Sunday, December 25, 2016

Bill Hicks: Comedian, Social Commentator, Prophet




When I was a kid, I pretended to be a lot of different people while I was playing. While playing whiffle ball in the yard, I could be Steve Garvey, Johnny Bench or whichever major leaguer was hitting me right that day. While playing football, I would always want to be Roger Staubach, Steve Largent, or Tony Dorsett. Age hasn't really kept my imagination from having fun once in awhile as Rock Band emerged and allowed me to unleash my inner Lindsey Buckingham, Don Henley, or George Harrison. Having a fertile imagination and allowing yourself to wipe out the grind of every day life can be a useful tool and provide a lot of fun when goofing off with friends. There is one philosophical question that I've asked others and been asked myself; if you could be anyone else, who would it be? It's a fun question, but at it's heart, if taken to a degree of conversational seriousness, it can be quite a vexing enterprise to come up with a suitable answer. I've never really been able to pin down an answer and mostly, I attribute that to my family and friends. If I were someone else, I wouldn't get to share my life with these people that I love. 

Recently, I have found the answer to that question. If I could go back to the start and live someone else's life, I would choose Bill Hicks. No, not very exotic or exciting, but then, if I were thinking in only those terms, there are dozens of actors, musicians, writers, and athletes that surely have lived the high life in a way that makes them the envy of most men. Me being me, I don't always choose the obvious, although a couple of people probably don't find it surprising. Hicks profession and worldview are appealing to me. The former as a "if only I had..." thing and the latter as a reality. I'm not in lockstep with his worldview, but I have a lot of commonality with it. I've now read two biographies on Hicks, I've seen his "specials" at least 5 or 6 times each and I have watched the two documentaries about him (both are excellent snap shots in distinctly different ways); "American: The Bill Hicks Story", and "Just A Ride". I've absorbed a lot of his material and have been exposed to almost all that a common fan out here on the wide world of webs can see and hear. Even though he didn't make it "big" in the USA (he was very popular in the U.K.) and he died at 32, that's a life that was truly lived. Going out into the world and entertaining people and being persistent in trying to turn others on to the horrors, banality, and stupidity of modern life. At the same time, he offered ideas on how to fix our problems. How to love and how to care. He, at times, let us know that hope was in our control. If we wanted a different world, we had to act differently. Our evolution is still ongoing and when all the fog of day to day life is burned away, we know that we haven't gotten to where we need to be as a species or as inhabitants of a minor planet in a minor solar system in a minor galaxy in what may well be a minor universe. Being awake (which I've covered a lot on my blog over the years, so I won't rehash, they are saved on previous blog pages here) is one of the great blessings in my life and to see that rarest of state of minds in someone else, that I can recognize and empathize with, is quite exciting. With that, I want to talk about Hicks' work and more specifically, how to ingest it. He had a long career but a short life, so many of his "bits" were works in progress and you can tell as a few years pass in his work that he honed his message and got better at rounding it into a palatable "act". I discovered Bill Hicks through Netflix a few years ago and have slowly evolved into a fan and I suppose in many ways, a "follower". I mean, "follower" in the same way I would discuss Alan Watts or Sam Harris, in that I want to hear as much as possible from them on how they see the world and why it's important to consider what they are conveying through their words. 

 To be clear, this is for me and anyone that may be interested in learning more about Bill Hicks. I may say some things that Hicks would find false in his own motivation or belief, but I consider the man to have been an artist and like John Lennon, Stanley Kubrick, and Hunter Thompson. His art can be interpreted by the individual in a way that isn't critique or review, but is meaningful as a way of thought or meditation on the message and how it can be applied to one's own psyche. Bill Hicks has been an agent of change in my life and for the better. I pay homage to him with this blog. 

As far as an introduction to Bill Hicks, I don't know if it's better to see the slick BBC documentary "American" or to watch his HBO "One Night Stand" special. Context is key and I feel like you have to try to watch Hicks work from the perspective of 1988 to 1993. What has happening in the world? What was on TV? Who were our best selling musical acts? What was OK to discuss on TV or in public? These questions have a lot to do with how Hicks' comedy can impact a person. I don't see Hicks as just a comic. I see him as a prophet. Twenty-four years after his death, so much of his material is still very relevant to our country and world. He had been looking behind the curtain, while the rest of us were going about our daily business of accepting a society that was becoming more narcissistic and driven by commerce and commodity instead of compassion, justice, and critical thought. Remember this is a pre 9/11, pre 1993 Trade Center bombing world. His political points should be outdated, but they are not. In many ways, his views on the military and war are still 100% relevant. We are currently paying the price for playing policeman and cowboy all over the planet with our sometimes imperialistic, hawkish, neocon actions. We continue to forsake feeding people for killing them. We make budget cuts to education and healthcare, yet use those cuts to make increases to developing weaponry. I wonder what Bill Hicks would think about the state of the world if he were still here, or hell, even more interesting would be if he could suddenly be awoken from his death slumber and shown what's going on. He could just pick right up where he left off!


As quotable as his acts could be, this one (below) really resonates with me, almost as much as the "It's Just A Ride" commentary. It's the root of his deepest works. We have the capacity for being better, smarter, more compassionate, and loving as a species.....so why are we not doing that? While guys like Burr and Stanhope share his resentment of the stupid, ignorant, and dangerous, I don't know that he ever wanted a great "thinning of the herd" as much as he felt like we should simply be enlightening one another.


OK, so I settle on watching the HBO "One Night Stand" first. It has the famous "think pieces" but also should be a little more accessible to the modern stand up fan. The "preaching" is still there, but he runs a tight set and from start to finish it's strong with pure laughs while still trying to drop little thought nuggets into your mind. With the shots that he fired at George Bush and the anti-intellectual Christian conservatives, it's no wonder I never found him when he was in his prime. I would have dismissed his words out of hand. I was a much different person then and didn't have room for differing worldviews. If you are the type, like me, that as soon as he gets turned on to something,  wants to find out all he can on a topic, the next thing to do is to watch "American; The Bill Hicks Story". It's a modern and entertaining documentary with a fairly broad look at who Hicks was and why he mattered to people and to comedy as an art form. Understanding a little bit about who he was will make the next step much more palatable and it should be considered a "prep" course on his "manifesto" (my word, not his). After watching the Hicks documentary, "Sane Man", should be watched and explored. It tends to touch on some of the same stuff as the HBO special, but it's much more targeted to people that have an open mind and can look at Hicks as a social commentator that is going to deliver the laugh, but he's going to make you think for it. He broadens his topics. It's almost like a directors cut of the HBO special, but it doesn't feel redundant. "Sane Man" was actually shot two years before the HBO special, but it's just not as slick and "customer ready". This seems to be for the more seasoned Bill Hicks fan or those that tend to be open to receiving information or comedy in a way that is not always conventional.  I believe to experience Hicks you have to be willing to put yourself in his time and you have to be willing to consider his point of view on topics that you may really disagree with him on. It's a challenge. It's art. He is asking you to take a little peak behind conventional wisdom. Who is pulling the strings? Maybe you should figure out why you believe what you believe? 

To this point, I've advised "HBO One Night Stand", "American", and "Sane Man" as the viewing order. If you have the means, the next thing I would suggest is the short documentary "Just A Ride". It's short, but gives an interesting insight to how contemporaries and friends saw him. It gives a perspective on Hicks that is a little bit grittier than "American". After all of this, if you are still clamoring for more or you have at least stayed interested enough to go the full nines to satisfy that you have done all you can to embrace his genius, then it's on to his greatest two works; "Relentless" and "Revelations". Both were released in 1992 and they, in my opinion, are companion pieces. There are not many audiences that want to endure two hours of cerebral comedy and social commentary (preaching?) so seeing this as two halves of the same piece can help a person understand the total Bill Hicks. Hell, "Relentless" even ends with Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" and then is back as his introduction music for "Revelations". Oddly enough, both of these specials were shot on foreign soil ("Relentless" in Canada and "Revelations" in England), which sort of tells the tale of his being accepted everywhere he went, except in his own country. The media was keeping a close eye on what was acceptable to be talked about and what wasn't (sound familiar?) and when you learn about the "inside baseball" that went on between Bill Hicks, TV producers, and other commercial entertainment enterprises, it's really no surprise that he didn't break out in the United States. 



"Relentless", in my opinion, is his most satisfying, consistent, and targeted work. He was on. Hicks gave a performance. It was physical. It was mental. It was funny. His timing impeccable and passion on display, Hicks was giving the audience what he wanted them to have. He was bringing you into his mind and asking you to not recoil, but to accept and think critically about what you were hearing. He is telling you that he knows he doesn't fit into this world and has trouble understanding it, but feels compelled to share who he is, even if it's rejected. This is his Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview in "There Will Blood" performance. He can seem angry, resentful, and even puzzled by our culture, country, and civilization, but at his core, he believes that love, honesty, and integrity are what can and will make us great. He didn't believe we were done evolving and when you peel back the layers of this particular performance, you get a sense that this is a sensitive person. The jokes also may have tinge of pity for his subjects, but there is also the feeling that we can't continue to suffer fools if we want a better world. In the sarcasm and darkness, there is definitely a pleading to get people to acknowledge that we need to start making progress as a species.

 The second half of what I call the "Hicks Manifesto" is "Revelations". This pretty much picks up where "Relentless" left off, although it's a bit more challenging and probably would be considered a chore to endure for the uninitiated or for someone that doesn't watch it in context of its' time. Sure, all the societal, political, and entertainment stuff is there, but he also lifts the veil a little bit into the motivation of men and what, at a primal level, we really are or can become if we were to strip away our cultural evolution to expose a basic instinct. The "Randy Pan the Goat Boy" segment is just that. He jumps in and out of this character at the midway point of the show. It quickly becomes annoying for the person that is looking for the joke in the language. It's not the words that are necessarily the point in my opinion. It's the attitude and process. It's a "man thing". Yes, my dear, I'll play the dating game, but really, I'm more interested in the mating game. Goat Boy is just below the surface and we would do well to acknowledge that and it's not such a bad idea that women understand that it's there too. Hicks, for all his preaching was letting you see the truth behind the truth as far as he was concerned. We all have evolutionary urges and despite the suppression (which is a good thing for an evolving social creature, such as the human being) and lack of acknowledgment, try to know yourself. Many of his bits are just masquerades for greater points. Sometimes it's easy to get the point, but other times, it's not. That's what makes his work so "re-watchable". Like The Beatles or Bob Dylan, there are layers to some of his work and if you want to understand the artistic value, you have to spend some time with it. 

"Revelations" is fantastic, but I recommend trying to find the full version that has the introduction and ending attached. There are versions that have cut those things out, but I feel they are vital to the overall piece. Hearing Bill give you a little clue of how he sees himself is important to understanding why he does his comedy the way he does it. 

Bill Hicks has a lot of history and stories packed into his 32 years. He started sneaking into bars at the age of 16 and owning a decidedly adult audience. He was different from the start. He was an artist and he really did move the dial forward for stand up comedy. He stood on the shoulders of Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, and George Carlin and these days there are countless comics that are standing on his shoulders. You can hear his jokes being told by Paul Mooney (Hicks used the "we have the receipt" line for our weapons of mass destruction sales to Iraq, 20 years before Mooney got laughs for it on the Chappelle Show), and Denis Leary pretty much stole and caricatured Hick's persona along with quite a few of his bits. Politics, religion, sex, abortion, warfare, advertising, artistic value in music.....all of these topics were touchy back in the "heyday" of Bill Hicks. You didn't oppose the war and you damn sure couldn't say anything negative about our imperialistic endeavors, lest you be admonished by the conventional wisdom of emerging right wing leadership. Yeah, it's a nice punchline to say if we can shoot a missile down an air vent a thousand miles away, why don't we start shooting food to the hungry?; but the message of that "joke" is that we use all of our knowledge and resources to build better killing equipment, yet we don't use them to solve a more human problem, like hunger.You could talk about religion, but really couldn't get away with hitting Christianity on a personal level in the mainstream. He chased down the anti-intellectuals. He chased down the musicians that he felt were shaming the good name of rock and roll and called them out by name. Again, at that time, you didn't do such things. He had a bit about his starring in a show where he would hunt down and shot gun Billy Ray Cyrus, MC Hammer, and Marky Mark. He felt he was right and that he was answering their shit by revealing some truth (as he saw it). Why should they get to cheapen and dumb down music and he not be able to say it? He was a "truther" in the best possible way. His "It's Just A Ride" closer to "Revelations" is all over You Tube and is one of the cornerstone's of how I want to view life. I don't always live up to it and I sometimes drift away from believing it, but I find myself going back to it. I will post a couple of videos of that below. One, as it is, on the performance and another that has him mixed and auto-tuned in with the great George Carlin, that I find both entertaining and inspirational.  

Hicks & Carlin: The Big Electron


I will probably think of more to say about Bill Hicks and my relationship to his work after I publish this, but as a free flow piece, I'm satisfied with what I've said. There is quite a bit more I could get into about Hick's influences and even some of the more negative traits that he had. He was a human being. He contradicted himself at times, but I believe at his core, he was a prophet. He couldn't have been truly understood in his time, but only in the context of seeing that time as a part of history and how it continues to impact us now. We have learned some things over the past 24 years since Bill Hicks died of pancreatic cancer, but we have also stood still and perhaps even regressed. Today, as much as ever, Bill Hicks can make an impact on our society and it's evident as he has stood the test of time. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi giving in to Darth Vader, "If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can imagine", Hicks is still a "Force Ghost" for so many comics today, like Russell Brand, Doug Stanhope, Joe Rogan, Jim Jefferies, and so many other modern day truth seekers. He is relevant and is more popular now than he was during his prime. 

You can find almost every special or documentary I have mentioned on Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, or by purchasing them online. I highly recommend catching the David Letterman apology and I have linked a YouTube video on that below. Letterman made a mistake with Bill Hicks shortly before his death and eventually was able to try to make up for it, if not for Bill, then for his family, friends, and fans. 

It's Just A Ride



Mary Hicks on Letterman



























Saturday, November 19, 2016

Confirmation Bias Still Alive & Well



I had a few words with my oldest daughter this morning about confirmation bias. She is almost 17 and in just over a year she will be eligible to vote. She should start making efforts to understand the world around her so she can make informed decisions and forge a realistic worldview. I don't know how much she understood what I was talking about, but it never hurts to plant the seeds that may be watered by someone else (friend, teacher, significant other, etc) in the future. 

I've sort of been shocked by what has been happening in the media and with people's reaction to it since the election. I guess old habits are hard to break. The same people that didn't have a clue that Hillary Clinton was not a shoe in for president are now telling everyone that Roe v Wade is done, gays and lesbians have to go back in the closet, and anyone with skin that isn't white are going to be booted out of the country. Nonsense. At no point will I say that people shouldn't be concerned about what a Trump presidency may bring, but in my opinion, not a whole lot more than they should have been worried about Obama or Bush before him. We have a system in place and we don't elect kings.

Remember those guys, Bush and Obama? You know, Bush was going to over turn Roe v Wade too, along with calling for martial law so he could remain president past his eight years. Remember when Obama was going to take all of the guns away and call for martial law so he could remain president past his eight years? I 'member.



This post isn't about Trump or the presidential race though, it's about searching for information and news. With "team politics" so prevalent in our culture, we have created a sense that it's a reality TV show or a ball game. That the winners and losers being heralded or vilified means more than the actual results. It's entertainment and when people look at news as entertainment (and entertainment as news) that opens the door for profiteers and for information manipulation. We saw it all through the presidential campaigns with Bernie v Hillary and then Trump v Hillary. It was almost as if (or they actually are) each website or news organization was a propaganda site for one candidate or another. 


I used to be a FOX News guy. Why? Because they talked about what I wanted to hear in the way I wanted it talked about. I eventually popped that bubble, but most people don't and never will. Most people are going to seek out news and information that fits in with their worldview. Honesty and truth become secondary to their bias. They stay safe from critical analysis in the bubble. That leads people into a fog in which they are walking through life with a false sense of reality and if they are only surrounded by folks that are doing the same thing, there is no possibility of a different point of view sneaking in to challenge them. If we only talk to conservatives, only watch conservative news or visit conservative websites, how can you possibly get a sense of what is happening on the liberal side or in the real world that occupies the middle? Works vice versa too. Just as an example to think about....do you think people in North Korea or Iran know who we are as a people? Do you think they have an honest grasp on what our nation is about and more importantly, what the people of this nation are about? You know they don't. Why? Because they are spoon fed one version of information and events and that's going to shape their worldview. The world they are shown isn't presented in a way that allows them to make a fair determination on how they should feel or think.



I kind of figured that people would be a little  more willing to "let the cake bake" after the election results, but no, we have rioting, anger, and a proliferation of misinformation flying around. How can this happen so fast? Wikileaks showed the folly of the Democrats nomination process and exposed the media's complicity in defeating Bernie Sanders. Bernie was saying the same thing Trump was about Clinton but the reporting and following up on that was nearly non-existent. The media fixated on Trump's personality and not nearly enough on the substance (or lack thereof) of his rhetoric. They dropped the ball on investigating both of these candidates enough at the policy level and focused on the entertainment value instead. Was it any wonder that all the polls from establishment media showed Hillary waltzing to victory and the few that tried to maintain balance in their sampling were proven to be more accurate? Remember the Duke lacrosse team rape case and how the media convicted those young men in the court of public opinion on a rape that didn't happen?  If you want something to be true, you will find a way to make it so. Social media is ripe with disinformation and outright lies and again, if you want something to be true, you will only be confirming your bias by not getting an opposing view. I do confirmation bias with a couple of things.....musicians I enjoy and sports teams I love. In real life, I'm not about to let the left or right wings get their hooks in me ever again. I cull information from a lot of sources. On TV, I look to CNN and FOX and then go to YouTube to hear what Reason TV and Al Jazeera are reporting on. I use the internet extensively. I'm as apt to check out Breitbart as much as I am Daily Kos and I frequent CNN and FOX on the net as well. Real Clear Politics offers a lot of editorial information from a host of news services and I also rely on the Wall St Journal and the New York Times. There are other great places to grab information with sites like IFL Science and Investors Business Daily. 

Then, there is gut check time and that can be difficult. I have to try to sort through the information and make sense of it, all while trying to check my bias on a topic. It'd be easy to just click FOX or CNN and allow my mind to be made up in easy and short fashion, but that's not who I want to be. I want more raw info and less manipulated info. I'm finding the truth in evaluation is difficult so all I can do is weight the information I receive against the past, about what I already know, and with more than a healthy dose of skepticism. If I had been a bit more skeptical of the propaganda we were being fed post 9/11/2001, perhaps I wouldn't have been so gung ho about supporting an invasion of Iraq that was built on media manipulation and outright fallacy. I still lament not seeing through that.

I would love to be more optimistic and trusting, but I have to have good reason to be. As a born pessimist it's hard for me to be optimistic in general, but I really am trying and part of that trying is the want to see results before I condemn or celebrate. I did that with the new Star Wars and Planet of the Apes, so surely I can be patient enough to see what the new government will bring. I also want to be able to trust the news, but we are not living in that reality.  

In the end, I suppose my point is that we just don't seem to be learning fast enough. It does seem that more people than ever are waking up to how the news media must be seen with a skeptical eye, but it's not happening fast enough for me as I see friends, co-workers, etc sliding right back to buying every media narrative floated since the election. According to Gallup an all-time low number of people trust mainstream news to portray information accurately. That number is 32%. Unreal, yet we still see people who say they are skeptical going "all in" with every headline. Another important part of all this is that as of 2012, six corporations own 90% of the media. In 1983, it was 50 companies. An incredible centralizing of information distribution. That's quite a bit of power in the hands of the few and it's ripe for manipulation and exploitation.  



I'd ask anyone interested in trying to strip away their confirmation to do it a little at a time. When I stopped believing in organized religion, I took the advice of Julia Sweeney and just took off my "god glasses" for a little while every day. I tried to see the world through a prism that didn't include a personal god that cared about the things that religion says that god cares about. For every couple of Breitbart articles or Mother Jones articles you read, why not visit the other site and read on the same topic? Why not go to CNN and FOX and listen to their take and then find a commentary on You Tube to get a differing opinion. Do so without your ideological glasses on. Be intellectually honest with yourself and try to determine where the facts are and what that means to you and your worldview. You may come right back to the same conclusions you already hold, but at the least, you will have challenged yourself to be open to different ideas, and maybe more importantly, to understand the view point of others. Understanding each other as people and not as opponents is a big deal for me and the more people that can be brought out of their confirmation bias, the better in my opinion. 

Until next time.....


























Friday, October 28, 2016

The Worst Thing I've Ever Written!



I'm about to write something that is going to be unsettling for a few of my friends. It probably should be, because in all honesty, it's a little unsettling for me. This "election" has been a shit storm. A real horror show. I abhor the two major party candidates and just like the last election, I'm voting for Gary Johnson....hell, maybe not at all. It's strange thinking that a Gore vs Bush race would be awesome right now. A welcome sight almost! That's how bad these candidates are. With that....


I've come to this conclusion....as much as I don't want to see President Trump, I want to see President Clinton less. 

I don't know what kind of instability that may create, and even as a father of two teenage girls, I don't want to see the corruption win. Clinton is a scoundrel that has allowed the DNC and establishment media to cook her primary and then the general election. How any Bernie Sanders supporter can vote for her after the games that were played before and during the Democratic primary is baffling. I guess the same way Obama supporters are voting for her after the things she said and implied about him in 2008. That's not even my point. The GOP tried to openly screw Trump, so it's not like both parties were not trying to manipulate the outcome of the primary and basically tell a large portion of their voters that their votes were not meaningful. The establishment didn't want it, so they did or tried to "fix" the results.

I'm just tired of some stuff. I have been for years, but it's come to a head during this election cycle. I'm the guy that loved the early versions of both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements. They got overran by the political parties, but at their birth and infancy, those movements reflected an anger and resentment towards the establishment that I couldn't help but be proud to see. 

I'm tired though. I've had enough. I'm tired of Soros. I'm tired of the Koch's. I'm tired of the Clintons. I'm tired of the Bush family, and I'm tired of Romney. I'm tired of Rush Limbaugh. I'm tired of Mitch McConnell. I'm tired of people like Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan telling me that their values are everyone's values. I'm tired of having to watch the same tired assed people run this country like it's their personal playground of wealth and power accumulation. As if they are entitled to it. I'm tired of the establishment media manipulating stories and headlines to create public opinion, instead of actually reporting. I'm tired of seeing corporate America fucking the American worker. I'm tired of hearing about us pouring money into countries that hate us. I'm tired of money disappearing by the millions (billions?) unaccounted for. I'm tired of Bill O'Reilly. I'm tired of Hannity. I'm tired of Chris Matthews. I'm tired of hearing about congressmen and senators sending "dick pics" to underage girls and/or molesting children. I'm tired of us being so cavalier about our place on the planet to the point where people in our government laugh at assassinating the leader of another nation. I'm tired of being the UN's lap dog and being the police force for the world. I'm tired of our imperialistic neocon foreign policy that has created a less safe world. I'm tired of young Americans having to die for a foreign policy that is in the best interest of Halliburton and major mulit-national corporations. I'm tired of us droning civilians and creating situations where more dangerous terror groups arise from the smoke and rubble. I'm tired of being told that single payer healthcare is "socialist". I'm tired of being told "Obamacare" is working. I'm tired of watching political leaders pushing morality through legislation. I'm tired of seeing politicians cater to the wealthy, to Wall Street, to major corporations that are slowly monopolizing our culture and society. I'm tired of seeing both parties manipulate the rules to keep them in power and marginalize the lives of the average citizen. I'm tired of everything having a damn dollar sign on it. Mainly, I'm just tired of being tired of stuff. 

That's not an endorsement of Trump. I'm not voting for that foul chucklehead. No how, no way. I realize that he may do absolutely NOTHING about any of the above. That's not why I'm where I am at with this. I'm ready to see this BS with our two parties and media come to a head. I want both parties to eat their heads as they try to figure out "what went wrong". It's time for things to change.....and not with some marketing slogan.....but in a tangible way that we can see and feel. I'm ready to see some establishment burn for a change. Hillary Clinton is the face of political corruption and no matter how foul Donald Trump is, it shakes me that we are going to reward that corruption. Either way, we can't go back. We have decided who we are and it's hard to say we are a "decent" people. 

I want to see the corruption, arrogance, and entitlement lose. So, there is my "endorsement" of a Hillary loss. Will that happen? I don't know. If you know me or have read this blog over the years, you know I'm not a big fan of establishment. Establishment gets fat. Establishment gets complacent. Establishment gets hungry for more and more and doesn't care if others get less and less. Establishment wants to control how you think and feel. Establishment wants to limit your options while seemingly giving you more. Selecting from a hundred pieces of shit is still having to select shit.

Just to make this perfectly clear, I am NOT endorsing a vote for Donald Trump. This is my feeling and not meant to be something that should cause others to rethink their position. I'm not writing this for influence, I'm just being honest about the conclusion I came to a few days ago. It was rattling around in my head for awhile.....but I'm settled on it now.

Here is an analogy (in italics below) that I hope will explain why I want Hillary to lose and how I'm not rooting for a Trump win. If anything....I'd rather see most people vote for anyone other than a Democrat or Republican. That too will bring change. We pay lip service to that sort of change though. To many people rooting for their team over the good of their country. It's time for things to change and there is one person of all the people running that isn't going to change anything and that person is Hillary Clinton. If the best reason to vote for her is because she doesn't have a dick, well, that says quite a bit.

I walk up on Gary Johnson, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton. I'm carrying a bucket of water.  Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are on fire and Gary Johnson is thirsty. I give the bucket of water to Gary Johnson to quench his thirst. If I also happen to have to piss, I would piss on Trump.

















Saturday, October 1, 2016

If You Are Not Listening To Sturgill Simpson, What Are You Doing With Your Life?


It took me awhile, but I've finally caught on. I've lauded the work of Shooter Jennings on this blog quite a bit. His brand of music is authentic, catchy, and has staying power. There is another artist that has caught my attention lately and he shares a lot of traits with Shooter that I find appealing in a musician. His name is Sturgill Simpson. He's a Kentuckian and is best defined as a country artist, if you want to lay a genre on him. He's more than that though. From song to song, he can wiggle free of genre and bring a wide spectrum of influence into his work. 

Simpson has become very popular despite not getting radio play or support from the Nashville establishment, which he clearly doesn't want or need. In 2014 he won big at the Americana Music Awards grabbing the top prize for "Emerging Artist", "Artist of the Year" and "Song of the Year". In 2015 he was nominated for a Grammy for his album "Metamodern Sounds In Country Music". He plays to sold out shows all over the country and his latest album "A Sailors Guide To Earth" hit number one on the country charts despite getting very little mainstream radio play.

The guy isn't afraid to ruffle any feathers either. He took ACM to task for bumping Merle Haggard from the magazine just before his (Haggard's) death. 


Sturgill Simpson & Merle Haggard


Simpson is a different kind of artist. He draws on the influences of his youth and teenage years, like most artists, but he isn't afraid of his own eclecticism. He openly talks about the influence that Merle Haggard, Keith Whitley, and Willie Nelson have had on his music, but in the same breath, he'll include Pink Floyd, Nirvana or any number of artists that you may not immediately catch in his music. In other words, he doesn't like to be pinned down as a musician that is falling back on his influences from a boxed in genre, but he expands his music by letting the variety shine through in a blatantly unapologetic manner. I've found his music to have such depth that I can listen to it over and over without growing weary of it or doing song skipping. There always seems to be something there that I didn't catch on a previous listen. His music speaks to me in a way that The Beatles, The Replacements, and Shooter Jennings have. I hold his artistry in that high esteem. 

Simpson has a draw for both country and rock fans. He drifts into the area of psychedelia at times, both lyrically and musically, and his interest in Buddhism is weaved in and out of quite a bit of his music. He doesn't preach it, but he just lays it out it there to let you know who he is. He is probably the first country artist to ever sing about ego death and the benefits of taking DMT and mushrooms to get a look at the world that steps outside of our day to day perceptions. 

This guy is the real deal and I wouldn't be taking time out of my Saturday if I didn't want to try to turn a couple more people on to him, in hopes his music has the same impact on them as it has me. 

If you want to get a really good look and listen, I'll start you out right here with his performance at Farm Aid on September 17th. A rousing performance with the Dap Kings backing him up on horns and featuring some passionate guitar work from Sturgill. Just a kick ass performance....



I'd recommend anyone that is interested in finding out more about Sturgill's music to start with songs from the "Metamodern Soungs In Country Music" album and if it strikes you right, move on from there. His first album "High Top Mountain" is solid, but not quite as polished or immediately satisfying as a genre busting piece of music like "Metamodern..." and "Sailors Guide To Earth" are. That's certainly not a knock on it at all. It has its' own charm and merit and is probably the most overtly country of his three albums. On each album he moves effortlessly between country, folk, psychedelia, and pop and does so without taking huge leaps. I hope someone finds out about the greatness of Sturgill Simpson from this blog, but if not, at least I got to spend an hour writing about an artist I believe is very important to modern music and is sure to continue making music that will stand the test of time. 

"Turtles All The Way Down"
This is probably his most accessible song musically, but lyrically it captured the attention of a lot of music lovers that see modern country music as shallow and devoid of any lyrical depth. Simpson defies that in a refreshing manner with the subject matter he speaks to here. 



"Life Of Sin"
This is a fun romp of a song that easily appeals to country sensibilities but has the backbone of a rockabilly tune. 



"Oh Sarah"
This tune kind of plods along on the initial listen. Very pretty and not flashy, but it takes a turn that many of his songs take and the second half just sucks you in. The band starts picking up the tempo and Sturgill gets to show off his amazing voice and passion. 


Joe Rogan and Marc Maron have featured him on their podcasts. You can check those out at the links below! 







Sunday, May 22, 2016

Hillary or The Donald: Getting Just What We Deserve



Have we ever had two worse candidates for the presidency running at the same time? Sometimes, I feel like this is some sort of nightmare or a cosmic joke and I'm going to wake up from it and see two half-way normal people running (ie, Jim Webb, Elizabeth Warren, Rand Paul, John Kasich, or hell....even Jeb Bush). The votes are almost in and for better and probably worse Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are going to be fighting it out for the title of "most powerful person on the planet". Yeah, exactly....let that shit sink in for a few minutes. 

The political climate is such that it has given rise to a quasi-fascist like Trump. I understand the allure and I outlined it in my last entry, entitled "The Trump Thing". We gave rise to this man. It's largely our fault. We have given over the reigns of our republic to the political and financial elite and they have shaped a country where the difference between the have and have nots is increasing by the year. The power has been taken from the people and given to the corporation, which our bought and sold Supreme Court backed up with their decision that says corporations are people and can make huge political donations to PAC's, basically buying power within our government. That power is used to  help elect politicians that will create favorable legislation to the wealthiest among us. Hillary is a glowing example of this sort of Main Street vs Wall Street disconnect rank and file voters display. We have allowed our country to be taken from us because we have been duped into becoming a narcissistic and distracted population. Social media, wedge issues, reality TV, opinion programming disguised as hard news, and the death of investigative journalism have crippled the average American and in concert, the United States as we formerly knew it. We fight for or over the wrong shit and we fight with each other as though we are enemies. We are manufactured enemies, but again, we did this. We kept voting for these two parties and fought tooth and nail to defend them against our own best interests and against the best interest of a nation we all say we love. We let it happen. We watched it happen with glee and pride! All of this distraction has finally led us to two candidates that should have most of us horrified, if not very concerned.




Donald Trump is a billionaire. He is also a political fraud and chameleon. He's already backing down from some of the blustering promises he has been making over the past year. He has suddenly "evolved" on issues like immigration just in the past few weeks. He has had many success' in business and he has had some failures. Anyone that puts themselves on the line in the business world is bound to slip now and again. Part of his rallying cry is how the mainstream, establishment politicians have sold out the American worker and you know, that's true. What he doesn't seem as anxious to scream from the roof tops is that he has taken advantage of the sell out. He has donated large sums of money to both parties over the years (including to the Clintons) because it was to his advantage. That's the way our system works. If you want something done, you go buy it. Our vote only allows us to choose which party or person we want to benefit the most from the purchasing power. Trump should be a lot of things that rank and file Republicans hate. They hated Bill Clinton for a myriad of reasons, including his womanizing. Remember, he cheated on his wife and therefore his character couldn't be trusted. Trump has done the same thing. Remember, Bill Clinton was involved in shady insider business deals that had huge financial windfalls for him personally and politically. Trump has taken advantage of his fathers fortune and political connections to get deals worked with huge tax breaks that not just anyone would be privy to. Remember when Donald Trump was a "left wing plant" that was running so the presidency would be given to Hillary? What happened to that bit of paranoid thinking? The same people that hated what Clinton was about are now willing to let those things go or even worse, make excuses for them in regards to Trump. They are slaves to the party. It's their identity. It's their team. Country be damned.....you gotta win, right? Throw personal integrity and character out the door. Just win baby. 

Trump exhibits fascist tendencies and at best he can be considered a quasi-fascist. He is now capitalizing politically on what he has been capitalizing on financially. Demonizing trade deals and companies that have shifted jobs out of country, even though, again, after taking advantage of them himself. He is openly isolationist and nationalistic which taps into the distrust/dislike of foreigners that so many on the right grumble about, but have now been given the green light to scream about out in the open. He doesn't do anything to temper the anger, resentment and hatred that is being poured out. American policy means more than human rights to Trump and his supporters. He has gone so far as to say he would order the military to break the law by using torture to procure information and to kill the families of known terrorists. Both are illegal, but he said the military will do it because he will order it. All you have to do is use Google and you can find much more on the views he holds that are consistent with authoritarianism and/or fascism. He has also been inconsistent on abortion, on conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as on other issues. He demonizes his perceived rivals and fellow Americans, based on appearance or stereotypes. This isn't an honorable man in any sense of the word. I get it, we all want a strong leader and we know we have problems with jobs, illegal immigration, terrorism, etc....but do we really want to overreact and go to the far right to fix those things? It's a road to less personal liberty, not more. It certainly isn't a road to greatness. I don't compare Trump to Hitler as a person or leader, but the nationalism and authoritarianism in a comparison of their rhetoric can't be ignored. "Make America Great Again" may be a slogan, but perhaps we can settle for "Make America Admirable Again"? 





That moves me on to Hillary Clinton. I believe this woman to be a fraud and a charlatan of the highest order that is basically using entitlement to bully her way to the nomination. She is purely a political animal and can probably be trusted less than Donald Trump when her words are taken into consideration. Trump doesn't hide what he is, Hillary has, does, and will. She wants the presidency and will say and do anything to get it. Her career is built off of her husbands rise to power in both Arkansas and in Washington DC. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that, but looking the other way in the face of humiliation, excuse making, and outright deception when it comes to some of the more unseemly pieces of her husbands political and personal life makes her out to be merely and opportunist and an enabler. She likely didn't stick with Bill because of any obligation to the sanctity of marriage or for Chelsea, but to keep her own political career intact.

Hillary is weak on her position that she knows how to get Americans back to work. She supported NAFTA, which her husband signed into law (and was supported by people like Rush Limbaugh for crying out loud, so as you can see, the elites knew the advantage of this "deal"),  and she has rattled off rhetoric about putting people out of work who are employed by the fossil fuel industry and then took it back a week later when confronted by a voter. She obviously doesn't even understand the people that she believes to be her constituency. She and her husband have been huge proponents of Wall Street. She is status quo on banking and in fact her husband pushed the banking industry to be more resourceful in giving horrible loans to people so they could buy houses, which eventually caused the great mortgage collapse and sent our economy into a depression/recession that we will NEVER recover from. She benefits from current campaign finance laws more than any other candidate and may well receive more money from PAC's than any candidate ever. How can she protect us from the predators on Wall Street if she is taking money from them? They are not giving her money to reverse the current trends. She has stated that she has voted for "barriers" to keep illegals out, but now is using Trump's rhetoric on the subject against him. She has been against same sex marriage and now she's for it. She is as much of a neocon as Bill Kristol and Dick Cheney when it comes to our use of the military. The Huffington Post (a noted liberal website) has called her "the candidate of Wall Street. Even more dangerous though, is that she is the candidate of the military industrial complex" and went on to say that her foreign policy experience basically stems from supporting every war demanded by the CIA and military. 




I am obviously of the opinion that neither of these people are fit to be president. We are supposed to be a beacon of light to the rest of the world. We are becoming a laughing stock. This democratic republic was designed to be a great experiment and we, the people, should maintain control over its affairs and leadership. We have ceded that control to the political and financial elite. We have no one to blame but ourselves. During the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968, the crowds were chanting "the whole world is watching" when the police and national guard were brutally dispersing protesters, basically interrupting the people's right to assemble and use free speech. My fear is that in August of 2016, the chants will be "the whole world is laughing". This is far from a laughing matter, but we have finally gotten what we deserve. Our leadership is finally reflecting who we are as a people and a culture. The will of the people is speaking and of course I accept it. Just don't expect me to get along and go along like a trained monkey. I will vote FOR a candidate that doesn't have a record of lying. That doesn't have a record of manipulating the system for personal gain. I will vote for a person of some character and integrity or I will not vote at all. If there is nothing else I have as an American, I have my vote. I won't bend over and give it up like a whore on spring break nickel night in Tijuana.