Tuesday, October 30, 2018
I traveled to Jakarta in July and I can tell you, if I never go back to Indo, it'll be too soon. The best thing about the trip was that it made returning to my home in Bangkok seem like returning to Beverly Hills.
But I have learned over the years that Indo is a very happening place musically speaking. I've watched Indo TV variety shows over the years and the bands have always seemed very professional and lively. They love American country music in Indo, the OG country music, and although it can be a bit disconcerting to see a big belt buckle and hat Indo band in western garb belting out American country, the music itself has always been first class in my opinion.
The Tielman Brothers were the real deal. All four were actually brothers, and they played up a storm in Indo, then Europe, and then Australia. They're all dead now, so RIP boys. Thanks for everything.
Saturday, October 27, 2018
Friday, October 26, 2018
Tony Joe died today or thereabouts. Sudden like, his family said, he wasn't ill or anything. Just collapsed with a heart attach and crossed the river. I guess in Tony Joe's case it's fair to say that he has finally bought the farm. (I'm allowed to make jokes. I'll be right there with him soon.)
Sunday, October 21, 2018
Some people think that sleep is a waste of time. If sleep is nothing but resting the mind, then what do you call what people are doing while they are sitting on the couch watching Netflix? That doesn't seem like more than resting to me. Sleep certainly does not immediately appear to be productive.
Some people say that they can't get by without at least ten hours of sleep every night; others claim to be fine with about five. Some people believe that sleep has always been a way for primitive organisms to kill time while it was too dark for them to see what they were doing. By now, I suppose, it's only a bad habit as far as those people are concerned. We do seem to spend a lot of time sleeping, and most people do seem to enjoy it. What's really happening?
I am not a sleep expert. I have no training in that area. My only evidence to support any opinion on the subject is based on my own experience, which I calculate has included almost 200,000 hours of sleep. I guess that I've read a bit on the subject too, but not enough to get a license or anything.
No laboratory equipment was harmed in the preparation of this post! No research at all was done! No additional reading, no interviews, no nothing! This post is almost entirely anecdotal, with some slight influence from general reading.
The sleeping hours in general have always been my favorite time of the day. People tend to leave you alone, unless you're at boot camp or being held at a CIA rendition site or something. My favorite aspect of sleeping is dreaming. In fact, I have a special talent for dreaming.
I've always been good at recalling dreams. There have been times when I could easily recall multiple dreams from each of the previous several nights. I regularly have dreams that I can remember for years. I love dreaming, almost every type of dreaming. The oldest dreams that I can clearly recall come from my preschool years. They were nightmares, often associated with sleep walking. What can I tell you. I was precocious!
I've always had recurring dreams, dreams that were very similar in subject matter while never being actually identical. I won't bother you with details, but these dreams usually have a symbolism to them that you do not have to be Professor Langdon to figure out. They're not very puzzling. It's a way for your mind to remind you that you still have this aspect of your life that needs working on. The degree to which you are either working on the problem or ignoring it colors the tone and intensity of the dreams.
I've always had nightmares. You could say that I'm something of an expert by now. When I was a child, before or about the age of ten, I had been having such terrible nightmares so frequently, and for so long, that I decided to do something about it. I decided to put my foot down. It was probably hormonal. That's the age when children start to get pumped full of a chemical imperative to stand up for themselves. I intuited that they were my dreams, taking place entirely in my head, so naturally I could take charge of the situation if I wished to. And it turned out to be true. The professionals call it “lucid dreaming.” For a while there, if I were in a tight spot in a nightmare, being chased by some terrible thing, or just a menacing presence of some vague kind, I would pause in the dream and take charge. Wait a minute! What I need is a motorcycle! Then a motorcycle would appear in the dream, and it would start on the first kick, and I'd sail off into the happy sunset. I say first kick, but I don't really remember if I even knew yet that you had to kick them to start them. Maybe I just jumped on and rode off, like magic. It was my dream, after all.
After a few years of that I just didn't care anymore. I became comfortable with the idea that they were only dreams, and that obviously they didn't contain any inherent threat. So what? It's no more threatening than going over to the RKO Keith's in Flushing and watching “House on Haunted Hill,” directed by William Castle. Nothing but cheap thrills. I didn't even think about it anymore, and I lost the ability to dream lucidly. I have never missed it. Now I just enjoy the show, whatever is showing this week. I do think, though, that I still walk through all of my dreams with the clear understanding that they are dreams, and that I am only dreaming, which does prevent the sheer terror from taking over. I experience only mild discomfort when things get out of hand, which they still do on a regular basis.
Most dreams are a bit silly, kind of nonsensical. Things just happen, jumbles of images from our pasts, strange admixtures of people from various periods in our lives. Doctors who have supposedly been trained in matters of the mind do not agree on the utility of all of these mental hieroglyphics.
A very expensive Upper East Side Freudian psychiatrist once told me that dreams were only nature's way of preventing us from becoming bored at the need to remain asleep for so long every day. I'm pretty sure that there is zero chance that that is true. The Jungian psychiatrists believe that the real focus of interest should be the images that are found in the dreams. I tend to agree that they are onto something there. I have had numerous dreams about big houses over the decades. Often within a series of dreams about the same big house that stretched over many, many years. I still occasionally visit essentially the same vast apartment-like structure that has appeared in my dreams for at least twenty-five years. There are ten or twelve floors, more or less identical, almost entirely unoccupied. There are unused kitchens, and empty bedrooms. Often the top floor is a music room of some kind where there is a large collection of guitars and guitar amplifiers, with some drum kits and keyboards sprinkled around. Sometimes there is no roof, although generally the structure is weather resistant. This is the Pharaoh, an image that has haunted the dreams of man since the eons before the invention of writing. The word Pharaoh itself means, “big house.” I have wandered these rooms in dreams hundreds of times, meeting a great variety of people, playing, in fact, many of the guitars, although in the dreams I am much more concerned with playing through certain amps. I guess that the symbolism is that tone is everything to a guitar player. These “big house” dreams are almost never threatening, although they can get strange sometimes. Most often, it is the exploration of the whole place that seems most important. I always wake up feeling like these were happy dreams, and they give me a warm, secure feeling that can last for days. Who wouldn't like a big house? So yes, I think that the Jungians were onto something with their image fixation.
Working on Problems while Sleeping
I'm a big believer in this one. Whatever stupid dreams pass before out tired eyes, however long we lay there like we had been stunned by a sharp blow to the head, our brains are constantly churning the milk of unsolved problems, desperately trying to make the butter of peace of mind.
We sleep, apparently dead to the world, dreaming our stupid dreams, and yet there are parts of our no longer primitive brains working on problems that we may have forgotten about. I've experienced clear proof of this hypothesis on many occasions.
For instance . . .
I graduated from law school in 1991, and I took the California bar exam in late August of that summer. While I was waiting for the results, I was working at a very small law firm in Santa Monica, up in the twenties on Wilshire Boulevard. At the time you could park two blocks away from Wilshire, but no closer without a neighborhood-specific permit. So that's what I did. I was getting to work pretty early, and within a few blocks by the numbers I could always find a good all-day spot up in the neighborhood. Usually the walk was four or five blocks, but the price was right. Anyway . . .
The results of the August bar exam are mailed to test-takers sometime in mid-November. It takes a while to grade that mess. One day around the first week of November, I was visited by clear proof that our minds are furiously at work while we sleep.
I've had this experience of what the French call satori more than once, and this was one of them. The job was easy, and I was early, and it was a fabulous southern California morning, crisp and clear, perfect in every way. No worries! Just walking along, thinking of nothing at all. I idly looked up into the trees over my head and was struck by a flash of sunlight peeking through the leaves, as will happen. The flash triggered a memory, the memory of a dream from the night before. In the dream, I had remembered one of the essay questions from the bar exam, almost three months previously. Although I had forgotten all about it, the entire question had come back to me in my sleep, not only that, but I had realized that there was one issue in the question that I had not addressed in my answer. The issue had been explained to me completely in the dream, by my own mind, and I could remember it clearly right there, walking down the street. The experience was almost frightening.
We lay there, senseless, and yet our brains are busy working on problems, all kinds of problems. I had obviously been working on this problem for months, unbeknownst to me. Just imagine the volume of it. Most of it ends up in the brain's junk pile. This one was part of the bar exam, an event that rather a lot depended on. Three years of hard work, for one thing, not to mention a huge investment of blood and treasure. One issue on one essay question is not enough to start worrying about, and I didn't. I knew that I had passed the test; from the morning of the first day I had not worried about the result one time. That's the way it worked out, too. Two weeks later I got the small envelope in the mail.*
Collating and Sorting Memories
This one I take on information and belief. It takes place in parts of the brain not associated with problem solving or visualization. The dark corners where our memories are stored.
The geniuses tell us that certain parts of the brain process and sort and file away specific memories. Does the brain also make value judgments about our memories? Probably. Let's stick this one way over there. Oh, we'll keep this one up top where we can access it easily. Before you suspect that this is not something you want to trust to your unconscious mind, remember that it is, indeed, your mind.
Might as well trust it. It's going to do whatever it wants to anyway.
*The California bar exam results come two ways. If you fail, they send you all three days of it in a big envelope. You are free then, at your leisure, to study all of your shortcomings in detail. If you pass, you receive only a single sheet of congratulations in a small envelope. My family's joy at my small envelope is one of my most cherished memories. When I got home from work my oldest son burst out of the house waving the small envelope in the air. I can remember his smile and his joy like it was yesterday. It was a good day.
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Not that I am the ultimate arbiter of such things, but this, in my opinion, is a very cool version of this great Bowie song. (And associated with a great movie as well, The Life Aquatic, by Wes Anderson. That's a hat-trick: cool song, cool version, cool movie.)
There's nothing sadder in all the world than people trying to be cool. It's a very simple concept: if you have to try to be cool, you ain't.
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Or Bangkok's Gherkin, if you prefer. This version of the rather uninteresting "iconic" building in London showed up a couple of years ago in a nondescript Bangkok neighborhood.
Pardon the poor quality photography. I took these pictures from a taxi on an elevated highway with a Samsung phone that it past it's "replace by" date.
"MILK & ME" is simply pasteurized whole milk, sold in a high-concept all white container for two times the price of other quality brands of whole milk.
The packaging information starts out pretty normal:
Good Source of Protein
Rich in Calcium and Phosphorus
High Vitamin B2 & B12
And then comes the real sales pitch:
Milk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals.
It is the primary source of nutrition.
A PERFECT COMPANION AT HOME
Milk is Life
You couldn't make this stuff up. It's like a prop for a movie about people who live in space and don't know what milk is.
I love a lot of bands who take the music and turn it inside out, all the way upside down, go ahead on with it in every direction, use all the keys, you know, and twist that thing until it screams for mercy. Not a lot of bands do that anymore, but it was popular in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s with a certain kind of miscreant. Guys like me still enjoy those performances. (Listen to a good version of "Chasing the 'Trane" if you don't know what I mean.)
But I also love, and honestly I think that I value more, a band that just plays the songs smooth and tight, with everybody hooked up to the hive-mind, playing it just the way that they practiced it, just the same way, as though they respected the song and the arrangement with such religious devotion that they would not even think of fucking it up with any deviation from the ideal. James Brown would understand what I mean. He'd fine people a week's pay if they deviated from what he thought was perfect.
Mr. Clifton was a lot more laid back that James, but his band is tight, and they play this shit right on the money.
Fred, back away from the keyboard, you're about to say some kind of "get off my lawn!" shit. The old days will necessarily fade from our memory, and fade from importance as we, the rememberers, die off. I'd like to think, though, that there will always be some young whippersnappers out there who will continue to give a shit, along with some tweed-wrapped academics whom I hope will make a living teaching this old but wonderful material.
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
I believe that this hat was made in Korea. I’m leaving the ambiguity in that first sentence just the way it is, because it mirrors the ambiguity on the label inside of the hat. The label is in Korean. I know Korean when I see it. The Koreans very sensibly switched at some point from Chinese Kanji to a specifically Korean phonetic alphabet that is unique in all of the world. There are vowels, and there are consonants, and words are a combination of a consonant on the bottom, and the vowel that follows it on top. You could learn the entire thing in six to eight weeks. It’ll be fun! None of that helps me to know whether this hat was made in The People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea), or the Republic of Korea (South Korea).
Upon reflection, the tag might say, in Korean, that the hat was made in China. So fuck me, I guess. What do I know?
There is a Korean “99 cent Store” at my local mall. That’s to go along with the two Japanese “99 cent Stores,” a Daiso (everything costs sixty baht, about two dollars), and a slightly upscale new one (where everything is cheap, but not that cheap). I purchased the hat for my wife, because: 1) I thought that she needed a new baseball-style cap; 2) I liked the color, the design, and the hip-hop style flat peak; and 3) it was only five dollars. What can I say? It was a little surprise gift. I’m a big spender.
The word, “PUOK” was a new one on me. I figured that it was a Korean thing, maybe a place, who knows. It got under my skin, though, so I finally asked Professor Google for some help. The results of the search are remarkable, and almost as ambiguous as the label inside the hat.
There were three categories of results for “puok,” as follows:
1. Puok: an agricultural district in the middle of nowhere in the province of Siam Reap, Cambodia. It's a big province. I pursued it a bit and I could discover no tourist interest in that particular district, nor any other discernable commercial potential;
2. Puok: a Cebuano word meaning, “too short.” Cebuano is one of the local dialects spoken on several islands in the Philippines. They are not located in a touristy district either. The “too short” may apply to a person, or an article of clothing. “A puok shirt,” or “those pants are puok;” and
3. Puok: a hamburger restaurant in Naples, Italy. I kid you not. There are a ton of photos on the ‘Net. Just the one location. It looks very upscale, and the burgers are very appetizing. If the hat has any relation to the burger joint, I’m a monkey’s uncle.
Why don’t we just add “puok” to the long list of mysteries in the world. If any of you readers know some young, hip Koreans, maybe you could run it by them. Maybe it does mean something in Korean. Be careful, though. It may turn out to mean something very, very rude.
Sunday, October 14, 2018
(There was a problem with the link to "Whispering Bells" that was here. If you are not familiar with the song, you can go over to YouTube and find it in a hurry. By the Doo-Wop group, the Dell Vikings.)
I’ve been blessed in my life to have friends and acquaintances from all of the peoples of the earth. Men and women from of every race, color and creed. (Note: technically I don’t think that I have ever known a Zoroastrian or an Eskimo. There’s an implied racist remark in that last sentence. Did you catch it? It’s getting harder and harder to avoid them as people seem to be getting more sensitive.) But anyway, I have gotten to know a wide variety of God’s children, that’s safe enough to say. I have paid attention, too, and I have learned a lot. Not only about them, but about myself as well.
As hard as we may try to be the people that we wish to be, we are, all of us, stuck with being the person that we are. In my case, that means being a fully paid-up member of the white, patriarchal hegemony. The person that I’m stuck being is, therefore, more or less racist. I accept this more on information and belief than on any conscious evidence. I despise racism in all of its manifestations, and I am not aware of any prejudices that I carry where they would be accessible to my conscious mind, and I would rather eat a bug then to say anything that would make anyone uncomfortable on account of their ethnic information, but I have had occasion to see it in myself over the years. Implicit racism, the experts call it. Hopefully less frequently manifested as time has marched on, yes, I’m fairly certain of that. Even after extensive self-examination and various educational experiences, however, we are stuck with being ourselves.
The thing is, I take it as a given that anybody who was born and raised white in America has benefited from that whiteness in hundreds of ways on thousands of occasions in the course of their lives. Everyone treats you better, everyone is more polite, and you are much less likely to run afoul of the police. Those are the facts, even if you may never have realized it or actively wielded the privilege. Accepting the privilege, either consciously or unconsciously, puts you automatically in the “racist” category, even if you may score at the “less” end of the “more or less” scale.
It’s hard for us to see these things ourselves, even though it is constantly happening all around us. We are too close to the phenomenon to view it properly. It manifests itself in the small, innocuous details of our preferences. They may be visible to others, and if we are lucky, the others may share their wisdom with us.
I have received lessons over the years from men and women whom I knew well enough for them to give me the gift of honesty. They have calmly, almost lovingly, pointed out that some small aspect of my thinking was rooted in invisible racism. Take Jose’s lesson, for example.
Jose was from one of the Spanish speaking islands in the Caribbean, one of the ones that is not Puerto Rico. We worked in shops that were a few doors apart on the main drag in that part of Queens, and we both used the service available at the other shop. We hit it off, I believe, because we were both clever and because we both existed at the same wavelength of the wise-guy continuum. (We were both also in our mid-twenties and rather handsome. That did not hurt.) It was probably important that we were both music lovers, and we both had extensive record collections, although our collections were as different as night and day.
I had close to a thousand LPs by then, and most by far were by white rock and roll acts. There were a handful of jazz records, quite a few Reggae and Afro-Pop records, some classical music, and a few double handfuls of soul records, and some James Brown, and I loved Graham Central Station. The crossover, salt-and-pepper acts were also represented, like Sly and the Family Stone, and Jimi Hendrix. Overall though, it was a pretty white collection. There were no Latin records in my collection at all when I met Jose.
Jose, on the other hand, had almost five thousand records already, and all but about twenty were Latin music. He had a handful of soul records, and two LPs by the Rolling Stones*, a few jazz records, and the remainder were all of the varieties of Salsa music. It was an amazing variety too, when you thought about it. There were all flavors of Newyorican Salsa, O.G. Puerto Rican Salsa, La Música from Cuba, and all of the other Hispanic Caribbean islands were represented, including Jose’s, and a surprising number of records from Columbia and Venezuela, plus many sources that escape me right now. They ranged from very big, very jazzy Salsa bands to one record from Cuba by a band that consisted of four musicians: drum-kit, congas, bongos, and timbales. That latter act got an amazing amount of melody and harmony from those drums, and of course all of the rhythm that you could ever need. The effect was startling. The effect of that whole collection on me was, in fact, startling.
We got to discussing all of this one day. I think that the conversation started by me noticing the two Rolling Stone records. I had picked up a few Salsa records by then, you know, Fania All Stars, top-of-the-pops Newyorican stuff, Ray Barreto.
The lesson began when I started commenting on the instrumentation of Salsa. The music in general emphasized horns to a much greater extent than I was accustomed to. I mentioned that I was totally okay with saxophones, but that a little bit of the trumpet was enough for me. I much preferred the sax. Jose turned his head slightly, laughed a little, and said, “that’s racist,” in a conversational tone.
“Really?” I said. He shrugged his shoulders and through another little laugh said, “yeah.”
We didn’t really tackle the idea in detail, although I might have said something about I guess there’s just been a lot more sax in the music that I’m used to. He let it go. I was obviously warming up to Salsa, and there was a whole lot of brass in that, so maybe Jose was satisfied that progress was being made.
In the decades since, I have considered this idea in detail. I have come to the strong conviction that Jose was 100% right in his indictment of my preference. This is how implicit racism sneaks up on you. Consider the song at the top of this post. When “Whispering Bells” was a pop radio hit**, I had only a child’s awareness that black Americans were involved in the record business. That was 1957, and by then I owned records by Chuck Berry and Little Richard, and I had seen their photos and I knew that they were black. I knew that many of the Doo-Wop acts were black, and I loved that music as well. I was also a big fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers at the time, had been for years already, and I knew for a fact that many of them were black. I was okay with all of it, but being under the age of ten, however, I had never grappled with the meaning of this diversity.
The point is that “Whispering Bells,” and most of the other radio hits of the time, featured saxophone solos, and that became the sound that I was comfortable with. The key being, “radio hits.” Referring, of course, to the radio stations that a white boy from Queens would be listening to. It was very lucky for me that those pop stations were remarkably integrated at the time, as it related to the artists. I loved all of the New Orleans records that made the Billboard Chart, and almost all of them featured great saxophone players. Saxophones were part of the popular musical landscape until they were finally squeezed out by the electric guitar, but there was hardly a trumpet in sight, unless you were a jazz fan, which I was not. The only jazz that I really liked was created on guitars (Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell) or the Hammond B3 organ (Jimmy Smith). I loved James Brown, but I didn’t examine the line-up of his band. All of that came later on anyway. My white experience carried me into my mid-twenties without exposing me to brass instruments in music that I really loved and identified with (with the exception of Sly and the Family Stone and Graham Central Station, where the rhythm was much more important to the band’s sound).
You could not say that my passive experience of the music in the air around me carried with it any racial animus, but my preference later on for the sax over the trumpet was, in fact, implicitly racist.
Jose is still my friend, and in fact he is still teaching me valuable lessons. He lived in New York for a long time, and had a marriage to a beautiful and rather wonderful Puerto Rican woman that lasted, let’s say, quite a while and produced two wonderful daughters. Jose is on his own now, and has moved permanently back to his Caribbean island. We chat now on Facebook. He lives far from the beach in the mountainous interior of his island nation, in a small city that I had never heard of, and he regularly posts videos of the location. Some he shoots himself; some are “chamber of commerce” videos, meant to publicize the area and maybe generate some tourist action. It’s a beautiful place, and it reminds me in all of its details of Thailand (except that people drive on the right side of the road). If not for Jose, I would associate his country only with baseball players, like most Americans would, I’m afraid.
The only sensible response to the implicit racism that is in our hearts is to smile ruefully, accept it, and do the best that we can to spot it when it comes up. To spot in in the distance, before it can do any harm. Before it can embarrass us, and before it can cause any distress in others. Perhaps if we can all do this, the world can move forward from the dismal racist swamp that it is still mired in. That would be nice.
*I have noticed over the years that the Rolling Stones often show up in record collections where they are the only white rock and roll act present. I’ll just put that out there for you to consider at your leisure.
**Whispering Bells was a hit for the Dell Vikings, which had the distinction of being an integrated Doo-Wop act. That was, let’s say, uncommon at the time. This fact was lost on me until much later.
Saturday, October 13, 2018
People read what you write on Facebook and immediately pigeon-hole you into some category, probably a category that they hate. They can do this after reading one slim, innocuous post. Let me clear this up right now.
I am not a liberal, unless by “liberal” you mean an FDR loving, New Deal inspired, old-school liberal, or an Enlightenment loving fan of capital letter Liberal Thinking, or someone who still believes in the value of a liberal education, which probably does not mean what you think it does.
I am not a Democrat. No sir or madam, not anymore. They had been losing me for some time before they gave up all together and decided that they were going with conservative, corporate stooges like the Clintons. That strategy worked out okay for the Democratic Party, but not so well for the rest of us. Dustbin of history? Let me introduce you to the ill smelling remains of the once great Democratic Party. Goodbye.
(I'm giving President Obama a pass here, partly because he was slightly more concerned with the situation of working people than most Democrats, and partly because he was a dignified, intelligent man who never embarrassed us, but mostly because he's black, and in today's atmosphere of Political Correctness it would be most unseemly for me to say anything vaguely negative about him.)
Let's not even get into whether I am politically left or right. That distinction no longer exists. American politics now occupies the space between the 85 yard line and the Right Wing goal line. The "center" has been moved from the 50 yard line to the 92.5 yard line.
Am I a Progressive? Not at the moment, no. Not until and unless they come up with a solid, achievable, life-affirming, and reasonable agenda that is in line with the real values and needs of everyday people. I tell my students that they need a goal in life, and that they need to visualize that goal directly in front of them, and that they need to take steps, one after the other, in a direct line with that goal. These modern progressives, as I see it, are always charging off down one dead end or another. You'll never get anywhere that way.
Am I a Radical? What would that look like these days? Maybe a Radial is just a Progressive who is in somewhat of a hurry and who is not afraid to step on some toes, break a few eggs, rain on someone's parade, as part of an all-out effort to take some of the pressure off of the working people in America. And the world! Let's face it, the world is in pretty sad shape. Why should all of the insecurity be concentrated in ninety percent of the population? Why not adjust the property interests of some of the people who have way too much, in order to make life more bearable for some of the people who have way too little, often bordering on nothing? So maybe I am a Radical. Maybe the puppy needs a whack with a rolled up newspaper. Any Poly-Sci majors out there want to take a crack at that characterization?
Am I a Revolutionary? Absolutely not. That's a “death or prison” gig. Count me out!
Am I an Anarchist? Again, absolutely not. My most fervent wish is that working families achieve more security and happiness. My prayer is that ordinary, decent Americans can live lives where the worst of their current daily fears and terrors are alleviated. Anarchists want to destroy the world so that it can be replaced by something better. Destruction is waste, which is foolish.
Of the other possibilities, I am certainly not a conservative, except in matters of money, where I tend to be very cautious. I would balance a budget on the backs of anyone who had the ability to pay, no, let's say on the backs of those who had the greatest ability to pay. Read that any way that you want to. I am not a reactionary either, because if there are two things that are certain they are: 1) the solution to our problems does not lie in the past; and 2) returning to some imaginary past is a dream that can never come true. The past is gone in a manner so complete that it can only be described by poets.
So, I thank my regular blog readers who have taken to time to get to know me through my writing here on Spin Easy Time! Please feel free to consider me any damn thing at all, including silly, or crazy, or naive, because you have earned that right by reading my words in some detail. As for the rest of you Internet geniuses who have only seen a few comments on Facebook, or one overreaching post on this blog, get over yourselves. Your opinion does not count.
Thursday, October 11, 2018
Monday, October 8, 2018
It's a hard luck story, the story of Little Willie John.
He was only about 5' 4", and it bothered him. He started recording songs in this powerful tenor when he was that height, and seventeen years old. The boy could sing.
"Fever" was his song (1956); Peggy Lee got the hit with her cover (1958).
Bad tempered and drunk, he got dumped by King Records in '63 and convicted of manslaughter, let's say shortly thereafter. (There are conflicting dates offered.) He stabbed a guy after a show. He died in prison in '68, with the cause also variously reported as a heart attack, pneumonia, or getting killed in prison. Thirty years old, my oh my, the boy lacked that stamp of permanence that we, the lucky ones, share. Thirty, that's almost a failure to thrive.
Everything that he ever recorded is great, though. He should be more famous.
Sunday, October 7, 2018
I've read about people, more than a couple over the years, suggesting that Lightnin' was't so such-a-much, because he could only play in one key. I never worried about it too much.
If you're going to be in combos, and play jazz, or pop, or show tunes or something, it's very important to be versatile, to be able to play in all of the keys, and at the drop of a hat, too. But Lightnin' is just sitting there by his lonesome, playing and singing the hell out of it. So let's just let the man be. How's that?
Will there be a Blue Wave? There was a lot of loose talk not too long ago that there would somehow be an overwhelming Democrat vote in the imminent mid-term elections. Will there be a Red Wave? All of that Democratic/liberal prognostication led the Republicans to claim, in their typical gainsaying style, that no, there would be no Blue Wave, there would instead be a Red Wave. When the Republicans make predictions about elections, you have to wonder if maybe they know something. They do seem to have good connections.
I’m not expecting any wave myself. No, I’m afraid that I’m expecting more of the same thing that has ruined us so far. I’m expecting people to stay home like they usually do. I’m expecting the voters to be the same people that most often come out and vote, which unfortunately is the Republicans and their white evangelical allies. If more Democrats than usual do vote, and more Millennials do vote, there will probably be a sufficient number of more Republicans to offset them. We’ll be right back where we started from, but with a lot more gloating.
Was it old Abe Lincoln who said that “you can’t fool (somebody) all of the time?” We’ve learned by now that evidently the Republicans have discovered how to fool all of the Republicans and lots of the Rubes all of the time. We were hoping there for a while that Republican voters were all getting too old and would presently begin to die at a rate that would change the demographics, but this whole “bully” thing, with a side of “hatred,” is bringing a lot of younger people into the Republican party. Mostly younger white people who are thrilled to see somebody other than them being hated and bullied.
There’s going to be a wave alright. A wave of chest-thumping and gloating on Facebook after another weak showing by the Democrats. Suck it, Democ-RATS! I can hardly wait.
All of this Kavanaugh business (Brett “Bart the Boof” Kavanaugh), all of this making fun of women, the handicapped, separated immigrant families, dead victims of police violence, and sexual assault victims, all of these Federal Agencies being ruined by neglect and mismanagement at the hands of unqualified and/or malicious Trump appointees, all of these multi-millionaire Republican congressmen running the affairs of government like they were all the Duke of Earl or something, all of the phony trade wars and tragic real wars, all of the tax cuts only for people with way more than they can spend already, none of this seems to bother the already converted Trump fans.
Republicans in general are only too happy to use Trump as cover for their naked power grab while they laugh behind his back. They remind me of the between-the-wars German industrialists who believed that they could profit from Hitler’s policies while they laughed at him behind his back. It’s easy to underestimate guys who act as wacky as Trump and Hitler. Maybe it'll work out better this time. Trump is no Hitler.
Most Republican voters are not invited to the party, of course. They’ll be hurt as badly as anybody by these ridiculous policies. (i.e., stupid tax cuts and exploding deficits, inter alia.) Their lives and futures are threatened along with everybody else’s. Their children’s lives, health, and happiness are also being placed in doubt. The Trump-Cheerleaders do not seem to know or care that they are holding one of their hands in a raging fire while they use the other hand to throw more plywood chips on the blaze. They’re too busy having fun on Facebook, mocking opponents of Trump, fans of Obama, Democrats in general, “Libtards,” and anyone who voted for Hillary. Still repeating the old chants of “lock her up,” and blaming everything on Obama, shouting, “Bengazi!” and claiming that every economic indicator proves that Trump has saved the entire nation from Obama’s terrible mistakes. Still repeating word for word what they have been told to say, glassy eyed and ecstatic. Best economy in hundreds of years! Lowest black unemployment since the abolition of slavery! A real bunch of crap if ever there was one. What a sad bunch of Rubes. If they ever discover the truth, it’ll be too late. They’ll never admit it, anyway.
The Trump fans at these rallies remind me of the crowds of fans at a professional wrestling show, or, even worse, a roller derby show. While the shows are in progress, anyway. Those crowds are fascinating. Many of them know each other; there are a lot of regulars. While people are being seated, and the house lights are up, they have normal conversations and look, for all the world, like regular people. Then the lights go down, and the announcer starts to speak, and, as though by the flick of a switch, the fans become wild eyed and begin screaming. The show begins and mass hysteria seizes them. They surrender to it, and maybe it is cathartic. I’m sure that this is a subject worthy of study. The fans of wrestling and roller derby turn back into normal people as soon as the lights go up. They file out engaged in the same civil conversation that they engaged in before the show. Do the Trump fans behave the same way? Or do they continue to live in a white-power dream world where they can lord it over minorities and abuse immigrants at will. The number of videos on YouTube in which otherwise typical Americans scream abuse at other American citizens in public for transgressions like speaking a foreign language or insufficiently respecting the white lady may indicate that the Trump fans carry their mania around with them 24/7. That’s an unpleasant thought.
If anyone is listening who needs the hear the message, please do go out and vote in the mid-terms next month. Most Americans by far hold values and political ideas that are quite antithetical to these Republican Fascist Bandits. If most Americans actually voted, the Republicans would not stand a chance, even with the Gerrymandering and the voter suppression and the rest of the shenanigans. I wish that Americans would vote, but we got into all this trouble in the first place because they don’t, and I’m afraid that we’ll see another low turnout this time as well.
I know what it would take for the Democrats to turn this around, and if I do, so do a lot of people. That’s my operating principle in life: if I can figure it out, lots of people have figured it out already. If I know what it would take, so do all of the Democratic Party leaders. But I don’t see the massive programs devoted to getting people registered, getting people whatever kind of picture ID is required by the voter suppression laws in their states. I don’t see the thousands of buses being readied to drive people the long distance to a polling place in the many states where most of the polling places in majority black areas, or other minority areas, or just Democratic areas have been closed. I haven’t seen any Democrat leaders making frequent, persuasive speeches in which they offer attractive, achievable alternatives to the neo-Nazism that the Republicans are selling so easily. I hear only feint calls to get out the vote, with no specifics, and I see only quiet mention of policies that might gently move the political football in the other direction, usually contained in new slogans that are too silly to remember or care about.
So no, I’m not expecting any Blue Wave this November. The best that we to the left of center can hope for is a slight change in the numbers massed against us. Just enough to turn the present near-gridlock into total gridlock. Above all of that will stand the Great and Powerful Trump, wielding executive powers that will soon be increasing thanks to the presence of The Boofster on the Supreme Court.
None of this should come as any surprise. We always hear about “the arc of human history.” Picture an arc, if you would. An arc starts out pretty low, right down there in the dirt. Our human arc reached up and achieved some impressive heights. No doubt, there was a lot to be proud of there for a while, even in the midst of all of the war, corruption, and general mayhem. All arcs, however, reach an apogee and turn back towards the mud. That’s where we are now in the arc of human history. The rockets are still firing, but we are aimed directly at the ground. It was a poor choice of metaphor from the get-go, don’t you agree?
There will be a wave, but it will be a wave of nausea. Between the Boofmeister, Trump, and the mid-terms, my advice is to go out and buy yourself a nice, new bottle of Pepto-Bismol.
But hey! Don’t let my pessimism harsh your mellow! There’s a new dawn just over the horizon! A new day is coming! Yeah! That’s the ticket! Be the dream, people! Go ahead and vote!
Friday, October 5, 2018
This is the big brother of the bike featured on this blog on August 22nd. That was an actual bike on display at my local mall, a 500 cc single; this version sports an 800 cc (actual displacement 773 cc), fuel injected twin with a bevel driven valve train, seen here in some kind of promotional video.
I love these bikes, both of them, and I could buy one if I wanted to, there would be nothing stopping me, but I think that I should stick with taxis from here on out. It's better for everybody.