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Friday, September 22, 2017

Summer's end.

Here comes the sun ... and there it goes, right over the back of the mill. Must be autumn. This place is like freaking Stonehenge - you can set your watch to the movement of the shadows.

Well, the season passing doesn't mean much around here. I'll be honest: we of Big Green never went in for summer activities in a big way, so the warm months are just about keeping out of the sun and wearing open newspapers on your head like a tent. Unless you're Matt, of course, who wears a hat and spends half of his life out amongst the wild critters, rain or shine, snow or hail, you name it. The rest of us? We all busy ourselves with indoor activities, like bending pretzels and juggling priceless objets d'art. (That last one we don't do a real lot. Like, well ... never.)

It's hard to keep track of what our entourage is doing in any given season. Some are more active than others. Anti-Lincoln, for instance, had and idea for a discount retail business. He was going to plant it right next door to Dollar General and call the store Quarter Colonel. His business plan was to undercut the competition - everything in Dollar General is a buck; everything in Quarter Colonel would be a quarter. The cash registers were ringing in his Four score and seven blue light specials agohead like the bells of St. Mary. I know Lincoln had a reputation, perhaps apocryphal, of being a humble, frugal man of simple tastes, so true to form, his anti-matter self is the exact opposite. He's going to OWN north central Little Falls, NY .... OWN IT!

Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has been busy these waning weeks of summer. He's mostly been checking his way through my to-do list. Hey ... don't look at me like that. What would YOU do if YOU had a personal robot assistant? At least I'm not sending him out to some local small business to earn money for my ass. Though he was working for a time at a five and dime. (His boss was Mr. Magee). I don't think I have to tell you how that turned out.

So, bring on the fall, people. We've got a pack of songs ready to record. Let's track this mother! Ya-ho, ta-ho.

Week that was (again).

Man, this week has been a clusterfuck. Not sure exactly where to begin, but I guess the best option is just to dive right in.

The Zombie Rises. Repeal and replace is back again this week, this time advanced by GOP senators Graham and Cassidy, and it's the predictable formula. They basically want to block grant the program, including the Medicaid portion of it, which is the Republican's favorite target just lately. According to a study cited by the Washington Post, 34 states would lose funding, and the states with Medicaid expansion and relatively generous benefits would be the biggest losers. It will also throw millions off of their coverage - no surprise there. The only thing that can stop this now is, well ... us. Call, march, occupy, whatever you can manage. Delay this vote until after 9/30 and it will be dead for a while longer, at least, and that's the best we can manage under the circumstances (i.e. good enough).

Active crime sceneHurricane Maria. What a horrible storm, and the fact that it took such a cruel path through an already distressed group of islands is heartbreaking. Puerto Rico, already flattened by international finance, has lost power entirely, perhaps for weeks or even months. Their grid is 44 years old, due to such a constricted colonial financial situation. Where is the outrage for the ill-treatment of these working Americans, Trump supporters? Crickets.

Mexico Quake. There's a sickening regularity to this recent crop of disasters; a hurricane coinciding with an earthquake in Mexico. Again, suffering piled on top of suffering among a populace singled out by our president as the source of all of our woes. And as is so often the case, the lack of public investment in communities makes the disaster more serious than it needs to be. Such an outrage.

Hello, World! Speaking of the source of all of our woes, Donald Trump made his "debut" at the United Nations General Assembly, and duly threatened North Korea with total destruction. Withered talking heads like Joe Scarborough and David Ignatius found some encouraging themes in this poorly-wrought mad man's tirade, but that's just residual affection for the American empire. Trump waved the bloody shirt and threatened the world from that podium, and the threat was lost on no one. No doubt about it: Cheney's back in charge.

Vietnam Revisited. I could write a whole column about Ken Burn's latest effort to retell history, but suffice it to say that he appears not to have strayed much from the mainstream "bungling efforts to do good" narrative. Another lost opportunity to clarify this loathsome episode.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 15, 2017

Old stock.

I think it's over there, in that cardboard box. No, no - not that one! The one under that one. Or the one under that. I don't know, just start opening boxes - I'll tell you when to stop.

Oh, yes, that's right ... I have a fourth wall. Hello, then. What are we doing? Thanks for asking. We are digging through the Big Green archives again. And when I say "archives", I'm talking about something that's really much more rudimentary than that term suggests. Call it a series of boxes, some of which have the Kellogg rooster emblazoned on their side. Then there's those round Quaker Oats boxes .... I used to make pretend ham radios out of those.

What we're searching for is, well, some ideas for this year's Christmas pageant extravaganza. Amazingly, there's a lot of holiday material that hasn't been released or even heard for the last ten years. Matt did, what, ten years of Christmas tapes, between 1986 and 1995, with one added on after that for good luck. We've got an enormous backlog of 4-track cassette recordings from that period, essentially demos, which we can harvest and repurpose like, I don't know, sorting through a junk yard for something useful. Don't ask me for metaphors this early in the morning!

So whatcha got, Lincoln?Now, I don't want to leave you with the false impression that we are constantly recycling music from days of old. Not a bit of it! In fact, the songs on our last THIS IS BIG GREEN - Ned Trek extravaganza are all brand spanking new (and probably in need of that spanking). Not that we haven't reached into the old grab back in past episodes. Usually around the holidays we start rummaging around for something that will fill a hole in the production. I'm thinking maybe we should just patch in some video of a local 2nd grade school orchestra playing Jingle Bells. Now THAT'S entertainment, people. (Literally every one of those cute little critters playing the same note, all together.)

Okay, so ... yes, we'll be working on a Christmas show. Because that's how we roll here at Big Green. Next podcast will be another non-musical Ned Trek, then who knows ... an actual album? Yikes!

After the flood.

With an environmental disaster underway in Houston and massive destruction in the Florida Keys, the Virgin Islands, and elsewhere around the Caribbean, it's fair to say that the 2017 hurricane season is off to an inauspicious start. We are completely unprepared for these climate change-fueled super storms, largely because we find ourselves unable to grapple with the fact that global warming is actually happening. Yes, I know - no storm can be directly attributed to climate change, but it does enhance the strength and volatility of the storms to a significant degree, and the effects are very much as predicted by climate scientists.

It's getting worse, folks.There are people in this country - coastal urban mayors and the like - who have to face facts on this issue, but pretty much everyone else is free to ignore the obvious: that we are now living in a far more dangerous and unstable environment, and it's only going to get worse. The longer we play this denial game and pretend it doesn't exist, the more profound the long term costs will be. Unfortunately, this is a difficult issue to get traction on in a country like the United States. You find yourself arguing for a major change in people's day-to-day lives, tremendous investments, and more, for positive effects that likely won't become evident for another generation or more. It's a crisis that breeds fatalism, and that plays right into the hands of the petrochemical-driven profit machine that's been stoking climate change for decades.

I think the only way we can succeed in convincing enough of our fellow Americans that radical change is needed is by decoupling the notion of a sustainable society from economic austerity. We have demonstrated this as a society - recall the period just prior to the financial crisis of 2008 (well, before the election of 2008, too). There was what seemed like a broad and growing consensus that we needed to do something about energy use, investing in renewables, greater efficiency, etc. The crash just washed that all away in a chorus of "drill, baby, drill!" When you have 750,000 people a month being tossed out of work, people will grasp at anything, and Obama did little to articulate a coherent vision of a more sustainable economy.

So here we are, being battered by ever larger and more menacing storms, and yet building more pipelines as far as the eye can see. We need to move the conversation back to where it was ten years ago (and further, really). That's the straw.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 8, 2017

Inside September.

You sent it up the chute already? Okay, then ... well ... I WAS going to put the good stuff into it first, but I guess it's been long enough that people will settle for whatever they get. Oh, well ... maybe next month.

Yes, you heard right - we've uploaded the September 2017 installment of THIS IS BIG GREEN, and this seems like a really good time to talk about what's inside that honking little MP3 file. Here goes:

Ned Trek 33: The Nimrod Seven. Incredibly, the thirty-third episode of our Star Trek parody, Ned Trek. This one's based on the classic Star Trek first season episode entitled The Galileo 7, in which Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and some toss-aways get their shuttlecraft stranded on a hostile ape-infested planet. Well, replace those three regulars with Perle, Coburn, and Sulu, change the shuttlecraft's name to "The Nimrod 7", then throw in Seb Gorka, Peter Lorre, the Nixon android, and a Mr. Stephanie or six and you've got a poorly-wrought morality play worthy of The Immortal or even fourth-season Big Valley. Oh, yes.

The Nimrod Seven contains no less than eight new Big Green songs:

Song: If You're Listening To This - A somewhat country-fried Willard song that's a musical and conceptual adaptation of the "final orders" video Captain Kirk left for McCoy and Spock in The Tholian Web. "You'll have to use your creed and your opportunities; but temper them with profits from false securities." You get the drift.

Song: Commander I'm Dead - A Stephanie Q (or R?) song about the uses of a dead soldier to any canny leader of men. The only lyric I can think of that makes use of the hick-French term "Mercy Buckets". Non-sequitur backing vocals by The Twenties Guys.

Song: Doctor In The House - A bit of musical braggadoccio from self-reputed alpha male and Nazi progeny Seb Gorka, recently departed from the Trump clusterfuck. Prepare yourself for choruses of "beta cuck". Tell your wife: here comes Sebastian!

Song: Wait For You - A Doc Coburn song with a real 60s anthem rock vibe. I find myself humming this one a bit as I wait for us to invade all those other places in the travelog.

All settled in?Song: Nimrod - Perle song lamenting his frustrations as commander of the Nimrod 7, the misunderstandings ... it's like everybody speaks a different language! Heavy is the head ... and kind of heavy the song.

Song: Neocon Captain - Sulu's number. Another anthem-like tune that likens the insufferable Perle to Captain Bligh (who ended up governor of New South Wales, by the way.) This is probably my favorite of the tranche (as Sulu songs often are), but you be the judge.

Song: Yo-Ho - A song from Mr. Welsh, with the usual Celtic overtones and undertones. The Yo-ho, Toe-ho chorus is probably borrowed from the Viking episode of Lost In Space, but don't quote me.

Song: Nixon is Saving Us All - This Nixon song closes out the set; the android's internal power source is used to fuel the crippled shuttlecraft and, as the title suggests, save us all! Favorite line: "Until we loose the surly bonds and touch God's face; maybe drop some bombs."

Put the Phone Down. Matt and I banter aimlessly (and occasionally break into song) about what we did over the summer, Seb Gorka, mechanical Nazi men, psycho Batman, and quite a bit more. Give it a listen, anyway.

Brinksmanship redux.

It's a little hard to sort out what to write about this week. The catastrophic hurricane that hit Texas or the one that's bearing down on Florida? North Korea? DACA? What the hell ... welcome to the Trump era, when everybody drinks from a firehose. What a non-stop freaking joy this administration is. I will leave to more able correspondents (like David Sirota) the telling of how Trump and the congressional Republicans have worked overtime over the last few months to make east Texas more vulnerable to this kind of disaster. As unprecedentedly powerful storms line up to cause havoc around the Caribbean and up the coast, no doubt the climate change deniers will continue to strip away what little protection people have from flooding, the release of pollutants, and bankruptcy (particularly in a place like Puerto Rico).

Highly predictable.Then there's North Korea. Perhaps the most remarkable piece of this crisis is the total lack of voices in favor of doing the right thing. From the various talking heads (mostly foreign policy establishment people, retired generals, current generals, and conservative think tankers), I keep hearing that there are military options, however limited, and that it's either strike or learn to live with a nuclear-capable North Korea. Of course, we have had that for a while. We have lived with a nuclear-capable Russia and China for a long time. I also hasten to add that the world has lived with a nuclear-capable United States for even longer. My feeling is simply that if they can live with us, we can live with them ... just as we have for about a decade.

Here are a few things that you won't hear on the talk shows: 1) This is not the cold war. It is not an ideological battle, for chrissake. No one is interested in emulating North Korea, and they aren't trying to export their model of governance to anyone else. 2) We don't have to demonstrate that we are stronger than them. They know this in their bones since we destroyed their society in the 1950s. Our strength is the central reason why they're doing this. 3) This situation is not China's fault, nor is it their responsibility. North Korea's dispute is with us, not China ... or even South Korea. They and the Russians have encouraged us to take reasonable steps to disarm this time bomb: hold off on military exercises, build confidence, etc.

An NPR correspondent this week asked if diplomatic approaches would make us look "weak". This is the mentality that leads to war. North Korea is not Germany in the 1940s. Appeasement doesn't apply here. That only works when you're weak and they're strong.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 1, 2017

Missing pieces.

This tape recorder has that Leroy Brown kind of problem. You know ... it looks like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone. Guess it must have been messin' with the wife of a jealous dehumidifier.

All right, well, it's no secret that Big Green has a technology problem or two, even with an in-house mad science advisor like Mitch Macaphee. Our machines are aging, our circuits are frayed, our relays are frosted, and the electric bill's unpaid. (That was an accidental rhyme, by the way.) Most of our recording devices have at least one tooth missing. I've got an Evil Twin direct box that needs surgery. Our VS2480 deck has finally been retired for a system that's maybe six years newer (i.e. only nine years old).

Hey ... if you're a real band, that shouldn't matter, right? Got a second-hand guitar and a panama hat? Start busking. Got a broken-down upright piano that's barely upright? Grab a tin cup and start pounding those dusty keys. That's the musician's work ethic. Not super popular around here, I must say. We make music without much of a thought to monetizing it. God no - that's Anti-Lincoln's job. We just put our heads down in the studio. Old antimatter Abe sits in the den and moves the numbers around. Occasionally they add up to something edible.

I think I see what the problem is...Speaking of missing pieces, our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN, is massively overdue. The reason/excuse? Well ... we produced eight songs, mixed seven, and thought we were freaking done. Matt was plugging the show together and, well ... there was this gaping hole where a Nixon song should go. So it's back to the mixing board with us, and the June episode is now turning into the September episode. But people ... think of it. Eight new songs, written on the fly and recorded from scratch ... on a new (to us) recording system, no less! Add to that some chasing around after falcons and the usual summer distractions, and you've got an abysmally late podcast. But, hopefully, it will be one for the books. (Eight new songs, people.)

I think that brings our Ned Trek catalog up to about 70 tracks. Christ on a bike. There's got to be an album in there somewhere, right?