Wednesday, December 31, 2014

National Recording LPs

I’ve been looking over the National Recording Registry, lately. Many of the recordings you can’t get access to, due to their scarcity, etc. So, to be more honest, I’ve been looking over their selection of LPs.

Most of the time they get it right, but I do have some quarrels with the list. I’ve divvied all of their LPs into ones I agree with, disagree (and why), and haven’t heard. Some LPs are difficult to find, too…

I have not included classical LPs, as I’m not qualified to judge one rendition over another, with a couple of slight-ish exceptions. Nor did I include spoken word LPs, except comedy albums. Sorry to Dylan Thomas’ ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’. Likewise I had to exclude anthologies, with all due apologies to Harry Smith. It is organized by year of induction.



Dance Mania – Tito Puente, 1958. Great album, deserved pick.
Kind of Blue – Miles Davis, 1959. Essential.
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan, 1963. Essential.


Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert – Benny Goodman, 1938. Essential.
Brilliant Corners – Thelonious Monk, 1956. Great album, I understand the pick.
Mingus Ah Um – Charlie Mingus, 1959. Essential. I’d also hear the argument for ‘The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady’.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles, 1967. Essential.
At Folsom Prison – Johnny Cash, 1968. Essential.
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye, 1971. Essential.
Tapestry – Carole King, 1971. Essential.
Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen, 1971. Essential.


Songs By Tom Lehrer – Tom Lehrer, 1953. Great album. Still funny all these years later.
Drums of Passion – Michael Babatunde Olatunji, 1960. Essential.
Live at the Apollo – James Brown, 1963. Essential.
Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys, 1966. Essential.
At Fillmore East – Allman Brothers, 1971. Essential.
Nevermind – Nirvana, 1991. Essential.


Show Boat – Original cast, 1932. Deserved pick.
Time Out – Dave Brubeck Quartet, 1959. Essential.
Live at the Regal – B.B. King, 1965. Essential.
Are You Experienced? – The Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1967. Essential.
Will the Circle Be Unbroken – The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, 1972. Understandable choice.
Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder, 1972. Essential.


The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart – Bob Newhart, 1960. Essential.
We Shall Overcome – Pete Seeger, 1963. Essential.
The Velvet Underground and Nico – The Velvet Underground and Nico, 1967. Essential.
Burnin’ – The Wailers, 1973. Arguments could be made, but I agree.
Graceland – Paul Simon, 1986. Essential.


My Fair Lady – Original Broadway cast, 1956. I prefer the London cast, but okay.
Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes – Elizabeth Cotton, 1959. Essential.
You’ll Sing a Song and I’ll Sing a Song – Ella Jenkins, 1966. I get why this is on here, and I'll allow it, but blegch.
Music from the Morning of the World. Great album.
For the Roses – Joni Mitchell, 1972. I understand why they picked this, over ‘Blue’ and ‘Court and Spark’. Not my choice, but not irreconcilable.
Head Hunters – Herbie Hancock, 1973. Essential.
Thriller – Michael Jackson, 1982. Essential.


West Side Story – Original Broadway Cast, 1957. Essential.
2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks – Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, 1961. Great album, deserving choice.


The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings – Bill Evans Trio, 1961. Essential.
I Started Out as a Child – Bill Cosby, 1964. Arguments could be made.
Today! – Mississippi John Hurt, 1966. Great album.
The Band – The Band, 1969. Essential.
Red-Headed Stranger – Willie Nelson, 1975. Essential.
Horses – Patti Smith, 1975. Essential.


Talking Union – The Almanac Singers, 1941. I think ‘Songs for John Doe’ is better, but I totally understand this choice.
The Music from Peter Gunn – Henry Mancini, 1958. Essential. ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ notwithstanding.
Trout Mask Replica – Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, 1969. Essential.
Aja – Steely Dan, 1977. Essential.
3 Feet High and Rising – De La Soul, 1989. I understand this. I’d prefer A Tribe Called Quest, but it’s a very reasonable pick.


A Charlie Brown Christmas – Vince Guaraldi Trio, 1965. Good pick.
Forever Changes – Love, 1967. Essential.
Mothership Connection – Parliament, 1975. Arguments could be made.
Purple Rain – Prince, 1984. Essential.


South Pacific – Original Cast Recording, 1949. Essential. One of the better Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals.
Descargas: Cuban Jam Sessions in Miniature – Cachao, 1957. Sure. I get this.
The Shape of Jazz to Come – Ornette Coleman, 1959. Essential.
Cheap Thrills – Big Brother and the Holding Company, 1968. Essential.
The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd, 1973. Essential.
Ramones – Ramones, 1976. Essential.
Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack – The Bee Gees, et al., 1977. Lots of filler, but I get it.


A Night of Birdland – Art Blakey, 1954. ‘Moanin’’ is more famous, but this had the virtuosity to merit inclusion.
Celia and Johnny – Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco, 1974. Essential.
Heart Like a Wheel – Linda Ronstadt, 1974. Essential.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – Original Broadway Cast, 1979. Essential.
The Joshua Tree – U2, 1987, Essential.


Songs for Young Lovers – Frank Sinatra, 1954. Not Sinatra’s best. Why not ‘In the Wee Small Hours’?
Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook – Ella Fitzgerald, 1956. I love Ella, but she mangles these tunes, and slows what should be jazzy numbers way down. Why not ‘Ella and Louis Again’?
The New York Taxi Driver – Tony Schwartz, 1959. Nope.
Judy at Carnegie Hall – Judy Garland, 1961. I get why it’s on there, but I’ve never been a fan.
Giant Steps – John Coltrane, 1959. Magnificent, but not Coltrane’s best. They really should have put in ‘A Love Supreme’.
Fear of a Black Planet – Public Enemy, 1990. Not their best. How do you not include ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back’?
Tubby the Tuba – Victor Jory, 1946. This is so dumb. Like, I get why it’s in there, but jeez…
We’re Only In It for the Money – Frank Zappa, 1968. Should have been ‘Freak Out!’. Although, admittedly, this is more ‘listener-friendly’.
Don’t Crush that Dwarf, Hand me the Pliers – Firesign Theater, 1970. I just don’t find this funny.
Daydream Nation – Sonic Youth, 1988. I’ve tried to like this album many times…
Live in Japan – Sarah Vaughan, 1973. Tried and tried…
The Who Sings My Generation – The Who, 1966. The definition of ‘uninspired’. ‘The Who Sell Out’, ‘Live at Leeds’, ‘Tommy’, ‘Who’s Next’: any of these would have been a better choice.
Soul Folk in Action – The Staple Singers, 1968. I really only found this to be about average, as conscience-laden soul goes. Perhaps I’m being overly harsh, but only one or two tracks stuck out.
Blind Joe Death – John Fahey, 1959. ‘The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death’ is better.
Barton Hall Concert at Cornell University – Grateful Dead, 1977. Nope. If you want a live album do ‘Live/Dead’ or ‘Europe 72’. It’s not bad, but it’s not their best, by a long-shot.
Sounds of Silence – Simon and Garfunkel, 1966. Pick, like, any other album. The title track is great, but ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ or ‘Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme’ are way better. Even ‘Bookends’ is better.
The Wild Tchoupitoulas – The Wild Tchoupitoulas, 1976. Tried to like.
The First Family – Vaughn Meader, 1962. Important, just not that funny. Of all my ‘disagrees’ this is the most tenable for inclusion.
Carnegie Hall Concert with Buck Owens and His Buckaroos – Buck Owens, 1966. Not a fan of Owens.
Shaft – Isaac Hayes, 1971. I get it, but this album, on retrospect, is too much filler around a hit single.
Only Visiting This Planet – Larry Norman, 1972. Do we really want to enshrine the birth of Christian rock?

Haven’t Heard

1.      The Cradle Will Rock: Original Broadway Cast
2.      Precious Lord: Thomas Dorsey et al.
3.      Oklahoma!: Original Broadway Cast
4.      Winds in Hi-Fi: Eastman Wind Ensemble
5.      Live at Yankee Stadium: Fania All-Stars
6.      Guys & Dolls: Original Broadway Cast
7.      Switched-On Bach: Wendy Carlos
8.      Tuskegee Institute Choir Sings Spirituals: Tuskegee Institute Choir
9.      Peace Be Still: James Cleveland
10.  The Eighty-Six Years of Eubie Blake: Eubie Blake
11.  A Festival of Lessons and Carols as Sung on Christmas Eve in King's College Chapel, Cambridge: King’s College Choir
12.  Gypsy: Original Broadway Cast
13.  Azucar Pa’ Ti: Eddie Palmieri
14.  The Continental Harmony: Gregg Smith Singers
15.  Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s: Clarence Ashley
16.  Hoodoo Man Blues: Junior Wells
17.  The Audience with Betty Carter: Betty Carter
18.  The Texas Sharecropper and Songster: Mance Lipscombe

2014 in Books

Here are all the books I read this year. As always, a top five at the bottom.


Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault.

I’d read most of this a while ago, so I was just finishing some chapters unread. A very interesting book, looking at a critical development from the gruesome to the out of sight nature of punishment.

Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky.

Alinsky was unknown to me, but for someone intrigued by social revolution, the work was a breath of fresh air. It is starting to get a little dated, but still a very worthwhile read.

The Sceptical Chymist by Robert Boyle.

A very important development from alchemy to real chemistry, unfortunately the amount of dissuasive jargon limits this only to the very interested reader.

The Journals of Lewis and Clark edited by Bernard DeVoto.

An abridgement of the original multi-volume work, running 500 pages, it’s fun to read about the Shoshone and encounters with prairie dogs, but can drag in parts.

Imperialism: Highest Stage of Capitalism by Vladimir Lenin.

If you enjoy dozens of numbers and statistics per page regarding the rise of monopolies around 1900-1910, is this the work for you!

The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon.

With the word ‘bourgeouisie’ on nearly every page, it can get a little tiresome to read this tirade on anti-colonialism from Algeria. Still – he makes some deft points regarding African Nationalism and Pan-African culture (and struggles) as well as a powerful final chapter on psychological consequences of warfare.

Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution by John Paul Stevens.

Concise and well-argued, this book covered four issues I already was aware were problems (gun control, the death penalty, gerrymandering, and my old favorite, campaign finance reform) and two new to me (the anti-commandeering rule, and sovereign immunity).

Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt.

Shy, only just, of mandatory reading for humanity – Arendt’s classic description of the ‘banality of evil’ in Eichmann’s case is not just important, but compelling reading.

Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke

It is hard to like a guy who is more concerned/shocked by Revolutionary about taxes than the guillotine.


House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.

A wonderfully intriguing text, available to any reader willing to put in the effort and time. Cleverly ergodic at times, it is a valuable reading experience.

Calligrams by Apollinaire.


Operette Morali by Giacomo Leopardi.

Leopardi is known for poetry, but this collection of dialogues is really great, with acute observations of the human condition.

Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather by Gao Xingjian.

A collection of short stories, many will linger on the mind, most notably the title story as well as ‘The Temple’.

The Prophet by Khalil Gibran.

Gibran clearly knew how to write, but I found the advice therein not particularly special or meaningful.

The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow.

My first encounter with Bellow, the text takes a little getting used to, but then turns into a swell novel. That said, while I can remember many chapters, I honestly can’t recall how it ends.

Old Goriot by Honore de Balzac.

Fairly straight-forward morality, Balzac is better than many of the era, especially given his brilliance in describing places, while leaving his characters a little sketchy for the mind to fill in.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

I enjoyed Mrs. Dalloway immensely, but found the first half of this almost off-putting. The back half made it worthwhile, however.

Selected Poems by Czeslaw Milosz.

Milosz is a great poet, to be sure, and this compilation made shortly after he won the Nobel Prize shows off why he won it.

Cuttlefish Bones and The Occasion by Eugenio Montale.

Montale had an amazing gift for lyricism, and both collections plumb these depths.

View with a Grain of Sand by Wislawa Szymborska.

With a small oeuvre, I was concerned that Szymborska wasn’t all that good as I started this collection, but she eventually finds her stride and begins writing marvelously.

Selected Poems by Carl Spitteler.

Hard to track down, the only English translation reveals an unknown but actually very talented poet.

Mireio by Frederic Mistral.

Writing in Occitan, Mistral’s pastoral epic keeps the morality of Provence fresh, and displays a definite mastery of poetry.

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov.

My first encounter with Nabokov, I enjoyed this novel immensely, both the poem and the ridiculously predictable commentary.

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link.

A friend whose judgment I trust recommended Link, and this delightful collection of short stories shows off a great writer who needs to be better known outside of her speculative fiction fandom.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle.

Fun, short, and one which I’ll probably make sure my kids read.

The Cid, Cinna, and Polyceute by Corneille.

The Cid is the best of these three tragedies, due to breaking the mold, but all three were clearly worthwhile works.

Listen, Janamejaya  by Sriranga.

(Along with the following, part of an anthology of Modern Indian Drama.) A pretty typical modernist play, with basic themes but good language.

The Vultures by Vijay Tendulkar.

An unpleasant work about the unpleasantness of modern India.

One Day in Ashadha by Mohan Rakesh.

A very influential play, one of the most read in India today, deals with Kalidasa. In translation it comes off as nothing particularly special.

Evam Indrajit by Badal Sircar.

A nice piece of modernism, better than the rest in the anthology, deals with lives lived before we’re ready or know what we want.

Hayavadana by Girish Karnad.

A very old story, readapted, with a couple of amusing turns and a more interesting female protagonist.

The Main Event in Life by Hu Shi.

(Along with the following, part of an anthology of Modern Chinese Drama.) A very short one act about the generation gap.

The Night the Tiger Was Caught  by Tian Han.

Another play about the generation gap in China. Not very unique, really.

Thunderstorm by Cao Yu.

One of the most popular plays in China before the Revolution – reminiscent of Ibsen, but very well-told.

Teahouse by Lao She.

As years go by the tea house sees changes in the world. Not a new theme, but better done than a great many.

The China Tree by Isam Mahfuz.

(Along with the following, part of an anthology of Modern Arabic Drama.) A Lebanese work, dealing with political tyranny. Very good, original work.

The King is the King by Saadallah Wannus.

I wonder is this famous Syrian play has been read by Bashar Al-Asad. If so he didn’t learn the lesson.

The Zanj Revolution by Izz Al-Din Al-Madani.

Dealing with a historical uprising in Iraq that created a poorly thought-out caliphate, written by a Tunisian, I couldn’t help but relate it to the contemporary.

Night Traveler by Salah Abd Al-Sabur.

A nice, universal, work this wasn’t my favorite in the collection, but it definitely would be the one I’d recommend to be staged in the U.S.

Ali Janah al-Tabrizi and His Servant Quffa by Alfred Farag.

Developing themes from the Arabian Nights an amusing story – but I fail to see how it benefits from being a play instead of a short story.

Eloges by St. John Perse.

There are some nice phrases and turns of language in this, Perse’s first collection of poems. The section on Robinson Crusoe may’ve been the best.

The Incomparable Earth by Salvatore Quasimodo.

Quasimodo had a great command of poetic language, and this collection is the one I presume that earned him his Nobel Prize. That said, I’m having a hard time recalling specific works.

Logbook II by George Seferis.

Masterly in descriptive language, this collection is Seferis’ reflections as WWII begins to rage. The section on Robinson Crusoe struck me particularly.

Sister My Life by Boris Pasternak.

One of the best collections of poems I’ve ever read. To be read by anyone serious about poetry or literature. Flayderman's translation may be distinctive.

To Urania by Joseph Brodsky.

Containing Brodsky’s English poems from the late 60s to the early 80s (when he won his Nobel) I was left expecting more from this collection.

North by Seamus Heaney.

Ostensibly split between more universal themes in Part One and a more direct dealing with the Troubles in Part Two this was my first encounter with Heaney, and I definitely wouldn’t mind reading more.

The Gentleman from San Francisco and Other Stores by Ivan Bunin.

Bunin takes a melancholic road to uplifting places. Reflective, realist, and essentially nineteenth century these are moderately enjoyable stories. He sort of feels like a poor man’s Tolstoy. Highlights include the title tale.

Nostromo by Joseph Conrad.

Considered to be Conrad’s best work besides ‘Heart of Darkness’ I wanted to try Conrad without the tainted racism. It was a fine story, and certainly unconventional in plot outlines, but I’ll be putting ‘Lord Jim’ on hold for some time.

Fences by August Wilson

Roundly, and rightly, considered one of the finest plays in the American canon. Wilson’s play resonates as far more real than A Raisin in the Sun – which I’ve always considered a fairly two-dimensional play along similar themes. I can only imagine what the debut with James Earl Jones was like.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? By Edward Albee

My only prior experience with Albee was ‘The Sandbox’ -  a tremendous play that is as dissimilar to ‘Woolf’ as possible in terms of structure and humor. Like ‘Fences’ this was a long overdue member of the American theater canon for me.

Poems and Songs by Bjornstjerne Bjornson

Unless you have a really, really keen interest in Norwegian poetry…

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

Overtly European in regards to dealings with the subcontinent, phrases like ‘an Oriental’s ability to lie’ and similar condescensions date this work badly. That said it is a quick, sometimes intriguing read.

Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm

A very funny book, it sort of is like crossing Brideshead with Right Ho, Jeeves and is just about as snooty as that sounds.

The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington

“There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow…”Except when there isn’t. Avoid.

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

An immensely enjoyable historical/fantasy epic. The fantasy isn’t overbearing and blends wonderfully into this story of dynasty and destiny.

The Great Galeoto by Jose Echegary

A great piece of melodrama, if you’re into that sort of thing. Pretty unique for the time it was written, I suppose.

The Blue Bird by Maurice Maeterlinck

An unusual faery play – reminiscent of Faust Part Two or Strindberg’s A Dream Play. Amusing at times, but overall enchanting in a turn of the century way.

Barbarossa and Other Tales by Paul Heyse

Heyse’s tales of tragic love are rather repetitive. Only so many women can be described as the fairest the earth had ever seen, before arousing suspicion.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I’d long put off this cultural classic, afraid very much that it would be twee. And it certainly verges upon it, but carefully remains clear of the overtly saccharine.

Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlof

At the time heralded as the next Hans Christian Anderson, Lagerlof’s work is just a moment too late, and would instead be eclipsed by more modern stories within a few years.

Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

One of the best books I’ve read all year. The aging, and dying, Hadrian reflects on his life in a unique moment of history. Wonderfully well written, and, I daresay, a must-read.

Comics and Graphic Novels

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli.

Alan Rickman in the play “Seminar” described a certain piece of writing as “Perfect…in a whorish way.” It’s the right description for this – it does everything a great graphic novel is supposed to do.

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd.

Having seen the movie years ago, I wanted to get to ‘V’ as a cultural touchstone. However it is an early attempt, and while masterful in parts, is almost ham-fisted in others.

Kampung Boy by Lat.

Having been to the kampungs (what remains) in Malaysia and Singapore, this struck me. It’s a nice little book, and while I wouldn’t think to actively recommend it, I can’t see many people disliking it.

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine.

Much like ‘Polyp’ this actually started to bore me with righteousness.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.

Short, cute little work that deals with being…American-born Chinese. Redeeming in the last couple of chapters, not a bad read for anyone.

David Boring by Daniel Clowes.

‘Boring’ is the middle child of Clowes’ famous works, sandwiched between his best known ‘Ghost World’ and less well-known ‘Ice Haven’. Thematically, visually, and with regard to narrative, ‘Boring’ bridges the gap between those two works.

Top 5

Memoirs of Hadrian
Sister My Life - translated by Phillip C. Fayderman
Rules for Radicals
Six Amendments
Zuleika Dobson

Monday, December 1, 2014

Comedian Mashup - NSFW

So I decided, as a somewhat academic exercise, to write up original comedic material - in the voice and style of famous comedians. I like to think I have a good ear for patter, cadence and general style. You may disagree.

Of course, if you're unfamiliar with the 'sound' of a particular comedian, it probably won't be funny. But if you read them in the style of the comedian named, I hope you'll find them at least passable, if not actually chuckle-worthy.

Lenny Bruce

Why Vegas? No one except with screw loose would say – “Here let’s put a lot of neon in the desert.” “That makes a lot of sense to me, Earl” “Good, I’m glad you like it. And we’ll have cheesy shows and showgirls, all the time.” “People will flock, Earl.” “ Yeah, I thought so.”

Vegas is crawling with creeps, crawling with creeps, man. These g-men who are only there to bounce the little blonde showgirls on their laps. But if you do - you’ll be arrested. Go into one of their offices and riffle through some of their mail – you wouldn’t believe what these creep-o lilly-ladies are up to. An internal memo:  “Sir – found contraband on outskirts of town, and flushed it all down the toilet. Citizen under arrest for possession. PS – I love you.”

Sometimes I say words I’m not supposed to. Words like ‘cocksucker’. But this is a natural word, and I don’t know why the policeman wanted to arrest me for it. This was in New York just last year, for saying a word.  Just a word – no harm in it, it describes an action, one we all want. An’ how else am I going to describe this policeman’s mother?

There is no such thing as an offensive joke. Jokes are merely words – people get offended. Books, for example, do not get offended when offensive words are written in them, and this is because, you see, books cannot get offended. Only people can. It is a choice. If you do not like the work ‘cocksucker’ it is because you do not like it, it has nothing to do with the word itself and even less with the action. We all like cocksucking – it comes on anniversaries, and so do we.

Bob Newhart

You know, uh, Charles Darwin died right around the time the telephone was being invented. And I often wonder, just, uh, what it would’ve been like if there had been a phone on board the Beagle. I think it would’ve gone something a little like this:

“Howdy Charlie! How’s the cruise going? Uh huh, uh huh. Slow down Charlie – what was that? Finches? What’s a – what’s so special about that? They have, what was that? ‘beaks’? Really Charlie you’re going to have to shave that thing off if you want to use the phone, or at least annunciate…there, thank you.

“So, what’s so special about finches, Charlie, I mean, we have finches back here in London…Well what about their beaks? All birds have beaks. I mean, if you found a type that didn’t then, then you’d have something to write home about…uh huh. Uh huh. Uh, isn’t that uh, isn’t that kind of obvious? I mean different beaks for different food just makes sense. You, uh, you don’t see eagle with a duck’s beak – a bill…I see. And what are you calling this theory? ‘Evolution’? Doesn’t really have a ring to it… Well, well, here’s question, then, for your theory: uh, why do so many birds exist huh? I mean, how many kinds of flycatcher do we really need? Does your theory cover that? Oh it does, does it? I see. Well, I just don’t really think that the public is going to care about this theory of evolution if all you can offer to them is finches that live in the Galapagos Islands. Now if you found something interesting, like, say, uh, giant tortoises –see, that would really fire the imagination… What? You’ve got to go? Oh, okay Charlie, have fun, have fun on your cruise!”

Bill Cosby

I find, with children, that they do not know how to do things any adult can do. I wonder, often, when the flip happened, and they suddenly could do these things. Some of them, of course, we know and remember. I remember learning how to drive a car. How to talk to girls. How to play baseball. But others still elude me. I’ll give you an example: I don’t remember learning how to dry the dishes properly. I don’t remember when I learned how to take care of a yard. Or learning how to scrub a toilet bowl. These are not memories my mind has seen fit to cherish. But as a parent, I remember well teaching my child each of these things. Because you see, parents can’t wait for their children to start doing chores. The sooner you can teach the child to do the chores the better. If you come over to our house you will see the three year-old with a dustpan and broom. “Why yes, we Cosby’s know how to do it right.” My wife and I just sit on the sofa as groups of child-aged maids and butlers take care of our every need.

But of course it’s not really like that.  Because, and this is one of those things I don’t remember learning, kids love to misbehave. It’s in the genes of every child. If a parent comes up to me and says “My boy never misbehaves. My boy has never done anything wrong.” I will tell that parent to run. As far away, and as fast as they can. Because whatever it ends up being, it’s going to be catastrophic. When that child finally blows it’s going to be on the news – in three states!

Bill Hicks

You know, something I think about is if God didn’t want us to use drugs, why didn’t he make that one of the ten commandments?  I ask my Christian friends this “If you believe the ten commandments, along with that wacky golden rule are the basis of your faith – ” Quick question about that golden rule thing: does that apply to masochists? “Let’s see, uh…do unto others, what…do…Hmm, I think I have some chains and whips lying around here…!” But if God didn’t want us to do drugs, then why never fucking mentioning in the bible? Seems like an oversight to me. And if he didn’t want us to take acid, why did he make Timothy Leary, huh?

‘Cause we as a species have not stopped evolving. But I think things like Christianity have slowed it down somewhat. Why are these Christians ruining for the rest of us? We might’ve had wings by now! The only way we can evolve, I think, is our minds, and the only way to do that – bingo: drugs. The most mind-enhancing experiences come from psychotropic mushrooms and LSD. I never saw God when I was on acid, though. No man on fluffy white clouds surrounded by heavenly host in my trips…I did see a hundred-foot long one-eyed snake with saber-fangs, green skin and crimson fur. Maybe that was god! Maybe he’s tired of people picturing him as some lame old guy on a cloud. “Why do they disrespect my awesome form?” Who knows what god looks like? He never describes himself as riding a cloud with a beard… … Maybe god looks like goat-boy…

George Carlin

And that’s another thing: Americans are fucking ignorant! We are an ignorant fucking society. Notice, I don’t say ‘uninformed’. I don’t blame people for being uninformed. You think a kid in Somalia who doesn’t have enough to eat is informed? Plenty of people in this world don’t have the means to be informed. But for Americans there’s no excuse – and that’s ignorant! We have the Library of Congress fer godsakes – the largest library in the whole world – so read a fucking book!

Actually, you can only check out books from the Library of Congress if you’re a congressman! Can you believe that shit? Have any of these assholes been told this library exists? I don’t think any of them have ever been to the fucking place! But even without it we have the internet in this country! Oh yeah, we like that! People don’t know who their congressman is, but they can list their top ten favorite porno films! ‘Let’s see… number six is the one with the two black guys giving rim jobs to a horse, now what was it called…? Oh, yeah! ‘Black Beauty!’’

If Americans spent a fraction – just a fraction – of the time spent jerking off by getting informed we’d have a very different country, let me tell ’ya. If we spent the time watching porn reading the annual budget we’d have fixed our mess a long time ago – a long time ago. No question. Instead we’re too busy watching ‘Cum-guzzling, pre-pubescent, anal-thrashing, oral-fixated, lesbian, incest, choking, smoking, gargling, fondling, strap-on, milf-fucking, rug-munching, cock-sucking Asian gynecologists VI!’

Eddie Izzard

So, uh, yeah, there was that. And uh…When I was a kid my parents would, uh, take me to art galleries. And as a kid unless the entire thing is, you know, Dr. Seuss, it’s just not interesting! You know these paintings like ‘This work was done by Sir Drabfancy McPainty-man in a year long before you care about. As you can see from the mellow tones of orange and yellow it depicts a rubber duck…!” But one time they took me to, uh, one of these galleries and it was nothing but surrealists like Dali and Magritte and, and others like them…and my child-self was agape! I didn’t know art could do that! I think my parents regretted it, though, at the time. You know, ‘cause those surrealists have a keen interest, I find, in lady’s breasts. For parents of a young boy, uh…And it really – that was it. That was the moment I got interested in art was when I realized that sometimes art is really fucking weird! But I came across something the other day that said the surrealists, ‘the surrealists’ it seems ‘weren’t just painting crazy fuckin’ things all the time – there was a deep symbolism to their work’ which ruins it, for me! I liked that stuff ‘cause it was totally bonkers! Half a head, wearing a fired egg as a hat! I could relate to that! I’d been half a head at one time, and I wore a fried egg…once… as…But no! No – it can’t just be a guy with egg on his head now it has to be ‘symbolic’. I think that’s the point of critics, really, is, just to ruin everyone else’s fun. That’s their favorite thing to do just make people miserable and not let you enjoy anything.

Robin Williams

Oh, and Barrack Obama! Yeah baby! There is a President! But what does it say about us that our coolest President is the whitest fucking black guy since Doc Huxtable? And I like Obama, but he does sometimes confuse me. I mean, sending troops back to Iraq, but not to fucking Syria what’s that all about? Even the Dalai Lama is saying ‘No really, they need help.’ But of course we can’t go to Syria – ‘cause Asad and Putin are buddies. When did we get so scared of the fucking Russians? Half of them are stoned on fucking vodka anyway! Didn’t we beat those guys once before? I distinctly remember Ronnie… “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Of course Regan had as much to do with the end of the Soviet Union as blow-job has with conception but that’s okay! We’re moving right through…

But before Obama we had Bush, and everyone hated that guy – especially in the rest of the world. Just look at the Nobel Prizes – so pretentious they have to be held in Sveeden. Two Americans won the Nobel Prize when Bush was President: Jimmy Carter and Al Gore. If that’s not a message I don’t know what the fuck is. And the very year he gets out of office - bam! - they gave it right to Obama to let everyone know in unequivocal terms just what an asshole they thought he was. ‘Fuck you cowboy-man! You’re going to go on a crusade? We’re going to give the Nobel Prize to any Democrat we can think of!’

And Al Gore…Can you smell what the planet is cooking? Yes! Global warming! I live in California, and we’ve had to deal with this shit for years. Los Angeles is going to be underwater, San Francisco is soon going to be a series of islands… ‘Come to Tahoe! We now have year-round fishing!’ And the wildfires, man, they are out of control. California, as always, ahead of the curve, the cutting-edge. Don’t worry: you’ll all get the full experience soon!

There are some cities, honestly, I wouldn’t mind if they went. Mostly in the South. I can’t remember the last time something good came out of Birmingham. But then you have a problem ‘cause ‘Mississippi burning’ can have a couple different connotations…Oopsie!

Mitch Hedberg

I never knew why they had ‘Kiwi Shoe Polish.’ What does a kiwi know about polishing shoes? I think they named it that ‘cause it’s the color of a kiwi – and that’s racist!

I don’t know why they call them ‘paperbacks’. We don’t call the other kid of book ‘hardbacks’ – they are not made out of rocks!

A guy came to my house and said ‘you need aluminum siding’. I said ‘why? My house already has sides. What do you think keeps the roof up?’

Why do we still make cups out of paper? That shit will get soggy, and then it cannot be recycled. Unless – you cover the paper in wax. Why not cut out the middle man, and have wax cups?  They would mold perfectly to your hands!

I don’t know why some men still wear ties. It’s like, ‘here, I have a small poorly-tied scarf that will not keep my neck warm. And I will wear it year-round!’

Why do they call them ‘tear-jerkers?’ After watching a sad film my tears did not seem extra smokey and spicey. If they had, my dog would love to lick my tears. Any time I’d put ‘Bambi’ on my dog’s mouth would salivate!

I had a follow-up to that joke, about pastrami and sweat, but it did not make any sense. So I will not tell it.

When I was a kid my favorite story was ‘Peter Pan’ because he got to hang out with pirates and fly and shit. But now that I am older my favorite story is still ‘Peter Pan’ because I still want to fly and hang out with pirates.

Killer whales are my least favorite animal. They need to chill out. Surely they are not killing things twenty-four seven? We don’t call lions ‘killer cats’ so why ‘killer whales’? Since they are black and white we should call them ‘sea zebras’. I think that would be a much more descriptive use of nomenclature!

Why would an owl know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop? That makes no sense. Owls have beaks and eat voles. If they ate a tootsie pop it was probably on accident.

Louis CK

Nobody likes babies. We need to stop lying about that shit. As soon as the mother is out of the room we are thinking ‘Jesus Christ! It was like a prune filled with just snot and mucous. It was hideous!’ Kids are different, kids are fun you know, when you don’t want to punch them. Sometimes we’ve all wanted to punch a kid. In the face, or if we’re on a plane, in the stomach – just right there in the gut. ‘Yeah, now you’ll be quiet, ‘cause I’ve forced all of the air out of your tiny shrill lungs.’ I would never actually fuckin yadda yadda hit a kid… But we all want to. Kids, unlike babies, at least have the potential to be fun. They at least can be entertaining. When a kid licks the spoon batter for chocolate cookies that’s the very first time he’s ever done that thing! And as adults, as parents, you know, we’ve clearly already lost in life’s roulette, I mean we’re married, middle-aged with kids it doesn’t get worse than that, that’s just rock bottom. But when you see you kids taste chocolate chip cookie dough for the first time you get to vicariously live through them for that moment and regain a fraction of the happiness you had as a child when life actually mattered and you got to do what you wanted all the time. Babies get to do that too – babies do not give a fuck. But all the happiness I had as a baby is lost to me, I don’t have those memories. My first steps? Fuck ‘em – don’t remember it. Even a parent’s greatest joys and memories with a baby the baby won’t fucking remember! Your parents could be bullshitting you all the time, and you’d have no idea! They could just be like ‘Yeah, when you were three you played the piano every day!’ You don’t know! Maybe you were a prodigy and now look at you – middle aged with kids, it’s fucking sad! Shit’s brutal.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees for 2015

It has been a while since I’ve checked in on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I used to get excited to see the yearly inductees. But it is a mighty bit gender- and English- biased. Way, way back in 2009 I said there were a few major oversights: The Stooges (subsequently inducted), Kraftwerk (nominated this year), Roxy Music (no love), Gram Parsons (no love), and Whitney Houston (no love).

So besides the sad fact that this year Parsons, Houston, and Roxy Music are once again maligned (five years in a row, now) that still leaves a gender bias, as I wrote up back in the day. Obviously, I want Kraftwerk to win, so we’ll put them in the first spot, since they are on the nominee list again this year:

1. Kraftwerk

Now, it is likely there’ll be five inductees total, so let’s look at the nominees for the four other spots:

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Green Day
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
The Marvelettes
Nine Inch Nails
Lou Reed
The Smiths
The Spinners
Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble
Bill Withers

Right off the bat: holy shit. They actually came up with a really good list this year. I’m going to knock out a couple losers immediately, though. First: Sting. The Police are already in there. Sting’s solo career is just not that impressive. He’s no George Harrison. Second: The Marvelettes. As I said, we need more recognition of women in rock, and the academy has recently been more interested in those early 60s groups. But beyond ‘Please Mr. Postman’ what are they known for? I guess if they won I'd be okay with it, but they aren't really deserving.

Okay, so focusing on the female quotient, so underrepresented, let’s make the next two Joan Jett and Chic:

1. Kraftwerk
2. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
3. Chic

leaving two positions open. I’m going to say Bill Withers, who is now 76, should be on there before he dies. Just seems like a nice thing to do. Most of the other living artists are all relatively young by comparison.

For the last position let’s look at the real innovators, the indisputably critical artists: NWA, Nine Inch Nails, The Smiths, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and Lou Reed. Heck these five would be a great year on their own, and I won’t be disappointed if any of them wins. That said, I’m going to go with age again, and the oldest group, clearly, is The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – seminal in the blues-rock movement of the 60s. Their inaugural 1965 album kicked open the door to the whole movement, and is widely considered a classic. Paul Butterfield died back in the 80s, but some of the other band members are alive and kickin’.

Final roundup, then, looks like this:

1. Kraftwerk
2. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
3. Chic
4. Bill Withers
5. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

According to the fan vote the top five, as of today, are:

1. Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble (I’m cool with that)
2. Nine Inch Nails (Again, cool with that)
3. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (yay!)
4. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (yay!)
5. Bill Withers (yay!)

Hopefully Kraftwerk will be on there too…

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Late Night Thoughts on Global Warming

The possibilities of global warming’s devastation are becoming more pronounced and striking. While models aren’t going to be 100% accurate, and unknown factors may slightly shift the picture, the overall takeaway is obvious:

Water shortages

Global outcomes, milder scenario still showing the US' big problem

This one shows number of days a year with over 100 degree temperatures

This is the most important/frightening

As someone who is working (in my spare time, at least) to fixing America’s broken political system, I can’t help but wonder why I should bother, or any of us should care, when the continental United States is going to be unrecognizable in a century.

If someone made me dictator for life tomorrow, what would I do to counteract the chaos of global warming? These are the thoughts that keep me awake at night. Here follows a non-ordered list of things I thought about Monday (up until 3 am) that would help solve the problem.

1.      Move the Capital. Missoula, it is your time to shine. Look at those maps above and note how Western Montana is relatively unscathed. Keeping the capital in the South is going to be impossible, and possibly dangerous. Congress already takes the summer off due to the heat – who wants them to take the year? (Not that you’d notice a difference…) The current District of Columbia would be folded into Maryland, and a bit into Virginia (using the Potomac as demarcation). Ship the Smithsonian out to Missoula as well. Disband the National Zoo (send the critters to other zoos that can take them) and abandon the gardens and such. Turn the buildings into museums (White House, Capitol) and sell off the uninteresting ones to Maryland and Virginia. The biggest issue would be the Pentagon.

2.      Solar roadways. I think this technology needs to be rolled out on a massive scale. Making sure they can take extreme temperatures (say 250 degrees) these little hexagons could transform nearly all paved surfaces, from the obvious highways to the basketball courts. Solar power in general – put the strongest ones out in the soon-to-be inhospitable areas. This allows us to have power as the fossil fuels disappear. Flight would still be an issue, of course, but solar planes are doable (on the smallest scale). Back to hot air balloons.

3.      Close National Parks. Global warming will portend an era of isolationism as America deals with its greatest concern: survival. Consolidation will be required on many fronts, and an obvious one is closing National Parks. Rangers will simply die if assigned to places like Death Valley and Joshua Tree. They’ll remain federal land, but unstaffed. Other obvious choices due to weather or conserving finances: Everglades, Dry Tortugas, Biscayne, Virgin Islands, Samoa, Haleakala, Great Basin, Guadalupe Mountains, Big Bend, Congaree, Hot Springs, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef, Saguaro, Petrified Forest and Cuyahoga. Import billions of the hardiest, drought-resistant trees possible, and cultivate our own (looking to you, Africa and Australia).

4.      Relocations. Much of the American population would need to move north, and out of danger. Goodbye, Phoenix. Goodbye El Paso. Goodbye Miami, and New Orleans. Luckily places like North Dakota are pretty empty (looking at you too, Wyoming. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan will also be a lot friendlier. At first give incentives, then help with the relocations as needed. For the American families and also for the Capital we can repurpose what manufacturing we have left (Boeing comes to mind) to create the sort of massive trucks and transports to facilitate this in an orderly fashion, starting in the worst-hit and moving north. Thousands of new towns and cities will be created, as people are re-settled. We've done this before, though.

5.      Labor. Lots of labor needed, and shrinking territory. Many Americans busy moving north to set up new lives leaves a problem, like who is going to pave our solar roadways? The best answer is to take in refugees and use prisoners. Countries that exist today simply will not in the future, especially in the Pacific. By accepting refugees to take on the worst of the labor, we will grant them citizenship as a reward, provided they follow the law and pay taxes. Prisons in the south will need to be closed, as well, and rather than rebuild them all up north we can consolidate – prisoners who committed non-violent misdemeanors can reduce their sentences to two years of labor, or the remainder of time needed to serve. Reintegrates them into society, and solves a decades-old problem.

6.      Buy Greenland. We’re going to need space, and we’re going to need to redraw the map. Some states are going to be effectively lost. I’d recommend essentially grouping the Southwest into one large state, New Calizonia, or whatever. Hardly anyone will live there (except to maintain our enormous solar panel project). Basically LA to the Grand Canyon to El Paso, and all points South. Split Texas in two. Let Puerto Rico either join us or cut them loose. And buy Greenland. In a century that’s going to be prime real estate, and Denmark sure as hell doesn’t need it. Buy it from them legitimately, and quickly. Before the Russians come knocking in Copenhagen. Talk it over with Canada and the UN first, so all goes through smoothly. This also is an opportunity to resettle the refugees we take on, which ought to please the UN, and solve the shortage of space. (Alaska will also be heavily settled.) When Greenland and Alaska fill up we’ll make new states of them, maybe getting back a full 50 someday. Let the (few) current residents choose to remain Danes, become  Americans, or have dual citizenship. While we’re at it, relocate the U.N. to Iceland, or some such other obvious choice.

7.      The Economy – shrink it. Stop unnecessary foreign imports. Kill the overly-massive finance sector. No more pears year-round. Decrease meat availability to conserve water and land. Ban monoculture and genetic patenting for crops. Wall Street should, literally, be under water anyway. Highly tax land for unneeded things – with millions of families on the move we don’t need a Burger King across the street from a Starbucks, across from a Subway. Tax the ever-loving hell out them, and get rid of them. Encourage micro-scale farming, so households own chickens, grow herbs and vegetables, etc. An ungodly sum of money will be needed, after all, to move to Missoula, grab Greenland, relocate half the country, and deal with all the other inevitable crises (wild fires, crime control, disease control, etc.) Land used for unnecessary crops (tobacco, marijuana) will also be taxed at crushing rates.

8.      Youth. First, give incredible benefits to studying relevant topics – focus the brainpower. Engineering, tropical disease prevention, social workers, electricians. Actually penalize those that aren’t as useful – more tuition for the English majors (for ten years or so, not forever). Upon graduation give four options, with a GI Bill sort of reward. Option one:  join the Forces (which will need to be converted to sustainable power, etc.). With such a radical shift in borders and general global chaos we will need to be extra alert, and ready to respond. This would be a four-year commitment. Could also be served in the National Guard / new settlement police force. Option two: Peace Corps. We need to keep America’s name in good standing abroad, and things will get back to normal the sooner everyone else is back to normal. We can build solar roadways in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa. This would be a four-year commitment. Option three: Resettling pioneers. Send the teachers, doctors, lawyers, construction overseers, etc. Turn the prairie into towns again – land is yours (10 acres max, mule optional). Send the talent to the areas that need to be settled, and the others will be more eager to follow. Five year commitment, doing habitat for humanity-style work based on specialty.

9.      Kill Hollywood and the 1%. Finish up whatever’s in production, and then close the majority of studios. (Keep some, for morale, obviously.) Likewise the TV stations and networks. And the professional sports (waaaaay decreased. Salary caps of $100,000 for players, $500,000 for owners. See who still really loves the game.) In other words, minimize the unsustainable culture that treats entertainers like gods.  As for those who have 80 bazillion gallons of gold in their coffers from non-entertainment sources, they will be taxed out the wazoo – 90%, as back in the Eisenhower era. Freezing all assets when attempted to be siphoned out of the country. They can leave – but like emigrants land and wealth will be confiscated upon renunciation of citizenship, automatic upon leaving the US for a period of two years. During those two years assets will be monitored. Taxes must be paid on all earnings – and this applies to everyone. Tax evasion will be brought to 1% or less, with labor detail or prison for those who do not pay their share in a time of gravest crisis.

10. Space. Houston and Cape Canaveral are both going to be pretty much kaput. Places like White Sands are also going to be unfeasible. Military bases will, as much as possible, need to be reconsolidated in safer zones. The space program will be temporarily disbanded. Observation will continue on a limited scale, and some NASA types will be repurposed to the other obvious threat we face, of rogue asteroids.