December 31, 2010

For All the Haters

Okay, listen to this:


Now, go here for a discussion of American Idol and great female vocalists.

Do it.

Lots of cool YouTube video.

You won't be sorry.

And remember: Dionne Warwick rules them all.

December 23, 2010

Holly Jolly

Whilst contemplating Jon Kyl's definition of the profanation of the nativity . . .

It is finally time.  Here is your Christmas playlist, slightly modified from two years ago:

The Carpenters: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
The Grinch (OST): "Trim Up the Tree"
Harry Connick: "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"
John Fahey: "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Fantasy"
Johnny Mercer: "Winter Wonderland"
Andy Williams: "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year"
Fats Waller: "Swingin' Them Jingle Bells"
Kitty Wells: "Away in a Manger"
Billie Holiday:  "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm"
Dean Martin:  "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm"
The Pogues:  "Fairytale of New York"
Mariah Carey:  "All I Want for Christmas is You"
Django Reinhardt/Stephane Grapelli:  "Christmas Swing"
The Cats & the Fiddle:  "Hep Cat's Holiday"
Sons of Heaven:  "When Jesus was Born"
Mahalia Jackson:  "Bless This House"
Oscar Peterson:  "A Child is Born"
Ben Kaili:  "Little Drummer Boy"
Leonard Bernstein/New York Philharmonic:  "Carol of the Bells"
Dwight Yoakam:  "Santa Claus is Back in Town"
Frank Sinatra:  "Jingle Bells"
Jimmy Durante:  "Frosty the Snowman"
Elvis Presley:  "Santa Bring My Baby Back (to Me)"
Bill Evans:  "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"
The Jackson 5:  "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"
Rahsaan Roland Kirk:  "We Free Kings"
Jimmy Smith:  "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"
The Brian Setzer Orchestra:  "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"
Louie Armstrong:  "Cool Yule"
Louis Prima:  "What Will Santa Say (When He Finds Everybody Swingin")"
Straight No Chaser:  "Hark the Herald Angels Sing/Angels We Have Heard on High"
Willie Nelson:  "O Little Town of Bethlehem"
Sister Rosetta Tharp:  "O Little Town of Bethlehem"
Moya Brennan:  "What Child is This?"
Blue Eyed Grass:  "Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel"
Country Gentlemen:  "Silent Night"
Dinah Washington:  "Ole Santa"
The Flaming Lips:  "A Change at Christmas (Say is isn't So)"
Billy Eckstine:  "Christmas Eve"
Roy Orbison:  "Pretty Paper"
Billy May:  "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"
Peggy Lee:  "The Christmas Song"
Mel Torme:  "The Christmas Song"
The Pretenders:  "2000 Miles"
The Choir of Westminster Abbey:  "Good King Wenceslas"
Merle Haggard:  "Silver Bells"
Bobby Helms:  "Jingle Bell Rock"
Chuck Berry:  "Run Rudolph Run"
Eartha Kitt:  "Santa Baby"
Burl Ives:  "A Holly Jolly Christmas"
Bing Crosby:  "White Christmas"
Leo Kottke:  "Accordion Bells"
Ella Fitgerald:  "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

Go ahead, suspend disbelief, rock the playlist.  'tis the season, after all.

And remember, Chairman Mao says:  SHUT THE FUCK UP!

December 19, 2010

The 50th Revolution

Well friends, I don't mind telling you that this year has been a load of shit.  I'm annoyed, annoyed, annoyed . . . and I don't want to get into it, at least not yet.

Now before you send me your well-meaning sympathies or concerned missives inquiring about my wellbeing, please bear in mind that 1) I believe my mood is pretty much completely under my own control, so if I walk around in a constant state of annoyance, it's my own damn fault; and 2) I don't think it's necessary, or even desirable, to drift along in a constant fog of "happiness".  "If you're not getting pissed off, you're not paying attention", as they say.

In other words, I'm fine.  Thanks for asking.

Over the last couple years our little family has had to deal with things.  Fortunately, we are able to deal with these things together, and we're growing closer by the day.  The future is always brighter; but that doesn't make the present less annoying.

Things are gestating, and the process has me a bit on edge.  The future is unclear to me, but I have more confidence in my ability to strangle it with my bare hands than I ever have had before.  And this little fit of annoyance?  It seems like the gateway to something, though I swear I don't know what.

Well, there you have it.  I'm not going to get personal, so y'all are left with nothing but murky generalities.  The previous five paragraphs were pretty much a waste of your time - sorry 'bout that.  I'll get back on the horse after the first of the year and start teasing out some of the angles that have been banging around in my head, then lay them down here for your reading pleasure (I really need to do a proper Beefheart memorial to start with).

Until then, I raise my cup of haterade and toast another year down the tubes. Onward into the fifth decade.  Or is it that I'm already a year into the fifth decade?  I never understood how those things work.

Fuck it.  Happy New Year to everyone.  Let's make this one better than the last.

December 17, 2010

RIP Captain Beefheart

This man is the single most important musical influence in my life.  I think he is the greatest rock musician ever, even though he arguably didn't "know" how to play an instrument.

I will write on this at a later time, when I really can approach the topic in the detail it deserves.

December 10, 2010

That Bastard Chavez!

Freaking communist asshole, subverting capitalism by making socialism tasty!

From Wikileaks, confidential cable 10CARACAS43, from the embassy in Caracas to the office of the Hillary ("Big Balls") Clinton, cc the consuls in Dusseldorf, Leipzig, Thessaloniki, Quebec, Recife

1. (C) Summary: President Chavez made socialism taste better with
the December 22 opening of a "socialist arepera" serving
Venezuelan-style tortillas at a fraction of their usual price.
The "Arepera Socialista" is planned to be the first of a chain of
Venezuelan government (GBRV) restaurants run by the Ministry of
Commerce. This restaurant is the GBRV's latest effort at setting
up alternatives to the private market, branding national symbols,
like the "arepa," as part of the Bolivarian Revolution, and
providing tangible benefits to its electoral base before the
September legislative elections. End Summary.

Socialism's Tangible - and Tasty -- Benefits

2. (U) President Chavez opened the "Arepera Socialista" with much
fanfare on December 22, advertising its low price and high quality
as symbolic of the benefits of his socialist revolution. (Note:
"Arepas" are a Venezualan-style thick cornmeal tortilla usually
used for a type of sandwich. End Note.) The restaurant, located
in a lower middle class neighborhood of Caracas, serves "arepas"
for about a fourth of their regular price. It is currently only
open during weekday mornings, although there are plans to extend
its hours, add coffee and fresh juice to its menu, and open two new
locations in working class neighborhoods.

3. (SBU) On a January 8 visit, EmbOffs witnessed a long line of
people waiting to get into the restaurant but surprisingly rapid
service. Inside, one wall was dominated by a quote in large red
lettering from Simon Bolivar: "The best system of government is
that which produces the greatest happiness." An employee managing
the line said the restaurant served 1,200 customers per day. One
man in line said he worked in the neighborhood and came every day
since the food was excellent and cheap.

Money is Secondary in Socialist Restaurants

4. (U) According to Minister of Commerce Eduardo Saman, people
can count on low prices at the "arepera socialista" because the
ingredients come from government-owned companies and other
products, such as boxed juices, come from government-owned
companies. Saman claimed the prices were sufficient to cover the
store's operating costs. He also announced on December 23 that a
chain of "Arepera Socialista" restaurants would be opened
throughout Venezuela as part of the Socialist Market Cooperatives
run by the Ministry of Commerce. Saman himself worked at the
restaurant on December 24; other Ministry of Commerce employees
were "volunteering" at the restaurant on the day of the Emboffs'
visit. About 30 people work at the restaurant.

4. (U) Besides the price, Saman highlighted another key difference
between socialist and capitalist "arepera": customers pay only
after eating, while "in fast food chains . . . they only think
about money." In the "Arepera Socialista," the cash register is in
a corner of the room and customers pay only after eating,
self-reporting how many of the "arepas" they ate.

5. (C) Facing high inflation, electricity and water rationing,
and failing public services, Chavez may see the "arepera
socialista" as a relatively quick and easy way to promote the
benefits of "socialism" to his electoral base before the September
legislative elections. The challenge will be meeting demand
without raising the subsidized price or cutting quality.

THIS IS SERIOUS!  "Tasty" products of a socialist state, undercutting the rightful, god-given flavor of capitalism, and flouting "low price and high quality" as benefits of the "socialist revolution"?  BASTARDS!  How dare they strive for quality AND low price!  And, on top of that, the "long lines" of customers are subjected to "SURPRISINGLY RAPID SERVICE"?

I must pause.

Will these godless Marxists stop at nothing to bring down our way of life?

You see, this is exactly the false utopia* that Marxism poisons us with: you don't get food that is good, cheap, and fast.  It doesn't happen.  It's a pipe dream.

But wait, there's more:

"The customers pay only after they eat" . . . ???!!!?  WTF?!  This isn't Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, this is freaking Trotsky's South American Bread Thing!  If you want to eat at a place what takes your money AFTER you eat, you need to sweat and save!  You need to climb the ladder of capital!  You don't just get this shit given to you!  Communist!!

And, on top of that, you have the leering Simon Bolivar: "The best system of government is that which produces the greatest happiness".  Is it?  Is it really?  "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" . . . yeah, that's right, that's another communist by the name of John F. Kennedy.  Except JFK, being a rich white boy, was a communist who ultimately knew the value of a buck, so he knew: capital doesn't serve you, you serve capital.  And, if you want that fuckin' biscuit, you're going to fuckin' pay for it first.

This subversion of the American way of life will not be tolerated.  This tasty threat will not stand.

Soon, the CIA will hook up Bobby Flay, and then there'll be REAL "Throwdown".  He'll get down into the streets of Caracas, and he'll whip up some of that sweet chili sauce, work up a base with cumin and parsley, maybe milk some cilantro, and he'll have some FUCKING BACON (the REAL secret weapon of Capital), and the working class will be eating out of his hand . . . the dictatorship of the proletariat will be overthrown by PORK . . . 

 . . . and, at the moment of triumph, the grinning effigy of Flay will intone "if you want that biscuit, you're going to have to FUCKING PAY for that biscuit" . . . 

 . . . and order will be restored to the universe, and the 23rd Carrier Group can just wander off toward Puerto Rico, "nothing to see here . . . "

The price of security is vigilance.  Or something like that.
*  "Utopia", from the Greek ou (not) + topos (place) . . . utopia is "no place" . . . just in case you forgot.

December 5, 2010

Glenn Gould Uber Alles

I've just gained enough sophistication about classical music that I'm starting to differentiate between good versions and bad versions of things, and I'm really jonesin' for the high octane stuff.  To that end, I've taken a dive head deep into the Glenn Gould oeuvre.

I tell you what, that guy's a freaking HAMMER.  Or rather, a lot of hammers just wailing away through piece after piece.  I find it all very breathtaking.  I also look forward to the day I find it all somewhat passe, though it's okay if I never do.

The Glenn Gould list:

Berg, Schoenberg, Krenek: Piano Sonatas
Bach: Two and Three Part Inventions
Bach: Partitas No. 5 & 6
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas
Bach: Italian Concerto, Partitas 1 & 2

And here's a video for good measure:

Sweet!  Any recommendations on where I should turn next will be greatly appreciated.

In Rotation:

Shellac:  Terraform
Loren Connors: Airs
Tyvek: Nothing Fits
Aurturo Benedetti Michelangeli: Debussy Images 1 & 2; Children's Corner
Urge Overkill: playlist
Tim Hecker: Harmony in Ultraviolet
Frank Frost: Frank Frost
Howlin' Wolf: Moanin' After Midnight
Group Doueh: Beatte Harab
Bud Powell: Jazz Giant
Frank Sinatra: Sinatra Sings His Greatest Hits
Cecil Taylor: Conquistador!
Arto Lindsay: Mundo Civilizado
Charles Ives: The Holidays Symphony
William Burroughs: Dead City Radio
Various: The Sounds of Excello Vol. I
Mike Cooper: Blue Guitar (Ten Songs for Guitar and Voice)
The Alban Berg Quartet: Debussy & Ravel - String Quartets
Various 7" singles by: Deerhunter, Lawrence English, Philip Jeck and Marcus Davidson, Sleep~Over, Wipers, Shellac, Beck, Dinosaur Jr., Electric Bunnies, Factums, Gaunt, Greenhorn, Little Claw, Pink Reason, Queen Victoria, Red Krayola, Skin Yard, Times New Viking, Sonic Youth, etc.

and, involuntarily, that fucking dogs barking "Jingle Bells" song, a version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by some modern R &  B diva who goes HORRIBLY FLAT at the end (makes my hair stand up every time), someone doing a really mediocre "Ave Maria" (is that a Christmas song?), the Muppets "Twelve Days of Christmas", that Chipmunks Christmas song, that really bad George Michael Christmas song, and, well, you get the picture.  This is just horrific.  I"m calling my union rep!  Oh, wait, no union . . .

Well, until next time . . .

December 1, 2010

The Flying McBob

Just one more Pacers post, & I'll move along.

Good times.

November 28, 2010

I Know It's Early, But . . .

Famous last words, 'cause you know that whenever you see that sentence, the speaker is just about to totally ignore the fact that "it's early" and go ahead to make a rash proclamation from that shaky base.  Just like when somebody says "no disrespect, but . . . " they're about to disrespect somebody.  Or when they say "taking nothing away from _____", they're about to take away from _____.

Dwyane ("The Typo") Wade, after losing to the Pacers:
"The Indiana Pacers -- and take nothing away from them -- but they don't have a lot of playmakers," Wade said. "Their offense is their playmaker and they do a great job of it, but that's why they play the style of ball they play. That's not LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade. That's not our games so we have to figure out with our games and our strengths what to do and that's not us. Yeah, we move the ball and we have offensive sets to get the ball moving, but we're not trying to play like the Indiana Pacers."
Uh, yeah.  They just kicked your ass.  Are you really asking for more?

The implication is that the Pacers play team ball because they have no choice.  Well, that's true (sort of: I wouldn't put Granger in the class of James, Wade, Bryant, or Durant, but he's right there in that second tier with guys like Rose, pre-injury Roy, etc.), but isn't it starting to become clear that you need to be more like the Pacers?  Everybody has said it, including you yourself: there's only one ball.  All you "playmakers" need to become "playmakers" in the real sense - that is, do the little detail-oriented fundamentals-based dirty work it takes to get the job done every single second you are on the floor.  It's not even really clear to me that James and Bosh know how to do that, but at least they have excuses, James having had no college coach and Bosh having had it little better with Rick Barnes, but you had a good coach (Tom Crean), so at least you were taught.  Have you forgotten what it takes?

Then there's this:
"You see guys playing above their heads; there's no secret about it," said Wade, who noted that he feels a bigger bull's eye on the team this season compared to when the Heat were defending champs. "Teams are playing very well against us. There's a lot of things that we have that go against us at times, but we'll figure it out. It's understandable. We understand that we're a team that everyone wants to beat. When they finally do that, it's their playoff game. It's their biggest win of the year possibly, unless they beat the Lakers. I don't think it's going to get too much bigger, so we are not really worried about that."
Well, yeah, except for the fact that the Pacers beat you with their B- game, not their A game.  You may have had an insanely off night, going 1 of 15 from the floor, but Granger wasn't much better at 6 of 21.  We'll give you the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe you shoot a tick under 50%, which you normally do, and additionally leave Granger with his atrocious shooting.  That's a twelve-point swing, and guess what?  You still lose by four.  And, not only did Granger have a bad shooting night, but the Pacers' second most important player, Roy Hibbert, only played 21 minutes because of foul trouble.  So: the Pacers beat you with their top scorer shooting 28.57% from the floor and their vital post defender on the bench for almost half the game.  Doesn't seem like the P were playing "above their heads" to me.

Dwyane, you just need to shut the hell up and play.  You and Bron both.

*          *          *          *          *

I'm not jumping to unreasonable conclusions here: if the Heat play up to their full potential, and the Pacers play up to theirs, the Heat win 10 out of 10 (well, nine out of 10, because there's always the chance that the Pacers do this).  And yes, the Heat took a dump on their home floor Monday.  But it's not as clear cut as that: the Heat didn't just lose this game, the Pacers won it.

And yes, that's the source of my early Pacerish optimism: there are things happening here that haven't happened here in a long, long time.  My optimism has its caution, and I'm careful not to expect too much in the won/loss column yet, but there are definitely things that a drawing my attention:

  1. They are showing signs of being able to play defense.  Not shut down defense, mind you, but they're closing down the expressway to the iron, and generally contesting jump shots (except against the Heat, when they just totally collapsed in and offered engraved invitations to the King and the Typo to beat them from 25 feet and out).  They are more and more maintaining decent defensive positioning, and generally making things a little more difficult than they have any time since the O'Neal/Artest/Foster era.  And, with Roy Hibbert emerging as a legitimate shot blocker, guys like McBob and Psycho T can play close, pesky defense, and if (when) they get beat off the bounce, they just turn their men in toward Hibbert, and he is actually capable of erasing a few of their mistakes.  Like I said, they're not the mid-aughts Pacers or Pistons, but at least now you have to work a little to score on them.
  2. And speaking of pesky, so far this year, the effort has been there pretty consistently there.  Nobody is wondering around like they're lost.  Again, part of it is the personality of guys like Hansbrough and McRoberts, who have to go big or go home . . . but, beyond that, it's clear that Jim O'Brien doesn't let anyone on the floor who's not willing to go all out, all the time.  Mistakes they will grudgingly live with (not many - for, as the Typo intimated, the Pacer's margin for error is almost non-existent), but not flying around will get you benched until you earn your way back in.
  3. Jim O'Brien's motion offense, though very far from being a finished product, is starting to pay off.  Now, instead of just running down the court and chucking up a shot, the Pacers actually look for the best shooter in the best situation AND actually take steps to achieve that situation.  As a result, everyone is starting to look a little bit better on the offensive end . . . especially T J Ford, who, after a failing grade as the primary point guard last year, is coming around as an important catalyst for the offense off the bench.
  4. And speaking of O'Brien, it seems like he is finally starting to realize some sort of vision for the team.  Going into this season, O'Brien seemed like a dead man walking, even if the Pacers managed to profit from the ill fortune of others (here I'm casting my eyes in the direction of New York, New Jersey, Philly, Washington, and Cleveland) and shuffle backwards into the playoffs.  But now, more than just exhorting a ragtag group of nobodies to the upper echelons of mediocrity, it seems possible (just possible!) that O'Brien has a vision of how to instill some sort of personality into that motley crew, and further, that he has a program that, given players with the right combination of talent and work ethic, could get the Pacers back to where they were in the Reggie Miller era.
After losing a heartbreaker to the Thunder (there are no more moral victories in Indy), The P stand at 7 -7, which is hardly a world-beater, given their relatively easy schedule so far.  And yet, there is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, low in candle power though it may be.  For the first time, it seems like maybe, just maybe, this team can be built up instead of blown up.  Certainly there will need to be major improvements, and it is clear that the focal point of the team has yet to arrive (Granger is really good, better than most people think he is - even the ones who think he's good - but, he's Robin, not Batman), but we have here something that the Heat definitely don't have: a good supporting cast.  So far, it is a supporting cast in search of a star, but there is really something here that can be built on.

We know the job of a ball team and its front office . . . or do we?  Answer number one would seem to be to WIN GAMES, but in these days of economic chaos and the capitalization of every last element of our lives, including our sporting endeavors, the main job of a team is to SELL TICKETS.  Of course, winning games makes selling tickets much easier, but it is not the be-all and end-all of a franchise's new reality.  As much as I loved the O'Neal-era Pacers, I was in the minority in this fan base.  Oh, the fans would have gotten behind them if they would have realized their pre-brawl promise, but that support would have been shallow.  Say what you want about Rick Carlisle, but that was an ugly, nasty team.  It had to be an ugly, nasty team to compete with its arch-nemesis Detroit.  It was what was called for at the time.  But the Good, the Bad, and the Crazy always had a short leash with Indiana fans.  And since the debacle at Auburn Hills, the P have been a hard sell, especially after Reggie finally hung it up.

Indiana is the most basketball-savvy fan base around, bar none.  It's not that they prefer high school and college basketball over the pro game, it's just that they have so many choices of top-notch basketball at so many different levels, they're not going to pay attention to a bush-league operation . . . I mean, for Christ's sake, even if you leave the Big Ten and IU and Purdue out of it, you have a Butler team that competes with the big boys year in and year out, and even easy tickets like the University of Indianapolis (alma mater of the Spur's George Hill) and IUPUI can buy you first rate hoop action, and that doesn't even include occasional fits from teams like Evansville, Ball State, and Indiana State, or a top-notch roundball league like the Big East rotating through South Bend, even if the Irish themselves are rather unspectacular and workman-like . . . and then there's the best high school basketball in the nation, and that includes all those trendy East Coast basketball academies.  No, the average Indiana ball fan won't put up with bullshit, because there's quality to be had around every corner.

So how do you serve that fan base?  Good ball.  That simple.  Indiana fans have been resistant to the pro game mainly because of the recent drive-and-kick nature of the pro offense (the very "style of ball" that the Typo is referring to as the anti-Pacers style of ball favored by himself and his Heat boys club).  There is a certain beauty to the one-on-one game of a true basketball genius - I think, in spite of the racial overtones of the anti-NBA sentiment around here, and in spite of the different tastes of the local roundball aficionados, Allen Iverson in his prime would have been well received in Indianapolis - but these days, the drive-and-kick game has completely lost its aesthetic appeal.  Derek Rose is exhibit A in that respect: there is no denying that  he is conscientious, studious, and driven, and there is no denying that he wants to do what's best for his team, and ultimately, there is no denying that his game is first-rate.  But: his game is ugly and uninteresting.  He throws himself at the iron like a chaotic missile, with no grace or art.  In the rare instances he is stopped cold, he kicks it out to a shooter - some guy standing around watching the action - to try to finish the play.  Now, when the driver has some real game to display on the way to the hoop, this approach is fine and enjoyable, but this has led (at the college level as well as the pro level) to an offense where you get a baller with just enough game that you need more than one defender to shut him down on the way to the hole trying to draw the defense into the lane so he can kick to some shooters on the edge.  BORING.  

Contra the drive-and-kick, we have the motion offense.  These days, everyone wants their turn for a solo (is that not the whole offense of the Heat at this point?  Wade and Bron taking turns, and getting Bosh involved when they remember?), but there is more . . . it's like jazz, and I don't make this comparison lightly.  Letting Coltrane run wild while Sanders or Dolphy, along with Tyner, are hanging out on the wings waiting for a kick is one thing, because it's freaking COLTRANE, after all.  And the more chaotic, Don Nelson/Golden State approach, with everyone throwing themselves willy-nilly into the chaos of an offensive possession like the brothers Ayler with Sunny Murray as a trailer, always has a certain car-crash appeal.  But there is nothing to compare to the breathlessness of a free-flowing group improvisation, like Ornette's Free Jazz, with everybody carrying the weight.  It can be free flowing like Steve Nash running the floor with Amar'e and the crew, or it can be orchestrated and disciplined Mingus-style like the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, one of the best teams in the history of basketball.  Or, there can be the charts of varying complexity that are always run as they should be, like every other Bob Knight team that didn't include Isaiah Thomas.  The thing is this: there is a beauty in the complexity of interplay that is lost in today's drive-and-kick offense.  Hoosiers may not give a shit about jazz, but they do give a shit about hoop and its aesthetic dimension, even if the average Hoosier wouldn't know aesthetics if it bit him in the ass.

Which, in a long roundabout, brings me back to this year's Pacers.  Indiana fans will support a team that tries to run a complex, disciplined game, even if they are not particularly successful in doing it.  If the the old-school dynamics are there, if the hustle and the effort are there, if the game has some sophistication, then the average Hoosier ball fan will credit the effort and patiently wait for the payoff.  Running isolations for Jermaine O'Neal* would have been long-term acceptable only if it lofted a banner in the rafters of Conseco Fieldhouse . . . nothing short of that was acceptable, certainly not the Artest freakout, the gangsterisms of Tinsley and Jackson, or the inability of the second generation of the Miller era to get the job done.  No, the average hoosier looks to roundball for aesthetic fulfillment, and he demands sophistication . . . details big and small, like the '87 Hoosiers flouting conventional wisdom and running with UNLV, just a little slower to keep the game at their tempo, not UNLV's; like ultra-conservative Bobby Knight debuting the first big hybrid guard in '76 with Bobby Wilkerson; like Butler neutralizing the K State guard's brutal full-court pressure by having their 6' 10" power forward Gordon Heyward bring the ball up the court (and any time they tried to take him on, he just kicked it back to the guards who exploited the mismatch): like the standard bearers of the old ABA, a flexible, dynamic bunch that included such HOF worthy people as workhorse pivot Mel Daniels, silky smooth Roger Brown, prototype power forward Big Mac George McGinnis, and more; like one of the five greatest ballers of all time, the very Larry Legend that currently runs the Pacers, and whose credit with the faithful is vast, though moving toward its end . . . 

This Pacers crew can earn that love: for while the bar is unbelievably high, there is much credit given for having your heart in the right place.
*  Incidentally, Jermaine tweeted earlier this year that he wanted to retire a Pacer.  I very, very much want this to happen.  I know that the fanbase will never be reconciled with Ron Artest, but I really think that the implosion of that Pacers team robbed O'Neal of his rightful place in the Pacer pantheon.  I don't know that we necessarily hoist his number 7 into the rafters with McGinnis's 30, Reggie's 31, Daniels's 34, Brown's 35, or Slick Leonard's blue polyester sports coat, but I think that, when he decides to retire, we sign him, have a Jermaine O'Neal Day at Conseco, and then let him go on his way.  It's only fitting.

November 22, 2010

Beauty will be CONVULSIVE or will not be at all.

From Andre Breton's Nadja (also the source of the title of this post, which ends the novel):
Toward midnight we reach the Tuileries, where she wants to sit down for a moment.  We are in front of a fountain, whose jet she seems to be watching.  'Those are your thoughts and mine.  Look where they all start from, how high they reach, and then how it's still prettier when they fall back.  And then they dissolve immediately, driven back up with the same strength, then there's that broken spurt again, that fall . . . and so on infinitely.' (Breton, Nadja, p. 86)
The beauty of shattering thought at the core of Surrealism.

November 21, 2010

You Can't Handle the Truth

In amongst the usual drivel on Nietzsche, I would like to insert this, from Ronald Bogue's discussion of Deleuze and Guattari: Nietzsche's "new conception of thought", via Gilles Deleuze,
is antithetical to the traditional, dogmatic image of thought in three ways.  First, the element of such a thought is not truth but meaning and value, the categories of such a thought being 'not truth and falsity but the noble and the base, the high and the low' (Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, p. 102).  Second, the enemy of such a thought is not error, a force external to thought that diverts it from its natural course, but stupidity, a base way of thinking internal to thought: 'there are imbecile thoughts, imbecile discourses, that are made up entirely of truths; but these truths are base, they are those of a base, heavy and leaden soul' (NP, p.105).  Finally, such a thought does not require method, which protects thought from error, but the violence of 'forces which take hold of thought'.  Violence must be done to thought 'as thought, a power, the force of thinking, must throw it into a becoming active' (NP, p. 108).      -- Ronald Bogue, Deleuze and Guattari, p. 19
Bogue sums up this thought by saying that "Thought is always interpretation and evaluation, and it is either noble or base, depending on the forces that seize hold of it.  When thought becomes active, it results in a joyous destruction of all that is negative and a creation of new possibilities of life" (Bogue, p. 19).  For me, it is certainly about that, but also about radical responsibility: one is ultimately responsible for one's own thought and subsequent action.  There are no truths but the ones we create, and we are ultimately responsible for what we create.

This, more than the abortion that is the general conception of his superman, is the ground zero of Nietzsche's contribution.

November 18, 2010

The Death of Meaning, Part Four: I Will Say One Thing, Then Its Opposite, and Then Pretend That Not Only Do the Two Mean the Same, But It Proves Me to Be a Brave Genius in Today's Silly, Weak Media Climate

So, is Islam the problem?

I am, as always, ambivalent about all religions, including Islam.  I wonder where the fatal flaw lies in the way religion encodes itself into culture.  Specifically, Islam is problematic beyond the revolutionary impulses that lead to a martyr fetish: Islam holds sway in some of the most backward, savage cultures in the world.  And yes, I know there are "good" Muslims, just as there are "good" Christians, but the savage patriarchy engendered by many of the followers of Mohammed needs to be held to the cold light of judgement (in exactly the same way that imperialist Christianity must be judged, by the way).

So this guy, Sam Harris, steps up to do that.  And not as some self-righteous Christian, mind you, but as a tried-and-true media liberal.  His point is, very simply, Islam is the problem . . . not religion in general, not culture in general, not the economics of repression and desperation, but Islam, plain and simple:

Well, now wasn't that a ball of confusion.  He insists that Islam is the problem, and that violence is endemic to Islam in a way it is not in other religions.  But, go to the 3:45 mark and watch it again from there . . . first, there is the usual "there are good Muslims" dodge: "I should be clear: in criticizing Islam I'm not criticizing all Muslims".  Why the hell not?  If Islam is a code of death and repression, then there are no "good" Muslims, are there?  "Good" Muslims are the smiling secret agents of destruction, either wittingly or not.  If Islam is a bad religion, then Muslims are bad. YOU DON'T GET TO HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.  He seems to be trying to dodge the paradoxical "good Muslim" problem by saying that moderate Muslims are moderate precisely because they don't take their religion seriously, which is ridiculous and would be refuted by every devout Muslim who believes that the culture of violence, from the stoning of women all the way to the jihad against infidels, is a sin against the prophet.  Either Islam is evil or it's not.  You don't get to waffle with the "good Muslim" dodge when you are trying to make the specific point that Islam is evil.

"But Islam is at a very different moment in its history, and it's as though we're encountering the Christians of the fourteenth century . . . "  Yes, precisely . . . a very good point which, by the way, UNDERMINES YOUR ENTIRE FUCKING ARGUMENT.  There are direct parallelisms between Islam and Christianity . . . hell, at the end of the day, the religions aren't fundamentally different . . . so if Christianity does not contain the seed of death, then neither does Islam.  Conversely, if Islam does, then so does Christianity.  If Christianity has moved beyond its stage of "evil", then so can Islam, which means the "good" Muslims practice the true Islam, not that they're "good" because they don't take the religion seriously.  And it's not really the case that Islam is evil, just that it's not evolved . . . all which means that Islam itself is not the problem, but just some of those who practice it, which is EXACTLY the point he was trying to argue against.

There's a lot of other stuff here that's just ridiculous and wrong (once again trying to separate Islam from other "sane" religions: "The crime of apostasy is punishable by death in Islam" . . . yeah, and Deuteronomy 13:5 says "And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death, because he hath spoken to turn you away  from the Lord your God" - how is that not apostasy punishable by death?), and a lot more that is beside the point.  At the end of the day, it all just turns into the white noise of non-credible language that clogs our brains every day.

Sam Harris, co-founder of "Project Reason", you wasted six minutes and four seconds of my life.  But further, your self-satisfied and self-contradictory blathering lingers in the air like a rancid fart.  You really just need to shut the hell up.

November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day


Veteran's Day
fades to red white & blue dark
   this the
   celebration of the betrayed

   (does the phrase
          "cannon fodder"
   ever truly go out of style?)

  they are on board

  what chance have they been given?

raise a glass
to the pebbles
beneath capital's feet

give them shitty steaks
at Applebee's

they didn't die for you
they died
for what you will die for

November 5, 2010

The Dawn of Basketball/Culture

Post - WWII, baseball is the most literary of our national sporting pastimes, starting with the sunny optimism of our boys, freshly home from victory in the killing fields of Europe and the Asian Pacific, running around on manicured "diamonds" in celebration of hard-won leisure, morphing into "America's pastime" mainstreamed and immortalized by the radio (and later TV) voices such as Vin Scully and Ernie Harwell, on into the everyman social reflection of the sixties and seventies, up through the fall from its pastoral garden of eden (via the forbidden fruit of steroids) in the 90's and aughts.  Baseball generated the most soulful (if not the best) movies, from The Pride of the Yankees to Bang the Drum Slowly to Bull Durham; some of the most interesting memoirs (Ball Four in particular); and generally maintained the most folkloric position of all American sports . . . even from an outsider's perspective, like the story of Doc Ellis's LSD no-hitter.

My beloved Fire Joe Morgan (I eulogized it here) most acutely documented the downfall of baseball or, more accurately, the downfall of baseball culture.  Sports in general is a refuge for brain death, and (as FJM documented) nowhere is that more apparent than in the mainstream baseball press or, as the FJM guys argued, even into baseball management itself.  At center stage these days is baseball culture's baffling rejection "moneyball", or analytically based analysis of the sport and its players, as something inhuman and counter intuitive.  The best we can hope for now is Ken Burn's sepia-toned homage to baseball as folkloric cliche . . . perhaps not the worst thing in the world given the subject, but should it be the best?

Basketball is now emerging as the new flagship of sports/culture, driven primarily by the blogosphere: writing about basketball seems to be more interesting and of a higher caliber than writing about any other sport.  Fearlessly combining sabermetric statistical analysis (originally championed in baseball by pioneer Bill James) with the current pop culture savvy of the hip hop and Pitchfork generations, even the average basketball blogs (such as 8 Points, 9 Seconds, my favorite Indiana Pacers blog*) set a high standard for sports writing.

The current pinnacle of basketball writing is Free Darko, a blog that analyzes basketball and culture through its own idiosyncratic lens.  Rather than decry the cult of personality, Free Darko embraces it, analyzes it, and uses it to map basketball onto culture (and culture onto basketball).

I plan to do some writing of my own on basketball, most likely after the holidays.  In the meantime, bookmark Free Darko, and check ESPN's True Hoop for good mainstream writing as well as plenty of links to other hoop blogs.  And, by all means, check out the "Free Darko presents" books:  I have a copy of The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac, and I will be picking up a copy of The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History very soon.
*  The titles themselves are usually interesting sports/culture ciphers, opaque to outsiders but immediately identifiable to the fans.  The title 8 Points, 9 Seconds refers to one of the most identifiable "great moments" for the Pacers, when Reggie Miller scored 8 points in 9 seconds to steal a 1995 playoff game against the Knicks.

October 30, 2010

The Whole "Voting Thing" Redux

Yeah, it's really effed up sometimes to watch a guy on TV and say, "Jeez, I voted for him?!".  Regular readers know that I am not dissatisfied with Obama because I didn't really expect much to begin with (though Guantanamo Bay isn't closed yet, is it?). But really, it's hard to vote, because you tend to feel responsible for the person you voted for, and that never turns out for the better if you have expectations that transcend the venal nature of American culture.

Going up to the '08 election I was blogging heavily on MySpace, and my annoyance with the election is well documented there. I did the "voting/not voting" thing before that election (if you go back to it, make sure to read the comments too), so I'm not going to go into any great detail again, but I will make a few points.

  1. The government in and of itself is never an active force for good.  You have to live a good life and hope that the good filters up.  How you live your life is infinitely more important than who you vote for or even voting at all.
  2. Given the fact that almost all candidates are nothing more than different colors on the same wheel, voting often seems pointless.  And, in many respects, it is.  But then again, so is recycling, and yet we do it.  If there is a chance of any net good in an action, no matter how minuscule, it is worth doing.  
  3. Voting does not make you any more complicit in your elected official's mistakes/bad faith/poor governance/crimes than you already are.  There are almost never any good choices even if there are less bad ones.  Just go for the less bad, and try to live to vote another day.
  4. Apropos #3, you are complicit in the mistakes/bad faith/poor governance/crimes even if you do not vote.  If you buy something, if you hold down a job, if you participate in our culture, then you are part of the system. Not voting does not give you a pass on the system's karma.
We must know, always, that we are striving for good.  We must know, always, that our efforts are doomed to fail.  We must, in the words of Samuel Beckett (via Slavoj Zizek) "try again.  Fail again.  Fail better."

October 26, 2010

A Knife In the Marathon

Stuck in my head, for reasons beyond me, are a couple songs from obscure early 80's Chicago punk band Breaking Circus.  From their first album:

An unidentified third world athlete
was wrestled to the ground by security,
he came up slashing
and was cut down like a dog
they said he had a

knife in the marathon (x8)

and with his gun on his shoulder
he said the only English words he knew:

I'll see you in hell.

And that was followed by:

The Imperial Clawmaster's statement of purpose and intent, PART ONE!
we intend to take the belt and we don't take prisoners
pay attention all you snot-nosed punks, we're gonna go for it
honk if you're horny! we've got a master plan and it GOES LIKE THIS:

______: DEAD!
______: DEAD!
______: DEAD!
______: DEAD!

stupid little zeros with the courage of a roller skate
we represent what YOU MOST FEAR!
7,941 undefeated amateur bouts, AND NOW WE'RE TURNIN' PRO!

______: DEAD!
______: DEAD!
______: DEAD!
______: DEAD!

______: DEAD!
______: DEAD!
______: DEAD!
______: DEAD!

The blanks are all people's names, and mostly unintelligible, but I think the very last line of the song is HEENAN: DEAD! which would refer to seventies pro wrestling bad guy Bobby Heenan, which would make sense since this is a pro wrestling anthem.

Great stuff.

Anyway, this little bastard has been sitting in the "pending" file long enough.  As always, add your playlists to comments.

In rotation:

Blues Control: Puff
Sir Richard Bishop: Knucklehead Freefall
Furlong/Anderson: split 7"
Rangda: False Flag
Anderson: XIII
Caroliner Rainbow Scrambled Egg Taken for a Wife: Banknotes, Dreams, and Signatures
The Residents: Intermission
Sun City Girls: Funeral Mariachi
Sonic Youth: Daydream Nation, A Thousand Leaves
Kurt Vile: Constant Hitmaker
Saint Vitus: Die Healing
DJ Spooky: Creation Rebel
Adeptive Radiation: Live on WNUR
Robert Ashley: Automatic Writing
Exceptor: Black Beach
Black Dice: Repo
Sick City 4: Down With American Drones!
Rolling Stones: playlist
Silver Pines: Forces
Von Bingen: Von Bingen
Various: What We Are Listening To 10/10 mix
Breaking Circus: The Very Long Fuse

October 25, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (1)

Ah, the smell of burning wood (2), the nip in the air (3), leaves crunching under foot, and the fall elections . . .


I've heard several friends talk about how much they love fall, and admittedly, there is a fuzzy, livable analog quality to a nice autumn day, like a good vintage tube-driven guitar amplifier, nice and clean and clear but with a warm singing edge.  But then . . . there is this election nonsense.  There's nothing more depressing than being reminded that you are surrounded by idiots. (4)

We must, as always, soldier on.

*          *          *          *          *

There is, as always, the hand wringing over negative campaign advertising that surfaces this time of year.  And always, there follows the media analysis piece that informs us that, as much as we may claim to hate negative campaign advertising, it is by far the most effective form of political ad.

Okay, yes, we get it.  Or, wait . . . no we don't.

You see, negative campaigning is not the problem.  On one hand, just think if advertising became a dual of fools hugging their wives (husbands) and kids (pets) superimposed over gently waving American flags: no better, is it?  Think of all the ads you've seen for judgeships, which (theoretically, at least) aren't supposed to take any public positions.  Can you imagine a bigger waste of the airwaves?

Let's look at one particular "negative attack" ad that is running here, in Kentucky's 3rd.  Our beloved Chamber of Commerce (5) is running an ad against incumbent John Yarmuth, one of those cheap ads with stills of Yarmuth and Nancy Pelosi in gray scale zooming in from the background, over all kinds of damning text, the primary point (in HUGE RED BLOCK LETTERS) that Yarmuth votes with the evil witch Pelosi 91% OF THE TIME!  

An attack ad?  Sure it is.  The whole strategy of the Republican establishment this year is to paint everyone with the Pelosi/Obama brush (6).  But really, assuming the percentages are correct (I haven't done the math, but there's no reason to doubt it), it is a completely fair "attack".  Yarmuth is forthright about his support and and admiration of Pelosi.  The ad, though simplistic and jingoistic, is not inaccurate or misleading (7).  If you've got a beef, you don't have a beef with the Chamber, you've got a beef with the whole Obama/Pelosi mush-mouth syndrome.

Negative campaigning is essential when establishing a politician in the public eye. Judicious negative campaigning, combined with a positive agenda for governance, is more than okay, it is essential.  How else does one differentiate oneself?

On the other hand, there is a wrong way to do it.  For that, let's turn to Tea Party Wunderkind Rand Paul and . . . no, wait, it's not Rand Paul being the idiot here, it's his opponent Jack Conway.  Over the course of the campaign, Conway has run ads

  • harping on Paul's idea that Medicare needs a $2000 deductible, which is a perfectly legitimate attack on Paul;
  • claiming that Paul wants a 23% sales tax, which is most likely accurate, but then conveniently leaves out the fact that Paul wants this to replace income tax, so it is not exactly an added tax burden (8);
  • chiding Paul for his non-Kentucky roots, which smells of hillbilly xenophobia;
  • exploiting an anonymous and undocumented (but believable) rumor of a prank from his college years in which he supposedly abducted a woman and made here worship the "aqua buddha", which, true or not, is a totally irrelevant and bullshit move.
There is so much that Paul could be attacked on, yet Conway decided to make like the cartoon politician and drag out the most ridiculous dirt he could lay his hands on (9).  I've known right wing rich boys like Paul, and I would bet my next paycheck that he was a sanctimonious dope smoking douchebag . . . hell, I'm not so sure I didn't go to school with a couple fistfulls of his doppelgangers . . . but the idea that somehow all this equates to the idea that Rand Paul was involved in "alternative religion" (nope - he was too vacuous to even imagine it on that level) or that he was critiquing Christianity (nope - he's too cowardly, unlike his namesake) is completely ridiculous.  And, on top of that, dealing with such blatant character assassination (accurate or not) simply puts Paul into the role of victim-writ-large, which is exactly how the "dispossessed" white people that make up the Tea Party feel.

Way to go, Jack.  Make it even easier for the shouts of "Barabbas!" to rock the heavens.

See, the problem is not "negative campaigning", the problem is with manipulation, lies and distortion.  It is a very important distinction to make: we don't need a politics of politeness, where everyone avoids the obvious problems in favor of asserting that "I'm a nice guy (gal) and true American!" . . . but we do need a politics that holds politicians accountable for their words and actions and the interactions between the two.

Ah, accountability . . .

Here in the real world, the phrase "lesser of two evils" unfortunately has a disheartening relevance to it.  And so: vote for a lying asshole or vote for Rand Paul. That is the predicament in which we here in the Commonwealth find ourselves.

Oh well . . . won't be the first time I vote for an idiot, and it probably won't be the last.

Next time: your humble author STEPS to Juan Williams, to find out if he crosses to the other side of the street when he sees me coming in my Hoosier garb.
(1)  I'm being all ironical and shit.  But, since I'm not a good enough writer to convey irony without the aid of an emoticon, and since I'll only use emoticons WHEN I'M DEAD, I'll just have to resort to footnotes.  Are ironic hyperlinks too esoteric?  ; )
(2)  Fort Knox is on fire.  I've heard it was someone is Muslim garb.
(3)  It was over 80 degrees today.  The 24th of October, and it was over 80 degrees.  And there was a hot wind.  Hot winds are rare enough around here during the summer, but October?  F@#k this shit, man.  And Fort Knox is on fire.  There are ashes falling down here.  It burns my throat.  And I've got a fever and a f@#king chest cold.  Just so you know (or miss my Facebook updates).
(4)  Not all of you, of course.  There are many human people.  But there are also the idiots.  Many, many, many, many, idiots.
(5)  Irony.  I don't love them.
(6)  Let's see, white woman, black man . . .
(7)  Actually, the Chamber really seems to be phoning it in on this one.  If you're going to pony up for a TV ad, make it stick . . . Yarmuth, though he votes along with the Democratic majority most of the time, is a fair pace to the left of the "liberal" Congressional Democrats.  It seems that the Chamber could have come up with an ad that announces in red block letters "EVEN MORE LIBERAL THAN OBAMA AND PELOSI!" and have plenty of sound bites to back it up.  And sure, Kentucky 3 is Louisville & Jefferson County, the only even remotely liberal area in Kentucky, but Republican toady Anne Northup managed to hold the seat for ten years before Yarmuth, so the seat is far from unassailable.
(8)  A sales tax is a big problem for the working class, but that's another discussion that has yet to take place & is a bit nuanced for a 30 second campaign spot.
(9)  Is it just me, or is that mainly a Southern thing?

October 21, 2010

How to Fix Football

Easy: no helmets, no pads.  Play American football in rugby gear.  If defensive players can feel the pain, they won't be able to turn themselves into human missiles. Lots more bruises, lots more contusions, infinitely fewer concussions, fewer ruined careers and lives.

I love football, but had I any children, I would probably forbid them from playing it. You are perhaps not as likely to die as you are in, say, auto racing, but it is becoming more and more likely that you will be sacrificing your brain and overall wellbeing to the sport.

October 10, 2010

Fall Festival


today summer broke
wave receding from the shore
Labor Day weekend
scouring summer's beach for what's left

clear friendly day
weightless day
you can breathe the air
and walk the sidewalks
          of Germantown uncluttered
          by shimmering waves
          and translucent

night settles in
beer & drinks on the porch
shyly, sound travels better now

re-tune to G
approaching clarity of age, nostalgia,
loss - but for now
welcome September


fall comes in a rabid jackal
hot winds sweeping
across foreshortened day

up Dixie Highway from Radcliff
in the armpit of Fort Knox
up past the fort itself
          limestone mass
          from scorched grass
          perimeters visible & invisible
          you can't sneak up on it
not for all the gold . . .

brush the river
girls! girls! girls!
Rivergirls, Red Door, Syn Den
south end strippers
one lone chopper out front
and the heat banging on -

             in the end
what wears you down, as much as heat,
is the roar of wind & machines
           to cut the heat


today was shorter than yesterday
tomorrow will be shorter than today
and it will be that way
for a little while

once again in heat
that requires three digit explanation
the expansion of dark
doesn't dawn on consciousness
just looking to breathe free

but already
at the back of my mind
longing for the lengthening day
for another spot on the wheel
St. Paddy's Day, Easter
pitchers and catchers report
Thunder, Derby

dreaming of the last snow
before the first flakes fly

October 9, 2010

Olympia Snowe, Right Wing Operative

"Can't we all just get along?"

Olympia Snowe is cast by the Right as the archetypal RINO - Republican in name only.  Yet, it's people like Snowe, and DINOs like Evan Bayh, the supposedly "sensible center", that are really cementing the gains made by the Right since the days of Ronald Reagan.

At issue is not Snowe's various political stances, and she should be commended for at least appearing to buck the party lines when she thinks it's necessary.  No, the real issue is the idea - found anywhere from Sam Waterston's Unity08 movement to the petty excuses blubbering from Bayh's lips to even The Daily Show - that somehow the polarization in American politics can be blamed on the Left as well as the Right . . . or, as Senator Snowe puts it, "the red states are getting redder and the blue states are getting bluer". 

That is simply not the case.  America is a right wing nation.

I'm not going to get into the machinations of Mitch McConnell here: politics is politics, and Mitch is a master manipulator.  The swing to the right is about more than politics, it's about culture.  McConnell represents a specific set of political skills, Rand Paul represents a world view.  And that world view is right wing.

If there really were the Right/Left equivalence in American politics suggested by the "sensible center", then where are the left-wing analogues of Paul, Palin, Angle, O'Donnell, Bachman, et. al.?  Don't talk to me about Barney Frank, Dennis Kucinich, Al Franken, Bernie Sanders, Russ Feingold, or any of the Congressional Left.  If we want true counterparts to the Tea Party patriots, then we need to be running people who not only think that "big government" has a purpose, who may even go so far as to support national health care (Kucinich; anyone else?), we need candidates who question the very value of private property and the individual versus the collective, among other things.  We need candidates who aren't afraid to quote Marx and Lenin.  We need people we can point to and say "you think Obama is a commie?  Obama's not even really a liberal; now there's a communist!"

And it's not the polarization that's killing the American dialogue.  It's not even the vitriol.  It's the stupidity.

I have theoretical problems with Libertarians, but I have very concrete problems with those who claim to be Libertarians but still want the government all up in someone else's business, just not theirs . . . for example, you can be a Libertarian and a social conservative, but you must know that any laws codifying social conservatism are anti-libertarian (Ron Paul revealed his own Libertarianism as a lie when he caved on the gay marriage issue*).  And hey, if you are hating on the bailout and stimulus package from the laissez-faire capitalist angle, then shut the hell up about the unemployment rate.  That's just the system cleaning itself out.

I could (and often do) go on.  But, even if I am arguing the point from an obvious political position, the argument I'm making is not a directly political one.

The point is that our very speech has been bent into uselessness.  Our words and phrases mean nothing because they have no fidelity to a real idea: they are masks designed to slot into public conversations in a specific way to affect a specific reaction.  Our words and phrases do not reveal, they obfuscate.  If we are getting dumber (and I believe we are), it is because language is at the core of thought, and our language has been beaten into a dull, rusty blade.

Here, again, is that anathema to thought we call "common sense": Snowe's contention that the polarization of the right and left is to blame for the devolution of discourse in this country is common, but not true.  Any phrase or masked idea becomes common simply from repetition.  At some point, depending on who's driving the train, it moves from simply being common to common sense . . . Große Lüge, Hitler's "Big Lie", or, per Goebbels, "one should lie big and stick with it", which we can modify to read  "say anything often enough and loud enough, sooner or later it becomes commonly accepted as fact."  Common sense is like that.

 Again, no specific beef with Olympia Snowe, given that even John Stewart makes concessions to the "polarization" conceit**, but it is exactly at this point where the Right has had its biggest cultural success since 1980.  In that sense, Olympia Snowe is a much more effective champion of the right than Rand Paul ever will be.

He could have dodged the whole issue by saying that the government has no business endorsing any kind of marriage, hetero or homo, but he didn't.  He came out squarely against gay marriage.  I think at some point he tossed out some "states rights" bullshit, but decentralized government is not the same as small government (just look at California).  Libertarianism betrays itself if it cannot protect its citizens against the tyranny of the majority.  Of course, at the core of the issue is what Libertarianism can do . . . and the most convincing argument is that a Libertarian government can't do anything, and that's the way its supposed to be.  Do you think all the American Right, with all of its current angry demands, wants a government that does nothing?  Of course not.  They want a government that keeps out illegal aliens, restricts abortion, is tough on crime, keeps us safe from terrorists, cleans up our (whoops!  the petrochemical companies') spills, keeps Muslims from building, etc.  These people aren't Libertarians, they don't want small government, they want government to do what they want it to do and nothing else.
**  When trying to set a polarized equivalence, Stewart always seems to resort to 9/11 conspiracy theory for his example of left-wing extremism.  I think if he were called on it, he would probably say that 9/11 conspiracy is not a right or a left issue in the same way that Illuminati/Trilateral conspiracy is not a left or a right issue, and he would be right.  It's just a bit frustrating that he concedes to this fake parallelism when I don't think he really buys into it.

October 8, 2010

The Tea Party's Economic Recovery (Already in Progress)

Good news, teabagger!  Your perfect economic recovery is already underway! 

According to the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the September job numbers show a net loss of 95,000 non-farm jobs for September, with the jobless rate holding steady at 9.6%.  How is this good news, you say? 

Well, the private sector actually added 64,000 jobs, while the public sector lost 159,000 jobs . . . which means the number of those suckling the government teat is shrinking, while those bootstrappers out there humpin' it for the good of pure capital is actually growing.  Let's let out a war whoop of celebration!* 

This is so perfect for the Tea Party that Karl Rove couldn't have designed it better if he tried.  In addition to the continued shrinkage of the hated public sector, in addition to the expansion of the private sector (however modest), the unemployment rate remains at a high level . . . all that the average American hears is that the unemployment rate is 9.6%, and the discussion's over.  The economy sucks, and the guy in charge is doing a lousy job.

The right doesn't have to worry about anyone giving credit to Obama for the expansion of jobs in the private sector, because even the people who would parse the more subtle points of the numbers are going to either be upset about the public sector job loss and blame Obama, or they will be happy about the public sector job loss but never be willing to give Obama credit on anything to begin with.

Meanwhile, expert after expert continues to point out that corporate liquidity is growing in the US, but job growth is not keeping pace.  In other words, everyone is lamenting the weak labor market, but not really calling out the people who have the means to fix it (that would be corporate America, in case you're missing the point).  There is money in the economy, it's just under the asses of corporations, who are "sitting on it", as they say.

I will once again repeat that I believe presidents/administrations get too much credit and/or blame when it comes to the economy.  I also don't fully blame corporations who sit on their money in uncertain economic times, although it's really starting to take on a "if you don't do things my way, I'm gonna take my ball and go home" sort of feel to it. I'm not even joining in the "can't we all just get along" choruses of moderate public discourse . . . all I'm asking is a bit of principled ideology and rhetoric in the public sphere.

Apparently, that is much too much to expect.

*          *          *          *          *

In related news, the Dow Jones Industrial index rose 57.90 points (.5%) to close above the 11,000 level (11,006.48) for the first time since May.  All other major stock indices finished up for the day as well.

Speculation about the gains centers around today's announced job numbers: it seems they were bad enough that Wall Street expects the Fed to intervene and continue to sweeten the pot, but not bad enough that unemployment will do any real damage to the economy, which is recovering much less slowly for those at the top of the economic scale than it is for those at the bottom.

This is all so wrong I don't know where to start . . . so I won't.  Not now, at least.
Fun fact that you may have forgotten: many of the participants in the original Boston Tea Party disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians.  In case you were wondering, this was not a tribute to the integrity and free spirit of the American Indian.

October 3, 2010

Summertime Blues

Whee haw! The new Blogger editor will allow the typographic stunts in my poems! Below are some more poems from the summer we just closed out.


your trumpet loop refuses to fade
an annoying bit of immortality
twisting lopsided
into the dark beyond the window -

one hears of tropical violence
violence in shimmering white concrete jungles
or on the banks of brackish creeks
  run low and dry
machetes hacking limbs
nines & AKs hosing down old storefronts
shotguns and shovels
loamy soil back in the pines -

the trumpet clicks on in the dark
the projector's broken
the film's skipping it's sprockets

          - but the present will not be
by a broken trumpet
and misaligned shards of memory


"old rust" breathes cold with
   a shudder and a roar
mariachi & electrical pop

it's a rockabilly night
a knife blade
shakin' down
horns & yodels at cross purpose
          define the dark
                    other side of streaked glass
           air conditioned night,
        mare -

sure, it's a retreat
sometimes you gotta cocoon
         without expecting to turn
you live
to another brown day

a blade rattles against the neck
steel drift fade out vaporizes


this summer's been tuned to E
but played slow, broken, & incomplete
verses can't latch onto choruses
choruses drift off into nothing
   split through with
   metallic tastes and cramped styles

broken, sprung
wrong in ways definite & imprecise both
just wrong -

a dream of gray-green fever
which burns, leaden,
but doesn't consume
& all the air conditioners
rusty and toiling
won't take the edge off this
broken tango
this three part invention in E
which never lives, never blooms into its nature
but will not quit


it's good to get out of the heat
cold windy sun
clouds sprint by the opposite bank
as clear, clearer than day

giants walk the earth
clouds the beards of
         weather systems
things larger than
   specks human
   politics forgotten
a weather system wipes you out
brushes you off the globe
you may care, like the spider crushed cares

hunker down, sun's down now
water foam waves
branches spearing leaves white against the wind
tucked down just out of the wind
close, but safe


hello, then!
the grass grows thinner, browns out
sandy, sandy pine
gone white
clarity in the air

who knows
what runs in the clear pines
"Take to the mountains," he said,
"if the government is a problem.
Make them come get you
& then shoot down on them
from high rocks."
          not the same, perhaps
but mixed oak, maple, birch
provide cover

white nation, white nation
curtain drawn, it's here
it's down the street
"no one gets my gun"


hey peacekeeper!
what'cha packin'?
           Ford F-250!
           big-ass knobby tires!
keeping America
for bumper stickers and petulance

behind every bush these days
"it's not you, it's
          the bosses"
but at what point
is imperialism? at what point
blood sacrifice
to a V-8
and the right to
live life unexamined

semper fi,
blade of capital -
when do you take the blame?