Pages

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.)

Bombs and debt.

As I begin to write this, I am hearing a TV commentator quoting David Brooks in writing that Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner is someone worthy "of some sympathy." You read that correctly - the impossibly wealthy protege of our phony-ass billionaire president, a man with zero qualifications or apparent ability to perform even one of the many portfolios handed to him over the past few months ... that man is worthy of sympathy. THAT'S the kind of week this has been.

Nevertheless, I am not going to grab the low-hanging fruit of writing about the Trumpster fire, even though the fucker pulled out of the Paris Accords this week. I'll deal with his ass next time around.

Yeah, they owe us, right?Talk about ungrateful. I heard a story this week on NPR about a loan the government of Cambodia owes to the United States, in the amount of about $500 million. There were a couple of remarkable points about this story. For one, the piece actually acknowledges that some scholars think the massive bombing of Cambodia may have contributed to the rise to power of the Khmer Rouge. That's a pretty big step forward for mainstream media, which usually follows the line that Cambodia was a peaceful, happy country before the arrival of Pol Pot. They also mention the bombing itself - another practical miracle. What they leave out is that the loan in question was made to a coup regime installed with the full support of the United States. Slight omission there, right?

My favorite part is the quote from U.S. Embassy spokesperson Jay Raman saying that (1) we've given Cambodia close to a billion dollars in aid since the 1990s and (2) we "lack the legal authority to write off debts for countries that are able but unwilling to pay." Really? The loan was supposedly to pay for food to replace crops destroyed by years of carpet bombing - bombing that began well before the 1970 U.S. invasion, by the way. What legal authority did we have to terror bomb them in the first place? What legal authority did we have to push a coup regime on them, or to invade them in 1970?

Don't tell me this is beyond our ability. We owe the Cambodian people a hell of a lot more than the amount of this odious debt.

luv u,

jp

Friday, May 26, 2017

Words worth.

I'm still not sure this is a good idea. The memory of the last time we tried this still haunts me. And that Morlock with the sandals never answers my postcards. And yes, I've been dropping them down the hole. Jesus!

Okay, so someone, I won't say who (Mitch), thought it would be a great idea to do a second subterranean tour, since we now have the equivalent of a superhighway to the chewy nougat center of the Earth. Mitch plans to fashion some kind of urban gondola (very popular in small post-industrial cities these days) that will allow us to treat the mega-hole in our floor like a kind of futuristic cargo elevator. I don't remember where I heard this, but it seems like this mode of transportation might be problematic, to say the least, particularly when you're dealing with magma and other natural hazards.

Mitch isn't worried, of course. In his world, there's a mad scientific fix for everything. That must be a nice feeling. When stuff goes wrong for the rest of us, we have little to fall back on other than playing instruments and/or writing songs, and maybe playing a few rounds of mumbly peg. (That doesn't usually help, but it does give us something to strive for, since none of us knows how to play mumbly peg.) Everyone needs some kind of solution. For Marvin (my personal robot assistant), it's a seven percent solution of machine oil and antifreeze.

Yeah, that looks like a maybe.Why does songwriting help? Don't know, exactly. Ask Matt - he's more prolific than me by a mile. As I've said before, he comes up with songs while walking the length and breadth of his rural domain, composing them out loud like a latter-day Ewan MacTeagle. Me, I take forever to crank out a few lines. My muse is like an old, rusty typewriter with an even older ribbon, very parsimonious and begrudging of every line. Even so, if we do undertake this underground tour, we should have plenty of material that hasn't been heard down there before. Nothing the middle-Earth denizens hate more than old, recycled material.

So, yeah, we'll consider it. Though God only knows why.

Middle passage.

Trump was on the road this week, touching base with traditional allies, shaking his fist at traditional foes, making occasional awkward statements and non-sequiturs but generally doing what is expected of him as official high protector of the empire. Amazing how quickly even a low-intelligence loose cannon like "The Donald" will snap into place when there are longstanding economic and imperial ties in play.

At the helm of the Death Star. Who knew it was in Saudi Arabia?Much as he criticized Saudi Arabia during the primary campaign and even the general election, it was all smiles and bows and the dangling of manly swords when he arrived in Riyadh, not to mention threats against Iran and its embattled Shi'a allies in Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere. Then there's the humongous arms sale, allowing Saudi to continue the bloody Yemen adventure that Trump will not mention but can't stop funding with U.S. taxpayer dollars. (My money's being used inappropriately. Someone call Mick Mulvaney!)

I have to think that the institutional elites that most benefit from the imperial profit machine probably don't much mind Trump as a foreign policy president. His ignorance very likely is, in their eyes, his most positive attribute. The man knows nothing about any of the regions he is likely to visit as president. That means he can be steered into preferred policies by his aides. He is the proverbial empty vessel, even more so than George W. Bush was - at least Bush had some vague sense of his own objectives and a team of fanatical, experienced bureaucrats to fill the void between his ears. With Trump, there's none of that. He's truly at sea.

Empire abhors a vacuum, and so the absence of leadership is filled with the priorities of the forever-state. This is not a conspiracy theory - every empire that has lasted as long as ours has a structure of governance and self-perpetuation. It's that great self-driving car, running over people of color by the thousand in thirsty pursuit of the next filling station. That's why the pieces all fall into place, and the policy stays within certain boundaries, sometimes jiggling a little leftward, occasionally lurching to the right, but never crossing the line.

When I say "never", I mean other than that one time with Dubya Bush when his reckless war-making tested those limits and brought on the correction we saw in 2006 - one of the most amazing periods in recent history. I suspect Trump's correction will come from some other quarter, but I guess we will see.

luv u,

jp

Friday, May 19, 2017

Holism.

This place is a freaking mess. No, we still don't have garbage collection. You have to pay taxes to get that, Mitch, and we're off the grid - remember? Guess this lot will have to go down the tunnel to the center of the Earth. It's like having the world's biggest trash incinerator.

Oh, hi. As you can see, we are making the kind of obvious mistake that protagonists in science fiction movies make all the time - abusing mother nature just to solve some petty human problem, namely, generating too much trash. That goes on for the first couple of reels, then some ungodly creature emerges from the bowels of the Earth and goes on a murderous rampage stopped only by some unexpected intervention by germs or gravity or something - a turnaround that redeems the value of nature in the eyes of middle class moviegoers. Yeah, well ... we are asking for that.

The fact is, once there's a hole in the floor, you have an almost unstoppable urge just to keep dropping things into it. I think Marvin (my personal robot assistant) may have dropped some of our master tapes down into the memory hole. A true digital native like Marvin has no concept of tape recorded sound - God no! Music encoded onto a long ribbon of magnetic film? Impossible! Of course, he himself runs, in part, on vacuum tubes and toggle switches, so one might think he would have some empathy for users of retro Wait. You dropped it where??technologies. In any case, down the memory hole they go ... unless I left them in my other pants. Marvin? Have you seen my other pants?

Right, so ... that's not the only thing we've been up to. We're hip-deep in production for our next tranche of Ned Trek songs, about seven or eight of them by last count. This is why our podcast THIS IS BIG GREEN has become, well, kind of infrequent - too many musicals! In any case, we've amassed a backlog of about 60 Ned Trek songs thus far, seven of which are included in the podcast I just recently posted on NedTrek.com - episode 24: Whom Gods Deploy, which originally appeared in our August 2015 TIBG podcast. So ... it hasn't all gone down the hole quite yet.

Peachfuzz bridge.

It is astonishing to see how astonished people are at the President's last couple of weeks. Reality check: we elected Donald Trump President of the United States. That's why this administration is unloading like a clown car at a funeral. There's no other way for me to put this: the man is a hyper-narcissistic dolt with the emotional maturity of a 7-year-old. He is temperamentally unfit for this or any political office. He has not even a vague understanding of the structure or traditions of our constitutional system, and has no interest in learning. Verily, he has little interest in anything other than large piles of money. When he told the Russian ambassador about the intel on ISIS , that was probably the first time that information had offered any utility from his perspective - he could use it to impress someone, at least. Otherwise, he has no interest in intelligence briefings and confines himself to a single page of bulleted items that he proceeds to ignore.

Captain PeachfuzzSo, what to do about this dolt? It's hard to imagine the GOP-led House taking up impeachment proceedings, even with this level of ludicrousness. Investigations can swirl around Trump and criminal accusations may mount, but basically the only process by which he can be removed from office is a political one, and that is a non-starter with regard to a caucus that sees him as a signing machine. I'm thinking the republicans in the House and Senate will use something like the Captain Peachfuzz approach with Trump.

How does that work? Simple. On Rocky and Bullwinkle, all Captain "Wrongway" Peachfuzz's crew needed to do was create a phony bridge, lead the captain into it, and then go about their normal duties. Captain Peachfuzz would be shouting commands, pulling levers, twisting knobs and the like, none of which were attached to anything. THAT'S what we need for Trump. Of course, we would have to avoid the problem that Peachfuzz's crew encountered when the crackpot captain wandered by mistake onto the real bridge one day and started driving the ship like the proverbial drunken sailor. Of course, that's what we have now, right?

Phony up a war room for the guy, people. Do it now before it's too late. Your nation will thank you.

luv u,

jp

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dig it.

Well, if we needed storage space, it would be a good thing. Honest, Abe - where are you going to find enough junk to make it worthwhile? We can't even afford shoes, for chrissake.

Oh, hi. Yeah, I've been having a little conversation with Antimatter Lincoln about an idea he cooked up this week. Let me see if I can explain. With the help of Mitch Macaphee's Particle Beam Generator™, we now have a tunnel to the center of the Earth in our basement. The downside of that, of course, is that it has the potential to act as a volcanic vent, sending an ocean of magma up from the planet's chewy center and wreaking havoc on our entire community. (Also, it tends to whistle as the world turns.) What's the upside of having Earth's biggest hole? We're still working on that.

Antimatter Lincoln piped up with a suggestion that we put shelving units around the walls of the hole and use it to store nick knacks, junk, souvenirs, and sporting trophies. Capital idea, except that we don't have any of those things, particularly the trophies. Besides, when that thing blows its stack, it would burn our non-existent valuables to a cinder. And again, we live in an abandoned hammer mill. There's plenty of room for Antimatter Lincoln's imaginary possessions. The simple fact that they are imaginary - i.e., mental impressions only, not objects external to his fevered brain - suggests that he can have an infinite number of them and never have to worry about where to keep them all.

Fun!Right, so ... what to do with that hole. We did bring Marvin (my personal robot assistant) up from the flames of hell this past week, after having lowered him down the well on an impromptu reconnaissance mission. He had little to report, though apparently he saw openings in the tunnel walls that led to large caverns underground. It's possible that, for all his trouble, Mitch just built us a back door to Howe Caverns. I suppose NOW we'll be getting busloads of middle school kids parked out in front of the mill, waiting for a chance to take the underground boat ride or step on the quartz heart-shaped platform where some crazy-ass couples chose to have their weddings.

Ah, memories. If you have a good use for the world's biggest hole, just email them to us with the subject line: "World's Biggest Hole". We'll know just what you're talking about.

Dumpster fire.

Every time I see that standard shot of the White House on one of the major networks, I expect to see a plume of black smoke rising from an open window. This administration promised to be a major dumpster fire and it hasn't disappointed, the firing of FBI Director Comey this week (as he was requesting an expansion of the Trump Campaign/Russia probe) being just the latest flare-up. As predicted by some of the more observant commentators, the leaks began almost immediately - the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal all posted pieces that put the lie to the various hastily concocted stories flying out of the White House. If they're not hiding something very, very compromising, they're doing a tremendous imitation of it.

Trump, day 110.The thing about dumpster fires - or any trash-fueled conflagration, for that matter - is that they conceal as well as destroy. It's hard to ascribe intentionality to the Trump administration; they are without a doubt the dumbest box of rocks that ever rolled into the oval office, so the idea that they could cook up some massive deception campaign is kind of ludicrous. If they are not deliberately distracting people with their antics, they are certainly playing the role of the useful idiot. I'm not suggesting they're running interference for Russia or anything like that. What their ineptitude facilitates more than anything else is the steady progress of the broader GOP agenda - namely, massive tax cuts for the wealthy, dismantling of our rudimentary social safety net, scuttling the ACA, pulling down regulatory constraints on industry, and so on.

We face some major threats. One is that Trump will launch another war as a means of changing the conversation. Another is that a terror attack will flip the script, as it did in 2001, and we will be riding the revenge juggernaut to the end of the Earth, literally. But not least among these is the threat that the Republicans will get most if not all of what they're calling for. They already have Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. Don't think the Senate won't pass some version of their draconian health care reform / tax cut. These are less dramatic outcomes, but no less destructive of our society.

Trump probably has extensive ties to Russian gangsters, just as he has with the domestic variety. It will likely come out eventually, but I warn you - don't be distracted from the real work that's going on in Congress right now.

luv u,

jp

Friday, May 5, 2017

Cave in.

Marvin, can you hear me? Marvin? Damn ... that's just the echo of my own voice. I was wondering why Marvin would be calling out to himself. Marvin!?

Right, so ... I think we went a little too far with the archaeological dig, particularly once we got Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, and Marvin (my personal robot assistant) involved. At first it was just a lark - we took a shovel to the floor of the Cheney Hammer Mill's sub-basement just to see what we could find. Turns out there's a lot of dirt down there. (Little known fact: the Earth is largely composed of dirt. I suspect that's why "earth" is a synonym of "dirt".) Sure, we turned up our share of lost quarters, belt buckles, tie clips and fossilized coelacanths, but that was about it.

Then Mitch decided to get involved, and of course, all hell broke loose. That is to say, he used one of his patented Particle Beam Generators™ to burn a hole through the Earth's crust, clear down to the molten nickel core, which (as you know from watching television) is in a perpetual state of raging ferment - hell fire from beneath the ground, shall we say. To understand why this may have happened, you have to understand the scientific mind. Once you get that, imagine a diseased version of that same mind and you will have some insight into Mitch's reasoning.

Say it twice!Well now, this didn't go over very well, but I suggested to Mitch that his Particle Beam Generator™ had essentially blown the entire archaeological enterprise by incinerating every stratum between the mill floor and the Earth's core; hence, a thousand potential discoveries may have been irretrievably lost. His answer was to devise a crane-like device and lower someone (not him!) down into the newly-bored hole to have a look at the top layers that had been exposed. How did we decide on Marvin? Well, there's that ten bucks I owe him ... and of course, he is much better qualified for the mission than I am. So sure, we put him in a harness and lowered him down into the hole, like he was on a fishing rod.

Anyone who has seen the movie Crack in the World can picture what comes next: A big flame comes out of the hole ten minutes after Marvin took the plunge. Radio silence thus far, but no worries: it's Marvin's nap time right about now, so he would tend to be unresponsive anyway.

Victory dance.

Okay, can we all agree on something, people? Try this: the President of the United States is a remarkable dolt who knows nothing about anything outside of - perhaps - real estate and licensing his trademarks. His grasp of American history is tenuous at best and indicative of illiteracy at worst. He always seems to return to the subject of slavery and the Civil War, perhaps because he is surrounded by crackpot white supremacists who fill his empty head with their hateful opinions and convenient factual inaccuracies. The comments about Andrew Jackson are just the latest example, though when he talks about people like "Sharpknife" Jackson he seems actually to be talking about himself.

Spot my useless congressmember.It's not at all surprising that Trump thinks that he himself could have prevented the Civil War. As a master-level narcissist, he thinks himself capable of anything. And even when he can't accomplish anything, he celebrates and brags about it like he did. This week, when the House of Representatives passed their latest version of the Affordable Care Act repeal and replace debacle, Trump had the GOP House caucus come to the White House for a little victory dance. (My own representative, Claudia Tenney, could be seen in the second row, right behind the doltish Kevin McCarthy, taking selfies with another Republican congresswoman. Watch for that in an opposition campaign ad next year.)

Okay, so maybe that just proves that Republicans - including the massively overrated pseudo-wonk Paul Ryan - never watched Schoolhouse Rock and maybe they really just don't know how a bill becomes law. (They haven't passed a real lot of them since taking control of the House.) Or maybe this is just Trump's way of rubbing our faces in the fact that he got his way this time. It's the kind of tactic Trump is famous for, of course. I suspect if he ever stopped bragging about himself, he'd fly around the room like a toy balloon someone let loose. The facts don't matter - this is an attitudinal presidency, running on gall and braggadocio, tossing steaks out to the base pretty much every week.

It's not a joke. The policy implications of this president will be enormous, maybe irreparable. We're obviously going to have to fight for every inch, and this week the prize went to them.

luv u,

jp

Friday, April 28, 2017

Our four bears.

Did you find any yet? Hmmm ... I was sure they'd be here somewhere. How about now? Nothing? Okay. Keep digging. Great hopping organoids, this archaeology business is harder than it looks.

Idle hands do the devil's work, or so they say. Here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill (our squat house), we like to try to keep busy just so that we don't get into trouble. Sure, you might think being a musician would be enough, and well, it should be. But you can play and play and play until the cows come home. Then what have you got? A whole herd of cows, and no place for them to graze. Who do those cows belong to, anyhow? Right ... well, I've wandered a bit, but you get the point.

So sure, we make music, but in between all that we like to involve ourselves in scientific endeavors ... at least in the social sciences. (We leave the hard sciences to our mad science advisor, Mitch Macaphee.) This week it's archaeology. Why that field? Well, we spotted an article about Neanderthals or Denisovans finding their way to the Americas more than 100,000 years ago, and that piqued our interest. The evidence seemed a little thin: just some smashed Mastodon bones. So we thought we'd take a look in the dirt and see if we could find some helpful artifacts, buried far below the hammer mill.

Dude ... behind you. Take a look.The fact is, I'm pretty sure those scientists are right about the Neanderthals. Back when we used Trevor James Constable's patented orgone generating device as a time travel portal, we sent ourselves back in time to a point in American history when large-jawed anthropoids made up the majority of our club audiences. They're heavy tippers, I understand, but always call out songs you never heard of. And when you start playing, they knock rocks together until you're all done. Charming.

If you're wondering whether we've come across any remains, well, I hate to disappoint you, but the Neanderthals' secret still remains safe. It's basically choose your myth at this point. I choose the one where they follow some wayward bears over from Russia. Others have suggested a cable car of some sort. We may never know.

Pappy's back in town.

The 100-day mark is fast approaching for the Trump administration, and this week they kicked it into high gear in an attempt to create the impression that they accomplished something over the last three months - namely, something that was on the President's list of promises he made over the course of his craven campaign last year. With this in mind, they tossed out a few desperate efforts towards meaningful legislation, one of which being a one-page tax break proposal announced by Mnuchin on Wednesday.

This is a clear return to the G.O.P. presidential playbook, in a Trump kind of way. Of course, it smells more like a scam, the sparsely written outline providing very little detail or guidance for what would likely be a contentious legislative drafting process. But the outlines are there, and what it means effectively is that old Pappy Tax Cut is back once again. We haven't seen Pappy since the days of Dubya Bush and his high-earner tax cut that blew a huge hole in the budget - one that we're still grappling with, even with the minor clawback Obama extracted from the Republicans.

Shocker: more breaks for the rich.What's in it? Prepare to be amazed. Massive tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations. Reducing the top corporate tax rate to 15% and eliminating the estate tax altogether. If anything resembling this vague framework were to come into effect, it would shower enormous dividends on the most well-heeled people in the United States and cost the U.S. treasury about 2 trillion dollars. Suddenly Republicans aren't worried about the deficit/debt anymore - astonishing! And why wouldn't they give a massive break to the only people in the country - the one percent - who did well throughout the financial crisis? No reason at all.

Trump allies in congress were touting a new compromise on the "American Health Care Act" between the right and the extreme right, but that's probably a non-starter. The act has been changed up to reflect more of the "Freedom Caucus" (i.e. a bunch of white dudes) agenda, including allowing states to make core benefits optional, letting health insurance providers charge a lot more to people with pre-existing conditions, like ... I don't know, pretty much anything that happens to you.

Then there's impending war with Korea. Don't even get me started on that. There's such bad thinking on that issue from both major parties that it's hard to know where to turn next.

luv u,

jp

Friday, April 21, 2017

Audio dynamite.

Yeah, turn the bass drum up a little in my headphone mix. Yeah, that's enough. That's good. Okay, dial it back ... Too loud. STOP!! Christ on a bike. Can't you turn a knob in a direction other than clockwise? No? Okay. Good to know.

As you may have surmised, we have resorted to using Marvin (my personal robot assistant) as a sound engineer in the makeshift studio we maintain at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. Not the optimal choice, I admit, but hey, look - we only have two hands. Actually, between us, we have four, but - and this is important - WE'RE USING ALL FOUR OF THEM. I thought Marvin, being a robot, might be a bit more precise in his manipulations of various sound parameters, but it appears that Mitch Macaphee (our mad science advisor) cut a few corners when he put Marvin together. His wrist joints only turn one way, it turns out. What the fuck.

Hey, did any of you hear something?When you are effectively a pop duo ... and I think Matt and I constitute the duo part, at least ... you need to rely on others sometimes to do some of the heavy lifting. Marvin can do some stuff. I've gotten Antimatter Lincoln to shake a tambourine more than once - that's about his speed. The man-sized tuber is pretty good at holding things up, like a table. These are all things we would otherwise have to do ourselves, so it's not like I'm ungrateful. But man ... a shred of musical ability would come in handy right about now.

Then there's such a thing as too much help. Yes, I'm talking about Mitch. This one song we were working on, we wanted a colossal bass drum sound. Mitch said he could do better than our superannuated effects boxes, so we said go ahead, knock yourself out. The next morning, I'm awakened by this earth-shattering BOOM and the whole mill is shaking like a jello mold. Out in the courtyard, there's a smoking crater where the tool shed once stood. There were about seven mics set up around the crater. I guess Mitch was thinking surround sound.

It took about a year to live that down. (We still get calls from the codes department.) So hey, now I'm careful when I ask for help.

Three percent solution.

Some election news this week. Jon Ossoff, Democratic party candidate in the Georgia 6th congressional district "jungle" primary topped 48% of the vote tally, which is impressive in Tom Price/Newt Gingrich territory but still a couple of points below an outright victory. As always, the Republicans furiously worked the refs on this race, establishing the easy-bake narrative that Ossoff needed to win an outright maclassjority and that anything short of that would be an abject failure. The mainstream media, of course, adopted this line because it's simple and requires zero analysis (a lot of stories run this way), so the news shows the morning after the election were full of Democrats falling short postmortems. Useful.

Actual Tenney quote.Okay, because I am at heart a fair person, I will admit that the likes of Joe Scarborough said something that I actually agreed with this past Wednesday - something to the effect that Democrats need to rediscover getting out the vote, knocking on doors, calling people, etc. I agree. If Dems are ever going to return from the electoral wilderness, they need to start building their ground game right now. With the Georgia race and the contest in Kansas for that open House seat (lost to the GOP by seven points), that point has now been underlined and circled in red. (Okay, you can go back to despising Scarborough again.)

This doesn't amount to a repeat of the same "air war" strategy the national Democratic party keeps running over and over again, dropping TV ads at the last minute. Democrats need to be a factor on the ground; they need to be a positive force in people's lives. In my region, the congressional seat is held by a tea party Republican, way to the right of her district. We have only elected one Democrat in my lifetime - Michael Arcuri back in 2006. The only reason why he won was that the Democratic party invested in the race. They sent paid, seasoned campaign organizers to the district. They invested in a sizeable call center. They ran phone banks and knocked on doors. That - not the ads - was what put Arcuri over the top. I remember one of the party organizers giving a pep talk to the volunteers, telling us that a good ground game can add three percent to the vote total on election day. "We're going to need that three percent," he said.

There's a coda to that story: two years later, there was none of that. Calling was done out of a cramped room in the local labor council office, and Arcuri just barely squeaked by in a presidential election year. In 2010 he got knocked off; same problem. This past fall, I was dialing for the Democratic candidate at the labor council again, working from a pretty crappy list. It's not just lack of investment - it's lack of the right kind of investment that kills our chances.

We have to start winning elections. It's not the only thing we have to do, but it's goddamned important.

luv u,

jp

Friday, April 14, 2017

What ho.

There's my pocket watch. And no, it's not a proper pocket watch, just a wrist watch I keep in my pocket because my wrists get sore when I wear it. As a result, the crystal is scratched to the point where it always looks like 3:54 last Wednesday. So .... happy Wednesday, everybody!

What's new this week in Big Green land? Well, I'm guessing there's more news coming out of regular old Greenland (That's part of Scandinavia!), though they have the advantage of belonging to Denmark. It's been suggested to us more than once that we should just ask Denmark to annex us, like the even bigger Greenland, so that we would have more to talk about on our blog and podcast. Another good suggestion, people. Keep them rolling in!

In all seriousness, though (and I'm making my most serious face now), we have been working our fingers to the bone on our next raft of Big Green songs. We've even worked a few of our toes to the bone as well. (You don't know hardship until you've worn sneakers over bony toes.) All of this is leading up to the next episode of Ned Trek, which promises to be another musical - this time a takeoff on the Galileo 7 episode of the original series. At least I think that's what the next episode will be. Because you know ... shit happens. And it happens fast sometimes. Fast, fast shit.

Lend me a bob 'til TuesdayAs always, Matt has been doing the bulk of the songwriting. He's a writing machine, people ... just pacing through his duties on that nature sanctuary, talking out the lyrics of his various crazy-ass songs like a distinctly non-Scottish Ewan McTeagle. (Though, in the interests of full disclosure, this is probably a good time to point out that Matt's partner does indeed play the bagpipes.) Matt wrote at a relatively breakneck pace before he spent his days out on the range, as it were, whereas I have always been the kind of songwriter that squeezes one out every once in a while. (If that sounds nauseating, it's because it kind of is.)

Hey, Matt has his process, I have mine. Drop it into a 3-quart mixing bowl, set the beater on frappé, and voilà (or for you British listeners out there, what ho): Big Green casserole. Help yourself.

Just like old times.

This probably isn't a wise practice, but I sometimes view Morning Joe as a bellwether of establishment opinion, particularly regarding foreign policy. Their panel covers the spectrum from neocons to liberal interventionists - a narrow span to say the least. And they appear to be as happy as the proverbial pig in shit about Trump's recent cruise missile attack in Syria. Both the liberal interventionist wing and the neocon wing have been highly critical of Obama's failure to start a unilateral, extra-constitutional war with Syria back in 2013, so this past week was sweet validation for them all. As a group, they seem anxious for evidence that Trump's administration is "normalizing" and settling in to the usual, conventional insanity, so they tend to jump on every lurch towards the institutional consensus.

Mother of all BullshitAnd clearly, there is a solid, institutional consensus on American foreign policy. It's a relatively small box that contains, on one end, the Obama approach, then the center-left liberal interventionist school (Clinton, Samantha Power, etc.), followed by the center-right establishment Republicans (James Baker, Kissinger, etc.), the hot-head interventionists (McCain, Graham, Cotton), and the neocons (Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Elliot Abrams, etc.). In terms of blowing things up and killing people, there isn't a lot of distance between any of these groupings, and they all share a common imperial worldview. The encouraging development for the Morning Joe crew is the notion that Trump has now put himself in that box.

If this turns out to be a feature, not a bug, of the Trump Administration, the 2016 general election had no impact on foreign policy at all. Policy-wise, Trump appears to have put himself pretty close to Obama on that score. He maybe has a little more bomb than Obama, but it's basically the same stuff, and the Morning Joe crowd has little to say about that. I sometimes wonder if these people remember last year, let alone 16 years ago. Do they remember that W. Bush ran a hair to the left of Gore on foreign policy - no "nation building", right? - then pivoted back to the center-right of the consensus box after a few months (certainly after 9/11).? Obama did something similar. It's pretty simple: presidents put out pleasing rhetoric during campaigns, then peddle back to the default policies when they win office.

Now Trump has dumped the MOAB super bunker-buster bomb on Afghanistan. What is this routine now, bomb-drop Thursday? I guess we'll see ... next Thursday.

luv u,

jp

Friday, April 7, 2017

Inside April.

What's that rattling you hear? Could be the sound of Tomahawk missiles. Or maybe it's just a loose screen in the upstairs window. Those may be the same exact thing, in effect.

But there is a third possibility, and that is the April THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast. We've got another boatload of sound for you this month - here's a brief look inside the ship's hold (just to overextend that little metaphor) ...

NED TREK 32: All Our Festeryears. A take-off on the "All Our Yesteryears" episode in the original Star Trek series (I believe their second or third to the last episode ever), Willard, Ned, Pearle, and Sulu pay a visit to a strangely deserted world, the entire population of which has retreated into old B movies on VHS tapes. The caretaker of the library (or Blockbuster Video) and his various doppelgangers are played by Ronald Reagan. Ned and Sulu have to deal with cheap-ass cinematic cowboys, whereas Willard and Pearle face-off against cave men. Kind of lame, but .... whatever.

Put the Phone Down. We start with the cornbread song, then move downhill from there. Some bird talk, some pondering of dialogue from the TV show Kung Fu. I could draw you a picture, but it wouldn't be pretty. I'm thinking about brewing some coffee before we start talking next time out.

Song: Doc's Freedom. This was from the very early Ned Trek episode called "Spector's Grandchildren", in which telekinetic space aliens forced the crew to sing. One of my favorite Doc Coburn songs, this one comes complete with a funky intro. Look for a version of this on Big Green's eventual Ned Trek collection.

How 'bout another song? Yeah, okay.Song: Neocon Christmas. This is a Mr. Perle song from another early Ned Trek - "Santorum's Christmas Planet", I think. Kind of a jazz trio treatment on this, with backing vocals from the non-sequitur 40's guys.

Song: Jesus Got A Known Mind. Another Doc song, and again, a particular favorite of mine because of its primitive rock vibe and the backing vocals seemingly borrowed from Helter Skelter. Rock out, people!

Song: Up On The Bridge. Featuring Mr. Sulu, this song from a more recent Ned Trek episode contemplates the volatile fortunes of a certain T.V. actor whose fame was built on a re-run cult following that persists to this day. The vocals on this are kind of hilarious. (We spent more time on that than anything else.)

Bigfoot.

Another week on foreign policy, mostly because it has been so heinous lately. The gas attack in Syria was particularly upsetting, in part because there was video footage of the aftermath (unlike in the case of the U.S.'s Al Ghayil raid in Yemen that killed a score of civilians, including nine children, or the bombing in Mosul last week). The Syrian regime, once again, is doing the one thing they do in response to a restive population: kill and torture. They literally know nothing else. That said, there seems to be a universal media consensus that the United States should fly its bombers in there and start blowing the place apart, as if that has ever made anything better over the past 50-60 years. (Spoiler alert: it hasn't. It has made things exponentially worse.)

Trump arrives at a decision.Then there was the missile launch in North Korea. Deliberately provocative, yes, though again, our military rules on that peninsula - we're constantly running joint exercises with the South Korean military that can only be seen as provocations by Pyongyang. Trump is going to take this up with China this weekend in his cheesy Florida resort getaway, but that just marks a continuation of the same disastrous policy. North Korea wants to talk to us, not China. This only possible way to reduce this massive threat to human existence on the Korean peninsula is provide Pyongyang with some guarantees of non belligerence. That is simply not on the table.

How will the Trump administration react to all of this, aside from blaming everyone else (e.g. their predecessors, the Muslims, the Chinese, immigrants, etc.)? It's a little hard to say. Either one could blow up in our face on a moment's notice. It sounds to me like Trump is leaning toward differentiating himself from Obama on Syria - that is, taking a more interventionist stance. That appears to be supported by the jabbering classes, as I mentioned earlier. (I heard a congressman from the GOP hair-gel caucus on Thursday's Morning Joe urging a "no-fly zone" and suggesting that, if we hit Russian personnel or assets in the process, well, that would be "on them".) This is how world wars start, so one would hope that whatever money laundering Trump has done for Russian oligarchs over the years, it will give him enough reason to at least adequately de-conflict with the Russian military before going all Lindsay Graham on Damascus.

Korea may be just as problematic, since I don't think Trump owes a lot to Chinese fixers. They may be crazy enough to lob a bomb over there - we'll have to see. Scary times.

luv u,

jp

P.S. Spoke too soon. Trump is bombing Syria. This is getting really ugly. The TV commentators all have their "war faces" on, talking to admirals. Trump did a hostage-video style pre-taped announcement last night (strangely, from a podium, reading off of two teleprompters as if there were an audience - the sound quality was horrible). Everyone is beating their chests: American credibility has been restored. (Apparently no one in the world thought we would attack at random anymore, even though we've been doing it non-stop for 16 years.) Bigfoot is stomping around.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Technophobia.

Not running again, eh? Try knocking it upside the head again. Harder. HARDER! Oh, wait ... you knocked its head off. That's probably too hard. Oh well....

Hey, welcome to the house of Big Green - that abandoned hammer mill we call home, because all of the groups live together. Just trying to get down to recording some new material, old material ... whatever! If we can just get our technology to work for five minutes. (Actually, three and a half minutes would do, since this is pop music.) Seriously, we've got some old gear, folks. It's almost as old as our asses. I'm not even talking tape recorders .... I'm talking wire recorders. I'm talking those wax record cutting machines they used when John-boy was being interviewed by a radio station on The Waltons after he got swindled by the vanity press dude. (Oh, you thought I forgot, didn't you? Mr. TV Swindler!)

Ahem. Anyhow, we really are running on three cylinders down in Big Green's clubhouse recording studio in the basement of the Cheney Hammer Mill. The eight-track DTRS machine we used to record 2000 Years To Christmas is a paperweight. The 16/24 track hard disc workstation we used to record International House and Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick is 17 years old and ready for that farm upstate. We're taping together our headphones and coaxing our pre-amps not to self-destruct. It's a sad state of affairs, to say the least. Our neighbors keep saying, do a GoFundMe campaign or something, but hell .... that would require the invention of the personal computer. Our gear tells me it's still 1982.

It was new when I bought it.Marvin (my personal robot assistant) is probably the most sophisticated piece of technology we have at our disposal. In fact, that's exactly what he is - a re-purposed garbage disposal. I'm told that our mad science advisor, Mitch Macaphee, added some arms and legs and popped a refurbished Commodore 64 computer in his noggin, then it was off to the races with him. We could probably use HIM as an audio recorder almost as easily as we manage with our antiquated Roland VS-2480, but it would require some modifications, and damn it, we're Luddites. We just flip the switch and a light goes on - the rest is magic.

So, hey ... we'll get those songs committed to .wav somehow, never fear. Just don't ask me how they got there afterwards.