Thursday, August 27, 2009


Today's Top 10

Political Science-Randy Newman
Town Without Pity-Gene Pitney
Nervous Breakdown-Eddie Cochran
Sympathy for the Devil-the Rolling Stones
Dignity-Bob Dylan
Highway 61-Bob Dylan
Born in Chicago-Paul Butterfield Blues Band
I Can Never Go Home Anymore-the Shangri-La's
Dirty Water-the Standells
Eugene-Greg Brown

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Decency, Dignity and the Religious Wrong

This is an open question to Ann Coulter. Paraphrasing Joseph Welch, Have you no sense of decency?

What is that thing around your neck? What does it stand for? defines Christian as someone "decent; respectable." Ted Kennedy hadn't been dead for 12 hours when Ann railed on about Mary Jo Kopechne and Chappaquiddick on the Lars Larsen show. She went on to talk about how much damage Ted had caused the country. She nor any of her followers should use "religious" as a prefix to right. They are neither. They are despicable. There will be time enough to badmouth Senator Kennedy, but, my God, let his mortal body cool first.

Perhaps Sarah Palin's Death Panels are a good idea after all. Let Coultergeist go before them first. She needs to be put out of my misery.

Oh, and who airbrushed your Adam's apple out of the picture?

And, speaking of Lars Larsen (what kind of a name is that? Have you no imagination? Did your parents name you that? Are you a Scandinavian inbred mistake? Oh, I could go on). I call him a clown visually, but that is being kind. He is as evil as the rest of the right wing-nut talk-show hosts, who host nothing but hate. After Coultergeist signed off, Lars took calls from his rabid audience. One of them called to label Ted Kennedy a murderer. Lars warned the caller off that by talking out of both sides of his mouth. In essence, he agreed. He asked his listeners to think of the Kopechne family. What was it... 47 years in the senate, and all they can come up with is bile about Mary Jo Kopechne? No one will argue the point that that was a dark moment in Teddy's life and he did not man up. By the same token, he just died. You are dancing on a grave that has yet to be dug! The next caller demanded the impeachment of President Obama and Vice-President Biden... oh, and while I'm on a roll, throw in the Speaker of the House.

Where do you go from here? To paraphrase another great American, put some bleachers out in the sun and have it all out on Highway 61...

This one's for Ann...

Fat man lookin' in a blade of steel
Thin man lookin' at his last meal
Hollow man lookin' in a cottonfield
For dignity

Wise man lookin' in a blade of grass
Young man lookin' in the shadows that pass
Poor man lookin' through painted glass
For dignity

Somebody got murdered on New Year's Eve
Somebody said dignity was the first to leave
I went into the city, went into the town
Went into the land of the midnight sun

Searchin' high, searchin' low
Searchin' everywhere I know
Askin' the cops wherever I go
Have you seen dignity?

Blind man breakin' out of a trance
Puts both his hands in the pockets of chance
Hopin' to find one circumstance
Of dignity

I went to the wedding of Mary-lou
She said "I don't want nobody see me talkin' to you"
Said she could get killed if she told me what she knew
About dignity

I went down where the vultures feed
I would've got deeper, but there wasn't any need
Heard the tongues of angels and the tongues of men
Wasn't any difference to me

Chilly wind sharp as a razor blade
House on fire, debts unpaid
Gonna stand at the window, gonna ask the maid
Have you seen dignity?

Drinkin' man listens to the voice he hears
In a crowded room full of covered up mirrors
Lookin' into the lost forgotten years
For dignity

Met Prince Phillip at the home of the blues
Said he'd give me information if his name wasn't used
He wanted money up front, said he was abused
By dignity

Footprints runnin' cross the silver sand
Steps goin' down into tattoo land
I met the sons of darkness and the sons of light
In the bordertowns of despair

Got no place to fade, got no coat
I'm on the rollin' river in a jerkin' boat
Tryin' to read a note somebody wrote
About dignity

Sick man lookin' for the doctor's cure
Lookin' at his hands for the lines that were
And into every masterpiece of literature
for dignity

Englishman stranded in the blackheart wind
Combin' his hair back, his future looks thin
Bites the bullet and he looks within
For dignity

Someone showed me a picture and I just laughed
Dignity never been photographed
I went into the red, went into the black
Into the valley of dry bone dreams

So many roads, so much at stake
So many dead ends, I'm at the edge of the lake
Sometimes I wonder what it's gonna take
To find dignity

Oh, and David-- thank you for getting this far. But don't bother. There is no other side to this. It's not about right or left anymore. It's about decent and indecent. Nero is rosining up his bow. It's getting uglier out there...

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Okay. I'm ignoring all the NO TRESPASSING signs and going in. I know better. I should know better. I know I should just leave it alone. Even festering, puss-filled venereal sores heal. For that matter, I should know better than to hit the button on the radio and tune in. But here's how it is: the music on the FM is either classic rock or indecipherable, undistinguishable, semi-emo crap. I may be an old fart but I do remember when hook-laden rock was king and a song could grab you on the first listen. Ain't that way no more. I had Dylan's latest in the car as well as the new Wilco CD. But I turned on the AM radio. I could listen to Air America, but you know what? Liberal talk radio is fairly boring. So there's God radio or Latin accordion music. I tuned to 860. At the time of the day I turned it on, Michael Savage was on. There's another station that carries Rush. Now, you know, Rush is actually fairly entertaining. He's an overweight, prescription-pill addled loudmouth, but he's a bit hard to take seriously. Savage, on the other hand, scares the living breathing out of me. Could his name be more appropriate? He is a very angry man. Look at that picture. He looks learned and contemplative. The countenance of a nice Jewish boy named Michel Weiner. Uh-unh. This savage is filled with hate. He calls himself conservative, but that word has lost all meaning. There's nothing conservative about him./ He's radical, borderline psychotic. A killer with a microphone and transmission tower instead of a gun and bullets.

Today's tirade was composed pretty much of him peddling his new book, Banned in Britain. Buy a copy and buy one for your friends. Not a suggestion, but an implored directive, as in, buy it or I'll have my rottweiler rip your lungs out. Only he has a metrosexual poodly thing.

Now I remember when he got put on the list. He was contrite, crying crocodile tears and bemoaning the fact that he was being forbidden from the land of bad teeth and worse cuisine. And besides, who the hell wants to go? Well, he has changed his discordant tune. Imagine, he spits out, of all the horrors, a right-wing, conservative talk show host being banned from the UK. It's like the Third Reich is on his sorry ass. Really. He's playing the Nazi card, which has become quite fashionable of late. But it got worse. Where, he asked, is the right wing? Why aren't they standing up for him? Where is the decency? And, for that matter, where are the Jews? There hasn't been a rabbi or a Jewish organization to support me? This coming from a man who was born of Russian Jewish blood and has disavowed/denied his roots. This country, he rants, is a Christian country. How dare the British Empire ban him from their country? They have injured his reputation and emotions. So he says. He is scarred and damaged. Then he went on to rail on about the white man. Why do you think there is extreme fighting? The white man is mad! Grrrr. There's going to be a revolution. The white man will arise. All that was missing was a goose-step and brown-shirt. I would like to say he's pathetic. But the angry bile he spews is like a horrifically bloody accident. I can't help but slow down and take a gander. I can't turn away. I am repulsed and fascinated. Savage/Weiner is privileged to live in this country. Anywhere else and he would have been ripped to shreds by the proletariat and ruling class alike long ago. He is a disease that passes on his lethal illness daily. He hosts an infectious disease, not a talk show.


What exactly is a talk-show host? What do they host? There are no guests. Doc Savage is, as some raise, is nothing more than the name of a bronze comic book hero. This clown has a doctorate in nutritional ethnomedicine. What? He majored in matzo balls? Fried chicken? Tacos? He's as much of a doctor as, say, Laura Ingram, who, by the way, has the eighth among most-listened-to radio programs in the country. Savage is number three. Number three! And who is number one? Comedian Rush Limbaugh. Now, how many Americans are in on the jokes, and how many buy into this stuff? I love the fact that he broadcasts from one of the most liberal cities in the country. Mayor Newsome should have him pulled out of the broadcast booth, strapped into a cab to SFO and shipped non-stop direct to Gitmo. He is worse than any terrorist already there. He has more power, that is for sure. Savage is an unabashed racist and hate generator. He is a moron baiter. And yes, I will listen again.

There. I feel better now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Another Passing, almost passed by

William Paul Borsey Jr., aka Willy DeVille passed away almost two weeks ago. I saw an all too brief obit in Rolling Stone. He was 58 and died from pancreatic cancer. His passing should not go by unnoticed. I was a fan of his first album and really like his last. There's a lot in between...

Since learning of his passing, I have done a bit of reading about Willy and a lot of listening to his music. He was an awesome talent-- committed, tormented and creative as all hell. He was a junkie for about twenty years. I don't know whether or not the HepC was a direct or indirect result. Doctors discovered the pancreatic cancer while treating him for the hepatitis. There is a thorough bio on him on Wikipedia (

Willy and his band, Mink Deville, was the house band at CBGB as punk was coming into its own. But Willy was no punk. He passed himself off, with almost frightening conviction, as a Puerto Rican style greaser, like a nastier lead in West Side Story. In the beginning, he had a pompadour and pencil thin moustache. His voice sounded like Ronnie Spector's brother–Southside Johnny with with an almost frightening conviction. There is an infusion of Brill Building melodrama blended with Lou Reed uptown storytelling. (Listen to "Mixed Up Shook Up Girl" from Cabretta). His collaborations with artists, writers and producers reads like a seminal history of rock 'n roll, from Doc Pomus to Jack Nietzsche, Dr. John to Mark Knopfler. In the course of his career he went through a bunch of changes, but throughout, he stayed true to himself and his talent, both as a singer and songwriter. He could be tough macho, Crow Jane roots or tender as, well... listen to the theme from Princess Bride. That tender.

Willy DeVille/Mandy Patinkin

Monday, August 17, 2009

Feeding Frenzy

I took a bunch of exposures of this scene, both with my DSLR and a macro lens and the G9. This one is with the G9, set on macro. Focal length was 22.0mm and the flash didn't fire, accounting for the blurred action. I like this one. The clarity of some of the others is just too gruesome. It's kind of like the dark side of the Discovery Channel. I usually post my photos on my other blog (, but I figured this one has broader appeal. Ugh.

I had no idea yellow-jackets fed on dead birds. It did indeed appear as a frenzy. I think one of the cats, probably Charles, began the mayhem. There was a dead rodent close by, but the bees showed little interest. The morning should bring another ghastly revelation. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Who is the bigger fool? The fool who leads or the fool that follows?

re: Inherent Vice by "Thomas Pynchon"

To very loosely reinterpret what Samuel Johnson said, hardboiled crime fiction is the last refuge to which a has-been writer clings.

The jig is up. The joke is on them. The genre withstands the alleged satire, and I, as one of the true believers, ain't buying it. Thomas Pynchon is a myth. A mere resurrection of Penelope Ashe perpetrated by J.D. Salinger.

I realize I am professing to be no more clever nor knowledgeable than those glass-house critics who judge a work before viewing or reading it, but, hey, if anyone told you life was fair and balanced, they were probably talking from the lofty and unreal climbs of Fox News.

But now is not the time for me to lay down my theory of crime fiction. It would take to long and put both of you to sleep. Suffice it to say, Raymond Chandler was a brilliant writer, and an inebriated, insecure kvetch, who, among other things, complained that his work wasn't taken seriously as literature. He should be smiling from the netherworld to know that the New American Library eventually thought differently. But crime fiction, hardboiled, noir, pulp or whatever you wish to call it, is nothing more than dimestore entertainment that more often than not delves into the dark recesses of the human psyche. To spoof it or to use it as a platform for satirical cleverness is to miss the point. The clumsy, moralistic writing of David Goodis or Cornell Woolrich is low art at its best. There are precious few passages in Michael Chabon's Yiddish Policemen's Union that approached the breezy pathos of the genre . But he, like Pynchon are, by nature and definition, antithetical to the genre. "Literature," with a capitol "L" should not mess with the truth. Leave that to the dimestore pulp writers. Hammett, Chandler and MacDonald did not write literature. Thank God for that.

* * *

The next day: I got up on my feet and went over to the bowl in the corner and threw water on my face. After a little while I felt a little better, but very little. I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun.

That's Marlowe talking. Phillip Marlowe, who usually worked for twenty-five dollars a day plus expenses, expenses being mostly booze and gas. It all pretty much sounds like the stuff of bad cliché movie-talk. Gumshoes and floozies. Tough guys with iron and strong arms with too few brains. But it's the real deal. Raymond Chandler was a bitter, frustrated man, who failed in business and married a much older woman. He's also one of the greatest American writers to have pecked at a typewriter.

This Pynchon thing bothers me and not just because I list being a curmudgeon as one of my personality traits. I may yet read Inherent Vice. The reviews, after all, call it Pynchon's most readable book. And that may be saying something. I have tried to read his previous work. Rare is the day I put down a book unfinished. Maybe I'm being too damned simplistic, but isn't the purpose of writing books to have them read? Why write impenetrable, unresolved fiction? Why test the reader's patience and power of concentration? And, why live in seclusion and mystery, as an enigma wrapped in a riddle? The Salinger routine is not onliy passé, it was burst wide open by Joyce Maynard, a great writer of limited output, by the way. In this age of confessional memoirs being found out as just so much whole cloth and characters like the once lauded JT LeRoy, what does Pynchon hide from? Does his scarcity from the public eye make him more of a LITERARY character? The word is in caps, and should be in lights. Hey, DeLillo hasn't been heard from for a while, maybe he'll take a stab at the genre-- a pastiche of the world of the private eye. Charles Bukowski wrote a book called Pulp, that was dedicated to "bad writitng." It was a send-up of... you guessed it... pulp fiction. It started off with promise and then degenerated into... bad writing.The only writers that have improved upon Chandler are those that have taken the genre seriously. James Ellroy once said that the first modern crime novel wasDostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. It certainly has most of the elements. In addition to the title is the dark tone and tortured. Fear, desperation and anguish fill the story of a murder and a murderer. Raskolnikov's tale could lead one directly to Jim Thompson's Killer Inside Me. Ultimately, I am bothered because I like the genre so much. I don't particularly like it mocked or demeaned. Reviewers have called Inherent Vice a parody. Others have called it "stoner noir." Go to the source. No one wrote crime fiction better than Chandler.

And on a remotely related point, the cover article on today's New York Times Magazine is about the new Beatles' Rockband-video game. Why do I think William Gibson is suddenly become more relevant? Talk amongst yourselves. I'll get back to this one...

* * *

From the August 23, 2009 New York Times Review of Books:

Thomas Pynchon’s “Inherent Vice” — a psychedelic homage to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler set in the last days of hippie-era Los Angeles, after the Manson murders have spoiled the vibe... Some readers will tire of this high nonsense, however, despite its skillful orchestration and period authenticity. Pothead humor, whatever its guilty pleasures, hasn’t evolved much over the last half century, and what was once its charming wackiness has succumbed to orthodoxy. It still relies on vast epiphanies aroused by fleeting trivialities and suddenly interrupted by junk-food cravings. One minute all the great puzzles have been solved, especially those that never puzzled anyone, and the next moment everyone’s pigging out on carbs and lighting their cigarettes from the wrong end.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A word or two for Lester

Les Paul has passed on, but Les Paul will never die. Not as long as there are guitar gods and the upstarts that worship them. Jimmy Page and Joe Perry. Beatle George and Jeff Beck. Keef and EC. Slash and T-Rex. Michael Bloomfield and Freddie King. Pete Townsend and Billy Gibbons. And on and on. The obits have been written. At 94, they were no doubt waiting in the memories of desktops for the day. Well, the day came yesterday. I need not reiterate the chronology and the highlights of a life filled with highlights, from "How High the Moon" to the Monday night gigs at the Iridium in New York. Funny, but damned near every picture I could find of Les, he was smiling. It really seemed like he got a kick out of life. And, why not? Here's a guy who invented the solid body guitar, or so they say. He took a 4X4 and electrified it, adding two halves of an acoustic guitar on either side, to make it look more conventional. They called it "the log" and it changed the way we make music. His namesake Gibson is both iconic and definitive. If you had to distill modern music to two people, I would put the money on Les and Leo. Les Pauls weigh a ton. The originals had chunky necks and caused more than one chiropractor appointment. But man, that sustain... the richness, and the power. Leo fitted the Stratocasters with the distinctive single-coils... hum is part of the charm. But strap on a Les Paul and crank up those humbuckers to eleven and conduct the current like a God. Eric wanted to emulate Freddie King. In the Bluesbreakers, he traded in his Tele for the LP, plugged it into a Marshall combo and turned that sucker up to the max. Then Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac followed suit, joining John Mayall's Bluesbreakers after Eric, and the baton was passed on...

Truth be told. I am more of a Fender guy. Call it a function of comfort and affordability. Gibson Les Pauls are beyond the pocketbooks of most mortals. The Michael Bloomfield reissue goes for a cool ten grand. Ouch. And then there is the fact that the Les Pauls are not as versatile as the Strats. They are more demanding and more virtuosic. They are lead instruments. I can strum a Strat, play it like Buddy Holly or thrash out chords like Keef on a Tele. The Les Paul stings. It pierces through the rhythm and takes over when need be. When all is said and done, Les Pauls are what we all aspire to play and play well. They have been copied, but never duplicated... just like the man they are named for.

So long, Les. Plug in and play out. Hit the echoplex and double track it. Say hello to Mary... and keep smiling.