The Trumpet: Volume I

The Decline of the American Democratic Republic

 

The Republican Party is very rapidly devolving from a shameless bribe-taking pack of old money hucksters to a full on violent fascist mob of angry racists.

Let’s reel it back a bit.

There was a time in American history, if you can believe it, that the Republicans were the good guys.  It was the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower.  It was the Party that freed the slaves, preserved the Union, broke up the Monopolies, and sustained the most prosperous era in the Nation’s history for more than 30 years.  And although the initial prospect of taxing the mega wealthy and spreading that wealth around to the American public was put in place by Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, it was strengthened and maintained by Eisenhower.  It was Kennedy, also a Democrat, that lowered the tax on the mega wealthy from 90% to 68%, and that trend of shifting the tax burden from the rich to the poor slowly continued through Johnson, Nixon, and Carter until Ronald Reagan, the conservative demi-god himself, dropped it from 52% to 33%.  Somewhere along that timeline, from Eisenhower to Reagan, the Republican Party did a complete about face from the Party of the American people to the Party of the rich.

But that was then.  Ever since Richard Nixon’s miserable and stained Presidency the Republican Party has been seen by most as the representatives of everything evil and backwards.  They have uniformly been on the wrong side of history starting with the civil rights movement of the 1960s.  Since then their track record of being wrong about what is best for the country has been close to 100%.  In the span of 50 years they have slowly diminished their constituency from the majority of American citizens to the fringe elements of gun-loving “Christian” extremists, the mega rich that hate paying taxes, and a handful of errant fools with a little bit of money that think they’ve pulled themselves up from their boot straps and have earned everything they they have through sheer determination and the sweat of their brow while everyone less fortunate than them is a lazy moocher that just wants a free handout.

And while that neo-classical style of Republican is vile and shameful, comparing it to what it has degenerated to in the last few months is like comparing an overflowing toilet at a party to the River Thames at the height of the Bubonic Plague.  Whatever ideology the Republican Party has been falsely clinging to for the last 35 years has gone out the window, except it’s more like it got sucked out of a hull breach of a vessel in deep space.

In the span of less than one week we’ve seen a Republican Congressional candidate beat up a reporter (captured on video) and still win his election while simultaneously having his criminal charges reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor by the sheriff that contributed heavily to his campaign, a standing Republican Congressman threaten to shoot a rival Democratic Congressman on record on the House Floor, and yet another Republican Congressman openly suggest that the GOP hire a private militia to defend themselves from “leftists”.  And that is just in the last few days.  The last few months have been a relentless onslaught of madness so crazy and so massive that it not only boggles the mind, but has also reduced what would in saner times have been truly massive news stories to little more than laughable sidebars.

We have gotten to the point where the term “conservative” has lost its meaning completely and has been usurped wholly by the fascist mob of the “alt-right” which is nothing more than a slightly more digestible description of white supremacists.  And even though I never agreed with the conservative ideology I truly mourn its passing, because until now it at least had a foothold in civil discourse and was a position that had merit and was worth considering.

Sadly that is no longer the case.  Right now the term “conservative” has ties with the terms “traitor” and “fascist”, and that is something none of us should be proud of.

There is a core fundamental ethos of being American, and it is rooted in the ideology of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. And while it is not perfect that ideology has been the motivating force of Patriotism since its establishment, and it has endured through a revolt against the most powerful empire in the world, through a divisive and bloody Civil War, through the era of the Gilded Age where political corruption had reached it’s greatest heights until now, through two massive World Wars, and through a rise and decline of American prosperity. People have laid down their lives to preserve that ideology. It has endured through all of that, and if it fails now, in the face of stupidity and blatant criminal action by the hand and mouth of Donald Trump and his gang of racist idiots…. if we let that happen, then we will be known throughout history, if there is a history, as the ones that failed so wholly and so miserably to defend the Republic against the most obvious and most incompetent threat ever to have been so brazen as to openly attack the First Amendment on its face. We will be remembered as a generation of cowards and fools if we are even remembered at all and we will deserve exactly what we get.

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The Apex of Culture

It’s been over two years since I’ve posted anything at all, or even logged in. Have I been busy? Sort of. Does it matter? Certainly not. But after reading the dlistmagazine.com article “Top 10 Bands On The Come Up” I couldn’t hold back any longer.

From the very minuscule amount of research I’ve done, and by minuscule I mean inferring and making assumptions based on the one article I’ve read, dlistmagazine.com is a Seattle based music “magazine” that has its fingers on the pulse.

With a hot crop of twentysomething scenesters gracing their roster they are ready, willing, able, and most of all qualified to let us all know which Seattle bands are important, and by the simple and effortless act of omission, which ones are not.

Topping this very well researched and gruelingly thought out article is none other that the Seattle area’s own Thunderpussy.

If you’re like me you’ve read the name and thought, “Now there’s a band that is most likely poignant and will stand the test of time!”

But don’t be so quick to judge. Or do. As I did.

Now I haven’t listened to Thunderpussy, but based on their name and their press kit photographs I have assumed that they sound like a combination of 90s AC/DC, Sleater-Kinney, and whatever band is opening this week at the local all-ages show.

And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they’re the next Led Zeppelin, or the Beatles of the millennial generation. Maybe they will replace Radiohead as the most creative and progressive group of musicians in the world. Who knows? Certainly not me as I will never willfully listen to Thunderpussy.

But whatever your take on their name it cannot be said that they are not getting their fair share of hype and praise from the Seattle music press. Even Trent Moorman, a staff writer for the The Stranger, the dominant Seattle weekly rag, who has also written for Rolling Stone, Vice, Tape Op, and even the prestigious Thresholds Quarterly; a man who once suggested to Les Claypool that Primus should concentrate their efforts on a scratch and sniff project; the bold writer that posed the tough question of “What do you think of Miley Cyrus?” to Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne had this to say of Thunderpussy, “They tie you to a stool there and whip the piccolo flute right out of your mouth.”

Ouch!

Wham bam thank you, sir. Stand aside Lester Bangs. Doctor Moorman has your rock prescription and it is a heavy dose of Thunderpussy. Take it to excess and don’t call me in the morning.

While it’s too late to catch them at the Showbox opening for Reignwolf for $30 at the door, I’m sure they’ll be playing somewhere soon. Possibly the Key Arena opening for Modest Mouse who, according to myspace, has a new album out featuring the hit single “Lampshades On Fire”.

I have seen a lot of pop culture come and go. I have seen low-waisted jeans swapped out in favor of very high-waisted jeans. I have seen hipsters grow beards and dress like Tom Sawyer. I have seen masses of people shower the praise of “artistic genius” upon Lady Gaga. But never have I witnessed such a monumental cultural high point as the rise of Thunderpussy. Look out world. It can no longer be said that the “Y” generation has no one to speak for them.

Letter to The Stranger (a Seattle weekly newspaper) Oct. 2012

Congratulations, the Stranger!  You’ve somehow managed to hire Emily Nokes, a music writer that’s even dumber than Megan Selig.  Kudos.

 

But why stop there?  Why not take this aging teeny-bopping worthless scenester and make her the editor of the whole music department?  What’s that?  That’s exactly what you did?  Well, once again you’re one step ahead of me and a million miles behind the times.  Let’s start with some excerpts of her reviews in your October 10-16, 2012 issue, and I quote:

 

“aww” – from Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby review

 

“Double aww!” – from same

 

“EEEEEEEH!” – from Naomi Punk review

 

Those quotes are taken out of context, but they are there nonetheless.  To be fair to Emily here is another quote from the Naomi Punk review:

 

“…they take their time, unwinding with high airy vocals and oddly gratifying key changes that fade in and out as they please.”

 

Which isn’t bad, except she’s describing Naomi Punk, a band that does none of those things.  If you go to Naomi Punk’s bandcamp site you get the privilege of hearing two cuts from their latest sold out LP The Feeling.  The first one is entitled Voodoo Trust, a bland garagey drone that sounds like it was recorded with a set of cheap headphones plugged into a boombox.  They do not take their time.  The vocals are anything but airy as the singer whines out of key in the background.  Fortunately his poor voice is buried beneath an uninspired derivative surf guitar lick that is repeated over and over until the key does in fact change.  Once.  To an equally uninspired and stale progression until the song finally ends as though the band just stopped playing for no good reason.

 

The other song entitled The Spell sounds remarkably similar to Voodoo Trust.  So much so that it’s not worth mentioning any further.

 

Sorry Emily.  That shit sucks and you have bad taste.  Any band that would use the work “punk” in their name in 2012 is likely exactly that: a bunch of cheap and worthless punks.

 

But don’t feel bad.  Megan Selig is still on the roster and while her writing has improved in the last 5 years her taste hasn’t.  She describes the group Black Hills as “pop music with a sepia-tinged vintage sound” and “Picture the late ‘60s or early ‘70s- hippies, really, but with a little rock-and-roll edge.”

 

Perhaps she’s talking about a different Black Hills than the one I know which sounds like exactly what you would expect from members of Minus the Bear and the Lonely Forest.  And that is tepid whiney Seattle shoegaze with just enough electronica injected to make the dentist’s chair feel more comfortable.  There is nothing vintage about it unless, like Megan, you think that 2009 trying to sound like 2005 is vintage.  And there is certainly no “rock-and-roll edge” or any resemblance at all to anything that came from the late ‘60s/early ‘70s by any stretch of the imagination.

 

Oddly enough there was a band from the late ‘60s/early ‘70s that did have a rock-and-roll edge called Led Zeppelin.  But that’s old and Black Hills is new.  So why not compare the two?  After all, one is a legendary supergroup that to this day still sells records by the tens of thousands, and the other one is Led Zeppelin.

So good job Stranger.  You’ve somehow managed to put your music section in the hands of dumb children that don’t know anything about music and write like teenagers on their phones.  According to Darwinian Evolutionary Theory every generation is supposed to get better, but if you use the Stranger as a model it would seem that Devo had it right all along.

 

The Last Election

A lot of things have changed since the turn of the last century.  Home phones, broadcast television, and physical media are all things of the past.  They are ancient relics that, in a few short years, have become so antiquated it is nearly impossible to imagine life with them in place.  Most people over the age of 30 can remember a time when people scheduled their lives around a television show, researched things in libraries, or subscribed to newspapers, but to anyone under the age of 20 those things are about as relevant to their lives as the steam engine or the pony express.

Not a lot of Americans in the year 2012 are coal miners or work on the railroads.  Not a lot of college students are seeking bachelor’s degrees in telecommunications or journalism.  And for that matter not a lot of people with bachelor’s degrees are working outside of the service industry as bartenders, waitresses, and clerks in convenience stores.  They work right alongside high school dropouts and the only difference between them is the college graduates have five figures of debt.

But those are not the only things that have changed.  With the internet, and all the information and communication it has made available, people’s attitudes about politics, globalization, and even towards each other, have evolved considerably.  When the U.S.S.R. crumbled in 1990 and the U.S.A. officially won the Cold War it signaled the end of Communism and ushered in a new era where Capitalism was completely free and the American Dream had no boundaries.

Which is what we were told at the time, but it’s not at all the way things worked out a scant 22 years later.  Soon after the fall of Communism, Bill Clinton began building his Bridge to the 21st Century.  And build it he did.  He deregulated the banks, signed NAFTA into law, and just like Abe Lincoln, freed big business from the shackles and bondage of tariffs and trade agreements to go forth into the bold new era and create jobs and opportunities like never before.  Except instead of creating jobs like everyone said they would do, they instead consolidated their power and eliminated millions of jobs while simultaneously purchasing the governments of sovereign nations at bargain prices.  The freedom that Bill Clinton granted to global business came directly at the expense of the freedom of every person in the world that was possessed of less than at least ten million dollars worth of assets.

After we crossed Slick Willie’s bridge of human bones George W. Bush took hold of the reigns and ushered in 8 years of looting and pillaging of the treasury as well as passing the Orwellian USAPATRIOT Act which grated the executive branch of government nearly dictatorial power and rendered the United States Constitution irrelevant.

But then came Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama, the savior of the people and the most overwhelmingly popular President since John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who furthered the agenda by passing the NDAA into law which grants the executive branch the power to indefinitely detain and even execute anyone they want without due process of law or even an explanation.

The point of all this is that, republican or democrat, all of the last three Presidents of the United States of America, and arguably every President since JFK, have been actively furthering a very suspicious agenda that is not in the best interests of the citizens of the United States of America.  It’s almost as if there was some group of people behind the scenes making the calls…

But wait!  Now we’re getting into conspiracy theory here and that’s just plain crazy.  Or is it?  After all, there are conspiracies, and to me at least, it seems oddly suspicious that both of the dominating political parties in this country behave, when it comes down to it, in the exact same manner.  If you strip away the silly fringe benefits like Obamacare, George W. Bush’s tax rebate checks, and Bill Clinton’s legacy of a robust economy, what’s left is the evidence of a systematic elimination of the basic freedoms of the citizenry and a gross weakening of national sovereignty; two very important things that, when they are not in place, can easily pave the way for a new kind of global fascism, the likes of which the world has never seen.

It is mid October in an election year.  There have been two Presidential debates.  Usually by this time Presidential politics are dominating not only the media, but the hearts and minds of almost everyone in the country.  I’ve talked about it before.  There is a strange demented fever that sweeps the land around this time that makes rational, level-headed, clear-thinking individuals babble in nonsensical buzzwords and rally behind rich and privileged men who they’ve never met.

But it’s not happening.

Or at least it’s happening less.

There is buzz on facebook about the debates.  There are stupid memes and some good satire, and even still a whole bunch of people that are trying to “rock the vote”, but there is nowhere near the hype that has existed in any previous election in my lifetime.

Some are calling this a “pivotal” election.  Some are even using the term “monumental”, but is it either?  To me, it looks like a no-brainer that’s even more lop-sided than the last one.  I’m sure there are people out there that will vote for Mitt Romney, but there won’t be a lot of them.  To the average Joe on the streets that pays any attention at all Mitt Romney comes across as a rich, entitled, uncaring piece of human shit that has no compassion for anybody and no plan other than blatant profiteering.  He is a complete joke.

We’re talking about a man that makes George W. Bush look Presidential.  He has no place in the same room as Barack Obama, let alone as a serious candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America.  This is a man that makes Sarah Palin look smart, John McCain seem compassionate, and Arnold Schwarzenegger seem competent.  It’s almost as if the Republican Party, the Party of the rich, the powerful, and the ruling class, chose someone to represent them that embodied all their worst and most loathsome characteristics.

It’s a fucking fix if I’ve ever seen one.

And it makes me wonder.  If there really is some sort of hidden globalist agenda then why wouldn’t they stick with Obama?  After all, he’s not only done their bidding (ignoring the Fed, signing into law the NDAA, appointing a Monsanto executive as chair of the FDA, etc.) he’s actually likable despite the fact that he’s committed gross atrocities (drone bombing Iran, prosecuting marijuana growers, etc.).  I mean shit, if I were running things I’d surely want him in my corner.  At least more than Mitt Romney, a man that speaks for nobody at all and shits out of his mouth whenever his foot’s not in the way.

There is no doubt in my mind that at least the last three Presidential elections were completely fixed from the start, and this one is no different.  Mark my words, Obama will win by a landslide.  Again.  Not because he is a good President, but because his phony opposition is so hideous that Medusa herself would cringe at the sight of it.  There is no way that anyone with any sort of reasonable mind would endorse Mitt Romney for anything at all.  He is a disgrace to the human race.

The only reasonable conclusion is that it was fixed from the start and the Obama is the man that they want.

And he will be.  He will be the President for another four years and then the “choices” will be even more ridiculous than they are now.

Good luck to you all with this one.  I’m voting for me.

Turkish Dismay

My sister currently lives in Turkey. She is teaching English as a second language to executives and businessmen and ruby dealers. They are the kind of men that wear silk suits and fly around in helicopters. They are powerful and rich and it is her job to teach them fluent English, the international language of commerce.

She has been doing this for most of her adult life ever since she graduated from UC Berkeley in the early 2000s. She has lived in Cork Ireland, Paris France, Bang Pakong Thailand, and Gumi Korea. She has also had job offers in Bonn Germany, Jakarta Indonesia, and Cairo Egypt, but she has turned them down for reasons of her own.

My sister has always been most comfortable in extremely uncomfortable situations. She is a magnet for chaos and weird drama and her current situation is no exception. The last time I spoke to her she sought my advice on a problem she was having involving an Australian friend of hers with a severe foot odor problem.

“I don’t know what to do,” she whimpered. “She’s really cool and I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I can’t stand it. Every time she takes her shoes off I want to throw up.”

It was a serious problem. It is customary in Turkey to remove your shoes when visiting someone’s home. It was getting to the point where people weren’t inviting her over and starting to make up excuses for it. She asked me what she should do.

“What choice do you have? Tell her that her feet stink and offer to help her. Either that or abandon the friendship altogether. Is she really such a great person that she’s worth becoming a pariah over?”

She paused. “Well, not really. Actually she’s kind of weird and really overweight. She has these two dogs and she’s super obsessive/compulsive about them. One time I went with her to walk them. She insisted they had to be on specific sides of her the whole time. They were never allowed under any circumstance to cross each other’s path. It was like Ghostbusters. Every time one of them started wandering over she would yank on its choke chain and it would yelp and collapse in a heap. It was awful. I felt like a Nazi just for being there.”

“So what’s the problem here?” I asked. “The real question is why you’re spending any of your time trying to socially integrate a fat weird Australian sociopath with stinky feet into your social circle.”

The advice was cold and shallow, but it was sound. There is no percentage in associating yourself with someone that is repugnant. You will not get invited to the right parties.

And that’s the way it goes. Tough tits. So long, kid. It’s curtains for you. We never liked you anyway. Here’s a one-way Greyhound ticket out of town. Take your fat ass and your smelly feet and hit the fucking road.

We all have weird friends that we have to deal with from time to time. Some smoke all your cigarettes and some leave their urine in your toilet, while others call you up at seven in the morning to pick them up from jail. You take the good with the bad, and from what I hear about teaching English abroad it is more bad than good.

Soft Rock For The Great Northwest

                It was a painfully slow night in the restaurant business tonight.  It was the kind of night where the hours drag on and the mood is so dismal that even passersby seem to sense it and are compelled to keep walking even though they are hungry.

                There is an old adage in the food service industry that goes, “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.”  Which is true on most nights, but not tonight.  It had been so slow for so long that there was literally nothing productive left to do.  Everything was stocked, all the tables were set, all the chairs were neatly aligned, and all the surfaces were as clean as they could get.  There was nothing left to do but wait for a customer to come through the doors and watch the streetlights change.

On nights like these I find myself paying extra attention to the soft murmur of the radio which, tonight, was set to MIXX 96.1, the local soft rock station.

I use the term “local” somewhat loosely in this case.  Geographically speaking MIXX 96 is as local as anything can get.  Their broadcasting headquarters are a scant four blocks from my place of business in the very heart of Downtown Olympia on the corner of Washington and State less than a block and visible from the bus depot.  But despite their physical proximity they seem oddly distanced from Olympia itself.  In a town where everybody seems to know everybody else and is constantly aware through word of mouth of just about everything that’s happening, news worthy or not, MIXX 96 seems peculiarly aloof to their immediate surroundings.  They purvey no sense of participation in the community even though they are located at its very core.  The most glaring example of this came last April during the Procession of the Species.

The Procession of the Species is an annual parade that takes place on the first day of ArtsWalk.  Each year hundreds of citizens dress up as animal in elaborate home-made costumes that are painstakingly crafted and worked on for weeks, sometimes months, in advance.  It is a grand and unique spectacle that draws thousands of people to the downtown streets to witness the pure and selfless commitment to artisanship that defines this city, and the parade route goes right past their front door.

But you would never know it listening to MIXX 96.  Not only was the Procession not mentioned, or even acknowledged, their tired playlist didn’t miss a beat.  Here was this grand celebration consuming the whole town and happening right outside their front door, and the soundtrack they provided was some inane phony babbling about love by some American Idol winner followed by Maybe I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney and a commercial for a weight loss program.

None of it made any sense to me, but who am I to judge?  MIXX 96 has been a successful radio station for at least as long as I’ve lived here and probably longer having outlasted 97.7 the Eagle, their classic rock counterpart.

It’s hard to argue with any measure of success in these dark times and as I put up the chairs at the end of the night I hear what sounds like Tracy Chapman, or at least the equivalent; some sort of mid-nineties coffee shop melancholy that should have been forgotten, but somehow managed to linger on instead of dying a dignified death like Fruitopia or Nu Metal.

Bad Politics

We are all in Politics. You and I. Whether you like it or not you are a politician. Any time you do anything or say anything to anybody you are not only representing yourself, but anyone or any institution you are affiliated with. The level at which one is a politician varies on a large scale from person to person, but it does not change the harsh reality of the situation. For example, a man… let’s say a white man in his mid forties… who is running for political office… let’s say Washington State Representative 22nd District on the Democratic ticket… is considerably more involved with politics than, say, a crazy homeless man who is asking you for a cigarette. You might think that the homeless man is not involved in politics at all. Without having all the facts you might be inclined to think that the homeless man is not a politician, but you would be wrong. He asking you for that cigarette is a political move. By asking you for a cigarette he is representing all homeless people. He is representing that the homeless community wants your cigarettes and it will shape your opinion and affect your attitude, one way or the other, about homeless people for the rest of your life. Politics.

That being said the white man in his forties running for Washington State Representative 22nd District on the Democratic Ticket is probably a lot more conscious of his status as a politician. He likely will be extremely cautious about what he says to anybody for a long time knowing that one slip of the tongue can not only lose him a vote, but many votes and possibly the elected position he covets. That is why his website will not really say anything about him that isn’t a vague description of some weird standard of expectations that people seem to have about career politicians. He will use phrases like “A leader who will make tough choices”, “An educator who will fight for our schools”, and “A father who shares our values.”

None of those phrases actually mean anything at all. They are as empty and hollow as American politics itself. There are certain words and phrases that have been so incorrectly used for so long that their meaning has become completely and utterly destroyed. Here are a few examples:

Guarantee
Gourmet
New and Improved
Save Money
Freedom
Patriot
Values

The list can go on and on. All of these words had meaning once, and in the proper context still can, but by using any of them in this day and age you are running the extremely high risk/low yield gamble of sounding like a complete shithead.

That is why, in a nutshell, I will never vote for Chris Reykdal.

About a week or so a leaflet of his showed up in my living room. It had those very phrases on it along with a few pictures of him shaking someone’s hand and talking on the phone, but it didn’t say anything anywhere about any stance or position he has (or probably doesn’t).

I propose this to you, Chris Reykdal:

If, indeed, you are willing to fight for our schools, I will arrange it. I will take care of everything. I will find a suitable venue, a referee, and an opponent in your weight class. We will charge $100-1000 per person and all of the proceeds will go DIRECTLY to the 22nd District of Washington’s public schools. We should have no problem filling any venue to capacity for such an event. I also propose that if you do not accept this challenge that you are a coward and a hypocrite and you not only do not deserve to represent the 22nd District of Washington State in the House of Representatives, but that you don’t deserve whatever paper pushing job you now have. If, however, you mean what you say, and you accept this very reasonable challenge, you will not only have my vote, but my unconditional support for the upcoming election. I will volunteer my time and energies to actively campaign for you. If you literally fight for our schools I WILL NOT REST until you are the National Representative for the 22nd District of the great state of Washington.

Chris Reykdal, the ball is in your court.

Sincerely,

Wylie VanWenger
Registered Voter
vanwenger@gmail.com