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Friday, December 29, 2017

Unwrapping.

I got socks this year. Lots of socks. And a few discarded ties. Plus some bricks from the courtyard. No, they weren't loose - the mansized tuber just pulled them out of the courtyard and gave them to me. Yeah, I put them back. Now that's a holiday to remember.

Well, I don't know what kind of a Christmas YOU had, but here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill in upstate New York, we had a rousing celebration that quite nearly woke the dead. No, it wasn't well attended, but Marvin (my personal robot assistant) cranked up the stereo and started playing random sides from Sun Ra to Fountains of Wayne. It was Christmas in crazytown, and it didn't go unnoticed by our neighbors, who (I feel compelled to say) were ... ahem ... a bit LACKING this year in the HOLIDAY SPIRIT. (You heard!)

Then there were random fireworks. Now, I hate to be a spoil sport, but I don't like hearing explosions late at night. It makes me jump, and my mind goes straight to some imagined mishap in Mitch Macaphee's lab. It took a moment to recall that he's out of town this week, but the downside risk of having a mad science laboratory in your basement does tend to put you on alert. He was Keep it DOWN!muttering something about a "planet buster" last week. Sometimes that's just idle rambling, but you can never be too sure. Look at what happened to the planet Zorchon. (Yeah, that's right - there IS no planet Zorchon, sure .... not NOW.)

So, hey ... there's a lot to unwrap with the kind of holidays we have around here. People tend to save up their resentments and hard feelings all year, then let them loose on their relatives around the yuletide dinner table. That's not what happens at the Cheney Hammer Mill, but only because we don't have a dinner table. We typically sit around this old cable spool we found in the middle of the road one time when we were driving back from a gig at Middlebury College in the 1990s. It makes a fair table ... not a HOLIDAY table, per se, but a fair platform for dishes, cutlery, etc. Then there are the boxes we sit on - can't remember where we found those. Talk about festive!

Anyway, we survived it. Hope you survived yours.

Cold day.

No, this isn't a post about the weather (though it is cold as hell out there). I just wanted to make a couple of points about the possibility of bipartisan cooperation in 2018 - something that's being kicked around the corporate media as if it were somehow desirable. This is consonant with the oft-stated desire to see "things get done" in Washington, as if the precise nature of the things being done was somehow irrelevant; that legislation passed is a good in and of itself, abstracted away from the substance of the bill. Another piece of conventional wisdom, served up daily. I expect I'll pass on this, and I would recommend my fellow left-leaning Americans do the same.

Why the GOP loves Trump. As far as I'm concerned, the GOP has demonstrated its bad will in about as many ways as can be imagined. And before anyone gives me a lesson on how politics works, on how you can disagree from morning to evening but at the end of the day you need to work together, etc., let me just say that the Republicans have become an extremist party bent on wrecking the country, and the only thing to be done with them is to beat them at the ballot box and then drag their sorry asses into the future along with us, kicking and screaming if necessary. Nothing short of that will do.

I know there are many in the Democratic party who feel that we need to provide a positive example and be willing to compromise as a stark contrast to the other side's absolutism. There's some of this sentiment circulating around discussion of an infrastructure bill next year. This is ludicrous. The Republicans just voted to blow an enormous hole in the federal budget, diverting a trillion and a half dollars from essential programs and handing it to the richest people in the country. If they want to make a deal on infrastructure, tell them to cancel that bill. And while you're at it, tell them to stop working overtime to pack the federal judiciary with twenty-something Nazis. Change course and we can talk.

If the GOP says no, just say "see you in November". Let's let the people decide what kind of country this is going to be.

luv u,

jp

Friday, December 22, 2017

Know well.

Let's see how we're doing here. Shovel the front walk? Check. Peruse the local shops for root vegetables to give to the children? Check. Decorate the forge room with robots? Check. Yep, I haven't done ANY of those things. (I keep checklists of things not done; a "to-don't" list, if you will.)

I don't think I have to tell you that Christmas is a very special time of year around the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. No, this I think you know well. Not because we're religious or Jesus freaks or anything like that. No, the specialness is more about quietude. This sleepy little corner of post-industrial upstate New York gets a little sleepier around the holidays, mostly because people take off to visit relatives, friends, etc., in far-flung corners of the globe, leaving the village almost entirely to ourselves. No beeping delivery trucks backing up to loading docks. No drunken neighbors threatening the kid next door. Peace on Earth, man.

Even Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, has taken off for the week. It looked like he was packing for a conference, but he told me he was headed for some sort of family reunion in Aberdeen. That made me scratch my head. "Do you really need to pack the death ray pistol?" I asked cautiously. He just smiled. Sucks to be HIS second cousin this year. (Maybe any year.)

Hey, you look great, Marvin.This year, I took the bother to replace some of Marvin (my personal robot assistant)'s lights with Christmas bulbs. So yes, he blinks red, green, and gold now when he talks or performs some computational task. (Oh, yes .... he computes. He's a regular Turing machine, our Marvin ... well ... a touring machine, at least.) In previous years, we would trim the mansized tuber, in lieu of a Christmas tree, but he's not having that this year. He's getting a little touchy as he gets older. Age 18 is a difficult time for sweet potatoes, I hear.

Oh, and don't think we've forgotten you this year. We're still working on our 2017 Holiday Extravaganza episode of our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN, which I don't mind saying is not in the least bit extravagant. I've been doing mixes all week and we should be posting soon, so keep an eye on that empty spot under the tree. Just keep a close watch, then check Twitter or Facebook and see if we've posted yet.

Hey, if we don't see you (and we won't), happy Christmas and all the rest of it. Now ... back to the checklist!

One of them.

Weeks like this give the lie to any suggestion that Donald Trump does not reflect the true character of the Republican party. If there has ever been a more nauseating display of fawning over an American president, I have yet to see it. The celebration over the passage of the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" was reminiscent of those bizarre, banana-republic type cabinet meetings where officials take turns falling all over themselves to praise the Dear Leader. This time, it was congressional leaders (many of whom have momentarily taken issue with the president) crowing about what a great legislative partner he is, and Mike Pence, who mostly delivered the national security strategy speech he memorized from earlier in the week. I could see my own Trumpite Representative, Claudia Tenney, in the front row, applauding, gawking at the president in apparent awe, taking snapshots of his ample ass with her phone like some teen fan at a concert.

Where's my Rep? Too close, that's where.The conventional wisdom on talk television, of course, has it that Trump is his own invention; that he sprang fully formed from a crack in the Earth's crust sometime in 2015; that he was never a conservative but, rather, a "lifelong Democrat"; that his views represent only himself, not the broader party. Total bullshit. Trump is the end-stage product of a Republican party that his been careening to the right for more than 30 years. Sure, he has been in the public eye for that long and longer, as a big-mouth heir to a real estate developer, shameless self-promoter, casino magnate, serial financial failure, and reality show star. America's right-wing media, its nutcase reactionary movements, and its corporatist Republican party made the very space that he moved into in 2015 as a presidential candidate. He makes perfect sense from that perspective, and almost seems inevitable.

The charge about being a lifelong Democrat, leveled by the likes of Joe Scarborough and others, is perhaps the most laughable. Trump has no ideology other than himself. He was pro-Democrat, mildly, as a real estate developer in New York and New Jersey because the prominent politicians in those states came from the Democratic party. It was a completely transactional relationship; when he began to have national ambitions, he moved away from that and towards his natural place - namely, the core money party, and the one most favored by the KKK (of which his father was once a proud member).

No, the true picture of Trump's place in the Republican party was illustrated by that moment on Dec. 20, when he was being cheered enthusiastically by the lot of them. Remember in November.

luv u,

jp

Friday, December 15, 2017

Five strings.

I can play any instrument. Piano, bass, six string guitar, five string guitar - I broke a g-string yesterday (note that I didn't say I could play them well) - kazoo, contra-bass kazoo ... I think that's about it. That's all the instruments there are, right?

Actually, I'm not super good at any of those instruments. If I were, then I would be insufferable or famous or something; perhaps both. Or neither. Well, that covers all of the possibilities. I don't like leaving things to chance. (And I don't mean Chance the gardener.) Thing is, I like playing instruments, even if I do it, well ... badly. So even though I've never been what I would describe as a punk musician, I do share that piece of the punk ethos - technical skill on your axe is not paramount. So if you see me strumming an acoustic guitar, don't look for a pick; I basically use thumb and forefinger. Piano? Just thumbs. Gotta move fast to make that work.

I'm all thumbs, Abe. Honest.Many instrumentalists leave distinctive marks on their instruments - scratches in the soundboard or pickguard of a guitar, or in the keyboard cover of a piano, that sort of thing. My aging Martin D-1 doesn't have a lot of marks, mostly because I don't play it all that much, but also because I suck at using a plectrum. The guitar top and the strings are harder than my fingers; therefore, the instrument leaves marks on me and not the other way around. Matt, on the other hand, is a more traditionally trained guitar player, so his axes are all marked up. It's been a few years, but when I last saw it his Les Paul Custom looked like a truck backed over it. (That's what my hands look like.)

Why am I telling you this? Well, because no one else will listen. And it's snowing outside. This time of year in upstate New York, we all get sealed inside our homes by a mountain of snow and ice, thanks to the relentless force of moisture rising off of the Great Lakes. (What the hell is so great about them? All I see of Lake Erie is seven feet of snow on my front porch.) So for that six months of snowbound sequester, we must amuse ourselves with random tales and tips and particles of useless advice. It's the only way we can get to sleep in this drafty old hammer mill. Hey, did you ever hear about the time I played a New Year's gig in Lake George, NY and .......

Zzzzzzzzz....

Step one.

There's a lot to say about the Republican's craven plan to push through a massive tax plan in a matter of days. I needn't point out that the final bill is likely to be a cobbled together mess, one that we'll be struggling with for many years to come if it ever finds its way to Trump's signing hand. Nor do I need to repeat the obvious fact that this is a tremendous giveaway to the richest Americans, to corporations, and to the GOP's donor base, one that demonstrates the degree to which the Republicans' supposed concern over budget deficits is just another ploy.

Rich folks get THIS much.What I find most infuriating about this legislation is that it is being proffered at a time when its chief beneficiaries - the richest of the rich - are doing just fine, thank you very much, and corporate America is sailing from strength to strength. The last thing they need is more money in their pockets. This is also a time when our armed forces are deployed in conflicts all around the world. Trump just signed into law a $700 billion defense bill, subject to repeal of the sequester agreement. When we're spending this kind of money and putting people in harm's way, why the hell are we cutting taxes? What effing justification is there for that? It is beyond shameful, frankly.

Even worse, this is just part one of a two-step routine the Republicans have been rehearsing for a generation now. Step one: cut the hell out of rich people's taxes, and blow a huge hole in the federal budget. Step two: almost immediately afterward, feign panic over a ballooning deficit and use that as a rationale to cut core social programs, like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other extremely popular programs. They have tried this numerous times before, with only limited success. This time might be different, as they are more craven than in previous decades and control every lever of power. They really don't need any Democratic votes to push these cuts through.

The GOP has always hated Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, largely because they are defined benefit, pay as you go institutions. To the current crop of crazies running Congress, insurance is now tantamount to Soviet-style top-down socialism. Don't think they won't try this: Paul Ryan has been working on setting this up for many years. We have to be ready to fight back, or you can kiss these vital public institutions goodbye.

That fight begins with killing this tax bill. Best get started.

luv u,

jp

Friday, December 8, 2017

Social obscurity.

Yeah, I'm back. Did you miss me? Didn't notice I was gone? Okay, then. (Sigh...) Not for nothing that Big Green was once described as one of the most obscure bands out there. We are freaking invisible - just ask the people standing behind us, all of whom you can see clearly, because ... again ... we're freaking invisible.

But just because we're invisible, that doesn't mean we're inaudible. That old adage about children being "best seen and not heard" doesn't apply here, as we are not children, and we are not quiet. Nay, we are LOUD. Well, loud-ISH, and occasionally louder than that. Exhibit A: our song Jesus Has A Known Mind, which we've featured a couple of times on our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN. That's loud, if you turn up the volume. Try it next time you play the podcast. Or put your iPod bluetooth speaker in the middle of a cavernous room, then crank it up to 11. That should be the advisory on all of our albums. That and "avoid using heavy machinery". (Not because it's dangerous, but because it is hard.)

Get out! We're not only musically obscure, Big Green is also socially obscure, I'm proud-ish to say. We're the only band I can think of who, when moving into an abandoned hammer mill, draws pointed comments of "there goes the neighborhood" from across the brickyard. Fact is, we're not even good enough to live in a condemned building. But we don't let THAT stop us. No, sir ... and thanks to the ingenuity of our mad science advisor, Mitch Macaphee (just back from MonsterCom, an annual gathering of like-minded crazy doctors in Madagascar), none of those local hostiles can get within thirty feet of our front door without being stopped by an impenetrable force field. (At least I'm told that it's there. Either that, or no one wants anything to do with us. Which is more likely? You decide, my friends.)

The happy by-product of our unpopularity is that we are able to work without fear of interruption on whatever it is we're producing at any given time. (Currently, it's the Ned Trek Christmas Pageant.) And with the help of Marvin (my personal robot assistant), who's helping us with the editing, we have a shot at finishing this sucker before the holiday ... so that we can share it with ... well ... whoever listens to us. (Note: the podcast is invisible as well.)

Donnie's excellent adventure.

It's been quite a week for our low-rent gropen-fuhrer, and as of this writing it's only Wednesday. First we saw him re-tweet Euro-fascist videos, then excoriate the FBI in response to Flynn's indictment, followed by a full-throated endorsement of Alabama Senate Candidate, state Supreme Court Justice (twice removed), and mall stalker (many times removed) Roy Moore on Monday, opening of vast Western lands to oil and gas development on Tuesday, and U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Wednesday. Throw in little details like the travel ban being reinstated by the Supreme Court Tuesday, his allies in the Senate passing a draconian "tax" bill (larded with much else besides) the weekend before, and stepped up provocative war games on the Korean peninsula this week, and you've got ... well ... just what you voted for, America.

Trump lighst the fuse. Again.The Jerusalem announcement basically lights a fuse that's been rolled out and set for decades. As Trump pointed out, Congress has voted for this more than once, passing resolutions in support of the shift by large bipartisan margins. In terms of the fundamentals, it's a minor step, but as a symbolic gesture, it has the potential for disaster. I'm certain it is already being used as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, ISIS, Al-Shabab, and what have you. Another tremendous gift to jihadists the world over. Trump may as well take out full-page ads for them, plaster billboards all around the Muslim world, and flood Facebook with pop-ups - Al Baghdadi wants you!

There's a temptation to frame this clusterfuck as something uniquely Trump, but that doesn't even begin to hold water. Trump is truly a reflection of America's worst tendencies, a fun-house mirror for us to peer into with fascination and horror. But having a drunk at the wheel of the wrecking machine that is Imperial America is only marginally different than having a college professor in the driver's seat. Yes, Trump is worse than even a neoliberal Democratic administration - court appointments and judicial decisions alone confirm that much. But America as it is currently configured is designed to kill and destroy on a massive scale, regardless of who is running the show. Destruction is the default position, and like any large exploitative enterprise, this machine has its ways of perpetuating itself. Every family Trump (or Obama) shatters in Yemen or Syria or Iraq generates more hatred against us. Our bombs and policies like the Jerusalem decision are investments in future conflicts that will fuel the military machine long after we're gone.

It's not hopeless, people. We live in a democratic society. We can change how we do things, but we have to get started ... like, now.

luv u,

jp

Friday, December 1, 2017

Don't give up the ship.

Perry's flag

In remembrance of our mom Iris, who passed away this week, I'm posting the lyrics to this song Matt wrote more than a few years back (one of my favorites) that keeps running through my head (and out of my mouth). It's called Don't give up the ship, and here it is:

Well, it grieves me when I see you
in some moldy homemade raft
You've no life jacket, there's no precautions
You're spinning downstream and you're laughing

Well, I'm not about to stop you
I've not the will and I've not the means
Still I stand here like I'm waiting
A world without you I've never seen
You say, read it off the flag, boy

Don't give up the ship
says the flag that flies above the turbulent waves
Don't give up the ship
Be a fool and hold the course away from the shore

Sailor learns something from each splinter
in those old and creaking boards
Now you're not apt to change your reasons
You'll never reinvent the doors that led you up the gangway

Don't give up the ship
say the words that are scrawled across the blue piece of cloth
Don't give up the ship
Be a fool and hold the course away from the shore

Red sky every morning
Sailor takes his tools out
and disconnects the warning lights
Never should have tied the knots so tight

On board the S.S. Something Sacred
you coughed up copy for the commodore
Now you're too old to keep your orders
Still you're dredging up the naval lore
and hoist it up the main mast

Don't give up the ship
says the flag that flies above the turbulent waves
Don't give up the ship
Be a fool and hold the course away from the shore

Don't give up the ship
say the words that are scrawled across the blue piece of cloth
Don't give up the ship
Be a fool and hold the course away from the shore

Saturday, November 25, 2017

You're welcome.

Okay, time to clear the table. That's right - push yourself back a few inches, climb to your feet, and start gathering up the plates. Chop chop! Hey ... don't throw that ladle at me! OUCH!

Well, I hope YOUR Thanksgiving was better than this. Here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, it's catch as catch can, as you might expect. We have no particular tradition with respect to this holiday; no frantic cooking, no decorations, no ritual television viewing or binge shopping. Just another pot of gruel, boiled to a fare-the-well, and ladled out to the dwindling contingent that is the Big Green collective. Solidarity forever!

Actually, it sounds worse than it is. Everybody wants an extra day off, right? Now, you might be justified in asking, "Day off from what?" My only rejoinder would be that it takes a lot of creative energy to write, record, and distribute songs in this day and age. In anticipation of the question, I have asked Marvin (my personal robot assistant) to use his electronic brain to calculate the number of calories required for the various stages of what we typically do on a weekly basis. He whirred and buzzed and blinked for a few moments, until a thin slip of tickertape emerged from his mouth-like grill bearing the following inscription:

START REPORT: COMPOSITION: 347 CALS; PRE-PROD: 140 CALS; RECORDING: 583 CALS; POSTING: 75 CALS .... ALL AMOUNTS AVG PER CAPITA ... END REPORT

How many hoagies is that suit?Telling figures indeed. (Note: I may have transposed a couple of digits here and there, but no matter.) So, from start to finish, a Big Green song consumes 1,045 calories per person. That's less than a standard hoagie from the corner deli. (Granted, they are bigger than the average hoagie.) If you were to try to put a precise cost on our songwriting enterprise, you could express it in terms of hoagie units, or you could convert the hoagies to dollars and cents. That would make it a more costly enterprise on a Monday than on Thursday, since Thursday is $2.99 hoagie day.

I know - we shouldn't be tossing higher math problems at you on the day after Thanksgiving. This is just our way of expressing the value of our efforts on your behalf. So, you're welcome, friends of Big Green. Keep those hoagies coming.

Under the radar.

If you had your fill of thankfulness over the past week, this might be a good time to look in on some stuff that's happening at the national level that seldom gets reported on. So much media attention is focused on the current administration's relationship with the Russian government, various sexual harassment revelations, and Trump's latest asinine tweets (all important topics, to be sure), some of the more impactful stuff the administration and its Congressional allies have been doing is slipping by unnoticed. Time to fight back ... and give thanks for the Internets.

Reactionary policy vessel.Court-Packing. As Trump appoints circuit court judges at an unprecedented pace, his friends and supporters in the Senate have greased the skids obligingly, disabling the filibuster and individual Senators' right to put a hold on nominations - methods the Republicans used liberally during the Obama administration to prevent his nominees from being seated. Now the reactionary Federalist Society has proposed a court-packing scheme that would triple the number of appellate court judges, enabling Trump to appoint an unassailable majority of ultra-conservative jurists to lifetime appointments on the bench.

Census and Sensibility. Trump looks ready to nominate a right-wing academic with no administrative or data-analytical experience to the number 2 post in the Census Bureau, which is the main executive position in that agency. Now, there is no permanent director of that agency, and the number 2 spot does not require Senate confirmation, so this is a stealth appointment of an ideologue who argues that competitive elections are not good for Democracy(!) and who played a key role in the GOP's partisan redistricting last time around. That's the guy who will oversee collecting the demographic data that informs redistricting. Holy shit.

Media Matters. Meanwhile, over at the FCC, Trump appointed chair Ajit Pai has been working overtime. You've probably heard about his attack on net neutrality, and there's no question that that story deserves more attention, but less visible has been Pai's efforts to break down the already weak system of rules regarding media ownership. In a 3-2 party line vote, the FCC recently voted to allow cross ownership of a television station and a newspaper in a single market. This, along with the decision to again discount UHF channels with respect to the statutory national audience share cap of 39% spells greater media consolidation and expansion of right-wing companies like Sinclair Broadcasting.

These and other issues, though not leading the headlines, have the potential to affect our daily lives for decades to come. They constitute the core of the GOP's assault on public institutions as a constraint on concentrated private power. We ignore them at our own peril.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 17, 2017

Write hand.

I'm kind of busy right now, Marvin. Just tell them that I can't talk. And in any case, I don't want to go on a Caribbean Cruise, even if it IS free. Cheese and crackers. (Hey, that sounds kind of good right about now.)

Writing is a hungry business. Just ask Hemingway, the guy with the moveable feast. I'm a little sensitive about interruptions today, so I beg your pardon ... Marvin (my personal robot assistant) keeps coming into my study (a.k.a. the old forge room in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill) with nonsensical requests. Stuff like, "You've got a phone call from Missouri" or "There's a brush salesman at the door" or "Leave the building - it's on fire". Be honest - would you listen?

What am I working on so feverishly? Ah, nothing. Just the script to this year's Ned Trek Christmas Special. Last year we did an "It's A Wonderful Life" parody. The year before I believe it was "A Christmas Carol". And of course we began this annual comedic atrocity with a take-off on "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", though I think our first Ned Trek holiday extravaganza was the Santorum's Christmas Planet episode, based loosely on the classic Star Trek "Return of the Archons" script. I mean, how do you top THAT? I am sorely tempted to cop out and do a clip show, but I happen to know that there are some new songs in the works (again), so that won't wash.

Forget the stupid tree, Willard.Actually, we're recording a handful of songs, including some older numbers we've never properly tracked before using modern technology. There are a couple of new ones in the works. I am trying to write around this eclectic mishmash of musical material. As you know, we are sticklers for continuity and comprehensibility. And quality. And irony. Massive irony. Heh heh.

It is hard to concentrate in a hammer mill, no matter what state it's in. (This one happens to be in New York.) But even with all the distractions, the diversions, the cold November wind blowing through chinks in the mortar, I SHOULD be able to write this freaking script. Hell, it should write itself. Shouldn't it? Of course, last year's Christmas show came in February ... of THIS year.

There goes the phone again. Tell them I don't want a higher limit on my credit card!

Kim Jong Saud.

The Saudis have destroyed a key airport in Yemen, a point of entry for crucial aid shipments, making the grim prospect of a major famine even more likely than before. This happened the same week that the Kingdom apparently chose to hold Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri against his will, by some accounts, and forced his resignation (Hariri now disputes this) in an effort to sow discord in a country that survived a 15-year sectarian civil war. This multi-pronged effort to roll back Shi'a influence in the region is largely the handiwork of Arabia's 32-year-old crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (or "MBS" as the folks in the know call him), a man who is taking the blood-stained legacy of Saudi's extremism up to the next level.

Meet Sal the Butcher.Praised by many in the American imperial class as a "modernizer", Prince Salman has leveled neighboring Yemen over the past two years, turning it into one of the world's most deadly war zones. This attack was probably born of the Iran nuclear deal; perhaps Yemen was the bone thrown to a disgruntled kingdom after an American war with Persia was averted. The fight in Yemen is an extension of Saudi's longterm efforts to remake the Arab world in its own image. Its principal enemy used to be Arab nationalism, championed by Nassar and others. Now that that wave of leaders is past, Iran and Shi'a populations are in the crosshairs, and the trigger has been pulled repeatedly - in Bahrain, in Syria, and most devastatingly in Yemen.

I don't want to place responsibility for this disgusting war solely at the feet of MBS and his autocratic government. They could not do what they're doing without military and diplomatic support from the United States. If we told them - firmly - to stop, they would stop. The fact that it continues demonstrates a desire on the part of Washington - and elements of both major political parties - for the conflict to continue. It's similar to the situation in Korea in that there is an obvious solution to the problem and the fact that we fail to grab it up suggests more than stupidity and stubbornness. The other similarity is that MBS's swagger is like that of Kim Jong Un, only our leaders appear willing to eat it up. Really disturbing.

I strongly suggest you contact your congressional representatives and tell them in no uncertain terms that this conflict has gone on long enough and it is time for the killing to stop. Senator Chris Murphy appears to have gotten the memo - now let's see if we can get others on board.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 10, 2017

Inside November. (Again.)

Man, is that the wind? Sounds like a freaking freight train. There goes the good weather. It was a nice couple of days, but hey .... all good things must end. (Hey Marvin ... got any more platitudes I can borrow? Thanks, man.) Well, it's November in upstate New York. Things start slowing down a little bit around these parts. That's partly why we had time to finish another episode of THIS IS BIG GREEN and post it this past week. Haven't heard it yet? Well, this is what you have to look forward to:

Ned Trek 34 - Shitty and a Bit of a Stretch. Another Ned Trek non-musical episode, this one loosely based on the classic Star Trek script "City on the Edge of Forever," originally written by famed sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison. Captain Willard, Mr. Ned, Mr. Perle, and the Nixon android all leap into Earth's history in an attempt to stop a crazed Doc Coburn from changing the past and foreclosing on the future. Will they succeed? Well ... robo Nixon does start a home for wayward clowns. That could make all the difference.

Put The Phone Down. Matt and I go into a wide-ranging discussion about Nixon's happiest days, Seb Gorka's descent back into internet racist rants, our somewhat spotty memories of the 1970s Eric Idle / Neil Innes parody of Beatle history called The Rutles, a look inside how Matt works on stuff, and a review of the television we used to watch with our parents back in the 1960s and 70s. Some impromptu singing and swanning about on various instruments.

Posted!Christmas Songs. We did a short block of Big Green Christmas songs by way of a little preview of the holidays to come. These include:
  • Christmas Green, a Willard song from one of our early Ned Trek episodes;
  • Jit Jaguar's Christmas, a relatively recent recording of a quirky, older number we've played on the podcast before;
  • Horrible People, a Ned song from a few years ago, featuring the ubiquitous 40s guys on backup vocals;
  • Christmas Presence, a recent re-recording of one of Matt's several takes on A Christmas Carol (this song appeared on his amazing 1994 Christmas cassette collection);
  • Make that Christmas Shine, another Willard song from that early Ned Trek Christmas special (the one with Santorum's Christmas planet).
That's about it for November. We have some more new stuff coming for the Holiday show, which will appear sometime around the holidays (hopefully).

Making it count.

My reaction to Tuesday's off-year political races is the same I always have with regard to elections: you can't win by staying home. A lot of people on the left get frustrated with the Democratic Party (I certainly do), but in our current political system, only two parties have a reasonable chance to win elections, particularly on a national scale. We have to work within the Democratic Party even as we organize outside of it; and we have to vote Dem (when such a vote is available) even if the candidate is not our preferred choice.

Threatening the neighborsThe alternative (i.e. sitting on your hands) results in what we have today: a national government run entirely by the most reactionary Republican Party in history - a political cabal that is doing enormous damage by undermining the work of vital agencies, appointing right wing judges, and more. This destructive work is moving at such an alarming pace that it is doubtful as to whether we can regain sufficient political power to stem the tide, let alone reverse it, before some of our most vital public institutions are blown to hell. That's why I am no fan of quixotic third-party detours. The downside risk is far too high, as we are now discovering.

I generally agree with Norman Solomon and his Democratic Party Autopsy report. And I think he might agree that the Democratic Party - like all national parties - is a broad coalition of factions that don't always (or even often) agree with one another on key issues. It was that way back in the 1960s. It was certainly that way in the age of the Democratic Leadership Conference. The only difference now is that there is a strong left faction that nearly won the presidential nomination process last year. THAT is new, and frankly, exciting. I think that should be a cause for optimism - the inside strategy is mostly a matter of persistence and focus. We have to populate the party with people who think like us, recognizing that we will need a broad coalition to start winning again on a national level. So this can't be a question of my way or the highway, on the left or the center. The corporate media likes to focus on factionalism. I think this is just the messy process of moving forward.

The left is the future of the Democratic party. It has nowhere else to go. We have to claim that future and continue to use the party as a means of advancing positions important to the well-being of the majority of Americans. Big project, but a necessary one ... and we'd best get started.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 3, 2017

Why Christmas?

Okay, subject matter experts - let's get down to it. We've written about fascists on the rise. We've written about space diseases. What's left to write about? What? Christmas again? Oh, Jesus Christ on a re-gifted bike. Very well.

I'll tell you, you ask a question around this place and you come away with six more questions. At least that's an even number. That said, we're still making music over here in Big Green-land (and no, I don't mean big Greenland .... everyone makes that mistake), and well, Christmas is coming, so ... that means more Christmas themed songs, right? Donald Trump and Bill O'Reilly will be overjoyed to hear that there's music that uses the word "Christmas" occasionally, even if it is mostly for humor and ironic purposes. (Or porpoises. Like hipster porpoises who do shark-like shit just to be ironic. You've seen that, right?)

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we are planning a holiday podcast extravaganza, with newly recorded Big Green classics never before heard by the likes of you, as well as some brand new material. (I don't mean fabric, either - I mean music, music.) We're in production, or Come again?pre-production, or something like that. This will be the first group of songs we've recorded entirely on Cubase 9, with no help from our trusty old Roland 2480 deck, which served us so well for the last 16 years. So we'll just see how that goes, my friends.

Okay, so ... we started working on the Roland deck a year or two after the release of our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas, and I have to say, this group of songs we're doing are pretty closely related to the songs on that disc. Why Christmas? Because Jesus. Or because it starts with a C. I don't know - that's just what we hang the song on, much like a shirt cardboard. (We kind of used former Texas governor Rick Perry as a shirt cardboard for one of our albums, Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick.) It makes it easier to develop a theme and ... oh, who cares?

We'll just keep making the songs, Christmas themed or not. You expect no less. And no more.

The color of power.

What a horrendous week for New Yorkers. Condolences to those affected by this ghastly Halloween attack. Don't wait for words of encouragement and sympathy from the big cheese - he's too busy attacking your senator on Twitter. Literally insult upon injury, but not surprising. It's also been a pretty rough week in Puerto Rico, still reeling from Hurricane Maria, and of course in Somalia, in the aftermath of that horrific bombing. I could go on, but what's the point - you know it. Sad thing is, none of these people will get any reasonable amount of moral or material support from the current administration. The reason couldn't be clearer: too many dark people, and no potential Trump voters.

How low can he go?Not that Somalia has been treated like anything other than a doormat in previous administrations. Trump, though, has singled out Somali refugees in America for criticism, sowing hatred and distrust among his legions. The refugees are black, like the family of La David Johnson, and like the Congresswoman that is a family friend of theirs, and like the football players taking a knee, and ... need I go on? Puerto Rico, well ... that place is full of dark people too, and so they're not going to get the kind of help that goes to Florida and east Texas. It just seems like whatever belligerent stand Trump takes, there are dark-skinned people on the other side of it.

I suppose I should consider it fortunate that crypto-racists have a tendency to reveal themselves gradually, however unintentional that process might be. Case in point is Trump's Chief of Staff, General Kelly, who launched into a gratuitous character assassination attempt on Florida Congresswoman Wilson (hint: she's African American) using a story that was easily dis-proven, as the event he was describing was captured on video. In remarks to the New York Times, Kelly praised Confederate General Robert E. Lee and opined that the Civil War was the result of a "lack of ability to compromise". I think Lawrence O"Donnell had it right when he suggested that Kelly - who grew up in the same area of Boston as O'Donnell did - is channeling a racist upbringing in what was a caldron of prejudice against black people, brown people, anyone other than the Scotty B's of the world.

Let us face it. In this culture, white, heterosexual people are normative; that is the default position. Anyone else needs qualification and justification. So when a crazy cracker shoots up 500 people in Las Vegas, we won't ask ourselves what the problem is with these rich, white Christians. But when a crazy ass Uzbek mows down a bunch of innocent people for no reason, all Muslims are expected to apologize. That's a power relationship at work.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 27, 2017

All present and accounted for.

Okay, everybody - band meeting. Let's do roll call. Matt Perry? Present. Myself? Present. Marvin (my personal robot assistant)? Present, but lacking in agency. Mansized tuber? Absent. (He planted himself in the courtyard again, and frankly, it's just too cold today to have the meeting out there.)

Yeah, it's been a while since our last meeting. A few weeks, anyway. Like August 1987. We are a self-governing collective, but not a very well organized one, truth be told. When you live in an abandoned hammer mill (or an abandoned refrigerator, for that matter), there's little else to do besides wander around and try to keep yourself occupied between tours. We might go crazy for a spell and even (dare I say it?) rehearse a few numbers. Such madness has taken hold of us on more than one occasion.

I suppose you're wondering how it is that we manage to support ourselves. Well, I don't think I have to tell you that we are lousy salespeople ... perhaps the worst ever. In a capitalist society such as ours, you have to charge for your music, no matter by what means it may be delivered. Of course, the availability of the post-industrial hulk known as the Cheney Hammer Mill makes it possible for us to basically give away our music and still have a roof over our heads, albeit a leaky one.

Present.We have, in the past, posted our albums for purchase on digital distribution sites - the Orchard, CDBaby, etc. My feeling - and I should raise this at the meeting, already in progress - is that we should just post songs for free download and give people an opportunity to contribute towards the good of the Big Green cause through a Patreon site or something like that. It's basically a digital passing of the hat, which we've done as well (the Luddite version, in any case).

Our songs keep getting sillier. I think it may be something in the water. That's another topic we should raise if this meeting ever gets underway. How do we turn up the serious? Doesn't that have to happen before you're born? All these searing questions, and there's more where those came from. (Mind you, it's a little dark up there.)

Okay, well ... meeting adjourned until, I don't know, 2047. Make it a Sunday in October. I'll dial in.

A little late.

Well, we've heard from Arizona's senators. Sort of. Does this amount to anything? If so, I don't know what, but judging by the coverage afforded by the mainstream media, I must be missing something. I've heard Jeff Flake compared to every great orator this side of Cicero over the past few days, but honestly - what did he say? What is the substantive issue here? It sounds to me like tone, "integrity", adherence to accepted norms of behavior, and mental/emotional stability. Important, yes, when you're talking about the President of the United States - a man who can, on a whim, destroy the entire planet. It may be dawning on some of these GOP senators - at least the ones no longer eyeing re-election - that having a crackpot in that most powerful chair on Earth may not be such a good idea.

Where were you last year?Thing is, where the hell were they last year when they could have done something about it? I think you know the answer to that. Trump is not an anomaly - he is the product of 30 years of mounting extremism in the Republican Party. They may have tut-tutted him once or twice during the campaign, but it never rose to the level of obstruction. No, they were more than happy to elect a sociopath idiot narcissist to the imperial presidency, so long is it meant they would get their way on legislation, appointments, and executive policy. That's all they fucking care about, people. Their congressional leadership says so every day. So even if a handful of retiring senators complains that Trump's ill-treatment of Gold Star families is disgraceful, the party will still stand in full support of that signing hand. This isn't an ideological battle, because they - Trump and his party - all agree on 90% of their program. To the extent that people like Jeff Flake disagree with the president on policy, it's largely on the basis of his hostility towards so-called "free trade" agreements.

Take their tax policy (please). The GOP is framing this as another visit by Pappy Tax Cut. The fact is, they will likely raise taxes on working people and the poor, just as they often do. They did so during the Obama years at least twice - once when they refused to renew the "Making Work Pay" tax credit, and again when they scuttled the withholding tax reduction. Now they're talking about reducing tax exemptions on contributions to 401k plans. Set aside the fact that these retirement instruments are woefully underfunded in the first place and represent a free-market retreat from the notion of a liveable retirement plan, this is just a backdoor attempt at funding the massive cuts they're promising to their rich donors. Regardless of what Trump claims, he will sign it, then call it something it's not. That's what he always does.

If the good of the nation matters now, it certainly mattered last year when the GOP could have stopped Trump cold. They didn't, and so plainly, it doesn't.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 20, 2017

Thirty (or thirty-one).

Is this one of those years with a "7" at the end? Right, I thought as much. I guess that's another decade in the can then, right? Fuck all - I am old.

Oh, hi. I was just having a little conversation with Marvin (my personal robot assistant). He keeps a lot of useless information in his memory banks, and among those bits and bobs are statistics about the history of Big Green, the music collective we formed some thirty years ago. Yes, I believe we adopted the moniker back in 1986, in a 2nd floor apartment in Ballston Spa, NY. That was the first incarnation of Big Green, which cracked apart in - yes - 1987, leaving it in the state it remains in today. (And no, I don't mean the state of New York.)

Some may think it's a bit of a problem that our band historian is a robot. That's not that unusual, actually. I hear that the historian for "Captured by Robots" is also a robot. And then there's Kraftwerk. All German bands have robot historians, from what I understand. (Though most bands choose not to read me in on the details.) Marvin can handle this task because he has what mad scientists call an "Electronic Brain". Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, invented it himself. The sparking contacts and dusty transistors inside that whirring little box function not unlike the synapses of the brain. Marvin can think, captain. And if he thinks, it's only one small step from there to - dare I say it? - ruling ... the world. Mwa-ha-ha-ha ....

Okay, well THAT took a dark turn. Why do we have multiple start dates for Big Green history? Well, it's complicated. In point of fact, my personal opinion is that Big Green was born when Matt wrote and recorded the song "Sweet Treason" for a tape he sent me for my birthday in Spring of 1985. I think we've played versions of the song on our podcast. The original is a very scratchy recording that Matt did bouncing between two cassette tape decks and using a mixing bowl for a snare drum. The lyric, personalized for the occasion, goes like this:

Joe is "happy fitness" thanks to JFKEveryone into the pool
We're all fun at the club
All of us nasty loud
Our metal detectors are safe from ambush
Our stomachs elastic with eclairs
Master's beer

Joe owes much to gym class
Joe is "happy fitness" thanks to JFK
All of us join him, we're grateful, JFK
All of us upside-down
Fungus on our knees

This time, it's gonna be gonna be easy
Sweet treason
Strange inclination has us warm up separate TVs
Every box word echoes neatly
Then it explodes

Joe, the mayor's systematically
going through your mail
He's sifting, but not finding
He's searching for some west-end sandwich
 ten years good and stale

And on that day, Big Green was born. (Editor's note: the "mayor" in this song refers to a kid we knew out in the Albany area back when we were trying to make a previous incarnation of this band work. Which brings us back even further, to 1979 ... damn it!

The fallen.

Four special forces soldiers were killed in the African nation of Niger earlier this month, and the Trump administration doesn't want to talk about it. There's been no discussion of what our policy is in Niger or more broadly in that region of Africa, no information on the circumstances of the men's deaths, no nothing. It's a bit reminiscent of the Yemen raid that went bad just a couple of weeks into Trump's tenure, except that they HAD a story for that one and it turned out to be as bogus as a Linkletter million dollar bill.

Another thing the Niger incident echoes somewhat more dimly is the Benghazi attack back in 2012. You know, four dead Americans, questions about how much support they received from Washington, and so on. So I imagine Trey Gowdy will start holding hearings on this quite soon, right? (Trey? Are you out there, Trey?)

What they DON'T want to talk about.Okay, so, the thing MSNBC has latched onto is Trump's call to one of the relatives of the lost soldiers in Niger and his comments surrounding presidential condolence calls in general. This seems like a red herring. The fact is, Trump radiates a sense of not caring about anything that happens to military people. This just points to what I've contended for some time now; that Trump is all of our worst tendencies balled up into a big, fat, greasy wad of nothing. He doesn't care about lost soldiers in much the same way that most Americans don't care - at least, not enough to step away from their televisions or to put their forks down. Sad, as Trump would tweet, but true.

Do Americans wonder why our military is operating in places like Niger, Chad, etc.? My guess is that they don't, since both the government and the media are not taking a close look. One freelance journalist working in that region, Amanda Sperber, commented on Democracy Now! that she found it surprising that Americans weren't aware of our presence in Niger; that we have, among other things, a drone base in that country. Why? Because we the people don't make it our business to question these deployments. We don't have to pay (at least, for the time being) and we don't have to fight, so we essentially don't give a fuck.

We will become a civilized people the moment we start treating our service personnel as if they were members of our immediate family. When we get to that point, maybe Trump will adjust his behavior ... or, even better, be sent home.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 13, 2017

Jump time.

Time to crank out another number? Right, then. One ... two ... one, two, three, fo... What? Wait for what? Oh, right. We need to pick a song. My bad.

Well, obviously we're a little out of practice. It's been a while since Big Green performed in these parts, and while we don't have any plans to set up at the local gin mill and run through the '93 set list (just like the old days, Steve), we could do with a little rehearsal time. A friend once told me that rehearsal is just a crutch for cats who can't blow. (No, he didn't wear sunglasses and a tam.) I like to think he had a point. It makes me feel better about doing nothing, and doing nothing is nothing if it isn't fun.

Not to say that we're dead idle - far from it. This week we're recording the next episode of Ned Trek. We're also working on the songs for our Christmas Extravaganza, rummaging through our big burlap sack of old Xmas songs that was the genesis of our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas, in 1999. Yessir, I remember back in '02, when the pump broke down and we had to haul water from the brook all the way uphill to our little log lean-to in Sri Lanka. Then there was the time that old Barney the mule lost a shoe in the middle of winter sowing. Hard times. Yep. (Yep.)

A bit spare.Thankfully, life is a lot simpler now. We have Marvin (my personal robot assistant) haul all of our water from the brook. Except now, unlike then, we have indoor plumbing (our lean-to was very old-school), so Marvin just dumps the water into the cistern and we tap it. Modern conveniences! When Marvin's batteries run a little low, we ask Anti-Lincoln to do it, and he always says no. We still ask, though. Everybody pulls his own weight around here. Everybody except the mansized tuber, who needs a little help. But what the hell - he's a freaking plant. Can't expect him to grow arms and legs and start jumping around anytime soon. (Or can we .... ?)

Well, I've wandered a bit. The bottom line is that we're dusting off a few of the Christmas songs Matt wrote decades ago - ones that didn't end up on 2000 Years To Christmas - and recording them properly for the first time ever (i.e. not on a borrowed 4-track cassette deck). Again, modern conveniences, utilized for our mutual benefit. It's a crazy little thing called civilization.

Wanting more.

It's hard to overstate how disturbing the news has become over the last couple of weeks. Gradually some elements of the Republican political establishment are beginning to acknowledge the obvious fact that Donald Trump is fundamentally unfit for the office of the Presidency. Astonishing. Why someone like Senator Corker wouldn't have realized this more than a year ago, when he had the opportunity to help prevent this disaster, defies belief. Like his colleagues, it obviously wasn't as important to him as having a Republican president - any Republican president - who would sign legislation and implement the extreme right policies his party has long advocated. They did everything in their power to put an unstable man in the most powerful office on earth and place the nation in jeopardy just to gain marginal political advantage.

Maybe THEY buy it.Now Corker and his colleagues can feign surprise when the bonobo they elected throws feces at them from his perch in the White House. And because the Tennessee Senator has announced his retirement, he can channel his colleagues' unease when Trump (a) demonstrates he knows nothing about America's nuclear strategy or the history of that strategy, (b) breezily demands we return to an arsenal of 32,000 warheads, and (c) makes a habit of cryptically threatening to start World War III on the Korean peninsula. The man is a terrorist, plain and simple - hinting that there's some kind of "storm" coming, teasing some violent response or initiative, then dropping a smirking "you'll see," like a petulant four-year-old. Fit for the presidency? The man isn't even qualified to be dog catcher.

I wish this were the kind of joke that so many people think it is (including many of Trump's core supporters, who revel in the discomfort of liberals and the like), but it's not. Trump is alluding to some kind of military action in the near future, probably regarding North Korea. Any action commenced by the United States stands the very real risk of provoking a counterattack on Seoul, South Korea - a city of 20 million people and no small number of Americans - plus the involvement of China and perhaps Russia (China's leaders have said that they would respond to an unprovoked attack on North Korea by the U.S.) That is the World War III scenario that Corker is alluding to. Even short of that, we could be looking at loss of life in the hundreds of thousands within a very short period of time - far beyond anything we've seen in decades. (Congo may be an exception, though that conflict took place over many years and in some respects is still ongoing.)

In my humble opinion, it's 25th Amendment time. Will anyone in the senior leadership of this administration put the country before his or her career? Remains to be seen.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 6, 2017

Music minus fun.

There's that funny music again. And the really strange thing is, every time I hear it, there's someone at the front door. What's that? A door bell? Oh ... okay. Never mind.

Well, I thought I was on to something important there; maybe a new scientific principle born of some random observation, like noticing a minor irregularity in the orbit of Mercury. No such luck, my friends - looks like the Nobel Prize for Physics will be going to someone else this year ... again. (Don't know how many of these disappointments I can stand.) I understand that our mad science advisor, Mitch Macaphee, has been nominated for the Ignobel Prize in making things blow sky high. That's a tough one to win - it's a little hard to guess how high sky high is.

Lord only knows, we don't do what we do here at Big Green for the love of prizes and little metal statuettes. Neither do we do it for the money. (The simple fact is that there IS no money in what we do.) Nay, we just do it for the simple joy of music .... that omnipresent mellifluous force that lifts our spirits up on high. That unseen power that unites us with the choir invisible. That ... I don't know .... ear worm that drives you out of your skull for three days; thanks an effing bunch, Matt! YOU AND YOUR CATCHY TUNES!

Not MY master's voice.Honestly, if we relied on positive feedback, like all of our coaches and half of our therapists suggested, we would have left this "business" years ago. I've known enterprising individuals who consider push-back a strong indication that you're doing the right thing. That sounds good to me, but frankly ... we don't even get a lot of negative feedback. We're like the band in the bubble. We're music minus fun.

Hey, maybe we're on to something, right? Matt wrote a song years ago called "Motivation X" which celebrated the sentiment: use your motivation to restrain yourself. That's the revolution, right? Go easy on the world. Start a collective and make music because that's what you do, not because you want to rip the world a new asshole and burn through a lot of money, a lot of trees, a lot of water, a lot of gas, etc. Make your revolutionary act the act of not succeeding.

Wait .... there's that funny music again! Mailman, perhaps?

Arms control.

Let's have some fun with semantics, shall we? Start with the word "gun". What is a gun and when does it stop being a gun and become, say, a bazooka or a howitzer? Though I suppose you can say that a howitzer is a kind of gun - big guns, as in "Bring out the big guns!" How about a staple gun or a glue gun? So a "gun" just a device for expelling something, right? That's why it also serves as one of umpteen English euphemisms for penis, among other applications. Well, fortunately for you 2nd Amendment purists out there, this very confusing word "gun" does not appear anywhere in the text of your favorite founding document of the Republic. The Constitutional scholars over at the local NRA gathering simply assume the word "arms", which is used in the amendment, means every manner of gun from the .38 special to the Kalashnikov. Why they stop there I have no idea. Given the vague wording of the 2nd Amendment, our founders seem to leave the door open to an inalienable right to brandish a bazooka, or a howitzer, or a tactical nuclear missile for that matter. "Arms" is a far more general term than "gun", so obviously we draw the line somewhere.

Constitutional right to ALL of them?Based on the evident facts of the massacre in Las Vegas, it's way past time to move that line a bit south from where it's been over the past couple of decades. I know my gun enthusiast friends bristle at the thought of restricting "assault rifles", largely on the basis of the fact that the term is not sufficiently defined and, like all terms, highly subject to interpretation. Fair enough. But it seems to me we are in need of restrictions on the actual firepower represented by these weapons (particularly when modified, as the Las Vegas shooter's rifles were, to operate as automatic weapons) rather than the specific design. Nine rounds a second seems kind of excessive, for instance. Is there any earthly reason why someone using a gun for self-defense, hunting, or other varieties of personal amusement would need to shoot more than a round or two per second?

I know, I know ... I'm trying to spoil people's fun. There are something like 200,00 legally registered automatic weapons out there, millions more semi-automatics, and people just love, love, love to shoot them at target ranges, etc. Great. But weight your right to do something fun against the right of others to be protected against the massive trauma and death caused by such weapons on a regular basis. If you can have your normal old .30-30 hunting rifle, your handgun, your shotgun, and your Bowie knife, but NOT the modified assault rifle, has your right to keep and bear arms been violated? You still have guns, right? Just not every kind of gun you want to have.

I guess our little semantics game should end on "rights." Are "rights" about what we should be able to do or are they about being able to do every little thing our heart desires ... like owning that modified AR-15? I guess it's up to us to answer that question.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 29, 2017

Light work.

Okay, ready? On three ... one, two, THREE! Arrrgh. I meant, on the count of three LIFT the freaking thing, not wave your hands in the air. What the hell's the matter with you? It's like you just don't care.

Yeah, I guess you could say we're having a little moving party here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, Big Green's adopted home for the last two decades. (I think we technically have squatter's rights, but what law is there in a place such as this?) No, we're not vacating the premises - far from it. I just wanted to move my piano from one room to another. No particular reason. Maybe that's why I can't get any cooperation out of this crew. I KNEW I should have done one of those leadership retreats! Curses.

Sure, there are useful things we could all be doing, but who's got the time for that? I mean, I've been putting off restringing our borrowed electric guitar for about two weeks now. That sucker isn't going to string itself, right? Things just keep getting in the way. Like Marvin (my personal assistant) - he got in the way yesterday when he was vacuuming the hall. To get to the guitar, I would have had to maneuvered around him. And well ... I just don't feel like stringing the guitar, Put your back into it!that's the point. You see? When all else fails, the truth will out!

While we're not moving things around at random, we are actually working on a music project. As I mentioned last week, it's kind of similar to our first album in that we're reworking some of the songs Matt wrote as low-rent Christmas gifts in the 1980s and 90s. The biggest difference is that we're recording it for the podcast ... and we're twenty years older than we were for 2000 Years To Christmas. So this may sound more crotchety ... or not. But hey ... it's free, right? To us, you're all kids, and on Sundays, kids eat free. In fact, in my book, kids always eat free. That's how we roll.

So, let's put the piano the fuck over there, and let's get recording, damn it. Christmas is almost here, right?

War and remembrance.

I mentioned last week that I have some problems with the Ken Burns series on the Vietnam War. That was on the basis of just the first episode, so to be fair, my comments were a bit preliminary. I have not seen much of it since - just the odd half-hour here and there. (Frankly, it's hard for me to come up with 18 hours of viewing time over the course of a week or two.) That said, the episodes I've seen since the first installment have done nothing to change my estimation of the overall project. It's important to get many and varied perspectives from American veterans; I'm all for that. But the Vietnamese perspective that I've seen thus far has been very limited and two-dimensional. Further, the narrative seldom departs from the neo-imperial framing that has always defined mainstream retrospectives on this brutal war.

Vietnam war seriesWe're told, for instance, that in 1969 Hanoi would not consider an agreement that would leave the Saigon government in place. Actually, it wasn't just Hanoi; it was a large percentage of the people under the dictatorial governance of South Vietnam - at least those who had not already been brutalized, burned to a cinder or chopped to pieces by that late date. One important point that's getting lost in this series is the fact that the vast majority of ordinance dropped by the U.S. in Vietnam was dropped on South Vietnam, not North Vietnam. This is reflective of that imperial framing - South Vietnam was "ours" to rampage over, so look elsewhere. Also, perhaps I'm missing too much, but virtually all of the atrocities I've heard described in this series have been on the anti-Saigon side. (I hope this is just a reporting error on my part.) And the picture they paint of Le Duan is practically that of a ruthless super villain, "Dr. No" figure.

No such depictions on the American side - just a lot of well-meaning actors gone awry. And seemingly very little reliance on official documentation from the period. I'm hearing a lot of recorded phone calls and office conversations, but not even contemporaneously available material like excerpts from the Pentagon Papers, let alone subsequent declassified documentation. The authors seem unaware of or uninterested in American planners' thinking on why the war was being fought in the first place; the danger of a good example of independent development, outside of the U.S.-run system; the desire to provide a recovering Japan with markets, raw materials, and labor and (post-1949) to prevent them from accommodating to communist-led China.

I will watch more, of course, but I am not sanguine about this effort. We are currently in the midst of a 16-year conflict in Afghanistan. It would help to understand the last pointless, seemingly endless conflict a lot more clearly than this series allows.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 22, 2017

Summer's end.

Here comes the sun ... and there it goes, right over the back of the mill. Must be autumn. This place is like freaking Stonehenge - you can set your watch to the movement of the shadows.

Well, the season passing doesn't mean much around here. I'll be honest: we of Big Green never went in for summer activities in a big way, so the warm months are just about keeping out of the sun and wearing open newspapers on your head like a tent. Unless you're Matt, of course, who wears a hat and spends half of his life out amongst the wild critters, rain or shine, snow or hail, you name it. The rest of us? We all busy ourselves with indoor activities, like bending pretzels and juggling priceless objets d'art. (That last one we don't do a real lot. Like, well ... never.)

It's hard to keep track of what our entourage is doing in any given season. Some are more active than others. Anti-Lincoln, for instance, had and idea for a discount retail business. He was going to plant it right next door to Dollar General and call the store Quarter Colonel. His business plan was to undercut the competition - everything in Dollar General is a buck; everything in Quarter Colonel would be a quarter. The cash registers were ringing in his Four score and seven blue light specials agohead like the bells of St. Mary. I know Lincoln had a reputation, perhaps apocryphal, of being a humble, frugal man of simple tastes, so true to form, his anti-matter self is the exact opposite. He's going to OWN north central Little Falls, NY .... OWN IT!

Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has been busy these waning weeks of summer. He's mostly been checking his way through my to-do list. Hey ... don't look at me like that. What would YOU do if YOU had a personal robot assistant? At least I'm not sending him out to some local small business to earn money for my ass. Though he was working for a time at a five and dime. (His boss was Mr. Magee). I don't think I have to tell you how that turned out.

So, bring on the fall, people. We've got a pack of songs ready to record. Let's track this mother! Ya-ho, ta-ho.

Week that was (again).

Man, this week has been a clusterfuck. Not sure exactly where to begin, but I guess the best option is just to dive right in.

The Zombie Rises. Repeal and replace is back again this week, this time advanced by GOP senators Graham and Cassidy, and it's the predictable formula. They basically want to block grant the program, including the Medicaid portion of it, which is the Republican's favorite target just lately. According to a study cited by the Washington Post, 34 states would lose funding, and the states with Medicaid expansion and relatively generous benefits would be the biggest losers. It will also throw millions off of their coverage - no surprise there. The only thing that can stop this now is, well ... us. Call, march, occupy, whatever you can manage. Delay this vote until after 9/30 and it will be dead for a while longer, at least, and that's the best we can manage under the circumstances (i.e. good enough).

Active crime sceneHurricane Maria. What a horrible storm, and the fact that it took such a cruel path through an already distressed group of islands is heartbreaking. Puerto Rico, already flattened by international finance, has lost power entirely, perhaps for weeks or even months. Their grid is 44 years old, due to such a constricted colonial financial situation. Where is the outrage for the ill-treatment of these working Americans, Trump supporters? Crickets.

Mexico Quake. There's a sickening regularity to this recent crop of disasters; a hurricane coinciding with an earthquake in Mexico. Again, suffering piled on top of suffering among a populace singled out by our president as the source of all of our woes. And as is so often the case, the lack of public investment in communities makes the disaster more serious than it needs to be. Such an outrage.

Hello, World! Speaking of the source of all of our woes, Donald Trump made his "debut" at the United Nations General Assembly, and duly threatened North Korea with total destruction. Withered talking heads like Joe Scarborough and David Ignatius found some encouraging themes in this poorly-wrought mad man's tirade, but that's just residual affection for the American empire. Trump waved the bloody shirt and threatened the world from that podium, and the threat was lost on no one. No doubt about it: Cheney's back in charge.

Vietnam Revisited. I could write a whole column about Ken Burn's latest effort to retell history, but suffice it to say that he appears not to have strayed much from the mainstream "bungling efforts to do good" narrative. Another lost opportunity to clarify this loathsome episode.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 15, 2017

Old stock.

I think it's over there, in that cardboard box. No, no - not that one! The one under that one. Or the one under that. I don't know, just start opening boxes - I'll tell you when to stop.

Oh, yes, that's right ... I have a fourth wall. Hello, then. What are we doing? Thanks for asking. We are digging through the Big Green archives again. And when I say "archives", I'm talking about something that's really much more rudimentary than that term suggests. Call it a series of boxes, some of which have the Kellogg rooster emblazoned on their side. Then there's those round Quaker Oats boxes .... I used to make pretend ham radios out of those.

What we're searching for is, well, some ideas for this year's Christmas pageant extravaganza. Amazingly, there's a lot of holiday material that hasn't been released or even heard for the last ten years. Matt did, what, ten years of Christmas tapes, between 1986 and 1995, with one added on after that for good luck. We've got an enormous backlog of 4-track cassette recordings from that period, essentially demos, which we can harvest and repurpose like, I don't know, sorting through a junk yard for something useful. Don't ask me for metaphors this early in the morning!

So whatcha got, Lincoln?Now, I don't want to leave you with the false impression that we are constantly recycling music from days of old. Not a bit of it! In fact, the songs on our last THIS IS BIG GREEN - Ned Trek extravaganza are all brand spanking new (and probably in need of that spanking). Not that we haven't reached into the old grab back in past episodes. Usually around the holidays we start rummaging around for something that will fill a hole in the production. I'm thinking maybe we should just patch in some video of a local 2nd grade school orchestra playing Jingle Bells. Now THAT'S entertainment, people. (Literally every one of those cute little critters playing the same note, all together.)

Okay, so ... yes, we'll be working on a Christmas show. Because that's how we roll here at Big Green. Next podcast will be another non-musical Ned Trek, then who knows ... an actual album? Yikes!

After the flood.

With an environmental disaster underway in Houston and massive destruction in the Florida Keys, the Virgin Islands, and elsewhere around the Caribbean, it's fair to say that the 2017 hurricane season is off to an inauspicious start. We are completely unprepared for these climate change-fueled super storms, largely because we find ourselves unable to grapple with the fact that global warming is actually happening. Yes, I know - no storm can be directly attributed to climate change, but it does enhance the strength and volatility of the storms to a significant degree, and the effects are very much as predicted by climate scientists.

It's getting worse, folks.There are people in this country - coastal urban mayors and the like - who have to face facts on this issue, but pretty much everyone else is free to ignore the obvious: that we are now living in a far more dangerous and unstable environment, and it's only going to get worse. The longer we play this denial game and pretend it doesn't exist, the more profound the long term costs will be. Unfortunately, this is a difficult issue to get traction on in a country like the United States. You find yourself arguing for a major change in people's day-to-day lives, tremendous investments, and more, for positive effects that likely won't become evident for another generation or more. It's a crisis that breeds fatalism, and that plays right into the hands of the petrochemical-driven profit machine that's been stoking climate change for decades.

I think the only way we can succeed in convincing enough of our fellow Americans that radical change is needed is by decoupling the notion of a sustainable society from economic austerity. We have demonstrated this as a society - recall the period just prior to the financial crisis of 2008 (well, before the election of 2008, too). There was what seemed like a broad and growing consensus that we needed to do something about energy use, investing in renewables, greater efficiency, etc. The crash just washed that all away in a chorus of "drill, baby, drill!" When you have 750,000 people a month being tossed out of work, people will grasp at anything, and Obama did little to articulate a coherent vision of a more sustainable economy.

So here we are, being battered by ever larger and more menacing storms, and yet building more pipelines as far as the eye can see. We need to move the conversation back to where it was ten years ago (and further, really). That's the straw.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 8, 2017

Inside September.

You sent it up the chute already? Okay, then ... well ... I WAS going to put the good stuff into it first, but I guess it's been long enough that people will settle for whatever they get. Oh, well ... maybe next month.

Yes, you heard right - we've uploaded the September 2017 installment of THIS IS BIG GREEN, and this seems like a really good time to talk about what's inside that honking little MP3 file. Here goes:

Ned Trek 33: The Nimrod Seven. Incredibly, the thirty-third episode of our Star Trek parody, Ned Trek. This one's based on the classic Star Trek first season episode entitled The Galileo 7, in which Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and some toss-aways get their shuttlecraft stranded on a hostile ape-infested planet. Well, replace those three regulars with Perle, Coburn, and Sulu, change the shuttlecraft's name to "The Nimrod 7", then throw in Seb Gorka, Peter Lorre, the Nixon android, and a Mr. Stephanie or six and you've got a poorly-wrought morality play worthy of The Immortal or even fourth-season Big Valley. Oh, yes.

The Nimrod Seven contains no less than eight new Big Green songs:

Song: If You're Listening To This - A somewhat country-fried Willard song that's a musical and conceptual adaptation of the "final orders" video Captain Kirk left for McCoy and Spock in The Tholian Web. "You'll have to use your creed and your opportunities; but temper them with profits from false securities." You get the drift.

Song: Commander I'm Dead - A Stephanie Q (or R?) song about the uses of a dead soldier to any canny leader of men. The only lyric I can think of that makes use of the hick-French term "Mercy Buckets". Non-sequitur backing vocals by The Twenties Guys.

Song: Doctor In The House - A bit of musical braggadoccio from self-reputed alpha male and Nazi progeny Seb Gorka, recently departed from the Trump clusterfuck. Prepare yourself for choruses of "beta cuck". Tell your wife: here comes Sebastian!

Song: Wait For You - A Doc Coburn song with a real 60s anthem rock vibe. I find myself humming this one a bit as I wait for us to invade all those other places in the travelog.

All settled in?Song: Nimrod - Perle song lamenting his frustrations as commander of the Nimrod 7, the misunderstandings ... it's like everybody speaks a different language! Heavy is the head ... and kind of heavy the song.

Song: Neocon Captain - Sulu's number. Another anthem-like tune that likens the insufferable Perle to Captain Bligh (who ended up governor of New South Wales, by the way.) This is probably my favorite of the tranche (as Sulu songs often are), but you be the judge.

Song: Yo-Ho - A song from Mr. Welsh, with the usual Celtic overtones and undertones. The Yo-ho, Toe-ho chorus is probably borrowed from the Viking episode of Lost In Space, but don't quote me.

Song: Nixon is Saving Us All - This Nixon song closes out the set; the android's internal power source is used to fuel the crippled shuttlecraft and, as the title suggests, save us all! Favorite line: "Until we loose the surly bonds and touch God's face; maybe drop some bombs."

Put the Phone Down. Matt and I banter aimlessly (and occasionally break into song) about what we did over the summer, Seb Gorka, mechanical Nazi men, psycho Batman, and quite a bit more. Give it a listen, anyway.

Brinksmanship redux.

It's a little hard to sort out what to write about this week. The catastrophic hurricane that hit Texas or the one that's bearing down on Florida? North Korea? DACA? What the hell ... welcome to the Trump era, when everybody drinks from a firehose. What a non-stop freaking joy this administration is. I will leave to more able correspondents (like David Sirota) the telling of how Trump and the congressional Republicans have worked overtime over the last few months to make east Texas more vulnerable to this kind of disaster. As unprecedentedly powerful storms line up to cause havoc around the Caribbean and up the coast, no doubt the climate change deniers will continue to strip away what little protection people have from flooding, the release of pollutants, and bankruptcy (particularly in a place like Puerto Rico).

Highly predictable.Then there's North Korea. Perhaps the most remarkable piece of this crisis is the total lack of voices in favor of doing the right thing. From the various talking heads (mostly foreign policy establishment people, retired generals, current generals, and conservative think tankers), I keep hearing that there are military options, however limited, and that it's either strike or learn to live with a nuclear-capable North Korea. Of course, we have had that for a while. We have lived with a nuclear-capable Russia and China for a long time. I also hasten to add that the world has lived with a nuclear-capable United States for even longer. My feeling is simply that if they can live with us, we can live with them ... just as we have for about a decade.

Here are a few things that you won't hear on the talk shows: 1) This is not the cold war. It is not an ideological battle, for chrissake. No one is interested in emulating North Korea, and they aren't trying to export their model of governance to anyone else. 2) We don't have to demonstrate that we are stronger than them. They know this in their bones since we destroyed their society in the 1950s. Our strength is the central reason why they're doing this. 3) This situation is not China's fault, nor is it their responsibility. North Korea's dispute is with us, not China ... or even South Korea. They and the Russians have encouraged us to take reasonable steps to disarm this time bomb: hold off on military exercises, build confidence, etc.

An NPR correspondent this week asked if diplomatic approaches would make us look "weak". This is the mentality that leads to war. North Korea is not Germany in the 1940s. Appeasement doesn't apply here. That only works when you're weak and they're strong.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 1, 2017

Missing pieces.

This tape recorder has that Leroy Brown kind of problem. You know ... it looks like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone. Guess it must have been messin' with the wife of a jealous dehumidifier.

All right, well, it's no secret that Big Green has a technology problem or two, even with an in-house mad science advisor like Mitch Macaphee. Our machines are aging, our circuits are frayed, our relays are frosted, and the electric bill's unpaid. (That was an accidental rhyme, by the way.) Most of our recording devices have at least one tooth missing. I've got an Evil Twin direct box that needs surgery. Our VS2480 deck has finally been retired for a system that's maybe six years newer (i.e. only nine years old).

Hey ... if you're a real band, that shouldn't matter, right? Got a second-hand guitar and a panama hat? Start busking. Got a broken-down upright piano that's barely upright? Grab a tin cup and start pounding those dusty keys. That's the musician's work ethic. Not super popular around here, I must say. We make music without much of a thought to monetizing it. God no - that's Anti-Lincoln's job. We just put our heads down in the studio. Old antimatter Abe sits in the den and moves the numbers around. Occasionally they add up to something edible.

I think I see what the problem is...Speaking of missing pieces, our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN, is massively overdue. The reason/excuse? Well ... we produced eight songs, mixed seven, and thought we were freaking done. Matt was plugging the show together and, well ... there was this gaping hole where a Nixon song should go. So it's back to the mixing board with us, and the June episode is now turning into the September episode. But people ... think of it. Eight new songs, written on the fly and recorded from scratch ... on a new (to us) recording system, no less! Add to that some chasing around after falcons and the usual summer distractions, and you've got an abysmally late podcast. But, hopefully, it will be one for the books. (Eight new songs, people.)

I think that brings our Ned Trek catalog up to about 70 tracks. Christ on a bike. There's got to be an album in there somewhere, right?