Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why I love the Republican Right

I am not going to lie to you. I, quite frankly, love the Republican Right. Its true.
Oh yes. Every time I see Sean Hannity, with his square jaw, his manly bravado, and his masculine display of strength and pride when he shouts down those weak, weak liberals...I just faint (and not only me-go ask Alan Colmes. He'll back me up on this one). And what about big Rush Limbaugh? Oh, don't even get me started. "I hope Obama fails", his glorious, jesus-blessed voice proclaimed over the radio only a few months ago. To this I say yes: thank the blessed lord Jesus that someone has the nerve to stand up for the ordinary man, for the little guy, for the man on the street, and tell it like it is. Yes, tell that socialist/communist/nazi liberal of a president where to go. To him and his universal healthcare, Rush sends a big "fuck you". Thats right, Rush. Stick it to the man.

The Republican right hates universal healthcare. Of course, and so they should. I mean, seriously, haven't the left learned the lessons of Reagan? Big government is EVIL. Big government wants to rule your life. And didn't you hear Sarah Palin? Big government wants to KILL YOUR CHILDREN. Thats right. Just ask Sarah Palin. She'll tell you. Good old Sarah.

But seriously, what is it with these liberals? Why do they want to provide healthcare to those that can't afford it? Because, obviously, people who can't afford healthcare are lazy. Everyone knows this. There are 46 million Americans without health insurance right now, say the left. Well, maybe those 46 million Americans shouldn't be so goddamn lazy! Maybe, instead of sitting around smoking pot and playing nintendo all day, they should go out and get jobs like the rest of us! Wait, most of them do have jobs? Well...maybe they should get real jobs! Real jobs, like Sean Hannity. mmm...Sean Hannity.

Besides, everyone knows the basic principle that free market competiton lowers prices. You know-the more companies, the more they have to appeal to buyers, so the more they lower prices to appeal to customers. It makes perfect sense-but those liberals don't know this, somehow. I mean, look at Ronald "movie hero" Reagan; "government is the problem", he famously said, and so he showed. None of that socialist bullshit for Ron; by cutting government services during his (glorious, glorious) presidency, by the end of the 1980s, everyone (even the common man) was sorting cocaine by the truckload! See? Success! Ok, so maybe by the time he finished the country was 2.7 trillion dollars in debt...but thats ok, because the next president, with all his conservative wisdom, bailed us out! Umm...ok, maybe George H.W Bush DIDN'T solve the problem, actually. But thats fine, because the next president certainly did! He even gained us the biggest surplus in American history! So who was this glorious , glorious free-market conservative? Oh...Bill Clinton.
Moving along...

Well, yes. As we all know, Clinton was a traitor and a liar; lying about having sex with an oval office intern? Straight to hell! Seriously, thank god the Republican Right has its priorities straight. How can America tolerate having a president who cheats on his wife, for christ' sake? IMPEACHMENT, they cried. And not only that, Clinton LIED to the American public about going to war! Thats right, he told everyone about those "WMD's" that Saddam was about to destroy the world with, remember? Total bullshit! Thank god the Republican Right tried to impeach THAT GUY. Oh wait, hang on. So that was George W Bush...but that was different. Oh yes, thats right; that was in the name of FREEDOM. So that doesn't count. But sex in the oval office? Unfit for presidency. For sure.

So yes, this is why I love the republican right. Maybe they have double standards. Maybe they lie all the time. Maybe they just make shit up. But you know what? This is what LIBERALS do! Thats right. Goddamn liberals. America haters. THEY'RE the ones who would make you believe this. Can't trust them. Just ask Sean Hannity.

mmm....Sean Hannity...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Knocked out loaded: the private life of Bob Dylan

"A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma"-although these words were used to describe Russia in 1939, they could just as well be used to describe the private life of Bob Dylan. Ever evasive, Dylan has been notoriously unwilling to divulge anything about his private life; reporters are apparently warned not to question him about it in interviews, and those that are brave enough are uniformly met by his famous "1000 yard stare". The private life of Bob Dylan is just that: completely, totally and utterly private.

However, once every so often tales slip through the net, stories that capture Dylan at his most unguarded and natural. And they always seem to paint him as...well, completely normal, actually.

1971 was a particularly reclusive year for Dylan, although not, in terms of exposure, totally a private one. This can be put down to deranged "Dylanologist" A.J Weberman, famous as the man who rummaged around Dylan's rubbish outside his New York apartment, subsequently coming up with many strange theories; among other things, Weberman somehow became convinced that Dylan had become a serious heroin junkie (many years later, he came to exactly the same conclusion with Jakob Dylan as well). In January 1971, Dylan and Weberman had a series of phone exchanges relating to the publishing of an article by Weberman about Dylan; Weberman recorded the conversations, and they were released that year on a Folkways L.P called "The Ballad of A.J Weberman". Now part of Dylan folklore, the hilarious dialogue between the two occasionally clears to reveal some insights about Bob Dylan, the family man.

Among the many gems is the classic about Bob Dylan, home carpenter:

Dylan: (On putting off a meeting with Weberman) "I'm working man, I'm building some shit you know, and I really gotta get it built. Just, ah, some tables and some shelves and some stuff and I gotta get it done man, I put it way off"

Or this one about Bob Dylan, protector of children and, just maybe, abused husband:

"Leave my kids out of it...I don't want to say it, my wife will fuckin' hit me, man"

And, although not strictly relevant, it would be a crime to leave out this hilarious exchange about music critic Greil Marcus:

Weberman: "Those music critics, they're all full of shit man..."

Dylan: "Greil Marcus is or isn't, did you say?"

Weberman: "He's full of shit"

Dylan: "Yeah, I think so too"

The original L.P was pulled soon after it was released, unsurprisingly, due to legal threats from Dylan. However, the tapes still managed to float around, no doubt to the frustration and consternation for poor Bob.

In the more recent past, the stories about Bob Dylan and his private life have been slipping out more steadily, lending creedence to the contemporary view of Bob Dylan: eccentric. In 2007, a report surfaced about Dylan travelling to his grandson's kindergarten (Jakob-heroin addict's-son) to play music to his pre-school class. Apparently the children did not appreciate having a musical legend in their midst: "The kids have been coming home and telling their parents about the wierd man who keeps coming to class to sing scary songs on his guitar", said a source quoted in the New York Post. "Hes been visiting the school just for fun, but the kids don't appreciate they are in the prescence of a musical legend. They just think of him as the wierd guitar guy". The story telling ended in short order when, after hearing about the "wierd man" from their kids, parents began turning up and discovering, to their amazement, that this stranger was actually Bob Dylan. Poor Bob.

And of course, this leads to the latest, and quite possibly funniest, story of the bunch: Bob Dylan gets arrested. Well, not quite, but almost.

It all happened on July 23rd, whilst in New Jersey for a tour date with John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson. Apparently before the show, Dylan decided to take a walk by himself around the streets of N.J in the pouring rain; after all, Dylan did once say "some people feel the rain, others just get wet".

An alarm was raised by frightened homeowners who came across poor Bob staring in through their window-their house was for sale, and Dylan later noted that he was thinking about buying it. However, the owners called the police, reporting that an "eccentric looking old man" was on their property; after some residents followed him for several blocks, the police pulled over to question him. Agreeing to take him to to his hotel (although still refusing to believe that it was actually Bob Dylan), they "humoured" him, although they noted that he was very polite and pleasant about the ordeal. Despite their doubts ("that's not Bob Dylan", a police sergeant was quoted as saying), it turned out that, in fact, it WAS Bob Dylan. Red faces abounded and, in the event, noone knows whether he was taken back to the house by the police like he had asked. Presumably not, it would be fair to say.

Poor Bob Dylan. Although stiving to be anonymous, his fame often precedes him, with often hilarious results. Who knows what his next 'uncovering' will be; all I know is that I'm looking forward to it. Thats for sure.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

America in 900 words or less

Before I start, I should probably add that right now it is 12.39 a.m, and I am alone sitting outside the Durango Public library, in darkness, with the police driving by every 20 minutes or so. I am also slightly drunk on Pabst Blue Ribbon beer (Americas favourite beer of 1893). Needless to say, I am sketching, slightly. Anyway, here you go...

Americans do not understand me. Just a couple of days ago I was talking to my new flatmate, who I had just met for the first time. It was a Saturday morning. “Are there any good weekend newspapers in this country?” I asked. She looked at me quizzically and mumbled something. After a second of awkward silence she perked up. “Oh” she exclaimed, brightly. “You mean, are there any Water Pipes around here? Of course, theres a shop selling them just around the corner down the road. Its very good”. I thanked her, then turned and fled to my room. “Never ask Americans anything”, I reminded myself as I hid in the corner and thought comforting thoughts of home.

This was not a unique occurrence. I’ve been here five weeks, been to seven different states, and yet not one single person has managed to say my name properly. The conversation usually goes like this:

American: So, whats your name?

Me: Jack

American: Well, its nice to meet you, Jed

Who knows. Maybe I should just change my name to Archibold.

Apart from not being understood, the American upper mid-west has been a wonderful place to experience, especially since it’s the height of summer. Right now I’m in the quaint tourist town of Durango, which is down at the bottom of the state of Colorado. Despite Durango having the greatest second-hand bookshop known to man, the local populace tend to ignore this and instead spend their time floating down the local river on giant tubes. Of course, this is only their daytime activity; at night they generally tend to go out and get stupendously drunk, presumably because there is nothing else to do in a tourist town on a week night. Sometimes, they even combine the two activities. So it goes.

Needless to say, for the casual New Zealand tourist, America is a trip. Often when you go to foreign countries with certain preconceived notions about aspects of their various societies, it turns out you are sorely disappointed. For instance, there is no Fosters in Australia (Yes, I know. Messed up.). And, I could be wrong on this, but I’m fairly sure that Khazakstan, well, isn’t quite like it is according to Borat. However, I am here to tell you right now that everything you think about America is, in fact, true. Sports journalists are all like Ray Romano, everyone in the South preaches about Jesus, and everyone in California are pot-smoking tree-hugging hippie liberals. Except, of course, for Arnie. Maybe that’s why he’s such a jackass (just quietly).

Speaking of California, this brings up another aspect of American society that the world sees all too readily, and which is, unfortunately, true as well. Certain aspects of this country (usually Republicans, of course) are mind-blowingly greedy and self-centered. When I first arrived in California, a debate was raging over how to make the state, the third largest economy in the whole world, financially solvent; it was a matter of weeks, they said, before the whole place was going to go broke. Democrats insisted on raising taxes (the top tax rate is all of 17% here) and plugging a loophole that was allowing people to pay their property taxes on historic valuations, instead of current ones: this alone, apparently, would have solved the whole problem. Republicans, in their infinite wisdom, were having none of this. Of course, this was big government messing with the little guy, they said. Their theory? To close all the state parks, cut benefits to, among others, alzheimers patients, and sell San Quentin prison. Genius. I wish I was that smart.

Fortunately, most Americans are a cut above this (or at least the 51.2% that voted for Obama, anyway). Since heading off to explore the wonders of this place, most of the people I have encountered have been slightly nuts, very charming, and very interesting.

It all began, more or less, at the Kate Wolfe Music Festival in Northern California, where, after following Woodstock M.C Wavy Gravy around and stalking Emmylou Harris back to her motorhome, I briefly hung out with a folk musician named Rosalie Sorrels; Sorrels, who was a good friend of Ken Kesey, is also apparently the only musician to have album liner notes written by Hunter S Thompson and Studs Terkel. Indeed. From then on it only got more ‘out there’: hanging out in Sacramento with a staunch Native American named Chief (of course), a brawling Texan ladykiller called John and, my favourite, Giovan, a “black radical hippy love child”, as he put it, with a love for Led Zeppelin and classic Rolling Stones. Or up in Spokane, Washington, staying up till 3 a.m drinking whiskey with a Vietnam war veteran and listening to his classic 60s LP collection (think Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe and the Fish, Jefferson Airplane). One of the records had sound effects of Vietnam-era jet planes racing overhead; he shook his head. “It wasn’t really like that” the grizzled vet noted, somberly. “You’d never hear them till they were gone”.

I’m not quite sure what over-riding impression I have of this country. I guess it’s a country of many different peoples, viewpoints and perspectives, probably the single most varied country in the Western World, at least, for good or for ill. And it’s not quite sane. And it has very cheap beer. Did I mention that?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ramblings from the Haight-Ashbury. Well not really, but you know...

So...3a.m in San Francisco. It probably sounds exciting, and it actually kind of is, in the way that you can't go outside or else you run the risk of being mugged by some crazy drunk motherfucker wearing a towel and a bandanna. Yes indeed. Welcome to the USA.

I'm only here overnight. I came down from Santa Rosa on a whim earlier in the day, which a decision I'm slightly regretting right at this moment due to the loud snoring of my roommate, who, I should add, is a 45 year old designer or something down from the coast for the annual gay pride meeting. In San Francisco? I know. Who would have thought? Seriously though...I'm down for the night due to the lack of decent guitar shops in Santa Rosa, which is an hour and a half up the road and where I've been staying for the last couple of weeks. It's a bit of a drag, especially since it means I'm going to have to disrupt everyones plans tomorrow morning since theyre going to have to come and pick me up from Santa Rosa, which I''m feeling slightly guilty about. But I think that's probably just 3.25am guilt.

I won't even begin to start on all the shit thats gone down since I've arrived; its starting to look like this might be as random a trip as the infamous tour of Australia earlier in the year. All I'll say is that I'm in town because I need to buy a decent guitar amp because I'm about to head off on tour with a Colorado singer-songwriter called Gigi Love. This should give you some idea of the randomness alreay-I might go into detail later, but right now, quite frankly, I can't be fucked.

Its been an interesting evening. I got into town around 7.15ish and was dropped off on the wrong side of the city but a well meaning but misguided bus driver, and so I had to walk miles to get to the inner city. It was worth it though, since San Fran is such a wicked place to walk through. I caught a show at a blues club down the road; some guy called...to be honest, I forget his name right now, which more or less sums it up. Apparently he used to play with blues legend Little Walter's band back in the day; the guy has been around for a while. I had dinner at a 24 hour 50s restaurant, where the staff all wore those pointed hats and dresses that look like nurses ones, which was pretty trippy. I had some interesting dealings with panhandlers; one told me I was too young, and when I didn't give him money he shouted across the street that i'd hurt his feelings. He also called me "nigga". The best one was some random who joined me outside the blues club: he told me that he played classical guitar and was a prodigy, and was so good that Andres Segovia looked at him and was like "whoa, slow down, your fingers are too fast!". He ended all this by saying "Listen. I'm just panhandling. Will you give me some money? I just want to go get drunk". I gave him a dollar. Nice guy.

So thats San Fran. I guess I'm going to have to go back and deal with the snoring pothead homosexual lying on the bunk underneath me. mm. Good times. God bless America.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The 'anti-smacking' bill: will the madness never end?

In general, I like New Zealand. Its a nice place to live, has a good culture and, importantly, is very clean (unless you're in Carterton, maybe).

However, one thing I don't like about New Zealand is all the furore about this so-called anti-smacking bill. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, well, it really fucks me off. Right off.

Its not the fault of the bill itself. On the contrary, I've always been in full support, and even when 80% of the country was somewhat confused and were against it, I was right behind it. Child abuse is abhorrent, and any bill with the aim of helping out just a bit is fine by me, and this one seemed to be going up the right alley.

The bill never changed the way parents ended up in court. It has, and never had, anything to do with that. It affected the punishment to be dished out when parents DID end up in court by removing the defense of "reasonable force" that was often used in such situations. So think about it: for this bill to come into force, then the parent would have to be charged in the first place. Have parents traditionally wound up in court for smacking their kids (lightly, of course)? Of course they haven't. So why would they now?

I don't know how people came to the conclusion that this was an "anti-smacking bill" and that it was going to criminalise "good parents" who just gave their kids a light tap every so often. I should probably add for the record that I am against smacking well and truly, but parents can do what they want and this is not the issue. The issue that led to the creation of this bill happened a few years ago: a woman ended up in court charged with attacking her child. She had repeatedly whipped the kid with the end of a power cord, causing a great deal of pain and injury-we're not talking about a light smack here. The woman's defence was that she had used "reasonable force", the jury agreed, and she was let off. Clearly, anyone in their right mind would see that that this was unacceptable, and hence the creation of the bill by Green MP Sue Bradford to ban the use of "reasonable force" as a defence.

Ok. So far so good. So to get back to the point of this bill: how do parents end up in court? Do they end up getting charged by doing things like...giving their kid a light smack on the wrist? Giving them a light smack on the backside? Of course they don't. They never have, and they never will. Parents end up in court, by and large, by beating several shades of shit out of their kids; not even cops have wasted precious time and resources by charging people with useless things like light smacking. So then, how on earth did this innocuous bill become a heinous "anti-smacking bill" that banned smacking on risk of jail time, if caught? I didn't know then, and I still don't know now.

However it started, soon enough the opposition to the bill became a groundswell, with marches all over the country protesting against the bill's ratification in parliament, the first being in grand old Masterton, the home of intelligent political commentary, headed by the worlds most boring (not to mention idiotic and inbred) newspaper columnist Sue Reid. Prime jackasses like Garth McVicar, head of the misleadingly titled 'Sensible Sentencing Trust' and Bob McCoskie from the 'Family First' organisation weighed in, panicking parents up and down the country by telling them that they were all soon to be criminals. Panic spread: good parents all over the country were soon going to be able to be charged by the police and sent to jail. Kids were going to run off the their local constable after being denied, I don't know, being allowed to watch Spongebob, and tell little lies about being given a smack, which would eventually result in firstly a visit by the police, and then a trip to the cells. Any little allegation was going to automatically mean jail time. What was going on? Was the world going mad? The government needed to be overthrown! Time for a revolution! Kids, get the emergency kits and shotguns! This was war!

To their eternal credit, the Labour government's support of the bill never wavered under intense public pressure, which at its height was about 80% against the bill. In fact, this was probably the final nail in the coffin for Helen Clark; the public never forgave the party for not listening to their misguided protests, and they were voted out of office by a landslide. Never mind that John Key had also voted for the bill. That was, umm, different, apparently.

Just when things were at their peak, a clause was dropped into the bill to help reassure the public that, in fact, noone would be going to jail unneccesarily. It was along the lines that the police were free to make their own decisions on who to charge and send to court; if they deemed a complaint frivolous or without merit, nothing would go any further. As soon as this was added, the movement quickly dissipated, and the bill passed quietly, with little fanfare. Of course, this clause was unnecessary from the start; it was always up to the police over who to charge and what action to take, but this clause just made it plain for the public to see. Last year the act was passed into law, and that was the end of that. Case closed.

Or maybe not. Despite the fact that it had been proven that good parents would not end up in court after all, and that it would only affect bad parents that were child beaters, a small group of hardcore nutjobs still kept up the righteous fight for the scum of society, travelling around the country under the (now clearly disproven) banner of "protecting good parents", still attempting to get the bill overthrown. Good parents who beat their kids, obviously.

And now, due to the efforts of these nutjobs, we have before us a public referendum on the issue. The question? "'Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?". Sigh.

The question is obviously misleading, since smacking isn't a criminal offence in New Zealand. Potentially it is, but only, of course, if you smack hard enough to get charged by the police. Despite the claims of victimisation by the proponents of the referendum, this has, in fact, only happened once. Once. In a whole year. Once.

And how much has this cost the whole the taxpaying public? I'm not one who constantly goes on about wasting taxpayers money, but $9 million says that this time I will. And whats more, the government has said that they will not pay the slightest bit of attention to the results; the answer could be 100% in favour of "no", and they wouldn't give a shit. And so they shouldn't. Its a stupid, pointless question, and governments are not around to be held to ransom by misguided ( or even ill-meaning) lunatics. Whats worse is that, before they submitted this referendum, Larry Baldock (the one who officially submitted it) and his ilk knew full well that this was not going to change things one bit. So why did they do it? Well, fucked if I know-all I can guess is that these people seem to think that child beating is a-ok, that parents have the right to beat the shit out of their kids and get away with it: after all, its their kids, so therefore they can beat away to their hearts content. Scum.

I'm not voting in this referendum. Tomorrow afternoon I'm catching a flight to Los Angeles, so I won't be able to; however, even if I was at home I still wouldn't. Its a pointless, stupid exercise, commited by strange, crazy people. Hopefully, when all the votes are cast and the last one is counted, the whole issue can quietly die down once again and everything can go back to the way it should be, i.e normal. Its time this ridiculous and embarassing episode ended. I sincerely hope so.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

One small step for...myself?

Hi everyone.

When I say "hi everyone", I don't actually mean "hi everyone" as, at this stage, I'm the only one reading this, so really I'm just saying hi to myself. Which, I dunno, I guess is quite nice; maybe its good to be appreciated once in a while, even if it's by yourself. So yeah, thanks man. I love you too.

Seriously though...I seem to recall someone saying that bloggers were, I forget now, swamp-dwelling dumbfucks (thats right, because its my blog I can swear whenever I want) or something along those lines, and I'm not sure I'm inclined to disagree. However, as the address says (I think) blogs suck, but maybe not this one. Who knows, maybe I'll be lucky and turn out like Simon Sweetman and write a blog that I actually like. Wait, since I'm writing this, that means that I DO like this! Yess! Strike one up for the good guys!

Part of me wishes that noone else actually does read this. Who knows. Whatever happens, I promise it won't all be this stupid. If I remember the address, that is...