Write hand.

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I’m kind of busy right now, Marvin. Just tell them that I can’t talk. And in any case, I don’t want to go on a Caribbean Cruise, even if it IS free. Cheese and crackers. (Hey, that sounds kind of good right about now.)

Writing is a hungry business. Just ask Hemingway, the guy with the moveable feast. I’m a little sensitive about interruptions today, so I beg your pardon … Marvin (my personal robot assistant) keeps coming into my study (a.k.a. the old forge room in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill) with nonsensical requests. Stuff like,  “You’ve got a phone call from Missouri” or “There’s a brush salesman at the door” or “Leave the building – it’s on fire”. Be honest – would you listen?

What am I working on so feverishly? Ah, nothing. Just the script to this year’s Ned Trek Christmas Special. Last year we did an “It’s A Wonderful Life” parody. The year before I believe it was “A Christmas Carol”. And of course we began this annual comedic atrocity with a take-off on “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, though I think our first Ned Trek holiday extravaganza was the Santorum’s Christmas Planet episode, based loosely on the classic Star Trek “Return of the Archons” script. I mean, how do you top THAT? I am sorely tempted to cop out and do a clip show, but I happen to know that there are some new songs in the works (again), so that won’t wash.

Forget the stupid tree, Willard.Actually, we’re recording a handful of songs, including some older numbers we’ve never properly tracked before using modern technology. There are a couple of new ones in the works. I am trying to write around this eclectic mishmash of musical material. As you know, we are sticklers for continuity and comprehensibility. And quality. And irony. Massive irony. Heh heh.

It is hard to concentrate in a hammer mill, no matter what state it’s in. (This one happens to be in New York.) But even with all the distractions, the diversions, the cold November wind blowing through chinks in the mortar, I SHOULD be able to write this freaking script. Hell, it should write itself. Shouldn’t it? Of course, last year’s Christmas show came in February … of THIS year.

There goes the phone again. Tell them I don’t want a higher limit on my credit card!

Kim Jong Saud.

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The Saudis have destroyed a key airport in Yemen, a point of entry for crucial aid shipments, making the grim prospect of a major famine even more likely than before. This happened the same week that the Kingdom apparently chose to hold Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri against his will, by some accounts, and forced his resignation (Hariri now disputes this) in an effort to sow discord in a country that survived a 15-year sectarian civil war. This multi-pronged effort to roll back Shi’a influence in the region is largely the handiwork of Arabia’s 32-year-old crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (or “MBS” as the folks in the know call him), a man who is taking the blood-stained legacy of Saudi’s extremism up to the next level.

Meet Sal the Butcher.Praised by many in the American imperial class as a “modernizer”, Prince Salman has leveled neighboring Yemen over the past two years, turning it into one of the world’s most deadly war zones. This attack was probably born of the Iran nuclear deal; perhaps Yemen was the bone thrown to a disgruntled kingdom after an American war with Persia was averted. The fight in Yemen is an extension of Saudi’s longterm efforts to remake the Arab world in its own image. Its principal enemy used to be Arab nationalism, championed by Nassar and others. Now that that wave of leaders is past, Iran and Shi’a populations are in the crosshairs, and the trigger has been pulled repeatedly – in Bahrain, in Syria, and most devastatingly in Yemen.

I don’t want to place responsibility for this disgusting war solely at the feet of MBS and his autocratic government. They could not do what they’re doing without military and diplomatic support from the United States. If we told them – firmly – to stop, they would stop. The fact that it continues demonstrates a desire on the part of Washington – and elements of both major political parties – for the conflict to continue. It’s similar to the situation in Korea in that there is an obvious solution to the problem and the fact that we fail to grab it up suggests more than stupidity and stubbornness. The other similarity is that MBS’s swagger is like that of Kim Jong Un, only our leaders appear willing to eat it up. Really disturbing.

I strongly suggest you contact your congressional representatives and tell them in no uncertain terms that this conflict has gone on long enough and it is time for the killing to stop. Senator Chris Murphy appears to have gotten the memo – now let’s see if we can get others on board.

luv u,

jp

Inside November. (Again.)

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Man, is that the wind? Sounds like a freaking freight train. There goes the good weather. It was a nice couple of days, but hey …. all good things must end. (Hey Marvin … got any more platitudes I can borrow? Thanks, man.)

Well, it’s November in upstate New York. Things start slowing down a little bit around these parts. That’s partly why we had time to finish another episode of THIS IS BIG GREEN and post it this past week. Haven’t heard it yet? Well, this is what you have to look forward to:

Ned Trek 34 – Shitty and a Bit of a Stretch. Another Ned Trek non-musical episode, this one loosely based on the classic Star Trek script “City on the Edge of Forever,” originally written by famed sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison. Captain Willard, Mr. Ned, Mr. Perle, and the Nixon android all leap into Earth’s history in an attempt to stop a crazed Doc Coburn from changing the past and foreclosing on the future. Will they succeed? Well … robo Nixon does start a home for wayward clowns. That could make all the difference.

Put The Phone Down. Matt and I go into a wide-ranging discussion about Nixon’s happiest days, Seb Gorka’s descent back into internet racist rants, our somewhat spotty memories of the 1970s Eric Idle / Neil Innes parody of Beatle history called The Rutles, a look inside how Matt works on stuff, and a review of the television we used to watch with our parents back in the 1960s and 70s. Some impromptu singing and swanning about on various instruments.

Posted!Christmas Songs. We did a short block of Big Green Christmas songs by way of a little preview of the holidays to come. These include:

  • Christmas Green, a Willard song from one of our early Ned Trek episodes;
  • Jit Jaguar’s Christmas, a relatively recent recording of a quirky, older number we’ve played on the podcast before;
  • Horrible People, a Ned song from a few years ago, featuring the ubiquitous 40s guys on backup vocals;
  • Christmas Presence, a recent re-recording of one of Matt’s several takes on A Christmas Carol (this song appeared on his amazing 1994 Christmas cassette collection);
  • Make that Christmas Shine, another Willard song from that early Ned Trek Christmas special (the one with Santorum’s Christmas planet).

That’s about it for November. We have some more new stuff coming for the Holiday show, which will appear sometime around the holidays (hopefully).

Making it count.

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My reaction to Tuesday’s off-year political races is the same I always have with regard to elections: you can’t win by staying home. A lot of people on the left get frustrated with the Democratic Party (I certainly do), but in our current political system, only two parties have a reasonable chance to win elections, particularly on a national scale. We have to work within the Democratic Party even as we organize outside of it; and we have to vote Dem (when such a vote is available) even if the candidate is not our preferred choice.

Threatening the neighborsThe alternative (i.e. sitting on your hands) results in what we have today: a national government run entirely by the most reactionary Republican Party in history – a political cabal that is doing enormous damage by undermining the work of vital agencies, appointing right wing judges, and more. This destructive work is moving at such an alarming pace that it is doubtful as to whether we can regain sufficient political power to stem the tide, let alone reverse it, before some of our most vital public institutions are blown to hell. That’s why I am no fan of quixotic third-party detours. The downside risk is far too high, as we are now discovering.

I generally agree with Norman Solomon and his Democratic Party Autopsy report. And I think he might agree that the Democratic Party – like all national parties – is a broad coalition of factions that don’t always (or even often) agree with one another on key issues. It was that way back in the 1960s. It was certainly that way in the age of the Democratic Leadership Conference. The only difference now is that there is a strong left faction that nearly won the presidential nomination process last year. THAT is new, and frankly, exciting. I think that should be a cause for optimism – the inside strategy is mostly a matter of persistence and focus. We have to populate the party with people who think like us, recognizing that we will need a broad coalition to start winning again on a national level. So this can’t be a question of my way or the highway, on the left or the center. The corporate media likes to focus on factionalism. I think this is just the messy process of moving forward.

The left is the future of the Democratic party. It has nowhere else to go. We have to claim that future and continue to use the party as a means of advancing positions important to the well-being of the majority of Americans. Big project, but a necessary one … and we’d best get started.

luv u,

jp

THIS IS BIG GREEN: November 2017

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Big Green marks its 31st birthday with another lame episode of Ned Trek, five warmed-over Christmas songs, and some pointless banter. Make merry while you can, mo-fos.

This is Big Green – November 2017. Features: 1) Ned Trek 34: Shitty and a Bit of a Stretch; 2) Put the Phone Down: Nixon’s happy days; 3) An accent-rich consideration of Seb Gorka’s racism; 4) Remembering the Rutles; 5) Song: Christmas Green, by Big Green; 6) Song: Jit Jaguar’s Christmas, by Big Green; 7) Song: Horrible People, by Big Green; 8) Song: Christmas Presence, by Big Green; 9) Song: Make that Christmas Shine, by Big Green; 10) inside Matt’s Ned Trek editorial process; 11) What we watched on T.V. in the 60s; 12) Time to go.

Why Christmas?

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Okay, subject matter experts – let’s get down to it. We’ve written about fascists on the rise. We’ve written about space diseases. What’s left to write about? What? Christmas again? Oh, Jesus Christ on a re-gifted bike. Very well.

I’ll tell you, you ask a question around this place and you come away with six more questions. At least that’s an even number. That said, we’re still making music over here in Big Green-land (and no, I don’t mean big Greenland …. everyone makes that mistake), and well, Christmas is coming, so … that means more Christmas themed songs, right? Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly will be overjoyed to hear that there’s music that uses the word “Christmas” occasionally, even if it is mostly for humor and ironic purposes. (Or porpoises. Like hipster porpoises who do shark-like shit just to be ironic. You’ve seen that, right?)

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we are planning a holiday podcast extravaganza, with newly recorded Big Green classics never before heard by the likes of you, as well as some brand new material. (I don’t mean fabric, either – I mean music, music.) We’re in production, or Come again?pre-production, or something like that. This will be the first group of songs we’ve recorded entirely on Cubase 9, with no help from our trusty old Roland 2480 deck, which served us so well for the last 16 years. So we’ll just see how that goes, my friends.

Okay, so … we started working on the Roland deck a year or two after the release of our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas, and I have to say, this group of songs we’re doing are pretty closely related to the songs on that disc. Why Christmas? Because Jesus. Or because it starts with a C. I don’t know – that’s just what we hang the song on, much like a shirt cardboard. (We kind of used former Texas governor Rick Perry as a shirt cardboard for one of our albums, Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick.) It makes it easier to develop a theme and … oh, who cares?

We’ll just keep making the songs, Christmas themed or not. You expect no less. And no more.

The color of power.

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What a horrendous week for New Yorkers. Condolences to those affected by this ghastly Halloween attack. Don’t wait for words of encouragement and sympathy from the big cheese – he’s too busy attacking your senator on Twitter. Literally insult upon injury, but not surprising. It’s also been a pretty rough week in Puerto Rico, still reeling from Hurricane Maria, and of course in Somalia, in the aftermath of that horrific bombing. I could go on, but what’s the point – you know it. Sad thing is, none of these people will get any reasonable amount of moral or material support from the current administration. The reason couldn’t be clearer: too many dark people, and no potential Trump voters.

How low can he go?Not that Somalia has been treated like anything other than a doormat in previous administrations. Trump, though, has singled out Somali refugees in America for criticism, sowing hatred and distrust among his legions. The refugees are black, like the family of La David Johnson, and like the Congresswoman that is a family friend of theirs, and like the football players taking a knee, and … need I go on? Puerto Rico, well … that place is full of dark people too, and so they’re not going to get the kind of help that goes to Florida and east Texas. It just seems like whatever belligerent stand Trump takes, there are dark-skinned people on the other side of it.

I suppose I should consider it fortunate that crypto-racists have a tendency to reveal themselves gradually, however unintentional that process might be. Case in point is Trump’s Chief of Staff, General Kelly, who launched into a gratuitous character assassination attempt on Florida Congresswoman Wilson (hint: she’s African American) using a story that was easily dis-proven, as the event he was describing was captured on video. In remarks to the New York Times, Kelly praised Confederate General Robert E. Lee and opined that the Civil War was the result of a “lack of ability to compromise”. I think Lawrence O”Donnell had it right when he suggested that Kelly – who grew up in the same area of Boston as O’Donnell did – is channeling a racist upbringing in what was a caldron of prejudice against black people, brown people, anyone other than the Scotty B’s of the world.

Let us face it. In this culture, white, heterosexual people are normative; that is the default position. Anyone else needs qualification and justification. So when a crazy cracker shoots up 500 people in Las Vegas, we won’t ask ourselves what the problem is with these rich, white Christians. But when a crazy ass Uzbek mows down a bunch of innocent people for no reason, all Muslims are expected to apologize. That’s a power relationship at work.

luv u,

jp

All present and accounted for.

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Okay, everybody – band meeting. Let’s do roll call. Matt Perry? Present. Myself? Present. Marvin (my personal robot assistant)? Present, but lacking in agency. Mansized tuber? Absent. (He planted himself in the courtyard again, and frankly, it’s just too cold today to have the meeting out there.)

Yeah, it’s been a while since our last meeting. A few weeks, anyway. Like August 1987. We are a self-governing collective, but not a very well organized one, truth be told. When you live in an abandoned hammer mill (or an abandoned refrigerator, for that matter), there’s little else to do besides wander around and try to keep yourself occupied between tours. We might go crazy for a spell and even (dare I say it?) rehearse a few numbers. Such madness has taken hold of us on more than one occasion.

I suppose you’re wondering how it is that we manage to support ourselves. Well, I don’t think I have to tell you that we are lousy salespeople … perhaps the worst ever. In a capitalist society such as ours, you have to charge for your music, no matter by what means it may be delivered. Of course, the availability of the post-industrial hulk known as the Cheney Hammer Mill makes it possible for us to basically give away our music and still have a roof over our heads, albeit a leaky one.

Present.We have, in the past, posted our albums for purchase on digital distribution sites – the Orchard, CDBaby, etc. My feeling – and I should raise this at the meeting, already in progress – is that we should just post songs for free download and give people an opportunity to contribute towards the good of the Big Green cause through a Patreon site or something like that. It’s basically a digital passing of the hat, which we’ve done as well (the Luddite version, in any case).

Our songs keep getting sillier. I think it may be something in the water. That’s another topic we should raise if this meeting ever gets underway. How do we turn up the serious? Doesn’t that have to happen before you’re born? All these searing questions, and there’s more where those came from. (Mind you, it’s a little dark up there.)

Okay, well … meeting adjourned until, I don’t know, 2047. Make it a Sunday in October. I’ll dial in.

A little late.

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Well, we’ve heard from Arizona’s senators. Sort of. Does this amount to anything? If so, I don’t know what, but judging by the coverage afforded by the mainstream media, I must be missing something. I’ve heard Jeff Flake compared to every great orator this side of Cicero over the past few days, but honestly – what did he say? What is the substantive issue here? It sounds to me like tone, “integrity”,  adherence to accepted norms of behavior, and mental/emotional stability. Important, yes, when you’re talking about the President of the United States – a man who can, on a whim, destroy the entire planet. It may be dawning on some of these GOP senators – at least the ones no longer eyeing re-election – that having a crackpot in that most powerful chair on Earth may not be such a good idea.

Where were you last year?Thing is, where the hell were they last year when they could have done something about it? I think you know the answer to that. Trump is not an anomaly – he is the product of 30 years of mounting extremism in the Republican Party. They may have tut-tutted him once or twice during the campaign, but it never rose to the level of obstruction. No, they were more than happy to elect a sociopath idiot narcissist to the imperial presidency, so long is it meant they would get their way on legislation, appointments, and executive policy. That’s all they fucking care about, people. Their congressional leadership says so every day. So even if a handful of retiring senators complains that Trump’s ill-treatment of Gold Star families is disgraceful, the party will still stand in full support of that signing hand. This isn’t an ideological battle, because they – Trump and his party – all agree on 90% of their program. To the extent that people like Jeff Flake disagree with the president on policy, it’s largely on the basis of his hostility towards so-called “free trade” agreements.

Take their tax policy (please). The GOP is framing this as another visit by Pappy Tax Cut. The fact is, they will likely raise taxes on working people and the poor, just as they often do. They did so during the Obama years at least twice – once when they refused to renew the “Making Work Pay” tax credit, and again when they scuttled the withholding tax reduction. Now they’re talking about reducing tax exemptions on contributions to 401k plans. Set aside the fact that these retirement instruments are woefully underfunded in the first place and represent a free-market retreat from the notion of a liveable retirement plan, this is just a backdoor attempt at funding the massive cuts they’re promising to their rich donors. Regardless of what Trump claims, he will sign it, then call it something it’s not. That’s what he always does.

If the good of the nation matters now, it certainly mattered last year when the GOP could have stopped Trump cold. They didn’t, and so plainly, it doesn’t.

luv u,

jp

Thirty (or thirty-one).

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Is this one of those years with a “7” at the end? Right, I thought as much. I guess that’s another decade in the can then, right? Fuck all – I am old.

Oh, hi. I was just having a little conversation with Marvin (my personal robot assistant). He keeps a lot of useless information in his memory banks, and among those bits and bobs are statistics about the history of Big Green, the music collective we formed some thirty years ago. Yes, I believe we adopted the moniker back in 1986, in a 2nd floor apartment in Ballston Spa, NY. That was the first incarnation of Big Green, which cracked apart in – yes – 1987, leaving it in the state it remains in today. (And no, I don’t mean the state of New York.)

Some may think it’s a bit of a problem that our band historian is a robot. That’s not that unusual, actually. I hear that the historian for “Captured by Robots” is also a robot. And then there’s Kraftwerk. All German bands have robot historians, from what I understand. (Though most bands choose not to read me in on the details.) Marvin can handle this task because he has what mad scientists call an “Electronic Brain”. Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, invented it himself. The sparking contacts and dusty transistors inside that whirring little box function not unlike the synapses of the brain. Marvin can think, captain. And if he thinks, it’s only one small step from there to – dare I say it? – ruling … the world. Mwa-ha-ha-ha ….

Okay, well THAT took a dark turn. Why do we have multiple start dates for Big Green history? Well, it’s complicated. In point of fact, my personal opinion is that Big Green was born when Matt wrote and recorded the song “Sweet Treason” for a tape he sent me for my birthday in Spring of 1985. I think we’ve played versions of the song on our podcast. The original is a very scratchy recording that Matt did bouncing between two cassette tape decks and using a mixing bowl for a snare drum. The lyric, personalized for the occasion, goes like this:

Joe is "happy fitness" thanks to JFKEveryone into the pool
We’re all fun at the club
All of us nasty loud
Our metal detectors are safe from ambush
Our stomachs elastic with eclairs
Master’s beer

Joe owes much to gym class
Joe is “happy fitness” thanks to JFK
All of us join him, we’re grateful, JFK
All of us upside-down
Fungus on our knees

This time, it’s gonna be
gonna be easy
Sweet treason
Strange inclination has us warm up separate TVs
Every box word echoes neatly
Then it explodes

Joe, the mayor’s systematically going through your mail
He’s sifting, but not finding
He’s searching for some west-end sandwich
ten years good and stale

And on that day, Big Green was born. (Editor’s note: the “mayor” in this song refers to a kid we knew out in the Albany area back when we were trying to make a previous incarnation of this band work. Which brings us back even further, to 1979 … damn it!