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Saturday, December 27, 2014

The year (2014) that was.

It's the end of the year, and news organizations far and wide are doing their annual retrospective clip shows. From a production standpoint they are a terrific money saver, no doubt, which would explain why the various networks seem so enthusiastic about it. This is the week when you get a distillation of the year's worst reporting; a big ball of conventional wisdom, served up on a plate. Open wide!

NPR's Morning Edition - as reliable a servant of empire as any imperial bureaucrat could hope for - wasted no words in putting one of the world's most dangerous conflicts into the proper context:

You can learn a lot about 2014 by tracing the story of one man, Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader hosted the Winter Olympics proudly showing off a place that's near and dear to him, the Black Sea Resort of Sochi. But the feeling of global goodwill there disappeared so quickly. Putin infuriated the West by annexing Crimea then he stirred a deadly conflict in Eastern Ukraine.The West imposed sanctions, and there's been talk of a new Cold War. But at home, even with his economy tanking, Putin remains popular.
This just in from Empire News.

That's David Greene, now Morning Edition co-host and formerly one of NPR's correspondents in eastern Europe. Here he is joining his colleagues at all the major news networks parroting the administration line about the crisis in Ukraine, making it a story about Putin rather than a story about a decades-long conflict over economic and military policy on the continent. This is a lead-in to a conversation with Peter Pomerantsev, a Russian-born writer at The Atlantic, in which they dissect the phenomenon of the manipulative Russian leader, pointing out the appalling fact that the Russian government is (gasp!) "choreograph(ing) politics to make Putin look good." Whoever heard of such an outrage!

They followed this edifying conversation with a story from two NPR European correspondents illustrating how Putin's government is offering support to right-wing opposition parties across Europe, delivering funding in a way that would be illegal within the borders of Russia. In other words, NPR has made the astonishing discovery that Russia does exactly what we do in nations all around the world - sluice money into opposition groups, support opposition candidates with money and other resources, and insert ourselves into their political process in a manner forbidden by U.S. law if someone were to try it here. In fact, this is precisely what we've been doing in Ukraine as part of our efforts to integrate them into the European trading bloc and, ultimately, NATO.

With a long history of devastating invasions from the West, that's a non-starter for Russia, just as Mexico's entry into a foreign military alliance would be frowned upon in Washington. But far be it from NPR or any other major corporate news organization to report on that. That would require stepping out of line ever so slightly. Never going to happen.

luv u,

jp

Friday, December 26, 2014

Inside Christmas.

Well, so that was Christmas, eh? What the hell. Kind of ... over, isn't it? Play it again.Hope all of you are having a good holiday season. Sure, there comes a time when the plate is empty, the music falls silent, and the final champagne bubble pops. But take heart, friends ... that time has yet to arrive. So for the nonce, as Governor Scott Walker would say, Molotov!

So, what is your holiday story? Can hardly wait to hear it. Here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, we've been observing the season in the usual way. All the traditional rituals. And of course, the annual holiday podcast. Kind of puny, actually. I don't know, maybe ... 36 minutes of pure lame-ass awesomeness. WE BRING THE AWESOME.

I think you can imagine what the low lights might be. Here are some of the highlights:

Gold And Silver - Captain Romney sings a song of Christmas cheer from the perspective of an acquisitive, rapacious, mammon worshiper, bent on gain at all cost. Very festive indeed. Easy to waltz to. Contains a twist on every holiday music convention imaginable.

Winter Lock - A new version of a song Matt wrote for one of his Christmas tapes back in the day. What day? Not sure even I remember. Nineties sometime. Probably about the same vintage as most of the songs on 2000 Years To Christmas. Matt penned the majority of his Christmas songs between 1986 and 1996, so pick a year.

Head Cheese Log - This is a cut from 2000 Years To Christmas that we tagged on to the end of this super-skimpy holiday special just to round it off a little bit. Another waltz, for chrissake. What the hell - have we suddenly gone all Wagnerian on you?

Okay, well ... it's a humble gift, even by the standards of Big Green, but it is all we have to offer. We had the choice between too little and too late, and we chose the former. So hell ... enjoy. Happy new year and all the rest of it. Now ... back to work with me.

Politics takes a holiday.

Got a lot to say about a lot of things, but not tonight. I will add to this post later with some reflections on, well, end of year reflections. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Yule be sorry.

Marvin (my personal robot assistant)! Can you come in here for a few minutes and vacuum up all these fragments? No, not with your mouth! Use your upholstery attachment. Silly robot.

I don't know about this, Lincoln.Lots to do around the holidays, as you well know. Some tasks are more challenging than others. I've always found bending candy canes particularly difficult. A lot of breakage. There's got to be a better way! (Matt is thinking about taking a correspondence course in pretzel-bending, so maybe some of those skills will be transferable. We shall see.)

As I was saying last week, we have some holiday traditions that we try to observe on a yearly basis. Some of them could be described as strange; others, just a little off the beaten path. Occasionally we try out a new "tradition" and see if it sticks, like that year we put the man-sized tuber on an upside-down wash basin and decorated him like a Christmas tree. I think that was Anti-Lincoln's idea. Anyway, it lacked that kind of stickiness I was referring to earlier. (Tubey still isn't talking to Anti-Lincoln ... not that tubey talks all that much ordinarily.)

Probably our best-known tradition is writing, recording, and releasing a parcel of Christmas songs - that is, Christmas-themed pop songs. That stretches way back to the late 1980s when brother Matt used to hand out cassette tapes to all and sundry on Christmas eve. Our first album, 2000 Years to Christmas, was a collection of some of our favorites from those ancient tapes - 13 songs drawn from what was easily a catalog of about 60 to 75 songs in total over eight years or so. (That was a large component of Matt's musical output, though by far not the majority of songs he wrote over that period.)

Now we put them out on our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN. Some of the ones we've put out in recent years are additional selections from Matt's cassette tape holiday basket, re-recorded in our basement studio. Others are more recent concoctions.

So, look under your tree this Christmas for another parcel of holiday cheer from Big Green. Got a laptop and wi-fi? Plunk it under the tree and point your browser to big-green.net/pod. It's that simple. Santa works in mysterious ways.

Big week.

This has been one of those weeks, to be sure. A lot has happened and very quickly, so let me take these one at a time.

Cuba. President Obama announced a reset of relations with Cuba this past Wednesday, an initiative that includes establishment of an American embassy in Havana and the release of the remaining members of the Cuban Five, as well as the return of Alan Gross. This somewhat surprising announcement was, of course, met with flaming hair by the conservative majority in Congress and by other longtime critics of the Cuban revolution. Marco Rubio, for instance, bemoaned the fact that the maximalist goals of conservatives were not realized on the first day of the new relationship.

Patience, Marco! The cause of neoliberalism is not yet lost. To listen to Obama's defense of his decision, you would think the prime motivation for improved ties between the two countries is for the joys of capitalism to rain down on the hapless Cubans. God help them. Still, a pretty momentous day, to be sure.

What North Koreans find hard to forgetNorth Korea. When you produce a movie that makes a joke out of the assassination of the leader of a garrison state, its back against the wall for decades, you should respect a negative reaction. Agents purportedly working for North Korea have threatened violence against theaters running "The Interview", promising 9/11 type attacks, somewhat incredibly. SONY Pictures pulled the film, generating a mountain of criticism. An AP article suggested that SONY feared hostilities against Japan by a nuclear-armed North Korea.

This is pretty overblown. Rhetoric is one thing; credible threats are something else entirely. Pyongyang's rants against the United States and its allies are delivered in the absence of any capability to act upon them. On the other hand, when our government states that "all options are on the table" with regard to North Korea, and when we conduct massive joint maneuvers with South Korea (including mock invasions of the North), we do so in the context of overwhelming power that has been exercised against the North Koreans in the past. Best to remember that their section of the peninsula was utterly destroyed by our military in 1950-53; not a single standing structure remaining by the time we were done, and deaths in the millions. That leaves a lasting impression.

Our media-driven culture emphasizes the crazy when it focuses on North Korea. And sure, they seem particularly crazy when you ignore the history. History doesn't excuse malevolent behavior, but it does render it more comprehensible. At the very least, it enables you to understand why a comedy about assassinating their leader might, well, make them angry.

luv u,

jp

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas bot.

Oh, Christmas bot, oh, Christmas bot! It's hard to see just what you've got!

heres-bobYes, yes ... we're polishing up the holiday songs here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. T'is the season and all that. What, you're not familiar with the dirge of the Christmas Bot? Small wonder. We just made it up. What kind of songwriters would we be if we resorted to used Christmas Carols? It would be a total cop out. So we are resolved to write lame Christmas numbers each and every December, five minutes before we hastily record them and throw them up on the internet. You're welcome!

Legend has it that every year around this time, the sound of holiday ridiculousness wafts out of the old abandoned mill by the old abandoned canal in this old abandoned town. What an asinine legend. Just the sort of thing you'd expect in this lame backwater. Whoops - should have closed the window before I said that. Now all the neighbors know that I have NOTHING BUT CONTEMPT FOR THIS NEIGHBORHOOD!

Okay, well .... It's probably obvious to all of you that I not only do not like having neighbors here at the mill. And it may seem to you that I am trying to drive them away with my obnoxiousness. That couldn't be farther from the truth. We are trying to drive them away with the obnoxiousness of our raucous Christmas music. That's probably the best way to scare away undesirables. Trouble is, we can't keep it up for long enough to reach critical obnoxiousness mass, so we resort (as we always do) to Marvin (my personal robot assistant), who makes a fairly decent stereo system when he really tries. He just plugs his sorry ass into a couple of stereo speakers, plugs a memory stick into his ear, and cranks it up to twelve.

Unethical? Not a bit of it. We have no ethics, no code. That's what Big Green is all about. THAT'S WHY WE'RE ABOARD HER. Do I hear a "no" vote?

What worked.

The Senate report on torture (a.k.a. war crimes) perpetrated by our government is out, and of course, the vast majority of media and political commentary misses the point by a mile. As is often the case with discussion of this issue, the question of efficacy is paramount. Did torture "work"? Did it yield the intelligence our government needed, for instance, to conduct its unauthorized raid on a sovereign country (Pakistan) and assassinate the prime suspect in the 9/11/2001 terror attacks (rather than bring him to trial)? Does it, more generally, extract reliable, "actionable" information, or just a bunch of blather that victims of torture usually pipe up just to make the agony stop?

Dressed for The HagueThis discussion is not limited to the full-on, proud of all we did crew, like the execrable Dick Cheney, snickering from his podium, confident that he will never pay for his crimes against humanity. This is the discussion being advanced by Senators who supposedly oppose these interrogation techniques. They didn't work, they say. No useful intelligence was gained. What a strange conversation to be having at this moment in history, when we are confronted with detailed evidence of this latest foray (far from the first) into systematic abuse of those we seek to dominate and suppress.

These are crimes. They are explicit violations of both U.S. law and international law. Whether or not they "work" is immaterial, though I think it's been fairly well demonstrated that you can't torture the truth out of people. When someone robs a bank or shoots their neighbors in order to steal their car, we aren't particularly interested in whether or not they successfully obtained the goods. When people break the law, they should be held accountable and have their day in court. That's a conservative principle of long provenance.

Of course, what the torture program did produce was intelligence linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks. That was, of course, completely bogus, waterboarded out of Al Libbi. It's not hard to imagine how this worked. The Bush administration wanted to invade Iraq. They were, at some level, aware that torture may not be an ideal tool for extracting the truth, but it DOES work at getting people to say what you want to hear. Why else waterboard someone 80 times or more? In the end, they got what they wanted - a rationale for invasion.

So ... torture works, if your aim is to produce incendiary lies. That's what Bush/Cheney wanted, and the torture program didn't disappoint.

luv u,

jp

Friday, December 5, 2014

Prepping for the big one.

Remind me to tell Marvin (my personal robot assistant) not to leave the lights on all night. We've got the environment to consider. If we don't care about mother earth, who the hell will? Besides ... they freaking keep me up.

No, not THAT strange ... Oh, yes, my friends. Even here at the Cheney Hammer Mill we are preparing for the impending holiday season. Not without some trepidation, of course. Lord knows this time of year puts people into a kind of feeding frenzy, hyperactive shopping fever, whatever. They lose their reason. They get impatient and even nasty. It's a rough world out there, man. So why would we add our madness to the pile? No reason. Just looking for a way to keep busy.

So, what are we planning? Nothing much. Another podcast episode. Couple of new recordings. A bag of crisps. Some flashing lights. I don't know, what do YOU think we should do? We only know how to do one (or two) things. One of them is, well, play strange music. Not Anthony Braxton strange, but strange none the less. Okay, well ... as you know, we did a Christmas album once, like .... fifteen years ago. It was called 2000 Years To Christmas. And we've written, recorded, and released other Christmas themed songs since then, including a few last year.

This year, we've got a few more. All we have to do is get off of our sorry asses and record them. Then write, record, and post a holiday pageant of sorts. Can't say what the dimensions of said pageant would be, but it should probably be a big one. Should be song and dance numbers. Special guests should drop by unexpectedly, then perform carefully prepared duets with us. Perhaps wearing ridiculous getups and other worldly charm bracelets. They might even bring choruses of singers with them to join in! And presents!

Or maybe not. This is beginning to sound expensive. Which reminds me ... did Marvin leave the water on in the mud room? We're not made of money, you know!

Fighting for air.

Another grand jury delivers yet another unsatisfactory conclusion. Seems like prosecutors now have a workable model for not indicting the proverbial ham sandwich. Convene a grand jury for a specific case. Drop a metric ton of data on them with no clear guidance as to how to make sense of it. Invite the individual against whom charges are being considered to present his case to the jury without pointed cross-examination by prosecutors. Drag it on for an impossibly long time, so that the grand jury is exhausted and only too eager to get back to their lives. Next thing you know, the ham sandwich walks.

#ICantBreatheWhat does this prove other than the well-established fact that powerful institutions will always find innovative ways to protect themselves? Police are the strong arm of the government, which is itself a rough representation of the sentiments of the general population, this being a democracy. For decades, our politicians have built their careers on stoking fears over crime, particularly urban crime perpetrated by "scary black people". They employ coded versions of racial stereotypes deeply rooted in American society, going back to the arrival of the first African slaves on these shores. Police are the "thin blue line" between scary black people and your white person's home, your white person's family, your white person's privilege.

What did Eric Garner do to warrant being tackled and choked to death by a gang of cops? Was it selling loose cigarettes? I sincerely doubt it. Aside from blackness, what is it that he shared with Michael Brown and so many others? I contend that it is defiance - in Garner's case in particular, defiance of police authority in the presence of other African Americans. You could say the same for Michael Brown - he wasn't going to go quietly. If you stand up to injustice, challenge the officer's right to bend you to his will, you open yourself up to very harsh treatment, to the point of death. Defiance of authority, in my opinion, plays a key role in that decision by Darren Wilson to pull the trigger five more times once Michael Brown had already been shot.

This goes a lot deeper than anything that might be fixed by mounting cameras on police uniforms. A better start might be to put cameras on every black person in America.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 28, 2014

Roasted.

Mother of pearl. Is that the time? I thought the sun was getting kind of bright in here. Pull the blinds. No blinds? Arrgh. Hang another sheet over the window.

Noodles?Rolled out of bed a little tardy today. Who can blame me? After a gut-full of grub, a man's thoughts turn to hibernation. Big Green doesn't ordinarily celebrate major holidays, but we did relent this year and enjoy a modest Thanksgiving feast, prepared by the steady hand of our confidant Anti-Lincoln, who has elected to stay at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill while he considers his next steps. (I think he's contemplating some brand of global domination, but no details yet. Can't rush a genius!)

Some of you may recall that Lincoln's favorite dish was Chicken Fricasee. Well, that obviously meant something to Anti-matter Lincoln, if only in the sense that he wanted to run in the exact opposite direction with his holiday meal plan. What's the opposite of Chicken Fricasee, you may ask? In anti-Lincoln's twisted mind, it's dry noodles with tamari sauce sprinkled lightly over them. I think he dropped a couple of mint leaves in there, but that may have been an accident - we keep the tamari right behind the mint leaves. Coincidence? I don't think so!

So bloody hell, you never saw a band tear into a plate of noodles like we did last night. And when I say "plate", I mean one modest plate. Two forks on every noodle. Pretty feisty little dinner, but at least we were together. Stupid togetherness! I think only Marvin (my personal robot assistant) got his fill at our holiday table. And that's only because he takes his nourishment via two leads from a dry cell under his chair. Note to self: I've got to get him another cell for Christmas this year.

No "Black Friday" shopping for us, friends. After that singular repast, we will just stick close to the mill for a couple of days and do a little work on our annual Christmas podcast. I'd tell you what we're planning, but that would be telling. (It would also require us having planned something, which we most certainly have not.)

Justice be not swift.

Well, the verdict is in. I say "verdict" only because the prosecutor in the Michael Brown shooting investigation presented a trial-like case to the grand jury that included extensive exculpatory evidence, such as hours of testimony from the suspect himself - an approach that even Justice Scalia has considered irregular (though he has not, to my knowledge, commented on this specific case). I say "verdict" because Michael Brown himself was on trial in these grand jury proceedings, much as Trayvon Martin was while his killer, wannabe-cop George Zimmerman, was sitting in the dock without a care in the world.

Mr. Myth Maker.St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch ultimately provided the grand jury with a distorted picture of Michael Brown that made him out to be a superhuman, hyper aggressive, predatory cop-hater. Darren Wilson's description of Brown was surreal and, in my opinion, carefully concocted to create the impression that there was no other way to deal with this young man than with a hail of bullets. Brown's face was like that of a "demon"; he had the strength of "Hulk Hogan"; while being shot, Brown was "bulking up" so he could somehow charge through the officer's hysterical gunfire. This is myth making, pure and simple.

But the prosecutor's office didn't rely only on distorted racial myths in its quest to avoid an indictment. They also relied on distortions of the law, such as this item (as reported by Bill Moyers):

"[MSNBC host] Lawrence O’Donnell found that just before Darren Wilson testified, “prosecutors gave grand jurors an outdated statute that said police officers can shoot a suspect that’s simply fleeing.” SCOTUS ruled the statute unconstitutional in 1985.


To my mind, the issue that never truly gets examined is the question of whether a police officer is justified in firing that 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th shot, as opposed to shots 1 and 2. What kind of training did Darren Wilson have, that he would feel like a "5 year old" in a tussle with a young man like Brown? What prompted him to unload his handgun into someone who may not have been complying with orders, but who had evidently done nothing to warrant a summary death penalty? One could ask the same question of many other police shooters of young black men over the past ... I don't know ... century.

There does appear to be a serious "I am Darren Wilson" movement out there amongst law enforcement. We heard this recently from Utica's police chief:

“Our justice system is not perfect, but it’s one of the best in the world,” Utica police Chief Mark Williams said. “Whether it’s a police officer or civilian, everybody should be given their due process and justice isn’t always swift. There has to be an investigation, and you just can’t indict somebody just to appease people who have a dislike for police.”


So ... are Brown's mother and father just a couple of people "who have a dislike for police"? True, justice isn't always swift, but with attitudes like this prevalent in the management of our police departments, it is at a positive standstill.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 21, 2014

Inside the November podcast.

That was close. No, not the comet - that didn't end up being close at all. I mean the November podcast. We almost didn't post before Thanksgiving week, and that would have been a tragedy beyond measure. (Well, beyond my measure, anyway. Not real good at reading the old tragedy yardstick.)

Really big show (or shoe). Anyhow, now that Earth is out of danger (at least from external forces) we can take a few minutes to dissect this month's episode of THIS IS BIG GREEN, our podcast and the only avenue we have left for artistic expression. (Cue the violins.) So let's pop open the hood and see what's inside, shall we? Here goes ...

Ned Trek XXI: Old Maple Glory. Our episodes of the space horse-opera Ned Trek are loosely based on installments of classic Star Trek, as you probably know, except that the ship is named the Free Enterprise and it is commanded by Willard Mitt Romney and his talking dressage horse, Mr. Ned. This episode follows The Omega Glory, roughly speaking, with cousin Rick Perry as the renegade commodore who takes over a primitive, divided planet. The precious resource in contention is syrup. Lots of fist fights.

Check out our podcastNew Songs. Strewn carelessly throughout the Ned Trek episode are rough drafts of new Big Green songs that loosely describe the emotional currents of the program. Most of these have a sixties rock vibe about them; two are positively psychedelic, particularly the Nixon robot song, "Yorba Linda Mybalinda". Ned's song "Nobody Ride" is kind of trippy as well. Doc sticks with the sixties rock milieu with "Doc's Flapjacks", and Rick Perry does a celebrity comeback number called "Sugar Shack." Willard Mitt Romney chimes in with "Super Sugar Christ", a snappy little swing number. Spotlight on Richard Pearle for "Motherlode", another ode to unbridled greed. We've even included a College pep song for Rick Perry entitled "Hi-Yi-Yi-Yi-Yi," sung a capella.

Old Song. For good measure, we tossed in a replay of our number from last year, "Don't Tell Rick!" - our frantic plea to the listener of Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick not to blow us in to Governor Perry.

Random Conversation. Our "Put the phone down" segment includes some very impromptu singing, a dissection of the 2014 mid-term election, and other random rants.

So hey ... give it a listen, then give us a shout. We always read our email. (Explains a lot.)

Lucy ball.

The president has announced that he's taking executive action applying prosecutorial discretion to stop mass deportation of undocumented aliens in certain categories. This is the type of action he originally promised to take over the summer, then backed off by request of embattled red-state democrats, like Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor and others. (How did that work out?) Now that the disastrous election of 2014 is over, he is proceeding with the plan in the face of very vocal condemnation by Republicans in Congress and in statehouses across the nation. That, I confess, is an understatement. They, once again, have their hair on fire about this deal.

Meet president Eisenhower.Trouble is, Republicans ALWAYS have their hair on fire. It kind of devalues burning hair. All of this gas about how the president is going to poison the well by acting in this fashion; that Congress is ready to work with the president, but that this will screw it up. Hoo boy. If the president were to take them at their word on this at this point, I would worry for his sanity. They have been like Lucy and the football more times than I can count. Honestly, I don't know why Republicans don't like this guy. He's basically Eisenhower with rhetorical skills. His immigration announcement was full of a lot of "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" clap trap. He's deported more immigrants than any previous president. Sounds like their type.

Obama led with enforcement, as is the standard practice. The border is mined, folks! He ended with soaring rhetoric about what it means to be an American. In between was a promise not to deport the foreign-born parents of American citizens, as well as other undocumented immigrants who have been here five years or more. Now, why did he not do this before the election? Pryor would have lost anyway ... and frankly, was he worth saving? It's a bit like asking if "saving" Mary Landrieu is worth wrecking the planet with tar sands oil via the Keystone XL pipeline - basically the fuse leading to the climate bomb.

Either way, the Republicans threats against the president have been treated with the contempt they deserve. So one small point for Obama. What's next, Lucy? The ball's in your hands.

luv,

jp

Friday, November 14, 2014

Posse comet-at-us.

Electrodes to power! Turbines to speed! Hand on the main throttle, Marvin (my personal robot assistant)! Man, that's hard to say with any urgency.

Never hit nothin' that way.Oh, hi. Caught us in full-on crisis mode here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, as of now Planet Earth's first line of defense against the menace of stray comets invading the inner rings of our solar system (where most of us reside). Or so it would appear. Seems like the planetary defense systems maintained by major world governments have been caught asleep at the wheel on this one, so bloody hell, it's up to us to save Earth's bacon. And its beans. And, of course, its life-giving stilton cheese. I could go on, but again ... we're in CRISIS mode.

You've no doubt heard of the dry alien comet named "Comet 67P"? The European Union has just landed a probe on its surface with the intent of drilling into it. My guess is that they're looking for shale oil, though they vehemently deny that. Anyway, fracking or no, this has surely invoked the comets ire, as we have been reliably informed by our mad science adviser Mitch Macaphee. We had a pretty shrill Skype conversation last night during which he explained the whole thing to yours truly and my fellow Big Green denizens. Something to do with Baratold rays and a slight shift in field density. All the science, I don't understand! But I must take Mitch's word for it.

Anywho, the comet is good and angry. Wouldn't you be, too, if the EU had dropped a probe on you and ordered it to drill into your face? I know I would. Damned annoying. So Comet 67P is intent on crashing into the Earth's surface - a kind of cosmic "How do you like it?", I guess. Our only defense against this interstellar suicide bomber? Trevor James Constable's abandoned Orgone Generating Device. Mitch told us to point the array in the general direction of the approaching comet and crank it up to eleven. Sounds as good a method as any. That's supposed to counteract the comet manitou and correct the space time continuum ... or something. (Mitch was talking fast.)

So, look ... if it works, you should be seeing our podcast drop in the next few days. If it doesn't, well ... not to put too fine a point on it, but ... likely you won't see the podcast drop.

Difference making.

There's little that can be said about the 2014 election that hasn't been repeated seventy or eighty times by now. Did we get the Congress we deserve? Perhaps so. It's the largest Republican majority in the House since the Second World War. So, expect the same -- and more of it -- as you saw from the present Congress. It also means that Barack Obama will soon be the only thing standing between us and massive cuts in social programs, vastly expanded militarism at home and abroad, and reactionary policies on a range of fronts, from abortion rights to immigration to health care and beyond. That's where we stand.

Still just a numbers game.At least, that's what's left to us after a remarkably lackluster election in which about 37% of the American voting populace voted. That's the lowest turnout since 1942, and it bears remembering that a lot of voting age men were in he military at the time. So if we can't summon the will to vote, do we have the right to complain about the outcome? Sure, the Democratic party -- including many of last Tuesday's also-rans -- is less than inspiring. But there is a small difference between the parties, and small differences can sometimes have an enormous impact on the nation's most vulnerable. We owe it to them to go and mark the ballot, even if it means voting for some jerk-ass.

Of course, in my own upstate New York congressional district, our Republican House member ran unopposed. The Democratic party didn't think the race was worth contesting, probably because our last Democratic congressman, Michael Arcuri, only held the seat for four years (2007-2011), barely winning a second term in 2008 and losing narrowly to Richard Hanna in 2010. Sure, the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee probably didn't want to throw good money after bad, but the upshot is that we had no one to vote for. That was not the case everywhere. In Syracuse, Democrat Dan Maffei lost by close to 20 points to a Republican who pledged independence, moderation, and a commitment to aiding inner city communities.

Bullshit. Maffei's replacement will vote to make Boehner Speaker once again. That will produce austerian policies that will extend and deepen the misery in Maffei's district. The only way to avoid that was through voting. If I'm wrong, tell me how, exactly.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 7, 2014

Next on the list.

Let's see. Step three hundred seventeen. Plug lead E7 into jack B47. Check. Step three hundred eighteen. Remove cap from light-pipe cable and insert into port F1. Check.

Finished yet? Nearly ready.Oh, my goodness. Didn't know you were reading this. Bet your eyes are glazing over. I'm just working through the instructions for this do-it-yourself project studio. It came in a big, flat box, some assembly required. In fact, quite a bit of assembly required. That explains the bargain-basement price. That fellow in Bangalore seemed very anxious to unload this little gem. At least he was an engineer - I am, at best, technically challenged, and at worst, a danger to public safety. Have you ever manually wound a transformer before? I know I haven't.

Typically I would leave such menial tasks to Marvin (my personal robot assistant), but as you may have noticed from the last few postings, he has been making himself quite scarce. Last week he took a trip to Cincinnati to visit the National Museum of Robotics and Animatronics. Didn't even know such a thing existed. Anyway, he was gone for about five days, came back with a few scratches and a cardboard pirate hat for his trouble. I know ... it sounds suspicious to me as well, but there are certain questions you just should never ask of your personal robot assistant.

Why are we building our own studio? Well ... the one we have right now is getting a little long in the tooth. I expect you know this, as I've mentioned it often enough. Big Green has recorded one album (2000 Years To Christmas) on an eight-track Tascam DTRS system, two albums (International House and Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick) on a Roland VS-2480 with various peripherals. The eight track machine is basically a doorstop. The VS-2480 is 13 years old and is not well. It's choked with projects and has no practical means of exporting data. We are still recording on that system, but just around the edges ... gently, gently. Hence ... the do it yourself studio. Either that or a Kickstarter Campaign. Still scratching our heads on that.

Head scratching, step three: Press nail of index finger on scalp and move finger back-and-forth.

Failing up.

I've heard a lot over the past few days about how the Republicans were able to do so well in Tuesday's election. What is uncontroversial is that the Congress of the last two years has been an unmitigated failure, with fewer bills passed by the House than in any session in living memory. They put forward draconian bills that they know will never go anywhere. They work a week and take two weeks off. They demonize their opponents and make compromise a four-letter word. Where did they go right? Not sure, but the mid-term electorate has spoken, and they have rewarded failure with two more years of power and Republican leadership in the Senate.

It's THIS guy who worries me.That can only serve as an endorsement of the GOP's strategy of doing absolutely nothing and letting nothing be done by anyone else. Here we are, at a time when interest rates are at historic lows, letting our national infrastructure rust away when we could be rebuilding it under very favorable terms, putting people to work, and investing in the future. Instead, we've opted for austerity at both the federal and the state level, laying off people instead of putting them to work, squeezing the air out of the economy years after the financial crash.

So, sure ... this means more reactionary policies than before. You know, Inhoffe in charge of the Environment committee in the Senate; McCain presiding over Armed Services, Fox in charge of the henhouse committee, and so on. But hey ... we've been through this before, right? If you want to work for positive change, here are a few things to look for:

  • "Free" Trade - Lori Wallach of Global Trade Watch is warning that the fight over the TPP will take place in the House of Representatives, initially over fast-track authority. What you can do: Call your representative, Democrat or Republican, and ask where they stand on this issue; then tell them to do the right thing if they're not already.
  • War in Syria - The Republican Senate will want to double-down on American military involvement in Syria. What you can do: We need to raise our voices against this and do it now.
  • Social Security / Medicare / Medicaid - The president will likely try to work with the GOP Senate to hammer out a version of his beloved "Grand Bargain", giving away the store on Social Security and using the trust fund to pay for tax cuts, etc. What you can do: The president and our senators need to hear from us. Call them, email them, send up smoke signals.

Don't give up. Organize. It's the only thing we have ... and the only thing we've ever had.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 31, 2014

Running late.

I guess my alarm clock doesn't work. Don't understand it. I wound it up tight as a drum sometime last year. Stupid bloody thing. Oh, well.

Yeah, maybe we WON'T fly Antares.Sometimes it actually pays to be late. I'll give you a for instance. There was this gig on Mars we booked for next month, and we were planning to take a private rent-a-rocket up there, having lost contact with our mad science adviser Mitch Macaphee. That's fine. Only the rocket is an Antares Orbital CRS-3. Yes, THAT Antares Orbital CRS-3. The same one that blowed up real good a couple of days ago. Oh, yes. That's the flight you WANT to be late for.

I know what you're going to say. It's an orbital CRS-3, Joe, not an interplanetary CRS-3. What the hell are you doing, taking an orbital ship on an interplanetary journey of this type? Well, my friends .... I'm glad you asked that question. My answer may surprise you. In fact, the reason why we're doing that is that, as I mentioned earlier, we no longer have our mad science adviser, so we don't know what the fuck we're doing. As good a reason as any. Better than most, in fact.

So, probably just as well that we didn't take the CRS-3 to Mars. Looks like it may not have made it there in one piece. That scotches the gig, though - it was the only ride in town, now that NASA isn't lighting candles anymore. For those of you who complain that we never perform live, I offer you this rejoinder: we would have done, except that the Antares rocket blew up. How are we supposed to perform live when that rocket blew up?

All bands have some excuse for what they do and what they don't do. Big Green is no different. I will never say never, but most of what we do now is in the studio, stitching podcasts together, recording ludicrous songs, and asking Marvin (my personal robot assistant) to do his imitation of Joseph Cotton. Our only explanation for such sloth is, well, rocket engine issues.

Vote, etc.

We live in what's casually referred to as a democracy; more specifically, a representative democracy dominated by a "two party" system that is, in actuality, a single party with two wings. One wing is a wholly owned subsidiary of the wealthiest individuals and corporations on the planet. The other is an actual political party with a relatively broad base but that's sluiced full of cash from many of the same players. I am not going to sit here and suggest that voting makes all of the difference in the world - it obviously doesn't. But I will say that it's something we must do (among many other things) if only to keep things from becoming exponentially worse than they are right now.

Vote because of these guysI know - that doesn't sound like a gee-whiz, hyper positive, up-with-people rallying cry of the sort we have all grown to expect since our kindergarten days. It's merely the truth - the vote is a right people have died defending in this country (see Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney), and we need to exercise it. We also need to encourage those around us to do the same thing. Because if we stay home, sit on our hands, choose to watch the game instead of marking the ballot, our opponents - those who are part of the wholly-owned corporate subsidiary known as the Republican party - gain even greater influence and power. Elections always have consequences.

Indeed, the evidence is all around us. We are still living with the fallout of the 2004 presidential election; specifically, every reactionary 5-4 Supreme Court decision from Citizens United to Shelby County vs. Holder is the product of the second Bush term and the appointment of what may be a permanent activist conservative majority with justices Alito and Roberts. The outright disaster of the 2010 mid-terms will be with us for at least the next decade, with Republican-biased redistricting, severe limits on abortion rights, attacks on voter access, forced budgetary austerity, and persistent denial of and inaction on climate change.

So listen, friends ... you may not love your congressional, gubernatorial, or down-ballot choices, but you need to vote for them, then work for more progressive alternatives. That's the only way things ever change for the better in this country. So go do it.

luv,

jp

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tick, tock.

I don't know. That looks like a relative of mine. Are you sure this isn't my family album? Striking resemblance.

Not sure about the shirtless lookOh, hi. We're just thumbing through a book on the ascent of man. If I were to pick one that looks most like me, it would clearly be Australopithecus, from maybe 3.5 million years ago. Old school, if there ever was one, and yet a mere wink of the eye in evolutionary terms. So I'm a throwback, for chrissake. Curvature of the spine. Small brain case. Predisposition for randomness. (Good thing old Australo had thumbs, or I couldn't thumb through this thing.)

I guess we're thinking about evolution around the Cheney Hammer Mill because, well ... hell, somebody has to. It's about time Big Green got down to the hard work of advancing the species. God knows we have precious little else to do. No gigs on the horizon. A podcast waiting to be recorded and edited. Songs standing unfinished. Come to think of it, we DO have a lot to do, just not a lot of will to act. I guess that just boils down to being lazy mothers. And maybe that's just okay. Sure, we live in an abandoned hammer mill. Sure, our audience is scattered throughout the galaxy with the exception of the planet Earth. But we still have our pride ... even if it's only pride in lethargy.

I suppose if we were going to work on human evolution, some might suggest we consider starting with the development of a little organ called ambition. That seems to have been left our of our band's DNA, and rightfully so. Lookit - Big Green is about making music of dubious quality, not the business of hawking said music to all and sundry. Some people are born with the sales chromosome, some just the beer chromosome; some both. It's not for us to decide, my friends. I have concluded my opening statements!

Wow, that got a little heated. It's almost like I grew that ambition gene just in the last five minutes. Could do with a new pair of genes.

Fear itself (again).

These grim days remind me a bit of the far worse days of late 2001, when our nation was reeling from the 9/11 terror attacks and the world seemed to be falling in on itself. (It happened that my family life was imploding at the same time, but that's another story.) I guess what reminds me most of that time is the visceral fear evident not only in mass media culture but in everyday life. People are scared, very scared about some relatively minor threats, while at the same time seemingly unconcerned about the real dangers facing us.

Year 2 of the Romney foreign policyThis is a cultivated disconnect, certainly no accident. Every day, the news media hammer away at the threat of Ebola, of ISIS, of Russia, and to a lesser extent North Korea and Iran. In the case of the former, we're reaching a near hysteria about a virus that has affected only a handful of Americans, and only three cases in the U.S. The public has been worked up into such a lather that politicians are falling over themselves to try to benefit from it, take advantage of it, channel it in some way that is useful to them. One only wishes we could evoke this sort of reaction on actual threats, like our disastrous automotive transportation system that kills over 30,000 of us a year.

I only raise that particular example because it's the 24th anniversary of my brother's death behind the wheel of a crappy, very common unsafe-at-any-speed vehicle. There are far greater threats, though - those of climate change and of nuclear war, for instance. The former we cannot bring ourselves to seriously address; the latter we have discounted and essentially forgotten, unless our attention is turned to an official enemy, like Iran or North Korea. If our news media were reporting on these issues the way they report on a hemorrhagic African virus that's not half as contagious as the flu, we might ultimately feel motivated to do something about them. So far, no potato.

We are probably the most fearful people ever to run an empire. It's something we need to overcome, so that we can arrive at the kind of clarity we need to see what actually confronts us.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 17, 2014

Genericville.

Do we have 1.5 children? Only if you double-count the man-sized tuber. Let's ask anti-Lincoln to do the counting - ever since the war, he sees everything twice.

Stupid comet!Oh, hello. Just working up our census form. Don't mind me. Didn't know there was going to be a 2014 census, but I guess that's understandable, since we don't get a lot of news flowing into the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, our squathouse. Just yesterday some dude in a Fedora knocked on the front gate and handed me a questionnaire. He said I had to finish it by Saturday or his friend might set the mill on fire. (I think the friend's name was Giancarlo.) How old is Mitch Macaphee? No ... I mean before the youth serum?

Questions, questions. Way too much on Big Green's plate lately, I can tell you. We've got the THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast, of course - always time-consuming. Our next episode of Ned Trek, for instance, will feature as many as 6 or 7 new songs, never before heard (and probably never again), all apropos of the ridiculous story line. This is part of the biggest crop of new material to come out of Big Green in, I don't know, twenty years or so. Over the past year or so, we've written and began recording something like 30 new songs; that's since we finished Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick last year.

Check out our podcast, This Is Big Green.Then there's the pressure to get out and play in front of an audience, for chrissake. We considered doing a gig or two on Mars this month, but given the fact that the red planet is going to be buzzed by comet Siding Spring this weekend, we thought better of it. We have had run-ins with comets before; can't say that we ever got the better of those confrontations. Chilly little hunks of ice, those comets. No pity. Who can blame them? They're billions of years old, and only get a little sun once every million years or so, then it's back to the Ort cloud. But I digress.

Hmmm.... Should I account for multiple personalities on this census form? Yes, I'm back on anti-Lincoln again (and his alter ego, anti-Edgar Allan Poe).

The golden beverage.

Panetta's out hawking his book about how Obama isn't enough of a hawk. Of course, he is likely acting as a surrogate for Hillary Clinton, who appears to be advocating a more knee-jerk approach to foreign intervention. She and John McCain (and his various clones) really, really wanted that Syrian war, and now both seem to believe that the advent of ISIS is the result of our having failed to jump in ass first last year (essentially on ISIS's side, it's worth pointing out). Shades of Bush/Cheney - I guess it's been long enough since the total disaster of the Iraq war for some people to yearn for the days of pre-emptive war, of "shock and awe", of taking the gloves off. Included in that number is the putative front-runner of the Democratic field for President.

Clinton tool ... or just plain tool?So, after six years of being compelled to drink the fragrant golden beverage of Obama's national security policy - drones, bombs, domestic spying, whistleblower-persecution and all - we are now to be treated to even more acrid delicacies offered up by Clinton, the next generation. I guess this is an indication of bipartisan consensus on foreign policy, though it remains to be seen how the GOP will outflank the Democrats on the crazytown side. This is truly a race to the bottom. That's the power of this lesser of two evils electoral philosophy.

I suppose I needn't remind anyone of the process I and people like me went through during the last couple of presidential elections. In 2008, I was voting to avoid McCain, who most certainly would have gotten us into several wars before the end of his first hundred days, to say nothing of the Hoover-like response to the financial crisis he was planning (remember the spending freeze?). That was a close brush with true catastrophe, I'm pretty sure. 2012 was less dramatic, but still ... Mitt Romney was a disaster in the making. He would have brought in a gaggle of Bush II retreads who are now waiting for the impending Cruz or Perry administration. He would have rewarded his rich friends with more riches. Not a huge difference from Obama, you understand, but enough to be worth a vote.

After years of drinking rancid urine, however, I have had it. Obama's policy regarding Syria, Iran, Iraq, Ukraine, Palestine, Yemen, and other nations is disgusting. Attacking him from the right is inexcusable.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 10, 2014

Inside October.

I think time may be stretching, or rather, elongating. I don't know the correct term - get a physicist on the phone. Or call our mad science adviser Mitch Macaphee - he may have the answer. All I know is that July turned into August, September turned into October, and so on. I can feel the holidays crawling up my ass.

How did I end up on this crapfest?In any case, you may have noticed that the October installment of our THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast has been posted, sent out to ipods and other devices, RSS'ed around the globe, and played on somebody's smartphone somewhere. Better late than never, I always say ... but then, I am one of the people producing the podcast, so from another perspective, late may not be better than never. Be that as it may, here is a look under the hood of this latest audio crapfest:

Ned Trek 20: The Shamesters of Quadzillion. In this, the lastest episode of our ongoing bizarre-ass Star Trek parody, Captain Willard Mittilius Romney and his senior officers are captured and held prisoner on the planet Quadzillion, where they are compelled by the resident oligarchs to compete in the political media arena with other mindless also-rans. Guest stars include Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Chief Justice John Roberts, Sheldon Adelson, Charles Koch, and Foster Friess. (Classic Star Trek fan reference: Gamesters of Triskelion)

Song: The Bishop. This is a selection from our 2008 album International House. Matt wrote, arranged, and I believe even mixed this track. A mostly acoustic number with some nice-ish choral parts.

Put the Phone Down. Our conversation this month has a number of minor themes, probably the most prominent of which is a virtual visit from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who is apparently hawking his new book so broadly it even got onto our lousy podcast. Matt excoriates me for my technical ineptitude, then talks about his encounter with Egbert Bagg. Kissinger joins us for a song.

Song: North Camp Pasture. One of my songs from our most recent album, Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick. This one is about Rick's hunting camp, which used to bear a remarkably offensive racist name before that became politically inconvenient for the ambitious Rick and his kin. More broadly about the legacy of racism, Jim Crow, in modern American life.

Incrementally unstable.

This week we learned that American forces are using attack helicopters in Iraq and likely Syria. The gruesomely named "Apache" helicopters (strange custom, naming weapon systems after people we've wiped out) have been used in several strikes over the past week. This is a subtle ratcheting up of the war effort in the Middle East; pretty much the Obama doctrine with respect to bringing the public along on these overseas adventures. Start with vehement assurances of "no boots on the ground", then put a hundred "advisers" in, followed by a hundred more, then five hundred, then fifteen hundred, then bombing raids in Iraq, then Syria, then drones, and now helicopter gunships.

No peace prize this year.ISIS and related fighters have been shooting helicopters down. What happens when they hit one of our ships? Boots on the ground. You don't have to be Kreskin (or Criswelll) to see that we may well be embroiled in a regional ground war within the next few months. This may make our previous conflicts look like a folk dance; the more we hit ISIS, the more people on the ground and from other countries flock to their side. Put yourself in the shoes of a Sunni citizen of Iraq. Who has contributed more to your misery over the past 25 years? You may dislike the ISIS fanatics, but you likely hate us with a rare passion. Not a formula for success.

Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept made a good point the other day on Democracy Now! The leader of ISIS was held prisoner in Iraq by our military, likely abused, even tortured. Their video executions are re-creations of their own experiences in places like Abu Ghraib. Their victims are in orange jumpsuits; they seem calm because they've probably been through dozens of mock executions, just like our detainees. They use these powerful images to goad us into another war. The last one almost destroyed the U.S. imperial project; ISIS seems to know that, and they want us to do it again.

I wish just one ... just one politician could be honest enough with the American people to say, look, folks, we shouldn't have invaded Iraq and smashed it to bits; if recent history has taught us anything, it's that Iraq is a complex society, and sometimes the things we break cannot be put together again.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 3, 2014

Post haste.

What the hell, was that September just then? Fricking amazing. This is truly the meltaway year. We're almost down to the chewy caramel center. (I think of September as mostly nougat, frankly.)

THAT'S where we'll be? Huh...Well, I suppose it's safe to say that we won't be posting a September podcast. Yes, we recorded one. Yes, we still have a computer and internet access. No, I didn't leave it in my other pants. It's still under construction, okay? It's in far more capable hands than mine, I might add. And I am confident that those hands are hard at work, editing wav files, and not shuffling cards or clicking a remote or (God forbid ) tapping on a phone. (This would not be a good time for me to get a text with a link to some lame video.)

I guess it's hard to deny that we have essentially departed from our monthly podcast schedule. That is, in part, due to our titanic laziness, but also to the fact that our Ned Trek productions have become much more ambitious in recent months, demanding more and more resources, elaborate sets, casts of thousands, pricey special effects, craft services for the crew, exotic oils for Marvin (my personal robot assistant), you name it. It isn't easy to produce an epic. Nor is it easy to produce a hack-job podcast, but (and this is important) doing so is easier than the thing with the epic. Are you following that? Good.

I have to think that more than a few of you are wondering, "Well ... he's got time to write this stupid blog post. Why doesn't he just use that time to finish the podcast, or write a song, for pity's sake?" Good question. We in Big Green have always been of the belief that timely and accurate reporting is key to the success of any band. If you don't know what we're up to, we won't know either, and THEN where will we be? In Coventry, that's where! (Actually, I hear that's quite pleasant this time of year.)

Anyway, where is this getting us? Must get back to finishing that September ... I mean, October podcast. Stay tuned.

Missing taco.

If you're one taco short of a combination plate, I believe I may have the item right here ... and quite a bit more besides. My weekly rant will be something of a grab bag ... a disjointed journey through a handful of topics, liable to light on just about anything. Just so much going on lately it's hard to settle on any one thing. Here goes.

Ebola. This is a disaster for coastal West Africa, particularly because the health systems of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are in such a shambles. That's due in part to the disastrous civil wars in the first two nations, but more generally it's the product of the ongoing neoliberal project and the fact that, in so many of these nations, what wealth there is remains in the hands of the top 1%, whose loyalties to foreign powers, international investors, and global capital outweigh their concern for their poorer countrymen. We in the world's developed countries have been slow to respond, as we are with practically every African crisis. Our hair doesn't catch fire until somebody carries the virus home in a bucket; then it's action time, right?

We need more of this.Abortion in Texas. There's one answer to this latest court ruling that will close dozens clinics immediately: vote the jerks out, ladies, or they'll continue to eat your lunch and stick their beaks into everything you do. Up to you, now. Will the extremists on the right continue to the carry the day? Only if we do nothing.

War and Peace. Once again, our attitude as a nation about going to war appears to be directly proportional to the degree to which we perceive ourselves to be at personal risk. There is a lack of interest on the part of Congress to get involved at any level; they truly embody the caricature of them drawn by Gary Trudeau some years back: They'll be for it when it's popular, against it when it goes bad, and it's a question of principle.

Whatever we may think of the specific set of beheaders that operate under the black banner of ISIS, one thing is for certain: so long as Sunnis in Iraq are more afraid of the Iraqi army than they are of these black flag crazies, all the bombs in the world won't make it right. Iraq is a complex place; when we broke it to pieces, we should have taken that into consideration.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tonight's the night.

That's it, over there.Well, shut my mouth. There appears to be some kind of celebration taking place up the street from the Hammer Mill. Maybe we should mosey on over there. Or maybe not. This street's getting a little rough. (I don't mean crime-wise. I mean the pavement's in pieces, as in potholes the size of a Buick ... some with Buicks stuck in them.)

It's a natural fact - we need to get out more. Big Green is getting house bound, or mill-bound, if you will. Part of it is our reluctance to play gigs anywhere on planet Earth. That is, admittedly, a failing of ours. Mea culpa. I don't know why we don't perform on our mother world. Maybe it's the gravity. My keyboards weigh a ton on earth, but when we play, say, Phoebos, I can pick them up with one hand. Sure, there aren't a lot of music fans there ... none, in fact, but setting up is a breeze!

Check out our podcast, This Is Big Green.We've been asked to consider playing a club or a college here on Terra. Why, just last week, Marvin (my personal robot assistant) said we should set up in the old man bar on the corner and jam until they boot our sorry asses back into the road. Inartfully put, perhaps, but his corroded tin heart was in the right place. So the other night I dropped in at that joint, sat there and stared at the piano for a couple of hours. I didn't make any noise, so I left. I'm going back again tonight to see if there's a different outcome.

Old man bar on Earth, zero-gravity lounge on Neptune - it doesn't make much difference to us where we play, so long as we know what the hell we're playing. I've never been good at set lists, but I know that if someone on stage picks the songs, it's less likely that we'll have to play a bunch of stuff people ask us to play. Like something by the Scorpions, for instance.

Whoa, is that the time? Time to go out in the street and be sociable. Talk soon.

Back to the future.

I sometimes forget how Bill Clinton turned my parents into hawks. In these troubled times, it's worth remembering the degree to which people's political affiliation determines their worldview. If George W. Bush dropped bombs on Serbia, mom and dad would have been against it, but Bill Clinton ... he must have had a reason.

We're seeing some of the same effect with Obama. His new policy on Iraq and Syria differs from George W. Bush's Iraq policy mostly in its implementation. Bush trumpeted his intention to go in strong, drop a bunch of bombs, "shock and awe" them. Obama is incrementalist - we'll do A but not B, then a week later, we're doing B and C with promises (soon broken) that we won't move on to D. Ultimately this ends up with regime change, as it did in Libya with disastrous results. What's the difference? Psychology. Obama knows marketing. He knows that we'll only eat one or two of those big cookies, but a boat load of those little ones.

Taliban: the next generationThe media, as always, is in the tank for this war. On the morning after bombing began in Syria, the first voice you heard on NPR's 6:00 a.m. newscast was that of a retired general who had "crafted" America's bombing campaign during the Gulf War - a man who thought we weren't bombing Syria hard enough. That's NPR, no surprise, but don't expect any better from the liberal media. Rachel Maddow, while a war skeptic, gave a thumbnail recent history of the Iraqi Kurds and the Gulf War that might have been torn out of a Bush campaign media release. Our only role in that saga, according to this telling, was liberating freedom-loving Kuwait and helping the Kurds preserve evidence of Saddam's pogrom against them.

Maddow left out the small detail that the U.S. helped Saddam to the hilt throughout the 1980s, including during the campaign against the Kurds, then looked the other way when Saddam attacked them again after the Gulf War (until Bush I was shamed into establishing a no-fly zone in northern Iraq). I suppose I should excuse this level of ignorance due to her relative youth - she probably doesn't remember the events very clearly. I sure as hell do. It was the genesis of the conflict we are entering now, just as our Afghan war was the birth of Al Qaeda.

We go through this cycle of attack repeatedly, and the results are always the same - a bigger mess, more people hating us, more misery in the region. The fact that people like Maddow, who should know better, don't understand that makes it that much harder to stop this from happening yet again.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 19, 2014

Plastic baloney.

Is that all we have to eat around here? Jesus Christ on a tricycle. I thought there was some more of that plastic cheese sitting around. Never mind. Just give me another slice of plastic bread. Sigh.

Balogna ... now with more plastic!Oh, hi. Yep, it's that time of year again. The ba-roke period, as our dear departed friend Tim Walsh used to say. Fighting the cat for scraps, except that we would never do that. In times of want, we have occasionally resorted to eating doll house food. Dibs on the plastic baloney! (Hey, don't scoff ... it's actually not that much worse than tofu baloney.)

So, why exactly is Big Green wearing a cardboard belt this month? Why, you may ask, would a band with more than 300 songs under copyright need to scratch the floor for discarded fragments of past meals? It's starving artist syndrome, my friends, pure and simple. Yes, we suffer for our art. Just the other day, I got my leg caught in a banjo string. Hurt like hell, dragging that banjo around behind me. Got a lot of dirty looks, too. Now I know what Paul McCartney was singing about when he did that Christmas record ditty called "Please don't bring your banjo 'round" or something like that. Folks get real sensitive about that sort of thing, I've discovered.

Check out our podcast, This Is Big Green.Hey, well ... I've wandered a bit, banjo or no. It got cold around the Hammer Mill last night, so we wrapped the place up a bit ... at least the parts we live in. The unseasonable cold weather has at least given me the opportunity to finish my Ned Trek 20 script and pass it along to Matt, so that he can add about six pounds of weird to it. We've recorded our voice parts and are in the editing stage right now, so podcast fans ... keep cool. We're almost there, man. Don't. Freak. Out.

Well, got to get back to my evening meal. Kind of chewy. Polystyrene really sticks to your ribs, though. (Though what it's doing in the vicinity of my ribs I have no idea.)

Bipartisanshit.

Lopsided bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress have approved the President's crackpot plan to arm the non-existent "moderate" opposition in Syria; in the Senate the tally of 78 to 22 was identical to the one that body delivered in support if Bush's Iraq invasion. So much for the value of bipartisanship, as Chris Hayes has pointed out many times. By virtue of this blinkered legislation, we will be providing military training and equipment to many of the same people we profess to despise. (The simple fact that McCain and Graham are in favor of such funding should be enough for any sentient creature to surmise that it's a bad call. McCain wouldn't know a member of ISIS if he were inches away.)

McCain and his moderates.The response to ISIS is another instance of decision-making driven by decades of bad policy. We are, in essence, seeking to deal with a mess of our own making, to put it charitably, and in so doing making an investment in future crises while bankrupting ourselves in the present. The money and arms flowing to ISIS emanate from Saudi Arabia, other gulf states, and abandoned resources in Iraq, not to mention oil payments from third countries, like Turkey (our NATO ally). Many if not most of the weapons are stamped "Property of the U.S. Military". Working with the Saudis to arm and train "moderate" opponents of the Assad regime is akin to working with the Pakistanis to arm and train "moderate" opponents of the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s. How did that turn out again?

Once again, we are pushing towards war and there are few dissenting voices in the conversation. NPR's Cokie Roberts had spoken of a major "educational" initiative by the Administration on fighting ISIS that would be rolled out after summer, just as the Bush charge to invade Iraq was stoked prior to the 2002 election. No real alternatives are presented; only deviations in degree from what we are doing now. Trial balloons are being floated by General Dempsey and others on the deployment of U.S. ground troops. We have seen with Libya how what started as a "humanitarian" effort morphed into a more determined campaign towards regime change. The current Iraq drive began with a mostly bogus story about impending genocide; next comes increased air strikes, then arming and training rebels. What's next?

Obama fans: Think twice about supporting this. It is a really, really dumb idea.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sweep up.

Oh, sweep up! I've been sweeping up the tips I've made! I've been livin' on Gatorade, planning my getaway!

Grab a broom, hey willya?Apologies to Paul Simon. Actually, except for the Gatorade part, that sounds like the story of my life just lately. Trying to tidy up the cavernous squat house we call the Cheney Hammer Mill ahead of the coming winter months. Nothing worse than a dusty house when the snow is up to the rafters - ask anybody who's spent a few frigid seasons here on the dark side of the year. So, just plying the old broom across the brick floor.

Marvin (my personal robot) is running the vacuum in the background. Not a vacuum cleaner, you understand - an actual time/space vacuum he created with the orgone generating machine Trevor James Constable left behind so many years ago. Amazing how that thing still runs after years of neglect, no one to tend its complex servos and circuit boards, not even our mad science adviser Mitch Macaphee, who used to tinker with the thing from time to time before he relocated to his new lab in Madagascar. (Don't go there! It may no longer even exist, the way he messes with the space-time continuum.)

Check out our podcast, This Is Big Green.While I've been occupying myself with domestic duties, I've been listening to a one-off CD of some of our Ned Trek songs. They need a little work, but I don't doubt that we'll release them in some more finalized form one day. I'm contemplating a late year holiday release or two on YouTube, maybe a collection of Ned songs sometime after that. It's adding up to a lot of material, actually - about 25 songs and counting, pretty much all of which have showed up on THIS IS BIG GREEN in draft form. I know, I know ... sounds like another Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick. Yep, well ... that's how we roll these days.

Hey, listen to me, right? Interstellar tour, new album, YouTube videos. Slow down, maestro, you move too fast. You got to ... hoo boy, there's Paul Simon again. Stop it, man. More later.

New war.

Well, we've gotten our marching orders from the President. Time to start hammering the extremist group that grew out of the chaos we created after attacking and destroying Iraq; the jihadists that have benefited from our aid to the Syrian opposition and from the piles of money rolling in from Saudi and other gulf states whose wealthy are only too happy to support extremist Sunnis. Once again, we're "taking the fight to" some group that wouldn't have existed without our bankrupt imperial foreign policy. The last round was with Al Qaeda, beneficiaries of our covert proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Now it's ISIS.

Digging our way out of the holeI can't say which part of Obama's proposed campaign against ISIS seems the most confused and misguided. It may be the notion that we should fund the training of "moderate" Syrian opposition forces in Saudi Arabia, of all places. First of all, there is no meaningful moderate opposition in Syria. The lead forces opposing the Assad regime are hyper-religious extremists. They have walked off with many of the weapons we have dropped on the so-called moderates, just as billions of dollars worth of weapons have gone missing in Afghanistan (probably falling into the hands of the Taliban or worse). Any effort to train the "moderates" will be symbolic at best and will likely result in yet another stream of jihadist heading from the gulf to the conflict zone.

Let's face it, folks. When we destroyed a nation as complex as Iraq - a country that represents the ethnic, religious, and political divisions that run through the entire Middle East - we made an irreparable mess that is still exploding; a process of implosion that has continued unabated from the days of "shock and awe". We are always encouraged to think that our actions have no lasting consequences, that bad situations are somehow reparable through the application of additional force, more bad policy, etc. Not so.

Those who think we should do this intervention need to ask themselves, when has this ever turned out well? Answer honestly, now.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 5, 2014

Bloody script.

Where are my thumbs? Without my thumbs, I can't type. Or at the very least, make spaces between what I type. Wait ... did I say that? Is someone speaking?

You can start pulling your weight any time.Sorry. You'll have to forgive me. I'm hip deep in finishing the script for our next episode of Ned Trek, as featured on the THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast. And though I write for a living, writing has always been a teeth-pulling process for me, resulting in sleepless nights, even more sleepless days, and other trepidations too numerous to ... to enumerate. Am I making sense? (Possibly not.)

I know what you're going to say. (Either that or lack of sleep is causing me to hear voices in my head.) Why the hell am I concentrating on a script for a stupid, knock-off podcast horse ballad instead of spending my time working on new songs, producing an album, preparing for another interstellar tour, etc.? My response? Meh. No man can say. I do it because I do it. And because Matt tells me to, which should be enough for anyone. (Or not.)

THIS IS BIG GREEN: August 2014I would parcel this work out to Marvin (my personal robot assistant), but he really does not have any thumbs, so typing is merely an impossibility for him. Otherwise, he is amply qualified to churn out the kind of poorly constructed melodrama / farce you have come to expect from yours truly. Maybe I ask to little of him. Maybe I shouldn't let him hang about all day, talking to the electronic stapler, getting machine oil on my vegetables, and so on. Maybe it's just time he PULLED HIS WEIGHT AROUND HERE. (This is how we communicate with one another. It's cheaper than texting.)

Anyhow, I expect I'll see Matt for another recording session this week, then return to my keyboard for another tortuous night of scriptwriting. Oh, the pain of creation! Where is my bourbon, my absinthe, my pain killers, my ... I don't know. I like cat videos. WHERE ARE MY CAT VIDEOS?