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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?

Sanctuary found.

Just heard that Texas's asinine SB4 anti immigrant bill has been blocked by a federal judge a day before implementation. Now perhaps more undocumented people in Houston will make their way to safety in the midst of this catastrophic storm. It's conceivable that more than a few people's lives will have been saved by this decision, though it remains to be seen what will happen on appeal. Texas's useless governor is determined to push this point with the full support of the Trump Justice Department, furiously waving the bloody shirt of immigrant crime, murder, rape, etc., to make their bigoted followers happy.

Why trust is important.Of course, as police chiefs all over Texas and, really, across the nation know, the effect of this broad policy will be the precise opposite of what Trump, Sessions, and Abbott claim. It doesn't take a criminologist to understand how this works. The police don't have omniscience; they rely on people who see something to say something, as the slogan goes. Without the cooperation of people in the community, they can't effectively do their jobs. Undocumented aliens are not going to step forward if they believe that police will detain them because of their immigration status. The Texas Governor can assure them all he wants that if they haven't committed a crime they have nothing to fear - that obviously counts for nothing. The police would be severely constrained by this law. If they don't report undocumented individuals to ICE, they can be fined and even prosecuted. So what the hell is Abbott talking about?

The broader policy is the core problem here. We have a president and an attorney general dead set on targeting undocumented aliens. They have lit a fire under ICE, turning them into Trump's promised deportation force, which he mentioned during the campaign. What that has meant thus far - and what immigration attorneys are saying - is that in order to get their numbers up, ICE agents are grabbing the easiest people to get. It's not MS13 that has to worry; it's the young people they prey on, because they are the low-hanging fruit. This is particularly the case if (and I mean when) Trump cancels DACA. And again, if young, school-age people and their parents are afraid to talk to the police, how are the police going to protect them from gang members? Not going to happen.

So the result of this sickening policy will be Trump's vision: a higher percentage of the remaining undocumented will be lawbreakers. A self fulfilling prophecy.

luv u,

j

Friday, August 25, 2017

Rubbish in.

Anybody seen my tuning fork? No, damn it, THAT'S not it. That's my tuning spoon. I said fork, you moron. This .... place!

Oh, yeah ... hi out there. I'm just attempting to replace a string on a second hand guitar that's been lying around the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill since before we started squatting inside this big old drafty barn of a place. In as much as Big Green is a collectivist institution by nature, we make use of what resources avail themselves, utilizing only what we need to accomplish a mutually agreed-upon task, then replacing the surplus in such a way as to benefit all. Yes, we're all equal here. Except, of course, anti-Lincoln. Fuck that guy!

Why am I restringing an old, abandoned guitar? Well, if it makes you feel any better, I'm doing it with used strings. We're scraping the bottom of the stewpot here, folks - I won't make any bones about it. (Typically, what you find at the bottom of the pot is not so much bones as sinew and fat, but I'll leave that right there.) That's what you have to do when you're Big Green, you know. We thrive on privation. We bask in the glow of our obscurity. When gravity says come down here, we go up there. When we look in the mirror, we know that we're the opposite of Dude, what did you DO to this thing?what we see looking back at us.

What does all this mean? Well, I'm gonna' tell ya'. We still haven't finished our podcast, that's what. The machinery is moving pretty slowly these days, folks. Matt's got his hands full with his various nature-focused responsibilities, tracking peregrine falcons, tending the beavers, and writing up stats for The Kingbird. And me, well ... I saw a bunny in the yard. And there was some other junk. And I listened to a video clip on my phone. Uh ... I got nothing. Rubbish in, rubbish out, right?

Sure, I know, it's been four months since our last show; it's in the works, and we're mixing the songs right now. One .... more .. hurdle. Keep your eyes open and your mouths agape. Expect a delivery ... soonish.

Sixteen and counting.

His tremendous majesty Trump the First made several speeches this week, generating the usual range of comments, lamentations, amens, and apologies. I will set aside my observations on how he handled all of this presidential business for the moment and focus instead on the most consequential remarks; namely the speech he delivered on the Afghanistan war, now in its sixteenth year.

My short take is that there isn't a lot new here. We knew that Trump had loosened the rules of engagement a bit, resulting in a greater number of civilian casualties than was typical under Obama. In Monday's address, Trump said that troop levels would be determined based on conditions, not deadlines - again, nothing new. Both Obama and Bush followed this standard in Afghanistan and Iraq at one point or another; that's why we were still in both countries when Trump started his presidency. He had some kind of stern words for Pakistan; same as his predecessors. (Obama as much as promised cross-border raids into Pakistan as a candidate in 2008, which he later undertook as president.)

Zero skin in the Afghan game.Probably the most dangerous element in this speech was Trump's comments on India. Bush made some effort to balance his administration's outsized relationship with Pakistan by working with India. The current president suggested greater Indian involvement in resolving the Afghan conflict, which would absolutely drive Pakistan's leaders mad. Their principal adversary active on two fronts? Not a good outcome from their point of view, and that would make another devastating conflict between India and Pakistan even more likely.

Not to bury the lead, but what the speech boils down to is that Trump is going to increase troop levels somewhat, pretty much along the lines of what Obama was doing, and he's not going to tell us about it. (News reports have the number at around 4,000 to start.) For those of you who were thinking Trump might actually end this stupid war, think again. There is just no political percentage in doing so. The burden of this war falls entirely on the tiny minority of Americans whose family members actually do the fighting and dying. There are no tax levies to support its costs. So our government has found the formula for perpetual war: remove the populace entirely from any experience of it. Trump will not upset that apple cart - not when to do so would make him look "weak".

This Afghan war will never end until we demand it. After sixteen years, it's way past time to make that demand.

luv u,

jp

Friday, August 18, 2017

Make it spin.

Where's the summer podcast? I don't freaking know. Must have left it in my other pants. What am I, Kreskin? Maybe. I hear HE has more than one pair of pants.

You see, here's the problem with living in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. (And I should add here, it's not the ONLY problem.) It's goddamn hard to stay on a schedule. You can set up your little wall calendar or get one of those day planners at the stationery store. (Personally, I prefer stores that move around, like food trucks. Mmmmmm .... food trucks ....) Or you can vault bravely forward into the 21st Century and set your schedule on some phone app. Well, we've got none of that here. Nothing like it. Anti-Lincoln puts a mark on the wall every morning, but frankly, after a decade of that, it just looks like patterned wallpaper.

I guess what I'm saying is that we haven't posted a new THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast in four months because, well, we lost count of the days. And days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and what the hell - here we are. That's very nearly the truth, but like everything around here, it's more complicated than that. The current episode of Ned Trek is a musical, so we're in production - STILL - on I think seven songs. (Like I said, I lost count.) A couple of them have been mixed. I'm still working on rhythm tracks for the rest. We're testing out a new system, and that's been a bit of a process. Our tops won't spin. Hey ... just GET OFF MY BACK!

Really made your mark, didn't you?That wasn't for you. There was a carpenter ant on my back. I've never been able to understand why they are named for something that is almost the precise antithesis of what they do for a living - namely, eat your house alive. (Carpenters, last I looked, build you house alive.) It's another example of what we call the "Pelican Cove Principle" - naming things for either (1) something completely inappropriate to the thing named, or (2) something you destroyed to build the thing. For example: Pelican Cove was a tony bedroom community that had no pelicans and no cove, so it complied with principle (1). Then there's Applewood Drive back in my hometown - a road built through an ancient stand of heirloom apple trees which were, of course, ripped out to make room for McMansions. You get the idea.

Well, there you go - I wasted another morning, didn't I? That's why we're so far behind. Back to the basement with me.

Brown shirt redux.

The thing about Trump is that he never knows when to shut the hell up. The events of the past ten days put this into stark relief. His post-Charlottesville comments are driven as much by his insistence on being right as by anything else. That said, the man knows how to court his core constituencies - namely, by abandoning any semblance of the traditional presidential role of being the nation's consoler-in-chief and weighing in on the side of white sheets and brown shirts. Classy. I guess that roughly comports with Bannon's avowed strategy of calling out Democrats on race issues, though he claims now to want to crush the "clowns" in the white nationalist movement. (I suspect he's attempting to blow smoke here.)

The Trump armyThere is little doubt in my mind that Trump is a deep-dish racist fuck. His personal history alone is enough to convince any reasonable person, from his early days as a landlord to his vocal advancement of birtherism to his targeting of immigrants, Muslims, you name it. After the attacks in Barcelona, his first impulse was to tweet a reprise of his celebratory comments about General Pershing's participation in America's early 20th Century colonial pogrom in the Philippines - the story about killing 49 Muslim resistors with bullets dipped in pig's blood. What is more bigoted than that? His blood libel against Muslims in New Jersey re the days following 9/11? Perhaps.

Trump's next stop is Phoenix, AZ, where on Tuesday he will hold one of his regional Klan rallies, full of the kinds of crackpots that marched through the streets of Charlottesville with citronella torches and various tattoos. Too soon, you say? Not a bit of it. This tactic reminds me of what the NRA used to do (and may still do) in the wake of a mass shooting; namely, hold a massive pro-gun rally in or near the affected community. You can bet that Trump will have an incendiary tale to tell of how the Antifa counter-protesters were, in essence, outside agitators, at least as culpable as the neo-Nazis he tepidly disavows. I would still say the apple didn't fall very far from the Klansman Fred Trump tree.

Is anyone surprised by all this? Well ... if so, they haven't been paying attention. Expect more, folks, and worse ... much worse.

luv u,

jp

Friday, August 11, 2017

Post not.

Ask not what Big Green has been doing for you this week. Ask what you can do for Big Green. And yes, I am cribbing from John F. Kennedy - that's how we roll around here. It's all JFK, all the time.

Interestingly, president Kennedy did have a role in Big Green's history, albeit a minor one. Back in the day when we were fighting the cat for the scraps that she had just wrestled away from some mice, we would record in our childhood bedrooms, our mother's living room, some spare room - wherever we could fit a cassette machine and some battered instruments. (Those instruments!) Matt and I would bang around the way we still do now, hammer together a song, then release it on cassette. And when I say "release", I mean something like tossing it out into the middle of the road and hoping someone chances upon it. (You know - essentially like posting it on the Internet ... without the Internet part.)

Hey, Abe ... Does this song remind you of the war?Well, many of those cassette collections were made up of Christmas songs - not carols, but songs Matt wrote on the theme of Christmas. (He typically recorded these collections himself to retain the element of surprise.) The one Matt put together in 1989 was entitled "PT 109" and the sleeve featured a slightly modified version of the heroic cartoon-like cover of Kennedy's war memoir by the same name. The song PT 109 was actually a country number ripping on George H.W. Bush, who had just become president and who had a heroic WWII story about how he had rescued a future president of the United States - himself - from a plane crash in the Pacific. The lyric was written in the posthumous voice of one of Bush's crewmates, lamenting that he hadn't served under another commander:

Had I served on PT 109  
I would have had the good fortune to be
on patrol with lieutenant JFK
and I might just have survived to this day
'Cause sometimes not only the hero survives to tell the tale

Anyway, that's Kennedy's contribution to Big Green. Not unique, of course - our songs feature many presidents, including the current one. Occasionally they show up in the titles as well. Fun fact: one of our cassette collections was entitled "Songs that remind Lincoln of the war". Extra points if you can guess which president was on the cover of that sucker.

Unfit.

The president this week took a break from his 3-week vacation to issue an existential threat against a sovereign nation. If the intention was to intimidate the target country, well, it didn't work so well - the DPRK responded with a thinly veiled threat to launch missiles at Guam, home to 160,000 people and two major U.S. airbases. That prompted another nuclear threat from Trump. Then he threatened to invade Venezuela. This may turn out to be the longest summer vacation in history.

In some respects, this feels very familiar. The Defense Intelligence Agency leaking an intel assessment about North Korea being able to miniaturize nuclear weapons to a warhead-ready size - that sounds like the Iraq war run-up to me. Clearly someone likes the idea of another catastrophic conflict on the Korean peninsula. The cheap, sloppy trash-talking, though, is different. The only close to comparable incidents I can think of from other presidencies is, perhaps, W. Bush calling Kim Jong Il a "pygmy". No, this was full-throated nuclear sabre-rattling of a type that only pathetic posers like Seb Gorka could admire.

In charge of nuclear weapons.So now we're in a nuclear pissing-match, by conscious choice of the president. That is unacceptable, though quite predictable. During the campaign last year he lamented that the nuclear arsenal was a kind of white elephant and wondered about its utility is we never used it. People voted that guy into office, and now - six months in - he's threatening people with fire and fury. Trump is what many had surmised before: a man unfit for service in any capacity, let alone the Presidency of the United States. But an unfit man cannot be president - it is far too potentially destructive a job to be held by someone with severe mental problems.

Based on his comments this week, it's clear that Trump must be removed from office. The constitution provides for this outside of the impeachment process - it requires the Vice President and a majority of the heads of federal agencies to certify that the president is unfit. I know some of my progressive friends are growning at the thought of a Pence presidency - so am I - but the problem with Trump supersedes any political considerations. They need to invoke the 25th Amendment and save the country and possibly the world. I'd sooner spend the next three years fighting the Pence Administration than stand with my arms folded as millions more Asians are kicked into a mass grave by this murderous dunce in the White House.

Let's face it: Trump won the presidency by virtue of our constitution. We need to encourage others to utilize that same constitution to protect the nation and remove President Trump from office.

luv u,

jp

Friday, August 4, 2017

Loopy mofo.

You can't really expand it, Mitch. If you did, it would be too damn big for the tube. Then there's the drag coefficient ... you know, that thing you were telling me about yesterday, what the fuck .... WHY CAN'T WE JUST WORK ON MUSIC?

Sheesh. Back again, here at the Cheney Hammer Mill, with our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee working on yet another crackpot scheme to make us all RICH while carrying us place to place more efficiently and, I don't know, churning out mounds and mounds of cole slaw. Last week it was the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module - that patented modular space station component that Mitch was obsessing over. Now he's focused like a particle beam on Hyperloop technology, the brain child of entrepreneur/inventor Elon Musk, a man Mitch loathes, envies, and idolizes all at the same time. (He's got mood issues, frankly.)

What is Hyperloop? Well ... the best I can describe it is as follows. If you're of a certain age (and I most certainly am) you may remember a time when the local multi-story department store (in Utica, it was the Boston store) had an advanced method for getting money and paperwork from one part of the store to another. They had these funky vacuum tubes running everywhere; the clerk would take your five dollar bill, put it into a little capsule, stick it into the tube and it would go 'round and 'round until it reached accounting or wherever, then come back filled with change. It's kind of like that thing in the bank drive-through, except more primitive. Got it? Well, take that thing, make it bigger, and put people in it instead of money, and you've got Hyperloop.

Just like the Boston Store change thingy.Mitch's brainstorm of the week, aside from self-marinating beets (still in development, so don't get excited), involves Hyperloop conveyances and our hole to the center of the Earth. I think he's all excited about this because we just spent weeks trying to figure out how to fashion an air-tight elevator or tram car that would suffice for navigating through the mantle and down to the chewy nougat core. Now he's discovered that Hyperloop has done all that work for him! All he has to do is pirate it, stick it in the hole, and down we go at 700 miles per hour!

I don't know about you, but I'm excited, though not half as much as Marvin (my personal robot assistant), who will likely be the test pilot. Oh yes, Marvin ... I'm looking at you, man.

Another one.

I'm not going to spend a lot of column space on the foibles of the Trump White House, entertaining as they may be. You've heard it all, right? Everything about Scaramucci, Priebus, and whoever the fuck. Hey, we elected a clown-car cartoon character president - we should expect this. What's really much more disturbing is what they've been up to behind the screen of all this palace intrigue. Some of it is fairly clear, like the disingenuous attack on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid (i.e. Trump's repeated promises that the new bill would be better, that everyone would be covered, and that premiums and co-payments would be low). Some is not so obvious, and the devil in this administration is truly in those details.

Mr. WonderfulTake the Sessions Justice Department (please). Reporting this week has indicated that they are redirecting the Civil Rights Division to look into cases of reverse discrimination in college admissions. They are denying it up and down, but it would in no way be out of character for Beauregard and his new Civil Rights Division chief, John Gore, who was part of a law firm defending North Carolina's recent "bathroom bill" anti-LGBTQ legislation as well as working for increased ballot access restrictions. I think it's obvious that any agency or division in the Executive branch not currently headed by someone who opposes its core mission is on borrowed time.

Foreign affairs is a mess, of course. Trump has expressed interest in the mineral wealth of Afghanistan, raising the specter of an even further resource-fueled extension of our pointless war in that unfortunate country. Meanwhile, Iran and North Korea are both on notice again, the Trump team trying its best to ratchet up the tension in the powder keg that is the Korean peninsula while setting the United States on a course to war with Tehran. Just what we need: too more pointless, avoidable wars. (Trump felt it necessary to do the typical fake bombing runs over Korea as well as test one of our massive arsenal of ICBMs.) It should come as a surprise to no one that a foreign policy left mostly to the generals will tilt toward warfare.

Okay, I haven't covered much, but there will be plenty of time to go into all that is left (I hope). As horrendous as all this sounds, it's really just been another week of the Trump administration .... which actually sounds even more horrendous, particularly with 3-1/2 years to go. Fuck me - this is awful.

luv u,
jp

Friday, July 28, 2017

Bigelow 4-9-0.

No, you can't have it. I'm not going to say it again. NO. Keep it up and you're going to bed without your sawdust ration. I said NO, damn it! Oh, god .... all right.

Well, there you have it, friends of Big Green. That's how mad scientists get what they want - nag, nag, freaking nag. Mitch Macaphee can keep at it for longer than any four year old. Next thing you know I'll be taking him to Water Safari. Such a child! And I ask you, what's worse than a child with the power to reverse gravity? Nothing I can think of.

What was Mitch asking for? Glad you asked. I blame NPR, frankly. They did one of their glib as fuck little morning stories about something called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (or BEAM), a kind of collapsible space station section that can be puffed out like a popcorn kernel when they have some use for it in orbit. Handy little thing, really, and Mitch can see linking two or three of them together and mounting some ion drive propulsion units on one side or the other. It's complicated, of course, but it all comes down to the simple fact that he wants one, he wants one, HE WANTS ONE!

I said NO, damnit!Actually, in point of fact, he wants two or three. And well, they're expensive, for chrissake. Mitch has no sense of cost. I can't even talk him into buying some generic knock off BEAM from China; no, he wants the brand name version. It's essentially a quality argument ... I get it. But what the hell, man - you're an inventor. Why don't you invent some freaking money for once?

I guess Mitch is picturing a kind of wagon train to the stars. He's probably given up on our plan to do another subterranean tour, or wagon train to the Earth's core, if you will. Again, typical ADD scientist: first he's all excited about the hole he burned through the mantle, then a few days later he doesn't even want to look at the thing. Of course, he may have a point about the BEAM. Our last few interstellar tours have been, well ... less than stellar, particularly with regard to the accommodations. Finally, someone came up with a space trailer with some leg room. Maybe we DO have to have one.

Okay, okay ... I give up, Mitch. Let's see if it's listed on Amazon yet. (My guess is that it's not available in stores.)

Short takes (July edition).

Another one of those weeks spent drinking from the political firehose. I'm going to try to run through a few of the items that have been top-of-mind for me over the last few days. Let me know if my list looks anything like yours. Saudi-US cooperation at workYemen Horror. The WHO reported that cholera is spreading like wildfire in war-ravaged Yemen, infecting more than 400,000 people with almost 1,900 deaths attributed to the outbreak. This is in addition to the many thousands killed by the Saudi-led and U.S.-supported terror bombing of this unfortunate country. Since Congress is all about sanctions this week, one would hope they would consider slapping a few on the freaks running this horror show from Riyadh. Fat fucking chance. This is a bipartisan atrocity and it will only stop when we insist upon it.

Cracker abuse. Trump is unloading on his pal Jeff Beauregard Sessions, talking as though the AG's job consists entirely of running interference against any investigative probes that come too near the President. Can't say as I feel sorry for that racist old cracker - at his age, he should know better how to pick his friends. Better start ironing that bedsheet, Jeff-boy.

Trumpcare Fail. Okay, this started out to be a rant about John McCain and how he was dragging himself back to Washington right after surgery to deny millions of other Americans the ability to, well, have surgery when it's needed. I was going to say that you can never count on him to do the right thing, but then he shocked me by doing the right thing, so credit where credit is due - he helped to kill the Obamacare repeal. I say Obamacare repeal because that's what it has always been. The GOP has been waging political war against this thing called Obamacare for seven years, except that Obamacare doesn't really exist. That's why they seem to be having so much trouble agreeing on how to get rid of it - they keep stepping on popular provisions of the ACA that are lying around like rakes, waiting to hit them in the face. Mitch McConnell blames the Democrats, of course, but it's really just about him and his party. This is a big fail, fucker. Suck on that.

Drop the T. Trump announced by Tweet that transgender people will no longer be allowed to serve in the United States military. This has thrown the service into a state of uncertainty and caused tremendous consternation among those who recognize our transgender comrades as human beings worthy of our love and respect. In other words, mission accomplished, Donald! Your alt-right supporters in the little mustache brigade are probably over the moon right now. They've probably already forgotten what you've said about Sessions. (Of course, they're probably ADD.)

Manatee in a Suit. Gingrich was interviewed on NPR Morning Edition this week (7/26) and proceeded to throw the entire Justice Department under the bus in an attempt to make his new BFF Trump look a little better. Aside from hawking a book by Sidney Powell, the most hated man in America called the Justice Department "a extraordinarily left-wing institution" citing campaign contributions and decrying the Mueller probe as a "fishing expedition." Wow, what a crackpot. The left wing conspiracy keeps expanding - last week it was Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski being tagged "leftists" by Limbaugh and others; this week it's our entire federal law enforcement establishment.

luv u,

jp

Friday, July 21, 2017

Rewind.

It's the dog days, or at least we think it is. So where are the freaking dogs, then? Somewhere a dog is barking.

Well, dogs or no, it's hot as hell out there, so it's probably a good day to lurk in the shadows of the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill and rifle through the archives of the last 30 years of Big Green history. Fortunately, I have Marvin (my personal robot assistant) on hand to help me with the heavy lifting. Yes, he can lift very heavy things. (It's the putting them down part that he's not so good at.) There's a safe in the attic, but I think we'll stick to the file cabinets and banker boxes in the main hammer assembly room.

Got a few old tapes, obviously ... more than a few. When we started out as a band, we recorded on wire ... I mean, tape. (We couldn't afford wire.) Our first reel-to-reel was a broken down SONY machine that my dad bought used at some point. We recorded a few songs on old, thrice recorded tapes, though I couldn't tell you even the names of any of them. Matt had some long instrumental pieces that still survive in that form, a few of which he wrote lyrics for. Then the revelation of cassette tapes arrived, and we bowed in humility before its sheer awesomeness. (That was about the time people started saying "awesome" when they meant something other than "awesome.")

Look what I dug up.I listen to some of our earliest recordings, from back before we had even the name Big Green, and they sound like something from another planet. Most are very poorly recorded, scratched onto a cassette tape using a cheap mic or two. We did a demo at a local studio in 1981 that is a bit clearer - that basically captures what we sounded like at that moment. (It wasn't overdubbed; we just DID IT LIVE, as Bill O'Reilly would say.) That tape was just me, Matt on bass, our guitarist at the time, the late Tim Walsh, and drummer Phil Ross, who still plays downstate. Maybe if I have too much port one of these nights I'll post a song somewhere you can hear it.

That's as deep as I can go into the history sack. We'll see what's a little closer to the top, maybe next week.

Down to them.

Trump's health care repeal and replace failed this week and of course he blamed it on everyone but himself. Then he turned around and told the New York Times that his horrible attorney general's decision to recuse himself was "unfair to the president". Wednesday night, Rachel Maddow was pondering how what Sessions did might be termed "unfair", apparently forgetting that our president has the mind and emotions of a five year old, so everything that doesn't go entirely his way seems to him to be totally unfair. That's why we're spending millions of dollars on a commission to hunt down evidence of non-existent massive voter impersonation by immigrants - at least non-existent in the world we all inhabit, if not in Trump's tiny mind. So we're doing it because his loss of the popular vote was "so unfair". (Next the Pentagon will be tasked with hunting down his dream goblins.)

Not our only problem.It's not just pure childishness, of course. When Trump picked the racist Sessions (attracted to the Trump campaign by the racist Steve Bannon) as attorney general, he thought he was hiring a lawyer to represent his own personal interests. That reflects not only his narcissism but also his profound ignorance with respect to the role of the AG.

I can only wish that Trump voters would get some vague idea of the dimensions of presidency and of how powerful a country this is. More than most jobs, the presidency can't just be done by anybody, even if anybody can be elected president. That office is at the head of a massive global imperial enterprise that makes Trump's company look like a lemonade stand. It's easy to make mistakes when you're president, and those mistakes can have enormous and lasting consequences. But the president does not just act for him or herself - s/he has a responsibility to all of us in everything s/he does. This president doesn't get that. When he talks to Putin for 3.5 hours without having someone to capture what is discussed, he is acting like the government is just some cheesy corporation he acquired somewhere.

As I've said many times before, Trump is not the only problem we have. He is, in fact, just a symptom of a far broader problem - that of a Republican party that has gone off the deep, right end. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are in some ways more destructive than the dunce Trump, and far more cynical. Trump at least has the lame excuse of ignorance; congressional Republicans know what they want and who it hurts. They wrecked the economy the last time they held the presidency, openly obstructed even the flimsy, middle-of-the-road Obama agenda, stole a Supreme Court seat, and much more than that. If we're to make any real progress in this country, we need to stop them as well.

Don't be distracted. This mess is down to all of them. They all need to be held accountable at the ballot box.

luv u,

jp

Friday, July 14, 2017

Punch out.

I think it's CMD-O or CMD-SHIFT-O, something like that. No? Okay, try CMD-ALT-5. Do it again. Okay, now divide 87 into 214 and multiply the dividend by the square-root of fuck-all. Jesus!

That was a bit of a tantrum, I admit it. It's just that I'm living in the wrong freaking century, that's all. I'm from that period in history when people did different things for a living and those things all looked different - the doctor had a stethoscope and a mirror on her forehead, the accountant an adding machine and a legal pad, and the musician a freaking guitar. Now everybody's sitting in front of a computer, pecking at keys randomly and hoping for some elusive result. Smarty alec kids! Get off my lawn!

Matt and I are in production on another tranche of songs, and it's taking a while because we're transitioning between recording systems. Now we're using a computer-based DAW instead of a proprietary hard disk system, and well ... I miss the simplicity of just pressing record and punching stop. Those were the days, right? (Well ... they were days.) Our autopunch back then was Marvin (my personal robot assistant) with his claw on the console and a complex series of eyebrow movements. What could possibly go wrong? (Listen to some of our albums and you'll find out.)

Uh, dude ... Thanks, but no thanks.Right now we're kind of winging it, I admit ... though that's a bit more considered a state than we're usually in during recording sessions. I boot up the new system, punch a few keys, then start playing whatever instrument is called for - piano, sousaphone, kazoo, triangle, whatever - and realize a few moments later that nothing has been captured. Rinse and repeat. I need a team of scientists! And I don't mean mad scientists - we're all set on that score. If we were to ask Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, to reconfigure our studio, we would end up with something on the order of what Magic Alex threw together for the Beatles back in the Apple Records days, i.e., a decorative, non-functional studio full of flashing lights with a speaker for every track and other non sequitur features.

Well, we don't want that. (No offense, Alex, wherever you are.) So if you're looking for me, look for that guy sitting at a computer terminal.

Last battles.

I listen to a few podcasts, mostly in my car. By the time I hear them, they're usually about a week or two old - I download a raft of them and dump them on to my ancient iPod. One of the ones I listen to is Jeremy Scahill's Intercepted, and it took me this long to hear his June 7 interview with Jill Stein, former Green Party candidate for president. This was billed under the headline "The Woman Democrats Love to Hate". I have a lot of respect for Scahill, but I think this interview demonstrates another type of delusion; namely, Stein's over-inflated sense of her own importance.

I have no doubt some Democrats blame her for Clinton's loss last year, but I doubt it's all that many - most of the Hillary-bots focus on Bernie Sanders when they look left. At least I hope Democrats don't spend a lot of energy hating Stein, because she really wasn't much of a factor at all. If Hillary Clinton was depending on Stein voters to carry her over the finish line - and there's little likelihood many of them would ever have decided to support Clinton - then her margin was way, way too narrow for any Democrat to win the presidency. Most of the centrist whining I hear is about the Bernie wing of the party, that they were too critical of Clinton and didn't work hard enough for her election or just withheld their votes. Nothing much about Stein at all, though they clearly don't like her.

Really not a factor in '16. Really.I agree with Stein on a lot of issues. In fact, I think I'm well to the left of the good Doctor. But the notion that the electoral duopoly can be taken down by supporting quixotic third-party presidential candidates is ludicrous, as is the suggestion that changing the way elections work in the United States is somehow "easy", as she suggests in this interview. The Green Party is a mess; they have yet to elect a congress member, senator, governor, or even lieutenant governor as far as I can tell. If they want to start contending in national elections, they need to start filling those seats first. They also need to organize around electoral reform, support instant runoff / ranked choice voting, and related proposals. Until that happens, Green Party candidates will split the center-left vote and throw our ridiculous first-past-the-post, winner-take-all elections to the Republicans, time and time again. Those changes would be years in the making - they should have focused their energies on that for the last 20 years instead of random, pointless runs for the White House.

And Jeremy, I love you, but no, there's not constitutional provision instituting a two-party monopoly. There is, however, a constitutional electoral system that is antiquated and greatly favors the wealthy. We need to change that before any we can expect any meaningful opening for third parties.

Of course, there is a faster course to progressive change than spending decades building a new third party while simultaneously countering the tide of restrictive voting: occupy the Democratic party. Take over its local, state, and national committees. Transform it from within and push it from without through massive organizing. There's no law that says the Democratic party must remain within the grip of corporate money; we can change that dynamic much faster than we can build a new party (and a congenial political environment for the same) from the ground up. Instead of re-fighting old battles, we should do that.

luv u,

jp

Friday, July 7, 2017

All in favor.

Do we have a quorum? No? Where's Matt, then? Oh, right .... watching the falcons. That's fine. The mansized tuber can sit in for him for the time being. Okay, tubey ... raise your right, uh ... taproot.

Oh, hi. Caught me in the middle of a production meeting. We're trying to work out who is going to be the first down the hole ... I mean, the elevator to the center of the Earth. Since this is a question that affects all of us, it must be decided in council. That's right - we are not tree dwellers here, my friends. We are civilized people, okay? And we are familiar with the principles of self governance. At least we know there are such principles. And if you don't like them, well ... we have other principles.

I've described Big Green as a creative collective more than once. That's not far from wrong, though the creative part is a little sketchy. Nevertheless, we are very much a worker-run enterprise, operating out of an abandoned hammer mill, wearing recovered skins from the carcass of a failed industrial economy. Think of us as post-apocalyptic commie minstrels, sharing everything we scrounge together (including our lack of money). Routine matters, like opening windows or walking across the street, are passed by simple majority vote, but more weighty matters - like who is going to move that very heavy refrigerator across the room - require a consensus of four fifths plus one, with an extra vote on alternate Tuesdays.

All in favor, say aye.You might think such a flat structure would lead to some kind of anarchistic free-for-all or frequent proxy fights. Not a bit of it - we all get along swimmingly, particularly on occasions like last weekend when the skies opened up and we had 3 feet of water on the ground floor of the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. Not that it's trouble free. I can remember one management meeting when Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, fashioned three or four robotic arms so that he could win every show of hands. He already has Marvin (my personal robot assistant) as a proxy. That's when we went to voice votes.

The simple fact is, when you don't have much to divide, it's a lot easier to be equitable. Everybody gets an equal slice of nothing. And everyone gets a say on who will be the first to explore the Earth's core. Fair is fair.

One way out.

Rockets went off on the Fourth of July as usual, though some were not the variety you can now apparently buy in New York State at any of what seems like a million roadside stands. I am of course referring to the launch of the North Korean "ICBM" and the response by the American expeditionary force permanently stationed in South Korea - namely a volley of missiles fired into the sea. The North Korea missile story was teased for a couple of days by the likes of Joe Scarborough, in between his raking over the details of some petty blackmail Trump's flunkies were pulling on him and his partner. Now it's full-court press on North Korea, reminiscent of the kind of rhetoric we heard prior to the Iraq war.

The first report I heard started with the term "provocation". It went downhill from there. The fact is, I have yet to hear from anyone on mainstream media programming who doesn't subscribe to the general consensus view that (a) North Korea is a madman aggressor nation, (b) only pressure on China can "bring them to heel", and (c) we tried negotiations and it didn't work. In fact, I have yet to hear any politicians on the center-left raise doubts about this toxic consensus. It seems with respect to this and similar conflicts, politics stop at the water's edge. That would be fine if they had it even half-right, but they don't.

Not worth itFirst of all, the madman aggressor notion ignores the fact that we maintain the most powerful military force on the peninsula. It also frames the issue as one centering on a leader's irrationality. Whatever the faults of the Pyongyang regime, it's not hard to see why they want a credible nuclear deterrent. It's actually a relatively sane response to the threat of attack from a superpower that (1) destroyed them once in the 1950s and (2) is a constant menacing presence, running mock invasions and leadership decapitation exercises several times a year. Second, the China "card" is irrelevant - North Korea's disagreement is with us, not China. That's why they're building an ICBM. They want what they've always wanted - a non-aggression guarantee from us, which is what China and Russia have called for - along with restraint from Pyongyang - after their recent summit.

Finally, the "we tried it" claim is false. We reneged on the 1994 nuclear deal, which involved our providing the North Koreans with a light-water nuclear reactor - something Clinton and the GOP Congress never followed through on. The 2000 election debacle stopped the Clinton foreign policy team from working out a non-aggression agreement with Kim Jong Il at the last minute, then two years later North Korea was added to the "Axis of Evil" by the Bush II administration, placing a big red bull's eye on their flank. That pretty much guaranteed the continuation of their nuclear weapons program.

We are experiencing the bitter outcome of consistently bad policy implemented by both major political parties. Such a longstanding consensus implies that there may be some merit to the suggestion made by Chomsky and others that the continuing Korean conflict serves our grander imperial vision by preventing the ultimate economic integration of northeast Asia. If China, Japan, and Korea lessened tensions and formed a cooperative arrangement of sorts, it would be a formidable economic rival to U.S. hegemony, to be sure.

The downside risks of this kind of brinkmanship are too great. There's one way out of this disaster: talk to Pyongyang. This is no longer an ideological dispute as it was framed in the 1950s (North Korea is a model for no one). This is about safety and survival for everyone on the Korean peninsula, and that needs to be the guiding star for our Korea policy moving forward.

luv u,

jp

Friday, June 30, 2017

Down under what?

What the hell is that? Sounds like the howl of the wind in a box canyon. No, wait ... I know that sound. I think it's a distant didgeridoo. That's it, fellows - we have dug ourselves a tunnel to Australia.

Well, barely a day goes by here in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill without some kind of discovery. Last week it was a new source of precious reverb - a commodity rare as hen's teeth up here in central New York. Now we're looking at (or staring down into, I should say) a superhighway to down under. And when I say "down under", I don't mean merely down underground. Nay, sir ... I mean the actual land "Down Under", meaning the continent of Australia.

What luck, eh? Here I thought this elevator shaft to the center of the Earth would yield only another string of unsuccessful and unsatisfying performances in front of restive gaggles of Morlocks or some other troglodytic denizens of the dark. But now it seems the tunnel is a bit deeper than we thought ... like maybe twice as deep. Because you can just about see some light coming though from the other end, and it looks like Aussie sunlight. There's also a vague scent of flat beer. (Though I think that might be coming from Anti-Lincoln. He's been hitting the cache lately, and it shows.)

Then came MarvinWe could be wrong, of course. After all, one random strain of didgeridoo music does not a continent make. The only way to be certain is to send a emissary down there. It's a highly dangerous mission, so there's no way in hell that's going to be me. Matt's no stranger to danger, of course, but only in the context of helping birds, animals, and other living things. (Snowflake!) Then there's Marvin (my personal robot assistant). If he'd been around in 1969, NBC might have done a show about him called "Then came Marvin." He could have played a disillusioned android who starts riding a scooter around Minneapolis, then got canceled after two seasons.

Anywho, if we send Marvin down there and he comes up with an Aussie hat and a kangaroo's footprint on his brass, we'll know we hit Aussie paydirt. Sounds like a plan. Ish.

Sickness.

As I write this, the Senate Republicans have pulled their version of the ACA "repeal and replace" legislation - a bill that's really more a massive tax cut funded by massive cuts in Medicaid. This temporary hiatus is mostly down to the many thousands of people across the country who made their voices heard in various ways, and so to all of you I say job well done. That said, this job is not, in fact, done. The Republicans will be back very soon with a slightly amended version of the bill that can garner 50 votes, after having bought off key senators with part of that $300 billion-plus deficit reduction bundle built into this piece of legislative ordure. Just watch.

Two old men who will never need Medicaid.This entire situation - I won't say "debate" because there hasn't been any - is ridiculous largely because no one in Washington will admit to what the ACA's core problems are. The Republicans, and to a certain extent many Democrats, continue to insist that competition and a freer market in health insurance will deliver affordable coverage to everyone; just pull those sick people out of the system and into an underfunded high-risk pool, and the market can do its magic.

Bullshit. The "free market" approach to individual coverage doesn't work because individual health insurance is not a profitable line of business; insurers have known this for decades and have been pulling out of individual policies because they carry too much downside risk. They prefer large employer plans, where the only money being risked is that of the client company, not the insurer. Even if you start an individual health policy in good health, things inevitably go wrong and then the company is on the hook. Sure, they prefer younger, healthier folks as customers, but even they get cancer once in a while. Individual policies are not a money maker unless the market is so drastically tilted in the insurer's favor that they can basically sell nominal "coverage" to healthy people.

This is why Medicaid is such a popular program. Even the GOP's complaints about it all center on cost, not care. (They just see it as a cash cow.) Medicaid is not provided on market principles; neither is Medicare nor the veterans health program. No health insurance should be market-driven, because treating it like a commodity severely disadvantages poorer, older, and sicker people. Those categories apply to most everyone at some point in their lives. The only way to ensure that coverage will be there for all of us when we need it is single payer.

Last word: this Senate bill is sick; it is a tax cut scheme built on gutting Medicaid and pulling money from Medicare. And it will be back.

luv u,

jp

Friday, June 23, 2017

More verb.

Give me a little more slack on this XLR. Little more ... little more ... woof! That's good. Now point the speaker down over the side of the hole. There's a good chap.

Right, well ... you've caught us in the midst of a pretty typical dilemma for bands as unsuccessful and under-resourced as Big Green. You probably know what I'm talking about (because I sure as hell don't). You've come to expect us to scrape our way through every situation, living in squat houses and lean-tos, taking the cheap seats on pretty much any mode of transportation you can name. So what the hell - we're not some fancy-ass successful band that can afford racks of expensive gear. We've got a bunch of second-hand kit that's held together with masking tape ... because that's what our audience demands.

So, when you need reverb, and you don't have an expensive effect unit, or even an old, cranky one, what the hell do you do? I'll tell you what - you just lower a microphone down the tunnel to the center of the Earth that's in your basement and then pipe in your tracks. It's a little boomy, but it beats the hell out of the reverb spring in my antiquated fender twin. This isn't the first time we've had to go old school - and by "old school", I mean effects that are almost entirely environmental in nature, like getting echo by scrambling up a hillside and shouting real loud. (Just be sure to bring a jar with you so you can catch the echo.)

No dice, Mitch?It's when you get into things like distortion that this approach gets a little tricky. Sometimes we just plug a guitar cord into Marvin (my personal robot assistant) and have him jump in place; though that ends up sounding a bit more like tremolo. I was thinking of asking Mitch to attach a leslie rotating horn to Marvin's head so that we can get a better B-3 sound while he's jumping up and down, but Mitch would probably just wave that suggestion off. (He's kind of picky when it comes to big ideas.)

Thing is, if you have a big empty space, or even a little one (like, say, between your ears), you can get a decent reverb effect. Tech tip for the day from Generation Reverb.

Between truces.

It's been more than 15 years and we're still at war in Afghanistan; a deployment and occupation considerably longer than that of the now-defunct Soviet Union. It's been more than 14 years and we're still at war in Iraq, a conflict longer than the one military historian Dilip Hiro once described as "The Longest War" (the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s). We're killing people in Roqqa, Syria, in Mosul, Iraq, in Yemen, and quite a few other places. Far from stepping away, we are preparing to double down, sending another contingent of thousands of American troops to Afghanistan on some quixotic effort to tamp down the wildfire we helped ignite thirty-seven years ago.

Well, it was at the time.Endless war in an of itself is now an invariant reality of modern U.S. foreign policy, regardless of which major party holds the reins of power. The broad political consensus has built a nearly unassailable war machine - not in the sense that it is impervious to military defeat, but rather that it is designed to run on and on regardless of what the American people have to say about it. The killing machine is well insulated from the voting, tax paying public - there's no conscription, no war tax, no apparent sacrifice associated with these extended deployments except with respect to the volunteer soldiers who are sent to fight, be grievously wounded, and even die. The beauty of this political creation is that it appears to defy gravity; only a herculean effort on the part of the American people could stand a chance of ending these wars.

Of course, Donald Trump has now been stitched into the driver seat of the killing machine. I am among those who consider this a very dangerous state of affairs, even though the background level of warfare remains about the same. The danger is in the fact that Trump is (a) phenomenally ignorant, (b) supremely incurious about any topic that doesn't bear directly on him, his image, his family, his fortune; and (c) recklessly arrogant in a third-world dictator kind of way. His response to foreign policy challenges reminds me of D'artagnan on his first day in Paris, unwittingly challenging all three of his future fellow musketeers to a duel. A dispute with the Syrians, the Russians, the North Koreans, and the Iranians all in one week. It's not too hard to imagine a quintet of new conflicts breaking out all at the same time, largely because Trump doesn't really understand or believe in diplomacy.

We live in dangerous times, to be sure. But at the very least, unless we all decide to make a point of it, we are well and truly stuck with these wars for years - even decades - to come.

luv u,

jp

Friday, June 16, 2017

Drill down.

There's a hole in daddy's hammer mill where all the money goes. At least that's what it feels like. Christ on a bike, why is it every mad science idea ends up costing a fortune? What, between the magnetos and the giant vacuum tube-driven linear amplifiers, we are completely tapped out.

I should explain. Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor and inventor of Marvin (my personal robot assistant), has plugged together a special elevator-like tram car dubbed the Giardiniera Twelve for us to ride to the center of the earth using the handy hole to the center of the earth we now have in the hammer mill basement. We've already sent Marvin down a few floors for a look see, and it seems promising. He came back with a hotdog and a Dodgers pennant, so my guess is that we have found a tunnel to the 1950s. Think of all the songs we can lift!

That said, there is a bit of a problem monetizing this idea. I understand there may be intelligent life down under, but what are their tastes? Do they like 50s pop music or 90s grunge? It's even conceivable that Where's all the work at?they may not like either of those things ... though that would be okay, because we don't really play either of those things. That said, finding an audience on the surface of the Earth is hard enough. Finding one in the mantle or (God forbid!) in the chewy nougat center of the Earth will probably be next to impossible.

And then there are the logistical challenges. Yes, they are many. It wouldn't be so bad if we were an un-amplified banjo-toting accordion-squeezing polka band, but we are not that (at least this week). I ask you - how the hell are we going to pack amps, a drum set, an electric piano, a stack of guitar cases, and PA components - along with ourselves - into what amounts to a smallish elevator? Mitch is working on a solution as we speak, but I'm not sanguine. The last time we tried to do something like this, he pulled out a shrink-ray that reduced my Martin D-1 to the size of an ashtray. Now I use it as an ashtray. Not real good.

So we're not that close to plugging that hole. Let's see what Mitch can do ... and how much it will cost.

Targets.

The most recent heinous and indefensible mass shooting in America (or nearly so - there's already been another one) was targeted on members of the House of Representatives. That is part of what makes it unusual. The other part is that it was perpetrated by someone nominally on the left. Typically we get some kind of Klan kid, like Dylan Roof, or some crazy cracker shooting up south Asians because they're darker than him (and it's usually a him). Whatever the motive, the shooting at the baseball diamond was a despicable act, plain an simple. And it happened in the usual way: the perpetrator purchased the guns, apparently legally, from a licensed firearms dealer (a 7.62 -caliber rifle and a 9 mm handgun), no problem. The kind of transaction that most if not all of the players on the GOP baseball team wholeheartedly support.

Lets all be nice to each other.Will this lead to a brief era of civility and bipartisanship? Maybe, but probably not. Civility, we should remember, starts at the top, and with a legion of TV pundits decrying the toxic tone of political rhetoric, I have yet to hear anyone call out President Trump for setting that tone during his campaign last year, even to the point of suggesting that "second amendment people" should act against his opponent. Then there were his entreaties from the podium to "beat the hell out of him!" at his various rallies, reminding the mob of the good old days when protesters were "carried out on a stretcher". Oh yeah, that did happen.

And bipartisanship? I tend to agree with Chris Hayes that it doesn't have a very positive history. I'm sure whatever this severely deranged one-time Bernie supporter intended, this act of domestic terrorism will only result in pushing forward the very agenda he professed to despise. Thanks for helping, asshole. Political fights are what democracy is all about, and acts of violence tend to take the air out of them. It's no contradiction to sincerely wish Steve Scalise and the other victims a full and rapid recovery while at the same time holding the opinion that Scalise is a total dick on the issues. Many in Congress have trouble squaring that circle, and given the speed with which Ryan and McConnell are advancing their legislative priorities, there's simply no time for any interval of acquiescence and deferral.

As for this moronic shooter, the only thing he accomplished was more needless bloodshed and providing additional cover for House members like Claudia Tenney not to hold public meetings.

luv u,

jp

Friday, June 9, 2017

Level nine.

That's not a gondola, Mitch. That's a freaking elevator. Six weeks of screwing around, scraping up all of the coins out of our various seat cushions, and what have we got - an elevator to the center of the Earth. You don't need an elevator to go there - the gravity will take you!

Right, well, as you can see, we're grappling with the contradictions that fall out of having a tunnel to the Earth's core in the basement of your squat house. I'm sure you've had days like that. Why is it a tunnel and not a mere hole? Well, it is the intended use of the thing that defines the thing, and it is our intent to use it as a pathway to fame and fortune ... or at least, remuneration equal to the cost of a cheap sandwich at the local diner. Big Green doesn't aim high, people - that's why we're looking down a hole to the center of the Earth and seeing opportunity.

And though I may have just read the riot act to Mitch, an elevator like the Giardiniera Twelve isn't necessarily a bad thing to have when you have a hole of this type in your basement. It might prove to be damned convenient, particularly if some of the subterranean strata call for a closer look. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) can act as the operator - he's got the right gravitas (or lack of same), and of course he's been down the hole once already. In fact, it's thanks to the insta-matic camera Mitch installed in Marvin's stomach that we have any idea of what's going on down there. Apparently, quite a lot.

Squx?Just as an example: nine levels down, there's a cavernous opening that leads into what looks like a geological circus tent. Interestingly, the stalactites look like rhesus monkeys and the stalagmites look like sea turtles. An enterprising young robot assistant might make his or her way down there with a box of paints, go to work, and before you know it you have the Petrified Creatures Museum. Either that or the lawn ornament shop that, purely by chance, was established right next door.

That's just one level, folks. Lots more where that came from. Get ready to crank up the pit elevator - this band is going down!

Gulf War IV.

Yes, I know ... Trump is melting down, and I should say something about it. The truth is, there's little to say that hasn't already been said. It's not like the Republican Congress is going to do anything about him - far from it. They invented the freaking guy. He is their Frankenstein's monster. If they ever pull an intervention on him, it's going to start with, "Hello, handsome!"

You are not evil ... you are GOOD!Besides, there are more important things going on, partly as a result of having a dolt as president. The Qatar crisis is one of those things, and after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Yemen (or the Saudi controlled piece of it), and Egypt abruptly broke off diplomatic relations with the country, Trump had this to say on Twitter:

"...so good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!"

Qatar, mind you, hosts a major U.S. military base that serves as a staging area for operations in the Gulf. Setting aside for a moment the absurdity of a state like Saudi Arabia accusing someone of sponsoring terrorism, Trump's comments appear to confirm that the U.S. gave a green light to the Gulf Cooperation Council states to pull this number. The White House subsequently backed off of the President's drunk tweet, claiming the president had called the Qatari Emir and "emphasized the importance of all countries in the region working together to prevent the financing of terrorist organizations and stop the promotion of extremist ideology," essentially offering to mediate. That sounds like the foreign policy establishment stepping in somewhat hurriedly to keep this from spinning out of control.

My reaction to this has been, what the fuck? I think the most reasonable explanation I've heard thus far was from Trita Parsi on Democracy Now!, suggesting that Saudi and its allies may have done this as a strike against Al Jazeera in advance of a renewed offensive against Iran (which just got attacked by ISIS extremists on Wednesday). Do we need a fourth Gulf War, after Iran-Iraq (1980-88), the Gulf War/Desert Storm (1991), and the Iraq War (2003 - whenever)? Apparently Trump thinks so.

This was a dramatic and disturbing departure. Not confident about what will come next.

luv u,

jp

Friday, June 2, 2017

Going down.

I wish to hell this thing had an emergency call box in it. Or head cushions - that would be nice. Not to mention some kind of shock absorbing device on the bottom. Am I being to engineer-y? Sorry.

Well, our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee has unveiled his concept gondola. He's calling it the "Giardiniera Twelve", but it beats the hell out of me why. I think that's what he had for lunch last Thursday. He's got some kind of naming system going, that's all I know. In any case, it's kind of a cramped little thing, taller than it is wide, cylindrical, made of some unnamed shiny metal that I will refer to as inobtanium. In all frankness, it kind of looks like an air drop bomb of some kind, without the tail fins. Coincidence?

Anyhow, there's a pocket door on one side. The idea is that you climb into this thing, you lower it down the hole, and when you line up with some interesting subterranean stratum, the door slides open and you step out to take a look. Sounds simple enough, right? Ride down to level 47, open the portal, and start looking for gigs. What could possibly go wrong? Okay, that's a thing.Marvin (my personal robot assistant) will actually take the helm of the Giardiniera Twelve (or G12, for brevity's sake), sitting in the cockpit like a crane operator, pulling levers and waving his claw over art nouveau-looking glass lights that pulse in response. Very futuristic.

Christ on a bike, after all this crazy talk about urban gondolas, who on Earth would have imagined that we would be the first to actually implement one? Like so much in life, innovation is driven by circumstance. Hey, we've got a hole to the center of the Earth. We've got this thing and it's golden - we're not giving it away for nothing! That is to say, we may as well make the best of an odd situation. And if Mitch thinks we can make money by jumping into a glorified tin can and dropping to the Earth's core, that's good enough for me. Sort of. (Talk me out of it.)