Monday, December 22, 2014

Viva la Revolucion

Everybody laughs at Dennis Rodman. He is America's favorite, cross-dressing, tattooed, metalhead. His piercings set off alarms at airports five minutes before he arrives. He's dyed his hair every shade of the color chart wheel plus a few other hues not seen before on this planet. He was married to Carmen Electra and linked romantically with Madonna, but then who wasn't? He wore a wedding dress and full make-up to promote his 1996 autobiography, claiming that he was bi-sexual and marrying himself. And his nickname is "The Worm." Rodman is also a seven-time NBA rebounding champion, and a two-time defensive player of the year. He wears five NBA championship rings with the Chicago Bulls and had his number retired by the Detroit Pistons. He entered the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. Rodman's drunken bellicosity has cost him his credibility, which is too bad since he's one of the only living Americans to have a laugh with North Korea's Dear Leader, Kim Jong-un.

Rodman went to N. Korea in 2013 to assist their national basketball program, and returned the next year with a group of former NBA players for a tour of the country. Afterward, Rodman claimed Dear Leader was a "friend for life," and that Obama should, "pick up the phone and call Kim," since the two leaders were basketball fans. But he was drunk and verbose upon his return. His agent claimed Rodman had been drinking heavily to an extent "that none of us had seen before," and he promptly entered a rehab facility. But Rodman's message was simple- N. Koreans are nuts over basketball. So, before we enter a second Korean War over a Seth Rogen stoner movie, perhaps we should consider invading with basketball. There is a precedent. In 1971, the U.S. Table Tennis Team was invited to China, where no American had been since 1949. On the team was a redheaded long-haired hippie named Glenn Cowan, and everywhere they went he was mobbed by fans who were perhaps seeing what freedom was for the first time. The press dubbed it "Ping-Pong Diplomacy," and it helped thaw  relations with China leading up to Richard Nixon's famous handshake with Mao Zedong, who enjoyed a game of ping-pong himself. Nelson Mandela once said, "Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does."

Speaking of sports, the island of Cuba, one of the last existing communist countries, produces great baseball players. Even Fidel was reputed to be a decent pitcher. Cuban baseball stars like El Duque and Livan Hernandez risked their lives to come to this country. But with Obama's singular destruction of the mummified, Cold-War corpse of calamities lasting from the Kennedy administration, we may soon see some free-agents. The fastest way to transform a communist country is to give them a Major League Baseball franchise. The professional suits should get in there fast. I believe there's already a pretty good ball club in Havana called the Leones. There's a team in Toronto and they're already looking at Mexico City, so let's give the other half of the hemisphere a chance to compete. New York could play Havana and they could bring back all those posters that say, "Cuba, si. Yanqui, no," Over a half century, the CIA has tried to kill Castro by exploding cigars, poison pills, bacteria, LSD, snipers, bombers, and thallium salts to make his beard fall out. Fidel said, "If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal." Before another Bay of Pigs, let's invade with pro baseball, Coca-Cola, and Mickey D.

Given the chance, I would love to go to Cuba and habla a little espanol. I'd like to see the marketplace and the old cars. A new car in Cuba is a '57 Buick, but now they can finally get some genuine GM parts. In return, we get the near-mythical Cuban cigar. I smoked a few Hav-a-Tampa jewel sweets with the wooden tip back when I was in college until I realized that the taste was disgusting, but even I would smoke a Cuban cigar just for the hell of it. I could pull one out at a party and scream, "Say hello to my little friend." We can also learn how to say "banana daiquiri" in Spanish and see some of those racy shows where Hyman Roth would never go. I'm sorry. I just love "Godfather" references. One thing's for sure- the Castros can't live forever and their successors don't have personal connections to the revolution. Maybe an MLB all-star team could tour Cuba like the ping-pong team did China. Then dry out Dennis Rodman and make him our Ambassador to North Korea. Even Lil' Kim plays a little ball. Wilt Chamberlain and Kim Jong-un each hold the record for scoring 100 points in a game. The only difference was that Wilt did it with other players on the floor. Let's play ball for a change.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Soulful Christmas

'Tis the season to be jolly. I don't mean to be a curmudgeon and fire the opening shots in this year's War on Christmas, but the expression, "'Tis the season," grates on my nerves, and that's all you're going to see in every commercial and advertisement from now until Christmas. Even in editorials and and TV talk shows, someone will inevitably say, "'Tis the season." We don't say, ''Tis nice to meet you," or, "'Tis a beauteous evening," without deserving a backhand across the cheek with a leather glove. But we say it when we see a co-worker get schnockered at the office Christmas party. He doesn't get on all fours and bray like a jackass all the time but, 'tis the season. The expression excuses all manner of bad behavior. Some highly-strung doomsday prepper is bound to get drunk at the family dinner and send a child running from the room screaming, "Mommy, Mommy, Uncle Jim-Bob is hitting Uncle Ned in the head with a lead pipe," and she will answer, "Well, 'tis the season."

But that's not what I wanted to talk about. When we began to witness the law of diminishing returns regarding Christmas cards and ceased the practice, I sent around a CD compilation of what I believe are the greatest soulful Christmas songs. Now that the CD is extinct, I figure if I gave you a list, you kids today with your downloading and your e-phones, could probably find them on the MeTube and put together some mellow tunes to hear on your iRod. Then turn it up so everyone can enjoy a violence-free Christmas, lost in a winter wonderland of the mind. Forget your Frank Sinatra, your Perry Como and your Johnny Mathis. This is a different thing. So, here 'tis:

1. The Christmas Song, by Nat "King" Cole. The most elegant Christmas song and singer OF ALL TIME. Written by Mel Torme, who used to remind his audience of that fact every chance he got. But then, who wouldn't? The standard by which all other Christmas songs are measured. I could listen to this one all year.

2. This Christmas, by Donnie Hathaway. My personal favorite, even though listening to Donnie Hathaway sometimes makes me cry. Love the musical hook with the horns and the jingle bells. Can't do better than this one.

3. White Christmas, by the Drifters. Never mind "Der Bingle." The Drifters' doo-wop version with Clyde McPhatter is delightful and unforgettable. I've heard rumors that every time this song is played, Irving Berlin rolls over in his grave.

4. Merry Christmas, Baby, by Charles Brown, who sings, "I haven't had a drink this morning, but I'm all lit up like a Christmas tree." The most laid-back of all Xmas songs. There are also good versions by Elvis and Otis Redding, but Charles Brown is the real deal.

5. I'll Be Home For Christmas, by Al Green. There are many great interpretations of this song, but the Reverend Al takes it to church, where he usually is anyway.

6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, by Lou Rawls. Big band, swing style. When Lou sings in that baritone voice, you've got to groove, whatever your method may be. A real finger-popper. After listening, you'll say, "Yeahh, that's what I'm talkin' about."

7. Let it Snow, by Aaron Neville. An old tune refreshingly sung in the Neville brother's unique, jaunty, (I used the word "jaunty,") style. Extremely danceable. Stop looking for other versions. You'll thank me.

8. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, by Take 6. The worlds greatest acapella group adds a few musicians, specifically the Yellowjackets. Both vocal and musical arrangements on this track are amazing. You've never heard this song done this way before, but it will sure stay with you..

9. Gee Whiz, It's Christmas, by Carla Thomas. Upbeat and filled with joyous teenage innocence, and it's our Queen, for gosh sakes. This is my wife's favorite song, and Melody asked me to say, "We love you Carla." We really do.

10. Santa, Go Straight to the Ghetto, by James Brown. If anybody's going to tell the truth, it's the Godfather, who sings, "You know that I know what you will see/ 'Cause that was once me." And, "Never thought I'd realize/ I'd be singing a song with water in my eyes." Did I mention that it was also funky? Mr. Dynamite died on Christmas day, 2006, so every year we dust off the Walgreen's dancing and singing James Brown figure, give him fresh batteries, and place him in a place of prominence in what passes for Christmas decorations at our house, so he can do the Camel Walk.

You could add to this group the entire scandalous 1957 Elvis' Christmas Album, and, A Christmas Gift to You from Phil Spector, which is a terrific record, but knowing the guy's doing life for murder makes it all a little creepy to listen to now. It's like receiving a flowery wedding announcement from Charles Manson. There are so many more great songs, but I wanted to get this out to you early so you can begin preparing your playlist for the family festivities. I'm sure you can steal them anywhere. 'Tis the season.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Our borders are so porous that they have become nearly impossible to police. Thousands of aliens sneak into this country every day and head for border towns where they can blend in with people of similar color who speak a similar language, making it undetectable who is and who is not a documented citizen. The border is so long that no fence short of the Wall of China could even begin to stop the migrating hordes that seek sanctuary in the USA at any cost. They have infiltrated every major city and many illegals have had children here so that they can automatically become American citizens. These are the "anchor babies" you've heard so much about. There are so many aliens already here that you could never round up and deport them all. And the good jobs that they take away from able-bodied Americans is scandalous. They have begun to dominate entire businesses and have affected  popular culture so that our children are exposed. The lure of cheap drugs has caused Americans in border towns to flock to pharmacies just miles away, only to smuggle them back into this country. They talk different. Their food is different. Their national sports are different. Let's face it, these people are different than we are. I strongly believe, and many other like-minded patriots agree, that it's about damn time that we crack down on this endless stampede of Canadians invading our land.

They come across in border towns like Detroit, Buffalo, and Rochester, but those who really want to enter undetected use the wide swaths of land that are too remote to patrol. They enter in places like Duluth, Minnesota and Grand Forks, North Dakota, and I understand that the further west you go, the more hard-core the trafficking is in illegal drugs, particularly marijuana. Demand has fallen totally off in Washington State, but I've heard of Canucks with calves the size of saskatoons from smuggling backpacks full of dangerously potent cannabis from Vancouver across the border. The Canadians call it "B.C. Bud," or at least that's what I was told. And not only are their legal drugs cheaper, I get at least fifteen emails per week enticing me to buy them. You can even order them through the mail, flaunting the law, and what is this Vicodin they keep wanting me to take? Canadians don't care about our laws. They were all bootleggers during prohibition and some of the most prominent families made their fortunes supplying illegal hooch to Al Capone. Every time our country enters into one of our periodic righteous wars with somebody we don't like, it's always Canada that openly welcomes our cowardly draft-dodgers into their midst, especially during that pesky Vietnam business.

Over the past forty years, there has been a stealth campaign among Canadians to infiltrate and take over the entertainment industry, beginning with the immigrant Lorne Michaels from Toronto. In the mid-seventies, he invented a subversive television program called Saturday Night Live, and ever since, he's relied on Canadians to spread his irreverent message- people like Dan Aykroyd, Martin Short, Norm McDonnell, and Mike Meyers. This opened the floodgates for Canadian comedy with imported shows like SCTV, featuring perverted comics like John Candy, Rick Moranis, Catherine O'Hara, and Eugene Levy. Following their Migrant Trail came Jim Carrey, Howie Mandel, and Tommy Chong who began to take over the movies. If our government had been vigilant enough to keep these freeloaders out, we would never have had to suffer through "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," "Wayne's World," or "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective." Canadians spend half their lives listening to Gordon Lightfoot, and the other half watching hockey. They drink beers called Moosehead and Labatt and live on a diet of bacon and maple syrup, which they pour over everything. They refuse to speak American. Instead of "out and about," they say, "Oot and aboot." They swear allegiance to the British crown, and even have a state that wants to secede where they force everyone to speak French.

And now they want this XL Keystone pipeline to transport Canadian oil across our great country into the Gulf of Mexico so they can sell it to the Russians and Chinese. Of course, there's absolutely no danger of an oil spill in the Gulf- right? It's past time to round up all your Avril Lavignes, your Ryan Goslings, and your Anna Paquins and begin arranging their transport home. It's shocking how deeply they have burrowed into our society. William Shatner is a Canadian. I mean, Captain Kirk is an alien, for God's sake. Peter Jennings, the man who brought me my evening news all those years, was a Canuck. Even the hip-hop artist Drake comes from the mean streets of Toronto. We refer to Mexicans as "illegal aliens," but Canadians are always, "our friends up north." I think it's time to get these toque wearing, cheese-eating, Celine Dion listening, ice skaters back into their own wretched country. Especially this Seth Rogan fellow, whose "nerd gets the girl" movies have caused young men to resort to gun violence. It's time this invasion came to an end and relocations are in order. I only have one request. When the government starts deporting Canadians, please deport Justin Bieber first, eh?

Monday, November 10, 2014

No You Can't

Well, I guess they showed us. All us naive sheep and moochers with all those pipe dreams about hope and change failed to anticipate the coming tsunami. I haven't seen a red wave that gigantic since the last time the Crimson Tide went undefeated. Last week's mid-term elections were fueled by resentment and anger directed toward the president, so it seems that new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's simple but seditious strategy worked- say no to every initiative, block every bill, refuse any compromise, and filibuster the Obama presidency into paralysis. Then, when the Congress is in a total logjam where nothing can  move, blame the president for being a divisive leader. The endgame was to destroy Obama, by any means necessary. With the aid of Fox News and right-wing vitriolic radio, the GOP stoked rage and hatred against our foreign born, Socialist president and whipped elderly white men into such a frothing frenzy, they had no choice but to come out in angry numbers in order to put our first black president in his place. That's who voted, you know- angry, old people. I hate stats too, but them's the facts.

The funny thing is, leading up to the election, every time I saw Obama address a large gathering, the crowd always went wild with excitement. That excitement was the very thing the president's party lacked. So rather than rail against a poorly informed populace, a flood of untraceable "dark" money, or the lowest voter turnout in any election since Pearl Harbor, I would instead like to address the milquetoast, paranoid, spineless, unprincipled, gutless cowards who inhabit the Democratic Party ranks these days. They took a poll, then ran from Obama like he had Ebola. As a result, the enthusiastic young people that attended the president's rallies did not vote. Why should they? No Democratic candidate celebrated the president's successes except Rep. Steve Cohen, and he could have remained silent if he so chose. There is no clearer example of this Obama denial than in the race of  Kentucky senatorial candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes. She might have mentioned that those 413,000 Kentuckians that are now enjoying the bluegrass state's new "kynect" health insurance program are actually receiving the benefits of Obamacare under a different name. When asked if she voted for the president, the answer should have been simple- "Of course I did. I'm a Democrat and Barack Obama is my party's standard bearer." Instead, the gun toting, coal loving, blue-dog acted like she never heard the name Obama and insisted that she was strictly a "Clinton Democrat." When pressed on the issue, she proclaimed that her vote was a private matter and refused to answer the question. Next time they revise Wikipedia, right next to the word "mealymouth," there should be a picture of Alison Lundergan Grimes.

When was the last time you heard someone say they were a "proud liberal," or that they "stood by progressive values?" Maybe Lyndon Johnson? Or George McGovern? Democrats have allowed the term "liberal" to be defined by the opposition and ever since Bubba Clinton's election, they're all "new Democrats," meaning conservative-lite. Personally, I preferred the old Democrats- the ones like FDR, who fought hard for progress against Republican intransigence. Now, they all just want to keep their jobs and not ruffle any constituent feathers, and they will abandon the man who brought their party back to prominence as soon as his approval rating drops below fifty percent.  It's not like they didn't have anything to talk about- three million new jobs in the last six years, Obamacare succeeding everywhere it's been implemented, the stock market setting new records every month. Instead, they ran as the party of please. "Please don't blame us for our candy-ass leadership. Please don't hurt us for not exercising power when we had it. Please don't think that we're with the black guy. We'll just be over here- under our desks- if that's OK with you." The Democrats were richly deserving of an ass-whooping and they will soon shed their cloak of power with a whimper.

And on behalf of the real men in Tennessee who consider themselves feminists, I'd like to apologize to all the women whose reproductive rights will now be determined by a congressman from Crossville named Cooter. I spent six years in East Tennessee- four as a student and two as a rock star- and I witnessed the general area's antipathy toward knowledge. That's where the bulk of votes in favor of abortion restrictions came from. It's a battle of country against city. That's why country music is so popular up there- it's a celebration of poverty and ignorance. Abortion on the ballot is like Mountain Dew to a meth head, and you can bet that every gap-toothed, overall wearing, fundamentalist, country-ass rube marched to the polls with religious fervor. So what if the amendment is unconstitutional. Republicans rule the roost. So expect more of the same. As a nation, we voted for more tax breaks for corporations and the obscenely wealthy, cuts in welfare assistance and food stamps, fuel-injected attempts to overturn Obamacare, protectionism for the democracy-killing "Citizens United" decision, and further denial of climate change. I guess Abe Lincoln was wrong- you can fool all of the people all of the time. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cosmetic Carnage

Everyday when I wake up, I go look into the bathroom mirror and say, "Hello dad." I no longer, however, stand and stare wondering, "what the hell happened," because I've come to embrace the situation at hand. I just ain't young no more. Believe me, I understand wanting to maintain a youthful appearance for as long as possible and I'm not opposed to a nip or tuck here and there. In full disclosure, I had excess fat surgically removed from my eyelids not too many years ago. It wasn't for vanity's sake because it had become a vision problem, unlike my freaking out about my hair falling out in my teens before undergoing a botched transplant that I've regretted ever since. So, I get it. Anything that can make you feel better about yourself and give you a more positive outlook on life is a good thing. But just as morbid obesity has become epidemic among the poor, the wealthy have been hit with an outbreak of obsessive and extreme cosmetic surgery.

The latest celebrity victim is Renee Zellweger, whose transformation from an apple-cheeked beauty into a homogeneous contestant on American Idol dominated last week's news- even above ISIS and Ebola. But at least she still looks like an inhabitant of this planet, unlike some of the other freaks and geeks out there. Let's take Bruce Jenner for example. How does one of the finest athletes in the world transform himself from an Olympic decathlon champion into Mrs. Doubtfire? And Pamela Anderson has been watching that bay for a little too long. The examples are everywhere. Some of the grotesqueries are Melanie Griffith, Meg Ryan, Mickey Roarke, Kenny Rogers, Barry Manilow, and Donatello Versace for the fashion set. Also, everyone on the Bravo Network, including the Real Housewives of Everywhere. Have you seen this thing? If Pamela Anderson was the innovator of bubble breasts, the Real Housewives have taken it to a higher plane. They have huge balloons implanted in their breasts that look so tight they might explode at any minute, sending the poor Housewife flying around the room in a zig-zag pattern. So many women have emulated them that, within the culture, the same Double-D dirigibles have become commonplace. You can see them at the grocery store- or Walmart, if I ever went there. If women believe that this is what men want, I'll clue you in on something- men don't care. Big and small, they love 'em all. For once, I'd like to see a small-breasted woman featured as the Playboy centerfold.

And can we discuss butts for a second? I saw Iggy Azalea on Saturday Night Live, and came to the conclusion that it's no longer the size of your voice that counts, it's the size of your ass. When did America go ass crazy? Between Iggy, Nicki Minaj, and J-Lo, they have enough rump to start their own parliament. (That's an Oliver Cromwell reference, by the way). So, suddenly women across the country are getting butt implants so they can Twerk properly in the club. I'll bet Sir Mixalot never imagined that his "I Like Big Butts" song would become a national surgical obsession. There's no part of the human body that someone hasn't thought of accessorizing with an implant. I saw one dude that had implants put in his biceps and pectorals so he could look ripped without all that heavy lifting. He stated that next, he wanted to "do his wings." I think before you have surgery, you should have to know the name of the muscle that you're having implanted. There have currently been so many botched cosmetic surgeries that a whole new medical field has opened up devoted to the correction of the macabre results. Americans have become as addicted to surgery as someone hooked on crack.

If Michael Jackson was the king of facial demolition, Joan Rivers was the queen of reconstructive surgery. She had her face lifted so many times they had to slip in a new body underneath. Of course, it's not polite to kick the dead when they're down, so let's discuss Courtney Love instead. Or Suzanne Somers, who at age sixty-seven, looks more like ninety-seven. I've never understood why women subject themselves to pancake make-up, stiffened hair, and spiked heels that make them look like unbalanced ballerinas. Since men are mostly oblivious to these things, I've surmised that they do it for each other. I've never met a woman in high-heels at a party that didn't complain about her feet hurting or want to sit down. You look perfectly fine to us menfolk barefooted. Not as in "barefoot and pregnant," but you know what I mean. We just don't want you to have to toe-dance all the time. It's not easy growing old in a youth obsessed culture, but once you're finished trying to impress others and face aging with dignity, a whole new world of "don't give a damn" opens. Ultimately, a beautiful face is not as meaningful as a beautiful soul. And there's no way to implant one of those.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Manic In Manhattan

While going through an old box of stuff, I came across a program I had saved from the Fillmore East dated Dec. 19, 1969. The Byrds were headlining that night, supported by Keith Emerson and the Nice, and the San Francisco horn band, the Sons of Champlin. As an added attraction, the immortal Dion DiMucci appeared to perform his latest hit, "Abraham, Martin, and John." That collectible brought back a lot of memories, mostly bad. When I was twenty, I dropped out of college and moved to New York City. I was chasing the flimsiest of music offers from someone I barely knew. A high school acquaintance had graduated Yale as a poetry major and gotten a job in an apprentice program for Columbia Records. He had shown some of his work to the legendary talent scout and record producer John Hammond, Sr., who encouraged him to find a collaborator to help transform his poetry into songs. I suppose I was the only musician he knew. When "Tom" called, he mentioned the names of several friends we shared in common and asked me to come to New York with the understanding that I would eventually have a chance to audition for CBS. He said I could live rent-free in his apartment and only needed to contribute my share of grocery money. After calling a few people and asking if this guy was for real, I packed my guitar and a suitcase and flew to Manhattan.

As soon as I arrived, the problems began. I took a cab to the address I was given only to find a short-order grill there. The cabbie had to inform me that my friend lived above the restaurant. When I lugged my gear up four flights and found the apartment, the couch I was promised was already occupied by one of Tom's college buddies who was waiting for renovations to be completed on his own place. I was asked if I minded sleeping on the floor for a little while. No sooner had I caught my breath than Tom sat cross-legged on the floor with a stack of papers in front of him and asked if he could play my guitar. Nobody played my guitar. After I had reluctantly handed it over, it took no longer than two minutes for me to realize that he had no musical ability whatsoever. He was the kind of guy who had to look at his left hand when he changed chords, and his poetry consisted mainly of abstractions that only he understood. I thought briefly of returning to the airport and booking the first flight out, but I'd already told my friends I was going and didn't want it to appear that I had turned tail and run. I knew that if anything was to be accomplished, we would have to start from scratch, and while I was lying on the floor using my leather jacket as a pillow, I wondered what in the world I had  gotten myself into now.

The two former Yalies awoke at 7am and were off to pursue their careers. They were razor-cut preppies in a hippie age and looked at me as if I were some scraggly-haired curiosity from the hinterlands. The movie "Midnight Cowboy" had only been recently released and I hit 72nd Street feeling like Joe Buck come to the big city. Look out New York, here I am! But while I was eating breakfast in the downstairs grill, people began running down the street away from what was known as Needle Park. There had been a shooting that sent the residents into a panic. Within three weeks, I felt more like Ratso Rizzo, wandering the streets aimlessly and mumbling to myself, just to have the chance to speak. Tom and I had grown to dislike each other so much that I would deliver a melody to his cubicle in the morning, and he would write poems to fit during the workday. The problem was, his lyrics were mainly about some phantom girlfriend that I never saw and nothing else in the known world to which I could relate. Our hostility grew so bitter that he asked me to leave. I had never been kicked out of anywhere. I found a single room in a decaying brownstone on W. 82nd St. with a single sink that looked like it had been clogged since Prohibition and a bathroom down the hall shared by ten tenants. My rent was eleven dollars a week and I still had to call home for financial help. The street was a magnet for hookers, junkies, and transients, but since I wore a frayed P-coat from Navy surplus, and a battered wide-brimmed fedora, I blended right in. After several tortuous months, we finally came up with a number of songs sufficient for an audition.

I stood with my guitar beside the desk of John Hammond and he was all shining teeth and silver hair, cut into a tall flattop. Just the knowledge that he had discovered Bob Dylan would have been intimidating enough, but since my Dad was a fan of swing music, I also knew that Hammond had discovered Billie Holiday and put together the Benny Goodman Band. Now he was sitting a foot away, staring up at me. I began to play an up-tempo song featuring some of Tom's metaphorical lyrics, but I couldn't look him in the eye. When I had finished, Hammond proclaimed with a big smile on his face, "My, we have a singer here." He was impressed that I had once recorded for Sun Records and arranged for a full demo session in the CBS Studios. I arrived early on the appointed day only to find a Vegas-like lounge singer in the studio while his slick manager was addressing Hammond as "baby" in the control room. After apologizing for the delay, Hammond told me to go ahead and set up. I put my chord charts and lyric sheets on a music stand and went down the hallway to ease my severe cottonmouth with a drink of water. When I returned, the lounge singer was gone, but so was all my music. Hammond sent the engineer racing after the pair while assuring me that he was certain this was some mistake. But when the out-of-breath engineer reappeared and told us he had shouted at the pair from the street but they jumped into a cab and sped off, it was obvious they had stolen all of my notes. Frozen with dread, I somehow managed to record the songs from memory. Ultimately, nothing came of the entire eight-month-long project. Hammond told me that because of a shakeup in the top brass at Columbia, "I no longer know where I'm at in this company." After I had quietly returned to Tennessee, my former host informed me that Hammond had said, "A lot of people have stuck around a lot longer than he did." Two years later, John Hammond signed Bruce Springsteen to Columbia Records. Still and all, I'm the only artist in recorded history to have been produced by both Sam Phillips and John Hammond. It ain't bragging if it's true.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


So now they expect you to reward them. The most unproductive, polarized, ineffective, and despised Congress in American history has abandoned the nation's business in order to focus on convincing you that they are worthy of your support for reelection. After a five week summer recess and a grueling eight days back in session, the congressional Republicans just said, "fuck it," and lit out for the territories, leaving trivial matters of war and peace to wait until after the midterm elections. Indulge me in a hypothesis. Let's say that you are the personnel manager of a large hospital, and right in the middle of a measles outbreak, all your employees decided to return home to prepare for their performance reviews. When they came back after the rubella epidemic had worsened, would you rehire them?

And yet, the noise on the right has grown so deafening, they think they're winning. Republicans are as confident as Mitt Romney on election night. The hammer-locked Congress, led by the fearsome tag-team of "Blubbering John" Boehner and Mitch "The Obamacare Assassin" McConnell, don't even realize that their strategy of destroying the President at the expense of the country hasn't worked. Even after Obama's reelection and Eric Cantor's loss, they still didn't get the message and continued with their destructive agenda. The goose-stepping Congressional Republicans have obstructed, delayed, blocked, and filibustered every single initiative offered by the President, costing countless numbers of desperately-needed jobs, and now they want your vote. Republicans have loudly criticized the president for taking executive actions and then leave town during an international crisis, abdicating their Constitutional responsibilities to discuss the use of force. The British Parliament's debate was fascinating, but Congressman Bubba from Birmingham can't be called away from his fish fry. There are donors hands to shake. Can you imagine if John McCain and Sarah Palin were elected in 2012? We'd be dropping nukes on the Kremlin screaming, "We're all Ukrainians now," although recent events have shown we may have used the Palin family type of fistfight diplomacy first.

While Obama was securing a unanimous vote in the UN Security Council to crack down on foreign fighters joining ISIS, only the second U.S. President in history to chair such a committee, right-wing media exploded in outrage over his inadvertent salute to a marine while holding a coffee cup. Fox News went wild with indignation, even though this militaristic gesture of saluting while exiting a helicopter was initiated only thirty years ago by the Hollywood warrior, Ronald Reagan. Then, the usual Fox suspects exulted at the resignation of Eric Holder like the 7th Cavalry claiming a scalp, while vilifying the Attorney General for his presumed "racial favoritism." Holder once said that when it comes to discussing matters of race, we are "a nation of cowards." His choice of words may have been combative, but he was right. Or, maybe half-right. We don't discuss race across color lines, but that never stopped the Caucasian Party from discussing it amongst themselves. To believe the GOP, you'd think that roving gangs of displaced Acorn volunteers and welfare cheats were conspiring to vote under false names to steal the next election. Just listen to their rhetoric;  A Fox News host said that Eric Holder was, "one of the most in America," who, "ran the Department of Justice much like the Black Panthers would." The morally bankrupt Dick Cheney claimed Obama "would much rather spend money on food stamps...than defending our troops." And Old Faithful, Sarah Palin, telling a recent audience how to combat liberals who "scream racism just to end debate," uttered this gem: "Well, don't retreat. You reload with truth, which I know is an endangered species at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue." Her verbal bomb fell about two blocks short of its target.

For the sake of sane government, these right-wing obstructionists are richly deserving of being swept from office. If they can't win fairly, they cheat. They demand new documentation as a condition for voting, they restrict days and hours to make it difficult for the poor to vote, they gerrymander districts to insure a Republican majority, and they lie. All the time. In these dark days, what we are witnessing is the last gasp of white supremacy in this nation. That's what all this "we want our country back" stuff is about. But the GOP is willing to burn down the country club before they'll admit any of these mixed-race aliens into their midst. Largely based in the South, the Republican Party is now the last bastion of the old Confederate mentality. Regardless of who controls the Congress in 2014 or even wins the presidency in 2016, this is the last spasm of the philosophy of white entitlement.  Ultimately, leaders will come along to see the value of diversity and replace the agenda-driven, politicized, corporate-owned Justices on the Supreme Court and restore honor to the term "public servant." No time soon, however. The Fox News demographic may be aging, but not fast enough. Die-hard viewers of the corporate propaganda outlet still think Obama is the Anti-Christ.

Monday, September 15, 2014

ISIL Schmisil

A few months ago, no one outside of the defense establishment had ever heard of ISIS, but now that the President has offered a strategy to combat these barbaric psychopaths, the right-wing geniuses in congress and every talking blonde-head on Fox News has suddenly become an expert on Middle Eastern foreign policy. It's clear that the terrorist organization has become an existential threat to the US. Recently, an ISIS leader paraphrased George W. Bush, saying, "You are either with us or we will kill you." Their savagery has again taken this nation back into a sectarian war, and if that is the case, the reactionary Obama haters need to sit down and shut up. When the criminal Bush invaded Iraq under false pretenses, he was at least given the courtesy of bipartisan support before his lies were exposed. No such support for Obama. An editorial appeared in the New York Times, composed by John McCain and Lindsay Graham, the Abbott and Costello of warmongers, goading the president into stronger action, including more American troops on the ground. After Obama's televised address outlining plans for assembling a coalition to join the fight, a speech, by the way, which could easily have been given by G. Dubya, Lindsay Graham ran to Fox News Sunday and said, "Our strategy will fail yet again. The president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed here at home."

The 'Bama-bashers first took issue with the president for using the term ISIL, instead if ISIS. I was baffled too and had to Google it for myself. So, ISIS means the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria; ISIL stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Which raises another question- Levant is an antiquated term used mainly by archaeologists, meaning the area currently in conflict, but also including Palestine and Israel. The apocalyptic conspiratorialists went blotto claiming Obama had a hidden agenda. One end-of-times website said, "When Obama refers to the Islamic State as ISIL, he is sending a message to Muslims all over the Middle East that he personally does not recognize Israel as a sovereign nation, but as territory belonging to the Islamic State... Obama's ultimate goal is the destruction of Israel." Really? Another article credited to the Fox News Staff joined the argument over the president's choice of words. A massive mob of jihadist maniacs are running wild in Iraq and Syria, committing mass killings, public executions, beheadings, and crucifixions, and the conservative crazies over at Fox are arguing over semantics. Meanwhile, Obama has killed more terrorists than sand fleas and crotch rot.

These three gruesome videos of a knife-wielding, British-sounding ISIS terrorist, who will soon be known as "ashes in a keffiyeh," are meant to goad the West into sending in ground troops as targets. Aside from our Special Forces who, to no one's surprise, are already there, these savages aren't worth sacrificing a single troop. In this case, Obama's strategy is correct- use air strikes and drone the hell out of them. Recently, I viewed a video online that was either leaked or classified because it was quickly taken down. It showed the view from a US helicopter warship over a camp of ISIS killers, scurrying like rats in a barn while being targeted and blown to hell by our military. I must admit, it was the most engrossing thing I've seen online in a while. We have the technology to halt the advances of this group of disaffected men without women, but the need for ground troops is the subject of the current Paris Conference. Muslim countries need to combat this threat directly, but the cavalry isn't coming- not from our dear friends the Saudis, or the Turks, or the United Arab Emirates- the "Coalition of the Threatened." Our military claims that an army of Sunni Muslims is necessary to fight the Sunni dominated ISIS militia who were left jobless after we disbanded the Iraqi army. Of course, since that army belonged to Saddam Hussein, they had to go. Now, they're back and they're enraged and insane.

Y'all know me. I'm a leftist peace-nick. There hasn't been a war since Vietnam that I haven't opposed. But these thrill-killers are a different animal. This is a moral issue. Remember the first Gulf War after Iraq invaded Kuwait and Poppy Bush drew a line in the sand? You could question the motives for the war, but not the conduct of the operation. Under the direction of General "Stormin' Norman" Schwarzkopf, a force of 675,000 troops from twenty-eight countries was assembled to fight Saddam Hussein's brutally loyal Republican Guard. After getting their asses kicked out of Kuwait, the Iraqi army retreated in a single-file column, making it easy for US fighter jets to transform them into one long smoking strip of bacon in the desert, the final indignation for non-pork eaters. I've noticed the same single-file progression of ISIS through Iraq. Perhaps the Schwarzkopf strategy can be dusted off one more time and air strikes could be used to create even more lines of crispy critters in the sand. Better still, the CIA could start a blood feud between ISIS and Al Qaeda and let them shoot it out among themselves. There is no negotiating with someone missing their soul. It may come as a surprise, but this pacifist says, "smoke 'em." Nothing deters a terrorist quite like death.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Renamed, Renewed, and Recycled

It's way past time for a name change of this effort. Originally, I had created the term "Born-Again Hippies" not for a blog title, but for the radio. I was doing a program called, "The Psychedelicatessen" for the community station, playing protest music from the 60s, and I began to get a lot of response from young people. Once, after playing an anti-war song, I pontificated, "Old men make wars for young men to die in," and the phone rang. It was a man in his 20s, choking back emotion, while saying, "I feel like you're the only person on the radio that cares about us." Calls and email arrived from Vietnam veterans encouraging me to continue speaking out about the Bush wars. I began the radio show for fun and nostalgia, but the deeper the Bush administration dragged us into war, the more relevant the old music became. The station's director asked me to stop all political commentary  under threat of cancellation- and I tried. I thought I could get my point across with the music alone, but then Hurricane Katrina struck. I felt that if I had a platform, regardless of how small, and I failed to use it, then that  would make me a coward. So, partly out of the necessity to express my outrage over the drowning of New Orleans, and partly because I was under the delusion that I was becoming the leader of a new youth movement, I went off on the radio- big time. I announced the formation of "Born-Again Hippies" as a plea for the Woodstock generation to reawaken their social conscience and as a cause around which young people might rally. My show was cancelled and I was fired from my free job. I was urged by friends to continue to express myself, and the "Born-Again Hippie" blog was born.

In my career as a musician, I've taken particular pride in some of the more demented band names I've invented. I've had two working bands called The Hired Hands, and Holy Cow, but have also performed under the monikers: Chest Pains, The Moodbusters, The Disco Nazis, Feedbag, and Jerry's Kids. I imagined that "Born-Again Hippies" was clever, and it may have been for a rock band, but not for journalistic purposes. Perhaps my intent would have been better conveyed by a name like Reawakened Hippies or something similar. But in my desire to come up with something catchy, I neglected to consider the implications of the term "Born again" in an opinion blog. I can imagine that these posts would be a great disappointment to someone who did a Google search on the title, hoping to find an evangelical support group for aging acid freaks, and ended up with me. Also, the "Born-Again" part was discouraging potential readers who instinctively believed that this was an evangelical, religion-based forum. So after much consideration, it's time for a blog makeover; including the name, design, and fonts. We even threw in the undercoating for free. In other words, we can pledge to you that the newly christened "Recycled Hippies," will be the same old shit, only more of it.

Not to worry, your favorite Born-Again Hippies posts will remain on the net in perpetuity- possibly longer. I only wish I had thought of this 280 articles ago. Even with a new name, this blog is now nine years old. If I can keep it up a few more years, lord willing and the creeks don't rise, maybe we'll throw a big Bar Mitzvah bash for this bad boy. The funny thing is, looking back over nearly a decade of opinions, the only time I've been wrong was my belief that Al Gore would be president. Of course, that's on him for not running again and instead focusing on getting rich. I wrote an article about it called "Al Gore Broke My Heart." You could look it up. I did accurately say, when the coronation of Hillary Clinton as Democratic nominee was taking place in early 2008, that it wasn't going to happen. Here's another prediction that you can check up on in a couple of years: Hillary Clinton will never be  president. Maybe this deserves an article of its own, but I believe that the nation has moved on. Of course, I eagerly await the election of a woman to this country's highest office- Elizabeth Warren. Two years is a long time for another Hillary coronation, and enough time for other formidable candidates to emerge. Warren claims she will not run. Lots of people have claimed that.

Lastly, I will remain a staunch defender of this president as long as the irrational, untrue, bombastic, and hate-filled remarks of the hysterical right are launched over the airwaves. Fox News and right-wing talk radio peddle fear and hatred, pure and simple. Has anyone been assigned a government-appointed doctor yet? How about the "death panels?" Anyone refused an operation because they're too old or sick? It was all bullshit from the president's political opponents and the Koch-backed Tea Party, who unwittingly did the bidding of the same people who are raiding the national treasury. The Obama administration made the same semantic mistake that I did. The Affordable Care Act was never about healthcare reform, it was about insurance reform. If they had sold it that way, who could have sided with the heartless, soulless, insurance company death panels?

The misplaced outrage over Obamacare helped usher in a whole slate of Republican governors and state legislatures. And what was the result? Local and state governmental focus, across the country, shifted from jobs and the economy to abortion restrictions, relaxation on gun sales, and hampering minorities and the poor from voting. Of the five Republican governors touted as possible 2014 presidential candidates, three are under investigation (Christie, Walker, and Scott), one has been indicted (Perry), and one has been convicted (Bob McDonnell). The same governing philosophy has infected numerous other states, including Tennessee. CSNBC has compiled a list of the worst states in which to live, and the Volunteer State came in at #1. We're #1! Among the reasons listed were the poor health of the state's citizens, including high rates of diabetes and obesity. And guess who's blocking the available expansion of Medicaid to the poor? You got it, Governor Bill Haslam. This means that the state pays more in taxes to subsidize the program elsewhere, and in real terms, poor people will die because of ignorant, spiteful, governmental obstinance- all directed at Barack Obama. The only way to right the ship is to sweep these ideologues from office, but the right-wing fog machine is clouding the picture and causing static in the message. How do you like me so far?