Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What's the Word, John?



Miscegenation (Latin miscere "to mix" + genus "kind") is the mixing of different racial groups, that is, marrying, cohabiting, having sexual relations and having children with a partner from outside of one's racially or ethnically defined group.



Obama. Britney. Paris. McCain. This should be one of the stupidest attack ads ever, but ultimately it's not. (For actual stupidity, check out this RNC ad - must be seen to be believed).

But. But. What's really going on here? This ain't McCain taking a cheap shot at Obama's "celebrity" status. Too bad, because then he just looks cranky, as usual. I didn't catch it at first. My wife, though, nailed it instantly, without even seeing the ad, soon as I told her about it. (She's sooooo much smarter than me).

This vicious, nasty, disgusting ad is about the black mens and the white womens. And how the former ain't supposed to touch the latter. It's about a threat to the white womens! Rape! Why else juxtapose two comely young white ladies in striking profile shots against the vaguely threatening, kinda shadowy image of a black man, with sorta scary chanting in the background. That chanting has a purpose, too - it says the black man has somehow bewitched the white folk and fooled them with his mystical savage black powers somehow. This is so freakin' 19th century. Is Nathan Bedford Forrest McCain's Veep-pick?

But lookout, black man! It's John McCain! He's white and he's old and he sees through you and knows that all you really wanna do is get them white womens and do nasty things to them. John McCain will save you, white folks! Huzzah! Huzzah!

Postscript: So far, I've only seen Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman go at this ad from any perspective other than "Huh? What?" And they see the racism inherent in it, too, enough so that Rachel tore Pat Buchanan a royal new one, basically calling him a racist to his face albeit very tactfully. They cut to commercially immediately after she did it. And even Keith was scared of really going for it in his analysis. This is a disturbing place John McCain is taking the election and it's on his head, his heart and his conscience assuming he still has one.

Monday, July 28, 2008

His Own Devices



Vic Chesnutt - Live at the Knitting Factory, NYC (3/16/97) Part 1

Vic Chesnutt - Live at the Knitting Factory, NYC (3/16/97) Part 2

I'll be honest. I wasn't thrilled with Vic Chesnutt's debut album, Little. It'd be easy for me to lie and say I've been a fan since the first note of the album, but I wasn't. My brother Mike, on the other hand, has always been one. Mike tried to get me to listen to it and fall in love with it, but I just couldn't.

Big part of my problem was the Stipe Connection. I don't like Michael Stipe. I don't like REM, overall, but for a handful of songs and maybe two albums that are pretty good. I never understood the obsessive REM fixation so many of my generation had, when there were so many BETTER bands receiving only a tiny bit of attention and credit.

But, this ain't about REM. I'll vent in a later post about Peter Buck, rest assured; now I guess I'll talk about Vic and how I came to love him. (This is gonna be a long post; ignore now if you want).

We were living in Kirksville, Missouri at the time (1993) and not very happy. The town was as rural as a city of 12,000 could get (they say 16,000 but that's counting the students at the University and the medical college - in summer, that is one empty little city!) and we were pretty stressed about life. I had only a part-time job and couldn't find any better. There was no cultural life of any kind in the town and we knew nobody. We were undergoing culture-shock trying to transition from Madisonia to Missourah and not doing it very well. On top of that, we had no money and lived on a diet of rice and beans (probably a much healthier diet than we currently have!). A visit from family in Wisconsin was exciting because they'd bring us beer and cheese! I remember how daring we felt, financially, when we splurged and bought ourselves an eight-pack of Rhinelander one day for a whole $1.98! I was also going full-time to school, too, which wasn't easy because I hadn't been in a classroom since 1984 and I had to literally re-learn how to read. I didn't know how to read a textbook - non-fiction was a foreign land. I thought one read it like a novel, closely, deeply. Boy, was I stoopid! Wasted a lot of time those first couple of years.

Another care package of a kind came from my brother Mike. He'd come down with all the latest music he'd been listening to and I'd buy cheap tapes at the dollar store or tape over old radio shows and try to get everything he'd brought for later listening. That's how I first heard GBV, but that's another post. One such album was the then brand-new Vic album, Drunk. Mike was really hyped about it and I politely gave it a listen. And another. And another. In the end, I listened to Drunk pretty damn obsessively for months.

Today, I can barely listen to it, because I can't hear the actual album but only my memories of it. Just thinking of it puts me back in that little old bungalow house we rented from that bastard landlord ("Steve!!!!"), sitting in our cramped spare room with two walls made up of nothing but bricks, boards and books and the window wall with my ancient metal desk up against it and my wife's Brother word-processor and it's eight-inch green phosphor screen. That's where I did all my writing for my classes, with the boombox on still another bookshelf behind me, blaring all the time to drown out my anxiety over our poverty and depression.

That later became my favorite room in the house after our son was born in '95, because it got the morning sun. We'd moved out the desk by then and put in a metal and fabric torture device known as a folding bed and for the first six months of my life as a stay-at-home Dad I'd be in that room every morning with The Boy. I'd lay him on the floor on some comfy pillows and sit myself on the bed and play my Ovation for him, making up stoopid songs about alligators and Mark Twain and cilantro and just messing around playing in open tunings. We both loved it. First chord was always a big bright E and he'd grin from ear to ear when I hit that. I can still see that smile, hear that chord.

Fast forward or rewind or something here, to early winter of 1994. To my amazement, Vic Chesnutt was playing on campus - and at a free show. Free was important. Granted, it was in the basement of some building as part of a benefit or something for diversity but it was still several wonderful things at once: it was live music and it was Vic Chesnutt! I couldn't imagine what he'd be like live; I only hoped it would be a decent show. What a putz I was to even think that. Decent? Ha!

It was...I dunno. I wasn't like anything I'd ever experienced musically. Every song was wrenched from somewhere deep inside, every word and every note. He alternated between guitar and a cheap little toy keyboard and I felt like I was hearing an orchestra. I felt like I was reading books of poetry, dozens at a time, with every line of every song he sang. I'm still unable, fourteen years later, to describe this show or its effect on me. He didn't get to the rest of the audience the same way, though. It was a pretty packed room for his first song and by the last there was only a handful of us left. I'll be nice and just call them stupid-ass college kids more concerned with getting to their Friday night drunkfests than experiencing musical nirvana. For a dry campus, a lot of drinking went on there.

After the show, I went up and blabbered a bit to Vic as he was trying to pack his gear away. Standard "Awesome show! You were great!" crap, but I wanted to really talk about something with him, too. Vic had mentioned between songs about being verbally put down by one of his heroes, Allen Ginsberg, who told him that titling an album Drunk was irresponsible of him since drinking had put him in a wheelchair. It was an obviously recent and painful story to tell and it really got to me. I had my own Ginsberg story albeit more amusing and shared it with him (maybe some other time, folks). I could barely find my voice I was so nervous but as soon as Vic knew this was "serious talking" (ie, about poetry), he got animated and we both tripped over our tongues we were so excited.

Eventually we ended up outside. It was cold and clear but thankfully windless. My wife was about eight or so months pregnant (I guess Vic was the first concert our son ever heard!) and I needed to get her home, but she was wonderfully patient and sweet while Vic and I talked. I wanted to invite him back to our house and I could tell that Vic was hoping I would - saving him the cost of a hotel plus continuing our conversation - but I knew that couldn't happen. We were in nesting mode at the house and bringing a stranger in wouldn't have been good for my wife I knew. But before we parted, Vic - who was very excited that my wife was a "library scientist," since she has a masters in library science, something his own wife was pursuing at the time - laid his hands on her belly and spoke a blessing on our Boy. I think it worked - he's the best kid in the world. Smart, funny, handsome and apparently with way more musical talent than his old Dad. Thanks, Vic.

I've seen Vic since and had another chance to talk with him and it was also good. I've actually got that second show but it's not the one I'm sharing today. This is Vic in full band mode, with Brute. And it's an excellent broadcast recording. If you haven't heard "Westport Ferry" before, I envy you. I'm tearing up and getting shivers just thinking about it. I'm not sure if there's a better song in the world.

And buy shit!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Psychedelicize Your Summer



Blogbuddy -valis has this excellent show available over at Trip Inside This House:

The Black Hollies - Live at the Hi-Tone, Memphis, TN (6/1/08)

Quite an awesome show and I have to thank the big lowercase v-man for introducing me to the band. I hadn't heard of them before. My life is now better for knowing them. How to describe? Great 60s style psychedelic pop-rock is the most obvious way. "Freakbeat mayhem" is what -valis says. That's pretty cool. Good, nay great, regardless.

Have a nice weekend!

BREAKING NEWS! A brand new show is just about to go up at the 'House - The Black Angels, Live at the Hi-Tone, Memphis, TN (7/6/08). This news is so new I don't even have a link to the post yet! But it's gotta be good. Go! Now!

PS I made the art for the Black Hollies show. Why bother to mention it? Bragging a bit, because I had so much fun joining two pictures of the band into one, so you could see them all onstage at the same time. Tell me where the join is - I dare you! (Probably a stupid dare, but I'm really trying to get you to go over and check this show out. It's so cool.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Means to An End



Joy Division - Live at the Paradiso, Amsterdam (1/1/80) Part 1
Joy Division - Live at the Paradiso, Amsterdam (1/1/80) Part 2

I had a meeting one evening a few weeks back, for the local film festival I work with. We took care of the business that required actual thinking pretty quickly then adjourned to a nearby tavern to finish up. Besides discovering a few new beers and the fun of a digital online jukebox (search for the longest songs you can think of to get the most for your money!), I discovered that one of my fellow committee members who I've known for several years now is also an aging, graying punk. We'd never talked about music before!

And one of his favorite bands - Joy Division. I couldn't agree more, so here's a classic 1980 show that also goes by the title of this post. I've heard that there are multiple versions of this show available, with differences in sound quality, but this is the one I found immediately so this is what you get. Not premium soundboard but very good and the performance is freakin' stunning.

I was gonna put up a picture of a goth girl for this post, because goth kids are so cool, but all the pics I could find were too eroticized. I prefer the alienation part of goth culture. Goth attracts a handful of local kids in my town every year and they still get beat up and made fun of and ostracized and misunderstood by one and all. Sometimes they end up over at my school. I love having them - they're usually the smartest, politest, nicest kids in the world. Them and the punks.

So this show's for David and the goth kids! Don't forget: Buy shit!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wilkommen!



It's been some time since I welcomed a new friend or old friend as the case may be. But I'm really excited about this one!

Enriched Geranium is the blog of Ed, just Ed - you can do any further detective work yourself - a friend from Madison, Wisconsin.

Ed was the bass player for one of the greatest bands I've ever heard or seen - Appliances-SFB. Ed and I ran into each other again earlier this year at The Mekons show up in Madison. I was already excited about The Mekons, but what did appear to my wondering eyes but almost the entire assemblage of the Appliances, trooping in, beers in hands, to sit down a row or two ahead of us. That made my night! I hope I don't embarrass Ed, but he is my Bass God Idol. I dream that someday I can play like him. I won't ever be able to, but I still dream. He was also the nicest record store guy ever, working at the long gone Rose Records. Though a chain, Rose was for a time my favorite store (because I had a grudge against certain of the independent stores in Madison for a few years due to their extreme rudeness).

Ed's still in Madison, which we left back in fall of '92, which for him is awesome because if he were stuck in the boondocks like me he couldn't be meeting the cool people needed to make the great music he's still making. He's working with several bands up in Madison and you should check out the following: The Motor Primitives, Reptile Palace Orchestra, and Veseliyka. If I'm remembering right, my ol' buddy Biff B. is in RPO, as well as still maintaining the weirdness with The Gomers (who, btw, played at our wedding, a tale I'm told that will still buy me drinks if I were ever to tell it in certain bars in Madison).

One of them beers is for you, Ed, one for me. So long as it's not a stinkin' wheat beer, I don't care which. Wheat beer sucks.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Weird Reasons to Vote for Obama #6



So that I won't have my e-mail box cluttered with this crap:

"Dear Fellow Conservative,

It's now less than four months until Election Day 2008, and the Democrats and their leftist allies are unleashing their full arsenal of smear-and-fear tactics against John McCain and our Republican candidates.

With the help of Big Labor, radical groups like MoveOn.org, and George Soros and other left-wing billionaires, the Democrats have over a billion dollars to blanket America's airwaves with partisan, misleading attacks.

This is all on top of the fawning, one-sided coverage Barack Obama and Democrat candidates receive from the mainstream media.

Recently, The New York Times ran an editorial from Barack Obama spelling out his desire to withdraw from Iraq before victory is achieved. When John McCain wrote a rebuttal against Obama's plan for defeat, the Times refused to print it, citing as their reason, "it would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama's piece."

What New York Times editors don't seem to understand is that John McCain doesn't base his positions on what the liberal media wants, but what he knows to be right for America.

If our candidates are to achieve victory this November, they must get their message of commonsense conservatism and principled leadership past the media filter and directly to the voters who will decide our nation's future course....."

And then it starts to beg for money, as much as you can send. Funny, but they don't mention that what the Times really wanted was a response piece from McCain, not propaganda. While they call what McCain wrote a "rebuttal," it didn't meet the standards of the Times. They wanted him to give a solid, fact-based explanation of his position compared to that of Obama. And McCain refused.

All of this is extremely funny, because this bastion of the "liberal media" ENDORSED MCCAIN FOR PRESIDENT during the primaries!!!

I actually subscribe to several conservative, right-wing, nutjob newsletters, full of scary angry crap written by folks like Coulter and Buchanan and Novak, etc. Know your enemy. Nothing they like better than to get up on their high, two-faced horse and talk about the "evil" Democrats and their frightening allies. The sheer hypocrisy of these newsletters takes them beyond funny into another dimension, one without humor at all.

I'm looking forward to unsubbing from them after Obama's Inaugural Address. That'll be a good feeling.

Vote Obama!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Attack of the Plant Men!



Yikes! I barely escaped alive after risking life and limb to snap this pic of one of the marauding horde that has invaded our...parsley pot.

This last weekend while working on the porch (we're scraping all the old paint off, heat gun in one hand and scraper in the other, prior to repainting the floor), I took a moment off to water the various potted plants scattered about. That's when I saw them!

Gigantic, hideous green and yellow monsters! All of an inch long! Eating merrily away at our potted parsley! (Yeah, who grows parsley - well, we do. In our geranium pots, if you must know. They look very nice together.)

A quick check of the old Audubon field guide told us that these are probably the caterpillar stage of the Anise Swallowtail butterfly. And that they like parsley. We decided we had enough to share.

First day we counted six. Next only four. But bigger now. Next day only three. Still getting bigger. And the other night, as a tremendous electrical storm broke in the sky south of us, there were only two. And twice as big as the day before.

Today, there are none. We can assume only that their alien overlords have called them home, postponing their devastating attack on planet Earth for a year with more parsley. I think the storm was cover for the approaching mothership. Or they have cocooned themselves somewhere...waiting, waiting, waiting. It gives me the shivers to think about it.

I promise we'll be on the lookout and let you know of any further developments in this breaking story. THIS is what the blogosphere was made for!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What, Me Worry?


John McCain was runnin' scared yesterday. Why? Because his campaign almost ended, at his own hands. McCain - unintentionally, let's say, though I think otherwise - outed the secret overseas travel itinerary of his Presidential opponent. Obama, in case you've been comatose for a few days, is now traveling abroad. It's the 21st century equivalent of a young man's tour of Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. I expect it will be considered a "must-do" for all Presidential wanna-be's from now on.

The itinerary for Obama's trip has naturally been hush-hush. Top-freakin'-secret. For obvious reasons. Just like when McCain or Bush or Rice or Cheney traveled to any of the too-numerous war zones of the world in the last few years - safety first!

But John McCain thought it was just okey-dokey if he told the entire world - including any terrorists who just maybe might pay attention to American news - that he thought Obama'd be in Iraq this weekend. What a guy! What a dope! What a fuckin' ass!

And in the end, when he started to get justifiable media heat for this serious breach of national security - there are other Senators with Obama on this trip, Republican and Democrat - McCain tried to deflect attention from his campaign and career ending stupidity by bulldozing his best bud Phil Gramm. After accepting Gramm back into the fold only the day before with a hearty "All is forgiven, no problem that you're a less-than-human freak who hates and loathes the American people, Phil!" McCain destroyed him, tossing him from his campaign like an empty beer can, smashed against the forehead first. What a guy! What a dope! What a fuckin' ass!

Sadly, this won't be the end for McCain, though of all his "gaffes" it should be the clincher. The traditional media has far too much invested in this Presidential race to allow that to happen. We'll just have to watch McCain drive his Straight Talk Express off a few dozen more cliffs before the election, mouths agape, jaws permanently dropped at the lack of responsibility of both McCain and the press.

Ain't we got fun?

PS The above is as close to an actual representation of Gomonkeygo as you will ever see on this blog. My thanks to the very talented Mr. Rockwell who created this portrait. Death can't keep a great artist down!

PPS One other thing about McCain and last week that pisses me off royally is the clear display of the double standard at work again. If Obama had tossed one of his oldest friends and closest advisors off of his campaign, every talking head in the country would've been screaming about it as yet another example of Obama as "Old-style bottom-feeding Chicago politician who'll do and say anything - even hurt his best friend - to get elected!" It's a meme that the right-wing talk radio bullies have been using, I know, to great effect. But McCain gets a wink and a nod and all is good. And they wonder why I drink.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pretty, Pretty Pagans



The Waterboys - Live at the Batschkapp Club, Frankfurt, Germany (2/19/84) Part 1
The Waterboys - Live at the Batschkapp Club, Frankfurt, Germany (2/19/84) Part 2

Some luscious summery songs (though recorded in the dead of winter back in '84) to awaken the pagan within you.

I remember reading about The Waterboys long before I ever heard them. Atheist and anarchist as I am and was, though more inclined to think of myself sometimes as a spiritual person back then - less so now, I'm afraid, and I wonder if I've lost something by that - the "philosophy" of The Waterboys appealed to me. I didn't believe in an external God of any kind, but I was extending my Whitmanesque ideals into rock 'n' roll as part of a search for the God within me. Or some kind of crap like that.

Regardless, Mike Scott and the 'boys wrote some great songs. And this is their first real public performance as The Waterboys (they'd only appeared on the John Peel show live before this). So, kinda historic this show, with great energy and playing. Far more rock than they would be in a few years. And remarkably good sound, too, with but a few odd glitches, dropouts, issues, etc. Bless the taper with the foresight to record this show. Enjoy!

(Yes, Larry - I'll get you a hard copy of it. Be patient my wee little friend in your wee little cave of sound and vision, be patient).

Oh yeah, there's been some really great reissues in the past few years of their stuff, big double-disc things. I highly recommend them. They sound better than before and there's almost too much extra stuff for your ears to handle.

Buy shit!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

'Tis the Season - To Be Photoshopping!



If you've ever wondered how the Taliban and their Guest of Honor survived the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan by US troops, then you can ponder no more. Turns out we've known since summer of 2001 - before September 11th.

"Read all about it - Bush Administration Funds State Sponsor of Terrorism and Torture!"

Or if you prefer:

"Why Bush Gave Enemies of All America Stands For Bags of Cash!"

What is sad is that this doesn't have to be made up. Unlike the picture.

Anyone think of a good caption for this picture? Wanna have a contest? Winner gets a handkerchief to wipe away your tears of rage.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Serious Reasons Not to Vote for John McCain #4




He doesn't know what Social Security is.

I've been fuming for days, muttering under my breath, staring with crazy red eyes at the sky - trying all the while to put into words how pissed I am at McCain...this time.

But this morning I found I don't have to fret, because someone else has said it perfectly. Here, from Jared Bernstein over at Huffpost, is another great reason why McCain should never be President of the United States:

"McCain's Pain, self-inflicted version: McCain also hit us with some straight talk re Social Security this week, calling the program a disgrace. What he specifically found disgraceful was the fact that today's young workers sacrifice a portion of their paychecks to finance the guaranteed pensions of today's retirees. But that's the program.

To me, the quote sounded like he just discovered that this is how it works. But Social Security is the biggest single program we fund; at $600 billion, it's one-fifth of the damn budget. And he's been up there for almost 30 years. I'm not saying I want a policy wonk for president. But this betrays a scary lack of understanding of basic government functioning.

It also betrays something deeper. The intergenerational dimension of Social Security is one the wonderful things about it...sorry if I sound sentimental, but this part just always chokes me up. When they were younger, today's retirees worked to create the economy we have today. They produced the capital, the infrastructure, they taught us in our schools, and treated us in our hospitals. We've inherited these goods, public and private, and we're using them to create the growth that our families enjoy today. Under Social Security, we shave off a portion of that growth to help provide for those who came before us, while creating a new economy for our progeny, who will do the same for us ("Circle of Life" music swells up here...).

To the extent that McCain's thinks about stuff like this, he's a YOYO economist (you're on your own), which is why he wants to drain the risk pool that makes Social Security work, and introduce private accounts. Further evidence that the YOYOs are congenitally unable to appreciate anything that smacks of WITT (we're in this together)."

* * * *


One thing missing is an analysis of the WHY McCain is doing this. Seems to me like he's trying to horn in on Obama's youth vote - by pissing them off. My best guess is that the campaign conversation went something like this:

"Hey, Big John, we got a great idea! Let's bring all those whacked out Kool-Aid drinking kids that are supporting Obama over to you by telling them that Social Security is robbing them, that they're being screwed by helping old people! Huh, huh - waddaya think? Brilliant, right!"

And Big John looked up from his plate of ribs and said: "What's Social Security?"

All in all, another brilliant campaign move by McCain and Company. Glad they had that little management shake-up. Seems to have put them back on track. To lose.

Here It Is



The Flaming Lips - Live at The Blind Pig, Ann Arbor, MI (10/3/89) Part 1
The Flaming Lips - Live at The Blind Pig, Ann Arbor, MI (10/3/89) Part 2

I saw the 'Lips way back when. Not sure when. Right after the first full length LP came out (that creamy white vinyl!!!) but long before the second album. At the magic box, O'Cayz.

As I remember, not many folks came out. And the set was short - maybe only 30 or 40 minutes, with a big chunk of it a feedback-drenched (which is a pale description of the actual sound) cover medley consisting of one or two lines each from a few dozen songs song over the noise. I remember bits of Beatles, Ramones, Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Beach Boys and there were lots more I noticed at the time but have forgotten. It was a psychedelic smorgasbord! (You can tell I'm a Midwesterner of some Scandinavian descent - words and phrases like "smorgasbord" and "lutefisk" and "death by alcohol poisoning" just roll off my lips!)

I loved it.

My brother-in-law, a totally swell fella from a totally swell family (I got lucky as far as in-laws go), is a big 'Lips fan. But he don't like the noisy early 'Lips. That's okay by me, but I like to tease him about it. This one's for Captain Dan (and someday I'll put up a recent show that he'll like more).

Note: Loving the 'Lips must run in the family. My son has a couple of albums on his Zen player and loves them. We're a multi-generational 'Lip-loving family!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ad Astra



I read a lot of Robert Heinlein books as a kid. I discovered Heinlein through his juveniles, that I got from the public library. I remember once, home sick, I lay on the couch and read four of them in one day. Rocket Ship Galileo, Have Space Suit—Will Travel, The Rolling Stones (yes, it's actually titled this) and Space Cadet, among others, were a wonderful way to discover science fiction. Fun, fast-paced, full of action and ideas and written in a style that never dumbs things down for kids. Kids hate that. One of the reasons, I think, that J. K. Rowling has done so well is that she never patronizes her readers. That and she tells a great story. Just like Heinlein used to do, too.

I got to thinking about Heinlein today for two reasons. One, my son said he wants to read some "classic" science fiction this summer, try and branch out of the near-total fantasy epic binge he's been on for quite a while. Obviously, I'm highly enthused about this notion. Immediately, I started blathering about what he should read. Since he's a bit older than I was when I started reading SF, Starship Troopers immediately came to mind. But I don't have a copy on hand, I find, so I'll have to dig one up for him or see if the library has it. Hopefully, they do.

[Interestingly, Starship Troopers was to be one of Heinlein's juveniles, believe it or not, but his publisher wouldn't accept it. So, instead, it launched his career as an adult SF novelist at another publisher.]

The other reason I was thinking of Heinlein was this blog piece I read. It's about why we need to go into space. That's a no-brainer for me, thanks to Heinlein (and Star Trek and countless other sources of inspiration). We have to go because as humans we can't limit ourselves, we can't say "No, thank you - this little planet's good enough. We don't need anything more." I keep looking for it in all the big space opera style SF I read (and that's a style, thankfully, that's making a resurgence), but when it comes down to it all, it's still the thrill I got from those young adult novels of Heinlein's that I'm wanting from a good space story. Smart people facing and solving problems, all the while exploring, learning and expanding upon our idea of what is possible for humans to do and be in the universe.

Ad Astra Per Aspera - "To the stars, by hard means" - I think this was the motto of the Space Academy in one of those Heinlein juveniles. And it's the perfect motto. Going up there won't be easy, but it'll be worth it.

PS As a weirdo liberal lefty anarchist adult, it's a lot harder for me to read Heinlein now. In fact, I tried several times in the last few years and had to force myself to finish even a short novel. His socio-militaristic schema for the world doesn't have much appeal to me, nor does his blatant chauvinism. But I'd still like my son to read him, especially 'Troopers. Then I can give him Joe Haldeman's Forever War with Harry Harrison's Bill, The Galactic Hero for dessert. If I do it really quickly, his head may just explode.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Roller Coasters Make Me Sick



And so does this - the John McCain Flip-Flop Express! Keep a bucket handy. You'll need it.

When you're done, see if you can find John McCain's lost values in the picture above. Bet ya can't. (Thanks, Highlights!)

Our Founding Fathers, Sixth in a Series



Tom Waits - Live at the Agora Ballroom, Cleveland, OH (12/7/76) Part 1
Tom Waits - Live at the Agora Ballroom, Cleveland, OH (12/7/76) Part 2

I cannot claim to be a lifelong fan of Mr. Tom Waits. I didn't start paying serious attention to him until I heard him on that Disney tribute album - remember that, the one with The Replacements doing the Cruella De Ville song and Sun Ra blowing away "Pink Elephants"? I thought that was a great album, though not as fine on the ear as the Kurt Weill tribute that came out a few years earlier.

What Waits did with the Seven Dwarves' marching tune was wonderfully creepy and made me borrow my brother's CDs. I also went out and bought two or three for myself. And over the years Waits has been a growing musical presence for me and my wife. Bone Machine really struck us both when it came out and though we had no money at the time and sure as hell shouldn't have been spending what we had on music, we found a used copy at the little head/magazine/used book/music shop that passed for freedom in the little Missouri town we lived in back then. Never regretted that.

This is a great show of early Waits. Perfect for a Friday night - so grab it, pump it up, crack open a cold one and pour a shot of something brown and burning to go down with it.

Enjoy! (And buy shit!)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What Would Spanky Say?



When asked yesterday about birth control and insurance, the Straight Talker clammed up, swallowed his tongue and refused to discuss the issue.

[UPDATE - Added Video]


To me it looks like John McCain is a little bit scared of the "female problems." As a Jr. Freudian Boy Detective in good standing, my diagnosis is that this has something to do with his relationships with women, goin' all the way back to Mommy. Maybe we should ask his wife? What’s that cute pet name he calls her by again? Oh, yeah - "My Little Bank Account"!

Why on earth does this question bother McCain? This is a political/health/economic issue, not that embarrassing first private moment where Daddy has to deal with his daughter and the facts of life, which is what you’d think from McCain’s bizarre reaction. The man can joke about killing Iranians with cigarettes but can’t talk seriously about women’s health issues?*

I doubt any supporter of Hillary Clinton turned McCain voter (are there really any or is this an urban myth?) reads my blog, but if there is even one, please ask yourself if this is the man you want making decisions about your health care, your body, your rights as a woman. I get the heebie-jeebies just thinking about - and I have a penis!

* There's enough material in McCain's flippant, inappropriate, undiplomatic but oh-so-revealing remark to warrant a doctoral dissertation, but I only want to put this forward: If Obama had made the same remark about Iran and cigarettes, his campaign would’ve ended two seconds later. Every traditional media source in the nation would have screamed for blood with joy in their voices. But for McCain, this too shall pass [UPDATE].

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

P is for Puzzle



Pixies - Live at Royal Court, Liverpool, England (5/3/89)

Where would be without them, eh? Would punk have died? Would music have died? I dunno, maybe - maybe not. But for a brief shining moment, maybe a couple of years, sure seemed like they were the best thing that ever happened to punk.

One of my favorite Pixie recollections is of my little sister's high school graduation party, at our family's farm. Hot summer sun, big volleyball net on the lawn, my brother's giant stereo speakers hauled outside for the day - and "Gigantic" blasting out across the southern Wisconsin hillsides! Damn, that sounded good. It's the first thing that pops into my head when I think of the Pixies.

Second is the my oldest brother constantly playing "Monkey Gone to Heaven" from his apartment directly above mine. Constantly. At extreme volume. Late at night. For months. I'm not complaining - even through the floorboards, it's a song that sends shivers up and down my spine. Just the way it happened.

Anyhoo, this is a great show. Great sound and performance. I made a copy of it a few years ago for one of my students, who was nearly shell-shocked when I told him I liked his Pixies t-shirt. He thought he was the only person in town who knew the Pixies, that they were his secret! Swell kid, super smart genius kind of young man, too smart for regular school. This one's for my little Pixie fan!

PS I turned the picture into a puzzle for your pleasure. Print it, paste it to cardboard, cut it apart, shake the pieces up and kill an hour or two at work putting it back together. Your boss will be impressed by your scissor skills.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Look Into the Future - America Under McCain




Yeeeaaah. A 61 year-old librarian ticketed and escorted away by police for TRESPASSING, at an open public forum, on city property, because some Republicans objected to a sign she carried. Some Republicans working for John McCain. Who, as the kindly gray-haired lady points out, are for some strange reason upset over a sign equating McCain with Bush? Isn't that a good thing? Isn't he running for Bush Term Three?

Get used to this kind of fascist thug behavior if McCain wins. McCain's an easily angered bully - according to his work friends (AKA, other Senators!), so imagine how he'll react to protesters as President!

Can you say "Work Camp"? How about "Temporary Detention Center"? Or maybe just "Gulag"?

Dead on the Fourth of July



Like his partial namesake - Thomas Jefferson - one of my favorite authors, Thomas M. Disch, is dead on the Fourth of July.

I can't say I'm sitting here in our living room with tears on my cheeks, or even that I'm truly grieving, because I never knew Tom Disch. How can we really grieve over the deaths of strangers? It's a question I ask myself with frequency. We can have sympathy, we can feel empathy, we can relate far and distant deaths to close and personal ones - but we can never really grieve in the way that the friends and families of the dead do.

So I'm just going to think about Disch today, and probably for a while to come, remembering what he's meant to me. Which begs the question: What did Thomas M. Disch mean to me?

Hard question to answer, really. Disch was never like Philip K. Dick or R. A. Lafferty or a handful of other authors who played pivotal, defining roles in my intellectual, literary and even - to a degree - personal life. But I found Disch at a crucial stage in my life as a reader and he made his mark on me. I found Disch during high school.

Let me define: High school sucked. No need to elaborate further. And I had only a few defenses to get me through it - my wit (such as it was), music and books. Weird jokes, weird music and weird books saved me. I bet there's a lot of you out there who had very similar experiences in high school.

Inside the garish covers, on the already yellowing pages of dozens, hundreds of science fiction books - mainly from the 60s and early 70s, I found words that spoke to me, that resonated within me. I've already mentioned the New Wave of SF before, but not elaborated on it.

Now, I loved science fiction already - had been reading Heinlein and Clarke and Bradbury and many other classic writers of the genre for years already by high school - but I was beginning to spread my wings as a reader, beginning to wonder what else was out there. I was kinda worried too that I'd have to leave science fiction behind me, put it away like a childhood toy, if I wanted to grow intellectually. So, finding a bunch of weirdo writers who'd tried to expand the boundaries of SF, to push it intellectually and artistically, to bring sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll and politics into science fiction - well, that was mind candy, pure brain sugar.

The New Wave and its writers like Thomas M. Disch, J. G. Ballard, Michael Moorcock, John Brunner, Ursula K. Le Guin, the already mentioned Dick and Lafferty, Harlan Ellison, Joanna Russ, Brian Aldiss - the list goes on and on - gave me freedom, dared me to think, encouraged me to push myself in new directions, to question and never stop questioning.

Seriously, I gorged myself on this wild new stuff - I fattened my brain on this crazy swill! I was a convert, a new believer, and I couldn't get enough of it. It lit a fire inside me that still burns today, a fire that talks to me, that says "Hey, man, just because it's always been done that way don't mean it can't be done different now. Let's kick it over and see what happens! Let's kick out the jams!"

And Tom Disch was part of that. His marvelous short stories in New Worlds and his incredible novels and collections, books like The Genocides (see pic above) and 334 and 102 H-Bombs and Fun With Your New Head - the list goes on. Not endlessly, sadly, but there's a lot of wonderful words that came out Disch's head and heart and I'm right now actually starting to cry, I'm surprised, because I'm just realizing that there won't be any more words from Tom Disch and words were the connection I had to him and all I really had to know him by.

Thomas M. Disch is dead. He committed suicide on July 4, 2008. Goodbye, Tom. And thanks.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Back to School, Barack



Obama spoke before the NEA (National Education Assocation) yesterday, at their invitation, as part of their annual convention.

Speaking as a teacher, I like ideas of his I've heard previously about hiring more teachers nationwide, paying teachers better in general and fixing the myriad wrongs of No Child Left Behind. (Personal opinion - NCLB was created with the sole purpose of destroying public education in the United States and replacing it with federally funded faith-based education via vouchers. It's almost an explicit part of the NCLB mission statement, if you read between the lines and are really paranoid.)

Obama's serious, I believe, in his educational goals. I don't think he's pandering to the teachers at all, especially because one of his big plans really pisses them off. Pisses me off, too.

What's pissing us off? Obama wants merit-based pay increases for teachers.

Why is this a problem? Because unless this is a highly-overseen program (beyond the local and even state level), with incredibly strict measures of accountability, it'll be nothing but a huge boondoggle. Allowing local districts and schools to determine who is fit to receive merit-based pay increases is simply stupid. Cronyism, nepotism and favoritism rule in our schools, folks. Schools and districts are rife with husband and wife teacher/administrative pairings, good ol' boy hiring systems, petty systems of punishment and revenge - the list is endless and sickening. Throwing more money at it won't help at all. It'll only make it worse.

What we need is really an educational revolution, from the bottom up - not the top down! But that's something too big to deal with here. Some other day.

You can check out what Obama said to the NEA here.

PS John McCain was asked to speak as well - but he declined. 'Nuff said.

Vote Obama!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Caps For Sale! Caps For Sale!



Sorry, just kidding. No caps. I just like yelling that phrase while being chased down the street, trees full of monkies stealing my caps all balanced precariously on my head for some stupid reason, thus destroying my livelihood and sending me into a downward spiral of suicidal/homicidal tendencies. Or that's how I always figured that story should end.

But that has no bearing on this post. I just wanted to let you all know that I've been re-posting some albums originally put up on my old blog over at the lovely new Lost-In-Tyme. Recently, I've added albums by: Antietam, Band of Susans, The Romulans and Throwing Muses. More to come this summer, with the added bonus of pics, band info, tracklistings, links and occasional personal notes.

So. Go. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Why Does George Bush Hate Us So?



Exactly what twisted event in President George Bush's life turned him into the American-hating bastard of today?

Did Daddy accidentally drop him on his head, maybe on the Fourth of July? Did this boo-boo make little George hate America? (George - those were fireworks you saw, not cartoon stars circling your head).

I dunno, I shouldn't even and can't begin to speculate, but he obviously has a deep, internal hatred of America, its people, its institutions and all that it has been and may become. Otherwise, why this?

U.S. Freezes Solar Energy Projects

Yeah. At a time when this nation is finally waking up to the perils of our oil dependent lifestyle - economically and ecologically - our President and his Bureau of Land Mis-Management decide that solar power development on public lands is just too scary and - like everything else about the world for this science-starved administration - needs more studying up on. A couple years worth of studying up on. A couple years of wasted time and potential and money and further ecological harm to country and planet.

I don't have clue what's motivating our President here. Maybe a few more years of gouging the pocketbooks of American citizens by oil and natural gas companies? Doubt it; he may hate America, but he's no shill for oil...is he? Wait a minute...!

UPDATE:

The power of positive blogging! The same day I post my silly screed, this happens:

U.S. Lifts Moratorium on New Solar Projects


I'm going to assume that my little post did this because it gives me the sweetest ego boost possible! I'm Number One! I'm Number One!! I'm Number One!!!