Tuesday, April 30, 2019
It's great that some of these fellows who were great players, and who made hits for other artists as studio help, managed to put out enough records under their own names to survive the test of time.
Chris Spedding played simple parts perfectly and with fabulous attention to tone. It's one thing to be a Danny Gatton, filling the musical bars with dots. There's nothing wrong with that. Look at charts from Bird or 'Trane. Those guys were on another level as far as melodic invention was concerned. It's another thing to provide the notes that fit like perfect puzzle pieces, concentrate on the simple expression of the musical idea, and create tone that really touches people. Chris, Mick Ralphs, Mick Ronson, tone was their pallet.
Friday, April 26, 2019
Chuck Berry liked to give these young white guys shit about doing it wrong. Didn't he punch Keith Richards one time? I think that he'd have given Danny a pass for any digression from the original, for two reasons: 1) Danny's so great, you just stand back and let the man play; and 2) Danny was a very, very sturdy man.
Thursday, April 25, 2019
A friend, a real friend, coincidentally on Facebook in this case, posted this song today. That's what friends are for! It also reminded me that the Basketball Diaries is almost certainly worth a read. And here's to all of the predeceased. I still miss a lot of you. Those of you who are perfectly content never to see me again, I understand. Fair thee well, boys and girls. We'll all share your fate soon enough.
(There was a “surprise” announcement this morning. I'm saving that for latter in the post.)
It was all about the Republican Clown Car in 2016. Then the biggest clown came out on top and the fun went out of it very quickly. The big danger sign for me was Brexit. It was obvious to anyone with a globe that most of the world had already gone crazy. Then Britain joined the crazy list and I figured that if they could ignore their best interest and leap at a dangerous delusion, well, so could the United States. And we did.
This time around it's the Democrats who have the long laundry list of potential candidates. Eighteen or twenty as we speak, with more peeking out from behind the curtains. They seem to lack the comedic value of the 2016 Republicans, but maybe that's just because we don't know a single thing about nine or ten of them, and precious little more about most of the rest.
Two things jump right out when one considers the Democratic candidates: we've never heard of most of them, and almost all of them display some characteristic that American voters will probably find objectionable.
Let's get the unknowns out of the way. That would be Eric Swalwell, Tim Ryan, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Tulsi Gabbard, John Delaney, Wayne Messam, Marianne Williamson, and Andrew Yang. Nobody knows these people from a hole in the wall, and so far they have gotten close to zero traction. Not that a couple of them aren't very interesting. Tulsi Gabbard is House Rep from Hawaii. She is also a Samoan-American Hindu who is vocally pro-weed. She's young and pretty, too. That's almost as interesting as you can get. She says that she has “evolved” since making frequent anti-gay statements early in her career.
Andrew Yang is another interesting character. He is a former tech executive and New York entrepreneur. He is the son of immigrants from Taiwan, and he is as progressive as anybody. He's for the universal basic income and Medicare for all, and he believes that what we really need is a more humane capitalism. He's a smart guy, and he is a better extemporaneous speaker than most. I've seen him on TV, but I'm leaving him with the unknowns. He's very young, and he's never held public office, so I don't think we'll have to worry about him making it very far. I think that he just wants the platform to be heard.
I don't understand the Democrats at all. I've written about it here: I wonder if they have even tried to win since 1968 or 1972. They put forward candidates seemingly chosen on the basis of their failure to appeal to the voting public. Take Michael Dukakis, please. It's the same this year.
What have we learned through the last three election cycles? The clear lesson is that the presidency is still to be considered a white man's job. I do not approve of this situation, and I long for the day that candidates will be chosen strictly on the basis of the good that they can do for the country. We live, however, in early 21st Century America, not in some wonderful, future Shangri La. We have seen the vicious backlash against the presidency of Barack Obama, whom I have often flattered in these pages. We have seen the way poor Hillary's bones were picked over for any little thing to complain about. We have seen their presence in the political arena result in the election of the worst white man in the history of the breed. Do we really want to touch that stove again just to see if it's really hot? Haven't we been burned enough?
So what do we get so far from the Democrats?
Eight white men: five unknown, plain-vanilla white guys, and three problematic white guys whose names we know and who are at least good public speakers. Pete Buttegieg is very young, but he has packed that time with impressive educational and military accomplishments. His answers to policy questions have been a bit vague, but why not? That could be a strategy. He is unapologetically gay. That, of course, is the only practical way to approach being gay. You have nothing to apologize for. That's the way God made you, as Buttegieg has said, and with which I wholeheartedly agree. He's really sharp, and quick-witted when it counts. He could do very well in the Dem primaries, but nationwide when all of the chips are down? I don't make the rules. I'm afraid that those silent bigots might not go for it.
Robert “Beto” O'Rourke is also very young, and he is a fine spokesman for himself. He proved himself to be a great campaigner. He hasn't really done much, though. He tends to answer questions with smoke and mirrors. He served part of a term in the House. I don't see him carrying a nationwide election.
Bernie Sanders! Bernie, in a vacuum, is the total package. He's full of good ideas, he's a passionate speaker, he answers questions with bold self-assurance and fingertips full of facts. I love Bernie. I would cheerfully vote for Bernie. But what happens in a national presidential election? People walk into the booth and are suddenly confronted with the fact that Bernie is a seventy-seven year old Jewish socialist from Brooklyn who carved out a niche for himself in the politics of Vermont. None of that would bother me, but I'm not the average voter.
That's it so far for the white men. I don't see any comfortable winners.
Then there are the four white women: Three senators, one of whom is from Minnesota and therefore little known. Then there's Kirsten Gillibrand, from New York. Fifty-two years old, and very attractive, which still counts for something. Her husband is a venture capitalist, which is mentioned in passing (his money was not included in her net worth in the sources that I saw). And, (drum roll), Elizabeth Warren. I think that she's the cat's pajamas, and I would definitely take her class if I were back in law school and she were one of the profs. She has jumped right out front in staking out issues that people will like, like student loan forgiveness. She dresses well and she is a good, if not great, public speaker. She's got a lot going for her. I'm sorry to say, I don't see any comfortable winners here either.
Oh, and Marianne Williamson! An author of spiritual books! That's enough on that subject.
Two black men: Wayne Messam, the mayor of Miramar, Florida. Some kind of vanity project, I guess. Maybe he wants to move to an office in Washington, D.C.
The other black gentleman is Cory Booker, a senator from New Jersey with name recognition to spare. Cory is a “centrist,” whatever that means these days. He is a slippery one when question time comes. I know the trick for grabbing an eel in a bucket, but no one seems to know the secret of getting a straight answer out of Cory Booker on a policy question.
I'm sorry to be blunt, but I think we've had enough experimentation with a black president to hold us for a while. After Trump, people will be looking for comfort, not more excitement.
One black woman: Kamala Harris. Black didn't work out and woman was a non-starter, let's try a black woman! For all of the above reasons, let's not go there this time. Give it another minute or two.
Bear in mind, I love Kamala Harris (although the prosecutor thing is a negative for me). She's beautiful, brilliant, and accomplished. This election is just too important to take chances.
Hispanic men: Julian Castro has this field to himself. Nice man, smart guy, good speaker, a twin! He's been HUD Secretary under Obama and the mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Nice to see him here.
Asian-Pacific men and women: here we have non-politician and likely forum shopper Andrew Yang, a good-hearted man, to be sure. Smart enough; good enough; talented enough. Thanks, Andrew, for whatever it is that you're doing here. How about that Tulsi Gabbard? That list of firsts; that rare bird. First Hindu House Rep; first Samoan-American House Rep. She's only thirty-eight, maybe we'll see her “evolve” into a real presidential candidate.
The First Monkey Wrench Hits the Gears
Joe Biden! (See “Hell No, Joe,” March 19, 2019.) Here's Joe again, back to haunt us with his back catalog of hidden, mostly forgotten legislative horrors. Joe's legislative history goes back to 1972, and it's mostly bad. Joe has more negatives than Weegee after a particularly busy night of crime-scene photography in Manhattan.
Joe Biden's problem is the opposite of many of the above candidates. He might be a very attractive candidate in a nationwide election, but he could easily fail in the primaries. These are Democrats we're talking about, don't forget. They'll cheerfully vote for unelectable candidates in the primaries. Then, those candidates go on to lose the election. This is not me being cranky; this is Democratic Party history. (Michael Dukakis.)
And who cares? Joe is almost as old as Ringo. What is he, seventy-seven? When people start talking about how many of us live to be ninety or one hundred now, don't forget that most of us don't. Joe could drop dead any minute now. Hell, I'm rather younger than Joe, and I feel like I could drop dead at any time. Same for Bernie Sanders, may God be merciful on his blessed soul, and allow him many more years to help all of us IN THE SENATE.
It's Still Early!
America's billionaires do not keep me informed about their plans. Whom among them could become interested at some point? Mike Bloomberg? He's worth $60 billion. That would buy a lot of campaign, on any time schedule that Mr. Bloomberg chose. He has the advantage of being a real politician with lots of executive experience.
Who else is out there? This is getting way too exciting. Trump could disappear at any minute, for a wide variety of reasons. How's this for a deal: “I retire for 'health reasons,' Pence gets the gig, you guys do whatever you want, and then just leave me the hell alone.” Three-fourths of the serious people in government would take that deal in a heartbeat.
Will there be a meaningful primary challenge to Trump? If Trump is the nominee again, against some unelectable Democrat, will one or more billionaires figure, oh, hell no, and run as independents? H. Ross Perot got nineteen percent of the vote in 1992. You read that right. He took the votes equally from both sides, so it was a wash. Clinton won it fair and square. What'll happen next year?
This is way too much excitement for me. God, I hate presidential elections.
Thursday, April 18, 2019
Some clever law enforcement professionals recently, belatedly, became aware that certain rich Hollywood types were doing more than pulling strings and waving their eyelashes to help to get their children into elite schools. They were applying money to the problem. This has, of course, been going on since rich people and elite schools have existed in America, and that makes me wonder. Why finally notice and take action now? What's so special about now?
I haven't seen a complete list of the poor defendants who were sucked up in this dragnet, so for now I remain merely suspicious. The poster children for this new class of criminal masterminds are Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. If the other thirty-three (!!!) arrestees are also prosperous entertainers, I'm going to get much more suspicious in a hurry. I hope that no one believes that people who made their money either in business deals or in stock manipulations are above this kind of behavior.
Ms. Huffman and Ms. Loughlin's cases are as different as night and day. The former's case is very simple, and the methods used were inexpensive. The later was much more ambitious, and the whole thing cost her over half a mil. To my knowledge, the dragnet completely ignored the very rich who cheat their children into elite schools by simply throwing huge sums of money at the target school. There is a quid pro quo, but it remains discretely in the background. The school gets a new pool and a new floor on its basketball court, and some undeserving brat goes to Princeton. The law enforcement professionals were probably warned off by the schools, who naturally want to see that kind of largess continue.
Ms. Huffman is alleged to have paid $15,000 to improve her daughter's SAT scores. I've seen the methodology described in two ways in our modern, less than reliable media. Either: 1) someone with access to the tests changed many of her answers from wrong to correct; or 2) someone was paid to pose as the daughter and take the SAT again after a miserable showing by the real daughter. Either way, it is alleged that for a mere one-time payment of $15,000, the daughter's SAT score was raised by 400 points. That, my friends, would be the greatest bargain in the history of fraud.
On a sadder note, it is also alleged that Ms. Huffman paid a sympathetic medical professional to prove up some kind of learning disability for the daughter. This kind of thing buys them more time for taking the test itself. Therein lies a tale.
When I graduated from law school, several of my classmates mysteriously came down with bad cases of dyslexia, you know, before the bar exam. They hadn't had any trouble with passing law school classes, and I can tell you that I went to a school that believed in extremely difficult tests. Those crooked students could hardly contain their delight at these diagnoses. One guy was being so obnoxious about it that I came dangerously close to throwing him down a flight of stairs.
Ms. Huffman has pleaded guilty to one count of something relatively insignificant, but just for the optics I'm sure they'll put her behind bars for a while. This kind of demonstration is common with celebrities. Make a fuss about sentencing them and putting them in orange jumpsuits, and then quietly let them go after a matter of days or weeks.
Ms. Loughlin's case is far more serious, although, strangely, she does not seem to be taking it very seriously. She is alleged to have paid an employee of the target university to dummy up an acceptance for her daughter. The employee works, or “worked,” more likely, as a high-level coach for a lesser sport. That one cost a cool $500,000, an amount that generates a lot of interest among prosecutors and juries. Ms. Loughlin has very casually turned down a plea deal that would have put her in prison for a couple of years. I read somewhere that the prosecutor has left the plea deal on the table as is, which surprised me. More often they bump up the years in the offer. They claim to have her on the hook for twenty, or forty, or something. When that much money changes hands as part of a criminal enterprise, all kinds of peripheral charges are triggered. For instance, money laundering.
If she keeps shining them on with that confident smile, she could really piss them off. If that happens, she could do some real time. Somebody needs to explain to her that this is not a Hallmark made-for-TV movie. These people can hurt you.
On the Other Side of the Tracks!
All of this is very nice, but, as usual, the devil is down in the corners somewhere. CNN dot com was kind enough to write up a story about what happens when black women are charged with crimes that bear surface similarities to those described above. That, my darlings, is not a pretty picture, but you probably knew that already.
Kelly W-B, of Ohio, used her father's address to get her child into a better school that was outside of her assigned district. I'll bet that most of us know someone who has done that, or something similar. Well, Miss Kelly got caught, and the full force of the law was brought to bear not only on Miss Kelly, but also on her father. Kelly did nine days in jail, just to make sure that she understood the gravity of the situation, and she had to pay a total of $36,000, mostly to the school in her assigned district which had lost government revenue for having one less student. Her father, hold on to your hat, was sentenced to prison, that's where you go when you are convicted of a felony, and he died in prison.
Tanya McD of Connecticut was arrested on the same charge, using a false or fraudulent address to get her child into a school outside of her assigned district. This one gets poignant in a hurry, so get a tissue handy. This is a tearjerker. Ms. Tanya was homeless at the time, so she didn't have any damn address. She used an address that she knew would get her child into a better school. She did a lot more time that Miss Kelly did, but that's apples and oranges because Tanya's case had drug charges attached to it by the time the prosecutors got rolling. Unless there was a suitable relative to take the child, it's a sure thing that Social Services took away Tanya's parental rights and put the child in a foster home.
Back to Hollywood!
Felicity might get off with some community service or something. She's cooperating, and her crimes are not great. If Lori's not careful, though, she could get some of that Martha Stewart time. She could miss a few holidays, maybe even a couple of birthdays. I won't cry for either of them, but Kelly and Tanya have my deepest sympathies.
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
I had no idea that this cut existed. I was a big Small Faces fan from the beginning, too. Just goes to show how easy it was to miss something back then. No radio station would play this; there might be a comment in an English music magazine or newspaper but what could be easier for an American fan to miss?
Great covers mark songs as great songs, and great covers are those where the covering band takes the song and remakes it in their own image. This one succeeds on both counts.
Great song and performance by the songwriter, Tim Hardin. Tim must have been really something. Some of these songs are heart wrenching, painful little bursts of crystallized negative energy. I almost never meet people more depressed than me.
There was another side to Tim. I have it on good authority, from someone who shared Tim's interest in substances. One of my friends in L.A. had been a needle-buddy of Tim's for some time. My friend was so gracious, funny, and personable that he could always cop, so he was the go-to guy when certain celebrities came to town. Whenever Tim's name came up later on, my friend would kind of collapse into himself like the wind had gone out of his sails. Losing Tim was an awful memory for him.
This must be a rare one. After three years up, I was the second like and the hit count was at 1030. The last name is Turner spelled backwards. Ike used this name during a time when he was juggling labels and trying to move artists around while no one was watching. He must have been something back then, quite a bundle of energy.
The story of how Ike came up with the name "Tina Turner," not to mention why, is amazing. Always thinking, that Ike, working the angles.
Why yes, this is the same Jackie Brensten who gets the credit for the first real rock and roll record, "Rocket 88." (1951, Jackie Brensten and his Delta Cats.) And lookie here! Ike Turner gets the writing credit for this song! And that's him playing the guitar, and it's Ike's band, and Ike produced the record. Trouble Up the Road came out in 1961.
The band on this cut and also Rocket 88 is really Ike Turner's band. In 1951, it was Ike's Kings of Rhythm. Ike was nineteen when Rocket 88 came out. This record features the Ike Turner Orchestra, which in 1961 also featured the young and talented Tina Turner.
You may not like Ike. A lot of people don't. But he had a great eye for talent, and he knew how to get the best performances from his singers. He wrote great songs; he always had a great band. As a producer and as a musician, he always knew what a hit should sound like. As an A & R man in the early 1950s, he discovered Howlin Wolf! You don't have to like Ike, but you must respect a list of accomplishments like that.
One of the things that struck me about Thailand was that many things that are generally not numbered around the world were carefully numbered. It was like the Count from Sesame Street had been put in charge of interior decorating.
You'd go into a men's room at a mall and the urinals were numbered, like one to thirteen or something, however many there were. The stalls were in their own number series. Also the sinks. It seemed a bit compulsive, even before it got much stranger.
In some malls, each bathroom starts all over again with urinals numbered starting at one. Same for the stalls and sinks. But in other malls, the urinals are numbered consecutively throughout the entire mall. So the men's room designated to start the count has urinals numbered from one to thirteen. The next men's room has urinals numbered from fourteen to twenty-six. And so forth. If it's a big mall, the number of urinals could get up to 120, easy, with the stalls and sinks not far behind. I assume it's the same in the ladies' rooms.
Elevators are generally numbered, as are doorways. At the big airport, the taxis are on the first floor. I looked around once and saw the number two on a large doorway. Thinking that I was on the second floor, I went down one and was taken aback by the absence of taxis. The door labeled two was actually doorway number two on the third floor. I realized this when I noticed that the doorway directly under the first doorway number two was also labeled doorway number two.
The floors are numbered, of course, but there is no consensus concerning the designation of the floor that you walk into at street level. It may be the first floor, but the floor below ground level may be the first floor. The floor that you walk into may also be the ground floor, Floor G, in the European style. The big mall nearest to me is numbered G to four on the escalators, and one to five on the elevators. So floor number one on the escalators is floor number two on the elevators.
It can all be a bit confusing. On the Plexiglas below the escalator handrails, there is usually a large number. In some malls, or hospitals, or whatever, it is the number of the floor that you are standing on before you get on the escalator. In other buildings, it may be the floor that you will arrive at after you have ridden the escalator.
The floors of buildings will, of course, continue to be numbered. One can only hope that the numbering system will become standardized. I have noticed, however, that the numbering of the urinals, etc., is no longer to be found everywhere. Many malls, especially newer, more up-scale malls, are doing away with the practice. I was in a Big C* men's room today where only the urinals number one, two, four, and seven, had numbers on them. Only sink number one bore a number, and none of the stalls were numbered at all. It may have been of use to housekeeping to have these numbers, as in, “stall number three, in men's room number two, on the fourth floor, needs a plunging, stat.” It should be possible, though, to communicate such information without pasting numbers everywhere.
I find myself missing the numbers. It was very Thai, and it always reminded me that I am lucky to be living in a place that is at once so safe and mellow, but also very alien and interesting. I've been here for fifteen years now, and that, it turns out, is long enough to be witnessing some major changes. I just hope that it all works out to the advantage of average Thai citizens. If they're happy, I'm happy.
*The Big C is a Thai owned chain of large department stores featuring everything from dry goods to durable goods to shoes to tools to outdoor furniture, with a food market attached. The emphasis is on low prices without sacrificing too much in quality. It's a pretty good outfit.
*The Big C is a Thai owned chain of large department stores featuring everything from dry goods to durable goods to shoes to tools to outdoor furniture, with a food market attached. The emphasis is on low prices without sacrificing too much in quality. It's a pretty good outfit.
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
I mostly let Lenny go over my head while he was alive. I hadn't turned eighteen yet when he passed away. My buying my first Lenny Bruce LP came right about the time that he died. Dude brought the funny, that's for sure. He had a style. It's too bad that you almost never hear his name these days.
There is a nice article in the New York Times today about asking for directions in New York City. This article is a fine testimony to New Yorkers who will take a moment to try to be helpful to some lost and lonely non-New Yorker who want to know how to get somewhere. Even with our miraculously efficient grid system, it is not always easy. The writer of the article is one of the New Yorkers who will do more than indicate a direction and say, yeah, down that way. God bless him for that. This reminds me of my time studying in Germany and becoming accustomed to the Germanic method of giving directions.
First, they evaluate your German. If you fail this threshold test, I'm pretty sure that the entire enterprise grinds to a halt. My German is pretty good, though, and because of my excellent accent it sounds better than it is, so the honest Burghers would proceed to give me directions.
Okay. Now the German or Germans have engaged with you, and they have accepted your request for assistance. What happens now is different from America or probably anywhere else. You have triggered in the unassuming German citizen a feeling of Pflichtgefuele, or Pflichtbewusstsein. This is the sense of duty that all Germans respond to in situations large and small.
Now that you are all Kameraden, the German will give you detailed directions to your destination. They know full well that the German language is not easy, so they will naturally speak to you slowly and clearly, using less than their full vocabulary. “Direkt um die Ecke,” and so forth. You may think that when the directions are complete, you are ready to proceed. No, that is not the case.
The German, or Germans, having accepted the duty to help you, will now require a demonstration proving that you have understood their directions. You must repeat the directions, in German, back to them. If you do not, or cannot, they will not be able to sleep that night. The Pflictgefuele having been triggered, they may wish to escort you to your destination. If you repeat the directions perfectly with a smile, they will be very self-satisfied, and they will compliment your wonderful German and wish you well.
The Germans are not like anyone else in the world, and their uniqueness has led them astray on occasion. If one will only make a small attempt to understand them, however, and apply a bit of common sense to the issue, they turn out to be very cooperative, friendly people. Also, they dress much better than you might expect and the food is much more entertaining than is generally given credit. I've visited the place twice, and I'd go back if such a thing were practicable. Sadly, the nature of money is that after you have spent it, you no longer have it. That's my medical war chest that we're talking about, and I'm hanging on to as much of that as possible. But I have my memories, which are all good.
Monday, April 15, 2019
I guess that I've never really paid attention. Sure, I caught on to a lot of good music over the years, but so much stuff just zoomed straight past me without me noticing. This cut is from a 1986 vinyl release, well knock me other with a feather.
I love the attitude in this Go-Go music. It all sounds so enthusiastic, and impromptu. There's usually a kit drummer in there, but not always. There's always a few amateurs in the mix, playing plastic five-gallon paint cans, bottoms up. It's happy, man, this music brings the party. RIP, Chuck. In 1986 he was fifty-years-old, BTW. Dude died at seventy-five, still making a living. I do love a happy ending.
I would mark this as a very successful cover version. This is a cut from the Warner Bros. CD Super Relax, released in 1997. That is a frighteningly long time ago, but at the same time, I was about fifty-years-old at the time. Life, and time, can be strange that way.
Saturday, April 13, 2019
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (of South Bend) and Mike Pence are both politicians from Indiana. To his credit, Mayor Pete remembers every nasty thing that Pence did to ruin the happiness of Indiana homosexuals while he, Pence, was in one office or another in the state. He is still disposed to hold Pence's feet to the fire whenever he gets a chance. I recall the general outlines of Pence's campaign of terror and discrimination, all in the name of religion, and I'm just a concerned outsider. Mayor Pete was a citizen of Indiana, and gay.
(For a nice rundown of Mike Pence's greatest (anti gay) hits, see the website of the Indiana Democratic Party (indem.org). They have a nice timeline covering anti gay legislation that Mike Pence either initiated or helped pass. It's too much to copy here.)
He's still at it, Pence is. That fat, white monument to religiously based intolerance and hatred just can't let go of the gay thing. It's almost as though Mike believed that the homosexuals, the handsome male homosexuals, were following him around trying to trap him in their lifestyle! Mike seems to be afraid that he could have a dog in that fight! What is he afraid of?
The two of them were at each others throats last week.
Mayor Pete addressed Pence in a speech before the LGBTQ Victory Fund, suggesting that:
“. . . if you (Pence) have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.” (Daily Beast; The Raw Story.)
By suggesting that he, and all other gay men and women, had been born gay, he really got Pence's attention. This is because Mike Pence, and most of those insufferable religious exclusivists, claim to believe that homosexuality is a choice. After all, God's opinion is right there in the Bible. In an early book of the Old Testament.
These people slay me. That “choice” argument belongs in the first order of stupidity. It's right up there with the belief that the earth is flat. But here it is again, from a man whose personal values and morals are slippery enough to allow him to back every play that Donald Trump makes. “I'm a Bible believing Christian. I draw my truth from God's word.” (cnn.com) These guys are so stupid that they stand there saying this with no beard, wearing clothing made from blended fabrics. I'll bet that if you made a cursory investigation, you would discover that Pence's wife has never once spent the night in the shed because she was menstruating. These Old Testament Bible thumping so-called Christians make me sick. Even Jesus had little patience with the Old Testament. “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.” Now, two thousand years later, geniuses like Mike Pence claim to know the mind of God better than God or Jesus. Somebody gag me with a spoon.
All of the hundreds of versions of Christianity agree that there is an all powerful, unique entity referred to as “God,” who lives outside of time and space, having preceded both things, and in fact having created both time and space, out of nothing. In this system, God created us as well, in a flash, using the results of his creation of time and space.
The spectrum of people who believe this nonsense always amazes me, It ranges from the extremely dumb, like Mike Pence, to the extremely intelligent, like Pete Buttigieg. It is the very silliness of religion what has resulted in the hundreds of versions of Christianity. There is no evidence for any of it; it is all a matter of “belief.” You must believe! Well no, there really is no reason to believe any of it. In the absence of any evidence whatsoever, there is nothing to compel anyone to believe any of it.
This is why Mike and Pete can disagree so vigorously on the choice question. This lack of evidence leaves people on their own, free to interpret the rules and norms of Christianity in wildly different ways. Does God want us to baptize babies, or does God insist that the individual to be baptized be an adult? Is reaching the age of consent sufficient? The age of reason? Is the Sabbath every Sunday? Or is it Saturday? Europeans used to fight endless wars over things like these.
Take a break here. The only source materials for this foolishness come in the form of mediocre, fourth or fifth generation translations of Iron Age texts which all, in turn, separated by centuries, had to pass through an approval process designed to please the political requirements of a royal personage. Perfectly good revealed texts were discarded as having no value to the power elite of the time or appearing to contradict other revealed texts that the bosses liked.
Now add the cherry-pickers who refuse to take Mr. Jesus' sage advice to shit-can the entire Old Testament as superannuated bullshit. The beardless shrimp eaters in their cotton/polyester shirts under woolen suits. This allows some men to believe that God made us all straight because being straight pleased God and by golly, God don't make junk. This is a comfort to men whose teenage experience included unbidden erections while watching Hercules or a gladiator movie and who decided right then and there that hell no, they were straight and that was that. Prayer was their way to keep the demons at bay after that. We're all straight, gol-darn it! If anyone CHOOSES to be gay at some later date, that is a terrible sin and God had nothing to do with it.
On the other hand, it allows other men, like Mayor Pete, to believe that God made us all, and if some of us were born gay, that was God's will. For the same reason: God don't make junk.
Most reasonable men and women these days think that Mayor Pete has the better side of this argument. Most of us know and love some homosexuals, they are our friends and family, we work together, we go to school and serve in the military together, and we have been assured many times that yes, they have always known that they were gay, they were, in fact, born gay. It's obvious to most REASONABLE people.
Mike Pence is far from reasonable though, so he and Mr. Buttigieg are gearing up for a war over that point of belief, just like those long ago Europeans would in their shoes. Mr. Pence has even mentioned the 1st Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion. I would give my eye teeth to see him bring that question to the courts. Those would be Federal Courts, and some poor judge would have to listen to lawyers arguing that Mr. Buttigieg somehow violated Mr. Pence's right to hold a literal belief in the Old Testament, in its entirety, standing there without a beard. Pure comedy gold, that.
Speaking of potential for humor! That entire “choosing to be gay” thing makes me wonder if anyone has ever thought that one through. What would the mechanics of that be? Some kid is not getting anywhere with the local girls so he figures, fuck it, I'm going with the guys. The kid wants to get some one way or the other. Like you could turn it on with a switch. I did some thinking about what this would look like, and it was some funny shit. I discarded the idea, though. Way too stupid and unbelievable, unless you're Mike Pence.
Friday, April 12, 2019
This is OG D.C. Go Go music, and Chuck Brown is the man. RIP, Chuck, but the music is still at the core of a gentrification controversy. Is there room in the new, fabulous, neoliberal, bureaucratic, up-scale, white-supremacist Washington D.C. for indigenous black American culture? The new white neighbors in the expensive condos don't think so.
Thursday, April 11, 2019
A fellow asked me the other day, “why do you think that there are so many gay men in (redacted)?” I thought about it for a second and I offered my opinion. I figured that the percentage of gay men, or women, in any country is about the same. If the gay man lives in a country where being seen as gay becomes life threatening immediately, gay men will either keep it way on the down-low or just give up the idea completely. Reject it. Force themselves into the straight life. But if a gay man lives in a country where no one seems to really care about that fact, he can let his true colors shine. My point was that there weren't necessarily more gay men in (redacted) than anywhere else, but in (redacted) they could just be themselves. No one particularly cared.
I focused there on gay men, because it's very different for them. Regarding gay women, lesbians, nowhere are they considered nearly as offensive as gay men. Straight women quickly figure, okay, that could happen. Straight men, of course, are titillated by the prospect. So it's a whole different scene.
We were speaking together in (redacted), and I happen to know a thing or two about (redacted). I've taught English in grammar schools here, and I can tell you, if they have a Christmas show, somebody has to play the Christmas Angel. That will be one of the kids, one of the kids that understands the value of makeup. That will be a gay boy, and they are valued for the talents that they bring to that and other enterprises.
The entire question is very interesting. I've known a lot of gay men in my life, and a lot of gay women too. One thing that I can guarantee you is that their being gay was not some conscious choice. They didn't “decide” to be gay. They were born that way. I've talked about this before. The whole idea of “deciding” to be gay is more ridiculous than believing as an adult that Santa Claus lives at the north pole and has a reindeer sleigh. Gay people are born gay. Go ask an enlightened medical professional to explain the physical mechanics of the phenomenon to you, because I don't swim that deeply in those waters. But I'll tell you, all of the homosexuals that I've ever known were sure that they were homosexuals from an early age.
It gets funny when ambitious straight people start to wonder if they're missing something. What's up with that? No one wants to miss out on some available action. No one in my generation did, anyway.
To make it in the gay community, it really helps to be great looking. And fit, one must be fit. In shape, that's what we call it in America. And handsome, one should also be handsome. And young. When men in my generation, the Baby Boomers, considered the prospect, we were all young. That's about 30% of the way there.
I'll admit, when I was young, I wondered if I was missing out on something that could be interesting. My entire being was oriented towards the female sex; my sun rose and set on the primary and secondary sexual characteristics of womankind. A ridiculous portion of my day was devoted to thinking about women. But still, there was a nagging thought that I could be missing out on some easily attainable source of what, entertainment? Certainly, sex is entertaining. I'll be honest, I got as far on one occasion as trying to set something up, but it failed far in advance of any consummation. You couldn't really even call it a conspiracy. Even so, there was no act in furtherance. I was happy to let it go at that. I was happily heterosexual. There are worse fates.
I had just been thinking that there might be something that I was denying myself. To me, that kind of question always needed to be addressed. I was fit enough, and I had a hip wardrobe, and I knew plenty of gay men. My gay friends would see me at movies, or rock and roll clubs, in the company of other gay friends, and they would often assume that I must be gay, married or not. But no, my heart was never in it. Nothing ever happened. Unless you count the many wonderful friendships.
I never gave up the idea completely, and much later I made another half-hearted go at it. My lack of sincerity and enthusiasm shone through, and the entire thing was a total failure long before it even got off the ground. By now I have faced the fact: I am irredeemably straight.
It is very clear to me now that I was always handsome enough, and fit enough, but the most important element was missing. The truth of it is that while any very handsome gay man can become popular, and any wonderfully fit gay man can become popular, there is another way to achieve extreme popularity. That is to be as hot as a pistol. To be wild about having it all four ways, to insist on the home-run every time, to grab every opportunity and not let go, to use up entire days, to never cool down until you are three-fourths dead from the exertion. Those guys always get invited back. They can be chubby and acne scarred, and they will still be in demand. I was a very enthusiastic heterosexual, ardent, considerate, and energetic, but regarding a try at playing for the other team, I was lukewarm at best.
At this point in my life, I give myself a measure of credit for even considering it, but I'm just as glad that it never came to be. My personality is complex enough. One more level of complexity might have kill me.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
There is no doubt that almost all musicians have influences that they carry with them throughout their careers. I say, “almost” to be on the safe side. You never know, there may be a famous musician somewhere who grew up with an instrument but had never heard any music. I would say that in that case, his influences would come from nature. Ordinarily, when any musician takes up an instrument for the first time, they play what they know. They try to reproduce what they have heard.
No one sets out to immediately establish a new theory of music, new chords, new scales, etc. Just the idea of that happening is silly.
This is true even for the greats. The great sax players, 'Trane, Bird, Pres, I can guarantee to you that their first efforts were in imitation of music that was familiar to them, and I can also guarantee that it was awful. It's hard as hell to get a decent sound out of a sax. Everybody who has ever tried will tell you that. They also learned some theory and started practicing scales. They all had other musicians that served as influences, but I don't know enough about saxophone music to have opinions about that.
Jerry Lee Lewis developed an interest in the boogie woogie piano. His method of studying was to listen from outside the building to professionals entertaining in a bar, and then go home and figure out what they were doing. That's not typical, but maybe it is pretty typical after all. I never had a guitar lesson. I just listened to records and then figured out what they were doing.
Guitar players! Now that's a group that I am more familiar with!
Most guitar players display their early influences forever. I think that it was B.B. King that admitted in an interview that, “we're all playing T. Bone music.” (T. Bone Walker) Even Albert King would probably admit that, although he comes as close as anybody to having found his own way in the musical forest. He was working on a trash truck down south and got the idea that people were making money just playing music. That seemed easier, so he figured he'd give it a go. He got a guitar and tuned it up, without any help, mind you. He tuned it so that it sounded good to him. Then he learned to play melodies on it, and found a few chords that sounded like the records that he had heard. Albert had an immediately recognizable sound, but he had heard many, many blues records before he took up the guitar.
Even someone as great as Jeff Beck had influences. At this point in his career, everything that he plays is Jeff Beck music. He has a style that can be spotted many miles away; when you hear him play, you know that it's him immediately. He is one of the few who has the distinction of playing in a style that no one else can duplicate. Jeff is a humble man, and he has always been happy to discuss his early influences, who were all of the serious pros that played on those 1950s rock records, perhaps especially the rockabilly records. He still sits in with bands that play OG rockabilly, and he kills it.
We know Jimi Hendrix almost entirely from his mature style. During the period of his popularity, there was no one else who sounded like that, or could duplicate what he was doing. We know very little about his early life, musically speaking. He was cryptic in interviews, so there were few clues. It's not hard to figure out what kind of music Jimi grew up with. That would be a combination of everything that was on the radio in Seattle, a very cosmopolitan city, plus a sprinkling of blues and jazz.
Below you will find three songs from guitarists that I would say almost certainly influenced Jimi's playing. I stopped at three because I didn't want to start guessing. I'd love to hear from anyone who had additions to the list.
The guitarist on this cut is Wayne Bennett. Wayne was a very popular session guitarist for many years around this time (1962), and he worked with a lot of people along the line. He was very versatile, so he was on a lot of records that could be lying around a house like Jimi's.
It seems to me that when Jimi wanted to play in what he considered a "blues" style, he sounded a lot like Wayne.
Wayne's playing would appeal to a new player, because although he was quite sophisticated, his playing was also very transparent. A talented student could work at duplicating these songs and see immediately where he was on the money, and where he was missing something.
Hubert Sumlin was a stylist, an idea that must have appealed to Jimi. Jimi was quite the little stylist himself. In the playing itself, listen to the way Hubert throws those little finger flips towards the guitar. Hubert was associated with Howlin' Wolf for a lot of Wolf's greatest work, so he was very well known. Listen to Wolf's "Killing Floor," also covered by Jimi, for some really nice work by Hubert.
Then there's the general playfulness, and the tremendous energy, two more things that are often come to mind when listening to Jimi.
Plus, I'm pretty sure that Jimi mentioned Mr. Sumlin in an interview that I read.
This is the easy one. Chronologically, it lines up perfectly. (1960, when Jimi was still a teenager.) Big clue! Jimi covered the song! Played it pretty straight too; played it like Earl had played it for the record.
Stylistically, this could very well be where Jimi found his preference for playing with a pick, and his heavy pick attack. Earl also likes to mix chords with lead lines, a technique that Jimi used all of his life. So yeah, I'm thinking that Jimi loved Earl King, and practiced by playing his songs.
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
You don't hear this every day. It made me wonder: who were Jimi's influences? All musicians start somewhere, playing what they like of all of the things that they've heard. (Some start out playing only the stuff that they can figure out and that's easy enough for them to play.) Later on, if they're good, they add as much of themselves as they can manage.
Even Jimi started out somewhere. Who was he copping when he was getting started?
Monday, April 8, 2019
Released in November, 1956. That's the year that I got the Rockin Pneumonia, and the Boogie Woogie Flu. Earlier that year Elvis went nationwide with RCA. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, it was a brand new world. I was eight-years-old, and I remember my little RCA record player, 45s only. Those records are still in a box back at the house, unless my family have thrown them away for spite.
America can be a wonderful place, if you check in all of the right boxes. Otherwise, times will get tough, now or later. Land of the free for some, home of the early grave for others. America has always been this way.
It's even harder now in many ways. Actual lynchings are down, but extrajudicial killings by police are way up. For all of us, new requirements are being added frequently. Like money, lots of money. It almost doesn't matter how you got it, just so's you got it. Them as got it are doing fine; them that ain't are doing time, now or later.
I never expected to make it to seventy. I suppose I should be grateful, because I'm better off than some of my old friends. One thing for sure, though, I never expected to grow old in a world where me and many of my geezer buddies, men and women, just assume that some day we will kill ourselves to escape some unacceptable situation. For some, it's a fear that someday they'll be so broke and so sick that suicide will be the easy way out. Others know that a day will come when they are an unsustainable burden on their families. They know that they will do the honorable thing. For me, it's a bright line in my bank accounts. I've got some money to throw at heart procedures, and other things that are almost manageable in my country of residence. But if I come down with something terrible and chronic, or if I spend myself down to that bright line, I'm gone, gone like a cool breeze, a memory. I'm not spending one Goddamned nickel at the doctors that someone might need to live on.
No, if the doc tells me, sorry old dad, you've got (fill in the blank) cancer, and the course of treatment runs into the "all the money" zone, I'll just be responding, "that's great. Now lets talk about pain management and end of life care."
This is all somehow wrong for a person who grew up in "the Greatest Country in the World." There are twenty countries that I could have been born in where my wife and I would be much better off than we are now, with me being a mere American. In case you haven't noticed, America just uses people up and throws them away. Anybody who still believes in the American Dream is a sucker and a Rube.
Sunday, April 7, 2019
There's so much going on here. This is NYC immediately pre-crack, almost ten years into the financial breakdown. Cultural experiences, and great food, were still priced withing the reach of a working man. All of these black and PR break-dancers were working men and women. So were the black and PR geniuses who made the first beats. This was the birth of Hip-Hop, brought to us here through the miracle of cultural appropriation by Malcolm McLaren.
I can tell you, it was easy to simultaneously hate Malcolm as a glom and a hanger-on and love him for spreading the knowledge of such beats and music. I never liked Malcolm, but I loved this LP, and I do to this day. There's nothing to forgive him for. He found London punk, and Bronx Hip-Hop, fair and square, and a guy's got to make a living.
Friday, April 5, 2019
Wednesday, April 3, 2019
George, Kellyanne, and I fall into very different segments of the political spectrum, but as regular readers will recall, I have never let that interfere with my respect for the way that Kellyanne does her job. I have often said that among the ridiculous clown-car of ignoramuses that surround the president, she is the shining star. Now that I look at that sentence, it screams of damning with feint praise, so let me be more clear: Kellyanne Conway has an impossible job to do, and yet she consistently does it spectacularly well and manages to make it look easy. How would you like to try a week or two of being responsible for making President Comboverus Superbus's idiotic comments sound presidential and covering up his blatant, obvious lies? I didn't think so. The woman is a super-hero. Or villain, I suppose.
I am less familiar with the work-product of her husband George, although I am enjoying the attention that he is drawing to the president's foolishness.
Most importantly, before I get to the frivolous portion of today's entertainment, let me say that I have only love in my heart for the Conway family. George and Kellyanne have been married for twenty years or so, and they have four children. I sincerely wish all six of them the best of luck, good health, and happiness, in perpetuity. I find the now frequent speculation about the conflict that has supposedly arisen between them concerning Kellyanne's boss to be not only disagreeable, but also stupid and churlish.
In a perfect world, I would love to read the following press release from Ms. Conway:
“Let me just say that any rumors about tension between my husband and me about our respective opinions about President Trump lack foundation of any kind and are, in fact, silly. Politics is politics; work is work; and family is family. Neither George nor I have any trouble keeping those things separate in our heads.
“For example, this past weekend, we sent the children to visit George's family in (?), and we spent thirty-six hours alone together in our apartment in Washington, having told people that we were at our home in New Jersey. We turned off our phones, only checking in occasionally to make sure that World War III had not broken out in the meantime. We let our computers get a well deserved rest. We spent all of that time having sex in every way that the human body allows, in all three ways, twice, with a couple of bonus rounds, taking occasional breaks for snacks and short naps.
“The children returned home on Sunday afternoon, and we all had a great time catching up. Dinner was a pizza party, and we then watched movies together. The boys wanted to watch Star Wars movies, so we settled on Rogue One and the Last Jedi, because they have strong female leads, which the girls really enjoy.
“Just for the record, for all of you busy-bodies out there, our family is fine. George is entitled to his opinions, and I would never interfere with his rights in that area. I am making a good living, and having a great time, by the way, and George is only happy for me. The children are doing great. George and I get plenty of drama at work, believe me. When we get home, we just chill-ax and decompress. So fucking get over it, already. You should turn your attention to the Huckabee-Sanders. I hear that they are at each other's necks constantly.”
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Sam Cooke was one of the great producers turning out fabulous records by numerous artists in the early- to mid-1960s. Here's a great example.
This is a great effort by the Sims Twins, and the production is excellent. This is a clinic in the art of the hook right here. The hooks just keep on coming. (Listen to the piano after every phrase of the singing. That's Hook-Mania right there.)