Monday, December 31, 2012


Death Alert: Gerry Anderson has crossed the river.  He was a big time English movie guy with an off-center point of view back in the Sixties and Seventies.  He was responsible for the Thunderbirds movies (in "Super Marionation!") and "Space 1999." 

This clip is too nuts by half.  A puppet's fantasy, complete with a puppet rock and roll show featuring the Shadows (the English Ventures) and "Cliff Richards Jr." 

"Space 1999" might be a cheap pick-up on DVD now for all I know.  It's a good show. 

A Not Unusual Antique Filled Coffee Shop

You come across places like this frequently in Thailand.  A coffee shop, or a restaurant, packed to the gills with antiques.  There must be a person in the family that owns the business who loves old things, my hunch is that they are all personal collections.  There may have been a commercial motivation, a thinking that it might enhance the appeal of the place, but more likely it was somebody's love of the things themselves.

Once the whole collecting thing gets rolling, local people will donate old stuff to the cause.  They know that the owner, their friend, loves the things and they know that if they give stuff to him he will value it and take care of it.  I say "him," I think it's more often men who get the bug for collecting stuff that most women would call junk. 

Like I say, people donate a lot of the stuff.  The owner here told me that the ancient motorcycle, for instance, was given to the shop by someone in town.  She knows that it's valuable, she told me that she had turned down 100,000 Baht for it ($3,000).  I think she's right, I watch those shows on TV and I think it's worth quite a bit more than that. 

This shop was full of Mao images and figures, like this nice Mao holding an I-Pad.  Another of the owners interests, I'd reckon. 

The Republic Of Doom

There’s a lot of it to go around these days, the doom. Lots of people these days go through their lives in a state of impending doom. Financial doom; medical doom; economic doom; social doom; climate doom; religious doom. I should be more comfortable with this situation than most people. The recorded history of my life is the story of impending doom.

I moved early in life to a state of alertness for impending doom.

If you looked at my life as an outsider you would be forgiven to think that I had a peaceful, happy childhood. There was no poverty in it. I attended good schools, at least an outsider would think that they were good schools. My family would appear to have been a stable, prosperous nuclear family. I had friends and lived among them for most of every day, playing sports and games and riding bicycles and climbing trees, all of the normal features of a boy’s life. Peaceful and happy is not the way that I remember it.

I woke up in the morning to doom. In my family, we spelled doom “M-O-M.” My mother was a mercurial presence in the house. Her moods were varied, and extreme. Getting off to school without some kind of outburst was the first relief of the day.

Then there was the doom of school. By the second grade I had run out of the two or three nuns that had sweet temperaments. After that came a series of embittered women who more or less took out their frustrations on their students. Some were merely depressed; others were actively vicious. We were routinely knocked around, screamed at, and threatened with either corporal punishment or the fires of hell. We were made to eat soap if we were overheard in our habitual use of bad language. The worst of it was that if some of our parents, notably my mother, found out that we had been punished for something at school, we got a beating at home too. Mutually enhancing doom.

Returning home from school was the most stressful time of the day for me. There was no telling what I’d walk into when I opened the door to the house. Maybe my mother would be peacefully sitting on the couch watching TV; maybe she’d be waiting for me, already red in the face and screaming. As I got bigger, in those moods she’d take off a shoe to hit me with that, or bang me with a TV tray like a professional wrestler swinging a folding chair. Usually it was not clear exactly what I was getting hit for. I learned a life-long habit of looking at the floor and waiting for the storm to pass.

My early friendships were rich in doom as well. I was sixteen before I found any friends that were worth the title. I was a dreamy, sensitive boy, and the youngest in my class, and none of these things were valued in my town. I was always out, and always played with the other boys, but there was always an element of high anxiety about it. There was a lot of fighting in those days, the establishment of a clear pecking order was somehow very important. I don’t know if you’d call it textbook “bullying,” maybe just “being picked on.” Whatever you’d call it, it was part of everyday life. The boys were constantly making fun of each other, always pushing each other around. I have said, in my town we were always getting hit by our parents, and hit at school, and left to our own devices we hit each other. For the sake of complete honesty, neither were the police loathe to knock us around.

Back home again, to see what mom was up to. She would probably have started drinking by then, which was a mixed blessing. Being a little bit lit might make her less likely to go off, but then again, it might only serve to fine tune her triggers. Very early on my father virtually stopped coming home from work. He maneuvered himself into a position in sales, and he spent over twenty days every month on the road, marketing whole power generating stations and doing whatever else he did to avoid the chaos in our house.

Is it any wonder that, to this day, my favorite part of every day is the sleeping hours, when the world quiets down and people can generally be trusted to leave you alone?

I graduated from high school just as the Vietnam War was gearing up. That was a goodly dose of doom right there. A generation in the cross hairs, for those years teenagers couldn’t win for losing. There were people who hated you if you went to war, and others who hated you if you didn’t. Most people over twenty-five or thirty hated anybody with long hair (even on girls, long, straight hair was “hippy hair”). People now look back on the 1960’s like it was all some kind of party, what a misconception! The Civil Rights battles; the constant threat of nuclear destruction; race riots; the war all over the TV news; the assassinations. Think about 1968 by itself: in February the TET Offensive in Vietnam, when it became clear as a bell to everyone that the war was a total mess; Martin Luther King getting shot in April; riots in several major cities; Bobby Kennedy shot; the Democratic Convention with all of the associated riots in Chicago; 500 kids a week getting killed in Vietnam. If there were ever a “Year of Doom,” I’d nominate 1968.

For many children, doom just gets under their skin and stays with them for life. This is true for many poor children, and it’s true for many minority children, and it’s true for lots of children whose lives look wonderful from the outside. That was my experience. I still live with doom, see doom everywhere, expect it. Sometimes it’s real; sometimes no doubt imagined; sometimes I’m sure that I bring it on myself.

I’m not complaining. I’ve done okay, things could have been much worse. I’m very grateful for the way that things have turned out. But the doom, it hurts.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Your Blogger, At Rest

Coffee time at some hotel somewhere on a teaching trip.  Got the Crocs; got the color-coordination; got the lucky wristlets; got the casual attitude.  Looks like it was a good morning.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Winter In Thailand

The official version of weather in Thailand is that there are three seasons: the hot season; the rainy season; and the cool season (sometimes called "Winter").  In reality, there are indeed three seasons, but they are: the hot season; the very, very hot season; and the hot-with-rain season. 

To be fair, there are four or five weeks a year when the overnights come down a bit, down into the mid- to high seventies.  It's a nice change, great sleeping weather.   We can all give the air-conditioners a rest.  During the day the temperatures may moderate a little bit, some days it will only get up to the low eighties.  During this couple of weeks Thais often let their enthusiasm get the best of them.

We who live here are all so acclimated to extreme heat that the low eighties feel a little on the cool side.  Myself, I like it, and I'm still comfortable in shirtsleeves.  Some Thais go a little nuts though, piling on the clothes and turning up the heat. 

Like my taxi driver today.  It was nice out, maybe eighty-two or so.  Lots of people walking around wearing jackets, you know, because it was so cold.  A little strange already, but I understand, eighty-two is a cool breeze when you spend your life in the mid- to high nineties.  This driver not only had a coat on, but he was also running the heater in the cab!  It must have been ninety-five in there, the sweat was running off of me. 

This is all very strange.  When the weather is hot, Thais will run the air-conditioning in a car at such a furious level that the interior of the car gets down into the sixties.  They seem perfectly comfortable while I'm clutching my shirt around my neck and shivering, goose bumps all over.  Let the outside temperature go down a few degrees though and they're in a panic.  After a week of it they're all walking around wearing scarves complaining about having a cold.

But it's fun though.  I happen to like the heat, my joints feel like butter, and the rest of it is interesting.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto James Brown

I don't know about you, but this is my favorite Christmas album.  "James Brown Christmas," of course I will be forgoing the pleasure of it all this year, my copy is nine time zones away. 

(With a nod to "The Phil Spector Christmas Album.")

LAURA NYRO (and LABELLE) the bells

One thing about cover versions, being covered by a transcendentally great artist must be a real kick in the pants.

The Originals had (wait for it) the original of this song, and only about a year before Laura Nyro and the newly minted Labelle (Patti Labelle and the Bluebelles) included it on an album of covers.  The Originals' original version is pretty good; this version is, well, transcendent.

There are a few of Laura's songs, this one included, that make me just close my eyes, put my left hand on my chest, nod my head slowly in time, and cry a little.  She's the best.

Try their version of "Desiree" sometime, off the same album.  

And now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!  Laura anyway, it doesn't look like Patti and the girls have made it yet.  Luckily, the whole thing is such a sham that it's no reflection on those left out. 

Better late than never in Laura's case.  She makes the rest of them in there look good. 

Fashion Coincidence At Ramkhamhaeng

The fellow on the right is me.  The fellow on the left is a forensic psychologist from the state of Washington who presented a seminar at my university recently.  His wife is Thai, they met in Washington but they're considering a move to Thailand, you know, for the food and the economic prosperity. 

Whatever you're thinking, no, we did not speak beforehand to co-ordinate our outfits like two giggling twin girls.  It was accidental.  Remarkably similar, right down to the comfortable shoes.  Maybe not so surprising though, when you consider that we are about four months apart in age, both from America, both over-educated and court experienced, both vaguely academic.  I do wish that I had his hair though.  

Baby Boomers Are The Antichrist

I was born in 1948, which makes me a prime-time Baby Boomer. We have always represented a huge bulge in the population, a great concentration of individuals. After the years of the Great Depression, which made people reticent to procreate, and the years of World War II, which drew twelve million young people into the armed forces and far from home, America had returned to prosperity and peace. Americans returned to the business of having children with something like wild abandon. When I was a child, there was a vast army of us. When we were teenagers, young marrieds, seasoned workers, it was the same. It is the same yet. We are now a vast army coming to the end of our working lives, a vast army on the verge of retiring. Therein lies a tale.

It was great when we represented a market for goods and services, it was great when we were a huge work force that could be exploited. It was great to be a Baby Boomer. Now that we won’t be working as hard or spending as much it’s not so great at all.

I Warned You

I have always been one to look into the future and see terrible things about to happen. The people close to me always thought that it was kind of funny, crazy old Fred, “Mr. Happy.” But many of the things that I worried about have come to pass.

By the 1980’s we were relatively prosperous. Many of us owned our homes, and home prices kept rising at a most agreeable level. There will come a day, said old naysayer Fred, when they will come for our prosperity, our home equity, our job security, our retirement plans, our Social Security, our Medicare, our savings. There’s too much there, I argued, it’s too big a prize just to let us keep it.

“They” will want to steal it. “They” being that class of low-down sociopaths made up of our elected leaders and the giants of the corporate world. And come they have.

The P.R. Machine

There is a lot of crying these days about what has happened to America, the terrible state of things. Morals have decayed; incomes are down; jobs are rushing overseas; budgets are out of whack; deficits are soaring; the National Debt is out of control; it’s quite a list.

Let’s see now, who can we blame? It can’t be “their” fault; whose fault can it be? Oh! Let’s blame the Baby Boomers!

The leadership class of a subsequent generation in power is looking around for two things: how to clean up the mess and how to steal big money for themselves. They want to do these things, of course, without inconveniencing themselves, their rich benefactors, corporate America, or “Wall Street.”

The answer to their prayers is the miracle of “Entitlement Reform.”

I don’t know whose bright idea it was to call things like welfare, income assistance, retirement spending, and social spending in general “entitlements.” It makes a grand epithet though, and it has become a curse word of the first order of magnitude, along with “Liberal” I suppose.

These programs, taken as a whole, do add up to a lot of money, that much is true. Two things need to be remembered though. For one thing, if America’s National Security budget was in line with the rest of the civilized world we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. For another thing, aren’t these the right things to do? Don’t poor people have a right to some small portion of dignity? Don’t people who have worked all of their lives have a right to retire in peace without surrendering their own dignity?

Don’t even get me started about the National Security budget. No one even knows for sure how much money they consume every year. The numbers are so vast, do you even call it money anymore? Baby Boomers my ass, this is the real problem.

But, “Entitlement Reform,” that’s the ticket! It’s easy to demonize the poor, no one cares about them anyway. Just suggest that they brought the condition upon themselves, that’s a good start, and then suggest that they are somehow preventing new generations of workers from obtaining the things that they need. Demonizing old people is a tougher sell. I’ve got it, we can blame all of the economic woes of America on the Baby Boomers! What a great idea! It’s so simple!

Those Selfish Pricks, The Baby Boomers

Looking around the Internet now it’s easy to find people complaining about the Baby Boomer generation, now rechristened “The Entitlement Generation.” Lazy and greedy, “history’s greatest hypocrites.” Like we were the one’s taking bread out of people’s mouths.

What have we done that was so terrible? Most of us by far, the overwhelming majority, worked hard at some mundane job or other, lived within our means, and wanted only to live in peace with our families. We paid our way, and we paid our taxes, lots of taxes. I always figured twenty percent or so, at least, when you included things like sales tax and property taxes. (I was way into the modest range of income, by the way.) We paid into Social Security, and whatever you might have heard, Social Security is doing fine, thank you. No problem on the horizon until maybe 2037, I’ll help you with the math, that’s twenty-five years away. Our money, that we put away, is sitting right there for us, just waiting to be paid to us, as promised.

We’re getting ready to retire and cash in on those fabulous entitlements that we somehow engineered for ourselves behind people’s backs. I hate to tell you, all of our lives so far we have only been entitled to permission to work hard and pay taxes. We have had the freedom to shut the fuck up, work, and pay taxes. And note that we have been losing ground on our much vaunted prosperity for years, real wages and overall economic security have been in steep decline for the last half of our working lives.

With A Smile, They Steal

Who will defend us against this onslaught? No one is on the horizon I’m afraid. The Republicans are the worst of the thieves, that much is clear. The Democrats are not much better, almost imperceptivity better actually. Democrats in congress talk a good line, but their bottom line includes heavy cuts to social programs, including the perfectly healthy Social Security. President Obama is a good man, I’m glad that he got re-elected, but he’s no better really. He’s also too willing to cut, cut, cut. Oh, excuse me, reform social programs, to make them stronger, some bullshit like that. And nobody even talks about cutting defense. Defense from whom, exactly? I think we lost track of that question all together.

“Share the pain,” I’m sure that you’ve heard that one, but who’s in pain actually? Not the corporations; not the security establishment; not members of congress. The only ones in pain are the ones who are being asked to share the pain, and believe me, the old/poor/infirm/working class would love to share some of that pain with the corporations/security establishment/congress. You boys think you could get by with only fifty to a hundred times our salaries? Could you get by with only ten aircraft carriers? Need the whole sixteen? Do you really need to get hard copies of every single cell phone call and e-mail in the entire world? Congressmen need to get a good retirement plan after being elected to only one two-year term? Share the pain, boys and girls.

Get Used To It

That’s my advice, fellow Baby Boomers. Get used to it. Plan on getting less and less from Social Security; plan on paying more for your medical care; plan on eating cans of tuna instead of chicken (look for the good, at our age even those mercury laden cans of tuna will take longer to kill us than we have left anyway).

Oh, what wonderful conundrums we face, what limitless excitement! Within ten years I expect to be faced with a choice of living in America, where I might be able to afford adequate Medicare enhanced medical care, or living in Thailand, where I can afford food and rent and low-level medical care. Either medical care OR a comfortable living situation. Living under a bridge in between doctors’ visits in America or living in a rental in Thailand and dying for want of medicine. Afford everything at once? Not me, not unless I stay very, very healthy.

I hear people complain about Walmart, but I wonder if it’s a good idea. Aren’t they our employer of last resort? Do they let employees sleep in the store?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I Love The Smell Of My Prose In The Morning

I was just reading some history here on this, my very own blog.   I checked, and yes, I did post "The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole last year.  While I was there, I read some. 

And some of it was good, if I do say so myself.  I was, in fact, quite impressed with some of it.  So if you've got time on your hands, if you're retired or something, maybe bored at work, check out December, 2011, maybe November too if you're having fun at it.  My 2012 numbers indicate an increase in readership, unless I really don't understand such things, so maybe the old stuff will be new to some of you. 

My numbers!  Thank you all for taking the time.  No more the faithful double-dozen, from the look of it.  It's great, and I appreciate every visitor. 

Now go!  "They Are Our Teachers" is a good one.

Nat King Cole Christmas

This song makes me cry.  It's not unique in having that effect on me, but it works every time, it's got that going for it. 

I've said it before: one of the amazing things about Black American singers is how they can take material that is unremittingly positive and sing it with a tear in it, just dig in on those flattened thirds and fifths and blues up the whole thing.  Mr. "King" Cole sings the hell out of this song, he owns it, and he creates a stark contrast between the benign nature of the words on the printed page and the sound of the song as he sings it.  It's great art, it what it is. 

I have to check, I may have posted this song last year too, probably with almost the same commentary.  But then, I've always been famous for repeating myself.  I have a very facile mind, and I'm quite adept at figuring things out in the first place, but in some ways my memory leaves something to be desired.   I don't find it to be a problem though, for one thing I can more easily enjoy re-reading books every five years or so, or watching movies over and over again.  Besides, how many of you actually saw last years post, if there was one? 


A little thin sounding here, looks and sounds like the old forty-five.  It's the original version though, always beware on the 'Tube of alternate takes and re-recordings. 

I'm including this to show that Black singers didn't always put a tear into an otherwise happy song.  Jackie, in this case, takes a very positive song and renders it ecstatic.  The whole production seems to float up off of the earth.  The tempo speeds up, I wonder if they planned that or if it just happened spontaneously. 

I try not to make a contest out of anything as important as art, but I honestly think that this is one of the five or ten greatest pop songs in the history of music. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Some Hobbyist's Dream

The genesis of this thing would make a very entertaining special on the Discovery Channel.  It looks like it was cobbled together from parts of different bikes, all made to look like a World War II museum piece. 

The forks don't look like they go with the frame; the turn signals are a nice thought but it's an afterthought.  The frame is one of those optical-illusion hard-tails, look at that hefty monoshock under the seat.  The tank doesn't sit right on the frame either. 

No, somebody got exactly the bike that he wanted in this case, and he almost certainly got it by building it himself.  I say "him," women are way to practical to do this kind of thing, much less with a military theme. 

I didn't see the owner, but I'd bet that he wears a military helmet when he rides this thing.  Lots of people do over here.  Military helmets; London police helmets; construction hard hats; all kinds of totally inappropriate helmets, some with no strap at all.  The law just says that you have to wear one, it doesn't say what kind. 

My Little Corners Of Chiang Rai

The top picture is my university's building in Chiang Rai, not far from the center of the provincial capitol; the bottom picture is "our" hotel up there (the one where we get a discount).  For prof's, the hotel is 600 Baht (about $18); for you, should you choose to go, about 800 Baht ($24). 

The hotel is pretty nice too, not great but fine.  Not much in English on the TV, out of about eighty stations I think three were in English (RT, Channel News Asia and Al Jezeera).  Easy walk to the good Italian restaurant, ditto the Night Bazaar and the bus station.  

That's a little thin for English TV stations, but what really disappointed/surprised me was that there were no channels from Lao, Vietnam or Burma.  Those can be a lot of fun.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Suicide Machine In Hua Hin


Another example of the long, low, Honda powered choppers that show up here frequently.  This one, as usual, has no front brake or other safety equipment. 

In fact, looking at this one here, I don't see a lever for the back brake.  Maybe he's got it rigged in an unusual place.  The Knuckle Duster hanging from the starter lever is a nice touch.

I still have never heard one of these things run.  I'll bet it's an impressive noise though, with those short, straight pipes.

Not It's Not: Engrish Fail

At the good market in my local mall.  It's a good place to get Farang delicacies, like beef for instance.  Most Thai people don't eat the stuff.  Taking a cue from the Chinese, they think that beef is semi-poisonous.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Weirdly Named Buildings In Bangkok

Last week I was up at La Migra for my 90 day visit.  It's an easy visit, compared to the VISA renewal visit anyway.  Three hours, door to door, and 500 Baht for taxis and it's home again, none the worse for wear.

The new government building complex is way up on the northern edge of Bangkok.  The neighborhood is becoming denser as the city expands.  There's no urban plan, it's all just "we have a couple of Baht laying around, let's build condos!" and "oooh! there's an open space!"  This particular neighborhood does have one distinguishing characteristic:  many of the buildings have very strange names.

There's the "Twin Towers," which is really one, big, squat twelve story condo block.  I've seen other "Twin Towers" around town, there must be some new totemic significance involved.  Usually there are two, and they are taller. 

How about the "Jumbotel," which actually is a hotel, but a rather small one?

I like the "Dental and Jaw Joint," a hospital.

Mundane but fascinating is the "Bureau of Mechanical Devices and Communications." 

If I were ambitious I'd zoom all around town with a camera, taking photos and recording all of the weird names that I could find, and I'd find a lot.  Ambitious, wow, what color is the sky on that planet? 


The Pixies were around from 1986 to 1993, first time around.  I knew about them, but I never caught a fever about it.  Maybe I should have. 

This cut has the new distinction of being the first record made using a 3D printer.  I've read about those things but a big part of me thinks that it's all a hoax.  My mind isn't ready to wrap itself around a home device that "prints out" guns that shoot and records that play. 

Is "Debaser" also the model for "Smells Like Teen Spirit?"  Could be, lots of 'Net speculation about it.  Music is like that.  All music is theft, as far as I'm concerned.  (Within reason, there are some guys who just pull stuff out of a Black Hole or something.)  I've written about it.  We play what we hear; if a guy who grew up alone on a deserted island found a violin he'd copy the animals. 

Goodbye, Maybe

There's a rumor going around that Friday will be the end of the world.  Mayan calendar prophecy; good old Nostradamus; planetary alignment; reversal of the earth's magnetic poles; the eruption of the Yellowstone caldera; some damn thing.  It started with talk of the Mayan calendar and it just spun out of control from there.

There is no general agreement though, I guess that's a good thing.  Current day Mayans say definitely no; Nostradamus says maybe (as usual); and no one but the History Channel seems to be sure that the end of the world is a go.  The History Channel has been in apocalypse overdrive for at least a week now, all-apocalypse-all-the-time.  Me, I'm skeptical. 

But in the event that they're right, I suppose I mean if the programers and the consulted experts of the History Channel are right, let me take this one last opportunity to thank you for your patient readership.  It's been fun.

And I'll see you on Saturday. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cool Website Alert: Retro DPRK: 1980s Glimpses of Wonsan City

Definitely worth a look.  Very cool postcards and promotional material (propaganda) from the old days in good old North Korea.  

Retro DPRK: 1980s Glimpses of Wonsan City

Welcome Fred!

This is a little disorienting.  I just visited "Rotten Tomatoes" dot com, I believe that it was for the first time.  In the upper left-hand corner was a picture of myself; next to it was the legend, "Welcome, Fred!"  Below that was the notice that I had fifty-seven friends, which I thought was a little high until I realized that they must mean "Facebook Friends," which is different.  Bringing up a list of these friends was the easiest thing in the world, with pictures. 

Recall that I hate everything automatic on computers, or automatic anything else for that matter.  Most of the automatic helpers are less than useless.  Like auto-start on a VCR or a DVD player, not only am I standing right there when I put in the disk, I have a remote control in my hand when I sit down.  What could be easier than initiating the display yourself?  The only single thing that auto-start does is make you go through a bunch of steps if you actually want to watch the thing  ten minutes from now.

Honestly, I hate that my computer knows anything at all about me.  Even for a Google search, I'd be much more interested to see sites listed because they were often searched by the public at large than sites that Google thinks I want to see.  Why should the computer be constantly monitoring my activity and trying to make predictions based on the information?  What good could come from that?  For me, I mean, I suspect that some good accrues to advertisers.

Maybe, maybe not, about the advertisers I mean.  Some of the results are so inapt that you wonder who wrote the algorithms.  Like last month, when after Googling the "Mecca Clock Tower" my computer for days thought that I needed information about hotels in Saudi Arabia.  Not in this lifetime I don't, sorry, not gonna happen. 

Ah, Fred, pissing off the wrong side of the ship again, are we?  Go ahead world, dish it out, I can take it.  I have always said, I don't make the rules, I just wake up in the morning like everybody else, the world is what it is.  And probably it was never really better anyway, so let's just go with it. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Anonymous- Message To The Westboro Baptist Church

It's so great that there are people with skills who are mad as hell, and who are just not going to take it anymore.  Usually you have to watch movies to find people like that.

I suppose that I'm not 100% sure that this is legitimate.  What do you think?  One thing for sure about the Twenty-First Century: skepticism is required at all times. 

Warning: watch out at the end of the vid, there's a sudden obnoxious noise right at the end. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Toots & Maytals Louie Louie

A day like today needs a little levity, something to break up the negativity.

What could be more fun than "Louie Louie?"

Answer:  "Louie Louie" by Fred and the boys.

What's Wrong With White People?

There's a site that I like very much called "We Are Respectable Negroes."  As the name implies, the site concerns itself mostly with issues of importance to the black American community.  The writer is no grinning cheerleader though, he bravely calls out pathologies as he sees them that involve the target group.  This honesty, I think, gives him a license to occasionally decry pathologies that exist in the white community as well, and he does.

"What's wrong with white people?" he asks.  It's a valid inquiry.  Beyond questions of White Supremacy and White Victimology, he wonders why it is that so many white American men feel the need to gun up and go out on killing sprees, often for no reason at all.

Could It Be . . . The Guns?  

Blaming it on the guns is too glib, to easy.  It's an excuse for guys like Piers Morgan to get up on their Hobby Horses and feel relevant.   The guns are only the low hanging fruit, staying so close to the surface of any inquiry denies it any chance of success.  A deeper psychological mechanism is at work here.  It manifests itself in more ways that the gun stuff.  There's also child and spousal abuse; high risk behaviors; religious mania; blind racism; substance abuse; xenophobia.  And that's just to name a few.

Suggesting that guns are the cause of the problem is problematic to begin with.  White people in America are feeling threatened by a loss of their former status at the top of the food chain, feeling the loss of their former privileged position, but they're not the only ones.  Certainly white people all over the world are in similar danger of losing their exalted position.  I believe that European white people are experiencing the same negative reactions to this loss that the Americans are feeling, but their responses are different.

Glib references to the numbers of guns in different countries do not explain this difference.  In England, let's say, there are fewer guns in private hands, but in Switzerland virtually every household has an assault rifle handy.  Every adult male is in the army reserve, and keeps possession of the gun, a machine gun really, and a supply of ammunition.  Neither country is experiencing a sustained wave of mass shootings, the relative availability of guns notwithstanding.

Mass shootings do occur in Europe, but with much lower frequency.  That guy in Norway, for example, his rampage was a unique event.  There have been school shootings in other countries, with multiple fatalities, but so far America has been the standout leader in the field.

Pardon Me, Have You Seen My Identity?

Signs of the deeper problem were raised in the recent presidential election.  White Americans are clearly angry about losing their place in the world, which is to say, losing their status as the Masters of the World.  Masters of other countries; masters of the minorities in their midst; men as masters of women; masters, masters, masters.

It's as though they were slowly losing their own personal identities.

"Take back the White House!"  I don't think that the White House was the problem at all, although having a black president did exacerbate the feeling of loss for certain white people.  The White House thing was a case of Freudian substitution, "Give us our identities back!" was the underlying cry.  Where's Freud when you need him?

I wonder what happened when Rome experienced a similar decline in fortune.  For almost one thousand years they were the undisputed masters of their world.  They wielded unchallenged, dictatorial power over everything that mattered, in economic, military, and cultural matters.  And then it ended.  I'm sure that they were deeply shocked, and nostalgic about their bygone, ascendant time, as we seem to be for ours.  Let's say, "similarly shocked," because it is difficult to impossible to go back and understand the psychological pathologies of the remote past.  For one thing, they did not think as we do, a lot has changed in the history of consciousness.  History is silent on the subject; history is much better at reporting the crowning and passing of kings.  There was no device such as the novel with which to examine their motivations at the time.  I'd bet my tattoo though that they were in a deep identity crisis there for a while. I wonder how they handled it. (By re-establishing their power through the Catholic Church, probably.) 

My Humble Conclusion.

People, numerous people, on a regular basis, are shooting up the joint, and that is a problem.  So, what is the answer, Mr. Blogger, Mr. Frederick.Ceely.Wannabe.Com?  As usual, I don't know, but I've got an idea.

The guns themselves are part of the problem. That only makes sense. But there are many countries in the world where this kind of killing doesn't happen even though those countries are chock-a-block full of guns. There must be more to it than the mere presence of so many guns.

I'm sure that the general alienation of modern life doesn't help matters.  Alienation has been snowballing terrifically since the dawn of the industrial revolution.  Cogs in a machine, as it were; the growth of massive, faceless cities.  The disappearance of our institutions, the churches, the communities.  The modern versions of these things stand as poor shadows of themselves.  Remember unions?  Hell, remember secure employment?  Loyalty?  Family?  I like the Internet as well as the next guy, but it's no substitute for what we have lost.

We live in what has been called the "new, you're-on-your-own world."  We are cast adrift, forced to choose between either accepting our interchangeable natures or fighting to establish an individual identity in a world that does not value the individual.  A fight that leads some people, some mostly white people in America, mostly white men, to gun up, go nuts, dress in black like they do in the movies, and go forth to slaughter some strangers, or relative strangers, or occasionally their own families or co-workers.  (Are the later cases easier to understand?  At least there is the appearance of a reason.)

A fight that leads some of us to write blogs, which serve at least to firm up our own images of ourselves, we bloggers.  

Maybe we need to get back in touch with each other, and I don't mean on Facebook.  Maybe people need more security in their lives and more of a sense of community.  Doesn't standing alone against the world get old after a while?  I certainly find it tiring myself.  It's almost no surprise that some people snap, you know, not having a blog to fall back on. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Royals And Shock-Jocks: A Death In Old England

The new princess what's-her-name is pregnant.  She's experiencing morning sickness, maybe more than the usual.  She was admitted to the hospital.  This is big news in England; obviously they have nothing substantive to worry about.

So that bunch of royal-struck neo-pagans is mostly glued to their TV's worrying about the poor girl.


I have always liked morning radio that was a little on the unrestrained side.  In mid-seventies Los Angeles we had Sweet Dick Wittington, a real wild man.  He was particularly adept at the morning radio staple sometimes called "phoney phone calls."  He was the master, always careful to sneak in a disclaimer like "we're on the air right now."  No one seemed to notice though, because the content of his calls was so nuts, and his delivery so innocent and sincere, that they were all sucked into his manufactured reality.

He called the Vatican one time, I think he was suggesting himself as the new bishop of the diocese of Los Angeles.   He got past several levels of vetting and ended up talking to some monsignor in the appropriate office.  The call went on for at least fifteen minutes, finally he had to break for commercials.  He called the Nobel Prize Committee one year, suggesting himself as the recipient of the "Nobel Peace Prize for Science."  A master.

Jonathan Brandtmeyer was another one.  He could do it on the phone, and he could do it live, a great actor he was.  (Maybe he's still working, I don't know.)  One time he got a hold of one of the prop decapitated heads from the movie "Nine Heads in a Duffel Bag" and played a cruel trick on an Indian taxi driver in Chicago.  He had the bloody thing in a gym bag and he climbed into the cab, wired for sound.  He got on a cell phone and did a one-sided call to his boss, saying that the guy was dead and he had the head.  Acting like his boss didn't believe him, he shows the thing to the driver and says, here! ask the taxi driver! he's looking right at it!  The poor guy almost had a stroke.  Was it funny?  Hysterical, actually, cruel but hysterical. 

To my knowledge, no one has previously committed suicide due to one of these calls.  

Unfortunate, Royal-Struck Nurse Commits Suicide

So a pair of morning radio tricksters called up the hospital while the princess was there.  They pretended to be the Queen and the prince, and, I think, one of the Queen's corgi dogs, and asked to talk to the princess.  So the poor, dumfounded young nurse who initially took the call passed it up the ladder to a no-doubt slightly older poor, dumfounded nurse who actually connected the call.  Enter the law of unintended consequences.

The second nurse seems to have taken it pretty well, she still walks with the living and apparently still has her job.  Nurse number one, though, could no longer face life on earth, in her deep shame, and took her own life.


Where is the right and wrong in all of this?  I'm sure that the poor morning fools are pretty broken up about it, and I'm sure that their continued employment is in jeopardy.  Is it their fault?  Does it have to be somebody's fault?  Should we blame it on Royal Fever?  That nurse freaked out when she thought she was on the phone with the Queen.  Overly deferential?  Suggestible?  She wouldn't have killed herself if the phoney call got connected to some schlub.  What if the callee were some government minister?  Donald Trump?  The  Archbishop of Canterbury?  Were's the suicide line?  Blame one of the nurses for not picking up on the clue about the dog being on the phone too?

Well, I'm sorry about the dead nurse, but I hope this doesn't put a damper on the honored tradition of morning radio phoney phone calls.  

Mexico - Beck

I love Beck, there, I said it.  On record, as it were.

This is how the great man started out.  Back in the late '80's he was well known around the West Side of Los Angeles in a certain small segment of the very young hipster community.  If you knew who he was, that was a good sign; if you'd heard him play solo guitar at private parties (self written songs like this one), so much the better; if you actually knew him, big points. 

I believe that this song was recorded live on the air for KCRW, "Corsair Radio West," the Santa Monica College station.  I believe so.

What's Beck up to these days?  "How old Beck?"  ("Old Beck fine;" or "About 44, I think.")  Keep reading and find out.  It's different. 

Beck Sissyneck

In the arc of Beck's career, there was a time when he cared about catering to our basic desires to be entertained.  This is a very catchy tune, but even then Beck, like Little Feat, presented music that was simultaneously an intellectual challenge and something that you could dance to.  (That last is a quote from a friend of mine about Little Feat in 1975, except substitute the word "masturbate" for "dance." I'm too much of a gentleman to use such coarse language.) 

See below to find out what Beck is up to these days.

Beck - Femme Fatale (Record Club)

A Beck side project?  Maybe more of a hobby.  Him and his friends are getting good results though, whatever it is. 

It is "The Record Club," Mr. Beck and his friends get together and recreate whole classic albums.  Between this cute habit and the below posted new "release" he seems to have left behind any wish for commercial potential that he may have had.  Maybe he achieved financial security at some point and decided to follow the line of his personal interest from then on. 

This is a good cover, reverential (he obviously loves this material) and referential too (I love that very Eno toy piano). 

Interesting stuff, and thanks to You Tube for bringing this stuff into our homes. 

Old Shanghai (Beck's Song Reader)

How cool is Mr. Beck?  Cool as the mist that comes off ice, that's how. 

Beck's new offering is a collection of new songs in sheet music form with no audio content, how cool is that?  "Song Reader," which is intended to exist only in cover versions like the embedded video of "Old Shanghai."  The songs seem to be written in the style of pop songs from the sheet music era too. Beckish, it's true, but old school. 

Plenty of them up on the 'Tube already.  Enter "beck song reader" and check them out.  

Is it an attempt to remind people of the old do-it-yourself days?  Is it a reaction to our pirate culture?  ("Pirate this!")  Is it just Beck being Beck?  Probably the latter. 

Beck is the American Cornelius, both of those guys are way out in the Hieronymus Bosch zone, challenges to the wit of anybody who would try to really understand them.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Writing Is Fun (Discuss)

We see a lot of writing about writing, both on the 'Net and, for you old timers, on the shelves.  "How to Write;" "How I write;" "How (insert name here) Wrote;" "How to Write on the Internet."  Usually the advice is old wine in new bottles.

Find your own voice (don't overwrite; don't try to be literary; don't overembellish); have the courage to really write (don't worry about what people will think; don't worry about hurting people's feelings; don't hold back potentially embarrassing details); write about what you know.  It's all good advice.

I enjoy writing this blog.  I often assert, somewhat self-servingly, that I do this writing for its own sake, because it's relaxing, and because maintaining a light, airy tone here helps me to remain light and airy myself, in as much as that is possible.  My hit count as been going up, currently I'm getting between seventy and one hundred hits per day, so now I have not only the pleasure of the writing itself, but also the pleasure of being read.  Maybe I'm flattering myself, maybe most of those hits just want to see a picture of something that they Googled.  Whatever, I'm satisfied.

Not many comments these days.  I'm told (I've read) that a lack of comments does not indicate a problem, that most people by far come to a blog not to comment by to read.  I can understand that.  In my early days of doing this I had quite a few comments on an almost daily basis.  At the time I had between six and ten hits a day and most of them were friends and relatives, so it's not surprising that they wanted to say hi. 

My stat-counter tells me that you are here, and I sincerely appreciate you taking the time.  So yes, writing is fun, under the circumstances. 

Little Willie John - Leave My Kitten Alone

Some people just got it, like ringing a damn bell.  Blowing like a hurricane, cortex disconnected, solar wind straight from Mars and beyond.  Like Little Willie John, for instance. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

John Coltrane - You Don't Know What Love Is

You know, I love Matt and Kim, really I do, and I just listened to a really nice Matt and Kim song that showed eleven million views on the 'Tube.  That's nice for them, I hope that they can translate that popularity into some cash in this ungrateful age where, as impossible as it may seem, making a living at music has become even harder than it has always been.

This 'Trane cut has been up for several years and it has generated only ninety-two thousand views.  Like I said, I love Matt and Kim, really I do.  Maybe it's true that there are many, many fewer Matt and Kim cuts up on this site, so maybe 'Trane gets more hits all together then Matt and Kim do, maybe, I'm no statistician, no researcher.  But then, research would only show that many of our newer artists of the now, of today, were getting millions of hits while Mr. Coltrane was languishing in their collective wakes.  So what?

It's a problem, that's what.  John Coltrane was the Michelangelo of the Twentieth-Century.  Some of us were lucky to have lived in his shadow, lived while he was alive.  I only began to appreciate him later, after his death, but learn to appreciate him I did, and I do yet.

Ah, jazz, but that's another story. 

RIP- My Spam Filter

Did my spam filter suddenly die in the last couple of days?  Today I had six comments awaiting moderation: four spams for Uggs boots and two spams for jerseys. 

This after a dogs age of virtually no spam at all, no comments except legitimate, albeit rare, comments from my fans. 

Oh, the myriad mysteries of the wild and wooly 'Net. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

the mummies- he's waiting (funtastic)

I was really looking for this Sonics song by the Meices.  It just goes to show, whatever anybody will tell you, and they will, that the 'Tube doesn't have quite everything yet. 

But the Mummies!  I love the Mummies!  Good version, too. 

Not quite the Meices though.  I got the Meices version on a mixed 45 that came with a copy of Gearhead magazine.  One side was two songs by the Meices; the other was three songs by the Fastbacks, also a great band.  "He's Waiting" by the Meices is ultra-happening, in case you ever come across it, or I ever get access to my stuff again.