Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Hidden Aspects Of Corruption

I've been throwing around the word “corruption” here for a while now. It's been on my mind recently, and the word shows up in any post where the subject is related to politics or money. The whole world is going to hell in a hand-basket, and I'm upset about it. Upon reflection, it has occurred to me that all of the things that are driving this hell bound train boil down to corruption in one of its many guises. So it's worth considering corruption as a stand-alone issue, and examining individual facets of the corruption diamond.

We will be better able to spot corruption if we give a bit of thought to the possible ways that it may be recognized among all of the background noise that we must deal with in our new screen-driven wonderland.

Today's facet is hypocrisy.

Elon Musk is a good poster-child for hypocrisy. Every one of his harebrained ideas is presented as something that will greatly change the world for the better. Only coincidentally will they all make billions of dollars for him. Self-driving cars; the hyper-link; hypersonic air travel; and, of course, the colonization of Mars.

All of the smiles and the “advances” mask a dark truth. The rocket engine, and the entire apparatus, that would enable the super-fast travel idea would, not coincidentally, also be used to create hypersonic missiles. The real goal here is a government contract for one or two thousand hypersonic missiles capable of reaching any point on the earth lickety-split. Those will cost a bundle.

See how this works?

I loved Adam McKay's new Netflix movie, “Don't Look Up.” Spoiler alert! The government comes up with a feasible plan to divert the world-ending comet, but that plan is canceled in mid-flight after the slightly mental billionaire's team of scientists discover that the entire comet is made up of rare-earth minerals, gold, and platinum. It's worth 174 trillion dollars! They have a substitute plan to possibly save the earth with a chance of retrieving the comet and extracting its value. The Trump-like president, and her party, are totally on board. They all can smell the money. The residue of this plan is unspeakable.

You know Musk's plan to colonize Mars? All of that technology would be very useful for a massive effort to monetize the asteroid belt that is just beyond Mars. He can smell the money too. I'd bet my tattoo and one of my few remaining real teeth that mining asteroids is the real goal of Musk's Mars song and dance.

The self-driving cars and the hyper-link are just bullshit distractions. They will never amount to much. The cars require a vigilant human back-up driver to override the system's errors. As I have always maintained about automatic transmissions in cars: I have to sit here anyway, and I'll select my own damn gears, thank you. Besides, I predict that they will never work safely on our existing analog roadways. The hyper-link is pure pie in the sky. Both would require vast infrastructure for their support.

I know nothing about Musk's flame-thrower idea, nor do I wish to be informed about it.

What a world we live in! It's like everyone's bullshit-detector has simultaneously failed, and no one has noticed. And no one wants to piss off the billionaires. You might get banned from Facebook! You might get kicked off of Amazon Prime!

Listen to what they say, the billionaire class and the politicians, but take it all with a good grain of salt. Watch what they do, certainly. Real profit, however, lies in carefully considering what their real motives might be. Is there money in this idea somewhere for them? If so, there lies the truth.

Friday, December 24, 2021

My Kind Of Xmas

I am faithless. I am not an agnostic; I never had any faith to give up. I'm not an atheist; I have no feelings on the matter that could support such a position. I am not a Deist; that would require belief. I don't believe in anything beyond the natural world that surrounds and torments me. In a related development, I don't trust anyone or anything either. Notwithstanding these caveats, I do try very hard to enjoy Christmas. 

I embrace Xmas* as an end-of-year holiday when we can all take a break and show some appreciation for making it to the finish line of another year of all of this bullshit. We could not have done it without help, none of us could. So take a moment to generate some more or less genuine happiness, or at least some sense of relief, and thank the people who helped us along the way. 

Thank all of you, dear readers. I enjoy writing this blog, but it is much nicer knowing that there are some people out there who enjoy reading my complaining. What can I tell you? I'm a New Yorker at heart. I lived there for almost thirty years, I was born there. We love to complain. 

I enjoy the tree idea as well. The evergreen tree. It nicely represents the good friends who stay with you in good times and in bad. Let those other trees abandon you when the going gets rough (cold). The fir tree remains at your side. 

Another thing that I take no position on is the idea that there really was a Yeshua who made a fuss around the year thirty, common era. This holiday is really the Winter Solstice. It's been a holiday for at least 20,000 years. Those ancient tribal people knew very well about the passing of the months, marked by the passage of the moon and other planets. They knew all about the lengthening and shortening of the days in the course of one year. They marked it with log circles; in Siberia then marked it with circles made from the skulls of megafauna. They observed the shadows, tracking the movement of the sun. After the Winter Solstice, the days began to get longer. That was a pretty good  reason to have a festival. Perhaps the best reason. 

So Merry Xmas, Happy Solstice Day, Happy All of the Holidays. I wish for all of my readers, family, friends, for everyone, in fact, a better year in 2022, a happy, healthy year. Hey, it could happen!

*Xmas is not impolite. The "X" is for the Greek letter representing the messiah.   


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Caroline, No

It seems that there is a general love for this song among all of the people who have heard it. I certainly love it, and always have. 

Considering just the idea for a moment, can a love that has been broken be repaired? Oh, Caroline, I think not. Love is a complex interaction of facts and feelings, emotions and needs. Its beginnings are nebulous, but it matures in trust, cooperation, intimacy, admiration, and acceptance of faults. It is made from smoke and mirrors, but its real effect takes place in the world of reality. It is a supernatural house of cards, and if it has collapsed, the odds are that it will not rise again. 

May you be lucky in love, dear readers. That is one of the greatest gifts that can be bestowed on a person. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Monty Python - Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

How about a bit of blasphemy for the holiday! Merry Christmas! Always keep in mind the expert advice that this song so cheerfully delivers. Look for the good! It's down there somewhere. 

And Happy Birthday to Mr. Jesus, and Mr. Mithra, and Mr. Horus, and all of the rest of the one-hundred-plus Gods who are having birthdays this week. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Procol Harum - A Salty Dog

I still read in interviews occasionally someone mentioning Procol Harum, and this song in particular. It must have resonated with a lot of people. Not just fatheads like me, either, people who were worth interviewing. 

Holds up pretty well, doesn't it? 

Monday, December 13, 2021

Stevie Wonder Improv about a broken keyboard...genius!

Stevie is such a pro. Crew dropped the ball on the electric piano? No problem. Stevie Wonder is no Diva. He's got this covered. 

Beautiful recovery, Stevie, and the crowd loved it. 

Naked Lunch Update, December 2021

The Naked Lunch: when that bit of whatever is at the end of every fork becomes fully understood in all of its particulars. When the veil is parted and the truth is made clearly visible. That's what we need around here.

There are events unfolding around America and around the world that require our immediate attention. I mean of the “or else” variety of attention. You could follow what passes for the news media in a lot more detail than I do and still only see passing shadows of useful information on certain no-go subject matter. Things that “they” don't want us to notice. I saw a brief note the other day explaining how the number of oysters in British waters has gone down ninety-five percent in the last, what was it, say forty years. That's a temperature issue, a detail that the small article cleverly left out.

This morning I read about that huge “wind storm” that devastated a wide swath of land on a north-easterly diagonal beginning in Arkansas and ending up in Ontario, Canada. There were something like forty tornadoes involved, and the damage was impressive, to say the least. “Scores” of people were killed. One news aggregation site took the bold step and wondered out loud: could this storm be related to climate change?

That reminded me of a cute creature-feature, black and white, early 1960s. “The Swamp Creatures.” At one point, at about the 70% mark, when all of the human characters who remain alive are quite familiar with the titular monsters, a small group of men must make a dangerous passage over swampy ground to get somewhere. They know that it is what German troops used to call a “Himmelfahrtskommando,” (A “trip to heaven mission.”) Sure enough, they hear the distinctive clicking/ moaning sound that is associated with the creatures. They all look concerned. One man says, “do you think it could be the swamp creatures?” Viewers reacted as one, I'm sure, in thinking, “yes, asshole, I think it could be the swamp creatures.”

The problem is not always climate related. I've seen numerous scholarly articles in the better magazines for twenty years now about the mass disappearance/ extinction of flying insects, songbirds, and amphibians. Related events, by the way. The new neurotoxin insecticides are lighter than air, so wherever you spray them, they just float off willy-nilly. The cloud of those chemicals now coats the entire world, and there go the flying insects. They are very sensitive to the poison involved. Songbirds' and amphibians' diets consist of, you guessed it, flying insects. No one seems to notice, or care. We are in the middle of a mass-extinction event that is being closely observed by scientists, and totally ignored by everyone else.

Many of these massive crises involve political and geopolitical events. The attention that they receive from the American government is generally limited to economic sanctions, the formation of a committee, or vague military threats that are usually implied by a movement of forces. These announcements are most often made by officials from either the State Department or the Pentagon. The rest of the Washington political establishment remains fixated on either making fun of President Biden and promising to oppose everything that he does, trying to undo the election of 2020, or, in the case of the Democrats, trying to appear to be doing something while sabotaging themselves and carefully avoiding anything that might help them to win any future elections. It's enough to make you sick. They act like the rest of the world were comfortably resting with its head on a rock in about 1958.

If geophysical events are involved, committees are formed and discretionary guidelines are set. These guidelines are not intended to be met. They are for show. There are meetings. And nothing is done, because the money people want nothing to be done. Burn coal; wind farms kill birds; solar doesn't work when it rains. Oh, now I'm going to be sick again.

If they are social events, like the random, casual murder of a black man by police somewhere, there may be demonstrations. People of all races will get very angry. Articles will be written, and perhaps legislation will be suggested, although none will be passed. There will be little or no follow up. In time, it will all settle down, in spite of the fact that the incidence of such police murders has really been reaching a crescendo. There is no apparent notice taken by our representatives or public officials; it all gets very little coverage from our media. If the social events do not involve murder, people in general may gloss over the whole thing, or laugh at a topical joke on a late-night talk show, but there is no deeper concern. Most people fail to take any notice at all.

Pop Quiz! Raise your hand if you think that more than fifteen percent of congress could find both Taiwan AND the Ukraine on a map. Fifteen percent is being generous. Fewer than that could speak one coherent sentence about those boiling crises. Both of those countries are recent creations. How many congressmen could explain both origin stories? How did they get to this point? Are there colorable arguments on both sides, or are they both simple land-grabs?

Wake up! Come on! It's all-hands-on-deck time!

The Parties

Are all races, nationalities, and demographics equally clueless regarding these challenges? Why no, they are not.

Prosperous white Americans will overlook anything as long as the government keeps their taxes low and overlooks their off-shore tax havens. They adopt the corporate party line about things like climate change, COVID-19, police behavior (misbehavior), and pretty much everything else. The most desperately poor white Americans do not have any energy left after navigating a moneyless world with little or no government assistance. There were over one hundred thousand opioid overdose deaths last year, so it's safe to say that a great number of the helpless, hopeless poor are self-medicating themselves to death. Include meth in your calculations.

White Americans in the middle somewhere are busy trying to keep their heads above water. Have you seen what's been happening with rents in the last few years?

Black Americans bring their customary hypervigilance to many issues, but most often to issues that affect them personally or brush up against their own issues. They can't be bothered with the shrinking population of flying insects, but on many social justice issues they can be trusted to take the point. I am thankful for them.

My hunch is that Hispanic Americans are very concerned with climate related issues. They, after all, are much more aware of crop related issues than other groups. They are big on the social justice front as well.

Self-described Republicans can be trusted to be on the wrong side of any issue. The only anti-vaccine individuals in my family are avowed Republicans. Climate change is a hoax, etc.

Self-described Democrats are, as usual, a mixed bag. They may be NIMBY* liberals, or they may follow the money, or they may only have the feeling that the Republicans are pushing this hard right wing thing a bit too quickly. More likely they are just decent people who love justice and diversity, but who will not do anything to risk one iota of their own personal money or freedom.

Regarding education levels, it is enough to note that both the scientific community and the majority of academics are firmly on the liberal side of the scale. Highly educated conservatives are either hypocritical, corrupt, or evil.

The Government

How about our esteemed public officials? Our tireless representatives in various legislatures? Our precious democracy! What are they doing to help us in these perilous times?

Old Joe Biden still has his get-out-of-jail-free card from me, so I won't be complaining about him. The LOSER, no, I won't be complaining about him either. There is plenty of complaining in the air about both of those guys already, so really, what's the point? No, my major complaint today is that almost all of them, damn near everybody involved in government as an administrator or as an elected official, are a bunch of selfish, self-interested, immoral, totally corrupt assholes. The waste of so many good educations is a crying shame.

None of them give one smooth shit about anything but keeping the money stream flowing, maintaining their status as prosperous members of the investment class, avoiding taxes, and finding new ways to invisibly launder money.

It is most unfortunate that this money-disease has spread to the flag officers in our vaunted military. The hurricane of money that swirls around the heads of top Pentagon officials creates a steady rain of money that falls on the shoulders bearing stars. This is why we have been cursed with bottomless money pits like the F-35 and littoral combat ships, and it is why we see the endless, fruitless pursuit of future-weapons like the rail-gun, and laser weapons.

America's security establishment has certainly mastered the art of collecting every single phone call and e-mail in the world, but what good does it do anyone? They collect it at fabulous cost, and then comb through it for key words, names, and phrases. The effort is colossal and expensive. They claim to be the masters of modern cyber-warfare, so why is it that China can remotely influence American warships into believing that they are occupying GPS coordinates that are false? Remember these stories? Strange ship handling mishaps that should never happen on U.S. Navy ships? That got hushed up PDQ. And why is it that lesser players like North Korea, and Iran, can make it seem easy to hack into sensitive, heavily fire-walled American computer networks?

That's the next war in a nutshell: someone, Russia, let's say, takes over and re-purposes all of our military satellites. Then they shut down our electrical grid. All of it. Goodbye Internet, banking, mass communications. And then the old-fashioned phone rings. That'll be an interesting phone call. This is while every single one of our politicians is ignoring the danger, instead devoting 100% of their efforts to pushing agendas of personal power and self-enrichment.

Statesmen? In name only. Diplomats? Sorry, Trump fired all of the diplomats.

Money prevents anyone in power from even briefly considering things like the supernatural levels of poverty and misery in places like Suriname, or Malawi, or the bereft conditions prevailing in failed states like Venezuela, Afghanistan, or Syria. (Those unfortunate countries were chosen for the sake of brevity from rather long lists.) Average temperatures are certain to continue rising. That includes surface temperatures, shallow water temperatures, and deep water temperatures. I'm no meteorologist, but even I know that oceanic water temperatures are where the weather comes from. Droughts, floods, crop failures, these are our new normal, and certain to get worse.

Hey! Space station! How're those ice sheets looking?

Many of these potential calamities will not happen. The volcanic activity, for example, is very difficult to predict. But the strange, hyperactive weather has become a sure thing, and many more horrific events could happen very quickly. Suddenly, even. As I have mentioned previously, all of this does take the sting out of imminent death from old age. I would hate to see my grandchildren go hungry.

I would suggest that younger people take a hint from that Greta Thunberg. Get busy finding ways to bend the power elite to your will. It could all be taken care of. Be creative. Think outside the box. Be fierce.

It's up to you.

*NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Outkast - Hey Ya! (Official HD Video)

This is just a wonderful, genre-bending, timeless piece of music. Outkast, I hope that you fellows are doing fine, and thanks for everything. 

Leslie Odom Jr. - I'll Be Home For Christmas (Audio Only)

"Home is where the heart is." 

"Wherever I hang my hat, is home." 

I wonder these days if I have a home at all, and I wonder where that would be, if it existed. The saving grace of it is that I've never really felt at home anywhere. Least of all my boyhood home. I was more of an outsider there than I am living here in Thailand. 

"You Can't Go Home Again." That's a novel by Thomas Wolfe. I haven't read it, but I think that I know what he meant. You can't go home because IT'S GONE. None of those cheerful times from the flood tide of life can be replicated, because all of the settings, and all of the people, and all of the sentiments, and all of the emotions, are simply gone. It's sad to long for home, or even a feeling remotely like being "at home." You might as well long for the fucking Roman Empire. 

Long time readers will recall that I hate the holidays like the Jews hate Hitler. My boyhood Christmases were nightmarish. I wouldn't wish them on anybody. There was a time, when my boys were young, when we all had a wonderful Christmas, with lots of company, and a big dinner, and nice phone calls to relatives. But it's been a long time since I could enjoy anything like that. 

My new wife rather likes Christmas, even though she is a confirmed Buddhist with no connection to Christianity. Thank God! Christianity never made anyone happy. The Christmas tree is nice though, and the fellowship can be wonderful. 

So we'll be fine, here in our tropical wonderland. Thankful for another good year. My Christmas wish is that all of my family and friends, everywhere, can have a great 2022, happy, healthy, and prosperous. All of you readers, too! I love you all. Weird as it  seems, I have no outwardly directed negative thoughts. 

glitter S.P.C

This is definitely one of my favorite music videos, and also definitely one of my favorite covers. It's the Meices, generously offering their massive talents with a shockingly good version of the Sonics song, "He's Waiting." (I don't know when the video of the cars was made, but the song was recorded in the late 1990s.)

Thanks, Gearhead magazine; thanks, the Meices; thanks, Glitter car club from Sapporo, Japan; and thanks, Sonics, wherever you are. What an amazing coincidence of talent! 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

A New Map For The New Civil War

We've been reading a lot about a “new civil war,” and the proposed alignment for such an event has generally been based on states that voted Red vs. states that voted Blue. I have trouble believing that any such event could be organized in the first place, and the vast economic imbalance in favor of the Blue states would insure that it didn't last long anyway.

There is a new “us vs. them” map coming that will be much more interesting. When the Supreme Court weakens Roe v. Wade beyond utility, which it is about to do (don't say I haven't been warning you for twelve years), they will lack the power to declare abortion illegal outright. Courts can only make findings on issues that are properly before them. Roe was never about abortion, per se. Roe is a Due Process case. The Supreme Court has the authority to find that the stupid Texas law now before it follows the Constitutional requirements for due process. That they have the power to do. So the Texas law will stand. Having that Supreme Court sanction (approval), other states, many of them, will pass similar laws.

Voila! The Supreme Court need not overturn Roe, nor ever reach the issue of the nature and legality of abortion. The Texas law says “detection of a heartbeat,” which is usually about six weeks, and if the Supreme Court says that law is Constitutional, it's Constitutional. Roe over, case closed.

All American states are sovereigns. They have the Constitutional authority to make and enforce laws that will apply to all local matters. That is why the laws of the fifty states can seem so different from each other. The laws of every state must follow Federal constitutional guidelines, and every state must allow its citizens all of the freedoms described in the United States Constitution. But states have the power to grant their citizens additional rights.

Take the death penalty, please. The death penalty is Constitutional because the Constitution only forbids “cruel and unusual punishment,” and the Supreme Court has consistently found that the death penalty is not inherently “cruel (or) unusual.” States therefore are allowed to make up their own minds. No, they couldn't get away with beheading people, or even hanging them. Those would key the “cruel and unusual” proscription. As long as the state comes up with a relatively kindhearted way to kill the offender, it's fine.

A substantial majority of the states have done away with the practice. That's fine too. That mechanism will be applied to abortion now. Many states will adopt laws that effectively eliminate the possibility of any of their citizens obtaining an abortion IN THAT STATE. Many other states will adopt laws that probably will follow guidelines similar to Roe v. Wade, the trimester model, and offer their citizens, OR VISITORS, the right to choose to abort a pregnancy on that basis. That will make our new map.

Due Process

No person shall “. . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Please spare me a trip all the way down the rabbit hole on that one. Most essentially, references to due process in the U.S. Constitution were intended to incorporate Common Law principles of fairness and respect for the law.

It breaks down into two branches: procedural due process, and substantive due process. Procedural due process is the easy one. What fair and transparent procedures must the government follow in any particular situation? This branch alone has generated a vast catalog of Supreme Court cases, because there are so many situations that must be adjudicated. Due process to kick Johnny out of school; due process to kick Mr. Jones off welfare. The cases are legion, but the purpose and the logic of them are fairly easy to see.

The second branch is substantive due process, and this is where mourning becomes Electra, intellectually speaking. Here we are addressing rights that are nowhere mentioned in the Constitution; rights that have never been recognized as traditional rights; rights to things that the writers of the Constitution did not know existed; rights that had never been considered until very recently. The last half of the Twentieth Century was full of exciting cases about substantive due process.

Rights were awarded in areas that no one had ever expected to find rights. The right to marry outside of your race (Loving v. Virginia, 1967), the right for married couples to use contraceptives (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965), and yes, the right to an abortion within certain guidelines (Roe v. Wade, 1973).

The right for two consenting adults to engage in homosexual behavior was a hard-fought battle. The first time it came before the Court, it lost (Bowers v. Hardwick, 1986). That law criminalizing homosexual behavior stayed on the books in Georgia. Seventeen years later, a similar anti-sodomy law in Texas was struck down. This is a perfect illustration about how the Supreme Court allows the Constitution to remain up-to-date over the centuries. In Lawrence v. Texas, 2003, Justice Kennedy, writing for the Court, decided the case not on some lofty intellectual theory, but simply on the basis of liberty! He wrote that, “liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct.” Bingo!

All of these, and many other rights, are now up in the air. The support of a long line of cases has been knocked out from under them. I think it's safe to say that many states will soon go after gay marriage and all homosexual behavior in any context. I'm sure that many states will get creative, going after all sex outside of marriage. I've been hearing rumblings about eliminating contraceptives for twenty years. It became part of the anti-abortion movement's goals at some point. It'll be exciting to see what they come up with.

The New Cold Civil War

Everybody can just hold their horses about a “second Civil War.” There will be plenty of shooting, this is America that we're talking about, but there will never again be two clearly defined physical areas, each represented on the battlefield by an organized armed force. No, this time around it'll be more of a Cold War. Lot's of jockeying for position and lots of empty threats. As usual, the soldiers on both sides will wear belt buckles that say, “Gott Mit Uns,” and each side will claim moral superiority over the other.

I can tell you that in the 1980s it was no party driving across Texas on Route 10 in a car with California plates. You could cut the hatred with a knife. I wouldn't expect that to get any better. In fact, once this whole thing gets rolling, I think that it will probably become harder to drive across the country by any route. Any “abortion state” car that is driving through a “no abortion state” may be transporting a fugitive to or from an abortion that was totally illegal in that old rag of a jurisdiction!

It makes me sick. While I've been bitching at the air, and preaching to the trees, too many people have been voting for the wrong people who have been appointing the wrong people, and now we're stuck with this dramatically sub-optimal Supreme Court for the foreseeable future. There's no way out at this point. They ARE our circus, and those six evil justices ARE our monkeys.

And our rights and freedoms continue to sail out the window like children's dreams, gone before Junior is finished rubbing his eyes.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Patsy Cline - Crazy (1961)

I don't know if it gets any better than this. The key is all the way up there. We had the sheet music at home and I'm pretty sure it was in F. Patsy was the best. She could pull highs like this while making it all sound sultry. 

Willie Nelson gets the writing credit, BTW. 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Returning Soon To A Blog Near You: Mr. Fred!!!

I've been a bit out of the weather for a week or so. None of the bad things that are going around. Just the kind of gastro-intestinal things that are very annoying but you live through them. I missed two whole nights sleep, and over a five day period I had nothing but three pieces of toast and about six ounces of water. It's made me slightly cranky.  

See you soon with some real content, but I'll warn you right now. My temper has been very short; I have been letting people have it left and right.  Things might get ugly. But it's fun to blow off a little steam now and then. It's good for you! 

Rippin' it Up – Roly Platt

Great video, nice synch job, and my oh my, can't that Roly Platt fellow play that thing! I had never heard of him. Just goes to show. There are a lot of hot players out there ripping it up mostly in secret. 

Uncle Floyd Show: OBC Years Flashback Clip of Julia Step Child

One of the best shows in television history. Floyd, Skip, Skip doing Hula Hannah, this show is a priceless treasure.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

COVID Has Some People Depressed

Last week I read about the great number of people who were stricken with depression due to the lock-downs, and isolation, and social distancing that were associated with the COVID pandemic. Oh! Poor babies! Were you so lonely, with recourse only to social media, video calls, and Zoom meetings? They found the isolation depressing, even though the odds are that they were not actually alone for much of that time.

Applying my maximum degree of sympathy to those people, forced into a corner, as it were, I will admit that they may have experienced some degree of depression-like symptoms. Got to drinking more than usual, perhaps? Sleep pattern slightly disturbed, was it? Well, boo-fucking-who.

Speaking as one who is actually depressed, along with several other maladies, with an ACE score of five, I can tell you that I loved the lock-down portion of the pandemic. I hate and fear going outside, or anywhere, or seeing anyone but the very few people whose company I actually enjoy. All I want to do is sit and read, and write, and in the evenings watch some Netflix. And talk to my wife; I enjoy her company. I like being indoors, at home.

There is an important point to be made here. There is a huge qualitative difference between situational depression and major depression (sometimes called clinical depression).

Situational depression is like being sad for six months when your dog dies. Or maybe a year if it was the death of a beloved parent. Friend, dogs die, that's life, and if you had even one beloved parent, quit your complaining. You were way ahead of the game. You've been getting over it since the first moment that you knew that you had it.

Clinical depression is a life sentence. Every morning over coffee; every day at work or with your family; every evening as you try to calm down enough to get some sleep; every day in every decade of your life. It's the filter through which your entire life experience passes. It's HORRIBLE.

So if this COVID thing has you a little down, look for the good. You're going to get over it. Unless it's immediately followed by, or joined by, monkey-pox, or COVID-22, or some new MERS variant, or the Black Plague. All of that lock-down time has left many major cities overrun with rats. New York, and my own city, among them. That never bodes well. It's never going to end. Then the Gulf Stream will change direction or something else climate related. Crops are already failing; droughts and floods are already becoming unmanageable. It's early in the game to get depressed by the new normal of the Twenty-First Century. Give it another few years to get some wind in its sails. You're depressed now? The real fun hasn't even started yet.

Dear Israel. I am so so sorry

Farmer Michael again brings the voice of reason to world events. Thanks, Stevo. 

Saturday, November 13, 2021

What's Going On, By Marvin Gaye, With Notes From The Blogger

Whats Going On, By Marvin Gaye

As the great man said, “what's going on?” That would be Marvin Gaye. Marvin had a tough life, which ended when his own father murdered him in anger. Marvin Gay, Sr. (original spelling; the “e” was added by Marvin Jr. as a stage name), was a troubled man. Senior was a preacher, and a cross-dresser, which led to rumors that Marvin Jr. was also “gay,” rumors that Marvin Sr. seemed to endorse as far as his son was concerned. Who else would go into show business? Reality can be so ironic. Marvin, not a bit homosexual by all accounts, is tarred with the brush of his father's behavior, and dad ends up shooting him to death.

The world is now soaked to overflow with irony, unintended comedic irony, and post-irony. Who could stand it? I know that I can't.

The News

I read the news, but I try to avoid entire categories of news. If I gave up the news altogether, I wouldn't have discovered this morning that Patricia Highsmith's diaries have been published! She's a big favorite of mine. I'm a middle-brow semi-intellectual, something like that. I'm not the Jane Austin/ Dostoevsky type, but I'm not exactly the Elmore Leonard type either. (For crime fiction, I prefer the classics, like Raymond Chandler, and the more modern, but also dead, George V. Higgins and Charles Willeford.) But I am definitely the Patricia Highsmith type. The Ripley books are among my all time favorites (there are five Ripley novels). I already knew that she was a fascinating woman, and the diaries appear to be a real treat. Wild, honest, complex, and quotable. The diaries are on my short list.

I tend to look for news in the corners of the paper, avoiding the headline items as an act of self-preservation. Too much time reading about the people who are currently supposed to be in power fiddling while the entire playhouse is burning down is just depressing. I've been depressed since before Kindergarten, and I require no assistance in feeding those fires, thank you.

The corners of the papers contain a lot of great stuff, stuff you really shouldn't miss. Oh, look! They've found new skeletal remains of homo denisova in a cave in northern China! The Denisovans are underrated. Wow! New information about the moons of one of our gas giants! You could keep yourself hypnotized forever just reading about quantum mechanics! You don't have to understand it. Just try to imagine the nature of the physical spaces above our heads, and below our feet. Things are all getting much bigger and much smaller as the scientists make progress in their fields. That shit is amazing.

The Bear Traps

If you go walking in the woods, you must, at all costs, avoid stepping in bear traps. There are bear traps in newspapers too. Subjects too horrible to consider; subjects that will make you overly angry, afraid, or confused. Don't go there. Don't even let your eyes see the click-bait.

Like modern evangelical Christianity.

I think that the odds are good that there was a Jewish boat-builder named Yeshua who kept his own counsel for most of his life and had some kind of epiphany at about thirty years of age. That he could live so quietly to that point tells us that he was just an average Joe. Someone, certainly, then spent a few years making himself unpopular with all of the authority figures of the era. At the end, he was executed by the Romans for his efforts. Several nascent religions arose using this Yeshua as their focus, and many documents of second-hand information were created. The branch that took root was, unsurprisingly, led by Greeks who were Roman citizens, like Paul. If Yeshua's own words, quoted in the four main gospels of the New Testament, are taken at their face value, he was firmly in the tradition of Jewish social justice prophets, and a man to be admired. The Pauline religion that followed moved away from social justice, adding divinity and references to older scriptures and mythologies. The Romans Latinized “Yeshua” to “Jesus,” and the Greeks added “Christ.” With the Jewish origins thus erased, the religion began to appeal to Rome, which adopted, or co-opted, the entire enterprise in the early fourth century. The Council of Nicea eliminated all non-conforming texts and created what has been Christian canon ever since. The Romanized religion, centered on “Jesus Christ,” became the only acceptable version of Christianity, and all heretical cults were murdered.

Not only Roman Catholicism, but also all protestant and evangelical Christian sects, are all based on this Romanized version. They differ only in small details like statuary, the age when people should be baptized, or whether the Sabbath comes on Saturday or Sunday. As if such things could matter to God! It's all so silly.

Modern American Christians left Jesus far behind as long ago as the Reagan presidency. Since then they have even given up the less tolerant and more political teachings of Paul of Tarsus. By now, American Christianity is mostly of the mega-church variety, which abandons theology all together, focusing instead on money, nationalism, and hatred.

They are in the process of taking over the entire governance of the United States, lock, stock, and barrel. Retired Lieutenant General (three stars) Michael Flynn spoke to some radical group or other yesterday and said that we need to make America, “one nation under God, one religion under God.” I noticed prayer-group-leader and worthless attempted big shot Mike Pompeo showing up in a video from the last few days, and he seems to have lost well over one hundred pounds. This, my friends, is what they call “preparing to run for president.” I wish that I had the energy to actively oppose such shenanigans, but, coward that I am, I will just shine my little light on it momentarily and then retreat to my dream world. Get ready for Betsy DeVos as Secretary of State, and her brother Eric as Secretary of Defense. These people are coming on hard and fast, and they are so close that they can taste it.

So whatever you do, don't read about that! No, stick to reading articles about those extremely interesting miniature humans, homo floresiensis. Or join me in reading the diaries of Patricia Highsmith, and consider, as I do, how dull our culture would be without the great contributions of homosexuals. Contributions that will be ending when these religious assholes take over.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Sam Cooke Having A Party

More music that was brought to you in its entirety by the American black church. 

Sam Cooke also knew the power of the hook. Any record released under Sam's name, or on his label (SAR), or produced by Sam, was blessed with a great hook. 

Friday, October 29, 2021

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Roxy Music - Virginia Plain - Top Of The Pops - 24th August 1972

Top of the Pops, baby! The brand-newish Roxy Music with a "hit" from their first LP. Nice video. With Eno on stage! 

The Update, October, 2021 Edition

Real news about what is actually happening on the ground in America almost never reaches me here in paradise. I have family, friends, friends/ former work mates, childhood friends, and Facebook friends, that are spread out all over the demographic. There are a couple that I can tell are on thin ice; most seem to be doing okay; and a couple have made a great financial success of their lives. In any case, whether by FB or by e-mail, most of the news that comes to me is sanitized. The negativity has been deleted. Bad news has been obscured by things ranging from the general “fog of embarrassment” to the “clouds of denial” that prevent people from admitting that America has turned into a shit-show. Bless their little hearts, but no one want to harsh my mellow by telling me that they themselves are beginning to worry about their own financial security.

The news from all media sources also paints a rosy picture, unless it's Act-of-God stuff, like floods or fires. I would get my own in person update once every year while my father was alive. I could see that prices were starting to skyrocket, while wages were stagnant for most working people and hours were being cut to avoid handing out any benefits. My last trip to California was in 2018, and I could see that the homeless problem had become a permanent installation all across Southern California. Those unfortunate people had given up on ever “getting back on their feet.” They were banding together and building semi-permanent tent-like structures, complete with gasoline generators to power some electric lights and a TV or two. My hotel was close to one that occupied a grassy area about thirty feet by 250 feet. It was made of heavy tarpaulins that were held up by sturdy tent poles. Most of the inhabitants were wearing clothes that they appear to have been wearing without interruption for at least eighteen months, and the skin of many was covered with a blackish sheen of filth.

They are outdoors because of an intersection of corporate greed and government favoritism for corporations and the rich. Rents have gone up beyond all reason, pushed by the irrational exuberance of the housing market. Investment funds have been buying up all of the rental properties and empty houses since 2008. “First and last, plus a month's security” on the deposit means moving in is beyond the means of an increasing number of Americans. For a one bedroom apartment in a decent neighborhood, the move-in rate can easily be almost $4,000.

The government's part? For people squeaking by, working two jobs (29 hours apiece), sharing apartments, one red-light traffic ticket can be the end. The county demands something like $400 or $500 immediately, within two weeks or something, and people don't have it. There is no making a deal to pay it off. Pay or we double it. Now it's $1,000, and those penalties will continue to accrue. Don't pay and they suspend your drivers' license. Try to drive with no license, that's another big ticket. So they lose their jobs, because it's Southern California, no car, no job. That red light, and its photo-driven, automatically created ticket, was the end of the line for a lot of people. Next stop, homelessness.

My updates over the last couple of weeks have been truly alarming. They have been much more “white-line of reality” than the usual. The drama in the lives of my pre-divorce family, and many of our friends, is disturbing. Note that my last trip was in 2018. Everyone seemed happy. One young (forties) friend was buying his first house; my own sons were doing well and living rather prosperous lives; my ex-wife, well, she would not see me, of course, but reports were fine; people were working and making a living, and their relationships seemed to be working out okay as well. But this has been an interesting three years in the interim, hasn't it?

Perhaps too interesting. Everything in California has reached crisis levels. Lake Meade is empty, for Christ's sake. The drought, the fires, the homelessness, tuition, prices in general, rents! COVID!!! With its lock-downs! Stay at home all the time with your family, shoulder to shoulder. Figure out Zoom. Teach your children. The stress has been unbearable. By now, fault lines are clearly visible everywhere. (Figuratively, of course. The “Big One” has not manifested itself. But the giant, apocalyptic earthquake is always in the back of everyone's mind in California.) Finances, personal relationships, work arrangements, it has all been stretched to the limits. Rubber bands are beginning to snap.

And guess who's not helping? Politicians! The Democrats are doing just what I predicted they would do: almost nothing. Certainly not fighting for our rights and our dignity. The Democrats all seem almost inert, except the few who are actively helping to ruin the country. Billionaires! They are all in their own big contest to see who can suck the most money out of the economy. (Here's a clue: why are billionaires in a space race? Wait and see who gets the contract for a new fleet of several thousand hyper-sonic missiles.) Republicans! What a bunch of corrupt morons. And the all time champion of NOT HELPING AT ALL, “ladies and gentlemen! In the Red Corner, hailing from Jamaica, Queens, the 45th President of the United States! Donald . . . J. . . Trump!!!”

Talk about fiddling while Rome burned. Actually, Nero probably got a bad rap there. It is highly doubtful that he played a musical instrument while that fire raged. Our own bunch of Nero-equivalent, self-absorbed politicians are the ones who are definitely fucking around while the entire country burns to the ground. We are watching them in real time, as we lose every hard-fought gain from over two-hundred years of the blood, sweat, and tears of ordinary working people.

And who speaks for these ordinary working people? Who can you point to? I mean, I love that little Greta Thunberg, but she is a narrow reed upon which to hang the hopes of all of humanity.

My own update is a clean bill of health, with no negativity to delete. I'm still doing my part for peace, love, and brotherhood, still teaching Thai law students how to discuss the law in English. It is important that they learn how to converse with lawyers from neighboring countries about Vietnamese law, or Malaysian law, etc. English is the lingua franca over here, so my skills are still needed. My health is good. At my age, of course, I could drop at any moment, but the docs tell me that it is unlikely. All of my tests and numbers are good, and I submit to regular observation. I have a terrific, roomy condo, and a wonderful Chinese-Thai wife. I have friends who are decent, interesting people. Anyone who says that they have no regrets is lying, but I am content.

I have no bucket list. I've seen plenty of the world, and most of the United States. I do have a reading list, but I try to keep it short, because, you know, things happen. (This second? 1493, by Charles Mann. Next up? The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, by David Gracher.)

Best wishes to all of you poor devils who still live in America. The trends are not good. May your luck hold out forever. Or, if your luck has already run out, may God have mercy on your soul.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Ma è un canto brasileiro

You need to give this song a chance to get rolling, but, after you've heard it, if it did not completely blow your doors off, I'll eat a bug. 

Lucio Battisti is the name. 

(Early 1970s. He died about ten years ago.) 

Monday, October 4, 2021

Nina Simone: Pirate Jenny

Ms. Simone gives this song the proper level of fury. Parental Advisory!!! Cover your food! A storm is coming. 

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Death's Call

It was a long time ago, but the pope got shot back in the 1980s. I'm pretty sure that it was the 1980s. It was that Polish pope that everybody but me liked. I woke up to NPR on the clock radio, as usual, “Morning Edition,” and they were talking about it. The pope remained, infuriatingly, alive, but it was exciting to think that the world could continue to generate such wonderful news while your city was blissfully asleep. Discovering who had died overnight became my first article of business every morning. The practice is usually disappointing.

Most often, no one newsworthy has died at all. There is always the chance that the recently deceased will be someone that you liked, loved, or at least respected. Then you must begin to feel bad within minutes of waking up. The rewards, however, can be great. Perhaps someone like Justice Scalia has died! Your coffee is suddenly more delicious; there is an extra spring in your step. You can wear your red socks to work and plan on pizza for dinner, because it has just become a holiday!

Or, thanks to our social-media addiction, it may be a friend of yours. We live in a web of instant human interaction that is vast and efficient. Wherever in the world you happen to be hanging your hat, you will be notified within hours of the death of someone that is close to your heart.

This happened to me the other day. Social media isn't my first stop in the morning. I'm past my second cup of coffee by the time I look at Facebook. I'm old fashioned. I read the news first. The New York Times comes first, although I do try to keep my exposure to the political news to a minimum. I'd rather read the stories about how that bully-ghetto girl Dasani did up at the private school, or that new batch of homo denisiva bones discovered in a cave in Mongolia or something. What kind of house can you buy for $350,000 these days? What awful painter has become the new big thing in the art world? Then I go over to Facebook.

It's usually just more of the same, but a couple of days ago there was a big surprise. My friend Sandy was dead. I hadn't heard anything about any particular disease, so I think that it was one of those “sudden collapse” kind of things. A stroke; a heart attack. Whatever, Sandy was gone. He was five or six years older than me, so you can't say it was a shock.

(Sandy in the middle; number three on the right.) 

Sandy, Santo, was one of the very tough boys in my town. I don't remember him from the old days at all, due to the age difference, but I don't think he was a bully about it. Many boys in my town just loved to fight, and the decent ones kept the muss to other fighters. He grew up fine. He was in construction, and he became a general contractor with his own crew. He used to show pix of his jobs on FB, but I haven't seen any for a while. Maybe he had retired. He did big restorations, inside, outside, hardscaping, all around the house. He and his crew did beautiful work. Interestingly, coming from my very racist town, his crew was all black. From the looks on their faces, it seemed like he was a decent boss.

I was happy and flattered to know him. We got along fine, even though there was a vast chasm separating our politics. You know how it is: you just try to avoid the subject.

Sandy was the oldest of four boys in his family. They were a mixed bag. Number three was my age, and he never bothered anybody that I heard about. He was one of the band guys, played guitar and sang. I liked him, although I never got to know him.

(Number two in Vietnam. Look at the size of those hands!)

Number two was the terror of the town, and the family too, if they want to admit it. He was big, mean, fast, and as tough as nails. He also had an impulse control problem. Sandy and number two had a physical trait than ran in the family. Their father, and their uncle Santo (namesake!), both had enormous, powerful hands. The father, and the uncle, and Sandy, and number two, made fists and it looked like they were holding bowling balls. They knew how to use them, too. They were good "from both sides, from the left or the right.” Unlike Sandy, number two was a bully, and he had a group of friends that most of us tried our best to avoid. Especially if it was after seven o'clock or so, because by then they would have been drinking.

Number four had a chip on his shoulder, plus he knew that no one would mess with him because of number two. I also tried to avoid him.

I knew Sandy on line for ten years or so. Not just exchanging comments. We did chat occasionally. He even left some messages on my blog. I liked the guy a lot. He was a good friend to a huge number of guys and girls that he remembered from grade school on up, and from adulthood as well. Everybody loved him. He was actually “larger then life.” He even made a small corner in his life for a nothing little wise-ass like me, politics notwithstanding.

About an hour after I had read the news, I was doing the dishes and this came into my head:

The great and the small

All answer death's call,

On the day when the sun never sets.

If you've had your time,

Children, women, and wine,

Just shut up, that's as good as it gets.

I'm sure that Sandy wouldn't be complaining, if he were here to let us know how he feels about the whole thing.

God speed, Santo. You had a good run. You helped a lot of people, and you were a good friend to many. A life well lived never really fades, as long as somebody remembers.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht - Pirate Jenny (Sung by Lotte Lenya)

Lotte Lenya singing in English! 

This is what the housekeeping staff at your nice hotel is thinking while they smile at you in the hall in between rooms that need making up. 

Tip generously, my friends! It may buy you some mercy. 

Friday, October 1, 2021

Surabaya Johnny

This song sounds great in the original German. It also sounds great here, in English. It's not an easy song to wring the correct emotion out of, but Ms. Faithful does a wonderful job. 

For German, you can look for the first version, by Lotte Lenya, who absolutely kills it (this one includes the German lyrics so you can sing along). Ute Lemper's version is also great. 

Nostalgia For Dead Comedians

There are many kinds of comedians. There are joke tellers; story tellers; physical comedians; comedians who do impersonations; comedy dancers; expression comedians; comedy magicians; comedy jugglers. There's a lot of variety here. People like to laugh, and from an early age there are many other people who live to make them laugh.

The ranks of the dead are full of geniuses in every category of comedy greatness. The lists in every category grow daily, as a result of the unforgiving nature of the human condition. We lost our greatest living joke teller last week. That would be Norm MacDonald.

First, a bit of clarification. There are two major categories of joke tellers: short form and long form. Short form joke tellers include Milton Berle, Rodney Dangerfield, Henny Youngman, and Soupy Sales. “Take my wife . . . please!” They don't come much shorter than that. Berle had a memory that would make every elephant on earth blush, then bow to him and say, “master, thou hast bested us by a long shot.” Berle remembered every joke that he had ever heard, I mean stole, I mean heard. He had a million jokes at the tip of his tongue. Berle was on the Howard Stern show in the 1990s, and Houch was obviously a fan. “I bet you have jokes on every imaginable subject. Can we try it? I'll throw a topic at you and you tell the joke.” Berle was game. Howard says, “motherhood.” Within a millisecond, Berle says, “young woman is walking down the street. A cop comes over and says, 'lady, do you know that one of your breasts is hanging out of your blouse?' Woman looks down and says, “damn! I left the baby on the bus!”

Maybe that's Catskill humor. Maybe that was an anti-Semitic remark. When the maybes start stacking up, it's best to quit while you're ahead.

Norm MacDonald was a long form joke teller. Five minutes was a typical length for one joke. All the while, Norm would be building tension with cute bits, funny bits, awkward bits, dialog sections, sly side-eyes, and by the end, even the people in the joke are often crying out for the punchline. Then he'd drop it, and it killed. Norm was a genius.

He's not the only one. Comedy heaven is full of them. We have been fully capable homo sapiens for a long time now, and I'm certain that there were comedians among us long before even the appearance of language. Old Og, pretending to drop a rock on his foot, jumping around holding the foot in his hands and making faces. Or Og, pretending to hit his head on a branch while walking in the forest. I'd bet on it. You could get laughs with those visual jokes today. Those people had our brains, so of course they could laugh. They also had tough lives, which traditionally has caused humans to seek relief in comedy.

One of the classical theories of comedy is as simple as, “something happening to someone else, instead of happening to you.” Like someone slipping on a banana peel. The Greek philosophers knew that over two thousand years ago. We laugh with relief. The odds are that someone was noticing that laughter at other people's misfortune two-hundred thousand years ago. And some ancient Jerry Seinfeld noticed the laughter and figured out that he could harness that power.

Sometimes it's hard to tell if the comedian is telling a joke or a story. The punchline, if there is one, may not be enough to clear up the confusion. I guess that if there is sufficient laughter, it was a joke.

Lenny Bruce was like that. I have lost access to my records, but my collection included a couple of Lenny Bruce LPs. There's a bit on one that goes on for a good ten minutes. Lenny delivers it in his usual hipster-junkie mumble. You're listening, and there are real laughs in it, but you're not sure what the subject of the piece is. At whose expense is this bit going to be funny? Whose ox will be gored? Will it be rich people? Drunks? Barflies? Dog owners? Where is this guy going with this bit? You never find out. The bit resolves in a pseudo-punchline, which is definitely a gag line, but what the fuck was that all about? One person and one dog die in the final set up line.

The punchline? “Wow, he is tough,” delivered laconically by the owner of the dead dog.

Norm wasn't afraid to kill people in his jokes either. I have put up Norm's “Dirty Johnny” joke a few times, but they always take it down. It's probably back now, and you should look it up. Try “norm macdonald dirty johnny.” Add, “uncle terry.” Maybe try, “the hatchery.” It's up there somewhere, disguised by now due to the intense interest of the license holders, our new gods. Norm had a separate genre of “Andy Richter” jokes, and those are also very funny.

No one could tell a joke like Norm. Some of our great comedians, however, have been all over the place. Hard to pin down. Like Richard Pryor.

Richard Pryor mixed jokes, impersonations, physical humor, characters, social commentary, and story telling in his act. He did it all at the speed of light. He could make a joke about the interaction of a drunken black man and some white police funny. And he was allowed to do the one I'm thinking of on the Ed Sullivan show.

Ed always looked like a stiff, but he was actually pretty hip.

The drunk is on the corner, addressing people at random. Richard is in character. A police car drives up.

Hey, you! Have you seen Johnny Wilson?”

Richard's drunk answers, “I ain't seen nobody since 1992. I thought I was blind till I seen you two drive up.”

That was Richard, cleaned up for TV.

Robin Williams mixed things up in a similar way, always moving as though he had just been hit by lightening. Jack Benny could get gales of laughter from a radio audience with fifteen seconds of dead air! (They had all seen him in movies, and they knew he was striking his typical pose, with arms folded and one hand on his cheek while looking off into the distance.) The Marx Brothers took whatever situation they were in to the bleeding edge of chaos, with Groucho occasionally pausing to address the audience directly through the camera. They kept themselves surrounded by an army of straight-men (and women) whose exasperation grew by the minute. Contrast the Marx Brothers with Buster Keaton, who remained silent even as the movies began speaking, so stone faced that he did not appear even to be breathing. W.C. Fields had a long and very remunerative run as a world famous juggler in Vaudeville. As age and heavy drinking took the edge off of his skills, he invented the concept of comedy juggling. He was the first to juggle cigar boxes and hats, often using canes. As the number of film studios in New York multiplied, Fields answered the call for famous names. He invented a durable character and moved from Vaudeville to films, where he could concentrate more on his drinking. (Making the drinking a part of the act was a stroke of genius.)

There are too many to name. They're dead, so they won't mind if I neglect to mention them. Now Norm is also dead.

I don't believe in a real heaven, and if heaven there was, the chances of its being rather dull are very high. I've read the Bible, and one thing you can say for sure about Yahweh, that God had no sense of humor. Unless you think Yahweh telling Abraham to kill his favorite son was funny. “Aw, come on, Abe! I was just fucking with you!” I don't care for jokes like that, myself.

Those guys and girls that I mentioned earlier, the comedians, are just gone, baby, gone. Gone like Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, and Soryu. Gone under 17,000 feet of water, and that, my dear, is really gone. (Moment of silence for the sailors who went down with them.)

And a silent prayer of thanks to all of those comedians over the years who made our lives a bit easier. Who gave us hours of relief as we watched our own lives drain away and the entire world go to hell around us. How about a sincere “thank you” to all of the living, working comedians, and the writers who feed them such wonderful lines. Can you imagine the world without them? I can't.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Lee Moses - Bad Girl (full song, no break)

I'm not sure if I've ever heard this song before. Great little tune, though. It's catchy! You can dance to it! And everybody loves a Bad Girl. 

Mr. Fred Faces Facts: He Is An Angry Man In A Hard Rain

Many thanks to Bob Dylan for putting his stuff up on the 'Tube. “A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall” Bob at his earliest.

There's a nice scene in the first Avengers movie when Bruce Banner, played by Mark Ruffalo, is told by Iron Man that his services as the Hulk are required immediately. Stark says something like, “time to get mad!” Mr. Ruffalo, beginning to expand and turn green, replies, “That's my secret, Tony. I'M MAD ALL THE TIME.

Some little thing happened today and I just lost it. I exploded. The feeling passed within a few minutes. In calmer seas, I can be relaxed and charming for weeks at a time. Right this second, however, I am facing ten or twelve unpleasant challenges at the same time. It has reduced me to paralysis. I can sit quietly and read my huge, fascinating new history book; I can watch a movie; I can have a pleasant lunch with my wife and then do the dishes. Why, you'd think that I was a normal human being. But let one thing add even slightly to my load of ridiculous impositions, and that's it. Boom!

I calmed down quickly today, and apologized to my wife. I'm not angry with her at all. In fact, quite the opposite is true. “But,” I said, “it's all too much now. Any little thing, and it all blows up, everything at once.” Then I surprised myself. “I'm mad all the time. Usually I can live quietly and hide it.”

At this point, anyone who knows me is thinking, “duh!!!, alert the media!!! Fred has figured out his mental condition!!!”

Then, as I resumed learning about Japanese carrier warfare doctrine in early World War II, I realized that I have always been like this. Never always at full boil, but always at between 205 and 210 degrees Fahrenheit, so that any little thing would throw me into a rowdy, rolling boil.

My friends have always known it. My birth family knew it from the beginning. “Oh, God, don't tell Freddy! He'll go crazy!” I really hate to do it in Thailand, and I have more-or-less successfully avoided doing it for over a decade. Showing anger is a major breach of protocol here. So I've been careful to keep my mask in place, especially with my wife. That, my friend, is one egg that cannot be unbroken.

This last couple of months have made it impossible to keep this anger under wraps. Now, with the COVID, and the COVID rules changing day by day, and the plethora of new software for cyber tests and cyber classes and cyber meetings, and the lists of places that you can and cannot travel constantly changing, and the government offices (like immigration) opening, and closing, and requiring appointments, or maybe not, and the government websites that have either displayed the same pages since 2014 or now just display a “closed for upgrading” sign that's been there for months, and my own country getting crazier by the day, and everyone with any power or authority in the world still ignoring the really impressive list of new climate catastrophes, it's all too much.

Today was a breakthrough for me. A breakthrough within a breakdown. “It's all too much. Any little thing, and it all blows up, everything at once.” That simple statement of the problem was a breakthrough. I had never seen the problem so clearly before. I'm always ready to go off, and when I do, I'm reacting to every, single thing that has every terrified or annoyed me, past, present, and future. That's really not a good plan.

I've discussed it with my cardiologist. I call it the clench, because usually I can stifle the explosion. But inside, every muscle in my body tightens up, and I hold my breath for a minute, and probably close my eyes. “Yes,” says my cardio, “every time you do that, it's very bad for the small blood vessels. They tighten up as well.” And that, of course, is my cardiovascular problem in a nutshell. Those spidery little blood vessels around the perimeter of my heart. My heart itself, and the valve, and all of the larger veins and arteries around the immediate area are perfect. The smaller ones further out are fixing to kill me, though. I already have stents on two of them, including the one they call the “Widow Maker.”

Is there anyone out there that thinks the world will become MORE livable any time soon? Or ever again? And I'm supposed to adjust to these multiple new realities simultaneously with my adjustment to imminent death from old age? I'm afraid that I'm not up to that challenge.

I can't believe that I used to write about politics! Trump broke me of that bad habit. In fact, Trump broke me, period. I knew that he would be a millstone around our necks for many years to come, because that's his nature. He had a taste of being president, and it magnified all of his negative traits. I knew that he'd get away with damn near everything, because that is the nature of American politics. Brush it under the rug. It might weaken people's faith in democracy! Quaint to think that someone still thinks that's a good way to go.

It's almost impossible for me to comfort myself these days. If I am sitting comfortably and marveling at the contrast between opposing doctrines for preparing and launching a deck-strike from the flight decks of carriers belonging to two countries at war long ago, I can seem relaxed. But if I only close my eyes, much less return to the real world, I become rigid with the effort that it requires to refrain from worrying about everything all at once. Rigid like a thirty-five hundred year old statue of Amenhotep II. The best man at my first wedding had a similar problem. He often fantasized about walking into Queens General Hospital, announcing himself as “The Screaming Gypsy Bandit,” and demanding an immediate shot of Demerol, after which he would quietly sign himself into their care. “Sometimes,” he would say, “I don't see any alternatives.”

(He has predeceased me, rest his soul. He was a wonderful human being. Just wound a bit to tightly. That's why we got along so well. We lived in the same hell of sparks and powerful gusts of wind. He did finally calm down. He became an adjuster for a big insurance company, one of the biggest, in fact, and had a very successful career that lasted twenty-nine years and ten months. They laid him off in his late fifties, two months before his pension would have vested. That's what many of my fellow Americans call “Freedom.”)

So yeah, I'm angry. And afraid. There are a few financially significant countries that may go tits-up any day now. I'm worried about that. And to think that we used to laugh at the French for keeping gold sewn into their mattresses! One of the things that I worry about most is the dollar. Don't give me that look. Do you trust the gang of idiots who are in charge in Washington? It's not only the Republicans and the Democrats working against your interests. It's all of them. Including that bunch of hacks now infesting our Supreme Court (six of them at last count), and all of the corporate weasels that the whole crooked tribe of them take orders from. One crusty cave full of charred bones, flying the black flag, that's our government now. They don't just want to take away your rights and your votes. They want your money, too. And your property, so they can rent it back to you for $4,000 a month. More of that precious Freedom that people go on about. Can't pay? You have the freedom to get a second job. I have a lawyer friend in Los Angeles who drives Uber at night.

Oh, Fred,” you're thinking. “Quit your bitching. Everything is fine.” That, my darling, was the unanimous opinion of every American newspaper's financial pages right up to the day before the Stock Market Crash in 1929. No one likes a Casandra, or a Jeremiah, or whatever. Even if they all knew what was coming.

Good old Bobby D. could see it, and it slowly occurred to more of us. Now it's all on display! “Seven sad forests...” start with the Amazon basin, and forests on fire in California, Spain, Greece, etc. “A dozen dead oceans...” you'd think there would be money in all of that plastic! “Guns in the hands of young children...” more examples than you could shake a stick at, including toddlers shooting their moms, child soldiers everywhere, and kids shooting up their own schools. “Pellets of poison flooding their waters...” Flint, MI, just for a start, but really, everywhere. We've all got “wild wolves all around us!” Can you count the countries “where the people are many and their hands are all empty?”

Be serious for a moment and realize, that “black is the color and none is the number” in our wonderful new world of space-tourism! Admit it: “the executioner's face is always well hidden.”

And, of course, “nobody's listening.” I like Bob Dylan, and I believe that he is one of our great musical geniuses. I hope that he's happy; he deserves to be happy. I'd bet you good money though that even he wishes that he had not been so on-the-nose with this song.