Monday, December 31, 2012

One Happy New Year, Ready to Go!

Ever since the crossing from 1999 to 2000 “Ready to Go” by Republica has been my favorite New Year’s song. 




When Republica’s self-titled album came out in 1996 it was hailed as a fine example of the Music That Will Finally Force You to Get Rid of All Those Guitar-Based Band Records and Acknowledge the Electronica Revolution (because a half-dozen big-city club twinks writing for Rolling Stone and Spin know more than you ever will, you stupid flyover country peasant) but what makes “Ready to Go” endure is the galloping acoustic guitar intro and the electric power-chord builds that drive the chorus. It has all the best elements of a rock power anthem—and what do we need for our New Year’s Eve? That’s right, motherfucker. Go home, club twinks. You’re drunk. 

So Happy New Year! Enter dancing, and let’s make this one for the books!


###

2013: Is That a Promise or a Threat?

Twenty-Twelve was a landmark year for my family. We came to terms with many important realities, namely, that unless I can make things happen on the writing front, we’re going to continue to be pulled into the Great Metaphorical Space Amoeba of Financial Oblivion. 

Like this.


Yet, this was also the year I discovered that I can finish a book. If I can finish the other two books in that trilogy I’ll have something I can sell. Then I can finish The Crisis That Was Christmas and make my definitive statement on a season no one should dread or merely “get through.” I can get going with Cringe City, the novel I’ve wanted to write since 1982, but never knew how to fill the large gap between the already-written beginning and end.

With all that, and two books of poetry I’d like to complete just to say I did—Nymphomagic Electroshock and Other Middle-Aged Complaints and my biker-novel-in-haiku God and Country Miles—it’s no wonder I’m excited. 

Of course, all of this has to be rolling and rolling fuckin’ gangbusters before the end of the first quarter or we’re as good as killed by that giant space amoeba come summer. So far, momentum is on my side as far as getting everything finished. The main thing is to keep writing, keep finishing things.

Twenty-Twelve is also the year my wife and I came to terms with the fact that we’re too old and tired and cranky to put up with the slave-driving misery of the working world. So it’s this or nothing. Maybe I’ll learn how to write a decent blog as I go along. I’d sure as hell better: I need to get at least two more Web sites up promoting my material by the end of February, if not sooner.

So it’s back to work for your never-so-humble scribe. Fortunately, another thing I learned in 2012 is how to party and work at the same time. This newly acquired skill should serve me well after January, when I’m done with the Great Post-Holiday Detox. Yep, 2o13 should prove to be something. What that ‘’something” is depends on how well I pull off what I’m about to do next. And then the thing after that. And after that.... You get the idea.

See you next year!


###

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Music for a Cold Sky

I woke up with this song in my head. It’s been haunting me all day. I stepped out for my mid-afternoon constitutional and immediately understood why.


“Eggs and Their Shells” is from Cocteau Twins’ 1985 EP Echoes in Shallow Bay, but the best-sounding version you’ll likely find outside of a vinyl bin is on Volume 1 of the 2006 collection Lullabies to Violaine. Play this while looking at these photos I took along my very short, very frigid walk. Now you can be haunted, too! 

Pikes Peak through the branches



One of many attempts to capture the layers of sky-color through the naked branches



December sun angling down behind the stratus clouds










  
###

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sunday Devotional

Here’s your Sunday morning sermon—at 2 a.m. Sunday! You’re welcome! Listen to Brother Van preach it before staggering away to pass out and sleep Sunday away as God intended. Church? You live it, man!

The Simple Joy of Taking Out the Trash

so what are you waiting for? permission? you got it!


The key to keeping your New Year’s Resolutions is to get started on them early. Don’t wait until the first or second of January to begin cold. Do it that way and I can almost guarantee you’ll fail. 

You want to lose weight? Start cutting back on the portions and the not-so-good-for-you stuff now. Looking to get in shape? Start developing your routine now. You don’t have to go all out. Just start getting into the groove. Indeed, now is the perfect time to find that groove. After New Year’s Day you’re going to be caught up in the Everyday Ordinary. The holiday buzz will be gone and so will your drive to change.

Start your changes now, however, and you’ll carry that a piece of that buzz with you throughout the year. Especially when you catch yourself actually accomplishing your goals.

Right now I’m high—as in “stoned out of my freakin’ mind euphoric”—on having accomplished a major item in Operation: Take Out the Trash 2013: I closed my LinkedIn account. 

I wish I could say “deleted” but that doesn’t seem possible—apparently one phone call is all it takes to get my profile back up (albeit without all the recommendations and endorsements, etc.). But it’s off the Web now. Nothing to do now but see who notices, and tries frantically to get in touch because, gosh! It’s LinkedIn! What about your career?

Right now I’d like to take the opportunity to practice my rant on that:

Career? When you’re 51 years old and haven’t been working for some time, let alone consistently at one job description, there’s no such thing as “career.” 

For all the diverse experience on my résumé, for all of the examples of my work I’d made available on my page, the only contacts I got were from HR people who could do no more for me than the usual $12-an-hour shit—if that. A few of these HR slags were downright rude, too. I remember responding to a request for more information to one lady, noting that all the information she was asking me for was right there on my résumé. She replied, “I am not interested in your résumé. I want you to write up your work experience for me.” 

I suppose I could have cut and pasted said experience from the very résumé she claimed not to be interested in. Instead I wrote the lady to tell her I didn’t appreciate her tone. It was then I decided I should delete my LinkedIn account, because, fuck this, I’m sick of it. That was sometime in 2011. 

Over the last year a feature came up in which people could endorse you for various things. I got loads of endorsements for my public speaking work. Which is unsurprising, as anyone who’s seen and heard me emcee an event knows I can energize a room. But did I get any public speaking work? No. 

No offers for writing gigs, either. I’ve got CompTIA certs, A+, Security+, Network+. I’ve learned the hard way that, unless you’ve been working in IT for years to begin with, CompTIA certs are utterly meaningless. Despite everthing the salespeople from places like New Horizons and other diploma/cert mills will tell you, they will not “get your foot in the door.” You know what a Microsoft Certified Systems Admin certification got me? One offer for a two-day $11-an-hour gig swapping out RAM in the computers at an auto dealership. All I had to do was drive five miles from my house, pee in a cup, and the job was mine. For two days. And maybe they’d find me something better if I turned out to be an agreeable enough slave. I’ve fallen for that enough times, thank you. Forget it.

That also was 2011. This is 2012. As of 29 December my LinkedIn account is closed. Rant concluded.

Obviously (and in case you’re retarded), the problem I have isn’t with LinkedIn. It’s with the job market, and coming to terms with the harsh reality that, save for the occasional call center job (which, having done, I refuse to do anymore), I am unemployable. I’ve got to find another way to make money.

Losing the LinkedIn account was an important step towards acknowledging this reality, and, in the spirit of Operation: Take Out the Trash 2013, getting rid of the superfluous in my life. I’ve got a ways to go yet. But check it out: it’s not even 2013 and I’ve already got this behind me. I hope to get more out of the way before singing “Auld Lang Syne” a couple of nights from now.

By that point I’ll already be in the habit of success. Success is a hell of a drug. Even in the smallest quantities, like I’m doing here, you’ll find you can’t stop grinning. Try it sometime. You could put worse monkeys on your back.


### 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Crisis That Was Christmas

...was no such thing here. The Christmas 2012 After-Action Report.


I’m still reeling from yesterday’s warm and easy—and even productive!—Christmas Day. Given our negative cash-flow situation, anxieties among all of us in the family where we’re going next (both children are on the brink of young adulthood), we had no right to be mildly amused, let alone jolly. We made it happen anyway.

Recycling our gift boxes - by
putting them away for another year!
It helped that we stayed home, kept the gifts reasonable, and made up our minds to enjoy ourselves regardless. We’re not homeless. We’re not gunshot, sick, dying of cancer, etc. So far, so good. The furnace works, and we’re running it. There’s ham and sweet potato casserole with monster marshmallows on top; cranberries cooked with half an orange and regular mashed potatoes with gravy on the stove. No one’s going hungry.

[Sidebar: I am astonished at my good fortune for being married to a woman who knows how to shop, knows how to cook, and likes to cook. There’s no perfume like the smell of holiday cooking in the home.]

To all of my readers, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I’ve got one down and a good head start on the next. Here’s wishing you all the best with yours.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Being Angry Means You Still Care

according to our late Brother George Carlin:

“There is a certain amount of righteous indignation I hold for this culture, because to get back to the real root of it, to get broader about it, my opinion that is my species—and my culture in America specifically—have let me down and betrayed me. I think this species had great, great promise, with this great upper brain that we have, and I think we squandered it on God and Mammon. And I think this culture of ours has such promise, with the promise of real, true freedom, and then everyone has been shackled by ownership and possessions and acquisition and status and power. And perhaps it’s just a human weakness and an inevitable human story that these things happen. But there’s disillusionment and some discontent in me about it. I don’t consider myself a cynic. I think of myself as a skeptic and a realist. But I understand the word ‘cynic’ has more than one meaning, and I see how I could be seen as cynical. ‘George, you’re cynical.’ Well, you know, they say if you scratch a cynic you find a disappointed idealist. And perhaps the flame still flickers a little....”
 — George Carlin

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Seasonal Reminder from America's Last Great Poet


“in the November of our hell
the birds still fly
or are murdered by the
cats.
in the November of our hell
the boxers hear the bell
and rise to do
what they must do
in the November of our hell
in the November of our hell,
December 
approaches.”


 Charles Bukowski

“the 13th month”
Betting on the Muse

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Brother George Carlin on the One Thing He Doesn't Complain About


“Now, there’s one thing you might have noticed I don’t complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain’t going to do any good; you’re just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it’s not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here… like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks. There’s a nice campaign slogan for somebody: ‘The Public Sucks. Fuck Hope.’”  
                                                                             —George Carlin

Monday, November 05, 2012

America's Last Great Poet on Election Day

“The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don't have to waste your time voting.” Charles Bukowski

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Perfectly Convenient Storm

Hurricane Sandy is the Big Story this Monday. The consensus among U.S. propaganda organs is that not only are power outages guaranteed even before the storm reaches shore this evening, these outages will last weeks—as in, clear through Election Week.

Naturally, no one’s asking, “Hey, we’re a dozen years into the new century already! How is it that the Bestest, Most Technologically Advanced Country in the World doesn’t have an electrical power grid that stands up once the wind starts blowing hard?”
I suppose I should be impressed that our owners/rulers have determined they can run an empire on such pitiful, built-to-crumble-so-we-can-overcharge-for-repairs infrastructure. The Romans, who built roads and aqueducts still in use after 2000 years (two thousand years!) would be appalled but they’re dead, we’re not, and there’s still money to be siphoned off. Get back to work, slave!

Reading between the lines, it looks as if this storm was a lucky break for those behind the scenes stealing the election for Romney. Most polls touted in the media show Obama one percentage point behind Romney; those cooked numbers are “evidence” that he’s slipping anyway. Not that there will be a photo-finish to this horse race. The Democrats will concede first thing, as they always do. There will be no recount. Romney will be declared the winner by the media and, as in 2000, we’ll be told to “move on.”

Hurricane Sandy, a barely-Category 1 hurricane already overhyped by the media as “Frankenstorm” because it’s expected to merge with a strong cold front upon landfall, will be part of the “Aw, shucks, weren’t nuttin’ we could do anyway” rationale for purged voter rolls, voter intimidation, voter harassment (as in Florida in 2000, state troopers set up driver’s license checks outside of black neighborhoods), no paper trails, hacked voting machines owned by Romney’s son, among others…yeah, that big ol’ storm blew in and the next thing we knew we had a Real American President with an Overwhelming Mandate (the People have SPOKEN!) to make everything even better for his social class (already profiting immensely from the world’s misery) while the rest of us will have to “sacrifice.”

I wish I had better news, but here it is. The best thing I can say about a Romney administration is it’ll accelerate the decline of our Potemkin village of an Empire. Not that it will hurt any less. It’ll just be over quicker so we can get on with the more pressing miseries of survival in an economically blasted, looted land, picked apart and ruled by gangsters and strongmen. Pretty much the way it is now, just worse. You’ll be working longer hours for less pay if you’re working at all. The rest of us will be rounded up and pushed around in homeless camps/prisons, what-have-you. Again, the way it is now, just worse.

Happy Monday! Now get back to work.

###

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Some Must Insist, Though

“‘My country, right or wrong,’ is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober.’” 
G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Not-So Pretty Paper

“Having an identifiable culture and history is a wonderful thing. But it is only the wrapping paper we come in. Not the meaning of one’s life.” 
— Joe Bageant

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

God Knows I Could Use One About Now

“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.” — Frank Zappa

Monday, June 25, 2012

This American Life (Unabridged)

The problem was you had to keep choosing between one evil or another, and no matter what you chose, they sliced a little bit more off of you, until there was nothing left. At the age of 25 most people were finished. A whole god-damned nation of assholes driving automobiles, eating, having babies, doing everything in the worst way possible, like voting for the presidential candidate who reminded them most of themselves.
...I had no idea how I was going to escape. At least the others had some taste for life. They seemed to understand something that I didn’t understand. Maybe I was lacking. It was possible. I often felt inferior. I just wanted to get away from them. But there was no place to go. Suicide? Jesus Christ, just more work. I felt like sleeping for five years but they wouldn’t let me.
Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye

Sunday, June 24, 2012

God Hates a Smarty-Pants

“The essence of Christianity is told us in the Garden of Eden history. The fruit that was forbidden was on the tree of KNOWLEDGE. The subtext is, All the suffering you have is because you wanted to find out what was going on. You could be in the Garden of Eden if you had just kept your fucking mouth shut and hadn’t asked any questions.”  
Frank Zappa

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Do They Teach Maslow's Hierarchy in Seminary School?

You’ve got to have something to eat and a little love in your life before you can hold still for any damn body’s sermon on how to behave. 
— Billie Holiday

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Works for Me

Being an artist doesn’t take much, just everything you got. Which means, of course, as the process is giving you life, it is also bringing you closer to death. But it’s no big deal. They are one and the same and cannot be avoided or denied. So when I totally embrace this process, this life/death, and abandon myself to it, I transcend all of this meaningless gibberish and hang out with the gods. It seems to me that this is worth the price of admission. 

Hubert Selby, Jr.
“Why I Continue to Write” 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Satan's Sunday Sermon, Short and Sweet

One good gift has the fatal apple given—
Your reason: let it not be over-sway’d
By tyrannous threats to force you into faith
‘Gainst all external sense and inward feeling:
Think and endure—and form an inner world
In your own bosom—where the outward fails;
So shall you nearer be to the spiritual
Nature, and war triumphant with your own.

                                                             Lord Byron
                                                                         Cain
____________________________________________

Works for me. We can’t let the tyrannous threateners win!

###

Friday, May 11, 2012

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

“Whatpoetry’ in contemporary American culture? In formal terms, the question has no answer; poetry is chopped prose, usually less than 1,000 words long...and that's about it. It has linebreaks and is drip-fed, line by line, to the VERY SLOW.
 John Dolan

Thursday, May 10, 2012

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

“Writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon one can neither resist nor understand.”
— George Orwell

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

“…even the most seemingly dreary and monotonous of lives is filled with poignancy and heroic struggle. All it takes is someone with an eye to see, an ear to hear…to get it down on paper… There is drama in the most ordinary and routine of days, but it’s a subtle thing that gets lost in the shuffle… ”   —R. Crumb

Saturday, May 05, 2012

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

“If you ask me, this country could do with a little less motivation. The people who are causing all the trouble seem highly motivated to me. Serial killers, stock swindlers, drug dealers, Christian Republicans. I’m not sure that motivation is always a good thing. You show me a lazy prick lying in bed all day watching TV, and I’ll show you a guy who’s not causing any trouble.   George Carlin

###

Friday, May 04, 2012

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

“To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.” 
— Gustave Flaubert
 

Thursday, May 03, 2012

DAILY DEVOTIONAL

“Don’t let the sun blast your shadow,
Don’t let the meltflow ride your mind,

They’re so natural, religiously unkind—

Oh no, love! You’re not alone!
You’re watching yourself,
But you’re too unfair....”
David Bowie,
“Rock and Roll Suicide,”
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust
and the Spiders from Mars

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

“Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows”

“I have never read Marx. Well, I read a few pages then decided he was a bore. Karl didn’t invent the class struggle, he merely wrote about it in a way that impressed some people, using lots of big words... While it can certainly be useful to know about the history of the working class, you don’t need to have studied Marxist theory to know that being bossed around is degrading.
 Dave Coull
__________________________________

!Happy International Workers Day

Monday, April 30, 2012

Postscript from the Crypt: Sad Remains

Amy Winehouse, Lioness: Hidden Treasures



EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Amy was two albums and done; this is not the third album we were looking for. Download tracks 8, 9 and 10 as worthy bonus tracks to those collections. The rest—including the much ballyhooed duet with Tony Bennett—is overproduced, out-of-character schmaltz, or, as in the case of that much ballyhooed duet, just a crap song.
____________________________________

Apparently, one of the tragedies of Amy Winehouse’s life and career is that she didn’t record much. Well over half a decade since Winehouse’s release of Back to Black there were only a handful of finished songs for a third album. As these songs are nowhere near the level of material that made people like me look past the photos of Winehouse drunk/stoned held up for laughs on BBC America’s The Graham Norton Show,
those songs should have ended up as bonus tracks for the anniversary release of a much better album.


The first track is particularly telling. Winehouse should absolutely slay a song like “Our Day Will Come,” but once I heard that awful, ill-timed, and flat-fucking-unnecessary reggae guitar scraping in the background I wanted to break that guitar over the producer’s head. 


A lot of the trouble with this album is the badly mixed, scattershot arrangements. For many agonizing tracks it sounds as if her producer wants to make her into some kind of Andy Williams-esque crooner, complete with those horrible, overwhelming background choirs enjoyed only by people of a very narrow demographic, i.e., really, really old. Not wise, kindly, been-around-the-block old. Obnoxious, stupid, ugly-trousers-pulled-to-the-chin old.


The hell of this is that Winehouse’s genius was in synthesizing the old and new in ways you’d never expect to work. I’m talking slow, snarling Billie Holliday 1940s lounge sass mashed with 1960s British pop horn arrangements laid over that shuffle-shuffle-THOOM! beat we all know from driving in town among the happy citizens of Hip-Hop Nation. It’s not until tracks 8 through 10 that we finally get a taste of that—and it was all I could do not to skip Winehouse’s terrible reading of Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” let alone eject the disc and throw it the window. Then there’s the weak tea that is “The Girl From Ipanema,” another horribly arranged and mixed song she should have owned. Christ, listening to this is a chore!


It turns out that, of these three most listenable songs, two are from the time of her first album, Frank. “Half Time” features Winehouse and her acoustic guitar; no lush arrangements here. Although it name-dropped Frank Sinatra and was technically the song the album was named for the track was deemed not quite good enough. Given the amazing stuff on Frank—in my opinion, a much better album than Back to Black I can understand. On this dog’s breakfast of scraps from the cutting room floor, though, it’s welcome relief. 


According to the liner notes the haunting “Wake Up Alone” was the first track recorded for the Back to Black sessions, and all in one take. “Best Friends, Right?” was reportedly a show opener from Winehouse’s Frank days, and it has the sharp wit and clever rhymes that made me fall in love with this singer in the first place. I recommend their download, but once you hear these songs you in the context of the albums they were originally left off of, you understand why they were left off.


Yes, Amy Winehouse was a hot mess. I don’t think we were supposed to notice but it’s all there in the photos included in the CD booklet. In at least one she’s appears so emaciated one wonders why no one called an intervention for bulimia. Her signature unkempt beeehive, her ragged couture and tattoos look laughably out of place in some photos, especially outside in broad daylight, even more so on a Caribbean beach. Amy Winehouse was a one-of-a-kind creature specific to a very particular time and place: ‘round about midnight in the booziest, smokiest, stankiest hole-in-wall gin joint with a stage.


Seven p.m. on a bright Vegas stage surrounded by old people farting out the remains of the all-you-eat seafood buffet, ain’t it. Don’t get me wrong, I respect Tony Bennett even if his songs or style don’t appeal to me. Besides, no one could make this crap sound good. “Body and Soul” is supposed to be a 1930s jazz standard but I can’t think of anyone who did their careers any favors singing these tin-foil on the teeth lyrics:


My heart is sad and lonely,
For you I sigh, for you, dear, only

Then Winehouse sings, and her signature rasp is gone. Was this the producer’s doing, or was Winehouse toning down her tough-girl smokers voice to gel with Bennett’s smooth croon? Whatever the reason, Winehouse doesn’t sound like Amy Winehouse. Just some baffled chick trying to make the most of a lame “standard” with Tony Bennett.


So it’s settled, then. There will be no third album. Frank and Back to Black will have to do. Still, what albums!


As far as posthumous releases go, let’s hope it’s one and done. The poor child has suffered enough. So have we.

###


You Have ONE Job

“there is only one place to write and that is ALONE at a typewriter. a writer who has to go INTO the streets is a writer who does not know the streets. I have seen enough factories, whorehouses, jails, bars, park orators to last 100 men 100 lifetimes. to go into the streets when you have a name is to go the easy way—they killed Thomas and Behan with their LOVE, their whiskey, their idolatry, their cunt, and they half-murdered half a hundred others. WHEN YOU LEAVE YOUR TYPEWRITER YOU LEAVE YOUR MACHINE GUN AND THE RATS COME POURING IN. when Camus began giving speeches before the academies his writing died. Camus did not begin as a speechmaker, he began as a writer; it was not an automobile accident that killed him.”

Charles Bukowski
Notes of a Dirty Old Man