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Friday, June 23, 2017

More verb.

Give me a little more slack on this XLR. Little more ... little more ... woof! That's good. Now point the speaker down over the side of the hole. There's a good chap.

Right, well ... you've caught us in the midst of a pretty typical dilemma for bands as unsuccessful and under-resourced as Big Green. You probably know what I'm talking about (because I sure as hell don't). You've come to expect us to scrape our way through every situation, living in squat houses and lean-tos, taking the cheap seats on pretty much any mode of transportation you can name. So what the hell - we're not some fancy-ass successful band that can afford racks of expensive gear. We've got a bunch of second-hand kit that's held together with masking tape ... because that's what our audience demands.

So, when you need reverb, and you don't have an expensive effect unit, or even an old, cranky one, what the hell do you do? I'll tell you what - you just lower a microphone down the tunnel to the center of the Earth that's in your basement and then pipe in your tracks. It's a little boomy, but it beats the hell out of the reverb spring in my antiquated fender twin. This isn't the first time we've had to go old school - and by "old school", I mean effects that are almost entirely environmental in nature, like getting echo by scrambling up a hillside and shouting real loud. (Just be sure to bring a jar with you so you can catch the echo.)

No dice, Mitch?It's when you get into things like distortion that this approach gets a little tricky. Sometimes we just plug a guitar cord into Marvin (my personal robot assistant) and have him jump in place; though that ends up sounding a bit more like tremolo. I was thinking of asking Mitch to attach a leslie rotating horn to Marvin's head so that we can get a better B-3 sound while he's jumping up and down, but Mitch would probably just wave that suggestion off. (He's kind of picky when it comes to big ideas.)

Thing is, if you have a big empty space, or even a little one (like, say, between your ears), you can get a decent reverb effect. Tech tip for the day from Generation Reverb.

Between truces.

It's been more than 15 years and we're still at war in Afghanistan; a deployment and occupation considerably longer than that of the now-defunct Soviet Union. It's been more than 14 years and we're still at war in Iraq, a conflict longer than the one military historian Dilip Hiro once described as "The Longest War" (the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s). We're killing people in Roqqa, Syria, in Mosul, Iraq, in Yemen, and quite a few other places. Far from stepping away, we are preparing to double down, sending another contingent of thousands of American troops to Afghanistan on some quixotic effort to tamp down the wildfire we helped ignite thirty-seven years ago.

Well, it was at the time.Endless war in an of itself is now an invariant reality of modern U.S. foreign policy, regardless of which major party holds the reins of power. The broad political consensus has built a nearly unassailable war machine - not in the sense that it is impervious to military defeat, but rather that it is designed to run on and on regardless of what the American people have to say about it. The killing machine is well insulated from the voting, tax paying public - there's no conscription, no war tax, no apparent sacrifice associated with these extended deployments except with respect to the volunteer soldiers who are sent to fight, be grievously wounded, and even die. The beauty of this political creation is that it appears to defy gravity; only a herculean effort on the part of the American people could stand a chance of ending these wars.

Of course, Donald Trump has now been stitched into the driver seat of the killing machine. I am among those who consider this a very dangerous state of affairs, even though the background level of warfare remains about the same. The danger is in the fact that Trump is (a) phenomenally ignorant, (b) supremely incurious about any topic that doesn't bear directly on him, his image, his family, his fortune; and (c) recklessly arrogant in a third-world dictator kind of way. His response to foreign policy challenges reminds me of D'artagnan on his first day in Paris, unwittingly challenging all three of his future fellow musketeers to a duel. A dispute with the Syrians, the Russians, the North Koreans, and the Iranians all in one week. It's not too hard to imagine a quintet of new conflicts breaking out all at the same time, largely because Trump doesn't really understand or believe in diplomacy.

We live in dangerous times, to be sure. But at the very least, unless we all decide to make a point of it, we are well and truly stuck with these wars for years - even decades - to come.

luv u,

jp

Friday, June 16, 2017

Drill down.

There's a hole in daddy's hammer mill where all the money goes. At least that's what it feels like. Christ on a bike, why is it every mad science idea ends up costing a fortune? What, between the magnetos and the giant vacuum tube-driven linear amplifiers, we are completely tapped out.

I should explain. Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor and inventor of Marvin (my personal robot assistant), has plugged together a special elevator-like tram car dubbed the Giardiniera Twelve for us to ride to the center of the earth using the handy hole to the center of the earth we now have in the hammer mill basement. We've already sent Marvin down a few floors for a look see, and it seems promising. He came back with a hotdog and a Dodgers pennant, so my guess is that we have found a tunnel to the 1950s. Think of all the songs we can lift!

That said, there is a bit of a problem monetizing this idea. I understand there may be intelligent life down under, but what are their tastes? Do they like 50s pop music or 90s grunge? It's even conceivable that Where's all the work at?they may not like either of those things ... though that would be okay, because we don't really play either of those things. That said, finding an audience on the surface of the Earth is hard enough. Finding one in the mantle or (God forbid!) in the chewy nougat center of the Earth will probably be next to impossible.

And then there are the logistical challenges. Yes, they are many. It wouldn't be so bad if we were an un-amplified banjo-toting accordion-squeezing polka band, but we are not that (at least this week). I ask you - how the hell are we going to pack amps, a drum set, an electric piano, a stack of guitar cases, and PA components - along with ourselves - into what amounts to a smallish elevator? Mitch is working on a solution as we speak, but I'm not sanguine. The last time we tried to do something like this, he pulled out a shrink-ray that reduced my Martin D-1 to the size of an ashtray. Now I use it as an ashtray. Not real good.

So we're not that close to plugging that hole. Let's see what Mitch can do ... and how much it will cost.

Targets.

The most recent heinous and indefensible mass shooting in America (or nearly so - there's already been another one) was targeted on members of the House of Representatives. That is part of what makes it unusual. The other part is that it was perpetrated by someone nominally on the left. Typically we get some kind of Klan kid, like Dylan Roof, or some crazy cracker shooting up south Asians because they're darker than him (and it's usually a him). Whatever the motive, the shooting at the baseball diamond was a despicable act, plain an simple. And it happened in the usual way: the perpetrator purchased the guns, apparently legally, from a licensed firearms dealer (a 7.62 -caliber rifle and a 9 mm handgun), no problem. The kind of transaction that most if not all of the players on the GOP baseball team wholeheartedly support.

Lets all be nice to each other.Will this lead to a brief era of civility and bipartisanship? Maybe, but probably not. Civility, we should remember, starts at the top, and with a legion of TV pundits decrying the toxic tone of political rhetoric, I have yet to hear anyone call out President Trump for setting that tone during his campaign last year, even to the point of suggesting that "second amendment people" should act against his opponent. Then there were his entreaties from the podium to "beat the hell out of him!" at his various rallies, reminding the mob of the good old days when protesters were "carried out on a stretcher". Oh yeah, that did happen.

And bipartisanship? I tend to agree with Chris Hayes that it doesn't have a very positive history. I'm sure whatever this severely deranged one-time Bernie supporter intended, this act of domestic terrorism will only result in pushing forward the very agenda he professed to despise. Thanks for helping, asshole. Political fights are what democracy is all about, and acts of violence tend to take the air out of them. It's no contradiction to sincerely wish Steve Scalise and the other victims a full and rapid recovery while at the same time holding the opinion that Scalise is a total dick on the issues. Many in Congress have trouble squaring that circle, and given the speed with which Ryan and McConnell are advancing their legislative priorities, there's simply no time for any interval of acquiescence and deferral.

As for this moronic shooter, the only thing he accomplished was more needless bloodshed and providing additional cover for House members like Claudia Tenney not to hold public meetings.

luv u,

jp

Friday, June 9, 2017

Level nine.

That's not a gondola, Mitch. That's a freaking elevator. Six weeks of screwing around, scraping up all of the coins out of our various seat cushions, and what have we got - an elevator to the center of the Earth. You don't need an elevator to go there - the gravity will take you!

Right, well, as you can see, we're grappling with the contradictions that fall out of having a tunnel to the Earth's core in the basement of your squat house. I'm sure you've had days like that. Why is it a tunnel and not a mere hole? Well, it is the intended use of the thing that defines the thing, and it is our intent to use it as a pathway to fame and fortune ... or at least, remuneration equal to the cost of a cheap sandwich at the local diner. Big Green doesn't aim high, people - that's why we're looking down a hole to the center of the Earth and seeing opportunity.

And though I may have just read the riot act to Mitch, an elevator like the Giardiniera Twelve isn't necessarily a bad thing to have when you have a hole of this type in your basement. It might prove to be damned convenient, particularly if some of the subterranean strata call for a closer look. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) can act as the operator - he's got the right gravitas (or lack of same), and of course he's been down the hole once already. In fact, it's thanks to the insta-matic camera Mitch installed in Marvin's stomach that we have any idea of what's going on down there. Apparently, quite a lot.

Squx?Just as an example: nine levels down, there's a cavernous opening that leads into what looks like a geological circus tent. Interestingly, the stalactites look like rhesus monkeys and the stalagmites look like sea turtles. An enterprising young robot assistant might make his or her way down there with a box of paints, go to work, and before you know it you have the Petrified Creatures Museum. Either that or the lawn ornament shop that, purely by chance, was established right next door.

That's just one level, folks. Lots more where that came from. Get ready to crank up the pit elevator - this band is going down!

Gulf War IV.

Yes, I know ... Trump is melting down, and I should say something about it. The truth is, there's little to say that hasn't already been said. It's not like the Republican Congress is going to do anything about him - far from it. They invented the freaking guy. He is their Frankenstein's monster. If they ever pull an intervention on him, it's going to start with, "Hello, handsome!"

You are not evil ... you are GOOD!Besides, there are more important things going on, partly as a result of having a dolt as president. The Qatar crisis is one of those things, and after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Yemen (or the Saudi controlled piece of it), and Egypt abruptly broke off diplomatic relations with the country, Trump had this to say on Twitter:

"...so good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!"

Qatar, mind you, hosts a major U.S. military base that serves as a staging area for operations in the Gulf. Setting aside for a moment the absurdity of a state like Saudi Arabia accusing someone of sponsoring terrorism, Trump's comments appear to confirm that the U.S. gave a green light to the Gulf Cooperation Council states to pull this number. The White House subsequently backed off of the President's drunk tweet, claiming the president had called the Qatari Emir and "emphasized the importance of all countries in the region working together to prevent the financing of terrorist organizations and stop the promotion of extremist ideology," essentially offering to mediate. That sounds like the foreign policy establishment stepping in somewhat hurriedly to keep this from spinning out of control.

My reaction to this has been, what the fuck? I think the most reasonable explanation I've heard thus far was from Trita Parsi on Democracy Now!, suggesting that Saudi and its allies may have done this as a strike against Al Jazeera in advance of a renewed offensive against Iran (which just got attacked by ISIS extremists on Wednesday). Do we need a fourth Gulf War, after Iran-Iraq (1980-88), the Gulf War/Desert Storm (1991), and the Iraq War (2003 - whenever)? Apparently Trump thinks so.

This was a dramatic and disturbing departure. Not confident about what will come next.

luv u,

jp

Friday, June 2, 2017

Going down.

I wish to hell this thing had an emergency call box in it. Or head cushions - that would be nice. Not to mention some kind of shock absorbing device on the bottom. Am I being to engineer-y? Sorry.

Well, our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee has unveiled his concept gondola. He's calling it the "Giardiniera Twelve", but it beats the hell out of me why. I think that's what he had for lunch last Thursday. He's got some kind of naming system going, that's all I know. In any case, it's kind of a cramped little thing, taller than it is wide, cylindrical, made of some unnamed shiny metal that I will refer to as inobtanium. In all frankness, it kind of looks like an air drop bomb of some kind, without the tail fins. Coincidence?

Anyhow, there's a pocket door on one side. The idea is that you climb into this thing, you lower it down the hole, and when you line up with some interesting subterranean stratum, the door slides open and you step out to take a look. Sounds simple enough, right? Ride down to level 47, open the portal, and start looking for gigs. What could possibly go wrong? Okay, that's a thing.Marvin (my personal robot assistant) will actually take the helm of the Giardiniera Twelve (or G12, for brevity's sake), sitting in the cockpit like a crane operator, pulling levers and waving his claw over art nouveau-looking glass lights that pulse in response. Very futuristic.

Christ on a bike, after all this crazy talk about urban gondolas, who on Earth would have imagined that we would be the first to actually implement one? Like so much in life, innovation is driven by circumstance. Hey, we've got a hole to the center of the Earth. We've got this thing and it's golden - we're not giving it away for nothing! That is to say, we may as well make the best of an odd situation. And if Mitch thinks we can make money by jumping into a glorified tin can and dropping to the Earth's core, that's good enough for me. Sort of. (Talk me out of it.)