Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Amazon Reviews: "Idiocracy" DVD

Keeping America Stupid: The End Result - 4 out of 5 Stars

There was once a Saturday Night Live skit where Steve Martin and Bill Murray played a pair of cavemen. Martin was the brainy one, Murray the muscle lug. Martin would get Murray to do all the tasks while insisting that they worked best because "You're the strongest, and I'm the smartest!" At the end of the skit, Murray picks up a boulder and crushes Martin with it...proclaiming "Now I'm the strongest AND the smartest."

"Idiocracy" brought that sketch to mind as Joe Bauers (a slacker Luke Wilson) and a Rita, a prostitute played by SNL's Maya Rudolph are thrown 500 years into a future where mad rabbit breeding by trailer-trashers has led to a massive outnumbering of smart people, who held their family growth in check. Ultimately, the only thing left is a populous of monosyllabic mouth breathers who sit on chairs that double as toilets, suck junk food from tubes and have made "Ow My Balls" the highest rated show on TV. Imagine Beavis and Butthead as a live action show, and you've got "Idiocracy."

When Joe and Rita discover that, even as average as they are, they're now the smartest people on the planet, the comedy kicks in. The humor is blacker than black, and it seems more than a little prophetic. In 2006, it's alleged Fox dumped this movie as quickly as they could to perform a contractual obligation to director/writer Mike Judge before throwing it to the DVD market. The story went that Fox wasn't too keen on the vicious anti-consumer message (Fox News in 2500 is being delivered by a naked man and a buxom woman, Starbucks is now a sex parlor and Latte is a euphemism for "hand-job"). But seeing the "town halls" that erupted in 2009, with "common people" on a rampage about birth certificates and death panels makes me wonder if Judge hadn't discovered the "time masheen" in his movie and taken a quickie trip forward. The scene in the hospital where patients are playing slot machines for a chance at health care would be funnier if it didn't seem so much like current affairs.

"Idiocracy" isn't for everyone. The dark humor is more than stabbing, and often cruel. But if you ever worried that Brave New World was going to be more Beavis and Butthead than Star Trek, you should get a look at this timely and nasty satire.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Amazon Reviews: The Laughing Dogs "Debut/Meet Their Makers"

4.0 out of 5 stars

Getting The Last Laugh, September 24, 2009

By Tim Brough "author and music buff"

There were so many bands that came up through the NYC CBGB's era that one can be forgiven for never having heard many of them. Or for that matter, thinking they were all either punks like The Ramones and Dead Boys or arty popsters like Blondie and The Talking Heads. For every band that got written up or made the charts, there were dozens that didn't. Enter The Laughing Dogs. While they made their splash in the Max's/CBGB rush of NYC signings, The Laughing Dogs were a smart rock band with more Beatles/Who tendencies.

There wasn't any anger or irony involved in their two Columbia albums, but there was plenty of good natured pop fun. They were a bunch of ace musicians, having backed the likes of Rupert Holmes and Davey Jones/Mickey Dolenz on recordings. So when The Laughing Dogs' debut (produced by Bruce Botnik) was released in 1979, most of the notice came on the group's sharp songwriting. "Get 'Em Outta Town" and "It's Alright, It's OK" are so darn good that how they slipped off the radar is beyond me. I loved 'em in my college radio days, and thought the similarity between this album cover and the Who's Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy was not unintentional. They had a grip on the best of that early 70's hybrid of pop and rock and will pulling it handily into the 80's.

Those comparisons to The Beatles, Who and even The Rascals were even more concrete on "Meet Their Makers." Featuring one of the best album covers of all time, and I do mean of all time...each band member with their mom smacking them around, and then on back cover, playing their sons' instruments as the band cowers in terro. It was even a better album than the debut. "Zombies" takes on the trend-mongers that insist that they knew better than you what your tastes should be. The mild protest of "Formal Letter" saw the band stretching out topically. And again, a great missed single on the album's closer, "Two Who Are Willing."

Sadly, that was The Last of The Laughing Dogs. (Although they still do the occasional one-off show.) Like so many of the great New York bands that couldn't get on the charts or just never seemed to get the success to match the acclaim (The Shirts, Mink DeVille), The Dogs seemed doomed to obscurity until now. Trust me, like the recent Amrican Beat reissues from The Fools and The A's, I snapped this up as soon as I spotted it. If any of the bands mentioned here tickle your memory switch, it may be time to allow these dogs to have their day.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Folsom This Weekend!

Anyone in SF, look for me in the Vendor's booth blocks 735-38! I'll be loaded up with plenty of books.

My Amazon Reviews: The Fools "Sold Out/Heavy Mental"

More than just local talent, September 23, 2009
By Tim Brough "author and music buff" (Springfield, PA United States) - See all my reviews

There will always be rock and roll royalty, but what we really need are more fools. These Fools in particular came out of Boston during the new wave splash of the early 80's, and these two albums were the sum of their EMI/Capitol output. They were probably to kooky for their own good (missing from this is their notorious Talking Heads parody single, "Psycho Chicken"), but they still had terrific energetic musicianship and enough sense to make their straight-up cover a version of Roy Orbison's "Running Scared."

"Running Scared" actually cracked the top 50, while the single from "Sold Out," "It's A Night For Beautiful Girls" (a terrific single reminiscent of early Joe Jackson) became a cult fave on modern rock radio. There's plenty of evidence here that The Fools could have gotten bigger; while "Sold Out" was an obvious attempt at EMI trying to hitch them to acts like The Knack, "Heavy Mental" found the band opening for the likes of Van Halen. (Hey, Blotto used to open for Blue Öyster Cult.) The Fools were solid enough to bridge both crowds, but like so many bands of that period, they got lost in the crowd.

Even if they couldn't break out of their northeastern fan base (they still gig and record in New England), songs like "Local Talent," "Sad Story" "What I Tell Myself" and a rave up cover of "I Won't Grow Up," prove The Fools were smarter than most people let on. Great to find this out from the American Beat label.

A world first: Vaccine helps prevent HIV infection

A world first: Vaccine helps prevent HIV infection

Posted using ShareThis

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

C'mon get Happy Love Guns

A Partridge Family tribute band covers KISS

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Back To Schooldays

Tomorrow I do something that every middle-aged man probably has nightmares about. I am going to go somewhere I haven't been for twenty-seven years. I'll be surrounded by folks I have no idea about, whose norms and customs will be utterly alien to me. Their idols and music will likely not even overlap my many years of public information gathering. In fact, when they see me, they will probably wonder what the frak I am doing in their territory, who the hell I am and will gaze on me with suspicion, and more than likely, some form of derision. I am terrified by the prospect.

I am going back to school.

After being employabley adrift since the turn of the century, I am entering the "New Choices" program at Delaware County Community College, two evenings a week, in an effort to come up to speed with current technology and employment options. Despite having written for and edited three Internationally distributed magazines, been a published author, an actor in two movies...being near 50 and having a BA in Communications and Theater Arts has left me with a modest selection of job opportunities. I have been working as a customer service phone operator at a mail order company for almost eight years, only to see cute 20 somethings with little or no other qualifications get promoted over me for not much reason other than they spark a certain employee's bedside fantasies, and they pose no risk to his position as lead tiara wearer. Obviously, this job is a dead end and a spirit killer.

So Monday night I will cart a three-ring binder with loose leaf lined paper and subject dividers, a packet of pens, a portable USB drive, and copies of my current resume to school. At this point, I have kept my 'extra-curricular' writing activities to myself, but have included editing the old Radio Trade Papers and travel/sales brochures on the resume, as well as the many years of broadcasting. The hope is that these classes (which are sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor) will be a gateway to better opportunities. The description of the course as given by the professor who interviewed me is that, once completed, they'll help you with placement, or if you'd like, applying for student grants/loans for further courses. It's something I've needed to do for a long while, and this is finally the time.

Uh Oh, Cuteness Overload!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gays can Quote the Bible, too.

No Country for Sick Men: Newsweek Magazine Breaks Done the Health Care Debate

No Country for Sick Men
To judge the content of a nation's character, look no further than its health-care system.

"Us Canadians, we're kind of understated by nature," Marcus Davies told me in his soft-spoken way. "We don't go around chanting 'We're No. 1!' But you know, there are two areas where we feel superior to the U.S.: hockey and health care."

Davies is an official of the Saskatchewan Medical Society, so it's not surprising that he would want to extol Canadian medicine. But that feeling of patriotic pride in the nation's health-care system is something that just about all Canadians share. They love to point out that Canada provides coverage for everybody, usually with no copay and no deductible—while the U.S. leaves tens of millions of its citizens uninsured. They love to remind us that, while the U.S. lets some 700,000 people go bankrupt due to medical bills each year, the number of medical bankruptcies in Canada is precisely zero.

Yet I wasn't inclined to let Davies go unchallenged. I agreed that Canada does an admirable job of providing free and prompt care to anybody with an acute medical condition. But for nonemergency cases, the system often provides nothing but a long wait. Last summer I tried to get an appointment with an orthopedist in Canada to treat my aching right shoulder; the waiting time, just for an initial consultation, was 10 months. How could you be proud of that?

"You're right," Davies said frankly. "We keep people waiting, to limit costs. But you have to understand something basic about Canadians. Canadians don't mind waiting for elective care all that much, so long as the rich Canadian and the poor Canadian have to wait about the same amount of time."

In that last sentence, Davies set forth the national ethic of health care in his country: medicine is not a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder, but a right that must be distributed equitably to one and all. In short, the Canadians have built a health-care system that neatly fits the Canadian character: ferociously egalitarian, but thrifty at the same time.

I found that same pattern—a health-care system that reflects a nation's basic cultural values—everywhere I went when I traveled the world for a PBS documentary and a book about how other wealthy countries provide health care. "The fundamental truth about health care in every country," notes Princeton professor Uwe Reinhardt, one of the world's preeminent health-care economists, "is that national values, national character, determine how each system works."

The design of any country's health-care system involves political, medical, and economic decisions. But the primary issue for any health-care system is, as President Obama made clear last week, a moral question: should a rich society provide health care to everyone who needs it? If a nation answers yes to that moral question, it will build a health-care system like the ones in Britain, Germany, Canada, France, and Japan, where everybody is covered. If a nation doesn't decide to provide universal coverage, then you're likely to end up with a system where some people get the finest medical care on earth in the finest hospitals, and tens of thousands of others are left to die for lack of care. Without the moral commitment, in other words, you end up with a system like America's.

Around the world, cultural influences govern much of the nitty-gritty of daily medical practice. In the Confucian nations of East Asia, doctors were traditionally expected to treat people for free; they earned a living by selling medicine to be taken once the patient went home. To this day, doctors in Japan and China do both the prescribing and the selling of medicine. And guess what? Those doctors tend to prescribe far more drugs than their Western counterparts, who don't share in the pharmacy's profit.

British women tend to have their babies at home; American women tend to deliver in the hospital, but go home a day or two after the birth; Japanese women remain in the hospital with the baby an average of 10 days after delivery. In Britain, Spain, and Italy, the basic rule of medicine is that people never get a doctor's bill; health care is funded through general taxation. But just across the border, in France, patients are expected to make a cash payment for any encounter with the health-care system, even though the insurance plan will reimburse most of that copay within a week or so. The French have decided that people should be reminded on every visit that health care costs money—even if it's the insurance company's money.

In Germany and Austria, health insurance pays for a week at a spa, if a doctor prescribes it to deal with stress. In Britain, when I asked whether the National Health Service would provide the same benefit, my doctor laughed at the very thought of it.

But the most important influence of national culture can be seen in the most basic question facing any country's health-care system: who is covered?

On this fundamental issue, the United States is the odd man out among the world's advanced, free-market democracies. All the other industrialized democracies guarantee health care for everybody—young or old, sick or well, rich or poor, native or immigrant. The U.S.A., the world's richest and most powerful nation, is the only advanced country that has never made a commitment to provide medical care to everyone who needs it.

Our lack of universal coverage has consequences. According to government and private studies, about 22,000 of our fellow Americans die each year of treatable diseases because they lack insurance and can't afford a doctor. This generally happens to people with a chronic illness who have too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to pay for the drugs and treatment they need to stay alive. Among the rich nations, this happens only in America. Likewise, the U.S. is the only developed country where medical bankruptcies can happen.

Those Americans who die or go broke because they happened to get sick represent a basic moral decision our country has made. All the other rich countries have made a different decision: they cover everybody. A French physician, Dr. Valerie Newman, explained it this way: "You Americans say that everybody is equal," she said. "But this is not so. Some are beautiful, some aren't. Some are brilliant, some aren't. But when we get sick—then, yes: everybody is equal. That is something we can deal with on an equal basis. This rule seems so basic to the French: we should all have the same access to care when it comes to life and death."

Other nations adhere to the same principle, with slightly different explanations. For Switzerland—a rich, capitalist country that didn't create a universal health-care system until 1994—the underlying rationale is the concept of solidarité. That's a crucial word in the Swiss vocabulary, freighted with meanings that include "community," "equal treatment," and "despite our differences, we're all in this together."

"To have a great sense of solidarité among the people," former Swiss president Pascal Couchepin told me, "all must have an equal right—and particularly, a right to medical care. Because it is a profound need for people to be sure, if they are struck by the stroke of destiny, they can have a good health system."

That principle seems so obvious to people in Europe, Canada, and the East Asian democracies that health officials asked me over and over to explain why it isn't obvious to Americans as well. "The formula is so simple: health care for everybody, paid for by everybody," a deputy health minister in Sweden told me. "You Americans are so clever. Why haven't you figured that out?"

This formula is so basic in the other industrialized democracies that virtually all of them have included some version of a "right to medical care" in the national constitution. Nearly all European countries (the striking exception is Russia) have signed on to the European Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights, which serves as a sort of continentwide Bill of Rights, enforceable by the courts. "Everyone has the right of access to preventive health care and the right to benefit from medical treatment," the charter says.

The new democracies that have emerged in the two decades since the fall of the Soviet Union generally include a "right to health care" in their constitutions. The Czech Constitution, written in 1992, is typical. "The state is obliged to guarantee the right to life and the right to protection of health, and health care for all," the document declares.

In the U.S., in contrast, neither the federal Constitution nor any state guarantees "health care for all." Some Americans have gone to court claiming a right to care. The legal theory is that our Declaration of Independence says we all have "inalienable rights," including a right to life, and you can't have life without medical care to keep you alive. No U.S. court has ever bought this argument.

In the other advanced democracies, though, there's no debate. All of them recognize a right to "health care for all" as a moral obligation. But they don't all agree on the way to assure that right.

Some nations—Britain, Spain, Italy, and New Zealand, among others—have decided that providing health care is a job for government, just like building roads or putting out fires. In those countries, government owns the hospitals, employs many or most of the doctors, and pays the bills. That seems pretty close to what Americans think of as "socialized medicine."

But many rich democracies—Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Japan—provide universal coverage with private doctors, private hospitals, and mainly private insurance plans. Unlike Americans, who switch to government-run insurance (Medicare) at age 65, Germans stick with private insurance from cradle to grave. Japan has more for-profit hospitals than the U.S., and far fewer doctors on the government payroll than we do. This is universal coverage, but it's not socialism.

Some countries—Canada, Taiwan, Australia—have a blended system, with private-sector doctors and hospitals, but a government payment system. The Canadian model—private providers, but public insurance to pay them—is the system Lyndon Johnson copied when he created Medicare in 1965. The difference is that Canada, Taiwan, and Australia provide the public insurance for everybody, while the U.S. restricts it to seniors and the disabled.

In our current debate on health care, many have warned that universal coverage will inevitably lead to "rationing" of health care. The argument overlooks a basic fact: the United States already rations health care. Indeed, every country rations health care, because no system can afford to pay for everything. The key distinction is the way rationing happens.

In the other developed democracies, there's a basic floor of coverage that everybody is entitled to; that's why nobody dies in those nations for lack of care. But there are limits on which procedures and which medications the system will pay for. That's where the rationing kicks in. "We cover everybody, but we don't cover everything," the former British health minister John Reid explained.

In the U.S., in contrast, some people have access to just about everything doctors and hospitals can provide. But others can't even get in the door (until they are sick enough to need emergency care). That amounts to rationing care by wealth. This seems natural to Americans; to the rest of the developed world, it looks immoral.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A great night of theater

Joel and I have been season ticket holders for The People's Light and Theater for several years. As a Theatre Arts major in college, I still have an appreciation for well done stage work, and this organization has maybe let me down twice in the last seven years. But last night was a special treat. The current run is a parable called "Nathan The Wise," set in 12 Century Jerusalem. What we didn't know was that the lead for this production was David Strathairn. For those that don't know, Stathairn was nominated for an Oscar as Edward R Murrow in the excellent bio-pic, "Good Night and Good Luck."

When we first walked in and saw the array of head-shots and actors on the lobby wall, my first thought was "it can't be that David Strathairn. But when he walked on stage, I realized it was. As I would list him the class of actors that would include Paul Giametti or Liam Neeson, seeing him perform in a theater that holds maybe 500 people (and was about half full) all but gave me goose-bumps. It certainly helps that the ensemble crew that People's Light usually has on stage is top drawer, and "Nathan The Wise" is no exception. I strongly recommend anyone in the Philadelphia area get to see "Nathan The Wise" before the production wraps on Oct 11.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Keeping America Stupid: Dept of Irony

While I am sure this Texan asshat woun't recognize irony if it hit him over the head with an I-Beam, the ridiculousness of his complaint merits this repost from the Wall Street Journal. 'Cause, y'know, big government spending is tyranny and public transportation is, y'know, socialist. So why didn't you spend more gubernmt money on...oh WAIT...we don't like gubment! Unless we think we want somethin'...And dang, we teabaggers had to pay more money to use, like, those capialist taxies! Damn your facist trains!

Tea Party Protesters Protest D.C. Metro Service

Brody Mullins reports on money and politics.

Protesters who attended Saturday’s Tea Party rally in Washington found a new reason to be upset: Apparently they are unhappy with the level of service provided by the subway system.

Rep. Kevin Brady asked for an explanation of why the government-run subway system didn’t, in his view, adequately prepare for this past weekend’s rally to protest government spending and government services.


The Texas Republican on Wednesday released a letter he sent to Washington’s Metro system complaining that the taxpayer-funded subway system was unable to properly transport protesters to the rally to protest government spending and expansion.

“These individuals came all the way from Southeast Texas to protest the excessive spending and growing government intrusion by the 111th Congress and the new Obama administration,” Brady wrote. “These participants, whose tax dollars were used to create and maintain this public transit system, were frustrated and disappointed that our nation’s capital did not make a great effort to simply provide a basic level of transit for them.”

A spokesman for Brady says that “there weren’t enough cars and there weren’t enough trains.” Brady tweeted as much from the Saturday march. “METRO did not prepare for Tea Party March! More stories. People couldn’t get on, missed start of march. I will demand answers from Metro,” he wrote on Twitter.

Brady says in his letter to Metro that overcrowding forced an 80-year-old woman and elderly veterans in wheelchairs to pay for cabs. He concludes that it “appears that Metro added no additional capacity to its regular weekend schedule.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mary Travers of Peter Paul and Mary: Rest in Peace

Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary dead at 72

DANBURY, Conn. — Mary Travers, one-third of the hugely popular 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, has died. The band's publicist, Heather Lylis, says Travers died at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut on Wednesday. She was 72 and had battled leukemia for several years.

Travers joined forces with Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey in the early 1960s. The trio mingled their music with liberal politics, both onstage and off. Their version of "If I Had a Hammer" became an anthem for racial equality. Other hits included "Lemon Tree," "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and "Puff (The Magic Dragon.)" They were early champions of Bob Dylan and performed his "Blowin' in the Wind" at the August 1963 March on Washington.

And they were vehement in their opposition to the Vietnam War, managing to stay true to their liberal beliefs while creating music that resonated in the American mainstream. The group collected five Grammy Awards for their three-part harmony on enduring songs like "Leaving on a Jet Plane," "Puff (The Magic Dragon)" and "Blowin' in the Wind." At one point in 1963, three of their albums were in the top six Billboard best-selling LPs as they became the biggest stars of the folk revival movement.

It was heady stuff for a trio that had formed in the early 1960s in Greenwich Village, running through simple tunes like "Mary Had a Little Lamb." They debuted at the Bitter End in 1961, and their beatnik look — a tall blonde flanked by a pair of goateed guitarists — was a part of their initial appeal. As The New York Times critic Robert Shelton put it not long afterward, "Sex appeal as a keystone for a folk-song group was the idea of the group's manager, Albert B. Grossman, who searched for months for `the girl' until he decided on Miss Travers."

Their debut album came out in 1962, and immediately scored a pair of hits with their versions of "If I Had a Hammer" and "Lemon Tree." The former won them Grammys for best folk recording, and best performance by a vocal group. "Moving" was the follow-up, including the hit tale of innocence lost, "Puff (The Magic Dragon)" — which reached No. 2 on the charts, and generated since-discounted reports that it was an ode to marijuana. Album No. 3, "In the Wind," featured three songs by the 22-year-old Dylan. "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" and "Blowin' in the Wind" both reached the top 10, bringing Dylan's material to a massive audience; the latter shipped 300,000 copies during one two-week period.

"Blowin' In the Wind" became an another civil rights anthem, and Peter, Paul and Mary fully embraced the cause. They marched with King in Selma, Ala., and performed with him in Washington. In a 1966 New York Times interview, Travers said the three worked well together because they respected one another. "There has to be a certain amount of love just in order for you to survive together," she said. "I think a lot of groups have gone down the tubes because they were not able to relate to one another."

With the advent of the Beatles and Dylan's switch to electric guitar, the folk boom disappeared. Travers expressed disdain for folk-rock, telling the Chicago Daily News in 1966 that "it's so badly written. ... When the fad changed from folk to rock, they didn't take along any good writers."
But the trio continued their success, scoring with the tongue-in-cheek single "I Dig Rock and Roll Music," a gentle parody of the Mamas and the Papas, in 1967 and the John Denver-penned "Leaving on a Jet Plane" two years later.

They also continued as boosters for young songwriters, recording numbers written by then-little-known Gordon Lightfoot and Laura Nyro. In 1969, the group earned their final Grammy for "Peter, Paul and Mommy," which won for best children's album. They disbanded in 1971, launching solo careers — Travers released five albums — that never achieved the heights of their collaborations. Over the years they enjoyed several reunions, including a performance at a 1978 anti-nuclear benefit organized by Yarrow and a 35th anniversary album, "Lifelines," with fellow folkies Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Dave Van Ronk and Seeger. A boxed set of their music was released in 2004.

They remained politically active as well, performing at the 1995 anniversary of the Kent State shootings and performing for California strawberry pickers. Travers had undergone a successful bone marrow transplant to treat her leukemia and was able to return to performing after that.
"It was like a miracle," Travers told The Associated Press in 2006. "I'm just feeling fabulous. What's incredible is someone has given your life back. I'm out in the garden today. This time last year I was looking out a window at a hospital." She also said she told the marrow donor "how incredibly grateful I was." But by mid-2009, Yarrow told WTOP radio in Washington that her condition had worsened again and he thought she would no longer be able to perform.

Mary Allin Travers was born on Nov. 9, 1936 in Louisville, Ky., the daughter of journalists who moved the family to Manhattan's bohemian Greenwich Village. She quickly became enamored with folk performers like the Weavers, and was soon performing with Seeger, a founding member of the Weavers who lived in the same building as the Travers family.

With a group called the Song Swappers, Travers backed Seeger on one album and two shows at Carnegie Hall. She also appeared (as one of a group of folk singers) in a short-lived 1958 Broadway show called "The Next President," starring comedian Mort Sahl. It wasn't until she met up with Yarrow and Stookey that Travers would taste success on her own. Yarrow was managed by Grossman, who later worked in the same capacity for Dylan. In the book "Positively 4th Street" by David Hajdu, Travers recalled that Grossman's strategy was to "find a nobody that he could nurture and make famous." The budding trio, boosted by the arrangements of Milt Okun, spent seven months rehearsing in her Greenwich Village apartment before their 1961 public debut.

Travers lived for many years in Redding, Conn.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Best line: "You know this, how?" Video from the Million (actually about 70,000 white) Moron March

Or to quote another friend, "The Stupid! It Burns!" (Thanks Grimm!)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Because Government can't get anything right:

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by a municipal water utility.

After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC-regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like, using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

I watched this while eating my breakfast of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time, as regulated by the U.S. Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Naval Observatory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank.

On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the U.S. Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school, and return some books to the public library.

After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to my house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and Fire Marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.

I will sign up for Social Security and Medicare on the very first day I am eligible. I will ensure that all my assets are placed in the names of my wife or children so that the state and federal government -- through Medicaid -- can support me in a nice private room in a nursing home for the last five or six years of my life, without sacrificing a dime of my children's inheritances.

And then I log on to the Internet -- which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration -- and post on Freerepublic. com and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right. Especailly since Medicare consistently keeps administrative costs at 3% while for insurance companies it is 11%++

Friday, September 11, 2009

Do not challenge me....

Because I won't back down. During an off period at the 2009 MsC in the DC area, the nice folks who were selling corsets and chainmail gear teased me that I wouldn't try on a woman's garment. I was in that peice in minutes. Then the call was to take my shirt off. I asked them "how much." The heckler in question promised a donation to the event (but in discretion to her, I will not disclose the amount). This photograph was taken as proof.

But I warn you, there are some who will find this image silly and frightening.

PS. A Print of this went for $25 at the silent auction. But I did hear a rumor that the winner thought he was bidding on something else.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Keeping America Stupid; SC Divison

There must be something in the water for them South Caroliner Politicos. First there was Governor Mark Sanford, who gave new meaning to Appalcian Trail. He had an affair and now he won't shut up about it. There's his second in command, Lt . Gov. Andre Bauer, who just might be having affairs with men, and he won't talk about it. Other than to deny it without being prompted. A lot. And then there's this freak of nature:

Meet South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson, the man who will now live on in YouTube infany for being the utter jackass who squealed "You lie!" when President Obama firmly denied any Free Illegal Immigrant Health Care was in his Health Care reform bill. While watching the President give his speech, when I heard the shout from the crowd, my first thought was if there were any civilian spectators who had opened up a protest. But no. It was bona fide elected evidence that not only should abortion remain legal, it should be extended into the 89th trimester. If there was ever a living, breathing, vomiting piece of proof that the Republican Party has zero interest in Bi-Partisan Heath Care legislation, this man is it. We won't even go into liklihood of Wilson's subliminal racism.

On a positive note, soon after Mr Wilson's extraordinary show of how out of touch the Rebuplican party is circa 2009, his web site had crashed, he had taken a beating on his Twitter page and Democrat Rob Miller had raised thousands of unexpected dollars online for a possible rematch with Wilson in next year's midterm elections, according to Lachlan McIntosh, Miller's campaign manager. In the eight hours since Wilson's outburst, former-Marine Rob Miller has received nearly 3,000 individual grassroots contributions raising approximately $100,000, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said. So sometimes, the system works.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Thoughts on the Month

Back home from a rejuvenating MsC (a conference in the DC area for Dominant and submissive folk), manning the book tables with my friend Dr Robert Rubel. (If you're interested in such things, his Protocal books are top drawer material.) While I only did so-so for sales, what was terrific about the weekend was reconnecting with many men and women that I only see once per year, and this year to hear Laura Antoniou deliver a snarky but moving keynote address. There seemed to be an influx of writers this time around; the first time Master Taino invited me to offer books six years ago, it was just me, this year there were three authors' tables (myself, Dr Bob and Alfred Publications), with specific Author Roundtables with Guy Baldwin, David Stein, Jay Wiseman, Laura and a few others.

It's been almost 10 years since I've had an opportunity to sit and chat with Guy, so that was a most welcome conversation. So was getting to visit with David, whose new book "Ask The Man Who Owns Him" led my table for sales. David (also the author of the Leatherotica classic "Carried Away") traveled the country to interview real-life gay male Master/slave couples, and the new book chronicles their lives and relationships. Had I brought more than 20 copies, there would have been several additional happy readers. Another book that sold through was Alfred Publishing's Protocol Guide from the House of Jack McGeorge, the passing of whom was heavy on everyone's heart.

Jack's death was one of four to really affect the members of Master Taino's organization. "Bill'O" and Sir Steve (a brilliant accountant) were also friend of mine who left us in the last 12 months. In something of that regard, the MsC has become a place to recharge. August has, for the last three years, been a very cruel month to me. I have lost my original Master, an ex-lover/Daddy, a mentor, a confidant and an inspirational figure in the last three Augusts. Two years ago, when Master Gary Gordon Taylor died, I felt like someone had pulled a part of my center out with an apple corer. But when I went to the 2007 MsC and told people there that I'd lost my Master, they understood.

The following year, it was Larry Townsend, who had encouraged me to write and publish (even writing an endorsement for the back cover of my second collection of short stories). Master Taino invited me to light a memorial candle at the conference for both Larry and Master Gary, which I accepted. When I crossed the stage to do so, I wore a pair of leather pants that Master Gary had left me, a T-Shirt designed by Peter "Rubber Bear" Tolos and a vest made for me by Wayne Griffin, who taught me leathercraft, so that each of them was with me at that altar. Lighting the two candles was not just for Larry and Master Gary, it was for them, my confidant Rob Cole, my ex Ronnie Borders, my original mentor Paul "Papa Bear" Sehm and so many others. And this year, Jack's family (both of his house and his children) were there with us to commemorate their Dad's work.

The significance of how we see these kind of men in our lives was brought to me forcibly in mid-August. In 1994, I had just lost Paul to cancer, Master Gary had been arrested and I was feeling very lost. A piercer had set up a booth on the Faultline Bar patio, and I decided to give myself a reminder of pushing forward in adversity. It may sound silly, but I got my ear pierced that night for that reason. That little gold stud had been in my ear almost the entire time since, until it popped out at my work desk and vanished. I literally tore my desk apart trying to find that little stud, to no avail. I down spun into a depression for the next 24 hours, realizing that this tiny symbolic drop of gold metal that had lived in my earlobe for the last 15 odd years had disappeared.

I told myself that I would not put anything back in that space until I could find something relevant. About a week later, at the 50th anniversary of the Newport Folk Festival, one of the vendors had small, sterling silver Peace Symbols. (Hey, it's a folk festival. LOTS of old hippies abound! Also, I have a huge collection of Tie-dye shirts.) But that is what resonated. I am often restless and even more frequently knee-deep in the sadness pool, so the thought of a small symbol of peace going forward, inner or otherwise, would be just as important as the 15 year old reminder of strength in my past. I can see it in the morning and touch it in the day.

That reminder, like the wearing of leathers from past lovers and mentors, grounds me. I have a past that is very left of center. The MsC (and although it conflicted with it this year, my fellow Delta Club brothers) offers me the very physical reinforcement about our nature and our connections. In fact, I probably get more hugs and kisses from women during MsC weekend than I do for the rest of the year (and there's a very goofy picture that was taken of me that I may or may not post will scare the mice from your basement), so the support I (and the other attendees) pick up during the weekend helps me hold on to my desire to create, to chronicle and to document. And to remember to love the living, to touch them, laugh and tell them what they mean to me now.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bigots are Stupid

It really is this simple.

I believe that no one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the evening / Labor Day weekend......

When even the pets are a terrorist threat...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009