Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I Awake

"Woke up depressed..." These words describe the way I feel at least once a week. Waking up already profoundly depressed makes my daily battle with depression that much harder. It's not a fair fight. Waaaaaah! How do you beat back an enemy that hits so hard before you've opened your eyes? You just keep on fighting.

Enough of my whining, let's talk music. I first saw Soundgarden January 21, 1990 on what I remember as the "Blizzard of Sound" tour (although I can't find any reference to a tour by that name via the Google nor can I easily place my hands on my scrapbook). "Astronomy Domine"-period Voivod (Note to all bands: if you feel absolutely compelled to cover the dread Pink Floyd please make it a Syd song) and the Mike Patton-led Faith No More rounded out the bill.

Having religiously listened to my Louder Than Love advance CD (picture disc. Natch.) for six months, I had high hopes for the 'Garden. A chance run-in with guitarist extraordinaire Kim Thayill at dinner whetted my appetite. A wickedly funny guy, Kim showed no compunction in telling an unbelievably off-color joke in the company of someone he had only just met. I liked him immediately.

With two other "co-headliners on the bill, Soundgarden wasted no time getting down to business. "Flower", the churning first track from their debut album, kicked off the set. They segued neatly into Chris Cornell's Adhan-like wailing intro to "Hands All Over."

As the band's first truly great song, "HAO" is ostensibly about the damage we do to Mother Earth (hence the widely misunderstood "kill your mother" chorus). But it digs deeper than that. Given a listen nearly twenty years later Cornell's lyrics are downright prescient:

Hands all over the eastern border
You know what? I think we’re falling
From composure
Hands all over western culture
Ruffling feathers and turning eagles into vultures
"Gun", my least fave Soundgarden tune to that point, came next. They quickly got back on track with the towering "Loud Love", the jackhammer-subtle-but-all-the-better-
'cuz-of-it "Get On The Snake" and the hysterically funny "Full On Kevin's Mom" (think Robert Plant fronting Black Flag). Then came a transcendent "I Awake" followed by the "Big Bottom"/"Earache My Eye" medley. (If they were going to go all ironic and silly on me, I would have greatly preferred hearing the far better "Big Dumb Sex"). The Sabbath-cum-Zeppelin stylings of "Beyond The Wheel" was the closer.

I saw Soundgarden a few times after that night. While later on they had better songs and musicians, sometimes your first time seeing a band is the best time. This was one of those times.


PS Jason Everman was Soundgarden's bassist for this tour replacing founding member Hiro Yamamoto. Everman has the dubious unfortunate distinction of having quit(!?!) Nirvana and being fired from Soundgarden. He exited both bands immediately prior to the recording of breakthrough albums Nevermind and Badmotorfinger.

Now that's something to be depressed about.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Bi-Partisan House Oversight Committee: "Abramoff & Associates Influenced Administration Decisions"

No shit. Download the 8-page summary here or check Raw Story.

McCain's Budget Guru Tells A Whopper

Douglas Holtz-Eakin says McCain "will bring the budget to balance by the end of his first term.” Not bloody likely. Remember, this is the guy who earlier this year was fucking silly enough to admit to The Wall Street Journal(!) that he "doesn't really understand economics." It's why Johnny's concern for and attention to our nation's faltering economic seems to change with the wind. Think Progress has a time line of McCain's recent ever-changing economic moods here.

It'll be interesting to watch McCain, a guy who's proved he couldn’t pass high school economics, and his gang of lobbyists explain to voters how they are ever going to balance the budget when we have record deficits, no one knows how much is left in the treasury, no one knows how much the Bush’s wars have already cost and no one knows how much the wars will continue to cost? McCain's promised tax cuts too. Oh, and he plans to keep US troops in Iraq for 100 years too! That's right. All Republicans believe tax cuts and wars pay for themselves.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

These People Have An Unlimited Capacity To Make Me Sick

There's no shortage of current and upcoming exposés of President George W. Bush and his accomplices. I don't have the stomach to read them all. However, it looks like political writer & former talk show host Paul Alexander's new book is required reading. It's called Machiavelli's Shadow: The Rise and Fall of Karl Rove.

Salon has this excerpt: "How Karl Rove Played Politics While People Drowned."

Shorter version at First Draft.


(HT: Crooks and Liars)

ASIAF Exclusive: John McCain Hand Picks Recruits For His 100-Year War

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Libertarianism Is Stupid

Libertarians do have some beliefs that I support wholeheartedly among them legalization of marijuana, pro-gay marriage, anti-censorship, pro-privacy, women's right to choose and pro-property rights. Most of the rest I find kinda screwy. If we were to go so far as the Libertarians would like, our highways and other roads would not be maintained, environmental protection would be solely up to the individual and unproven medical treatments would be widely available. Bush has personally proven that a totally free market economy would only bring our republic further ruin.

Libertarianism is not practical. It's stupid.

In my experience, there are only two kinds of libertarians:

  1. The wild-eyed true believing anarchist types.
  2. The "former" Republicans who claim they're "Libertarian" because they're currently ashamed of their party and wish to duck responsibility for the George W. Bush Presidency.
Almost all* those in category #2 are TLINOs (Temporary Libertarians In Name Only). They have no intention of leaving the GOP or joining the Libertarian Party. They'll either hold their noses and vote for McCain or sit this one out instead of working to rebuild their party for within. Until Republicans regain their self-respect back, Libertarianism is serves as a fashionable holding pattern. Whatever happens, it's not their fault.

I respect the crazies in category #1 far more than I do the #2s.


*The exception to this rule being the Bob Barr/Christine Smith types (though I've never seen anyone join a party, make a bid for that party's Presidential nomination and quit that party as quickly as Christine Smith).

Can The Music Industry Possibly Do Anything Else To Piss Off The Biggest Music Fans?

Oh yes they can. The latest battleground in the music industry's war against consumers is the re-sale of "Promo Only" CDs and vinyl. For decades record companies have maintained that they retain ownership of these promotional items in perpetuity and can demand their return at a moments notice. I've laughed at this for years.

While I can understand the industry's unwillingness to allow the public to profit from selling freebies, it's largely unenforceable. Over the course of my career I've received a gazillion promos both for my personal use (DJing at clubs and on the radio plus "listening copies") and for giveaways. Many, many giveaways. I've signed beaucoup letters requesting product. There's no way in hell that I can be held responsible for what happens after I pass 'em on. It is nearly impossible for record companies to trace where these promos end up.

Now certain extry-special limited edition promos are not normally given away to the general public. Distributed to writers, promoters, DJs, radio programmers and other music industry insiders, these promos are unique compilations featuring special remixes, live tracks and/or otherwise unavailable material. I've designed a few myself. It this type of promo that makes up the largest portion of the most cherished and most valuable part of my vast music collection.

There's a seriously brisk trade in these limited edition items. For years people have been selling these promos at everything from "record shows" to Sotheby's auctions. I've bought and sold a few in my day.

With the advent of eBay this market has exploded. That's where and why the record companies have stepped in. In typical ass-backward fashion, it took them years to do so. Record companies are now suing eBay sellers. eBay's doing their best to obey the record companies' demands.

The BBC has the facts on this whole sordid mess here.

Stupid, stupid, stupid


The CTFC & Oil Prices: A Barrel Full O' Monkeys, Pt. 2

Picking up on this story where we left off, two US Commodity Futures Trading Commission Commissioners(!) played a major role in the development, drafting and passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act (H.R. 5660)." This legislation, drafted by Enron lobbyists and John McCain's current top economic advisor Phil Gramm, created the "Enron loophole." It also ended an 18-year prohibition on trading single-stock futures. In doing so this act set up the oil futures mess many economist-types believe is in a large part responsible for our rapidly rising gas prices.

As the value of the dollar has plummeted, investors large and small have been steadily pouring cash into crude oil futures. Reminiscent of the investment surge in gold back in the early-to-mid '80s, oil futures now fill a similar role as a hedge against both inflation and a weak dollar.

This year alone oil futures prices have already risen 40 fucking percent. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) estimates that oil futures speculation has added about $35 to a barrel of oil. Thankfully, Senate Democrats have been working aggressively to end this speculation.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is the government agency charged with monitoring the futures market in order to anticipate and thus prevent exactly this kind of mess. But thus far it has been completely ineffective. Under Bush, the CFTC is a typically dysfunctional agency.

George W. Bush's
CFTC has had an unusually high turnover rate. It's designed to have 5 commissioners with no more than 3 Commissioners from one political at any given time. Currently, for whatever reason (hey, I tried really hard to figure out why), this CFTC seats only 4 Commissioners. When votes are cast purely on party lines, there is no tie-breaking vote. The last two Commissioners were only sworn in last August. While this turmoil certainly hasn't helped the CFTC's effectiveness, the résumé of the Republican Commission members holds perhaps a bigger clue.

Before joining the CTFC, acting Chairman Walter Lukken (R) was counsel to the Dick Lugar (R-IN)-run U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee. From Lukken's CFTC bio:

In this capacity, he was prominently involved in the development, drafting and passage of the CFMA (H.R. 5660).
Not something I'd be particularly proud of Commissioner. Lukken is also Chairman of the CFTC's Energy Markets Advisory Committee:
...created by the Commission in February 2008 to address the timely and critical regulatory issues connected to the role of the futures markets for discovering prices and managing energy price risks.
Fat lot of good that's going to do. There are no records that this committee has ever met.

Acting Chairman Walter Lukken isn't the only CFTC member with an oil futures skeleton in their closet. Straight outta Commissioner Jill Sommers' (R) CFTC bio:
Ms. Sommers worked for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, including overseeing regulatory and legislative affairs for the exchange. During her tenure with the exchange, she had the opportunity to work closely with congressional staff drafting the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000.
Commisioners Lukken and Sommers were both personally and intimately involved in drafting the very law, The Commodity Futures Modernization Act, that allowed oil futures to drive up gas prices. Yet President Bush finds it completely appropriate to place these people at the Commission charged with protecting "market users and the public from fraud, manipulation, and abusive practices related to the sale of commodity and financial futures and options, and to foster open, competitive, and financially sound futures and option markets." WTF?!? It's par for the course. In Bush's Federal government, foxes are always assigned to guard the hen house.

All eyes are on the CFTC next week as it throws an International Energy Market Manipulation Conference.

Stay tuned...


Monday, June 2, 2008

The Originator

You may find it hard to believe but I've easily seen well over one thousand concerts. They've been in venues ranging from arenas to the smallest imaginable venues. Still I kick myself for not having seen Muddy Waters and Bob Marley when I was a kid. I was in my mid-teens and headed in a different musical direction the last time Muddy performed in my hometown. As for Marley, I had no way of knowing his last time through would in fact be the last. It was a lesson well-learned.

As a result, I've gone out of my way to see those musical heroes that I, for whatever reason, have not yet seen. This was further reinforced by the Sept. 11 attacks and the not entirely coincidental, simultaneous deterioration of my heath. (A traumatic brain injury + PTSD will make a very sick fella sicker -- those fuckers flew right by our apartment). Shortly thereafter, we started "The List."

Since then we've caught such musical giants as Dick Dale, Joe Jackson, Eddie Palmieri (w/La Perfecta II!) and took Mrs. Forester to see two she had never before seen: Radiohead and The Who.

Now I've dug Bo as long as I can remember. His (literally) signature "Bo Diddley beat" is a cornerstone rock & roll groove. It has provided a foundation for the likes of Buddy Holly ("Not Fade Away"), The Rolling Stones (a more Bo than Buddy "Not Fade Way" plus "Mona" and ), The Pretenders ("Cuban Slide"), The Smiths ("How Soon Is Now?"), Bruce Springsteen (She's The One), The Who "Magic Bus", Patti Smith, U2 ("Desire"), Jimi Hendrix, The Del Fuegos ("Out for a Ride"), George Thorogood (covered "Who Do You Love"), The White Stripes ("Screwdriver"), Dave Edmunds/Nick Lowe/Rockpile, The New York Dolls, The Clash (Mr. Diddley opened for their first American tour in '79), Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Van Morrison/Them, The Jesus and Mary Chain (wrote "Bo Diddley Is Jesus" & covered "Who Do You Love"), Iggy Pop/Stooges (Iggy's RS appreciation here), The Flamin' Groovies, Eric Clapton, The Undertones/That Petrol Emotion, Chris Isaak (covers "Diddley Daddy" & "Bring It To Jerome"), Creedence Clearwater Revival, Stray Cats, The Yardbirds (covered "I'm A Man"), Treat Her Right/Morphine, The criminally underrated Pretty Things (covered "Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut" & "Pretty Thing", natch), The Strangeloves ("I Want Candy") and even George Michael ("Faith"). That's just off the top of my head. Rolling Stone ranked Bo Diddley at #20 on their list of rock & roll's The Immortals.

Because my seizures were not yet under control, I'm a little fuzzy as to whether got out of the hospital in late 2001/early 2002. I do know the very first gig we went to was my one and only Bo Diddley experience. Bo played all the hits. He was funny, bawdy and brilliant. It was a great night. This show helped me feel normal for the first time in a long while. Music is powerful medicine indeed.

Whatever it is that makes you happy, be it music or fine art or professional sports, save your pennies and make the time to see the very best in person. It's good for the soul. The memories are forever. You may not have the chance later.

Bo Diddley
died today at the age of 79.


PS Check out one of the better relatively recent Bo Diddley pieces by Neil Strauss here.


A special request for Hillary.
+Uncle Anacher's Trivia Vault: Five years ago while in Houston, TX, I bought Erasure's Andy Bell a tuna fish sandwich.

++Update 6/06: I just secured my Yaz(oo) tix for Saturday, July 19. Woo-hoo!