Saturday, December 30, 2017

Nicknames, Continued

There was an illuminating comment on that nickname post the other day. It raised an issue that I had not addressed: close knit groups choose nicknames for each other as a bonding mechanism. Only the group members know all of the nicknames and their origin stories.

Also on the plus side, it’s fun.

Also illustrated by the comment is the fact that it can get confusing.

I worked at a place one time that made 16 millimeter film cameras and the device that allows a hand-held camera to be gyro-stabilized. It was all in one building, all of management, all of labor, and all of the materials. The offices, the factory floor, the drafting and design studios, the machine shop, the stores, and the loading dock. They were pressed for cash at the time, because video was starting to cut into the film-camera market for news gathering, which had been their customer base for, well forever. One of the ways that they saved some cash was getting machinists from overseas. There were a lot of Russians, a French-Canadian, and a few Englishmen.

We knew one of the Englishmen as Tommy, Tommy Atkins. By the time he’d been there for a year or so, we discovered that he preferred to go by the name Sonny. So, Sonny it was, we switched over. Our initial assumption was that his name was Thomas Atkins, but that his father had the same name and he had always been called Sonny, a phenomenon that all Americans are familiar with.
One day a petite Englishwoman of a certain age came to the side door looking for her husband. I was later told that she asked to see a man named ‘Erbert Atkins. (“Herbert”) No, she was told, there’s no Herbert Atkins here. She insisted that there was, and finally our guy said that we did, actually, have a Sonny Atkins. “That’s ‘im!” she said.

That made three names for old Mr. Atkins. It turned out that his real name was Herbert, and that Herbert was also his father’s name. So all of his life he had been Sonny to his family and friends. “Tommy Atkins” is a story that Americans in general don’t know. I was just discovering it myself in this instance. Back in the “Great War,” called by us World War I, the British Army in France was called the “Territorial Army.” On recruiting posters this became the TA, the British equivalent of a GI. TA was reduced for the sake of sentimentality to Tommy Atkins, the universal British soldier. To this day, British soldiers are called Tommies.  

He was automatically called Tommy by almost everybody outside of his immediate circle of family and friends over in Britain. The cousins have a lot of family names that come with automatic nicknames. “Dusty” Rhodes; “Chalky” White; “Ringer” Bell. The English are not usually associated with riotous fun, but they do indulge themselves on occasion. This is more likely a sign that they are a sentimental, tradition-based people. None of that requires a value judgment of any kind. It might even flatter them.

I’ve had a few nicknames myself, but I’ve talked about them hereon over the years and there’s no need to rehash it all now. Maybe I’ll check back to see if I’ve omitted a good opportunity to be entertaining. (Yeah, go ahead and laugh. I’m laughing about that crack myself.) 

I Don't Want to Go On Without You (Live) - The Moody Blues

Many of these English Invasion bands were all about the fun, that's true. The Moody Blues often brought the melodrama as a counterpoint.

Say what you will about this cut, a creditable cover version drenched in melancholy. It does appear to have been recorded live on the radio, and the lads made a good job of it. I respect that.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Nickname Game

Some of the world’s countries are nickname countries. Everybody gets one, and then everyone else forgets what that person’s name was in the first place. Brazil is like that. Would anyone like to tell me what Pele’s birth name was? His mom probably remembers, but the average Brazilian soccer fan never knew it in the first place.

South East Asia seems to be a nickname neighborhood in general. Growing up and raising a family in New York and Los Angeles I had Filipino friends, neighbors, and co-workers, and usually I knew them only by their nickname. Ace; Lucky; Junior; Jun! Thailand is a nickname country, big time. As in Brazil, one’s actual name is only seen on official documents. It’s an odd phenomenon in a way, because it leads to unnecessary duplication.

Let’s say a girl’s name is Orapan. She might be the only girl in her school whose name is Orapan, and she will almost certainly be the only girl in her class named Orapan, every school year. Thais have an amazing variety of names. Names are alphabetized by the first name here, and any list of names will contain only a few duplications. This holds true for lists of several hundred names. Family names are even more various. It’s only a bit over one hundred years ago that Thais were ordered by the King to come up with a name for their family, and the directive was that every family must have a different last name. Up to that time, most Thais only had one official name. (Something similar is still the case in most of Indonesia.) Considering these facts, any combination of first and family names will probably be the only example of that person’s name in Thailand right now, or maybe ever. There is no need therefore for middle names in Thailand, and the practice is almost unknown.  

But our little Orapan will have a nickname, like everyone else in Thailand, and everyone will call her by her nickname. Many of the nicknames are very common, so if her nickname is “Goong” (Shrimp), there are likely to be three Goongs in her class alone, and at least twenty in the school.

America is a very different story. I knew quite a few guys with nicknames growing up. Many of them got the nickname because they had the same first name as their father. Most, though, were given nicknames because within their circle of friends there were a few boys with the same name. The names repeat so quickly in America. Even in my small circle of teenage friends there were three guys named “Bill.” One was almost always referred to by both his first and family names. He got this honor because his family name was very short. This Bill could also be called “the Eye,” because he would sometimes give you a look where he turned his face slightly to his left, narrowed his left eye, and focused on you with his right eye while opening it as wide as possible.

Another of our Bills was called by his middle name, which he hated. As was the custom in Queens at that time, upon discovering what his middle name was, and that he hated it, we called him that from then on. In Queens, that’s a sign of affection. The third was called sometimes by first and last name, and sometimes by a nickname that was ironic and that rhymed with his family name. I won’t include it here, in case he reads this.

I suppose that all of this comes under the heading of “so what?” It is my blessing and my curse to find almost everything interesting. This is the main reason that I am never bored. I’m not even sure what boredom would feel like. There are always things to read, write about, and observe, and I find most of those things to be interesting. On balance, I find this tendency to be beneficial. 

The Kinks - So Mystifying

The Kinks released what seemed like a lot of LPs in 1964, '65, and '66. I bought them all, and I loved them. Little gems like this were typical.

The Kinks, and other bands, were still on the fun program during this time. They weren't selling a lot of records; they were doing a lot of shows but for little money; and they certainly were not getting rich. For those few years, however, the guys didn't seem to care too much. They were having fun, they were being treated like the cool kids that they were; and the girls were plentiful and very pretty. It was only in 1967 and after that a lot of bands lost their way in an increasingly desperate struggle to make a living. The fun part of the music began to suffer at some point.

But we'll always have this early stuff to remind us what rock and roll is all about. Young mostly men living out of suitcases and having way too much fun, stopping off at a recording studio occasionally to knock out a few new recordings based on their live sets. Attention Millennials! There's a lot of music here that you might enjoy.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Living In Thailand

One of the interesting things about living in Thailand is that average Americans know next to nothing at all about the country. They know about Thai food, but beyond that they would be hard pressed to find Thailand on a map. I’d bet that most of them couldn’t find Thailand on a map of Southeast Asia! Regarding Thai people, Americans have a vague belief that Thai people are friendly, and they have the completely erroneous belief that Thai women are easy. They have the first part right, but they are way off on the second part. A certain very narrow element of the Thai economy notwithstanding, Thai women are actually very modest, more modest than a lot of women in America or Europe, not to mention the many places in the world where modesty really is completely optional.

Americans don’t know much about geography in general. That includes American geography. What state is directly north of Iowa? Good for you if you said, “Minnesota,” but you’d stump a lot of people with that question. It’s even worse with the world at large. Not only the geography, but also the cultures of the world are mysterious to Americans. This obviously includes our current president, of whom people say that he might be the greatest president of all time, because he gets more accomplished in one average weekday than any other president in history ever accomplished in the best week of his presidency, which they know is true because he told them himself. He probably thinks that he knows a lot about geography and world cultures, too, but if you listen to what he says, that’s not the case. The other day he suggested that Nigerians live in huts.

That would probably put him in the fat part of the bell curve of Americans’ knowledge of the world. Regarding Thailand, I think that the first image that comes to mind for most Americans is one of Vietnamese farming villages during that unpleasantness back in the 1960s and ‘70s. You know, the thatched roofs, the black pajamas, and the conical hats. That’s South East Asia, right? And the cities still look like old Saigon, right? Well no, no they don’t. Ho Chi Min City these days looks more like Pittsburgh than it looks like old Saigon.

Thailand is not some Third World backwater. (Nor is Vietnam, for that matter.) Those do still exist in the world, but their numbers are fewer now. People know that Third World means undeveloped, as in no roads, no indoor plumbing, no electricity in the countryside, etc. They also know that First World means the United States, the developed world. Thailand is a DEVELOPING country, and it’s a very advanced developing country at that. (More advanced than Vietnam, another developing country, for instance.) That’s Second World. Even the poorest citizens out in the countryside of Thailand have indoor plumbing, with potable municipal water, and electricity. Almost all of them. It’s not perfect yet, that’s what developing means! Not perfect, but the electricity stays on for all twenty-four hours of almost every day, all year. And I’ll tell you what, Thailand has wall to wall cell phone coverage, border to boarder, north, south, east, and west, clear as a bell. That is still on America’s wish list, a goal that we hope will be achieved in our lifetimes, unless we’re over forty-five or so, then forget it. The mall in my neighborhood is as nice as anything I’ve been to in Los Angeles, and the mall’s movie theater is nicer than American theaters. (With tickets priced at four or five bucks.)

Large parts of America these days look like parts of a developing country, so Americans are not really in a position to look down on other countries. The crumbling infrastructure, obvious decay, and barely habitable housing of huge swaths of the “Rust Belt” really suffer in comparison to South Korea, Japan, Canada, and much of Europe. That “Shining City on the Hill” stuff is a lost dream by now. Beyond appearances, many of those aforementioned countries have higher standards of living than America, too.

In Thailand, add in some very good doctors and hospitals, a good nationwide transportation system, fiber-optic wi-fi, etc., and the general reasonableness of prices, and it’s a great deal. Then there’s the great weather, and the best food in the world, and friendly, hospitable people. It’s a total-package that’s hard to beat.

Believe me, it’s no hardship living in Thailand. Here, I’m living in a very nice condo, eating delicious food, and traveling by taxi without worrying about the cost. If I were to move back to the States, I’d have to live in a trailer in the Mojave Desert, and I’d be eating bargain tuna fish out of the can, with crackers, and wishing that I could afford the Bumble Bee tuna. If I tried to duplicate my current standard of living, I’d run out of money in less than a year. Add a minor medical emergency and I’d run out of cash immediately.

The Best Part

The real selling point for Thailand is that everything that happens, every day, happens in the Thai style. I had a perfect example of this today up at school.

I teach in the law department at a big Thai university. “Huge” would be more descriptive, because we’re one of the biggest universities in the world by the number of students. We have two campuses in Bangkok, and remote campuses in forty-four provinces (law is taught at twenty-six of these). The law faculty and staff had their combined Christmas-New Year’s party today at the main campus, and the whole thing was uproarious fun, which is the core value of the Thai style.

The picture at the head of this post was a photo-op upon getting off the elevator. The Santa’s helpers in the photo are office staff who provide this kind of duty for all of our parties and “seminars.” (Essentially another word for parties.) Next came signing in, where friends of mine who were working the desk jumped up to take photographs with us and several minutes were devoted to socializing. (All Thai work stations are overmanned to allow for this kind of thing.)

I could describe the show part of the proceedings, but we’re running a bit long here. I should say that everybody’s name went into a box at sign-in and there were almost enough door prizes to give one to everyone present. In between the acts the MCs would take over and give out some door prizes. (Many fairly expensive items, too. I won an item that costs about $60.) The final song and dance number summed it all up. There were about fifteen people on the stage, still in costume from the show. There were young women dressed as women from different countries, a young man dressed as an Indian dancing girl, the Santa’s helpers were there, as was a Thai James Bond with an enormous fake pistol, a couple of MCs dressed for cold weather for unknown reasons, and they were all dancing to some music and singing a song from the lyrics displayed on a Karaoke video monitor, the lyrics to a song that half of them had obviously never heard before. The dancing was awful, as was the singing. The players were talking and laughing amongst themselves.  Half of the audience was not paying any attention; they were sitting at their tables talking together, eating this Korean ice-cream like dessert, and laughing. It was all so casual and comfortably enjoyable* that I sat and smiled at the spectacle of it.

If we were in South Korea, I thought to myself, the show would be over-rehearsed and professional, and everybody in the audience would be watching intently, and nobody at all would be having fun. But this was Thailand, so everyone was just coasting along on the fun program. It was, indeed, lots of fun.

As far as living in Thailand goes, I’ll simply say for the umpteenth time, “what’s not to love?” And yes, it’s safe. That’s a question that I get a lot, “is it safe there?” It’s a lot safer than either of my American home cities, New York and Los Angeles. Then there’s, “don’t you want to come home for medical care?” Why would I? So that I could pay five times as much for the same quality of work? And as my father never tired of asking me, “how can you live in a country where you can’t talk to anybody?” I repeatedly explained it to him, but he could never fathom that I could actually speak enough Thai to talk to anybody about most things that are likely to come up in day to day life. My reading is very limited, but I can read menus just fine.

So I’m not going anywhere. I’ve settled down. When I die, just take me to the temple for cremation. Do what you want with the ashes and the bone fragments. Those decisions are for the living. In the meantime, I’m happy to be here, happy to be a guest in this wonderful country. Thanks, everybody! And thanks for inviting me to these parties. It’s always a great time.

*English has no word for this. In Thai, it is “sabai;” in German it is “gemuetlich.”  

The Strypes - (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding

The YouTube algorithm suggested this video today, and you know what? I like it!

Good cover by the Strypes. Rumor has it that they are Irish. It appears to me that they have listened to a lot of good music, and learned their lessons well.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Greetings, And A Burning Question

It's Christmas, and I've tried to be good about sending Christmas greetings in every direction, tried to be careful not to leave anyone out. And here it is, ten o'clock at night, on Christmas itself, and I realize that I have almost forgotten all of my dear readers!

Luckily for me, almost doesn't count in this game, and even luckier, I'm close to the west of the International Dateline, so in most of the world it's still rather earlier on Christmas day.

Merry Christmas, dear readers, and may you and your families be showered with the best that fate has to offer into the New Year and beyond. I deeply appreciate every precious minute that you spend with me here. To my way of thinking, Christmas is a secular holiday celebrated at the tail end of the calendar year when we all take a moment to say thanks to all of the family and friends who helped us to get through another year in this bloody hellhole known as the human condition. Thanks, and maybe a little token of our appreciation. Your consideration and small acts of kindness make our lives easier.

You may not think of it in these terms, but a decent hit-count is evidence of your consideration, and the occasional positive comment is a wonderful act of kindness. I do enjoy writing for its own sake, but it is a comfort to me to know that you are out there.

The question posed by this song has been a valid expression of puzzlement since it was first released, in what, the early 1980s? So many people seem confused on the issue, and so many of our fearless leaders seem to be clueless on the subjects addressed in the title. So really, now more than ever, a good question is: what is so fucking funny about peace, love, and understanding? If those things are too ridiculous to hope for, or even to discuss, much less to bring about, then what's the point? If those things are just some tie-dyed, lost Hippie dream, we might as well lock the doors and go home.

I'd love to live long enough to see some progress, but at the present it looks as though the odds are against me. Good luck, Millennials! The cup is being passed to you. You are a good group, quite energetic and sensible in your way, now go and cleanse the earth. And Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames - "Yeh Yeh" - Ready, Steady, Go!

Long time, no Georgie Fame. He appeared on Ready, Steady, Go! in 1964, but this record became a hit in January, 1965, so I can't pin down the date on this video. Around there somewhere. But I'm no perfectionist, so that's close enough for me.

Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames! About a year before "Jimmy James and the Blue Flames." Jimi Hendrix must have been aware of Georgie Fame, so I don't know how that came about. Maybe Jimi was paying tribute to this band. Georgie's got a nice band here, nothing too flashy. They're tight, they're pros, they deliver the musical ideas. I like the inclusion of a conga player, that was still a rare touch in this time frame. Not a beat group, not a rave idol, too jazzy for the rock crowd, and too rock for the real jazzbeaus. R&B maybe? I guess he was just out on his own somewhere, and it still sounds like a good place to be.

Alcione A Voz Do Samba Espera

We may all need to kick-up our mood lightening remedies this year, you know, since the clampdown isn't showing any signs of letting up any time soon. May I suggest Brazilian music?

The Name Game

Trick question, George Romney’s kid, the one that ran for president in 2012, what was his name? Oh, you say, Mitt Romney? Cut the wise-guy act, I didn’t ask you for his nickname. What was his name? Ah, that’s why it’s a “trick question,” nobody knows his name.

Willard Romney, for the record.

How about this one. George W. Bush’s younger brother, the one that rode in the Republican Clown Car in the run up to the 2016 presidential election. What was his name? Jeb Bush? Wrong again! JEB Bush? Nope, but closer. Nobody knows his name either.

John Ellis Bush, in case you were wondering, and I’d be amazed if you were wondering.

Why would anyone running for the highest office in the land NOT use their real name? As I’ve said previously hereon, usually when someone is using an alias, they are trying to avoid the police.

Or, they are rich kids. Rich families love to play the name game. If you meet a rich kid who says his name is “Trey,” it probably means that he is the third generation in his family to have the same name, as in, “Thornton Horatio Winthrup III.” It’s a way to thank old Thornton for getting that gravy train running back in the day.

Or, they are immigrants, or the children of immigrants, and they find their birth-names embarrassing, or inconvenient, or not conducive to success in business, or something. Like our abrasive new ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley. She’s a corker, isn’t she? A real pistol! Nice looking woman, good figure, but I’d be afraid to sit across the dinner table from her. She’s ambitious, and ruthless, and I like my women like I like my coffee: resting comfortably in a nice, warm cup, and not poured scalding over my face. So, Ms. Haley, how did you come to get an unusual name like Nikki? Unusual spelling, anyway, like a stripper name or something. How?

She made it out of whole cloth, that’s how. Her birth name is Nimrata Randhawa, which is a perfectly good name, a Sikh name, her family came to America from India. The whole family is ambitious in business, so maybe the parents came up with nice new American names for the kids when they were young. Nikki was born in South Carolina, though, and they named her Nimrata. Maybe the whole family changed their names, or they have two sets of names. Who knows why people do the things that they do?

I’ll tell you one guy who could have been forgiven for changing his name; that would be Barak Hussein Obama. At least people are vaguely, positively disposed to Sikhs, at least when they are not stupidly mistaking them for Muslims. The Muslims themselves, not so much. Black African Muslims have never been a favored group in America, and in the last twenty years it’s only gotten worse. I know that earlier in life our Barack was known as “Barry” to his friends, but isn’t that just like calling me “Freddy?” No shame in that, no subterfuge. And there it was on the presidential ballot itself: Barak Hussein Obama! I recognized that as an act of supreme courage, and I gave him full credit for it. And full credit to the family that raised him, too. That was the boy’s dad, and that’s a fact, and that’s the boy’s name, and that’s a fact. A fact based family, they weren’t running away from anything. Good for them!

I know young Thai people who have changed their names, first name and family name, and when I have heard the story I understood immediately why they would want to do that. Here’s one story: boy is born; within a couple of years dad runs away; after about one more year, mom dumps the boy with her brother’s family and runs away; boy is treated worse than a step child by an uncle who doesn’t care, and aunt who resents a strange child to care for, and older cousins who are worse than the stepsisters in Cinderella; boy runs away at age thirteen; boy attempts suicide at age seventeen; boy turns his life around, finishes high school, and does his military service; boy is so furious at his parents, his aunt and uncle, and his cousins, that he cannot stand having any name relationship to them at all; boy picks new names and heads for the courthouse. There’s no arguing with that decision.

There have been some days over the last two years when I have seriously considered changing my name. I know that it would be foolish to change one’s name at the ripe old age of sixty-nine, but it’s not like I don’t have my reasons.

My name is Frederick Ceely; my father’s name was Frederick J. Ceely. My father could never conceal his discomfort with having a son as worthless as me. His emotions towards me varied only from disappointment to disgust. You could say that some people should not become parents, and you could say that people who become parents should be taken aside and told that children are not like tiny adults who can be trusted to act responsibly and to take great care in their comings and goings. No, they are children, with all of the endearing qualities of children and all of the negative qualities, too. Boys, especially, can be expected to break things and make a mess. They seem to enjoy it, most of them, they do it with great glee on their dirty faces. My clearest memories of my early life, my pre-school life, are of my father reacting with disgust and sarcasm to my innocent breaking of things and making of messes. It became his lifelong impression of me.

Parents need to be told that children need a lot of guidance in the process of growing to adulthood. You cannot sit somewhere reading a newspaper and expect them to just begin to perform like champions of adult perfection. Oh, I know, come on, Fred, get over it! Maybe it’s about time, since I’m almost dead by now myself. My father died two years ago, at the age of ninety-five. We had had a generally civil relationship for many years by then, and I was more considerate of him in his old age than he had been of his father. I visited him more faithfully every year, for instance, even though his father only lived in Florida to our New York, while my father lived in New Mexico to my Thailand. That’s quite a hike. I wrote more letters as well, always enclosed in beautiful Thai greeting cards, and I sent clippings, photos, and small gifts. He still got in his sarcastic digs when I visited, and made known his disapproval, but he was my father, and I loved him. You only get two real birth-parents, and it’s best if you accept them as they are. Imperfect! Like the rest of us.

Then he died and left me completely out of his will, with neither a side note to me nor a verbal instruction regarding me to either of the beneficiaries, my sister and my ex-wife. That is a simple message, simple and clear: good riddance, Freddy, I never cared for you in life and I’m not about to start now. I’ll never get over that shock.

Every time I see my name in print I recall that I am his son. If there were a heaven, or a hell, from which the dead could observe the earth, he would still be embarrassed by what would be in his eyes my immature antics. Usually I wish that they’d just named me James, which was my maternal grandfather’s name (I never met the man, but he seems to have been a nice guy). I think about changing it now, but that would be foolish, wouldn’t it?

So Barak and I are men with imperfect fathers and unfortunate names who choose to live with those facts. In my case, it wouldn’t change anything anyway. I’d still be me, with all that that entails. In fact, the name is the least of it. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Tom Robinson Band - 2-4-6-8 Motorway

Just another catchy tune from the 1970s. Lots of good music in the 1970s. Compared to the 1960s? I don't know, but we had better substances in the '70s, anyway.

Boys From Queens

Rediscovering Nicole Claveloux, France’s Dali of Pop Art Comics Stories - Print Magazine:

This article about the comic art of Nicole Claveloux is respectful, and it displays many of her fine pages to beautiful advantage. The artwork itself is quite remarkable, and I must say that I have been unaware of her for all of this time. Articles like this provide a wonderful service, not only to professionals in the field that is being examined, but also to running dogs like me who follow the camp at a distance, hoping to pick up a few scraps.

Michael Dooley is a very good writer of pieces like this, and for me he is the real story here. I sat next to Michael in the seventh grade at a Catholic grammar school in Queens, a working-class borough of New York City. I liked to draw, and I enjoyed comics very much, but Michael was already a very accomplished cartoonist and his interest in comics had already taken an academic turn. We were both doodlers, and during that school year we worked together on a few projects in an innocent kind of folie au deux. The best was a very small format, eight-page “Daily News of Rome,” which was modeled on the New York Daily News (a photo-heavy tabloid newspaper). The art was almost all Michael’s, and it was lovely. I managed to save a couple of examples over the decades and I gave them to Michael a few years ago. It was a touching scene. Two dreamy malcontents from parochial education, reunited over their escape from the discipline of the nuns. Poignant!

Michael went on to build a formidable career in and around the art world, finally fulfilling his promise as an academic. We grew up in a town where just not getting killed by the traffic was a big achievement, and the boys devoted a lot of creative energy to avoiding beatings on the streets, at home, and at school. I’ve become aware of a few success stories over the years, however, and I’m very glad that Michael is one of them. Good for you, Mr. Dooley! Good for you. 

Brian Eno "Ring Of Fire"

Evidently this was a limited edition 7" that came out in 1990. Draw the rest of your conclusions as you will.

I remember hearing this Johnny Cash song on the radio as a youngster. It resonated with me somehow. The content and the presentation were different from the rest of the stuff on pop radio. Maybe, I thought, this is how adults' minds work. I still wonder how adults' minds work; I'm pretty sure that I've never quite grown up.

English As She Was Spoken*

Readers have it easy today. Modern writers tend to employ a direct method of communication, which they mostly embed in sentences of no great length. We, if I may include myself in the ranks of the writers, seem to have understood that the majesty of English is best presented in sentences and paragraphs that break down the ideas into bite sized pieces. In this way, utilizing the vast word treasure of English, it is possible to express great ideas in a manner that people can actually understand. It was not always thus.

Writers in the 19th Century tended to write sentences as though they were competing for some kind of Guinness World Record for verbosity. Take, for instance, this marathon gem from Edgar Allan Poe:

“Most writers—poets in especial—prefer having it understood that they compose by a species of fine frenzy—an ecstatic intuition—and would positively shudder at letting the public take a peep behind the scenes, at the elaborate and vacillating crudities of thought—at the true purposes seized only at the last moment—at the innumerable glimpses of idea that arrived not at the maturity of full view—at the fully-matured fancies discarded in despair as unmanageable—at the cautious selections and rejections—at the painful erasures and interpolations—in a word, at the wheels and pinions—the tackle for scene-shifting—the step-ladders, and demon-traps—the cock’s feathers, the red paint and the black patches, which, in ninety-nine cases our of a hundred, constitute the properties of the literary histrio.”**

Try diagraming that!

Attention English learners (and everybody else): Handle 19th Century literature with care! Read it with your academic bullshit-detector set on “high sensitivity.” Take lessons from the characters, the stories, and the plots, but do not allow elements of the grammar or the rhetoric to creep into your own writing. I complain about the 21st Century more than most people, and God knows that the 20th Century will go down in history as an awful one, but the general usage of English has improved since Edgar Poe unleashed this monster on the world.

*A take-off on “English as She Is Spoken,” a primer in the English language written by a Spanish priest in, I believe, the 17th Century, for use in teaching English to colonial Spaniards in the Americas.

**From “the Philosophy of Composition” by E.A. Poe. (The Kindle edition is available full length from Amazon for one dollar.) For the record, I really like Poe, and I still read him. He was a very innovative writer, and superbly talented in many areas of literary endeavor. He is famous for his eerie stories, but his vast catalog includes some very effective humor pieces. Read him, definitely, but when he gets carried away like this, smile and know that you are experiencing an English language that no longer exists in the world. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017


Oh, yeah! This one's got some jump in it.

That would be Buddy Guy in the guitar solo, comping too, sounds like.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Dolly Parton Jolene High Quality sound

A remarkable song and performance from the great Dolly Parton. I bought the Jolene LP at the time, in amongst the Tangerine Dream and Roxy Music and Afrobeat and New York Dolls that crowded my shelves. I took it on the chin from my hipster friends, too. They all came around in the end.

It's a great LP.

Jolene at 33 rpm

I heard this years ago, and it's making the rounds again up on FaceBook.

I always wonder how the idea first came about. Was it an accident? Someone putting the 45 on the turntable and forgetting to change the speed? Or did someone think, this song is pretty fast; what would it sound like on 33? Serendipity or stroke of genius?

One thing for sure, it's damn entertaining.

The White Stripes - Jolene Under Blackpool Lights

I came across this the other day while looking for the original after listening to the slowed-down version in a FaceBook post. Curious, I gave it a play. It's got the "wow!" factor, that's for sure. Nice cover version.

Blacks Save America From Boredom And Roy Moore

Roy Moore lost that election the other day. Roy Moore, failed Biblical law judge, Confederate enthusiast, and big fan of purity, narrowly lost to Democratic candidate, Doug Jones. It was a remarkable election for several reasons.

Doug (“Who?”) Jones managed to pull out the win in spite of himself. Was I the only one wondering why he was the best candidate the Democrats could come up with? The whole election was like one, big Alabama joke. (Question: what do you call two cherry-bombs and an old coffee can? Answer: an Alabama vasectomy.) I’m sure that Doug is a nice guy, but he’s on the low-energy side and campaigning in his house clothes was a strange tactic. Mr. Jones came out the winner largely because he received 96% of the black vote, and Reality-Based America is very appreciative for the save. There were choruses of “thanks, blacks!” from all over the country. That black vote was a lucky thing, too, because the same degree of “virtually ALL” evangelical Christian white voters cast their ballots unironically for Mr. Moore.

That Christian vote proved once again that talking a good game is much more important to evangelicals than actually being a good person.

We are one step closer to learning what level of incompetent, unethical, racist, immoral, borderline-criminal beliefs and behaviors it takes in a candidate to make American voters say, “oh HELL no.” Now at least we know where black American voters draw the line.

(Of course, I am happy that Mr. Moore lost. Very happy! Unfortunately, our celebrity culture will keep him in the public eye for years, like Sarah Palin, but at least he will not become a United States Senator. That august body has suffered enough brand deterioration already.)

And I’m happy that our black Alabama voters were at the forefront of this effort to snatch back some of our dignity. Sure I’m grateful, but it comes as no surprise, because I’m grateful to American blacks every day. My two cents on the matter is that it should not take a remarkable event like this to direct our awareness towards our black brothers and sisters. It was not suddenly today that we awoke in their debt. I, and we, have owed them a tremendous debt of gratitude every damn day for a long time now.

For what, you ask? That’s a stupid question, but okay. For starters, for the life that they bring to our shared culture; the grace with which they treat the whites among us in spite of all of the negativity that they continue to suffer at our hands; the patience with which they wait for the day when they will receive equal treatment from their own government; and the dignity with which they continue to make the best of a bad situation, in almost every situation. For being great neighbors, co-workers and friends.

I particularly appreciate the talent and enthusiasm that they bring to almost any workplace that is lucky enough to have hired them, for anything from cleaning hotel rooms to playing the outfield for the New York Yankees.  

What, are you one of these Internet Libertarian geniuses that wants to bring up “statistics?” You think maybe blacks are trouble? I am embarrassed on a daily basis by the unfounded, horribly racist allegations that run around our circus-like modern media environment about black neighborhoods, black families, thug-life, jailbirds, and often blacks in general, coming from lying right-wing pundits on “balanced” news programs, or memes that probably originated in the Ukraine or the Philippines, or just from that “friend-of-a-friend” weird old ConBot* Facebook friend of yours who gets his ideas from Fox News. If I were black, I doubt if I would have the emotional wherewithal to refrain from making matters worse.

And that’s the point! Most actual black Americans DO find the emotional wherewithal to do just that. Refrain from fighting back inappropriately; refrain from striking back at their oppressors; graciously take the high road. I appreciate this self-restraint, but mostly I am grateful for the enormous positive gifts that they have given to our culture. Having black Americans in the mix enriches us; the least we can do is be grateful.

Disclaimer: There is no need to drag out on every occasion the terrible history about how so many Africans have come to be in America in the first place. Even my verbosity has its limits. Of that, and other less than optimal aspects of the relationship, by me and by us, I am humbly aware. This is a day of gratitude, for shit-canning Roy Moore, and for everything else.

How great it would be if this wave of enthusiasm for voting could be sustained through the next couple of decades of voting cycles! We’ve had thirty years of low turn-outs and bad votes, maybe the pendulum will swing back to common sense and human decency. That and people actually voting. Maybe we could even get the Millennials on board. Getting reasonable Americans to stop NOT VOTING could change the face of the country.

It’s a stretch, but I suppose anything is possible.

*ConBot, a Conservative robot. I may have coined this phrase myself. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The High Numbers- I Gotta Dance to Keep From Crying (Live 1964)

The soon-to-be Who's cover version is respectful, but personalized. That's always a good way to go with covers. Both versions stand equally well on their own merits.

I Gotta Dance to Keep From Crying Smokey Robinson.wmv

This is the original of this song. A great job, as you can always expect from Smoky and the fellows.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Dynamite - Slim

Okay, this is the one right here. Slim is always entertaining, he always does a great job, but the guitar player on this cut really runs away with it.

Listen to that tone! Amazing! And the content is never busy, but somehow it always fills up all of the available spaces with wonderful musical ideas. It's flashy without being flashy. It's a clinic for sidemen: make it a hit without showing up the boss.

Required listening for aspiring guitar slingers. This is what they are supposed to sound like.

May It Please The Court

Your honor, may I be heard? The moving parties have had more than ample time to make their cases against me, and I have been listening patiently to their litany of grievances for what seems like forever by now. If it please the court, may I offer a brief defense?

Thank you, your honor.

We are dealt our cards early in life, and those are the cards that we must play. We cannot all receive four of a kind in the deal, and there is only so much that a person can do with a pair, however talented that person may be at the finer points of the game. You may use all of the finesse at your disposal, but even aces and eights beat a pair, and that’s the Dead Man’s Hand. Even if my pair had been eights or nines, a pair is still a pair. A pair is often not the lowest hand in the game, but neither does a middling pair often win the game. My hand was a middling pair. May the court judge me through the filter of my received gifts.

It would be manifestly unfair to judge me in comparison to the results obtained by individuals who received full houses in the deal. I suggest that a subjective test is called for in this matter. What could a reasonable man have accomplished with my gifts? I believe that choice to be within the discretion of this court, your honor.

One more point, your honor, and I’ll try to be brief. I ask you not to judge this matter until all of the small things in my favor may be properly added to the ledger. My offenses, of both commission and omission, may seem glaring, but they do not stand alone. The record includes many small acts of kindness, an amazing total in fact, since there have been any number of them on every day of my seventy years on earth. They speak quietly, but they are legion. Perhaps, in their weight as a whole, they may be enough to push the scale towards a balance.

Regarding the allegations against me, I am in general agreement, but I direct the court’s attention to the fact that the list of allegations is heavily weighted with instances where I either disappointed someone, or embarrassed someone. The court can decide whether the moving parties have sufficiently shown that those negative emotions were caused by me, or if they in fact arose from the nature of the moving parties themselves.

I will not waste the court’s time by pointing out that I was generally doing the best that I could manage under the circumstances. That’s all that anyone can do, or ever does, so it correctly carries no weight as an excuse. By way of explanation, however, let me say that I was trying the entire time to do better than what appears on the record at this point. I am certainly guilty of having much too little to show for all of the work that I put into this life of mine, but it was not for want of trying. I tried, but I was . . . impeded.

The defense rests, your honor, hopefully in peace. It will be the first peace that I have ever experienced, and I’m rather looking forward to it. If there is any afterlife at all, I will be the disappointed party, and you may expect me to file a grievance immediately upon the appearance of any such thing. Any afterlife at all would be torture for me, because, after all, I’d be there, and that has always been enough to ruin my happiness. So peace, to be clear about it, I’m praying only for peace. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Johnny Hallyday - Noir c'est noir

Here are some visuals for Johnny Hallyday, featuring the most important component of French pop music: attractive women.

SORRY! I am informed, and believe, that this video is "not available in the United States." This is an issue of first impression for me, although I am familiar with the concept in general. It happens to me all the time in my time zone. "This video is restricted from access in your country." It has to be a money thing at its core, but it does seem kind of silly. What do Americans care about Johnny Hallyday? And all of that NBC stuff that is denied me on news sites is available just fine over on YouTube. Another mystery, I suppose.

Johnny Hallyday est mort à l'âge de 74 ans

Johnny Hallyday est mort à l'âge de 74 ans.

Isn't French interesting? If you are a native English speaker with a good enough education you can understand rather a lot of it, as long as you can see the words on the page. In the air it's another story. The sound system for the French language is obscure and complex. There are many sounds that are not easy to make with a human head and vocal system. For me, the strange sound of French has always been a fatal obstacle for the enjoyment of French singing.

What you need for proper singing is a nice, neutral sounding language. Portuguese is the best, I think, and Italian is very good. English is a good singing language as well.

French singers are a puzzlement to me. I watch variety shows sometimes on TV5 Monde. The women are very decorative, that much is true. The men, well I wonder if they're just there for comic relief. The music is undistinguished, and I don't find the songs compelling. I do not understand French, but not understanding the language of a song has never been a barrier for my enjoyment. I love a lot of Japanese music, for instance.

I have been aware of Johnny Hallyday almost forever. I met a great friend who was quite the Francophile in 1965, and of course he had Johnny Hallyday records (among many others, Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, and a lot of pop music. His favorites were Les Etoile). I failed to be impressed, but he was undoubtedly a good looking man with a certain charisma. In photographs from the beginning of his career in the 1950s he appears as a beautiful teenager. He was hard-working and not untalented, and I would be pleased if anyone thought that much of me.

Well, he's gone now, so that's that. My sincerest condolences to the French people, who obviously had great love and respect for the guy. RIP Johnny H., aka Jean-Phillipe Smit.

Welcome To The New Civil War

In “The Sorry State of Things,” posted on November thirtieth, I discussed the situation in America as it stands right now and a little bit about how we got here. Before offering a suggested course of action, maybe I should give this situation a name and a description that suits it better than, “this shit-storm.”

There was a dangerous coalition formed after the presidential election in 2008. It consisted of the Republicans, the Koch brothers et al, those Tea Party assholes, every closet racist for whom Obama’s election was the last straw, the Sovereign Citizen/militia crowd, everybody who preferred the Bible to science, “Reagan Democrats,” everybody who longed for the "white America," or wished that homosexuals had never been allowed out of the closet, the Lost Cause Confederate flag wavers, a lot of people who totally forgot that their own great-grandparents had been immigrants, and probably everybody who owned a bass boat. They were joined in a holy crusade to terminate on discovery all evidence of Obama’s existence and make sure that he was a one-term president. It didn’t quite work out the way that they planned.

President Obama turned out to be smarter than the average Kenyan witch-doctor, and smarter than that whole coalition, too. There were positive lessons to be drawn from this, but unfortunately only Obama’s fans got the message. The coalition was driven to insanity by eight years of President Obama calmly ignoring them, getting elected for a second term, and generally doing a good job of holding the office. It was all very dignified and presidential, you’d have to say, unless you were in the coalition. If you were one of them, you declared war.

2008 was the beginning of our second Civil War. Actually, two civil wars that fit together like Russian nesting dolls.

Red v. Blue

The respective line-ups for this war are clearly illustrated on the blue and red maps of the 2016 election. There are marked similarities to the opposing line-ups that faced each other in the first Civil War (1861 et seq.), not only in the identities of the states involved, but also in the nature of their stated positions. 

The Blue States, like the Union (Federal) team in the Civil War, are more populous and more industrialized. They have more highly developed economies. They are, like the Union side, reality based, having goals and beliefs that mesh nicely with the progress of American democracy and world civilization.

The Red States, like the Confederacy once did, are struggling to preserve a mythical history that is already past its sell-by date. Both our modern Red States and the eleven old Confederate States represent beliefs that are deeply racist and xenophobic, with Biblical overtones. This Biblical aspect, as usual, takes people out of the realm of reason and into the swamp of fantasy.


Regarding religion and the Bible, my attitude should be clear even to casual readers. I own a Bible, and I have read it (not every word, but I have at least scanned every page, and I have read a great deal of it). I believe that it is an interesting document with great historical significance, especially if one is engaged in a close study of Iron Age barbarism. Religion, in general, I believe to be on a par with a belief in ghosts. Neither belief flatters a person who aspires to be respected.

Red v. Blue, Continued

Today, the United States is divided into two hostile camps: one that is made up of states that are well organized and civilized (California, Minnesota, New York, etc.); and another, which is comprised of states that are charismatic and primitive (Kansas, Alabama, etc.). Please forgive me if I speak frankly, for I have grown tired of mincing words. This has all gotten deadly serious.

All of this Red/Blue stuff had been percolating for a couple of decades through the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush period. It became an all-out Civil War when Obama was elected. During the Obama years the level of mutual hatred and violence rose year by year. Make believe battles over relatively trivial societal changes were elevated to the level of existential threats by conservative politicians and right-wing media figures who were pushing their own agenda. Abortion, women’s reproductive rights in general, homosexual rights, immigration, and other matters, became focal points for an assault on the Constitution itself.

During the run-up to the election of 2016 the entire thing reached a fever pitch, and the battle lines were cut in stone. The election itself was nothing less than a coup d’etat, which we can now see clearly in retrospect. The winners have never acted like they won an election, rather they act like they have taken over the government. They have never settled for the measure of control offered to them by the Constitution, rather they have assumed a degree of power more akin to a dictatorship.  All of them, from Trump down to the least significant member of the House of Representatives, have acted as though they have assumed all of the powers associated with an emperor’s crown.

These are the dimensions of the war that are visible on the battle field. Electoral politics are still involved, so there must be a framework on which to hang that narrative. There is, however, another way to look at the two sides of this new Civil War. One that is more obscure, but probably closer to the truth of the matter.

The Rich v. Everybody and Everything Else

Or should I say, “the Rich, and their hired stooges in government v. The Rest of Us.” One usually hears it described as, “the rich and the large corporations,” but just calling them “the Rich” is more accurate. I am not one to support the idea of corporate personhood, in fact I do not think that the idea is worth any credence at all, much less any legal backing. In every relevant way, corporations ARE the rich. Corporations are their stockholders, who are the Rich. So let’s just go with “The Rich” here.

The Rich have declared war on the rest of us, all of us. They seek to destroy every right that we have under the Constitution, and undo all of the little things that government has done for us to level the playing field and make our lives easier. (The government, please note, did not do those things altruistically, but rather to enable us to keep working and paying taxes and buying things, which makes a lot of sense.) The Rich want all of the little things that we have won for ourselves. They want our private homes (they seek to “increase their ownership share of America’s housing stock”); they want to own our personal automobiles (the new business model is to sell us “subscriptions” to automobiles, I shit you not); they want to claim the little bit of savings that we have in the bank (through higher prices for the necessities of life, like food and lodging). They have seen fit to declare war on us in order to steal it all. They wish to leave us with what I recently called, “almost nothing, but grateful that we have not been reduced to having nothing at all.”

There is ample proof of their intention to wage war in their daily actions over the last year. If you require final, smoking-gun proof that they have declared war, look no further than the recent tax bill that their stooges in congress passed with repulsive jocularity. You know, the one that takes money away from you and me and gives most of it to about 330,000 of the richest Americans, none of whom need a cent of it, and none of whom will use it to help anyone, except maybe a famous museum or two. (That’s .001% of the population.)

Who are these “stooges?” The Rich could not do this on their own, so they hired our so-called “elected officials” to do it for them. It has worked, and our officials have sold themselves remarkably cheaply. In return for everything, the Rich have paid out what amounts to about one percent of their wealth to politicians and officials. ($10 million out of every billion dollars.) It’s the greatest bargain in history. How did people that were stupid enough to sell out so cheap ever get elected? Even by an electorate like ours? This is the most amazing aspect of this whole thing for me.

It’s comical; it’s like Dr. Evil gloating over “one million” dollars. Those smirking idiots who are the current party bosses in the House and the Senate will retire someday with what they will stupidly believe is a lot of money. Why, a few of them may end up with tens of millions of dollars! At that, most of them will still have to beg their genuinely rich masters for the things that they themselves will still not be able to afford, like rides on luxurious private jets and Mediterranean vacations on huge yachts off the coast of France. Private islands will be out of the question, being reserved for the Rich alone. Oh, how the Walmart heirs and the Koch brothers must laugh at small-time political hacks.

 So, the Rich have, in effect, declared war on:

1.   The Federal Government of the United States;
2.   The United States Constitution;
3.   All of the States that did not vote for them (the Blue States);
4.   The Federal Judiciary;
5.   The National Intelligence Community;
6.   The FBI; and
7.   All American citizens with a net worth of less than about five million dollars and annual incomes of less than half a million or so, maybe a million. Note that this group includes virtually all Americans, including almost all lawyers, doctors, dentists, and management personnel; almost all professionals like accountants, nurses, and academics; all contractors from general to plumbing; and almost all sole owners of businesses. And all "working people." 

Make no mistake that this is a real war, complete with all of the violence that is usually associated with war. We are beset with militarized, trigger-happy police (over one thousand Americans have been killed by our own police this year alone); the availability of firearms and the constant drumbeat against minorities and immigrants leads to a huge number of gun-related deaths every year; the number of mass shootings every year, carried out by Americans against Americans, should convince us that a lot of people are right on the edge and ready to resort to violence; our legislators have criminalized everything and our District Attorneys charge everyone with everything, which has given us an amazing level of mass-incarceration (which is now being monetized by those same legislators). We live in a war zone.

Remember to factor in the loss of important elements of the social safety net that we all rely on. You may not benefit personally from some of the more obscure programs that are being cut, but you will definitely feel the pain of higher costs for health insurance, cuts or elimination to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. If you wish to educate yourself, or provide a university education for your children, you will suffer more to try to pay for it. More people will get sick and die, people of all ages. The “underinsured,” and their unfortunate children. God help the young parents whose child is born with Cystic Fibrosis, or any number of other not-so-uncommon colossally expensive ailments. In this war, you are on your own.

You may take my word for it, the prospect of making it through another year alive has become daunting and terrifying to people who are already of “retirement age.” What a quaint concept! Retirement! Most of us are already on the “work until you die” retirement plan. This is before the now inevitable cuts to programs that we rely on, like Social Security and Medicare. Perhaps you are still young, dear reader, and perhaps you take care of yourself and get your exercise, and perhaps you think that you will magically avoid the worst effects of the aging process. If you believe this, you are hilariously wrong. As careful as it is possible to be, by the time that you are in your sixties your biological clock will have worn down to half-speed or less. You will no longer be able to spring forth bright eyed and bushy tailed at six o’clock every morning and charge full at it until seven p.m. like you used to. If you tried to do that, five days a week, every week, like you used to do, you would likely die within six weeks or so.

We oldsters are going to be notable casualties of this war. More of us are leaving the United States because we can no longer afford to live there. This phenomenon is already observable. There are growing ex-pat retirement communities in northern Mexico, where they can easily nip back across the border to avail themselves of medical services that are subsidized by Medicare. Many retired Americans with some financial wherewithal have relocated to Costa Rica. I live in Thailand myself, and I have been noticing more gray-haired eminences sitting in the coffee shops of my local mall, reading the local English language newspaper. Many of us will die at our own hands because we have run out of money and options after becoming too old to work. 

We are the victims of a war that our side has not even begun to fight. All Americans are in this situation because we had no elected officials who were willing to fight for us. There are only two political parties in America, the Blue Stooges and the Red Stooges. They all work for the Rich.

The Future

Is there going to be a fight? Or perhaps we will begin to realize that the war is over, and we have been thoroughly beaten. Time will tell, I suppose, but I am not optimistic. If there is to be a war in response to this coup, there would have to be two sides willing to fight. If you believe that there are two groups in American politics, Democrats and Republicans maybe, or maybe you prefer Conservatives and Liberals, they would best be described as one group who actively fought for the Rich, and one group who merely stepped aside and allowed the Rich to take everything. (That would be overly kind to the side that claimed to be on the side of the working man and the future.) In any case, everyone of any importance on both sides was in the employ of the Rich.

In Part III I will offer some ideas about how this struggle for the soul of America could become a fair fight. It will all seem fantastic and impossible, and that is, in itself, very sad.

I am writing all of this all down in an attempt to process the terrible fate that has befallen the American Dream. There is the greatest likelihood that I am just getting it all out of my system so that I can proceed to give up completely. If anyone has had the patience to read up to this point, I am deeply grateful.

Second Disclaimer!

It occurs to me that this is the kind of writing that could one day be used in court as evidence that I was planning some kind of action against one or more of the complained about groups. I am not. I am no anti-tyranny pamphleteer, I am not like the Sons of Liberty, who actually put their lives on the line to give us our Constitution in the first place. I have my hands full trying to keep myself and my little family out of the poorhouse. I have never been a crusader or a protestor, and I am not expecting to change my personal style at this late date. This writing is simply my small effort on behalf of common sense and human decency.

I am just a cranky old man who wishes that things were better for the many American working men and women who still have a lot of life in front of them. Americans who are in the prime of life and not above the good-will cut off, which like I say is about five million dollars. I salute you and I wish you luck. You would have liked the America that my first wife and I raised our family in. We had no computers, nor smart phones, and there was no Internet. We had a lot more financial, personal, and medical security, though, and we had a lot less to worry about. We had a lot more freedom than people have now, for that matter. That world is gone. Please don’t blame its destruction on me. It was stolen out from under you by the Rich, and that prick, Reagan. We are all suffering its loss together.