Thursday, December 26, 2019
This trio of South Korean ladies has really managed quite a feat here. It is a gigantic challenge to take a song that was just about perfect in its original version and cover it in a way that has meaning. Why would anyone try? How can you bring additional value to a truly great record? What can you add? It takes real talent even to attempt it, and it also requires the gall of a burglar.
The original, of course, is the Ronettes version, produced by Phil Spector at the height of his powers. That was the "Wall of Sound," with as many instruments as could be jammed into the studio, directed to play simple parts with great urgency. With the great Hal Blane on drums, the only one in the room given the freedom to play it his way, as long as his way was long on energy. The Ronettes were not technically great singers, but they sang this song with an enthusiastic naivete that was very sweet. Against that massive musical accompaniment, their simple crush sounds like a matter of great importance. Just listening to the song can be exhausting if the listener is not careful. How can you top that?
The answer, of course, is that you cannot. And the Barberettes do not try. Nor do they bore us with just another simple-minded presentation of the basic musical ideas present in the original. They also spare us another loving homage to the original. They are themselves very talented, and they obviously love this material. They had every right to produce a serious revisiting of the song, full permission to do it their way. This is especially true in light of the wonderful result.
Top marks, ladies! You nailed it.
Tuesday, December 24, 2019
Here's another less-than-the-usual-sentimental-claptrap Christmas song. A lot like Christmas itself, in several ways. A poor, filthy thing that passes up a good opportunity to redeem itself.
Christmas, as it is practiced today, is such a bullshit story. The winter solstice has been the preeminent holiday for the entire world for at least 20,000 years. Those ancient ancestors of ours didn't know much, but they knew enough to pinpoint the four most important days of the year and mark them as they passed. The two solstices; the two equinoxes. Another year down the shit-hole, boys and girls! The winter solstice was the most important of the four. The days had been getting shorter for months, and those ignorant cave-men were such a superstitious lot that they were not yet certain, in any given year, that the sun wouldn't just keep on along it's merry way to elsewhere. Let's remind the sun of its duties! Let's make some noise, and a fire, and burn alive some miscreants and some captives, and let's coax the sun into not forgetting us. Please, great mystery of life, let the days start to get longer, as they always have, to give us at least a forlorn hope of surviving for another year.
By about 10,000 years ago there were holidays with religious overtones set on or about the winter solstice. Those were the ancient fertility cults that arose around the beginnings of agriculture and animal husbandry. Thereafter, it was common for any new religion to put their holiday around that date. A new God? Let's put his birthday here. The Christians, about a century since everyone had forgotten what month, or even what time of year, Joshua, if he ever really existed, was born, decided to put his birthday there as well. With his new name, Jesus, and his new title, Christ. So we're stuck with Christmas, whether we like it or not.
Ah, I'm just being cranky. I actually enjoy Christmas, although in a way that is entirely secular. I'll use the name, "Christmas," as a convenience, because that's what everyone recognizes. You can fill in the blanks however you wish, but for me it's about the tree that represents the "evergreen" friends, the one's who stick with you through thick and thin, and it's about expressing gratitude to that group of important family and friends who had your back last year, the team that helped you make it to another New Year.
Thanks team! You know who you are. (Although to my knowledge, no one on my team reads this blog.)
Monday, December 23, 2019
Saturday, December 21, 2019
Why I thought of this song today, I'll never know. Maybe because after the events of last week, well, dang me for a damn dimwit. Either way, it reminded me that this song has the weirdest hook of all time.
The hook is supposed to pull you into the song and keep the song in your head, and this hook certainly does both things. This is also one of the many songs that lead with the hook. This one leads with it, and then leans on it mercilessly for the duration. (Very much like "Let's Spend the Night Together" in both ways.)
Not a bad song, all in all. If you like it, don't hold it against yourself.
And you know what? The chic has a point! I should look up this poem. Sometimes I wonder if all of the answers didn't come into focus during and right after World War II, and maybe the rest of the world is taking its sweet time catching up.
Friday, December 20, 2019
Merry Christmas to all of you Santa fans out there, and Happy Holidays to anyone who celebrates any of the many festivals that coincide right about now. Enjoy yourselves, and may good fortune smile on you and your families.
I'm quite the little Humbug myself, but I have enjoyed many very nice Christmases in my life. There was a time when I could count on a good turnout of family and friends. Back when my children were small and the world was still looking forward to a bright future. I will have a small gathering again this year, and a tree, but for me and mine these are primarily times for nostalgia and the poignant exercise of duty.
Please accept my sincere wishes for a good time on Christmas and a healthy, happy 2020. Anyone who reads my offerings herein does me a great service, and I love you all.
Thursday, December 5, 2019
This is a poignant song about a break up in which both parties agree that some things aren't meant to be and good luck baby, thanks for everything. Even in 1971 that was an unusual choice of subject matter for a pop song.
We're all the way post-ironic these days, so it's likely that people today will listen to this song and wonder, "who has a hidden agenda?" or, "who's really driving this train?" Did we always see things so much in terms of winners and losers? Were we always so eager to examine every break up and assign fault? Things have changed, that's for sure. Last week a guy killed a girl he didn't even know because she didn't respond favorably to his cat calls.
In this song, a woman tells her boyfriend, look, you're a great guy, but I'm not feeling this, so I'm moving on. The man replies, it happens that way sometimes, thanks for everything, you take care of yourself.
Were people ever that mature?
Sunday, December 1, 2019
In another family, and anecdotal at that, but a conversation nonetheless. Maureen Dowd is a columnist for the fake news, failing New York Times. She published an interesting column on or about Thanksgiving day, in the voice of her brother Kevin, explaining his oft-repeated and firmly held reasons for loving Donald John Trump, Sr. I'm not 100% sure which one of them wrote it, but it was a wonderful illustration of the effect that constant exposure to Fox News during all of one's waking hours has on an impressionable mind.
We all have friends on social media who display the same delusional thinking. The identical agit-prop slogans are in twenty-four hour rotation all across the right-wing echo chamber, and people are listening. Obviously, it has a powerful effect on weak minds that are somewhat predisposed to be comforted by the certainty of the message.
Kevin loves Trump because:
- “Trump's” economy is the greatest in history;
- “Trump's” jobless rate is the lowest since, what, World War II or something;
- The stock market is at a record high due to Trump's extensive program of deregulation;
- Trump believes in unconditional support for our police;
- Trump is allowing us to sleep much more comfortably at night because of the great way that he is handling the situations in Iran and North Korea; and
- Most importantly of all, Kevin loves Trump because Trump saved the Supreme Court from Hillary Clinton.
No explanation was offered for that last one, so we are left to our imaginations. The others are self-explanatory, however untrue they may be.
Kevin also found space for throwing heavy shade at the mainstream media; all of the Democratic candidates; the D.N.C.; and “religiously unaffiliated Americans.”
The column included many Republican talking points that are quite familiar by now. Like, “Trump has done what he promised to do.” This, I suppose, is substantially true, and the result has been exactly what we expected: total chaos. He also promised to get rid of Isis and the deficit. Give him a chance; he's got a year left, if he's lucky.
“The impeachment inquiry is a farce.” This one doesn't really work anymore. There's been a lot of credible evidence for clearly impeachable offenses. And that's only within the narrow focus chosen by the House Democrats.
“The Ukraine didn't do the investigations, and the military aid was released.” We are not told what Kevin does for a living, but it's safe to say that he is not a lawyer. Any lawyer could tell you that this statement is in no way exculpatory.
“The witnesses (at the impeachment hearings) are all career bureaucrats who are disturbed and upset with Trump and brimming with second and third hand information.” No, there was a lot of first-hand testimony, and any facts regarding the attitudes of the witnesses were not in evidence. They had all served multiple presidents from both parties, and it is highly improbable that they loved all of them until Trump came along.
“Hillary was the worst candidate in history.” I also thought that Hillary was a terrible candidate, but this kind of hyperbole is uncalled for.
My personal dog in this race is that Kevin and me are about the same age. His kind of knee-jerk “sure, I'm on board with fascism as long as I'm making money on it” is what's turning a lot of younger folks against my entire age bracket. That's sad, and it's not exactly fair. It's true that many old-timers are Trump fans, even though they may be fully aware that he is an idiot, and that ninety percent of what he does is illegal, stupid, or immoral, or all three. There are many others in my demographic, such as me, who hate Trump and all his mess with a passion. The Trump lovers are in it up to their necks because of the racism, or the homophobia, or the xenophobia, or THE MONEY. Many, if not most, geezers don't buy into any of that. I'd be willing to bet that Kevin is making money on the tax cut, or at least that he's very comfortably prosperous in his old age, not like some of us.
Bottom line for you young people out there. When you think of us oldsters, please take a moment to find the love in your hearts. At least consider this: just like all of you Millenials are not identical clones, we geezers also come in more than one variety.
Friday, November 29, 2019
There are still about twenty people running for president as Democrats, and as of today there are no Republicans in either the House or the Senate who have come out as being willing to vote for the impeachment of Donald Trump. It's safe to say, therefore, that all of our politicians, in both parties, have suffered breaks with reality, choosing instead to live in Cloud-Coo-Coo-Land.
None of those twenty Democrats are even asking the right questions. They're spinning their wheels on off-screen issues, throwing shade at each other, and confusing Democratic voters. The already-elected Democrats are busy chasing impeachment rainbows. It appears that their plan is to win in the House, which they can do, and then defy the Republicans to vote against impeachment. That's a bad plan. Winning in the House of Representatives only gets you in the door, it only allows you to force the Senate to have a trial on the Articles of Impeachment as they are filed. Then there are rules that must be followed, and there will be prosecutors from the House Democrats, and the President will be represented by counsel, and Chief Justice Roberts, a reliable Republican, will preside as the judge of the matter. Then there will be a vote, and if all of the Republicans in the Senate vote against impeaching the President, that's it. It's over. It's like nothing ever happened. Trump remains the President, screaming about “total exoneration!” and no one's mind has been changed either way.
The Democrats seem to believe that putting us all through this horrible experience will expose all of the reasons why Donald Trump is unfit to be president. They seem to think that calling attention to his shortcomings might help them beat him in 2020. They might even believe that they can convince a few Republicans to vote with them, which would result in the President being impeached. For one thing, no one in either party is suffering any doubts at all about Trump's bad character, or his unsuitability for the presidency. Also, the question for Democrats is not, “can we convince a few Republicans to vote with us?” That's a non-starter. The question is, “can we convince the Republicans that they would be helping themselves by joining in a bipartisan impeachment of that creature in the White House?”
The Democrats should have sorted out that last question before they started this whole mess. Then they all could have proceeded with bipartisan support. That would have been smart. Not proceeding without bipartisan support would also have been pretty smart, but it's too late now.
The Republicans should be asking themselves, “would we be in a better position to win the White House in 2020 with a nominee who was NOT Donald Trump?” Think about it. They get rid of Trump, they can either ignore Pence, or send him away, or just put him in a primary with an attractive candidate who will beat him. That's assuming that they could find a candidate who would actually appeal to the voters of America, voters from both parties and independents too. If they could do that, they would have a great chance at beating anyone the Democrats are likely to nominate.
No one seems to be thinking things through. No one seems to be asking the right questions. For example, although days hardly go by without some speculation as to whether Donald Trump will ever leave the White House, I have not heard anyone ask, “if Trump just refuses to leave the White House and the presidency, what can we do to force him out?”
They'd better start thinking about it.
If Trump is impeached, he'll claim that the process was unconstitutional, and he'll file a case in a sympathetic Federal court to get the result thrown out. “Sympathetic” being one of the many Federal courts now manned by unqualified hacks appointed by Trump. That will get the impeachment overturned. Then comes the appeal to the Supreme Court. Count the Republican political hacks up there now and we see where this is going. It's too late to start the impeachment all over again, and here comes the 2020 election. Trump overturning the impeachment would be the greatest recruitment tool imaginable, driving even more lunatics to his side.
If a miracle happens, and the Democrats can even agree on a nominee, and the nominee happens to win the election, Trump just claims that it was all very irregular and refuses to recognize the results. Multiple law suits are filed in multiple sympathetic Federal courts. Trump wins there, and it goes to the Supreme Court. While all of that is happening, the entire executive branch, all of the agencies, the entire military, etc., is in turmoil. Everyone remains in place while the appeal is in progress. It's total chaos, with people in the streets on all sides of all of the issues. People will get hurt, and all of the idiots now talking about a new civil war will say, “I told you so!”
Even after eight years Trump will not want to leave. Why should he? He's the President! He has a mandate! He has the power to declare emergencies of all kinds! That's when the real fun would begin. More sympathetic judges, more hacks on the Supreme Court, more militarized Federal police wandering around, more lunatic Trump fans screaming about Demon-Rats and Libtards.
What could be done to get rid of him? This question will be answered more easily sooner rather than later.
America will be turning a corner in 2020. The real question is: “will we be turning onto the on-ramp to the highway to the future, or will we be running it into a ditch?”
Miss Dormeshia is starting to show up all over the place. The New York Times ran a big piece raving about her last week. I'm not up on my Broadway/ Dance World news, so it's all news to me. But I'll tell the world, this lady is great.
Tap dancing, at it's finest, is music. It's more than setting and staying in a time signature, the dancer must also improvise music in all of its manifestations. Not only rhythm, but also melody and harmony. Tap dancing with a band, the dancer is as much a musician as a kit-drummer or a conga player. Dormeshia can do all of this, and she makes it look easy.
If there is one thing that tap dancing at this level is not, that's easy. It's very, very difficult.
Sunday, November 24, 2019
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
I look around, you look around, we are all wondering the same thing. Is this the best that we can do? Ten or fifteen thousand years of observable history, with plenty of valuable clues that are even older than that, all providing insight into our natures, all readily discoverable. At least six thousand years of WRITTEN history, which should have allowed us to learn from our mistakes. After all of that doing, and recording, and learning, after all of that innovation and progress, this, our modern world, is the best that we can show for our Herculean efforts? Well, I guess it is. There are no other entries in this contest. Upon this hot mess we will be judged. And we will be judged harshly. We have failed miserably.
Human kind has made some small successes in the realms of art and literature, that is true. There are those among us who can take one of our clumsy languages and turn out something that is truly wonderful. A Bernini comes along once in a great while, a human being, just like the rest of us in most ways, who can take a piece of solid matter and extract from it a figure of miraculous beauty. We, humanity, have left in our wake some truly magnificent buildings. Impressive not only in size and scope, but in form, shape, and line. Beyond these limited successes, our legacy is a runny mess of corruption, filth, and blood. Our children are more likely fearful, crying wretches; far fewer are the happy, smiling faces. This last charge remains true as I type these despairing lines, much against our credit. It remains true in spite of the fact that there is now a sufficiency of knowledge, talent, and money to render the world a clean, safe place in which children would be allowed to thrive in peace. But, no. It's pathetic.
If all of miserable humanity were one miserable person in our midst, that person would be declared incompetent to manage their own affairs. A conservator of the person would be appointed by a court. The law would declare that allowing that person to control their own assets would result in waste, indeed, was resulting in waste. Waste benefits no one.
That, however, is exactly what we are doing. We are laying waste to every valuable thing that nature and history have handed to us. In the areas of management and administration, we are doing every single thing wrong.
Notice, if you will, that the stakes are much higher at this moment in history than they have ever been before. There are more of us; the rate at which our assets are being wasted is accelerating; our stupid management errors are destroying the very house in which we all live. My friends, we are shitting where we eat, and that is supposed to be the textbook definition of a bad idea.
As I write, yet another terrifying presidential election year is about to begin. Do any of you, dear readers, see anyone that is asking the right questions? Do you believe anyone is closing in on a workable plan for achieving a way out of our predicament? Or do you, like me, see mostly a minefield full of candidates, news-readers, pundits real and phony, oligarchs and wannabes, all stumbling around setting off bombs that injure us all. At the pinnacle of this pyramid of idiocy is a president whose sole job is to distract us while a fascist coup is taking place barely below the surface of American life.
And that's only our once great country! Looking around the world, you could count on your own fingers the number of countries that are not under immediate existential threat, or at least on the horns of some colossal dilemma or other. Me, I find it all very discouraging.
Which brings us to my point: I haven't been writing much on the blog lately. I don't need to add to the chorus of Debbie Downers that fill the media daily. I find that I am very busy just trying to quiet myself down, you know, try not to be driven over the edge by all of this amazing bullshit. So I read a novel, try to be a good partner, listen to some music, do my job, watch Netflix (in foreign languages! Those are double-distractions!). In the past, this blog has gone into high-gear for presidential election years. I don't think I'll have the energy to do that again. It's all too depressing this time.
Sunday, November 10, 2019
Saturday, November 9, 2019
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
One of my Facebook friends good-heartedly posted something about being more aware of, and more tolerant of, our depressed comrades in life. My Comment went like this:
“My advised opinion is that sufferers should grin and bear it. Getting an ounce of compassion out of anyone is almost impossible, and if you do manage to get one it will be withdrawn almost immediately and replaced with a grudge against you for requiring it in the first place. Never expect anyone who is not deeply depressed to even begin to imagine what you are going through. The psychiatric profession is useless, and their drugs are counterproductive. All you can do is hang on as long as you can, resting in the certain knowledge that death will come soon enough to relieve you of your burden. There's no need to rush it along. Good luck, sufferers! There are many people that you may not know who love you and understand your plight. We wish you the best. Self-medicate if you must, and don't pay any attention to those know-nothings who criticize you for it. It's your life, such as it is.”
I apologize if that sounds a bit rough, but it's not half as rough as being deeply depressed.
Sunday, November 3, 2019
I don't feel like doing any research right now, but I've got a powerful notion to go ahead and guess that this is the follow up to "Sick and Tired," which is my favorite song. (It's official. The YouTube algorithm has figured out that I like Chris Kenner.)
Help me out here. I'm serious. I look around, I'm on Facebook, I read the papers (well, one “paper,” the New York Times on the Internet) and the news aggregator sites. I visit Breitbart and the Daily Caller sometimes to step out of my echo chamber. I read the good magazines for more details. The reports from every continent are uniformly terrible. Most of the people in the overwhelming majority of countries around the world are behaving very, very badly, and the behavior of almost all of the people in authority is only encouraging them to greater heights of idiocy. My question, my puzzlement, my conundrum, is: what the fuck is going on?
I accept that the world has always been substantially fucked up, but I believe, and I think that most people will agree, that it has generally been different countries taking turns being really, really fucked up. What we are looking at now is a world gone mad. This is not a World War II situation, where a couple of countries, a handful, really, went terribly wrong and started some serious cross-border wrongdoing, which initiated a general melee involving the wrongdoers being put in their place by a coalition of unwilling but surprisingly competent murderers. Oh, excuse me, the wrongdoers were not murdered, they were “killed.” Murder is a crime. Killings accomplished in wars of self-defense are privileged, they are mere homicides. Whatever. The point is that WWII was initiated by a relatively small number of people in a relatively small number of countries. The rest of the world, almost all of it, was dragged in somehow. Today we see most of the world's nations simultaneously poking around seeking to make trouble in their own countries, and in neighboring countries, and in some cases all over the place. I believe that this is an aberration unique in human history.
I would suggest a reason for all of this, but your guess is as good as mine, and in fact, your guess is almost certainly the same as mine. So let's just cant our heads to one side, raise our eyebrows, and nod gently in agreement. The most terrible aspect of all of this is that we all know what the problems are, and we all know that the problems are irremediable. We all, like a bunch of Sarah Connors, clearly see the end in the not-so-distant future, but we, like poor Sarah, can only wait for it to happen. This acceptance of mortality is considered a normal part of a long and happy life, because we can all see where life will take us, and pretty quickly too. Seeing the mortality of our entire way of life is not normal. We may even be sensing the mortality of our very species, and that would not be normal at all. These are not normal times.
So what the fuck is going on? There is nothing unique about my quandary. I wouldn't bring it up if I thought that it was only me. We can all see it panning out before us in real-time. We now have access to numerous public opinion polls masquerading as social media on a daily basis. We have hundreds, in some cases thousands, of “friends” or “followers” on one or more of the many social media platforms. Our Facebook Friends probably include some mix of family members, real long-term friends, old or new acquaintances, and current or former work-mates. The list will be expanded along the way by friends-of-friends, and in my case by a few friends-of-friends-of-friends. These last are like people that we met at a party and got along with well enough to keep in touch. These individuals, through their comments and their shares, are our windows onto the pulse of American culture. (If you are lucky, you have friends from other countries where the people are not reticent to share their true feelings in the spotlight glare of Facebook. I myself am so blessed, but I also have many friends from countries where people are forbidden by tradition or current laws from sharing their true feelings about anything at all.) These digital contacts, along with what we get of the news itself, betray the nature and extent of the problems that face us. These problems are daunting.
There are, of course, many reasonable people on social media, and they say reasonable things daily. I would say that the reasonable people have been mostly polite about it, although by now many of the reasonable people have become strident due to the growing proportions of the emergencies that we face. Some have become shrill, even, as the terror grows.
On a strictly numerical basis, most of the posts on Facebook are unreasonable. These range from the simple “do-nothing Democrats” posts, to the “violent liberal anti-Christian, anti-democracy” posts, up through the “traitorous Demon-Rats” posts, and reaching hyperbolic pathology with expressions of the “Godly-Trump” mythology. All of these examples of unreasonable posts are based on lies. Damned lies, actually, many of which are potentially libelous. Personally, I'm getting sick and tired of being accused of “hating America” by friends that I have known since we were teenagers. Or accused of “hating” them, because they say “Merry Christmas!” These dream-world inventions now suggest that half of America, the “Demon-Rat” half, one would guess, now believe that it is wrong to call a Christmas tree a Christmas tree, mandating in their legislatures that it now be called, “a Holiday tree.” These things are foolish on their face, of course. No one has ever called a Christmas tree a Holiday tree.
It only gets worse if I try to point out that I don't hate them, I love them! And how could anyone come to the conclusion that I hate America? I also love America, which would be obvious to anyone who knew the first thing about me, or had spoken with me for seven minutes, or had spent an hour or two reading this blog's back-catalog of over three thousand posts. But no. I post one actual news article from an actual newspaper describing how Bill Barr is traveling the globe trying to coerce various governments from Italy to Australia to work with him and Trump to discredit America's own intelligence community in the service of Trump's anti-impeachment efforts and all of a sudden I hate America. If I try to defend myself, my erstwhile friends bring out their trump-card, my status as an ex-pat. “If you love America so much, why don't you live here?”
Where I live has nothing to do with my feelings for my country. It has nothing to do with politics. I don't live in America because I can't afford it. It's as simple as that.
More disturbing even than those unreasonable voices on social media are the reasonable people who remain silent on any issue that could be considered remotely controversial. I enjoy their company, and the photos of their new grandchildren, really I do, and I very much enjoy the occasional “like” for a reasonable political post of mine. I respect what they are doing by remaining quiet in the current political wars. It's fine with me. I even have some friends who are now almost invisible on Facebook. They are staying away entirely, or limiting their involvement to reading only. They couldn't take all of the drama, all of the hateful rhetoric. I'm saying that I love them and I understand their position, but I did use the word, “disturbing.” Their reticence is disturbing because it renders the discourse one-sided. Facebook is top-heavy with false warnings of the Democratic Party's intentions to arrest and imprison Christians or conservatives, or put Christians in insane asylums, or maybe concentration camps. FEMA camps! There are warnings of an impending civil war, started by liberals killing conservatives and assassinating Republican leaders. This stuff is largely unanswered, and the people who believe all of it are becoming dangerously agitated. I have begun to notice that comments on my gentle political Facebook shares and posts are becoming increasingly personal and angry. Those ridiculous posts about murderous liberal scum are pure agitprop. (Agitation propaganda: false and hyperbolic images and rhetoric that is meant to stir-up the mostly uneducated or under-educated of society against a particular person or group.) That kind of thing has historically been very effective, where it has been allowed, and it is having the desired effect now.
I say, “where it has been allowed,” advisedly. That is part of the key to our futures, dear reader. We don't have to allow it. Twitter has already banned the worst kinds of untrue, inflammatory political posts. Facebook has so far insisted that it allows such things on Constitutional grounds, calling it a Free Speech issue, which is more than a little bit stupid and deeply disingenuous. Facebook is paid to run a lot of those untrue, inflammatory posts, paid a fortune. If Facebook has a financial interest that is at odds with the good of the country, one which it refuses to give up voluntarily, wouldn't it make sense for our government to force them to give it up? I'd be on the “yes” side of that argument. Free Speech my ass.
Hey, teacher! Give us a hand here! What the fuck is going on?
“Well, Freddy, please try to control your language. This is not a baseball game at the park. What we are seeing now is very clearly the end of society as we have known it. Technological advances have altered the very fabric of society, even that of human life itself. Do not mourn what is past, for it is gone as completely as the dinosaurs. Do not struggle against the change, because the one thing in the world that is truly irresistible is modernity. If modernity wishes to destroy all life on earth for some reason, or for no reason at all, our role in that great drama will be small. The universe turns by the force of wheels much greater than we can begin to imagine, and for reasons that we are laughably ill equipped to appreciate. Leave the machinery of fate to its own devices, Freddy. To consider such things only brings unhappiness.”
Sunday, October 27, 2019
This is really special. (Could you even nickname a black man "Shine" these days?)
Alvin is so underrated. The pre-professional Rolling Stones were listening, they recorded his "Down Home Girl." Jimi Hendrix was listening, he covered "Let the Good Times Roll." We should all be listening.
How great is this production? First, tell the drummer to play the Death Beat (that's what Ray Charles' band called the beat so slow that half the guys got lost). Then tell the horn players to play about a quarter of a beat behind the Death Beat. Now sing the hell out of it. Great job all around! These New Orleans musicians really understand playing around with the rhythm.
It is apparent to even casual observers that many people are desirous of being happy. They make no secrets about it, and they offer no excuses for the longing. Either by implication, or in so many words, they are admitting that they are not happy. They feel the need for it so strongly that they are willing to make other people unhappy in their attempt to get happy. They buy books that claim to describe pathways to happiness; legions of other people write such books. The books, I'm afraid, rarely make their readers happy, although writing the books often makes the authors prosperous. Many people conflate prosperity with happiness, but it doesn't always work that way.
This obsession with happiness makes me wonder: do the seekers believe that the rest of us are happy? What do they believe? Do they think that human beings are entitled to happiness? That happiness is the natural condition of humans? Myself, I wonder if anybody is actually happy. I mean, any non-mentally-disturbed person, anyway.
Most of the people that I have ever observed have not seemed to be happy. This has always been true, and I have spent my entire life in several of the world's largest cities. My fellows, most of them, were just trying to get through the day. If wearing a mask of cheerfulness made getting through the day easier, well, they, we, wore one. We accepted life as an acting job; the role was to appear satisfied. To appear well adjusted to, and accepting of, the pile of offal that we all had to wade through every day. This was, and remains, true for groups that I know well, like family and friends. Under a thin veneer of good will, most of them are bundles of negative energy waiting to explode.
I wouldn't say that there are no happy people in the world, but my strong hunch is that their numbers are not great. I have seen, or casually known, a few people who might actually be happy, but they could just have been successful actors. Of the people that I have known very well, one or two may have been close, but there have been no clear winners. There must be happy people in the world. I realize that. I also realize that my inability to even imagine their happiness is part of my own unhappiness.
Another interesting category is worth mentioning. There are people who have achieved happiness through an almost miraculous act of determination. Through some kind of internal process they discover that they have the power to shape their own destinies. They do this in much the same way that a child that is subject to terrible nightmares learns to dream lucidly, thus ending the problem. They take control of their emotions and they decide, in some self-hypnotic Triumph-of-the-Will moment, to be happy. I had one such individual in my family. She was a wonderful woman, beautiful, smart, and funny. She was a great wife and a loving, nurturing mother. I have often said that having her in the family was like having a Hollywood star at all of our holiday parties. Her presentation was perfect. Her mask never cracked. You could see a feint vibration run through her if you looked carefully. You could notice the effort that was sometimes required. But mostly you could only see that she genuinely enjoyed her family life, and her children, every bite of food and every sip of a cocktail, every cigarette, and even every moment of her time spent with a melancholy nephew who appreciated the attention. I eventually understood the process that she employed, and I have tried my best to apply it to my own situation. Tried to manufacture my own happiness. My will, unfortunately, is not as strong as hers was. This in spite of, or because of, the fact that the circumstances of her childhood were even more horrific than mine. She survived a childhood that left one of her sisters a slightly crazy alcoholic bachelorette failed nun, and the other sister, my mother, a vicious alcoholic with a borderline-personality who devoted her life to making the people around her miserable. My sainted aunt survived their shared misery of a childhood and went on to be a blessing to her family and a beacon of hope to me, proving that early suffering can be overcome by tools that we all have at our disposal. Mostly, the power of our own wills.
There was a time when I wanted to be happy. For that matter, there was a time when I was, as we say in the law, “substantially” happy. That was when my boys were young, and my ex-wife and I more or less got along, and I was enjoying my role as husband, father, and friend to many. Between working and being a dad, I had little time left to worry. This relative happiness was a narrow window in time, and looking back I am glad that I enjoyed it as much as I did.
Happiness is overrated. That's my final judgment on the matter. Forget about it. Happy is for fairy tales. For human existence, try to maintain a state of calm alertness, a quiet awareness of your surroundings and what you are doing. Like a samurai, or a good dog. Keep your mind busy monitoring the mundane details of life. Just try to make yourself useful. Try to make other people's day a little easier for them to bear. If you have family close, try to make them happy. You'll be proud of that behavior, and that feeling of self-worth will calm you down. Try to comfort yourself, and definitely try to avoid making yourself miserable with negative ideation. Learn to spot your triggers and defuse them before they can do any damage. Try to focus on the task at hand, whether it is laundry or washing the dishes, or whatever. Enjoy your meals. Get enough sleep, and enjoy that as well. Read for pleasure or education, and I mean thousands of words at a time, not the short bursts that you get from social media or the Internet. Read something meaningful, whether it's about something important or just a good story. Watch a good movie. Take care of yourself.
Stop worrying about happiness. If you can do that, you might approach the condition that you were aspiring to in the first place.
Saturday, October 26, 2019
Thursday, October 24, 2019
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
This might be the perfect anthem for the revolution that I suggest in the second post below this one. "The Way Forward." When this song was new, I must admit that I was tired of hearing about "love," or "peace and love," all the time. It seemed to me that half of the proponents were talking about free sex, and the other half were looking for a way out of fighting in Vietnam. "Love," without context, loses its meaning.
We are all the way Post-Ironic at this point, so it's almost futile to even bring up loving one's fellow man. That is, however, what must happen. We all need to expand our circles of love to include everybody. Loving the planet also sounds pretty stupid, when you first hear it. But that's what we need to do, or else.
The only way that this revolution can succeed is by espousing universal themes that benefit every single person on the earth, in simple language that cannot be argued against. Opponents must be seen as arguing for misery and hunger. Arguing in favor of filth and disease. Arguing for early death. You can't win arguments like that.
Maybe love is our best shot.
Saturday, October 19, 2019
Thursday, October 17, 2019
Regular readers are accustomed to me identifying a problem, then wasting about a thousand words complaining about it, and then not offering any solutions, finishing up with a “good luck!” I had an epiphany this morning. For a change, I have a suggestion about how we can move forward. You're not going to like it.
We are now quite familiar with what does not work. We have watched the people in charge (hereinafter, “TPIC,” TM Frederick Ceely, 2019) rob us all blind and weaken or close-off our constitutional freedoms continuously for about fifty years now. I've been over all of that ground many times. During the 1970s, we were preoccupied with the crash of the dollar, “terrified by” might be a better phrase, which made it hard to see the brewing political storm that was mostly behind the scenes at that point. During the 1980s, Teflon Ron raised our taxes while dramatically lowering taxes for TPIC. He also put the country disastrously in debt. During the 1990s, many of us hoped that Bill Clinton would put us back on track as a leading western democracy that was fiscally responsible and responsive to people's needs. He turned out to be a mixed blessing; it was one step forward and two steps back. As productivity shot through the metaphoric roof, real wages were stagnant while jobs disappeared and prices rose dramatically. He did balance the budget, but he did it partly on the backs of working people. The year 2000 will go down in history as the beginning of the end of American democracy. Congress entered a period of gridlock from which it has never emerged; the Supreme Court proved that it had been thoroughly politicized; and W. Bush coasted to whatever hell his handlers had in store for us. The national debt returned to a zoom-climb while Bush returned to Reagan's pattern of cutting taxes for TPIC while raising them for the rest of us. By the time Barack Obama was elected, there was no longer a functioning government in the United States.
Then the real catastrophe struck. Demons flooded out of every crack in the earth and grabbed every lever of power in the country. We now have a shell of a government that has little interest in governing and no interest at all in the welfare of the people, except TPIC. We have no Constitution that we can turn to in this emergency. Most of the countries in the world, including America, have abandoned reason in favor of one mania or another, a catalog of doom that includes, but is not limited to, greed, religion, racial “purity,” historical grievances, pure hatred, judgmentalism (moral or otherwise), or self-interest. Or it may be some combination of these things. Or it may manifest itself as pure stupidity, not apparently moored to anything in particular. All over the world, huge swaths of the earth are now governed by political entities that never give two consecutive thoughts to the general welfare of the ordinary working families that make up the great majority of the people under their jurisdiction. No, they are consumed instead by other thoughts all together, generally thoughts of money, and how they can personally get their hands on it. All of this is transpiring against the horrific background of momentous climate changes that will soon, without doubt, ceremony, or recourse, end our so-called civilization as we have known it for the last twelve thousand years.
The way forward? Didn't someone say that there might be a way forward? Yes, that was me. I remember my promise. Today's epiphany was the realization that we no longer have recourse to any solutions that are based in traditional politics.
I, like many people, have spent much of the last fifty years longing for our government to change direction. We could see that it was all going to hell. Some of us remember the tail end of forty years of government favoring the interests, security, and well being of regular working Americans. That would be from about 1930 to about 1970. (Insert standard disclaimer about minorities and homosexuals not sharing in the benefits.) We hoped, as things began to go off the rails, that our democratic institutions, using our Constitution and our political parties, would begin again to put the interests of regular people first. I longed for it until the presidential election of 2000. I increasingly feared for it for more than a decade afterwards. Now I have despaired of ever seeing it arise from the ashes of our traditional politics. That ship has sailed.
What's left? Well, revolution, of course! The people whose interests I want to see being served must themselves do something. They must take action. They must use force. But Mr. Fred, what kind of force are you talking about?
Americans are terrified of revolution. This is, in a way, odd, because the country itself was founded by a revolutionary cabal and wrested by force from a colonial power. The United States was conceived and brought forth into the world in a bloody revolution. Please let the record show clearly that I am not suggesting that we try that again. The circumstances that allowed it to happen in the late 18th Century no longer exist. The colonial power had long been at war with another large European colonial power, and that made life difficult for them and provided an ally for us. There was also the fact that three thousand miles of ocean needed to be crossed in sailing ships before the colonial power could so much as punch us in the nose. No, we won't be shooting our way out of this one, boys and girls.
Revolutions come in many styles and varieties. Shooting up the place is out of the question, and asking TPIC nicely has yielded no results. We need to find an effective strategy somewhere in the middle.
The job before us is huge, and so must our effort be huge. I'm talking about large peaceful demonstrations. Better perhaps to call it a large but unpredictable pattern of repeating demonstrations. Something along the line of flash-mobs, let's say. Enough to keep the issues that are important to us in the news at all times. Oh, I recall that the news is a wholly owned subsidiary now of TPIC, so let's say “in people's eyes” at all times. This could be accomplished in the real world, in traffic centers everywhere on an almost constant basis, or in the digital world.
Super-demonstrations would be part of the strategy, but not all of it. Hundreds of thousands of people have been demonstrating for the last couple of years. The reporting of it all in the corporate media has been light and condescending. Something needs to change about that.
There needs to be a focused statement and purpose for it all. It must be ONE revolution. Not a march for women over here, and for trans-people over here, and for fast-food workers over there. ONE revolution, to restore our government to the service of the ordinary working people of the United States. ONE revolution with clearly stated goals that the vast majority of Americans can support. ONE revolution that can keep the pressure on indefinitely.
One serious problem that arises immediately will be how to keep TPIC from killing it in its cradle. I suggest keeping it all very simple and unfocused; keeping it “leaderless,” so there are no particularly important people to arrest or co-opt; keeping it so simple that anyone can be a leader, locally, where it should all be focused anyway; keeping it free of any hierarchy at all, so that when one person is arrested there are many other people in that locale who can take their place.
Make no mistake, this will get a lot of people arrested, and imprisoned. I suggest that individual families nominate someone in their family who can take the hit without being destroyed by it. That's for the more serious arrests, where prison time may be considerable. For simpler arrests, like illegal assembly, or failure to disperse, or interfering with police business, I would suggest that the more arrests are made, the better. The more people who are sentenced to ninety days, or community service, the better. Get millions of people arrested, tens of millions. Let them fill up football stadiums with people arrested for demanding their government back. Let them build concentration camps. If the message has been kept simple and appealing, if the demands are reasonable and obviously good for everyone, the arrests will only bring in more Americans sympathetic to the cause.
The revolution must not be AGAINST anyone, not against the government, not against the rich. The revolution must be FOR everyone. What is demanded must only be things that will benefit everyone. They should even benefit the descendants of TPIC. Get money out of politics; restore some kind of one man one vote equality; institute a decent and fair tax system that allows the rich to profit from their ideas and hard work while providing the government with the money that it needs to maintain infrastructure and look after people who struggle to look after themselves; take profit out of the health care business. And doesn't it go without saying by now: begin an emergency program to mitigate the effects of climate change?
This post is just one man's idea of a way to begin. I start with the proposition that it is immoral to simply give up. I say this, even though giving up is obviously the only sensible thing to do. Just give up and hope for the best. So many people today are trying desperately to hold on to what they've got, waiting for their money to run out with no clear idea of what they'll do then. I'm one of them. If this is America that we're talking about, something like half of those people have guns. (I do not.) For the gun-crowd, when the money runs out, and they're still in their late sixties with no job prospects, that's a toss-up between them committing suicide and shooting up some library or something. People joke about it. “Yeah, I guess when the money runs out I'll go to Norway on a tourist visa and rob a bank. The prison cells up there are a lot nicer than my trailer.” There are alternatives! We must acknowledge that income security, health care security, education security, job security, and retirement security are important to everyone. Security for everyone enhances everyone's security. No one in our government now seems to care about those things. In fact, they are actively trying to make things more difficult for us. We have a right to those things. Don't listen when TPIC tell you that no one has a right to anything “for nothing,” that you worked hard for what you have and now people want to take it from you! TPIC want you to believe all of that so that they can continue to pick your pockets.
I'm saying that we can no longer expect any help from our democratic institutions. They have failed. There will be no help coming from the Democrats, or any upcoming elections, and certainly no help coming from the Republicans. I am also saying that we cannot just give up. We need to unite and fight this peaceful revolution together. I mean together, not as lefties or conservatives, not as workers, not as men, or women, or trannies, or Boomers, or Millennials. Together, united. We need to put our asses on the line and fight for what we all believe is right.(People who know me are laughing at that last bit. I live in Thailand, and believe me when I tell you that I will not be doing any demonstrating outside the American Embassy. So all of this is cheap-talk, I suppose.)
I was in high school when I watched Martin Luther King fight for equal rights for the former slaves. The Constitution, in its amendments, gave them all of the rights to freedom that are enjoyed by any American. As of one hundred years later, neither the Federal government nor any of the state governments had ever seen fit to allow the former slaves to enjoy those rights. They had to fight for them, and they did so peacefully, with great nobility, and with quite a bit of success. We are in an analogous situation. Greed and corruption have totally taken over our government, and our so-called representatives no longer sees fit to allow us to enjoy our rights as citizens. The Constitution has been torn up; our government officials worry only about feathering their own nests; and TPIC like everything just the way it is. All of this while our prosperity and the climate of the earth itself continue to degrade. What further sign from God are we waiting for?
That's your choice, really. Revolution, or despair. Accept the end, or fight for a new beginning. It's up to you.
I have grandchildren, and I will confess that considering their futures was my greatest motivation in writing this thing down.
DISCLAIMER: None of the above advises anyone to break any law at all, no Federal law and no law of any of the United States. None of the above is critical of any particular law, not directly and not by implication. None of the above advises or condones the use of violence, in any way, shape, or form, against any individual person, any business entity of an form, or any government building, office, or other manifestation of government, Federal or local, literal or figurative. The writer has not consulted with any individual or organization prior to the publication of this blog post.
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
This is superb. Nils, mea maxima culpa, babe. I never paid attention. I even thought that you were dead! It's been my loss over the years, obviously. This is wonderful.
Monday, October 14, 2019
This is a recent post, but the arrival of additional information has caused me to add a substantial amendment. There's much more fascination here than I realized.
Spin Easy Time!: Miharu Koshi and Haruomi Hosono - Swing Slow (1996...: This is a very Japanese record. I don't think that it could have arisen from any other musical culture. I have come to believe that th...
Spin Easy Time!: Miharu Koshi and Haruomi Hosono - Swing Slow (1996...: This is a very Japanese record. I don't think that it could have arisen from any other musical culture. I have come to believe that th...
Many English words do not mean what we think they mean. I am including myself in the “we.” Many of us suffer from misapprehensions. Strange shifts may appear upon closer examination, and the shifts may be moving through the language slowly by dint of daily usage, or misusage, as the case may be.
“Enervate.” To enervate means, “to cause to feel drained of energy.” From the Latin, enervare (to weaken, specifically to weaken by extraction of the sinews). I've been misusing this word forever, thinking that it meant the opposite of its true meaning. I thought that it meant to energize someone or something, to add energy. Note to English learners: we are all English learners. If we keep paying attention, we continue to learn until death overtakes us.
“Nonplussed.” This one I've always gotten right, but the word is now in a strange state of flux. It means, “surprised and confused.” For example, “Larry was nonplussed when the lights came on and everybody yelled Happy Birthday!” You may recall, as I do, that the word has frequently been used incorrectly over the years to mean the opposite. Nonplussed often appears when the intended meaning is that someone took a surprising event very casually, as though they expected it to happen, or were in on the joke. This opposite meaning is now simultaneously correct.
My Oxford Concise gives the original meaning to the word, so “surprised and confused” is still the preferred usage. There is now a note, however, to the effect that in “North American informal usage,” nonplussed means “unperturbed.” I do not possess the type of mind that can immediately call up a list of words that can simultaneously be taken to have opposite meanings. If you can think of some, I'd love to hear about it.
English must be watched like a naughty teenager hanging around the liquor cabinet. There is a generous layer of mischief close to the surface of English. This, I believe, is a good thing. If English were easy, it would not be so much fun.
Saturday, October 12, 2019
This is a very Japanese record. I don't think that it could have arisen from any other musical culture. I have come to believe that there is something in the way that the Japanese language orders the information to be conveyed that lends itself to the arrangement of sound into music. As the Japanese language is unique among languages, Japanese music has an unmistakable Japaneseness to it.
What does this sound like? Well, maybe it sounds like some kind of minimalist Shibuyakai music. There are aspects of it that reminded me of the great Cornelius. Or, it might be unique. You tell me!
I have reminded myself that in August I posted a stand-alone song by Haruomi, a surreal version of the Carpenters hit, "Close to You," rendered as "Close to Me." ("Just like me, they long to be, close to me . . .") I have also discovered that Haruomi has been turning out cutting edge material since 1970, was a founding member of Yellow Magic Orchestra, and remains alive and sufficiently healthy to be touring Europe as we speak.
Long ago I wondered about old age and whether it would become necessary at some point to look further afield to find new things to be fascinated by. I was thinking of extreme measures, like taking on an intense interest in opera music. Luckily, such extreme steps are not required. The world is full of things that we already love, but have not yet discovered. They are related to things that we know and love, but only as aspects hitherto hidden from us. This is a lucky break, and I am very grateful.
Friday, October 11, 2019
This is a Goffin/ King number and I believe that Dusty's version, this version, was the first. The year was 1966. The only reason that I can think of for including old photos from "Blackburn Lancashire" (no punctuation) would be those four thousand holes mentioned by the Beatles in their particularly pretentious song, "A Day in the Life."
We all grew up in the United States of America. At least that's what we were told, and most of us believed it. I certainly believed it. There was a lot of evidence, after all. Maps, etc., history books. We were raised on the American myths, Thanksgiving; cowboys and Indians; westward expansion; building the railroads; Freedom (with a capital F); the Constitution; the “Melting Pot;” one man, one vote; fair-play; equality before the law. We bought it. In fact, most of us bought it hook, line, and sinker. Those were innocent times, and now it seems that it was just some kind of weird political Tilt-a-Whirl ride. It is becoming obvious that everything that we were taught was wrong. Reality is appearing out of the mist, and what we are seeing is disturbing.
I live in an advanced developing country where most of the streets bear all of the same defining characteristics of streets in any of the world's most developed countries. There are lines separating the lanes, lines of different colors, solid lines, broken lines. There are all of the usual signs, and stop signs are in the universal form of red hexagons bearing the word, “stop!,” or in this case, “yut!” There are traffic lights that change from green, to yellow, and to red, including many in the form of colored arrows. There are also the usual rules about who may drive, at what age, etc., and the process is regulated and licensed. Car insurance is mandatory, as in most advanced countries. The difference here is that all of these rules and regulations are mere suggestions, and drivers feel free to ignore them whenever it seems expedient to do so. It seems chaotic at first, but one gets used to it. All that is required is that a driver must always assume that all of the other drivers are going to do anything that makes their driving experience easier, regardless of the traffic laws. This value-set seems to have infected American politics. Something has dramatically changed.
Here again I am not just talking about the fantastic and wonderful Donald Trump. As I have said before, he's just the canary in the coal mine. The more important bit, the deadly poisonous gas in this analogy, is our current crop of venal, hypocritical elected officials. The Republicans are more directly the cause of the shift that we are seeing, but they are joined in their guilt by most of the Democrats. The real brains of the outfit may be easily identified. Just follow the money! Who has almost all of it by now? Yes, the investment class. To refer to them so may be sarcasm or it may be an attempt to be polite. Perhaps their most apt description is, “the oligarchs.” “Galtian Overlords” also works. I usually just call them the “super-rich,” whom I consider to be anyone having so much money that they could never possibly spend it all. They, whatever you call them, are the new masters of the political entity formerly known as the United States of America.
The United States was a house of cards held up by gravity and supported by a critical mass of participants who were in tacit agreement over the norms and traditions that were to be followed at the risk of losing everything. Our problem today is that not enough of the participants believe any longer in those norms and traditions. We've had politics as total war since the Reagan days. Do whatever you want if you can get away with it, and keep pushing to make sure that you exploit every advantage. It's been pretty bloody. Now that the Supreme Court has a safe majority on the winning side, the battle is over. The war is won.
Reports of the demise of the Republican Party are premature.
Like the traffic in my adopted country, it has now become obvious that all of the rules, regulations, laws, conventions, and traditions of the United States have been mere suggestions all along. All it has taken was for a well-knit group of ruthless, heartless, selfish bastards to ignore the entire legal framework of the United States and simply do whatever suits their best interests.
No, of course congress is not required to hold hearings just because the president has nominated someone to a vacant seat on the Supreme Court! No, of course the Senate will not be required to hold a trial on the matter if the House, in due course, sends them articles of impeachment! No, of course the Executive Branch is under no obligation to cooperate with a lawful impeachment process!
We, all of us, have allowed this to happen over the last fifty years. Think tanks, big-money, and the Republican Party have brought us to this point, slowly but surely, and most Americans, including most of the Democrats, have just gone along for the ride. Now, after almost three years of Trump, the Republicans have succeeded in dismantling the Federal regulatory agencies; incarcerating vast numbers of suspected Democratic voters (i.e. Negroes); emptying out the State Department; impoverishing the country with a vast tax cut that made the rich much richer and Federal and local state governments much poorer; throwing out pesky regulations of industry and the environment; filling ambassadorships with the most crass, unsuitable cronies, if at all; militarizing our regular local police forces and filling the country with truly frightening Federal police in large numbers; criminalizing everything; Gerrymandering most of the safe Republican districts in the whole country; stacking the Supreme Court; stripping us of one Constitutional right after another; and hypnotizing a substantial portion of the population into liking it.
The Supreme Court! The real laughs will begin when cases revolving around either Trump's impeachment or election shenanigans start arriving at the Supreme Court. I've been warning people about the Supreme Court for about thirty years now, twelve of those years right here on this blog. The Constitution is whatever they say it is. Buckle up, Buttercup. This is going to be a bumpy ride.
So, what do you think? Is it time to come up with a new name for our completely reformed country? Should we stick with a “reinterpreted” Constitution, institute a vast amendment process, or just shit-can the whole thing and start over? So many new, exciting questions. Even if it may turn out to be just so much rearranging of the deck-chairs on the Titanic. One of the more dubious features of our new power-elite is their rejection of advice from the scientific community. Oh, they believe the advice, make no mistake about that. Many of them have good educations, and they know facts when they see them. They agree, secretly, with climate change, for instance, but they reject it publicly, because to do otherwise would cost them money. They know that they will need that extra money some day to protect their own families from the effects of climate change. There's a circular-logic going on there, but I think that the real dynamic is the race for the money itself. Those super-big-shots are in a competition with each other. Whoever has the most billions wins! (Extra credit if your company owns a colony on Mars.)
I'd suggest keeping our Constitution, because they're all ignoring it now anyway and keeping it offers good optics. It allows the illusion that we're still the good old U S of A. For a name I like the Republic of Freedomland. Then we could all call ourselves “Republicans” with a straight face. We should keep the two political party thing, but new names are in order. How about “Lincoln Republicans” and “Liberal Republicans?” Everyone could hate the Liberal Republicans, who would be allowed to pretend to fight to restore some of the social freedoms that we now take for granted, even as we are losing them. This is a work in progress, so I'm not sure where the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis fit in.
I miss the old America, even with its many imperfections. It was a pretty good place, all in all. This new thing, whatever we call it, is a poor substitute. It'll be a dirtier and poorer police-state, and everything will be more expensive. All of that is true already, so you can't disagree.
Thursday, October 10, 2019
So, the 1980s were good for something. Make a note. The Cramps were never the "greatest" anything, or close to the "best" at anything, but they always made sure to put the "fun" in "funtastic." And they always sounded good doing it.
Friday, October 4, 2019
There is a world close by, where neither Trump, nor Hannity, nor Moscow Mitch, not Tomi Lahren, nor Takeshi 69, nor Justin Beiber, nor Mark Zuckerberg, nor even Freud or Jesus, can bother you. A safe space. It's an easy trip. Go there now!
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
All age groups are present on my Facebook friends list, although I will admit that the geezer end of the spectrum is better represented. The anecdotal evidence of my own FB feed is full of memes shouting, “I worked hard!” Or, “We worked hard for everything that we have! Nothing was given to us!” It is most often my fellow Baby Boomers that are passing these things around. I see a distinctly selective memory pattern at work here.
The subject of Baby Boomers most often comes up on this blog when I feel like objecting to us being blamed for every damn thing that has gone wrong with America in the last fifty or sixty years. To read the click-bait about those greedy-ass Baby Boomers, you'd think that we have been totally in charge of the world since we were grammar school students. I hate that shit; it's totally unfair. Today, however, I'm turning the j'accuse lens back on us. It is simply wrong for us to forget or deny the many advantages that we have had over not only generations that came before, but also over generations that have come after us.
For people my age to say that, “we worked hard for everything!” is a truism. We did work hard. Everybody in America must work hard. It has always been thus, since those first ill-fated settlements in the early 17th Century. America is a tough town. If you don't work hard, you are left to die by the roadside. But for Baby Boomers to suggest that we did not enjoy huge benefits from having been born in our narrow range of birth-years would be disingenuous.
For some Baby Boomers to suggest, as some do, that, “nobody ever gave me anything,” would be a colossal self-delusion. The government, and historical circumstances, gave us tons of stuff. We entered the work force with close to a living wage. Everything from cars and houses to a day at Disneyland was very affordable. We were all given free Blue-Cross/ Blue-Shield medical insurance policies with almost any job, easily transferable to the next job because it was the same insurance company. We were given free university educations. We were given meaningful interest on savings at the bank. Those of us who were seriously injured in our generation's stupid, meaningless war were pretty well taken care of, with high-quality health care and meaningful financial compensation that enabled the sufferers to live well on the benefits. No, my fellow Baby Boomers. We did very well when it came to free stuff.
It's harder to pin-down the financial demographic for the “I worked hard!” group. Most seem to be retired Baby Boomers whose apparent prosperity may be fraying a bit around the edges.
And who are these people getting “free stuff?” The chorus repeating this refrain seems to take its cue from certain so-called “conservative” political interests. The beneficiaries of the mysterious “free stuff” turn out to be identifiable groups of low-income Democratic voters. Minorities, immigrants, the usual suspects. Double-dippers get special attention. Groups like “Somali (black; Muslim) immigrants” will receive special mention, especially if they vote one of their own into the House of Representatives. Remember “Obama phones?” That was a good one. I'm sure that every reader has seen all of the memes on Facebook about how, “illegal immigrants get free medical care and $4,000 per month while our veterans are homeless!” It is very sad that many of my age-mates seem to believe every word of this complete bullshit. In truth, illegal immigrants just keep their heads down and work hard! Duh!!! If they ask for “free stuff,” all they'll get is a free trip over the southern border, minus their possessions. Here's a news flash: illegal immigrants pay taxes, including Social Security, but they get zero benefits. All of that money subsidizes Social Security payments to Baby Boomers! Y'all should really be more appreciative.
Many older Americans, including many Baby Boomers, are also fond of complaining about Millennials. Are Millennials also in the “free stuff” club? That would not jive with my observations. Don't let those fashionable young people drinking Starbuck's coffee fool you. Those people work for tech companies and their high salaries are driving up your rent if you live anywhere near them. Most Millennials can barely make ends meet. They double and triple up in over-priced apartments and work two or three jobs in the gig economy. They live without health insurance, hoping against hope that they don't come down with something expensive. I'll bet that they are, as a group, very careful crossing the street. They are one broken arm away from living under a bridge.
The patience of these long-suffering young people reminds me of the centuries of brotherly tolerance exhibited by American blacks. Both groups have suffered, and continue to suffer, the insufferable with quiet dignity. I am humbly grateful for their forbearance.
And speaking of grateful, wake up, Baby Boomers! We should all offer sincere thanks to God or to fate for hitting the chronological lottery! When we were starting out in life, we had the world served up to us on a half-shell. We had advantages that today's young people can only dream of. Now we have huge TVs and Netflix, and the time to enjoy them. And hey, here's a helpful tip: the Internet is good for many things other than joining in today's Two-Minute-Hate. Back away from the Hate Hillary memes. Go to the websites of famous museums and look at some famous paintings. Read poetry. Take a virtual tour of Kuala Lumpur and discover that much of this big, wide, wonderful planet has joined the First World since the last time you checked. Learn some history. Find some new music to love. What the hell, go nuts and study a foreign language! Learn a few hundred Chinese characters and impress your friends by reading a Chinese language Menu! The Internet is like having a good library on your desk, and we all have monitors as big as Dallas these days so it all looks great.
And leave those poor immigrants alone. If you read a bit about why they take those extreme risks that they do to get to America, first you'd hang your head in shame, because America is responsible for a lot of their misery, and then you'd take it easier on them, and maybe even do something to help them. They're not getting any free stuff, and they're not riding on your coattails. All they want is a chance to bus your table and pick your damn strawberries, for crying out loud.
I for one am very happy to have been born in the post-war Baby Boom. I am grateful for all of the advantages that I benefited from. For a while there I was fully occupied with raising my boys and trying to make a living, but for the last thirty years I've been trying to make repayments on my good fortune in life. I've been working on my compassion skills. I can't tell anybody what to do, but it's worth thinking about.