Sunday, February 26, 2017

LEE DORSEY Keep On Doing It To Me

A later-in-career drop from Lee. 1978. Still cooking; still funky; still got the twinkle in his eye.

Life caught up with Lee at age 60, or 62, depending who you believe. Note the cigarette in this photo. Yup, it was emphysema that caught up with him. Our lifestyle choices weren't very good back in the way-back.

"When Can I Come Home" (Lee Dorsey)

This is a good one for Lee Dorsey fans, Lee Dorsey completists, maybe.

Nice song, and that whole "when can I come home" thing has a certain resonance for me. I would add that it begs a second question: "and can you promise me that you won't just kick me out again."

Life! Try as we may, there is no cure for it. It exists only to be suffered.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Lee Dorsey "Can you hear me", Bell Records, 1965

Overlooked up on the YouTube, two years and six hundred views. So, you know, I had to share it.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Republican's Golden Window, And A Challenge For The Democrats

The next two years will be the Golden Window for the Republicans to accomplish their thirty-five year goal of “drowning the Federal Government in a bathtub.” They’ve got the presidency, the House, the Senate, and probably very soon they’ll have a majority of five on the Supreme Court. Two years is a long time with a Murderers’ Row like that, for people who know how to push their weight around.

I don’t worry too much about Herr Professor Doktor President Drumpf. When the Republicans decide that they don’t need him anymore, or that he’s more of a drag than a boost, he’ll be lying in a ditch dead out on the Lost Highway without a name-tag. Hail! President Pence!

The Republicans can taste it. Just look at the triumphant grins on the faces of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnel and the rest when they sign some bill that reduces even further some right or security of the working class in America. Man, y’all don’t need health care, you need FREEDOM! You don’t need Social Security, you need the FREEDOM to invest your own money! And of course you’ll need an even more massive military to protect your FREEDOM! It’s enough to make a reasonable man sick.

But where are the reasonable men and women these days? We know that they’re out there somewhere, because according to poll after national poll, strong majorities of American adults indicate a preference for very inclusive, cooperative policies, all peace and get-along. You might almost say that most people seem to favor very “Liberal” policies in almost every day-to-day matter. Homosexuals? Who cares? My nephew is gay and I love him and his husband. Abortion? It’s never the ideal solution but I wouldn’t want to interfere with my cousin’s choice, it’s her body after all. Marijuana? Not a big deal, many people used to smoke it themselves and then turned out fine. Social Security? My dad didn’t have to take care of my grandfather, so why should I have to take care of my dad? Taxes? Yeah, those billionaires should pay at least as much as I do. Universal health care? Why yes, thank you! Americans would love to have a modern, universal national health system. Most of the developed world has one already and they work just fine. So why can’t we have one, too? And why are these other things so contentious?

I’m just going to let those last questions hang.

Many of these reasonable Americans are voting for Republicans these days. That could change.

It might be too late to discuss the matter, though, since we’re standing on the precipice of a sudden diminution in our constitutional rights and a mass extinction of common sense policies that we already have or might have hoped to get in the near future. Poof! It’s Harry Potter time! Gone! Not magic exactly, more like a coup.

What will we get instead? MORE mass incarceration, MORE criminalization of every damn thing under the sun, MORE job, medical and income insecurity, MORE prosecutorial overreach in every single criminal case brought in every jurisdiction in the country, MORE brutal repression, MORE military spending, MORE cuts to the social safety net, MORE environmental degradation, MORE nuclear weapons, MORE enemies around the world, MORE wars and deaths, MORE fear and loathing, MORE income inequality, and . . .

MORE Republicans! They’ve got the system so rigged already through Gerrymandering and voter restriction laws at the state level that for the last several congressional elections they’ve gotten a rather distinct minority of the votes cast while coming out with rather more seats in congress. Democracy in action! With a couple of additional years to wreak even more chaos on the electoral process they could actually achieve their goal of permanent ascendency, whether they’re getting the votes or not. Why, who’s to say that voting against them couldn’t become a Federal Crime, charged as treason or some other grand sounding misdeed? Anti-government demonstrations are already being charged as crimes in themselves, including charges against journalists covering the demonstrations. If you’re not with us, you’re against us! We’re fighting terrorism! I think that I’ve actually heard that one recently. From, you know, the guy whose ticket is going to be punched so soon that we can start forgetting his name already.

And who will be working to save us from this fate worse than death (almost no hyperbole there, unfortunately)???

The Democrats? Um, probably not. Other than a very few die-hards, that dog won’t hunt. Recall that in 2009 the Democrats were faced with having won the White House and both houses of congress, and the best that they could do was to rush to the nearest corner and shiver in fear, wondering what would become of them now. They couldn’t even manage to give President Obama a little help once in a while. The Democrats spent the Obama years allowing the Republicans to: 1) take over most of our state governments; and 2) run the Federal Government by a combination of bullying and fear mongering. Right now the Democrats are far shorter of resources and ten times as fearful, so yeah, I have little confidence in the Democrats in general.

What about the die-hards? Bernie Sanders has a lot of wind in his sails. He’s a lovely man, and we can count on him to make some noise. And Elizabeth Warren is a one-woman Banzai! Charge of a senator, I just love her to pieces! Cute, smart and tough, she’s my kind of woman. Good luck, you two! How’s the weather out there on the tip of the yardarm?

Nor do I expect much help from the electorate in general, although there are positive signs. Congress recessed recently and our brave Republican statesmen, mostly men, went back to their home districts to talk about the great work that they’re doing to get rid of the hated ACA, pesky regulations, Medicare, Social Security, and undocumented immigrants. They’ve been met by angry mobs who evidently believed until a few weeks ago that the ACA, which they dearly loved, was different from “Obamacare,” which they totally hated. Being disabused of this notion, they are justifiably afraid of going forth with preexisting conditions into whatever world the Republicans have planned for them. They’re still waiting for those mining and manufacturing jobs, too.

The Republican Senators and Representatives, for their part, blame the hostility on paid ringers planted by, I don’t know, the Democrats? George Soros? President Obama’s name is also mentioned as an organizer. The concept of truth is being followed closely into the sunset by the concept of reality itself. Marco Rubio cancelled his Town Halls saying that people were just being rude and stupid, and besides, he spoke to his “constituents” before the election and they voted for him, so he doesn’t need to speak with them again.

And therein lies a huge problem with the Republican style of governing: by “constituents” they mean, “the people who voted for us.” They don’t even understand that they represent all of the people in their state or district, not just Republican voters.

Several of the officials abused in their Town Hall meetings complained that the people at the meeting weren’t Republicans. This matters to them. Democrats, and others, are not meant to be represented, they exist to be demonized and ground into powder. Does anyone else see that this is a huge problem?

I would love to see these disabused Republicans finally abandon the party that has treated them like ignorant puppets for thirty years, and that has done nothing for them. I would love to see them finally wake up and vote for America’s interests and their own interests, instead of the interests of individual Republican politicians, large corporations and the extreme upper range of wealthy Americans. I suppose that there’s a chance that they will see the light and change their allegiances. That would be great.

What I would love to see most of all, though, would be for the Democrats to wake their own sleepy asses up and mount a real effort to oppose this Republican coup. This is the real challenge for the Democrats. Come on, boys and girls! You can do it! Put together a strong, clearly written platform of things that people really like. Like fair wages; health security (based maybe on extended Medicare); Social Security that retired people could actually live on; sensible tuition for higher education and a return to low-cost government universities for the children of working class parents; a reasonable tax policy that would enable the rich to lavishly enjoy the profits of their labor, or even of their investments, while contributing their fair share to the wellbeing of the country; opposing the privatization of prisons and national assets; criminal justice reform; reduced levels of government snooping into everyone’s private lives; and a cooperative foreign policy. And then the Democrats would need to work vigorously to sell themselves and their platform to the American people, ALL of the American people. All of that Gerrymandering has given the Republicans what looks to some people like a lock on at least the House of Representatives for decades to come.  But all that the Democrats really have to do is get Republican voters to change their minds, to see an alternative that they like better, to vote for the politicians who back the program that they like the best. (N.B. We’ll get none of the things on this list from the Republicans, none at all. They operate on a different wavelength.)

These are things that mainstream Americans strongly believe in; they are all in tune with traditional American values. All that it would take would be for the Democrats to get in gear and go, go, go.

Departing from tradition, I will forgo my usual gloomy predictions in this conclusion. I’ll just wish the Democrats luck. Bernie, Elizabeth, Al, maybe Barack, you can do this. Now Go! 

Millie Small My Boy Lollipop

Great song. See the post below.

The Chordettes "Lollipop" & "Mr. Sandman"

Much of the 1950s may look like fun in retrospect, but the reality was such a pre-Freudian horror that by now it all looks like a madhouse run by monkeys. Take "Lollipop," by the Chordettes for example.

Did it every occur to them? Why no, it did not.

Six or so years later Millie Small had a hit with "My Boy Lollipop." By then, the Freudian train had arrived at the station, allowing a lot of people to be in on the joke. It still got on the radio, so most of the culture was still drinking the Kool-Aid, but the rest of us got it, big time. Not like it was difficult to understand. The imagery is pretty stark.

In 1958, for the Chordettes, everyone was still asleep. Those were simpler times.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

RAMONES - 53rd & 3rd

I actually knew a guy who worked 53rd Street and 3rd Avenue, and if his experience was any indication this song is a pretty good summation of the situation.

He would do this, and that, for money or merely for fun, but those other things, forget it, he was no sissy. And yes, if you ever suggested that he was a sissy, you'd have been cut.

Hey, a guys got to make a living.

Pharrell Williams - Happy (Official Music Video)

I don't know, I don't know much, I'm no critic, no genuine musicologist. But really, I just think that there's a good chance that this is (one of) the best songs, and (one of) the best music videos of the Twenty-First Century.

Disclaimer: Not that I've been paying particular attention!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Dreams Are A Waste Of Time

It’s very rare that I have a dream that is coherent enough to even be considered for meaning, and rarer still that the dream comes through powerfully, and memorably, enough to be useful. Usually they just seem like the brain is coasting its way through its normal mechanisms and habitual channels of thought while throwing out images and sounds that can be almost random. 

Some people do seem to get something out of the process of dreaming. A certain kind of artistic temperament can find even the random images useful. Several artists that I admire, like William S. Burroughs, for example, have kept dream diaries and used elements of the dreams in their art. My general feeling, however, is that it’s best not to put too much stock in dreams.

Once in a great while, though, once in a great, great while there comes a dream that really stands up straight and speaks to you clearly. A dream that presents people from your life in recognizable, natural settings, speaking in their own natural voices and styles, and saying things that you can easily imagine them to have actually said. The people in the dream may include dead people, of course, since there is no impediment to their participation.

This one didn’t feature any dead people, but it was memorable.

I wrote the notes from this dream at 9:30 p.m. one night, having had the dream in the middle of the previous night and woken up at 7:00 a.m. that morning.

There was a family gathering of some kind, and the subject of my deceased father came up. “What would he say,” someone said, “if he were here?”
“Maybe,” I said, “he would say how glad he was to have a son who was so kindhearted and considerate, if, that is, he had a team of specialists with him to assist him, or highly sensitive instruments to interpret the data.”

The dream was with me throughout the following day. All through the dream, and in its aftermath, I felt the bitterness caused by my parents’ treatment and neglect, their quick judgments and their everlasting disappointments. But I also felt, both in the dream and after it, a certain diminution in the importance of such resentments. It all made me wonder if there was a real purpose behind dreaming after all. Maybe, maybe not. It’s still true that they are usually a waste of time. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Governing Of Muslims In Singapore

Singapore is a fairly diverse place. Not as diverse as Los Angeles, but more diverse than many. Occasionally we get a look at how they manage this diversity. Bear in mind that the government of Singapore has always been very, very concerned with controlling every aspect of everything in the city-state, so the management of the various ethnic groups is typically hands-on. 

For example, there is something called the Ministry of Muslim Affairs, which appears to work closely with some kind of sweetheart non-governmental association of local Muslims. I was in a hotel recently that had Channel News Asia (based in Singapore) on the cable, and they showed a long article about a recent concern shared by the ministry and the association: the need for a government run program for the certification of teachers of Muslim studies.

This was in response to a large number of foreigners coming to Singapore and working as teachers of Muslim studies. The government’s concern is that these foreigners may not sufficiently understand the nature of Islam in Singapore, which is evidently different from Islam in other places.

Someone from the Ministry of Muslim Affairs was interviewed for the article. He stressed that Singapore was a very inclusive place, and that all that the ministry sought to do was to insure that that inclusivity remained strong. “We just need to know,” he said, “that what is being taught matches the way that Islam is practiced in Singapore.”

The new plan will be for the local Muslim association to oversee the certification process. (Sorry, I neglected to note the name of the association.) Foreigners will also be required to take course-work before even being considered for certification.

I wondered how this matched up with the treatment of teachers of other religions. There are large numbers of Muslims in Singapore, but there are also large numbers of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists, and many other religions are represented as well. Was there something about the foreign teachers of Muslim studies? Were there certain countries whose Islam they disapproved of? Perhaps they would not fear an Anglo-Saxon Christian missionary from Kansas, or a Hindu holy man from India, or even a Muslim teacher from Malaysia, while wishing to add an extra level of vetting for Saudi Arabian practitioners of Wahhabism.

Could you single out Muslims for special treatment like that in America? I’m not sure how that would line up with our concept of Equal Protection under the law. It does appear to be a governmental action that classifies.

We’re on the hooks of a similar dilemma right now in America. You know, the “Muslim ban.” I would hate to think that our country could share such a dilemma with Singapore. America considers itself to be a functioning democracy; that is the status that America claims for the entire world to see. Singapore cannot begin to make such a claim. Singapore is more like a wolf of a police state dressed in the democratic clothing of a sheep.

So I hope that we’re not sharing behaviors with Singapore these days. That would not be a good sign. 

Johnny Ace - - Pledging My Love

Not so sad a song, but the saddest story of all time.

Johnny had been plugging away for a few years with no success in  the music business. When this song was released, shortly thereafter, he was drinking with some friends and there was a revolver around. He dumped all of the rounds but one and played a game of Russian Roulette. "If I win, it's a hit," he said, "if I lose, it wasn't meant to be."

Well, he lost, and killed himself, but it was a hit after all. He wasn't around to enjoy it.

Sad, sad story.

Our Crazy World

Welcome to our crazy world! We create artificial problems and ignore real ones. We claim affiliation with various religions while failing to understand their meaning at all. We fail to appreciate real talent while swooning over the likes of (redacted; several names). It’s all quite mad.

The worst part is that we now have all of the tools, money and recourses necessary to fix the entire world and insure a future of peace and prosperity for all of us. The truth is that our world has always been crazy in much the same way that it is crazy now. The only unique, incriminating fact for our times is this bit about the possibility of redemption. We have the ability to lift all of the weakest among us and eliminate the worst of deprivation and violence from our history, but somehow we don’t even acknowledge the possibility. Now that’s crazy.

Recent History

The Twentieth Century was a time of real, existential threats to entire ways of life, backed up by frequent bouts of ultraviolence on a world-wide scale. Now those were troubled times! It was as though someone prayed to God, “please God, don’t bring back anything like the Thirty Years War,” and God was just waking up from a nap and thought the prayer was to actually bring back times like the Thirty Years War.

The politics in the Twentieth Century! Porco Dio! What a mess! Things like dictatorships and oligarchies, etc., were old hat. But the complete lack of common sense, human decency and basic cooperation had a new gloss on it. The resort to violence and warfare came catastrophically on two occasions: once kind of willy-nilly, because one of the players was in a snit and the others just went along, you know, because of treaties or something; and once out of the shear mendacity and malevolent will of two of the big players, dragging the rest of the known world into a maelstrom of death and destruction.

Afterwards there was the mere threat of something even worse! Something that would render all of humanity either: 1) instantly dead; 2) kneeling somewhere blindly puking our insides out; or 3) slowly or quickly starving to death. One of the instigating countries had had a taste of it in the second great unpleasantness, and the world was quite impressed with the results. Thank you Sweet Baby Jesus in the Manger!

The nuclear peace, however, left plenty of room for mischief, and plenty of mischief there was. It was in this time, perhaps because of fear, that common sense went out the window. I’m talking now about the late Twentieth Century. And then, suddenly, one of the two remaining major players went tits-up, leaving only the United States standing at the head of nations. You could be forgiven to think that it was a great time to relax a bit, and to back away from the state of emergency that had existed since 1941. That was fifty years of presidential emergency powers in a row, due to one emergency or another, and then, suddenly, all of the emergencies were gone. But no, by that time permanent emergency had been cut-in-stone. The president’s emergency powers only accelerated after that, as new emergencies, real or imagined, were substituted for old. Twenty-five years after the fall of the Soviet Union, we are still in that state of emergency, due now, I believe, to terrorism or something. Exit common sense, stage left.

The Real World

The period beginning in 1991 would have been the perfect time to start organizing a great march forward, with almost all of the countries in the world joining in the great task. China and America were cooperating economically, and almost all of the world’s major players were in a relatively peaceful posture with no real enemies to speak of. Russia was not in a position to do anything but receive help, but they had great ability to pay for that help with resources, a mutually beneficial arrangement. Just start moving the ball forward; as Mao said, a journey of a hundred miles begins with a single step. If you stay on the path and keep taking steps, you get there.

Nothing like that was even considered. Triumphalism and economic advantage won that day.

The skill-set that could enable us to build a wonderful new world includes wild, science-fiction-like improvements in communications, manufacturing and information technologies. But here, the degradation of human decency and general cooperation has ruined everything. The scientific breakthroughs are all used for the wrong reasons. Fabulous new possibilities for income generation have rendered a large percentage of our most talented minds greedy beyond anything previously imaginable. Fabulous new possibilities for crowd manipulation have enabled some of the worst among us to rise to the greatest heights of political power around the world.

There’s a huge swath of the globe that is dark these days, with so many countries having descended into violence and tribalism with no laws and virtually no economies at all. These are the “failed states.” Many countries, short of that condition, are surrendering to corruption, or weakening their own democracies, or resorting to extrajudicial killings, or abandoning reality in favor of fantasy. It’s like something in the water; I often wonder if the John Birch Society was right about fluoridation.

In my own benighted country, people are too afraid of income insecurity, health insecurity, personal safety insecurity, food insecurity and retirement insecurity to give a thought to the perfectibility of the world. Americans are hoping for the best and desperate to hold on to the little advantage that they still have. As is the case in most of the world, our political leaders like it that way. (We’re also guilty of several of the excesses listed in the paragraph above this one.)

Has it always been this crazy? The answer is, “probably.” It’s easier to see the craziness all around you than to see it through the dark lens of history. Versailles, the Renaissance, Camelot, ancient Rome and Greece, it all looks so nice in paintings and prints. It’s harder to see, from here, the foul smelling, shit-stained, disease ridden reality of it, much less the craziness of their politics and their societies. But those rulers of the past had an excuse that no longer works for us. With their technology, and their science, and their communications networks, and with the state of their general knowledge, they were condemned to stumbling forward in darkness, just trying to keep enough people alive to do the work and fight the inevitable wars. It’s hard to condemn them all. The Romans, for example, made great (relative) progress with their limited advances in communication and technology. We could do so much better now, if there would appear some kind of political will to do so.

Where to Start

At least, as the doctors are instructed, “do no harm.” Or, for many countries, “stop doing harm,” or even “begin, for goodness sake, to start unwinding the harm you’ve been doing.”

And maybe countries could find a way to begin to cooperate more. Starting in very small ways, anything would help. This constant struggle for national and racial and religious advantage, by nations great and small, really must end. It’s ridiculous and counterproductive, and well, it’s just damn embarrassing is what it is.

And if there are programs that could be agreed upon, and strategies that could be embarked upon, and if those things should require a great deal of money, I have an idea of how to proceed on that as well. Why not take some of the money back from the small percentage of the earth’s people who have stolen it? Surely we have not signed a suicide pact with those pirates! There’s no need to let them keep all of the money even if it kills all of us and all of them and destroys the earth itself.

I’m afraid that the hardest part will be the political will.  

Monday, February 13, 2017

Christopher Walken - Come and Get Your Love

Christopher Walken is five years older than I am, but we're both kids from Queens. He was raised in Astoria, and my grandmother had a funeral parlor in Astoria, so we spent a certain about of time within a mile or two of one another in the 1950s, let's say. (I lived on the other side of La Guardia Airport, in College Point.)

Man, I took a lot of flak from my hipster friends for loving this song when it was released, and thereafter, too. Somehow, my high-brow friends thought that it was too pop, or too gimmicky. I still love it. And I'm very gratified, and I feel somewhat validated, to discover that Mr. Walken also finds it a worthwhile musical expression.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Crystals - Then He Kissed Me - New Stereo Remix

Oooops! I cried again!

I cry every time I hear this song. And isn't this an endearing video? Kind of a mess, but the young women look so sincere, and so cute, and the song comes through. I like it.

When this song was current, way back when, I would sometimes take a different bus after school so that I could visit my grandmother down in Astoria, down by Long Island City, where you could be standing in Queens but you could throw a rock and hit Manhattan. That bus was the Q66, and lots of black students were going home from Flushing High School. Impromptu groups of black teenage girls would sit in the back of the bus and sing these songs, and boy, it was a thrill for me to sit and listen. It was a valuable part of my urban education in the benefits of diversity.

Man, I love this song.

Patsy Cline -- I Fall To Pieces

This woman had such great tone. I mean, it's ridiculous, the range, the control, the emotion, just ridiculous. She was so great.

I'll bet that she would have traded the whole God-damned thing for a bit of happiness. But that's life, isn't it? Life just is not fair, not even close.

Oh, Patsy. Thanks so much for everything, and I'm so, so sorry.

Georgie Fame walking the dog

Let's go ahead and put Georgie Fame on the "underappreciated" list. Nice band, too.

And what the fuck, man! Can a brother get a hand with this God-Damned mike, or what!

Checking Out Of A Marriage

I will admit that the Huffington Post is part of my morning reading. Perhaps it is too much to say that I “read” it; more like I peruse it. I read the headlines, and click through to very few of the articles. I do not generally click on articles pertaining to marriage or divorce. I learned long ago that most such articles are next to worthless for any number of reasons.

Some of the articles seemed to have been written by angry women with axes to grind; most were probably just click-bait for aggrieved female readers. It was low-percentage subject matter for me. So I was surprised one morning when I clicked on an article called, “6 Signs Your Husband Has Checked Out of Your Marriage (sic),” by Brittany Wong. Almost all of these articles are written by and about women, complaining about men. But I clicked, and I read it.

It’s possible that I wanted to make sure that I had not been the one to check out of my own marriage. I needn’t have worried. I was innocent in every one of the six cases mentioned, but my wife, the dear girl, was four-corners with the entire list.

Substituting the feminine pronoun for the masculine, here are the six:

1.   She’s hypercritical of everything you do;
2.   Stonewalling becomes the norm;
3.   She’s noticeably irked when you don’t follow through on something;
4.   You (plural?) aren’t as playful as you used to be;
5.   She’s impatient and short with you; and
6.   She confides in other people.

That’s a strong six-for-six right there. According to Ms. Wong, my wife was the one who had checked out of our marriage at some point. About fifteen years before our divorce, in fact.

I still cannot recommend that anyone read these articles about marriage or divorce, nor can I recommend reading the Huffington Post in general. I was, however, glad that I read this article. I lost a lot in our divorce; in fact I lost everything except for a few dollars. I lost my wife, my children, my father’s goodwill, many friends and neighbors, a lifetime’s worth of possessions, my wardrobe, my car, the house that I helped build and the home that was mine for decades. I often worry that I could have done something differently to save the situation, that it might have been possible for me to have done something to avoid the difficulties. Something “possible” would be the main sticking point here. Impossible things are, by their nature, impossible. This article had the effect of soothing my conscience somewhat. That was a blessing, and I am grateful. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Adrian Belew I Am What I Am

I really love this song for the music alone, but I also value it for the message.

The voice-over came from another source altogether, and the interesting part is the dual message. It's either, "you are what you are," or it's "you are what you believe you are."

Wow. That's two different things right there. I'm not sure which one I'm betting on.

Lee Dorsey - Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky

Honestly, sometimes I'm pretty sure that I'm just a tattooed fuck-up from Queens that can't even make the ante to play in this game. But then sometimes I think that maybe I've got a certain twist that might just give me a license to play.

One thing that I'm pretty sure of . . . my funk is boss. My kung-fu swings. Win or lose, I don't know shit about that. But I'm in the game.

So set 'em up! Let's see how this thing goes down.

The Insubordinate Imperial Japanese Military

That’s “Imperial” as in the Japanese military forces during World War II. The officer corps of the Imperial Japanese Army was completely out of control, and the naval officers weren’t much better. It’s always amazing to me, because “insubordinate” and “disrespectful” and “disobedient” are not words that one would usually use in connection with Japanese individuals who were lower in status than the other person in the interaction.

Considering the Army? Forget about it! One need only recall that low level officers in the Manchurian garrison started the entire disastrous invasion of China on their own motion. The brass in Tokyo, and the Emperor, went along after the fact.

The further down the Army chain-of-command you went, the worse the behavior became. The more that I read about that war, the worse the insubordination of the Japanese officer corps seems to get.

The navy was not immune. I recently read of an incident involving Captain Yonosuke Murakami.* I took particular note of it because our own Haruki Murakami is a favorite author of mine (and not in the least insubordinate, to my knowledge). This event took place during the six month contest for Guadalcanal, running from August, 1942 to February, 1943.

Captain Murakami was in charge of a division of four destroyers under the command of Admiral Raizo Tanaka, an extremely talented and justifiably famous destroyer admiral. The admiral was a brilliant tactician with nerves of steel. (See “Battle of Tassafaronga.”) The admiral ordered Murakami to take his destroyers and make a night attack on an American resupply convoy to Guadalcanal. Murakami gave the admiral the old “hell, no.” He flat refused.

“Full moon,” said Captain Murakami, “we’ll get dive bombed.”  They knocked it back and forth for a couple of minutes, and finally Admiral Tanaka backed off and rescinded the command. No disciplinary action was taken, nor any report made.  

There have been several new books about the Pacific war in the last few years, and it’s amazing how much new information the historians can access as time goes on. Every year there are new documents; new personal records and diaries; new translations. More documentation has only led to more examples of these kind of disciplinary, ah, problems.

Please note, for the record, that I am not criticizing the Japanese military at the time. History is history, and the events of a particular time and place must always be judged by the prevailing mores and realities of that time and place. They were who they were; they did what they did. And speaking of the record, the record still shows that the average Japanese soldier or sailor or airman was an incredible font of courage and dedication, while acknowledging the perhaps too frequent moral lapses. It’s that “particular time and place” thing again. Not everything can be judged by the same yardstick.

But really, the discipline in the Imperial Japanese forces in WWII was spongy, and that’s putting it mildly, at least in the officer corps.

(Photographs show two classes of Japanese IJN destroyers that were active early in the war. These ships were very capably employed by talented officers and crews and they were very effective.) 

*Episode with Captain Yonosuke Murakami and Admiral Raizo Tanaka from “Neptune’s Inferno,” by James Hornfischer. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Smothers Brothers Professor Erwin Corey

I've always loved Professor Erwin Corey. "Always" is possible for me, because the Professor is even older than I am. Something like thirty years older than I am. At least he was, until he died the other day.

This is a great act, and the Professor was a great guy. Personal stories where he shows up in people's lives in a pleasant, cheerful and friendly way are easy to find. He will be remembered fondly, which is more than most of us can hope for. Mainly on the issue of being remembered at all.

I have always thought of Corey as a giant. A giant of comedy, certainly, but specifically a giant of nonsense comedy, which I hold to be the greatest expression of the art. Not everyone will get this comedy, they won't all dig it. As the great man said, not the Professor, some other great man, "when the expression of an artist collides with the consciousness of the beholder and produces a dull thud, it remains to be established which of the two is at fault." So, if you don't think that Professor Corey is funny, just bear in mind that it might be your fault. (Look up other examples before you make up your mind. That's only fair in a world where such research is as easy as pie.)

And this is only one clip! One little clip! The Smothers Brothers were great, by the way. For all of you youngsters who weren't there yet, or you studious types who didn't have time for TV or youth culture while you were studying accounting or some shit, the Smothers Brothers were a very hip act. They were valued by many of us for sharing acts and cultural icons that didn't get a lot of mainstream exposure, acts and icons like Professor Erwin Corey. Thanks to them for that.

And Thanks, Professor, for everything. You were great for 102 years. We'll be missing you for longer than that, if there's any justice in the world at all.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames - Night Train - 1964

At some Mod hangout, 1964, complete with club-noise.

Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames were a good outfit, and they seem to be having fun here, so I'm on board.

Arthur Chin: America's First Ace In World War II

Arthur Chin was born in Seattle, Washington. His dad was Chinese and his mom was Peruvian, so Arthur was a typical American boy. Japanese aggression in China made Arthur angry enough to learn to fly and travel to China to do something about it.

He and a few other Chinese Americans started out with the Guandong Provincial Air Force, and soon were accepted into the air forces of the central government. He mostly flew the Russian made Polikarpov i-15, like the black plane in the top photo, and English made Gloster Gladiators.

The two Chinese characters on the plane in the picture (the words, that is) say, "New York," indicating that the plane was purchased with money raised by the Chinese community in New York City. I'm pretty sure that the last sentence is true, but I don't read Chinese so I could have been fooled.

Between 1937 and 1939 Arthur Chin shot down nine Japanese planes, making him the first American flyer to make "ace" in WWII. Well, he was credited with "8.5," actually, one of the kills was "shared." These would not have been easy kills, even in the days before the arrival of the Zero. Just surviving two years worth of sorties against the Japanese would have required enormous courage, and adding nine kills to that record indicates that Arthur was a pilot of considerable skill.

He was shot down in 1939. The crash landing put him out of action until 1944 with serious orthopedic and burn injuries. He returned to flying, cargo planes "over the hump" from Burma this time.

In about 1995 Mr. Chin was finally recognized by the American government and military. He was acknowledged to be an American veteran, and he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He died a few years later at age eighty-three. In the early 2000s, a post office was named in his honor up in Washington State, I believe.

So, Happy Chinese New Year, Arthur Chin, wherever you are! Thanks for your service, and for a really wonderful American story.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Baby Boomers Strike Again

There’s an article in the Daily Beast today by Joel Kotkin entitled, “The High Cost of a Home is Turning America’s Millennials into the New Serfs.”

For “click-bait,” it is provided with a subtitle describing “. . . a system in which the boomers are protecting their wealth and views at the expense of the rest of us.”

So, those miserable pricks, the Baby Boomers, are at it again! Ruining the world! Go ahead, say it! Donald John Trump is a boomer, too! I’m surprised that they left that part out.

In the manner of click-bait in general, boomers get one fleeting mention in the rather long article. There’s a long recitation of the financial tribulations of millennials. The usual stuff: the part time employment with gaps; the vast student loan debt; the high cost of retail housing. Millennials are priced out of buying homes and having children; they are forced to live with their parents. It’s all about millennials, really, but the editors thought that it would generate more clicks if blame could be cast on those Satanic Baby Boomers.

And so we get, “. . . by 2030, according to a recent Deloitte study, millennials will account for barely 16% of the nation’s wealth while home-owning boomers, then entering their eighties and nineties, will control a remarkable 45%.”

That's the one fleeting mention of boomers. 

First of all, this ignores the fact that we boomers will only be entering our eighties or nineties IF WE ARE LUCKY. Quite a few of us are dead already; many more of us will be dead by 2030. What happens to our squandered, ill-gotten gains when we die? If we are not prudent, it will go to our ungrateful children. The ones to whom articles like this are directed, our children, many of whom can barely keep quiet about their real attitude towards us, which is why don’t we die already so they can get the house and the money? After all, they need it for gadgets and Starbucks. So a good deal of that “remarkable” 45% will already have gone to our millennial (or Gen X) children.

Second, and most importantly, how is any of this the fault of Baby Boomers? What did we do to place the millennials in this awful position? (And I believe that millennials are in an awful position, and that it was imposed on them intentionally, by another group altogether.) What exactly are we doing to protect our wealth and views at everyone else’s expense? Many of us bought houses when they were a very good investment; many of us still own those houses; what exactly should we have done differently? And how could any of that have been directed against any class of people, the millennials or anyone else?

(As far as “protecting our views” goes, I’m not addressing that subject because I don’t know what that means.)

Also bear in mind that the market forces and the political forces that have ruined the financial prospects of many millennials have simultaneously, over the years, ruined the finances of many boomers as well. Many of us have lost houses and jobs in our fifties and come face-to-face with destitution. Several of my own friends live in reduced circumstances, which can mean living with grown children or in shitty rentals in low-cost states.

So attention, twenty-something hipsters! We’re all in this together. Don’t blame your very real problems on Baby Boomers. And if you’re so unhappy with your lives, do something about it. Look around; ask your friends. I’m sure that some of them have figured it out.

And Daily Beast, shame on you! And you, Mr. Kotkin, the writer! You don’t look like a spring-chicken yourself! I know that the life of a content-provider is very hard these days, but please, keep some of your dignity. (And good luck with your novel/screen-play.) 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

10 year impossible PUZZLE 10年以上知恵の輪謎

Looks like it's still on YouTube.

See second post down for text.

"The Eternal Zero," Or, The Mystique Of The Zero

YouTube is full of these videos about the Mitsubishi Zero and its brave pilots. Some are from movies made in Japan; some are from video games. They tend to put forward the idea that the Zero was a supreme dogfighter without equal in the world. That’s the myth. This idea, this myth, was never true, I repeat, never. I submit to you that anyone who would suggest that the myth is true is not being completely fair to the brave men who flew Zeros in combat or to the memory of the venerable Zero itself.

Some of the devotees of these videos are young Japanese men; some are fan-boys from around the world. They are all living in a dream world.

The Japanese aircraft industry in the late 1930s was in its infancy. It had little capacity to produce aircraft; very few engineers to assist in the design of aircraft; few precision machining tools, all of which had been recently obtained from overseas companies; few trained machinists; and no experience with mass production techniques. In spite of all of those shortcomings, the Japanese managed to design a full range of military aircraft, fighters, naval torpedo and dive bombers, and medium bomber aircraft. But, there were problems.

Every one of these new aircraft had some things to recommend it. Japanese doctrine stressed long range, and all of these planes featured much longer range than their western counterparts.  The fighters had not only long range, but also fabulous maneuverability. These things were achieved at a price.

The weakness of all of the Japanese planes became apparent immediately after the war started. They were all very lightly built; they were very susceptible to destruction from low levels of battle damage. They had very weak engines, which was all that Japanese industry was capable of providing them with. And they had no armor to protect the pilot or the critical systems, and no self-sealing fuel tanks, because those things add weight, thus reducing maneuverability and range. If you would only give them a good slap, they blew up.

Over the course of the war, the Japanese did develop some new designs. Many of these new planes performed very well, and a couple of them, like the Frank (KI-84), were fully equivalent to the top American performers. Quantities were very low, however, and most of the planes that were produced were not up to specs. Most of the good flyers were long dead by then as well, and the pilots that were trained in 1944 and 1945 were only able to take off and get killed almost immediately, whatever they were flying. Those are the unfortunate facts. All of the statistics bear me out.

The Zero was in production until the end of the war, because that was the plane that the Japanese could build. This video depicts a confrontation between Zeros and North American P-51 Mustangs, and it seems to suggest that the confrontation had some give-and-take to it.  No such thing would have been possible. An even-up fight between Zeros and Mustangs would have as much reality to it as a telephone conversation with Paddington Bear.

These videos . . . these sentimental, heroic, demented videos . . . they not only distort the past, but they also take away from the very real accomplishments of Japanese Zero pilots. One of my heroes as a boy was Saburo Sakai, one of the most famous Zero aces. I read his book, “Samurai,” when I was twelve. He wrote with a very realistic, unsentimental eye about the air war in the Pacific. Even in 1942, the prospect of flying a Japanese aircraft against American opposition was daunting. Sakai himself was shot down by a mere Douglas Dauntless, a dive bomber.

The Japanese pilots in the Pacific war were surpassingly brave to go up against superior American planes and doctrine day after day. Month after month! Even after they knew that their efforts were hopeless, they did their duty uncomplainingly. They were real heroes, and they still have my unqualified admiration.  They could really fly, especially in the early years. But they died. They were sent into battle flying obsolete planes, with inadequate maintenance and primitive airfield conditions, and they died. They were condemned to perpetual combat unto death, with no rest, no leave, and no rotation home, and they died. They all died, but for a precious few.

They were surpassingly brave, and they did their duty, and they died.

What they did not do was rise in 1945, when the Mustangs arrived, rise up in Zeros, and fight the Americans on anything like even footing. No, that did not happen. To suggest that it did happen is a slap in the face to the brave Japanese pilots who fought the actual war. The real story is heroic in itself; it does not require embellishment.

Those Japanese pilots were real heroes. We should let their real accomplishments stand on their own. Creating fairy tales about imaginary victories does not do them any service. The reality of their accomplishments can stand on its own.