The Zero Theorem Trailer

This is the trailer for the new Terry Gilliam film The Zero Theorem.  I simply can’t wait to see this.  With movies like Time Bandits, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Brazil, and Tideland, Terry Gilliam is one of the few cinematic geniuses of our time.  I remember walking out of Tideland,even not knowing quite what to make of it at first, being completely excited, because I knew I had seen something unlike anything I’d seen before. He is a true artist who is able paint in dreams and nightmares with equal ability.  

It’s Only Tuesday I’m Afraid

The poets have been castrated
And now they just play for scraps
Meanwhile the golden child
Gets blown while going in the black

It’s grotesque and it’s insulting
It’s decadent and inhumane
But it’s only Tuesday
I’m afraid

The painters have all been hired
By the advertising agencies
To paint Vincent van Goghs
For the drug companies

It’s grotesque and it’s insulting
It’s decadent and inhumane
But it’s only Tuesday
I’m afraid

Some clown just ate a spider
Now they’re throwing him a parade
Some slut is crying for the camera
While swimming naked in champagne

It’s grotesque and it’s insulting
It’s decadent and inhumane
But it’s only Tuesday
I’m afraid

Having fun in Boise, Idaho 8/19/2014

The Police As Soldiers

More Fergusons are coming: Why para-military hysteria is dooming America http://www.salon.com/2014/08/18/more_fergusons_are_coming_why_para_military_hysteria_is_dooming_america/ via @Salon

On the road today.  Going on tour in Idaho and Montana.  Check out the schedule at http://www.shinyribs.org.  While I am traveling this Salon article does a pretty good job at laying out some of the reasons that our police often look like soldiers when handling a crisis such as the one in Ferguson.  

At the Doctor’s Office

At the doctor’s office
Warm earth tones
And serene posters
Try to distract you
From the intrusive instruments
Waiting to poke and prod
Muzak is playing
But it’s not Muzak
It’s the latest hits
From the top of the charts
No wonder we’re such a sick nation
When this less than meaningless
Benign clap trap
They call music
Is what the masses use
To sooth the soul
Is the recording industry
Run by the CIA
To deaden the will of the population
So that businesses
Have empty vessels
In which to fill with their slogans?
Or do people simply prefer
Vanilla emotions
So that they don’t have to question
The state of things?
My blood pressure goes up
And I feel more ill
Then when I entered

Austin, Texas 8/18/2014

The Movie Locke and The Morality of Telling the Truth

‘Mastery of small, telling gestures’: Tom Hardy as a man who goes awol in Locke.

Warning – There are some small spoilers for the movie Locke in this piece.  However, there is nothing that gives anything away that should spoil the ending or your enjoyment of the movie.  

Last night I saw the movie Locke starring Tom Hardy.  I knew very little about the film before I saw it, other than it was a one man show where Hardy spends the entire movie in a car, and what little I thought I knew outside of that was wrong.  For some reason I thought that it had something to do with crime, but it did not. I thought I was renting a criminal thriller, although one with a unique premise, but the movie, although it kept you on your seat the way a thriller does, was way more interesting and unique than your typical thriller.  

The movie is a story of a man that makes a moral mistake in his life, the only one from what we can tell, but a big one.  He has gotten a woman pregnant that he barely knows.  He is in charge of large concrete construction jobs and after finishing one of his buildings he sleeps with the woman after they share two bottles of wine.  His reason for sleeping with this woman is that she is a very sad person, who has a very lonely and unfulfilling life, and he feels bad for her.  However this act and all other characters are never seen.  We only know what is going on in the title character’s life, Ivan Locke, because of conversations he has on his car phone on the way to the hospital on the night this woman is to give birth.  

The character of Locke is not only married, but also has a historical concrete pour set to take place the next day.  He decides that it is the right thing to do to be by this woman’s side as she has a baby, because it is his mistake that it is being brought into the world.  He has to inform his family that he will not be home and his coworkers that he will not be at the concrete pour.  This is what the drama of the movie comes from.  It seems like a very simple story, but it is completely captivating.  

One of the things motivating Locke is that he never knew his father until he was in his 20’s.  He despises his father as he has a bunch of one man imaginary conversations with his father about how he wants to be a better man than him.  He doesn’t want the baby to grow up not knowing who he is.  

At the center of this film is a series of moral questions about what happens when we tell the truth.  Locke decides to be truthful with everyone involved.  Will he be ultimately rewarded or punished for telling the truth?  Does telling the truth matter more than the possibility of either the reward or punishment?  Is Locke acting morally when he tells his wife about what he has done, or is he destroying his family and causing unneeded pain?  

This is a film that could be discussed in a philosophy class, but it never seems like it while you are watching it.  It has the pace and excitement of a thriller.  It could be a one man play, but the cinematography and the music are highly cinematic and compelling.  I couldn’t help but think of other movies that have beautiful shot night sequences like Heat, Lost In Translation, or Drive.  

Tom Hardy is simply one of the best actors living and breathing today.  He is always able to transform himself completely into whatever character he is playing.  Watch him in Bronson, Warrior, or this movie and you will see a completely different and believable character on the screen.  Although there is no doubt that the writing and directing are absolutely superb in this movie, it says a lot that his performance, at the center of the film, is completely captivating.  

Whether you come to this movie to view it as a very well done piece of entertainment, or are looking for something deeper, I have no doubt that it will be worth your time.  

Mother Night

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I’ve been thinking about my gig at the Redneck Country Club which I mentioned in a previous post called A Late Encounter With the Idiot.  Basically if you haven’t read that, or don’t have time to read it, I played a gig at a club owned by conservative talk show host Michael Berry.  It got me thinking the long ways around about Kurt Vonnegut’s extremely powerful Mother Night.  Both the novel and the movie version, unlike most movies of Vonnegut’s work, are worth checking out.  

Mother Night is the story of an American, Howard Campbell Jr., and his role as a Nazi propagandist.  Campbell meets a member of the U.S. War Department before the beginning of World War II and is asked to work as a double agent.  Campbell agrees and as his cover he becomes a radio host that tries to persuade Americans over to the Nazi’s cause.  Campbell’s decision to take on this role slowly cause his life to crumble around him.  

I first found out about Mother Night by catching the movie version, starring Nick Nolte, on TV one night.  I didn’t know what it was, but it was like watching a car crash in slow motion as things descend further and further into despair.  Unlike most Vonnegut works this one has very little humor, aside from some things like the character of The Black Fuhrer. (pictured above)  However, this is a compelling story because it asks many relevant moral questions for our times.  

As one thinks about Glen Beck, Michael Berry, Rush Limbaugh, one cannot help but ask if these people are true believers or if they are at least partially playing a role for whatever reason.  There are many things that make one think that at least Rush is partly playing a role.  However, it matters not.  The moral of Mother Night, which is actually given to the reader in the introduction to the book is:  “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

Oboe Concerto

Many of you liked the unofficial video for Morrissey’s World Peace is None of Your Business.  Here is an excellent one for Oboe Concerto by Sharon Jheeta, who is the same person that did the last one.  I found this thanks to http://www.true-to-you.net, which is Morrissey’s official website.  Oboe Concerto is the fitting final to Morrissey’s excellent new album.  

P.S. I read that Richard Strauss was asked to compose an oboe concerto by an American soldier after World War II. 

Knockin’ On Mine

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Alright, you read common knowledge, stockpile your brain
You get burned in the sun, you get wet in the rain
What they teach you to fix, needs to be broke
I say, he who laughs first didn’t get the joke
Go on, untap your mind, quit knocking on mine

An English teacher from Vancouver
She asked me to write something for her students
I wrote knowledge adds, wisdom let slide
She says now really? I wanna tap your mind

Quit knockin’ on mine
Walkin’ on
Knockin’ on mine

Knowledge is power, got your books go read ‘em
Wisdom is ignorance, stupidity, I call freedom
Knockin’ on mine, get out

Comic books, the Bible, road maps, pornography
Anything you wanna read
Go out and sit in a field sometime

Quit knockin’ on mine
(Knockin’ on mine)
Quit knockin’ on mine
(Knockin’ on mine)

Power got your books go read ‘em
Wisdom is ignorance, stupidity, I call freedom
Quit knockin’ on mine
(Knockin’ on mine)

You read common knowledge every day
You’re as common as that newspaper you throw away
You get burned in the sun, you get wet in the rain
Won’t you ever change, won’t you ever learn?

Quit knockin’ on mine
(Knockin’ on mine)

Knockin’ On Mine by Paul Westerberg.  I remember hearing this song when I was around 13 or 14 and being surprised that there was a rock n roll song about reading, one that actually rocked no less.  I was used to the songs that were on the radio that were about having fun and partying all of the time.  As I grow older I realize that it’s ideas that are most subversive of all.  Anyone just singing about whiskey all of the time is selling you fake rebellion.  

A Late Encounter With the Idiot

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I’ve seen horrors… horrors that you’ve seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that… but you have no right to judge me. It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror… Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies! I remember when I was with Special Forces… seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn’t see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember… I… I… I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn’t know what I wanted to do! And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it… I never want to forget. And then I realized… like I was shot… like I was shot with a diamond… a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, my God… the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand that these were not monsters, these were men… trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love… but they had the strength… the strength… to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men, our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral… and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling… without passion… without judgment… without judgment! Because it’s judgment that defeats us.

- Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now

The reason I am starting with the above quote will become clear later.  Last night I had the extreme displeasure of playing The Redneck Country Club in Stafford, Texas.  I want to make it clear this was not because of its patrons or staff, as the staff were very kind to me and the crowd was a mixture of people, but because of the owner:  conservative radio talk show host Michael Berry.  

I also believe as entertainers that one should play for any audience as long as one does not rubber stamp an audience’s worst tendencies or ignorant political positions.  There were people in the crowd last night that I know and who I am sure do not share Berry’s political views.  However, even the people that do, it is possible that art may, at its best, change them, and at its worst relieve them of the daily pain of being a human being for a few hours.  We can’t know their life experience and how they arrived at such closed minded political positions.  Possibly they are even kind to people in their real lives, and are just fans of an idiot.  Unless you have committed a crime, or have the power to influence people, I try not to judge people other then based on my own individual experience with them.  My main distaste for playing the club was not only that it was owned by Michael Berry, but that it seemed to be a brand extension of his radio show.  I didn’t like playing a place where people might think that I agreed with his often disgusting and moronic political positions.  

I did not know quite what I was getting into last night.  I simply showed up like I would to any gig, not aware that Michael Berry owned the club, or not even completely aware of who Michael Berry was.  

During soundcheck I started to see signs that I was not in Kansan anymore.  (Although, being how conservative Kansas is, I possibly could have been in Kansas.)  First even if Berry wasn’t conservative, it is clear that he is a supreme egoist.  His venue was full of pictures of the man.  Now I’m not talking pictures of a club owner with famous musicians or whatever, as is often common in the club world.  I am talking about giant posters of Berry hocking his various products.  Also, when his radio show came on, the club decided to pump it into the place at concert volume.  Make no mistake, at every moment you were supposed to be aware that Michael Berry owned the club, and that this club was again part of the Michael Berry brand. 

Let me give those of you that don’t know who Michael Berry is a taste of his brand.  Throughout the club there were bumper stickers that said, I shit you not:

Micheal Berry
Country Fried – Southern Pride – On Your Side

‘Merica

This was all printed over a confederate flag.  Also, while listening to his show, which I couldn’t have avoided unless I put an ice pick in my ear, he kept referring to his audience as “white people”.  I should also note two other things.  When I walked into the club there was an exact replica of the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazard.  The other being that there were all kinds of dumbass slogans strung up around the bar like “The 2nd Amendment – The First Version of Homeland Security.”  

While I was at soundcheck a very in the know Houstonian messaged me and told me that I was, “playing the most racist club that I will ever play.”  

How did i justify playing such a place?  Trust me, i thought many times over about getting in my car and driving straight back to Austin.  However, I decided that one should experience everything once.  People that had bought tickets and were coming out were possibly coming out to see us and in no way supported Michael Berry, and even people that supported him may have some kind of artistic experience that might slightly alter the way that they view the world. (We do plenty of covers of black artists, one of our horn players is Mexican, and one of our horn players always wears a Rasta hat.)  I decided that if Michael Berry was going to be giving me money, I would use it to spend a day not working and writing about what a dumbass he was.  I also decided last night I would give some of the money to a charity that is in direct political opposition to something Michael Berry believes in.  

Now despite all of these troubling signs all around me, both literally and metaphorically, the staff was actually very kind to us.  Other than the clueless man that I saw wearing a Ted Cruz for President t-shirt, I have no way of knowing if these people were actually believing the bullshit that was around them, or were just Americans that were hard up for money and needed a job.  Even if they were died in the wool believers, I don’t believe that they would have been mean to anyone of a different race.  If the club had hired a group of black blues musicians I still believe they would have been treated kindly.  Often people that hate the “other” have enough cognitive dissonance going on in their brain to allow their hate to exist on some imaginary plane that effects their voting and what they talk about in private, but not their face to face behavior with other human beings.  Don’t get me wrong there is a certain percentage of these people that are just extremely hateful, but most of them are just hard up looking to blame someone else for their problems.  They are preyed upon by people like Berry to hate the “other” instead of focusing their anger on the corporations and leaders that are fucking them up the ass every day.  People like Berry rely on corporations to sponsor his behavior.  

Now this is where things get strange.  While spending time in my car, to avoid spending any more time in this bar than I had to, I did some research on Michael Berry.  Apparently he has an Indian wife and two black sons.  Now this is someone that is often anti-immigrant and who takes shots at minorities on his radio show.  How do you square the two things?  The first being that Michael Berry, if he is a true believer, is really attacking not minorities because he is an across the board racist, but because he must be able to view them in different categories.  There are the ones that are American and upstanding, and the ones that are destroying the America that he loves.  Basically he dislikes the poor ones.  There is no greater sin in America then being poor.  If he is not an true believer then he is simply gaming his audience because being a conservative talk show host is highly lucrative.  I am unwilling to guess what goes on inside Berry’s head, but being that his bar was filled with posters of himself hocking products…you get the idea…

And this is where the Kurtz quote comes into play.  Although I believe that there is a certain amount of gaming going on with his audience, I also believe that he is someone that loves his family and in some way thinks he is doing good things for the community.  Much like Kurtz, but in a much stupider way, he is embracing the evil in the world because it allows him to provide for his family and because he believes at least in part that what he is doing is will help “the cause”.  

I am not going to go into all of the idiotic things that Berry has said on his radio show.  A quick google search will supply you with a wealth of information.  I would just like to mention a few things based on last night.  (A quick search will bring up things like, although he apologized for it and still wished it had never been built, he said the the mosque built near Ground Zero after 911 should be blown up. “I hope that someone blows it up.”)  Here is some more dumbass comments from when he was a City Councilman!:

http://watchingthewatchers.org/news/1194/houston-councilman-stop-apologizing

When Berry showed up he looked like the stereotypical shock jock.  In fact, something about him reminded me of Jeff Bridges at the beginning of the movie The Fisher King.  He was constantly walking around with a cigar in his mouth just like good old Rush.  He introduced the band on stage.  In order to avoid looking like I supported him, I came out on stage late so that I didn’t have to shake his hand.  In private I would be happy to meet with anyone, even someone that has wildly different views than me.  I have many conservative friends.  I just didn’t want to look buddy buddy with someone in a public way that could be misconstrued.  

His introduction was long winded as this man clearly loves to hear himself talk.  I guess anyone that creates a bar and puts pictures of himself everywhere is going to want to be the center of attention.  The speech was filled with the kind of the middle of the road unthinking patriotism that fills so much of our public discourse.  Support the troops, support traditional marriage, love of the tribe, etc.  He clearly had a giant hard on for the troops because he called anyone that served to the front of the stage for a giant round of applause.  On the front of it this may seem like a nice gesture.   But I believe this is the kind of feel good nonsense that allows people to feel good about themselves while supporting politicians that would gladly send the troops into harms way to be killed or mutilated.  Let’s applaud the troops when they come home all fucked up from the war front, but let’s not actually talk about peace and understanding and try to make sure that they never go on another mission of imperial conquest again.  Anyone can say let’s support the troops now that they have PTSD and get a big round of applause.  It takes a much bigger person so say that we have started too many wars and that these poor troops should have never been sent anywhere in the first place.  The best way to support the troops isn’t to applaud them while you are drinking and smoking a cigar, but to try to get a real conversation going about about peace, so that these poor men and women never have to come home mangled and full of trauma, if they come home at all.  An empty gesture by a lesser mind.  In fact, clapping while drunk, is one of the easiest and least committal things a human being can do.  He was also happy to talk about loving your wife, traditional marriage, while never bringing up that maybe there are people that aren’t married or that are gay that love who they are with with the truest commitment.  He also kept going on about how great the cops were.  This is at a time when our justice system is completely corrupt and our cops more and more look like they are soldiers in occupied territory.  There was also the usual conservative shout out to small business owners.  (Trust me, I have worked for small businesses and there ain’t nothing that separates the leaders of those fine organizations from the general public.  I knew a small business owner that was such a drunk, that after he was busted for a DUI and had a breathalyzer installed in his car, he started driving the company vehicles to the bar.)  It wasn’t so much that he was bringing his radio personality into the bar, saying the stupid and often ignorant shit he says on the air, but that he was going for easy soft applause lines that don’t really mean anything if you think about them, and actually muddy the waters if you really think about them.  I never once heard him make a plea for humanity, peace, empathy, or understanding.  It is easy to support your tribe.  We need people of influence that are going to go outside of tribal mentality.  

Michael Berry couldn’t quit lapping up attention all night.  He came out on stage, or came to the side of it where the audience could see him, more times then I wished.  Every time he did, I kept wishing to make myself smaller, unseen, but there I was, in a compromised position, wondering what fucking gods I had offended to end up there.  

So my senses were destroyed by the end of the night.  I had to sit around with idiotic slogans plastered around me.  I had to listen to dumbass gibberish.  One more thing, I don’t get this whole championing of redneck culture, as I didn’t grow up in the South.  I am part Irish.  To me claiming that you are proud to be a redneck would be like an Irishman claiming that he is proud to be an alcoholic.  It is such a low bar.  

There also was reportedly someone from Duck Dynasty there.  In the words of Richard Pryor from Moving, it was like an, “asshole convention.”  

I’m still trying to make sense of last night.  Even though I was in hell, I was glad for the experience, to see what is going on out there is this strange and often frustrating country.  Even in a crowd that came out to a bar that was owned by Michael Berry, there were still decent and kind people.  We need to not do what Berry does and condemn people just for the way they look or what tribe they belong to.  

I must thank Michael Berry last of all.  Thanks Mikey, for paying me, so I could sit around this morning and write this.  Also thanks again for the money.  I look forward to giving some of it to a charity that works in opposition to your closed minded rhetoric.  

Random Thoughts Before Departure and Weekend Picks

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I am heading out for Houston today to play the Redneck Country Club in Stafford, Tx.  You can check out details and other dates at http://www.shinyribs.org.

Because of this posting will probably be light today, although I am hoping I will have time between my soundcheck and gig to get something up.  After this I am off for three days and will hopefully get to work on here with a little more regularity.  I feel like I have gone through the looking glass today!  

Some random thoughts:  Against all intelligence and reason I would like to satiate my bloodlust with Expendables 3 at some point, which comes out today.  I grew up on 80’s action movies and they are definitely a guilty pleasure of mine. (Well, they would be if I felt guilty.)  I was just watching 2 a couple weeks ago and the body count in the first few minutes alone was ridiculous, all while the main characters cracked jokes and one-liners.  

The new Sinead O’Connor album, I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss, is excellent, and I hope to write a full review at some point, even if it falls slightly short of her masterpiece How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?.  

I have been listening again to the George Carlin concert Life is Worth Losing.  He somehow manages to take suicide, murder, and all forms of human depravity, completely hilarious.  I have trouble deciding if that or It’s Bad For Ya is my favorite Carlin concert.  He is one of the few people that got braver and bolder as he got older.  He never mellowed out or stopped searching.  See if you can YouTube “extreme human behavior”.  The part about Roman torture is especially funny.  

I am still listening to the new Morrissey album World Peace is None of Your Business nonstop.  If you haven’t gotten it yet, do, and get the version with the bonus tracks.  The bonus tracks are all absolutely fantastic.  Art-Hounds has been in my car stereo every day.  Look up the lyrics if you need a laugh.  

I’ve read more of the Hampton Sides book In the Kingdom of Ice.  I’m still not far enough in to write a review or to decide where it places in his work, but it is another fascinating well told story.  One of the best history writers working today.  

Well that’s all folks…I need to hit the highway…

In the future when all’s well…

Jeff