Sunday, July 12, 2020

Old Blog Quotes


From Spin Easy Time, April 25, 2019: “The 2020 Democratic Presidential Sweepstakes”

Sometimes I read old posts, and I usually find things that I like. I'm inconsistent, but I can turn a good phrase occasionally. 

Re: Cory Booker

He is a slippery one when question time comes. I know the trick for grabbing an eel in a bucket, but no one seems to know the secret of getting a straight answer out of Cory Booker on a policy question.”

Re: Joe Biden

Joe's legislative history goes back to 1972, and it's mostly bad. Joe has more negatives than Weegee after a particularly busy night of crime-scene photography in Manhattan.”

Tell Mama ~ Etta James



Tina wasn't the only great singer in the 1960s. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

My Trump Surprise


You may remember that Trump and I grew up in Queens at the same point in history. I mentioned it recently. He grew up rich in southern Queens, Jamaica Estates, while I was growing up in a factory town in northern Queens. I knew Jamaica Estates very well. My family doctor had his office there, in an apartment building that was probably owned by Trump's dad. I attended evening summer school at Jamaica High School one year. That's not quite Jamaica Estates, but it is north of Hillside Avenue. I delivered the mail in Jamaica as a young man. There is a famous early photo of Trump and his dad, standing on an overpass with giant apartment buildings behind them. That was in the early to mid-1970s. I read the accompanying article with interest. After that, Trump was regularly featured in newspaper articles ranging from borderline scandalous, to vaguely positive, to financially embarrassing. We've known a lot about him for a long time.

At some point, around the late 1980s, I believe, I discovered something about Trump that surprised me. He's not a Jew! All early mentions of Trump included details about his father's real estate empire and great wealth. They never mentioned that the family was Presbyterian. I only knew one man who owned a few apartment buildings in Manhattan, and he was a Jew. He was the uncle of a good friend of mine. Based on other reading from newspapers in the 1960s and 1970s, and driven by naivete mostly, I had come to the belief that the big-time real estate business in New York was dominated by Jews. You know, like the Kushner family. Perhaps it was. Fred Trump may have been an exception, for all I know.

I don't think that there was any prejudice in my belief. I have always liked Jews. There were people in my family who were prejudiced against blacks and Puerto Ricans, but I don't recall a bad word spoken about Jews. My own father admired Jews (the family doctor mentioned in the first paragraph was Jewish. He was a first-class family doctor who delivered me and my sister, made house-calls for $5, and took great care of us until he retired). If people needed a lawyer, and in New York you must hire a lawyer to represent you in the purchase of any real property, the odds were great that the lawyer was a Jew. I never heard anyone complain about this. In fact, just the opposite was true. I do remember multiple references like this: “he's so stupid, he hired a Christian lawyer.” My uncle, later in life and on his deathbed, wrote to me, “don't worry about me. My doctor is a Jew from New York. And you know there's only one thing better than a Jewish doctor from New York, and that's two Jewish doctors from New York.” Upon reflection, maybe people were just being careful. No sense in pissing off most of the lawyers and doctors in the world.

My confession is this: I spent the first fifteen years of Trump's public life with the casual belief that he was a Jew.

I discovered my error about the time that Trump was going broke in the casino business in Atlantic City. How can you go broke in the casino business? It began to make sense when I discovered that he wasn't Jewish. “Oh,” I thought, “I see.”

Now put your mask on! Go meditate or something! Buckle up, Buttercup. The next eighteen months are going to be all bad road, all the time.

Ike & Tina Turner - Bold Soul Sister



1969, which might have been an odd year for Ike and Tina. Two things for sure: Ike could still put a great band together, and Tina could still sing up a storm. They opened for the Rolling Stones tour that year, at Madison Square Garden, anyway. The day I was there, anyway. Reading about that tour, the opening acts were rotating through, or just covering part of the geography. The show that I saw was 1) Terry Reid; 2) Ike and Tina Turner; and 3) The Rolling Stones. Great show. 

This riff made the rounds in the late 1960s, as is reflected in the comments on YouTube. But that's music, dear readers. You steal some, they steal some. We're all just trying to make a living. Most musicians understand. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Awesome Power Of Chance


Nice article in the Atlantic now about the way that the very fabric of reality can be altered by an insignificant, unseen accident of chance. The article refers back to a movie that took up the theme: someone catches a train at the last second, or they miss the train by one second. Everything changes. This is a subject that is close to my heart.

There was a time when I was working at a part time law clerk job in the west valley while attending school in Malibu. I took a couple of evening classes to accommodate the job. Therefore, for a year or so, I spent a lot of time on Malibu Canyon Road between the 101 Freeway and the Coast Highway. It's a beautiful road, without a lot of traffic at the times that I was using it. That stretch is somewhere between seven and nine miles, I believe. Figure twelve minutes or so. Driving it west, towards the ocean, there's a steep hill running up on your right side, and a deep canyon on your left, with a guardrail but almost no shoulder. Not enough over there to change a tire. I'm thinking of one day in particular, in the late afternoon but with plenty of daylight left and no sun in my eyes. Perfect driving weather; beautiful setting; good driving car (1990 Honda Accord, manual transmission); perfect black-top road surface with no gravel or oil. I was having fun on the sweeping turns, but not overdoing it. Then, without warning, there's never any warning, I almost got zotzed.

I came around a right hand turn in the road and onto a straight piece. There was the mouth of a short tunnel about six hundred yards ahead. I covered part of that distance and then I noticed something out of the corner of my eye, to my right. I moved my eyes to focus on it, and saw that it was a boulder about twice the size of a basketball, and it had just bounced off the sharp hillside on its way down to the road. It was going to beat me to its chosen spot on the road. I just had time to begin to attempt a time and motion calculation, addressing the issue of either braking or accelerating to avoid the boulder hitting my car. While I was performing that mathematics I maintained a constant speed. Almost instantly the boulder struck the road about two car-lengths in front of my bumper and took an impressive bounce. Almost simultaneously, I rolled over the debris spot where it had hit, and out of the left corner of my eye, in the driver's side window, I could see the boulder sailing into the canyon, airborne.

This is what we, growing up in Queens, used to call, “I didn't know whether to shit, piss, or throw up.”

The best way to look at an event like that is to shake your head once, smile, and move on. Don't dwell on it. But I've never been one to leave well enough alone, so I dwelt on it for quite a while. A new math problem presented itself, and I tried to identify the variables. I had covered about two/ thirds of the distance on Malibu Canyon Road, so I had driven about eight minutes at about fifty miles-per-hour, before the rock struck the road. It was a fraction of a second between impact and my passing over the spot, so that number would be in thousandths of a second. How much of an increase in my speed would have brought me to the spot at just the fatal moment? The debris spot was in the center of my lane, which would have put the rock in the center of my windshield if had been traveling microscopically faster. I still shudder to think about it.

The Atlantic article focuses on several pieces of alternate-history fiction, books or movies, that have bearing on our modern day politics. The lesson of the boulder, however, for me, is that every person on earth regularly experiences these near misses. There is a terrible randomness to who lives to see tomorrow and who dies today, and this is our reality every day.

Combat veterans feel this most acutely. They often comment on the randomness of who dies and who lives in the combat zone. Real combat is not like it is in the movies. There is a lot more shooting and a lot less hitting anything. Rifle bullets travel faster than the speed of sound, and the little sonic-booms make a snapping sound when they pass close to you. Many of the combat memoirs that I have read mention the sense of wonder that the man experienced from coming through so much danger untouched, and many wonder why they were unharmed while so many other men, similarly situated, were killed. Usually they chalk it up to just being one of those things. If you're in the right place at the wrong time, you catch one.

So here's to being lucky! Bon chance, mes amis! Just another day in paradise, if you made it through yesterday.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Cloudburst



I was randomly reminded today of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. I love it when that happens. A reference tucked away in a corner of an unrelated article, something like that. And boom! Memory chains, new interests, new things to listen to. What a world! I hate the world, I love the world, and everything else, all at the same time. Very interesting. 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Tav Falco : Panther



A Facebook friend posted something about "Which 80s Rock Band Are You?" I never take those "tests," but I almost shared this song into his column, saying, "I got Tav Falco's Panther Burns." I decided against it. People think I'm crazy enough already. 

Andy Warhol Got Shot on June 3, 1968!


As though the list of horrors for that year weren't long enough already, Andy Warhol was shot by Valerie Solanas multiple times on June 3, 1968.

Ms. Solanas wrote something called the “S.C.U.M. Manifesto,” the opening sentence of which was:

Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.”

What was it? The “Society for Cutting Up Men?” I think that was it.

It reads a lot like satire, doesn't it? Or maybe a parody of feminism written by someone who believed that feminism was a joke. It seems, however, that the woman was being completely serious, or as serious as a crazy woman can be. The way that she shot poor Andy was no joke, that's for sure. She really let him have it, multiple gunshots to the upper torso. He was lucky to live through it, or perhaps that's a question that I am not qualified to answer. One thing I will say with confidence: it's a minor miracle that he survived.

She also wrote some other things, which one may be forgiven not to have noticed. Her other works include a play called, “Up Your Ass.” (Written 1965. Produced in San Fran, 2000. Available now on Kindle.) Being crazy, and in light of the fact that her super-sincere attempt to kill Andy failed, she was remanded to the custody of a mental health facility. She was released a few years later, and honestly I don't have the heart to discover what the rest of her life was like. I might discover that she is still alive, and I'm not sure how I would feel about that.

Train, By The Buddy Miles Express



1968 was a year that wrote itself across the sky in blood and fire. Any normal person was struck dumb by the horror of it, and any sensitive person was driven way back into the corners of their minds by any distraction that would work. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll were all very good distractions, and 1968 was a banner year in all three categories. Exhibit "A," the Buddy Miles Express. 

More Voice-Over Mischief Of The Woke Kind


NYT June 27, 2020: Simpsons and Family Guy . . . white voice-over actors will be leaving the roles of non-white characters.

First off, I am 100% for expanding diversity in entertainment business hiring at every level. In every nook and cranny of the business, from leading ladies to third assistant Best-Boy grips. More diversity. And I'm in favor of more diversity in main characters, supporting characters, and background characters. Everybody from writers to casting directors to producers needs to get on this bandwagon, and those three job categories need more minority representation too! I am a diversity guy in general; I firmly believe that America's greatest strength is the diversity of its people. That should be reflected in American art, education, and business at all levels.

But, and you knew that there was a but coming, I'm afraid that we are being “penny wise and pound foolish” with current efforts to enforce diversity. I don't like the “enforce” part either. I would rather see more done in the areas of education, neighborhood and workplace integration, and people just trying to get to know one another. If you favor the “enforce” doctrine, bear in mind that people don't like it when you metaphorically put them on the hood of a car and scream in their ear, “hire more black Americans!” That's a wonderful message, but delivering it in that way is more liable to make people get angry and dig in their heels against the idea.

Penny wise?” That's like forcing Hollywood to use black voice-over actors to voice black characters in their animated works. The “pound foolish” comes in when you realize that there are fewer black roles to play. You arrive at that conclusion based on the simple fact that blacks make up a smaller portion of the American population than whites. Am I missing something here? Is the new rule that characters must be played by members of their own race, or does the exclusive permission only apply to minority characters?

If the rule is generally applied, black actors could not voice white characters in animated works, or characters who were Chicano, Korean, American Indian, etc. I find many aspects of this woke culture very confusing. Are we now to believe that an animated show with a very diverse group of characters must find someone from each character's own group to voice the role? That might already be hard. In the Los Angeles high school attended by one of my sons, the students spoke eighty-five different languages at home. That's in the school records, “language spoken in the family home.”

But the worst part of it is this:

In it's fullest expression, this new rule is terrible for minority voice-actors. There will always be fewer parts for voice-actors who are black, Indian, Hispanic, or Asian. I can't support anything that limits employment opportunities for minority actors.

I suppose this woke culture moment is a work in progress. I can tell you, there are a lot of babies going down the drain with the bath-water. Wouldn't it be terrible if there were some Korean kid out there who was a regular Billy West, a voice-over genius, but he was limited to playing Korean characters? If I had to choose between a) only black actors can voice black characters; and b) black actors can voice any character at all, subject only to a neutral and transparent hiring process, I'd choose “b.” There are more jobs in it.

What's important to me is that all actors get an equal shot at shining in the great roles and sharing in the big money. Those chances were denied to minority actors for all of history, and we are blessed to see things getting slightly better now. People are becoming slightly more aware, and slightly more enlightened. Progress is being made. It certainly does need to hurry itself up a bit, but it also needs to be protected from backlash.

I want to see the presence of minorities in American society become a non-issue, and I want to see all minorities achieve income equality, status equality, education equality, and wealth generation equality. I won't live to see it, of course, but those should be the obvious goals. That should be the direction in which we strive. God knows there's a lot to be done, and God knows we find ourselves in a period of some progress and an awful lot of dangerous backsliding. Focus, people! Eyes on the prize! Don't get stuck in the weeds when the solution is to build a healthy forest.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Jiants "Tornado" Best audio quality with lyrics



After midnight in the Temple of Reverb! 1959. There's also a pretty classy remake on YouTube from 2011. 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Ann Miller in 'Texas Carnival (1951)' - Ann Miller & Red Skelton



Sigmund Freud had been dead for more than ten years when this movie was made, but somehow the words to this song are utterly pre-Freudian. 

Im Afraid Of Americans David Bowie Music Video HD 1080p(Best Quality)



I am, a bit, myself. 

In The News: Non-Disclosure Agreements


Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)

These have been much in the news for years now, because our president loves them so much and he has so much to hide. He makes everybody sign NDAs, not only prospective employees, but also family members, Playboy Playmates, and porn stars. The orange eminence is currently trying to block the publication of two books, and both authors are subject to his mania for NDAs. That would be John Bolton, and Mary Trump, Ph.D. (clinical psychology). You can use this handy guide when you read about them in the news.

NDAs are contracts. Like all contracts, they are not subject to review until someone tries to enforce one. In effect, you don't know if one is enforceable until the judge in the breach of contract lawsuit decides the issue. That's the threshold issue, which means that it will be argued first. If the court decides that the NDA is enforceable, the case goes forward; if it is unenforceable because the court upheld the Receiving Party's defense, the case is dismissed.

The following general information comes from acc dot com, the website of the Association of Corporate Counsel.

The parties to an NDA are referred to as the Disclosing Party (like the company doing the hiring, or our president), and the Receiving Party (the employee, or the porn star).

If a breach of contract lawsuit is filed, the defendant (the Receiving Party) may offer one or more of the following defenses:

  1. The NDA has terms that are overly broad, vague, or ambiguous;
  2. The NDA lacks consideration on one side. Consideration is the things that are exchanged in a contract; both parties must receive something of value that they want. The Receiving Party's consideration is the promise not to disclose the information being shared. The Disclosing Party's consideration may be the job, or a sum of money.
  3. The information being disclosed is of no value;
  4. The Disclosing Party failed to maintain the secrecy of the information that was disclosed;
  5. Disclosure to third parties! This means that the Receiving Party shared the information with a third party, who then disclosed it. The third party is not a party to the original NDA, and therefore cannot be sued for the breach. A good deal of lawyer money could be spent arguing this issue;
  6. Unequal bargaining power! Contracts are enforceable only if both parties agreed to the exchange of promises of their own free will. Where the Disclosing Party uses its inherent power imbalance to impose the NDA on an unwilling Receiving Party, the NDA may be unenforceable;
  7. Some jurisdictions recognize the “Inevitable Disclosure Doctrine.” I haven't read any cases on this issue, but my guess is that it is just what it sounds like;
  8. Issues relating to damages. Difficulty in quantifying damages; liquidated damages set too high in the NDA; etc.

I believe that in John Bolton's case the issues will revolve around national security, and the confidentiality of the office of National Security Adviser itself. I'm sure that an NDA of some kind was involved, but so far efforts to block the publication of Bolton's book haven't mentioned it that I know of.

Mary Trump, on the other hand, signed an NDA in 2001 as part of the settlement of a law suit over distributions in the will of Frederick Trump, Sr. The sun dot com. I haven't seen the NDA. I'm curious to know how many Receiving Parties there were, i.e. just Mary, or numerous family members. Same for Disclosing Parties.

Mary's book presents no issues of national security. It appears to be based on her own experience of life inside her own family. It's hard to imagine any court issuing an injunction against the initial publication of the book, a prior restraint in other words. That would leave our present president with only two options: sue post publication for breach of the NDA, if the information is true and covered by the NDA; or sue post publication for defamation, if the information is harmful and demonstrably not true (and was published with actual malice, because DJT is a public figure). To do that, after the book was on sale, would seem self-destructive and malicious, would it not? But Trump is nothing if not litigious, so I wouldn't put anything past him.

Today news post dot com says that the “NDA banned (Mary) from talking about their relationship.” It's not clear exactly what was covered.

Daily mail dot com says that the book details “events that she witnessed as a child” at her grandparents' home. That would be Fred Trump Sr's house in Jamaica, Queens, New York City.

Without having seen the NDA, predicting anything with certainty is difficult. A couple of potential issues do, however, jump out.

One is the terms of the agreement. Non-disclosure of the terms of the settlement would be fine, but non-disclosure of any information regarding familial relationships would almost certainly be overreaching and overly broad.

Another is unequal bargaining power. Either it was the four living Trump siblings v. the family of deceased Fred Trump Jr., or DJT v. Mary Trump, and either way those sides are clearly unequal. If Fred Trump Jr's widow and children were in any kind of a financial squeeze, a judge may find that they signed the NDA under undue influence.

Other Issues

I am concerned about the legality of an NDA that seeks to enforce non-disclosure of illegal acts. Contracts in general, including NDAs, must be entirely based in legal subject matter. Illegal subject matter would void an NDA. Imagine the Mafia forcing its soldiers to sign NDAs. Illegal subject matter would include any tax avoidance shenanigans that Mary may be aware of.

Also, an NDA in connection with the settlement of a specific law suit could not support a claim that any matters that had arisen before the lawsuit was filed were involved in the NDA. Any information that was known to Mary Trump before that law suit was filed, especially information involving the Trump family in other contexts, would be hers to disclose. They could not be rolled into the NDA.

We must always remember, and be grateful, that all of us now have whole libraries at our fingertips. On our various computers, or even our phones, we are able to look up all kinds of things, anywhere, anytime. What famous people died on my birthday? What was the typical aircraft compliment for a jeep carrier in 1944? What is a jeep carrier? What's the population of Denmark? How many Malaysian Ringgit are in one U.S. dollar? One thing is for sure, more people should be looking up more information. God knows, most people on Facebook should do a lot more fact checking before they shoot their mouths off.

The scope of the information available on the Internet is even wider than an ordinary library. It's like having access to multiple specialized libraries as well. Whole libraries devoted to medicine, art history, and, today's feature, law. I hardly know anybody who uses this wonderful power to its fullest advantage. I'm very grateful for it.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Dimplejohnny


The Sad Death of Dimplejohnny

Dimplejohnny's face is very popular, but it is not entirely pleasant. His eyes are a bit too far apart, perhaps to bestow an advantage in triangulating the distance to the nearest pretty woman. Nothing about Dimplejohnny has happened by accident.

His nose is a bit too small, which may contribute to the impression given by his eyes. He has one dimple,on his left cheek, which is his good side, which confuses people no end, because most photographs of Dimplejohnny are selfies, where the dimple appears to be on his right cheek. Dimplejohnny enjoys this controversy. He believes that it is good for business.

(This came to me in a dream, or maybe I was half awake, or drifting in and out of sleep. It is not a sign of oncoming dementia.)

Pere Ubu, Visions Of The Moon (live Zagreb), By Order Of Mayor Pawlicki



Ubu, still challenging people's preconceptions. 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Am I A Grammar Nazi?


Not in general, no. I hear enough broken English to tolerate it fairly well. Encountering English learners who apologize for their shortcomings, I assure them that if I understood what they were saying, they had said it fine. You want people to be able to communicate in their new language without embarrassment, which is the true enemy of any effort to learn a new language. With English learners, I am very forgiving.

The problem is that I hear a lot of broken, or misused, English not only from English learners, but also from people for whom English is their native language, and their only language. From them I expect a little better, but I don't get it. Most native speakers get by with only the simplest forms of the verbs, and content themselves with vocabularies that would get them very low scores on a GRE or a TOEFL test. Low scores on an SAT in many cases. We now have a president whose English leaves an awful lot to be desired, although, to be fair, he does suffer considerably from comparisons to his predecessor in office.

That's enough complaining for now. My real purpose today is to clear up a few misconceptions about vocabulary.

To Quash

To quash” means to reject, or void, especially by legal procedure. In fact, it is often a legal process that is being quashed. Like, “to quash a subpoena.” You may also quash a revolution, a demonstration, or a political idea or movement.

Nota bene that “to squash” means something altogether different. To squash means to crush something, or to squeeze something. Like squashing a bug. Squashing takes place in the world of solid objects; quashing takes place in the realm of ideas.

If you can master this simple distinction, you will be way ahead of most people who write for major Internet news aggregation sites.

To Founder

To founder,” for ships, means to fill up with water and sink. If a ship “founders on the rocks,” the important part is still the filling up with water and the sinking. “To founder,” for a plan, means that the plan is no longer working, or has failed.

The often erroneously substituted word here is “to flounder.” This is a close one, though. “To flounder” means to struggle clumsily in water or mud; or it may mean to show great confusion; or to be in great difficulty. A man may flounder in turbulent waters trying to reach the shore. A lawyer may flounder at the podium trying to respond to a difficult question from the judge. Many retail corporations are now floundering as a result of this COVID-19 catastrophe.

I occasionally find myself floundering when forced to decide on the correct word in a tricky situation.

To Flout

Let's cut right to the chase: one does not flaunt the law! Not unless one dresses as a colonial American and poses ostentatiously while waving around an antique looking copy of the Constitution.

To flout” means to openly disregard some kind of rule, which is usually either a law or a tradition. I flout the rules every time I play Klondike.

To flaunt” means to display something ostentatiously. One can flaunt their wealth by wearing very expensive jewelry or driving a very expensive car. One may flaunt their sexuality by really Queening it up.

The etymology of this pair of words is fascinating. Both flout and flaunt are thought to have originated in the Sixteenth Century. That much can be established by looking for first published usage. Beyond that, the crystal ball goes dim. Regarding flaunt, the origin is said to be “unknown.” Regarding flout, the word is said to have “perhaps” been derived from the older verb, “fluiten,” meaning to whistle or to play the flute, and maybe was informally used to mean the derogatory use of hissing to indicate displeasure.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Dorsey, Lee - Ride Your Pony - 1965



Of course there were a lot of songs that got by with pure charisma. 

Draw your pistol, baby! 

Sandie Shaw - Always Something There To Remind Me (1964)



A nice version of a great song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Which just goes to show, I believe, that no one had a monopoly on writing great songs in the 1960s, first class songs that were musically inventive and lyrically engaging. I'm not mentioning any names today, but many songwriters in the 1960s were doing high-quality work. I think that it is arrogant for any individual to suggest that any of them were "the best." That approach is too subjective. The pool of great talent was large, and I give them all full credit. 

Chris Wallace Remembers Part of 1968


Stephen Colbert interviewed Chris Wallace the other day. Wallace was flogging a history book that he wrote. He was a bit snarky about the venue, but he bit the bullet because it was marketing, after all. The book is about 1945, and they agreed that 1945 was a bad year. Between then and now, they figured that 1968 took the cake. I agree.

Wallace, now a faux historian, reminisced about 1968, but everything on his list of annoyances happened in America, or to America. He mentioned the Vietnam War, the urban riots, the assassinations of MLK and RFK, the “Chicago riots” around the Democratic Convention, and then he was done. He specifically said that, “but this year (i.e. 2020) we have the pandemic.” His list for 1968 was startlingly incomplete for a “historian," and the pandemic, as it happens, is not unique to our current year. 

Within the last four to six weeks I have come across mention of the Hong Kong Flu pandemic of 1968 in my reading. Several times, so the information is available. I must admit that it is easy to overlook in the general horror of that year. It was a serious problem though, killing between one and four million people around the world, and 34,000 in the U.S. alone. It was a mutation of the H2N2 flu virus, influenza A-H3N2. That's for a start.

What both men overlooked entirely was the worldwide character of the student demonstrations in 1968. Even marginally well informed people should recall the huge demonstrations, and police riots, and, I admit, student riots, in France and Germany. They were all over the place, and all over the news.

Maybe the most serious student demonstrations and the most murderous police/ army response was in Mexico. The Summer Olympic Games were in Mexico City in 1968, and student demonstrations started in the springtime. The protests continued to grow into the autumn, and by October the authorities had had enough. On October 2nd, fully armed soldiers with tanks charged and scattered the demonstrations, killing a still mysterious number of students. Eyewitnesses claim to have seen hundreds of bodies being loaded onto trucks. It is safe to say that thousands of students were beaten and jailed, and that many of them simply disappeared. Recently declassified documents indicate that the army riot was provoked when government snipers shot and killed a few soldiers. That was a bad one. (pbs.org)

Things were nuts in Brazil as well. 1968 saw Brazil in the grip of an unpopular military dictatorship. In June of 1968 there was a student demonstration called, “the March of the 100,000.” It was met with government force, and many students were beaten, jailed, tortured, killed, and disappeared.

The Wikipedia page for “Protests of 1968” lists protests in the United States, Pakistan, Poland, West Germany, Scandinavia, Mexico, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, Spain, Italy, France, the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland), Yugoslavia, Brazil, and “others.” It's safe to say the whole world lit up with protests against one thing or another, including authoritarianism, capitalism, the death of Che Guevara, imperialism, and sexism.

Those casual mentions include the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia! That was 600,000 Warsaw Pact troops with full armor support crushing an effort to add some local color to the usual drab Soviet communism. 

The problem with present day would-be public intellectuals is the lack of scope not only in their reading, but also in their understanding of the world. Wallace only wrote this book because there was money in it. O'Reilly proved that with all of those silly “Killing . . .” books. It is to be hoped that Wallace's book will die on its own, exposed on a hillside with no takers. That might discourage others from trying their own hand at it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Say it Loud- I'm Black and Proud James Brown



The hardest working man in show business! He made sure that he had the hardest working band, too.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Coasters The Shadow Knows 1958



This is a new one on me. Very interesting. (I love that King Curtis gets credit on the label.) 

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The End Of Politics


There was a time when I did a lot more writing about politics. I had so much material in the can that last year I put the posts that I liked into book form and self-published it.* This blog started out in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, and at first I hardly wrote about politics at all. I remember thinking that there was little room left for my two-cents, because so many talented journalists were already doing a great job of covering politics. It was the way that white America reacted to the election of a black man as president that made me angry enough to address the issues that were presenting themselves. Angry in a way that I was not seeing from the talented journalists. I was angry in a direct, forceful way. Obama's presidency saw the resurrection of proud, unalloyed, pure racism in America. Racism of the entitled, white-supremacist old school, racism in a form that had been marginalized in the 1970s. Marginalized, but not destroyed.

The black president brought it all back out into the open. While social media lit up with Photoshops of Obama as a witch-doctor, or a monkey, and white people got busy explaining that they had nothing against Obama being black, they just opposed his policies. “How dare you call me a racist! I just oppose Obama's policies.” We heard that all the time.

Many white Americans, many more than you would think, have always had the feeling that, given a chance, American blacks would kill all white people in their beds. This is been true since the first curious white people in Charleston loitered around the pier to watch the unloading of the first African slaves back in the 17th Century. White people's fear of those African slaves only got worse as their numbers increased. This fear was exacerbated over hundreds of years of the brutality, rape, and degradation of slavery, followed by the Klan and Jim Crow, segregation, lynching, discrimination, and the casual murder of black Americans by police. The worse white people treated our blacks, the more afraid the whites became. “How,” they reasoned, “could the Africans not want to kill us all? My God, look how we treat them!” White Americans are still terrified, in their deepest hearts and souls, of the righteous vengeance that must be in the secret plans of black Americans. The black president raised this fear level to “vivid.” It's all very silly, of course.

So I started to write about politics, and racism, and the intersection of those things in the Age of Obama.

Those eight years were also when the Republican party, sensing weakness in the Democrats and in the minds of people in general, moved in for the kill. They announced, unashamedly, that their only goal was to make Obama a one-term president, explaining that they would not be cooperating with Democrats or Obama on any subject at all under any circumstances. They threw out the rules and the traditions of Washington politics and practiced only the politics of total war. It was an exciting time. I disagreed with many of the actions taken by President Obama, and with many of the programs that were allowed to continue unchecked during his presidency (mass surveillance of Americans; acts of drone warfare overseas; etc.). But what was he supposed to do? He was nominally in charge of the Executive Branch of the government, but he had very little political support. The rest of the Democratic party was cowering over in a corner someplace, and the courts were becoming unreliable. I still think that Obama did a very good job, all things considered. And there is no argument that he has never been associated with any scandals, political, sexual, or otherwise. He was and remains a good man, and it is a national disgrace that that simple statement of truth will draw vicious responses from many white Americans, to this day.

Anyone hoping that things would calm down a bit with the election of a new, almost certainly white, president, was bitterly disappointed. Oh, we got a white man, that much is true. We got a walking political cartoon of a white man, representing chaos in the tableau. Nothing at all has calmed down, and the chaos only grows day by day. I wrote a little about Trumpian politics early on, but it quickly became too much for me. Just trying to keep up with the daily fusillade of lies and self-aggrandizing bullshit became unmanageable almost immediately.

I considered keeping a diary of Trump's insane acts and utterances, but that would have been an almost impossible amount of work, and all deeply depressing. The only interesting part of Trump's presidency has been the slow process of Republicans recognizing this Coo Coo** in their midst and jumping ship, mostly by retirement. This process has been accelerating here in the year 2020. COVID-19, and Trump's disastrous non-response to the pandemic, have gotten a lot of Americans killed. To make matters worse, the long term project of militarizing our police forces intersected with Trump's encouragement of racial animosity. This caused a serious uptick in the numbers of police killings of black Americans. That, dear reader, is a rubber band that must eventually snap, and snap it has. The frequency and the casual nature of these murders reached critical mass just as the whole population ran out of patience with the virus and Trump's daily carnival of stupid. Anyone paying attention could see that the whole purpose of government had become the further enrichment of the billionaire class and the tight control of the working population by any harsh measures necessary. Not that Trump was doing these things, he lacks the intellectual rigor to understand what's going on and he lacks the energy and discipline to do that much work. No, this new form of government that now controls us was brought about by the Mitch McConnells of the world, the Tom Cottons. And I'm sure that I'm not the only one who is sick of all of the phony Christians waiting in the wings to take over when Trump flies too close to the sun, people like Mike Pompeo, Betsy DeVos, Bill Barr, and Mike Pence. They have plans that are becoming visible, and people have begun to notice.

Let's see, we need a precipitating event. Who'll volunteer? Some nameless convenience store clerk in Minneapolis reported to the police that a man had just passed what the clerk believed to be a counterfeit $20 note. The man was located without delay, and he fit the bill nicely. A large, powerfully built man, what, about 6' 4”? 220 pounds or so? Very dark skin. Yes, he'll do nicely. He cooperates fully with the police, and there are no reports of his resisting them in their pursuit of their duties. No, it's just a matter of four police roughing him up, putting him in a car and ganging up on him, then dragging him out of the car and throwing him to the ground, and then three of the policemen kneeling on his back and, more importantly, on his windpipe.

The whole thing was clearly captured on three smart phone videos. One video shows the officer's knee on the man's neck. The officer looks into the camera, not arrogantly, but seeming bored. He has his left hand in his pocket. His knee is on the man's windpipe. The officer periodically moves his knee off of the man's windpipe, and during these intervals the man says, “I can't breathe!” One or twice he says, “mama!” Always the officer moves his knee back onto the man's windpipe and the talking stops, because the man can't breathe. Ultimately, the man becomes non-responsive. The officer's knee was on his neck for over eight minutes; for the final two minutes or so, the man was inert. An ambulance arrived, and paramedics move the man onto a gurney. His head flops around like a rag doll. He is clearly dead. They get him into the ambulance and leave the scene. The man was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Are we enraged yet? Why yes, we are. You may recall that the law is my training. I am a California lawyer in good standing (inactive), and I've been teaching law for thirteen years. I watch this wonderfully clear video, and I see first degree murder. The police privilege does not apply, because the officer was well outside of his authority, and committing a crime. Homicide comes in many forms, the worst of which is first degree murder, which is “the intentional, unprivileged, premeditated killing of a human being.” This case, to me, hinges on the formation of the intent to kill and the premeditation of the murder. One of the videos shows both things very clearly. The officer knows that he is choking the life out of the man, because he sometimes moves his knee off of the man's windpipe to allow him to breathe. By doing this, the officer serves his purpose by allowing the man to speak, thus proving that he can breathe. Then he intentionally cuts off the man's air again. This process is quite deliberate, and obvious. He repeated this over and over again, looking at the young woman taking the video. He was creating a record, in that video, proving, he thought, that he didn't kill the guy, because obviously he could breathe. He could speak!

The man's name was George Floyd. The $20 bill was real.

This snapped the rubber band. Not only for the black community, but for most white Americans as well. I'm not the only one who has been infuriated by this police behavior, all over the country, for decades now. This egregious act caused spontaneous demonstrations, followed by larger, planned demonstrations, mostly peaceful, which were universally met by militarized police overreacting, attacking people with “less” lethal rubber bullets, pepper balls, tear gas, bean-bag rounds, flash/ bang grenades, and what-all else. By now there are countless videos of police rioting and attacking peaceful demonstrators like they were a fortification on D-Day. The video of the police in Buffalo attacking a lone, elderly man, and knocking him to the ground is particularly affecting to me. I'm an elderly man myself, and I'm the type who would go over to the police if I had a reasonable question. I'd be stupid enough to feel safe doing that, because I'm an unarmed old white man, nobody's afraid of me, are they? The old man in the video seems to be asking the officers a question. They take a step and bang him with their riot-shields. He totters back a step or two and then falls like a tree, right on the back of his head. He lies there motionless with a pool of blood forming under his head. Even a couple of the cops were shocked, and moved to provide aid, but they are hustled forward with the gang to go on to more mischief, one imagines.

This is not acceptable. I hope that my brothers in the law launch a torrent of law suits against all of these municipalities, states, private contractors, and political entities. Minneapolis, Buffalo, D.C., the whole perverted lot of them. This police rioting is not acceptable. The torrent of law suits should be as huge as the waves in Waimea Bay.

Do you remember Trump's ridiculous claim that the world had laughed at America during the Obama years, but they weren't going to laugh at us anymore? Could any prediction have gone more horribly wrong? The world, as it turns out, rather liked Obama. He treated them with civility, and approached them in a spirit of cooperation and respect. The world, it is now clear, is currently looking at Trump as a comical figure whom it is best for them to avoid all together. More ominously, the world is now looking at America as an unreliable partner and a dangerous, unpredictable presence on the world scene. Unreliable, and kind of crazy, with all of the guns, and its military covering the globe, and the over-armed police attacking its own civilians with such gusto. I live overseas, and you can take my word for it: these police riots are being televised on the news around the world, and people are shocked.

We are on the verge of becoming just another in a long list of failed states. Our politics has not only failed us, it has resorted to threatening us with bodily harm if we fail to toe the new line. Within one year we will know if this has been the end of American politics. I'm afraid to think about what comes next.

*Political Rants: Lefty Vitriol in the Age of Obama and Trump, Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07WKF3L95
Special price: 99 cents!

**Coo-Coo. A “brood parasite.” A type of bird that lays its eggs in the nests of other bird species, who then unknowingly hatch the eggs and raise the chicks. Trump is the brood parasite, hatched in the nest of Republicans, who are now realizing that their little darling is not a Robin like them, but a coo-coo.

Ohio- Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young



I had a good friend later in the 1970s who had been at Kent State at the time of this incident. He knew the girl in this photo. He wasn't political at all, and this was in his black fingernails period. All he really remembered about Kent State was what great parties they had. That's how many young people respond to a world gone mad, they withdraw from it. Somehow, I don't blame them. 

Friday, June 5, 2020

Buy My Book!

Now specially priced at 99 cents (Kindle, on Amazon). It's called Political Rants: Lefty Vitriol in the age of Obama and Trump. It's been out since last August. Self promotion is not one of my many talents. This is the link: https://www.amazon.com/Political-Rants-Lefty-Vitriol-Obama-ebook/dp/B07WKF3L95

Here's a short blurb that I like:

"An exciting look at the decade leading up to Trump. See prosperity evaporating like a puddle in the sun! Relive the slow death of the dream that was American Democracy! It's a heart-pounding story of mayhem and racism. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder, 'what were we thinking?' Caligula ruled Rome for 1,400 days. Soon we'll find out if Trump can beat that record."

This book is a real bargain at 99 cents. Hell, it would be a bargain at a few dollars. It's 110,000 words of my best political posts, after a good line-edit for clarity. The book includes the election campaigns of 2008, 2012, and 2016. I like to reference cultural events and little ironies (2016 saw the election of Trump and the Jubilee Year of the Dada Movement). There are two intentionally humorous posts. There is a lot of talk about racism, because Obama was the president for eight years and there was a lot to talk about. Who knows, you might enjoy it.

Here is an example of the things I included in the book. (This is the blog version, because it was a lot easier to cut and paste.)


Spin Easy Time!: America's Flawed Democracy: I teach a class called “American Legal Institutions” at a Thai university, and we often generate some discussion of democracy in general. ...

Monday, June 1, 2020

Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth 1967



Still worth keeping your head on a swivel. Keep an eye on what's going on. Fail to do so at your peril.

The End (Live At The Rainbow Theatre / 1974)



This LP was a June 1st tradition at our house. 

Something Happening Here


It is difficult for me to understand how it is only now becoming apparent to most Americans that everything that we all took for granted about our country and about our lives has been stolen. Isn't it odd that ONLY NOW are we beginning to see pundits from the left and right agreeing that that Minneapolis policeman straight up murdered George Floyd? Even Judge Jeanine isn't going for this one. She shed a tear! Even Rush Limbo says hold up a minute! I'm not sure about this one!

This new era of high-quality smart phone video has given us all a front row seat to some of the clampdown's abominations. All of the beatings, and the forced confessions (George Whitmore Jr.), and the frame-ups (Rubin Carter), and the planned murders (Fred Hampton), once took place well hidden from the voters' prying eyes. Now we have a crystal clear video of that policeman casually keeping his knee on George's windpipe, carefully shifting it off for short periods to allow George to breath a little, pleading for his life, saying that he can't breath, thus proving that he could breath, so that when he finally asphyxiated, which was obviously the plan, the cops could use his statements of “I can't breath!” as evidence that he could breath, even as we could watch as poor George was slowly choked to death over the course of the eight minutes of video, which the cops casually allowed the bystander to take! Amazing! Then the video showed George's body being taken away, head flopping like a rag doll, dead as a door nail. They were so sure that they could get away with murder that they allowed evidence to be gathered in real time against them! From whence springs such confidence? It springs from decades of getting away with murder, that's where.

That's only the beginning of the changes that we have watched quietly without interfering, and police brutality is only the most visible of them this week. We've lost many of our freedoms, and much of our prosperity. I've been over this ground many times here on the blog, and I've been the private Cassandra to friends and family for almost fifty years now. Since 1975, I'd say. Before that I had been too young for most of that time, and after 1968 I had combat fatigue and gave up the news, gave up caring in fact, for many years. I was again ready for action by the late 1970s, and the government gave me plenty to complain about on a regular basis.

Oh, the militarization of our local police forces, the proliferation of new Federal police entities (like ICE, etc.), the death of the right-to-counsel, ever broader government search-and-seizure powers, I've grown tired of making this list. The degradation of labor laws and New Deal social assistance programs alone should have made a lot more people mad. (I'd say, “social insurance,” or “social leveling,” or “social fairness,” but that's just me.) Didn't people like the weekend? Weren't vacations nice? Didn't you think that time-and-a-half for hours worked over forty in one week was nice? Do you remember when all, that's ALL, hospitals and medical insurance programs were non-profit? When for most people, getting sick wasn't as utterly terrifying as it is today? It was that way up to the mid-1970s. Raise your hand if you remember when rich people paid their fair share of taxes! They were still rich, too. It didn't seem to hurt them much.

Cleaner air! Cleaner water! I just wanted to throw that in.

It would be lovely if more people realized that most of these things were brought to us by Democrats, with some bi-partisan assistance with the Civil Rights Act and Medicare. Beyond those couple of instances, the Republican party has been devoting itself heart and soul to the clampdown since the 1920s. They gave us the Great Depression with their loose banking and securities laws; they tried at least twice to get rid of Franklin Roosevelt by coup-de-etat, having lined up popular generals for installation in the White House; they did their damnedest to prevent America from preparing in any meaningful way for World War II; they obstructed programs that were necessary to win WWII. To beat the Democrats they finally resorted to running Dwight Eisenhower, about whom they were less than enthusiastic. The old far-right called Ike a communist! The 1960s brought Nixon to the forefront of the Republican party, and I will leave you to your own terrible memories of Nixon. We all have them, don't be ashamed. Let it out. A two-minute-hate!

After that the Democrats were asleep at the switch, or co-opted by threats or money, or blackmailed, or something, because they really dropped the ball, and have continued dropping it until this very day.

This week hundreds of thousands of people are out peacefully demonstrating their horror and opposition to the kind of police violence that we see constantly against black Americans. Joining them are various interstate groups of anarchists, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and militia types who just like to raise hell. Those few are out to break windows and start fires with the full intention of provoking violent police reactions, which are delivered enthusiastically almost instantly. Those police, looking like something out of a dystopian police-state movie from 1965, like Soylent Green or Robocop, cheerfully accept any excuse to start randomly firing tear-gas canisters and shooting reporters with rubber bullets and bean-bag rounds. Children getting hurt? That's the parents fault for bringing them to a peaceful demonstration. President Rage Machine is doing nothing helpful, as usual. There was a demonstration near the White House, so the Prez went down to the bunker to watch some TV, snack on some KFC, and fire off 150 Tweets a day at nothing in particular. (Fake News! It was only 146 Tweets yesterday!)

After three years of President Comb-Over, even the Banana Republics of the world are laughing at us. They're laughing at all of us, and we all deserve it, too. Who else can we blame it on? We handed Trump and McConnell and Pompeo and the rest of these pirates the keys to the kingdom.

The prosperous fully-industrialized countries of the world are laughing too, when they have time. Mostly, they're busy working together on the shared problems of the world, an exercise that until recently was generally led by the United States. Now they don't even bother calling us. No one in Washington is interested in anything but abrogating treaties or complaining about foreigners. There's nobody left in the State Department anyway, except Mike Pompeo and his prayer group, and many countries haven't had an American ambassador for years. The only American presence in the world now is military, wondering what their mission is and looking over their shoulders to check for the COVID-19.

COVID-19! Most of us, all of us, everywhere, are wondering what will destroy our happiness first: the virus itself, or the associated economic collapse? The only ones that are doing well in these perilous times are the billionaires, especially the super-billionaires. They have seen their fortunes rise exponentially. This phenomenon will make a lot of our problems worse. The growth of monopoly power; the number and wealth of idiot legacies (the foolish children of the deceased super-billionaires); the percentage of rental housing units in the hands of a few hyper-wealthy individuals, usually in the form of “investment groups.”

But at least we can enjoy this new bipartisan bitching and moaning. This is something new, and it's worth getting excited about. For two decades we have become accustomed to liberals/Democrats complaining about certain things, and conservatives/Republicans complaining about a completely different set of things. That created a chasm over which no one could reach to shake hands on anything. If a Democrat said that she liked apple pie, the Republicans, as one, would scream, “cherry pie! Johnny Appleseed was a socialist!” But if Judge Jeanine and I can agree that that cop killed George Floyd intentionally and maliciously, that, dear readers, is progress.

Maybe we can all move forward to agree on certain other obvious things, like the importance of fair elections, or all citizens working together for a better country, or that it helps America to remain in close contact with the world and work together with our allies on large scale problems.

That idea is so crazy that it just might work.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Baby's On Fire (Live At The Rainbow Theatre / 1974)



This album was like a wake-up call to the music world. The 1960s were a time of great change in many fields of music, free jazz, new classical music, new forms arising in pop and rock, great advances in electronics and recording equipment, and by the early 1970s, the possibilities for everything had been wildly expanded. This LP illustrated this new freedom to non-musicologists like me. 

Heartbreak Hotel (Live At The Rainbow Theatre / 1974)



Happy June 1st, everybody! 

Friday, May 29, 2020

Blondie - Heroes (David Bowie) 1980



This is a respectable cover, including an appearance by Robert Fripp, if the comments are to be believed. The real star, as usual, is Ms. Harry, shown here in an extensive collection of very nice photographs. 

I would tell you how much Debbie looked like my first wife, whom I had already been with for ten years, but you'd think I was just showing off. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Unlocked Door


So many questions are left unanswered in life. So many are unanswerable! People's hopes and dreams are often unattainable. Many people have no hopes or dreams! It doesn't matter much, in the sweet by and by. Almost everybody is disappointed in the end.

There is, however, one hope that can immediately be brought to fruition. One dream that is never denied. One wish that will always be granted, every time. When the day comes, when you understand completely and clearly that you cannot do this even one more time, you cannot wake up again and try to go through the motions even one more day, or perhaps not even for one more hour, when your only wish is for it all to be over, that wish is within your own power to grant. Your wish to be quit of all of life's hassles, embarrassments, disappointments, humiliations, and pains, will be granted. Your dream to be free of it all will come true. And for once, there will be no strings attached. It's not like the story “The Monkey's Paw,” by W.W. Jacobs, where there are terrible penalties for interfering with fate. You will simply cease to exist. You will return to the great nothingness that is the common ground shared by all future and past tense human beings. Present tense humans have the power to end it all any time they wish. Their verb changes to “was.”

It concerns me that I seem to think about suicide more than most people. Or, who knows, maybe thinking about it is more widespread than I imagine, and the difference is that most people don't talk about it as much as I do. In either case, I have come to think of suicidal ideation as a control technique. That, and a safety valve. In a world where the individual of limited resources is tossed violently on the heavy seas of human society, it comforts me to know that if the time comes when I can no longer stand it, I won't have to. According to the fire codes of life, the exit doors are always left unlocked. We are all free to exit any time we choose to do so.

Please note that I am not recommending suicide. Not for any individual, and certainly not for everybody. For most people, the natural order of things will deliver them into the comforting arms of death soon enough. Our time on earth is short, and it passes quickly. This is one of the few kindnesses that fate shows us. I, for one, am grateful.

Also note that I have no immediate plans to end my life. Nor, however, am I just fooling around. Somewhere in between, let's say. There may be someone close to you that is sending out signals that frighten you. If that is the case, here is a tip: people who really want to kill themselves rarely talk about it. They just do it. People who talk about suicide may be knocking the idea around like I do, reassuring themselves that there will be a way out if push comes to shove. Or they may be playing with your emotions. That is unfortunately a popular thing to do.

Attempted suicides” often fall into the same category as confessions of intent. They're just messing with you. It's not like killing yourself was difficult. Quite the opposite, it's very easy. There are plastic bags everywhere, and any one of them will do the job just fine. Dry cleaning bags. You can drown yourself in a toilet bowl if you're serious about it. Any domicile is full of things that will serve perfectly well to hang yourself. Guns, of course, are a no-brainer (pun intended).

One sure sign that someone is just playing with your emotions is when they wonder out loud about the “best” way to kill yourself. Then they find something to worry about with every method. They wonder if it hurts to asphyxiate yourself with a plastic bag, and how long it hurts, or even how long is it uncomfortable. How long does it take to drown? Does it hurt? If they are worried about their own comfort in the act of self-destruction, they are not being serious. You can feel free to ignore them. In fact, go ahead and make fun of them.

I have obviously thought about all of this, so I should include a few cautionary tales.

Pills! Pills seem like such an easy way out. Tell a sympathetic doctor that your back is killing you, maybe do a bit of doctor-shopping, and get a script for Oxy, or Percocets, or something. Save them up, wash a bunch of them down with vodka, and voila! That sounds like the easy way out for a lot of people. You do need to be careful, though. Remember what happened to Lupe Valez. Excuse me, nobody remembers what happened to Lupe Velez. She was a movie star in the way-back, and when her star dimmed she decided to kill herself with pills. Her mistake was first consuming a meal of her favorite stuff, chili. Followed by pills and whiskey. When she began to vomit, she made her way to the bathroom, where she ended up drowning in the toilet bowl. Not a glamorous way to be discovered after the fact. I'm sure that she had spread flower petals on the couch to leave a more beautiful tableau for the cops. You also run the risk with pills of not taking enough, or getting the mix wrong. Many attempted pill-suicides wake up in the hospital with brain damage, a tube down their throats, and a huge hospital bill.

Shooting your own head off is a popular way to go, but there's an important trick to it. Don't shoot yourself in the temple! We see that so often in movies, or even cartoons. If you shoot yourself in the temple, you're liable to miss your brain all together. In one side and out the other, and the only thing that you lose is your eyesight and part of your sinuses that you didn't need anyway. Again, you wake up in the hospital with bandages around your head, fully aware of your situation, with somebody reading you the bill. At least this way you can hang around in bars and tell the fascinating story of how you lost your eyesight. Maybe people will buy you drinks.

Jumping from a high spot appeals to some people's sense of drama. Done properly, it does work. Here too, however, great care must be taken. I read one time in the Long Beach, California newspaper about a guy who decided to end it all by jumping. He made his way to the roof of a twenty-three story residential building, condos, apartments, I'm not sure. But twenty-three stories. That's well over two hundred feet, so it was plenty tall enough. I was working right down the road at the time, and both buildings were on the ocean side of the street. You want to pick your landing spot carefully in these situations, and check for windage. This poor guy omitted those steps. He jumped, and somewhere in the first two hundred feet the wind caught him and threw him into a big tree. He made his way painfully through the tree before it threw him out the other side, where after a brief sail through the air he landed on the awning of the building. Sturdy thing too, and springy. He bounced off onto the grass. He was scratched to hell from the tree, and he broke a few bones, but he was as alive as you or me. Disappointed? Embarrassed? Relieved? Pissed off? Probably some combination of those things.

Drowning in freezing cold water is total must to avoid. Over the course of my long life I have often read stories about people who had apparently drowned in frozen lakes after falling through the ice. I say apparently, because apparently when the body drowns in freezing cold water it goes into some kind of hibernation instead of dying right off. People drown in frozen lakes all the time, but it only makes the papers if some fireman revives them after they've been in the water for ten or twenty minutes. Think what you will, but that sounds like the plot for a horror movie to me. I'd rather be hit by lightning, and from what I've heard, that's no party.

The car in the garage; the head in the oven; the high speed crash into a bridge abutment; the cutting of the wrists; the pajama clad walk into the snow storm; there are a million ways to go. In a bed, of old age, no matter how sick you may be, is probably as good as any of them. Your conscience will be clear that way. I don't believe in any kind of judgment, but a clear conscience couldn't hurt. Who knows?

It's up to you.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Big Brother's Swan Song



(If this has been taken down, note that it is the cut, "Catch Me Daddy," from the CD "Live at Winterland, April 1968," by Big Brother and the Holding Company.)

This fantastic CD is a story that is very happy and terribly sad all at the same time. After a couple of years as a spongy jam band for stoned, uncritical dancers, Big Brother started getting some attention. Mostly directed at Janis. They went on their first nationwide tour, and they took it seriously. They practiced, for a change, and they all finally got their act together. Good new covers, and some good new songs by Sam Andrew, the five of them grew up and learned how to play for people who sat and listened. The tour turned them into a rather good band, working very well with Janis, whose hurricane-in-a-duststorm approach was becoming popular. The last three shows of the tour were at Winterland, and this CD is drawn from those three shows. All of that hard work paid off. The band is very tight and professional, and they all sound happy. And then . . . 

Somebody listened to somebody's bad advice and pulled out the wrong Jenga block. Later, probably 1969, I saw Janis fronting the band that she put together, more like the band that was put together for her, after that somebody had talked her into dumping Big Brother. The new thing was called "The Full Tilt Boogie Band" or something. It was a very professional outfit, in both the positive and the negative connotations of that word. Never a big fan, I remember thinking that Janis was a better band member than a band leader. 

Much later I bought this CD. Janis had been dead for over twenty years by then. I realized that the band, including Janis, had really turned itself into something that they could be proud of. I thought, good for them. I hope that the guys made a living.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

She Married Me Anyway


Some people hide their true natures from others as a way of sneaking their faults under the radar until it's too late. They go out on dates and order mineral water, instead of their usual six or eight cocktails. They turn down reefer at parties, when they usually smoke a gram every couple of days. Ladies, be careful. That ardent lover that you're considering marrying may turn out to be a selfish and lazy lover after the honeymoon. Look for the signs, ask around. I don't know how you discover the truth. I ain't no Dick Tracy. But try.

Some men, like me, are the opposite. In fact, I tend to broadcast my true nature, my likes and dislikes, very early in any budding relationship, whether potentially a friendship or a love interest. I have abandonment issues, and one way of avoiding abandonment is to clear the air right away so that there are no surprises. If there's something about me that you don't like, I won't be keeping it a secret. Better that you know these things right away. The sooner you skate, the better it will be for both of us. I'm not here to waste anybody's time.

I kept no secrets from the woman who became my first wife, that's for sure. She married me anyway. Much to her eventual chagrin. If you have any questions about our divorce, don't ask me. I never understood why she loved me, and I have certainly never understood exactly why she kicked me out. But honestly, can't we agree on this? It would have been better if she had stopped returning my calls after the first few months. Better than kicking me out after we had raised two children together, and we were both already on Medicare.

Surely, she saw the signs. I was totally indifferent to making a living. In fact, my favorite form of employment was unemployment. I was a bundle of nerves, a hive of anxiety, and deeply angry and depressed. I drank alcohol every day, and I preferred to sleep very late. Along with my friends, I bought my share of everything that we could get our hands on. My friends and I enjoyed it all together, on a very regular basis. I hated school, although I was a voracious reader of unassigned materials. I hated conformity, authority, work, society, my parents, politics, and myself.

Even my positives were annoying. I was a serious, motivated movie fan when we began to date. No, I was a serous fan of cinema, that's it! Cinema! World cinema! I'm still a fan, but for about ten years there I was crazy on the subject. I went to see films two or three times every week, either alone or with a friend. The Italian Neo-Realists; the French New Wave; silent films; Bergman; Fellini; screwball comedies; and, perhaps especially, Japanese movies. Art houses, museums, re-run theaters, the tiny Japanese-only theater west of Broadway in the high-40s, wherever the good stuff was being shown cheap. I guess I did begin by taking my then girlfriend to sure things, like “Blazing Saddles,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” or maybe Marx Brothers' movies. Who doesn't love the Marx Brothers? But I went too far very quickly.

We went to see a triple feature one time. Was it at the old New Yorker theater uptown? Yes, it was. The first movie was “Un Chien Andalou,” by Luis Bunuel, credited, I believe, to Bunuel and Salvatore Dali. That film was, let's say, experimental. Surrealism on the movie screen. I was spellbound, so I didn't notice that she was less than thrilled.

The next feature was, “The Night of the Living Dead,” the original, about a year after its first release. Again, I was fascinated. Not just to be watching the movie, but to consider how one very talented man could have put that movie together for almost no money, obviously having to spoon-feed all of the (probably) amateur actors all of their lines and stage direction. It was a real triumph of the will. The will of one man, “I'm going to make a feature film, damn it!” My future wife was unimpressed. No, that's not true. She totally hated it.

Bear in mind that the theater was crowded with very respectful cinephiles. It was the times.

The third movie was Ingmar Bergman's, “Hour of the Wolf,” which, to be fair, can seem a bit obscure to the uninitiated. Again, I was too wrapped up in the movie to notice that my girlfriend was grinding her teeth, sitting there like an unexploded bomb, with her arms tightly folded and her chin making a mark on her pretty breastbone.

That's the last time I let you pick the movie!”

If you had asked me, at the time, to make a list of everything that I loved about her, I could have filled pages. If you had asked her to do the same thing about me, she might have sat there for five or ten minutes with a furrowed brow, chewing on the pencil. The nicest thing that she ever said to me was, “at least you're not boring.”

In light of subsequent events, she might have added, “. . . yet.”