RIP Otis Rush. Died from complications of a stroke from more than ten years ago. That sounds like a hard way to go. He was a good 'un.
Spin Easy Time!: Otis Rush - All Your Love (I Miss Loving): I loved that first Bluesbreakers LP with John Mayall and Eric Clapton. I'd never heard Otis Rush at the time, where would I have heard...
Sunday, September 30, 2018
One thing is for sure, I can remain poised on the horns of the same dilemma as long as anybody. I can do it for years. I do this effortlessly, and to no particular purpose, but I do it very successfully in terms of shear ability. “Keeping the ball in the air” might be a good way to describe it. I believe that the Japanese call the phenomenon, “massaging the idea.” Whatever you call it, it's a way of delaying a decision. Whatever you call it, I can do it indefinitely.
For instance, I got through about half of a first draft of a novel about ten years ago. Just about half, something like forty or forty-five thousand words. It was a stressful time for me, and I found the writing stress-reducing. When my stress level became manageable, I stopped writing. The deeper into the process that I got, the more I could see that the effort was lacking in many ways. Finishing it up would require quite a bit of study and a great deal more work. I also reminded myself that I have no talent for marketing, and no one would publish the book anyway. There was no traditional path to publication for a shy, unpublished sixty-year-old's first novel, so why bother? I was probably right.
Times change, though, and now there exists a path to publication that is simple and direct no matter who you are, or how old, or what you're previous experience might have been. It's almost free, and they never turn a writer down. I've never entirely given up on the idea, and I find myself being drawn to the idea more strongly than ever. Maybe my recent brush with mortality added some impetus to the idea. One thing that we can all agree on: if I'm going to do it, it better be soon. I ain't getting any younger.
But why would anyone do such a thing? Even in the age of Amazon self-publishing, it will almost certainly never repay the frightening amount of work that goes into a genuine novel. Ah, the “almost.” There's the rub. Somewhere between none and slim there is a sliver of daylight showing on the spectrum of possibility.
I've always been glad that I made that halfhearted go at it ten years ago. I've been reading novels at a pretty good pace since I developed the habit at the age of twelve. I've read a lot of good ones, a handful of the classics, some very professional genre fiction, a lot that were mediocre but entertaining, and quite a bit of total crap. I have always enjoyed book reviews, so I've read a lot of those as well. I went through a period when I regularly read literary criticism. But until I really immersed myself in writing a novel of my own, I had never really come to grips with exactly what a novel is, what it must be, what it must do, not what and not how, how is a novel constructed, how can the pieces be made to fit, and certainly not why. What followed was ten more years of reading many novels, as usual, but reading them with a more critical eye to what the author was doing. I had been sailing through them for pure entertainment, seeking only their outer beauty, but after my effort I found myself looking deeper, trying to include the bones of the novel in my vision. Hey, if I never write one of my own, having a go at writing one enriched my reading experience. I've learned a lot, and I enjoy novels more than I ever have. That has been a net-positive already.
Long ago I read an interview with a newspaper writer. She was a youngish woman, and I had enjoyed her work. She had published books of her usual newspaperish things, essays or something, and she told the interviewer about the time that she had attempted a novel. She finished it and a publisher friend agreed to read it. When they met to talk about it, the friend said, “it's a good story, but nothing happens.”
The newspaper writer was confused by this. As far as she could see, there were three-hundred fucking pages of things happening. She expressed this frustration to the friend, who kindly told her, “yeah, but something has to happen to somebody. Somebody has to be changed by the things that happen in the story.” This was my first real understanding of the meaning of the “psychological dimension” that is required of a novel.
That's good to know, of course, but the reading public takes a view that is very different from that of the critics and a publisher like the friend. For instance, people love mysteries. I've never understood the attraction myself, not of the who-done-it variety of so-called mystery novels. The Agatha Christie type of popular books. Maybe I was unconsciously looking for that something that is supposed to happen to somebody. That rarely happens in who-done-its. Many things happen, but it's all a cheat. The author carefully lays out the clues, and some red-herrings, and then boom! All is revealed! It's like Sigfried and Roy's disappearing tigers. I don't really care how it's done, and I know that it's a trick. I am not amused.
I suppose you could say the same thing about the popular genre of thrillers, you know, the Tom Clancy books, Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, things like that. God knows they sell like hotcakes. They make good “railway novels” too, they will help to fill the time while one is riding the train to work in London. They are too full of certain things happening, while nothing important happens at all.
Characters don't change.
No one matures or learns anything.
No genuine attitudes are revealed.
I've read a lot of those books, and I've enjoyed a lot of them, too. They were fine as time-fillers. I don't regret reading them. I wouldn't want to spend the huge investment of time required to write one, though. This is almost certainly a mistake, because genre fiction is probably easier to sell on Amazon. That's me, however, I wouldn't know my best financial interest if it jumped up and bit me on the ass. If I make the effort, it will be to write something that I can be proud of.
That would be a novel with a fine story arc, good characters whose attitudes are reflected in the things that happen, a main character who starts out in one place and ends up in another, and I don't mean California. There'll be some excitement, for sure, and a bit of mostly off screen sex, chances will be taken, someone could even get murdered! Who knows? It might be fun.
It could happen.
Curtis is so underrated that it's a crime. This is the title cut from his last album, recorded, as it were, on his deathbed (many of the vocals were recorded with Curtis lying on the floor). Oh, don't get angry, Fred. Just say, "thanks, Curtis, for everything."
It has been very hard to watch the weird gyrations of American politics since the beginning of the run-up to the 2016 election. Watching as an American living overseas it all looks very surreal. We are ex-pats. It's hard to believe what has happened to the United States in our absence.
When I am in America, it is actually a bit easier, because then I spend most of every day talking to real Americans and in the midst of it all I can see and hear that they are essentially the same more or less good, more or less reasonable people that I remember. In March of this year I spent a couple of weeks talking to agents at banks and insurance companies, and store clerks, and nice staff at the full range of restaurants and businesses, and they could just do their jobs and be themselves. I was just a customer/client, and I was cheerful, polite, and appreciative, so they were happy to help me. The absence of politics was refreshing.
It's very different when viewed from overseas. Here I must accomplish most of my social interactions with Americans on social media, where everyone is now wearing a mask and assuming a hyper-partisan posture depending on their politics. If I make a comment that is critical of their team, which I frequently do if their team starts with a “T” or an “R,” I might end up on a death list. If there is any doubt in their minds, they will go and check my page, where they will immediately discover that I am way to the left of center. Many of them will then begin to foam at the mouth and go into full paranoid mode.
The Paranoid Style
Politics in America, and American society in general, have always been a bit on the paranoid side. If you haven't read it already, you should ask Professor Google to direct you to “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” a remarkable essay by Richard J. Hofstadter that appeared in Harper's Magazine in 1964. It's a jaw-dropper, and an eye-opener.
The style first manifested itself in the colonial period, and has always been percolating in the background of American political life. Sometimes at a simmer, waiting for an opportunity to strike, and sometimes at full boil, driving people to madness and excess. Guess which condition we are at now?
Early on there were delusional, paranoid conspiracy theories about Freemasons controlling the government. A bit later on came the panic over the illusory attempt by Catholics to take over the United States through the agency of disguised Jesuit priests spread out all over the country. And don't forget the Bavarian Illuminati! They still get a mention these days, although perhaps under a different name, like the Bilderberg Group or something. The Jews are always in there somewhere too, because, well, they're the Jews! Henry Ford and a lot of other American Nazis were only too happy to spread lies about Jews using that ridiculous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” scam. You still hear that fake book mentioned today, now mostly in Russia, I believe.
The paranoia came in waves that would break upon the shore and lose their power. The conspiracy theory would be spread, early on mostly from church pulpits and later on mostly by newspapers, and it would gain some purchase but quickly weaken when people realized that the idea was impossible and stupid. Things happened more slowly in the old days. People would get a bit carried away worrying about Masons because the pastor shouted about it for six weeks in a row, and then people would realize that there were a lot of Masons in their city, and they were good men, and after all, George Washington was a Mason, so what's the beef? It's not that simple anymore.
The Buildup to Clinical Paranoia
We live in a world where paranoia has become a tool of our oppressors. Paranoia has become supercharged through its constant encouragement by social media (like Facebook and Twitter), dedicated propaganda “news” outlets (like Fox News, Breitbart, and the Daily Caller), and by our politicians themselves. Mostly, but not exclusively, it is the Republicans who appeal directly to the latent paranoia of Americans by their constant lies (“there is no money for Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, because of Obama or something”), the spreading of false rumors (“the Democrats are trying to turn our country into some kind of socialist Venezuela, they want to shred our Constitution, open our borders to MS-13 rapists, and destroy our values!”), and by demonizing the free press, the Democratic Party, and even our judicial and law enforcement establishment (the FBI, the CIA, and the courts, for having the nerve to lawfully restrain Republican overreach).
This new epidemic of mass hysteria began almost comically with the massive Republican opposition to everything Obama. Not content to oppose every single one of President Obama's proposals, no matter how beneficial they might have been for the country, the Republicans moved into conspiracy territory:
- Obama wants to take your guns!
- Obama wants to turn over control of America to the U.N.!
- Obama is a radical socialist!
- Obama is not a real American!
- Obama was born in Kenya!
- Obama is a Muslim!
- Obama was raised and trained as a terrorist in Indonesia!
Ah, those were the good old days! It all seems so mild compared to the stuff that we are now bombarded with every day.
As it became more clear that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee for president, the focus shifted to her:
- The Clinton Foundation!
- Vince Foster!
- She enabled her rapist husband!
None of that was true, and the untruth of it seemed to matter less and less. What was said about Obama, none of it was true. Same for Hillary, none of it was true. They were both thoroughly conventional right-center politicians. In the 1960s, they would both have been considered to be conservatives.
The 2016 race came down to Hillary v. Trump, and somehow Trump pulled out a squeaker. His victory was due mostly to behind the scenes machinations by Republicans (voter suppression in key states) and Russian operatives (mills turning out millions of pieces of fake-news and posting it all on Facebook, etc.). Now it is 2018, and the Republicans have the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives (thanks mostly to Gerrymandering), and a soon-to-increase majority on the Supreme Court.
Have the Republicans all settled in and gotten quietly to work on their agenda? Why no, they haven't. They've been ripping into each other like a pack of wild hyenas and blaming all of the chaos on everybody outside of their small circle of friends.
Let me take a silent moment in memory of the once great Democratic Party. May their souls, and the souls of all of the faithful departed, rest in peace, amen.
But as hapless as our current Democrats are, as incapable as they seem to be of doing anything at all, the Republicans are afraid of them. Afraid because the voters seem to be noticing that Trump is a fool who is just shitting on all of the rugs and the Republicans, holding all of the levers of power, can only seem to agree on one thing: giant tax cuts for the rich that will bust the annual budget deficit wide open. Oh, two things, eliminating social programs that everyone loves, or at least cutting them to the bone and rendering them useless to average Americans. Yes, amazingly, people seem to be noticing. How are the Republicans responding?
Are the Republicans coming forward with bills and programs that would appeal to Americans in general, maybe to the not too prosperous among us, or perhaps to the slowly dying middle-class? No, they are not doing that. Their plan seems to be to scare voters into voting for them by telling wild, paranoid lies about the Democrats:
- The Democrats want to retake power by any means so that they can do that Venezuela thing!
- The Democrats want to kill their enemies!
- The Democrats are a bunch of wild spenders who will send America straight off a cliff by paying for education and health care!
- All kinds of killing! Republican senators are receiving death threats! Someone wants to kill Brett Kavanaugh's daughters!
Of course, it all seems to be working very well for the Republicans.
Meanwhile, Back at the White House
Trump is in his version of heaven, except that the furnishings at the White House do not align with his incredible lack of taste.
The hate groups; the lies; the wild, self-aggrandizing exaggerations; his own paranoia; the counterproductive trade war; the obvious Putin connection; the long-standing gangster/oligarch connections; the self-dealing; the open and continuous racism; the tragic destruction of every democratic institution in sight, starting with the Federal Agencies; his terrible appointments, whether they be judges or Agency heads or even his own legal team. It's a rapidly burning fire that spreads day by day.
And yet many people are actually buying the whole shit-show!
Not only the wacky fringe dwellers, the Info-Wars of the media landscape. They buy it all, and add their own wild fun to the mix. There is a child sex colony on Mars, run by, of course, Democratic politicians! The Democrats are so desperate to make America a Norte Americano Venezuelan shit-hole that they have contacted actual demons from another dimension and invited them to come and make America their home! Oh! Think of the poor children!
Not only the Religious Right, who will pay any price to accomplish their dual goals, which are to retain and enhance their power and influence and to overturn Roe v. Wade. As long as their bottom lines are expanding, they'll put up with any kind of unchristian behavior from people further up the money stream.
No, the believers in all of this mess that really surprise and dishearten me are the otherwise reasonable, average American citizens, people with good heads on their shoulders and good educations who have worked quietly at responsible jobs all of their lives. I know a lot of people like that who have succumb to the paranoia. I've known some of them since we were children together. I like them!
These are people like those that I mentioned at the top of this essay, the people that I dealt with on my trip to America earlier this year. The normal, get-along, cheerful Americans, who work hard and go home to their families. People who are proud of their country, and their jobs, and their families, too. Just like I was at that stage of my working life. Just like I still am! Except for the vast political void that have now opened between us.
Many of these average Americans are still very reasonable, even when it comes to politics. Some of them don't like our current situation any better than I do. Many of them are as mad as I am when I see total lies shared around social media by oppressors who want to divide us and keep us angry at the wrong people while they steal our prosperity. I am not alone on my side of the void.
But a disturbing number of these reasonable Americans see photos of Professor Catherine Blasey Ford on Facebook, allegedly posing with George Soros, Harvey Weinstein, and Bill Clinton, and they immediately, like Pavlov's dogs, start to foam at the mouth and post comments about how those filthy Democ-RATS are trying to ruin the life of a fine man like Judge Kavanaugh! The photos are, of course, fake. In a really disturbing development, there is now a lot of talk about “killing.” It is claimed, ridiculously, that the Democrats want to kill people; many of the paranoids talk about wanting to “kill” journalists, or Libtards, or Nancy Pelosi. It's frightening.
It's frightening because that's me they're talking about. Casual talk of killing people who think like I do is becoming commonplace. Those kinds of lists tend to grow, they take on a life of their own. Who knows? It could be me and people like me today, and it could spread to you and people like you tomorrow.
We wouldn't want that now, would we?
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Well, this is pretty remarkable. I was looking around for videos to illustrate the phenomenon for a Thai friend and I came across this. You never know what you'll find up in here.
Monday, September 24, 2018
Rhiannon Giddens plays her heart out and tears her way through the entire catalog of your emotions, but the music business is a tough row to hoe. America and the world are littered with talentless drones who have accumulated multiple millions of dollars by peddling crap to fools, poor bony things who rely on technology to even hit the notes in their songs, and male artists who believe that it is sufficient to stalk around the stage menacingly grunting about gangster shit that they don't really understand at all. It is manifestly unfair, and no just God would allow it.
But there is no God, just or otherwise, so we must only hope that Ms. Giddens, and other extremely talented but noncommercial artists, can manage to make a living so that we can continue to enjoy their music.
I don't know. Maybe I shouldn't spoil this with commentary.
This song sounds exactly like I feel today. Maybe it sounds better than I feel, but it does capture some of the tense, explosive quality of it. You've got people, life, fate, and the world. That's a real race to the bottom, don't you think? All of my life I've known people who didn't seem to mind at all, who didn't seem to see the frantic, horrible desperation of it all. I have always wondered how they did it, how they just smiled through it and mastered it and prospered. I don't get that part at all. I don't find it heroic, just amazing.
I try to roll with the punches, and somehow I make it to the end of the round, and with little enthusiasm for the enterprise I answer the bell for the next round. Seven decades now! There have always been times, though, when I get pinned against the ropes and take a real beating. I really wonder why anybody bothers.
Thursday, September 20, 2018
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Just about a week ago I was semi-complaining about Facebook. Specifically, I was complaining about how easy it is now be misunderstood by fellow travelers who can be way too quick to place you in the basket of deplorables. Political allies or not, people will seize on the smallest damn thing and run with it. The name-calling can begin almost immediately.
Here’s an example. This tempest in a teaspoon is still going on, as we speak. The names have been changed to protect the guilty. In this dialog, I am me, Fred Ceely, and the belligerent is listed as “Opponent.”
The post was about that Brett Kananaugh fascist asshole whom Jimmy the Greek says will soon occupy a seat on our once-respected Supreme Court. These are all of the comments on the thread so far. The Opponent got it rolling.
Opponent: From the greatest political whorehouse in Texas.
(Unrelated comment by me.)
Fred Ceely: Admit it, (name of mutual Facebook friend, redacted), it will be hysterical to watch this sniveling mediocrity immediately switch to "Imperial Mode" when he takes the bench.
(All of the below comments are “Replies” between me and Opponent.)
Opponent: I don't think I would see humor in that prospect and neither would anyone else who has a minimal amount of sanity.
Fred Ceely: (Opponent’s name) I assure you, sir, that I do possess a minimal amount of sanity. My doctor has confirmed it, and I believe him. (You, however, have obviously not been reading the memos about civility. Why, you almost hurt my feelings! Perhaps you should consult with your pastor, you know, or take an anger-management class.)
Opponent: Fred Ceely Fuck You. How's that? This is a serious issue but you think there will be funny situations when he is confirmed for the SCOTUS. I can assure you that it will be anything but funny.
Fred Ceely: Oh, relax, (name redacted). You'll pull a muscle.
Opponent: Fred Ceely You are too old to be so flippant about our democracy being in a crisis. People like you are the problem Fred. Get off fb and go watch some sitcoms or game shows. Moron.
Fred Ceely: You're too easy, (name redacted). Go bother somebody else that you don't know anything about, about something that you don't understand.
Opponent: Fred Ceely Did you join the Peace Corps to avoid military service? You look the right age for it. Just askin' (sic)
Fred Ceely: (Name redacted), now you're embarrassing yourself. In 1967 I joined the U.S. Navy, preferring NOT to avoid military service. I was in my fifties when I joined Peace Corps, serving my time in Thailand, working on teacher-training and curriculum development. Any other rude questions? Maybe I can help you. I've never been arrested.
Opponent: I've never been arrested either and I am a veteran too. BFD. From your comments you appear to have the political attitude of a teenage high school drop out (sic), which I could understand from someone in that category, but you are way too old for that. You just don't get the seriousness of the situation apparently. I have never encountered anyone your age that was as cavalier about politics as you appear to be. Stand for something you worm or you'll find yourself standing for everything.
Fred Ceely: I "don't get the seriousness of the situation?" I'm "cavalier about politics?" Nobody who knows me at all would say those things about me. Come on, you're embarrassing yourself. I have a blog you know, ten years of writing frequently about politics. Instead of stroking yourself in public you could go and find out all about my politics. You read one comment and fly off into a delusional snit. What are you, the Amazing Kreskin or something?
Fred Ceely Hey, Norman, I hope that you are having a good sleep. You can throw around your ad hominem attacks on me willy-nilly if you want to, it's a free country, but just in case it would occur to you to base your opinion on facts, here is a little something to go on: https://spineasytime.blogspot.com/.../our-supreme-court...
Our Supreme Court and Our Future (ed. This is a post from 2014 that I am very proud of. I actually did research!)
Opponent: Fred Ceely "you're too easy" sound familiar? Thanks for taking the bait DUMBASS!
Fred Ceely: Don't you think that we've upset poor (name of mutual Facebook friend, redacted) enough? Isn't it late where you are? Get some rest.
That’s the end, so far.
Honestly, I have no idea what bait I took, but evidently I took it too easily. Because I’m a dumbass, which even I will admit on most days. Did I give away the secret identity of my blog? No, it can’t be that. Google does that in a heartbeat. I hope that Opponent gives up at this point. Not gives up, it’s not a contest, just lays off.
It is kind of upsetting to me when two of my Facebook friends start this kind of nastiness under my name. I’m certain that our mutual friend feels the same. That’s why I have been so gentle with Opponent so far, in spite of all of his name-calling. I love the way people go to your page seeking something that they can use against you. How great is it that all he could find on my page to “incriminate” me was my service in the Peace Corps! Jeez, Louise, what a Boy Scout I am! “Well, he was in the Peace Corps, and he’s a geezer,” says Opponent, “maybe he joined that outfit to beat the draft!” I’ve got quite a footprint on the ‘Net by now, you’d think that even Opponent could find something better than that. You could find a better sleuth in a nursery school.
So yeah, Facebook, a mixed blessing.
Monday, September 10, 2018
Having proven that I still listen to new music and find much that is very original to be entertained and amazed by, I present to you, Jeff Beck.
Many guitar players have a lick that other talented players find difficult to duplicate, and some will throw one out there that just plum confuses other guitar players. How did he do that? That zone of confusion for other players is where Jeff lives.
Here's six minutes of live playing, up close and personal, that leaves me slack-jawed except for the frequent outbursts of laughter. Not a lot of effects here, and he's never pushing pedals. He only touches the amp briefly in the beginning. After that it's all in his hands, the wammy bar, and the volume knob. Maybe the tone knob, I couldn't catch that. Did he touch the pickup selector switch? I didn't notice. Whatever. This is all Jeff's hands, the wammy bar, and the volume knob.
Jeff might be the only guitar player working today who stands alone being able to play his own brand of totally original music. Jeff Beck music. I doubt if there's anyone else at all who could duplicate this style. All this time he's been entertaining us, and he's still brash, surprising, always playful, rough and sweet, jagged and super-smooth, and always unpredictable.
God bless him. He's a treasure.
I'm going to admit right now that this is a frighteningly original style of guitar playing. Having said that, there seem to be a few practitioners of this two-handed, tapping, picking style mining a similar vein in Japan these days.
I give them a lot of credit. They're conveying amazingly dense musical ideas in a manner that has a lot of smiles in it. Good for them! Respect, brothers and sisters. Thanks for the amazement.
How great is this? Oh, sorry, not polite to ask too many questions. This performance is great!
I love the singer and the delivery, but forgive me if I am overly impressed with this instrument, the likes of which I have neither seen nor heard before. A five-stringed banjo with nylon strings and a fretless neck? That's a new one on me. I love the low register and the mellow tone, though. The entire presentation is almost familiar in a quite unfamiliar way.
Thanks, Ms. Giddens.
Sunday, September 9, 2018
Forgive me if I leave Justice Kavanaugh's judicial shortcomings to the experts. I'm a lawyer, but I've never even been through the metal detectors of a court of appeals, state or federal. I'll leave those criticisms to the specialists. No, today I will address Mr. Kavanaugh's shortcomings as a public speaker, one who makes his living in public. There is a very definite skill-set involved, and he doesn't seem to have mastered any of them.
I am qualified to speak about the physical skills that must be recognized, monitored, and studied by anyone who will be observed, photographed, and videoed by large numbers of people in the public setting. I've made over a thousand court appearances as a lawyer, and for the last ten years I have routinely taught classes of four hours duration with around one hundred students. Many of those classes were videoed for later use on my university's web site, and everyone has a camera handy now and loves to take photos. I never knew when they were taping a class, so I always assumed that they were. In court there was almost always a court reporter making a transcription of every word, and usually also every “ahhhhh,” and “ummmmm.” You had to be careful to compose your spoken sentences so that they could not be ridiculed later on. I considered the problems associated with this kind of life, and I came to some conclusions.
There are three major skills that must be considered by anyone who wishes to make a living in the public eye: 1) voice control; 2) gesture control; and 3) expression control.
Your voice is of paramount importance. Even on video, it is your voice that is carrying the informational element of your presentation. In any kind of public presentation, you cannot use the same voice that you use to talk to your mom on the phone, or when discussing just any old thing with your friend over a coffee.
All public speaking is an acting job. When it is your turn to speak, you must project with an almost Shakespearean volume of tone, like you were channeling Sir Laurence Olivier or something. You need it to cut through the ambient noise and register in the brains of people who are either distracted by something else or thinking mostly of what they are going to say when it is their turn. YOU MUST MAKE A VOICE. The “oh, shucks” tone does not work in public settings.
Has Mr. Kavanaugh been living up to this requirement? I am under strict doctors orders not to take in too much news these days, so I haven't heard enough to make specific criticisms. It is clear, however, that he does not pay enough attention to keeping his mouth shut until he has a sentence prepared that it worth saying at all, much less recording for posterity. There's a lot of stumbling going on, a lot of confusion being registered. This is just not cool. It's not professional, and it falls well short of the requirements for anyone who wishes to be considered talented at making public presentations.
Gesture control is one that does not immediately seem important to most people, but really it is of critical importance. Think of President Trump (no matter how distasteful that may be). Recall his hand gestures while he is making his rambling, incoherent speeches. His hand movements are stiff and jerky. Often, they are silly, like when he seems to be tracking the movement of a bouncing ball across the air above his podium. Now picture the way he hunches his shoulders, or holds up one hand with his middle finger and thumb making a circle, waving it around for a while. Those are examples of someone who has never considered the requirements of proper communications.
Mr. Kavanaugh seems equally guilty of failing to understand the importance of gesture control, failing to study the science of it in order to get better at it, and failing dismally at avoiding embarrassing gestures in very important public appearances. Sitting in congress this week, he often seemed to be trying to cast some kind of Harry Potter spell with his fingers in weird, unnatural postures.
Please! I'm only a small time lawyer turned relatively unimportant university lecturer, and yet I've devoted more time and thought to these things than either the President of the United States or his nominee for appointment to the Supreme Court? That doesn't sound right, now does it?
Expression control is where Mr. Kavanaugh really fails spectacularly. He makes the weirdest damn faces, it's like he has Tourettes or something. Any little situation is enough to set his face muscles chasing off into the emotional distance. Someone wants to shake his hand? His face seeks simultaneously to display displeasure, fear, and rage. Even his relaxed smile is so desperate and unnatural that it more conveys the feeling of a forlorn hope that he is performing adequately. His facial muscles themselves seem to be working at cross purposes and against his best interests. He has this ability, when he purses his lips, to tense the muscles just in the very center of his lower lip so that they create two deep lines. I've never seen that one before. Pursing your lips in the first place is almost never a good idea, unless you are acting on a soap-opera. The photographs that appear in the news are uniformly awful. Virtually every still picture of him that I have seen has indicated that here is a person that has no idea that one's expression is something that one could, with a bit of practice, control. It's all so amateurish and silly.
I am a harsh critic of certain things. This just happens to be one of them. Serious people study these things, while I just try to be aware of them and monitor them carefully. My interest in improving my own performance makes me interested in observing the performance of others.
Of our recent presidents, Bill Clinton did a very good job in all three modalities while he was president, but by now his expression control is a bit sloppy. He almost looks medicated sometimes. Hillary, although not a president herself, has lived with the concept more than most people. She's not great at any of these three skills, and that failure cost her the very few votes that she would have needed to win. George W. Bush was a terrible public speaker, but he did have a certain hayseed-charisma that allowed him to get away with it most of the time. President Obama? Long time readers can guess where I'm going with this. President Obama had obviously considered these problems carefully, received some instruction, and practiced on video extensively. As a result, his speeches were usually clinics in how to monitor one's presentation. He is always in tight control of every aspect of his public persona. From his earliest appearance on the political scene, and continuing to this day, he has been a very good public speaker.
This guy Kavanaugh will be raised to the Supreme Court any second now, owing mostly to the Black Flag nature of our politics these days. It's in the bag, mostly due to the sad fact that Americans have given up voting for some unknown reason. Then we'll be stuck with him for a good long time, unless they can figure out a way to impeach him. Nothing would surprise me anymore. It will be interesting, but not in a good way, to watch him immediately adopt Imperial Mannerisms as he sits on the Supreme Court bench, like he was Darth Stupidus or something. His votes, and his written decisions, will make Gorsuch look good, which may turn out to be the greatest accomplishment of Kavanaugh's life.
Friday, September 7, 2018
This kind of material, and this kind of an act in the first place, are the great gift of YouTube. There's no commercial potential here, but let's make this as great as we can, put it up, and see what happens!
The attention to detail in this video is really impressive. The couple are both very attractive; the make-up and costumes are perfect; the production for the song is just right; and the video is compelling. The L.A. River in East L.A. is iconic, and look! That's Boyle Heights in the long shots! The close up of her shoes towards the end almost made me cry.
California was Latino long before it became a state. Many of these Latino families were living in North America long, long before any of my progenitors had even gotten the idea to give America a try. Hell, the Latino families were here before there even was an America. It's all part of MY culture too, by now. The Brown Sound is part of the sound in my head.
And I appreciate it.
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
The second of two big hits by this Florida act. All recorded the Music Factory in Miami. (Thanks, Professor Google!) All four were actually brothers and sisters, with the second female added after the first hit. This one doesn't have quite the punch of "Treat Her Like a Lady," but it's a good cut.
During the early 1970s I had a short-sleeved sweatshirt that I really liked. I had a few, actually. I am five feet, nine inches tall, with excellent posture, and at the time I weighed about 140 pounds. Close fitting shirts with jeans flattered me. One of the sweatshirts was yellow and white, and on the front in big letters it said, “Puerto Rico Me Encanta.”
Mostly I just liked the look of it, the colors and the fit, and the way multiple repeated washings made it more comfortable and attractive. I was not political about any issue at all at the time. My only response to the politics of the day was to condemn every aspect of politics as quickly as possible. It was true, though, that I was favorably disposed to Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans. This was not long after I had found my first friends from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and Cuba for that matter. It took a little time, but very little effort, for me to learn to like Salsa music. As for the young Hispanic men and women themselves, you could never hope to find companions more friendly, hospitable, loyal, and helpful than those Caribbean Latins, and no people on the earth offered livelier companionship. Even the guys were great cooks, and they always had the best (redacted). Your New York Latin friends would just plum wear you out. As in, “no, no thanks, I need to get a couple of hours of sleep before work.”
The shirt was political, I suppose, at least to some extent. Maybe I was advertising the subject so that other white folk could see that it was possible to get along with Puerto Ricans. More likely I was clumsily letting Puerto Ricans who saw me know that I was okay with that whole thing. I’m white, the story goes, but I’m not like those other guys. Whatever. The main thing to note is that of the one hundred plus times that I wore that sweatshirt, first in New York City and later in Los Angeles, no one ever mentioned it. Not one word, from friend, foe, or stranger. It was a non-event.
It was also a non-event to my friends, who were not all of one mind on such subjects. I had a lot of friends, many long-term and intimate friends, and I had no political litmus test for friendship purposes. Most of them were open-minded, many very much so, but some were subject to prejudices that were becoming old fashioned by the late 1960s. The subject came up, often in connection with music or sports, and there were arguments, but we were friends and those were just details. My shirt was beneath notice.
Things have changed, and not for the better.
I was reminded of this a couple of months ago when I saw a TV news article about a woman who was sorely harassed in public for wearing a Puerto Rico t-shirt. She happened to be Puerto Rican, which of course means that she is an American citizen. She was getting the business somewhere, I’m not exactly sure where, somewhere around southern Illinois, I believe, maybe near Chicago.
Things have just gone so wrong in this country that it’s hard to keep score of the decline in American manners. It’s embarrassingly ignorant in the first place that Americans know so little about their own country that they could imagine that a Puerto Rican should “go back to her own country.” She’s here, bro’, look it up. Passport; taxes; limited voting privileges; the draft. American.
These are the same America Firsters who hassle Sikhs imagining that they are Muslims, and therefore terrorists. That’s a stupid mistake, but it has driven a few of those America Firsters to kill some Sikh convenience store clerks, or burn down a Sikh place of worship.
Americans harassing Muslims in general is way out of hand. Calling anyone who happens to be Muslim a “terrorist” is stupid. Roulette is famously the biggest “fool’s game” in Las Vegas, but your odds of hitting thirty-two red on a Vegas roulette wheel are astronomically better than the odds that any particular Muslim is a terrorist. (Roulette: 37 to 1; that Muslim over there is a terrorist: hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to one. I’m no mathematician.)
And the poor Indians! Hindu, pal, Hindu, take notes, big difference! Man, they don’t even like Muslims! Wars have been fought! Get a clue! Buy a vowel!
This is all new behavior, and it is very disturbing.
The worst part is that the list of hated “others” keeps getting longer. The news media are in for harassment and death threats as we speak, unless they work for Fox News (Fascist Propaganda Central). Federal employees can be safely denied their promised COL raise this year, because they are on the hate list. Asians are getting the treatment for speaking anything but English in a coffee shop! Hell, go and find me a donut shop in L.A. where ALL of the employees aren’t speaking Korean! They’re all here legally, too, and by the way, most of them have American passports by now. If they feel like talking to other Korean-Americans in Korean, that’s their God given right.
Many more of us will be on the hate list before long, and the whole thing should frighten us and bother us very much.
But the poor Hispanics, the poor Latin Americans, they’re getting the worst of it. Them and the Muslims I suppose. The Hispanics, though, they’ve been here in America as long as anybody except the Indians. (I mean the American Indians. “Native American” has gone out of fashion, in case you didn’t get the memo). The entire states of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and Oklahoma were flat-out stolen from Mexico as recently as 1848. (Texas had been stolen previously by the Texicans, who included a lot of white New Yorkers and a lot of genuine Mexicans. GTT, MF! Look it up!)
I often wish that I could just shake people like some parents shake abused infants and yell in their faces, “look that shit up! Read! Don’t just watch Fascist Propaganda Central on TV!” But you can’t tell anyone anything anymore. They know it all already. The certainty alone is frightening. That combination of certainty and total ignorance will be the doom of us all.
“Puerto Rico, me encanta.” It’s a sin and a crime how terribly we treat our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters, all fellow Americans. The death toll from that Hurricane Maria is now up to way over two thousand people, and we’re still short-changing them on the relief aid. It’s a scandal, is what it is. And then the Puerto Ricans who were relocated to the mainland are treated like beggars from fucking Bolivia or something. When are people going to wake up?
Oh, I forgot, the answer to that question is: NEVER. Because they already know it all, and they don’t read, and most of them only watch Fascist Propaganda Central. May I please ask my fellow Americans under the age of forty-five or so for a personal favor? Don’t blame this shit on Baby-Boomers. You’re old enough to be part of the problem too, and anyone younger than you might as well blame you. It’s not your fault either. It’s partly the fault of our selfish, lazy-minded politicians, and partly the fault of the people with too much money, and partly due to the fact that human beings are just not that smart.
To my fellow Baby-Boomers, congratulations! At least we’ll be gone before the end.
Monday, September 3, 2018
I have a friend who is a nervous flier. I had a coffee with him today at our local mall, here in BKK. Dunkin Donuts! Because that's the way of our Brave New World. All malls everywhere are starting to look the same. He's got a ticket for Thursday, but he's still not sure about the whole thing. Maybe he'll actually go, maybe not.
The funny thing is that in most ways he is by far by more well-adjusted of the two of us. He's a bit younger than me, and therefore he understands the Internet thing, and how to do this and that, and how to find the good bargains. He doesn't fly that often, you know, because he hates it so much. Being in economy for a long flight is just too much for him, “like being trapped in a little tube!” To be fair, he's way north of six feet tall, and it really is harder for those folks. He limits his trips back to the States to once every three or four years, and he's seriously thinking of stretching that out to five. He's a “miles” guy, he looks for special sales on miles and buys them. If, and I do mean if, he actually takes off on Thursday, he'll be flying Business Class. He bought the ticket for miles at an out-of-pocket cost of about 50% of a regular ticket. Me, flying Business Class, I'd be more comfortable on the plane than sitting on my own couch watching Netflix, and then sleeping in my own bed. For him it's still torture.
“I don't know,” he says, “maybe I should wait until the spring.” He's been doing this for two weeks now. “Should I go? I hate traveling, and there's nothing for me to do there.” I try to be a good friend, but knowing exactly what a good friend should tell him is very hard to figure out.
“Just Skype with your mom and tell her that you have too much work right now,” I told him. This was over a week ago. There were many obstacles to that plan, none of which had anything to do with the actual merits of the trip.
“No, I have to go and get it over with,” he said, way back then. After that he changed his mind multiple times. After our coffee today, he was going upstairs to buy some souvenirs to take along for everybody, but his last words were, “even if I cancel, the souvenirs will be fine until the spring.”
Before you start comparing this to your experience of flying domestic in Thailand or America, bear in mind: we're talking about a trip from Bangkok to Chicago. That's over thirty hours one way, door to door, and more if you have a long lay-over. I only need to make it to California, and that's already quite a slog. Fly to Chi-Town and you can wave hello to Santa out the window.
I will admit that I find take-offs a bit nerve-wracking these days. Mishaps on take-off kill everyone on the plane, due to the presence of about ten-thousand gallons of jet fuel. After that I'm fine though, as long as I get my preferred seat. That's 53G, in Economy, on a Boeing 777, aisle seat of the middle three, on the starboard side. Try it, you'll like it. I take my friend's panic as an opportunity to be supremely grateful that I do not have that particular problem in addition to the many that I am already saddled with.
Saturday, September 1, 2018
There was a time when I posted the occasional poem on this blog. Boy, did people hate that! I got a lot more comments in those days, so I had the feed-back. Fewer readers; more relatives and friends.
Might be worth trying again.
I’ve done some good in the world, I know,
I sat and had my squareback tidied up
By a friend, with a naked razor blade, he was black,
We were in the Navy, in fact we were in their hospital,
The nice one, in San Diego,
The Navy wasn’t sure about us,
Were we crazy? Just fucked up?
Faking it? Wound too tight?
“Ain’t you afraid, white bread?
Brother playing up ‘round yo’ neck,
Playin’ with a razor?”
“Shit no,” my casual reply,
“You ain’t gonna cut me,”
I smiled over my shoulder,
People don’t cut their friends,
Brother couldn’t argue with that.