07.11.17

Song for Warren Buffett to sing to his pals

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Made in China, Predator State, Psychopath & Sociopath, Rock 'n' Roll at 4:27 pm by George Smith

“Rich” + “tax” + “break”.

The national tune that never gets old.

Warren Buffett thinks the Republican health care bill has an alternative purpose: to help the already-wealthy make even more money.

The famed investor and world’s second-richest person had some choice words about the legislation currently being debated by the Senate, suggesting it could be called the “Relief for the Rich Act” during an interview with PBS NewsHour Tuesday.

My tunes, evergreen. Seriously. As good as Iggy & the Stooges, easy.

The unplugged version.

I gave up fighting. I’m with the tenor of the country. Take away my Medicaid. I am undeserving.

Remember, you can download the unplugged version for your gadget. Send it to a friend, even.

Now, please start a campaign to raise money for a Mitchell electric/acoustic guitar — 149 dollars at Guitar Center.


On a slightly more serious note: Can you believe this tuneage is fives years old and HAS ONLY BECOME MORE REAL? IT’S VIRTUALLY THE NATIONAL CREED.

A reader on guitar sales: You get old & die

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:00 pm by George Smith

In response to Electric guitars have the blues:

Fred’s Music in Reading, where I would hang out religiously, closed. Supposedly he “retired. But I think it’s more due to no sales anymore. Live bands don’t exist. Show me a club in Reading that has live rock and roll=none. It’s dead. Once our generation passes, and that will be soon, rock is dead. Or when the Stones cease to exist, that is the end of Rock.

Just like High end Audio, or stereo systems, are dead. All kids use now is the stupid phone and earbuds. Remember you could walk into Boscov’s, and find a stereo section that had Marantz, AR, Dual, Kenwood? Good stuff. Nowadays high end audio is solely sustained by boomers, like me. After we’re dead it’s gone.

On the NSA & its malware

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 10:08 am by George Smith

The NSA leaking malware that comes back to bite everyone, in the news.

The Virus Creation Labs.

Been there. Done that. Seen it all.

At Good Reads.

Computer code changes with the times. The social behavioral code of human beings who do malware doesn’t.

People writing about the NSA’s ability to write malware should focus less on the fancy names — the Equation Group, Tailored Access — credited to the coders and more on how little they differ from those who walked the same ground many years earlier. The affection for special group names is a giveaway.


Selected quote from the New York Times…

In an email … Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House, noted that the government “employs a disciplined, high-level interagency decision-making process for disclosure of known vulnerabilities” in software, “unlike any other country in the world.”

Mr. Anton said the administration “is committed to responsibly balancing national security interests and public safety and security,” but declined to comment “on the origin of any of the code making up this malware.”

What makes them so special? Who decides who the deciders are? In 1994 the idea that virus-writers, amateurs or professionals be consulted over such matters would have struck the anti-virus business as insanely funny.

Any system the believes this at the same time it has pressured old school anti-virus man Eugene Kaspersky into revealing his source code is seriously screwed up.

[The] government has blamed others. Two weeks ago, the United States — through the Department of Homeland Security — said it had evidence North Korea was responsible for a wave of attacks in May using ransomware called WannaCry that shut down hospitals, rail traffic and production lines. The attacks on Tuesday against targets in Ukraine, which spread worldwide, appeared more likely to be the work of Russian hackers …

Blame-shifting.

“I’m not sure we understand the full capability of what can happen, that these sophisticated viruses can suddenly mutate into other areas you didn’t intend, more and more,” Mr. Panetta said. “That’s the threat we’re going to face in the near future.”

Anyone with any sense knew this about computer viruses and malware back in the early Nineties, perhaps earlier. Viruses tended to get into the most unexpected places.

In the past two months, attackers have retrofitted …

Twenty some years ago this is what over half of The Virus Creation Labs was about.

Mr. Panetta was among the officials warning years ago of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” that could bring down the American power grid. But he and others never imagined that those same enemies might use the N.S.A.’s own cyberweapons.

That’s because Mr. Panetta never read The Virus Creation Labs. And he was always wrong about cyber-Pearl Harbor, too.

But armed with the N.S.A.’s own tools, the limits are gone.

“We now have actors, like North Korea and segments of the Islamic State, who have access to N.S.A. tools who don’t care about economic and other ties between nation states,” said Jon Wellinghoff, the former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

American exceptionalism: The hubris that our malware writers are somehow better, self-restrained good-guys, superior to all others. Hilarious. Read The Virus Creation Labs.


Some other citations.

The original teaser in Computer underground Digest, 1994.

07.10.17

On Iggy & the Stooges

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:44 pm by George Smith

From the book Gimme Danger: The Story of Iggy Pop, by Joe Ambrose:

Use the hand-pointer in the window to scroll down to the end of the “Jeff Wald”-graf.

07.05.17

Electric guitars have the blues

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, Rock 'n' Roll at 2:48 pm by George Smith

A reader points out a recent story in the Washington Post: Why my guitar gently weeps: The slow, secret death of the six-string electric. And why you should care.

Written by Geoff Edgers, it’s a good piece that touches on some subjects and people I’ve written about over the years, with special focus on the loss of sales of the primary middle class instrument of my generation: the electric guitar.

Today the electric guitar faces challenge from all sides. The most influential being the US economy just isn’t what it used to be. After 2007, it collapsed for a great part of the US middle class. And the electric guitar was and is an iconic MIDDLE class luxury buy.

Today there are two forces, one noted at a musical instrument seller’s convention (NAMM) by the reporter, glut and, two, lack of demand. The US economy has been sputtering along since the “recovery” at a paltry 2 percent growth rate. Sales of goods beyond necessities (of which the guitar is an example) have been hurting for a long while. Fender and Gibson, the primary American producer of electric guitars, are businesses caught in the doldrums with signficant debt overhang:

In the past decade, electric guitar sales have plummeted, from about 1.5 million sold annually to just over 1 million. The two biggest companies, Gibson and Fender, are in debt, and a third, PRS Guitars, had to cut staff and expand production of cheaper guitars. In April, Moody’s downgraded Guitar Center, the largest chain retailer, as it faces $1.6 billion in debt. And at Sweetwater.com, the online retailer, a brand-new, interest-free Fender can be had for as little as $8 a month.

I get a copy of the Sweetwater Pro Gear catalog. It’s a perfect example of glut, Sweetwater not being the only guitar rock business, businesses all selling the same thing to the same limited number of people at a time when there’s not a lot of cash to go around. The people hurting in middle America, in the heartland, those who voted for the President, are the potential buyers of electric guitars and times just aren’t what they used to be. There’s pain out there and it filters over into all manner of businesses, not just the sales of electric guitars. Middle age (or older) wasteland, call it. (Which is to say things would probably not be so grim if the economy was better for everyone, not just people in the right professions on the coasts).

At the music merchants’ convention in Anaheim, Edgers interviews George Gruhn. Ten years ago I touched on Gruhn as an American speculator in antiquities of sorts, in this case the electric guitar. It was in an article for the Los Angeles Times, one on conspicuous consumption just before the great economic crash. The items of interest were Gibson Les Paul electric guitars, ’59 vintage models, selling for a quarter of a million dollars and up:

Part of the Los Angeles Times’ new contemporary coverage of America is its glorification of conspicuous consumption. Weekly, features writers find the most annoying examples of Grotesquus Americanus. Then it proceeds to portray whatever herd of manipulators it has found as something swell. The point of it is to make you feel stupid or envious while marveling at the business acumen and immense good fortune of others.

Today’s example were men who hoard late-Fifties/early Sixties Gibson Les Paul Standard guitars painted in sunburst finishes.

An example of the ridiculous prices the instrument fetches is here at Gruhn Guitars, run by reseller/guitar collector/speculator …

Business in fantastically priced Les Pauls was apparently great. There was even a link, now dead, to Gruhn’s website whereupon you could see a picture of a Les Paul selling for 275,000 USD. And while this small part of the antiquities business may still be solid, the rest of the world of electric guitar has gone upside down. Paradoxically, it will not surprise readers that the expansion of sales of “cheaper guitars” has meant the offshoring to China and other Asian rim countries. Again, the mirroring of the US economy as a whole.

For the Post, Gruhn says the current business is “unsustainable.” This is obvious. There’s no actual market to allow the survival of hundreds of luthiers or electronic tinkerers making an endless supply of custom fuzztones in the United States.

Gruhn thinks its because there’s a lack of guitar heroes, as contrasted with days of yore.

Guitar heroes. They arrived with the first wave of rock-and-roll. Chuck Berry duckwalking across the big screen. Scotty Moore’s reverb-soaked Gibson on Elvis’s Sun records. Link Wray, with his biker cool, blasting through “Rumble” in 1958.

This is only maybe half right.

Gibson dies by their premium prices, in direct competition with luthiers and another maker in exactly the same space, Paul Reed Smith. This is at a time when demand hollowed out the middle. There’s the low end and a high end, and the high end is the smaller of the two.

The other side is boring old classic rock radio, now oldies stations although they’re not called that.

Jimmy Page / The Rolling Stones/ Clapton / Slash / Jeff Beck /Pete Townshend / Heart / Journey / Van Halen still have their radio exposure. Keep in mind none of the glory days musicians can make records anyone will pay money for. Digital cratered everything but their back catalogs. No one wants a new Ted Nugent record but he can still summer tour and Cat Scratch Fever still gets played on radio. Stubbornly, though, that radio territory is strictly out of reach of any new artists playing rock and roll.

Country music is one exception. Lots of classic rock and roll went to country and it’s not an accident a lot of guitar manufacturing, like Gibson, is in Nashville. Country music still features guitar heroes. One of them is a woman — Taylor Swift.

On the other hand, Link Wray never got played. He died an expat in Denmark, I think. In Europe he had an audience.

I play “Rumble”. People know that but it wasn’t on the radio during Zep or the Who’s heyday. Polydor even tied a release of “The Link Wray Rumble” to a blurb by Pete Townshend. The recommendations didn’t help. The record didn’t rise in the charts. “Rumble” wasn’t on the radio in 1974.

Even more tiresomely, the internet and freetardism has atomized the market, again — glut — has become a problem with everything making it impossible to record and make money in the the old way of development.

Couple it with the rupture of demand. The cash just isn’t there.

And sitting in front of a smartphone or laptop isn’t fun when playing guitar. It’s work. Not the same as playing along to an old record player.

Again — the Washington Post piece.


1. Rumble. A tribute. Note famous fight scene from They Live, wherein the thuds and cries are timed to the riffage.

06.28.17

Reviewed: American Anarchist & Control Room

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Culture of Lickspittle at 3:26 pm by George Smith

Control Room, now streaming on Hulu, takes viewers back to 2004 and the rise of al Jazeera as the Arab world’s first top rank Western-style news organization covering Iraqi Freedom. Relevant 13 years later, the original is from 2004 because Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and a couple other American toady nations have demanded Qatar suppress the news channel. In Control Room, it’s Central Command in Doha, the President and the US military against it for having the temerity to transmit both sides of the conflict, not just a sanitized US-approved version.

Control Room climaxes with a news event that has passed into obscure history: the US military’s attack on al Jazeera’s Baghdad operation as the city was being occupied, the result of which killed one of the agencies camera men. Two other journalists were also killed when the US military struck a Reuters/international news facility separately.

It’s menacing footage. Al Jazeera’s control room witnessing from afar as a US A-10 begins a missile attack run.

The bombing closed al Jazeera’s office in Baghdad and effectively ends the documentary. Al Jazeera is a small tv station arrayed against the most powerful military on the planet and it made that military angry. Message sent.

The reporters from al Jazeera are pros. They do their job, cynically noting behind the scenes the mishandling of the war as the US attempts to shape coverage. There is video American POWs (protested by the US military). But it was OK to show Iraqi POWs and dead men. There is more of American and British troops kicking down the doors of residences while Iraqis cower inside. Compared to today, when the latest news is a puff piece on America’s Otto Skorzenys and their commando operations are said to confer considerable advantages to the US side, al Jazeera was just doing its job.

Are there wars? Yes, certainly. Does the big American press cover them anymore? Not really. It takes too much effort to fight the war machine and the domestic audience doesn’t care.

At one point, one of al Jazeera’s editorial decision makers, a man who chain smokes like the character Nathan Thurm in old Saturday Night Live sketches, cynically notes that the pulling down of the statue of Saddam Hussein is (obviously to an Arab audience) an engineered stunt with an American-tanked in crowd of young men. Where are the women and neighbors another producer drily notes.

“David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, said in a statement that the demand ‘represents a serious threat to media freedom if states, under the pretext of a diplomatic crisis, take measures to force the dismantling of Al Jazeera,’ reads a news short today. At al Jazeera.

Paradoxically, David Kaye began his career at the US State Department.

Other affairs that have now faded into a distant fog: the folly of the production of a deck of playing cards with the faces of wanted Hussein regime leaders. (There are none made available to the press.) The Jessica Lynch rescue that wasn’t. (“Her Iraqi guards had long fled, she was being well cared for – and doctors had already tried to free her.” — the Guardian). A military spokesman’s absurd insistence that as Baghdad was being looted and the US military stood by that Iraqis should rise themselves and protect stuff. And, at the end, Mission Accomplished.

By the end of Control Room, remember this was in 2004, there is the dawning recognition that we’d triggered an epic human catastrophe still to unfold.


A poignant documentary of William Powell, the author of The Anarchist Cookbook, is currently streaming on Netflix. American Anarchist traces Powell’s life in simple interview from the age of 19, when angered by the Vietnam War he set about to write it, to a long segment in which he expresses “remorse” over the bloody path of mayhem, plots and murder to which its pages may have contributed.

Anyone who has become familiar with American far-right anarchist listerature is also aware that Powell’s cookbook is the volume with the biggest footprint — 2 million copies sold world wide; uncountable copies now distributed by the web.

Indeed, The Anarchist Cookbook has had many offspring, some of which like the Mujahideen’s Poisons Handbook (contructed from the American volume, The Poisoner’s Handbook) have been dealt with quite closely on this blog.

And as everyone who walked the territory of the web in the mid-Nineties, the electronic versions were everywhere, to such an extent that they became things investigators looked for when prosecuting domestic as well as international cases of terrorism and murder.

What will stun the viewer is that Powell was largely unaware of it all. He took up a career in teaching in the far reaches of the world and with his wife, leading training couses on how to teach and reach children who aren’t motivated by traditional pedagogy. In so doing he spent much time in Africa, noting at one point that his family didn’t even have a television and so news from America was virtually non-existent.

This does not deter the interviewer who doggedy walks Powell through the laundry list of very bad people who were fond to be in possession of his book. As the documentary proceeds its clear that the black history of it in bombings and shootings have weighed heavily upon him and his wife.

In 2000 Powell disowned the book on Amazon. Thirteen years later, for the Guardian, he asked that those publishing it cease doing so. Did he, however, do enough? I think so but the answer is left to every viewer.

In the mid-Eighties Powell could not possibly have known what would happen with The Anarchist Cookbook. He believed it be a poorly written fad book on bomb-making, violence and sabotage that was fading in popularity. Powell, along with everyone else, didn’t see what cyberspace and the nascent web would do for the book: Make it easily available to everyone, not just to visitors of odd bookshops, survivalists and gun show anti-government fanatics. Digital existence bundled the book into its growing family of recipes-for-death literature and made the whole mix easily searchable on the web.

For example, one of its lesser offspring mentioned above, the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook, no longer in the dark but mainstream (virtually), for everyone, like it or not.

The majority of Powell’s life was spent in loving education of the world’s impoverished, very very far from the path taken by The Anarchist Cookbook in America. And American Anarchist leaves no room for doubt that this vocation was very dear to his heart.

As a good man and sadly, The Anarchist Cookbook trailed Powell into death, of which the world did not become aware until movie reviewers saw it as a note at the end of America’s Anarchist in March of this year, that its subject had died a short time after the interviews took place.


1. From the New York Times:

The book, a precursor to more recent publications like “The Mujahideen Poisons Handbook” and “Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla,” was at times angry, but it also came with cautionary notes (“This book is not for children or morons”)…

2. The Mujahideen Poisons Handbook — here, here and here.

06.20.17

Thomas Frank’s look at the UK

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

Author Thomas Frank, primarily noted for Listen, Liberal, a book on the failures of the Democratic Party, the abandonment of its base, which turned the tome into a bestseller on the back of the Trump election, was tasked by the Guardian to tour England prior to the May snap election that handed a radical setback to the Tories and vaulted Jeremy Corbyn to the center stage of Brit politics.

It’s a long piece as Frank travels through places you don’t hear of — Wakefield, Barnsley, Grimsby, Scunthorpe — trying to get his arms around the entirety of the political wind in Britain, particularly from the point of view those who voted to leave the EU in the abandoned and deteriorated towns, the old places of rusted mills and abandoned mining, of de-industrialized England.

Frank discovered similarities with trends in the US but very stark differences. The British mainstream is much more comfortable with socialism. People know that it was the decisions of government and those in power who are responsible for their ills. In fact, they know deliberate steps were taken to destroy workers.

For example:

The ending of a way of life here was not the doing of the godlike forces of capital, but instead the deliberate result of a government campaign to destroy the power of workers – of ordinary people – and to put the country on a track that was more in keeping with the free-market ideology.

The viewpoint I just described is one you don’t often hear in the US these days. We think it is ancient and obsolete, and besides, very few American liberals sympathise with the coal mining industry. But there is also something refreshing and healthy and even populist about this perspective, emphasising as it does the obvious role of political struggle and human agency in economic developments – that it’s not just an invisible hand making all the decisions for us. This is an understanding that has proven increasingly difficult for Americans to grasp as the years have gone by. Maybe we all need to spend a few evenings at the Red Shed.

The British are also aghast at stories which are commomplace here:

hen I try to put my finger on exactly what separates Britain and America, a story I heard in a pub outside Sheffield keeps coming back to me. A man was telling me of how he had gone on vacation to Florida, and at one point stopped to refuel his car in a rural area. As he was standing there, an old man rode up to the gas station on a bicycle and started rummaging through a trash can. The Englishman asked him why he was doing this, and was astonished to learn the man was digging for empty cans in order to support his family.

The story is unremarkable in its immediate details. People rummaging through trash for discarded cans is something that every American has seen many times. What is startling is that here’s a guy in Yorkshire, a place we Americans pity for its state of perma-decline, relating this story to me in tones of incomprehension and even horror. He simply couldn’t believe it. Left unasked was the obvious question: what kind of civilisation allows such a fate to befall its citizens? The answer, of course, is a society where social solidarity has almost completely evaporated.

It’s a remarkable read.

05.16.17

Infamous old words: The Nebulous Menace vs the NSA’s Ugly Conduct

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 1:20 pm by George Smith

In 2013:

While some recent estimates have more than 90 percent of cyberespionage in the United States originating in China, the accusations relayed in the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on Chinese military capabilities were remarkable in their directness. Until now the administration avoided directly accusing both the Chinese government and the People’s Liberation Army of using cyberweapons against the United States in a deliberate, government-developed strategy…

This from, The Nebulous Menace: Shoeshine at its Best, a piece onthe meme of the year, that US coporate intellectual property was being carted away en masse by Chinese cyberwarriors.

The passage of time always affords for the changing of boogeymen pointed out by the American national threat industry. Today it’s Russia and even fresher, maybe North Korea, as responsible for the now famous global ransomware attacks.

You might take North Korea as a convenient distraction for the root of the problem, the NSA’s malware industrial complex, ultimately responsible for the ETERNALBLUE vulnerability, a NOT NEBULOUS menace, at the heart of the problem.

Paradoxically, from the South China Post:

More than 4,300 Chinese educational institutions were infected by the WannaCry ransomware that spread across the globe last Friday, according to Chinese cybersecurity giant Qihoo 360’s Threat Intelligence Centre. Almost 30,000 organisations across the country were affected in all.

But the Ministry of Education’s China Education and Research Network (Cernet) said just 66 out of 1,600 Chinese universities were affected, rejecting reports of widespread damage in higher-education computer systems as “malicious” hype.

Cernet said the 66 universities were affected mainly because their operating systems were not regularly upgraded rather than any major security shortcomings …

Students in campuses affected by the ransomware, however, told of their horror finding their experiment data encrypted and half-completed theses files lost, which could affect their graduation, according to Chinese media reports.


Also from The Nebulous Menace, another wote illustrating why this blog was read:

American business ceded its property to the Chinese industrial base for immediate profit in pursuit of the very cheapest unprotected manpower. This was long before Chinese espionage became an issue the national security megaplex decided to exploit for the purpose of parasitic rent-seeking.

Who are you going to find on the street who cares if Chinese cyberwarriors from a building in Shanghai are into American businesses? They’ve already lost their jobs or much of their earning power. And their access to the Internet is a smartphone made in China.

Take a day off from the memes. Corporate America isn’t hiring, haven’t you heard? It’s not because of mass Chinese cyber-spying.

05.08.17

David Bowie’s Sound + Vision deluxe set (Ryko), 28 years on

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 11:34 am by George Smith

Over a weekend I pulled out my copy of David Bowie’s Sound + Vision CD box set on Rykodisc, from 1989. While at the Morning Call newspaper, I’d received it for a big feature the paper published on it. Ryko was probably very happy; the art covered almost the entire front page of the section. It signifies a time when people went for these types of physical extravaganza music packages enthusiastically. They even paid good money for them. I still easily feel the appeal; looking at the art etched on the giant box and photos while listening imparted something you just can’t get from today’s “procedure.” This was there in the room with me, not off in the cloud, streamed like a subscription or glued sketchily together with unavoidable advertisting courtesy of a Google subsidiary. The nerds of tech do no one favors.

Ground control to major Bowie fanatics! On Monday, “Sound + Vision,” a lavishly packaged, three-compact-disc collection containing some of David Bowie’s back catalog, will appear in area record stores.

“Sound + Vision,” which lists for about $60, kicks off Rykodisc’s ambitious program calling for the re-marketing of the Thin White Duke’s work from 1969’s “Space Oddity” to “Scary Monsters” in 1980 on RCA. Although it certainly isn’t difficult to locate Bowie’s music on vinyl and tape in record stores, this will mark the first time that the artist’s vintage material will be available in superlative form, on CD. Most listeners have already forgotten RCA’s subpar CD re-issues from a few years back; those copies which can be found on cassette and vinyl are the last of RCA’s claim on the artist.

From the standpoint of a collector, “Sound + Vision” isn’t quite the proverbial gold mine, but it does feature a number of selections previously unavailable, although not unfamiliar, to Bowie aficionados.

Among the “must-have’s”:

– 1969’s original demo of “Space Oddity.”

– A cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City,” nipped from the 1975 “Station To Station” sessions.

– A 72-page booklet containing unreleased photos and liner notes by former Rolling Stone magazine editor and MTV’s “Week In Rock” correspondent Kurt Loder.

– A bonus video disc, available only in the box CD format, featuring live work from a Spiders From Mars date in Boston in 1972 and a video of “Ashes To Ashes.” All are playable on standard CD machines regardless of their video capability.

Although fervid Bowie collectors will probably have to purchase the set in two or three of the configurations, Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke says, “To a collector, it’s not a bounty. But for those with the disposable income that this is aimed at, the fact remains that up to now there has been no classic Bowie on CD. If you want ‘Ziggy,’ if you want some ‘Station To Station’ on CD – this is your chance.”

Those with that “disposable income” which Fricke alludes to may find this a package difficult to turn down. Ryko is banking on just that; with a list price of close to $60, the company is hoping that the extravagant title will be just the thing music-conscious yuppies are going to crave through the fall and into the Christmas season. A schedule for the re-release in CD format of the back catalog covered by the breadth of “Sound + Vision” has not yet been established. But the company anticipates the appearance of “Space Oddity,” “The Man Who Sold The World” and “Hunky Dory” early in 1990, depending upon the success of the initial title.

None of this has come easy. Bowie’s RCA catalog has long been recognized as one of the most coveted in rock. Last year, “Changes-OneBowie” and “The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust” were voted the two most wanted CD titles in a Billboard magazine article authored by former Creem editor Dave DiMartino. An artist of Bowie’s stature conceivably could have gone with any label. His choice of the independent Rykodisc confirms that the company has established a reputation for attention to quality, detail and content not rivaled by the majors. Those in possession of such Rykodisc releases as The Mothers of Invention’s “Absolutely Free” (among many other Frank Zappa titles) and Jimi Hendrix’s “Live At Winterland” and “Radio One” already know this.

Billboard’s Los Angeles bureau chief DiMartino unequivocally says, “It’s a victory for the label. A lot of love and effort went into the project; everything has sounded A-1.

“It’s a fact that Ryko didn’t offer Bowie the most money. It was a case, in this instance, of having the best interests of the artist at heart. Also, from a sales standpoint, it shouldn’t impinge upon the success of the later releases. In fact, it kind of makes you want to go back to those original albums and listen to them once again.”

If you’ve bought the hype or if you’re an inveterate Bowie addict, what are you getting, exactly, in “Sound + Vision”? What you’ll find are three discs which chronicle the period 1969-1980 and not surprisingly, decrease in interest, just as Bowie’s career did as it neared “Lodger.”

The first disc encompasses Bowie’s entry into the marketplace and much of his tenure with The Spiders From Mars. The demo version of “Space Oddity” is refreshing in its own hippie naivete; “Black Country Rock” again reveals Bowie’s fascination with the work of fellow glam-rock traveller Marc Bolan. The inclusion of The Spiders’ rendition of Chuck Berry’s “Round And Round,” which originally appeared in 1973 as the B-side to “Drive In Saturday” (also included), is the highpoint of the set in that it reveals just how good a hard-rock band The Spiders From Mars (led by guitarist Mick Ronson) really were. Ronson’s guitar work exemplifies the best of the Ziggy period band: The tone is like no one else’s, blaring and excessive in terms of context but not in terms of actual notes played.

The disc also features “John, I’m Only Dancing,” which was inadvertently released as a single at the time of “Aladdin Sane” (how a single is “inadvertently” released by a record company is anyone’s guess), plus live versions of “Ziggy Stardust,” The Velvet Underground’s “White Light/ White Heat,” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” all collected from “Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture.” The latter selections are curious and somewhat schlocky considering that the band’s best live work occurred in 1972 (the critical pillorying of “The Motion Picture” reflected that fact).

Fricke confirms this when he says, “A bootleg from Santa Monica in 1972 is one of the best examples of Bowie and The Spiders onstage. I’d pay for that on a wax cylinder if I had to.

“However, the live Ziggy from Boston in ’72 (included on the video CD with “Changes,” “John, I’m Only Dancing” and “The Supermen”) was that prime band.”

The second disc’s stellar cuts are the unreleased “1984/Dodo,” which proved to be Bowie’s last recording with The Spiders; the original single version of “Rebel Rebel,” with the artist himself playing all instruments, including the lacerating guitar signature; and covers of “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” (with Aynsley Dunbar’s best Keith Moon imitation) and “Don’t Bring Me Down,” from “Pin Ups.” The remainder of the disc reprises material from the lackluster “David Live,” “Young Americans” and “Station To Station,” including the 1975 Springsteen cover, which qualifies only as a momentary curiosity.

The third disc focuses on Bowie’s collaboration with Brian Eno and although described as “compelling” by Loder in the liner notes, it is anything but. DiMartino sums up by saying, “The work with Eno, which at the time sounded novel, isn’t really so earth-shaking. Bowie has always been a chameleon and with Eno in tow, ‘The Lodger’ sounded too much like The Talking Heads.”

Leery of getting caught in the same binds that plagued the Bruce Springsteen boxed set, Ryko has no plans to overship “Sound Vision,” with initial estimates hovering around 135,000 units split roughly 60, 30, and 10 percent between CDs, cassettes and LPs. The LP box will list at approximately $10 more than the CD version. But it will include clear pressings, direct metal mastering, and rice-paper sleeves. — September 22, 1989, George Smith, the Allentown Morning Call


Imagine: CDs, cassettes, LPs, metal mastering, rice paper sleeves! The CD box is etched with a famous photograph of Bowie with a guitar. For the CD version, the four separate CDs came with booklet art made to mirror and accent the box’s etch through the clear plastic cover when the entire package was assembled.

You just shake your head at what was lost.

05.04.17

The Trooth

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Permanent Fail at 2:01 pm by George Smith


American exceptionalism: Relearning the lost art of home tooth take-outs.

It seems perfect to match my tale of tooth removal with fresh news of the House’s successful vote to repeal and replace Obamacare. Here in California I’m a recipient of that but truth, or trooth, be told there’s a lot that allegedly landmark legislation doesn’t cover.

My Obamacare policy came on the expansion of Medicaid in California. And Medicaid doesn’t cover teeth, really.

I’ll cut to a great relevant quote and bring up a recent NYT piece which ran a day or two after I pulled the tooth, above:

He knew that he needed to. It hurt to chew. A couple of teeth had grown discolored, so he tried not to smile broadly. His daughter kept urging him to get a checkup.

The reason he didn’t: money.

Medicare has never provided dental care, except for certain medical conditions, and California’s Medicaid program covers only some services, at reimbursement rates so low that most of the state’s dentists do not accept Medicaid patients at all.


Many Americans find it difficult to obtain adequate dental care, but the problem is particularly acute among older Americans …

At the West Center, where the average patient lives on $850 a month, “they often haven’t seen a dentist in 10 or 20 years,” Dr. Becerra said. “They’d end up in the E.R. when the pain got unbearable.” She has seen patients who have pulled their own teeth.

When I graduated from Lehigh with a Ph.D. I had a pretty good oral record. No cavities at all. All through youth, regular dental care and visits, no problem. It was something pretty much every kid in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, received.

However, over the next few years and then permanently, it was all unraveled. If you didn’t latch into a good corporate dental plan through employment, or hitchhike on a spouse’s, you were pretty much fucked as the masters of the United States decided that dental care for everyone was too much of an expensive option.

So if you were a freelance worker, or someone with spotty employment, you could buy one of those worthless health insurance policies since outlawed by Obamacare. If you had one, you found out what it was like. It didn’t cover anything short of catastrophic leading to terminal illness and then not even all of that.

Trips to the dentist were expensive on piece work and freelance incomes. So they didn’t happen.

Are things better? Only sort of. Obamacare remedied some of the problems. No teeth, though. Trooth!

I suspect tens of thousands of people have similar policies under Obamacare, whether implemented by the state or through the still much disliked health insurance sector. Teeth, however, are not peripherals. Which only shows that healthcare in the US is still handled as a rigged market of commodity services.

But back to the story.

If you’d have told me on graduation that some day, not soon but in the distant future, I’d be holding one of my molars in the palm of my hand, posing it for a smartphone pic, I woudn’t have known what to say.

I remember trips to places like colonial Jamestown and Williamsburg where you could walk the old American dirt street and stop in the mock dentist’s office. A person in wig was often there to tell you the dentist was often located close to the bar so the patient could sort of be numbed with some strong drink before getting in the chair for an extraction.

“Har, har!” the parents, now long dead, and us kids would laugh. We lived in modern America. Something that primitive — inconceivable! They believed that thngs would always get better and I was still way too young to know better.

And that’s my story for today’s Obamacare repeal. Selah!

« Previous Page« Previous entries « Previous Page · Next Page » Next entries »Next Page »