Thursday, April 18, 2019
Some clever law enforcement professionals recently, belatedly, became aware that certain rich Hollywood types were doing more than pulling strings and waving their eyelashes to help to get their children into elite schools. They were applying money to the problem. This has, of course, been going on since rich people and elite schools have existed in America, and that makes me wonder. Why finally notice and take action now? What's so special about now?
I haven't seen a complete list of the poor defendants who were sucked up in this dragnet, so for now I remain merely suspicious. The poster children for this new class of criminal masterminds are Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. If the other thirty-three (!!!) arrestees are also prosperous entertainers, I'm going to get much more suspicious in a hurry. I hope that no one believes that people who made their money either in business deals or in stock manipulations are above this kind of behavior.
Ms. Huffman and Ms. Loughlin's cases are as different as night and day. The former's case is very simple, and the methods used were inexpensive. The later was much more ambitious, and the whole thing cost her over half a mil. To my knowledge, the dragnet completely ignored the very rich who cheat their children into elite schools by simply throwing huge sums of money at the target school. There is a quid pro quo, but it remains discretely in the background. The school gets a new pool and a new floor on its basketball court, and some undeserving brat goes to Princeton. The law enforcement professionals were probably warned off by the schools, who naturally want to see that kind of largess continue.
Ms. Huffman is alleged to have paid $15,000 to improve her daughter's SAT scores. I've seen the methodology described in two ways in our modern, less than reliable media. Either: 1) someone with access to the tests changed many of her answers from wrong to correct; or 2) someone was paid to pose as the daughter and take the SAT again after a miserable showing by the real daughter. Either way, it is alleged that for a mere one-time payment of $15,000, the daughter's SAT score was raised by 400 points. That, my friends, would be the greatest bargain in the history of fraud.
On a sadder note, it is also alleged that Ms. Huffman paid a sympathetic medical professional to prove up some kind of learning disability for the daughter. This kind of thing buys them more time for taking the test itself. Therein lies a tale.
When I graduated from law school, several of my classmates mysteriously came down with bad cases of dyslexia, you know, before the bar exam. They hadn't had any trouble with passing law school classes, and I can tell you that I went to a school that believed in extremely difficult tests. Those crooked students could hardly contain their delight at these diagnoses. One guy was being so obnoxious about it that I came dangerously close to throwing him down a flight of stairs.
Ms. Huffman has pleaded guilty to one count of something relatively insignificant, but just for the optics I'm sure they'll put her behind bars for a while. This kind of demonstration is common with celebrities. Make a fuss about sentencing them and putting them in orange jumpsuits, and then quietly let them go after a matter of days or weeks.
Ms. Loughlin's case is far more serious, although, strangely, she does not seem to be taking it very seriously. She is alleged to have paid an employee of the target university to dummy up an acceptance for her daughter. The employee works, or “worked,” more likely, as a high-level coach for a lesser sport. That one cost a cool $500,000, an amount that generates a lot of interest among prosecutors and juries. Ms. Loughlin has very casually turned down a plea deal that would have put her in prison for a couple of years. I read somewhere that the prosecutor has left the plea deal on the table as is, which surprised me. More often they bump up the years in the offer. They claim to have her on the hook for twenty, or forty, or something. When that much money changes hands as part of a criminal enterprise, all kinds of peripheral charges are triggered. For instance, money laundering.
If she keeps shining them on with that confident smile, she could really piss them off. If that happens, she could do some real time. Somebody needs to explain to her that this is not a Hallmark made-for-TV movie. These people can hurt you.
On the Other Side of the Tracks!
All of this is very nice, but, as usual, the devil is down in the corners somewhere. CNN dot com was kind enough to write up a story about what happens when black women are charged with crimes that bear surface similarities to those described above. That, my darlings, is not a pretty picture, but you probably knew that already.
Kelly W-B, of Ohio, used her father's address to get her child into a better school that was outside of her assigned district. I'll bet that most of us know someone who has done that, or something similar. Well, Miss Kelly got caught, and the full force of the law was brought to bear not only on Miss Kelly, but also on her father. Kelly did nine days in jail, just to make sure that she understood the gravity of the situation, and she had to pay a total of $36,000, mostly to the school in her assigned district which had lost government revenue for having one less student. Her father, hold on to your hat, was sentenced to prison, that's where you go when you are convicted of a felony, and he died in prison.
Tanya McD of Connecticut was arrested on the same charge, using a false or fraudulent address to get her child into a school outside of her assigned district. This one gets poignant in a hurry, so get a tissue handy. This is a tearjerker. Ms. Tanya was homeless at the time, so she didn't have any damn address. She used an address that she knew would get her child into a better school. She did a lot more time that Miss Kelly did, but that's apples and oranges because Tanya's case had drug charges attached to it by the time the prosecutors got rolling. Unless there was a suitable relative to take the child, it's a sure thing that Social Services took away Tanya's parental rights and put the child in a foster home.
Back to Hollywood!
Felicity might get off with some community service or something. She's cooperating, and her crimes are not great. If Lori's not careful, though, she could get some of that Martha Stewart time. She could miss a few holidays, maybe even a couple of birthdays. I won't cry for either of them, but Kelly and Tanya have my deepest sympathies.
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
I had no idea that this cut existed. I was a big Small Faces fan from the beginning, too. Just goes to show how easy it was to miss something back then. No radio station would play this; there might be a comment in an English music magazine or newspaper but what could be easier for an American fan to miss?
Great covers mark songs as great songs, and great covers are those where the covering band takes the song and remakes it in their own image. This one succeeds on both counts.
Great song and performance by the songwriter, Tim Hardin. Tim must have been really something. Some of these songs are heart wrenching, painful little bursts of crystallized negative energy. I almost never meet people more depressed than me.
There was another side to Tim. I have it on good authority, from someone who shared Tim's interest in substances. One of my friends in L.A. had been a needle-buddy of Tim's for some time. My friend was so gracious, funny, and personable that he could always cop, so he was the go-to guy when certain celebrities came to town. Whenever Tim's name came up later on, my friend would kind of collapse into himself like the wind had gone out of his sails. Losing Tim was an awful memory for him.
This must be a rare one. After three years up, I was the second like and the hit count was at 1030. The last name is Turner spelled backwards. Ike used this name during a time when he was juggling labels and trying to move artists around while no one was watching. He must have been something back then, quite a bundle of energy.
The story of how Ike came up with the name "Tina Turner," not to mention why, is amazing. Always thinking, that Ike, working the angles.
Why yes, this is the same Jackie Brensten who gets the credit for the first real rock and roll record, "Rocket 88." (1951, Jackie Brensten and his Delta Cats.) And lookie here! Ike Turner gets the writing credit for this song! And that's him playing the guitar, and it's Ike's band, and Ike produced the record. Trouble Up the Road came out in 1961.
The band on this cut and also Rocket 88 is really Ike Turner's band. In 1951, it was Ike's Kings of Rhythm. Ike was nineteen when Rocket 88 came out. This record features the Ike Turner Orchestra, which in 1961 also featured the young and talented Tina Turner.
You may not like Ike. A lot of people don't. But he had a great eye for talent, and he knew how to get the best performances from his singers. He wrote great songs; he always had a great band. As a producer and as a musician, he always knew what a hit should sound like. As an A & R man in the early 1950s, he discovered Howlin Wolf! You don't have to like Ike, but you must respect a list of accomplishments like that.
One of the things that struck me about Thailand was that many things that are generally not numbered around the world were carefully numbered. It was like the Count from Sesame Street had been put in charge of interior decorating.
You'd go into a men's room at a mall and the urinals were numbered, like one to thirteen or something, however many there were. The stalls were in their own number series. Also the sinks. It seemed a bit compulsive, even before it got much stranger.
In some malls, each bathroom starts all over again with urinals numbered starting at one. Same for the stalls and sinks. But in other malls, the urinals are numbered consecutively throughout the entire mall. So the men's room designated to start the count has urinals numbered from one to thirteen. The next men's room has urinals numbered from fourteen to twenty-six. And so forth. If it's a big mall, the number of urinals could get up to 120, easy, with the stalls and sinks not far behind. I assume it's the same in the ladies' rooms.
Elevators are generally numbered, as are doorways. At the big airport, the taxis are on the first floor. I looked around once and saw the number two on a large doorway. Thinking that I was on the second floor, I went down one and was taken aback by the absence of taxis. The door labeled two was actually doorway number two on the third floor. I realized this when I noticed that the doorway directly under the first doorway number two was also labeled doorway number two.
The floors are numbered, of course, but there is no consensus concerning the designation of the floor that you walk into at street level. It may be the first floor, but the floor below ground level may be the first floor. The floor that you walk into may also be the ground floor, Floor G, in the European style. The big mall nearest to me is numbered G to four on the escalators, and one to five on the elevators. So floor number one on the escalators is floor number two on the elevators.
It can all be a bit confusing. On the Plexiglas below the escalator handrails, there is usually a large number. In some malls, or hospitals, or whatever, it is the number of the floor that you are standing on before you get on the escalator. In other buildings, it may be the floor that you will arrive at after you have ridden the escalator.
The floors of buildings will, of course, continue to be numbered. One can only hope that the numbering system will become standardized. I have noticed, however, that the numbering of the urinals, etc., is no longer to be found everywhere. Many malls, especially newer, more up-scale malls, are doing away with the practice. I was in a Big C* men's room today where only the urinals number one, two, four, and seven, had numbers on them. Only sink number one bore a number, and none of the stalls were numbered at all. It may have been of use to housekeeping to have these numbers, as in, “stall number three, in men's room number two, on the fourth floor, needs a plunging, stat.” It should be possible, though, to communicate such information without pasting numbers everywhere.
I find myself missing the numbers. It was very Thai, and it always reminded me that I am lucky to be living in a place that is at once so safe and mellow, but also very alien and interesting. I've been here for fifteen years now, and that, it turns out, is long enough to be witnessing some major changes. I just hope that it all works out to the advantage of average Thai citizens. If they're happy, I'm happy.
*The Big C is a Thai owned chain of large department stores featuring everything from dry goods to durable goods to shoes to tools to outdoor furniture, with a food market attached. The emphasis is on low prices without sacrificing too much in quality. It's a pretty good outfit.
*The Big C is a Thai owned chain of large department stores featuring everything from dry goods to durable goods to shoes to tools to outdoor furniture, with a food market attached. The emphasis is on low prices without sacrificing too much in quality. It's a pretty good outfit.
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
I mostly let Lenny go over my head while he was alive. I hadn't turned eighteen yet when he passed away. My buying my first Lenny Bruce LP came right about the time that he died. Dude brought the funny, that's for sure. He had a style. It's too bad that you almost never hear his name these days.
There is a nice article in the New York Times today about asking for directions in New York City. This article is a fine testimony to New Yorkers who will take a moment to try to be helpful to some lost and lonely non-New Yorker who want to know how to get somewhere. Even with our miraculously efficient grid system, it is not always easy. The writer of the article is one of the New Yorkers who will do more than indicate a direction and say, yeah, down that way. God bless him for that. This reminds me of my time studying in Germany and becoming accustomed to the Germanic method of giving directions.
First, they evaluate your German. If you fail this threshold test, I'm pretty sure that the entire enterprise grinds to a halt. My German is pretty good, though, and because of my excellent accent it sounds better than it is, so the honest Burghers would proceed to give me directions.
Okay. Now the German or Germans have engaged with you, and they have accepted your request for assistance. What happens now is different from America or probably anywhere else. You have triggered in the unassuming German citizen a feeling of Pflichtgefuele, or Pflichtbewusstsein. This is the sense of duty that all Germans respond to in situations large and small.
Now that you are all Kameraden, the German will give you detailed directions to your destination. They know full well that the German language is not easy, so they will naturally speak to you slowly and clearly, using less than their full vocabulary. “Direkt um die Ecke,” and so forth. You may think that when the directions are complete, you are ready to proceed. No, that is not the case.
The German, or Germans, having accepted the duty to help you, will now require a demonstration proving that you have understood their directions. You must repeat the directions, in German, back to them. If you do not, or cannot, they will not be able to sleep that night. The Pflictgefuele having been triggered, they may wish to escort you to your destination. If you repeat the directions perfectly with a smile, they will be very self-satisfied, and they will compliment your wonderful German and wish you well.
The Germans are not like anyone else in the world, and their uniqueness has led them astray on occasion. If one will only make a small attempt to understand them, however, and apply a bit of common sense to the issue, they turn out to be very cooperative, friendly people. Also, they dress much better than you might expect and the food is much more entertaining than is generally given credit. I've visited the place twice, and I'd go back if such a thing were practicable. Sadly, the nature of money is that after you have spent it, you no longer have it. That's my medical war chest that we're talking about, and I'm hanging on to as much of that as possible. But I have my memories, which are all good.
Monday, April 15, 2019
I guess that I've never really paid attention. Sure, I caught on to a lot of good music over the years, but so much stuff just zoomed straight past me without me noticing. This cut is from a 1986 vinyl release, well knock me other with a feather.
I love the attitude in this Go-Go music. It all sounds so enthusiastic, and impromptu. There's usually a kit drummer in there, but not always. There's always a few amateurs in the mix, playing plastic five-gallon paint cans, bottoms up. It's happy, man, this music brings the party. RIP, Chuck. In 1986 he was fifty-years-old, BTW. Dude died at seventy-five, still making a living. I do love a happy ending.
I would mark this as a very successful cover version. This is a cut from the Warner Bros. CD Super Relax, released in 1997. That is a frighteningly long time ago, but at the same time, I was about fifty-years-old at the time. Life, and time, can be strange that way.
Saturday, April 13, 2019
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (of South Bend) and Mike Pence are both politicians from Indiana. To his credit, Mayor Pete remembers every nasty thing that Pence did to ruin the happiness of Indiana homosexuals while he, Pence, was in one office or another in the state. He is still disposed to hold Pence's feet to the fire whenever he gets a chance. I recall the general outlines of Pence's campaign of terror and discrimination, all in the name of religion, and I'm just a concerned outsider. Mayor Pete was a citizen of Indiana, and gay.
(For a nice rundown of Mike Pence's greatest (anti gay) hits, see the website of the Indiana Democratic Party (indem.org). They have a nice timeline covering anti gay legislation that Mike Pence either initiated or helped pass. It's too much to copy here.)
He's still at it, Pence is. That fat, white monument to religiously based intolerance and hatred just can't let go of the gay thing. It's almost as though Mike believed that the homosexuals, the handsome male homosexuals, were following him around trying to trap him in their lifestyle! Mike seems to be afraid that he could have a dog in that fight! What is he afraid of?
The two of them were at each others throats last week.
Mayor Pete addressed Pence in a speech before the LGBTQ Victory Fund, suggesting that:
“. . . if you (Pence) have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.” (Daily Beast; The Raw Story.)
By suggesting that he, and all other gay men and women, had been born gay, he really got Pence's attention. This is because Mike Pence, and most of those insufferable religious exclusivists, claim to believe that homosexuality is a choice. After all, God's opinion is right there in the Bible. In an early book of the Old Testament.
These people slay me. That “choice” argument belongs in the first order of stupidity. It's right up there with the belief that the earth is flat. But here it is again, from a man whose personal values and morals are slippery enough to allow him to back every play that Donald Trump makes. “I'm a Bible believing Christian. I draw my truth from God's word.” (cnn.com) These guys are so stupid that they stand there saying this with no beard, wearing clothing made from blended fabrics. I'll bet that if you made a cursory investigation, you would discover that Pence's wife has never once spent the night in the shed because she was menstruating. These Old Testament Bible thumping so-called Christians make me sick. Even Jesus had little patience with the Old Testament. “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.” Now, two thousand years later, geniuses like Mike Pence claim to know the mind of God better than God or Jesus. Somebody gag me with a spoon.
All of the hundreds of versions of Christianity agree that there is an all powerful, unique entity referred to as “God,” who lives outside of time and space, having preceded both things, and in fact having created both time and space, out of nothing. In this system, God created us as well, in a flash, using the results of his creation of time and space.
The spectrum of people who believe this nonsense always amazes me, It ranges from the extremely dumb, like Mike Pence, to the extremely intelligent, like Pete Buttigieg. It is the very silliness of religion what has resulted in the hundreds of versions of Christianity. There is no evidence for any of it; it is all a matter of “belief.” You must believe! Well no, there really is no reason to believe any of it. In the absence of any evidence whatsoever, there is nothing to compel anyone to believe any of it.
This is why Mike and Pete can disagree so vigorously on the choice question. This lack of evidence leaves people on their own, free to interpret the rules and norms of Christianity in wildly different ways. Does God want us to baptize babies, or does God insist that the individual to be baptized be an adult? Is reaching the age of consent sufficient? The age of reason? Is the Sabbath every Sunday? Or is it Saturday? Europeans used to fight endless wars over things like these.
Take a break here. The only source materials for this foolishness come in the form of mediocre, fourth or fifth generation translations of Iron Age texts which all, in turn, separated by centuries, had to pass through an approval process designed to please the political requirements of a royal personage. Perfectly good revealed texts were discarded as having no value to the power elite of the time or appearing to contradict other revealed texts that the bosses liked.
Now add the cherry-pickers who refuse to take Mr. Jesus' sage advice to shit-can the entire Old Testament as superannuated bullshit. The beardless shrimp eaters in their cotton/polyester shirts under woolen suits. This allows some men to believe that God made us all straight because being straight pleased God and by golly, God don't make junk. This is a comfort to men whose teenage experience included unbidden erections while watching Hercules or a gladiator movie and who decided right then and there that hell no, they were straight and that was that. Prayer was their way to keep the demons at bay after that. We're all straight, gol-darn it! If anyone CHOOSES to be gay at some later date, that is a terrible sin and God had nothing to do with it.
On the other hand, it allows other men, like Mayor Pete, to believe that God made us all, and if some of us were born gay, that was God's will. For the same reason: God don't make junk.
Most reasonable men and women these days think that Mayor Pete has the better side of this argument. Most of us know and love some homosexuals, they are our friends and family, we work together, we go to school and serve in the military together, and we have been assured many times that yes, they have always known that they were gay, they were, in fact, born gay. It's obvious to most REASONABLE people.
Mike Pence is far from reasonable though, so he and Mr. Buttigieg are gearing up for a war over that point of belief, just like those long ago Europeans would in their shoes. Mr. Pence has even mentioned the 1st Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion. I would give my eye teeth to see him bring that question to the courts. Those would be Federal Courts, and some poor judge would have to listen to lawyers arguing that Mr. Buttigieg somehow violated Mr. Pence's right to hold a literal belief in the Old Testament, in its entirety, standing there without a beard. Pure comedy gold, that.
Speaking of potential for humor! That entire “choosing to be gay” thing makes me wonder if anyone has ever thought that one through. What would the mechanics of that be? Some kid is not getting anywhere with the local girls so he figures, fuck it, I'm going with the guys. The kid wants to get some one way or the other. Like you could turn it on with a switch. I did some thinking about what this would look like, and it was some funny shit. I discarded the idea, though. Way too stupid and unbelievable, unless you're Mike Pence.
Friday, April 12, 2019
This is OG D.C. Go Go music, and Chuck Brown is the man. RIP, Chuck, but the music is still at the core of a gentrification controversy. Is there room in the new, fabulous, neoliberal, bureaucratic, up-scale, white-supremacist Washington D.C. for indigenous black American culture? The new white neighbors in the expensive condos don't think so.
Thursday, April 11, 2019
A fellow asked me the other day, “why do you think that there are so many gay men in (redacted)?” I thought about it for a second and I offered my opinion. I figured that the percentage of gay men, or women, in any country is about the same. If the gay man lives in a country where being seen as gay becomes life threatening immediately, gay men will either keep it way on the down-low or just give up the idea completely. Reject it. Force themselves into the straight life. But if a gay man lives in a country where no one seems to really care about that fact, he can let his true colors shine. My point was that there weren't necessarily more gay men in (redacted) than anywhere else, but in (redacted) they could just be themselves. No one particularly cared.
I focused there on gay men, because it's very different for them. Regarding gay women, lesbians, nowhere are they considered nearly as offensive as gay men. Straight women quickly figure, okay, that could happen. Straight men, of course, are titillated by the prospect. So it's a whole different scene.
We were speaking together in (redacted), and I happen to know a thing or two about (redacted). I've taught English in grammar schools here, and I can tell you, if they have a Christmas show, somebody has to play the Christmas Angel. That will be one of the kids, one of the kids that understands the value of makeup. That will be a gay boy, and they are valued for the talents that they bring to that and other enterprises.
The entire question is very interesting. I've known a lot of gay men in my life, and a lot of gay women too. One thing that I can guarantee you is that their being gay was not some conscious choice. They didn't “decide” to be gay. They were born that way. I've talked about this before. The whole idea of “deciding” to be gay is more ridiculous than believing as an adult that Santa Claus lives at the north pole and has a reindeer sleigh. Gay people are born gay. Go ask an enlightened medical professional to explain the physical mechanics of the phenomenon to you, because I don't swim that deeply in those waters. But I'll tell you, all of the homosexuals that I've ever known were sure that they were homosexuals from an early age.
It gets funny when ambitious straight people start to wonder if they're missing something. What's up with that? No one wants to miss out on some available action. No one in my generation did, anyway.
To make it in the gay community, it really helps to be great looking. And fit, one must be fit. In shape, that's what we call it in America. And handsome, one should also be handsome. And young. When men in my generation, the Baby Boomers, considered the prospect, we were all young. That's about 30% of the way there.
I'll admit, when I was young, I wondered if I was missing out on something that could be interesting. My entire being was oriented towards the female sex; my sun rose and set on the primary and secondary sexual characteristics of womankind. A ridiculous portion of my day was devoted to thinking about women. But still, there was a nagging thought that I could be missing out on some easily attainable source of what, entertainment? Certainly, sex is entertaining. I'll be honest, I got as far on one occasion as trying to set something up, but it failed far in advance of any consummation. You couldn't really even call it a conspiracy. Even so, there was no act in furtherance. I was happy to let it go at that. I was happily heterosexual. There are worse fates.
I had just been thinking that there might be something that I was denying myself. To me, that kind of question always needed to be addressed. I was fit enough, and I had a hip wardrobe, and I knew plenty of gay men. My gay friends would see me at movies, or rock and roll clubs, in the company of other gay friends, and they would often assume that I must be gay, married or not. But no, my heart was never in it. Nothing ever happened. Unless you count the many wonderful friendships.
I never gave up the idea completely, and much later I made another half-hearted go at it. My lack of sincerity and enthusiasm shone through, and the entire thing was a total failure long before it even got off the ground. By now I have faced the fact: I am irredeemably straight.
It is very clear to me now that I was always handsome enough, and fit enough, but the most important element was missing. The truth of it is that while any very handsome gay man can become popular, and any wonderfully fit gay man can become popular, there is another way to achieve extreme popularity. That is to be as hot as a pistol. To be wild about having it all four ways, to insist on the home-run every time, to grab every opportunity and not let go, to use up entire days, to never cool down until you are three-fourths dead from the exertion. Those guys always get invited back. They can be chubby and acne scarred, and they will still be in demand. I was a very enthusiastic heterosexual, ardent, considerate, and energetic, but regarding a try at playing for the other team, I was lukewarm at best.
At this point in my life, I give myself a measure of credit for even considering it, but I'm just as glad that it never came to be. My personality is complex enough. One more level of complexity might have kill me.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
There is no doubt that almost all musicians have influences that they carry with them throughout their careers. I say, “almost” to be on the safe side. You never know, there may be a famous musician somewhere who grew up with an instrument but had never heard any music. I would say that in that case, his influences would come from nature. Ordinarily, when any musician takes up an instrument for the first time, they play what they know. They try to reproduce what they have heard.
No one sets out to immediately establish a new theory of music, new chords, new scales, etc. Just the idea of that happening is silly.
This is true even for the greats. The great sax players, 'Trane, Bird, Pres, I can guarantee to you that their first efforts were in imitation of music that was familiar to them, and I can also guarantee that it was awful. It's hard as hell to get a decent sound out of a sax. Everybody who has ever tried will tell you that. They also learned some theory and started practicing scales. They all had other musicians that served as influences, but I don't know enough about saxophone music to have opinions about that.
Jerry Lee Lewis developed an interest in the boogie woogie piano. His method of studying was to listen from outside the building to professionals entertaining in a bar, and then go home and figure out what they were doing. That's not typical, but maybe it is pretty typical after all. I never had a guitar lesson. I just listened to records and then figured out what they were doing.
Guitar players! Now that's a group that I am more familiar with!
Most guitar players display their early influences forever. I think that it was B.B. King that admitted in an interview that, “we're all playing T. Bone music.” (T. Bone Walker) Even Albert King would probably admit that, although he comes as close as anybody to having found his own way in the musical forest. He was working on a trash truck down south and got the idea that people were making money just playing music. That seemed easier, so he figured he'd give it a go. He got a guitar and tuned it up, without any help, mind you. He tuned it so that it sounded good to him. Then he learned to play melodies on it, and found a few chords that sounded like the records that he had heard. Albert had an immediately recognizable sound, but he had heard many, many blues records before he took up the guitar.
Even someone as great as Jeff Beck had influences. At this point in his career, everything that he plays is Jeff Beck music. He has a style that can be spotted many miles away; when you hear him play, you know that it's him immediately. He is one of the few who has the distinction of playing in a style that no one else can duplicate. Jeff is a humble man, and he has always been happy to discuss his early influences, who were all of the serious pros that played on those 1950s rock records, perhaps especially the rockabilly records. He still sits in with bands that play OG rockabilly, and he kills it.
We know Jimi Hendrix almost entirely from his mature style. During the period of his popularity, there was no one else who sounded like that, or could duplicate what he was doing. We know very little about his early life, musically speaking. He was cryptic in interviews, so there were few clues. It's not hard to figure out what kind of music Jimi grew up with. That would be a combination of everything that was on the radio in Seattle, a very cosmopolitan city, plus a sprinkling of blues and jazz.
Below you will find three songs from guitarists that I would say almost certainly influenced Jimi's playing. I stopped at three because I didn't want to start guessing. I'd love to hear from anyone who had additions to the list.
The guitarist on this cut is Wayne Bennett. Wayne was a very popular session guitarist for many years around this time (1962), and he worked with a lot of people along the line. He was very versatile, so he was on a lot of records that could be lying around a house like Jimi's.
It seems to me that when Jimi wanted to play in what he considered a "blues" style, he sounded a lot like Wayne.
Wayne's playing would appeal to a new player, because although he was quite sophisticated, his playing was also very transparent. A talented student could work at duplicating these songs and see immediately where he was on the money, and where he was missing something.
Hubert Sumlin was a stylist, an idea that must have appealed to Jimi. Jimi was quite the little stylist himself. In the playing itself, listen to the way Hubert throws those little finger flips towards the guitar. Hubert was associated with Howlin' Wolf for a lot of Wolf's greatest work, so he was very well known. Listen to Wolf's "Killing Floor," also covered by Jimi, for some really nice work by Hubert.
Then there's the general playfulness, and the tremendous energy, two more things that are often come to mind when listening to Jimi.
Plus, I'm pretty sure that Jimi mentioned Mr. Sumlin in an interview that I read.
This is the easy one. Chronologically, it lines up perfectly. (1960, when Jimi was still a teenager.) Big clue! Jimi covered the song! Played it pretty straight too; played it like Earl had played it for the record.
Stylistically, this could very well be where Jimi found his preference for playing with a pick, and his heavy pick attack. Earl also likes to mix chords with lead lines, a technique that Jimi used all of his life. So yeah, I'm thinking that Jimi loved Earl King, and practiced by playing his songs.
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
You don't hear this every day. It made me wonder: who were Jimi's influences? All musicians start somewhere, playing what they like of all of the things that they've heard. (Some start out playing only the stuff that they can figure out and that's easy enough for them to play.) Later on, if they're good, they add as much of themselves as they can manage.
Even Jimi started out somewhere. Who was he copping when he was getting started?
Monday, April 8, 2019
Released in November, 1956. That's the year that I got the Rockin Pneumonia, and the Boogie Woogie Flu. Earlier that year Elvis went nationwide with RCA. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, it was a brand new world. I was eight-years-old, and I remember my little RCA record player, 45s only. Those records are still in a box back at the house, unless my family have thrown them away for spite.
America can be a wonderful place, if you check in all of the right boxes. Otherwise, times will get tough, now or later. Land of the free for some, home of the early grave for others. America has always been this way.
It's even harder now in many ways. Actual lynchings are down, but extrajudicial killings by police are way up. For all of us, new requirements are being added frequently. Like money, lots of money. It almost doesn't matter how you got it, just so's you got it. Them as got it are doing fine; them that ain't are doing time, now or later.
I never expected to make it to seventy. I suppose I should be grateful, because I'm better off than some of my old friends. One thing for sure, though, I never expected to grow old in a world where me and many of my geezer buddies, men and women, just assume that some day we will kill ourselves to escape some unacceptable situation. For some, it's a fear that someday they'll be so broke and so sick that suicide will be the easy way out. Others know that a day will come when they are an unsustainable burden on their families. They know that they will do the honorable thing. For me, it's a bright line in my bank accounts. I've got some money to throw at heart procedures, and other things that are almost manageable in my country of residence. But if I come down with something terrible and chronic, or if I spend myself down to that bright line, I'm gone, gone like a cool breeze, a memory. I'm not spending one Goddamned nickel at the doctors that someone might need to live on.
No, if the doc tells me, sorry old dad, you've got (fill in the blank) cancer, and the course of treatment runs into the "all the money" zone, I'll just be responding, "that's great. Now lets talk about pain management and end of life care."
This is all somehow wrong for a person who grew up in "the Greatest Country in the World." There are twenty countries that I could have been born in where my wife and I would be much better off than we are now, with me being a mere American. In case you haven't noticed, America just uses people up and throws them away. Anybody who still believes in the American Dream is a sucker and a Rube.
Sunday, April 7, 2019
There's so much going on here. This is NYC immediately pre-crack, almost ten years into the financial breakdown. Cultural experiences, and great food, were still priced withing the reach of a working man. All of these black and PR break-dancers were working men and women. So were the black and PR geniuses who made the first beats. This was the birth of Hip-Hop, brought to us here through the miracle of cultural appropriation by Malcolm McLaren.
I can tell you, it was easy to simultaneously hate Malcolm as a glom and a hanger-on and love him for spreading the knowledge of such beats and music. I never liked Malcolm, but I loved this LP, and I do to this day. There's nothing to forgive him for. He found London punk, and Bronx Hip-Hop, fair and square, and a guy's got to make a living.
Friday, April 5, 2019
Wednesday, April 3, 2019
George, Kellyanne, and I fall into very different segments of the political spectrum, but as regular readers will recall, I have never let that interfere with my respect for the way that Kellyanne does her job. I have often said that among the ridiculous clown-car of ignoramuses that surround the president, she is the shining star. Now that I look at that sentence, it screams of damning with feint praise, so let me be more clear: Kellyanne Conway has an impossible job to do, and yet she consistently does it spectacularly well and manages to make it look easy. How would you like to try a week or two of being responsible for making President Comboverus Superbus's idiotic comments sound presidential and covering up his blatant, obvious lies? I didn't think so. The woman is a super-hero. Or villain, I suppose.
I am less familiar with the work-product of her husband George, although I am enjoying the attention that he is drawing to the president's foolishness.
Most importantly, before I get to the frivolous portion of today's entertainment, let me say that I have only love in my heart for the Conway family. George and Kellyanne have been married for twenty years or so, and they have four children. I sincerely wish all six of them the best of luck, good health, and happiness, in perpetuity. I find the now frequent speculation about the conflict that has supposedly arisen between them concerning Kellyanne's boss to be not only disagreeable, but also stupid and churlish.
In a perfect world, I would love to read the following press release from Ms. Conway:
“Let me just say that any rumors about tension between my husband and me about our respective opinions about President Trump lack foundation of any kind and are, in fact, silly. Politics is politics; work is work; and family is family. Neither George nor I have any trouble keeping those things separate in our heads.
“For example, this past weekend, we sent the children to visit George's family in (?), and we spent thirty-six hours alone together in our apartment in Washington, having told people that we were at our home in New Jersey. We turned off our phones, only checking in occasionally to make sure that World War III had not broken out in the meantime. We let our computers get a well deserved rest. We spent all of that time having sex in every way that the human body allows, in all three ways, twice, with a couple of bonus rounds, taking occasional breaks for snacks and short naps.
“The children returned home on Sunday afternoon, and we all had a great time catching up. Dinner was a pizza party, and we then watched movies together. The boys wanted to watch Star Wars movies, so we settled on Rogue One and the Last Jedi, because they have strong female leads, which the girls really enjoy.
“Just for the record, for all of you busy-bodies out there, our family is fine. George is entitled to his opinions, and I would never interfere with his rights in that area. I am making a good living, and having a great time, by the way, and George is only happy for me. The children are doing great. George and I get plenty of drama at work, believe me. When we get home, we just chill-ax and decompress. So fucking get over it, already. You should turn your attention to the Huckabee-Sanders. I hear that they are at each other's necks constantly.”
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Sam Cooke was one of the great producers turning out fabulous records by numerous artists in the early- to mid-1960s. Here's a great example.
This is a great effort by the Sims Twins, and the production is excellent. This is a clinic in the art of the hook right here. The hooks just keep on coming. (Listen to the piano after every phrase of the singing. That's Hook-Mania right there.)
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Read along with the three song links immediately preceding this comment.
I get into arguments on a regular basis for making cracks like this, but it is my opinion, both firm and advised, that the Beatles were merely a very good band. Any attribution to them of God-like characteristics is completely uncalled for. Even calling them “great” is dubious, unless it's in the context of calling them one of the great bands of the English Invasion, along with the Kinks, the Hollies, the Rolling Stones, and quite a few others. The Beatles happened to be very good at many of the aspects of their craft. They were very successful. Isn't that praise enough? People get carried away.
The hyperbolic fans really go off the deep end when discussing the Beatles as songwriters. This is particularly true when the subject is Lennon-McCartney songs. Let's say, as songwriters and as innovators. I would always say, even on my crankiest day, that they were very talented in those areas, but there was nothing unique about their efforts. Most of the songs fall into a “moon, spoon, June” kind of Tin Pan Alley slash Brill Building pattern. As far as innovations go, they were fortunate to work with a truly innovative producer, George Martin, who generously allowed them to take most of the credit.
My point today, with the help of Chet Baker, Jimmy Scott, and Johnny Hartman, is to highlight the fact that the world was already full of great songs and great, innovative songwriters long before the Beatles put on leather jackets. I daresay that nothing that the Beatles contributed to the several minute long song end of the music pool could be said to out perform the work of the individuals who wrote the music and lyrics to these three songs, among many, many others.
Oh! Someone will doubtless say, but the Beatles were a rock band! The argument would be that since they were just an ungelernte 1960s rock band, how can you compare them to the great professionals of the jazz-beau past? That's an argument for another day, perhaps, but don't expect the Beatles to do much better when compared only to their contemporaries. Including, inter alia, Laura Nyro; Bob Dylan; Joni Mitchell; Burt Bacharach and Hal David; David Bowie; and numerous other fabulous talents.
Lush life, music and lyrics by Billy Strayhorn. Written "between 1933 and 1936," when Strayhorn was a teenager.
If you are looking for innovation in the song form, look no further. This song is written in D-flat major, with, let's say, lots of chords and modulations. The melody is nuts; it appears to have been born out of the sea fully formed on a seashell like Venus in that Botticelli painting. There are other songs for which you could make a vague case of similarity, but not many.
This version is favored by many fans of the jazz standards, but the song has been recorded by about fifty artists, from Nat King Cole to Lady GaGa (with Tony Bennett).
Music by Richard Rodgers; lyrics by Lorenz Hart.
This song first appeared in the 1939 musical, "Too Many Girls." (How could you go wrong with a show of that name!)
If there is anything in the Beatles catalog that approaches the level of this song, I don't know about it. This version by Jimmy Scott must be considered one of the best.
Music by Harry Warren; lyrics by Mack Gordon. This song first appeared in the 20th Century Fox musical (movie) "Iceland," staring Sonja Henie, in 1942.
The shining star here is the melody. Listen to it soar! This melody is an amazing, angelic thing. It creates not only musical magic, but also an interesting mood for the emotional content of the song. The melody is exuberant, it's wings are carried along by positive emotion. And yet, the singer is feigning sadness. It's so terrible! This is our last chance together! More like the aggressive last pass of a wolf than the true ennui of a soon to be lost love. "I'll be back, but you won't be here, oh well, let's go upstairs!" It's a wonderful song in many ways.
And if the Beatles ever packed one of their songs with a better melody, I must have missed it.
Friday, March 29, 2019
Thursday, March 28, 2019
Ordinarily, I do not recommend buying drum sets for small children. Sometimes, however, it is the right thing to do. Check out Miss Yoyoka's enthusiasm!
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
The above allegation was made in that famous Queen song, and has been the stated position of one group or another probably since the invention of language. In practice, it turns out never to be literally true. Back in Vietnam during the unpleasantness of the late 1960s and early 1970s, GIs could be heard to comment, “don’t mean nothing,” when something terrible happened. Well actually, your friend is dead, and it does mean something. So maybe acting like something doesn’t really matter is often a protective mechanism. “If it doesn’t matter, it can’t hurt me.” Stranger things have happened.
Often people are just blowing smoke when they tell you that something doesn’t matter. Like the time I broke the news to my father that I was getting divorced from my wife of over forty years. I explained why it was necessary. The reasons were perfectly clear to me. The woman had kicked me out, instructed me multiple times for several years to stay out, and she expected me to take care of myself on my own resources for the rest of my life. Without, that is, messy details like a property settlement. No, she’d be keeping all of the property, she’d just be losing me. “So I guess we’re getting divorced,” I told my dad. He surprised me by taking a deep breathe and saying, “life is like that sometimes. You can’t sweat the small stuff. And then you realize that it’s all small stuff.” I thanked him for his understanding. Prematurely, as it turned out.
In my case, my father changed his will within two weeks of hearing about the divorce being filed, leaving my share of the estate to my ex-wife. It had never been small stuff after all. It did matter to him.
Now we are treated to a daily blizzard of news items that beg to be described as, “amazing,” “unbelievable,” or “impossible.” People just let it all slide by. There is obviously some kind of cognitive fatigue in action, the mind just can’t hold all of these astonishing things, coming on each other’s heels so rapidly. The effect is to make it appear that nothing matters anymore.
Recall that it was only twenty years ago when it was a big deal that President Bill Clinton got a blow job or two from a consenting adult. From all indications, they were lousy blow jobs at that. The reaction? You’d think it was the end of the world or something. Now that it actually is the end of the world, every WTF moment seems to just glide by our collective heads without making any impression at all. Will we all wake up some day and realize that all of these things really had mattered? My hunch is “yes,” but only after the clampdown has completely taken control, like in some “Republic of Gilead” moment, a la the Handmaid’s Tale, the book I mean, I’ve never seen the video products. It will happen after the oceans have reclaimed the subways in lower Manhattan and the entire city of Miami, Florida.
Here’s a sample of today’s What the Fuck moments:
Mo Brooks: that would be Morris Jackson Brooks, Jr., a Republican member of the House of Representatives, for Alabama. He actually stood up in the Congress of the United States, in Washington D.C., on the Congressional Record, and quoted from the book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), by Adolf Hitler, yes, that Adolf Hitler, about how the Jews were the masters of the big lie, the greatest liars in history, until the Socialist Democrats came along, following in the footsteps of that Socialist Adolf Hitler, lying about poor innocent old baby President D.J.T. Mr. Brooks quoted at length from Mein Kampf, as though that were a totally normal thing to do. This was noted in at least one minor news site that I visited this morning, and does not seem to have made much of a splash. Should this matter? I believe so, but what do I know?
Michael Avenatti: Mr. Avenatti became part of the news landscape as the lawyer for some porn star that our afore mentioned president paid to keep her mouth shut about some pathetic sexual episode that they shared at some point. He was probably more concerned with concealing the pathos of it than the fact of its existence. He was running for president at the time, and he figured, in an uncharacteristic fit of common sense, that it would not reflect well on his judgment or his sexual habits. This thing happened soon after his then current wife gave birth to their son.
Mr. Avenatti was therefore involved with holding President what’s-his-name’s feet to the fire, therefore interfering with the workings of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Now, after a suitable cooling off period, the Executive Branch, in the persons of the United States Attorneys for Los Angeles and New York, are coming after Mr. Avenatti. The L.A. branch want to nail him for wire fraud and bank fraud, based on the testimony of a former client to the effect that Mr. Avenatti “diverted funds.” They claim to have him dead-to-rights for charges that add up to fifty years, which these days isn’t really that much. By the time charges are actually filed, they’ll have him for a couple of hundred years, you watch.
The New York branch alleges that he tried to extort money from the Nike Corporation, to the tune of $20 million. I don’t know the facts, but for all of you gentle readers who may not be well versed in the machinations of the law, let me gently tell you that part and parcel of the daily labor of a plaintiff’s attorney is threatening potential defendants with terrible things and then offering to spare them the financial devastation at considerable discounts. This all happens before any case is filed. I’m wondering if Mr. Avenatti just lined up a few plaintiffs and let Nike know that he was planning to file a case against them, based upon some vague information in the letter, but that he would be willing to recommend that his clients forget the entire thing for a certain amount of money. This is not extortion; it is business as usual in our legal system. We’ll see how this goes. For all I know, Avenatti is the greatest criminal master-mind since Willie Sutton. (“So Willie, why do you rob banks?” says the reporter. “Well,” says Willie, “that’s where the money is, ain’t it?”) Does this matter? You’d better believe it. Consider an America where the entire weight of the federal bureaucracy is brought to bear on any American citizens who have offended some snowflake elected official. Let’s see how it plays out, but I smell fish.
The Army funding the Wall: the news today included multiple stories about the Army diverting one billion dollars from its budget to wall building projects along our border with Mexico. So what, you say? Well they don’t have the power to do that. The Constitution gives the power to make such decisions to the Congress. This should have raised an immediate alarm in congress, and someone with standing should be petitioning the Supreme Court for an opinion. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m thinking that it’ll be another big, “meh.”
Sandy Hook and Parkland: In the last week, two of the student survivors of the Parkland school mass shooting committed suicide. Today it was reported that the father of one of the children killed in the earlier Sandy Hook school mass shooting has committed suicide. It appears that this is being treated like any other three minute “thoughts and prayers” moment.
I hate to break it to you, but this is another red-flag. The Parkland kids have been roughly handled on social media since the event for having the nerve to speak out about their situation and to demand that something, or some things, be done to avoid the constant parade of mass shootings that plague us. They were demanding that people take the problem seriously. They were pointing out that things like that matter.
That Sandy Hook dad had it even worse than the Parkland kids! Many of the geniuses on social media suffered from the mass-delusion that the Sandy Hook killings had never actually happened. They were seized with the burning desire to expose this terrible false-flag attack. This is the world that we live in now! You couldn’t make up shit like this. This rich vein of paranoid stupidity has given us a steady stream of such delusions, from Pizzagate to Q-anon. He had been bombarded for over a year by strangers calling him a liar and claiming, amidst peals of laughter, that his daughter was actually alive somewhere. Try to imagine that for a moment. Finally, the poor man just broke, unable to take one more day.
May the three of them rest in peace. And may the Twitter geniuses who attacked and tormented them from the anonymity of their on-line avatars rot in hell.
Oh, there’s so much more. Day after day, it all just piles up. Attorney General of the United States, Bill Barr, handpicked by the con-man president as a hack who can be trusted to protect any sitting president who is nice to him, receives a special prosecutor’s report and hides it, delivering to congress instead a summary of his own invention. Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, raves about the end times and how God or maybe Jesus sent the con-man president to save the Jews. The mid-west is under water and I haven’t seen any indications of federal assistance being provided. Where’s FEMA? The farmers, already reeling from the con-man president’s ill-advised trade war with China, are on their last legs. Russian bots are already crowding our Facebook feeds with horrible hit-memes about those socialists/terrorists Beto and Bernie, and Pocahontas, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, along with cartoonish propaganda praising the con-man president. A surprising number of people seem to think that all of these things are proof that everything is going perfectly well, and a really disturbing number of people are quietly going on with their lives as though nothing was wrong. As though none of this mattered.
Well it does matter. And it cannot be avoided or ignored.
Now if you will excuse me, I must return to my bathroom mirror and continue practicing how to make a nice little smile, and say in a soft, pleasant voice, “I love Big Brother!”
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Cornelius! The man is deep. Like Thomas Pynchon, he is kind enough to throw us a commercial bone from time to time.
Cornelius! Like Hieronymus Bosch, Don Van Vliet, or even Beck, his glance encompasses a different world from the one that we see. We are better people for their illuminations.
Monday, March 25, 2019
Let's get that out of the way up front. I am not trans-phobic in any way that I can imagine defining the word. I've known trannies in both directions, and I'm fine with it. Also note that I am not now, nor have I ever been, anti-homosexual in any way. To the best of my recollection, and my recollection is more reliable than most people's, there has never been a time when I bore any ill will to any homosexuals, men or women, in general or in particular. Live and let live; let people be themselves. I think it goes without saying that the state trying to forbid married couples from performing certain acts in the privacy of their own homes is a complete non-starter. I think that's true for any two or more consenting adults who don't make a spectacle of themselves. Keep it quiet, and keep it to yourselves. It's none of my business. Do I hear a “but” coming?
But, I do not support rights for pedophiles, beyond the right to be imprisoned with the general population. Don't ask me to make any close calls in this area, like a seventeen year old high school boy with a fifteen year old girlfriend in a state where the age of consent is sixteen. But in general, pedophiles are outside of any reasonable society's norms of behavior. There are limits.
My feelings about barnyard sex are somewhat ambiguous. Aren't animals still considered property? Did that change while I wasn't paying attention? Have dogs been awarded privacy rights? Even so, there would still be the farm animals, they are certainly property. Sheep, horses. So I guess the farm animals are fair game, no? If they are property, well, I can't imaging a guy getting arrested for fucking his couch. And this is one area where almost all of the enthusiasts are men. Pitchers and catchers, too! That aspect of it gets pretty amazing. I remember reading a few years ago about a guy in the Pacific Northwest who “died after having sex with a horse.” I assumed that he was slipping it to a mare and she kicked him to death, or maybe he had a heart attack or something. But, no. The article was a bit vague, so you didn't really figure it out until you got to the part where it was explained that the guy bled to death from a perforated colon. I'm going to leave this whole line of inquiry to the legal experts.
Here is my guilty admission for today: I do think that American society has gotten completely carried away with categorizing people, mostly for the purpose of judging them. Harshly, in most cases.
Thinking about this the other day, I took pen in hand and set forth a list of the potential categories for non-standard sexual preferences. I was over twenty before I gave up. The variety is amazing, and everything that I was considering should be within a persons rights to define themselves.
Take gay men, for instance. Just your average man who seeks tenderness and affection (read: sex) from other men. There are at least a dozen categories right there.
There are gay men whose appearance and mannerisms are completely, perfectly male. It's not a disguise; that's just the way they are. No gaydar could make one certain about them, and they would casually be assumed to be straight. Then at the other end of that spectrum there are guys who display wild exaggerations of feminine mannerisms that are so obvious that you can spot them two blocks away. Then consider that there are guys at every click along this spectrum. Slightly Nelly; very Nancy; quietly swish; swish only when drinking; every possibility.
Then consider that gay men, like all humans, pick and choose from the available sexual behaviors that the human body makes possible. Many gay men only engage in oral activities. Among the inserts crowd, there are guys who are exclusively pitchers and others who only catch. A lot of guys are game for anything, and I worked with one guy who seemed to be actively hungry for everything, like he had a checklist and needed to fill in all of the boxes. Devices were involved. There is a tremendous diversity of behavior here, and this is only the gay men! And we haven't even begun to discuss cross-dressing!
As a concession to the brevity of life, I will refrain from duplicating the above analysis as it regards lesbians.
I think that it's important to admit that once we cross the border into trannie territory, all of the decisions become more critical, and perhaps even more private because doctors have become involved. Oh, but that's a two-edged sword, isn't it? The doctor-patient privilege protects private information, but the fact of the relationship itself is very visible! That must be disagreeable for shy participants.
This is the area where the rest of us, the “just folks,” can get a bit confused. Partly because here, too, there is a broad spectrum required to display people's desires and needs, psychological and physical, and that entire spectrum is more obscure to the rest of us. My own emotions regarding people who are simply gay are clear and straightforward: go for it! I enjoy your company, and I appreciate your grace and charm. Regarding the trans- crowd, I cannot help but experience a vague feeling of compassion that cannot exactly resolve itself into clarity. I wish them well, and I wish them success in their journey, but I cannot quite come to grips with my emotions, because I'm never quite sure what “success” they are shooting for, or what is the nature of the journey that they are on.
Doctors are necessary for all of it, though, and that is, I think, the important dividing line. Many people are not happy somehow with their gender identity, not happy in a way that is so deep that it cannot be satisfied just by modifying their behavior in some way. Some of them want hormone treatments, but no surgery. Some are satisfied with cross dressing and a bit of hormone therapy. Some men just want to smooth out their skin, raise their voices a little, and grow their hair. They may wish to look better in their dresses, but it's possible that they only want that body. Many women are content to dress in men's clothing that minimizes their female sexual characteristics, adding a men's haircut. Other men and women wish to go as far as medical science can take them into the realm of becoming the other sex, physical characteristics and all. What they may want in the way of tenderness and comfort is beyond my meager talents to discern. Unless it's obvious, of course, but often it is not.
My plea here is to be understood as a person whose heart is in the right place regarding our trans brothers and sisters, even if my head is a bit late sometimes in catching up. To anyone engaged in that struggle, I say be strong and the best of luck to you. Don't pay too much attention to the stupid shit that the rest of us say. What do we know anyway?
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Joe Biden is running for president, again. Joe has been around almost forever by now, and he has run for president a couple of times already. Something always gets in the way, something about Joe's own mannerisms and style. Joe is uncritically liked by most people. They love that kind of handsome, kind of goofy, Corvette-polishing hipster grandpa thing. It's a double-edged sword, though. The same goofy, devil-may-care, hair-plugs and capped-teeth thing works for him and against him. He changes lanes without looking, going from chummy joking around to super-serious variations on “get off my lawn.” So just Joe being Joe has always been kind of problematic. As it turns out, that's only the beginning.
Joe's got a lot of legislative history, and it's impossible to keep those old passions and votes out of sight. Once word gets around, Joe should disappear once again from the scene. That is, unless, and this is completely possible, nothing at all really matters anymore except for that capped-tooth grin, and still attractive jaw line, and the hair plugs.
Here is some idea of the 'splaining that Joe needs to get started on:
Joe opposed school busing for purposes of racial distribution. In 1975, he introduced legislation that would forbid the Department of Health and Human Services from using Federal funds to bus students to achieve race-balancing goals.
From the mid-1970s to the late 1980s, Joe was against abortion rights before he was for them.
Joe had watched carefully while Nixon profited politically from his “law and order” stance. Law and order was code for we'll put those uppity blacks who are burning our cities either in prison or back in their ghettos. (With a nod to those uppity hippie war protesters too.) Joe figured that tough-on-crime (i.e., blacks and hippies) was the way to go, and he never looked back.
The Reagan Years
Joe was very busy during the Reagan years, working his bi-partisan magic for evil purposes. His Republican partner was no less than Strom Thurmond, who is generally not remembered fondly.
In 1984, the two of them sponsored and helped to pass the Comprehensive Crime Control Act. This law could be described as the beginning of mass incarceration with super-long sentences for mostly black defendants. The law eliminated the entire concept of parole for all Federal convictions, and it severely cut back on the possibility of reducing sentences for good behavior.
In 1986, the same dynamic duo sponsored and passed the Anti Drug Abuse Act, which set extreme mandatory sentencing guidelines for drug offenses. This law was modeled on the ferocious "law and order" era drug laws that had impressed the voters back in the 1970s, such as the Rockefeller drug laws in New York. I remember that example very well. All of a sudden you didn't get 90 days at Riker's Island for getting caught with one joint, you got seven years in Attica. Joe's 1986 law introduced the two-track approach for offenses involving crack cocaine, chiefly associated with black defendants, and powder cocaine, chiefly associated with white defendants. The mandatory sentences started with five years for possession of any old tiny rock of crack. This obviously racist idea resulted in longer-then-life sentences for a lot of black folk, many of whom are still in prison. Many of whom, in fact, are carrying so many consecutive years that they won't get out until the 22nd Century.
Also around this time Joe Biden helped to introduce the concept of civil forfeiture to American jurisprudence. The laws were written to appear only to seek to seize assets of drug dealers that had been purchased with the proceeds of drug sales. They were so generously written, however, that the forfeiture applied to almost any property of almost anybody whom law officers “suspected” of some kind of crime. In effect, if you had something that the local or federal police wanted, like cash or a nice car, they "suspected" you of being a drug dealer and seized the cash, or the car, or the boat, or whatever. Amazingly, these laws are still in effect today. No charges need to be filed; no convictions are required. The citizen from whom the property is stolen, I mean seized, is, of course, free to hire a lawyer and sue the government to get the property back. That one always gives me the chills. I remember going to Bankruptcy court and having my client's case called. "Good morning, your honor," I'd say, "Fred Ceely appearing for the debtor." The other lawyer, in a suit that cost more than my car, would say, "good morning, your honor. Mason Dixon Troubridge the third appearing for the United States." Thanks, Joe! Good old Joe, friend of the little guy!
The George H.W. Bush Years
Joe Biden worked hard during the tenure of old George Herbert Walker Bush to expand the number of death-penalty eligible crimes to fifty-one. Joe has always been one to be tough on crime.
H.W. Bush appointed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, and good old Democrat Joe directed the hearings. He allowed sustained anti-Anita Hill questions, and he failed to call two witnesses who could corroborate Hill's testimony and expose Thomas' lies under oath. (Fifteen years later, Joe would perform a similar function in the confirmation of Sam Alito.)
The Bill Clinton Years
Bill Clinton was happy to play along with most of the conservative agenda, whether it was being tough on crime, putting a stop to all of that welfare cheating, or limiting the availability of bankruptcy protection.
In 1994, Joe Biden was instrumental in passing the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which added fuel to the fire of mass black incarceration.
In 1999, Joe helped to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act through the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which directly facilitated the catastrophic financial melt-down of 2008. It turns out that there was a reason for all of that federal regulation of banks. We still haven't learned that lesson.
Throughout the presidency of Bill Clinton, Joe strongly supported the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe, raising unnecessary tensions in the area that continue to generate negative repercussions to this day.
The Obama Years
In 2008, President Obama put Joe in charge of Iraq policy, because of his supposedly extensive experience in foreign policy. Our guy on the scene was Ambassador Zalman Khalilzad, who hand picked Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, to be prime minister. Joe backed the play. This led to a total civil war between the majority Sunnis and the Shiite minority. Vast numbers of Iraqis were killed in the mess, and during Maliki's eight years in power something like $500 billion dollars in corruption money was skimmed by the Shiite government. Great job, Joe!
Obama also put Joe in charge of American policy in Central America. Guatemala, Honduras, you know, Central America. After consulting with the corrupt ruling families in the area, they and Joe agreed on something called, “The Alliance for Prosperity.” If you are already imagining an alliance for the enhanced prosperity of the corrupt ruling class, coupled with a tough-as-nails program to suppress societal pressure from the bereft poor, you're right on the money. Professor Dana Frank of the University of California at Santa Cruz said that the Alliance “supported the very economic sectors that are actively destroying . . . the economy and the environment.”
Joe and Bankruptcy
Joe has always been very pro-bank. He backed laws in 1978 and 1984 that restricted or eliminated debtors ability to discharge unsecured debts in bankruptcy. Student loans were a main target of these bills. He was instrumental in the passage in 2005 of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, which was, of course, designed specifically to deny Chapter 7 protection to citizen debtors, at the request of the banks, and to protect the rights of banks to collect anything that resembled a debt. Even Bill Clinton, himself quite the friend of banks at the expense of citizen debtors, had refused to sign a similar bill after Elizabeth Warren had explained it to him and Hillary.
Is Joe Biden Corrupt?
I'm not saying that he is, but I've heard talk.
Joe has a few charities, and some investigative reporters are very interested in the way that the funds collected are used. The charities seem mostly to pay salaries for their employees.
During the fiscal year, 2016-2017, The Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children applied 45% of funds collected to executive salaries.
Even more glaringly, during that same year, the Biden Cancer Initiative used a full 75% of its funds raised to pay salaries, including a whopping $500,000 to its president, Greg Simon. (Mr. Simon is a former executive director of Biden's Cancer Moonshot Task Force.)
I guess that it's a good bet that real journalists will be bringing up all of these things pretty soon, and then if there are some debates involved the other candidates might mention them too. Or not, because everybody loves Joe Biden. They might be afraid to bring up Joe's negatives, because you know that Joe will just make that serious face, put on his best serious voice, and give them a big “how dare you!” kind of a non-defense. Then he'll change his mask to that beaming, charismatic smile, and he'll make a joke to the crowd, who will love it, as usual, and forget whatever came before.
Joe has quite the knack for politics. He may still have a future in the politics business.