Saturday, March 31, 2007

Zaytoon

And a vision of solidarity and sharing the world:

This story is related to the one from yesterday.

On Thursday night I had dinner at a Brooklyn restaurant called Zaytoon (Arabic for olive), down on Smith Street. It was damn near the best Middle Eastern food I've ever eaten, falling just shy of homemade. I was raving a bit to a friend this morning, and she Googled Zaytoon and found this news story. It was published shortly after the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and it's not without its sad side, but ultimately a very happy story--and it says a lot about the folks here in Brooklyn, and it fairly well explains what I love about living here.

It's life affirming to know that I share a small, very crowded place where there are a large number of people who before and above anything else, consider themselves neighbors and friends and human beings. It can be a frightening world but for every story like the one I ranted about yesterday, there is another that helps me to believe that everything can be okay. We just have to take the effort, make the gestures and reach out and there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

Thank you, Brooklyn.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Terror, Racism & The New Jim Crow

This is an important news story.

I remember when this story broke, about a half dozen Muslim clerics being removed from a flight, having been accused of "suspicious behavior," prior to the plane taking off. The first question that came to me, and I'm sure quite a few others, is exactly what constitutes suspicious behavior these days. Is it suspicious for a half dozen religious men of any denomination to pray before boarding an airplane? Or to pray anywhere? Also, if they were praying, what are the odds they were speaking in a language the other passengers understood? And to come straight to the point--could this be just a case of being Muslim in the wrong place at the wrong time? Given the evidence, that appears to be the facts of the case.

It's absolutely frightful in that it recalls nothing else but the America of my childhood, where it was all too common to be the wrong color in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was an America of racially driven fear and paranoia. Being the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood was often described as "suspicious behavior." This horrid fear and paranoia was "justified" by lawyers, politicians, community leaders... hate mongers... It was not uncommon to hear the proclamation, "I'm not a bigot, BUT..." There were all kinds of arguments to justify hateful behavior and guess what... safety and security were the code words back then too.

It's still no field day for people of color in the United States and there is plenty of evidence that supports that but laws have changed and where there is no recourse in the criminal courts, there is often a place in civil courts to fight injustices, and headway has been made... provided you are not foreign born or of what constitutes a minority faith. The Patriot Act is proof of this, not dissimilar to Jim Crow laws of old, that blatantly discriminate on racial and ethnic premises, deny due process and propagate hysteria.

This lawsuit, in spite of its critics, is entirely in the spirit of our Constitution, and in the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, and proof that the struggle for Civil Rights is ongoing. We talk a lot about freedom, and what it means to be free, and what it means to be American and what makes America great. It's time to live up to those words. If we can allow people to be victimized by ignorance, we have already lost this so-called War On Terror.

We are not free until we are all free.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

But dem cyaan kill de Rastaman at all.



Rasta and memory
published: Thursday | March 29, 2007


Melville Cooke

We were chanting Africa before His Majesty come to Jamaica

- Calling Rastafari, Burning Spear


It never fails. Whenever there is a public event related to Africa the Rastafarians turn out in their numbers, the drums forming low background music and the red, green, gold and black clothing and flags making for a colourful presence.

By all reports it happened again on Sunday, when the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic trade in Africans was marked in a ceremony at the Kingston waterfront. They had an additional presence in the music provided by the Jamaica Military band as it played By The Rivers of Babylon and Marley's Redemption Song.

The former, done by the Melodians on the soundtrack of the 1972 film The Harder They Come, is an adaptation of a traditional Rastafarian chant, based on Psalm 137, while Redemption Song is Rastafarian to the core, including the quote from Marcus Garvey which begins the second verse. Garvey was certainly not a Rastafarian, but he is esteemed by them and his name has been kept alive largely through their efforts in song.

Debate on reparations

A brisk walk up from the waterfront, on Duke Street, in early February the House of Representatives started a debate on reparations for people of African ancestry. There was nary a dreadlocked head in sight among the elected representatives, but the influence was there. For has it not been Rasta that has advocated for reparations and repatriation for years?

Chances are these two 'rs' would have remained obscure words for many Jamaicans otherwise; I, for one, only knew the meaning of and difference between them as a teen because I had to look them up after the repeated references by Rastafarians.

Still, despite Rastafarians being vocal about Africa, slavery and reparations, as well as providing a critical mass of physical presence at related events, there is a very real danger of their role being minimised in the public imagination and at the government level.

We must note that government is different from the total official level, as I know there are those in the 'run tings' category though not in the political runnings who will never fail to point to the Rastafarian contribution.

I have seen the 'de-Rastarisation' process with Bob Marley and, if this can be done with a single man with locks who sang of the 'Rastaman Vibration', then it is so much easier with a group whose focal issue will be articulated by talking, shorn heads.

Being ahead of official efforts is nothing new for Rastafarians, as a group or individually, by action more so than petition. I have read where Peter Tosh was arrested for a street protest against the then Rhodesian regime in the late 1960s, before there were government sanctions against South Africa.

Normalising marijuana

By use of marijuana, they have been well ahead of the near legalisation efforts across Europe and sometimes I wonder if, 500 years from now, when its use has been normalised, there will be a brand of pre-rolled spliffs with a Rasta on the packet.

Sounds incredible, but possibly true.

The irony of the Jamaica Military Band playing 'Rasta music' does not escape me. The security forces raided the initial large Rastafarian settlement, Pinnacle in Sligoville, St. Catherine in 1954, effectively destroying it. Nine years later there was the so innocently named 'Coral Gardens Incident' on Good Friday, 1963, where the island's security forces had their merry, marauding way with Rastafarians who troubled no one.

But when this absolutely crucial moment comes around, there is only one spiritual force that has produced the relevant music which the men of arms can play.

Dem kill Lumumba for his owna rights. But dem cyaan kill de Rastaman at all.

- Bunny Wailer


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Melville Cooke/ freelance writer

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Last Mimsy, by request

I will not accompany this entry with a photo, and you will understand why shortly.

Word of the Day: Mimsy
Here are one single sordid and several assorted DEFINITIONS.

So here it is--one evening I was lying on my sofa, doped out of my brains on muscle relaxants, and I hear someone on the TV say something about The Last Mimsy being a box office smash. I will admit to having not read every book by every author in the world, so just imagine my confusion when the single only use of the word "mimsy" I had ever heard was stupid slang for female genetalia. What sort of film could this be that they would recommend that you take your children? The last time I'd heard the word was from an old Granny telling a teenage girl, "Close yer legs, Missy, yeh don't want world to see yer mimsy!"

I've heard The Last Mimsy is a great film... I have no idea what it's about but I'm relatively certain it's safe for children. What I envisioned through a haze of pills and distant memory was perhaps a futuristic tale of a Space Age He-Man, tarrying forth to protect... anyway.

Apologies to Lewis Carroll--you didn't make too many appearances on the syllabi of my educational endeavors. Fair is fair though, so without further ado, JABBERWOCKY.

Word of the Day: Squirrelly




In deference to the Blogistani, today's Glossophagia Word of the Day is:

Squirrelly: Adjective--to behave in a squirrel-like manner. This could refer to any number of behavioral patterns but it's sort of a visual thing. You have to imagine the movements of a squirrel coming down a tree--moving in fits and starts--racing forward desperately--freezing to a dead halt--twitching--eyes darting back and forth. This can be used literally or figuratively as in: "I knew something was going on because John was acting all squirrelly." So... nervous, jumpy, uncertain, erratic, frightened.

It can also be used to describe the condition of someone's hair or clothing, i.e., Christ! My hair is all squirrelly today! In my case that generally means standing straight up like a squirrel's tail.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Land Development



This photo from the front page of the NY Times caught me offguard. For a moment I thought I had pulled a Rip Van Winkle and I was looking at an aerial view of Freddy's in downtown Brooklyn.

As it happens it's a similar story in China.

Grooving on words

Word of the Day: Redundant--1 a : exceeding what is necessary or normal : SUPERFLUOUS b : characterized by or containing an excess; specifically : using more words than necessary c : characterized by similarity or repetition--a group of particularly redundant brick buildings-- d chiefly British : no longer needed for a job and hence laid off.

Now, I was thinking about the last bit there--being made redundant from a job or a situation. The word bounces off the tongue and stops short, hard and fast. It brings to mind an old western with a cowboy getting shot off his horse... he hits the ground hard once... bounces once... and stops. re DUN dant This brings to mind another word that I can rarely spell correctly the first time and that's ONOMATOPOEIA, the word in the dictionary that least resembles its own definition.

Anyway... re DUN dant

re DUN dant.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Malcolm Middleton: A Brighter Beat



Fuck it, I love you.

That's a song title, not a proclamation because despite my history of prattling on about how great this guy is, I don't reaaaaally have a crush on Malcolm Middleton.

I've been anxiously awaiting the U.S. release of A Brighter Beat and finally got my hands on an import copy. It's hard to know what to expect when Malkie says he's putting out an album called "A Brighter Beat." Arab Strap wasn't exactly the cheeriest band in the world, and his solo work, the first album in particular, definitely requires a sense of humor, or a sense of the absurd, or preferable both. My first reaction to songs like Speed On The M-9 was a cringe, a "holy crap" and then hysterical laughter--like reading an Emile Cioran aphorism like, "I yearn to be free, as a stillborn is free." There are just some things that you can't take too seriously.

A Brighter Beat is definitely less heavy musically than prior stuff, fewer ballads and no funereal dirges. BUT, the first line of the opening track is "We're all gonna die and what if there's nothin'? We all have to face this alone." It drives fast and hard into the chorus, "You're gonna die, you're gonna die, you're gonna die alone." Now maybe I'm twisted, but I find it pretty funny, and I believe that's the way it's intended to come off. Loneliness, heartbreak, insecurity, depression, isolation... all here. On the surface, this guy comes off as the only person on the planet more depressing than Leonard Cohen. He doesn't evoke the same reaction in me as L.C. though (more than once I'd have been willing to "bust a cap" in ol' Lenny just to make him stop moaning). M.M. brings irony and humor into it, and that's all good.

Current favorite song on A Brighter Beat: Fuck It, I Love You.

There are a ton of free songs and videos here at his website

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Mary Weiss: Dangerous Game



I will make no bones about it--I've had a crush on Mary Weiss since I was about seven years old. The status of the Shangri-Las among my punk idols did nothing to lessen that. So I really wanted this album to be great. I wanted it for me. I wanted it for her. I just plain wanted it. I didn't want to be disappointed, and I am mostly not disappointed at all. Okay, so it's not "fucking great" but it's really really good.

Now it's not exactly a classic girl group sounding album, but that sound is there. I'd have to say that it's musically closer to the Ramones' "Do You Remember Rock N Roll Radio" than it is to the Shangri Las. That works for me... no, it really works for me. The songs are mostly solid, the majority written by Reigning Sound's Greg Cartwright, with some one-offs from Real Kids' John Felice, The Dictators' Andy Shernoff and one by Brill Building legends Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. Reigning Sound play on the whole album and have evidently been touring with Mary also. I've long felt that of the pack of bands burning out the period sound, they did it the best. A friend saw them backing Mary Weiss at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland and said he was transported 40 years back in time.

So there a couple points where it falls flat, and I have to be honest about that. Mary's voice has definitely changed, lowered an octave or so. She nails most of it--I think mostly because she's not trying to do one of those oldies revivals here. A couple songs are clearly not as good as the others--but no one element fails the whole on those songs. They just don't seem to work. Where they're all on though... Mary... that band... it's just really really sweet. Definitely a good rock and roll record, and this may seem neither here nor there, but it is. Mary Weiss is still a doll. Crush still on.

Current favorite on Dangerous Game: Stitch In Time... a really sweet little ballad.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Word of the Day

Urgraine: Noun--A really serious pounding headache given to you by another person.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Horrorscope (refrain)

Word of the Day: Horoscolonoscopy--Looking really really deep inside yourself to find any kind of connection to your daily horoscope.

Quickie:
Skip the typical dinner locales and try a new place with new people!

Try as I may...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Double Half Decaf Soy Beatle

So McCartney signs to new Starbucks label. I guess his next album will be sold in three different sizes.

My own 31

The criteria are roughly, any single song that in some way heightened my sensibilities and understanding of, Irony, Painful Self-Consciousness, Brave Un-Selfconsciouness, Political Awareness, Social Awareness, Self-Awareness, Innocence, Evil, Joy, Fear, Love, Heartbreak, etc. So in no particular order:

1)White Riot by The Clash
2)Sympathy for the Devil by The Rolling Stones
3)Heartbreaker by The Rolling Stones
4) Thirteen, by Big Star
5) Stagefright by The Band
6) It Says Here by Billy Bragg
7) Couldn't Care Less by The Bevis Frond
8) Don't Dream It's Over by Crowded House
9) 2CV by Lloyd Cole & The Commotions
10) Buffalo Soldier by Bob Marley
11) Steppin' Razor by Peter Tosh
12) Personality Crisis by The New York Dolls
13) Born Too Loose/To Lose by Johnny Thunders
14) That's When I Reach For My Revolver by Mission of Burma
15) Waiting For My Man by Lou Reed
16) I Wanna Be Your Dog by Iggy Pop
17) Kick Out The Jams by the MC5
18) Another State of Mind by Social Distortion
19) The Grand Tour by George Jones
20) Building Bridges by Charley Pride
21) Night & Day by Ray Charles
22) Bang Bang by the Joe Cuba Sextet
23) Boom Boom Boom Boom by John Lee Hooker
24) Ball of Confusion by The Temptations
25) Stand by Sly & The Family Stone
26) Blitzkrieg Bop by The Ramones
27) White Punks on Dope by The Tubes
28) Don't Let It Bring You Down by Neil Young
29) It's Alright Ma... by Bob Dylan
30) Suspect Device by Stiff Little Fingers
31) Hello Mr. Soul by Buffalo Springfield

This list is by no means complete and I could probably write an essay on each of them, but I'm not going to just yet.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

31 Songs That Changed My Life

Consider this an intro: I never read Nick Hornby's collection of essays about the 31 songs that changed his life (though I intend to now that I know it exists). Our friends at The Guardian, however, did read it polled a bunch of people about the songs that changed THEIR lives. It's a fairly interesting list, and includes Nick Hornby's list at the end. I will, at some point in the near future and whether I read Hornby's book or not, compile my own life-altering list. This is a bit different than putting together a list of favorites, because a song can be a favorite but not change your life significantly. My list may be shorter or longer than 31 songs. It may be hard to limit it to a song. There are certainly albums and more so artists that had a profound impact but a single song... that's a bit harder. I would, of course, welcome input from others on their songs. Or maybe there isn't one, which I'd like to know too, and especially if there's a reason why there isn't one.

Horrorscopes

Noun: Horoscopectomy--the procedure of removing yourself from the idea that celestial bodies have a darn thing to do with your daily life.

That said, one of my co-workers sent me my Yahoo Horrorscope this morning, because it directly mirrors a conversation we had yesterday evening. Sometimes this shit is really uncanny. I choose to believe it's because the entire repertoire of human behavior and experience isn't all that varied so there are bound to be real coincidences somewhat regularly. This is one such coincidence:


Quickie:
If you are having problems with coworkers, now is the time to start fighting back.

Overview:
Politely decline the front row seat to someone else's drama. Sensible signs like yours are always being asked for advice, but it's never any use to try and stamp your opinions on someone else. Let sleeping dogs lie.

So this was my morning chuckle and now I'm off to a meeting. Also, my Mercury might be in retrograde and my Ides might be still marching forward, but I really need to pee badly.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Life's Rich Pageant--Mining the 80s



Again, I find myself diving down through my past, and broke surface with this gem in my hands. It's 38 1/2 minutes of jangling, kinetic pop beauty--possibly a perfect album from beginning to end.

Okay, a Michael Stipe Testimonial: I have to be honest that while I love his lyrics, I can rarely figure out what the hell he's talking about. No REM fan has ever been able to clear any of this up for me. It doesn't really matter. For some reason I understand what he's saying without the translation.

Damn though, I love this album. I want to crank it up and dance on my desk, but that could put some serious distance between me and my next paycheck.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Coney Island, by Professor Solomon

There I was just a couple days ago, waxing poetic about Coney Island. I often wonder who reads these blogs, beyond friends and all--this evening though I got an e-mail from a fellow called Professor Solomon who has written a book on my favorite spot in New York City. It's available at the site as a free download--my one disclaimer here, and his in his e-mail, is that it's a 42MB PDF file, so make sure your machine has the juice to deal with that. I'm going to print it at work because my little Epson's gag reflex is a bit sensitive. I perused the book online though and it looks pretty complete and interesting, as do the other books available on the site.

Thank you Professor Solomon... full report to come in coming days.

Old man takes a look at his life...

It's funny that I can't look at Neil Young and think of him as an old man, so forgive the stupid pun, but I love this guy. He's never at a loss for words and most of them are well worth listening to. He can sing them. He can speak them. He can write them. It's all good. And it's funny that his profession is listed in the header as "Legend." The best part about that is despite his kind of Beowulf status in our culture, it's all real. No myth. No legend.

Ol' Keif has plenty to say as well. I like what he says about women here. He's a panic.

So I re-read the Motley Crue bio, The Dirt, recently... yes, a guilty pleasure, an "oh for Pete's sake" experience. Despite the entertainment value, they don't seem to have a lot to say. Perhaps by the age of 60? Who knows?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Indictments?

It seems that despite their best efforts to derail the process with last minute mystery witnesses and bizarre aiding and abetting from the media, Il Partito Fascista couldn't prevent the indictments of 3 of the 5 policemen responsible of the horrible killing of Sean Bell late last year.

The indictments actually surprised me--and I will be stunned if this results in any convictions. The system is set up, as history proves, to prevent the truth from ever coming to light, in cases involving any possible police brutality. And for the most part, history proves, most people are just frightened enough of the world around them to believe that accidental and or negligent killings pale in comparison to the potential danger. It's a no win situation for victims and their families, and ultimately the rest of us. Ironically, policemen and the justice system also suffer because as ranks close to protect their own, the rift between "THEM AND US" deepens and widens. That only increases the odds of further fatal incidents on both sides.

History has taught us that in cases of police brutality and corruption, the police and the legal system close ranks and take every effort, often criminal, to cover it up. Honest officers who come forward are ostracized, threatened, and left unprotected while they're out on duty. That's not a situation anybody can afford to be in. It is this history that leads me to instant skepticism when months after the fact, defense attorneys turn up a mystery witness who "saw someone at the scene who had a firearm." It's right out of a TV courtroom drama--Excuse me, your honor, I can't let you convict that innocent man." It's absolutely ludicrous! If I seem jaded, and perhaps I am, I became this way for a reason. Even recent history has given me no other choice.

My cynicism is not unique to me, or even a small group of people, or any racial or ethnic minority. If there is a lack of trust it's because of what we've been shown--not by a liberal media, or any of the vilified civil rights figures. We are intelligent. We have minds of our own. We watch and listen. This is what THEY have taught us.

An honest law enforcement officer has a hard way to go--no doubt about that. I do believe that the overwhelming majority are upright and honest and good--but my experience with them is that even more than we civilians, too many of the men in blue, even if they're in the minority, see our world behind a prejudice (not racial or ethnic) of US AND THEM. Can they be trusted to investigate their own? History tells us otherwise, that the potential for malfeasance is too great. It's not so funny but I keep thinking of Sgt. Friday saying, "Just the facts, Ma'am." Is this possible?

I can't admit to knowing the facts--but I do know that the police have a desperate public relations problem of their own making. And I know that too many young men, not just in New York City, have been victims of what was written off as "just an honest mistake." And I know that if you didn't live in a mostly minority neighborhood during the Giuliani years then you didn't see or experience the police tactics that led to so much of the enmity and mistrust in the first place. When you regularly see middle school students thrown up against cars on the way to school it's not too much of a stretch to see that there's a serious attitude problem. This is New York City, not Viet Nam... someone needs to get that message out.

Radio is a sound salvation

I'm not sure how often this directory of radio stations is updated but it looks really cool and includes streaming internet broadcasts.

ATTENTION CHINESE BLOGGERS

And all bloggers in all points beyond: Every time I post a new entry, I get multiple views from China, and quite a few from several other continents. Please feel free to post responses and/or set up lines of communication. It would be much appreciated. If English is an obstacle, I will find someone to translate both your messages and my responses.

Cheers!

Um, I should include everybody else also, so I will. Geography not important. I encourage everybody to send favorite web links, blog links, lit. resources, music resources, internet radio feeds, news, current events, music, personal blatherings.

Literary Resources

Scottish writer/poet LAURA HIRD has the coolest website I've seen in a long time. It's a virtual treasure trove of literary resources, short fiction, poetry and general musing on pretty much every topic. It takes a super amount of dedication, and probably passion and a not just a little insomnia to compile all this stuff on one site. I'm very impressed.

Thanks to G. Emil Reutter for blogging Laura Hird yesterday. You can link to his blog off to the side here. He's an impressive character in his own right, and I don't know whether to put more stress on impressive or character but he's a lot of both, and a good friend to boot. Write to him, talk to him... get to know him, just don't drink with him unless you've got a few days to spare for recovery. Oy!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Interjection du jour



JESUS CHRIST IT'S COLD!!!!!

Snow



My favorite place in my favorite season--December 7, 2003--Coney Island, NY. If New York City is truly the capitol of the world, and for many reasons it could be considered so--Brooklyn is the capitol of New York City, because it's where the most people live--and Coney Island is the capitol of Brooklyn, because it still belongs to regular people.

This was a special day because in 20+ years of going to C.I. it was the first time I had the beach to myself--uncanny experience even with 15 degree weather and whiteout conditions when you consider the population of Brooklyn at several million. What are the odds?

Please Read & Attend If At All Possible

NYC March to End the War
Sunday, March 18th 2007 1pm
New York, NY USA

Assemble at 1:00 p.m.
35th St through 39th St. East of 6th Ave.
March at 2:00 pm.

United for Peace & Justice

Thursday, March 15, 2007

THIS JUST IN

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is STILL CONFESSING. Sources inside the investigation have intimated that he has admitted to the disappearance of Jon Benet Ramsey and Jimmy Hoffa, the Lindberg baby kidnapping and assorted flasher incidents in Burbank. It is estimated that by the time he has finished talking he will have admitted to every crime and/or criminal conspiracy dating back to the 9th Century A.D.

Life imitating art?

In a development that easily tops even the most gripping episode of Perry Mason A SURPRISE MYSTERY WITNESS has stepped forward with testimony that is supposedly going to shed new light on the Sean Bell shooting here in New York City. Now, I'm not saying these things can't happen but the timing is pretty uncanny and it leads me to believe that it's time to re-examine the word FUCKERY.

Hmmmmm... Interesting!



Apparently, Ron Jeremy has confessed to planning the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

But Wikipedia hasn't yet updated their information on Ron's exploits so how much are we supposed to believe?

Laughter, Redux

Back on the subject of laughter, it seems that no matter what the motivation having a sense of humor will help you to live longer.

If this is true, I might just live forever because I think most everything is pretty damned funny.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

F is for...

Fuckery... one of my all time favorite words, as in "What manner of fuckery is this???" It's an old one, going back to memories of my childhood (late teens?) and an old man with a heavy Scottish brogue shouting. I was recently reminded of it by listening to a newish singer called Amy Winehouse. I haven't quite decided yet if I like her take on 60s soul and the somewhat Phil Spector-ish production--but I definitely like what she and her people are shooting for here. There's something more than just retro stylings. The songs are pretty good. She's got a good voice. I haven't decided though, and this could be my own cynicism, if it's really good or just so much fuckery.

Right now I just feel much more comfortable with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings whom I definitely really, really like.

There is very little comparison between the two of them, so I'm not trying. There is no need to compare one to the other either, except to say that where one nags at me as slightly inauthentic, the other does not.

But I dig the word FUCKERY!

Leave me alone, damn it!!!!



I've just gotten my delivery of Girl Scout Cookies and I'm going to be busy for a while.

Album Cover Art

Rather than get into the Demise of Album Cover Art Since CD Dirge, here's a gallery of cool album covers. I've been browsing some of them this morning, however, and it's worth mention that many of their choices predate compact disc. But if you really want to get into the fray, our friends at the BBC have a message board dedicated to album cover art since CD hit the browsers. I happen to think that CDs for the most part could be packaged more creatively but it's more important to me that the music on the disc is worth it--and it's my belief that given easier access to more releases that we benefit from now, as opposed to 30 years ago we're in pretty good shape. I think the percentage of GOOD albums/music/songs is probably about the same as it was--weighed against the total number of releases--in all, anybody who complains that they can't find anything new worth listening to isn't really trying so hard... But that's another story. Album Cover Art--CD Cover Art: There are some creative ideas--few of them match Cheech & Chong's Big Bambu with the giant pack of rolling paper (how many of you who are old enough actually tried to use that giant sheet?), or some of the original Jefferson Airplane sleeves, or Gentle Giant's Giant for a Day with the cut-out mask--Overall though I've seen some pretty creative stuff. Perhaps a list to come but for now it's off to work.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Social Distortion on Tour



Very, very exciting--tour dates announced and tickets on sale, more dates to come for Social Distortion

Laugh, Son! Ah said laugh! It's a joke, son!




I think it's just a little funny that scientists have released A STUDY ON LAUGHTER. I mean, I guess I just always took laughter and everything about laughter for granted, but sure enough the men in the white coats have been out there tickling monkeys and all manner of critters large and small. So what have they found?:

"Occasionally we’re surprised into laughing at something funny, but most laughter has little to do with humor. It’s an instinctual survival tool for social animals, not an intellectual response to wit. It’s not about getting the joke. It’s about getting along."

Well, I'll buy that. I think my little friend up in the photo above will buy that too. I'd be willing to bet her pal there just whipped out an old saw, like, Hey, a horse walked into a bar and the bartender asked "Why the long face?" You can tell she doesn't reeeeeally think it's so funny.

I know I've been accused of laughing at really inappropriate things and that's probably true. I've been known to champion the "I guess you had to be there" anecdote. It IS just a little funny though that scientists had to do a study to figure out what most of us already knew anyway. Or is that irony and not humor?

This study reminds me of the Monty Python sketch about the Funniest Joke Ever Told where military strategists attempted to incapacitate the Germans with laughter. The sketch was remarkably funny, but incidentally, seeing it written out on the above link is only funny if you've seen the sketch. (I did some research on my 15 year old this morning and though flawed because I had no control group, a 15 year old will generally laugh at anything. He merely looked at the screen, looked at me, shook his head and went off in search of a Q-Tip.)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Our Lady of Flatbush

God love the internet--with one simple on-line form, I'm going to become a priest!!! How much better can life get? Seriously. Come one. Come all. I will counsel you on spiritual matters. I will marry you. I will give you advice on your wardrobe. Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, Wiccans, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Rastafarians, Freemasons, Satanic AquaNet Hairbands, straight, gay, undecided, trans-gender, etc. All welcome! There will be no confession, unless you wish to, but I promise I won't blog it. There will be no collection plates. Hell, there won't even be any weekly meet and greet with God... your God or anybody else's.

Father Matako Unatombwe
Our Lady of Flatbush: Unity Through Diversity

Andrew WK Talks

And talks and talks apparently--this from The New York Times--it's a registration site, but free for most of the content. Andrew WK is a lovable goofball and puts on a great live show, or he used to anyway. There is a video clip with this article in which he expounds on different concepts, including joy and paradox. I'm not quite sure he even knows what he's saying, but it's fun. Joy and excitement, however you define it (and he doesn't seem to think an exact definition is all that important/Nor do I) is a pretty worthy goal.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Dils

I wish a bunch of skinny kids would come along and write a song with words like this in 2007:

Class War:

I
I wanna war, between the rich and the poor
I wanna fight and know what I'm fighting for
In a class war, class war, class war, class war
This war, that war, class war, last war

In New York and LA
City Halls are falling down
There is no escape
When a class war comes to town
Class war, class war, class war, class war
This war, that war, class war, last war

If I'm told to kill
A Cuban or African
There'll be a class war
Right here in America
Class war, class war, class war, class war
Class war, class war, class war, class war
Class war, class war, class war, class war

What goes around

This is an interesting Op-Ed piece from John Maxwell of The Jamaica Observer. Mr. Maxwell has been around the block a few times and has some thoughts on the Scooter Libby business that lends a historical perspective to not only this case but to the people that we allowed in office (TWICE) and their goals for us and the rest of the world.

Big up to CelticGods for faithfully forwarding the Maxwell columns weekly for quite some time now.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

RIP Brad Delp of Boston

This is really sad.

That first Boston album was kind of a high school soundtrack, and whatever your feelings are on the band and their music, if you were a teenager in the late 70s, you knew every song note for note, word for word. If it wasn't blasting out of your own car, it was blasting out of your best friend's. On the odd occasion that a Boston song comes on the radio now, I can't resist a smile, and a little air guitar jam. From all accounts, Brad was a really decent guy though, and that's more important than my nostalgia. This has to be a huge loss for his family and friends. Hats off, buddy... I hear that Heaven is a place where everybody gets a great contract.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A random personal thought



So I was mucking about through some old photos and came across this one, from one of my last proper holidays. That's me and the knuckleheads, who go out of their way to mug it for photos, in front of the Alhambra in Spain--spectacular place, incredibly beautiful and overwhelms with history. Granada is a gem of a city overall, tied for the best in Spain, along with Sevilla (people play up Barcelona which I suppose has it's own charms what with it's art, architecture and Euro-hugenesse [I just coined that term] but I'll take any place in Andalucia first). Thinking back on Granada though, I remembered one of the stories carved into the stone there in both Spanish and Arabic. The Alhambra was one of the last Moor strongholds in Europe--the Moors had retreated within the walls and the Caliph looked down onto Granada and watched the Spaniards taking the city street by street, advancing on them. He wept at the loss and his mother looked at him and said, "Don't cry like a child for that which you could not defend as a man." I remember thinking at first how harsh a condemnation it was for a mother, even to a grown son... but after some time to consider that it was very likely just a fable I considered the words and how they might be considered within another context--in my line of thinking any sort of loss or defeat I (or anybody else) might face in the course of my life. It's really inevitable for most. It's a pretty simple lesson--if you're brought up playing sports you'll often be told how to accept defeat gracefully, and learn from your mistakes and move on. The stakes are generally bigger in real life, as in the case of the Caliph, and in my own life. I will translate the words of the Caliph's mother in this context, as I see fit, and try to pass it on to my goofy sons, and moreover attempt to apply it to my own life.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Great Balls O' Fire

I had sort of made a pledge to try to focus on positive news stories and think happy thoughts and all that. The pledge lasted about 24 hours because I just couldn't pass up the story of a Modern-Day Moses who saw A BURNING BUSH. I don't want to ruin the surprise of clicking the link, but this really begs the question, "If your friend asked you to set his crotch on fire with lighter fluid, what would it take for you to agree?" I'm just glad the story doesn't include a photo.

Okay okay okay... I don't want to sound like I'm channeling Bill Hicks (whom I think is overrated by the way), but note in the article that they say alcohol was involved. I think alcohol is really taking a bum rap here. I have been completely sotted--I mean utterly pole-axed--probably a zillion times, and never once did it occur to me to... well, read the article. It seems to me that there are certain acts that would require a certain predisposition towards profound stupidity to even think of committing. Don't blame the alcohol!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Ian Rankin Reading



A bit of exciting news: Ian Rankin will be reading at the Union Square Barnes & Noble on April 11th, accompanied by Aidan Moffatt of Arab Strap. They've got a collaboration going with Rankin writing lyrics. This tour marks the release of the new Rebus book, Naming of the Dead, which I've been awaiting rather impatiently for some time.

Scooter Libby = Guilty



We didn't need the jury to tell us that Scooter and Guilty are synonymous, did we? It was a pleasant surprise though, at least on the surface. The sad part is that everybody knows he was a fall guy, and that the fallout will most likely end with this verdict. My bet right now is that Libby will do no time at all in jail, and it's a pretty safe bet that there will be no further convictions. Damn shame too.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Favorite Drum Performances

The cool thing about having a 15 year old roommate (or one of the cool things) is being able to sit in on conversations like "Who is the best drummer of all time." I had that opportunity last night and I was surprised to learn that despite a 30 year time lapse, and not withstanding the different socio-economic backgrounds of the other teens involved, many of the names mentioned were the same that came up in conversation with my own friends in the late 70s: Keith Moon, John Bonham, Ginger Baker, Neil Peart, etc. etc. etc.

The main difference for me, these 30 years later, is that I've given up on "Best of" lists and now play around with "favorite" lists. And I've heard a lot more music at this point also, and continue to hear more, so my favorites are apt to change on a regular basis.

But for today--my favorite drum performances are:

1) Jerry Nolan from the Heartbreakers' L.A.M.F. from 1977--This is such an underrated band and I think they've become more famous for frightening heroin abuse--they're practically a Public Service Announcement--than they ever were for their music. Nolan's performance on Chinese Rocks though, was about as good as it gets. It's really important to find one of the re-releases of L.A.M.F. though, like "The Lost '77 Mix," or you will barely hear the drums or anything else. It's absolutely fantastic.

2) Ginger Baker from the GB Trio's Going Back Home--I'm not in love with this album overall, but Ginger is so phenomenal on the last track, East Timor... It's inspiring. Tremendous really. If you can't download it, then it's still worth the cost of the whole album just to hear East Timor. Bill Frisell really shines on it also, and he's not my favorite guitar player to listen to--nothing against him in particular--just not my cup of tea. He tears it up on this track though. Ginger Baker though... holy crap! He rocks.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Favorite Covers (On a happier note...)



Housebound for a good part of any weekend is as good a reason as any to dig back through music that you haven't listened to for ages. I exhumed Big Sugar's 500 Pounds on Saturday and have been playing it on repeat since about 7 on Saturday evening. About half of it is covers of other peoples' music and I always say that if you're going to cover a song, make it your own. I've got a long list of favorite cover songs and near the top of the list is Big Sugar's take on Dear Mr. Fantasy. They turn it into a roaring metallic blues jam with sick, distorted guitar that runs from cruel echoing sounds of psychotic laughter to a chainsaw ripping through a tree and drums that sound like cannon fire. It's absolutely beautiful.

More favorite covers to come, but for the time being Big Sugar lives at this link.

War & Metaphor

Just a quick comment: The use of sports metaphors and analogies in the context of discussing military action is distasteful. Yesterday in a story related to the deaths of 16 civilians in Afghanistan, a general is quoted as saying that our forces there are engaged in a "full court press." Not only is it rather offensive to reduce war to discussions related to basketball, it's used incorrectly--and I don't know that the inaccurate use isn't intentional. A full court press is a description of defensive play, and we are clearly the invading force, and therefore this is offensive and not play at all.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

50 Best Magazines of All Time

Hello my name is Greg R. and I'm a Printaholic. I am addicted to printed words and start to shudder and stutter and shake like an aging Kate Hepburn when I go too long without a few shots of hot ink and cold type. It is because of this illness (There is no 12 steps program for this and you will never find me at Step 8 where I apologize to everybody I've ever forced a news story on.) that I couldn't pass it up when I saw that our friends at Good Magazine had compiled a list of the "best magazines of all time." Settling down to read a list of the best anything of all time is sort of like buying 2 liters of wine in a box. You know you're going to enjoy it while you're swilling and slopping through it like a hog at a trough, and similarly you know it's going to hurt later on.

That said, this is a very interesting list and a very interesting read. I knew when I picked it up that there would be glaring omissions, as well as some choices that made my eyebrows arch like a McDonald's sign overlooking the Thruway. The cool thing about reading online is, Good Magazine was cool enough to post reader comments publicly. The comments are all really sharp--I would even agree with the fellow that writes saying that the list was "New York-Centric" and that leaving out National Review was wrong. Say what you will--and I will say that the folks at National Review and their regular readers are at best misguided and ignorant and more than likely heathen Nazis that support killing babies, segregation and starving the elderly--but they have consistently been one of the most influential publications of our time, featuring the best work of the top writers in their weird Right Wing Realm.

But so far the most rewarding part of reading this list was discovering the treasure trove at PrintFetish. Something more to feed the beast that has stolen my eyesight--and I swear to your favorite deity that the blindness is caused by reading. I SWEAR!!! Fucking hell, I really do swear a lot.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Spam for Jesus

The most thought provoking spam e-mail from this week--a solicitation from the Christian Lending Institute. The questions that came to my mind:

1) Does this in any way come close to having money changers in the temple?

2) Is there a greater chance that they will forgive my crappy credit if I am truly truly very sorry?

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions

There is no doubt that the "N-Word" is at the top of the list of the most vulgar and certainly about the most inflammatory words, but is GOVERNMENT IMPOSED CENSORSHIP going to ease or exacerbate racial tension. I've no doubt that the legislators behind these proposals have the best intentions in mind, but could they actually be making moves that lend weight and hate to the word? Comedian Chris Rock has the best statement in the article. Does this do anything at all to address racism? Is censoring the use of the word by the people against whom it was used even ethically and morally defensible?

There are already hate crime laws on the books in all states which criminalize the use of the word in certain contexts. These are good laws, written and passed with the best of intentions and a good deal of common sense. I just don't see any sense whatsoever in these new measures though. Now... how about the hundreds of other words--slurs and epithets used to bludgeon millions of people on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation? Are they any less insulting and hurtful?

A public awareness campaign might be more effective. Now, when the folks up on Albany have passed this law (ironically mostly white folks), are they going to have a little party and pat themselves on the back for their moral superiority?

My suggestion is that they spend more time investigating and legislating against actual cases of discrimination, hate crimes, and social imbalance, and less time mucking about with the absurd. This is at best, a meaningless gesture, and more likely the best way to ensure divisiveness.

Addendum: In response to a few lurkers who sent private e-mails--I can only say that it's more than a little ironic that if the new legislation did in fact carry a penalty, all evidence shows that African Americans would suffer the stiffest sentencing for the infractions of the new law. Now tell me what YOU think the city council would be better off spending their time and energy addressing.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

And speaking of death...

Yes, Arthur Schlesinger is still dead but that's not what I want to talk about. I finished Mary Roach's SPOOK: SCIENCE TACKLES THE AFTERLIFE. It was a fair look at how the scientific community has looked at theories of life after death. It was also very, very funny. Mary Roach succeeded in keeping the subject light, and moreover seems to have succeeded in keeping her own bias out of it. She admits she's a skeptic. She approaches it with skepticism, but reports everything fairly.

I will repeat what I said when I first wrote about the book, that reading it had nothing to do with looking for answers that might affirm any belief or disbelief. It was entirely random. It confirmed only one thing for me, and that's that we currently have no scientific or medical means to prove or disprove any theory in its entirety.

It's impossible, however, to read anything on this subject and not reassess one's own beliefs, and how one came to them. It all comes back to personal experience and anecdote. I'm not about to go into a long-winded grocery list of things that lead me to believe that there is something outside and beyond corporeal being. My explanation of my doubts about the existence of an anthropomorphic sort of God or Allah or Whatever is too long, and it lacks any proper theological background or reference.

I take no sides--I'm equally likely to ask the same question of both atheists or devout Christians: Why do you believe what you believe? What evidence are you going by? In that respect that's what Mary Roach is hitting on with SPOOK.

I think it's important to question one's own beliefs daily, and those of others as well. I think that asking what else might there be is a very important question. Similarly to Mary Roach, if I'm going to find an answer I would prefer it to be that something continues after we die--that there is something we have yet to explain.

I am, however, for the time being, left with personal experiences that defy any reasonable explanation, anecdotes from people I trust and respect, and hope. That translates to belief, at least for me. I continue to keep my eyes peeled.

And if there is an afterlife maybe I can sit down with Arthur and ask him to explain how mult-culturalism is harmful to America.

Cheers

Arthur Schlesinger, Dead at 89

This doesn't really mark the death of American Liberalism, as there are several other milestones that marked the slow decay and eventual end of progressive thought on the Beltway, but it sure adds the exclamation point on the end of the death sentence.

It's not that there weren't quite a few issues where I strongly disagreed with him, particulary in regards to race and multi-culturalism. His short-sightedness in regards to historical figures like Andrew Jackson are what I'd consider as misguided as say... Chomsky's celebration of Pol Pot. Yet many other times I found myself on the same side of the fence.

Despite any misgivings I have about the man, I would have considered him one of the last living men who truly understood the Constitution, and how profoundly it has been undermined, raped and corrupted. His shoes will be hard to fill.