Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Vanilla Beans - nicola / U ♡ Me -

Sure, the bulls are busy fucking up the china shop. Sure, the New Dark Ages are right around the corner. But with a little bit of luck, our entertainments will not fail us in this benighted time.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

One More Myth Gone: Marcus Aurelius And Commodus

There’s a lot of loose talk around now about how all great civilizations descend into madness and end up with rulers that are narcissists, insane, demented or merely perverted. Those pundits are hinting that our current Grand Poobah is a sign of the End Times for America. That is presented as the progression: great rulers, then good, then okay, then poor, and finally perverted/demented/insane narcissists. Like most processes, this one is not linear. It is actually a one step forward, one or two steps backward kind of thing.

Take Commodus, please. He became emperor of Rome in 177 AD. You may remember a fictionalized Commodus from the movie "the Gladiator," staring Russell Crowe as Maximus (the gladiator) and Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus. “Fictionalized,” yes, the real Commodus was a combination of slightly better and much, much worse than Mr. Phoenix’s Commodus.

Perhaps all you need to know about the real Commodus is that he was Emperor from 177 to 192 AD; he was finally assassinated when people just got totally sick of his bullshit; and for all of that time, and particularly towards the end of his reign, he kept adding honorifics to his name and getting more and more annoying. The man’s ego was out of control. By 191 AD his name was:

Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus Augustus Herculeus Romanus Exsuperatorius Amazonius Invictus Felix Pius.

That’s a mouthful. In the last year of his life he added two more titles, Pacator Orbis (pacifier of the world) and Dominus Noster (our Lord).

Commodus in real life was even much more annoying than Commodus in the movie. But before you start to believe that he was a product of the final stages of a decadent Roman Empire, bear in mind that he had succeeded his father Marcus Aurelius to the throne. Marcus was a great Emperor, really one of the greats of all time. Marcus was a genuinely intelligent man of moderate personal habits, who left the empire in much better shape than he found it, a great general and philosopher, very careful with money and good to his people. He was a man seemingly without vice, loved by all. Marcus was a late-empire ruler, too. So they weren’t all bad.

The lesson is that we cannot now believe, as some pundits would have us believe, that Donald Trump is a sign of the end times for the American ascendency.  Sure, Trump is an annoying egomaniac, an ignorant bull-in-a-china-shop, but Donald is an aberration. He will pass from the scene like a meal of undercooked shrimp. There will be some discomfort, but finally it will all sleep with the fishes.

Take heart, America! There is at least a thirty percent chance that things will begin to get better within ten or fifteen years! I don’t think that it could get better any faster than that, that’s about as good as we can do, I’m afraid. It’ll take some time to get out of this hole. But it could have been worse! We might, if we are lucky, be able to avoid a new Dark Age of one or two hundred years.

Or not, who knows? See what you can do to push it all in the right direction. 

Monday, March 20, 2017


Hint: you've got to give this one a minute and a half to get rolling.

For one thing, how terrible is it when you come up with a great song idea and the Rolling Stones release a song with the same title right around that time? (I haven't spent the time to figure out which one came first.)

I love Billy Gibbons as a guitar player, because he's one of those guys for whom the guitar is just a starting point. You get it all plugged in, get everything switched on, and then go nuts. Guys like this don't mind if you completely lose the sound of a guitar in the haze.

Phil Manzanera said in an interview that he always tried to make the guitar sound not like a guitar at all. Billy said one time that if you play loud enough, it's all harmonics, the guitar is gone. I wouldn't recommend that approach to everyone, but it does seem to work for some people.

Astrud Gilberto With Stan Getz - Girl From Ipanema (1964)

Okay, now this is strange.

If you don't get the entire shpiel, go and check the YouTube.

A Modest Proposal To Reduce The Cost Of The Border Wall, Which We Totally Need, Because The Whole Thing Is A Catastrophe

After months of wondering whether such a thing were even possible, it appears that Donald Trump is the President of the United States and that he has proposed a budget that includes a couple of billion dollars to start building that wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Many of us were sure that he would let the matter quietly die, because: 1) the utility of the wall would be dubious at best; 2) the wall would be preposterously expensive; and 3) of course Mexico would not pay for it. None of this, however, seems to bother our fearless president. He has always been brave with other people’s money.

There are problems. For one thing, our border with Mexico is very, very long, like two-thousand miles or something. No one knew that it was so long! For another thing, a lot of the necessary land belongs to people that we more-or-less get along with, like American citizens and friendly Indians. We’d have to obtain it somehow. Also, some of the land for the wall is not contoured conveniently, i.e., there are significant changes in grade that would complicate construction enormously. Not to worry, though, there are work-arounds that would go a long way to solving these problems.

It must be noted that the country of Mexico tappers inward as you go south from the border. The border itself is the widest spot in Mexico by far. If I may be permitted to offer a suggestion, and I do hope that you will indulge me, why not formulate a new border and build the wall where it would be more convenient to do so? Say, across the Tropic of Cancer or thereabouts? The breadth of Mexico is more manageable there, only four or five hundred miles.

Building the wall there would have many advantages beyond simplifying the construction of the wall. It would increase the land mass of the United States considerably. It would, in fact, increase the mass of “California Land,” because the area that would become American would include all of Baja California. This could be the selling-point for the entire project. Who would say no to more of California? And more of Southern California at that! (Redwoods are nice, but almost no one really goes there.)

DISCLAIMER: Don’t be holding this shit against me. This here is satire.

It must be acknowledged that this plan would bring problems of its own, but nothing that would be too troublesome, considering all of the benefits. The whole plan would actually be of a piece with the shared history of our two countries. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time that we reduced the area of Mexico by one-half by force of arms, simply because we wanted something (California, mostly). Mexico is low-hanging fruit! Aren’t we all happy now that the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and parts of Wyoming and Kansas are part of our glorious U.S.A.? (See, Mexican-American War, 1846-1848.) Upon reflection, I guess we can’t take credit for Texas, because the Texans had already stolen most of Texas fair and square. But the rest of it, certainly, we Americans stole that. (Thanks, President Polk!) History could repeat itself. What has happened can happen again.

Mexico would still be a rather large country, and they would be keeping their capital city, all of their big touristy spots and almost all of their oil production. (Although they would be losing their natural gas.) They might be better off without the northern part of the country. It’s just a desert full of gangsters anyway. With a little bit of luck all around, most of the gangsters would get lost in the scuffle. There would be plenty of room left down south for all of the displaced Mexicans. Oh, yes, displaced. They certainly couldn’t remain in those new American states. If we left them there, what would be the point? Besides, voters these days wouldn’t stand for such a generous immigration program. We would need the open space anyway, to accommodate new immigrants who displayed the appropriate level of merit. Maybe we could let the Mexican doctors stay.

The many Americans who currently live in Northern Mexico because they can’t afford to live in the U.S. anymore would have to decide whether to follow the actual Mexicans in their trek southwards or to try to make a go of it in new American states. But really, no one has ever cared about them, and that probably won’t change any time soon, so no one need consider them in the planning of the operation. A certain number of friendly-fire accidents can be tolerated.

“But Fred,” I hear you thinking, “what about all of the mountains?” Be assured that I did consult a relief map, and the mountains in central Mexico are not a surprise to me. You will notice, however, that right around the Tropic of Cancer the mountains thin out a bit, so there’s that. There are some mountains in any route that the wall could take. Allow me, while I am speaking freely, to suggest a separate work-around for mountains that could work out nicely.

I recall long ago reading a proposal to use radioactive materials to create an impenetrable barrier at a border. Was that in connection with Korea? Vietnam? I forget now. The idea was to put plugs of highly radioactive material in some sort of pattern at intervals that would render the area deadly in a short time. You would need one hundred Sieverts or something, throw in some extra, enough to cause incapacity almost immediately and death within minutes. This would have the additional advantage of reducing the length of the wall by many miles! Public opinion should tolerate the radiation itself very well. The area would be many hundreds of miles south of the existing border, in land that would recently have been Mexico.

And, you say, it would be a war! War is bad! But if we must have a war, and it’s beginning to appear that we must have a war, why don’t we have a war that is close to home for a change? Why don’t we have a war with clear objectives that would deliver clear benefits? Mexico is very attractive as a target for military aggression. The savings in logistics alone would be colossal, and Mexico’s lack of military potential would keep casualties down, on our side anyway. The first Mexican-American War was a relatively low cost, low casualty operation that yielded spectacular results.

Greater minds than mine will be required to hammer out the details, but now is clearly a time when we are being encouraged to think big. Our current ruling junta virtually demands it! Our bold new chief executive is a man of action, and I wouldn’t put anything past our revolutionary 115th Congress. Pursue your best interest, and Devil take the hindmost! That doctrine, now completely operational, applies not only to individuals, but also to the country at large.

Be all that you can be, America! And be another 400,000 square miles of Mexico, too! Given the new reality that we are living with, I’m sure that you’ll agree that this proposal has become reasonable. 

Jimi Hendrix Experience at The Lulu Show

This one is really priceless. Lulu was a star in her own right, a very talented entertainer and a very pretty woman. I have a hunch that she was a very sociable woman as well, a good time to be around. Jimi and the band bring their A-game here throughout.

They start out with a very nice version of Voodoo Child, live on the air. That's always nice.

At 4:40 Lulu introduces Hey Joe, "the song that made them famous." Nice job here, too.

Somehow, and probably unscripted, at 7:10 Jimi starts praising Cream and calls for Sunshine of Your Love! The suits probably went nuts because that almost certainly meant that additional royalties would have to be paid. Did Jimi care? Why, no, obviously Jimi did not care about such things. Did Lulu care? Probably not. I'm pretty sure that Lulu had the FLEX gene.

And can we bring up the often disputed point about the role of Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding in this band? Can we agree that yes, they did belong in this band, that they were real participants in this music? There's a black/white thing that circulates around Jimi's music, and it's just not fair to the musicians involved. Noel was fine, he held it down, that's what a bass player does. Mitch was great, and for my money his slightly frenetic style was the perfect foil for Jimi's playing. This was a great Salt-and-Pepper band, in an age when such things could bring lessons that people needed to learn. Good for them!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Astrud Gilberto - Corcovado

"This is where I want to be . . ."

Find your Corcovado. Be there. Be happy.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ry Cooder - How can a poor man stand such times and live [Record plant 1...

It's always good to listen to Ry Cooder playing the old six-string. Good singer, too. I've loved his work since forever; we're about the same age. What I value as much as anything about Ry is his choice of material. He can sure find a great song in that huge pile that history provides us with.

This song has a strange new resonance these days, does it not? Man, prices are just sailing up over the hill like a coyote running away from a prairie fire!

Good luck, y'all. We're going to need it.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

H. Ross Perot: Businessman And Presidential Wannabe

Harry Truman was a dry-goods store owner and Jimmy Carter had the family peanut farm, but neither of them ran for office based on their business skills. Of the others, there was one actor and quite a few professional politicians. (I’m limiting my search group to presidents in my lifetime.) Three candidates stressed their business experience and promised to bring those skills to running the government. That would be George W. Bush, Donald J. Trump and H. Ross Perot.

(I’m leaving out Willard Romney. Most of his resume was business related, but it was not the kind of experience that anyone would want voters to even know about, much less consider, being all robber-baron stuff.)

The funny part is that the two men in that small group who actually won the presidency were awful businessmen. W. Bush’s resume included several business failures that lost a lot of money for other people but from which he was curiously bailed out, plus a few downright shady deals (The Texas Rangers episode), and even included allegations of insider trading. Not a lot of textbook success there. D. J. Trump talks a good game, but his own record is full of bankruptcies, defaults and the stiffing of partners and vendors. The Donald received a few curious bailouts himself (like his dad buying millions of dollars’ worth of chips to help him meet payroll in Atlantic City). Neither of those fellows seems to have been very successful at running businesses at all.

The one who was demonstrably a wild business success was H. Ross Perot, and he is the only one of the three to fail in his bid for the presidency.

Being a third-party candidate hurt his chances, but he made a historically great show from that status. He got 19% of the popular vote in 1992 (19,741,065 votes). (Zero electoral votes, although he did win majorities in many individual counties.)*

Perot, unlike those other two clowns, was a business wiz. Everything he touched turned to gold. He was a graduate of Annapolis, the U. S. Naval Academy. As a salesman for IBM he made his quota for the year within a month or so and decided that he could do all that and more if he were on his own. This was the early 1960s. Perot started Electric Data Systems and it was a winner. In 1984 he sold that company to General Motors for two point four billion dollars ($2,400,000,000.) In 1988 he started Perot Systems Corporation. That company was sold to Dell Computers in 2009 for three point nine billion dollars ($3,900,000,000).

It’s safe to say that Henry Ross Perot was the best businessman ever to run for the presidency.

They say, though, that running the country is not like running a business, and it’s true. It’s totally different, is what it is. If you are running a country, you cannot default on loans just to achieve some strategic advantage. You cannot declare bankruptcy just to put pressure on creditors. And then there are the things that you can do, such as printing money and borrowing at low interest. It’s totally different.

W. Bush, and now Trump, only proved that business experience not only does not help, but also is very likely to make matters worse.
What would Mr. Perot have done in office? 

His platform included:

1.   Balance the Federal budget;
2.   He opposed NAFTA (he came up with the quote, “that giant sucking sound that you hear is jobs moving to Mexico;”
3.   He opposed gun control;
4.   End job outsourcing (i.e., shipping jobs overseas); and
5.   Reduce the deficit by imposing a gasoline tax and cutting Social Security.

That looks an awful lot like Donald Trump’s professed goals. It’s a program without a chance of working. In fact, it’s a program that will do more harm than good. So I guess that even H. Ross Perot, the genuine business success, would also have failed to run the government better than mere politicians.

Incidentally, H. Ross Perot is alive as of this writing. In 2015, he was listed as the 129th richest man in America, with $4 billion dollars. He was an odd bird, but likeable, in his way. I wish him well.

*Which major party candidate was assisted by the votes that went to Perot? That’s about as clear as mud. Perot’s votes seem to have come from all points of the political compass, so you can’t say that he took conservative votes away from George H. W. Bush. Perot’s votes came mostly from the middle-class, so the votes of the rich and the poor went to their respective natural beneficiaries. I’m no expert, and I haven’t made an exhaustive study of it, but it appears likely that Clinton won in spite of Perot, and not because of him. 

Billy Joel - The River of Dreams

I was never a Billy Joel fan back in the day. He and I are about the same age, and we come from adjacent counties in New York, and I became aware of him about six months before he got on the radio because his manager had something to do with a band of my friends. Not my thing, though.

Over the years I developed a respect for what he was doing. I came to feel like he was a very talented individual, and many of the songs were really very good. Good for you, Billy. Homeboy! I've probably been over this ground before on this blog, perhaps many times.

Forgive me if I repeat myself, but I really like this song.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Various ‎– Sound Effect Of Godzilla 2 - Godzilla's Rivals : Movie Specia...

Are there any other Godzilla fanatics out there? Well, this guy Sunnyboy66 really has our number.

I love the Sunnyboy, myself. He's way up in the punk, the garage, the . . . well, the every Goddamn thing, really. First of all, its' amazing that anybody, any company, Japanese or otherwise, would release a compilation like this. It's Beyond Amazing! Secondly, it a bit surprising that anyone who had access to such a compilation would think to share in on YouTube. I mean, what's the market for such a thing? Even I wouldn't buy it if I saw it in a store. Not, at least, in my current limited financial circumstances. (If I were suddenly a millionaire, I would certainly buy it upon discovery. But that has not happened yet and I don't expect it to happen at all.)

Forgive me, some explanation is required. You may not know that I am Godzilla fan number one. Just the Godzilla footsteps are enough to freeze me with terror. My eyes go wide when I hear the Godzilla call, and I am fixed with anticipation. I listen to this CD with a real sense of fear and horror.

Thanks, Sunnyboy!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Peggy Neal's Actress Experiment

Peggy Neal attended Sofia University in Tokyo and acted in three Japanese movies, as follows:

1.   Terror Beneath the Sea (1966);
2.   The X from Outer Space (1967; see photo); and
3.   Kurreji ogon sakusen (1967).

You could hardly call that a career in films, but because of the nature of the first two films she will be remembered for all time as a small part of the highly entertaining and wildly popular Japanese sci-fi monster (Kaiju) universe.

Ms. Neal has not completely disappeared, but nearly so. On the film sites Internet Movie Data Base and Rotten Tomatoes her bio is the fact that she was a student at Sofia and the three film credits. That’s it. There are no photos on those sites.

A Google search turns up nothing for this particular Peggy Neal, although several others are represented. I didn’t see any articles. There are some images, though, and one of the images of a recent picture that looked plausibly like her clicked through to an article on an Australian website called The Age (dot com dot au). Oooops! That's Peggy O'Neal. (Later edit; my bad to anyone who read it as it was.) 

Terror Beneath the Sea (1966)

Peggy and her Japanese love-interest are reporters covering some new submarine-launched weapons. There are Creature-from-the-Black-Lagoon type mutant amphibian creatures and a mad scientist. Drama ensues and there is a happy ending.

The X from Outer Space (1967)

There’s a lot more meat in this second movie. Peggy and a new Japanese love-interest are astronauts, sent to Mars or something for a typical fool’s errand. Peggy does a lot of flirting with the Japanese astronaut, but at the end she realizes that he is better off with the other female lead because, after all, they’re both Japanese. That last bit of social theorizing came at the last minute of the movie and it was a surprise. All through the movie, Peggy and the alpha-male were getting along famously. Japanese women must have been complaining about the blond getting all the action. Peggy is beautiful enough to be threatening; I think so anyway.

Both of these movies feature a lot of gaigin (white) actors, lots more than any of the Toho or Nikkatsu movies of the time. (Peggy’s movies came from Shochiku Studios.) The foreign actors play mostly good natured, sympathetic characters, with only one in each movie playing a pain in the ass. Neither of these movies is very good, nor particularly bad. They are mildly entertaining and they don’t waste a lot of your time. I’ve seen worse.

But Peggy Neal! Very interesting, Peggy! I wish you well in your current endeavors. Thanks for everything, and it’s always nice seeing you. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

This Week In WTF: A Death In Fukushima

Every news cycle for many months now has been rich in WTF moments. Many of these have been provided by politics, which seems to have gone completely off the rails. The shocking political news has crowded What the Fuck moments in other subject areas way over to the corners of our attention. There are moments, however, when one of those other topics really squeezes a “WTF!” out of us.

Like the latest news from Fukushima, Japan. It’s been a long time since Fukushima invaded our consciousness. It was a big story though, quite memorable. The earthquake was 9.0 or 9.1, depending on where you are reading. The tsunamis were legendary, and they struck densely populated coastal areas of northeastern Japan. 15,000 people were killed! That’s big event right there, a terrible, awful, tragic, miserable day. To complicate matters, there was a rather large nuclear power plant right on the oceanfront area of Tsunami Central.

That happened in March, 2011. The quake was over in minutes; the tsunamis raised hell for a matter of hours and caused the majority of the deaths; the effects of the earthquake and the tsunamis on the nuclear plant are still being felt six years later.

This week’s WTF moment came in the form of a small news article about one aspect of the cleanup effort at the site of the nuclear plant. It’s all very dangerous and complicated, since large areas of the hot spots are underwater. Radiation has been too high even for humans in protective clothing. The highest reading at the site, previous to this week, was seventy-three Sieverts*. (Ten Sieverts is enough to insure rapid death in an unprotected human.) So the company in charge of the cleanup has constructed some heavily shielded robots to do the work. You may have heard: last month one of the robots encountered drama.

After two hours of exposure, the robot broke down due to extreme radiation exposure. (Most of the articles use the more dramatic construction, “the robot died,” or “the robot was killed.” Let’s go with “broke down.” We’ll be talking about robots as though they were people soon enough.) The radiation reading has been described as “unimaginable.” How extreme was it, Johnny! Well, the reading was 650 Sieverts, that’s how extreme it was. That’s nine times greater than any previous reading in the six years since the accident.

To paraphrase Jaws, “we’re going to need a stronger robot.”

Credit where credit is due: I started reading about this phenomenon at the Raw Story this morning, clicking through to the International Business Times, which is evidently where the Raw Story found the news flash.

Pacific Ocean Fish

I’ve also been seeing bits about Fukushima and its effects on fish in our Pacific food chain. Strange tales of fish in Canadian waters with bleeding gills, and all kinds of Pacific fish with big tumors. I went over to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s website for an update. No particular methodology to the choice; they were the most likely trustworthy source near the top of the Google search.

Big article; real scientist; he’s been researching the effects of Fukushima since it happened. The good news is that all of the fish in the whole, giant Pacific Ocean are safe to eat. He didn’t find anything remotely threatening about any of it. People evidently worry about the tuna in particular, but they needn’t. It’s safe. Any Japanese debris washing up on West Coast beaches is similarly safe. The bad news? There is no bad news. 

I saw other articles debunking the Fukushima/tumor thing, so it's bogus.

But if we want to worry a bit, that’s probably okay as well. After all, a jump from seventy-three to 650 Sieverts is no small matter! And that poor dead robot, that doesn’t happen every day. Maybe the guy from WHOI will update the update.

*Sieverts. A Sievert is a unit of radiation exposure that is designed to measure health threats to humans.

One Sievert will cause radiation sickness symptoms, like dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

Ten Sieverts will cause rapid death, anywhere from one day to a week after exposure. (Although many people with more exposure have held out for longer periods.)

Sieverts are reduced to smaller measurements to measure low dose exposures. So, one millisievert is 1/1,000th of a Sievert (0.001 Sieverts), and one microsievert is 1/1,000,000th of a Sievert (0.000001 Sieverts).

For reference: one set of dental radiographs is between five and ten microsieverts.

1.7 millisieverts is the average annual dose of radiation for stewardesses.

1 Sievert is the maximum dose allowed for astronauts over the course of their careers. 


Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Fear of Language.

I'm really on a fence about sharing this bit onto Facebook. It's just about certain that some of my Facebook friends would be highly offended by the language in this video. I'm pretty certain as well that they wouldn't get the message.

These days you can tear down the very structure of our government and tear the heart out of our democratic institutions but please, please! don't you ever say the word "fuck" within my hearing.

Can we keep some sense of proportion here!

Bobby Bland - St James Infirmary

This is a pretty good version, too.

James Ray- St James Infirmary

There are a lot of versions of this song out there, but this is my favorite.

James Ray is great in general. He's best known, if you could call it that, for having his song "I've Got My Mind Set on You" covered by George Harrison. This is a great album, the entire thing. If you see it out there, buy it.

Danny Barker - My Indian Red

There are really only two hip cities in the U.S. That would be New York and New Orleans.

Yup, I said it. NYC and NO have their own crazy energy. New York has a history of wild innovation in whatever arts appeal to you; New Orleans was the multicultural center of the universe and the birthplace of Jazz and the Blues. They're unique, and alone at the top.

San Francisco might have a claim to fame. It had the cosmopolitan thing early on, okay, but it's a tiny place with limited appeal and very few artistic credentials. Chicago is okay if you like steak, and they have the blues thing, but unless you are a big fan of gangster history or the wind, Chicago is nowhere. Kansas City was a wild-ass music scene that we're all thankful for, although almost no one knows that that is true in any meaningful way. So . . . no. I'm going with New York and New Orleans.

And the rest of y'all honorable mentions out there? Atlanta? Wannabe city of all time? Maybe next time! Keep trying, you know it's worth the effort. Show us something! Go for it! God knows we could all use something to bring us up.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Jackie Wilson & LaVern Baker, ''Think Twice'' (X-rated version)

Who knew, back in the day, that such things even existed? Not me, that's for sure. Probably not a lot of white people.

There was a whole world out there that white people didn't have a clue about. It's not too hard to understand, really. White people lived in the Disney world, where everything was officially okay, all the time. Black folk, on the other hand, lived in the real world, the black world, where things routinely went to shit in a big fucking hurry.

So there was a lot of this kind of thing out there, not for general consumption. I hope that it's better by now for our black brothers and sisters, at least a little bit. One can only hope.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Trans Boy Who Won The Texas Girls' Wrestling Championship Is In An Impossible Position

That’s the title of an article on Slate dot com on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. I’d say that the title puts it mildly. It puts lots of people in an impossible position.

The trans boy, I’m pretty sure he was in an impossible position already. (“Trans boy,” isn’t that a boy at birth who is transitioning to female? I’m just checking the math.) Most people suffer from a certain amount of confusion as teenagers, but I can’t even imagine what these kids go through.

His parents, or her parents, I’m trying to be sensitive, they might just have been in an impossible position already, even without this championship. I hope that they are being very supportive of their child through the entire process, that’s the only thing to do, but I’d be surprised if they weren’t thinking, just a little bit, “does he have to bring the entire world’s attention to this thing?”

The state officials who ran this competition, they were caught between a rock and a hard place. If they don’t let him compete, they are roundly condemned for being insensitive to the needs of diversity. If they do allow it, they are roundly condemned for violating at least the rights of the other girls to participate in a girls competition, and at most of violating the very laws of God almighty, and probably everything in between, too. Better them than me. I prefer not to be condemned at all.

I’m sure that there was a sanctioning body for this event, and maybe a state agency that runs these kinds of affairs. I wonder if they have a policy these days regarding transsexuals, but one way or the other they were probably in an impossible position as well.

The impossible position raised by the article’s title has become general. We all share it. I can only speak for myself, of course, but I always assume that my own feelings about something cannot, statistically speaking, be unique. I, and maybe most people, are of the opinion that our brothers and sisters, and all of them, should be allowed to live their lives in the manner that they find most appropriate. That’s an easy thing to support. People should be able to love whom they choose, even marry whom they choose. They should be able to smoke cigarettes, if they choose, without being condemned later on if they come down with lung cancer and become a drag on the medical system (it was legal; they did it; deal with it). Same with drinking, or an over-time over-dose of KFC. I wouldn’t mind seeing the legalization of any drug that didn’t make people violent, and that enabled people to go on working and being productive, but maybe that’s just me. I would extend this logic rather further, but I don’t want to offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities. It’s your body; it’s your life: go in peace. But . . .

I can’t help having the feeling, though, that actually changing your physicality through extensive surgery may not be a good idea, neither do I feel like it’s obviously a good idea for society to encourage it. It does me no harm if other people take that route, but I can't help wondering if it might do some of them some harm in the meantime. There’s something different about it, don’t you think? At least where minors are concerned.  Are we really to allow minors to make a choice like this, the surgery part?

I’m glad that I am not on the committee that has to make these decisions. That would be an impossible position for me. It would be much easier if it were just my child coming to me with the decision. Then I could just smile and be supportive.

This type of thing tends to ride a wave through the public imagination before the wave breaks on the shore of so-what. We’ve seen it all before. Long ago there was a fellow who underwent the whole medical process to transition to womanhood. That was Christine Jorgensen in the early 1950s. People thought that it was strange, and then they got over it.  

And now we periodically hear about tranies competing in women’s tennis or something. Then it all settles down and people forget about it, because really, in the scheme of things, it’s no big deal. To us it’s no big deal, anyway. To them, the sufferers, it’s a very big deal. I say “sufferers,” please forgive me if that seems insensitive. But really, isn’t it safe to say that no one would choose to go through something like that if it seemed like less than an absolute imperative? Like a situation that one had to escape from on an emergency basis? Like you were escaping a condition that caused you profound suffering?

So I’m all for this kid finding peace with this world of deep shit that we must all come to terms with. His struggle may be different from ours, but no one gets out of these blues alive. Really though, does he really need to take all of that extra upper-body strength to a women’s wrestling tournament? That’s a good question, isn't it? 

Alan Price Set - Simon Smith & his amazing dancing bear 1967

Okay, let's put Alan Price on the "underrated/underappreciated" list.

He was a major contributor to the success of the Animals, and his solo LPs were consistently great. This cut, I believe, is on "This Price is Right."

I think that it took a certain courage to put together a band like the Alan Price Set in 1967, an almost foolhardy courage. Very good music, though, and there were a few of us who appreciated it at the time. A few.

Cool Wi-Fi TV Movie Alert: Queen of Blood (1966)

This is a very cool movie with a great back-story. It’s up on the YouTube, and it looks very good. There are some wavy distortions running through it from time to time, but it’s a sci-fi movie, so it all looks very normal. The color is good. 

It’s a B-movie, for sure, but it does have John Saxon and Dennis Hopper to recommend it. Not to mention Basil Rathbone. The three of them really showed up for work here too, no fooling around, no sleep-walking.

Of all the God-Damned things, it’s based on a Soviet film called “Mechte Navstrechu.” Scenes from Mechte Navstrechu and also scenes from another soviet movie called “Nebo Zoryot” were used in Queen of Blood. They look great, too, and they really add to the movie. Those are the great scenes of planetary surfaces and spherical spacecraft, the real sci-fi touches.

Forrest Ackerman is also in the film. Forrest was in a few films, but he was mostly famous for being a sci-fi gadfly. He was a literary agent to sci-fi writers, he did some sci-fi writing, and he put out the rather good magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland for many years. He appears in quite a few scenes in the movie, but he has no lines. If I had to guess, I’d say maybe he never got his SAG card. (Screen Actors Guild.) 

The soundtrack is occasionally Theremin based, but that might only be for scenes lifted from the Soviet films.

Somehow, aliens come into radio contact with people from the earth, notably the great scientist played by Basil Rathbone. Rocket ships go to Mars to retrieve an alien ship. They come across a survivor, the very Queen of Blood from the title. She blood-loves Hopper and another guy to death, and almost gets John Saxon, too, but the female astronaut, who happens to be Saxon’s girlfriend, puts the kibosh on that and scratches the Queen across the neck and back.  Big plot point, that.

There are some interesting points that suggest that by 1966 people were coming to grips with the newness of space and etc. After they realize that the Queen just wants to feed on their blood, the chief scientist on the spaceship says, sure, she’s a monster, but we know nothing of her moral constructs or mores. That kind of thinking was new. 

Lots of the old attitudes remain, though. After being scratched, the Queen dies. John Saxon examines her and says, wow, she bled to death! She was a hemophiliac! Maybe she was royalty!

Oh, you know, the Queen is dead but she left eggs all over the place. Basil Rathbone and the rest of the scientists are strangely blasé about the eggs, bringing them straight to Earth for examination. No suggestion of a sequel, though. They just leave it all hanging.

John Saxon was always pretty good in these movies, and this is no exception. Basil Rathbone brings his A-game here, and it really does elevate the movie a bit. Dennis Hopper is very engaging in a role that would have been called on Star Trek, “crewman number seven.” The entire cast is fine, and the movie is very entertaining from beginning to end. “Directed and Written” by Curtis Harrington, and it was a good job both ways.