Friday, April 30, 2021
Sunday, April 25, 2021
This simple question raises a plethora of issues that we have not begun to identify, much less deal with. The individuals who demand certain things often turn out to know nothing about the things that they are demanding. Where do they get these ideas? Regarding how these demands could be met, they are usually completely ignorant. No offense! I'm ignorant about many subjects myself. There's no shame in it.
The problem is that people are being told what terrible things are happening. They are being told who is responsible for those terrible things. They are being told what changes need to be made. They are being fed a constant stream of lies about the even more terrible things that will soon happen if those changes are not made. They are being driven mad with terror by lies about things that will never happen, things which could not happen. The changes that are being demanded will never happen, cannot happen.
People are being manipulated. They're falling for the lies hook, line, and sinker. It's a shame.
The terrors that people carry around with them today can be summed up in two words: Nancy Pelosi!
They are afraid of Democrats, even though I guarantee you, whoever you are, FDR made your family's life easier. Jimmy Carter; Fritz Mondale; Bill Clinton; Barry Obama; even Mike Dukakis; I'm asking you point blank: what did any of those men ever do to hurt you? All this time, business has been doing fine, and the rich certainly aren't hurting. Did anybody take away your guns? Can you explain why the thought of Joe Biden being president sends chills of raw terror up your spine? Now, now, I mean without reference to what you are being fed by certain media. Use your own ears, and your own words, and tell me what awful things are negatively impacting your life already just because Joe Biden is president. What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?
Facebook is currently preoccupied with the terrible dangers of Democrats in congress. People want term-limits!
God knows why, but Republicans have been spreading the bullshit pretty thick about term-limits in congress. You'd think that they would learn, but you'd be wrong. FDR terrified the Republican party so much that they managed to pass the Twenty-Second Amendment in 1951, limiting the presidency to two terms per person. It would take another amendment to limit a congressman's time in the Senate or the House, and I doubt if it could be done now. In my opinion, the Republicans don't want it, because they benefit from its absence as much as the Democrats do. That doesn't stop them from feeding it to their loyal, uncritical fans. Term-limits! Get rid of that awful Nancy Pelosi! (They never mention Mitch McConnell.)
People get this stuff from certain news media and social media outlets. I hate to tell them, but half of those anti-Nancy Facebook memes come from Russia. They're just stirring the pot, and foolish readers/ listeners yell, yeah! Where did Nancy Pelosi get all of that money? (She married it, BTW. Although her own family growing up was quite prosperous. Do Republicans now think that those things are crimes?)
The outlets get it from Republican politicians, backed by their faux academic scholars back at the Heritage Foundation. The scholars come up with conclusory arguments (arguments that simply state unsupported conclusions) to back whatever play the Republicans and the investment class are running with. It all sounds great to the Rubes, and it's off to the races! Term-limits! That's the ticket!
I thought that you people were big fans of the Constitution. The MAGA gang, and the Tea Party before them, never stopped screaming about the Constitution and freedom. Freedom! Why don't you all try some real freedom for a change, and take a few moments every day to think for yourselves? Why do you let these rich assholes lead you around by the noses?
You want term-limits in Congress? Well, start planning for that amendment. Big project. Better get started!
Here's your Constitution:
House of Representatives? Article 1, section 2. Candidate has four hoops to jump through:
Chosen by the people of the … state;
Must be at least 25 years old;
Must have been a citizen of the US for 7 years; and
Be an inhabitant of that state when elected.
Senate? Article 1, section 3. Something similar.
Chosen by the people;
Must be at least 30 years old;
Must have been a citizen of the US for 9 years; and
Be an inhabitant of that state when elected.
Nothing in there about term-limits. Hell, the candidate could have moved to that state one day before the election. (Ahem, Liz Cheney.) It seems to me that the writers of the Constitution wished to give the voters in the several states a great deal of freedom to choose their representatives. Now all of those MAGA patriots want to take that freedom away with term-limits? The current president can't add requirements. Neither can the Supreme Court. If you want to change the words in the constitution, you need an amendment.
So if you want term-limits in Congress, get busy, or shut up about it.
Thursday, April 22, 2021
“Main Street” is many things to Americans. It has meanings both real and imagined. It may represent anything from “everything in the country that is not Wall Street,” to an accurate description of the one place in every American town where shops were concentrated in tight rows on both sides of the street and all of the town's parades occurred. There are places where it bears the name, “Main Street,” although those places are rare. It was simply a five block section of 122nd Street in my town. No matter. It is where you mean when your friend asks you where you are going and you respond, “up the street.”
It now appears to be taking on a new meaning as a name for the America that some people want to return to. The country that they want back. I call it “the white America,” and Main Street is becoming code for the old white America. The people who want their country back are almost all white, and the image of that great, historical America is the America of the 1950s, which in photographs only displays white people. It's all very silly, really.
YouTube is full of nostalgic videos of historical America, and the 1950s feature prominently in this fetish. The Fifties are over-represented in these memory lane videos, and this is due, I believe, to the fact that Americans suddenly had more disposable income, and because cameras and film had become more generally available. I must admit that I feel an almost planetary pull on my emotions when I watch videos about the 1950s. It all looks so nice, and so familiar.
There are the familiar old stores. Every Main Street seems to have a Woolworth's. But not many chain stores, more of the single owner-operator kind of thing. Somebody gets a degree in pharmacology and opens a drug store; there's a shoe store that bears a family name. Shoe repair shops! Do they even have those anymore? We throw everything away now. Stores passed from generation to generation, but not for long. The 1950s were the end of a brief period of continuity in the history of Main Street. The traffic is always so light, and parking always seems like it would be easy. There are lots of cute kids, of which I was one, and the pretty moms are wonderful. Even in the crowds watching parades, everyone is white. There are lots of parades, flags, uniforms. Lots of white people.
The moving pictures taken on vacation also seem to feature only white people. Do I need to put, “nostalgia 1950s black america” in the search box? I admit that I've never tried it. They must be out there, somewhere. The reason is simple. Black Americans have always been with us.
The white America is a myth. It is a lie, and it is a scandal. It is a reflection of the reign of terror that kept non-white people out of sight before the 1960s and 1970s. Of course there were black Americans, gay Americans, Asian Americans, all kinds of Americans, but the narrative was carefully controlled to remain WHITE.
The America that certain Americans want to take-back never existed in the first place.
The Democrats really got the ball rolling on integration, and no one should forget that. FDR did his part, which is to say a politician's part, let's not piss anybody off. The United States Army doesn't get nearly enough credit for advancing the cause of racial equality. They were officially integrated during the Korean “Conflict,” and fully integrated not much after that. Hollywood did its part. Nothing noisy or showy, just putting black faces into the Little Rascals, and some sympathetic characters played by black actors, and finally putting black actors into roles that had been written for white people (Sidney Poitier in “The Bedford Incident,” 1965) Sure they dressed up white actors to play a character from the less popular races many times, but come on! We're looking for the good here!
Black Americans certainly did more than their share in the 1960s to help America come up to speed. God gave man free will on an individual basis, so I will leave it to you all as individuals to assign credit or blame for the actions of black Americans in the 1960s. Be careful, though, and be sure to walk a mile in the other man's moccasins. I choose to give MLK and others full credit for the choice to proceed in peace, seeking harmony. I also choose to find righteousness in the indignant violence in American cities that resulted from things involving George Whitmore, Jr., Ruben “Hurricane” Carter, the assassination of MLK, and many other grievous insults inflicted on the black community.
By now all of those decades of hard work are being dismantled by the usual suspects. Republican politicians, hand in hand with a wholly bought and paid for so-called news media, and augmented today by an amoral, profit driven social media cabal that is getting richer by the minute while they destroy the community that supports them. (Google “mccormick newspapers” to get some idea of what FDR was up against. Fox faux News got nothing on them.)
The last years have been very disappointing. All it took was the election of a black president, which opened numerous doors to crazy town, followed by the election of a clinically insane white man who only wanted to burn the house down. Stupidity was elevated over erudition, every individual was promoted to Emperor of His Own Domain, and most people were so busy trying to keep their heads above water that they had no energy left to notice or fight the flood of ignorance.
Please bear in mind that there is no mythical lost America to return to, white or otherwise. The present version is all we have; we are stuck with it. And please understand that the present version is probably as good as any that have proceeded it. It was never perfect, our country. There was never a “shining city on the hill.” Accept your own faults; accept Thomas Jefferson's faults; accept all that has come before, because that's all there is. Histories are like our parents: we all have them, and it is our job to find a way to accept them and do the best that we can.
So you can call me a “demon-rat,” and consider this a waste of time, or you can say, “you know what? That fellows got a point.” Whatever you decide, thanks for reading.
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
As a rule, I do not take naps. I couldn't resist today, however, and I just woke up on the couch after a deep sleep of three hours. I had one long dream that could have been based on a calypso song. Amazing. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end, with a punchline, no less.
It all happened out in the jungle.
It was time to elect a new king, so all of the animals got together at a big clearing. They couldn't expect anybody to keep the job too long, because it was too hard. Breaking up all of the fights; bossing the other animals around; enforcing the rules; you could only take it for so long.
Nobody had any good ideas about who to elect, and the monkey, as usual, was going around starting trouble. He went over to the hippo, and whispered in the hippo's ear, “that elephant, I heard him, he said hippos ain't all that. Said he could stomp you flat, if he felt like it.”
The hippo got angry. “Maybe he never met a hippo,” he said. “Maybe he never met an ANGRY hippo.” The hippo ran around in a tight circle to blow off a little energy. “Maybe he NEEDS to meet an angry hippo!”
Satisfied with his work, the monkey snuck around to talk to the elephant. “Hippo says you're big alright,” said the monkey. “Hippo says you're a BIG PUNK!” Elephant turned a huge eye and looked down at the monkey. “Hippo's a comedian, 'eh? Maybe he didn't see what I did to that big lion last week.” Elephant looked satisfied with himself. “They put that shit on TV.”
“Yeah,” said the monkey, “I saw it. Lion landed like a sack of flour dropped from a plane.” Monkey's eyes got wide with the memory. “I sure ain't fighting no hippo, but if I was, I'd wish that I was an elephant.”
Elephant harumphed at that. “You stick with the bugs and the berries,” said the elephant to the monkey. “I'll let this hippo know who's boss.”
So the elephant made his ears stick way out and ran over to give the hippo a lesson. Hippo didn't need to be told twice. That's a hippo's reputation around these parts. If there's going to be a muss, they want in.
It was some muss too. It was the kind of muss that reminds you why they call a big muss a dust-up. Monkey had gotten both the hippo and the elephant up to full boil. It looked like two locomotives on legs, crashing time after time. They hit each other so hard, it hurt the spectators. One shock-wave hit the tiger so hard his nose started to bleed. Every time the hippo charged into the elephant, elephant rolled over and made a face like one of his ribs was cracked. Elephant got up every time though, and he threw that hippo around like a toy. Hippo would look down and you could tell that he'd never seen the ground fly past underneath him like that.
It didn't take them long to get tired at the pace they were going. Elephant narrowed his eyes and said, “hey, you ugly hippo, what do you say we take a break.”
Hippo says, “you mean, like call this round one?”
“Yeah,” says elephant. “We can rest up and come back for round two on Thursday.”
Hippo says, “that's fair. I'll finish you off on Thursday.”
At that point, elephant and hippo wandered off to find their families. The rest of the animals had been mightily impressed by the struggle, but now they got restless. They didn't like it when there was no king. Those two were so strong, the fight could go on for a month!
Lion got an idea, and he called over the tiger. They put their huge heads together. “I know who we can stick with the job,” said the lion. “We'll get the monkey to do it!”
“The monkey? That little wise ass?” said the tiger. “You think he's up to it?”
“Shit, no,” said the lion. “But he might be the only one who's too proud to say no, and just stupid enough to take the job.”
Tiger said, “that's what makes you the real boss around here. Pure brain power! Let's go find the monkey.”
And the monkey said yes too, just like the lion said he would. “Well boys,” said the monkey, “you know that I am the most modest of animals, but if you say it should be me, who am I to disagree?”
The monkey went back to calm down the crowd and give them the good news. They all thought that it was a strange choice, but strange things happen in the jungle. Let's give him a chance!
Happy to be off the hook again, the lion and the tiger got away as fast at possible without breaking into a run. Tiger complimented the lion on his fine solution to the problem. He said, “you know, lion, I've got an idea myself.”
“Do tell,” said the lion.
“We should start looking right away for another sap to stick with the job.” The tiger was really cooking with gas now. “We better have somebody ready to step up, after the monkey fucks up the whole jungle.” The lion would have smiled, if lions could smile.
“Otherwise,” said the lion, “they'll corner one of us and we'll be the sap, again. Tiger, you're smarter than you look.”
“Give me a break,” said the tiger, “but I'm not kidding. Honestly, we should start recruiting the next king tomorrow.”
“What'd 'ya say, I'll tell the elephant and you tell the hippo?”
“Fine. Then they'll both owe us a favor. This is really working out!”
And then I woke up.
Monday, April 19, 2021
The Video is "glitter S.P.C." on YouTube. The song is by the Meices.
Click bait alert! This is no such thing. It's more of a favorites than a best-of, and many of the inclusions have no commercial potential, not now and not when they were first released. Not to mention that there are more than ten, in no particular order. Also, it looks like the comments have overpowered the list. But, I digress.
Since I am all about the love, and my life's work is helping people to be happy, maybe we should call it a list of recommendations. At the end there are some “honorable mentions.” They are so called because it would be unseemly for a “Top 10” to include much more than twenty songs. The video at the top is there mostly for the beautiful cars, because people like visuals. He's Waiting by the Meices, however, should get an honorable mention as a great cover song.
Also, there are no instrumentals on the list. So forget Ornithology, Green Onions, and Giant Steps, no Mancini, no Morricone, no So What? Items on the list share the following characteristics: great musical and artistic merit; high levels of sincerity and enthusiasm; and great listenability. The hallmark of great visual art is: would you enjoy looking at this item every day indefinitely? Could you always seem to find something new there? For me, substitute listening and these songs all pass those tests. On to the list:
Whispering Bells, by the Del Vikings;
Subterranean Homesick Blues, by Bob Dylan;
Higher and Higher, by Jackie Wilson;
Street Waves, by Pere Ubu;
Suffering with the Blues, by Little Willie John;
Here but I'm Gone, by Curtis Mayfield;
Waterloo Sunset, by the Kinks;
Sick and Tired, by Chris Kenner;
In Bloom, by Nirvana;
Tomorrow Night, by Lonnie Johnson;
Crazy, by Patsy Cline;
River, by Joni Mitchell;
One, by Johnny Cash;
Change Is Gonna Come, by Sam Cooke;
Little Johnny Jewel, by Television;
Lush Life, by Johnny Hartman W/ John Coltrane;
Bohemian Like You, by the Dandy Warhols;
Ma e un canto brasileiro, by Lucio Battisti;
Day by Day, by Jimmy Scott;
A Few Words in Defense of Our Country, by Randy Newman;
I Love You, by the Volumes;
Joey, Joey, Joey, by Leslie Odom Jr.; and
Queenie, by the Gories.
Twenty-three should be enough for a Top 10. Let's give Honorable Mention (participation) trophies to:
How Can You Hang on to a Dream?, by Tim Hardin;
Murder Most Foul, by Bob Dylan;
Corcovado, by Stan Getz W/ Astrud Gilberto;
Jessica's Suicide, by Bad Astronaut (or Armchair Martian);
Run, Joe!, by Chuck Brown; and
Have Mercy, by Don Covay.
If your binoculars are still hungry for rare birds, look for I Am What I Am, by Adrian Belew, which is essentially an instrumental that uses a found object for a vocal track. The effect is stunning.
I consciously tried to include a song or two from the oughts and the teens, but it's slim pickings outside of a couple of familiar names. Randy Newman's A Few Words in Defense of Our Country, Bob Dylan's new work, Curtis Mayfield's last album, and One, by Johnny Cash, were the only ones to make the grade. Randy's I'm Dreaming is also great. That last album by Johnny is a shockingly naked and emotionally charged thrill ride. Some of the songs really grab you by the neck. Rusty Cage; Hurt. Imminent death really focused his attention on the emotional content of the material.
The new “popular music” that I hear does nothing for me. It is all synthetic, and it sounds it. Auto-Tune, drum machines, unrecognizable samples, computers. There is rarely any emotionality to it, other than rude expressions of simple desires. The story content is minimal. Actual instruments are usually present in some limited capacity, but not always. Some of it is politically interesting. I quickly run out of nice things to say. Perhaps I should leave the comments on recent music to people who like it and have actually listened to all of it.
The music business has fundamentally changed. When I am in LA, I listen a lot to KXLU, and I think that a lot of what I hear is very good. Most of it is new music by bands with instruments, but their road to making a living is very different from the old days. No more being discovered by a label, and getting a record deal, and making the charts, playing big places, and selling a lot of records. Now the bands are on their own. Find gigs that pay, and sell merch at the gigs. Some of them can develop enough of a following to travel around the university circuit and play bigger shows, selling more of their own CDs and t-shirts. As recently as twenty years ago, a band like the White Stripes could start in that pattern and break into the big time. That “big time” is a tougher nut to crack now, if it even exists.
There are a lot of bands on YouTube that I find interesting, artistically and musically successful, and worthy of greater fame. And more money. Some are as new as a baby born this morning; others may have been striving for years already. I don't know if there is any money there for bands like Tricot, Clever Girl, or Covet. DOMi and JD Beck are fantastically talented and entertaining, but do they have a pathway to the real money? None of these problems are new, however, and most musicians throughout history have fallen into the category of “struggling.”
I've had musician friends since I was a teenager. Only two of the band guys from my town managed to make a living all of their lives working exclusively in music. I've picked up a few musician friends as an adult. All of them have schedules that are a challenge to maintain. One does mostly session work, but he also gives lessons. One got a Masters' Degree in music, classical guitar. He had been in working bands since he was fourteen or so. Cover bands; lounge bands; wedding bands. He taught at the local university, gave lessons, played weddings with his wife, a violinist, and was in at least one band. (RIP, Danny.) A friend in LA was a terrific professional sax player. He was the music director for a private high school, a member of a second rung pit orchestra, gave private lessons, and was in a jazz combo. One fellow finally gave up on rock and roll and devoted himself to jingle writing. He actually made some money, but he was also simultaneously giving guitar lessons, playing sessions, and doing band work.
It reminds me of another guy I knew. This fellow had immigrated from Israel several years before, and when I knew him he was the “owner-chief cook-and bottle washer” for a one man sandwich shop. He told me, “anybody can make a living in the food business. Anybody who is willing to work sixteen hours every day, seven days a week.” Maybe music is a bit like that.
It is a stretch to call a man like Little Willie John “lucky.” He was born in 1937, had a giant hit with “Fever” in 1956, was an out of control low-level criminal by 1963, and died in prison in 1968. That's thirty-one-years-old by my count. But his great work will be appreciated far into the future. There will be no such dignity accorded to the work of our current crop of musicians. Not even, if I don't miss my guess, the best among them. Music is a celebrity culture now. Musical talent is valued only in the nameless hired help. Lady Ga Ga will be remembered; DOMi, a phenomenal musical talent, probably not.
But to paraphrase the great man: struggle not with the modern world. It is the one thing that you cannot change or avoid. (Salvatore Dali, “never try to be modern. It is the one thing that you cannot avoid.”)
Sunday, April 18, 2021
There is an unfortunate tendency for many governments to spend their treasure on planning and building for the last war. Let's take a look at examples from both sides of World War II in the Pacific, and then speculate a bit on what may be happening today.
(I love having a blog because it allows me to share some of my obscure interests with a couple of strangers. I also worry sometimes: what will the world do without my completely unique, ill-advised, and often unnecessary sense of humor? That day could come sooner than would be ideal, so make your plans accordingly.)
The people who run countries are too often unaware that they live in a new, later version of the world around them. It is no longer the version in which they grew up and were educated. This failure to understand the current threats faced by their countries leads to trouble.
The United States in 1941
The US did a wonderful job of code breaking in the years leading up to the war. We were getting the gist of all encrypted Japanese diplomatic traffic, to the degree that Washington often knew about something that the Japanese left hand was doing before they had notified the Japanese right hand. This information was shared with the Brits and the Nationalist Chinese. Washington knew all about the bad-faith negotiations being carried out by the Japanese ambassador, having read every bit of correspondence between them and the ministries in Tokyo. They knew in great detail about the Japanese preparations for war during all of November, 1941. They knew about the planned unannounced attacks that were coming. Thailand, British Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, and probably Burma. They didn't know exactly where, but they knew the date and time! All of that was gleaned from diplomatic traffic.
What they did not know was the main target. That had been subject to strict radio silence and the highest level of secrecy. No one but the admirals and the ship captains knew why those ships had been gathered, and where they were going. Washington could not yet read encrypted Japanese Navy traffic, so even vague clues were missing. That, however, is not the failure.
Knowing the date and time of a general attack, you would think that all American Pacific bases would be on a war alert. Including Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The great failure came in assuming that an air attack on Pearl Harbor was absolutely out of the question, because it was impossible. They knew the range and capabilities of the Japanese carriers and planes, but they did not believe, could not believe, that it could be done. The Japanese had no high-speed fleet oilers; they had no experience refueling at sea; there were no bases along the way to assist; it was clearly impossible.
They learned the hard way that determination still counts for something in war.
It worked out fine, though. One often hears that Washington intentionally allowed the Japanese to strike first, and that turns out to be true. Public opinion in America was strongly against getting involved in any of these wars as a participant. Washington could not be seen to actively initiate hostilities. They were expecting an attack on the Philippines, hoping that American public opinion would say okay to subsequent involvement. In the event, the “day of infamy” at Pearl Harbor turned American public opinion on a dime from isolationism to murderous rage.
Churchill, no doubt, thought that the Pearl Harbor attack worked perfectly. Within a few days, Hitler declared war on the United States, making reference to the Tripartite Agreement. The reasons for this unnecessary placement of Germany's neck in the noose are known only to Hitler and God, and even God was probably shaking his hoary head at the stupidity of it. Me, I tend to blame it on the meth.
Japan in 1941
You know, I'm just going to let this one go. The military was in charge of Japan for five, or ten, or fifteen years, depending on who's counting, and they made so many mistakes that addressing them turns into a giant game of Whack-A-Mole where one kid with a hammer faces a board with one hundred holes in it.
Today's Outdated Thinking
America has the largest “defense” budget in the world. We seem to be spending more and more and getting less and less for our money. Whole categories of ships that don't work properly. That Goddamned F-35. Light infantry weapons that troops complain about, and expensive replacement weapons that are immediately unpopular.
We've got a lot of giant aircraft carriers, and lots more in the pipeline. Probably not enough escort ships. Quite a few nice planes, and quite a few that are getting a bit long in the tooth. It all looks impressive, but I worry about all of them being easy targets for hackers.
We're trying to stay prepared for our most recent ground wars, which is always silly. We are also maintaining a cold-war posture thirty years after the fact, and that is turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the meantime, Russia is already effortlessly defeating our highest level of computer systems, often just to look around, sometimes just to show us that they can, and always leaving back-doors so they can return anytime that they feel like it.
This does not instill confidence.
Remember a few years ago when in the space of six months or so several United States Navy ships underwent strange navigational errors. I think one ran aground on a clearly charted shoal and the other two collided with commercial ships. I haven't heard of any incidents since. Why, it was almost like someone was testing a remote computer navigation hacking tool.
This falling behind on the science curve gets exponentially worse when you leave Earth's atmosphere. All of our ships and missiles and planes, and tanks for that matter, rely for location on America's global GPS satellite system. Another satellite network is used for communication. The thought that some Elliot* in China could take those systems off line if he was told to frightens me.
Nanotechnology is the stuff of nightmares. Robotics? CBN warfare? Autonomous drones? Thousands of autonomous drones in a flock of some kind? What would people do if they had to live with no electricity and no telephone and no wi-fi for six months? Want to find out? Neither do I.
I hope that some incorruptible people of genuine high intelligence are working on these problems, and making plans based upon the potential threats as they exist in our present day. My greatest fear is that everyone in charge is more focused on their offshore accounts than they are on the numerous countries that wish to do us harm.
Thanks for listening! I needed a break from worrying about COVID-19.
*An “Elliot,” this is a reference to Mr. Robot. Too obscure?
Thursday, April 15, 2021
“One Nation Under a Groove,” from the LP of the same name by Funkadelic (1978).
This is a good place to mark the transition of popular music from the analog world to the digital. This great cut consists almost entirely of music that was generated by human hands on actual musical instruments. Including Bootsy Collins! Even the suspiciously digital sounds probably came from a keyboard.
From this point on, a large segment of music progressively surrendered to purely digital invention. 1979 is the given start date for Hip-Hop, and the closely related Rap music. That's the release year for “Rapper's Delight,” by the Sugarhill Gang. The new ability to manipulate samples from older records, and the introduction of useful drum machines, allowed producers to create music from digital signals gathered from multiple sources. Add “turntablist techniques,” aka scratching, and you've got a deal. (Thanks Wiki for the quoted characterization.)
Previous electronic mischief making usually had analog roots. Guitarists in the early 1950s began to take the new Fender and Magnatone amps and overdrive the shit out of them. Those things had tubes in them, though, so yeah, pretty analog. Jimi Hendrix was a sonic explorer, but most of his remarkable tone came from his hands, playing a real guitar, with a little help from tubes and transistors. Eddie Harris took the saxophone into outer space, but he did it with a Roland Space Echo, which was as analog as you can get. Physical tape for the echo, and metal springs for the reverb.
(I'm going to leave out references to the great German electronica of the 1970s. I don't know enough about the gear those fellows were using.)
There was all kinds of digital mischief going on by 1990 or so, Techno, Jungle, House, other than the human voice, musical instruments had given way to stacks of boxes with dials and lights and meters. Before long, people had computers in the house, so they could go even further out if they felt like it. Lots of people felt like it.
Sure, there were bands that played real instruments. There still are. Now, in a weird twist, there are analog bands that have been heavily influenced by computers, drum machines, and techno music. It's a new world.
1978 feels like forever ago by now. The height of technology for most people was the new cordless phones FOR YOUR LAND LINE. We thought that it was very cool to be able to talk on the phone and walk around the house while you were doing it. Very few people had one of the brand new VCRs. VHS or Betamax, you still had a choice. They were as big as a desk, and they cost a fortune. What year did we get telephone message machines? Most musicians still recorded by carrying real instruments to the studio, setting up, and playing, more or less together.
I know that this sounds like a “get off of my lawn!” moment, but I'm not just being a cranky geezer. My musical likes are very broad, including many genres, many countries, and many decades. Centuries, if you count Beethoven and the boys. (They were all boys back then.) Go find me someone else who loves ABBA, Little Jimmy Scott, and Melt Banana. Dolly Parton AND Ornette Coleman. I just get nostalgic sometimes.
Don't even get me started about Kodachrome.
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Friday, April 9, 2021
Thursday, April 8, 2021
The more things change, the more they stay the same. It's an old saying. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. There was a lot of talk around this election about how it was the most vicious election in our history. I hate to tell you, but it wasn't even close to that. There have been quite a few real corkers along the way.
Take 1940. (Or, “take 1940, please.” It was a nerve wrecking mess, and we wouldn't miss it if it was gone.)
Well, you have your modern Republicans, and the less said about them, the better. It's always good to be reminded, however, that they didn't just lose their minds yesterday, or in 2016, or in 2000, 1980. They've had a lot of practice with this crazy act of theirs.
Between having COVID time on my hands, worrying about COVID, and being depressed in the first place, I am reading way too much. Almost all non-fiction for a while now. History is somehow more distracting than just reading a story. History must be dovetailed into the facts that you already know about whatever topic is under discussion. Right now I'm reading a wonderful book again, my second run through the 900 pages of Volume I of Richard B. Frank's proposed three volume series on World War II in the Pacific. (I know that I've talked about this on multiple occasions, and I'm not showing off. Nor am I plugging the professor's work. Maybe I'm just sharing my fascination. Forgive my redundancy.)
1940 was a bad, bad year. By about the half-way mark, the list of countries invaded, absorbed, and defeated by Nazi Germany included Austria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and half of Poland. The other half of Poland had been invaded and absorbed by the Soviet Union. President Roosevelt was an incurable optimist and a hard-nosed realist at the same time. Sure, things looked bleak for “England,” but Roosevelt took a broader view and saw the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, the British Empire, and, having counted their actual naval ships, and the manpower and resources available from the whole British world, he figured they were still in it. Especially with the backing of the United States, which he was anxious to provide.
Popular opinion in the United States was to stay out of the war, that much is certainly true. FDR could see that. But helping out an ally is the American way, so sending material support was acceptable to most people. They really did not want to see another generation of American boys getting caught up in Europe's new mess, and who could blame them? They had good old Uncle Frank sitting on his mom's couch smoking a Camel with a shaky hand, blind in one eye and a little nutsy from the poison gas in World War I.
Pessimism had more adherents at the time, and most of them were Republicans. They, and their powerful newspaper backers, never shut up about it. They were sure that England was going to be absorbed any second. They were “anti-interventionists,” “isolationists,” and “America Firsters.” They opposed aid to England as a lost cause that would only piss off the Nazis. They opposed the draft as an act of provocation that would piss off the Nazis and the Japanese too.
There was a lot of overt pro-Nazi sentiment at the time. You may have seen the film from that big American Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden. (Reminiscent of Trump, many people liked the Nazis because the Nazis hated the people that the admirers hated.) Henry Ford was a Nazi fan and backer. He advised Hitler on industrial production matters. Charles Lindbergh was a fan, and a big America Firster.
Now we can easily see that FDR was in no hurry to get into the war. He saw it coming, and he was trying to get ready, but he would have been just as happy to see other boys doing the fighting. In the event, America never did voluntarily enter the war; the United States never declared war on anybody. Until, that is, the Japanese unilaterally declared war on America, the British, and the Dutch, simultaneously. Still, we didn't declare war on Japan's ally, Germany. Hitler stupidly declared war on us a few days later. Like it was a personal favor to Churchill! Old Winston had never been so happy! It was the best day of his life! (He said to his top aide after Germany's declaration of war on America, “we are saved!”)
All of that is old news. What was added to the story in Professor Frank's new book?
Talking about the election of 1940, Prof. Frank describes the Republican “apoplexy over the New Deal.” Sound familiar? They've been working against the New Deal ever since, and have gotten dangerously close to getting their way on several occasions. They're still harping on it now.
A big Republican talking point in 1940 was that “Roosevelt's real ambition was to overthrow democracy and install a dictatorship in America.” (Sorry that I cannot provide page numbers for these quotes. I'm on a Kindle.) They pulled that one straight out of their asses in 1940, and they were still accusing the Democrats of the same thing last year. Like a broken record, these guys.
They also hammered on Roosevelt's imaginary “[intent] to take America into the war against the wishes of a clear majority of Americans.” Au contraire! If the opponents had never declared war on America, we might have been perfectly content to allow the Brits, the Russians, and the Chinese to destroy the foes, while giving them prodigious amounts of war materials to do it with.
Both sides in 1940 were accusing the other of being traitors to America. It was all quite acrimonious. FDR made a relatively innocuous deal with the English to trade them some obsolete destroyers for military basing rights in British possessions in the Western Hemisphere. If that deal was one-sided, it was one-sided in America's favor. The destroyers weren't worth much, and the basing rights were a considerable advantage. We were charged with protecting shipments of petroleum products from Venezuela and Columbia to England. Wendell Willkie, running against FDR in 1940, said that the destroyers for bases deal was “[t]he most dictatorial and arbitrary act of any president in the history of the United States.”
The point is, the Republicans have been behaving like Republicans for a long time, and 2020 was not our first presidential election where things got a bit out of hand.
Let me finish on a personal note, or at least with a bit of first-hand knowledge about people's opinion of Wendell Willkie in 1940. My former father-in-law was born in 1918, and had joined the U.S. Navy in 1939 or 1940. He was a Seabee, and he served in the Pacific until 1945. He voted in the 1940 election, for FDR. He was as conservative as a Swiss bank, that guy, built like a tank and tough as nails. He told us a little song they sang during the run up to the election of 1940:
“The horse's tail is long and silky,
And beneath it you'll find Wendell Willkie.”
People knew how to treat a Republican in those days, and they knew who their friends were. FDR won that election with 27 million votes to Willkie's 22 million. (The population of America was 130 million at the time.)
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
It has been ages since I have prayed, and even longer since I prayed like I meant it. There is no time within memory in which I believed in a God that answered prayer. That always seemed like such a stretch, given the numbers of potential petitioners. The existence of so much misery in the world argued powerfully against it. Besides, the entire concept of God is so dodgy to begin with. But still.
To be on the safe side, there have been times when I have responded to the world's constant reminders of other people's belief in God with a brief, but sincere, prayer of thanks. This I direct to fate, perhaps to the Great Mystery, maybe to God-If-God-There-Be, sometimes to “the gods,” and there have been many thousands of them, but usually just to the nameless void. “Thank you for never allowing the worst to happen.” If nothing else, this simple prayer of gratitude reminds me that I have been fairly lucky in my passage here.
Wishing harm against someone is almost certainly wrong, and praying for it to happen would almost certainly backfire. Although we still have the Old Testament in the canon, and that is a very different kettle of fish. Old Testament God was strongly in the smiting business. Many individuals, whole families, many cities, societies, and once the entire world, were smitten mercilessly by God. That God might be receptive to sincere prayers begging God to smite someone. If the petitioner were truly beloved of God, that OG God might just swing into his smiting posture. It might still be worth a try.
I wouldn't be the one to take a chance on harshing God's mellow by asking him to smite someone, but circumstances demand that someone take the chance and go for it. We must face the fact that within the mysterious fog that is American politics there are people who need to be smitten. I don't want to name any names, but you don't need any help anyway. There are one or two, I swear, every morning I wake up and I am amazed that they weren't smote yesterday. Only a few well placed smites would make the entire world a better place. I know that they say, “be careful what you wish for,” and it's true, but maybe this is a good time for Him to come out of his God-Sleep and clean house a little bit.
So what do you say? Any of the truly pure-of-heart out there among my readership? Anybody ready to start a prayer offensive? Two people, three tops, methodology up to God. The people that I have in mind of of an age where people routinely die, so none of this would raise any eyebrows.
What do you think? Worth a try?