Category: History Lessons

Brainiac On Banjo #080: Little Addictions

Brainiac On Banjo #080: Little Addictions

“Your nose may be bulbous, your face may be spotty / Your skin may be wrinkled and tight / But I don’t want to see you, the way that you are / So I turn off the living room light” – Ray Davies, When I Turn Off The Living Room Light

We all have our little addictions. Things we’ve done forever, habits that we would never consider breaking because they aren’t harmful and we’ve benefited from them. Nonetheless, they are addictions, and I say that without making value judgment.

You might be addicted to chocolate. Perhaps you’re into music — it’s almost always on whenever you’re in a place where you can control your environment. Maybe you are into comic books — hey, this is Pop Culture Squad, after all. If so, yeah, we’re going through a rough patch right now. Television? You don’t hear from those annoying snobs who proudly proclaim they “never watch television” while wearing a face that looks like somebody is holding a small turd under their noses.

Because I can multitask, I’m addicted to all of the above, and to barbecue as well. But I have an even stronger addiction, one that always has played a major role in defining who I am. I am addicted to the news. “Hi, my name is Mike, and I’m a news addict.” Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #080: Little Addictions”

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #083: Rule Forty-Two!

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #083: Rule Forty-Two!

At this moment the King, who had been for some time busily writing in his note-book, cackled out `Silence!’ and read out from his book, `Rule Forty-two. All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.’ / Everybody looked at Alice. / `I’m not a mile high,’ said Alice. / `You are,’ said the King. / `Nearly two miles high,’ added the Queen. / `Well, I shan’t go, at any rate,’ said Alice: `besides, that’s not a regular rule: you invented it just now.!” – Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

If you’ve read Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, which I highly recommend, your take-away might have been “hot damn, that place is a real downer.”

Well, then. Welcome to Wonderland.

Drink me.

Every press conference held by America’s greatest unarmed bigot is little more than contradictions and obvious lies. Many are doing what we’re supposed to do, which is easier for those of us who have long thought social distancing is a swell idea. It sucks if you’re in a Red State where they are getting much of what they need to save lives, but it really sucks if you’re in a Blue State. You’re getting maybe 5% of what you need to protect citizens, first responders, doctors, nurses, the people who clean up the infected shit in the hospitals, the people who deliver the mail and packages and take-out food and work in the supermarkets, etc. etc. etc. You know, the people who are saving lives. Oh, and some of that stuff you’ve received is well past its “best-use” date. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #083: Rule Forty-Two!”

Weird Scenes 082: What Goes Around… Goes Around… And Around…

Weird Scenes 082: What Goes Around… Goes Around… And Around…

Instant Karma’s gonna get you / Gonna knock you right on the head / You better get yourself together / Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead…

Welcome to our first edition of Weird Scenes Inside The Covid Mind…

Yin: According to published reports, crime is down about five percent; of course, your results might vary.

Yang: On the other hand, domestic violence is up 10%. Add that to the ridiculous increase of gun sales – what, you’re gonna shoot Covid-19? – and we might have a whole ‘nother problem real soon.

Wha?: The term “coronababies” is a thing. If you think diapers are hard to get right now, just wait until November.

Hmm: If we make it through this relatively intact, and keep a pleasant thought, we will have the internet to thank. It doesn’t prevent the stir-crazy, but it does mitigate it.

Feh: Bailout for Boeing? Well, I try to be loyal to my landsman companies, but these profit-over-lives money worshippers deserve to go blooie – even if they swear on a pile of Boeing 737 Max 8 parts that they won’t spend a penny of it on stock buybacks. I should point out that when the government bailout terms were near completion two days ago, Boeing’s stock skyrocketed. 33 billion dollars to the greatest gathering of corporate assholes in America – the airline industry – while the Blue states are given Green Stamps. And when it comes to buybacks… Continue reading “Weird Scenes 082: What Goes Around… Goes Around… And Around…”

Brainiac On Banjo 078: Self-Image For Fun & Profit

Brainiac On Banjo 078: Self-Image For Fun & Profit

Thank heaven for little girls / For little girls get / Bigger every day / Thank heaven for little girls / They grow up in / The most delightful way • Thank Heaven For Little Girls, written by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe for the musical Gigi, 1958.

I was a wee child, a kitchen table conversation happened that, I gather, was not meant to include me. My sister, seven years my senior, was talking about some sort of a problem with body tenderness. My mother suggested perhaps she should use a training bra.

I was confused. I knew what a bra was, but I failed to understand the “training” part. As far as I could tell, breasts kinda grew all on their own and there was no need for coaching. I probably asked a lot of dumb questions, because, well, that’s what I do. I got a lot of blank stares. Hey, it was the mid-1950s; adults didn’t even admit to having bowel movements back then.

As I grew into my role as a hyper-involved pop culture historian, I came across various articles and resources that explained to me that “training bras” were sold to girls so that they might grow into the self-image of womanhood while they were awaiting the more physical image of womanhood. Like it or not, they were gonna become consumers and that was what the “training” part was all about.

According to JSTOR Daily, the period between 1921 and 1930 (when the middle class had a few bucks) clothing manufacturers started pushing age-and-gender specific clothing. In order to sell their phony-baloney products, they had to convince the customers that they really needed to buy that which they never knew they needed. That’s capitalism for you: we’ll talk you into overpaying for something you don’t need, and then sell you something else when you figure out you’ve been had. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo 078: Self-Image For Fun & Profit”

Weird Scenes #081: Visions, Softly Creeping

Weird Scenes #081: Visions, Softly Creeping

DEAD COLLECTOR (Eric Idle): Bring out your dead! / CUSTOMER (John Cleese): Here’s one. / DEAD COLLECTOR: Nine pence. / DEAD PERSON (John Young): I’m not dead! DEAD COLLECTOR: What? / CUSTOMER: Nothing. Here’s your nine pence. / DEAD PERSON: I’m not dead! / DEAD COLLECTOR: ‘Ere. He says he’s not dead! / CUSTOMER: Yes, he is. / DEAD PERSON: I’m not! / DEAD COLLECTOR: He isn’t? / CUSTOMER: Well, he will be soon. He’s very ill. / DEAD PERSON: I’m getting better! / CUSTOMER: No, you’re not. You’ll be stone dead in a moment. • Monty Python and The Holy Grail, 1975, written by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Sir Thomas Malory

What… too soon?

I really did not want to write about The Plague. Or Donald Trump, a.k.a. The Other Plague. I wrestled with this while reading texts from my younger friends about waiting outside of Costco for 45 minutes only to be stuck in a 60-minute check-out line behind a plethora of people buying their daily limit of rolled corpses of dead trees. Yeah, no disease spread there, right?

There’s little we can do about stopping The Plague itself, and there’s nothing we can do about The Other Plague until November… assuming The Other Plague grows balls big enough to try to call off the election. My latter comment does not fit the textbook definition of paranoia.

There are other things going on. For example, Tulsi Gabbard just quit the Democratic Party presidential race. I’ll pause while you go Wiki her. Ah, Tulsi, we hardly knew ye. Then again, given her exceptional loathing of the LGBTQ community, we hardly want to. She tossed her massive support – she won two delegates in American Samoa – to Joe Biden, who responded: “Thank you. And you are…?” Continue reading “Weird Scenes #081: Visions, Softly Creeping”

Brainiac On Banjo #074: Weed Thrills – The Stunning Conclusion!

Brainiac On Banjo #074: Weed Thrills – The Stunning Conclusion!

Previously… On Brainiac On Banjo: 52 years ago, a Chicago police sergeant coerced your writer, at the time not quite 18 years old, into purchasing a nickel bag of the Demon Weed marijuana at an anteroom of an L train station, upon pain of arrest for possession of same. This led your writer to a life of lawbreaking, senior delinquency and sarcasm. In describing the event, your writer indulged in dropping the names of architect Andrea Palladio and musician Rick Nielsen, so we should add “pretension” to that list as well. We now reenter our WABAC machine, throw an ancient knife-switch and flow up the timesteam to… 2019… starting with a song lyric from 1968.

The future’s comin’ in, now / Sweet and strong / Ain’t no-one gonna hold it back for long / There are new dreams / Crowdin’ out old realities / There’s revolution / Sweepin’ in like a fresh new breeze / Let the old world make believe / It’s blind and deaf and dumb, but / Nothing can change the shape of things to come • written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil

You can only imagine the magnificent confusion I felt fifty-one years later when my daughter and I made our post-legalization visit to Massachusetts. Yes, I brought my daughter to a legal weed shop. I don’t tell you how to raise your kids, do I? And, besides, she’s a full-fledged adult, easily more adult than I am.

It’s about a seventy-five minute drive to Northampton, MA, which is no big deal to me. I routinely drive much further for great barbecue, and, besides, Northampton has some great barbecue. It’s a wonderful town, home to Smith College, and sort of a flashback to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The town is littered with bookstores, cafes, good restaurants that are slightly underpriced, amusing earthy tchotchkes shops, and politically active and socially aware humans. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #074: Weed Thrills – The Stunning Conclusion!”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #077: Dope Frees Fool

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #077: Dope Frees Fool

Courtesy PUTIN – Pigeons United To Interfere Now.

Hey now, baby / Get into my big black car / Hey now, baby / Get into my big black car / I want to just show you/ What my politics are • Politician, written by Jack Bruce & Pete Brown

If you think Donald Trump’s commuting of impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich after serving a little over half of his 14-year sentence has anything to do with correcting a grave miscarriage of justice, then I’ve got a bridge strutting across New York’s East River to sell you.

Rod was convicted of attempting to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat when the latter became president. He also was convicted of shaking down the local horse racing industry and the Lurie Children’s Hospital (a.k.a. Children’s Memorial), both for “pay for play” campaign contributions.

Before you get even more bent out of shape over this one, let me correct a common misconception. My Prairie State brethren need not fear being seating next to this felon when their next jury duty demand comes in the mail. Trump did not pardon Blago, he merely commuted his sentence. There’s a difference – according to the Springfield Illinois State Journal-Register (Springfield is the capital of Illinois): “A commutation is a reduction in a prison term but the conviction remains on a person’s record.” He cannot be elected to state office. He’s now an ex-convict. He’s still a felon. He remains a fool. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #077: Dope Frees Fool”

Brainiac On Banjo #073: Weed Thrills, Part One

Brainiac On Banjo #073: Weed Thrills, Part One

So, what’s it like to wake up one morning after a decade-long nap only to discover that you have to take your shoes off at the airport, same-sex marriage is legal and you can buy the demon weed marijuana over-the-counter in 17 states and counting?

I dunno. Go ask a Trumper.

Marijuana has been a major part of our popular culture for over a half-century and was a significant background aspect for at least another 30 years. It has ruined many lives: hundreds of thousands of largely young people have been arrested and imprisoned for using the stuff, particularly in America’s communities of color. Once imprisoned you are forever a convict and life after incarceration has been pretty well laid out for you: minimum wage jobs if you’re lucky, restrictions on your movements locally and internationally at least while you’re on parole, and ostracization by the masses of hypocritical assholes who think your private behavior is any of their business. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #073: Weed Thrills, Part One”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #076: Supremacists Aren’t Responsible For This One

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #076: Supremacists Aren’t Responsible For This One

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” – William Shakespeare. As said by Cassius to Brutus in Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141), and as said by Edward R. Morrow to America, March 9, 1954.

As much as I’d like to blame the well-fueled white supremacists for everything from the disappearance of Liquid Paper to the snow I probably just drove through this morning in northern Ohio, I cannot blame this one on them. I mean, sure, I could, and I doubt they’re helping any…

In the past two weeks, the drop off in business at Asian restaurants and take-outs across the United States has reached at least as high as 60%. That means that if you owned a nice fusion joint in a shopping strip in a middle-class neighborhood and your rent is due soon, you may be screwed.

I get it. People are worried out of their skulls because of the rapidly-expanding coronavirus plague, and we do wacky stuff when we’re paranoid. We saw similar knee-jerk reactions to 9/11, which ruined Dennis Miller’s relationship with his centrist fans but, nonetheless, gave Joe Biden his all-time best joke: “There’s only three things he (Rudy Giuliani) mentions in a sentence: a noun, a verb and 9/11.” Ba-dum-bump. But as the fear subsided, so did the many of the more extreme reactions. Well, maybe not in Miller’s case. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #076: Supremacists Aren’t Responsible For This One”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #076: God Bless VespucciLand!

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #076: God Bless VespucciLand!

The Indian went walkin’ ‘round and sat upon the hill to watch the sun go down / But he couldn’t find his people, he got up and walked away / And he sat beside the fire, and gave out a sigh / We’re all forgotten now / Where is my tomahawk? / My days are gone / Where is my tent? / Where is my planting ground? / Where is my land? / This reservation’s wrong / Who’s this white man? – written by John Michael Talbot and Terry Nolan Talbot, recorded by Mason Proffit.

The honest answer to the provocative question “Where are Indians from?” is “not from India.” Of course, I’m referring to the India near the Indian Ocean, and I’m referring to people whose roots go back to, or before, the 15th Century.

The area that we call India today consists of several hundred different historical kingdoms lumped into the name Bharat. I can argue in favor of the name Sindhu, which got corrupted into the name Indus. The fact is, Bharat was the unofficial united states of India. Or Hindustan, another faux name. If each individual kingdom that composed India were separate today, there would be some 600 more tables at the United Nations.

There’s a lot more I can say about all this, but the point is, India wasn’t commonly or exclusively called India until the British decided it should be. That was way back in the 17th Century, or about a century or so after Christopher Columbus’s death. So, when he talked about Indians, who was he talking about? Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #076: God Bless VespucciLand!”