Existential Threat: No Longer An Exaggeration

The fact is, I am no longer concerned about mere ideology: statism vs. states rights, left vs. right, etc. It has now become simply a matter of the irrational and completely unacceptable behavior by the man the Electoral College will elect as POTUS. It has become a terrifying existential threat, and I am in no way employing hyperbole, at least not from my personal perspective.

The array of Drumpf’s Cabinet choices stands as powerful testimony to an implicit agenda that should make every American tremble. Ignore for a monent whether you favor or oppose “active government involvement.” If a Department of Education exists, then shouldn’t the appointee at least support public education? If the EPA (a Nixon creation) exists, does it make sense to name as its head a client-denier and a man who has never said no to the fossil fuel industry? Who has actively supported less regulation of specific toxins? Does it make sense to load up the Cabinet with recently retired generals, and in particular, the DoD, which has, almost without exception, been headed by a non-military man  since the founding of the Republic? A Labor secretary who opposes unions and raising the miniimum wage? A HHS secretary who has been the most active opponent of not only Obamacare, but essentially all forms of health subsidies? Rick Perry for Energy? The man who was unable to remember the name of this department when he tried to list the three departments he would get rid of as president. He had been vowing to get rid of the Deaprtment of Energy all during the primary season.

Add to these choices the nomination of Rex Tillerson, the man who received from Putin the highest civilian honor Russia has to bestow, a man who has closer personal ties to Putin than almost anyone in the West, as Secretary of State?? This is an all-out assault on the workings of the federal government at every level.

Then there’s Drumpf’s refusal to attend the daily presidential intelligence briefings (“I’m too smart”). And then to simply dismiss the CIA’s assertion that Russia was actively involved in working for Drumpf’s election via cyber-attacks, an assertion that had the CIA’s strongest possible confidence level, as “ridiculous, nobody knows after the fact who did the hacking.” I, and almost all tech-oriented people, are very well aware that, yes, tools absolutely exist that can detect who did the hacking.

His endless tweet storm, which is what we are obviously going get in lieu of press briefings. His personally attacking SNL, Boeing, union heads, and anyone else who has expressed opposition or pushed back on his actions. His breaking four decades of a “one China” policy without apparently even noticing what a diplomatic blunder that represented. Or worse, not giving a damn. And now his shady connections to Turkish strong man Erdogan, positioning himself to be ready to extradite the rebel leader Turkey wants back.

The component of outrage that is represented by his business conflicts, and the absurd way he plans to “take care of all that”, that’s almost petty in comparison to all the rest. Which is amazing, when one thinks of the scandal this would represent if it were the sole blemish we had to deal with. It’s the sort of thing that would normally lead to resignation or indictment.

All of this, and whatever each new day is going to bring, makes me cringe in horror. I find it difficult to even breathe sometimes, when I attempt to contemplate the totality. So, no, ideology is no longer my concern. We are so far past such niceties as to make that discussion seem laughably pedantic.

When China has already begun flying nuclear bomber sorties over the South China Sea, and Putin continues to move his armies and missles around the borders of Eastern Europe, I think the the term “existential threat” is completely justified.


© 2016 Chuck Puckett

Trumplanders

I will call them Trumplanders. They live in a special land, unlike the humdrum factual world we live in. They live in a world of Newly Found Magic, where Down is Up, In is Out, All is None, and Evil is Good. Where everything is bigly fantastic and huge. Their landscape is non-Euclidean, non-Linear and non-Sensical. The rest of us, peering in, might think it a Heironymous Bosch nightmare scene, but those who live in Trumpland see only rainbows and lemon drops. And the wicked witch’s castle is waaay over there, out of sight, her flying monkey thugs waiting like the Luftwaffe, eager to swoop and punish.

Trumplanders are all, like “Oooh, it’s time to get payback on the Liberal Elite!” You know, those who have somehow managed to make the lives of these common folk miserable. Never mind the uncountable billions of dollars condensed into a 1% who truly hold power, who actually have the capacity to either make their lives bearable or horrid. Who have chosen, and will continue to choose, horrid.

Most of us out here in the hinterland of the real world stand verklempt as we view the Trumpland that is unfolding before our continuously flabbergasted eyes. Even faster than the outrages we were daily presented with during the election, Trump’s outrageous actions during the transition occur like endless uppercuts to the jaw, making us reel back in disbelief. Appointing a climate denier as EPA Administrator. Secretary of State to be the head of Exxon, a man who received from Putin Russia’s Order of Friendship medal, their highest civilian honor. When the CIA revealed that Russia most definitely hacked the DNC and other institutions so as to favor a Trump election, Trump retaliates by dissing the CIA and dismissing the report. But that makes perfect sense to a man who has refused to attend the daily Presidential intelligence briefing. Why? He says he is “too smart” to be bothered by this daily irritation.

What can explain the behavior of this lunatic America has elected, by a signicantly lower popular vote than his opponent? He follows no norms of behavior that civilized people exhibit. He reacts like a spoiled child to the slightest provocation. He rails at Alec Baldwin and SNL because they ridicule him. He is driven solely by his ego and his anger. He praises only those who toady up to him, kiss his ring and feed his ego. He lashes out furiously at the slightest criticism. What could cause such irrational behavior?

The answer is that Donald Trump is a sociopath, pure and simple. What does that mean? That he is empty, void of any moral or ethical consideration. That he makes no action that is not intended to make HIM the victor, and anyone else, by definition, utterly defeated. There is no nuance, no proportional response. It means that only adoration is allowed. Those who oppose him are understood not as philosophical opponents, but as threats to his very being. Those he opposes, he crushes and humiliates, rather than make any attempt at compromise or finding common ground. They are twirled like puppets, voodoo dolls whom he has somehow convinced that the pins he is sticking them with are in fact soothing acupuncture.

This sociopath is so utterly concentrated on himself, that he has no love or regard for anyone or anything else. That includes America, writ large. Donald Trump is not making decisions based on what is good for America, or motivated by his love for America. He is incapable of such feeling. The good of the many is a concept completely beyond his ability to embrace. He is not going to suddenly, or indeed, ever become even vaguely “Presidential”. He is only going to continue to act solely with his personal interests in mind, the rest of the world be damned. And unfortunately, as President of the United States, the rest of world could very well be damned.

Trumplanders could care less. They are content in their Bubble of the Beautiful, completely happy to bask in the orange glow of Trump. As adorers, their symbiotic relationship with Trump is complete. And just as Trump is not going to ever gain a modicum of decency or diplomatic behavior, Trumplanders are not going to suddenly emerge into enlightenment, at least not in time to turn back the tidal wave of damage that is looming over our nation.

So, does there exist some path out of the hell that is being constructed around us? The Left doesn’t have the numbers to do anything but offer a slight puff of resistance. Without active help from the GOP, those efforts can have no meaningful effect. But will anyone in the GOP be willing to stand up and have the guts to help save the nation? Or are they so enamored of their new power, and chance to suck at the enormous teat being dangled before them, that they will sell the nation, and the world, down the fiery road to perdition, all for a bit of corruption all their own?

There are indeed a few signs of hope here and there. John McCain and Lindsay Graham have made clear they will lead an investigation into the Russia hacking findings by the CIA. And McCain has indicated that Exxon CEO Tillerson will receive a deep scrutiny. He is not at all happy with Tillerson’s ties to Putin, whom McCain calls a bully, a tyrant and a murderer. The point is, not everyone is a sociopath. Many of these men and women truly love their country. Eventually, we can only hope that true patriotism will exceed the lust for money and power.

We can never hope, however, that Trumplanders will ever have any such realization. Not until the dust blows in from the dystopic desert that will form the backdrop to their shattered expectations. Not until Trumpland itself collapses under the weight of its false prophet.

© 2016 Chuck Puckett

An English Way With Words

Most people, I believe, write some sort of poetry when they are very young. Over the years, this poetic impulse, for the majority, gradually shuts down, as the “real world” overtakes us. I’m one of those who, while not a published poet, continued to write poetry and songs all my life.

And I have a theory (surprise!) w.r.t. the writing of poetry in my native tongue, which is obviously English. Now, poetry is a universal impulse, written in all languages and by all cultures over the millenia. But it seems to me that poetry written in English, to a greater extent than other languages, benefits enormously from the very structure of our language. More than almost any other “common” modern language, the very genesis of English, amalgamated at the Battle of Hastings from the Anglo-Saxon and the invading French, contains ambiguities and overloaded meanings that I think are less prevalent in other, “purer” languages. And this birthmark, I think, also makes English extremely susceptible to continued expansion. Yes, in modern life, all languages accept and incorporate foreign words and phrases (many from English), but our language has had this predilection since it came into being. Perhaps in the same way that people who master at least one foreign language early in life have been shown to be much better at learning subsequent languages. Once the groundwork of an extra language has been laid, the brain seems more disposed to adding other kinds of words and syntax. Perhaps our cultural communication mechanism (ie, English), born in two worlds, is more prone to adding words from other worlds.

Furthermore, the mixed syntactical origins of English have led to (perhaps) awkward constructs in phrasing and sense. As an example, the auxiliary verbs are all over the map. The merging (actually, a sort of re-merging, Anglo-Saxon meeting back up with the Normans, who had taken a deep detour into Latinism) of our two main language DNA strands led to unusual pronunciations and syllabic stresses and spellings.

And for me, it is this resulting ambiguity and combination of soundings that has made English the perfect language for poetry. Phrases and lyrics can contain multitudes of overloaded meanings, like a hologram of intersecting intents. For myself, at least, that provides a power in English poetry that may not be readily available in other languages. Beautiful, transcendent images can be described in any language. But images that can lead to multiple emotional responses, even responses that may contradict each other, seem to me have a greater power to invoke that wordless wonder that the best poetry invokes.

At any rate, that is my theory. I wonder if there has ever been a scholarly or formal investigation in a similar vein? It’s likely. There is nothing truly new under the sun.

Relativity
My sunset is someone else’s sunrise
My evening is another person’s dawn
My morning ends another’s daylight
My sunrise stops another’s song.
My arrival’s another’s soul departure
My coming takes up another space
My going makes a space to enter
My leaving leaves one to take my place.
My future is all my children’s history
Tomorrows that they knew yesterday
My story builds on older stories
My past has always led me to today.
My stars shine down as others’ suns
My storms leave peace in others’ skies
My life takes only so much room
A room I see with only these, my eyes.

© 2016 Chuck Puckett

The Inter-Dimensional Cone Of Silence

In a recent episode of “Marvel’s Agents Of Shield”, a show that I confess I really enjoy, three of our heroes are subjected to some sort of quantum-mechanical explosion. As a result, the three are thrown into an inter-dimensional rift, from which they can see and hear their compatriots, but no one can see or hear or interact with them. They are “out of phase”; the people in our regular world have no way to know they still exist, nor can they contact them. As an added threat, over time, the three in the rift are being drawn further away, and the voices from the real world get fainter and fainter. In fact, unless they can escape, they will be sucked into a nether region from which there can be no escape.

Oddly enough, this situation came to mind when I saw the results of a post-election Public Policy Poll that was just published today. This mind-blowing set of figures reveal the following surreal results, reflecting an Alice in Wonderland world view that is completely at odds with normal reality.

  • Since Obama has been president, the Dow Jones has risen an astonishing 11,666 points. However, a full 39% of the people who voted for Drumpf believe that the Dow Jones has gone down.
  • During the same time, unemployment has dropped from 7.8% to 4.6%. 67% of Drumpf voters, however, believe that unemployment has risen.

screebgrabmaddow

  • In the immediate wake of the election, protests against Drumpf’s election spontaneously arose in major cities all across the nation. The vast majority of Americans understand that these protests were in fact spontaneous. But 73% of Drumpf voters believe that they only occurred because George Soros paid “professional protesters” to stage them. It is only necessary to consider the vast coordination and logistics challenge to arrange to hire these 1000’s of protesters, all across the country, and to do so the day after the election, to realize how insane such a proposition is. But a full 73% of Drumpf voters take it as gospel. Note that the poll is reporting what voters believe. Non-Drumpf voters almost universally believe these protests naturally occurred. Non-Drumpf voters understand implicitly how the election result would naturally shake people to their core, and impel them to react somehow, protesting in the streets in many cases. Drumpf voters instead create a false reality where that was only possible if George Soros paid for it.
  • A full 40% of Drumpf voters believe that Drumpf actually won the popular vote, in spite of essentially blanket coverage that shows Clinton winning the popular vote by more than 2.5 million votes.
  • 60% of Drumpf voters believe that millions of people voted illegally for Clinton. Millions. Just consider the amount of fraud that represents. Did you vote? Did you stand in line and present your voter ID and sign the registry? Do you realize how impossible it would be for literally millions of people to vote illegally? Especially given that all these polling places are manned by 1000’s of poll workers, most of whom have been doing their work diligently for years.
  • Here’s an amazing finding: a full 29% of Drumpf voters, almost a third, don’t think California’s votes should even be counted in the election. It is very difficult to construct any valid reason for such an exclusion. Difficult, that is, except for a third of those who voted for Drumpf.
  • Another “opinion” that is very revealing is this: 59% of American voters believe that Donald Drumpf should definitely release his tax returns. Ask Drumpf voters? 59% of them say “No, he doesn’t need to release them.” The extent of Drumpf’s potential conflict of interest is already astounding. And even though he is exempt from pure “conflict of interest”, the Constitution clearly puts him in jeopardy for receiving emoluments (ie, bribes) from foreign powers. It is one of the two explicitly named offenses for which a President can be impeached (the other is treason). Drumpf’s actions since the election clearly imply that he is already skirting with these crimes. His tax returns would reveal unequivocally what business connections might be involved in such legally incriminating activities. Drumpf voters don’t want to know. See no evil, hear no evil.

Trumpland is a very strange landscape indeed. In this inter-dimensional cone of silence, this undiscovered country, no hint of objective reality can affect the inhabitants. They swim in a world of self-enforcing fabrications, untouched by such standards as “facts” and “numbers.” The upstart, the horrible consequence, is that we can be sure that there will be no short-term negative reaction from this pool of absolutely true believers. Drumpf can continue to make insane appointments all across his Cabinet, renegeing on virtually every campaign promise he made. He can fail to build his Wall. He can back-pedal on Obamacare. He can prove himseld a faithless a coward, failing to implement all the vows he made during the election season. And his followers will almost certainly ignore all of this, choosing instead to shout their approval, to Drumpf and each other, deaf to the real world in their heavily fortified Cone of Silence.

It will only be when the jobs continue to bleed, and not return, and when their own health care and Medicare come under attack and disappear, when the national debt explodes while the 1% scrapes the cream off the top; then, at long last they may look out from their interdimensional rift and suspect the awful truth.

The problem is, it will not just be these masses of self-hypnotized dupes who fall into the netherworld. All of us will have been sucked into Hell.


© 2016 Chuck Puckett

Random Aphorisms

Over the years, I’ve generated several aphorisms, which I will now share with you. You’re welcome.

  • I know you believe that you comprehend what you thought I meant, but I don’t think you realize that I don’t understand what I thought I said.
  • She’s about as private as phone booth.
  • If everything were true, life wouldn’t be any fun. If nothing were true, life wouldn’t be worth living.
  • When they can’t take it anymore, that’s when they get taken in.
  • Although one cannot discount the effects that accumulate from lifestyle, the mere accumulation of years inevitably overshadows all other mortal effects.
  • I’d rather be forearmed with knowledge than post-pummeled by ignorance.
  • It doesn’t matter at all about what was, it only matters about what is.
  • Literature, like Drama and almost all of History, happened mainly in the past. Therefore it should come as no surprise to learn that most of the people associated with it are dead.
  • Christmas Eve, for the hopeless mystic, is a time that, even after we have grown pragmatic and prosaic almost beyond redemption, holds the possibility of magic, poetry and miracle. The animals might very well talk. The snow might very well fall. The hard-hearted misers that have slowly engulfed our souls might very well melt away at the sound of an old carol, or a gentle offer to a stranger, or at a child’s innocence.
  • God is that which doesn’t mind being.
  • God is being becoming.
  • God is a nonchalant infinite regression.
  • Christmas is when everything seems possible, waiting for the Bishop’s Wife, waiting for the Miracle to occur on 34th Street, waiting for George to get Clarence his wings, waiting for the right jolly old elf. Waiting with a lump in your throat and your heart on your sleeve.
  • Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream and the like tried to make music that attempted to be the trip. The Grateful Dead played music that was grist for the trip.
  • The key to exercise is routine. When you get into it, it is hard to get out, but when you get out of it, it’s harder to get in.
  • It’s like pulling cultural teeth.
  • Never seek anything. Always expect everything.
  • In doing art, you must decide whether you want to communicate, or just talk to yourself.
  • The hardest thing is to move through and past one’s anger. Because anger, especially righteous anger, has the insidious quality of feeling so good. And while it has the seeming power to focus and motivate, inevitably it undermines and deforms the goals for which you strive.
  • You don’t want less than perfection to affect others’ perception‏.
  • More effort than it’s worth? Or worth a little more effort?
  • Some people wax oratorical. Others wane oratorical.
  • Of course life is a joke. But we don’t know the setup. And we never hear the punchline.
  • The Universe is implying more than we infer.

And finally, two of my very favorites:

  • The unexamined faith is not worth believing.
  • I don’t want to steal the show. I only want to borrow it for a while.

© 2016 Chuck Puckett

Once More Into the Breach!

Just a quick note to urge everyone to not back down, to fight the good fight, to obtain and maintain a fierce commitment to oppose the insanity that a Donald Drumpf presidency represents.

Like Saturday Night Live and Alec Baldwin, we have to continuously keep the hammer slamming on the point. Drumpf cannot withstand a constant barrage, his egomania is too thin-skinned not to shatter into thousands of contradictory shards. He’s shown that over and over.

We need to urge the media to call him and his cronies out, to confront them with the lies and exaggerations they have ceaselessly trotted out. Their tactics would do Goebbels proud, and might very well succeed with the masses, unless massive opposition rises up to deny any such victory. Contact all media outlets and demand they call a spade a spade, and never let his outrageous actions and words to ever appear even faintly normal. Because if we allow this abomination to become the new normal, the road back to decency will grow very difficult.

If Drumpf persists in redefining “tweeting” as the only news outlet, then we must invade the twitterverse and combat him on his own ground. Launch the attacks, let no insane tweet go unchallenged.

Finally, bombard your congresspeople with calls and emails. Even if you live, like I do, in a hopelessly red state, sheer numbers can have an effect. Demand that cabinet and judicial candidates be examined thoroughly, and that they pass muster with evolved practices. We cannot allow this attempt at American recidivism to succeed unchallenged.

Stand against tyranny and insanity! Against sexism, racism and cultural degradation. Against hatred and bigotry and bullying.

And Saint Crispian’s Day shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers and sisters
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother.
And those in America now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their lives cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”


© 2016 Chuck Puckett

Remembrance of Things (Not Long) Past

In these “transition days”, as Trump makes one idiotic diplomatic goof after another, calling various heads of state and making ignorant and extremely inappropriate comments to all of them, even creating international incidents weeks before he takes the oath.  Tweeting like a maniac, with no regard for the norms of behavior the world expects from the President of the United States. Complaining about Saturday Night Live and recounts, making a tour, holding rallies whose only purpose is to feed his insatiable ego.

In these surreal days, as the press tries desperately to normalize a man who refuses to accept the mantle of responsibility that accrues to his new status, it is critical to remember what this worthless failure as a human being has actually said and done. Donald Trump has proven repeatedly that, as a person, much less President, he possesses not even the slightest shred of human decency. Recall:

  • Donald Trump is a sleazeball who bragged, on tape, that his money and power enabled him to sexually assault any woman he wanted to, to grab them by the genitals, touch them and kiss them, with no regard to their wishes. He said that. (It can come as no surprise that almost 20 women accused him of doing just that, and he was even accused of the rape of minor).
  • Donald Trump insulted multiple women for their (by his standards) lack of beauty or their size. He did that.
  • Donald Trump ridiculed a disabled reporter, mocking the disability visually. Consider how you would react if someone did this in your presence about someone you knew. Assuming you were raised with even the barest knowledge of what constitutes decent behavior, you would be appalled at such behavior. He did that.
  • Donald Trump basically called all Mexican immigrants rapists, murderers and drug dealers, although “some are likely decent people.” He said that.
  • Donald Trump insulted the Muslim parents of a fallen soldier, specifically calling out the mother for being unable to speak for herself. Consider how any mother would react when recalling the death of her young son. Consider what kind of despicable human being would insult her in such a situation. Donald Trump did that.

Donald Trump did all of these things, and many more, repeatedly revealing his complete lack of common human decency. This is the man who will take the oath and become President in January. We must never forget these incidents. We must never forget what a despicable person has managed to be elected to the most powerful position in the world.

Because we have elected a man who is not even capable of pretending to act as if he cared about anyone other than himself, who is completely incapable of any sort of empathy whatsoever.

In fact, we have elected a sociopath. We must never forget that. And we must watch his every move and hear his every word. Too much depends on what this maniac can do to us.


© 2016 Chuck Puckett

Some Not-So-Random Notes

  • Electing Nancy Pelosi, again, was a bad mistake. The Democrats need the “same old same old” like they need the proverbial hole in the head. The times and the situation are drastic; drastic measures are required. This means we need new ideas, new leadership, new voices. Not the demonstrably failed policies that resulted in The Disaster.
  • I confess that I have been deeply troubled by the complete lack of intervention by Obama in the South Dakota pipeline travesty. People are being injured, their rights trampled. Water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures and other inhumane tactics are being brought to bear. The mantle of justice is so clearly on the side of the protesters. Even if Trump were to reverse the action, it is unconscionable that the Obama administration not step in and stop this horrible and indefensible use of force.
  • So Trump calls up the President of Taiwan, effectively throwing a grenade on decades of delicate Sino-American diplomacy, dating back to Nixon’s visit to China. He is a reckless, ignorant cannon rolling around on the deck of the world. Either he didn’t comprehend the enormity of the diplomatic disaster his phone call represented (which would be a horrifying possibility), or else he did understand, and chose to act completely unilaterally, ignoring the State Department, years of protocol, and the fact that Obama is still President (showing that he doesn’t care anything for international norms, also horrifying). As Sen. Chris Murphy, an expert on foreign affairs, has noted, this is how wars start. In the aftermath, we discover that Trump is planning a hotel in Taiwan. Oh. Of course.
  • General “Mad Dog” Mattis, freshly retired from the Marine Corps in 2013, would require a waiver from the Senate to be confirmed as Secretary of Defense (the law requires a minimum 7 years between active duty and serving as Secretary of Defense). Mattis is the ultimate rejection of the tenet, in place since George Washington, that America’s military should be under civilian control. Mattis has been very vocal in his glorification of war and killing. To confirm him as Defense would be a terrible setback to a basic tenet of the American experiment in government.

© 2016 Chuck Puckett

The Auditory Differential

[A repost of an entry from 2012, before I lost years of blog posts due to a internet “hiccough”. I hope to restore some of these over time.]

The arc of the history of pop music may be described as an inevitable convergence to homogeneity: songs tend to sound more and more the same. Not surprisingly, the ultimate force driving this trend is money. When a hit hits the charts, music companies and their producers naturally try to reproduce whatever has already succeeded. The same green fuse that generates copycat TV shows and endless movie sequels and Broadway revivals drives the heart of the music industry. If they bought that, they’ll surely buy this since it looks and sounds like that. Nothing breeds fear of the New as much as does success of the Old. That’s what happens when creativity becomes an industry.

So modern pop music all sounds the same. That statement reminds me of the same old complaint old curmudgeons have made for generations. I imagine my children would vehemently argue that I am simply too old and jaded to distinguish the nuances that differentiate modern pop music. But not so quick. I am not saying that all music today sounds the same. O, contraire. A plethora of relatively inexpensive digital devices now exist that allow 1000’s of artists to experiment with whatever musical notions their Muse has provided, creating top-quality recordings that can rival the best studio recordings of a few years ago. Furthermore, the Internet exists as a conduit allowing them to distribute their creations to anyone who wants to hear them, and have an immediacy of contact with fans and followers never dreamed possible by the album stars of yesteryear. This combination has made the eclectic a viable music alternative, and neither artists nor listeners are constrained by what a few old men at the major record labels think is “hot”. The world has never been as accommodating to such an incredibly rich smorgasbord of musical choices as it is today.

But pop music, radio music, Top 40 music, that’s a totally different proposition. There sameness is the rule. Distinguishing an artist or a style or lyrical notions is only possible at about the fifth decimal place. Success in the mass market is, contrasted to the situation in the Internet Free-For-All, more rigid and constrained than it’s ever been. The broad genres (Pop, Country, etc) are certainly different, but the individual offerings within any of the big phyla all blend together into a mushy swamp.

And it’s not just copycat producers creating this indistinguishable sea. Technology and recording techniques have all become increasingly refined and finally they’ve converged. And all these tools, used by all the producers, tend to produce sameness, so that the machines themselves begin to dictate the final result. Audio tracks are cleaned, adjusted, reharmonized, compressed and packaged into final mixes that have the instruments and voices all arranged perfectly. Smoothly. Evenly. Mechanically. The software has settings so that engineers can preselect almost any existing “sound” and obtain that instantaneously, tweaking perhaps to add a bit of nuance. And, yes, the emphasis is on existing sound.

It’s probably a natural human condition to imbue the music one heard during their teen, formative years with a special aura, a quality that makes those musical memories shine. The world was still unfolding then, hormones were chaotic, emotions were extreme, and all sensory impressions were deeper and somehow more “meaningful”. As the Animals sang, “When I was young it was more important/ Pain more painful and laughter much louder, yeah”. So naturally, I have heightened impressions of the music of the mid- to late-60’s. But even accounting for my rose-colored ears, it seems pretty clear to me that songs on the radio in that period covered a much wider range of styles and lyricism than they do now. Consider the aforementioned Animals. Contrast Eric Burdon to, say, Glen Campbell singing a Jimmy Webb lyric. Juxtaposed against any Beatles tune. Compared to the Jefferson Airplane. The Four Tops. Bob Dylan. Dusty Springfield. Simon & Garfunkel. The Supremes. Lou Christie. Donovan. The Righteous Brothers. Neil Diamond. Buffalo Springfield. The Beach Boys. And this only scratches the surface of the range of styles “popular” then. Yes, there was crap on the airwaves as well. “96 Tears” as well as pretty much anything by Bobby Goldsboro. But think about: even crap could get on the radio then. No, there was no Internet, and yes, there was only AM radio and your record player. But there was much less filtration going on. Even the music moguls were ready to try anything, because somewhere along the line, the Expectation Mold had broken, and no one really knew what “worked” anymore. So they tried anything. And everything.

I think that period was somewhat akin to the so-called Cambrian explosion, when there occurred on this planet a rapid diversity of species unlike anything that had happened before or since. What caused this wild pastiche of musical experiments? Maybe it was the drugs. Maybe it was the social upheaval that was the backdrop to the era. The blending of black and white music. The Vietnam War. The British Invasion. Whatever the causes, that decade still reverberates in our musical consciousness, and the musical possibilities seemed endless.

But uniformity wins in the end, at least on the large scale. In the mass market, you won’t go wrong if you expect sameness compounded by more sameness. Individually, however, there will always be nooks and crannies and hideaways where the eclectic and the special and the unusual and the idiosyncratic will thrive. Search them out. Listen for the odd musical or lyrical phrase that touches you, moves you, speaks to you. And claim it for your own ears.


© 2012 Chuck Puckett

The Soft Parade

Drumpf continues to careen out of control. Calling up world leaders like they were high school buddies. Telling Pakistan how “fantastic” they were, accepting an invitation to visit, offering to help with whatever problems they have (we have avoided any such statements for decades due to the Kashmir dispute and their possession of nukes). Congratulating the dictator/”president” of Kazahkistan on 25 years of success (he was a dictator for two decades, then elected president with 97% of the vote. Right.) Telling the new British PM to “drop by next time she was in the States.” My God. Maybe they can have pizza together.

He claimed to save Carrier jobs from moving to Mexico. But in actuality, he had Pence not resign the Indiana governorship in order that he could authorize $7M in tax breaks for Carrier, so that Carrier would only ship half of the 2000 jobs to Mexico. The Trumpeters all claim this as proof positive of his campaign pledge to bring jobs back, lacking the wit to realize that no jobs came back from anywhere, that a 1000 jobs left, and not because he punished the offending corporation, but because he gave them millions in taxpayers’ dollars.

He’s started a completely unprecedented (as is everything about this out of control megalomaniac) “Thank You” tour. Instead of focusing on the transition, or receiving daily intelligence briefings, the egotistical Orange Fool is holding rallies everywhere, acting like the campaign was still in progress, but apparently with the sole purpose of touting his win, bashing enemies he’s already beaten, and absorbing the praise of the mindless. He cannot live, it seems, without constant adulation.

As for me, I continue to be deeply depressed by every aspect of what is coming. The media, on the other hand, continues to normalize him. It seems that even the so-called “good guys” will simply lay down and wait for the chariot to roll over them. Except for Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Lawrence O’Donnel and Joy Reid. Thank god for them, and especially Rachel. If the day comes when she stops making the obvious point, I will know the fight is truly lost.

Pelosi was reelected as minority leader, proving that the Dems have no plan or even real intent whatsoever of impeding the coming disaster. Tom Ryan from Ohio had great ideas and fire in his belly, something we desperately needed. Instead, we got the same old same old. Damn it! Why won’t somebody make a real effort to do something?

But then I realize that there’s nothing to do, except hunker down and hope there’ll be something left to salvage when the storm of stupidity and greed passes.

Welcome to the Soft Parade
All our lives we sweat and save,
Building for a shallow grave
Must be something else we say,
Somehow to defend this place
Everything must be this way,
Everything must be this way, yeah
The Soft Parade has now begun,
Listen to the engines hum

Jim Morrison


© 2016 Chuck Puckett