On April Fools’ Day: Celebrating America’s Irreplaceable Court Jester

bill-hicks-revelations-original-300x168

Take this joke, please.

Or this one:

Funny, for sure. But cut with way more than a sliver of dead seriousness.

This is what Bill Hicks brought to the planet, and what we lost when he died (cancer) at the ludicrous, offensive, unbearably young age of 32.

I’ve written at length, on a couple of occasions, concerning the genius of Bill Hicks (you can see the full pieces HERE, and HERE), and it might suffice to say I consider him one of the genuine, irreplaceable cultural iconoclasts of the last half-century.

It’s a crying shame that Bill Hicks is no longer with us; we sure could use him right about now.

It’s a laughing shame (the sort where you laugh until you cry) when it occurs to you —and if you’re a Hicks fan it’s always occurring to you— how relevant his material remains. Of course this has less to do with Hicks and more to do with us: our collective chicanery copies itself, evolving with each succession of charlatans who occupy our public offices. And, naturally, there is never a shortage of slack-jawed and self-righteous types in our media, our academic institutions and especially our self-worshipping entertainment industry. In fact, as they get better (i.e., worse) with each new wave of mutilation, truth tellers like Hicks are more essential, if elusive, than ever. And his routines and ineffable one-liners still kill, allowing you to actually laugh while you weep.

When we discuss our departed artistic MVPs, too often it involves the clichéd and tragicomic self-induced sabotage by drugs or drink. More distressing, and inexplicable, are the geniuses who are almost cruelly snatched out of their own rarefied air. Hicks, though he had an appetite for destruction for many years, was clean, sober and stalking the world like a lion when Fate intervened. Life is just a ride, he often said at the end of his shows. He knew it and was probably better prepared for it, however short it turned out to be. Perhaps, in the final analysis, it wasn’t so much that he died but became, suddenly, extinct. We certainly won’t ever see anything like him again in this world.

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Down With The King: Wherein the Mysteries of Easter are Contemplated (Revisited)

happy-one-lapsed-easter-ecard-someecards

Right.

So what’s scarier: a grown man dressed in a bunny costume, an actual adult-sized Bunny, or whatever chemicals comprise these things?

Or, you know, this “bunny”.

Or Jimmy Stewart and his imaginary companion (which is more disturbing: that his friend is invisible or that he’s a bipedal rabbit?); did he eat too many Peeps, read the Bible too much (or not enough), and is this some deep allegory about faith (or the more mundane and secular realm of schizophrenia)?

Which begs the question: what is ultimately more difficult to comprehend: the plot of Donnie Darko or the concept of a man who wasn’t really a man; who was the son of God, but really God, who is nailed to a cross, dies and is resurrected to save us from eternal damnation because of the sins committed by two naked humans eating an apple in a magical garden? And that in order to redeem ourselves, we eat his body and drink his blood? I’d say it’s a push.

Then there is this, which always makes me so happy that it almost compensates for the Catholic upbringing.

For all those concerned about my immortal soul, two things: don’t worry about it and, I’m pretty certain that The Big Guy upstairs has as much empathy for sinners like myself as He has a sense of indignation about cretinous proponents of Creationism who insist the Bible (written by men) proves that Christ lived with the dinosaurs because, you know, the Earth is only six thousand years old.

On the other hand, I’m down with the King:

But enough about Run DMC.

I’m on board with concept of Christ, even as a fictional character. Seriously.

Assuming J.C. is just a top tier model of literary inspiration, it’s hard to find a better guy to follow. (And by follow I mean the example and not the whole drop everything and squeeze through the Eye of a Needle. I’ll leave that between God and the wizards of Wall Street.) Christ, aside from being the Endless Enigma, is (if considered a fictional creation) the most fecund source of fictional creations. Art, literature, music and movies. Especially movies. Some of the movies have actually been satisfactory.

Others, not so much:

But that is the problem when overly earnest believers foist their visions of Christ on others (in artistic venues and less artistic venues of performing arts, like churches): it is propaganda as opposed to honest product. Or worse, it’s an endeavor that reveals the mastermind’s honesty in stark, unavoidable strokes. In Mel Gibson’s case, his hate-mongering, anti-Semitic, bullying and backward conception of Jesus Christ is long on the sadism and short on the compassion. It’s a useful illustration of weak craftmanship backed by a strong wallet, resulting in a blatant advertisement (albeit an unintentional one) for an individual’s bigoted sensibility. It also begs the question of just how deeply repressed Gibson’s homoerotic impulses are. Based on his work on and off the screen, he is straining credulity.

And then there is this, original source here (link found here, well worth visiting just for the comments section):

Speaking of which, Christians would do well to embrace the reality that Christ (the man, the myth) was not a honky.

Put another way:

Put another way, Jesus looked a lot more like this guy:

And not a lot like this guy:

But we can probably all agree that this guy is the Antichrist.

Yet far be it from me to hate on this Holy weekend. The ’70s did not suck!

In conclusion, it is with considerable confidence that we can assert Jesus was black and he had game. In fact, He wore number 15:

Earl “The Pearl” Monroe (AKA “Black Jesus”). That’s some gospel I can get down to.

I’m not certain about any ultimate answers, but as always, I’m content to let Bill Hicks have the last word.

Happy Easter!

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On April Fools’ Day: Celebrating America’s Irreplaceable Court Jester

 

bill-hicks-revelations-originalTake this joke, please.

Or this one:

Funny, for sure. But cut with way more than a sliver of dead seriousness.

This is what Bill Hicks brought to the planet, and what we lost when he died (cancer) at the ludicrous, offensive, unbearably young age of 32.

I’ve written at length, on a couple of occasions, concerning the genius of Bill Hicks (you can see the full pieces HERE, and HERE), and it might suffice to say I consider him one of the genuine, irreplaceable cultural iconoclasts of the last half-century.

It’s a crying shame that Bill Hicks is no longer with us; we sure could use him right about now.

It’s a laughing shame (the sort where you laugh until you cry) when it occurs to you —and if you’re a Hicks fan it’s always occurring to you— how relevant his material remains. Of course this has less to do with Hicks and more to do with us: our collective chicanery copies itself, evolving with each succession of charlatans who occupy our public offices. And, naturally, there is never a shortage of slack-jawed and self-righteous types in our media, our academic institutions and especially our self-worshipping entertainment industry. In fact, as they get better (i.e., worse) with each new wave of mutilation, truth tellers like Hicks are more essential, if elusive, than ever. And his routines and ineffable one-liners still kill, allowing you to actually laugh while you weep.

When we discuss our departed artistic MVPs, too often it involves the clichéd and tragicomic self-induced sabotage by drugs or drink. More distressing, and inexplicable, are the geniuses who are almost cruelly snatched out of their own rarefied air. Hicks, though he had an appetite for destruction for many years, was clean, sober and stalking the world like a lion when Fate intervened. Life is just a ride, he often said at the end of his shows. He knew it and was probably better prepared for it, however short it turned out to be. Perhaps, in the final analysis, it wasn’t so much that he died but became, suddenly, extinct. We certainly won’t ever see anything like him again in this world.

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“Better call on evolution” or, Our Cultural Koyaanisqatsi (Revisited)

scopestrial012109

Don’t you remember, back in the ’70s (or early ’80s), learning about people banning or burning books and thinking, even as a grade schooler, that this represented an ancient, embarrassing point in our ostensible development as a nation?

I do.

And as we come to learn, as we grow and bear witness, the more things change the more they stay the same.

Did you happen to catch this?

I did.

And I’m equal parts embarrassed and appalled. (Quick recap: some backward opportunist named Scott Beason, already a Tea Party loving, immigrant hating imbecile, is now throwing his hat into the ring. As in ring of fire. As in: let’s ban books! Click on the link above to read more, if you can stomach it.)

I find myself asking, only somewhat rhetorically: Again?

We have to go through this again?

We have to actually entertain the idea that anyone, in the United States, circa 2014, can get mileage out of this type of ignorant fear-mongering?

The answer, of course, is: of course.

And, as always, I do hate the player, but I mostly hate the game. This being America, each and every huckster can sell their snake oil; if people aren’t willing to buy it, they won’t survive. But as we see, again and again, there are always people willing to buy it. Lots of people. Especially people in certain states. Like Alabama.

If there was anything approximating a mature or informed discourse amongst these folks, or if our MSM was capable (or willing) to advance something resembling reality, there might be the possibility, however remote, of pointing out to these misguided, willfully ignorant cretins that the types of things they advocate (like banning books and supporting a single religion) are not only un-American –literally– but more than slightly resemble the exact practices –literally– of the Taliban we are allegedly fighting against overseas.

But there’s no hope. And that will never happen.

Of course Upton Sinclair understood this over a century ago, when he nailed our appetite for self-destruction, for all time: It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

5/25/2010:

ON THIS DAY:

On May 25, 1925, John T. Scopes was indicted in Tennessee for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution.

I always enjoy the chance to invoke the incomparable Bill Hicks.

And of course, I relish any opportunity to break out my favorite image ever:

But it’s not all that funny, really. I mean, we laugh because there is much to laugh at. You have to laugh at these simpletons who want to “bring our country back”, meaning the good old days when blacks and women knew their place, homosexuals dared not show their faces in public and the bible held firmer sway over a greater portion of the populace. Presumably these same tea baggers and bigots don’t want to also bring back cars without air conditioning and houses without running water, smallpox without vaccine and surgery without anesthetics and a few dozen other of our least favorite things from a time when the world was a whiter shade of pale.

And it’s not at all difficult to connect the dots between the type of magical thinking employed by the bible thumpers and the Ayn Rand-obsessed Libertarian lunatics (how perfect –and appalling– a commentary on the cultural Koyaanisqatsi we are currently struggling through that the son of the Libertarian’s savior is named after the most humorless and phlegmatic popular novelist of the 20th Century. Painfully popular. And imperceptive. (And influential. Right Alan? Atlas shrugged; Jesus wept.) Indeed, the only redeeming thing I can think about Ayn Rand is that she partially inspired one of Rush’s great early albums.

It’s times like this that I wish we actually had a Democrat in The White House.

Just kidding. Sort of.

I mean, if there wasn’t a better teaching moment than right now, when has there ever been? Between the ongoing Wall Street debacle (and the toothless “reform”) and the state our the-only-thing-better-than-less-regulation-is-no-regulation former administration left our country in, we are presented with the ultimate, ugly fruit of that mentality, the BP debacle. Or should I say, the still far-from-resolved BP debacle? Actual regulation on the disgustingly rapacious financial, housing and oil industries would have easily obviated all of the recent catastrophes. Catastrophes that we will spend generations paying for. Put another way: the only people who have gotten rich in any of these three arenas are the people who depend upon other peoples’ misfortune to make a profit. And, of course, there are large segments of our country fired up and ready to march defending these sociopath’s unfettered right to exploit and destroy.

See, the thing about teaching moments is that people need to be teachable; they need to be capable of being taught. And a distressing number of Americans right now have already determined that everything they need to know is contained within the (literal) words of the bible, or is best expressed by the (backwards and demonstrably untrue) proposition that there’s nothing the government can do that the free market can’t do better.

Yet, as depressing as it might be to consider how far we have to go, it’s helpful to think about the distance we’ve travelled. Take a look at the recent CNN poll, indicating that 8 of 10 Americans have no problems with gay people openly serving in the military. Could you have even fathomed this possibility back in November, 2004? (That, you may recall, was just after the G.O.P. successfully cock-rocked the vote, whipping up the Red and Blue state hysteria concerning all-things-homosexual. It seems safe to suggest that this disgusting –and disgustingly effective– strategy has finally reached its expiration date, and in our lifetimes we’ll look back in disbelief at how gullible, intolerant and imbecilic we were around the turn of the century. The way most of us today regard our legacy toward civil rights. Right Rand?

So there has been progress. And the good thing about evolution is that no matter how slow it might be, it is inevitable. Although, I wonder if the recent paradigm shift regarding gay rights has less to do with enlightened acculturation and more to do with the fact that in the last six years we’ve gradually discovered every priest and Republican politician is queer as Charles Haley. Just kidding. Sort of.

Therefore on a day that we remember the struggle to teach evolution even as we struggle to teach ourselves how to evolve, I’ll abjure originality and invoke a tune entitled…Evolution. Assessing this great song from the great Cat Power’s great album You Are Free (which I opined was the 4th best album of the past decade), I offered the following thoughts:

But in the end, “Evolution” is the ideal song to close out the set. More, it’s one of the best closing songs on any album, ever. More, it may just be the song of the decade: thematically it is elegiac but in its yearning, deeply human resolve, it is inevitably inspiring. Another duet with Eddie Vedder, I am unable to express the heights this tone poem attains. Just piano and two voices, one sounding like the other’s shadow, Vedder echoes, encourages and reinforces Marshall’s fragile invocation of witness and perseverance. The pair go through the lyrics one time, pause and recite them a second time, ending with a subdued but urgent call to arms, repeating the words “Better make your mind up quick”. They are talking to themselves and, one slowly realizes, addressing anyone else who might be listening.

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Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine, Redux (Revisited)

Talk about better living through chemistry!

Albert Hofmann, the chemist who invented/discovered LSD, has passed away at the dignified, enviable age of 102.

On April 16, 1943, he made history.

On April 19, 1943 he described it.

“In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.”

More on his life HERE and HERE.

Debate did, and does, rage about the benefits and risks (intelligent and honest debate considers both) of psychedelics in general and LSD in particular. Being a chemical, and being demonstrably more intense, LSD is a bit easier to defame (and criminalize), whereas psilocybin (magic mushrooms) grow in the earth and, like marijuana, resist easy condemnation. Unlike alcohol or cigarettes, the mushrooms and green plants that grow in the ground are, quite literally, natural.

Here’s Bill Hicks, perhaps the most articulate (and convincing) proponent of the possibilities of hallucinogens:

And more:

How many well-meaning, but unwatchable scenes have attempted to capture some aspect of a psychedelic experience? Here’s one of the more powerful ones, from one of the better movies:

Easy to romanticize, easy to ridicule, in reality very complicated, the potential triumph and terror of use/abuse of LSD can be summed up in two words: Syd Barrett (much more on him HERE). A snippet:

So what happened? Theories and stories abound, but all you need to do is look at the pictures. Before, during, and just after the release of their debut, Syd is, quite simply, a specimen. Even if you never heard him play or sing, he had charisma and beauty to burn, and it is easy to understand why so many people attached themselves to him. By the time David Gilmour—whom the frantic bandmates recruited to at first fill in for, and later replace, their increasingly erratic leader—begins turning up in group photos, Barrett has dark trenches under his eyes and is already perfecting the thousand-yard stare Roger Waters would later immortalize (“Now there’s a look in your eyes / Like black holes in the sky”). Was it drugs? Schizophrenia? Probably both, possibly neither, but everyone who was there attests that Barrett went from experimenting to ingesting, and that his intake of LSD went from awe-inspiring to alarming in a matter of months. Certainly the rapid (too rapid?) ascent from paisley underground to Top of the Pops would potentially prove dodgy for any sensitive soul who may have happened to be a genius. Add those drugs and the likelihood of a preexisting condition, and the resulting damage was best, if most starkly, described by Syd himself: “I tattooed my brain all the way…”

The next part is where it gets intriguing, if still unresolved. That Barrett saw his shot at superstardom dissipate into the darkening circles of his bruised brain is more than a little tragic. That we have a soundtrack to some of that dissolution, as both an artistic and human document, is more than a little miraculous. Whatever one thinks of the work he recorded post-Pink Floyd (and opinions, predictably, are all over the place), arguably not since Vincent Van Gogh and Edgar Allan Poe have we seen, for posterity, such poignant creative evidence of an aggravated, altered psyche pushed well past endurable limits.

Put another way, here is Barrett, pre-and-post disintegration, a stunning example of the ways he expanded his mind and art, and a horrifying illumination of the damage he did:

His bandmates carried on without him and went on to make history. Along the way they made one of the best sonic explorations of all-things psychedlic, the soundrack to the film More (more on that, and them, HERE and HERE). The single best song concerning what one may see/hear/feel during a trip is, in my opinion, the surreal, shimmering “Quicksilver”. (The unavailable studio version is best, but this is a nice YouTube rarity.)

I’ve always been intrigued (and more than a little haunted) by the sounds and images (the band and especially the crowd) of Country Joe and the Fish playing “Section 43” at Monterey. Definitely some happy hippies caught on film:

For me, the entire story could –and perhaps should– be synthesized (see what I did there?) in a single one-minute scene:

To be cont’d…

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Elvis Is (Still) Dead: Long Live The King (Revisited)

Poor Elvis.

The one-time king is now more often the (big) butt of jokes (see?).

But his musical and cultural imprint remains huge and will forever be impossible to escape from. This is, for the most part, a good thing. Just consider the number of musicians who have covered, copied and imitated the Great White Hype. In part because hype and purloined material aside, the man was, well, kind of a big deal.

In honor of the day he absconded his throne (while on the throne…see? One can’t help oneself), here are ten artistic invocations of Elvis, ranging from the good to the bad to the very ugly.

1. In one of the great scenes from one of the all-time great comedies, here is Spinal Tap saluting The King. It really puts perspective on things though, doesn’t it? (Bonus points for Harry Shearer busting out laughing at the improvised line at the end. Bliss.)

2. The immortal Bill Hicks keeping it (un)real:

3. A more reverential tribute from the guitar god Danny Gatton:

4. Speaking of “Mystery Train”, here’s some love for (and from) Jim Jarmusch:

5. You think that’s weird? Ever seen Wild at Heart? (Nic Cage when he was only pretending to be crazy…mostly):

6. No list would be complete without Public Enemy’s eviscerating ‘dis. “Motherfuck him and John Wayne” is one of the great slams in rap history. I’ve never heard a song that could hurt and heal all at once quite like this one:

7. Okay. Some comic relief, STAT. Enter personal hero, Tortelvis. If you are not down with Dread Zeppelin, you should be. If you have never heard them, listen to what your life has been lacking all these years (from the enthusiastically recommended –no, really– album 5,000,000):

8. From Dread to Led. Recently discussed (HERE) from the all-time album that supposedly sucks (but does not), “Hot Dog” is the hilarious and genuinely reverential and rocking Elvis tribute from Led Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door:

(Here’s my take:

And then there’s “Hot Dog”. More than a few people would likely agree that this is the single-worst song Zeppelin recorded. Those people need to be reminded that Zeppelin did not make any bad songs and that, in any event, “Hot Dog” is a better song on every level than well-loved tunes like “Ramble On” and “The Immigrant Song”. On their early work Zep did not exhibit much, if any, sense of humor; certainly nothing self-deprecating. “Hot Dog” reveals the band (or more specifically, Robert Plant) at its most unguarded, and it is at once a hilarious and deeply respectful send up of older school rock. To understand—and appreciate—“Hot Dog” one needs to understand, and appreciate, Plant’s worship of Elvis. Importantly, Elvis had passed away only two years before, making this less a tongue-in-cheek tribute and than a genuine moment of worship. Also worth noting is that Page turns in one of his most truncated, but delectable solos: the mood is light, but the music is serious, and sensational.)

9. And another Elvis-inspired number, this one from the magnificent Freddie Mercury. Rockabilly plus Elvis plus Brian May = epic:

10. Last and far from least, a song that sort of ties it all together, courtesy of Living Colour: guest vocalist Little Richard (!) gets the definitive last word, as well he should. Great vid (attention to detail always making the nice little differences: note the peanut butter and bananas in the shopping cart: RESPECT!):

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Albert Hofmann, R.I.P.

Talk about better living through chemistry!

Albert Hofmann, the chemist who invented/discovered LSD, has passed away at the dignified, enviable age of 102.

On April 16, 1943, he made history.

On April 19, 1943 he described it.

“In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.”

More on his life HERE and HERE.

Debate did, and does, rage about the benefits and risks (intelligent and honest debate considers both) of psychedelics in general and LSD in particular. Being a chemical, and being demonstrably more intense, LSD is a bit easier to defame (and criminalize), whereas psilocybin (magic mushrooms) grow in the earth and, like marijuana, resist easy condemnation. Unlike alcohol or cigarettes, the mushrooms and green plants that grow in the ground are, quite literally, natural.

Here’s Bill Hicks, perhaps the most articulate (and convincing) proponent of the possibilities of hallucinogens:

And more:

How many well-meaning, but unwatchable scenes have attempted to capture some aspect of a psychedelic experience? Here’s one of the more powerful ones, from one of the better movies:

Easy to romanticize, easy to ridicule, in reality very complicated, the potential triumph and terror of use/abuse of LSD can be summed up in two words: Syd Barrett (much more on him HERE). A snippet:

So what happened? Theories and stories abound, but all you need to do is look at the pictures. Before, during, and just after the release of their debut, Syd is, quite simply, a specimen. Even if you never heard him play or sing, he had charisma and beauty to burn, and it is easy to understand why so many people attached themselves to him. By the time David Gilmour—whom the frantic bandmates recruited to at first fill in for, and later replace, their increasingly erratic leader—begins turning up in group photos, Barrett has dark trenches under his eyes and is already perfecting the thousand-yard stare Roger Waters would later immortalize (“Now there’s a look in your eyes / Like black holes in the sky”). Was it drugs? Schizophrenia? Probably both, possibly neither, but everyone who was there attests that Barrett went from experimenting to ingesting, and that his intake of LSD went from awe-inspiring to alarming in a matter of months. Certainly the rapid (too rapid?) ascent from paisley underground to Top of the Pops would potentially prove dodgy for any sensitive soul who may have happened to be a genius. Add those drugs and the likelihood of a preexisting condition, and the resulting damage was best, if most starkly, described by Syd himself: “I tattooed my brain all the way…”

The next part is where it gets intriguing, if still unresolved. That Barrett saw his shot at superstardom dissipate into the darkening circles of his bruised brain is more than a little tragic. That we have a soundtrack to some of that dissolution, as both an artistic and human document, is more than a little miraculous. Whatever one thinks of the work he recorded post-Pink Floyd (and opinions, predictably, are all over the place), arguably not since Vincent Van Gogh and Edgar Allan Poe have we seen, for posterity, such poignant creative evidence of an aggravated, altered psyche pushed well past endurable limits.

Put another way, here is Barrett, pre-and-post disintegration, a stunning example of the ways he expanded his mind and art, and a horrifying illumination of the damage he did:

His bandmates carried on without him and went on to make history. Along the way they made one of the best sonic explorations of all-things psychedlic, the soundrack to the film More (more on that, and them, HERE and HERE). The single best song concerning what one may see/hear/feel during a trip is, in my opinion, the surreal, shimmering “Quicksilver”.

I’ve always been intrigued (and more than a little haunted) by the sounds and images (the band and especially the crowd) of Country Joe and the Fish playing “Section 43” at Monterey. Definitely some happy hippies caught on film:

For me, the entire story could –and perhaps should– be synthesized (see what I did there?) in a single one-minute scene:

To be cont’d…

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On April Fools’ Day: Celebrating America’s Irreplaceable Court Jester

Take this joke, please.

Or this one:

Funny, for sure. But cut with way more than a sliver of dead seriousness.

This is what Bill Hicks brought to the planet, and what we lost when he died (cancer) at the ludicrous, offensive, unbearably young age of 32.

I’ve written at length, on a couple of occasions, concerning the genius of Bill Hicks (you can see the full pieces HERE, and HERE), and it might suffice to say I consider him one of the genuine, irreplaceable cultural iconoclasts of the last half-century.

It’s a crying shame that Bill Hicks is no longer with us; we sure could use him right about now.

It’s a laughing shame (the sort where you laugh until you cry) when it occurs to you —and if you’re a Hicks fan it’s always occurring to you— how relevant his material remains. Of course this has less to do with Hicks and more to do with us: our collective chicanery copies itself, evolving with each succession of charlatans who occupy our public offices. And, naturally, there is never a shortage of slack-jawed and self-righteous types in our media, our academic institutions and especially our self-worshipping entertainment industry. In fact, as they get better (i.e., worse) with each new wave of mutilation, truth tellers like Hicks are more essential, if elusive, than ever. And his routines and ineffable one-liners still kill, allowing you to actually laugh while you weep.

When we discuss our departed artistic MVPs, too often it involves the clichéd and tragicomic self-induced sabotage by drugs or drink. More distressing, and inexplicable, are the geniuses who are almost cruelly snatched out of their own rarefied air. Hicks, though he had an appetite for destruction for many years, was clean, sober and stalking the world like a lion when Fate intervened. Life is just a ride, he often said at the end of his shows. He knew it and was probably better prepared for it, however short it turned out to be. Perhaps, in the final analysis, it wasn’t so much that he died but became, suddenly, extinct. We certainly won’t ever see anything like him again in this world.

Share

Elvis Is (Still) Dead: Long Live The King (Revisited)

Poor Elvis.

The one-time king is now more often the (big) butt of jokes (see?).

But his musical and cultural imprint remains huge and will forever be impossible to escape from. This is, for the most part, a good thing. Just consider the number of musicians who have covered, copied and imitated the Great White Hype. In part because hype and purloined material aside, the man was, well, kind of a big deal.

In honor of the day he absconded his throne (while on the throne…see? One can’t help oneself), here are ten artistic invocations of Elvis, ranging from the good to the bad to the very ugly.

1. In one of the great scenes from one of the all-time great comedies, here is Spinal Tap saluting The King (argh: the full scene is not possible to embed, damn it. Go to YouTube and look at up “Spinal Tap Elvis grave” for a bit too much perspective):

2. The immortal Bill Hicks keeping it (un)real:

3. A more reverential tribute from the guitar god Danny Gatton:

4. Speaking of “Mystery Train”, here’s some love for (and from) Jim Jarmusch:

5. You think that’s weird? Ever seen Wild at Heart? (Nic Cage when he was only pretending to be crazy…mostly):

6. No list would be complete without Public Enemy’s eviscerating ‘dis. “Motherfuck him and John Wayne” is one of the great slams in rap history. I’ve never heard a song that could hurt and heal all at once quite like this one:

7. Okay. Some comic relief, STAT. Enter personal hero, Tortelvis. If you are not down with Dread Zeppelin, you should be. If you have never heard them, listen to what your life has been lacking all these years (from the enthusiastically recommended –no, really– album 5,000,000):

8. From Dread to Led. Recently discussed from the all-time album that supposedly sucks (but does not), “Hot Dog” is the hilarious and genuinely reverential and rocking Elvis tribute from Led Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door:

9. And another Elvis-inspired number, this one from the magnificent Freddie Mercury. Rockabilly plus Elvis plus Brian May = epic:

10. Last and far from least, a song that sort of ties it all together, courtesy of Living Colour: guest vocalist Little Richard (!) gets the definitive last word, as well he should. Great vid (attention to detail always making the nice little differences: note the peanut butter and bananas in the shopping cart: RESPECT!):

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Got Arsenic?

Seriously?

This is why it’s increasingly difficult to take our cultural priorities seriously, because the people who are elected –and paid– to make them a priority don’t take anything seriously. Except for who the next donation is coming from.

It’s beyond appalling that we are currently listening to brazen politicians whining about regulation and how “too much” of it is killing job creation.

If only.

We’ve been on one extended deregulation bender since the Reagan era and it’s resulted in a country that is less affluent, less aware and less healthy.

I have had too many discussions to count where I’ve heard right-wing (or self-declared libertarians) proclaiming that corporations are not individuals and more, no corporation will knowingly behave immorally because it’s bad business. Of course, the contrary is always the case: it is good business to deregulate, cut out the middle man, enfeeble mechanisms of oversight, eliminate as many positions as possible, spend as little on optimal (and safe) working conditions as you can get away with, and splash the obscene profits on marketing and out-of-court settlements. “It’s bad business” my misguided amigos will say. “No company wants to get caught poisoning food, or water, or making dangerous products because then people won’t support them.” Really? How’s that working out for Toyota. Or McDonalds. Or any juggernaut that can pay to make the bad press go away.

But let me be clear: this is on us. It is because, as a nation, we don’t demand regulation and benefits and the so-called “entitlements” (that we pay to have provided to us at a later time, making the word “entitlement” about as sensical as Bush’s Orwellian “Clear Skies” initiative) that we end up with arsenic in our food. Yes, the corporations, which when profiled are defined as sociopathic, and the cretins who run them have much to answer for, but we’ve seen by now that we should expect the worst. At a certain point, if someone lies to you enough times it becomes your fault if you continue to believe them because it is too painful to acknowledge reality.

As a nation, we are still letting ourselves be told not to believe our lying eyes: 30 years of trickle-down economics (despite the telling eight year respite when Clinton raised taxes and the middle-class soared and we had an abundance of jobs and a budget surplus) stagnate wages, annihilate jobs and invariably result in deficits that –like clockwork– open the floodgates to services and programs being waylaid. Even now, even after  Bush’s double-down on a domestic policy old-school conservatives could never have conceived resulted in transforming a surplus into an unprecedented debt (blame the next president!), we have the media and entirely too many politicians wringing their hands and talking about austerity. Even now, after we saw irrefutable evidence that the alternate reality of Free Market Utopia is a recipe for destruction, there are people protesting that we have too much government in our lives. If you watch Fox News or are congenitally disinclined to understand cause and effect, we can see how, against all possibility, this is still happening. So we can understand it, but we can’t excuse it.

But hey, it’s just a few bad apples making a few bad batches of apple juice, right? Besides, if called on it, these deep-pocketed psycopaths will most likely complain that their oversight was caused by Big Government interfering in the natural order of things. It’s hard to do good business with all these do-gooders worrying about safety and integrity. In fact, we need even less regulation to ensure it doesn’t happen again! And enough people will nod their heads and drink the arsenic-flavored Kool Aid.

Once again, our boy Bill Hicks was distressingly prescient (fast forward to 2.22). What is most disturbing here is that in this bit he is obviously being over the top. If only.

Truth, of course, seldom is unable to prove it can outstrip the most outrageous or cynical fiction.

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