April, 2003: 27 posts.
15 years ago I learned something critical and important about myself. It’s beyond the scope of this blog to talk specifics, but let’s simply say that I made some greivous mistakes in my youth, for which I have atoned. I will never forget these lessons, and the people who have helped me be a better person over the years.
The world is upended right now, and things are upended for me a bit at the moment, but this too shall pass, with determination, hard work, and some proper meditative calm.
Probably none of this makes sense, but that’s fine. I’m thinking too much about my audience for this blog and not about what what matters. What matters is that this is a space for me to bleed on the page. A place for me to work stuff out.
So hey. Time to do that.
I’m sick of the war. Not of the media coverage. The war. I’m displeased with the revealed vapidity of the press, which seems to think wars are quick, bloodless affairs, and are shocked, shocked to see that human beings are turned to mush by war. I’ve seen a fair number of broken, bloody bodies in my medical background, and warfare is the creation of carnage and destruction. And I don’t like it. This is not so much a political opinion I’m voicing here, just an observation that I feel sick in my heart when I look at news of almost any kind. For example, here’s the… Quote of The Day: An American Serviceman in Iraq
“When I go home, people will want to treat me like a hero, but I’m not,” he told the Times. “I’m a Christian man. If I have to kill the other guy, I will, but it doesn’t make me a hero. I just want to go home to my wife and kids.”
And it’s true, Americans are shocked that this is not a “cakewalk” – and yet this is what the populace says it wants, Saddam is a bad man, and he must be removed.
How many bad men run countries around the world? Are we going to deploy men and women to depose all of them?
As my Grandmother might say: It makes me want to spit!
And then I read articles like this: War-Gamed: Why the Army shouldn’t be so surprised by Saddam’s moves
In which we find that in the wargames that we have played for scenarios that are something like Iraq-Invasion ’03, the side playing the faux-Iraqis was chastised for playing his role too well.
And that makes me want to spit too. What in the hell are we doing by playing wargames against glass-jawed opponents? If you’re going to spar, you should spar with someone who’s going to challenge your skills. Stacking the deck, putting a finger on the scale — however you choose to describe it, it’s not a good thing to cheat the military of challenging opponents.
Because certainly the enemy faced in Iraq is a challenging opponent.
In terms of a conventional army, they’re not challenging. No.
But as far as irregular forces, which have the capacity to kill, to trick, to use subterfuge, car bombs, suicide attacks, they can certainly hurt Americans well enough to provide death to American servicemen. I weep this night for the dead men.
How much of this will our forces endure?
There are people going back into Iraq to fight: War against Iraq stirs Arab Pride:
In contrast to the knee-jerk expressions of support for Hussein that are often heard among Iraqis, he carefully avoided saying anything about the Iraqi president. His desire to return, it seemed, had little to do with Hussein and everything to do with loyalty to country.
“I am going back to defend the Iraqi people; to defend the old women of Iraq; the old men of Iraq; the land of Iraq,” said the 33-year-old Shiite. “Do you allow someone to enter your home and force you out of it. They have put up the American flag in Umm Qasr. This is not liberation. This is occupation.”
National pride, for a nation with a dictator? It’s difficult for my brain to process such thinking, and yet there it is.
Meanwhile, I think of the Pictures of the Day
Amazing images of the war. Images of war
I have so much yet to learn about myself and the world. I’m always learning new things about this world and what it takes to survive and be a healthy person. With some hard work I’ll keep getting better.
I’m up too late. Time to sleep.
- Interesting: Iraq-O-Meter
- This is a really fun read: Michael Larsen, Game Show Legend: The lesson? Paying attention can pay. It looks like the fellow’s life was rather sad though, but for a moment, he was on top of the world.
- Interesting theory about how Marvel Movies prop up Marvel Comics: The Marvel Movie Doomsday Theory
- Another good looking search engine software: ASPSeek: (from Andy/waxpancake)
- Useful service from the US Postal Service, looks economical too! NetPost Mailing Online
- Something from back in February that’s really funny, commentary on the Grammy’s: Jonesing for Norah
- Math is hard to teach. In college I did a fair amount of tutoring in math and physics, and I really wish teachers were able to better explain the relevance of math, this study shows a way – and is an indictment of teaching to “get answers” – math should not be about “getting answers” – it should be about asking good questions.
- My pal Kynn, with some laffs and press coverage: Fat Nerd Offers Non-Star Trek Related Opinion on Internet
- Hmmm A double standard on dissent
- A programming language I forgot about: Squeak
- Pre-register for the State of California Do-Not-Call Program
- Quote of the day: “The problem with communication is the assumption it has been accomplished.” – George Bernard Shaw
- Al Jazeera is an important phenomenon, and we (the US Government) should not be squelching it any more than we should squelch FoxNews. Read more about it in The Belly of the Beast
- SARS: The global spread continues from Asia TImes
- Really vicious, but pretty funny: 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers
- For world news, I want to look at worldnews.com more
I got some peculiar referers here on the blog, check these three recent entries:
From the IP address: 184.108.40.206
Looks like a joke or something. I wonder if anyone else is seeing these?
So what’s new with Joe? Lost in the aether? Lost in space? Lost in the public transit system of San Diego County somewhere?
Or maybe it’s D) NONE OF THE ABOVE
Things are pretty good, actually.
The non-sequitur-formatted update:
Yesterday I got a hug from my mother-in-law who was visiting from Miami
Yesterday I gave even more old photos and frames to my estranged wife
I’m glad we are still amicable
I still have not filed for divorce, but today I’m working on the papers
Procrastination is still a problem
Friday was a great day, my Grandma made me a carrot cake for my birthday
Friday I enjoyed fish and chips
I’m still enjoying the bus
I’m still not likely to get a bike
I have no room for a bike here, really
rudy and my aunt still think I should get a bike
I’m still seeing Leah
Leah is a great thing in my life
Work is good, still
There is more to tell in the work arena, but not in public
Saturday I played some great intense racquetball with an aunt and uncle
I’m behind in my reading
My roommate gave me an audiobook of The Tennis Partner some weeks ago, and I’m finally finishing it, and it is moving but depressing
Last week I bought some new pants, smaller than before
Still making progress on the size/weight front
I feel I’m in better health than I have been in perhaps 6 years
We went through the time change today, and I again wonder why we don’t simply leave things in Daylight Savings Time
The other night Leah and I did some sketching together, and it was really, calmly, quietly wonderful
Compared with last year at this time, I have 4 less teeth
Compared with last year, a higher percentage of my teeth are in good shape
I got a cell phone not long ago, and so far it’s been very useful
I’m loathe to give the number to lots of people though, as it is possible to abuse
Today my back aches, I think from the racquetball yesterday
I worry about the health of my roommate, and am still unsure of what I can possibly say or do to help, other to wish encouragement
For my birthday, Leah gave me a great stamp of my ArtLung logo, and today I have put it to good use in some paper correspondence
Today I’m organizing my backpack
Today my hair is uncombed
Today I am chilled out
Leah beat me 8 to 2 at Air Hockey.
I want a rematch!!!
Dropped 2 mailing lists today.
Too much email.
As in, I still get too much email — but now I’ll have less interminable nattering in my inbox.
Good discussion lists are civil places to be. I have no need for places of incivility and rudeness and pedantry. The world is that way, and I like my places to talk and socialize to not be so much like the world. If a private club is just like the whole world, what’s the point of the private club?
Today is Sassy’s Birthday
And I forgot my good friend and roommate, Erin’s birthday yesterday.
Maybe I need to save these dates somewhere so I don’t forget them?
So I got a rematch with Leah (she beat me 8-2 the other day) yesterday.
She beat me 7 to 3 instead.
Incidentally, few things are worse than the feeling of scoring on yourself in Air Hockey.
I only did that once though.
Ruthie will give you the silver key
To open the red door
Lay down your Jackson and you will see
The sweetness you’ve been cryin’ for
In the night you hide from the madman
You’re longing to be
But it all comes out on the inside
Knock twice, rap with your cane
Feels nice, you’re out of the rain
We got your skinny girl
Here at the Western World
Okay. So, taxes.
Taxes were the monkey on my back for several weeks. I intended to do them. I put them off. I opened the box where every receipt under the sun from 2002 lived. I pondered. I procrastinated. I worried.
I went on a road trip Sunday before last to buy TurboTax for Mac, which has been wondrous for me in getting taxes sorted out for 4 years. Of course, we went out at 7pm, and apparently every possible vendor of TurboTax for Mac in San Diego (Fry’s, Staples, The Apple Store) is closed at 7pm on a Sunday. Go figure.
So on my lunch hour I walked out to the local Office Depot and got it. It was a lovely day too. Sun shining. Downtown near the water can be really zesty. Office girls, businessmen, homeless all doing their respective lunch groove things. Tourists wandering near Santa Fe Depot. Traffic steady.
I brought TurboTax home. Loaded it up. Put in some raw figures.
It looked bad.
It looked horrendously bad.
It looked to me like I was going to owe $2400.
I wondered about extensions and payment options.
Maybe it’s time to go on the lam?
I considered leaving the country.
The expatriate thought is not an idle one.
As a credentialed and licensed Respiratory Care Practitioner, I sometimes get email like this, and just got this a few days ago:
I came across your details and wondered if you would be open for new opportunities in Saudi Arabia for a respiratory therapist position. I have a number of positions available with xxxxxxxxx on good contract terms.
Please let me know.
xxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxx
Phone: +xx (x) xxxx xxxxxx
Mobile: +xx (x) xxxx xxxxxx
Address: xx xxx xxxx xxxx xx xxx xxx
I have known several Docs, Nurses, RTs and such who have worked in Saudi Arabia and several other Arabian states. But it’s difficult to imagine me doing this. Still, my impression is the money is good, and one is treated well. But given the current instability of the “Middle East” (you know it’s actually a bit offensive to call it that, right? “Middle East” implies that we are in the center of things, and all others – Far East, Middle East, are simply “The Other” with regards to us).
Anyway, given my financial situation (could be much better, but always incrementally improving lately, albeit slowly), I considered for more than the usual half-a-second.
Why not take the gig? I don’t have encumbrances. I am a free agent. If I could invest time in something which would be of short duration (typically contracts are six months to a year I believe) and lucrative, why not do it? It would be a tactical, short duration, Machiavellian move designed to make bank, and grab some stories in the meantime. Live and blogging from Riyadh! It’s Joe “ArtLung” Crawford, Boy Respiratory Therapist, Follow his Daring Misadventures as he sucks snot and journals on life, love and cardiopulmonary ailments from the exotic climes of Saudi Arabia!
So I half-seriously pondered it for a few days.
Then I picked up the current issue of The Atlantic, paper magazine. I read the article “The Fall of the House of Saud” and I was stunned.
Wow. Pick it up.
Saudi Arabia is a mess. And we rely on them. They apparently have a trillion bucks in our banks. They have a messed up royal family. They are repressive. They are not cool. They have so many oil people, congressmen, pr people, Washingtonians, Texans, and the like in their pockets it’s not even funny. Colin Powell used to be the racquetball buddy of Prince Bandar. Prince Bandar used to come by the Kennebunkport compound of the bushes so often his nickname was “Bandar Bush.” And the intelligence agencies of our fair nation are not allowed to question Saudi Arabian nationals in their nation to, you know, investigate that 9/11 thing that we were so upset about a few years ago.
But enough about the geopolitical ramifications of US dependence on Saudi Arabian oil.
Back to my taxes.
So I went to family dinner the other night (lots of my relations meet and talk and stuff). I relayed my worries. My aunt, the certified financial planner and accountant, was not there, but I passed along my worries.
On Saturday she and I played racquetball. (Good games!) She also asked about taxes, and made suggestions for how to go about it – home office, new computer depreciation. Utilities. Mileage. I filed this all in my brain. Still procrastinating. But maybe a little hopeful.
So Monday, April 14th. I finally buckled down and did the do. Leah helped me go through the scary office box of papers. We went through receipts, bank statements, notes, invoices, EVERYTHING.
TurboTax keeps this running tally. I put in new items. I owed $1600. Hey — hope!
Eventually, several hours later, it was done. But my Aunt had wanted to review it, and I had told her I would bring it by on Monday night. It was now 1:30am. It’s been raining here in San Diego, so I ziploc’d up my California and State of California returns, and Leah took me to my Aunt’s and I dropped it on her windshield.
I hit my Aunt with an email.
When I awoke, there was a new email from my Aunt… I was hoping I hadn’t done anything to get me sent to jail, that I had not misunderstood my friendly tax software.
Looks okay- oh, wait what are the utilities on line 25, Schedule C-phone I hope. Your other utilities sb listed on office in home section.
And the final tally?
I owed The IRS $399. I owed California $165.
And I don’t have to go to Saudi Arabia.
Okay, maybe I was never going to go to Saudi Arabia, probably. But still, it’s more dramatic to think in these kind of terms.
That’ll do, Pig.
So I’m back. Been busy. Hrm. Belated Happy Easter and Passover to you All. Catching up on email now.
The Negro Problem: The Teardrop Explodes
Lyle Lovett: Skinny Legs
The Negro Problem: Lime Green Sweater
Electronic: Getting Away With It
So I just got a hit from a yahoo search for “saudi arabia girls xxx”. This is amusing, yes, I mentioned Saudi Arabia the other day, and blocked out a recruiter’s info with xxx’s. And yes, I mentioned girls.
Alas, this site is not likely to satisfy the desires of someone who is looking for saudi arabia girls xxx.
Search engines are bad at “understanding” but they sure do find search terms well.
How else do people reach this site? Check this.
Time For a Link Dump!
- Information on the recent lawsuits filed by the RIAA against four college students for contributory and direct copyright infringement seeking damages of up to $97,800,000,000.
- An analysis of the RIAA’s complaint against Dan Peng
- OBVIOUSLY, I AM A NIGERIAN AND NOT A FRENCH IN ALL RAMIFICATION. AND I HAVE NO BUSINESS IN RELATION TO FRENCH,JUST THAT A FRIEND OF MINE TOLD ME ABOUT THEIR INTERNET SERVICES OF WHICH I HAD TO GIVE A TRIAL TO TEST THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THEIR INTERNET SERVICES. SO, IT MIGHT INTEREST YOU THE MORE THAT THIS TRANSACTION HAS GOT NOTHING TO DO WITH FRENCH ALLIANCES.
- Web Design Meetup from March (that’s me)
- Great quote: “Sir my concern is not whether God is on our side. My great concern is to be on God’s side.” – Abraham Lincoln
- Good story on the Administrations Intentions in the Iraq Region: Practice to Deceive: Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks’ nightmare scenario–it’s their plan
- Java IDE worth looking at, by IBM, open source: Eclipse
- Meet Stew, the best songwriter in America, and his Negro Problem
- Crypto-Gram, from April, great as usual
- Java Naming Conventions
- Send a drawing to a friend – nifty application of Flash and databases (Imagination at Work!)
- Better Airline Safety Is in the Bag: Matching checked luggage to actual passengers is required everywhere but in the U.S. Why is the TSA so stubbornly resisting?
- Copy protected CDs: artists can be the losers
- Lawsuit accuses LAPD officer of selling celebrity data Comment: abusing information is not anything new – when the government collects information – cops will look, and often, there are abuses – think about this when you agree to new surveillance powers and imformation keeping by the US government
- Digging through data for omens: The government begins sifting databases to find clues to terrorism in the making
- Rare Neal Stephenson speech on May 1: On May 1 at 1:30 Pacific Daylight Time, Neal Stephenson will deliver a live lecture at CMU in
- Pittsburgh that will be simultaneously webcast.
- Why I’m Not A Writer by Philip Greenspun
- The Reason Why by George McGovern – worth a read:
Following the 9/11 tragedy at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the entire world was united in sympathy and support for America. But thanks to the arrogant unilateralism, the bullying and the clumsy, unimaginative diplomacy of Washington, Bush converted a world of support into a world united against us, with the exception of Tony Blair and one or two others. My fellow South Dakotan, Tom Daschle, the US Senate Democratic leader, has well described the collapse of American diplomacy during the Bush Administration. For this he has been savaged by the Bush propaganda machine. For their part, the House of Representatives has censured the French by changing the name of french fries on the house dining room menu to freedom fries. Does this mean our almost sacred Statue of Liberty–a gift from France–will now have to be demolished? And will we have to give up the French kiss? What a cruel blow to romance.
During his presidential campaign Bush cried, “I’m a uniter, not a divider.” As one critic put it, “He’s got that right. He’s united the entire world against him.” In his brusque, go-it-alone approach to Congress, the UN and countless nations big and small, Bush seemed to be saying, “Go with us if you will, but we’re going to war with a small desert kingdom that has done us no harm, whether you like it or not.” This is a good line for the macho business. But it flies in the face of Jefferson’s phrase, “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” As I have watched America’s moral and political standing in the world fade as the globe’s inhabitants view the senseless and immoral bombing of ancient, historic Baghdad, I think often of another Jefferson observation during an earlier bad time in the nation’s history: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.”
- Squeak – interesting programming environment
- War coverage with personal touch emerges about blogging
- “The problem with communication is the assumption it has been accomplished.” – George Bernard Shaw.
- 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers
- The Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett looks to be a good book (via Kottke)
- Piles (something possibly for OS X) via Sassy
- How the Mosaic browser triggered a digital revolution
- Christina Aguilera, in a horrible pink dress
- Christina Aguilera as a brunette! (beware the popups and spyware installers!)
- Philip Greenspun has a blog! (remind me to add to my sidebar)
- Bob Sturm has a blog! (remind me to add to my sidebar)
- US Marine Slang
- Mailing And Posting Etiquette (remind me to add this to Administrativa
- Wirelessly Networking (AirPort, Wi-Fi, 802.11b, WLAN) a PowerBook 5300, 1400, 2400, 3400, or G3 With Mac OS 7.5 through 9.2: Step By Step
- New The Hulk Trailer I can’t decide whether I like it or it looks cheesy
- Designer in Action: Pixel Fonts
- Open Source Font from Bitstream: Vera
- SARS: Panic or plague? Misinformation spreads even faster than the virus itself
- Do you trust Microsoft? Three-fourths of software security experts at major companies do not believe Microsoft’s products are secure, according to a new survey from Forrester Research
- Motley Fool on Apple/Vivendi Universal Music Group – posting that it would be great for both companies, and more, great for consumers (that’s us)
- Temecula Charity Turns Away Free Food because it’s from a French Company STUPID STUPID STUPID
- SPEAKING OF.. Deborah Wolfe, a Canadian citizen who was just breast-feeding her son and changing his diaper while en route between Houston and Vancouver, says her “subversive” actions led to her being threatened with detainment, RCMP (Royal Canadian Mountain Police) involvement and legal charges for terrorist action against a U.S. citizen in international airspace while on an American flight during a time of war: Breast-feeding in a time of war
- So who really did save Private Jessica?
- A recent Washington Post article describing the killing of civilians by U.S. soldiers at a checkpoint outside the Iraqi town of Najaf proved that “embedded” journalists do have the ability to report on war in all its horror. But the rejection by some U.S. outlets of Post correspondent William Branigin’s eyewitness account in favor of the Pentagon’s sanitized version suggests that some journalists prefer not to report the harsh reality of war. See Official Story Vs. Eyewitness Account: On Najaf killings, some outlets seem to prefer the sanitized version
Easter was pretty good. I spent most of the weekend with Leah and her kids. Leah and I went to a little park in San Marcos and chilled out. It was great, and I even kicked some hacky sack with her two middle kids. The day was beautiful.
I had planned to borrow a truck for the weekend from a good friend of mine, but was dismayed to note, a bit too late in the process, that said truck was not an automatic transmission.
I think, perhaps, under duress I could summon my powers of driving technique and drive a straight transmission, but my confidence level is low. I’ve always hoped for a “straight transmission simulator” I could use to grow my confidence level. Alas, the practice I’ve had driving stick has been minimal.
So, no car.
So Easter morning, which was sprinkled with lovely Easter Bunny hats courtesy Leah and Me) and a lovely breakfast. Leah and her kids went to Easter services and I got on a bus, bound south for Crawford Holiday Activities. It took a while, but eventually I got far enough south that my Aunt was easily able to pick me up.
On the way I got some strange news about a mutual acquaintance, about which I really can’t say anything here, but suffice to say that fidelity and loyalty abused is a terrible thing. I feel for those who have been made to play the cuckold.
I played ping pong with various cousins, kids, my uncle — very good time, and I was able to not embarrass myself too badly with poor play. I’m surprisingly proud of my performance. I also threw a nerf football around with my cuz (he’s 15) whose form with a football is an order of magnitude better than mine (he plays both football and baseball) … his exhortations to “throw it like a tomahawk” were well intended, but no closer to my frame of reference than “throw it like a football.” Continuing the theme of game-play, we played a game called Phase 10, a card game with Uno like cards and rules like a mush of Yahtzee and Rummy. That seems rather promising.
I had also played “poker” with Leah and her kids on Friday night – and enjoyed it much, though it was poker modulated by rules to make it more “fun.”
This is I think poker is only poker when there are real stakes (e.g.: things of value, usually money), otherwise the game really doesn’t have the necessary impetus to work. I believe it was in a David Mamet essay where I read that poker is not a game of chance, or a simple card game, it’s a game specifically about playing against the wills of other human beings. Bluffs and raises are not inherent in games of skill or chance, they are about human manipulation.
This entry is unfinished, and will remain so.
- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom by Thomas Jefferson
- Are You a Geek? Help Dennis W make Robot Radio Happen. Read all about it!
- Some Cheesecake: Marilyn Monroe on Retrocrush
- TypePad – hosted MovableType
- Compare and Contrast: Phil Greenspun: Isreal and Adib F. Farha: An Arab Assessment of US Policy in the Middle East”, – the Greenspun article particularly made me think about hatred, hatred of Jews, and the charters of several Arab groups, which include language decrying the state of Isreal’s existence, and specifically call for armed, guerilla activity. That one really made me think.
- Independents’ day: What record industry slump? Independent labels say business has never been better
- Listening In: Are the glory days of electronic spying over — or just beginning?
- I agree with this review of Anger Management by Roger Ebert — Leah and I saw it and were very disappointed by what could have been
- I mentioned it before, but The Atlantic’s article “The Fall of the House of Saud” really should be required reading for Americans interested in US Middle East Policy
I like being able to read on the bus. I’m currently reading John Kennedy Poole’s A Confederacy of Dunces – very funny so far. I also occasionally print out longer articles and read them. This is a very cool aspect of public transport. I defy you to read current news in your car. Hee.
Then again, one listens to more radio in a car than on a bus. I suppose I could get a walkman though.
No dazzling insights today. Gotta head to work.
Tim Swanson has some interesting thoughts on MT‘s EULA (End User License Agreement). I always wondered about that. It’s one of the reasons I’ve avoided MT, frankly. I would prefer more control over software. And if you intended to make money with MT, you would be going outside the typical use. Does that include tips, as in paypal or Amazon tips? Many questions.
How the heck does Bruce Sterling find such interesting takes on topics? Oh, yeah, he’s educated and awake to the world. I love that guy. Here’s a quote.
China has openly declared its desire to colonize the moon. The world’s most populous nation is unlikely to build lunar settlements, but that’s not the point. China’s motive lies not in constructing a lunar Hong Kong, but rather in luring India into a loud public competition. Later this year, if all goes as planned, China will become the third country to send a citizen into space. An orbiting taikonaut will be even more impressive if American shuttles are stuck in their hangars while the misnamed International Space Station limps along with a skeleton crew.
As Russia once did, China has a strong technical advantage. It already owns a chunk of the commercial space-launch business. But India has a decent shot at victory as well. It doesn’t have China’s manufacturing know-how, but it’s rapidly becoming the world’s software back office.
Who will become top dog in South Asia? That’s an open question, and there aren’t many good ways to answer short of a useless massacre. A space race offers a good solution. It’s a symbolic tournament that tests competing political and economic systems to their limit.
A decade after the end of the Cold War, good old-fashioned space programs still matter. Not for exploration’s sake, but to settle new cold wars. If you doubt it, imagine this scenario: It’s 2029, and a lunar mission lands at Tranquillity Base. A crew of heroic young Indians – or Chinese – quietly folds and puts away America’s 60-year-old flag. If the world saw that on television, wouldn’t the gesture be worth tens of billions of rupees or yuan? Of course it would.
Revisiting Tranquility Base would be something else.
Today I’m enjoying Randy Newman. I can’t exactly remember when I first picked up the Randy Newman box set, but I believe it was right after Jennifer left me. I’ve been listening to Newman for a year or so now, and I believe him to be a genius.
I distinctly remember asking fellow coworkers and friends whether I should get obsessed with Randy Newman or Warren Zevon. In the end I decided on Newman.
Here’s a citation from last June, where I quote Bleeding all over the place – a lament for a lover or wife who has cheated and left. So we know at the very least I started in June 2002.
In that time I’ve come to really appreciate Newman. His voice astonishes. He’s an artist who can ably sing songs sung by truly odious characters. One of his best songs, Sail Away is a song sung to a would-be slave about how great America is:
Ain’t no lions or tigers, ain’t no mamba snake
Just the sweet watermelon and the buckwheat cake
Ev’rybody is as happy as a man can be
Climb aboard, little wog, sail away with me
We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay
Sail away-sail away
We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay
He’s also astonishingly funny. Political Science is in the voice of the put-upon USA, deciding the best thing is just to be done with it and bomb everybody:
Asia’s crowded and Europe’s too old
Africa is far too hot
And Canada’s too cold
And South America stole our name
Let’s drop the big one
There’ll be no one left to blame us
We’ll save Australia
Don’t wanna hurt no kangaroo
We’ll build an All American amusement park there
They got surfin’, too
In addition to pithy, smartass lyrics, the man is a real musician, well, at least he composes in the format where most people hear classical music — the movies! He’s done scores for The Natural, Ragtime, Parenthood, and many others. Check out his imdb page – James and the Giant Peach, Toy Story, wow! Even I hadn’t any idea he was involved with so many films.
So now you’re skeptical. You’re thinking, “isn’t this the same guy who wrote ‘I will go sailing no more’ and ‘Short People’ and ‘I love L.A.’ — this guy’s nothing but a novelty-song writer!
I respectfully disagree. Songs like Dixie Flyer, God’s Song, Real Emotional Girl show an artist who can tap into subjects and depth. I do think his best work is in a voice that’s peculiar. He inhabits these characters and shows a bit of their humanity, as well as their faults. He’s fearless in that way, unafraid to include racial epithets and the rawest slang to make his characters come alive. His work is really challenging, and makes me uncomfortable often. I certainly would not want my headphones to come out at work and have to explain why I have a song with these lyrics playing:
We’re rednecks, rednecks
And we don’t know our ass from a hole in the ground
We’re rednecks, we’re rednecks
And we’re keeping the niggers down
That’s from Rednecks. And yes, it’s quite a shocking song. It was released in 1974, 30 years ago. The song of course talks about a bald-faced racism of some Southerners, but also points out that the North is not much better, blacks are free, but only to a point:
Yes he’s free to be put in a cage
In Harlem in New York City
And he’s free to be put in a cage in the South-Side of Chicago
And the West-Side
And he’s free to be put in a cage in Hough in Cleveland
And he’s free to be put in a cage in East St. Louis
And he’s free to be put in a cage in Fillmore in San Francisco
And he’s free to be put in a cage in Roxbury in Boston
They’re gatherin’ ’em up from miles around
Keepin’ the niggers down
I really like the way that Newman seems to be trying to get us to have a laugh at the ignorance of these fools “Hustlin’ ’round Atlanta in their alligator shoes” – then switches it around on the listener, as if to say, “Oh, you think you’re enlightened do you? Well here’s your own treatment of your fellow man, jack”
The thing is, it’s not a protest song, and how could it be. With a chorus that includes the “N” word, it’s hardly radio-friendly. It’s the voice of an artist with a unique and ambiguous point of view. He simply paints portraits of the world as he sees it, and lets the cards fall where they may. How about another song, another pleasant sounding ballad/lament: I want you to hurt like I do, which includes a sad truth about how so often we wish ill on others, perhaps not because we are bad, but because often we ourselves are not happy:
If I had one wish
One dream I knew would come true
I’d want to speak to all the people of the world
I’d get up there, I’d get up there on that platform
First I’d sing a song or two you know I would
Then I’ll tell you what I’d do
I’d talk to the people and I’d say
“It’s a rough rough world, it’s a tough tough world
Well, you know
And things don’t always, things don’t always go the way we plan
But there’s one thing, one thing we all have in common
And it’s something everyone can understand
All over the world sing along
I just want you to hurt like I do
I just want you to hurt like I do
I just want you to hurt like I do
Honest I do, honest I do, honest I do”
And on the other end of the spectrum, here’s a song called “Laugh and Be Happy”
laugh and be happy
don’t you ever wear a frown
don’t let the bastards grind you down
laugh and be happy
it’s a simple thing to do
believe in your dreams and
your dreams will come through for you
Which contains such a great section I have to include it:
now the country that we’re living in
you mean the good old usa?
has never been about keeping you out
it’s about inviting you in and letting you pay
so laugh and be happy
don’t you ever wear a frown
get back up on your feet whenever they knock you down
And that’s I guess the great thing about being a fan of artists with careers of a great length. There’s a richness about having had a great deal of time to live life and make songs. Frank Zappa is an obvious parallel artist for me, having had a 30 year career as well. Newman is still alive and producing records, too.
If this has piqued your interest in Randy Newman, I encourage you to check out the The Randy Newman Homepage, which has an extensive biography, including more information about the controversies surrounding some of Newman’s songs.
Have a magnificent Monday!
– The Coaster driver this morning:
There may be something about driving a train, or riding in trains that makes one want to make affirmations and be philosophical. Blogging does that too maybe. So, like, do have a magnificent Monday.
Saturday is Free Comic Book Day
And Leah and I saw the film Raising Victor Vargas the other day, for free. It’s a little foulmouthed, but altogether the message is really cool. It’s about a kid, and his brother and sister and the Grandmother who raised him, growing up in the city. Worth a visit if you like small, funny, bawdy, independent movies.
Tomorrow I’m getting a root canal.
Wish me luck.
And next week?
Another root canal!
My life’s so exciting!