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Friday, March 4, 2016

Strumble bum.

Twang. Ouch. Twang, twang, twaaaaaangg. Ouch! God damn it. Where did Marvin go, anyway?

If there's one thing I hate like fire (aside from fire), it's changing guitar strings, particularly on an acoustic guitar. Whenever I do it, my hands feel like big slabs of beef, like I'm threading a needle with a sledgehammer. Ham-fisted to say the least. (Think that's rough? You should see me PLAY guitar!) Ergo, I get Marvin (my personal robot assistant) to do it whenever possible. Not a bad outcome usually, unless he insists on testing it out afterwards. (Not Greensleeves again, Marvin, for chrissake! I hear it in my sleep as it is!)

The reason I'm changing the strings on my 17-year-old Martin D-1 (nearly college age!) is that we're currently producing the next raft of songs to be included in a future episode of Ned Trek, our Star Trek / Mr. Ed political parody. (Complicated enough for you? It's a satire! It's a polemic! It's a musical!) I have a folk-like song in 6/8 that needs an acoustic, and I'm not going to ask Matt to learn it because, hell, he's too busy and, hell x 2, he's got a head full of his own songs and doesn't need mine muddling up the works. It's like a mixmaster blender in there right now. Crazy man.

Is that the only song you know, Marvin?So here I am, strumming the old D-1, grinding my fingers to a raw nub. I don't use a flat pick. Nor any other kind of pick, actually. I just strum the strings with my thumb, forefinger and middle finger, mostly, and dud them out with the heel of my palm. It's a cheap bastardization of that Joni Mitchell / Neil Young technique - pretty much the only method of playing six-string that I ever bothered to learn. Limited, yes, but when I play something in three, it's pretty much useless, so I end up strumming like my fingers were a pick. (And by the time I'm finished, they pretty much WILL be a pick.)

Next week: Joe's banjo tips. Find out how I pulled off banjo parts in Big Green songs such as "Box of Crackers," "Limping Back to Texas", and other hits. (Hint: used my fingers again.)

Stupor Tuesday.

There are a lot of things that can be said of this week's primary contests; it's a pretty complicated story from where I sit. I would have liked to have seen Bernie Sanders do better than four states - Massachusetts would have put a bit more spring into the campaign. If the guy can't win in Massachusetts, you kind of have to scratch your head a little. Totally love Bernie and I agree with most if not all of his policy proposals, but he needs to get people to the polls if it's going to go anywhere. He is, of course, a movement candidate, so my hope is that the movement will outlive the candidacy, but more on that later.

THAT'S what they throw at me?Things are more complicated on the right. The Republican races inspire a mixture of joy and dread. The possibility of a Trump presidency is not something I want to contemplate. That said, I couldn't stifle a chortle of joy to see the institutional G.O.P. leadership get what they so richly deserve. After decades of stoking the most virulent reactionary sentiments imaginable, they are reaping a bitter harvest in Trump. They are watching him win primary after primary, and resolve to stop him at any cost. Then they look at second place and see someone they perhaps despise even more than Trump - Ted Cruz. Best of all, every vessel the neocons chose to carry their message forward has hit a wall, trounced by a man who calls the Iraq war "a big fat mistake", who says he will protect Social Security, and who sees Planned Parenthood as a valuable asset on some level. Heresy!

The fact that conservatives and most of the mainstream media can't face is that the core policy positions of the Republican party, from extreme austerity to interventionist militarism, are wildly unpopular with their own base. To shore up their flagging political fortunes they are emphasizing the xenophobic appeal of Trump, his being endorsed by the likes of David Duke and others of that ilk, his calls for exclusion of Muslims, Mexicans, and others. None of that hurts Trump in the south, in particular. But the fact that candidates like Bush, Rubio, Walker, and even Christie have been unable to get any traction speaks to how completely their core governing principles have collapsed under their own weight.

With all of my worries about what lies ahead, that much, my friends, is something to be thankful for.

luv u,

jp