Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Beatles Were A Very Good Band

Read along with the three song links immediately preceding this comment.

I get into arguments on a regular basis for making cracks like this, but it is my opinion, both firm and advised, that the Beatles were merely a very good band. Any attribution to them of God-like characteristics is completely uncalled for. Even calling them “great” is dubious, unless it's in the context of calling them one of the great bands of the English Invasion, along with the Kinks, the Hollies, the Rolling Stones, and quite a few others. The Beatles happened to be very good at many of the aspects of their craft. They were very successful. Isn't that praise enough? People get carried away.

The hyperbolic fans really go off the deep end when discussing the Beatles as songwriters. This is particularly true when the subject is Lennon-McCartney songs. Let's say, as songwriters and as innovators. I would always say, even on my crankiest day, that they were very talented in those areas, but there was nothing unique about their efforts. Most of the songs fall into a “moon, spoon, June” kind of Tin Pan Alley slash Brill Building pattern. As far as innovations go, they were fortunate to work with a truly innovative producer, George Martin, who generously allowed them to take most of the credit.

My point today, with the help of Chet Baker, Jimmy Scott, and Johnny Hartman, is to highlight the fact that the world was already full of great songs and great, innovative songwriters long before the Beatles put on leather jackets. I daresay that nothing that the Beatles contributed to the several minute long song end of the music pool could be said to out perform the work of the individuals who wrote the music and lyrics to these three songs, among many, many others.

Oh! Someone will doubtless say, but the Beatles were a rock band! The argument would be that since they were just an ungelernte 1960s rock band, how can you compare them to the great professionals of the jazz-beau past? That's an argument for another day, perhaps, but don't expect the Beatles to do much better when compared only to their contemporaries. Including, inter alia, Laura Nyro; Bob Dylan; Joni Mitchell; Burt Bacharach and Hal David; David Bowie; and numerous other fabulous talents.

The Beatles vs. Lush Life

Lush life, music and lyrics by Billy Strayhorn. Written "between 1933 and 1936," when Strayhorn was a teenager. 

If you are looking for innovation in the song form, look no further. This song is written in D-flat major, with, let's say, lots of chords and modulations. The melody is nuts; it appears to have been born out of the sea fully formed on a seashell like Venus in that Botticelli painting. There are other songs for which you could make a vague case of similarity, but not many. 

This version is favored by many fans of the jazz standards, but the song has been recorded by about fifty artists, from Nat King Cole to Lady GaGa (with Tony Bennett).  

The Beatles vs. I Didn't Know What Time It Was

Music by Richard Rodgers; lyrics by Lorenz Hart. 

This song first appeared in the 1939 musical, "Too Many Girls." (How could you go wrong with a show of that name!) 

If there is anything in the Beatles catalog that approaches the level of this song, I don't know about it. This version by Jimmy Scott must be considered one of the best. 

The Beatles vs. There Will Never Be Another You

Music by Harry Warren; lyrics by Mack Gordon. This song first appeared in the 20th Century Fox musical (movie) "Iceland," staring Sonja Henie, in 1942. 

The shining star here is the melody. Listen to it soar! This melody is an amazing, angelic thing. It creates not only musical magic, but also an interesting mood for the emotional content of the song. The melody is exuberant, it's wings are carried along by positive emotion. And yet, the singer is feigning sadness. It's so terrible! This is our last chance together! More like the aggressive last pass of a wolf than the true ennui of a soon to be lost love. "I'll be back, but you won't be here, oh well, let's go upstairs!"  It's a wonderful song in many ways. 

And if the Beatles ever packed one of their songs with a better melody, I must have missed it. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Good Times Bad Times - LED ZEPPELIN / Cover by Yoyoka , 8 year old

Ordinarily, I do not recommend buying drum sets for small children. Sometimes, however, it is the right thing to do. Check out Miss Yoyoka's enthusiasm!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Dangers Of "Nothing Really Matters"

The above allegation was made in that famous Queen song, and has been the stated position of one group or another probably since the invention of language. In practice, it turns out never to be literally true. Back in Vietnam during the unpleasantness of the late 1960s and early 1970s, GIs could be heard to comment, “don’t mean nothing,” when something terrible happened. Well actually, your friend is dead, and it does mean something. So maybe acting like something doesn’t really matter is often a protective mechanism. “If it doesn’t matter, it can’t hurt me.” Stranger things have happened.

Often people are just blowing smoke when they tell you that something doesn’t matter. Like the time I broke the news to my father that I was getting divorced from my wife of over forty years. I explained why it was necessary. The reasons were perfectly clear to me. The woman had kicked me out, instructed me multiple times for several years to stay out, and she expected me to take care of myself on my own resources for the rest of my life. Without, that is, messy details like a property settlement. No, she’d be keeping all of the property, she’d just be losing me. “So I guess we’re getting divorced,” I told my dad. He surprised me by taking a deep breathe and saying, “life is like that sometimes. You can’t sweat the small stuff. And then you realize that it’s all small stuff.”  I thanked him for his understanding. Prematurely, as it turned out.

In my case, my father changed his will within two weeks of hearing about the divorce being filed, leaving my share of the estate to my ex-wife. It had never been small stuff after all. It did matter to him.

Now we are treated to a daily blizzard of news items that beg to be described as, “amazing,” “unbelievable,” or “impossible.” People just let it all slide by. There is obviously some kind of cognitive fatigue in action, the mind just can’t hold all of these astonishing things, coming on each other’s heels so rapidly. The effect is to make it appear that nothing matters anymore.

Recall that it was only twenty years ago when it was a big deal that President Bill Clinton got a blow job or two from a consenting adult. From all indications, they were lousy blow jobs at that. The reaction? You’d think it was the end of the world or something. Now that it actually is the end of the world, every WTF moment seems to just glide by our collective heads without making any impression at all. Will we all wake up some day and realize that all of these things really had mattered? My hunch is “yes,” but only after the clampdown has completely taken control, like in some “Republic of Gilead” moment, a la the Handmaid’s Tale, the book I mean, I’ve never seen the video products. It will happen after the oceans have reclaimed the subways in lower Manhattan and the entire city of Miami, Florida.

Here’s a sample of today’s What the Fuck moments:

Mo Brooks: that would be Morris Jackson Brooks, Jr., a Republican member of the House of Representatives, for Alabama. He actually stood up in the Congress of the United States, in Washington D.C., on the Congressional Record, and quoted from the book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), by Adolf Hitler, yes, that Adolf Hitler, about how the Jews were the masters of the big lie, the greatest liars in history, until the Socialist Democrats came along, following in the footsteps of that Socialist Adolf Hitler, lying about poor innocent old baby President D.J.T. Mr. Brooks quoted at length from Mein Kampf, as though that were a totally normal thing to do. This was noted in at least one minor news site that I visited this morning, and does not seem to have made much of a splash. Should this matter? I believe so, but what do I know?

Michael Avenatti: Mr. Avenatti became part of the news landscape as the lawyer for some porn star that our afore mentioned president paid to keep her mouth shut about some pathetic sexual episode that they shared at some point. He was probably more concerned with concealing the pathos of it than the fact of its existence. He was running for president at the time, and he figured, in an uncharacteristic fit of common sense, that it would not reflect well on his judgment or his sexual habits. This thing happened soon after his then current wife gave birth to their son.

Mr. Avenatti was therefore involved with holding President what’s-his-name’s feet to the fire, therefore interfering with the workings of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Now, after a suitable cooling off period, the Executive Branch, in the persons of the United States Attorneys for Los Angeles and New York, are coming after Mr. Avenatti. The L.A. branch want to nail him for wire fraud and bank fraud, based on the testimony of a former client to the effect that Mr. Avenatti “diverted funds.”  They claim to have him dead-to-rights for charges that add up to fifty years, which these days isn’t really that much. By the time charges are actually filed, they’ll have him for a couple of hundred years, you watch.  

The New York branch alleges that he tried to extort money from the Nike Corporation, to the tune of $20 million. I don’t know the facts, but for all of you gentle readers who may not be well versed in the machinations of the law, let me gently tell you that part and parcel of the daily labor of a plaintiff’s attorney is threatening potential defendants with terrible things and then offering to spare them the financial devastation at considerable discounts. This all happens before any case is filed. I’m wondering if Mr. Avenatti just lined up a few plaintiffs and let Nike know that he was planning to file a case against them, based upon some vague information in the letter, but that he would be willing to recommend that his clients forget the entire thing for a certain amount of money. This is not extortion; it is business as usual in our legal system. We’ll see how this goes. For all I know, Avenatti is the greatest criminal master-mind since Willie Sutton. (“So Willie, why do you rob banks?” says the reporter. “Well,” says Willie, “that’s where the money is, ain’t it?”)  Does this matter? You’d better believe it. Consider an America where the entire weight of the federal bureaucracy is brought to bear on any American citizens who have offended some snowflake elected official. Let’s see how it plays out, but I smell fish.  

The Army funding the Wall: the news today included multiple stories about the Army diverting one billion dollars from its budget to wall building projects along our border with Mexico. So what, you say? Well they don’t have the power to do that. The Constitution gives the power to make such decisions to the Congress. This should have raised an immediate alarm in congress, and someone with standing should be petitioning the Supreme Court for an opinion. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m thinking that it’ll be another big, “meh.” 

Sandy Hook and Parkland: In the last week, two of the student survivors of the Parkland school mass shooting committed suicide. Today it was reported that the father of one of the children killed in the earlier Sandy Hook school mass shooting has committed suicide. It appears that this is being treated like any other three minute “thoughts and prayers” moment.  

I hate to break it to you, but this is another red-flag. The Parkland kids have been roughly handled on social media since the event for having the nerve to speak out about their situation and to demand that something, or some things, be done to avoid the constant parade of mass shootings that plague us. They were demanding that people take the problem seriously. They were pointing out that things like that matter.

That Sandy Hook dad had it even worse than the Parkland kids! Many of the geniuses on social media suffered from the mass-delusion that the Sandy Hook killings had never actually happened. They were seized with the burning desire to expose this terrible false-flag attack. This is the world that we live in now! You couldn’t make up shit like this. This rich vein of paranoid stupidity has given us a steady stream of such delusions, from Pizzagate to Q-anon. He had been bombarded for over a year by strangers calling him a liar and claiming, amidst peals of laughter, that his daughter was actually alive somewhere. Try to imagine that for a moment. Finally, the poor man just broke, unable to take one more day.

May the three of them rest in peace. And may the Twitter geniuses who attacked and tormented them from the anonymity of their on-line avatars rot in hell.

Oh, there’s so much more. Day after day, it all just piles up. Attorney General of the United States, Bill Barr, handpicked by the con-man president as a hack who can be trusted to protect any sitting president who is nice to him, receives a special prosecutor’s report and hides it, delivering to congress instead a summary of his own invention. Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, raves about the end times and how God or maybe Jesus sent the con-man president to save the Jews. The mid-west is under water and I haven’t seen any indications of federal assistance being provided. Where’s FEMA? The farmers, already reeling from the con-man president’s ill-advised trade war with China, are on their last legs. Russian bots are already crowding our Facebook feeds with horrible hit-memes about those socialists/terrorists Beto and Bernie, and Pocahontas, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, along with cartoonish propaganda praising the con-man president. A surprising number of people seem to think that all of these things are proof that everything is going perfectly well, and a really disturbing number of people are quietly going on with their lives as though nothing was wrong. As though none of this mattered.

Well it does matter. And it cannot be avoided or ignored.  

Now if you will excuse me, I must return to my bathroom mirror and continue practicing how to make a nice little smile, and say in a soft, pleasant voice, “I love Big Brother!” 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

cornelius - count five or six - live - 1998

Cornelius! The man is deep. Like Thomas Pynchon, he is kind enough to throw us a commercial bone from time to time. 

Cornelius! Like Hieronymus Bosch, Don Van Vliet, or even Beck, his glance encompasses a different world from the one that we see.  We are better people for their illuminations. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

Trans NON-Phobic, Definitely

Let's get that out of the way up front. I am not trans-phobic in any way that I can imagine defining the word. I've known trannies in both directions, and I'm fine with it. Also note that I am not now, nor have I ever been, anti-homosexual in any way. To the best of my recollection, and my recollection is more reliable than most people's, there has never been a time when I bore any ill will to any homosexuals, men or women, in general or in particular. Live and let live; let people be themselves. I think it goes without saying that the state trying to forbid married couples from performing certain acts in the privacy of their own homes is a complete non-starter. I think that's true for any two or more consenting adults who don't make a spectacle of themselves. Keep it quiet, and keep it to yourselves. It's none of my business. Do I hear a “but” coming?

But, I do not support rights for pedophiles, beyond the right to be imprisoned with the general population. Don't ask me to make any close calls in this area, like a seventeen year old high school boy with a fifteen year old girlfriend in a state where the age of consent is sixteen. But in general, pedophiles are outside of any reasonable society's norms of behavior. There are limits.

My feelings about barnyard sex are somewhat ambiguous. Aren't animals still considered property? Did that change while I wasn't paying attention? Have dogs been awarded privacy rights? Even so, there would still be the farm animals, they are certainly property. Sheep, horses. So I guess the farm animals are fair game, no? If they are property, well, I can't imaging a guy getting arrested for fucking his couch. And this is one area where almost all of the enthusiasts are men. Pitchers and catchers, too! That aspect of it gets pretty amazing. I remember reading a few years ago about a guy in the Pacific Northwest who “died after having sex with a horse.” I assumed that he was slipping it to a mare and she kicked him to death, or maybe he had a heart attack or something. But, no. The article was a bit vague, so you didn't really figure it out until you got to the part where it was explained that the guy bled to death from a perforated colon. I'm going to leave this whole line of inquiry to the legal experts.

Here is my guilty admission for today: I do think that American society has gotten completely carried away with categorizing people, mostly for the purpose of judging them. Harshly, in most cases.

Thinking about this the other day, I took pen in hand and set forth a list of the potential categories for non-standard sexual preferences. I was over twenty before I gave up. The variety is amazing, and everything that I was considering should be within a persons rights to define themselves.

Take gay men, for instance. Just your average man who seeks tenderness and affection (read: sex) from other men. There are at least a dozen categories right there.

There are gay men whose appearance and mannerisms are completely, perfectly male. It's not a disguise; that's just the way they are. No gaydar could make one certain about them, and they would casually be assumed to be straight. Then at the other end of that spectrum there are guys who display wild exaggerations of feminine mannerisms that are so obvious that you can spot them two blocks away. Then consider that there are guys at every click along this spectrum. Slightly Nelly; very Nancy; quietly swish; swish only when drinking; every possibility.

Then consider that gay men, like all humans, pick and choose from the available sexual behaviors that the human body makes possible. Many gay men only engage in oral activities. Among the inserts crowd, there are guys who are exclusively pitchers and others who only catch. A lot of guys are game for anything, and I worked with one guy who seemed to be actively hungry for everything, like he had a checklist and needed to fill in all of the boxes. Devices were involved. There is a tremendous diversity of behavior here, and this is only the gay men! And we haven't even begun to discuss cross-dressing!

As a concession to the brevity of life, I will refrain from duplicating the above analysis as it regards lesbians.

I think that it's important to admit that once we cross the border into trannie territory, all of the decisions become more critical, and perhaps even more private because doctors have become involved. Oh, but that's a two-edged sword, isn't it? The doctor-patient privilege protects private information, but the fact of the relationship itself is very visible! That must be disagreeable for shy participants.

This is the area where the rest of us, the “just folks,” can get a bit confused. Partly because here, too, there is a broad spectrum required to display people's desires and needs, psychological and physical, and that entire spectrum is more obscure to the rest of us. My own emotions regarding people who are simply gay are clear and straightforward: go for it! I enjoy your company, and I appreciate your grace and charm. Regarding the trans- crowd, I cannot help but experience a vague feeling of compassion that cannot exactly resolve itself into clarity. I wish them well, and I wish them success in their journey, but I cannot quite come to grips with my emotions, because I'm never quite sure what “success” they are shooting for, or what is the nature of the journey that they are on.

Doctors are necessary for all of it, though, and that is, I think, the important dividing line. Many people are not happy somehow with their gender identity, not happy in a way that is so deep that it cannot be satisfied just by modifying their behavior in some way. Some of them want hormone treatments, but no surgery. Some are satisfied with cross dressing and a bit of hormone therapy. Some men just want to smooth out their skin, raise their voices a little, and grow their hair. They may wish to look better in their dresses, but it's possible that they only want that body. Many women are content to dress in men's clothing that minimizes their female sexual characteristics, adding a men's haircut. Other men and women wish to go as far as medical science can take them into the realm of becoming the other sex, physical characteristics and all. What they may want in the way of tenderness and comfort is beyond my meager talents to discern. Unless it's obvious, of course, but often it is not.

My plea here is to be understood as a person whose heart is in the right place regarding our trans brothers and sisters, even if my head is a bit late sometimes in catching up. To anyone engaged in that struggle, I say be strong and the best of luck to you. Don't pay too much attention to the stupid shit that the rest of us say. What do we know anyway?

Lester Young - Stardust

I really love the way Pres plays. It's hard to get that mellow tone out of a sax. There's a load of variety in jazz, and I'm glad that I've lived long enough to start appreciating it. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Hell No, Joe

Joe Biden is running for president, again. Joe has been around almost forever by now, and he has run for president a couple of times already. Something always gets in the way, something about Joe's own mannerisms and style. Joe is uncritically liked by most people. They love that kind of handsome, kind of goofy, Corvette-polishing hipster grandpa thing. It's a double-edged sword, though. The same goofy, devil-may-care, hair-plugs and capped-teeth thing works for him and against him. He changes lanes without looking, going from chummy joking around to super-serious variations on “get off my lawn.” So just Joe being Joe has always been kind of problematic. As it turns out, that's only the beginning.

Joe's got a lot of legislative history, and it's impossible to keep those old passions and votes out of sight. Once word gets around, Joe should disappear once again from the scene. That is, unless, and this is completely possible, nothing at all really matters anymore except for that capped-tooth grin, and still attractive jaw line, and the hair plugs.

Here is some idea of the 'splaining that Joe needs to get started on:

Early attitudes

Joe opposed school busing for purposes of racial distribution. In 1975, he introduced legislation that would forbid the Department of Health and Human Services from using Federal funds to bus students to achieve race-balancing goals.

From the mid-1970s to the late 1980s, Joe was against abortion rights before he was for them.

Joe had watched carefully while Nixon profited politically from his “law and order” stance. Law and order was code for we'll put those uppity blacks who are burning our cities either in prison or back in their ghettos. (With a nod to those uppity hippie war protesters too.) Joe figured that tough-on-crime (i.e., blacks and hippies) was the way to go, and he never looked back.

The Reagan Years

Joe was very busy during the Reagan years, working his bi-partisan magic for evil purposes. His Republican partner was no less than Strom Thurmond, who is generally not remembered fondly.

In 1984, the two of them sponsored and helped to pass the Comprehensive Crime Control Act. This law could be described as the beginning of mass incarceration with super-long sentences for mostly black defendants. The law eliminated the entire concept of parole for all Federal convictions, and it severely cut back on the possibility of reducing sentences for good behavior.

In 1986, the same dynamic duo sponsored and passed the Anti Drug Abuse Act, which set extreme mandatory sentencing guidelines for drug offenses. This law was modeled on the ferocious "law and order" era drug laws that had impressed the voters back in the 1970s, such as the Rockefeller drug laws in New York. I remember that example very well. All of a sudden you didn't get 90 days at Riker's Island for getting caught with one joint, you got seven years in Attica. Joe's 1986 law introduced the two-track approach for offenses involving crack cocaine, chiefly associated with black defendants, and powder cocaine, chiefly associated with white defendants. The mandatory sentences started with five years for possession of any old tiny rock of crack. This obviously racist idea resulted in longer-then-life sentences for a lot of black folk, many of whom are still in prison. Many of whom, in fact, are carrying so many consecutive years that they won't get out until the 22nd Century. 

Also around this time Joe Biden helped to introduce the concept of civil forfeiture to American jurisprudence. The laws were written to appear only to seek to seize assets of drug dealers that had been purchased with the proceeds of drug sales. They were so generously written, however, that the forfeiture applied to almost any property of almost anybody whom law officers “suspected” of some kind of crime. In effect, if you had something that the local or federal police wanted, like cash or a nice car, they "suspected" you of being a drug dealer and seized the cash, or the car, or the boat, or whatever. Amazingly, these laws are still in effect today. No charges need to be filed; no convictions are required. The citizen from whom the property is stolen, I mean seized, is, of course, free to hire a lawyer and sue the government to get the property back. That one always gives me the chills. I remember going to Bankruptcy court and having my client's case called. "Good morning, your honor," I'd say, "Fred Ceely appearing for the debtor."  The other lawyer, in a suit that cost more than my car, would say, "good morning, your honor. Mason Dixon Troubridge the third appearing for the United States." Thanks, Joe! Good old Joe, friend of the little guy!

The George H.W. Bush Years

Joe Biden worked hard during the tenure of old George Herbert Walker Bush to expand the number of death-penalty eligible crimes to fifty-one. Joe has always been one to be tough on crime.

H.W. Bush appointed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, and good old Democrat Joe directed the hearings. He allowed sustained anti-Anita Hill questions, and he failed to call two witnesses who could corroborate Hill's testimony and expose Thomas' lies under oath. (Fifteen years later, Joe would perform a similar function in the confirmation of Sam Alito.)

The Bill Clinton Years

Bill Clinton was happy to play along with most of the conservative agenda, whether it was being tough on crime, putting a stop to all of that welfare cheating, or limiting the availability of bankruptcy protection.

In 1994, Joe Biden was instrumental in passing the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which added fuel to the fire of mass black incarceration.

In 1999, Joe helped to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act through the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which directly facilitated the catastrophic financial melt-down of 2008. It turns out that there was a reason for all of that federal regulation of banks. We still haven't learned that lesson. 

Throughout the presidency of Bill Clinton, Joe strongly supported the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe, raising unnecessary tensions in the area that continue to generate negative repercussions to this day.

The Obama Years

In 2008, President Obama put Joe in charge of Iraq policy, because of his supposedly extensive experience in foreign policy. Our guy on the scene was Ambassador Zalman Khalilzad, who hand picked Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, to be prime minister. Joe backed the play. This led to a total civil war between the majority Sunnis and the Shiite minority. Vast numbers of Iraqis were killed in the mess, and during Maliki's eight years in power something like $500 billion dollars in corruption money was skimmed by the Shiite government. Great job, Joe!

Obama also put Joe in charge of American policy in Central America. Guatemala, Honduras, you know, Central America. After consulting with the corrupt ruling families in the area, they and Joe agreed on something called, “The Alliance for Prosperity.” If you are already imagining an alliance for the enhanced prosperity of the corrupt ruling class, coupled with a tough-as-nails program to suppress societal pressure from the bereft poor, you're right on the money. Professor Dana Frank of the University of California at Santa Cruz said that the Alliance “supported the very economic sectors that are actively destroying . . . the economy and the environment.”

Joe and Bankruptcy

Joe has always been very pro-bank. He backed laws in 1978 and 1984 that restricted or eliminated debtors ability to discharge unsecured debts in bankruptcy. Student loans were a main target of these bills. He was instrumental in the passage in 2005 of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, which was, of course, designed specifically to deny Chapter 7 protection to citizen debtors, at the request of the banks, and to protect the rights of banks to collect anything that resembled a debt. Even Bill Clinton, himself quite the friend of banks at the expense of citizen debtors, had refused to sign a similar bill after Elizabeth Warren had explained it to him and Hillary.

Is Joe Biden Corrupt?

I'm not saying that he is, but I've heard talk.

Joe has a few charities, and some investigative reporters are very interested in the way that the funds collected are used. The charities seem mostly to pay salaries for their employees.

During the fiscal year, 2016-2017, The Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children applied 45% of funds collected to executive salaries.

Even more glaringly, during that same year, the Biden Cancer Initiative used a full 75% of its funds raised to pay salaries, including a whopping $500,000 to its president, Greg Simon. (Mr. Simon is a former executive director of Biden's Cancer Moonshot Task Force.)


I guess that it's a good bet that real journalists will be bringing up all of these things pretty soon, and then if there are some debates involved the other candidates might mention them too. Or not, because everybody loves Joe Biden. They might be afraid to bring up Joe's negatives, because you know that Joe will just make that serious face, put on his best serious voice, and give them a big “how dare you!” kind of a non-defense. Then he'll change his mask to that beaming, charismatic smile, and he'll make a joke to the crowd, who will love it, as usual, and forget whatever came before.

Joe has quite the knack for politics. He may still have a future in the politics business.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Ian Dury - Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3

1979. The late 1970s were really a time when anything could happen musically, and probably did. 

I'll let the real musicologists figure out who was influencing whom at this point. Musicians, let's face it, listen to everything and steal whatever is convenient and seems to work for them. There are times when music falls into certain patterns, and there are times where music is a crash of multiple hurricanes of sound where new patterns emerge. The late 1970s were of the crash variety, and the echoes of many experiments of the period are still with us today. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Hot Chocolate- You Sexy Thing (original)

Many of those fertile periods for music occurred in England. These could be due to the close relationship with America and the shared language, like the English Invasion, or it could be due to the increasing diversity in England itself, like this song and others like it. 

Then there was the case of Germany in the 1970s. I don't think that anyone has come up with an explanation for that yet. Cosmic rays or something. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Trio -- Da Da Da [[ Official Video ]]

Europe has a lot to recommend it. Dozens of fabulous museums, mostly. The people are very well dressed, and they sport very good haircuts. Several very good movie making nations. Very happening TV commercials. Music? Sorry, Charlie. Except for the occasional burst of positive energy, it's mostly dull, dull, dull. 

Soul Makossa - Manu Dibango (Original)

This was a hot song in 1972. We were just being introduced to the African music. Fela; Osibisa. Lots of great local color in this video. 

Alley Oop vs. Bo Diddley

Ladies and Gentlemen! Tonight’s entertainment is a no-holds-barred fight to the finish between Mr. Alley Oop, who is new to these parts, and everybody’s friend, the man himself, Mr. Bo Diddley!

(Huge cheers from the large crowd.)

We asked Alley Oop where he was from, but all he said was, “the jungle.” I asked him what part of the jungle, you know, what do they call it, place got to have a name. Dude just gave me a look and said, “okay, I’m from the jungle, up by the river.” I didn’t ask him no more, because I was a little afraid to rile him up.

Alley Oop is over in the blue corner, wearing what looks like a wildcat’s hide, and I’m pretty sure he tore it off of that cat himself.

(Laughter and many cheers.)

You ought to see the club we took off him before the show. We let him walk around carrying that thing the cops will raid this place for sure. We’ll show it to you later if there’s anything left of the building when these boys get done.

And in the red corner! The home-town-boy! The natural-born man! Wearing overalls and brogan shoes! Bo Diddley!

(Huge cheers.)

Bo Diddley tells everybody that he’s from Chicago, but I know his people! He’s from South America!

(Grumbling from the crowd. “He don’t look like no South American to me!”)

But he is! He’s from south Arkansas!

(Cheers and laughter.)

And then the bell rang, and I woke up.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

chariots of silk t.rex

I also love the later T-Rex stuff, and it's always nice to see the talented lads with long hair make some money. There's a lot of merit in this earlier Tyrannosaurus Rex material though. I loved this LP, even though it was far afield from my normal listening. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Larkin Poe Perform Black Betty

Is this cultural appropriation? I'm not trying to be a wise-ass, I'm just wondering. We sure hear a lot about cultural appropriation these days, and anyone who is pushing the broad definition should hurry up and realize that they are trying to eliminate about seventy-five percent of the musical expression in the world from legitimacy. Be careful what you wish for. 

I like this version a lot, and I'd argue that these girls have a license to play this song, based upon talent, enthusiasm, and sincerity. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Bantam Rooster - Run Rabbit Run

I still miss the OG Napster. If it weren't for Napster, and in particular (user name) Soulphisticate, I may never have heard of Bantam Rooster. 

Oh, you say, everything is up on YouTube now, and it's true. But I found Bantam Rooster by connecting to Soulphisticate's list. He always had very cool new shit on there, and it was the easiest thing to check in and look around. If you can do that on YouTube, I don't know about it. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Question From A Comment

Anonymous asks, on a recent post (The Actual Dying Part, January 10, 2019):

Yes, dying is easy; comedy is hard. What I’m getting hung up these days on this slide into oblivion is what should I do with my mortal remains: burn it or bury it? Would be interested in your thoughts on this post-dying last bit of personal hygiene...”

Thanks for your interest, Anonymous! Good question. I think it hangs on the issue of visitors to the grave. If there are people in your family who routinely visit the graves of the ancestors and are moved by emotion about it, people who would visit your grave as well, well then go for it! All questions arising post-death should be directed towards the living. The dead don't care.

If I lived in America, I would go with the cremation, myself. No one would ever visit the grave anyway. If you are a veteran of military service, as I am, you could ask that the VA bury you in the free grave that you earned by your service. Those VA cemeteries are so far off the beaten path by now that it's just not worth the trouble. No one will drive to the Dark Side of the Moon to visit your grave. So why bother?

Then tell them to scatter your ashes “in the ocean” or something. No place in particular. “In the ocean” allows anyone to visit your remains at any site overlooking a beach. For God's sake, don't do the urn thing. That's just awful. It just makes work for people, having to care for the urn.

I'll be dying in Thailand myself, and here the situation is a bit different. There are Buddhist cemeteries, but they are few and far between. Everyone gets cremated, down at the temple. It's interesting. They take the top off of the coffin, and pack it with kindling wood. Then the mourners make a last pass, throwing in a flower or a bit of kindling (the cynics). Then they roll it into the furnace and crank it up while everyone stands around, or has snacks, or something.

For poor people, that's it. No one worries about remains. It's a little different for someone with a couple of bucks. It doesn't take much money, but the monks will happily collect bits of your bones from the ashes. These can then be placed in what my Thai wife calls, “a condo.” This is a small section of wall around the grounds of the temple. On the face-plate, a photo of you is displayed, along with your name and dates of life. This is not frightfully expensive. I will encourage my wife to do this, and she will be grateful for the opportunity to visit my remains on my birthday and the anniversary of my death, until she joins me. She will then direct that her bone chips be interred with mine, and her photo displayed next to mine. All of that does not take up one square inch of real estate, and it requires zero maintenance, which keeps the cost low. Having a lot of those things built into its structures enhances the sacred nature of the temple, so everyone is happy.

My advice is to do what will make your survivors the most happy. This usually consists of making things easy and cheap for them. No sense giving them reason to curse you after you're gone.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Flippy's Road Trip

The subject of Ray “Flippy” B. comes up from time to time. I've been a bit under the weather, and a few days of low-energy lying around gave me plenty of time to be ambushed by some unanswered questions from the land of long, long ago. The Flip File came around, and this old mystery presented itself. There is at least a seventy-percent chance that this event actually happened, but it's been a while, and all of it was second hand. I never had the opportunity to talk to Ray about it.

These are the facts. Over the course of a few years, Ray became unmanageable. Beginning in 1968 and really becoming troublesome in 1970, Ray got himself addicted to barbiturates. He was still doing band work in 1968, but he was drinking too much and it was all getting out of hand. He attended my wedding in 1969, but he was a shadow of his real self. He had always been so lively, vivacious even, but all of a sudden he was unconscious much of the time.

We were no angels, mind you. I'm not being critical. We all took the more socially responsible drugs, like weed, acid, a couple of beers, but mostly we kept the pills to a minimum. By 1970 Ray was on an all barbiturate diet. That's a terrible addiction. The tolerance builds up very quickly, and before you know it you're taking four or five upon waking, just to get straight. It's fifteen or twenty to get loaded, whereas the first one, just one, had knocked you on your ass. It put Ray into another world, another stream of commerce, another group of friends. We didn't see much of him for a couple of years.

Onto the mystery. I remember hearing this story about Ray taking a road trip down south. It was all very vague. The version of events that came back to us was that he took the bus, the Greyhound, alone, with the intention of soaking up some musical influences from southern music. I don't know what the plan was, but he didn't make it very far. Somewhere around Nashville he was in a bar, probably a music bar, that would be a country music bar, with his broad smile and his stringy long hair, and his heavy New York accent. Some locals treated him to some southern hospitality. They gave him a terrible beating. After a few days in the hospital, he made his way back north.

That's the way the story was told to us, second or third hand at first. Later on, one of us got confirmation of the broad outlines from Ray himself. He got straight about that time, or not too long after. It's all very hazy; there are a lot of questions but not many answers. Did he take the trip to force himself to get straight? Was the trip some kind of misguided drug run? (The industrial providers for barbiturates were in the south. All of the downs in New York came from the south, in sealed fifty-five gallon drums.) Did the beating knock some sense into him? Unknown.

He did get straight there for a while. He got a job that he seemed to like, working for, what? A set builder? A stage builder? Something at the intersection of entertainment and carpentry. He started playing again. He had a new girlfriend, a cheerful little thing from the next town. I saw him once or twice, a few of us did, and he spoke with former band-mates about getting a jam going. He was somewhat sheepish about that lost couple of years, but he did seem like his old self.

And then he died, burned to death in a fire. Those are shocking losses, twenty-two years old and suddenly gone.

Between the ages of twelve and twenty, Ray was a social genius, beloved by all. The entire town loved him. His entire high school loved him. All of his friends loved him. Then, somehow, the light went out. Could the year 1968 itself have had something to do with it? That was a terrible year, all around the world, and it affected many of us deeply. Speculation is probably a waste of time. We'll never know what happened.

RIP, Flip. We still miss you.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Can - I Want More (Official Audio)

Many of our finest musicians enjoy using some reverb in their recordings. Then there are those who get a bit carried away. 

Welcome to the Temple of Reverb! Cue the solar wind! 

ALVIN ROBINSON - DOWN HOME GIRL [Red Bird 10-010] 1964

True low-fi sound! Right from the 45, isn't it? Just lovely. 

And as far as I know, this is exactly the original speed for this record. This post is not slowed down. It's a remarkable record as far as the rhythm goes. It almost sounds like the musicians were having a contest to see who could come in furthest behind the beat. 

And the winner is . . . you and me! The listeners! 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

An Explanation For My Absence

. . . but not an excuse.” This is a distinction that I would sometimes draw for a judge, to see if my humility could buy me a minute or two for an explanation. It usually didn't work, whether I got a chance to explain or not.

I've been quiet, and there is really no excuse. I've been at home. I'm not that busy. It's just that I've been damned depressed.

That will come as a laughable anticlimax to anyone who knows me. “Alert the Media! Khun Fred is depressed!” My life has been an impressive catalog of all shades of depression, with mere extreme social anxiety providing the comic relief. Around the age of fifty, I decided to tackle the problem head on and I was lucky to obtain the help of a very talented cognitive therapist who would remind most people of the Natasha character in Rocky and Bullwinkle. She was of eastern European ancestry, and she dressed all in black with silver jewelry for highlights. Her skin was as white as a sheet of loose-leaf, with the same tiny blue lines visible underneath. She was not entirely humorless, but close. She was, let's say, serious about her work.

She had her work cut out for her with me. At our second or third meeting, she asked me, “how long have you felt like this?” I thought for a moment, and said, “since about 1952.” She laughed at that, but caught herself quickly as she realized that I was not kidding.

It didn't really get any better after a couple of years of sessions with “Natasha,” but I achieved a much better understanding of what was happening. I'd recommend cognitive therapy to any fellow sufferers out there. You learn to spot your triggers, and to avoid some annoying behaviors. That really does make things a bit easier. I supplemented this with a bit of reading, and the unfortunate truth of it is that you can't “get over it.” All of that deep physical and emotional scarring cannot be undone, only better understood. My ACE score is five out of six. Many of us are stuck in our holes.

Able to effortlessly spin silk purses out of any tiny shards of depression that may present themselves, I am naturally very hard pressed by the present daily cornucopia of horrible, depressing news that seems to have taken over the entire world, horizon to horizon. If there are any countries in the world that are trouble free at this point in time, that list is very, very small. Even the usual go-to examples of countries where they are getting it all correct are showing signs of strain. Small, idyllic European countries that in happier times, let's say the year 2000, we would all wish to emulate are becoming polluted by fascists, anti-immigrant hysteria, or one-party rule populism. Not to mention that huge swaths of the globe have gone dark and given up even pretending to be civilized. Many new surprises are being added to that list as we speak.

In 2015, no one could convince me that Donald Trump had a snowball's chance in hell of being elected to almost any office at all, much less the presidency of the United States. This is Donald Trump we're talking about, I would say to myself, everyone in America knows what an idiot he is. What a total con-man. After all, we have forty years of evidence! All of those business failures, the constant, childish sexual bravado, all of that self-aggrandizement, all of that “between you and I” bad grammar, the racist episodes, including the Central Park Five, all of this is public record. Why would anyone at all consider him for any public office?

Just as this impossibility was beginning to look abysmally possible, the cousins over in Merry Olde England were kicking up their Brexit campaign. “Great Britain,” a long in the tooth formulation already, seemed to have gone off a cliff. People were taking seriously a proposal that they sever themselves from the European Union and the European Economic Community. You really must hold onto your hat when you hear an idea so totally fucking stupid. Then they had their vote and that was that. The people had spoken! We've taken our country back! We're through carrying these wogs around! We'd do better to spend that money here at home! They did it, they voted for it, and now, less than three weeks before a “hard Brexit,” without even the feint hope of some trade or travel agreements in place, it appears that they are going to get it, too.

Watching that on a lesser news channel in a hotel somewhere, I raised my right hand to God, and my eyes to the ceiling, and said, out loud, how could they be so stupid? That is the moment when I became convinced that humanity had gone collectively insane. Much of the rest of the world was already there. Now “Great Britain” was joining them. Then I immediately realized that if that absurd result could obtain in Olde England, America could elect Donald Trump. World affairs had become untethered from reality.

And we did indeed follow Britain down that rabbit hole, and it has been a daily nightmare of the dismantling of the American way of life every day since the election. Why wait to get sworn in? Trump just started making presidential pronouncements immediately, and didn't even bother to send a transition team to the White House. Trump already knew more than anyone about running the country! And the White House! The worst of it all, by far, is that not a lot of Americans seem to know, much less care, what is happening.

They just don't believe you when you tell them that the State Department stands almost empty, with its usual duties simply not being performed. They see who is in charge of the few federal agencies that actually have heads at all, the lobbyists, and the former industry executives, and they do not see it as a problem.

See what happens? My fingers begin to tickle the keyboard and before long it's all exclamation points. I go off like Alexander Solzhenitsyn raving about Tsarist prison camps. “They had boots!” he screams from the page. “At least they had boots!” No one needs to hear too much of that.

I should try to be better about putting up some music. I enjoy that, and I know that there are a few of you out there who find my selections entertaining. Something will happen.

I apologize for any inconvenience caused by my negativity.

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Passage On Fox TV

I just watched the trailer for the Passage. Fox made a TV show out of the story. I love those books by Justin Cronin. Three long-ass novels, full of spectacular action and great characters. I was dreading the day when someone tried to squeeze it all into a video format. I was right to worry.

As I feared, it looks like an attempt to force a size 14 foot into a size 8 ½ shoe, where the effort has badly damaged both objects.

But it's early for a full critique. The show just started on the air in mid-January, 2019, and I won't lay eyes on it for a long while yet. Maybe Netflix will pick it up, who knows? For now I'm going to complain about casting. One specific bit of casting.

They took Amy, “the Girl from Nowhere, The One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years,” who “was just a little girl in Iowa,” and turned her from an obviously white girl into a black girl. Yes, I know that there are black girls in Iowa, but Amy's parents are described in considerable detail in the first book. (I'll bet that they changed the Iowa bit too. You know, something urban to go with the black character.)

How could they do that? We live in a world where you are severely criticized if you make a movie out of a book and change an Asian character in the book into a white character in the movie. Black to white, same deal, which is no deal. So, is it still okay to change white characters into anything that you think will help your product? Well, it looks like the answer is yes.

The books are full to the brim with good, solid black characters, and they get a lot of page-time. There was no need to look for a character to turn black to achieve some kind of balance. They went with the black Amy for commercial reasons, probably tinged with racism. The Amy character turns out to be tremendously powerful, and she does, indeed, live for 1,000 years. Maybe they thought a black girl would convey that power better. She's older, too. That really steps on the story line though, because the contrast between her looks and her abilities is part of the story. She's a poor, skinny little white girl from Nowheresville who saves the fucking world. What are people thinking? They probably tested it with audiences who cheered more for the black girl, or were confused about the innocent little white girl. I guess they paid for the rights fair and square, and I have no right to stop them from making whatever mess out of the story that they see fit.

The whole changing the race of characters kerfuffle breaks my heart. Shouldn't Asian actors think twice about opposing the very idea of a white girl playing an Asian girl in a movie or TV show? Certainly, there are more white or black or Hispanic characters than Asian characters in American video products. Shouldn't Asian actors be allowed to play any one of those characters? It seems unfair to play the race card only in one direction. In fact, it seems unconstitutional on Equal Protection grounds.

Let actors play characters, period. Many times the results are spectacular. Harry Belafonte, in the Bedford Incident, played a role that was written for a white character. He did a great job, and it made the movie a very important part of the incorporation of progressive racial ideas into naturalistic settings. It was remarkable in 1964 to see a strong black man being a hard-ass with the officers on a United States Navy destroyer, where the officers mess was still being served by Filipino stewards in starched livery. But no one knew that character before that movie. Same with Ripley in the Alien franchise. That part was written to be played by a man, and not a word of the script was changed. Sigorney Weaver hit it out of the park, but the character was hers to create, having never existed before. Amy exists. People know Amy, and they know the story.

Honestly, I don't think that it will make any difference, nor even rise to become part of the great debate about who can play whom. The Fox show looks awful, and from what I've seen in trailers they've thrown away the source material entirely, grafting some kind of vicious creatures onto a lame detective plot.

May I add that I am not demonstrating in favor of the rights of white actors to play Asians, or Othello, or any Goddamned thing. Let's just leave the small stuff alone, shall we? Can we let actors play characters without restriction while respecting that some characters are part of existing stories? Can you imagine Scout as a nice little black girl whose black father is a lawyer defending a black defendant? No, you cannot. It's all part of the story. That's exactly what is happening here with the Passage.

But like I say. It's probably crap anyway, so who cares?