Saturday, February 12, 2011

The future’s so bleak…

LeatherfaceI wanna pull down the shades.

It seems that the GOP has punted on job creation, and instead is focusing on spending cuts. However, they seem to be ignoring the will of “we the people,” and are focusing on all kinds of domestic programs. Of course, “we the people” seem to be a little confused, too, not comprehending that you can’t reduce the deficit by cutting nothing but “global poverty assistance” and not raising taxes. (By the way, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to see how much compassion the American people have for those around the world who are living in poverty. Way to go, Team America!)

That’s right, Americans don’t want the programs they might use cut; to give them credit, a lot of them don’t want any domestic programs cut, and want to see continued funding—even an increase—in many. Anyway, the GOP ignored all that and are putting out these spending cuts proposals (from Paul Krugman’s blog):

WIC 1008 million
Food for Peace 544 million
NOAA 450 million
NASA 579 million
Energy efficiency and renewable energy 899
Science 1111 million
Nuclear nonproliferation 648 million
Federal buildings fund 1653 million
Homeland security administration 489 million
FEMA, various, around 1.2 billion
EPA clean water and drinking water about 1.8 billion
Community health centers 1.3 billion
Centers for disease control 900 million

If I’m reading this correctly, it would seem that they’re giving a big ol’ ‘fuck you’ to hungry, poor kids, both domestically and globally; weather and ocean research; space exploration and development of a replacement for the shuttle; energy research and efforts to reduce our dependency on oil; scientific research and science education; efforts to reduce nuclear weapons; maintenance of our infrastructure, including our monuments and memorials; efforts to thwart terrorism, both domestically and abroad; anyone who is the victim of a devastating natural disaster; protecting our environment and ensuring that everyone has access to clean water; people who can’t afford health insurance and regular doctors’ visits in order to manage any sort of conditions they might have, or prevent the occurrence of future conditions; and last but not least, the organization that works to prevent outbreaks of devastating infections and tracks our general health as a nation, including workplace health and safety.

Does that sound about right? Let me sum it up this way: they seem to perceive that the greatest threat to our nation lies in a secret socialist who is pushing his agenda of some sort of New World Order, and who they seem to think wants to destroy America because he doesn’t think we’re “exceptional.”

Personally, I think the greatest threat to America is this group of politicians who see no problem with turning our country into a feudal system, with their corporate bosses firmly in the ruling class, and the rest of us poor peasants kept beneath their boot heels. Keep ‘em stupid and malnourished, and they’re easier to control, right? They claim to care about the debt that future generations will have to bear; they speak of morality and want to legislate according to their religious book; I think the worst debt we could leave would be one of an absence of education and a collapse into a third world country in which we let kids starve and die of preventable diseases, our buildings and roads decay into crumbling façades, and we can’t compete with other countries because we’re all so goddamn stupid that we can’t fucking read. And I find it highly immoral to leave such a world for future generations, as well as to ignore those with the least among us. But then what would I know about it? I don’t go to church.

If I sound pissed, I am. I have never seen such ignorance and short-sightedness, and complete and utter foolishness about what our government can and should do. A total lack of comprehension of what we need to do and where we need to focus as a country.

My solution, you ask? That’s easy. RAISE TAXES on the top 5% of earners, for fuck’s sake. Of course, there can be programs streamlined and inefficiencies found and eliminated, but such deep cuts on these vital programs and entities are just insane. Not if we want to not only thrive as a country and as a society, but compete globally.

I have one question for the GOP: Why do you hate America?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

College Daze

BSU5I went through the other two boxes of albums today (more photos to come), and spent some time working on getting a favorite onto the computer. I have so far successfully transferred one side of a two-album compilation! It’s slow going, but I think I’m starting to get it figured out. I really do have some cool, obscure stuff, and some of it might be worth something. But I wouldn’t sell these.

Yesterday, I promised some college-era photos that I ran across, and I got those scanned today. A little background. My next door neighbor in the dorm was a super cool chick named Barb, and she was a photojournalism major. Barb and I are friends to this day...even though we don’t see each other very often, whenever we do, it’s like no time has passed at all. Don’t you love friends like that? Anyway, Barb would occasionally have to do photo projects for some of her classes, and asked me to model a couple of times for her.

This was the punk/new wave era, and in one series, she had me transforming from mild-mannered, studious, bespectacled Beth to rocker girl. A rare photo of me wearing my big glasses (check out the Devo poster behind me!), as well as a rare photo of me smoking. Also me wearing almost-black lipstick, also very rare.

In the other series, we went to the West Quad, one of the oldest buildings on campus, which housed mostly professors’ offices and art classes. The building had really neat old woodwork, tile floors, and actual radiators. The guy in the pictures is Jeff, Barb’s triplet sister’s boyfriend, now husband (still with me?). His nickname was Babes. I still have the dress, although I shortened it at some point, but the hat is long gone.

Something that Barb and I still laugh about is while we were doing this, one of the professors came out of his office, watched us for a while, then said in a Lebowski voice (long before there was a Big Lebowski, of course), “Wow. This is so out of context.” I suppose it was.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


StonesI finally unpacked this USB turntable I’ve had sitting here for...oh, I don’t want to say it’s been two years, so I won’t say that.

Then I unpacked one of three boxes of albums I’ve had in the basement for...oh, I don’t want to say ever since I’ve been in this house, so I won’t say that.

What an amazing treasure chest! I found things that I didn’t even remember I had, like a Bob Marley picture disc. Remember picture discs? I believe I have all of the B-52s albums prior to “Cosmic Thing,” and I’ve got several J. Geils Band. Some Boomtown Rats, a couple by a power pop band called the Producers (I had totally forgotten about them!), a bunch of Blondie, Cheap Trick’s “In Color” with a gorgeous Robin Zander and Thom Peterson on the cover, the Pretenders, Tom Petty...on and on, and this was just one box. I was beside myself with joy to see all of these old friends.

In the box I opened I also found some 45s that I had. I’ve got some obscure punk ones that I don’t remember at all (I’ll be curious to play those!), and some much older ones.

MonkeesI don’t recall where I got some of these older 45s. One of the gems is “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” by the Monkees, in the original sleeve. The B-side is “I’m a Believer.” That came out in 1966, when I was four years old, so I must have inherited some of these from my sister or some cousins. (Oddly enough, Wikipedia lists “Stepping Stone” as being the B-side, but on my record sleeve, it clearly shows “I’m a Believer” as the B-side. Hmm.) I have some that I know that I bought myself, like my namesake song, “Beth” by KISS (“Detroit Rock City” as the B-side!), and a single by the Clash, and quite a few others. I was thrilled to see that I have the 45 of “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It),” considering my recent Stones kick. All in all, I had pretty good taste in music, even back then...but there are still some embarrassments in there, like a Shaun Cassidy 45. Who put that in my record collection and why do they hate me?!

Josie CottonI took a few pictures of the 45s for you. I’ll take some of the albums, too, as I continue to unpack them. After being used to CDs for so long, I can’t begin to tell you how amazing it was to hold these albums in my hand and see the beautiful cover art. So large and vivid! What a great reminder of such a fun time in my life...listening to albums with Cousin Shane, learning all the lyrics, being so caught up in the punk/new wave explosion, which was such an exciting time in music. College daze, thoughts of listening to those albums in my dorm room. It makes me smile to think about it.

Speaking of college daze, I also came across some pictures of when I did some modeling for my friend Barb, a photojournalism major at Ball State. I’ll scan those and put them up here. I got a kick out of seeing them, and I didn’t realize I still had them!

I try not to live in the past, but I sure enjoyed visiting there today.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Life and Exile

Keith Richards LifeFirst of all, congratulations to the Green Bay Packers on their Super Bowl win! It was a great game, and I was happy to see the Packers win. Sorry to any Steelers fans out there, but I haven’t like the Steelers since the Cowher days, and I also like Aaron Rodgers for coming in and leading the team after Favre. But no matter who you were rooting for, it really was a great game, and it’s always fun to see a close, well-fought championship game.

Okay, I promise that this could be the last time I’m going to write about Keith Richards’ autobiography Life. (Did anyone get that reference?) Well, maybe not the last time goes by, it’s possible that something will start me up and I’ll get no satisfaction until I write more about it for my own emotional rescue, probably undercover of the night...okay, I’ll stop! heehee

I finished the book this weekend, and I can honestly say that not only is this my favorite biography/autobiography that I’ve read, it’s one of my favorite books of all time. I don’t know if I can express the love that I have for this book, but I’ll try.

Keith writes about his childhood, his parents, his schooling, all that...but things really get to popping when he finds rock and roll (Elvis’s “Heartbreak Hotel” just totally did it for him) and his granddad Gus lets him play his guitar. Thus young Keith is set upon his path. Although he briefly encountered Mick Jagger when they were very young and lived near each other, they ran into each other at a train station when they were teenagers, and Mick had all these blues records that Keith was very envious of, so they started hanging out together. As Keith said, you hung out with the guy who had the records!

I loved reading about their influences, which were very much American blues, especially Chicago blues. They loved all the Chicago blues guys. Keith also wrote a lot about how he developed his technique and what it entails, which I will mention a little further on.

This book isn’t for the faint of heart. The details of his and others’ drug use is not pretty. Keith makes no apologies for it, saying “This is who I was, this is what I did, so deal with it,” but he also doesn’t glorify it. He was rich enough to afford the best pharmaceutical grade stuff, but he was eventually forced to resort to the cheap shit when on the road. He went cold turkey several times, and describes rolling in bed for three days and shitting himself and literally clawing the walls. Glamorous stuff, right? His addiction to heroin was insidious...he had it under control for so long (or so he thought), and finally realized that he was no longer in control. After seeing countless friends (and a bandmate in Brian Jones) succumb to addiction, he was finally able to get himself out of it.

He describes staying up for days on end as he worked on music. Nine days was his record. Anyone who has been sleep deprived knows how wonky you can get. Hell, after being up for 24 hours, I’ve had hallucinations. I can’t imagine adding heavy drug use on top of that. There is an argument to be made that there wouldn’t have been such great music without the drug use. Entirely possible, but that’s a topic for another day. I’m just glad Keith survived, when so many didn’t.

He talks about the early days in England, when they were just starting to catch fire. The crazed teenage girls, throwing panties on the stage, once trapping him in a mob and literally tearing his clothes off. He feared for his life. Never underestimate the power of teenage hormones! He tells a story about one encounter:
The sky is sullen. It’s a day OFF! Suddenly the storm breaks viciously! Outside I see three die-hard fans. Their bouffants are succumbing to nature’s forces. But they stay! What can a poor boy do? “Get in here, dopes.” My tiny cubicle is filled with three drowned brats. They steam, trembling. They drench my room. The hairdos are done. They are trembling from the storm and from suddenly being in their (or one of their) idol’s room. Confusion reigns. They don’t know whether to squat or go blind. I’m equally confused. It’s one thing to play onstage to them, it’s another to be face-to-face. Towels become an important issue, as does the john. They make a poor attempt to resurrect themselves. It’s all nerves and tension. I get them some coffee laced with a little bourbon, but sex is not even in the air. We sit and talk and laugh until the sky clears. I get them a cab. We part as friends.
I think I fell a little in love with Keith when I read that. Oddly enough, throughout the book, I was struck by what seemed to be a fairly sweet demeanor and attitude. He’s a badass, no doubt about it, but he is also loyal to a fault once he has made friends with someone, and he is a devoted husband and father. His kids might have had a rather unorthodox upbringing (his son Marlon hit the road with him when Marlon was seven years old), but there is no disputing that he loves them unconditionally. After years of no contact with his father, he renewed their relationship and they became great friends. (If you want the story about him snorting his father’s ashes, you’ll have to read the book.)

A very stormy relationship is that of his with Mick Jagger. This was a little hard for me to read, because I love both of them. At times, Keith seems petulant and rather petty in his criticisms of Mick; they almost split a few times, but always found their way back to each other. Keith resents Mick trying to “take over” the band, and was pissed that Mick was making so many of the decisions concerning the Stones. He glosses over the fact that during his years of drug use, he was uninterested in such business decisions, and it was probably because of Mick that the Stones survived. I found their relationship a fascinating dynamic. They both seem to realize that they bring out the best in each other musically, and this symbiotic relationship has proven insoluble. He said their friendship goes far beyond bandmates and simple friendship. They are brothers, which includes the hate and loathing that very often occurs between siblings. He says that they have their disagreements, but no one can say shit about Mick in front of Keith. “I’ll slit their throat,” he says. Loyal to a fault. Exile on Main StreetAs for his playing style, I know very little about guitar, so I asked my friends Jim and Darren. I learned a little about open tuning, and about how Keith dropped his sixth string and usually plays with five. As I was reading about this and learning about it (at least what little I could comprehend), as well as the blues influence on the Stones, I found myself listening to their music with a renewed ear. I listened to the remastered “Exile on Main Street” a lot, and I’m hearing things there that I’d never heard before. It is on the verge of an epiphany. And what an absolutely remarkable album is “Exile.” As I listen to it again, I am stunned at just how good it is. Keith writes a little about various songs he and Mick wrote, and their songwriting process (which is pretty much to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks). Keith would usually come up with the riff, and Mick would add the lyrics. “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)” was all Mick’s, though, and Keith says it’s brilliant. I love listening to all of these songs again and hearing Keith’s licks as influenced by the blues.

I adored this book, and I have a newfound respect for Keith. He wrote with brutal honesty and great humor about his journey. This is an absolute must-read for anyone who loves music, and especially, anyone who loves the Stones. There is truly none other like them, and the same holds true for their founding guitarist. He’s one of a kind. I was utterly and completely charmed.