“Born to be Wild”

Imagine my surprise this weekend when I saw the news that there had been a shootout between rival motorcycle gangs on a freeway near Corona.  The Hell’s Angels and the Mongols, no less.  The response and resulting investigation caused a massive traffic jam in one of the most jammed up areas in SoCal.  Sadly, one person was killed in the gunfire.

I was shocked at the news.  While I knew both gangs were still in operation, and that both were still pretty horribly violent, I had no idea this kind of stuff still happened.  Biker gangs were long ago supplanted by street gangs in terms of newsworthy crime in California.  For a few minutes, I wondered if it was 2014 or 1974.

Before I was born, there were some Hell’s Angels living across the street from our family in north Long Beach.  My mother would go out with my brother in his stroller, and if they were out, they would say hello to the “little mother” and the baby.  They thought my brother was pretty cute (he was).  They didn’t cause a lot of trouble in the neighborhood and were relatively quiet–as quiet as guys with huge Harleys could be, anyway.  But I know most people’s experiences with the Angels haven’t been as benign.  These guys are hardcore criminals; from what little I know of the Mongols, they’re not any better.  Movies like Easy Rider went a long way to romanticizing motorcycle gangs, even though the characters in that film weren’t members of a gang.  They rode around on bikes, having adventures and hijinks, thumbing their noses at conventional society and mores.  These days, I think Sons of Anarchy presents a slightly more accurate picture, albeit one that’s highly dramatised.  There’s a lot of unsavory characters and behavior in the modern biker gang.  Remember, the emphasis should be on “gang” not “biker.”

The Kingdom Stays United!

Avast, me hearties!  Scottish independence from Great Britain has been scuttled!  (It’s also International Talk like a Pirate Day, so I’m killing two birds with one stone.)

The vote was pretty close, something like 55% to 45%, but the majority of Scots felt it was in their best interest to stay part of the Kingdom . . . er, Queendom (little baby George isn’t quite ready to take over yet, although he’s already conquered the world with cuteness).  I understand that even though the United Kingdom will be remaining fully united, there’s going to be some changes made.  I guess there’s some controversy about Scottish MPs voting on things that don’t pertain to them, but English MPs aren’t allowed to vote on Scottish matters, or some such.  That’s just one little bit I picked up from CNN late last night; I don’t actually know anything about British politics, except that the system is pretty complicated.  (I’m not judging, just saying.  American politics isn’t exactly a relaxing walk in the park.)

Now that the vote is in, it’s time for my local news to stop doing vaguely informative man-on-the-street segments from British-style pubs and showing clips of men in kilts playing bagpipes.  We can get back to our full time coverage of crime, bus crashes, and high speed chases.  (And saving little dogs who get hit by the idiots who start the high speed chases.)  But here’s some awesome Rock from the Sensational Alex Harvey Band to complete the Scottish experience.

“Summer Breeze”

I’ll be honest: I kind of hate this song.  It’s one of those lite radio staples that makes my teeth itch.  But it’s also the perfect description for our weather right now.

The heat wave broke last night, with temperatures dropping below 78 before midnight for once.  Today’s been about normal–around 85 and sunny–and there’s this amazing breeze out of the west that has somewhat mitigated the higher humidity.  Because it is kind of sticky today.  My laminate floor feels vaguely damp under my feet, and just getting up to feed the cats makes me a little sweaty.  But after the last week, it’s heavenly.

Not much else happening on the home front today.  I rotated the cushions on the couch and loveseat (otherwise, the two or three that get sat on all the time get flat while all the others stay puffed (sorry for the inadvertent Ghostbusters reference . . . actually, no, I’m not sorry about it. :) ).  I went online and applied for some jobs today, and I might take a look around the immediate area, and see if there’s any Mom & Pop retail places hiring.  (I’m not very happy in my job right now; I think I’ve hit my limit for tutoring in one lifetime.)

I’m also anxiously awaiting word on the Scottish vote for independence.  I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other; there are advantages and disadvantages on both sides.  I just think it’s refreshing that someone is voting to split from Great Britain, rather than going to war or being negotiated out as part of a treaty.  This is so much more civilized.  Either way, tomorrow’s post will have to be from someone Scottish.

Repost: “New Thing Now”

Heat makes my brain malfunction.  So does being tired.  That’s the deadly combination that’s keeping me from a new post.  But here’s a nice oldie for your listening pleasure.  Please disregard anything about “new” Shawn Colvin material; this is two years old, after all.

I really need to start paying more attention. Sign up for more newsletters or something. I had no idea Shawn Colvin has a new album out. And a book. Finally, some juicy gossip by one of my favorite singer-songwriters EVER. Seriously, she’s fantastic. I posted about her way back when I started this thing and her cover of “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” She inhabits the songs she sings in a way not a lot of people do. I don’t know for sure how autobiographical her songs really are, although this article calls her a “confessional singer-songwriter,” so I’m gonna assume that on some level she’s singing about herself–even when it’s someone else’s song.

“New Thing Now” is all Colvin, though, and it is such a sad, tender, acidic song. Yes, I did combine those three things; no, it is not a mistake. This is a love song with a nasty bite. It could be to a lover. It could be to a music executive. It could be about the entertainment press. The main point is not who it’s for, but the co-dependent relationship she finds herself in with that person(s). It’s a tug of war that she is not really happy about, but has accepted as part of her life. “This is your new thing now. Naked as a rose, everything exposed, but not quite. Cards out on the table, a genius with no label, but not quite.” She can see through the masks of the business, knows its ugliness but has to live with it, “just a poet and her pimps, but not quite.” She chose this life, but hates the way it eats into everything, tainting friendships and romance. The relationship she finds herself contemplating isn’t comfortable anymore, but she has to keep up the facade–for herself if no one else. “This is your new thing now, and it makes the whole world spin, it’s at least as old as sin, but not quite. This is your new thing now, and now you’re turning grinning, but maybe no one’s listening, and you might lose it all my darling. Yes, you might.” Almost as if she’s singing to a singer. Almost as if she’s singing to herself.

The most co-dependent relationship any artist has is with the art they’ve chosen. Colvin knows that music is the one thing she can’t let go of. Men, labels, reviews, audiences, whatever–they’ll all come and go. In the end, it will still be Shawn and her voice and a guitar and all the stuff she can’t say any other way.

“This is your new thing now, and it feels so good to doubt you, I could almost live without you, but not quite. Not quite.”

“Good Day in Hell”

I know two Eagles songs in a row is a little beyond the pale, but this pretty much describes how I feel right now.

Southern California is currently hell.  We’ve been in the 90s for nearly a week now.  The heat is supposed to break tomorrow, but the humidity will be back because of the remains of hurricane Odile.  I know my electric bill is going to be sky-high because we’ve been running the AC something like 12 hours a day.  The biggest problem is that it isn’t cooling down that much at night.  Although last night, for the first time in a while, there was a bit of a breeze.  That’s a good sign in my book.


“On the Border”

Last night, I read this article about the fading art of the fade out on Slate.  I was surprised to learn that a) the fade out in popular music really is something of an art form, technically speaking, and b) that artists don’t use fade outs all that much anymore.

I know I really don’t listen to that much current Pop music; most of my radio listening is Classic Rock.  Come to think of it, most of my musical consumption in general is Classic Rock.  Or what gets classified as “Adult Alternative” (read: well-written, intelligent, witty, and emotional music recorded by and aimed at adults).  And a lot of those artists do use fade outs.  Classic Rock is rife with them.

Mostly, fade outs are the chorus repeated over and over, constantly getting softer until you can’t hear anything.  (There’s more to it than that in terms of how it gets recorded and mixed, but you can read that in the article for yourself.)  It’s a way to end the song without having to come up with a distinct conclusion.  Sometimes, a performer cuts loose and has a little fun in the fade out.  The article mentions a number of notable and wonderful fade outs.  The most famous of them is probably “Hey Jude,” which I believe is still officially the longest fade out in Rock history.  Paul McCartney  really gets in touch with his inner screamer in that song.

What didn’t surprise me at all about the Slate article is that it failed to mention the Eagles, whom I consider the kings of the fade out.  I know that for a lot of people, the Eagles are just the most egregious example slick, corporate music and excessive douchiness. So they don’t get credit for the things they do well.  They don’t cut loose and get wild.  In some ways, their fade outs aren’t really meandering conclusions, they’re extra verses–the stray bits and pieces where the character tells you what he’s really feeling.  There’s a lot of pathos in some of them (“New Kid in Town” is great for that).  But my personal favorite is the snippy political anger in “On the Border.”

It’s weird how both dated and relevant this song is.  Written about Nixon-era scandal and surveillance, “On the Border” actually takes on an even more sinister edge in this era of the NSA and the PATRIOT act.  Younger listeners might not catch the Nixon stuff; “Don’t you tell me ’bout your law and order” is a direct reference to Nixon’s stance as a law and order president–a stance that was obliterated when his role in the Watergate cover-up was revealed.  The album On the Border was released in 1974, and most of the songs were probably written at about the same time.  The title single was certainly recorded as the Watergate scandal was winding down.  Nixon was on his way out, whether or not the resignation was official when the Eagles were in the studio.  You can hear it in the smiling voices (Glenn Frey and Don Felder, maybe?) in the fade out: “Say goodnight, Dick.”

“Give ‘Em Hope”

“I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you…And you…And you…Gotta give em hope.”
― Harvey Milk, The Harvey Milk Interviews: In His Own Words (link)


The definition of terror is an intense fear.  The suffix -ist is added to words to denote someone who specializes in something; the suffix -ism is used to denote the state or quality of something.  Working from those definitions, a terrorist is someone who specializes in creating an intense fear.  Terrorism is the state of being in intense fear.  That’s what happened thirteen years ago today in the United States.  We were placed in a state of intense fear, and I’m not sure we have ever escaped.

So many people around the world are living in a state of intense fear right now.  People are afraid.  Many of them have good reason to be afraid.  There are lunatics with guns and other weaponry invading their homes and dropping bombs on them.  Syria, Gaza, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan.  I’m not sure there’s a single country that hasn’t been somehow touched by terrorism.  By comparison, we’ve gotten off easy.

Don’t get me wrong.  We’re not entirely safe, and quite frankly, our foreign policy since 9/11 hasn’t really made us any safer.  The way our airlines and other transportation have handled security has not created more secure travel.  All any of what we have done the last thirteen years has accomplished is to create more fear, for ourselves and so many others.

And I don’t diminish the damage that’s already been done.  The amount of damage and suffering that’s been caused by the 9/11 attacks has been way more than enough.  I still, to this day, cannot fully wrap my head around what happened.  I feel so very lost and afraid when I think about all those people killed, the skyline of New York scarred forever.  I know it could happen again anywhere at any minute.  The point of terrorism is that nobody knows when or how terrorists will strike.  The terrorists do this precisely so they can create that intense, crippling fear.  They want everyone to be so afraid that they stop doing whatever it is the terrorists hate so much.  Because none of this is about legitimate protest or revolution.  It’s about hate.  And fear.  It’s about creating a world where the only point of view that matters is that of the lunatic with the guns.

You’ll probably recognize the state of intense fear in more than just 9/11 or ISIS attacks.  You can probably see it in all the school shootings.  It’s there in rioting and police shootings.  It exists anywhere it’s illegal to even speak about homosexuality.  Terrorism comes in many forms; it wears many faces.  It lives in every racial slur, or misogynist insult.  Not all terrorists are Muslim, and not all of them come from foreign countries.  There are terrorists right in our own backyards, in our malls, in our office buildings.  Every place where someone lives in intense fear, there is terrorism.

And the only way to fight fear is to stop being afraid.  It’s not going to be simple, or easy; there are a lot of complicated problems that need real solutions.  But each and every person on this planet can do something to stop terrorism.  All they have to do is replace their own fear with hope.

Hey, Thanks Apple!

I have a new U2 album.  I got it for free yesterday from Apple and U2.  Apparently, as part of their fancy new product announcement, the corporate giant and the superstar Rock band decided to treat us all to Songs of Innocence, the latest studio effort from the band, which isn’t officially due out until October 14th.

Now, I’m not entirely sure if I get to keep it forever and ever, or if it’s going to disappear from my computer when they quit streaming it for free the day before the hard copy of the album is released (but I’ll probably burn it to a disc anyway, just in case).  Either way, it’s kind of a nice freebie.  And if you use itunes, then you’ve got Songs of Innocence, too.  Pretty neat, huh?

This is the only song I’ve actually listened to so far, and it’s pretty good (although the video and sound in the clip is kind of awful).  It’s not as good as anything off of their last album, No Line on the Horizon (which still stuns me every time I hear it), but it’s okay.  I’m looking forward to hearing the rest.  It’ll take my mind off the heat, anyway.

Happy Birthday, California!

California became a state today in 1850.  Just a year after the Gold Rush.  It’s amazing what money can accomplish, isn’t it?

California has a little bit of everything.  Mountains, beaches, deserts, and cropland.  The weather here is mostly terrific.  There’s a lot of earthquakes, but hey, fracking is making those more common everywhere.  If this state were a nation, its GDP would rank it in the top ten, economically speaking.  We have one of the finest public university systems (in spite of a long line of Republican governors who keep trying to dismantle Pat Brown’s legacy).  We’re the official home of most of the entertainment industry, although it’s more of a diaspora lately.  We even have Disneyland, still the happiest place on Earth.  All in all, it’s not the worst place to call home.

So here’s our official state song to celebrate the state’s 164th birthday.

I was a little surprised when I googled this.  I always thought “California Here I Come” was the state song.  Goes to show you what I know.  Of course, our official state animal, the California grizzly bear, is extinct.  But we do have a pretty state flower.  (Check out this for more official California state symbols.  Who knew we had an official fossil?)


“You Oughta Know”

This morning, when I saw the video of Ray Rice punching out his then-fiancee in an elevator, I wished his career would be finished.  (I won’t link to it, but here’s a news story that I think includes it.)  I wanted him to become a has-been selling cars somewhere.  Well, I got my wish a couple of hours later when the Baltimore Ravens terminated his contract and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.  It didn’t come with the crippling knee injury I hoped it would, but I’ll take it.

Now, I hope Janay Rice gets her proverbial shit together, takes their kid and as much of the money as she can get her hands on, and gets the hell away from him. Maybe he’s truly sorry and he’ll reform. I wouldn’t take that risk, and I hope she doesn’t either. She deserves better than that.  Her daughter deserves better than that.

There’s a growing chorus of people wondering why, if law enforcement and the prosecution in New Jersey had this video, why wasn’t he put on trial and in jail.  (He would’ve been if he hadn’t been an NFL star, I guarantee that.)  There’s a lot of people asking why the NFL and Baltimore Ravens hadn’t seen this video before.  (That’s what they claim, anyway.)    The fact is, they ought to have known. All of them. The NFL, the commissioner, everyone.  They should’ve been a little more aware of the hideousness of the act. I posted about this before, and I was a little more circumspect.  I’m not circumspect anymore.  I’m enraged (so I posted the angriest song by a woman I could think of).

I’m not like Keith Olbermann, who is calling for the resignation of the prosecutors, the judge, and every NFL/Ravens executive involved.  I don’t think a mass career suicide is necessary.  But I think this had better be a wake-up call for all of them to start taking incidents like this just a little more seriously.  (And a special note to my 49ers coaching staff and executives: Sit or cut Ray McDonald.  Now.  I don’t want to boycott you.)  And every single man who thinks it’s okay to hit a woman.  Newsflash, fellas: It’s not okay to hit a woman.  Chances are, you’re bigger and stronger.  Nothing she does or says, short of pulling a gun on you, justifies striking her.  (Although if women are pulling guns on you, you’ve already clearly done something to make them feel unsafe.)

I got my wish that Ray Rice’s career would be over.  Now I just wish domestic violence would finally end.


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