But No Cigar   (2016Jun07)

Tuesday, June 07, 2016                                            12:10 PM

Poor Bernie! He’s done a great job of dragging the Democrats back to the socialist agenda that made FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s War On Poverty. If the Democrats aren’t all about social justice and social services, then they don’t really stand for anything. The centrist agenda that helped Hillary’s husband get elected may have been politically expedient, but it also hollowed out the core of what we’ve come to expect from the Democratic Party.

But Bernie’s done it—he’s forced Hillary to publicly advocate for a war on income inequality—leaving her with baggage she will find difficult to misplace, once elected. Still, I think it’s a mistake to assume that she’s done so unwillingly—anyone familiar with her early work, co-founding Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, and other initiatives, will recognize that she is happy for the opening that Sanders’ campaign afforded her. It wasn’t Hillary who spent the last two decades backing away from social programs and banking regulations—it was her entire party, going for the easy vote.

Had Hillary attempted to run on her present platform, without Sanders’ competition as a foil, she would have been branded a wild extremist. So, well done, Bernie. Though, to be fair, it is these last decades of centrist, business-friendly politics that have created a situation where people are ready for socialism’s resurgence, whether from Bernie or Hillary.

Now, the big problem is simply this: Bernie is a human being—and not just that, he’s an old man. He’s spent the last two years being cheered by throngs of adoring young people, championing justice for the little guy, fighting the good fight. It’s going to be very hard for him to just turn around and go home. He was so close. But be of good cheer, Bern-feelers—Hillary hasn’t promised as much, but I believe she will deliver on more of her promises than Bernie ever could. In the end, that will give you more of what you’re looking for, just not everything. The rest we can talk about in four years.

It’s Getting Serious   (2016Apr08)

Friday, April 08, 2016                                              3:32 PM

We’ve reached an awkward point in the political process now—things are narrowing down. People begin speaking of candidates they formerly criticized as the solution to the problem of ‘the lesser of two evils’. Conversely, Bernie Sanders can no longer be unaggressive towards Hillary Clinton, and answered Charlie Rose’s question “Would you support her, if chosen?” by prefacing his ‘yes’ with “I’d consider a Trump or Cruz presidency an unmitigated disaster, so yes, I would support Hillary Clinton is she wins the nomination.” He couldn’t just say ‘yes’, like he would have a few months back—he’s got his gloves off and he’s got to keep them off.

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The funniest part of this process is the simple truth that the very best possible next President of the United States would have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the Oval Office and be locked inside—sentenced, in his or her mind, to the jury duty from hell—and a hell of a way to reward years of selfless public service. Any sensible person can just look at the before and after hair-color of the last few presidents and be able to tell that the job redefines the word ‘difficult’. Only a spark of ambition would drive someone to the madness of seeking the post—and now that we’re getting down to it, that flaw is being brought to the forefront.

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It’s attack time—and, hey, does anyone else get the impression that both Bernie and Hillary were more comfortable when it was still ‘gloves on’? I get the sense they are both sane enough to be uncomfortable with the egotistical sniping that the final days of a head-to-head must inevitably become. This is in marked contrast to the GOP—they’ve long since disqualified themselves from the list of respectable candidates. They are far too happy in their playpen, holding dick-measuring contests when they had an opportunity to discuss the issues for months—hell, years now. Their ambitions are front and center, completely overshadowing any sense of service or responsibility to the public—and while you may think it an old-fashioned attitude, in my view it disqualifies them from serious office, be their platforms whatever they may.

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We forget sometimes that the election is not wholly a popularity contest—no matter how much we treat it as such, it remains a serious decision with mortal consequences. Sanders’ young supporters flock to him because young people don’t need convincing, they just need inspiring—and it is a good thing that they are being inspired to play a part in their own democracy—I hope it lasts beyond Hillary’s nomination. Because the problems Sanders talks about need more than a populist president to fix—those problems require a quantum-level rise in political engagement from coast-to-coast, over several election cycles, if we’re ever going to have a chance at taming the super-wealthy’s de facto march back to monarchism.

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It’s daunting to think of—a quantum-level rise in political engagement, obtaining objective news sources, growing neighborhood bonds while our youth are ever more deeply seduced into the twitter-verse or VR-gaming helmets—the list of impossible things we need to do to fix the future goes on from there. We could just let the powers that be continue doing what they do—it might not be pretty, but who’s to say they won’t avoid destroying us all in the end, right? They know what they’re doing, don’t they? After all, they are in charge—even if they did grow up in an age when phones had busy-signals and cords—even if some of them don’t even understand how the world has changed—even if most of them see change as dangerous. They want the power? Let’em have it. At least, if it all goes to hell, we’ll have someone to blame. Why be so serious all the time?

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Friday, April 08, 2016                                              4:15 PM

The Bird Hearing   (2016Apr08)

I went for a walk yesterday—the birds were so noisy, I went back inside and got my camera. I shot three minutes and change of bird cacophony—the video is pretty unwatchable—I was focusing on the sounds—but that didn’t stop me from making two improv videos with the same bird footage. The music is different in each, but the bird songs are the same. I suggest just listening to the audio—the video, in spite of all I did to stabilize it in post, is nauseating.

It’s kind of a shame I got so wrapped up in the birds singing—the music is pretty good on both of these—they would have been nice all by themselves, I think.

 

Oh, and here’s one more from the day before yesterday:

 

bu-bye now.

Hillary—Accept No Substitutes   (2016Feb07)

Sunday, February 07, 2016                                      9:58 AM

Bernie Sanders is a nice guy—capable, well-meaning, firm in his convictions, and smart. If I had to choose between Bernie and any of the candidates from the GOP field, I’d pick Bernie. Bernie has been making speeches all over America telling people about our serious problems with income inequality and the influence of money on government—and I’d have to agree with him that solutions to these problems are vital to our continued well-being. Fixing these problems—and doing it well—would make our country even greater than it ever has been—which is pretty damn great. Bernie has a dream—and he’s running on his dream.

Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton is running for a job. She’s having trouble matching Bernie’s progressive rhetoric—because she knows too well that the president is not a plumber—Prez don’t fix no pipes. Hard working legislators and supreme court justices do that. Bernie is running to succeed at the work he’s been trying to do in the Senate—Hillary is running for the job of President of the United States. Her vision for America’s future is more complicated than ‘attack Wall Street’.

No one in government—excepting John Kerry or Joe Biden—has experience in dealing with heads of state to equal Hillary Clinton’s CV—two terms as First Lady and four years as Secretary of State. And in case you forgot, she was elected to the Senate, too—just like Bernie. Her superior experience would stick out like a sore thumb if it wasn’t for one wrinkle.

The GOP has attacked Hillary Clinton since she became the first lady in 1992—that’s just shy of a quarter-century of libelous aspersions being cast on her character and morals. To many people, this is proof that there’s something untrustworthy about Hillary—but when I consider the end result of all these attacks, I see it as proof of the reverse—that the GOP has been dishonest about Hillary for all that time. Name another public figure who could be sniped at, and snared, and ambushed, and bushwacked for twenty-four years—and come out the other end spotless—you can’t do it. If you or I were under the same poisonous scrutiny and suspicion for so long a time, what would our reputations look like?

The GOP believes that if they just keep slinging mud at Hillary some of it will stick—and the Bernie-lemmings are proving them correct. But I ask you—of the countless accusations leveled against her, which of them has been proved? They called them ‘scandals’—not just the GOP, but the media (always up for a brawl)—and they trumpet her potential disgrace from the mountaintops—but they never give out a peep when each successive house of cards collapses in her vindication. Most of the country, when asked, will claim that they ‘don’t trust’ Hillary Clinton—why? Because they trust Ted Cruz and his slime-ball friends more? That’s just crazy.

So let’s re-cap: Hillary Clinton is no more dishonest than any other politician, including Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton has far more experience in public service and international affairs than any other candidate from either party, including Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton recognizes that income inequality is a major issue—but she is also prepared to deal with the million other things that a president will be called upon to deal with, unlike Bernie Sanders. Finally, Hillary is a woman—what John Lennon called the ‘n-words of the world’—so we can count on her being sensitive to minorities—I’d say that much is a given, considering she’s spent the last ten years trying to become the first woman president.

Secretary Clinton didn’t become a battle-scarred veteran because she is insignificant—she got those scars because the GOP is scared to death of her. Years of effective efforts to make progressive change have made her their favorite boogey-man—if they can just discredit Hillary, the GOP believes, then the fight is half-won. But where the right is overly belligerent, the left tends to be indecisive—that’s why we’re turning to Bernie’s pie-in-the-sky, rather than deal with the complexities of Hillary’s long struggle. It is said that young people are flocking to Bernie Sanders—does anyone remember the story of the Pied Piper? Kids—what are you gonna do, right? Be a grown-up—stand for Hillary.

Groundhog Day   (2016Feb02)

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Tuesday, February 02, 2016                                             6:32 PM

I had “Groundhog Day” playing in the background for part of the day—Comedy Central ran it on a loop, in honor of the day. And for those of you following at home, Puxatawney Phil did not see his shadow this morning—which legends tells us betokens an early spring—as if global warming wasn’t threatening to bewilder the spring bulbs out of the lawn right here in early February. I have a special fondness for Groundhog Day because it has always been the day before my birthday—which I share with Horace Greeley, among others. And the eponymous film is one of my favorites because lots of people say they don’t care for science fiction—but everybody loves “Groundhog Day”, and if that’s not science fiction, nothing is.

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My CD-library-designated external hard-drive died, and today I purchased a new one-terrabyte Passport by Western Digital to replace it. I’ve started ripping my CDs to the new drive—but I have hundreds of CDs, so it’s going to take a few days. I hope I didn’t lose anything irreplaceable—but I’m not going to spend $500 to find out (that’s the average cost of a data-retrieval service to restore a broken hard-drive’s data). I’m enjoying the review of my CD collection, anyway—so I’m just going to relax and enjoy rebuilding my digital music library. I was fortunate in using my C: drive for the downloaded music files delivered by Amazon or I-Tunes—I don’t know where I’d begin to restore that part of my music collection. Do I re-order it? Do I have to pay for it twice? What’s the deal? Here’s hoping I never have to find out.

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Hillary won (just barely) and Trump lost in last night’s Iowa Caucuses, so I’m cautiously optimistic. I think people forget that Hillary Clinton would be our first woman president—and that’s aside from being the best candidate, regardless of gender. We’ve been so excited and proud, most of us, to have elected Barrack Obama—and now we have a chance for another first—but somehow, the fact that we’ve had our first non-white president takes some of the luster off of the idea of our first woman president—which is weird. I guess, emotionally, people can get too much of a good thing.

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Ms./First Lady/Senator/Secretary Clinton has done a lot of the downplaying herself—I guess she doesn’t want to make her gender the focus of her candidacy—and I can see why she’d think that—but I’m excited. Female heads of state may be rare—but guess what’s rarer? Female heads of state who commit war crimes, or get caught in corruption, or do the many bad things that male heads of state get up to when they get the chance—that’s what (or should I say who?). Not that women are always good—perhaps they get less chances to ruin the world—but that still leaves them with pretty good track records.

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Good old Bernie is a nice guy—but he’s promising the moon to college kids—and those young people have enough school-loan-debt and unemployment to make them hungry for change—even hungry enough to vote. But let’s get serious about a Socialist running in the national election—the Democratic primary is one thing, but getting the whole country behind him is altogether different. And that’s just getting him elected. Look at Bernie Sanders’ voting record in office and ask yourself how much bi-partisan support his programs are liable to generate—even an elected Bernie could never deliver on his promises unless those same people vote in progressive Democrats to the Congressional and Senate seats.

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Anyway, I continue to watch the race with interest. Now here are some videos I posted recently—I hope you like them:

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, finally, this is a post originally from my Amazon Customer Reviews:

Monday, February 01, 2016                                             3:58 PM

Book Report: “This Long Vigil” by Rhett Bruno   (2016Feb01)

This would be more properly titled ‘Short Story Report’ but I often fall into the pit of convention—and in this case I am helped along by my Kindle, which renders the purchase and consumption of all fiction into the same seamless ‘buy-with-one-click’ stream—with the exception of the length of time for which we will be beguiled by the author. In this case—blink and you’ll miss it.

I found ‘This Long Vigil’ entertaining, well-written, and engrossing—but far too short. In the case of such snippets, one is more likely to feel the resonance of what’s missing than the paucity of what’s not. In this particularly case, I was left wondering how the premise came to be—what devilish organization would decide to put humans into the situation which the protagonist of this story finds himself? A solitary life leavened only by the voice of a parental computer, but surrounded by a thousand sleeping bodies who will never wake—this story leaves a lot unexplored—particularly how someone could survive such a life without succumbing to emotional imbalance or outright insanity. The protagonist’s final option skirts the issue, but couches it as a hero’s choice—not the ultimate desperation of a tortured guinea pig.

In programming we have the ‘reality check’—we look at a program’s results and, rather than check the calculations, we’d ask ourselves ‘does the output make any sense in general?’ If the ‘number of orders shipped’ equals negative two, or twenty million—you know you have a program bug—that’s a ‘reality check’. Story’s like “This Long Vigil” can be haunting and evocative—but the lack of a ‘reality check’ in the premise always breaks my vicarious concentration. Fortunately, this story is over before you have too long to dwell on it—the doubts come after. I look forward to reading something of Rhett Bruno that is longer and less darkly-toned—and I must stop here lest my review outstrip the story.

The Sanders Surge   (2016Jan17)

Sunday, January 17, 2016                                        6:47 PM

Well, don’t expect much, because it’s been a rough few days and it is Sunday after all. I’ve been thinking about Bernie Sanders and his surge in the early states’s polls—and while that doesn’t mean a change in the overall Democratic nomination process—it does feed into my worry that I’ve been so set on Hillary Clinton for so long that I might be overlooking something in her number one rival for the Democratic nomination. However, now that I’ve taken some time to think on it—this is why I’m ‘still for Hil’:

A couple of things—first, Sanders supporters might not be taking into account that Bernie’s message, while attractive to the Democrats themselves, may fall on deaf ears in the nationwide election. Secondly, while I applaud all of Bernie’s most thrilling reforms, I question whether any person could deliver on any big, sudden financial reform—there’s a lot of headwind in that process—and while Hillary may be promising to do less, she has more chance of getting it done.

Hillary Clinton, because of Bernie’s rhetoric, is becoming the ‘bird in the hand’ candidate. You can take what she offers and be fairly certain she’ll win the election (and, as importantly, work better with a probable GOP-majority congress) or you can reach for what Bernie is offering, even though the realpolitik of his succeeding in both the election, and in working with a GOP-led congress, are less than promising.

I kind of think of Bernie Sanders as an Elizabeth Warren without the wisdom to see that such reforms will require a longer game—and greater influence—than a presidential term or two. In fact, Liz Warren, continuing her struggle in the Senate, has more chance of getting these kinds of reforms passed than a President Sanders ever would.

The chaos of the Republican campaign has caused the Democratic race to be shrunk down into a cartoon of itself, with little room in the meager coverage—between Trump sound-bites—to get the subtle nuances of why Hillary Clinton is still far and away our best bet, in spite of Bernie’s pyrotechnics in live performance (who’d a thunk it, huh?) And I admit that my fear that one of those Republican clowns could possibly ‘slip through’ is another factor in my favoring Hillary Clinton. Bernie supporters should recognize that his appeal stems from the very things that will make him beatable by a Republican—‘Socialist’ isn’t a dirty word to Democrats—but to the rest of the country? Please. Not that I have any objection to Bernie Sanders—wonderful guy—great ideas—total champion of the little people—but as presidential candidate in lieu of Hillary? No.

So, that’s my two cents on the Sanders surge.

I played some music the other day, right after several days of practicing nothing but my book of Chopin’s Mazurkas—so I’ve entitled it ‘Mazurkoid’—not because it sounds like Chopin, but because it has harmonies and rhythms I’ve never have thought of, had I not immersed myself in his genius—and I like to give credit where credit is due. All my improvising, honestly, is informed by constant practice, sight-reading through the great composers, the great song-writers, and any sheet music I can find, really—so while I don’t know where my fingers will go next, I know that their paths have been shaped by others—and all I’m adding is my personality.

 

Today I played from my Jazz Standards book—these are songs that I may have posted previously but if so I guarantee that these are better versions than I’ve ever recorded before, so I want to post my progress, if nothing else. They’re even kind of listenable, if not professional grade, renditions—so please feel free to give them a listen. I also ended with a tiny improv that I call ‘Moving On’, because it sounded so bright and sunny—like a fresh start. Wish it was longer, but I was pretty tired from all that jazz. I had just failed to play a decent rendition of Gerry Mulligan’s “Five Brothers” which was so bad it’s not on the recording—and you can hear me mumble, “I ain’t no Gerry Mulligan.” as I begin to play the improv….

 

 

 

Xper Dunn plays Piano – January 17th, 2016

Nine Jazz Standards:

Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams
Cute – by Neal Hefti
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
Moonlight In Vermont
Imagination
Bernie’s Tune – by Bernie Miller
Let’s Get Away From It All
Fly Me To The Moon
Moonglow