Gabriel Garcia Marquez

As a writer, I am enmeshed in words—my own words and those of the writers around me.  But I will never, ever, write words as magnificent as those of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  His voice brought more beauty and sadness and joy to my world than I could ever quantify.  He was one of the finest writers who ever lived.  Word has come today that he lives no more.

Although writers, like all artists, live forever in their works.  Although Garcia Marquez was more lauded for 100 Years of Solitude, my favorite will always be Love in the Time of Cholera.  It was the first book I read that had a perfect ending.  I don’t mean perfect as in what I would have wanted to happen, but perfect in that it was the most completely appropriate and believable ending to the story that unfolded before it.  The language in that book was so lush and wonderful, so full of magic.  I still recommend it to anyone who asks me about good books to read.  If you haven’t read it, go get a copy.  Right now.  Steal one, if you must.  It’s that good.

Garcia Marquez was a native of Colombia, although he ended his life in Mexico.  So it seems totally appropriate to play this song by Los Lobos in his honor.  Oddly, it’s the first music I heard in my head when thinking about his life and death.

“Southern Girls”

I was kind of ranty yesterday.  Really, I don’t quite know where that came from.  So I figured I’d balance it with something a little less . . . intense.

This is one of my all-time favorite Cheap Trick songs.  It actually might make it on a Top Hundred of songs I’d need on any sort of medium.  It’s just that cool.  There’s a hint of something more serious behind this bit of Power Pop, like maybe there’s some peanuts in this musical candy bar (listen to the chorus).  But it’s hard to want to dig too deep into it.  It’s just a great beat, great guitar, and some sexy singing.

Back in the day, Robin Zander and Tom Petersson were pretty damn hot.  But at least half their hotness comes from their talent.  Pretty and sexy don’t mean that much if there’s nothing to back it up.  I need a brain, or at least some good music to listen to.  They’re eye candy, to be sure.  And Cheap Trick’s music is ear candy.  Addictive ear candy.  I’ll listen to “Southern Girls” two or three times in a row before I move on.

That’s about all there is to say about this sweet little nugget.  It might lack substance, but it sure is delicious.

 

“Alienation’s for the Rich”

I guess I’ve just got money on the mind right now.  It might be all that money I sent to the government yesterday.  It might be my piddling paycheck.  It might be that we’re going to have to pay off the contractors in a couple of days.

I’ve always been middle class–although if my mother wasn’t here helping with my bills, I’d probably be destitute.  And I never really used to have anything against rich people.  They earned it.  Or inherited it.  Either way, it’s their money.  And they’re allowed to do whatever they want with it.  If they want to spend it all on parties, drugs, and ugly shoes, well that’s just peachy.  Whenever I have extra money, it goes to music, books, and socks, so I’m not really one to judge.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how much class and financial equality is tied to so many things it shouldn’t be tied to–things like sex and race.  Poverty is a generational problem, distinctly linked to so many factors that aren’t in the control of the poor that I don’t even know where to begin.  So many young African-American men are depending on their bodies instead of their brains because sports is one of the only ways to break the cycle of poverty so many of them feel trapped in.  But that’s just one of the mythical traps that powerful people sell to the powerless to keep them from questioning the real problems of inequality.

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  Never mind that you never got the same opportunities.  Never mind that your school was inferior because funding has always been linked to property taxes, which were artificially depressed in your neighborhood because all the financially secure white people moved out the minute a family of color moved into the area.  Don’t even think about the fact that your professional opportunities were taken away when corporations moved all the factories to other countries because they would’ve been forced to pay a living wage here.  Ignore the fact that housing and healthcare costs have skyrocketed, but the federal poverty line (you know, that magic number that determines eligibility for social services) is still calculated according to the cost of feeding a family of four.  (Which also fails to take into account all those families of more than four.)  And of course, even if you are eligible for SNAP or Section 8, or any other social safety net designed to help raise the poor out of poverty by increasing their standard of living, you can’t get enough help or you go on long waiting lists because programs like this have had their budgets slashed into near non-existence.  And never, ever, ever mention things like mental health, addiction, domestic violence, or child abuse.  Those topics are still taboo.  Just get off your lazy ass, and get to work.

Your corporate masters, of course, are allowed to pay you a criminally low wage.  And they can cut your hours to below full-time so that they don’t have to offer you insurance (which they charge too much for anyway).  They’re also allowed to prevent you from unionizing, donate as much as they want to their political causes, and a myriad of other things that are meant to keep you dependent on them for everything.  They’ve rigged the system so that not only can you not pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you can’t even afford to buy bootstraps.

The tax system is rigged to favor the rich, just like everything else.  You’ll hear stories about how much certain politicians pay in taxes, but that’s for show.  Stories like that are put out there to keep people from asking how much CEOs pay (not much).  So here’s a lament for everyone who’s realized just how hard it is to overcome this system.

Lunar Eclipse Tonight . . .er, Tomorrow

To celebrate tax day in a couple of hours (Pacific time), the universe will be presenting us with a “blood moon.”

Okay, the red appearance of the moon during tonight’s total eclipse is really just coincidental to the fact that I, like so many other Americans, just sent out a bunch of money to the IRS.  I guess Dad’s partially to blame, as the big check was related to his estate.  But he’s also getting a refund that more than covers the payment and will pay the mortgage for a couple of months, so I guess I can’t complain.  Much.

I’m looking forward to tonight’s eclipse.  I think I’m going to try to stay up for the main event, which is well after midnight.  I figure I can sleep in a little bit tomorrow.  I prefer the moon to the sun, anyway, and I don’t need special glasses to observe a lunar eclipse.  I don’t know if it’s visible in other areas, but it is streaming live on the Griffith Observatory’s website if anyone is interested.  And awake.  (There’s not much going on right now, 10:12 PM, PST, but I can hear some astronomer sort talking about what lunar eclipses look like.)

I refuse to buy into any talk of this being a sign or omen of anything.  The moon will turn a funny color tonight because of the way orbits and shadows are crossing paths, not because some deity has decided to frighten us.  Really, the scientific explanations for how things work is much more interesting than any religious ones.  But for anyone so inclined to believe this is an omen of things to come, please contact me for an address to send your life savings to; I could use the cash.

 

Freaky Friday: “Elvis is Everywhere”

I’m a little off today.  The contractors stayed late working on the laundry room (and apparently went on a heroic quest for the new back door).  But if there’s anything that can pick me up, it’s the thought that Elvis really is everywhere.

I’m sure the conspiracy theories and tabloid stories began within just a few days of Elvis Presley’s death.  If Americans love anything more than Elvis, it’s a good conspiracy theory.  Elvis didn’t die; he was abducted by aliens.  Or he grew a beard and became a long-haul trucker.  The denial of his passing was just the way some people dealt with losing their idol.  It’s almost a secular version of Jesus’ death and resurrection (appropriate since Easter is almost here).

Now that I’m thinking about it, that seems to be what most conspiracy theories are about: denial.  Holocaust deniers.  9/11 truthers.  Kennedy assassination hobbyists.  Civil War re-enactors who rig it so the South wins.  Fanfiction “fix-it” stories (which might explain what’s been wrong with Agents of SHIELD all season).  If they deny something traumatic or unpleasant happens, if they find “evidence” that something else happened instead, then the thing they’re denying didn’t really happen.  Or at least it didn’t happen the way everyone else says it did.  You can see it happening in real time with Malaysian Airlines 370.  Those people demanding answers and proof that the plane crashed into the ocean are trying to find a way to cope.  (Of course, to be fair, there is something really hinky about the whole thing.)

We all want life to be easy, for there to be answers to all of our questions.  My biggest question right now is how I got from Mojo Nixon to conspiracy theories, but hey, let’s just roll with it.  As a Buddhist, I do believe that in some sense, Elvis never really left the building.  No one is ever really gone; they’re just on another plane of existence.  Their energy is still part of the universe.  But that doesn’t answer all the questions, and it doesn’t make actual life any easier knowing that.  I’ll still have to get up and deal with bills and dishes tomorrow.  Chop wood and carry water.

But at least I know that I’ve got a little Elvis in me.

“Moneytalks”

Another thing that happened on my hiatus was that the Supreme Court declared 5-4 that money is free speech.

Okay.  That’s not exactly what the ruling was.  But near enough.  Basically, the ruling said that limits on how much someone can contribute to political campaigns impinges on that someone’s First Amendment rights to free speech.  Remember, this is the same Supreme Court that declared corporations have their own free speech rights, in addition to that of individual citizens.

In other words, money talks.

If you have billions of dollars at your disposal and are the CEO of a large corporation, then you have more free speech rights than your employees.  Because you are rich and run a corporation.  Which has its own free speech rights.  If you can afford to buy the favor of  give millions of dollars to a politician, then s/he will supposedly listen to you more than the hundreds of thousands of other voters who either voted for or contributed smaller amounts to that politician.  Because you are rich.  According to this current SCOTUS, rich people have more rights than the rest of us simply because they have more money.

Fuck you, SCOTUS.

Granted, the limits on how much an individual person can contribute to any one individual politician are still in place.  The new free spending rules apply to political action committees and other fundraising organizations.  But c’mon, who really pays for most of the campaigning done in elections these days.  Even though individual candidates spend astronomical sums of money, the real dollars come from these other groups.  You know, the ones run by freaks like Karl Rove that get all their money from lunatics like the Koch brothers.

Money talks.  And democracy takes a long walk off a short pier.

Political and financial corruption is already out of control.  Did the Supreme Court really need to make it that much worse?  We need more control over campaign spending, not less.  We need to make it harder for Congress to have corporate sponsors like they do in NASCAR (or we at least need to make Congress wear patches saying who owns them like drivers).  I hate that actual participation in politics, already at disgusting lows, is going to get even more difficult because our votes don’t mean as much because we aren’t rich.  Never mind voter ID laws and gerrymandering; people just can’t afford being active citizens anymore.

So here’s a call to anyone who might still care out there: Fight this.  Pay attention to who’s paying for your political representatives.  Educate yourself about the issues.  Vote.  Don’t let these bastards win.

I’m Baaaack!

I don’t really have much to say today.  Funny, since I’ve been gone for a couple of weeks trying to think of stuff to say.  I guess I’m gonna have to get my groove going again.

Of course, if you’re trying to get grooving again, nothing beats this.

The awesome weirdness of this song seems to fit how I’m feeling right now.  A lot’s been going on in the world over the last couple weeks; a lot of it started before I took my hiatus, but I mostly kept my peace.  Between missing airliners, earthquakes, and Vladimir Putin doing his best Hitler imitation, I’ve been spending some quality time with CNN.  Egypt is turning into a military dictatorship.  Baseball season has started.  Mickey Rooney died, as did the lead singer of Gwar.  There’s just been a lot of zigs and zags in popular culture.

I saw one of the saddest changes today.  Peaches Geldof, one of the daughters of Bob Geldof and the late Paula Yates was found dead in her home.  She was only 25.  There is no official cause of death yet, only that it’s being treated as an “unexplained and sudden death,” whatever that means.  My heart goes out to the entire Geldof family.  I don’t know how they’ve managed to weather so much tragedy.

My own life is going well enough.  I’ve been repotting plants the last couple of days; Mom and I got a whole bunch for outside, including a mini herb garden for me.  I would’ve finished today, but I ran out of potting soil.  And the contractor is here to fix up the laundry room, the only room in the house that hasn’t been changed much in the last, oh, 30 years (new appliances don’t really count).  Things are, dare I say it, pretty good.  (Just typing that probably jinxed me.)

And I’ve been thinking about Dad pretty constantly.  It’s almost a year since he died, and I’m not sure how that happened.  I know time goes by pretty quickly, but it just doesn’t seem that long.  Look out for some Dad music in the coming weeks.

That’s about it for the update.  I might be posting a little irregularly as I get back into the swing of things, so be patient with me.

Yes, . . .

I am coming back, but not for a little bit.  I just need a little more time alone with my thoughts.  Which is normally a bad thing, given my penchant for imagining the worst.  But I think this recharge is just what I need right now.

Passings

Just checking in to honor a couple of passings in the music world.

The first is peripheral.  Mick Jagger’s girlfriend L’Ren Scott was found dead from an apparent suicide in her apartment in New York.  It’s always tragic when someone takes their own life, but even more so when that person is young, talented, and successful.  My heart goes out to her family and friends.

The other passing is of the Stooges’ drummer Scott Asheton.  Asheton–along with his brother Ron, Dave Alexander, and of course, Iggy Pop–helped create some of the most glorious noise in Rock history.  The Stooges were the prototype for Punk, and they were pretty damn awesome.

“In the Mood”

That’s the rub, isn’t it?  I’m not really in the mood right now.  I’ve been feeling like I don’t have as much to say, although clearly I’ve still got stuff to write about.  But I just haven’t been feeling the music lately.  So I’m gonna step away for a few days, probably not more than a week.  I’ll do a little housekeeping on the blog (and maybe some in my actual house, too).  I’ll still be reading and commenting.  I just think I need a little break to think about things, percolate some ideas.  And then I’ll come back tanned, rested, and ready to go.

Well, ready to go, anyway.

Catch you on the flipside!

 

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