16 September, 2011

This song has no title, just words and a tune

Turkey and Egypt prepare to go to war against Israel just as a heavily Jewish district in New York elects a Republican to Congress for the first time since the Harding administration. Unions commit blatant destruction and violence (often against other unions) as the economy flatlines.

In recent days, a surprising number of scandals have opened up. There is the "Fast and Furious" scandal by which the Department of Justice gave weapons to foreign gangs and people died, including government agents whose job is to stop that stuff. All the evidence points to a desire to introduce gun control through backdoor means at some high level, but that is a self-evidently ludicrous accusation for which the evidence is... more than circumstantial. What possible other explanation could there be for not tracking the weapons? Like Anthony Weiner's delusional assumption that lying about his email account being hacked would cover for his wang tweeting complete strangers, weapons are not things you want to lose and there isn't anything else someone could gain from such a scheme.

Then there's Solyndra, where Obama and Biden gave millions of dollars (remember when that used to be a lot?) to a buddy for green energy jobs. They did the paperwork and got things moving smoothly, showed up to public events, put their mouths where our money was. It went bust because a business plan that sounded good to Obama and Biden didn't work so well in reality. It's the closest they've ever been to running a real business.

Y'know, I bet oil companies are among the biggest investors in alternate energy sources, because if and when science discovers superior energy sources and technology to petroleum-based industry, it'll put the oil companies out of business. They might as well get in on the ground floor of the new era. I doubt too many of these innovations will come from the tree-huggers anyway.

Another company came out with similar revelations today, including that the White House influenced an Air Force general to change his testimony.

This is what government corruption and cronyism looks like. Quite possibly it's inevitable regardless of which side is charge, but if that's the case then it benefits the country much more when the people who keep goods cheap and plentiful aren't penalized for being more successful. They don't owe the government nearly as much as big government advocates insist. Rick Perry won applause when he promised to make the government as unobtrusive as possible.

I'm not following the Republican primaries and rarely do more than skim summaries, but I'm impressed at the way they're all going at it with intellectual vigor. They're throwing hard punches at each other and suffering misstatements or contradictions or jarring viewpoints. So do the summaries I skim. "You're wrong because of A, B and C!" "Oh yeah, what about X, Y and Z?" It's intellectual diversity that we haven't seen in a long time on the political stage.

Massachusetts elected a Republican to the Senate for the first time in decades who specifically campaigned on voting against Obamacare. 2010 wiped out Democratic control of the House and now a Republican has been elected to the seat where Anthony Weiner sat. Hopefully it's been cleaned off. The left keeps demanding special elections, as if to give the voters another chance to make the correct decision this time. They waste resources trying to defeat propositions that are the government's only hope for fiscal surival and each loss seems to embolden them further. The longer it takes for them to accept this, the worse they will make things for themselves (and everybody else).

I think what's really surprising the administration of "leading from behind" is that things didn't go to plan. Obama was always expected to be in full campaign mode fourteen months before the election, it was just taken as a given he'd be championing his successes instead of being reduced to "If you love me, you've gotta help me pass this bill" as he said to an audience of several thousand today.

The bill in question is basically all the things Congress refused to do immediately when he took office and languished while they concentrated on the things they did do immediately (Obamacare). It would be like him demanding Congress close Gitmo. Or pass the Free Trade agreements that are still sitting on his desk where they've been for months. Obama's repeating "pass the bill now" because he doesn't know what else to say.

It's not about the bill, it's about "if you love me, you've gotta..." bullshit that no thinking person should fall for and people who do usually deserve what they get. None of Obama's allies in the House rushed on it, so a Republican stole the title ("American Jobs Bill") for a one-line bill, a tax cut. That's funny. The Senate will be moving on it whenever the Senate gets to it. The bipartisan supercommittee will eventually decide how to pay for it.

"If you love me, you've gotta help me pass this bill." So people whose regard for him is only admiration or respect are exempt from helping him pass the bill. Mind you he was speaking to college students, and I'm sure they hear a lot of "if you love me, you've gotta...' Either way, they're not going to be much help passing a bill, regardless of what this "Constitutional scholar" thinks.

Either way, his Presidency's over unless he can stir up the black vote something fierce. It's not a foregone conclusion, but my 'who's going to win' sense is tingling. I can certainly imagine he'd like a real vacation and it's rumored that he may be having issues with depression.

I'm not impressed by critics from the left. They don't make the slightest effort to protest Gitmo or bombing Libya the way they protested GWB so their objections were purely political and renders much of what they say about anything irrelevant. Further, Obama has clearly been giving everything he has to govern from as far to the left as possible. That he hasn't succeeded by the left's standards has less to do with Obama and more to do with those standards. You might as well chastise him for not flapping his arms and flying like a bird. It's not doable. Obama caved and the Democrats have caved in the various debt/budget arguments because they don't have a leg to stand on. They can't explain to their core constituencies that the goal just isn't possible, so they need to surrender to anyone willing to offer terms.

From January '09 through January '11, raising the debt ceiling was a failure of leadership and no one was in charged anyway, so House Republicans were suddenly holding hostages this summer? How does that work? This is an enormous case of willful denial. It will be interesting to see how many Democrats/liberals/leftists have succumbed to this uncritical defense of Obama and how deep that self-deception runs. They want Obama to talk tougher. He's been looking for an ass to kick the whole time. He's Lebron, he's got this. He's a better speechwriter than his speecherwriters. At least he used to be.

Now he's reduced to running to the crowds and chanting "pass this bill", pleading "if you love me..."

14 September, 2011

Response to Steve Bissette

Swamp Thing artist and Tyrant creator Steve Bissette writes "Draw My Graphic Novel! Storyboard My Movie!" at http://srbissette.com/?p=13107&cpage=1#comment-7257

For (1), I think there needs to be an agree-on definition for "graphic novel", and I don't pretend to have one. Some sort of page count/time equivalence would apply I think. Some of Marvel's "Essential Volumes" contain more 'one long story that builds to a strong climax' than the more-acclaimed comic books. If we're talking a lifetime devoted to telling one story, Garry Trudeau is possibly the greatest graphic novelist alive. A month's worth of productivity creates X number of pages.

I'll get back to (2) as it dovetails with what what I have to say below.

(3) Legal distinctions could be made specifying the Writer and the Artist. The Artist is responsible for the finished page, and is roughly as important to the process as ten acres of prime soil is to running a farm. Extending the metaphor, every row must be hoed from dawn until dusk every day for months before you see anything and years before you really have things growing.

(a) I'm basing most of my arguments on the assumption of human nature that once an answer or two has been found, everybody will stampede in that direction like... like lemmings would stampede if lemmings were the sort of creatures that could stampede.

As far as where the money to do this will come from, I'd have to say I think it'll wind up being some Max Gaines/Major Malcom Wheeler-Nicholson type, or Larry Flynt (I honestly think if Lindsey Lohan or one of the other burned-out sex bombs of recent memory sponsored an R-rated comic/magazine, it would take off).

Once people who know what they're doing start building something, people who want to invest will show up. I don't know how many dozens of artists churning out pages for nothing it will take to build a profitable company that will pay them what they're worth.

One thing that would help is if there were studio systems competing. Will Eisner and Jerry Iger were pioneers in this, as were Simon and Kirby. That punk kid Jules Feiffer could write a "Spirit" script a lot faster than the artists would draw it, but it kept them all employed.

(b) As I said earlier, my definition of the Artist is the one responsible for the Finished Page. As far as I'm concerned, after expenses are paid it should be a 50/50 split between Writer and Artist. As far as any sort of studio system, either a group of people contract as the ones to do the art (Eastman and Laird farming out the work on TMNT) or similar to what Marvel/DC editors do, matching people on a title. Either way, I would suggest starting at a 50/50 split and going on a sliding scale to include tone, lettering, coloring as part of that system creating a Finished Page. If it takes three or six people to make that Finished Page, those three people or six who act as The Artist need to be paid enough as a group that among themselves they are satisfied.

Most Finished Pages that were created usually had fewer than six or seven primary creators, unless they're a general mish-mash of stuff anyway. If a dozen different people contributed to a page, unless it was a jam piece you could put on ebay, I think more time would be wasted delineating creator's rights in that direction.

I think the principles of creators ownership in comics have been established firmly enough into the soil that stories like Bill Finger will thankfully not need to be told. If you contribute that much to someone else's character, they owe you big time.

That said, I think the Artist should be the least concerned with ownership as far as control of the property. The idea of using agents is a good one. Either the Writer acts as the Agent ("I keep you happy, you keep drawing") or people are hired to negotiate individual books. The former would probably be most likely for the time being, the latter would evolve as a business system once twenty or thirty successes have come along.

A variation of work-for-hire perhaps, where the Artist does not surrender 50% of the proceeds once expenses are paid, but isn't encouraged to interfere in the day-to-day business. The Artist's Time is ninety-something percent of the expense, because the Artist is responsible for creating the Finished Page. Without that, there is nothing.

Which is the opposite of the Writer whose Time is the least valuable. I have written scripts in less than a half-hour which would take a good artist a week to make look good. In some cases, I stayed up late, drew the scripts then and there and I kinda like having the finished comics to show for it.

The Writer is responsible for everything that isn't the Finished Page, basically. The one who looks at the Finished Page and didn't do anything on it, but told those who did this Finished Page what to do. The Writer's time is worth the least.

There should be a sliding scale, or a series of them in the long-term or short-term. At the end of that scale the Writer should reach the 50% part of the profits.

By "profits", this could also be done as a package by editors at Marvel or DC. If the Fables crew will keep producing issues, keep them doing it and budget the company's money wisely to keep them. The ones who make the Finished Page are the jobs to create. If the Writer has given them something to do, his work is done.

The Writer gets the Intellectual part and splits the Property with The Artist.

(c) The exception to the previous sentence. I don't pretend to have a good answer but it's clearly work that goes on the Finished Page. The only thing I could suggest is a distinction between books where The Artist doesn't change and books where people replace others (letterers, guest-artists) I don't have any suggestions for bridging the divide in ownership between Writer and Artist on that one. I still think the Artist should have proprietary rights while the Writer (agent, editor, whoever's footing the bill) steers the overall ship. If making t-shirts of some cool images will bring in money, the t-shirts are going to get made. Unless the artist is paying to make the shirts, I don't think a creator's veto is necessary. The visual look of the characters as intellectual property will only matter when other artists join in or there's a tv/movie option. For that, I don't have any suggestions.

(d) The point is to pay for the Artist's Time. Since I'm hypothesizing out of thin air, I'll assume that the page rates will be large, depending on the competition. Once the Page is Finished, the time it took to create it is gone forever, how much will it take to compensate for that? That's the point where the sliding scale begins to move in the Writer's direction, eventually to resolve in the 50/50 split. If further collaborators (tone, colors, letters, replacement artists) are involved, the overall division shifts more equitably.

Since royalties are nothing to count on, the upfront page rate for the Artist's Time needs to be big enough to accomodate multiple people making the Finished Page. Obviously it's in an artist's self-interest to be able to do all the work his or herself, either because it's more 'jobs' and a larger pay-rate or because it means there's fewer expenses to recoup before the last guy in line, the Writer, gets paid.

I've been picking up John Byrne's Next Men, including the collection. I have only a vague memory of what came before, or who the characters are or what they're doing now, which doesn't make them much different from the superheroes, come to think of it. But I've realized the art is worth it. Byrne draws prehistoric scenes and modern cityscapes and future cityscapes and the pre-Civil War South and various imaginative landscapes and it all looks really good. It's great that he was able to do it, and so quickly.

The problem is that there isn't any incentive for the hungry artist. Not the starving artist who's usually just posing, but the hungry one. The ones who can turn out many Finished Pages in a short period of time. That's a quality that comics have lost and not for the better. The comic book medium wasn't made in its early decades by people who felt entitled to work slowly.

Going along with your (2) I think this is a (probably-unresolvable) conflict in basic working conditions. The Writer wants an art robot and The Artist is not a robot. The Artist's time is the most important but buying out his investment needs to be made as cheap as possible. It's safe to say Matt Groening was paid for that hour he spent drawing new characters so he could keep rights to "Life In Hell".

Sequential entertainment is our strength and our weakness. Daily strips, weekly strips, monthly pamphlets and larger tpb's look like our best bet. We need finished work to get somewhere, and I don't see an immediate outlet for that.

I mean, Take the Lindsey Lohan idea from earlier. I'm becoming a big advocate of a return to the ideas of pulp magazines. A few photographs of LL, dishy fantasy text pieces, ads and 50 or 60 pages of LL stories, as a pirate or astronaut or drug-riddled washed-up sex bomb in her mid-20s, whatever. A lot of people would probably pay 5 bucks for that, or thinly-veiled fictionalized versions of the celebrity scene. The latest Conan movie has already passed, but Slam Bradley still has a future.

[I actually worked out a plot for a 12-part Hawkman/Green Arrow miniseries, where they're arguing politics every issue and on page 2 a building explodes like a Lethal Weapon movie. One guy uses a bow and arrow, the other has wings and uses a mace. They kill people and make smart-ass quips as they fight the social issue du jour. In several issues, they meet non-powered DC characters. Slam Bradley is in a violent racist brawl, the Human Target, James Corrigan, the Question and others all make appearances, illustrating philosophical conflicts that (I like to think) would appeal to readers who have no interest in superheroes. I'm not even sure how often Hawkman would put on the wings, except for when Muslim terrorists take over planes]

[On a similar note, from what little I see of DC's recent publishings, you can't tell me this is all they can think of. Zatanna's failed series features a splash page of her getting slashed in the throat with an arrow. Is that the only thing they can think of? She's a busty chick in fishnets whose gimmick is magically talking backwards. The first issue should have a flaming demon tying her to an altar and then she picks up a sword and hacks him to bits. In later issues, she's a single girl living in the city, dark powers inhabiting nearby buildings. She fights other demons and magicians and evil people, gets tied up every issue or two. Bring me a few dozen pages of that every month, I'll write up dialogue and captions for it. The comic book writer's time is almost worthless. Text pieces could be generated for an overall package.]

The biggest obstacle is that an art robot is just as qualified as an artist brimming with enthusiasm for his or her own ideas. More qualified arguably because of the simplicity of the Time=Finished Pages arrangement. Gil Kane once complained that he suggested to Marv Wolfman that they take (whatever book they were doing) and structure it like a novel so that plots would slowly build over many issues, basically what a lot of people have done since. Wolfman wasn't interested, saying he'd rather just pick up his paycheck, but just think of what Kane could have contributed to if he'd had any modern writers to take him up on the offer.

If an artist loves the book he's hired to do, or if it's designed for what he wants to draw, great. If not, I have to say his feelings would have to be outvoted. The letterer and colorists, tones, they don't work if the artist doesn't produce pages and are probably less picky about whatever's ticking the artist off. The Writer needs to be the last one in line to share in the successful completion, and the Artist needs to be encouraged to Finish the Page and Move On To The Next Page.

I guess I'm saying both sides need to get over some large pretentions about themselves. These are the pages the Artist is being paid to finish, that needs to happen as quickly as possible. EC not only pioneered crediting the artists, but Bill Gaines would stop whatever he was doing - including eating! - to write a check whenever they brought in finished work.

If the artist has work he or she would rather be doing, I don't know what to say. It's the Artist's Time for sale. At what point does a job get created?

I also don't know how it should be handled when the artists contribute story ideas. Creative partnerships are rarely frictionless.

So basically the idea is that someone to be determined makes a large investment in paying a few people for a few years to draw a ton of pages. Here are the thumbnails for my 800-page Mucous Man graphic novel and a new car.

With Gaiman and Vess, or other partnerships you cite, it's obviously in the writer's interest to cultivate good relationships with an artist.

In this age of photoshop, it might be worthwhile to see if an artist could find ways to market his or her style. Writers who can use their own computer enough to manipulate images might provide character descriptions and money in exchange for twenty poses they can use.

In the long term, I think comics are becoming prevalent enough that an Agent system will help provide more work, as well as a return of the studio system.

The writer needs to move to the back of the line and the artist needs to be encouraged to crank out as much material as possible. The Time will be gone forever, so it's in everybody's interests (including the fans) that there as many Finished Pages as possible to show for it.

Unfortunately, I don't see that happening without a radical reorganization of the publishing industry - allowing thousands of people with money to spend to see these wonderful comics and buy them - or a surplus of artists who would be churning out drawings for free because it's what they do.

I wonder if the writers could be employed to design a franchise. Hire artists who really like, say, space opera, and get a writer to generate a few hundred pages of material for them. DC has tried to build franchises from Neil Gaiman's work thanks to Sandman, Preacher didn't lend itself to any spin-offs and came to The End without a hitch. Fables is lending itself to spin-offs, with the 50-issue Jack of Fables (which I think will intersect the main Fables title again, two Cinderella miniseries [which don't interest me], the upcoming Fairest series which I won't read beyond Bill Willingham's initial arc, but maybe others will, regular guest-artist stories which are packaged along with main artist Mark Buckingham's issues.

As I keep saying, I think we should take another look back at the Depression-era pulp characters and scenes. I get the feeling there's a market for stories like that again.

11 September, 2011

11 Sep 11

I had to go into work on this long weekend, but otherwise I've spent the weekend getting a lot of the second draft edited for the next book. The first book is still at the printers. I've given my approval to the initial proof and the cover. They should have the full proof ready in a day or two. I'll send back whatever corrections I see and they'll make the physical proof copy. Then I'll order a hundred made, which might last my lifetime. Just in case, I'll number them for those generations who hunt down 'first printings'.

Then I was outside noticing what a lovely day it was and remembered what day it was.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, it hit. Three thousand died and the Twin Towers collapsed. Another strike hit the Pentagon and a fourth simultaneous attack lost all the civilian passengers.

An attack of such magnitude that cannot be treated as any other than a declaration of war. No, this is our home, our land, our nation. The Americas and Europe are lands under our protection. Our alliances across oceans improve the lives of billions.

The terrorists who attacked us that Tuesday morning ten years ago are the infidel, not the West. They are the ones who torture and butcher their own people as easily as they pay for terror to cross border lines. The Jews are the ones who must die, or anyone who opposes Qaddaffi, Assad, Assad Sr. or the Iranian mullahs. Or the House of Saud who has physical control over the holiest sites in Islam, towards which all Muslims bow in prayer five times daily.

They are the infidel. They permit piracy, slavery, female genital mutilation and book burning, but they do not choose to permit Muslims to stop being Muslims. They don't accept that land ruled by Muslims could ever stop being ruled by Muslims. They choose destruction, as Marxists and cult figures choose it. When they incite violence or support unity in the violent acts of others, they must be met with violence.

Western Civilization permits homosexuals to exist and allows women to dress like whores (who do you think makes the outfits?) We allowed this ten years ago and a hundred years ago, while the Muslim world was rife with the same murderous scum we see today, that we saw ten years ago, a hundred years ago. We bring art and medicine, air-conditioning, the internet and an almost self-destructive tolerance for other people's ideas.

They permit an illiterate rag-tag band of nomads to sponsor spoiled rich Saudis as they hijack planes and destroy civilian buildings. No John Lennon among them to imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky.

I'm sure that was a great comfort to the guy who went to work a couple hours ago and ended his life jumping out of a window to escape the burning wreckage of a 100+ story skyscraper. It didn't matter how many possessions he had in those few seconds of free-fall, not too far from where Lennon spent the last years of his life on heroin.

No one would stand up to Assad or Yasser Arafat [now there's a name we haven't heard in a while] and chant "All we are saying is give peace a chance". No, you have to go to Greenwich Village to hear things like that. Or across a continent, with a century's worth of electronic improvements. Those are the fruits of freedom, and they hate freedom.

Fighting them *over there* makes it so we don't have to fight them *over here*. Our families and businesses and unions can continue without the threat of violence, among like-minded or differently-minded. Afghanistan provides a specific target, like the monolith appeared to those apes in "2001: A SPACE Odyssey". They cannot destroy it, and much time needs to pass before people who do not seek to destroy can evolve.

We have our homes and communities to defend, the way the responders of 9/11 threw off any thoughts of personal safety to rescue other Americans under attack. Pension plans are for people who don't live with this sort of destruction. Because President Bush took actions to keep America safe, and because President Obama has continued those policies with or without a Democratic Congress, we have not known that level of attack since. Because the American military, and that of our allies, retains its superiority and supremacy on the battlefield, we have triumphed over there. Our presence in Afghanistan and Iraq can hold communities to their word over time. They may be pure and true Muslims, but we can shoot them if they act up, and they know it.

Libya was singled out for American military involvement (trying to push France into a foreign venture while Germany holds the domestic side together?) while Syria was not despite the vast butchery. In Libya, the impending victors are singling out Black Muslims and putting them in camps apart from the Arab Muslims because they are politically incorrect. Egypt and Turkey are making warlike motions against Israel as the Palestinians beg for statehood despite having two different governments in two different territories who can't keep their people safe from internal reprisals and have long passed their constitutionally-mandated terms in office.

They only care about Jerusalem because someone else cares! It happens to be the Jews so they hate the Jews, but it's the very affront of people who aren't Muslims ruling territory that Muslims used to rule which drives them to murderous rage. The Jews are convenient to hate. Many decades ago, the Muslim Brotherhood were personal friends of Adolph Hitler and published "Jihad" ("Mein Kampf" in Arabic) throughout the Muslim world. It's been a popular seller ever since, second only to the Koran I understand. German political theory of the 1920's, go figure.

When Israel was formed, the US only gave formal recognition and no military assistance. It was the USSR under Stalin who gave the Jews weapons to survive those first crucial wars. Harry Truman agreed under duress from an old Jewish friend who convinced him to give in and recognize Israel in athrown-together ceremony. The UN had already ruled. The British had already offered the land to whatever groups could organize and make a claim. At the ceremony, the old rabbi representing Israel told Truman that it was the will of God that put him in his mother's womb that decades later he would allow Israel's recreation after thousands of years.

And the same will of God who let Stalin arm Israel in his last years, before paranoia about the Jews reasserted itself with him. And who permitted a score of wealthy educated terrorists to overpower four planes with box-cutters and attack our own homeland on a fall morning.

They can't win, all they can do is damage others. We still haven't replaced the Twin Towers. They are still a gaping wound on one of our oldest cities. General George Washington led his army through one Christmas night, miraculously surviving to fight another day. Paul Revere and other first responders did what they had to do for the good of the nation and their fellow men. They didn't even ask anybody to commit suicide as a specific part of the task at hand. The result is generations of Americans who would die if need be for their cause. Our military has fought them in the Middle East so that they could not bring their organizations to our homeland. Enough Arab or Black Muslims have attempted enough acts of terror under this administration that they would be quite justified in singling them out when they try to fly an airplane. So would the previous administration.

It's common sense. If the blue fruit is poisonous and the green fruit is not poisonous, don't eat the blue fruit. Whatever the virtues of Muslim culture, they become the enemy when depending on totalitarians and their terrorist allies. One reason for the disbanding of the Iraqi Army right after the US victory (this is my personal guess) was that there was no NCO corps. There were people in charge and there were people who didn't do anything. Now they have years of experience with the qualities needed.

Ten years ago, I was at work, washing racks and had a guitar riff going through my mind which I was singing a lyric for to help me remember. I was recording my first album at the time. I was reading Anna Karenina at work on breaktimes and had just bought an 8-track mixer, still the same workaholic I am today. The song didn't get finished for a few weeks but is one of the few high points in my earliest recordings.

All that could be taken away by a lunatic with a plane and a culture that supports his cause.

A couple of months later, I was sitting in the chair one Sunday morning with nothing to do and came up with a guitar riff. Fortunately my acoustic guitar was in arm's reach and I spent a few minutes rehearsing it, a few more minutes playing it with a drum machine and finding ways to mess with it. Then I pushed record and eight minutes later was ready for playback. Within a few hours, I had overdubbed another guitar and vocals that I'm still impressed with today. The song was called "Sunday Morning" and dedicated to George Harrison who had died shortly before.

I spent this Sunday morning like I've spent the last few days, working on the next book. It could still all be taken away, but by the will of God, human progress can't be stopped by the true infidels. It can only be destroyed, and we have to fight to keep them from winning.

I can't say I haven't contributed to the fight. Nebraska doesn't have a lot of contributions to the country except the massive amount of food we provide, but this Nebraska recognized the events of 9/11 for the call that it was. I didn't respond immediately, but I've scored several notches on the 'what did you do in the war' meter. My seventh album was recorded on my first deployment and features some of my best writing and playing, and last night I typed up the second draft of a post I wrote here about the recording process.

Now chaos is falling across the worldwide Muslim community. They have no achievements as a civilization to show for the last decade. We have the rise and fall of Lindsey Lohan as a hot young starlet. And solid military victories. We could destroy Mecca and Medina in an hour, render it irrevocably an irradiated wasteland that no Muslim could ever make the hajj again. We don't do that because it would be wrong. Israel doesn't do that because it would be wrong, and they've lived with the daily threat of extinction for how long?

I don't know what to believe about the death of bin Laden. For all I know, he was capped years ago and the footage was withheld for the 10th anniversary. I do believe we've implemented attacks on the Muslim world that go far beyond bin Laden, such as the recent simultanous domestic atrocities the rulers have perpetrated on their own subjects. Obama doesn't deserve any more credit for shooting him than for presiding over the "Arab Spring".

Bin Laden spent his final years (under the official narrative) living a decrepit life until the SEALs tracked him down and blew his head off. The official narrative has changed on whether or not his wife or any other woman or human shield was shot. Bin Laden wasn't the villain. The cause of Wahabite jihad he fought for is the villain. What was Obama going to say, 'if the intelligence is wrong and he's not there, don't kill him'? What would any other President have said in that place?

Muslims take their history very seriously. They remember dates and battles. So do we who use the solar year, and it's in the realm of possibility that President Bush and his administration set a target date for 10 years later for results of this nature. President Jefferson set similar targets for his operations against the Muslim pirates around Tripoli when he sent the Marines without Congress' approval. He won that battle, and domestically set precedents both for his successors in office and for legal definitions of slavery and its reasons for abolition. The Barbary pirates, you'll remember, were taking Americans prisoner and selling them as slaves.

September 11 was also the anniversary of the failed seige at Vienna, the Eastern European line of demarcation against the military advances of the Ottoman Turks in the seventeenth century. Both sides had gunpowder and the Europeans outfought the Turk who went into a long decline from which it is only recovering in the last couple of years.

In the centuries that followed, Vienna attempted to increase its influence in the south, where Russia was inspired to appeal to fellow Slavs. Christian kingdoms were formed and in the remaining Balkans, ethnic and religious tensions built up. They would be put on hiatus during communist rule, exploding in the Serbian genocide afterwards.

To the west, France was arguably formed as a nation when Charles Martel beat the Muslim invaders from Spain, defining Europe from the Atlantic side. To the far east, Muslim inability to co-exist with Hindu led to the creation of two massive nations, one which has lifted millions of people from degrading poverty thanks to its peaceful alliances with the UK and USA, and Pakistan, where bin Laden was found hiding.

In his latest speech to improve everything, President Barack Hussein Obama cited the inspiration of Abraham Lincoln, founder of the Republican Party and named for the prophet of the God of Jerusalem. His last name was given to my home town in Nebraska, where political dirty tricksters assumed that nobody would want a capitol city named for that Republican. Turned out a lot of Democrats were patriotic after the Civil War too, so I've lived most of my life in the shadow of the state capitol building. Also Memorial Stadium, the third largest city in the state on home football games. Although I don't really do anything when I'm at home, there's always a welcoming sense of homecoming when I arrive. I miss Lincoln when I'm gone for too long. Fidelity counts for something. Who is faithful and who is not?

Being forced to be faithful to anything destroys the whole point of faith. Those are the false choices they make. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy, in any mortal man's philosophy. Marxists reduce everything that exists to their founder's writings while Lutherans find numerous divisions and reasons to peacably co-exist. Aristotle and Isaac Newton and Ben Franklin still have relevance to our daily lives, Shi'ite and Sunni saints and martyrs not so much.

Jews and Japanese both know a thing or two about self-sacrifice, yet they find common ground in the American marketplaces, in California and Hollywood or New York City. The heartlands feed the vast country that wouldn't have existed except for brave men dying on the fields of Valley Forge or Bunker Hill or Gettysburg or Iwo Jima or Baghdad.

You don't find men like these rioting in the flash mobs which have begun looting in London and now seem to be spreading to American cities. They feel entitled to new cell phones so they break store windows and steal, that won't feed them this winter. It's difficult to say there's no racial component to it either. I don't know how much is Union-directed (in the US or UK) and how much is racial or religious, Muslim organizations trying to agitate.

It was heartening to see Londoners of all races stand up against the looters regardless of color. These are their homes and stores and the mob's fury will not be allowed to rule. Queen Bodeica burned a strip of blackness into the city's bedrock thousands of years ago in a losing attempt to defeat the Roman invaders.

Less cheerful are the related riots in Greece by civil servants who don't want to give up their perks. The wastes of thousands of years accumulate here, where the Mediterranean opens into Russia and Asia Minor and Egypt. The dogmas of an Orthodox Church and Communist rulers set in, as does a brief conquest by the West back in the Crusades.

Eastern Christendom was falling to the Turk and called for help from the West who responded as they did. Europe's southern border was delineated from Spain and the straits of Gibraltar (through which Ulysses sailed), across France and the remnants of the Romans, below the Poles and the Russians and Muscovites.

Ten years later, people have grown up conscious of what can be taken away. They know who stands on watch for terrorists, and they know who blithely ignores the threat. The enemy isn't entirely extremist Islam, but they are a definite enemy.

The enemy unites because individually they can be broken but like sticks in a bundle they are strong. That works from Mussolini to the rash of violent organized labor actions that have followed the Union Boss Trumka's recent call to violence. The good people unite because they seek to minimize the enemy's existence in everyone's life.

I have worried before his inauguration that President Obama might be at risk for suicide because he had never run anything before becoming the most powerful man on earth. We'd be better off if Muslim terrorists didn't try to commit suicide either, and he's nowhere near as big of an enemy to the USA.

President Bush grabbed a bullhorn and shouted to the first responders that he could hear them, all America could hear them, and soon the enemy would hear as well.

The enemy has heard, and seen firsthand what we can do. They called us the infidel and they were looking in a mirror. There is more despicable poverty across the Muslim world than anywhere else. They all rank at the bottom of international lists of living standards and individual freedom. Dictator-for-life is the most secure job position there is whether you happen to rule where there's oil or not. President Obama will only have his current job for five more years at most. President Bush will never have it again. Israel changes Prime Ministers. Iraq and Karzai-controlled territory are watched by American soldiers. Europe squabbles and realizes integration is no longer such a brilliant idea when there's economic troubles and large parts of their own community ruled by immigrants who don't assimilate.

Ten years ago today, we lost thousands of live in an act by evil-doers. They only need to be lucky once, and they were. But we have kept the faith of our forefathers who brought forth a new nation dedicated to the proposition that all men had been endowed by their Creator with certain rights, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Can you picture a Muslim woman saying, as Jane Fonda did recently, that her biggest regret is that she didn't fuck mass-murder and big fan of Stalin Che Guevara? Years ago she was complaining about some of Ted Turner's sexual preferences, but the divorce was fresher then. And she was lucky to be married to Ted Turner and not someone else.

The post Y2K era has been unfamiliar to those of us who remember the term "Y2K". Everything operates according to rules we didn't expect, except those who have old rules to follow. Bush Sr. was right to call it a "New World Order". Time has moved on, but we remember.

May God continue to bless the United States of America.

03 September, 2011

"Listen nitwit, the last thing we need is a trigger-happy lunatic in charge! No, Mr. President, I wasn't talking to you."

There must be someone in Martha's Vinyard that can afford a video camera. It would make Obama look capable and leader-like if he just recorded his plan now and gets back to work instead of trying to schedule an appearance before Congress and all the rigmarole that entails.

If he really wants to go up against the Republican primaries, why not do that literally? Show up at the primary (or with teleconference) and take questions from the candidates. What's the worst that can happen, they ask about green jobs or his promise to be at 7% unemployment by now or "Fast and Furious" or Solyndra? He's a former community organizer who got elected President, surely he can take questions from a half-dozen American citizens.

Either way, he’d better have some damned brilliant ideas for reducing unemployment in his speech, ideas that were worth saving until the final third of his term in office. Last month jobs growth was the same as Bluto Blutarsky’s grade point average. [According to the documentary of Faber College available on the Double Secret Probation Edition of Animal House, Senator Blutarsky did reach the White House, so maybe it’s not such a coincidence.]

Obama's Secretary of Labor says she believes "we're going the right direction on jobs" so you know this is the administration that believes in smart power.

For months after returning from deployment, I made CDs for the car stereo in lieu of listening to the radio. At first they were Jim Steinman but after another deployment, I grew weary of Steinman and wished to spice things up with songs I’d acquired since enlisting. Songs that, to my mind, I’d never heard previously in a serious way. I didn’t have much access to amazon.com before and now I could enlarge the music collection tremendously.

Call it an appreciation for the album as an aesthetic creation or the compact disc as a technological innovation, but I’ve a fondness for picking favorite playlists.

Anyway, to my mind I’ve heard the songs properly and have been jumbling them up into jukebox-like CDs for a while now. The only rules were that no Jim Steinman would be permitted unless I hadn’t heard it before (which wasn’t a rule, just a general decision that enough was enough; I play him at work and on the computer) and they had to qualify as song I didn’t completely own pre-enlistment. “Mix tapes” didn’t count, so if I taped it off the radio pre-enlistment, I could hear an internet copy burned to disc and repeated in my car. Keep in mind, it didn’t matter how many times I’d heard the song, even pre-enlistment, only this new listening qualified for serious music appreciation.

Recently I burned a new set of discs and a lot of old favorites left the playlist. Let’s see what remains.

The first CD is the first two albums by Rush. I listened to the entire Rush collection when I bought it on amazon, but now I want to give their body of work a chance to seep in through repetitions in a six-disc player. I haven’t bothered up-grading to an ipod player because that’s just the way I am.

A song from their forthcoming album is included on disc 2, a new addition along with Roger Waters’ “Each Small Candle” and Billy Joel’s “Invention in C Minor” Eddie Van Halen sings and plays keyboards with Gary Cherone’s lyrics and backing vocals for “How Many Say I”, so far the final track on the final Van Halen album. All three are effectively among the last embers of each men’s recording careers. The other new addition after previous material’s purging is Sammy Hagar’s live version of “Give To Live” because the original is awesome but I heard it pre-enlistment.

His last album with VH provides “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” and “Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do)”, and HSAS album just before he joined VH gave us a cover of “Whiter Shade of Pale” that has been among my favorite tracks. I just listened to it a couple of hours ago before I ever thought of writing this.

“Christmas Canon Rock” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra works all year around, with its anthemic rock orchestra sound and gorgeous female lead vocals. I couldn’t tell you which classical composer’s work they appropriated, but I like the result the way I like Queen and Jim Steinman’s work, and power ballads and much classic rock. The Damn Yankees mixed Ted Nugent and Styx singer/guitarist Tommy Shaw for a similar one-hit wonder called “High Enough” which I’ve been enjoying for well over a year and the copy comes from the ‘best of the 80’s compilation on sale at the PX or Wal-Mart. Gene Chandler sings the gorgeous “Duke of Earl”, Phil Spector brings us “He’s A Rebel” which has inspired musical interludes. Like these two, Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” is another long-time pop favorite I had never appreciated before.

I’d always like Linda Perry’s 4 Non Blondes album, and “Life in a Bottle” comes from her solo album a few years ago. “Hey Girl” is a cover song by Billy Joel to fill out his third Greatest Hits album (the first two are a double-disc set that is one of the biggest selling records of all time). He dabbled in classical music after the River of Dreams but (according to regular tour co-star Elton John) has nothing else to say in music. I’ve played “Hey Girl” before. It was one of the songs I tired of early but didn’t erase from the “Make More CDs” file.

“Making Love Out of Nothing at All” is a Jim Steinman demo of his hit with Air Supply, and the vocals are in a tolerable register. The production is enjoyably raw while suggesting the heights that it reached with Air Supply’s recording budget, and it’s technically *new* Steinman which is always good.

“I’m a Boinger” was one of the two tracks released on flex-disc with the relevant Bloom County collection which I listened to when it came out. The other one is also on these discs, but “I’m a Boinger” has such an awesome lead vocal and hilarious lyrics that it’s my favorite. Remember when records were used to promote things like this?

On disc 3, Sammy Hagar is well-represented with his original version of Rick Springfield’s early-80’s hit “I’ve Done Everything For You” and Sammy’s own last big hit to date, 1999’s “Mas Tequila”. Chickenfoot is represented with the gorgeous ballad “Learning To Fall”. Also his cover of “Free Money” from his late-70’s solo album is the song where I truly realized how awesome Sammy was (except as a lyricist but even he’ll admit that). His early-21st century advertisement for his tequila-bar empire involves a cover of Kenny Chesney’s “I Love This Bar”.

I’d always liked Paul McCartney’s first ‘failed debut single’, “My Brave Face” from 1989, Bill Medley’s “Most Of All You” ballad that played at the end of the first Major Leagues movie, Petula Clark’s “Downtown", Tom Petty’s songwriting partnership with Bob Dylan “You’re Jammin’ Me”, Enya’s “Epona” and “Exile” (as heard in Steve Martin’s L.A. Story) and the Proclaimer’s weird-scottsmen-with-irrestistibly-catchy-melody “I’m Gonna Be (500) Miles)” doing what Dexy’s Midnight Runners did a decade before. All of these I have enjoyed for many months, since I first forsake old Steinman, and heard only in incomplete form before enlistement.

Post-enlistment first-hears, “Beautiful Dangerous” featuring Fergie continues to be a standout track from Slash’s self-titled debut album, and “Catcher in the Rye” retains its enjoyability and quality from Axl’s rival album. “Fall To Pieces” is an enjoyable song Slash co-wrote between G’n’R and what he’s doing now, and about the only listenable Scott Weiland singing I’ve ever heard. Linda Perry’s album gives us two more songs, “Fruitloop Daydream” and “Knock Me Out”.

I’ve recently become a big fan of guitarist Jeff Beck, who first came to prominence replacing Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds and hired Jimmy Page to replace him in turn. Beck and Page were and are longtime friends, and “Beck’s Bolero” is one of the fruits of that friendship. The two guitarists booked studio time to record something. They wanted the Who’s rhythm section of John Entwistle and Keith Moon, but could only get Moon so Page turned to session player John Paul Jones for bass duties. They even talked about forming a band, which Moon said would go down like a lead balloon, or zeppelin or something. Page formed his band, and Beck had an erratic career starting with the Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart as the lead singer who went solo. “Beck’s Bolero” is still outstanding.

In the re-release of their catalogue, little looks promising in the way of unheard material from Queen. The a capella opera section from “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a stand-out that continues to amaze, but not much else of worth has been released so far. Steven Tyler’s debut single as a solo artist is a gorgeous ballad called “Love Lives” that justifies him as a singer and (almost) the years of silence we’ve heard since Aerosmith’s last album. He wants to do pop music, as his appearances on American Idol demonstrate and his power ballad stylings during the 80’s were no exception. He’s also the guy who wrote “Mama Kin”, so cut him some slack.

More of the final Van Hagar album gives us “Amsterdam” and “The Seventh Seal”, the latter of which is an awesomely atmospheric hurricane of sound. Eddie the keyboard player and guitar player and producer fights to overcome Sammy. (I think it’s a draw, but I’m not sure who called it). These are fairly new additions as is Sammy’s hilarious “Sam I Am” accounting of his career to date. “Up For Breakfast”, “It’s About Time” and “Learning to See” are the three completed tracks from a few short years later when they reunited with Hagar.

The b-side of Rush’s earlier single “BU2B” is new, as is “Waltz #1 (Nunley’s Carousel)” by Billy Joel, John Phillips Sousa’s “Semper Fidelis” and “Suicide is Painless” from the original M*A*S*H movie. Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s new inclusion is “Wish Liszt”, where they play the musical piece,. Best known today from the scene where Daffy and Donald battle it out in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, “Hungarian Rhapsody” by Liszt was favored in old Disney and Warners cartoons and although the TSO does a great job, it falls flat in places (nyuck nyuck). There are places where I think they would have done better to sound like, I dunno, “Christmas Canon”.

A remixed Elvis song became a big hit in England, “A Little Less Conversation” and helped promote 30 #1s in 30 years, Elvis’ anniversary celebrations. I bought the album in AIT and still enjoy “Conversation”. Axl Rose gives us the official “Street of Dreams”, which I’d heard prior to enlistment as “The Blues”. Still one of my favorites of his though. “Ghost” has Slash’s reunion with Izzy Stradlin and is awesome. SSG Barry Sadler’s “Ballad of the Green Berets” has featured exactly the sort of build-up I like in my popular music, and I have a personal connection to the unit it was written for. Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons” is a powerful bass voice of resentment and lament. Ellen Foley maneuvered her vocals on “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” and girlfriendship to the Clash’s guitarist that she recorded a few solo albums with some quality material. “In the Killing Hour” is the one I haven’t grown tired of yet, a powerful bolero performance.

Oddly, I’d heard Roxette’s “Crash Boom Bang” pre-enlistment, but I’d never liked it before, so I qualify it as new. An awesome power ballad with a gorgeous vocal and atmospheric keyboards, it’s just a great pop song.

“The Night Chicago Died” is a quirky one-hit wonder, a retelling of a battle between the police and Al Capone with a great call-and-response vocal.

Queen’s rereleases also include the backing track from “You’re My Best Friend”, a standout hit in that it was written by their bass-player and the follow-up A-side to “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I had always thought it a pleasant pop tune, but quite low on my list of favorite Queen songs. Now, hearing it without Freddie’s lead vocals reveals what an extremely talented band Queen were. It’s an outstanding performance and eventually I’ll get around to listening to Freddie’s vocal again. Probably not soon though.

Disc 5 has the two Red Hot Chili Peppers songs I’ve enjoyed since discovering they had a career before “Under the Bridge” (all pre-enlistment). “By the Way” and “Californication” demonstrate the singer’s ability as a lyricist to manage complicated rhymes. There aren’t a whole lot of tools available to the lyric writer, but ability to form coherent polysyllabic thoughts is one of them. I’d heard the songs when they were new, but now I could buy my own copies.

Elvis had “If I Can Dream” for his comeback, Sammy had “Silver Lights” for his start and “Returning of the Wish” from the same album as “Mas Tequila”, Queen also sold the instrumental tracks of “Seven Seas of Rhye” which I love for the same reason as “You’re My Best Friend”, and “Tie Your Mother Down” which is a brand-new addition to this series of discs that I haven’t yet heard properly. G’n’R has “There Was A Time”, Heart had “Stranded”, longtime favorites, there’s this awesome punk cover of “Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron” that still makes me sing “10, 20, 30, 40, 50 or more, the bloody Red Baron was rolling the score” every time it comes on as it has for months as well.

Two more Sammy songs, one of which I’ve listened to for a couple months is his acoustic rendition of “Dreams” post-VH, and a new one from the same album, “When It’s Love”. His HSAS album also gives us “Missing You” and “Top of the Rock”
Metallica’s “The Unforgiven” continues to be my favorite song of their since I was in high school. Years later, I hated what they did to it with “Unforgiven II”. Now that I can buy stuff legally, I might as well drop a buck on “Unforgiven III” from their latest album which has in common with its predecessors the chord sequences and the general Metallica sound which is worth a buck in my opinion. The Eagles give us “Live in the Fast Lane” which is one of the few songs from the band I really really like.

Billy Joel’s demo “The Prime Of Your Life” is extremely enjoyable. He doesn’t have the lyrics finished yet, although they’re surprisingly developed. It’s light years away from what was eventually released as the vocal-heavy “The Longest Time” with an entirely-different vocal melody and musical approach.

Disc 6 is mostly songs that have come into and dropped out of my listening habits lately. Linda Perry’s “Uninvited” and Sammy’s live “Right Now” are brand-new, as is Jeff Beck’s “Diamond Dust” instrumental (with George Martin’s production).

Def Leppard’s “Two Steps Behind” (about the only song post-Adrenalize I really liked), Queen+Paul Rodgers “We Believe” (my other favorite from the album, so far Brian May’s final Queen composition as far as I’m concerned. He can produce stuff for others, or play with Roger, but all of his other new songs are variations on the “Butterfly” chord sequence, as was the final song Queen recorded with John (for which I travelled to England for a copy), and make up a large part of bootleg Queen songs since “Save Me”. He may have written all the keyboard ballads there were in him.

The release from Roy Orbison’s album at the time he died was “I Drove All Night”, that’s brand new. “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night” by Prince was absent for a number of discs before re-appearing (its video was directed by Spike Lee in exchange for funding the Malcom X movie, and probably Prince’s conflicts with Warner Bros’ demands for a single.

Slash’s “Starlight” and Jim Croce’s “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” have been fixtures since I first started burning these discs, as has the 80’s sounding remake of “Ballad of the Green Beret”. “Stray Cat Strut” was briefly included but not yet erased and appears again. Sammy’s iconic song “Red” is included, as is 1999’s “Red Voodoo”. 1989 brought us Brian May, Roger Taylor, David Gilmour, Tony Iommi and others for a guitar hero’s remake of “Smoke on the Water”, and I’ve enjoyed it for a couple months now, along with a previously-unreleased Steinman demo or a previously-unreleased Steinman song, “Train of Love” sounds like a Motown song. Weird Al’s new album has the Un-Steinman “Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me” which I’ve enjoyed since its release date. John Phillips Sousa was also paid to write something by the Washington Post, hence the name of the march.

That’s what I’m listening to these days. When I’ve burned out on a number of these tracks, I’ve made 2 more Rush CDs taking up more of their early career. By the time I get tired of these, I’ll have winnowed them down to a few favorite songs and making further compilations of their body of work will be manageable.

I have more live Sammy Hagar, but enough is enough on him as well in many ways. I also have a couple of songs by AC-DC that I’ve never liked, but they were big hits and it’s important to have them. There’s the first couple albums by Big Star, another one of those bands nobody’s ever heard of but became influential, they forged the ‘power pop’ sound prominent post-grunge and briefly flirted with being somebodies. They didn’t bear up to repeated listening and it’s only inertia that has kept me from erasing them.

I like to think my email to Jim@JimSteinman.com had something to do with the release of unheard demos, and I have a number of them yet unburned to disc. (including "Train of Love" with Steinman singing) I don’t even have all of Sammy’s albums, or VH’s and I’m running out of interest in burning what’s left. I’ve listened to it, and HSAS/Van Hagar will probably filter in to the disc sooner-or-later. Chickenfoot has a new album coming out and Joe Satriani’s first album will probably come back into my rotation as well. Most of the parodies on Weird Al’s album I wouldn’t recognize as parodies if I didn’t know it was Al. The original songs are certainly worth paying for. I had a yen to own much of John Phillips Sousa’s work and only a few tracks have been represented.

There are Sammy songs I like and will probably return to favor, stuff with Montrose or live versions of VH songs. Some of his covers are more annoying than others. There’s still more of Linda Perry’s solo album, and she’s since gone on to write for other chick singers. A few other Queen demos from their debut album which have great merit but I got tired of them. I got tired of Brian May’s young female singer more quickly, as I tired of Ellen Foley’s best songs (including a 3-song EP which I gather is quite recent). A few Bette Midler songs are charming, most of them written by Sammy. The original cast album tracks from Jesus Christ, Superstar remain as enjoyable now as when I was a kid.

Males using female vocalists are represented in work I’ve recently removed from the discs, tracks like Ike and Tina’s long-playing “Proud Mary” and “River Deep, Mountain High”. Ike’s own “Rocket 88” was removed early on, as were the Shangri-La’s “Remember (Walking In the Sand) - later remade awesomely by Aerosmith - , the Spanish version of “Crash Boom Bang” (Roxette is Swedish! It’s same instrumental tracks! Awesome!) and “Soy Una Mujer” (which topped the pop charts as “Fading Like A Flower” in my younger days). Sonny and Cher’s “The Beat Goes On” may one day reappear, as might Linda Rondstadt and whoever’s “You’re No Good”. Phil Spector and whoever’s “And Then He Kissed Me” may return sooner. “Sowing the Seeds of Love” was a hit by Tears For Fears in the late 80’s that was on tapes I dubbed from the radio first, and maintained another impressive run rarely equaled in this collection of songs. There’s something so distinctly 1980’s and British about trying to be 1960s and American and inspired by 1960s English stars… But I enjoyed the song for all my misbegotten youth and for the last year as well. Dennis Wilson’s “Friday Night” gives a stark other side to the Beach Boy’s life and I like it very much, as does the other Enya track from L.A. Story that didn’t make the cut for this round of CD burnings. The rest are similar novelty tracks, show tunes, covers or mashes, funny or surprising.

I wish I could have included the tv theme songs but Windows seems to have some aversion to certain wmv files being burnt to CD. The long-version of the “Sanford and Son” theme is outstanding.