Friday, November 30, 2012

Your Friday Clash Song: Yahrzeit Edition

So, today we’re going to do something a little different with the Friday Clash Song feature, because it happens to be two years to the day since Margaret Mary Durkin von Ebers made the return trip across the Western Ocean, as the Irish once called it. Metaphorically speaking, of course. She’s actually in Section 36 at Queen Of Heaven Cemetery, where many of the tribe are laid. But that’s not quite as lyrical.
But, so, anyway, given that it’s My Sainted Irish Mother’s yahrzeit (and how’s that for mixing your cultural metaphors?), I give you Joe Strummer performing “London Calling” with the greatest Irish rock ’n roll band of all time, from The Pogues: Live at the Town and Country DVD (1988):

What could be better than that? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe Joe Strummer and the Pogues doing “I Fought the Law”:

Damn, son. That’s fine.
Okay, because it’s a Pogues kind of day, here’s one of my all time favorites: “Dirty Old Town,” also from the Live at the Town and Country DVD … with special commentary from Joe:

Heard a siren from the docks

Saw a train set the night on fire

Smelled the spring on the smoky wind

Dirty old town

Dirty old town …
Not altogether unlike the Moms’ hometown, Waukegan, Illinois, when she was growing up:
Genesee Street, February 1939
Rest in peace,  mo chuisle.
And the rest of you … well, you know what to do.
Turn. It. Up.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here?

I’ve been asking myself that a lot lately.
I started this blog a little over two years ago – on Nov.  18, 2010 to be precise – with the idea that this would be a place to engage in an ongoing conversation about politics, mostly, with some sports and music thrown in for good measure; but without any more coherent plan than that: Just a place to chat, to hash things out, like you’d do with your friends over an adult beverage or two.
For the most part, I’ve enjoyed the conversations we’ve had over the past couple of years, although most of the time I find I’m just talking to myself. That’s okay, too; My Sainted Irish Mother™ always said that it’s okay to talk to yourself as long as you realize you’re talking to yourself.
Point taken.
But after two years of this conversation (mostly, as I say, with myself), I do wonder whether I’m really doing anything. Anything other than venting, which has a certain therapeutic value, I suppose.
More to the point, I started this blog shortly after the disastrous 2010 congressional elections, at a time when we liberal Democrats were on the ropes and the President’s reelection was hardly a certainty. Much of my focus for the past two years – that is, when I wasn’t bemoaning the fate of my favorite star-crossed baseball team (or my equally star-crossed alma mater), or reliving my misspent youth as a half-hippie/half-punk – has been on the President’s battles, not just with conservatives but with his liberal friends and allies, too. As I’ve noted before, Pres. Obama’s election was quite personal to me, given my parents’ involvement in the local civil rights movement here (and the fact that my father never lived to see the election of the country’s first African American president); and Pres. Obama’s reelection was important to me, too, given that no president can get much done in one four year term, and that, in our country, presidential success is measured not by passing a few bills – even good ones – but by getting reelected. In other words, it wasn’t enough that we elected an African American president. We had to reelect him, too, so that we can always say it wasn’t a fluke; he really was the choice of the American electorate. Not once, but twice.
And we did that. We got that done.
Not that getting Pres. Obama reelected means our work is done – and by “our work,” I mean the work of those of us on the left; those of us who really believe the liberal vision for the country is what’s best for it. Nope. The President has four more years of work to do, and we have a lifetime of work to do if we ever want to see any significant part of that vision become reality.
So – and I’m sorry if you were getting your hopes up – the President’s reelection does not mean that I’m going to stop blogging. Instead, I think the two year anniversary of this blog and the President’s reelection are occasions to refocus my energies; or, perhaps I should say, to focus my energies in the first place.
Unfortunately, while I do plan to maintain this blog and, I hope, improve it, that means I am giving up my work on The Tim Corrimal Show, a show that I was fortunate enough to co-host from shortly after I started the blog in November 2010, through about mid-August 2011; and then, after an extended hiatus, from late June 2012 through the beginning of November. Although I enjoyed doing the show with Tim, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not the best vehicle for me to express my views and provide whatever (perhaps meager) analysis I’m able to provide. I’m not necessarily giving up on the idea of doing a podcast in the future, but for the short term I want to expend my energies improving this blog.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the holiday season. Stop by often; I’ll try to keep posting whenever I can, even while I think about the direction I want to take the blog after the first of the year.
The Tavern may be undergoing renovations, but it’s still open for business.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Your Friday Clash Song: Came In Here For That Special Offer …

Because, what else’re ya gonna play the day after Thankgsiving:
I’m all lost in the supermarket 

I can no longer shop happily, 

I came in here for that special offer 

Guaranteed personality
Hey, who hasn’t been there?           
Oh, and here’s a live version. Because I care.

I’m all tuned in, I see all the programmes 

I save coupons from packets of tea 

I’ve got my giant hit discoteque album 

I empty a bottle and I feel a bit free …
A perfect song for that special hell that is the holiday shopping season.
Turn. It. Up.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, Take 2

On a more uplifting note:

Who doesn’t want to be sedated after a coupla pounds o’ turkey?

Happy Thanksgiving

I won’t lie. It’s a difficult holiday to enjoy since my mom died Nov. 30, 2010, just a few days after that year’s Thanksgiving.
Two years ago, Thanksgiving fell on Nov. 25. My mother was in her final days of battling a myelodisplastic syndrome, a blood cancer that’s ordinarily treatable in younger, healthier patients. She had elected to forego treatment, and so her days were numbered. My wife and kids and I ate Thanksgiving dinner at home, hoping my mother would be well enough to enjoy a family get-together that Saturday, the only day everyone in the family could manage to clear their schedules.
It didn’t work out. By Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, it was clear her death was imminent. She drifted in and out of consciousness, sometimes recognizing her children, sometimes not. I don’t remember the next few days very well. I don’t recall which days and nights I spent at her condo and which days and nights I spent at home waiting for the call. It all kind of blends together in my mind. Sitting on the couch at her place, sitting on the couch at home; reading deposition transcripts and briefs, struggling to work, to find something distract my mind from the inevitable. It’s all kind of a blur.
I do remember that I elected to stay home Monday night. That was November 29. A few of my siblings were staying at the condo, but she was essentially unresponsive and I’d spent an awful lot of time there in the weeks leading up to the end. I told myself I needed some sleep, but that was a lie. I was just burnt out.
You always remember the phone ringing in these awful situations. I wonder what it will be like in the future when landlines are no longer in use. There’s nothing like the ring of a landline phone in the middle of the night; it’s always the worst possible news.
So the call came around 3:00 a.m. – maybe 3:30 a.m. – on Tuesday, Nov. 30. It’s not that I didn’t know it was coming, and I wasn’t really sleeping anyway, but it’s really not any easier when you know it’s coming.
Anyone who’s lucky enough to be living in America has a lot to be thankful for. Trust me, I appreciate that. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Thanksgiving itself, as a holiday and a family celebration, will never be quite the same.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Your Friday Clash Song: Better Get Working On The Ford Line …

Apropos of nothing (for a change), “Drug-Stabbing Time,” from Give ’Em Enough Rope (1978), the band’s “sophomore effort” as the music critic cliché goes.
As everybody knows, bands’ “sophomore efforts” are supposed to be disappointing – because music critics say so – but I happen to like Give ’Em Enough Rope. It’s probably not as good as their debut album, but, really, nothing is. And if Give ’Em Enough Rope had been the Clash’s debut, no doubt the same critics who always slag on bands’ second LPs would’ve fawned all over it.
Because it’s pretty awesome.
In any event, here’s a rather (ahem) enthusiastic write up of “Drug-Stabbing Time.” I can’t say I disagree with the assessment. I can say, though, that if I ever make a movie I’m going to make sure “Drug-Stabbing Time” is in the soundtrack, no matter what it’s (the movie’s) about. Because of this guy.
What’s that you say? You say you want a live version, too? Recorded in Cleveland in 1979? Yes. Yes, we can:

So there you go. Your Friday Clash Song:
Better get working on the Ford line
And paying off the big fine
Drug-stabbing time …
You know what to do …
Turn. It. Up.

Monday, November 12, 2012

“People Aren’t Supposed To Look Back”

Yesterday I posted a video of the Pogues doing “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” and I set out the lyrics in their entirety, because it’s a song that seems so appropriate for Veterans Day. But I may have conveyed the impression that I’m not in favor of the holiday itself, or of honoring veterans, because the song takes a very harsh look at war and at the veteran’s experience, including these lines:
And the young people ask, “What are they marching for?”

And I ask myself the same question

In fact, though, I’m quite in favor of recognizing what veterans have done – and, yes, of honoring them – so long as we’re willing to stare the harsh reality of war and of our own martial history right in the face, unblinkingly, acknowledging both the incredible sacrifices made by people in uniform and the overwhelming horror and futility of war itself.
I thought about this again today when Lizz Winstead posted a picture on Twitter of her father, a World War II and Korean War veteran, and I responded with the picture set out above: My dad in the Army in 1943. A mutual friend commented that they had a sort of worldly-wise look about them, which, I think, is true, but they were, in fact, very young men at the time.
Which reminds me of the opening chapter of Kurt Vonnegut’s brilliant World War II novel, Slaughterhouse Five, a book he subtitled “The Children’s Crusade.” That opening chapter is quite remarkable, because in it, Vonnegut explains what he was attempting to do, and, in a sense, failed to do, when he sat down to chronicle his experiences as an American prisoner of war in Dresden when the Allies mistakenly firebombed the city to dust. If you don’t know, the firebombing of Dresden caused more civilian casualties than either of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and, like those cities, Dresden really had no military or strategic importance. So it’s easy to understand why, after that, Vonnegut questioned whether war could ever be justified.
In any event, in that opening chapter Vonnegut describes going to visit Bernard V. O’Hare, an Army buddy who had also been a POW in Dresden during the bombing, to discuss their experiences while he, Vonnegut, was in the process of writing his war novel. And as they’re talking, O’Hare’s wife, Mary, becomes increasingly agitated, finally interrupting their conversation:
            Then she turned to me, to let me know how angry she was, and that the anger was for me. She had been talking to herself, so what she said was a fragment of a much larger conversation. “You were just babies then!” she said.
            “What?” I said.
            “You were just babies in the war – like the ones upstairs!”
            I nodded that this was true. We had been foolish virgins in the war, right at the end of childhood.
            “But you’re not going to write it that way, are you.” This wasn’t a question. It was an accusation.
            “I – I don’t know,” I said.
            “Well I know,” she said. “You’ll pretend you were men instead of babies, and you’ll be played in the movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful, so we’ll have a lot more of them. And they’ll be fought by babies like the babies upstairs.”
            So then I understood. It was war that made her angry. She didn’t want her babies or anybody else’s babies killed in war. And she thought wars were partly encouraged by books and movies.
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five, pp. 18-19.
He goes on to promise Mary that he won’t romanticize the war, and explains that he’ll call it “The Children’s Crusade” in recognition that that’s what they were, essentially: Just kids.
And that exchange reminds me so much of how my father talked about the war, on those rare occasions he did talk about the war: That it was obscenely awful, not the subject of b-movies or comic books or television miniseries. Throughout their four-plus months in combat, the men in my father’s unit were alternately terrified and bored to death, and every single one of them, to a man, wanted nothing more than to go home.
It’s not that the war wasn’t heroic, or even that they weren’t heroic. There’s an awful lot of heroism involved in risking your own life to stop one of the few genuinely existential threats the United States has ever faced. On a battlefield, anyway. But as my dad described it, when he could bring himself to describe it, to the individual soldier the experience very often had less to do with the larger struggle, heroic or not, and much more to do with the need to get through this day, right here … and to keep on getting through each day, until it was finally over and you could go home.
Vonnegut ends the opening chapter of Slaughterhouse Five this way, an odd way to introduce one of the greatest American novels of the past century:
            People aren’t supposed to look back. I’m certainly not going to do it any more.
            I’ve finished my war book now. The next one I write is going to be fun.
            This one is a failure, and had to be, since it was written by a pillar of salt. It begins like this:
            Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.
            It ends like this:
(Id., p. 28.)
I can imagine someone who’s been through that kind of horror might say that: People aren’t supposed to look back. But I think we are supposed to look back, and, in any case, I don’t think people will ever stop looking back; not, at least, at things that shaped the world and the people in it for decades to come.
I think people are supposed to look back, but they’re supposed to look at it hard, without flinching, without romanticizing it or filling in the blanks with bits and pieces of movies and books they’ve read. They’re supposed to look at it just as it is, with all the horrific reality of it, and not look away until it actually sinks in.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

“So They Gave Me A Tin Hat And They Gave Me A Gun …”

In honor of Veterans Day, the Pogues’ “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.” I’m not sure there’s an apter song that’s ever been written for a day like today:
When I was a young man I carried my pack

And I lived the free life of a rover

From the Murrays green basin to the dusty outback

I waltzed my Matilda all over

Then in nineteen fifteen my country said Son

It’s time to stop rambling ’cause there’s work to be done

So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun

And they sent me away to the war

And the band played Waltzing Matilda

As we sailed away from the quay

And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers

We sailed off to Gallipoli
How well I remember that terrible day

How the blood stained the sand and the water

And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay

We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter

Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well

He chased us with bullets, he rained us with shells

And in five minutes flat he’d blown us all to hell

Nearly blew us right back to Australia

But the band played Waltzing Matilda

As we stopped to bury our slain

We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs

Then we started all over again
Now those that were left, well we tried to survive

In a mad world of blood, death and fire

And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive

But around me the corpses piled higher

Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over tit

And when I woke up in my hospital bed

And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead

Never knew there were worse things than dying

For no more I’ll go waltzing Matilda

All around the green bush far and near

For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs two legs

No more waltzing Matilda for me
So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed

And they shipped us back home to Australia

The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane

Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla

And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay

I looked at the place where my legs used to be

And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me

To grieve and to mourn and to pity

And the band played Waltzing Matilda

As they carried us down the gangway

But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared

Then turned all their faces away
And now every April I sit on my porch

And I watch the parade pass before me

And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march

Reliving old dreams of past glory

And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore

The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war

And the young people ask, “What are they marching for?”

And I ask myself the same question

And the band plays Waltzing Matilda

And the old men answer to the call

But year after year their numbers get fewer

Some day no one will march there at all
Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda

Who’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me

And their ghosts may be heard as you pass the Billabong

Who’ll come-a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Your Friday Clash Song: This Here Music Cause A Sensation …

Well, sure. “Revolution Rock,” from London Calling (1979) … because, you know, the competent, centrist Democrat who just got reelected is, according to conservatives everywhere, an America-hating Marxist Kenyan socialist anti-colonial revolutionary, who’s, of course, none of those things. But it’s an excuse to play a great song from a great LP:
Everybody smash up your seats and rock to this

Brand new beat

This here music mash up the nation

This here music cause a sensation

Tell your ma, tell your pa everything’s gonna be all right

Can’t you feel it? Don’t ignore it

Gonna be all-right …
Because I’m all about the revolution, here’s the original by Danny Ray and the Revolutionaries:

And while we’re at it, here’s a bonus track for our Republican friends who act like they hate America whenever elections don’t go their way:

“I’m So Bored With The U.S.A.,” originally on The Clash (1977) (along with “Train In Vain,” the last track on London Calling).
Up against the wall, motherf– oh, never mind.

Monday, November 5, 2012

“The Future Is Rarely A Tide Rushing In”

So said Bruce Springsteen, appearing today with Pres. Obama in Madison, Wisconsin, in a close race to determine the kind of world our kids grow up in.
Like Bruce, I’m a father of three kids who are more important to me than life itself. That’s not extraordinary; that’s just what it means to be a dad. And like Bruce, I’ve lived to see some fairly remarkable things in my life, not the least of which is the election of the country’s first African American president.
That’s something I wish my own father had lived to see. He came into this world in 1921, at a time when, even as the son of an immigrant who “spoke funny” (my dad’s words, not mine), a white man like my father had enormous, and unfair, advantages over virtually every other demographic in the American melting pot. My father knew that, just like I know, as his son, I’ve enjoyed certain obvious advantages. But my father also knew that a person’s job in life is to leave the world a little better than he found it; and so he did what he could to level the playing field, or, at least, to start the leveling process. I won’t belabor the point because I’ve written about it before, but my father was heavily involved in integrating our schools and our village here in the suburbs of Chicago; and, over the course of many, many years, the changes he and my mother and so many other local people worked hard to achieve gradually took hold.
I’d like to think that those changes on the local level were a small but not insignificant part of the broader civil rights movement in America, a movement which still hasn’t reached its ultimate goals but has, I think, moved the country considerably forward. And he was part of it.
But real changes don’t happen over night. They never have.
My father died in 1994 at the age of 72, with a Democrat in the White House but still fourteen years before the country would elect its first African American president, and that’s always made me sad. I wish he could have lived to see what the civil rights movement – including, in a way, the small part he played in it – eventually accomplished. Not that that work is done; not by a long shot. But he could have rested more easily if he knew this was possible.
Still, my father, were he alive today, would say there’s work yet to be done. And it starts right now.

In the words of Bruce Springsteen:
I’m here today because I’ve lived long enough to know that the future is rarely a tide rushing in. Its often a slow march, inch by inch, day after long day. We are in the midst of one of those long days right now. I believe that President Obama feels those long days in his bones for all 100 per cent of us. He will live those days with us.
President Obama ran last time as a man of hope and change. You hear a lot of talk about how things are different now. Things aren’t any different–they’re just realer. Its crunch time. The President’s job, our job–yours and mine– whether your Republican, Democrat, Independent, rich, poor, black, brown, white, gay, straight, soldier, civilian–is to keep that hope alive, to combat cynicism and apathy, and to believe in our power, to change our lives and the world we live in. So, lets go to work tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. Lets re-elect President Barack Obama to carry our standard forward towards the America that awaits us.
I think my father would approve that message.

“Land Of Hope And Dreams,” recorded live in Barcelona. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Your Friday Clash Song: Friday Or Saturday, What Does That Mean?

Since it’s been awhile, I was going to delve into Give ’Em Enough Rope (1979) for today’s selection … but then I stumbled across this gem: “48 Hours” from the original UK version of The Clash (1977). It’s the perfect weekend song:
Friday or Saturday, what does that mean

Short space of time, it needs a heavy scene
Monday is coming like a jail on wheels …
This video is great, too, because it shows them on tour pretty early in their career. Those whacky kids.
And speaking of the Clash on tour, here’s a live version of “48 Hours” recorded in September 1976 (when I was a freshman in high school – yikes!):

According to The Clash Wiki, “48 Hours” is “the shortest song in The Clash repertoire,” though not by much. At 1:36, it’s only about 18 seconds shorter than “Career Opportunities,” which appears on both the UK and the US editions of The Clash.
In any event, “48 Hours” clearly debunks the old adage that when it comes to good, fast, and cheap, you can only ever have two of the three. ’Cuz, you know, it’s all three.
“Monday is coming like a jail on wheels.” Yeah, it is.
So, what’re you gonna do? Turn. It. Up.
Yeah, that’s right. Happy Friday, everybody.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

From the Lolwut? Files: Romnesia Edition

1.            lolwut
Meaning “What?”, but usually said to mean comedic indifference to whatever was said. Also, if you don’t care what was being said. Useful if you are in a place you shouldn't be.
Prounounced as “lawl wut”, with no pause between words.
Person 1: Get out before I call the police
Person 2: lolwut?
2.            lolwut
Meaning: “What?” in a more comedic way.
The term could be used in several different ways.
Such as when you don’t understand something or when somebody says something extremely random.
Person 1: I had a seizure yesterday.
Person 2: lolwut?
On a day when two frequent critics of Pres. Obama – current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former New York City Mayor Ed Koch – set aside their differences with the president and endorsed him for reelection, our local NPR affiliate, WBEZ, ran this story:
[53-year-old Bridget] Kerans has been one of three undecided voters WBEZ has been following over the past few weeks, to document how they make their final decision about whom to vote for in the 2012 presidential race.
To recap: Kerans was the die-hard Hillary Clinton supporter from 2008 Democratic Parimary, who never got on board with President Barack Obama.
In 2012, she has been pretty gung-ho about Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul, a Libertarian icon. She recently emailed me a handmade poster she’d taped to her house, featuring a cartoon Paul dressed in a Superman outfit.

But during the recent presidential debates on TV, Kerans says she saw something in Republican Mitt Romney – something she hadn’t noticed before.

“I’m looking at the face, I’m looking at the eyes. I honest-to-God swear I can see him thinking,” she said as we met over coffee earlier this week. “The gears are going, you know? … And he really – the last time, he made me feel proud.”

Kearns says she was drawn in by Romney’s “Five Point Plan” to right the economy, which his campaign says would cut back on taxes, regulation and government spending.
Kerans says she’s counting on Romney’s business experience to help create jobs. And she’s also hoping he’ll make the GOP more moderate.
So, a fifty-three year old woman, a “die hard Hillary Clinton supporter” who “still remembers what it felt like to get laid off when her long-time job was outsourced a few years ago,” went from undecided to voting for Mitt Romney. Because he made her proud, or something.
Uh, yeah.
By the way, I have no problem with the Hillary love. Even as I cast my vote for Barack Obama in the 2008 Illinois primary, I assumed Hillary Clinton would be the party’s nominee and I planned to support her candidacy enthusiastically. If she’s the party nominee in 2016: Ditto.
Still, I’m having ha hard time seeing how Ms. Kerans could go from Hillary to undecided to Mittens supporter in a mere four years. Seriously – Mitt? Does she think he’ll know how to help people like her who’ve lost their jobs due to outsourcing? Maybe she should ask the soon-to-be former employees of Sensata Technologies what they think.
And did I mention she’s a she? As in, a  woman?
A woman who supported Hillary Clinton?!
And she thinks a Mitt Romney administration won’t erode women’s rights?
But the kicker is this:
“[S]he’s also hoping he’ll make the GOP more moderate.”
Hey, lady, as a famous guy named Tom Petty once said: You believe what you wanna believe …

This song, of course, has nothing whatsoever to with the topic, but I always think of it when somebody says something that utterly defies logic. Hey, man. You believe what you wanna believe. Whatev.
But seriously, Ms. Kerans. Maybe you should’ve stayed undecided.