Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Return To Tralfamadore

Recently I have been thinking about the differences between movies and books, and some of the better movies that have been based on books.

I read “Slaughterhouse-Five” in college. It was actually a book that was featured in some of my high school’s English classes, but never in one of mine. I had read “Cat’s Cradle” first, and at 19 I was blown away by it. Reading it again in my 30’s was kind of disappointing, but that doesn’t change my opinion. At 19 it was a revelation. I quickly consumed many more books by Vonnegut, and though I can’t remember the order, I think I read “SH5” and “The Sirens of Titan” back to back just after “Cat’s Cradle.”

Back then, I was intrigued by the science fiction and philosophical aspects of the novel to a greater degree than I was by the anti-war message. I think that was probably because by the mid 70’s it was expected that people were anti-war. If you weren’t, you were an asshole. Of course war was bad. We were all still weary from Viet Nam.

I didn’t see the film until the early 80’s. I’m guessing it was 1983 or 1984. I probably rented it. I’m sure I liked it, and from memory I think I judged it pretty faithful to the book.

I watched it again this weekend. I thought it was great. It reminded me of how so much has changed since the film was made and since I’d read the book and seen the film. Now it seems you’re an asshole if you’re anti-war. And a pussy. And un-American. And un-patriotic. And a lover of terrorists. And a friend of brutal dictators. And a coward.

I somehow missed a huge bit of irony the first time around the “SH5” flick. During the clean-up after the bombing of Dresden, good guy Derby and only friend to protagonist Billy Pilgrim finds a figurine identical to the one that was accidentally broken back home. When asked about it by the Germans, he showed it to them without guile, because for whatever reason it didn’t click that taking it was verboten.

They shot him.

A couple days later some other guys are seen looting a grandfather clock and it gets dropped on Billy. The Germans ignore it and move on.

So it goes.

Our culture has seemingly become inured to the horrors of war. Even now as the tide is ever so slowly turning, many people still don’t know what war is. What it does to people.

Funny thing about these conservatives. They decry liberals and intellectuals for being relativists. You know. "The buck has to stop someplace. Everything can’t be ok I’m_ok_you’re_ ok ok. Ok?"

Except when it comes to war. In a war, you can just kill people because that is what war is. War is the ultimate suspension of morality. Everything is ok if it is a war. It’s like hall pass in the school of decency. It’s like a get_out_of_jail_free card in “Monopoly – The Jesus Edition.” Soldiers can break into someone’s house, kill everyone, and then go, “Oops. Wrong house.” And then move on. Let’s go have a beer and talk to the Chaplain.

Or you can bomb an entire non-military target city famous for its delicate artwork and historical architecture, and kill 100,000 people.

WWII. Maybe it could have been avoided, but since it wasn’t we did what we had to do. I don’t know if we had to bomb Dresden or not. I don’t know if we had to drop the second nuke on Japan or not. Doesn’t matter now. That shit happens in war. Which is why us asshole, pussy, un-American, un-patriotic etc. liberals believe it should be the last resort after all other alternatives have been exhausted.

Maybe life is just a collection of moments, and maybe we just have to struggle through the bad ones and enjoy the good ones.

Maybe, just maybe next time we’ll remember this time -- and say “no.”


Don't forget this week's Top 10.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Real Ultimate Power!

Yesterday, at Costco, they had free samples of “Organic Optimum Power Breakfast” cereal.

My wife liked it, so we bought a box. I could probably riff on this for a few minutes, because I think it is quite funny. I won't though, because this morning while she was pouring herself a bowl, I was reminded of one of the funniest web sites I’ve ever seen. My little jokes about what "Optimum Power" might really be are dwarfed by the hilarity of the site in question.

Thankfully, it is still up and running.

Real Ultimate Power!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Of Movies and Books

Kevin Wolf didn’t like Peter Jackson's King Kong. I haven’t seen it. The main reason I didn’t go is that 3 hours in a movie theater is too much for me. I’d rather watch a movie of that length at home, perhaps over two nights. I expect that I will eventually rent the DVD and watch it. I will probably enjoy it on a certain level, but part of the reason that I believe that is because I don’t expect more than it can deliver.

It’s difficult to discuss any Peter Jackson effort without mentioning “The Lord of the Rings.” I’m going to admit right here and now that I can’t be objective on the subject, because I’ve read “The Hobbit” and the “LOTR” trilogy more times than I care to admit, and I thought that Jackson did a fantastic job of bringing the story to the big screen. (I choose those words carefully. He brought the story to the big screen.)

I mentioned that I liked the film version of “LOTR” in the comment section of Kevin’s original post, and the erudite Simon responded in the comment section with this:

“I guess everyone has different interpretations of things, luckily they captured the essence of the books to your eyes. It was so far from my own personal concept that I wondered if they'd even read the last two books, let alone understood them.”

“For example, this is a small detail, but *very* important. At the end of their journey Jackson shows the hobbits returning home to an untouched shire. I'm not pedantic enough to be too fussed that the 'Scouring Of The Shire' has been removed, but the *emotional weight* of the cost of the war to the hobbits is downplayed. After a brief sense of feeling like outsiders, the hobbits slip back into their old roles. The concept becomes "everything can be exactly how it was again" where the books make it quite clear that the experiences of war have changed them and their world, and gives the books greater weight than being just a silly fantasy story.”

I started to respond to Simon in the comments section, but I realized that his thoughts prompted more than just a couple of sentences.

Movies are linear; books are not. Movies are two-dimensional; books are not. When we read an excellent book, we disappear into the book. We feel as if we are active participants. We experience the story, instead of merely being told the story. The story happens to us. Not so with film. In the best books, the characters become real in a way that is just not possible in a film. You often become privy to their thoughts, their motivations and their emotions. The medium of film is different. We are watching the story. In the best films, we connect with the characters, we feel their emotions on a certain level - but we are being shown and told the story. It is a completely different form of communication than the written word.

When a filmmaker decides to bring a book to life in the form of a movie, he has to accept up-front that he is retelling the story in a different form, and has to choose which themes he is going to attempt to preserve. Now I’m not a literary professor, nor am I an expert in film, but I believe that the medium of film has a limit to the number of themes it can adequately convey, and that number is somewhat smaller than what can be conveyed in a book. When a filmmaker attempts to translate a book as thematically complex as “The Lord of the Rings,” he has to make those choices, or he is destined for failure. I think a fair discussion would definitively include the question, “Did the filmmaker choose appropriately?” In this case, I think he did. Sometimes a movie version of a book will actually prompt me to read (or re-read) the original, and I think this is a good thing.

I can infer from Simon’s original comments that Peter Jackson’s choice of implying that the Shire was untouched by the war was a cop-out, done to make the film more palpable to the American audience, and perhaps he is correct. The cost of war -- in terms of human suffering, damage to the culture and the land -- is certainly something that many Americans need to learn more about, but is it realistic to expect a film to teach us that lesson? I don’t think so. Besides, I believe the cost-of-war theme is not entirely absent from the film to begin with, so his choice of omitting the war's effect on the Shire is at least defensible as an artistic one, especially when you consider the length of the films.

One of themes that Jackson did preserve from the book was at the end of the first installment, where Samwise tells Frodo that there is good in the world that may be worthy of their suffering and perhaps their deaths. I often think of that scene when I become jaded and pessimistic and I feel like giving up the fight against the neo-conservative movement.

As I’ve gotten older, I look to different art forms for different reasons. More and more I watch a movie for its pure entertainment value. Some of my favorites are “Men In Black, “ Galaxy Quest,” and “Dodgeball.” For classics I like “Casablanca,” “Double Indemnity,” and “12 Angry Men” to name a few. I love those movies, but they aren’t as important to me as my favorite books, which in addition to the “Lord of the Rings” include “The Glass Bead Game, “Siddhartha,” “Zen in the Art of Archery” (which I really need to read again soon,) “Huckleberry Finn,” and (dare I say it) some of Stephen King’s novels. Though I believe that film as an art-form is capable of enlightening an audience as well as entertaining it, due to the realities of the business I don’t think it is reasonable to expect both. Some may view this as tragic or at least disappointing, but I choose to accept it as a product of our fast-food culture. While I’m delighted when I come across a film that delivers on both (“A Clockwork Orange” comes to mind, and more recently “The Remains of the Day” or “13 Conversations About One Thing”) I’m quite content to just sit back and enjoy a good old-fashioned Hollywood movie purely for entertainment. When I want more than that, I reach for a book.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Best Remake Ever

I think this was recorded in 1994. The call had gone out for Led Zeppelin remakes for the planned tribute titled “Encomium.” At the time, Kevin Gilbert was working with Sheryl Crow and the Tuesday Night Music Club. He was respected as a genius by those who had the good fortune to have worked with him, but was and would die a virtual unknown. His resume included the critically acclaimed but mostly ignored “Toy Matinee” album (aduophiles should check out the 5.1 remix available in DTS and DVD-A formats for a real aural treat) and session work with Michael Jackson and Madonna.

Kevin had heard through the grapevine that the producers were hoping for a version of “Kashmir” but because of the song’s legendary status there were as yet, no takers. He decided to round up some of his friends and current band (Dave Kerzner on keys, Corky James on guitar, Nick DiVirgilio on drums – Kev played bass in this band) and headed into the studio. He completed the song in a couple of days and submitted it for consideration.

In the meantime, Kevin had been befriended by L.A. DJ’s Mark and Brian and was a frequent guest on their show. He brought the master tapes onto the radio program and they played it. The board lit up. Calls were coming in for the next few weeks requesting the song, and it was generally understood that it would become available when the record was released.

The producers rejected it. Apparently they thought it was great, but since Kevin was “a nobody” they didn’t see the point. The story goes that there were over 1000 returns of “Encomium” in the Los Angeles in the first couple of weeks of its release.

The song ended up being released on a separate bonus disc (now extremely rare - couldn't find it on ebay even) that was included with a repackaged release of Kevin’s fabulous solo release, “Thud."

This is the version that my kids first heard. When they finally got around to hearing the original Zeppelin version, they thought it sucked! It was funny, and indeed my oldest step-daughter got herself into a bit of a pickle when she was in the ninth grade. It seems that in one of her classes some of the boys were talking about the song, and she piped up that Kevin Gilbert’s version “blew away” the original. That went over like a lead balloon. She was embarrassed and humiliated, but to her credit remained steadfast.

I think I agree with her.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Big Bowl Of Bad

You gotta love David Letterman.

Go watch this courtesy (AGAIN!) of Crooks and Liars.

Bear Left at the Fork

I’m not complaining. There are a million ways things could be worse, and only a few ways that they could be better. Married the wrong woman back in 1984, but she gave me three beautiful daughters. I met my true soul mate in ’95. I walked away with this feeling that I should have married someone like her. I didn’t know it at the time, but while I was feeling wistful, the wrong woman was tearing up our marriage contract over rooty-tooty-fresh-and-fruity breakfasts. I also didn’t know that through a long sequence of unlikely events, after much emotional upheaval and heartache, I would actually end up with my soul mate. Great story for perhaps another day.

So there’s that.

There’s also the fact that while I don’t love my job, it also doesn’t suck and it pays well. A career in the computer industry turned out to be a textbook example of life happening to me while I was busy making other plans. I majored in Psychology in college, because everyone was always coming to me for advice. My teenage and young adult years were rife with attractive women, hanging on my every word as they poured their hearts out to me about their loser macho boyfriends who loved their cars, their friends, their football games or whatever more than they loved them.

That was fun.

So I majored in psychology. Got pretty good grades too. Trouble was, I wanted to be a rock star, and I didn’t want to go get my masters and my PhD. So I got a job at a conservative bank on Wall Street in the personnel department. I fit in there like a juggler on a unicycle would fit in at a wake. They really didn’t approve of that one time that I used their inter-office mail system to hook up a lady-friend in another building with some faux amphetamines. The things looked real. I think I said, “Was that wrong? Because I don’t recall seeing anything in the employee handbook about that!”

There I was, 24 years old, unemployed. The object of my parents’ incredulous lectures and ridicule, and who could blame them? It was an incredibly stupid thing to do. Maybe someday I will tell the story that prompted the sending of the illicit parcel, but it isn’t a story of which to be proud. While I just knew that one day I would be playing to an ocean, ("I can hear the ocean’s roar...") I needed something to turn the tide back in my favor in the meantime. I decided to enroll in one of those matchbook computer programming schools, and 25 years later, here I am.


When I was in college, I took three courses in photography, all with the same teacher. He was a professional photographer and loved my work. He often compared it to Ansel Adams, to the envy of some of my fellow students, and to my relative bemused detachement as I hadn’t heard of him at the time didn’t understand how fine a compliment it was. He urged me to change my major and wanted to feature my work at a gallery that often featured his.

I said “no.”




“Well, I’m trying to make it big in music, and I don’t think I can do both.”

“Are you as good at music as you are at this?”


Except I wasn’t.

I also took radio, TV, and film courses. Aced all of them. One of the professors asked me why I wasn’t a Comm. major?

“Too hard to get a job.” That was my answer.

Like making a hit record, and then another and another was going to be as easy as making instant oatmeal?

Greater minds, better writers, brilliant philosophers, all of them have been down this path. Yeah, I could have been something else. I wouldn’t have these kids, wouldn’t have met the Viscountess, and wouldn’t have known what might have been. And of all the things could have happened instead, most of them could have turned out much worse. I could have looked at a guy like me from over there and thought, “Man, that guy has it made."

In the wake of Lennon’s murder, I read everything I could get my hands on about the man. There was this one interview, and I think it was done just weeks before his tragic and untimely death. I can’t find it on the ‘net, so I’m going to have to paraphrase it. He said something like, “Sometimes I sit back and I think, ‘I could have been a fisherman. Go out early every morning, just me and my boat. It would have been a very peaceful and simple life. I wonder what that would have been like?’ Well, I’ll never know, will I?”

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Spot-on Impression of Bush

I have to admit to having a soft spot for comedic impressionists. Back when I was about 14, there was a TV show called "The Kopykats" that featured Rich Little, Frank Gorshin, and a slew of other impressionists doing sketch comedy. I loved it, but that must have been the minority opinion as it only lasted a few episodes.

I first saw Frank Caliendo on Comedy Central about two years ago. My wife and I were visiting the in-laws, and thankfully she is on the same page as I am when it comes to visiting relatives: we get a room. Having to sit there all day while she and her family catch up on people, places, events and memories that are meaningless to me but compelling to all others present is a lot to ask of a hyperactive cat. I do it because I love her and it makes her happy. Helping me through the rough spots is the thought that at the end of the day we can get away and have some alone time. Our own bathroom, TV, ice bucket, white towels, little soaps wrapped in paper and a bottle a tasty cheap cab seem like an oasis after 12 hours of being the only one in the room who has absolutely no idea of what everyone else is going on about. I can sit on the bed in a t-shirt and sweat-pants, sip a glass of wine out of a plastic cup and surf the ‘net while the Viscountess takes a bath. Bliss. Nowadays we both have company-furnished laptops and most motels have a wireless connection. This comes in handy when we are at the in-laws because all they have is 56k dial-up, and when you are used to DSL that is like going from a crotch-rocket to a pogo-stick.

It was one of these trips that we tuned the Super 8 19” Color T.V. to Comedy Central and were pleasantly entertained by Frank Caliendo. Here was this pudgy, non-descript little guy doing the most amazing impression of John Madden. We ended up watching the entire program and he was consistently hilarious. He also did Al Pacino, Bill Clinton and an imitation of George Bush that was simply the best I’d ever seen. I wouldn't want to follow him if I was Will Ferrel. I have since learned that he is a regular on Mad TV and Fox NFL Sunday, but we don’t watch much television at home anymore. Not since we kicked.

I thought I’d share this little clip of Mr. Caliendo that I received this week courtesy of Soundsurfr. It is an edit of his performance from his recent appearance on David Lettermen, which just includes his unparalleled imitation Bush mixed with a little bit of vintage Clinton. You can watch the edited clip by clicking here, or for a version of the entire performance including his great John Madden, click here.


Friday, February 17, 2006

Thinking About Jon

From about 1976 to about 1987 I had the goal of being a professional musican. You know, the Big Time. From my point-of-view, there was no better way to make a living than to do what I loved and be loved for it, and made rich in the process.

It didn’t happen.

Along the way, I made some of the best friends, and had some of the best times of my life. I don’t regret trying. You get one chance in life. You don’t want to wake up at 40, shackled to a boring job with a mortgage and the vestiges of a dream unfulfilled, with that old Brando line as your mantra: “I coulda been a contenda!”

I was thinking about one of those friends, and I dug up something that I’d written about him two days after his tragic death in August of 2000. I thought I’d share that today, and end with one of my favorite songs from that era.

Last night, I was feeling relaxed after an early evening bath.
The kids were relatively quiet, the television was tuned to “The Antiques Road Show,” and my wife was dozing on the couch with her feet in my lap. The telephone rang. I walked over and noticed on the Caller-ID “Unknown Name / Unknown Number.” I picked it up, and a distraught voice that I didn’t recognize croaked,

”Al LaCarte?”


”This is Jon’s friend, Billy.”


”There has been a terrible accident. He’s gone, man.”

Jon was a landscaper, and a fine one. Billy went on to explain
that Jon had been stung by a bee. He had mentioned this to his crew, warning them to stay away from a particular bush. He walked around to the rear of the residence and never returned. He was later found lying on the ground unconscious. The ambulance came. Jon was pronounced dead at the hospital.

I first met Jon back in 1983. I was between bands. My
previous band had crashed and burned in 1981. The concept behind that one was a hybrid of Steely Dan, The Beatles, and progressive rock. We thought we were clever; the people who heard us play held an entirely different opinion. Our songs were complicated, riddled with odd time signatures and abrupt changes in tempo. The music was fun to play from a musician’s standpoint, but the record companies (and club audiences) couldn’t have been less interested.

I had decided to start a band with a different concept. I wanted
to play songs that people could like on first listen. My goal was to record a new-wave “With The Beatles” as our debut album, where every track was a potential single. Lofty, I know, but I was young! My brother, who was one of the songwriters and a driving force behind my previous band, had been jamming with a new drummer and keyboard-player / vocalist. We decided to join forces. That
keyboard-player / vocalist was Jon.

Our band, The Balance (not the semi-famous one we didn’t know at the time that the name had already been used,) went through many changes, and finally broke up in 1987. In retrospect, it is easy to see the fatal flaw of that band: You can’t deliberately set out to play “commercial” music. Good music comes from the heart, not from a desire to be a “rich and famous ROCK STAR!.” As a recording engineer once said to us in all sincerity during a session, “I don’t get it. You guys love the music of XTC and Peter Gabriel. What are you doing trying to play Top 40?”

We both married and started families. He continued to write and
play music with my brother, but he and I would seldom see each other again. Still, we would find time to call and talk about music, especially when a new XTC album was released.

For the last few years, Jon, my brother and I began to share a
dream. We dreamed a dream whose seeds had been planted by The Beatles so many years ago with the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” We dreamed of a place and a time where we could write, arrange and record songs that we loved, regardless of their commercial potential, with total creative freedom. We dreamed of doing this for no reason except for our love of music. We dreamed a dream that was made possible by today’s inexpensive recording technology, but unlikely due to the constraints that
we had placed upon ourselves: our careers, families, mortgages and the fact that we lived hundreds of miles apart. We dreamed of a day when we could be like our heroes, XTC. We dreamed a dream that died the day before yesterday.

Click here to listen to "You Say Green," by MT Vanus recorded in 1983, featuring Jon on vocals and keys, MT on guitar, Larry on drums and The Viscount on the bass.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Gimme Fox News

Crooks and Liars is sponsoring a contest. You can read about it here.

Gimme Fox News
by The Viscount LaCarte
(Shamelessly based on "Gimme Some Truth" by John Lennon)

I sick and tired of seeing things
From educated, well-read, open-minded liberals
All I want is Fox News
Just give me Fox News

I’ve had enough of reading things
By level-headed, fair and balanced, erudite lefty bloggers
All I want Fox News
Just gimme Fox News

No longhaired, rational, even-handed son of Howard Dean
Is gonna logically force-feed me
Into facing the facts
They’ll increase my tax
They’ll expose all the cracks

I’m sick to death of hearing things
From Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Steve Colbert on Cable T.V.
All I want is Fox News
Just give me Fox News

I’ve had enough of watching scenes of
Rumsfeld denying, Bush’s bumbling, Condi’s lying and Cheney’s torture
All I want is Fox News
Just give me Fox News

No longhaired, rational, even-handed son of Howard Dean
Is gonna logically shame me
Into facing the facts
They’ll increase my tax
They’ll expose all the cracks

All I want is Fox News
Just give me Fox News
All I want is Fox News
Just give me Fox News

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Brush With Fame

I met Xtcfan and Ned on the internet somewhere around 1996 I guess. We all shared a love for the music of XTC before it was an abbreviation for a drug, an energy soft drink, or a search keyword for porn websites. I “met” them in cyberspace over at Chalkhills.

They both lived in the DC area, and at that time I was still a trainer for a software company and was traveling extensively for business. A couple times that business took me to DC, so I was able to meet them for beers, for lunch, and for dinner. A very cool thing this internet. They are great guys.

It is because of Ned that I started blogging. He told me of his blog, and I started to visit and to leave comments. It was fun. So I decided to give it a try.

Ned is a very busy man, but he does still find time to chat with me (using AOL IM.) He is a constant source of amusement and information, and I often interrupt him, uninvited and without exchanging the pleasantries that normal people use to start a conversation in meatspace. “Hey Ned. Can you believe Cheney shot someone?” or, “Hey Ned, I’m having trouble finding a link.” Etc. He might come back with, “Who’d he shoot? Scooter?” or “Try looking for a chain first.”


Recently we discovered that during the late 80’s we both worked some 3 blocks away from each other. Frequented the same guitar shops. We ended up talking about the different celebrities we spotted while bumming around Rockefeller Center. We both saw Andy Warhol. I saw Julian Lennon leaving “We Buy Guitars” as I was entering, Aimee Mann walking with her guitar by the entrance of Central Park, and Greg Lake in a deli. Neddie quipped, “as he handed you your sandwich?”

This reminded me of probably the funniest celebrity encounter that I had. I worked at 6th and 48th and took the LIRR from Penn Station to get home. You could take the subway to Penn, but on nice days I could walk the 14 blocks and often did so with my friend Jim.

Jim had a stutter. He could talk for a few minutes and you’d never notice, but when he got excited he would start getting stuck on the first letter of his words. The more excited he got, the more he stuttered.

We would walk down Broadway to get to Penn, and at the time, Tony Roberts was starring in a revival of “Arsenic and Old Lace.” It was about 5:30 on a warm night, and we were walking down 47th toward Broadway. All of sudden Jim went into it big time:

“A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-L! L-L-L-L-L-L-OOK Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ver th-th-th-th-there!” He was sputtering and pointing and there was Tony Roberts. He was walking toward us and started to cross the street while Jim was doing his damndest to not sound like an A-K but failing miserably. He looked over at us and smiled, as Jim continued, “I-i-i-it’s th-th-th-th-th-th-th-th-th-that g-g-g-g-g-g-guy from the W-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-wooody Allen m-m-m-m-m-movies!”

He almost shouted it.

The look on Tony’s face was fabulous. He went from a smile to a bitter scowl, and I could only imagine him thinking, “here I am starring in a Broadway show, and godamn it all they know is that I’m ‘that guy’ from the Woody Allen movies!”

I was in a miserable marriage and was making crap money back then, but damn, working in midtown, those were the days.

By the way, here is even more evidence that our species is in the HOV lane with the cruise control set to 85 speeding to Extinctionville, NJ.

Ok, want to hear a great song?

Click here to experience one of my favorite records by XTC, from the album “Mummer,” “Love On A Farmboy’s Wages.” Just beautiful, if a little sad.

Love On A Farmboy's Wages
By Andy Partridge

High climbs the summer sun
High stands the corn
And tonight when my work is done
We will borrow your father's carriage
We will drink and prepare for marriage
Soon my darling, soon my darling

Shilling for the fellow who brings the sheep in
Shilling for the fellow who milks the herd
Shilling for the fellow with a wife for keeping
How can we feed love on a farmboy's wages

Deep under winter snow
Deep lay the lambs
And tonight by the full moon's glow
Flask of wine on my feather bedding
We will drink and prepare for wedding
Soon my darling, soon my darling

Shilling for the fellow who brings the sheep in
Shilling for the fellow who milks the herd
Shilling for the fellow with a wife for keeping
How can we feed love on a farmboy's wages

People think that I'm no good
Painting pictures carving wood
Be a rich man if I could
But the only job I do well is here on the farm
On the farm
And it's breaking my back

We will borrow your father's carriage
We will drink and prepare for marriage
Soon my darling, soon my darling

Shilling for the fellow who brings the sheep in
Shilling for the fellow who milks the herd
Shilling for the fellow with a wife for keeping
How can we feed
Love on a farmboy's
Love on a farmboy's
Love on a farmboy's wages?
© 1983 Virgin Music (Publishers) Ltd.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Dick Cheney, Sportsman

I’m no hunter. I don’t like killing things, and I don’t particularly care for guns. If someone said, “I’ll pay you your regular wages to go deer hunting," I’d turn them down and go to my regular job.

Every time.

Still, I’m no hypocrite. I eat meat and have no plans of becoming a vegetarian. I respect the true sportsman that hunts. Many of them care about animals and the environment, and have an interest in conservation.

So while the blogworthy story about Cheney’s hunting accident is the fact that there was a delay in notifying the news agencies, it is the other story that interests me. Dick Cheney is not a sportsman.

I found this link, courtesy of Crooks and Liars. It describes the deplorable and sadistic sort of hunting that the Vice President favors.



Don’t forget this week’s Top 10.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Soul Gets Squeezed Out

Bobby Lightfoot has been posting some of his out-takes, demos and alternate versions. Some good music there, available for free.

He writes:

"Well, it ain't 1964 anymore and it sure ain't no Baroque period. Being a pop writer now is disgusting. I wouldn't attempt it again for any money. It's sick and bad. A bad instinct. A bad course to take in a society like ours, unless you are able to completely detach yourself from your output. Music is the windowdressing of culture, the frame; so that would make music now like a velvet pillow upon which a steaming turd is lovingly arranged. Look at those motherfucking car ads with those Who and Zeppelin songs. Jesus Christ.

Look at what we're doing. Look at who we're elevating to the top of the music heap. How could you derive any satisfaction from success when it's such a fucking race to the bottom? When it's a lottery?

Don't get me wrong; I don't particularly idealize any period in pop music. But all the artists I love are proud of what they've done. Even Lennon. How can these people be proud of what they're doing? It's foul. Foul."

I know how he feels. The music business has always been just that – a business. It has always been corrupt. Artists have forever been treated badly by the biz, taken advantage of, ripped-off. They’ve been beat up and battered around, sent up and shot down, terrorized, hypnotized, over-exposed and commercialized.

But they were artists. The suits USED to look for ARTISTS to exploit. They signed Hendrix. They signed Elton. They signed Bowie (whom I don’t really care for, but that is another post for another day.) They signed The Talking Heads and Elvis Costello. Dylan. Springsteen. Creative individuals that had something to say artisically and musically.

Back in the day.

One day, I don’t know it musta been around the time people started buying up Bon Jovi records, they figured out, “Hey – screw the artistes. They’re pains-in-the-asses. Let’s find some very average people who look good in videos!” Before that, the suits were looking for great music made by artists so they could make themselves rich. Can anyone with a straight face try to convince us that Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson are musicians of the caliber of Carole King or Aretha Franklin? That 50 cent (which is too much to charge for his entire catalogue if you ask me) and Eminem rank with Otis Redding or Al Green?

Anyway, Bobby’s post reminded me of this song (click here to listen) by Porcupine Tree. Words are brilliant, and the music is sublime. Gives me chills every time I listen.

The Sound of Muzak
By Steven Wilson
From In Absentia

Hear the sound of music
Drifting in the aisles
Elevator prozac
Stretching on for miles

The music of the future
Will not entertain
It's only meant to repress
And neutralise your brain

Soul gets squeezed out
Edges get blunt

Gives what you want

One of the wonders of the world is going down
It's going down
I know
It's one of the blunders of the world that no-one cares
No one cares enough

Now the sound of music
Comes in silver pills
Engineered to suit you
Building cheaper thrills

The music of rebellion
Makes you wanna rage
But it's made by millionaires
Who are nearly twice your age

Soul gets squeezed out
Edges get blunt
Gives what you want

One of the wonders of the world is going down
It's going down
I know
It's one of the blunders of the world that no-one cares
No one cares enough

Thursday, February 09, 2006

What Is Hip

Ok, so I’m old, I’m gonna embrace it. Like a fine wine, I improve with age.

The Doobie Brothers back in the day, they rocked, and we just took it in stride. They were a good band, but they didn’t break new ground. They weren’t innovative. There were lots of bands like them in the 70’s. Good bands that rocked, but were just part of the musical landscape. Took ‘em for granted then, didn’t we? Good music was all around and it was never going to go away.

We thought.

If I had to venture a guess, I think this is what they would sound like if they showed up today. “Listen to the Music" remixed. [Listen here. ] What a killer track. Guitars. Harmonies. Tight band. Lyrics that celebrate music.

That was from “What is Hip Volume I.” Gonna even include this unfavorable review, because it isn’t the point. Of course it is superfluous. I would rather hear the original, but it shows me how my music holds up. My over-fed, lazy assed pot-smoking bogus generation had one good thing. MUSIC. People can say what they want, but from the day that The Beatles set foot on American soil ‘til about 1975 the boomers made some MY-T-Fine noise. That’s what we got.

What do you got?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Abramoff as Told By Dr. Seuss

Time To Listen To Richard Dawkins

In the light of the recent idiocy over a series of cartoons depicting a man who lived centuries ago, I was reminded of Richard Dawkins.

Richard Dawkins is a hero in my mind. I’m not comfortable telling certain people that I don’t believe in “God” (whatever the hell that even means!) and prefer the label “agnostic” to atheist. I tell myself that I prefer that label because it is more accurate in that I can’t very well prove the non-existence of something who’s existence purportedly lies outside the borders of what is observable and measurable. I also must admit the fact that I just don’t have it in me to withstand the contempt and subject myself to the potential violence of the good Christians and Muslims of the world. For whatever reason, they usually don’t have a problem with “agnostics,” even though by definition, agnostics do not believe in God. Not so with atheists. I’ve been told personally that the government should take atheists’ children away from their parents, and President H. W. Bush once said “I don't know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots.” Imagine the uproar if he had said, “Jews” or “Muslims” instead of “atheists?” [If you are thinking, “that’s different,” tell me why in the comments section.]

Richard Dawkins, is an evolutionary biologist, and an author of many books on the subjects of biology and science in general. [I can personally recommend “The Blind Watchmaker,” which is an easy-to-understand explanation of evolution, “Unweaveing The Rainbow,” which is a book about the wonders and beauty of science , and “The Devil’s Chaplain” which is a collection of short essays on a variety of subjects. All excellent books.] He is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. And, he is unequivocal in his atheism.

The following is an excerpt from an article titled “Time To Stand Up” published on September 15th, 2001.

"To blame Islam for what happened in New York is like blaming Christianity for the troubles in Northern Ireland!" Yes. Precisely. It is time to stop pussyfooting around. Time to get angry. And not only with Islam.

Those of us who have renounced one or another of the three "great" monotheistic religions have, until now, moderated our language for reasons of politeness. Christians, Jews and Muslims are sincere in their beliefs and in what they find holy. We have respected that, even as we have disagreed with it.

The article can be read in its entirety here.

Related Posts:
Voice of Sanity by Neddie Jingo
Thoughts on Religion by yours truly

[Note: 07-Feb-2006 3:25 PM EST. I contacted Ned shortly after posting today to let him know that I had linked to him. He informed me that he had been working on this related post about Richard Dawkins for the last couple of days. These seemingly connected events are purely coincidental and the existence of some underlying intelligent design should not be inferred.]

Monday, February 06, 2006

Today's Antidote - Updated!

Still trying to cut myself a break from politics. Not easy. Yesterday morning the local NBC affiliate aired their weekly political analysis, and it really pissed me off because the republican shill under the guise of objective analyst basically told everyone that Bush had outlined some bold new initiatives regarding independence from foreign oil and touted the development of alternative energy sources, but neglected to point out that the day after the speech everything he said was withdrawn by Whitehouse spokesmen, and that the budget for FY06 includes $50 million in cuts in the DOE’s budget for research into alternative energy, and that the president opposes the “renewables” requirement in the proposed energy legislation.

[Note: 12:56 EST Update. The guy's name is Bill Crane, and he works for GCI. He has been presented as a political analyst for WXIA, and he is employed by a PR company that represents the Republican party. Liberal media my butt!]

Added to the fact that people are hell bent on killing each other over their stupid religious beliefs. There’s that. As the Viscountess said the other night in between stories about work and the standard “what should be do about dinner” discussion, “It’s bad enough when people kill each other over something real like land, but it is all the more horrid when they kill each other over some imaginary nonsense thought up by idiots over 2000 years ago!”

Oh well, here’s my antidote for the day. What an awesome record. Produced by Stevie at the age of 20. Love that electric sitar!

(Click here to listen.)

Signed, Sealed Delivered I’m Yours
By Lee Garrett/Lula Mae Hardaway/Stevie Wonder/Syreeta Wright
From Signed, Sealed Delivered

Like a fool I went and stayed too long
Now I'm wondering if your love's still strong
Oo baby, here I am, signed, sealed delivered, I'm yours

Then that time I went and said goodbye
Now I'm back and not ashamed to cry
Oo baby, here I am, signed, sealed delivered, I'm yours

Here I am baby
Oh, you've got the future in your hand
(signed, sealed delivered, I'm yours)

Here I am baby,
oh, you've got the future in your hand
(signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours)

I've done alot of foolish things
that I really didn't mean
Hey, hey, yea, yea, didn't I, oh baby

Seen alot of things in this old world
When I touched them they did nothing, girl
Oo baby, here I am, signed, sealed delivered, I'm yours, oh I'm yours

Oo-wee babe you set my soul on fire
That's why I know you are my only desire
Oo baby, here I am, signed, sealed delivered, I'm yours

Here I am baby
Oh, you've got the future in your hand
(signed, sealed delivered, I'm yours)

Here I am baby,
oh, you've got the future in your hand
(signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours)

I've done alot of foolish things
that I really didn't mean
I could be a broken man but here I am

With your future, got your future babe (here I am baby)
Here I am baby (signed, sealed delivered, I'm yours)
Here I am baby, (here I am baby)
Here I am baby (signed, sealed delivered, I'm yours)
Here I am baby, (here I am baby)
Here I am baby (signed, sealed delivered, I'm yours)

The Week's Top 10.

Friday, February 03, 2006

We Shoulda Listened To Stevie

Stevie tried to warn us some years back.

As an aside, or maybe the main point, this is perhaps the perfect Stevie Wonder record. It funks, it rocks, it has a killer clavinet riff (on top of a second one!) and an ominous infectous horn part that just cuts through the track and underscores the intensity and the message of the lyric.

By Stevie Wonder
From Talking Book

Very superstitious, writing's on the wall,
Very superstitious, ladders bout' to fall,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin' glass
Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past.

When you believe in things that you don't understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain't the way

Very superstitious, wash your face and hands,
Rid me of the problem, do all that you can,
Keep me in a daydream, keep me goin' strong,
You don't wanna save me, sad is my song.

When you believe in things that you don't understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain't the way, yeh, yeh.

Very superstitious, nothin' more to say,
Very superstitious, the devil's on his way,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin' glass,
Seven years of bad luck, good things in your past

When you believe in things that you don't understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain't the way, no, no, no.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Oh well, Nevermind

I can’t take anymore.

They have lied, stolen, and murdered. Instead of fighting terrorism and protecting us from the terrorists they have made matters worse and left us more vulnerable. They are destroying our environment and our livelihoods while simultaneously speaking about freedom, peace and Christ. Blatantly, recklessly and without remorse. Regardless of the polls, just the sheer numbers of Americans who don’t see it, don’t want to see it, don’t care about, support it, defend it etc. is too overwhelming. I can’t bear it.

I have to take a break from politics.

I just have to.