Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Fuck Yeah, It's Funny.

Besides my conversation with Jazz Aristocracy (and Lori and Wonder Woman's death-defying deep-fried turkey, which I was sure would immolate chez Lightfoot to a crispy crackly crunch but which turned out delicious), the high point of the trip to Western Mass. was a Boys' Night Out at the Flicks, wherein Bobby and I took in Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny.

Naturally, it was absolutely incumbent upon us that we assume what in certain circles is known as The Proper Frame of Mind, which resulted in me saying one of the stupidest things I've said in many a moon during the Coming Attractions, but, hey. It's Tenacious D Time.

There's many a belly laugh in this flick. Jack Black is a fine, fine physical comedian when he's playing the part of the Rock True Believer, the last unironic adherent to the Power of Rock. His wide-eyed wonder at Kyle Gass's sloppy recital of a Bach Bourée and Beethoven's "Für Elise" while busking on a beach road, and his improvised lyric announcing KG's genius to the indifferent passing crowd, are by themselves nearly worth the entire price of admission. And his casual and creative use of the F-Bomb has an undeniable insouciant artistry, unlike anybody's I've ever admired. He's also a great singer, but we knew that.

The problem with the flick is the damned story keeps getting in the way. It's at its best when it sticks to little blackout episodes that illustrate Tenacious D's fundamental ridiculousness; when it tries narrative it becomes trite and a little boring. I couldn't help thinking, too, of the potential wasted to make fun of rock's pretentions. It begins with a quite brilliant parody of Tommy (featuring a child actor who's an absolutely amazing miniature Black), but that's the only point at which it attempts to engage rock history. Wouldn't it have been great to have seen a few parodic pokes at The Song Remains the Same, or Sid and Nancy, or Oliver Stone's The Doors?

Looking back on the movie now, I think the funniest conceptual sally in the movie (and, really, in the whole Tenacious D gestalt), is JB's interpretation of the meaning of rock. Conspicuously absent from any Tenacious D performance in either the movie or any of their TV shows is an audience of any appreciable size -- and what audiences they do perform for, hate them very much. If the Power of the Rock isn't for the audience, then who is it for? In the climactic showdown with the Devil (Dave Grohl again, natch), the challenge isn't "The audience will like our rocking better," it's "Our rocking will kick the ass of your rocking!" It's a wonderfully cockeyed and self-deluded joke, pretending that the potentiality of the Power of Rock exists entirely in the mind of JB's True Believer, utterly independent of what any objective observer might conclude.

What pimply 15-year-old playing a tennis-racket-guitar in front of a mirror hasn't had the same delicious delusion?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lefty-Backbiting Brouhaha

You'd have to have been living under a rock the last 24 hours not to have caught the Lefty-Backbiting Brouhaha over at Tom Watson's place. An individual traveling under the monicker Pachacutec posted a screed at FireDogLake in which he said of Democratic Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, "She can slurp the gnarly nub of power with the very best, gamely grinning to the gushing finish: a working girl's working girl."

Tom called him on his misogyny:
But in a world where a hero like Mukhtar Mai of Pakistan overcomes court-ordered gang rape and a corrupt regime to help educate the children of her attackers, we kid ourselves that we're advanced enough, cool enough, hip enough, or evolved enough to throw around this low-brow gender-based garbage and think it won't stick - to us, to the left, to the Democrats, to our candidates, to our movement.
Tauscher is an evil, crabbed, nasty individual; no arguments here. In general, I ignore blogs of both the right and the left that wallow in rancorous denunciation of whoever's happened to piss them off in the last ten minutes, and I believe the health and well-being of my liver is the better for it.

In Tom's comments, however (fascinating reading, BTW), Pachacutec managed to piss me off but good:
Face it. We [at FireDogLake] do punk rock posts and you're into Guy Lombardo.
OK. Passion of the moment, blah blah. Anybody can look stupid when angry. Happens all the time.

I'm not particularly offended by the blatant misogyny employed to characterize Tauscher. I see worse fifteen times a day on Comedy Central. I think Tom's comment thread contains a lot of rote lifting of skirts and automated feminist scolding. If you're offended by the word "cunt" as a term of opprobrium, you'd probably better stay out of Britain, where it's extremely common currency among both sexes. As I've observed before, the blogosphere is a tiny, tiny, tiny little cross-section of the American voting public, and what some idiot hothead said on FireDogLake in November of 2006 has zippy chance of becoming an issue in some future election.

No, what pisses me off about Pachacutec's awful, hateful screed is the fact that he went for the cheap laugh by calling his object-of-the-moment a whore. And then turned around and called it "punk."

Pach', kid: Punk happened. Note tense. This weekend I loitered in Claire's Boutique at Tysons Corner Mall while young Betty rooted around for some bauble or another. I was not particularly surprised to find, in among the Hillary Duff-branded bracelets and the Aly and AJ-branded earring collections, a stand dedicated to Green Day-branded necklaces and wristbands for the delectation of teenybopper girls. These treasures came complete with adorable photos of the eyeshadowed lads looking all disaffected and pissed-off, their American Idiot hand-grenades featured prominently on the cheapjack teenaged gauds.

Punk is deader than goddamned Vaudeville. Fuckin' get used to it.

The notion that you can shock, vilify, curse, and gob the bourgeois into recognition of their fundamental uselessness has played, kid. We're shocked, vilified, cursed and gobbed every fucking day by the slime oozing out of our TV sets. We're numb. We've been épaté'd so many times by so many lazy goddamned "revolutionaries" that the sight of some self-appointed artist's hairy moon shining out over the waistband of his dropped pleather pants provokes precisely nothing. We've seen the act, chum. It's easy. It's cheap. It's the laziest, crappiest, most slothful kind of self-indulgence a person can grant himself.

You wanna know how to be a fucking revolutionary, Pachacutec?

How about this: The most revolutionary act you can perform in this fell, death-infected year 2006 is to act like a goddamned adult.

Isn't that just blisteringly clear? Could that be any more self-evident? They act like children, Pach' -- all those bulletheaded, leather-lunged, lantern-jawed jocko-homos down at Little Green Footballs -- if you play their game, you are no better than them. If you, through intellectual laziness and sloppy thinking, go for the cheap laugh at a perceived enemy's expense, you are no better than them. Misogyny's got nowt to do with it -- it's just goddamned lazy to call your opponent a whore and expect to get laffs-n-applause for it.

To continue your metaphor, Guy Lombardo's Royal Canadians played in tune, with precision, and were ashamed -- as adults, professionals, are ashamed -- when a note was clammed, a cue missed, a beat dropped. I once gloried in punk's shambolic sloppiness; but it's become the accepted norm. Now it's just fucking lazy, Bad Musicianship.

We -- that's you and I, Pach' -- we can do better than that.

Monday, November 27, 2006

And Where Is Our Nedward Tonight?

Starting at about 9:30 EST, I'll be over at Lance Mannion's place, live-blogging tonight's broadcast of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

Come on by, razz the clueless goober! All the cool kids are doing it!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Jazz Aristocracy

The historic Summit Meeting of the Jingo/Lightfoot Clans now over, we slowly reacclimate to Life Not on the Road. The dogs happily resettle into their daily routine (sleep, eat, bark, repeat) and the humans prepare for the hideous Christmas season.

I call to your attention the fact that the photographs of the Soulfinger gig I'd earlier promised, fail to actually appear in this post. Funny story about that....

Thanksgiving Day at the Lightfoot household was only slightly marred by the fact that Bobby (who now, it appears, has had his personality entirely subsumed by that of a rather cranky Indian Doctor of Rock named Anoush Devendra -- as haven't we all at some point or another) was due to play a gig with Soulfinger that night in Hartford. It being the sanctified holiday season, however, roughly half of Soulfinger had begged off the gig, leaving, I was informed, a skeleton lineup of drums, bass, keyboards and...trombone. Yes, the main melodic duties of the evening were to be performed by that King of the Comical Musical Instruments, the 'Bone. The wielder of this instrument, though, was somebody pretty special in Bobby's eyes; he'd given him the Lightfoot nom-de-blog Jazz Aristocracy.

I inadvertently eavesdropped on a phone call from Soulfinger's booking agent & bass flogger, Ace McClintock, to Bobby in the early afternoon: "M-hm. Yeah. Oh, yeah. No I haven't asked him yet. I will now." Bobby put the phone to his chest. To me, he said, "Dude, you want to sit in?"


New England's finest Motown/Stax bar-band. Wants me. To sit in. On guitar.

I spent a good two hours that afternoon boning up on the band's setlist on Bobby's groovy Yamaha axe -- "Knock on Wood," "What's Going On," "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," "Superstition," "Who's Making Love." My nervousness drifted away as I came to the realization that these chestnuts ain't exactly Yngwie Malmsteen territory for a guitarist; as long as I had the home key and some idea of the structure, I'd be able to fake it convincingly. The scariest item on the setlist was "Brown Sugar," the only number to feature the guitar out front. I reached waaay back into deep storage for that one, finally finding it. I was ready.

Even Lori Lightfoot and Wonder Woman were prepared to abandon hearth & home to catch the spectacle of Soulfinger Featuring Neddie Jingo -- they tucked the teenieboppers into their Playstation comas and followed the lads to the gig in their own car.

But, wouldn't you know it, just as Bobby and I were hitting the outskirts of Hartford, his cellie rang. It's Ace McClintock. Terrible news: The gig's off. Whether the cancellation had anything to do with the previous night's shenanigans -- Ace, a great dévoté of the Grape and the Grain -- had fallen out the door of the club during a set and had completed "What'd I Say" from the alley -- or the extremely light turnout this Thanksgiving night, was immaterial. The only thing that counted was that my Date with Destiny was to remain a chimera.

We still pressed on to the club, though -- Bobby had to retrieve his Rhodes and help load out. As we entered, shaking the pissing-down rain from our sou'-westers, Ace greeted us and pressed frothy beverages into our shaking hands. As Bobby got to work, I took a seat at the bar next to a rather unprepossessing figure, already fairly festive from the Jägermeisters he'd been pounding down. This personage, Bobby informed me while coiling patch cords, was Jazz Aristocracy.

We made small talk, did Jazz A. and I, touching on this point and that. Early in the proceedings, I got my first taste of how Mr. Aristocracy had earned his name; he casually let it drop that he'd once been a member of one of the later Chet Baker Nonets.

"Say the who, what -- di-did you just say Chet Baker?"

"Yeah." This with a world-weary sigh. "See, I'd just come off the road with Maynard Ferguson, Chet was looking for a trombonist, and --"

Holy creeping shit! Jazz Aristocracy! I'm sitting here in this shitty little Connecticut bar with Jazz Aristocracy! I almost sat in with Jazz Aristocracy! My cobwebby little guitar riffs and stone-cliché fills, desperately worked out that afternoon, might actually have shared a sonic space with a cat who's played with Billy Eckstine, Mel Tormé, and Dizzy Motherfucking Gillespie!


We stepped outside so Jazz A. could have a smoke under the club's awning, out of the bucketing rain. The thought's been on my mind, Jazz was, as I say, on the outside of more than a few Jägermeisters, so I thought I might as well bring it up.

"I've been having an email conversation with a guy in Australia on the topic of Musical Archetypes, you know? Like the chord progression i-VII-VI-V, is amazingly often associated with cats--"

I didn't have a tape recorder, so I can't reproduce it perfectly, but here's Jazz Aristocracy's answer as best I can do it:

"Musical archetypes? Archetypes? Yeah, I know what you're talking about. It's the Golden Mean, man. Two over three, man, that's the archetype right there, Jack. The clave in Brazilian music. Voom-tick-n-tick-tick, voom tick-n-tick, that's the archetype right there, man, that's all you need to know, the Golden Mean, the 1:1.618 ratio that comes to us all the way from the Renaissance to today, man, it never changes, it just assumes different forms, dig? From the nautilus shell to the Parthenon to the time signatures in 'Well, You Needn't,' it's always the same ratio, man, it's always that same Golden Mean, the distance from your eye to your chin and from your chin to your bellybutton, it's always that Golden Mean, and that's all the archetype you need right there, all you need, yes, sir...."

Jesus. Yo, Soulfinger. You need a guitarist -- however easily impressed with tall talk from Jazz Aristocracy -- you call me, OK? I can drop whatever I'm doing to sit in, dig? That is, if it means I can sit at Jazz Aristocracy's feet and soak in his grade-A, high-test, primo bullshit. Bullshit for the ages, man. Bullshit from a pro.

You want to know a little more about Jazz Aristocracy, I found this. That's the guy, man. That's the guy.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Nectarine of My Fourth Vertebra

Things may get a little quiet in the Jingosphere over the Thanksgiving weekend, as we pack up kits, cats, sacks and wives to visit Bobby Lightfoot in St. Ives.

(Actually, there's only one wife, and she's the apple of my eye, the Asian pear of my pancreas, the grapefruit of my left knee, the mangosteen of my uvula, the kiwi of my peritonium, the carambola of my latissimus dorsi, the chewy caramel center of the Godiva bon-bon that is my life.)

I'm reliably informed that I'll be witnessing a Soulfinger Gig on Thanksgiving night -- the middle-aged punters don't stop bein' on-the-make for nuthin' -- and I'll be sure to bring my camera to record the humiliation.

Happy Holiday Hint: Don't anthropomorphize the turkey in front of vegetarians!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Civic Education: A Dialogue

(Crossposted at The American Street)
We owe ourselves, and the United States that we will pass off to our children, to relearn the tools of reason, logic, clarity, dissent, civility, and debate. And those things are the nonpartisan basis of democracy, and without them, you can kiss this thing goodbye. [Applause]...

What happens now, in this partisan-addicted country of ours is, that Democrats are afraid that if they send their kids to civics classes they might not come back Democrats, and Republicans are afraid they might not come back Republicans, but civics -- the expertise needed to understand Western Enlightenment and civil liberties -- is not something you're born with, you have to learn it. And we teach our kids what we want them to know, and we don't teach them what we don't want them to know, and that's not a conspiracy, that's human nature. And you have to -- we have to -- remember that unless we teach the ideas that make America a miracle in government -- a miracle that everyone knows is a miracle -- unless we teach what that means, then it will go away in your kids' lifetime, then we will be a fable. We will be a tale told about this place that used to stand up for blah-blah-blah. You have to teach it, you have to find the time and creativity to teach it in school. If you don't, you will lose it to fundamentalists of any stripe, you will lose it to stupidity, you will lose it to the darkness.

And what this country represents is a tiny twinkle of light in a history of oppression and darkness and cruelty, and if it lasts for more than our lifetime or our kids' lifetime, it is only due to the fact that we put some effort into teaching what it is is, the ideas of America, the idea of opportunity, mobility, freedom of thought, freedom of assembly -- and if you don't teach it. it'll go away. And in the middle of the night, when the towers fall, we will not say, "What am I responsible for?"; we will say, "Tell us what to do!"

And remember, democracy in any form is only two or three hundred years old.... The idea of being personally responsible for your government is a twinkle...and we have to support it or we will else instinctively react as we have for ten thousand years -- "Tell us what to do!" -- and we will chuck these liberties the moment the next terrorist horror happens.

-- Actor Richard Dreyfus, now a senior research advisor at Oxford, on Real Time with Bill Maher, Nov. 17, 2006 (YouTube link.)

At a rally to expose the "myth" of church-state separation I attended this spring, Orwell was quoted at me four times, most emphatically by William J. Federer, an encyclopedic compiler of quotations whose America's God and Country -- a collection of apparently theocratic bons mots distilled from the Founders and other great men "for use in speeches, papers [and] debates" -- has sold half a million copies. "Those who control the past," Federer said, quoting Orwell's 1984, "control the future." History, the practical theology of the movement, reveals destiny....

Federer and I were riding together in a white school bus full of Christians from around the country to pray at the site on which the Danbury, Connecticut, First Baptist Church once stood. It was in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists that Thomas Jefferson first used the phrase "wall of separation," three words upon which the battle over whether the United States is to be a Christian nation or a cosmopolitan one turns. Federer...wanted me to understand that what Jefferson -- notorious deist and author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom -- had really meant to promote was a "one-way wall," designed to protect the church from the state, not the other way around. Jefferson, Federer told me, was a believer; like all the Founders, he knew that there could be no government without God. Why hadn't I been taught this? Because I was a victim of the godless public schools.

"Those who control the present," Federer continued his quote from 1984, "control the past." He paused and stared at me to make sure I understood the equation. "Orson Welles wrote that," he said.

-- Jeff Sharlet, in "Through a Glass, Darkly: How the Christian Right is reimagining U.S. history," in Harper's, December 2006.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Grammar-Boy Redux

Would it be horrendously pedantic of me to point out that the title "O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened" is grammatically solecistic, and that "If I Had Done It, Here's How It Might Have Happened" is perhaps a less problematic construction?

Oh. OK. I'll shut up, then.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Band is Blowing Dixie Double Four Time

Damn it!

This evening, as I hopped out of the truck and ankled toward the house after a long day at the salt mines, the most perfect name for a consultancy company ever just popped into my head:

The Consultants of Swing.

I was ready to lunge for the Trademark and Patent Office website, to dope out how I could register this surefire moneymaker.

Turns out I'm not the first to think of it.

Damn it!

Gimme Some Truth

Crystal City, Virginia, is an awful place. It mushroomed into being in the early Sixties, an oppressive glass-and-concrete wart just to the south of the Pentagon, which is its reason for existence. Its main street is a six-lane highway, uncrossable by foot without grave personal danger, and no businesses or restaurants line the main road -- only chain hotels housing innumerable iron-jawed defense-contractor reps with Trent Lott hair and huge wire-rimmed glasses, in from out of town to finagle this or that bloated DOD deal on behalf of Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Northrop-Grumann, whose logos decorate every office building. While sidewalks do exist, the residents of Crystal City are encouraged to scurry from point to point by means of a ratlike maze of underground tunnels, dank expanses relieved of fluorescent dimness only by the rare skylight and the depressing neon glow emanating from McDonalds and Subway franchises.

It would take a reward of rare value to get me to darken Crystal City's plate-glass doors, and only the availability of such a bauble explains my presence yesterday in the Conference Room of the Crystal City Marriott. Once a decade or so, I am able to wangle a paid day off -- oh, so professionally developmental, don't you know -- to catch the exquisite balance of corn and roughage served up by the magisterial Edward Tufte.

Tufte's self-published books on information design are stunningly beautiful things that are, now that I've revisited them, curiously difficult to actually read. Tufte himself projects a combination of humaneness with more than a touch of rather delicious arrogance that makes me quite grateful I'm not actually one of his students. Having spent quite some time in the info-design business myself, I found plenty to quibble with in his talk, particularly in the realm of Web design -- quite a few times I found myself resorting to the old refrain: Yeah, pal. Easy for you to say! Ivory-tower design gurus all too often betray a coldness to the predicament of the Working Stiff -- cranky clients, malfunctioning tools, comically inadequate budgets, tragically foreshortened schedules.

But his themes are indisputable and admirable. Summing up his section on the Principles of Analytic Design, he says this:
The purpose of an evidence presentation is to assist thinking. Thus presentations should be constructed so as to assist with the fundamental intellectual tasks in reasoning about evidence: describing the data, making multivariate comparisons, understanding causality, integrating a diversity of evidence, and documenting the analysis. Thus the Grand Principle of analytical design: The principles of analytic design are derived from the principles of analytical thinking.
Tufte's illustration of the masterful information-design skills of Galileo is nothing short of breathtaking: by simple and direct presentation of his astronomical observations in his texts and notebooks (that is to say, by applying Tufte's Grand Principle), Galileo gave life to the profoundly important notion that the evidence of our senses -- and the careful and unambiguous transmission of that evidence -- trumps received wisdom. Cat invented science, didn't he. It's a sad illustration of human idiocy that it took somebody until 1612 to come up with that simple idea -- and that he was put in a cage for doing it.

Tufte is particularly scathing when information-design is used to mislead, to prevaricate, to lie. I've already said my piece on PowerPoint presentations (I'm agin 'em), and much of my objection to that sack-of-shit software predates -- but is in complete agreement with -- Tufte's own essay on the topic, which is magnificent in its spleen. In his talk yesterday, he made the fairly self-evident yet tragically disregarded point that "pitching out corrupts within":
If a corporation distorts evidence presented to consumers, stockholders, and journalists, then it may soon lie to itself. Or, similarly, the chronic problem of government intelligence agencies: once the collection and selection of evidence starts to become fixed around a pre-determined policy line, intelligence agencies may become perpetually unintelligent, confused about the differences between detective work and marketing.
During the lunchtime break, Tufte signed books for queued-up punters while munching on what looked like small squares of pressboard and a bag of nuts. I lined up for an audience, but instead of Beautiful Evidence, Tufte's latest, I held my copy of Thomas Ricks' Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. Regular readers may remember I had a few things to say about a PowerPoint graphic reproduced in its pages a few months ago. I wanted to get Tufte's comments on it, and maybe snag an amusing autograph. When my turn came, I held up the book and said, "I can't imagine no one's ever brought this book to your attention."

To my surprise, he looked a little puzzled, only half-understanding. I opened the book and showed him the PP graphic in the photo section. "Ah!" he said, "I've heard of this one, but I've never actually seen it!"

Wow. OK. I let him absorb it for a bit, and he quickly began to understand the full horror of it. I said, "It's not actually competely incomprehensible; it's a timeline, chaos on the left, order on the right and these arrows, see, they're pushing--"

He chortled. "Hah! Nothing like a little 'aimed pressure to achieve your end-state over time,' is there!"

"Ain't that great?"

"Great?" he sad a little sadly. Then his voice went very hard indeed. "They've only killed a couple of hundred thousand people."

He did autograph the page. I'm amused now at his refusal to include any commentary on the graphic in his autograph (people were, after all, waiting for their own audiences with the Great Man). It looks like he signed it, as one would a painting:

Laughing to myself over the exchange, my newly-more-valuable book back in my bag, I tottered out of the auditorium to try to find something worth eating in the rat-tunnels of Crystal City.

(Later edit: Here's an out-fucking-standing post, from somebody who appears to know what the hell he's talking about, describing just how deadly is that PPT graphic reproduced above.)

Monday, November 13, 2006


As I am one of natuar's proofreaders, this sign snagged my eye as I whizzed past it on my way home from work this afternoon. My fellow motorists were treated to the comical sight of me hippity-hopping down the side of Hirst Road in Purcellville, camera in one hand, cane in the other, dodging giant Ford F-250s to capture this lovely wild typo in its natuaral setting. There was a flap about typos being an endangered species a few years ago -- what with spell-checkers and all -- so it's good to be able to catch one in natuar before they all dye out.

Now natuarlists -- they're the naked people, aren't they? With the butt-towels and the sun-cream and the volleyball? I do hope they manage to put some clothes on while picking up trash on the highway they've adopted. All I'm saying. Kids use these roads.

I can understand a modicum of chapped-assedness among the Loudoun Valley Natuarlist Society at the woeful proofreading down at the state pen where these signs are whipped up by our brethren the Incarcerated-Americans. But that's not a patch on the irritation stirred up by the sign down on Route 28, which has apparently been proudly adopted by the Ted Nugent Untied Sportsmen of America. How many shotgun blasts can one poor road-sign take? Not many -- and that's a natuaral fact.

Friday, November 10, 2006

"She's Leading the Team in the Northeast"

This guy shows no signs of actually being falling-down, weeping drunk. Which pretty much removes his only excuse.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Through All These Years I Burned For You

With trepidation I clear my voice (wobbly and tending to flatness an it may be) and unveil my entry in the great "Cover a Bobby Lightfoot Song Contest" of 2006. In a magnanimous gesture of farewell, I dedicate it to the outgoing United States Congressional Class of 2006. The lyrics are pretty fuckin' apt, thought of that way. Were I some kind of HTML boffin I'd scroll the names on the screen, each miserable, hellbound name fading tastefully into the background as the song plays: Santorum... Talent... Burns... Fuckin' Macaca...

This Goodbye. (Pops.)

To say I was knocked out by Bobby's song when I first heard it last year is to understate the case a bit. His original is utterly gorgeous, detailed, chewy -- an intimidating thing to approach as a musician with an eye to covering it. But it wasn't until I prepared to record it, tweezing it apart note by note, that the full mastery of Bobby's songcraft became apparent.

The first thing that struck me was how Bobby uses major/minor tension to heighten the effect of his lyrics. The first few lines, the lyrics self-reflective and inwardly directed, are sung over a fairly standard chord progression (E/C#minor/G#minor), but when the lyrics begin to introduce a note of anger at the subject of the song ("Through all these years I burned for you...") he introduces an A minor -- a chord not in the home key -- exquisitely underlining the word "years." Through the song, he uses the tension between A minor and A major to surprise us, keep us on our toes. Building surprise by introducing the minor voicing of a IV chord that "should" be major is a McCartneyism borrowed from jazz; "Blackbird," for one example, employs this trick to great effect.

But there's a second, even more subtle major/minor tension going on in this tune. In the line following the one quoted above -- "You see I've burned myself right out" -- the chords are E major/F#7/A major. Now the A is "correct" -- that is, in keeping with the home key -- but the F# isn't. And oh, hey! Check out the word that's being sung on that "incorrect" chord: myself. Once again, an example of the perfect marriage of unexpected tonality and lyric: You burned yourself out? Really? Are you quite sure someone else isn't actually responsible?

I also fell really hard for the lovely syncopation of the "And all these years" line -- to the extent that I included it during the guitar passage, where Bobby left it out of his version.

As you listen to the song, you'll see that the word "goodbye" ends each of the three verses. But it's sung to different intervals each time. In the first verse, it's a quietly resigned descending major second. The second time it's sung, it's a descending minor second to accommodate the B tonality of that beautiful and disturbing and, I think, quite frightening bridge, which hints at suicide ("And ain't there just a million stars..."). It's in that bridge that we really learn what the song's about: towering rage directed inward that we, the audience, can clearly see should be targeted outward toward a capricious lover. You'd never think such cognitive dissonance could occur to the serene and Earth-touching bodhisattva who writes at Bobby's blog.

Rage directed inward that should be targeted outward: Isn't that a perfect expression of Life Under Bush?

It's the interval given to the the last "goodbye" -- an ascending perfect fourth -- that resolves the whole song. In my current mood, it's an immensely satisfying resolution, a transcendent, orgasmic kissoff to those crooked, bile-rising bastards who have made every morning's approach to the newspaper such a frightening event: Good-byyyyyyye!

Because I can't play keyboards to save my life, I've simplified and, I hope, pared down Bobby's arrangement. Where his piano is all subtle colors and delicacy, my fingerpicked guitar has, I hope, a Lennonistic directness. I also closed my eyes and blindly lurched in the direction of George Harrison in the lead guitar bits, and to my quiet, surprised pride, think I may have actually hit the mark in spots. The twin Harrisonian slides that come up during the fade particularly please me; I'd intended them for the guitar passage following the bridge but they were a bit unprepossessing in a lead setting. Moving them to the fade gave me a pleasant surprise.

One last thing: I've listened to both Bobby's original and my pallid copy of this song about 600,000,000 times now, and it's only just now occurred to me what inspired the genesis of the song! "But it's hard to say/The words get in the way"... Where have I heard that before...?
I would have made this instrumental
But the words got in the way
Rock on, Bobby. Rock on forever.


PS: Speaking of surprises, I know it'll come as a major shock to all of you, but Bobby Lightfoot actually did survive the Bush 43 Administration and lived a full and happy life to the end of his days. Here's the proof. Lori Lightfoot took a new name when she converted to Zoroastrianism, but that's her in the pic, all right. What a hottie.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Senate Is Ours

It's over.

The Associated Press has projected Jim Webb as the winner of the Virginia Senate race:
The Associated Press contacted election officials in all 134 [Virginia] localities where voting occurred, obtaining updated numbers Wednesday. About half the localities said they had completed their postelection canvassing and nearly all had counted outstanding absentees. Most were expected to be finished by Friday.

The new AP count showed Webb with 1,172,538 votes and Allen with 1,165,302, a difference of 7,236. Virginia has had two statewide vote recounts in modern history, but both resulted in vote changes of no more than a few hundred votes.

An adviser to Allen, speaking on condition of anonymity because his boss had not formally decided to end the campaign, said the senator wanted to wait until most of canvassing was completed before announcing his decision, possibly as early as Thursday evening.

The adviser said that Allen was disinclined to request a recount if the final vote spread was similar to that of election night.

If Webb pops up and says he has a Nude Erection for America, I might just take him up on it.)

More of It!

On NPR this evening, DCCC chair Rahm Emanuel was asked what he thought of the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. His reply: "I think the message of the election is clear: the American people want a nude erection..."

Dammit, that was not the message of the election! The message was Iraq, it was corruption, it was subpoena power! It was not about some naked San Franciscan running around with a boner! That's not what we voted for! I mean, it might actually be possible that quite a few American voters actually would regard a disrobed stiffie with a kindly eye -- either behind or in front of it, if you follow me -- but I must insist that our leadership's insistence that American voters expressed a desire for bareback beef bayonet on Election Day does not play well with Values Voters! Stop flogging it!

Stop it, Dems! You're blowing it!

The Allen-Webb Recount

Larry Framme, former chair of the Virginia Democratic Party, sent an e-mail to Couric & Co. this morning, which is posted here. He says,
I ran both the 1989 statewide recount for Doug Wilder and the 2005 recount for Creigh Deeds. It's nice to be on the sidelines for the first time in state-wide recount history. The Wilder and Deeds recounts were about as many as I wanted to run in a lifetime!

There is a big lesson for us this year from those recounts:

The Certified Winner will not lose a recount unless the certified results differ by 50 votes or less. Whichever candidate wants to change the election night result MUST do it in the next few days during the canvas process.

Here is why:

1. The Wilder recount changed about 20 votes net from the CERTIFIED results. The Deeds recount changed about the same number from the CERTIFIED results. Since the certified results are based on the results of the canvases that will be conducted over the next few days, history tells us that there is virtually no chance the RECOUNT will make up a 100 vote difference in the certified results, much less nearly 8,000.
He concludes,
In short, Allen might as well forget about winning a recount and putting VA and the nation through weeks of waiting (remember, under the statutory timetable, a recount cannot realistically be completed until the week before Christmas). However, Allen and Webb better have a lot of lawyers on the ground over the next three days to observe the canvases. The canvases are the ONLY place this election can change.
It's pretty encouraging, although I'm witholding my own optimism until the moment Macaca officially concedes.

Read the whole thing.

(Edit: Richmond Times-Dispatch sez Allen may not even ask for a recount but is waiting to see what the certified (or CERTIFIED, in Framme's style) totals are. Via Blah3 and Skippy, who surmise that Allen's goons might not want the FBI asking too many uncomfortable questions about Robo-Calls, which they're already on the ground investigating. Me, I'm taking that speculation with a grain of salt.)

A Nice Little Bit of All Right

A sweet day. A sweet, sweet day. First a Nude Erection, and now Rummy's bitten it. CNN's called Montana for Tester, Webb's up by 6,708 votes. Fifty Senate seats guaranteed, fifty-one tantalizingly close.

A sweet, sweet day, years in the waiting.

Check this out: Not so fuckin' red now, is it?

I note that The Almighty hath favored Michele Bachman in Minnesota's Sixth, so we'll still have her around to lampoon mercilessly. That'll be fun.

The Insidious Agenda of the Angry Left

I didn't last much past midnight last night watching the election returns, so I had some catching up to do this morning. Bouncing down the driveway in my truck, I switched on NPR just in time to catch Nancy Pelosi's haymaker to the chin -- in one brief sentence confirming everything the lantern-jawed Defenders of Freedom at Little Green Footballs have been howling about San Francisco Liberals:
"The campaign is over. Democrats are ready to lead. Mr. President, we need a nude erection in Iraq. Let us work together to find a solution."
Say what? A nude erection? Oh my whistling Jesus -- what have I voted for?

I just don't think that's a good idea! You retake the House and maybe even the Senate, and you start pushing your pornographic gay agenda the very next day?

Let some time elapse, Madame Speaker-Presumptive!

But it didn't end there! Not a few minutes later, I heard Sen-Elect Bob Casey declaring victory over Rick "That Frothy Mix" Santorum, and he did it again!:

"Tonight, I believe in my heart that Pennsylvania is where the nude erection for America is beginning..."

As I say, this was radio, so I can only imagine the visual that must have accompanied this mortifying declaration.

Guys, this is not cool! Yeah, maybe a raging ten-foot hogan is just what America needs, but you've gotta soft-peddle that kinda talk at least until you're sworn in!

And quit being so smug! You won an off-year erection! That's not so hard!


Turning to humor perpetrated by actual competent professionals, I took Wondie and Freddie to see the Borat movie last night. I thought I was going to cough up a vertebra -- this movie is absolutely fuckin' relentlessly funny. Mercilessly funny. Oh Em Eff Gee it's funny. I'm not going to publish any spoilers, but there's a scene involving a fight in a hotel room that spills out into a Realtors Convention that I quite seriously thought I wasn't going to survive. Noises were coming out of me that should have alerted the medical authorities to come running with a defibrillator.

That said, I have to confess I was a little uncomfortable having brought the boy along. Yes, he's thirteen going on twenty-two, a young man of the world and nobody's idea of innocent, but it's just a little off-putting to be howling at sex-toy humor with your son at your elbow. Even if the joke's at the expense of Alan Keyes.


WOOO!!!! Come on Jim Webb!

Been watching all night... Just saw on CNN, with 99% of precincts reporting, Webb ahead by about 2000 votes! After being behind by 7000 for hours! The precincts yet unreported are urban, suburbs around Richmond...

Come on, motherfucker!!!!!

Monday, November 06, 2006


Regular visitors to these pages may have noticed a weeklong hiatus in posting. (Or hell, you may not have noticed. Well, it happened.)

I have to confess that it has not been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, and a series of blows to the head and thorax have left me in a state of bloggenschmerz that I now feel lifting.

Wonder Woman, whom I hereby nominate for beatification and, in the fullness of time, promotion to full-on sainthood, is helping to care for her father, who finds himself in the late stages of Alzheimer's. Last week we had a scare -- he appeared to be showing symptoms of pneumonia, and was remanded to the hospital. He underwent gall-bladder surgery, which the doctors warned could very easily have carried him off in his weakened state. I'm happy to report that the old bull came through it with flying colors, and, after some postoperative lethargy, seems to be improving nicely -- as much as someone with that horrifying condition can be said to improve.

One of the many lessons I've learned while watching my father-in-law slowly disappear over the last few years is simply this: write everything down.

That's not meant to be funny. It's serious advice. Write everything down. Leave words behind. Preferably a whole lot of words. Leave a record of what you thought, what you did, why you did it. People who love you will be glad you did.

Hence, this blog. Come to think of it.

Next, Wondie woke up late last week with a deer-tick nibbling away at the (admittedly delicious) skin of her tum-tum. Then, this weekend, she came down with flulike symptoms. As of this writing she's at the doctor's demanding the meds to help her fight off Lyme disease.

The question does occur: when was it, exactly, when we humans started to allow our hunting-companions to share our beds? I seem to remember that in simpler times we kept the dogs in separate quarters where their vermin could not transfer to our wives' yummy tummy-flesh. I'm not sure it was a wise decision to let them in the house, with their shedding fur and their sloppy eating habits and their throwing up disgusting things on the good living-room rugs and hogging the warm spot on the bed.


I truly haven't been able to face the blogosphere this week, so I don't know how much currency was gained by this story I read in Saturday's Washington Post:
N.Va. Boys' Championship Dream Doomed by a Moment of Vengeance

By Timothy Dwyer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 4, 2006; Page A01

The South County Raptors, a scrappy football team made up of 12- to 14-year-old boys from southern Fairfax County, were supposed to meet the Herndon Hornets today in the first round of the county playoffs.

Instead, the Raptors are at home, their season over with no possibility of a championship after a league commissioner fired the head coach and the assistant coach this week. Their offense? They moved the commissioner's son from defense to offense for the final game of the season last Saturday, an overtime win that put the Raptors in the postseason.

"Scott does not sit out on defense -- ever," the commissioner, Dan Hinkle, had warned the head coach, James Owens, in an e-mail sent before the season began about how he should play Hinkle's son, 12. On defense, the father said, "he goes in and stays in. That includes all practices, scrimmages and games. This entire league exists so he can play defense on the best team in his weight class. . . . He is my son, I own the league, and he plays every snap on defense."
I have bad memories of my Pee-Wee Football days, when our head coach gave the quarterbacking position to his beloved little blossom, and treated the rest of us proletarians like handservants to his spoiled-rotten Little Field General. I'll let you folks discuss the philosophico-ethical ramifications of Mr. Hinkle's inspiring example of fatherhood. It's what Comment threads are for. Me, I've got some tires to slash.


Oh -- and in case I don't get to say it before tomorrow: You Virginians, do take a minute out of your busy day tomorrow and pop down to your local polling station and pull the lever for Fightin' Jimmy Webb, won't you? Do it two, three times. Feels good. All the cool kids are doing it.