reagan and the foundation of the modern Republican Party. I blame most of America’s current misery on them. Over the following thirty years, there was a huge increase in worker productivity (boosted by technological advances) and a vast increase in wealth (created by those new technologies and computerized banking shenanigans). Virtually all of this new wealth found its way up to the top of the financial food chain. None of this is mysterious in any way, and no credit accrues to me for figuring it out. It is common knowledge, in fact. In that same thirty years, wages stagnated and every good thing mentioned above began to evaporate. By now Americans exist in a state of deep insecurity regarding jobs, income, health care, debt management, housing, and retirement.

Forgive me if I zoom a bit of the argument here. This is a blog, not Vanity Fair or the Atlantic Magazine. You can fill in the blanks about the dumbing-down of the population, jobs going overseas, and automation reducing the need for human workers.

What about the Democrats? Haven’t we had sixteen years of Democratic Party presidents and a couple of majority Democrat congresses in the meantime? Why, sure we have! But those Liberal Democrats who created a prosperous middle-class America in the 1930’s and ‘40s have been shamefully sold out by this recent crop of lily-livered ingrates. Both of our political parties now stand firmly on the right side of the political spectrum. Both work exclusively for corporate interests and the very wealthy. They differ only on questions of narrowly defined moral issues, like abortion and gay marriage, which have been mischaracterized as religious issues for the convenience of corrupt politicians.

Say the words, “single-payer health insurance” to a Democrat! I dare you!  All you will hear is, “oh, God no!” as the Democrat turns on his heels and breaks into a trot.

All of our elected officials, with rare exceptions, have participated in our ruin. The exceptions are as rare as those minerals that can only be found in microgram quantities in certain meteorites. Don’t even get me started about that cute blond senator of a certain age. What an actress! She should get a special Oscar for her performance as a "Liberal” in the downfall of a great nation.

Reagan, that stainless-steel prick, we were told that he was just using all of that anti-Washington insider talk to get people to vote out incumbents, who were mostly Democrats. “Washington is the problem!” All the while Reagan was out on the stump discussing the end-times and the Bible with the Rubes, and telling people that Washington was an evil place.  Now we can clearly see that there was more to it than a temporary tactic to get more Republicans in congress. I asked myself at the time, “who benefits from all of this anti-Washington talk?” That’s a favorite of detectives and lawyers. I wasn’t even a lawyer yet, but that question is always a good place to start. Well, who benefited? Now that we can tally up the results, it’s clear that the big corporations and the wealthy received the benefit. That has been the goal all along.

The Icing on the Cake

The 2016 election played out like a sleepwalker on the freeway. A lot of “ooooohs!” and “aaaaaahhhhs! followed by the inevitable impact. After thirty-six years of talking about destroying the power of Washington D.C. as the center of all that was evil in American politics, we, the people, gave the Republicans the power to do just that. Or, more accurately, we have turned the keys to the kingdom over to the financial elites. (“Hello Comcast, yes, Net Neutrality abolished? Coming right up! Would you like a mint with that?”)

There was no secret about what they wanted to do, but people put them in office anyway. Put them in all of the offices, almost. The presidency, both houses of congress, the governorships and legislatures of most of the fifty states. They even walked away with the Supreme Court! I could name several current members of the court who lied like rugs at their confirmation hearings to hide their true intentions, and were allowed to do it by bi-partisan consent. Finally, in an act of breathtaking gall, they gave us “The Year of Eight Justices,” by simply refusing to hold confirmation hearings on President Obama’s nominee for ten months. Ladies and gentlemen, all three branches of government, that’s the hat trick right there.

And what a president we have! You could not imagine a better choice if the goal was to destroy the power and prestige of the Federal government and turn everything but the military over to the large corporations, which stand shoulder to shoulder with the very wealthy. And that’s just what they have done. Yes, and just that quickly!

To offer one example, a corporate shill was installed as the Secretary of State, and immediately all of the Obama appointees were fired. They were not replaced. In the following ten months, talented, dedicated long-term State Department officials have been pushed out by a number of means, including the “Executive Stiletto.” That’s when you take a highly qualified guy and move him into a small office with nothing to do and then wait for him to get bored or angry at being so disrespected and quit. Some high officials were moved into shared offices where they do clerical work on equal footing with a staff of unpaid interns. There’s also a buy-out program to financially incentivize officials to leave. You can go look up what the State Department is responsible for and try to imagine America making its way in the world without a State Department doing those things. That’s what is happening now. We read tales of eerie walks through halls of empty offices. It’s terrifying. Important allies of America are wondering why there is no ambassador and virtually no staff at the American Embassy.

That’s one of the shills, many of the remaining Federal agencies are now headed by stooges. Similar dismantling is going on everywhere. It’s all dangerous in a very immediate way. The business of running the United States is being abandoned in order to free corporate America from constitutional Federal regulation.

And then there is the president himself. An unqualified, disinterested, disagreeable, lazy-minded man. DJT seems to be interested mostly in golf and self-interest, lining his pockets with weekly trips to Trump properties, billing at top-dollar for all of the rooms and food required for his security entourage. Beyond that, he purposely annoys our allies and provokes our adversaries. And I’m not even going to mention the Russian connection. This thing is already ten times the recommended maximum length for a blog post!  

When the inevitable happens, and there is a crisis somewhere, this comedy of errors will quickly become serious. Money will be made, though.

It’s been almost a year now, and can anyone in America point to one instance of anyone in this government doing one thing to actually help average Americans? Why no, they can’t. This is the cast and crew for the last act of American democracy.   

Conclusion

Well, Mr. Blogger, what can be done? For a change, I have actually done some thinking about it.

The solution will not be to suggest a return to any prior condition. The past is gone, and can never be recreated.

Our traditional political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, will be involved in much the same way that they are involved now, which is as dramatic devices upon which to hang the narrative dictated by the new powers that be.

We, as average Americans, still have chips to bargain with. If there is any possibility for good-faith bargaining, we can trade away what is left of our rights in the hope of being granted greater financial, health, and retirement security.

I’ll get working on a suggested plan of action going forward. This post right here should keep actual readers busy for a while. It’s so long that you may want to put it on your Kindle for more convenient reading! Thank you for your patience. There’s no way to unwind what has happened, but if we are careful, we may be able to avoid the New Dark Ages that are just around the corner. I hope for my granddaughter’s sake that we can manage it. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Andre Williams - "The Monkey Speaks His Mind"



Andre "Bacon Fat" Williams shares his opinion on matters of general interest.

Mr. Rhythm has had a long and various career. He started out in the 1950s, and he's still going at the age of eighty-one, because those bills don't pay themselves, you know. He took a few years off in the middle somewhere to practice up on getting loaded, but he got that out of his system and resumed entertaining. His work around 2000 with the Dirtbombs, and a couple of years later with the Dutch band Green Hornet, are fabulous low-fi garage rock classics.

Music is a tough gig, and anyone who can make a living at it deserves our respect and admiration. Andre has always managed to be highly entertaining in the process. So thanks for everything, Andre. I hope you're doing okay.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

"Mother," John Lennon, And Sincerity



"Mother," by John Lennon. 

The world is full of terrible stories, and they repeat with disturbing frequency. They repeat, although the same story may unwind in thousands of different ways. The same story, now banal, now unhinged, now somewhat comedic, now poignant, now terrifying, now boring, but always new to those who are experiencing it. These are the stories that are our lives.

The story of John Lennon’s early childhood was common enough, featuring parental instability, abandonment, neglect, and who knows what all else. A double abandonment, actually, and that seems to have been the key to the trauma of it. Old Alfie was a merchant seaman, and a guy’s got to make a living, now hasn’t he? He doesn’t seem, in retrospect, to have been a great candidate for successful fatherhood. He was, from the beginning, mostly gone, and finally gone for good. Julia, well, what do we know of her? Impatient? Irresponsible? Selfish? Dilatantish? A bit off-center? Perhaps. At least it’s fair to say that she proved in the end that she had little interest in our Johnny. The final acts of abandonment came when John was five years old, and they came with the kind of great drama that a boy never forgets, not even close to forgets. An aunt and uncle, Mimi and George, took over the parenting duties and seem to have made quite a good go of it. Julia was off on her own somewhere, close enough to visit, but remote enough to be just teasing the idea of having a mom who gave a shit.

This song, “Mother,” is very interesting to me, for two reasons. One reason is personal, and the other one is incidental.

Personally, my story also features a parent suffering from mental instability and a parent who abandoned me. Different facts, different drama, but similarly unsuitable for raising a happy, well-adjusted child. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve been too hard on John. I’ve been very hard on him, since the beginning, and it’s only gotten worse over time. Early on I found him to be a snotty, sarcastic brat, an un-entertaining wise-ass who expected to be treated like a genius on little real evidence. Later, as he abandoned his own family and began treating everyone in sight very badly, all the while acting like a know-it-all genius, I took a genuine disliking to him.

Today I’m ready to admit that it’s possible that I should cut John more slack. He lived through his own drama, and it made him the man that he was. That happens to all of us, so maybe it’s best to chalk his bad behavior up to the wide range of normality and be more forgiving.

The “incidental” reason that this song is interesting to me has to do with my main complaint about the Beatles in general. Certainly they were a very good set-up-and-play bar band in their day, and certainly they made some records that were very, very good, but to me there was always something important that was missing. There never seemed to be an ounce of sincerity in any of it, not a whiff. And then, as if by magic, John blossomed into a solo career that evinced sincerity in buckets, with “Mother” being the prime example.

I’ll let the Freudians analyze the reasons why the situation kept everything plastic and coldly commercial while the band was together. Well, to be fair, either coldly commercial or coldly desperate to be cool and modern. It was always either one way or the other, but it was always cold, featuring insincerity that you could not chip away with a sledge and a cold chisel.

Boy, that was almost a kind word for John Lennon. I must be getting old. A very qualified kind word for John, but notice that I’m not there yet regarding the Beatles. I still think that the Beatles are the most overrated band in music history. Sure, they were very good, but OVERRATED by several hundred percent. I still would not trade you Hunky Dory for the entire Beatles catalog. They don’t have an LP in my top-twenty.*

“Mother,” thanks for that, John. I can sing that song about myself. Every word works for me as well as it worked for you. We both suffered for our parents’ sins. I suppose that I should just thank God that I turned out as well as I did, and kindhearted at least. It could have been worse.  


*I admit that I really like the Beatles’ 45 RPM record, “Paperback Writer” b/w “Rain.” 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Negativity Alert!

I make a great effort to delete the negativity from this blog as much as possible. I do this because: 1) it is a public service to the community; and 2) it assists me in steering my internal dialog in more positive directions. Frequently, however, negativity forces its way into our daily lives. When this happens, it may bleed over into Spin Easy Time! I apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause to anyone’s peace of mind.

I am posting this notice now because the holidays have arrived, and I am one of those people on whom the holidays have a pronounced negative effect on mood. This is especially true in light of the shocking events of the last few years, not only in world affairs, but also in my personal life. I may suddenly become morose and/or unreasonable, attack the character of certain people in public office (or out of it), post sad songs with cryptic analyses, or just resort to bitching at the air or the trees about anything or nothing.

I’ll try to keep a lid on it, but don’t be worried if things go south occasionally. I’ll be fine in six weeks or so.

Please do not alert the authorities, as I do not represent a present danger to myself or others.

Happy Holidays! 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Jim Ford - Harlan County



I have no recollection of Jim Ford, as The Hon. Sessions would say. I've Kindled a brief article from the Oxford American about him. Looks like an interesting story, and this is a very nice cut. We'll see what comes of it all. This entire LP is on YouTube.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Old Apartment In College Point

College Point is a neighborhood in the Borough of Queens, part of the City of New York. Most New Yorkers don’t even know about it, nor would they have any reason to. It’s tucked over in its own little blind-spot, between La Guardia Airport and the Whitestone Bridge, on a point of land that juts out into the East River. College Point is the home of my youth; there are really no other candidates for the honor. Both of my parents were raised in College Point, more or less. Both of their families moved to town when they were young, somewhere around the ages of seven or eight. It’s not a particularly nice place, but it has always been very interesting.

My parents got married in the St. Fidelis Church in College Point in 1942. My father was already working at what turned out to be his only job after college. He worked for that company until he retired at age sixty-seven. He was 4F due to a major dose of childhood arthritis that left him almost handicapped. They moved around a bit during and after the war for his job, and when I was born they were living in Rosedale, also in the Borough of Queens, adjacent to what was then called Idlewild Airport (now JFK).

We moved back to College Point in the spring or summer of 1949, around my first birthday. The apartment was in a two family house on (redacted) Street, just south of 12th Avenue. We had the upstairs apartment. The landlords lived downstairs. They were the parents of a childhood girlfriend of my mom’s. The building was on the old side, but not as old as many in the town. The layout of the rooms and the fittings of the house were old fashioned. It was heated by the burning of coal in a boiler in the basement, the heat rising as steam and warming the house through radiators. There were three bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, and a living room, plus a small room at the front that had windows on three sides and a large archway to the living room on the other side. Would that be a porch? Maybe a day-room? I don’t know what you’d call it today. It was treated as an extension of the living room. The kitchen had no cabinets at all. The large sink was attached to the wall and fringed with a curtain-like arrangement that reached the floor. All storage was in a doorless walk-in pantry.

We lived there until the summer of my tenth birthday, 1958, when we moved to a single-family house around the corner. I lived in that house until I got married in 1969, at which time my new wife and I moved into the upstairs apartment of a two-family house on (redacted) Street in College Point that was similar in some ways to the old apartment, “day-room” and all.

At that point I became nostalgic for that old apartment. It had only been eleven or twelve years since I had lived there, but childhood memory is a tricky thing. There were things that I could not remember, and things that I could not believe were true. And a lot had changed in that time; there had been a lot of building going on. I don’t know where I got the gall, but I decided to go back to that old house and just ring the bell, just like that, and ask to look around. I have a pleasant smile, and I am very personable and polite, but to be on the safe side I took my wife with me. The theory was that beautiful women open all doors, and this was no exception.

We just showed up on the doorstep one day and rang the bell. A cheerful young housewife opened the door. She was probably in her late twenties at the oldest, but my wife and I were so young that she seemed older. I explained that I had spent much of my childhood in that apartment, and announced my wish to take a look at it with fresh eyes, if that was alright with her. She was amenable and led us up the stairs without a second thought.

My first impression was that the place was much, much smaller than I remembered. It was all very nice, and it was furnished in much the same manner as it had been furnished by my parents, but the rooms all seemed so tiny. There didn’t appear to be any space that was not actually occupied by furniture. The building, it turned out, had a smaller footprint than the one that we currently occupied, and our new apartment had only two bedrooms, not three, all of which necessarily made the old apartment’s rooms smaller. In truth, it looked much nicer than it had in my time. The kitchen had been remodeled, so it all had a modern look to it. There was no longer a tiny, ancient refrigerator, no more sink better suited to a basement than a kitchen. Rather nicer furniture, too, except that my parents did have a nice maple dining room set from Ethan Allen. The view into and past the back yard was full of new houses, but I had watched them being built, so it was no surprise. The old tree was back there, and the driveway had been paved in the meantime. The boiler was now a new model burning oil, so the whole premises smelled better and cleaner, and actually was a lot cleaner, without all of the coal dust.

I was sure not to overstay our welcome, and I thanked the young woman effusively. She seemed to have gotten a kick out of the whole thing, and if I recall she did have the right to be proud of the home that she presented to strangers. It was immaculate, as though she had been expecting company. I have no idea what her name was, and I’m not sure that I ever did.

The things of our childhood all seem smaller than they were, if you think about it. It’s like the snow. There was a time when I seriously wondered why there was not as much snow as there had been long before. Then I realized, not quickly though, that of course it seems like more snow if you are a six-year-old with short little legs. Walking through a similar snowfall at a height of five feet, nine inches, it doesn’t seem like much snow at all. It was the same with the apartment. I ran through those rooms between the ages of one and ten, and they had seemed big to me at the time. Seeing the apartment again made me feel that a lot of time had gone by, and that a great deal had changed, but that was only the beginning.

By now I have the changes of a lifetime to look back on, and it’s been a lifetime of experiences covering many decades and spanning three continents. It’s all amazing, really, recalling the people, the events, the languages, and the vast catalog of things. I think that at some point I believed in the importance of some of it, but now I'm not so sure. Life for most people never really comes into focus, but some things do become clearer. It’s like Anne Frank said, “how sad it is that everything that we have learned, and done, all comes to nothing in the end.”  

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Rolling Stones - Far Away Eyes - OFFICIAL PROMO



That Ron Wood fellow, love him as part of the 'Stones or don't, you must admit that the man is versatile.

Ron's original band was an also ran in the very beginning called the Birds. He played bass in the post-Yardbirds Jeff Beck Group, showed up with Rod Stewart in the post-Steve Marriott (Small) Faces, and then landed the journeyman's dream gig as a member of the Rolling Stones. Varied career, versatile player, and still on his feet, breathing, Ron Wood, I salute you!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Kooks Raising Kids, Hunky Dory Edition




Before 1972 I knew essentially nothing about David Bowie. I knew of his existence, but only through reading Rave magazine and the Melody Maker newspaper in the mid- to late-1960s. I’d seen photographs, in other words, and read short pieces about this oddball, fringe presence on the British rock scene, a guy whose hair was impossibly long and who was liable to show up in a dress. I confess that my attitude was that he was just another poser, desperate for attention, and if he were good, we’d have heard his stuff already.

Bear in mind that I was not a member of the He-Man Woman Haters club, so the dress thing and the hair wouldn’t bother me. I’d probably have liked his music as well. In those days, it was hard to get enough information on which to base an opinion about someone like David Bowie. I was just a kid from Queens; I had no connections and little money. I had no friends who had Bowie records, even after some were available. There was already a long list of records that I wanted, and I was lucky that I could afford to buy as many of them as I did.

Then, in late 1972, RCA America re-released Space Oddity, and the single really took off on a wide spectrum of radio stations. Being able to connect some product with the photos that I had seen was a pleasant surprise. I loved the song.

I purchased the Space Oddity album, and I was knocked out by the scope of the lyrics and the production. I did something that I had never done before: I returned to the record store the next day and purchased copies of the three additional Bowie LPs in stock, Hunkey Dory, Ziggy Stardust, and the Man Who Sold the World. I think that I played all four of them every day for a month.

I was particularly impressed with the subtle differences in approach for each of the four LPs, and Hunky Dory made a particularly good impression on me. “Kooks” was a big favorite. My wife and I were in our early twenties. We had been married for three years, and we were the proud, if slightly confused parents of a two year old son. Bowie had recently been dealing with the same child and future related issues at whose mercy we then found ourselves. We found the song to be a very positive message, and encouraging. “Changes” was in the same vein, for us at least.

I have not kept up with Zowie’s life experience, but I do hope that he had a relatively positive experience growing up in a slightly kooky family. My own son seems to have survived his also slightly off-center upbringing largely intact. My son is doing well at this point, and I hope Zowie is as well. (I know that the name was changed at some point, but I don't recall the new name. I could check the whole story, of course, but you never know what you will find. I prefer right now to leave this in the realm of hopes and best wishes.)

David Bowie turned out to be, musically speaking, the gift that kept on giving. His last gift was wrapped and under the tree when he slipped this mortal coil. I do not believe that it is possible to rest in other than perfect peace after dying, so I will forgo those pleasantries. I will, instead, say that I hope that it is a comfort to the family that Bowie left behind that he is remembered so fondly by so many of the people whose lives he touched in meaningful ways with his music and his manners.