Goodbye, Charlie

I believe Charlie played fiddle on Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde*, and toured with the Band, and had his own actually terrific southern rock band in the early 70s, at the vanguard of that trend.

I saw the CDB at the Young America tent at the Minnesota State Fair in 73!

The girls behind me in the crowd were all excited, talking about how Charlie wanted to have them come backstage to party with band. The girls were my age, 13.

I am relaying a half-century-old necessarily unreliable statement from a stranger here. This is more a comment on the times then the band….

And then, as probably many of you know, he became your most insane right-wing Fox watching uncle. Behghazi!

Anyway, Charlie Daniels was a pretty major figure in rock and country music over a 6-decade career and made a lot of great music in that time. His like will not be there again.

RIP

Always more musical pontifications at God’s Jukebox
https://www.godsjukebox.com/timmuky/

A Leader without Leading: Dayen on Pelosi

[Hello, yes, I know! It’s been two years!]

David Dayen’s great review of Molly Ball’s fawning Pelosi bio foregrounds two things I’ve been shouting about:

1. “… during the crucial months of March and April, Pelosi became a one-woman House of Representatives, unilaterally writing legislation or negotiating with Republicans, and presenting the finished product to House members, take it or leave it.”

2. She adheres to absolutely deranged and antiquated views on debt and deficits. “[J]ust two years ago, [she] made a lugubrious elegy on the House floor after the death of [private equity pioneer] Pete Peterson, who bankrolled the deficit hysteria industry for decades and relentlessly targeted Social Security for cuts. (Ball does reveal that Pelosi told Obama during his “grand bargain” talks that she would support his aims, “even if it meant agreeing to entitlement cuts.”)

Educated people in finance and politics are coming around to understand how money works via MMT. It’s absolutely tragic that the leader of the putative left-most party IN A PANDEMIC clings to what are basically superstitious ideas of what a government can and can’t do.

I’m reminded that one-quarter of the population of Ireland starved during the Great Famine because the powers-that-be saw the “potato-dependent economy as the result of Irish backwardness and self-indulgence” and didn’t want to intervene in the divine system of the market, “guided by spiritual laws.”

Nancy apparently believes in spiritual laws stipulating the size of a deficit. If lives are destroyed, and people die because of a dimwitted superstitious orthodoxy, that’s too bad. The ghost of Pete Peterson will be pleased, and that’s what counts.

The threat of peace and Democrats’ Red-to-Blue delusions

The big story today is the North Korea Summit in Singapore. There is a lot of incoherent sputtering going on about that (mostly because Trump is adjacent to the proceedings), but for me it seems pretty clear Koreans really want to move forward.

All other commentary has to take a back door to this tweet:

***

I’m just now getting around to Turning Affluent Suburbs Blue Isn’t Worth the Cost, by Lily Geismer and Matthew D. Lassiter, in the Times this weekend. What a great, infuriating piece.

More and more it seems the Dems are a party that is shockingly content to keep losing, as long as they have the right sort of well-heeled suburban voters in their camp. Schumer’s comments on the 2-for-1 voter swap are positively delusional.

In 2016, Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, endorsed the party’s suburban priorities with the optimistic forecast that “for every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two, three moderate Republicans in the suburbs of Philadelphia.” (Mrs. Clinton was the first Democratic presidential candidate to lose Pennsylvania since Mr. Dukakis in 1988.)

The vote-purging approved by SCOTUS yesterday makes it more crucial than ever to get the voters currently not voting to vote. DUH! There are a LOT of them. And the current non-voters are not the sort of people HRC, Schumer and Pelosi like to sip white wine with. But it’s not their choice. It’s no longer their party, though they are slow to realize this. (Also, Obama deserves to be shamed for doing little to expand voting rights while the Ds controlled everything.)

The future of the party is working-class, poorer, people of color, people currently not working, single moms, immigrants. If they all voted, and voted Dem, the GOP would be out of business. The Dems have to stop acting like a GOP Lite that supports gay marriage (at least since 2013!!!) and women (just not Cynthia Nixon and uh Monica Lewinsky, and definitely not Susan Sarandon)…

Rookie mistakes

When you walk through that gate to check on the herd, don’t think Oh I won’t need to latch it after me. I’m just going out for a quick look. Because you might see that white steer has gotten out into the winter wheat, and is not grazing it, but just sunning himself, and feeling proud of finding his own space. And you might walk across the wire into the wheat, and try to get outside of him to coax him back under the wire, but instead he sees you, and gets spooked, and starts a quick trot, and then a full gallop away from you. You keep walking after him, and you’re relieved he’s keeping to the perimeter of the wire, but he goes all the way around to the road fence, and finally ducks under and back with his momma.

You, slightly dazed, make your way back to where you had entered the pasture, and realize the gate you’d walked through is now wide open, and there are four grown cows banging the mineral buckets around right in front of the gate, and all that unmown grass on the house side of the fence. You got lucky. They’re good cows. But you keep making the same mistakes.

The “stuttering prick” messaging strategy

Every day comes more confirmation of my sinking feeling that–as horrifyingly stupid and inept and arrogant and mean-spirited as Trump has been–the Democrats seem uninterested or incapable of taking advantage of the many opportunities he’s giving them.

Think of the first few weeks of the clown car that is the Trump administration, the disorganization (lest we forget, they could not, literally, figure how to turn on the lights in the cabinet room, so they met in the dark!), the myriad gaffes, the misstatements and not remotely credible clarifications. Think of that and see how much ground the Democrats have gained in the wake of this ongoing disaster. NONE. They are in fact losing ground.

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Chart from March 8 shows….

It’s been noted all over the place that the leadership and HRC campaign folks (too often the same hacks) continue to point fingers at everyone but themselves for their diabolical failure, not just in the presidential debacle in November, but in letting the GOP take control of everything else–House, Senate, governorship, state houses. In a just world HRC, her husband, her top campaign people, the DNC leadership, and maybe for good measure assorted surrogates such as Neera Tanden and Peter Daou, should have been placed on an ice floe and shoved into Arctic waters somewhere. I’m speaking figuratively OF COURSE. But some contrition, some introspection, some walk of shame seems pretty clearly called for.

Instead, these people (well, not Hillary, last seen in … the woods somewhere?) are everywhere, being asked for their wisdom on the television, and generally–incredibly–acting like they’ve done nothing wrong, or that they fell victim to an act of God, or … a shadowy conspiracy. Well, we ALMOST won. In fact, we won the popular vote. And have you heard the latest Putin dots we’ve connected (LOOK at this chart)?

As Matt Taibbi points out in his excellent Rolling Stone piece this week, the entire Putin paranoia machine is fueled by things that have not been proven, and “that both the Democratic Party and many leading media outlets are making a dangerous gamble, betting their professional and political capital on the promise of future disclosures that may not come.”

No introspection necessary. Change? Moi? It’s Comey’s/Putin’s/Bernie’s/Susan Sarandon’s fault. Can I interest you in an “I’m With Her 2020” t-shirt?

I recently was turned on to Jimmy Dore, who I enjoy quite a bit. I see traces of the angry, later George Carlin in his schtick, and he’s a welcome change of pace from the disappointing, often cringe-worthy political comedy we see from SNL and the various Comedy Central talking heads.

The other day Dore ranted on this remarkable San Diego town hall appearance by Democratic reps Scott Peters and Susan Davis, in which the US Congresspeople cannot even say what it is they stand for. Peters and Davis appear never to have considered condensing their message into something easily understood and concrete, the 30-second self-promoting “elevator pitch” every young job seeker is meant to have committed to memory.

Instead, they mumble uncertainly, platitudes like “everyone should be treated fairly” and oh, uh, “opportunity….”

Dore has a lot of fun with this performance, which for me called to mind “Goodfellas”–that immortal “I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown?” scene where Tommy breaks Henry’s balls, to use the terminology of the film.

After Henry realizes the joke’s on him, everyone laughs and Tommy shouts:

Ya motherfucker! I almost had him, I almost had him. Ya stuttering prick ya. Frankie, was he shaking? I wonder about you sometimes, Henry. You may fold under questioning.

Maybe I just needed an excuse to share this clip, but I stand by this: The Democrats, circa 2017, have become the party of stuttering pricks.

***

Since I wrote a draft of this, Shaun King had a good column addressing this very frustration. In The Democratic Party seems to have no earthly idea why it is so damn unpopular, King writes of asking crowds on his speaking tour this question:

The first question is, “If I asked you, in just a few sentences, to sum up what specific policies the Democratic Party stands for, what would you say?”

“The response that I get is always the same – mass laughter or audible frustration,” King writes.

So is this inarticulate stuttering a feature or a bug of Democrat messaging?

Yesterday, New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino tweeted about Bernie Sanders’ assertion that “our ultimate goal is not just playing defense. Our goal is a Medicare-for-all, single payer system”:

I’d personally like to see how many Democratic politicians actually support Medicare-for-All/Single Payer. I don’t know the percentage breakdown, but it’s certainly not “every single Democrat politician.” The potentially good news is that I imagine more Democrats are inching towards the RIGHT to health care, not just ACCESS to a health care PRODUCT, a fuzzy conflation the Dems have taken pains to maintain.

***

ANOTHER UPDATE:

Bernie Sanders has a pretty good answer to the question in question:

The year Merle Haggard died and we had kittens

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On the home front….

My better and more talented half wrote another beautiful book.


The eldest turned 16, In Every Way. The twins turned twelve.  Lila is becoming quite the equestrian, and both boys continue to be obsessive ballers–Daniel’s the star of the rec team I’m coaching, and Theo plays on the Middle School team. I never have to worry about having something to talk about with them. It’s hoops chatter 24-7. (I should mention Theo ran cross-country and made the all-region team!)

Also, the boys have really excelled  at that bottle-flipping thing.

An undetermined critter got at what was left of our chicken brood, on two successive midsummer nights, and the coop, devoid of avian life, has become the home of a huge woodchuck who tore the floor out and burrowed a home beneath.

A photo posted by Tim Ungs (@timungs) on


A stray cat wandered up to the house, and withstood the combined efforts of our two dogs and four established felines to run her off. Then she had four kittens.

The cowherd got bigger, again, and the count is up to 46, far too many for the pasture I have. Got a good price on hay in the fall, though. I bought enough to last through winter, and will lighten my load when (I hope) the market firms a bit in spring.

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The bees looked to be going great guns for the first part of the season, which was awfully wet. I got a fair bit of honey from all of my hives in June, but starting in mid-July it stopped raining. I really don’t know what the bees had to forage from August through October, but they were in just OK shape when I left them to ball up and face the winter. There are five hives going right now. I hope there will be that many in April…

For the third year running, 2016 was the hottest on record in, basically, the world. Locally, and more critical to my needs, it was also dry. Ordinary folks thought that made for pleasant weather (it did), but farmers thought it was weird. I had to pump spendy city water for five months. Thanks to winter rains, the spring  in the cave field only just started to flow again.

I got to go to Nashville, again, solo, to hang with my peripatetic scholar friend John, and Atlanta, with the entire family, to see the other John, his wife Nuria, and boy Pau.

All smiles at the Carter center

A photo posted by Tim Ungs (@timungs) on

Had visits: from dear sister Caroline and her dog Emma, and the annual return of my old Great Plainsman comrade Charly. The MacNeal clan, now based in Taiwan, honored us with a very fun visit. A pleasant surprise was the arrival of Anna, my old Australian friend, with whom I traveled to a good few countries, including hers (for half a year!), in the mid-eighties.

From what I could gather, Anna had somewhere in the range of six to twelve international trips in the last year alone. Me? Me, I have a passport I renewed in 2003, which has never once been stamped. She brought a big canvas sack of my old letters to her, which I have yet to dig into. I’m a bit afraid they will seem to have written by another person….

A photo posted by Tim Ungs (@timungs) on

I had to be reminded of it, but I had not one but two aces in  2016. I accept I may never have another. I’m fine with that.

Neither ace had a witness (so go ahead and append the asterisk). In any case, I was far more impressed with myself when I pured a 7-iron to inside a foot on a back pin on #13. I was playing through a foursome of well-lubricated Louisvillians on the tee, and we all became good friends for a brief moment.

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Repost: Closed for the season

boysfishing

 

[July 23, 2016: Can’t muster the time or energy for new posts, but I have been scanning my old ones. I re-read this the other day, and it’s really good, if I do say so myself….]

Yesterday ended up being a fantastic day.

Saturday I spent the afternoon playing golf and it went long. I walked with a couple of friends and the pace was excellent but then we ran into another group as we made the turn. As is our custom in winter golf, we decided to join up–to form a sevensome.

Returned home later than I said I’d be and well, hey, some amazing college football on, and then got a call from my friend John, back in town after two years in South Sudan. Could I meet him and his wife for a drink? How could I not?

So Sunday dawned and Heather was exuding a serious “you’re not holding up your end” vibe. She made it clear that it was a day to “do something with the boys.” They wanted to fish, and I was totally OK with that, had only the best intentions.

But then my neighbor Dave came over to move some of my hay around and I asked him if he would take a quick look at my rickety old ’88 Chevy Cheyenne. The serpentine was off and there was antifreeze everywhere. I was in a panic about being low on firewood and being without the truck for the three or more days it would take in the shop. I was (typically) focused on the wrong problem and was fretting about the tensioner, but he saw immediately that it was the water pump. “You just take the cowl off with these bolts here, and then the pump unbolts down there, and … aw, hell, you don’t have the tools. You want me to help you?”

trucklilabongo

I did what I could to assist. Holding this. Pulling that. Using my longer reach to get at places he couldn’t. Picking up bolts as they fell through to the ground (he hated bending over). I was apprehensive about working with him, having witnessed his volcanic side when he worked his cattle. But I really admired the way he worked on cars. Our ratchet sets had similar sizes missing, so there was more than a little improvisation. He got frustrated but usually chuckled at setbacks. It brought me back to the days of helping my dad with his car repairs, minus my dad’s (rest his soul) bellowing rage.

I was ever aware of Heather’s own simmering anger, as the job went from “just half an hour” to an hour, then more. One o’clock. Two. Three. Daniel, my older boy, kept asking When are we gonna go? Almost done? He looked disappointed every time, but it was a fine day and the three of them has a rambunctious Hunger Games-inspired game involving tobacco sticks and handcrafted bows and arrows. They were fine. No one got hurt. When Daniel came along to the parts store to pick up the pump, Dave grunted a few little things to him about beer and girls, and made a crack about the cologne the clerk was wearing, which made Daniel smile in a way I was unaccustomed to seeing.

Finally, job over. The last hose clamped, a couple of gallons of antifreeze poured through a funnel made with a Mountain Dew bottle, and the truck starts right up and is running fine. “You don’t owe me nothin’, Tim. But I do have a couple more lists of songs….” That’s how I’ve been repaying him for his help with the cattle and the hay and now this. Burning cds for him. Totally inadequate, but he seems to appreciate it. His taste is Skynrd-ish country, but he is (as he says himself) very particular about what he wants. “Rollin’ with the Flow” by Charlie Rich and Reba’s “Fancy” along with Jamey Johnson; Nitty Gritty Dirt Band along with Craig Morgan; Allman Brothers along with Travis Tritt. I burned an extra CD of things I thought he’d like from my collection but he said he couldn’t get into it. I had to admit his playlists were better than mine.

It was time to fish. We loaded the poles and tackle into the Subaru. With the late start we didn’t go to our usual Garrard County spots. Instead we went to the Chimney Rock marina on the Mercer side, just under the Kennedy Bridge. The boys handled their own snags and tangles without asking dad to fix their lines. It was not a good time of the day or the season for catching anything, and they were content with the few nibbles they had. It was a lovely quiet December afternoon. Everything some muted shade of blue, brown, gray–the sky, the cliffs, the water. Chilly, but no wind, and we were alone. Someone who worked in the Marina entered and left the office a couple of times. Maybe to keep an eye on us. Above the Marina an animated sign kept flashing the same message over and over. “Closed for the season. See ya in May….”

It got cold in a hurry when the sun went behind the cliffs. I had promised to let them fish after dark, but when I said, “Five minutes,” there were no objections.

The three of us then indulged in our shared passion for Long John Silver’s. “We’ll pretend we caught this fish,” I suggested as we gobbled down the tongue-burning flounder. Usually the pickiest of eaters, they were insatiable, and I had to go back up to the counter twice for more.

At home the boys and I played Texas Hold ‘Em for about an hour. Lila didn’t want to learn how to play but she did want the boys to do something else, and got into high pestering mode. Theo reached the end of his attention span, and wandered off. I had incredible cards, the kind you never get when playing for real money.

Just before bedtime, Daniel announced that he had uploaded a clip to Youtube about Bongo, our Boston Terrier we had just recently put down. We all gathered around my laptop to watch his touching, loving collection of still photos and video snippets going back to Brooklyn days. When it was over all three kids were bawling. Theo rubbed his face against our new dog Elbee’s back and sobbed, “When are we going to get a new dog?” Elbee picked her head up with an indignant look, and that made up all laugh.

I joined Heather briefly in watching an especially gruesome episode of The Walking Dead, but sneaked upstairs a few times to watch UK-Providence with Daniel. When I went up after halftime he was sound asleep. I turned the sound down. Nine blocks for Willie Cauley-Stein!

I can only blame the fried fish and hushpuppies, but I had crazy dream after crazy dream. In one I looked out the living room window to see a tsunami sweep across the pasture and crash up the walls of the house. Then was back in New York, working again at Harper & Row. I walked around the publicity office but couldn’t find my desk. The phones just would not stop ringing.

It’s Sandro about Biennale

I just had a bizarre twitter encounter with a fancily-titled music writer that made me feel … old. See below.

kinksjamtogehter

Instead of engaging in further back-and-forth I’m taking it here to my safe space. My first comment was a little flip, I admit, but them I spent a few minutes coming up with a conciliatory follow-up, which was met by an even more spectacularly tourrettes-y outburst, and lots of faves for the eruption. Some jolly folks chimed in to make light of “this guy,” (i.e. me).

I’ve gotten more mentions on this encounter than in my entire previous twitter history…

The experience made me feel like the Dude in The Big Lebowski in the Biennale scene. Lots of stuff whizzing past his ears that he doesn’t get, except that it’s clear he’s the butt of the joke.

And yet… I still feel like I’m right. Why would you credit the Jam with David Watts’ “critique of masculinity” just because they covered a Kinks song…

Let me know what I’m missing, folks….

Friday miscellany: Fecundity, Andre the Giant, and an epic photo

Sunday evening Buster Pike bike ride

A photo posted by Tim Ungs (@timungs) on

This is the time of year when I am overwhelmed by the fecundity of the world. Calves dropping, bees swarming, grass growing what seems like inches every day. Nothing to complain about, just that it’s a pretty intense time in the cycle of the farm.

So far it looks like four cows have calved without major complications. Only fifteen (or more) to go.

There is always a dance involving me and the mama cows, who tend to hide their calves in the first week after birth. Our farm is 20-some acres of pasture surrounded by hundred of acres of crops farmed by renters. Right now, the winter wheat is two or three feet high, and offers a tempting place for a calf to crawl off to and sleep away the day. The problem is that the pasture and the crops are separated by a single electric wire. Sometimes the calves scoot under the wire, and the mamas are left on the other side.

Often the cows get agitated by this situation, but just as often they’re cool with it. There has only been one time when a cow has lost her calf, but I am always worrying that will happen. I try to keep track of the calves twice a day, and sometimes have to follow the cows I know have given birth. Sometimes I’ll get lucky when they stare in the direction of where the calf is hidden, but other cows are cool customers. What? A calf? There’s no calf around here! I have known cows that will look in another direction to throw ME off.

I don’t want to call my tracking wasted effort, but sometimes it is. By dusk, cows and calves are usually together, and the babies gambol gaily (never used that phrase before, but it’s apt) and the mamas call for them with their low moo, which quickly becomes a bellow if the calves aren’t paying heed.

***

 

Apparently, Andre the Giant was born 70 years ago yesterday.

Brush with fame anecdote #201542a323:

Of all the famous folks I waited on when I worked at L’Hotel Sofitel in Bloominton, Minnesota–and that includes the Stones, the Eagles, the Cars, Kenny Loggins, and televangelist Rex Humbard (lousy tipper)– Andre was by far the coolest. He sat by himself in the no smoking section, and ordered two main courses (saucisses de Toulouse aux pommes), three orders of Profiteroles, and four triple cognacs…. I still marvel at the size and beauty of his snakeskin cowboy boots …

***

Just need to share this incredible photo, which came up on the often terrific Facebook Old Minneapolis group:

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The subject is Sherwin Linton, who has been performing folk, country, rockabilly cowboy and gospel music in the Upper Midwest (and for some time nationally, touring with Roy Acuff) for sixty years. His own annotation for the photo is priceless:

There is an amazing thing about this photo. t I did this routine frequently in 1958 at The Rail Inn Tavern on Central avenue in Minneapolis.. As you look at the photo the customers at the bar were like “Ho Hum. here he goes again. Some goofy guy with outlandish cowboy boots dancing up and down the bar playing a guitar upside down. He better not spill my pitcher of beer”.

 

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