Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Joe Jackson - Look Sharp!

I love the thin, restrained production on this LP.  And, a nice touch, this was a two, ten inch vinyl release initially.

Other artists in a somewhat similar vein got more play.  YouTube commenters love to compare, take sides and criticize, but not me.  I'm not a guy who goes for "the best," or anybody being better than anybody else.  I just like Joe Jackson, and I love this whole LP.  Why can't we all just get along?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Parents, Forgiveness, and Acceptance

Parents, we’re stuck with them, we’re born to them.  They have dominion over us throughout childhood, which seems to last, if I recall, almost forever.  Some are a mixed blessing; some better; some worse.  It all falls into something like a bell curve, like most things.  Thin at the leading edge, the saints; thin at the trailing edge, the real devils; and very broad in the middle ground, the more or less okay.  They are our parents, and we are expected to love them, we are encouraged to love them.  It can be easy, or hard, according to the evidence, and according to our temperaments.

Of my own parents, I can say that one was an active torment to me and the other was an absent disappointment.  I had friends that did better, and friends that did worse, much worse in some cases.  It’s hard to view these things objectively, since they are by nature extremely subjective.  At some point we must make a choice, an adult choice, as to whether we will bear a grudge forever, or if we would prefer to be magnanimous, look at the big picture, and chose to forgive them their peccadillos and accept them for what they are: human beings with human foibles who probably did their best to discharge their responsibilities as our parents.

I’ve known parenting from both sides now, and I have observed a lot of parents and children on both sides of it, too.  One thing is for certain: there are few, if any, perfect parents.  Mistakes are inevitable, because we’re talking about human beings here.  Real people.  Nobody bats a thousand in the game of life.

Of my American friends, there were those who soldiered through the experience of having really awful parents, maybe only one, maybe both.  Most of them have tried heroically to swallow their bitterness and keep it together, for the sake of family or for the sake of their own sanity. 

Of my Thai friends, there are a couple of young people whose experience of childhood and parenting left them with such a comprehensive bitterness that they have taken the extreme step of changing their names and now live with the firm intention of never talking to those people again, or even thinking about them.  I’ve heard the stories, and I understand their pain.  Whatever it takes, brothers and sisters.  It’s up to you.

There are those among my American friends who now speak glowingly on social media about parents that I remember as being less than stellar.  Their love for their parents is very touching.  It occurs to me that they have discovered the obvious truth at the center of the parenting phenomenon:  one’s parents are a fact, a fact that nothing can change.  That woman is your mother; that man is your father.  Even death cannot change that. Their duty was to do the best that they could, and maybe it was, even if it that “best” was borderline criminal. Maybe our duty as their children is to forgive them their imperfections, and to accept them as the imperfect people that they are, that we all are. 

I’ve felt for a long time that our duty was to our own children as well as to our parents.  If we had difficult times with our own parents, the least that we could do was try to model some good behavior for our children and forgive our parents, and love them, and be good to them.  In the hopes, you know, that our children will, in turn, forgive us and be good to us.  That’s the dream.

I think that I have done okay in this effort, my conscience is clean. As an adult, and a parent myself, I did my best to bury the past and put a good face on it all.  We visited with my parents frequently, and I called them often.  I avoided all recriminations and tried to be unrelentingly upbeat.  Frankly, I’d sometimes get off the phone with my mother and say to my wife, “when I die, I’m going straight to heaven, because I was nice to grandma.”  It wasn’t always easy.

My sincerest wish is that someday my own children will find it in their hearts to afford me the same consideration.  When they’re ready.  We can all dream, can’t we? 

Motörhead - Enter Sandman

One of my favorite covers; I think it just kills the Metalica original.  I am informed, and believe, that Lemmy Kilmister, frontman singer/bass player of Motorhead, has died.

Age seventy, cancer.  RIP, Lemmy.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Dave Mason - Baby...please

Another of my favorite LPs at the time.  "It's Like You Never Left."  1973.  Those were some good years for music.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Spin Easy Time!: Boomer Nostalgia: The Million Dollar Movie

This is my most successful post of all time.  It first went up five years ago, and I suppose that I've re-posted it a few times already.  It's just astonishing to me that it still shows up regularly in my stats as one of the "most viewed."

Maybe it's because when you Google "Million Dollar Movie," the results are slim pickings.  That was true as of a few years ago.  I should check again.  Probably still slim, though, because it's number three on the list again this week.

Spin Easy Time!: Boomer Nostalgia: The Million Dollar Movie: Many of us who remember the Fifties are really just trying to remember them, they’re not really clear to us anymore. We’re struggling to re..

By the way, the number two most popular post of all time?  "The Fifteen Greatest Roman Generals."

Astrud Gilberto - "Misty Roses"

Okay, here's a palette cleanser.  "Misty Roses," a first class cover of a tune from Tim Hardin's first LP (1966) by Astrud Gilberto.

Tim Hardin was a perfect example of someone who was just not built for the show business.  Man, you want to make it in show business?  You've got to be tough.  Tim had massive stage fright on top of not being able to handle life on earth in the first place.

He was a junkie, but he was a sociable junkie.  An acquaintance/friend/acquaintance of mine was his needle buddy back in the day.  My friend was a wonderfully sociable Hispanic homosexual who was so funny that he should have had a fucking TV show.  He liked Tim a lot, and that's good enough for me.

What great songs Tim has left us.  "How Can You Hang on to a Dream?"  Wow!!! "Reason to Believe," 'nuff said!  The guy was great.  Just great.

Astrud is pretty great herself.  Picks good songs to sing, too.  I love the two of them.

The Creation - Making Time

"Take your pick; makes you sick . . ."  Not trying to make any friends, these guys.

My ownership of this import Planet Records 45 cemented my acceptance into a group of friends, many of which I am still proud to be in contact with.  (Yes, the group in the recent posts.)  I'd read about it in the New Musical Express, and I got my copy at Bleeker Street Records in what was then still part of Little Italy.  You see? I've always done my homework (although never, at the time, school homework).

Still a great sounding cut, and yes, Jimmy Page did get the idea for the violin bow from this fellow, whose name I could look up, but I don't feel like it at this moment.  (All I've got at this point is a compilation CD, it's around here somewhere.)

They sound angry, don't they? I have always valued that highly in rock n' roll.

The Jam - In The City

These fellows sound a bit angry too.

One of my favorite cuts in particular; one of my favorite Who-Copy Bands in general.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Engrish T-Shirts: Unintended Meanings

I see T-shirts all the time that say things that would get you arrested in some American cities.  My friends and I wonder if the wearers have any idea what their T-shirt says, and we agree that they cannot.  And I can tell you, if anyone were to wear a T-shirt that said the same things in the local language, they’d get arrested right on the spot. 

Just the other day I was shopping at a small, local mall and I saw a plump young woman wearing an oversize blue T-shirt that said:

“I just want you to FUCK me.” 

Most of the lettering was white, with the “FUCK” in bright yellow.
This is not even an extreme example.  We see this stuff all the time. 

That same day I saw one that was not wild enough to draw legal action, but it was enough to carry a message that was probably unintended.  Probably.

This was a tight, black T-shirt on a very pretty woman in her early twenties.  She was otherwise dressed in a very short, very tight, white mini skirt and she was wearing pumps with preposterously high heels and platform soles.  The T-shirt was stretched over enormous breasts, no doubt obtained from a doctor.  The lettering was stretched to distortion over the breasts. The shirt said, in a very pleasant, playful font:

“Tickle Party.” 

Like I say, the message was “probably” unintended.  She might have been working. I always think that it’s rude of me to even venture that as a guess, but it’s a possibility.

I very much enjoy my life here.  Everything is endlessly fascinating, and living here is comfortable in all of its details.  It's always interesting, which is something that I value very much. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Waitresses - Christmas Wrapping (Music Video)

God, I hate Christmas.

Shakespeare's Stars

"Men at some times are masters of their fates.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves . . ."

Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2

I generally try to deflect the blame to my stars, but I do accept that the fault may actually lie in myself.

By "my stars," I do not mean just the astrological value of my star chart.  I would include the sum of my early experiences.  Everything, that is, that came before any sensible cut-off after which it is okay to blame someone for their actions and omissions.

Shakespeare himself leaves some tension even in this brief quote.  The second sentence is direct and unequivocal, stating simply that the fault is ours.  The first sentence allows that at "some times," we may not be the masters of our fates.

Anyway, friends and neighbors, for all of you that have stuck with me through this last year, thank you very, very much.  Forgive me my trespasses, and I will do my dead-level best to forgive those who have trespassed against me.

Happy Holidays!  Which literally means 1) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year; and/or 2) Happy Hanukkuh or whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of the year.

Thanks for reading, and have a safe, healthy and happy 2016.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Republican Debate, December 16, 2015

Forgive me for employing the sobriquet “debate” to describe this mess.  It lends too much dignity to the proceedings.  But we should move past that rhetorical obstacle quickly in the interest of conservation of time.

This was the nine Republican “frontrunners,” down to and including the “three percenters,” Rand Paul, Jeb! Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich (!) and Carlie Fiorina (!!!).  It was, in short, a massive affront to human dignity, devoid of useful ideas or evidence of statesmanship.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: None of these people are appropriate candidates for successfully walking a dog without killing it inadvertently or selling it to a laboratory intentionally.  I wouldn’t let them anywhere near a pistol, much less the war making power of the United States of America.

The debacle, I mean debate, lasted for two hours, and all they talked about was either war or protecting the American people.  Maybe this was the fault of the questioners, who were functionaries of CNN.  The participants never tried to change the subject, though.  War against any old body and protecting the American people from specters in the wind were fine with them as subjects. 

Regarding “War,” everything that any of them said was flippant and massively counterproductive.  They were mostly concerned with war against ISIS.  Let’s take a look at a couple of their ideas.

The War Against ISIS

They all seemed to agree that there should be a war against ISIS, and that President Obama was getting it all horribly wrong.  Maybe Rand Paul was something of a voice of reason here, making one of the evenings few reasonable points that we may have pissed away enough treasure already on such pipe dreams. 

There were two major fallacies in their mostly unhinged rantings about ISIS:

1.   We need to let our Sunni Muslim allies carry the ball on the ground; and

2.   We must bomb ISIS into submission, if not out of existence.

Regarding our “Sunni Allies,” and it flatters them to be described thusly, none of the would-be presidents seemed to be aware that ISIS is a pawn in the power struggle between Sunnis (led by Saudi Arabia) and Shiites (led by Iran) that is now playing out across the Middle East.  ISIS is a pawn on the Sunni side, and I mean firmly, not somewhere out in the middle.  This is a huge misunderstanding of the basic situation for which they are prescribing murderous solutions that are doomed to failure, seemingly without a care in the world for the costs or the consequences.

Regarding “bombing them into submission,” they are equally uninformed and wrong-headed. 

Let’s consider two historical situations where that was tried.  First, against Germany in World War II; and second, against Vietnam in that huge mistaken effort that we have unfortunately forgotten the lessons of. 

Germany was a large industrial society and we tried to cow them into terrified submission with a terror bombing campaign that went on for several years.  Every city in Germany was flattened in a comprehensive manner.  None of that seemed to bother them at all.  By the end of the war, after a couple of million civilians had been killed, the German people had only been made very pissed off and resolute, and production of war goods only increased right up to the end of the war.

Vietnam was an agricultural country without much industrial capacity, much like the ISIS territories.  Carpet bombing them only made them even angrier than they had been since time immemorial against the Chinese, then the French, then the Japanese, then the French again, and then at us. The bombing didn’t seem to work at all on the Vietnamese.

Bombing alone won’t work on ISIS either, unless by “working” you mean gaining them more recruits.  The only thing that really works in situations like this is closely approaching opposing forces, on the ground, and either shooting them, or blowing them up, or bayonetting them at close range.  This, I should think, is common knowledge among informed observers. 

But it’s not knowledge of any kind for our Republican presidential wannabees!!!  Amazing, it is.  Sick, it makes me.

They’re full of stupid ideas.  Let’s have a no-fly zone!  A few of them said that.  Lots of problems with that idea, most of them bearing red star insignias.  Let’s make a safe zone!  Oh, just how would you accomplish that, pray tell?  They sounded like a bunch of morons.

War In General

None of the nine people on the stage have had any experience of war, nor of military discipline, nor have any of their children been subjected to those realities.  That did not stop them from glibly offering war at its fullest degree to any and all comers. 

There was general agreement that President Obama has allowed the American military to sink to unfrightening levels of readiness and capacity to destroy.  They climbed all over one another to be the one most willing to spend whatever it took to make America terrifying again.  Carly Fiorina has been the point man for a vast increase in defense spending.  She wants, what is it, a six hundred ship navy?  Lots more ships.  More infantry divisions, more planes, more everything.  Ben Carson today suggested that we need to replace our Ohio class attack submarines, our Minuteman missiles, and our B-52s.  How breathtakingly stupid is that?  To say that all in one breath, wow, one has to wonder if he’s done the math on that or thought it through in any meaningful way.  No time line, just “we must do it.”   

But war!  These inexperienced dilatants stood there and suggested one war after another, more or less simultaneously. 

War In Particular

Russia!  This one includes ad hominum attacks against Vlad Putin.  “I’m not afraid of a guy riding a horse with no shirt on.”  One of them said that recently, I forget which one. 

They also talk about “standing up to Putin,” by putting new missiles in Poland and holding military maneuvers in the Baltic States.  (Geography alert:  that would be Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which were part of the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1991 or so, and which provided Russia with access to the Baltic Sea, which happens to run ice-free to the North Atlantic almost all year, unlike northwest Russia.)   

North Korea! They were briefly mentioned in a question posed to Ben Carson.  Dr. Carson vaguely (big surprise!) suggested that we do something about them, including getting other Asian countries to bother them about something and getting China to talk to them.  He didn’t go any further, and everyone else dropped the subject with a silent prayer.  North Korea is actually scary, and even this crowd of war mongers would rather just shut up, avert their eyes and cross the street, hoping for the best.

China! They were more forthcoming about China.  We must retaliate for China’s cyber attacks!  We need to push them on human rights!  There was talk that sounded like a containment policy regarding the South China Seas.  Sure, let’s do that!  We only owe them uncounted billions of dollars, and they only have the power to bring the dollar down single handed, so sure!  Let’s just jump in their shit big time!  We’re tough guys!  God help us if any of these numbskulls gets elected.

And the rest of you, out there in “the world,” which is an American playground, any of y’all motherfuckers want some?  Chickenhawks Anonymous will be happy to pay their friends for plenty of bombs and weapons, minus the kickbacks, and they’ll be delighted to send our children to get killed behind some new bullshit scheme to prove how tough they are. It’s pathetic.

Protecting The American People

This seems to consist mostly of additional surveillance of Americans, reducing the mobility and the rights of association of Americans, and eliminating more of the pesky freedoms that obviously need to be sacrificed on the altar of our security. 

The police state needs to be expanded, and refugees from pretty much everywhere need to be blocked.  That would especially be Muslim refugees, because those people are trouble.  They want to kill us!  Let’s conveniently forget that these Muslim refugees from Syria and Iraq are fleeing from conflicts that we engendered by stupidly invading Iraq with no legitimate reason at all and no plan for follow through whatsoever. 

Now it’s “you’re on your own,” which is only fair, because the message of these self-aggrandizing politicians to their own constituents is the same: “you’re on your own.”  We’re all on our own.

Final Word

If they talked about anything else it was while I was in the shower.  I didn’t sit there like a mental patient listening to every word. 

Between war and protecting us, they didn’t even have any time to talk about their real agenda, which is cutting taxes on corporations and the rich; unwinding every social program since the New Deal; deregulating business; privatizing everything; and gutting environmental protection legislation.  With a program like that, it’s better to keep it a secret and stick to fear mongering about war and terrorism.  Neither was there any mention of Global Climate Change or the problems of gun violence.  They couldn’t even find a moment to mention their precious unborn. 

All they talked about was war as they misunderstand it and wrongheaded ideas about “protecting” us from terrorists.  These ideas will only produce more conflict and more terrorists. 

War must only be resorted to when nothing less than war’s most primordial and horrifying attributes will solve the problem.  It must always be resorted to with great reluctance. 

Protecting the American people would be much better accomplished by helping to solve the social problems of the world and trying to help people achieve fulfillment and happiness.  If you just threw up in your mouth a little bit, or chocked a silent scream, or laughed out loud, then maybe we should all just give up. 

If the majority of voters have the same bad attitude as these nine hopelessly inept politicians, maybe we should just lock the door and go home.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Corporate Culture At Volkswagen

Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scamming shenanigans are much in the news these days.  It’s safe to say that it all sounds very arrogant and self-serving.  That attitude is nothing new with Volkswagen. 

The Rabbit

In 1977 I bought a new Rabbit.  I had driven a friend’s 1976 Rabbit, and I was hooked.  The ’76 was a carburetored engine displacing 1600 cc’s, with about 85 horsepower.  It was a blast to drive.  My ’77 was a Bahama Blau (Blue) Intermediate model, with a new engine displacing, I think, just under 1500 cc’s, with fuel injection, putting out 71 horsepower.  The car weighed next to nothing, under a ton, and the gear box and clutch were just wonderful, so it was still a quick little car. I loved it, but there were problems.

There was one big problem with the new engine and numerous smaller mechanical problems with the car in general. I say that the smaller problem were numerous, which is being kind.  Between 10,000 miles and 30,000 miles, every component that you can think of needed to be replaced, at my expense.  The clutch; the master cylinder of the brakes; little brackets and bushings here and there; the dashboard; it was a lot.  Amazingly, for 120,000 miles after that all the car ever needed was oil changes and gas in the tank.  Rough honeymoon; good marriage.

I’m complaining, it’s true, but I’ll admit that the car was the fun beyond fun to drive.  It handled like a toy.  It had rack-and-pinion steering that was very precise. (No need for power assist with a car that light.)  The gearbox was very well spaced and the throw on the stick was short and precise.  The clutch had a throw of about one inch from totally in to totally out.  You could heel-and-toe it like a race driver, with your heel on the brake and your toe on the clutch.  You could drive that car as fast as it would go, and it would break a four wheel power slide with very little prompting.  Just a blast to drive.

The big problem was very annoying, and Volkswagen’s response to the problem was super annoying.  The new engine was fitted with Teflon valve guides that wore out within a few thousand miles.  The engine then started to burn oil like a two-stroke, trailing black smoke and requiring the addition of a quart of oil with every second tank of gas, at least.  I complained and got only bored, exculpatory responses.  Finally, I sent a letter to the national manager of customer service for North America.  I received a letter in reply, a letter that was breathtaking in its arrogance. 

“As you know,” the letter began, “all automobile engines burn a certain amount of motor oil in normal operation.”  The letter went on to scoldingly remind me that it was the responsibility of a car owner to make sure that his engine oil was always topped up.  I called his office and actually got him on the phone.  Speaking in person he was even more infuriating than the letter. 

Finally there was a recall, and the problem was solved.  I mentioned all of this to an acquaintance who worked in Volkswagen’s Los Angeles parts warehouse.  “That’s them all over,” he said, “the big wigs from Germany are even worse.  You can’t believe how they talk to us when they visit the warehouse.” 

VWs Current Troubles

This current problem with Volkswagen diesels is much more serious.  Volkswagen management is accused of systematically setting up their cars to evade emissions tests and deliver false emissions information.  This puts them at odds with the laws of multiple countries, and it appears that even criminal charges may be a possibility.  It’s the same old corporate arrogance and entitlement, though.  The same evil spirit at its heart. 

I’m sure that other automobile companies are not blameless in such matters, but Volkswagen’s long history of casually disregarding anything that impedes their progress should be enough to make people think twice before dealing with them.

They’re not the only company selling cars. 

Little Walter, Juke

Changing the course of Urban Blues with an instrument that cost about a dollar.  That was Little Walter.

This cut is from 1952, and it must have caused quite a sensation.  Still does, actually.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Have You Eaten, Or Not Yet?

Or in America, "have you eaten?"  

Americans are often considerate and polite.  If people visited my house unannounced I would bring them a glass of water without mentioning it, maybe asking them if they’d like some ice in that.  Or maybe offering them a beer, depending on the situation.  But even if it was around the lunch hour I might not mention food.  I’d probably assume that they had that under control.  If I was in the middle of making something for myself, I’d offer them some.  Otherwise maybe, maybe not.  All cultures are different.

People in Thailand talk about food at every opportunity, and other people’s wellbeing is important to them.  So in almost every situation, Thais will ask, “have you eaten, or not yet?”  That’s the formula for such questions in Thai.  “Geen laow ruh yang?”  Or even, “dang an laow ruh yang.” (Are you married or not yet?) 

City people are urban in any culture, and in big cities you can’t worry too much about everybody else, while in smaller settings you can worry about nearly everybody.  In the Thai countryside, it was common for strangers to greet me and ask me to sit for a while and have some cool water if it was hot out.  (And it’s always hot out.)  In small town settings, if someone asked me if I’d eaten yet, and I said, no, they’d offer me some food or a snack of some kind.  It’s that kind of place. 

Those are all gentle things without too much drama in them.  Just folks being neighborly.  Sometimes the interaction becomes more urgent.

I recall when I was younger discovering that black Americans would sometimes ask upon greeting each other, “are you eatin’ regular?”  Maybe the formulation came from an earlier time, an evil time out in the countryside, the Jim Crow times.  Along with that question came, “where are you staying?”  Possible answer: “I’m outdoors right now.”  Maybe I heard these things in older, non-urban songs.  Those kinds of questions carry a poignancy that is almost unbearable. 

I don’t know where to draw the moral from all of this.  Maybe we should just take an opportunity to reflect and agree that we should all just be much nicer to one another.  We’re all we’ve got, after all.  If “we” won’t help “us,” who will?  

Kevin Ayers "Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes"

This is a great LP.  It's all up on YouTube by now, but beware.  Some cuts are other versions under this cover.

The band was so great at this concert that these live versions are often the best for any given song.  Ollie Halsal on guitar is a particular treat.  Some of the cuts are shockingly good.  Baby's on Fire, Heartbreak Hotel.  Have some fun!

Mr. Fred's Dream, Continued: Religion

Those fifteen friends . . . I should mention something about our religious backgrounds. 


Eleven of us came from families that were more or less Catholic.  No one’s family seems to have taken religion too seriously, though.  I was the only one that had attended Catholic schools.  Catholicism had never really taken root in any of us. 

Of the other four, one came from a nominally Lutheran family, one from a non-religious family that had at one time been Eastern Orthodox, and two came from Jewish families. 

The Lutheran family had been churchgoers when my friend was small, but he had received little or no religious instruction, and his only supernatural interest as a teenager was in the occult. 

The Eastern Orthodox family had long since abandoned any interest in religion at all.  My friend’s parents had been born in the Ukraine, and their experience of Soviet Communism, famine and war had been rather intense.  All of that had left them with the firm opinion that we are on our own in this world, and they sought no assistance from prayer.  My friend had, I believe, never heard a word about religion while growing up. 

One of the Jewish boys came from a mixed family.  Mixed in several ways, actually.  His dad was Jewish, but secular.  His mom was substantially black, from a family that was quite blended, and generically Christian with Catholic overtones from Irish progenitors.  He had hardly heard a word about Judaism while growing up, and his attendance of Catholic grammar school was a matter of geography and convenience.  It was the closest school to his home.  By the time that I met him he was vigorously anti-religious in the French style (he was quite a Francophile).  “Tax the church,” etc.  He had never received Jewish instruction, and he had not been Bar mitzvah’d. 

My other Jewish friend came from a semi-secular family of Reformed Jews.  He had received religious instruction as a boy, from two religions in fact.  The family lived in Puerto Rico for several of his high school years and while there he had attended a Catholic high school.  He did have a Bar mitzvah as a thirteen year old.  By the time that we were all hanging out, he was no longer interested, if he ever had been. 

All of this was somewhat interesting to some of us; less so to others.  My Reformed Jewish friend was interested in Catholic practice, a holdover from his days in Puerto Rico.  He was curious about confession, for instance.  I explained the process to him and taught him the formulas, and he actually did show up for confession once or twice.  We came up with a few sins for him to confess, and he recited the formulas and “confessed” those sins.  He was particularly fascinated by his “penance,” a list of prayers to recite.  He also took me and a couple of others to temple once or twice.  We wore our borrowed yarmulkes and sat respectfully.  It was all very interesting in a social science experiment kind of way.  But not for us, we all agreed. 

For the friends that I am still in contact with, religion has remained a mystery best left to others.  It is possible that some may have passed on their Catholicism to their children. 

I am only informed about one friend that found religion later on.  At some point, my “Lutheran” friend chose to become a Catholic.  He was drawn in equal parts by the ritual aspects of Catholicism and the writings of Catholic mystic Thomas Merton.  I think it all gave him some comfort, and I’d be happy about that.  He had pretty severe hereditary health issues that finally killed him a little on the young side.

For my part, I did not deliver my children to any particular religion, but neither did I bad mouth religion in their presence.  I took them, as boys, to a variety of religious services, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish.  I was leaving the decision to them, religion or not, up to you!  Neither of them has found a need to include religion in their lives.  They are both married to Christian women (one from Indonesia and one from Kenya), and we’ll see what happens with the children.  That one is too early to call. 

I remain non-religious, bordering now on being anti-religious.  I would tolerate it better if religion was merely a harmless diversion for fearful, confused people.  It certainly is that for most adherents, but for many it is a fever that causes much mischief in the world.  Many of the religions themselves have, over the centuries, generated a lot of mischief and terror on their own motion.  I find it all unforgivable and quite unnecessary.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Lee Dorsey - Ride Your Pony (The Sam and Dave Show, 1967)

I don't know.  America might be in some sort of weird doldrums these days, but we've still got our culture, don't we?  OUR culture, our ultra-cosmopolitan, super-diversified culture.  And it comes in handy, too.

While the Frenchies were making some kind of obscure philosophical point by listening to Antoine et le Problemes, we were dancing to Lee Dorsey.  And how about that Sam and Dave Show Band!  Take that, rest of the world.  Y'all can't do what we do.

And philosophically, let's face it, "Ride Your Pony" is one of the deepest songs of all time.  Shoot that pistol, baby!  Let's do this thing.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Antoine Et Les Problèmes -[01]- Je Dis Ce Que Je Pense Et Je Vis Comme J...

I'm pretty sure that I own this record, picture cover and all.  Unable to check, I am, because my records are long ago and far away by now.  The collection is still intact, but my son has custody right now, and nine time zones is a long, long ways away.

I can guarantee that I have one Antoine 45 RPM record with a picture cover, and this one looks familiar.  Why I would have purchased such a thing, I don't know.  Probably because I had a good friend at the time who was a Francophile.  He and I went to see French New Wave movies, and he kept me up to date on the French "music" scene.

Antoine was supposed to be the French Bob Dylan, the French Donovan.  Clearly, from the evidence, he was not.  Perhaps he was better, more listenable, than Les Etoile.  I should check.

The French are interesting.  Pictorial arts, check.  Literature, check.  Cinema, check and double check. Music?  Forget it.  Move along!  Nothing to see here!  

Shinya Kimura Is Back!

Shinya Kimura!  About five years ago I posted a YouTube video of this guy doing a first cold start of a new creation.  The bike was amazing, and the video was compelling.  Then I lost track of his name. I've been looking for him for a while.  Came across his name today in a funny way. 

I was watching golf on TV, I know, the very definition of nothing to do.  Time on one's hands.  Anyway, it was the Hero Classic, down in the Bahamas.  One of the signs said, "Hero Motorcycles."  That sounded familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, so I asked Professor Google.  

Hero Motorcycles is an Indian outfit.  I'm not sure, but they might do business here in Thailand as Stallion Motorcycles.  Maybe, don't quote me.  Some of the designs look very similar.  On the Hero website the designer mentioned that his inspiration was Shinya Kimura.  Worth a look, so back to Google.  Sure enough!  It's the guy!

And what a guy.  Look at these things, and there are hundreds of them by now.  This Mr. Kimura fabricates everything but the tires and the motors, from the looks of it.  Just amazing stuff. 

That's art on the hoof, right there. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Rocket From the Tombs - Raw Power

As constant readers know, this blog is fascinated with cover versions.  This is a rare treat.  A song by the Stooges, covered by Rocket from the Tombs.  It's a jaw-dropper, too.

Incidentally, if you want to look for the original, the album version by the Stooges is total crap.  The only good Stooges version is available, or was, only on a four song, ten inch EP called, "Rough Power."  Those are some frighteningly aggressive recordings, not for the feint of heart, and "Raw Power" is one of the best.  They are the mixes from the originally submitted LP that was rejected by the record label.  Find it if you can, buy it if you can, it's one of the best rock records of all time.  If you do find it, please post it to the 'Tube.  It's not up there yet.

Agriculture Ruined Everything

An optimist sees the glass as half full; a pessimist sees it as half empty.  Some would say that the arrival of agriculture allowed everything to flourish, bringing civilization and culture to primitive people; others would say that agriculture destroyed the Garden of Eden by creating social division.  The answer, as usual, probably lies somewhere in the middle, but there is definitely a strong argument that agriculture ruined everything.

Agriculture is the domestication and cultivation of plants (with a nod to animal husbandry). It became a thing about ten thousand years ago, a little over ten thousand years ago.  We are usually taught that it all began in the Fertile Crescent, but really it seems to have arrived in many places almost simultaneously. 

Some say that human populations became sedentary after the beginnings of agriculture, but I think it’s more likely that the sedentism came first, based on water supplies and the gathering of wild plants.  The climate was getting drier, and the plants and the humans were following the same water.  Under those circumstances, agriculture was a natural.  The fact that it all came about in places as remote from each other as the Middle East, China, and Mexico argues that there was an overarching ecological situation happening generally.

The worst part of it is that the dawn of agriculture was the dawn of politics, which is the thing that has actually ruined everything.  Before agriculture, the small bands of humans didn’t have anything worth taking, or owning for that matter.  There was not much difference between the chief and the oldest man with a limp.  Everyone in the group was important, every man, woman, boy and girl.  Everyone’s work output was crucial to the group’s success.  Anyone’s death impoverished the group.  Everyone had a role to play, a role dictated by strength, cunning and ability.  “Us” was all of us.

After agriculture, settlements got larger and more permanent and humans got more numerous and more prosperous very quickly.  There were crops, fertile fields, irrigation systems, infrastructure and defensible cities to protect or seize.  The sufficiency of food allowed for new types of craftsmen to be supported without having to hunt or gather, people that only made baskets, only wrote things down, only made bricks, only did math. Social classes needed to be created, to keep everybody straight in the new pecking order. This all necessitated the invention of money as a medium of barter, which led to income, which led immediately to income inequality.

Things got serious in a hurry.  Along with prosperity came greed, weapons, tactics, armies and self-aggrandizing elites.  Religion zoomed to the forefront, mostly as a way to justify the wealth and power of the elites.  Now “us” was the power elite. 

The new power elites made all of the decisions, and of course they always decided things in a way that favored their own interests.  This system is still with us today. 

Unwinding this power grab has been a daunting prospect for ordinary people over the centuries.  Sometimes “us” moves back in the direction of “all of us.”  This usually happens after some terrible calamity, like the Black Death or World War II. Then comes the push-back from the power elite, moving “us” back to just themselves.  We’re watching this all play out right now, as I speak. 

We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, blame it on agriculture.  

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Mr. Fred's Dream

The video is a cover of “Bob Dylan’s Dream,” from the Freewheeling album.  Of all things, the original doesn’t seem to be up on YouTube.  (Just an alternate take that should have been taped over long ago.)  This cover seems to be by Dario Piccarreta.  I have no information about him, but he has a great name and does a very good, respectful job on the song.

But this is my dream!  My friends!  Our old lives!  I wax nostalgic myself sometimes.

Through my late teens and twenties I was lucky enough to be part of a group of close friends.  I made a list, fifteen of us.  A couple of them on the list were outliers in general, but close friends of mine, and I decided to include them. Everybody knew them; they knew everybody. 

There is no distaff side to the list; most of us had girlfriends, but many of them came and went and all of them were left out of the real shenanigans, more or less.  We were all born between 1947 and 1950.  I’ve been wondering: how did my friends and I fit into the traumas and the temptations of our era? 

Military Service

We were all prime-time for the Vietnam era draft.  Only five of us served time in the military, myself and four others.  Of the five, only two completed their tours without incident.  One in the Air Force, and one in the Navy.  Four years each. 

In my case, boot camp went fine, and I was posted to “the fleet.”  Before too long, the Navy decided that I lacked military bearing, or had failed to adjust to military life, or was possibly hostile to authority, some combination of those things.  I was given an Honorable Discharge and a plane ticket home.  They were decent about it; I’d never been in trouble.

Another friend had been drafted into the Army.  Although he had no formal education to speak of, the Army discovered at boot camp that his intelligence was off the charts.  They sent him to Army intelligence school.  He went through the school and was posted somewhere, but then his officers discovered that he, too, lacked military bearing, and had certainly failed to adjust to military life, and was probably hostile to authority as well.  I don’t think he made any trouble while he was in, but I’m pretty sure that he was given a General Discharge.  The Navy has more of a sense of humor than the Army.

A third friend was also drafted into the Army.  He got the more usual schedule:  boot camp; advanced infantry training; jungle school; Vietnam.  He was there for about six months before he got shot in the head.  He survived, but with life-long disabilities, including partial paralysis and epilepsy.  He’s made the best of it. In those days, they didn’t “discharge” seriously wounded soldiers, they “retired” them.  So they got retirement pay, and, in my friend’s case, 100% disability as well, with full meds.  I don’t think that they’re so generous anymore.

Of the other ten guys, seven were 4F.  A couple of those were legitimate, one with physical and one with psychological problems that had been clinically observed.  One guy was legitimately gay, and they noticed quickly and rushed him out, thanking him for his interest.  One might have just had his file marked, “oh, hell no.”  He was odd.  At least three went in loaded, exaggerated their drug use, and might have said that they were gay as well.  Anyone who ever tried that approach got the result that they were seeking, and I never heard of it ever coming back to haunt someone after that.

There were a few simple “no’s” on my list.  I don’t know how they did it, but they never went in.  It’s not like we really discussed these things. 


My gay friend has made as much of a success of “marriage” as any of us.  He’s still in a long-term relationship that began in 1973. 

Only three of the fifteen never married.  One, because death took him at age 22; another, because a terrible cloud came over him at about that age (he died relatively young, too); and the third because he just could never get the whole woman thing figured out. 

Six of us, including myself, have at least one divorce under our belts. The times of the first marriages were: six months; six months; two years; several years; ten years; and forty-four years.  (That last one is mine.)  Two were caused by general craziness; two by adultery (one by the husband; one by the wife); one by cocaine abuse; and my own by compassion fatigue on the part of my wife.

Four of my friends have gone on to very successful, long-term second marriages. 

Five of the fifteen have only been married one time, and are still married.  This all puts us, I believe, right at the heart of all of the statistics. 

Drugs and Alcohol

Let’s just say that my friends and I were not immune to the temptations of the times, and none of us were loath to participate. 

Three of my friends developed alcohol problems that they thought were problematic enough to join AA.  Two are still going to meetings, and one is sober on his own. A couple of my friends stopped drinking on their own, successfully.

A couple of others should probably have joined AA.  Let’s not put too fine a point on that one.  One friend has actually drunk himself to death. 

Our involvement with the so-called drug scene seems almost quaint by this time.  Only one of us went through a period when his drug use interfered with working.  He got over it, and was fine.  Only one of us became a regular user of cocaine.  He had a good income, and he worked in the music business.  That can be a dangerous combination.  He got over it, too, but only after his marriage had blown up.  He’s been fine ever since. 

Education and Career

I am the only one on the list that completed university.  (I later went on to get a JD and become a lawyer.) 

Two others on the list completed three years of college, which is worse than no years of college at all, because it proves to the world that you cannot sustain an effort. 

Everybody on the list did finish high school, at least. 

Only three of us went on to impressive careers.  One as a session drummer and drum teacher; one as a recording engineer; and one in the field of publishing. 

Another was an insurance adjuster, that’s a good, responsible job.  He worked at it for twenty-nine and a half years, and he was “laid off” a couple of months before his pension was to have vested.   Picked the wrong company to work for, unfortunately. 

I am not on the “impressive career” list.  Interesting, certainly, but hardly impressive. 

The rest of us have knocked around all of this time at one job or another.  For years, we had resumes that would mostly frighten prospective employers. I, and many others, settled down and began to perform well at some point.  By now, many of us are retired, one way or the other.  A few of us are on the “work until you die” program.  America these days is not a friendly place to get old.  I’m sure that I’m not the only one who wishes that I’d been born in Europe.

Mental Health

At least eleven of us were depressed, more or less.  There was one, and maybe two problems that may have been schizophrenia, one was clinically observed from an early age.  All of us learned to play the cards that we were dealt. 

In the absence of psychological issues, I’m sure that the group, as a whole, would have performed much better educationally and career wise.  My friends and I were a pretty smart group, but you’d never know it to add up the statistics. 

Are we happy now?  The survivors?  Maybe fifty-fifty.

But “survivors” has a nice ring to it. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

My Mom's Typical Day

If it was sixty-four degrees outside, it was too hot; my mom’s day was ruined.  If it was sixty degrees, it was too cold; my mom’s day was ruined. 

If it was raining, my mom’s day was ruined.  If it had snowed overnight, my mom’s day was ruined.

If my mom even thought about cleaning house or cooking dinner, her day was ruined.

If my mom talked with one of the other moms on the phone, and one of their children had achieved some success or other, her day was ruined.

If something prevented my mom from drinking until late in the afternoon, her day was ruined.

If my mom had to get dressed up to do something, her day was ruined.  If she had to drive somewhere, or walk somewhere, her day was ruined. 

It was easy for my mom’s day to be ruined, and if her day was ruined, then everyone’s day had to be ruined.  Everyone in the family anyway, which generally meant my sister and I. 

And now we must be bombarded with motherhood memes on social media.  Share if mom was your best friend!  Unconditional love!  Mom helped me so much!  Mom enabled my success!  Mom encouraged me!  I miss my mom in heaven!  There’s no end to it.

These brief odes to motherhood are acts of violence to someone like me.  Please believe me when I say that I am very happy for all of you lucky ones who were blessed with loving mothers.  But please realize, you beloved, that your tender feelings are a great sadness to someone like me.  I loved my mom too, but for me, and others, it was a very different experience of motherhood. 

Robert Gordon - Someday Someway

I have always liked Robert Gordon.  Good look, great style, and way before the look got popular.  Very competent and respectful covers of old Rockabilly songs, and later on he branched out to include tunes like this one (from Marshall Crenshaw).  He's still working.

Robert has always had a great band, too.  His first LP featured Link Wray on guitar.  And in this video, do my eyes and ears deceive me?  Is that Danny Gatton on first Telecaster?  That, friends and neighbors, is working with the best.

Today In WTF

December 3, 2015 . . . I was greeted this morning by an amazing bit of so-called news.  When CNN came into focus my first exclamation was, “fourteen!  And seventeen injured!”  An amazing tale, for true, but these days it’s all too commonplace.  Hardly a “wait . . . what?” moment.  Proceeding with my morning ablutions, nutrition, and news gathering, I quickly came across these three genuine “what the fuck?” news articles.

1.        Senator Jim Inhofe (Republican, Oklahoma) is the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  He said, out loud, on the floor of the Senate, that he believes that if there is such a thing as “climate change,” God is causing it.  He speculated that maybe God was engineering climate change to bring about the end of the world.  He’s a United States Senator.

2.       Britton Clayton Taylor is a “Christian writer.”  He’s thirty-three years old.  He was reportedly arrested in Alabama after robbing a movie theatre.  He used a pistol in the robbery (maybe a fake pistol, doesn’t matter for charging purposes), and he was wearing one of those lifelike latex masks.  He got the contents of the safe and put the money in a backpack.  Not a great job, though, he was tackled and restrained by the manager while returning to his car, a Porsche 911, in which the police found a wig and other disguise materials. Reportedly he told police, by way of what? explanation? exculpation? that he robbed the place to advance his rise in the ranks of a group of Freemasons. 

3.       Alex Jones has a popular right wing radio show called “Info Wars.”  He was in the news today because Donald Chump appeared on the show to explain his plan for making America great again.  By way of introduction, the article described some of Mr. Jones’ beliefs.  I watched a live clip from his show in which he explained that New World Order “elites” take DMT to communicate with “little gray men” from another dimension.  So, this conspiracy is not only trans-generational, not only international, not even only interplanetary, but actually interdimensional.  These little gray men want the New World Order to build the Hadron Collider so that black holes can be created, through which the little gray men can come to earth so that they can kill us all. 

And that’s all on one day, people.  Something has gone seriously wrong with the world.  The news in general is seriously threatening, but the real WTF moments are coming faster and faster. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Upsetter Rock - The Upsetters (Little Richard)

The beginnings of Little Richard's solo career?  As the leader of an instrumental group?  Yes, grasshopper, there are many things yet to be learned in this world of ours.

Thanksgiving In Bangkok

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.  There’s no mandatory appearance at church, and no gifting agenda.  Gifts!  I’ve never been comfortable either receiving or giving gifts.  Also in its favor is the four day weekend that comes with Thanksgiving.  What’s not to like?

The main emphasis of Thanksgiving is the preparation and consumption of a big, delicious dinner.  About thirty members of my mother’s family would gather at my grandmother’s funeral parlor for about a dozen holidays every year, and Thanksgiving was definitely my favorite.  Roasting a turkey, as it turns out, is not easy.  My maternal grandmother was very good at it.  Nana could roast a turkey with the best of them.  And when it came to mashed potatoes, hers were the very best.  Her secret?  Half potatoes, half butter, and whipped in a blender.  Add some gravy and those mashed potatoes were better than ice cream, and just about as caloric. 

My Aunt Mary L. could sure cook a turkey.  Hers were about the best in my family.  Her secret was slow cooking.  She’d get up in the middle of the night and start that thing, cooking it for ten or twelve hours at about 170 degrees.  If you tried that today, people would be sure that deaths from salmonella would result.  Aunt Mary managed it without killing anybody, and that’s with stuffing in the bird!  Another modern no-no!  Maybe we were stronger in the old days.

The less said about my own mother’s turkeys the better.  She was not a woman that was known for her cooking.  Not known for her cooking successes, at least.  The less said about my mom’s cooking, the better. 

I spent most of my married life in Los Angeles.  My wife was a hit-or-miss cook in general.  It was not a lack of talent or training, because her mom had been a really great cook and had taught her daughters a thing or two.  No, it was more of a general resentment of cooking, which caused my wife to just throw things together in the quickest way possible without regard to how they would taste.  She brought out her A-game on Thanksgiving, though.  Her turkeys were masterfully prepared, moist, nicely bronzed and delicious.  She always had a big turnout to show off for, too.  We were the holiday destination for many of our friends who had no family within a few thousand miles.  L.A. is like that.  Most of my friends were writers, and they were very glad to have a good invitation to a delicious family Thanksgiving dinner.  We had big crowds for ten or fifteen years in a row.  Surrounded by friends; my boys were young; my wife was young and beautiful; those years were very special.

Thailand is not a turkey country.  You can get turkeys, but they’re expensive.  Turkeys from America or Australia, fresh or frozen, they’re available but almost no one buys them.  There are no ovens in Thailand, for one thing.  It’s too hot to have an oven. 

I have had two really great Thanksgiving turkey dinners in Thailand.  The first was in a private home in Pechabun.  That was a couple that had lived in Texas for fifteen years before returning to retire in Thailand.  The wife was Thai, and she had sure enough mastered Thanksgiving cuisine and roasting turkeys.  The second was at the American Consulate in Chiang Mai.  They had real chefs up there, I’m sure those guys could make anything.  That was a professionally prepared Thanksgiving. 

This year I finally made it to the Bourbon Street Restaurant (and Boutique Hotel!).  I’ve known about the place for years, but it’s a little pricey.  They feature New Orleans cuisine, which I love, but it’s just too expensive for me.  The Thanksgiving Buffet was even more expensive than their usual fare, but all of the stars were in alignment this year.  My friend Eddie wanted to go, and my friend really wanted to try the American Thanksgiving menu.  Baht 1,250 each, but sometimes you’ve just got to go for it. 

Turkeys (roasted and deep fried); all of the usual turkey side dishes; stuffed oysters; Buffalo wings; Virginia ham; “several vegetables;” soft shell crab; Cajun shrimp; lobster bisque; Jambalaya; crab cakes; Gumbo; pork ribs; tri-tip; just too much to recall, really.  Garlic bread and corn bread.  Tons of desserts.  A real big-time buffet.

My friend’s favorites were the cranberry sauce and the Buffalo wings.  And maybe the crab cakes. 

And it was all very good, too.  Worth every penny.  I’ll got back again in a few years.  Every year would be an extravagance, but I’ll be back before too long.

Sure the food was great, and it all tasted like the Thanksgiving of our dreams, but I miss those friends of mine, and the times when my boys were small.  The food was good then, too, and there was more to be thankful for. 

Oh, shut up, Fred, and look for the good.  (Tilts head; rolls eye towards the ceiling; narrows eyes . . .)  Yeah, I get it.  I’ve got a vast catalog of things to be thankful for, things past, present and future.  Let my gratitude fill the room, and my heart.  Thanks, universe!  Any more luck that you might throw my way would be deeply appreciated.