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Friday, December 30, 2016

Six days.

No, it's not the fifth day, Marvin. It's the sixth. Doesn't that processor between your ears do simple sums, for crying out loud? Six, man, six!

Yes, I am correcting Marvin (my personal robot assistant) on his math. Or his calendar skills. Not sure which, actually. I put him in charge of counting down our "Six Days of Christmas" celebration. Why six? Well, turns out we couldn't afford twelve. And since we were too sick to finish our Holiday extravaganza on time, we all thought it only appropriate to provide a small ... even half-assed compensation. You're welcome, America!

For those of you who missed it, this is what our lame celebration consisted of:

Day One: Post of "A Very Neddy Christmas" on NedTrek.com. This is a rerun, yes, of our Ned Trek parody of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, featuring four songs, some bad celebrity imitations, and all the rest of it.

Day Two: Soundcloud post of Vital Signs, a song off of our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas. This is one of my personal favorites from that collection. But who the hell cares what I think, right? Damn straight.

Day Three: Soundcloud post of Merry Christmas, Jane, a song off of our EP Live From Neptune. This was recorded live to stereo DAT back in 1994, I think, with Jeremy Shaw on guitar. (We've played this on the podcast a couple of times.)

SIX days! Are you MAD?Day Four: Photo album of Matt and Joe, posted on Facebook. These are promo shots taken in, I don't know, 1987, by our niece Mona. I think we were trying to mock a U2 photo spread in Rolling Stone for Joshua Tree, but it's hard to tell.

Day Five: Soundcloud post of Jit Jaguar's Christmas. This is a ridiculous Christmas song Matt wrote quite a few years ago that we recorded I think in 2013 as part of our ongoing project to record our back catalog. Pretty pared down, but I like this recording. Rough and ready.

Day Six: This shit. Hey ... it's like getting a load of wooden balls. We've got a pageant under construction, so ... think of it as some delayed holiday joy. Keep your eyes open, people, and happy new year.

Ring out.

It's the year that wouldn't die. I suppose it always seems that way - years, like any unit of measurement, are artificial divisions by which no natural or artificial phenomena need abide. Still, it feels like we're accelerating to the finish line, and each day seems to bring more exaggerated indications of what a clusterfuck 2017 promises to be.

Yes, but what have you done for me lately?Probably the most prominent feature of a discouraging week was the fallout over UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which reaffirmed the longstanding principle that Israel's settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem is "a flagrant violation under international law" as well as "an obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution". The Obama administration abstained on this resolution (i.e. did not veto it), prompting hysterical reaction from Republicans and Democrats alike and a long speech by Secretary of State John Kerry, which triggered more hair-on-fire reactions.

The administration's position on this is pretty standard - for decades, our government has been officially against the notion of settlement building and unilateral annexation of occupied territory in Israel/Palestine, while at the same time funding Israel to the tune of billions of dollars a year and - aside from a few rhetorical clucks here and there - doing nothing to pressure them to stop this illegal and destructive activity. Resolution 2334 will be ignored by Israel, just like all the rest, back to 242 and 338, and we will continue to send them money and arms, and defend them when they go on another tear in Gaza or elsewhere. Still: not good enough for Netanyahu, who is obviously using the transition to an even more congenial Trump administration to make a point.

Getting your face rubbed in it by Netanyahu is annoying enough. Hearing lamentations about the Obama administration's abstention on 2334 from the leader of the Democrats in the Senate is just plain unacceptable. Is this the face of resistance for the next four years? A number of commentators on the left have complained about the degree to which the Democratic party seems to have no fire in the belly these days. When an issue like this appears to bring our leadership more in line with the incoming Trump administration, it becomes even more clear that the left is on its own. We can count on no one but ourselves.

So be it. Let's work with one another. Let the leaders follow us for a change.

luv u,

jp

Friday, December 23, 2016

Wrap it up.

Where did those scissors go? Right ... I'll just use my teeth then, shall I? What the hell. I hate the freaking holidays! Especially when they get this close. Christmas looks a lot better from a distance.

Yes, my friends, you caught us in the middle of another Cheney Hammer Mill meltdown. They're becoming more frequent in this new era, I must admit. Still, I have cause - trying to wrap up another holiday extravaganza, and it's not going all that well, frankly. I've got a em-effin' cold, for one thing. What's the other thing? Huh ... Don't remember. I always forget shit like that when I have a cold.

One thing I'm having trouble wrapping is this year's Christmas show. It's a little hard to voice these things without a voice. It's like playing sousaphone parts on a tambourine. So the choice is either, croak everyone a merry Christmas, or .... we'll have to cancel Christmas. There's nothing I can do - it's this weather. (Okay, now I'm randomly quoting dialog from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Another symptom of my illness.) We'll be a little late in posting this year, let me put it that way. But there are consolations.

Hey, uh ... that's a really creepy get-up, Marvin.We're thinking we might post last year's extravaganza as a Ned Trek episode at NedTrek.com. And if I can get my voice working again, I might try to do more of a straight music podcast, playing selections from our holiday music catalog of the last 20 years. There are a couple of outtakes from 2000 Years To Christmas that have never seen the light of day. We've got some more recent recordings composed around a holiday theme. I might pack that together like a mincemeat pie and toss it out to the hungry masses as we continue to work on our current marathon-like production. Part-timers!

Anyhow, if you can tear yourself away from your holiday table in the coming days, look for additional posts between now and the new year. I'll be holed up here in the Cheney Hammer Mill, hammering away at some piece of junk. Stick a bow on it and send it off! Feliz navidad.

War on nothing.

Looks like somebody won the war on Christmas - I'm just not sure who. Talk about pushing on an open door. Every year, from about Halloween on, we are inundated with Christmas messaging, pressing us to shop, shop, shop, borrow, borrow, borrow, and so on. If someone's been waging a war against this hyper consumerist Christian Saturnalia, they haven't been very obvious about it. The right, of course, likes to hang this phony "war" on the left, but what they describe as an attack on them is really just another component in their ongoing efforts to push their religion in all of our faces. It's like when they whine about the "liberal" media - just a slight variation on the thief who cries "Thief!"

And in case you didn't hear...Well, now the "war on Christmas" crew has a prominent new spokes-moron: President-elect Donald Trump, who has made a point of pushing Christmas at all of his victory tour rallies across the country. You've probably seen it - big "Merry Christmas" sign on the front of his podium, lines of Christmas trees behind him. At one stop in Mobile, Alabama, they even cut down an ancient old-growth cedar to serve briefly as a festive backdrop for his remarks, much to the displeasure of many locals. Hey ... what matters to Trump is making a point. We're the Christian tribe, and you're not. That's pretty much it.

It's an appropriate follow-on to the anti-Muslim blood libel of his presidential campaign, wherein he spoke about "thousands of Muslims" celebrating the attacks of 9/11/2001 and about bans and registries. (He, of course, also targeted undocumented immigrants from Mexico and parts south, the vast majority of whom are presumably Christian.) I see the chauvinistic tribalism of this cartoon-like display and it recalls to mind the lyrics to one of Matt's more recent Christmas songs, "Horrible people," from a Ned Trek holiday episode (Santorum's Christmas Planet):

Doesn't it follow that such terrible people would have terrible religion and they're primed to push it in our faces

Sure, this is just a small piece of the crap show we can expect over the next four years, but it's a pretty good indicator of the general tone and tenor of what's likely to be the most arrogant administration since Reagan.

luv u,

jp

Friday, December 16, 2016

Ice days.

Man oh man. Put another log in the furnace, Anti-Lincoln. Drafty old barn of a place. Are you sure we weren't somehow transported overnight to one of those Kuiper Belt planetoids? I'm freezing my ass off in here.

Oh, hi. Yes, we're in the midst of another cold snap here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. Our local gas an electric company discontinued service here years ago, as you might suspect. The hammer forge has been pretty quiet since the 1940s. You might think, well ... burn the furniture, right? Well, we did that YEARS ago. I'm sleeping on a mattress on the floor, and no, I'm not burning that. (We're always looking for kindling. After almost twenty winters of this, the mansized tuber is looking pretty nervous.)

Okay, so we have to break the ice in the bathroom sink every morning - is that anything to complain about? We have a roof over our heads ... or most of a roof, anyway. More importantly, we have a floor beneath our feet. I say that because, if you'll recall, we went on a "Journey to the Center of the Earth" tour some years back, and I for one never want to make THAT journey again. You haven't had a tough audience until you've played for Morlocks. And those talking rock creatures! What's that, Marvin? You don't say. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has just told me that there were no talking rock creatures. This one club owner just had a novelty landline telephone, that's all.

Oh, right. I remember these guys.I suppose we, like so many other upstaters, should find some way of monetizing this freezing cold weather. I don't know, like ... exporting ice or something. We could turn this place into the abandoned Cheney Ice Mill, start shipping ice all over the country. We could pack it in dry ice, or sawdust, or ... something. Iron filings, perhaps. (There's a lot of those in the hammer mill basement.) It's just a damn shame that you can't bottle this weather and sell it in the summer. Hey ..... Nah, forget it.

Well, we've got one thing to keep us warm: Our Christmas episode of THIS IS BIG GREEN, still in production. Likely to be a little late this year, friends - my apologies. I will post something around the holiday as a placeholder then drop the new episode when it's good and ready. (Well ... ready, anyway. If I hold out for "good" , we may be talking about NEXT Christmas.)

Consenseless.

The Syrian meltdown is horrible to watch, and thanks to the fact that much of the killing is being done by official enemies of the United States, we are actually able to watch it. The Syrian regime is doing the only thing it knows how to do - killing and torturing those who oppose it. The Russians, too, have only one speed on their killing machines. Lebanese Hizbullah fighters are there to support the regime, just as the regime and the allied government of Iran was there to help them in their time of need - it's hard for me to blame them, frankly. But the true crime of Syria is that there are many players involved in this senseless war and their all pursuing their own agendas.

Syria? Nope. It's Yemen.The United States has had dogs in this fight for years, despite what you'll hear on bullshit broadcast outlets like Morning Joe. They have provided covert support to rebel groups in Syria since before the uprising, so there's little doubt that some of those fighters assumed - as Chalabi did with regard to Iraq - that Uncle Sam would swoop in and save the day, Kosovo style. The notion that the United States could somehow fix this problem through the application of military force has remarkable currency among politicians, pundits, and talking heads.

Everyone from Clinton to McCain to Joe Scarborough talks about no-fly zones like they're as simple as pitching a tent in the backyard. My guess is that their conception of this pulls from their memories of the Gulf War aftermath, when the U.S. established no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq. That required very little additional firepower because we had already blown the country up, destroyed its air defenses, its command and control infrastructure, and so on. Syria still has all that stuff, plus the Russian air force.

Sometimes broken stuff stays broken (see Iraq). I don't condone Russia's role in Syria, but it seems pretty clear why they intervened: they saw what happened with various other failed states we created through our interventions over the past fifteen years, and they're determined not to let that happen to one of their client states. They have obviously gone way, way too far, and we are seeing every lick of it. What we're NOT seeing is what's happening in Yemen, which we could truly bring to an end with a stern phone call.

Our responsibility as a nation to protect innocent lives is most acute in those areas where we have the most influence. We can rail against abusive foreign leaders until the cows come home to little effect, but when we're picking up the tab, as in Yemen, it's incumbent upon us to act. If you're really worried about human suffering, tell Obama to do so before he packs up and leaves.

luv u,

jp

Friday, December 9, 2016

It's about time.

I don't know, I'm thinking it's time. What do you think? Not sure? Okay. When do you think you'll have an answer? I don't know about you, but ... I'm thinking it's time.

Okay, well ... I'll be frank with you. (Just call me "Frank" from now on.) We are grasping at straws here in Big Green land, now that our interstellar tour has been scuttled. And here it is, the holidays. We were thinking that we'd be traversing interstellar space when Christmas week came, but no dice. Trouble is, that was going to be our excuse for not getting anyone presents - sorry folks, we're headed to a big gig on planet KIC 8462852. No time to shop! Well, THAT'S out the window. Any other good ideas for cheapskates?

Marvin (my personal robot assistant) humbly suggested we hand out signed copies of our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas, which appropriately follows a theme somewhat tangentially related to the holidays. Of course, we've resorted to that tactic before - it's been a full 17 years since we put the sucker out, so everyone we know (and quite a few people we don't know) has a copy. By this point, they're stacking them under broken table legs and using them for drink coasters. I saw one of our friends re-purposing the jewel cases. Talk about a post-apocalyptic music hell-scape - people are mining our album like it's a natural resource. (And it's anything but natural.)

Give them discsThe gift of music is always an early resort for us. That's basically how 2000 Years To Christmas was born - Matt writing songs as holiday gifts, back in the day. Then there's the gift of podcasting. There, we have some good news and some bad news. The GOOD news is that we are working on another Christmas pageant as we speak - a Ned Trek holiday classic that will have some new songs embedded in it. The BAD news is that ... at the rate we're going, it likely won't be finished until AFTER Christmas, so ... hot holiday leftovers are coming your way.

For the holiday week itself, we may put out a rerun podcast with some additional "members only" elements. (Oh, right - we don't have membership levels. Scratch that.) Back to the grind, boys!

Picking your friends.

I suppose I may as well work the same furrow as the mainstream media does and talk about President Elect Trump's cabinet choices. It's a bit like drinking urine, but here goes.

One more general and we get a free coup d'etat!The list thus far seems custom designed to irritate centrists and liberals. That's only to be expected, right? People who didn't support Trump, people who said bad things about him, people who worked for his opponent - their attitude is, well, fuck those people. And since they have no philosophical commitment to making government work effectively, the vengeance factor is of greater relative importance than it might otherwise be. Still, it is pretty stunning to see them assemble such a wrecking crew. We knew that a Republican win would mean hitting the ground running in January, and it looks like that's going to be the case.

So what the hell - Trump has hired three generals so far: Flynn, Mattis, and Kelly, in order of crazy (most to least). Mattis seems problematic in that one might prefer overtly civilian control of the Pentagon, but then there's putting General Kelly in charge of Homeland Security. So military control of the Pentagon and domestic security policy? Sheesh. (Don't get me started about Flynn .... that man should be in a straitjacket.) There are also several billionaires under consideration, as well as a couple of financial crisis profiteers, most notably Mnuchin, who cleaned up on the purchase and re-sale of IndyMac, playing a prominent role in robo-signing mortgage foreclosures in between.

But I think the overriding theme is "opposite day": putting people in charge of federal departments towards which they are either actively hostile or blissfully indifferent. Putting Dr. Carson in charge of HUD is just a case of appointing a functional incompetent to run a complex agency. Making Scott Pruitt head of the EPA is just a sick joke - that sounds like a Pence choice to me, but I'm guessing. Same with Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. It seems like the charge of each of these ass-clowns is to destroy the thing they've been hired to run, and I'm certain they will be successful.

Hey, nobody said it was going to be easy. And if anybody thought Trump might be inclined to throw the other side a bone for the sake of national "healing", they must surely be disabused of that notion by now.

luv u,

jp

Friday, December 2, 2016

Thrust.

Did you guys hear that sound last night? Maybe about 3 a.m., I don't know. It was raining like hell, I think - pounding on the windows like a freaking hammer. At least I think that's what it was. Either that or a ... a ... rocket lifting off ...

Well, that last paragraph is a depiction of what I sounded like when it first dawned on me that our leased Plywood 9000 rocket was hijacked in the middle of the night. As some of you recall, just before Thanksgiving we were preparing for a brief tour of some lesser known planets that don't get a lot of respect, like KIC 8462852. That appears to have been, well, scuttled. And while the Plywood 9000 is not what you might call luxury transportation, it apparently was functional enough to be stolen.

Who is the thief? Can't be 100% sure, but the fact that Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, has disappeared probably isn't a coincidence. I think he was getting a little tired of our antics, or lack of same - it's been weeks since we first discussed this tour and still no action. The man just hates waiting around, particularly when there are discoveries to be made. Who can blame him? No one likes waiting, least of all a mad scientist. And when it became obvious that the Trump administration was not going to tap him to be Chief Scientist at NASA, he did seem to be weighing his options.

Hey, man ... what's that noise?That means we have a mad scientist on the lamb. Or on the rent-a-rocket, to put a finer point on it. I think his ultimate destination will be the newly discovered planet KIC 8462852 (and no, I don't mean it was discovered by Anthony Newly), but there are a lot of potential stops between here and there. So I'm just putting this out there: if you astronomers, amateur or professional, notice any unusual activity on the outer planets, particularly Jupiter (about which Mitch has harbored a strange fascination for many years), notify us immediately. Use the comment form on this blog post, or send us a note by snail mail to ... well, just write "Big Green, Cheney Hammer Mill" on the envelope - we'll get it.

Fuck all. Then there's the lease payment for the Plywood 9000 rocket. DAMN YOU, MITCH!

For the ages.

Perhaps the most predictable response to the death of Fidel Castro was the corporate media's nearly exclusive focus on his critics' jubilation. I can't tell you how many times I've heard audio of car horns honking in Miami over the past week. Contrary to the impression viewers and listeners might get from this coverage, the exile community's joy was a small island in a sea of regrets pouring in from nearly the entire world, particularly those corners of it that benefited directly from Cuban assistance over the past 55 years. As was becoming the case with regard to our relationship with the OAS, our reaction to Castro's death isolated us from the rest of the hemisphere and, indeed, the globe.

Made a difference.This cannot be overstated: South Africa and some of its immediate neighbors (Namibia, Angola) would not be the nations they are today without Cuba's intervention on their behalf in the fight against the racist Apartheid military and its allies. Whatever criticisms anyone may have about Castro's rule and his repression of internal dissent, we have to acknowledge that the Cubans have engaged in humanitarian intervention to a degree that far surpasses anything we have done. They did so at great cost: Washington really turned the screws on Havana, making them pay dearly for their activist stance in support of independence movements overseas.

To be clear, our attack on Cuba was never about human rights. We maintain full diplomatic relations with states that have abysmal human rights records, with no problem whatsoever. (China, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain come to mind.) In any case, it's important to remember that when Castro's revolution came to the island, Cuba was not facing a choice between socialism and Jeffersonian democracy. The other option was what Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Haiti saw under the imperial imprimatur of the United States: slaughter in the hundreds of thousands, an all out war on the poor and the church, and a degradation of society that reverberates to this day. And the notion that Cuba was a "terrorist" state is laughable: we carried out terror attacks on the island for decades, making many attempts at assassinating Castro himself, supporting terror bombers like CIA asset Luis Posada Carriles, who blew up an airliner carrying the Cuban Olympic fencing team, as well as Orlando Bosch.

So, Fidel Castro is for the ages, but the legacy of our imperialism is still alive and well.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Cleanout.

Hey, got any old concert DVDs or VHS's? No? Okay, well ... that makes one of us. In fact, I have stacks of them in the forge room. That is, unless Mitch melted them down into something useful.

Oh, hello. You just caught us in the middle of doing our year-end inventory, housecleaning, etc. I know, I know - that seems like a strange choice, given our recent preparations for an interstellar tour, but this is the sort of thing we do every year at this time, whether we need it or not. We sort of turn the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill upside-down and shake it a few times. Whatever drops out of the east-side windows goes into the junk heap. Then it's the DPW's problem.

Some stuff is easy to get rid of. That cardboard carton our electric roll-out radiator came in? Probably don't need that anymore. Molded styrofoam from a shipping container? Fair game for the dumpster. Video tapes and DVDs, though .... that's another story. You never know when you'll want to watch the Concert at Big Sur movie (or what I euphemistically refer to as the anti-Woodstock) again, particularly that part when Steven Stills gets into a suburban grade school-level fight with some grizzled looking guy complaining about the high ticket price, then, after being led away by his bandmates, offers a lame little speech about how "everything's going to turn out however it's gonna," before playing 4 and 20. Or when Joan Baez was having trouble keeping the stoned rhythm section together. That was awesome.

Yeah, baby, yeah. (Squx)Other gems from the junk pile? Well, there's Marvin (my personal robot assistant)'s favorite: Rainbow Bridge! A "concert" movie that features about 15 or 20 minutes of Jimi Hendrix playing a set interspersed with about an hour-long montage of stoned hippies running up and down hillsides, being totally free. Why Marvin likes this so much I can only guess, though you can tell he's been watching it when you see him rolling pointlessly around the mill with his claws up in the air. I might get him a headband for Christmas this year ... or maybe some feathers and bells, and a book of Indian lore. (Apologies to Zappa.)

So, which is it going to be ... fly off to the stars in our Plywood 9000 rocket or watch old concert tapes? Tough choices.

Best behavior.

By all accounts, what we're seeing now is Trump being nice. If that's the case, it's going to be a very long four years. The last week has been very similar to the closing weeks of the campaign - very staid public appearances, not a tremendous amount of exposure to the press, but quite a lot of drunk tweeting. The somewhat restrained dressing down of VP-elect Mike Pence (who my wife and I keep calling Bike Pants) at the musical Hamilton drew a flurry of outrage from @RealDonaldTrump mostly centered on how "unfair" the cast members were being. This man is so fucking thin-skinned, it's kind of terrifying. What the hell is he going to do when foreign leaders start trash-talking him?

He gets the last word?Let me see if I can guess: whatever his last advisor told him to do. Unfortunately, the two corner offices of the White House will be occupied by two of the most unstable people in his entourage - former Breitbart editor (and man who looks like he spent the last two months sleeping under a bridge) Steve Bannon, who helped buoy the now famous alt-right movement, and General Michael Flynn, who feigns a pretty good imitation of General Jack Ripper from Dr. Strangelove. This makes the Trump White House what may be described as an attractive nuisance, in a way. It seems likely that terror groups will be even more emboldened to mount a spectacular attack on the United States, since they know these people are far more likely than Obama to overreact. Violent overreaction is just what they want from us. Just ask them.

The other thing they want is a war between the United States and all Muslims. Here again, Flynn and Bannon will prove invaluable. Some of Flynn's comments have placed Muslims of all stripes under suspicion, presenting them as something Americans should be afraid of - presumably, Americans who are not Muslims. This, coupled with the blood libel Trump engaged in during the campaign (namely the bogus story about thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 attacks back in 2001), have driven xenophobic sentiment to the point where some mild discouragement from the president-elect feels like window-dressing. People who voted for Trump on the strength of his bigoted appeal will insist that he act to remove, say, Somalis from their whitebread towns. Again, this kind of stupidity I'm sure warms the cold hearts of ISIS.

One can only hope that Trump's new advisor - Joe Scarborough - can talk him out of this ... at least when Joe's not pretending to be an independent-minded talk show host. (I almost wrote "journalist", but then you would have just laughed at me.)

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 18, 2016

Inside November.

Drat. Scuttled by a solar flare. That was a serious oversight on the part of that person we put in charge of planning our interstellar tour. Who was that again? Let's see .... oh, right. It was me. Well ... no ice cream for me tonight.

Okay, well ... looks like we're having the interstellar version of a rainy-day schedule today, but instead of coloring books and tunafish sandwiches, let's break open the November episode of our THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast and see what's crawling around inside. Ned Trek 30: "The Deadly Queers". This thirtieth episode of our Star Trek parody is based on the classic episode "The Deadly Years", in which the Enterprise command crew is affected by radiation that quickly turns them all into raving geezers. In our version, radiation causes the Free Enterprise crew to become progressively more gay - a fate worse than death for our hyper-conservative, free market, confederate flag-waving heroes. There's a lot of tasteless swanning about and gay sex references that none of us are proud of, but hey .... satire. Extra special appearances by Senators Lindsay Graham, Roy (aka "Roy-toy") Blunt, and Bernie Sanders.

Songs: Embedded in Ned Trek 30 are seven new Big Green songs. These, as always, are rough mixes of recordings that will, in some version, appear on a future album or albums yet to be determined. Here's what we've got:



Tinkerbell Neocon - Medium tempo guitar-driven rock duet sung by Perle and Doc Coburn. This one gets stuck in my head, quite frankly, so beware!

Seven songs?Fairy Dust - Another dirge by Sulu (the one original cast member that is somehow part of this "next degeneration" version of Star Trek). Very moody little number.

Oklahoma Mo - A slightly gay Doc Coburn nod to his cow town oil-patch upbringing.

Space Fandango - Romney song that should have been a tango (and may still be one day), all about Stephanie O (the captain's Don Ho). Ummm ... hilarious.

Let Me Go - The android Nixon does this over-the-top sixties rock ballad about needing to go to the can. I don't think we're breaking new ground here, but it's certainly the first song I've ever done that places having to take a piss in the context of mid 20th century presidential history.

Potato Salad - Ned song with kind of a sixties vibe. No, it doesn't make any sense, even in the context of this ridiculous and borderline offensive episode of Ned Trek, but here it is anyhow.

Spanking Machine - Pop song, sung by Willard, that harkens back to his boarding school days.



Put The Phone Down: Matt and I kvetch about the Trump election, rail at a useless media and an even more useless Democratic party, and look ahead in dread at what outrages lie before us. Laugh a minute.

POTUS, inc.

After shock comes anger. I don't think I'll move on to negotiating - anger seems about right, particularly with the news emanating from President-Elect Trump's transition team. His closest adviser will be the spiritual leader of one of the alt-right's most popular web sites, Breitbart, so you know this is going to be a volatile time from the standpoint of those issues Breitbart tends to report on. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, perhaps? That would certainly put black people's minds at ease. I think Trump may be considering Cap'n Crunch for secretary of the Navy. Sounds like a good pick, though he's rumored to have a crunchberry problem.

Meet the Trump cabinetOkay, so what will Trump's victory mean from a policy standpoint? Well, if he's anything remotely true to his word, we are likely to see the most reactionary policies ever advance in our lifetimes passed through congress and signed into law. This is not just about Trump - this is about a extremist Republican party that becomes even more virulent every time it returns to power. We had the Reagan-Bush cycle, which was far to the right of anyplace we had gone politically since the Great Depression. Then there was the George W. Bush presidency, shot through with neocons and a decidedly more autocratic approach to governance, powered by the disaster of 9/11. Now: a Republican electoral trifecta - president, senate, and house, all in the hands of an even more reactionary strain of this very destructive party.

What will that look like? Well, we have a pretty good idea. Look at Wisconsin when Blind Scotty Walker took the reins. Look at North Carolina when Pat McCrory was elected (though he may have lost this year, we'll see). Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Trump will do something very similar - put together a pre-baked raft of reactionary programs into a series of bills, pass them over any objections, and sign them into law in the first few weeks of the ass-clown in chief's administration. They will also do everything they can to lock in their gains, passing voter i.d. restrictions, confirming ultraconservative justices at various levels, and attacking the remaining institutions of the liberal-left: public sector unions, Planned Parenthood, and so on. That's what we're looking at, and judging by Ryan's various activities over the past year, they are likely to use budget reconciliation on a lot of this legislation. My guess, too, is that the filibuster will be disabled or destroyed quite early on, as well.

So hold tight, people. We are going to have to fight like hell to preserve what ground we can. Elections have consequences, as we will soon see.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Up the creek.

What the hell, Mitch. A week ago you didn't care whether we went on this tour or not, and now you're acting like the mill is on fire. What's the matter with you, boy? And don't point that deadly laser at me - you know how nervous I get about that kind of thing.

Well, it seems like Mitch is in kind of a hurry now to get off this miserable pimple of a planet known as Earth. Not sure what's behind the sudden change of mood. He woke up in a bit of a mood Wednesday afternoon after a long night of what I assume was mad science experimentation, and now he's all about planet KIC 8462852. That's fine and good, right, but if we're going there in the Plywood 9000 rocket we rented from SpaceY, well ... we may have trouble breaking out of Earth orbit. In fact, we may have trouble clearing the treeline. The truth is, that thing isn't getting off the ground at all.

Nah. That'll never work.What's our plan B? Not sure we have one. There's plan 9 from outer space, but hey ... that's a movie. Plan B might be to hunker down in the Cheney Hammer Mill, record some more songs, and venture out only to retrieve nuts and berries from the nearby Adirondack woodlands. Or pizzas from the nearby Adirondack Pizza Parlor. Or beer from the nearby .... well, you get the idea. I'm not at all sure why we opt for these interstellar tours in the first place. They're not profitable. They're long and pointless. They're occasionally dangerous to the point of being life-threatening. But then, a desk job will kill you after 20-25 years, so ... it's probably just as well.

I told you last week about the latest episode of THIS IS BIG GREEN, our podcast, which should be posted soon-ish. We've done rough mixes of all 7 songs, and it's a strange lot, I will admit, but you be the judge. Hey, be the jury as well. What the fuck, go ahead and throw our sorry asses in music jail. At least THAT would keep me from having to climb aboard a Plywood 9000 rocket with a madman at the helm. P.S. .... HAAAALP!

Small "d".

You've already heard enough about Tuesday's election, I know. My feeling since that night has been pretty much, the struggle continues - move on. I'll take a few moments, though, to share a few thoughts about Trump's win.

First, this was a low turn-out election, plain and simple. Though Clinton won the popular vote by about 400,000 ballots Tuesday night, she received about six million fewer votes than Obama did in 2012. Trump received a million less than Romney's 2012 totals. Some of that difference can be attributed to turnout in large states like California, but many of the swing states - Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, for instance - were significantly down from 2012. People did not show up to vote for either party, but their absence was most keenly felt by the Clinton campaign, which was trying to call out the Obama coalition and failed miserably. So don't let anyone tell you this was a historic groundswell of support for Trump - far from it. He under-performed his party's unsuccessful (and notoriously uninspiring) candidate from 2012.

All is forgiven? Well ... Second, there's some reason to believe that Trump's success, in the absence of a traditional ground GOTV campaign, was based in large measure on free media in the form of speeches and appearances that ran on practically every news channel for hours a week over the last year. I have heard NBC reporters (sometimes referred to as "journalists") connect this Trump phenomenon with the large number of Trump signs they saw in rural communities. That, of course, was just a symptom of the mental disease that afflicts non-rich Trump supporters. The vector by which the disease spread was their own "reporting" - namely, serving up hours of this man's bullshit on multiple platforms to millions of hungry minds, hence the signs. But they are no more reliable an indication of the level of support than the number of people showing up at Trump rallies. Sure, he had large crowds. So did Bernie. So did Ralph Nader in 2000. When the day came, the numbers were pretty flaccid.

So there was no phenomenal groundswell on either side. The warning signs for the Democrats were apparent during the primary season, when voter turnout was relatively low. There has obviously been an enthusiasm gap, but that is a failure of organizing - we need to work harder to convince people of how vital it is to vote as a means of advancing policy goals, not as some kind of rough demonstration of your values. We may never know why tens of thousands of Democratic voters in key swing states - people who put Obama over the top twice - didn't show up last Tuesday. There are no exit polls on no-shows. But it places in stark relief the fundamental injustice of our presidential elections, which value some voters over others. There is no justification for not having one-person, one-vote nationwide; we no longer need the training wheels of the electoral college. Pundits are fond of describing our presidential elections as a series of 50 different elections, but if that were the case, the winner would be president of only those states that supported him/her.

The presidency is a national office: as Americans, we should all have an equal say in who holds it. If you agree, find one of the petitions circulating for abolishing the electoral college and sign it.

Next week: The consequences of Nov. 8, 2016 (part I).

Friday, November 4, 2016

Last one out.

Try moving it to the other side of the tail fin. No, not that one! The dorsal tail fin! Okay, now hit it with a hammer a few times. Nothing? Hmmm .... how about if we light it on fire. Sometimes that helps.

Oh, damn. I didn't realize I was typing this all into our blog. (I think that's called auto-typing.) Well, as you can tell, Big Green is working furiously to get our rented Plywood 9000 space rocket ready for launch before the election on Tuesday, when all hell is likely to break loose. At least, that's what the little voices in my head tell me. There are times when you feel compelled to stay and fight the good fight, and then there are those other times when you ... well ... decide to take a rented rocketship to another planet. That's a hasty decision, I know, but again ... those persistent little voices!

Seriously, I am looking forward to a perhaps non-remunerative jaunt out to the Kuiper belt if only to free ourselves from the pressures of terrestrial life. You have no idea how much maintenance an abandoned Hammer Mill requires. If you're wondering why we haven't put out a new episode of our podcast THIS IS BIG GREEN in nearly two months, there's part of your answer, my friend. At least on planet KIC 8462852 we might find time to finish a project here and there. And my guess is that Marvin (my personal robot assistant) won't have to worry about being apprehended by Trump's ICE deportation force. (He has nightmares about that stuff.)

Is that really where the fin goes on this thing?Sure, we've had our head down with music production just lately. Matt and I are working on 7 songs for release on the next episode of Ned Trek, the Star Trek political parody that comprises the core of our TIBG podcast. You might say, 7 songs! That's practically a freaking album, man! Why don't you just put out another album, freak!? Well, first of all .... don't call me "album freak". I don't deserve that. After all, we haven't put out an album in three years. (And our LAST album was Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick, so technically we haven't put out a sane album in eight years.) What was I saying again?

Right. Spacecraft maintenance can make your mind wander. Check back a little later this week when I don't have a monkey wrench in my fist. (That's what I'm doing wrong! I need a rocket wrench!)

On the brink.

Here we are, once again, staring down the electoral precipice, praying for salvation. It's a quadrennial tradition, though sometimes more acute than others. This is certainly one of those times, though count me as among those who considered John McCain to be an existential threat to the nation back in 2008; his seemingly insatiable appetite for warfare would have led us in a very dangerous direction, to say nothing of his economic proposals. (He likely would have been a one-term president, but I'm not sure we would have lasted four years.) Now, of course, we're sweating out a resurgent Trump, buoyed by bad news for Hillary Clinton. This is a reactionary, climate change denialist detour we most certainly cannot afford at this juncture, but ... here we are.

Just make her do this. Then move on.The fact that we so often find ourselves on the edge of disaster is an indication that we need to do something about not only this process of electing leaders, but also about the magnitude of power they wield in office. It is simply unacceptable that a single person should have the ability to make enormously consequential policy decisions and even blow up the world without having to consult with anyone else. The fact that an unstable, hyper-narcissistic creep like Trump can be elevated to such an office indicates a fatal flaw in our system. If we cannot raise the bar on who can be admitted to the presidency, we need to constrain the destructive power of the office by some means.

What also gives me heartburn about this election is the sense that I cannot rely on my countrymen to do the right thing. I have to wonder what it would be like to have that kind of confidence in the wisdom of the electorate. The history of the last 40-50 years is not encouraging on that score. How many election years have I thought, god no, that fool would never be elected, only to be proven disastrously wrong? Too many, and we are still living with the consequences of each and every instance. If Trump is elected, he will do damage that we will be grappling with for decades. (Well, perhaps you will. I don't have a lot of decades left.)

Modest suggestion: do the right, if hard, thing. Vote to defeat Trump. There's only one way to do that in a contested state: Hillary. Swallow hard, do it, then turn to something more useful ... like organizing.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 28, 2016

Serious gravity.

Well, maybe a larger booster rocket would help. Or some tightly wound springs. Then there's the lever option, like a catapult - give me a lever large enough and I will move the world, that sort of thing. No? Okay, never mind.

Oh, hi. Yes, we're grappling with the same conundrums that so vexed our predecessors in flight - how to defeat that old devil gravity. It's a little hard to imagine being able to reach planet KIC 8462852 without finding some way to break the surly bonds of Earth, whatever that means. Sure, it would be easier for Big Green to just give in and start doing terrestrial tour dates, packing ourselves into a multi-colored school bus and teetering down the road to Springfield and Lodi and East Aurora (unless we get stuck in Lodi ... again ...), but that would be an abandonment of all we hold dear. And in all frankness, gravity would still be vexing us! (Especially after a particularly long night.)

The other day, a big semi backed up to the front gate of the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill (our adopted home) and dropped an enormous cardboard box with Mitch's name scrawled on the side. We had Marvin (my personal robot assistant) haul the thing into the courtyard as a precautionary measure - it was ticking and smelled vaguely of sulfur, so I certainly didn't want to touch the sucker. Well, it turns out that the box contained our ride to the Khyber Belt: the promised Plywood 9000 space rocket we rented from SpaceY, some assembly required. It's here, it's here!

So that's it, then, is it?Mitch Macaphee retreated into his lab and began tinkering with the thing, and just yesterday morning I awoke to the sight of a nosecone peaking over the courtyard wall. He managed to piece the thing together, but there were apparently a few parts missing. Engines, for one. (Or more precisely, for four, since there are supposed to be four of them.) Being a mad scientist, Mitch took this as a kind of challenge. Whereas any sane person would just phone the company and tell them to send the missing parts, he started adapting some odd pieces of technology he had lying around his workbench. There was that anti-gravity device he tinkered with a few years ago, for instance. Then there's that big blow-dryer he invented.

So, I don't know. Maybe a big catapult is more practical. If you have random thoughts on advanced interplanetary propulsion, please send them here.

No to reconciliation.

Want a good reason to vote next month? Here's one: Paul Ryan's "Better Way" agenda, which he will drive home like lightning if his party is successful on election day. With a Republican congress and a Trump presidency, Ryan can pass the most regressive political program ever contemplated on the national level. At the core of this agenda will be another raft of massive tax cuts for the rich, including a 20% cut for corporate taxes, which will drain trillions of dollars from the Federal budget and (no surprise) prompt austerity action on social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Why is this man smiling?On top of that, the "Better Way" will use reconciliation votes to repeal sections of the Affordable Care Act, including Medicaid expansion. Ryan tested his caucus's ability to use this tactic on non-fiscal legislation this past term when he brought an ACA repeal vote via reconciliation. This will be repeated next year, but with a Republican president, their vile legislation will get a signature. Ryan will be able to move forward with converting Medicare to a voucher. You can already hear right-wing pundits floating the concept of expanded Health Savings Accounts as part of their "repeal and replace" strategy - that and the seemingly evergreen notion of allowing insurance to be sold across state lines. This should be great comfort to the hundreds of thousands thrown off of Medicaid by their so called "better way."

Whatever your misgivings about Hillary Clinton (and I have plenty), voting for her is the best way to shut Ryan down. I strongly suggest you also consider voting down-ballot for Democrats. There's an outside chance that Dems could take the House and a stronger opportunity to retake the Senate. That's our best opportunity to ensure that we're not massively losing ground over the next four years, even if we're not leaping forward in great strides. I feel strongly enough about this that I have been volunteering for our local Democratic candidate for Congress (Kim Myers), mostly because her principal opponent is an anti-choice zealot who once referred to the head of the Oneida Nation as "spray-tan Ray" in a Trump-like drunk tweet. Classy.

There's plenty we need to do to build a more progressive, equitable, and sustainable political reality. Voting is a very small but important part of that. It's the best way at this point to say "no" to Paul Ryan's agenda. Let's stop that mother cold.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 21, 2016

Water cooler to Mars.

Look, Mitch ... you don't have to solve every problem with explosions. I know that cuts against the grain a bit, but at least try .... TRY not to dial it up to eleven every time you feel slighted. Thank you! Good day, sir!

Jesus Christ on a bike. If you want anything done around here, you have to talk until you're green in the face. (That's probably how we ended up with the name Big Green, but I digress.) As I mentioned in passing last week, we are contemplating a little trip out into the nether regions of the solar system - not the most desirable area, it's true, but you have to book where they'll have you, right? Isn't that the first lesson of the music trade? Or maybe the second. The first is, play on, no matter what happens. Even if they set your banjo on fire, keep plucking. Then comes the bit about bookings. With me?

Okay, so our plan was to fly out to KIC 8462852 with a brief stop at the as yet undiscovered Dwarf Planet at the edge of our solar system (and perhaps the hidden giant world lurking just beyond). We think we have a line on a spacecraft from the cheap-ass carrier SpaceY, who will lease us a Plywood 9000 rocket ... kind of an interstellar panel van, if you will. Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, has been handling the negotiations. He has also been running some tests on the surface of Mars to see if this might be a good time to try out his patented new gravitational field hyper drive module. The thing looks like a water cooler, in all honesty. Only thing is, Marvin (my personal robot assistant) is the only one among us who can drink out of it safely.

I don't know, Marvin. He looks kind of sullen.Here's the rub. The European space probe Schiaparelli appeared to have crashed during its attempt to land on Mars this past week. I think the truth is, Mitch may have taken it down. They were getting a little too close to his clandestine operation on the red planet, and he didn't want to take the chance of being discovered. I keep telling him it's inappropriate to break things, but the man is a child ... one who plays with killer technologies, no less. He won't 'fess up, but this happens a bit too often to be an accident.

God damn it, if we're going to fly out of here on a Plywood 9000 space probe, I want to be on the right side of the European Space Agency. Unless we intend on doing a tour of continental jails.

Stays in Vegas.

We were treated to the third and final presidential debate this week, moderated by Chris Wallace of FoxNews. I can't decide which I found more annoying - the ridiculous utterances by the candidates themselves or the clueless pundit commentary on what a great moderator Wallace was. Maybe MSNBC is planning on hiring Wallace, I'm not sure - it seems like they were blowing him pretty hard the morning after, even though he apparently cribbed questions from the Peterson Institute and Operation Rescue. "Partial birth abortion," really? And no questions about climate change, of course. What a great news man.

Real sense of proportion.I could sit here an write about the obviously outrageous statements made by Trump over the 90 minute program, but you've probably heard enough of that. Suffice to say that the guy proves his unsuitability for the office of the presidency every time he opens his big yap. No one should need additional convincing, but alas ... this is America. No, what astonishes me is some of what gets discussed (and what doesn't get discussed) in the wake of these debates. That in itself is enough to make you want to rip your own head off. Take Syria. On MSNBC's Morning Joe, it's pretty much a consensus that the Syrian conflict is a failure of the Obama administration on the scale of Bush's Iraq invasion. Scarborough himself regularly refers to the conflict with terms like "holocaust" and "genocide", which is frankly offensive.

I have never been a fan of the Obama administration's foreign policy, but the comparison with Iraq doesn't pass the laugh test. For one thing, more people were killed in the Iraq conflict than thus far in Syria, and that was entirely down to us. Syria is a civil war stoked by extremist remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq (thank you, Bush and Cheney) and other elements covertly supported by the US (thank you, Obama), facing off with an ossified authoritarian regime that knows only one thing: crush dissent. The Morning Joe crew is apparently disappointed that we didn't roll into Syria in 2013 and turn it into an even broader international conflict, which would have resulted in open war with Iran, probably Lebanon, and maybe Russia. Would Scarborough want one of his sons to fight that war? Doubt it.

Nothing out of either candidate last night gave me any confidence that we wouldn't get more deeply involved in this wretched civil war after January 21. It's up to us as a nation to make certain that the war fever we heard last night stays in Vegas and doesn't guide American policy moving forward.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 14, 2016

Big rock, little rock.

Going to Little Rock? But Big Green doesn't have any fans in Arkansas ... at least as far as I know. In fact, we don't have any fans south of the Mason Dixon line. Not since Cowboy Scat, anyway. What? Oh, okay .... never mind.

Cheese and crackers, I thought we were going way on down south, but apparently we're going in a very different direction. Out towards KIC 8462852 with a brief stop at the as yet undiscovered Dwarf Planet at the edge of our solar system, and perhaps the undiscovered mystery giant planet as well. So at least our destinations are clear. That's the easy part. The not-so-easy part? Finding an agent who books that far out in the sticks, so to speak. (Actually, it's beyond the sticks and into the rocks.) We usually book ourselves in instances such as these, but times being what they are, it's helpful to have your interstellar ducks in a row before striking out into deep space.

Speaking of ducks, we need to line up reliable transport as well. And yes, I did use the qualifier "reliable" by intention: we tried the other kind of transportation and it didn't work out so well. This time we're going with a professional vendor, like SpaceX. Of course, we can't AFFORD SpaceX because we're a band full of broke-ass mo-fo's, so we'll have to opt for the next best thing. And that, my friends, is a company called SpaceY. (Pronounced "space why?") It's the cheap seat version, by an order of magnitude.

Getting there is the issue.So whereas SpaceX has the famed "Falcon 9" rocket with the patented "Dragon" spacecraft, SpaceY offers the not-so-well-known "Plywood 9000" rocket powering its nearly designed (and no, that's not a typo: it hasn't been designed yet) "Malaysian Tapir 9000" spacecraft. (They seem to like the number 9000. That would explain their requested down payment.) I know what you're thinking .... this doesn't sound like it meets the reliability standard I set forward in the previous paragraph. My only rejoinder to that is, well ... that was more than a paragraph ago. Are you going to hold me to EVERYTHING I've said in the past? How about gurgling noises I made as an infant - do you plan to hit me with those, too?

Well anyway. Our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee is going to take me and Marvin (my personal robot assistant) to the SpaceY showroom next week so that we can do a walk through and, perhaps, a test drive. He gave me a life insurance policy to sign as well. Such a thoughtful man!

Burning man.

Watching the Trump campaign this week, I am reminded of a collection of bad movie scenes my brother curated back in the 1990s under the title, Destination: Brain - we informally referred to it as "The Greatest Hits". As bad sci-fi movie aficionados, Matt and I loved to watch select passages from some of mankind's worst films but found it tiresome to sit through 90 minutes of boring dreck just to get to that "sweet spot" of bad acting, cheap specials, horrible dialog, etc. Matt cut together Destination: Brain so that we could enjoy those poetically bad movie moments extracted from context, and yet given new meaning by their juxtaposition with other poorly-wrought scenes.

Winning!In any case, one of our favorite scenes was from a cheap-ass Frankenstein knock-off with a bunch of no-name actors and the clumsiest monster you ever saw. There is a climactic laboratory scene in which the monster's arm catches on fire, and he runs around the lab, screaming, trashing the place from end to end. That's what I think of when I look at where Trump has gone over the last week or so - a crazy-ass Frankenstein's monster set on fire and spreading his conflagration to everything he touches. Better that he should do it during the campaign than in the oval office, am I right?

I am no fan of Ross Perot, but watching the news cover these serial sexual abuse allegations brings to mind the Texas billionaire's studied but folksy rejoinder, "This is just sad." Every minute spent covering this pissing match is another minute of not talking about the serious issues that face us. Not that the mainstream media and the dominant political culture need any excuses to avoid discussion of global climate change, or the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons, or the continuous state of war we've been embroiled in since 2001, or you name it. The notion that anyone should need more information about Trump's past in order to vote against him is ... well, it's just sad. (The idea that any of these allegations would surprise any sentient American over the age of 25 is in itself beyond absurd.)

Tomahawk Thursday. We're firing missiles into Yemen, nominally in response to missiles fired at our vessels in the Gulf. Of course, we are in so deep with the Saudis bombing Yemen into the stone age that the Houthi rebels (or as NBC calls them, the "Iranian-backed Houthi rebels") do not distinguish between the U.S. and Saudi. You can kind of see why. That war sucks, and we can do something about it. The fact that we don't is a crime.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Last straw.

Well, at least we have a week to pack. That's something. What? Mitch sent himself back in time a week and is demanding that we leave now? For crying out loud, I hate when he does that.

Okay, so you know that we live with a mad scientist. And if you know that, you probably knows that he has a tendency to obsess about outer space matters. Whether you knew it or not, it's happening again, this time over star KIC 8462852, which is flickering at odd interviews. Some have suggested that this is due to some undiscovered alien Megastructure, but I am skeptical. I cannot, however, say the same for Mitch, who is intrigued by this speculative feat of engineering know-how. He wants to see how they built THEIR megastructure so that he can build his OWN. The man has a competitive streak a parsec wide.

Of course, it's not wise to ignore the entreaties of a mad scientist. And we've been collecting some dust in recent years, to be sure, so Big Green got its tiny heads together and decided to do some impromptu interstellar busking as a means of accommodating Mitch's obsession. We thought we'd borrow a spacecraft, head out towards Zenon (home of our occasional sit-in guitarist sFshzenKlyrn), and stop by KIC 8462852 (or '852 for short) along the way. If there turns out to be a Megastructure erected on the mysterious star, we will see if they take terrestrial bookings. Could be a decent venue there, you never know. No Megastructure? Well .... we try to cope with Mitch's disappointment in some non-explosive fashion (hopefully).

Road trip!That of course puts us back into the spacecraft rental market. Never a good place to be, especially in this economy and with the election coming up. It's just hard to get a low parsec ion-drive ship that can hold more than a couple of vertically challenged astronauts. We not only have our own asses, but an entourage and a whole load of equipment. (If the mansized tuber accompanies us, as he has threatened to do, we will need a greenhouse on board as well.) We're considering a kickstarter campaign, frankly. Either that or hiring a grant writer. (Isn't that just a fancy term for counterfeiting? If so, why the hell doesn't Mitch just invent some freaking money for a change.) Hey ... if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. Just drop them in the comment field. And if you have a reliable map to '852, drop that in as well.

Veep debate postmortem.

I know most people did not watch the quadrennial spectacle of the vice presidential debate this past Monday. For those who missed it, you didn't miss much. That said, it appears as though the corporate media in particular is intent on scoring this match-up on the basis of style points, thereby awarding the debate to former right-wing talk show host Mike Pence, one of the most reactionary men ever to adorn a major party presidential ticket. He was smooth and relaxed, the commentary goes, whereas Kaine was somewhat agitated and even rude. Well ... glad we're focusing on what matters.

centrist, reactionaryI have, however, heard some more interesting points made outside of the beltway punditocracy. Majority Report has been particularly good on this. Much of it confirms the impression I had at the time that Kaine was basically setting Pence up to defend, point by point, the most ridiculous and intemperate statements Trump has made during the campaign. Not rocket science, right? He was being pretty systematic about it, getting Pence on the record as denying that he and Trump had said things they had obviously said on camera, getting him to take positions at odds with those of his running mate, and drawing him out on some of his own well-documented extremism. That content was subsequently cut together into Clinton campaign web videos. And all of Kaine's interrupting? Some have suggested it was to deny Pence usable soundbites. Basically all the Trump campaign could do was clip together Kaine's interjections in kind of a whiny little ad about him being rude. Kaine - so the thinking goes - basically threw himself under the bus for the good of the order. Why not? Does it matter who "wins" the veep debate?

This is completely aside from the content of what was discussed. That was abysmal, for the most part. The moderator had some kind of Russia obsession, asking at least three questions about it and zero about climate change. Even more irritating was the unchallenged claims by Pence that the Obama administration "paid ransom" to Iran for the release of a detained journalist, that they had some option with regard to the Iraq status of forces agreement George W. Bush had signed with Baghdad forcing a U.S. withdrawal in 2011 (or that to remain would have been either desirable or effective in some respect), and that the "Russia Reset" led to the annexation of Crimea and Russian involvement in Syria. Worse, both men appeared to endorse the creation of a "safe zone" in Syria, which would require a no-fly zone, which would demand a U.S. fighting force of tens of thousands, plus the destruction of Syria's air defense capabilities and its aircraft. That would put us into direct conflict with the Russians. Something to look forward to?

So, yeah ... it was pretty awful. But the fundamentals of this race are the same. We have to do the hard thing - vote for someone we don't like in order to block someone who should never be president under any circumstances. Hard to swallow for many, but we should swallow hard, vote to elect Clinton, then continue the fight as soon as we leave the voting booth.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 30, 2016

Shooting stars.

Mitch, I'll be frank ... I don't think this is a good idea. I know it's the middle of the night and most likely no one can see us, but that contraption makes a lot of noise and ... well ... never mind.

Oh, hi. Yeah, I'm trying to talk our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee off of the ledge again. This time I mean it literally - he's up on top of the Cheney Hammer Mill, all worked up in a lather about the recent news from deep space. Did you hear about it? Well, in case you haven't, the space probe Rosetta has crashed into Comet 67P/Churyumov--Gerasimenko after having gathered data about what that cosmic snow cone is made of.

This kind of news always sets Mitch off - he's apparently got a hand in every celestial body from here to Andromeda, I'm gradually discovering. He's a bit like Heath on the Big Valley. Every time a stranger comes to town, it turns out that Heath had "sworn to keel him" at some point. (I always wondered why brother Jarrod, being a lawyer, never demanded that Heath write up a list of everyone he ever swore to keel ... I mean, kill.)

Aim high, Mitch.Anywho, Mitch's overheated response to the comet collision news was tantamount to a declaration of war. He brought Trevor James Constable's patented orgone generating device out of mothballs, tinkered with it for a few hours, then - with the help of Marvin (my personal robot assistant) - hauled the pile of junk up to the roof of the mill and pointed its multi-pronged array at the heavens. He borrowed one of our longer extension cords, fired the orgone generating machine up, and started muttering to himself. "Yes, yes ..." he said maniacally. "It won't be long now." (I'm leaving out the twisted little cackle he interjected between phrases as I do not wish to frighten the children.)

I'm not clear on what Mitch hopes to accomplish here. The orgone generating device, after all, does little other than its core functions of opening time portals and attracting invisible flying predators. In short, it's a poor choice if you're planning on shooting stars.

Week that was 3.0.

It's been another one of those weeks. Not sure how many more I can stand. This election is enough of a nightmare without the regular drumbeat of disasters, but I guess it always works like this on some level. Maybe I'm getting more sensitive in my dotage. In any case, this is what I've been thinking about this week:

Lives not mattering. Police shootings of black men in Tulsa, Charlotte, and outside of San Diego demonstrate that this is not getting any better and perhaps is getting much worse. Whereas there has always been a degree of indifference about these incidents, as more and more take place without just resolution, people will tend to become inured to the issue, just as they have with mass shootings. And of course, in at least two of these incidents, details about the dead man's background have been made known, including brushes with the law. They did this with Patrick Dorismond back in the later nineties and it's become a favorite tactic: If you're black, you have to be an angel to deserve to live through a police encounter. That's a high bar.

Lopsided matchupNot-so-great debate. I was witness to the nerve-wracking exchange between former secretary Clinton and Donald Trump, and I have to say that something about seeing the two of them on the stage of a presidential general election debate was disturbing enough even before they said anything. Clinton bested Trump, but that shouldn't be hard. The guy literally knows nothing about anything. Honestly, the Republican party seems determined to convince people that there's nothing to the presidency, that any dunce off the street can do the job. Count me among those who do not agree. That rambling wreck Trump would be a total disaster, to borrow one of his favorite turns of phrase. If Monday's debate proved anything, it's that.

Name one leader. Did I mention that Gary Johnson is a dunce? That should be obvious after blowing another softball question on MSNBC. With a brain that flaccid, he should have run for the Republican nomination. I don't know how this guy ever ran a state without being possessed of even a little bit of knowledge about the world. What makes him attractive to hipsters must be the perception that he would legalize marijuana ... or perhaps that he provides a titanic opportunity for irony.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 23, 2016

Dronetastic.

Wait a minute. Here they come again! Everybody DOWN! Damn it. Okay, that was just a pizza delivery to the neighbors. You can all stand up again.

Oh, hi. Kind of caught us at a bad time, actually. We are in the midst of a coordinated drone attack. No, not the military kind they use overseas. These are domestic drones of the kind you can buy at the corner store. As you may have heard, there are now hundreds of thousands of these suckers. The skies are black with them. One flock covers three whole states, and when they move ... oh, it's like THUNDER! (No, wait ... that was the buffalo, as described by a space archeologist on Star Trek. Sorry.)

Now, when I say "attack", I don't exactly mean they are targeting us. It's just that there are so freaking many of these things, it starts to feel like an assault after a while. The pizza delivery joint down the street is using one. So is the florist. And last week our nasty neighbors bought one for their fourteen year old, and the first thing the little sucker did with it was drop a water balloon on the man-sized tuber. (Actually, he rather likes that in as much a there hasn't been a lot of rain lately ... but that's not the point!)

Whoa, Tubey ... heads up.The ones that really annoy me are those mosquito-sized drones. I don't even know how they manage to engineer a flying machine that tiny. Where do they find bicycle parts small enough to make that thing fly? They somehow even designed them so that they can replicate themselves by dropping little developmental nodules into standing water, which later hatch and .... hey ... or maybe those are just mosquitoes. Okay, um ... forget that last bit.

I should put out notice to our neighbors that their new-found obsession with drone technology is a bit like whacking a hornet's nest with a stick. They need to be reminded that we have a mad scientist in residence by the name of Mitch Macaphee. He hasn't taken much notice of the flying machines thus far, buried as he is in his laboratory. But I think it's just a matter of time, frankly. And yes, he is the designer of Marvin (my personal robot assistant), but don't let that fool you. Not all of his inventions are non-threatening lumps of useless technology. (Sorry, Marvin.)

Purism deconstructed.

There seems to be considerable interest in third party candidates this year, even though neither of the major/minor candidates is anything to write home about. Jill Stein is a smart person with whom I agree across a broad range of policies, but her notion of how presidential elections work is severely stunted and bizarre. Moreover, the party she represents is almost a total waste of space - an environmental activist party that only appears once every four years to compete in the presidential race. When it comes to organizing, they're not exactly Saul Alinsky.

Just do it, then move on.Gary Johnson, on the other hand, is clearly not the brightest ex-governor on the porch and hasn't made much of a case for why young people should give their vote to a ticket that's floated in part with Koch money, most likely. Perhaps his supporters are not aware that he would slash spending on just about any program that ever benefited them in any way. If American style libertarianism is about anything, it's about that. Not that it's likely to be much of a problem - he, like Stein, have no conceivable path to victory in this election. All they have is an extraordinary opportunity to hand Donald Trump and the hyper-reactionary Republican party an electoral victory this November that they don't deserve and that will have repercussions for many years to come.

That is not an exaggeration. Elections have consequences, and I am saying this as someone who voted for Nader in 2000 (in New York state, of course). We are still living with the consequences of the election of Ronald Reagan, from the fallout from his Afghan "freedom fighters" (now called Al Qaeda and the Taliban), to his reactionary Supreme Court picks, to his war on labor. We also feel the effects of Dubya's clueless reign, with troops deployed in all of the countries he invaded, a massively outsourced national security state, and our national budget buckling under the strain of his tax cuts for the richest Americans. If Trump wins, it will be because Democrats and progressives sat on their hands or actively voted for someone other than Clinton. That would be a disaster for poor and working people here and around the world.

No, Clinton isn't a great candidate. But voting is a shitty way to protest. Voting should be strategic, and there is no coherent rationale for withdrawing support from the Democratic ticket that will lead to better policy.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Millsville.

Sometimes if you're up early enough in the morning, you can see the first rays of the sun breaking over the ruins of the abandoned mill next door. I think they made broom handles there or something. Now it's just some disheveled wreck that the sun rises over. Hey .... been there.

Yes, friends, it's been many, many suns and even more moons since I started this blog about Big Green. We now have posts that stretch back nearly as far as those rays of sunlight. A rich body of balderdash, and it's getting balder all the time. Sometimes you forget where this all began - in some crappy dive on the west end of the city, the walls smelling of beer, dog crap on the stage, and a bartender who hates your ass. A lot of music careers start that way. Ours, on the other hand, was never anything else. (Yes, we are like most bands - spectacularly unsuccessful and damn proud of it.)

So we took to the hammer mill and started hammering out recordings. That was in the nineties. Since then, we've put out three albums and a bunch of songs on the podcast. Christ on a bike - I think we're up to more than 50 songs since releasing Cowboy Scat in 2013. (Time for another album, right?) We're still recording on an old Roland platform, trying to transition to Uh, I don't think so, Marivn.something more appropriate to the century we're living in. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has suggested we start recording on cylinders or wire. Damn it, it's been done, Marvin! Come up with something new, like, I don't know ... recording on bricks.

Some five years ago we started the podcast, and it is still sputtering along, though getting slower ... slow like the two thousand year-old man. Fact is, we're thinking about launching another podcast that would be devoted exclusively to bloviating - something we could get out a bit more regularly. And if it ends up half as popular as THIS IS BIG GREEN, we could nearly double our listenership. Fan... tastic.

So, on we go. We're in production for another podcast episode, doing the songs right now. (Damn, they're strange.)

Trojan horse.

The polls are tightening, and it's no surprise. The Clinton campaign has spent the summer on the sidelines, courting centrist republicans and waiting for Trump to collapse under the sheer weight of his contradictions and xenophobic rhetoric. That strategy has been a dismal failure. Young people and the left are drifting away to third-party dead-end candidates or to simply sitting on their hands, mostly because the Clintons have done virtually nothing to attract them and plenty to piss them off, like naming fracking advocate Ken Salazar as transition chief and courting the approval of the likes of John Negroponte. When you see Trump ahead in Ohio, that's down to the fact that fewer left-leaning members of the Obama coalition are self-identifying as likely voters. That's a recipe for disaster.

Here they come.What would light a fire under these voters? Well, a more determined and effective candidate, for one. The Democrats have a good platform, they just need to push it harder. But there's also clearly identifying and characterizing the opposition, not in terms of the singular problem of Trump but rather the broader Republican party as it is currently comported. Trump is a bombastic idiot and a hypersensitive man-baby with tiny hands, but his xenophobic rants reflect the core of the party that nominated him. Clinton should make that clear.

And if she can stop praising neocons from the Bush administration, Hillary might want to point out that because Trump is a total idiot on foreign policy, that area of his presidency is likely to be populated by recycled Bush people. And because he hasn't spent five minutes thinking about domestic policy either, she might want to mention that his economic team, justice department, interior department, you name it, will very likely be run by right wing ideologues of the kind represented by his vice president or his (meaner) campaign manager from Breitbart. Trump, she can say, will basically be a Trojan horse for the crew who (a) started the Iraq war, (b) let New Orleans drown, and (c) crashed the economy into the worst recession since the 1930s.

Oh, and that crew has a name: it's called the Republican party.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 9, 2016

New thing.

What's this summer been about? I've got nothing. What's happening in your world, mansized tuber? Finally taking root, are we? At least someone accomplished something this summer.

Look at me, talking to a plant. What is this world coming to? Though I suppose a lot of people talk to their plants. Though that kind of makes it sound like the mansized tuber is my property, and he is most certainly not. He is totally his own plant, a sovereign creature of the universe, a law unto himself ... a ... an oversized sweet potato riding around on a dolly. At least up until recently. The tuber planted himself in the courtyard, so you could say it's "goodbye, dolly!" for him.

So, it has been an uneventful summer, to say the least. I'm not sorry to see it go. Probably the high point was when Mitch practically self-immolated over the news that his planet orbiting Proxima Centauri had been discovered. That broke us out of our stupor for a few days, at least. Just recently he was getting a little hot under the collar about the news that scientists were planning to send out a spacecraft to do some soil collecting on an asteroid Mitch took some interest in. Given his expression, I refrained from asking for details. I know that look. It's usually followed by a sickeningly bright flash and some deep rumbling. (We just replaced the windows in that side of the hammer mill, for chrissake.)

Makin' it rain, Marvin?Marvin (my personal robot assistant) tends to get a little busier in the Autumn months. I think he may have volunteered for one of the political campaigns, actually. He seems to be taking an awful lot of phone calls just lately, and one of our friendlier neighbors (i.e. the guy without the pitchfork) told me Marvin was handing out flyers in the town square. (Fun fact about this little burg: the town square is round. So why don't the cars have square wheels? Riddle me THAT, Batman.)

What are we planning for the Fall? Glad you asked. In fact, this conversation would be just perfect if I had an answer for you. You know Big Green well enough to know that we never plan anything. We're rebels, we're loners, we're iconoclasts. And in addition to that, we're ... broke. So, maybe that means work. A new thing 'round these parts.