Kenny G, discussing the art of imitation, bootlegging, and copying and pasting during Michelle Obama's poetry workshop for students today. He'll take the stage tonight around 7:10pm for the White House's Evening of Poetry. Tune in at http://whitehouse.gov/live
For those who may only know of Kenny G. for his on-air antics, he is an esteemed writer and artist, and also teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.
The White House's "Evening of Poetry" will be hosted by the President and First Lady, and throws down at 7pm ET on Tuesday (d'oh!) Wednesday, May 11th; the event will be streamed live at whitehouse.gov. Other poets and songwriters who will also take part in the event include Elizabeth Alexander, Billy Collins, Common, Rita Dove, Alison Knowles, Jill Scott, and WFMU pal (!) Aimee Mann.
Earlier that day, Kenny will participate in a workshop for students hosted by Mrs. Obama. This workshop will also be streamed live, starting at 2pm ET.
We knew from the beginning that the marketing campaign was really going to make or break the whole project, so we had to choose our language very carefully. That meant “serf” and “indentured servant” were out immediately—too much historical baggage—and "licensee" and "lessee" were too legalistic, not enough implied fun. So we performed the Thunk Tank mind meld, and came up with the answer almost immediately: “Contestant!”
The word implied a sense of promise and great potential, but with no guarantees. Winners would succeed in a great meritocracy, while losers had no one to blame but themselves. “Citizen,” I mean, what a burden, what a dull stink of responsibility that has, but “contestant”… well, hot damn, a contestant gets a moment in the spotlight, the opportunity to vie for greatness. “Contestant” rhymes with “celebrity” and celebrities are sexy. “Congratulations! You’ve been selected to be a contestant on the town formerly known as Munising!” It was brilliant.
Rick Snyder has the name of a game show host and the face of a traveling vacuum cleaner salesman. He’s a businessman, a venture capitalist, and a self-described nerd. I actually don’t think he pushed through the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act as a salvo against Working Class America, or as a nefarious power grab for the oligarchy. I think he truly believes the gospel of corporate efficiency and—as nerds often do—confused a “rational” choice for a “good” choice, without really comprehending the inevitable consequences of his plan. Like many nerds, he’s also a sucker for flashy PowerPoint presentations, and like many corporate executives he’s a sucker for jargon-riddled, buzzword-referencing executive summaries, and this is where we saw our opening.
Michigan had budget problems, and thanks to the LGaSDFA Act, if the governor thought a town was almost broke, and local officials weren’t cooperating with the state to resolve the problems, good ol’ Rick could appoint a Financial Manager to step in and play Sim City with real people. Managers could default on bonds, ignore union demands, rearrange schools … hell, they could disincorporate and merge whole towns if they wanted! For obvious reasons, becoming Financial Managers seemed like a highly desirable position for us, and so we used some of Bronwyn’s connections to certain Olds to get an audience with the Rickster and explain how he was looking at a real crisitunity here.
Last year, I purchased a large stack of interesting looking reel to reel tapes - interesting in that the writing on the boxes indicated that they contained all manner of original source media recordings, mostly (if not all) recordings from television studios - possibly all connected to CBS - in the 1950's and 1960's. I've only begun to truly dig into this collection. When I first bought it, I posted a brief CBS sound effects reel here, nearly a year ago. For a variety of reasons, I've barely delved into this collection yet, as much as the writings on them fascinate me, and I suspect there will be several that will be appropriate to share here.
Today, in light of tax time, I thought I'd share one of the few tapes from this set that I've perused. This one features the raw tapes of an interview session between newsman Howard K. Smith and Senator Albert Gore, Sr. There is no date on the tape (it only states "7/27"), but if these are in fact CBS tapes, this would put the interview some time prior to Smith's exit from CBS in 1962.
The tapes indicate that the final broadcast interview was likely spliced together from multiple takes, since the same questions are asked multiple times during the first three takes. My guess is that the last take, in which Smith is fed questions which he then repeats, was necessary because the interview was done using only one camera, resulting in the need to get Smith on camera, reading the questions, a second time, perhaps even after Sen. Gore was gone. The entire recording runs just under fifteen minutes.
It's interesting to compare the issues raised in this tax interview with some of the issues people have about taxes today.
I felt like Ernie Anastos after he told the weatherman to "Keep fucking that chicken" during a live broadcast. Externally I had to just keep smiling through, while inside my mind was screaming that whatever madness had just passed my lips had the potential to devastate all that I held dear. And all I had said was, “Yes, sir.”
Rather than further contemplate this horror, however, I snapped a salute to Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, spun on my heels, and exited his tent into the smothering Afghani heat. Until now, I had barely seen the general, let alone spoken with him. All orders passed from Caldwell to Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, my CO, and then down to me. But it seemed that the general and the colonel weren’t seeing eye to eye lately, so Caldwell had sought me out as a potential ally in his private campaign.
"Operation Four Star," Holmes had derisively nicknamed it. Caldwell wanted to use our psyops team against visiting Congress members to prop up flagging support for the war. There was no threat Congress would move to actually end the occupation, but attention would shift back to Iraq, the boys in Baghdad would start getting all the headlines and funding increases, and the next thing you know our $20 billion-a-year air-conditioning budget would be slashed.
It'd take three or four years before Iraq would start feeling hopeless again, the press would start screaming about the great Taliban threat, and we would get our AC back. Nope, that wouldn't do at all; the generals, with their promotions depending on AfPak s continued prominence, were not going to lose this pissing contest, even if it meant some Senators needed a little light brainwashing. And I'd just agreed to help with the scrubbing.
Many Listener Blog Readers are familiar with Bronwyn C.’s longstanding fascination with numismaticism, especially the Ron Paul Dollar—the second most popular currency in the United States! But many don’t realize that the number one most popular currency, Federal Reserve notes, aren’t the only option.
Briefly, the U.S. government does not issue money, the Federal Reserve Bank issues money, and the money is a “fiat currency,” which means it’s not backed by silver or gold, it’s backed by your delusional belief that it’s worth something. Section 411 of Title 12 of the United States Code provides that Federal Reserve notes “shall be redeemed in lawful money on demand at the Treasury Department of the United States, in the city of Washington, District of Columbia, or at any Federal Reserve bank”—but what is “lawful money”? Well, in this case, it’s debt.
But you don’t have to use Federal Reserve notes if you don’t want to! You can use any of a number of alternative currencies, all of which are perfectly legal. If you’re in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, you can use the widely accepted local currency called BerkShares. Just look up “alternative currency” and you’ll find a lot of them, all perfectly legal—except, ha ha, the Ron Paul dollar, which was backed with actual precious metals and so the FBI raided the issuers’ office and everyone got indicted and now there has to be trial.
NEVERTHELESS, in our quest to boldly violate the false dichotomy between jokes and serious shit, Thunk Tank is issuing Thunk Tank Notes just in time for the WFMU Marathon! Listeners will be able to exchange Federal Reserve notes for Thunk Tank notes 1:1. We intend to make the Bieb the second-most popular currency among WFMU Listeners, and we figure as long as we don’t issue coinage or claim to be legal tender, we probably won’t get indicted.
On the last Thunk Tank show, we talked about Thanksgiving travel and the TSA. Listener Steve emailed us the following:
“You guys are having fun at the expense of new travel security measures. And they are a pain in the butt, no doubt. But there is a problem and you're not offering alternatives to a real problem. Why aren't you in any way critical of the reasons for the necessity of these things? Just wondering.”
Since we’re having a special guest (Rudy Delson!) on our next show, we thought we’d answer Listener Steve here on the Blog.
1: The TSA scanners are a virtual strip search. The Fourth Amendment says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated ...” How is it reasonable to require every single traveler to submit to a strip search?
2. The TSA scanners are not safe. Jason Bell, a molecular biologist and biophysicist, has reviewed the TSA’s own safety reports, and has concluded that people should opt for the pat-down search rather than go through the scanners. Here are some (long) quotes:
“Essentially, it appears that an X-ray beam is rastered across the body, which highlights the importance of one of the specific concerns raised by the UCSF scientists... what happens if the machine fails, or gets stuck, during a raster. How much radiation would a person's eye, hand, testicle, stomach, etc be exposed to during such a failure. What is the failure rate of these machines? What is the failure rate in an operational environment? Who services the machine? What is the decay rate of the filter? What is the decay rate of the shielding material? …These questions have not been answered to any satisfaction …” And also: “… the statement that one scan is equivalent to 2-3 minutes of your flight is VERY misleading. …relating non-absorbing cosmic radiation to tissue absorbing man-made radiation is simply misleading and wrong. ... a total body dose is misleading, because there is differential absorption in some tissues. … Even more alarming is that because the radiation energy is the same for all adults, children, or infants, the relative absorbed dose is twice as high for small children and infants because they have a smaller body mass (both total and tissue specific) to distribute the dose. Alarmingly, the radiation dose to an infant's testes and skeleton is 60-fold higher than the absorbed dose to an adult brain!”
There is much more, including Bell’s call for the TSA agents to be equipped with radiation badges to monitor their own exposure. You can read Bell’s full posthere. (Thanks to BoingBoing for the link.)
3. BUT! You don’t have to go through the scanners, you can opt for the “pat down.” Still an unreasonable search, and guess what? The TSA agents don’t change their gloves for each one! That hand going down your pants carries the cooties of 1,000 junk-touchings. The TSA’s own bloghas a lot of posts about the problem they’ve had with spreading scabies at Boston’s Logan Airport. Scabies today, flesh-eating bacteria tomorrow, n’est-ce pas?
Finally, to address Listener Steve’s question about the “necessity” of strip searching all travelers: What is the reason for it, really? Does it really make traveling safer?Really?
Ask yourself: Are you safer today than you were on September 10, 2001?
As midterm elections approach, here's Lillian Brooks, from what certainly was (in many ways) another era, paying tribute to her President, and that President's First Lady. Those who listen closely may discern a bit of subtle similarity between the songs and arrangements heard on the A and B sides of this 45.
This interview was broadcast on WJW, Cleveland, no doubt sometime in the mid 1960's, based on the content of the interview. A decade earlier, WJW had been the home of Alan Freed, and, a bit later, of Casey Kasum, but by the time of this broadcast, had become a news/talk station.
I find this recording to be both peculiar (mostly because of Mr. Hunter's accent - which is of a type I can't say I've heard before - and manner of speaking) and fascinating, as an historical document. I also get a kick out of the name of this program - "The Important Show".
The very start of this interview has the unmistakable sound of someone having made an attempt at bulk erasing this tape. Thankfully, the effort failed, but there is an annoying fading in-and-out at first. This becomes less noticeable after the first couple of minutes, and disappears completely not long after that.
The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has decided that the FCC's indecency policy is "unconstitutionally vague." Damned straight! The FCC will most likely appeal this decision, sending the issue back to the Supreme Court, who could actually force the feds to finally clarify the rules for what is deemed unsuitable for broadcast.
Currently, the FCC's guidance on obscenity, indecency, and profanity reads as follows (more here):
Obscene material is not protected by the
First Amendment to the Constitution and cannot be
broadcast at any
time. The Supreme Court has established that, to be
material must meet a three-pronged test:
An average person, applying
community standards, must find that the material, as a
appeals to the prurient interest;
The material must depict or
describe, in a
patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically
applicable law; and
The material, taken as a whole,
serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific
The FCC has defined broadcast indecency as
“language or material that, in context, depicts or
terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary
standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory
activities.” Indecent programming contains patently
sexual or excretory material that does not rise to the
The FCC has defined profanity as “including
language so grossly offensive to members of the public who
actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance.”
'Vague' might be an understatement! Imagine trying to apply this to each piece you want to air in the course of a 3-hour radio show. In any case, I'm hoping the FCC appeals this decision because I can't wait for the Supremes to hash it out. It could mean that a new wave of censorship will sweep the nation, it could open the floodgates, or it could make life as a broadcaster a whole lot less confusing. I'll be staying tuned...
Here’s an interesting reel of tape that I picked up at least
15 years ago, probably at the late, lamented Mammoth Music Mart in Skokie, IL. It's background is a bit confusing to me. It was apparently created for use at the U.S. Army Academy of Health Sciences, but it sounds to me as if it had to be for use by members of the military from other countries, who would
be serving with Americans, as most native speakers of English would be familiar with the vast majority of these phrases and words. Whatever it's background, the tape contains no less than 547 of what it calls “Typical
American Expressions”, each with an explanation and an example.
It would appear that this list may still be in use, as it can be
found online here. For the dozen or so words I crosschecked from the tape, they
are all both on that website and contain the same definitions and examples. But
it’s much more fun, I think, to hear them read by this rather humorless and mechanical sounding announcer. Plus, these can be great fun for those who like to make any
of the countless styles of sound montages there are to make.
This was a supposedly a big week in United States Democracy, a number of state primaries and opportunities for election pundits to opine. My favorite bit of analysis was Moira Liason's statement on NPR yesterday, she said "the primaries demonstrated both the power and the limits of power of the Tea Party." Thank you for that. Most of the coverage concerns California and Arkansas. But what about South Carolina? The above tweet is from a noted Teabagger talking about Alvin Greene. I wish someone could get him on the radio! According to this piece from Mother Jones, Greene is "an unemployed 32-year-old black Army veteran with no campaign funds, no signs, and no website" who won the SC state primary. How did he do that? The consensus suggests a plot, a Greene plant so to speak. Is this the power of the tea party? Newsweek suggests that Alvin Greene has a better name than his opponent Vic Rawl, "perhaps voters chose based on their reaction to the names, which
appeared as “Alvin M. Greene” and 'Vic Rawl.' Maybe “Senator Greene”
has a nicer ring than 'Senator Rawl.'" Hmm. Unfortunately this story might be over by the time you read this blog post - as evidence has now emerged that Greene has a dirty record - nudie pictures and co-eds. Whoops - but If we have more candidates like Greene though, I will pay more attention come November.
Israel and Iceland both in the news this morning: Israel for sending masked commandos to attack and kill aid workers on ships in international waters, Iceland for the victory of the Best Party in local elections in Reykjavik. Only one has a campaign song, though.
hell is going on with the CIA? They seem to be screwing up everything
these days - they can't seem to figure out which folks they should be disappearing and which folks they should search before letting into the
secret bunkers. But a new report suggests that things are REALLY bad at
Langley, somehow that guy who wrote FAG on everyone's locker in high
school is now in charge!
to the Guardian our secret service came up with the brilliant plan of
making a Saddam Sex tape. A few young brown-skinned agents were to be
shown having sex with a Saddam look alike! Someone pulled the plug
before the cameras rolled "but that did not stop a CIA video being shot
of a fake Osama bin Laden sitting around a camp fire, drinking booze
and boasting of his own gay conquests." !!! Our psyops are clearly bereft of good ideas. Feeling generous this morning I am going to offer them a free idea.
How to deal with Osama Bin Laden/Taliban/Al Qaeda for once and for all: Denied
the opportunity to go goth, many youth in the middle east turn to Jihad
to deal with their angst and Osama is still one of the top google
results. I say keep the video, guys in turbans
sitting around a camp fire drinking is a good start. But instead of a
gay thing, make it a secret meeting of the top Taliban and Al Qaeda
commanders paying tribute to their supreme leader Osama Bin Laden. But
then have Osama remove his rubber beard and reveal that he is actually
George W. Bush! Now let me explain why this is the most awesome idea
ever and not a five year old stale photoshop joke: The CIA uses the
REAL ACTUAL George Bush for this video - and they film it on his ranch in Crawford, Texas. I think George
would be totally down for this, he's not really doing much anymore, plus it would totally go to #1 on
youtube. I mean Americans would know it is fake of course, but no
Muslim kid would ever ever want to join Jihad again.
Ok, now that I have typed this up - maybe it is the most stupid idea ever, perhaps you have a better one? But we need to do something, the CIA needs our help!
Today's album features C. Northcote Parkinson, naval historian, novelist and political scientist, in one of what was a series of ten albums discussing different aspects of politcal science.
In this case, the subject is Democracy, and, as with all the albums in the series, the discussion is between C. Northcote and Julian H. Franklin.
I came across the entire set of these albums, 25 years or so ago, but only bought three of them, for whatever reason. This one's cover is badly damaged by a flood we experienced last year, so I have offered up only a section of that cover, featuring C. himself. If there's interest in hearing the other two albums from my collection, I can try and find them.
"Washington humor takes many different directions. Sometimes the razor-sharp quip can puncture an unsound argument or cut through to the heart of a complicated issue. Sometimes, humor is the means by which a candidate charms and attracts voters to his camp. And sometimes, humor is used for no other purpose than to make people laugh...even when the humorist himself is the butt of the joke. Listen carefully and you'll hear all three types on this disc."
Today we have as evidence the first side of Cameo 1044, hosted by Chet Huntley; one of the select but large club of records with a big smilin' JFK head on it. With a lovely high-gloss coating on it, too, yumm. I like the idea of going right to the source for comedy, as opposed to using actors to portray 'Kennedys' or other characters, here's a laff record with the real deal.
If I had a regular show on WFMU again, and if the American government would let us play curses over the air, then I would play this song by Die Antwoord for you. And if I had been paying attention when they explained how to embed video in the Typepad thingie, I would do that, too. Except that this song doesn't have any video. In a perfect world, I guess it would.
Thanks for reading my blogpost this time, and may God bless.
Growing up mainly in the small Missouri town of Warrensburg, one couldn't help but become acquainted with the town's famous canine 'mascot' Old Drum. Over the years I've heard many incarnations of and references to the eulogy written about him in 1870 by George Graham Vest. The oft-recorded "Tribute to a Dog" text was originated by Mr. Vest after he took the case in Sedalia, Missouri, working for a farmer who was suing for the top dollar of the day- $150.00, because his prize foxhound had been shot by a neighbor, who had warned him, by the way, that he'd better keep his dawg at home. Vest's closing arguments in the case became known as his much-quoted "Eulogy on the Dog". Mr. Vest was a Missouri secessionist who served on the Confederate Senate at one time, and in 1853 had defended a young African American man accused of murder, later acquitted, the poor fellow was burned at the stake anyway by an angry mob. From 1882 on Vest was well-known for his spirited defense and political protection of Yellowstone Park. I recently came across yet another recording of the text (or at least the pertinent part of it that everyone seems to quote) as well as an a capella rendition of the Old Drum story on a seven-inch single, produced in Kansas City on the Damon label and performed by the Dockery Four (Bill Grace, Jerry Fuchs, John Chronister and Ed Grace). It went a bit higher than most singles that I buy, and I hoped that it would be in playable condition. I wasn't disappointed- it's actually rather nice. On the personal side, I was also interested because during my mother's singing career in the late 1940's and early 1950's, she had recorded a number of sides at Damon, and they were the only records that I had on that obscure label up to the present. Sadly, I couldn't track down much info about the Dockery Four themselves, although I haven't searched on their individual names. The label informs us that this version of Old Dog Drum was originally titled OldDog Tray. Well, be it tray or drum, I'll always give a listen to any songs about dogs or food. I had expected that this would be some snappy little country song, but was pleasantly surprised with the actual style and content of the single. To flesh out this subject a bit, I have included another version of the "Triubute to a Dog" text, by my main man Walter Brennan (some people used to say that I could always steer any subject back to Brennan eventually), and a bonus tear-jerking dog song as well: Old Shep. I learned recently from experience that it IS actually easier to write a tragic dog song, rather than a happy-go-lucky dog song. Oh yeah, these pieces are from Walter's brilliant Dutchman's Gold lp, really his best work, in my opinion. I hope y'all enjoy these melodramatic servings of Dawg Music. The MP3s: OLD DOG DRUM