Monday, June 19, 2017

Eric Idle - "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" - STEREO HQ

This is the best advice in all situations. What else are you going to do?

That pain in your shoulder will probably resolve with some physical therapy. (And you can find plenty of physical therapy on the Internet without going broke paying for it.) Those chest pains are almost certainly just an unfortunate, but not too dangerous, side-effect of the medicine that's got your blood pressure down to the very good range. And seriously, I'll bet almost nobody gets the side effect called, "kidney damage." Losing a few teeth might get you a nicer smile, and lots of people seem to eat very effectively with dentures. Lying quietly in bed is almost as good as sleeping, and without those annoying bad dreams!

Look on the bright side! If that gets too difficult, try a trip to Walmart. Looking around at your fellow shoppers should do wonders for your perspective.

Your job should cheerfully renew your contract for next year. Why wouldn't they? Not paying your salary would represent such a small savings to them, why should they bother firing you? The likelihood that those merciless gangsters in Washington D.C. could do such financial mischief that it would destroy the savings of everyone in America is very, very slim.

So why worry? Especially if you're pushing seventy, like I am. It's only a couple of more years, whatever happens. You're short! A few hundred days and a "wake up." As the Marines used to say, "you could do that walking on your hands."

Look for the good!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Seven Deadly Sins, Presidential Edition

Saligia! The mnemonic for the Seven Deadly Sins in Latin.*

1.   Superbia (Pride);
2.   Avaeritia (Greed);
3.   Luxuria (Lust);
4.   Invidia (Envy);
5.   Gula (Gluttony);
6.   Ira (Wrath); and
7.   Acedia (Sloth).

Most of us have a touch of these things in us, more or less. Like the professionals say, it’s not a problem unless it affects your life, or the lives of loved ones. Some people are experts in many or most of these things. They’re going to hell for sure.

The only person that I can think of who excels at all seven is President Donald John Trump.

Oh, I hear you say, but President Trump is not lazy at all! Well, it may be technically true that he is busy for much of every day, but he spends much of that time sitting around thinking his horrible thoughts and otherwise violating the other Deadly Sins. He is proud of the fact that he takes no exercise, correctly declining to claim that golf qualifies. And he is certainly lazy-minded. When asked about his favorite book, he seemed to be at a loss to recall just what a book was, exactly. “The Bible!” he finally blurted out, and “The Art of the Deal!” Sad!

Concerning the other six, there is no argument. Guilty!

It’s another interesting point of comparison with our most recent ex-president, Barack Obama. Mr. Obama may be guilty of a touch of pride, although I would argue that even that would be forgivable. Of the rest, Mr. Obama is innocent. Compared to DJT, Obama is a saint.

You may apply the list to other recent presidents if you wish. It’s an interesting exercise. Of the saints, there is room for discussion. Who is the most innocent of the bunch? But of the sinners, it’s really no contest. We have a winner! Ladies and gentlemen! President Donald J. Trump!  

*I learned about Saligia in Dan Brown’s latest railway novel, Inferno. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Six Turning Four Burning - Convair B-36 "Peacemaker" (HD)

Jimmy Stewart actually flew bombers in World War II. He was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the French gave him a Croix de Guerre to boot. You've got to watch out for the quiet ones.

I love this movie. "Strategic Air Command." It's got great flying footage by the yard, and just enough drama to keep it off life-support.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Les Jaguars - Guitare Jet

"The exceptions always prove the rule." Or something like that.

Our New Adolescence

An adolescence is a sudden burst of growth, after which we find that we are different enough from our former selves to require a period of adjustment. When doctors or police refer to “adolescents,” they mean teenagers, but that’s not the only adolescence. We all go through a few that are well observed by medical professionals and a couple more on our own personal schedules. They can be difficult.

Changes overtake us as we get older, and the entire thing can be confusing. There’s a dynamic at work that will be familiar to anyone who has raised children. You spend a year or two getting the hang of handling a baby. Then the baby is gone, and you must learn to take care of a toddler. After that, you need to discover the comforts and dangers of being responsible for a four or five year old. The point being that none of this prepares you for the pleasures and dangers of having a six or seven year old on your hands. At each stage, you must master a new skill-set, and when that stage is complete you are thrown back into ignorance by circumstances. Our own lives come in a very similar pattern.

In my case, right now, I wonder what exactly is causing that new pain in my left shoulder. Is it a late onset of rheumatoid arthritis? That would be terrible. Is my new mattress too hard? Is it a reappearance of an injury-based discomfort that was caused when I was about thirty-years-old at a job that required repeated impact shocks to my shoulders? That pair of injuries was never diagnosed, even though my shoulders hurt more or less for over ten years. Is it part of what the doctors characterize as the normal degenerative changes of osteoarthritis? What is the whole range of things that it could be?

I’ve been putting off seeking a medical opinion on the matter, but I suppose that I should go to see an orthopedist. It has been a year now, and it’s getting more annoying. There’s no sense in waiting, really. X-rays and exams are cheap where I live. And what’s the harm of asking? It might even be something that shows up clearly in x-rays and could be dealt with in a straightforward manner, perhaps arthroscopically. Who knows?

That’s the real point, isn’t it? “Who knows?” Certainly I don’t know. But I know that sleeping exclusively on my right side is not going to work out in the long run, and waiting around for miracles is never a good plan of action. So that’s it, then, go to the hospital and see an orthopedist.

Having learned the intricacies of many of life’s phases already, I must now master a new set of variables. I, along with many of my fellow Baby Boomers, am in a new adolescence. My current stage of life could be called, “officially old but not yet decrepit.” I have resolved to keep my happy-face on. After all, it’s only pain, time, confusion, embarrassment and money. Life has worse things than those to throw at us. And that’s the real point: if the worst isn’t happening yet, don’t start to complain! It could be much worse, and it probably will be much worse before long. I must enjoy myself while I still can, or be condemned as an ungrateful wretch.

That was fun! Writing things out really does enhance understanding. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

roy buchanan - peter gunn theme

You can pass a pleasant hour listening to versions of the Peter Gunn Theme, most of which come under the name of one guitar player or another. Then you come to the version by Roy "I Don't Need No Fucking Saxophone Players" Buchanan.

Good one, Roy.

Albert King - The Hunter

Well live and learn. I've been familiar with this song in versions by Free and Ike and Tina Turner for forty years but I just caught on to the Albert King connection. In the comments to this YouTube entry we are informed that the song was written by "Booker T. and the M.G.'s," who provided back up on Albert's album.

Music can be a long, strange road.

James Ray - Got My Mind Set On You

And a shout out to the late George Harrison of the Beatles, because this process of being informed about obscure or (in this case) forgotten music was an ongoing one.

George's version of this song was pretty good, and the video was eye-catching. I don't think that either the song or the video ever got anywhere, but they served to introduce me to James Ray. I bought an LP and a CD and I've been a fan ever since.

Slim Harpo - I Got Love If You Want It

This was the great gift of the Rolling Stones: they shined a light on so much great American music that was being sorely neglected by 90% of the population of the United States.

I was just a kid in Queens, New York City. What did I have access too? The radio? Sure, we had two black radio stations in New York, WWRL ("The Big RL") and what was the "jazz" station, WBLS? Something like that. I listened to WWRL a bit, more later on, after the 'Stones had hit. But even there, you wouldn't hear the deep stuff, the real Blues. No, not even Slim Harpo, not a bit. There was no way that I was going to hear about this stuff unless the 'Stones shined a light on it.

One of the attractions of the Rolling Stones for me was that they valued the music that I had already discovered on my own. The semi-regional hits from New Orleans ("She Said Yeh!" "Pain in My Heart," etc.). Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. I didn't need any help there. That was the door opening. But the Rolling Stones led me to a whole new level, a couple of levels, of black American music that I had had no access to on my own.

So thanks for that, band members living and dead. The Rolling Stones! Thanks, guys! I'll be a fan as long as I last. Y'all made my life a lot more interesting than it was before I heard you.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Now I Understand Binge Watching

I used to marvel at the entire concept of binge watching. I’d read about people staying up all night to watch an entire season of House of Cards or something and I’d wonder what was on their minds. Why would they do such a thing? Do they need to return the DVD set to a friend? More likely they are watching on one of the subscription services and would be able to watch a couple of episodes per day until they had finished the series. Shouldn’t that be enough? I could not see the rhyme or reason of the behavior at all. That changed the other day. 

No, I am not in danger of binge watching TV shows. But I have come to understand the attraction of it.

I signed up for iFlix this week. It was a simple process, and after a few minutes I was all set up and ready to peruse their catalog and begin watching. The catalog is substantial, and there were many movies and shows that were of interest to me. I checked with the IMDB for reviews of several of the shows, and quickly realized that a few of the ones that interested me were highly reviewed and featured actors whose work I admire.

I began watching season one, episode one of Gotham. The production design is wonderful; the cast is excellent and performing at the height of their powers; the story is clever and the dialog is crisp. Almost before I knew it, I had watched three episodes. (They’re only about forty-two minutes long without commercials or station breaks.) At the end of each episode, a small dialog box comes on next to the credits, saying “the next episode will begin in six seconds.” The easiest thing to do is just let it roll.

I stopped after three episodes, but I could easily understand that if I were of a slightly different cast of mind, or rather younger than I am, I might have watched all of season one straight through, finishing up after midnight. There are several things at work here:

1.   There is no additional fee for watching more content;
2.   Remaining in place and continuing to watch is easy;
3.   You are at every stage interested to find out what happens next; and, most importantly
4.   You no doubt have a long list of entire TV shows that you want to watch.

If you don’t get busy crossing shows off of your to-do list, you’ll never get to see all the shows that you want to watch.

I’m sure that many viewers get a feeling of considerable accomplishment after watching, let’s say, both seasons of Aquarius at one sitting. Mission accomplished! It enables you to move on to the next show, Bosch, let’s say. This kind of positive reinforcement is a strong motivating factor.

I do not expect to sit straight through six or eight hours of TV any time soon. The positive reinforcement that I seek most ardently is a good night’s sleep that starts well before midnight.  But I do understand the concept of binge watching much better now that the mechanism for expressing the behavior is in my power.

Regarding iFlix in general, I give it two thumbs up. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Donald Trump's Great Gift To America

Some of us have been worried about the condition of American democracy for a while now. I started worrying a bit earlier than most, but I think that the real worries started when Reagan was president. Preaching that the Federal Government in Washington was the problem was something new and insidious. It was a breathtakingly cynical and dangerous tactic in that it could snap back and bite Republicans as well as Democrats. Reaching out to the snake-handlers was dangerous as well, because the willfully ignorant are always unpredictable. Skewing all of the financial policies of the United States in favor of the very wealthy and corporations was obviously problematic, because the very foundation of the country’s prosperity was the middle-class that more enlightened policies had created. The “law and order” groundwork that had been laid before Reagan became the springboard for a three decades long hurricane of “tough on crime” legislation that could only serve to move huge numbers of citizens into prisons and destabilize communities. The list could go on, but my point is that our real worries started with Reagan.

Yes, we have had worries a’plenty to occupy our minds. They have eaten away at us at an ever increasing pace for three decades, but now it appears that the end of worry is at hand. That, my friends, is Donald Trump’s great gift to our nation. Worry, always an emotion of dubious practical value, can now safely be replaced by the atavistic fear of what appears before our very eyes. The conflicts and tendencies that have caused us to worry for so long have at last been resolved. The war of chaos against order has been won, and chaos now reins from horizon to horizon. Evil has triumphed over good. More fool us, for letting it all happen, but by now it is an accomplished reality. What follows will be a New Dark Ages, the course of which will need to be undergone before it can be properly understood. Its duration and intensity remain mysterious to us, but it will not be over quickly, and it will not be painless. It is safe to say that the future generations that may judge us at their leisure have not yet been born.

Donald Trump is not the architect of the terror that is now set to befall us; he is merely the capstone on the pyramid of chaos that now encloses us. He is the poster-child. His arrival in office signaled the victory. Whether he continues in office or is drummed out, whether he lives or chokes on a burnt steak, the brick house of chaos will remain, because the edifice is strong and it exists independent of his authority. Donald Trump is only the herald who brings the news that the American experiment is now over. Our future as a democracy has been extinguished. It is his gift to us, the gift of certainty. We need no longer worry about America’s future; now we must only live in the future that has been ordained for us.

For thirty years we could have been forgiven to hope that our politicians would learn again the skills of working together and achieving compromise. Our two major political parties have always been at each other’s necks, but they did generally manage to cooperate when the stakes were high. This was true even in the 1970s. That ability was weakened rapidly after that, and had disappeared altogether by 1992. By 2000, politics in America had become a winner-take-all proposition that was being run on a total-war footing.

A certain political party accomplished this militarization of politics almost on its own, with a little help from the Supreme Court along the way. Yes, that party. The party of self-interest. The party of individual responsibility. The party of cut taxes on those who can most afford to pay them, raise spending on the military, and who needs a social safety net anyway. The party of Gerrymandering and voter suppression. The anti-science, anti-worker, anti-minority, anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant, and anti-democracy party. Them. And it worked. They won the presidency, both houses of congress, and the Supreme Court. (The latter by a spectacular act of hubris and borderline treason. Total war at its most brutal.) Add that to their control of about thirty-five states legislatures and their governorships, and you’ve got the hat-trick of all time.  

The chaos engendered by that certain political party has seeped down into society in general to the extent that our very culture is now drenched in chaos. Most of the progress that was achieved in my lifetime in matters of tolerance, rights and freedoms has evaporated. We live with an epidemic of violence that is so virulent that we can hardly keep up with the details anymore. Mass shootings; police shootings; hate crimes; the news is abuzz with them. You can’t keep track of who hates who without a scorecard. The Venn diagram of hatred in modern America would cover the wall of a gymnasium. We have seen our constitutional rights either degraded or jettisoned entirely, and this is getting worse as we speak. The war on order and decorum that has swept America has lately been extended to the international stage, with attacks on trade, the ecology, democratic allies, foreign aid, international cooperation and the arts. You youngsters out there can take my word for it: America these days is an unrecognizable shadow of its former self. For most Americans, the standard of living is quickly descending to the level of a developing country. The only things that are thriving are the military and the energy industry, and, of course, Google, Facebook, and the ever-burgeoning billionaire class.

It is disturbing that most Americans seem to be taking all of this almost casually. Some do complain about Trump or express mild concern about Republicans in congress, but most of the non-Trump voters just hold their noses and remain firmly on the sidelines. I wonder if they think that it’s all just a matter of waiting for the adults to take charge again. They act like nothing is happening. Or maybe they realize that something has happened, the tense of the verb has shifted, and there’s nothing more to be done about it at this point.

Optimists will say that the pendulum will soon swing the other way and things will begin to improve, or even return to normal. The mechanisms for that don't even exist anymore. Even the concept of “one man, one vote” has been reduced to an echo of its former self, and I’m not sure that it was ever all that it was cracked up to be.

Some will say that our democratic institutions will dig in their heels and fight back against the tide of willful destruction that is now underway. I wish them luck, really I do, but we’re seeing how easy it is to marginalize most of them through intentionally destructive appointments and budget cuts. The courts are offering some encouragement, but they can only speak to matters that are properly before them, and any of them could be overruled by the Supreme Court. (Yes, let that sink in a moment.) Our very laws, historically one of our most powerful democratic institutions, have been subverted and turned into tools of oppression by strict liability, anti-recidivist laws, sentencing guidelines, and the criminalization of everything. Some of the citizens who protested Trump’s inauguration have been charged with a truly staggering battery of crimes and are looking at prison sentences running into the decades.  

I could be wrong, and I sincerely hope that I am wrong, but it seems that America has turned a corner and that it will be very difficult to return to any prior state of affairs. This is no longer the world as it once was. The entire web of human interaction has been altered completely in the last ten years by the Internet and smart phones. There is no longer an immediate past to return to. The presidency of Bill Clinton is as remote from us as the Civil War. That entire society is as gone as Blockbuster Video.

The model for surviving in the coming society will, I’m afraid, be the rat. People will prosper only to the extent that they can keep themselves in the dark, safe spaces, darting out in the shadows to obtain what they need to live.

So thanks, President Trump. Certain knowledge beats worrying any day.

As I finish this silly blog post, I am seriously debating with myself whether it would be prudent to put it up on my truly insignificant blog. After all, it’s easily conceivable that algorithms in some supercomputer somewhere will eventually chew threw every word of it and find something that violates a new Federal law! It could be subversive! Huge fines and a prison sentence might be involved! I am not enough of a glory hound to be pleased with that prospect.