Thursday, May 29, 2008

Never mind that weak shit

You know, I don't really like the soundtrack from Juno. I don't like "Dry" by PJ Harvey. I don't like Cat Power. I can just barely abide a few of the current crop of adorable little songlets if and only if they feature the ukulele prominently.

What I do like just arrived in the mail and it is keeping me up late like a new girlfriend: Nuggets Volume II Original Artyfacts From The British Empire and Beyond- 1964-1969. We start right off with "Making Time" by The Creation and go from there. This is real music. What's funny is that it doesn't sound the least bit dated. I like the San Francisco volume of Nuggets, but those songs sound OLD. This stuff just rocks like crazy. I still ain't got no taste. None.

I don't have any time either. I get up at 3:45 AM every day and I get home at 6:45 PM every night. In between I am at work. I'll admit that I don't work the whole time. Being a senior man, I don't work much at all. What I do is sleep in the back of parked buses. Go for walks around the GREAT CITY OF SF, Eat healthy stuff and talk shit with other bus drivers.

What I don't do is sleep in my own bed. Clean my own house or talk to many people who aren't bus drivers. I love bus drivers, sort of, but there's no denying we're pretty much nuts.

I'd like to post some poetry here. I'd like to express an opinion on current events. I'd like to meditate upon my spiritual path. It ain't gonna happen. Not happening this weekend either. I'm off to Spider Murphy's to get my rocket ship sleeve worked on. In the great scheme of things it's ashes, like my arm, but in the slightly smaller scheme of things it'll be swell, and beautiful and I can point to it with pride. Next monday, I'll go back to work sore and cranky with some gnarly looking scabbed over tattoo shit.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Utah Phillips

Speaking of the class struggle: Utah Phillips- RIP. He was one of the best.

I loved him but...

Thanks to Mike Whybark, a short video of the late Steve Millen drinking cough syrup at a show 25 (?) years ago. I don't know why I enjoyed seeing this. Steve been deader than hell for 18 years (?) and that isn't going to change. I'm still alive, albeit a bit worse for the wear and man am I grateful. That live fast die young stuff is bullshit. Darn it you kids, listen to me. I've been your age. You ain't never been mine.

You could call this a Memorial Day post. Steve got mowed under in the great cultural wars. That or he just plain fucked up. I miss him

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hagar's Daughters

Here's a wonderful quote that I found at the Hagar's Daughters blog:

We have to do things we've never done before in order to have things we've never had before. - Cynthia McKinney, Congresswoman

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hat tip to the inimitable Mick Farren at Doc. 40. I find capitalist newspapers pretty transparent. I avoid capitalist television and even radio. They throw lies at you so fast that it's hard to stay ahead of them. Puh-leeez don't fall for the PBS/NPR scam. Sometimes I think they're the worst of the bunch.

Jacques Ellul was a pretty smart fellow, and he had quite a lot to say about propaganda:

"The orchestration of press, radio and television to create a continuous, lasting and total environment renders the influence of propaganda virtually unnoticed precisely because it creates a constant environment."

You've got to step out of that environment to even notice it. Yep. He also had something useful to say about learning to think for yourself:

"The intellectual who wants to do her work properly must today go back to the starting point: the woman whom she knows, and first of all to herself. It is at that level, and at no other, that she ought to begin to think about the world situation. "

He wasn't talking about rugged individualism by the way. He was talking about being true to yourself as a first step towards being honest with anyone else. I just thought I better mention that, because,

1.) I'm not the brightest bulb on the tree and I had to think about it for a minute.

2.) Some of the most thoroughly propagandized people I know think that they're rugged individualists. You know, racists who claim they're not afraid to stand up against "politically correct bullies", Woman haters who, "... at least have a sense of humor", those kind of rugged individualists.

The other thing is that rugged individualism is just another of The World's many traps. The way of the world is the heart breaking battle of all against all, wherein every asshole thinks that he is utterly unique in hating all of the other assholes. You want to fly in the face of consensus? Try loving your neighbor. He's just like you, no wonder you hate him so much. Or as Comrade Ellul once said,

"The Holy Spirit alone can do this, the Holy Spirit alone can establish this link with one's neighbor. "

Hate and fear are natural. I'm not talking about something unnatural I'm talking about something supernatural.

I'm aware of the fact that I look a fuckin' fool, even to some of my dearest friends. Oh well.

Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Minds, by Jacques Ellul

Monday, May 19, 2008

What's the word? Thunderbird!

Title of this post has nothing to do with the video. This is KING BROTHERS, not to be confused with The King Brothers. Crazy man, crazy.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

What I'm listening to.

I hope I get old before I die.

Most recent additions to the listening list:

Eight Miles High by Husker Du

Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin

Pearl Snaps by Jason Bolland and the Stragglers

Radio Ethiopia by The Patti Smith Group

Diode City by Supersnazz

A Million Ukuleles by MJ Hibbett and the Validators

Closer To God by The Television Personalities

Go! With The Times by The Times

Where Do We Go? by The Satelliters

Burning Farm by Shonen Knife

Poems for New Orleans by Ed Sanders

No, I don't know how to post mp3 files. I'll bet Mike Whybark does.

Stairway To Heaven

I need a custom made double neck ukulele.

Clicking on the title will take you to Ukulele Boogaloo's lyric and chord chart for Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven'.

I can't begin to tell you what a kick this song is when played on the ukulele. I really like the damn thing. It was a song of my very young manhood. I had just graduated from high school and was working as a fork lift driver in a home improvement store in Paramus, New Jersey. I had no idea what life had in store for me, but I was sure it did not involve Paramus, or even New Jersey. Meanwhile, all of my suburban home boys were listening to Stairway to Heaven. I hated the fucking thing. I spent a lot of time in the East Village buying vintage cowboy shirts, eating falafel and drinking beer. I kept hearing about a band called the New York Dolls. I knew a lot of young heroin addicts. The Dolls were popular with college kids and heroin addicts. I was neither. I listened to Merle Haggard. To my lasting regret, I was right on the verge of consecrating my life to beer and trotskyism. It's taken more than thirty years to straighten that out. I've changed my mind about Stairway to Heaven too.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I was lied to

I learned a lot of crap in school. Most of it vile lies designed to make a dutiful wage slave out of me. I've had the same job for twenty years, so it must have worked.

One lie has done me more harm than all of the others. I mean, I maxed out an credit card behind it.

Let me tell the story of this lie: When I was in first grade I had a lovely and wonderful young teacher named Mrs. Daugherty. She was just out of school and only 21 years old. Most of the boys in the class were in love with her. We would fight in the schoolyard over her.

Mrs. Daugherty wanted to teach reading as a specialty. She was always working with us to improve our reading skills and she took special night classes to become a better reading teacher.

One of her classes required her to bring in her three best students and have us read in front of a lecture hall full of teachers. I was one of the students selected.

We all did a good job. Mrs. Daugherty was very pleased with us and took us to a diner for hamburgers afterwards. We all felt very special. Mrs. Daugherty kept beaming at us.

And here's the lie that I learned that day: If you read a lot of books pretty women will really like you.

I've chased this lie through libraries, bookstores and literature classes with nothing but negative results. No matter, they've fucking got me now. Dammit.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

An effective antidote.

Enough of that self pity stuff from the previous post. This song makes me want to get in people's faces and remind them of who they're talking to. Thanks Jill Sobule, thanks God and hat tip to The Gazetteer.

If this drives you to some kind of late night ukulele chord quest, the chords are simple enough: C,F and G. If you can't figure it out from that, get some books and spend some serious time practicing.

Dignified and old- a prayer

Lately my favorite song to play on the ukulele is "Dignified and Old" by the Modern Lovers. Jonathan Richman wrote it more than thirty years ago, and I took some comfort in the promise that some day I would be dignified and old. Well, God, it's been more than thirty years and I am definitely feeling old so when do I get to be dignified?

Just wondering.

The video is Cynthia McKinney speaking at the ILWU rally in SF last week. She was pretty much the high point of the whole thing. I suppose Danny Glover did a good job too, but people get overexcited about celebrities. I could have done without the folk singers.

Anyone who has read Cynthia McKinney's stuff, seen the documentary etc. knows full well that she's not crazy, but that's the story and all kinds of people (most of them white) believe it. I mean, she says things that dispute the veracity of a certain world view and anyone who would do that must be crazy. She couldn't possibly see the world differently. She couldn't be speaking out of a completely different experience, could she? Because that would be crazy.

Then there's Reverend Wright, you know, our future president's little "embarassment". I don't have any trouble with the guy. I thought Obama might be alright because of his association with him, and that's because I knew who Reverend Wright was before he was "discovered" by the Republican party.

Not only did I know who he was, I knew that he was coming from a theology that had a whole history and a body of scholarship behind it, but let's not discuss that because that would be crazy.

More old times and what I'm reading lately.

When I was young I worked in several big old fashioned industries. The scariest was a steel mill in Chicago. People get killed in steel mills all of the time. Workers can follow every safety procedure and still find themselves engulfed in a bubble of carbon monoxide. "They're dead before they hit the ground", everyone agreed.

The thing is that the modern world is built out of cheap steel and plenty of it. Steel workers have to die all of the time to reproduce the world as we know it. Sometimes the language of steel production reminded me of the language of alchemy. It was all about vessels and crucibles and lances and behind the language was physical force and fundamental transformation.

I have stood on top of a pipe, thirty feet wide, while superheated carbon monoxide rushed through it to turn red dirt into steel. I was hundreds of feet above the ground while the pipe bucked and roared bouncing me up and down. I have seen slag poured off from a furnace when it hit standing water. Explosions shook the ground and balls of molten metal went flying in all directions. I never stopped watching everything around me and I did some serious running for my life.

There's a folklore of death that came out of those mills. I heard dozens of stories about workers dying heroic or supernatural deaths, crushed by machines or turned to a puff of gas as they fell into the metal. If you're interested, read Richard Dorson's 'Land of the Millrats'.
I heard most of those stories from workers. I didn't know they were "folklore". Everyone claimed that their uncle was there when it happened.

After a while, I began to think of steel making as a black magic ritual that involved human sacrifice to complete the process. I wasn't being metaphorical. Just because the conscious mind of society denies some social reality, it doesn't mean that children aren't being thrown into Moloch's belly. Shit, I have denied some fairly horrific realities myself.

So, today, I'm reading a book called "Electronic Civil Disobedience"
and I come across the following:

"Our western propensity for repressing the disturbing aspects of existence means that we are not likely to have a visible institution of sacrifice; at any rate, the legitimizing spectacle that religion would otherwise provide for the practice has melted away under the heated process of rationalization. However the social functions that human sacrifice once provided must still be fulfilled. Bourgeois society, never content to discard any social action that can either generate profit or maintain social order, allows sacrifices to continue at the margins of (in)visibility. Rather than eliminate the institution, society has driven sacrifice into the under-economy of taboo social relationships and bad objects that should never be brought to mind, viewed or even named. This realm is the foundation on which the capitalist empire of excess is built."

Yeah, like that, except we thought we were making an honest buck.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

How I stopped being a factory worker, went to college and became a punk rocker.

Originally posted as a comment at the brilliant DOPE CITY FREE PRESS.

I was working in a locomotive factory in Chicago. I was having sex with a girl who had made it clear that I was just standing in for her real boyfriend, who was in Detroit. At lunch every night, I could get from the time clock, to my car, to the bar, down seven beers, eat a sandwich, run out the door clutching an eighth beer, which I drank in the car, and make it back to the time clock in exactly thirty minutes. The beers would suddenly hit and my knees would become pleasantly rubbery just as I walked away from the time clock.

I hated my job, and fought with a succession of foremen who were sent into my department to get me fired. The old timers thought I was cute, in an asshole sort of way, so they would back me up in all of my beefs. I couldn't be fired. One time the union made the plant manager write me a personal apology. I tore it up and dropped it at his feet.

I worked six days a week because I didn't have anything else to do. I lived in a little house by a stinking polluted lake. My neighbors were in the Ku Klux Klan.

One night while drinking after work, I saw some guys throw a drunk out of the back of a pickup truck and run him over a couple of times. When the cops came, I tried to tell them what I saw. They told me to shut the fuck up and mind my own business or they'd arrest me. The guy died later that night.

I went back in the bar. The guy next to me at the bar had given first aid to the guy who got run over. We were both shaking so hard that we had to hold onto our beers with both hands. He kept saying, "I seen enough of that shit in Nam, man."

After closing time, I would take a six pack to go and sit up late listening to a radio show that was playing records by cool new bands like the Ramones, the Dead Boys and maybe even X Ray Spex.

One day, I got to work and found a new foreman. He was a young guy, not much older than me. He said, "Let's try and work together and see if we can get your production numbers a little higher." Most of the other foremen had said shit like, "I"m here to let you know who runs this place and it ain't you, asshole."

One day the new foreman said, "What I don't understand is why you're working at a job you hate."

I got all pissed off and told him that work was work and I was just doing what I had to do. He told me, "That's bullshit. I'm doing what I have to do. I have a wife, two daughters and a mortgage. You're young and single and you really don't have to do anything you don't feel like doing."

A while later, one of my friends said, "Jon, you know, we work at that job and live in this town because we got our girlfriends pregnant when we were in high school. You're not from around here and you've got no real reason to stay, but if you keep fuckin' around dating our sisters, you're going to get one of them pregnant and then you'll be stuck."

A while later, I went to New York City. I hung out with an old friend and we ended up sleeping together. She knew the Ramones and Debbie Harry and she shot dope on the Lower East Side. We went to a bar near her house and listened to Cheap Trick on the jukebox. It wasn't a very good jukebox. She came to Chicago, but that didn't work out, so she went back to New York a few weeks later. She didn't know the Ramones had made a record.

I went to Detroit to visit with friends. They said they'd take me out to hear all of the local punk bands. We went to the main punk club and there was a really good band. They played a punk version of an Al Green song and then they played a song about Astronauts burning up in outer space. I talked to them afterwards and told them they were great. They said they came from a college town in Southern Indiana.

I asked them if there was a good punk scene there. They said "no". They said that everybody there hated them and listened to bluegrass and they always got in fights when they played.

I said, "Fuck it. Sounds good to me."

When I got home I borrowed a type writer from my next door neighbor. He was a great guy, but he had been shot in the head in 'Nam, so he was a little crazy. I was his only friend and he said he'd miss me, but he helped me type out an essay applying to the college in Southern Indiana.

A few weeks later, I got a letter saying that I'd been accepted to college. I sold my car for a hundred dollars. My neighbor drove me down to the college and left me there. I didn't know anybody, but I had a phone number for the guys in that punk band. They all lived in one house, like the Monkees. I started college a week later.

That's how I stopped being a factory worker and went to college to be a punk rocker. I should add that, among my few possessions were a Harley Davidson sportster leather jacket, a sawed off .410 shotgun and a three volume "Selected Works of VI Lenin." I was fuckin' ready.

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