There was a program that BBC aired in November of 2001 (just days before the incident in Tora Bora) where Jeremy Vine revealed an FBI document in whic...moreThere was a program that BBC aired in November of 2001 (just days before the incident in Tora Bora) where Jeremy Vine revealed an FBI document in which US agents were told to "back off" from investigating the Bin Laden family. That seemed kind of weird but irrelevent until just a few days later when it was reported that the Pentagon ordered American troops to stand down when they had Osama bin Laden cornered in Tora Bora in December of 2001. Dalton Fury, the commander on the ground at Tora Bora reveals this in his book Kill Bin Laden. But the question that nagged at me was why? If you have Bin Laden cornered, literally just feet from where we were dug in at, then why order our troops to stand down?
Bin Laden escaped and soon enough the entire thing was sorta swept under the carpet as the Bush/Cheney gang misled America into invading oil-rich Iraq, claiming that they knew that Saddam had WMDs - WMDs that never actually materialized. And as the world looked on in horror as Bush/Cheney mounted a pre-emptive and unethical war, the mastermind of the largest attack on US soil in history was no longer a concern. In fact, in a pres conferance Bush 43 famously came out and admitted that he didn't care about Bin Laden and wasnt interested in going after him.
This comment sparked disbelief in some - especially folks who had joined the military after 9/11 to fight in retaliation of Bin Laden's brutal attack on innocent U.S. civilians. It was at this time that I first found about the Bush family's business ties to the Bin Laden family through the Carlyle group. Further research showed that a bank that was associated with the Bin Laden family had bailed out one of Bush 43's failed businesses during the 1980s.
John Farmer, a Senior Counsel for the 9/11 Comission, says this about 9/11: "At some level of the governmet at some point in time...there was an agreement not to tell the truth about what happened." Meanwhile Senator Bob Graham wrote that "the White House was directing the cover-up". Since The American people have been doubting the government and expecting cover ups in large numbers since the assasination of JFK and the crimes committed during Watergate these notions weren't anything new. And the Bush family's connections to the Bin Laden family is interesting and certianly grist for conspiracy theorists, the real motive behind the Bush/CHeney gang ordering Dalton Fury's troops to stand down goes back to 1997 when a rightwing think tank called The Project for the New American Century created a document outlining how America needed to be transformed. Members of this think tank included Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. Several of these future members of the Bush Administration met with Bill Clinton at that time and tried to convince Clinton to invade Iraq, presenting him with a fully detailed plan. When Clinton refused the plan, the wheels were set in motion for putting a candidate into the White House who would promote the New American Century cabal's agenda.
Shortly afterward, The Project for the New American Century issued a report titled Building America's Defences which stated "The process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor."
Or a 9/11... Again, conspiracy Theorists have jumped on that to show that 9/11 was more than just coincidence? But the important thing to take from this evidence is that it is very clear that when this new Pearl Harbor actually occured, the Bush Administration had already been planning and was prepared for it - and that they had all the machinations for exploiting the tragedy of 9/11 to justify public support for a build-up to a war for oil in Iraq in order. They had been planning for nearly a decade, after all. Combine this with the Bush Administration's blatant dishonesty, misinformation campaigns and military-indusrial complex agenda it would suggest that their entire reign was full of evil-minded plots that reveal their obvious intentions. (less)
The writing here isn't the deepest, in fact sometimes it seems like its more geared toward an audience of high school or college age kids at times - b...moreThe writing here isn't the deepest, in fact sometimes it seems like its more geared toward an audience of high school or college age kids at times - but that didn't really bother me. I'm not a baseball romantic. But I was in 1976. I ate, slept and shit baseball. And Mark Fidrych played the game as if he did too. And how could an 8 year old kid not be drawn to the Bird? His perma-grin, his love of guitar Rock music, his bushy unkempt hair, his wild antics on the mound and his joy in the game. He was like a big kid himself. And it was as if his sheer love of the game, his passion for baseball, led to his success - which in turn inspired young kids like me to believe that all you needed to make it to the big leagues was simply to love the game, play it with every fiber of your being every second of the day.
And then...it all changed. A silly injury that led to a sadly drawn out exit. Something was missing from baseball without Mark 'The Bird' Fidrych in the Major Leagues. The game had been changing with free agency and corporatization. Baseball players, who previously had to sell insurance in the off season to make ends meet, were become multi-millionaire brandnames represented by narrow-eyed agents who wrangled endorsements for them and spinning the stories of their clients personal lives that was splattered all over the Sports sections than they did enjoying the game.
Would baseball had steered clear of all these evils had Fidrych stayed in the game? No, of course not. But for one brilliant summer in 1976 it seemed possible. In fact whenever the Bird took the mound, for that one brief moment, almost anything seemed possible.(less)
I prefer going into a book reading without knowing anything about it other than what I can glean from the front and back cover plus a quick scan throu...moreI prefer going into a book reading without knowing anything about it other than what I can glean from the front and back cover plus a quick scan through its inside pages (since 99% of the books I read are non-fiction, they often contain photographs). But this wasn't the case with Ed Hamilton's Legends of the Chelsea Hotel. Two weeks ago Ed Hamilton contacted me, expressing gratitude for the kind words I had written in a review about a short, non-fiction piece he had written called "Dee Dee's Challenge" (which was included in a collection of Rock music tales titled Experienced). "Dee Dee's Challenge" was two pages of sharp and engaged journal writing, a quick economic burst that packed a punch not unlike one of the two minute adreneline-soaked songs that Dee Dee might have written in his hey day with the Ramones. I admired Hamilton's short story immediately and I made myself a note to track down Hamilton's larger work, Legend of the Chelsea Hotel and give it a read as soon as possible.
That had been over a year ago and because I have a busy (and sometimes complicated) life which tends to makes me forgetful, I hadn't gotten around to ipicking up a copy of it yet. Hamiliton's email though reminded me of it and I replied to him that I wanted to review his book soon. He then offered to send me a free copy. I genuinely appreciated his gesture, but I quickly logged onto my library website and ordered a copy of Legends of the Chelsea Hotel - which was promised to arrive within a week. Then I emailed Hamilton and refused his copy of his book. This might have seemed like a "Don't call me, I'll call you" gesture because I know that offering a copy of one's book is how things are done. It's a very accepted practise that writers send reviewers a copy of their book as a courtesy - in fact it is often expected. But unless a copy of their book is not available through my library system, I prefer to turn these offers down. The reasons are two-fold. First of all I'm a minimalist. I have a very small collection of about 100 books, seperated into 5 or 6 catagories and I don't have room for any more. The second reason is that I will feel like a heel if someone sends me a gift and then I publicly trash it.
Fortunately in the case of Legend of the Chelsea Hotel I didn't have to worry about this second concern because I liked the book quite a bit. In fact, in retrospect I wish I would have accepted Hamiliton's offer because Legends of the Chelsea Hotel is one of the rare books that would fit perfectly into my small, specific collection. In his introduction Hamilton describes Legends of the Chelsea Hotel like this:
"...a mix of history and biography, myth and legend, fiction...and non-fiction, memoir and anecdote [that] can most accurately be described as an 'alternative history' or perhaps a 'hisory of an idea' the idea being of course, that of the Chelsea Hotel itself".
What follows is all of that and more as Hamiliton tells of his experiences as a resident of the Chelsea Hotel over more than a decade (beginning in the mid 1990s). And although the narrative is organized chronologically, it has none of the trappings of a chronology because the legends still haunt the halls and rooms and corners of the Chelsea - at least in Hamilton's mind and nearly all of Hamilton's contemporary experiences somehow springboard into historical and biographical sketches of the many colorful characters that have called the Chelsea Hotel their home. For instance, as he writes about being tormented by junkies who continually wreck the shared bathroom, his narrative gives way to a nice little bio on legendary Beat writer Herbert Huncke. Or while being tormented by a resident who plays Willie Nelson's Christmas album non-stop, Hamilton seamlessly segues into the tribulations of experimental film maker Harry Smith (whose compilation of early folks recordings were influential in the folk revival of the late 50s and early 60s). And so on and so forth.
By the end, these connections - and how Hamilton ties them all together - provide the narrative of Legend of the Chelsea Hoetl with a locomotion that goes beyond the mere snapshots and biographies themselves. These anecdotes and legends and alternative histories come together to weave a beautiful swatch in the fading fabric that once made up the old, weird America of the early to mid 20th century - and Ed Hamilton deserves to be commended for his inspired work that preserves this swatch and in the way he does so by showing its relevence, even to contemporary American sensibilities.
To pin down an exact definition of Outsider Music is like trying to turn a bottl of ketchup into a tomato. If you define it as music that is outside the mainstream music industry, then that could include anything from punk to polka. If you define it as music that is recorded not for popular consumption, then that too is not exactly correct, since Outsider musicians often dream (perhaps delusionally) of mainstream success. If Outsider music is defined in relation to Outsider Art, then it has to be put in the context of music that is created by folks who are mentally imbalanced (for that is what Outsider Art was originally meant to define: the artwork made by mental home patients). Jack Mudurian, whose musical repertoire was recorded in 1981 by the activities director at the Nursing Home where he was a resident, would be a classic example of this definition. But not all Outsider musicians are mental patients. Some seem more like novelty acts, but at the same time it is also wrong to define Outsider musicians as simply novelty acts because Outsider musicians are not necessarily "in" on the joke, so to speak. The only undeniable unifying aspect of Outsider music is its genuine expression of feelings, ideas, emotions, etc., that can't be effectively expressed otherwise.
I don't read a lot of fiction, but I've been having a strong interest in the future lately. 2030 in particular because 2030 seems to be in line as the next high profile "benchmark" year.
Previous benchmark years were 1984 (thanks to George Orwell's novel), 2000 (thanks to the Y2k scare), 2012 (thanks to the Mayan calendar) and now 2030 (based in part on Colin Mason's The 2030 Spike: Countdown to Global Catastrophe.)
But Albert Brooks's 2030 seems to be a somewhat happier place than Mason's - despite the fact that Brook's 2030 includes nuclear attacks in Chicago and in the middle east. And despite the fact that it includes the largest natural disaster in America's history.
But Brooks future is more upbeat because it includes happy conclusions to some of the six 'drivers' of a global catastrophe that Mason argues will converge in the decade of 2030. For instance, Brooks 2030 is a world of electric cars and solar energy. His 2030 has a president who is taking on the challenge of massive population growth. Brooks's 2030 isnt overly influenced by global warming. And in Brooks's 2030 the health care issue is the central pulbic concern as opposed to Mason's famine and water shortages.
Overall, Brooks seems to have a confidence that humanity will be able to overcome nearly any obstacle that it has to deal with. I give his book 2 out of 5 WagemannHeads.(less)
In May of 2009 I turned 41, making me older than John Lennon was when he died. That was a weird feeling. Every Rock star has an Ideal Iconic Death Age (or IIDA), a specific point in their career when their death would have the most iconic resonance. Generally the longer a Rock star lives, the less iconic they are. 27 years of age seems to be the exact right number for a lot of Rock stars since that is the age where they are still almost considered young, yet have also produced enough music to hold the attention of Rock fans. Members of the infamous Club 27 include Cobain, Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin and Brian Jones.
Luckily John Lennon is not a member of this club, for if he would have died at 27 we would not have "I am the Walrus", "Come Together" "Revolution" or "Imagine" (and the world never would have heard of Yoko Ono, either). But in many ways, Lennon's status as an Icon goes much further than his catalog of music.
A lot of people may balk at the idea of claiming John Lennon to be a humanitarian; a man accused of abandoning his first wife and neglecting his first child, and being addicted to heroin, a man who was accused of murder, accused of subversive activities, accused of engaging in homosexual acts, accused of having affairs. Although Lennon wasn't a humanitarian in the sense that he saved starving orphans in Africa, he did use his fame to advertise/spread the idea of love and peace. Big Deal, you say? Well, it might be hard to imagine a time when a musician could have an impact on society the way Lennon did. Today musicians rarely even speak of politics and when they do (for example, someone like the Dixie Chicks making a few offhand comments against Bush) we see how much crap they get in return. Lennon was protesting at 100 times the rate and at 100 times the scrutiny of anyone today. He was so feared by the US government, in fact, that Feds were tapping his phones and secretly following him around. One concrete example of Lennon's influence was when he debuted his song "John Sinclair" at a protest rally and within hours Sinclair was released from jail--instead of serving the ten year sentense he was due.
But Lennon's "work" as a humanitarian was best felt in a more personal way. After all, what can one person really do to change the world beyond being the best possible person that he or she can be? That was what Lennon was all about. Realistically, Lennon had issues he had to deal with. He was conceived and born amidst the height of destruction during World War II. His old man was a horny old sailor who abandoned him, and his teenage mother ended up leaving him with his aunt. Most of us know the story of how Lennon married young (namely because he got Cynthia pregnant) and how he was thrust onto the world stage at a young age. Later in life, Lennon tried to repair his relationship with his son Julian, and from all accounts Julian has nothing but kind things to say about his father. Perhaps Julian realizes that the world was a better place because Lennon followed his muse and gave us all of this great music (even if it was at the temporary expense of a happy family life for Julian). And maybe Julian also knows that Lennon's legacy goes beyond just the music.
There are several examples of how Lennon touched individuals in a deep way. Many of the examples the media dwell on are the more negative ones like the Charles Manson's Helter Skelter theories or the sordid details around Lennon's own assasination. Both of these examples illustrate the way Lennon connected with the outcasts of society, but despite these few bad apples, Lennon has given comfort to plenty of outsiders over the years (myself included) in a much more positive way.
Perhaps it is this personal way he affects people that impacts society at large. And perhaps this is why when we think of his death we look at it in the larger context of society as a whole. The timing of Lennon's death in 1980 happened just weeks after Ronald Wilson Reagan was elected president (if you recall the Beatles British Invasion is often linked to the Kennedy assasination, because the nation was in such a deep state of mourning that people were desperate for some upbeat, good-natured fun and the Beatles seemed to be the only ones capable of providing at the time). Its also relevant that Lennon's death happened at the begining of a decade known for a lot of the things that Lennon spoke out against, namely excessive materialism, greed, commercialism, etc. Beyond that, there is a more direct comment that Lennon's death seems to make about our culture and the bizarre obsession that certain people have of wanting to be close to those who are famous.
But in the end, Lennon's life far overshadows his death. Lennon's ultimate gift was that he simply touched people in a very direct and intense way. Surely he will be remembered in part because he wrote some great fucking songs, and also because he lived a truly mythical life, but to many it was the manner in which he unflinchingly examined and expressed the complicated inner search for truth that he was constantly struggling with that really seems to resonate with anyone who has ever attempted to attain a deeper understanding of life. For those people Lennon will always serve as a touchstone
At the 21st Grammy Awards in 1979, Saturday Night Fever (The Original Movie Sound Track) was named Album of the Year. The album's featured group, the Bee Gees, received the award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. By the end of 1979, the disco industry was estimated to be worth more than $4 billion, that meant that it was generating more money than the movie industry, television or professional sport. It was so big that The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences added Disco as its own category for the 22nd Grammy Awards. Nominated works for the award included "Boogie Wonderland" by Earth, Wind & Fire, "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor, "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" by Michael Jackson, "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy? by Rod Stewart, and "Bad Girls" by Donna Summer.
An anti-disco sentiment had been building for sometime however. By early '79 this sentiment was witnessed in the "disco sucks" and "death to disco" T-shirts and graffiti seen around the towns and cities of the USA. Rock fans were particularly fed up with watching one "Rock" act after another fall to Disco's influence, from the Rolling Stones to Rod Stewart to David Bowie to Kiss
The anti-Disco movement hit critical mass on the night of July 12, 1979 (just weeks after Newsweek had declared that Disco had "taken over" the music industry) when a promotional event called Disco Demolition Night was held at Chicago's Comiskey Park. It took place during intermission ata double header where a young local radio disc jockey named Steve Dahl set ablaze a bin full of disco records and thereby ignited complete mayhem. The Chicago Police were called in with riot gear as 50,000 rioters took over the field, the ball park and an entire city block, forcing the Chicago White Sox to forfeit the second game of the double header. An excellent discription of the Disco Demolition at Comisky Park is given in Josh Wilker's book Cardboard Gods, where he writes:
“That night, in Chicago, the sky had rained flat black discs and lit M-80s. By the late innings, the visiting Detroit Tigers outfielders were wearing batting helmets in the outfield. A vendor reported selling forty-nine cases of beer, more than double the number he’d sold on any single night in his many years on the job. Smoldering bongs were passed from hand to hand like change for a hot dog, giant glossy airplanes made of promotional posters featuring a sultry blonde model known only as Lorelei swooped and dove amid the hail of explosives and Frisbeed LPs and 45s, and inebriated throngs in the parking lot jumped up and down on cars and set fire to white-suited John Travolta dolls and searched for illegal entry into the slightly more focused mayhem inside the packed stadium. As game one of the scheduled doubleheader progressed, this search gained urgency, for between games a local 24-year-old disc jocky named Steve Dahl and the aforementioned Lorelei were going to detonate a mountain of disco records.
Almost immediately after this detonation, a stream and then a gushing wave of longhaired attendees flowed onto the playing field…The revolution, the pointless, hysterical revolution, had come. Some lit bonfires in the outfield. Some wheeled the batting cage around like it was a stalled car that needed a running start. Some performed hook slides and headfirst Pete Rose plunges into where the bases would have been if they hadn’t already been ripped from the ground and stuffed between giggling rib cages and the fabric of Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith T-shirts. More than one person reported seeing couples fornicating…”
The Disco Demolition garnered national headlines that seemed to unleash a backlash against Disco. Public support for disco music faded alarmingly fast. At the time of the Disco Demolition (July 21, 1979) the top six records on the U.S. music charts were disco songs. By September 22, just two months later, there was not a single disco song in the U.S. Top 10 chart. Within months the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (that had just added Disco as it own catagory) reversed itself and eliminated the award category all together. Disco was officially pronounced dead and July 12, 1979 has forever since been known as "the day disco died".
This Aint No Disco!
I remember sometime around 1985 my good friend Ray gave me a mixed tape that included 90 minutes of Rock songs that were largely disco influenced. He called it Disco Rock and to the best of my memory, here are the songs that were included on that mixed tape: