What ho.

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There’s my pocket watch. And no, it’s not a proper pocket watch, just a wrist watch I keep in my pocket because my wrists get sore when I wear it. As a result, the crystal is scratched to the point where it always looks like 3:54 last Wednesday. So …. happy Wednesday, everybody!

What’s new this week in Big Green land? Well, I’m guessing there’s more news coming out of regular old Greenland (That’s part of Scandinavia!), though they have the advantage of belonging to Denmark. It’s been suggested to us more than once that we should just ask Denmark to annex us, like the even bigger Greenland, so that we would have more to talk about on our blog and podcast. Another good suggestion, people. Keep them rolling in!

In all seriousness, though (and I’m making my most serious face now), we have been working our fingers to the bone on our next raft of Big Green songs. We’ve even worked a few of our toes to the bone as well. (You don’t know hardship until you’ve worn sneakers over bony toes.) All of this is leading up to the next episode of Ned Trek, which promises to be another musical – this time a takeoff on the Galileo 7 episode of the original series. At least I think that’s what the next episode will be. Because you know … shit happens. And it happens fast sometimes. Fast, fast shit.

Lend me a bob 'til TuesdayAs always, Matt has been doing the bulk of the songwriting. He’s a writing machine, people … just pacing through his duties on that nature sanctuary, talking out the lyrics of his various crazy-ass songs like a distinctly non-Scottish Ewan McTeagle. (Though, in the interests of full disclosure, this is probably a good time to point out that Matt’s partner does indeed play the bagpipes.) Matt wrote at a relatively breakneck pace before he spent his days out on the range, as it were, whereas I have always been the kind of songwriter that squeezes one out every once in a while. (If that sounds nauseating, it’s because it kind of is.)

Hey, Matt has his process, I have mine. Drop it into a 3-quart mixing bowl, set the beater on frappé, and voilà (or for you British listeners out there, what ho): Big Green casserole. Help yourself.

Just like old times.

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This probably isn’t a wise practice, but I sometimes view Morning Joe as a bellwether of establishment opinion, particularly regarding foreign policy. Their panel covers the spectrum from neocons to liberal interventionists – a narrow span to say the least. And they appear to be as happy as the proverbial pig in shit about Trump’s recent cruise missile attack in Syria. Both the liberal interventionist wing and the neocon wing have been highly critical of Obama’s failure to start a unilateral, extra-constitutional war with Syria back in 2013, so this past week was sweet validation for them all. As a group, they seem anxious for evidence that Trump’s administration is “normalizing” and settling in to the usual, conventional insanity, so they tend to jump on every lurch towards the institutional consensus.

Mother of all BullshitAnd clearly, there is a solid, institutional consensus on American foreign policy. It’s a relatively small box that contains, on one end, the Obama approach, then the center-left liberal interventionist school (Clinton, Samantha Power, etc.), followed by the center-right establishment Republicans (James Baker, Kissinger, etc.), the hot-head interventionists (McCain, Graham, Cotton), and the neocons (Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Elliot Abrams, etc.). In terms of blowing things up and killing people, there isn’t a lot of distance between any of these groupings, and they all share a common imperial worldview. The encouraging development for the Morning Joe crew is the notion that Trump has now put himself in that box.

If this turns out to be a feature, not a bug, of the Trump Administration, the 2016 general election had no impact on foreign policy at all. Policy-wise, Trump appears to have put himself pretty close to Obama on that score. He maybe has a little more bomb than Obama, but it’s basically the same stuff, and the Morning Joe crowd has little to say about that. I sometimes wonder if these people remember last year, let alone 16 years ago. Do they remember that W. Bush ran a hair to the left of Gore on foreign policy – no “nation building”, right? – then pivoted back to the center-right of the consensus box after a few months (certainly after 9/11).? Obama did something similar. It’s pretty simple: presidents put out pleasing rhetoric during campaigns, then peddle back to the default policies when they win office.

Now Trump has dumped the MOAB super bunker-buster bomb on Afghanistan. What is this routine  now, bomb-drop Thursday? I guess we’ll see … next Thursday.

luv u,

jp

Inside April.

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What’s that rattling you hear? Could be the sound of Tomahawk missiles. Or maybe it’s just a loose screen in the upstairs window. Those may be the same exact thing, in effect.

But there is a third possibility, and that is the April THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast. We’ve got another boatload of sound for you this month –  here’s a brief look inside the ship’s hold (just to overextend that little metaphor) …

NED TREK 32: All Our Festeryears. A take-off on the “All Our Yesteryears” episode in the original Star Trek series (I believe their second or third to the last episode ever), Willard, Ned, Pearle, and Sulu pay a visit to a strangely deserted world, the entire population of which has retreated into old B movies on VHS tapes. The caretaker of the library (or Blockbuster Video) and his various doppelgangers are played by Ronald Reagan. Ned and Sulu have to deal with cheap-ass cinematic cowboys, whereas Willard and Pearle face-off against cave men. Kind of lame, but …. whatever.

Put the Phone Down. We start with the cornbread song, then move downhill from there. Some bird talk, some pondering of dialogue from the TV show Kung Fu. I could draw you a picture, but it wouldn’t be pretty. I’m thinking about brewing some coffee before we start talking next time out.

Song: Doc’s Freedom. This was from the very early Ned Trek episode called “Spector’s Grandchildren”, in which telekinetic space aliens forced the crew to sing. One of my favorite Doc Coburn songs, this one comes complete with a funky intro. Look for a version of this on Big Green’s eventual Ned Trek collection.

How 'bout another song? Yeah, okay.Song: Neocon Christmas. This is a Mr. Perle song from another early Ned Trek – “Santorum’s Christmas Planet”, I think. Kind of a jazz trio treatment on this, with backing vocals from the non-sequitur 40’s guys.

Song: Jesus Got A Known Mind. Another Doc song, and again, a particular favorite of mine because of its primitive rock vibe and the backing vocals seemingly borrowed from Helter Skelter. Rock out, people!

Song: Up On The Bridge. Featuring Mr. Sulu, this song from a more recent Ned Trek episode contemplates the volatile fortunes of a certain T.V. actor whose fame was built on a re-run cult following that persists to this day. The vocals on this are kind of hilarious. (We spent more time on that than anything else.)

Bigfoot.

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Another week on foreign policy, mostly because it has been so heinous lately. The gas attack in Syria was particularly upsetting, in part because there was video footage of the aftermath (unlike in the case of the U.S.’s Al Ghayil raid in Yemen that killed a score of civilians, including nine children, or the bombing in Mosul last week). The Syrian regime, once again, is doing the one thing they do in response to a restive population: kill and torture. They literally know nothing else. That said, there seems to be a universal media consensus that the United States should fly its bombers in there and start blowing the place apart, as if that has ever made anything better over the past 50-60 years. (Spoiler alert: it hasn’t. It has made things exponentially worse.)

Trump arrives at a decision.Then there was the missile launch in North Korea. Deliberately provocative, yes, though again, our military rules on that peninsula – we’re constantly running joint exercises with the South Korean military that can only be seen as provocations by Pyongyang. Trump is going to take this up with China this weekend in his cheesy Florida resort getaway, but that just marks a continuation of the same disastrous policy. North Korea wants to talk to us, not China. This only possible way to reduce this massive threat to human existence on the Korean peninsula is provide Pyongyang with some guarantees of non belligerence. That is simply not on the table.

How will the Trump administration react to all of this, aside from blaming everyone else (e.g. their predecessors, the Muslims, the Chinese, immigrants, etc.)? It’s a little hard to say. Either one could blow up in our face on a moment’s notice. It sounds to me like Trump is leaning toward differentiating himself from Obama on Syria – that is, taking a more interventionist stance. That appears to be supported by the jabbering classes, as I mentioned earlier. (I heard a congressman from the GOP hair-gel caucus on Thursday’s Morning Joe urging a “no-fly zone” and suggesting that, if we hit Russian personnel or assets in the process, well, that would be “on them”.) This is how world wars start, so one would hope that whatever money laundering Trump has done for Russian oligarchs over the years, it will give him enough reason to at least adequately de-conflict with the Russian military before going all Lindsay Graham on Damascus.

Korea may be just as problematic, since I don’t think Trump owes a lot to Chinese fixers. They may be crazy enough to lob a bomb over there – we’ll have to see. Scary times.

luv u,

jp

P.S.  Spoke too soon. Trump is bombing Syria. This is getting really ugly. The TV commentators all have their “war faces” on, talking to admirals. Trump did a hostage-video style pre-taped announcement last night (strangely, from a podium, reading off of two teleprompters as if there were an audience – the sound quality was horrible). Everyone is beating their chests: American credibility has been restored. (Apparently no one in the world thought we would attack at random anymore, even though we’ve been doing it non-stop for 16 years.) Bigfoot is stomping around.

THIS IS BIG GREEN: April 2017

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Big Green heralds the arrival of Spring with a remarkably ludicrous installment of Ned Trek, some recent recordings, random utterances, and more. Here comes the sun.

This is Big Green – April 2017.

This is Big Green – April 2017. Features: 1) Ned Trek 32: All Our Festerdays; 2) Put The Phone Down: The cornbread song; 3) My friend, Mr. Worm; 4) Contemplating the wisdom of Kung Fu; 5) News from the falcon box; 6) The Akita factor; 7) Scat-singing Dalek; 8) Song: Freedom Gained (with Intro), by Big Green ; 9) Song: Neocon Christmas, by Big Green; 10) Song: Jesus Has a Known Mind, by Big Green; 11) Song: Up On The Bridge, by Big Green; 12) Out of here.

Technophobia.

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Not running again, eh? Try knocking it upside the head again. Harder. HARDER! Oh, wait … you knocked its head off. That’s probably too hard. Oh well….

Hey, welcome to the house of Big Green – that abandoned hammer mill we call home, because all of the groups live together. Just trying to get down to recording some new material, old material … whatever! If we can just get our technology to work for five minutes. (Actually, three and a half minutes would do, since this is pop music.) Seriously, we’ve got some old gear, folks. It’s almost as old as our asses. I’m not even talking tape recorders …. I’m talking wire recorders. I’m talking those wax record cutting machines they used when John-boy was being interviewed by a radio station on The Waltons after he got swindled by the vanity press dude. (Oh, you thought I forgot, didn’t you? Mr. TV Swindler!)

Ahem. Anyhow, we really are running on three cylinders down in Big Green’s clubhouse recording studio in the basement of the Cheney Hammer Mill. The eight-track DTRS machine we used to record 2000 Years To Christmas is a paperweight. The 16/24 track hard disc workstation we used to record International House and Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick is 17 years old and ready for that farm upstate. We’re taping together our headphones and coaxing our pre-amps not to self-destruct. It’s a sad state of affairs, to say the least. Our neighbors keep saying, do a GoFundMe campaign or something, but hell …. that would require the invention of the personal computer. Our gear tells me it’s still 1982.

It was new when I bought it.Marvin (my personal robot assistant) is probably the most sophisticated piece of technology we have at our disposal. In fact, that’s exactly what he is –  a re-purposed garbage disposal. I’m told that our mad science advisor, Mitch Macaphee, added some arms and legs and popped a refurbished Commodore 64 computer in his noggin, then it was off to the races with him. We could probably use HIM as an audio recorder almost as easily as we manage with our antiquated Roland VS-2480, but it would require some modifications, and damn it, we’re Luddites. We just flip the switch and a light goes on – the rest is magic.

So, hey … we’ll get those songs committed to .wav somehow, never fear. Just don’t ask me how they got there afterwards.

A look overseas.

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Another turn at the fire hose. Man, this is kind of dizzying. We’ve just seen a week in which the President has essentially undone the clean power plant rules, scuttled the Paris Accords on climate change, approved the Keystone XL pipeline project, and escalated his attacks on undocumented residents and on the poor miserable souls in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen who cope with our bombs on a daily basis. I could write five posts, but that would take the rest of human history, so suffice with this sorry tirade on foreign policy.

Making Mosul great (again).I didn’t want to let the week go by without saying something about the hundred-plus killed in a coalition raid in Mosul. Civilian deaths have been on the rise in that conflict since our military began its air assault on the more densely populated western side of Mosul. Well, that’s predictable enough. We are fighting the legacy of the previous decade’s catastrophic policy, which was itself a response to another previous decade’s catastrophic policy, and so on. ISIS or ISIL is Al Qaeda in Iraq 2.0, drawing on ex Baathist military personnel for many of its cadres, as well as disaffected Sunni youth, targeted by both the U.S. and the Baghdad government. The destruction/”liberation” of Mosul will not change the fundamental problems that prompted these people to turn, in desperation, to the extremists they once fought against.

We are also doubling down in Syria, now with hundreds of Special Forces on the ground. And as actual journalists like Anand Ghopal have reported, the U.S. is effectively fighting in tandem with the Syrian government, particularly in places like Palmyra, where nominally pro-western groups like the Free Syrian Army cannot operate. Our bombers hit a mosque a few weeks back – like the Mosul raid, our military denied it, then gradually admitted it. Each one of these generates more converts to the jihadi cause, and contributes to another catastrophic policy that we will be grappling with in the next decade.

Then there’s the bleeding sore that is Yemen. The Intercept’s Iona Craig has reported extensively on the Al Ghayil raid that killed dozens of civilians in a mountainside village on the pretext that Al Qaeda leadership were in hiding there. They weren’t – some low-level operatives were reportedly in one of the buildings. The village has been in the thick of the Yemeni civil war, and residents thought the U.S. attackers were Houthi rebels – hence the armed resistance. Again … this “highly” successful raid appears to have aided the side we officially oppose in that fight, though that’s a minor consideration in light of the heavy casualties suffered by the people of Al Ghayil.

Only eight weeks in and these conflicts are getting even more septic. Not a good sign.

luv u,

jp

Wait a minute.

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Got this song running through my head. It’s one of Matt’s from some time ago. I get that a lot, actually. Our entertainment center hasn’t worked in ages, so when we’re not playing I have to rely upon the jukebox in my mind for my entertainment. And just now it’s playing Big Green circa 1989, maybe. Couple weeks ago. The lyric goes like this:

Thought we were madly in love
but we were just plain mad
I always thought we were in love
But we were mad, just mad

Under a Gothic sky
we heard an ancient choir
In an amphitheater
we compiled notes and prayed aloud

We held our breath and heard the voice
of uncommon sense
We dropped our eyes and saw the floor mosaic move
We were in need of uncommon sense
We met the face of foolishness

In the torrential rain
we still open the mail
We still shake the pieces
Still building boats unsafe to sail

We were badly in need of some
uncommon law
We were sadly in need of some corrective lens
We were in need of uncommon sense
We met the face of foolishness

We weren’t in love
We were mad

That song is called “Uncommon Sense” and I literally haven’t heard it in years. So why is it bouncing around in my bean? No freaking clue. Stuff just bobs up like an inflatable horse in a swimming pool. Or something else that bobs up … maybe somebody named Bob who comes up for the weekend. Not that that’s ever likely to happen. And what if he has special dietary restrictions? Okay … where was I?

Eight-tracks are just fab, man.I think I’m hearing music because my mind is wandering. It’s like hold music – something has to fill the void, and since my psyche is out on vacation, someone fired up the old juke box. Sometimes it’s junk-ass radio pop music from the 1970s. I won’t even name some of the ear-worms I get because then you will have them to grapple with for the rest of the day, and you will end up hating me until the end of time. You know, songs like “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero”, for instance, or “The Night Chicago Died”. Oh, God damnit!

Fortunately for me, my brother and collaborator in the musical collective enterprise known as Big Green has written a smoking ton of music over the past three decades. I can run his song list end-to-end in my head literally non-stop for about three weeks and never play the same song twice. Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of control over what I’m hearing with my mind’s ear – not like Marvin (my personal robot assistant), who actually has an 8-track cartridge deck built into the side of his brass head. All he has to do is hit the channel button and it hops over to the middle of another song. Welcome to the future, friends.

Note to cognitive scientists: if you figure out how to change earworm songs, let me the fuck know. Thanks mucho.

Nuclear option.

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I’m undecided as to whether this is a great time to be a political writer or an abysmal one. There is so much going on every day of this new presidential administration, it’s enough to fill a months worth of posts. It’s hard not to return to the “drinking from a fire hose” cliche, frankly. Even so, I’ll take a whack at some of what happened this week in my wobbly, amateurish way and we’ll see where we end up.

Russia and Germany. Trump’s visit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel was odd and awkward. She had that kind of hostage video look, sitting there with Herr Mr. Hair, asking for a handshake and being rebuffed by the new leader of the “free” world. If she isn’t uneasy about this president, I don’t know what it would take; just listening to the press conference exchanges between Trump and the German press is enough to convince anyone that the man needs professional help. And the rebuff over the handshake will only feed the notion that he is a man who will say or do nothing to offend one V. Putin.

Mr. not-so-nice guyThat’s the stuff conspiracy theories are made of. So … why does he keep fucking doing it? If there turns out to be no serious collusion between Trump’s people and the Russian government, his administration is the most productive conspiratorial smoke machine ever constructed. Major administration advisors had conversations with Russian officials during and after the campaign, lied about it, then fessed up when the lie was exposed. If it’s above board, why don’t they just effing say so? I don’t get it.

Blind Justice. Gorsuch took the stand in his confirmation hearings this week in the U.S. Senate. Big charm offensive, though it’s obvious where he’s coming from both judicially and politically. Still, I count myself among the number who simply oppose Gorsuch because he was nominated by Trump. It they blow up the filibuster, fine … there’s no saving it for later. If when you use it you lose it, then it doesn’t really exist anyway.

It appears as though the Democrats are leaning towards this strategy, based on what Schumer and others are saying. Some of the Democratic senators, like Franken and Whitehouse, delivered some very strong criticism not only of Gorsuch but of the entire right-wing judicial and broader political agenda, so that’s all to the good.

The health insurance went down in flames, so I’ll return to that next week. My guess is that, AHCA or no AHCA, the GOP congress and Trump Administration will do everything in their power to crash the ACA through deregulation, funding cuts, and more. This fight will continue.

luv u,

jp

Yardstick.

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Yeah, it’s up there. How can I tell? I just look out the window, dude. I look out and I see exactly nothing. That’s how you know it’s Snowmageddon. Simple, right? Trouble is … I’m on the third floor.

Yeah, the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill (our squat house) was buried in snow this past Tuesday night, and Mitch is responsible. I know it seems like I blame everything on our mad science advisor, but that’s only because he’s behind everything that happens, at least in some measure. Like that full moon we had last week. Did you see it? It was kind of ghostly, like the clouds had wrapped around it, but you could still see the full disc. Mitch’s part in that? Not certain, but my guess is that he was working the cloud machine that night. (He should really be advising a 1970s arena rock band, but I digress.)

The sad thing is that his cloud invention could be a boon to mankind and animal kind alike … if he would only use it for good instead of evil. That’s a bit unfair, actually – Mitch is amoral, not immoral. Madness has no reason, but it can have a goal … and this week, I suspect the goal may have been snow and more snow. And as I believe I mentioned earlier, he has a cloud machine. Not good.

Hey ... I think it might have snowed.There is one other piece of incriminating evidence. The big nor’easter was named Stella, and that was the name of Mitch’s old girlfriend from back in the day. He doesn’t talk about her much, but Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has dished a bit of back story on Mitch’s wild years. Now I know that doesn’t sound like Marvin, but you would be surprised what’s stored in those creaky, tape-medium databases he holds inside that brass hide of his. (Before you ask, no, there are no audio recordings – just metadata of phone calls, that sort of thing.) Folks: never date a mad scientist. Seriously.

So, let me be the first to apologize about the storm. I’ll probably also be the last to apologize, since Mitch never apologizes for any of the catastrophes he causes. Crazy as fuck means not having to say you’re sorry.