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Coming soon to Amazon … the last novel in my three-volume work, The Ghost and the Hemispheres.

(Cover design and painting by Corey Brian Sanders.)

Tonight, Vice President Mike Pence faced off against Democratic VP candidate Kamala Harris in Salt Lake City, Utah. The debate was shrouded in anxiety over what doctors considered high risk of Covid-19 transmission, and plexiglass dividers were set up between the candidates.

What were some of the highlights?

–*When asked why the U.S. death rate from Covid-19 is higher, Vice President Mike Pence said it was far worse to imagine the deaths that could have happened in the past under the Barack Obama administration. Unfortunately, this joke has no punchline. The stupidity and ignominy speak for themselves.

–*Covid-19 is on top of people’s minds tonight. Also, it might be on on top of Mike Pence’s clothes.

–*The plexiglass dividers allow us to wipe the communist China comments off with Windex and bleach.

–*Mike Pence dodges the question and starts talking about taxes when somebody says, “Mr. Vice President, I might be having a heart attack right now. My God, can you call an ambulance!”

–*Mike Pence grants you the serenity to accept the climate change that Mike Pence will not change.

–*Pence asks Kamala Harris whether her team will stack the Supreme Court and dilute the court system’s current crop of unqualified, ideological conservative lackeys.

–*Kamala Harris has spent her career honing her skills cross-examining people who are desperately lying to keep themselves out of terrible trouble for high crimes and mischief. So, yeah … that …

–*When asked about the debate, four out of five viewers said, “Jesus, would you stop using the phrase ‘thread the needle’! Give it a rest!”

–*Pence promises to close the gender gap his ticket faces by pressing ahead with the Trump administration’s plan to grab more women by the crotch.

–*We now cut away for commercial break … Yikes! … suicide hotline ad. Not a good time. We don’t want to give anybody any ideas.

–*Pence stands solidly behind those members of American law enforcement not currently investigating multiple members of his administration.

–*Kamala Harris stands up for the future of racial justice (and probably ought not talk about her role as a prosecutor in racial justice past).

–*America is easily distracted by a fly that spent several minutes on Mike Pence’s hair. That would be frivolous of them, but if you’ve been looking at or listening to Mike Pence for any length of time, I’d say the frivolity boat has already sailed.

–*”Vote for the Fly” would be a funny hashtag, right? Sure, go back and tell your 2016 self how well “Vote for the Fly” worked out.

–*Covid-19 is no laughing matter. Remember to ask your sexual partners if they’ve had any contact with Mike Pence.

A cruel loss for music. RIP Eddie Van Halen. Though no one likes to admit it, stunt guitarists are a dime a dozen. A lot of them can play fast. A lot of them can play different styles. Given all his flash, you might be forgiven for not noticing that Van Halen was, like all great musicians, imaginative, innovative, witty, melodic and even—wait for it!—tasteful. He knew how to use noise and silence, distortion and clarity. He understood the dynamics of a song and knew that the mood and color were ultimately more important than the showboating. And in that way he was able to create his own aesthetic universe and expand upon it. It’s obnoxious to just call it metal (full disclosure, heavy metal is not my favorite genre). One of my favorite Van Halen songs, probably more for the attitude than anything else, was “Finish What Ya Started.” Why? Because it starts life as something that could be mistaken for k.d. lang song, gets VH fans tarted up for the hot signature Eddie solo, and then … bang! He wreathes them in country guitar licks. It was as if he were saying “Think I can’t play roots music? Watch me play roots music, assholes!” I always found the song hysterically funny. We’re sorry you’ve left us Eddie, but eternally grateful for what you’ve left behind.

Painting by XD Rasmussen

–*Donald Trump said every man, woman and child was guilty of tax fraud but him.

–*Imagine that Trump is Smoky Bear saying, “Only you can prevent forest fires,” and by that Smoky pretty much meant he’s personally not going to do anything about forest fires.

–*Trump said that 200,000 people dying of Covid-19 was not that big a deal since there are so many numbers higher than 200,000.

–*Trump interrupted the sentence, “This is Donald Trump, the current president,” because he knew the statement would reflect badly on him.

–*Trump attacked the unrest in American cities that he’s not personally causing when he promotes street violence by angry white dropouts.

–*Trump used the word “socialism” as a kind of scientific experiment to see which low IQ mice that word still bothers.

–*People who don’t know the stock market from the economy cheer contradictory arguments with much animation and blank eyes.

–*”I want freedom for myself and oppression for everybody around me” now the guiding philosophy of most Americans.

–*Biden didn’t use the word “socialism” because at this point it is synonymous with the phrase “government working correctly.”

–Trump lashes out at Biden’s son because when the children of the powerful make money it’s better that they do it with buffoonish and obvious criminality.

–“I hate both sides,” still the go-to phrase for Americans without the ability to discern, judge or engage.

Leaving The Trump Cult

While I’m not an expert on cults, I’ve spoken to ex-members of a cult in the past as a journalist. I won’t name the sect, but I did note in both cases that the spell of the cult leader was broken only when the members finally saw he was fallible. In that particular case, the leader died of old age, and when he didn’t take them all to heaven they stopped believing.

When you see so many people taking Donald Trump’s lies as their own (and start lying for him), the parallels should become clear. And the only way for them to stop being his co-dependents and stop enabling his crimes (yes, obstruction of justice and bribery are crimes) is that they have to see him fail. That means the American majority, who are not Trump supporters, if they are to win back friends and family members from the pits of depravity they are digging, must vote Trump out so his supporters can watch him lose. After that, they will be less likely to keep investing their feelings of personal pride and belonging in an abusive person–and stop feeling the need to protect an abuser they’ve wrapped their identities around.

Here’s a link from How Stuff Works about how cults work, specifically, how to leave one.

Taste

She said she liked my song

But not the tasteless arrangement

My melodies are like pigs, she said

And roll in muddy firmament

 

And her dark eyes had kohl and looked wet in the room

Here she knew she could judge me

Knew her look meant my doom

 

Looking for a flat or a word out of place

She could cut me and see the pain on my face

 

My whittling thirds and a seventh out of time

I cut it too quickly like the green off a lime

 

She knew how it hurt to squeeze some flavor from truth

Still she shot down my song

Called it tasteless, uncouth

 

Then she asked me for dope money

And I gave her a ten

Till next time she cuts me

When we do this again

 

And as she left me alone

So her arm could seize joy

I’m here tasteless in waiting

For those with taste to destroy

 

She Said I

She said I’m as alienated from my own singing voice

As I am from the ships that cross the narrows

Same as when my looks turn like gravity into male gazes

And they bash each other like black beard sparrows

 

This is nothing I contrive or plan on a hot street

God having made me what I am

And when I hear my own voice in a tape or a phone

I do not know that person any more than a staticky voice on a radio

 

And when I turn and see my blonde red reflection

And try to plumb the depths of the maker

Who is it really that made up that face,

That I had nothing to do with, nor the sexual race

 

The proceeds of knowing come when I walk or turn out the light

I don’t know how many arguments I’ve sparked or fights

Cause when I hear my own voice in a phone

I’m afraid of it, that other thing, that I come to know when I’m alone

Golem Vs. DuendeThe 23rd album by Salon de la Guerre is now available in the racks of the virtual music stores of the world.

Golem Vs. Duende is my attempt to make a collage of music from environmental sounds. It’s also my attempt to show my appreciation for the microtonal music of Harry Partch while acknowledging that his music was precisely notated, and mine is not. In fact, my samples of found sounds–from my house, from wooden fences, from the New York City subway–are spontaneously created and probably more resemble the minimalism of John Cage, whom Partch hated. They were, after all, pursuing two completely different approaches. Who wants to be lumped together with their aesthetic enemies?

Also, I have not abandoned the 12-tone chromatic scale in my music, and I’d shudder to think of what Partch himself might make of me citing him as an influence. He’d probably call me a hapless poseur and beat me senseless with one of his homemade instruments.

So this new work is modernist classical–and it’s not. I hope it’s challenging but also fun. I hope it has depth but is not boring. I hope it informs the rock and pop and country albums I plan to keep making in the future. While I wish Salon de la Guerre had more listeners (and think a lot of you who aren’t hearing my more radio-friendly songs are missing out), I’m also happy to have the kind of obscurity that allows me to do whatever the hell I want with music for the time being. Because the weird stuff helps me make breakthroughs with the rocking stuff. I am currently on the same page with my small group of listeners in at least one respect: We have no expectations.

You can find Golem Vs. Duende on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, YouTube and Bandcamp. Here’s a sample:

If I were a child and you were the sea

I’d find a place for my ankles in you

And my hands and my curiosity

And you would rise up

With warm and sandy love

Rise up to my knees and then rise above

And I would find depth

For my shoulders and chest

And my neck and my mouth and my teeth and the rest

And when I knew you were faithfully cold

I’d give you my heat while the water takes hold

The ocean’s chilling black and the vast shipping lanes

Cut for all ships, squids, roaring seaplanes

I give to the sea all my hair and my hips

Give love in more ways than through just two soft lips

And you don’t have to cry for all the things we now share

Love in its ocean, joys, blood, toil, despair