Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Albert Hoffman, the Swiss scientist who created LSD, died at his home near Basel, Switzerland at the age of 102.

To some, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) may seem to be an anachronism, a souvenir of the psychedelic counterculture of the 1960s like lava lamps and black lights, but the drug was actually created in 1938. It's powerful psychoactive properties weren't discovered for five more years, when Hoffman accidentally ingested the drug and experienced its powerful effects while riding his bicycle home from the lab.

"[Hoffman] then took LSD hundreds of times, but regarded it as a powerful and potentially dangerous psychotropic drug that demanded respect. More important to him than the pleasures of the psychedelic experience was the drug’s value as a revelatory aid for contemplating and understanding what he saw as humanity’s oneness with nature. That perception, of union, which came to Dr. Hofmann as almost a religious epiphany while still a child, directed much of his personal and professional life."
--the New York Times, 4/30/08

From a BBC documentary on LSD:

A link to the New York Times obituary, click HERE.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Walter Cronkite, Feb. 27, 1968

The war drags on. The Democratic party is fiercely divided. Martin Luther King is killed in April, and Robert Kennedy in June, the night of the California primary. With Kennedy dead, only one peace candidate remains, Eugene McCarthy. President Johnson isn't running, but Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who did not participate in the primaries, has enough spoken-for delegates to secure the nomination. This is his golden moment. To most people opposed to the war, Humphrey promises nothing but a continuation of LBJ's failed policies. The year is 1968.

The Democratic National Convention is held in Chicago. Protesters come from all over. Mayor Daley, the last of the big city bosses, meets them with brute force, Chicago style. Protesters are denied a permit, making them easy targets for Daley's agitated police. The Walker Commission later term what occurs as "a police riot."

Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Aug, 26-29, 1968

As the Chicago streets fill with teargas and bloodied demonstrators, strong-arm tactics invade the convention itself, as you can see from this clip with Dan Rather. America watches this chaotic scene on television, uncertain if the whole shebang is going up in flames.

Norman Mailer wrote extensively about the events in his book, "Miami and the Siege of Chicago." He spoke with Amy Goodman in 2004:

"Most of you, I’m sure, know all about it. For those of you who you don’t, there was a huge march of demonstrators, an essentially peaceful march that went up Michigan Boulevard and at a given moment, given the order by Mayor Daley then, not the present Richard Daley, but his father, the police surged into the marchers and beat them up with canes. It was all on television. It was extraordinary television, one of the incredible moments of network television, and everyone was shocked down to the core. The Cronkites, the Rathers, whoever was there then—I don’t even remember—they all were profoundly shocked. And it looked—at the moment, it looked like: how awful, how awful, the Republicans are going to pay for this. Quite the contrary, the Republicans won..."

-- from the documentary, "1968: The Year That Shaped a Generation."

Democratic Party nominee Humphrey will lose to Republican Richard Nixon, who uses the same talking points Republicans use today. Promising law and order, victory, patriotism, tough guy rhetoric, Nixon wins the general election and immediately escalates the war.
There are parallels. The war drags on. People want change. The Democrats are strongly divided. For some reason they argue endlessly about non-issues like flag lapel pins, instead of uniting against the Republicans and Bush's disastrous policies. Let's hope they wise up.


You've been through iTunes and eMusic, you've surfed critical sites like Popmatters and Pitchfork, and you've played with Pandora. You're still looking for cool music. Most radio stations play canned, mainstream crap (with rare exceptions like KEXP and KCRW) What's left?


Check out these music blogs. These sites are guided by real music fans, and they offer a wide range of music. They have MP3s to listen to (for educational purposes) so if you hear something you like, go buy a copy. In the meantime, how do you know what you like? Have a listen to some of my favorite music blogs.

Moistworks -- This covers it all. A wide ranging blog, with recent posts running the gamut from Sinatra to David Lynch, Billie Holiday to turntabelist Carl Craig. Explore and impress your friends around the water cooler. here

Gorilla vs. Bear
-- A cool blog with a buzz. Radiohead, Animal Collective, Caribou, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. Like your big brother's record collection, if you're big brother was totally skinny and wore a Pastels T-shirt. here

Honey, Where You Been So Long? -- This is pre-war blues, and we're not talking Iraq War. This is great for those rare old 78s, and recent postings have included Lonnie Johnson, Cripple Clarence Lofton, and Pete Johnson and his Boogie Woogie Boys. here

Brooklynvegan -- This vegan from Brooklyn has wide tastes (except for food, that is) and you might find Santogold and M.I.A. sharing blogspace with Pink Floyd, or even Neil Diamond. Nice site to look around, like a little shop in a beach town full of treasures. here

Fluxblog -- Moods for moderns. Yes, kissing a robot is like touching your tongue to a battery. Kind of a jolt. Always fun, Fluxblog posts everything from Jaguar Love to Ladytron, Of Montreal to The Mountain Goats. Music from now and the near-future. here

Soul Sides -- "Something you can feel." Professor Oliver Wang teaches a killer class on groovology, full of arcane knowledge and great jams, emphasizing soul music from the 1960s and 70s. Recent lectures have focused on Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band, and The Last Poets. here

Aquarium Drunkard -- Alt country, Americana. Wilco provided the title, and that's appropriate. A recent post on Sun Kil Moon mentions where to find the best Italian sandwiches in North Beach. here

Diddy Wah -- Great mixtapes. Currently I'm running a mixtape called "Cookin'" at the top of this blog. Give it a listen while you're doing your chores. It's about a half hour long, and that's enough chores, right? here

Cocaine Blunts -- Hip Hop, ya don't stop. This is an interesting site, and not the standard hip-pop that gets the airplay. Roll a big fat bat and get supa baked, yo. For real. here

WFMU's Beware of the Blog -- Wildly eclectic, with weird old records and cool stuff. "A radio station that bites back." Dig around in the archives. This is like the last scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, with miles and miles of boxes. Well, they contained old reel to reel tapes. here

Little Steven's Underground Garage -- Fuzz-tone, garage and psychedelic rock deejayed by Little Steven Van Zandt (Silvio, to you Sopranos fans). His shows center on a theme, and you're likely to hear The Chesterfield Kings back-to-back with the Ronettes, The Detroit Cobras cuddling up to the Electric Prunes. Wicked cool. here


Here is the St. James Infirmary section of Betty Boop's "Snow White" from 1933. Yes, that's Cab Calloway singing! What wonderful animation! Produced by Max Fleischer, directed by Dave Fleischer.

Monday, April 28, 2008


in the early days...

The Band in the basement of Big Pink. Formerly The Hawks, and Bob Dylan's backup band, these country gentlemen created a timeless American music (though all but one were originally Canadian) in a basement in West Saugerties, New York. "The Basement Tapes," recorded with Bob Dylan while he recovered from a nearly fatal motorcycle accident, became one of the most famous bootlegs to ever leak. At a time when everyone else was making heavy psychedelic rock, these guys seemed to go back to the Civil War. Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, and Richard Manuel left Dylan to make some classic albums. They toured with him again in 1974.

Ross Reynolds of KUOW in Seattle produced a radio show on Robbie Robertson, with an interview by Bob Santelli of the Experience Music Project. I assisted Reynolds as music director of the piece, which gave me an excuse to obsessively pour over the music of Dylan and the Band, something I continue to enjoy on a regular basis.
To hear the show, click HERE.

at the last waltz...

Sunday, April 27, 2008


There is only one Frank Zappa. Maybe two. This creative weirdo stood alone in the music world, a creature at the edge of the wilderness, with no commercial potential. On the other side of the void, but still in Los Angeles, a four-headed beast built solely for commercial potential, ersatz-Beatles created by Hollywood hucksters to capitalize on pop music, struggled to life in both television and records, though never actually playing their instruments...The Monkees!

You would think these two had nothing in common. In fact, you'd think they couldn't occupy the same universe, much like matter and anti-matter, or pasta and anti-pasta. And yet these two forces came together one glorious day, the fuzz-tone Lion and the wool-hatted lamb, somehow merging a moment in the time-space continuum, and this is proof. Do you believe me? Watch as Frank Zappa and Mike Nesmith, the coolest Monkee, swap souls one fine afternoon in LA.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


It's obvious, we spend too much time thinking about celebrities. Turn on the TV, pick up a magazine, and you're buried in a wave of celebrity sludge. It's the fast food of the news, the greasy, salty, heart attack special, and we're drawn to it like Newton's apple was drawn to the earth.
There is a gravitational pull to Brad Pitt and what's-her-name. Beyonce and Jay-Z. Whatever. A little less superficial crap would be a good thing, sure, but people aren't about to skip celebrity gossip and start reading Kierkegaard or anything. Gossip makes us feel better about ourselves, maybe a little superior. Kierkegaard, on the other hand, fills us with dread, absurdity, and the great harrowing abyss. Definitely no fun. And, hey...Know what I heard?

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

Soren Kierkegaard

I heard Amy Winehouse got thrown in jail! Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed got married. Madonna is planning to adopt again. Guillermo del Toro, director of "Pan's Labyrinth," will direct the "Hobbit" for Peter Jackson. Soren Kierkegaard was voted off "Dancing with the Stars." Alicia Keys has a spiffy new album. Actor Wesley Snipes got three years in prison for tax evasion.

And you thought you had problems, home skillet!


Big Brother is not always watching. Take the case of Nicholas White. The New Yorker was working on the forty-third floor of the McGraw-Hill Building at Rockefeller Center, and decided to take a smoke break. He got on an elevator -- an elevator with a security camera -- and felt a jolt. The lights flashed off and on, and the elevator stopped. White pushed the intercom, and got no response. He pushed the emergency alarm bell. Nothing. Time passed.

He was stuck on the elevator for forty-one hours.

The City of Seattle just placed cameras in all its parks. Many cities in Europe and the States are already covered with security cameras. We've come to expect less privacy and more surveillance. Do all these cameras make us safer, or nudge us closer to George Orwell?

In the case of Nicholas White, a camera didn't seem to matter one way or the other. Watch his forty-one hour ordeal on this security camera video.

For the full story from the New Yorker, click HERE.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


This Saturday night is Music Movie Night, when we hang out with friends and screen classic and rare musical performances -- everything from old hophead blues to music from the distant future delivered by space aliens.

One such space alien is Captain Beefheart, recorded here at Cannes in 1968 (that year again!), playing some tripped-out avant blues from Alpha Centauri.

Although it appears as a single point to the naked eye, Alpha Centauri is actually a system of three stars, one of which is the fourth brightest star in the night sky.

The Captain and His Magic Band


Here's The Buffalo Springfield, featuring Neil Young and Stephen Stills, performing on The Hollywood Palace. This is a great clip of "For What It's Worth" and "Mr. Soul," with a priceless introduction by an old hack. This was beamed out across America when there were only three or four channels on your television. Imagine that.

Stephen Stills went on to join David Crosby, formerly of The Byrds, and Graham Nash, formerly of The Hollies, to form Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Neil Young joined them on their second album. Below, CSNY perform "Down By the River" in 1969.


A Ukrainian toy manufacturer is marketing an Adolph Hitler doll in local toy stores. The controversial doll will go on sale this summer.

According to The Telegraph, "The 16 inch figurine -- complete with movable arms to reproduce Hitler's famous salute -- will first go on sale in the capital Kiev...The owner will be able to choose from a selection of outfits including 'early days Adolph' (brown shirts and jodhpurs) and 'wartime Adolph' (a grey, double-breasted tunic, black trousers, and Iron Cross medal)."

With reports of antisemitism and xenophobia on the rise, this may be a big seller this holiday season. In the Ukraine alone, over 1.5 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis and Ukrainian collaborators during the Holocaust. They won't be buying the Hitler doll, of course, and neither will holocaust survivors, who some say are overly sensitive. And neither will we. The Hitler doll will definitely NOT be on our Christmas list this year.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Exactly forty years ago, between April 23rd and April 27th of 1968, students at Columbia University took over several campus buildings to protest a school gymnasium being built on public land in Harlem, and the school's connection with a think tank helping direct the war in Vietnam. More than a thousand police broke up the occupation, cracking skulls with nightsticks and flashlights, and famously dragging students down marble stairs by their feet so their heads bounced on the steps. Conservative America applauded the police, furious over the "unpatriotic" students who scoffed at the law and protested the war. Two months before, police fired upon protesting students at South Carolina State University, killing three and wounding twenty seven.

The Columbia occupation is a pivotal event in 1968, a year of pivotal events. In a couple months, Martin Luther King would be murdered, then Robert Kennedy. Party hacks at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago would select Vice President Hubert Humphrey as the Democratic nominee over the surviving peace candidate, Eugene McCarthy, thereby assuring a continuation of LBJ's disastrous policies and the Vietnam war. Protesters in Chicago were met with violence, getting attacked by the police as they chanted the now famous "The whole world is watching" and the city unleashed what the Walker Commission would later term "a police riot."

Hubert Humphrey lost the general election to Republican Richard Nixon, who promptly escalated the war and condemned all opposition, especially those protesting "bums" on college campuses. Nixon escalated the war on students, too. Before long, four students at Kent State were shot and killed killed by the National Guard, and three more were killed at Jackson State.

The 1968 protest and occupation of Columbia is probably the most documented student disturbance of the 1960s. It's worth taking a look at the event this election year, as an unpopular war drags on and we head for another Democratic convention without a nominee. You know what they say about history...

Click HERE for the interactive site about the 1968 occupation.

Click HERE for Frank de la Cruz's personal reminiscence of the '68 occupation of Columbia.

Click HERE for the first chapter of Mark Kurlansky's history, "1968, The Year that Rocked the World."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


On the heels of her Pennsylvania victory, Hillary Clinton is getting slapped by a New York Times editorial -- a paper that endorsed her presidential bid earlier this year.

The editorial board says the New York senator's "negativity" is doing "harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election."

"The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it."

To read the editorial, "The Low Road to Victory" from Wednesday's New York Times, click here.


This is kind of cool. The cast of the Simpsons on Inside the Actor's Studio. Who are they? Who do they play? Here is just a partial list:

Dan Castellaneta

Homer Simpson
Grampa Abraham Simpson
Barney Gumble
Krusty the Clown
Groundskeeper Willie
Mayor Quimby
Hans Moleman
Sideshow Mel
Squeaky-Voiced Teen
Burn's Lawyer
Mr. Teeny
Bill Clinton

Julie Kavner

Marge Simpson
Patty Bouvier
Selma Bouvier

Yeardley Smith

Lisa Simpson

Nancy Cartwright

Bart Simpson
Nelson Muntz
Todd Flanders
Ralph Wiggum

Hank Azaria

Apu Nahasapeemapetilon
Moe Szyslak
Chief Clancy Wiggum
Comic Book Guy
Dr. Nick Riviera
Kirk Van Houten
Captain McCallister
Bumblebee Man
Superintendent Chalmers
Professor Frink
Dredrick Tatum
Pyro (a.k.a. Chase)

Harry Shearer

Mr. C. Montgomery Burns
Waylon Smithers
Ned Flanders
Principal Skinner
Reverend Lovejoy
Dr. Julius Hibbert
Kent Brockman
Rainier Wolfcastle/McBain
George Bush
Judge Snyder


Hillary won the Pennsylvania primary. She will win, I should say, since C-Span was declaring her the winner a little while ago with only two percent of the vote in. When I switched on the TV around 6pm, the count was something like 52% to 48%. How can they make a safe prediction? Help me with the math.

There is a problem with calling an election too early. Remember the photograph of the victorious Truman displaying the newspaper declaring him the loser?

The Pennsylvania victory comes as no surprise to anyone. Hillary was expected to take the state, in spite of Obama reducing her double digit lead. Will the winning margin be sufficient to do her any good? She will pick up some delegates and stay in the race, but the nomination will still depend on the Super delegates, the American equivalent of the House of Lords, who may or may not reflect the popular vote. Perhaps our goal of promoting democracy should begin at home, and we should abolish this "corrective" to the will of the people.

On to the future. We can only hope the Democrats don't completely destroy one another before they fight the Republicans. Democrats have a knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

According to the Huffington Post, exit polls show Obama improved among whites and older voters, but Clinton won the late deciders. Two/thirds say Hillary unfairly attacked Obama, and that most expect Obama to be the nominee. Not surprisingly, Obama did well with educated and urban voters, and Clinton swept the bitter small towns.

Read the article by clicking here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


This is a vision of hell Dante never imagined. I just came across this and can't get it out of my mind. I feel like the Manchurian Candidate. Paul Anka, famous for singing "Diana" back in the Pleistocene Era, and for handing "My Way" to Sinatra, is shown on French television singing "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Evidently, this studio-tanned lounge lizard is into Nirvana. Not. This is schlock elevated to screaming nightmare surrealism.

Of course, I can't leave well enough alone. There is no closure. That slick bastard might rape the song, but there is still proof that a certain misfit kid from rainy Aberdeen on the muddy banks of the Wishkah howled like an earthbound ghost. Here is Nirvana, perhaps the greatest hardcore rock band in history, setting fire to the woods at the Reading Festival in England in 1992. This is an adult dose, a torch in the catacombs, a head-on collision, a rose in a shot glass.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Inside Dylan's Head: click to enlarge picture

I shall be (un)released; some wonderful Dylan rarities from Uncle Bob's Vault:

John Brown from the unreleased Town Hall Concert, in 1963. This was supposed to be issued on the "Bob Dylan in Concert" record that was scrapped by the label. Too bad. A young folk Dylan mesmerizes the crowd with an acoustic guitar and his timeless storytelling.

Like a Rolling Stone, take 6, from the unreleased Highway 61 sessions, 1965. This is just a couple takes away from the finished product, one of the greatest songs ever. Like the man said, this is "thin, wild mercury music." Electric Dylan. Shakespeare in the alley with pointed shoes and bells.

Simple Twist of Fate. Rarely performed, this unreleased gem is from the Rolling Thunder Review, a gypsy caravan that traveled the northeastern states in the autumn of 1975. He'd written this song not long before, but he's already rewritten it by now. As even casual fans know, you don't go to a Dylan show expecting it to sound like the records. Or even the same as the previous tour. He moves fast, like a thief.

"People have long wondered what goes on in Bob Dylan’s mind. But if you pay attention to what the recent Pulitzer Prize-winner says and plays on his XM satellite-radio program, Theme Time Radio Hour, you can actually get a pretty good idea. Here, by cataloging the themes has chosen for the episodes, the artists he has favored, and Dylan’s other preferences and quirks, Vanity Fair has constructed a revealing portrait of America’s most enigmatic musician."

Read the Vanity Fair article and find out by clicking HERE.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Let's not be L-Seven!

It's Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs! These Texans in turbans, led by Domingo "Sam" Samudio from Dallas, burned this killer riff into a million dance floors back in 1965. Maybe you don't get it. Sure, it's not logical, the words don't make sense -- but you're not exactly George Will, right? Loosen your bow tie, kick back, and feel the music. Wooly Bully.

One, two, tres, quatro...

Matty told Hatty about a thing she saw.
Had two big horns and a wooly jaw.
Wooly bully, wooly bully.
Wooly bully, wooly bully, wooly bully.
Hatty told Matty, "Let's don't take no chance.
Let's not be L-seven, come and learn to dance."

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Roofball -- a combination of freestyle kicks and tricks mixing soccer and gymnastics and breakdancing. This is another sport I won't be playing. Just watching this clip is all the excercise I need. Maybe this video has been doctored, but I don't think so. Kudos to these roofball locos.

Here's a link to the Roofball Federation of America. Click here.

Thanks to Tommy for sending this my way.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


This is bad. Very bad.

Wayne Newton, looking like the perennial ex-husband, slides through a cheesy Vegas version of the most pretentious, overwrought song in human history, MacArthur Park. This sweaty lounge lizard bears his soul like a bowl of queso fundido, but alas some songs are impossible to sing. These lyrics could kill a man.

MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down...
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it
'cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again
Oh, noooooooooooooooooo!


Barrack Obama found himself on the defensive in his debate with Hillary Clinton Wednesday night. She hammered away at his lack of experience, his patriotism, his lack of a flag lapel pin, his remarks about the bitterness of small town America, and his association with bomb-throwing 1960s radicals, the Weathermen.

For his part, Obama didn't get down and dirty. He defended himself, but didn't aggressively attack Hillary. He acted like an adult. It can be argued that this wasn't his strongest debate, but it's hard to tell how it played in the heartland.

For her part, Hillary pandered to gun nuts and churchgoers, something politicians have always done. If this is an example of the "change" she is promising, I'm not convinced. In both style and content, it sounds like more of the same.

Here is an interesting column from the Chicago Sun-Times about Hillary's use of polarizing politics.,CST-NWS-mitch15.article

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


There was a time a tattooed lady was an oddity rarely seen outside the carnival sideshow. Nowadays, many women sport tattoos, from the sensible looking businesswoman with a tiny bird or flower on her wrist to the more daring art babe with arms and hips and cleavage splashed with color. Still, it's rare to see the full-on, head-to-toe skin illustrations that decorated Lydia the Tattooed Lady. The great Groucho Marx sings her praises in the 1939 comedy, "At the Circus."
It may have been Groucho's theme song, but it was actually written by Harold Arlen (formerly Hyman Arluk) and Yip Harburg. This writing team was versatile. The year before penning "Lydia," they wrote "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" for The Wizard of Oz.


Dave Eggers, author and founder of the exeedlingly clever lit magazine McSweeney's, has curated an art show at apexart. Described in the Village Voice as "Text, image, and humor from the likes of R. Crumb, Leonard Cohen, Andy Warhol, Henry Darger." The show opened April 2nd, and has drawn the hipster cognoscenti in droves.

In the press release, Eggers asks "Is humor allowed in art, and in what forms? Are captions allowed in art, and why?" The show consists of crude drawings accompanied by hand-drawn text.

Crude art and hand-written captions are nothing new -- bathroom stalls have been full of it for years -- but this faux-naive art appears to be the rage. Art directors must love it, too, because it's everywhere from indie album covers to alternative weekly newsprint. The musical equivalent might be the soundtrack of Juno. All those simple, sickly drawn animals -- an awkward, gangly deer, for example, a few stick trees, and some too-cute, off-center children, maybe in snowsuits, maybe holding bows and arrows. It's supposed to look sweet and earnest, I suppose, and on another level ironic. Of course.

Eggers on the left (photos by Sam Horine)

Yes, it could be horrible, but much of Egger's charm resides in his Rolodex, and the list of participants is impressive. I mean, you wouldn't want childish drawings actually drawn by children, for godsakes. Like, duh. That's not ironic. We want people who know better.

According to apexart, the show includes works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Cohen, David Berman, Georges Braque, Jeffrey Brown, R. Crumb, Henry Darger, Marcel Duchamp, CM Evans, David Godbold, Philip Guston, Paul Hornschemeier, Jay Howell, Chris Johanson, Maira Kalman, Kenneth Koch, Jason Logan, David Mamet, Quenton Miller, Tucker Nichols, Alice Notley, Ron Padgett, Raymond Pettibon, Dan Perjovschi, Amy Jean Porter, Steve Powers, Royal Art Lodge, Peter Saul, George Schneeman, Olga Scholten, Leanne Shapton, David Shrigley, Shel Silverstein, Nedko Solakov, Art Spiegelman, Ralph Steadman, William Steig, Saul Steinberg, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


There is no one who "interprets" a song like William Shatner. Friends tell me he's in on the joke, and the pompous, overwrought, pseudo-Shakespearean reading of lines is part of the gag, but I'm not so sure. Still, something fascinates us about the Shat. He's way out there, in his own universe.

This week the Dalai Lama visits the west coast, and Pope Benedict visits the east coast, so for a few golden days the country will be a holy man sandwich.

In such cosmic times, who else can we turn to for the galactic perspective, other than Captain Kirk himself? On a rocket, no less? Stuffed into a tuxedo, puffing a cigarette like an exhausted guest at a wedding reception, Shatner serves as a reminder that not all sentient beings have escaped human suffering or transcended the ego. He is the common man, weary, buffeted by fate, clinging against all odds to his delusions of grandeur. He is you and me. He is Shatner.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


"Clinton Portrays Herself as a Pro-Gun Churchgoer"

The headline from the New York Times Political Blog shows Hillary taking aim at Obama. Candidates are supposed to be somewhat chameleon-like, the but one hopes there is a continuous core self beneath the changing colors and not just raw ambition and a desire for power. Something like integrity.

"[Hillary] described herself as a pro-gun churchgoer, recalling that her father taught her how to shoot a gun when she was a young girl and said that her faith “is the faith of my parents and my grandparents.”

Hillary has grown into this latest version during the furor over Barack Obama's recent remarks about the bitterness of some small town folks and their guns-- remarks he conceded were ill-chosen. Hillary saw an opportunity, and she pounced. She pandered, and tried to out-American him.

"For the third time since Mr. Obama’s remarks were made public Friday night, Mrs. Clinton criticized him at length, saying his comments seemed 'kind of elitist and out of touch.'

From ABC News, Hillary continues:

"'My faith is the faith of my parents and my grandparents,' she said. 'It's a fundamental expression of who we are and what we believe in most profoundly and I disagree with Sen. Obama's assertion that people in our country cling to guns and have certain attitudes about immigration and trade simply out of frustration.'

"Clinton will spend the day in Pennsylvania on Sunday and will likely be repeating her message about Obama’s comments from San Francisco."

What are the incendiary remarks that got Hillary and McCain so fired up? Here's the quote from Obama that started things off:

"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And it's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Sounds plausible to me.


The national television debut of a very young REM, when they were still a squirrelly little outfit from Athens, Georgia, known for an EP, and a great first album, "Murmur." That still is one of my favorites. Here they jump like snakes on a griddle. Yes, everyone had more hair back then. This was twenty five years ago, after all. What did your hair look like in 1983?

Friday, April 11, 2008


Fuzzed-out, sleazy pop from the Raveonettes, recorded live at the Triple Door in Seattle. With a menacing, retro, low-fi vibe, they sound like they just crawled out of a David Lynch movie, but actually they are cool Scandinavians. This is "Aly, Walk with Me," from the album, "Lust, Lust, Lust."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Chris Rock is one of the funniest men alive. He's in your face. He doesn't shy away from controversy. He's willing to be politically incorrect, but more important he's willing to be political in a good sense. In other words, he's willing to make fun of the powerful and not just the powerless. Rock gets up in the grill of conventional wisdom. Here he gives some practical advice about dealing with the police.

I hate the term "politically correct." If you ask me, "Political Correctness" is really a straw man argument. Sure, there may be some overly zealous PC types, but the real issue is that conservatives want a free pass to blurt out attitudes of race, gender, and religion, and to do so without challenge. The actual threat of progressive social change to these folks has always been minimal, but they resent losing their undisputed perch on the top of the heap, and the "freedom of expression" that went along with it. They whine that the PC types and the "liberal media" are out to get them, but really it's about the world changing. There is a new sense of decorum. Deal with it. Evolve.

Ricky Gervais is also a very funny man. As fans of the British series The Office can attest, his humor can be excruciating. He also isn't afraid of controversy. Here is a routine about Hitler interpreting Nietzsche.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Play this at my funeral. The Pixies inspired and influenced a million bands, including your beloved Nirvana. Black Francis, or Frank Black, or whatever he's calling himself these days, is a solid rock sumo, a stone Buddha, and Kim Deal is Siva, and who doesn't have a crush on Kim Deal? There was this guy, an underwater guy, who controlled the sea, got killed by ten million pounds of sludge. What more can you say?


And the whole world, the whole of life, seemed to Ryabovitch an unintelligible, aimless jest. . . . And turning his eyes from the water and looking at the sky, he remembered again how fate in the person of an unknown woman had by chance caressed him, he remembered his summer dreams and fancies, and his life struck him as extraordinarily meagre, poverty-stricken, and colourless. . . .
-from The Kiss, by Anton Chekhov

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.
-from Araby, by James Joyce

He dove in and swam the pool, but when be tried to haul himself up onto the curb he found that the strength in his arms and shoulders had gone, and he paddled to the ladder and climbed out. Looking over his shoulder be saw, in the lighted bathhouse, a young man. Going out onto the dark lawn he smelled chrysanthemums or marigolds—some stubborn autumnal fragrance—on the night air, strong as gas. Looking overhead he saw that the stars had come out, but why should he seem to see Andromeda, Cepheus, and Cassiopeia? What had become of the constellations of midsummer? He began to cry.
-from The Swimmer, by John Cheever

So foolish did his ideas seem to me, so pompous and so drawn out his exposition, that I linked them at once to literature and asked him why he didn't write them down.
-from The Aleph, by Jorge Luis Borges

Great lines from great stories. Great writing. I decided to make a list of my favorite short stories, an impossible task, but a good distraction from an illustration commission that requires more than simple procrastination to avoid. So I made this list. Here, a highly subjective list of my all-time favorite short stories:

The Kiss - by Anton Chekhov
Car Crash While Hitchhiking - by Denis Johnson
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner - by Alan Sillitoe
Axolotl - by Julio Cortazar
Babylon Revisited - by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Dead - by James Joyce
Cathedral - by Raymond Carver
Signs and Symbols - by Vladimir Nabokov
Walking Out - by David Quammen
People Like That Are the Only People Here - by Lorrie Moore
The Blue Hotel - by Stephen Crane
Helping - by Robert Stone
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - by James Thurber
A Clean, Well Lighted Place - by Ernest Hemingway
Rock Springs - by Richard Ford
A Good Man is Hard to Find - by Flannery O'Connor
Barn Burning - by William Faulkner
The Things They Carried - by Tim O'Brien
A & P - by John Updike
The Schreuderspitze - by Mark Helprin
The Swimmer - by John Cheever
The Barracks Thief - by Tobias Wolf

And my all-time favorite, The Aleph, by Jorge Luis Borges.

To read The Aleph, click HERE for the complete text.

Monday, April 7, 2008


"Dylan, the most acclaimed and influential songwriter of the past half century, who more than anyone brought rock from the streets to the lecture hall, received an honorary Pulitzer Prize on Monday, cited for his 'profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.'

"It was the first time Pulitzer judges, who have long favored classical music, and, more recently, jazz, awarded an art form once dismissed as barbaric, even subversive."

--From the AP story by Hillel Italie.

For this post, I picked "Forever Young" from 1977 and "Love Sick" from 1998. You could pick plenty of other songs that would showcase his talents -- he wrote so many. I could probably come up with a dozen from each different Dylan period. Let see, there's folk Dylan, finger-pointing Dylan, electric Dylan, Nashville Dylan, Rolling Thunder Dylan...not to mention Kate Blanchett. Nobody else comes close. Thanks for writing 'em, Bob. And congratulations!

For more of the Dylan Pulitzer story, click here.

For more about the other Prize-winners, click here.


Show some guts! This is war!!! Country Joe McDonald takes on the politicians, generals, war profiteers, and "patriotic" parents in this anti-war classic. Yes, it was written for another war. Then again, so were most of the pro-war "talking points" being recycled these days.

Back then people weren't so civil. Nowadays, we're much more sophisticated. Most of us are fighting to claim the ideological middle, on the assumption that there are two sides to every question, and a cool rational middle-of-the-road position is the sensible thing. We've been well trained. But are there really two sides to every question? What's the sensible middle position on cannibalism, say, or the Earth being flat? How about slavery, or child abuse? Highly rational people can be extremely agile intellectually. They can tell you straight-faced that there are good reasons to incinerate people, or to "stay the course" and continue incinerating people once the incineration has begun.

They have plenty of good reasons, and they always have.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Clinton made nearly $109 million since they left the White House, capitalizing on the world's interest in the former first couple and lucrative business ventures.

The Clintons reported $20.4 million in income for 2007 as they gave the public the most detailed look at their finances in eight years. Almost half the former first couple's money came from Bill Clinton's speeches.

"I have absolutely nothing against rich people," Hillary Clinton told North Dakota Democrats at their party convention Friday night in Grand Forks. "As a matter of fact, my husband — much to my surprise and his — has made a lot of money since he left the White House doing what he loves doing most, talking to people."

Clinton's tax returns show that of the remaining presidential candidates, she is the one most able to access large amounts of personal money. She lent her campaign $5 million in late February and could contribute more if she finds herself falling far behind Obama's proficient fundraising. -- from the Associated Press

Click button to hear "Hey, Little Rich Girl," by Amy Winehouse.


Charlton Heston, scenery-chewing actor, former conservative president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), and the last man on earth, died at 84.
Famous for parting the Red Sea and battling planets full of apes, Heston retired to an apartment building after a post-apocalyptic plague swept the planet. By day, he traveled in a red convertible, hurling invectives and shooting his legally registered machine gun, but by night he was forced to barricade himself in a homemade fortress and fend off plague-infected zombies. It was a lonely life. He held out for years, but he could only hold out so long. Now he has joined the rest of us.

Friday, April 4, 2008


First off, any Democrat would make a better president than George W. Bush, but that's not saying much. A shoehorn would make a better president. A shoehorn wouldn't lie to us, drag us into war, bankrupt us, whittle away our civil liberties, award no-contest contracts to friends, and continually dick us over while wearing a smug arrogant smirk.

Bush is the worst president I can remember, and that includes Republican crook "Tricky Dick" Nixon. If the Democrats can't win this time, they should cash in their chips and permanently retire to Loserville.

That being said, I'm ticked off with the Hillary camp. We received a group email from a Hillary supporter yesterday filled with the same old talking points warning us against smooth-talking, hope-inspiring Obama. He's all talk, she said, going on to mention that Adolph Hitler was also a powerful orator. Sleazy, eh?

The group email brought up Hillary's usual "concerns" about Obama's lack of experience. True, he was never First Lady. Obama is a first term senator. Hillary is only a second term senator. Even her point man Bill Clinton can't argue that. That is not a huge experience gap. Her USO junket with Sindbad the comic hardly counts, whether she dodged mortar-fire or not. She did not.

Predictably, Hillary hammers away at her talking points. That repetition -- and the occasional dirty trick from the Karl Rove playbook -- has helped her in certain polls. She still lags, but she seems to be casting doubt among the timid.

Is Hillary better qualified than Obama? Is Obama all talk? Who can best beat McCain? What about the roll of the superdelegates? What about the battleground states? Should we count the Florida and Michigan votes? Who should answer the scary phone call in the middle of the night?

Matt Taibbi does a good job answering these questions in the current issue of Rolling Stone. To read his article, "Hillary's Flimsy Case," please click here.


All hail the Great American Highway! The Nat King Cole Trio plays "Route 66" in this wonderful clip. I used to sing this one standing on the shoulders of interstates and country roads -- making up the words in the middle -- while I tried to flag a ride.

Did you ever hit the road, Jack? Did you ever hitch-hike? I don't mean short stints -- did you ever thumb a cross country trip? I wouldn't do it now, but I had some great trips back in the day. I thumbed from Seattle to Mexico, up and down the West Coast a few times, around upstate New York when the leaves were changing, even did a run from Portland to Phoenix one hot July, which I don't recommend. I had great rides, and some bad ones. I slept under a bridge in Salt Lake City, got robbed, even got thrown in jail. In the hot Arizona desert, I was a tiny sunburned speck in a landscape out of a western movie, standing for hours in the booming sun, finally getting rescued by Navajos in a tricked-out Camaro on their way to an all-Indian rodeo in Tuba City.

Thumbing was a thrill, a journey, a way to see the country from the ground up. Maybe it was a little dangerous. Still, I wouldn't trade those adventures for anything in the world.

Did you ever get your kicks on Route 66?

To see my drawing of the trio, click here.


Democracy, be damned! According the the Associated Press, one delegate, one vote doesn't apply to the superdelegates.

"These prominent Democrats can name additional superdelegates, giving them control over multiple convention votes, and that could be the difference in a race that may not be decided until the August convention."

While Barack Obama has been leading the popular vote, Hillary Clinton has more superdelegate committments -- though that lead is shrinking. Still, the race could be decided by "important party-members" rather than the public, which would not bode well for peace at the convention. Remember Chicago 1968?

Can superdelegates thwart the will of the majority? Evidently so, according to Democratic National Committee Chairman, and declawed firebrand, Howard Dean, who says superdelegates should not feel compelled to reflect the popular vote. He also said superdelegates were free to weigh the disputed primary results in Florida and Michigan, primaries where Obama didn't campaign, and in the case of Michigan wasn't even on the ballot.

That's good news for Hillary. With recent reports that the former First Lady was privately telling senior Democrats that rival Obama is unelectable, a new light is cast on the power of superdelegates and the way they are lobbied. Are these powerful citizens -- and they are still only citizens, after all -- really the equivalent of the House of Lords, a safeguard against commoners having too much decision-making power? Are they good for us?

The whole thing stinks, if you ask me. Why should we be stuck with the will of the people when it makes mistakes (i.e. sides with powerful interests) and denied that will when there is a progressive grassroots movement for change (i.e. a challenge to powerful interests). You know why, right?

One more thing. Superdelegates can spawn more superdelegates. From the AP: "The clout of the nearly 800 superdelegates is unprecedented in this year's race because neither Obama nor Clinton can clinch the nomination with only the delegates won in state primaries and caucuses. Largely overlooked in the arcane process, though, is the power of a select few to complete the superdelegate ranks by naming 76 newbies, and Clinton and Obama are fighting hard over every one of those from state conventions to back rooms."

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


After a string of lackluster albums, REM has released a great one, Accelerate. The band is all fired up, and Peter Buck is playing the hell out of that Rickenbacker. Stipe sings with an urgency missing for decades. Rolling Stone says it's one of the best albums the band has ever made. Yesterday they played Supernatural Superserious on the Today Show. What do you think?


Science writer Gary Taubes wrote a survey of scientific studies on diet and nutrition called "Good Calories, Bad Calories." He says the sacred "food pyramid" is all wrong, and that much of what we've been told about diet doesn't hold up under scientific scrutiny. We should cut down on sugar and carbohydrates. Predictably, he has been maligned by the diet establishment. The book is jammed with research, but highly readable, and Taubes makes a convincing argument.

Here, popular health guru Dr. Andrew Weil gives a thoughtful response to the book on Larry King Live, guest-hosted by Joy Behar, also featuring Taubes and Oprah's doctor Mehmet Oz.

This is a heated panel discussion on the Charlie Rose show, featuring Gary Taubes; Dr. Mehmet Oz, Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center; Dr. Dean Ornish, Founder and President, Preventative Medicine Research Institute; and Dr. Barbara Howard, American Heart Association.

Buy the Taubes book from Amazon here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


I'm gonna serve it to you
And that ain't what you want to hear,
But thats what Ill do
And the feeling coming from my bones
Says find a home

Here are the White Stripes playing "Seven Nation Army" live on the Grammys, with a great weird intro by Beck. I love this track. I know, it's so ten minutes ago, but I still like this a lot. The riff is killer, and the words are so strange, and if that isn't enough, Jack White switches songs mid-performance to play an electrifying cover of "Death Letter" by Son House. Is that good enough for you? Somebody say yeah!

Eddie James "Son" House, Jr. - 1902-1988
Son House was an important Delta bluesman, and influenced Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, and played alongside Charlie Patton. He spent hard time in Parchman Farm prison for killing a man in a juke joint who had gone on a shooting spree, wounding House in the leg. After prison, he recorded for Paramount Records, and for Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress. His music lives on.

To hear the original version of "Death Letter" by Son House, please click button.