Before Completion

Order from chaos...while you wait.

27 October

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Money changes everything

While running yesterday, I had a money theme going on my mp3 player: Money won't change you, Money changes everything, Money, that's what I want, Money , etc. Money is a big theme in pop music, not as big a theme as broken hearts, but big none the less.

I'm reminded by those songs this AM because I have been following this guy's posts. He is proposing a tongue-in-cheek, at least I hope, eugenics model for a fictional future society. He asked for proposals. It's the comments on the blog that are the most interesting. One proposal is for a predictive market based on observable phenotype variables, which offers a monetary incentive for "desirables" to have more children. To do this, you allow investments in children, and investors are rewarded with a portion of those children's future income. This is pretty much what the human race has been doing forever, raising kids so that they will support you later on, or maybe fight a war for you. It all sounds a bit like a Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan scheme for the privatization of social security taken to its extreme. Of course, the proposed eugenics scheme assumes that the market can sort out "desirables" from the rest, Unfortunately, market approaches usually sort characteristics only on excess dollar value so such a scheme defines desirability as possessing surplus cash. Social security type schemes do not. Maybe it's just my Catholic social conscience coming back to haunt me, but it seems to me that a society has a duty to take care of its weaker members and its future. That duty comes about not because of the profit motive but but because of a biological drive to secure the future of the species. You can call that a moral principle, if you like, or just plain old biology. The Western world has been privatized for a long time, by kings, popes, soviets, robber-barons, Goldman-Sachs, choose your owner. That approach is unlikely to work in a world with 10 billion human mouths and rising expectations. We need some better schemes before post-capitalism lets those with excess cash devour everything.
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24 August

Come Back Baby

Songs of loss, my baby's gone. Baby won't you come back. Strong men cry, strong women will do anything to get their lover back. Some are resigned to living alone for mistreating the ones they love. The Stoppers sound resigned. at least Jimmy, the lead singer does. Come back baby is a sweet bit of soul with that chorus "Come back baby, come back, come back baby, come back, to me." It's what Van Morrison heard in the night from the Voice of America and it never let him down. Not, the VOA, of course, or America, but that sound. It never lets you down.

Ray Charles has the blues, smoky horns, I'm so sorry baby. "Come back baby, let's talk it over one more time." Ray's a snake, but she'll do it even though he mistreats her.

Sunnyland Slim and Hubert Sumlin don't want you to stay, just come for a while. Lay up in that bed. Listening to Hubert, you can understand why Howlin' Wolf threatened to shoot Muddy Waters for stealing Hubert for Muddy's band.

The Thrills don't want your sorry ass around anymore. Don't come back. Tough chicks. The Shangri-Las' daughters all grown up.

Speaking of the Shangri-Las, sometimes the boy can't come back. Look out, look out, look out, look out!
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09 June

Love Songs

Popular music is full of loves songs, mostly of the dysfunctional kind. Baby, I'll die if you leave. That sort of thing was a staple of pop music back in the days when radio mattered. Of course, there's a lot more to love than the sort of thing that can be captured in 2:46. Still some great pop songs have written about love angst, teen or otherwise.

The Shangri-Las were every greaser's wet dream, probably a lot of nerds too. Give Him a Great Big Kiss isn't exactly a love song, more like teen lust, but it has the greatest spoken introduction in pop history. So good that David Johansen and the NY Dolls stole it stole it for Looking for a Kiss. How can you go wrong with lyrics like

Big bulky sweaters to match his eyes
Dirty fingernails
Oh boy what a prize
Tight tapered pants, high button shoes
He's always looking like he's got the blues

How could a girl from Queens resist those dirty fingernails. This was one of Shadow Morton's teen symphonies. The Shangri-Las made the other girl groups like the Supremes and the Ronnetts look like goody-two-shoes.

When it comes to real love songs, Smokey Robinson is the master. Bob Dylan called Smokey the greatest romantic poet alive today. Smokey cranked out rhymes and produced hits for Motown in its heyday. For pure soul, you can't beat My Girl, one of the hits he penned for the Temptations. It starts with James Jameson's bass heartbeat and then the guitar riff followed by that steady drum beat. Smokey wrote this for lead singer David Ruffin. It's tailored perfectly for his voice. No matter how many times I've heard this, I never get tired of it. I don't think anyone else does either.

Smokey also wrote the greatest teen makeout song, Ooh Baby Baby. During the sixties, Mowton was a perfect hit making machine. The band on this song is also the Funk Brothers. Many bands tried to get that sound, but the bass and drums on this and so many other Motown songs of the period set a standard that none could match. And then there's Smokey's voice, like a voice you hear in a dream and that stays when you wake up.

The Cure know about Lovesongs. (lyrics) Too bad this video is so dumb. Robert smith singing in a cave, who thinks these things up?

Only Nick Cave could get away with opening a song with a line like "I don't believe in an interventionist God" and make it work, but Back Into My Arms works, mixing prayer and love. It's supposedly dedicated to PJ Harvey.

Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane seems like an unlikely pairing, but they mesh perfectly. This entire album is just plain wonderful. The songs are very spare, usually just an intro by Trane followed by Hartman's baritone interpretation of the song. Together they manage to turn some fairly pedestrian tunes into great art. Pick any song on the album and it's great. My One and Only Love is an example. Each track on the album was recorded in a single take, except one. That one was recorded twice only because Elvin Jones dropped a drumstick. That's an indication of how perfect the match between the Coltrane quartet and Johnny Hartman was.

Lamb is one of my favorite bands from the 90's. Lou Rhodes has one of those not perfect voices that delivers perfect songs. This one, Gabriel, gives me chills. I'm not sure what it's really about, but to my mind it's one of the few mature love songs. (lyrics)

I can love
But I need his heart
I am strong even on my own
But from him I never want to part

I'm good on my own, but you make me better.

The greatest love song of all isn't about romantic love. Again, the heartbeat bass and steady drums, but this time function as a prayer. If I ever have a memorial service, I want this played.

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02 June

Running on

Money, Who need it? Not Jr. Walker. He only needs a toothbrush. He's a Roadrunner. Read all about it here. Walker was inspired by jump blues and early R&B, particularly players like Louis Jordan, Earl Bostic, and Illinois Jacquet. You can hear it in the opening blast. I don't know who else is playing on this, but it sure sounds like the Funk Brothers.

Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers are in love with the modern world just like a Roadrunner. (lyrics) Who wouldn't be? They've got the radio, out on Rt. 128. Jerry Harrison, later of the Talking Heads, plays keyboards. I remember driving on Rt. 128 by the radio towers with this on the radio. According to Rolling Stone, Richman was obsessed with the Velvet Underground. When he started his own band, he rewrote the Velvets' "Sister Ray" into this song.

Moby takes the gospel tune Run On. Originally God's Gonna Cut You Down (lyrics) and adds a bit of instrumentation. Moby took the vocals from the 1943 version of Run On by Bill Landford and the Landfordaires and added piano, drums etc. Moby caught some flack for his use of the gospel vocals and the official video is just plain dumb. Look it up on Youtube. It's not the one I linked to. Listening to his version, you know Moby's god ain't really gonna cut you down. Johnny Cash's god, on the other hand, just might cut you deep.

Johnny has been running for a long time. He's been everywhere.

Kate Bush isn't - Running Up That Hill (lyrics) Bush wrote this with the title "Deal With God." Her label made her change it because they didn't think radio stations would play a song with god in the title.

And if I only could,
I'd make a deal with God,
And I'd get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
Be running up that building.
If I only could, oh

These lyrics have a very personal meaning for me. I remember listening to this song when my son David was so ill, on a ventilator in our living room. I wanted to make a deal with god so David would be running up that hill someday. I'm not sure what deal I made, but I don't think it was with Moby's god.
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28 May


Are you also freightened? by Animal Collective is part of Animal Collectives paean to domesticity, Merriweather Post Pavilion. John Lennon in his later period preached domestic bliss from time to time, but no one does like these guys. The lyrics express the hopes and fears of having a family better than John ever did. It could just be sentimental but the sound removes any chance of that. The is a song where I'm glad I read the lyrics, but to me it is the sound that makes it so good. Animal Collective puts out a wall of sound - voices, drumming, keyboards, hand claps in a big bright mix. Then the chorus bursts out. Damn right, you're frightened, but no one should call you a dreamer. The whole production sounds like a campfire song for the first Martian settlers.

I think this:

If they should run in the dark,
we can't sweat it; one takes one by the hand,
Let them craw into the logs,
Let damp ground change the hue on their pants.

is a better transcription of one of stanzas. In any case, the song's meaning is clear. At least to me.

This is the song that everyone grabbed onto - My Girls. The lyrics are here. I think they get it about right. It would be hard to make this tune better. The lyrics are simple. It's the "whooo" at the end of the chorus that makes it perfect.

Panda Bear (Noah Lenox, the song's author) says this anout it "I wish I could say I was that globally minded! But I guess it's more of a self-centred sort of thing; it was really just my desire on a basic level to own my own place and kind of provide a safe house for my family and the people I care about. I thought that was at once a kind of weird materialistic thing but at the same time a noble thing."

I don't want to get into much about the band. You can get their story at wikipedia. Born at an early age, met at school, many albums blah, blah.... Not that it's not interesting, but if you said they were from Krypton, it would explain as much about these songs. These two and the other on the album, especially Summer Clothes, stand up to repeated listening. This stuff is so good, even the radio can't totally ignore it.

The Animal Collective pieces are sophisticated songs about looking at the future and choosing a path that matters, taking care of the ones you love, and making some of the best music of the early 21st century. The next song Michelle Shocked's Ankorage, tells the story of two friend's whose path diverged. (lyrics) One became a housewife and the other went for fame. Although I don't think there was ever a chance that 'Shelle would become a housewife, the song is wistful and more than a bit sentimental. Ms. Shocked certainly sees the virtues of home life, but it's not for her. She can only appreciate it from a distance. Her friend? Well, New York City, imagine that. Wistful, but there's no going back.

This is a straightforward folkie type tune, it's plain compared to the layered Animal Collective compositions: simple bass, drum, and guitar. Ms. Shocked delivers it with no frills. The tale is told and it's done. We made our choices and we go with our lives.

It's not all domestic bliss. Ask Kid Creole and the Coconuts about Endicott (lyrics). Kid Creole looks and sounds like the bastard child of Cab Calloway, no Endicott in him. Do the girls really want Endicott, or the Kid? They want him to be like Endicott, but maybe they prefer the Kid after dark. This song is from some time in the 80's. It has always been one of my favorites. The video captures the whole Endicott scene.

Once you leave home, you're always looking back, but like the cliche says "You can never go home again". Rod Stewart understood that. Before he was Rod the Mod, Rod the Bod, and finally Rod the Sod, Rod was one hell of a singer, fronting what may have been at the time, the best band in England. Rod could walk the fine line between sentiment and schlock and never cross it. His first two solo albums were perfect mixes of rockers and ballads. The first album, simply called The Rod Stewart Album is worth a listen for An Old Overcoat Won't Let You Down and Handbags and Gladrags. And what a band! Ron Wood and Martin Quittenton on guitar, Ronnie Lane on bass, Mick Waller on drums etc. They play simple but perfect music on Gasoline Alley. The music makes a perfect fit with Rod's lyrics. This band would go on to becomes the basis for the Faces, one of the hardest rocking outfits of the 70's. Ron Wood became a Stone. Ronnie Lane became a Face, and Rod makes music for old ladies. Talk about paths diverging. 'Schelle Shocked could probably tell you a few thing about that. Might be a song in it.

The last song is also from the 80's, Streets Of Your Town by the Australian band The Go-Betweens. (lyrics) It's extremely catchy. It bounces aright along but the lyrics are ominous "And this town is full of battered wives." How do you go home again when they tore it down? It was never your town. It was their town.
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20 November

Eliminating free speech one student at a time.

I think Glenn Greenwald has nailed the current OWS situation. The protests are being met with force to make Americans think twice about voicing disagreement with the status quo. Who wants to be pepper sprayed just to express an opinion that things aren't going the way they should? Who wants their child beaten with a club just because she wants to complain about the way her future looks? It's safer to stay home. I completely fail to see how a group of students sitting around a campus quad constitute a threat to safety. Perhaps, University of California Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi could explain that. So far she hasn't.
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18 November


I just think it's interting that many US citizens feel it is necessary to take to the streets in large numbers in order to get the attention of those in power. My guess is that those in power, govenment at various levels, businessses, etc. are paying attention but don't get it and will react without integrety.
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09 January

The Shootings Mean That We Must Support My Politics

This essay sums up some of the reaction to the horrible shootings in Arizona. Go to the forums of any left-wing web site and you'll hear it. Go to any right-wing site and you hear it. Let's all join hands and blame each other.

Maybe, I dunno, people speaking in public should try to be a tiny bit more constructive and little less inflammatory. There are a lot of people with guns who have trouble holding firmly onto reality.
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08 January

Nancy Smith

My friend Nancy Smith, 78, has been sentenced to 6 month in federal prison for trespassing at a protest at the School of the Americas (SOA) aka Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC or WHINSEC). The SOA has trained tens of thousands of Latin American military and police, many of who have been accused of human rights violations. What I find particularly disturbing about Nancy's case is the severity of the sentence for what was essentially a symbolic act of protest. It's telling that Nancy worked for NGOs in some of the most repressive places on earth, Somalia and Taliban Afghanistan, and was never harmed, but here in the Land of the Free she is sentenced to prison for a nonviolent symbolic act. I don't know if this country is still the land of the free, but as long as there are people like Nancy, it will be the home of the brave.
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31 December

Please Excuse My Dead Aunt Sally

Operator precedence: parenthesis, exponentiation, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction
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18 December

I'm in Frownland

There are a lot of musicians that I respect. However, there are two geniuses that i respect above all others, John Coltrane and Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart. I was immensely sadded to hear of his death yesterday. Others will give elegies the Captain. I'll just go and listen to Trout Mask Replica.
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09 December

Our Privacy Policy

"At COMPANY _______ we value your privacy a great deal. Almost as much as we value the ability to take the data you give us and slice, dice, julienne, mash, puree and serve it to our business partners, which may include third-party advertising networks, data brokers, networks of affiliate sites, parent companies, subsidiaries, and other entities, none of which we’ll bother to list here because they can change from week to week and, besides, we know you’re not really paying attention.

We’ll also share all of this information with the government. We’re just suckers for guys with crew cuts carrying subpoenas.

Remember, when you visit our Web site, our Web site is also visiting you. And we’ve brought a dozen or more friends with us, depending on how many ad networks and third-party data services we use. We’re not going to tell which ones, though you could probably figure this out by carefully watching the different URLs that flash across the bottom of your browser as each page loads or when you mouse over various bits. It’s not like you’ve got better things to do.

Each of these sites may leave behind a little gift known as a cookie -- a text file filled with inscrutable gibberish that allows various computers around the globe to identify you, including your preferences, browser settings, which parts of the site you visited, which ads you clicked on, and whether you actually purchased something.

Those same cookies may let our advertising and data broker partners track you across every other site you visit, then dump all of your information into a huge database attached to a unique ID number, which they may sell ad infinitum without ever notifying you or asking for permission.

Also: We collect your IP address, which might change every time you log on but probably doesn’t. At the very least, your IP address tells us the name of your ISP and the city where you live; with a legal court order, it can also give us your name and billing address (see guys with crew cuts and subpoenas, above).

Besides your IP, we record some specifics about your operating system and browser. Amazingly, this information (known as your user agent string) can be enough to narrow you down to one of a few hundred people on the Webbernets, all by its lonesome. Isn’t technology wonderful?

The data we collect is strictly anonymous, unless you’ve been kind enough to give us your name, email address, or other identifying information. And even if you have been that kind, we promise we won’t sell that information to anyone else, unless of course our impossibly obtuse privacy policy says otherwise and/or we change our minds tomorrow.

We store this information an indefinite amount of time for reasons even we don’t fully understand. And when we do eventually get around to deleting it, you can bet it’s still kicking around on some network backup drives in somebody’s closet. So once we have it, there’s really no getting it back. Hell, we can’t even find our keys half the time -- how do you expect us to keep track of this stuff?

Not to worry, though, because we use the very bestest security measures to protect your data against hackers and identity thieves, though no one has actually ever bothered to verify this. You’ll pretty much just have to take our word for it.

So just to recap: Your information is extremely valuable to us. Our business model would totally collapse without it. No IPO, no stock options; all those 80-hour weeks and bupkis to show for it. So we’ll do our very best to use it in as many potentially profitable ways as we can conjure, over and over, while attempting to convince you there’s nothing to worry about.

(Hey, Did somebody hold a gun to your head and force you to visit this site? No, they did not. Did you run into a pay wall on the home page demanding your Visa number? No, you did not. You think we just give all this stuff away because we’re nice guys? Bet you also think every roomful of manure has a pony buried inside.)

This privacy policy may change at any time. In fact, it’s changed three times since we first started typing this. Good luck figuring out how, because we’re sure as hell not going to tell you. But then, you probably stopped reading after paragraph three."

Thanks to Dan Tynan

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07 December

Wikileaks Today

A little less than a year ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that a "new information curtain is descending across much of the world." She also said "In an interconnected world, an attack on one nation's networks can be an attack on all," But that was about China. It's different now.

Wondering what to do to help. This says it better than I can.

I wonder what's in the Wikileaks security file. Given the current government and corporate freak out, lost of folks must be very worried.

From that lover of freedom Joe Leiberman

In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, Sen. Joe Lieberman suggested that the U.S. Department of Justice should charge Julian Assange with espionage and said that federal prosecutors should conduct a "very intensive inquiry" into the question of whether or not news organizations had committed a crime by publishing leaked documents obtained and distributed by WikiLeaks.

This sounds like Joe is trying to intimidate the news media just like he did to Amazon.
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Privatization of Suppression of Dissent

Just as prisons, military, security, and a number of other function that were formerly the domain of governments, the actions of PayPal, Amazon, and MasterCard, among other against Wikileaks show that suppression of dissent and other unpopular actions has been privatized. Court actions and laws are no longer needed to suppress unpopular ideas. They can be eliminated by corporate fiat.
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