Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.    The Honorable Governor of Texas, George W. Bush

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, May 26, 2005

If I Only Had a Brain

Been hanging out on a blog I ran across the other day, called Left2Right. It's primarily a bunch of somewhat liberal college professors chatting each other up about politics and such, and I find it interesting, civilized and not excruciatingly esoteric. I'm not so sure they're smarter than me, but they have something I don't. They each have a curriculum vitae.

Well, assuming that I'm not likely to run into the Wizard in the near future, I 'm just going to have write my own.


(this means "of life"; a great number of scholars drop curriculum, even though this makes no sense)


Freshman Year: Music education major, generic small Christian college in the Midwest with a kick-ass basketball team. Learned valuable skills such as how to trim steaks for Saga Food Service and how to play "Lady Madonna" on the cello. Learned the best time to turn the American flag upside down in protest was probably not when the Sigma Chi rope pull team is coming around the corner on their daily training run.

A Little More Than a Year and a Half More, I Think: Nondescript regional land grant university where the wind blows off the prairie about 100 miles an hour every day. Obtained an extensive background in blotter verses windowpane, etc., as well as five handed double deck Pinochle. Couldn't decide whether I might be an "ist" or an "ite", and lost focus.

MA, PHD; Tufts University: British Labor History. Okay, I'm making this up, but I know why Tufts can't prove it isn't so.


Microsoft Certified System Engineer: Windows 2000
Microsoft Certified Professional: Exchange
Comp-Tia: A+
Comp-Tia: Network+
Geek Mobile Bonded and Insured


Service Station Attendant: Intensive observation of female human courtship ritual directed at one who is washing subjects' windshields at 3 in the morning. (Reference The Jerk for a description of this activity) Formulated important economic theory concerning possibility of wealth amassing at the rate of $1.10 an hour.

Pepsi Truck Helper: Enhancements to linguistic diversity, including such Teamsterisms as "Get your old, wrinkled ass off the goddamn road, Grandma!" (I cleaned that up!)

Elevator Construction; the Chicago Loop: Three month study of the psychological effects of the Vietnam War while paired with a former Huey door gunner.

Elevator Construction II; the Chicago Loop: Six month study of the psychological effects of being suspended on a scaffold 40 floors up in an elevator shaft with a guy who had 6 or 7 martinis for lunch every day.

Internal Services, Insurance Home Office: Focus on diplomatic skills development; problem solving such as explaining just exactly what I was going to do about the fact the Vice President Smith's desk was 40 square inches larger than Vice President Jones's. Learned you can shit where you eat, but with the big guy's daughter, while driving the big guy's El Dorado down Lake Shore Drive, with the top down, while getting a good buzz on, is probably pushing it.

Under Assistant East Coast Promotion Man; Boston/Cambridge: Extensive study of metropolitan grinder shops (favorite; Harvard House of Pizza on Mass Ave). Marketing emphasis in two parts:

  • spending a lot of money at night clubs and restaurants so the label can mark up the cost deducted before calculating artist's royalties
  • the variety of distribution methods as related to the absence of serial numbers

Second Shift Supervisor; record store; Coral Gables, FL: Brief anger management seminar involving my first and only routine polygraph test.

Director of Claims Clerical; Coral Gables, FL: Detailed assessment of the success of the circa 1970's Florida public school system, as observed in the verbal and mathematical skills of a dozen or so fine young women under my direction. Developed work related stress relief procedure, in particular taking a break from mailing out a couple million in claims checks to god knows where while looking down 12 floors upon the record shop that suspected me of stealing $29!

Fence Foreman; Chicagoland: 27, tanned, ripped and could play the piano. Study?

Chauffeur; O'Hare Airport, Chicago: Sociology emphasis, particularly class conflict. Developed theory that mutual primary desire of all classes is to be home in one's own bed.

Carpenter; Nashua, NH: continuing linguistics study, including 1001 ways to use the word wicked, as in, "This is wicked good bee-ah!"

Realtor; Nashua, NH: detailed two-year study of the social interactions of the female divorced American. Study cut short when, much like a vulcanologist, I got too close to the action.

Fence Foreman (reprise); Chicagoland: 36, tanned, ripped, could play the piano and now single. Study?

Fence Salesman, Chicagoland: In depth, ongoing analysis of good old American (primarily upper middle class) family values―from within their locked doors.


c'est la "vita"

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Does the Right Hand Know What the Right Hand is Doing?

I'm beginning to think that when it comes to conservatives those who can, do, and those who can't, politic.

I'm an avid Public Radio listener at this point. There's much more of it out there than I might of guessed; I spend much of my day listening to WNIJ out of DeKalb, IL and WHAD out of Delafield, WI. The first runs a lot of NPR programming but the latter is part of a very robust Wisconsin Public Radio Network―actually one of two networks; one for talk and one for music and news. I suppose you're thinking dairy farm tips here? Yesterday I was able to to talk to Thomas Frank and Frank Rich in the same hour.

Well, the rodents have sniffed this deal out and the grandest ferret of them all has dispatched Kenneth Tomlinson, a man whose read on the pulse of 21st Century America can be summed up best by his credential as former editor in chief of Reader's Digest, to ride herd on the commies over at PBS and NPR.

Every once in a while WPR has a suggestion day, and the cranks call in their complaints about the left bias of public radio. Of course public radio is left biased...IT'S PUBLIC! As in non-commercial. Who do you think is backing off from the incessant bombardment of LCD (lowest common denominator) programming and blaring nitwit commercials? Who's looking for ideas? Who enjoys the sounds of thinking enough to resist the narcosis of the laugh track? A lot of us, and more all the time. Listenership is distinctly on the rise, hence this recent snuffling by the culture police.

How confident is the right that even if they could engineer a new slant to NPR they would benefit from a calm, cool discussion of of the issues? Not very, as the official desire is for less news and more music. Suddenly musical taste at the White House has shifted from Brooks and Dunne to Bach and Dvorak!

While callers are on hold to moan about the dollar and a half of their taxes that goes to funding this "liberal platform" they drive through McDonalds oblivious of the monstrous donation the Kroc's made to NPR. While 1% of NPR's funding comes from the feds the lion's share comes from the darlings of these whiney little knee-jerk "patriots", American corporations.

Why do you suppose this is true? These callers will never learn from Rush and Hannity why this is so, and apparently the fact hasn't been dispatched to the inquisitors for the righteous either.

I know, but then I actually listen.

Monday, May 16, 2005

So, What's New?

Got a little writer's block, but don't worry, I will not be the latest of tens of millions who have moved on to the next big thing. I have been very busy selling "aluminum siding" and haven't spent much time poking around for subject matter.

I could easily go after David Brooks again, I wonder if he might have stumbled on Rush's pharmacist. Sunday he said the proof that Americans still believe in the old "only in America" bit is that white "working" men went for Bush by 23%. The median income bloc split 50/50, so apparently there's a hell of a lot of white women out there who are far from impressed at their husbands' ability to "Horatio Alger" themselves a piece of the American dream.

That's not new.

The last Raymond is on. Say goodbye to a half decent comedy about a bitchy wife who thinks sex is a cube of sugar to be used to help train her idiot spouse.

That's not new.

There's always the lunacy of the "political dialogue". Today Rummy takes the prize with, "...waging a war against extremism." This made a big impression on me, actually. If you take 10 seconds to think about that phrase it should become evident to you that such a war can never be won, indeed the very act of starting one is to be defeated. There's manure, there's just plain horse shit, and somewhere in between there's the military mind.

That's not new.

The Cubs keep on swingin' for the fences despite the fact the the wind doesn't come around to the southwest 'til about the Fourth of July around here.

That's not new.

The right is shocked,...shocked to discover that a non-commercial entity like NPR is less than enthusiastic about the free market agenda.

Though not new, this is interesting to me.

I'll get back.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

No Comparison

Ah, religion. If one wants to hear about religion, it’s hard to imagine there being a better time. Even those supposed purveyors of only secular nonsense, the effete intellectuel guachistes at WPR, have been running show after show about the subject, the latest example being an interview with Bruce Grelle, Director of The Religion and Public Education Resource Center.

The mission of this band of merry men from the forests of Chico, California is stated thusly:

The Religion and Public Education Resource Center provides general information about the ethical, legal, and educational issues that arise in connection with the topic of religion and public education. The work of the RPERC is based on the conviction that the academic study of the world's religions in public elementary and secondary schools not only makes an indispensable contribution to historical and cultural literacy, it is also an integral part of education for citizenship in a pluralistic democracy. The Center is non-partisan and serves the needs of schools throughout the United States.

Who could argue with that? The study of religions’ influences on society would absolutely be a wonderful addition to the curriculum of our schools. Perhaps six weeks sometime could be devoted to the faith of atheists and agnostics as well. Who would want to miss the section where we all learn that Christians, Jews and Muslims pray to the same God?

A while back, I wrote of a book about the teaching of American History in our schools. Here’s a refresher:

So how and when might we wise up? Obviously there are alternatives to history education from text books, yet teachers of k-12 can find themselves in hot water in a hurry for encouraging the study of any material less than complimentary of American society.

Substitute "Christian" for “American", and here we go again. Just how kindly are board of education members in Dubuque, Iowa going to take to any religious textbook that puts “Christianity” in alphabetical order?

Anyone who thinks religious education in public schools would be any less about cross bearing than history education is about flag waving has been dipping a bit too heavily into the sacramental wine. Even with such a connected organization as The Religion and Public Education Resource Center (RPERC), the veneer of a “pluralistic” intention to provide “academic study of the world's religions” is paper thin. Here is the top of the list of publications offered on their site:

  1. Abingdon Glossary of Religious Terms by Thayer S. Warshaw. A handy reference that provides brief, easy-to-understand definitions of biblical, theological, and religious terms. 1978. (94 pp.), $3.00.
  2. The Bible in Literature Courses: Successful Lesson Plans by Linda Meixner with Thayer S. Warshaw. More than a dozen lessons produced in connection with the Indiana University Institute on Teaching the Bible in Literature Courses. 1992. (246pp.), $9.00.
  3. A Compact Guide to Bible Based Beliefs by Thayer S. Warshaw. A listing of passages from the Bible that religious groups use to justify specific beliefs and practices. 1978. (43 pp.), $3.00.
  4. Handbook for Teaching the Bible in Literature Classes by Thayer S. Warshaw. Contains commentary, materials, and suggestions for teachers of the Bible in Literature classes. 1978. (416 pp.), $5.00.
  5. An Introduction to Public Education Religion Studies edited by Nicholas Piediscalzi and Kay Alexander. A National Council on Religion and Public Education Curriculum Resource Guide. 1987. (90 pp.), $5.00.
  6. Literary Interpretations of Biblical Narratives (two volumes) edited by Kenneth R.R. Gros Louis with James S. Ackerman. 1982. (320 pp.), temporarily unavailable.

A statistical fluke that 5 of 6 reference only the Bible? Do teachers in America have a greater need for help in teaching of Christ’s “historical and cultural” influence than that of Buddha’s or Mohammed’s? Nonsense!

Thus missionary deeds swiftly and shamelessly belie the mission statement. Assuming that Bruce Grelle and his evangelical Christian cohorts didn’t become leaders in Chico State academia by being utterly non-observant, it’s clear they don’t give a God damn if they lie to us in such a way, as long as such a deception furthers their cause.

Teach that.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

But I Did Leave a Message

Hey, I’m getting old, but I think my distancing from anything approaching success has enabled me to maintain a fairly progressive mindset, and I hate to sound like your typical grousing those-were-the-days middle aged fart with the old-days-were-better diatribe…

But here goes.

Cell phones are cool enough. Handy when you’re out on the road, lost or broken down or just a bit bored. I never put much stock in the phone conversation as any meaningful type of exchange, but there are certain productivity related advantages to such availability that even I will employ, when I remember to turn the damn thing on anyway.

The X’ers and the Millenium generation, they have these things growing out of their ears. Wending one’s way through traffic is all the more difficult as housewives in 3 ton Suburban Assault Vehicles have their already limited field of vision reduced by the side they hold the phone up to. Being in public means listening to one inane walkie-talkie conversation after another. Standing in line gets a little more frustrating as the server tries to decipher the pantomime of the person ahead you, who’s describing to someone, somewhere the intricacies of some no doubt critical to the survival of humanity task that needs to be carried out by some other.

All these things are part of the price we are to pay for such connectivity and productivity, and there is little one can do about such incidental rudeness. This is the final blow to sociability, as our garage door opener society has a procedure now for members to insulate themselves in what was the last sphere of personal contact, the marketplace.

That’s progress an aging boomer is expected to accept, but new procedure in the “connected” world leaves a lot to be desired, in my opinion. Consider this example.

Yesterday I’m running a little late for an appointment. I will always call to inform the potential customer of my tardiness. This can go a long, long way in distinguishing one’s self among one’s competitors, especially in the traditionally flaky and independent ranks of home improvement contractors. In fact, I’ve been known to sit around the corner of a particularly important appointment, reading the paper while calling in my lateness, naughty me.

Anyway, so I go to call this one. I have his and her cell numbers and the home number and a work number and a fax number because ours is a society of connections, eh? I try the home number:


Click. That last part was me hanging up. We have an appointment, like, now. What’s the point of leaving a message that I’m running late if you’re not home anyway? So I try one of the cell numbers:


Click. Wait.


I answer, “Hello?”

“Er, you called this phone? Why didn’t you leave a message?”

In my fantasy I reply, “Why didn’t you answer the fucking phone! Who the hell did you think was calling your house and your cell phone at precisely the time someone was winding their way through traffic and a busy schedule to meet with you?”

This happens, I would say, 75% of the time. My mother screens her calls this way, and I don’t leave a message with her either. Let me restate that; I don’t leave messages with anyone anymore unless it is in my interest to do so. If someone wants to make me listen to their phone ring 4 or 5 or 6 times while they decide whether I’m important enough to be answered, they have wasted enough of my time and can bloody well call me back to find out why I called.

The “You-can-be-beautiful-and-successful-and-thin-and-a-gourmet-cook-and-a-mom-and-thin-and-cancer-free rags suggest to busy exec types that they set aside an hour a day or whatever to answer their voice mail, because there is a lot of stress in the workplace being caused by the cell phone raised crowd’s enthusiasm for reaching for the microphone.

There’s a one in eight chance this process could go on for days. It doesn’t seem very productive; I think the cell generation has a few bugs to work out.

In the meantime, my message is this:

Monday, May 02, 2005

Part IV: All We Are Saying...

It’s really the years of 1967 thru 1970 that people refer to when they talk or write of the Sixties. During these years a vast counterculture—rooted in places like Greenwich Village, Berkeley, Alexandria and Old Town Chicago—exploded into every city, every small town, and most importantly, every home in America.

You can remember the Sixties for the faux-hippie culture passed off by the media’s cashing in on a trend; giggly Goldie Hawn, the pretentious Peter Maxx, the drivel of Bob and Carol, Ted and Alice, etc. You can remember the sixties by the crazy, hazy summer days of Woodstock. You can remember the sixties with a non-contextual purview of the actions of a young John Kerry or Jane Fonda, but remember this:

The Sixties is when we stood up to “The Greatest Generation” and told them to shove their military industrial complex up their asses. There was nothing “relativistic” about that, you can be sure.

To foment such revolutionary action wouldn’t it have been helpful, in order to achieve some separation from the status quo, to have a great light shone on a new spiritual path, a communion of alternative minded souls strengthened by ritual and lore?

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore,Waiting to take you away.
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds
And you’re gone
Lucy in the sky with diamonds…

It was still early in the game, at least in the exurban Midwest, for me to understand much about LSD; and though the legend of this song endures above all the others from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, my (and Ozzie Osborne’s) favorite pop song of all time is “A Day in the Life”. The profound artistry in this song is that its very revolutionary message is so gently stated.
I read the news today oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall
I’d love to turn you on...
The call to leave the tiresomeness behind and roll up to the new day doesn’t so much cry out to you as it settles around you, and in perhaps the most brilliant musical stroke since the opening motif of Beethoven’s fifth, the crashing final chord goes on for 40 seconds, as if to say, “Take some time to think about it.”

There wasn’t too much time to think; there was a lot of ground to cover in 67. The FCC was very helpful in ordering the big top 40 AMs to quit mirroring on FM, and so the FM outlets were in a large way turned over to younger, more progressive program directors with loads and loads of album cuts. Even on mainstream America’s airwaves, however, the coming of the Summer of Love was unstoppable.

Imagine the horror of our parents at discovering Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? on their 16 year old’s dresser and figuring out what “Purple Haze” really was. How about Cream’s Disraeli Gears and “Sunshine of your Love”? Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow”? Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow with the astoundingly frank “White Rabbit” would never see the light of day in today’s Clear Channel whore-to-the-middling-masses atmosphere:
When the men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low
Go ask Alice
I think she'll know
Oh sure, there were the usual cutesy pop hits, and in fact there were tons of them, but a look at the album charts from 1967 and one can catch glimpses of the coming golden age of album rock. Classics found in any decent album collection might include any of these from ’67; Bee Gee’s First, Small Faces (Rod Stewart), Day’s of Future Passed by the Moody Blues, The Velvet Underground, The Who Sell Out, Between the Buttons by the Stones, Traffic’s Mr. Fantasy, The Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company (Janis Joplin) or Vanilla Fudge. Album versions of one hit wonders survived many years of nomadic lifestyle, such as Alice’s Restaurant and The Electric Prunes's Underground.

It wasn’t just about partying and getting high; the sexual revolution was picking up steam—fueled in no small way by the pill—and exploding on the scene was The Doors, with hits “Light my Fire”, “Back Door Man”, “The Alabama Song” (Whiskey Bar), and “Break on Through”. Later in ’67 would come a fifth hit, “Love Me Two Times” from Strange Days.

And, of course, there was the war. About 11,000 young Americans lost their lives in Vietnam in 1967, nearly double that in ’66. Tempers were getting short on both sides as Country Joe and the Fish recorded “The Fish Cheer & I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag”:
Well, come on generals, let's move fast;
Your big chance has come at last.
Gotta go out and get those reds
—The only good commie is the one who's dead
And you know that peace can only be won
When we've blown 'em all to kingdom come.

And it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn
Next stop is Vietnam
And it's five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates
Well there ain't no time to wonder why
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.
In '68, nearly 15,000 of our generation would come home dead from Vietnam.

That year the roster of those bands that to this day fill the classic rock playlists began to fill in. Creedence Clearwater Revival popped up with “Suzi Q”, Iron Butterfly with “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”, Deep Purple with “Hush” and Steppenwolf with “Born To Be Wild”. The Band showed with Music From Big Pink and Van Morrison debuted with Astral Weeks. The Steve Miller band showed up, too, and though Capital wasn’t really behind anyone but the Beatles they managed to crack the 100 with “Livin’ in the USA”.

There are some major survivors of 1968. Obviously The Beatles (The White Album) had a catchy tune or two, my favorites being “Helter Skelter”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, and “Savoy Truffle”. There is no way these songs compare, however, to “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Street Fighting Man”, “No Expectations” and “Factory Girl”. The Stones Beggar’s Banquet album would begin a streak that would land them solidly at the top of the heap.

Mick and the boys were in better touch, and what was once merely an anti-war sentiment in America was rapidly escalating. Radicalism was becoming widespread, leading to the Chicago Democratic Convention riots. So it was not at all shocking to kids to hear the lines:
Hey! Said my name is called Disturbance
I'll shout and scream, I'll kill the King I'll rail at all his servants
Imagine today’s right wing pundits getting a load of that one!

Then came 1969. Many experts pick this year as the greatest in rock (and American cars), and I was 18 years old. One day a guy down the hall of my freshman dorm came back to his room, opened the windows, turned his very big speakers toward the world, put his brand new copy of Zeppelin II on the turntable, cranked the knobs up to 11, and I and half of sleepy Bloomington, IL heard “Whole Lotta Love” for the first time.

How many great albums were released in 1969? Here’s a partial list.

The Rolling StonesLet it Bleed
The BeatlesAbbey Road
Led ZeppelinII
King Crimson (debut)In the Court of the Crimson King
Neil Young with Crazy HorseEverybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Sly and the Family StoneStand!
The Velvet UndergroundThe Velvet Underground
Creedence Clearwater RevivalGreen River
Frank ZappaHot Rats
Crosby, Stills and NashCrosby, Stills and Nash
MC5Kick Out the Jams
Creedence Clearwater RevivalWilly and the Poorboys
Grateful DeadLive/Dead
Isaac HayesHot Buttered Soul
Quicksilver Messenger ServiceHappy Trails
Johnny CashAt San Quentin
Bob DylanNashville Skyline
Tim BuckleyHappy Sad
Frank ZappaUncle Meat
Jefferson AirplaneVolunteers
Procol HarumA Salty Dog
Blood, Sweat & TearsBlood, Sweat & Tears
Joe CockerWith a Little Help from My Friends
Blind FaithBlind Faith
Jethro TullStand Up
Laura NyroNew York Tendaberry
Fleetwood MacThen Play On
Jeff Beck GroupBeck-Ola
Joe CockerJoe Cocker!
Creedence Clearwater RevivalBayou Country
Grateful DeadAoxomoxoa
PentangleBasket of Light
Rod StewartThe Rod Stewart Album
Chicago Transit Authority (debut)Chicago Transit Authority
Aretha FranklinSoul '69
Jack BruceSongs for a Tailor
The TemptationsCloud Nine
The YoungbloodsElephant Mountain
Boz ScaggsBoz Scaggs
Roberta FlackFirst Take
Johnny WinterJohnny Winter
The BeatlesYellow Submarine
Bob Marley and the Wailers (debut)Soul Shakedown
The DoorsThe Soft Parade
Elton JohnEmpty Sky
GenesisFrom Genesis to Revelation
Neil YoungNiel Young
The Moody BluesTo Our Children's Children's Children
Joni MitchellClouds
Yes (debut)Yes
David Bowie (debut)Man of Words/Man of Music
Janis_Joplin (solo debut)I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!
John Denver (debut)Rhymes and Reason
Mott the Hoople (debut)Mott the Hoople
Pink FloydUmmagumma

Kids in a candy store we were, in more ways then one. Woodstock happened in ’69, so did the Altamount free Stones concert fiasco. Revisionist historians like to point out that the excess evident in the former led to the tragedy of the latter. In fact, great volumes of theory have been written of the “excessive” behaviors of the 60’s. Well, we were 18 year olds, partying and looking to get laid. How very unusual! We laughed just as hard at the hippies as you do. We were “heads”, not hippies. Hippies were for the most part media hyped caricatures. We smoked pot, we took acid, and we hurt ourselves far less than the boozers before us, after us and to this day. We had the pill, but the prevailing style was to have an “old lady”, not to sleep around. While we were being monogamous and sitting around in smoky rooms, the “Greatest Generation” were the ones having “key” parties and driving under the influence.

And the war, still the war. There are about 100,000 troops in Iraq these days. 1969 saw 440,000 troops in Vietnam. It was child against the father—Archie Bunker and Meathead—in millions of homes across America. Venturing from our enclaves out into the surrounding communities was becoming risky, as constantly we would be accosted by locals and law enforcement types. Just as constantly we would do what we could to make their life miserable. It was misbehaving in a big way, and it was starting to frustrate the hell out of our parent’s generation. They were learning that they couldn’t shout us down.

In Part V we would both learn if shooting us down was an option.