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Friday, December 25, 2015

Points made.

Think of this as a slow-motion commentary on the Republican debate from last week. None of this is particularly in-depth, but I think it's worth raising a few points about certain participants.

(Late) King of JordanLindsey loves Georgie. At the kid's table, Lindsey Graham got a little carried away over his bro-mance with ex-president and hopefully future convicted war criminal George W. Bush, saying in essence that he misses W and wishes he were still in office to handle the big-as-the-sky threat known as ISIS, which Lindsey previously said wants to "kill us all!!" Not hard to work out why Senator Graham's poll numbers, even in a highly reactionary GOP primary race, hover somewhere between zero and zero point five. Not a majority position.

War of the Cubans. Whoa - someone waved a red rag between Senators Cruz and Rubio. Either that or somebody called somebody else's mommy a commie. Fascinating how the supposedly "establishment" candidate Rubio is working hard to outflank Cruz on the right (!) with appeals to nativism and McCain/Graham-like warmongering.

Meet the King. Note to the often wrong, never in doubt Chris Christie: King Hussein of Jordan is long dead. It helps to know these things when you're running for president. I still think anyone who wants to be president should have to fill in the names of countries on a blank map on live television, then tell the audience some relevant thing about our foreign policy with respect to each one they name.

He said what? It's the law of a stopped clock being right twice a day. Trump's comments about the Iraq war - at least the first portion of them, before he talks about "taking the oil" - were hard to argue with. It's interesting that the majority of Republican party voters seem to back candidates who are skeptical of the notion of regime change. Carpet bombing, sure, but no regime change. (Interestingly, Cruz appears to think you can selectively carpet bomb combatants, as if they will voluntarily stand out in the open when your bombers fly by.)

That's all I've got. This is kind of long in the tooth, but again ... it's been a long ten days. More later.

luv u,

jp

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Podcast: THIS IS BIG GREEN

 

Big Green disintegrates into uncontrollable celebratory joy with a special edition of Ned Trek: A Very Neddy Christmas, four new recordings, and crackhead conversation. Fa-la-freaking-la.

 This is Big Green - December 2015. Features: 1) Ned Trek 26: A Very Neddy Christmas, loosely based on Dicken's A Christmas Carol; 2) Song: Christmas Past, by Big Green; 3) Song: McBridy, by Big Green; 4) Song: Romney in Reserve; 5) Song: 40s Guy Christmas; 6) Put the Phone Down: Everything is Peachy Fine (song for George Washington Carver); 7) Corn in my hands; 8. The Beavers' Christmas Tree; 9) Smiling Jack Washington; 10) Cruz vs Rubio: the relative merits; 11) Secretary of State Keema; 12) We'll have to cancel Christmas; 13) Talking entirely in quotes; 14) Time for us to go.

Podcast Page >

Friday, December 18, 2015

Interim report.

Not a lot to say this week. Been kind of busy. Don't know where to start. Stopped using personal nominative pronouns. Don't know why.

Yeah, it was a week spent in hospitals, rehab centers, etc., etc. - suffice to say that there were no terrible outcomes, but it was an engrossing and exhausting experience, nonetheless. I hope to be posting the holiday episode of our podcast THIS IS BIG GREEN in the coming days, though I did get derailed this week, I will admit. We had a few mixes left to do, but Matt and I did them tonight and recorded the pointless voice track for the podcast, so .... it could happen. Miracles do happen.

Anyway, keep your eyes open and leave some room in the stocking. Something tells me there'll be a podcast episode with your name on it dropping down the chimney. Or something. (I'll probably do a political rant as well, just because they're pissing me off so much lately.)

More later, people.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Roam for the holidays.

I'm not a big fan of zero gravity typing. It's kind of hard to keep your fingers on the keys, frankly. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) - can you take dictation? There's a good chap.

Ned Trek, the podcastOkay, well ... as you may have surmised, we of Big Green are in transit this week. Our brief stint on GJ 1132b, the newly discovered world parked on the very edge of human knowledge was not hugely memorable. Thinly attended, let's say. Sure, we set up our gear and cranked through a few of our better known numbers. The venue was a cave. And I don't mean that it had bad acoustics, though it did; I mean it was literally a cave on a frozen world, populated by ethereal beings whose very existence is a matter of disputed mad science. (Mitch Macaphee tells me that they are real, but then he talks to elves and fairies, so it's hard to be certain.)

Okay, so BIG GREEN’S CAPER BEYOND THE KUIPER (BELT) is kind of a bust. No surprises there. We played that one sorry gig, wearing our pressure suits, then pulled up stakes and headed off into the eternal night of deep space, pointed in the general direction of Earth - at least, something that looks like Earth. Lots of time to kill on these interstellar voyages. We actually took that opportunity to work on this year's Christmas podcast - another holiday extravaganza, filled with music, mirth, and mangled impersonations of famous people. (Acting would be a lot easier if we could ... act.)

I'm bored.I'm here in what passes for my cabin in this rented spacecraft, editing the audio play we recorded a few days ago. We've also recorded a few songs, as is our tradition, to accompany the hack-job melodrama we'll be posting in the coming weeks, so those will take some finishing. Work, work, work. I thought this trip was going to be something of a getaway, a chance of rest and relaxation, a hiatus in our otherwise hectic existence of hammer-mill squatting. Fat chance.

Well, there's a festive note. Don't mind me. I always get a little grumpy at 40% light velocity. Call it motion sickness.

Faith and politics.

I'm guessing you don't need my opinion on Donald Trump's proposed ban of all Muslims from entering the United States - you've probably heard the full gamut, from Steve King to Bernie Sanders. My first thought was for all of the Muslim students I have known and met, both natural born U.S. citizens and visa holders from countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, and others. I hear this insane rhetoric, growing louder by the day, and I think of a young fellow from Afghanistan - about the nicest person you could hope to meet - and what his thoughts might be about the people who "liberated" his country, then overstayed their welcome for 14 years.

Christian jihadistThis is what happens in America when anything like a foreign-inspired terror attack takes place: we want to corral all Muslims and start bombing some country most of us couldn't find on a globe with both hands. I've lived through many cycles of this, from the Iran hostage crisis through the first gulf war, to the embassy bombings in the late 1990s and on into the 9/11 era. I can remember a Muslim friend from Bosnia being a bit taken aback by the rhetoric and the kind of full-on nationalism pushed through the corporate media that came about after Clinton bombed Iraq in 1998. It's times like these when Muslims - and yes, people with beards and headscarves more generally - feel compelled to start looking over their shoulders.

There's a push, primarily by Republicans but with Democratic assent as well, to view international terrorism and specifically ISIS as a grave, even existential threat to citizens of the United States. Opinion polls have been showing that this is paying off - people are good and scared, which is music to ISIS's ears. But what the hell - thousands of people in America are killed by the domestic terror of gun violence every year, some of it motivated in part by extremist religion. I would say that that was more unambiguously the case in the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting than in the San Bernardino attack, just on the basis of the rantings of the shooter, Robert Dear. We are far more likely to be shot by someone like Dear than by someone like Farook.

So ... why are we encouraged to fear the lesser danger? It's the political magic of otherness. Always a winner in America.

luv u,

jp

Friday, December 4, 2015

Ice ball diary.

Break out the ice cube tray. I need to warm my hands up over it. Yeah, that's better. It's all relative, my friends.

Ned Trek, the podcastWell, here we are, out on GJ 1132b on the first and final leg of our Fall 2015 Tour, entitled BIG GREEN’S CAPER BEYOND THE KUIPER (BELT), brought to by Hegemonic Records and Worm Farm, Inc. (Slogan: If it says Hegemonic, you know it's for keeps.) Hey, nobody told us it would be this freaking cold out here, way beyond the limits of our solar system. That's probably because nobody asked. In any case, we're here on this frozen piece of real estate, some 39 light years from Earth, trying to chip a performance venue out of the rock-solid CO2, and having very little success I'm sorry to tell you.

How is the tour going? Well ... let me put it this way. Have you seen the movie "The Martian", by any chance? How about "Marooned"? If not, the essential point is this: never rent a spacecraft from a dodgy neighbor of Mitch Macaphee. (If that ever comes up, take if from me and refuse! REFUSE, I tell you!) Yeah, the sucker's ion drive leaves a great deal to be desired. That is to say, it's very existence was just a desire on the part of the ship's owner. The actual propulsion unit runs on cottage cheese and ketchup, and we appear to be fresh out of those commodities. (And to paraphrase Warren Oats, there are no 7/11's out yonder.)

Think warm thoughts.Not to put too fine a point on it, we are going to have to Mad Science the shit out of this thing. Mitch Macaphee is working overtime (as much as 3 hours a day) trying to adapt Marvin (my personal robot assistant)'s solar power unit to the ship's main drive. It is by no means a walk in the park for old Mitch. Good thing we brought some decent gin with us. (Though we left the rummy back at the mill.)

I'm not sure why the creator of the universe bothered to conceive of this shriveled little world. It's basically just a rock in space, orbiting a random star, spinning out its eons in total obscurity. Sounds a bit like us, actually. Maybe we should name this place after ourselves. Or just call it Preplanus - I don't think that's being used anymore.

Four-foot gun.

My first thought when I heard the name of the male shooter in the San Bernardino massacre was of American Muslims across this country. My primary sympathy is for the victims and their families, but this incident is a disaster for the killers' co-religionists, particularly in the midst of a political season that features major party candidates calling for registration of Muslims and attempting to incite blood vengeance for invented celebrations of the 9/11 attacks. I have to think that just about every practicing Muslim in America is cursing the name of this crackpot kid and his wife. In the current atmosphere, this could get very ugly.

All legally obtained.Much as the press is obsessing over the terrorism / not-terrorism question, this is in essence another story of the proverbial three-foot creep with a four-foot gun. That these people were prepared for some kind of attack seems clear, but what they had was not all that exotic except in the respect that there was an awful lot of it - something like 4,500 rounds of ammunition. The guns were legally acquired by someone. They're not very hard to get, frankly, even military-style assault weapons. And as far as ammo is concerned, I am reminded of a kid I knew in my late teens, a musician, whose family maintained a sizable ammunition factory in the basement of their suburban home. I remember rehearsing some songs down there, in a small clearing between the casings, as siblings continued to add to the arsenal. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that my friend and his family had filled 4,500 rounds down there. They never shot up their workplace, but if they had, the basement armory would have been part of the news story.

With regard to the terrorism question, I am not sure what difference it makes. Honestly, if someone is shooting up my workplace, I could care less what his or her motivation is. Typically people are motivated by more than one thing - even jihadi terrorists. Part of the motivation is often provided by their distorted Salafi belief system, but I sometimes think that sham religion acts more as an enabler than an inspiration: you will be okay with the big guy if you do this. That may be mixed with political or personal goals. Nevertheless, the thing that brings Syed Farook and Dylan Klebold together is the freaking gun. They shot a bunch of people to pieces, for whatever harebrained reasons they may have had, and they were able to do so because it's just too motherfucking easy to get your hands on an AR-15.

We can fix this. We just don't want to badly enough.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 27, 2015

Off with us.

Glad that's over. Anything I hate, it's packing over a holiday weekend. But we're under way at last, back into the welcoming arms of deep, deep space. GJ 1132b, here we come! Ned Trek, the podcast I suppose I should spare you the details of the last week - the rush job of putting this expeditionary gig together, the foibles regarding our interplanetary transportation, etc. (Just try booking a four-engine ion drive spacecraft on the weekend before Thanksgiving. Freaking impossible!)

As you may recall from last week's post (particularly if you have nothing better to do with your life than to read this useless blog), Big Green has decided to pay a call on our newest neighbor in space - the recently discovered dwarf planet GJ 1132b - and see if we can discover some gainful employment there; namely, a one night stand for a terrestrial band.

Okay, so we dubbed this BIG GREEN'S CAPER BEYOND THE KUIPER (BELT), which is literally true, as GJ 1132b is out there, man, really out there. We had to name the gig in order to get some support from our corporate label, Hegemonic Records and Worm Farm, Inc. (whose indie imprint is named Hegephonic), still run by Indonesian military thugs. They've got deep pockets, though, and they and our mad science adviser Mitch Macaphee go way back, so he was able to connive ... I mean, convince them into ponying up some of their ill gotten gains to fund this reckless foray into parts unknown. Mitch is just that good.

So that's it, is it?The transport was a major problem, though. All of our previous rides were unavailable. Mitch had inadvertently vaporized our last spacecraft during the course of an experiment (one he was conducting on behalf of those same Generals from Jakarta he was conniving this past week). GJ 1132b is 39 light years away, so we needed something with a little heft. It couldn't be one of those sub-compact crafts you take to Mars and back, right? There was a good deal of head scratching over that issue, until finally Mitch remembered an old colleague who had built an interstellar spacecraft for his own amusement at some point, then just parked it in his garage next to his Land Rover. Hobbyists!

Anywho, Mitch sent Marvin (my personal robot assistant) over to pick it up. Big mistake - Marvin got lost on the way home, so we lost a couple of solar days, delaying our launch until Thanksgiving. Let them eat space! See you on GJ 1132b!

Stirring the pot.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump recalls seeing footage of "thousands" of Muslims in New Jersey cheering as the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001. Fellow candidate Ben Carson briefly claimed to have seen the same inspiring vision in his mind's eye, too, then backed off. (He seems to be recalling the clip of five Palestinians jumping up and down that was most likely a hatchet job.) Trump's claim is the ideal bookend to his recent suggestion of maintaining a federal database of Muslims in America, a component in his new post-Paris attack national security platform. It's a simple, time tested formula: call out a domestic population that you can term a fifth column and associate with a foreign enemy, then repeat your rhetoric and watch your polling numbers rise. Oldest trick in the book.

Look in the mirror, America.The thing is, Trump is a mirror to the Republican base, as Sam Seder and others have pointed out. This is a mostly white minority of virulently anti-immigration, nativist, evangelical Christian Americans who are attracted to Trump for the time being because he arrogantly articulates their hatred of the "other" and gives voice to their sense of outrage over being relegated, however temporarily, to opposition party status. I have heard commentators blame this constituency on Obama - the nauseating former Bush adviser Nicole Wallace, for instance - but it's useful to remember that even in the depths of his second-term unpopularity, Wallace's former boss retained a solid core of conservative support, including the same crackpots that showed up at McCain/Palin campaign rallies in 2008. That was the nascent "tea party", the constituency that has kept Trump in the high twenties for months now.

Stirring up racist or bigoted sentiments is always a dangerous game, but it's one that remains popular with politicians who have no real value to offer the constituencies they seek to serve. We white people tend to think of non-white, non-European, non-Christian people as different. We see this in the response (or lack of same) to the Beirut bombing, compared to the near media obsession over Paris. Even the President does this. When he talks about Paris, he refers to the fact that we see ourselves in the sidewalk cafes; that Parisians are like us. There is a deep reservoir of anti-foreign, anti-other sentiment in our society. It is hard to avoid this mentality when you become an imperial power. You can mask it, conceal it, but it tends to bob to the surface.

We've all seen this movie before. I like to think that there are enough decent people in this country to overcome this type of ugliness, but if there is some kind of attack in the United States over the next year, all bets are off.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 20, 2015

Up to the sky in ships.

Next week? That's kind of short notice, isn't it? Usually we have a few weeks to arrange for interstellar transport, provisions, sound company, etc. But five days? Sheesh!
Ned Trek, the podcast
Let me 'splain. A newly discovered planet 39 light years from here (and when I say newly discovered, I don't mean it was discovered by Anthony Newley, because he's dead and not an astrophysicist) named GJ 1132b has been described as Earth-like. And since we are natives of the planet Earth, we take that as an open invitation to go visit this strange new world, seek out its new life and new civilizations, and boldly try to book a gig there ... where no one has gigged before. Tall order? Perhaps. But frankly, we've been a little short on tall orders just lately here in Big Green land.

This, of course, means scrambling. (For Mitch Macaphee, it means poaching - he HATES scrambled eggs before a rocket launch, HATES them.) We're having to pull a major interstellar journey out of our collective asses, and that can be a problem. That said, it is kind of exciting to think that at this point next week we will be venturing forth on the surface of a world no human has ever seen before. (Though why we need to go fourth, I don't know. If we're going to see something no one has seen before, we should rightfully go FIRST.) Did I just say that? Yeah ... I was afraid so.

Eureka.There is one slight wrinkle, of course. Planet GJ 1132b reportedly has a 450-degree surface temperature. Obviously, we can leave the winter gear behind. I've asked Marvin (my personal robot assistant) to pack some extra box fans into the space craft, once we HAVE a space craft. The real problem is going to be keeping our axes in tune. If you've ever left your guitar sitting in the sun for a few hours you'll know what I'm talking about. MARVIN ... PACK THE EXTRA GUITAR TUNERS!

Mitch Macaphee assures me that he can rent a suitable spaceship in time for this journey to an unknown world. So, we shall see. If by Sunday afternoon I don't see him backing that sucker into the courtyard, I'll start to worry. Til then, take a deep breath.

Land of the (not so) brave.

It's happening again. A terrorist attack occurs somewhere in the developed societies and right-wingers are falling over themselves to prove that terrorism works. They start railing against Islam writ large, slamming the door shut on refugees from the Arab world, calling for bloody vengeance, and so on. The level of hysteria is almost shocking, given the fact that the attacks they're obsessing about happened in France, not America. (They don't seem perturbed by the Beirut bombing, as it was targeted on Hezbollah, which they hate worse than ISIS.) MSNBC's Morning Joe has become a bullhorn for invading Syria. I can only imagine what Fox News is like these days. Facebook has blown up with people defending (I kid you not) the crusades. This thing plainly goes up to eleven.

Some asshole's good old days.It's hard for me to see how these calls for military action and pulling up the drawbridge aren't simply appeals to cowardice. Seriously - the vast majority of the loudest hawks and anti-immigrant fanatics are also fierce defenders of an over-broad interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. Given that many, many more Americans are killed by heavily armed family members, neighbors, or strangers than by terrorism, this is an almost astonishing level of hypocrisy. Even more disturbing is the ludicrous background assumption, expressed most consistently on Morning Joe and by career hawks like John McCain, that if we had simply invaded Syria in 2012, all would be sweetness and light in that sorry nation today. Is there any factual basis for that assumption? The question never arises.

We really need to stop reacting to retail, non-state terrorism in precisely the way the perpetrators hope we will: by sending in the money, the guns, and/or the Marines. Our outsized support for the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s spawned both the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Our sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s and our invasion in 2003 launched Al Qaeda in Iraq, which morphed into ISIS in more recent years. Our "rat line" to the Syrian rebels fed ISIS and facilitated the non-man's-land that is now the territory of the nascent Islamic State - a consequence our DIA was well aware of, according to declassified documents. Hundreds or even thousands of U.S. troops on the ground will fuel their growth and spawn other, more virulent movements, following on the line of radicalism proselytized by the Saudi Kingdom, our closest ally in the Arab world. ISIS wants us to invade Syria because they know how that works. Do we?

I don't think we do. From what I've seen over the last week, I'm growing more convinced that the American people will tolerate a wider war. (The fact that most presidential candidates are talking about that is proof enough.) So ... more war. That will be our legacy to the world.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 13, 2015

Distant demi-world.

What the hell, Mitch. That's just a little speck. No way that's big enough for us to play on. No way in frozen hell.
Ned Trek, the podcast

When astronomers stumble upon some new deep space option, like that dwarf planet recently detected some three times more distant than Pluto is to the Sun, they think, "eureka!" To us, it's just another potential gig. We're that proverbial hammer, always looking for a nail. Appropriate metaphor for a band that lives in an abandoned hammer mill.

I know, I know ... all the planetoid-huggers out there are going to accuse Big Green of being money-hungry, selfish twits. Not true. We are crazy motherfucker selfish twits, in point of fact, and when we see another ice world out there, we can hardly wait to pile into some poorly designed space craft and slip the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of our cold hard money god. So, yeah ... on second thought, I guess we are money hungry selfish twits as well. It's the crazy motherfucker part that kept me from seeing it. (I see now ... )

Nice place.How can we be sure there are music fans on XZ9-Marvin 14? (Note: Before I get flooded with angry messages from disgruntled astrophysicists who have never had an opportunity to name a planet, consider this a planetoid pseudonym just for the purposes of this conversation.) It's what Mitch Macaphee, our mad science adviser, calls the fourth principle of astrophysical convenience: Any planet or planetoid large enough to land on has to be home to some kind of sentient life form, preferably one that speaks English. (The third principle is about breathable air.)

Now, why on earth (or in space) would we name a planetoid after Marvin (my personal robot assistant). Well, let's just say that Marvin has been name-checked as our advance man on this endeavor. That is to say, Mitch has plans to send him up in whatever spaceship is handy and point the nosecone towards that icy little spec in deep space. Then it's drive forward until you hit pay dirt. Or pay ice. Same thing. Marvin has done this sort of work for us before, and there's not a thing for him to worry about ... except that it's EXTREMELY DANGEROUS and that none of us is willing to go in his stead.

Hey, what are personal robot assistants for? We're setting him up with a fax machine so that we can get first hand accounts, retro style. Should be interesting.

Chance, not skill.

This week saw stories about campus uprisings (some successful) relating indirectly to the Black Lives Matter movement and yet another Republican debate about practically nothing. These seemingly distinct phenomena are not entirely unconnected, particularly when you consider the economic focus of the G.O.P. debate and the very racially exclusive history of the expansion of the middle class during the second half of the 20th Century.

Living in my hermetically sealed white man's world, I am witness to a lot of head scratching about why students at, say, University of Missouri are so upset. Of course, all my white companions know of this is what they hear on the evening news or via online sources, which only brings them the events of the past few days. The long history of abuse, exclusion, marginalization, incarceration, injury, and in some cases killing is not encapsulated in these very brief reports. So naturally, it seems nonsensical.

60s suburbia: green grass, red lines.My life isn't exactly typical, but my family experience offers some insight into the depth of white privilege. My dad came back from World War II, got his high school equivalency diploma, and went to work. He was white, so it wasn't that challenging to find a job in those days. He had V.A. and F.H.A. loans, barred to black families, with which to purchase his first, second, third house and so on. By the late sixties / early seventies, we were living in a new house in the richest town in our county, with one son on the way to Oberlin College, all on one salary. Dad's financial profile more or less tracked the trajectory of the American white working class, declining somewhat through the seventies, eighties, and nineties, but he left enough to fund an IRA and, with Social Security, set my mom up for the rest of her life. Black families, by and large, didn't have any of that - not the jobs, not the equity, not the access to credit, an not the freedom to live wherever they wanted.

What's more, because my parents benefited from that brief period of somewhat broadly shared white prosperity in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, they were there to catch me and my siblings when we faltered. I had the luxury of being able to fail once, twice, many times, always having that safety net below me. Again, black people my age didn't have that, because their parents hadn't shared in the prosperity. So when people like Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, etc., tell this tale about pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, they're talking out of their asses.

The truth is, the American economy is a game of chance, not of skill. Not everyone can grow up to be an entrepreneur or a famous neurosurgeon, and they shouldn't have to in order to have a decent life. And though we live under these lofty-sounding delusions about self-reliance and persistence, people no longer have the luxury of failure. Black people never had it, and now white people are reaching that threshold as well.

We need to fundamentally change the way we do things if we're ever going to achieve racial or economic justice. This is probably a good time to start.

God awful. So sorry to hear about the bloody attacks in Beirut and Paris. My condolences to the families of the fallen.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 6, 2015

Freak week.

That's kind of an odd sound. Did you hear it, Anti-Lincoln? What's that? No hearing aid? I didn't know you were hard of hearing. Huh. Explains a lot, really. I think we all just sort of assumed that you were obstinate and disagreeable. And manic depressive. And a total asshole. Oh - well, you heard THAT now, didn't you?

It's hard to 'splain what it's like living with a bunch of freaks like the entourage surrounding Big Green. I know that if you're a rock music fan, you have probably read all the stories about the folks who hung around with the Beatles or Justin Bieber's posse or whatever. Yeah, our group is nothing like that. Though I suppose we have the rough equivalent of "Magic Alex" in our mad science adviser, Mitch Macaphee. Just call him Magic Mitch. (Not to his face, of course.) Once caveat: his version of the "nothing box" would probably be explosive.

Maybe it's just that you get more sensitive with age. You know, the goings-on in the middle of the night, the moving stuff around and slamming doors, the playing instruments at all hours - I should really stop doing all that shit. No, seriously ... I've become kind of attached to the idea of sleeping through most of the night (especially this time of year, when the nights last half the day.) In fact, I get SO attached to the idea of sleeping that I need an frightfully loud Two useless inventionsalarm clock, which now takes the form of Marvin (my personal robot assistant) setting off one of his servo-alarms while standing next to my cot.

You know you're living in freak land when the most normal individual in your group is a man-sized tuber. (I would say my brother Matt is the most normal, but that would just be a dirty lie.) Of course, that has never stopped us from making music. In fact, you could say that it has contributed to our productivity. The freakier we get, the stranger the albums get. That seems like a natural progression to me.

Okay, well ... back to whatever I was doing before. Odd jobs, like bending pretzels, perhaps.

Dark skies ahead.

My plan was to continue my comments on the CNBC Republican debate last week, and I will do some of that, but given the events of the past week it seems appropriate to broaden that discussion a bit. There are some troubling signs about the upcoming election and, more generally, the trajectory we're on as a nation and - yes - an empire.

When you suck at the game, blame the refs.Starting with the debate, probably the most telling moments of that sorry spectacle were the attacks against the event moderators - the calls of unfairness most effectively delivered by Ted Cruz, who (as Sam Seder has pointed out) really owns that sense of grievance that has become such a central part of the Republican/Tea Party narrative. There goes the "liberal" media, ripping into us after having given the Democrats the kid gloves treatment. Several of them - Christie, Trump, Carson, Huckabee - took turns revealing their inner Gingrich, whining at such a pitch that their grievance grew legs and very nearly derailed the entire GOP debate schedule in the days that followed. Pauvre petit!

Then, of course, there was some good old fashioned red baiting on the part of Cruz, Christie, and others. Christie in particular seems to be vying for the Nixon award, now that Scott Walker (a.k.a. Nixon without the charisma) is out of the picture, demagoging on Black Lives Matter by offering rhetorical support for the men in blue while calling out the socialist. Apparently, Fox Business was unmoved, as Christie has now been regulated to the also-ran table in their upcoming proprietary GOP debate.

These people probably virtually equal to one another in nuttiness, with variations in presentation. They are building popular support on the right for some really dangerously insane issues, like building a huge border wall and drilling anywhere and everywhere. Their foreign policy ideas are W. Bush II, Return with a Vengeance. And Obama is setting up the toy soldiers for them all across the game board, with special forces fighting directly in Syria, probably in Yemen and Somalia, and god knows where else. At a time when we face these enormous challenges, not least of which being that of converting to a zero emission economy, we simply cannot afford to have any of these people as president.

But here we are. Carson and Trump in the lead, Ruby-hole just behind. Really, people?

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 30, 2015

Parts and parcels.

What is this ... another carton? This one's from Madagascar, no less. What the hell. Does it rattle when it shakes? Does it roll? If when it shakes it both rattles and rolls, it might be Jerry Lee Lewis.

For the life of me, I don't know who's ordering all of these packages. They just show up at the door of the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill (Big Green's longtime squat-house) and subsequently disappear. At first I thought it might be Mitch Macaphee, but he has long since abandoned the notion of ordering goods from various merchants. He just invents whatever he needs, which is a handy skill to have. (Perhaps the handiest!) Then I thought maybe anti-Lincoln was behind all of this mail order, since some of the boxes came from Urban Outfitters. (He's taken to a more cosmopolitan wardrobe of late. Very smart.)

I know, I know - I tend to get a little suspicious, living in a condemned post-industrial hulk like I do. A few months here and you start to see conspiracies around every corner. What are those mice talking about? Do the crows in the courtyard wish me well or ill? Perhaps it is THEY who are ordering stuff from Crate and Barrel. Maybe they need crates and barrels for something, I don't know. Idle minds, right?

A bit too far, Marvin. Just saying.Someone's handing me a note. It reads, "You idiot. It's probably Marvin (your personal robot assistant). Mitch Macaphee just made him wi-fi compatible." Oh, right. So Marvin doesn't even need a smart phone to buy a bunch of useless junk on credit. All he needs is the credit. Fortunately, he doesn't have ... doesn't have ... hey ... where's my wallet? MARVIN!!

Okay, Marvin has been using this magnetic lock gizmo ever since he saw one on Lost In Space reruns. My guess is that he's down in his basement room, frozen like a statue in his magnetic lock, placing orders over wi-fi without even lifting a finger. And the boxes that come are probably piling up around him like a fortress - a fortress of consumer joy! Doesn't that remind you of Christmas?

Anyway, if I'm in the pokey the next time I post, it will be that mindless robot's fault. See if he'll let you use my credit card to bail me out.

More old wine.

We were treated to the spectacle of another Republican debate last night. I'll dispense with my usual comments about the format, style, and proprietary nature of the event - suffice to say that as a wholly-owned property of CNBC, it met the usual low standard of reality television production values. That said, on to what might be referred to euphemistically as "the substance".

First off, it's worth noting that there are way, way, WAY too many candidates on that stage to allow any kind of reasonable debate. Setting politics and policy aside for a moment, I have to wonder what the hell is wrong with the Republican party that they can allow this to continue? The policy distinctions between these ten are minor, at best. Hasn't it occurred to any of these people that, for the good of their party, it might be best to just sit this one out? In other words, sacrifice your own petty political ambitions so that there might be ample opportunity for substantive debate? Apparently not, as not only are there ten main debate candidates, but a kids table with 4 more. Talk about vanity.

Peterson Institute shill.Issues wise, we heard a lot of recycled crap about simplifying the tax code. The flat tax is presented as something new; it's basically Jack Kemp 3.0. The unifying principle is, of course, massive deficits coupled with massive tax savings for the super rich. Sound familiar? Sure it does. Nine, nine, nine, anyone? Yesterday's nines are today's "tithing".

The ironic thing is that there was some talk of stagnating wages for working people, particularly from Fiorina and Huckabee, but the prescription for that ailment is always just more of what's screwing the common folks now. The contextual narrative these candidates are operating with identifies Obama as a socialist who has gotten his way for seven years. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We have been living under a kind of modified austerity, more of less following the principle set by Grover Norquist that Democrats in power should be forced to "rule like Republicans". That has stagnated growth and increased inequality. They want to make it far worse.

Some of the most despicable posturing came from Governor Christie, a media favorite (particularly on MSNBC's Morning Joe), who wasted no time in throwing the media under the bus. Far worse, he continued his practice of carrying water for Pete Peterson:
Let me be honest with the people who are watching at home. The government has lied to you and they have stolen from you. They told you that your Social Security money is in a trust fund. All that’s in that trust fund is a pile of IOUs for money they spent on something else a long time ago.
This is the kind of gas that's been emitting from New Jersey's blimp-like governor for some time now, and it's bogus as hell. Where does he get the notion that money that has been borrowed has somehow been "stolen"? So, is he saying China isn't getting their money back from us? In fact, they are. We can pay ourselves back the same way we pay back all of our other creditors. It's called keeping promises. New concept for that fucker.

Christie's just trying to advance the narrative that Social Security is bankrupt and that we need to privatize it and hand it over to his friends in the financial services industry. I think the fact that those pirates are still slathering over the prospect of getting their greasy hands on it is proof positive that Social Security has plenty of life left in it.

There are other points to cover, but let me stop here and maybe resume next post.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 23, 2015

Jingle hell.

What are you going to be for this year's Christmas pageant? A reindeer? A slice of gooseberry pie? As small pile of pine cones? So many possibilities.

I don't imagine that anyone reading this blog is unaware of the fact that the holidays hold a special resonance for Big Green. God knows, when they start blowing those freaking carols through every available loudspeaker, my head starts resonating like a church bell at Noon. That's what I call old time religion. And sure, we did do a whole album of Christmas songs, entitled (not surprisingly) 2000 Years To Christmas (2KY2C) - our first formal album.

When I say "formal", I don't mean that we appear in tuxedos with massive red cummerbunds and top hats. I mean that we released a number of collections on cassette tape prior to 2KY2C that were anything BUT formal. More than a few of those were Christmas themed albums, from which we drew the 13 songs that appeared on 2KY2C. Okay, so ... as we have in previous years, we're planning on putting together a holiday episode of our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN, and in an effort to lard it out with some extra music we are ladling out compositions from those earlier "informal" releases. Last year it was "Merry Christmas from Henry K;" the year before we did "Father Christmas," "Christmas Spirit" and a couple of others. Plenty more where that came from.

Gooseberry pie?I've often said (and you've often heard me) that the difference between Big Green and a successful group is that all-consuming lust for fortune, fame, and higher achievements. Yeah ... we ain't got that. We've got the songs - scores and scores of them. We've got our modest musical abilities. We've got a sense of how to put an album together. We even half know how to record ourselves, with some struggle. But that other stuff - that "I'm the greatest" shit ... that particular human chromosome was left out of our genetic inheritance.

So what the hell. Bereft of an Earthly audience, we please ourselves. If that involves putting antlers on for a few hours, so be it.

Bad old days.

I'm beginning to dread the next administration, whoever wins the upcoming election. It's hard to dispel the notion that we are heading into a period of increasingly bellicose foreign policy, in response to circumstances that are the direct result of our previous decades of bellicose foreign policy. Ugly as these circumstances are, they do not justify the further application of American military power in places like Afghanistan, where we've been blowing things (and people) up for 14 years, and Syria, where we appear to be fighting on both sides of the ongoing conflict. And yet virtually every presidential candidate sounds ready to keep the imperial ball rolling, even though the policy is an obvious failure in every sense of the word.

What 40 years of bad policy looks like.The trouble with approaching these issues with an imperial mindset is that we are blind to our own failures while expressing righteous indignation over the failings of others. Russia's military action in Syria is a good example. They are perhaps the fifth or sixth power to drop bombs in that unfortunate country. Their strategy, while militaristic and morally bankrupt, is not difficult to understand - they view Islamic radicalism as an extreme threat, and they make the not unrealistic assumption that the fall of Syria's government would result in a failed state something like Libya or Somalia or Iraq (all of which are beneficiaries of our aforementioned bellicosity). So, like the U.S.'s support of Saudi's murderous campaign in Yemen, they are applying force in support of Assad's crumbling regime.

Of course, when we or our allies commit crimes (as we so often do), it's presented as understandable, even noble. When official enemies commit crimes, it's reprehensible. That's vintage imperial statecraft. The offense taken at Russia's actions fits this template, but also speaks to another dynamic - that of a kind of longing for the simplicity and drama of the Cold War. I'm not entirely referring to the administration here - they encourage this to some extent - but the corporate media, the pundits, the opinion-makers are all fully vested in this enterprise. The more elderly among them, those who lived through the actual Cold War, want to get the band back together again, so to speak. The younger pundits and journalists were brought up to revere the fairy tales told by their elders and want to join in the melodrama of facing off with an "evil empire".

We are in such a cultural moment, I believe (just look at the current crop of blockbuster movies). At a time in human history when it is absolutely imperative that the nations of the world work together, we cannot afford this poisonous brand of nostalgia.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 16, 2015

Knob turning.

That doesn't sound right to me. Twist the knob a bit further. No, no - not that knob! The one below it. Give it a good twist. Wrong way! That sounds horrible. Try the next knob down.

Oh, man ... these sound consoles are so confusing. All those knobs and buttons and sliders and levers, each one doing a whole different thing. And then there's the analog/digital thing, so a lot of the knobs and switches are assignable, which means they do DIFFERENT things for DIFFERENT people. Holy shit, that's complicated. My brain hurts.

You see ... that's the trouble when you spend most of your life writing and playing songs and very little of your life learning the complex technologies involved in putting those songs across. Like most musicians, our reaction is ... you mean I have to learn TWO things? That's outrageous! Double duty, indeed. (As you can see, we are truly in the mainstream of American thought and sensibility.) I think about this every time I listen to old tracks from our various albums and ramshackle collections of unreleased material. I remember the hours of pulling random levers, spinning random knobs, etc., that lead to the final product and I ask myself: How? How is it that it sounds like anything at all?

Too damn complex, Mitch ... Must be a reason that sound comes out of the speakers when you play our recordings. All I know is that we make noises, put them into machines, and voila. Maybe Mitch Macaphee goes in there after we're done and fiddles around with the sound molecules, perhaps in hopes of precipitating some kind of sonic explosion. Perhaps not. (I know that there's usually an subsequent economic explosion, or implosion, to put the matter more precisely.)

As you know, our process for writing songs is somewhat unorthodox. I've described it in these blog pages before. Matt pretty much writes songs in his sleep, which explains a lot. I tend to write best in the shower, but I usually don't have much to show for it other than some sodden, blotchy shreds of paper.

Do what you do best; that's what I was taught. Now if I can just work out exactly what that is.

Debatable.

A couple of comments about the Democratic primary debate this past week. First of all, CNN is an amazing crapfest. Why the hell do we allow corporate media to turn this process into a property to be marketed like some cheap-ass reality show? And reality show it was, in both its tone and its production values. The ridiculous opening sequence, with hyper-dramatic music, the rumble of drums, and introductions torn straight out of some WWF bout or America's Top Chef. The only thing missing was a fully loaded clown car (though they did have that at the G.O.P. match-up).

Can YOU spot the extremist?Okay, that was a sobering sign, to be sure. Even more infuriating than the sideshow atmospherics was the framing of the questions, delivered for the most part by Anderson Cooper. While the Democratic field is decidedly to the left, at least from a rhetorical perspective, of where they were even eight years ago, the corporate media questioners proceeded through the lens of Reagan's America. The signal example of this for me was Cooper's comment to Bernie Sanders about his support for the Sandinista government in Nicargua in the 1980s, as if that was a particularly controversial position in retrospect. (This can be equated with opposition to the Contra terror war against that government being pursued by the Reagan administration at the time - a war so broadly opposed by the American people that Congress had explicitly banned funding for the Contra forces.)

So that was what Bernie Sanders thought as what, mayor of Burlington, Vt.? Fair enough. But up on that same stage was a man who was Secretary of the Navy in the late Reagan years, during which time the U.S. was actively supporting Saddam Hussein in his bloody war against the Iranians. That was during the so-called "tanker war", when the U.S. reflagged Kuwaiti tankers carrying Saddam's oil to market and deployed our Navy in the Gulf to protect those ships and harass the Iranians. What was Webb's role in that? Don't know, but it might be worth a question or two. Of course, we can't go there. That period is among the least discussed in American politics, and with good reason.

Aside from the CNN sponsored bullshit, it was good to hear directly from these candidates at long last. I just wish to hell we could get our shit together and demand that some non-profit organization like the League of Women Voters sponsor these forums so that we can have a serious discussion and not some freak-ass reality show.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 9, 2015

Inside October.

The morning came up like thunder today. That was something. It poured so hard it felt like it was raining in my bedroom. Which, in fact, it was - the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill roof has some issues, as you've probably heard. Hey - over a century old, abandoned by its owners, neglected for decades ... you'd have a leaky roof too.

So I'm sitting here at my superannuated mixing console, laptop open and running, Marvin (my personal robot assistant) holding an umbrella over me as I type. What better time is there to give a rundown of the recently posted October installment of THIS IS BIG GREEN, our podcast. Here's what's on deck for October:

Ned Trek 25: Not the Children One, Please! - Based on the original Star Trek episode, "And the Children Shall Lead" (one of the most annoying episodes ever), the Ned Trek version features the current crop of demon spawn circling the drain that is the modern presidency. Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz appear as the children, all poorly impersonated along with the voices of their fathers, Ron, George, and ... uh ... Ted's dad, respectively. The evil angel ringleader is played by Judge Robert Bork. Lots of singing, chanting, dancing, and fist pumping. You know ... kid stuff.

Song: Johnny Got His Gun - A selection from our 2008 album International House. We included this one as a nod to the Oregon shooting. Our version of Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner, in a sense, written around a subject that seemingly never goes away.

Put The Phone Down - Matt and I wheel through a variety of topics, from a discussion of the ridiculousness of the movie Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, to one about my brief childhood excursion through the Catholic religious instruction process (a.k.a. Voyage to the Bottom of the Holy See), to random talk about Matt's primitive diet and the ongoing atrocities in Syria. Basically, our mouths move and sound comes out - that's all I know.

That's great, Marvin. Thanks.Song: It Should've Been Me - The closer on our 2013 album Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick. Something in the way of a tribute to cousin Rick Perry, who ended his 2016 presidential bid this past month. (NOW what will we do?)

Song: Enter The Mind - Another selection from International House, this one about enhanced interrogations and the mindset that promotes them.

Song: Why Not Call It George - This is an unreleased recording of a song Matt wrote decades ago, recorded on 4-track cassette, I believe, with Johnny White on drums and a positively volcanic guitar solo by the amazing Jeremy Shaw, who played with us in the early 1990s. One of Matt's songs about geoscience (I think there were others) and plate tectonics, with a dash of mad science. It's a particular favorite of our mad science adviser Mitch Macaphee, who would name a reconstituted Pangea "Mitch," I suspect.

Next up.

I can't decide whether the Syrian conflict is becoming more like the Afghan war of the 1980s or the Lebanon civil war (1975-90). It certainly has elements of both. Great and regional power proxies. A U.S. ally that is also a conduit for extremists (Pakistan in the 1980s Afghan war; Turkey in today's Syria). Multiple armies running up against one another in a relatively small space (Lebanon when the Israelis, Syrians, and U.S. were all operating there at once). Rich Saudis bankrolling fanatical foreign fighters (Afghanistan). Now Syria has the misfortune of having drawn the interest of two great powers, one the global hegemon (us), the other its former and increasingly current rival (Russia).

When THEY do it, it's wrong. Got that?It is a bit maddening to see Defense Secretary Ash Carter denounce the Russians for being the gang that can't shoot straight (which they apparently are) when only days ago our forces in Afghanistan blew up a Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital - an accident, of course (we seem to have a lot of them). While we're railing against Putin, we might pause to remember that we have been in Afghanistan for fourteen years, and that the place is still ungovernable. We've been in Iraq for 12 years at some level or another, and large swaths of it are under the control of a group we profess to hate - ISIS or ISIL, nurtured in the government-free zone we carved out in the cradle of civilization, supported by Saudi and Turkey. (I guess the friends of our friends are somehow our enemies. And the enemies of our enemies ... also our enemies. Have we no friends?)

When you invade countries without cause or a thought to the consequences, you shouldn't expect to make any friends. When you pursue policies that undermine the stability of an entire region, you shouldn't be surprised when the whole place starts caving in. I've said it before but it bears repeating - sometimes things are broken so badly that they cannot be put back together. As Americans, we can't get our heads around that concept. We always think there's something we can do. Basically, the one thing we can do right now is to stop actively making things worse. Once that's pursued, other solutions may present themselves.

Speakerstakes. Speaking of ungovernable, there will be no Speaker McCarthy and, hell, maybe no speaker anybody for a while. The bug-fuck-nuts conference in the House must be high-fiving one another over yet another victory. Word to the wise: when you put government haters in charge of government, bad things will happen.

luv u, j

p

Friday, October 2, 2015

Water feature.

Do you really want to go? I don't know. It's a pretty inhospitable place. Very hot and dry, I'm told, and almost absolutely nothing grows there ... not even mold. Though that's a good thing, sort of, right? Still ... I'm less interested in Mars after having played there a few times. Not our crowd, really.

Oh, hi. Just having a momentous discussion with our mad science adviser, Mitch Macaphee, about what to do this weekend. What's that you say? A trip to Mars is too ambitious for the sabbath? Not sure I agree. In any case, we weren't talking about going to the planet Mars; we were debating over whether or not we should go see "The Martian". I was complaining about the condition of our local movie theater. Arid as sandpaper in there, and the seats are twice as rough. Then there's the foul aroma of popcorn - uuuhhl ...

As you know, we're not particularly big on movies or other forms of entertainment, frankly. Mitch likes to go to science fiction movies so that he can fact-check them, particularly the ones featuring diabolical mad scientists with ambitions to (dare I say it?) rule ... the world. He gets a kick out of poking holes in the flimsiest premises imaginable. The other day, he was tearing "Planet of the Dinosaurs" apart. Before that, it was "The Creeping Terror." Talk about straw men. And don't get Mitch started on Lost In Space or Journey to the Bottom of the Sea. He's up one side of Irwin Allen and down the other.

Mitch has some issues with Planet of the Dinosaurs.I guess there's a renewed interest in the red planet since NASA recently determined that there's evidence of flowing water on the surface - mostly ice melt in the mountains. Hell, we could have told them that. I can't remember which interstellar tour it was, but one time we played a ski chalet on Mount Olympus. The dry ice was up to our ankles, but there was some water ice as well - mostly in our cocktails, though. Pretty cushy arrangement, but again ... not our audience. And dry, very dry.

We should do another interstellar tour this winter. Got to get Mitch and his invention Marvin (my personal robot assistant) out of the mill a little more. They're getting like shut-ins, and that can only lead to sorrow.

Twilight of empire.

United Nations week is always entertaining on some level. Probably the best moments of this go 'round involved the usual great power hypocrisy. Putin talking about Assad's "valiant" fight against the terrorists - that's a bit over the top. But no one beats the U.S. in this category. Obama delivered cautionary rhetoric about how a world that can countenance Russian interference in eastern Ukraine would be setting a dangerous precedent:
... we cannot stand by when the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a nation is flagrantly violated. If that happens without consequence in Ukraine, it could happen to any nation gathered here today.
Imagine, great nations feeling as though they can intervene in other nations at will, in service to their own purported national interests. Whoever heard of such a thing? This Obama. Not this one.One can only guess what was running through the minds of so many members of the General Assembly when they listened to this balderdash, particularly those who have been on the receiving end of American military and economic power. Sure, it's heavy handed and gratuitous for Russia to start bombing parts of western Syria. I imagine there are countries who have sufficient moral standing to take issue with that. The United States is not one of them. We haven't a leg to stand on in that regard, and the fact that we complain the loudest about Russia's action is a bit too much like the kleptomaniac yelling "Thief!"

Set aside the fact that Russia is the tenth country to drop bombs on Syria, or that we were more than willing to overlook Turkey's attack on Kurdish forces (who were fighting ISIS) so long as Ankara pledged some level of strategic cooperation. We Americans have nothing to say on this issue. Look at every country we have "helped" in the greater middle east, north Africa, south Asia swath of territory that makes up a large portion of the Muslim world. Every one is a failed state or the next worst thing. Afghanistan is spinning apart, as is Iraq. Yemen is in pieces, now being bombed by our closest Arab ally. Libya is no more. Pakistan is teetering on the brink. When has our intervention ever helped anyone over the last sixty years?

Oregon Shooting. Disgusted beyond belief. I'm with the president on this one. We're just too dysfunctional to govern ourselves.

The Pope and the Clerk. Francis met with that religious zealot town clerk from Kentucky. Total dick move. Not sure who's idea that was, but fuck, that was stupid.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 25, 2015

Thingmaker.

Well, there's absolutely no doubt about it. A song is a thing. I think we can all agree on that. And I can also say, without fear of contradiction, that every song, no matter how insipid, is about some thing. That's a no-brainer.

With that in mind, what's the best way to make an album based on the melodramatic story arc of what can be described as a spacebound horse opera? Simple - break out the thingmaker! What is that, a hot plate, right? Anybody out there on the internets old enough to remember thingmakers? Sure ... you plug the thing in, heat it up, pour goop into a mold, cook the mold on the hot plate, then chew on the plastic junk you create or electrocute yourself by pouring the cooling reservoir water on the thingmaker. Great fun.

Anyway ... what we do is not that dissimilar from playing with a thingmaker. Let's say that our overactive idiotic imaginations are the "goop", if you will. I suppose the "mold" is the usual genres we work within, mostly rock, some bogus country, some other weird stuff we can't define. Then of course, there's the thingmaker itself, our superannuated recording system - a Roland VS-2480 deck we bought fifteen years ago to replace my now shipwrecked Tascam DTRS DA-88 deck. And let's face it, that sucker is not that far removed from a thingmaker.

Great production valuesWe've started to use Cubase a bit over the last two years, just out of necessity, but we're kind of locked into the thingmaker, despite the fact that it's got a beastly 486 processor and a primitive proprietary "closed" operating system - and I do mean closed! There's literally one way to get data out of that thing other than via analog audio outputs, and that's through the coaxial digital outputs. There is no system that currently supports Roland's (again) proprietary R-Bus data ports. The only other bus is SCSI, which of course is toast. The CD burner doesn't work. The optical audio outs don't appear to work either. Thingmaker.

Hey ... that's what Big Green is all about, right? Making something from nothing. With nothing. And for nothing. It's what we do.

News dump.

Wow, what a week. I had to laugh at NBC at one point, trying to pivot between the papal visit and the Boehner resignation. So much news, so little air time! Nothing the mass media loves more than information overload ... you can hear the squeak of joy in their voices. Not sure where to start, but I'll dive right in and let's see where we go.

Arbiter of American "values"Carson's law. Am I alone in thinking that Ben Carson is a truly creepy individual? He's way too quiet, for one thing. And when he does talk, he says stuff like this response on Meet The Press to a question about the importance of a president's faith:
DR. BEN CARSON: Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the constitution, no problem.

CHUCK TODD: So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the constitution?

DR. BEN CARSON: No, I don't, I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.
Consistent with the constitution? What faith is "consistent with the constitution?" What exactly are these "values and principles" that he's talking about? Anyone supporting Carson on the notion that he is not a politician is suffering from a severe delusion. This is just pandering of the most cynical kind. It happens that most of the Republican electorate agree with Carson - that's not an accident. The famous neurosurgeon may not know a lot about most things outside of his medical discipline, but he does know how to read a poll.

Boehner out. I haven't heard his reason for stepping down, and I'm not sure I'm interested, but my guess is that he doesn't want to negotiate another government shutdown confrontation, which is plainly on the horizon, fueled by the ludicrous uproar over these heavily edited Planned Parenthood sting videos. This must certainly go down as one of the least productive speakerships in the history of the republic. That may not be entirely a bad thing. Sometimes when Congress gets a lot done, it's terrible for the country and the rest of the world (like the bipartisan vote for the Iraq invasion). A more effective speaker may have delivered on more of the Republican caucus's priorities. So ... we may miss you, Boehner. We'll see.

Papal stances. Glad to see the Pope praising Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton in his remarks to Congress. (Martin King and Lincoln as well.) Christ, if he weren't the Pope, I expect the entire southern delegation would have marched out of there whistling Dixie.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 18, 2015

War stories.

Gather 'round, kiddies ... ol' grampa Big Green is going to spin a few tales about the glory days of yesteryear, when it was us against the world, gas was 35 cents a gallon, and love was just a buck forty-three away. Heh heh. (Get off my lawn!)

Yeah, the truth is, Big Green is pretty short on war stories. That occurred to me today as I was driving along, listening to an old Fresh Air interview with Keith Richards. (In truth, the most interesting parts were when Terry played some of the old Stones hits, which I still like o'plenty.) You expect some of the pillars of rock and roll to have the ripest, pithiest tales about backstage exploits, drugs, women, men, asteroid wrangling, pretzel bending, and so on. But bands like us, clinging to the clammy underbelly of pop music ... well, we don't have a lot of that.

Sure, there are stories. But nobody wants to hear about riding back from Middlebury College on NY Route 8 in the dead of winter, in a battered old van that had no heat and kept threatening to stall. Nobody's interested in the gig we played in the dive bar in Syracuse to a bunch of somber patrons who later explained that someone had been stabbed there the night before. And who wants to ride along with us to Oneonta to play in a music store doorway in the pouring rain, then hike over to an old railroad station bar where we played into the night? Nobody, that's who .... nobody!

There was this chicken, see? And ... Ever get down on your hands and knees and beg a potato to get fat? Ever shake your fist at an apple because it shriveled on a stick? Yeah, me neither. But if I had, those would be in the memoir, for sure. All we have are pointless stories of low-grade adventures that any plain clothes musician in the northeast could probably top without even trying. Maybe that's Big Green's true calling: giving other bands something to feel good about. (At least we're not THEM!)

Hoo boy, is that the time? Peace out.

The fence.

A lot of talk the past few weeks about refugees flooding into southern and eastern Europe, mainly people from the hell that is Syria and the catastrophic landscape of post-revolution Libya. First reaction of the right-wing government in Hungary was to thug them with riot police and hastily build a border fence. One of the more memorable videos was the one where Hungarian officials are tossing baloney sandwiches into a corral filled with hungry migrants, including young children. Then there was the Hungarian broadcast journalist who deliberately tripped a fleeing refugee. Nice. People.

Welcome to EuropeThe thing is, you need to listen to their rhetoric. They're talking about "illegal immigrants". They're echoing the applause lines of our own crackpot politicians. No surprise, because we're witnessing the same experience on our own southern border. People fleeing from the neoliberal aftermath of our bankrupt Central America policy, starting with support for decades of regressive, kelptocratic Mexican governments to our serial interventions in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and elsewhere, pouring into this country in hope of a better life. And we've got freaks like Donald Trump calling them rapists, murderers, etc., and not just him. Those Hungarian xenophobes? Turns out, they are us.

The plan to expel something like 11 million people from the United States is, well, something tantamount to ethnic cleansing. It's clear that a major party candidate advocating racial profiling raises very few eyebrows these days. Take, for instance, Trump's town hall event this past Thursday, when one attendee called for the expulsion of all Muslims, to which the candidate said he would be looking at this once elected. Really? As Chris Hayes and Charlie Pierce pointed out the other day, this business is like having a wolf by the ears. When you play with racism and xenophobia, it tends to play back ... and hard. Easy to lose control of that particular sentiment. There are plenty of historical precedents.

Here we go. I have to say, as someone who watched a good bit of the second Republican debate, we are headed for some very troubled waters. Beware what a nation will do when it's effectively fear-mongered.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 11, 2015

Hanky land.

What the fuck, was that a week just then? I know I've said this before, but time seems to be speeding up. I should ask Mitch Macaphee if the Earth is spinning any faster than a few years ago ... and if HE has anything to do with it. (Always worth asking.)

Well, it's been kind of quiet around the abandoned hammer mill for the last week. Just the sounds of quiet toil. Ah, the joys of wage slavery! Not much to report. Matt's been out in the field, tending to his various populations of beast and bird. We're working on the next album, punching up some of the Ned Trek numbers, albeit slowly. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) is learning Swahili in his spare time (or perhaps Kinyarwanda ... he can never make up his little battery-driven mind about anything.)

Besides recording, what have we been doing as a "band", specifically? Well, if you REALLY want to know, probably the best way is to listen to the second half of our podcast THIS IS BIG GREEN - the part where Matt and I spend about an hour talking about nothing and next to nothing. For instance, our most recent episode featured the following weighty items:
  • What a way to wake upImagining Henry Kissinger trying out for the Monkees back in the late sixties, like Charles Manson did. Hanky's Monkees, it might have been called. Or perhaps not. (This stemmed from our recollection of an earlier episode when we pondered whether or not Davy Jones might have been killed by primate poachers.)
  • Waking up and finding that not only are you in the Pleistocene era, but you are in fact Charles Nelson Riley.
  • Giving a rough-edged rendition of the Popeye theme song.
  • Way too many lame imitations of Peter Lorre (if you can imagine such a thing).
  • Once through the "Happy Anniversary" version of the William Tell Overture to mark our podcast's 4th anniversary.
I know, it's hard to imagine that any single podcast could contain so many wonders, but it's true. And honestly, it's just like hanging out with us in the Cheney Hammer Mill basement. Just as riveting.

Left screech-less.

Well, it was quite a week for the right. First the dramatic jailing of the county clerk in Kentucky and her equally dramatic release into the arms of Mike Huckabee and Tony Perkins (not the actor). Then there was the non-satirical version of the Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, headlined by Ted Cruz, who was shut out at the Kentucky celebration of bigotry. Lots of posturing, quite a bit of screeching (particularly on the part of the estimable Sara Palin), and some very bizarre opinions being aired - tirades that speak of a truly distorted view of reality; noises from that airless box the reactionary right spends all of its time in.

Meeting of the minds in Washington, D.C.I think the part that's most flabbergasting is the level of hysteria over the Iran deal. You expect to hear overheated rhetoric at an event that features Michelle Bachman and some dude from "Duck Dynasty," but this was way the fuck over the top. Ted Cruz suggested that the Iranians, once they have acquired the nuclear weapon they so LUST after, will blow it up off the coast of the U.S. to create an electromagnetic pulse, shutting down our electrical grid and killing MILLIONS! What. the. fuck. What a fantasy! And this from a sitting Senator.

Sure, I know what you're thinking. (Or at least I think I do.) These are the crackheads, the crazy people, the tea party faithful, waving their freak flag high. Except that these opinions are broadly held among Republicans, great and small. Just as Trump channels the inner wingnut of every member of the party faithful, the bizarre rhetoric of Palin, Cruz, Bachman and others emanate from the mouths of the GOP's supposedly more temperate and measured spokespeople. On Thursday morning MSNBC's Joe Scarborough launched into a rant about the Iran deal that diverged from Palin's argument only in the style of delivery. Less screechy, but just as nuts. We're shuddering in the shadow of Iran. Scarborough could have been channeling Cheney, except that the wreck of an ex vice president appeared on his show only days before.

Fact is, they're all nuts. Be advised.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 4, 2015

Inside August (or September).

Hey, presto. Pulled a fast one on you last week, didn't we? Just when you least expect to see a new episode of THIS IS BIG GREEN, there it freaking is, plain as paper and twice as thick. As has been our practice, this featured another "musical" episode of our warped space opera Ned Trek, the only Star Trek parody that features an all-neocon crew, a Mormon captain, and a talking dressage horse as its first officer and moral compass.

What's inside the podcast? Well, the best way to find out is to suffer through it. You can do it! Short of that drastic step, here's a brief guide to August's TIBG:

Ned Trek 24: Whom Gods Deploy - This episode of Ned Trek is loosely based on the third season classic Star Trek episode, Whom Gods Destroy, the one with Captain (a.k.a. Lord) Garth, the inmate who takes over the space insane asylum and plans on conquering the universe. In our version, the inmate is George W. Bush, former imperial president, who spends his days on an asylum planet painting abstract portraits .... works that appear to presage actual events, as if (dare I say it?) he possessed some kind of supernatural power, like the guy in The Lathe of Heaven, except more on the hayseed side. (Side note: W has a serious fear of horses, my brother tells me.)

Frankly, hard to parody.Song: Up On The Bridge - Another Sulu number, one that chronicles his career fall and rise with the ebb and flow of the Star Trek phenomenon.

Song: I Paint What I See - Ex-president George W. Bush explains the genesis of his muse and its relationship to his overall worldview.

Song: Naturally - Pearl's song to his former boss and chief advisee; a lament about W's sorry condition as a painter, not a war-starter. Country-fied.

Song: Stephanie’s Song - Mr. Stephanie croons about W's fear of horses and all hooved creatures in this quirky waltz.

Song: Baby Bush - A Romney number, encouraging W. to reclaim his pedestal as The Decider. Shuffle swing number.

Song: Jesus Has a Known Mind - Doc delivers an awesome message from the lord in this rock-out number. Mean!

Song: Real Talking Horse - Ned's song, with a strange early-sixties ending reminiscent of the Four Seasons, somehow.

Pointless Banter - This you have to hear. I can't describe it other than to say that I probably said things I regret, but .... post!

Mount denial.

Another one of those weeks. Seems like there have been a lot of them just lately. In any case, it was notable that the President spent part of the week up in northern Alaska, getting his picture taken in front of melting glaciers. This represents political jiu-jitsu of positively Clintonian proportions, as it was only last week that Obama's administration gave the nod to Gulf Oil to start drilling in the arctic - a region so remote that even the inadequate remediation services available in places like the Gulf of Mexico are unavailable. Gulf's business plan, I assume, relies on a lot of good luck (as well as a steadily warming climate). Their disaster response plan is probably the same boilerplate bogus document BP used.

Somebody should do somtehing ... Right, so ... Barry let Gulf oil start drilling in ocean recently freed up by the effects of burning hydrocarbons, but that's okay, because he renamed Mount McKinley and talked about how we're not moving fast enough on climate change. Yeah, no shit, Mr. President - there's an obvious solution to that, of course. Stop dragging your own damn feet. Obama's efforts to address the impending climate catastrophe are progressing so slowly that those glaciers he visited seem speedy in comparison. He should have named that mountain "Denial-ly".

I'm not sure what's more aggravating, a right-wing politician (name pretty much any one) who champions climate change skepticism or someone like the President, who obviously knows better but lacks the will (or perhaps the spine) to do what needs to be done - to propose solutions appropriate to the scale of the problem. This eight years may turn out to have been the last best hope for putting the worst effects of global climate change in check. My guess is that Obama knows this, but if so, how can he not at least try to take the necessary steps, not the usual scrum of half-measures?

Climate change will not be blown back by rhetoric. It doesn't yield to compromise solutions. We have to stop thinking in terms of short-term political expediency and realize that when it comes to survival on this planet, half-measures won't do.

luv u,

jp