27 March, 2011

Tell Bugs that if he doesn't say "Of course you realize this means kinetic military action", we'll hire Roger Rabbit instead.

They said if I voted for the Presidential candidate who sang "bomb bomb bomb Iran", I'd get a President who started dropping bombs on nations that never attacked us and pose no threat. They were right.

It's not that regime change is the wrong choice. It's that this is absolutely the wrong way to go about it. 'Drop bombs [or send in the Marines] until Qaddaffi is dead' is a perfectly sensible decision, whether the US does it, France does it, NATO does it, Israel does it, Saudi Arabia does it... Whoever does it, it has to be done, so get it taken care of.

This clusterfuck is completely the wrong way to go about it. All in the name of avoiding looking like GWB, the administration - and Western Civilization in general - is doing exactly what they (falsely) accused GWB of doing. Frankly I think a convincing argument could be made for seizing the oilfields, although it would require bribing China, anyone with prior contracts, locals, etc.

Many have noticed how the Obama administration has - without a pretense of explanation - kept or even expanded rendition, indefinite detention, the Patriot Act, Gitmo, military tribunals. I forget which Muslim terrorist got read his Miranda rights an hour after they caught him, but that seems to accelerated their reversal.

Long days after the bombing started, Obama gave a brief message to the American people. But Qaddaffi's still in power and there are no plans to make him go. The rebels still have nothing to offer except rebellion. The coalition is falling apart like the failed Russian coup of the late 80's. Nobody knows who's in it or what they're doing or for how long.

Syria is now consumed with riots. It's not clear yet if these are comparable to Europe in 1848 or Eastern Europe in 1989. The global Islamic extremists are in the best position, but it's not clear if the people will ultimately be on their side.

Resource consumption is a crucial part of any economy, especially modern industrial ones like ours. That's why I'm half-convinced a genuine "war for oil" might be prudent at this juncture. I don't think anybody on earth could be satisfied by the arguments for such a thing (including myself) but to take physical possession of a needed element for society to continue could have very positive reverberations against the terrorists and tyrants of the world.

Everything runs on energy. Food produced at one part of the world has to be transported to wherever it's processed and packaged for transportation to the local market. That's why vegetarian cruelty-free non-genetically modified etc. stuff is so expensive, even for wealth liberals. Just think how much worse it will get if gas prices go up ten bucks a gallon. Unless you've got cows, cropland and orchards in your backyard, starvation will be about a week away. That won't be changed by all the windmill, solar power and ethanol subsidies in the world.

The nuclear power advocates (of I am sorta a member) have been rightfully shaken by the catastrophe in Japan. But the nation was shattered by unprecedented earthquakes and tsunamis, [kamikaze = divine storm] and the reactors have continued to hold. Moreover, the Japanese people are calmly and rationally picking up the pieces. If there's any validity to a 'master race' argument, Japan (and Asia in general) is scoring pretty high at this point. That said, if the same crisis had struck a Chinese nuclear plant, preventing a meltdown would have been the least of the worries as chaos ripped through society. Ditto in Iran or North Korea, and their nuke-building capabilities probably aren't as secure.

The reactors have held and (inshallah) will continue to hold. One would assume the improvements in engineering since they were built decades ago can improve on this tremendous achievement. There is room for cautious optimism if you think Albert Einstein's theories can provide energy more cheaply and efficiently than coal, oil, gas, etc. However - Germany seems to have taken the lead on this - existing plants are being shut down, as literal a John Galt "turn off the motors of the world" moment as we've seen yet.

Solar power seems like it would be the greatest idea in the world, but so far it doesn't produce enough energy to power anything we actually use. I'm sure if it were possible, they'd make small things like iPods or cell phones with solar cells, and the energy savings would be noticeable because you no longer have to charge the damn things up. Wind power likewise doesn't produce enough energy.

You don't think about things like that when you're a week away from starvation. Civilization is much more tenuous than most people think. Qaddaffi could be an insane murderer slaughtering people no matter what time or place he was born and ruled. But only because wealthy western nations pay for oil does he have advanced technology to kill his people with.

What if someone came to a prominent politician or leader with a plan to create large numbers of jobs at a local, state and federal level. Many different types of jobs would be created with this offer; manual labor, production and use of everything from electronics to t-shirts, food and beverage to large-scale transportation and logistics to media attention. Sounds like a great deal.

Now what if the person who came with this offer is a known heroin addict, or at least speaking professionaly for one? It sounds kind of iffy, but it didn't stop the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Who, Guns'n'Roses, Aerosmith, Red Hot Chili Peppers, anybody working with Eric Clapton in the 70's, etc, other drug users in rock.

The same system that makes the consumer culture possible is the one that's given us the time, leisure and wealth created by energy use.

Not really related, but I've noticed a sudden resurgence of the singer/guitarist dichotomy present in most hit rock bands. Mick and Keith haven't produced much in decades. Slash is winning against Axl, already planning his next solo album. Jimmy Page would love to fly Led Zeppelin again, but Robert Plant's not remotely interested. Brian May has produced a Britpop chick and seems to be having issues with the only other member of Queen left. I don't know what Townshend and Daltrey's relationships are like, but the Who seem to keep up a semblance of functioning [again, the only two original members left]. Eddie Van Halen may (possibly) be putting together an album with David Lee Roth, but it's been so long since he's been a functioning anything, no one cares. Joe Satriani has found a reliable team playing frontman with Sammy Hagar in Chickenfoot. A band like Rush doesn't fit into this category, so we can ignore them. Ditto Metallica, the Eagles, Beatles, solo artists, etc. Nyeah.

I wonder, in the popular entertainment/consumer side of culture, how much of what we've seen in the last half-century has been largely inspired by having to make deals with crazed twenty-somethings who have found success beyond all measure, and still maintain the same capitalist structure that lets completely normal people manage their business as well. Mick Jagger didn't waste himself with drugs (much), but he had to put up with people who did, and realized quickly that the London School of Economics teachings and a future knighthood was better than the alternative.

Here's an MTV clip from the mid-80s, the first Farm Aid (I think) and the first time Eddie Van Halen played with Sammy Hagar. The singer does an awesome job of putting on a show and they rock and roll a Led Zep tune.

And here's the "bomb bomb bomb Iran" joke. Having never seen it before, it's exactly what I thought it would be. A joke, humor that becomes more cynical by the day.

18 March, 2011

Mission: "Send the Marines back to Tripoli to put a bullet in Qaddaffi's head, then come home"

So we're invading Libya now. Or something. The UN and the French have given their instructions, and at some point Obama may follow up with Congressional authorization or something. Obama says there won't be ground troops, but if any pilot gets shot down, it's going to suck to be them if there's no boots on the ground. Wait, are we providing the pilots? What are we doing? What's the mission?

I really wish I could shake the feeling that he's been sitting idly for two weeks ("Qaddaffi must go", 3 March) hoping things would work out in his favor, and when it was clear they weren't going to unless he took action, asked himself what the guy before him would have done. The guy who had the most experience what what Obama himself is undergoing. He started a war in the region and got away with it. And this has France and the UN's approval (minus a few abstentions on the Security Council), so he can feel smug about getting permission first.

As I say, I'd like to shake that feeling. Maybe this is right on schedule with the overall war. Maybe this is thrown-together slop that will never come to anything because the C-in-C is over his head and has never lead anything like this. People around him will make a show of carrying out his orders and he'll give interviews (or not) and nothing will ever get done. The queen is surrounded by too many other pieces, and is effectively removed from the gameplay for the moment.

I have no idea if contributing anything to the removal of Qaddaffi and "owning" any part of Libya is a good idea or not (although France doesn't seem to mind; perhaps they're the ones feeling the "Bush envy" now). The abject failure to close Gitmo has demonstrated Obama is fully (if unwillingly) on board with the War on Terror as his predecessor set it up. As long as it supports that mission better than any of the alternatives, fine.

More hell is breaking loose. Saudi Arabia has ignored its relationship with the United States to send its forces into Bahrain, whose government had already fired upon protestors. Saudi Arabia is currently being targeted by Iran, which I didn't see coming. Is this just an attempt to bring chaos to the region, to stir up Shi'ite vs. Sunni, revolution and religion vs. monarchy, Persian versus Arab? Or is it about who controls Mecca?

Domestically, the Democrats are leaderless right now. Republicans are still trying to figure out what to do or how to do it, and they'll be blamed for the result. There was a story recently that Hillary was fed up with Obama's dithering. I can believe it. That's why I'm dubious about Obama's decision to go to war as part of a master plan, much as I'd like to believe it is.

Not sure what else to say. Haven't been doing much other than my job. The third draft crawls along, maybe a quarter of the way finished. I surprised myself and drew a couple of quick comics in a notebook. Nothing brilliant, but it's always a pleasure to have a comic finshed. In comics, I seem to be incapable of doing anything other than superheroes. Which is strange, because most of the basic elements of the genre are uninteresting to me as a writer, and to various extents as a reader.

I don't care about flashy costumes or fight scenes, and although I enjoy reading a good secret identity/love triangle gimmick, I only write one when I have a good idea for it. I do love the continuity aspect, but that's not really exceptional considering my similar fascination with history, rock stars, politics, etc. So although I certainly do non-superhero comic stories and strips, they're mostly one-offs and are mentally thrown on the pile with the rest - as large a pile as I can make it - and I go back to the superhero stories I enjoy doing. My art and lettering will never be professional and it's unlikely I'll ever rise to the level of competent amateur.

In (hopefully) the best sense of comic book continuity, I'm not even referencing the old stuff, so only what I can remember gets reused. Two 4-pagers in a notebook aren't much, but it's two more than I had when I joined years ago. Last deployment, I drew an 8-pager and a sorta-sequel 24-page story (22 pages?) Those were fun to do. I also did two non-superhero 60 (72?) panel strips in Microsoft Paint.

I really have no idea what else to say at the moment. Qaddaffi is making his bid for caliph. It's utterly insane, but so is he, and after four decades of power, he might be right that the alternative to him is chaos. Public unions are getting desperate in the mid-North.

Here's some outtakes from MASH.

06 March, 2011

I like stamp collecting, but there's a seductive lure... Is a rare 1916 Monaco Windsor worth one's immortal soul?

Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!!!

Besides, everyone knows stamp-collector groupies are major babes.

I will admit, not bitching about politics and other current events has taken away a large incentive to post regularly. It wasn't exactly a conscious decision, more like 'jeez, give it a rest'. There's no real incentive to start ranting about the outrage of the day. With this administration, there's another one coming along and it's more tiresome than anything else.

Remember when Obama was supposed to be this great agent of hope and change? A lot of people saw that he had no actual experience taking difficult leadership positions, and usually voted "present" in his career. But those people didn't vote for him. Over halfway through his Presidency, his style of leadership is quite clear. Serious question for those who voted for him, two years later, what other explanation could there before why he gets pushed around by Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers, Rahm, the Republicans, Iran, Qaddaffi? Obama's not going to stand up for what's true and right and decent, why else would he wait two more years to fight for repealing Bush tax cuts? Why else did he campaign against the individual mandate and then sign Obamacare as written?

Now, does anybody remember anything concrete about him? His leadership position on Middle East turmoil? A brilliant forward-looking plan anywhere? The State of the Union was barely a month ago, did anything come out of that? [I recall something about Sputnik and choo-choo trains...]

Will he win re-election? Well, unless some serious sea change has happened in America's black communities that nobody has noticed, blacks are going to vote for him as unanimously in '12 as in '08. I think racial solidarity is a bad decision to base one's vote on, but it is a democratic right. That's the only thing giving him a fighting chance. The leftists know they're being taken for granted - who else are they going to vote for? - and every other Democratic constituency is fed up with defending their guy. The economy is worse under Obama, and he's not leading on any front. Any other President, he'd be unquestionably toast. As it is, he has virtually no chance, unless everything magically falls his way. Such things are not unprecedented.

Very little is happening as proscribed. The Muslim world is trying to unite, and the required step is a federalist sort of Islam that can credibly support a Caliphate. It could be housed in Cairo, Baghdad, Tehran, Beirut, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Mecca, I'm sure Kabul would work in a pinch, or Khartoum.

A united Islam would be a formidable enemy, but long before achieving major victory, their own internal dissension would tear them apart. Arab versus African, Shi'ite versus Sunni, tribalist versus globalist. The question - from our side - is how much damage they could inflict before this pan-Islamic civil war began. A true Caliphate accepted from Indonesia to Venezuela (ahem) would have to be a peacable one, with Caliphs replaced by means closer to the Pope in Rome than has traditionally been the case.

We'll know Islam is ready for such a state when the individual Muslim communities are able to police themselves in civilized manners. There are hopeful signs, the Egyptian protestors are making a point of cleaning up after themselves. Even the Muslim Brotherhood would have to know that actual governing on existing Middle Eastern models isn't possible without the horrible results demonstrated so far. [Except in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan] Anybody looking to be the next Qaddaffi? The next Saddam? The next Arafat?

The book continues, depressingly slowly. I'm about an eighth of the way through the third draft, and well over 40 corrections per page on average. I was hoping to have it at the printer's by mid-March, and that's been thrown out the window. What if I have to do a 4th draft? I'd be lucky to have the book printed by this year's NANOWRIMO.

I am pleased with the way it's turning out. Very few of the corrections are for anything other than grammar or polish. When I wrote the first draft, I had no idea what would actually happen by the end, and by the time I reached the end, I barely remembered anything from the beginning. That obviously carried over to the second draft, but now that I'm reading the book for the second time, everything fit together very well. The second draft was going through structural deficiencies and finding very few. Now I'm tracking the consistency of the characters and what's going on chapter by chapter. As long as the continuity is maintained, I'll be happy. The whole story needs to fit into a timeline, so that's the other priority of the third draft.

I'm also going back and forth on what else to include in the printed book. As a tribute to NANOWRIMO, my intention has always been to include blog posts and other stuff I wrote during the period of the first draft. I also just like the idea of making the book a complete package, more like an album. The question here is how much extra stuff do I want to include? And how much extra work is that worth?

I like the idea of including "extras". If nothing else, I'd like to have a polished readable version of the material. ["we decided that one big book was better'n two little books and rather than bring one up we decided to throw ours down..."] However, the "pure" notion of nothing between the covers except the story itself is a tempting one. The "vanity" part of "vanity press" would still be satisfied. And it would cut out much time and effort and still give me a book I'd want to read.

Ah well. I've got weeks left before I'll come close to needing to make that decision. The last half-dozen pages I've done of the third draft each have at least 55 corrections per page. There's no incentive to keep going beyond 'if I don't do it, it won't get done.' Depressing.

Speaking of depressing, one assumes the Baby Boomers must be in full *give me grandkids* mode by now, because I'm guessing there's a huge segregation in that population these days. The ones who are retiring have to fill up the hours with something. This will be particularly hard for those whose jobs really were everything in their lives, and the ones who have a crop of grandkids to play with will be noteworthy for that reason.

Anecdotal evidence suggests a resurgence of girly-girl-ism in the female of the species. That's where the Boomers who really didn't think about things like 'family values' before start seeing what really lasts. Read a story a while back about Madonna being horrified at some of the clothes her teenage daughter wanted to wear. I'm guessing that being an Italian Catholic school girl is a little harder to shake off than she thought it was. And if there's anyone who deserves to be shocked by her daughter's rebelliousness...

I've been listening to a bit of different music lately, now that I've overloaded on Steinman for the time being. I've burned a lot of CDs and listened to stuff on the car's stereo. Some stuff is surprisingly good. I still haven't gotten tired of such standards as Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror", Jim Croce's "I Got a Name", a Trans-Siberian Orchestra song or two. I've included some early-pop punk stuff, early albums by the Go-Go's ("We Got the Beat") and Big Star (albums didn't sell, but they were influential). Both bands are tolerable, but will probably be removed from the next batch of CDs. Joe Satriani's debut album, Surfing With The Alien was the biggest hit instrumental rock album in ages, and it wasn't just the rip-off of John Byrne's Silver Surfer on the cover that sold it. An outstanding guitarist. He's also joined with Sammy Hagar to lead Chickenfoot, whose debut album is excellent hard rock.

I'm actually becoming quite interested in Sammy Hagar. Best known as the guy who replaced David Lee Roth in Van Halen and he did that 'I Can't Drive 55' song, he's actually had a long and impressive career. Keep in mind, I haven't actually listened to most of his music, but I'm becoming more and more impressed with what I'm finding.

His first released album was as a member of Montrose in 1973, and up through his second release with Van Halen in 1986, he almost kept up an album a year release schedule. Since then, he's averaged an album every two years. Not noteable for much in the way of hits other than his VH-era releases, he always showed a relentless work ethic to tour and release material, and get to know the record company and radio guys. His collaborations with others became more and more high-profile until he stepped in to give Van Halen its biggest commercial standing.

This would be transitory, as the David Lee Roth releases continued to outsell Van Hagar in the long run. Indeed, modern Van Halen seems intent on erasing Hagar's time in the band at every opportunity. But Sammy continued releasing albums, working with other people, running a liquor empire.

I've only got most of his VH albums, the one he did after leaving/getting kicked out, the three songs he did for their reunion greatest hits tour/album, Chickenfoot, and his cover of Patti Smith's "Free Money" from one of his first solo albums.

The Smith song has always been a favorite of mine, from her excellent debut album in 1976-7. Smith and her band were basically rock critics who knew how to play instruments. She played up the poetess dancing up front while they were a tight rock band who knew all the facets of their craft. The debut album, Horses, has deservedly lived up to the hype, and "Free Money" has always been the song I think sounded most 'pop'. There's psychelic stuff and jams and heavy guitar stuff, none of the lyrics make any sense, and "Free Money" did a really good job of compacting all that in an appealing way.

So, if you only know Sammy Hagar as the generic hard-rock shouter who gets to work and party with A-list rockers, a great guy but not especially deep or outstanding in any field, you might not expect much from his cover of Patti Smith's New York punk poem. I sure didn't.

But I spent a buck on amazon's mp3 section and what I heard was an amazing cover that builds on the original in so many ways, I honestly have no idea which I prefer more. I want to like the original, but...

Here's a cover of some song I've never heard from his first solo album, the one before including "Free Money". This does a lot of the same thing, and I'm sorely tempted to do with Sammy what I did with Rush and Billy Joel, say 'screw it, I'm downloading everything'.

But yeah, Hagar's "Free Money" is perpetually listenable. I'd always wanted to hear "Sixteen Tons", and now I love it. A few standout tracks come from Dennis Wilson's debut album which sound nothing like the surfing Beach Boy burnout he actually was. Very deep and evocative mood music with a raspy voice he never had on Brian Wilson's tunes. Roxette did some great songs in the late 80's, and then redid the vocals in Spanish, so I've been enjoying those. Jim Morrison and Blondie mashed up for "Rapture Riders".

I don't know if Phil Spector needs the money or what, but a three disc set of most of his biggest records has become available, and it's very much worth it. The Ronettes, the Crystals, Darlene Love. It's not complete, no Righteous Brothers or Tina Turner, but most of his pre-Beatles output is represented. "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "He's A Rebel" are excellent productions, and if you can put aside the issue of giving money to a psychotic gun-toting lunatic like Spector, and you like his work, it's well worth the money.

If you can't put that issue aside, it's perfectly understandable. Exceptions will be made for people who create worthwhile commercial work that an audience will continue to desire. If anybody's interested in Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby as classic movies, the pedophile rapist who made them will benefit, that's just the way history works. Personally I didn't follow the Spector trial much. His out-of-control behavior was well documented over the decades - just the details given in Albert Goldman's book on John Lennon are enough - that it's less a case of him being a murderer as it is that someone finally died as a result. The amazing thing is that it hadn't happened earlier, and in that level of success, those around you will let you get away with quite a lot. "Nothing bad has happened yet" will excuse an awful lot of partying.

There's other stuff, Brian May's female pop singer who gave May songwriting credit on songs she did before him, as well as remaking old/new May/Queen songs. The best songs on Slash's album are still among my faves. He played "Sweet Child Of Mine" with Fergie at the Super Bowl show. Didn't watch it, but like Hagar, he's worked himself up to a high-profile superstar. He just took a lot more drugs than he should have to get there. G'n'R could have stayed at that level, but Axl couldn't hack it. [Slash, by the way, played guitar on the opening track of Sammy's first album post-VH, the one that came out seemingly only a few months after he was kicked out.]

The best songs on Chinese Democracy are still on my playlist too. I'm hearing new virtues in "Street of Dreams", and I thought it was a pleasant song back when bootlegs called it "The Blues". [The words 'street of dreams' appears once in the whole song, the words 'the blues' appears once in the whole song. Axl got the music right, but doesn't seem to grasp how to do the words.] But no, Slash got to the top of the rock'n'roll world twice, once with Axl and once on his own. He's even releasing limited edition live albums from his shows. I haven't found one to pay for yet, but the guy singing G'n'R songs does a good job on Youtube. Axl, meanwhile, reached his peak and decided to wear a Charles Manson t-shirt and record a Manson song, then busted up the old G'n'R with a cover of "Sympathy for the Devil," a song with its own bad history.

So, in addition to drugging and raping a 13-year old girl, Roman Polanski is also known for having his wife murdered by Charles Manson. Manson was influenced by John Lennon's lyrics. In the years before being murdered, Lennon lived at the Dakota, which is where Polanski shot parts of Rosemary's Baby. You know, the one about giving birth to Satan.

John Lennon, who had previously encountered gunplay while recording his last album of several with Spector, spent the last years of his life strung out on drugs while his wife bought important household goods like Egyptian mummies, and crucial services like a curse to keep Paul and Linda McCartney from stealing. Seriously. Yoko put a curse on Paul and he gets busted in Japan. John was shot a few months later. The McCartneys remained happily married for decades until one of them died in the other's arms. The other then mourned and moved on.

This all seems like the most convincing irrefutable evidence ever presented for mysticism and the occult (or at least "Instant Karma"). Yes, if you want proof that the universe operates on laws other than measurable science, there you go. More people sing "Give Peace A Chance" than "Please Please Me" (Lennon's first nationwide impact). All of the people involved in paens to Satan (thinly-veiled or otherwise) came to unhappy ends. Paul was too sensible to get so involved, and his record for winning the lottery of life is noticeably higher.

Notice how they clearly ran out of ideas for the last minute.

At least John had the sense to change his song title to "Yer Blues", because "I'm Lonely, Wanna Die" would be creepy. As it is, didn't any of the other Beatles or the producer ask if everything was all right at home? But Phil Spector went out and did "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)", a record which has nothing to recommend it beyond the shock value of the title.