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Dog whistles no longer required….

July 15, 2019 Leave a comment

The President of the United States is a racist.

That’s pretty fucking clear. If you think otherwise at this point, then you either have not been paying attention, or you’re one too.

Hell, even Trump himself doesn’t deny it anymore, saying that being called racist “doesn’t concern me… because many people agree with me.”

So there you have it. Being racist is Ok, because other people are racist.

Got it?

His racism, both cruel and casual, is the new normal. In the same way that it’s barely news when he says something stupid, it barely registers when he goes all KKK on Twitter. Nobody is shocked. Fellow republicans smirk, shrug, hide, or double-down to ingratiate (and thus debase) themselves even further. (See “Graham, Lindsey”)

todayDog whistles aren’t even required anymore. He’s going straight for “non-white women who dare disagree with me should leave the country and go back where they came from”. Even if these non-white women are….you know…native-born Americans. Such hateful rhetoric is expressly banned on Twitter (which “prohibits targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category.”) but, well….you know. There are rules, and then there are rules for rich white men.

It’s just locker room talk, right?

To Trump, an “American” is white.

I don’t know how we got here. I don’t know how we get past this. He hasn’t just created divisions, he’s pissed all over the very fabric of the nation. And his approval rating hangs steady around 50%.

No matter how often he lies. No matter what racist drivel he spews. No matter how many women accuse of him of sexual misconduct. No matter how many dead war heroes he attacks, or how many disabled people he mocks, or how many times he thinks that Frederick Douglass is still alive. Or how much violence he incites. Or how often he embarrasses this nation on the world stage. Or how often he literally brags that his minions are so dumb he could shoot them and not lose their support. No matter. His IQ and narcissism leave him incapable of feeling shame, or empathy.

His head is empty, his heart is black, and his dick is tiny.

That’s a bad trifecta for a guy who runs a fucking Dairy Queen. This idiot is President of the United States.

And so it goes.

What does continue to amaze, however, is the silence and thus acquiescence to all of this from the Republican party.

It’s almost like Trump invited every single one of them over to Trump tower and got pics of them being peed on by Putin’s hookers. What else could possibly turn the grand old party into an emasculated pile of bobble-heads?

Watching Pence recent border visit, as he started vacantly into cages filled with pleading human beings begging for water, and simply turned away without a word, was surely one of the most monstrous photo-ops I’ve even seen. And yet don’t for a moment think that it wasn’t well thought out….and that Pence, one of the world’s biggest pussies, didn’t have his marching orders. The cruelty on display is intentional. Pence was sent down there to do a Himmler impersonation for the cameras, for much the same way Trump broadcast weekend ICE raids that did not materialize. To be a cruel dick. And to be seen as being a cruel dick. Because, again, the cruelty IS the point. What would shame normal people energizes these monsters.

But why?

Trump fears what he does not understand. And since he’s a fucking idiot, this means he fears pretty much everything.

Women are for his amusement. To fondle. To forcibly kiss. To compare to Ivanka. That these new brown women in Congress both mock his idiocy, and refuse to be intimidated by it, scares the fake-tan off of him. So he starts running around in circles, chewing at his own tail. His rage manages to be both frightening and pathetic at the same time. The former because it’s tolerated, and the latter because…..well….because it’s tolerated.

As a nation, I thought all these battles had been fought and won already. I was wrong.

A President can call actual Nazis “very fine people” and remain in office. And on and on….to today. Where he can tell Americans they should “go back where they came from”.

There are new rules. Or perhaps there just aren’t any rules at all anymore.

It’s our collective shame. We own it.

In a bit..

–tf

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Independence Day and the Baby Balloon

July 3, 2019 Leave a comment

The government went to federal court a few weeks back and argued before incredulous judges that it shouldn’t be required to provide detained migrant children toothbrushes, soap, towels, or showers.

To level set for y’all….a man named Michael Scott Moore was kidnapped by Somali pirates in 2012 and was held for two and a half years. Moore felt the urge to issue a tweet saying “Somali pirates gave me toothpaste and soap”…quickly followed by another tweet by a former prisoner of the fucking TALIBAN….who tweeted “The Taliban gave me toothpaste and soap.”

So…yep….there you are. We live in interesting times Bubba…

Trump supporters are furious with congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (and not just because she’s a woman and….you know….not white), who likened the cages detained migrant children are kept in to concentration camps. That kids are in cages in the first place does not at all draw their ire. Nor did the fact that a congressional delegation that toured border facilities reported they witnessed children drinking water out of toilets. Such claims were dismissed as fake news on the same day Trump’s newly appointed press secretary got inadvertently beaten up by the bodyguards of his latest man-crush, that dreamy North Korean dwarf and mass murderer Kim Jong-un, who still has nukes despite Trump lobbying hard for a Nobel Peace Prize for disarming him using nothing but sangfroid and an autographed copy of “The Art of the Deal”. So….nothing to see here folks.

trump_baby_blimp_gettyAnd tomorrow our grand high exhaled mystic ruler will throw himself a Nuremberg style rally, complete with military tanks and planes (hopefully Trump doesn’t order the military to shoot down the Trump Baby Balloon) and squirming Generals, with plenty of white supremacists in red hats cheering him on. You’ll be happy the know that according to the President, the parade will feature “the brand new Sherman tanks” despite that fact that production of Sherman tanks ceased over 60 years ago. So I can’t wait for that part (A US Army spokesperson has warned DC are residents to “not panic” when they see tanks rolling through their neighborhoods, so don’t say loads of thought hasn’t been put into this). Oh, and engineers have been examining the Lincoln Memorial to determine if the weight of stationing tanks there would affect the Lincoln Memorial’s foundation. So there’s that. Trump’s ego is threatening to damage the fucking Lincoln Memorial. This is all so normal.

I eagerly await the price-tag of all this dick-waving, which is being kept under wraps because…well….you know.

Of course all of this would have been considered insane before 2016.

But we’re now in an age of walls and terrified angry white people and Orwellian doublespeak. Dissent has once again become disloyalty. Traditional allies are out, and dictators are the flavor du jour. The free press is labeled an “enemy of the people” because, let’s face it, what’s more founding father-ish than that eh? Our moral authority in the world has not simply been eroded, it’s been eradicated.

Humanity has become a form of weakness. Trump has somehow turned into a political colossus, having cowed his own party into a level of astounding subservience that would be hilarious if it weren’t so fucking scary, all this despite communicating to the American public at the level of a bullying 4th grader, appealing always to the dark side of human nature. His administration is, banana republic-like, filled with obsequious toadies and blood relatives. His supporters remain cult-like in their devotion, not even wavering when he bragged about being able to publicly shoot them with no blow-back. Democrats, as usual for democrats, have no coherent strategy, and are currently tearing each other apart on a debate stage near you. A pedophile is one again running for congress in the state of Alabama, and it’s increasingly likely that he’ll win this time. Because of course he will.

(Locally, the mayor of Scranton just resigned, barely a step ahead of the federal prosecutors chasing him down for bribery, extortion, and conspiracy. So at least some things felt normal…)

Sometimes it seems like I’m the only person in the midst of this maelstrom who feels like he’s not living in the same country in which he was born.

In a bit..

–tf

 

Categories: Uncategorized

The romance of rock and roll

June 29, 2019 Leave a comment

Is that the right thing to call it?

I’ve never really been in it though. I’ve merely traveled its periphery. Listening to it, obviously. Reading about it. Watching it. Doing it in small doses, on local stages. But I never had to courage to pile into the van and make a go at it…day after day…night after night. Chasing whatever it is that this music forces you to chase. If I had a do-over, who knows? But as that theatrical rock star O’Neill once said, it’s a late day for regrets.

But still…after all these years I’m still in love.

guitarYou can’t do it alone. Rock and roll is not a solitary pursuit. Even Dylan said “fuck this” and grabbed an electric guitar and a band. I suspect because he was hearing sounds in his head that required a gang. And since that day at Newport, Dylan, that most lonely of loners, has rarely gone anywhere without other noise-makers alongside him. He may not have ridden the same bus (his guitarist on the Rolling Thunder tour was Mick Ronson, who once answered the question “Isn’t Bob great?!” with the reply “I don’t know. He’s never spoken to me.”), but he knew stuff “Like a Rolling Stone” needed more than its brilliant lyrics and his Woody Guthrie cap.

My friend Bret Alexander (former member of a pretty decent band himself) told me once that there’s a tendency for bands, retrospectively, to (quoting a Jackson Browne song) “forget about the losses and exaggerate the wins”. I suspect this is true in the same way it might be true when any old friends get together over a nice warm fire and choice beverages. In my very regional experience as a musician, my eyes light up over the memories of good nights. I have to think harder to conjure up the shitty ones. Oh they’re there….but I just have to dig deeper for them. It’s very much like being in love.

I just finished making a record with my band the Shillelaghs. I think that’s what kick-started this train of thought. Because it was everything rock and roll is supposed to be. It was just us….all friends…..creating new music…..bouncing ideas off each other….trying new things. The control room looked like a dorm room…..beer cans and chip bags and odd aromas when the drummer was there, and when it wasn’t filled with music it was filled with laughter. I wanted to make a double album not because I had that many songs (I didn’t), but because I didn’t want to stop hanging out with these guys. And for a brief moment (Ok, maybe more than one but still)….I pictured us piling into that van and playing these songs wherever anybody would have us, like circus performers. But an early alarm clock beckoned, along with bills that I still can’t pay even in my 9-5 existence. Not to mention the fact that I failed to live out the lyrics to “My Generation”, which means I’m old. Sooo…..

And who knows? If we were all 20 somethings and took that leap, we might’ve ended up wanting to kill each other in that van…..our camaraderie replaced by fear and loathing. In other words, we’d end up like 99% of bands in the history of the world.

But still…..the stories we’d have for that night by the fire, eh?

And at the tail end of all this, I discovered The Tragically Hip.

The great Canadian rock and roll band.

I’m almost ashamed to say that it took me this long, because I thought my snotty “I have better taste than you” radar was infallible. The fact that I could completely miss one of the great turn of the century catalogs in rock and roll while it was happening both pisses me off and makes me feel like an American dolt. It took a fucking Netflix documentary about the band’s last tour and the subsequent death of their lead singer to brain cancer for me to jump on their bandwagon. I’m sure they appreciate my impeccable timing very much.

Their final concert was broadcast live in Canada….and one THIRD of the entire nation watched it. The Canadian Prime Minister was there….wearing a band T-shirt, singing along to every single word. The band has no equivalent in the United States. Nothing even comes close. When their leader Gord Downie died, the entire nation mourned. A US pundit suggested that if Springsteen, Dylan, and Michael Stipe all died on the same day in this country, we might understand, but even then probably not.

They were together for over 30 years. The same guys. Friends since childhood. They were a gang. They were what a band should be. They had what I wanted. I’m sure they wanted to kill each other at times….but they never wavered and never let anybody else inside that circle. On the last tour a terminally ill Downie insisted on kissing each band member on the lips before each show, whispering “I love you so much” into each ear.

It’s all impossibly romantic…..and it only seems possible through the prism of rock and roll.

In a bit..

–tf

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New Shillelaghs record coming soon…

June 18, 2019 Leave a comment

Peace and Love and Dollar Pints coming this summer!

shillelaghs

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Niagara Falls

June 10, 2019 Leave a comment

A few random observations about our recent visit to Niagara Falls, Canada.

I will say that the only thing I hate more that tourists is being one myself…..so I’m not the best traveler by any means. But I make up for any self-consciousness with my ability to ignore what others might consider to be indignities. In short, I just keep my mouth closed and pay without complaining. If I was worried about how much shit costs, I wouldn’t have visited one of the most touristy places on the planet in the first place. So when the total cost of an 18 oz Molson at the hotel bar came to $13, I was so non-plussed I ordered another.

Our hotel room view

That being said, the Falls are quite a staggering sight. From the US side you get an awkward view, like attending a concert and getting seated behind the band. But from the Canadian side the view is unobstructed and mesmerizing, and at night, all lit up, it becomes even more so. On our last day we hung out by the rim of Horseshoe Falls and just grinned like idiots for about 2 hours, snapping pictures by the score and trying not to get pushed over the edge by wild-eyed grown-ups wielding selfie-sticks like swords.

Ah, selfie-sticks. I thought they were dead and gone, like grunge or Coke Classic. Ha! Americans may have moved on, but the rest of the world adores them. I saw literally hundreds, and not only near the falls. I saw them being used at dinner tables, or being walked down the street, their owners apparently terrified of being alone with their thoughts. These people look like fools to me, but you can bet your ass their scrapbook is better than my scrapbook. So who am I to judge?

Canadians might be the nicest people on earth. They just seem less uptight….so much less willing to act dickish just for the sake of being dickish. They handle the daily invasion of the entire world with a patience and a guile that seems…well…unworldly. One of the reasons that Niagara Falls is so beloved is because the best parts of it are IN Canada. Anyplace else and the world might care a lot less and just look at the pictures.

Canadians are also smart. Very smart. Everywhere you go…..when you find the door to get out, it leads you to a gift shop. It’s uncanny. You can find a random bathroom, and when you’re done and walk out, somehow you walk directly into an aisle of T-shirts and snow-globes. It’s impossible not to spend money here, but they make it all so easy that you hardly even notice you’re going broke one door at a time. And if I’m going to spend what I don’t really have, I’d rather give it to a smiling Canadian than to some surly European with a superiority complex.

Some things you just have to do, like the boat ride to the rim of the falls…the one where they give you the rain gear. It’s kinda cheesy, and they know it’s kinda cheesy and you know it’s kinda cheesy but you do it anyway and you love it and you have to talk yourself out of doing it again (standing on top the second time!).

We visited the museum where they keep all the assorted contraptions assorted lunatics created to ride over the falls in…..some of which worked and some of which…well…not so much. We were told a 7 year old kid survived an accidental trip over the falls back in the 1960s, and that about 20 people a year travel near and far to off themselves with all sorts of style points in mind. There ain’t much more than a chest high barrier to stop anybody from taking a header if they so desire, and just last year somebody fell in while taking pictures standing on the stone wall above the falls (what a last pic that would be eh?) something I thought might happen about every 15 seconds from my vantage point.  There’s no security or patrols, so….you’re pretty much on your own. I like that about Canada too. They are totally cool if you want to risk your life to take a selfie.

We walked and bused and walked some more. We visited a botanical garden, and wandered among a beautiful array of butterflies. It was charming.

It’s about a 5 hour drive for me. Basically drive to Syracuse and turn left and go straight until you are stopped by a border agent. It just seems longer. A lot longer. I don’t know why. The GPS has some fun with you on the way home, cutting off mileage by re-routing you through assorted single lane roads until you are convinced you’re completely lost….until you finally see a sign for Binghamton. Once you hit 81 again, the pothole dodging begins, and you know home is approaching.

So thank you Ontario. You were a splendid host. I’m rooting like hell for the Raptors tonight. And I’ve become a huge Tragically Hip fan.

In a bit..

–tf

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The Circus

May 23, 2019 Leave a comment

When the circus comes to town, you go.

Because it’s the circus.

circusIt doesn’t come around often, so put down your phone, pile the kids into the family truckster, and prepare to be wildly entertained by folks who can do things you cannot do. Your senses will tingle. You’ll oooh and aaah and laugh and eat a bunch of stuff that’s no good for you…..and if you’re really lucky the clown will bring you into the ring with him….and you’ll feel goofy and silly but love it all, because nothing brings us together quite like a human touch. This isn’t the big screen….this isn’t fake. These are extraordinary people doing extraordinary things, literally yards away from you. You can’t hit the pause button, and nobody gets a do-over. There is, quite literally, no net.

These people have devoted their lives to making kids smile, and making adults feel like kids so they too can smile (and dance) like nobody is watching. That’s the thing about the circus. It’s impossible for grumpy-ness to take hold. And while they don’t ask you to suspend belief, that doesn’t mean that you’re not gonna say “did he’she really just do that?” over and over again. Yes, they did just do that. And you were there. You didn’t see it on a video. Or hear about it second-hand, You craned your neck and tried to figure out how high up that really is (30 feet was my guess….) . There really wasn’t a time I could totally relax.

There’s a cohesiveness to all of us when we’re there….performers and audience members alike. There’s no “look what I can do” bravado from the performers either. You know what you feel instead? “Look what we as human beings are capable of doing when we’re together.” Neither we nor them ever loses our sense of wonder.

They must have performed these routines 1000 times….but never did I get the sense that anybody was mailing it in. Despite the small mid-week crowd, the greatest show on earth lived up to its billing. And that sounds corny as hell but I don’t care, because last night when I was there all I saw were smiles, and if you can do better than that, step up and make yourself heard.

And yea, so you may need to hit an ATM machine on the way, but so what. You can’t take the debit card with you….and these next few hours are gonna stay with you a lot longer than the $100 you just dropped (and the blinking rubber nose you are gonna buy….you just don’t know it yet). Stop making excuses. For 2 glorious hours bullshit evaporates and we all just grin at each other like idiots and say “did you see that?”

Circus Bellucci is set up for a few more days in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Taylor. For me stepping inside that big tent was like giving a giant middle-finger to my crappy day, and walking out I grasped the clown’s hand and pumped it furiously. “Thank you thank you” I said over and over again. And he said…..”no….thank YOU.”

Perfect.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Alabama

May 16, 2019 Leave a comment

world-us-canada-48275795When Alabama is in the news, it’s usually for something bad, like Nick Saban winning more games or a destructive hurricane or only being smarter than Mississippi. Or white men behaving very very douchey.

This week it’s been the latter…..coming on the heels of white men in Ohio and Georgia setting the douchey bar VERY high.

Alabama’s response?

“Hold my beer…we’re about to go all Sharia on you uppity squaws.”

(In case you are keeping track….abortions in Alabama would be banned, but assault rifles….not so much.)

So it got me to thinking….about being “pro-life” and all that. What it means and what it should mean and what it really means.

First off, I have mad respect for anybody with unwavering principles. Nothing pisses me off more than selective outrage. Have a position. Stick to that position. Be unwavering. The end. Anything else makes you a fake. A partisan hack. And it makes you pretty normal actually, because our nation is filled with fakes and partisan hacks these days. But whatever. Don’t be one of these. Because it annoys me.

(So, to clarify….if being President and fucking a porn star while married does not make evangelical voters mad at you, then any subsequent married President who fucks a porn star should draw no evangelical outrage. Even if he is a ””gulp”” LIBERAL. Same with releasing your taxes. It’s no longer a thing for Presidents. And it can never be a thing again. If you start screeching about it tomorrow and are fine with it today, you’re just an asshole.)

In the context of what follows, “pro-life” means “anti-abortion” surely, but also means that only “God” (presumably the correct deity of course, not the kind you believe in that makes you Un-American) can take a human life, which means ANY human life….because every human life is sacred. There are no loopholes. If we don’t get any, you don’t get any. Sorry dudes.

You don’t like abortion. You’re against it. Even in the case of rape and incest. Which is perfectly fine. Assuming the following is also true….

  1. You have a womb. If you don’t, you don’t get to play this game. Hers is not yours. You don’t get to tell a woman what to do with her own body any more than you can tell her that she has to wear a veil over her face. (Imagine her telling you how many guitars you can own? Crazy right? This is sorta the same thing.) Assuming you CAN dictate these things doesn’t make you pro-life, it makes you pro-dick. See how easy this is? We’ve already eliminated half the population, and we’ve barely gotten started. Onward….
  2. You are 100% against the death penalty with a grand total of no exceptions. Since in your view only God can take a life, it’s sorta silly that I even need to list this one. But I do. Because chances are your definition of the “sanctity of life” is fairly elastic, and completely breaks when you’re talking about convicted murderers on death row, especially if they’re brown, which just about all of them are. So if you are a woman, and anti-death penalty, congratulations, you’re still in the running.
  3. You are virulently anti-war with a grand total of no exceptions. War is killing, and life is sacred. The soldiers your government has told you deserve to die feel equally strong that the soldiers on your own team deserve to die. In other words, war is a complete shit-show. But all that is irrelevant because all life is sacred and only God can take a life…..even if we’re talking about vile shitheads who drive planes into buildings, as an example. This is a tough one, but you don’t get to pick and choose your rules. That would make you a godless LIBERAL. Still with me? Probably not but I’ve got at least one more. And this one is gonna drive you crazy.
  4. You support some type of common sense gun control. Because people are being shot with guns, and only God can take a life….and he’s not armed with an AK-47, so there’s really no need for you to be. If there’s no exceptions, that means no exceptions. You can hunt, but that’s it. You can’t even buy a gun for protection because all life is sacred and only God can take a life, even if that life has broken into your house and is trying to kill you. Sorry. This is the gun control equivalent of the “no exceptions from rape and incest” portion of the new ‘Bama law. Your rules, not mine.
  5. You care as much about actual babies as you do about fetuses. That means you take an active interest in their well-being, from health-care to education and beyond. I’m laughing as I type this one because…well….you know.
  6. You’re ok with women passing legislation that controls men’s bodies. Because, why the hell not?
  7. You don’t support children in cages. Duh.

So after tallying up the numbers, in my 52 years on this earth I have met  a grand total of 0 people that are truly “pro-life”. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Not. A. Single. One. Living. Or. Dead.

Almost without exception “pro-life” people I know fail this test miserably.

How can these conflicting moral compasses be reconciled?

Actually, they can’t.

It’s blatant hypocrisy.

So the entire thing is fake news…..just more noise to distract us from the fact that the nation is now run by a small cabal of enormously rich racist white Tom Brady fans who claim “we’re not scientists so….” when denying that climate change is real, but are now, all of a a sudden, a pack of Jesus-fearing gynecologists.

And that, ultimately, we’re completely doomed.

You’re welcome.

In a bit…

–tf

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