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!

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.

Jump time.

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Time to crank out another number? Right, then. One … two … one, two, three, fo… What? Wait for what? Oh, right. We need to pick a song. My bad.

Well, obviously we’re a little out of practice. It’s been a while since Big Green performed in these parts, and while we don’t have any plans to set up at the local gin mill and run through the ’93 set list (just like the old days, Steve), we could do with a little rehearsal time. A friend once told me that rehearsal is just a crutch for cats who can’t blow. (No, he didn’t wear sunglasses and a tam.) I like to think he had a point. It makes me feel better about doing nothing, and doing nothing is nothing if it isn’t fun.

Not to say that we’re dead idle – far from it. This week we’re recording the next episode of Ned Trek. We’re also working on the songs for our Christmas Extravaganza, rummaging through our big burlap sack of old Xmas songs that was the genesis of our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas, in 1999. Yessir, I remember back in ’02, when the pump broke down and we had to haul water from the brook all the way uphill to our little log lean-to in Sri Lanka. Then there was the time that old Barney the mule lost a shoe in the middle of winter sowing. Hard times. Yep. (Yep.)

A bit spare.Thankfully, life is a lot simpler now. We have Marvin (my personal robot assistant) haul all of our water from the brook. Except now, unlike then, we have indoor plumbing (our lean-to was very old-school), so Marvin just dumps the water into the cistern and we tap it. Modern conveniences! When Marvin’s batteries run a little low, we ask Anti-Lincoln to do it, and he always says no. We still ask, though. Everybody pulls his own weight around here. Everybody except the mansized tuber, who needs a little help. But what the hell – he’s a freaking plant. Can’t expect him to grow arms and legs and start jumping around anytime soon. (Or can we …. ?)

Well, I’ve wandered a bit. The bottom line is that we’re dusting off a few of the Christmas songs Matt wrote decades ago – ones that didn’t end up on 2000 Years To Christmas – and recording them properly for the first time ever (i.e. not on a borrowed 4-track cassette deck). Again, modern conveniences, utilized for our mutual benefit. It’s a crazy little thing called civilization.

Holism.

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This place is a freaking mess. No, we still don’t have garbage collection. You have to pay taxes to get that, Mitch, and we’re off the grid – remember? Guess this lot will have to go down the tunnel to the center of the Earth. It’s like having the world’s biggest trash incinerator.

Oh, hi. As you can see, we are making the kind of obvious mistake that protagonists in science fiction movies make all the time – abusing mother nature just to solve some petty human problem, namely, generating too much trash. That goes on for the first couple of reels, then some ungodly creature emerges from the bowels of the Earth and goes on a murderous rampage stopped only by some unexpected intervention by germs or gravity or something – a turnaround that redeems the value of nature in the eyes of middle class moviegoers. Yeah, well … we are asking for that.

The fact is, once there’s a hole in the floor, you have an almost unstoppable urge just to keep dropping things into it. I think Marvin (my personal robot assistant) may have dropped some of our master tapes down into the memory hole. A true digital native like Marvin has no concept of tape recorded sound – God no! Music encoded onto a long ribbon of magnetic film? Impossible! Of course, he himself runs, in part, on vacuum tubes and toggle switches, so one might think he would have some empathy for users of retro Wait. You dropped it where??technologies. In any case, down the memory hole they go … unless I left them in my other pants. Marvin? Have you seen my other pants?

Right, so … that’s not the only thing we’ve been up to. We’re hip-deep in production for our next tranche of Ned Trek songs, about seven or eight of them by last count. This is why our podcast THIS IS BIG GREEN has become, well, kind of infrequent – too many musicals! In any case, we’ve amassed a backlog of about 60 Ned Trek songs thus far, seven of which are included in the podcast I just recently posted on NedTrek.com – episode 24: Whom Gods Deploy, which originally appeared in our August 2015 TIBG podcast. So … it hasn’t all gone down the hole quite yet.

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.)

Song farm.

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Where’s Matt this morning? Where he always is – trudging across the landscape like Ewan McTeagle, writing crazy-ass song poems in his head and putting them to music … also in his head. And feeding the beavers. Curious fellow!

As we’re patching together the next episode of THIS IS BIG GREEN, featuring our holiday (yes, holiday!) installment of Ned Trek, it’s beginning to dawn on me just how many Ned Trek songs we have recorded over the last three years. If you piled them up, the resulting stack would be taller than the Empire State Building. (That’s assuming, of course, each song is about 1/50th the height of the Empire State Building.) But spacial relationships aside, we’ve got a big backlog of songs that are just screaming “Put me in an album!” Marvin (my personal robot assistant) tried to be helpful by picking up a photo album down at the corner drug store, but of course, that kind of album is a whole ‘nother thing. But semantic considerations aside …

Yep. About that tall, man.Okay, well … 50 songs is a lot for an album, even one of ours. Here’s where both the spacial and the semantic relationships actually come into play. What the hell is an album, right? It used to be an LP with a limited capacity; then a cassette, same deal; CD, same deal. In the digital music age, those limitations have vanished. No more four-disc box sets, right? It’s just a big virtual bag of MP3 or .wav files. So both the semantic and the spacial constraints are history, man. That means the only constraints on what to include in our next album are those pertaining to aesthetics and good judgment. (In our world, that means no freaking constraints at all!)

The truth is, we haven’t completed a new album because we’ve been taken up with writing and recording new songs for the podcast. When we finish a bunch, we start on the next one. And when I say “finish”, I mean our typical fast-mixdown …. not finished in any kind of releasable way. That takes time and care, much care. Marvin has to lay down a coat of shellac. Then we get Anti-Lincoln started on the hand-carved details. And that’s just for the box it comes in!

Many’s the time I’ve thought, there must be an easier way. But even thinking about that seems way too hard.

 

 

Just holler.

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Delays, delays, delays. Frankly, production is a pain in the ass. That said, what do I do for a living? I’m a producer, damn it. I should have been a janitor. (Though on Sundays, I’m that, too.)

Yes, friends … the THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast wagon has hit a few bumps in the road. Is it because our Ned Trek productions have become too elaborate and costly? God, no. It’s STILL the most cheap-ass podcast on the planet. (We still have that trophy somewhere. I think Anti-Lincoln is using it for an ashtray.) No, it’s not complication, it’s … well … the OTHER kind of complication. Frankly, I need six hands. I could also use a third leg. One ass is enough, of course. The point being, we are spread kind of thin here in Big Green land.

Sure, if we were any other band-focused podcast, we would be content with just hollering randomly into the mic every week and dropping that onto iTunes. But if you’re Big Green (and we are), the quality goes in before the name goes on. (Note to lawyers: we make no claim of ownership over the preceding slogan, and it does not in any way reflect the character of our organization.) Of course, the term “quality” is, in fact, value-neutral: things can be of good quality, bad quality, etc. But that’s not the point. Every episode has some kind of “quality”, and until we insert that value-neutral substance into the file, it ain’t going nowhere. Short answer: we’re running behind … again. But THIS IS BIG GREEN is still a thing, and it will return.

Are the 80s over yet?Okay, I’m not going to dip into one of those “things were simpler in the old days” reveries, but what I’m describing are both first-world problems and 21st Century foibles of a type that would have baffled us back when we started this moth-eaten music collective known as Big Green. When we first started using that moniker in 1986-7, we were working with people out around Albany, NY. Matt was writing songs like a mad man, just as he does today. Only there was no internet, no smartphones, no simple way of getting your music out there other than standing on a stage or hawking home-made cassette tapes at the local record shop. Kids these days!

Six days.

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No, it’s not the fifth day, Marvin. It’s the sixth. Doesn’t that processor between your ears do simple sums, for crying out loud? Six, man, six!

Yes, I am correcting Marvin (my personal robot assistant) on his math. Or his calendar skills. Not sure which, actually. I put him in charge of counting down our “Six Days of Christmas” celebration. Why six? Well, turns out we couldn’t afford twelve. And since we were too sick to finish our Holiday extravaganza on time, we all thought it only appropriate to provide a small … even half-assed compensation. You’re welcome, America!

For those of you who missed it, this is what our lame celebration consisted of:

Day One: Post of “A Very Neddy Christmas” on NedTrek.com. This is a rerun, yes, of our Ned Trek parody of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, featuring four songs, some bad celebrity imitations, and all the rest of it.

Day Two: Soundcloud post of Vital Signs, a song off of our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas. This is one of my personal favorites from that collection. But who the hell cares what I think, right? Damn straight.

Day Three: Soundcloud post of Merry Christmas, Jane, a song off of our EP Live From Neptune. This was recorded live to stereo DAT back in 1994, I think, with Jeremy Shaw on guitar. (We’ve played this on the podcast a couple of times.)

SIX days! Are you MAD?Day Four: Photo album of Matt and Joe, posted on Facebook. These are promo shots taken in, I don’t know, 1987, by our niece Mona. I think we were trying to mock a U2 photo spread in Rolling Stone for Joshua Tree, but it’s hard to tell.

Day Five: Soundcloud post of Jit Jaguar’s Christmas. This is a ridiculous Christmas song Matt wrote quite a few years ago that we recorded I think in 2013 as part of our ongoing project to record our back catalog. Pretty pared down, but I like this recording. Rough and ready.

Day Six: This shit. Hey … it’s like getting a load of wooden balls. We’ve got a pageant under construction, so … think of it as some delayed holiday joy. Keep your eyes open, people, and happy new year.

Wrap it up.

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Where did those scissors go? Right … I’ll just use my teeth then, shall I? What the hell. I hate the freaking holidays! Especially when they get this close. Christmas looks a lot better from a distance.

Yes, my friends, you caught us in the middle of another Cheney Hammer Mill meltdown. They’re becoming more frequent in this new era, I must admit. Still, I have cause – trying to wrap up another holiday extravaganza, and it’s not going all that well, frankly. I’ve got a em-effin’ cold, for one thing. What’s the other thing? Huh … Don’t remember. I always forget shit like that when I have a cold.

One thing I’m having trouble wrapping is this year’s Christmas show. It’s a little hard to voice these things without a voice. It’s like playing sousaphone parts on a tambourine. So the choice is either, croak everyone a merry Christmas, or …. we’ll have to cancel Christmas. There’s nothing I can do – it’s this weather. (Okay, now I’m randomly quoting dialog from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Another symptom of my illness.) We’ll be a little late in posting this year, let me put it that way. But there are consolations.

Hey, uh ... that's a really creepy get-up, Marvin.We’re thinking we might post last year’s extravaganza as a Ned Trek episode at NedTrek.com. And if I can get my voice working again, I might try to do more of a straight music podcast, playing selections from our holiday music catalog of the last 20 years. There are a couple of outtakes from 2000 Years To Christmas that have never seen the light of day. We’ve got some more recent recordings composed around a holiday theme. I might pack that together like a mincemeat pie and toss it out to the hungry masses as we continue to work on our current marathon-like production. Part-timers!

Anyhow, if you can tear yourself away from your holiday table in the coming days, look for additional posts between now and the new year. I’ll be holed up here in the Cheney Hammer Mill, hammering away at some piece of junk. Stick a bow on it and send it off! Feliz navidad.

War on nothing.

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Looks like somebody won the war on Christmas – I’m just not sure who. Talk about pushing on an open door. Every year, from about Halloween on, we are inundated with Christmas messaging, pressing us to shop, shop, shop, borrow, borrow, borrow, and so on. If someone’s been waging a war against this hyper consumerist Christian Saturnalia, they haven’t been very obvious about it. The right, of course, likes to hang this phony “war” on the left, but what they describe as an attack on them is really just another component in their ongoing efforts to push their religion in all of our faces. It’s like when they whine about the “liberal” media – just a slight variation on the thief who cries “Thief!”

And in case you didn't hear...Well, now the “war on Christmas” crew has a prominent new spokes-moron: President-elect Donald Trump, who has made a point of pushing Christmas at all of his victory tour rallies across the country. You’ve probably seen it – big “Merry Christmas” sign on the front of his podium, lines of Christmas trees behind him. At one stop in Mobile, Alabama, they even cut down an ancient old-growth cedar to serve briefly as a festive backdrop for his remarks, much to the displeasure of many locals. Hey … what matters to Trump is making a point. We’re the Christian tribe, and you’re not. That’s pretty much it.

It’s an appropriate follow-on to the anti-Muslim blood libel of his presidential campaign, wherein he spoke about “thousands of Muslims” celebrating the attacks of 9/11/2001 and about bans and registries. (He, of course, also targeted undocumented immigrants from Mexico and parts south, the vast majority of whom are presumably Christian.) I see the chauvinistic tribalism of this cartoon-like display and it recalls to mind the lyrics to one of Matt’s more recent Christmas songs, “Horrible people,” from a Ned Trek holiday episode (Santorum’s Christmas Planet):

Doesn’t it follow that such
terrible people would have
terrible religion and they’re
primed to push it in our faces

Sure, this is just a small piece of the crap show we can expect over the next four years, but it’s a pretty good indicator of the general tone and tenor of what’s likely to be the most arrogant administration since Reagan.

luv u,

jp