Monday, August 31, 2020
America's Exceptional Medical Care
1967, by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and a great job here by Dionne Warwick.
Would this be a strange lullaby to sing to an infant? Putting an infant to sleep requires a routine. You can't just surprise them with "that's it! down you go! lights out!" There must be a series of events, culminating in sleep. You program them, in other words. For my second child, the last step in the routine was me singing two songs to him. The light were out, just me and him, my hand on his back, and I sang the same two songs every night for at least a year.
First I sang, "Silhouettes on the Shade," by the Rays. Then I sang, "Alfie." By the time I was done, he was fast asleep. I still love these songs, and that memory.
Sunday, August 30, 2020
Locate The Exits, And Plan An Escape Route
Thursday, August 27, 2020
Pablo Picasso - John Cale
I love a good cover. This is a nice version of a very good song that brings subtle touches of its own to a well produced original. I like it.
I also love the way it illustrates the wheel of influences in music. The Velvet Underground heavily influenced the Modern Lovers, Jonathan Richman's early 1970s punkish band. Their version of Richman's Pablo Picasso, produced by John Cale in 1972, appeared on a Modern Lovers LP. John Cale, of the Velvet Underground, thought enough of the song to include his own version of it on his Helen of Troy LP.
Music is a highly creative endeavor, but with a lot of borrowing involved.
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
ROLLING STONES: Country Honk (Early Version)
Rock bands often follow a similar story arc. They start out with great enthusiasm, hungry to grab some business and make some money. Their music is often full of energy and fun at the beginning. They turn it way up and make a beautiful, impudent mess. Then at some point, if they are "lucky," they make some money. There are many ways for the story to go after that. Very often towards caution; often enough downhill.
The Rolling Stones stayed in the beautiful, loud, impudent period for much longer than most; they stayed there long after they had started to make money. They stayed in that period of high-quality productivity until something like the mid-1970s. That's over ten years! Almost unheard of, and still rare. Even in their later period of mostly coasting, they have remained generally interesting, with flashes of very good.
Even though they made themselves into a great arena band, I will always think of them as one of the greatest bar-bands in history. At their best, to this day, they sound like FUN.
Monday, August 17, 2020
GOIN' DOWN SLOW HOWLIN' WOLF
Our lists are different, but I know what the brother means. I was never one for self-deprivation while shit was around at affordable prices and I knew the right people. My life in the perfumed garden made up in intensity what it may have lacked in variety. My experience in the arts of life and nature have been deep and wide. I've been around. If I go suddenly, don't cry for me, Argentina. I'm satisfied.
Friday, August 14, 2020
The Curse of Computer Updates
It seemed at first like one of those merely cosmetic updates. Do younger users find it beneficial for all of their apps to simply change their look every couple of years? It just annoys me, but I'll tell you what annoys me more. That would be a very useful app (Blogger) that I have been using for over ten years suddenly becoming bug-ridden and almost unuseable.
I tried reverting to the former, familiar version, but things are still unpredictable.
Are you on Blogger? Want to have some fun? Try leaving them some feedback when something fails to respond, or changes formats in seemingly random patterns. That was twelve minutes of a good time right there. (Sarcasm alert.)
God help us.
In a rare moment of hyperbolic self-admiration, I will say out loud that Chris Hedges represents what I should aspire to be. He, dare I say it, is me, with a more rigorous education, a deeper schedule of reading, and a more serious approach to the dissemination of his writings. In lieu of an apology, I will just humbly admit that in this comparison, I, in every meaningful way, am left holding the short end of the stick.
I read everything by Mr. Hedges that I come across, and unsurprisingly I agree with just about all of it. There are many ideas, and a certain attitude, that his essays share with mine. We fall into a very similar range on the cynicism scale, which is to say that we are both rather close to the top of it. I tend to be even more negative, because that is my temperament. I'm sure that Mr. Hedges is a nicer man than me, deep down. I mean, I'm sure that we are both polite and somewhat charming on the outside, but my heart is almost certainly a much darker thing than his. Darker than yours as well, dear reader, and you may be thankful for that. If there were an Olympics for inner darkness and unrest, I would make the podium. In these miserable times, Mr. Hedges seems to retain a few ounces of hope in him. God bless him for that, because it makes him much more useful as an influential public intellectual.
That's another difference between us: I believe that Chris Hedges is a legitimate public intellectual. I would never say that about myself. I'm more of a low-budget Will Rogers style commentator. If public intellectuals could make a living playing the lounges in Vegas, I might be allowed to serve as a warm up act.
“It is up to us to mount sustained acts of mass civil disobedience...” This sentence appeared in a piece by Mr. Hedges on Consortium News dot com this week. Here is a perfect example of our separation on the nihilism scale. One must have a great deal of hope for the future to believe that this kind of thing is conceivable in America. I more often fall back on my “new dark ages” prediction, which I stated just the other day as “a great tyranny, perhaps for thousands of years...”
I have, in my more lucid moments, dreamed up something along the lines suggested by Mr. Hedges in the above quote. Just walking around in large groups carrying signs and subjecting yourself to police abuse and violence won't do it. That plays into the hands of the clampdown. It only gives the money power a chance to show off their brutal authority. That's a game that they will win; the state police have much more room to escalate than the demonstrators. But how about a general strike? What if something like that were organized in a way that would frighten the money power? Not just “Tuesday this week and then again when we feel like it.” What if it were Tuesday for two hours, everyone in America shows up two hours late on Tuesday? Every Tuesday. And what would happen if another hour were added after a couple of weeks? And so forth. That would be a very simple plan to understand, and easy for people to join in on. There would be retaliation, definitely, and people would suffer socially and financially. That would be terrible, but did anyone think that this would be easy? The only easy thing is to just throw up your hands and shout, “I love Big Brother!” No one wants the cage of rats dropped on their heads.
How angry and desperate would people need to be before the cage of rats became a “fuck it” moment? “Fuck you, I'm done, do your worst?” Could it ever happen that Americans would stay with such a crawling-general-strike until there were two entire days in every week when silence descended on every shop, factory, and office? Could one hundred million working Americans stick to that plan until it began to work? That would certainly get the money power's attention.
Oh, how I hate it when this happens. I get my hopes up, and it's all very exciting, however briefly. Then I realize that the reality of our situation is worse than it has been at any time in history. The money power today has much more money at its disposal, almost all of the existing money in fact, and exponentially more individuals who would do literally anything for a good deal of money and a chance at a piece of the pie. There are many tens of millions of Americans who would kill for the chance to be hired as highly paid strike breakers and mass-murderers. Look at these “police” who have been roughing up peaceful demonstrators over the last couple of months. What do they make now, six thousand dollars a month? Raise that by twenty or thirty percent, and add substantial bonuses for any particularly disagreeable dirty work. Can you imagine anything at all that they would not do?
I will continue to read whatever I find by Chris Hedges, and I will deeply appreciate any scraps of hope that he can manage to work into the general gloom. You should read him yourself. It's truth on the half-shell, and if there's too much hot sauce on it to suit you, just stop and take a breath after every paragraph. Put ice in your beer or something. I firmly believe that it is better to know what's coming, better to face the firing squad without a blindfold (although I will take that last cigarette, please). Better than remaining oblivious like most Americans, content to wake up one day, turn on the TV, and say, “wait, what happened?” And then continue watching to discover what their fascinating new lives will be like.
Joey, Joey, Joey
There are about half a dozen songs that I cannot sing without crying. This is one of them. It has no personal meaning to me, but that idea that some of us have a spirit in us that can move us in certain directions, often against our best interests, that idea affects me.
Thursday, August 13, 2020
Our New End Game Scenario
There was a time when my feelings regarding Mutually Assured Destruction were truly ambiguous. I would blandly explain to people what a great honor it would be to serve as an eyewitness to the greatest event in human history: the world-ending total nuclear war. Certainly a couple of tens of thousands of megaton-strength warheads would be enough to do it. The suffering of the witnesses would be brief; most of them in the northern hemisphere would hardly have time to notice it at all. It would be an honor to be invited to that party.
With apologies to our neighbors in the south, who might cling briefly to life, I would feel no regret or resentment at all at being involved in such an event. I would be gone; we would all be gone rather quickly; and then there would be no one to care. It would be an end to the huge volume of daily suffering that afflicts mankind. We could all be at peace, in the most final way imaginable. Forgive me if I find that result almost charming.
The planet itself would almost certainly survive, in some form. Barren, more or less, and gray due to the nuclear shroud, but still with recognizable continents and oceans. Given the plethora of life-forms that now prosper on the earth, some of them would definitely survive. Consider the microorganisms that dwell around steam vents in the greatest depths of the oceans. Even if radioactive fallout reached down through the seven or so miles of ocean to reach them, they'd probably just eat it. Deep in the earth something driven by life would endure. And don't forget, everywhere that there is life, there is a food-chain. All life consumes life, and is in turn consumed to provide life to others. After a hundred-million years, the earth would have long since recovered nicely, again becoming a welcoming home to multivarious life, all killing things to survive and being killed in return so that others could survive. All striving through the process of evolution to reach the goal of all life: immunity from death at the hands of predators. Only humans have achieved that goal so far, but it would happen again, given enough time. And what are a few hundred-million years to the earth and the sun? That's just a walk in the park in galactic reckoning.
That particular end is no longer on the table, I fear. The big players are far to clever to bring on their own end that way, and the small players could only cause enough damage to be a nuisance. The end that threatens us now is much more likely to happen, and, to me, is much more disagreeable. It is the end of our brief period of industrialized capitalism. We are, I believe, now witnessing the final stage of that game. White has one bishop, one knight, and one pawn, and Black has one rook and three pawns. Neither side is particularly good at chess, so it's a real nail-biter. The game is dragging out, but the rough outlines of the end-game are clear. It will be a longish period of decline, after which industrialized capitalism will be replaced by an industrialized, fully mechanized authoritarian oligarchy. The world will become a large-scale imitation of Honduras, run for the benefit of a limited number of families, and manned by impoverished, debt-riddled workers. The odds are that you will be one of the workers.
I would have preferred the death by nuclear war, myself. That would have been much more democratic, don't you think? We would all have shared the same fate. That would have been an almost poetic ending to the human race. This way, the great majority of humankind will suffer under a great tyranny, perhaps for thousands of years. We in the developed world had the ability to avoid this result, but it seems that we were too busy enjoying our advantage and trying to increase our piece of the pie. We failed to notice our growing losses, and by now it is too late.
My sincerest apologies to those living in countries where all but a very few families have always been completely bereft. We could have helped you, but we were too busy making a living to give it much thought. Perhaps you can console yourselves with the knowledge that we will soon be joining you in the gutter.
Saturday, August 8, 2020
BZOMB "Standing (in your doorway crying) Telephone version
You don't need a fancy-ass rig to deliver the musical idea. If your attitude is strong enough, anything that is laying around will be fine.
Frank Sinatra - 'Everything Happens to Me'
A nice song about bad luck. My opinion is that what we call luck is a question of memory. If you mostly remember the times that luck did not run your way, you feel unlucky. If, on the other hand, you tend to remember every time that luck lifted you up out of some trouble, you feel lucky. Self-sabotage aside, a lot of it is up to you.
Friday, August 7, 2020
Louis Jordan ---Blue Lite Boogie
This is rock and roll, rearing it's loud, impolite head in an early iteration. The beat is getting more emphasis, and the guitar is moving forward, squeezing out the horns. A lot of this was due to advances in instrument amplification (the guitars) and sound recording (the overall feel). This is 1950! Baby steps, but a strong indication of things to come.
I love this song by Frankie Lee Sims, but this is a swell version from Louis Jordan and the fellows.
This Awful State Of Affairs
The Supreme Court has ruled that jails and prisons have no obligation to provide their charges with basic sanitary and protective equipment to avoid contagion with the COVID-19 virus. Nor must they test symptomatic inmates. This was a five to four vote along “party” lines (read, “ideological lines”). The five who believe that those filthy miscreants do not deserve even the most basic human decency or consideration were: Chief Justice Roberts (appointed by George W. Bush, or as I call him, “Bush the Lesser”); Justice Clarence Thomas (George H.W. Bush, “Bush the Greater”); Justice Samuel Alito (Bush the Lesser); Justice Neil Gorsuch (President Covfefe); and Justice Brett Kavanaugh (Covfefe).
The four Justices who found this ruling disgusting and illegal were: Justice Sonia Sotomayor (President Obama); Justice Ruth B. Ginsburg (President Bill Clinton); Justice Stephen Breyer (President Clinton); and Justice Elena Kagan (President Obama).
That, dear readers, describes our current predicament with the forceful clarity of a large bell. The voters have spoken! They voted too often for Republicans, and we all got saddled with a bunch of political hacks.
Our current president is still breaking every low bar ever established for the office. When I was in grammar school we were taught about the breathtaking corruption and incompetence of Warren Harding. The Tea Pot Dome scandal; the Ohio Gang. Harding was also a fanatic of the game of golf. President Seat Warmer is far eclipsing Harding in all categories of graft and corruption.
President Bush the Younger was famous for mangling the English language, earning the title of, “President Malaprop.” He would complain that he was being “misunderestimated.” And remember the classic, “fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice . . . well . . . you can't get fooled again.” President “Six Feet, Three Inches, 239 pounds, Golf Handicap 2.8” has surpassed Bush by a wide margin, and his failure to grasp the basic vocabulary and grammar of the English language continues to astound listeners.
Remember when he was trying to get congress to investigate the “oranges” of some tragedy of his own invention? (Origins.) He has also had a great deal of trouble enunciating on many occasions. (“God blesch the Uni'd Schatsh.”) I apologize if these are simple instances of loose dentures, but if they are mini-strokes it is cause for alarm.
Just reading off of a teleprompter exceeds the language skills of “President Between You and I.” The other day he was reading a speech which had him pretending to wax poetic about the beauty of the giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park. Most of us have heard of Yosemite, at least from the cartoon character, “Yosemite Sam.” For our genius of a president, it was a word of first impression. (“I have words, I have the best words!”) He narrowed his eyes, further enhancing the confused look that he always gets when he is attempting to read, and said, “er, Yo Semite National Park.” (As in Semite, someone from the Levant, a Jew or an Arab.) Then he said it again, so there was no doubt that the word, and it's meaning, were well outside of his experience of life.
Yesterday he came across the word, “Thailand,” in another struggle with the teleprompter. It's obvious to anyone that he never bothers to prepare for these speeches. He just shows up and wings it. So he says, “Thighland and Vietnam.” He knows the word, “thigh,” and there it was! Right in the text! I said he knows the word, I didn't say that he knows how to spell it. I'm sure that he rather likes thighs, youngish female thighs. So to El Presidente, it was “Thighland.” Vietnam he could pronounce, having devoted so much time in his youth to avoiding the necessity of going there. Even so, I bet that he couldn't find either place on a map.
Regarding Congress, please allow me to pass. I am under doctor's orders not to think about congress. They create in me an irreconcilable dilemma, a cognitive dissonance. How can they be, almost to a person, simultaneously not only so aggressively venal and corrupt, but also so bovine and malleable?
Monday, August 3, 2020
The Wonders Of Harper's Magazine
Sunday, August 2, 2020
Celebration! And A Book Plug
Thanks to Kool Bell and the crew for helping me celebrate the warm welcome for the post below this, "Things That No Longer Seem to Matter." Over six hundred reads, and they don't look like bots either. Three serious comments from real people! That's all a rare thrill for me, so thanks everybody.
Perhaps I should take this opportunity to plug my book! A rare moment of self-promotion. Here's the direct link to Amazon. The e-book is still specially priced at ninety-nine cents.
Political Rants: Lefty Vitriol in the Age of Obama and Trump. It was drawn from these very pages. The text was cleaned up a bit, but none of the content was altered to make me look smarter after the benefit of hindsight. There are so many posts in the archive by now that it would be difficult to follow the thread of politics since 2008. It's all in the book, in chronological order. Watch the nightmare unfold in real time!
I deeply appreciate any time that people spend reading my work. I enjoy writing it, but it's more fun if I know that someone is reading it.