Sunday, July 28, 2019

The Awful Math Of Aging In America

We all go through the stages of life in their turn. Childhood, adolescence, young-adulthood, the peak earning years, middle age, and the varying degrees of old age, ranging from slightly old to decrepit. We all know what's coming, unless we willfully shut out the knowledge. The clock ticks, and the calendar pages flip, at the same rate for everybody, and when they're done, we're gone. It's very simple, and not so bad when you think about it. It happens to everyone, rich or poor, on about the same schedule. So far, anyway. The trick is to be well-organized about it, and a bit of luck doesn't hurt. It turns out that the whole enterprise is much more difficult in America than it is in any other similarly situated country.

Unlike the rest of the developed world, Americans are required to figure out how much money and how much insurance they will need to take care of themselves through the unpredictable end-game of life. For all of my long life, the help that Americans in bad situations can get from our government has been less, and less, and less. While other rich, modern countries are busy caring for their people, and cushioning life's blows for them, we Americans have the freedom to stand on our own feet, or fail spectacularly, it's our choice. All of the other fully industrialized nations prefer to level the playing field in a world where some people are born with a full house and others have to make due with a pair of fours. They seek to share the risks of life and help each other. America, on the other hand, prefers to deal with its citizens at arms length, demanding that we make all of our own arrangements. “Don't be bothering me, pal,” says America, “it ain't my fault that you got cancer in your forties.” Maybe you should have spent more on insurance! God help Americans whose children are born with terrible diseases. America is as rich and modern as any other country on earth, and yet our government will not lift one little pinky finger off of the table to help us. We are free to die in a ditch. We are free to charge so much for insulin that our diabetic neighbors die from the lack of it. We have every freedom you can think of, except the freedom to feed the hungry people among us. They put you in jail for that. This is all very problematic for me.

I've always said, if we were some paleolithic tribe living in some cave somewhere, and the chief acted so uncaring about the people under his leadership, we'd stove his head in with a rock while he was sleeping and toss his ass over a cliff. The next boss would be tuned in to taking care of the tribe from day one, knowing what happens if you don't. But those were simpler times, and now we're stuck with this uncaring bunch of millionaire “elected representatives” who only pay attention to the billionaires, from whom their prosperity stems.

The whole idea of making a life-plan when you are a young man or woman, or a young married couple, and then sticking to that plan for forty years or so, has always been a daunting proposition, and these days it has become downright unmanageable. How much has the country changed in the last forty years? How have costs and prices changed in that time? How have government policies changed? How has the medical community changed? What genius could have made a sensible plan forty years ago that would have put him on easy street today? Unless, of course, the plan was to make a huge fortune, and you had the talent and luck to make it work. 

It's even worse now for young people starting out. What will the world be like forty years from now? Any ideas? Should they hoard savings in Bitcoin? Buy gold? Stock? Bonds? Dollars? Stock up on canned tuna fish? Bullets? Do you want to try to predict the cost of living? Or the ways and means of it? Will houses be as good an investment as always, or will they turn into millstones around your neck? Condos? All of those things are up in the air, liable to come down anywhere. How is anyone supposed to plan for that?

It wasn't that long ago when all medical facilities and providers, including health insurance providers, were administered on a non-profit basis, and almost all jobs above paper-boy came with pretty good health insurance at no cost. It was not that long ago when the children of working class people could attend good universities at little or no cost. It was not that long ago that our grandparents actually bought houses in Florida and lived on Social Security! It all seems like a dream by now, of course.

So here we are, we “active retired,” trying to plan for the future. The very idea is comical. It's all questions, and no answers. How many years are we talking about? How long do we expect to live? Five? Ten? Twenty? God forbid, thirty years? Do you wish to continue living in America? Ouch! That's expensive. Maybe you're lucky and you have a house in a still decent neighborhood in a still decent city. If it's nice, the taxes are probably high. If you're like people my age, you still have a mortgage, because those re-fi's were hard to resist back when you were in those peak-earning years. Maybe the house is worth a lot of money. The trick there is that you can't have your cake and eat it, too. You've either got the house, and the bills, or you can have the money in the bank. That's if you're lucky, and then you'd still have to pay rent somewhere, or buy a smaller house in the stix, and pay all kinds of insurance, and various taxes, and co-pays on all of the meds, and co-pays on the Medicare. Yes, you will need more meds and more doctors visits over the years. When you add up the monthly expenses, even for a less than extravagant lifestyle, you come up with a figure that looks like it came directly from outer space, like it was old Italian lira instead of dollars. Does anybody save enough? Almost nobody, in fact. And pity those without the house to help out with this vicious mathematics.

Many Americans had personal retirement plans that included continuing health insurance coverage and a generous pension plan from a long-term employer. Many of them paid good money into those plans over the years. Well, my friends, if you retired and your old employer is still solvent, and is actually paying out those retirement funds as promised, you're well ahead of the game. Many employers are not honoring those agreements. Not just the unwary companies that went out of business or something, but also many perfectly solvent companies who had clever boys tell them how they could get away with denying you those benefits. Do you know anyone who was “laid off” by a perfectly solvent company right before retirement? Or just before their pension was scheduled to vest? I know several myself. Some of them needed that money, too. That's another thing about America. It's not just the government that is after your blood and treasure. There are not many companies that still have any sense of loyalty to their employees anymore. It's really not necessary for them to rob you, they don't need your money, not the government and not those still prosperous corporations, but they figured out that they could steal it and get away with it. The ethics of it are somewhere down in the dumpster with those tuition free public universities and non-profit health providers.

The whole thing is unimaginable. In my case, the odds are that I will live another ten years. What will happen with my health? Will I get cancer? The good kind? One of the terrible ones? Maybe a stroke, that's always possible. How about Parkinson's Disease? People still get that. Heart disease? Well, I've got that already. Will I need a bypass operation before it's all over? It's possible, although it does not seem probable. Lesser procedures? Almost certainly. Scans and angioplasties, sure. And meds. Those are things that I can afford. How about my wife? Cancer or something? And dentists! How they peck away at you! Boy, are they annoying. If our luck is good, we have enough money to get by okay and die in bed. If we have bad luck? If my doctors bills spend us down to the bright line where more spending would be money that my wife will need to live on after I'm gone, that will be it for me. Goodbye cruel world! I'm not spending a dime on doctors if my wife will need it to live on. And I'll be working right up until the day I die, one way or another. I'm still working a job right now, and I'm riding that one until the wheels fall off. What if they don't need me anymore? Not to worry! I'm already easing into an alternate income stream for when the time comes. I could get by nicely on my Social Security if there were no medical surprises, but we can't count on that, now can we?

Here's the big plot-twist: I'm doing all of this in a developing country. My wife's country, actually. It's all very comfortable and it's much more affordable than America. We have a very good lifestyle here, which includes restaurants and taxis and treatment at one of the better hospitals. I couldn't afford to live in America. I recommend living overseas as a solution for any of my dear readers who may be having trouble making ends meet in our country of origin. Go for it! There are many nice places with hospitals and doctors and dentists that are very good. Beautiful countries with better weather and more reasonable costs of living. Several Spanish speaking countries come to mind, and that's a relatively easy language for an English speaker to learn. And fun, too! Beautiful literature and poetry, beautiful songs. You'd be surprised. Challenge yourself! You might like it.

And you might find that you worry less about money, and that you are enjoying life more, and watching less news on TV, and that your quality of life has risen. You can always Skype your family, if they have time. Between social media and Skype and Line, they may not even know that you have gone.

Cream - Badge

Nice band. I think they'll go far. 

Friday, July 26, 2019

Adventures In Strange Vocabulary: Nautical Twilight

This one is an important phenomenon to consider when planning aircraft carrier flight operations. Maybe it's not so important anymore in our age of computerized radar navigation and fly-by-wire, but it was very important back when pilots needed to see where they were going. It is also interesting to know what you are looking at when you admire a California sunset.

Whenever the sun is retreating westward over endless stretches of ocean and under clear skies you will notice a lot more light after the sun has sunken below the horizon. This is called, “nautical twilight.” In California you may get the poetic impression that the daylight is loathe to give up its ascendancy over the world. On an aircraft carrier you will also be happy for the extra time that this allows for flight operations.

The mechanics of this phenomenon are simple. The sun is below the horizon, but it is still shining down onto the reflective surface of the ocean. It reflects back into the sky, including the sky where you happen to be at the time. A book that I read recently about carrier operations said that you get nautical twilight until the sun passes about twelve degrees below the horizon. This allows for an additional hour of light both before dawn and after sunset, two additional hours per day at the equator. The length of time shrinks as you move north or south away from the equator. The Navy has charts for those things.

I miss those California sunsets. As the sun goes down, clouds slowly move in closer to the coastline, and the reflecting sunlight, bouncing back up into those clouds, creates great colors in schemes that you do not find in other places. The colors change as you watch, moving from green to purple to orange before your eyes. The low humidity assists in this act of creation, or at least gives in a different character than, let's say, the west coast of Florida. The Pacific Ocean is also a much bigger lens than the Gulf of Mexico.

There is a trade-off to console me in my case. I now live in the tropics, and we are treated on a regular basis to skies that are dramatic and beautiful. Those California sunsets, in Los Angeles anyway, usually came after a sky of solid blue, unadorned by clouds after about ten in the morning. The cloud vistas in the tropics can be vast and impressive. These often culminate in solid gray and biblical rainfall, but that's another story.

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Cobras - Restless - 1964 Instrumental - Steve Cropper - Stax Records

It turns out that both the Cobras and the Van-Dells were one-shot records put together by members of the Mar-Keys down at Stax Studios. Steve Cropper and Donald Dunn play on both, and since both were recorded in 1964, Al Jackson is probably the drummer. 

None of those Stax people were rich at this point, not the owners and not the artists. So they were trying everything that they could think of to sneak more records into the charts without having to wait for the right time to release a "new Mar-Keys record." The mechanics of the record business could be harsh. 

Both of these cuts are rocking good records. 

van-dells - the honeydripper

See the commentary on "Restless," above. 

By the way, I make no claim to know of which I speak right off the top of my head when it comes to these semi-obscure records. In this case, I was just reading along with the extensive documentation that came with the box set. Many times I consult Professor Google. My point-of-view is that I love this material and I enjoy spreading the word. Some of you might enjoy the stuff too. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Right Tool For The Job

One of the great lessons of classic fairy tales is that very often the last person that you might expect turns out to be the perfect person for the job. Of the King's four sons, three are highly accomplished and respected far and wide, but the fourth son appears to be a talentless simpleton. Guess who becomes the next King and makes a fabulous success of it? Right! The simp! It turns out that the three high achieving brothers are too wrapped up in their chosen fields. They can no longer see the “forest,” because they are so wrapped up in the “trees.” The simpleton lacks focus, but he can see the entire forest; he can clearly see everything at once. He is the generalist that the kingdom needs to thrive. You can take your own moral from that lesson, but today I'm here to propose that history will view D.J. Trump as the perfect front man for the plan that is now being brought to fruition by the ruling cabal in America. The plan being to install themselves, the super-rich, as the sole and permanent rulers of the United States.

What I mean by the “super-rich” might need some explanation. That would be the top of the top of wealth holders in America. The buy-in is in the billions somewhere, where exactly is not important. I don't include corporate entities, because, whatever you may have heard to the contrary, corporations have no personal reality. They are simply a manifestation of their human owners, the super-rich. (You may own some stock, or even a lot of stock, in corporations, but that does not give you any meaningful ownership interest. You exist to be cheated out of your shares when the super-rich decide that the time is right.)

Rest assured that Trump is just a stooge in this plan. The super-rich will get rid of him when the time comes, consigning him to either bankruptcy court or prison, or maybe some foreign exile. He's not in on the joke, and the real billionaires are cynically using him because he is the perfect cover for the real plan. As I am sure that you have noticed, for almost the last four years all of the news cycles have been focused almost exclusively on whatever stupid shit Trump said yesterday, featuring photos or videos of Trump looking fifty shades of preposterous. Comedians tell jokes; opposition politicians prevaricate and feign outrage; social media is clearly divided between outrage against Trump or dumb-struck admiration for Trump, with no room for any notice of the other changes that are taking place. People, pundits, public intellectuals, bloggers, YouTubers, news presenters, and others warn of the dangers that face our whole form of government, but none of it seems to get any traction. During this entire time, our new form of administration has been taking shape as each of the power centers of our government has been remade to suit the needs of the super-rich.

None of this started with Trump, of course. Must I recap everything leading up to this moment? It started with Nixon; Reagan is still the poster boy. Some tax cuts here, some deregulation there. We wake up these days in a country where education no longer educates American children for anything but useless standardized tests, and a university degree is much harder than it has previously been to attain, unless you have the do-re-mi and a fine pedigree. Congress, both parties, do only what they are told, save for a few heroic individuals who only get eviscerated for their trouble. The courts are manned mostly by stooges. Even the Supreme Court has been bulldozed, with Gorsuch getting the seat that was stolen from Merrick Garland and Kennedy being forced out to make way for Kavanaugh. We are surrounded by fifty kinds of militarized police, and everything has been criminalized. God help the Millennials, who are at the mercy of the gig economy, living doubled and tripled up in lousy apartments with few possessions to slow them down when they are forced to move. Private prisons anyone? Leasing out prisoners for day-work that they do not get paid for? World's highest rate of incarceration? Sentences of several hundred years for drug crimes? (What do you get for murder now? Four-hundred-and-nineteen years!) Concentration camps? Separating immigrant families and then “losing” the children? Abrogating treaties around the world for no apparent reason? Is that enough?

If you think about it too much, you may wish to join a peaceful demonstration or something, but I don't recommend it. You might get arrested and charged with rioting! Get your ass thrown in prison for ten years. Lose your house and savings to the “fines,” or be billed for damage done by some judgment-proof anarchists who really were rioting, but who were not caught and who have no money anyway. Besides, the anarchists serve a political purpose, whereas you are just a malcontent who won't get with the program.

The stage was almost set with the Bush II v. Gore fiasco, but the gang of idiots around W. Bush screwed it all up and put everything behind schedule. Not to worry, it all worked to the clampdown's advantage. Hope and Change put a black man in the White House for eight years and society began to scream for relief from the chaotic excitement of democracy. “Please God!” America begged, “deliver us unto certainty!” Social changes; technological changes; demographic changes; what's a poor bourgeois fathead to do!!! Why, surrender to fascism, of course. Surrender, hell, beg for it! Be careful what you wish for.

And into that terrible moment stepped the people's savior, a failed businessman turned reality TV host who had nothing to recommend him for the job of president, but who did have one great skill in abundance: a supreme talent for self-promotion. Since he entered the political arena in 2015, Trump has dominated all forms of media in all dimensions, every day. Even before taking office, the real forces of the clampdown were busy dismantling what was left of American democracy. During the past two and a half years, the work of the previous two centuries has been largely swept away. The damage may be irreparable by now. We'll see what happens next year, but hey, you tell me, do I sound optimistic?

Sure, a Democrat might take the presidency next year, but we've all seen how much good that does. I'm on record as believing that they don't really care enough to be of much help, and they may, in fact, be losing on purpose as part of the master plan of the super-rich. They're the ones with the money, don't you know, and the Democrats like money as much as anybody.

Trump has been a wonderful tool for destruction, but what follows will be different, one way or another. If we are lucky, it will lean more heavily on smiles and businesslike efficiency than bluster, threats, and fear mongering. That might be more efficient. Or it may be a dystopia of misery. Terrible things will happen either way, and no deviation from pious patriotism will be tolerated, and there will be enough suffering to keep people in line, but wouldn't people be more manageable if there were big screen TVs, Netflix, and weed? My guess is that there will also be universal health care, only because it makes so much financial sense. Freedom and real prosperity will continue to fade into oblivion, but some measure of life-security may exist, for a little while. Just when we're getting used to it, climate change will hit with full force, and none of it will have mattered anyway.

The apocalypse will be televised, but only in the beginning.

Bobby Blue Bland - Little Boy Blue

Featuring Wayne Bennett on guitar. Enjoy! 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Tips For Surviving A Heat Wave!

Slate is reporting on a potentially dangerous heatwave now sweeping the east coast of the United States. Now, my memory is fine, and I can tell you that a brutal heatwave in July is not exactly an “alert the media” moment for that area. I grew up there, and you could be sure of few real scorchers during June, July, and August every year. Temperatures over a hundred anyway. We were used to it. Maybe it's different now, because of all of that newfangled air-conditioning. Maybe people are spoiled. Anyway, Slate offered some advice about how to handle the heat. It was a good start.

The article advises sufferers to drink a lot of water, stay out of the sun, and stay in air-conditioning as much as possible. To that I would add that people should walk very, very slowly, remaining in the shade if at all possible. Also, don't be embarrassed to deploy an umbrella to create some shade where there is none. Get one of those reflecting umbrellas if you can find one. If you can't find the reflecting ones, start a business selling them. They're about to become popular items as the world nears its burning-point.

Most of these instructions will not affect the behavior of New Yorkers, of which I was one. Take, for example, the suggestion that people walk more slowly. New Yorkers will continue to average five miles-per-hour, as usual, up to the point of dropping in their tracks from the heat. They have places to go, and don't get in their way.

Drink a lot of water? It's not always possible to find a bathroom in New York, so that's a big maybe not. New Yorkers practice “tactical dehydration,” like fighter pilots on long missions, to avoid the need to urinate. Here's another tip that you can try though. Buy a bottle of cold water and pour half of it over your shoulders. If it's hot enough, your shirt will be dry again pretty soon, and then you can pour the other half over yourself.

Dehydration can be very dangerous. It leads to symptoms that mimic oxygen deprivation. Like hallucinations and dizziness. Safely navigating a day in New York is hard enough without picking your way through hallucinations.

Here's a helpful tip that the Peace Corps shares with its volunteers in tropical countries: if you don't have to urinate right this second, you ain't drinking enough water. They told us that we should be drinking water more or less constantly. If it's hot enough, you still won't have to worry about finding a bathroom. You'll sweat it out.

Good luck, everybody! Thanks to the climate change routine, summers will be hotter, winters will be colder, and storms during the entire year will be more severe. And, if that weren't exciting enough, soon we'll be hitting the dreaded “tipping point,” and no one knows what will happen then. To my New York friends, take heart! It could be worse! Instead of suffering in New York, you could be suffering in Philadelphia.

Ike and Tina Turner - He's Mine (Poor Fool) - Live (1962)

This is a lovely bit of deep YouTubing. Tina at the beginning of her stardom, and Ike and the gang in a particularly playful mood. Nice job, fellows and girls. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

White Privilege Update

There is an article in the paper this morning about a black woman who thought that it would be interesting to ask white men straight out what were their thoughts about white privilege. From the tone and vocabulary of the article she appears to be an academic of some kind. She wondered, how would the answers differ in real-life settings from the typical answers in social science experiments? I didn't read the article.

I didn't skip it for lack of interest, but I have grown tired of white people's typical responses to such questions. Many white people just deny that there is such a thing, which is ridiculous on its face. Others who will allow that white privilege may exist claim that they have never benefited from it. This is also ridiculous. These are the reasons that I'm tired of reading about it, because they just make us all look bad, we white people.

I couldn't help thinking about what my own answer would be. My first challenge was deciding how different my answer would be if the questioner were black or white. The questioner in this case would be a black woman of the academic persuasion, so I'm pretty sure that my answer would tend towards the apologetic to some degree, with a touch of exculpation. If the questioner were white, I would tend more towards the educational type of response.

The existence of white privilege is beyond dispute. Let's face it, it's right there in front of us, big as life, still functioning every day like a well-oiled machine. Every day, in thousands of ways, there are distinct benefits that accrue to white people. Applying for jobs; shopping in retail outlets; enjoying public facilities like parks or pools; dealing with government entities or, God forbid, police; entering public buildings or elevators; or even entering the building that you live in; you're experience is greatly enhanced by being white. Your personal security is greatly enhanced. This is white privilege, and like it or not, you're stuck with it.

My personal feelings about white privilege include a certain amount of relief, certainly, because the possession of an advantage requires one to be somewhat grateful. I am thankful, for instance, that I need not fear for my life upon being pulled over for a traffic violation. (Not unless I start shooting my mouth off, anyway. White privilege is a rebuttable presumption.) My feelings also include, however, a good deal of embarrassment and even some resentment. Why, pray tell?

It's embarrassing because the very existence of such a thing is a constant reminder that humanity is still much closer to the mud than to enlightenment. White privilege is proof that human society, the whole of it, remains largely an ignorant exercise, tribal in character, lacking in common sense and human decency, and markedly primitive. Don't let your iPhone and your fancy clothes fool you, you damned dirty ape.

I resent white privilege because a) I hate it; and b) I have no choice but to accept it. It exists, even though I had no vote in the matter, and I benefit, whether I like it or not.

And here's the resentment that I hate the most. Because it exists, and because I benefit from it, anyone who does not enjoy white privilege looks at me with hostility and resentment to one extent or another. They can't avoid it altogether, and many feel the hostility and resentment with great vigor. White privilege exists because white people have spent the last millennium dominating non-white people by violence and exploiting their labor and their resources with great ruthlessness. This pattern continues today, although now generally disguised with a smile and self-described “good intentions.” Imagine the fury, indignation, and hilarity with which black Americans must greet assertions that America is now a “post racial” society where people rise or fall on their own merit, regardless of race. That, dear reader, is poppycock, notwithstanding the existance of a dignified, successful, black two-term ex-president.

So I cheerfully admit that my own feelings about white privilege are ambiguous. I grudgingly accept the benefits, but mostly I find the entire concept distasteful.

Don Bennett ‎– Don't Wanna Spoil Your High [full track] (1977)

The failing New York Times is good for some things besides spreading fake news about our fabulous president. (Sarcasm alert.) For instance, there was a lovely article in their Sunday magazine recently about a fire ten years ago at a storage facility for music master tapes. The article is highly recommended for patient music fans with time on their hands. (It comes in at about 10,000 words.) 

The Day the Music Burned, by Jody Rosen, published some time in June, 2019. I'm sure that you can still find it somewhere. It's the definitive article about an important subject, so it will be around for years. 

Of course it's terrible when masters for top stars are destroyed, but "top stars" are almost always identified by the money that they made for the company. Mr. Rosen is sensitive enough to notice that many real musical treasures do not make a dime for anyone, and in fact they may disappear without being heard by more than a couple of dozen people. This record by Don Bennett is Rosen's example of a record whose master was lost in the fire, and whose existence is now dependent on the loving care of the few record collectors who possess a copy of the vinyl release. 

I could go on, but that's enough to outline the problem. It's impossible to win the fight to preserve the entire cultural patrimony of the world, whether it is Buddha statues in Afghanistan or silent movies or recorded music. It's the same for the world as it is for us as individuals: one way or another, you lose all of your shit in the end. I was lucky. I lost all of my shit in a divorce, sparing myself the trauma of a big fire or the embarrassment of having ungrateful family throw it all away after I died. I've always been a lucky guy. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Run, Run, Run

Run Run Run must be one of the most popular song titles of all time. This one by the Who is my favorite of the sub-genre. 

The other day a friend posted a song on Facebook, something that he does frequently in spite of the fact that most people resolutely ignore such notices. I enjoy his choices, though, and I play about half of them. This one in particular was a cut called, “Run, Run, Run,” by a band named Jo Jo Gunne. I had never heard the song, although I had seen the band’s product. (My friend and I met while we were both working for a record selling chain of stores.) It was a good song; you could say that about it. It reminded me that there were two really great songs with the identical title in the mid-1960s.

First there was, “Run, Run, Run” by the Who, included on the LP A Quick One in 1966. That was the Who at the height of their powers, supercharged with energy and rage for having toured incessantly for well over a year while making almost no money. It’s a great song.

Then there was, “Run, Run, Run” by the Velvet Underground, included on their first LP in early 1967. This song also features high levels of energy and anger. I guess around that time we were all running either to or from some damn thing. The world was on edge. Whole cities and many universities were seething. Deaths in Vietnam spiked and stayed high starting in these years. Racial tension and opposition to the war-slash-draft were running high. Run! Run! Run! Yeah, we were running hot.

It seemed to me that there were probably a lot of songs named Run, Run, Run, and that hunch was correct, to an extent. A couple are very good, but none come up to the high standard set by the Who and the VU. All of the following songs are named "Run, Run, Run," that’s three runs. There were another bunch of songs named, “Run, Run,” but that’s different, isn’t it? There were one or two with a lot more “runs” in them, like, “Run, Run, Run, Run, Run,” but that’s just showing off. So, Run, Run, Runs, as follows:

“Run, Run, Run,” by the Supremes. (612,000 hits on YouTube) Did I say that the Who were first? Well, excuse me! The Supremes included this song on their 1964 LP, Where Did Our Love Go?

“Run, Run, Run,” The aforementioned Jo Jo Gunne song, from, I believe, the early 1970s.  

 “Run, Run, Run,” (28,000 hits) by the Third Rail. A 1967 semi-hit that I actually remembered after hearing it. This was a pop song in the typical cynical/ psychedelic style of the time. It was somewhat ambitious, but not particularly memorable.

“Run, Run, Run,” (550,000 hits) by Maki Osuki, with whom I am not familiar. She’s Japanese, and the song is in Japanese, described as “16 years later.” This song rocks hard, and it’s pretty good.

“Run, Run, Run,” (22,000,000 hits) by Celeste Buckingham. Definite winner of the hit-count-contest. Just awful.

“Run, Run, Run,” (400,000 hits) by Michelle Lewis. This song is very bland.

“Run, Run, Run,” by Chinese Man, as opposed to, “a Chinese man.” (1,700,000 hits) A typical sounding, undistinguished Rap song.

“Run, Run, Run,” by Phoenix, a French band. (Lyrics in English.) This is not a bad song. It’s got a smooth groove to it, and it is listenable.

“Run, Run, Run,” by Kelly Clarkson. (2,600,000 hits) A schmaltzy pop song. Pretty awful.

“Run, Run, Run,” by Tokio (sic) Hotel. (2,700,000 hits) Is this Emo music? It’s crap, whatever it is.

“Run, Run, Run,” by Jill Scott. (711,000 hits) Ms. Scott is an American black woman, and this is a great job on a decent song.

“Run, Run, Run,” by Fabrizio Cammarata. (9,600 hits) An Italian (?) pop singer, singing in English. It’s not a bad song, if you like them on the quiet and bland side.

That’s as far as I felt like diving into the pages of YouTube. There were probably more there. All you really needed to know were the Who, VU, the Supremes, and maybe Jill Scott. Maki Osuki? Sure, check her out too. Maybe the Third Rail, if you are a historian.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

How Many Presidents?

Donald Trump is my thirteenth president. He's number forty-five on the overall list, but he's number thirteenth on my list. Thirteen is an unlucky number in some cultures. I'll let you decide in this case.

How many presidents are enough? The way things are going, I'm not sure how many more I can stand. I started out with Harry Truman, number thirty-three. That's a lucky number, by the way, you can look it up. Truman was lucky in some ways, not so much in others. Trump is number forty-five for the United States. That seems like a lot. I don't think he'll be the last, but he might be close.

It won't be long now before we get our forever president, the guest that never leaves the party. Some clever boy will follow the new playbook and get himself elected so deep and hard that he'll be stuck in there forever. Between deep-fakes and holograms, after any last ability to tell the difference between shit and Shinola has been driven out of people, in that hell-blasted near future when no one really cares anymore as long as there's a can of beans in it for them, we'll get the last face that we ever need, the face that will appear on all of the money and all of the stamps forever, without end.

The whole world has been asking for it for a long time now. America has been begging for it since we let the Republicans off the leash in the 1980s. Don't start complaining after we get it. It'll be our own damned fault.

Bantam Rooster - Deal Me In

There are multiple troubles in Music City, people. A lot of these lurid, no-commercial-potential records from "some time ago" (like, the 1990s), are falling off the YouTube. These records were hard to find in the first place, and in some cases, like in my case, they only exist on CDs that were recorded "some time ago." This is all problematic. 

The computers are all gone, and well, curse me for a dolt but I'm not sufficiently organized to back-up all of my stuff sufficiently. Remember they told us that CDs were going to last fifty years? That was bullshit, I hate to break it to you. 

YouTube is great, and it seems sometimes like every single record or live tape of all time is up there, but it's not true. Plus, some of the material that is still there is hard to search. Just the name of the band and the name of the song gets you nowhere. Like "He's Waiting," but by the Meices (the Sonics had the original), is only available under the name of a Japanese car club. There it is, accompanying a spectacular video of their cars, but you need to know the name of the car club, which I forget at this moment. You see what I mean. 

So to anyone who still has their records I say, please live long and prosper, so that you can keep putting great obscurities up on YouTube. Be kind enough to make them easy to search and find. We'll appreciate it, and you'll get some damn good Karma. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Spin Easy Time!: What Mark Upon This World?

Spin Easy Time!: What Mark Upon This World?: What mark will we make, we bloggers, upon this world?  What stain will we leave to prove that we were ever here at all? There was a highly...

The above link is to a post hereon from October 25, 2014. I just checked and Doghouse Riley's blog is still on Blogspot in its entirety. The actual name of the blog, or the heading anyway, is, "Bats Left/Throws Right." It's a great blog, one of the best that I've ever seen. Riley has been dead for six years now, but the blog goes on. Why, it's enough to give some of us hope!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Prepare To Be Fined

(Beta Version. Parental Alert.) 

Today I read that a woman who has been sheltering in a sanctuary church is being fined over $450,000 by ICE. In another article I read that ICE has sent notices to other similarly situated immigrants in five states. The fines are all between $300,000 and $500,000. I would venture to guess that all of these individuals are judgment proof, although the existence of the liens will make it more difficult for them to remain in the U.S. The church, on the other hand, is not judgment proof. They have something to lose. This is just the ball getting rolling, folks. It's going to be a rough ride.

This is how they are going to get us, we who fall into one of the categories for “other.” Fines, or other monetary assessments, are a nice, clean way to destroy someone's life without the trouble of harming them or incarcerating them. This is my greatest fear.

So far it's all been very tentative. When people demonstrated at Trump's inauguration, there were charges filed, and a lot of good, upright citizens were arrested and charged with “illegal assembly,” or “failure to disperse,” or something. As is now routine, the situation immediately gave rise to creative new charges, backed up by new laws in several states, and draconian new penalties. Ambitious prosecutors wondered what was stopping them from charging the demonstrators with the crime of “rioting.” If any property was damaged in the “riot,” all of those charged could be assessed a share of the costs. The problem is that no one seems to care anymore if this government behavior has a chilling effect on our Constitutional rights to protest and associate with our fellows. This will terrify anyone with a house, or money in the bank, into immediate submission, or at least anticipatory obedience.

So, the power of money, as either a taking of it, an unpaid fine as a crime to be used as the basis for deportation, or a financial “Sword of Damocles” to prevent access to future wealth, is not lost on our sainted rulers.

(The fines are about $800 per day, per immigrant in a sanctuary location. According to, “ICE has had the authority to issue civil fines for decades, but didn't begin using it until last December.” All of this sanctuary activity also appeared on and I read about it at on July 4, 2019.)

The terror of financial ruination, that's the main idea. You may, in fact, be judgment-proof, which means that the lien on you will be unenforceable, because you don't have any money or any thing that is worth money. If you think about it, or get any good advice, you still don't want a lien hanging over your head. If, someday, you get your wheels back on the ground and want to buy a house, the mortgage will not go through until the lien is cleared. Ditto for a loan to start a business. Half a million dollars is a big lien.

Now imagine a civil fine imposed on you by some federal agency for criticizing the president. You know that this president would love to punish every single American citizen who had ever said anything mean about him. Any other president in history would laugh it all off, probably mentioning people getting ten years in the Gulag for calling Stalin “Uncle Mustache.” Trump's feeling are easier to hurt than any previous president, and he always wants to get revenge for any slight, however small. I'm starting to wonder if it is prudent for me to say mean things about Trump on this blog, even though the low readership will probably keep me safe.

Or not! The number of eyes, or readers, or the hit-count of a blog, will probably not be the trigger for such fines of retribution. No, the buy-in will more likely be the fact of the offending statement coupled with property or money in the bank. Why impose fines on the judgment-proof when there are so many offenders with something to steal? Unless, as is the case with the sanctuary immigrants, the intention is simply to introduce the concept.

As more and more of our Constitutional rights, freedoms, and privileges slip away, almost anything becomes possible. Remember that something like “free speech” only means what the Supreme Court says it means. If they say that free speech does not cover criticism of the president, well then it doesn't. It's just that simple. And if they also say that fines are okay as punishment, then fines become perfectly okay. This could all be administered by the United States Secret Service, an armed agency with the power to arrest that is charged with protecting the president and the rest of our leaders. They now fall under the Department of Homeland Security, just like ICE. Giving them the same authority to impose civil fines that ICE already enjoys should not be difficult.

People should really pay more attention to things like this. It is very easy these days for too many people to say, “those people are here illegally! ICE is just enforcing the law.” This kind of ratification of horrible things like family separation, and putting immigrants, including isolated children, into concentration camps, and tons of other frightening things that would not have been tolerated forty or fifty years ago, should not go unchallenged. These things are wrong, and they violate all of the norms and traditions of America as I understand them.

When will people wake up to the danger that this presents to us, to all of us? And to our children, and to our grandchildren? The sanctuary churches are also breaking the law. Will people feel the same when the churches are fined millions of dollars and their property is seized to cover the judgment? What about after that, when fines are being imposed for things that we cannot even imagine yet?

This is a slippery slope. Our president seems to enjoy the chaos and the bullying. The ICE agents are also having a great time, as we recently discovered on their own social media outlets. Other federal agencies could easily be brought in for some of the fun. America could turn into a police state before you could say, “Jack Robinson.”

This is all very disturbing, and it deserves more of people's attention.

Appendix Number One:

Federal Agencies with Police Powers

  1. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI);
  2. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF);
  3. Homeland Security;
  4. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE);
  5. Customs and Border Protection;
  6. The Treasury Police;
  7. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA);
  8. The National Security Agency (NSA);
  9. The United States Secret Service;
    1. The United States Postal Police;
    2. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA);
    3. The United States Marshall Service;
    4. The IRS Criminal Investigation Division;
    5. The Park Police;
    6. The Capitol Police;
    7. The Government Publication Office Police;
    8. The Office of Protective Services (for NASA);
    9. The Federal Reserve Board Police;
    10. The Mint Police; and
    11. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing Police.

The list also includes all five branches of the military, with their associated police elements (as seen on TV, i.e., NCIS: New Orleans), and The Federal Bureau of Prisons. There are also forces that are assigned to every branch of the government, and every federal agency. All together, there are sixty-five (65) federal agencies that have firearms and the power to arrest. (The number 65 comes from “,” a site that seems to be concerned with police department accreditation and job availability. It is a very pro-police site.)

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Captain Beefheart - KHSU Interview (December 2nd, 1972)

This is a great interview with Don Van Vliet in a good mood. KHSU is the station for Humboldt State University in northern California. The interviewer is a typical college station disc jockey, overawed by the situation and trying to be cool. Don is very patient with the kid, and maintains a very friendly tone throughout. He makes sure to plug his latest release, which shows that he was not completely immune to commercial considerations. Very interesting and entertaining. 

Captain Beefheart - Clear Spot

Released in late 1972. See interview, above. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Trump, Comforting Lies, And Totalitarianism

The news is all so terrible now that I can't stand to look at it. Ditto, Facebook. I enjoy YouTube, like most people, and there was a time when I might watch the new “Trump fans say the damnedest things” video. Through it all, the common thread is the constant stream of bald-faced lies from Trump, and the constant chorus of “hell, yeah!” from his fans and enablers. It has grown tiresome, at least for me it has. There are mysterious aspects to this phenomenon.

I don't know the people in the YouTube videos, so it's easy to dismiss them as uneducated Rubes and borderline cretins. They believe everything that Trump or Fox News tells them, even if they have seen the truth with their own eyes (things that are contrary to statements that Trump has made that were rebroadcast on TV thousands of times). They believe lies that are chronologically impossible (President Obama was in office and totally responsible for 9/11). They appear to be in some kind of fugue state, where all of the lines of reality have lost their power to bind. These people appear to be stupid.

It's harder to accept that they are being stupid when you see it on Facebook and it's people that you have known for many decades. You know that these people are not stupid, not at all, not even close. Not crazy, either. It's people that went through some kind of education and on to successful family lives. Many of them are very prosperous, as a result of either some kind of business ownership or a cleverly managed career in a lucrative field. And yet they, like the actual Rubes and ignoramuses, blithely repeat impossible lies or repost horrible calumnies against Democratic politicians, or anyone else that their echo chamber has focused their hatred on. They praise Trump to the high heaven and talk about the imaginary great job that he has done on the economy, diplomacy, jobs, the military, and immigration, among many other things. Why they do this is a mystery, or it was until the miracle of reading books provided a partial/ possible answer this week.

I read, no, it's too much to say that I “read” the New York Times every day. I do subscribe, and I do scan the entire portal every morning, but I only read half a dozen or eight of the articles on average. You can get some good information from that. I also scan things like the Raw Story; the Daily Beast; Slate; Salon; Truthdig; and Think Progress. I also subscribe to the Atlantic Magazine and Harper's Magazine. I don't read every word of those, either, but I read a lot. My experience of life, however, has taught me that to become really informed one must take up actual books and read them. This point was driven home in the last week or so.

I've been reading references to Hannah Arendt in serious articles for decades now, and she is a remarkably lucid and quotable woman. Was, if you consider that she died many years ago. I finally took the plunge and put a famous book of hers on my Kindle. A piece of one, actually. I was afraid that the entirety of “Origins of Totalitarianism” would be too much for me, so I ordered a copy of “Totalitarianism,” which is the last of the three parts of that larger work. The fact that the three sections of the book are available individually reassures me that I am not the only lazy person around here. I've been filing up a notebook with quotes, but my purpose today is simple and straightforward. The book provides a valuable clue as to why otherwise intelligent and moral people would believe such impossible lies and support such unacceptable behavior. I'm here to share it. 

Ms. Arendt talks at length about the mob, and mass man (people being handled in bulk, having lost their individuality), and the conditions under which totalitarian ideologies thrive. The key seems to be periods of rapid change, changes in people's social status and financial security, changes in society, in societal mores and norms, changes in borders and identities and politics, changes of all kinds that are so fast and furious that people look for relief. They can't take the uncertainty of it all. This could explain why so many of our family and friends have jumped on the crazy train, since America and the world have been adding new technologies, new people, and new ideas at a previously unheard of rate. The combination of chaos, uncertainty, and loss of status has made them look for solutions to their psychological and emotional suffering. An ideology, or a demagogue, appears with a way out. It is, of course, a house of cards built of lies, but people are in such a dismal condition that they prefer the certainty of the lies to the uncertainty of the facts around them. The lies are consistent, which is comforting, as opposed to the facts, which are chaotic. This dynamic was played out in the episodes of Nazism in Germany, and Soviet Communism in Russia. Communism in China too, I suppose. If one were prone to worry, one might suspect that it is playing out in the United States today.

It is more likely, however, that we will experience only some kind of dictatorship, rather than the full-blown totalitarian experience. My guess is a dictatorship not of one individual, but rather of a small class of people, or families. An oligarchy, with the extremely wealthy installed as the decision makers behind some kind of Potemkin Village of optical-illusion democracy.

Is it time to start worrying about that result? No, not at all. It's way past time. That's what we have already.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Brenda Holloway, Every Little Bit Hurts (1962 Del-Fi original)

It's late. I'm tired. You should hear this. Original version, two years before the Motown hit. You're welcome.