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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Too Early for Best of 2013?

Mark Oliver Everett.  A Man called E
This January has felt, in many ways, like the better part of a year.  There has been a lot of times spent in sick beds, gyms and cars.  The good news is plenty of music has entered my mind.  2013 is shaping up to be another terrific year in music.  Ther are records from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Strokes, Dawes, Eels and Caveman among several others expected to arrive soon.  This on the heels of new Tegan and Sara, Joy Formidable and Lisa Loeb that are already on record store shelves today.  OK, Lisa Loeb might be a stretch.  Same goes for record stores, eh?

In an effort to eliminate the mad rush at the end of the year this blog will attempt to list 10 or so tracks every month that should be on your portable MP3 player.  What, you still listen to cd's?  Then how the hell did you end up here?

In no particular order here we go.  Full disclosure:  Some of these songs/albums were released last year.  Let's not get all critical on the timeline, um k?  I am a 40 year old married father who works full time, takes care of a 10 year old, and coaches a youth sports team.  I think I do pretty darn good keeping up with the Hipsters.

Foxygen "San Francisco"  West coaster Jonathan Rado is said to be fascinated with the Brian Jonestown massacre.  The band of course, not the Jim Jones massacre that band stole its name from.  Either way we will not hold any of that against him and his pop/psychedelic outfit with its own tricky name.  Dreamy pop inspired by all those things listed among others.

Pinback "True North"  San Diego indie rock from this act that has been recording since 1998.  For fans of Grizzly Bear and any other of the new surf, dream pop that has flooded (pun intended) the indie airwaves for the past few years now.

Tegan and Sara "Closer"  Calgary identical twins who have really taken off.  When it was announced they were headlining not one, but two shows at NYC's Beacon Theatre it was a bit surprising.  That is where the Allman Brothers play??!!  This song is a pure delight and these kids seem to be ready for that stage and many like them.

Lord Huron "Time to Run"  Another California act on this list.  Coincidence?  Another psych rock act too.  They will be playing 2 nights late in February at Brooklyn Bowl.  If you have not a) gone to that venue or b) heard this act, you should c) do yourself a favor and do both!

Divine Fits "Would That Not Be Nice"  You like Spoon do you?  Lead singer Britt Daniel is the voice behind Divine Fits and that is a very good thing.  Groovy is the easiest way to describe this track.

Ra Ra Riot "Beta Love"  Syracuse, NY rock/dance/pop act who just released their third record last week.  It shares its name with the track listed here.  There will undoubtably be Passion Pit comparisons and that is fair.

Eels "New Alphabet"  E is back with a new LP Wonderful Glorious and more importantly a corresponding tour (which lands in NYC 3.1.13.)  Fans of this blog know that his importance can not be understated on the indie music scene.  He is all things to everyone.  Or, at least, he is to this author.  A more important rock and roll songwriter, performer and man does not exist over the past 20 years.  Case closed.

Titus Andronicus "In a Big City"  These kids from New Jersey are fond of covering the Stones.  They have a great sense of humor and are self deprecating.  Oh, and they make wonderful music themselves. This is the single with the most legs from last years acclaimed record Local Business.  Their band name will serve as the first Shakespeare reference in this post.

Youth Lagoon "Dropla"  San Diego's Trevor Powers is the man behind the weird name.  His music is dreamy and soft as evidenced by his breakout 2011 record The Year of Hibernation.  A new record is forthcoming and this is the first single.  Hope you dig it as much as I do.

Papa "Put Me To Work"  Gee Whiz!!  Another LA band.  That makes 5 out of 10 on this list.  Note, E from Eels spends a lot of time out there too.  Just when I want to hate California more they go and bring these talented acts and songs.  Anyway, not much on these kids other than a pretty rocking tune.  Enjoy it and all the rest.

What have I missed?  What are you listening to that has you excited?  Anything you cannot wait to hear?  Share the knowledge, spread the wealth, and keep on listening/reading/smiling.

Honorable Mention:

Taylor Swift "I Knew You Were Trouble"  Ms Swift is the butt of many jokes.  She dates too much.  She breaks up too much.  She is "never, ever, ever" gonna get back together with any of the long list of guys.  But like Rhianna's "Diamonds" this track is hard to dislike.  The video is easy to hate.  A more pretentious opening you will not find!  The dialogue makes the exchange Paula Abdul and Keanu Reeves shared in "Rush, Rush" sound like the Shakespeare.  She is the reigning pop princess and this is her crowning achievement, for now.  Long live pop.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Walk the Moon, Music Hall of Williamsburg

After a month long hibernation (partly due to recharging batteries/party due to profound and sustained family wide illness) the Suburbanite headed back to the concert scene over the weekend.  Wait, that is super douchey.  Referring to yourself in the third person??  Who do you think you are?  Kanye?

The intimate Music Hall of Williamsburg presented Cincinnati's Walk the Moon as their coming out party continues.  They also played a few sold out nights at Bowery this weekend, in addition to a music fest in Philadelphia for good measure.  This, following an endless promotional tour supporting their self titled debut LP, as well as the recently released EP Tightrope.  It is how you make it in the business these days folks.  Write. Record. Tour.  Sell what you can in merchandise.  Place a song in a tv ad:  HP ad featuring Walk the Moon's "Tightrope".  Write.  Record.  Tour some more.  Catch lighting in a bottle with a breakout song and video:  "Anna Sun"  Tour.  Tour.  Tour.

The quartet is led by singer/keyboardist Nicholas Petricca.  It is his voice and stage presence that steer the ship.  The remaining parts (Kevin Ray: bass, Sean Waugaman: drums, and Eli Maiman: guitar) all fill in the gaps quite admirably.  What they do best is create a near flawless four part harmony.  Those harmonies are best displayed in their stand out live track:  "Next In Line."  The chorus is juvenile and goofy.  But when those four voices pound them out it is pure euphoria.  "Why don't you stay shotgun til the day I die?"  Ah young love.  When sitting next to one another hand in hand is the most special time you can have.  The simple pleasures that make all the difference.  The driving beat and joyous energy from this song alone is reason enough to catch Walk the Moon live.  Please note, the time for seeing them in such a small venue is just about over too.  Once this tour finally ends another LP will hit the inter-web shortly thereafter.  A sell out show at a much bigger spot is theirs for the taking.

A friend of mine, from a life long forgotten, joined us for the show Friday night.  Shortly after they killed "Next in Line" he leaned over to me and said "Sometimes I regret growing up with 90s music."  Grunge music, while often times brilliant and important, was not the material you can dance to.  Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell, and their brethren, were busy taking stands and getting angry.  Their music was a reflection of this dissonance.  Walk the Moon, and several bands like them with an ear (and eye) for the 80s, seem to be embracing that.  Petricca and his band mates don girlish tank tops and leopard print pants.  They smile and prance the stage making this Billy Squier video look like Megadeth.  And it's all good.

Smiling and dancing are pretty good things these days.  Being able to laugh at yourself and others are lost arts we all should embrace.  Good.  Clean.  Fun.  The perfect way to start the 2012 concert season.

SoCal band Pacific Air opened the evening with a short set heavy on synths and powered by the above average vocals.  Ryan and Taylor Lahorn are the main ingredients.  They released their debut record late last year.  Check out "Float" to dig on their vibe.  For fans of Passion Pit, Walk the Moon, Ra Ra Riot.

Note, Music Hall of Williamsburg is fast becoming another favorite of mine.  Hell, all of Williamsburg is downright fun.  Oh, and we made it back to NJ (with a stop in Hoboken) in less than an hour.  It has taken me more than an hour to get out of the Lincoln Tunnel after some midtown events.

Shrine/Mural at Music Hall for dearly departed  Adam Yauch

Pacific Air, Music Hall of Williamsburg


Walk the Moon, Music Hall of Williamsburg

Walk the Moon 6.19.12 Mercury Lounge  review of show from last year that was not nearly as smooth or accomplished.  The ceiling is indeed high for these guys.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Keeping Warm

Ironically enough my 5th grade daughter is studying pathogens and bacteria in science this week.  Well, at least that is what she would be studying if she were there.  Pathogens and bacteria have brought her down and this old man has learned the fine art of home schooling.

More specifically, I have learned I could never home school.   Every lesson argues with tears and fetal positions.  And she gets pretty angry too!

It is also determined that folks make too big a deal about lip synching.  Maybe as much a spectacle as they make of the inauguration.  Really?  Who cares about either.  If you want to see live music get yourself to a club.  Super Bowl's, Political events, and Made for TV shows are failures waiting to happen.  Beyonce is a performer.  Is this the big news from Obama's big day?

Maybe it was too damn cold for her?  Yeah, have you heard?  The Northeast is in the midst of a deep freeze.  It has been much colder than in recent years, but it is winter, right?  We must expect this from time to time.  Wear extra clothes!  Put the heat up!  Thank whatever deity you pray too that you have a home on days like this and anticipate spring even more.  Each day gets us closer to April.  Baseball players will be reporting to camp very soon.  Let us refrain from stating the obvious for a moment.  Ok one last time.  Winter is cold, gray and generally sucks.  Next.

Finally, I find myself hating the new trend of tweeting your true feelings then quickly apologizing when you realize you have offended folks.

A few weeks back Tim Tebow's brother went viral when he asked if he was the only one happy in Denver after the Broncos were eliminated from the NFL playoffs.  Heaven forbid he stood behind that funny line.  Less than 24 hours later he had to ask for forgiveness.  For what exactly?  If he was happy his brother's ex-team lost why apologize?  If people got that offended over a brother of a back up quarterback THEY should be the ones apologizing.  Sorry folks if you have no life and define your couch ridden existence with your football squad.  We are all way too sensitive.  Since when are we forbidden from zinging someone?  Since when are we humorless?

New England Patriots' wide receiver Wes Welker's wife found herself in the same situation this week.  After the Ravens knocked off her husbands team she attacked Ray Lewis via Twitter:  Ray Lewis is a bad guy and should not be a role model.  Funny Mrs Welker was making headlines a year after Tom Brady's wife, Giselle Budchen, ripped Welker for not being able to catch the balls he throws to him: Giselle stands behind her man.  The point is Welker and Tebow both had something to say.  And it was their emotional response to a situation they felt strongly about.

They were words, meant to illicit a reaction.  They knew it when they went out.  To then backtrack and tell America they were sorry is cowardly and knee jerk.  Lewis is a clown who should not be revered as he is.  Tebow was treated poorly and did indeed win more playoff games last year then Mr America Peyton Manning did this year.   You can be angry and have an opinion.

And you know what?  Not everybody is gonna like what you say.  That, is the beauty of it all.

This is not Tehran.  Or North Korea.  Say what you mean, but mean what you say.

My family always had a nice way to handle this dilemma.  Simply say "Sorry you feel that way."

That is so much more insulting!

Once the dust settles (read: virus leaves the building) this blog promises to pick up more steam.  Until then check these gems out for no particular reason.  Ok, the reason is there was a lot of stream of consciousness music searching during my class breaks this week.  Happy Weekend folks!!

Living Colour "Glamour Boys"  Finny how a text can lead down a crazy road.  One thing led to another and this song sprang to mind earlier today.  Remember them?  "Cult of Personality" was epic and important.  This, not so much.  But still super cool.

Boz Skaggs "Lido Shuffle"  I think this song has not been properly used in a soundtrack or tv show.  I picture it as my anthem in my biopic.

Sniff'n the Tears "Driver's Seat"  A friend thought this was a better walking anthem.  Was this in Boogie Nights?  Zodiac?  It is both sexy and scary.   Dare you to find a better one hit wonder from the 70s.

Soul Coughing "Super Bon Bon"  Another 90s classic.  Mike Doughty is the man and this is his masterpiece.  Bad.  Freaking.  Ass.

Fun "Carry On"  Enough with the "We are Young" and "Some Nights."  This is the best single from the record.


Monday, January 21, 2013

The Left-Wing Conservative: Viva el Presidente!!!

Someone I know who has actually had "skin in the game" in politics -- worked in campaigns, negotiated political disputes, knocked on doors---  once made a comment about US presidential elections that has stuck with me.

"Two hundred some years ago, we had a war because we didn't want to live under a king. And we've been trying to elect a new one ever since."

I think this view is how many of us look at the US presidency. It is not the view of educated, informed citizens of a vigorous democratic republic. It is the fearful, ignorant, childishness of peasants in a banana republic who want, or need, a kingly leader in which to invest their hopes. 

And the discussion around the presidential primary race shows how we still, in our heart of hearts, wish for a king.

So I went back to basics, to the US Constitution. As we all recall from grade school, the power of the US government is split up among three branches (Legislative, Executive, and Judicial), with each branch has some power to approve or disapprove what the other branch does, commonly called "the system of checks and balances".

But each of the three branches has some "unchecked" powers, including the president.

I thought it made sense to look at what power the president has all by their lonesome -- meaning what can they do that is not subject to any "checks and balances" by the other two branches, and therefore, which neither of the other two branches can limit. - Here's what I found:

1. "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States" (in other words, send troops into battle)

2. "Require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices" (or, manage the executive branch)

3. "Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except for cases of impeachment" (issue "get out of jail free" cards)
4. "Fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session" (a.k.a Recess Appointments)

5.  "On extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them..." ( make requests for action by either or both houses of Congress. The President cannot propose or introduce legislation -- this is why presidents say "I have asked Congress to do XYZ". They can only ask, they cannot command.)

6. "Receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers" ( act as the government's representative to foreign countries)

7. "Take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed" (the chief  law enforcement officer for federal laws)

8. Sign, or veto, laws passed by Congress. (the final set of eyeballs on a law before it goes into effect)

This job posting for a chief executive, someone who is a combination of a general, diplomat, police chief, and lawmaker, to carry out the practical day to day actions of governing, certainly makes us second guess that old childhood adage that "anyone can grow up to be president".

On the other hand, there is nothing in the US Constitution about fixing the economy, guaranteeing prosperity, saving our souls, healing the sick, feeling our pain, inspiring our youth, upholding the American Dream, standing up for traditional values, being a "Real American", or any of the other magical powers we expect presidents to have.

But in the past I, and perhaps you, have focused more at these magical powers, than the actual ones, in deciding who I vote for.

Eric Hoffer, in The True Believer, his study of why people are drawn to mass political movements, says that "Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for a lost faith in ourselves".  

Hoffer says elsewhere that "The ability to get along without an exceptional leader is the mark of social vigor."

Maybe this is why, in times of war or economic downturn, even in a democracy, we look for an "exceptional leader" to assume the kingly role of restoring our faith in ourselves, and our country.

And maybe after this last election, I, and perhaps all of us, need to grow up.

******************************************
US Constitution Texthttp://www.usconstitution.net/const.html


*This blog previously appeared in earlier form as "Thoughts on Politics - Viva el Presidente!"

Friday, January 18, 2013

Who's a Brother Gonna Root For?

What is a sports fan to do these days?  It's bad enough that this weekend is the last good sports weekend for a while.  And don't give me Super Bowl weekend either.  That is more an event like the Oscars and Olympics masked as a sporting event.  Sure some of the games are classic.  The Giants vs Pats games are among them.   But as a whole we are more likely to remember an amazing commercial or wardrobe malfunction.  Beyonce and Billy Bush will be as prevalent as grey hoodies and x's and o's.  Beyonce is fine.  Billy Bush?  He should be the losing teams tackling dummy.

The final four is established and for the most part the prevailing image from this NFL playoff is the epic and grandiose farewell of Ray Lewis.  Yeah, the Ray Lewis who was very much involved in a homicide.   Lest we forget.  Sure, Lewis has been a vocal leader and is established as one of the greatest ever to play his position(linebacker.)  But Barry Sanders, arguably the best running back ever to play the game, never received this type of farewell tour.  All Mr Sanders did was play the game the right way.  When he scored he handed the ball to the ref without a word.  To my knowledge he never had a drug problem.  He was never asked to take a paternity test.  And he certainly wasn't on scene when a murder took place.  In this day and age that reads vanilla.  Vanilla doesn't sell.  Boring doesn't sell.  And we all know sportsmanship doesn't sell.  It isn't sexy.  It isn't compelling.  The inmates are running the asylum.

It is why Sports Center is more likely to show a meaningless dunk in the first quarter rather than a bounce pass that started a fast break at a critical point in the game.

It is why Craig Biggio and his 3160 hits do not get elected to the Hall of Fame because he was in the same class as cheaters Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and hell most of the darn crooks.

Hell, even Tim Tebow (lambasted here last year) is a sympathetic character these days.  All he does is win and say all the right things.  A team player who the Jets saw as a marketing ploy.  He may be too in your face religious for my taste; but upon closer examination he is more beneficial to the game than not.  That is, it would be nicer seeing him roam the sidelines this weekend than crazy dancing, do-rag wearing, murder forgetting Ray Lewis.

We continue to celebrate renowned cheater Lance Armstrong days after he finally came clean.  And let's be honest, this is a celebration.  All he ever wanted was the spotlight and once again he has it.  Race championships, philanthropy, rock star arm candy, and now, ultimately, his fall from grace were ALL done with cameras watching.  As he talks to Oprah his legend continues, and grows.  Whether he races or not his name has managed to stay in the headlines.  No such thing as bad press right?  Think he has lost much money since the whole fiasco started?  Doubtful.  In fact the check Oprah cut him would make most of us blush.

What then do we make of shamed Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'O?  He of the imaginary dead girlfriend?  Wait, that sounds like an oxymoron.  Just when you thought he could not be more embarrassed.  Did you see Notre Dame's vaunted defense in the title game earlier this month?  Was Te'O even in that game?  Every time the camera found him he was on his ass 10 yards down field.  AJ McCarron's girlfriend got more camera time than him.  Just ask Brent Musberger.

Now this?  We are to believe he was hoaxed into believing he was in a relationship.  Then he was hoaxed into believing she died.  We were all duped.  For a moment the Golden Domers had restored their national dignity after several years far off the radar.  It turns out the whole year was a fraud.  Tehy caught some breaks, played the right schedule, then were exposed.  The same can be said for their star linebacker.  NFL executives stay far away from this kid.  He has a certain Brian Bosworth scent following him.  That is never a good thing.  Unless of course you were clamoring for Stone Cold 2.

Maybe the NHL will come save the day.  Strip away the needless fighting and constant labor issues and  you are left with perhaps America's purest sport.  Egos and showmanship are not as integral as say, the NBA.  A short regular season might provide excitement and a few surprises.  Salaries are reasonable for the most part.

Who knows?  My baseball team has left for the dreaded AL.  My beloved Seahawks were gallant in defeat and show tremendous promise.  But that must wait for next year.  There is talk that the Seattle SuperSonics might come back.  That might bring me back from the depths.  Where have you gone Jack Sikma?  Xavier McDaniel?  Gus Williams?  Detlef Schrempf?

The sporting life was supposed to be my escape route from the social meltdowns and police blotter I do my best to avoid.  They are so intertwined now it is impossible to tell them apart.

Thankfully there is youth sports.  Things can't be screwed up there, right?

What's that?  Oh, wait.  One of my players parents is emailing me about their kids playing time.  Gotta run...  far away.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Riffing

Some days just feel better than others.  Today, my wife celebrates a birthday.  Unfortunately she is suffering at work.  However I am confident she is feeling pretty good.   It helps that our only child played her little ass off last night on the basketball floor.  She was the smallest one out there and by far had the biggest heart.  Had we lost (which was in question) her efforts were more than enough to provide pride and joy.  She will not always be on the winning side.  But our goal is to provide her the confidence to never fear and give maximum effort.  Oh, and we sure hope she did well on her midterms too.  Guess that should be more a priority.

But really, how much of your 5th grade Social Studies or Science are you using at your job today.  Learning how to overcome obstacles in and out of the classroom are what matters today.  We should also be teaching communication and verbal skills at early ages.  Kids should be able to write a formal letter and deliver a speech to his/her peers.  Practical skills are essential too.  There should be a greater emphasis on economics (both world and home.)  Geography is not taught near enough in my opinion either.  Can you locate Iran on a map if you had to?  How about Alabama?  As the World gets smaller and smaller it is more vital than ever to know your neighbors.  How else can you learn to mistrust them?  

But anyway, where was I??

That attitude and our proximity to the bear they call New York City will, hopefully, put her in a better situation than her two blue collar parents had growing up.  And that ain't a knock on our collective upbringings.  Our folks both did the best they could and themselves put us in a situation to succeed.  We are both here, healthy, striving for a better future for ourselves and child.  A roof is over our head.  Meals are consumed far too frequently.  Occasionally we even get to a concert, or movie, or even vacation.

We will celebrate 15 years of marriage next week.  As anyone who has been married or with someone that long will attest, it ain't easy.  A manual does not exist to help guide you through it all.

The typical marriage may or may not contain:

Career doubt
Home Ownership
Home Repair
Wanting to get the F out of the house
Than having to sell the damn thing
Realizing selling a house means people have to enter your home
Pet Ownership
Pets dying
Pets not able to control the sound of their meow
Pets meowing at all hours
Pets sharing your bed
Pets needing to go out at 2am every night
Cars
Cars breaking down
Kids
Kids growing up
Kids getting mature
Kids getting too cool for you
Money problems
Credit scores
Taxes
Liens
Infidelity
Abuse
In Laws
Health Scares
Road Trips
Body Image problems
Depression
Pain
Losing Friends to death
Losing Friends for whatever reason
Loneliness
Dinner Parties
Foes
Laughter
Tears
Heartache
Heartbreak
Colon exams
Mammograms
Joy
Pride
Hope
Misery
Optimism
Pessimism
Gray Hair
No Hair
Back Hair

Through it all the best you can hope for is happiness.

Today, I am happy.  Happy birthday T and happy anniversary.  Like last nights game it is a struggle.  We appear as small players in a much larger game.  The odds have always been stacked against us.

Here we are many years later and wouldn't you know?  We are still standing.

Catch a show next week?  Sit on the sidelines tomorrow for the game?  Dinner and a movie?  Top Chef Restaurant Wars?  Commute listening to Stern?  Walk through the mall?  Walk the dog?  School concerts?  Chaperone proms?  Attend her graduation(s)?  Her induction into the Hall of Fame?  Trip down the aisle?  Cradle your grandchild?  Retired in Sea Pines?

15 years more, at least.  But never 50.  That's just crazy, right?


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Left-Wing Conservative: The Gun Fetish


In response to demands to reduce gun violence, one of the the few things that the NRA and President Obama appear to agree upon is creating a national registry of mentally ill people.

I think its interesting that this is a point of agreement in what is, to put it mildly, a rather cantankerous debate.

Why it is considered less of an intrusion on civil liberties to track and classify citizens based on what they tell their therapist, rather than limiting or regulating ownership of firearms?  I don't know.

In any event, assuming this proposal goes forward, and is not thrown out by the Supreme Court, what types of mental illness will require reporting?

Will it include fetishes?

This is an important question -- we have to ask -- Does the desire for ownership of a firearm for hunting or self-defense (as protected by the Supreme Court) degrade into merely the desire to own an exciting toy, or even further, into an erotically charged warrior fantasy fetish?

The DSM-VI, the diagnostic manuel for psychotherapists, contains a diagnosis for fetishism as follows: "the use of non-living objects as a stimulus for arousal or satisfaction".  It notes that fetishism is more likely to be diagnosed in men than women, and is accompanied by "recurrent, intense arousing fantasies".

Does this sound familiar?

Again, I'm not talking legitimate home defense.

The NRA's famous "Armed Citizen" feature provides scores of stories about how store owners or homeowners used firearms to defend against intruders. Assuming these tales are true, my casual perusal indicated that the armed citizen's weapon of choice is often either a revolver or shotgun (the very weapons law enforcement and security experts recommend for a non-professional). Not a semi-automatic rifle. Not a semi-automatic pistol with a 20 or 30 round clip.*

No, the "recurrent, intense arousing fantasies" read more like the movie "Red Dawn", or the resistance fighter dramas so popular among owners of assault rifles and large capacity magazine weapons.  The Internet is full of their stirring tales of how liberty was won, and is preserved, by ordinary citizens armed with military rifles to stave off encroaching tyranny. And how without and armed "militia", the jackbooted thugs would be swarming over us.

This myth does not hold water, and no matter how much ALLCAPS is used to tell the tale, it just does not comport with history.  Its was professionally trained troops, from America and (Mon Dieu!) France that fought off the British, while the ragtag militias were "weekend warriors". And the democracy movements against tyrants past and in the "Arab Spring" were successful not by armed citizens, but when factions of the military stood honorably against authoritarian abuse.

So the clinging to assault rifles and military style pistols, while breathlessly reciting fantasies of fighting off stormtroopers, has nothing to do with home defense, sportsmanship, or even protecting democracy.

Its about getting your rocks off.

Naughty boys!

NRA's Armed Citizen webpage:
*Despite these examples, the overwhelming evidence is that a gun in the home increases the likelihood of homicide in the home sevenfold:
Michael Lind's analysis:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Left-Wing Conservative: "Pixel-Whipping" Gun Control

The absurdity of the gun control discussion following the Newtown massacre continues.

The simple fact that some guns can 1) hold more bullets, 2) fire more bullets faster than others and, therefore, 3) are more dangerous than others, while serving no legitimate self- defense purpose, still cannot be acknowledged.

My Governor, Chris Christie, I am sorry to say, did not step up on this issue.

Full disclosure: I didn't vote for Christie, and only agree with him on a few positions (his view on drug addiction treatment over incarceration is, in my mind, humane and realistic). And I don't complain about his Tony Soprano bullying act for two reasons; First, regardless of my political views I have a soft spot for colorful politicians; and second, if I am honest, if I agreed with him enough to have voted for him I would probably cheer him on.

And like many NJ citizens, I respected how Christie stood up for NJ, and against his own party, when Congress punted on voting for the way-overdue Hurricane Sandy relief.

However, this tough talking, tell-it-like-it-is former US Attorney, while on MSNBC's "Morning Joe", when asked about supporting an assault weapons ban, suddenly went weak in the knees and started talking about what he saw as one of the real causes of gun violence.

Videogames.

He went on about how he and his wife Mary Pat don't allow them in the house, and how kids playing "hours and hours" of violent videogames is desensitizing them to violence, etc.

Shame on him, because as a former prosecutor, he knows better.

The "withdrawn anti-social dork obsessed by violent videogames "archetype is a play on the "withdrawn anti-social dork obsessed by Dungeons & Dragons "archetype of the 1980's, as was the "withdrawn anti-social dork obsessed by horror comics" of the 1950s.

By every measure, there is not an epidemic of violent crime in the US. The violent crime rate has declined consistently over the last twenty years (see links below). What has increased during that time is the 24 hour news cycle, and the reporting of every murder on TV and the Web. So we think its way worse. And we look for a cause. Like videogames. Or mentally ill people.

The gun control issue is not about a culture or epidemic of violence. Its about people intent on committing violence (which, alas, we will always have) having the tools to carry out that violence. And about our unwillingness to limit their tools so adolescent-minded consumers can have a high capacity weapon as an exciting toy.

Instead, we stagger about like the drunk who looks for his keys under the lamppost, rather than where he lost them, because the "light is better there".


Article citing US violent crime stats DECREASE over the past 5 years

Dept of Justice report on violent crime against youth, 1994-2010

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Contagion

There is probably nothing more embarrassing than a grown man going to the doctor.

"Poor baby has a runny nose?"  "Does his throat hurt?"  "Headache too much too take?"

Yeah, that was me yesterday.  It seems I am not alone.  Will the winter of 2013 be remembered as the year of illness?  Friends, family and work associates have seemingly all been hit by whatever the hell is going around these days.  It had made its way around my household for most of the Holiday break before landing firmly in and around my face.

I can usually handle a cold, cough or general malaise.  In fact general malaise and I are tied at the hip.  But when the pain lands directly behind my eyes, then prevents me from sleeping (even for an hour!!!) I reluctantly raise the white flag.

The doctor visit is a shame fest.  How much do you weigh?  When was your last physical?  Describe the symptoms please?  I attempted to class things up by sitting in the guest chair during the evaluation.  I have been to enough wellness visits with my daughter to know how humiliating that is.  The thought of my feet dangling when my physician checks my ears and throat is horrifying.  We all know it was a last resort.  The good doctor is looking at my chart.  She knows I rarely come.  Write the script and let me go.  Who cares if it is viral and the antibodies may not be affected.  The point is even a regulated placebo gives me the mental confidence to fool my body into believing things will get better.

Work cannot be missed like this.  But note, work MUST be missed in this case.  What am I proving going into NYC today when I am clearly ill?  The folks on the train will not like it.  My office mates do not deserve it.  Guys, if you are not 100 % and even a remote chance of being contagious it is imperative you take the day to get better.  Or 2 days!  Better, take as long as you need to rid yourself of this demon illness.  It seems to last for a solid week, if not more.  It manifests itself in various ways, be it flu, cold, viral.  It is nasty and worthy of your attention.

Keep washing your hands too.  Say what you will about gun control, fiscal crises, and war.  In my opinion an airborne or other type of communicable disease will most likely cause human extinction.  If we fail to keep ourselves clean and careful this event is a lot closer than I would like to believe.  I know that is grim, but with 41 states calling this years flu an epidemic I think the topic warrants concern.

In other news, illness that lays me up is the best husband job security a man could ever have.  And remember, my husbandry does not include "bread winning."  But one day of "bread winning" coupled with packing lunches, dropping off at school, administering medicine, teacher conferencing, feeding dinner, helping with homework, tending to pets, cleaning dishes, car pooling for practices, training at the gym, feeding snack, putting to bed the Mrs has emphatically stated she CANNOT be a single parent.  Hats of to any of you who engage in such activity.  We have one child and have the flexibility to be very present while both working.  How does one do it with more than one child and less than two parents???  I is amazing and beyond admirable I tell ya.


Today I am on day 2 on antibodics and things appear to be getting back to normal.  Hell, tomorrow I might even go to work for the first time in 2013.  

Here is hoping you all get through healthy, happy and a little wiser.  But once the first symptom appears make yourself scarce.  And give me a yell because I have just the cure to get you through the couch time.  Hint: it's a lot of music and bad tv.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Resolutions and Observations

Tomorrow will mark the first day back in NYC for me since 12.20. It has been a long sickness and sloth filled couple of weeks spent reflecting, laughing and otherwise counting my blessings for all that is good in my life.

Is my house sold?  No, it is temporarily off the market.  But that does not mean my home is not solid.  Home is where a 10 year old can calmly play Legos in a heated bedroom when the thermostat reads single digits outside.  Home is the wife and dog on the couch ecstatic over the new season of The Biggest Loser.  Ok, the dog could care less.  But he always digs couch time.  Can you blame him?  Clearly that show cannot hold my attention either.  Lucky for you I find some blogging time when it is on.

Food is in the fridge.  Produce from far away lands a mere room away.  Fresh, organic meats are at our beckon call.

Homework is done.  Hell, the little one even finished off the first draft of the original play she wrote for a young playwrights program she participates in.  This after taking a brutal, one point overtime loss on the basketball court today.  You learn a lot watching 5th grade girls hoops.   I happen to coach her parochial team and take a back seat for her town team.  Today was a town event.  Today I was witness to the biggest douche bag coach I have ever seen.  He growled at the refs.  He wished our girls ill will and took particular glee when we made mistakes.  One girl was a special target.  She had a few travels in a row and he yelled, repeatedly, "Every time!"  "Every time!"  He clapped and gloated when the whistles were blown.  These girls are freaking 10 years old.  It is bad enough she was down on herself for making the errors. Does she need the opposing coach calling it to her attention.  What teaching moment is that exactly?  He was piling on for the sake of piling on.  A bully by every account.

The parents on the sidelines were no better.  Screaming for calls to be made.  Gasping when things went against them.  Cheering on dirty play and for the most part acting like monsters.  Did I mention this town was one of the more affluent in the state?  Did I have to?  It really doesn't matter where the games are.  The a-holes are taking over.  These skirmishes and flare ups have not happened in the parochial league (yet.)  At least they have the decency to do all the trash talking behind every else's back like good Christians.  It is becoming more and more difficult to condone youth sports these days.  Should the fun be over by 5th grade?  Winning and losing are valuable lessons worth learning.  But those things can be taught dissecting a frog in the classroom.  Wait, are kids allowed to do that anymore?  Camaraderie is valuable too.  But if that means you have to tolerate the verbal abuse of coaches and parents more interested in the score board than overall health and well being of our children then we have big problems.  There are several more months in both leagues.  It will be interesting to see if the town team gets any better, or parochial league any worse.  The small sample thus far is troubling and makes it harder for us to consider public schools in the future.  Am I alone on this?  Is it regional?  Does it just pertain to sports?

Anyway, we even packed up some clothes and toys for those less fortunate after the Holiday rush.  Sure, the house sale was a colossal f**k show.  But we will get off the canvas soon and sell this thing.  Bad breaks are the thread that holds us all together.  Dealing with the bad breaks is what gives us character.  It is our perseverance when everything looks bleak that define us.  Resolve to be happier I say.  Eliminate negative forces from your path.  Cliche?  You bet.  But if we keep doing the same thing and expect different results we are downright crazy.  In fact, it is the definition of craziness.

Which brings me to the debacle we call our House and Senate.  Why do we act surprised when they act for themselves, or special interests over the good of the entire land?  Fiscal cliffs, Sandy relief, gun control, et al...  are all minor pieces in a sinister, selfish plan that does not include the "average American."  Gun control stop ANOTHER shooting in Aurora yesterday?  How many more mass shootings should we expect before real change occurs?

How is your first pay check going to look this year?  Missing the deadline by a day to avert the Cliff was no accident.  Most of us will be hit, and hit hard.  Coincidence?

Then the good folks in DC put off a vote to provide Sandy aid that irked the likes of NJ governor Chris Christie and NY rep. Peter King.  They lambasted speaker Boehner until a vote was taken.  They quickly backed off their statements when things went their way.  The needless pork stayed on the bill and somehow we all lose some more, even by winning.  NASA still gets money???  For what?  Can't we privatize the space program already?  Don't give me the towns losing jobs nonsense either.  So what if Cape Canaveral is a boarded up disaster?  Think the folks in Dayton, OH or Flint, MI, or the countless other cities that have seen hard times care?  Then nor should we.

But mainly, unless we think to do away with the 2 party system and the empty suits that pretend to represent us, we should ignore the whole sordid mess.

I resolve to do the best I can do.  I cannot rely on others.  The faster we all understand that the better.

We act poorly at sporting events.  We fail to say hello when we walk by one another.  We look for excuses to not work.  The more things stay the same, the more we expect change.

No more.

This year is the year of expecting NOTHING from my fellow man.

If they continue to fail, so be it.  But, in the off chance we all find some humanity, then great.

2013, the year of low expectations.

It should be very easy to have a great year.  Shouldn't it?



Special Thanks to Doc S for carrying the load over the past few weeks.  Please check out his Left Wing Conservative pieces that tackle, with far greater panache and substance, the very ideas I touch upon above.

Doc S on Horse Trading as metaphor

Doc S on the Fiscal Cliff

Doc S on Gun Control 1

Doc S on Gun Control 2

Doc S the Left Wing Conservative




*  Sorry for the radio silence over the Holidays.  Illness, hoops, and the rigors of the season were overwhelming this season.  I intend to push out some more posts in the weeks ahead.  Look for more music, culture, humor and overall giddiness all year long.  Thanks again for the continued support.  Later this month we should hit 50,000 unique page views which I do not take lightly.  Spread the word.  Keep smiling.  And let's make 2013 the best year ever.  Go Seahawks!!!

H

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Left-Wing Conservative: Hooray for Horse-Trading!

The recent "Fiscal Cliff" negotiations in Congress put me in mind of what types of politicians are the best.

Horse-Traders.

I don't mean folks who will say anything to get elected. I mean the folks who have strong core political values while also being "Someone With Whom Business Can Be Done".

A friend of mine involved in local and state politics (I'll call him "Sammy") predicted several days ago that the "Fiscal Cliff" negotiations would not conclude until after we went "over the cliff" i.e. after the first of the year.

Sammy opined that the delay was calculated to protect those GOP congressmen who fear a Tea Party primary challenge from the right-wing of their own party. Such challenges from the right-flank had felled several moderate Republican Senators and Representatives over the last few years.  

Sammy explained that at 12:01am on January 1st, the Bush tax cuts technically expired, and therefore taxes automatically increased. So any vote on a law after that time to restore the Bush tax cuts for the middle class would technically be a tax decrease.  Therefore, those skittish GOP Congressmen could, when running for re-election, later claim to have voted to "reduce taxes for 99% of Americans", and avoid being accused of raising taxes (except on the well-to-do).

And Sammy was spot-on.

Both the House and Senate separately voted on the deal a few hours after the midnight deadline. So a little horse-trading on timing of passage of the law was endured so that some GOP congressmen in very right-wing districts could more easily keep their jobs.

So be it.

After a long bout with high-mindedness I've come to believe that the most basic function of democracy is the non-violent, peaceful selection and replacement of leaders.

Not the stuff of soaring rhetoric, but when you consider how many countries there are where change of leadership is determined by who has power over the army or the secret police, its importance cannot be overemphasized. When democracy works best, we are able to keep our "best and brightest" scheming wheeler-dealers on their toes, with good policy being a side effect of same.

With apologies to Orson Welles as Harry Lime in The Third Man, in the 20th Century we had politicians up to their ears in scheming, back-room deals, and horse-trading, but they gave us roads, bridges, dams, Social Security, The Civil Rights Act, defeated Hitler and the Soviet Union, and put man on the moon. In the 21st Century we have ideologically pure, incorruptible politicians to whom compromise is a sin. And what have they given us? The soundbite.

The obligation is on us citizens of the polis  to stay well-informed, engage in lively discussion of matters of the day, and share the outcome of  our discussions with our elected representatives. That way, they can make an educated decision about what they need to do to attain, or keep, their desired office.

And if we keep up our end, business can, indeed, be done.


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This post builds on some ideas in an earlier post titled  "I Fell Off the Wagon"