Saturday, October 22, 2016

Discography - Week 27

The election is bearing down hard upon us all and I think it's reflected in our song selections.  Either we're picking songs that allow us to discuss our frustration and anger with the candidates and the campaign and the system - or we're choosing songs that provide some sort of release from the madness.

Oh, and unlike Jack Schultz, who is a kind and noble soul, I hate everyone who is in New Orleans without me this week.

Nate Bell

Blind Willie Johnson, Nobody's Fault but Mine

I've been thinking lately about the small truth that helps propagate a larger lie. 

 The root idea of of both this version, Robert Johnson's version, and Led Zepplin is that all the wicked ways, all the sinfulness one gets into is ultimately one's own fault.

Blind Willie is very direct that if he doesn't follow the teachings of the Bible, his soul is lost--nobody's fault but his own. 
Nobody's fault but mine,
Nobody's fault but mine
If I don't read it my soul be lost
I have a bible in my home,
I have a bible in my home
If I don't read it my soul be lost
Mmm, father he taught me how to read,
Father he taught me how to read
If I don't read it my soul be lost, nobody's fault but mine

The Blind Willie version is pure, classic and perfect Delta Blues, a growling, low vocal style with fantastic slide guitar work. Willie worked a bass line with his thumb, and used a bottle neck for the slide, or a jackknife. The music and styling is the very heart of blues. 

This selection had me thinking about the concept of how a small truth hides a larger lie. While on the small scale, it is completely true that your immediate actions can lead to personal misery. For the boys in LedZepplin, any monkey on their back is certainly nobody's fault but their own.

But when I think of Blind Willie Johnson, I think of his life as a poor street corner singer, who never found financial success or security his whole life.  I start to think that if he had fallen into bad habits due to grinding poverty and prejudice, perhaps it's not only his fault and his fault alone. Yes, on the small scale, chasing the drink, addictions, gambling--all the terrible effects these vices bring are the direct and immediate effect of poor choices. However, for people that have been hopeless and downtrodden for generations, can we really say falling into these traps is truly "nobody's fault but theirs", or does some fault lie in a society that creates for a class of people life of narrow choices, little hope for advancement, and a broad menu of causes for despair.

It's times like these that I love the blues, but I  hate what created them. I think of the big lie that we have sold to a people by encouraging and celebrating the small but immediate truth. Getting over your failings, and "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" into success is the big lie that just isn't so easy or even possible for some. And we sell it by blaming the same bad habits we all seem to have. That's when it's time to think its maybe not just the same poor choices---in which we all indulge---but something else. 


Jack Schultz

Sonny Landreth, Congo Square

In honor of the “lucky dogs” enjoying the weekend in NOLA (remember to get your parade license), I’m going with Sonny Landreth’s Congo Square.  Never been to New Orleans, but the city reminds me of the song and vice versa.  I saw Landreth warm up for the Shaun Murphy-fronted Little Feat in the 90s. He was intense for his entire show, then joined Little Feat for most of their set.  I only own one of his albums, South of I-10, and I heartily recommend it.
This clip shows Landreth and Derek Trucks wailing together.  They are joined by some bass player who I assume was pulled out of the crowd.   

Gary Beatrice

Charlie Rich, Life's Little Ups and Downs
If Charlie Rich is remembered today it's for the mid-seventies MOR country pop like The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, which is a shame, because he made some fantastic songs on Sun Records.

Listen to Rich's vocals on this deceptively simple song and hear how well he captures the complex emotions that I never would have thought could be captured in a song. The singer expected a promotion and he and his wife, who had barely been getting by, had big plans. But he didn't get it and now he deals with the guilt and the heartbreak of knowing that he let her down and he has to be the one to break that news to her. And her answer? A very sincere, it's ok, no one wins the brass ring every time.

What a relationship, what a whirlwind of emotions, and it's all captured in a beautiful three and a half minute song.

Dave Wallace

Liz Phair, Polyester Bride

Liz Phair's lost female protagonist gets a reality check from the wisdom of her bartender.  (And then he said, "Do you want to be a Polyester Bride?/Or do you want to hang your head and die?/Do you want to find alligator cowboy boots they just put on sale?/Do you want to flap your wings and fly away from here? . . Because you've got time.")  For some reason, the conversation just feels real to me.  And the power chords at the end of the song bring it on home.

Dave Kelley

My theme this week is either "whistling past the graveyard" or "try to look on the bright side of life" depending upon the moment.  I won't bother to describe my revulsion at the election and what it is revealing about America and many of the people in it.  Miranda did a better job of that last week than I can do, so I will just second her comments.  The following selections make me feel happy and just a bit more positive about a world that has seemed darker and colder than I want it to be.  I have been listening to these songs as an antidote to my feelings of anger, fear, and sorrow to these hard times.  I choose music over polls and political analysis.

The Eurothmycs, I Saved the World Today

I am rewatching The Sopranos,  and this song is featured prominently in an episode.  I love the arrangement and of course Annie Lennox's voice.  It really seems like it could have been written by Burt Bacharach in the sixties.  The chorus is catchy as hell, and I just feel better after I listen to it.

The Bottle Rockets, I Love My Dog

No surprise here. I love this band and cannot wait to see them live the night before the election.  We all have ways of experiencing the beauty of this world, and anyone who knows me understands that dogs are one of the ways of doing this for me.  This song is just so Zen, and the attached video just makes my heart happy.  And if you don't like it, that's OK, they are my dogs.

The Impressions, People Get Ready

Curtis Mayfield was a great songwriter, and this song is his masterpiece in my opinion.  Religion is a double edged sword and can be used to give great solace and to cause great pain.  This is just a beautiful song that conveys a wonderful message.  It inspired "Land of Hopes and Dreams" which is in my opinion the best Springsteen song since he reunited The E Street Band.  When he plays it live, he ends the song with a brief reprise of "People Get Ready."  Gives me goosebumps every time.  Mayfield wrote a song that makes me happier every time I hear it.

Gary Scudder

Bruce Springsteen, The Promised Land, and Drive-By Truckers, Puttin' People on the Moon

I blame this weeks selections and commentary on neuroscience.  In my Concepts of the Self class my students read Linden's The Accidental Mind, and one of the facts they learn (or are supposed to learn) is that the narrative-making part of the brain never shuts down.  And so, when I was at the gym the other day, lifting weights and listening to music to distract me from how much I hate working out, my brain, unbidden, produced this narrative.  Obviously, this is a narrative based on the characters - and my own addled mind, and not the song writers themselves who, doubtless, would probably disagree (and they are both very left-ward leaning which is one of the things that makes me love their music so much).  In my mind the two characters flowed together and formed an arc that ran across decades and reflected the destruction of an American way of life.  I imagined the character, younger, as expressed in Springsteen's song, as still believing in the American dream, even as it is starting to slip away from him.  He would have voted for Carter in 1976 and probably in 1980, but even by the latter election he was beginning to feel that despite his suspicions about Reagan, that maybe the Republicans had a clearer vision of the "promised land."  By 1984 he would have voted for Reagan as part of his landslide reelection, and broke with many of his relatives, who had union jobs when such things existed, and voted GOP.  Through the dream logic that we associate with David Lynch films the two characters coalesced in my mind; then the economic situation continued to get worse, but the protagonist's political views continued to spiral right-ward, even as he complained "the goddamn Reagan's in the White House, and nobody gives a damn." He might have voted for Clinton, although Bill's successes from a humble origins would have only made him recognize his own failures all the more clearly.  Voting for George W. Bush in both elections was a no-brainer and a no-brainer, and the break is complete as he finds himself, against his better judgment and in denial of his former belief in a promised land, begins to blame the nameless "other" for his problems.  In this way he's emblematic of the struggles of the GOP itself as it has increasingly become the angry party.  There's no way in hell he would have voted for Obama and happily voted for McCain, but sat out the second campaign because he couldn't make himself vote for Romney.  At night he begins to suspect that maybe these rich candidates don't really have his best interest at heart, but he can still vote for them, as long as they aren't from some funny religion.  Finally, the Clintons are back, but this time it's a nasty woman, who has become richer than shit from selling herself to the highest bidder, and what you really need is a true outsider who can't be bought, who says what no one else will say in this politically correct age which favors everybody but him - and so he makes the decision to vote for Trump, although, in the end, he probably won't actually get around to going to the polls after all.


I have no great corresponding commentary to accompany this picture - at least not yet.  Mainly I wanted to post a picture of my beautiful sister Beth (that I swiped from her Facebook page).  It just occurred to me that I don't talk about her as much as I should.  She's thirteen years younger than me, which has always left her more my niece than my sister in some ways (I left to head off for college when she was in kindergarten or first grade and never came back much, so it's really my fault).  Oddly, I think in temperament we're more alive than any of the other siblings, and really need to devote more time to constructing a relationship with her.

She's always been a bit too beautiful for her own good.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Year With Proust - Day 277

   "But do let's change the subject," Mme de Guermantes added, "because she's dreadfully susceptible . . . You must think me very old-fashioned," she went on, turning to me, "I know that nowadays it's considered a weakness to care for ideas in poetry, poetry with some thought in it."
   "Old-fashioned?" asked the Princesse de Parme, quivering with the slight shock produced by this new wave which she had not expected, although she knew that the Duchess's conversation always held in store for her those continuous and delightful thrills, that breath-catching panic, that wholesome exhaustion after which her thoughts instinctively turned to the necessity of taking a footbath in a dressing cabin and a brisk walk to "restore her circulation."
   "For my part, no, Oriane," said Mme de Brissac, "I don't in the least object to Victor Hugo's having ideas, quite the contrary, but I do object to his seeking them in everything that's monstrous.  It was he who accustomed us to ugliness in literature.  There's quite enough ugliness in life already.  Why can't we be allowed at least to forget it while we're reading?  A distressing spectacle from which we should turn away in real life, that's what attracts Victor Hugo."
Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way, pp. 515-516

I find this section interesting because it brings me back to a topic that I find myself thinking about frequently, and which seeps into class discussion occasionally.  Proust reports that several people are discussing art and the role of art, especially in regards to Victor Hugo.  As Mme de Brissac opines, "I don't in the least object to Victor Hugo's having ideas, quite the contrary, but I do object to his seeking them in everything that's monstrous.  It was he who accustomed us to ugliness in literature.  There's quite enough ugliness in life already.  Why can't we be allowed at least to forget it while we're reading?"  Essentially, she's asking the question: Isn't the point of art to provide beauty to our lives and not to shine a light on the ugliness that surrounds us?  We are mired in the ugliness, can't art lift us, even temporarily, to more rarefied and beautiful surroundings?  Early in my Aesthetic Expressions class I have my students rank ten disparate works of art, from best to worst - or, to think of it another way, from most beautiful to least beautiful.  Now, obviously, it's difficult assignment - and one would argue, impossible and inappropriate - but I do it to help the students understand that they walked into the class with aesthetic criteria that they didn't know they possessed.  One of the works of art that I show them is Banksy's Let Them Eat Crack graffiti piece.  It plays off of the famous/infamous statement from Marie Antoinette to "let them eat cake," when told that the peasants were rioting because they had no bread.  Beyond the fact that she probably never actually said it, the point is not that she didn't care, but instead that she was such a caricature of privilege that she just assumed that if you didn't have bread you would just choose cake.  Banksy plays off this by implying that the wealthy business class isn't does know of doesn't care about the plight of the inner city.  The students always rank it very highly, and one of the reasons is because it has a deeper meaning.  Banksy is saying something, and what he's saying is beautiful because he is revealing ugliness.  The Proust passage above reminded me of this dichotomy.  Art is often at it's best when it is pushing the boundaries and making us think - and showing us the ugliness that scars so much of our world - but yet we also want it to be beautiful and to take us away from the horrible, mundane world.  In his massive tome The Story of Art, Gombrich points out that the whole point of western art was to provide more and more accurate reflections of reality, and while he was discussing it in regards to the image itself, shouldn't it also be true of the deeper meaning?  Think of the work of Jean-Francois Millet and Gustave Courbet, who shared a world that few (but a growing number) middle and upper class people knew existed.  Courbet famously said, "Show me an angel and I will paint it."  However, circling back to our original point, is the process of showing us reality, and ugliness, aren't we ignoring one of the most wonderful attributes of art; aren't there times when we need to see those angels; that we need to experience the transcendent.  Sometimes I will place the centerpiece of the Sistine Chapel next to Courbet's The Origins of the World, and ask if they're not actually the same painting?  They both represent, to very different artists in very different religious and intellectual ages, the origins of the world.  It's usually here that the students realize that they're truly in college, or at least that they're not in Kansas anymore.  It brings up the entire question of beauty, but also begs the question about rather or not in our rush to capture the real we have lost sacrificed a more transcent beauty, the angels that Courbet dismissed.

The students love this piece of art, although it is hardly beautiful in any traditional sense of the word; rather, it's beauty lies in its deeper meaning.

Jean-Francois Millet's The Gleaners.

Gustave Courbet's The Stone Breakers.

Michelangelo's the Sistine Chapel.

Gustave Courbet's The Origins of the World

Monday, October 17, 2016

My Year With Proust - Day 276

   "Oriane," began the Princesse de Parme, "I had a visit the other day from your cousin d'Heudicourt; of course she's a highly intelligent woman; she's a Guermantes - need I say more? but they tell me she has a spiteful tongue."
   The Duke fastened on his wife a slow gaze of feigned stupefaction.  Mme de Guermantes began to laugh.  Gradually the Princess became aware of their pantomime.
   "But . . . do you mean to say . . . you don't agree with me?" she stammered with growing uneasiness.
   "Really, Ma'am,' it's too good of you to pay any attention to Basin's faces.  Now, Basin, you're not to hint nasty things about our cousins."
   "Does he think she's too malicious?" inquired the Princess briskly.
   "Oh, dear me, no!" replied the Duchess.  "I don't know who told Your Highness that she was malicious.  On the contrary, she's an excellent creature who never spoke ill of anyone, or did any harm to anyone."
   "Ah!" sighed Mme de Parme, great relieved.  "I must say I'd never noticed it either.  But I know it's often difficult not to be a bit malicious when one has a great deal of wit . . . "
   "Ah! now that is a quality of which she has even less."
   "Less wit?" asked the stupefied Princess.
   "Come now, Oriane," broke in the Duke in a plaintive tone, casting to right and left of him a glance of amusement, "you heard the Princess tell you that she was a superior woman."
   "But isn't she?"
   "Superior in chest measurement, at any rate?"
   "Don't listen to him, Ma'am, he's having you on; she's as stupid as a (h'm) goose," came in a loud and husky voice from Mme de Guermantes, who, a great deal more "old world" even than the Duke when she wasn't trying, often deliberately sought to be, but in a manner entirely different from the deliquescent, lace jabot style of her husband and in reality far more subtle, with a sort of almost peasant pronunciation which had a harsh and delicious flavour of the soil.  "But she's the best woman in the world.  Besides, I don't really know that one can call it stupidity when it's carried to such a point as that.  I don't believe I ever met anyone quite like her; she's a case for a specialist, there's something pathological about her, she's a sort of 'natural' or cretin or 'mental deficient,' like the people you see in melodramas, or in L'Arlesienne.  I always ask myself, when she comes here, whether the moment may not have arrived at which her intelligence is going to dawn, which makes me a little nervous always."
Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way, pp. 502-504

I don't have anything profound to say about this section, where a group of the Guermantes are dog-piling on one of their cousins, other than to point out that this qualified as locker room talk in a gentler pre-Donald Trump age.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

My Year With Proust - Day 275

. . . But from the irritation which was provoked as a rule pretty rapidly in Mme de Guermantes by people whom she found too submissive, the Duke's mistresses were not exempt.  Presently the Duchess grew tired of them.  As it happened, at that moment too the Duke's liaison with Mme d'Arpajon was drawing to an end.  Another mistress was in the offing.
   No doubt the love which M. de Guermantes had borne each of them in succession would begin one day to make itself felt anew: in the first place this love, in dying, bequeathed them to the household like beautiful marble statues - beautiful to the Duke, become thus in part an artist, because he had loved them and was appreciative now of lines which he would not have appreciated without love - which brought into juxtaposition in the Duchess's drawing-room their forms that had long been inimical, devoured by jealousies and quarrels, and finally reconciled in the peace of friendship; and then this friendship itself was an effect of the love which had made M. de Guermantes observe in those who had been his mistresses virtues which exist in every human being but are perceptible only to the carnal eye, so much so that the ex-mistresses who become "a good friend" who would do anything in the world for one has become a cliche, like the doctor or father who is not a doctor or a father but a friend.  But during a period of transition, the woman whom M. de Guermantes was preparing to abandon bewailed her lot, made scenes, showed herself exacting, appeared indiscreet, became a nuisance.  The Duke would begin to take a dislike to her.  Then Mme de Guermantes had a chance to bring to light the real or imagined defects of a person who annoyed her.  Known to be kind, she would receive the constant telephone calls, the confidences, the tears of the abandoned mistress and make no complaint.  She would laugh at them, first with her husband, then with a few chosen friends.  And imagining that the pity which she showed for the unfortunate woman gave her the right to make fun of her, even to her face, whatever the lady might say, provided it could be included among the attributes of the ridiculous character which the Duke and Duchess had recently fabricated for her, Mme de Guermantes had no hesitation in exchanging glances of ironical connivance with her husband.
Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way, pp. 500-501

Proust continues to dissect the relationship between the Duke and Duchess Guermantes, especially as it manifested itself in the endless string of mistresses that slid in and out of his bed.  As we've discussed, many of them gave in to his advances because it allowed for access to his wife and on to a more elevated social status.  In turn, she often drafted the women as part of her endless war with her husband.  However, all things, good and bad, come to an end, and the mistresses would either be abandoned altogether, or at best become "a good friend."  The Duke now viewed them in a very different light, but, in a larger sense, he also viewed the world differently.   Proust tells us that the Duke became "thus in part an artist, because he had loved them and was appreciative now of lines which he would not have appreciated without love - which brought into juxtaposition in the Duchess's drawing-room their forms that had long been inimical, devoured by jealousies and quarrels, and finally reconciled in the peace of friendship . . ."  For some reason, although not completely surprisingly, I found myself thinking about two very different songs about the end of a relationship: Chet Baker's Just Friends and Amy Winehouse's Just Friends.   However, getting to that stage is seldom graceful or clean.  Instead, some of the Duke's ex-mistresses "bewailed her lot, made scenes, showed herself exacting, appeared indiscreet, became a nuisance."  We would all like to say that we know of such things only from literature or cinema.  Once again, I find the response of the Mme de Guermantes to all of this drama more interesting than that of her husband.  Just as she in some odd fashion welcomed the arrival of the new mistress because it promoted her own designs, she also, at least initially, eased their fall from grace by listening to their laments and drying their tears - at least in their presence.  As we know, the rules of any relationship, inevitably reached organically, are a constant source of fascination/consternation for outsiders (who, of course, have their own relationships and rules).  

Zanzibar and Namibia?

As I've often opined, my life sounds much more interesting than it really is, although I suppose that we always view our own life as tedious while simultaneously exoticizing the lives of other people.  As has been extensively chronicled, my friend and colleague Steve Wehmeyer and I led nineteen students to Zanzibar last March on a very successful trip.  Next year we want to up the ante and make the trip part of two linked interdisciplinary classes, with a longer trip over winter break.  So, in preparation for this experiment we're hoping to head back to Zanzibar in May to do even more extensive research and planning.  This got me thinking about my planned student trip to Namibia, which also needs some background work.  So, I'm thinking of piggybacking on the end of the Zanzibar trip (essentially abandoning Steve in the Dar Es Salaam International Airport on the flight home) and catching a flight instead to Windhoek for a few days.  So the itinerary would be something like Boston-Istanbul-Dar Es Salaam-Zanzibar-Pemba-Dar Es Salaam-Windhoek-Dar Es Salaam-Istanbul-Boston, which, I think, would be second in perceived coolness only to the Abu Dhabi-Doha-Nairobi-Dar Es Salaam-Zanzibar-Dar Es Salaam-Nairobi-Doha-Abu Dhabi itinerary of my first visit to Zanzibar.  Now, I say "perceived coolness" because these trips are also always plagued by endless hours in airports and on buses and in budget-challenged hotels and the thousand and one obstacles that make them decidedly less cool than they seem from the itinerary.  Still, if I can pull if off it would still be a pretty epic trip.

My students Michael Manfredi sent along this picture that he snapped of me in Zanzibar, which he simply refers to as King Coconut.  There may not be a less dignified king, ever, anywhere, at any time.  We were on the spice tour and the touts would make items out of coconut fronds and then "give" them to you.  I was just about as appreciative of the attention as the picture suggests.  Still, the spice tour was pretty cool, and I owe a post on that.

I'm still tracking down the corresponding citation on this picture, which I borrowed from a list of amazing global pictures that my ex-student and friend Tina posted.  As Wehmeyer would say, of course I would naturally end up wanting to go someplace with a desert.  This is a shot of the extraordinary sand dunes of the Namib Desert.  

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Discography - Week 26

Somehow, inexplicably, we've reached Week 26 in our Discography music discussion, which means that our year is half-over.  This has left me feeling, if not outright maudlin, at least elegiac, although that may also be the fall finally arriving to global warming Vermont.  No matter, I can't imagine that we'll run out of songs to discuss - or friends to appreciate - after one year, and I'm sure we'll continue on.  Last time we had one of our best thematic weeks, and this week we're back to our more free form ways.

Gary Beatrice

Violent Femmes, Blister in the Sun, and Kool and the Gang, Jungle Boogie
About ten years ago my wife Margie and her sisters Myra and Linda threw a 50th anniversary party for their parents. To no surprise to those of you that know any of them, the party was spectacular and my in-laws loved it. They rented a hall in Covington, invited family and their parents' friends, served great food and drink, and hired a disk jockey. The DJ was great. He was respectful and fun when making announcements and introducing Margie's parents and her family, and he played music that the vast majority of the guests would enjoy: Sinatra, Elvis, Patsy Kline, Motown and so on.

By 11:00 or so many of the older guests left. Margie and I and her sisters were cleaning up and my four children, my nephews and their teenage friends were making musical requests. The disk jockey started playing bland current "alternative" music which was even more formulaic than the pop music for which it served as an alternative. Then to my astonishment I heard the unmistakable opening notes to the Violent Femmes "Blister In The Sun". I am certain that neither Dave is surprised to hear that I made a beeline to the dance floor where my children, my nephews and their friends were doing some type of jumping up and down on a pogo stick dance. Of course, I joined right in singing every word at the top of my lungs and pogo sticking like an idiot. And for two minutes and twenty five seconds my nephews and their friends looked at me in awe recognizing that I was far cooler than their parents and quite possibly far cooler than any other forty five year old they'd ever met.

In a brilliant musical segue, "Blister In The Sun" became Kool and the Gang's "Jungle Boogie". I love "Jungle Boogie" and Kool and the Gang! The beat, the chants, it's early disco at its best.

Being Pulp Fiction fans my children appreciated "Jungle Boogie" and the five of us chanted, screamed along, and played air trumpet with our invisible trunks.

Suddenly I noticed that we were the only ones on the dance floor. Some of my nephews were clutching their parents, thankful for their bloodlines. Others were insisting to their friends that they had no idea who I was. I am pretty certain I heard a cock crow three times.

"Jungle Boogie" is played at every Bengals' home game and it fits their jungle motif very well,and sounds great on the stadium loud speakers. What you may not know, and I am not making this up, is that for the last couple seasons the Reds' organist plays "Blister In The Sun" at many home games. I wish I had been there for that conversation.

Reds organist: "Charge" is a classic but fans are getting tired of it and it no longer seems to motivate the players.

Reds organist's assistant: I've always liked "Blister In The Sun". That should inspire the team.

Reds organist: (puzzled) Should I sing "When I'm out walking I strut my stuff and I'm so strung out. I'm high as a kite I just might stop to check you out" or should I go with "Body and beats I stain my sheets I don't even know why. My girlfriend she's at the end, she is starting to cry."

Reds organist's assistant: Just play the music.

And so they do, almost every game, while old couples and young children innocently clap along.

God, I love Cincinnati.

Dave Wallace

Jackson 5, Maybe Tomorrow

When I was growing up, I mistakenly considered the Jackson 5 to be a teeny-bopper band.  I could not have been more wrong.  Their initial group of singles was the last great explosion of music from Motown and one of the most incredible run of songs by any group.  I Want You Back, ABC, The Love You Save, I'll Be There, Dancing Machine, I Am Love, just to name a few.  Awesome stuff.  Although I'm generally not a ballad guy, I love this song.  It starts off as a fairly standard ballad, but takes off when it hits the chorus.  The harmonies are fantastic and the call-and-response is amazing.  The brothers keep pushing each other along, with Jermaine exhorting the others to "Sing it!  Sing it!"  Pop music doesn't get any better.

Miranda Tavares

Battlestar America, Out There Laughing

I'm not gonna beat around the bush. Pun intended. The pun, of course, relates to our presidential candidate joking about sexually assaulting women. I'm not upset about his use of the word "pussy," because it's just a word, but sexual assault is never funny, and I'm pretty much in a rage about Trump's lightheartedness in speaking about violating someone like that. And I was in a rage about his supporters. I know Hillary got some flack about calling them a basket of deplorables, but certainly half of their comments about the admitted sexual assaults proved Hillary correct. To quote one such eloquent, sensitive soul, "Hell, so what? I want to grab some pussy!" 

I am horrified at my fellow American citizens. I don't understand how we have become so divided. Some people I thought I knew are now strangers. I see ugliness in so many familiar, even loved, faces. I am at a loss as to how a decent human being can support such a large, steaming pile of regurgitated cheetos. So I have taken the past couple of days to chill, to listen to more music and less news media, and I discovered solace in Chris Knight (yes, I know I didn't pick Chris Knight; I'll get there eventually, I promise). 

Chris Knight paints pictures of the part of America that I have kind of skipped over. I live in an urban area, and I see poverty all around me, but most of that poverty is related to race. Not that it's all about race by any means, but it's a pretty obvious factor. I have traveled to more rural areas, and my former job had me visiting these rural residents in their homes, but I have not lived there (for years and years, anyway), and I am not a part of their culture. There are certain things I take for granted that they have never been exposed to, and of course the reverse is also true. And although the Trump supporters are not limited to these areas, they are certainly concentrated there, and now I think I finally get it. These are people who struggle like anyone else. They just want to feed their families. They are making it, but every day is a close call, and one extra hardship could destroy the whole precarious card house. They are scared, and desperate, and vulnerable. And they look out for number one. Not because they are selfish and uncaring, but because there's only so much looking out they can do, and family comes first, and once they've got the family all set there's just nothing left. They've seen family farms get foreclosed, factories and mines where 2, 3, 4 generations have worked close down, historic local businesses go under. They've learned to live for today, and not to trust in the future. And they've damn sure learned not to trust the politicians. The politicians who bailed out the banks that foreclosed on the farms, the people who made the tax laws and trade deals to allow the factories go away, who made the environmental laws to make the mines close - these politicians, regardless of their good intentions for the future, took food out of families' mouths today. They know the politicians suck. Just like a bunch of dum dum lolipops, they may be different colors, they may claim different flavors, but they all taste the same. So, obviously, anyone but them. Because at least ferret-wearing, daughter-lusting, openly bigoted, poorly-tossed word salad is a flavor they haven't tried before. 

Out There Laughing is actually a pretty communist song, and the people I have just spend the last 18 pages discussing would boo me and throw PBR for saying this, but the similarities are pretty amazing. "Someone sent our jobs to kids in Singapore, and bought control of the guys you voted for." The basic message is, whoever you are, you're probably getting screwed. (Of course, it proposes to fix this by ending the free market, but we'll stick a pin in that for now). I feel like this song is unifying in it's rejection of the current state of affairs. Because the one thing we can all agree on is we're not happy with the way things are. 

Nate Bell

No real depth or insight at all this week from Nate---maybe I should say even less than usual!  Miranda has covered the cerebral and the outrage this week.

Mine is just for fun:

The Bastard Suns  "Pirates of the Whiskey Sea": The Bastard Suns - Pirates of The Whisky Sea

"Please excuse our mess and our depravity".  

That line is a fair summation for M and I's lives and personalities.  This song has great, bawdy, and fun lyrics.  The white-guy reggae-ish sound of the Bastard Suns is extremely catchy, and this offering doesn't take itself too seriously.  I hope someone enjoys and gets a chuckle out of the lyrics and taps their foot a bit.  A little fun in life is all we can really hope for, I hope this does it for someone out there on the blog :)

Dave Kelley

Gabba,Gabba, Hey!!!!!!!!

The Ramones, I Wanna Be Sedated

My selection this week is based upon the inherent awesomeness of The Ramones as well as the Trumpster Fire that is the current election cycle.  Yep, another addition to the 2016 election from hell playlist.  Please someone, sedate me!!!!!

I think of the Ramones as the id of Rock and Roll.  The lizard brain so to speak.  They were just so fucking basic and geniuses of simplicity.  The playlist for Little Steven's Underground Garage radio station is described as "music that influenced The Ramones, music influenced by The Ramones, and The Ramones."  Hell yes.  Short, loud, catchy, and memorable blasts of inspired music straight from the gut and the groin.  Unlike The Donald, their music grabs you in appropriate ways.  I am always in the mood for some Ramones.


"Get me to the airport, put me on a plane
Hurry, hurry, hurry, before I go insane
I can't control my fingers, I can't control my brain
Oh no, oh no, oh no!!!!!"

Nate and Miranda, I intend to blast this just before we leave to catch the flight to New Orleans Thursday!!!!

Gary Scudder

Robert Johnson, I Believe I'll Dust My Broom

As I mentioned above, I was feeling oddly emotional about reaching the halfway point in our music discussion (at least as we initially envisioned it) and was thinking of a number of songs to match that passing mood (some of which will show up in the next couple weeks) but instead I'm going to follow my general rule of writing about what I was thinking about in the week leading up to submission.   I know that the Elmore James cover, Dust My Broom, is more famous, and pretty damn serious, but I've always had a soft spot for the Johnson original (although even that one is either a cover or was heavily influenced by another song; such is the nature of the Mississippi blues).  Gary Beatrice and I had a friendly debate one time about whether Johnson was singing about love or sex or death or just hitting the road (or some combination therein).  It is a blues song, so I guess it could just be a clarion call to infidelity, although that's not why I like it (although my ex-wife might argue that point).  Rather, I think the song is more about wanderlust and leaving your world behind.  When a poor black man from the Mississippi delta in the 1930s sang about the Philippines and Ethiopia he might as well have been talking about visiting the moon.  I have a ridiculously overpowering, if not tangible, sense of wanderlust, as any of my friends will tell you.  Part of it, doubtless, relates to the fact that I never even owned a passport until I was 42, and even then a friend of mine had to explain how to get one and the difference between a passport and a visa (stupid Hoosier that I am).  However, the first time I went overseas I caught the travel bug, and it's an especially virulent strain.  I'm in the process of planning four different travel courses with students: this Thanksgiving Mike Kelly, Kelly Thomas and I are taking twenty students to Spain and Portugal; in the spring Cyndi and I are leading an undetermined (but I'm betting eighteen or more) students to India and Sri Lanka; next Christmas break Steve Wehmeyer and I are leading students back to Zanzibar for two weeks; and in the spring of 2018 Cyndi and I are leading students back to Jordan.  In addition, Wehmeyer and I are heading back to Zanzibar this spring to prep for next year's trip, and while I'm there I'm thinking of letting Steve fly back home and I'll head off to Namibia for a week.  The Namibia trip is mainly to prepare for a student trip for the following year, although partially because the words Scudder and Skeleton Coast need to be used in the same sentence (and not just this time).  Clearly, I've got it bad, and it's only when you actually write it all down does it seem crazy.  When I came back to the States after my sabbatical I remember talking to my students about Yemen and they wanted to know how it was even possible to go there.  Students: "Who did you know there?" GS: "No one." Students: "Who met you at the airport?" GS: "I caught a cab." Students: "Wait, how did you even get there?" GS: "Instead of typing in Orlando on Travelocity you type in Sana'a, duh."  Yeah, it does look crazy when you write it down.  By the way, Dave Kelley was the only person I told about the Yemen trip in advance, and he may never forgive me.  So, anyway, if anyone wants to meet me in Zanzibar or Namibia, and you don't mind I have work to do, we can hang out.