06.27.16

Pasadena Elvis Presley Film Festival: “Blue Hawaii”

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll at 4:10 pm by George Smith

One of Elvis Presley’s most successful movies, Blue Hawaii from ’61 was a big box office draw, its soundtrack album gold the next year.

Do you like ukuleles in your rock ‘n’ roll? Hawaii-nized styles? If so, you’ll like the show tunes more than I did. In 2016 they’re mostly embarrassing, songs for a movie backing band of natives bopping around on bongos in back of Presley. “Ito Eats,” a tune about one of the more heavy set eating half a dozen fish or more on the beach will break a cold flopsweat out on the back of your neck.

Angela Lansbury plays what must have been one of her most excruciating roles, ever, as Elvis’s (Chadwick Gates) mother, a southern woman played as a grating ninny who’s onscreen way too much. Her Chinese servant boy is named Ping Pong. Jeezus.

Having given you the crap first, it’s fair to say Blue Hawaii must have been great for tourism, the state’s Chamber of Commerce loving it all the way. It’s a good triptych, the cinematography from the last island in the line, Kauai, great.

Elvis’ love interest, Maile (pronounced “Miley”), played by Joan Blackman, is easy on the eyes as are all the girls, teenage tourists, the unstated feature of the film that’s an inoffensive story about Elvis stumbling into a travel business with his girlfriend while trying to avoid his helicopter parents. Keep your eyes open for Beverly, obviously not a teenager even though playing one, who dances up a storm for the little bit she’s onscreen.

The hit here is one of the indispensable parts of the Presley catalog, “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” The rest is a bit of lite rock ‘n’ roll, Elvis ala Perry Como, and, you know, throwaway ukulele stuff to be taken or left, mostly left.

The Elvis Presley Film Festival.

Unfortunately, it’s that time of year …

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 11:21 am by George Smith

Every year, Vibrio vulnificus infections begin with the arrival of summer. When I worked with the organism, it was the lab’s take that it was fairly common in estuarine and beach waters along the Gulf Coast. Infections, catastrophic ones, happened in those with underlying medical conditions.

Upticks in V. vulnificus infections in recent years are probably attributed to more vulnerable people being in the water during summer months and possibly increased growth of the organism during the same period when conditions are especially favorable to it.

The problems started on May 12, when Kelly Kohen Blomberg was in the Gulf of Mexico near Grand Isle, a barrier island known for fishing…

[Small scratches] had turned into an oozing, gaping wound — and Blomberg had to head back to the hospital to get a skin graft and have dead tissue surgically removed. She’s now had two surgeries and there’s still a gaping hole in her foot, though doctors are hoping the skin graft will take so the wound can start healing over.


A Father’s Day celebration on the Texas Gulf Coast has left a Central Texas man, Adrian Ruiz, fighting to keep his leg after it became infected with a flesh-eating bacteria, friends and relatives said Thursday …

But on Monday afternoon, he was admitted to the intensive care unit at Seton Medical Center Hays. He was diagnosed with an infection of Vibrio vulnificus, a flesh-eating bacteria that has spread through his right leg …

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that earlier this week, 50-year-old Brian Parrott, a Houston-area man, lost part of his leg after contracting the same bacterial infection in the waters off Galveston Island.


Why it does what it does. I did that.

Every year, V. vulnificus infects and hospitalizes more people than ricin, a poison in castor seeds, has killed in the last 20 years. (Score, ricin deaths by terrorism and/or crime = ZERO; by suicide = 1.) The United States spends more money on countermeasures and vaccines for ricin than it does on V. vulnficus.

Just so you know the priorities and whose bread gets buttered.

06.26.16

And if you gaze long into the abyss…

Posted in Bioterrorism, Culture of Lickspittle, Ricin Kooks at 2:51 pm by George Smith

The abyss also gazes into you.

Words to take seriously if you’re reading about the so-called Dark Web.

Tipped by the always timely Pine View Farm, I send you to a tech podcast at the Guardian, entitled “Inside the darknet” by Chips and Everything.

As far as it goes, not bad, although the professed need to have lawyers with you when browsing through TOR made me laugh a bit. Plus, it was my understanding that TOR was at least partially underwritten as a potential tool for whistleblowers in foreign countries.

What the tech podcasters don’t know, or chose not to mention, is that the FBI, as well as British law enforcement, have infiltrated the darknet, posing as buyers as well as sellers in sting operations. It’s an open secret because if you’ve followed the newspaper listings on various criminal cases (just look in the Ricin Kooks tab), you’ll see this has been so.

Most recently, in the news, a handoff from the FBI to the Brits in the case of Mohammed Amer Ali, a Liverpool man, who thought he was buying ricin.

Ali was actually dealing with the FBI:

Mohammed Ammer Ali, 32, carried out extensive research on the “dark web”, eventually arranging to buy 500 milligrams of the lethal substance.

But, unknown to him, his online vendor was in fact an FBI agent who tipped off UK police.

Detectives organised for a “controlled delivery” – with a fake consignment of ricin being sent to Ali’s Liverpool home in February 2015.

The next day, Ali was arrested and his home searched by officers clad in chemical protection suits …

It was a fairly standard case if you follow the newspaper’s timeline. The only stickout point is the nature of the so-called ricin shipment.

The theoretical amount, alleged to be enough to kill 1,400. No such amount of pure ricin has ever been accumulated. It is a number with no traction in reality.


And if perhaps think I’m commenting only from second-hand information, full disclosure: I’ve been expert consultant to a federal public defender’s office in a case that involved sale and purchase of materials vended on the darknet.

More stuff you never liked

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll, War On Terror at 1:33 pm by George Smith

From the archives: A tune from the 2004 musical, “Iraq ‘N’ Roll.” Came with an authentic Iraqi Freedom WMD leaflet dropped by the US Air Force, among other things, including a T-shirt. Prior to universal freetardism, actually sold in stores — Amoeba on Sunset, a shop in Pasadena, and one in Bethlehem.

Sold out and rare. Downloadable, of course.


Stumbled in here by accident? Confused? Outraged? Look up “satire,” “social criticism.”

06.25.16

Are there enough Rust Belt counties?

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall at 3:12 pm by George Smith

The people in my peer group of the educated and urban, a group I find myself increasingly at odds with this year would say, no, there aren’t enough Rust Belt counties to hand the presidency to Donald Trump.

A Politico article, touched down in Cambria County, PA, collects some anecdotal and statistical evidence. They visit Johnstown, the place of Slap Shot and the Charlestown Chiefs, previously used as for framing purposes here.

The locals have this to say:

Today Karlheim—blue-eyed, 58, and graying around the temples—spends his days behind the wheel of a giant coal truck, but the declining coal industry has hit Karlheim hard. He’s making $10,000 less than he was just three years ago, he said, and he’s worried about his mortgage. “How do you make those payments?” he asked. This spring, after years of not voting for anyone, in either party, in any presidential election, his anxiety compelled him to cast a vote in the Democratic primary. For Bernie Sanders.

His vote helped the socialist from Vermont beat Hillary Clinton in the county—while Trump won big, claiming more votes than either Democratic candidate …

And he has some bad news for the former secretary of state.
While there are some things that worry him about the GOP nominee—“We don’t know his background,” Karlheim said, and “He’s a bit outspoken.”—he likes that Trump is talking about jobs. “That’s what we need,” which is why, Karlheim said, “In the big election … I’m going for Trump.”


“In the past, people here have turned to the Democrats,” said Chris Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion in Allentown, Pa., 200 miles to the east. “They were the ones who looked after working-class interests, in their minds. But there is a belief that that isn’t the case anymore—and now they’re shopping around for an alternative.”

The interior, and environs around Pittsburgh, will go for Trump the article continues. But it may not be nearly enough to offset the weight of Clinton voters in “more affluent” southeastern Pennsylvania.

A picture of Johnstown’s steel mill could just as well have been looking at Bethlehem Steel from the bridge over the Lehigh River in south Bethlehem when I was there.

It comes down to class war. The Democratic Party has no interest in those left behind by the decades-long shocks of globalization. It’s all right with the consequences.

The presidency of Hillary Clinton will be an anathema to those left behind, despite her statement that “there’s a need for us to pull together to solve the challenges of our country …”

For the Clinton’s, that hasn’t been true for a long time. The words are fine-sounding but unbelievable.

Take California Back!

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:17 pm by George Smith

Timely, from 2003. Eventually, even Arnold was excommunicated by the GOP. When he made governor, the party was still half-sane.

The first recording I did in California. Got it mentioned in the Los Angeles Times, too, pre universal freetardism. Downloadable.

06.23.16

Pasadena Elvis Presley Film Festival: The Trouble With Girls

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:18 pm by George Smith

It’s 1969 and Elvis has already taped his comeback special. After years of inexplicable and/or inexcusable dog crap — “Speedway,” “Clambake,” “It Happened at the World’s Fair,” “Kissin’ Cousins,” to name some — he knows it will restore his image. So The Trouble With Girls, a disjointed farce, features Elvis with confidence restored, a perpetual smile plastered across his face.

As Walter Hale, manager of a Chautauqua (think traveling omnibus show with quack lecturers, actors, musicians and supervisors ready to host a local talent show wherever the traveling group arrives), Elvis wears a white suit, smokes a cigar and jovially tries to keep his favorite dancer and piano player, Marlyn Mason, from quitting over management’s opposition to unionization.

The cast is all-star. Dabney Coleman is a sleazy town pharmacist. He sells illegal fireworks to two children to get the goods off his hands and sexually harasses his assistant, Sheree North. John Carradine and Vincent Price play Chatauqua lecturers, the latter who goes on endlessly about morality after gypping a cab-driver. Joyce van Patten has a bit part as an unbalanced long-distance swimmer brought along to tell the landlocked residents of Radford Center the finer points of crossing the English Channel.

In fact, there are two cases of sexual harassment hiding in The Trouble With Girls, one with Elvis’ on his piano player, and the second with Coleman preying on his assistant (North) which eventually results in her killing him in self-defense.

The latter is used as a comedic climax in which the Chautauqua troop tries to sober up a very intoxicated and distraught North so she can confess to a big crowd from the town. Depending on your mood, The Trouble With Girls is either awkward and occasionally tasteless, or mildly amusing. The internet informs it was paired as a double matinee paired with a Raquel Welch film. That would have made a long afternoon.

Presley looks like he’s having a good time through it all, though, and the music, which was only a few songs worth, doesn’t add or substract.


Previously, in the Pasadena Elvis Presley Film Festival.

06.22.16

A New Renaissance is here: Sad, very sad, if you don’t see it

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Rock 'n' Roll at 5:27 pm by George Smith

While things pretty much suck here and there’s no shortage of people living out of cars on the street, Tom Friedman, alarmed at the rise of Donald Trump, declares that we’re actually in a New Renaissance.

And after checking his stack of recent book press releases sent by wise people who want publicity, he’s found an expert to say so, Ian Goldin, director of the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University.

Consulting by e-mail, readers are told:

“Now, like then, new media have democratized information exchange, amplifying the voices of those who feel they have been injured in the upheaval,” said Goldin. “Now, like then, public leaders and public institutions have failed to keep up with rapid change, and popular trust has been deeply eroded.” Now, like then, “this is the best moment in history to be alive” — human health, literacy, aggregate wealth and education are flourishing — and “there are more scientists alive today than in all previous generations … as in the Renaissance, key anchors in people’s lives — like the workplace and community — are being fundamentally dislocated. The pace of technological change is outstripping the average person’s ability to adapt. Now, like then, said Goldin, “sizable parts of the population found their skills were no longer needed, or they lived in places left behind, so inequality grew.”

The answer to all the turmoil is, of course, found by consulting the Internet’s Box of Crackerjack tech-spertise: “More risk-taking is required when things change more rapidly, both for workers who have to change jobs and for businesses who have to constantly innovate to stay ahead.”

They’d probably tar and feather the guy in Pennsylvania. Not necessarily a bad thing.

Check the appropriate song. You’ve heard it before, “China Toilet Blues, still timely, with me channeling Captain Beefheart, somewhere between Trout Mask Replica and Bongo Fury.

Downloadable for your device, just go to the site. Tell your friends. Share. Make me happy for a minute.

Exit, Stage Right

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Decline and Fall, Extremism at 1:17 pm by George Smith

Having just read “Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class” by Owen Jones, I’d expect the Brexit vote to break along class and perceived class lines. Older, northern England, shafted by the Tories and New Labour for exit. Everyone else for staying.

Many exceptions, too, like this rationalization, part of old vs. young in a piece yesterday from the New York Times, plus worries about a plunging economy:

“Louise said she understood the pressures that immigration placed on schools and hospitals. But leaving the European Union worried her, she said, because it risked wrecking the economy and making it hard for young people to secure employment. It took her eight months to find work as a barista, she said.”

This is all through “Chavs,” the updated edition which I have, dating from 2012.

As in the US, government policies, in the UK, starting with Thatcher, made the British economy lethal for millions of its workers. “Chavs” explains the result in terms of the UK not being able to generate sufficient jobs, period. Those that exist pay very poorly.

If it takes eight months to find work as a barista, it seems to me the underlying problem of simply finding even subsistence work is so severe that it won’t be affected by either staying or leaving.

And the argument left out of the anecdotaly New York Times piece, which I did not know, is that a number of Tories vigorously support Brexit because a vote for leaving the E.U. will allow them to apply even more pressure to the working class.

A columnist describes it at the Guardian:

“But, all over Britain, people have fallen for the scam. In the Brexit referendum, we’ve seen what happens when working-class culture gets hijacked – and when the party that is supposed to be defending working people just cannot find the language or the offer to separate a fake revolt from a real one. In many working-class communities, people are getting ready to vote leave not just as a way of telling the neoliberal elite to get stuffed. They also want to discomfort the metropolitan, liberal, university-educated salariat for good measure…

“I want to have one last go at convincing you that leaving now, under these conditions, would be a disaster. First, let’s recognise the problem. For people in the working classes, wages are at rock bottom. Their employers treat them like dirt. Their high streets are lined with empty shops. Their grownup kids cannot afford to buy a home. Class sizes at school are too high. NHS waiting times are too long …

“But a Brexit led by Ukip and the Tory right will not make any of these things better: it will make them worse. Take a look at the people leading the Brexit movement. Nigel Farage, Neil Hamilton, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove. They have fought all their lives for one objective: to give more power to employers and less to workers. Many leading Brexiters are on record as wanting to privatise the NHS. They revelled in the destruction of the working-class communities and cultures capable of staging real revolt.”

Achingly familiar, is it not?

From Democracy Now, where Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez interviewed Thomas Frank, author of Listen, Liberal:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Thomas Frank, to get to Donald Trump, as well, and his appeal, obviously he has focused a lot of his attention on these trade deals, on NAFTA and the Pacific trade partnership. What about the appeal of Trump to working-class voters? Is that real or not, from what you can tell?

THOMAS FRANK: Well, it’s real, but it’s—I mean, it’s shrinking fast. I mean, this guy is—this guy is a gold-plated buffoon, you know? What we have to—what we have to consider here with Donald Trump is we have to understand that what’s happening with Donald Trump, this is not—you know, there’s all sorts of different ways of describing it, but what we’re really seeing here is a reaction to—I mean, you know, to inequality. This is what it looks like when vast parts of America are—you know, when the economy has basically dried up and blown away. You know, this is what deindustrialization—at the end of the day, this is what it looks like, when, you know, Democrats go around celebrating this wonderful new information economy that we’re in. And by the way, they’re doing it today on The New York Times op-ed page; they do it all the time. They celebrate that. And the other side of the coin is that, you know, the middle class is shrinking. Wages never go anywhere. You know, the percentage of the gross national product that is—that goes to labor these days is the lowest it has ever been since World War II. You know, look, for a lot of people, the promise of American life is over. It’s gone.

And this is only going to get worse under a Hillary Clinton presidency. And, well, it would get much, much worse under a Donald Trump presidency. But what I’m getting at here is that this phenomenon, inequality, is going to get worse. All the problems that we’re looking at today, our economic problems, are going to—are going to get worse. And four years from now, you’re going to have another Trump.

Owen Jones, at the end of Chavs, writes (remember, this is 2012):

It would be tempting to make all sorts of doom-laden, apocalyptic predictions about what will happen if such a [global labor movement] fails to get off the ground, and warn darkly of riots and revolutions. The reality is just downright depressing. The working class will remain weak and voice-less. They will still be the butt of jokes at middle-class dinner parties, detested in angry right-wing newspaper columns, and ridiculed in TV sitcoms. Entire communities will remain without secure, well-paid work, and the people that comprise them will continue to be demonized for it. Living standards will go on stagnating and declining, even while the richest rake it in like never before. Ever fewer working-class people will bother to vote. Right-wing populism will tap into growing disillusionment and fury at the manner in which working-class people have become so despised. Mainstream politicians will continue to focus their energies on satisfying the demands of a small, wealthy elite, while growing ever more indifferent to the needs of an increasingly apathetic working class…

At its heart, the demonization of the working class is the flagrant triumphal ism of the rich who, no longer challenged by those below them, instead point and laugh at them.

Join any conversation with members of the Democratic Party and nine times out of ten, right now you’ll hear the same mockery and total dismissal of those supporting Donald Trump.

Much of the HRC campaign will be devoted to eye-rolling at the demagogue and his followers. The message, plain as the nose on your face: Look how pathetic and unfit for anything they are.

06.20.16

The living legend, Haystacks Balloon & the Near-Sighted Lemon Bud Wilkinson Band

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Rock 'n' Roll at 12:38 pm by George Smith

In which I return to Nightclubbing reviewing, if it were still done today.

The joint: IPA Blues. The audience: Fifty people over sixty, enthusiastic for classic stuff and authenticity. The act: Haystacks Balloon & the Near-Sighted Lemon Bud Wilkinson Band, seen here performing “Baby Baby Baby Baby Baby” from their 2015 album, Prescription Nitroglycerin.

Although it looks like Haystacks has an oxygen tube in his mouth, don’t worry, it’s just the blues harmonica line.

In another number, Haystacks and his band sang about revolution. “Don’t look at us to bring it” seemed to be the message.

Finally, Mr. Balloon played “Got the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Blues” from 2016’s Fell Down, Sorry. The Lemon Bud Wilkinson Band, on life support, was right behind him every step of the way.

Otium, acriter!


If you’re confused, this is Steve Earle and the Dukes, from a 2015 tour.

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