Friday, December 17, 2010

Captain O Captain....

"The stars are matter, we're matter, but it doesn't matter." - Don Van Vliet (January 15, 1941 – December 17, 2010)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Heater from Van Meter....

Bob Feller
(November 3, 1918 - December 15, 2010)

In 1985 I went for a job interview for a faculty position at The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. I checked in to my room at the College Inn and was scheduled to have dinner with a member of the department faculty that evening. It was a 4 or 5 hour drive from Athens, OH, to Wooster and I laid down to take a nap before dinner. I had the TV tuned to a baseball game, the Cleveland Indians were playing and I watched a bit and dozed off.

When I woke up I had this odd disorientation for a moment when I saw the TV, which was now showing the ballgame in black and white. It was raining in Cleveland, and the game that I'd been watching had been delayed; the TV station was filling the time with some highlights of old Cleveland baseball. But when I woke up I saw that Bob Feller was pitching and, for the briefest moment before my head cleared, I fully believed I had somehow traveled back in time.

In 2008, the New York Mets signed Venezuelan pitcher Johan Santana to a six-year contract worth $137.5 million dollars.

In 1936, baseball scout Cy Slapnicka signed the 17 year old high school pitcher, Bob Feller, to the Cleveland Indians for $1 and an autographed baseball.

Here are some other things about Bob Feller worth repeating:

* He spent his entire career of 18 years with the Indians, ending his career with 266 victories and 2,581 strikeouts.

* He was the first pitcher to win 20 or more games before the age of 21.

* On October 2, 1938, Feller set a modern major league record of 18 strikeouts against the Detroit Tigers.

* On Opening Day in the 1940 season, Feller pitched a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox. This is the only no-hitter to be thrown on Opening Day in major league history.

* He pitched three no-hit games and shares the major league record with 12 one-hitters.

* He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility.

* On December 8, 1941, Feller enlisted in the Navy, volunteering immediately for combat service, becoming the first Major League Baseball player to do so following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7. Feller served as Gun Captain aboard the USS Alabama, and missed four seasons during his service in World War II, being decorated with five campaign ribbons and eight battle stars.

* One year after his return to Major League action, in 1946, he registered an incredible 348 strikeouts while pitching in 48 games, starting 42 of those games. That year Feller was 26-15 with an ERA of 2.18 while pitching 36 complete games.

* In June 2009, at the age of 90, Feller was one of the starting pitchers at the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame Classic at Cooperstown, New York.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Ceci n'est pas une pipe"

"An era can be said to end, when its basic illusions are exhausted." - Arthur Miller

Monday, October 18, 2010

How To Fix Our Schools, by Richard Rothstein

Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City public school system, and Michelle Rhee, who resigned October 13 as Washington, D.C. chancellor, published a “manifesto” in the Washington Post claiming that the difficulty of removing incompetent teachers “has left our school districts impotent and, worse, has robbed millions of children of a real future.” The solution, they say, is to end the “glacial process for removing an incompetent teacher” and give superintendents like themselves the authority to pay higher salaries to teachers whose students do well academically. Otherwise, children will remain “stuck in failing schools” across the country.{i}

Klein, Rhee, and the 14 other school superintendents who co-signed their statement base this call on a claim that, “as President Obama has emphasized, the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their ZIP code or even their parents’ income — it is the quality of their teacher.”

It is true that the president has sometimes said something like this. But in his more careful moments, he properly insists that teacher quality is not the most important factor determining student success; it is the most important in-school factor. Indeed, Mr. Obama has gone further, saying, “I always have to remind people that the biggest ingredient in school performance is the teacher. That’s the biggest ingredient within a school. But the single biggest ingredient is the parent.”{ii}

There is a world of difference between claiming, as the Klein-Rhee statement does, that the single biggest factor in student success is teacher quality and claiming, as Barack Obama does in his more careful moments, that the single biggest school factor is teacher quality. Decades of social science research have demonstrated that differences in the quality of schools can explain about one-third of the variation in student achievement. But the other two-thirds is attributable to non-school factors.{iii}

When the president says that the single most important factor is parents, he does not mean the parents’ zip code or income or skin color, as though zip codes or income or skin color themselves influence a child’s achievement. Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee’s caricature of the research in this way prevents a careful consideration of policies that could truly raise the achievement of America’s children. What President Obama means is that if a child’s parents are poorly educated themselves and don’t read frequently to their young children, or don’t use complex language in speaking to their children, or are under such great economic stress that they can’t provide a stable and secure home environment or proper preventive health care to their children, or are in poor health themselves and can’t properly nurture their children, or are unable to travel with their children or take them to museums and zoos and expose them to other cultural experiences that stimulate the motivation to learn, or indeed live in a zip code where there are no educated adult role models and where other adults can’t share in the supervision of neighborhood youth, then children of such parents will be impeded in their ability to take advantage of teaching, no matter how high quality that teaching may be.

President Obama put it this way: “It’s not just making sure your kids are doing their homework, it’s also instilling a thirst for knowledge and excellence….And the community can help the parents. Listen, I love basketball. But the smartest kid in the school…should be getting as much attention as the basketball star. That’s a change that we’ve got to initiate in our community.”

Of course, there are exceptions. Just as not all children flourish with high-quality teachers, not all children fail to flourish just because their parents can’t help with homework or because they live in communities where athletes are the most prominent role models. Under any set of circumstances, there will be a distribution of outcomes — that’s human nature. And on average, disadvantaged children who have high-quality teachers will do better than similar children whose teachers are less adequate. But good teachers alone, for most children, cannot fully compensate for the disadvantages many children bring to school. As we noted, differences in the quality of in-school experiences can explain about one-third of the differences in achievement.

Even the president’s more careful statement — that teacher quality is the most important in-school factor — is actually without solid foundation in research. It is true that some studies have found that variation in teacher quality has more of an influence on test scores than do the size of classes or average district-wide per pupil spending. In other words, you are better off having a good teacher in a larger class than a poor teacher in a smaller class. But that’s it. It is on this thin reed that Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee are mounting a campaign to make improving teacher quality, and removing teachers whose students’ test scores are lower, the centerpiece of national efforts to improve the life chances of disadvantaged students.

There are plausibly many other in-school factors, not quantified in research, that could have as much if not more of an influence on student test scores than teacher quality. Take the quality of school leadership. Would an inspired school principal get better student achievement from a corps of average-quality teachers than a mediocre principal could get from high-quality teachers? Studies of organizations would suggest the answer is yes, but there have been no such studies of school leadership. Take the quality of the curriculum. Would average teachers given a well-designed curriculum get better achievement from their students than would high-quality teachers with a poor curriculum? A very few research studies in this field suggest the answer might be yes as well.

Or take another in-school factor, teacher collaboration. Even when elementary school students sit in a single classroom for most of the day, several teachers influence their achievement. Teachers can meet to compare lesson plans that worked well and those that didn’t. Teachers in lower grades can successfully align their instruction with what will be most helpful for learning in the next grade. Teachers of the arts can reinforce the writing curriculum, and vice-versa. Will average-quality teachers who work well together as a team with the common purpose of raising student achievement get better results than higher-quality teachers working in isolation? Plausibly, the answer is yes. Will promising to pay individual teachers more if their students get higher test scores than the students of another teacher reduce the incentives for teachers to collaborate? Again, a plausible answer is yes.

Of course, schools should try to recruit better-quality teachers and should remove those who are ineffective. After all, the quality of teachers is an important part of the one-third share of the achievement gap that can be traced to the quality of schools. But before making teacher quality the focus of a national campaign, school systems will have to develop better ways of identifying good and bad teachers. Using students’ test scores as the chief marker of teacher quality is terribly dangerous, for a variety of reasons: it encourages a narrowing of the curriculum because only test scores in one or two subjects (math and reading) can be used for this purpose, and teachers who will be evaluated mainly by these test scores will have incentives to minimize attention to other subjects; it creates pressure to “teach to the test,” that is, emphasizing topics likely to appear on our existing low-quality standardized tests rather than other equally important but untested topics; and it is likely to misidentify teachers — labeling many good teachers as poor and many poor teachers as good — because test scores can be influenced by so many other factors besides good teaching.{iv}

The necessary task of identifying good teachers and removing those who are inadequate requires more than student test score data. It requires a holistic approach, in which qualified experts observe teachers’ lessons, evaluate the quality of their instruction, and examine a wide range of their students’ work and how teachers respond to it. This requires a bigger investment of qualified supervisory time than most schools are prepared to make. Using student test scores as a shortcut will do great harm to American education.

Making teacher quality the only centerpiece of a reform campaign distracts our attention from other equally and perhaps more important school areas needing improvement, areas such as leadership, curriculum, and practices of collaboration, mentioned above. Blaming teachers is easy. These other areas are more difficult to improve.

But most important, making teacher quality the focus distracts us from the biggest threat to student achievement in the current age: our unprecedented economic catastrophe and its effect on parents and their children’s ability to gain from higher-quality schools.

Consider the implications of this catastrophe for our aspirations to close the black–white achievement gap. The national unemployment rate remains close to an unacceptably high 10%. But 15% of all black children now have an unemployed parent compared to 8.5% of white children. If we also include children whose parents have become so discouraged that they have given up looking for work, and children whose parents are working part-time because they can’t find full-time work, we find that 37% of black children have an unemployed or underemployed parent compared to 23% of white children. Over half of all black children have a parent who has either been unemployed or underemployed during the past year.{v} Thirty-six percent of black children now live in poverty.{vi}

The consequences of this social disaster for schools are apparent, and include:

Greater geographic disruption: Families become more mobile because they can no longer afford to keep up with rent or mortgage payments. They are in overcrowded housing; they often have to double up with relatives in apartments that were already too small. Children have no quiet place to study or do homework. They switch schools more often, fall behind in the curriculum, and lose the connection with teachers who know them well enough to adapt instruction to their individual strengths and weaknesses. Inner-city schools themselves are thrown into turmoil because classes must frequently be reconstituted as enrollment rises and falls with family mobility. Even the highest-quality teachers cannot fully insulate their students from the effects of this disruption.{vii}

Greater hunger and malnutrition: When more parents lose employment, their income plummets and food insecurity grows. More children come to school hungry and/or inadequately nourished and are less able to focus on schoolwork. Attentive teachers realize that one of the best predictors of how their students will perform is what they had for breakfast, if anything at all.{viii}

Greater stress: Families where parents are unemployed are under greater psychological stress. Such parents, no matter how well-intentioned, often become more arbitrary in their discipline and less supportive of their children. Children from families in such stress are more likely to act out in school and are less able to progress academically. The ability to comfort and support such students may be a more important indicator of a teacher’s quality than her students’ test scores, which may still be lower than the scores of students coming from stable and secure homes.

Poorer health: Families where parents lose employment are also more likely to lose health insurance.{ix} Their children are less likely to get routine and preventive health care and more likely to miss school days because of illness. They are less likely to get symptomatic treatment for illnesses like asthma, the most common cause of chronic school absenteeism. Children with asthma, even when they attend school, are more likely to come to school irritable, having been up at night with breathing difficulty.{x}

All these consequences of unacceptably high unemployment rates for disadvantaged parents contribute to depressing student achievement for their children. It is obtuse to expect to narrow the achievement gap in such circumstances. It is fanciful for national policy makers to pick this moment to raise their expectations for academic achievement from children of families in such stress and to single out teacher quality as the culprit most deserving of their public attention.

It would inappropriately undermine the credibility of public education if, in such an economic climate, educators were blamed for their failure to raise student achievement of disadvantaged children. Indeed, educators should get great credit if they prevent the achievement of disadvantaged children from falling further during this economic crisis.

Meanwhile, our political system is paralyzed, unable to take meaningful steps to reduce unemployment. Corporate profits are healthy, but an unjustified fear of short-term deficits prevents public spending from putting low-income parents back to work. Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, and the other superintendents who signed their manifesto are influential in states whose national and state leaders contribute to this paralysis. These school leaders should raise their voices in protest against economic policies that doom children to failure.

Of course, the superintendents should continue attempts to improve teacher quality. They should work on developing ways to identify better and worse teachers without relying heavily on the corrupting influence of high-stakes test scores.{xi} In addition to teacher quality, they should pay attention to school leadership, curriculum improvement, and school organization. They should consider what initiatives they can take, either themselves or in partnership with other community organizations, to improve children’s opportunities to come to school in good health and with enriched experiences in early childhood and out-of-school time.{xii}

But they will have to embed all of this work in an insistence on broader efforts of economic and social reform if they hope their school improvements to make any difference.

Otherwise, their manifesto might appear to be more an example of scapegoating teachers than a reflection of serious commitment to the futures of our children.

— Richard Rothstein ( is a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute.

[Footnotes can be read at].

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Putting Lipstick On a Pig: An Impressionist Biography of Richard M. Nixon in Eight Haikus


Richard Nixon sleeps
The little girl on fire
Visits his dreams


Mass murderer, liar
Paranoid war criminal
But he’s not a crook


And Richard Nixon
Must have to stand naked
So sang Bob Dylan


America ends
Among the flashlights in the
Watergate Hotel


Nixon in China
With Kissinger on the ground
Spiro left in charge


Chanted in the streets
Vietnam Cambodia
He tried to kill me


Nixon waves goodbye
Pat and Tricia try to smile
Nightmare is over


Many years later
Yorba Linda, black marble
Dancing on his grave

Monday, September 27, 2010

e.e. cummings

e.e. cummings / self portrait

If I have made, my lady, intricate
imperfect various things chiefly which wrong
your eyes (frailer than most deep dreams are frail)
songs less firm than your body's whitest song
upon my mind - if I have failed to snare
the glance too shy - if through my singing slips
the very skilful strangeness of your smile
the keen primeval silence of your hair

- let the world say "his most wise music stole
nothing from death" -
            you will only create
(who are so perfectly alive) my shame:
lady whose profound and fragile lips
the sweet small clumsy feet of April came

into the ragged meadow of my soul.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

August 28, 1963....

The 1963 March on Washington attracted an estimated  250,000 people for a peaceful demonstration to promote Civil Rights and economic equality. Participants walked down Constitution and Independence avenues, then — 100 years after the  Emancipation Proclamation was signed — gathered before the Lincoln Monument for speeches, songs, and prayer. Televised live to an audience of millions, the march provided dramatic moments, most memorably the Rev Martin Luther King Jr.'s  "I Have a Dream" speech.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This decline in civility....

"In an alleged democracy, the image of the public sphere with its appeal to dialogue and shared responsibility has given way to the spectacle of unbridled intolerance, ignorance, seething private fears, unchecked anger, along with the decoupling of reason from freedom. … What this decline in civility, the emergence of mob behavior …suggests is that we have become one of the most illiterate nations on the planet. I don't mean illiterate in the sense of not being able to read … The new illiteracy is about more than learning how to read the book or the word; it is about learning how not to read the world. … As a result of this widespread illiteracy that has come to dominate American culture we have moved from a culture of questioning to a culture of shouting, and in doing so have restaged politics and power in both unproductive and anti-democratic ways." — Henry A. Giroux

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I have no place in this new century.

I'm not feeling sorry for myself.

I'm happy to have sorted this out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

One more... and then another.

Another day, another day.

Sometimes it feels like everything is trying to happen, all at once.

Like time is unravelling.


Friday, July 23, 2010

I know times are tough, but take it from me, pal....

Are you tired? Out of work? Frustrated by the economic difficulties facing us? Have you seen Fox "news" and been tempted to go to a local Tea Party meeting?

Well, take it from me buddy, don't be a sucker.

[Thanks to Dale Richesin & Jerry Blackburn]

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Context, color, and the fat little smokin' brown baby....

On April 19, 2010, Second Amendment enthusiasts rallied in Washington, D.C., carrying assorted pistols and rifles, all in line of sight of the White House.  On April 22, Time Wise wrote a post to his blog, "Imagine if the Tea Party was Black?"  We are asked to imagine that a large group of heavily armed black people rallied in a field in Washington, D.C., which is kind of like asking us to imagine the Tea Party in 1968.

But it isn't just race that makes a difference in how we perceive things, geography also matters.  Recently there has been a media storm generated by video of Indonesian two-year-old Ardi Rizal who is shown happily puffing away on two packs of cigarettes a day.

Here is a clip from the CBS news program, The Early Show, as they report on the fat smokin' brown baby.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

As you watch, look at the expressions and body language of the hosts. There are around 100 muscles in the human face and the ability of these to express 10,000 shades of emotion are what separate professional television "news" performers from all comers.  I taught in university Radio/TV departments for many years and I remember one moment in particular, a student who was the anchor of the college station's evening news program came to me before a taping. The student was by far the best we'd seen in terms of affecting the characteristics of a TV news professional. He was better at... I can't remember if it has a name... that thing TV news anchors do at the end of broadcast where they shuffle papers and appear to be speaking to each other but, because the audio engineer might be late in turning off their microphones, they are simply moving their mouths, making no actual sound... he was better at saying nothing than anybody we'd ever seen.

He came to me because the top story was the death of Leonid Brezhnev, the head of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union from 1964 until his death in 1982.  The student news anchor had never heard of Leonid Brezhnev and was unsure where to, in effect, dial his face.  At one end of the facial emotion spectrum is the look a news anchor has when he reports that the child who fell into the well has died; at the other end is the look he has when he reports that Charles Manson has died in a prison riot.

That student later became a network weekend news anchor in a mid-sized market and eventually moved to California where, when I lost track, he had gotten an acting job.  He -- I swear I'm not making this up -- got a job on the TV series "LA Law."  In scenes in which characters were in a room and suddenly some important bit of exposition was delivered by turning on the TV and listening to the TV news anchor report a story, the TV news anchor inside the TV on the set in the TV series on my TV was that student.  I believe he eventually ceased to exist materially.  He may well be the Greatest Communications Major of All Time.

But I digress.

What do you see in the faces of the CBS news people?  In their eyes? In the tone of voice, word choice, pauses, inflections, as they react to the video of the fat little smokin' brown baby?

More than anything else their joy at having the video is palpable. They bubble effervescently, their happiness infectious.

Their dismay over the smokin' baby is tempered. Nothing at all like their outrage would be if it was a white American smokin' baby.

Now every trace of "cuteness" is gone.  Now we want to put the parents in jail.  Hey! This is serious.

But the fat smokin' brown baby clearly isn't from around here.  Wherever he's from it's some backwards place without child labor laws, and where this two-year-old will be making our sneakers and computer parts for $4 a week in unsafe working conditions a couple years from now.  Gosh.  It would be downright hypocritical of us to get all self-righteous and preachy about the baby's 2 pack a day habit.

Wouldn't it?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Inside the Abby....

Sitting a half mile off the coast of Normandy, France, the Abby at Mount St. Michel was built over 1,000 years ago.  In 1998 I drove from Paris to Normandy and the small town of Vire to visit my friend Pascal Moru. While I was there Pascal suggested I visit Mt. St. Michel and I spent a day there in late November. Tourist season had past and the town and Abby were mostly empty.  Sitting in the large empty stone hall in the Abby I imagined how wonderful it would be to have a guitar and a small recorder there and to produce something like a cross between a John Fahey record and one of Paul Horn's Inside... albums.

When I came home I recorded this piece on a Martin custom shop 12-string 12-fret slotted headstock dreadnought with ebony fingerboard and rosewood bridge, bone nut, three piece flamed maple back and spruce top using a Neumann U87 studio microphone onto a 2-inch open reel Studer deck.

* Photograph by Australian photographer Fabian Foo

There will be a slight delay....

The CD version of Many Bright Things' Many Bright Friends album has a bonus track, an acoustic guitar played through a delay and with a second guitar overdubbed, also acoustic, played with an E-bow. the E-bow is meant for use on electric guitars, and on an acoustic produced a sort of backwards flute sound that I rather like.  On the CD this is titled "There Will Be a Slight Delay."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Play it LOUD....

Ordinarily I do not record wild thrashing electric guitar noise.  This is an exception. I'm on guitar, Larry is on the Fender 6 string bass and Seth from New York on drums.

The Improvisational Ensemble....

I know how much fun it would be if I could find 5-10 musicians who would agree to play every month and a half or so in an improvisational context.  The problem, however, is that I may be the only one who does know.

My goal is to form an improvisational ensemble, I call it M.I.M.E. -- the Midwest Improvisational Music Ensemble -- I like the idea of a LOUD mime.  The music I am posting on this blog is not so much examples of what it would sound like, bit examples of what it could sound like. 

In 1997 on a sunny Sunday afternoon, a dozen or so musicians gathered at a small studio at the edge of a forest out near the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  We played, without any planning or rehearsal, for about five hours. At then end the engineer did a quick mix of the second piece we played and, when we stood there in a small control room and listened, we were amazed.

Eventually I mixed a series of excerpts from that session, everything live to tape, no overdubs, and assembled a record we called In The Summer Of The Mushroom Honey.  That first thing we heard, later titled "I Am Aware of My Heart," is streaming below, and I use it just as an example of what is possible. 

We play, we record it, we search the performance for sections that are interesting, we edit these into final pieces, we assemble an album, press a small number of vinyl copies and a small number of CDs and watch as it slowly works it's way into the world. 

In The Summer Of The Mushroom Honey was released in a LP pressing of 450 copies and sold out very quickly. A CD pressing of 1000 copies also sold out eventually.  While these are minuscule numbers, the record was heard around the world by people who like that kid of adventurous music and reviewed in all sorts of places, including the All Music Guide where it's listed as an "album pick":

Essentially, In the Summer of the Mushroom Honey is the result of an in-the-studio jam session between members of Faraday Cage, Tombstone Valentine, Many Bright Things and Twin Planet, all psychedelic rock bands from the U.S. Midwest. These improvisations are dominated by Richelle Toombs' bewitching voice. On "I Am Aware of My Heart," her voice has been multiplied, beautifully clouding the meaning of what she says. This is mostly guitar (acoustic or electric) and percussion-driven music; keyboards are few and discreet. "Clouds on Sunday" is a nice trio of acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, and violin. Two feedbacking guitars are the essence of "Thank You, Mr. Bishop!"  "Sweet Water" brings back Toombs' vocals. This CD release includes a longer version of "Deep Beneath the Water" and extra material such as the 20-minute warm-up number "Opening Impressions of the Middle East." This album should be considered by any serious or casual psychedelic rock/space rock fan: the improvising is inspired, rich, and sustained. Strongly recommended. - Fran├žois Couture (AMG)

Any interested musicians are welcome to contact me at any time.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Story of the Bean and the Beautiful Red Witch....

[My FaceBook friend Christie Bell is, among other things, an artist who, in her photography, loves to work with costumes and found objects.  A while back she posted that she had come across a large wire metal cage and planned to use it in some photographs.  Christie and I both have a good friend named Jennifer and Jennifer has a lovely daughter named Sabina who I have been known to refer to as "The Bean."  Christie just posted a series of photographs she shot of Jennifer and Sabina and, as I looked at them, they seemed to suggest a fairytale that, before I knew it, I was writing down, as I heard it in my ear, as I looked through the photos.] 

 The Story of the Bean and the Beautiful Red Witch

In a big house at the edge of the forest lived a pretty little girl the people called The Bean.  Sometimes, at night, she heard sounds from the forest coming through her window.  Sometimes it sounded like whispers. Sometimes it sounded like laughter. Sometimes it sounded like music. And sometimes it sounded like flowers.

The people who lived in The Village told The Bean to stay out of the forest.

The people in The Village told The Bean that, in the forest, there lived the Beautiful Red Witch.

Sometimes at night, when the wind was blowing from the forest into The Village, people said they could hear the Beautiful Red Witch whispering, calling their children to come to the forest.

The people in The Village said that the Beautiful Red Witch waited in the forest for little girls, little girls just like The Bean.

If they were not careful, little girls would be drawn by the sound of the whispers, the sound of laughing, the sound of music, and the sound of flowers and walk off the path that ran around the edge of the forest, and walk into the forest.

There, the Beautiful Red Witch was waiting.

Little girls, just like The Bean, would not see the Beautiful Red Witch at first.  They would be drawn by the sounds – whispers, laughing, music, flowers – and before they knew it… they were deep into the forest. And the Beautiful Red Witch would suddenly appear.

The Beautiful Red Witch would grab the little girls and cast a spell that would turn the little girls, just like The Bean, into birds.

The Beautiful Red Witch would put the birds, which were, until very recently, little girls, just like The Bean, into cages where they would whisper, and sing their songs that sometimes sounded like laughter (and sometimes sounded like flowers) and sometimes, when the wind was right, the sounds would drift from the forest, to the village and, well, you know the rest.

And so it happened that, very early one morning as The Bean was asleep she woke up to the sounds of flowers and music and left her house and walked to the edge of the forest and, before you could say “Yessir, that’s my baby”, The Bean had walked into the forest as the first light of the day barely managed to sneak into the edges of the green.

At first, The Bean did not notice the Beautiful Red Witch as she silently came up to her.

But then… suddenly… The Bean saw the Beautiful Red Witch!

The Beautiful Red Witch was surprised because The Bean did not cry out.  The Bean stood very still and looked at the Beautiful Red Witch.

“It’s true,” said The Bean, “you are beautiful.”

The Beautiful Red Witch was again surprised (making twice in one day after one hundred and seventeen years of no surprises at all).  In her hundreds of years living in the forest and turning wandering children into birds the Beautiful Red Witch had never been told such a thing.

Not ever.

“Ooooo!" said The Bean. “Is that the cage you will put me in?”

“Yes.” Said the Beautiful Red Witch with her beautiful voice.

Before the Beautiful Red Witch could speak again, The Bean stepped inside the cage.

“Wow!”said The Bean.  “It is amazing in here!”

Again, the Beautiful Red Witch had no reply.  Finally, she asked The Bean, “Really?”

“Oh yes!” said The Bean. “It’s wonderful!  Have you never been inside?”

 “Well…” said the Beautiful But Quite Confused Red Witch, “…actually, no.”

“Here…” said The Bean, stepping out of the cage.  “You simply MUST try it.”

The next day the people in the village came to the forest and were amazed by what they saw.

There, in the center of the clearing by the road that runs round the forest, sat a large cage, and inside the cage sat the most beautiful red bird they had ever seen, whispering, laughing, and singing its song that sounded like flowers.

The End

* Here's a link to a download for the song "The Silver Witch" which makes for a lovely accompaniment to the story.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Other Variations....

This is from sometime in the late 1980s, early 1990s.  Two friends from graduate school had come for the weekend and, after a bottle of brandy and a case of beer had vanished, I set up a microphone, got my wee little Casio keyboard that had a primitive sampler, a Travis Bean electric guitar and a 4-track recorder and said, "It's 4 in the morning, let's make something."

Jenny Nelson has been graduate faculty at Ohio University since the early 1980s.  Dave Sholle is now a filmmaker and Associate Professor at Miami University at Oxford Ohio. But back then they were just some drunken collaborators in the creation of something spontaneous. 

As I recall, I first set up a microphone and recorded my conversation with Jenny.  Then I used the Casio to grab a sample from something we were listening to, I've long forgotten what.  Then Dave and I plugged in some guitars and added some tracks. 

It is called "Late One Evening" and there's something about it I really love, but I am more than willing to accept that maybe you had to be there.  In the end... what is blogging if not self indulgent?

More Guitar Variations....

Still clearing and converting files; this comes from a day I spent in the Fun House Studios with Cincinnati bassist, Ron Esposito. It is the same session that produced our version of "Desolation Row".  Ron plays his stand up acoustic bass and I'm playing a classical guitar in Open C tuning (CGCGCE).  When I mixed it I added the delay and I like the way it sounds. Looking for a title, I just reached out my hand and put my finger on a CD at random. "Friends" it is.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Guitar Variations....

This was recorded sometime five or six years ago on a small portable four track with my 1967 Guild Starfire II guitar on all tracks.  It is played in an Open C tuning (CGCGCE) and one in a series of C Variations.

I was converting some old WAV files to mp3s and found this and liked it enough to share it. I've posted a bunch of music at a site called Reverbnation. I hope you'll click the link and visit it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Now there's an idea....

I've had discussion with people who believe that the US was established as a "Christian nation" even though, if that were true, a reasonable person might expect to find some mention of Jesus Christ in the Declaration of Independence or Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc.

But more disturbing are the people who claim that we would be better off if we established the Ten Commandments as the basis for laws in the United States.

Somewhat hypocritically, these are usually the same people who also worship the "original intent" of the framers and become apoplectic at things like federal civil rights legislation.

But, if you find yourself in a discussion with someone who tells you the Ten Commandments ought be posted in every courthouse in the land, ask them this:

How is it possible to incorporate the 1st Commandment - “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me" - into actual state and federal law and not establish the United States as a theocracy?

The problem doesn't stop there. From Exodus 20:1-17, read 'em and weep:

You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

What I am asking about here is not whether these represent good advice on the whole. I mean, yes, you're better off if you don't covet, if you don't commit adultery, if you do honor your mother and father and so on. But what these people are talking about is to establish these commandments as LAWS, as offenses you can be arrested for, charged with, tried on, and sentenced to prison for.

How would the first commandment work? Wouldn't every Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Scientologist, Breatharian, immediately be subject to arrest?

A friend's 11 year old daughter is really into dolphins and has a really beautiful carving of one. Doesn't the second commandment send her off to juvenile hall?

Do Tiger Woods, Jesse James, Bill Clinton, etc., all actually get arrested and tried in a courtroom on the charge of adultery?

Who wins the clash between the 9th commandment and the 1st amendment?

I mean, Jesu.... oops.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Music at Reverb Nation....

I've just created a page at the Reverb Nation site for a sampling of some music I've recorded in the past 10+ years.  Tracks come from all three Many Bright Things albums, the In The Summer Of The Mushroom Honey album, and elsewhere.  I also added two videos from the multi-part video project by Oren Darling - "Three Miles South of Distant" - which features additional music.

The tracks are streaming audio and require no downloading.  There are space limitations which result in time limitations which result in some tracks cutting out before they should, but a Google search for any of these titles will take you to music blogs where all the complete albums are available for free downloads; think of this site then as a kind of musical sampler plate.

I'll continue to add odds and ends at the site so check back every so often and see what's new.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tax Loopholes for Billionaires....

I've always liked Clinton's former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich.  I remember making a mental note of it when Jello Biafra told me he was a fan too.  Today on his website, Reich published the piece I've pasted below, "The Challenge of Closing Tax Loopholes For Billionaires."

Who could be opposed to closing a tax loophole that allows hedge-fund and private equity managers to treat their earnings as capital gains – and pay a rate of only 15 percent rather than the 35 percent applied to ordinary income?

Answer: Some of the nation’s most prominent and wealthiest private asset managers, such as Paul Allen and Henry Kravis, who, along with hordes of lobbyists, are determined to keep the loophole wide open.

The House has already tried three times to close it only to have the Senate cave in because of campaign donations from these and other financiers who benefit from it.

But the measure will be brought up again in the next few weeks, and this time the result could be different. Few senators want to be overtly seen as favoring Wall Street. And tax revenues are needed to help pay for extensions of popular tax cuts, such as the college tax credit that reduces college costs for tens of thousands of poor and middle class families. Closing this particular loophole would net some $20 billion.

It’s not as if these investment fund managers are worth a $20 billion subsidy. Nonetheless they argue that if they have to pay at the normal rate they’ll be discouraged from investing in innovative companies and startups. But if such investments are worthwhile they shouldn’t need to be subsidized. Besides, in the years leading up to the crash of 2008, hedge-fund and private equity fund managers weren’t exactly models of public service. Many speculated in ways that destabilized the whole financial system.

Nor are these fund managers especially deserving, as compared to poor and middle-class families that need a tax break to send their kids to college. Nor are they particularly needy. Last year, the 25 most successful hedge-fund managers earned a billion dollars each. One of them earned 4 billion dollars. (Paul Allen’s personal yacht holds two luxury submarines and a helicopter. Henry Kravis is one of the wealthiest people in the world.)

Several of these private investment fund managers, by the way, have taken a lead in the national drive to cut the federal budget deficit. The senior chairman and co-founder of the Blackstone Group, one of the largest private equity funds, is Peter G. Peterson, who never tires of telling the nation it faces economic ruin if deficits aren’t brought under control. Curiously, I have not heard Peterson advocate closing this tax loophole as one way to further the cause of fiscal responsibility.

Closing tax loopholes for billionaires may seem like a no-brainer, especially at a time when the nation is cutting back spending on the middle class — slashing budgets that fund child care, public schools, and public universities. Tens of thousands of teachers are getting pink slips.

But you can expect a huge fight.

There is also a moral issue here. Call me old fashioned but I just think it’s wrong that a single hedge fund manager earns a billion dollars, when a billion dollars would pay the salaries of about 20,000 teachers.

Robert Reich
May 23, 2010

Saturday, May 22, 2010

To paraphrase Justin Halpern....

"A country's only as good as its dumbest leader. If one wins a Nobel Prize but the other gets robbed by a hooker, you fail."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Democrats and Republicans....



"I am a member of no organized political party. I am a Democrat." - Will Rogers

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Albums of Magic and Beauty #3... Realization

Johnny Rivers Realization (US 1968)

I've loved the album for as long as I can remember. It's one of those records that has a particularly fragile front cover - the purple seems to come off if you rub it even slightly making really mint covers, forty-plus years later, very hard to find. Every time I find one, I buy it, resulting in a small section in my record racks devoted to Realization preservation.

There are two versions on CD, one the album alone, and another that takes advantage of CD length to include a second LP as bonus. It took a while, but I sought out the single LP version for the same reason I don't want "bonus tracks" popping up at the end of Sgt. Pepper.

This was the LP's first single, released before the album and climbed to #14 on the US Billboard charts. Try as I might, I could not find a video for it that didn't sort of suck.  Just hit play and then look away from the monitor until it's over.

I always get a kick out of the Sgt. Pepper reference since that album was the soundtrack of that summer more than any other single record has ever been the soundtrack of an extended moment (even though it had no singles released from it and wasn't on many jukeboxes).

Writing for the All Music Guide web site, James Chrispell and Bruce Eder provide a really nice succinct description:

Not a concept album, but a song cycle depicting life in southern California in the late '60s, Realization is a fine cycle to catch a ride on. It's also a serious surprise -- when psychedelia reared its head in 1967, the results were frequently disastrous for those performers who'd been specializing in straight-ahead rock and roll, and few had rocked harder or more straight-ahead than Johnny Rivers. Instead of jumping on a bandwagon that had nothing to do with where he was musically, he hijacked the sounds of psychedelic rock -- much as the Temptations did at Motown -- and took it where he was going. Acting as his own producer for the first time, Rivers opened up a slightly gentler side to his work that's equally valid and a lot more interesting, if not quite as exciting as his rock & roll classics. After a few sonic digressions as a lead-in, "Hey Joe" gets going, carrying listeners into Rivers' gorgeous rendition of James Hendricks' "Look to Your Soul." His own achingly beautiful "The Way We Live" follows, and then comes Hendricks' "Summer Rain," which turned into Rivers' last big hit of the 1960s. And then he has the temerity to take "A Whiter Shade of Pale" and make it prettier and harder -- but less spacy -- than the Procol Harum original; from there he plunges into blue-eyed soul on "Brother, Where Are You." The surprises continue right through to the rather delicate, introspective reading of "Positively Fourth Street" at the close, Rivers succeeding in evoking a vast array of thoughts and emotions. For his trouble, helped by the two hits, he was rewarded with a Top Five charting album, and one that has continued to find new admirers across the decades.

River's take on "Hey Joe" (background on the song as well as over 1,500 cover versions listed here) is unique for it's optimistic psychedelia - instead of "shooting his old lady" Joe finds enlightenment.  Standout versions of "Look To Your Soul" and "The Way We Live" are a perfect lead in to "Summer Rain."

Track after track the album maintains a specific tone - a blend of a wistful melancholy with a trace of confusion that is directly tethered to a gradually emerging post-psychedelic culture.

Somewhere along the way I found a picture sleeve 45 released before the album, "Look To Your Soul" with "Something Strange" on the b-side. Rivers is pictured on the front, in a poncho and peace sign medallion in a dark and slightly fuzzy photo.  The labels credit the tracks as "From the album The Realization of Mr. Beelzebub."

In Chronicles, the first volume of his autobiography, Bob Dylan picks River's cover of "Positively 4th Street" that closes Realization as his favorite cover of any of his songs. Whether he would have said the same thing five minutes later aside, Realization remains an album of some magic and beauty.

*You should be able to download the album here, courtesy of Psychedelic Lion.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Albums of Magic and Beauty... Redux: Death, Dying and Rock’n’Roll

George Harrison’s wonderful posthumous album, Brainwashed, helped move rock and roll into the uncharted waters of the 21st Century.

I can remember sitting in a Catholic grade school classroom and the voice of the Parish Priest booming out of the public address speaker high up on the wall in the front of the room. The voice, sounding like I imagined the voice of God might sound liken said that, "under no conditions, will beetle haircuts be permitted."

I had no idea what he was talking about, none of us did, but anything that could put that little edge in God’s voice seemed like it might be worth checking out.

A little later, in February 1964, I remember sitting in my living room and, with my sisters and mom and dad, watching The Beatles’s debut performance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

This is not about nostalgia; it is about continuity and memory.

For many people my age the life cycles of The Beatles taught us something about aging and, yeah (yeah, yeah), dying. When Brian Epstein succumbed to “misadventure” it was the moment, collectively, we learned that people really could die. But, where Lennon’s death was a reminder that we could die, Harrison’s is the unsettling reminder that we will.

The memory of hearing John Lennon’s Double Fantasy in the days right after his death in December 1980 is caught up with the sense of tragedy that Lennon’s senseless murder evokes. Listening to George Harrison’s Brainwashed the inevitable comparisons between these two records have some important limitations.

On the album’s official web site, Rolling Stone editor Anthony DeCurtis wrote:

There can be no question about the depth of Harrison's spiritual convictions, and Brainwashed makes that clear yet again. In his final years, Harrison confronted the imminence of his death, and that experience provides the foundation of this album, though not in a luridly explicit, confessional way. It's more like the events of his last years lent an inevitable gravity to issues Harrison had pondered for decades. When mortality stopped being a philosophical problem, but could be felt every moment in the beat of his pulse, these are the songs that George Harrison wrote.

Unlike Double Fantasy, Brainwashed is written by a man who knows his time is almost gone. That sense of immanent departure clings to every track here like little wisps of smoke from an incense censor.

Pop music hasn’t been exclusively “youth music” for quite some time, and as pop music sensibilities intersect and merge with the personal and political realities of adult life we get new kinds of albums that have no real precedent in rock & roll. Lou Reed’s 1992 album, Magic and Loss, structured like a novel in 14 chapters, confronted and examined the powerful feelings brought on by the loss of close friends to cancer. Warren Zevon's The Wind (2003) was released two weeks before his death from lung cancer.

What if all this talk of death and dying is not morbid and depressing? What if one of the core reasons that art is essential for the health and well being of a culture is in its ability to explore things like this and report its finding back to us in albums like these?

I expect to hear some claims that this is not the proper subject matter for a rock and roll record, that rock “works best from the neck down,” and so on.  But this is blue sky stuff. When we were twenty and making this music we kind of thought we’d live forever. As we headed into thirty and saw the bodies of those who’d fallen prematurely we thought “live fast, die young, leave an attractive corpse.” Now, as we slam into fifty at high speed we’re mostly thinking, “Hey, sixty’s not that old.”

There was a MTV interview that replayed in the day after George’s death. Both George and Ravi Shankar were on the program and you could sense that each of them found some comfort in the others presence. There was a guitar case sitting in the studio and the program’s host (whose name escapes me now) mistook it for Harrison’s and asked if he’d play something. Always gracious, George agreed and played 3 or 4 tunes. The one song that sticks out from his impromptu solo acoustic set was "Any Road," the opening song on Brainwashed.

I’ve always been a sucker for records with strong opening tracks and the reason I’ve been raving over this since I first heard it is at least in part because of how good this opener is. About half way through George sets up the album’s balance between self-deprecating observation and Zen advice:

I’ve been traveling on a wing and a prayer / By the skin of my teeth by the breadth of a hair / Traveling where the four winds blow / With the sun on my face – in the ice and the snow / But oooeeee it’s a game / Sometimes you’re cool, sometimes you’re lame / Ah yeah it’s somewhere / And if you don’t know where you’re going / Any road will take you there.

Besides having some of George’s best songwriting in years, this is a fantastic slide guitar album. What guitar fans will notice here is that Harrison’s slide style has moved into a more Ry Cooder-sounding direction than on any of his previous albums. His use of Indian micro-tonal scales is still present on tracks like "Marwa Blues" and the album’s title track, but there’s more of a blues-based character to his slide playing on the rest of the album than I think I’ve ever heard from him before.

Aware of his approaching death, most of the lyrics here are automatically given layers of extra meaning, and lines like these from "Rising Sun" gently return to the album’s central theme: But in the rising sun you can feel your life begin / Universe at play inside your DNA / You’re a billion years old today / Oh the rising sun and the place it’s coming from / Is inside of you….

The album was completed by Harrison’s son, Dhani, and ELO-founder and former Traveling Wilbury, Jeff Lynn. Lynn is notorious for a heavy-handed production style that borders on the obnoxious, but under Dhani’s supervision and with specific instructions left by George for Jeff to please not overdo it, the production is mostly sparse and to the point.

The album’s closer, the title track "Brainwashed," is also the album’s crown jewel. It sounds both like an extension of "Beware of Darkness" and also has a lyrical flair that reminds me quite a lot of a vintage Bob Dylan song (Dylan and Harrison had collaborated on a number of occasions and I was always dreaming that a full length project might one day show up). There is an unmistakable Dylan cadence to lines like:

They brainwashed my great uncle
Brainwashed my cousin Bob
They even got my grandma when she was
working for the mob
Brainwash you while you’re sleeping
While in your traffic jam
Brainwash you while you’re weeping
While still a baby in your pram
Brainwashed by the military
Brainwashed under duress
Brainwashed by the media
You’re brainwashed by the press
Brainwashed by computer
Brainwashed by mobile phones
Brainwashed by the satellite
Brainwashed to the bone

A cadence that switches back to pure Harrison on choruses like:

God God God
Your nature is eternity
God God God
You are Existence, Knowledge, Bliss

Frozen in time back in 1964 into his role as “the quiet one” I still miss George, his dry British humor and his understated guitar playing. Perhaps there is some solace to be found in the quotation that adorns the center of the CD booklet.

“There never was a time when you or I did not exist. Nor will there be any future when we shall cease to be.”  (Krishna to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Albums of Magic and Beauty....

The Beach Boys Friends (1968)

While Pet Sounds (1966) is clearly Brian Wilson's most realized work, it is the first in a series of four releases that define the band's best period.  It's taken this long to see this work without looking at it through the prism of the collapse of Brian's Smile album, his "teenage symphony to God."  Released in its wake, Smiley Smile (1967) seemed like someone talking you through a tour of a house they loved, but after a fire. And swept up in the wake of that odd record - an album that the years have definitely redeemed - were two of the best Beach Boys albums of all.

Also released in 1967, and the last of their albums to be issued in both stereo and mono, Wild Honey is the funkiest the Boys ever got, and side one opens with four really strong tracks and is still a blast to put on today. "Wild Honey" "Aren't You Glad" "I Was Made To Lover Her" and "Country Air" are high energy and imbued with a new post-Smile confidence.  Side two opens with "Darlin'", the most successful single off the album (#19 US #11 UK) and the song I most vividly remember from the only time I ever saw The Beach Boys when they opened for the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at Philadelphia's Spectrum in what would be a mostly disastrous tour in the Spring of 1968 (canceled after drawing only 200 people to their show in New York City). They wore white suits and had a large horn section and played on a stage that was covered in flowers.

In 1968 The Beach Boys released Friends, the album that remains my own favorite to this day. I am a sucker for records with great opening tracks and, at 38 seconds, "Meant For You" is about as perfect as it gets (when I recorded the third Many Bright Things album I opened it with the 26 second track, "Many Bright Friends", as my own private little homage).

The album has twelve tracks and the tenth "Busy Doin' Nothin'" is classic Brian Wilson. Legend has it that the directions given in the song actually led to his house outside of Hollywood. It's also a perfect Bossa Nova.

Here's the title track. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tim Buckley

My friend Fast Eddie and I saw Tim play once, at The Main Point, a tiny coffeehouse outside of Philadelphia on Lancaster Avenue. It was either in 1973 or 74, he was with a trio of musicians and I mostly remember the feeling of the performance more than any particulars. It was an unaffected melancholy; a genuine world-weariness that pervaded the show.

I have always loved Tim's voice, even though I find the son, Jeff, a second rate parody of the father (to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, "Only someone with a heart of stone can listen to Jeff Buckley sing 'Hallelujah' without laughing."). It is his second, third and fourth LPs, Goodbye and Hello (1967), Happy Sad (1969) and Blue Afternoon (1969) that are my favorites, though I appreciate the later, more experimental, efforts.

What I think of as his best album wasn't released until fifteen years after his death in 1975 at the age of 28. Dream Letter: Live in London 1968 (1990) is a double live LP (yes, it was released on vinyl as well as CD) that manages to capture all his best qualities. It also has my favorite of his songs, "Morning Glory." There is a cover version that is on the very first Blood, Sweat and Tears album, Child Is Father to the Man (1968), their debut (the band founded and led by Al Kooper and not the one featuring vocalist David Clayton Thomas) and another of the "best records by anybody ever."

A wonderful song; this version from Late Night Line Up from the BBC has surfaced on Youtube and is as perfect as perfect gets. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Well.... What HAVE you done?

Beck & Limbaugh.  Tag team from hell.  Getting rich by tearing down the American experiment, sodomizing the democracy, and generally spreading panic and misinformation to a nation of boobs.

Tarring and feathering seems so... I don't know... 18th Century.  I mean, it's absolutely what would have happened to these nimrods back in the 1780s or so; put out of town on a rail as the Torries and loyalists they are.  What is replacing the Divine Right of Kings with the doctrine of jusnaturalism (the natural rights of ALL people) if not the advent of democratic socialism?

And I'm not even sure where you can just go buy feathers today anyhow.  But you know those Styrofoam packing peanuts?

You want a tea party-esque solution?  I say we tar and peanuts these bastards!

All in flavor, say "pie."

* Cartoon photo-shop by Grace Tunis.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Our Paris Apartment....

Here's a link to an article titled "Tenant protection laws are onerous."  By the title you may surmise that the laws are deemed "onerous" because they are very one-sided toward protecting the tenant.  Those of us who lack the means to buy Parisian real estate might well title the same article "Tenant protection laws are pretty darn sweet."

The two elements of these laws that caught my attention are these: all agreements between landlord and  tenant are for a minimum of three years (unless the tenant wishes a shorter lease), and it is impossible to remove a tenant - even for the non payment of rent - until the end of that term.

Let's review.

In a purely hypothetical example, let's say that my friends Mark, Greg and I were to draw straws and one of us were to rent an apartment in Paris. Something nice, maybe in the Marias, in the 3rd arrondissemont; not too far from the Picasso museum or this little Irish pub where the ex-pats hang out. We all pool our money to get the place rented, and then, well, see above.

Let's review.

At the end of the three years, we are (1) evicted and (2) next guy on the list rents a place and, voila*, three more years of life on whatever the French word for "dole" is.

Three guys, nine years for three months rent and some sort of deposit that, who knows, French law possibly says we still get back. In addition, since there will be periods when none of the three of us are visiting, we can rent the place out to tourists three to six months out of each year.

Not to mention the book deal.

* French for "then."