Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Spin Easy Time!: Cognitive Dissonance And The Damage Done

Three people have somehow hit this post within the last few days. I suppose it comes up in some Google search or other. I just had fun reading it again. Maybe you will, too!

Spin Easy Time!: Cognitive Dissonance And The Damage Done: I write in a serious mood. I am distressed about the state of my country, and my society, less so but still distressed about the state of th...

The Kinks - So Mystifying

I was a bit suspicious about the Beatles right from the get go, but a lot of great music came along on their coat-tails.

The Kinks always sounded like straight fun, no chaser. I hadn't listened to this LP in ages, probably in two dog's ages. I put in on the YouTube the other day and I was right back there, just like the old days, having fun.

Oddly, it seems that these old Kinks records are very popular with Spaniards on YouTube. Lots of postings; lots of comments. If anyone can explain that phenomenon to me, I'd deeply appreciate it.

The Trick Question

Here’s my favorite trick question:

(Disclaimer: this is not meant in any way to be funny, but only to draw attention to a common misconception.)

Question: how many German Jews were murdered in the Holocaust?

Answer: about 165,000 (One Hundred and Sixty-Five Thousand).*

The remainder of the six million Jews to be murdered by the Nazis came mostly from Poland, Belarus and the Ukraine. Jews from Russia, France, etc. were also murdered, but the overwhelming preponderance came from those first three countries.

Someone involved in one of the presidential campaigns recently mentioned the “six million German Jews” that the Nazis killed. It’s an annoying mistake.

Hitler came to power in 1933. There were only about 400,000 Jewish Germans at the time. By the start of the war, in 1939, that number had been reduced by more than half through emigration. Those that remained in Germany were ultimately murdered.

While I have on my academic mantle, allow me to put in a good word for the Roma (Gypsies). Quite a lot of them were murdered by the Nazis as well, and for very similar racial reasons. It isn’t fair to leave them completely out of the equation. “The Holocaust” has become a Jewish-only event, I believe, and I’m not complaining about that. We should remember the poor Gypsies, though. They suffered and died in much the same manner.

We needn’t worry as much about the non-Jewish Germans who were consigned to concentration camps. They were sent to work camps, which were certainly no walk in the park, but their survival rates were high. They were not sent to extermination camps, like the Jews were. This group included homosexuals, political dissidents, and other groups deemed “undesirable.” They suffered, and many died, but most lived to tell their stories. (To be fair, the "Pink Triangle" prisoners seem to have fared worse than the political prisoners. Worse than some, but not as terrible as the fate of the Jews.) 

So, to be clear, I am not in any way denying that the Holocaust actually happened, nor am I disputing the figure of six million Jews exterminated. To believe, however, that the dead were “six million German Jews,” works a mischief on history and is a grave injustice to the true identities of the victims.

*Figures, and information in general, from “Bloodlands,” by Timothy Snyder. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Lloy Price - Stagger Lee

Just to reference the first version that many of us heard.

Did he just say, "two men who gamble-ate?"

Just for the lesson, go and listen to "Just Because," by the same Lloyd Price. Boy's got life in him, it'll stay there all the while we listen to these songs. If the life's gone out of him by now, I'm sorry about it.

Did I just say, "boy?" That shit's not allowed. Please excuse me. But look at that picture! Sure, anyone forty-something years younger than me is a boy.

Mississippi John Hurt - The Ballad Of Stagger Lee

I just love these songs about Stagger Lee. There must be thousand of them.

This is a great one. Great story telling . . . great guitar playing.

Is it still a cover if no one can recall who wrote or sang the song in the first place?

Other Possible Pasts

In early life we are simply the people that we are. I don’t recall thinking about identity at all. Later on we may wish to modify ourselves a bit, either by encouraging more ambition in ourselves or by seeking to add new skills. Much later, if we are lucky, we may begin to accept who we are. Or we may not. That last project may prove difficult for some of us.

We all have a temperament and a personality. It may happen that we wish that we could have been dealt different temperaments or personalities in the first place, but, as my ex-mother-in-law used to say, “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” I believe that she meant that wishing for things is a waste of time. Wishing for a different temperament or personality would certainly be a waste of time.

Any of us might have been different people, but what would that have looked like?

I might have been one of the tough boys; that could have happened. There’s a powerful strain of it in my family. In every generation of my family with which I am familiar, there was at least one tough boy, one boy who frightened the other boys. It always continued into adulthood, where they continued to frighten the other men. No particular physical attributes are required, all that it takes is the present intention to hurt the other boys or men if the situation calls for it. Or even sometimes when the situation doesn’t call for it at all. It helps if you enjoy it. That’s the part that scares people.

I could have managed it, if I were so inclined. I was strong enough and quick enough. The inclination is part of natural selection somehow, it must be. My grandfather (father’s side) was a very rough and tumble sort. He would have been played by Jimmy Cagney in a movie of his early life. He was taken out of school at twelve, simply because his father, a widower, felt like it was time to go to work. “Well, Bobby,” he is reputed to have said, “it’s time for the free ride to stop.” He worked in factories for a time, worked as a trainer at the racetrack, and later as a jockey. He even tried his hand at boxing. (At five feet, two inches tall, he was a fly or a bantamweight.) He was briefly a conductor on the Long Island Railroad before drifting back into factory work. He helped to build Pierce Arrow automobiles in Queens, and it was there that he learned to be a machinist. That turned out to be a very nice salary. By World War Two he was a heavy machinist for the Todd Shipyard in Brooklyn. He was slow to smile and quick to take offense. Any wisecracks about his height were dealt with immediately. He was knocking people out well into retirement.

So it’s in the family history.

I had an Uncle Jack who was something of a terror in town. He went on to a career in the merchant marine, where he evidently continued as a terror for the National Maritime Union and the world in general. I heard a lot of stories. Knives were sometimes involved.

One of my cousins might have been the real terror of the bunch. He is nine years older than me, and I knew him well when I was young. His reputation in the town survived into my own era. He seems to have had the enjoyment part of the equation down pat. He was one of a group of teenagers who sought out fights like thirsty people in a desert seek water. If they couldn’t find a fight, they fought with each other.

Why does one boy go that way and another boy go this way? Does it happen at conception? In the womb? At an early age? If it’s in the genes, it can come out at any time, like a ruddy complexion or curly hair. Why does it come out in this boy but not that boy?

More generally, what is it that makes us the people that we are? Whatever it is, it made me into a fearful boy who was desperate to get along and avoid trouble. It’s probably some combination of nature and nurture. Being one of the tough boys might have provided me with certain life skills that I lack. It would have represented a disposition to action at least, as opposed to my strong preference for inaction.

Tough, however, wasn’t my style; that shoe couldn’t be made to fit. My cousin was kind enough to teach me how to fight when I was twelve, after I complained to him about rough treatment around town. It was a good course of lessons, enthusiastically taught. It helped me a lot, partly because it was very realistically pursued. I had to take a good deal of being thrown around; I had to learn to fall. I fought my way around the town for about a year, and I did succeed in elevating my position in the pecking order. When guys started leaving me alone, however, I simply returned to leaving everybody alone. I still much preferred to avoid trouble.

In the alternative, I might have been one of the ambitious boys, the competitive boys. You don’t have to be a star athlete to excel at competition. My own father was a supremely competitive boy, and man. After being stricken with childhood (and lifelong) arthritis he concentrated on mathematics. In high school, he was in the “Hundred Percent Club” for math, never scoring less than one hundred on a math test for four years. He was admitted to the Cooper Union and went on to a MS in engineering and a very successful career.

For that matter, my cousin the terror was quite ambitious himself. Also competitive, maybe that was a component of all of that fighting. His life was another great education and successful career. 

But those things were also denied me. My personal style was cut in stone by the time I graduated from grammar school. All I ever wanted was to keep my head down and not draw any attention to myself. I only wanted to make it through the day and try to enjoy the evening, one day at a time. I’ve never been completely comfortable outside of the sleep period. The evenings could be spent reading, listening to records, wandering around the town with groups of boys my own age, perusing (redacted) magazines, or listening to the radio. I avoided fighting and competition with equal vigor, and I did not have an ounce of ambition in my body. In fact, I avoided everything.

It turns out that one of the possible alternative Freds would almost certainly have made more of a success of his life. It turns out that if you want to be successful, you must do things to get ahead, you must expose yourself to criticism and possible failure, and you must go out and engage with people. Well excuse me, but I’m not that guy. Some measure of success would have made my life easier and more pleasant, but it just wasn’t in the cards.

So if the main task at this stage of life is accepting oneself, I could be in trouble. I’m beginning to have my doubts about ever accepting myself. Honestly, I have major doubts about getting that one together. The habits of a lifetime are difficult to change. But I won’t be the first poor M.F. to fail at that job. Look for the good! Pretty soon none of it will matter anymore. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Big Youth - Touch Me In The Morning

Forgive me, but I'll be on vacation starting on Wednesday, so I'm front loading this thing. (It's Monday evening.)

I'm pretty sure that this is the most successful cover of all time. Makes it his own, doesn't he? Man, that Big Youth, he had style, all the way style, style to spare, in spades.

I should check the other postings of this song. Check the lengths, you know. Maybe there's more gold out there!

Suicide Machine - I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

This is/was a really great cover band. I value that.

Check out their "What I Like About You." It cuts, it kills.

Music should be fun. This band is fun.

Curtis Mayfield - Move On Up

I'll spare you the superlatives. Either you get it, or you don't.

But even if you don't, wait until the gears shift about half way through (3:50 or so). The whole thing really catches fire.

Curtis, RIP Mr. Mayfield, is way up on my "Underrated" list. And a very happening guitar player, too.

Spin Easy Time!: Sly & The Family Stone - A Family Affair

I was just listening to this, the whole LP actually, and I thought I'd post it. I checked to see, and sure enough I'd posted it already, about four years ago. I re-posted that one because I was very impressed with my comment on that occasion.

Spin Easy Time!: Sly & The Family Stone - A Family Affair: From the great album, "There's a Riot Goin' On."  Living proof that cocaine is good for you for about six months to a year...

"Travellin' In Style" by Free

I always think it's a cryin' shame when a great band can't make a living. In my opinion, Free were a great band.

I'd throw in that today it might even be worse. At least Free worked at a time when a major label band got some support and record sales brought in a bit of revenue. Those days are gone.

Bad Company were a good band, too. The members of Bad Company came together after the decision by Free and Mott the Hoople to give it up and try something newer and more commercial. The decision to go commercial isn't a bad one, I suppose. Maybe it depends on what you do with it.

The Beatles did it, and became, in my opinion, a Brill Building "moon, spoon, June" act. The Rolling Stones did it, and I think that they held to some of their original values much more closely. Pink Floyd . . . the list goes on, the list of bands that made the decision and changed their sound without breaking up to do it.

Other bands had to break up. Free, the Small Faces, Mott the Hoople, just to name a few.

Man, anybody in the music business, I wish them luck. It's tough.

What's In Our Heads?

Many people are getting to that certain age, and I’m one of them. We’ve got reams of experience by now, good, bad and indifferent. Our memories are becoming more acute in some ways, and less reliable in others. What do we really know about the things that we “remember.”

Our heads now seem like some kind of bio-Internet. There’s a lot in there, but sometimes it’s hard to know what’s true. I still take as facts many things that I heard, or read about, long ago, but I don’t remember the sources for most of it. Maybe a lot of it was never true in the first place.

For instance, there’s a story about Marines that I heard at the height of the Vietnam War. I like the Marine Corps, and I like snipers, and I like the M2A1 Browning .50 caliber machine gun, so I’ve never forgotten the story. I might have read it somewhere, but where that would be exactly I could not say.

It told of a Marine sniper who discovered that there was a mount on the .50 cal for a telescopic sight. That gun can shoot flat trajectory for over a mile, so he was very interested in the concept. He got hold of an appropriate sight, or used his own, and he got permission to experiment.

Were they at Khe San? I don’t remember. Somewhere in the boonies. One day he’s out with two other marines in a two-and-a-half-ton truck, a flat-bed, with a quad .50 in the back. That’s four .50 cals in a special mount, and he’s got the sight on one of the .50s. They set the truck up on a high spot.

He and one of the other Marines were looking through binoculars, looking for targets. The other fellow was keeping his eyes open for activity closer to the truck. They noticed something at long range, further than anyone without binoculars would notice them.   They saw what looked like some NVA soldiers sitting around, with one fellow standing around waving his arms. It looked like he was delivering some kind of lesson or pep-talk. So the Marine sights him up with the .50 and takes a shot, and a couple of seconds later the guy’s head blows up.

It sounds like the kind of story that you would hear in a bar.

Wait! I might have heard it in a bar! I was in the Navy back then, and I spent time at a base that had more Marines than Navy personnel. I enjoyed drinking with those guys. It was a rest-stop for them; they had all served in Vietnam already. What stories they told!  All of my Navy friends were black, and they stayed away from the EM Club, because too many fights would result from their presence. (“Enlisted Men’s Club.”) I’d go to the club and buy a pitcher of beer and then look around for a lively table of Marines. “Mind if I join You?” And with the pitcher, they’d say sure! And then drain the pitcher and somebody would buy another one.

What stories they told! They’d done some terrible things and they showed no shame in relating the details. Most of those stories had the ring of truth to them. They, at least, would spot a phony immediately, so if they all just gave a knowing shake of the head and laughed I figured that that story was true. They were all decompressing from the experience, and many of them probably had PTSD. They seemed to be in a state of amazement, not only because of what they had seen and done, but also because they had survived.

That story about the sniper might have been one of the stories they told me. Was it true? It could very well have been, in fact I think that it probably was true. It was a second hand story though, and that mitigates against veracity. It was “hearsay,” and maybe not one of the 23 exceptions to the rule against those things. On the plus side, the story was not over embellished. Only the officer that had been standing was killed.

That’s the state of our brains these days, we people of a certain age. We’ve believed these stories for fifty years now; our brains are full of them. It’s got me wondering what I really know, and what I have only imagined.

There are stories about ourselves, too. These are stories that we’ve been telling ourselves for fifty years, telling them to ourselves and others so many times that we have come to believe them. Are they true, our Disney versions of our lives?

Usually not, I’m afraid. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Little Wing - Jimi Hendrix (cover) Jess Greenberg

So, I was just listening to some "Little Wing," as I am wont to do just about every five or six months. And I came across . . . this.

I'm no expert, but it does look to me like this actual woman is actually striking all of those actual notes. I could be wrong, who knows. But even if it's a dodge, we still have the rest of it, the rest of her presentation. You know, the tits and all.

Gimme Three Steps-Lynyrd Skynyrd

Okay, I've been quiet . . . so sue me! It was my birthday this week, rather too many birthdays if you ask me. So I've been, let's say, on the contemplative side.

But here I am, listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, whom I believe to be a much underrated band. I know lots of people who don't agree with that assessment, but hey, it's a free country. This, and quite a few other cuts, are really, really good.

These guys weren't a natural fit for my tastes at the time either. But sometimes you just have to listen to the music, and follow your instincts. My instincts often tell me that Lynyrd Skynyrd were a very good band.

R.I.P., boys . . . another unfortunate entertainment related transportation accident.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Brian Eno.Babys on Fire.Lyrics.Robert Fripp On Guitar.

This song is a complete justification not only of guitars, but also of electricity.

The Cynics - Shot Down

Boy, this YouTube thing is really working out. I hope it lasts.

"Here Ain't the Sonics" is a great album of covers by (then) modern punkish bands, maybe or perhaps not also from the northwest. It's sure great, and it looks like the entire LP has been uploaded to the 'Tube.

I was just sitting here with pen and paper handy, with my eyes closed, making notes about things that I need to check YouTube for. This record is in my collection, far away. I'll never see it again, odds are. But it's all good. I, we, can listen to it on the 'Net.

Tyrannosaurus Rex - Warlord Of The Royal Crocodiles

I read somehow about this LP, probably in the British music press. I was intrigued. I bought it, in those days you had to actually buy something like this to hear it. I loved it. Still do.

I loved the Glam-Rock T.Rex stuff, too. So sue me! It was a tough sell for some of my friends, and it's probably a tough sell now.

Every room has four corners, and there's room out there in the corners for stuff that doesn't really fit the mold. So sure, Marc Bolan was out of the pattern, but I, for one, have always found him engaging, and entertaining.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Betty Harris - 12 red roses

I don't know about you, but that psychedelic music always makes me want to clear my pallet with something more down to earth.

Yes, this will do nicely.

One In A Million - Fredereek Hernando 1967!

Well, this is interesting. An issue of first impression, as the judges say when you've stumped them.

I was following my nose over at Google, reading about the Small Faces after listening to their old singles here on the 'Tube. The Small Faces reconstituted in the late Seventies, after the Faces/Humble Pie hiatus. Jimmy McCulloch was in the band for two years. "I know that name," says I.

He played with Wings, but that's all I knew about him. So off to ask Professor Google. The adorational article referred to this single by Jimmy's first band. Jimmy was born in 1953; this record was released in 1967. That's some impressive math.

Impressive song, too. It's so great to be able to reach right out and find this stuff. The Wiki said that this is a fabulously expensive record by now, and I believe them. It's high-period psychedelia, way obscure in its day but then the guitar player got famous.

Terrible death for Jimmy. Dead at 26 or 27, you know, the lifestyle thing. "No one knew that he was abusing opiates . . ." That's never surprising. Some of those junkies are very clever. I mean that in a good way. Getting caught out is the stupid bit.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Stephen Fry attacks media coverage of Peter Cook's death

I have no clear recollection of how it happened, but by the time when I had recently passed the age of ten I was already a fan of British humor. It's funny, too, because I was never a fan of the English in general. The comedy, though, really appealed to me for some reason, a reason that only accelerated through my early teen years. (In my late teens, I discovered British cinema. I still think that the humor and the cinema are the two best things about the British, or the English, whatever. There was some great music there for a while, but it came on suddenly and tailed off quickly.)

The Goon Show; Peter Sellers; Spike Milligan; "Carry on" movies; it was all so, so . . . what? Was it witty? Was it subtle? Was it only different? I don't know, but it appealed to me for some reason. This was in New York, where you could find British humor on the radio. I started to read Punch Magazine as well. Can you imagine my delight when Monty Python came on TV rather later on?

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were a great act, just great. This clip is Stephen Fry offering a heartfelt, highhanded and hysterically funny tribute to Peter Cook. Great stuff. (Fry and Laurie were pretty great themselves, and are, together or individually.)

I am still generally ambiguous about the English. Brits I tolerate better, mostly because they tolerate me better. I'm Irish-American, and that's a double negative to a real, solid, old-school Englishman. I'm sure that they'd have little more patience for my actual great-grandfather, who was born in what is now central London. I'm sure that he didn't have the correct accent, and he was Roman Catholic besides. Brits as a category include some Irishmen, and all Scots, the Welsh, and lots of "coffee colored heathens" too by now (an English term). All kinds of colonials. I'm a colonial myself. Brits seem to think that I'm an okay sort of fellow.

Stephen Fry makes a lot of awfully good points here, and pays a deserved tribute to a talented man. Thanks for that.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Interrogator from The Carol Burnett Show (full sketch)

I actually met Tim Conway once. We were the only two people in the waiting room of a tire shop in Glendale, California. I did tell him that I was a fan, but then we had a nice chat about nothing at all. I don't like to bother famous people about their careers.

Those Carol Burnett shows were just about the funniest stuff ever to appear on TV. Somewhere after about the six minute mark I just about lost my shit.

Talking Heads Love → Building on Fire (HQ)

You've got to love a band that, when they first hit the scene, no one knew how to describe their music. The whole state of rock criticism at that time was pretty primitive. Just what were these guys up to, anyway?

Maybe it was just "Talking Heads music." Most music is totally derivative. Talking Heads were way out there, on the outside edge. I, and some of my friends, found the whole thing invigorating.

Of course David Byrne went on to break a lot of new ground, and he and his fellows made a good living at it. It's one of the weirdest success stories in pop music.

Look For The Good: Talking Heads Edition

I’ve got to do some real thinking these days to make my good-list. It’s hard to make it really work as a way of cheering myself up. I find a few things right away at the top, wonderful things, but then the whole list turns to shit in a big hurry. Let’s face it, the world is in generally bad shape. Huge swaths of the globe are wrapped in black crepe bunting. Countries almost beyond counting have “failed.” Our own Shining City on the Hill is up Shit’s Creek without a paddle. Here’s a good thing though: I don’t have cable TV anymore. No more CNN, that’s good; no more BBC, that’s good. I never had Fox News in the first place, that’s a double-plus-good. Those talking heads, those over-coifed, hyper-caffeinated know-nothings that pass for pundits on our televisions aren’t good for anything but pissing a good man off.

(I almost said, “. . . that pass for public intellectuals . . .” But we know that that would be a ridiculous stretch of the facts, do we not?)  

The saddest thing in the world today is people on TV pretending to know all about something just so that they can make a living pretending to explain it to the rest of us. How sad is it, Johnny? Well Jimbony, it’s the saddest thing in the world.

Those smug idiots, and those knowing looks, and those pretentious (portentous? Both!) nods of the head, and those faux-certain explanations, well, they were just fucking kill me.

But no more. So look for the good! 

Earl Hooker, I stay mad

Okay, say thanks. This one's not easy to find.

You've got to wade through Skeeter Davis for a while to catch up with it on the 'Tube. Note to YouTubers: Putting the "Earl Hooker" before the "I Stay Mad" was probably not a good idea.

"The other night, I spilled some milk on the floor,
She said I had to pack my rags and go,
She yelled at me, and I yelled back,
I said I done told you a million times what about those nasty cracks."

What a sweet song! They sure don't write them like that anymore. Earl can sure play the hell out of that guitar, too. This is a Fredson Classic right here.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Shopping In Asia For Books In English

Yesterday I was over at my local mall, the Mall Bangkapi, here in my Bangkok neighborhood at the eastern edge of the city, slightly off the grid but still totally of the city. They have a show-space on the first floor, next to the four story waterfall that is a feature of this mall. The show rotates. Sometimes food; sometimes watches; sometimes appliances; sometimes bras; sometimes stuff for cars; sometimes toys; and sometimes books. Yesterday it was books.

The whole idea of books is a dubious concept over here, so I didn't pay much attention. I know that the displays always feature mostly graphic novels, and shortish books about famous monks, famous aristocrats, or international personalities, like Hitler. At the last minute, a display area for Asia Books caught my eye. They're the big purveyor of books in English at malls, one of the few, so I went over to take a look. They had a discount table, always good.

Right away I found a book that I wanted, and the price was right. Haruki Murakami's first two novels (both short) in a hard cover version, with a new introduction by the author about how he came to novel writing in the first place. Half price at 399 Baht (about twelve dollars). Okay, I'll take that. I glanced over the rest of the table and it was all crap, so I went over to pay.

The guy smiled and said, "two for one! Pick another one!" Well, okay, I'll invest a couple of minutes scanning this crap. Almost all of the books were in less-than-great shape, they looked like they had been in a box in the garage for ten years or so. Musty, let's say. I looked over the collection of less-than-best-sellers, obscure wanna-be bestsellers, spy shit; detective shit; mystery shit. Some bullshit history books. I was about to give up and take a book by an American comedic TV personality that would certainly not have been worth the effort to open it, when low and behold, I saw a book about the Rolling Stones.

And not just any book, it was the True Adventures of The Rolling Stones, by Stanley Booth. Original price, 595 Baht, but today marked on this discount table at 399 Baht, so I could walk away with it totally free, because it was the same price as the one that I wanted in the first place. Several hundred books on the table, and I'd found a good one. Probably the only good one! Amazing! Ross Dress For Less is like that, back in Los Angeles. You can find some nice shirts, very nice shirts, but you need to look through about a thousand shirts to find two good ones.

Mr. Booth's book is not the typical book about celebrities. He's a thinking man, and a pretty good writer. His conceit in the book is to write every sentence "as if it had been spoken by Philip Marlowe." The Raymond Chandler private detective. It is a little distracting to know that in advance, but at the same time, it kind of works. Besides, that kind of ennui suites the Rolling Stones. Maybe they are the Philip Marlowe of rock bands!

I'm a hundred pages in by this time and the book is great. Good info, well written, and fun. I'm underlining. I was a Rolling Stones fan from the get go, actually. I'd been loving the kind of American music that they covered since the late 1950s. Chuck Berry; New Orleans music; Bo Diddley! So I recognized them as brothers right away. I liked their attitude, too. Boy, I hated authority and conformity like the Jews hate Hitler (that's two Hitler mentions in one blog post!).

I'm sure that the Murakami will be great, too. I've read a half a dozen or eight of his mature novels, and it'll be interesting to see what he did with his first  two novels. If I were a Murakami reviewer on American Bandstand, I'd say, "well, I'll give it a 95%, because it's a great song, it's fun, it's an intellectual challenge, and you can dance to it." How many authors can you say that about? (Read the Wind Up Bird Chronicle to see what I'm talking about.)

So, a good day at the old fashioned book fair. Success!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

My History With Guns

The TV was packed with guns in the 1950s. Every Sunday afternoon there were war movies on TV, the old style war movies, where there was very little of the muss and fuss of the real thing. But everyone had a gun, and they were shooting, and getting shot at, and getting shot. There were cowboy movies and cavalry movies, where everyone had one or two guns and there was a lot of shooting going on between gunslingers, between ranchers and farmers, or between the white people and the Indians. Fort Apache! There were lots of cowboy TV shows, too. And police shows. There was never a shortage of guns on TV in those days.

We boys played with toy guns frequently. We all had them. Cap guns; pop guns; rubber band rifles. We played a game called, “Guns.” “What do you wanna do?” “Let’s play guns!” A couple of the dads had guns that they had brought home from the war, souvenir guns. These were relics that had been allowed to go way out of maintenance. Sometimes a boy would sneak one out of the house to add a little realism to our war games.

Boys like guns. I think Freud would make short work of figuring out why. If you deny them gun toys, they’ll just call a stick a gun, aim it at you, and say, “bang!” (And probably, “you’re dead!”)

By the age of ten or so I developed a semi-academic interest in real guns. There were plenty of books in the library where you could read about them. I loved Jane’s Fighting Ships, for one thing. Those were some big guns! There was a book that I picked up at a magazine stand that was some kind of oversized photo catalog of collector’s guns. There were Old West guns; military surplus guns; sporting guns old and new. The book was perfect-bound of cheap paper; it was very thick but not expensive. Probably forty-nine cents when magazines were between twenty-five and fifty cents. The entries included a picture or two of the gun, a brief description, and the current market value. It was gun porn for little boys.

In my high school years I prevailed upon my parents to buy me a BB gun (pistol), and then a .22 caliber pellet pistol. The latter was a Crossman 600 that had great sights on it and took a bigger CO2 cartridge. It was very accurate. Some of the boys used these contraptions to shoot birds and squirrels, but I almost never did. I certainly never shot at cats. I’ll give you a bit of advice, though. Never stand directly under a street light if you’re planning to shoot it out.

Guns lost their appeal for me as the Vietnam War took over the TV news in the later 1960s. That was serious business. Guns were suddenly much less glamorous, because we had to see the dead bodies and guys struggling to carry wounded friends out of danger, and hearing the screams didn’t help either. That war put me off guns for years.

I joined the Navy during that war myself, because I couldn’t see myself as a gunslinger who slept in a hole in the ground. No, I couldn’t see that one at all. Somehow, it didn't occur to me to just beat the draft. I joined the Navy for “three hots and a cot,” and no need for a personal weapon. We did do a little shooting, though. Very little.

The guns that we became very familiar with at boot camp were old, worn out M1 Garands from World War II. They hadn’t had a firing pin in them for twenty years already. All we learned about them was that they weighed about nine and a half pounds, which doesn’t sound like much to a nineteen year old but which seems to weigh more as the day goes on. We made one trip to a shooting range, an indoor rifle range. The targets were about seventy-five feet away, and we each fired I think five rounds in their general direction with a .22 caliber rifle. No one was checking them; no one was keeping score. They just wanted to show us how to load a rifle and look down the sights.

Out in “the Fleet,” I fired five rounds with a .45 automatic. (It was a land base; the Navy never let me near their ships. Some Marines took us out for "perimeter defense training.") We were also invited to fire a burst or two with a Browning Automatic Rifle. That’s a real gun right there. It’s the original light infantry machine gun of the American armed forces, and it’ll push your sorry ass back along the ground for several inches with every round fired. I declined the invitation and the Marine that was running the party let me off the hook. I told him that since I was wearing blues I didn’t want to be lying around in the dirt. (The other boys were wearing standard Navy work dungarees.) I think that the Marine was surprised that anyone would pass up an opportunity to fire a BAR.

Later in life I became quite fond of pistol shooting. I still had the Crossman, but that gets way too easy after a certain amount of experience. At fifty or sixty feet you can put the pellets into the same hole after a while. My brother-in-law was a security guard at the time, and he liked to go to the range a couple of times a month to practice. I went with him more than a few times. He had his own Ruger Security Six, a nice, more or less compact .357 magnum. I rented a pistol at the range. The rental was only a dollar; they were going for the ammunition and target money. We’d get a hundred rounds a piece and some targets. I thought that it was great. Here's a tip: if you want to make a nice cluster of hits on the target, consider using a .357 magnum handgun loaded with .38's. The target rounds are best for accuracy, because of the light recoil. Between the heavy frame of the pistol, and the light charge in the rounds, that thing lays nice and flat on target. No jumping around. 

I rode motorcycles back then, and I really loved those things. The benefit of riding motorcycles is that it demands 100% of your attention. If you let your attention wander, you go down. It takes you to what I call, “the bright white line of reality.” Guns do the same thing. Once you put bullets in that thing, you can’t take your concentration off of it. If you let your attention lapse, there’s a real danger that you’ll blow off your foot, or part of your neighbor’s head. So it’s relaxing, in a way. The concentration is a little bit like meditation.

I’ve never owned a real gun of any kind; I’ve never wanted to. I thought about it, but I always got stuck on the question: what would I do with it? People say, “home defense,” but what would be the mechanics of that? Maybe if I’d lived out in the woods, I’d have considered it, but I lived in a crowded neighborhood in Los Angeles. I was only interested in pistols anyway, and they’re not ideal for home defense. Unless you're Annie Oakley or Wyatt Earp, you can't hit much with a pistol under stress or at any distance. For home defense, a shotgun is the way to go. Rifles are only necessary when the target is very, very far away, which will never happen in a home invasion robbery. For a zombie epidemic, I don't know. Use your own judgment. 

Pistols are a real challenge. It’s hard as hell to hit anything with a pistol, even at ranges from twenty five to fifty feet. The barrels are short, and the sights are close together. Plus, they really jump in your hand when fired. The gun moves a little before the round leaves the barrel. Rifles are only a challenge when you set up the targets two or three hundred yards away. That’s a lot of walking, out in the desert, just to get some shooting in. Shotguns? They are designed specifically to not be challenging. That’s the beauty of them in use, but it takes the fun out of target shooting.

As for home defense, how would that be managed anyway? You’d have to go around the house strapped at all times. You can't be running up to the closet for your locked-up gun and ammo when trouble comes knocking. You’d look pretty funny going down for morning coffee wearing a bath robe with a holster and pistol hanging from your waist, or carrying a slung shotgun. Wouldn’t you even have to give up alcohol to stay sharp? It'd be a 24/7 occupation, too. We all need to sleep, and I doubt if many people want to keep up an alternating watch, every night. You’d have to get a pair of terriers or something to wake your ass up. Then it’s time to rub the sleep out of your little eyes, Nemo, we're about to have a gun fight. Either that or the terriers heard another dog barking a quarter of a mile away. Then back to sleep if you can manage it. False alarm. 

That level of vigilance would really wear you out. Hell, a few years of that and you’d probably die young just from the worrying.

Now people want to use pistols for personal defense. This is strange to people my age, because in our day it was hard to get permission to carry a pistol around. Unless you lived in Arizona or something. I remember the first time I saw a local guy carry a cowboy-style .45 revolver on his hip at the supermarket. It was in Phoenix. They’d all tell you that it was, “for the snakes.” I remember thinking, that’s probably what they call city people. 

Now the entire country is full of people packing heat. Maybe they took some gun safety course or something, did a little range firing. Well, in my opinion, you'd have to fire at least five hundred rounds into targets at the range before you even learned how to handle the pistol and look down the sights. Additional training would be required before the pistolero would know how to operate the weapon and handle themselves in a hostile situation. Like, learn how not to shoot innocent bystanders, things like that. 

I don’t have much to say about the current state of gun-love in America. I’d rather not think about it.

As Americans, though, we all do have our own history with guns. Especially us boys. The love of those terrible things is in us, or we have a substantial awe anyway. They’re all more or less powerful, and some of them are beautiful. I’m more afraid of them now than I’ve ever been. More afraid of the people with guns than of the guns themselves, to tell the truth. 

Although I am afraid of the guns, too. Something like fifteen thousand people every year kill themselves with guns in America. That’s the one thing that a pistol is really good for, self immolation. I am not at any particular risk of committing suicide, but I still wouldn’t trust myself with a gun in the house. 

P.S. Found in a notebook: "The only thing that's easy to hit with a pistol is bystanders." 

The Rolling Stones - High and Dry

This was a very interesting period for the Rolling Stones.

Okay, that's all I have to say.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Herbal Essences Shampoo

Shampoo is an Indian word, imported into English by the cousins during their ascendancy there. I like the Herbal Essences shampoo myself, mostly because it seems mild enough, has a good smell, rinses cleanly, and is often on sale.

There are many different formulas for the consumer to choose from. Again, I always get the one that’s on sale, having no real preference. My condo has two bathrooms, and I keep a bottle in each shower.

I’m currently stocked with:

1.   Herbal Essences Citrus Lift, which is said to contain essences of tangerine, lemongrass and aloe vera. It is described as a “shampoo for dry or coloured hair,” and it is claimed that it will make hair “radiant and soft,” and

2.   Herbal Essences with Camellia Hot Oil, which is said to contain rose hips, vitamin E and jojoba. This one will is a shampoo for dry hair, which will make hair weighty and strong.

I use them in some kind of disorganized alternation, so I can expect hair that is radiant, soft, weighty and strong. Who wouldn’t want that?

If I had more hair, perhaps I could better gauge the results. As it is, all that I can report is that my hair, all quarter inch of it on about thirty percent of my head, is clean. In the style of Californians, I am in the habit of taking at least one comprehensive shower every day, so I value that. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Eddie Harris Quartet - Movin' On Out

In the post below, where you read, "The Electrifying Eddie Harris," now read "Eddie Harris/High Voltage."

This is Eddie really having some fun with a good crowd.

That Roland Space Echo, by the way, was a real beast to handle. It had about a mile of recording tape in it, and keeping it all on the beam was a challenge. "Delicate," you'd have to call it. I obtained one in the mid-1990s, and I never could get it running. Did I get it as partial payment for a law gig? I don't recall paying for it, which would have been a stupid thing to do at that point, for a used, semi-non-functional one. I asked in a shop about getting it running, and the guy kind of rolled his eyes towards the ceiling and said that it would be "expensive."

This is one of my favorite albums.

Eddie Harris - He's Island Man

I wasn't a big jazz guy in the Sixties (or the Seventies, for that matter). I came to jazz later on. I liked Wes Montgomery, sure, and Jimmy Smith, but they were playing instruments that I loved (electric guitar and Hammond B3). Somehow, though, I loved Eddie Harris.

I don't recall how I even came to purchase it, but I got a copy of "The Electrifying Eddie Harris," and that was that, I was a fan. I played the hell out of that album. I had this one too, and then a few more. Somehow, Eddie Harris spoke to me.

Even now, I'd say that he's a very good player, with good tone, but one of the greats? I'll let the real jazzbeaus decide, but I don't think that 'Trane or 'Bird have anything to worry about. Eddie's strong point was that he was adventurous, he took chances. He used devices that were cutting edge, like the Roland Space Echo. He went out of his way to get some tone that he liked. I liked it, too. And he played with a sense of humor, I always like that.

This is a great cut.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


I’m one of those Pollyannas who prefers wondering why we all can’t just get along to strapping on my tools and doing the hard work. This is especially true of politics. I don’t engage with politics at all, I never have. Instead I just stand back, observing and complaining. That’s why I let others carry the flag of political blogging, except, of course, for occasionally indulging myself in bitter recriminations. Political blogging would require real reporting, which is hard work. Besides, there are plenty of people who are doing it much better than I could.

I read an article recently that included a description of a condition called “politiphobia.” I saw myself being accurately described, and I’m afraid that it was less than flattering.

The article referenced a book called, “Stealth Democracy: American’s Beliefs about how Government Should Work,” by John Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse (2002).  The book described politiphobes as people who basically don’t like politics because it’s messy and inefficient. They tend to believe that “. . . obvious common sense solutions are out there for the plucking.” The authors suggest that a high percentage of Americans are in this group.

That sounds suspiciously like everything that I’ve ever written about politics. I usually accuse politicians of being inefficient at best, mostly self-centered at the expense of their constituents, sometimes borderline treasonous, and often criminally minded. I wonder, from my safe distance, why things like universal health care cannot be instituted immediately. That would, after all, bring many very important advantages to the entire population, by offering us all health security and reducing the nation’s overall expenditure on health care. It would raise our standard of living, extend our lives and raise our country’s GDP as well. Who wouldn’t love that? Except of course the current crop of profit driven providers of health care and medicine, etc.

Low cost education? We’ve had it before, why can’t we have it again? Publicly funded political campaigns? Does anyone in the country like the way that campaigns are currently funded? It is readily apparent that these things, and other wonderful things, are possible, because so many countries have already done them. Why can’t we do them here in the U.S. of A.? It’s a scandal! I’m outraged!

Politiphobia is essentially a negative emotional reaction to events in the political sphere that lacks any positive element of engagement. I saw myself being described, and I was not happy about it.

The major problem, besides greed I suppose, would be bringing these wonderful things about within the confines of what is still a somewhat democratic society. Who should decide these optimal solutions to our challenges? How should they be implemented?

There is, evidently, a body of thinking that envisions a cabal of non-self-interested, rational decision makers, humans that are called, it seems, ensids. That was a new one on me. The word ensid is not in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (1681 pages; almost a quarter of a million words). Google does not produce any definitions, although it is easy to find mentions of encids in books and articles from the field of Political Science. But how would they be chosen, these ensids? And by whose authority would they act?

Would they be politicians? Technocrats? Autocrats? Computers? To whom would they be accountable, if anyone?

Longing for these things under the flag of “we should just do it!” doesn’t seem like a proper plan for human progress. Trusting any of the entities listed above with authoritarian power would really be a terrible idea. We are left, sadly, with continued reliance on the imperfect system that has gotten us into so much trouble already. Not, perhaps, a good result, but there you have it. Hoping for the best may be optimism or it may be a form of insanity. As usual, I wish us all luck.

Maybe we should hire an ensid to tell us what to do. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Donald Trump: The Hitchcock Movie

The Donald and his mom, Mary Trump.

He looks remarkably like her, the shape of the face is the same, the nose, the wide-spaced eyes. And, of course, the hair.

Mary crossed the river before closer hair analogies were possible, but look up later pictures of her and compare them to current pix of the now geriatric Donald, with his spectacular comb-over. Mary's spectacular optical-illusion comb-over was very, very similar. Disturbingly similar.

It all reminds me of a particular movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock, in which a disturbed young man dressed up as his own mom and brought considerable mischief to his co-actors. What's the dynamic here? Trouble, boys and girls, trouble with a capitol "T." Go ahead and elect him, at your peril. It's your right! Vote your conscience! No one can stop you at this point! But I'll tell you right now, if Donald gets elected, and the dollar is destroyed in the resulting, inevitable catastrophe, causing me to lose the value of my hard earned bank money, such as it is, I'll hold it against you forever, and forever curse your smoldering bones, from a distance.

Cream - Anyone For Tennis

Good song; fun video. But wait, what's this all about?

If I recall, and I should check this, "Anyone for Tennis?" was Cream's first single. Even if it wasn't, it's a pretty strange cut. If I were ever to interview Eric or Ginger, one of my early questions would be, "what were you thinking?" Throw the dogs off the hunt? Freak people out? Just a big tease? What the . . .

But, a good song, and a fun video.

(And a hearty RIP for Jack Bruce, who has left the building. Fare thee well, b'hoyo.)

Post Google note: Nope, not the first single. That would be Wrapping Paper in 1966. Anyone for Tennis was released as a single in 1968. It was written for, and used in, a movie. That's why it's such an outlier in Cream's catalog.