In this Corner: The Reckoning

Before Trump “attorney” Michael Cohen started spitting up blood, Democrats who pay attention to trends began to realize that in order to beat Trump they were going to need their own Masked Marvel. Enter Michael Avenatti. A pugnacious trial attorney who started a PAC called “The Fight.” Who hashtags in Italian with the word “Basta!”, which translate to “Enough!,” the shibboleth of one Michael Corleone. He also occasionally hashtags FightClub. Point is, the guy is ready to take down Trump.

Here I am conducting a brief interview with the future president, as our heads glisten under the fluorescent lights. Me: “Goodfellas” or “Godfather?” Avenatti: Both great. Me: Agreed. Don’t you see Trump as Morry’s wigs? Avenatti: Look, I can debate him on issues but I can also stand toe to toe. Who else can do that? Bernie Sanders. I don’t think so.

He makes an excellent point. For those who keep asking, “How did we get here?” the answer is pretty simple. Professional wrestling. I realize that if you are reading a blog you probably don’t watch wrestling, but red state America does. Trump does. Hell, he even participated in it. More of his “fan base” knows him from the WWE than from “The Apprentice.” Would those red-hatters really watch a show about corporate execs competing for a job? Only if the job involved corndogs and monster trucks. No, meth-Americans love wrestling. The sappy morality plays pitting steroid giants against each other to compete for the very soul of America. They hug flags. They demonize their opponents. They sport ridiculous hairdoos. Sound familiar?

Trump, alleged Wharton grad, studied wrestling under the tutelage of Vince McMahon, grandson of the founder of mass-marketed professional wrestling. Trump learned the rules of engagement: bully your opposition, mock them, egg on your crowd to hurl attacks and insults, and choreograph your moves. Trump is reminiscent of WWE performer and former Champion John “Bradshaw” Layfield. Bradshaw was accused numerous times of bullying and hazing his coworkers. He specialized in using insulting nicknames to belittle his competition. “L’il” Marco. “Lyin” Ted. “Crooked” Ultimate Warrior.

The other obvious appeal of the WWE to Trump is the money. A multi-billion dollar a year con-job on the least affluent among us. Bonehead ballet for the Monster energy drink crowd. Only Trump could look out on that crowd of wrestling fans and imagine them all wearing red baseball caps. He also probably imagined them naked, but that’s more about his scumbag personality.

Trump takes the “show” of the wrestling ring to his entire every day life, which, unfortunately involves presidenting. Every thing is seen through the prism of good vs. evil, winners and losers. Winning trades wars is easy. Preventing wild fires? Easy. Immigration? Easy. The only thing complicated about the guy is the on-going audit of his 2015 tax returns. Nobody would understand them.

As we ease our way into the 2020 presidential election, Avenatti has already had the surprise folding chair thrown at him. Twice. Once when his client who accused then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh of rape was not allowed to testify. Avenatti was even threatened with an Senate inquiry over the charges. Avenatti showed enough spunk to threaten to take down the Senate. Not sure where that inquiry stands since it was a million news cycles ago. Who can keep up?

The second chair landed temporarily when the “news” source TMZ reported that Avenatti had been arrested on domestic abuse charges. It now appears that the Sicilian necktie had a little breathing room in it. Avenatti produced character witnesses (his 2 ex-wives), and now seems to have video proof that it was a hoax. Though, he may have survived the theatrics of this Death Match can he stay upright for the long haul?

More importantly, does he need to? I mean the Democrats already have someone with ring experience. He’s a former football player. An actor. A producer. And he’s most famous for wearing tights and pounding some gentleman known as The Undertaker. Of course, I’m talking about Joe Biden. In this corner, the Demon of Delaware. The Scranton Scrapper. The Big Fuckin’ Deal himself … Joe. Joe. Joe. Can I call you Joe?

Get Out, the Summer Edition

From the wild fires of California to the scorched earth of Western Europe to the death panels of Western Australia, we can all bid a fond sayonara to Summer. Pack up the lemonade, kiss Bernie Sanders’ ruddy cheeks, record all conversations and move on.

For our peer group, Summer means live music, and her Mims and I attended plenty of great shows. It all started with the Decemberists. No selfie, but I did get a pretty good interview with opening act, Eleanor Friedberger. The Gabbonesso and I were standing in an aisle talking with Mrs. Patsos Patsos when the former Fiery Furnace burst forth from a side door. The interview ensued:

Me: Eleanor, great set.
EF: (icy stare) (walks away)
Me: Say hi to your mom.

The 12th Monthers were promoting their new long player, “I’ll be Your Girl,” however, they played a nice mix from all of their records. Except for “The Hazards of Love.” Yes, they played crowd favorite, “The Rake’s Song,” but I think that was it. Colin apologized every other song for his scratchy voice, but I thought they sounded fantastic, Captain. They even brought out the whale! Great start to the season.

Next up, Spoon and Grizzly Bear, a mini-festival that made Woodstock look like an amateur night hootenanny. Country Joe and Fish, anyone. Please. Mims and I took young Dylan, named for Nobel Poet Czeslew Milosz. I think. Any way, Britt Daniel and company played the best Spoon set I’ve ever witnessed. The set was so hot that when Britt sang, “Bring me some popsicles” I hoped the crowd would Kraft dinner him. Except with popsicles. We didn’t get to hear all of the Grizz because our young poet needed to get home. Something about a junior license, camp and progressive chord changes. My reaction to experiencing Grizzly Bear live was that they shouldn’t have let Spoon open. Love the new record, though.

Next on the menu were the Canadian superstars (who remain obscure in the States), Sloan. Her Mims sat this one out because, well, Sloan draws about 50 middle-aged men to their shows. Etouffe, Maximum Tom and Unrealtor Dennis and I were treated to some of the best power pop ever produced. As you can see from the set list below, they attempted to play their entire catalog. If you are not familiar with Sloan, and you’re not, all four members write and sing terrific songs. They rotate between lead vocals, instruments, harmonies and ice hockey references. Their new album “12” is a certifiable classic, and should be purchased as a back to school gift for everyone you know. To make the experience especially great, I got to interview Sloan “frontman”, Chris Murphy. Enjoy:

ME: First, I have to ask a Canadian question. What is your favorite Ryan Reynolds movie?

CM: Oh. Ummm. I dunno, eh. Oh, I can’t really think of any. Oh, wait. “La La Land.”

ME: Yeah, that’s Ryan Gosling. Thanks for trying, though. How about “Deadpool?”

CM: I didn’t see those. Are they any good? Are they funny?

ME: Not really. Let’s move on. I always have to ask: Stones or Blur?

CM: What, eh? Why don’t you just ask me peanut butter or mayonaise? I mean, I dunno, eh? I’d say Beatles first, of course. Then probably the Kinks. I don’t really know Blur.

ME: Good answer! Though, I might say Beatles, Zombies and then Kinks. Then Blur.

CM: Oh, I don’t really know the Zombies. I mean, I love “Oracular Spectacular,” eh? But, yeah, I might put the Who above the Stones.

ME: Honestly, I’ve only had one guy say Blur.

CM: Oh, yeah? Who?

ME: Rooney.

CM: Oh, yeah? Which guy?

ME: The singer. Robert.

CM: I’m good friends with Taylor from Rooney. He and Robert don’t always see eye to eye.

ME: Probably because of Blur.

CM: Could be, eh?

ME: Finally. I guess I need to apologize for Trump. Little Brain Man. Sore E.

CM: Oh, hey. We have Doug Ford in Ontario. Jeez. Yeah. Do you remember Rob Ford. It’s his brother. It’s happening everywhere.

ME: Scary. Used to only happen in Germany. Well, good luck in the World Cup.

CM: Ok, thanks. Don’t think we qualified, though, eh?

ME: I meant next time. Next time.

Next came the white whale of all touring bands, Radiohead. They had not performed in Pittsburgh since 1997, and I can only assume it was a Bill Cowher slight that kept them away. Now fans can argue that the set list was a little heavy on their lesser known tracks, and they only played one song from “O.K. Computer” (not okay, computer!), but Her Mims and I were both rocking out for the duration. If I had to complain about anything, and I do, it would be that seeing them in a hockey arena in the summer felt like a virtual reality show. Yeah, they sounded great, but from my vantage point I couldn’t even see Thom Yorke’s squinkie eye. Bummer.

Finally, we conclude with the non-ordained Father John Misty. I don’t consider myself to be a huge fan, but Unrealtor Dennis (not a Beatle) took me to see the Mist. Opening act Bully really impressed with a tight set of Grrrlll Power Pop. I’m expectorating big things from them.

Papi John also had the large crowd wrapped around his sardonic fingers. He spared no expense on back up musicians, including a horn section, multiple keyboards, guitars and beards. All in all, a tremendous way to conclude the hell of seasons, Summer.

So what have we learned. Well, we could have taken a European vacation for what we spent on tickets, t-shirts, drinks, food and more drinks. Please don’t tell Her Mims. Good night, every moon. Coming soon, my review of Kurt Andersen’s “Fantasyland.” A must read? You must!

My earliest childhood memory involves watching an Abraham Lincoln re-enactor (possibly Hal Holbrooke, I’m not sure) debating Norman Mailer on The Dick Cavett Show. I remember being overwhelmed by the logic and passion that Lincoln brought to the argument about Republican values of diversity, inclusiveness and responsibility. I remember an incensed Mailer wailing his fists into the faux Lincoln until his top hat came to rest on Dick Cavett’s lap.

Wow, I thought, I want to grow up to be a Republican, much to the dismay of my brie-eating, tax-and-spend parents. Even though they sent me to Catholic school to receive a traditional liberal education, I longed for the day when I could cast my first vote for the Grand Old Party.

In high school, I worked on the Re-Elect Gerald Ford for President campaign. I proudly displayed my “Win with Ford” button over the crest of my blazer even though the other students made fun of me. They would mask their anti-Republican feelings with taunts about my heritage or sexuality, but I knew they were just being anti-American. After all, didn’t Ford get us out Vietnam?

In college, I headed up the campus pro-life squad, the Gays for Reagan cotillion and the Minorities for a New Day Committee. Armed with my red rose and a Reaganesque sense of can-do spirit, I worked tirelessly on my fellow collegians to sway them to vote for Republican candidates. I remember once leading a voter registration drive outside of the campus events center where the band the Minutemen were performing and almost getting into a fight with some intolerant small-minded Liberals. Thankfully, my boyfriend at the time, (who will remain anonymous because he is currently serving his 5th term in Congress and it would cause stress to his wife and children), came to my defense.

After college, I ran unsuccessfully for the Republican State Committee. Even though I was not elected, I was appointed to a special position of Minority Recruitment Chairperson. I wasn’t given a fancy desk, a budget or allowed to attend meetings, but just being able to tell people that I had been chosen for this special job made me feel like a real power broker. I knew nothing like this could ever happen to me in the other party. Let’s face it; the Democrats don’t exactly have to recruit minorities. They just throw government subsidies at them that are paid for by all of the hard-working Americans with jobs.

To this day I remain steadfast in my support of Republican candidates. My friends at the gay clubs question my motives. They try to spin the facts by telling me that Republicans consistently vote for measures that are anathema to the gay community. They lie and say that by forcing people off of welfare and taking away support for urban programs, that the Republican-lead Congress has an anti-minority agenda. They even suggested that because Nixon was caught on tape making disparaging remarks about Jews that he was somehow anti-Semitic. The lengths Libs will go to just to try and change my mind is frightening.

I remain a loyal Republican because my party doesn’t have to care about me. I have to care about me. See, when the president says that he “loves the sinner, but hates the sin,” I am the sinner in that scenario, and I love me. It’s the Liberals who want to confuse the issue by trying to allow for same sex marriages. My message is simple: hey, Liberals, stay out of my wedding chapel and I’ll stay out of your soup kitchens (except on gazpacho day – it’s fabulous!).

And when liberals say that the only way that minorities will gain a fair position in the world is through the Stalinistic forcing of affirmative action down the throats of corporations, colleges and, um, well, everything else, I say, nyet. Affirmative action says that minorities shouldn’t be judged by their accomplishments, just by their race. Just because minorities aren’t rising to positions of authority or even getting jobs isn’t due to racism, it’s because Liberals have over-taxed and suffocated the business community into a “whites only” hiring mentality.

And if there’s one party that is ever going to stand up to the National Rifle Association, it’s the Republicans. You never see a Republican candidate pandering to voters by having photo ops with duck hunters. You never see a Republican crying about what to do with an assault weapon. It’s the Liberals and their precious cities that have become the havens for illegal guns. No wonder they fear the NRA. The Republicans tell the NRA what to do and who to endorse. That helps me sleep at night. That and Ambien.

So as a Gay-African-Jewish American, I say Trump/Pence is the ticket for me. And if I ever start earning more than $200,000 a year, I’ll be glad they’re for me.

You Call that Book “Hoodrat”

Welcome back, reader. Sorry for the delay. Guess I really didn’t have much to say. That’s not true. I just confine my thoughts to 140 characters. More or less. Plus, well, I had some personal issues. And some personnel issues. Damn, adulthood is the worst. Don’t believe me? Ask Lindsey Buckingham.


Well, you can’t ask him while he’s on tour with Fleetwood Mac because they fired him. The guy who wrote “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “Last Train to Clarksville” has been kicked out of the band named for founding member, Bob Welch. Bob, who went on to win a Cy Young award with Oakland, could not be reached for comment.

Hey, speaking of comments, the following is an interview with the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn that I pieced together from January of 17. The Hold Steady coincidentally were named after Charles Darwin’s ship, the Intrepid. Legend has it that Darwin would kiss those turtles right on the chops! Gross, Charles! Any way, here’s the interview that I swear is mostly accurate:

Me: Have you seen that horrible Batman vs. Superman movie? What a load of crap.

CF: No, I never really got into comics.

Me: Really? What did you do in those Minnesota winters? Ice fishing.

CF: Yes, ice fishing. No, I mean, I guess I like the Batman movies.

Me: You said earlier that you started work on a novel, and then threw it away after writing 20,000 words. What the hell? Who are you? Hemingway?

CF: I, uh, no, I just. I don’t know. It didn’t seem very good.

Me: Don’t ever do that again!

Etouffe: (Interrupting the interview just like he used to do on radiophilistine) Sure the Replacements are great, but why no love for the Huskers?

CF: I love Husker Du. No, I do. It just seemed like every time I saw them play they would play the full album. I don’t know, the Replacements just seemed to make a career in music seem possible.

Etouffe: We loved the Huskers.

Me: Though, he’s right. They did play “Warehouse” at a rapid speed, and that’s a double album.

CF: Thanks guys.

Me: You’re not full blooded Irish, are you?

CF: No, I’m half Polish. My mother was Polish.

Me: Um, Finn isn’t a Polish name.

CF: What?

Me: Follow that Irish blood and write your novel. Or just novelize your songs. Why not?

Well, that’s the interview. I hope you enjoyed it. Look for a new Hold Steady record soon, and don’t quit your day job, Mueller.

The Suspect Is In Our Sights

I sipped my Dunkin coffee as my partner, Pat pulled up behind the suspect. From our vantage point, the suspect was an African-American male approximately early thirties. He wore a white dress shirt and neck tie. We could identify a car seat stationed in the back with a child rocking while holding a toy.

“Check out the plate.” I called it in. No outstanding violations. We continued our pursuit.

The driver signaled and turned right on Cochran. Nice neighborhood. Where was he going?

“Should we call in back up?” No, this is ours.

Pat reached to turn on the lights, but I slapped his hand. I wanted to see how this played out.

The suspect pulled into the driveway of a split level house. Lawn appeared to be manicured with lovely shrubs. Fall mums recently planted. A flag pole with what first appeared to be a foreign flag waving. Upon closer inspection, the flag checked out as American. Suspect unbuckled his safety belt and exited the vehicle. Without making any sudden movements, he removed the toddler from the car seat.

“Are they working this together?” Pat muttered. Pat’s hand rested on his sidearm. We’ll see. I sipped my coffee as Pat pulled the car to a stop across the street from the home the suspect appeared to be casing. Why this house? It didn’t add up.

“Someone’s coming.” Pat reached for his door, but I pulled him back. An African-American female opened the front door. Thin and wearing nurse’s scrubs, I could make out her lips saying “how was your day?” She grabbed for the child.

“Should we call in back up?” Pat was sweating. “There’s more than one.”

We wait. This could be good. Maybe SWAT good. Reminded me of the time we caught one in a Jaguar heading towards the suburbs. Got hot real fast. Several suburban forces helped with the pursuit, even though that suspect had pulled over immediately. His license and registration checked out, but something just didn’t feel right. Call it patrolman’s instinct, but by the time the FBI arrived each officer had already emptied his weapon. No dash cams on that one. Good damn, brass.

From our vantage point, the suspect, the woman and the toddler were sitting around a dining room table. Something was smoking in the middle of the table. Drugs? Maybe. A discharged weapon? No, we would have heard it. The suspect picked up the steaming bowl and seemed to pull something from it by possibly using a large utensil. Pat appeared antsy.

“I say we bust down that door. There’s three of them!” No. We wait.

A half hour passed before we noticed some activity. The suspect emerged from the house wearing what appeared to be a hoodless track suit. He made some stretching movements and then took off running down the street away from our car.

I got him. I set my coffee down and went for a run. I made it down the street a couple of blocks before heading back to the patrol car. Before I could catch my breath, I took another look at that flag. Still American. What the hell is going on here.

The next morning, the suspect and the toddler emerged from the front door. I tapped Pat’s leg with my shotgun. Pat had slept through the night, but not peacefully. Several times he cried out and whimpered. The case was getting to him, and we weren’t getting too far.

“He’s on the move already?” 7am, big boy. Let’s roll.

The suspect stopped at what appeared at first to be a safe house called ABC DayCare. Turned to be a day care. He dropped off the accomplice, and then moved on to the concrete jungle. A skyscraper. Where is he going?

“He’s making fools of us. I say we grab him.” NO!!! We wait.

The suspect ate yogurt for lunch. Yogurt. He’s fucking with us. If we were going to solve this, we were going to need some help. We called the Chief.

“Yogurt, huh? Keep building a case, officer.”

Two weeks passed before we sniffed a break. The suspect pulled into the driveway of the house he still appeared to be casing and opened the trunk of his perfectly registered car. With no time to lose, Pat and I slipped from our vehicle without having to unlatch the safety belts that we never use. As we approached, we saw a motherload in the trunk. “Bombs,” Pat whispered to me. Just as I raised the shotgun to crush the suspect’s skull, I observed that the trunk was full of pumpkins.

“Pumpkins? The guy’s fucking with you two. I want this case wrapped up. You hear!”

Several years passed. The suspect had been promoted to a regional manager position. He and the women had added another accomplice. A girl. The woman appeared to be taking yoga three times a week.

“Yoga! Are they monsters?”

As I neared retirement, I knew I needed to put this case to rest. I wouldn’t go out the same way as Pat drinking myself to death. Why would a good officer drink rat poison? He didn’t have a rat problem. Or did he? Did I miss those signs too?

FotoFlexer_TrumpFor all of his faults, idiocy, high crimes and misdemeanors, self-aggrandizement and general awfulness, I would contend that Donald J. Trump is quintessentially the most American of all presidents. Let’s cut all the “shiny city on hill” bullcrap and examine the true core of America.

America cultivated for-profit Christianity (while maintaining non-profit status), a form of religion that enriches pastors, bishops, prophets, madmen, charlatans and Mormons. Oh, yeah, Mormonism, that most American of all religions founded by a failed “businessman” who spent time in jail for scamming people. In the early 1820’s, Joseph Smith found himself turning to the tried and true business of religion to cultivate suckers. Prophets with a vision to sell were popping up all over the place, but not many offered free land and child brides. Oh, and Mormons preach a success covenant with God. Your financial well doing is tied to your faith. You know, just like Jesus preached. Give a man a fish and create a lazy mooch, teach a man to scam and he’ll never work again. Trump Steaks, anyone?

Before Donald Trump, America had to endure Phineas Taylor “P. T.” Barnum. Another creation of the America of nightmares, Barnum was a politician, showman, and businessman best remembered for promoting celebrated hoaxes and for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Like Trump, Barnum said of himself, “I am a showman by profession…and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me.” Also like Trump, Inc., Barnum’s goal was “to put money in his own coffers”. Barnum is generally credited with coining the phrase “There’s a sucker born every minute”. Hey, do those suckers vote?

Why do Americans still remember Barnum nearly 130 years after his death? Sure – torturing elephants, but why else? Because he bragged about himself non-stop. A shameless self-promoter who saw humanity as one big dollar sign. The distractions he created were bearded ladies, conjoined twins and sword swallowers. For Trump, it’s failed casinos, horsemeat steaks and flirting with his daughter.

And what about those casinos? Is there anything more iconic of the American landscape than Las Vegas? The city of dreams funded by gangsters using union pension funds so suckers can waste their hard earned cash trying to get rich quick. Of course, Trump tried his hand in the casino business in the shithole known as Atlantic City. Like most of his business operations, Trump himself became the sucker. The only casino operator on Earth who lost money. Even Old Testament Ghoul, Sheldon Adelson made money in casinos, and his were in Macau!

Which brings us to professional sports. The only monopolies left in America. Another institution that found popularity through gambling, and remains popular despite scandals involving drugs, cheating, doping, stealing and murder. Yes, they even covet their neighbors wives!

The idiocy of professional sports in America can best be showcased through it’s favorite creation: professional wrestling. Nothing says America like beefcake bodybuilders engaged in homo-erotic gripping and groaning while a delighted audience cheers on the heroes and villains knowing the entire enterprise is a fraud. Each wrestler is a manufactured “character” marketed to get the suckers in the seats or shelling out big dollars on pay per view.

Of course, Trump too had a hand in professional wrestling. Trapped somewhere between ridiculous business buffoon and too soft “pretty boy” to be taken seriously, Trump would stand ringside at yell at the actors and their owner, Vince McMahon. In 2009, instead of negotiating with world leaders, Trump was dealing with Vince McMahon on the “purchase” of Monday Night Raw, the cable broadcast of professional wrestling.

Said Trump at the time, “I’m going to do stuff that’s never been done before. never been seen before. People have been watching Raw for 17 years and they deserve something special. You’ve made a lot of money off these people. It’s about time you give back. Like our president says, ‘Give back.'”

As always, when left unscripted, Trump has a way of playing the asshole. Imagine a president like John Kennedy or Barack Obama suggesting that successful people give something back to their country. What are we? Suckers?

Bigly.

I Would Have Gone With Garland

On November 25th, Etouffe’s birthday by the way, I finally decided to take my Hillary sign out of the yard. Others had been doing it since the election, but I kept putting it back up. A resistance movement? Not so much. I just wanted people driving down our street to know that her Mims and I weren’t insane. We weren’t ready to concede that 60 million of our countrymen, some friends and relatives, could pull the lever for such an obvious conman. A conman running on the dimmest of slogans: Make America Great Again. I won’t even concede that the phrase is harkening back to some racist time that every klansman would know. I think it was a reject slogan from Chevy or Wendy’s or MelloYello.

If you (singular reader) haven’t gathered by now, I run a political marketing firm. Here’s some inside baseball info for you: we rarely elect the best and brightest. Mostly, it’s wealthy narcissists. Paranoid ones who clutch to petty slights and dream of exacting revenge. They drive their consultants crazy with their Enemies of Carlotta lists, and just when we’re ready to kill each other the campaign ends. So, good luck, Trumpie. Hope you make it through the year.

fotoflexer_lourdesOn the positive side of the election year, Mims and I were honored to host an exchange student from Bolivia for 2 weeks. While I was not sold on the idea at first, it didn’t take long to feel blessed. Lourdes became our “daughter,” and a special part of our lives. Her English was way better than my Espanol. She said I sounded Japanese when I tried to speak Spanish. Also, she was pleased by our extensive CD and DVD collections. She flipped when she saw we had Gorillaz. Of course, I tried to get her interested in every Indie band I could think of (more on that).

Sadly, I promised her a Hillary victory. I even ordered her a hat and shirt from the ImWithHer store. But it was not to be. Apparently, there is a strong desire to make America a banana republic. So we can’t share the joy of seeing the USA elect it’s first female president, however, Lourdes, Her Mims and I will always have David S. Pumpkins. Any questions?

Lourdes did want to see a live concert while she was visiting. Our options were Har Mar Superstar or Rooney. I’m happy to report we chose correctly. Robert Schwartzman (Jason’s little brother) was pure rock star, even if only 50 people showed. Francis Ford Coppola’s nephew could not have been more gracious and more entertaining. As a bonus, they even have new record out: “Washed Away.” I’m not making any promises, but if I go back to publishing “Best Of” lists this should make the Best of 2016.

fotoflexer_rooneyRobert stopped to have his picture taken with all of us, and to chat. He seemed genuinely interested in his fans. Especially one who had traveled all the way from Bolivia to see him. I did get a brief interview in, and, finally, someone answered “the question” correctly. Read on:

Me: Man, that was a great show. Way better than Phantom Planet.
RS: Hey, thanks. Well…
Me: How come your brother wasn’t in “Royal Tennenbaums?”
RS: I don’t know.
ME: He could have played Ari or Uzi.
RS: Ok.
ME: Final question that I ask all musicians: Rolling Stones or Blur?
RS: What do you mean?
ME: Which band rocks harder?
RS: I gotta go with Blur. I love them. Yeah! All right.
ME: Holy crap! That’s it. Thank you!

And just for sticking around for the interview, I’ll leave you with a little taste of Rooney. You’re welcome, kind sir. Or madam.

Send In The Destroyer

On a trip to New York in the 80s, I discovered Spy Magazine. I became a subscriber until they stopped publishing in the mid-90s. If you’re not familiar with Spy, it was a precursor to the Onion only they focused a lot of their satire at the “short-fingered vulgarian” known as Donald J. Trump. Nearly 30 years ago, they predicted the comic rise of a national nightmare/joke. One might say that Spy destroyed satire. On November 9th, many of us might be thinking: what now?

fotoflexer_bejarSpeaking of Destroyer, I had the pleasure recently to see Dan Bejar perform a solo show that was by all accounts divine. It’s not just his unique voice, his biblical prophet/renaissance painter look or his 70s jazzy style of indie rock that was so appealing. It was all of that, and. And his way around a song structure that blended storytelling with free form poetry. One might call it Nobel Prize winning caliber, but we’ll see.

The interview didn’t go so well, as I caught him standing near the restroom. He was extremely nice, but seemed fragile and I didn’t want to be the one to send him into a tailspin. I approached with an introduction of my own.

ME: Dan. Hey meet your label mate. My sister’s doing an album with Misra.
DB: Oh, yeah. (To Comedy Sister) Do you know (Ted)?
GAB: No, I’m working with a local guy.
DB: That’s cool.
ME: How about some pictures?
DB: Sure.

And that was it. I didn’t even get to ask Stones, Blur or Sloan (our Canadian edition of the popular quiz show). I also wanted to ask who he reads. He just seemed like a guy who polishes off a book a week. Maybe next time.

fotoflexer_lynn-whitfieldSpeaking of destroying it, here’s a picture of me with Hollywood great, Lynn Whitfield. Ms. Whitfield was in town as a surrogate for Hillary Clinton. They told us Ted Danson was coming, but I wasn’t complaining. She crushed it for Hillary. In a room packed with Democrats, I bet 85% of those in attendance will vote for Hillary. If they vote at all. And if you’re going to fire up the faithful, who better to light the match then the woman who portrayed Josephine Baker? I told her how much I loved her in “Silverado,” and she gave me a high-five. She said, “no one ever brings that one up.” I told her that Goldblum was a native son. We follow him closely. Love his work for Apartments.com.

I also had the honor recently of meeting a real national hero, Representative John Lewis. This man was a freedom marcher who put his body on the line to bring equality to the South. He took more batons to the head than a blind marching band. My goodness, he was so kind to all of us waiting to take a picture. He also gave a great speech that was even respectful of the short-fingered vulgarian. All he asked was that we vote. I guess he’s still passionate about that stuff.

fotoflexer_john-lewisOn a strange note, he thanked me profusely for all of the support my brothers in the Plumbers and Steamfitters Unions have given him over the years. Huh? Oh, the shirt was a “gift” I picked up on Labor Day. Oops. You’re welcome, Congressman. You’re welcome.

Should have had one more photo to share, but Ben Folds blew me off. Me and 50 other people. Realtor Dennis took me to a VIP reception and show of Ben Minus Four, which was to include a meet and greet. Ben never made it to the meet nor the greet. We did get to sit in on the soundcheck, but, you know, not from the stage. He performed “Zak and Sara” so I’m not complaining. However, when he played “Brick” Realtor D turned to me and asked, “Do you know any of these songs?” Sometimes it goes like that.

His question did get me thinking. Mostly about “Westworld.” Man, I am loving that show, but I am starting to spot AI among us. Seriously, how else can you explain these Trump crowds.

Your Band Smells Like the Replacements

Review of “Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements”

FotoFlexer_KetelReplacementsAs chronicled in Bob Behr’s excellent history “Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements,” the band were often self-sabotaging drunken louts who performed to their audiences basest desires to see a head-on pile up. Yet in 1987 at the Graffiti, Paul Westerburg and his mates put on an inspired gem of a show playing an ungodly 28-song set plus a few encores that included Westerburg taking and playing requests. Someone yelled out a Christmas song and one of rock’s greatest lyricists indulged.

In 1987, the ‘Mats (as they’re affectionately known) were on the verge of super stardom. On the road to promote their highly anticipated second major label release (“Pleased to Meet Me”), they inexplicably chose chaos and destruction rather than playing it straight. And that’s the point of Behr’s book. In a calculated choice between dominating the airwaves and destroying their livers, the Minneapolis kids picked up the bottle and rarely set it down.

The band always had trouble reconciling their hard scrabble upbringings with a desire to be accepted. They were four high school drop outs (with the exception of their 12-year old bassist, who may have dropped out of middle school at some point) working menial jobs and making tremendous racket in a basement who somehow crafted some of the most beautiful songs of their generation. Always fortunate to find friends willing to take a chance on their talent and overlook their glaring alcoholism and drug use, they were propelled into legend if not exactly fame.

While “Trouble Boys” explores psychological factors, including child abuse, that lead to many of the challenges the band faced on their career trajectory, it doesn’t delve deeply enough to explore how such a talented songwriter as Westerburg came to blow up what should have been a brilliant career. He both craved fame and urinated all over it, including shouting a profanity on Saturday Night Live that lead to a television ban.

The Replacements three record output of “Let it Be,” “Tim” and “Pleased to Meet Me” rank as one of the greatest runs ever by a band, yet they struggled to escape the confines of college radio. Meanwhile, their colleagues R.E.M. were able to reach the top of the charts, infuriating and confusing the ‘Mats. It’s not that Westerburg was against “selling out,” he just couldn’t get his demons under control long enough to make people like him.

An American soul singer who could bang out classics like “Unsatisfied” and “Here Comes a Regular,” Westerburg started chasing the dream and further alienating all of his allies. Firing band mates, management and even bringing in session players, he became prophetic in writing “A dream too tired to come true.” With the release of “All Shook Down” and it’s single “When it Began”, the dream had come to a close.

It’s difficult to read their post-Replacements lives, especially the half-brother Stinsons. Tommy gets his first non-musical job as a telemarketer selling office supplies and Bob dies of “natural” causes before the age of fifty. For his part, Westerburg got sober and embarked on a somewhat successful solo career, though the big hit remained elusive. One of the joys he finds in sobriety is being able to coach his son’s little league team.

To his credit, Behr interviews nearly everyone involved in the Replacements family, from the earliest days in Minneapolis to the final tour. Reading each and every drunken miscue becomes exhausting. You keep hoping that they’ll straighten out long enough to taste success even though you know the ending. By the early 90s, as the torch of the Replacements’ sound gets passed to bands like Nirvana and the Pixies, it’s too late.

In a final ditch effort to cash in on renewed interest in their music, the Replacements reformed in 2012 to tour the world. They played in front of their largest crowds ever, and even talked about recording together again. But, in staying true to themselves, the project devolved and was canceled before it could can go further. A May 2015 show scheduled at Stage AE was canceled due to illness, and by June the tour was over. Even in sobriety they found a way to disappoint their fans. The troubled legacy would remain intact.

Review of “The Strange Library”

Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami’s follow up to his brilliant “1Q84”is a slight fable that reads like a condemnation of Common Core, the education system that promotes memorization over critical thinking.

As in most fables, Murakami gives us a young protagonist who finds himself on a quest. In “The Strange Library,” our nameless narrator visits the city library to return books and to learn about tax collection during the Ottoman Empire. To fulfill his quest, he is lead through a labyrinthine basement by a menacing library assistant and confined to a cell.

Often criticized in his native Japan for using western story-telling techniques, “The Strange Library” incorporates elements of fabulism and folklore that feel rooted in Japan. The book is also peppered with drawings that give the feel of being a picture book for adults. The drawings have the coloration of anime or pop art, bold and hypnotic. I imagine Guillermo Del Toro is already working on the screenplay.

Our narrator chides himself constantly for his own politeness, and his willingness to please others. His desire to learn about the tax collecting policies of the Ottomans is more a whim born from loneliness than an actual intellectual pursuit. He arrives at the library near to closing time to return 2 titles, “How to Build a Submarine” and “Memoirs of a Shepherd.”

Which brings us to the man in the sheep skin suit. A variation of this character has appeared in other Murakami’s books, and in “The Strange Library” he appears as a slave to the brutish library assistant. Our narrator empathizes with the man’s plight and invites the man in the sheep skin suit to escape with him.

Surely Murakami, with his fascination for Western culture, would know the significance of the “sheep skin” symbolism, and how Westerners refer to diplomas as sheep skin. The boy is aided in his assignment to memorize three books about tax collection by the man in the sheep skin. The boy is told that he cannot leave the library until he can recite the books verbatim.

As in “1Q84,” Murakami plays with a notion of parallel universes where actions in one universe can affect outcomes in another world. Like a liberal education, the narrator elects to study a subject and then is forced to commit to that choice. In this case, the commitment takes the form of being confined to a part of the library he did not know existed. The narrator fears his surroundings, but also fears for the worry he will cause his mother if he does not return home in time for dinner.

Like most good fantasies, there is a love interest. Here our narrator meets a wraith like young woman of incredible beauty who nurtures him in his confinement by bringing him his meals. How many productive educations have been lost to the pursuit of romance?

The grandson of a Buddhist priest, Murakami also generously peppers this tale with Christian imagery. From the boy returning a book titled “Memoirs of a Shepherd” to him losing his new, leather shoes during his escape. He also discovers his pet starling has escaped while he has been away. The transference of freedom. What does he gain from losing?

Of course, this book implies that the memorization of obscure details may in fact be liberating, but does this “liberal education” truly produce freedom? Isn’t our narrator now imprisoned by a stifling knowledge of impractical facts and details. Are we, like our narrator, filling our heads with useless information merely to pass our time through our days. Instead of Ottoman tax collectors, we share information about talent show contestants and PED participants.

“The Strange Library” is certainly accessible by Murakami standards, but is not as satisfying as his master works. While it does offer an allegory for the pursuit of an education, including the harrowing experiences with pedagogues and taskmasters, it leaves the reader wanting for a more fleshed out story. This story story has a place in the Murakami canon but not at the top.

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FotoFlexer_TammyEalomOn tour to promote “Kingsized,” their latest CD on Yep Roc Records is Dressy Bessy. One of our all-time favorite sugary, power pop confectioners from Denver, and tertiary affiliate of the Elephant Six Collective. The new record is their first in nearly 8 years, and only adds to an impressive resume. Standout tracks include “Lady Liberty” and “Pop Phenom.” If more dads and moms bought Amber or Tiffany a guitar instead of a case of Stevia for non-denominational Christmas maybe we would have more excellent female frontpersons like Tammy Ealom. Half the bands played on Sirius XMU owe Tammy some damn reparations. Hashtag truth.

If they were disappointed to be playing to a small crowd of around 30 diehards, then disappointment turned to surprise when Pittsburgh Mayor Bill “Bill” Peduto walked in. The set was tight, and the power was oh so poppy. Maximum Tom and I sat close enough to the stage to ever hope to hear again. Which is fine by me. I don’t need to hear to hand surgeons their stupid tools.

FotoFlexer_DressyBessyHere’s me offering Tammy some good old-fashioned PeePaw advise. Yikes! She and the gents played for a good 90 minutes, and about the only thing missing was the occasional blast of a harmonium. Elephant Six much? But I digress. My only complaint, and yes, I bring it up in the interview, is one song they didn’t perform. I guess I’ll get over it. Now – another award-winning interview:

Me: Tammy, great show. Thank you.

Tammy: Thanks. Man, I was nervous. I’ve never played for a mayor before.

Me: You take Portlandia way too seriously. You a Broncos fan. Me neither. Right?

Tammy: I am.

Me: So, you didn’t play “Superstar Everything.”

Tammy: No. No, we didn’t.

Me: Um, I know. What the hell?

Tammy: Just didn’t make the set.

Me: But I requested it. With my heart. Ok. Next question: favorite movie?

Tammy: Really? Wow. This is hard. Um, “Little Darlings.”

Me: Oh, sorry, we were looking for “Mad Max: Fury Road.” That’s the best movie ever. Ever.

Tammy: Well, I..

Me: Final question that I ask everyone: Stones or Blur?

Tammy: That doesn’t even make sense. Of course, it’s the Stones. Are you going to buy the CD?

Me: I’m asking the questions, and, yes, I already did.

Great show. Great interview. Terrific Mayor. What more do we need? Oh, yeah, the song that must be played! Enjoy.