Pages

Friday, September 14, 2018

Strum and dang.

Let's see .... how does the barre system go again? Oh, right. It's freaking impossible. Forgot that part. Back to the banjo chords then. I wonder how good songwriters handle questions like this.

Yes, if you haven't already guessed, I'm attempting to write some songs this week. Well, I should say one song, but that's being somewhat generous. I can't let Matt carry the entire burden of composing for Big Green. What kind of brother would that make me? I'll tell you what kind. My kind, that's what. Just STAY OUT OF IT. Anyway ... that's why I'm handling this guitar. Notice I didn't say "playing". That's a bridge too far ... and this song of mine doesn't even have a bridge.

Frankly, I don't see how Matt does it. He dreams up these songs, harmonizes them in about twenty minutes down in the basement of the Cheney Hammer Mill, then tracks the suckers. Me? I get some lame idea, knock it around in my head for a couple of days, and then either the lyrics come all at once or they drop from the sky in fragments, sometimes six months, sometimes a year apart. In some instances I do songwriting at a glacial pace. You can actually watch me evolve during the course of writing a single song. (When I wrote the first verse, I was an Australopithecus. Now look at me! Definitely Peking man.}

Okay, hit "record" or whatever.So, if I'm treating every songwriting project like the evolutionary ascent of man, that amounts to a lot of banjo-plucking primates. And that's where many of my songs start out. I'll find a chair somewhere in this big old barn of a place, throw my cheap-seat Martin D-1 across my leg and start playing the five chords I know best. If I stumble upon some progression or melody worth repeating, I can't rely on memory alone. Fortunately, Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has an audio recording module, and if I can get him to stand still long enough, I can capture whatever the hell it is I'm working on and play it back later. If it happens in the middle of the night, the playback sounds like .... you guessed it .... banjo-plucking primates.

Hey, we all have our process. That's what makes us human, right? Doing dumb shit, then figuring out how to improve on a bad thing. That's the Big Green way.

Stuff and nonsense.

It was primary week (again) here in New York , where our political leaders see fit to have more than one primary per election season and place one of them bizarrely on a Thursday. Seems like a good time to do some short takes on the stuff and nonsense that has been dominating our news this past week. Where to begin?

It's all about him, folks.Super Storm. Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the east coast of the U.S., and is his wont, the President's first comments centered on, well, himself and the amazing job he did when Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico last year. He is flatly denying the veracity of the revised casualty figures that put the death toll from Maria above that of Katrina, saying that the higher numbers were made up by Democrats to make him look bad. I'm betting George W. Bush looks at this with envy and wonders why he never thought of just totally and persistently making shit up about New Orleans.

Fear. Woodward's book has been all over the airwaves this past week. In many respects, it is remarkably similar to the anonymous op-ed published in the New York Times by someone who refers to him/herself as a member of the "resistance". Any "resistance" that includes individuals who think the GOP tax plan, environmental policy, immigration policy, and other efforts are "bright spots" is frankly not worth a dime. Similarly, Woodward's take on some of the core issues he writes about is from the perspective of an imperial scribe. I agree that Trump is a dangerous imbecile when it comes to foreign policy, but the idea that a permanent and aggressively postured military presence in the Korean peninsula and eastern Europe somehow prevents World War III is flatly insane. It is, in fact, the very thing that brings us to the brink of terminal nuclear war again and again. The only thing that saves us is dumb luck, at this point.

What March? Hear about that major day of action against global warming this past weekend. No, neither did I. Democracy Now! had some good coverage of this, and I always find it enlightening to listen to Amy Goodman's activist on the street interviews. It's a great way to hear about specific, localized movements from across the country and around the world.

Kavanaugh. I can't read that guy's name without hearing the voice of my old friend and Big Green co-founder Ned Danison reciting it with an affected tone (a reference to a certain guitar player of our acquaintance back in the day). That alone is enough to disqualify him for the highest court in the land.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 7, 2018

So anyway.

Music is a universal language and love is the key. Or maybe SOUND is the key. Love is the lock. No, wait ... love is the music, language is the universe, and Francis Scott is the key. That sounds right-ish.

Well, we're coming up on a little anniversary here at Big Green village, housed in the historic abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill in historic upstate New York. (A lot of history up here. Did you know that this area is as old as any other area on Earth?) What's the anniversary, you ask? Thank you for asking. It's actually the tenth anniversary of the release of our second album, International House, which we released back in fall of 2008. My goodness ... has it been that long? Well, I guess it has. It also happens to be the fifth anniversary of the release of our third album, Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick. And in case that isn't nearly amazing enough, next year will be the 20th anniversary of the release of our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas.

Okay, so here are the ratios: 10:2, 5:3, and 20:1. Got all that? Good, because god knows I'm not paying any attention. Don't get the wrong impression - we're not one of those neurotic bands that keeps track of every insignificant date in our long history. Lord no, we gave that up on December 3, 1990 when I got that flat tire. WHY? WHY DID IT HAPPEN TO ME? Or was that Matt who got the flat tire? Maybe so. Right, then forget the why, why stuff. So anyway, we put International House out ten years ago. Kind of amazing, seeing as it took us five years to make that album in the first place. Five years, sixteen songs - you do the math. (Don't ask me how.)

Aw, cheese and crackers!Well, so ... how to celebrate? Our plan is to reissue songs off of International House via Soundcloud, so that the people can hear what they've been missing all these years. Because, hey listen ... it's all about the people. And what the people need is a way to make them smile. (Fun fact: every single phrase in this blog post is a lyric from some crappy pop song. Well ... give or take a few.) All that's on our Soundcloud site right now is some odds and ends, but that's going to change, mister. You just wait and see.

And yes, we will get back to our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN. Patience, my friends, patience.

Closing the circle.

Confirmation hearings for President Trump's second Supreme Court nominee began this week, and while it's clear that there is strong resistance to the idea of a lifetime appointment for Bret Kavanaugh, it is also clear that there is little we can do about it beyond making noise, pushing our senators, and demanding justice. I credit people in that hearing room for giving it a try. Linda Sarsour and many others were dragged out and arrested for raising their voices up against an extremist appointment by an illegitimate president and a confirmation process that has lost all credibility since the blocking of Obama's appointee Merritt Garland in 2016. Why the Republicans on the senate judiciary committee are bothering to run through this pantomime is beyond me. They have nothing but contempt for the process, so why not go straight to the vote?

Kavanaugh counts how many anti-choice votes there will be on SCOTUSThe sad fact is, as Matt said in his song "See For Yourself," we have nothing to defend with, as we on the left have failed to turn the issue of Supreme Court appointments into one that lights a fire under progressive voters. When Democrats lost the Senate in 2014, we lost the ability to confirm or deny Supreme Court appointments without the cooperation of the GOP, which simply is not a possibility. We expend all of our energy trying to convince Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to vote against this nominee, while attempting to keep red state Democrats like Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, and others in line a few weeks before they face an election. Perhaps we can delay the proceedings until after the mid-terms, but that seems doubtful without the requisite votes.

Make no mistake about how consequential this appointment will be. This amounts to closing the circle on the Republican project that has been underway full-bore since the George W. Bush administration, when party leaders were focused on building a permanent majority. With five solid reactionary votes on the Supreme Court, the Republicans will have a veto over any progressive policies that may come to pass in the coming years. Even if we manage to wrest control of a gerrymandered House and a lopsidedly unrepresentative Senate from the GOP, even if we then win the presidency, there will be severe limits on what can be accomplished. Legal challenges to, say, single payer health coverage will almost certainly find success before a Supreme Court with Judge Kavanaugh on board.

Once again, elections matter. Whatever else you do, go out and vote, and encourage friends and strangers alike to do the same. We neglect this right at our peril, as the current catastrophe clearly demonstrates.

luv u,

jp

Friday, August 31, 2018

Back to work.

Where do you plug this thing in again? Hmmm. That looks like a 220 outlet. Are you sure I won't blow my amp sky high? Okay, then I'll take your word for it. Now .... what's that funny smell?

Oh, hi, dear readers. As you can see, I've decided to discontinue my internal exile to the shed in the courtyard of the Cheney Hammer Mill and return to our basement studio where all kinds of trouble are made. Hey, the summer's over, right? Time to stop wasting time on pointless pursuits and get back down to the serious business that has been the bedrock of Big Green since our founding: more pointless pursuits. Like songwriting and recording. And doing funny voices. Honking on kazoos. That sort of thing. Do I need to paint a picture? Good ... because I DON'T KNOW HOW.

So things are happening. The leaves are turning red and yellow, for one thing. For another, we launched a new web site. Looks a hell of a lot like the old one, only with a new home page (see www.big-green.net ) and a new free Wordpress theme. Just another example of cheapskatery run amok. What a useless waste of human potential. (Hey ... that could be the title of my memoir.) Sure, we COULD have gotten a new abandoned hammer mill to live in, maybe one with running water even, but NO ... new web site comes first in our twisted little world. Priorities!

Now, where the hell did I put that wire?As you may have guessed, I am trying to re-acquaint myself with recording technologies after a summer of copying tapes and taping copies. A few weeks in that garden shed and it all looks like an undifferentiated tangle of wires and metal boxes to me. That's kind of what our studios always look like, but the fact that I'm taking note of it now tells me that I've got some remedial learning ahead of me. Fortunately, with the assistance of Marvin (my personal robot assistant), I can reconstruct my keyboard workstation to a point where noise comes out of it and goes into the recorder thingy. Do that until the blue smoke comes out, and then you have a record. Or at least I think you do.

No worries - I'll get this right before my brother walks in here with five new songs, fresh from the farm. Farm fresh production ... that's Big Green!

Lying in state.

John McCain was held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for more than five years. That's a long stretch in a third world prison, particularly when it's in a country that's been under sustained withering attack from a superpower for longer than that. He was abused, and that was reprehensible - prisoners should not be maltreated or deliberately deprived of proper care, nutrition, etc. I am against mistreatment and torture regardless of who is being subjected to it, and McCain was far from the worst; just a cog in a genocidal war machine that he eventually came close to seeing as inappropriately applied in that conflict. And late in life, he admitted that the Iraq war had been a "mistake" and expressed regret for his part in bringing it about.

Lest we forget ... the real McCain.Those are the two best things I can say about the late senior senator from Arizona. The fact is, he spent his entire political career pressing for war every time the opportunity arose; it was central to his brand. He simply never met a war he didn't like, from Reagan's proxy wars in Central America and elsewhere, to the Gulf War, to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, you name it. He was pressing for direct American involvement in the Syrian civil war early on. And in spite of his celebrated vote against the Obamacare repeal, he has supported Trump's legislative agenda more than eighty percent of the time, most notably voting to pass the $1.5T tax giveaway to the richest people in the country - a bill that also hobbled the ACA by canceling the mandate.

Of course, the mainstream news media reference none of this in their wall-to-wall coverage of his passing, preferring to expound endlessly on what a peerless leader of men McCain was. MSNBC's amnesia regarding this topic is breathtaking. I clearly remember his 2008 presidential campaign, and it was full of divisive rhetoric, particularly what emanated from his crackpot vice presidential pick, Sara Palin. McCain, too, made rally speeches about how Obama was not like you and me. He obsessed about Russia in Georgia (note: a chief foreign policy advisor was on Georgia's payroll at the time) and advocated for a federal spending freeze when the financial crisis hit - a Hoover-esque move that would have brought on another great depression. And yet with all this (and much else), MSNBC only shows that one moment in that one rally when McCain shut down some crazy old racist with a clumsily bigoted rejoinder about how Obama was not an "Arab" but, rather, a good family man.

I could go on, but seriously ... the point is that the corporate media loved McCain and were incapable of reporting on him honestly. That they would continue spinning the maverick myth even after he's gone should surprise no one.

luv u,

jp

Friday, August 24, 2018

Listing wildly.

Man, it gets cold out here at night, even in August. This place needs windows. I don't mean the open kind ... I mean the kind that close. You know ... with glass and everything.

Yes, I'm still sleeping out here in the shack that stands crookedly in the courtyard of the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, our lowly squathouse here in upstate New York. This kind of reminds me of the old days, when we had that two-room lean-to in Sri Lanka. What was that like? Well, it was a lot like this. Except warmer. Ah, things were different then. A stiff wind would blow the whole house down, for one thing. And the air was filled with song. (I won't say which song, but frankly, it wasn't one of my personal favorites.)

I've taken this opportunity to redecorate in here, you know ... put up a little wall paper. Very little. Because of our lack of budget, of course, I have to use existing materials. But you make the best of what you have, right? And what I have is old set lists and some second hand school paste. Now the place is plastered in the things, and you can see the clumsily scrawled repertoire of a hundred poor-paying gigs going back decades. So now every time I turn my head, even when I'm doing my neck stretches, I have to ask myself, "Did we REALLY play Neil Young's Lookout, Joe at the Metro in 1992?" or "Why would we follow Sensory Man with Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner?" Truly questions for the ages.

Now THAT was living rough.Okay, well the wind is kicking up a bit, and my little shack is swaying from side to side, making the set lists flap like little white flags nailed to the wall. It's almost as if the place is hoping to surrender to our extreme weather. I'm going to pack up my ripped up duffel and scurry back into the relative safety of the Hammer Mill. Hopefully Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, is not running one of those land drone experiments of his. Last week he was running some dog-like autonomous robot around the ground floor, programming it to shoot deadly lasers at anything that moved. Frankly I'm surprised I didn't have more company out here in the shack.

Hmmmmm. Good Old Boys Roundup. Haven't played that one since our Middlebury College gig in '93. Time to revisit.

Friends and enemies.

Our friends the Saudis are planning to execute a woman for being a dissident. It's a little hard to imagine how you can be a woman in Saudi Arabia and NOT be considered a dissident, but there you have it. The method will be beheading, which, as I recall, Trump decried furiously during the 2016 campaign as an aberrant ISIS tactic drawn from the middle ages - no one has seen this in centuries! Actually, it's the preferred method of execution in one of your favorite dictatorships, Mr. Trump. Still, it's hard to blame the president for this relationship; we've been cozy with the Kingdom for decades, regardless of what they do, often bending our own foreign policy to suit their tastes (as long as it remains within the narrow limits of our own imperial policies).

New leaders, same old handshakeWhy? Is it just oil? Well, that's a complicated issue. Sure, Saudi Arabia wouldn't have been the center of attention for so long if their chief export had been nutmeg. Their ample supply of easy-to-extract, cheap-to-process crude oil was famously described by our policymakers as a source of enormous strategic power and perhaps the greatest material prize in the history of the world. But it's that "strategic power" that is the key, as I've mentioned previously in these pages. We didn't need Saudi oil in the 1950s and we don't need it today, but we do need to have influence and a potential veto over it to maintain our leverage over other nations.

So Saudi is our "friend", despite the fifteen 9/11 hijackers, and Iran is our "enemy". Iran is Saudi's enemy for a range of reasons, not least among them the fact that Saudi has a sizable Shia minority which they fear may be emboldened by a strong Iran. So that puts the Kingdom on the side of the U.S. government and the Israelis (another "friend"). Both Israel and Saudi would love to see us send our troops into Iran ... because that's what friends are for? It sounds chaotic to describe in this brief fashion, but there is a cold imperial logic to this framework - one that opposes secular Arab nationalism, opposes Shia resistance in all of its forms, and supports the enrichment of key U.S. based industries; namely fossil fuels and military technologies, both heavily subsidized by American taxpayers.

So it should come as no surprise that Trump supports an extremist state that beheads its citizens and flies planes into our buildings. In this sense, he's a real traditionalist.

luv u,

jp

Friday, August 17, 2018

In the shed.

I told you I didn't want to be disturbed. Just shut the door on the way out. And turn off the lights. Oh, right ... there are no lights. Never mind.

Oh man - just try to get some privacy around this place. You'd think living in a massive old abandoned mill we wouldn't have this kind of problem, but you'd be surprised at how small this place gets when everybody is home. Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, starts rattling his test tubes around and looking for things to detonate. Marvin (my personal assistant) does his exercise routines, rolling around the shop floor on his casters. Matt watches his birds on screens of various sizes. Anti-Lincoln reads the Gettysburg address backwards for the unpteenth time (I think he's trying to make a point). Even the mansized tuber gets in the way. It's mayhem!

So, hey, I've moved out to the potting shed in the courtyard of the Cheney Hammer Mill. It was necessary to evict the mansized tuber, since the shed's only big enough for one of us, but he's resourceful -- I'm sure wherever he lands he'll put down roots. Some people think I'm wood shedding out here, but it's nothing that productive. I'm just enjoying the quietude, the solitude, the ... I don't know ... darkitude. It's like taking that vacation that I never take, to that place I've never been, with money I've never earned. Call it never never land. Or call it anything you want - it's a freaking shed!

Get lost!Sit out here long enough and your mind starts to light on all kinds of things. Random stuff, like ... why didn't I get some handyman to fix the roof on this shed? It leaks like a sieve! Then there are thoughts of what might have been, the kind that creep around the corner when you're sitting idle, then climb in through your ear and squat down on your brain. Why didn't I call that handyman? Finally, you get the occasional flash of inspiration, like you're seeing the world for the first time. Stuff like, I want to join the Space Force! or I want Marvin to join the Space Force! One or the other of those might be workable.

Right, so ... if you're looking for me, try the shed. Knock twice if I don't owe you money.

The "T" word.

Just when you think it can't happen in YOUR town, well ... it happens. Our odiferous president came to Utica, NY this past week, barking his acrid endorsement of our congressional representative, Claudia Tenney (a.k.a she who claims the $1.5 trillion in rich people tax cuts have "already paid for themselves") at the old Hotel Utica. He was greeted by what was, by most estimations, the largest public demonstration in recent memory - somewhere between 1,700 and 2,000 people holding signs, raising their voices, pulling a large duck-like inflatable man-baby Trump replica. Back in 2003, just before the start of the Iraq war, we had what was for Utica a large demonstration downtown that was probably 200 or 250 people - nothing like this.

Trump / Tenney: a match made in heaven.Trump attended a fundraiser for Tenney that was supposed to be a closed-door, no-press event, but at some point they allowed pool reporters in to record his remarks, which were about typical. It amounts to the Democrats wanting to raise your taxes, open the borders wide, and take away your guns. Of course, the president was talking to a crowd of heavy-wallet donors: the cheap seats were $1,000 and sponsors paid $15,000. So, for once, he may be right about Democrats wanting to raise the taxes of the people in that room - they richly deserve it.

No comments from the president on the recent media tour of his former advisor and reality television co-star, Omarosa (whose name sounds like Elvis spoke it). The celebrity has released some recordings of conversations in the White House and on the phone with Trump, Kelly, and others. She has also claimed that Trump has used the N-word a number of times on his dumb-ass NBC show and as president. This is more reality-show fodder, of course, and particularly meaningless, as evidence of this kind would prove nothing that we don't already know. Donald Trump is a racist and a bigot; we don't need to hear him using that special word to know that much. He has been spouting bigoted rhetoric since day one of his campaign and long before. He has engaged in the equivalent of blood libel against muslims and refugees from the global south. He has elevated notorious racists to key posts in his administration and apologized for white supremacists.

People can get used to just about anything. But with an administration like this, normalization amounts to complicity. Glad to see so many of my neighbors making their voices heard.

luv u,

jp

Friday, August 10, 2018

Clown computing.

Wow, okay. Do that again. No, not that one ... I mean the hand stand. Okay, NOW the somersault. Can you do cartwheels? Not the donuts, you idiot! The circus trick! Wait ... where are you going?

Well, Marvin (my personal robot assistant) is off to find a Dunkin Donuts or Crispy Creme somewhere. He's so damn suggestible. The mere mention of sugar-saturated junk food gets his wheels rolling, quite literally. Marvin was just showing me some of his acrobatic exercises from his days with P.T. Barnum. Now, I know what you're going to say .... Marvin was just manufactured sometime around the year 2000; how could he possibly have worked for P.T. Barnum? Well, god only knows what materials our mad science adviser Mitch Macaphee used in putting Marvin's electronic brain together, but I suspect part of it may have come from a circus wagon. Robots - where would they be without other people's memories?

Now that you're pondering that impenetrable mystery, here's another one. I was noodling around on our distributor sites and discovered that I can port songs from our first two albums - 2000 Years to Christmas and International House - over to our SoundCloud site. Well, for some reason it seemed like a good idea to start doing just that. The first one we posted was our 2011 single, One Small Step:


Call that a cartwheel? Sheesh.Since I've been in an archiving mood pretty much all summer, I will likely start posting selections from International House (our 2008 album) in the coming weeks and share them here, forthwith, etc. Not new material, of course .... just a cheap-ass retrospective on where we've been. Something for you to chew on while we work out where the hell we're going. I don't know, maybe another interstellar tour, or maybe we'll go all in on another album, or maybe just watch Marvin try to do cheap circus tricks. So long as he doesn't dress up like a rodeo clown and start juggling bowling pins. That's a bridge too far.

Of course, now Marvin is giving me that "it does not compute" look. I get that a lot. Or maybe it's just Marvin's default expression; he's got brass fixtures for eyes, nose, and ears, so it's a little hard to read.

The visitor.

It looks like we're getting a visit from the hair-hat in chief early next week. Trump will be here in Central New York in an attempt to boost the campaigns of two, maybe three regional republican representatives whose seats are seen as vulnerable in this November's mid-term elections. I understand he'll do one of his signature Klan rallies for GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik at Fort Drum in Jefferson County, then shuttle over to some rubber chicken fundraiser for our own Rep. Claudia Tenney, the Alex Jones-style congress member from New Hartford, my old home town. (Full disclosure: I graduated high school with her brother Bob and was a senior when she was a sophomore ... so trust me, I know where she's getting it from.) Maybe he'll stump for Syracuse area Rep. John Katko, as well, though I don't know that it would do him a lot of good.

Rep Tenney, ca. 1977Trump's fundraiser for Tenney, reportedly, will be private, not open to the public, no lying media allowed. Like most politicians (Tenney included), he prefers a controlled crowd of sycophants to any even nominally open forum. At Fort Drum, however, Trump will be howling and baying his praise of Tenney, Stephanik, and others for co-sponsoring another crap piece of legislation that will pour more money into the base and build a fence around the former installation known as Griffiss, which still houses a raft of military contractors mostly working on high tech. (So, in effect, it's still an air base, with a landing strip that can accommodate pretty much any military aircraft up to and including the C-5 transport.)

I wonder if some of our local conspiracy theorists and Tenney supporters will make their way over to the Fort Drum Klan ... I mean, election rally. Perhaps we will see evidence of the Q-anon movement. Maybe that guy from Oriskany, NY who was flying a klan flag and displaying a black skeleton hanging from a noose will be there. It will certainly be a bigot magnet of the first order, given that Trump is doubling down on his anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric in the run up to the November election, hoping to pump up his base. As Michelle Goldberg said recently, it's clear now that the key appeal to Trump voters in 2016 was not economics, as many have claimed, but good old fashioned hate. Very refreshing.

So, pull your sheets on, people, and grab the tiki torches: your low-rent fuehrer is coming to town.

luv u,

jp

Friday, August 3, 2018

Porpoise in life.

I told you what I saw, Mitch. What else can I say? If you choose not to believe me, well that's your affair. All I can tell you is that I know a primordial proto-whale when I see one, and I SAW one.

Oh, hi. As you can see, our mad science advisor, Mitch Macaphee, and I are having a little scientific disagreement. I am making an empirical argument that primitive whale ancestors still roam the earth, whereas Mitch is advancing a kinetic argument of sorts. In other words, he threw a chair at me. Fortunately, my reflexes are still relatively sound for a man of my years and I was able to duck quickly enough to make it a near miss. Then came the brick bats. Let's just say that I lost the argument, not so much on the merits. More on the bruises. Ouch.

I never suspected Mitch would get so worked up about the field of paleontology. He's more of a physicist, chemist, bomb maker. You never know what he's going to cook up next. Last week he was muttering something about somebody named "Q" he met on the internets. I think he's been watching too many reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In any case, he's been building armaments for some event that's been on the horizon for some time. I know what you're going to say ... we should do something about him. Hey, look - when he shows up on the barricades with some kind of plastic bazooka, THEN call me.

There it is again. Hey, Mitch!While he's been busy with that and Matt's been busy with falcons, I've been woodshedding a bit, trying to teach my arms to play the piano again. (It's faster than teaching your legs.) The archiving project is nearly complete, at least the part about digitizing songs from analog tapes. I still need to clean them up, sort them, etc. Some of them are pretty spare; others come with a vest and a second pair of pants. The whole nine yards, as they say. (I don't know why they say these things.)

Oh, and we dropped an encore episode of Ned Trek at nedtrek.com. It's episode #27, Who Mourns For Science (originally aired in Feb. 2016), which features a giant Carl Sagan. Can't be bad, right? Give it a listen and let me know if it's improved with age. (I know I haven't. That's why I think I'm seeing proto whales.)

Something shiny.

Another week loaded with shiny objects. Trump letting loose a series of crackhead tweets, conducting his campaign-style Klan rallies, stoking conspiracy theories tweeted by his mutant son. But in the midst of all of this (and so much more), a lot is happening throughout this administration that is threatening to do lasting, perhaps permanent damage to the nation and the world. Most of this is not even reported on, mainly because the Trump/Russia investigation and related prosecutions provide such an attractive source of content for our TV networks in particular. CNN, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, etc. .... they have been pointing cameras at this guy since he started his run for president in 2015. As I've said before, it's the reality show that took over the universe, and since the networks love the reality TV format (and viewers tune in), they are taking this opportunity to expand their audiences and rake in some serious bank.

Rick 'splainin' nuk-yuh-ler.They have been busy as hell, too. Just this week, the unbelievably clueless energy secretary Rick Perry (about whose idiocy we did an entire album a few years back) was tooling around upstate New York, stopping at the aging Fitzpatrick nuclear power plant, not so very far from where I'm sitting now. Perry, who originally thought the Energy Department was some kind of lobbying job (!), spouted off about how essential nuclear power is and that investing in it is a "national security" issue. He told our dimwitted local media that the only two types of power sources that are "uninterruptible" (i.e. less vulnerable to attack) are nuclear and coal. This being New York, he probably had to duck while saying it to avoid being hit in the head by a wind turbine ... which is more "uninterruptible" than either of his examples. Then there's solar. (Like I said .... idiot.)

The point being, while Trump fiddles, his minions are burning the nation down, either by pushing world-crushing retro technologies like coal and nuclear, or by packing the courts, or by deregulating the hell out of everything. The press needs to report on this shit. They can STILL talk about the Mueller probe ... just not every hour of every day. If we are going to survive this insane presidency, we have to build awareness around these crucial issues. We need to get our neighbors to think about the courts, think about the environment, think about potential war with Iran or whomever, and we need to come up with solutions that move us in a progressive direction. If we don't do that, losing Trump won't get us very far at all.

Look away from the shiny objects. That's my advice, for what it's worth.

luv u,

jp

Friday, July 27, 2018

Project zero.

Someone's knocking at the front gate - I can hear them. Anti Lincoln, can you see who it is? No, of course you can't see them from down here in the basement. I meant go up stairs and take a look. Jesus .... how did you EVER serve as president? (Actually, I think I may now know the answer.)

Well, I spent this week counting the number of balls I've dropped since the start of the summer. And I don't mean ping pong balls. No, I'm talking about projects started and never finished, plans laid but not implemented, sandwiches assembled but not eaten, sentences commenced but never .... what was I saying? Oh yeah. I never finish anything, and this summer is no exception, folks.

First there was the archive project. I will admit, I did get further on this one than any of the others. I've resurrected about 200 songs, by my rough count, all recorded in the eighties and early to mid nineties. I have the files ... I haven't done anything with them, but I HAVE them. And possession is nine tenths of the law. It's also about ten tenths of this project. No, I haven't abandoned it, but I did need a break from archive land, just as Matt has needed some extra time to go chasing falcons around (see the Utica Peregrine Falcon project site at http://www.big-green.net/falcon).

Think you can shake a tambourine?Then there's the interstellar tour idea we were kicking around. What happened to that? Well, apparently someone kicked it into next week, figuratively speaking. I'm not ruling it out, but no one aside from Marvin (my personal robot assistant) and his inventor, our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee has any inclination towards doing the fucker. And frankly, neither one of them can play an instrument (though Mitch can use instruments in his work ... and Marvin sometimes makes a noise like a fire whistle). That's not the kind of band I can bring to Neptune! Those crystalline ice creatures would laugh us out of orbit, and THEN where would we be.

Okay, so archives all but abandoned, check. Tour forgotten, check. What's left? Project zero? Let's get to work then. But first ... answer the freaking door!

Rattling sabres.

The knives were out for Iran again this week ... not that that's all that different from other weeks in America. Trump dropped an open threat on Twitter, his preferred channel for delivering such messaging. I know he's never read it, but his little all-cap tweet is a blatant violation of Article 2 (principle 4) of the U.N. Charter, which, ratified by the U.S., is the supreme law of the land:

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

Trump being diplomaticOf course, this principle gets violated all the time without consequence, particularly by our own leaders and those of our allied nations. Not sure how, exactly, this prohibition made its way into this document back in the day when the United States was the sole remaining power and the first-ever superpower in world history. We had an enormous hand in erecting this international order, putting ourselves at the very top of the global power structure in as much as we were the only nation to have emerged from the ravages of World War II stronger than before. Why would we include this principle only to violate it consistently for the next seventy years?

My point, I guess, is that this reckless sabre rattling is nothing new. What's new is the fool in command. Trump is offensive in every manner you can name. I think he particularly grates on me because I've always hated reality television, and that more than anything else defines his public persona. After decades of avoiding reality shows like the plague, my fellow Americans elected a reality star president of the United States, and he is now doing his level best to turn our very reality into reality television. Now we not only have to watch the lousy show every day - we are bit players in the freaking show! From my perspective, it's like drinking a pint of urine the moment you get out of bed in the morning. Pleasant.

What's worse than that, though, is the empire crap. Posers like Pompeo and Bolton will use Trump to get their beloved war with Iran. That - and not so much the reality show BS - is what we need to concentrate our energy on.

luv u,

jp

Friday, July 20, 2018

Which bucket?

I know it's the dead of summer, but I'm tired of all this drag-and-drop bullshit. Can't we take a break and hang out in the courtyard for an hour or two, sipping cool drinks and listening to some boss tunes? No? Sheesh.

Okay, so yes, I'm frittering away my summer in the basement of the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, keeping my head down, concentrating on the task before me. What task is that, you may ask? And well you may. Archiving, my friends, archiving. Plowing through decades of audio tape, capturing songs that have never been committed to a hard drive; songs recorded on primitive ribbons of tape, stored away in shoeboxes, and nearly forgotten. Literally hundreds of recordings, the overwhelming majority made by Matt in the privacy of my abandoned bedroom.

Who says you can't carry a tune in a bucket?It's an exhausting undertaking, particularly when you are as work-averse as I am. Still, I've made pretty good progress. I've gotten most of them transferred to digital, and now I'm pruning around the edges, looking for songs that I know exist but haven't located on tape as of yet. I'm also trying to fit all of Matt's Christmas song collections into appropriate buckets -- he did about eleven of them, starting with a handful of songs in 1985 up through 1995. They represent a subset of his total output, but even so, it amounts to about 60 - 70 songs. I'm curating them so that at some point interested parties can listen to each year's collection in its original sequence.

What's the point of this pointless exercise? Well, it's one way to kill a summer ... before the summer kills me. It's kill or be killed in this era of climate change. So I wind my way down to the cool basement and dig through old banker boxes looking for buried treasure from the forgotten eighties. (Forgotten because no one seems to remember much of what happened during that decade.) At some point, I will find a way to post versions of at least a selection of these songs, though I must admit that my preference is for building that big, honking web jukebox I mentioned a few weeks back - just belly up to the interactive console and pick a number between one and three hundred. Sounds like a plan.

Hey, Marvin (my personal robot assistant) .... close the door on your way out. And yes ... that's my way of saying GET OUT.

Some dare.

This has been a hair-on-fire week in American politics, prompted by Trump's bizarre behavior at his ill-prepared Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. There were calls of treason and shameful behavior in the face of a principal "enemy", "adversary", "foe"... whatever Russia may be in the eyes of mainstream politicians and pundits. You know the facts - Trump, of course, contradicted his intelligence advisors, suggesting that he believes Putin's denials regarding the hack against Democrats in particular and the electoral system in general during the 2016 race. He then walked it back - and I mean this literally - like a five-year-old might; that, of course, was enough for those occasional Republican critics of the president. He misspoke on one phrase ... THAT clears it up.

This is waaay too easy....That said, the coverage of this series of incidents has been so over the top it's almost dizzying. Mainstream center-left commentary has portrayed this performance as evidence of treason, selling out the country, proof that Donald Trump is a mere puppet of the nefarious Vladimir Putin. It's a circumstance in which everyone from war hawks like John McCain to drone apologist John Brennan to Rachel Maddow is in full agreement: Trump should have been tougher on the Russians. He should have never held this summit. Our country was "attacked" by Russia. Their interference in our election was "an attack on American Democracy" of a magnitude similar to Pearl Harbor and 9/11. How many died in the battle of Election 2016? Ask these folks.

This much I know: Trump was essentially wasting our time meeting with the Russian president. No significant advance work was done, and God knows there are a lot of issues that should be discussed with Putin and his government, particularly with the latest START treaty cruising toward expiration. That isn't treason so much as Trump being the usual incompetent boob. Now, I have no doubt that the president either has extensive financial interests in Russia in the form of loans from oligarchs and gangsters or would like to do business there in the future and, therefore, is eager to curry favor with the wealthy cabal of gangsters that own that country. I even think it's possible that Trump's laser-like focus on his own self-interest may have prompted him to violate the law by exchanging some pledge of Russia-friendly presidential action for help in the election. Time will tell.

But is Trump some kind of Manchurian candidate? God no. He is loyal to nothing but himself. So in a sense he's a traitor to the country, but only in the same way that most rich people are, placing wealth above all else, forsaking all but self, to paraphrase Adam Smith. On that, he's guilty as charged.

luv u,

jp

Friday, July 13, 2018

Stage fright.

I spy with my little eye ... a boiler. Right over there. You can't see that? It's as big as a commercial refrigerator, for chrissake! What? Oh, right ... I forgot to turn the lights on. Been here too long, man ... I know this place like the back of my hand.

Well, here we are in the Cheney Hammer Mill basement, trying to survive the onslaught of another cycle of global warming-fueled temperature extremes. You have to fill you time with something, right? As I mentioned last week, we tossed around the idea of doing another interstellar tour. That is to say, I tossed it to Marvin (my personal robot assistant), he tossed it back, then I tossed it to Antimatter Lincoln, and he dunked it into the ancient cistern. Call me Kreskin, but it seems to me like nobody wants to do this tour thing.

Somehow it's not a surprise. We haven't been live on stage in a few years, and at that point, the idea of it starts to seem alien and hostile. Now, as it happens, most of our interstellar audiences are both alien AND hostile, so that's not such a bad thing. Still, I shudder to think of what might happen if we attempt a show on an outdoor stage on Titan and just freeze up like statues. (Not from fright, you understand - the surface temperature of Titan is minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit. My point is ... aside from being frozen solid, we might be intimidated by the crowd as well.)

Cold as Titan. Now I know what that old saying means.I'm guessing there's a little pill we can take for stage fright. And there's probably one we can take for 290 degrees below, too. I'm sure we're not the only band to grapple with these types of questions. Why, I hear Mumford and Sons spent a week on Neptune waiting for a connecting flight to Proxima Centauri. Nobody said this was going to be easy, people. Look on the bright side. We have Mitch Macaphee, our own in-house mad scientist, who will no doubt contrive (or perhaps borrow from one of his fellow madmen) an appropriately appointed interstellar spacecraft. We've got, I don't know ... Marvin, who can ... lift very heavy things. We've got the mansized tuber who ... will not be joining us because he's taken root in the garden. Okay, scratch that.

Anyhow, the jury's out on this tour, people. Don't look at me - tell it to the band. They've been in the basement too long.

Justice denied.

Someone in recent days referred to Trump's new Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh as the Zelig of modern Republican politics as he has apparently played a role in nearly every major GOP political endeavor over the past quarter century. He worked with Ken Starr during the Clinton investigation in the 1990s and reportedly penned some of the crazier passages in the infamous Starr report. He served on the George W. Bush presidential campaign and played an important role in the Florida recount controversy, subsequently taking a job in the Bush White House, where he met his wife. Bush then appointed him to the DC Circuit Court, though not without a struggle.

Don't even think about it.Of course, none of this would be considered disqualifying for a lifetime appointment on the nation's highest court. That said, let's not pretend that appointment and confirmation isn't an intrinsically political process, much as impeachment is. If an attorney can refuse a juror based on the way he or she looks, I think it's fair to expect that a senator has every right to reject a presidential nominee on the basis of his or her judicial philosophy. The right always attempts to characterize their "originalist" approach to constitutional law as a pragmatic practice of calling balls and strikes, following the law and the constitution as written, etc. The truth is far more complicated, of course - they have a political agenda that they've been pursuing relentlessly for decades while the center-left has been asleep on this issue. That's why, even with Kennedy, we have a Supreme Court that's well to the right of the American people.

So, given the fact that we are a politically divided nation (there are more people on the center-left than on the right, but let's call it even for the nonce) and given the fact that judicial appointments are always made with a political agenda in mind, why the hell don't we leave the Court the way it is, split down the middle, 4 to 4? It worked for Mitch McConnell in 2016, and frankly, it worked for me, too, particularly with decisions like Freidrichs v. California Teachers Association. As long as we as a nation are politically polarized, our highest court should reflect that polarization. A raft of 4-to-4 ties would simply mean there would be no national precedents set unless there was an unusual level of consensus on a specific case, such that one or more members of the opposition joined in a majority opinion. That seems like a better situation than having a permanent, predictable reactionary majority on the Court that is way out of step with public sentiment and basic human needs.

So, count me among those who say denial is better than delay. Block Trump's appointment - Kavanaugh or no - and leave the Court at eight justices.

luv u,

jp

Friday, July 6, 2018

Tourmageddon.

Idle hands do the devil's work, right? What about idle minds? Are they commandeered by some other malevolent agency? Inquiring minds want to know.

We appear to have arrived at the doldrums of summer a bit early here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill in beautiful upstate New York. Just finishing up a stretch of 90-degree plus days, some of them feeling over 100 degrees with the humidity. When it gets like that, we go subterranean - down into the cavernous basement of the mill, where it's about 30 degrees cooler and wherein we have built an alternative habitat of sorts. Makeshift furniture made of bits and bobs. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has a charging station set up down there. It's a big, dank, windowless home away from home, perfect for summer staycation.

Okay, I'm exaggerating. It's anything but perfect. It's drab as hell and it reeks down here. Even worse, there's nothing to freaking do except scratch on the walls and think about shit. That's where the idle minds come in. I don't remember if it was my idea or someone else's, but at some point we got to talking about how we haven't done a tour in years, why that was the case, and where we would go if we decided to go on the road again. Before we knew it, we were scratching out the rough outline of a 40-city tour, using a sharp piece of slate on the cellar wall. I say rough because Anti-Lincoln can't tell the difference between Jupiter and Saturn - he keeps mixing them up, putting the rings around the wrong one. You may think that's a detail, but once you're out in interplanetary space, these details matter.

Io, Lincoln? I don't know ... Okay, so .... here's the hole we dug ourselves into, at least on paper (or, rather, concrete). Two weeks of engagements in the greater Jovian system - you know, the Great Red Spot, then on to Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto (we limit ourselves to the Galilean moons because, well, they're more well-rounded). As stop-over at Saturn and Titan (always a lively show). Then from there, straight out of the solar system, assuming we can rent a vessel that will handle interstellar travel. Our mad science adviser Mitch Macaphee says he knows a guy. We'll see about that.

I must confess - I'm not sold on this idea, but if it keeps my colleagues content for a couple of weeks, there will be peace in the basement. And when the heat wave breaks, then maybe I can talk them out of another tourmageddon.

Bad alliance.

We started this week with some news flash about North Korea expanding its uranium enrichment capability. NBC talking heads were all on the job, rolling out the standard script on how the North Korean commies can't be trusted, how they've done this with successive U.S. administrations from Clinton forward, and how they've rolled a feckless president Trump by flattering him, gaining a massive concession - essentially, the prestige of a summit with the U.S. president - in exchange for nothing. There's broad agreement on this point on MSNBC, for example, meaning that everyone on the network who detests Trump, from National Review editors to Democratic party strategists, are saying roughly the same thing.

With friends like these ...What emerges is the same bipartisan consensus that has driven bad foreign policy decisions through administrations of both parties for as long as I've been alive (and, in truth, longer). It feels to me very much like the assholes vs. the fuckers, and while I certainly don't want the fuckers running everything, it's hard to support the assholes and maintain my self-respect. Now, before someone accuses me of Jimmy Dore-like animus toward strategic voting (note: I always vote strategically, specifically to avert the avoidable and wholly predictable disaster that's unfolding right now), I do have a slight preference for the assholes. But what we need is a radically new approach to national security and international relations - one that would make all of those pundits shake their heads.

This means more than simply not getting ourselves into "stupid" wars. This involves a deeper realization that we do not have the right to launch wars of choice under any circumstances. Radical change means a foreign policy that focuses on what's good for people both inside and outside of our national borders, not just what's good for U.S. based corporations and the rich people who own them. It means saying goodbye to the notion of an American empire and winding down the military machine, diverting resources to domestic economic security and international disaster relief efforts. It means owning the darker chapters of our history and being accountable for them as a nation.

Whatever we do in the short term to stanch the bleeding of this increasingly autocratic administration, we must keep a sharp vision in mind of where this country should go and seek to articulate that vision to our friends, our families, our co-workers, our neighbors, and strangers we meet.  If we overcome our short-term problems in part by making common cause with people we disagree with, it's essential that we keep our eye on a better future ... one that they may not want at all.

luv u,

jp

Friday, June 29, 2018

Carbon trail.

Where the hell is that thing. It looks like, I don't know ... a futuristic space gun, or someone's concept of what a 1980s weapon would look like back in 1953. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Oh, hi. Just digging out the old technology here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, which (oddly enough) appears to contain every object I have ever owned and then some. It's like that house you keep returning to in your dreams - you know ... the one that looks kind of like the house you grew up in but that has a whole extra wing built onto one side that you never knew existed. You've been there, right? Or is that just me? I think it must be me. (I've been answering that very same question for decades now.)

Okay, so today, I asked Marvin (my personal robot assistant) to dig up my old demagnetizer. It's a plastic thing that looks like a cross between an electric iron and a glue gun, and it's used to service the heads on analog tape recorders, which tend to get magnetized after scraping against that magnetic tape for hours upon hours. Why is that a bad thing? I haven't any idea. All I can say is that, when Marvin gets magnetized, it can be extremely problematic ... especially if he's outside when the street cleaning machine comes along. (We had to pry him off that thing with a snow shovel once. It wasn't pretty.)

Go easy, Marvin.Small wonder the heads on my antiquated cassette tape machine have picked up a charge; I've been running hours of tape through that thing as part of my summer project to archive and restore Big Green's early recordings (1984-96) as well as some even more primordial stuff from the early 80s. Since practically all of the songs were recorded on analog audio cassette, which doesn't hold up all that well over the decades, it's just as well that I'm getting to this now. By the end of the process, I hope to have remastered early mixes of 150 to 200 songs, the vast majority written by my illustrious brother, Matt. That shiny tape makes for a bewildering trail (which is, in fact, pretty close to the title of one of those 200 songs).

You folks have heard a few examples from our early work. After this project is done, I expect you'll hear more, but don't quote me. I may get demagnetized before that happens.

In the white room.

Three big Supreme Court decisions this week, all stemming from one big electoral decision we all made two years ago. If one were to make the point that elections have consequences, one could hardly do it more effectively than by offering these disastrous judicial outcomes as evidence. For the life of me, I will never understand why Americans on the left side of the political spectrum do not consider the makeup of the Supreme Court (and the federal judiciary more broadly) as a voting issue of primary importance. I may be thinking about a lot of things when I mark that ballot, but no single item more than that of who will be deciding these cases for the next 30 years.

Trump's new BFF.This fact is about to be brought home to us all in a far more profound way: Justice Kennedy has announced that he will retire at the end of next month, and I have no doubt that Trump and McConnell will ram a nominee through the confirmation process faster than anyone can imagine. That will lock in a 5-4 reactionary majority on the Court that will be with us for a generation, reversing Roe v. Wade, detonating the remnants of the Voting Rights Act, and generally demonstrating that the Court cannot be relied upon to serve as a bulwark against aggressive extremism. I was never a big fan of Kennedy. Sure, he was the fifth vote on some crucial cases affecting LGBTQ rights and so on, but he is a stingy old stick who apparently isn't even giving a second thought to allowing this unstable president to choose his successor.

It's revenge of the white people. With the demographic tide turning against Republicans, the only way they can continue to win elections is through gerrymandering, voter fraud accusations, and an attack on the franchise wherever and whenever brown people dare to exercise it. They've made their way into power, and now they are bending every effort to close and lock the door behind them. They are able to keep us in their little white room because, since 2009, we have been either unable or unwilling to stop them from building and consolidating their control of government at every level.

So, what we have now is the same problem we had two, four, eight, and ten years ago. We just need to be willing to fight back in as many ways as are available to us. One is voting. Another is protest. But first and foremost, contact your senators and tell them to dig in, pull out the stops, and do whatever they can to keep Trump from appointing another Gorsuch.

luv u,

jp

Friday, June 22, 2018

Flutter and wow.

Are two wells better than one? Depends on how thirsty you are. Oh ... you're talking about CASSETTE recorders. Right, well ... I have no position on that. No, wait ... play one tape at a time, that's my position. The Joe has spoken!

Caught me in the middle of a little philosophical discussion with one of Big Green's longest standing advisors, Antimatter Lincoln (or Anti-Lincoln, for short). Why he's been standing so long, I don't know. I think it's because when he was a kid he saw the audio animatronic Lincoln try to sit down and fall on his robot ass. (The other presidents assembled on stage nodded approvingly as the techs carried Abe away.) In any case, we're hashing over the fine points of obsolete technologies, particularly in the audio sphere. (Hey ... there's a band name for you. Audiosphere. No? Okay, then.)

My little summertime project is well underway. As I mentioned some time back, I have set myself to building a digital archive of most if not all of our recordings of original songs dating back to the days of the dinosaurs. (Or the days of Dinah Shore ... whichever comes first.) Anyhow, I am pulling old recordings from our pile of audio cassettes, and it's kind of strange. They range in audio quality from something approaching early wire recordings to cheap basement demos, with a few standouts that have some production values. Taken as a whole, it's a musical taxonomy of the thing called Big Green, which was born the day Matt recorded "Sweet Treason" back in 1984 and has slouched sightlessly toward the horizon ever since.

I THINK it goes a little something like this ...There were songs before Big Green, of course, and I've been digging through those as well. Matt started recording pretty much as soon as he could tell one end of a guitar from the other. Both he and I were always fascinated by tape recorders and other gear. We had a shrimpy little portable monaural reel-to-reel machine when we were kids, about the size of a steno pad, which we would use to record hastily contrived audio plays, jokes, and other bullshit. Matt recorded his first songs on an old SONY stereo reel-to-reel that kind of half worked. I remember working out a method for overdubbing, using a digital delay - you could arm one of the two channels for recording, run the playback of the other channel through the delay, and it would line up pretty closely. Then came the four-track cassette portastudio.

What will the final product of this be? Hell knows. I picture this big online jukebox where you can play any Big Green song you like. It's got flashing lights and an ashtray. That's as far as I've gotten.

Hostage crisis.

It took more than a week of growing pressure, but it appears Trump has blinked on the policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S. border. That hasn't stopped them from using these people as hostages in an effort to pass draconian revisions to the country's immigration laws. More than 2,300 minors, including many under 5 years old, remain in detention facilities across the country, under separate administrative jurisdiction than the entities that are holding their immigrant parents. Very little has changed, in effect, for these families that have been dismembered by this bigoted administration, acting out the fever-dreams of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions and would-be school shooter Steven Miller (a.k.a. worst speechwriter in the history of the profession) in an effort to seem "tough" on those dark foreigners their constituents love to hate.

Miller, pictured here after drinking a tall glass of children's tears.As reported by Chris Hayes and commented on by the folks at The Majority Report, more than 90% of the adults with children caught crossing the border are being charged with a federal misdemeanor. So for a "crime" equivalent in the federal government's eyes to transporting water hyacinths (title 18, section 46) or improperly using the image of Smokey the Bear (section 711), you can have your children taken away. That sounds fair, right? Still, to hear many Republican legislators or garden-variety Trump supporters describe it, a substantial number of these people are either (1) human traffickers posing as families, or (2) crisis actors deliberately trying to make Trump look bad. The first one is hilarious. In what world does a human trafficker bring just one kid across the border, let alone in a manner likely to get them arrested? Pretty bad business model for someone trying to profit off of human misery. (Claim #2 is just too ridiculous to comment on.)

My substandard Congressional representative, the fragrant Claudia Tenney, made a statement about this matter that parrots the administration, right down to the invocation of MS13, a Los Angeles-born gang whose terror is forcing many of the people she denounces into refugee status in the first place. No surprises there. For Trump and his GOP allies, like Tenney, this is really just a test of zero-tolerance policy moving forward. If we swallow this, what else can they put on our plates? It doesn't require a lot of imagination to guess where they might go next. There are 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, give or take a few hundred thousand. If Trump and company choose to go "zero-tolerance" on them, we will end up with that "deportation force" he was threatening to establish during the campaign. Very likely, this is just the beginning, particularly as the White House is ranging around for ways to light a fire under their base in advance of the mid-term elections.

Collectively (and individually), we have to decide how much of this thuggish behavior we're willing to tolerate before we ALL stand in the street. Stay tuned.

luv u,

jp

Friday, June 15, 2018

Inside June.

The Show So Far: First there were two guys talking, then we saw some cartoons, then a fully dressed naval officer jumped into the North Sea, then there were more cartoons, then some guy told us about what happened so far, then .... Oh, wait ... that was another show. Sorry.

As some of you may have noticed, we dropped the June 2018 installment of our podcast THIS IS BIG GREEN, which breaks a kind of long hiatus. Still, it's 2-½ hours of stuff, including eight new songs, so hey ... that took some time. We may reside in a hammer mill, but we're not running a factory here, man. Unless you count the robots Mitch Macaphee plugs together in the basement. (He's considering establishing an assembly line. Not sure where that's going, exactly.)

Anywho, if you haven't listened to it yet, here's what to expect:

Ned Trek 37 - Return to The Carl. This ludicrous musical episode of our Star Trek parody Ned Trek is based on the classic Trek episode entitled Return to Tomorrow, which had the Enterprise crew come across a dead civilization whose only survivors concealed themselves in glowing orbs and who talked Kirk, Spock, and some random scientist into letting them use their bodies to build android bodies the space aliens could use permanently. The head alien's name was "Sargon". In our version, it's Sagan. The heavy from the planet's "other side" is played by Edward Teller - he occupies Ned's body, then calls everybody "puny". Silliness ensues. Featured songs include:

Light Thing. A doc song, referring to the glowing orb receptacle that held Sagan's consciousness (as opposed to the bubble gum machine that held Teller's). Put your childish things away.

Sagan's Song. Just what it sounds like - a Broadway-like number sung by Carl Sagan in which he lays out his ambitious plan for making the crew of the Free Enterprise smarter than total lunkheads. (Or, failing that, teaching them better table manners.)

Risk Is Your Business. Romney song based on Kirk's heroic monologue from the Star Trek episode we based this on, only cross-pollinated with what unconsciously approaches a Marxist critique of capitalism. Oh, and sung in a French accent. Don't ask me why.

Congratulations. Sung by the Nixon android, this touches on the usual Nixonian tropes of resentment, bitterness, self-aggrandizement, etc. Sixties-style "na-na-na" singalong thrown in for good measure.

Here's what we got for you, folks!Teller. A literally incendiary musical rant sung in the voice of Edward Teller while in Ned's body. Think of it as a love sonnet to the H-bomb. Super.

The Other Side. Perle sings this perky little number about all the advantages of trading with the other side, whatever side that may be.

Fat Captain. A wrenching Sulu song about how Shatner soaked up the limelight at his expense back in the day. Based on a true story or two.

Blow The Man Down. Show-ender by Sagan, mopping up after the mess made during the preceding 90 minutes of ridiculousness. A song of grateful resignation. And yes, you get to hear Carl Sagan singing "dum dum-de-doo." You're welcome.

Put The Phone Down. Our typical impromptu back-and-forth gab session starts with a rough rendition of "All Saints Come", a song off of our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas. It goes downhill from there. Just give it a listen, you'll see.

Opposite day.

Trump finally did something constructive - met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un - and the chorus of protest is deafening. I'm not a deep-state conspiracy theorist, but that broad consensus around our imperial foreign policy does not look favorably upon this development. Readers of this blog may recall that I have occasionally wondered aloud (or in html text) whether there are deeper motivations behind this 70-year-old war that never ends. The U.S. relationship with South Korea is one part alliance and perhaps two parts lord/serf. That second component became more evident when Trump announced that there would be no more "war games" - just the use of that term alone exploded heads throughout the talk-show tele-verse.

Right, but still a total dickAs Bruce Cumings and others have pointed out for many years, the South Korean military is essentially under the command of U.S. generals. That is, in the event of a war, South Korean commanders would take orders directly from our military. Add to that the fact that the U.S., South Korea, and North Korea have technically been in a state of war since 1950, and you have a sense of how this works. Think about it - what does it say about South Korea's sovereignty that they are not in control of their military? Recall, too, that the country was under the rule of generals and assorted dictators into the 1980s, all backed by the U.S. So when a president threatens the sanctity of "military exercises", essentially admitting that they are, in fact, war games and, as such, "provocative," as Trump accurately described them, national security reporters and consultants on every network start spinning like crazy.

In all honesty, Trump is a disaster in practically every respect. But his ideology is simply himself. Absent imperial designs, the Korea problem has always been a relatively easy one to solve, given the right conditions - namely, sane leadership in South Korea like Moon Jae-in. The North has always, always wanted direct talks with the United States. Their nuclear weapons program was obviously an attempt to build a credible deterrent to a preeminent military power that literally laid waste to their country in the 1950s. All Trump had to do was say yes. Would Obama have done the same thing, given the same conditions? Hard to say. Trump's one advantage is that he's not hide-bound by training and knowledge. In other words, it sometimes takes a dunderhead to see the obvious.

Lest this sound like a praise fest, trust me, I have no illusions about this president. With Bolton and Pompeo at his side, he's probably doing this to free us up for a war with Iran. We're already helping Saudi and the UAE pound the living shit out of Yemen. So, eyes open, this is one good thing in a sea of troubles, and we should encourage our compatriots to see both the benefits and the risks. In other words, tell Democrats, liberal talking heads, etc., not to take the other side just because it's Trump. War in Korea would be an unmitigated disaster - anything that ends that threat is a good thing.

luv u,

jp

Friday, June 8, 2018

Going up.

What the hell's that sound? The street sweepers again? Probably a lawn mower. Lawn mowing! What the hell is this neighborhood coming to?

Well, here I am, down in the basement of the Cheney Hammer Mill, tapping away at my keyboard as I often do this time of week. Strange how you can hear everything that's going on outside from down here. Of course, there are probably mouse holes in this place you can drive a front-loader through. Though I have to admit - I myself have never seen a mouse drive a front-loader. It would be one way to defend themselves from those awful snap traps. Diabolical contraptions!

Anyway, summer has kind of arrived here in upstate New York, now that we're on the climate change calendar, so naturally my mind turns to more leisurely pursuits. I know what you're thinking - what on Earth could be more leisurely than being a member of a band that never plays anywhere? Well, you might be surprised by my response to that question. I find all kinds of pointless uses for my time. My illustrious brother Matt, not so much - always doing things, that one. Me? My natural state is at rest. And while I spend most of the year going up the stairs, in the summer I go down them.

This thing's friggin' WRECKED!My summer pass-times usually include deep archive stuff - you know, threading old reel-to-reel tapes onto antiquated and dysfunctional playback machines, just to get a momentary listen in to what they contain. We have a few of those, and many, many audio cassettes with both stereo and four-track content. We also have Hi-8 DAT tapes from our Tascam DA-88 days (the system we used to record our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas) and, of course, standard DAT cassettes. I'm guessing that if you add it all up, it would amount to less content than we've produced in just the last five years, but it may be close. Matt did a lot of recordings in the 80s and 90s - probably hundreds of original songs.

Oh, then of course there's our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN. My guess is that we will be posting the next episode in just a few days, but I'm terrible at predicting things, so I won't say anything. Beyond what I just said. Arrgghh ... I'm no good at this. Should probably be mowing the lawn.

Old glory, old story.

Flag day is next week - as it happens, the very day I'm scheduled for a colonoscopy. (Coincidence?) That said, it has felt like flag month - or even flag year - in this obligatory cheap seat reality show known as the Trump era. Literally must-see t.v., right? This past week we were treated to the hilarious spectacle of our trust-fund baby president with his hand over his heart, faking his way through a martial rendition of God Bless America by what looked like the Marine band. (Bad Lip Reading did a good version of this.) The occasion was Trump's decision to un-invite the Philadelphia Eagles over the National Anthem "take-a-knee" controversy, which he exploits as a means of race-baiting and working up his bigoted base.

Stand beside her ... This transparent political ploy prompted some complaints among talking heads that this was in some way unprecedented. Nothing could be further from the truth. The national anthem, the flag, all of these superficial patriotic symbols have been used for political purposes pretty much my entire life through. Nixon rolled out the flag all the time, as did Reagan. The now-sainted George H.W. Bush made the pledge of allegiance a kind of litmus test for patriotism during the 1988 election. And protests like flag-burning become a major culture-war issue from time to time, particularly when the Republicans are in power and they have little else to complain about (because they're getting their way).

So aside from being a far more transparently pathetic pantomime, there's nothing unprecedented about a president demagoging the flag, the national anthem, etc. Trump is just talking to that 25 to 30 percent of the U.S. population that would follow him off a cliff and then back up the mountain again. He may be a big, greasy, over-privileged ball of shit, but to them he represents the very embodiment of white aggrievement. The bulk of his followers - not all working class by a long shot, by the way - respond to this kind of symbolism as well as his complementary attacks on people of color, with particular attention to those who attain some level of status (like professional athletes).

Reality television has taken over the Republic - that's kind of new. But speaking as someone who has lived through the Nixon administration, the Iran hostage crisis, 9/11, and more, wrapping abusive politics in the flag is anything but.

luv u,

jp

Friday, June 1, 2018

Dictating machine.

Hmmmm.... damn thing won't upload. Stupid internets! Marvin - are you on the phone again? You're supposed to wait until I'm done using the web. Stupid phone!

Man, I'll tell you - it's not easy living in an abandoned hammer mill. None of the familiar modern conveniences of American life. No wi-fi, no broadband, no blender, no dry ice ... I could go on. But we're used to that sort of thing. As you know, Big Green has always flown pretty low to the ground. That's why so many of our contemporaries have become famous while we remain in the alt-pop toilet. When we go low, they go high. It's like a freaking see-saw. (Did you see what I saw?)

Anyhow, people like us, we learn to do without. When Matt and I were piecing together the first iteration of this band, back in the late seventies / early eighties, we had the cheapest equipment any band ever thought of using. Our PA speakers sounded like kazoos. Our guitar and keyboard amps were underpowered and flaccid. Even worse, we never had anything decent to record on. One stereo reel-to-reel deck followed us around for a while, but it was of little use beyond serving as a tape echo. A friend of our early eighties drummer, Phil Ross, gave us his old dictaphone mono take deck, which we used to record demos of songs we might take into the studio if we could get the scratch together (which we did, eventually).

Yeah, that's the shit.It took a couple of years, but at some point we moved up to a Panasonic audio cassette deck, the kind that you would use in a home stereo system. We used that and a couple of mics to record ourselves playing in the living room, etc. (Excerpts of those sessions made it on to Matt's very early compilation, "The Todd Family Chronicles".) Matt got a second deck and started bouncing tracks, overdubbing, then around 1985 he bought his first cassette portastudio. That kind of took us to a different place musically, though where that place is, I'm not entirely certain. As we could, we got better gear, but our songwriting and recording process has remained about the same as it was with that first portastudio.

Now we record like everybody else does - on a freaking computer. Fact is, a depiction of pretty much any profession now looks like somebody sitting at a freaking computer.

Descent of man.

When I was about 14, I got obsessed with books of various descriptions and started ordering volumes practically at random from overstock houses like Publisher's Central Bureau and others. One of the mail-order books I pored over was an oversized tome titled Prop Art, which I still have in the bookcase in my office. It's an illustrated history of propaganda posters from the late nineteenth Century up until the 1970s, and some of the most memorable iclasllustrations were those of pseudo-scientific racist posters and handbills from one of the neo-NAZI stormtrooper organizations in the 1960s. One sickening example presented a comparison between a black person and a gorilla, arguing feature-by-caricatured-feature that the two were very similar and that the "Races are definitely NOT equal".

Could've seen THAT coming.I thought of that poster this week when the Rosanne Barr story broke. I will admit that I was never among her fans, but I like to think that fandom would not have kept me from despising her when she started hurling racist epithets. The fact is, that did not start this past week. Since her hey-day in the 1980s-90s, apparently Barr has been careening to the right, adopting and promoting bizarre-ass conspiracy theories, endorsing an increasingly more militarist and oppressive Israeli government, race baiting black women and Muslims, and so on. Clearly, ABC - which has garnered a lot of pundit credit for having fired Barr so quickly - never should have hired her in the first place. But then again, they are in business to make money, right?

We may as well face it - when it comes to the major media content corporations, the bottom line is the bottom line. ABC had a big hit on their hands with Barr, until she, quite predictably, shit all over it by letting her bigoted freak flag fly. They probably made some of the money they were planning on making. NBC did the same thing with Donald Trump. As Lawrence O'Donnell has pointed out, NBC made Trump's bones as a reality television star, kept him on the air through his racist "birther" campaign against Obama, and ran his election rallies from end-to-end during the campaign. That, more than anything, made that bigot president. But it also made NBC money. And as that CBS chief executive said after the election, it may be bad for the country but it's good for the corporation.

So I guess some congratulations should go to our corporate media for propelling the descent of man that is the Trump era. Nice work, folks.

luv u,

jp

Friday, May 25, 2018

Record plant.

Is that where the part comes in? Doesn't seem right, but ... okay. Just can't trust my ears. Not after Cowboy Scat, our last million seller. (We've got a million in our cellar.)

Hello, Big Greeniacs. We're hip-deep in mixing, as you might have guessed. This batch of songs, composed and recorded for the next episode of Ned Trek, is proving to be both challenging and time-consuming. What the hell, we've been working on these songs since January, and now it's ... what ... May? Really? I should get out more. Anyway ... we've been at it a long time. This better be good.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again - we have recorded enough songs since the release of Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick to make three new albums, with some left over for party favors. After we've finished these six or seven songs, I'm sure we'll be nudging 70 recordings over five years. We don't have much trouble coming up with new material. Monetizing it? That's another issue.

Got a little job for you.Let's face it ... we're crappy capitalists. (Or crapitalists, if you will.) Matt has no interest in money or notoriety. As for me, well, I couldn't sell songs to my mother ... and I did ask nicely. In a world that measures quality in terms of the price the product commands, we strain to reach the lowest rung. Our production quality is commensurate with the resources available to us. (i.e., we're not recording at Big Blue North, even though it's right up the freaking street.) We are evolving in that respect, but like Issa's snail, slowly ... slowly.

Hell, we can't even afford proper production assistants. When Big Green needs craft services, we're reduced to asking Marvin (my personal robot assistant) to carry in a pitcher of tap water and some paper cups. When we try to market or even give away our discs, we either toss them into the street in front of the mill or hang them on the branches of the mansized tuber. (That's why the neighbors have taken to calling him "the record plant.")

Okay, well, I have some mixing to do. We're having biscuits tonight. After that, I'll do more mixing ... of cement for the front walkway. There's something I'm leaving out, but I'm sure it will come to me.