A Rant, A Rant By Any Other Name

I’m behind on my blogging. Can this happen? Yes. Why do I blog? I do it Because. Because, is the reason. It is the same reason I make songs, or records, or little forts for cats to play in. Because is the best reason to do anything. I don’t blog here for the money. There are no ads on this site even though I get notes from companies saying “Don’t waste your traffic! Monetize your site today!” They want to put click-bait ads in front of my “users” (IE, readers, friends, you) and I don’t wish to do this. It isn’t worth the pennies to have them muck up the experience here and make it annoying. You can donate if you want to encourage my blogging, how about that? I’ll put up a “you can donate” widget. Entirely optional. Unlike the New York Times and other storied publications, I don’t track you and make you pay a buck after you’ve read ten articles or whatever. Who reads ten of my posts anyway? Have I even made that many posts? Oh my, yes, I just counted. 112 posts! Since I started this blog. It’s a regular institution.

Sometimes I can’t keep to the “one idea per post” format, and I bleat instead like a column, in the old Herb Caen sense. Many little observations and thoughts. This reduces the possibility of being read even further, and amplifies my sense of a tree falling in the woods. At the point one feels one is talking to oneself, one can speak freely, and perhaps should not.

Circling back, you are not “users,” you are not “traffic,” you are people, and I like you. So I wont subject you to click-bait here. There’s a permanent tsunami of corporations and individuals desperately trying to get one second of our attention any way they can and make part of a penny for their efforts. It’s gotten so even respected publications like the BBC use click-bait headlines, because I guess they feel they have to, in order to stay competitive. It sucks and the world is bad. I’m not prone to overstatement. Stop reading, now. I warned you.

Click-bait. Here’s the thing. I wrote a detailed and exhaustive article about this, some time ago. It is the definitive text on the subject, and I am waiting for my Nobel Prize. Here it is, if you want to learn more: Top 5 Reasons Why Click-Bait Is Responsible For The Demise Of Everything

You’re welcome.

More Complaining

There are many ways to release music these days, and all of them are wrong. Some are less bad in some ways, others simply horrible. The on-demand service that is the best for end-user experience IMO, is still Spotify. But they are also among the most determined to make all the money they can, pay out as little to music rights-holders as possible, burn through as many rounds of investors as they can bilk, getting absurdly rich on other peoples’ intellectual property and money before finally sinking. The CEO is a billionaire, I think. His name is Ek. He has made a billion and a half or so, from a company that is not profitable, and likely will not ever be. Other start-up chiefs also sit on vast fortunes for creating companies which only ever lost money. It’s comical, really. The new economy. Fail big. The executives are part of the loss. Pay them lots of money to try and launch a thing that can never actually stand up on its own. Genius.

Apple Music is different. The interface is dreadful but it has a large and growing user-base, and they don’t need to make money on the streaming service itself. Apple Music can lose money forever and Apple will never hurt from it, because they sell iThingys, and besides they have more money than God. Will they pay artists and songwriters a fair share because they can? Or will they too be greedy because it’s so fashionable to be greedy? I can see the boardroom discussion, all three seconds of it: “Should we increase royalty payouts to music rights-holders?” Short pause before entire room erupts in laughter and “Oh that’s a good one! Haha you say funny thing!” No, they will likely pay more only when forced to by law. But at least they have the option to be fair, and not have it ruin their business model. Maybe they’d even do the right thing, because doing the right thing is, well, right? Maybe?

For Spotify, ethics and fairness simply don’t come into it. The corporate rule is: Make money for your shareholders. If that is impossible to begin with, then where do you cut as much as possible? Music creators, of course! Let them starve. Corporations must have their fancy employee lounges and bonuses and team-building sex-yoga retreats in Bali. Spotify will burn through another billion and then tank, you heard it here. They’ll get bought by a bigger leviathan, be it Google or Amazon or whomever, or they’ll simply croak in a few years. Someone with a business model that doesn’t depend on streaming music will probably tack Spotify onto their brand to add “value” for their users. Then they’ll work out clever ways to not pay the artists and songwriters anyway, but by then the oceans will be swamping us and catastrophic weather events will be daily occurrences so who cares about any of this? I told you to stop reading. Oh, about our democracy. It all depends on voting in 2018. If the “Blue Wave” is significant enough, we can save the country and slow the end of civilization a wee bit, which still seems like a worthy thing to do. Stop reading.

The best thing about running my own blog with no editor is I can say absolutely whatever I want. It’s also a problem. You don’t know how careful I’ve been. You see, I really do NOT subscribe to the “no filter” approach to life. Yes, filter. Everyone filter, please, and let’s be careful what we say. Then life will be better. The bro-nonsense “no filter” attitude gave us today’s reality-TV “government.” I put government in quotes because they aren’t governing. They are destroying government, in cynical and nihilistic spasms of acute and total stupidity. Everyone will look back and say, gee, maybe we should have the EPA and State Dept. staffed with motivated and well qualified people, for the well-being of our society and the future of the world and our children, but, NO! They have to find out the hard way that this is stupid, and Putin is laughing his rectangular head off. Americans wrapped in the flag and waving crosses support a president who publicly licks the boots of foreign dictators. The opposite of patriotism, posing as patriotism. Hell, at least people who supported Reagan actually DID love the USA, in their way. They may have been nuts with their “trickle down” economics bile, but they weren’t traitors. No filter, indeed. I hope we get to the other side of this in decent enough shape that matters such as royalty rates and fairness in the music business don’t seem like trivial deck chairs on a Titanic of State plunging burning and broken into the freezing pitch-dark depths of oblivion.


Here is a rabbit.

I’m With The Kids

Sometimes you just know there’s a shift going on. It may be hard to see all dimensions of the time we are living in, especially in times of great flux. Later in hindsight maybe we gather more understanding and say “A-ha, that is what was going on!”

Well in the third week of February, 2018, the youth of America decided to mobilize, and throw out the old greedy bastards who love money and guns more than they love children. This is what the kids are saying, I am just quoting them. Paraphrasing, rather. I agree with them. I am on their side. I think we should all be.

All they want, is to have their rights protected. Their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Do those items ring a bell? The entire GOP, and certainly also many Democrats, accept money from the NRA. Together, they work to deprive innocent young people of their lives. Their liberty. Their pursuit of happiness.

As such the kids standing up are patriots claiming their rights, and those who oppose them are simply in the wrong. Remember right and wrong? Those are things. The kids remember the concept of right and wrong, and the servants of the NRA apparently do not. Or if they do remember, then they have simply chosen to be evil.

Right and wrong. Good and evil. Choices.

I’m with the kids.

Blasting With The Blasters

Saw The Blasters last night at Hopmonk in Novato and they blew the roof off. They’ve been playing for about 40 years now and still have most of their original lineup. The rhythm section is preposterous. One of the best rock and roll drum (Bill Bateman) and bass (John Bazz) teams you’ll ever find. There’s so much subtlety and dynamics and power in their playing – the kind of tightness you get from spending most of your life on the road. The only other time I saw them was in the 1980’s, and I had fond memories of that gig, so naturally I went last night with high expectations. The band exceeded them tenfold. Phil Alvin is in great voice, and lead guitarist Keith Wyatt is an absolute maniac. He played an old gold-top Les Paul through a small combo amp and just went berserk. A completely committed player, he took some long solos that only built in energy and fire and kept building when I thought there was no higher to go. The band scorched along for an hour and ten minutes or so and by the end I had a smile I couldn’t erase if I tried. I went with my old friend and musical partner in crime, Michael Valladares, and after the show we ran into Bateman and Wyatt out back on our way to our ride. We went full fan-boy on ’em and gushed because what else was there to do? We thanked them for a soul-lifting no-bullshit rock n’ roll experience and floated home. Absent was Dave Alvin, who wrote many of their songs, but he was present nonetheless in his songs. A deep catalog of heartfelt rockabilly and rock n’ roll anthems, many of them penned in his youth in Downey, California. There’s something uniquely special about a group of older musicians doing something they’ve spent their lives doing, with joy and abandon, live in concert, in a smallish venue with great sound. One of the best shows I’ve seen in a while. Catch ’em if you can! That is all.

The NRA Is In The Murder Business

I want to share briefly a couple of statements about the NRA and gun violence in the United States.

First this from young Emma González of Parkland, Florida.

Amen to every word she said. I hope that gets shared and viewed far and wide.

(UPDATE Feb 19 – there’s a video with better audio quality here)

Second, here is an article by a man who left the NRA when he saw that its purpose had changed.

I was an NRA poster child — I left them so I wouldn’t be accomplice to murder

The NRA is now and has been for some time, in the murder business. They are in the mass-murder business. They are in the business of mass-murdering Americans on a regular basis. They are in the business of mass-murdering and maiming innocent boys and girls and men and women and teachers and coaches who try to shield kids with their bodies. The NRA is in the business of making sure military assault ammunition that is designed to kill humans and is made for no other purpose, can be purchased at Walmart by a 19 year old who explained openly and repeatedly that he intended to commit mass-murder. The NRA is in the business of profiting from preventable mass-murder and if there is a Hell they are going to it. Along with the politicians who accept their bloody contributions by the hundreds of millions of dollars, year in and year out.

Sons and daughters and moms and dads grieve the loss of their irreplaceable and beautiful unique human companions today. And the NRA is to blame, and the congresspersons they own. They are to blame. As much as the 19 year old who did the shooting. It is their crime. They did it together.

What moral ground is there for the NRA to even exist anymore? How are they not considered a criminal organization? They make certain any damaged fool can get a gun of any kind, far more easily than they could obtain a drivers license. They hold their right to “bear arms” more precious than the right of innocent people to live. There is no more wrong claim in the history of morality. The NRA is in the business of mass-murdering innocent, beautiful, brilliant, unique, irreplaceable human beings. That’s the business they’re in, for the money.

https://everytown.org/ is one organization working to extract them from public office.

Update Feb. 19: I disabled comments on this post because I don’t wish to moderate a discussion on this here. There are plenty of other venues for that, and of course I respect that there are many opinions about this subject. We do enjoy freedom of speech and I made my point clear enough, I think. I think the NRA’s role in our society has become, over the years, something sinister and malevolent. They have bazillions of dollars to amplify their voice. To forward their sick agenda. I saw Emma Gonzalez’ speech and thought, I am saying nothing, I am numb to this, this has become normal to me, what the hell has happened to me? So I chose to amplify Emma’s voice in what little way I can, and stand with the youth who deserve to live safely and not in fear, in their very schools, for God’s sake. And if I lay it on a little thicker in this post than is normal for me, I’m OK with that. Call it a polemic, or whatever. I didn’t shoot anybody.

Humble To Be Human

A peculiar observation of Vice President Pence: he’s white. I mean, white people aren’t usually white, as such. We can be sort of tan, or pink, orange even, but not white. Pence is white. White like a piece of white paper. There’s no pigment. He must bleach himself. No one can be that white. It’s unnatural. He and Jeff Sessions must go to the same bleaching spa. It must be a thing. They are of course also White Men in another sense. Champions of the expiring monsters of idiot patriarchy, white supremacy, theocracy, Pat Boone and every other bad thing on earth. They oppose all forms of freedom for anyone but themselves. And perhaps for other old men who also attend the bleaching salon. But even the bleached old men are sniping at each other now, as their rusted ship of bigoted fools plows at full steam for the jagged rocks of destiny’s shore.

Ahem. I’m white, according to convention. European-American. English, Scottish, Scandinavian, German. I took the mail-in spit-test, perhaps hoping for a surprise, but nope. Alabaster. Lily. Caucasian. Typical of straight white males, I didn’t spend much time thinking about my gender or race, while growing up. You’re born into your skin and gender and that’s it. Fate dealt me these privileged cards, and I don’t worry much about getting shot if I happen to get pulled over by the police. I was actually mistaken for a bank robber once, faced a small army of police with their guns drawn on me, and I survived. I’ll save that story for another post, it’s amusing. But we can’t escape our race, can we? It strikes me as odd, because it’s a fiction that we are different. That our worths are different. That our lives matter more or less. All of it is human-manufactured fiction that goes back centuries. In ancient Rome more than a third of the people were slaves. Our little baby nation practiced slavery just a few generations ago, yet some say “get over it” like it were anything less than a catastrophic crime against humanity that lasted for centuries. We’re all still affected by its legacy, our souls wrestle with it daily in myriad ways.

The weird kids screeching “you will not replace us” with tiki-torches last year displayed something I naively thought was gone. I thought that was in the past. These are kids who want to attend the bleaching salon, but can’t afford it! They want to be privileged slave-owning masters and they wont be. They want women to be second-class citizens again, and they wont be. Mike Pence probably sees “The Handmaids Tale” as a blueprint rather than a cautionary tale. But he is in a tiny minority. The United States of America are vast and multivarious. Our diversity is our strength. Bigotry will not win out. But its poison causes harm every day and its champions are in power for this dreadful moment.

I sometimes laugh at the comedy playing out in DC. It’s bloody entertaining, to see this lumbering wreckage, this blovious orange farce of a man, pretending to be president, and his clown men fanning him. It’s funny. It’s funny, but the harm it causes is anything but funny. Our poor country. Our poor world. It’s so sad.

What do I do, as a white man? This garbage presidency has shifted the context of whiteness, and of maleness, a bit. Religion, too. Oh, I left out Christian, in my self-privilege-assessment. Protestant. Lutheran and Baptist. Not practicing any of these, mind you! But that’s my heritage, my background. Other than vote and try and be fair and kind in my affairs, I don’t know what to do. I don’t have answers. I have questions.

Why did people think we couldn’t elect a Catholic president? Kennedy sorted that out. Why did people tell me, when I supported Barack Obama’s campaign from the very day he announced, that he couldn’t win in this country? That we hadn’t evolved that far yet? Why also did people say more recently that Bernie Sanders could not win because he’s Jewish, or too old? A female president is as inevitable as the dawn, and Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about 3 million.

For all of our flaws, our terrible history, our wars, our bigotries and our mistakes, this country is and will remain a nation of diversity, a nation of immigrants from all over the world. Unless you are a Native American you can only be several generations down from immigrants here, so the exclusionary rhetoric of division and fear vomited on us by the orange buffoon is patently absurd.

And what of racial pride? Why do we do that? Am I proud to be white? Am I proud to be straight? Am I proud to be an American? Or am I ashamed of these things? No, goddammit! I’m proud to be a human being! I am proud to share this precious and improbable world with humans, and critters, and plants and oceans and trees and air and joy and love! I am proud to be under the stars in a canopy of oxygen and nitrogen just right for breathing, and walking and swimming and running and playing music and living! And I’ve never hated a person in my life, least of all for their gender or race! Because why would you ever? What could be more boring, or impoverishing, or unpleasant, than that? To live that way, in fear, in bitterness, in grief, in the sadness and isolation and ignorance that bigotry requires. Why? Why choose that horrible darkness, when there is so much glory and light?

The “greatest nation on earth.” When did we start that? “One nation under God.” What unmitigated and utter bollocks. The presidents all ending their speeches with “God bless the United States of America.” Ridiculous. God bless the world. And everyone in it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is my interpretation, of the “American way.” God bless the whole world. Whatever your interpretation or understanding of God may or may not be, we can all rest assured, He, She, Them or It does not recognize our silly borders. Does not favor a race, or a gender or a country. Or a species, or anything for that matter. God is everything, and God is love. God does not discriminate. So why should we?

I am more pleased, than proud, I think. Amazed to have eyes and ears and senses and a body, with which to perceive the short time I have on this magnificent planet in an infinite and incomprehensible universe. Proud? Sure, I can be proud. But maybe humble is the better path? Humble to be American. Humble to be my race and gender. Humble to be human. Yes, I like that better.

I love humanity and I am humble to be in it, and you will never find me at the bleaching salon.

God bless You.

Dr. King Was Not Selling Trucks

This morning I listened to Democracy Now’s coverage of the automobile advertisement that ran during the Super Bowl, featuring the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., excerpted from his speech of February 4, 1968. On the anniversary of that speech, an ad for RAM trucks used King’s voice. How ever did we come to a place, where a corporation, their ad agency, the broadcasting network, everyone in every step along the way, allowed a thing like that to be produced, and aired? Certainly someone, in one of those meetings where this was conceived, must have shouted, had a meltdown, protested, refused? They took King’s words not merely out of context, but in direct contradiction to the very points he made, in that very speech. DN! breaks it down pretty well, you can check out their segment on it here.

Where has our collective conscience gone? How tolerant of untruths have we become? In the eagerness to make a buck, not merely the corporations and individuals that made the advertisement went along with it, but someone representing the King estate must have, as well. It’s their right, legally. They can license his words and voice and likeness, any which way they choose to. But why? To what end? Have they abdicated responsibility, or did somehow they think this was an appropriate use of Dr. King’s recorded words?

It’s one thing when a song you love gets dumped into a commercial. And who can be mad at anyone who owns a copyright, wanting to cash in on it if they can? Everyone needs money. Now more than ever. Capitalism not merely won but it won with a vengeance, glorifying consumerism and greed and making a mockery of basic human values like compassion and brotherhood. Nature bats last and nature is at bat, swinging for the fences, and instead of an intelligent, science-based and community-based federal government, the United States is squatted upon by a political party with no apparent values whatsoever, other than meanness and greed. It is in this context that The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, a biblical figure, a hero if there ever was one, one of the most important human voices of the Twentieth or any century, has his voice appropriated to glorify a goddamn truck. Using images of soldiers, for God’s sake. They couldn’t be more perverse in their violation of the meaning and intent of Dr. King’s words if they tried.

All this, while the most prominent voice in our country now, is one which only lies, all of the time, only self-glorifies, only belittles and insults, only disgraces himself and humanity with his every shallow poisoned breath, morning and night. The precise moral opposite of a Martin Luther King has been made the loudest voice, by our system of broadcast and advertising revenue, of click-bait, worship of spectacle, failure of imagination, apathy, laziness, and acute, howling stupidity.

This year I celebrated King’s birthday consciously. This year, for me, it wasn’t just a day when the schools and banks are closed, which is the depth to which I usually observe a holiday. This year I happened to listen, coincidentally, to the very speech in question here, and marveled at its prescience, its relevance, its power.

I just found it again on YouTube, so I will post it here. I’m listening again as I write. Appreciating and savoring the words of an intellectual, a man of conscience, a man of moral courage, whose voice calls us together, and inspires, and heals. Re-tasking this recording to sell cars surpasses irony and tastelessness to such a degree, I don’t even know if there’s a word for it. But such are these times. Thankfully, this recording survives intact, its intention clear, its meaning immortal.

There are some glitches in the audio there, it sounds like it was copied from a vinyl record which skips a bit, but mostly it’s intact.

Here’s King speaking to an anti-Vietnam war rally at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, April 27, 1967

Profanity and What Is Profane

NPR just published an article explaining their decision to publish the word shithole. Grownups. Had a discussion. About the pros and cons. Of saying “shithole.” In a news broadcast. “Shithole” was on the cover of a bunch of respectable papers and magazines yesterday. Because the context was so egregious, and because it came from the president of the United States. What an accomplishment. Again we are embarrassed and made a pariah to the world. The shithole presidency.

When I was a young kid in the 70’s I associated conservatives with our neighbors down the street, a nice old retired couple I knew only as the Hamiltons. I never got their first names. He was Mr. and she was Mrs. Hamilton and they let us come over and watch cartoons. They never used “curse words,” as he called them, and foul language was forbidden in their house. They flew the American flag on the appropriate days, and they voted conservative. I think he was a war veteran. She made cookies. We ate many. It was the closest thing to a “white picket fence” household I encountered in my oh-so-Berkeley youth. I really liked the Hamiltons. I was happy to mind my words and respect their house rules. Those were good cookies. These were good neighbors.

Lenny Bruce died in 1966, a year after I was born. In my teens I discovered his story and his work and he became a hero to me. His use of “profanity” got him arrested and persecuted, and precipitated a discussion on what is profane, what is freedom of speech, what is freedom of expression. He used whatever words he wanted to as part of his art. He wasn’t going to censor himself for anyone. It was brave, and dangerous, for him. He won, ultimately, at great personal cost, clearing the path for Richard Pryor and Bill Hicks and countless others who came after. But what do those words mean now?

I try to avoid them, in my own language, unless they’re really necessary to make a particular point. Using the “seven words you can’t say on television” that George Carlin spoke of, hasn’t seemed particularly rebellious or dangerous or interesting to me, in decades. There came a point when it seemed that stand-up comedians spent half their stage-time saying f- this and mother-f that. Eddie Murphy did a hilarious bit imitating Bill Cosby berating him and then Richard Pryor berating Cosby in response on this subject.. google it if you like, it’s quite funny. That was back in the 80’s. That’s how old this is. After Rage Against The Machine hit in the 90’s, I noticed bands yelling “motherfucker” constantly, and it seemed so.. frat housey by then! And tedious. Like it had gone full circle, from rebellion to conformity. Movies, cable TV, endlessly flogging the four-letter words like there’s still any cultural point to it. Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton would be appalled. I just find it boring and unimaginative.

Maybe proper language is the new edgy. Maybe the infestation of the white house by foul-mouthed bigots has rendered four-letter words obsolete. Maybe Lenny Bruce would consider them un-cool now, and speak in elegant Shakespearean verse? Maybe the Hamiltons would vote for Bernie Sanders! I don’t think they’d vote for the “curse words” guy. They’d have him wash his mouth out with soap.

Presidents are supposed to set a good example. Say smart, presidential things, and demonstrate dignity, respect, and class. 45 does the opposite. What is profane is his statement about “shithole countries.” What is profane is the attitude behind it. What is profane is racism and bigotry and small-mindedness and willful ignorance and that hair. What is profane is the GOP that allowed and still allows this.

Here are a few organizations you can engage, for effective ways to help reduce the profanity in our 2018 mid-term elections:




and of course berniesanders.com

Here are some words which are not profane.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

-Emma Lazarus