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Remix: Is Music Ready For The Apocalypse?

February 23, 2015

Listen, no person, no matter how much they froth with opinions, should be above an occasional mea culpa, and here’s mine: I should have known a bit more about Mr. Kanye West’s catalog before jumping to some of the conclusions I espoused in last Friday’s column. Having said that, pray allow me to state this: I had some very important points to make in that column, and the stuff about Kanye was really just a small part of it – goddamn small, actually. In fact, waving my arms about Kanye was honestly just the equivalent of a carny barker trying to get you through the door of the tent.

 So, here’s the remix. I want to re-state the stuff from that column that was actually important, without the distraction of the fumbling Kanye stuff. Thank you for listening – I mean that.

America, I am a member of your luckiest generation: Those of us born between (roughly) 1956 and 1975 were born into an era pregnant with prosperity and endless invitations to escapism, and we came of age in a time when this nations’ penchant for invention and daydreaming soared without the clouds of impending disaster and involuntary conscription. We are the luckiest generation: we have lived the rough bulk of our life in the downy-soft years after the threat of Vietnam yet before the apocalyptic Goliath of the caliphate wars and environmental catastrophe. Personally: I was 9 when the shadow of the draft ended, and it is likely I will live most – and perhaps all – of my active life before things become really dark, both figuratively and literally. Our children, our grandchildren, and you (if you are under a certain age) are going to grow up and grow old in a very, very different world than the dynamically inventive and often wonderfully trivial era that has is ending.

Every freedom we have taken for granted, whether it is the freedom to practice our religion, the freedom not to practice any religion, or the freedom to drink fresh water, will be assaulted.

Will your music, your art, and your culture rise to the task?

From Chapel Hill, North Carolina to Ragga, Syria, from the West Bank to Paris, from Manhattan to your hometown, the corpses of those killed in the name of religion are going to pile high in the streets; the bodies of 88,000 and more children, slaughtered hysterically because of the country or creed of their birth, will be laid at the feet of 88,000 mothers; hysterical statesmen, waving testaments old and new, will demand allegiance to a holy land; weapons created by cold-blooded scientists in the last century to defend freedom will be used by hot-blooded hysterics in this century to end freedom; the flashing, shattering scythes of the middle ages and the darkness of the Toba Extinction will return to our world, grim twin revelators riding the pale horses of virulence and deprivation.

Will you be watching the Kardashians?

It is entirely feasible that we will soon find ourselves returning to the constant state of religious war that existed throughout most of history (remember, as recently as 1683 Ottoman troops were at the gates of Vienna); simultaneously, assaults to the environment will force our children and grandchildren to radically alter the way they live and ration things their ancestors took for granted; and continuous breaches of internet security will compel us to redefine the word privacy, and even more likely, force a sizable portion of the wise men and women of this planet off the grid, into an existence that both denies and combats progress.

This is our future.

Will music meet the challenges of this new world? Will music motivate the people of raped Gaia to fight for positive change? Will music mobilize armies to stand up for the disenfranchised, the hungry, the frightened, the abused? Will music provide amiable distraction that somehow creates joy but avoids numbing? Will music incite courageous and productive dissent? Will music underline atrocity and suggest solutions? Will music rouse brotherhood, and combat ignorance?

The model for a utile, user-friendly, informative and provocative pop has existed in the past, and must be recalled and implemented again. Let us consider Phil Ochs and the MC5, performing in Lincoln Park in Chicago during the protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention; let us recall the theories, screeds, pranks, and radical distribution models of Penny Rimbaud, Crass, Woody Guthrie, Will Geer, Billy Childish, Alan Ginsberg, Paul Krassner, the Mekons, and everyone else who thought that art could inform, balm, spotlight the truth, highlight hypocrisy and witlessness, provide facts, and inspire accord.

In the future, entertainment can continue to feed escapism and act as the clown distracting children on the way to the death camps; or it can be a utility, a bridge to unity, information, and power. From the shtetls of the Pale of Settlement to the cotton fields of the old South, from Welsh mines to lunch counters in Mississippi, from Lincoln Park in Chicago to the Compton, the story of music and the story of activism is inseparable. And the story of every single aspect of our pop, whether you listen to country, death metal, or rap, is synonymous with the story of America’s disenfranchised. Seriously, friends: the DNA of every goddamn thing you listen to can be found on slave ships and in the hollers of Appalachia. American music is the sound of those who had less, the sound of those who had to fight to be heard, fight to eat, fight to vote, fight to survive. Whether you’re Jack White or Lightning Bolt or Bon Jovi or loathsome Paul Simon, when you make music, you are echoing the noise of America’s disenfranchised screaming to be heard, or seeking joy in their toil, or setting a melody to the fight for equality.

Our music is a talking drum, passed down from the disenfranchised of the past for the use of the desperate of the future.

And that future is near. Our children, our grandchildren, ourselves, will need the Utility of Music more than ever. Music must mean something, say something, fight for something, take risks, announce agendas, denounce lies, and tell the truth.Music is beauty and power. Do not fucking forget it. Honor it. Playtime is over. Rock’n’roll is just beginning.

Be Woody Guthrie. Be Crass. Be Phil Ochs. Be Jon Langford. Be Victor Jara.

You owe it to the future.


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Darius Rucker, Race, and Turning a Moment in Time into a True Movement

December 15, 2014

I understand that Darius Rucker is on the pants-end of a social media ass-kicking because he sang “White Christmas” at the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting, in the midst of a night of protest and outrage over the non-indictment of Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the choke-hold death of Eric Garner.

I will admit that the rough lines of the story don’t look especially good.  But I want to say this: 

There is not a single white American who has ANY idea what it is like to spend FOUR SECONDS as a black man in America.  Repeat:  if you are white, all your wisdom, empathy, indignation, and activism does not qualify you to be an ANT standing in the SHADOW of the CHALK OUTLINE of the actual experience of being BLACK IN AMERICA.

So unless you are an African American, and SPECIFICALLY an African American descendent of a slave, do not even freaking open your gob.

I knew Darius Rucker, and YOU, no matter HOW full of IRE you are about Eric Garner or Michael Brown or ANY of the horrors inflicted by white America on people of color, ARE NO DARIUS RUCKER.  He is the real fucking deal and he shall NOT be crucified because of his success within the halls of white America. Darius was born and raised on the low-end of socio-economic spectrum in the U. S. of Inequality, and just because he fought his way out and achieved great successes on stage in front of (almost entirely) white audiences and made a hefty living off of the white man’s dollar DOESN’T mean that he HASN’T been made aware, constantly, in ways noxious and obscene, of his race.  I have seen it with my own fucking eyes; I have seen this princely, talented man be gruesomely harassed and harangued because of the color of his skin, I have seen dull, thick white manatees wave rebel flags in his face and I have seen him refused service, all because he dared to be a black man in a white man’s world.  So as far as I am fucking concerned, Darius Rucker can get on stage at the Chabad Telethon and sing “Mysterious Coon” (very cool old medicine show blues recording) and he would be ABOVE even ONE whispered syllable of criticism by ANY white man, because NO white man knows DICK about what it is to be a black man in America, even what it is to be a RICH SUCCESSFUL BLACK MAN IN AMERICA.

A moment from the Chabad Telethon.

Secondly, there’s a lot of chatter out there about how all the recent (and remarkable) protests of the police murders of young black men somehow represents the emergence of a “new” civil rights movement in America.  Nice thought, but…

As valuable as these protests are, as acutely necessary as the awareness of these crimes are, as wondrous as it is to see young people actually CARING about something other than Iggy Fucking Azalea and The Desolation of Flipping Smaug, I STRONGLY feel the following:

Until the voices of dissent and protest, young and old, can LINK the crimes of police and grand juries with voting rights, grotesque inequalities in available public education, and access to health care and social services for the poor and non-white, this ain’t a “New” civil rights movement.  Absolutely, as it stands it is indeed some long over-due noise about an important cause, and it might be the ROOT of something, but it NEEDS to coalesce into something more:  AT THIS VERY MOMENT, as I type these words, operatives of the Republican Party, LOADED with money and organized tighter than a Steely Dan rhythm section, are planning ways to keep POOR PEOPLE and BLACK PEOPLE and other outcasts from “their” version of the American Dream AWAY from the polls in the next Presidential election in 2016. 

FIGURE OUT A WAY TO LINK TODAY’S OUTRAGE OVER THE MURDERS OF ERIC GARNER, MICHAEL BROWN, TRAYVON MARTIN, et al with the plot to keep the blacks and the poor from voting in 2016; figure out a way to link it with the CHASM between public education available to the inner city poor and private education available to the scions of the white and wealthy; figure out a way to CHANNEL that outrage into creating reasonable options for healthcare and social services amongst America’s disenfranchised, and THEN you can call it a “New” Civil Rights Movement.

Seriously, let’s start here:  All you people at those beautiful and moving Die-Ins? STAY STRONG, STAY ORGANIZED, GET MORE ORGANIZED, AND GO TO STATES WHERE POOR VOTERS AND VOTERS OF COLOR NEED THEIR RIGHTS PROTECTED AT THE POLLS.  Because the next Presidential election is going to be decided based on YOUR ability to stand in the way of the Republicans very well-constructed plans to keep America’s disenfranchised OUT of the election booth.  Make plans NOW to use your new desire to “make a difference” and your ability to use social media to organize and GET YOUR ASSES TO THOSE STATES WHERE THE BLACK AND POOR ARE GOING TO BE STOPPED FROM VOTING. 

THEN you can lay a legitimate claim to being part of a new Civil Rights movement.

And leave Darius Rucker alone.  He is the real fucking deal.  However, Darius, if you’re reading this, I recommend the following:  GET SOME OF YOUR WHITE COUNTRY SUPERSTAR FRIENDS TO HELP PROTECT THE VOTING RIGHTS OF ALL AMERICANS IN 2016. 

And Sting is a tool.  

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May 4, 1970 and Chris Butler

September 30, 2014

Before college rock was a lifestyle, before it was even a cult, before it was even a rumor, there were people like Chris Butler.

Chris Butler

Throughout the country in the early to mid 1970s, these people comprised an invisible minority shaping the future. They were long-hairs and short-hairs, huddled in university pubs or music and art high schools, lone-gunmen selling fanzines outside of old vaudeville houses, rabid fans of music that was barely on the radar being inspired to make music even further below detection. These pioneers absorbed all the more eccentric, exquisite and gorgeously culty musical traits of the 1960s – from Beefheart to the Byrds, from Gram Parson to the Grateful Dead, from Gong to the Move – and used the fertile Petri dishes of American college towns and cheap-rent dead cities to create the foundation of American independent music.

For Chris Butler, Ohio – specifically Akron, Cleveland, and Kent State – was where (far away from the dope sparks of the high-heeled boys in New York) Butler and his band, Tin Huey, began to invent American college rock (in collaboration with friends, compatriots, and fellow travelers like Pere Ubu, Devo, the Rubber City Rebels, the Bizarros, Rocket from the Tombs, and many etceteras). Like a similar scene being developed just a little bit later in Winston, Salem North Carolina, the music made by these bands would directly lead to some of the most high-profile college rock and punk rock of the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. Seriously, if you want to see where the sound of Our Generation came from, don’t look at the Bowery or the Sunset Strip: look at North Carolina and Ohio in the early and mid-1970s.

The Waitresses. Chris Butler, second from right.

Chris Butler of Tin Huey went on to significant commercial success with the Waitresses (for whom he was the prime songwriter), but I have come not to rattle off Butler’s credits or bona fides, but to talk about his extraordinary new record, Easy Life.

Easy Life is vastly original, profoundly moving, deeply personally yet extraordinarily universal; it concerns itself with the most intimate, common, and human experiences and the most rare, historic, and tragic occurrences. Simply put, Easy Life is a concept album – actually, perhaps more of a biography in music, maybe even a (dreaded/dreadful word!) rock opera – about a young man coming to college at the end of the 1960s; his experiences are deliciously familiar, as he discovers freedom, sleeping late, girls, responsibility, evading responsibility, drugs, drink, and sex; but then the young man is centrally and integrally caught up in one of the signal events of the era: on May 4, 1970, the National Guard fired 67 rounds in 13 seconds on a group of unarmed students protesting the Vietnam War, killing four and profoundly wounding nine others. Butler was an eyewitness and a participant in the demonstration that was attacked. After the assault on the unarmed protesters, one of Butler’s best friends, Jeffery Miller, lay among the dead.

The United States of America, May 4, 1970, Kent, Ohio.

With grace, compellingly original music, and moving but deliberately ordinary words that underline how some young people who were a great deal like you and I ended up being pawns in tragic-history, Butler places that extraordinary event within the context of everyday college and artistic experience.  This is so fucking important, because before anyone is a martyr, before anyone is a witness, before anyone is an unwilling participant in history, they were drunks, and clumsy artists, and dancers, and people cheating on their girlfriends and boyfriends, and people being cheated on, and people angry at the noisy neighbors, and excited about new movies and your friends’ sister, and people who owned crappy cars, and people who loved the Grateful Dead, and people who borrowed your drums.

Before I go further, here’s where to buy it/hear samples.

Butler’s musical palette on Easy Life is dramatic, stark, varied, and entirely appropriate; it features archival acoustic recordings, full band recordings, home demos, all astutely sewn together (and linked by effective spoken word and expository material) to tell the story of how the profound tragedy of Kent State interjected itself into the normally abnormal lives of college students.

Much of the album’s music has the effect of being faux clumsy, which is to say the music is precise but spontaneous and affecting, exact but tumbling, occasionally evoking the idea of the Raspberries produced by Zappa or some weird dB’s/Oingo Boingo cross; likewise, there is definitely a hovering haze of the same Ohio smoggy pop machine that bred Tin Huey, Pere Ubu, and Devo. Often, it sounds like the work of an expert folk musician just beginning to discover progressive rock and proto-punk pop, which might accurately reflect Butler’s real-life musical perspective at the time of the events he recounts in Easy Life. Over all, this mix of audio sources implies a race against time, a race against memory, a perfect musical vocabulary for an album about memory that wants to be alive in that memory.

Chris Butler’s EASY LIFE, an important fucking album.

At one point, Butler sings “We knew one shining truth — we were immune,” and that underlines the profound depth of this album, and how this historical atrocity forever defined its’ witnesses.

The God-like Phil Ochs, who also made important fucking records.

At times, conceptually and lyrically the album reminds me of Phil Ochs’ striking Rehearsals for Retirement, his 1969 masterpiece (largely) about how a generation’s hope and optimism died on the streets during the riots the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968. In fact, these two albums should be sold together. I am also going to cite one (vastly different) point of comparison: Easy Life is the easily the best original concept album/rock opera I’ve heard since the extremely different Bandage: The Rock Opera. Bandage is the deeply accomplished and entertaining piece from about the rise and fall of a Sunset Strip rock star, composed and performed by Los Angeles’s Pi Gamma band about fifteen years ago (I don’t want to take away space from Easy Life, but WHY has NO ONE picked up Bandage for staging/performances outside of Los Angeles? The thing never achieved the national audience it so richly deserved, and it is far more original than Rock of Ages, which clearly ripped it off, and the songs are fucking great).

But back to Chris Butler’s Easy Life. Get it. It is an important, original and moving album, and makes the events of that horrible day, May 4, 1970, more alive than anything I’m aware of. Shit, they should teach this thing in schools.

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War: Not Just something Roger Waters whines about.

September 2, 2014

My brother Peter turns 60 this week.  That is a singular event that I would like to mark pleasantly – Peter is a kind, handsome, and brilliant man who has made a considerable mark as an educator – but I mention this event only to note this:

Peter turned 18 in 1972.  That’s pretty significant, and here’s why: American males who turned 18 in 1972 were the first 18 year olds not subject to the draft lottery, the system by which young men were randomly chosen for service in the military (which at that time likely meant a trip to Vietnam).  Prior to 1972, young American men lived with the idea that only a randomly chosen number stood between them and extraordinary hardship, sacrifice, and possible death imposed by the policies of their government.

I want you to take a moment and imagine what it would be like for a young person today if the draft existed; shit, imagine what it would be like for you.  What if you were walking around today thinking “Dammit, in eighteen months I could be standing in the desert while someone I never met tries to kill me.”

Also, this week marks three remarkable anniversaries:  September 2nd was the 69th anniversary of the official end of the Second World War (on that date aboard the battleship USS Missouri docked in Tokyo Bay, the official Instrument of Surrender was signed by representatives of the Empire of Japan); September 1 was the 75th anniversary of the Invasion of Poland by the armies of the Third Reich, the date usually connected with the beginning of the Second World War; and it was on that same day, 75 years ago today, that the Free City of Danzig was annexed by the Third Reich, marking the first of many foreign cities to fall under the yoke of the Nazis.

As we watch our cat videos, it seems that we are extraordinarily distant from these events.  Possibly due to the 42 years we have gone without the draft, possibly due to the overwhelming plurality and ubiquity of the media (which is to say it is everywhere, all the time, dramatically altering our ability to filter the important from the trivial), war seems like some concept that belongs to someone else, or perhaps something we relate to fantasy novels or video games. Touched by the random horror of terrorism, we are certainly aware that there is a world out there that fights and dies for religious and political beliefs; but for 42 years, we have been removed from this reality, the idea that we might have to kill or be killed to defend our way of life, or to defend the choices of the government we live in.

But the extraordinary events of the 20th century are within spitting distance of most of our lives.  War is only one burp of history away, one incident in the Balkans away, one over-eager button pusher in the Middle East away, one click of a keyboard from some zealous cyber terrorist away.  True: we are a cursor click away from another conflagration that will re-draw our maps, define the lives of our children and grandchildren, and leave a million civilians dead.  My draft-less generation were very, very fortunate, which only means that we must work even harder to possess and maintain two very, very crucial characteristics, as individuals and as a culture:

Memory and empathy.

All other factors – education, wisdom, the ability to make a reasonable assessment of the actions of your government and the actions of other nations, the ability to see military action within the context of history, the ability to assess the human cost of military action — all stem from a strong underpinning of memory and empathy.

I was 10 years old when the draft lottery was extinguished.  My entire adult life has been led without even the remote fear of conscription, or the idea that I may be called upon, involuntarily, to fight against a foreign (or even domestic) power for the beliefs of my country.  If another military event or engagement requires conscription, I will be too old for this.  In other words, I, like others of my generation, have lived without any real idea that we were going to have to fight in a war. My deeply fortunate and ultimately unrealistic generation learned to think of war as something distant, something fought by an economic underclass, something fought vaguely “for” us and in far away places, and only representing our interests or protecting our way of life in uncertain ways.  But memory can teach us that war is real, was real, will be real, must be real; when it is real, we can have an understanding of the motivations on both sides and compassion for victims and victimizers; when we can relate, say, the assassination of the heir to throne of Austro-Hungary by Bosnian/Serbian freedom fighters in 1914 to what’s going on in the Ukraine today, or when we can relate the atrocities of Isis in Iraq to the siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Empire in 1683, we are at least one baby-step closer to understanding that today’s events are part of history’s community and continuity, and not isolated episodes of cultural narcissism.  Likewise, the wisdom of awareness of the past makes us see the human cost of history, and apply this to everyday compassion.

I doubt any other generation in American history will have this privilege, to have lived with no threat of conscription.  This underlines the need to somehow establish a strong foundation of empathy and memory within our culture.  Our children and our children’s children will almost without a doubt hold weapons and be fired upon, and they will need memory and empathy to negotiate the fear, hatred, and ignorance that are endemic to war. Our children, and our children’s children, will almost certainly know war.  It may not be war as us, our parents, or our grandparents considered it; it may involve entire economies or entire electrical grids being shut down via the click of one key on a computer, it may involve shadow armies belonging to no nation threatening civilian lives and infrastructure.

But like any “conventional” war, any reasonable approach will require grounding in memory and empathy, history and compassion.



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I tell The Turtlenauts of Zond 5 about the Replacements, Joe Ely, Phil Ochs, the Mekons, and the lack of a true self

August 29, 2014


Although tortoises are not mammals, humankind should remain in awe of the achievement of Bek and Lek, two tortoises who circled the moon on September 18, 1968.

This is not fantasy: In 1968, the Soviets Russians were frantically attempting to beat the Americans and the Apollo space program to the moon.  They launched the Zond 5, with Turtlenauts Bek and Lek on board, to see if living creatures could survive a trip to the moon and back.  They did, and our two shell-back friends became the first living creatures ever to reach the moon.   The Soviet’s plan to follow up Lek and Bek’s pioneering adventure with a manned flight was abandoned when it turned out the Apollo program was much further ahead of schedule than the Soviets had imagined.

Yes, I said Turtlenauts.

Recently, I asked myself the following question:  What if Bek and Lek returned from space as fully sentient creatures, but Soviet secrecy and the equally obfuscating bureaucracy of the post-Soviet Russian governments prevented them from leaving the grim lab in the Urals where they had been ensconced for 45 years?  When finally exposed to the daylight of the modern world (having been freed by a quirk of the very same bureaucracy that had imprisoned and forgotten them), what kind of questions would Bek and Lek have that I, a noted pop-culture and music authority, could answer?

Bek & Lek:  Tell us about the fabled American Beauty, the Mayim Bialik.
Tim Sommer:  She inspires great men to stirring deeds. In this sense, she is like Zipporah, the wife of Moses, or Jolene Brand, the wife of Laugh-In producer George Schlatter.
B & L:  I know of this show Laugh In!  “Sock it to me,” and suchlike hijinks.
TS:  Yes.
B & L:  Tell us a little about this band, The Replacements.
TS:  Every musician must recall that at any given show, perhaps 80 or 90 percent of the audience is seeing them for the first and likely only time.  Whether they are playing in front of 8 or 8,000 people, a performer needs to treat their audience as the only audience they will ever play in front of, the best audience they will play in front of.  Therefore, an artist must never throw away a show, and no band, not even the freaking Beatles, is better than the worst show they play. Personally, I saw the Replacements play five times; I guess I saw five “off” nights.  If they were a truly great band, and I understand a lot of people feel that way, the band simply didn’t feel that every audience was important enough to know that, and that’s just horrible.  Also, the alternative music fanbase in the 1980s was largely made up of geeks and the bullied (myself amongst them); I think the Replacements fulfilled a certain need we may have had to believe there was a Van Halen-esque licentiousness and devil-may-care attitude within each of us, when really, we were just people excited about finding out-of-print Lyres 45s and over-paying for Echo & The Bunnymen import 12-inch singles because they had non-album b-sides.  The Replacements are also romanticized for a few over-sensitive ballads, but I can show you a dozen artists from that period who did that sort of thing far better, or at least as well, and they did it without despising their audience and abusing the extraordinary privilege of being able to play original music in front of people for money.  I mean, start with Chris Bailey and the Saints, listen to their fucking ballads.

(Two Sentient Soviet Turtles now know The Saints are infinitely superior to the Replacements)

B & L:  Tell us about Joe Ely.
TS:  Excellent question. Joe Ely, Joe Strummer, and Bruce Sprinsgteen are all essentially the same artist, and that’s a beautiful thing.  Each has attempted to channel Woody Guthrie via Sun-era Elvis; each wants to tell the story of the American experience via the character of a muscular guitar-slinger, sensitive but with sand in their teeth.  Each wanted to simultaneous wear Dylan’s wise-ass bookishness and Marlon Brando’s muscle-tees, each wanted to feel the world through the boots of the workingman yet see the world through the owlish-eyes of Ginsberg.
B & L:  That’s a very impressive description.
TS:  Yes, I thought so too, thank you.  If you want to turn that trio into a quintet, add Patti Smith and Paul Sanchez, each of whom have a very similar worldview and ability to translate that vision into extraordinary art.  Patti adds some shady, shadowy art to the mix, Paul adds some hot sauce.
B & L:  Speaking of “devil may care,” Is there a God?
TS:  You are sentient, talking turtles that have been to the moon.  Shouldn’t I be asking you that question?
B & L:  No.
TS:  Well, there is Abba, and there is Nick Lowe’s production on his Jesus of Cool album — these may be a sign of some higher power.
B & L:  Who are the quintessential American artists?
TS:  I’d have to go with Louis Armstrong and Phil Ochs.  Each told the story of rich, troubled century, spotted with joy and tragedy.  Each spoke in an essentially and exclusively American vocabulary, discarding the frippery of England or San Francisco. Here, you should listen to the Ochs’ song “When In Rome.”  It tells the story of America, a place of hope and disappointment, through the eyes of one deeply troubled troubadour, a once optimistic man that experience has turned cynical.

B & L:  But it’s 13 minutes long.  Are you going to make us listen to that whole thing?
TS:  You watched eight straight episodes of American Horror Story Coven last night, I think you can spare 13 minutes.
B & L:  We’re not sure.
TS:  Tell you what:  just listen, at your leisure, to Ochs’ Rehearsals For Retirement album.  It tells the story of the death of idealism in America.
B & L:  Gee, that sounds like fun.
TS:  If you want fun, listen to Slade or BTO. By the way, “Hey You” by BTO is an extremely satisfying song, plus it is essentially the template for all Nirvana and Pixies songs.
B & L:  If we only have time to listen to one song right now, what should it be?
TS:  “Where Were You” by the Mekons. It reduces rock’n’roll to its absolute essence:  two chords and thwarted desire.

B & L:  I count four chords.
TS:  I am not counting those passing chords between the verses and I don’t think you should, either.
B & L:  We have to go to lunch, and then someone is going to show us how to set up a Kindle account and explain to us the cultural context of the British “Carry On” film series.
TS:  Don’t bother buying Ulysses by James Joyce just because you think you should.  You’ll never read it, or much of it, anyway, and if you want to feel smart yet still be entertained, you are far better off reading Rushdie or William Gaddis.
B & L: — Before we go, Tim, do you have any final words of advice?
TS:  Whenever even the most cursory examination is applied, one finds that the self is made up entirely of non-self elements.  Seriously.  Remove the word “I” from any idea, or dialogue — especially a self-dialogue — and very remarkable things happen.  That’s because there is no “I.”  There is no homunculus sitting somewhere in our brain consistently infusing some consistent or permanent idea of self into all our actions and decisions.  There are just an infinite number of ever-moving, ever-changing parts adding up to the constant reality of dependence arising.  As Chandrakirti said, “Afflictions and faults arise from the false view of a transitory collection.  Having understood that the object of this is self, negate self.”
B & L:  Homo-what-culus?

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