Ghost Songs

This afternoon I fell into the deep and dark sleep of the the hungover, only to awaken to a cold grey and white grave like early evening.  It looked as much like a dream outside, and a far more nefarious one, than the dream I had just been having on my couch.  Realizing that my dog had not been walked I put on my headphones and headed out the door.  I put on the last two songs from Bash and Pop’s album Friday Night is Killing Me.  Those songs would be Tiny Pieces and First Steps.

What an album!  It is one of those albums that I discovered in a used CD store some years back that has never completely left the rotation.  And yet it is an album so few people know about.  I wonder how many people even own that album?  It was Tommy Stinson’s first album after the breakup of The Replacements.  It is full of loose disheveled rock n roll.  The playing is simply fantastic, especially the guitar playing.  It has so many cool little guitar parts delivered with a ton of feel.  The production is organic and inviting.  It really is one of those great lost rock n roll gems, like if the Faces had some record out there that had escaped release.  It’s not music that will change the world, but it is a record that always manages to change my mood when I am listening to it.  I imagine it does that for other people that have discovered its charms.

It’s funny how the things that can mean so much to us, like dreams, are things that so many other people will never ever know.  How many great albums are out there that we will never hear?  Even more, how many great songs were written that have been lost to the sands of time?   Unlike many other types of art that must be rendered in physical form in the doing, usually songs that make it record often leave behind many other ones that never will.  Shadows and spirits of sound that a songwriter may deliver in their living room, that are swept aside as the times change.  Ghost songs.  Not the songs of the dead, but the songs of the deceased emotion.

Maybe that organization of sound was developed into something better.  A lot of times it is just a numbers game.  You only get the financing to make so many records.  At the time you choose what you think are your best songs, although it can be very hard to judge your own work.  You record them, in a process where so many things can be lost in translation.  Then out of all of the recordings that are made only so many of them find an audience, often having nothing to do with the works validity.  Even for the most popular of artists it can sometimes be a losing game.

Friday Night is Killing Me is one of those records that at least got made, but has been largely forgotten.  It makes no difference, other than maybe in the financial bearing of its creators.  They made something great.  They took a chance and dreamed.  Even if they are few and far between, there are still people out there like me whose souls are warmed by it on a grim afternoon, as if we had suddenly stumbled upon the hearth of a friendly fire after a great storm.

One day you’re stumblin’ around
The next you’re thinkin’ of the town
And the friends that you thought would always be
With old friends come those greetings
That your eyes won’t be meeting
Though your insides want to embrace
You hardly recognize the face
With Chicago round the corner
Baby takes her first step today

Bash and Pop First Steps

The Gospel From Outer Space

I was just reading some of the Kilgore Trout stories from Kurt Vonnegut’s books.  (Vonnegut is one of my favorite writers.)  Kilgore Trout is a science fiction writer that reappears in several of Vonnegut’s books.  Trout is an under-appreciated writer, but other than that the details about him are often slightly different in each book.  Vonnegut often uses Trout to tell short far out science fiction stories that also usually highlight a a truth that Vonnegut wants to convey.  Here is one as an example:

It was The Gospel from Outer Space, by Kilgore Trout. It was about a visitor from outer space, shaped very much like a Tralfamadorian, by the way. The visitor from outer space made a serious study of Christianity, to learn, if he could, why Christians found it so easy to be cruel. He concluded that at least part of the trouble was slipshod storytelling in the New Testament. He supposed that the intent of the Gospels was to teach people, among other things, to be merciful, even to the lowest of the low.

But the Gospels actually taught this:

Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn’t well connected. So it goes.The flaw in the Christ stories, said the visitor from outer space, was that Christ, who didn’t look like much, was actually the Son of the Most Powerful Being of the Universe. Readers understood that, so, when they came to the crucifixion, they naturally thought, and Rosewater read out loud again:
Oh, boy — they sure picked the wrong guy to lynch that time!

And then that thought had a brother: “There are right people to lynch.” Who? People not well connected. So it goes.The visitor from outer space made a gift to Earth of a new Gospel. In it, Jesus really was a nobody, and a pain in the neck to a lot of people with better connections than he had. He still got to say all the lovely and puzzling things he said in the other Gospels.

So the people amused themselves one day by nailing him to a cross and planting the cross in the ground. There couldn’t possibly be any repercussions, the lynchers thought. The reader would have to think that, too, since the new Gospel hammered home again and again what a nobody Jesus was.

And then, just before the nobody died, the heavens opened up, and there was thunder and lightning. The voice of God came crashing down. He told the people that he was adopting the bum as his son, giving him the full powers and privileges of The Son of the Creator of the Universe throughout all eternity. God said this: From this moment on, He will punish horribly anybody who torments a bum who has no connections!

If you want to read more of these stories you can find some of them at the website oocities.org, which is where I found them.  Here is a link:

Kilgore Trout Stories

Cuba, The Interview, and Freedom

My kid brother came to town and on top of it I have been a little under the weather with whatever cold is passing through town.  Because of this posting has been a little slow.  I’ve been paying attention to the news in bits and pieces.

I’m extremely happy that the U.S. establishing a diplomatic relationship with Cuba.  Our policy was outdated and clearly didn’t achieve anything anyway.  I think this is something that will be looked upon well in the history of the Obama Administration.  This is a victory for peace and sanity.  Anything that leads to a more open world where there is at least the chance that people can solve their differences through conversation is a good thing.

On the other end of the spectrum the whole thing surrounding the movie The Interview is mind boggling.  Did we really allow a movie to not be released because of fear of what might happen?  It kind of reminds me of the whole take your shoes off at the airport thing.  I have traveled a lot in recent years and we are the only country that I have been to that makes you take your shoes off at the airport.  One time someone had explosives in their shoes that didn’t even go off, and we are forever allowing ourselves to be hassled by it.  I think we need to have a serious conversation about freedom in this country.  The word freedom is too often a mask for allowing stupidity to run ramped.  If you want to live in a free and open society you have to allow for a certain manageable amount of risk.  We’ll allow ourselves to be scared into taking our shoes off at the airport when the odds of you dying in a suicide attack are slim and none.  We’ll allow ourselves to be scared into limiting free expression, yes even if it is goofy comedy.  Meanwhile we’ll shout freedom driving down the road in a giant vehicle while pumping pollutants into the air, which over the long run is proven to harm a lot more people in real and tangible ways.  We champion freedom when the results actually hurt other people and run scared when the things that actually constitute what freedom should be about are challenged.

Conservatives Grudgingly Praise Warren, Pelosi For Opposing ‘Wall Street Giveaway’

Conservatives Grudgingly Praise Warren, Pelosi For Opposing ‘Wall Street Giveaway’

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/16/elizabeth-warren-conservatives-_n_6334528.html

Even if they only picked off a couple, this is exactly the kind of thing Democrats need to be doing.  They need to be using populist language.  Even more so they need to be trying to past populist legislation and instill their words with true integrity and meaning.  Thank heavens Elizabeth Warren is speaking out. 

The Transcendent Quality of Music

I have remarked before that 12 Years a Slave is one of the best movies that I have seen in awhile.  It is not only expertly crafted and conveys its central story with incredible emotional impact, but it also has lots of ideas and themes permeating its margins.  There is a scene in the movie that is of true power where the slaves on the plantation sing Roll Jordan Roll.  This comes at a particularly harrowing point in the movie.  In this scene, especially in the context of the movie, one is made to feel how music allows one to transcend suffering to a degree.  It does not negate suffering, but simply allows one to carry on in the face of it.  Music is not only a source of joy, but also, like all good art should do, allows one to spiritually transcend the human mud of life.  It can allow one to exorcise those emotions that would otherwise tear them apart from the inside.

Elizabeth Warren Takes On Wall Street

Above is a speech by Elizabeth Warren, someone that genuinely seems to have the interest of the American people at heart.  I have paid attention to Warren since she first came into mainstream view a couple years ago.  She has remained consistent in her message.  If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, here is a key part of the speech as also quoted by Huffington Post:

Democrats don’t like Wall Street bailouts. Republicans don’t like Wall Street bailouts. The American people are disgusted by Wall Street bailouts

And yet here we are, five years after Dodd-Frank with Congress on the verge of ramming through a provision that would do nothing for the middle class, do nothing for community banks, do nothing but raise the risk that taxpayers will have to bail out the biggest banks once again…

So let me say this to anyone who is listening at Citi[group]. I agree with you Dodd-Frank
isn’t perfect. It should have broken you into pieces!

If this Congress is going to open up Dodd-Frank in the months ahead, then let’s open it up
to get tougher, not to create more bailout opportunities. If we’re going to open up Dodd-Frank, let’s open it up so that once and for all we end too big to fail and I mean really end it, not just say that we did.

Instead of passing laws that create new bailout opportunities for too big to fail banks, let’s pass…something…that would help break up these giant banks.

A century ago Teddy Roosevelt was America’s Trust-Buster. He went after the giant trusts
and monopolies in this country, and a lot of people talk about how those trust deserved to be broken up because they had too much economic power. But Teddy Roosevelt said we should break them up because they had too much political power. Teddy Roosevelt said break them up because all that concentrated power threatens the very foundations up our democratic system.

And now we’re watching as Congress passes yet another provision that was written by lobbyists for the biggest recipient of bailout money in the history of this country. And its attached to a bill that needs to pass or else we entire federal government will grind to a halt.

Think about that kind of power. If a financial institution has become so big and so powerful
that it can hold the entire country hostage. That alone is reason enough to break them up.

Enough is enough.

Enough is enough with Wall Street insiders getting key position after key position and the kind
of cronyism that we have seen in the executive branch. Enough is enough with Citigroup passing 11th hour deregulatory provisions that nobody takes ownership over but everybody will come to regret. Enough is enough

Washington already works really well for the billionaires and the big corporations and the lawyers and the lobbyists.

But what about the families who lost their homes or their jobs or their retirement savings the last time Citigroup bet big on derivatives and lost? What about the families who are living paycheck to paycheck and saw their tax dollars go to bail out Citi just 6 years ago?

We were sent here to fight for those families. It is time, it is past time, for Washington to start working for them!

New York City Tips and Etiquette

New York City Tips and Etiquette

The above link is a set of cartoons giving tips and explaining etiquette in NYC.  Some of them are pretty good.  A few of them apply to any crowded city.  The slow walkers that walk side by side are my personal pet peeve.

I remember going to a conference with my family in NYC when I was younger and someone teaching me how to walk in the city so that no one would bother you.  Basically you walk like you have somewhere to be staring directly ahead.  I’ve used it in tourist spots throughout the world where panhandlers and street artists try to get your attention every step and they rarely bother me.

I love living in the South.  However, when I have somewhere I need to be on time, I sometimes miss the no bullshit of the North East.