On the San Antonio tobacco ordinance…

October 7, 2018

*knocking the rust off*…

I just saw an ad for the new San Antonio ordinance prohibiting tobacco sales to people under 21. Part of it had a woman saying, “and you don’t need it anyway.”

Excuse me, but who the hell are you to tell an adult what s/he needs and doesn’t need? “Brains not fully developed at 18, blah blah blah.” Well, brains seemed to be fully enough developed at 18 to send their owners off to the meat grinders of Southeast Asia against their will, so what’s changed since then?

“Well, let them join the military if they want to smoke and drink.”

No. That is every bit the bullshit argument that “if you want to have guns, you should join the military” is. Really, how about we try freedom for once?

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Something to remember today.

May 28, 2018

Back in 2009, I remember going to the big Memorial Day celebration in Orange. The Patriot Guard Riders didn’t get to make their grand entrance as planned because of the torrential rains, but they still came. I remember that I just about lost it when Beaumont PGR chapter president Sandra Womack told everyone why they still came. She said of the fallen soldiers, “They didn’t get an opportunity to choose the weather they fought in, or to choose whether or not to go.”

We should remember that, today and every day.

On Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima…

May 16, 2018

…brought to you by a couple of my recent reads…

amoh

I saw this one at Half Price Books a few weeks ago, but it was cheaper on Amazon.

The man in the top right corner, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, is the subject of the book. You might remember him as the commander of the Pacific Fleet when Pearl Harbor was attacked; he was subsequently relieved of his command and replaced by Chester W. Nimitz. This book was the first I had ever seen of the theory that he was made the scapegoat for others’ failures.

Suffice to say it was a revelation. I know you have to have your stuff together to get to the rank Kimmel did, but his pre-Pearl Harbor record goes above and beyond just that. He was one of the most highly-regarded officers of his day.

Which makes the whole thing even more enraging, as enlightening as it was. I really don’t know what the worst part of that whole sordid affair was, but the bit that most readily comes to mind is this:

Several people, among them then-Vice President nominee Harry S. Truman, tried to say that Kimmel and his Army counterpart, Lieutenant General Walter C. Short, did not have any kind of relationship, working or otherwise. As in, they never even talked to each other. But that was not true. They had a fine relationship, both as colleagues and as friends — in fact, they played golf together every week.

Also, both Kimmel and Short knew they were woefully undergunned; they repeatedly begged for more weapons from Washington and were refused every time. And we haven’t even gotten into the monumental amount of intercepted communications between Japanese forces in the months leading up to the attack that were kept from them. One of the people involved in that was Admiral Harold Stark, Chief of Naval Operations, whose friendship with Kimmel went back to their days at the Naval Academy. Stark basically threw Kimmel under the bus in the post-Pearl investigations…and strangely enough, kept up correspondence with him. But Kimmel was having none of it; he never responded to any of the letters, and in fact, the following was written in a draft of a letter to Stark that was found after Kimmel’s death:

“May God forgive you for what you have done to me, for I never will.”

Can’t really say that I blame him.

And then, a friend of mine brought up the possibility that the government knew what was coming and let it happen, which really got me going. Suffice it to say, that if it were true, I think that would be the textbook definition of dereliction of duty, and absolutely worthy of the gallows or the firing squad. I just would not have the words. 2,403 American servicemen dead, 2 distinguished and honorable commanders relieved and disgraced, and for what?

Yeah, I know. Casus belli and all that. But the attack would still have been a fine justification for entry into the war even if it had been an American victory. Yeah, I know. I am saying that with the benefit of 75 years of hindsight. But I am absolutely willing to admit that I may well be wrong.

Which brings me to the next book…

lemay

God, the numbers in this book were just absolutely staggering. 12,000 B-17s rolled off assembly lines during the war. Just shy of 4,000 B-29s. For comparison, we built only 744 B-52s (all models, A through H), 100 B-1Bs….and 21 B-2s. 325 B-29s flew in one raid over Tokyo, 529 in a raid over Nagoya, and 427 in another Nagoya raid two days after that one. They dropped so much ordnance that they completely ran out of the napalm that the Navy had stockpiled for the bombs. Another friend of mine made the observation that one thing that the atomic bomb second-guessers don’t ever think about is exactly what LeMay would have done with all those bombers from the European theater plus all the B-29s all flying from as close as Okinawa instead of the Solomons.

What would he have done? He would have left the rest of Japan in smoking ruins, that’s what he’d have done. That man did not screw around. To twist something I was telling Sabra as I was reading this book, I really don’t think it’s fair to say nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the wrong thing to do when you have the benefit of almost 75 years of hindsight. People seem to whitewash Unit 731, the Rape of Nanking, and the Bataan Death March. You know that an invasion of Japan would have brought about more of that if they had managed to somehow gain the upper hand. And even if they had not, they were all still going to fight to the death. It was going to be brutal either way. The bombings sucked, but in the end, I think it’s safe to say they saved lives on both sides.

Thursday political & music musings, 19.4.18

April 19, 2018

There’s really not much I could add to this…

30712637_10216229230423125_4849646632762867712_n

…but when I heard about it, I did have this thought:

“That New York City Chick-fil-A isn’t being patronized by folks making special trips from Tupelo or Montgomery, bubba.”

In its own way, that’s the funniest bit about this whole thing.

But I guess such a reaction is to be expected from a publication who did a feature on the most celebrated Americana music artist of our time…and made its focus his trip to a fucking New York art museum instead of his actual music.

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Songwriter Shane McAnally, on Florida Georgia Line:

Still, it’s this snobbery that comes sometimes with country music where people go, “They’re too this or too that.”

It’s not snobbery. It’s called “maintaining some definition of the genre.” And the fact that Shane McAnally refuses to understand that is just further evidence that he is part of the problem in Nashville, his involvement with Kacey Musgraves and Midland be damned.

Also, I would bet good money that McAnally has no problem with Music Row or “country” radio thinking certain artists are “too country.” He is a raging hypocrite.

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I have always liked Randy Travis, but I was never a big fan of “Better Class of Losers” — less so in recent years, for the bit “they buy their coffee beans already ground.” I never thought about it before, but after I started making coffee using other methods than drip, I was like, “the hell’s wrong with grinding your own coffee? It’s not like you can get a proper French press grind off the shelf!”

(And yes, I know. I sound like some sort of SWPL monster. But a bean grinder doesn’t cost that much money, nor does a French press…)

Where does music come in here, you ask?

Well, on his 1992 sophomore album Longnecks & Short Stories, Mark Chesnutt recorded a song with the title “Uptown Downtown (Misery’s All the Same)”…

…but the actual title of that song was, you guessed it, “Better Class of Losers” (originally recorded by Ray Price under that title), and it was a far, far superior song.

On the school protests…

March 18, 2018

J.D. Tuccille at Reason:

Today, some students, teachers, and other Americans who share their views are walking out of classes across the country to call for limits on the right of free assembly. Wait, strike that. They’re walking out of classes to call for further restrictions on protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Nope, that’s not it either. Wait, I have it: they’re protesting for greater regulation of self-defense rights. Yup, there we go.

Yes, I know.

“…b-b-but muh well-regulated muhlishuh…”

Well, for one, the militia isn’t the National Guard. Also, “well-regulated” doesn’t mean bullshit laws that penalize people who haven’t done anything wrong. And finally, grammar and sentence structure are things.

“A well-educated populace being essential to a free state, the right of the people to purchase and read books shall not be infringed.”

Who in the above declaration has the right to purchase and read books?

Well, according to “progressive” “logic” as applied as it is to the Second Amendment, only college professors have that right. Surely I’m not the only one who finds this utterly anathema to the Founding Fathers’ intent.

In honor of Texas Independence Day…

March 2, 2018

I could think of few better written tributes to our state than this; I first saw it around 2006. It was attributed to Orange native Bum Phillips, but I don’t know if he really wrote it; I’ve seen it around the Web and don’t know where it originated. But no matter the author, no matter if it was written in honor of Texas Independence Day, it rings true today, and every day of the year. Every time I read it, the room always gets a bit dusty…

God bless Texas and everyone who lives here, or wishes that they did.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TEXAS — FROM BUM PHILLIPS

Being Texan by Bum Phillips

Dear Friends,

Last year, I wrote a small piece about what it means to me to be a Texan. My friends know it means about damned near everything. Anyway, this fella asked me to reprint what I’d wrote and I didn’t have it. So I set out to think about rewriting something. I considered writing about all the great things I love about Texas. There are way too many things to list. I can’t even begin to do it justice. Lemme let you in on my short list.

It starts with The Window at Big Bend, which in and of itself is proof of God. It goes to Lake Sam Rayburn where my Granddad taught me more about life than fishin, and enough about fishin to last a lifetime. I can talk about Tyler, and Longview, and Odessa and Cisco, and Abilene and Poteet and every place in between. Every little part of Texas feels special. Every person who ever flew over the Lone Star thinks of Bandera or Victoria or Manor or wherever they call “home” as the best little part of the best state.

So I got to thinkin about it, and here’s what I really want to say. Last year, I talked about all the great places and great heroes who make Texas what it is. I talked about Willie and Waylon and Michael Dell and Michael DeBakey and my Dad and LBJ and Denton Cooley. I talked about everybody that came to mind. It took me sitting here tonight reading this stack of emails and thinkin’ about where I’ve been and what I’ve done since the last time I wrote on this occasion to remind me what it is about Texas that is really great.

You see, this last month or so I finally went to Europe for the first time. I hadn’t ever been, and didn’t too much want to. But you know all my damned friends are always talking about “the time they went to Europe.” So, I finally went. It was a hell of a trip to be sure. All they did when they saw me was say the same thing, before they’d ever met me. “Hey cowboy, we love Texas.” I guess the hat tipped em off. But let me tell you what, they all came up with a smile on their faces. You know why? They knew for damned sure that I was gonna be nice to em. They knew it cause they knew I was from Texas. They knew something that hadn’t even hit me. They knew Texans, even though they’d never met one.

That’s when it occurred to me. Do you know what is great about Texas? Do you know why when my friend Beverly and I were trekking across country to see 15 baseball games we got sick and had to come home after 8? Do you know why every time I cross the border I say, “Lord, please don’t let me die in _____”?

Do you know why children in Japan can look at a picture of the great State and know exactly what it is about the same time they can tell a rhombus from a trapezoid? I can tell you that right quick. You. The same spirit that made 186 men cross that line in the sand in San Antonio damned near 165 years ago is still in you today. Why else would my friend send me William Barrett Travis’ plea for help in an email just a week ago, or why would Charles Stenciled ask me to reprint a Texas Independence column from a year ago?

What would make my friend Elizabeth say, “I don’t know if I can marry a man who doesn’t love Texas like I do?” Why in the hell are 1,000 people coming to my house this weekend to celebrate a holiday for what used to be a nation that is now a state? Because the spirit that made that nation is the spirit that burned in every person who founded this great place we call Texas, and they passed it on through blood or sweat to every one of us.

You see, that spirit that made Texas what it is, is alive in all of us, even if we can’t stand next to a cannon to prove it, and it’s our responsibility to keep that fire burning. Every person who ever put a “Native Texan” or an “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as fast a could” sticker on his car understands. Anyone who ever hung a map of Texas on their wall or flew a Lone Star flag on their porch knows what I mean.

My Dad’s buddy Bill has an old saying. He says that some people were forged of a hotter fire. Well, that’s what it is to be Texan. To be forged of a hotter fire.

To know that part of Colorado was Texas. That part of New Mexico was Texas. That part of Oklahoma was Texas. Yep. Talk all you want. Part of what you got was what we gave you. To look at a picture of Idaho or Istanbul and say, “what the Hell is that?” when you know that anyone in Idaho or Istanbul who sees a picture of Texas knows damned good and well what it is. It isn’t the shape, it isn’t the state, it’s the state of mind. You’re what makes Texas.

The fact that you would take 15 minutes out of your day to read this, because that’s what Texas means to you, that’s what makes Texas what it is. The fact that when you see the guy in front of you litter you honk and think, “Sonofabitch. Littering on MY highway.”

When was the last time you went to a person’s house in New York and you saw a big map of New York on their wall? That was never. When did you ever drive through Oklahoma and see their flag waving on four businesses in a row? Can you even tell me what the flag in Louisiana looks like? I damned sure can’t.

But I bet my ass you can’t drive 20 minutes from your house and not see a business that has a big Texas flag as part of its logo. If you haven’t done business with someone called All Tex something or Lone Star somebody or other, or Texas such and such, you hadn’t lived here for too long.

When you ask a man from New York what he is, he’ll say a stockbroker, or an accountant, or an ad exec. When you ask a woman from California what she is, she’ll tell you her last name or her major. Hell either of em might say “I’m a republican,” or they might be a democrat. When you ask a Texan what they are, before they say, “I’m a Methodist,” or “I’m a lawyer,” or “I’m a Smith,” they tell you they’re a Texan. I got nothin’ against all those other places, and Lord knows they’ve probably got some fine folks, but in your gut you know it just like I do, Texas is just a little different.

So tomorrow when you drive down the road and you see a person broken down on the side of the road, stop and help. When you are in a bar in California, buy a Californian a drink and tell him it’s for Texas Independence Day. Remind the person in the cube next to you that he wouldn’t be here enjoying this if it weren’t for Sam Houston, and if he or she doesn’t know the story, tell them.

When William Barrett Travis wrote in 1836 that he would never surrender and he would have Victory or Death, what he was really saying was that he and his men were forged of a hotter fire. They weren’t your average every day men.

Well, that is what it means to be a Texan. It meant it then, and that’s why it means it today. It means just what all those people North of the Red River accuse us of thinking it means. It means there’s no mountain that we can’t climb. It means that we can swim the Gulf in the winter. It means that Earl Campbell ran harder and Houston is bigger and Dallas is richer and Alpine is hotter and Stevie Ray was smoother and God vacations in Texas.

It means that come Hell or high water, when the chips are down and the Good Lord is watching, we’re Texans by damned, and just like in 1836, that counts for something. So for today at least, when your chance comes around, go out and prove it. It’s true because we believe it’s true. If you are sitting wondering what the Hell I’m talking about, this ain’t for you.

But if the first thing you are going to do when the Good Lord calls your number is find the men who sat in that tiny mission in San Antonio and shake their hands, then you’re the reason I wrote this tonight, and this is for you. So until next time you hear from me, God Bless and Happy Texas Independence Day.

May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies and quick to make friends. But, rich or poor, quick or slow, may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.

Regards From Texas

In memory of Brandon Jenkins….

March 2, 2018

who died today at 48

Most folks, from what I gather, knew the Bleu Edmondson version of that song, but to my ear Brandon’s was the best. (He was the song’s writer.) Which reminds me of a post 95.9 The Ranch deejay Shayne Hollinger made on Facebook some time ago:

Got a nasty message about playing Brandon Jenkins “Finger On The Trigger”, not because of the message in the song, but because we were playing a guy covering a Bleu Edmondson’s song according to him. I quote “I thought this station played original music. You suck for playing this.”

My apologies Brandon Jenkins for not saying this enough. You are absolutely one of my favorite songwriters on this planet. I feel partially responsible for this.

It’s time for us ALL to educate our listeners better.

He was damn good, and he will be sorely missed.

 

 

 

Friday music musings, 19.1.17

January 19, 2018

You know, this shit is really getting old:

…people hate Walker Hayes because Walker Hayes sounds different. That’s all it is.

Now, granted, Wide Open Country is correct. They’re just not correct in the way they think they are. People indeed do not like Walker Hayes because he does sound different…as in, not the slightest bit country. As in, if there is such a thing as “less country than Sam Hunt,” Walker Hayes would be IT. I mean, they can call us closed-minded and say we like our music predictable, but that doesn’t make it true. I don’t just listen to country music. Hell, the last album I bought was Savatage’s Hall of the Mountain King.

And even if you’re not one who likes all kinds of music, there’s not really anything wrong with that either. There’s only so much time in the day. If you don’t like deep house music or grindcore and don’t care to go explore them, and you wouldn’t cotton to those types of music being marketed as country, that doesn’t make you closed-minded. It makes you someone who has preferences, and that’s OK. I don’t see why these people find such to be so objectionable.

And as I’ve said before elsewhere, albeit with different phrasing, I find it odd that country music seems to be the only genre whose fans are basically told to open their minds when they object to something like Walker Hayes. If he was marketed as, say, a progressive metal artist, or a Texas blues artist, or a salsa artist, fans of those genres would be just as up in arms as we are, and no one would bat an eye. It’s as if country music is the only genre that is not allowed to have an identity. I have yet to figure out why this is the case.

Also, what is this “progressive country” bullshit? That term has a meaning, and a history completely at odds with what outlets like Wide Open Country are trying to redefine it as:

Progressive Country developed in the late ’60s as a reaction to the increasingly polished and pop-oriented sound of mainstream, Nashville-based country. Inspired equally by the spare, twangy, hard-driving sound of Bakersfield country, the singer/songwriter introspection of Bob Dylan, classic honky tonk, and rock & roll, progressive country was the first anti-Nashville movement to emerge since the dawn of rock & roll. Progressive country was rootsier and more intellectual than many of its contemporary genres; it was more concerned with breaking boundaries than with scoring hits. The genre was also songwriter-based. Many of its key artists — Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver, Tom T. Hall, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock — were not “good” singers by conventional standards, yet they wrote distinctive, individual songs and had compelling voices. By the early ’70s, such artists had developed a sizable cult following, and progressive country began to inch its way into the mainstream, usually in the form of cover versions (Sammi Smith took Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night” to the country Top Ten). Progressive country also provided the basis for outlaw country, a harder-edged genre that shook country-pop (briefly) off the top of the charts in the mid-’70s. Even after Outlaw’s five-year reign in the late ’70s, progressive country continued to exist, until it eventually metamorphosed into alternative country in the ’80s.

Put another way, progressive country was OG Texas Country, and Americana and alternative country before those terms came into the American musical lexicon. And it was a reaction to the ’70s equivalent of what people like Walker Hayes are doing now. What was progressive country? It was this…

…this…

and this.

It is most assuredly not this:

(Be forewarned, if you click that link, by the conclusion of that 3 minutes and 20 seconds, it will have taken more out of your life than it will ever give back.)

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Speaking of Savatage, that album is really good. I’ve been meaning to pick it up ever since I heard the title track on Sirius years ago. My favorites from it are that title track, “White Witch,” and this song right here…

I don’t know if that’s Eddie Van Halen-style two-handed tapping going on in the background with that guitar, but it’s pretty badass. Good stuff, Maynard.

Tuesday political musings, 9.1.18

January 9, 2018

Wow, 2018 already? Man, where does the time go…

So, Oprah Winfrey gives a pretty speech at the Golden Globe Awards and everybody swoons. “Oprah for President!” Yeah, really.

Surely I’m not the only one who sees the problem with this, right? If so, well, let me spell it out:

People bitch about Donald Trump and his lack of political experience, and here Oprah is getting all this attention for what amounts to, again, a flowery speech. Not only that, but it was basically her lecturing everyone else on how sexual misconduct is bad (which it most certainly is, mind you), as she stood in front of an auditorium full of people who helped cover it up for years, if not decades. Motes, beams, and all that.

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Also, re: “net neutrality”:

Look, as much as supporters of net neutrality like to fancy themselves as on the side of the angels, the fact is that they’re just supporting one set of corporations over another, which makes their mewling about the FCC and congressional Republicans being corporate yes-men rather hypocritical. Yeah, on one side you have the big telcos, but on the other hand you have…Google, Facebook, and Amazon, all tech companies just as big and just as influential as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. Not only that, their concern trolling about censorship is laughably transparent, considering how they all reacted in the aftermath of Citizens United v. FEC. Apparently telcos throttling traffic that chokes their networks, or alternately negotiating deals with the content providers not to do so, is the end of the world as we know it, but government muzzling corporations’ free speech rights is just fine and dandy.

B-b-but….AT&T! Muh FaceTime!

Yeah, sure. You know what’d happen if AT&T tried to pull that shit today? Its customers would go to Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile, that’s what. Much like we could theoretically vote politicians out who don’t respect the Constitution…

…actually, now that I think about it, that’s probably not the best example, but surely you see what I am getting at.

Sunday music musings, 17.12.17

December 17, 2017

OK, so this piece started out great, but then it went all to shit.

We’ve seen time-and-time again that artists like Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson want nothing to do with the mainstream country music community. Isbell especially has been outspoken about not appearing on stage at places like the CMA Music Festival. This just confuses me. Why would he not want the opportunity to expose his music to a larger amount of people? If Isbell and Simpson truly care about the genre, than they should care about carrying on its legacy.

I am absolutely sure that Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson do care about country music, but I fail to see why they should waste their time catering to the mainstream to do their part, whatever it might be, to carry on its legacy. Even if you could divest it of the (admittedly subjective) quality of being good or bad, the fact remains that the mainstream country music establishment is now catering to people who don’t give a shit about anything before about 2010. You can try to talk about the writers Crowell mentions in that song, or people like Gram Parsons or Billy Joe Shaver, and their place in country music to these people, but you might as well be talking in Portuguese for all they’ll understand or care. Beyond that, mainstream country is arguably broken beyond repair and has been for quite some time, and furthermore, it is less relevant than it has ever been, as evidenced by all those artists and bands in the last few years who have had No. 1 albums and sold hundreds of thousands of copies of said albums all without the benefit of mainstream country radio airplay — among them Isbell and Simpson themselves. They’re all doing their part; they’re just doing it on their own terms outside the mainstream.

Also, history lesson? Waylon, Willie and the boys having to leave Nashville to get the outlaw movement rolling?

But the most delicious irony is this: The author of this piece puts this song on this pedestal, and it IS a fine song…but other than a few mainstream artists having recorded his songs, Rodney Crowell has had nothing to do with mainstream country since 1995. His last top-10 hit on country radio was in 1992. And the albums he recorded after his exit from the mainstream are widely considered to be his finest work.

Really, I should have just stopped at “medium.com”.

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One of the things I thought was pretty neat as I dug into older country music way back in the late ’90s and early aughts was how the same songs were recorded by a bunch of different artists. And today I found more…

Screwing around on Wikipedia earlier today, I found that on 1973’s What’s Your Mama’s Name, Tanya Tucker recorded four songs that were previously recorded and released by other artists:

“The Chokin’ Kind,” a Top 10 hit for Waylon Jennings in 1968;

“California Cottonfields,” previously recorded by Merle Haggard, an album cut on 1971’s Someday We’ll Look Back;

“Teddy Bear Song,” a No. 1 hit for Barbara Fairchild earlier that year;

“Pass Me By (If You’re Only Passing Through),” a Top 10 hit for Johnny Rodriguez, also from earlier that year.

I think I might like to hear those.

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Speaking of Johnny Rodriguez — and songs that have been recorded by more than one artist — as blasphemous as it may be, I think he did the better version of “That’s The Way Love Goes,” as much as I love Merle Haggard….