Saturday, February 6, 2010

Musical Interlude: Tones on Tail

"Rain":



The video was created by a fan named Isabel Dhampir, who does a nice job capturing the flavor of the tune with a beautiful series of still photos. I always found the piece to be quite uplifting, and ideal night music - especially on those rainy nights during southern California's winter and early spring months. The tune has an almost ambient quality to it in the beginning, before bass, drums, and vocals emerge to pick up the pace just a bit. Even then, there's a soothing quality to the sound.

Tones on Tail started out as a sort of side project formed by Daniel Ash and roadie Glenn Campling in 1982 when they were still with Bauhaus. When that group folded, Kevin Haskins joined. Tones on Tail would record from 1982 through 1984, before Ash and Haskins formed Love and Rockets. I'm sure I owe some friend somewhere thanks for including some of ToT's music on a mix tape, thus inspiring me to seek out whatever was available on vinyl (their one album was simply titled Pop), and then later CD (I still have the compilation Night Music that was released in the late 1980s, which has since been superseded by 1998's Everything).

Their music is not easily classifiable. I know that at least among my circle of friends, goths were the most likely to know about ToT and to appreciate their work. But it wasn't really goth music per se. Yes, ToT's tunes tended toward the dark and moody side, sometimes danceable, sometimes paranoid and abrasive, but they were really quite mellow and impressionistic relative to, say, Bauhaus. There was probably more in common with contemporary 1980s artists on the British-based 4AD label (e.g., Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, Dif Juz) and some of Eno's mid-to-late 1970s solo work, or perhaps some of the artists on the One Little Indian label (Flux's Uncarved Block perhaps, and of course - to me - A.R.Kane's late 1980s work). Fans of some of the darker 1990s ambient or trip hop artists might find plenty to like as well.

The lyrics (courtesy of another fan video of the song):
ooh the rain
ooh the rain

she said, time to crush this feeling
writing very long letters as soon as it rains
ooh the rain
ooh the rain

to dance the night away
he watches topless pin-up faces
a million different jackpots
with a thousand different gazes

ooh the rain
ooh the rain
ooh the rain
ooh the rain

but it's time to crush this feeling
as soon as it rains
ooh the rain
but it's time to crush this feeling
as soon as it rains
ooh the rain

Musical Interlude: King Crimson

"Sleepless" - from the album Three of a Perfect Pair:


I've mentioned before that their early 1980s output was my favorite period for this band.

Before I forget, a review of Three of a Perfect Pair can be found at The KEXP Blog, h/t BLCKDGRD. Let's just say that inspired me to find something from the album.

Something to look forward to

A new Jimi Hendrix album drops March 1. By "new" I should clarify: the tunes were all recorded in 1969 right as his band Jimi Hendrix Experience was ending, and he was working with a new bassist, Billy Cox. So, the tracks on Valleys of Neptune are previously unreleased, and the descriptions are indeed quite tantalizing. Hendrix was on quite a creative tear back in the day, weaving an eclectic tapestry that included forays into rap (Doriella du Fontaine, in which Hendrix provides backing music for Lightnin' Rod - aka Last Poet Jalal Mansur Nuriddin) and fusion (I've occasionally run into bootleg recordings of Hendrix jamming with John McLaughlin, and there were rumors flying for a while of a Hendrix-Miles Davis jam that never had the chance to take place due to Hendrix' untimely death).

Friday, February 5, 2010

A bit excessive, don't you think?

A 12-year-old Queens girl was hauled out of school in handcuffs for an artless offense - doodling her name on her desk in erasable marker, the Daily News has learned.

I could see detention, a stern lecture from a school official, or something of that sort as reasonable enough. Requiring the girl to wash off desks that have been marked on after school would even seem quite appropriate - the sort of thing I'd probably suggest. Otherwise, what we have here is yet another excessive abuse of authority - the sort that in the long run undermines respect. The girl will probably not doodle on desks any more, but, I also doubt she'll quite trust those in positions of authority either. Given how dysfunctional our adult role models have been for more years than I'd want to count, maybe that's not such a bad lesson to learn - depending of course on what she decides to do with that lesson as she grows up.

More evidence of our dysfunctional government

An Alabama Senator put a blanket hold on all Presidential nominees. Why, one might ask? Turns out it all comes down to pork. If there were some actual principle involved for what is considered an extreme action by a Senator, I'd at least understand it, even if I disagreed with the principle in question. However, this is more like a heist, where an elected official is trying to extort more coin for his state regardless of the consequences. Now, will stuff like this get the public pissed off, or will this simply become the "new normal" of governing? If the latter, we're in for a very long, bumpy, unpleasant ride.

The road to hell and all that

It appears the Baptist missionaries who tried to remove Haitian kids from their home country will be tried there for child abduction. One might charitably label their actions as being well-intentioned. However, as some are noting, there's something a bit fishy about their actions in the first place. One does have to wonder why these folks would have refused to work with existing NGOs, if they were so eager to help. At best, their actions come across as obscenely arrogant, and at worst, those of ideologically driven human traffickers. Either way, the picture is not pretty. Even more obscene - none of this nonsense does a damn bit of good for Haitians who have not only been subjected to a horrifying natural disaster but many years of exploitation by corporations and western governments.

This isn't reform, either

Recently, Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican, offered up a plan to "reform" Social Security and Medicare with what amounts to privatization and a massive reduction in benefits. While the shadow budget doesn't have a snowball's chance of seeing the light of day just yet, it does give us an idea of the mindset of Ryan and his allies (including those who wish to be coy). Medicare enrollees after 2021 would be given vouchers for private health insurance. This bit is a mild criticism, but worth noting:
OMB Director Peter Orszag last week said the Ryan budget provides a "contrast" to the White House plan and criticized the Social Security and Medicare elements.

"[I]ndividuals are on their own in the health care market. And the voucher does not keep pace with health care costs over time," Orszag said of the Medicare portion of the plan.
My concerns are many. One that I find quite salient is to ask a question about how sustainable the "privatize or perish" model really is. Think for a moment about our current economic straits. We've hardly seen anything on the level of, say, a massive collapse on the scale of that of the former Soviet Union, but we got an opportunity to stare into the abyss. And in doing so, I was reminded of a part of a talk Dmitry Orlov gave a few years ago:

Slide [16] The Soviet government threw resources at immunization programs, infectious disease control, and basic care. It directly operated a system of state-owned clinics, hospitals, and sanatoriums. People with fatal ailments or chronic conditions often had reason to complain, and had to pay for private care – if they had the money.

In the United States, medicine is for profit. People seems to think nothing of this fact. There are really very few fields of endeavor to which Americans would deny the profit motive. The problem is, once the economy is removed, so is the profit, along with the services it once helped to motivate.
So,  what happens when the empire collapses for real (I realize that's not a politically correct question to ask)? With so much of the infrastructure - including health care delivery - privatized, what happens when the profits are no longer there to be had? My guess is that the services, which are becoming increasingly inaccessible to those of us with modest means as it is, simply go bye-bye. In the case of health care, you're looking at a future in which what counts for "medicine" is little more than folk remedies. At that point you play the cards you're dealt, but the thing is that the cards in question needn't have been in the deck in the first place. If one reads Orlov, the picture he paints of Russia post-collapse is hardly pretty - in fact the situation was downright awful during the Yeltsin era (IMF-imposed "shock therapy" made matters far worse). Thing is that there was still something of an infrastructure in place that could survive the crash, putting the Russians in better shape than we would be under similar circumstances. If I were in a position of influence and in a reform-minded mood, I'd be seriously proposing among other things, putting in place a health care infrastructure that focused on basic care and prevention, and that largely ditched the primarily for-profit model that is currently inflicted on us. In general, if we want something that might still resemble something passing for civilization post-crash, our best hope will come from ditching neoliberal (or what a number of economists call neoclassical) orthodoxy asap. Regrettably, I see very few signs that those with actual influence in DC actually get it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Avedon says what I suspect many of us have thought

and a few of us have also tried to say: Obama was and is a poseur. I still get tickled when people gripe about how he's been a sell-out. Thing is, like the other "New-Democrats", there was nothing to sell out. Here's a tantalizing clip from back in 1996, when The Pope of Hope's career was just getting started:
In Chicago, we've gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable do-good credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program--the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance. I suspect that his ilk is the wave of the future in U.S. black politics.
Again, should any of this have come as shocking? The way the system is rigged now, the genuine article never gets a shot. So we get our choice between faux-liberals who might be more-or-less competent care-taker presidents and Christian jihadists (Bush II, and to a greater degree Sarah Palin). Abandon hope.

The darling of right-wingers everywhere

has a bit of a racism problem (h/t). A clip:
Many of the conservatives who gleefully promoted James O’Keefe’s past political stunts are feigning shock at his arrest on charges that he and three associates planned to tamper with Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu's phone lines. Once upon a time, right-wing pundits hailed the 25-year-old O’Keefe as a creative genius and model of journalistic ethics. Andrew Breitbart, who has paid O’Keefe, called him one of the all-time “great journalists” and said he deserved a Pulitzer for his undercover ACORN video. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly declared he should have earned a “congressional medal.”

His right-wing admirers don't seem to mind that O’Keefe's short but storied career has been defined by a series of political stunts shot through with racial resentment. Now an activist organization that monitors hate groups has produced a photo of O'Keefe at a 2006 conference on "Race and Conservatism" that featured leading white nationalists. The photo, first published Jan. 30  on the Web site of the anti-racism group One People's Project, shows O’Keefe at the gathering, which was so controversial even the ultra-right Leadership Institute, which employed O'Keefe at the time, withdrew its backing. But O'Keefe and fellow young conservative provocateur Marcus Epstein soldiered on to give anti-Semites, professional racists and proponents of Aryanism an opportunity to share their grievances and plans to make inroads in the GOP.
 Somehow, none of this really surprises me.

Musical Interlude: This Mortal Coil

Another vocalist from the 1980s whose work would move me was Elizabeth Fraser, who was the singer for Cocteau Twins and also appeared on the first This Mortal Coil album. This one is called "Song to the Siren":



A friend was playing this for me back probably sometime in 1986 or 1987. I forget exactly. From the opening note, I was hooked. Within months I had quite a bit of her work with the aforementioned This Mortal Coil and her main band Cocteau Twins in my collection, with the tapes from those lps getting played to the breaking point. I understand that this song is part of the soundtrack to the film "The Lovely Bones." Regrettably I'll have to wait for the film to come on DVD. Fans of the series "House" can hear her voice in the theme song, which is from an old Massive Attack cd from the late 1990s.

Put me on a desert island with nothing but cds from Fraser, Laurie Anderson, Kate Bush, and Lady Gaga, and I'd be mostly content (all this assumes access to a good source of electricity and cd player). I'd miss the jazz, but I'd get over it pretty quickly.

Musical Interlude: Laurie Anderson

One thing that seeing Kate Bush on SNL back in late 1978 did was to open my mind for a number of unique and innovative female vocalists and songwriters as I reached my mid-to-late teens. One of those worth noting is Laurie Anderson. This tune ('O Superman'), along with the title track to Big Science were two that I used to hear on Sac State's college radio station around 1982 or 1983:


laurie anderson - o superman

Micheal Jane | MySpace Video


Here's "Big Science" used as a soundtrack to a video "path-ology":



I always liked her voice.

today is a b.a.d. day

Blogroll Amnesty Day is here, and I've been too swamped to appropriately mark the occasion. Fortunately, skippy is there to remind us. Although I try to view every day as Blogroll Amnesty Day, I do think it is important to remember the history behind this particular internet tradition.

Obviously, if you link to this blog, I am more than happy to reciprocate. Either say something in the comments or shoot an email and I'll add you to my blogroll as soon as possible. It's that simple. As I've said before, I do draw the line somewhere, so I won't link to something that comes across as white supremacist or Minuteklan (or tea party or birther) in nature, or spam blogs or spam sites. But beyond that, the basic linking and writing policy can be summed up with an old rap line: "a mind closed up is like a parachute - useless."

Follow-up to: Yikes!

The full results of the Research 2000 poll of self-identified Republicans has plenty more gems to serve up. You don't even have to be a leftist, liberal, or moderate to find the mindset of the GOP's base to be, shall we say, a bit disquieting. Even conservatives (albeit not movement conservatives) find the base to be disturbing. Even getting away from the poll for a moment, exemplars of the GOP's base keep right on acting like Taliban wannabes. Really, the term jihadists would seem quite an apt description. Think about it: psychologically is there any tangible difference between, say our own right-wing jihadists and those hiding in caves in Afghanistan or Pakistan? Aside from some differences in religious preference and perhaps a few variations in social customs, I have to say that I'm struggling to find so much as a dime's worth of difference. All that said, the poll results aren't especially surprising, as they are merely the continuation of a trend that was already noticeable back a couple decades ago. The momentum is such that increased political extremism within the GOP was practically inevitable.

See also the right-leaning Politico's coverage.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Yikes!

This is the GOP base:
A new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll, conducted among 2,000 self-identified Republican respondents nationwide, gives an interesting peek into the psyche of the minority party's base.

Kos has not yet released the full numbers, but here's some early info on the poll that he has posted on his Twitter account:

• 39% of Republicans want President Obama to be impeached.

• 63% think Obama is a socialist.

• Only 42% believe Obama was born in the United States.

• 21% think ACORN stole the 2008 election -- that is, that Obama didn't actually win it, and isn't legitimately the president, with 55% saying they are "not sure." This number is actually significantly lower than it was in a similar question from Public Policy Polling (D) back in November, which said that 52% of Republicans thought ACORN stole it. So does this mean Obama is gaining ground among Republicans? As it is, only just over 20% of Republicans will say that Obama actually won the election.

• 53% think Sarah Palin is more qualified than Obama to be president.

• 23% want to secede from the United States.

• 73% think gay people should not be allowed to teach in public schools. This position puts the GOP base well to the right of none other than Ronald Reagan, who helped defeat the Briggs Initiative, a 1978 referendum in California that would have forbidden gays or people who advocated gay rights from teaching in public schools.

• 31% want contraception to be outlawed.
This is definitely not my parents' GOP, and is just one indicator of why, whatever disdain I have for the Dems, I simply cannot even fathom ever wanting to have anything to do with the Dems' far-right nationalist counterpart. The Obama as socialist bit is a total joke, but does make me wonder how Nixon would have fared in today's political climate (a case can be made that Obama's considerably more conservative than Nixon could have ever hoped to be, and of course no socialist worthy of the name would ever let the likes of Geithner or Bernanke anywhere near the White House). Of course you have the birthers, conspiracy-mongering bigots (ACORN has become the most recent dog-whistle for the n-word), gay-bashers, and downright punitive assholes. How could one hold a serious conversation with representative exemplars of this crowd?

Monday, February 1, 2010

If nothing else

Obama's administration breathed new life into moribund regulatory agencies. It's not the sort of thing that makes headlines or nifty soundbites, but that these agencies are doing what they were designed to do once more is a bit of good news in what has been a several-year streak of very bleak news. And while I'm pretty sour about Congress, it hasn't been all bad news there either - almost in spite of themselves, Representatives and Senators managed to occasionally forget to remain in gridlock.

Fifty Years Ago Today

This is the anniversary of the Greensboro Sit Ins. Here's a video (h/t Crooks and Liars):

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Not much fun in dysfunction

Frank Rich:
The historian Alan Brinkley has observed that we will soon enter the fourth decade in which Congress — and therefore government as a whole — has failed to deal with any major national problem, from infrastructure to education. The gridlock isn’t only a function of polarized politics and special interests. There’s also been a gaping leadership deficit.