Friday, March 16, 2018


That thing shouldn't be allowed in a residential neighborhood. Yeah, I'm talking to you, Mitch. I don't want the mayor to send us nasty letters again. Five letters in one week is enough for any abandoned mill-squatter.

Oh, hi. I'm pretending to have just noticed you, looking at the blog post I wrote days ago. (What a giveaway!) We're having personnel issues again here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, high in the hill country of Central New York, far from the beaten path. It's my own fault for taking on a mad science advisor. Sure, he helps us get to Neptune and other distant worlds. Sure, he bends time like Superman bends steel bars (i.e. with his bare hands). But the utility ends where the madness begins, and let me tell you something, friends - Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, is as crazy as Jeremy Shaw's proverbial shithouse rat.

What's the source of the current eviction order? Well, Mitch heard an internet rumor that a certain Chinese Space Station - the Tiangong 1 - has been sputtering in a decaying orbit for the past few years, neglected by its owners, causing a threat to navigation high above the Earth's surface. He is now taking it upon himself to defend planet Earth by shooting the sucker out of the sky. Bet you can't guess how. No, not with a rocket. Nope, not a deadly Edward Teller-style laser. No, not an electron lasso (is that even a thing?). Give up? Me too. I don't freaking know.

Frankly, this seems a little dicey.All I can tell you, honestly, is that this project has consumed Mitch and our courtyard at the same time. He's spent the last week building a big howitzer-like monstrosity with a barrel that's got to be 80 feet long and a control panel with gauges, levers, flashing lights, electrical arcs, and steam whistles. (I think those are just for laughs, frankly.) Mitch refers to the device as his Positron Howitzer, though what that means I cannot tell you. But from what I've seen he can zero in on that sputtering space station and plant some kind of projectile in its side in a way that has the potential to ruin its whole day.

Matt wants me to dispatch Marvin (my personal robot assistant) to City Hall with some kind of peace offering - donuts or potato soup, something like that. I don't know. Those official threats are the only personal letters I receive anymore ... I'm a little reluctant to let them go.


The Trump clown car shed some bozos this week, most notably the media's favorite cabinet member, Rex Tillerson, former head of Exxon Mobil, who managed to seem avuncular and unthreatening in comparison with most of his colleagues - this while he systematically dismantled the State Department. Still, he did appear to be perhaps the greatest naysayer on tearing up the Iran deal. With the Koch Brothers invention Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, I'm sure we will nudge much closer to the 2000 bombing runs he once suggested as an effective means of halting the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. In a saner age, that alone might have been disqualifying, but certainly not today.

Trump's new torturer.So, we'll now have an Iran warmonger as chief diplomat. And in Pompeo's old position at the head of the CIA, we will have the current deputy director Gina Haspel, a veteran of the Bush II-era Agency and a big fan of "rough" interrogation techniques (also known as torture). Haspel was directly involved in a CIA black site in Thailand where the Agency perpetrated torture of numerous individuals, including Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded by our operatives 89 times. She arrived after Zubaydah left, but later saw to it that incriminating tapes of this and similar episodes would be destroyed. For all those boning up on obstruction of justice standards in relation to the Trump White House, you might want to apply those standards to Haspel.

The torture crimes - essentially crimes against human dignity - are bad enough. But the fact that Haspel was part of an operation that was instrumental in the abuse of Zubaydah, whose extracted false testimony was key to the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq, raises this to another level. You know the plausible story on this - Bush/Cheney and company had decided upon the Iraq invasion well before 9/11 (and on some level, before taking office), but they needed a plausible pretext. They had no convincing evidence for their claims regarding an Al Qaeda connection with Saddam Hussein or an active nuclear program, so they put the torturers to work at doing what they do best - getting people to say anything ... ANYTHING ... to stop the abuse. The very fact that they waterboarded Zubaydah 89 times indicates that they were looking for some response in particular. They got it, bogus as it obviously was, and from that proceeded the catastrophic Iraq war that is still killing people 15 years later - a conflict that, three years in, had resulted in more deaths than the 7-year Syrian civil war.

No one has been held accountable for the crime of the Iraq invasion, nor for the torture regime. I don't expect that to happen anytime soon, but the least we can do is to stop rewarding the culprits with higher office. Maybe it wouldn't be entirely fair to start with Haspel, but we have to start somewhere.

luv u,


Friday, March 9, 2018

Carry that weight.

What the hell. You mean I can't just stack the bricks like building blocks? I have to cement them together ... with real cement? Jesus, this is harder than I thought. Maybe I'll do the ditch-digging instead. That sounds easy.

Oh, hi. Just having a little tĂȘte-a-tĂȘte with my vocational guidance counselor. Sure, I know what you're thinking - I'm a little long in the tooth to start a new trade, right? Well, if tooth length had anything to do with it, I might try dentistry. No, this is just another of those exercises Big Green runs through from time to time when we're trying to find our asses with both hands. It's kind of an experiment in anarcho-syndicalism, but don't tell the magistrate - it's only the 10th and we've got a dozen demerits already this month.

As you know, Big Green is not a company, not a partnership, not a corporation ... not even a non-profit (though we certainly have the financial means to be a non-profit ... meaning we don't make any profit). We are a musical collective, all for one and one for all. So by necessity, we have to share the burden of work that no one particularly likes to do. You know, work that SHOULD be done by a ROBOT if we HAD such a convenience .... MARVIN. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) decided to take a week in the Seychelles. I didn't know he had the shekels for that little junket, but apparently he's been saving up.

Is that REALLY how it's done?Okay, so we live in this crumbling hammer mill, see? And it's mostly made out of bricks and mortar, see? In fact its hey-day was in the 1930s and 40s, when people ended most of their sentences with "see", see? Nyah. Well, it needs some patching done here and there, and well ... I was last pick, just like with the basketball teams in gym class. So it was off to the brickyard to get some of their wares, then back here to start patching, only to return to the brickyard because I forgot to buy cement, then got all the way back before realizing that the bags of concrete I bought were dry powder, not some kind of play-dough like substance. THAT's when I started thinking about digging those ditches.

Well, there' s a lot a man like me can do. But most of it involves sleeping. Zzzzzzzzz.....

Empire news.

With the shit-cyclone rotating around the Trump presidency on a daily basis, it's hard to keep track of what's going on elsewhere in the world. Most of the press coverage goes straight to Trump, Kushner, the Mueller probe, Stormy Daniels, on and on. Mind-numbing, and I think that's probably what they're aiming at. I always knew reality television was more than just bad entertainment - it gave me the creeps from The Real World and Survivor on forward, and now it's president of the United States. Not a good outcome for a whole host of reasons.

Anyway, there is a world out there, and stuff is happening in it that I feel we should pay attention to. Here are a few items I'm looking at.

Peace?Korea - This was a momentous week in the standoff over the Korean peninsula, largely thanks to the efforts of South Korean President Moon Jae-In and the willingness on the part of Pyongyang to come to the table. Trump will take credit for anything good that happens, and that's fine - sure, he's nearly blown us all up over this, but let him have his squeak toy of triumph, so long as there's no Korean War II. That would be a good thing for the world, as the hair-hat ass-clown said a few days ago. Will he meet with Kim Jong-Un as was announced on Thursday? No man can say. More on this next week.

Yemen - In the Senate, Bernie Sanders, Mike Lee, and Chris Murphy have introduced a war powers resolution calling on the administration to stop supporting Saudi Arabia's murderous assault on Yemen. SJ Resolution 54 has been introduced though not voted on yet - I encourage you to contact your senators and urge them to vote for this legislation. You can get their phone numbers off the web, or use the Stance app to send a recorded phone message (see for details).

Iran - There's a good interview on Jeremy Scahill's podcast Intercepted with Iranian scholar Holly Dagres about the history of the relationship between the United States and Iran and how its current system of government is a direct response to our interference (in the form of an coup) in the 1950s. Dagres also talks about the MEK terror group that counts many American political figures among its friends, including John McCain (big surprise), Howard Dean, and others. (Check it out at ) Also, give a listen to Jeremy's interview with Nikhil Singh in that same episode.

All right ... back to work with me.

luv u,


Friday, March 2, 2018

Light on.

Okay, commence recording. The light is on, folks. No, not THAT light! That's the freaking microwave! That just means your burrito is cooked. I mean the production light. Jesus.

Oh, hi. Yeah ... we're working on some more music, but it's not obvious what exactly we're working on. Is it an album? An EP? A single? Some throwaway tunes for the podcast? Anyone's guess. All I know is that the light goes on and I start playing. When it goes out, I stop. Sometimes it flickers on and off, and that makes my job a bit harder. I see that and I drop in a lot of eighth-note rests - it can sound kind of funky if you close your eyes (and your ears, too).

We've made something of a habit of recording over the decades. Given that we're not a performing band at this point, at least not in the conventional sense, recordings pretty much amount to our "performances". But recording has been a bit of an obsession over the years, from Matt's reel-to-reel and cassette tapes, to 4-track cassette, to recording in various studios, to acquiring an 8-track Tascam DA-88 deck, then a 16/24-track Roland VS2480 workstation, and now a Cubase system. Hey ... we're archivists. Why fight it?

Is the light on? As part of our THIS IS BIG GREEN February podcast, I included a couple of old numbers drawn from demos. One of those was digitized straight from a standard audio cassette, simply because we never owned the original media it was on - a 2500-ft reel of half-inch audio tape from 1986, probably now nothing more than cinders. The 1981 recording (Silent as a Stone) was taken from a reel-to-reel stereo dub - you can hear the tape (or my playback machine) failing at the end. That song came from a session where we recorded four songs, including one of mine and one of Matt's. The 1986 version of "Slipping and Sliding" was recorded on an 8-track reel-to-reel machine as part of a 4-song demo; that I only have an audio cassette of.

So here we are again, toiling away on audio artifacts that someone will happen upon years from now and scratch their heads over. Which is pretty much how we find listeners. It's a process that works on geological time, basically, like making feldspar. (Hmmmm ... good idea for an album title. Feldspar ... )

Decision point.

This past week, the Supreme Court decided that undocumented immigrants don't have the same fundamental rights as American citizens. That's essentially what their decision in Jennings v. Rodriguez amounts to. People who cross into the country can be detained indefinitely, as they have been under the last four administrations, as per a narrow majority on the Court. (The opinion was written by George W. Bush appointee Samuel Alito.) It was a 5 to 3 decision, with Justice Kagan recusing herself, so for me the lesson of this - and other cases - is that elections matter and that people on the center-left need to start voting on the issue of the Supreme Court and who will garner a lifetime appointment to that august body.

Supreme Court: Not just a building.If Hillary Clinton had been elected president, she would have appointed someone relatively progressive to the Supreme Court to fill the seat currently held by Neil Gorsuch (illegitimately, in my view). That would likely have rendered a 4 to 4 split in the Rodriguez case, which would have allowed the lower court ruling in Rodriguez's favor stand. This case makes a material difference in the lives of thousands upon thousands of human beings - individuals and families making the dangerous crossing into this country, seeking a marginally better existence than what they face back home.

This is not the only instance - there will be many more. The Friedrichs case in 2016 was another prime example of why we can't sit on our hands, waiting for the perfect candidate. That was another 4 to 4 tie, allowing the lower court decision to stand, this time in favor of allowing unions to collect agency fees from non-member employees. Janus v. AFSCME, which is now before the court, addresses this same issue, and as a result of Trump's election and appointment of Gorsuch, it is likely to go against the unions. That will likely commence a death spiral for public sector unions, undermining the last vestige of organized labor strength in this country. That's a disaster for workers, and it's effing because people couldn't bring themselves to vote for someone they didn't like (Clinton) in 2016 in order to save the effing Supreme Court.

It gets worse. Justice Kennedy is likely to step down before the end of Trump's term. That likely means a permanent reactionary majority on the Court for decades to come. That said, it's never too late to learn. So people: whatever else you do politically, vote to make a difference, not to express your identity. Push the Democratic party in a progressive direction through action, internal pressure, and primary campaigns, but do not forget what's at stake when the general election arrives. Lives literally hang in the balance.

luv u,


Friday, February 23, 2018

Inside February (again)

Jesus, Marvin. When I told you to release the podcast, I didn't mean put it on the end of a stick and hold it over your head. I meant "release it" in a more modern, technical sense. Are you sure you're a robot? Oh, okay. That's news to you. Whoops.

Well, it appears that Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has learned where his last name came from. Red letter day for him, at least. Me? I have to walk you through a podcast you probably haven't heard because my mechanical friend thinks the act of dropping an episode is something akin to playing lacrosse. No matter - push on!

Here's what we have in this month's THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast:

Ned Trek 36: Grope in the Fold - This installment of our now long-running Ned Trek series (a parody mashup of classic Star Trek, Mr. Ed, and that thing they call the Republican party) commandeers a second-season (1967) script entitled "Wolf in the Fold". Action includes some first-rate screaming, a gripping courtroom scene, and numerous instances of Mr. Ned telling Perle to shut up. Simply can't be missed.

Marvin blew it, man.Put The Phone Down - Matt and I sit down for our usual rangy discussion of whatever floats into either of our tiny brains. This month's random topics include a recap of the Ned Trek episode you just heard; a brief riff on a local meat market and its longstanding sausage-based slogan; Matt's recollection of a backstage fight between actors playing Buffalo Bill and Jesus Christ in a locally-produced musical back in 1978 or so; Our thoughts on the unusual, perhaps singular, playing style of our late friend and one-time guitarist Tim Walsh; Some news of beavers and sweet potatoes .... and so on.

Song: Two Lines - A Ned Trek / Sulu song from a couple of years ago; one of my personal favorites. Sulu sings of the anguish of only having two lines in any given episode. Chorus features common two-line speeches from Sulu's role in classic Star Trek.

Song: Silent as a Stone - Deep archive pick. This song long predates our Big Green moniker, but it's still us. Recorded in the long departed Music Workshop studio in Utica, NY (producer: Bill Scranton) back in 1981, this very weird little number features some of that insane Tim Walsh guitar work Matt and talked about. Head scratcher, but that's how we sounded in 1981.

Song: It Should've Been Me - Closer on our 2013 album Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick. Just because.

Song: Don't Tell Rick - A song we produced after Cowboy Scat. It's basically a plea to our audience of five not to tell Rick Perry about the album; particularly about the lyric in "It Should've Been Me" about playing with his dong. Still working on the video.

Song: Slipping and Sliding - Our cover of a Little Richard number. (Don't tell Rick!) This is another deep archive pick, from our very first recording as Big Green - a demo tracked at Ned Danison's brother's garage studio back in 1986 or so. One of the songs we did in those days.

Peace out.