Sunday, September 29, 2019
Chris Kenner, the mark of quality!
This is a first hearing for me. "We're goin' to kick down windows, knock down doors, bake a cake and light Mary Joes!" What could he be talking about?
The piano solo beginning at 1:20 is really remarkable. The fellow goes out on a limb and stays there for a while. Chris Kenner always delivers.
Monday, September 23, 2019
I’ve said it before, and I’m not afraid to say it again. I was strangely at ease with the idea of the end of the world as a youngster. The end under which we lived in constant danger was Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD!). It was very real, since there were several tens of thousands of nukes locked (in launch positions) and loaded (ready to fire at a moment’s notice) at any given time. On missiles; carried on planes; loaded on submarines. Multiple warheads! All at the mercy of those ancient Cobol punch-card computers, in control panels with vacuum tubes in them, and at the mercy of human beings, whom, let’s face it, tend to be accident prone. A nuclear exchange of that magnitude would probably scrape the planet clean of almost all life. Probably even the roaches and the ants, gone. Pigeons? Definitely gone. Rats? Forget it, gone. Fish? Maybe something left at extreme depths, but even that’s a maybe.
As catastrophes go, total nuclear destruction at that level would have been the most egalitarian catastrophe in the history of the earth. The fatality rate would be one hundred percent of ninety-plus percent of the species on the earth. Indulgences would not be sold! There would be no paying someone to take your place among the dead! Prayers would not be answered! I still don’t think that it was a strange thing for me to be drawn to. We all must die sometime, and the personal death of one individual is such a lonely, banal thing. I was completely okay with dying along with every one of my fellow human beings, over the course of a couple of days. There’s not a drop of, “why me, Lord?” in that. We’ll all go together when we go. Wouldn’t that be nice?
I’m also on record as being much more threatened by the slow-motion death of most living things that we are now in the beginning stages of. I would much prefer the deaths of 100% of humankind almost instantly to the deaths of only 50% of us over the course of one hundred years.
Yes, I am talking about climate change, so if any of you dear readers are Breitbart fans hoping for a “Liberal policies will cause the end of the world!” fix, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
We are already witnessing massive die-offs in the animal kingdom, whether land-based, marine, or airborne. We are already seeing delighted, enthusiastic responses from the invisible kingdom of the bacteria and the viruses. We are already seeing formerly fertile swaths of land drying out and sending millions of the former farmer-inhabitants running for more food-secure locations. We are at the same time watching hitherto unheard-of amounts of rain washing out farms in other countries, including our own, and leaving devastating floods in their wake.
(Interesting language, English. Wake, as in from a boat that has recently passed this way, or wake, as in a memorial for the dead, or wake, as in wake up! Which I wish our slow-witted statesmen would do, wake up and smell the coffee. This problem is real.)
People are missing the message here. They hear about temperatures going up by what seems like a measly few degrees, and all they can do is laugh and say, “big deal!” They’re not scientists, hell, they’re not even people who read anything beyond photo captions on the phony hit pieces that are posted to Facebook by Russian bots. They have no idea that those few degrees are almost always given in Celsius, so roughly double it for Fahrenheit, nor do they have any idea of what that inconsequential seeming difference can due in terms of real-world effects. It doesn’t mean that your summer days will top out at 98 degrees instead of 95, no, not at all. Those are averages! Your summer day may go up from 95 degrees to well over 100. There may be more days over 100 in a row than ever before. Your winter temperatures will go down accordingly. What had bottomed out around 20 degrees Fahrenheit may now go down below zero. The average of these extremes will be going up by a “few” degrees. The entire life-cycle of the flora and fauna of your city or your state will change. You will have bugs that you’ve never seen before that used to stop at Georgia. You may see tree die-offs in your forested areas due to invasive pests, or simply from the lower overnight temperatures in the winter. And that’s only the beginning. The real fun starts when young children or old people in your family start to die from newly ascendant diseases. (Don’t forget! While all of this is going on, all of our pharmaceutical companies are concentrating on pills for male erections or everyone’s depression/ anxiety. Those are the long-term profit drugs, after all. Who needs antibiotics? And forget cancer drugs. We’ve got plenty of those to sell you already. They don’t work, but while you’re “fighting cancer,” the drug companies and the medical providers make a fortune.)
Oh, it will be getting lively before too long. Food items disappearing, and prices for many items sailing up into the stratosphere. Hunger-driven migrations will make the mostly war-driven migrations that we see today look mild. Climate change is already driving people to leave Africa and try desperately to get into Europe. Take a look at the fire-maps and the desertification-maps of central Africa and you’ll see why. This is all happening already. And this is only the beginning.
One could be forgiven to wonder why no one in authority seems to care about this. No one in America, anyway. The ruling class in a few countries believe their scientists to the extent that they will make small concessions to alleviate the problem and give it lip-service in international forums. In America, we have Democrats, who provide some similar lip-service but at least admit that man-made climate change is actually happening, and Republicans, who deny the whole thing, claim to believe that there is great disagreement among the scientists, and insanely push laws that will definitely accelerate the degradation of our biosphere. Right now, the United States is firmly in the “part of the problem” group of nations.
It was somewhat heartening to see a lot of mostly young people demonstrating openly last week, demanding that their elected officials wake the fuck up and start to do something to help us remain alive. I’m guessing that this outpouring of youthful energy will generate some additional lip-service from government officials, a few cries of “here-here!!!” from the scientific community, and maybe even the formation of a committee or two.
The bad news is that the basic problems militating against anything really being done are related to the nature of money. Money wins most arguments these days.
First, there is the fact that budget items that MUST be paid for this year always take precedence over budget items that SHOULD be paid for this year. In America, the MUST list even included every penny of the huge, bloated, useless military budget. Then there’s what’s left of some social programs and loads of other things. I predict that protecting Saudi Arabia from Iran will take precedence over the contingent existential threat to the island nation of Tuvalu that is just one likely effect of climate change.
Second, there is the fact that our super-rich citizens, and even our merely very rich citizens, and even our only slightly rich elected officials, obviously believe that although climate change is real, and many people will be “inconvenienced,” they will ride it out just fine! They are not threatened by higher food prices, or the need for more expensive medical care. They stupidly fail to take the threat seriously, thinking that their money will protect them.
Third, and for America most important, is the fact that many of our largest, richest corporations depend on the use and sale of things that by their very nature exacerbate the climate change problem. Fossil fuels, etc. Corporations, as I now believe, have no real existence of their own, being only a false-front for those rich people that I mentioned in item number two. Those people want their money streams to continue to flow, and they believe themselves immune to the problems that they are causing. They ensure that our greedy elected officials will maintain the status quo by paying them off with a small fraction of the money that the current system allows them to keep. (The politicians are a bunch of saps, another favorite topic of mine.)
My expectations for solutions to all of these interrelated problems are low. My guess is: Slow Motion End of the World, here we come! Maybe some precipitous degradation of our food supply, or a sudden world-wide health crisis, or some other unambiguous sign from God, will get our response mechanisms into gear. I’ll let the optimists answer that “maybe.” I have depressed you enough already.
This is a nice demo for a great song by Percy. The full version is on a CD of mine of Percy's Specialty Records output.
I love Percy, both as a songwriter and as a performer. You hear it said so often today that "everything is on YouTube now," but it's not true. This is the only version of this song on YouTube, unless some young Dark YouTube hackmeister could find one that I missed. It's a shame. Because there sure is a lot of crap on YouTube.
This demo is fun, though. It's historically significant!
Sunday, September 15, 2019
Another successful take off and landing. I don't take them for granted anymore. As routine as air travel has become all over this world of ours, it's best to be grateful whenever one experiences the absence of bad fortune. Touchdown! Thanks for that.
Statistically, as they say, flying is safer than driving around a big city, safer, even, than crossing the damn street, but there's always the odd chance that we could catch a pair of egrets, one in each engine, right at some highly sensitive moment soon after wheels-up. These modern jet engines just spit out small birds, but an egret is pretty substantial, bigger than a duck, although probably smaller than a goose. I see egrets around every airport that I routinely fly in and out of. They hang around the rice fields, and airports here are usually surrounded by rice fields. Those are nice and flat, and not the worst places to make an emergency landing. You'd be amazed at the quantity and the variety of the aquatic life that call a rice field home. That's what attracts the egrets: lunch. I see egrets in the air and on the ground, every time. The point is, shit happens, and sometimes it happens to you. So be grateful when it doesn't.
I've done a lot of flying in my life, so I'm accustomed to the excitement of it. I know, those middle six or eight hours of a long flight can get a little dull, but anytime you take a moment to think about where you are, much less consider the physics that are involved, it gets exciting all over again. Almost nothing ever goes wrong, however, during that dull middle section of the flight. All of the terrible things happen at take off or landing. I've done a couple of hundred take offs and landings. That's not enough to make me think that I'm pushing my luck. I'll probably be fine.
The champion fliers in my family are my father and one of my cousins. Those guys spent their entire careers up in the air. Several decades each, every week, week in, week out. In fact, before he retired, I called my cousin “Mr. Up in the Air,” after that nice George Clooney movie. On this recent flight I ball-parked the number of take offs and landings for each of them, and the total number of air-miles. They come out in something like a tie, or maybe my father was half-a-million miles ahead. In round numbers, each of them had taken off and landed about five thousand times, for a total of about five million air-miles. Those are conservative estimates.
Not a lot of close calls to report. Neither one of them. Or maybe they just weren't noticing anymore. A couple of funny stories, but no near death experiences. I had a close call myself, but it didn't make too much of an impression on me at the time. I was only ten-years-old, and I only knew that something was happening because all of the adults on the plane seemed very nervous. One lady, who had been drinking, kept smiling at me and saying, “now don't you worry! Don't worry about a thing!” I can clearly remember her wide eyes and heavily made up face, and the Highball on her breath. I just smiled back and said okay. That was on a Douglas DC-6, a very nice plane with four Pratt and Whitney R-2800 Double Wasps pulling it along. Great engine, used ten years earlier to power the Grumman F6F Hellcat, the Vought F4U Corsair, and the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, among others. Great engine, unless you let some new kid gap all seventy-two spark plugs right before take off and he fucks it all up. Eighteen cylinders times four engines, that's a lot of fucked up spark plugs. The plane was vibrating like an out of balance washing machine. They turned it around after a half-hour or so and landed it back in Tampa. I'm sure that somebody got yelled at.
It's a fact of life. We should be thankful if we fly. Flying on a regular basis is a sure sign that one is relatively prosperous. Any job that sends you flying places is likely to be a pretty good job. I fly for my job, although not with the frequency, or over the distances, that my father and my cousin experienced. I'm grateful for my job, and I'm grateful for my relative prosperity. Let the record show, your honor, that in spite of my tendency to complain, I have appreciated my good fortune to the greatest extent that my capacities allow.
"You didn't bring nothing with you, and you can't take nothing away . . ."
Johnny makes a good point. Perhaps we should give today the attention that it deserves.
Because, ". . . tomorrow might be [our] day."
Thursday, September 12, 2019
(Spoiler Alert! This post is actually about the book that I just put up on Amazon.)
It’s a good thing that there are so many reasons not to write, because the world is chock full of unread books already. You can go ahead and write another one if you care to, please feel free! No one is likely to notice anyway, and the work of writing a book is torture. If you think it will make you feel better, however, go ahead and write a book. If you find the act of writing relaxing, or amusing, go ahead, write to your heart’s content. At least writing is a safe, quiet way for you to channel that persistent urge to harm yourself.
Or, don’t. Don’t write a book. No one will notice that either. People by the millions don’t write books on a daily basis.
Some people feel compelled to write. They feel like they are so full of wonderful stories that they must write them down for others to enjoy. They are afraid that they will burst if they keep all of that great writing bottled up inside. Others feel a strong impulse to write as a way of assuaging the morbid fear of death that most of us feel, more or less. We feel it, whether we acknowledge it or not, because we know it’s there waiting for us. It’s like that man standing behind us on the subway who may or may not be reading the newspaper that he’s holding, folded so compactly, and carefully. Probably displaying today's obituaries. How did he get on the subway carrying that scythe, anyway?
Then there are those people who are so diffident that they can hardly leave the house, much less hold down a job. Such delicate flowers often get the idea that writing may be their best shot at making a living. You can do it alone, locked in a room, it’s perfect. You can write sad stories about lonely people, because after all, they do say, “write what you know about,” or you can describe the fascinating adventures of cowboys. It’s up to you! You’re the writer; you’re the boss! Writing turns out to be an awful way to try to make money. That much should be obvious to anyone, without needing to try it out just to make sure. The only deader end than writing is fine-art painting, mostly because the overhead is much higher. All of those art supplies are expensive.
I have always had a feeling of familiarity with the printed page. I remember pouring over printed pages at a very early age, long before school. Long before my sister was born, which happened when I was four. Long before I could read. I had seen the adults spending what seemed like a long time quietly staring at these pages, so I thought that I’d try staring at them. It was like looking into my future. All of the adults seemed to be able to discern patterns on these pages, they must be doing something. I was a confident sort, so I naturally assumed that I would soon be able to do what they were doing. I set out to learn to do it, and in fairly short order I had it figured out. These were words, just like the spoken words but these were made up of symbols. The pages delivered a variety of things, like entertainment, often with photos or comics attached, or information, everything from stories about pirates to the listing of programs that would appear on the television. It was all very wonderful. I thought so then and I still believe it. I’m a reader.
How about writing?
I don’t remember giving it a thought until I was thirteen, probably a thirteen-year-old high school freshman. Underage to purchase adult magazines, I became adept at quietly smuggling them out of the many candy stores in town. The magazines were quite a challenge. The ones that I was most after were on the top row, so it was hard to disguise the required grab as some other motion. You had to time it just right, unobtrusively waiting until the shop owner was beginning some action that would take his attention in another direction for the required time. You couldn’t be staring at him either, you had to be a regular spy about it. The move was to reach for the middle rack, pick up a magazine, like a car magazine or something, and smoothly continue the motion upwards and fit a good “men’s magazine” behind the car mag. Then simply hold them both with great nonchalance and start leafing through the car magazine. When a good opportunity presented itself, you reached up with the car mag in your left hand and replaced it on the shelf, while with your right hand you were placing the men’s magazine under your shirt and tucking it into your pants. I was a natural. I never got caught.
Much easier to lift were paperback books. All of the angles were better. You could place yourself with the rack between you and the owner; the product was easier to handle and stash away. They were no challenge at all. I took books that I liked, like Dr. Fu Manchu books. I took and read “Junkie,” by William Burroughs, which opened my eyes about a few things, I can tell you. And I helped myself to any pornographic novels on the rack, although they were so awful that I stopped taking them unless they contained nude drawings by Frank Frazetta. I wish that I still had a couple of those, because I’m sure they go for good money over on the e-bay.
Reading the text of one in my room, I realized that someone had been paid to write it. “Paid too much,” was my first thought. I allowed myself the comforting thought that if I was ever really hard up for money as an adult, I could write these things. I’ve never been ambitious, so I did not immediately assume that I could write more sophisticated subject matter.
Never been ambitious! That’s putting it mildly. My major ambition has always been to be left alone. I grew up in a jungle, surrounded by fangs and claws. Left to my own devices, I would prefer to do nothing, because doing anything at all opens the door to criticism, censorship, mockery, humiliation, or worse. Life, regrettably, requires us to do things almost constantly, so doing nothing is almost never an option. Now, having achieved old age, I find that it is easier for me to expose myself to the dangers of the public gaze. Three decades of public speaking and writing for the court and for my classes have toughened me up a bit. And who cares at this stage of the game? How terrible could the results be? Whatever happens, it won’t last too long. And nothing at all matters anyway. Fuck it, release your words into the stream of commerce. One of the rules of luck is putting yourself in the places where luck may run into you. You never know what will happen.
There is now a book on Amazon that I wrote and self-published. It is drawn from the pages of this blog. This first effort at self-publishing is called, “Political Rants: Lefty Vitriol in the age of Obama and Trump.” It’s got a very attractive cover that I got from a “pre-made covers” website. It consists of a selection of my highly opinionated blog posts about politics. There are two more books on the way. One is made up of posts on general topics; the other is posts on the subject of myself. I was looking back over the twelve-year history of Spin Easy Time one day and I found that I was quite pleased with a lot of it. I also noticed that the writing had gotten a lot smoother as time went on. I began to wonder if it might be readable as a book, or books, and I finally decided that it probably was.
I did this under my own name, in spite of the dangers. When one has reached my age, one has been sufficiently humiliated by life not to care much about humiliation anymore.
Having begun, the odds are good that I will continue. I may tackle other non-fiction material that has never appeared on the blog. There are subjects that I have touched on, but not explored in detail. I might even go nuts and finish a novel that I started about ten years ago. I got about half-way through a first draft and became discouraged by the unlikelihood of ever getting it published. That, of course, is no longer a problem. You just self-publish on Amazon and the others. After that it’s a matter of marketing. I’ve got the time, and I enjoy the process. If I break even, I’ll be happy. Happy to get some additional readers! Sure, I’m a validation whore, I admit it. That’s pretty mild stuff in the spectrum of vices, so I think my place in heaven is safe.
The above song by Rockpile is from their 1980 LP, “Seconds of Pleasure.” Dave Edmonds and Nick Lowe fronted the band. This song is by Nick Lowe. Dave and Nick remain alive as of this writing. Dave is seventy-five; Nick is a few months younger than me at seventy. I hope that they are both doing well, and I wish them the best of luck in what I call, “The Place of Bad Roads,” where many of us now live. If you really want to have a rocking good time, listen to Mr. Edmonds’ LP, “Girl Talk.” It’s a barn-burner.
Listen while you read my book!
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Just as a reference point, the Beach Boys' version.
Pet Sounds was released in May, 1966. This is the LP that scared Paul McCartney into raising his game. It reminded him that the Beatles weren't the only game in town.
Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Time ain't waiting for Dieter, that's for sure.
Time didn't wait for Eddie and Ernie either. They bounced around under that name in the 1960s, and tried to make a living at least into the 1970s, but they were so obscure that even the dates of their deaths are vague. It doesn't look like they made it much past age sixty. This cut was their biggest hit on the R&B charts. I doubt if they ever made much of a dent on Billboards list. There is no justice in music.
One thing that they got right, “all time will do is make you old.” Jeez-Louise, my friend Dieter is finding that out the hard way. I saw his Thai wife pushing him around our old condo in a wheelchair the other day. Poor guy is wasting away, too weak to be heard from more than a few inches away. He's German, and like most of his Landsmen he keeps his own counsel on most things. He's not giving up the details of his current ailments. Whatever it is, it's winning. Gone by Christmas is my guess.
It's a shame, too. He's a good guy, a late-in-life divorce victim like me. Thailand is a great brier patch for guys like us. We lived in the same condo building for seven years, and we always got along. Arms length, in the German style, but very friendly. My German sounds great, but it's weak. Dieter had the knack for speaking slowly and using a simplified vocabulary. He could understand me fine, my accent is first class. He was retired; he had been a Panzer Offizier in the modern German Army. He was a big, bear-like Faust of a man who could put you in the hospital by shaking your hand. (I developed a technique for self protection. When he stretched out his hand, I grabbed it hard by the fingers. He couldn't get a grip, and I was spared.)
Now he's getting his ass kicked by diabetes, or lupus, or something, God only knows, but it's one of those sudden collapse kind of things. Losing weight, losing teeth, got the bags attached, skin getting blotchy. So yeah, gone by Christmas.
But how about that Eddie and Ernie! Everything that I've heard by them is great, all the way great, no half-steppin. Music is a tough business. This life business gets pretty rough, too, unless you're lucky enough to die in a teenage car crash.
Too cynical? Up to you. If you believe that any of this has any meaning at all, go for it! Me, I doubt it. I'm with Anne Frank on this one: “everything that we've done comes to nothing.”
Sunday, September 8, 2019
On July 28th I posted one called The Awful Math of Aging in America. That should only be the worst part of it! The math is an awful cross to bear, but the social and political aspects of the problem are even more horrible to consider.
Pop Quiz! What year was it the first time you heard about any married couple getting divorced after thirty or forty years of marriage? That would be people around sixty-years-old getting divorced. Does anyone remember that happening at all in the 1960s? 1970s? How about the 1980s? Anyone? Maybe someone is thinking of an instance in the 1990s. By the 2000s, you did hear about it from time to time. I'm suggesting that it is a recent development. The trend is accelerating, around the world.
My own ex-wife kicked me out in 2007, and rendered her permanent judgment on the matter in 2008. Hit the road, Jack! Make your own long range plans. I was just short of sixty. That's a bit late to begin planning for retirement. “We” had a perfectly good retirement plan. “I” have not been so lucky.
It seems to me that there are fewer inhibitions on family and friends these days when it comes to rejecting people who had become accustomed to being close to them. Perhaps one was accustomed to sharing a budget, property ownership, retirement plans, parenting duties, and a bed with someone that they loved. Perhaps it was a valued friendship full of shared memories and quality conversation time. On thin or no pretext people feel very free now to just cut you loose. There have been many observations about alienation in our society for a long time now, but these breaks are more like rejections, or even betrayals.
The danger for me is always separating the personal from the societal. Abandonment has always been my White Whale, my Moby-Dick, and it is possible that I have only succeeded in my hunt for more of it. Sorry to bother you if that is the case.
So much for the social, how about the political?
Most of the countries in our preposterous new world are not cooperating with us in the least. We mere individual citizens, I mean, we without whom our countries could not have prospered at all. We who turned the screws and moved the freight and paid our taxes and taught the children and built the things and created the art and fixed whatever was broken. We get no consideration at all these days, unless there are huge bank accounts or some celebrity to recommend us. Most of the countries of the earth are busy reducing or eliminating any advantages that they once believed wise to provide us with. America is at the forefront of this tightwad revolution. The weasels who have discovered how to turn nothing at all into money have made sure that the only real money is the money in their own bank accounts. Those money hoarders are so numerous and so rich now that there is a huge surfeit of money chasing the limited quantity of goods and services. As a result, most of the goods and services have been priced out of the reach of most citizens. A large and growing majority of Americans are hard pressed to afford things that were very recently commonplace in the lives of ordinary people, things like ball games and concerts, vacations, and adequate medical care. It's enough to make you cry. It's enough to make me cry anyway.
The world around us is changing so fast that there is a lack of permanence to every aspect of life on earth, in whatever country you wish to examine. You may search around for a port in this storm, you may already have done so, and you may find a place that seems suitable and make the necessary investments to make new connections. Learning the language; working to offer some benefit to your new home; investing time and money; becoming a good neighbor; playing by the rules. The harsh reality is that you can trust cultures to offer sufficient continuity and honor your efforts, even value them, even appreciate you personally, but you cannot trust governments. Cultures operate on very long time continuums. Governments flash by like telephone poles viewed from a moving train.
A bit of free advice: never knowingly play cards with anyone who can do card tricks. Sometimes, however, you have no choice.
We are stuck in a card game with entities that are adept at bottom-dealing, deck-stacking, and card manipulation. They call the game, and deal the cards. They even make the rules. We, poor fools, must only try to play the cards that they deal to us. This is true around the world. All we can do about it is exercise great care in picking a table to play at. Beyond that it's all hoping that the worst doesn't happen.
Dear reader, I wish the best for you. May your family and friends remain constant in their affections. May you comfortably pay all of your bills and have enough left for a pizza once in a while. May you get all of the help that you need, and may you need as little help as possible. Me? I'm just the nervous type. I'll be fine! Probably.