::: I have this reoccurring vision in which I am a short-order cook at a diner. But, this diner serves only to houses. Regular boxy types, split level ranches, sprawling suburb mcmansions. They fill up the booths, pouring out the benches with their girthy extensions and built on garages. And boy, are they hungry; they are as hungry as houses. They order more and more food.

"More siding here!"

"Hardyplank! Another order of hardyplank!"

"Hey! I asked for extra nails! There aren't enough nails in my boards!"

"This trim is stale! Get me MORE!"

I run back and forth, prepping items to go out to the tables and fetching various ingredients and tools. I pull nails out of 2 x 4 and hammer them back in to 2 x 6. I cut a sheet of T111, blow off the sawdust, find its too short, throw it out and start again. I load stapler and cover insulation, only to have it boil over, run out of staples, and have to go back to the fridge for more. The houses are ravenous and are starting to peer into the kitchen with impatience and disgust. I try to paint a sheet of plywood only to have it begin to rain in the kitchen. The color runs to the floor, and I know it is fruitless to send it out as it will only be sent back.

There is a spreadsheet standing in the corner. He takes up no space as people and large objects are grunted back and forth. Fading and becoming more and more transparent, he winks at me before disappearing completely.:::


Non-Stop Associative Cabaret

Because it's fun for me to write, let's take a little walk down Association Lane!

So, most people are at least aware of the 80s hit, "Tainted Love" by the synth-pop group Soft Cell. It is still regularly played on the radio, and included on almost every 80s compilation one might find as a quintessential song of the era. Certainly it is, with trademark synth organs and horns, digital drum sounds, and whiny, emotional lyrics.

However, most people are not aware that it is a cover-song. The song was originally sung by Gloria Jones, a "northern soul" singer who recorded the original version in 1964. The lyrics are much the same, except the original, "I've given you all a girl can give you," is switched to the oh-so 80s appropriate "Ive given you all a boy can give you." Very emo, very goth, very hip. Look at those two hipsters. They love the 80s.

And I guess that they did. They recorded the album in the height of the New York gay clubs scene of the 80s, hence the title, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, which of course no one knows because they are mostly into the single. They, and especially the singer, Marc Almond, also loved the gay club scene. Besides "Tainted Love" being sampled by Rihanna, which many people are familiar with, the song was also covered by the 80s industrial (and also flamboyantly gay) group Coil, for use on the first AIDS benefit album ever in 1984. Coil's video from this cover is purportedly on permanent display in the MOMA in New York.

Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret had videos as well, including the famous video for "Sex Dwarf" that was banned in the UK for including, among a few other things, mutilated corpses and sex dwarves. "Sex Dwarf" is a pretty awesome song, and is representative of the fact that the rest of the album is just as good and sometimes better than the smash single. I would also recommend the opening track, "Frustration". Here are a sample of the lyrics:

"I have a life
I have a cage
I'm going bald
I want to tell the world
I've done nothing
I've acheived nothing
I work for a firm
I want to burn it down
I am so ordinary


Very gothic 80s. In fact, with the whole Cabaret theme, this is almost a concept album for gay/non-mainstream life in the early 80s. Except that it wasn't an intentional concept, only the aesthetic of the time, which makes the album even more remarkable as a fragment of 1980s Western culture. Much more remarkable than the oft-repeated cover single would seem.

Another interesting thing is that the B-side of the "Tainted Love" 7" single was another cover, "Where Did Our Love Go?" originally recorded by the Supremes. The 12" mix was a compilation of both these songs, and an edit of this mix is what is normally recognized as the song. This pairing of two hit soul songs from 1964 recorded by black female vocalists, now covered in 1981 by a gay synth-pop duo, could again be seen as a curious cultural indicator. In the days of the Civil Rights movement and SNCC, the music charts were being overwhelmed by black artists talents. In July 1981 Soft Cell released their versions, a month after what would be labeled the official beginning of the AIDS epidemic, and the year before the disease would be, albeit briefly, called "Gay-Related Immune Deficiency". Two minority groups were being persecuted at the times when their cultural contribution to music was at one of its highest points.

And, because there were two covers on the Soft Cell single, the duo received very little in the way of royalties for their smash hit. Normally a cover single is paired with an original to bring in money for the group, but poor business planning led to the historic cultural fact of this release.

It's funny how culture is related. Or, perhaps unfunny, depending how you look at it, or whether you like Soft Cell.

In other, more specious conspiracy related connections, Gloria Jones was the girlfriend of the lead singer of T. Rex, another groundbreaking 80s group. She was actually driving the Austin Mini that he was in when he was killed in an auto accident. Despite never learning to drive, he had prophesied his death (perhaps tongue-in-cheek, perhaps not), and often discussed his fear of cars in conversation and in song.

Sex Dwarves!


Keep Your Aliens off my Body

I haven't been posting very much recently, and it is a bit discouraging to me. Despite having internet access in my new apartment, I have been very tired at the end of each day as I get used to my new profession as Construction Laborer, or as I sometimes call it, "Constructor". Actually, I've never called it that, but you know, like, idioms and shit.

But I did have two thoughts today that warrant some posting.

Thought the first: the more contact I have with "regular" American people, like for example, people who have lived their whole lives in rural areas, the more I understand why this country is messed up.

For example (or, THE example) is bigotry converting into racism. Why is the system racist? Because people in control of the system are able to tweak and shift the system so that they can cut corners at certain demographics' expense. They can get away with this because there is a good solid percentage of the population that doesn't care if the system is racist, and therefore will not unite to hold the powers that be to any sort of systemic equality. The people don't care if lack of nationalized health insurance affects people with black or white skin (or any other color or shade for that matter), the issue isn't an issue just because they don't care about people other than white people. So bigotry allows racism to exist. It isn't that the powers design the system to be racist because they get some sick kick out of it, it is just that they have no reason to design it equally, and therefore it does what it does, along race/class lines. You could find the same sort of thing happening with class for sure; the system takes advantage of poorer people. Why? Simply because most Americans don't care about poor people. Not that they want to enslave them, they just don't give a shit, because someone who is poor must be a waste of humanity, in the same way a bigot views another race/ethnicity. This also explains why bureaucrats will endlessly defend a system against racism. Of course the system is not supposed to be racist, it is only a general sentiment of bigotry that allows a system to be racist and yet pass as "the way things are".

I thought of this after seeing an advertisement for a pro-immigration reform rally. The slogan was, "Immigrant Rights are Basic Rights". Well, all very good sounding to the liberal, reformist mind. Everyone should have basic rights, so if immigrant rights are basic rights, then we should implement immigrant rights. Perfectly logical.

The problem is, the people who are halting immigrant rights are not people who believe in basic rights for everyone. In fact, the basis of their position is that immigrants should have less that basic rights! The only thing they want for immigrants is a kick in the teeth and a ticket back to where they came from, and that is at best. Our immigration system is horribly oppressive and fascist towards certain people, only these certain people are hated by a large amount of the population, so the system can keep doing it without much fuss. How do you present the "save 'em" argument to people who have already decided a long time ago, "fuck 'em"?

It is the inverse of why the "Abortion is murder" argument, in graphic billboard form or not, will not convince anyone who is pro-choice that they are wrong. Their opinion is not based upon whether or not they think there should be a law against murder. Their opinion is that abortion is not murder, just like bigots think that immigrants are not people (at least not comparatively).

I could relate this to my funny observation that unwanted pregnancies are the ultimate interloping aliens. They even look like aliens. Abortion would then be the ultimate answer to the alien problem, and the CIA, Planned Parenthood, and the Minutemen could all finally resolve their differences and get at the root of the problem.

But really, this is a good example of how argumentation and sloganeering typically serves to just further argumentation and sloganeering, rather than reach the root of the problem or develop any positive solution. No one learns anything that they didn't already know, and no one develops a course of action different than the one they already were planning.

Now I can't remember the second thought. Oh well, I guess this was long enough for one post.


Roll On, Socialism Roll On

I picked up this free environmental magazine called Bear Deluxe published by a group called Orlo. At least, I think it was free. I picked it up at Movie Madness and walked out with it and nobody stopped me. And they don't sell magazines there either. Only movies. And they don't really sell the movies either, they just rent them.

Anyway, the magazine is fairly interesting. There was an article about the impact of the Dalles Dam on Salmon and indigenous tribes. "About" is a pretty loose term, the article wasn't extrordinarily informative. Dam = bad for fish/indians.

Which I'm sure it is, of course. But the article was largely a sentimental reflection on what anybody who cares already knows.

However, it did mention the fact that Woody Guthrie wrote the song, "Roll On Columbia" after being hired to write a song to raise support for the dam by the Bonneville Power Administration for $270.

My cousin, twice-removed, (my Grandfather's cousin) played this song on the guitar recently while I was present. I liked it alot. It has a nice roll to it; a roll apt to the content of the song. The song celebrates Americana ideas of Manifest Destiny, as well as the social improvement projects of the New Deal era.

I don't particularly like the Americana ideals (or ideas) of Manifest Destiny. Actually, I don't like them one bit. But, I do like the social-progress ethics of the Works Progress Administration and other New Deal programs.

These are programs that were critiqued as socialist in their day. They kind of were. But that was good! Hoover's hands-off approach to resolving the depression wasn't going very well, and there wasn't a big ole war yet to jump start the economy. They made a big works project initiative instead of a death project initiative. AWwesome!

An interesting example is the Tennessee Valley Authority, that was involved in building and regulating hydro-electric power, just like the Bonneville Power Administration. But the TVA was a much bigger and more interesting organization than a simple administrating organization of power, it is an Authority.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is a government-formed, federally owned corporation, kind of like Amtrak. But, it controls elements of an area as large as a state, and has government powers like eminent domain (so does the Postal Service). Originally it was designed to boost the economic state of the entire Tennessee Valley area. Now, it pretty much just handles the electricity.

In the Supreme Court case Ashwander v. TVA, the mandate of the TVA was justified. The court case said that the water in a river, the power created by damming the river, and the electricity generated from the power all belong to the United States, regardless of who owns the land bordering the river.

What!?! The potential of power created by liquid flowing due to gravity is owned by the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! If that wasn't so strange, it would be really awesome.

But anyway, the point is that this is an authority created to harness the potential natural power of a region and administer it to the benefit of the people who live there. No voting, no shareholders, no profit margins. Just wielding power for the people... biatch.

Of course, they probably did some bad to the environment, and in the case of the Pacific Northwest, the indigenous peoples. But those were things that they didn't care about back then. What they did care about was using the power of the government in order to benefit the people, at the expense of the corporations. And it was successful, for the most part.

This is what we need again, NOW. Rather than trying to find cute little combinations of government and business, we need authorities to take control of power and wield it for the people. This is dangerous thinking... RED thinking. And to tell you the truth, I don't like the idea of governments having the ultimate say in things. Governments are notoriously unreliable, and not likely to help the people more than they must. But if we are going to start progressing again past this capitalist era, we are going to have to start somewhere. Progressive projects and administrations instigated by the biggest and most powerful corporation (the US Government) might be the first step towards a transfer of economic power.

Or then again, maybe not.


Virtual Constructions

I think I found a job; in fact, a job that does not make use of a computer. I will be working for the Steiner Family Construction Company doing siding and windows installation.

But in news that does involve a computer, Google Maps now has "Street View" in select areas. This appears to be a 360 degree camera that was driven up and down the streets of the area (e.g. Manhattan) and you can either click on the map for a view of that area of the street, or "drive" along the street through the street view window.

I drove past my old apartment building at 101 W. 140th Street, and saw the guys standing on the corner in front of the Harlem Up! Market just like usual.

This is my picture of my old building, by the way, not Google Maps.

It appears that, in Manhattan anyway, they took the pictures sometime in the last two months, because the park across the street from my building that was only finished in May was completed.

Some will probably say that this is creepy, because just like when Google Earth was first released, anything that give a close image of something automatically seems like survelliance. But frankly, while it was cute to drive myself 'round the old neighborhood for a while, it seemed pretty useless. You are looking at a picture of a street taken through a convex lens, so there is very little detail. In addition, there are things obscuring the view, so if you are looking for a specific door frame, you will probably be hard pressed to find it unless you have seen it before in person; the buildings are not accurated labels by address either: only an approximation is given. The view from "108 W. 140th," which was the most direct of my building, had a school bus in the way. In the other direction, shadows and glare made it impossible to see into the park. I wouldn't have even known it was a park if I hadn't actually lived there for a year. Furthermore, you are only looking at the street. What help is that, really? If I told you to come to my address, and then send you a picture of my street that I took from my moving car, which would you rely on to get to my house? Probably not that slightly blurry picture of trash cans.

So, while it was fun to virtually drive around Manhattan, I couldn't hear any of the car horns, get cut off by any cabs, feel the sweltering humidity, or get trapped by one way streets. I ask myself, what is the point? I answer myself, a gimmick that will be about as useful as web cams. Hey, look! It the Pyramid Live Web Cam! What do you know, but the pyramids are still there... just like that have been for thousands of years. Thank goodness for the Internet, or I never would have known.

Other technology that is actually useful and totally sweet:

The Transformers Movie comes out today. Then there is a Battles show tonight. And, tomorrow is Fireworks Day, and maybe there will be a special Independence Day edition of Horror Movie Club. Everything is coming up awesome, except for Google Maps. Google Maps can now sit in the corner and think about what it has done.