Friday, December 30, 2005

There May Be Hope For Pop Music

I don't write about music much on my blog. I'm as wrapped up in music as any musician can be, but I usually don't find it worthwhile to bitch about bad music and there is just not much good music to write about.

But every once in a long while I run into something unusual that deserves mention, so here we go.

Let me say this first. If there ever was a viral pandemic threatening the art of music it would be the modern POP DIVA.

You know who I'm talking about. Beyonce. Mariah Carey. Ashley Simpson and her brain dead sister. Mousketeers Aguilera and Spears. Made for TV idol Kelly Clarkson. Michael Bolton. (Yeah, just a diva with a package.) Madonna. And the queen of self-absorbed vapidity, Celine Dion. These women do for pop music what Velveeta does for cheese. They make it smooth and creamy and bland and tasteless and so utterly dripping with bad cholesterol. Listen to a Celine Dion album all the way through in one sitting and you take two years off your life. Just like that.

Imagine how NOT excited I was to be turned on to a track that friend of a friend Billy Mann wrote a few years back for yet another pop diva. Imagine how completely jazzed I was to hear a piece that was really great in so many respects. In retrospect, maybe this particular pop diva has a few things going for her that others don't. First, she's a successful artist, but she's not mega-famous. Second - she is fighting breast cancer, so she has some REAL shit to flame out about in her life as opposed to those who throw tantrums over whether or not their dressing room curtains are the right color. And last but not least - she appears to have some soul - that is - the ability to make you believe that she believes what she's singing about.

OK, this song - this is the shit.

It's got the acoustic guitar riff. It's got the funky tabla percussion track. It's got the unexpected vocal stylization. It's got the melody and the harmonies. It's got the lyrics written by and for someone with an IQ higher than a billiard ball number. Hell - it's even got the Cajun instruments and the fucking FIDDLE solo. And it's got something to say. Hallelujah good god almighty.

Don't let me oversell this. This is not a revolution in music of the kind we experienced so often in decades past. This is not the Coltrane or the Basie, the Lennon/McArtney or the Becker/Fagan. This will not spin your head around exorcist style like the first time you heard Sgt. Pepper. It won't leave you wondering how many souls were sacrificed to the devil to come up with the track like, say, Aja did. Nothing like that.

All this is, is an outbreak of hope amidst the viral pandemic.

Do yourself a favor and listen to - "Overdue Goodbye" written by the talented Mr. Billie Mann and performed by the equally talented Anastacia.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"Breathtaking Inanity"

That was the term used by the Judge in the Dover Pennsylvania "Intelligent Design" case to describe the Dover school board's policy of inserting religion into science class.

Full article.

I guess I couldn't have said it better. Nor could I have said this better, regarding the disclaimer that the Dover IDiots wanted science teachers to read to their science classes:

"In summary, the disclaimer singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource, and instructs students to forego scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere."

Amen, Judge.

Monday, December 19, 2005

They're gonna cut me.

I was out on my sailboat one day and I put my foot down on a surface that I thought was going to be horizontal but in fact was tilted more towards vertical at the time. Now I gotta get knee surgury. Big suck.

But it could be worse. This could be the year 1721 in which case I'd be resigned to limping for the rest of my life. Or maybe I'd be having some crackpot with a jar full of leeches and a dull knife cut me open with five guys holding me down while I bite down on a bullet and guzzle corn whiskey. And THEN I'd limp for the rest of my life.

Or I could be having my 7th brain operation in 12 months like my cousin Mike. (Subject of a whole 'nuther blog.) So in the appropriate perspective, modern orthoscopic knee surgery is kind of a lame thing to be wepnering about.

But I'm not a man of faith and I can't help thinking about how much blind faith and trust we put into doctors. This little dweeby guy in a white coat looks at an MRI picture and says OK, we're gonna open up your knee and cut a piece of this and drill a piece of that and then you're gonna go home and do rehab after a while your knee will no longer feel like it's being stabbed with a steak knife. What the fuck, over? I mean, take the white coat off and this is just another slob glomming shrimp at the Christmas party. Now he and his posse are gonna be injecting me with anesthesia, knocking me out cold, then slicing into my skin and applying laser beams to my MENISCUS. I don't know what the fuck my MENISCUS is or what it does but I'm pretty sure I like having it and I fully plan on keeping it.

And who is this guy really? I don't know him from Adam. I don't know if he belongs to NAMBLA or if he tears the wings off of flies in his bedroom at night or if he's a Moonie or what. I mean I just don't know shit about this guy except that he has an office with magazines in the waiting room and knee posters in the examination rooms and some secretaries with computers and a diploma on the wall. I sure hope it's a REAL diploma and not one of those Sears diplomas. Could be one of those Sun Myung Moon diplomas for all I know.

So armed with this puny amount of background information on my boy I should be perfectly ok with letting him cut me open and fuck with my innards, right? What would you do? Google the guy? Follow him at night?

And then there's the whole dexterity thing.

I like to build stuff. Nothing intricate - I build furniture and do construction projects and landscaping and stuff. And nine times out of ten while I'm working on a project, I'll drive a nail right through the thing I'm supposed to be joining or make a cut the wrong way and tear up the piece of wood and have to either get a new piece of wood or glue the splinters and shards back into place or whatever. No big deal man, it's a two by four. But these guys do construction on humans. And it's microscopic. There can be no cutting the wrong way and tearing up shit. There can be no reading the fucking blueprint backwards or saying damn, I used the wrong size drill bit. There is no UNDO key in surgery and no EASY button either. Elmer's glue will not hold my shit together if this guy's balls suddenly itch he and shreds my MENISCUS into a pile of pulled pork. And I can't go to Home Depot and get a new MENISCUS and start over.

So it's like this - in a couple of weeks I'm gonna show up at the hospital and get some chemicals injected into me and I'm gonna go to sleep and I'm gonna hope I wake up. And if I wake up, the first thing I'm gonna do is check and see if I still have a right leg, 'cause I've seen too many Twilight Zone episodes where the patient wakes up with both his legs amputated and the doctor standing over him with a bloody meat cleaver going "BWAHAHAHAHAHA!" Then I'm gonna find out if I still have a MENISCUS. Then when the drugs wear off I'm gonna learn how painful it is to have someone poke around my MENISCUS with a goddam laser beam. Then I'm gonna go into REHAB and find out how painful it is to do knee exercises after this for-all-I-know sadist pervert Moonie has poked around my MENISCUS with a laser beam.

Then, hopefully, I'm gonna walk normally again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My favorite secular holiday

You go, O'Reilly dude, you go boy. Blame the de-Christmasization of Christmas on the merchants. Blame it on liberals and atheists and ex-cons. Blame it on the Big Boxes.

On Walmart, On KMart, On Nordstrom, On Bloomies.

On Penny's and Barneys, and Costco's and Screwmie's.

Call for boycotts for anybody who uses the words "Happy Holidays". Vent your rage at the collective defamation of the birthday of the Son of Gawd. Then go home on Christmas day and drink your Pieper Heidsieck and eat your Ghirardelli chocolate and give your 10 year old son a new dirt bike with a built-in DVD player. Maybe a nice gold and diamond BROOCH for the wife.

Then when the booze wears off and the self-righteous spittle has run from your pontificating chin, and your blood pressure returns to what you might call normal, mull over this for a minute or two...

Christians have only themselves to blame for turning their High Holy Day into a circus.

Who's trampling over their own grandmother to get through the department store door at 5am the day after Thanksgiving? Who gets into a fight over the last "Elmo Takes A Dump" doll on Christmas Eve? Who's blowing out their neighborhood power transformers trying to turn their house into a freaking World's Fair exhibit from November to January? Buncha Muslims? Buncha Bhuddists? Buncha Communists? Nah. It's the Christers, as Bobby L would say. Here they come a Wassailing. I don't really know what the hell Wassailing is, but I'm guessing it has something to do with eating and drinking until you puke.

And in church on Sunday, how many sermons are devoted to cutting the bullshit? How many priests and deacons are telling their flocks to back off on the $5,000 worth of Christmas lights and give the money to the poor? Hell, now the CHURCHES are decking themselves out with enough lights to blind oncoming traffic. Are there any preachers out there reminding folks that emptying the entire 3rd floor of FAO Schwartz onto the living room floor does not really put forth the message of the Christ child? And more importantly, how many Christians are listening?

Not too many, from the looks of it.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Secret CIA Prisons

OK folks - who thinks this is ok?

The CIA, under the direction of the Bush Administration, is operating secret prisons in foreign countries. We, the American people, aren't supposed to know they actually exist. We're not going to be told where they are or who's in them. We don't know what goes on there. Neither do Congressional Democrats. (Apparently Cheney briefed a few Republicans in a closed door session, but Dems are clearly not on the "need to know" list.)

This is for our security, you understand. No doubt you are feeling more secure in the knowledge that undisclosed CIA operatives are holding undisclosed prisoners in undisclosed locations for undisclosed reasons.

So hold the bus. I thought this was the kind of shit that BAD countries did. I thought countries run by EVIL CRETINS, like Russia and China and Cambodia and Syria and Burma locked people in secret gulags where they were not charged with any crime and never heard from again. I thought Americans believed in people's right to a fair trial. I thought we were signatories of the various Geneva Conventions and that we actually subscribed to and upheld the humanitarian principles they described. I thought one big difference between civilized societies and FUCKING-LUNATIC-DEPRAVED-BLOODTHIRSTY-FOUL-SMELLING-BABY-EATING BARBARIANS was that the latter tortured people in secret prisons and the former did not. Seriously, that's what I thought, fool that I was.

I also thought we had checks and balances written into our Constitution that existed to prevent any one branch of government from becoming so powerful that it could actually do stuff like this and get away with it. But let's go to the videotape. In the aftermath of 9/11, the Congress, which holds the sole Constitutional power to declare war, signed off its responsibility in this regard to President George Chimpanzee Bush. In other words, it abdicated its authority, and in so doing it removed one of the most important checks over the Executive Branch. And this is the guy who Congress gave all the war juice to, right here:

They just said - "Here's a boatload of money Mr. President. We're pretty much scared shitless over this whole terrorist thing, so if you need to declare war on some A-Rabs, you just go ahead - no need to check with us first." So now, he doesn't just have the steering wheel - he's got the brakes AND the throttle AND the gearshift too. He is in total control and when the Cheneysfeldowitz hydra told him it needed to set up some secret Auschwitz in Siberia, they just went ahead and did it. What the hell.

Now you gotta ask yourself. Why do we need secret prisons on foreign soil? (Jeopardy music.)

What is.... - Because it's illegal under US law and under the Geneva Conventions to torture detainees on US soil, but it's not necessarily illegal to do it in some frozen snake pit in the middle of the Ukraine?

Right. Now for the daily double: - Why does the Bush administration want to veto the anti-torture bill? Because it would make torturing anybody anywhere illegal under US law. Damn. That would mess things up, wouldn't it? So if Congress wants to get its credibility back, and at least get a foot on the brake pedal before Wonder Boy drives us all over a cliff, it had better override the veto.

I don't know what scares me more, that the US is doing this, or that the people of this country are not completely freaking out about it. What gives?