Monday, September 28, 2009


Throughout the fiction reading population, that sliver of humanity that still desperately clings to those primitive print-filled anachronisms called books, word of a new novel from Lorrie Moore sweeps like wildfire. Moore inspires a fanatical following. She deserves it, based on a handful of brilliant short stories collected in Self-Help, Like Life, and Birds of America, and a couple novels, Anagrams, and Who Will Run the Frog Hospital.

Finally, after eleven years, here comes A Gate at the Stairs.

"Ms. Moore has written her most powerful book yet," says the New York Times, "a book that gives us an indelible portrait of a young woman coming of age in the Midwest in the year after 9/11 and her initiation into the adult world of loss and grief." (Read the rest of the NYT book review by Michiko Kakutani here.)

"Her last book," Jonathan Lethem reminds us, "the 1998 story collection 'Birds of America,' included the unforgettable baby-with-­cancer story 'People Like That Are the Only People Here,' a breathtakingly dark overture to a decade’s silence — as if the Beatles had exited on 'A Day in the Life.'" Read the rest of Lethem's essay on Moore here.

Read an interview with Lorrie Moore in The Believer.


by Lorrie Moore

First, try to be something, anything, else. A movie star/astronaut. A movie star missionary. A movie star/kindergarten teacher. President of the World. Fail miserably. It is best if you fail at an early age -- say, fourteen. Early, critical disillusionment is necessary so that at fifteen you can write long haiku sequences about thwarted desire. It is a pond, a cherry blossom, a wind brushing against sparrow wing leaving for mountain. Count the syllables. Show it to your mom. She is touch and practical. She has a son in Vietnam and a husband who may be having an affair. She believes in wearing brown because it hides spots. She'll lookbriefly at your writing, then back up at you with a face blank as a donut. She'll say: "How about emptying the dishwasher?" Look away. Shove the forks in the fork drawer. Accidentally break one of the freebie gas station glasses. This is the required pain and suffering. This is only for starters.

Read the rest of "How to Become a Writer" here

A conversation with Lorrie Moore on Art Beat

Sunday, September 27, 2009


We're counting up the instants that we save...tired nation so depraved...from the cheap seats see us...wave to the camera. Okay, we know that Pavement are back together and planning a 2010 world reunion tour, which--according to the Pitchfork mojo wire--will include Central Park Summerstage in NYC on September 21, 2010-- one year from Monday. Scramble for tickets, cool kids.

Pavment hang loose. The darlings of 1990s indie rock and originators of the slack low-fi aesthetic replete with wheedling deadpan vocals from dazed and laconic Stephen Malkmus, Pavement always seemed on the verge of falling apart, an old Volvo drifting left and right and all over the road with the hubcaps falling off and chunks of engine dropping out and baloney-skin tires going wobbly wobbly and the axle--she don't look so good. If you ever wore a green shirt and believed "irony was the shackles of youth," Pavement were your unreal gods. Their look and sound launched a thousand ships.

Now, these slackers are middle-aged geezers playing on 1990s nostalgia--yes, there is such a thing, a hankering back to the golden days of the last decade, mostly by very young kids who didn't catch it the first time--and the stadiums of the heartland and the evil coasts will be full of kids and rock critics singing along and clutching their merch--"new" old T-shirts and posters and tote bags and lick-on tattoo decals. Sure, they did some nice songs and my favorites albums ("Slanted and Enchanted," and "Crooked Rain Crooked Rain") still bring me back to the nineties, all those years ago...and yes they were "inspired clowns" but maybe not as important as we might have wanted to believe back then in those heady days of the nineties. We stuck them on mixtapes and they fit beautifully in a greater context--"Summer Babe" was the perfect slack anthem to sandwich between two solid songs, its loopy slurring beat staggered like a kid who drank a whole lotta Jaeger, dude, and some PBR, and maybe a pot brownie--but it's been a while since I actually listened to an entire album of Pavement, and all those songs in a row suffer from their sameness. Let's face it. Just the way we laughed at the old dinosaur reunion tours, these kids are still tongue in cheek and ironic but now they're grown men, for chrissakes, and they aren't still wearing old Charlie Brown castoffs anymore, are they? After a while, didn't they have to turn off the stereo and make the bed? Go to work? Didn't they finally graduate and leave the dorm? And Stephen--did his voice finally break? Ha, just kidding. See, I'm also protected with this cloak of invisibility called irony, but I had you for a moment, didn't I? Pavement are timeless and live forever in an endless golden autumn like a mosquito in amber. Hey, nice sweater.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I'm getting tired of these ignorant dolts. From now on, let's make a rule: if you use the word "socialism," make sure you're referring to "various theories of economic organization advocating public or direct worker ownership and administration of the means of production and allocation of resources, and a society characterized by equal access to resources for all individuals with an egalitarian method of compensation."

If you mean "government-run," then say that when you complain about the "socialist" health care plan, but be consistent--also rail about your "socialist" fire department, your "socialist" post office and your "socialist" public library. You may hate the library already, since libraries are filled with books espousing all sorts of philosophies and economic theories and even evolution (gasp! they allow that?) and other wide-ranging subjects probably out of bounds of your Sunday school class or right wing study group. And fiction! Yes, fiction slays tyrants. There are books, actual books that lead the reader to imagine what it feels like to be a slave, to escape from a mental hospital, to chase a great white whale with a tyrannical captain at the helm! Go ahead, read a book--and not just the Bible. Read works of free, unchained imaginations if you truly despise tyranny!

Dictators always burn the books, don't they? So if your concern for freedom is genuine, and extends beyond your own self-interest and "talking points," make sure you support your local library.

Words are important. They mean certain, specific things, so try to use them correctly. In other words, don't just sling the word "socialism" around like an insult, the way you used to scream "communism" every time someone tried to organize voters or fluoridate the water. Words have actual meanings we can agree upon. Words have connotations, some very heated, connotations that can blind us to the actual issues being discussed. Choose them wisely.

Another word is "racist." Yes, there is racism alive and well in the USA, and just because we have a black president doesn't mean we've transcended our long history of disenfranchising certain groups based on race--as well as religion, and gender, and sexual orientation, and tax brackets. Nope, Obama didn't end racism, especially not in the dumber regions of America.

Conservatives love twisting words. For them, words are just a trick to befuddle the masses, to obfuscate reality, to throw sand in the eyes of the enemy. For them, words are tools to make their point when truth and reality don't suffice. Reminiscent of the days when they would decry "PC" as a way liberals were fettering their freedom of expression, now they claim any criticism of the government will be called "racism" by the liberals. Boy, they LOVE being underdogs, don't they? They claim they can't express themselves, but they sure don't have that problem when they howl and weep and wave their guns at the Town Hall Meetings. In spite of their claims, they never seem at a loss for words--whether or not they use them correctly remains a matter of opinion.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009


The Rangers had a homecoming
In Harlem late last night
And the Magic Rat drove his sleek machine
Over the Jersey state line
Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge
Drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain
The Rat pulls into town, rolls up his pants
Together they take a stab at romance
And disappear down Flamingo Lane

Bruce was born on this day in 1949. His father Douglas was a bus driver of Dutch and Irish ancestry, and his mother Adele Ann Zerilli was an Italian American legal secretary. His grandfather was born in Vico Equense, a village near Naples. Bruce was raised a Roman Catholic in Freehold, NJ, and his songs tell of village life--in this case, the village life of hustlers and petty crooks, of the hungry and the hunted who face off in the streets. He paints a picture of the night scene like a rock and roll Rembrandt, capturing the very moment the gang meets up beneath that giant Exxon sign.

Bruce is an opera singer, but he sings about the "opera out on the Turnpike, and the ballet being fought out in the alley." His song begins with the midnight gang assembling for a rumble, and ends with two hearts beating in the tender night. Between those two points, visionaries dance with backstreet girls, lovers struggle in dark corners, shots echo down a hallway, and no one watches as an ambulance pulls away.

Outside the street's on fire in a real death waltz
Between what's flesh and what's fantasy
And the poets down here don't write nothing at all
They just stand back and let it all be
And in the quick of a knife, they reach for their moment
And try to make an honest stand
But they wind up wounded, not even dead
Tonight in Jungleland

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Gordon Lightfoot wrote some great songs, mellow and lyrical and easy-going in a 1970s singer/songwriter sort of way but deep if you cared to listen. The perfect music for a hangover. I listened to Gordon a lot this weekend and enjoyed myself and yes he may be a little hokey and a little folky but he's the perfect compliment to a misty Sunday morning cup of coffee when your nerves are jangled and you can barely make a fist. Gordon should have been bigger, I think, but he wasn't far out or dangerous or devilishly handsome--he looked more like somebody's ex-husband--but he wrote some good songs, so the next time you feel mellow and low-key put on Gord's Gold and find a nice overstuffed chair to doze in. You won't regret it.


Nat King Cole sings "Autumn Leaves." This classic was originally a French song called "Les feuilles mortes" (literally "Dead Leaves"), with music by Joseph Kosma and lyrics by poet Jacques Prévert, but we're more familiar with the English lyrics written by American songwriter Johnny Mercer in 1947. "Autumn Leaves" has become a standard in pop and jazz music and has been recorded all over the world. I know it still feels like summertime (we expect 91 degrees today!) but soon summer will fade and the leaves will change, the days will grow shorter and there will be a nip in the air, and you will be humming this unforgettable tune while raking les feuilles mortes.

"Les feuilles mortes," introduced by Yves Montand in the film Les Portes de la Nuit (1946).

Monday, September 21, 2009


"I was a dirtbag and liar, but I'm not now!"

Glenn Beck
has problems. After screaming, weeping, and ranting that Obama was a racist who hated whites and white culture, several sponsors dropped his show--but that's not what I mean. What I mean is Beck is nuts. Whacko, crazy, off his rocker, cuckoo for Coco Puffs. Watch him give this weirdly disoriented self-serving rant that verges on evangelical testifying. He sounds like a character in "Idiocracy," a comedy set in the not too distant future where idiots rule, and the population has been dumbed down to a manageable level.

How bad could it be? He's on the cover of Time Magazine, though probably not under the best of circumstances. Read Mad Man: Is Glenn Beck Bad for America? at Time.

According to Beck, he quit the booze and bad behavior and saw the light. According to Harper's, he shares plenty of characteristics with patients in Katherine van Wormer’s Addiction Treatment: A Strengths Perspective, a book that "summarizes the professional literature with respect to dry drunks by identifying a number of recurrent traits, including an exaggerated self-importance or pomposity; grandiose behavior; a rigid, judgmental outlook; impatience; regressive infantile behavior; irresponsible behavior; irrational rationalization; projection; and overreaction."

Sounds about right.

(Read this story on Beck in Harper's, and another here.)

Salon ran a feature called "The Making of Glenn Beck." Evidently, he lied about his history of trouble and redemption, the cornerstone of the Beck myth. He fudged some facts, you could say. Loud and obnoxious from the start, he worked his way through the annoying world of morning drive-time--"zoo radio culture"--zig-zagging through drink and drugs and a nicely fictionalized biography as he barked and cried his way to becoming a leading conservative pundit on Fox News. Read the article at Salon.

Here's another clip (courtesy of The Young Turks) in which Beck goes nuts on a caller about health care. Clearly, Beck is not well. Looks like he could use some health care himself--more specifically, mental health care. I'm sure he can afford it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I know it's early but I had to let you know. Dylan is coming out with a Christmas album. Sounds crazy, but here is a sneak preview. The arrangements are old-fashioned and the Andrews Sisters are singing backup vocals--it sounds like it, anyway, though that's probably not possible unless this is some kind of Christmas miracle. And maybe it is. It's like tuning in that old magical radio in The Twilight Zone. It sounds like we're picking up radiowaves that have been bouncing around outer space for years.

Bob Dylan, the greatest songwriter of his generation and possibly all time, loves oldtime music. His work has always been influenced by the past, his recent albums have been heavily indebted to traditional music, and every week he unearths gold nuggets of country, blues, folk, and tin pan alley on his radio show. For years, I've collected Christmas music for holiday mixtapes, and Dylan has done the same here. That's the spirit to take this album--not as anything profound or visionary, not as the next "Visions of Johanna" or "Things Have Changed," but as a stocking stuffer from Secret Santa. It may fill you with cheer, or make you laugh your ass off-- maybe a little of both. At times, it sounds like Howlin' Wolf singing with Bing Crosby's band at the Hotel Astor--but that's kind of cool. Just kick your shoes off, pull up an egg nog, and turn on that old, weird, magical radio.

Where will the money go? To help the UK homeless. Bob Dylan commented, “That the problem of hunger is ultimately solvable means we must each do what we can to help feed those who are suffering and support efforts to find long-term solutions. I’m honoured to partner with the World Food Programme and Crisis in their fight against hunger and homelessness.” More on the story here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I still love John Lennon and the Beatles. Call me an unrepentant hippie, call me a geezer and a baby boomer (though I'm on the young side of that bulge), call me a damn peace freak and a lefty liberal (and proud of it) call me anything you want, but I'm still a fan of the Fab Four. Not that you asked, but my favorite Beatle was always John. When I discovered this film of him recording the "Imagine" album I flipped.

"Imagine" was the first--and only--number one pop song to ask people to imagine a world without religion and countries and possessions. "Nothing to kill or die for, above us only sky." In spite of the beautiful melody, Lennon remained the rabble rouser. No wonder Richard Nixon and his coven of Republican warmongers tried to have him deported. (Check out the documentary, The U.S. vs. John Lennon). If some deranged nut hadn't killed him, I'm sure John would still be fighting for peace and justice, and not like some dull peacenik but with all the wise-cracking wit and talent at his command--and he'd still be making great music. Imagine a world without hand guns. It's easy if you try.

"Gimme Some Truth" by John Lennon

I'm sick and tired of hearing things

From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

I've had enough of reading things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

No short-haired, yellow-bellied, son of Tricky Dicky
Is gonna mother hubbard soft soap me
With just a pocketful of hope
Money for dope
Money for rope

I'm sick to death of seeing things
From tight-lipped, condescending, mama's little chauvinists
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth now

Lennon didn't pull any punches. He didn't candy-coat his message. From the moment he first stepped into the Ed Sullivan studio, through the touring Beatle years and the studio Beatle years, through the solo albums, and the times he was hounded by the FBI for being an anti-war protester, to the moment he was killed outside the Dakota Hotel, John Lennon represented truth. Raw, un-processed, un-auto-tuned truth. People might want to strip him of his crankiness, his lefty politics, his fierce honesty, and make him into a simple hitmaker, but that's missing the point.

"Isolation" by John Lennon

Friday, September 18, 2009


You've got to hand it to Rush Limbaugh. Just when you think that bloated Nazi gasbag can't get any more despicable, he somehow tops himself. On his radio program Tuesday, Rush was busy fanning the flames of hatred, as usual, devoting the entire show to a white teenager getting beaten up by a black teenager on a schoolbus. Rush cited the incident as an example that President Obama is spreading racism against white people in America.

Even though local law enforcement said the fight was probably not racially motivated, Limbaugh said: “I think the guy’s wrong. I think not only it was racism, it was justifiable racism. I mean, that’s the lesson we’re being taught here today. Kid shouldn’t have been on the bus anyway. We need segregated buses — it was invading space and stuff. This is Obama’s America.”

(A full transcript of Tuesday's show can be found at

Unabated, Rush continued the diatribe Wednesday: “In Obama’s America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, ‘Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on,” Limbaugh also said. “I wonder if Obama’s going to come to come to the defense of the assailants the way he did his friend Skip Gates up there at Harvard.”

"Obama's America?" What would Rush Limbaugh's America look like? Or, should I say, what DID it look like?

Segregated, separate and unequal. Buses, like everything else, were divided by race. Thankfully, Americans rejected Rush Limbaugh's America, but not without a struggle. It took a tired, middle-aged lady from Alabama named Rosa Parks to challenge segregated buses back in 1955. Her courage sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and moved a nation toward equality and civil rights.

An unlikely hero: Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955

December 1st, 1955. At 6 pm, Rosa Parks boarded the bus and paid her fare. She sat in the "colored" section of the bus. Bus driver James F. Blake noted that the front of the bus was filled with white passengers and there were two or three white men standing, so he moved the "colored" section sign behind Parks and demanded that four black people give up their seats in the middle section so that the white passengers could sit.

Parks refused to give up her seat. When Parks refused to move, Blake called the police, and an Alabama police officer arrested her. She asked the officer, "Why do you push us around?" The officer said, "I don't know, but the law's the law, and you're under arrest." Parks later said, "I only knew that, as I was being arrested, that it was the very last time that I would ever ride in humiliation of this kind."

- a clip from Mighty Times, the Legacy of Rosa Parks, a documentary produced by Teaching Tolerance and Tell the Truth Pictures.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Young Buddhist monks singing in a Fred Pelon documentary called Mantrayana (2007). This is a heartwarming moment from another world, and yes, a comment on the far-reaching influence of western culture to the outermost regions. This is so pure that any commentary would be petty and beside the point. Enjoy this moment, they seem to say. Feel the love. And when you're stuck in a day that's gray and lonely, stick out your chin and grin. The sun will come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Ready to come home. In case you haven't read the wonderful news, please follow this link to the New York Times.


People think the country is divided now, but that's nothing new. People are pitching a fit over health care and personal freedom, over war and peace, black and white. Back in the day we wore long hair and hitched around the country--blue states and red states, it didn't matter, they all seemed red back then -- redneck, right wing, and dumb as a mud fence. Now even cowboys have long hair, but things were different back then. Listen to some of these hippie-hating anthems from the Heartland and see if you agree. Pretend you just walked into a bar and these were playing on the jukebox. Feel that? Just push the little buttons and it's like going back in time.

Smokey Harless sure hates hippies in this tune, "A Place for Them Called Hell." Sample lyric: "They can carry their signs go marching in the streets, all that's good and well - But to my way of thinking if they don't like our country, there's a place for them called hell." He hates protesters, but I wonder what old Smokey thinks about teabaggers...or President Obama, for that matter!

These two dorks couldn't find their ass with both hands and a roadmap, but they sure as hell don't want no socialism stirring up the Knee-grows or giving Aunt Bea a free pair of dentures. And they sure as hell don't want some goddamn hippies hitching through the bible-thumping county, praise the Lord. And that means you, longhair!

Here's one for the president--no, not THAT president! This is "The Great Richard Nixon" by Gene Marshall. Buy a clue, Gene. Now picture yourself tucking your long hair up under your hat and trying to flag a ride. Yesiree, Bob, that's some fine music! Yeeha! Watch those taillights fade on the Interstate.

The other side: "When Did Jesus Become a Republican?" by Cindy Lee Berryhill

Don Jarells sings about his terrible son in this tune. The boy doesn't agree with old Don about Vietnam, civil rights, music, just about every damn thing! Hell, he's a militant!

"The Love In" by old reactionary Sheb Wooley. This is a laugh riot.

Howard Barnes can't tell the girls from the boys in this ode to latent homosexuality, "Helluva World."

Good Old Boy Rusty Adams wrote this redneck "response" to Merle Haggard's "Okie from Muscogee" called "Hippy from Mississippi."

Don Bowman wrote this sensitive portrayal of "The San Francisco Scene."

Joe Ritchie means business in his song, "How Do You Get Rid of a Hippie (In a Country Western Bar)."

Thanks to the musical archives of WFMU for most of these great tunes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


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Jon Stewart takes on the teabaggers in this clip from the Daily Show. Just so you know where we stand, we believe health care should be a right and not a luxury. Call us liberal, but we don't think people should die because they lack money.


Of course, there's another side to the story, and here are a couple "teabaggers" to present their perspective:

Selfishness is always a selling point for morons--that is, until they get some debilitating disease that threatens their meager savings, and then they'll be first in line for Medicare, Medicaid, all that "socialist" jazz they're crying about. Talk is cheap. Empathy might be too much to ask, but give this guy an impacted wisdom tooth and he'd probably join the fricking Red Army for some Novocaine.

This guy is scary. I don't know where to begin with his idiotic sign. Is it racist, antisemitic, historically ignorant--or all of the above? They used to call these types "The Lunatic Fringe." They come out of their caves every so often to fight against integration, against fluoridation, against the abolition of slavery, against witches. Their world is changing and it scares them shitless. We've always had frightened, selfish people dragging their heals as humanity strives for progress and enlightenment, only now they have their own TV shows.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Genius is not a generous thing
In return it charges more interest than any amount of royalties can cover
And it resents fame
With bitter vengeance

Pills and powders only placate it awhile
Then it puts you in a place where the planet's poles reverse
Where the currents of electricity shift

Your Body becomes a magnet and pulls to it despair and rotten teeth,
Cheese whiz and guns

Whose triggers are shaped tenderly into a false lust
In timeless illusion

Jim Carroll
, poet, punk rocker, all-city basketball player, former hustler and drug addict died Friday in New York City. Famous for writing "The Basketball Diaries," Carroll was part of the New York art and punk scene in the 1970s, and a friend of Patti Smith, Warhol, Larry Rivers and Robert Mapplethorpe.

“I met him in 1970, and already he was pretty much universally recognized as the best poet of his generation,” the singer Patti Smith said in a telephone interview with the New York Times on Sunday. “The work was sophisticated and elegant. He had beauty.”

The guitar claws kept tightening, I guess on your heart stem.
The loops of feedback and distortion, threaded right thru
Lucifer's wisdom teeth, and never stopped their reverbrating
In your mind

And from the stage
All the faces out front seemed so hungry
With an unbearably wholesome misunderstanding

From where they sat, you seemed so far up there
High and live and diving

And instead you were swamp crawling
Down, deeper
Until you tasted the Earth's own blood
And chatted with the Buzzing-eyed insects that heroin breeds

The Jim Carroll Band perform "People Who Died"

Jim Carroll, with Patti Smith, back in the day

"Catholic Boy" by the Jim Carroll Band. Push the button.

Jim Carroll interview 1/18/91 Cleveland Ohio

You should have talked more with the monkey
He's always willing to negotiate
I'm still paying him off...
The greater the money and fame

The slower the Pendulum of fortune swings

Your will could have sped it up...

But you left that in a plane

Because it wouldn't pass customs and immigration

If only you hadn't swallowed yourself into a coma in Roma...
You could have gone to Florence
And looked into the eyes of Bellinni or Rafael's Portraits

Perhaps inside them
You could have found a threshold back to beauty's arms
Where it all began...

No matter that you felt betrayed by her

That is always the cost
As Frank said,
Of a young artist's remorseless passion

Which starts out as a kiss
And follows like a curse

--excerpts from "8 fragments for kurt cobain" by jim carroll

On Dennis Miller, 1992

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Reggie Watts looks like a homeless guy they would lock up if he strolled through your neighborhood. He's a very funny cat--in a post-modern, apocalyptic sort of way--and how else would you like your humor? Jokes? Take my wife, please? If you want something new and different, free from all the tropes and cliches of typical television humor, listen to Reggie Watts. He's a riot.

We caught up with Reggie doing stand-up at Bumbershoot, the Seattle music and arts festival held over labor day weekend. He spoofed soul music and hip hop, pop culture and machismo and class--and performed a terribly funny riff on stuffy academics. Oh, and blacks and whites. Reggie switches voices and accents, sings and scats and makes strange noises, and challenges your expectations. Most of the time the best humor comes from the worst places, the ghettos and shtetls and slums of the world where humor is a well-honed survival skill. "Funny" is a coping mechanism, and we could all use more of it in this stressful, crazy, frightening, dangerous and divided world--don't you think? Loosen up before it's too late.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


September 9, 2009. Obama gave a powerful speech about health care reform. Just when I was starting to get used to dim-witted, inarticulate, smirking, devious, fundamentalist hillbillies running the country--along comes Obama. What is happening to my country?!? Something good, actually. Step aside, fear-mongers.

President Obama, September 9, 2009

"Still, given all the misinformation that's been spread over the past few months, I realize that many Americans have grown nervous about reform. So tonight I'd like to address some of the key controversies that are still out there.

"Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple."

The full text of President Obama's speech can be found here.


Today is 9/9/9, and the Beatles Remasters are finally available to the music listening public. What's the big deal? Are they any different from the albums we already have? Are these remasters better than those mixed by Dr. Ebbetts or Purple Chick, superior versions that have been passed around by collectors for years?

Jem Aswad writes on MTV online:"The recordings have been meticulously reprocessed with technology I couldn't hope to explain (involving '24 bit 192 kHz resolution via a Prism A-D converter'), but the remastering team has been just as meticulous in retaining the original mixes and feel of the recordings. Thus, the closest analogy here is a restored painting: The songs are the same — they even retain mixes that, in the strange logic of the early days of stereo, can have all the vocals and the bass in one speaker and all the other instruments and no vocals in the other — but it's as if a cloak has been lifted from them, bringing forth sounds and details that were obscured on earlier releases. You can hear breaths being taken before verses are sung, previously muffled instruments (usually percussion or keyboard parts), mumbled asides in the backing vocals, enthusiastic shouts in the background (usually from Paul McCartney), and even subtleties like the group seeming to fight off laughter as they sing the final 'Mee-ee-ooooo' of 'Help!'"

"Songs that once seemed to make up the numbers step into the spotlight in bold new colours, or, rather, the old colours revealed anew," says the London Times. "On Revolver, the dissonant tug of Paul McCartney’s piano on George Harrison’s I Want To Tell You sounds discombobulatingly urgent, while on the 1964 A Hard Day’s Night album Any Time At All swings zestfully between the canine eagerness of John Lennon’s vocal and a guitar part from Harrison that fleetingly foretells the jingle-jangle mourning of the forthcoming folk-rock boom."

"No less startlingly," says the Times, "songs long since dulled by ubiquity suddenly burst into life again. Yesterday in particular is a revelation. Free of the reverb that blights the 1987 CD version, McCartney’s voice radiates a damp, autumnal proximity that foregrounds the brittle bitterness of loss. No less affecting is Penny Lane, a song in which McCartney pauses the videotape of memory on a moment to which he knows he can never return, now revealed in more tantalising detail than ever."

Here's the complete story from the Times Online, including some wonderful A/B samples comparing the remasters with the original 1980s CD mixes. Times Online.

MOJO has posted their Beatles coverage online here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


We love newsstands, and we love magazines. All those crisp glossy pages, all those bright covers, all those lurid stories. Generally speaking, summer reading is light reading, unless you're my girlfriend Wendy who polished off Les Miserables and Moby Dick this past month. For the rest of us, magazines match our seasonally short attention spans, and we flip through them with zero commitment, guiltlessly skimming in a hammock, say, or while dozing in an Adirondack chair after a couple gin and tonics.

Summer is over, they tell me, but there's no reason to say goodbye to your summer romance with magazines just yet. Here are some of my favorite stories this month:

It Came from Wasila -- Vanity Fair's Todd S. Purdum on the swifty deals, the vengeance and the pettiness of Sarah Palin. Oh, God, send that woman away!

Minority Death Match -- Jews, Blacks, and the "Post-Racial" Presidency by Naomi Klein -from Harper's Magazine. Klein is amazing and tackles the heavy stuff.

Sick and Wrong - Matt Taibbi on how Washington is screwing up health care reform--from Rolling Stone. Wendy read this between classics and highly recommends it.

Trial by Fire -- Did Texas execute an innocent man? David Grann in the New Yorker.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Labor Day isn't just about picnics and beer and hot dogs, and it's not about flag-waving Americana and other patriotic horse manure--it's about people who work for a living. That's it. A big, fat three day weekend to celebrate the workers of the world punching the clock every day, enduring a thousand petty digs, and eventually toppling the fascist corporate power structure.

I'm kidding. Sort of. Sorry to be a buzz kill, but you don't have to be a hardcore Marxist to appreciate our amazing and rarely celebrated labor history in this country. It turns out it's not all about Wall Street and CEOs and trust fund kids running ponzi schemes. Nope, I'm talking about working people struggling for decent wages, respect on the job, and hard-earned benefits. Now that the economy has tanked, and more people are cut (or get their hours reduced) it might serve us well to remember folks who fought for dignity on the job. This story from Harlan County, a hard-scrabble mining community, is a testament to the human spirit.

HARLAN COUNTY, USA is a powerful documentary about the struggle of 180 coalminers on strike against the Duke Power Company in Harlan County, Kentucky in 1973. The film was directed by Barbara Kopple, and she and her crew spent years with the families involved in the strike. Black lung disease, poverty, strikebreakers and armed company goons threaten the lives of these miners and their families, but they stick together. This hard-hitting documentary is an excellent example of investigative reporting, something increasingly rare in this age of easy "infotainment." Filmmaker and crew risked a lot to bring this film to the public.

"The film won the 1976 Academy Award for Documentary Feature," reports Wikipedia. "In 1990, Harlan County, USA was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." The events were dramatized in the 2000 TV movie Harlan County War."

The 2004 Criterion Collection release of the DVD includes a special feature The Making of Harlan County, USA. Buy it or rent it here.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Health care reform sure brings out the frightened crazies. Ill-informed, and whipped into a frenzy by right wing pundits, they cry and scream and repeat cliches and talking points. You've got to hand it to them. They sure work terribly hard against their own interests.

Once in a while truth prevails. A glimmer of hope brightens the darkness. You wonder if maybe, just maybe, logic and intelligence can overcome fear and ignorance--at least some of the time. Here, Senator Al Franken speaks with an angry crowd of teabaggers. He would have made Paul Wellstone proud.

Dusty Rice, who posted the clip, describes the scene:

"I got to witness something really special. About a dozen tea party activists had staked out Sen. Al Franken's booth, and confronted him loudly when he arrived. But within minutes, he'd turned an unruly crowd into a productive conversation on health care. The discussion went from insurance reform, to the public option, to veterans benefits, to cap and trade. He made a few laugh and even told a touching story that moved a few to tears. A whole lot of common ground was found."

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Os Mutantes are a sixties Brazilian psychedelic experimental pop band, and they will perform at Bumbershoot Saturday, 7:30 PM at the Fisher Green. Not to be missed.


The Vivian Girls. Bumbershoot, at 6PM Sunday on the Broadstreet Stage

Vivian Girls meet The Real Housewives

Okay, music fans. It's Labor Day Weekend, otherwise known as Bumbershoot, a time when myriad bands from all over the world (as well as comics and artists and dancers and filmmakers) converge on Seattle to shimmy in the shade of the Space Needle. How do you pick? We're going to see the Vivian Girls. You've heard them on the radio (and maybe on my mixtapes) and you love them, too.

"Where Do You Run To" by the Vivian Girls

The Vivian Girls--named after oddball artist Henry Darger's girl warriors--are Brooklyn garage girls that play dreamy pop, write great songs that hearken back to the Girl Groups of the early sixties as well as punk rock of the seventies, with a little Olympia, Washington thrown in for good measure. They're playing this weekend at Bumbershoot, at 6PM Sunday on the Broadstreet Stage. Don't miss them.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


The Cannabis Cup is the Academy Awards, the Grammys, the Golden Globes, and the Olympics of marijuana all rolled into one. Rolled and smoked, you might say. The annual event is held in Amsterdam, and every year pot farmers and hopheads from around the world converge on the Dutch city as new strains of cannabis are unveiled, and judges award the Cannabis Cup, as well as the best new product, best booth, best glass, best hash and best Nederhash--whatever that is.

This irreverent history of the event is amusing (and probably even funnier if you're stoned). Don't get me wrong. I don't advocate smoking pot, but I advocate the freedom to do so as an adult in a (relatively) free society.

With California going broke, some people are advocating the legalization--or at least the decriminalization--of cannabis, which is the state's biggest cash crop. Marijuana, that's right, pot, grass, weed, bud. Forget arguments about freedom, and forget arguments about the relative dangers of pot and booze, and forget arguments about victimless crime--what may turn the tide of marijuana prohibition is money. Pure and simple, cash on the barrelhead, something Americans know more about than weed.

Save the economy with pot? This ad has been running on TV in California

Medical marijuana is already legal in California for its pain-alleviating and relaxant effects. In the Netherlands, while pot is officially illegal, the government has a policy of non-enforcement and sensibly separates "soft" drugs from "hard" drugs like heroin and cocaine. Over there you can visit a "cafe" and pick up pot as easily as a cup of coffee. Of course, you wouldn't want to drive after a visit to the coffeehouse any more than you would after a couple vodka martinis. Call a cab!

After eight years of government by the dunderheads, for the dunderheads, perhaps we're due for some enlightenment on the subject of marijuana--or at the very least some non-biased investigation and intelligent dialog. And who knows? Maybe California, the state that elected an Austrian action figure for governor, will get the job done and pay their bills. Then, instead of swinging by the liquor store for gin you could pick up a carton of Acapulco Gold--or better yet, British Columbia Bud (hard or soft pack)--and listen to those Beatles remixes with the headphones on.

Holy smokes!

I don't claim to be unbiased. If you've followed this blog at all, you know I err on the side of personal liberties and generally rank myself with dissident non-conformists. Believe what you want, I always say, but do your homework. Dig deep and question the dominant paradigm--even if you come back around--because healthy skepticism if its own reward. After all, in the safety of your own cranium you need not fear the thought police.

Ever wonder what it's like in an Amsterdam cafe? High Times foreign correspondent Bobby Black filed this report from a couple of the coolest cannabis cafes, the Amnesia and Barney's. If you think these are just Dutch Starbucks take a closer look at this menu.

The Cafe Menu: Click to enlarge image

This irreverent history of the Cannabis Cup deserves to be seen by thinking adults for educational purposes. If you agree or not, take a look and keep an open mind.

It's a freedom thing.

There are two sides to every argument, so we present "The Terrible Truth" from 1951, a sensational documentary for teenagers about the dangers of Maryjane.

Visit the official website of the Cannabis Cup here.