At a Loss for Identity

About two years after I left teaching, I was drinking and smoking with a guy who thought it was hilarious that I once taught at the local community college. He said he had heard that there were two young guys who taught philosophy there. The one was “really cool,” the other “really weird.” Knowing the other guy he had in mind, I really don’t know who was whom.

Several days ago, I overheard a fellow intellectual trying to explain whom I was over the phone. (He may or not may have known I could hear him.) He either referred to me as “the nerdy white guy” or “the dirty white guy.” Again, I don’t know which description was more apt.

My Favorite Beatle

George Harrison memorial tree killed by beetles
By July 22, 2014  The Sideshow
 .George Harrison was rememberd by hundreds of fans in Grifffith Park. A plaque was unveiled next to a tree planted in his honor with family members and special guests present. (Credit Image: Chuck Green/

“George Harrison was rememberd by hundreds of fans in Grifffith Park. A plaque was unveiled next to a tree planted …”

“Isn’t it ironic?

“A memorial tree planted in Los Angeles to honor the late Beatles musician George Harrison needs to be replaced after it was infested with real-life beetles…”

When reached for comment, Pete Best denied reports that he had been active in entomological experimentation.  Yet he could not contain his diabolical laughter when asked about his thoughts on Ringo Starr. 

As Long as the Cowbell Player is Around, Your Job Is Safe

The song “Mr. Tambourine Man” was, of course, chiefly about drugs. He would have brought excitement and opportunities for enlightenment and spiritual growth.

Yet as rock and roll and, later, drugs lost their novelty, I’m sure the tambourine and its wielders had become quite passé. The role was surely doled out to those who had nothing else to contribute to a song. Maybe they contributed in other songs (like Clarence Clemens with Springsteen), were being sympathetically treated as obsolete has-beens (like Pigpen by the Dead), or were using their sex appeal to either titillate the audience or sleep with the boss (see Springsteen again).

“Hey! Tambourine guy, could you play me a song? Ha; just kidding! Go get me a beer when you’re done cleaning my toilet.”

A far cry from the tambourine player’s halycon days:

I Could Nominate a Number of Musicians for Surreptitious Administration of this Treatment

How a brain treatment for OCD turned a man into a Johnny Cash fanatic

By Fred Barbash; May 21, 2014; The Washington Post 

“…A patient identified only as ‘Mr. B,’ age 59, was referred to doctors at a hospital in the Netherlands for treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) from which he had suffered for 46 years.

“He had made little or no progress with conventional treatment. So, in 2006, he was treated with deep brain stimulation (DBS), better known for making life easier for patients with Parkinson’s disease, but also used for OCD…

“…Before long, however, Mr. B would only listen to Johnny Cash — ‘simply and solely’ to Johnny Cash, the authors reported. Nothing else. No more Dutch songs, Beatles or Rolling Stones. He went out and bought all of Johnny Cash’s CDs and DVDs…”

Facilitated by speed, he began spending up to 14 hours a day walking a line.

American Religion

Sudden death in North Carolina race likely clears way for Clay Aiken

By Michael A. Memoli; Los Angeles Times; May 12, 2014

“The Democratic candidate who was narrowly trailing Clay Aiken in a North Carolina congressional primary election died Monday, a day before election officials were to determine whether a runoff election was required…” 

I’ve thought all along that Clay was in over his head, mistakenly conflating his celebrity with politics and civic service.  American Idols are chosen based on the fickle whims of TV viewers (who bother to vote), based more on contestants’ superficial qualities like appearance and charm than actual merits.  En route, they are at the mercy of people like this:

Those who are successful will never really be in charge of their careers,but will forever be beholden to businessmen who manage their lives.  Since their success will be determined by future sales, the vacuous showmanship and popularity contest will never end.  Nothing could be further from the reality of elected office.  And the mysterious death of a political rival at a time that benefits him?  That may happen in Hollywood, but never in politics.

The Chess Club is Weighing its Options

A new way to battle bullying: Make a ‘Glee’-style music video

By Nick Kirkpatrick–April 25

“…The humorous video shows young kids being tormented by their peers while singing a special rendition of the classic disco song ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor…”

I see absolutely no potential blowback to this well-reasoned, common sense idea.  I never thought of singing and dancing to ward off my few childhood tormenters.  I just wish my parents had taught me some show tunes.  That would have shown them.

Words Can Hurt (Me)

With the exception of friends, I generally do not correct others’ grammar.  Raised by an English teacher, I am aware how annoying and condescending that can appear.  I didn’t receive any formal grammatical instruction after middle school, but I just have an intuitive acuity of the subject.  When I studied and later taught philosophy, logic, e.g., symbolic logic, and analytic philosophy were two areas of keen interest.  In general, the field reinforced the ideal of applying academic rigor to thought and communication.
How “bad” can I be in this regard?  I love the Stones, and am always quick to point out that Keith Richards and I share the same birthday.  Ergo, from an astrological standpoint, I should likewise be indestructible.  If/when humanity gets wiped out, among the survivors will be  cockroaches, Keith, and me.  (Lamentably, the former will probably be easier to communicate with.)
Still, when I did “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” for karaoke many moons ago, I sang it as “(I Cannot Get) Satisfaction.”  Some to most of the bargoers enjoyed my correction.  (Actually, my only complete flop during a karaoke performance was when I attempted, at a bar where no one knew me, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”)
I don’t know if this expression is unique to Baltimore, but I’ve heard a lot of people say, “That don’t make no sense.”  How ironic.  I will joke to an intellectually inclined friend, “That is an irrational statement/action,” or “That is logically unsound.”
Surely we’ve all heard “I could care less,” which struck me as wrongheaded even as a precocious kid.  Depending on my familiarity with the speaker, I will say, “I, for one, could not,” or “I could care more.”
But what really irks me, mainly because of its ubiquity, is the tautological “It is what it is.”  I actually once heard an acquaintance say, “This is my life philosophy:  it is what it is; that’s all that it is; and it ain’t a damn thing more.”  Stressing that it was his “life philosophy” implied that much thought had gone into such a maxim.
I knew the guy well enough to add, “So you’re saying, ‘It is,’ or ‘It has being,’ which merely resulted in his reiteration of the motto.  I thought that if we ever really hung out together, I could make banal observations like “There’s a tree” or “That house is yellow.”  Perhaps he would be fascinated, whereas any passersby would think I was autistic.
Of course, sloppy grammar can be useful when one is trying to lie in spirit while technically being truthful.  Slick Willie, a lawyer before he was a politician, erred in trying to explain why he wanted a blowjob by trying to parse the word “Is.”  He would have done better to follow the example of this sage:

Little Known Rock and Roll/Pop Music Trivia

The following is courtesy of Willard O’Brien, who earned his BS in music history from Gray University:
–Bob Dylan was the first rapper.
–Johnny Cash wore pastels in private.
–Boasting aside, Mick Jagger will usually stop within 26 to 34 hours after being started up.
–Numbers are estimable at best, but more than half of the various members comprising the Grateful Dead over its roughly 30-year history are still happily alive.  Bob Weir wakes up every morning with a “Holy shit!” when he realizes he’s among them.
–Dennis Wilson was posthumously kicked out of the Beach Boys after he drowned.
It was “bad for their image.”
–At Robbie Krieger’s insistence, Jim Morrison’s body was cremated.
–Neil Young is now old, and he looks back at his younger days with bewilderment. “There was a lot of drugs and heavy stuff going on, you know what I mean?”
–Clapton is not God; just an archangel.
–Santana is 1/4 Jewish.  His “Oye Como Va” was originally called “Oy vey Como Va.”
–Robert Plant nearly left Led Zeppelin when his band mates vetoed his idea of calling the group “Helum Submarine.”  Jimmy Page was adamant that the name would make people think of “those Liverpool fags.”
–Bruce Springsteen is referred to by intimates as “The Supervisor.”
–An astonishing 78% of dyslexics are ABBA fans.
–The Cornelius Brothers’ “Too Late to Turn Back Now” is about tripping on acid.
–If you play the Sex Pistols backwards, you will find admonitions to “Obey your parents, kids,” “Stay in school,” and “Eat all them fuckin’ veggies on your plate.”
–The much-debated subject of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”?  Yours truly.
–Meatloaf’s “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” sold 17 times better than its original incarnation, “Love Is an Irrational Matter.”
–Jon Fishman, the quicksilver drummer for Phish, is allergic to seafood.
–Lady Gaga was born a woman.
–Based on mortality rates, the statistically safest instrument to play in a rock group is the clarinet.
[Clip unavailable.]
–A $3 million dollar, 18-month study by Harvard researchers has determined that this is the greatest song of all time:

This story hurt Sarah McLachlan on so many levels

Industrial Band Skinny Puppy Bills DoJ For Using Its Music as a Torture Device     

Adan Salazar  February 6, 2014
“’What really bothers us is that they played our songs at an intolerable volume for hours on end’”
“Industrial band Skinny Puppy is billing the U.S. Justice Department  after finding out their tunes were used as a means of torturing  detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba…”

Emaciated dog in Fort Lauderdale

I do admire their ethically unassailable insistence on getting paid.  Yet in spite of my skateboarding background, I think I’d be willing to admit to the Kennedy assassination after five minutes of listening to their crap.

“I’m a big fan of the Dead Kennedys!”

Why not use these psychos,

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 30: Rappers Shaggy 2 Dope (l) and Violent J (r) of the Insane Clown Posse pose backstage October 30, 2003 at the Riviera in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Harrison/Getty Images)            

who are already pissed at the government, and probably everyone (especially clowns)?

Let’s consider some other music used in the past, according to Danny Gallagher of The Wall Street Journal on July 21, 2009:
Six Songs Used to Torture and Intimidate:

1. Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”

This song is really about as patriotic as the song “American Woman”or the movie American Pie.  Sorry, Gipper.

2. Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty”

As a torture victim herself,



this exceeds the limits of irony set by the Geneva Convention.     


3. Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made for Walking”

“Cult leader David Koresh’s battle with the FBI in 1993 featured a back  and forth barrage of ballad bombardments. Koresh wore down his followers by blasting his own failed pop songs at eardrum-busting levels. When  the FBI moved in and cut the power to the compound, they fired back with Nancy Sinatra’s depressing girl power pop ballad along with a  monotonous mix of Tibetan chants, cavalry bugle beats and 1950s-style  Christmas carols for nearly seven weeks straight. FBI officials said  they rejected the idea of using Billy Ray Cyrus’ ‘Achy Breaky Heart’  because of fears that some of the cult members might actually like it…”

This song was chosen in response to Koresh’s messages to his female followers that “Your boots were made for knocking” and “I hope no one has an Achy Beaky Pelvis.”  Koresh was pleased with the Christmas songs, which he thought were about him.

4. AC/DC’s “Shoot to Thrill” and “Hells Bells”

“Terrorists are so gay,” commented lead singer Agnus Young.

5. Anything by Barry Manilow

Weird Al volunteered to perform a song called “Oh Mahdi,” but negotiations stalled over “that goddamn accordion.”

6. Barney the Dinosaur’s “I Love You”

Deterring potential future evil-doers:

(And am I the only one who questions whether he really loves himself?)