Well, that settles that.

June 5, 2020

So, if you had any remaining doubt that public officials have wrecked the American economy for no good reason at all, check this out.

Suddenly, Public Health Officials Say Social Justice Matters More Than Social Distance

Was it fair to decry conservatives’ protests about the economy while supporting these new protests? And if tens of thousands of people get sick from Covid-19 as a result of these mass gatherings against racism, is that an acceptable trade-off? Those are questions that a half-dozen coronavirus experts who said they support the protests declined to directly answer.

That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? I mean, there’s always the possibility that they don’t think it’s an acceptable trade-off but are afraid of saying so, in which case I really couldn’t blame them — because, well, cancel culture and all that. But honestly, if they’re on record as supporting the protests, I don’t think that’s it. And that really only leaves one possibility here — namely, that their professional opinions are subject to sociopolitical considerations that of course things like viruses know nothing of and care nothing about, so perhaps those opinions aren’t worth anything. Perish the thought, amirite?

On a related note

Huh. I am just gonna come right out and say it: if Jennifer Nuzzo’s professional opinions are that subject to sociopolitical considerations, which they certainly appear to be from this tweet, she needs to surrender her medical license and go to work at the dollar store.

EDIT: I have been informed that Ms. Nuzzo is not actually an MD, but a PhD. Which, honestly, makes her opinions on this worth that much less. My opinion on her professional opinions in relation to sociopolitical considerations remains.

Schadenfreude ist die schönste Freude.

May 4, 2020

Well, now. What do we have here? There you were, talking to everybody like you had your shit together, you were on your way up with a shit-hot new job.  Talking shit on both me and my wife like we were, well, lower than shit on the bottom of your shoe, like you were so much better and better off than we were — only, as it turns out, you were telling filthy lies to everyone, and your life is a fucking wreck, fucked up ten ways to Sunday, worse than it’s ever been, frankly, because of your bad decisions. You can say what you want about us, and I have no doubt you will…buuuuut….

… at least I still have my job, and a pretty good one at that.

…at least I didn’t burn through all my paid time off as I burned through God knows what substances legal and possibly not, leaving my employer to give me the choice between quitting or being fired.

…at least my house isn’t in foreclosure because of all the above.

…and, last, but certainly not least, none of my children are being raised by their grandmother, who has already put in her time raising her own children to adulthood.

And you know, I’m sure all your friends who pointed the finger at my wife and me for being “jealous” of your “success” would see this little gloat and sit on their self-righteous asses and tell me to have more compassion. Well, fuck them, fuck that, and fuck you. Now, I do hope you actually do get your shit together, for your kids if no one else, but fuck you just the same.

Friday music musings, 01.05.2020

May 1, 2020

Wow. This is just…incredibly depressing, all things considered.

I remember the first time I heard “I Can Love You Better,” the first single from Wide Open Spaces, the Chicks’ first album with Natalie. I thought they had a cool sound, and the entire album was really good. And they only got better with Fly and Home. As I have said before, when you think about it, in the context of early 2000s mainstream country, the latter record was downright revolutionary. There they were, doing a borderline bluegrass record with a shit-ton of fiddle, mandolin, and banjo…and it sold like crack. In the era of Shania Twain and Faith Hill. There were also appearances on tribute albums to Bob Wills and Bill Monroe. I very clearly remember back when they were touring with George Strait in 1999, a week before that tour hit Houston, they did an interview with the Houston Chronicle, and they talked about when they were asked to do a pop remix of the title track to Wide Open Spaces. Natalie herself had this to say:

“We like those other artists, and we’re fans of that other music, but we don’t want anyone thinking we’re trying to not be country….We’re trying to bring country back to country.”

So much for that, I guess. I know how we got here, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And make no mistake, I DO NOT like it one little bit, any more than so many old Metallica fans liked what they did after …And Justice For All.

===

This, on the other hand, is absolutely spectacular.

God knows I talked enough trash on Geoff Tate in the year or so after he was fired from Queensryche, and I still think they’re probably better off for having replaced him. But I have to be honest — a lot of that was because after hearing the mediocrity of American Soldier and Dedicated to Chaos, I never, ever thought I’d hear him sound like this again. I really thought his best days as a singer were far behind him. Had he sounded in 2012 like he does here, I might not have been so gleeful to see him fired from Queensryche. (Of course there’s the matter of the general quality of the songs in addition to the quality of Tate’s voice, but I suppose that’s a whole different discussion.) As a friend of mine on Facebook put it, “Welcome back to the top of the mountain, Mr. Tate!”

I bought Avantasia’s Moonglow for “Alchemy,” and the other song Tate guests on solo, “Invincible,” was really good as well, but the whole album is well worth the coin.

I also really like the title track (with Candice Night)…

“Starlight” (with Ronnie Atkins)…

and “Book of Shallows” (with Atkins, Hansi Kursch, Jorn Lande, and Mille Petrozza).

But “The Raven Child,” with Jørn Lande and Hansi Kursch, has gotten to be my absolute favorite upon repeated listens of this album. (I bought it not long after it came out.) Lande cutting loose on this song as he does in the last three minutes or so is a thing of sheer beauty.

But if you told me back in 2012 that down the road I would actually buy an album with Tate on it and that the songs on which he was featured would end up being among my favorites on the album, I’d have looked at you like you’d grown a third eye.  I have to say, Tate has redeemed himself pretty spectacularly as a singer.

It would be kind of a jerk move not to comment on Tobias Sammet himself, though, wouldn’t it? He’s a damn good singer in his own right and meshes very well with his guest vocalists; hearing him sing, you can tell he got a lot of his technique from Tate. It all fits together very well — the voices of Sammet and his guest vocalists, the grandiosity of Avantasia in general, and of the musical theme in particular. With my fandom of bands like Queensryche, Savatage, and Symphony X, I am not surprised in the least that Avantasia so far is right up my alley.

Cornteen musings.

April 10, 2020

Well then. How ’bout this current situation?

Not gonna lie. We have been so, so very fortunate. Not too much has changed for us with this whole coronavirus thing, as the current job allows me to work from home and all. No hours cut as of yet or anything.

*DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT MY OWN WORKPLACE BELOW.*

But man, some people. I do not know to what extent it’s true, but I have heard that there are people out there bitching about having to go into the office while other people in the company are getting to work from home. As I understand it, they are saying something to this effect: “I want to be on vacation too!”

If I were a business owner, those were my employees, and I caught wind of that, I would happily oblige them with a vacation, all right — a permanent, unpaid vacation from the company. And I would replace them with people who would be grateful for having a job to go to. I mean, I’m glad to have the opportunity to work from home, and I am very glad to have a job that I can do that with, but even if I still had a job that I had to go on site to do, I’d just be grateful to have it.

Much as I love working from home, though, I am not gonna lie and say I don’t have the heebie-jeebies about this whole thing more and more as time goes on. How long, how far do we take this whole social distancing bit before the economy collapses and we have ourselves a bona fide 1930s-style Great Depression on our hands? There has GOT to be some sort of happy medium between staying in except for going to get the bare essentials and going to Walmart to window shop. Like a friend said, we’re looking down the barrel of home foreclosures, bankruptcies, suicides, families going on the street, that sort of thing. Yeah, I know. “You’re prioritizing MONEY OVER LIVES, YOU EVIL BASTARD!” Well, no, but I really, really think it’s worth asking at some point if this situation is being seen by the powers that be as Rahm Emanuel’s proverbial crisis not going to waste.

And don’t even get me started on the idiots agitating to completely shut down public transportation AND RIDESHARES and for HEB to only do curbside service. Because, of course, poor people who don’t have cars don’t need to get groceries, amirite?

But even so, there’s another set of idiots that make the above-mentioned ones look like rocket scientists, and that is the set of idiots who are all like, “We need to keep the economy almost completely shut down indefinitely, because muh just one life saved.”

I want to know the personal situations of the advocates of this strategy vis-à-vis steady income, buying food, and paying the bills. You know, maintaining a basic standard of living. Because there are A LOT of people who are on the verge of not being able to do that because of this. Methinks the people advocating for an indefinite economic shutdown are to a person speaking from the position of still having steady income and all that.

Also, what about the lives offset by the suicides of people who lose their livelihoods, their savings, their homes to this? Do they just not count?

A friend was like, “Well, maybe there needs to be some sort of back-breaking event to effect real change.”

Which may be true, as nihilistic as it may be, but I might feel better about it if this whole thing, again, didn’t reek of “never letting a crisis go to waste.” Frankly, I think this whole shutdown is nothing short of an economic Vietnam, with the virus itself playing the role of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Tell me I’m wrong. It’s all there — fishy justification, untold resources down the drain, and no exit strategy.

Sturgill shits the bed.

February 22, 2020

Or channels his inner Ryan Adams. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, amirite?

[with High Top Mountain], I definitely felt like there wasn’t really much interest in who I was really wanting to be. So, we made a Waylon Jennings record, and I’ve been trying to shake that shit off ever since. I can’t fucking listen to it. It’s so slick and clean….

I can’t listen to that record. It was a commercial record disguised as a traditional album, and to my ears, it’s just too fucking safe. So, with Metamodern, we got real unsafe….I mean, to my eyes, the Traveller record Cobb did with Stapleton was a commercial country record disguised as a traditional record.

I would say the term “tortured genius” comes to mind, but that may well be giving Sturgill way too much credit. I like the dude’s music; High Top Mountain and Metamodern Sounds in Country Music were a couple of the best albums of the 2010s. And it’s fine if he doesn’t like them, can’t listen to them, whatever. But the whole tone he projects here left me wondering, “if this is how you feel, dude, why the hell did you even bother after A Sailor’s Guide to Earth at the latest?” In fact, with his comments on High Top Mountain and how he felt like there wasn’t much interest in what he wanted to do, why did he even go through with it? It sounds like he’d have been a lot happier if he had, I don’t know, found a record label who was actually interested in what he wanted to do. More to the point, it sounds like he was just going along to get along. Which is fine, I guess, but don’t bitch about the result. Put another way, it sounds like he made High Top Mountain for commercial appeal at the behest of the label. Which is also fine, but he doesn’t have any business casting aspersions on Chris Stapleton or anyone else for doing the same.

Also, if Sturgill’s done, if this is the way he’s gonna be, then, well, whatever. So be it. There are a shit-ton of other artists & bands out there (not just country) deserving of our finite funds who are making great music, like what they do, and don’t feel the need to throw foul, faux-edgy, pretentious temper tantrums and shit all over the folks who helped them get where they are whenever someone sits down to interview them. Marketing stunt or not, it’s still just really off-putting.

(h/t Saving Country Music)

Get on outta here with that, dude.

February 19, 2020

If you’re a musical artist, and you want to use your platform to spread a political message, that’s your business. But belittling other artists who choose not to do that is a bit of an asshole move, if I may be so frank.

This observation was brought to you by a lyric from Jason Isbell’s new single, “Be Afraid”:

“And if your words add up to nothing then you’re making a choice to sing a cover when you need a battle cry”

Like, piss off, dude. Not everyone who picks up the mike wants to be the next Pete Seeger or whoever, and that’s their goddamned right. As I said a little more than three years ago:

“Seriously, this “all politics all the time” in every single thing is going to destroy us. You kinda should expect political commentary from Steve Earle or maybe (to a lesser extent) Jason Boland, but why should a George Strait or Randy Rogers be condemned for not going on anti-Donald Trump tirades in studio or on stage, or, fuck, anywhere else for that matter? It is grossly unfair to them as artists and to their fans, and as Americans they don’t deserve to be called out for bigotry they’ve never expressed by Progressive assholes who are all pissy about everyone not falling in line with their agenda.”

Sabra made the observation that you see a lot of folks smoke at AA meetings because former addicts tend to swap out addictions, and that Isbell just swapped alcohol for activism. That sounds about right to me, honestly.

Why I won’t be voting for Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders

February 11, 2020

These thoughts brought to you by Sabra telling me about someone walking in our neighborhood trying to get out the vote for Warren on Saturday…

raisetheWHAT

#RaisetheWage, huh? More like #ScrewPeopleWhoBotheredtoLearnMarketableSkills, if you ask me.

I’m just gonna come out and say it: the real moral outrage here is Ilhan Omar and her thieving ilk agitating for the de facto devaluing of the skills that so many people, like me, worked to acquire so they could work their way up from that minimum wage part-time job.

Not sure I ever came right out and talked about this, but here you go.

I came to San Antonio 10 years ago this coming June. I was unable to find work in the field I was in at the time, so I took what I could get, which at the time was — and this is no shit — part-time work at Walmart for minimum wage. We scraped along by the skin of our teeth for about 16 months until I was able to find full-time employment (albeit in a different, entirely new field). I got that job, got more experience in that new line of work, and moved along to better-paying jobs in that field, and while I am not going to discuss my actual wage, I do feel comfortable saying that I am making more money now than I ever have in my working life.

And Ilhan Omar, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and others, with that $15 minimum wage, want to take that away from me. They want to take that away from me to buy the votes of people who couldn’t be arsed to want to do better for themselves. If past performance is an indicator of future results, if I asked Elizabeth Warren if I was gonna get a raise commensurate with her minimum wage increase so as not to devalue the skills and experience I have acquired, she’d brush me off and laugh at me just like she did that man who asked if he was gonna get the money back that he spent on his daughter’s schooling when Warren was touting her student loan debt forgiveness plan on the campaign trail recently.

And it pisses me off. It pisses me off to the point that I could almost spit fire.

Narrative über Alles!

January 2, 2020

Wow, Francis, if you’re gonna lie, I guess you might as well be brazen about it, but wow.

Screen Shot 2020-01-02 at 9.16.12 PM

To paraphrase what Sabra said:

26 people were killed in Sutherland Springs. What’d we do in response? We changed the law to allow people to carry guns in church. How many people were killed in Fort Worth? Two. Clearly, what we are doing is working.

To think that shitweasel wanted to be president. For fuck’s sake.

Well, I mean…he’s right.

December 26, 2019

From Blabbermouth.net, a few days ago…

QUEENSRŸCHE’s TODD LA TORRE On Replacing GEOFF TATE: ‘We Couldn’t Have Asked For A Better Outcome’

…”I think, by and large, we’ve really kind of won over the majority of the QUEENSRŸCHE fanbase. I wasn’t just a one-album guy, so I think it really helps to solidify the lineup and the fact we’re still doing very good business. People are really interested to hear the new material live also, which is a great thing. I think it’s been a great success.”

Well, then.

Frankly, I’m of two minds regarding QR at this point. The music’s good and worth repeated listens, but it just seems different now that Scott Rockenfield’s not around and is likely not coming back. (Todd was the one playing the drums on the new album, The Verdict. Scott apparently has been taking time off since his wife had a baby back in 2017 and has been incommunicado with the band since.) And I was fine with both Chris and Geoff being gone, but now with Scott gone…I just don’t know. I like the previous two albums a lot better, and I am curious to see how The Verdict would have sounded had Scott participated in its creation.

That being said…

It might sound egotistical of Todd to say what he said, but given the ways things could have gone, I think he’s right. Had he not come along, we would have gotten a 25th-anniversary re-recording of Operation: Mindcrime that would have fallen far short of the original (see: Geoff Tate’s ca. 2011 voice and possibly Kelly Gray on guitar), and God only knows what would have followed. I’m just one guy, but given the choice, I would take what we got instead of what we could have gotten, even with as much as it’s changed in the last 4 years.

“Fly, fighting fair, it’s the code of the air….”

December 20, 2019

(Knight’s Cross mention added, per Borepatch in comments, who had a great post on this a few years ago.) 

76 years ago today, on December 20, 1943, an act of uncommon valor — a textbook demonstration of the warrior code — occurred in the skies over World War II Germany.

On that day, the 379th Bomb Group flying B-17s out of RAF Kimbolton went on a bomb run targeting a Focke-Wulf fighter aircraft plant just outside of Bremen. One of the pilots was Second Lieutenant Charles Brown, flying a B-17 christened “Ye Olde Pub.”  Brown’s B-17 was initially positioned toward the edges of the aircraft formation, but he was moved up to the front after several bombers had to turn back for mechanical issues. Shortly before the run, Brown’s plane sustained severe damage from flak and German fighters and fell toward the rear of and away from the formation. (Brown actually lost consciousness for a short period of time and almost crashed the plane before he recovered.) The stricken aircraft was spotted by several people on the ground, including Luftwaffe Oberleutnant Franz Stigler, who took off and caught up with Brown and his crew in short order. At that point, Stigler had shot down 22 B-17s in the war; just one more would have earned him a Knight’s Cross, Germany’s highest military award at the time.

But once Stigler caught up with Brown and his crew in his Bf-109, he was struck by the fact that they weren’t firing back at him or trying to evade him. He flew closer to the plane and saw the gravely injured crew through the gaping holes in the airframe, and Brown giving everything he had trying to keep the plane in the air. Stigler said later that with the condition of the plane and the crew, shooting at Brown’s plane would have been like shooting at a man in a parachute, and that he thought of what one of his former commanding officers told him: “If I ever see or hear of you shooting at a man in a parachute, I will shoot you myself….You follow the rules of war for you, not for your enemy. You fight by the rules to keep your humanity.”

Stigler tried but failed to get Brown’s attention and get him to land in Sweden; nevertheless, he escorted Brown out of German airspace past the fearsome, formidable defenses of the Atlantic Wall to the North Sea, saluted, and turned back for home. Brown and his crew made it back to base, where they were debriefed; their commanding officer said something to the effect of, “Yeah, you don’t say a word about this to anyone.” Stigler, for his part, told no one, least of all his commanding officers; he would likely have been executed for such an act. It was probably nothing less than divine providence that none of the Atlantic Wall gunners figured out what Stigler was doing, for if they had, they would almost certainly have shot him down.

Fast forward a little more than four decades. From Wikipedia:

“In 1986, the retired Lt. Col. Brown was asked to speak at a combat pilot reunion event called a ‘Gathering of the Eagles’ at the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Someone asked him if he had any memorable missions during World War II; he thought for a minute and recalled the story of Stigler’s escort and salute. Afterwards, Brown decided he should try to find the unknown German pilot.  

“After four years of searching vainly for US Army Air Forces, U.S. Air Force and West German Air Force records that might shed some light on who the other pilot was, Brown had come up with little. He then wrote a letter to a combat pilot association newsletter. A few months later he received a letter from Stigler, who was now living in Canada. ‘I was the one,’ it said. When they spoke on the phone, Stigler described his plane, the escort and salute, confirming everything that Brown needed to hear to know he was the German fighter pilot involved in the incident.”

Stigler and Brown finally met in person in 1990 and became best friends for the rest of their lives; they died within a few months of each other in 2008. 

A book about the encounter, Adam Makos’ A Higher Call, was published in 2012, and it is an excellent book, one I absolutely cannot recommend highly enough. Sabaton bassist Pär Sundström, as the band was researching & writing songs for their 2014 album Heroes, was made aware of the story, and he and singer Joakim Broden wrote this song about that incident.

It all came full circle sometime after the album came out, when the band was contacted by Franz Stigler’s daughter.

“Hey guys. My son is a big fan of your band.”

Stigler’s grandson actually got to meet the band not long after.

“No Bullets Fly” was my most-played song on Spotify this year. Rather fitting, I suppose, as the Adam Makos book (at least so far) has been my favorite book that I have read this year.