Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Closer to the Bone: Buy This Album!

There must be something in the air. Just last week, I pulled a Sinead O’Connor post out of nowhere and this week Kris Kristofferson releases an album’s worth of new compositions, including one about the exact events I pondered in last week’s post.

Sinead O’Connor, your ears must be burning.

That was only the first happy surprise contained in this excellently mellow, acoustic collection of tunes. I’m not sure the mash note to Johnny Cash even qualifies as a surprise. The two men were genuinely close and long-time mutual fans.

And I think Kristofferson believes that if the world had more Johnny Cash’s in it it would be a better place to be. Me too.

Most of the rest of the album is about looking back on a long, productive life, especially family; I’m pretty sure “Holy Woman” isn’t about a miraculous Rorschachian profile burnt into a piece of toast.

The song “From Here to Forever,” introduced as written for his kids, is bound to get covered by some A-lister and become a country & western classic. Willie Nelson, your next big hit is calling you! Big? Rich…? Toby? If you have kids and “From Here to Forever” doesn’t touch your heart it may be time to break out the home defibrillator.

And the song about Sinead is, of course, lovely. I would excerpt lyrics here, but that would require lots more typing. Just buy the record.

Kristofferson’s 73-year-old vocal instrument is smooth and smoky as Tennessee whisky and the production flourishes to Kristofferson and his acoustic guitar by producer Don Was never intrude.

Along with “This Old Road” a few years ago, Kristofferson is doing some of his best, most consistently strong work well into his seventies.

Check this album out if you like music that doesn’t even remotely suck.

More Effortless Artistic Genius:

...courtesy of The Boy, just turned four. I hope there's still a market for genius by the time he hits the working world...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Indefense of Tom Snyder

Unless you’re of a certain vintage, you have no idea who Tom Snyder was. But if you’re about my age you’ll remember him as the prototype for every know-it-all know-nothing TV-anchor parody that came after him. Tom was a true original.

He inspired the cartoon below from late in my crystal meth period. (The original media was the brown cardboard back of a giant sketch pad and black Sharpie.)

Anyhow, The Missus sent me the following link yesterday from U2’s first U.S. tour, ca 1981. The band play a couple of songs and model at least one really atrocious period hairstyle, but what really stands out is the hilarious Tom Snyder interview in the middle. This clip is a gift. Enjoy.

The Jay Leno Show: would you buy that for a dollar?

Who can tell about talk shows? Some get off to a great start and run out of steam (Arsenio), some never get off the ground at all (Chevy? Chevy Who?) or start out weak and then grow legs like Conan's act (although all the bowing he does when ballyhooing his guests is enough to make me want to hurl).

But based on his first couple of weeks, it looks like Jay Leno is off to a rough start.

I’ve been watching his new nightly 10pm show on the recorder-thingie religiously since its debut. My first impression: He’d better hope Hugh Grant gets caught with another transvestite prostitute and pronto.

His tongue-lashing of Kanye West on his first show smacked more of a scolding Dr. Phil than a free-wheeling Johnny Carson. It produced the singular effect of making me feel sorry for Kanye West! If you haven’t seen it, clink the link at the top of this graf and be prepared to squirm.

Now I don’t blame Leno for negotiating the 10 o’clock timeslot, although I do think it was craven and short-sighted for NBC to give it to him.

But I do blame Leno for what he's made of the opportunity that NBC hail-Mary-passed his way.

Now even his monologues suck and they used to be the gold standard. I've also noticed variations on the same joke(s) on the different shows, I mean miniscule variations and Bill Maher also did one on Friday this week that I'd heard on late-night TV days earlier. These guys ought to have someone on their staff who watches the other shows then vets their own scripts. Just the same, I'm thinking Conan got the Tonight Show writers in the switch-over.

Leno's new "New Feature(s) of the Day" segments are almost always painful to watch. Although the singer/guitar-player on the Limbaugh episode was pretty good. He must have been psyched about the booking - I'm sure Leno's show enjoyed stellar ratings for the night.

That episode, with the newly-thin Rush Limbaugh, was almost surreal. Limbaugh still has the same giant head on this new, slender body. He's still coarse and abrasive even when engaged in what is supposed to be good-natured banter. He looks and comports himself like an evil Thunderbird. It would be great theater if it wasn't supposed to be real life. Rush Limbaugh is a malcontent marionette in our midst, why aren't the villagers revolting? I mean, against him?

He even acts like an evil Thunderbird on Leno's program, repeatedly running over effigies of former Vice-President Al Gore and actor/advocate Ed Begley Jr. with a race car in another of Jay's insipid, ill-conceived stunts. It seems every guest who comes on the show has to agree to do something to embarrass themselves - Michael Moore tried to sing a song, for instance, even Jerry Seinfeld had to perform some sort of forgettable trick - and they put Rush Limbaugh behind the wheel of a sports car and hung effigies of current, living public figures in his way for him to run over. Then back up and run over again (seriously).

Who the hell at corporate thought that was a good idea?

And there's Jay Leno in the middle of it all, eagerly not offending the crowd of Limbaugh fans who have showed up for the taping.

My guess is it's a calculated risk on NBC's part to save the show, currently plummeting in the ratings. The entire affair is a calculated risk and you just watch NBC cut Leno loose if the embarrassment factor gets too high.

Oh and then poor Smoky Robinson has to come out and try to follow Limbaugh's ode to vehicular manslughter with a love song. Throwing Rush Limbaugh fans some Smokey Robinson is the very definition of lavishing pearls on the proverbial swine. I'm betting a lot of cavewomen got dragged into their bedrooms by their hair that night.

Then Leno throws to the local anchors - Ooh, we have a road re-opening and our local action crew is live on the scene! Can you imagine?

Then Leno closes with, I kid you not, favorite clips from the internet. You know the links well-meaning friends and co-workers and cranky uncles down South email you during work hours that you never have time to click-through? You're off the hook! Jay's got plenty of time for them! Because that is state-of-the-art network-TV comedy. Pixilated clips of puppies that can't roll over and guys getting whacked in the balls by various hurtling objects.

Popular culture has officially achieved "Robo-Cop"'s negative utopia. Except in the case of Leno's show where I'm not sure we'd even buy that if we had to pay as much as a dollar for it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hey kids, let’s put on a Race War!

At first glance, you may think Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and kooky old Charlie Manson have little in common. I mean, besides all being ringleaders of sad groups of disenfranchised, this-close-to-the-edge, crazy-loyal acolytes.

All three, in their own limited fashion (ie: when addressing their followers) are charismatic, compelling speakers. And Beck and Limbaugh are both working off the same set of notes as Manson but neither one of them has seen fit yet to carve a swastika in their forehead. But then, Charlie has forty years on them. There could still be Nazi body-cravings in the future for the manic-depressive Beck and the voluble Mr. Limbaugh. Although if I were a betting man, between his weight, cigar-smoking and pill-popping, I’d wager Limbaugh works himself up to a heart attack or a stroke before he has time to get his forehead tattoo.

I’m not wishing it on him, I’m just saying… One of these days he’s gonna bounce out of his radio-studio seat in apoplectic indignation all the way to the promised land.

But I digress.

The common theme in all three men’s rhetoric is a transparet desire to incite a race war. It’s part of the historical and legal record that Manson’s purpose for ordering the slaughterings of the late 60s was his hope to start a race war. I remember it from press notices at the time and in subsequent reading on the subject. According to Wikipedia, ‘the murders perpetrated by members of Charles Manson's “Family” were inspired in part by Manson's prediction of an apocalyptic war he believed would arise from tension over racial relations between blacks and whites.’

Granted, Wikipedia is not always the most reliable source, but do a quick Google of Charles Manson + Race War and Wikipedia’s entry is only the first of 61,900 hits.

The difference between the three men is, Manson was up-front about wanting to start a war between the blacks and the whites. Beck and Limbaugh are both cagier as well as much better positioned to actually realize their mad ambitions.

Manson was preaching to handful of drugged-up hippies out in the sticks; Limbaugh and Beck are cloaked in a façade of legitimacy granted to them by their high-profile national media outlets. Which is what makes them much, much more dangerous than Manson ever was.

Beck and Limbaugh might actually succeed.

With a Black man in the White House, the racist rubes whom Jimmy Carter called out this week are charged up and ready to rumble like they haven’t been since LBJ shoved the Civil Rights Act down their collective throat in the 60s.

If I were a more responsible blogger – or an actual journalist or had a staff like Jon Stewart does – I could cite dozens of example of both Limbaugh and Beck inciting their expansively-foreheaded fan-bases. But since I don’t, I’ll just cite two I’ve seen heard/seen first-hand of examples of what I’m talking about:

Limbaugh’s recent rant about how, “In Obama’s America,” it’s okay for black kids to beat up white kids (after footage of such an incident surfaced recently). I was a white kid in the 60s and 70s and I was regularly beaten up on the school bus by everybody from black kids to Jerry’s kids (thanks for the joke, Mr. Stewart) and I’d bet my last oxycontin that a doughty, opinionated introvert like Limbaugh must have also suffered the same peer-to-peer physical abuse as a kid and that it didn’t have a damn thing to with his skin color or who was President.

And Glenn Beck’s oft-replayed assertion that “Obama hates white people” is even more blatant — even his fellow Fox News anchors look like they can’t believe what they’re hearing — but in Beck’s defense, he hasn’t had as much time to hone his act as Limbaugh has.

Obvious bullshit? Transparent fear-mongering? Well sure, to you and me. But to their drooling admirers, these media figures are just puking back at them what they already believe. In the last election, Obama won about 10% of the south. Only in the post-antebellum south were his numbers that dismal. That’s a whole swath of the country that, 150 years later, is still pissed that they have to pick their own cotton and have to pay money to sleep with black women who aren’t their wives or mistresses.

They’re at the starting line. They’re primed and ready to go and Limbaugh, Beck and their ilk recognize it. And I don’t know if it’s in the pursuit of ratings of they’re just following their own demons to their logical conclusions, but they are none-too-subtly pushing the jugheads in their audiences to action.

I don’t have a conclusion. But I really wanted to post my collage of Limbaugh, Beck and Manson. I see it as kind of a Mount Rushmore of hate, a Sistine Chapel of violence, ignorance and intolerance.

I may not be able to stop what they’re doing or change the alleged mind of a single racist, but I think it’s important to frame the argument.

The far-right is trying to whip up a race war, presumably with the intention to make sure America never allows itself to slip up and elect another Black Man to the oval office.

Charlie Manson must be awfully proud of his Family today.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

In praise of Sinead O’Connor

No, she hasn’t died. (That was Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, very sad...). But I came across Ms O’Connor on the YouTube tonight randomly, from her performance at the Bob Dylan tribute concert back in the 90s.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about or have forgotten…

The show came on the heels of her infamous Pope-shredding incident on SNL and was also taking place in New York, at Madison Square Garden. From the moment Sinead was introduced the crowd was openly hostile and getting ugly. Sinead stood back, waved the band to silence and unflinchingly took the abuse like it was a physical punishment. Kris Kristofferson came out and said something to her, apparently urging her to go on. She stepped back up to the mic and the band again began playing the tender Christian ballad, “I Believe In You” from Dylan’s born-again period.

The crowd just got louder and uglier and uglier till Sinead stepped back again, waved the band off and ripped the earphone from her head. She can be seen pointing at her monitor and calling for it to be turned up. Then she rips into a searing, scathing a capella version of the same Bob Marley song she had sung so beautifully on SNL just prior to ripping up the picture of the Pontiff. The song is all about the necessity of equality between races and people, ironically more representative of Dylan’s body of work than the song she had rehearsed with the band.

Then she stepped back, proud and unbowed, and left the stage to collapse into Kris Kristofferson’s embrace. It’s really powerful viewing. And provocative. Willy Nelson comes out at the end and introduces Neil Young who proceeded to blow the dump off the place.

At the time, I was disappointed that no one said anything from stage after that in support of her, especially Bob himself. But that was before I understood that Bob Will Be Bob and the proper thing to do is just be glad he’s still out there working.

Looking back on it, the Sinead spectacle seems like the single most Bob Dylan moment of the whole event. When you think about Bob Dylan, you think about the young firebrand who set fire to bridges before he was even done crossing them. The guy who made his bones singing protest songs and upsetting what the establishment expected of him. Sinead’s Bob Dylan tribute appearance was Bob Dylan’s going electric at the Newport Folk Festival.

This clip needs to be seen and appreciated. Please feel free to snatch it and put it up on your blog, Facebook page or Twitter mini-url. (Or whatever the cool kids are doing this week.)

The lovely Ms O’Connor continues an active, richly rewarding songwriting and recording career to this day. It pisses me off when her name appears on “One-Hit Wonder” lists. I double-dog dare you to swing over to iTunes and check out her post-“Nothing Compares To You” career. Some of this reporter’s favorites are “Universal Mother,” “Faith and Courage” and “Throw Down Your Arms.”

And there are many, many quality clips on the YouTube. And I also found a totally funny shrine-site, too.

Some artists, like life, can only be lived forward but appreciated in retrospect. Sinead O’Connor doesn’t have to be one of those artists.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dave Letterman re: 9/11. So say we all!

Thanks, Dave.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rep. Joe Wilson: Your 2009 GOP At-a-Glance

A class act.

Friday, September 04, 2009

My son is my hero (or: Apologies to Johnny Cash)

Disclaimer: Someday The Boy will hate me for writing about this, except that he will be so cool that he will find it in his heart to forgive me instead. That’s what I’m telling myself, anyhow.

He turns four tomorrow. We’re having a party. This is the first year the attendees will be his friends instead of ours. I’m unbelievably pumped for it. Even when I ‘partied,’ I didn’t like parties, but I can’t wait for this one. It has a Batman theme!

Anyhow, that’s not what this is about. Nor is it about the extremely cool painting he came home with this week, above. It’s going immediately into a frame and onto my office wall.

No, the coolest thing about him is how cool he is under fire.

Here’s the part he’ll need to forgive me for later: He’s been constipated pretty much his entire four years so far. He drops a deuce about as often as I change my t-shirt; roughly once a week. And by then, it’s an ordeal. I won’t go into details, for his sake and yours. But it’s ghastly. It’s like passing an orange that weighs as much as a softball. Usually 2-4 times over a couple of days. Then it’s back to nothing for another swear-to-God week.

Four years of this!!

And we’ve been dealing with it pretty much constantly, but with the expectation that eventually it would just get better. You know, like magic. We put Fairy Dust in his milk every morning; turns out that particular Fairy Dust is not supposed to go into milk and we’ve probably been making the problem worse instead of better.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

So I finally put my foot down and made a nuisance of out myself and got the go-ahead to go see a specialist. We got a little pamphlet in the mail telling us that a rectal exam would be part of the exam, and if we didn’t think we could prepare our little one(s) for it we should seek help elsewhere, presumably the local witch-doctor.

So this morning I sat The Boy down and laid it all out. We’re going to see the poo doctor. He or she is going to make it easy for you to poo every day without it hurting. Would you like that?


Cool. The doctor’s going to poke you and prod you and look at you all over. She’s gonna look at your ears (and I tickled his ear) and your eyeballs (I drew circles in front of his with my forefinger), your tummy (poke!), your belly button (giggles), your legs (more giggles) and your bottom. She’s gonna take a good look at your bottom but you have to try mot to laugh if she tickles you. And I’m going to be right there the whole time, a lot.

Well, he responded in the affirmative at all the right paces but really, you never know how a kid is going to react until you’re on-scene and the kid has made his mind how he’s going to deal with things.

Today my kid’s decision was to be the coolest guy since James Dean made that safe-driving PSA. He was unflappable. He complied with everything that was asked of him, he answered questions when asked and he did it all without complaint. And I’m talking up to having his blood drawn and (I’m sorry, son) a ‘digital’ exam that did not involve a computer. God love him, he didn’t enjoy it, but he didn’t even complain about it either.

He even entertained his fellow outpatients in the blood-drawing waiting room by repeatedly climbing up on his chair, thrusting his arms out, palms open and extended and making a loud “Bwoooosh!” noise (ala Iron Man) before jumping off the chair as far across the waiting room as he could. The sick folks seemed to eat it right up so I let him go for it till they called us in.

I couldn’t stand to watch them draw his blood, even though he was on my lap, but he was cool as a cucumber. He actually watched every step. I woulda fainted dead away. I usually do.

When The Missus got home, the first thing he said was a cheery, “I went to the poop doctor today!”

She goes, “Was it fun?”

Yeah, he asserted. Unbelievable. We just shook our heads at each other as he turned back to his WALL-E coloring book on the kitchen floor, humming and talking to himself.

The trip totally didn’t scar him emotionally for life! Mission accomplished!! I feel, as they used to say, ten foot tall and bulletproof right at this moment.

As an extra-added-value bonus, because I am feeling so generous tonight, the opening riff of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” from the waiting room before the exam: