Monday, June 27, 2011

That's So Gay!

Nice job, corrupt and egomaniacal New York legislators. You've done something right for a change. Now it's time for California to get its act together. And the federal government, while we're at it.

Not long from now, we'll look back on this time with a sense of absurdity. Gay people couldn't marry? It's like how a judge in 1960 send a woman home for wearing pants to court. Or black people drinking from special water fountains and not being able to do just about anything.

Most of my thoughts on the matter can be found in this post and the comment below it. We are at a turning point. Those who oppose gay marriage will get left behind just like always in a country founded on freedom and equality.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Do I Have To Say His Name? Do I Have To Speak His Name?

And Last But Not Least...

I hope you had a chance to see it. I hope you weren't one of those people who thought it wasn't for you or who never had the money or couldn't find the time. Because it's gone now. And it's never coming back.

The Big Man has left a big hole.

It's a big hole in the hearts of all who knew and loved him. Not a small group, it appears. But I never met the man. Only imagined I had. And loved him all the same.

No, I don't have memories of inspiring his tremendous smile, shaking his giant hands, jamming in the studio or hanging out in his den watching whatever it is he watched on TV (For some reason, I imagine it was lots of "CSI: Miami").

Instead, what I've got are permanent marks where blasts of saxophone scorched my soul.

Which is an odd thing for a white Jewish boy growing up in the suburbs. Because it's not like the good kind of saxophone music gets taught at school or played much on the radio. John Philip Sousa marches, Kenny G, and that guy from the Tina Turner band that looked like Fabio didn't exactly inspire much more in me than some kind of a brain rash.

And I didn't discover the likes of Coltrane and Sonny Rollins until much later.

But it was clear from the first time I heard a Springsteen record that Clarence Clemons provided something urgent and necessary to The E Street Band. A brassy bellow that called back to the Stax and Motown sounds Springsteen carried into the 70s even if his audience remained largely monochromatic.

Clarence meant everything. This was an integrated band. This was a brotherhood. It was no thoughtless happenstance that led Bruce to pose with Clarence on the cover of "Born to Run," beaming with giddy pleasure. It was a statement of purpose. As ballsy and unabashedly sentimental as the music on the album that finally answered every dare he ever made for himself.

The onstage clowning, iconic poses and smooches between these two men told the story of the world (both hardscrabble and mythical) Springsteen set out to describe and remake. His concerts have always been about building a community as much as escaping to fantasy. They were Han Solo and Chewbacca. Scorsese and Deniro. Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

As I watched a 1978 concert tonight, Clarence twirled in his white suit with a nimbleness he hasn't displayed in many years. Each note, strong and sustained, carried the band higher and higher. He blasted away at the foot of Roy's piano, as Bruce stood on top with his guitar aloft and wailing to the gods.

No, the world will not see such joy again. We're the lucky ones who got to see it even once.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Gladly Left Behind

Quick question: When Saturday passes without The Rapture, does that mean we can legally commit all these nutbags to a mental health facility until the end of their days?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

To Which It Stands

Call me unpatriotic, but how many time must I say the Pledge of Allegiance?

I recited it every day in kindergarten through high school. Give or take a few dozen sick days and excused family vacation days, that's something like 2,300 times.

Since I've been a reporter, I've attended a hundred or more public meetings, almost all of which start with a board of education member or some politician leading those assembled in the pledge.

I appreciate the sentiment. I love my country. I really do.

But let's break this down for a second here. Shouldn't once be enough? I mean, it's a pledge. Shouldn't the flag take me at my word? I don't recall ever recanting my pledge or pledging some other flag (though I've always been partial to the Nepalese flag).

And maybe I wasn't exactly aware enough at the age of 5, blinding reciting some words because Mrs. McPhillips said so. But somewhere along the line, I understood the point of the exercise. Does everyone else?

What value is a pledge if it needs to be restated ever day or every few weeks? If I pledge to take out the garbage, my wife can rest easy knowing the garbage will be taken out. And that pledge doesn't even involve a bunch of frilly clauses and the invocation of God. You'd think the flag would have the same faith in me. After all, I put my hand over my heart and everything.

I'm just saying. Is all.

Stupid needy flag.

Friday, May 06, 2011

On Ice

Funny how a jingle from the 80s appears in my head from out of nowhere. Thanks to Youtube, it'll be in yours as well. Thanks, Riunite!

And don't think you can't have it on ice with fried chicken. 'Cuz you can! Goes so nice!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

May The Fourth Be With You

Apparently today is Star Wars Day. Go figure.

Here's something to help celebrate the occasion.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The 10-Year War

It never occurred to me I might cry tears of joy at news someone was killed. I guess there's a first time for everything.

And yet, there's more here. There's relief tinged with the knowledge this likely changes little. There's admiration and deep gratitude for our military and intelligence personnel. There's sadness and anger and fear and confusion and everything else that bubbles up whenever I let myself return to 9/11.

This is a solemn and important moment. Thanks to Twitter, it's also been more than a little hilarious. Funny people bonding over their joy and remembered pain caused by one dead terrorist leader. The first people to assemble outside the White House gates sang "We Are the Champions" before diving into a rowdy rendition of the national anthem. This is a country worth fighting for.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Double Down

On this day of royally wedded bliss, my mind wanders to thoughts of inbreeding. But also true love. And the commitment cemented by two willing (so I surmise) adults with good skin and many years of smiling and waving in their future.

I'm also reminded of some advice I once gave a friend who, like many men, could not decide if the one he was with was the one he should always be with. A difficult question fraught with complications.

The idea there is one person in the world we are destined to marry is a fantasy created by romance novels and Hollywood. Like an all-powerful diety in the sky judging us while creating fuzzy bunnies and causing earthquakes and tsunamis, it's nice but a little dangerous to believe in.

I'm as happy as I've ever been. I owe the vast majority of that happiness to my wife. We're as suitable for each other as I could imagine.

And yet there are 6.8 billion people in the world, 311 million in the United States. I took a job in New Jersey only because the one I wanted in Florida didn't come through in time. The girl I married just happened to work there. Fate? Bullshit. Just some good luck. But it's foolish to think if I didn't take that job that I couldn't have moved to Florida or Ohio or Mississippi (well, maybe not Mississippi) and found someone else suitable to marry. Or maybe I would have had to move around a little more before finding someone. Or maybe something else would have happened to lead me to shun marriage. Or to want to wait longer. Or to (I hope not) settle earlier for the wrong person.

Life does what life does. You can't really second-guess decisions while in the middle of making them. And by the time you know the right answer, years have past and there is no going back.

We only get one life. It would be great if I could spend one of them as a newspaper reporter married to a girl from Chicago and another as a touring musician married to the road and another as an organic farmer living off the land with five dogs and a pig. If we're lucky, we might be able to have two or three careers (though usually only excel at one).

Marriage is a little different. People grow old and grow apart. People die early. Some people aren't meant to marry. Men in particular, who seem hard-wired for a different template. I suppose living in a city exacerbates the problem, as you are surrounded by an abundance of possibilities.

It's like Blackjack. Many good relationships at first are like getting dealt 16 against a dealer showing a 7. Sure, you are supposed to hit, but that's a risk. And odds are you're going to bust before you even get to see his hand. But when you're young, you get more hands to play. So it's not necessarily a tragedy if you lose what you've got for the promise of something better. (Of course, in this analogy, you are tossing your hand away the second you decide to see another card. Very hard to keep what you've got while hitting on someone else, trying to reach that perfect hand).

Or maybe you've got something going that's more like 12 against a dealer showing a 4. Some risks are worth more than others. It depends on your mindset. If you like freedom, play it loose. But I think the point is that while you can almost always risk losing something solid for the hope of something better, at some point we all get tired of playing the game. And we settle.

This is a vexed word. Because while settling down -- in a relationship, in a shared home, in a more stable life -- we are also fundamentally settling on the person we're with. Some settle for someone less ideal than they should. This is for others to judge, more than the guy in question. But we ALL settle. There's something less than perfect about every girl on the planet. No matter who we are talking about. Jessica Alba, Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meier, Scarlett Johansson, Maya Angelou, Janine Garofalo, Condoleeza Rice -- whoever -- there is someone who is sick of fucking her. And sick of talking to her. Sick of something about her. But eventually, if they're lucky, someone will settle on her, too.

(The same applies to guys, of course. Likely more so. Guys are scum.)

I'm no one to offer advice or insight. But I suppose what I want to say is that happiness should not be treated lightly. If you don't have it, get it. If you've got it, keep it going. And have faith that -- because you are a kind and thoughtful person -- everything will work out in the end. And that there really is no end, except the very last one, after which nothing really matters anyway.

Music, Music Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

This Bill Wyman piece from Slate last week struck a nerve.

Wyman (no, not that one) discusses the sheer abundance of music currently available on torrent sites, hubs and other nether-regions of the internet. And he muses on the current predicament of latter-day rock snob collectors who no longer hold a monopoly on rare recordings. These days, rarity is more of a state of mind. Almost nothing is difficult to obtain with some searching, the right software and enough cheap storage.

Ever since I got my first cable modem eight years ago, I've been feeding a bottomless habit for bootlegs. There are guys with every single Dead show or every recording from Neil Young's 1976 tour. All for the taking with a click.

In the days I discovered my musical tastes as a teenager, life was different. I can remember scrambling for blank tapes after coming across someone with a decent low-generation collection and painstakingly dubbing them at 2x speed and then -- before I got a cable modem and a computer with a burner -- paying some asshole $75 for a 3 CD Springsteen show.

(The sites I frequent follow strict rules about what people share and how they share it. You can't post anything commercially available. Only stuff that the artists haven't officially released, so you aren't really taking money out of their pockets. And selling stuff that you should be sharing is complete crap. The whole idea is to let the free music flow like water.)

Now, I don't really want it all. Like Wyman writes, Lester Bangs' fantasy of having the worlds' music stacked in his basement makes little sense in 2011. But I do want the best of it all. Complete with artwork and CD cases, which leaves my wife wondering forlornly if every wall of our home will eventually be covered with shelves for music and DVDs. Perhaps.

I can't help myself. Just last year has produced stuff like: pristine Elvis Costello and U2 shows, both evenings of Eric Clapton's 1973 Rainbow Concerts with Pete Townsend, Ronnie Wood and Steve Winwood, an embarrassment of Springsteen material from his earliest forays with Child and Steel Mill to the sick full-album shows that finished up the last tour, Fleetwood Mac from the Rumours tour, Warren Zevon all over the place, Elton John solo and drunk but in full command in Scotland in 1973, Little Feat, REM, The Beatles acoustic demos for the White Album, lots of Lou Reed, even more Van Morrison, just about every worthwhile recording by The Band (including their complete set at Woodstock), Dylan from the earliest folk scene solo gigs to his fervent born-again phase (a lot more interesting than I ever thought it would be) to his grizzled musical rebirth in the late 90s), The Clash, Elvis, Wilco, and so much more I can't remember off the top of my head.

So yeah. Music life is good. And our next place might need a bigger basement.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Regal Beagle

An excellent profile of Andrew Sullivan, the world's best blogger. Better than me, even. Really. Hard to believe, but true.

Blow Job

Is there a more environmentally unfriendly device than a leaf blower?

Probably. Cars and cows come to mind (methane from cow and pig farts trap heat in the atmosphere more than carbon dioxide). But the idea of a dude hauling a backpack full of gasoline just to clean up the yard seems...unnecessary.

Don't get me wrong. Some jobs are too big for a rake. And the leaves and dead branches have to go somewhere or they'll clog our catch basins and whatnot. But walking the dog this morning, I passed a trio of dudes blowing all the winter remnants from yards, across the road to the woods. And then we passed an idling oil truck as the driver filled up someone's home tank with heating oil. Somewhere (I imagine) a cow farted. And I thought to myself: This just seems unsustainable.

I mean, if everyone in China and India continues to want their own cars and hamburgers and steak dinners, something has to give.

Anyway, that's what was on my mind this morning. I'm sure Donald Trump has it all figured out. Though the stuff that comes out of his mouth tends to be even more noxious than pig farts.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Where Can I Find A Woman Like That?

So I understand that Rick Springfield wishes he had Jessie's girl. But I don't know. Maybe it was the feathered hair or the skinny ties. But don't you also get the sense that he's got an unusual interest in Jessie himself? Just asking.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Big Time BS

So we're watching the Kids Choice Awards Saturday night with my 5-year-old niece and there's a popular boy band up for an award. Perhaps you have young children and know about this. But the band is called Big Time Rush.

Now I know kids today have no awareness of New Kids on The Block, much less the legendary Canadian prog-rock band Rush. But shouldn't someone in the corporate music and television world have told the corporate music and television moguls responsible for these pansies that they were co-opting the name a great and important music act?

I mean, really. Big Time Rush? You can't just take a band's name and tack on "Big Time" and then go about your business like this other, much better, band does not exist. Why not just name your boy band Big Time Beatles? Or Big Time Led Zeppelin. Shit, it would be just as bad if you chose Big Time Katrina and The Waves. Is all I'm saying.

Big Time Rush. Please. Next thing you know, they'll start wearing space-age kimonos.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Poor You

Glenn Greenwald dissects the self-pity of billionaires decrying Obamanomics.

I'm not sure I'll every understand why there hasn't been a populist uprising against these phonies.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Metal On Metal On Metal (On Metal)

I picked up this blog again because of all the crap going on the world. Earthquake-tsunami-nuclear meltdown crap. Wars and stuff. A seemingly intractable political divide here at home. The growing chasm between the super-rich and the rest of us. The complete abandonment of the poor.

But fuck all that. Watch "Anvil! The Story of Anvil." Appreciate what you've got and what you might not be destined to get.

The story of a long-suffering Canadian metal band, "Anvil" plays like a cross between "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" and "Spinal Tap." In fact, the documentary has enough peculiar "Tap" references that some reviewers even thought it could be an elaborate hoax. A record producer has gain dials that go to 11. The band visits Stonehenge. The drummer's name is Robb Reiner (with the extra "b").

But this is the kind of stuff that's too strange to be fiction. And there's as much hilarity as heart-rending honesty and inspiration. It's the story of a pair of talented (though I think their music is god-awful, at least it takes some talent to play) Jews from Toronto who love playing their crap music, love their families and love each other. Which leads to all the tension in a career that generates a parade of critical acclaim and plaudits from guys like Lars Ulrich and Slash but nothing to show for it beyond hapless European tours that offer nothing but a poorly-paying vacation from their regular non-musical jobs.

This movie has it all. Hair. Fighting. A surprising lack of drugs. And Steve "Lips" Kudlow plays his guitar with a vibrator.

"Anvil": The feel-good movie of a feel-bad year.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fly Like A Beagle

Nothing like a dog almost too smart for his own good.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


For some reason I've never gotten around to seeing any of Elizabeth Taylor's films. One of several glaring gaps in my film knowledge.

So I can't really praise her acting. And I didn't know her, though by all accounts she was a loving person loved by friends and family. Her charity work certainly deserves plenty of plaudits.

And yet the first thing that sprung to mind when I heard of her death today is her cameo as the voice of Maggie Simpson. And this crass entertainment news magazine video when asked about possibly marrying for the ninth time. Rest in peace, Liz. We all howl at the heavens tonight.

While I Was Away

Hm. It appears I may have missed some stuff this past year. Certainly nothing going on lately I can think of...

Nobody Wins Unless Everyone Wins

"There's something really dangerous happening to us out there. We're slowly getting split up into two different Americas. Things are getting taken away from people that need them and given to people that don't need them, and there's a promise getting broken. In the beginning, the idea was that we all live here a little bit like a family, where the strong can help the weak ones, the rich can help the poor ones. I don't think the American dream was that everybody was going to make it or that everybody was going to make a billion dollars. But it was that everybody was going to have an opportunity and the chance to live a life with some decency and some dignity and a chance for some self respect."

That was Bruce Springsteen, speaking from a stage in Pittsburgh in 1984. Not much has changed. Things got better and then got worse.

Here's a New York Times discussion about how people think (or don't) about the wealth disparity. I find the comments particularly interesting. People get so self-righteous about the working poor.

To me, you don't have to be a bleeding heart to think it's bad that so few people hold so much of the nation's money (and its power and influence and likely an out-sized proportion of its diamond-encrusted tweezers). I mean, doesn't it make sense that a better distribution of wealth would make rich people's fortunes more secure? Poverty and a growing animus toward the filthy rich creates crime, violence and some really horrible television shows. A more equitable society is a more stable society. People with more money have more to lose. Maybe they should pay more for that security? For the same reason it costs more to insure a $1 million house than one worth $50,000.

So how about it, all you shrugging Atlases. Maybe if you see yourself as part of the solution for a better functioning society, you can rest a little easier knowing a spiteful stable boy won't try to jam a Waterford candlestick up your Brazilian Sport Horse's ass.