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.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Otis Rush: I`Cant Quit You Baby

The entire Beano LP should be dedicated to Otis Rush. John Mayall was doing his best Otis Rush imitation on all of the vocals, and Eric Clapton was working hard on a sincere duplication of Rush's sound and style. And what a voice Otis had! Just this first note for this song lets you know that he means business. 

Where this video was shot is anyone's guess. It's one of the deadest audiences that I've ever seen. Either they raided all of the local morgues, or they dressed up some dead tunas and propped them up in the seats. 

Nice job by Otis though. He was a pro, and I'm sure that he got payed, so he put in the work. Very interesting solo. Carefully organized in three different parts. Otis Rush should be better remembered as one of the OGs. 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Marty Stuart on Letterman

Marty Stuart is no slouch himself, and it was sure a good day when he hired this second guitar player to join the band. The fellow with the glasses is Kenny Vaughn. I'd never heard of any of them until ten minutes ago. 

Kenny is interviewed on a great (recent) video about working with Marty during this period. The great part was him describing the reaction of the Letterman band to their sound check. Kenny says they were all looking around the floor near the amps, checking the backs of the amps, looking everywhere to see where that sound was coming from. The two Letterman guitar players asked Kenny, "where's your pedals?" Kenny told them, "we don't use any. We just plug right into the amps." 

They were using, and Kenny still uses, Fender Princeton and Deluxe Reverb amps from the early 1970s. They switch out the original speakers for top of the line Altecs. My opinion has always been tone comes from the strings, the wood, your fingers, the pick-ups, and the amp, not necessarily in that order. I'm not knocking the guys who use pedals and racks, but then it all sounds like a whole 'nuther thing. 

the MODERN LOVERS "Roadrunner" 1972

The Modern Lovers were Jonathan Richman's aces over queens full-house of a project before he decided to simply be himself for a living. You could call this his VU period. Great stuff; nice video. 

Monday, September 6, 2021

The Kinks - Where Have All The Good Times Gone - lyrics

I am informed that Ray Davies was twenty-one years old when he wrote this song. Some people just figure life out a bit on the early side. Jackson Browne was much younger than that when he wrote "These Days." 

Time, Our Time, And The End Of Time

Our personal beginnings are shrouded in mystery; our lives drift along almost without our notice; and our end generally comes with surprises of one kind or another. It may be a surprise car accident early on. It may be a surprise heart attack when you least expected it, which is probably true for all of them. It may even surprise the doctors! “The occurrence of this type of cancer in a man your age is most unusual.” On the battlefield, or in the hospital, the moment of death is usually greeted with a look of surprise on the face of the deceased.

If we are being honest, we all know that it is coming. That final moment may be exciting for us, as individuals, but it will be quite mundane for everyone else, outside of a precious few. The most interesting thing is our lives as they drift along. It is a mistake to overdo it on the self-examination, but to hold the human experience up to the light, in the manner of an amateur philosopher, can be fascinating.

Our perception of the passage of time changes continuously over the course of our lives. The passage of the time between two Christmases seems like an eternity to a preschooler. Toddlers see Christmas as a delightful, one-time experience. They do not expect it to ever happen again. Babies, of course, don't notice Christmas at all.

Life seems to take longer before the age of forty or so. Perhaps because we still see a long future before us; perhaps because we are still experiencing things as somewhat unfamiliar and still very exciting. The passage of a year still seems like a considerable chunk of time. We are still growing before the age of fortyish. We see ourselves growing in power and experience every year. Our bodies are still flooded with the appropriate hormones. Sex is always an option, on demand, and then again in twenty minutes. We are still at the height of our powers, and we are as yet untroubled by worries regarding health and mortality. This is the flood tide.

The process of creating memories changes as well. What is your earliest memory? Chances are that it was something shocking, or exciting, or surprising, and the chances are that you were at least three or four years old. There are people who claim to remember things that happened to them very early in life; some even claim to remember being born. I am very skeptical of these claims.

There is nothing wrong with babies' brains. I'm sure that they could start remembering things if they thought that it was important. They are very busy with other things, however, so I believe that their minds are otherwise occupied. They are observing, watching, listening, judging, they are busy ingratiating themselves to any bigger person who shows the signs of willingness to be helpful. That is something that all babies share: the fear that no one will care for them. Because they know one thing for sure, and that is that they are hopelessly incapable of caring for themselves. I am sure that babies remember clearly the faces of those who have helped them in the past, or bothered them, or helped someone else, or hurt anyone. Somehow, though, none of that process is committed to long-term memory. It is all jettisoned when the information is no longer required.

The psychologists have done fascinating experiments with babies regarding their process of judging adults. I say adults, but the babies are not thinking in those terms. Anyone larger then them that seems capable of providing assistance with food and locomotion is judged. The psychs do it with puppets. One puppet is eating something that looks good, and the puppet then shares that treat with a smaller puppet. The baby's face registers delight. Another puppet steals something that looks enjoyable from a smaller puppet. The baby's face clearly displays anger. As the experiment goes on, puppets from earlier on may reappear. The baby remembers them all. Just the sight of that mean puppet brings the angry face to the baby. They judge you by your facial expressions, your voice, and your deeds. They see and hear a lot of things that do not make any sense to them, but for now they are concentrated on the important things. Nourishment; comfort; play-time; hygiene; sleep.

People in their teens, twenties, and thirties form memories in a very systematic way. Memories are sorted and collated in our sleep, and long-term memories are solidified in our sleep. Friendships are stronger and more easily formed at this stage. Our attachment to certain music, cinema, etc., is almost ecstatic. Our earlier sexual encounters take on a magical significance. We must be careful to remember all of it, because, “we have our entire lives in front of us.” And then, suddenly, it all moves to the rear-view-mirror.

I am sorry to report that I believe that the process of memory formation changes a bit as we hit the ebb tide. At some point, around our early forties for most people, we achieve the certain knowledge of death. We lose our immortality. Physically, we lose everything over the next thirty years or so. Things that seemed important to our younger selves lose their sheen. We apply a different set of criteria to judge the importance of things, which includes the process of deciding what things are important enough to remember. There have been many things that happened to me during this period which I have actively tried to forget before I had a chance to be tortured by the memory.

By now, waiting only for the other shoe to drop, my memories mostly torment me. Memories that were once either great, good, bad, or indifferent, now vary only from bittersweet, to horrifying, to merely embarrassing.

Calling it “life” in the first place is cruel. Everything after birth is death. The process, “nature,” is not focused on the individual. We are born to procreate. After that has been accomplished, even our usefulness as caretakers is debatable.  

All roads lead to, well, you know. But cheer up! There's always jazz, and Netflix.

Sonny Rollins Quartet - Everything Happens To Me

Mr. Rollins remains alive as of this writing. Ninety years old, and good for him. Don't tell the Republicans. They'll raise the age for Social Security to eighty. 

Chet Baker Everything Happens to Me

I've included this version to let everyone know what the song sounds like. It's a great version on its own, but here it gives you a reference for the Sonny Rollins instrumental version. What's interesting about that is that everyone who solos stays close to the song. No unnecessary scale-chasing, and frequent reminders of the true melody. I appreciate that. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Where Do People Find The Energy To Do Anything? And Why Bother?

Some people worry about the moons of Saturn. Is that perturbation in the orbits due to gravometric interaction with the debris that makes up the rings? Some people worry about tiny bacteria that live in the mud of the deepest seabeds of the oceans of the world. They seem to live for hundreds of thousands of years. Is that even possible? How do their incredibly slow metabolisms affect their perception of time? If they have such a thing. They worry: do they have such a thing?

Other people just worry about everything, indiscriminately. That would be me.

Why do certain people, who may or may not have talent in some artistic field of endeavor, set out to make a living with whatever talent they have and perhaps become famous in the meantime? What gives them the courage to unleash their talents upon the world? I'm sure that they would prefer praise, but they may receive only obloquy or indifference. Some money would be nice. They must be very impressed with themselves, pleased with their work product. It may all be crap, but it may be sufficient to pay the bills and achieve that foothold on wealth and celebrity. It may even be good, or great, but how will it be received? What will happen? Who has the nerve to go down that road?

Sometimes they know that they have no talent, but they are somewhat good looking and they really want in on that music money. They gather some actually talented people around them, preferably people who are also good looking but not as ambitious as them, and set it up so that the money is channeled mostly to themselves. I don't want to name names, but in many famous groups, the name on the marque just hires the rest of the band, one at a time, to contracts that offer them a weekly salary and little more. They may get a small split on live gigs, like fifteen percent, to be divided among them. If they write a song, the leader's name must be included as a co-writer. In some bands, members write a song and it just becomes the leader's song.

Other musicians practice at home, for fun or distraction from life's many tribulations. They are often very talented individuals, but they lack the personality for business. I am not referring to myself here, by the way. As an amateur musician, I was enthusiastic but untalented.

These things also happen in the fine arts world. Lavishly talented academically trained painters paint in their spare time, unnoticed and uncompensated. I met a woman one time. She was about fifty-years-old, and quite attractive. She did not speak English. Her son was a client of mine for some small law job. Her paintings were leaning against every wall of their spacious apartment; some were on the walls. They were wonderful, and shockingly original. Something like Robt. Williams, but with apocalyptic religious themes. The paintings were a few feet by a few feet. I thought many of them were museum quality. Her tenuous mental state denied her access to the marketplace.

In every field, however, there are the ones that just push through to the front and wave their flag until someone throws them a bone to shut them up.

There was a visual artist that I got to know pretty well. A painter. He was very famous, nationwide, and his stuff was selling like hotcakes. Big, that's one of the secrets, his stuff was big. All oil on professionally stretched canvas, noble materials, mostly eight or ten feet by fourteen feet or so. I am not a connoisseur of art history, but I do have a bachelors' degree in the History of Art (with honors!), from a respectable institution that has a very good Art History Department. As a critic of the current art scene, I barely have a license to have an opinion. I found his work repetitive and pedestrian. There was a narrative in each piece, but nothing that you could put your finger on, nothing that you could point to and say with certainty, “that is a window,” or, “that is a doorway.” There was generally the vague echo of a figure, and it had all been represented with the lights out. Very dark.

This artist was amassing a fortune selling these things, and I found myself wondering, where does one find the nerve, call it courage if you wish to be kind, to devote all of this time and space, and invest all of this money in canvases and paints, and do all of that publicity, all of those gallery openings, talking all of that serious talk with high-status individuals, where does one find the gall to do all of that for crap like this? I guess that I mean the nerve to get started. And how, in the name of Sweet Baby Jesus in the Manger, does one make such a grand career out of it?

School is my guess. He probably learned to hook up the materials at university. Many writers also use this excuse. If you have an MFA in writing, people say, sure, he can write. He can TEACH students how to write. Same for an MFA in fine arts. The guy can paint. Doesn't that make a lot of management types sound very gullible? The MFA should be ridiculed out of existence. An academic degree in any of the productive arts is a contradiction in terms. It's not science, it's emotion.

Other people just do it. They figure it out themselves and just do it. If you have the nerve, that's one way to go. If you do it enough, for long enough, people will think that you know what you're doing. Most people lack the critical faculties required to spot the phonies.

This self-promotional artist-by-declaration phenomenon was on full display in Laurel Canyon in the 1970s.

As Bob Dylan was hitting the big time, the genres of singer-songwriter and folk singer began to fill up alarmingly. I'm never 100% comfortable about holding “trying to make a living” against somebody, but there was a lot of awful music floating around. There was money being spent, and sure as you're born, the companies wanted some of it, and were willing to sign some contracts in that pursuit. Clouds of young people with clouds of hair and a guitar were smiling out from album covers. New York City and Los Angeles started to fill up with wannabes.

Los Angeles has better weather, so many of the wannabes were already there. There were only a few clubs, and a “scene” on Sunset Boulevard, so the wannabes all knew each other. Many of them gravitated by some kind of flocking instinct to Laurel Canyon Boulevard. That is one of the roads that will allow you to drive across the hills from Hollywood to the San Fernando Valley, and there are a lot of smaller streets running off of it where geology permits the building of houses and roads. Many of the wannabes rented houses there, or just couch-surfed their way around. It was its own scene, and movies have been made to describe it.

Make no mistake, there were several supremely talented people among them. Joni Mitchell was up there, and she's as great as anyone who ever wore the singer-songwriter label. Jackson Browne was up there, and the world would be a poorer place without his catalog of excellence. Now here the nature of the problem takes a turn.

For people like Joni and Jackson, they seem to have known that they had a treasure to share. Joni moved heaven and Earth to get from the frozen wilderness to stardom, and she was doing us all a favor on the way. She gave up a healthy daughter, for Christ's sake. She made sacrifices. Did she do it only for herself? Or did she know that the world needed her gift? What if she had been a shy girl? Stayed home, settled down, became a librarian, raised her daughter. When personal drive is coupled with fabulous talent, we must be grateful. But what of the fabulous talents that stay at home in shit-holes like Wisconsin and remain unknown? I'm sure that the country is full of them.

Other wannabes just shoulder their way in with no real credentials to be there. Many of them achieve great financial success. They are trespassing on the fields of greatness, and they act like they belong there. It's like you came home and some guy is sitting on your couch watching Netflix. You say, “what the fuck are you doing here?” and he simply replies, “oh, suck my ass, and go get me a beer.”

I really liked the music of the Byrds. Roger McGuinn; Gene Clark; Chris Hillman. They were Laurel Canyon guys. Those first three or four LPs were just great. What a sound! I remember seeing photos and TV appearances of the band, and there was this one guy who didn't appear to be doing much of anything, kind of a goofy looking guy. When I see guys like that, I figure, “he must be somebody's brother-in-law.” Maybe the label told them, “we'll sign you if you carry my sister's kid along for the ride.” This individual got a few minor writing credits on forgettable songs for the Byrds, and in 1968 he got kicked out of the band.

All of a sudden, in 1969, he worms his way into a new group of Laurel Canyon denizens. Talks his way in and forces them to put his name first, because, “my band sold lots more records than either of your bands.” Crosby, Stills and Nash. Where do people get this kind of gall? It can only be pathological.

Okay, Buffalo Springfield didn't sell a lot of records, but they were an unqualified artistic success. And Stills is a fucking musical genius. Graham Nash is one of the greatest rock group singers of that or any other era. His band, the Hollies, had like fourteen Top-Ten hits, but in England. The Hollies were by far the best band that any of them had ever been in, and Nash was by far the best singer among the three of them, but his name goes last BASED ON SALES? Alas Babylon! We live in a corrupt world devoid of common sense or moral judgment.

To lift the veil here and be honest for a moment, I am only angry about all of this because I have spent my entire life avoiding doing anything and afraid of incurring any possible kind of criticism or rejection. Nothing at all is what I seek. I want only to smile my way through another day and get a good night's sleep. Ah! Sleep! That blessed time when people leave you the fuck alone. It's bliss. I don't even mind the nightmares, unless they are personal, and naturalistic.

The sad part is that I do possess, or did possess, talents in several areas that could have led to success, monetary success and career success. Not necessarily artistic, unless you consider language abilities or winning trials artistic. The unfortunate truth is that “self-sabotage” is my middle name. My parents even left a blank space on my birth certificate for “middle name,” to be filled in at a later date.

Sure, I'm sorry about the very talented among us who kept their lights hidden under a bushel. Their lives would have been easier with some proceeds to make a nest-egg. I love and appreciate the geniuses, and it pleases me if their great work has brought them wealth and comfort. Excuse me, however, if I resent the untalented assholes who parade around like they were hot stuff because they made some money peddling their second rate goods and have met many famous people. Pirates! Vampires! Thieves! I am not in any of these categories, so don't cry for me, Argentina. I'm fine.

God obviously extends his hand with assistance to fools like me. I've made it this far. I'm comfortable. And there's not much further to go.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Chuck Brown - Run Joe

I guess that the theme this month is DEAD. So yeah, Chuck is dead too. 

But ain't that Go-Go swing the most? 

Tight Rope

I am drawn to the singing of many artists that I put in the category of "non-singers." I am also wild about great singing, of course. The Jimmy Scotts and Leslie Odom Juniors of musical history. Singing is story telling, though, so great pipes are often not required. 

I love Leon Russell. He had a vast array of talent, and on many occasions he put some thought into it and sang much better than on other occasions. So he's a situational non-singer. He may throw the song around, as he does here, or he may gently carry the song along, like he does in "Baby Jane." 

Mr. Russell never needed my approval in the first place, and he has no use for it now. Fare thee well, Leon. 

Lothar Meid, Django, Single 1978

Lothar Meid remains alive at the time of this writing. He will turn seventy-nine years old in a couple of days. He has had a long and successful career, and I wish him the best of health and luck. 

I knew him first as the bass player for Amon Duul II, a very entertaining Kraut-Rock band back in the 1970s. He put out some solo LPs, worked a lot as a record producer, and was a founding member of the band, Passport. 

Happy Birthday, Brother Lothar! 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Call Me The Breeze

These guys are a guilty pleasure of mine. They have been since the beginning. This is a big outfit for a rock band, lots of guys playing instruments, and what I like most about them is that they've all got great clocks, they stay on those beats like their lives depended on it. They were TIGHT. 

Not that that is a prerequisite for greatness. The Rolling Stones, much in the news these days, had a different secret to the success of their sound. They were a bit spongy on the beat, but there was a logic to it. Bill Wyman described it in an interview long ago. "Keith sets the beat, he's the one keeping the time. Charlie is always a bit anxious, and he stays a bit ahead of Keith. I'm taking my cues from them, so I'm a bit behind. It gives us a slightly lopsided rhythm, but it's consistent. It makes us sound like the Rolling Stones." (I paraphrase, of course.) 

There are many roads to Rock and Roll paradise. 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

They Are All Dead

David Bowie, from the LP "Hunky Dory." 

(Please note: Angie remains alive.) 

It is unseemly for anyone to complain about getting old. Unless, that is, you have been stricken with some terrible disease that is painful, embarrassing, and unrelenting. In that case, go ahead, complain to your heart's content, shake your fist at heaven and curse God. That is your privilege and no one will hold it against you.

It is a very different story for those of us who are not so afflicted. If you wake up at home every day, in your own bed, and nothing in particular hurts, and you can get around okay, and all of your internal systems are functioning at a reasonable level, you must only be very grateful. You are one of the lucky ones! Do not complain that you hate oatmeal. Put on a little sugar and cinnamon and shut the fuck up. Aw, how terrible, you bruise more easily now, and picking things up off of the floor is becoming a challenge, and running is out of the question, and you were once so handsome/ beautiful. Too bad, buckaroo. Shut the fuck up. You are one of the chosen few.

Considering the situation, one main point should become immediately apparent:

Almost everybody else is dead.

All of my grand-parents, all of my aunts and uncles, half of my cousins, and both of my parents, are dead. I actually miss a couple of them. Only a couple. Uncle Bob, thank you for teaching me that a husband and wife could be loving friends that help one another without an emphasis on finding fault. You carried the mail after an incomplete education, and along the way you and your wife built a wonderful life. You are a hero to me.

Aunt Mary, you have my everlasting love and gratitude for accepting me as the slightly off-center nephew that I was, and for always broadcasting unqualified love for me. Also for teaching me that a far less than optimal childhood need not condemn a person to a lifetime of suffering. You manufactured happiness like a Ford assembly line, and set an example that all the world should follow. You are a saint.

My paternal grand-parents were okay. They could see that I was a bit odd, but it never seemed to bother them. They were both a bit odd too, and maybe they knew it. Thank you for your kindness. You gave my father a happy childhood and a lot of emotional support, and it was not your fault if he failed to take the lesson in parenting and failed when it was his turn.

I never knew my maternal grand-father. He died about a year before penicillin came into use, bad timing, that. He got pneumonia while reading electric meters in the rain. He was a kindhearted man, from all accounts. Regarding his wife, my maternal grand-mother, all accounts agree: she was a terror. She forever warped the emotional lives of all of her three daughters. I knew her well, and she never hit me, I'll say that. Also, she made very good grilled cheese sandwiches, with real cheese. All we ever had in our own house was that awful Velveeta. She always had that look, however, that look of barely contained explosive violence. Like Sean Connery playing 007. She could frighten Dracula, that one, and with a half of a bottle of whiskey in her, she'd probably give him a good beating as well.

It's not just our families that have disappeared, returning to the darkness from which we all sprang, and to which we all return. If you live long enough, it starts to look like almost everybody is dead.

School friends, neighborhood friends, work friends, and quite a few best friends. Hilliary, we were certainly among the most cynical boys at our accursed high school. There are times when I wish it were me in the Austin-Healy with you that night you threw your life away for a thrill ride. Ray also died young. Died going back into a burning building to retrieve his Gibson Flying V. Drinking and bad luck caught up with Jimmy, and bad genetics caught up with Bob. Smoking was Norman's downfall. It comes at you from all directions. I have no idea how Tommy died, but I cried when I read the news. He'd been dead for a while before I got the memo. Freddie, the same. He did not die young, but he has predeceased me by a few years. Freddie was six-hundred milliliters of fun in a five-hundred milliliter bottle. Now, with Facebook, we're all up to date on the new deaths. Acquaintances, casual friends, tough boys that we were afraid of, guys that we rather liked, women that we recall fondly as cute girls, names without faces, we don't miss anything now. It's almost too much to bear.

There is a dark and degrading game that I play on the Internet: Is (insert name here) still alive?

Because they must be discoverable on Google, this game only works on sports figures, musicians, movie stars, and the like. Many times, the news is good. Willie Mays, Justine (“Baby”) Washington, and Sonny Rollins, all remain alive. The lists of the dead are long and growing. It often seems as though our entire culture has died. Jazz fans know exactly what I mean.

We may try to pay attention, but it's impossible to keep up with the pace of it. Not long ago, I discovered Richie “Alto Madness” Cole, a fabulous, old-school bop player. I looked him up after listening to a few YouTube videos, and . . . he had just died. He was only a few months older than me.

So many whose long careers filed us with delight are dead. David Bowie's death hit me especially hard. My then wife and I were young, like David and Angie, and we had a very young son about the same age as Zowie, and “Kooks,” from the LP Hunky Dory, really spoke to us.

Won't you stay in our lovers' story?

If you stay, you won't be sorry,

Cause we believe in you,

Soon you'll grow, so take a chance,

On a couple of kooks, hung up on romancing.”

That made a connection for me. Neither we nor the Bowies had any idea of how to be a parent. We all thought that it might be better to be friends with the children. That was followed by decades of great music from David, all in a voice and attitude that I was in tune with. Then suddenly, dead.

Whole singing groups and rock bands are dead. The Ramones, aren't they all dead? Sometimes it's poetic, like Gerry Marsden. Gerry has “crossed the river.” Get it? No ferry required, and no two coins either. It's the easiest thing you'll ever do. My generation is doing it at a frightening rate. ("My Generation" was a great song by the Who. Half of them are dead. Keith Moon was granted the wish expressed in the song. He died before he got old.) 

Entire cultures, gone. And all of us, soon enough. And maybe the entire Goddamned world, since no one seems to be motivated enough to take the necessary actions to avoid the destruction. 

Except that little Greta Thunberg! She's pissed off, and she has every right to be. I'll miss the show, myself, but she has another fifty or sixty years of life left in her. She's got a fighting heart beating furiously in her chest, and her “war face” is truly impressive. She's fighting for a future for my granddaughters, and I thank her for it. I dearly hope that she has better luck than that other young heroine of our shared culture, Anne Frank, who famously said, “isn't it a shame that in the end, all that you have done in your life comes to nothing.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Afghanistan: So Fast! How Could We Have Known?

 There's plenty of blame to go around here. No need to start with Joe Biden. He's a relatively minor player in this Blame-Fest currently sucking all of the air out of newsrooms everywhere.

How could we have known that the Afghan army would collapse so quickly?”

Well, as easy questions go, this one is way up on the list. Anyone who was interested could have read all about the Afghan army's prospects for putting up an actual fight. The facts have been on display for fifteen years. The Afghan army's chances were slim to none. I have a hunch that they looked like some dangerous, hard-fighting tough guys in reports written for use within the U.S. Government, because those reports were written by people who were justifying their own efforts, and their own never ending need for more money. Pallets of money; cash money. Money that disappeared faster than one of Siegfried and Roy's tigers.

All of the necessary information has been available in very serious and trustworthy articles in publications like the Atlantic; the New York Review of Books; Harper's Magazine; the New Yorker; Vanity Fair; and several others. If our intelligence agencies have chosen not to share this information with our government officials, or if our government officials have chosen to ignore those warnings, well, either way, we have a problem.

Oh, how I laughed whenever I read about the fabulous (think, “fable”) Afghan army! 300,000 soldiers! Highly trained, powerfully equipped, and well led! I laughed, only wishing that it were funny.

First of all, about half of those soldiers never existed. They were names added to the rolls of army units whose salaries were being paid by America. More names, more money. The money going to those “empty names” went directly into the pockets of some general, or more likely, to a cabal of generals and government officials who were all in on it.

Secondly, all of those non-existent soldiers needed to be fitted out with weapons and uniforms. They needed vehicles. All of the extra stuff was sold forward. A lot of it went to the Taliban, either for profit or as good will down payments. A lot was sold to Iran, with the ultimate destination being Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Thirdly, all of that training was mostly for show. Lots of time AWOL visiting mom; lots of time playing games on the free computers; lots of naps; and lots of photo-ops when CNN comes around. Lots of “training” requires lots of gasoline, and lots of bullets, etc., with the bills being sent to the benefactors, you and me.

A large number of the remaining soldiers had simply walked away in the meantime. Their salaries were added to the cash-flow of the generals.

Forgive me if I excuse myself from giving you all a close lesson in how sixty or seventy percent of the world collects and divides this kind of corruption money. The sources vary from the proceeds of street beggars to the vast amounts of foreign aid money that flow like rivers through the world. The recipients vary from flip-flop wearing deadender gangsters who live from day to day, smoking ice, all the way up to big-time gangsters masquerading as heads of state, getting off on champagne, cocaine, and hookers.

So only the very naïve among us will be surprised that the Afghan army simply said, “no thanks,” when the Taliban showed up. At least the ARVN put up some kind of a fight. These guys disappeared faster than the aforementioned Las Vegas tigers.

So no, there was no titanic struggle between the Afghan army and the “vastly outnumbered” Taliban, riding into town on their cute 125cc Honda motorcycles, two-up, with extra belts of machine gun ammo around their necks, and the passenger holding up an RPG. No armed struggle that would allow time for America to help their many loyal friends and employees to escape with their families. No orderly exit, except in the minds of deluded fools who believed intelligence reports.

All of the people now in high places, and most of those who have held high positions over the last ten years, are racing to the news shows to spread weird lies of exculpation and try desperately to shift the blame to someone else, preferably someone from the other party. It's shameful.

It shames all of us. We allow it to go on.