06.23.16

Pasadena Elvis Presley Film Festival: The Trouble With Girls

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:18 pm by George Smith

It’s 1969 and Elvis has already taped his comeback special. After years of inexplicable and/or inexcusable dog crap — “Speedway,” “Clambake,” “It Happened at the World’s Fair,” “Kissin’ Cousins,” to name some — he knows it will restore his image. So The Trouble With Girls, a disjointed farce, features Elvis with confidence restored, a perpetual smile plastered across his face.

As Walter Hale, manager of a Chautauqua (think traveling omnibus show with quack lecturers, actors, musicians and supervisors ready to host a local talent show wherever the traveling group arrives), Elvis wears a white suit, smokes a cigar and jovially tries to keep his favorite dancer and piano player, Marlyn Mason, from quitting over management’s opposition to unionization.

The cast is all-star. Dabney Coleman is a sleazy town pharmacist. He sells illegal fireworks to two children to get the goods off his hands and sexually harasses his assistant, Sheree North. John Carradine and Vincent Price play Chatauqua lecturers, the latter who goes on endlessly about morality after gypping a cab-driver. Joyce van Patten has a bit part as an unbalanced long-distance swimmer brought along to tell the landlocked residents of Radford Center the finer points of crossing the English Channel.

In fact, there are two cases of sexual harassment hiding in The Trouble With Girls, one with Elvis’ on his piano player, and the second with Coleman preying on his assistant (North) which eventually results in her killing him in self-defense.

The latter is used as a comedic climax in which the Chautauqua troop tries to sober up a very intoxicated and distraught North so she can confess to a big crowd from the town. Depending on your mood, The Trouble With Girls is either awkward and occasionally tasteless, or mildly amusing. The internet informs it was paired as a double matinee paired with a Raquel Welch film. That would have made a long afternoon.

Presley looks like he’s having a good time through it all, though, and the music, which was only a few songs worth, doesn’t add or substract.


Previously, in the Pasadena Elvis Presley Film Festival.

06.22.16

A New Renaissance is here: Sad, very sad, if you don’t see it

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Rock 'n' Roll at 5:27 pm by George Smith

While things pretty much suck here and there’s no shortage of people living out of cars on the street, Tom Friedman, alarmed at the rise of Donald Trump, declares that we’re actually in a New Renaissance.

And after checking his stack of recent book press releases sent by wise people who want publicity, he’s found an expert to say so, Ian Goldin, director of the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University.

Consulting by e-mail, readers are told:

“Now, like then, new media have democratized information exchange, amplifying the voices of those who feel they have been injured in the upheaval,” said Goldin. “Now, like then, public leaders and public institutions have failed to keep up with rapid change, and popular trust has been deeply eroded.” Now, like then, “this is the best moment in history to be alive” — human health, literacy, aggregate wealth and education are flourishing — and “there are more scientists alive today than in all previous generations … as in the Renaissance, key anchors in people’s lives — like the workplace and community — are being fundamentally dislocated. The pace of technological change is outstripping the average person’s ability to adapt. Now, like then, said Goldin, “sizable parts of the population found their skills were no longer needed, or they lived in places left behind, so inequality grew.”

The answer to all the turmoil is, of course, found by consulting the Internet’s Box of Crackerjack tech-spertise: “More risk-taking is required when things change more rapidly, both for workers who have to change jobs and for businesses who have to constantly innovate to stay ahead.”

They’d probably tar and feather the guy in Pennsylvania. Not necessarily a bad thing.

Check the appropriate song. You’ve heard it before, “China Toilet Blues, still timely, with me channeling Captain Beefheart, somewhere between Trout Mask Replica and Bongo Fury.

Downloadable for your device, just go to the site. Tell your friends. Share. Make me happy for a minute.

Exit, Stage Right

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Extremism at 1:17 pm by George Smith

Having just read “Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class” by Owen Jones, I’d expect the Brexit vote to break along class and perceived class lines. Older, northern England, shafted by the Tories and New Labour for exit. Everyone else for staying.

Many exceptions, too, like this rationalization, part of old vs. young in a piece yesterday from the New York Times, plus worries about a plunging economy:

“Louise said she understood the pressures that immigration placed on schools and hospitals. But leaving the European Union worried her, she said, because it risked wrecking the economy and making it hard for young people to secure employment. It took her eight months to find work as a barista, she said.”

This is all through “Chavs,” the updated edition which I have, dating from 2012.

As in the US, government policies, in the UK, starting with Thatcher, made the British economy lethal for millions of its workers. “Chavs” explains the result in terms of the UK not being able to generate sufficient jobs, period. Those that exist pay very poorly.

If it takes eight months to find work as a barista, it seems to me the underlying problem of simply finding even subsistence work is so severe that it won’t be affected by either staying or leaving.

And the argument left out of the anecdotaly New York Times piece, which I did not know, is that a number of Tories vigorously support Brexit because a vote for leaving the E.U. will allow them to apply even more pressure to the working class.

A columnist describes it at the Guardian:

“But, all over Britain, people have fallen for the scam. In the Brexit referendum, we’ve seen what happens when working-class culture gets hijacked – and when the party that is supposed to be defending working people just cannot find the language or the offer to separate a fake revolt from a real one. In many working-class communities, people are getting ready to vote leave not just as a way of telling the neoliberal elite to get stuffed. They also want to discomfort the metropolitan, liberal, university-educated salariat for good measure…

“I want to have one last go at convincing you that leaving now, under these conditions, would be a disaster. First, let’s recognise the problem. For people in the working classes, wages are at rock bottom. Their employers treat them like dirt. Their high streets are lined with empty shops. Their grownup kids cannot afford to buy a home. Class sizes at school are too high. NHS waiting times are too long …

“But a Brexit led by Ukip and the Tory right will not make any of these things better: it will make them worse. Take a look at the people leading the Brexit movement. Nigel Farage, Neil Hamilton, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove. They have fought all their lives for one objective: to give more power to employers and less to workers. Many leading Brexiters are on record as wanting to privatise the NHS. They revelled in the destruction of the working-class communities and cultures capable of staging real revolt.”

Achingly familiar, is it not?

From Democracy Now, where Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez interviewed Thomas Frank, author of Listen, Liberal:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Thomas Frank, to get to Donald Trump, as well, and his appeal, obviously he has focused a lot of his attention on these trade deals, on NAFTA and the Pacific trade partnership. What about the appeal of Trump to working-class voters? Is that real or not, from what you can tell?

THOMAS FRANK: Well, it’s real, but it’s—I mean, it’s shrinking fast. I mean, this guy is—this guy is a gold-plated buffoon, you know? What we have to—what we have to consider here with Donald Trump is we have to understand that what’s happening with Donald Trump, this is not—you know, there’s all sorts of different ways of describing it, but what we’re really seeing here is a reaction to—I mean, you know, to inequality. This is what it looks like when vast parts of America are—you know, when the economy has basically dried up and blown away. You know, this is what deindustrialization—at the end of the day, this is what it looks like, when, you know, Democrats go around celebrating this wonderful new information economy that we’re in. And by the way, they’re doing it today on The New York Times op-ed page; they do it all the time. They celebrate that. And the other side of the coin is that, you know, the middle class is shrinking. Wages never go anywhere. You know, the percentage of the gross national product that is—that goes to labor these days is the lowest it has ever been since World War II. You know, look, for a lot of people, the promise of American life is over. It’s gone.

And this is only going to get worse under a Hillary Clinton presidency. And, well, it would get much, much worse under a Donald Trump presidency. But what I’m getting at here is that this phenomenon, inequality, is going to get worse. All the problems that we’re looking at today, our economic problems, are going to—are going to get worse. And four years from now, you’re going to have another Trump.

Owen Jones, at the end of Chavs, writes (remember, this is 2012):

It would be tempting to make all sorts of doom-laden, apocalyptic predictions about what will happen if such a [global labor movement] fails to get off the ground, and warn darkly of riots and revolutions. The reality is just downright depressing. The working class will remain weak and voice-less. They will still be the butt of jokes at middle-class dinner parties, detested in angry right-wing newspaper columns, and ridiculed in TV sitcoms. Entire communities will remain without secure, well-paid work, and the people that comprise them will continue to be demonized for it. Living standards will go on stagnating and declining, even while the richest rake it in like never before. Ever fewer working-class people will bother to vote. Right-wing populism will tap into growing disillusionment and fury at the manner in which working-class people have become so despised. Mainstream politicians will continue to focus their energies on satisfying the demands of a small, wealthy elite, while growing ever more indifferent to the needs of an increasingly apathetic working class…

At its heart, the demonization of the working class is the flagrant triumphal ism of the rich who, no longer challenged by those below them, instead point and laugh at them.

Join any conversation with members of the Democratic Party and nine times out of ten, right now you’ll hear the same mockery and total dismissal of those supporting Donald Trump.

Much of the HRC campaign will be devoted to eye-rolling at the demagogue and his followers. The message, plain as the nose on your face: Look how pathetic and unfit for anything they are.

06.20.16

The living legend, Haystacks Balloon & the Near-Sighted Lemon Bud Wilkinson Band

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:38 pm by George Smith

In which I return to Nightclubbing reviewing, if it were still done today.

The joint: IPA Blues. The audience: Fifty people over sixty, enthusiastic for classic stuff and authenticity. The act: Haystacks Balloon & the Near-Sighted Lemon Bud Wilkinson Band, seen here performing “Baby Baby Baby Baby Baby” from their 2015 album, Prescription Nitroglycerin.

Although it looks like Haystacks has an oxygen tube in his mouth, don’t worry, it’s just the blues harmonica line.

In another number, Haystacks and his band sang about revolution. “Don’t look at us to bring it” seemed to be the message.

Finally, Mr. Balloon played “Got the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Blues” from 2016’s Fell Down, Sorry. The Lemon Bud Wilkinson Band, on life support, was right behind him every step of the way.

Otium, acriter!


If you’re confused, this is Steve Earle and the Dukes, from a 2015 tour.

06.19.16

There’s nothing fierce about his little rocket

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 1:41 pm by George Smith

Jeff Bezos thinks he’s going to help move the human race’s production machinery into space. Look up his most recent grandiose claims and find some rubbish on how the earth will be zoned “residential and light industrial.”

Where people who aren’t Bezos wealthy or his assistants, the future Mechanical Turkers of the world will live and eat isn’t a problem he’s interested in.

The good news is Bezos is no more capable of his prediction than Google/Alphabet/Calico will be at making old age optional.

From some blowjob news on Blue Origin’s latest launch of the New Shepard:

“Watching a rocket launch (and rocket landing!) might add a little extra fun w/ kids on Father’s Day,” Bezos tweeted before the flight. After landing, he credited the successful test to “careful engineering” plus his “lucky” cowboy boots, which feature the Latin motto: “Gradatim Ferociter.” Translation: “step by step, fiercely.”

It’s a great motto, something to remember to say to passersby, like, when walking to the grocery store.

Bezos’ New Shepard capsule: Six pack (and if you look at close-up pictures, you’ll doubt even that) “spam in a can,” as The Right Stuff put it. Bezos isn’t Mission Control. He’s not even Wernher von Braun although he believes in pay scales like that at Peenemunde.

Give Elon Musk more points. Decades after the fact he’s at least made a booster rocket that almost rivals the Saturn V.

Renibus palides, paulatim.*


*See, I can do it, too.

06.16.16

What I learned about myself

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Shoeshine, WhiteManistan at 1:46 pm by George Smith

Hillary Clinton is the choice. It’s over and that’s it.

However, from the primary season’s Dale Carnegie course, How to Make Friends and Influence People, I learned much about myself.

I learned from Nick Kristof at the Times that if you supported Sanders and plan to vote Trump in protest you “have bipolar disorder.”

Earlier in the week, Paul Krugman categorized Sanders supporters. A few of the names: Naderites, refuseniks, Clinton Derangement Syndrome sufferers, and angry white guys, somewhat like the army of angry white guys now admiring Trump.

Add to that: morons (or equivalent, a couple 100 times), misogynists, cranks, magical thinkers, and Bernie Bros — or people who troll women on the internet.

And, courtesy of the NYT: guys who are going through psychological “reactance,” which is to say guys — white — who act defiantly and do the opposite when told to do something by a perceived authority figure, their mother, a woman, a teacher etc. Which equates to a fancy way of saying misogynist angry white guys and stupid ones, too.

Today, the NYT sent Thomas Edsall to Pottstown, PA, due south of my old Pennsyltucky home.

Pennsylvania, most of that part of the state I’m familiar with, has been part of what I’ve referred to as the 40 year slump.

“On one hand, Trump has a base of intense, even fanatical, support in much of rural and small town Pennsylvania …” writes Edsall.

There is a paradox. Pennsylvania was enthusiastically for Bill Clinton. That enthusiasm has not worn off. However, Hillary Clinton is a different story. While she has the overwhelming support of Pennsy women, she’s shunned by men.

Both Democratic and Republican administrations have never done anything for Pennsylvania. It’s old working class was destroyed by American policy and free trade, which the Washington Monthy notes, is now dead at the civiian level.

The same issue of the magazine gives Thomas Frank’s Listen, Liberal, a big thumbs down. I would have expected that. But I am a fan.

Writes Jonathan Alter, for the monthy, at the end of the book’s review:

This book perfectly captures the mind-set of Sanders voters. Is it also a harbinger of their unwillingness to suck it up and vote for the wife of the main villain of the piece? Let’s hope Frank is willing to set aside his bile long enough to use his credibility on the left to face the hard realities of politics and help protect us from a cruel fate this fall.

Another extended insult and a recommendation to suck it up.

06.15.16

Get a good education, yeah right

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 1:52 pm by George Smith

About a month ago the New York Times ran a bit on the utility of a Ph.D. in the hard sciences.

Excerpt:

“In a study published Thursday in Science magazine, researchers tried to figure out why so many Ph.D. students choose to do post-docs given the relatively low odds of landing a full-time faculty position, which is traditionally the end goal of such work.”

This was true twenty five years ago. After my Ph.D. at Lehigh I did a post-doc at the Penn State School of Medicine in Hershey for three years and bailed. It had become obvious the “academies” were generating a glut of scientists, paricularly if you spent any time reading the want ads in, well, Science and/or Chemical & Engineering News magazines.

This harsh truth was and is in sharp contrast to the common belief, one carried by the media about once a week, that the country has a serious shortage of “STEM” workers. STEM being the stupid acronym/jargon for scientists, engineers and mathematicians.

There’s no shortage. Never has been.

Part of the push into post-docing was done by established science faculty at research schools. It wasn’t just the choice of recent doctorates.

Tenured research faculty liked the cheap labor. You could qualify for foodstamps on a post-doc wage although you were never told that by the hiring institution. Post-docs took little from grant monies, the rest of which could be spent on materials, equipment and whatever overhead the university imposed.

I walked after three years but I knew people who spent more time in post-doc hell than they did earning their degree.

When you are done with your post-doc in America, now you can be an adjunct, teaching college classes for $1,500/session, poverty wages. Which was also the idea behind creating a glut of Ph.Ds. Cheap labor for the teaching of the underclassmen, now also stuck in a rip-off system where when finished they’re manacled by terrible debt.

Of course they know this at Science magazine. It’s just that it would be impolitic to state it. The heirarchy of big science in the United States no more wants to acknowledge its faults than anyone else.

Two old docs on the race to be President

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 12:37 pm by George Smith

“The War Room” is a movie worth watching in 2016, for how much things have changed for the world’s only superpower in obvious decline.

You’ll recognize the young and middle-aged stars of the last 15 years: George Stephanopoulos, Paul Begala, and — front ‘n’ center, James Carville, now an old man. Bill Clinton is the Big Dog, not as he is now, the frail old man trying to recall better days while pumping up his wife as the next president.

The doc is shot as the legacy. Bill Clinton, a people’s candidate.

There’s a moment from a speech by Al Gore in a campaign rally that could be exactly like something Bernie Sanders roarded at crowds. America was down, jobs and the economy, not fair. “The country’s gone el busto,” says Carville. “If you can’t fix it, get out of the way!”

George H. W. Bush: “America is still great!”

Time and history have reversed. God has a sense of humor. Hillary Clinton has proclaimed “America never stopped being great,” refuting the Sanders insurgency. Now she’s the stodge portrayed in “The War Room,” virtually indistinguishable from the patrician centrist Republican elder Bush.

George H. W. Bush wasn’t a bad president. He wasn’t a great one. Hillary Clinton is a career politician, known world-wide, no better. In fact, of the same DNA as GHWB, the establishment — wealth and political power that has done nothing but reward itself, corporations and the military at the expense of everyone else, finally bringing on a revolt in their party, right now just less vehement than the other side’s rejection of its money mad extremist lifers.

George Stephanopouls, a charismatic young man, says it’s about “jobs and education,” we’ll pay for school etc. Today, the Democratic Party has nothing to offer except “get more education.” And everyone goes into crushing debt for it.

“The War Room” ends on an optimistic note with Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” playing, how tomorrow was, if not quite as fast, soon here.

Bill Clinton subsequently abandoned all the positions briefly espoused in “The War Room,” moving the Democratic Party to the right.

Make no mistake, this is a good, maybe great documentary. There are many excellent moments: George Stephanopoulos canning some imbecile from a news agency trying to shake the roots of the campaigh by threatening to run a story on an alleged illegitimate mixed race child of Bill Clinton’s. James Carville and the staff laughing out loud at Ross Perot dancing with his wife to Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” at a final televised campaign rally. “The greatest example of political masturbation in the history of the world,” or something like that, Carville laughs.

Today, the Ragin’ Cajun’, along with his wife, Mary Matalin, who was the elder Bush’s campaign manager, are out of the story. Bill Clinton is still in the news but not because anyone thinks he’s a hero. His Fleetwood Mac tomorrow is here. It stinks, all across the board. And the good guys in this movie became just as the George Herbert Walker Bush pols they laughed at.

It’s available free on YouTube.


“He represented something more: Youth, energy, change, progress.”

That’s Clinton campaign advisor Mickey Cantor at the end of CNN’s “Race for the White House: Clinton vs. Bush.” It’s worth another look because of where we are now.

Clinton crushed Bush. He had the youth vote, here portrayed as a result of the genius stroke of going on Arsenio Hall to toot out a bit of “Heartbreak Hotel” on sax while wearing James Carville’s sunglasses.

Again we see the Clinton campaign runs on the accusation that America is in decline and they can make it great again. Old George Bush says, how dare Bill Clinton say that. America is never in decline.

In 2016 the hourglass containing the sands of time has reversed. Bill’s wife is running. Trump will make America great again. HRC challenges, just like old George: America has never been in decline.

The Clinton’s were cool, if you see them here. It’s worth noting, too, that it was something of a sham. They were just as square and out of it as anyone else in the high-button snoot crowd. Al Gore’s wife, Tipper, eventually gave us the PMRC and Congressional hearings on pop music that made the Mentors, an obscure southern California heavy metal act that wore black hoods onstage way more famous (“smell my anal vapors) than was apt.

Bill Clinton sells the necessity of balancing the budget, something irrelevant then and even moreso now, although it has always sounded good.

Balancing the budget means austerity and stagnation, something virtually impossible if a country’s money is the reserve currency of the world and it can print as much of it as it wants. It also means sticking it to the middle class, the working class and the poor.

Old George Bush gets destroyed in a debate when asked about how the national debt has affected him personally. He can’t answer because there is no answer. He wasn’t affected by it. You weren’t affected by it. No one was.

Bill Clinton answers with a non-answer but the younger crowd likes the sound and style of it. The game is over and he’ll be the next president.

Tomorrow, what happens when the Clinton machine runs into the debate buzzsaw of Donald Trump? Trump might blow himself up before then but, in truth, nobody knows. If you believe there’s a deity, he likes to play games with dice and he’s rolling them in the back room, out of sight, right now. Is it snake eyes or 7s and 11s?

Not as good as “The War Room,” but definitely worth your time.

A gigantic jar of pickles

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Made in China at 10:13 am by George Smith

I recommend to you Yanis Varoufakis’ “The Global Minotaur: America, The True Origins of the Financial Crisis and The Future of the World Economy.” Not because I think you’ll rush out and buy it. It’s not an obvious “must have.” But if you’re clever, you might have the know-how to steal an ebook copy.

Varoufakis is a Greek economist, Syriza’s former Minister of Finance, who quit in protest of the austerity imposed on his country, an austerity that has blighted his nation. For that, he deserves a salute.

But his book is often also hysterically funny, mordantly, about American-style predatory business.

On Walmart, of which he has much to say, most notably the tale of the gigantic jar of pickles:

“Take for example, Vlasic pickles, a well-known everyday brand. Walmart’s ‘innovation’ was to sell these pickles in one gallon jars for $2.97. Was this a shrewd retailer’s response to market demand? Few family refrigerators had room for such an item.

“So what was the selling point?

“It was the idea of a huge quantity at ultra-low price. Walmart’s customers, in this sense, were not buying pickles as such. They were buying into the symbolic value of cheapness; into the notion of having appropriated so many pickles for so little money. Indeed, it made them feel as if they were Walmart accomplices — in association with an icon of American corporate might, they had forced producers to make so much available for so little!

“The gigantic jar of pickles thus ended up denoting a small victory at a time of wholesale defeat. Whose defeat? That of the American worker, whose wages had never really recovered since 1973. Moreover their working conditions deteriorated as employers everywhere faithfully copied the Walmart model…

“The situation in the workshops and the fields of the Third World, where goods are grown or made on behalf of Walmart, is, as one might imagine, bordering on the criminal.”

If you ever run across Yanis Varoufakis and what he has to say or write, I guarantee you’ll be purged of whatever holy crap you’ve been pumped full of on the American economy.

Favorite comic image

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 9:43 am by George Smith

Below, my favorite Spider-Man cover ever.

Steve Ditko’s Spidey, the best, hands down. I’d get a 25 cents allowance. It would cover two comics a week at Berk’s, a general store in Pine Grove within walking distance.

After Ditko quit and John Romita took over, Spider-Man was never the same. While the Sixties were the great run and some of the Romita/Lee plot lines became part of the legend (mostly, the death of Gwen Stacy) it never surpassed Ditko.

Ditko’s biography, Strange and Stranger, is a fascinating look at his very unusual life and views. Briefly stated, he was deeply into the philosophy of Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged. And for want of better description, it poisoned his prospects after Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, his other seminal Marvel character. Indeed, you can see a bit of Ditko’s libertarianism creeping into the end of his run with Spider-Man, most notably when he had Peter Parker go off on some of his teenage peers trying to get him to attend a 60s protest. (Follow the link and you’ll see one of Ditko’s objectivist characters, the very obscure Mr. A. Mr. A, sort of an inspiration for Watchmen’s Rohrschach.)

I can take or leave the Spider-Man movies, they’ve never been old school. Modern Spider-Man, just can’t get into it.

I’m 60. Marvel writes Peter Parker like he’s 35. And the Spidey wise-cracks aren’t great. Nothing lile references to “the Purple Pantywaist” or “Irving Forbush” anymore, no way.

The screen shot is taken from The Amazing Spider-Man: The Complete Collection, a DVD containing “every issue through June 2006.” I got it on the cheap in Pasadena many years ago. Now, Amazon says it’s worth one hundred used, 350 new.

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