Monday, December 19, 2016

Are We Madly Insane?

Dr. Dog
Shame Shame
2010, ANTI-
produced by Rob Schnapf
Tony Leaman - bass, vocals
Scott McMicken - guitar, banjo, vocals
Frank McElroy - guitar, vocals
Zach Miller - pianos, organs
Juston Stens - drums, percussion
Erik Slick - drums, percussion

singles:
  • Stranger
  • Shadow People
I heard this band do an interview for the Bonaroo festival for NPR, which included a version of Jackie Wants a Black Eye. They played that festival on Friday in The Other Tent. Of course, I looked the band up and found this record.

It's their first album on ANTI- records after spending five years with Park the Van. The album has a throwback sound that reminds me of the Byrds, CSN, and the Band. It is light and folksy, the kind of songs that are easily reproduced by open mic warriors. They are a product of the 90's jam band scene that produced bands like Guster, Dispatch, and Wilco. This one may be their best. Also, it comes with a fold out poster!


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Why Do You Hate Me So? I Dont Know

Hootie and the Blowfish
Cracked Rear View
1994, Atlantic
produced by Don Gehman

Darius Rucker - vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion
Mark Bryan - guitars, mandolin
Dean Felber - bass, piano, clavinet
Jim Soni Sonefeld - drums, percussion, piano

singles-
  • Hold my Hand
  • Let Her Cry
  • I Only Wanna be with You/Use Me
  • Time
  • Drowning
This band stormed onto radio in 1994. After the pop-synth, glam rock of the late '80s and the thrash metal, grunge of the previous few years, the Hootie and the Blowfish released a debut so different and refreshing that it climbed the charts.

If I had to describe a distinguishable 90s pop rock sound, I'd say Hootie and Blowfish nailed it. They are bouncy and fun and happy-go-lucky, light with a hint of gospel, but also had a roots blues sound that will break your heart. Darius Rucker's baritone was something rare in rock music. I think, in retrospect, the band always had a country cross-over feel, so it is no surprise that Rucker made a career in country.

This record sold 10.5 million copies in its first year. It went Platinum 16 times. It is the 16th best selling record in the US of all time. It was number one on Billboard 200 five times and also was number one in New Zealand and Canada.

As quickly as this record rose, there was an equal and opposite backlash. I found this odd at the time, and still find it odd now. Was it because radio overplayed it? Was it because there were unfounded rumors they were gay? Was it because the front man was black in a predominately white man genre? I'm not sure, but the record still holds up as a genre melding eulogy to a loved one. Haters, predictably were wrong.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Take the Gun, Leave the Canoli


The Gotham mafia may be one of my favorite Batman villains. No one else seems to fawn over them the way fans do for any of the other Batman villains. Looking up Falcone or Maroni fan art on the internet is useless. I can find a billion awful Harley Quinn pieces, but Carmine Falcone turns up just a few scans from comic pages.

Batman's origin always included becoming Batman to fight crime in Gotham, a city with a high crime rate. Miller, I think, wanted to ground his Batman in reality, and historically big cities had organized crime problems. Gotham, being the culmination of every corrupted, dark, and dangerous part of every city everywhere, should have organized crime.

Bob Kane and Bill Finger created Sal Maroni as a mobster responsible for disfiguring Two Face, and created Tony Zucco as the mobster who put a hit on Dick Grayson's parents. But organized crime didn't take a front seat to Batman stories until 1987. Frank Miller rebuilt the Batman mythos, taking it back to the 1940s stories of Kane and Finger, which meant darker, grittier stories. The Batman:Year One origin debuted Gotham's organized crime family, the Falcones.

In Jeph Loeb's The Long Halloween expanded the Falcone Crime Family, basing it off of the Corleones from the Godfather. He tied the Maronis and Tony Zucco into the story as well, but maintained that the Roman Empire, as the Carmine "the Roman" Falcone's criminal organization is known, had the most power and influence.

The pulp theme of mafia families holding so much power, that only a vigilante operating outside the law can take them down can be seen across all entertainment medium, in novels, comics, and movies. The Long Halloween/Dark Victory storyline helps transition Gotham organized crime from realistic mobsters to comicbook villains like the Black Mask and Maxie Zeus by showing the downfall in a who-dun-it serial killer murder mystery. Spoilers follow, just so you know...


Carmine Falcone:
The head of the Falcone crime family. Took power from his father, Vincent, the founder of the mob family. His sister Carla Vitti lives in Chicago and is the head of a crime family there. Known as the Roman. Created by Frank Miller in 1987. He has claw marks across his face, courtesy of Catwoman. He is murdered by Two Face.

Sofia Falcone:
Changes her name to Sofia Gigante, also known as the Hangman. She poses as crippled in a wheelchair, and takes over the family business after her father Carmine dies. Gigante murders ten people connected with Harvey Dent and his rise to District Attorney. She is also killed by Two Face.

Mario Falcone:
Based on Michael Corleone, Mario is the elder son of Carmine. He is absent for most of the Long Halloween and Dark Victory storylines, as he has been living in Italy undercover, much like Michael Corleone in the Godfather. When Mario returns to find his family mostly dead and the business in ruins, he scuttles the rest, burns the house down and rebuilds.

Alberto Falcone:
The younger son of Carmine, Alberto is also the Holiday Killer. He fakes his own death and starts targeting Maroni Family members, killing a dozen including Salvatore and Luigi Maroni, and his own aunt Carla Vitti. He is later killed by his sister Sofia.

Salvatore Maroni:
Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1940 as a vehicle for creating Two Face, Sal Maroni is the mob boss responsible for scarring Harvey Dent with acid. He is the son of Luigi Maroni, and father of CJ, Pino, and Umberto Maroni. The Maronis and Falcones have a long history of rivalry and competition. Salvatore is killed by Alberto Falcone.

Tony Zucco:
Also known as Boss Zucco, he was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger also in 1940, and also as a vehicle to introduce another more important character. Zucco is the mobster responsible for extorting the circus, and sabotaging the high wire act, killing Dick Grayson's parents. Jeph Loeb included Zucco as an underboss in the Maroni crime family. Dick Grayson and Batman scare Zucco so much, he has a heart attack.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

What Have We Done?

So, a crazy thing happened the other day, something that appeared to only happen in dystopian fiction, or in other countries far far away. This guy, this dumpster fire of a caricature of a human being, yelled and bullied and smeared his way into the presidential election and won.

The Donald, or as Jon Stewart once called him, Lord Fuckface Von Clownstick, is now the president-elect of the United States of America.

There has been a lot of articles, blogposts, statuses, memes, etc about Trump, Trumpettes (I refuse to call them anything else), and the horrorshow that may become the new reality in America. I think, for anyone either in the Trumpette basket, or willing to try get along peacefully, there are a few things to remember.
What I think of when I say Trumpette
Thing One: Trump is still the Right's fault.

I have seen a few articles trying to pin this election outcome on Liberal Elites who weren't paying attention. This may be true, if rich white people cared about poor stupid white people, the Democrat agenda may have been changed to reach this terribly misinformed and angry base. But then again, rich white Republicans have been jerking the poor stupid white people around since Nixon for the expressed purpose of misleading them to vote against their self interests. So... this probably wouldn't have made a difference.

There is evidence that a large slice of the voting public relishes in their ignorance. The Uneducated White Man has become a focus after this election. Anti- Intellectualism should not be a thing to be proud of. We ought to continue to invest in education and foster the scouting mind, and other good learning habits. This is difficult when we continue to slash education budgets, affecting teacher salaries, but still expect schools to perform well and retain quality teachers.

See this for more on celebrating the uneducated.

It is much more important to look at how certain groups vote solely based on one issue. For example: Evangelicals supporting Trump because they believe Democrats like Hillary want to kill babies instead of banning abortion. Or any redneck militiaman who is convinced Democrats want to take their guns away, even though there are no Democrats on record ever saying that, nor did it happen under 8 years of Obama, or 8 years of Bill Clinton.

See here for more thoughts on Religious zealotry.

Thing Two: Trump doesn't get a free pass now that he's been elected.

How about apologists who claim that the media has misconstrued Trump's stand on racial equality, and women's rights? The hypocrisy of this astounds me. Democrats come right out and speak of equality for all and they're called "libtards", like its retarded to want everyone to have an equal chance at a good life. But when Trump mocks the physically disabled, questions the patriotism of a Gold Star family, values women based on their looks alone, and pledges to ban immigrants based on religion, he's just joking and talking in hyperbole. Words have meaning.

A common mantra for Trumpettes is "he says what I think". Ok, but presidents don't say those things, even if they believe them. Woodrow Wilson was a huge racist. But he managed to keep any crazy racist things he may have been thinking from slipping out during public speeches. Kanye West once said Bush hates black people. But there was no evidence other than how long it took for FEMA to handle the Katrina disaster. Bush wasn't habitually tweeting with Klan members.

My point is, if you truly want to "make America great again", and you want to compare contemporary America with any other era in American history, Trump is unacceptable as a president in comparison to any other of the 44 you have to choose from. Except maybe Andrew Jackson and Herbert Hoover. Jackson helped murder millions of Indians and gave Nazis the blueprint for their final solution. Hoover loved the free market so much he led the economy right into the Great Depression. Not very good role models.

It may be true that white people in this country have felt pushed back to the margins and made to feel ashamed. No one should feel ashamed of being themselves... Unless being yourself means you habitually make other people feel afraid and keep them from being themselves. Hatred never gets a pass. There is a group of Liberals that have worked very hard to expose white male privilege. It has been aggressive and oppressive, and it has helped breed a contempt for feminists and humanists seeking equality for everyone. No one likes being called the bad guy repeatedly. This doesn't really matter. Bottom line, no one argues: Stop being shitty elitists! White men aren't superior. Rich suburban college grads aren't superior. Right Wing Free Marketers aren't superior. Stop it. Period.

Societies and economies are much better off and stronger when diversity is protected. We can all win. stop being shitty.

More on how things have meanings.

Thing Three: Taxes are important and necessary.

Get Government out of my life!
No one likes being told what to do, right. I mean, just about everyone between the ages of 12 to 18 cant wait to get out of their parents' house so they don't have to follow ridiculous rules. The problem is, adults should be way past acting like adolescents when it comes to politics. Once again, I blame the Right for fostering this idea that taxes are theft, and government is corrupt and wasteful.

Corruption definitely happens. There are no term limits for Congress, and these politicians all had lives before in communities throughout the country. There are plenty of opportunities to make deals in Washington that favor the politician. There are plenty of opportunities for corporations to grease palms and make deals that favor both the politician and the corporation and screw the US citizens.

Lobbying is a problem. Gerrymandering is a problem. Pork barrel spending is a problem. Obstructionist legislative tactics are a problem. Citizens United is a problem. Taxes are not a problem.

In fact, recently the great state of Kansas had a chance to slash business tax rates, with the hope of stimulating growth. Local businesses save money on taxes, invest in themselves, grow their businesses, create jobs and therefore grow state taxes and build the economy. Trickle down economics finally realized.... Except the exact opposite happened. Business owners saved money on taxes, for sure, but they had no obligation to reinvest that money, they just kept it as profit. Businesses did not grow or create jobs. Kansas did not slash budgets enough to handle the revenue shortfall, they relied on economic growth that never happened. Predictably Kansas couldn't balance the budget. In short, taxes matter.

Societies and economies are better off and stronger when everyone pays their fair share. A government that doesn't work because it is underfunded is no help to anyone.

See this for more about taxes.

Conclusion:

There is, and has been a Republican agenda that has plans to shrink government beyond usefulness. I believe the Koch brothers put it this way: make it small enough to drown like a baby in the bathtub. Now that Trump is president, and the GOP has control of both chambers of Congress, with the ability to nominate and approve Supreme Court justices that lean conservative, the Republican agenda has a real good chance of becoming a reality. This means rolling back the Affordable Care Act, defunding Planned Parenthood, rolling back civil rights afforded to homosexuals, defunding the EPA and deregulating environmental protections.

This last is probably the most devastating. Under the guise of stimulating economic growth, ecological protections will be scuttled. Plenty of GOP legislators don't believe climate change is real. We sure don't like spending tax money, but if the climate continues to warm, there will be considerably more natural disasters. More disasters means more to clean up. Disaster relief costs money. Tax money. Repealing regulations that protect water and timber and fish resources will lead to increased climate damage.

Societies and economies are better off and stronger when integrated with a strong and healthy ecosystem.

Bottom Line: I sincerely hope this next four years turns out better than expected. But, I fear the next election will have the same slogan. Make America Great Again may actually be a real goal.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Lost in the Supermarket

The Clash
London Calling
1979, CBS/Epic
produced by Guy Stevens
Joe Strummer - vocals, guitars
Mick Jones - guitars, piano, vocals
Paul Simonon - bass, vocals
Topper Headon - drums
Mickey Gallagher - organ
The Irish Horns - horn section

singles-
  • London Calling/ Armagideon Time
  • Clampdown/ Guns of Brixton
  • Train in Vain/ London Calling
Probably one of the best Clash records, if not at the very least the most recognizable, this record is ranked by Rolling Stone as the best album of the '80s (it came out in '79), number 8 on their list of 500 Greatest Albums of all Time, Q Magazine named it the 4th best British album of all time.

The cover art is super punk rock, an homage to Elvis's 1956 record with an out of focus Simonon smashing his bass. Aside from that, the album is probably as far from a typical punk rock album of the time (or the next 10 years). The Clash changed their sound from the British punk aesthetic (or lack of) to a rockabilly/ska/reggae infused sound that either departed from the punk, or diversified a genre that previously relished in its lack of talent and void of musicality. Either way, who cares? The record is great, fun to listen to, and absolutely a must-have.