Song of the Day: Kasey Anderson’s ‘Don’t Look Back.’

Kasey Anderson has been one of my favorite songwriter/performers for the last ten years. I’m playing keyboards with him at the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland on Thursday evening (headliner is Chris Margolin & The Dead Bird Collection) and this lovely song will definitely be in the set.

To learn more about Kasey’s recent jinks, hi- and lo-, check out this interview on the FarceTheMusic website. Then go to Kasey’s website and download his 2012 album LET THE BLOODY MOON RISE, for not a penny more than $5. It’s a great record.

Don’t Remember John Lennon Today (Re-posted)

Because the circumstances of his death have no meaning.

Because any attempt to ascribe meaning or logic to his killer’s actions only satisfies the internal demons that compelled him to project Lennon into his own psychotic narrative.

Because a psychotic is neither a hero nor a villain, but a puppet of distorted brain chemistry and a victim of society’s inability to confront its own weaknesses.

Which in this case amounts to a fear/absence of empathy for the mentally ill. And also a need to shore up its own self-perceived weaknesses with rage, violence and barely-regulated weapons.

All of which fueled the passion and poetry in Lennon’s work, I know. Which argues against my proposing we all ignore the anniversary of his death.

 

But to my ears, Lennon’s life and work were about life and possibility, particularly in the face of death and destruction.

Think of those early shots of the Beatles, so young and full of promise, and yet posed in the shattered ruins of Liverpool’s World War II bomb sites.

Consider how John and Paul were joined by a passion for music that sprang directly from terrible losses: the death of Paul’s mother; John’s abandonment by his parents. And then, just as he was reconnecting with his mother, her sudden, violent death.

Lennon flirted with, and sometimes tumbled into, the abyss of existential meaninglessness. “I read the news today, oh boy…” But he still couldn’t resist the allure of beauty, hope and life. I hope one day you join us/And the world can live as one.

The man had his flaws. He could be angry, hostile and occasional brutal. His widow’s non-stop propaganda campaign, in attempts to sustain and heighten his secular sainthood, does him, her and us no favors.

And that’s the stuff of death. The sound of the gunfire. The chill wind in the leafless branches.

Today I’m thinking about the gunfire at the start of the Beatles’ 1964 album track “Any Time at All.” Which isn’t a gun at all, but the crack of Ringo’s drumstick against his snare. Bam! Then it’s Lennon’s unadorned voice at full, urgent, stop-you-in-your-tracks volume: Any time at all!

Because all you gotta do is call. Spin the CD, click ‘play’ on your iTunes. Listen to the perfect balance of voices, the sweet insistence that the entire meaning of life comes down to a glance, a wave, a kiss. And if the words don’t convince you just listen to the drums, bass, guitars and piano.

Any time at all/All you gotta do is call/And I’ll be there!

And he is. Not just on this gloomy day, either. The promise was, and remains, a 24/7 kind of commitment. The very sound of life, love and meaning, available to you 365 days a year.

That’s what we need to remember about John Lennon.

originally published Dec 8, 2010

Farewell Pete Seeger: Folk singer, union organizer, political activist, all-around badass

s-pete-seeger-corbis-630-80
And when these fingers can strum no longer/Hand your guitar to young ones stronger…

Called before the fearsome House Un-American Activities Committee to defend himself against charges of being a Communist in 1955, Pete Seeger refused to name names. He wouldn’t answer any questions about his political, philosophical and personal beliefs. And while Sen. Joe McCarthy’s anti-Communist storm troopers were at the height of their punishing powers, ruining careers and imprisoning suspected troublemakers at will, Seeger didn’t use his Fifth Amendment protections to protect himself, either.

In other words: Bring it on, bitches.

Check the transcript (abridged for brevity, context remains pure)

MR. TAVENNER: The Committee has information obtained in part from the Daily Worker indicating that, over a period of time, especially since December of 1945, you took part in numerous entertainment features. I have before me a photostatic copy of the June 20, 1947, issue of the Daily Worker. In a column entitled “What’s On” appears this advertisement: “Tonight-Bronx, hear Peter Seeger and his guitar, at Allerton Section housewarming.” May I ask you whether or not the Allerton Section was a section of the Communist Party?

MR. SEEGER: Sir, I refuse to answer that question whether it was a quote from the New York Times or the Vegetarian Journal.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: I direct you to answer.

MR. SEEGER: I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it.

(…)

MR. SCHERER: He was directed to answer the question.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: What is your answer?

MR. SEEGER: I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, or yours, Mr. Willis, or yours, Mr. Scherer, that I am any less of an American than anybody else. I love my country very deeply, sir.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: I direct you to answer that question.

MR. SEEGER: I have already given you my answer, sir.

MR. SCHERER: Let me understand. You are not relying on the Fifth Amendment, are you?

MR. SEEGER: No, sir, although I do not want to in any way discredit or depreciate or depredate the witnesses that have used the Fifth Amendment, and I simply feel it is improper for this committee to ask such questions.

MR. SCHERER: And then in answering the rest of the questions, or in refusing to answer the rest of the questions, I understand that you are not relying on the Fifth Amendment as a basis for your refusal to answer?

MR. SEEGER: No, I am not, sir.

That’s guts. And so is this tune, recorded live with Arlo Guthrie in 1975:

Lewis Lapham just published the worst essay ever written about comedy

But seriously, folks.

But seriously, folks.

The agate-eyed old man on the left is Mr. Lewis Lapham, former editor of Harper’s whose own writings have — as lovingly recounted in his author bio — earned comparisons to wordy mega-weights Mark Twain and Montaigne.

And yet his latest literary throw-down, the brutally titled America Needs Better Comedians, is a pedantic wind-fest that replaces actual knowledge of modern comedy/popular culture with a blizzard of French philosophers, a brief lesson in Elizabethan anatomical theory and a loving recollection of a prep school headmaster (“…a pious and confiding man, as grave as he was good.”) encountered in Connecticut in 1948.

When Groucho Marx’s name enters the text Lapham turns extra-turgid, reducing the anarchic performer’s comic subversions into that much more ivory-cloaked yammering: horseprof

With Groucho Marx I share the opinion that comedians “are a much rarer and far more valuable commodity than all the gold and precious stones in the world,” but the assaying of that commodity — of what does it consist in its coats of many colors, among them cocksure pink, shithouse brown, and dead-end black — is a question that I gladly leave to the French philosopher Henri Bergson, Twain’s contemporary who in 1900 took note of its primary components: “The comic does not exist outside the pale of what is strictly human… Laughter has no greater foe than emotion… Its appeal is to the intelligence, pure and simple… Our laughter is always the laughter of a group.”

Well, then. But let’s get to the heart of the attack presented in the headline (America needs better…): Why is Lapham dismissing all of the era’s comic voices? What is the overarching failure of the current, and at times culture-influencing likes of J Stewart, S Colbert, L. CK, “South Park” and on and on?

Lapham has no idea. At least, he never mentions them. Whether this is a function of his contempt or simple ignorance is unclear. Or so it seems until he finally does devote part of a sentence to a quick blow-by of the pitiful state of the genre, denouncing the “freeze-dried sound bites” dispensed at its most crucially important venues. Which, to Lapham, include: “Gridiron dinners, Academy Award ceremonies, and ‘Saturday Night Live.’

Gridiron dinners? Network awards shows? Weekend Update? These are the 21st century’s most vital outlets for modern humor? And no mention of “The Daily Show” or “Curb Your Enthusiasm” or “Louie” or the great sea of Internet podcasts, blogs, Bad Lip Reading/Funny or Die videos?

Um, no. Not even close. Not even a mile from being close. No matter, Lapham snatches up George Bernard Shaw for the capper: “My way of joking is to tell the truth. It’s the funniest joke in the world.”

True dat. But as Shaw knew, and Lapham apparently doesn’t, a little knowledge of your actual subject is pretty important too.

Art pirates strike in Seattle!

whitz painting

purloined painting #1

My old pal, Boy Scout troop-mate, fellow Garfield Bulldog and Ted Nugent tribute bandmate Whiting Tennis grew up to become so accomplished an artist piratical dudes in Seattle are willing to steal a huge truck in order to get their mitts on it. The Stranger reports it like this:

HOTEL 2011

purloined painting #2

The truck was parked at the Holiday Inn Express parking lot. It was a Ford 350 model with the Oklahoma license plate 2TM878. All of the paintings, on canvas and wood, were wrapped in cardboard and plastic.

If you have any information, call SPD Detective Sargent Backstrom at 206-684-8948, or Auto Theft Detective Tracy Puffner at 206-684-4762. Or call Kucera at 206-235-0525.

The latest breaking news, less than an hour old, is that the truck has been found….but the art is still missing. So c’mon artsy people…keep an eye out for ill-gotten Tennis work.