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Friday, November 16, 2018

Fascist songbook.

Sure, you've played that one before. You remember. It's the one about the fascists dropping over for Christmas. Don't remember? Go back and look, dude!

Hiya. As you know, we're still shut up in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, working diligently on the next episode of our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN. And when I say "next", I mean the next couple of episodes, each of which is in a different state of non-completion. This is all about Ned Trek, of course ... that time-consuming mashup of space opera crossed with horse-based comedy and political satire. If I recall correctly, we dreamed that concept up on the planet Neptune, but don't quote me. Matt probably pulled it out of Uranus. Either way.

So ... the most proximate of the "next" episodes is being edited and finished as we speak (are we speaking?). The second "next" episode hasn't been recorded (or even completely written) yet, but that one's a musical, so we've been working on songs that will go into the episode. That installment of Ned Trek will be based on the Nazi episode of Star Trek, so pretty much all of the songs are about fascists, past and present. That's right, folks .... around the studio lately it's been Nazi this and Nazi that. We're calling the fuckers out, people, and in the most ridiculous ways. Word.

Okay, how about a song about that?Not that we haven't cultivated that particular field before, you understand. It's just that we're digging in a bit this year. It's partly due to the specific Star Trek episode we're mocking, but hey, let's face it ... there are a lot of neo-fascists taking power just lately, including the clownish variety we have here in the states (to say nothing of the right-wing brown shirt organizations we deal with at the street level these days), so these songs aren't exactly historical documents, per se. We're jamming on current affairs, people. Ripped from the headlines, as it were. It's enough to make Marvin (my personal robot assistant) blow a fuse or two. Just so long as he doesn't grow a little mustache.

I know ... we're on a slow roll here in Big Green land, but we will get back to posting podcasts in the weeks ahead, honest. Look for a new episode soonish .... now with more Nazis.

Paradise lost.

The California town of Paradise was wiped out by climate change this week. Now even network weather forecasters are saying that these wild fires that have now claimed 59 lives and counting are fueled in large measure by global warming. When I see the images of this catastrophe on television, it makes me wonder what the national response would be if these homes had been destroyed by a terror bombing or a hijacked plane. No doubt we would move heaven and earth to hold the perpetrators accountable (along with anyone even tangentially associated with them) and to prevent future attacks. What has the federal response been to these fires? Initially, blame the victim. Trump was in an election-related snit and so resorted to parroting his Interior Secretary on the matter. Classy, as always.

A bomb goes off in California.Thousand Oaks, California - located in one of the wild fire zones - had to deal with three national policy failures in the same week. One was the lack of national gun control legislation and strong enough restrictions on gun ownership at the state level. The second was foreign policy - the shooter was a veteran of the Afghan war, though it's not entirely clear that this was a factor (he had mental issues before going into the service). Then, of course, Thousand Oak residents had barely begun to grieve for their lost loved ones when these fires descended on them. Just an astonishing confluence of hardships, all representing the abject failure of our government to take meaningful steps on any of these issues.

Meanwhile, the president is busy spinning out nonsensical lies about voter fraud, making as much noise as possible in order to distract and deflect from the collapse of his one-party rule that took place over the last week. About the only value there is in listening to the man's spew is that it offers some rough insight into their electoral strategy moving forward. The losses hurt a great deal, but the close races in formerly red states are what really worry the Republicans. Their shrinking advantage can only be preserved through the usual methods of voter suppression and intimidation, some of which we are seeing right now.

How do we fight back? Like we did last Tuesday, except harder. It's the only chance we have to stop this toxic regime that's so dedicated to making our most difficult problems worse.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 9, 2018

Key notes.

Here's the problem. I hit it and it goes "dang", then "hummmmmmm...." I don't want dang and hum. Who the hell wants dang and hum? Dumb-ass technology. I hate the internets!

Oh, sorry. I was just complaining to Big Green's official instrument tech, the dude who lives in the basement. (Actually, I think he may be Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, in a pair of borrowed coveralls.) My 20-year-old keyboard is falling apart, though why I would expect it to survive more than 20 years is beyond me. I am appealing to our tech dude to do some work on it, just in case ... just in case we end up playing somewhere again, sometime soon. You never know, right? Did I ever think I would play on the planet Neptune? Hell no. And yet that happened. Shit happens, right?

What's ailing my old Roland A-90ex? Same thing that ails all similar midi controllers with expansion modules. It's the counterweights to the keys .... they are just poorly designed and liable to crack and sometimes break right off. Especially when you play like a ham-fisted ape (my own distinctive style). That's when you get the "dang", though it's really more like a "clunk" or a "thud". It's actually not too different from a sound we used on our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas, only a little less resonant. So why am I complaining, right? Just crank up the resonance, there's a good chap.

Dang!Right, so .... I realize this isn't a technical blog. That's not what you come here for. You come here for pithy observations and gripping tales of pointless adventures. For instance, I could tell you all about the festive autumnal arrangement in the hammer mill courtyard contrived by the mansized tuber in his spare time, but then this would seem like a gardening blog, and it's anything but that. Or I could tell you about all the lawn signs that were dumped in our driveway following the mid-term elections, but then you'd think this was a political blog, and well .... sometimes it is, but ... not just now!

So, I will conclude this gripping tale of my keyboard repair adventure and return to whatever it was I was doing before I started talking about this. I think it was ... repairing my piano. Right, then.

Racism works.

The surest sign that Democratic voters put a dent in the Trump administration this past Tuesday was the fact that Trump termed the election as a victory for him personally. It was, of course, anything but. His incoherent, rambling press conference on Wednesday lurched from the usual bragging to open hostility to the press to suggestions that he would triangulate with Congressional Democrats on legislation and quite a bit more. Trump, of course, came armed with cherry-picked, extremely contrived and narrow statistics that spoke to the historical uniqueness of his mid-term "victory", claiming that the only Republicans who lost were the ones that refused his "embrace". (He's conveniently forgetting the apparent one-term loser Claudia Tenney, who fully embraced him and had the entire Trump family visit her district - including the hair hat in chief himself - at various points during the campaign in a desperate attempt to cling to her seat.)

Voter supression poster childrenThat said, among my biggest disappointments on Tuesday night was the failure of Andrew Gillum to win the Governorship in Florida - not for want of trying, I should add. I could say the same for Stacey Abrams in Georgia. Two tantalizingly close races, which suggests that a bit more GOTV might have put them over the top. Or perhaps not. After all, about a million voters have been dropped from the rolls in Georgia over the last few years, thanks in large measure to the efforts of Abrams' opponent. That's one way to ensure victory. Another is not to allow them to register in the first place, as has been the case with ex-felons in Florida, though as of Tuesday we now know this will change.

Then of course there are the overtly racist tirades offered by our crackpot president, warning of dark, diseased people menacing our southern border from hundreds of miles away, suggesting that two eminently qualified black candidates for governor are somehow not ready for the job, calling Gillum a crook, etc. Add that to the usual racist nonsense that goes on around election time (e.g. clumsily offensive robocalls from white nationalist groups), and it may have been enough to keep either candidate from going over the 50% mark. (Then there's voter I.D. laws and the like, but I'll stop there.)

I know people want to believe that good triumphs over evil, even if it sometimes takes a little while. That's seldom the case. When good people do nothing, evil does as it pleases. If we let racism prevail, it sets a toxic precedent that is hard to reverse.

luv u,

jp

Friday, November 2, 2018

Reading me?

CQ, CQ ... come in, Rangoon. This is ground station Hammermill calling all ships at sea. If you read me, come in. Ahoy, ship! Damn it. Turn the crank a little harder, Marvin. There's a good chap.

Yeah, well ... just trying something a little different this week, since our latest episode of THIS IS BIG GREEN is still under construction and I'm too freaking lazy to post any songs or other media files. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) dug up an old radio transmitter down in the basement of the mill, and we've been trying to fire the thing up ever since. This should come naturally to us, as Matt's and my father was a Ham radio operator, but alas ... I spent my childhood assiduously avoiding the acquisition of any useful knowledge or skills, and if I do say so myself, I was remarkably successful at that endeavor.

Anyway, the old radio works like this. I pick up the microphone, put on the metal headphones, and tell Marvin to start turning the crank in the side of the big old metal box, which apparently turns some kind of generator inside. Now, I'm not a scientist, but (and this is a big but) it seems to me that a few turns of the crank would be enough to power this antique for a few minutes, but no. The little on-air light blinks off almost as soon as Marvin stops turning the crank. Looks like Rangoon will have to stay out for a while longer.

Where's the ham?There are a lot of things a grown man can do in his spare time, particularly someone with so many half-baked hobbies such as myself. Why I spend even five minutes with this hunk of junk is beyond me. And then there's the radio. (Sorry Marvin - that was low hanging fruit.) I suppose I could become an inventor like Mitch Macaphee, or an antimatter president like Anti-Lincoln, or a large sweet potato like the mansized tuber, but there are individuals already filling those vital roles in society. Perhaps wisdom, in part, is recognizing your place in the world and trying to make the best of it. Or perhaps not ... perhaps wisdom is something else entirely ... in part. (And perhaps my favorite hobby is sophistry.)

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to try to make contact with someone - anyone - in Madagascar. CQ ... CQ ..... Come in, Madagascar!

Fourteenth.

Very nearly speechless after the heinous massacre of Jewish congregants in Pittsburgh. I am glad, at least, that reporting on this atrocity has attempted to capture the motivations of this neo-fascist killer. He was driven to attack the Tree of Life Synagogue by his outrage over the work of HIAS, a century-old Jewish organization dedicated to resettlement of refugees from around the world. The president's, his party's, and conservative media's fulminations about the approach of an "invasion" of Honduran refugees, supposedly funded by "globalists" like George Soros, no doubt contributed to the shooter's sense of urgency. And, of course, he had an AR-15 handy. Why not, right?

Two thumbs up (your ass)How did Trump meet this outrage? By doubling down on his anti-immigrant tirade. By sending hundreds of troops to the border to stop a group of poor people a thousand miles away. And by launching an attack on birthright citizenship, the principle at the core of the fourteenth amendment. It's almost as if, while attending a memorial service in Pittsburgh, Trump is doing his best to make it up to the Synagogue shooter for falling short of his racist expectations. He seems to be under the impression, no doubt encouraged by the likes of Steven Miller, that he can, as president, undo the 14th Amendment by executive order or, in a pinch, through legislative action. As usual, Trump is skating on top of another constitutional question about which he knows less than nothing.

Regardless of its vacuity, his attack on the notion of citizenship is a toxic ploy one week in advance of the mid-term elections. As with his scare talk about the refugee "caravan" working its way north, Trump is using birthright citizenship as a tool to gin up his most hardcore supporters, including those on the extreme xenophobic right. For them, this speaks to Trump's core brand proposition - the demonization of people of color that propelled him into the White House on a wave of white resentment. He entered the political arena railing about Obama's birth certificate; essentially, attempting to undermine the legitimacy of his citizenship and, of course, his presidency, and fostering the notion that black people in general are not full citizens, foreign, illegitimate.

Will the ploy work? Tuesday will tell. All I can say is vote, vote, vote, and encourage others to do the same. Let's prove him wrong. Let's put a check on this disaster.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 26, 2018

Casting some pod.

We just did that, man. It's still summer, right? What? October! What the hell ... we've got some work to do. First task: find out what happened to July. (I know I left it around here somewhere.)

Oh ... hi, friends of Big Green. Seems like I've lost track of time just a bit. I'm off by about three months, but hey ... who hasn't lost a quarter, right? It's probably somewhere deep in the sofa cushions. Except that we don't have a cushioned sofa here in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. Just chairs. Stark wooden chairs. We sit, straight as a board, until the darkness comes, then we retire. It's hard, but it keeps us honest. (Honestly ... it's hard! The chair, that is.) We ain't got no time for no podcast stuff round these parts, no how. Now GIT! Ah .... sed .... GIT!

Did somebody see my summer lying around here?Whoops ... lapsed in to Bobby Sweet mode just then. (Not to worry. Bobby Sweet wouldn't hurt no one. He just has a hankering for big guns.) Yeah, I can blame the calendar, I can blame my momentary lapses into stereotypical rural jargon, but when you come right down to it, the fault is mine. We haven't posted a podcast in three months, and it's because we haven't finished an episode in that long. Hell, it took me all summer and half of the fall to write the script for the upcoming installment of Ned Trek. We recorded the audio last week in a couple of hours, and now it's off to editorial. Which is to say, we need to cut the living shit out of it.

Hey, anyone out there who works with audio and video knows, this stuff is time consuming. Especially when you're a lazy sloth like me. I'm a bit more like Bobby Sweet than I care to let on, truth be told. I like to sit back and strum on my old guitar, pound out a few chords on the old piano, drop some canned fruit in the old blender and swear at the fact that it still doesn't work. All I can say is that, despite the distractions, we are working on the THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast and it will appear very soon. Which is to say, it won't be another quarter. Maybe a nickel. Stay tuned!

Seasonal disorder.

Pipe bombs dropped at the homes of prominent opposition political figures. Scare talk about hordes of dark people working their way north towards our southern border. Dog whistles turned up to bullhorn volume in competitive races across the country, including a racist Amos and Andy-style robo call in Florida. This is what election season in the United States looks like in 2018. This is the reality show election that proceeds from the reality show presidency of Donald Trump, who is basically spending all of his time flying to every corner of the country, holding his signature Klan rallies and greasy fundraisers to prop up sagging congressional republicans desperate to hold on to their majority for another cycle.

Another Klan rallyOur local House member, Claudia Tenney in NY-22, is one such republican. Trump came for a fundraiser over the summer; Paul Ryan came by a few weeks ago, and just this week we were treated to the sight of Eric Trump, who gave a pep talk to Tenney's campaign volunteers and staff. For her own part, she has been channeling Trump a bit more than usual, referring to Colgate university as a crazy, left-wing school, whining about "socialists" coming up from downstate to help her opponent, and so on. I suppose she is calculating that, between her own erratic behavior and the spectacle of being carried around on the flabby shoulders of GOP celebrities, she will have enough lift to get over the finish line in November. We shall see.

The net effect of all of this is to further erode the nation's grasp on reality. This is a tried and true method of authoritarian governments - trust nothing but what comes out of Dear Leader's mouth. As Trump said the other day in response to the press's mild skepticism about his claims of "middle eastern" people traveling with the Honduran refugee caravan , "You can't prove anything." Nothing can be proven; therefore, every claim of fact is equal to every other, and those who put their claims forward the most forcefully win the day. This is a recipe for disaster and a roadmap to true authoritarian rule. Perhaps all that's needed now is a Reichstag fire.

My advice to all is pretty simple: vote, vote, vote. Whatever else you do (and by all means, do all you can), you must cast a vote or risk losing that basic right in the months and years to come.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 19, 2018

Grounded.

Hmmm ... leaving kind of a big footprint there, aren't you, Anti-Lincoln? Seems like you've been feeding on a pretty good pasture lately, am I right? No? Ah, okay.

Well, the gravity's back. Isn't that good new?. And now all of us weigh about twenty pounds more than before. Just a little side benefit of Mitch's latest project. (YEAH, MITCH ... THANKS A LOT. Turn that gravity thing down a little, willya?) Something tells me we will need to replace the floor joists in this crumbling old ruin of a hammer mill ... except that I don't know how to do that and I wouldn't know a floor joist if it hit me upside of the head.

Mitch has got this whole gravity thing figured out. He describes swarms of little invisible magnet-like particles he calls "gravitons". Apparently these little critters swarm around you by the thousands, holding you down as the world spins out of control. Without their persistent intercession, we would all fly off into space, the earth shaking us off as it rotates on its axis. Mitch thinks of them as the quantum mechanical equivalent of guardian angels ... which is the reason why he hates them with a mad man's passion. He went into a bit of a rage last night about gravitons, swiping at the invisible particles like he was shooing away mosquitoes. At one point, he appeared to have caught one between his thumb and forefinger, but his triumph was short-lived - the little specter slipped away, eliciting a yelp from the mad scientist as if he had touched a hot stove.

Here they come again, Mitch.Okay, so .... that guy's crazy. And, as Mr. Spock once observed, madness has no reason ... but it can have a goal. That's what Mitch's anti-gravity machine was all about. The device attracts gravitons like a bug zapper, apparently, though it doesn't zap them ... it just keeps them busy so that they can't hold the rest of us down. (You always thought it was THE MAN that was holding you down, but no, says Mitch, it's the gravitons!) Anyhow, it kind of worked for about a week, then something went bust. That happens a lot with mad science tinkerers like Mitch. Hell, Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has dozens of glitches, but hell ... he's family.

So we're back on the ground, for the nonce. We'll see what the weekend brings. I've got my bike helmet on, just in case.

Hit factory.

If reports from Turkey are to be believed, Washington Post editorialist Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a mob-like hit, and a pretty gruesome one at that. I am glad to see some politicians using this horrible story as a means of broadening the scope of this new scrutiny being focused on the House of Saud, namely Senator Chris Murphy, Ro Khanna, and a handful of others. Those of us who want action on the Yemen question have to overcome this culture of privilege in which the life of a columnist (important as it may be) is seen to be worth more than that of a Yemeni child ... or fifty Yemeni children. While it's heartening to see that some legislators understand this issue, it's maddening to think that something so basic needs to be explained. It's not right to kill people - how hard is that? Isn't that fundamental to christian teaching?

Dismember a whole country? Meh.Sadly, the problem goes way beyond what other countries do. We have a bad habit of supporting paramilitary activities in other countries, as well as allowing our own citizens to act as mercenaries and even officers in foreign military organizations. The latter problem is familiar to anyone who has followed the exploits of Blackwater and other similar war-fighting "contractors". A recent report from Aram Roston of BuzzFeed News, featured on DemocracyNow! this past week, chronicles the deadly activities of a company named Spear Operations Group in Yemen on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. This firm is made up of former Navy SEALs, special forces, etc., and they basically assassinate enemies of the UAE, like a made to order hit squad.

While running assassination - basically, terrorist - teams overseas is nothing new, this is an American company working for another - if allied - government. I'm not suggesting that this is breaking American law, but that is the scandal. How is it that this is a legal practice? How is it that Americans, including active duty military, can, as Roston reports, are able to serve in an official capacity in the armed forces of another country? That has been happening forever, of course - the French Foreign Legion, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the Israeli Defense Forces, etc. , but still ... that's one small step away from joining ISIS, in my humble opinion, and the distance between those two things is purely a political, not a moral, gap. ISIS are fanatical killers - so is the government of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, only to a much greater degree. They have lots of company in that regard.

Our government should neither promote nor condone assassinations anywhere in the world, full stop. Neither should it permit its own citizens to monetize assassination while they enjoy the blessings of American citizenship.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 12, 2018

Pro-gravity.

We're fresh out of duct tape, man. All gone. And no, I don't have any large magnets. That wouldn't work anyway - the floors aren't made of metal, fool. Geez.

Yeah, I'm getting asked a bunch of dumb-ass questions by my house-mates, bandmates, mill-mates, etc. again. Everybody's all worked up about our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee and his latest raft of experiments. (Why he keeps them on a raft, I cannot say.) Mitch has been working on selectively negating gravitation, which really should be impossible ... I mean, we all wish it was impossible, but apparently it's not. Naturally, his experimental subject was the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, Big Green's longtime squathouse, and a place where gravity has always reigned supreme ... until now.

Now, most people have a sense of how gravity works, but for those of you unfamiliar with the ways of this mysterious unseen power, here's a primer: it holds you down. That's it. When people talk about being held down in life, they're talking about gravity. When Bruce Springsteen sings "I'm goin' down, down, down, down," he's singing about gravity. When some politician is making a speech, imploring his audience to understand the gravity of a given situation, that politician is ... well ... you get where I'm going with that. How does it work? That's complicated. Einstein had his ideas about this. More recent work has detected gravitational waves. My personal view is that there is a enormous horseshoe magnet buried deep in the earth. Next time we do a subterranean tour, I'm going to check that theory out.

YikesRight, so ... Mitch Macaphee has his own theories. And his theories usually lead to some nameless device that looks like a ham radio rig from the 1960s, with dials and meters and knobs and blinking lights. It makes a "woo-woo" sound. Sometimes he puts arms and legs on it and calls it Marvin (my personal robot assistant). Sometimes he throws a switch and things disappear ... or appear. This time around, he adjusted the right combination of buttons, switches, lanyards, etc., to suspend gravity in the hammer mill. An anti-gravity machine, as it were. And that means more than floating hammers, my friends. Suffice to say, I haven't had to use the stairs all week. If this keeps up, we may be battling obesity before long.

Thing is, most of us are pro-gravity. Hence the search for duct tape, glue, velcro, etc. Or maybe we should just pull the plug on Mitch's gizmo. Worth a go, right?

Fifteen Saudis.

It's kind of amazing to watch the talking head squad comment on the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi columnist for the Washington Post who was apparently abducted and quite probably killed and dismembered by his government for the crime of being mildly critical of Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. As I'm sure you know, Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain some documents relating to his planned marriage ... and never emerged. Now denizens of Morning Joe who were not so very long ago praising Bin Salman to the skies - I'm looking at you, David Ignatius - are now wringing their hands over the disappearance of a colleague. Rightfully so - if there's any truth to the murder allegations, this is a sickening and despicable act.

MBS red-handedWhat's ironic is that these pundits should be surprised and appalled by such behavior. After all, the Saudis have been killing people by the thousand in Yemen. It appears that Yemeni children's biggest mistake may be that they aren't members of the Washington Post editorial board. And if memory serves, they were well represented in the 9/11/2001 attacks ... nearly as many hijackers as there were assassins sent to kill Khashoggi. I'm surprised that the Saudis considered this such heavy lifting. Nevertheless, all of the gray-headed shills who were running around trumpeting the virtues of "MBS" will now have to find some way of reconciling themselves to the ugly truth: their hero is a murderous despot.

The evidence of the Saudi regime's toxicity is much broader and deeper than this suggests. They have been complicit in supporting some of the most retrograde and destructive movements in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa over the last six decades. Most often, they did so with our help. They were deeply hostile to Arab nationalist movements, to the point of becoming de facto allies of Israel after the Israeli military destroyed Nassar's army in 1967 (while Nassar and the Saudis were engaged in a conflict in - you guessed it - Yemen). They funded and manned the radical opposition to the Soviets in Afghanistan, with our active participation. They fueled radical movements in Iraq, Syria, you name it. And their intelligence services reportedly supported the Saudi 9/11 hijackers as they prepared to pull off their spectacular atrocity.

Will Trump do anything? Not a chance. He's worried about arms sales and lucrative bookings at his hotels, to say nothing of plans for future ventures for him and Jared Kushner. This is where we're at, folks. Don't like it? Vote.

luv u,

jp

Friday, October 5, 2018

Stupid homework.

Aw, do I really have to come in now? Gosh dang it. I don't want to do my homework. I want to STAY OUTSIDE AND PLAY. I want to SPEAK IN CAPITAL LETTERS.

Oh, hi. I was just undergoing some cheap psychiatry. I think it's called regression analysis ... or something like that. Here's how it goes: you close your eyes and imagine you're Brett Kavanaugh ... I mean, a 7-year-old while Marvin (my personal robot assistant) plays 8-track tapes of Peter Frampton. Yes, it hurts, but sometimes the truth does hurt. And this is about getting to the truth, right Marvin? Marvin? Marvin! Turn down the 8-track player ... I'm asking you a question.

Why are we doing this, just a few days from Columbus Day? Random chance. And we don't celebrate Columbus Day, so even more random. Actually, one of our neighbors said I should have my head examined. It took me a while to work out precisely what he meant by that. (Long enough, in fact, for Mitch Macaphee to stick my head under an electron microscope.) The neighbor took exception to our kind of loud rehearsals, our strange plantings around the front entrance, and the occasional explosions emanating from Mitch's subterranean lab.

This is HOGWASH.What was the results of my regression analysis? Well, it looks like I should have put more effort into eliminating relationships between variables. And I should have kept my focus on the relationship between a dependent variable and one or more independent variables. It's all about co-dependency, you see? You don't? Right. Neither do I. And apparently my rent-a-shrink is actually a statistician by trade. I don't understand a word he says, mostly because he just talks so fast, but partly because his comments are so unbearably dull I just can't keep my eyes open. And you're not supposed to fall asleep on that stereotypical therapy couch, but I did. So maybe I'm on TV, now.

I hate to seem arrogant, but psychiatry is kind of lost on me. At least the robot-based variety. If someone comes up with a method of therapy that doesn't involve robots, let me know.

White rage.

I hear Tucker Carlson is worried about an ensuing race war. Sounds like a problem for old Tucker. I guess he should keep the musket loaded and ready back at the homestead. Tucker has heard all these people on television complaining about white male privilege and now he's feeling a little picked on. Like Lindsay Graham, he feels squelched. White men just can't get a word in edgewise, what with all of these stories of abuse and marginalization.

This obsession of Tucker's did not start with the Kavanaugh nomination, but the Supreme Court justice wannabe certainly stoked the flames with his shrill rebuttal of accusations of sexually violent behavior back in his high school and college days. In fact, the judge was white aggrievement personified on that occasion, which played very well with white republican / conservative men both on the Senate Judiciary Committee and off. Now he's well on his way to being a white dude folk hero, even if a miracle happens and he doesn't end up on the high Court for life.

Judicial temperment ca. 2018I'll be honest - I don't shock easy, but Kavanaugh's testimony last Thursday was freaking shocking. I have never seen a grown person, let alone a federal judge, act in such a juvenile manner. Much has been made of his incivility and hyperpartisanship, but I have heard relatively little with regard to the childishness of his performance. The man was so humiliatingly sophomoric and petulant, I very nearly felt sorry for him. If you haven't seen this performance, I urge you to take the time to do so. The Majority Report has posted the entire thing on their YouTube channel. It is flabbergastingly ridiculous.

Before this testimony, I had thought there was a fairly strong possibility that Kavanaugh had grown out of whatever rowdy drunk phase he had gone through. I thought Dr. Ford's allegations were credible and convincing, but I thought maybe, just maybe, this fellow had learned to be a more controlled, less loutish person. After that speech and subsequent questioning last Thursday, I am convinced that he is exactly the same person as Dr. Ford was describing - a little older, perhaps, but not fundamentally changed. His childishness is, in and of itself, reason enough to keep him off the court. There are many others, but that one is as plain as the nose on his face.

My guess is that he will be made associate justice over the next week. Not sure what is next in this sorry saga, but I have a bad feeling about this.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 28, 2018

Strange gravity.

I don't know, man. That song seems kind of dark. Dark, but in a happy way. Yeah ... that's the way we do it around here, am I right? No ... that was a rhetorical question. Never mind.

Oh, hello. It's your old pal Bozo. I mean, Joe-zo. (That might have been my clown name if I had chosen another, slightly divergent path in life, but I digress.) Having a little band meeting here. Joe? Present. Matt? Present. Marvin (my personal robot assistant)? Present, to the extent that an automaton can ever be TRULY present, but setting philosophical questions aside ... Mitch Macaphee? Not present. Actually, in truth it's just me and Matt, and the topic is songwriting.

It goes like this. He's got songs, I've got songs ... all God's children got songs. That said, they're all based on subject matter that's, well, a little dark. Dark matter, if you will. Now, it's not surprising that we would use the stuff that makes up the bulk of the universe as the substance of our songs. You never lack for material. Even so, songwriting can be a lot like pulling teeth ... except the pay isn't nearly as good. And either way you go, somebody ends up toothless. A tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye. Aye aye, sir.

I don't see any dark matter. Oh ... right.Well, I've wandered a bit. But the point I'm trying to get to is this: we tend to write happy little songs about big nasty things. This month we appear to be back on the fascist beat again. Next month, who knows? Some other grave subject matter that can be turned into a nursery rhyme or a mambo. That's the way it works round these parts. Those are our principles. And if you don't like them ... we have other principles. (Yes, I'm a Marxist. My favorite is Groucho, but it's not a strong preference.)

Speaking of work, it has been nearly forever since our last THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast. I just want to assure our five listeners that, yes, we will post more episodes this fall and, yes, they will be ridiculous. It's been a busy year, folks. I'd explain why, but I've got too much to do right now. Excuses, excuses, right? Sheesh.

Eleven angry men.

When you think about the Kavanaugh nomination, you really need to step back and see the full picture. Sure, stopping the nomination is crucial, and it's perhaps fortunate that he planted the seeds of his own self-destruction decades ago, long before his tenure as a hyperpolitical operative in the Republican Party. (Honestly, the guy is like the Zelig of American conservatism, working on the Star investigation, researching Vince Foster, participating in the "Brooks Brothers Riot" during the Florida recount, and on from there.) But if his nomination fails, they will attempt to fill the slot quite quickly with a much more boring, just as reactionary judge capable of serving multiple decades on the Supreme Court. So ... why not just withdraw this troubled judge?

Well, HE seems nice.My guess is that they're clinging to this one because Kavanaugh has proven to be such a reliable operative, and because he has a freakishly expansive view of executive power and privilege. (He apparently developed that during his stints in the W. Bush administration.) It's hard to be certain of their reasoning, but their overarching motivations are quite clear. They want this seat and they want it now. The GOP has been working on this project for decades, taking an already conservative court steadily to the right since Nixon's days in power. A solid reactionary majority is the right's insurance policy; it's their trump card, no pun intended.

Consider the Republican party's position. They remain, in essence, the party of white men. As this becomes less and less a nation of white men, it is an imperative for them to stave off the inevitable erosion of their voter base. The Senate is not so much of a problem, as a distinctly regional party can dominate that body given that party's geographic distribution (e.g. Wyoming's Senate delegation is equal to California's, even though the latter state is 70 times the size of the former in terms of population). The hyper-partisan GOP gerrymandering of the House in 2010 has made that body a lot more like the Senate in terms of representation, but that is a short-term solution for them. And the Presidency? They have lost the popular vote in six out of the last seven elections, so they mostly rely on narrow electoral college victories.

The Supreme Court, on the other hand, is the ultimate arbiter of public policy. With a solid reactionary majority, the GOP will be able to defeat progressive policies long after the party can no longer dominate electoral politics. So there's much at stake in the coming days for those eleven angry white men on the Judiciary Committee .... much more than the problematic optics of the Kavanaugh hearing.

Elections matter, people. We need to take the Court seriously.

luv u,

jp

Friday, September 21, 2018

New step.

Huh. Never saw THAT one before. Do that again, Anti Lincoln. Wow. Are you sure that was developed in the 1850s? It looks a little post modern to me.

Ah, readers. Greetings. Here's a handy tip: You know you have waaaay too much time on your hands when you spend a perfectly good afternoon listening to the antimatter 16th president explain that po-mo was invented by General McClellan. For chrissake ... everybody knows it didn't emerge until the later on in the Grant administration. I'll tell you, in Anti Lincoln's tiny mind, history is a total confidence game. If he were the actual Great Emancipator (or Posi-Lincoln, as it were), he would understand the importance of history. Posi-Lincoln loved history more than chicken fricassee. (And he loved chicken fricassee.)

We're still in songwriting mode over here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill in upstate New York. Every day I pick up my superannuated acoustic guitar and start strumming the five chords I learned as a teenager, hoping to coax another number out of them. How many possible combinations are there? I'm going to find out! Note: if you know the answer to this eternal question, put it in the comments. I'm sure it involves some kind of advanced mathematical calculation that is considerably beyond my ken. Though why I'm always asking Ken to figure stuff out for me I don't know.

Is that a trombone, man?Of course, it's not like it was in the old days. Way back then, we would write songs the old-fashioned way: by knocking branches against rocks for a few hours, then scratching the changes out in the dirt floor of our primitive caves. A little later on, the trombone was invented, though that was of little utility since none of us actually plays the trombone. (True story: Every time Matt tries to play trombone, he loses a tooth ... which is just another way of saying that he only has a limited number of plays in him.) No, it wasn't until the discovery of the Lowery Organ that we began to move forward expeditiously into an era of serious songwriting. Then we got silly. Super silly.

The rest is history, folks. You can read all about it right here. Now, back to that new dance step. And a one, and a two ...

Second chances.

I come from the land of second chances, so the current Kavanaugh saga has a distinctly familiar ring to it. Mind you, I have not benefited from the level of privilege that Judge K has enjoyed his whole life through, but close enough. I grew up in what was described once as a "rock-ribbed Republican" town in upstate New York, virtually all white residents, lots of professionals and rich folk as well as middle class, borderline working class. It's the kind of place where you have to fuck up pretty badly before it affects you in any serious way. Underage drinking, drug use, and other low-level criminality were widespread. Arrests were not unheard of, but rare, and the impact of these brushes with the law were almost never life-changing.

Right down the street, in the heart of the city, people of color face a far different reality. Their opportunities for advancement are severely constrained, and when something goes wrong, it's either life-changing or life-ending. I think about kids like Hector McClain, who at 16 was sent to prison for four years because he failed to stop two other teens from beating a Utica, NY police officer. Here's an excerpt of a press report about his trial:



As he was sentenced today, McClain acknowledged what he did was wrong. But McClain went on to defend his actions by saying he feared that his friends were going to be hurt by the officer.

“I only did it to make sure they were OK,” McClain said. “If you care about somebody, you’re going to do whatever it takes to keep them safe.” McClain added, “Nobody sees it the way I see it, know what I’m saying?”

Judge Dwyer said he understood McClain’s perspective to an extent, but still pointed out the flaw in McClain’s thinking. “This wasn’t just somebody on the street -- this was a police officer,” Dwyer said.

McClain replied, “I’m not saying my actions were right. I know they were wrong. I’m not a dummy ... But I’m still going to protect them no matter what.” Then Dwyer interjected, “You could have protected them better by stopping the incident.”

As the sentencing ended, McClain said, “I’ll just change my life around as soon as I get out.”

“You have to learn from your mistakes ... so we don’t have to go through this ever again,” Dwyer said. (Utica Observer-Dispatch, April 1, 2008)



Four years in prison, for a sixteen-year-old African-American kid. No mulligans for him. Meanwhile, on the other side of the track, white teens like me (a generation removed) commit felonies (albeit vacuous ones) in the shelter of their tony homes, where police patrols are tasked with keeping kids like McClain out, not hauling kids like me and Kavanaugh in. Our mistakes tend not to follow us like a malevolent cloud for the rest of our lives. When you couple that with the generations of advantages our families enjoyed - access to remunerative professions, mortgage assistance denied to black families, ingress into neighborhoods from which people of color were barred, and decades of building wealth - you begin to understand apartheid American-style.

Don't feel sorry for Kavanaugh. Even if he's held somewhat accountable and denied a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court, he'll be just fine.

luv u,

jp

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!