Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Democrats Breaking Bad

It's time for the Democrats to screw the pooch again!

Trick question: how can you reliably beat the Democrats in a national election? Answer: release numerous polls showing them way ahead. Hillary was way ahead in the polls right up to the election, which she lost. The Dems saw those polls and shut down in safe mode. We got this! All we have to do is not make a mistake! Who needs to visit swing states? We got this! I wouldn't be surprised if the Trump people were planting the polls showing him losing to multiple Democrats. I'd be surprised if anyone told him about it, but it would be a great idea coming from his handlers. (What a job that must be! “Here's a cheeseburger Mr. President. Oh look! Fox and Friends is on!”)

We are also witnessing the repeat of the DNC struggle to lose by rejecting progressive candidates who would actually have a chance of winning in favor of middle-of-the-road centrist candidates. Hillary was a nightmare candidate, let's face it. She's a mediocre public speaker at best; she's awkward in any public setting; and no one liked her. I kind of liked her, but I had serious reservations. I was not in the least surprised that she lost. The war against Bernie Sanders is back in full swing, even worse, in full view. The Dems are somehow terrified of Elizabeth Warren as well, and I'm sure some of them would feint at the mention of Mayor Pete. They like Cory Booker, who is a wolf in sheep's clothing if ever there were one. They like Kirsten Gillebrand, the very definition of “plain vanilla.” And even though they've known him for forty years, they like Joe Biden! Go figure! Those last three are lose, lose, and lose.

But Biden beats Trump hands-down in all of the polls! Biden v. Trump is a Trump walk over out here in the real world. Polls, schmolls, Biden v. Trump and every single Trump fan comes out and votes while every voter under thirty-five years old stays home and takes a nap in between gig jobs.

How could the Dems win? I feel like I did every time some procrastinator came into my law office asking for help six months after the statute of limitations had run. Then it was, “if only you'd come to see me sooner.” Now it's, “if only you had taken the free advice that I offered you after the loss in 2016 (or at least the suggestions I made after the partial victory in 2018).”

If you think he's bad now, just wait and see how it goes after he wins next year. I hope that I'm wrong, but I think the odds are in his favor. If he gets a second term, it will be his favorite phrase all over again, “all options are on the table.” He's making all of the generals rich, and junior officers aren't going to do anything. Don't expect our police to be the ones to save democracy. Local politicians are very easy to arrest on Federal charges. The rich love him and when he makes his move they will cheerfully flood the TV with propaganda. Is that old fashioned? TV? Okay, they'll flood whatever is reaching people these days. Trump, whom we have deigned to consider a fool, could burn the entire playhouse down. American democracy has been slowly disappearing since the Patriot Act was signed anyway. Add the 2000 election, the lies and corruption of the Bush II years, the eight year assault on the democratic process when Obama was president (“the year of the eight Justices”), the Russians and Facebook and the voting machines and the FBI in 2016. All it needs now is one small push and American democracy is going right over the cliff.

You'd better get back to the TV, or Facebook. The lies are stacking up waiting for you. Handle with care! Whatever your politics are, remember your history: when it all goes wrong, everybody gets hurt. 

the aztex - i said move

Release date, May, 1967. Considering that and other fine points, how remarkable is this record? The garage sound was already widespread, with teenagers learning to play as they went, playing loud and going nuts with everything they were listening to. The fuzz-box was already all over the place. When did bands start to add snippets from spoken word sci-fi records? Was the spoken word Batman record fragment that opens this cut something new? 

That this and other records like it were the motivation behind the surf-punk revival in the 1990s can be said with confidence. Add massive reverb and you have Man or Astroman? 

I met a great friend of mine in L.A., in 1976. That was Norman. He was from Cleveland, and he had a very unique record collection. Many of us liked the German trance-rock/ free-rock bands, from Kraftwerk to Guru Guru, but Norman had copies of the Kraftwerk stuff in several languages. I already had friends who had one or two sound-effects records in their collections, I had a couple myself, but Norman had thirty or forty of the things. He also liked stereo demonstration records. He had a lot of movie soundtracks too, mostly sci-fi or horror, or anything by Ennio Morricone. He was the only guy that I knew who also had multiple spoken-word sci-fi records, actors reading stories from Amazing Science Fiction magazine or something, with sound effects. He was the first person that I ever knew who used these things in mix tapes as bumpers in between songs. Norman loved bands like the Aztex, so I'd bet that he had this record. I know that he loved the Sonics, and Davie Allen and the Arrows, in a similar vein. 

Tracing all of these innovations is not easy. I'll leave the hard work to real musicologists. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

A Near Death Experience Disguised As A Vacation

We had arrived at Peace Corps central in Thailand in early January, 2004. Eight weeks of training and it was off to our site. Christmas of that year brought us some slack time, and we decided to take a vacation. We had traveled around the country quite a bit by then, helping out with English camps and attending training seminars, and I had learned enough Thai to get by in simple situations. There was a big Christmas break at the schools that we were assigned to. Okay, three weeks of time on our hands, where should we go?

We had heard a lot about Ko Phi Phi, Phi Phi Island, out in the Andaman Sea not too far from Phuket. People raved about it, how beautiful it was, what a unique and amazing place, etc. Our teaching site was in the northern mountains; why not take a beach vacation in southern Thailand? We came this close to going (holds thumb and index finger very close together).

As we were considering it, we realized that it was high-season. Which is good, because it's the best weather of the year in Thailand, not as blazing hot as usual and no rain, but which is also bad, because everything is expensive and crowded. Prices are double or more in high season. We had received another offer in the meantime, an essentially free option. We decided to take that option instead. One of our fellow volunteers was staying at his site for the holidays, but he had a great invitation for Christmas dinner and his friends said that we were welcome to come along. We had more than a year to go on our Peace Corps hitch, so we figured there was plenty of time for the islands. Let's go for the merry Christmas!

The dinner was totally American style, and totally delicious. The hosts were a very nice couple, he a Texan in his early 70s, she Thai in her late 60s. She had lived in Texas for about twenty-five years, mostly with her first husband. When he died, she continued to attend their church, because that's where her friends were. That's where she met her second husband, a widower. When he retired, they moved back to her home province in Thailand. She had extensive experience with turkey dinners, complete in every detail. It's not easy finding turkeys in Thailand, and even harder is finding someone with an oven. She had both. There were ten or twelve of us altogether, and it was a great time.

On December 27, 2004, about to board the bus to return to our site, we heard about the tsunami that hit coastlines around the Andaman Sea on December 26th. The underwater earthquake that generated the tsunami registered between 9.1 and 9.3 on the Richter Scale. That is one hellacious earthquake. Many countries were hit by the waves, as far away as Madagascar, and many people were killed. Even the early estimates of the dead and injured were shocking, and the numbers went up over time as more detailed reports came in. A few hundred were killed on little Phi Phi Island, including many vacationing foreigners. Something like 8,000 people died in Thailand alone. Thailand has a long west coast along the Andaman Sea, with many popular beach vacation spots. Total deaths for all affected countries were over 200,000.

All of that must have been terrible for the most affected parties, and the horror of it was not lost on us. I don't want to appear to be minimizing any of that suffering, whether of victims, survivors, or their families. It was also, however, a sobering experience for myself and my wife, now ex-wife. A casual, apparently meaningless decision to take the other fork in the road for that simple vacation would have put us into either the dead or the missing category. On Phi Phi, there is really nowhere to go, and on that day there was no warning. The odds are good that we would have become statistics.

Six or seven years later I visited Ko Phi Phi. I was in neighboring Phuket, also an island, teaching a class for two weeks, and one of my students was a big shot at one of the tour boat companies. He comp'd me. It really is a beautiful little island. Half of it rises straight out of the sea, exposed rock mostly covered in vegetation, to a height of about five hundred feet. There is no one and nothing but nature on that part of the island. Then there is a nice, curved section of beach behind a bay, with a touristy area of shops and guest houses that runs for a few hundred feet. and the remainder of the island is tall hills covered by inhospitable forested areas. Bays focus waves of all kinds, including tsunamis. (Surfers seek out bays because the waves are bigger.) It's a perfect tsunami trap.

This is probably the most abstract of my near-death experiences, but it is, nonetheless, one of the scariest of the bunch.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Korean-Americans Can Speak Together in Korean If They Feel Like It

The world is full of ex-pats, short for ex-patriots, meaning people who take up residence in countries other than their native land. I, for example, am an ex-pat. I live in South East Asia, and it's been so long now that babies that were born the year that I left America are now in high school. I have achieved some facility with the language of my adopted country, but you wouldn't call it fluency. In fact, “my Thai, she's a broke.” I talk to natives all the time, and it usually goes okay. Sometimes not great, but usually okay. It takes a native that is willing to grace me with some patience and speak slowly so that I have any hope of keeping up. Luckily, my country of residence is full of such people, and I deeply appreciate their kindness and their hospitality.

America could learn a lot from my adopted country.

When I sit down for coffee at the local Dunkin Donuts with an American friend, we speak English. We are surrounded by natives, and no one seems to care, or even notice. It's not uncommon, after all, for people here to speak to each other in English. This is in Bangkok, so you might think that no one notices because Bangkok is a big, cosmopolitan city. It's true, there are so many foreigners here that hearing other languages is very common. Even in the countryside, though, it's not a problem. More people would notice, but they would notice out of a sense of interest. Just for entertainment, they might come over and ask a simple question in Thai. Not to test us so much as looking for an exciting opportunity to talk to a foreigner. Even in Bangkok, I get this from Taxi drivers all the time. When I explain where I'm going, in Thai and hitting most of the tones correctly, the drivers will often ask me a simple question to check my hearing comprehension. If I answer, they might smile and start a conversation. At the end of these rides, I sometimes wai (the Thai bow) and say, “thank you, teacher.” That gets a laugh. It's all very casual. Diversity is a fact of life here. Thailand has been a crossroads country for three thousand years.

Diversity is a fact of life in America, too, but somehow the message has not sunk in.

I saw a video very recently about someone yelling at two young women in a mall cafeteria because they were not speaking “American.” We've all seen these videos, “this is America! We speak American!” One of the women told the language police in perfect, native English that she was an American, and that she could speak English perfectly well, but she was Korean-American and her cousin was visiting the family from Korea. That's not enough for people anymore. The harangue went on. “We speak American here!” It's gotten so bad that many Americans are hostile to any fellow American who speaks more than one language. Like they must be spies or something.

More recently, my wife and I were having lunch in a small restaurant in our very diverse Bangkok neighborhood. (It's predominantly Thai Buddhist, but there are many mosques and many, many Thai and ex-pat Muslims in my neighborhood. It's been a Muslim neighborhood for over one hundred years.) We speak together in a combination of Thai and English, mostly English, to be fair. We go to this shop all the time, and no one has ever said anything, or seemed to notice. Certainly the owners and the staff don't care, because we always smile and say, “thank you!” and I always put a nice tip in the jar. The other day three men came in after us and they were speaking together in Korean. After glancing at the menu, which was in Thai, one of the men leaned over and very politely asked us about what we were having, because it looked delicious, and he also had a couple of questions about the menu. Koreans speak loudly, so there's no doubt that it's not Thai. Plus, one fellow was speaking to me in English. Still, no one even looks up.

I see videos from time to time that end with, “go back to your own country!” or, “go back where you came from!” I've seen and read about incidents where some “American patriot” will randomly demand to see proof that someone who appears foreign “belongs here.” In fifteen years in Thailand I've never heard anything remotely like that sentiment.

There is an ill will towards foreigners growing in America, and it is nurtured by political groups and religious organizations who wish to drive wedges between Americans who may have slight variations in their backgrounds. This ill will is directed not only towards actual foreigners, aliens with or without visas, but also towards American citizens who may speak more than one language, who may be recent arrivals or the children of recent arrivals, or it may be directed at established groups of American citizens like black Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, or, through some bizarre misapprehension, Indian Americans (not to be confused with American Indians, who are also still persecuted). The guilty political groups want votes, which they will trade for money. The guilty religious groups want money and political power. In the meantime, gullible Americans are making total assholes of themselves, usually while someone is filming them with a cell phone. It's sickening.

America really does have a lot to learn from Thailand on this subject. Thais are a very diverse people who live comfortably under the umbrella of Thai language and culture. The same could be said of America, except for the comfortable part. The coastal states, and the Blue states in general, make a good show of accepting diversity. But the great heartland of America can't even get along with their racial and religious equivalents in the Blue states. Those Red state people, and, to be fair, many people in Blue states, seem to hate everybody!

This is a terrible situation, and there's no quick fix for it. Maybe we should consider electing politicians who will try to make things better, not worse.

Chuck Brown - Run Joe

This Go-Go is downright infectious. 

Saturday, June 8, 2019


Question: how many ingredients are there in butter? Ha! Trick question! There's only one ingredient in butter. No, the only ingredient is not, “butter,” it's milk. (Salted butter has two ingredients, milk and salt.)

There was was a five year period not long ago when I was living the bachelor lifestyle, and I did almost all of my shopping in convenience stores. I ate lunch at school or on the soi. (That's shorthand for any small restaurant in a Thai neighborhood.) There was a Family Mart in my building, and I always stopped in on the way home. I could buy most of what I needed there. My dinners followed a pretty close pattern of sandwiches or eggs, with the occasional pizza delivery in the mix. I bought my butter in the convenience store, and I bought the one brand that they had. It seemed okay; it tasted like butter. The company was Australian, and the butter was “product of Australia,” and it was certainly not expensive at about $3 for 400 grams (a bit less than a pound). I'd cut it into thirds and put two in the freezer and one in a Tupperware. I didn't give it much thought.

One day, unwrapping a new package, I idly looked at the ingredients. There were about ten, several of which looked like industrial products. The first ingredient was, “butter oil.” It all looked very suspicious. I read up on the modern varieties of butter-like products and decided that I'd be better served by finding some real butter.

The mall supermarket had a couple of brands, and checking the ingredients, sure enough, “Milk; Salt.” There was a brand from Denmark called Lurpak that cost about $5 for 200 grams (close to half a pound). There were a couple of other brands, but the Lurpak was fine. I still buy it. Is this a prudent course of action? The Lurpak costs almost three times as much as the ersatz butter. Of course, it's fine, go ahead. It's not a bank-breaker. It's not like I'm baking pies and croissants here. A package lasts me quite a while.

If my father were reading this, he would take it as further proof that I am a reckless spendthrift. He would disinherit me! Oh, wait. He already did that.

This butter is a small matter, but it is illustrative of one of the founding principles of my family life when my first wife and I were raising our boys. We were never rich, not by a long shot, and when my boys were small, we weren't even particularly prosperous. In almost every category of food and drink, we had no chance of indulging in the top-shelf products. In some instances, though, even a very moderate budget can support the day-to-day use of the best special products from around the world. My ex-wife was in complete agreement on the subject.

Like real maple syrup from Canada. We always ate together as much as possible, dinner every evening and at least one special breakfast on the weekend. That could be bacon and eggs, or something like pancakes or waffles or French toast. At first the real maple syrup seems like a wild expense. The sugar-syrup substitute was about a buck, maybe a little more, and the premium maple syrup was about $5. That bottle lasted a long time, though. So as an annual expense, what did it come to? An extra $10 or $15? The four of us loved it, and we enjoyed the hell out of it. We weren't rich, but the maple syrup in our house was as good as that in any house in America, including the White House.

Same with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. The Kraft imitation is particularly odious once you've tasted the real thing. We always had the real stuff. We cooked a lot of Italian food, eggplant and chicken Parmesan, lasagna, baked ziti, steak pizzaiola. The Kraft was probably under a dollar then, and the jar lasted a while. The Reggiano was available in whatever quantity suited your needs. I usually got a tub, a small, lidded plastic tub, that cost under $4. It was quite a bit of grated cheese to look at it, and it lasted a long time. Here too, on an annualized basis it was a no brainer. Buy it!

My parents were eating dinner at our house one time. We saw them almost every year; either we'd fly to New York or they'd come out to L.A. My father loved Italian food, and he loved the Parmesan cheese, too. So he's looking at the package, smelling the cheese, he held it up and looked at it from the bottom. Then he put it down without taking any. I asked him, “everything okay, dad?” He gave me that look and said, “did you know that that cheese costs almost $20 per pound?” Sure, I said, but that tub only cost four dollars and it'll last us a few months. He just shook his head in disappointment and ate his spaghetti and meat balls, without cheese. He couldn't bring himself to eat cheese that expensive. He thought that I was crazy.

The only luxury item that I indulge in these days is medicine. Luckily, it's all affordable so far. We eat in restaurants frequently, but where we live those are very affordable as well. At the house, well, there's the matter of the Danish butter. That disappears into the annual budget just like the other things did. We have French toast or pancakes sometimes, but my wife found the real maple syrup too sweet for her taste, so we stick with the sugar syrup. “Shake Cheese?” It's a very rare Thai person who will knowingly eat any cheese at all, and my wife is no exception. The European cheeses at the mall are ridiculously expensive, too expensive for me to consider just for myself. You have to draw the line. There's a jar of Kraft in our refrigerator. I'm getting used to it.


Another Excello hit from the CD "Uptown Down South." This is a Nashville record from 1967. It's amazing to consider just how much music changed in the mid-1960s, and how fast. All of it, across time zones and genres. Not all necessarily good changes, I suppose (see, Jazz). All hell was breaking loose all over the world, but recording studios were using new technology to turn out a steady stream of hits. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Even David Brooks Thinks The Republicans Are Crazy

I've been seeing columns by David Brooks in mostly the New York Times for what seems like a very long time now. The ones that I actually read have most often seemed to start out leaning in one direction, staying there until the end of the column, at which point they veered suddenly in the direction of the clampdown. It was as though he were trying to be reasonable and polite at first, but then had to blurt out what he really felt at the end. Maybe it was just me; I'm not a political scientist.

He's still in the column writing game, and one of them caught my eye today.

His main point in this one was that the Republican party is really pushing its luck by continuing to resist diversity at every turn. He seems to believe that the policy is stupid and doomed to fail in the end. I tend to agree with him, and he had a few good statistics to back us up. Statistics show that Millennials are very close to fifty percent diverse already and their follow-on group, Generation Z, is even closer. They've all grown up in a very diverse world. Pretty soon the entire country will be less than fifty percent white. That's a wave that's going to kick your ass when push comes to shove.

Republicans don't seem to be seeing all of this. They can still win elections with white people, so they're dancing with the one they brung.

Maybe their psephologists have crunched all of the numbers and decided that almost all of the diversity will remain on the coasts and in some deeply blue states, while plenty of states will remain nearly all white and generate enough senators and Electoral College votes to carry the Republicans into the future. Maybe they figure that they'll be fine with the Senate and the occasional presidency. And the Supreme Court, I guess. Maybe they're right.

The best part, however, came when Mr. Brooks described the three main blocs within the current Republican party, with reference to a recent article by Mr. Matthew Continetti. The three were summed up as follows:

The Jacksonians, described as “pugilistic populists.” Would this be fans of Donald “Man of the People” Trump? Trump doesn't know much about history, but he likes what he's heard about Andrew Jackson, which is probably limited to facts like his dueling record, the story of him getting shot and immediately using his cane to beat the would-be assassin to within an inch of his life, and how popular he was with low-lives who trashed the White House when given the chance. The trouble here is that to be a successful populist, you must give the voters something that they want. Trump has only given the voters promises. I'm not sure that giving the voters permission to be racist assholes will be enough.

Next come the Paleos, who are described as “Tucker Carlson style economic nationalists.” That would be Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson, a fabulously wealthy trust-fund baby who has traded in his bow-ties and shit-eating grin look for a more dignified big-boy tie and the expression of a man who has just been hit on the top of the head with a bat. In my experience, men who have only family names strung together, and no names of their own at all, are almost always insufferable. Three family names in a row indicate great wealth. If Tucker is any indication, four in a row just means even more wealth. (You've heard of “Swanson's TV Dinners.” That's only one of the four names.) I'm not sure what “economic nationalism” is, exactly, but from appearances, maybe it means using our economy as a cudgel to beat our adversaries, and our friends for that matter, into submission.

Thirdly, there are the Post Liberals. These seem to be the reactionaries to beat all reactionaries. They are described as “opposing pluralism and seeking to return to pre-Enlightenment orthodoxy.” Are there sufficient exclamation points in the world to highlight the delusional nature of people who would seek to unwind the previous 250 years of European and American history? Bring back the days when men and women were restrained by poverty and deprivation? When women were additionally controlled by witchcraft trials? When all wealth was controlled by the Church, Royalty, and a very small merchant class? Most of the individuals who espouse this policy would lose their privilege entirely and be returned to serfdom. “Opposing pluralism” is the least of their problems, which are obviously psychological and deep seated.

As even David Brooks seems to realize, there is no longer any future in “opposing pluralism.” What, I wonder, are they suggesting when they hint at reinstating the privileges of the white race? We can turn away immigrants at the border, although even that is not certain, and we can try to winnow out all of the illegal immigrants in our midst and kick them out, although that would be an economic disaster in many industries, but what then? What about all of the pluralism that either has all of its citizenship papers properly in order, or was born here fair and square? What about our black Americans? This “opposing pluralism” crowd really got some wind in its sails when Mr. Obama was president. Just like many of our police, many Americans now have the black race in America fully in their sights. Are we to eject all of those individuals for excessive pigmentation? Wrong eye-shape or hair-texture? People say these things without having given them a moment's thought.

When someone says, “we must take our country back,” we know exactly what they mean, and they probably do, too. But what would that look like? Should we let the diverse populations stay, but only as something less than citizens and certainly without voting privileges and denied access to any kind of welfare or government aid? Something more demonstrative? Financial incentives to leave? That is all crazy talk, but returning to something like the America of the 1940s is even crazier. More than half of our population would need to be eliminated somehow, or subjugated. Some people want to go back to Andy Griffith's Maybury, they want Midwestern cities to be prosperous and white again, they want good, clean food from farms that look like Dorothy's place in the Wizard of Oz. The terrible truth is that the people who want these things are tearing the country apart before anyone has even thought any of this through. To accomplish any of those things, while eliminating some or all of the diversity (plurality), not to mention the sexual "deviation," would take a revolution. Our time would be better spent “taking our country back” from the investment class and their corporate stooges who are really the ones who have stolen it from us. Stolen our prosperity and our security to the degree that many people have been rendered unreasonable. It's a bad situation.

Diversity hasn't hurt us one bit, and America has enjoyed great diversity since its Colonial Period. Rather, it is these anti-diversity reactionaries who are right now burning our playhouse down. 

I should wrap this up before I really start to scare people. Imagine asking people straight out: do you want a world in the next twenty or fifty or one hundred years that is a fit place to live in, where your children and grandchildren can enjoy the comfort and many of the privileges that you enjoy now? Everyone would say YES! If you asked them: would you like to help to build a world for your children and grandchildren that is better than the one that exists now, again all of them would say YES! And yet, for forty years, those same interviewees have been digging deep graves for all of those advantages that they wish for their offspring. The graves are being filled in now, and every good thing will soon be but a memory in the minds of some old men and women.

If we are to provide anything that is good and decent to our grandchildren, we'd better get started. Time ran out more than ten years ago, and catch-up is difficult. Some days I feel like St. John the Baptist, bearing a message that people would profit from hearing, but repeatedly being rejected and ignored. I won't live long enough to see the last act, but I am haunted by the images of the lives that we are leaving for our grandchildren. The images stand before us as plain as day. The suffering! The misery! How they will hate us!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

FOLI (there is no movement without rhythm) original version by Thomas Ro...

I don't have much to add. This video says it all. You should listen to it all the way through. The music is propulsive and wonderful; the visuals are dramatic and meaningful; the tension builds to a fine crescendo. This is really great. 

Sunday, June 2, 2019


Roky joined the lost today. He must have had a big personality. He stayed in touch with people all over the country. He was a fixture in the Texas rock club scene. A friend of mine in L.A. was in touch with Roky all of his life, and the friend assures me that Roky was a great guy. And you know what? I believe it. 

Friday, May 31, 2019

Leon Redbone - Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone 1977

RIP, Leon. I hope that my own ungrateful family gets this message.

Bob Seger - Get Out of Denver

Just for reference. 

Eddie and the Hot Rods Get Out of Denver

And suddenly, only the live material plays in Thailand. The records are "not available in your country." I have to wonder, what do they profit by denying the thirty-five or so people in Thailand who want to listen to Eddie and the Hot Rods LPs the pleasure of listening to records that we have all probably purchased at some point, but no longer have access to. Mine, for instance, are nine time zones away in the home of my oldest son, who appreciates such things. It's a puzzlement. 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Brushy One String | Rising Up

This video displays not only the musical talents of Brushy, but also the rather rough reality of life in Jamaica, West Indies. They're all smiling though, so I guess things will work out okay. 

Adventures In Strange Vocabulary: Sensuous Barbarism

Sensuous Barbarism:

G.W.F. Hegel was a philosophical big shot around Germany way back in the 19th Century. He was one of those know-it-alls who had an opinion about everything, even if he knew nothing at all about it.

Take black people, for instance, Africans. Hegal's analysis of black culture and society was very, very rough-edged and negative. He casually announced that black Africans had no real part to play in the history of the human race. He described their way of living as “sensuous barbarism.” A totally sense-based state of superstition and magical unreality. He had obviously not done his homework.

He took as his sources such “experts” as Herodotus, the ancient historian. If he had bothered to look into it, he would have found out that much of Africa at the time had very advanced cultures, featuring elaborate laws regarding property and trade.

Nice turn of phrase though, don't you think? “Sensuous barbarism.” You could almost sell that as a cultural option today.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Love Look Away - Johnny Mathis

I discovered this song last year on KJAZ in Los Angeles. Leslie Odom Jr. was the singer on that occasion. I was floored, frankly, I pulled over to the side of the road and was ready to write when the back-announce came along. Interestingly, later that day I was able to hear Mr. Odom's version on YouTube, but ever since then it has disappeared into the "lock-box." 

I had never heard Johnny Mathis's version; I had never heard much of Johnny Mathis at all. I'm afraid that I had picked up the negative vibe on Johnny back then, even though in my conscious mind I was very accepting of homosexuals. Somehow I didn't take Mr. Mathis seriously. Well, I was wrong. He kills this song, and no one could say he didn't totally own it. Great job, Johnny. Sorry I was missing the boat back when you could have used the support. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Hollies - Just One Look

Some of the English bands chose really fabulous songs to cover, and a few of them even did a very nice job of it indeed. I love the Hollies in general, and I have ever since I heard "Look Through Any Window" on CKLW, from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, when it was a clear-channel that could be heard in NYC at night. Now on YouTube we can discover that the Hollies were not only a great studio band, they could actually set up and play. Great choice of songs, and a great cover. 

Featuring Graham Nash with a championship Pompadour, and yes, I think that is a Fender six-string bass standing behind him. 

Doris Troy - Just One Look

The original! Doris Troy. Great song; great performance; a considerable hit record. Nice production, too. Almost a proto-Reggae touch in there, nice hooks from the piano. Great job, boys and girls!

Adventures In Strange Vocabulary

Tactical Dehydration:

A technique employed by fighter pilots during World War II to avoid the necessity of urinating during long missions.

Bombers had some kind of urinal, which was difficult enough with the pressure suits and everything. Fighters had one man sitting in a cramped cockpit for up to eight hours, hardly able to move at all.

There was a contraption with a tube and a funnel-like end to pee into, but it was almost impossible to manage it. They also had diapers that the pilots could use. They didn't like that either. So they resorted to “tactical dehydration.” They would simply stop taking fluids at some point the day before the mission. Voila! No urine to pass! Unfortunately, dehydration can lead to symptoms very much like oxygen deprivation. Dizziness, loss of consciousness, hallucinations. Those presented serious problems of their own.

Many women pilots flew ferry missions that could last the entire eight hours or more. Women flew our fighters to Europe from America. First to Halifax, in Canada; then a leg to Iceland, that's a long one; then over to Ireland, that's the longest. Reports are that most of the women employed the diapers.

The men should have used the diapers. I'm sure that the flight crews back at the base or on the carrier would totally understand. Living in the shadow of death, a little piss smell was the least of their problems.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Is Cultural Appropriation Really A Problem?

The Wiki describes cultural appropriation as “the adoption of elements of one culture by members of another culture.” Forgive me, but that is the weakest definition that I’ve ever heard. Maybe it’s like pornography: nobody knows how to describe it, but we’re supposed to know it when we see it.

The problem with that approach is that some people see cultural appropriation everywhere. I’ve come across some efforts to focus the inquiry, such as mention of a power-imbalance (it’s only cultural appropriation when a more powerful culture borrows a piece of a less powerful culture), or the suggestion that former colonial rulers must never appropriate aspects of the cultures of their former colonies. It all leads to further confusion and perverse results. What happens when those injunctions clash? England is the former colonial power for America, but America is now vastly more powerful than England. Who is allowed to steal from whom?

There are clear examples of cultural appropriation that are wrong. A recent example from Australia occurred in the artistic realm. A non-aboriginal artist was creating paintings that borrowed heavily from aboriginal artistic traditions. He got dinged good for that one, and not without reason. I don’t know how far you can take that one, though. The modern art museums of the world are chock full of paintings and sculptures that employ motifs from cultures that the artists did not share. Many of these are high quality works of great innovation that obviously rely primarily on the talent of the person whose name is on the piece. A good example is Picasso borrowing from African art in his early cubist paintings.

Do we give Mr. Picasso a pass while heavily censoring Mr. No-Name Australian painter? I’ll let you be the judge. How much weight are we going to give talent and celebrity? That’s a tough one.

Many of the examples that come to mind take place on the commercial level. Let’s say that I have a gas station on I-10 in Arizona, and that I have attached thereto a store that sells “authentic Indian artifacts,” along with cowboy belts, hot sauce, and jewelry made with rattle-snake skulls. I own the whole set-up. Many of the artifacts are authentic, too, but many of the Apache Kachina dolls, let’s say, were actually made by Navajo Indians. Maybe some of the employees at the store are Apaches, and they don’t seem to care. Is actual injury an element of proof in cultural appropriations?

It would be clearer if I was selling “genuine” Navajo rugs, or “genuine” Apache Kachina dolls, that had been made in Bangladesh. That would be wrong, even if there were Navajos or Apaches working in the store. Would it also be wrong if I were selling Apache war bonnets, the typical feathered kind, made by Indians? Made, perhaps, by Apaches? Well, definitely wrong if the buyer wore it to football games and he was a fan of the Washington Redskins. But what if he just hung it respectfully in his man-cave, which had a western theme? No football involved. These are tough questions.

What if the two cultures have grown up in the same space, at the same time? Constantly borrowing from one another? We often hear about cultural appropriation regarding the theft of black American music by white Americans. The intimate nature of the relationship should in itself render the accusation ridiculous. It is absolutely beyond argument that jazz is the cultural product of black America, but upon closer inspection one immediately notices that the music has always been played on instruments that arose from white American or European culture, and that the jazz music itself borrows heavily from standard European musical theory, and is transcribed using the European method. That jazz was innovative and different is certainly true. That jazz arose from the black community and was something brand-spanking new is also true. We might wonder, though, if the adoption of elements of white European/ American musical culture was completely coincidental, or could it be considered an important part in the development of jazz? No similar music arose in Africa. There is also the fact that neighboring white American musicians took to jazz like ducks take to water, mostly out of love for the music. It is very compelling music after all. “Musician” being the toughest component of the show business in which to make a living, it is likely that most of the musicians who incorporated the new music into their repertoires were doing so not only respectfully and out of interest, but also to help themselves in their effort to put food on the table. Would any fellow musician hold that against them?

I would be willing to bet that anyone accusing white musicians of appropriating black American culture was not, themselves, a musician. Musicians realize that all music is theft, and every musician that ever lived was influenced by everything that he heard and incorporated the parts that he liked into his or her playing. This kind of influence has been operating back and forth between black and white American musicians since we all arrived in the Western Hemisphere.

Something very similar can be observed in authentic black blues music. The oldest forms used one chord, and complexity was added with rhythm. The earliest blues form was the call and response singing of work songs. Not long after that black American slave culture added what is called, “fife and drum” music. This remained a one-chord song form, but with the addition of melody to complement the voices and more levels of rhythmic complexity. More melody was added with the innovation of a wire stretched between nails, one on a fence rail and the other on a post. In a more sophisticated form, this became the Diddley Bow, which was portable and used glass bottles to raise the wire above a stout board. Yeah! And you thought Bo Diddley was a farmer! The man was a musicologist!

After the Civil War, black American musicians with guitars or banjos were traveling to make a living singing and playing when and where they could. They learned as many songs and as many styles as possible, because the more versatile they were, the more jobs they could get. They were happy to play at white people’s parties, even if the white people wanted to hear traditional English and Irish folk songs. By the 20th Century this experience became the OG blues of the 1920s, with roots in every musical style that had been absorbed by the black musicians. What we know as twelve-bar-blues is itself a European song form, and the blues has always used European/ American influences that had been bent to the needs and ingenuity of the black musicians. The “blues scale” is a standard European scale that has been modified for emotional impact by borrowing a feature of African music. Applied to the standard scale, it substitutes flat thirds and flat fifths. Nobody’s getting ripped off here. We are all brothers in the American nation, for better or worse.

Speaking of the same space. I live in South East Asia, and there is a certain type of shadow puppet that is popular in the area. The figures are cut from dried cow skin and painted a bit, and they are manipulated behind screens on sticks and backlit so that the shadows show up nicely on the screen. These stories, and characters, the entire kit-and-kaboodle, are part of the traditions of the cultures of at least three of the countries in the region. Now one of the countries, not the one that I live in, is asserting possession of the art form as part of their unique cultural heritage. Putting aside for a moment the question of who, exactly, in the dim past, came up with the ideas in the first place, how to you forbid entire countries to enjoy an art form that spread organically over an entire region of the world over one thousand years ago? You don’t, in my opinion. I’d call that a “shared” cultural heritage.

I’m thinking that the entire idea of cultural appropriation is a non-starter, except in clear-cut instances where an underprivileged group is clearly being taken advantage of. It’s always a tough call. Pat Boone covering Tutti Frutti to capture the white-only radio market was cultural appropriation. I think that one is clear, because there was no respect in it. It was purely a money transaction. Elvis singing Hound Dog? I’m not so sure. Elvis respected the black music. Sun Records was a salt-and-pepper outfit. They were pitching their records to a mixed audience, and the records were played on radio stations that had mixed audiences. This whole thing is hard to pin down.  

What do you make of this rather strange example? I lived in Kiel one summer long ago, studying German at the local university. There were eighty-five of us in the group, all foreigners, and after hours we often went out to bars. Kiel is a mid-sized, very German city, a bit out of the way and not cosmopolitan in the manner of Frankfort, Hamburg, or Berlin. One place that we liked was both a regular German bar, casual and good humored, with fifteen beers on tap, and almost a regular restaurant, too. Meaning that they had more than the typical few items of German bar food. Where do you focus the cultural appropriations here?  

The bar was called the “Henry VIII Pub.” The entire front of the building was made to look like a timbered, Tudor style shop front. There was a pub sign, featuring Henry, and his likeness was also painted larger than life sized on the building front. The inside was decorated in much the same way, tables, chairs and all, with another large Henry VIII on the wall for good measure;

The owners of the bar were Turks, and almost everyone who worked in the bar was Turkish. There had been many Turks in Germany since the auto industry began inviting them to work in its factories. That would have been, I’m not sure, the 1960s? In any case, the Turkish/German community was well established by 1984. All of these “Turks” spoke native German and anybody under the age of twenty had probably been born in Germany;

The menu was entirely Italian. Mostly pizza, but also offering simple dishes like lasagna, baked ziti, “Mediterranean” salads, cutlets with spaghetti and red sauce, like that. The pizza was delicious. They had a real pizza oven, and there was nothing to complain about with the pizza. I’m a New Yorker, and I was perfectly happy with the pizza. You could notice a slight Turkish note in the sauce, some hints of clove and maybe star anise, allspice or something, but it only added to the experience.

We were standing at the intersection of England, Germany, Turkey, and Italy. Was anybody’s culture being appropriated? These days that would start an argument in some circles. The “Supreme High Council of Neapolitan Pizza” would probably declare that it wasn’t actually pizza at all! There are no cloves in a pizza sauce recipe! Case closed! But I doubt if it’s that simple.

It would be better if we avoided small matters like cultural appropriation and concentrated on the larger issues facing us. Several of those matters threaten the very existence of humanity in particular, if not life on earth in general. Such matters deserve out immediate attention, do they not?

Monday, May 20, 2019

KELLY BROTHERS - Crying Days Are Over.wmv

I love the production on this cut. Nice and simple. They let the rhythm section carry it alone until the sax solo. That would be two guitars, bass, and drums. The second guitar occupies the space between the prominent rhythm guitar and the bass, and its part is so subtle you could easily miss it. These are very disciplined players; they play their parts right on the money, nice and tight. The back up singers are so far down in the mix that they almost get lost. After the sax solo, a small horn section helps out with the remainder of the song. No embellishments on the vocals, just a grateful man telling a sincere story. Beautiful record. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

CORNELIUS - Point Of View Point

Go deep, baby! We're hitting fungoes today! Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Cornelius! In a Koyaanisqatsi mood. This is from at the latest 2012; I couldn't say what the man is up to as we speak. I'm not detail oriented. I just know what I like. 

Brushy One String | One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer (feat. Cuppa Tea)

A great cover of the great John Lee Hooker song, and furthermore, a fine example of how little the musical idea needs to be embellished to make a successful song of any kind. Here, the musical idea is 100% present and accounted for, with almost no equipment at all. Best of good fortune to Mr. Brushy One String. You deliver, brother. 

The Sad Tale Of Bonnie Kimball

This happened last week up in New Hampshire. This story is a powerful lesson in just how much “low level, unskilled” workers mean to large corporations. Here's a time-line.

Bonnie Kimball was a cafeteria worker in a high school in New Hampshire. She was a “lunch lady.”

(Mascoma Valley Regional High School, 27 Royal Road, Canaan, New Hampshire 03741)

The food service, including the lunch ladies themselves, was provided by Cafe Services. At the time of the incident, Cafe Services was negotiating with the school district to renew the contract. The new one year contract was ultimately signed, with the district agreeing to pay Cafe Services $560,000.

(Cafe Services, 749 E. Industrial Park Drive, Dept. CS, Manchester, New Hampshire 03109, Telephone: (877) 375-3246)

Mascoma is a small school in a rural area, and the children are not rich. Parents put money in a lunch account, and the children's lunches are deducted from the running total. It happens sometimes that students have more on their trays than there is money in the account. Ms. Kimball's immediate supervisor instructed her that because of the contract negotiations, if any kids come up short, just let it go. Tell the kid to tell his mom to build the account back up and we'll deduct the money owed later on. That makes business sense. Let's not piss off the school or the parents when we're setting up this big deal for next year.

It happened that a kid presented at Ms. Kimball's register with too much on his tray. Ms. Kimball did as she was instructed. She told the kid he owed $8, and please tell your mom to make it good. And she let the kid go, with the extra food, to eat his lunch.

Somehow, unsurprisingly, there was a snitch in the room, a “representative” of Cafe Services, probably what we'd call a “loss prevention” agent. He witnessed this whole thing and reported Ms. Kimball to the company.

The next day, the kid brought in the money owed and brought the account current.

After all of that, on the same day, Bonnie Kimball was fired.

Cafe Services is a huge corporation, with multiple very large contracts throughout New England. Their website is glossy. But now we know two additional things about them. For one thing, their management is so inefficient that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. The lunch ladies' immediate supervisor gave them specific instructions, but the loss prevention guy didn't get the memo. For another thing, Bonnie was fired for one small act of kindness that didn't cost the company A FUCKING DIME. The money was in the till when she was fired.

Bonnie Kimball looks like a nice woman. She seems to me to be the kind of lunch lady that the kids would like. Someone like that is an asset to the school. You'd be surprised. Many times things happen to students, things that make them uncomfortable, and they might tell the lunch lady because she seems much more sympathetic than her teachers. From her photo, I wouldn't be surprised if Bonnie has children of her own, and that she was very happy to have that job. But she gets no consideration at all, no one at Cafe Services (contact info above) even cared to look into it. They got a report from the snitch, and Bonnie got the ax. Some MBA genius learned that in school. (I'm only kidding! An MBA is actually a guarantee that the recipient IS NOT A GENIUS. Like George W. Bush, “I went to Harvard, and all I got was this useless MBA!” Check his business career before you accuse me of being overly harsh.)

This is what we mean to them. Nothing, we mean nothing to them. All of the old covenants between labor and management are long since dead and buried in concrete slabs. If someone were to really examine the business methods of Cafe Services, they'd probably find that the company pays the absolute minimum in wages, provides the absolute minimum in benefits, and bends over backwards to squeeze every possible nickel out of every employee at Bonnie's level. I'd be very surprised if she got any vacation at all, just school holidays maybe. Health insurance? Dubious. How many hours do they offer her? Just below the cut-off for full time? Like thirty-one hours a week? Does she work as a cashier in a gas station at night to keep food on the table for her own children? Can she even afford health insurance?

I have provided the contact info for the school and Cafe Services in case anyone would like to write them a letter expressing their disapproval. Or even better, ridicule, or moral condemnation. I should have included the address for the Manchester Guardian as well, but you can find that easily enough. These bastards should know what we think of them.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Brian Jones - The first Stone

This video is a tribute, from someone who is obviously a dedicated fan. As they say, "a picture is worth a thousand words," and it's true of this video, that's for sure. Brian was the poster-child for the complex personality, and a perfect example of the ability of arrogance and fragility to coexist in one person. 

I was a big 'Stones fan from "Not Fade Away" on, and no one could say that they turned to shit when Brian went first his separate way, and then just away, in 1969. The 'Stones were great until "It's Only Rock and Roll," in what, 1975? After that, not so much. The turning point is harder to map, but in the beginning, yeah, Brian was the glue that held the machine together. And it was a wonderful machine. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

thelonious monk - don't blame me

One of the comments on YouTube says, "The piano ain't got no wrong notes." (Quote attributed to Monk.) 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Why I Died

Please don't be sad, it hasn't happened yet, I'm still sitting here typing this. Life, unbidden, clings to me. Somehow, though, I would be surprised to make it another five years, and if I collapse on the sidewalk or the floor at any moment I will be the last one to express any surprise. As happens to all of us, my systems, and each of them, have worn out, and something will fail, probably sooner rather than later. I say that because my systems have been working a lot harder than most people's, from an early age.

If, when, I collapse in a heap, heartbeatless, do not be fooled by the foolish guesses of parties with an ax to grind regarding the cause of my demise. My ungrateful family will say that it was my drinking that did me in. There is damage to my cardiovascular system, that much is true, and it is the type that is often associated with drinking or overeating in some people who turn up dead. In my case, my money is on another cause all together. Stress.

I have discussed this with my cardiologist, and he added some relevant information. My life, from my days as a preschool boy, has been devoted to fear, unrelieved anger, and depression. My ACE score is five out of six. My parents, mostly my mother, started working on these numbers before I started Kindergarten. I still have nightmares about my mother; my hatred of my father is more likely to manifest itself in the waking world. Upon returning home, every time, I was afraid of being ambushed by my mother, holding aloft a shoe, ready to beat me with the heel for some real or imagined transgression. My childhood milieu, especially as approached by a boy with a fearful temperament and stricken with a general hopelessness, offered the constant threat of danger from boys who were natural bullies or just boys who wanted to move up in the pecking order. I attended Catholic school for twelve years, where corporal punishment was endemic and still permitted. I was afraid much of the time.

A child who remains in this state of hypervigilance to physical danger for most of every day is permanently affected by the experience. It affects childhood brain development. The hormone cortisol is involved. This contributes to many ailments later in life, including heart disease. You can look it up; I'm too verbose by half already.

My father was a different story. Having realized that he was married to an unstable, borderline crazy woman, he simply abandoned us. Not that it showed, he was much too clever for that. He arranged to be traveling for work virtually all of the time. I've been over this ground, but there are always new readers, so forgive me if I repeat myself. My cousins worshiped my father, and still worship his memory, because he always appeared at family gatherings, holidays, birthdays, etc. He was charming, and they were thoroughly charmed. They didn't know that those were almost the only occasions that my sister and I, not to mention my mother, saw him. My parents ceased their proper marital relationship, physically, at an early age. He talked to my cousins, aunts and uncles more on those occasions than he spoke to his own family for the rest of the year.

Check the abandonment box on the ACE scorecard.

Those few details will need to suffice, because this is a blog post and not A Tale of Two Cities. I'm not getting paid by the word, like Dickens.

Approaching my home, I tensed up, fear welling up inside me. I was also afraid leaving home. Turning a corner, I searched the way ahead for bullies. Entering school, I was afraid. Each of these situations triggered the “fight or flight” hormonal response, adrenaline, cortisol, God knows what all. Each one was what I have come to call a “clench.” As in, “to clench one's hand into a fist.”

I grew to become a man who was a whirlpool of resentment, anger, fear, embarrassment, hostility to the world and all authority, and bitterness about what might have been. I was, and remain, short tempered. Things go wrong, and I experience a clench. For most of my life, they often happened when I was alone. Some small thing would go wrong, and there would be a clench. Every muscle tightens up, I see red and my eyes close, I hold my breath, and there it is: clench. Alone, I can stop them in their tracks now, but it's seven decades now! Out and about, other people and situations can set me off. No wonder there has been damage done. For all of this time, the clench can be a quiet, solitary experience, or it may be a public scream-fest. My cardiologist explained that every time that the sufferer does this, the entire vascular system experiences the tension, the tightening. This is particularly damaging to the smaller veins and arteries around the periphery of the heart. That, dear reader, is where my cardiovascular problem lies. So yes, I tend to blame my life threatening heart condition on the general psychological condition that I have lived with all of my life.

I have, by the way, the heart of a racehorse. The problem is out in the small blood vessels, including the one nicknamed “the widow maker.” My widow maker already has a stent in it, and that's not the only one.

I am only grateful that my experience of depression is such that I direct all of the negativity inward. I am my chosen victim, and I really do try to make other people's lives easier. My ungrateful family would also cheerfully explain to you that I was just like my mother, a self-medicating drunkard who brought about her own doom. It's true that my mother grew up in the same cortisol brain-bath that I did, thanks to her mother, who was a true demon in human form, but my mother drank exponentially more than I ever have, my God, the woman was an all day drinker who went through more than a case a week, and she also was a vicious woman who directed all of her negativity outward, mostly onto the people closest to her. She lived to make other people miserable. It was her only fun. When she died, I breathed a sigh of relief.

As usual, I am a mass of contradictions. I am a vortex of negative energy, it's true, but I also readily acknowledge that I have been a generally lucky man. Most people perceive me as a polite, charming man, a bit garrulous perhaps but with some good stories to tell. I raised two fine sons. I'm very proud of them even if they are less than warm and loving to me now. I have always had friends, and they have often been instrumental in helping me to obtain employment. I was lucky with my first wife, too. She was a perfect fit for the job. Great breadwinner, great mom, great where the rubber meets the road. When she kicked me out, I was lucky to come down on my feet in a good situation. I own a nice condo in Bangkok, and my second wife is a real gem. (Age appropriate, BTW. I'm no cradle robber.) I have always been interested in things, just any old thing, and I can honestly say that I have never been bored. I am still a voracious reader, books, I mean, fiction and non-fiction, and scholarly articles. Things could be much, much worse.

I still get the clench. I had one today in a restaurant; had one at the dentist on Saturday. I kept them both rather quiet, which is good. I'll probably go back to the restaurant, after a month or so, but I will be dumping the dentist. Somebody needs to explain to her the difference between a customer and a patient. Trying to get a cab in my neighborhood these days would give anyone a clench. I just thank God that I'm not in that machine-gun clench like the first year after my father died, when it was every ten minutes, being reminded of some terrible memory, and folding up like a cheap tent at the thought of it. “But I was a good boy!” At least that's over with.

If it took a couple of cocktails to accomplish that, so be it. When I die, please do not be sad, but also please do not blame the whole thing on me. I will have been overtaken by events not entirely of my own making.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Azumi Final Showdown Set to Live Cream ; Steppin' Out

I usually don't indulge in this kind of thing, but this presentation is kind of cute. I like Azumi; I like Cream live; I like Steppin' Out. So what's not to like? 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Liberals And Feminists Are Executing Newborn Babies

I am certain that our friends and allies around the world were shocked last week when acting President DJT claimed that newborn babies were being executed at the whim of their mothers and doctors. The idea has been going around for a while now, but this was the first time that the, I can't say it, you know who I mean, included a dramatic description of the practice in one of his rally speeches. “The baby is born, and they wrap it carefully in a blanket, such a beautiful baby, and they take the baby to the mother, and the mother and the doctor decide whether to execute the baby or not.” People in many countries must have done a spit-take when they heard that. It was kind of a WTF moment for Americans, too. Nothing remotely like that is actually happening.

(The medical facts of the matter are highly technical and should rightly be left to the parents and the doctors involved. That's not only my opinion. It is also the advised opinion of the U.S. Judicial system based upon the current requirements of Due Process cases. What President “I'm rich and I'm smart but I can't prove either thing” described was infanticide, which is totally illegal in every state.)

We have grown accustomed to the daily barrage of lies that pours out of the White House from every window, but this one really pushes the minute hand on the Fascism Clock dangerously close to midnight. This lie is so enormous, and so blatantly impossible and untrue, that it raises the bar. The idea is so outlandish, and the lie so totally preposterous, and the language so inflammatory (execute!), that the danger level must be raised. The whole idea of agitprop like this is to demonize one's political opponents. “Vote for us, and help us to save the country from the disgusting people who would do such things!” There's nothing new about it. We've already seen many people killed and injured because of language like this. That violence is the goal of the language.

The greatest expression of this kind of political foul play was the famous “Blood Libel” that has been leveled at the Jews in Europe from time to time.* It still is, actually, because “The Elders of Zion” is still in circulation and raising antisemitic feelings around eastern Europe. The Nazis weren't the first, but they used the Blood Libel with great success to drive out German Jews in the 1930s. They started with blaming the Jews for the loss in World War I, and then blaming them for the financial collapse, and then they reached for the big gun. (About two/thirds of the Jews were allowed to leave, after their property had been stolen. By the time the Nazis started actually killing Jews in large numbers, any excuse or rational was no longer necessary.) The Nazi's use of the Blood Libel is a perfect example of the demonization process in its fullest flower. Escalating lies and propaganda directed at the class of person to be demonized lead to greater heights of accusatory rhetoric that became more and more dehumanizing and finally turned exterminationist. Those ridiculous Jewish caricatures in Der Stuermer were not taken seriously by the Germans at first. After all, there were only 375,000 Jews in a country of over 60 million, how big a problem could they be? They had fought in World War I! Everyone living in a big city knew plenty of Jews! Years of escalating rhetoric, however, employing tools like the Blood Libel, finally led to the murder of about six million Jews. Plus big numbers from the other demonized groups.

First they came for the diabetics, and I didn't care, because I wasn't diabetic.” That's a funny line now, but wait until your grandchild dies because the insurance company denies them life-saving medicine. That's just the beginning. If you are an American who is not in one of the preferred groups, i.e., rich, powerful, or famous, you're in the cross-hairs already.

So, Donnie the Gyp says people, with the help of doctors, are “executing” healthy babies. He wants to desensitize people from the use of the word, “execute.” You know he's working on his lists. In fact, they've been working on their lists since Nixon was president. The Republicans, I mean. Hippies; university professors and students; blacks; commies; socialists; feminists; liberals; atheists; progressives; homosexuals; and more recently added groups like, people with good educations; Californians; media personalities; people who speak foreign languages; Mexicans (which they take to mean all non-Caribbean Latins); Hollywood actors; Muslims; and any minute now, Asians.

We've been seeing this kind of demonization of liberals, etc., for decades now. It really took off while Mr. Obama was our president. Getting beaten twice by Obama really unhinged the Republican party. Trump has taken the practice to the moon and beyond. It is common now for ordinary citizens commenting on social media to furiously demand the deaths of Democratic politicians, or liberals wherever they may be found. For the deaths, in fact, of any of the groups being demonized by their ultra-right-wing style leaders. And lest we forget, it is increasingly common for some deluded fan of that ultra-right rhetoric to take up an AR-15 and actually kill as many of the demons as he can manage. (So far in America it's a man's game. That might change, as it has in other countries.)

When our ultra-right-wing, white supremacist “acting president” says things like “execute” on TV, many of his followers take it as gospel and believe him wholeheartedly. Several of my Facebook friends certainly do. This obvious lie made them furious at the doctors and the moms who are “executing” these born-alive babies, and also furious at anyone like me that might try to explain that no healthy, beautiful babies wrapped lovingly in blankets are being murdered. These people, who can hardly control their anger at such practices, include many that I grew up with. I've known them since we were teenagers, or in some cases even young children. If decent, hard working people like that can be enraged by such a transparent, obvious lie, such a virtual “Blood Libel,” well then there is no limit to the damage that those unscrupulous bastards who spew this agitprop can accomplish.

* Constant readers will recall that if something occurs to me, I assume that it has also occurred to many other people. That's my style; I try never to give myself too much credit. In the course of checking my facts on the Blood Libel, and trying to avoid giving offense to any aggrieved groups out there, I read, among other things, an article on Slate dot com called, “They Will Execute the Baby,” by Rebecca Onion (April 30, 2019). She mentioned the Blood Libel, without expanding the similarities very much. Ms. Onion called Trump's “execution” crack, “atrocity propaganda,” which I think is a nice turn-of-phrase. She attributed his statement to a desire to portray liberals and feminists as “selfish monsters.” I'm sure that the article is still up, or at least available. It's short.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019


It's great that some of these fellows who were great players, and who made hits for other artists as studio help, managed to put out enough records under their own names to survive the test of time. 

Chris Spedding played simple parts perfectly and with fabulous attention to tone. It's one thing to be a Danny Gatton, filling the musical bars with dots. There's nothing wrong with that. Look at charts from Bird or 'Trane. Those guys were on another level as far as melodic invention was concerned. It's another thing to provide the notes that fit like perfect puzzle pieces, concentrate on the simple expression of the musical idea, and create tone that really touches people. Chris, Mick Ralphs, Mick Ronson, tone was their pallet. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Johnny B Goode - Danny Gatton

Chuck Berry liked to give these young white guys shit about doing it wrong. Didn't he punch Keith Richards one time? I think that he'd have given Danny a pass for any digression from the original, for two reasons: 1) Danny's so great, you just stand back and let the man play; and 2) Danny was a very, very sturdy man. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Jim Carroll Band "People Who Died"

A friend, a real friend, coincidentally on Facebook in this case, posted this song today. That's what friends are for! It also reminded me that the Basketball Diaries is almost certainly worth a read. And here's to all of the predeceased. I still miss a lot of you. Those of you who are perfectly content never to see me again, I understand. Fair thee well, boys and girls. We'll all share your fate soon enough. 

Bow Wow Wow-C30 C60 C90 Go!

You may be sure that this Bow Wow Wow stuff was a shocking Big Wow Wow when it was released. Still sounds a bit nuts, doesn't it? 

The 2020 Democratic Presidential Sweepstakes, Early Edition

(There was a “surprise” announcement this morning. I'm saving that for latter in the post.)

It was all about the Republican Clown Car in 2016. Then the biggest clown came out on top and the fun went out of it very quickly. The big danger sign for me was Brexit. It was obvious to anyone with a globe that most of the world had already gone crazy. Then Britain joined the crazy list and I figured that if they could ignore their best interest and leap at a dangerous delusion, well, so could the United States. And we did.

This time around it's the Democrats who have the long laundry list of potential candidates. Eighteen or twenty as we speak, with more peeking out from behind the curtains. They seem to lack the comedic value of the 2016 Republicans, but maybe that's just because we don't know a single thing about nine or ten of them, and precious little more about most of the rest.

Two things jump right out when one considers the Democratic candidates: we've never heard of most of them, and almost all of them display some characteristic that American voters will probably find objectionable.

Let's get the unknowns out of the way. That would be Eric Swalwell, Tim Ryan, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Tulsi Gabbard, John Delaney, Wayne Messam, Marianne Williamson, and Andrew Yang. Nobody knows these people from a hole in the wall, and so far they have gotten close to zero traction. Not that a couple of them aren't very interesting. Tulsi Gabbard is House Rep from Hawaii. She is also a Samoan-American Hindu who is vocally pro-weed. She's young and pretty, too. That's almost as interesting as you can get. She says that she has “evolved” since making frequent anti-gay statements early in her career.

Andrew Yang is another interesting character. He is a former tech executive and New York entrepreneur. He is the son of immigrants from Taiwan, and he is as progressive as anybody. He's for the universal basic income and Medicare for all, and he believes that what we really need is a more humane capitalism. He's a smart guy, and he is a better extemporaneous speaker than most. I've seen him on TV, but I'm leaving him with the unknowns. He's very young, and he's never held public office, so I don't think we'll have to worry about him making it very far. I think that he just wants the platform to be heard.

I don't understand the Democrats at all. I've written about it here: I wonder if they have even tried to win since 1968 or 1972. They put forward candidates seemingly chosen on the basis of their failure to appeal to the voting public. Take Michael Dukakis, please. It's the same this year.

What have we learned through the last three election cycles? The clear lesson is that the presidency is still to be considered a white man's job. I do not approve of this situation, and I long for the day that candidates will be chosen strictly on the basis of the good that they can do for the country. We live, however, in early 21st Century America, not in some wonderful, future Shangri La. We have seen the vicious backlash against the presidency of Barack Obama, whom I have often flattered in these pages. We have seen the way poor Hillary's bones were picked over for any little thing to complain about. We have seen their presence in the political arena result in the election of the worst white man in the history of the breed. Do we really want to touch that stove again just to see if it's really hot? Haven't we been burned enough?

So what do we get so far from the Democrats?

Eight white men: five unknown, plain-vanilla white guys, and three problematic white guys whose names we know and who are at least good public speakers. Pete Buttegieg is very young, but he has packed that time with impressive educational and military accomplishments. His answers to policy questions have been a bit vague, but why not? That could be a strategy. He is unapologetically gay. That, of course, is the only practical way to approach being gay. You have nothing to apologize for. That's the way God made you, as Buttegieg has said, and with which I wholeheartedly agree. He's really sharp, and quick-witted when it counts. He could do very well in the Dem primaries, but nationwide when all of the chips are down? I don't make the rules. I'm afraid that those silent bigots might not go for it.

Robert “Beto” O'Rourke is also very young, and he is a fine spokesman for himself. He proved himself to be a great campaigner. He hasn't really done much, though. He tends to answer questions with smoke and mirrors. He served part of a term in the House. I don't see him carrying a nationwide election.

Bernie Sanders! Bernie, in a vacuum, is the total package. He's full of good ideas, he's a passionate speaker, he answers questions with bold self-assurance and fingertips full of facts. I love Bernie. I would cheerfully vote for Bernie. But what happens in a national presidential election? People walk into the booth and are suddenly confronted with the fact that Bernie is a seventy-seven year old Jewish socialist from Brooklyn who carved out a niche for himself in the politics of Vermont. None of that would bother me, but I'm not the average voter.

That's it so far for the white men. I don't see any comfortable winners.

Then there are the four white women: Three senators, one of whom is from Minnesota and therefore little known. Then there's Kirsten Gillibrand, from New York. Fifty-two years old, and very attractive, which still counts for something. Her husband is a venture capitalist, which is mentioned in passing (his money was not included in her net worth in the sources that I saw). And, (drum roll), Elizabeth Warren. I think that she's the cat's pajamas, and I would definitely take her class if I were back in law school and she were one of the profs. She has jumped right out front in staking out issues that people will like, like student loan forgiveness. She dresses well and she is a good, if not great, public speaker. She's got a lot going for her. I'm sorry to say, I don't see any comfortable winners here either.

Oh, and Marianne Williamson! An author of spiritual books! That's enough on that subject.

Two black men: Wayne Messam, the mayor of Miramar, Florida. Some kind of vanity project, I guess. Maybe he wants to move to an office in Washington, D.C.

The other black gentleman is Cory Booker, a senator from New Jersey with name recognition to spare. Cory is a “centrist,” whatever that means these days. He is a slippery one when question time comes. I know the trick for grabbing an eel in a bucket, but no one seems to know the secret of getting a straight answer out of Cory Booker on a policy question.

I'm sorry to be blunt, but I think we've had enough experimentation with a black president to hold us for a while. After Trump, people will be looking for comfort, not more excitement.

One black woman: Kamala Harris. Black didn't work out and woman was a non-starter, let's try a black woman! For all of the above reasons, let's not go there this time. Give it another minute or two.

Bear in mind, I love Kamala Harris (although the prosecutor thing is a negative for me). She's beautiful, brilliant, and accomplished. This election is just too important to take chances.

Hispanic men: Julian Castro has this field to himself. Nice man, smart guy, good speaker, a twin! He's been HUD Secretary under Obama and the mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Nice to see him here.

Asian-Pacific men and women: here we have non-politician and likely forum shopper Andrew Yang, a good-hearted man, to be sure. Smart enough; good enough; talented enough. Thanks, Andrew, for whatever it is that you're doing here. How about that Tulsi Gabbard? That list of firsts; that rare bird. First Hindu House Rep; first Samoan-American House Rep. She's only thirty-eight, maybe we'll see her “evolve” into a real presidential candidate.

The First Monkey Wrench Hits the Gears

Joe Biden! (See “Hell No, Joe,” March 19, 2019.) Here's Joe again, back to haunt us with his back catalog of hidden, mostly forgotten legislative horrors. Joe's legislative history goes back to 1972, and it's mostly bad. Joe has more negatives than Weegee after a particularly busy night of crime-scene photography in Manhattan.

Joe Biden's problem is the opposite of many of the above candidates. He might be a very attractive candidate in a nationwide election, but he could easily fail in the primaries. These are Democrats we're talking about, don't forget. They'll cheerfully vote for unelectable candidates in the primaries. Then, those candidates go on to lose the election. This is not me being cranky; this is Democratic Party history. (Michael Dukakis.)

And who cares? Joe is almost as old as Ringo. What is he, seventy-seven? When people start talking about how many of us live to be ninety or one hundred now, don't forget that most of us don't. Joe could drop dead any minute now. Hell, I'm rather younger than Joe, and I feel like I could drop dead at any time. Same for Bernie Sanders, may God be merciful on his blessed soul, and allow him many more years to help all of us IN THE SENATE.

It's Still Early!

America's billionaires do not keep me informed about their plans. Whom among them could become interested at some point? Mike Bloomberg? He's worth $60 billion. That would buy a lot of campaign, on any time schedule that Mr. Bloomberg chose. He has the advantage of being a real politician with lots of executive experience.

Who else is out there? This is getting way too exciting. Trump could disappear at any minute, for a wide variety of reasons. How's this for a deal: “I retire for 'health reasons,' Pence gets the gig, you guys do whatever you want, and then just leave me the hell alone.” Three-fourths of the serious people in government would take that deal in a heartbeat.

Will there be a meaningful primary challenge to Trump? If Trump is the nominee again, against some unelectable Democrat, will one or more billionaires figure, oh, hell no, and run as independents? H. Ross Perot got nineteen percent of the vote in 1992. You read that right. He took the votes equally from both sides, so it was a wash. Clinton won it fair and square. What'll happen next year?

This is way too much excitement for me. God, I hate presidential elections.