Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Taxpayer Supported Campaign Ads?

When I used to drive to Pennsylvania on I-80, I would pass the welcome to PA sign and for years it listed the governor's name on it.  Quite honestly, do many motorists really care who the governor is?  It's not like one is visiting a general store and it's nifty to know the proprietor's name; it's not like any motorist is likely to drive to the state capital and ask for the governor by name to register a complaint about the potholes on the highway or something (if so, just ask for the governor--that usually will work).  It's a whole state (or commonwealth, in PA's case, to be technical).  Basically, the metal signs with the governor's name appears to be taxpayer supported campaign advertising for future campaigns by that politician.  I imagine those metal signs aren't cheap either nor do the highway folks put them up for free.

It was quite annoying.

Thankfully, PA finally ditched the governor's name on the signs.

Alas, Ohio is even worse.  I was driving on 80 into Ohio and noted that the Ohio welcome sign has the governor's and lieutenant governor's name.  Who cares who the lieutenant governor is?  I doubt 100 buckeyes in the entire state could even name the current lieutenant governor.  Which I suppose is the point of the sign.  It builds up name recognition for politicians, and taxpayers get to pay for it.  To confirm this, I've contacted someone at the Department Of Transportation.  I'll let you know if I hear anything.

I mean letterhead, business cards, the website, and whatnot are fine.  Change them for the new governor and lieutenant governor.  But signs on every highway?  No, that's a waste of money.  Tell the politicians to stuff it and pay for their own signs.  What's really annoying about the I-80 sign is that right after it is a closed rest area, presumably due to budget cuts.

The current sign can stay up (and probably for the next four years as it looks as if the current governor is going to get reelected--his main opponent has a scandal about driving without a license; given how badly most people in Ohio who have licenses drive, he must be an extra-special bad driver), but I would love to see that when the name sign gets taken down that no other one ever goes up.  "Welcome to Ohio" is quite sufficient.        

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Mitt Romney Dreams Of The Last Taxpayer And Nightsweats, Soaking His Magical Underwear"

My pals at The Red Fez have kindly published my poem "Mitt Romney Dreams Of The Last Taxpayer And Nightsweats, Soaking His Magical Underwear".  I wrote it back in 2013 to trade with my zine pal Mark Sonnenfeld.  It is nice that now others can read it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I Raq, You Raq, He Raqs . . .

So we're bombing Iraq again, you know, because that has worked so well since the 1990s that we'll just keep on doing it.  I'm pretty sure that we've spent trillions messing around in that country (and probably more--we likely gave money to old Saddam in the 1980s when he was our "friend"), particularly if one counts the interest we have to pay on government bonds to finance the bombs (and then the rebuilding after we drop the bombs and feel guilty about it), but I'll leave the fine details of the accounting to someone who is even more bored than I am.  Perhaps the leaders of my beloved USA should try a new tactic:  do nothing.  We haven't bombed Vietnam since the 1970s, if I recall correctly, and just last week, I bought a nice shirt that was manufactured in that country, even though the Viet Cong, our enemies in the Vietnam War (or American War if you're Vietnamese) still run it.  And I didn't buy it from under the counter like Cuban cigars, so things must be going pretty well between us and the Viet Cong now that we've stopped bombing them.

I will vote for the presidential candidate in 2016 who promises to do nothing in Iraq.  I won't even ask for a discount on my taxes.  They can be used to rebuild Cleveland, sections of which look as if they've been bombed, or something else useful for the taxpaying people here.

Even if the do nothing strategy is not more successful than the bomb Iraq strategy (which, judging from the last two decades, is a complete failure, aside from people employed in the defense industry and a few others who benefit from the destruction), at least it's cheaper.

Do Nothing!  It's Cheaper And Possibly More Effective!  If you are a presidential candidate, then you have permission to use those slogans in 2016.  Maybe then when you're president, you will not follow in the footsteps of the last four (that's right, four!) presidents and bomb Iraq (is there a special button in the Oval Office, that says "In case of emergency, bomb Iraq"--if so, that would explain a lot).     

Friday, August 8, 2014

What Wred's Reading: The Black Swan

I read Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder last year and was quite impressed by it.  Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb is very thoughtprovoking.  It was one of the rare books that I bought last year that I kept since I thought I might reread it in the future (even so Taleb would likely think me a fool as he seems to prefer what he calls an "antilibrary" full of books that he hasn't yet read; as is typical of his thinking, he prefers to be both contrarian and to emphasize what we don't know instead of what we do know), so I picked up The Black Swan:  The Impact Of The Highly Improbable, an earlier book of his and one that was quite popular a few years ago.  I picked up a hardback edition used since I thought it might be likely that I would keep this book as well.  I have noticed that a second edition is out, so I'll probably get that from the library and read the new stuff in it as well.  Both Antifragile and Black Swan are part of one large work that Taleb calls the Incerto, in which he explores the notion of uncertainty in life.  He's an entertaining philosopher.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Song: "A Song For Sonnenfeld"

I was cleaning out a file folder and found a bunch of scraps of paper with old lyrics on them.  Most of the songs weren't good, which is why the lyrics never left the scraps, but a line or two here and there caught my eye, so I combined them together to form a new song.  I was inspired by the poetics of Mark Sonnenfeld, who seems to delight in combining disparate images and sounds to create something that as a whole works.  I don't know if I achieved the same here, but I like the resulting song, which I called "A Song For Sonnenfeld".  For the music (well, the guitar anyway--I got weird with a bass synthesizer and beating on file cabinet folder hangers, or whatever they are called for the rest), I aimed for a sound of the college rock bands I loved in Bowling Green, Ohio USA such as Sheepish Grin and Dutch Crumbs.  You can check out the MP3 here.  Really, this stuff is much more fun and cheaper than therapy.  The lyrics are below.  It's the same deal as always.  If you like a song, then feel free to cover it if you're in a band or whatnot.  I love to hear covers of my songs, so please let me know about your version.  If you start making money, then send me a check/we can work out a deal.  Similarly, if you want to use a song for your Youtube video or whatnot, then just let me know.  It's usually fine by me unless it's a commercial product or whatnot (and then it's likely fine as well--I just want my cut).  Find out first though.  Write me at wredfright ATATAT yahoo DOTT com.

I feel like a crushed cigarette, dragging myself across the pavement,
but I'm just another creep walking across town at six in the morning.
You're so attractive when you make my clothes smell like smoke.
The farmer in Adele, an angel on Cherry Street.
Once upon a time, I'd say about two o' clock.
Help!  Somebody come save me!  I'm trapped in a bad made for tv movie.

She said, "I'm going to drain you like a coffee cup" and
"You can't put a flower in the closet and expect it to bloom".
This is a song for Sonnenfeld and Miss Lung Cancer 1993.
Her dreams went up in smoke.

Don't be so self-obsessed.  We'll run around naked in the backyard.
We'll roll around in the grass and leave buttprints on your neighbor's new car.
You're talking trash like a policy wonk.  You're promising cash like a mafia monk.
Who needs a brain when you've got rich parents?
I'll never forget that day in Farm Fuck, USA.
It's time to go out and review the nation because I'm William B. Fuckley.

You can burn your diary, but you can't burn the past.

Did you hear about Mr. Denny, who lives in the pink house?
He grows wildflowers, never mows his lawn, and likes to beat his spouse.
For Tracy, who I always kept calling Julie by mistake.
I don't need Latin.  I know my ABCs.
His idea of romance is wearing a condom.
There was a time when I would have gone anywhere with you.

Written August 2014
Recorded August 2014

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The War On Grass. No, Not Marijuana. Grass.

I was reading the League Of Women Voters report on one of the Cleveland Heights, Ohio USA June 2014 city council meetings (often a source of great amusement) in The Heights Observer and noticed that the city government was revising their weed laws.

No, not marijuana.  Judging from some of the tie-dye flavor of the shops on Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights is pretty cool with that.

Just plain old lawn weeds.

It's not even just dandelions that the good liberals of the Heights don't like.  They don't even like plain old grass if it's more than six inches tall.  I'm glad that I don't live there since I have some varieties of grass that seem to grow that length overnight given the right conditions (I don't know what type it is, but the blades are broad and my cat likes to eat them).

The latest salvo in the war on unruly vegetation ("Oh, why won't it just stop growing and look like it does on a golf course?!") is a proposal to send only one warning to the property owner and then if the grass is not mowed and gets unruly again in the next year to just mow it and charge the property owner at $200 an hour for city goons municipal employees to teach the grass not to reach so high for the sun.  According to this article by Chanda Neely, the new city manager wanted to even skip the warning, but the council, in a rare moment of sanity, rejected that idea.  The city manager isn't all bad though.  She wanted to make the violation height more than 8 inches.  Council, recovering from their rare brush with good sense, rejected that idea as well.

I've been researching the American obsession with lawns, particularly their use as symbols, and I would like to chalk up this nonsense (worrying about the height of grass in the first place and paying people to measure it with rulers in the second place) to just the nuttiness of Cleveland Heights, but this is more of a national nuttiness.  They aren't alone in wasting taxpayer money and human energy on an unwinnable war.  Of course, governments love these kind of futile endeavors (which reminds me of another one, the war of drugs) since it allows them to spend the public money to employ people (often their friends and relatives) and buy stuff (by corporations who donate to political campaigns usually), plus the whole rush from exercising power over others no doubt makes them feel good in a creepy way.

Along those lines, it's also ironic that in Cleveland Heights getting caught with the other kind of grass is a minor misdemeanor in most cases resulting in a fine not more than $150, which might be cheaper than forgetting to mow the lawn.  Given that the city council and administration are wasting time on silly matters such as the height of grass, I do have to wonder what they're smoking.

Hey, it would explain a lot!

For, not only are their bigger issues that local governments should be spending their limited resources on, but also the height of grass shouldn't be an issue at all.  Property owners should decide what they want in their own yards, not their neighbors and not the government.  Most of the arguments against tall grass don't hold up to scrutiny; essentially, it boils down to a fight over aesthetics.  Being that Cleveland Heights is in America, the so-called land of the free, and claims to be progressive, maybe their government should find their way back to when they did show some "creativity and culture" in regards to land use such as when they allowed residents to raise chickens.

On the grass issue, however, the city has laid an egg.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Another Music Video

Crazy Carl was in town and filmed me playing a bit of "Nootie Has The Phat Nugz". You can actually see the guitar in this one, so that is good.

Friday, August 1, 2014

"Why Honey Sings" Video

Don't expect a Duran Duran masterpiece, but I made a music video.  I entered a local talent contest (at least I think I did; I wasn't sure if the Web entry form actually worked) since I decided to play out again (cue up "Talent Show" by The Replacements, but I'll skip the pill-popping part).  The contest was looking for all ages material, so I chose an older song with no cuss words and fairly broad appeal in that it wasn't about an old man hanging out at the library or an administrative assistant plotting revenge on the people who made fun of her musical taste.  I figured a love song would be good, and since I had been playing "Why Honey Sings" lately, I chose it.  It's also a short song, so I figured there would be less chance to screw it up. The contest rules asked for a video, so I filmed myself playing it.  It's a pretty boring video, but the performance is all right, and I assume that's what the talent contest folks are looking for.  I did break out my old shiny shirt ($2 at the Fashion Bug sidewalk sale in 1997, if I remember correctly) to provide a hint of visual appeal.  I would have liked to have shown the guitar, but anytime I moved back enough from the camera for it to show up, the sound quality dropped too much, so y'all just get a cross between a webcam shot and the second half of the Bruce Springsteen "Brilliant Disguise" video.  The best thing about the video is that after I filmed it and filled out the contest application, I noticed a little tiny note that said that if the entrant were a musical act, then all that was needed was a sound recording on SoundCloud.