Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Life . . . passing by at 33⅓ RPM

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town
And they tell him,
Take your time, it won't be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
-- Joni Mitchell

Don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you got till you've gone. Homer's sold you LPs, and you took home somebody's life.

Me, I thought it was just an exceptionally eclectic bit of birthday shopping at the Old Market record store -- everything from Oingo Boingo to Paul Mauriat, with some Louis Prima and Keely Smith in between. Oh . . . and a 1968 album by The Vogues.

Just a while ago, I was taking the old record out of the old jacket, and out fell a piece of somebody's life, a picture of a pretty young girl. Maybe a high school picture, maybe just the Kodak paper evidence of splurging on a trip to the photographer's studio.

I do know this, though. It looks like my long-lost, teenage journey through the last half of the 1970s. I remember that hair, and that blouse rings a bell. Definitely the last half of, if not the Age of Aquarius, certainly the Age of Dacron Polyester.
A 40-YEAR-OLD portrait stuck inside a 50-year-old LP for safekeeping. And then somebody sold the hiding place to the record store, kind of like the kinfolk giving Goodwill the mattress that hid Grandpa's life savings.

The mattress full of Benjamins is just sprung springs, spent stuffing and some clandestine cash. This picture right here, though -- that's somebody's youth. Somebody's lost youth that's been gone about the same number of years as mine.

I remember that youth. Not as well as I once did but, like the flipped curls and summer blouse of a beautiful young woman, it rings a bell.

Who is she? Where is she now?

Have, for her, the years between Jimmy Carter and Donald Trump been as long and strange a trip as they have for . . . well . . . me? How many joys and how many tragedies has she counted off between the vast plain of a life yet to come and the bittersweet reflections in the rear-view mirror as we of a certain age cruise toward eternity?

Regrets, I've had a few. I hope that young woman -- the one forever gazing toward a Kodachrome future that now lies largely in the past -- has had fewer.

Once, like the song on that Vogues album, she was somebody's special angel. I hope she still is.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Does it get any more 1960s than this?

Does it get any more '60s than this 1967 Paul Mauriat LP cover? Inquiring minds, etc., and so on.

My gut reaction is probably not . . . which opens up all kinds of possibilities, being that this is an easy-listening album, not to mention visions of middle-aged Hef wannabes sporting ascots and wildly age-inappropriate garb. Which, of course, argues strongly for this being the most '60s thing ever.

On the other hand, I was 6, my parents had not progressed past 1955, and they made me get a crew cut. Complete with Butch wax.

So my opinion on this might be completely worthless. Alas.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

3 Chords & the Truth: #NebraskaStrong

Dear World,

Here in Nebraska, after the flood, we're down. But we're not out.

In fact, we're #NebraskaStrong. And we shall, as W.H. Auden wrote, "stagger onward rejoicing."

Consider this edition of 3 Chords & the Truth one hell of a stagger. Rejoicing. With the music.

We go on.

We go onward.

Rejoicing.

It's the Big Show, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Calling Jake and Elwood: The Iowa Nazi edition

Truth in politics?
Rep. Steve King, National Socialist-Iowa, is at it again. No doubt, our national appetite for wallowing in political pig poop is fathomless.

The Washington Post is there with a shovel, as usual.

"We go to a place like New Orleans, and everybody’s looking around saying, ‘Who’s going to help me? Who’s going to help me?’” King said, recounting what he said officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, had told him about the relief effort, in which he said he had participated. Yet, he was also one of 11 members of Congress to oppose a bill providing federal aid to Katrina victims in 2005.

In his home state, he said, residents looked after one another without government handouts. Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has declared a disaster in more than half of Iowa’s 99 counties because of severe flooding and is seeking a federal declaration that would free up funds from Washington.

“We go to a place like Iowa, and we go see, knock on the door at, say, I make up a name, John’s place, and say, ‘John, you got water in your basement, we can write you a check, we can help you,'" King said. “And John will say, ‘Well, wait a minute, let me get my boots. It’s Joe that needs help. Let’s go down to his place and help him.’”
THE NORMAL human response -- or what one would hope is the normal human response -- to the question "Who's going to help me?" is "I am."

King seems to admit as much by lauding Iowans' willingness to help their neighbors without hesitation. So, I suppose the only thing he finds offensive is that people would ask for help -- particularly from, one supposes, the federal government. Particularly the majority-black population of New Orleans.

Something tells me the right dishonorable white nationalist from Kiron will not be pressing FEMA to withhold aid from those of his constituents affected by flooding on grounds of "We can take care of this shit ourselves." This leaves us with the explanation that's left for what King said Thursday.

Steve King is a racist piece of that in which we've been wallowing since 2016.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

How did they sleep?

We should have seen the end coming a half century ago.
It was as plain as a patchwork plague, courtesy of your haberdasher from hell. Which in this case was the 1969 Sears Wish Book.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but Holy Hash Pipe, Batman!
One thing never changes, however -- copy editors are always required but never in adequate supply. I'm reasonably certain that the headline above the Red Menace display at left should have read "Family Nightmare."

Monday, March 18, 2019

Omaha. Monday.

Click on map for full size
The trip from downtown Omaha to the town of Valley, in far western Douglas County, usually takes about 40 or 50 minutes, depending on traffic.

Correction. It usually took 40 or so minutes to make the trip across Omaha and across the Elkhorn River to the suburban town. Today, it took a KETV, Channel 7 news crew almost 4 hours in a backroads trek across a fair swath of the dry(ish) parts of northeastern Nebraska.

Then authorities reopened Highway 36, allowing motorists to make it to Valley -- probably in about an hour -- by following a State Patrol guide vehicle on the last leg of the journey.

West Dodge Road at 228th Street (courtesy Douglas County)
THIS IS the new normal. As water recedes on the major westbound routes out of Omaha, we're finding that what was multi-lane highway is now fractured, undermined and occasionally completely washed-away.

Or, as they say in New England,
"Ayah, ya can't get thayah from heayah."

Nebraska. Sunday.

Nebraska State Patrol
I think this photo taken by the Nebraska State Patrol near Columbus pretty much sums up the suffering of my state these past few days.

It is not yet done. The Missouri River continues to rise to historic levels just south of Omaha. Fremont, Neb., is a virtual island. You could make the 30-minute trip there from Omaha this afternoon -- finally -- in just under 3 hours, if you knew which back roads were dry and had a police escort.
That's how a convoy of food and fuel made it in tonight. Before that, people and relief supplies were being ferried in from Omaha by volunteer pilots.
From north-central Nebraska to the Missouri River bottom land in the far southeast, people have lost everything and small towns have been all but scoured from the fertile plains. Across the region, at least two are dead and several more missing.
Its well fields swallowed by the Platte River, the city of Lincoln has mandated restrictions on water usage. We haven't even started talking about how bad the damage to agriculture is.
YET, IT'S just been the past day or so that the national media has acknowledged that something might be catastrophically wrong in "flyover country." It's not the first time we've been ignored by the "coastal elites," many of whom seem to think cattle roam the streets of Omaha and Conestoga wagons still rumble down the Oregon Trail.

We're all rubes to them. Yet they wonder why so many in these forgotten lands might vote for such a monster as Donald Trump.
Well, I wouldn't -- and didn't -- vote for the political equivalent of the Ebola virus. Many folks I know wouldn't, and didn't. Of course, it's perfectly clear to these same learned and oh-so-sophisticated folks why people in far-off lands might blow themselves up on crowded far-away streets.
Perhaps "Fuck you," is a message most clearly read from a great distance.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

3 Chords & the Truth: The fault, dear Brutus. . . .



Sometimes, amid the exceptional music, we also have to acknowledge the societal elephants in the room here on the Big Show.

This week, we have some elephants we cannot ignore. It's been an ugly week, made that way by ugly people and our ugly society.

And for that, the fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars . . . or in the Mexicans or the Muslims. It lies within the heart of our sick "Western civilization" -- the one white nationalists (and America's white-nationalist president) keep telling us is about to be overrun by those who are a darker shade than pale.

As for me and 3 Chords & the Truth, we call bullshit. It had to be done, though I usually am loath to go all Howard Beale on you and take time away from tasty tunes.

THAT SAID, we do have our usual compliment of great music on the program, eclectically presented. I think you'll find it mighty nice.

I go on during the show -- at least for a bit -- so I shall not do it here . . . though I did reiterate it in a blog post a little bit ago. So to the music we go.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.


The suicide blames everyone but himself


This week on 3 Chords & the Truth, the first song is ‘A’ Train’s “Time Stops.” Interesting title . . . if only it did stop.

If only we could stop time long enough to figure out how to put the brakes on this runaway train that no doubt will end in our self-destruction.

Our self-destruction. The ongoing self-destruction of whatever we like to think of as “Western civilization” in our present age of everything falling apart.
 

You’ve seen the news — our president going to the wall for his border wall. Our president threatening his political opponent with violence by what he sees as his military and law enforcement . . . and his motorcycle gang. The massacre of Muslims at prayer on the other side of the world.

We got problems. But any problem we have, and by “we” I mean white folk like myself, cannot be blamed on an “invasion” of brown-skinned people across the southern border of the United States or by Muslim immigration.


If western culture, such as it is, is being subsumed by other cultures, and if those of European stock are being “replaced,” so to speak, by “invaders” whose skin is too brown for the tastes of some — it is because “Westerners” gave up on their culture and their future long ago. They not only quit having children, but also quit building up social capital and believing in the concept of commonweal.

If you don’t know what that is, look it up. You’re already online, Google it.

My weekly struggle with doing a music show that’s informed by what’s going on around us is not to be inundated by it to the point of being tendentious . . . or steeping all of life in partisan ideology. It comes down to deciding which elephants in the room to engage with or blow by.

But the elephant in the room this week is our impending ruin, thanks to our own prejudice, spite and self-pity. The elephant in the room every damn week is the demagogues we put in high places and how every damn day they give license to the greater demons of our fallen nature.

Thursday in this country — Friday in New Zealand — a white-supremacist spouting off about outsiders and “invaders” and the overwhelming of Western civilization by the unwashed hordes went on a shooting spree in Christchurch. Forty-nine Muslim worshipers were gunned down as they prayed in their houses of worship.



MUCH OF the rhetoric the gunman posted in an online manifesto was virtually identical to that of the president of the United States — the one as arguing for building a wall on the Mexican border and banning Muslim immigration to this country. The terrorist in New Zealand wasn’t the first to rail against invaders and “animals” — Donald Trump beat him to it.
 

Trump likes to demonize. He likes to put dehumanizing language and memes out there like armies sow the battlefield with land mines — you don’t know who is going to be blown up, but you damn well know somebody will eventually.

Let’s get our mind around this thing: The elected president of the United States — the former great hope for democracy and liberty in this world — gleefully and constantly eggs on the hateful and the unstable, both here and abroad, to turn their wrath on The Other as a means of aggrandizing himself and augmenting his political power.

Because of what he says and does, people undoubtedly have died. He has taken what used to be on the far margins of Western civilization and brought it into the mainstream. He has given courage to cowards and agency to aggrieved racists and bigots.

Get familiar with the term stochastic terrorism. It’s the governing ethos of our federal government . . . as represented by the 45th president of the United States.

Remember Anwar al-Awlaki? His primary job with al-Qaida was propagandizing ordinary Muslims into a radical state . . . and then they might join al-Qaida, or they might just blow up stuff and kill people as freelancers. It didn’t much matter to him, and he didn’t much know who would do what or where.

But he pretty much knew somebody would do something.

He stopped doing that one day in Yemen, when an American drone shot a few Hellfire missiles up his rear end. A few years later, Americans elected their own Anwar al-Awlaki as president.

Who swore to us Friday that right-wing terrorism wasn’t a big problem. Well, at least not for him.

Well, may God have mercy on us all, because it will not end well for a people that refuses to recognize the simple fact that God made us all and loves us just the same.

In Galatians, the apostle Paul told us:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.”
WE GOOD Christians — at least the ones so ready to beat brown people to death with their Trump-autographed Bibles — forget that those slaughtered Muslims in Christchurch knew a little about Abraham themselves. As did the slaughtered Jews in Pittsburgh last year.

As do the Latino Catholics at our southern border.

Perhaps the best all of us who the president has again threatened with violence by "his" cops, "his" military and "his" Bikers for Trump can hope for is that this present darkness is merely the prelude to dawn.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

3 Chords & the Truth: The endless-winter blues


Donald Trump is autographing bibles in Alabama.

Well, of course he is. Hell has been frozen over for some time now -- and so has Omaha, by God, Nebraska.

Pardon us at 3 Chords & the Truth for being sick and tired of this crap. Winter. Ecclesiastical Lent piled on top of zeitgeist Lent. Winter. A world gone mad. Winter. . . .

You get the drift. Both kinds.

This week on the Big Show, we're muddling through and making the best of things. It's all anyone can do.

YEP, we got the good music, we're hanging onto it tight, and that will have to suffice.

I regret that my Seasonal Affective Disorder prevents me from elucidating further. My bad.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.


Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Day 1 of Lent: Oy veh!


In case you were wondering how Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, was going around here. . . .

So far, I've punted on Mass and have resorted to trolling the pope on Twitter. Maybe for Lent this year, I'll give up being even cursorily diplomatic.

Don't make me be fed up. You wouldn't like me when I'm fed up.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

3 Chords & the Truth: It's the Mardi Gras loco


Throw me somethin', Mister!

Preferably, my sanity.

I don't know about you, but right now I'm in need of a weapon of mass distraction. And here comes Mardi Gras to fill the bill.

We at the Big Show intend to latch on and run with it. After the daily assaults on our national sanity -- and grasp on reality -- we need a little blowout right now. We need to let it all hang out . . . whatever your favored conception of "it" might be.

This extra long, extra good edition of 3 Chords & the Truth is our attempt at that -- a last blowout before Lent, when we atone for our myriad sins. It's a lot like the last two years, only ecclesiastical.

And it only lasts till Easter.

SO EAT, drink and be merry, children, for Wednesday we fast.

So listen to the music and party, mes amis, for tomorrow is another day. Which probably will be as bat-shit crazy as yesterday, for we've been doing some national penance for a while now.

Grab some joy while -- and where -- you can.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.