The Widdershins

Happy Valentine’s Day, Widdershins!   This weekend will feature two separate posts – today’s and one for tomorrow commemorating forty years of SNL.   I could not make up my mind between the two, so we’ll do both.

 

Today is the day for flowers and chocolate, or not so much.  Whether there is anyone in the picture or not, the concept of love deserves some attention and respect.  The scientist in me knows well that the feeling is a rush of chemicals hitting various receptors of the brain a self-induced high of sorts.  The residual romantic in me knows that the stimulus for the aforementioned process is a warm and fuzzy thing.

So, let’s pay tribute to loves past and present with songs with “love” in the title.  Any tune, any era, any genre is fair game.  Mine are listed below, so please post yours plus any commentary that suits your fancy in this otherwise open thread.

Love ya, Widdershins!

(1) Higher Love – Steve Winwood

(2) I Love How You Love Me – The Paris Sisters

(3) How Deep Is Your Love? – The BeeGees

(4) I Can’t Stop Loving You – Ray Charles

(5) Your Love – The Outfield

For good love that’s just so bad:

(6) Love Is a Battlefield – Pat Benatar

Good afternoon, Widdershins.  Today we are treated to a guest post by Lakerwade, son of our own Socalannie.  Their family is in the music business, and this post takes us behind the scenes into the products that take great music and make it wonderful.  The products sound magical, and the musicians that they met have me green with envy.  So buckle up, we’re headed for a tour of NAMM.

 

Welcome to NAMM!

Welcome to NAMM!

Every January, the National Association of Music Merchants puts on their gigantic music industry trade show at the wonderful Anaheim Convention Center.  It’s one of the largest conventions on the west coast, with around 100,000 attendees and more than 1500 exhibitors.  While it isn’t open to the public, we have been among the lucky ones to get passes.  So, on January 22nd I found mhyself walking with my folks through the giant palm trees in the courtyard, with thousands of other music lovers.  We waded through the crowd, presented our passes and ID to security, and dove headfirst into this crazy circus dedicated to all things musical.

NAMM bombards all of your sense.  Your eyes are riveted by every conceivable bright color and every inconceivable sight.  The bold displays, the beautiful instruments, the strobe lights, stage fog and even people’s hair – sometimes standing straight up from their head like peacock feathers, and colorfully dyed.  NAMM2 And the crowd!  Hippies, punk rockers, bikers, metalheads, people in hilarious costumes from clowns to demons.  Men in suits with briefcases, pushing through to get to their booths. Then there are the old guard classic rockers, the baby boomers, casually dressed in jeans and tees, sometimes with family in tow.  When you walk into the convention hall itself, you are hit with a blast of noise from virtually hundreds of musical instruments being played at once at deafening volumes in order to be heard by onlookers who surround the different booths.  Even the smells are powerful:  hot dogs, tacos, and beer to name only a few.

There are booths and exhibits for everything to do with the creating, playing, recording, filming, and marketing of all kinds of music.  Every type of instrument, every type of technology can be found at NAMM.   My Dad, who was acting as a buyer for a music school, had various appointments throughout the day, so Mom and I visited our favorite booths.  There was the Ernie Ball booth, which was a carnival complete with clowns, bean bags, and ring toss games where you could win free strings or tee shirts.  The Marshall and Orange amplifier booth is always impressive with giant walls of stacked amplifiers of every imaginable size. The Dunlop booth, famous for the their  pedals such as the “wah-wah” used by guitarists such as Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Santana and Van Halen.  The Peavy amplifier room had Blue Oyster Cult and three members of Lynyrs Skynyrd (Gary Rossington, Rickey Medlocke and Peter Keys) hanging out.  Dad turned up in time to get autographs on an old Skynyrd album that he brought from home. At the larger Fender, Gibson, and Taylor exhibits, we played fabulous guitars with hundreds of other enthusiasts.  It sounds insane, but you can actually hear yourself play, as well as those around you.  Instruments are traded around, and you have some nice conversations.   There’s a lot to be learned from these informal playing sessions.  You can also play pianos that cost six figures as well as almost every Other type of instrument.  Then you can go and make a music video ain the John Lennon Education Tour Bus which parks outside every year. Yoko was there a couple of years ago.

Another thing to do is stand in line at various booths to get an autograph (and usually a photo) of various musicians.

Steve Morse and young fan.

Steve Morse and young fan

 This year, we got autographs from Robby Kreiger (The Doors), Albert Lee (Everly Brothers to Clapton), Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs), Walter Trout (Canned Heat, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers), among others.  In previous years, from Donovan (he was amazingly nice and spent extra time with me), Peter Frampton, Joe Bonamassa, Tom Johnson and  Pat Simmons from the Doobie Brothers, and players from a lot of other groups you wil remember:  Jefferson Airplane/Starship, Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple, Toto, Journey, and more.  There are performers from many genre:  Country, Pop, Classical, Jazz, Flamenco, Hip Hop and ma others as well.  The exhibitors sponsor some nice little performances during the day, some inside the large upstairs rooms of the big guns like Gibson (where we saw Robby Kreiger) as well as some of the smaller booths on the main floor.  You usually have to stand and the aisles become packed with people trying to see and hear the various artists perform.  The best of these miniconcerts is to be found at the famous Seymour Duncan’s booth.   Easily the coolest booth at the show, it is huge, complete with Persian rugs and plush furniture all around.  Seymour makes guitar pickups, and was a friend of Hendrix, Clapton, Beck, etc.  Every afternoon he has great performances on his little stage, so we try to get there early to score seats on the sofa and rest our tired legs.

At nights there are concerts on the two outside stages, as well as in the lobbies of the Hilton and Marriott hotels.

Felix Cavaliere

Felix Cavaliere

  The night concerts have a party-like atmosphere and are a lot of fun.  Although we have seen lots of famous performers at these concerts – this year Felix Cavaliere (The Rascals), Yes, Greg Rolle (Santana, Journey) and Blue Oyster Cult played – we tend to enjoy the less known bands even more.  Tis year we saw great shows from the Mike Frost Band (they have an amazing female vocalist), rising blues star Jonny Oskam and the band Venice.  Venice is a California-style soft rock band composed of young brothers and cousins of an old group called the Lennon Sisters, which my parents think that you guys will remember.  They recently toured the world with Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) “The Wall” tour.   There are also some parties at the hotels, and we have attended a few.  One that we had been invited to but missed because the folks were too tired had Stevie Wonder jamming with everyone for four hours!  I will never permit them to live that down..

Well, so far I have just described the fun aspects of NAMM, but it is about business, and orders are placed for everything from instruments to stage paraphernalia, and a thousand  oddities as well.  Deals are made, contracts are signed.  Funnily enough, I got an offer this year. I was playing guitar in one af the booths, and demo-ing the pedals.  Some man approached my mom and asked if I were her kid.  Seems he was interested in signing me up for a punk rock band that he is producing!  I’m flattered, but not interested.

Just about anything can happen in the four exhausting, exhilarating, fun-filled days and nights at the NAMM show!

Let’s give Laker a hand for this great post, and feel free to post any questions that you might have for him.  Otherwise, it’s the usual thread.

 

NAMM5

Afternoon Widdershins. To keep the old synapses snapping, here’s a short post about marriage equality. Spoiler alert, it Daisy Pluckingisn’t one of those racy essays about couples’ plumbing or an IKEA’esque instructional of how Part A should fit into Part B. Rather, it is a calculated tale about our Chief Justice being nothing more than a robe-wearing daisy plucker who mumbles, “They love me, they love me not.”

I encourage you to read the entire Emily Bazelon essay entitled Marriage of Convenience. Her premise is decidedly unhappy-making, but well-worth the investment of time since it’s never too early to start preparing for bad news.

Ms. Bazelon’s premise:

…Same sex marriage does well in polls these days, and a Supreme Court ruling sanctioning it nationwide would probably poll well, too. And that sort of popular validation benefits Chief Justice John Roberts. Though he hasn’t supported same-sex marriage, he is highly attuned to the way the public perceives the court. His legacy as chief is tied to the standing of the institution he leads.

Marriage of convenience wedding cake…Roberts will probably have more chances, over time, to accomplish what appears to be his primary long-term goal: to move the court in a more conservative direction on a range of issues. (Corporate friendly/race unfriendly.)

…[T]he court has fared better with the public when it pairs conservative decisions with progressive ones. And same-sex marriage is part of that equation. In 2013, the term ended with a splashy ruling in which five justices — Roberts not among them — struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which restricted federal benefits for spouses to male-female couples. This decision came one day after the court gutted a central component of the Voting Rights Act, in a 5-to-4 decision written by Roberts.

The win for same-sex marriage overshadowed the loss for voting rights — an abrupt end to a key anti-discrimination provision, which had been hard-won by civil rights activists.

Next month there’s a new challenge to Obamacare manifested in the American Enterprise Institute funded case of King v. Burwell. In that it is before the Supreme Court is laughable, not just to supporters of the ACA, but also to conservative activists and health care providers like HCA.

At its heart the King case centers around four words inartfully phrased in the 900+ page legislation. Not to fear, such things happen so often there is well-settled Supreme Court precedent to handle such matters — ignore it and defer to the expertise of the agency implementing the legislation. In addition, for the plaintiffs to be successful they must wrap the case in tissues of lies and the Supreme Court, among other things, must embrace those lies and completely ignore the legislative history — a thing unheard of in American jurisprudence.

What a holding in King would do is strip subsidies from those enrolling through the federal exchange when their home states failed to enact a state exchange. It would strip subsidies from millions (the Rand Corporation estimates 10 million), increase premiums, cause cataclysmic confusion, and sow instability in the marketplace. Excising those offending four words and fixing the ACA in a Republican controlled Congress has a likelihood just below that of Mitch McConnell being named “Sexiest Man Alive”.

King v. Burwell:  A second chance to make a first class bad decision...

King v. Burwell: A second chance to make a first class bad decision…

Three years ago when the ACA was before the Court, Roberts joined the progressives to uphold the law, but he gave conservatives a little noticed gift — allowing states to opt out of Medicaid expansion, thereby denying access to millions in 23 states. The farce of the King case will rip that hole in the safety net to a gaping maw 34-states wide.

If Roberts joins the four conservative justices this time around in this laughably incoherent, meritless case, the daisy scorecard will be evened up by the same-sex marriage case on the “they love me, they love me not” scale since health care for millions, courtesy of Chief Justice Roberts, will have been right and royally plucked.

Just for the record, it isn’t supposed to work like this, but it is something I thought you might like to know. Also, “plucked” wasn’t my first word choice.

Take the conversation in any direction you might like.

Folks, there is so much to say and so little time to say it today. I am pretty sure when the aliens dropped me on this rock to live amongst the good earthlings, they left a good bit of alien DNA in this quickly deteriorating meat suit of mine. “How do I know?” you say. During the past week recuperating from whatever it is I have, the antibiotics have stirred up and unleashed stuff I know can’t be of this world.

The good news is that I’m on the mend. The other good news is that I’m not feeling strong enough to do one of my interminably long and loquacious posts. Given the steroids and inhalers and the litany of selections from columns A, B, and C of the pharmacopeia menu, I could easily fire off 26,000 words and never would any two ideas come within the same zip code of one another.

But there are some things that need to be said today. I’ll try and be brief.

Kayla Mueller

Kayla Mueller

Kayla Mueller was the best of what humankind has to offer. She was exceptional. Although Kayla’s journey was short, it was a path built upon remarkable goodness, traveled with purity of spirit, and remembered without a hint of regret. Her family and friends will miss her the rest of their days. We need to remember them and especially her.

Jon Stewart and Brian Williams are about the best New Jersey has to offer. Add Bruce Springsteen and you have what is easily the holy New Jersey Trinity and undoubtedly the three wisest men from the Garden State. I know this is true because they would have never nicknamed New Jersey the Garden State.

Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show. I will miss him for more than his brilliant satirical wit and his insightfully acidic tongue. During the years of being my mother’s caregiver, she insisted on watching “her boyfriend” each evening. Jon brought her much happiness. For that I will always be grateful.

Jon Stewart and Brian WilliamsBrian Williams was and will continue to be the guy I want to give me 22 minutes of news headlines. He was a volunteer fireman at one time and I respect and relate to that. He is also wickedly funny. These days the requirements of building one’s personal brand required him to climb out from behind the desk and be a “personality”. He did that and was good at it. In this age of personality driven everything, perhaps he jumped a little too far beyond the desk. Perhaps the “drive to please” drove his misremembering, but pleasing others is never a good enough reason to tarnish your credibility when it is your stock-in-trade. I, for one, will forgive him that foible.

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking before Congress is so wrong on so many levels, it would put to shame an ant farm cranked up on blue ice meth. I won’t begin to list them other than to say this: Never before has any Israeli Prime Minister allowed an Israeli issue to become partisan and politicized.

It seems this John Boehner invite was scored by Ron Dermer, the new Israeli Ambassador. He’s same guy who was an acolyte of Frank Luntz and a full-blown Republican operative until he gave up his American citizenship to take up residence in Bibi’s bum.

This speech is a political speech. This is a speech plotted to alter American foreign policy. This is a speech designed to weaken a President trying to walk a tightrope of negotiation between Iranian nuclear policy and Irani generals advising the Iraqi troops fighting ISIL. This is a speech designed to make the Middle East, unfathomably complex on a good day in terms of policy, a never-ending quagmire of blood and treasure for generations.

Here’s what the politicians are afraid to say: When anyone says Netanyahu is Israel, they are willfully ignorant or just plainNetanyahu and Dermer stupid. Netanyahu’s party currently has only 18 seats in the Knesset. His coalition is best described as a “wink, a hope, and a prayer”. His policies are not popular. Former advisers call him dangerous. His approval is on a well-oiled banana peel. Yet he continues to subscribe to that harebrained testosterone trait exemplified by Cheney and Rumsfeld, “If you admit wrong, you are weak.”

Something that has been absolutely nonexistent in any discussion of Netanyahu’s tantrum to come is this: Are we willing to participate in causing the world to live a real life Groundhog’s Day? I’ll explain.

Netanyahu’s position is no Iranian nuclear power — period. Not just ending enrichment — nothing even conceivably reaching enrichment by years of refinement even with on-site inspection and verification can be considered. Translation: No nuclear power for a country starving for an electrical grid. In addition, he wants increased sanctions while the Iranians are still at the negotiating table. And most of all, Netanyahu wants to bomb the existing processing facilities in Iran. Facilities that were built and operational during Dubya’s administration.

Netanyahu Job RatingAs always, he wants us to either participate in the bombing or like the ever watchful big brother, wants us to stand guard as he acts in contravention of virtually every treaty, convention, and U.N. mandate to the contrary. And then he wants us to veto any sure-to-follow United Nations’ sanctions.

Now here’s the thing: What do we do then? Iran will reconstitute its nuclear program within two to three years. They will be loath to negotiate because negotiating got them blown to smithereens three years previous. Do we Groundhog’s Day it again, and again, and again? That guarantees at least two things: (1) A permanent Middle East preoccupation premised upon just about the most unpopular policy possible; and (2) A constant state of U.S. war footing with increased hostility that does nothing but make the world, and our part of it, infinitely more dangerous. It is this second point that serves as Netanyahu’s guiding credo: If all your neighbors’ houses are burning, they will never commit arson against you.

We just spent 13 years learning the idiocy of that policy by eradicating a top line predator from the Iraqi political ecosystem. Are we again that unimaginably stupid?

I have dozens of Israeli friends — all with beautiful families. They deserve better than Netanyahu and Dermer, his political incubus, trading on their safety and gambling with the future of Israel.

Take the conversation in any direction you might like.

Fracking, we have almost have you surrounded!

Good Monday, all.  Although fracking has become more widespread than ever lately, some states have started saying no to the environmentally disastrous practice. First was Vermont; then, I am happy to say, New York, in December.

(Reuters) – New York state will ban hydraulic fracturing after a long-awaited report concluded that the oil and gas extraction method poses health risks, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration said on Wednesday.

New York Environmental Commissioner Joseph Martens said at a cabinet meeting he will issue an order early next year banning fracking, which has been under a moratorium since 2008. Once that happens, New York will join Vermont as the only states to completely prohibit fracking.

What about California? Not yet. Its Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown, is perceived as a far-left liberal by many; however, environmentalists are not pleased with him because his state, home to a huge reserve of untapped natural gas,  has still not banned fracking. This may change soon.

In the biggest climate related protest in the Bay Area to date, thousands marched in Downtown Oakland calling for real climate leadership and a ban on fracking.

350.org, one of the groups organizing the march, and whose members were much in evidence, estimates that 8,000 people attended, making it the biggest anti-fracking rally in U.S. history.

Now, there is a protest almost every day in Oakland/Berkeley, but this one comes as an accompaniment to over a year of activism calling for Brown to ban fracking for good. I think momentum is on the protesters’ side; especially since the Maryland legislature has just introduced an 8-year fracking moratorium in that state. (Thank Gawd that State body is still controlled by Democrats.)

“Today we announce a new effort to place a moratorium on fracking in our state,” said Senate bill sponsor Karen Montgomery. “This bill will allow us to maintain the public’s confidence as we continue to gather data on the long-term effects of the hydraulic fracturing process. Without more scientific data on the public health consequences, we cannot engage in possibly risky energy projects.”

“Almost every week a new study emerges pointing to the alarming health and environmental effects of fracking,” said delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo, the House bill sponsor. “To open up Maryland to fracking at this time would simply be reckless.”

A statewide group of more than 100 healthcare professionals, the Concerned Health Professionals of Maryland (CHP-Md), agreed, issuing a letter to legislative leaders in support of such a moratorium.

“We write to update you concerning trends in recent health research on unconventional natural gas development and production, enabled by hydraulic fracturing and commonly referred to as ‘fracking,’” it said. “The scientific literature now includes 400+ peer-reviewed studies on the public health climate and environmental dimensions of this type of unconventional gas development, the vast majority of which suggest that high-volume hydraulic fracturing technologies pose threats to human and animal health and safety via contamination of air, water and soil. There is little evidence that these threats can be sufficiently mitigated through regulatory frameworks.”

With the price of oil so low, the financial benefits of fracking don’t seem so great right now, especially since Illinois’ recent adoption of it hasn’t been the bonanza politicians and businesspeople expected.

Low oil prices have accomplished in Illinois what environmentalists couldn’t. Horizontal hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method of drilling for oil trapped in shale rock, has been halted even before it began. Officials at the state Department of Natural Resources say not a single company has applied for a fracking permit. That’s because oil prices have tanked.

Oil was fetching about $100 a barrel in the U.S. when then-Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law in June 2013 to regulate fracking. By the time the permitting process was in place in November 2014, oil prices were dropping rapidly, ironically a byproduct of fracking’s success in the U.S.

Today oil is selling for under $50 a barrel, half of what it was priced at when Illinois dreamed of an oil boom that would help solve its budgetary woes and bring much-needed jobs and revenues to the southern part of the state.

Ah, the insanity of building world economies on non-renewable resources, and making up more and more destructive ways to get them! I sincerely hope that the drop in oil prices will continue to enable this breakout of sanity with regard to fracking.

This is an open thread.

Good week-end, Widdershins.  Seems to be a bit chilly outside for most of us.  I confess that tonight’s temp of 56 is just about as cold as I’d like to see, and I’m aware that the rest of you think that I’m a wuss.  Guilty as charged: the only snow and ice that I wish to see will be found on a postcard.

Nonetheless, I’ll join in the festivities long distance, and we’ll amass a playlist for the wintry weather that has gripped most of the nation.  The usual rules apply – title/author should have words referring to the topic, the genre is completely up to you.  Post your favorites and anything else that comes to mind in this absolutely open thread.

Here are mine, in no particular order:

(1) Cold As Ice – Foreigner

(2) Hazy Shade of Winter – Simon and Garfunkel

(3) Wintertime Love – The Doors

(4) Winter – The Rolling Stones

(5) A Winter’s Tale – Queen

Bonus Double Play:   Fire and Ice – Edgar Winters

I was going to post today, but come to find out, I died as a boy ala the Nationwide insurance ad during the Super Bowl. My accident had something to do with a high dive into the commode tank after having watched Acapulco cliff diving on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

Just like a prose version of the Sixth Sense these are ramblings from the other side without the benefit of Haley Joel Band AideOsment’s cuteness.

Over the weekend, Frank Bruni wrote an insightful essay, The Vaccine Lunacy. He dissected the vaccine idiocy originally emanating from the scientific maven Jenny McCarthy on her way to her more recent health conscious occupation of being a vaping spokes-vixen for e-cigs. He quotes statistics of 57 percent of the children at a Beverly Hills preschool and of 68 percent at one in Santa Monica filing personal-belief exemptions from having their kids vaccinated.

The question he poses is this:

You can be so privileged that you’re underprivileged, so blessed with choices that you choose to be a fool, so “informed” that you’re misinformed.

These “over informed fools” square the circle of political philosophies — from the “matching black helicopter and pajamas” crowd to the “granola-loving, Prius-driving, having had work done, beautiful people” crowd.

A few months back I heard some public health expert say if you wanted to track the lack of vaccinations, you need look no further than a map of Whole Foods stores.

Initially at the dawn of the internet age, everyone and their dog were touting the world-changing benefits of greater world-wide access to information. Somehow it hasn’t quite worked out that way.

It seems we overlooked the propensity of humankind to live fancifully in the grandeur of days past. Whether that weakness is playing out with those withholding vaccinations or those employing 12th century barbarism in order to immolate a human, the real lesson is that technology will never be an effective barometer for civilization’s progress. The only effective gauge of our progress is a rather old-fashioned one — how we treat one another.

Hopefully I’ll be feeling better tomorrow and will be able to post something more substantial, but until then, take the conversation in any direction you might like.

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