Paul and Linda take to the country, or revisiting “the nadir in the decomposition of Sixties rock thus far”

This is a terrific review of the Ram reissue. Often I can’t stand the show-offy braininess of Pitchfork’s writers, but here Jayson Greene just hits too many bulls eyes for me to quibble about it.

Ram, simply put, is the first Paul McCartney release completely devoid of John’s musical influence. Of course, John wiggled his way into some of the album’s lyrics– in those fresh, post-breakup years, the two couldn’t quite keep each other out of their music. But musically, Ram proposes an alternate universe where young Paul skipped church the morning of July 6, 1957, and the two never crossed paths. It’s breezy, abstracted, completely hallucinogen-free, and utterly lacking grandiose ambitions. Its an album whistled to itself. It’s purely Paul.

Greene pokes around the issue of how hated the record was on release, expressed from on high by Rolling Stone’s Jon Landau: “the nadir in the decomposition of Sixties rock thus far.” (Now that there is an insufferably pretentious rock critic).

Greene sees some sort of family dynamic in Landau’s (and generally speaking sixties hipster elite) opinion:

Landau was right, however, that [it] did spell the end of something, which might be a clue to the vitriol: If “60s rock” was defined, in large part, by the existence of the Beatles, then Ram made it clear in a new, and newly painful, way that there would be no Beatles ever again. To use a messy-divorce metaphor: When your parents are still screaming red-faced at each other, it’s a nightmare, but you can still be assured they care. When one of them picks up and continues on living, it smarts in an entirely different way.

I want to run with that messy divorce thing for a moment longer. When talking about the Beatles it seems necessary to state one’s Team John or Team Paul bias. I have always leaned Team Paul.

I was once commissioned to write a book for young teens about the McCartney family. (Still in print! and screaming up the Amazon Best Sellers list: now cresting at #2,727,671!!!).

Specifically it was “Famous Families,” Paul and Stella, but you can’t write about that family without getting sucked into the pastoral idyll to which Paul retreated immediately after the Beatles crashed and burned. It enraged many, apparently, but looking at it today, I just wonder: “Who could possibly have a problem with this?”

Anyway, I’m definitely Team Paul, but yeah, as a product of the broken home that is the Beatles marriage, do want to shout, “I love dad too, and I just wish you two would stop fighting.” And start to cry, retreat to my room, and slam the door. Or I would, if they hadn’t actually divorced four decades ago.

Also, interesting stuff about the City and the Country:

“I want a horse, I want a sheep/ Want to get me a good night’s sleep,” Paul jauntily sings on “Heart of the Country”, a city boy’s vision of the country if ever there was one, and another clue to the record’s mindstate. For Paul, the country isn’t just a place where crops grow; it’s “a place where holy people grow.” Now that American cities everywhere are having their Great Pastoral Moment, full of artisans churning goat’s-milk yogurt and canning their own jams, Ram feels like particularly ripe fruit.

A lot to answer for, from one perspective, but you know, always ahead of his time, that Macca.

I can’t help thinking about the Ram period without also thinking about Ronnie Lane’s parallel retreat from rock stardom. It didn’t come out near as well for Ronnie, who of course was not quite in Paul’s league musically, and didn’t end up one of Britain’s wealthiest men (he was absolutely an idiot with money–kept his rock star dough in a plastic bag in his house), and had the bad fortune to come down with a crippling degenerative fatal disease.

But the rootsy, rustic, slightly clueless back-to-the-country vibe is the same, and a beautiful thing, too. I don’t know what is going on with the famous Beatles Spotify holdout, as I am able to post a Ram  reissue playlist. Maybe that’s temporary. Sadly, there remains a massive hole in Spotify’s catalog where Ronnie Lane’s music should go.

“I don’t know what she has been up to”

For a day or two at least, people who are alarmed at Orwellian legal trends can jump up and down and get excited. Katherine Forrest, an Obama-appointed judge (yes, you read that right), has enjoined any enforcement of Section 1021 of the NDAA because she was concerned that the Government was implying speech may equal terrorism (and be subject to indefinite detention)!

Glenn Greenwald:

This afternoon’s ruling came as part of a lawsuit brought by seven dissident plaintiffs — including Chris Hedges, Dan Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, and Birgitta Jonsdottir — alleging that the NDAA violates ”both their free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment as well as due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

A couple of quotes to give flavor of the caliber (and arrogance) of the government’s lawyers:

The Court then asked: Give me an example. Tell me what it means to substantially support associated forces.

Government: I’m not in a position to give specific examples.

Court: Give me one.

Government: I’m not in a position to give one specific example.


Adam Serwer, filling in for Kevin Drum, and a good thing too:

When Forrest asked the government lawyer charged with defending the statute whether the journalists, who said their work has brought them into contact with groups like Hamas or the Taliban, could be indefinitely detained, the government’s lawyer wouldn’t say….

When asked again whether one of the journalists’ activities would qualify as “substantial” support for a terrorist group, the government attorney said, “I don’t know what she has been up to.”

Good analysis as usual by Serwer here, and it almost goes without saying by Marcy Wheeler and Glenn Greenwald.

Behind all of this looms the case of Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who continues to be locked up at Obama’s personal insistence, basically for the crime of being an intrepid and independent journalist.

But of course that couldn’t happen here….

And apparently, this could conceivably get (partially) sorted out today, in Congress with passage of the Smith-Amash Amendment.

That would be something. Yesterday, we had a rare instance of the Judicial Branch (an Obama-appointed judge, no less) doing its job and acting as a check on a grotesque power grab by the Executive Branch. Today, Congress has a chance to do something similar.

Yasir and Ariel, get off your asses!

Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Pitts issued this serious statesmanlike call to action in April. Yes, April 2012!

With the global war against terrorism, it is now incumbent on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasir Arafat to clamp down on Palestinian extremists that have perpetuated violence and to restart a peace process that has collapsed.

Meanwhile, Pitts’ only slightly more clued-in esteemed colleagues are about to ram through H Res 568, which contains this astonishing clause:

The House “urges the President to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability and opposition to any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.”

MJ Rosenberg, former AIPAC staffer, draws the obvious conclusion:

Think about that.

The resolution, which almost surely will pass on Tuesday, is telling the president that he may not “rely on containment” in response to “the Iranian nuclear threat.”

Since the resolution, and U.S. policy itself defines Iranian possession of nuclear weapons as, ipso facto, a threat, Congress would be telling the president that any U.S. response to that threat other than war is unacceptable. In fact, it goes farther than that, not only ruling out containment of a nuclear armed Iran but also containment of an Iran that has a “nuclear weapons capability.”

That means that the only acceptable response to a nuclear armed or nuclear capable Iran is not containment but its opposite: war.

Rosenberg notes that “13,000 AIPAC delegates were dispatched to Capitol Hill, on the last day of [AIPAC’s recent] conference, with instructions to tell the senators and representatives whom they met that supporting this resolution was #1 on AIPAC’s election year agenda.” (He also notes that this is a non-binding resolution.)

I would encourage you all to call your Congressman to discourage him or her from supporting this creepy bill, but to be honest I think that’s likely to be about as effective as waiting for Ariel and Yasir to sort it all out.

Beez in the trap

I know the song has nothing to do with actual bees, but last night in a state of semi-delirium this was on repeat in my brain’s playlist, along with another primitive ditty of my own composition titled FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCKIN BEES (that is both chorus and verse. Catchy, no?).

So it was a bad evening in the beeyard, a very bad evening. Family out of town, at the beach. I stayed home to take care of farm duties. As much as I knew I would miss them, the idea of a week to myself had its appeal.

So I played golf til nearly dusk. Ah, the life. Then coming up the driveway, saw yet another cluster of bees hanging from a bush near the hives. I really didn’t know which hive had enough bees left for such a swarm but I knew I had to keep it from flying away.

I had gotten a little cocky about my routine (this would be my fourth swarm capture over the past couple weeks). Get a box, put a sheet  under it, shake the bees into the box  and watch their behavior. The queen was there and the workers were fanning, so I commenced Phase Two, shaking the bees into a new hive.

Phase  Two. Yeah. This is where the complications set in. I had gotten in the habit of sweetening the lure of the new hive with a frame of honey that I “borrow” from an existing hive (the bees see it a little differently).

I do this in a hurry with little regard for  proper beekeeper etiquette. Without bothering to light the smoker, I pop the lid off brusquely, find a fat honey-laden frame, grab it, and replace it with an empty frame. Bang the lid back on and I’m in business.

In this instance, it was near dusk and all the bees were home, and it was drizzling steadily. The hive was absolutely full of pissy bees. And then I got the replacement frame stuck/wedged and couldn’t get the lid back on. I had to struggle to get the frame down. Meanwhile, the entire hive went on major predator alert.

I’ve dealt with this but never on such a scale. Sometimes it just happens that the bees get ornery and bang at your headgear. They usually go right for the mouth. It’s a little unsettling but that’s what the suit and hood are for. This hive was “hot” beyond my wildest imaginings. As that dismal fact was dawning on me, I discovered yet another lapse in my preparations: I was in such a hurry that I had left a couple of gaps where I zip up my smock.

Aaaaaannnndddd…. DISASTER. Suddenly I had hundreds of bees on my bonnet (a phrase for which I have new-found admiration). Dozens of them were getting inside.

I suppose I must congratulate myself for recognizing that this was the rare moment when panicking was the best play. I dropped everything and started running, fast and far, and managed to shed most of the bees clinging to and stinging the outside of my suit.

Needless to say, I couldn’t run from the ones inside, buzzing loudly and stinging me about the head, and wrists, and up my back.

When I got a couple hundred yards away from the hive I tore off my gloves and suit at full gallop and then had to deal with the bees in my hair. I ran into the house and flapped and swatted and cursed — FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCKIN BEES– until I was finally pretty much rid of the bees. I had taken somewhere in the neighborhood of two dozen stings.

(This was pretty much a textbook case of how NOT to work with bees, but it could actually Have Been Worse. My decision to put on a pair of jeans  was a last-minute call, and I don’t even want to think what would have happened had I not bothered to change out of shorts and had all the bare skin of my legs exposed…..)

I did my best to scrape the stingers out, sucked down a beer, and then returned to the scene of the crime, picking up my protective clothing, ever so sheepishly, and putting it back on en route way back to the hives.

I still had to get some kind of cover on the angry hive, sitting there open in the rain, which was coming down pretty well by this point. I did it. Wasn’t pretty. (Was anyone watching?) Then I had to get the swarm hive situated, make sure most of the stragglers were filtering back in, put the hive up on cinder blocks, and cover it.

All done.  Night. Time for a couple tall WL Weller Special Reserves, and the contemplation of one’s own stupidity (and mortality). And, as this was by far the most stings I had taken at one time, to monitor myself for symptoms of anaphylactic shock.

I drifted off during the Nuggets-Lakers Game 7, and woke up a few times during the night. Still alive!

Swarms, the Nasonov pheromone, drones

We continue our inexorable “snowball heading for hell”  momentum.

First, you have MCA, George “Goober” Lindsay, AND Maurice Sendak passing on in the span of a few days.

And out there in the world, the results in Europe’s elections presage much short-term chaos and uncertainty. On the plus side of the ledger, they do indicate a slightly cheering determination on the part of Continentals to show the political/banking elites  that the people are still in charge.

No such luck over here, where American domestic partisan politics keeps getting dumber and dumberer and the narrowness of the issues being debated–in the face of the need for an overwhelming overhaul–is mind-boggling.

This is my context-establishing tweet of the week, and it comes not from our political leaders or respected mainstream media sources. No, it comes from from Dan Alpert, managing partner of a New York investment bank, and it shows just how dire the straits are in USA 2012:

In a nation of 315 million people we have 115mm full time workers and 26.7mm part time (1-34 hours) workers. Not thriving!

Does anyone expect either party to address this before the next election in a meaningful way? Or ever?


But I won’t allow that to harsh my buzz. (Oh, yes, I did. I did make that terrible pun.) Because, you see, the world is for shit but my bees are thriving, and sometimes that’s enough for me.

Been a great year for the nectar flow, which started very early and is still going great guns, so much so that I woke with a start last night with the realization that I’ve got three bee hives partially resting on a single  horizontal plank, with an unprecedented mass of honey above. (File under complications resulting from unusual natural bounties–along with my heifer who died from bloat caused by the insanely rich pasture this spring.)

Another consequence of the nectar  bounty is that hives become so strong that they swarm.  Which is really not a bad thing for the bees. But for a beekeeper, aka honey thief, you like to avoid having swarms take away half your bee population, so if you’re lucky and observant you can catch your own swarms, which I did this weekend, twice.

On Saturday, after a little set-to with my increasingly emotional 11-year-old son (another ominous trend), I stomped out of the house and wandered to the beeyard, where they were swarming for the second day in a row.

If you’ve never stood in the middle of a bee swarm, put it on your bucket list. It feels like the early stages of the apocalypse might feel, and yet it’s really just a beautiful natural thing. Basically, the bee super-organism feels it is robust enough to reproduce, so it swarms. In a first swarm, roughly half the bees (five thousand, ten perhaps) accompany the old queen and look for a new home. Upon leaving the hive they fly in mad-seeming circles, creating a cone of bees about ten yards wide and forty feet high. It is noisy and scary and exhilarating. I half expect the voice of James Earl Jones to begin booming out.

The bees in this state are about as gentle as they can be. They’ve gorged on honey prior to leaving the hive, and are merely seeking an intermediate place to settle while the scouts find a permanent location. Lucky for me, they roost on a fence post right next to the hive, the same place another swarm had chosen just yesterday (and not, say, on a branch sixty feet off the ground).

I set to putting them into a temporary hive, as I had done with Friday’s swarm.

And let me talk about the Nasonov pheremone for a brief moment. Because it means a lot to me.

When I ponder all I’ve gained in moving to the country from a house and respectably well-paid job in New York, and giving up all that goes with same — annual 401k contributions, good health insurance, paid holidays, pay! — I can now add as a compensation an intimate familiarity with the workings of the Nasonov pheremone, which  is what worker bees release to orient returning forager bees back to the colony.

When capturing swarms, beekeepers are looking for the distinctive butt-up, fanning behavior (displaying the Nasonov gland) as an indication that they have succeeded in transporting the queen from the temporary roost to the intended hive destination. To start moving the swarm I  scoop handfuls of bees into the box. One random scoop had what looked like  a virgin queen but I wasn’t entirely sure. When I laid the scoop into the box, bingo! The timbre of the buzzing changed instantly and dozens of bees suddenly stationed  themselves at the edges of the box and began the fanning action. My work was pretty much done at this point. I walked away and returned at dusk, and the hive was full. All I had to do was put the hive cover on.

It’s possible that our generation may lose bees altogether. I won’t lay out the case for bee extinction, but a few minutes of googling around, and you will at least be familiar with it. It occurs to me as I type this that our kids’ kids won’t know what a real drone is, but they will be all too familiar with the mechanized war-fighting snooping machines that are named after the least useful members of the bee family. On that subject, I highly recommend reading Marcy Wheeler’s response to Drunken Predator’s fascinating essay on Oppenheimers and Orwells.

But that is some disturbing, dispiriting stuff, and as I have already said, today I’m not letting that sort of thing harsh my buzz.

The last word on Romney’s “Even Jimmy Carter” kerfuffle

From the always snarky and perceptive Who is IOZ?:

What I appreciate about Romney’s remark, even though this obviously isn’t what he intended it to mean, is that it makes so plain the basically quotidian nature of murder-by-Presidential-decree; it says that ordering hasty acts of war is the equivalent of updating your Outlook calendar or checking your voicemail in the morning, a mundane and repetitive task that everyone performs, just a part of the job, one part Easter Egg roll and one part press conference. Romney is standing in front of the great national Meineke and asking us to laugh at the incumbent mechanic for bragging about offering oil changes and tire rotations. Well, what else would he be doing?

The Obama administration acts disgracefully; GOP does them one better

One hoped there would be some negative consequences for overplaying the offing of Osama so shamelessly, but one is not holding one’s breath.

In a first for network television, NBC News has been granted unprecedented access to the most secret and secure part of the White House, the Situation Room. In a “Rock Center with Brian Williams” exclusive airing on Wednesday, May 2 at 9p/8c, President Obama and his national security and military teams, relive the pivotal moments of the raid targeting Osama bin Laden.

Well that generated at least this little bit of snark, directed at NBC: “I guess bowing to the president and hiring the secretary of state’s unqualified daughter as a special correspondent should be worth something, shouldn’t it?”

But, ah, well. McCain. Romney. Rove. Oy.

I don’t accept the premise that the killing, by twenty-some rippled, ever-so-manly assassins, of an unarmed, old man in front of his family, is “a nonpartisan, nationally unifying anniversary.” No matter what crimes he is accused of. But that puts me in the kook corner, and I’m OK with that.

As is so often the case, the behavior of both parties is cringe-worthy. Happily, as is rarely the case, this controversy CAN be summed up in a tweet, and Radley Balko said it best:

(A) Yes, Bush would have been selling a “He Killed Osama” campaign shirt by now. (B) “Not Quite as Crass as Bush” shouldn’t be your aim.