Friday, February 23, 2018

The Death Lobby

Well - almost a month since my last post. Looks like every post I make this year is going to have a disclaimer at the top lamenting how lazy I have become. I wish I could do better than post every time someone important dies, but that seems to be a pattern as well.

Two people I know died this week - a woman I knew almost entirely online, though we both lived in Boston, and would see each other around once in a while; and a man who was one of my family's closest friends when I was a kid - both are hard to deal with. And Billy Graham died - almost a hundred years old. (The other two both died too young - that's not a fair distribution of years on this earth; they would have made better use of the extra 30-40 years he got.) I can't get too nasty about Rev. Graham - he was a huge part of the cultural landscape where I grew up, the greatest evangelist, the model for all us white protestant evangelicals.... He was presented as a hero, a completely benign figure - and by the time I got old enough not to care about his religion anymore, the next generation of white protestant evangelicals were running rampant, and by god did they make him look good. He never quite embraced the overt fascism of Swaggart and Falwell and Bakker and Robertson, Ralph Reed, James Dobson, the whole disgusting crowd, including his own vile son Franklin, as bad as any of them. But he never quite did anything against them - and he probably went along with most of their political beliefs.He had no guilt about cozying up to the likes of Tricky Dick. Still - treating religion as primarily a matter between you and your god is not going to destroy the republic - he did that, or did it more effectively than the others; there is nothing in Graham's approach that obliges you to take one side or the other politically. You could get converted and actually go do some good in the world, if you were inclined: publicly at least, for most of his career, maybe when he was actually in charge of his career, he made religion a personal decision (if not a private one, exactly.) Behind it all might have been the same neo-confederate viciousness that animated the next bunch of TV preachers (and of course, the love of money), but you could take the meat and throw the bones away, with old Billy.

That's harder to pull off now. The big news in the world these last two weeks has been the latest mass shooting at a school - another horror show, with the usual reactions in the wake... But a twist - this time the survivors of the attack immediately took to the streets and TV camera and their social media accounts to demand gun control. They've been driving the conversation - they are putting the NRA defenders on their heels a bit. Publicly, I guess you could say: Marco Rubio might look like he's about to cry when he's on stage, but we all know he can comfort himself by counting the 0's on his NRA campaign contributions. The subject is a hard one to say anything new about - there's no real mystery about how to address the problem: gun control. The usual sensible, limited responses - ban assault rifles and military gear; longer waiting periods, stronger background checks, closing loopholes for buying guns, imposing more national laws, so you can't buy a gun off the shelf in one state and drive to the next state to gun down some teenagers. And most of this is very popular, and would pass easily, if it were put to a referendum (and everyone voted.) But that isn't the problem - the problem is that the Republicans control the legislature (and presidency, though that's not where this can be solved), and they are on board all the way with the NRA. And well compensated for it.

It's another instance of the failure of democracy in this country - the public supports gun control, like they support public health insurance - but that will never pass. Or - it will not pass until Democrats control the legislatures again. People skirt around the fact, talk bout "politicians" or "congress" as though the reason nothing gets done is that no legislators support gun control - but that is not true. This is a partisan problem. This problem is caused by the Republican party. Democrats would pass something - by the time they were done, it would be watered down and ineffective, but it would be something, it would save couple thousand lives a year, and Republicans would run against it because it didn't go far enough (pure shamelessness is part of their MO) - but it would pass. But nothing will pass with Republican votes.

So vote. Voting is the key. Voting, voting, voting. Voting and money - the other thing that might move the GOP is if you can get at the source of their cash. The NRA is starting to see sponsors withdrawing - if their money starts to dry up, their contributions might - cut off the cash cows and you can see change. we'll see.

Meanwhile - the NRA and their patsies (including the dumfounded dipshit in the white house) run through a bewildering array of bullshit to steer the conversation into a ditch. Arming teachers? I was flipping through channels on TV last night, and on PBS, some lady was explaining how it might work - I didn't stay long enough to see what side she was on, but it doesn't matter. People are discussing arming teachers as a response to classroom shootings - am I hallucinating? Part of it is clearly just meant to muddy the waters - get people arguing about arming teachers, or compare gun control to deporting illegal immigrants or something and the debate disintegrates into nonsense and trivia and nothing happens.... But you also see price tags: 14 million dollars per school district to buy guns? You don't think the gun lobby sees that and starts drooling?

Argument is pointless. There is no reason to argue with people who would suggest something like arming teachers. There is no point arguing with people who whines about kids eating tide pods, so how can they understand gun control? or who equate voting with mass murder (they support background checks for guns, if you'll support stronger ID laws for voting!) Or who think the answer to gun violence in schools is more prayer or banning baggy pants. Or just arguing ith people who claim that gun control is a terrible attack inindividual freedom, so propose turning the country into a police state to protect us from all those unregulated guns. It's madness. Fuck them all.

Right now, I say just ban them. No more guns. If you have to repeal the second amendment to do it, fine with me, it was a bad idea in 1790, and it's completely pointless now - though it also clearly allows for all the gun regulation you need. That's my argument. It's probably not my position - but I'm not making laws, so it's not on me to find something fair and reasonable. I'll do that when there are actual laws being discussed. The NRA works very hard to frame the debate in cultural terms - guns as fetish objects, as a sign of a kind of toxic masculinity mixed with white resentment - fight that.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Fall

Well, after saying I was going to try to post here once a week - it's been three. Yeah, I know. And what brings me back? The all too constant theme of this blog - another obituary.

A couple, I suppose - last week was Dolores O'Riordan, lead singer from the Cranberries, purveyor of beautiful and moving 90s pop, dying mysteriously in London, aged 46. A sad story - her songs were haunting and powerful, and though I didn't pay much attention to them when they came out, they were work that could hold you. It's a shame.

And then this week - about the only think Mark E Smith had in common with Ms O'Riordan is that they both sang back tot he audience sometimes (she apparently did it early because she as shy.) And they were singers and they died this week, both dying fairly young. Though you'd never know that from Smith - he was 60 - but he looked like he rode those 60 years hard. For a long time, he's looked the part of a dissolute working class British rock star.... Though maybe not always - look at them in 1988, on Tony wilson's show, Brix in ful 80s new wave mode, and Mark - tall, sleek, almost handsome, rocking that purple turtleneck while Wilson pays tribute: "if there was a holy grail, only Mark Smith would be allowed to touch it" -

The years were not kind - but he didn't slack. Working through to the end - this is from last October, confined to a wheelchair, looking very ill, but still raving away like always, compelling and controlling, the center of everything.

The Fall were one of those bands, there were a few, that I heard, when I was young, loved every time I heard them - but didn't, quite, pursue at the time. I don't know why. The Fall, Gang of Four, Wire - post punks all? Maybe. I won't explain it. Tried to make up for it later, but its a daunting proposition with the Fall - lots of records to pick through, and they never really slowed down, putting out new records all through the 00s, always interesting. As it happens, in my dotage, this might be my favorite period/style of music - post-punk, lean, sharp guitars - these bands, PIL, American groups like The Minutemen and Mission of Burma, no wave, early Feelies - which I would expand to include a few groups that pre-date punk (let alone post-punk) - Television, Pere Ubu, Talking Heads, or the punk groups that worked this vein, like Joy Division, the Buzzcocks... (And any style that includes Pere Ubu and Television is going to be my favorite, it is true.)

The Fall were as good as any of them. Propulsive, repetitious riffing, a mix of garage, Krautrock, art rock - Smith ranting over all of it, anchoring the sound, playing around it - almost monotonous, but always rhythmic, with bursts of - otherness.... Vocals like the guitars, then. With the relentless propulsion of the drums and bass in the back - they are endlessly great.

Live Set, 1981:

And still great in the 2000s - here's What About Us? at a festival - "he was dealing out drugs to old ladies" -

I admit - it's hard to parse out what he's raving about a lot of the time, but when you get to the lyrics, they are worthy of the rest - clever, funny, weirdly erudite... Especially how funny they are - jokes and wordplay and mockery - they didn't take themselves to seriously, obviously. What more can you say to something like this? Video to "Eat Yourself Fitter" - words, images, their attempts at dancing - "saw the holy ghost on the screen"...

And so on. I suppose ultimately, though, being who I am, utterly in love with the electric guitar, what caught my ear in the 80s and holds my ear now are the guitars - the riffs - the sound - their propulsive fury. And so to leave you with Brix Smith knocking out one of my favorite riffs ever, Cruiser's Creek, live in 1985 or so...

Monday, January 01, 2018

Nothing Changes on New Year's Day

Happy new year, world!

I can't say I will miss this last one. Personally, it was not as bad as the year before - 2016 felt like hell on earth. But objectively - 2017 was a shit show. Trump as president was as bad as anyone could ask, and though his incompetence tended to suppress the enactment of his bad ideas, the year ended with one of the worst ideas - that tax cut - going through. I don't know how long it will take for that thing to wreck the economy - but if it isn't quickly undone, it will. But on the bright side, we haven't had a nuclear war - yay!

But along side Trump, we've had mass shootings; we've had terrorism mostly from the right, but a few from foreign agents. (The left mostly behaves itself, though - as usual.) The right - the hard right, the racist right - has been out in force all year,and show no signs of going anywhere. Why should they? Trump is a fascist, and has spent most of the year testing how far he can push his authoritarianism, racism, and so on - his followers gleefully competing with him in their own fascist ravings. As policy, it is mostly aimed at immigrants - though the continual attacks on the media, education, political protests and other activism, voting, could always bear fruit.

It is easy to be depressed. But there are reasons for hope. The one tool we have to make things better is the vote (well - there are lots of tools, but that is the one that had direct and immediate consequences.) And this year, the Democrats have tended to smoke the Republicans at the ballot box. The most extreme instance being the election of Doug Jones overRoy Moore in Alabama - yes, the GOP had to run a child molesting fascist nutcase to lose, but they did lose. And though Republicans have won a lot of special elections this year too, they have done so in hard-right districts, and the Democrats have run them very close. In Montana, in Georgia - if this continues, it bodes well. The Democrats have to overcome a massive structural disadvantage to win the house - a strange thing, but gerrymandering and other oddball vote distributions makes that body remarkably undemocratic - but they might be able to do it. Might have to win 5 million or so more votes to break even in the house - but that has happened before and might again.

Politics: I have written more about politics than anything else here,this year,and more than I have in a long time - politics is maddening these days,but it's also vital. It feels like life or death for the republic, sometimes. And it is hard to be optimistic - the last two years haven't just shown that white resentment is hanging on in the country, and can still hold a great deal of power; it's also shown that the system itself doesn't work. The constitution itself at its worst is explicitly racist (most of that is gone, thankfully, but the Electoral college remains), and often practically racist (the senate, by helping exaggerate rural votes is practoically racist, at this point in history at least) - but the bigger problem is that the system, with its checks and balances and diffusion of power gives overwhelming power to minority groups, if they are willing to use it. The American system depends on the good faith of all participants: and the Republicans are not operating in good faith. There is nothing to force them to operate in good faith - they took control of the courts,in an act of shocking bad faith - so there is no counter to any ofthis except the vote,and the system currently requires a massive landslide toward the Democrats to overcome the system.Depressing.

But not hopeless. Or - put plainly - in politics, you can't afford to take things for granted,good or bad, because, in the end, what you do determines what politics is. So I guess, keep at it. Vote, argue, work - what else is there to do?

I have to write something about something else. Alright. This was a momentous year - I moved, which has changed my movie watching options for the worst - I compensated with a fair amount of TV, or at least, with some TV - whole first run TV shows, watched first to last! Ken Burns' on Vietnam; and of course Twin Peaks - the latter of which was more or less awe inspiring and brilliant - obviously better than anything else I saw this year, since I barely saw anything else - but as good as anything I've seen on a screen in years. I also watched a good deal of old TV this year,for the TV Countdown at Wonders in the Dark (including the coming Part 2) - but not enough movies.

And so? I suppose the new year is a time for resolutions - and - well: I wish I had some. Or rather, I wish I had some I felt sure of following through on. But I guess the new year is the time for promises, listing the things you hope you do or will regret not doing - I can play that game. So:

1) I hope to post here again, more than once a week (though I suppose that should really be, at least once a week, as I have fallen well short of that unimpressive standard). I know, I know, blogs are old hat - but I am old hat, so, I would rather write for this than for twitter or something like that. Now - I fear if I deliver on this resolution, it will bring a lot of politics - but that is the world we live in, so...

2) I hope I can get back to a more regular film watching regime. Might not be possible to do my habitual 2 new films a week, plus 2-3 older films somewhere - but I need to get in the habit again of watching films. Probably will - I don't lose that habit for long, usually.

3) I hope I write about films, and other subjects - books, TV, music - here - once in a while. It has been a while since I have made a habit of writing longish posts about arts here, and I don't know if that habit will come back (without external stimulus - I get work done for other people, when I can...)

4) I will try to acknowledge the fact that this is 2018. the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, and all the stuff that went on around it - so some Great War blogging might be in order. I hope. Reconstruction blogging, too,if I can - 150 years since 1868 - a vital part of the country's history....

5) Finally, a lot of this depends on my ability to write, in general. f that goes well, then, some of it should end up here.

And so - that's enough for now. Happy New Year!

(And here's a holy shit I'm old moment for you: U2, 35 years ago:)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Good News For Once!

Another week in the books. A good one, I have to say - the defeat of Roy Moore in Alabama is a wonderful thing. Doug Jones has been leading for much of the race, since the stories about Moore's adventures at the mall came out, but his lead had been eroding as the election date approached. The Republicans, of course, doubled down on supporting Moore (except a few outliers like Jeff Flake), and Alabama is the heart of evil white men in this country, so I was prepared for a loss....

But we won. Democrats, and especially African American Democrats, showed up, and they won. It's a wonderful thing, even if it is only likely to last until their next election. But it is a reminder that Democrats have run very close in a lot of impossible elections this year - and have won everything they had any chance of winning,and won it clean. Trump is poison, the Republican party is madly overplaying their hand, either because they know they've only got a year to destroy the country, or because they think they are going to be able to keep stealing elections forever.... But they couldn't steal an election in Alabama - that's not likely to stop them from trying,but so far, voting has, in fact, worked against them. So - keep voting!

Meanwhile,Trump and company continue to move closer to the moment of truth, when they have to face the truth about their dealings with Russia or start scrambling for ways out. A continuing procession of men are revealed as serial harassers - this week it's been Dustin Hoffman, Russell Simmons, Morgan Spurlock (who tried to head off trouble by confessing before he was caught), Mario Batali - that's who I remember off the top of my head. One of them, a particularly loathsome Kentucky preacher and legislator named Dan Johnson, shot himself over his misdeeds, which in this case involve raping a 17 year old. It's a depressing litany, but it is better that this stuff comes out - maybe if there are consequences for the kind of routine sexual abuse that has gone on, it will stop. Some of it will stop. You have to hope. And it it doesn't stop, well - at least there should be consequences for it.

Along with the new accusations, there have been more accusation about some of the more notorious abusers. Selma Hayek detailed her experiences with Harvey Weinstein; and a number of Trump's accusers talked about it in TV. Will Donald Trump ever answer for his actions? Probably not directly, not for a while - he's president; he isn't going to resign or shoot himself (since either of those would require at least some small awareness of what a sense of shame would feel like), and congress is obviously not going to do anything about any of his crimes until the Democrats get control. But his actions are already having a very noticeable affect on elections - his presence in the White House certainly helps the Democrats win elections.

As for his supporters - oy. I have cousins who are true believers, and they keep polluting Facebook with their attempts at defense - but man - have I ever seen a more desperate and self-contradicting set of defenses? Posts insulting one of the women for not looking like an eastern European supermodel. Posts saying Trump is a billionaire surrounded by beautiful women - why would he do this? Posts asking - "you were groped by a world famous billionaire and you didn't say anything - why?" And when all else fails, back to trans-bashing, men in the women's room again... It's amazing. Trump himself - it's hard to imagine a more desperately insecure human being than Donald Trump in the best of times - highlighting his insecurity makes a really poor defense. Some of those memes - just put a thought balloon over poor Donnie with "If not for my Daddy's money, none of these woman would look at me once" and be done with it... The rest - answer themselves: do you really have to explain how world famous billionaires get away with sexual assault? (Granted, "billionaire" might be aspirational in Trump's case, but still...) Insulting the looks of the women he groped - changing the subject... It's pathetic. Trump is pathetic,his supporters are pathetic, they make themselves look worse every time they open their mouths....

And al this despite the fact that Trump has admitted to a lot of the things he's accused of - grabbing them by the pussy; parading around backstage at beauty contests - the only defense they really have is that he's such a pathological liar and so desperately insecure, that he would lie about his sexual exploits to impress the likes of Howard Stern and Billy Bush.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Obituary Anniversaries

Well,December 8 - one of those days that the coincidences of bad things sometimes seems too much. 36 years ago, some asshole shot John Lennon in cold blood on the streets of New York; 13 years ago, some asshole shot Dimebag Darrel, guitarist for Pantera, in cold blood on stage in Ohio. I am tempted to make a political remark - what possesses this country not to pass better anti-gun laws? Especially now, when we have routine incidents of mass killings - but tat doesn't seem to have helped. Celebrities dying didn't change gun laws; 27 people shot in a church doesn't change gun laws... We have a problem.

But I'm not going to be able to change it by complaining. Instead - here's Pantera and Dirty Mac, showing what Dimebag and Winston were all about.

Pantera, live:

From the Rock and Roll Circus:

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Armistice Day, 2017

I've already managed my World War I post this week, getting the Russians in there along with Third Ypres. But today is Armistice Day and it is good to remember it, and to remember why this day was remembered as a day to bring abut the end of war. The horrors of Passchendaele sum up the horrors of WWI quite succinctly, and those horrors are a distillation of the horrors of all wars. We should keep it in mind, and we should try to stop this stuff from happening.

Here is a documentary about the battle of Passchendaele:

And a bit of Iron Maiden, to mark the time:

Friday, November 10, 2017

Shaking the World

Happy Friday again, the only day I seem to post - but 1 is better than none.

A strange week, this one: November 7-8 marked the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution - the Soviet Revolution, that brought Lenin to power. I should have posted something, but I am lazy and careless - but what is stranger is that I have seen almost nothing about it anywhere. Maybe it isn't American history; maybe the Soviets are well out of fashion - but this was one of the most important events of the 20th century - top, you know - 2 maybe - and you would think it would be talked about. Maybe it was and I haven't seen it - the news this week has been busy, with another mass shooting, an election that saw decisive Democratic victories around the country, another celebrity caught whacking off in front of strangers, and what might be the least surprising revelation of all time - sometimes judge Roy Moore, right wing, racist, homophobic god bothering scofflaw running for senate in Alabama, turns out to also be a pedophile, dating 17 year olds and making lewd passes as 14 year olds. So poor old Lenin and Trotsky and co. had a lot of competition this week.

That doesn't mean they should get a shout out. The Russian Revolution is, well - difficult. There's no denying the wickedness of the Tsar's regime, or its incompetence; there's no denying that WWI gutted Russia; there's not much likelihood that the government could have changed into something else without a revolution of some kind. But Revolutions never really work out - not in the short term, usually not in the medium term. The February Revolution held some promise, but no one was able to form a stable government, the war gutted the provisional governments as much as it gutted the Tsar's government - and it failed. And the Bolsheviks took over and - weren't willing to accept anything less than total victory, so slowly moved to banning all political opposition, crushing all dissent - which then sparked civil war, foreign invasions, massive and horrible political reprisals, devastating famine....

That is usually the result of revolution: war, death, devastation, famine and disease,and tyranny at the end. But among their horrors, sometimes governments emerge with some breathing room, with the space to get better.Could the Russian Revolution have done so? I am not sure what I think about the Russian revolution - the horrors of the revolution and civil war are horrors of war and revolution; it is more fruitful to ask what they led to. I don't know: there are signs, in the 1920s, that Lenin and some of the others in the government might have been willing to move toward a more just society - there is no denying that the revolution unleashed a torrent of cultural change, artistic change, which was very exciting. But that only lasted a couple years - and Stalin's version of the revolution codified and solidified the absolute worst possible elements of the revolution. He brought out the absolute worst possible outcome for the revolution. (As did Mao, in the 1950s; as did Pol Pot, for example.)

So what is the Russian Revolution? The hope of the overthrow of the Tsar? the promise of the people rising to create a new kind of government in November 1917? (That's what China Mieville emphasizes in October.) Or the fall into civil war and terror in 1918? The tyranny and cruelty of the 20s? or the almost immeasurable sense of possibility it created? Or both? Or the sheer (and wildly self-destructive) horror of Stalinism? The exhilaration of Eisenstein's October is real - the film creates it, of course, but you sense the exhilaration of the moment itself, the hope, the sense of liberation and empowerment. I can see the appeal. Though I am too much a cynic, or maybe a historian, not to know how this stuff ends. How all of them end: in blood and devastation, the guillotine, the ax, in a decade long war with Iraq. Or in retreat - the old guard takes over - or the new guard proves to be just like the old guard, only more racist and more self-righteous. (You thought I forgot the America revolution, didn't you!) I don't want any revolutions around me, thank you very much. I get worried when people start talking about them.

Though I know that most of them, a generation or so down the road, ended up making the world a better place. The world is better for the English Revolution, the French Revolution, certainly the the American Civil War - and it's probably better for the Russian Revolution. Just that - sacrificing a couple generations for the sake of the future seems like a sub-optimal route to a better world...

Meanwhile, today marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the Third Battle of Ypres, aka, the Battle of Passchendaele, another in the gruesome series of pointless bloodbaths that marked that war, especially on the western front. I suppose in the end, it's impossible to say that this one was more or less pointless than any of the others - though by 1917, it's hard to see what anyone had in mind in these exercises. I suppose it is true that one of the things the Allies had in mind was distracting Germans from the eastern front, where Russia's first revolution had cast the war effort into serious doubt. Indeed, Lenin and company mounted their revolution largely on the platform of getting out of the war for good. (Maybe because Lenin was bankrolled by the Germans, but that seems more like opportunism on both sides - the Germans were surely not communists.) In any case, Passchendaele didn't keep the Russians in the war, so...

I can't find any ambiguity in World War I: there is no greater unambiguous disaster in modern history. World War II! you say - but that damned thing continued with barely an interruption the first one. The horrors of the Russian Revolution would not have happened without the Great War - who knows what would have become of that country, but it's probably nothing like the bloodbath it was. And Passchendaele? Individual battles in the first world war are mind-boggling affairs, endless repetitions of what didn't work 6 months ago, tweaked with that one thing that did kind of work for a day or so 6 months ago.... When it changed, it changed because of sheer numbers and some real innovation, first by the Germans, then by the Allies (taking advantage of the German's complete collapse.) Everyone finally got bled out, I guess. Passchendaele contributed to the bleeding, of course, but that doesn't recommend it. It did help establish one of the dominant images of the Great War: if the Somme is the ultimate in the Doomed Charge image, Passchendaele is the ultimate in the Flooded Trench image, fought as it was in the wetlands of Belgium, in a very rainy summer and autumn. But there is nothing else there - heroism, but what good is that, when it's put to no end? There is no hope to be lost at Passchendaele, no missed opportunities - nothing but death, and there was never going to be anything but death there.

World War I is a very depressing subject to care about.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Friday Miscellany and Music

Hello again, Friday. Nice to see that the World Series turned out to be as entertaining as you could hope. I wish they could have finished some of those games a bit quicker - how I long for the days of dueling 7 inning starters! I think the Dodgers might have hurt themselves, over the series - taking out starters before they were really starting to lose meant they wee using most of their pen almost every single day. It started to show. The Astros had some of the same problem, but got around them by putting starters in to relieve, and letting them go for 3 or 4 innings. (Something of a trend: starters pitching better in relief than as starters - from the Red Sox, getting great outings from Price and Sale, to several Astros, to Kershaw and Wood when it was all too late for the Dodgers...) Anyway. This was a good one.

And now? I've been chipping away at Ken Burns' Vietnam war series - almost too depressing to watch more than an episode a week... Interesting to be reminded that yesterday, 11/2, was the 49th anniversary of the day Saigon pulled out of the Paris peace talks at the urging of Tricky Dick and company. 49 years since Nixon committed treason to get elected president. Meanwhile, every day in the news, we're reminded it's been a good deal less than 49 years since Trump committed treason to get elected... That and watching the Democrats continue to try to tear themselves apart - is it 1968? It is horrible watching Democrats continue to try to undo the results of last year's primaries, while the Republicans are trying to undo the results of the Civil War...

But that is all the politics I can stand for today.

So - Friday - some music. Maybe 1968, huh? Kind of cool to hear the Velvet Underground in the middle of the 1968 episode of the Vietnam War - this one, in fact,shown here with some nifty animations:

Meanwhile the Beatles:

And the Stones, taking on the political world of the time:

Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday on my Mind

Hello Friday, hello two more obituaries in the music world - what can you do? I'm getting old... Fats Domino was one of the big ones - popular and fantastic, helping establish what rock and roll was, and thrilling in his own right. Here he is on Sullivan....

And Ain't that a Shame:

And this week also saw George Young's demise. Another one who had a neat career on his own, with the Easybeats and Flash N the Pan - though the little brothers rather surpassed him.

Nothing else that bugs me more than working for the rich man.. You bet! Friday on my mind:

And later, Young and Harry Vanda recorded as Flash N the Pan, new wave almost before new wave existed. (Complete with making fun of the younger Young sibs...) Done my time in hell...

Sunday, October 22, 2017

World Series

This is a great relief, the Astros winning the American League Championship. They did it in style - the back end of their rotation teaming up to throw a shut out, Altuve hitting another bomb, Brian McCann driving in two runs on the Yankee's dime. This is the matchup people were hoping for in the middle of the summer, when the Astros were lapping the field offensively and the Dodgers were overwhelmingly good on the mound. Both teams sort of took the foot of the gas, the Indians got hot, and people started paying more attention to the Red Sox and Yankees, involved in that strange anachronism known as a pennant race. But Astros and Dodgers were pretty much the best all year, and they have both returned to form in the playoffs, so - we should get a nice series.

One thing I want to mention, that I alluded to Friday, is this. I see lots of stories and comments about how now the Yankees are done, but they have the makings of a dynasty there - I can't argue with that. They have Judge and Sanchez; they have Hicks and Bird and Torreyes, who could be pretty good themselves; they have Gregorius and Castro and the like; they have Severino and Montgomery and so on - young and good, and likely to spend the money to keep them there.

ut that's the Red Sox, too - and the Dodgers - and the Astros, if they are willing to spend the money, and the Indians, and the Cubs - even the Nats, Diamondbacks, even the Twins (if they were willing to spend the money.) Call Judge and Sanchez the stars - and compare them to Betts and Benintendi (and Bogaert and Devers); to Seager and Bellinger; to Altuve, Correa, Springer and Bregman; to Lindor and Ramirez; to Bryant and Russell and Baez and Schwarber (and Rizzo, something of a veteran). Bryce Harper and Trea Turner (and Rendon and Michael Taylor) - and don't forget that Harper hasn't turned 25 yet. Even the Twins, who are kind of an afterthought in this, have Sano and Rosario and Buxton and Kepler and Polanco, starting to come into their own - all 25 and under. This is what made this post-seaosn kind of an especially fun one - the Rockies and Diamondbacks were the only teams without one or tow (or more) major stars under the age of 25. And they both feature players in their mid-late 20s. It's fun to watch. Now, obviously, some of these guys will regress - some of them will get hurt - some of these teams will be unwilling to pay to retain them when they get expensive - a lot of these teams have much shakier and less promising pitching (though here the Rockies fit in again: 4 starters with 10 wins or more, all under 25 years old. Colorado is a terrible place to pitch, but, that gives them a chance.)

It loks like we're coming into a pretty neat time to be a baseball fan.

And remember, for all the talent in the post-season, the best player in the game, by a still significant margin, wasn't in the playoffs, and is 25 years old. You do have to hope the Angels get their act together sometime - it is quite noticeable that they are NOT built around good young talent, even when they have the best...

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Sport and Music

I want to check in briefly, long enough to say something about baseball, which seems to be approaching the eldritch apocalypse of a Yankees Dodgers world series. I don't want to be too quick to write of the Astros - they can win two in a row from the Yanks if they have to - but...

I dread Yankees and Dodgers in the series. The AND is important - I don't particularly dread either the Yankees or the Dodgers. They are, to be sure, franchises I loathe (loyal New Englander that I am), but the Dodgers have long been an afterthought, almost enough to make you feel sorry for them. One never feels sorry for the Yankees of course... And more than that, their current collection of players are both rather likable. It's hard not to like Aaron Judge or Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and Gary Sanchez - as a pure, neutral baseball fan. in that sense, it's been hard to find teams to hate int his post-season: almost all of them are young, up and coming squads - at least full of young, exciting players - even teams that got there by buying up stars mix it with their own good young players - there aren't any teams to cheer against, as collections of ball players. Just those franchises, and even that is mostly the combination - Yankees vs Cubs or Nats would not have been terrible. Someone to cheer for, someone to here against, and a villain who, if they win, would be rather entertaining doing it. Same with the Dodgers, against any of the AL teams besides the Yanks.

But this combo: ugh. So go Justin Verlander! put the in their place! win two ore, Astros, and save us the indignity of 1977 reborn!

Though 1977 was a way better year than 2017 on principal, so....

Anyway on a very different subject - where I was last week: Feelies, still at it after 40 odd years. Not the first time I've seen them...

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday 13th for America

Another Friday has come, and despite this being a Friday 13, no famous or interesting artists have died - it's almost confusing.

As for Friday 13th - this whole year has been one long Friday 13th. I thought last year sucked - but this one has just gone from worse to worse. Trump has more or less delivered on his promises to make everything worse - not by doing a lot, since he and the Republicans can't seem to pass much, the old fashioned way - but he has authority as president that he can use for evil (and not use for good), and my god, he won't shut up! He has certainly enabled the worst elements of our fair republic - I doubt there are any more racists and Nazis and confederates around now than before, but they are a lot louder about it. Granted - this is making it easier for people to repudiate them - and there are, in fact, a lot more of us than them - but it makes it hard to get through the day.

We are well past the point where we have to acknowledge that Trump himself is a simple, and open, Fascist. Authoritarian - racist and xenophobic - addicted to the aesthetics of politics (even if his aesthetic models are crappy game shows and reality TV - and Vegas whorehouse decor, I suppose) - nationalist, in that simplistic jingoistic sense - embracing political violence - it's all there. He's nearly open in his support of the white nationalists; consistently attacking any sign of dissent - attacking free speech, attacking the press, attacking civil society - attacking the rule of law. A deadlocked congress helps him - makes it easier to rule by fiat, to rule without law - that's how Hitler did it; Trump's working toward it just as surely.

I wish I were more optimistic - but I think the problem is more than Trump. It's built into the country. The Constitution is admirable in many ways, but it is a very old document, a kind of beta test for Constitutions - they didn't have a lot of models. They worried about a lot of things that didn't prove to be problems; they worked off assumptions that were already eroding, and should have been dumped. They were worried about democracy - what if were subverted? Turned into a tyranny of the majority? So they built in checks and balances, they built in barriers to protect the minority, to exaggerate the power of the minority. Which worked, more or less, as long as all parties agreed with the underlying assumptions of society, and all participated in good faith,accepting defeat knowing they could win the next election. But this broke down when underlying assumptions changed, and when minority groups, used to power, realized they could not win elections honestly. And then - the constitution becomes a level that shrinking constituencies could use against the majority.

That is what happened in the 1840s and 50s - slavery became increasingly regional, votes grew faster in the north than the south (partly because the north was more democratic, though mostly because it had more people), and the slave-holding south was in danger of becoming a permanent minority bloc. So they sabotaged good government - held the country hostage; manipulated the system to keep themselves in control, even as they were shrinking - and finally tried to burn it all down...

That's close to what is happening now. Has been happening for about 25 years, probably. The Republicans transformed themselves from the money party into the money and white nationalism party, all the way back in the 1960s. They took over all the dixiecrats when the Democrats finally decided to treat African Americans as human - they took over the old confederacy, without really changing much except the letter by the name of all those old racists. The world kept on turning - it's easy to forget, given how bad things are, but the country has gotten better in a lot of ways in the last 50 years. Blacks do have rights and protections they did not have in 1960; women have rights and protections; gays have rights and protections. Many things that were - maybe not accepted in 1960, but deliberately and systematically hidden - are now, still hidden, but the systems are weaker. (Ask Harvey Weinstein. When he whines about growing up in a different era, he means, he expected the system to protect him from accusers, not that what he did was once acceptable and now is not. It was always wrong, everyone knew it was wrong, but men were protected. Still are, or this would have happened 25 years ago.) But as the world kept turning, the Republicans doubled down on their new identity - maybe they started out playing to the racists to get their votes (to govern like plutocrats), but as their constituencies shrank, and their social and cultural ideas became less popular, they have turned to more and more open effectual racism. They identified more and more as the party of white supremacy. And with it, the party of authoritarianism, suppressing the vote, suppressing speech, the party of amateur (as well as professional) political violence and so on.

And the party of using the constitution against itself. Refusing the act in good faith - there is nothing more egregious that the Senate's refusal to hold a vote on Merrick Garland - that in itself constitutes something close to a coup. They manipulate the vote - using gerrymandering to give themselves an unfair advantage; suppressing the vote outright when they can; working to make voting as difficult and unpleasant as they can. And as a permanent minority party out to control government, they work very hard to break down the system of government itself. They have always attacked government in principal (though are very quick to use its capacity for violence for their own ends), directly and indirectly. Directly - government is evil! keep your government off my medicare! and indirectly - it doesn't matter who I vote for; there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the parties; government can't do anything right, we should leave it to the market. And of course, buying votes...

Enough. I don't know how we get out of this mess. We vote, I suppose - but the Republicans have been doing everything they can to make your vote not count; to make voting difficult and ineffectual; to convince the public that voting doesn't matter. The constitution was written to protect minority interests - and probably even more explicitly, the interests of the agrarian south. That is certainly how this has played out - the agrarian south, the slave-owning south, then the racist south, has always been the party to take advantage of the constitution's anti-democratic features. From the electoral college (explicitly designed to favor slave states) to the Senate to - etc. All of which adds up to the fact that for voters to save the country, we have to get 60-70% of the vote, to overcome the built in resistance to democracy.

Or maybe evil white men just die off, and - it's not comforting: if decent people can see that history is bending their way, so can the villains, and they will just act, more aggressively to protect themselves. There's more of that going on than I'd like - people like Trump, like all the neo-Nazi and neo-confederte marchers, the pro-treason crowd, the people yelling about football player exercising their political rights - are becoming more aggressive, more active, in no small part because they are losing. They know they are losing, and know they have to cheat to stop it. So they cheat. It doesn't bode well.

So happy Friday the 13th.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Tom Petty

I still try to get in here ad post a music post,if nothing else, every week. Unfortunately they all seem to turn out to be obituaries. This week it is Tom Petty. I like Tom Petty - I remember hearing Breakdown, way back when, and thinking, that's such a cool song... Then Refugee came out, which is when he started to get a lot of airplay - that was all over the radio, Refugee, I'm the Night Watchman - that might have been just about the best music you were likely to hear on the radio in 1979.... And he kept on going, and was always solid, and sometimes fantastic. Sometimes, maybe, in the 80s, he seemed to fade into the background - duets with Stevie Nicks, nice pop songs on the radio... But unlike most 70s rockers trying to be relevant in the 80s, he didn't really embarrass himself. "Don't Come Around Here No More" makes some gestures toward fashion, with its drum machine sounds and Dave Stewart cameos - but it's still a solid Tom Petty song, and mostly he just kept on going, doing what he was good at and letting people come to him.

Breakdown, live in 1978:

Refugee, same show:

don't Come Around here no more, as 80s as he got, I suppose:

Free Fallin'

Friday, September 29, 2017

Hefner after Dark

Just popping in for a bit - another obituary, I suppose - Hugh Hefner, of all people. I had,I fear, forgotten he was alive - well... He has, I suppose, what one might call a mixed legacy. Mainstreaming porn - is that good or bad, actually? He supporting civil rights and LBGT rights. He was a skeevy old man (after a lifetime of skeeviness) - he exploited women all his life. He published great writers and writing. He - he was - all that and more.

I wil leave it to others to figure him out. I will say that when he pushed other people's culture - he didn't mess around. When he ran a TV show, he brought in some really good guests - some of the best late 60s music clips come from that show. Like - Ike and Tina Turner (speaking of mixed legacies...) on Playboy After Dark, doing Sly and the Beatles, CCR and the Stones. (Plus Doug Kershaw in a purple suit? oh, the 60s...)

(Speaking of which - nothing to do with Hef, but here's Kershaw, flying the velvet and fiddling his ass off...