30 May, 2011

2012: Whatever it is, we're against it!

Another Memorial Day is upon us. This blog definitely isn't high on my list of priorities. Facebook compensates for most of the desires to immediately write something, an insight or one-liner. A blog works for more extended pieces though. I have often been tempted to take some of my multi-part Facebook posts and flesh them out here. But that seems like work.

I finished the 3rd draft of the book this weekend. Went to Kinko's printed it out and started the 4th draft the next day. 65 corrections on each of the first two pages, and subsequent pages average just as many. When I finished the first chapter, I compared the 1st draft with the 4th. The differences were striking and showed a vast improvement, but when am I going to get finished with this?

The weird thing is I'm not as horribly depressed as I thought I'd be. It's probably just trauma from an IED (Infinite Editing Disorder) or something. Maybe it's the long weekend giving me time to work. I've burned through the first three chapters and already typed up the corrections for the first two. Probably by next week I'll be horrified at how much left there is to be done. I honestly thought the 2nd draft would be where the main effort would go. Boy was I so young and naive three months ago!

The 2nd draft turned out to be filling in the missing holes, looking for coherence and otherwise wrapping my mind around the story between the first and last pages. I think I've said this before, but when I started I didn't know what I would be writing and when I finished I didn't know what I had written. I averaged at least fifty corrections a page, and checked the continuity as well as I could mainly with the advantage of knowing the ending. The 2nd draft was for filling in that gap and correcting the most egregious or obvious errors, but at the time I was hoping that the 3rd draft would be quick and easy, just correcting a few typos and things that slipped through.

[By the way, that's not fun either. If there's more than a dozen corrections in a paragraph, unless it's a big paragraph, it's usually easier to retype the whole thing rather than fix each correction one by one, but that has a high rate of creating new typos. I don't have any evidence, just a suspicion that you're more likely to make mistakes when retyping the old ones, and psychologically you'll be more resistant to checking for errors. "I already fixed that paragraph, it's good, moving on."]

Once I realized that the 3rd draft would be long and difficult to complete - somewhere around Chapter 1 page 1 paragraph 2 - it was a serious downer. And deservedly so, I'm pushing a month of editing for every week of writing. I took notes on the characters and continuity and referred to them often, flipping ahead to make more comments. Surely, I told myself, this draft would be it, with all the intensive thinking on every word or phrase, weighting them to make sure they fit with everything that came before and would come after, as well has had the proper cadence, rhythm and spelling. Yes, the 3rd draft is where the book is brought to a pristine shine and after that it's just a few minor corrections.

Nope. Not a bit of it.

The strange thing is that, with as many corrections as I'm making on the 4th draft, they're much more slash-and-burn. 'That word/phrase/sentence doesn't work, throw it out and replace it with...' The first two chapters are half a page shorter now with all that's been cut out. Maybe it's just the long weekend, but this seems to be going much faster. There isn't much thinking going on, it's just seeing where something is wrong and fixing it, even if the result is a complete re-write. Maybe (hopefully) I've internalized what is in the story at any given point, so I can instantly discern how near or far the words are from that given point and fix the problem on the spot. There's a lot of problems, but the work is more like putting shingles and wall paper on the new house than doing drywall.

Oddly enough I had a premonition about this as I was finishing the 3rd draft, where literally on the last few pages, the language suddenly felt like it had achieved the tone I was striving for. This worried me, because it so clearly hadn't done so on all the previous pages. The intuition turned out to be correct - that's why the concept of intuition exists, because it's correct even given false, misleading or absent information and it isn't merely a good guess - so here I am, going through the pages yet again.

I'd like to say this draft will go much faster. That obviously depends on how hard I'm willing to work, but there's room for cautious optimism at present. Unfortunately I can't say this will be the last draft. I am totally not someone who insists that everything be absolutely perfect in a work of art, but to prove that I have to stop fixing things at some point.

Unemployment still high (but GWB ruined the economy) gas prices still high (but GWB was in the oil company's pocket) Obama's wiped his ass with the War Powers Act (but GWB's wars are the evil ones, even if Obama continues them), the Patriot Act was renewed (but GWB is evil for inflicting it on the country) and there's word that the administration has begun considering "regime change" in Libya (but GWB was wrong for "regime change" and anyway, America doesn't get to decide who's in other countries). About the only thing they've got going for them is their complete hostility towards Israel which the whole world can agree on (except extremist warmongers).

I've honestly been trying to think of something else to write, but it doesn't seem to be happening. Not even for Memorial Day.

I'm still edging around some insight about rock stars of [a generation or two before] my era, how they've had to work over a lifetime, but nothing's cohering yet. Different bands work different ways and since most of their business is private, one can only speculate on the processes at work.

Take the Eagles, whom I've never been a big fan of, but are definitely one of the biggest rock bands ever. Their group dynamics devolved into a two-man leadership, Glen Frey and Don Henley, who unilaterally and retroactively demanded most of the money and control over the group, firing Don Felder and deciding who was or wasn't involved in other projects. They can do it because they wrote virtually all the songs, and Henley was the front man (as well as having a much more successful solo career than all the others put together). Personality undoubtedly has much to do with it, but since I'll never meet any of them (and neither will you) it's complete speculation. As rock stars, they live quite detached from reality most of the time - Joe Walsh's solo hit "Life's Been Good" is possibly the best description ever of this experience ("I bought a mansion, forget the price/ain't never been there, they tell me it's nice") - and there's very little one can relate to outside the music itself.

The Eagles have been touring consistently since their last album, the only one they've recorded since 1980 that wasn't live or remakes of their old hits. Their ticket prices have been stratospheric, and one assumes there's a reason for that (beyond being aging wealthy leftists). This lines up with my suspicions about Axl Rose, Roger Waters and others that their constant performing isn't because of a love of playing live. It's quite possible that it's because they need the money.

This isn't remotely unheard of. Michael Jackson was deeply in debt when he died, the only thing that got him to agree to ten concerts at the O2, which was then upgraded to fifty. Elvis before him had an increasing desperate need for cash which was why he toured so much, and everybody could explain away his spending by pointing out that he earned millions of dollars every time he went on stage, so how could he ever go bust?

This work rate probably increased Elvis' drug dependency and other issues. The threat of having to work was probably the final straw for Jackson. In his autobiography, Sammy Hagar says the Van Halen brothers desperately needed money which was why they jumped for the 2004 reunion and were so quick to tour with David Lee Roth soon after that ended.

The business side of things does play a large part. Elvis had to sell most of his music publishing (where the *real* money is in the music business) at the end of his life, so he would have a lot less coming in no matter what. Michael Jackson made tons of money in publishing (like owning the Beatles catalogue) but had heavily leveraged that to Sony. According to Sammy, when he was joining VH and discussing the publishing, Eddie asked what a publishing company was, and said maybe he should get one of them. Given everything else in Sammy's book, that becomes very believable, and reinforces the idea of most rock stars as arrested adolescents who've never had to deal with the consequences of their actions until it's too late.

[For those who don't know, music publishing is the literal ownership of a song, dividing up who created it and what percentage of the royalties they get from all forms of reproduction, from use in movies to cover versions, live performances and printing the sheet music (the literal origin of the term "publishing"; before technology, the only way you could hear a song by Beethoven was if the sheet music was sitting on the piano). These royalties are collected and distributed by companies like ASCAP and BMI. Most rock stars own their own publishing companies, unless shenanigans or incompetence leads them to sell. Paul McCartney wrote [insert Beatles tune here] as a contracted writer for Northern Songs, which managerial failures led to being purchsed by ATV, the company Michael Jackson bought, so when he sings [Beatles tune], he has to pay that company. If Paul doesn't die a billionaire, his family will, but there's no amount of money he or they could offer that would compensate Sony for what the Beatles catalogue can be expected to bring in. Poorer rock stars have even fewer options.]

The Eagles became a two-man dictatorship, common in many bands. Most of these are song-writing partnerships [Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, Tyler/Perry, Page/Plant, even Brian Wilson and Mike Love] with a few exceptions [Pete Townshend wrote the Who's songs, but Roger Daltrey was the face of the band.] Roger Waters wrote most of Pink Floyd's songs but Dave Gilmour's sound seems to be what really kept the fans. Gilmour has done almost nothing for decades, while Waters is getting ready for his second year touring "The Wall" (released in 1979), after spending three years touring "Dark Side of the Moon" (released in 1973), after spending three years touring "In the Flesh" (named for the first song on "The Wall", where he played 7 of "Dark Side"s 10 songs and every other Pink Floyd song you hear on radio, but virtually nothing from his post-Floyd career. Queen became a two-man dictatorship by default, since their front man died and the bass player retired, and they'd never had any but the original four members.

This is where the speculation becomes difficult, as detached from reality as the rock stars themselves. There's no way to know how the two dominant forces in a band interact amidst the other members, or why they do what they do. Wives and girlfriends are easy to blame, as are drugs or other self-destructive acts. But how much of Eddie Van Halen or Brian May's actions in the last thirty years reflected their relationship with their fathers? It doesn't mean anything to the fans, all we hear is the music and their publicity stunts, but it means something to them. Relationship with a grandparent, or a high school bully, these could be driving forces decades later as the rock star writes and records songs that make the kids dance, in collaboration with someone else who has their own issues.

I do think that the unconventional nature (to put it mildly) of rock stardom makes them good subjects for speculation about the human condition. They're at least as good for the topic as superheroes, looking for universal concepts of law, contract, collaboration, consequence. This is how we notice things running parrallel to each other, or perpendicular or anything else.

Ages ago, I was at someone's house and the tv was turned to a VH1 rockumentary about Styx already in progress, after "Lady" and their early hits. Except for the specific details of the break-up and aftermath, they were indistinguishable from Pink Floyd: art-rockers who spent years honing their craft and it paid off when they hit megastardom. Several monstrously successful albums followed until the lead singer-songwriter became so egotistical and dominant that he squeezed out everybody else's contributions, up to and including the concept-double album involving themes of tyranny, dehumanization, rock and roll which led to the band taking a bath making a tour and movie out of it ["The Wall" and "Kilroy Was Here"]. An album or so later, dominating leader left, expecting the band to collapse without him.

So there's reason to think that Roger Waters, Eddie Van Halen, Axl Rose and more fall into similar parallel lines. But again, it's all speculative. Bob Dylan's been doing a "Never-Ending Tour" for decades now. Does he need the money? Does he just like to play? He seems to have avoided self-destruction much better than almost everybody else, but he's a solo artist and doesn't have to answer to anybody. Maybe he's cultivated an audience that will pay for his simple stage show repeatedly like the Grateful Dead had. The Rolling Stones don't have a simple show, but they don't need the money. Roger Waters doesn't have a simple show, but he's out doing it night after night and he's pushing 70 years old.

"Hope I die before I get old" has long been a rock credo. Jim and Jimi and Janis attained it and have been much less problematic than the stars who didn't die. The era of the stadium concert is probably over for the older rock stars and the audience is too diversified for most of the newer ones to ever fill up that many seats. Package deals can probably do it, but I'm hardly in touch with what's popular these days so I don't know. The Stones may do a concert or tv special, but I doubt they'll ever tour again. Neither will Aerosmith. Whether or not they record any more music is anyone's guess.

It's fun to wonder what Freddie Mercury would be doing if he was still alive. One would hope he'd remain productive, but he himself admitted he couldn't continue the touring because he'd look ridiculous going on stage as a middle-aged man in tights. ["It looked ridiculous then, but it worked. (to the interviewer) What were you wearing ten years ago?"] He'd long said he didn't want to get old, and it seemed he meant it more than the more nihilistic rock stars. He didn't get old and he didn't die young. His productivity and influence were higher, and life was much better than it's turned out for most of his peers.

[although a Zoroastrian who was mostly non-practicing between his childhood and funeral, he turned the Muslim call to prayer into a kick-ass rock song, "Mustafa" which opens up the Jazz album, the track before Brian May's "Fat-Bottomed Girls". Tell all your friends.]

18 May, 2011

One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Guzzler's Gin

The other shoe has dropped on the assault of Lara Logan. You remember, the infidel woman dressed like a whore who naively thought that Cairo during a revolution was a safe place to be.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, a white socialist with diplomatic credentials who had a good chance of being France's next Prime Minister, was taken off his plane just before departure because he was accused of raping an African immigrant working as a maid in the $3,000/night hotel he was staying at.

Apparently she's a Muslim too. Even though America ostensibly hates Muslims, and we're oh so racist - I'm guessing the maid isn't white, although it's only been said that she's African which doesn't mean a thing regarding skin color - her accusations are given enough credibility that the alleged rapist was hauled off by the police. Since he's considered a flight risk - thanks to the example set by Roman Polanski - the police are holding him, and reportedly he's on suicide watch now.

False accusations of rape do an enormous amount of damage to the accused. I am coming to think that those who make false accusations of rape should be punished as severely as actual rapists. Since rapists are scum and I have no intrinsic objection to summary execution (so long as the crime is confirmed beyond 'he said/she said') I think that would cut down on false accusations, probably more effectively than punishing rape cuts down on that crime.

Get it? Even a poor immigrant woman has rights in America, rights that are "endowed by [her] Creator", and no one deserves to be treated that way. The American legal system, for all its flaws, will help her find redress to the extent possible. The socialist who didn't give a damn about anything but his own urges - he's been accused several times before - will have his legal rights respected. Sure, fine, no problem, innocent until proven guilty. If he's innocent, I hope the accuser suffers for the harm she caused. If the law isn't sufficient, I have faith in karma.

If he's not innocent, the same thing applies. You don't treat an infidel woman dressed like a whore that way, you don't treat a Muslim woman that way, you don't treat anybody that way. It doesn't matter if you're French, Wrong Is Wrong!

If the reports are true and he's on suicide watch, I suspect it's because he's never remotely been faced with the consequences of his actions and, as a good politically-connected socialist who stays in fancy hotels, he never expected to. To suddenly be called to account for one's (alleged) actions, a lot of people would be driven to attempt suicide in those circumstances.

But it's not America's "puritanical" attitude towards sex that's at fault. It's the motherfucker who forces sex on a member of the servant class (or drugs a 13-year old because she keeps saying "no", as in the Polanski case) who's at fault.

It's tempting to suggest this falls on Dominique (really? A girl's name?) because he's foreign. But so is the accuser. So is Arnold Schwartzenegger, who suddenly admitted to his own infidelities and unlike his catchphrase, won't be back. I won't shed a tear for the Terminator, but at least he was democratically elected, and people knew who he was. Same with Newt Gingrich. Kahhhnnnnnnn! [as James Tiberius Kirk would say] is an unelected bureaucrat in the sort of shadowy offices that such rich depraved socialists favor, with the power to tell taxpayers of the world - who pay their salary - what to do with their money.

As I say, the other shoe has dropped in the Lara Logan assault.

Gingrich (what sort of parents would name their child "Newton"?) has just become the latest Republican Presidential candidate to self-destruct after Donald Trump. He isn't out of the race yet - it's only been about a week since he entered it - but he's already shown that he's not ready for Prime Time. His latest gaffe [I think, I haven't paid a great deal of attention to him] was that anybody who quoted what he said last week was a lying liar who was telling a lie. That's the sort of thing Obama will have to fight against now that he actually has a record, the opposition doesn't need to make the incumbent's job easier.

As a politician, Newt is fine. He has experience, can stick to his guns or compromise as the case may be, and is flashy enough that a large amount of the public could get behind him even if they disagree. But fairly or not, he's seen as a firebrand which is alienating in itself, with a penchant for going out on a limb when there's really no sensible reason to do so, as he's proven in the last week or so. He earned this reputation in the Clinton years - which he ended by having his own party tell him to resign - and attempting a comeback just isn't going to happen. Donald Trump had similar problems, a record of achievement that he got by telling (whoever) what they wanted to hear enough times that he could get what he wanted, which happened to be money and fame.

I think this is the effect Sarah Palin has had on American politics, left, right and center. Simply by being a potential candidate - she hasn't come close to declaring yet - she skews the discussion so far over to one side that no one else has a chance. If Hillary had chosen to run in 2000, it would have had a similar effect on the Democrats, just by being a woman with a credible chance to win.

Let's say Sarah Palin is everything her most devoted supporters say she is, that's still not good enough in my book (even though I would probably support her if she chooses to run; certainly against Obama - if the bar is already that low, why worry about who else can clear it?). A large portion of right-wingers and centrists like her, another portion of left-wingers despise her, and a lot of people don't think she's deserved the abuse she's received. If gender were removed from the equation, she'd coast to an easy victory 18 months from now. But it's not, and it can't be.

Since Palin is a Republican, no other Republican has a chance until she makes a decision. Unlike what Kaaaaaaahhhhhhn is used to, in America women actually have a say in what goes on. Even after she makes the decision, the men will still have to curry favor and win her approval, even on things that don't concern her. [This is why I've stayed single, nyuk nyuk]

Any Republican politican, qualified or otherwise, will have to deal with that fact and win her approval. My guess is she knows she doesn't want the Presidency bad enough to try and has already made that choice, but as a human being [women are sort of human, I guess] of course she wants as much influence on politics as she can get. She wouldn't have become a governor without that desire. Hell, she only got involved in politics because she disagreed with how the school board was doing things in her childrens' classes, and events snowballed from there until she became the Vice-Presidential candidate two years ago.

What, John Edwards was so much more experienced and morally upstanding? He was a serious candidate for the top slot, in two consecutive elections no less, and didn't have his private life revealed until after he'd withdrawn in '08. Even though he lived the sort of life that Dominique enjoyed, unbelievably rich and with no sense of consequences. When his mistress gets pregnant, he tells the world that the baby isn't his, it's his close personal assistant's, and the assistant goes along with it. Briefly, but that's how things usually work out. Yet one of the two major parties still saw him as a credible candidate.

I am not a Republican (political parties are stupid; it's their defining trait) but ideologically, I'd prefer to be on the side where such people are revealed as the self-destructive lunatics they are and fade quickly from power once that happens. At least we got the Contract With America and a bunch of movies from Gingrich and the Kindergarten Cop before they crapped out. Dominatrix Levi-Strauss could have been the next Prime Minister of France, and they'd known for a long time what sort of person he was: A Socialist.

Karl Marx, founder of international socialism, got his lifelong household servant pregnant and blamed his close personal friend Frederich Engels. Draw your own conclusions.

I screwed up on the last post's Youtube links, let's hope this works better. Red Skelton dissects The Pledge Of Allegiance.

15 May, 2011

I am a genius, while you could hardly pass the entrance examination to kindergarten.

Time has been slipping by. I'm still going to work, still doing what I do. This week I jumped out of a plane.

The War Powers Act is ready to kick in with regards to our "days, not weeks" adventure in Libya, now that weeks have become months. The administration is pretty clear that they're going to ignore it, or else they've already complied with it so Congress can shut its big yap. Is anybody surprised by this?

There's a huge war brewing against Israel. Its very existence is so offensive to the world that they're uniting to change that fact. This is going to get worse before it gets better. Egyptians mobs torched Israeli flags recently. I guess the assault of Lara Logan is forgotten, hmmmm?

Democrats and the administration still don't seem to be all that interested in producing a budget for the government. They're all about raising the debt ceiling or else catastrophe will strike, but choose to ignore any catastrophe that could strike if the US so blithely keeps spending money it doesn't have.

Besides inflation and the risk to the food supply - what I call Cows, Crops and Orchards, as in 'if you don't have all three of these in your backyard, you're going to get very hungry very fast once the supply chain falls apart' - it's finally sinking in how unneccesary most of society's jobs really are. They can only exist because so many others have the leisure time and money to pay for frivolities. Businesses aren't hiring and, domestically as well as internationally, it's going to get worse.

Here's an excerpt from a WSJ editorial explaining if supermarkets were run like public schools.

Here's Sammy Hagar and Journey guitarist Neal Schon in their mid-80's supergroup HSAS. They only did a few concerts, but recorded those for their one and only album. This is the cover of "Whiter Shade of Pale". I don't think this is the one used on the album, but whatever they used was treated in the studio - removing crowd noise, etc - so it may have been. Love the fan who ran on the stage and was grabbed by security at 2:50.

And here's a more recent concert performance, of his acoustic reworking of "Dreams", the early hit he had with Van Halen. I like the way he dropped the vocal register and turned it in into a jaunty singalong.

For another cover, here is Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and their version of "Uptown Girl". Notice the guitar stays virtually the same all the way through, but they put a lot of work into the vocals. Further covers by this band include "I'll Be There", "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and more.

I seem to be in a mood for cover songs, so here's Big Daddy, a cover band, doing their version of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds". Mostly Big Daddy remade (then) current songs in the style of earlier songs or eras. "Ice Ice Baby" sounded like a Chuck Berry song right down to the bassline, "Money For Nothing" sounded like "Sixteen Tons" (both similar laments of the working man), "The Living Years" sounded like "Leader of the Pack" (both about people who died in a motorcycle crash). But for their final album (I think) they remade Sgt Pepper, track for track. The best song was "A Day in the Life" as if it were done by Buddy Holly ("I read the news today uh-oh boy!" but this Jerry Lee Lewis pastiche is great too.

This is "Smoke on the Water", covered by Rock Aids Armenia. From Youtube: In 1989, artists from Pink Floyd, Queen, Rush, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Yes, Iron Maiden and others joined forces to raise funds for people affected by the Armenian earthquake. Kerrang called it "the greatest array of hard rock talent ever assembled". That's David "Pink Floyd" Gilmour walking into the building at the beginning, followed by Roger "Queen" Taylor as the drummer. The guitarist with long curly black hair and the mustache is Tony "Black Sabbath" Iommi, and the guitarist with long curly black and no mustache is Brian "Queen" May.

"Smoke On The Water", by the way, was written about a fire that broke out in a building in Montreaux, Switzerland, during a performance by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. You see, all these bands knew each other anyway. Everything's connected.

I guess this qualifies as a cover, here's Bugs and Elmer singing Wagner. It just occured to me that the cartoon's opening possibly inspired the opening of "Rocky and Bullwinkle" segments of their own show, with the dramatic music, heavy use of black and stilted separation of clouds.

I just keep linking, don't I? Here's "Duck Amok", a classic cartoon. I don't think it's all that ha-ha funny - although not having seen it in years, I got more than a couple giggles out of it - but what makes it so strong is the consistency of Daffy's character, and how well he reacts (all things considered) to every whim of his unseen maker. He's able to fill whatever role he's placed in, from musketeer to ski picture, while every aspect of his existance is shaped at random, from the background to the color and sound to the frame-by-frame movement, with "The End" even appearing earlier than it's supposed to.

I'll post this last one before I'm here all day. This is the Coyote/Roadrunner cartoon with the kids and the talking. You've seen it, we've all seen it. From the late WB era, this is probably the cartoonists giving their own interpretation of the cartoons, and the audience who has now graduated to watching them on television shows sponsored by ACME.

05 May, 2011

"They simply don't make terrorists like they used to."

"Night Court" is back, such as it is. The dvd for season 4 were briefly available at the WB online store, which proved impossible for me to negotiate. I could sign up to order things or I could put the dvd set in my 'cart', but not both, even though both were required to place the order. This was frustrating, especially since one assumes the reason it didn't get such a widespread release was because of low interest in earlier seasons. Then it was withdrawn altogether, before being rereleased exclusively through amazon.

Naturally I did place an order this time, although the reviews made it clear this was an inferior product. I just wanted the episodes.

The reviews were right. There are no scene choices, no episode descriptions, the video and sound quality is lower than pretty much any official dvd I've ever seen and worst of all the discs only play in a device specifically built for that purpose, a 'dvd player', if you will. Not a laptop or recorder or anything that peforms a task other than playing dvds.

Still, this is "Night Court". So I went out and bought the cheapest dvd player I could find just for the purpose of watching this one season of a show I used to love, and have enjoyed the reissues immensely. So far I've watched the first several episodes, and one from later in the season [the first "200 cases to midnight" show]

I'm not having trouble justifying the purchase, and I certainly enjoyed most of what I watched, but I wasn't as enthralled by it as I'd been by the first few seasons, even though they were of lesser quality. [I felt the same way about the new "Bloom County" collection which came out a few weeks ago].

The series is still great, no denying that. With the addition of Marsha Warfield, the cast is now in place, but it's not clear what they're there to do [aside from arraign Manhattan Criminal Court Part 2]. "Night Court" wasn't a character-driven series like MASH or other shows. All the TV guide needed to print was "the Bunkers discuss birth control", and everyone so inclined would tune in to "All in the Family" because they wanted to see what Archie, Dingbat, Meathead and Little Girl would have to say about the topic. Shows like "Family Ties" would make Very Special Episodes part of their trademark.

"Night Court" seemed to share that latter failing, natural since they were contemporary hits on NBC, but even here I didn't think it was as pronounced as the third season, where half the episodes seemed to fill up the last three minutes with "Dan Learns His Lesson" the way Alex P. Keaton filled the role on "Family Ties" [or Gary Coleman on "Different Strokes", whichever "Facts of Life" girl was in the spotlight that week.] The trope probably goes back at least as far as Ralph Kramden so it's not exactly specific to this era or anything, although "Seinfeld" would famously declare that it had "no hugging and no learning."

So far in the episodes I've watched, the "sensitivity" stuff has at least been kept at a lower level, on plots/subplots that specially spotlight the characters, and enough weirdness to compensate. The season opener has Harry finding out that his mother is dead, a later two-party has Dan worried about growing old alone, an episode I haven't watched yet has Mac on a drunken spree when he finds out Quon Lee is pregnant. Lots of hugging, but said season opener also featured John Astin as Harry's step-father.

[While writing this, the dvd player crapped out. What a great purchase!]

I also noticed that most of the characters weren't given much to do. In Roz's first appearance, she didn't do anything except explain her name as a legacy of her mother's love of show business. It worked out better for her than her brother and sister, Slappy and Zsa Zsa. Florence's death was mentioned, but only in passing while Harry talked about his mother. ["Harry hasn't talked to her in twenty years" someone said to Roz. "My brother hasn't talked to my mother in twenty years." "Your brother?" "Topo Gigio."] A witty retort Roz delivered a few episodes later could have came from either of the characters standing next to her, but I suspect it was a matter of giving the new kid on the block something to do and a matter of where they were standing relative to the main actors in the scene. Again, this wasn't a character-driven show.

But it was funny. They're not even pretending to be realistic anymore, with a cavalcade of hilarious legal cases. Someone who legally changed his name to 1987, vowing to take all responsiblility for the new year. ["I'm going to make ABC the number one network again." Harry: "Held over for psychiatric evaluation."] Brandon Tartikoff shows up to rescue a Nielsen Family and they poke a great deal of fun at their own network, execs and stars alike, for a bit that lasts around 45 seconds.

As mentioned, I skipped ahead (before the dvd player died) to watch the first "200 Cases To Midnight" episode, and it was wonderful, a rapid-fire series of jokes that, even when they misfire, there's another one coming right away and it's all so delightfully weird that there's no time for reflection. The cast play their parts wonderfully, especially John Larroquette who functions as a superb utility player. If a plot or subplot can't be hung around Dan Fielding, it's usually not worth it.

Harry Anderson and Markie Post aren't known for their acting abilities, but the writing compensates quite a lot, and they do just fine with what they have as the male and female leads [although Markie Post is wearing too much makeup]. Harry can handle the serious or wacky roles as required, and Christine has delightfully silly moments in between the naivete and being the butt of jokes. The dvd player died on an episode that had her being dragged off to jail in the opening segment, by a female judge who would later sleep with Harry ["if you want to be technical, neither of us did any sleeping"], and she was doing a great job there.

It's a shame that technology can be so crappy. There's got to be a way for interested parties to give WB some money in exchange for decent unedited copies, and what I've seen of this set at least meets that standard. There's jokes in here I know I never saw in syndication.

But I'm feeling muuuch better now.

02 May, 2011

How long will Qaddaffi keep breathing?

This is Obama's chance to take a stand that is decisive and could aid in victory in the war. Yes, he gets to take a lot of credit for using information his predecessor gained to launch a military strike against a Muslim country that never attacked us from bases his predecessor established. Obama's the President, he gets the credit, no problem.

But Qaddaffi's still out there, still machine-gunning his citizens, just like Assad is, but Assad isn't riding around in the open. Qaddaffi knows he's got somebody looking out for him and it sends exactly the wrong sign to our enemies - of which bin Laden was only one individual - that he continues to do exist. If he's still alive 48 hours from now, Obama's going to lose every shred of credibility the death of OBL could give him.

I am amused that, as a candidate, Obama did say he knew bin Laden was in Pakistan and if he were elected, we'd go get 'im. I even blogged about it three years and nine months ago.


He said if he were elected, this would happen, and sure enough it happened. That's a point on the big board, karmically, at least as far as I'm concerned. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" banner had much the opposite effect.

But given Abdulmutallab, Faisal Shazad, Major Hassan, Qaddaffi, Assad, the mullahs and all the other gangsters of the region, Penn and Teller and the South Park guys frankly admitting they won't make fun of Islam because they don't want to die, even though they ruthlessly make fun of everything else. We have a far different perspective on life in the Muslim world than we had a decade ago. Back then, they had all the oil and they hate Israel and that was it.

That's an argument which is demonstrating how unrealistic it is with every day. No credible person could say Israel treats the Palestinians worse than Assad treats Syrians, or worse than Qaddaffi treats Libyans, or worse than the mullahs treat Iranians, or worse than King Saud treats Saudis and Bahrains, worse than Musharref treats Pakistanis or worse than Mubarek treated Egyptians. Frankly, Israel - in our "smart power" era, anyway - would have nothing to lose except their souls by outright machine-gunning every Palestinian in sight, because that's no worse than the Palestinian people's own defenders have been doing for decades and are doing today.

Here's an idea, let's let Qaddaffi keep driving around in his invulnerable convertible car and while everybody's looking at him, we send a Predator drone into Assad's bedroom. It takes a bad guy off the board and could seriously distract the enemy.

I wonder if that's what we've done with bin Laden. I'm perfectly willing to accept that this was him and we got him, just like it says there with full orchestration and four-part harmony. But I read "Illuminatus" too many times as a youngster, and love a good conspiracy theory. Or even a bad one, if done right. Bush/Cheney stole the election from Al Gore

[and a veep candidate so qualified - "HOW QUALIFIED IS HE?" - he was so qualified that he still votes with the Democrats on pretty much everything even though they threw him out of the party a few years after the election. Who says you can't win an election without a D or an R after your name?]

and arranged that bin Laden's death would be announced in '11. They knew that after 8 years, they'd be so reviled that America would flip over someone like Obama, which is why they plucked him from an unknown post in a Chicago university/Democratic disrict and set him up. If they pick the best person for the job regardless of race or gender, yet constantly get accused of racism and sexism, then they have a significant advantage over everyone hurling the accusations. They knew that America would want him, and their regime wouldn't change in any significant way. Halliburton uber alles.

It still doesn't change the savagry coming from the Middle East. English gentlemen didn't become that way without a thousand years of proper breeding, and if the Arabs and Persians are this eager to turn on each other while still throwing all their hatred onto us (or the Jews), maybe the problem isn't entirely with us (or the Jews, who know something about proper breeding and turning aside hatred).

The problems in the Middle East and the conflicts raging within Islam itself are far too complex to be boiled down to a man like Osama bin Laden. We have demonstrated that the infidel can beat any Muslim power on earth by the same will of God that gives any Muslim victory. It isn't blasphemy to live in a society where women vote or homosexuals can exist or three month-old babies don't get stabbed to death by people who are celebrated for doing so.

From a society of law and order all the way to absolute barbarism, there comes a time when someone makes a decision to shoot some of these motherfuckers and see how they like it then. We saw this a couple years ago when Obama gave the order to shoot the pirates in Somali waters. The pirates are still there, still getting away with murder, looting, hostage-taking. Just like Qaddaffi, and Assad, and all the other anti-Israel group that we've been so mean to all these years. And their subjects are getting the government they deserve. As do we all.

01 May, 2011


Part of something I wrote elsewhere and continued here because I felt like it.

Quote:Why are you even arguing about any of this, since you think your opinion is no better than anyone else's, including a 10 year old's? On that, we agree.

I think my opinion is the best one there is, but I recognize other people think differently. Your view unilaterally dismisses anybody who likes Van Hagar, anybody who likes ICP, anyone who thinks Abbey Road is better than Robert Johnson, [hardly overlapping groups] for no better reason than that they hold an opinion you don't share. Or else that they're young whippersnappers who don't know what's good for them and can safely be dismissed.

I hate to say that's a strange way for a Marxist to behave, but alas, whenever Marxists have actually authority to back up their opinions, what people actually want becomes a very minor point in the discussion.

Capitalism has to provide law and order for everybody. On a day to day basis, doing it the old way trumps whatever way comes along 9 times out of 10 at minimum, whatever system you live under. What system works the best for everybody involved, maximizing collective security and material comfort?" Why you want make sacrifice to Great Spirit Snake? What wrong with Buffalo God?"

Mao, Castro, Stalin and Qaddaffi can rule for decades in as much security as the President of the United States. Qaddaffi has taken to riding open-air vehicles lately, so you know someone's looking out for him.

In America, we have color television, comic books and rock'n'roll. Gosh aren't we oppressed. So many Marxists who like it here.

Quote:Your view amounts to saying anything produced on American Idol is just as culturally, intellectually, and aesthetically valuable as Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung.

My view is that there is more to culture, intellect, aesthetics and value than is dreamt of in your philosophy. Pete Townshend is in stadiums singing "Hope I die before I get old" and bayou trash mother of several Britney Spears is pushing 30. Capitalism lets people not heavily addicted to self-destruction or heroin rely on law, order, security, legal contracts, where 9 times out of 10 (or more) the old way of doing things is the best way.

Hey, if picking up a guitar to get some pussy (or because you like playing guitar, but who gives a shit about those freaks) is the best option available, you do what you gotta do. At least you're not being lectured to, told to clean your room, get to your place of duty on time, all that Nazi-like behavior. You get to do whatever you want.

So forgive me for not living up to your high fucking standards of rock and fucking roll, ok! God!

Yeah, be sure and let me know when any Marxist anywhere has ever permitted THAT much dissent against their core beliefs when they had the power to suppress it. For now, there's a power ballad needs my attention.

I think a 'death is getting pretty damned close' feeling from the boomers is starting to hit the rock aristocracy hard. At least Jim and Jimi and Janis (and whoever else) are all long dead, so that's all you'll ever get forever and, for most of our lives, it always has been.

The Eagles had to give themselves a cozy corporate entity that lets them do drugs and fuck whoever they want and charge outrageous amounts of money for whatever they want to do for the rest of their lives, just from the royalties of "Hotel California" alone. The guy who created that song was kicked out by Glen and Don ages ago, but the band goes on. Hell, I can't stand the Eagles' version - they only have a few songs I really like and a handful of others I find tolerable - but I've recorded multiple version of "Hotel California" because it's an awesome song to sing and play.

To the obnoxiously-decadent and immoral leftists who made it possible, the big corporate drek-producing entity who made a sport of screwing over their own, it's a mark in the plus column on anybody's scoreboard. Good luck with the only judge that matters.

[I do have Don Henley's greatest hits though, enjoy a number of songs from that. He's also achieved the highest honor a human being can bestow, a style parody by Weird Al. Not song parody, style parody. The man is a true genius. Weird Al that is, not Henley.]

Roger Waters is on tour flogging The Wall, having flogged Dark Side of the Moon for three years, and the "In the Flesh" tour ran about as long before that being mostly composed of old Pink Floyd stuff. He's the one who left the band after dominating it increasingly during the 1970's. This is the guy who got thousands and thousands of Berliners to scream, in unison, "Tear down the wall!!!" And, according to Nick Mason's book, he gives his road crew t-shirts with the words "Am I being cost-effective?" printed backwards SO THEY WOULD SEE IT WHEN LOOKING IN THE MIRROR!

Hey, he got Pink Floyd back together at that big concert a few years back though, so it can't be all bad. Unless you're a Syd Barret fan anyway.

I have read it on Wikipedia and sites linked from there so it must be true, but after the reunion, Waters and Gilmour were very public about not doing it again, with Waters bitching about how much of a hassle it was to roll over just for one gig. But more recently he started saying he'd love to play toegther even for fun. After a brief acoustic show for pro-Palestian [philistine] causes, he has received a promise from Dave Gilmour to perform "Comfortably Numb" at one (only one) of the "Wall" performances forthcoming. If such a large-scale operation can be mounted successfully. How's that Marxism working out for you, eh Rog? "Money, it's a hit. Don't give me that do goody-good bullshit" has a lot of credibility for a lot of people. They'll even pay for it.

But I'm listening to the Live8 reunion right now, and it's an interesting historical event, recreating songs from before I was born, made more poignant by the fact that it would be the last time these guys would ever share a stage. They wouldn't gotten that far without the legal contracts and property rights to defend work they were making when they were 'merely profitable' to the record company. They wouldn't have gotten THAT FAR if they hadn't decided it would be eaiser to play gigs and just leave Syd at home to write songs.

Without Sid writing the songs, he would have had a much harder life. Just this moment I've realized I'd mispelled "Syd" in every Pink Floyd reference I made, and it would take very little for the ideas I'm discussing to be relevant to Sid Vicious and the punk movement reacting to the original Pink Floyd Sound. Syd Barret gave us Waters talking about how emotional it is to be up here with these guys as Gilmour plays a guitar line that is unquestionably classic.

"Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for the lead role in a cage?"

No, sometimes I don't wish you were here. In fact, sometimes I wish you'd shut up and go away. In the literal 'I have to deal with this every day' sense that constitutes most human interaction. Unpleasant interaction certainly. At least you can reasonably walk in safety outdoors with your children without bullets and bombs. Or people who will turn you in for unauthorized criticism. At the very least, fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.

Following a Waters Wiki-link led to a reference he made recently about how contracts were signed when he actually left the band. [or at least I found it recently. This is the internet, it must be true.] At the time, he was being sued by the band because he wasn't permitting them to work as Pink Floyd, even under their recording contract. The record company was displeased as well. This was not Death Row records, these were English gentlemen, so nobody died and everybody went home millionaires. Even Syd, the guy who was kicked out decades ago and had no contact with the band whatsoever, but I digress.

This is true, and Waters doesn't seem to have a good explanation for why he would prevent other members of Pink Floyd from acting as Pink Floyd. The record company was capitalist and evil and Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister isn't really a sufficient explanation decades later. I mean, it makes more sense than the distinctions between Stalin and Trotsky [or Biggie and Tupac] but that's because these guys are English gentlemen.

English gentlemen got to be English gentlemen by centuries of breeding. If this Syd Barret and Nancy circus is what the public likes, and maintains law and order and not being machine-gunned in the street as Qaddaffi does with impunity, then where's the harm?

In America, we find our own gentlemen in our own particular amusements. I myself am a fan of some works of art produced by a couple of New York City Jews in an office building during the 1960's. They did their job, collected their pay, supported their families. They weren't in a union or anything, and some of them got screwed pretty bad. But they could rely on food being at the store, gas being in the station, popular culture, and things that stayed the same because 9 times out of 0, the old way works better day after day after year after year.

Six years ago, Barack Obama was promising he would not run for President. What are his plans for six years from now? Or should politics be avoided as a subject entirely. What else, sports? Movies? Tv? What you read on the internet? Comics? The royal wedding? Another generation's passed for them you know. Is it true Charles has been officially passed over for King? Are they in the Top 40?

Don Henley, Sting, Prince, Grace Slick, CSN&Y, some of them got with the program and produced work over a longer period of time than Jimi, Janis, Jim, Brian Jones. The Temptations and the Four Tops weren't shooting each other, but they replaced members and only had the legacy Berry Gordy built from his own hard-earned work and investment in his rights and property. Kept a lot of food on people's plates, and Berry certainly is no saint. Without him, the Jacksons would be an ordinary black family, church-going, child-raising, tax-paying, wealth-creating group of citizens. Without Berry Gordy, EVH would have never discovered the crossover audience when he played on "Thriller" and DLR wouldn't have made "Dancing in the Streets" a hit again.

One of the reasons I love rock'n'roll is that it appeals to the historian in me, because it makes generational shift more discernable. Have you seen recent pictures of Grace Slick? Do you think Sarah Palin will look that good in twenty years?

Berry Gordy and the session players showed up on time and were presentable every way they needed to be. If they do their job, are on time and play by the rules the way their boss wants them to, they can afford to look out for five or ten years into the future. They could expect law and order and security for themselves and their families and friends. Marvin Gaye's estate is assured a piece of his work as a singer, producer and songwriter. Depending on their deal with Motown or other record companies, they can rely on people trying to impress chicks with "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" (or getting a buzz from CCR's jam).

The guys showing up to work every day for a check really got the better part of the deal, because at least that's a known quantity. If you're unreliable, that's a known factor, and 9 times out of 10, that's where it winds up. And they know it too. It doesn't matter if he's a violent drug-fulled lunatic who hasn't heard the word "no" for a decade, the contract is signed and if it's too expensive to maintain, they'll dump him, because that's how the company has survived so far. The same legal system that impedes Berry Gordy from glorious capitalist exploitation will punish you. Diana Ross is hotter than Grace Slick or Janis Joplin ever were, and Berry was nailing that ass at its finest. Sug gives us Dre and Snoop, bitches ain't shit and "gin and juice". They're mainstream too.

One of my favorite R. Crumb stories is the one about the po' Southern boy who hitches a ride to the city, blows his horn and records a few sides that languish in obscurity until some well to-do white boy pays an old lady for them and later shows them off for his equally well to-do friends. [from memory, I haven't read it in years.] It did a brilliant job of describing the levels of decisions being made, the middle-aged white guy executives who can't justify spending money on more field recordings for the "race" market, the producers and players who had to keep showing up on time to work.

I have no idea what Crumb says about the story, but I know he's said things like the reason he moved to France was because Reagan would put people in camps, so I think I can guess. Still, Crumb is part of the intelligencia, as are others of the small community he made possible, by reliably producing his work for a long period of times. The Eagles and everybody whose work they featured - Linda Rondstadt's primary claim to faim at this point was that they started out as her backing band - can earn livings for themselves, their families, their friends and companies, and they don't even have to shut up about the rainforest or whatever they're lecturing about. Shut up and sing.

I don't know why I wrote that, but I obviously needed it.