Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Orange-Haired Terrorist

Wow. That was a bit strong, wasn't it? Apologies if you were offended by my last post and its graphic imagery. After all, the point of running a blog is to attract readers, not repel them.

And yet, how else to describe a man so hateful? A man so wantonly arrogant? Donald Trump reminds me of a remark made by Dorothy Parker, wherein she opined that when she wonders what God thinks of money, she looks at who he gave it to.

Sadly, our president is an answer only for those who reckoned the best solution to congressional constipation was a bigger asshole.

Yeah.


Like the wild-eyed terrorist that he is, Donald Trump has again expressed his willingness to drive the car of the United States off the cliff in order to get what he wants. So the passengers suffer a little collateral damage—what's that compared to our needy president having his brittle self-esteem restored?

To wit, the object of Don's latest tantrum is the border wall. You know, the one that Mexico is going to pay for?

Oh wait—they're not.

At any rate, President Don's latest plan to fund the wall that Mexico-was-going-to-pay-for-but-isn't is to threaten a shut-down of the government. This transparent-as-glass ploy is intended to scare Congress into appropriating funding for Donnie's Wall in order to avoid a politically risky shut-down.

Being no strangers to power plays, Congress is (thankfully) resisting.

In his Twitter-steria, our terrorist President must've forgotten about his Labor Department's plans to roll back the salaried overtime extensions enacted by President Obama, which blunted corporate America's favorite payroll strategy: Put 'em on salary and ride 'em like a rental car!

Gosh, Don. Wouldn't the money your pals in the executive suite save on overtime fund the wall?

Oh that's right—you're committed to wealthcare. Making billionaires out of millionaires, and trillionaires out of billionaires. And how's that going to happen if you use their no-overtime windfall to fund your wall?

Silly, stupid me.

On top of desiring to poison the water you drink and the air you breathe and the ground you live on because keeping them clean is costing corporate America too much money (sniff), tell me how you feel about President Donnie wanting to take your overtime, too.

Making America Great Again? For who?

Face it. Donald Trump is a compound word. He is a drug-resistant hemorrhoid. He is the tiny stone you can never quite remove from your shoe. He distracts you and baits you with your anger and your hatred while he steals from you and gifts the one-percent with the proceeds.

Please tell me again why you think he gives the tiniest, infinitesimal fuck about you?

You're a tool, bro.

Your enemy isn't the woman on the west side of Chicago trying to raise six errant kids with medicaid and food stamps, or the Mexican sleeping under a filthy sheet of cardboard in the Sonoran Desert, exhausted and left starving by their brutal trip into America.

It's that sneering, orange-haired billionaire in the White House. You better pray he uses condoms.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Rhetorical Question

Does the penis exist which is large enough to fill a cunt the size of Donald Trump?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

And Now for Something Completely Different

That's right. No anti-Trump rants. No dissertations on the evils of business. And not a word about gun control. Just me writing about something I enjoy. Well, mostly.

While it is my belief that the form of communication enabled by the computer will undermine civilization as we know it, the computer-beast does offer one saving grace in exchange for our humanity: the glorious availability of concerts captured illicitly.

Introduced to bootlegs in the mid-seventies, I partook whenever an appealing release intersected with a full wallet. But there was a serious downside—the expense. By the time the vinyl era was drawing to a close, the purchase of bootlegs practically required a bank loan.

And then there was the collateral damage, which consisted mostly of girlfriends and their burgeoning expectations.

Well, yeah, honey. I did drop seventy-five bucks on that four-record Springsteen boot. But um, I thought it'd be a great way for us to spend some time together. You know those nights where there's nothing on TV? We could cuddle up on the couch and...” 

Thud. 

By the time the CD had taken over, discretionary income barely allowed for legal CDs, much less illegal ones. And let's face it, priorities were changing. The beautiful soul who swallowed her frustrations because she just wanted me to be happy deserved a commitment to financial austerity.

So if I didn't capture it on the radio via the BBC's In Concert series, the King Biscuit Flour Hour, the odd simulcast or WXRT's UnConcert, I did without.

But then the Internet happened. And not far behind, the ability to digitize music and share it.

To my delight, there were more hard-core musiholics out there than I ever imagined. Music blogs were everywhere. And more often than not, so was someone's covert recording.
Thanks to the computer, I had been reunited with an old flame. I was able to re-visit the shows of my youth, and attend ones I had missed.

You'd have to go to Wall Street to find a bigger glutton than I.

How to explain the sublime torture of hearing a luminous April, 1987 performance by U2 I had come thisclose to scoring tickets for, or the joy of having my all-time favorite KBFH show (Rockpile New York City 1979) re-enter my life long after the cassette had paid a visit to Jack Kervorkain?

But neither could compare to the once-unimaginable act of going back in time and hearing a favorite concert for a second time.

Bob Seger at the Chicago Stadium on the Stranger in Town tour. All four of the Springsteen shows I saw in support of The River (including the one that so excited me I was unable to fall asleep afterwards and instead drove back to the Rosemont Horizon where I was able to meet and chat with Mr. Springsteen as well as have him sign my copy of Born to Run).

Then there's Neil Young & Crazy Horse on their metallic, amp-shredding Chicago stop for Ragged Glory. U2 on their smoldering 1984/85 go-round for The Unforgettable Fire. And again on their epic, multi-media extravaganza for Achtung Baby.

Siouxsie & the Banshees at the Riviera. Pink Floyd at Soldier Field. Aerosmith, the Clash, Keith Richards and REM—all at the venue we affectionately called the Aragon Brawlroom. OMD at Metro. Led Zeppelin the night Jimmy Page fell ill and couldn't continue. The Dave Alvin-era Blasters and John Hiatt, both at Park West. And the Rolling Stones on their 1981 visit for Tattoo You.

Each was either as buoyant or as ethereal or as fiery as I remembered, a fact attributable to my habit of never imbibing or inhaling before a show. My concert-going mates referred to me as Buzz Kill, which I suppose was better than Stinky.

Apologies to Brooke Shields, but nothing was going to come between me and the music I was about to hear.

Yeah, it was that important to me.

Bootlegs took me all over the globe. I went to London for an otherworldly 1971 performance by Pink Floyd. Belgium for a shimmering and ephemeral one by Dire Straits. (A pox on the house of the person who mistook them for Parliament-Funkadelic, and in the course of remastering the thing pushed the bass up absurdly high.)

I went to Zurich to hear Genesis in 1977. New York City for a wonderous 1997 concert by Bob Dylan. Naples to hear the Rolling Stones in 1982. The same year, I heard the unofficial Tom Petty live album, recorded in Utrecht.

And on and on and on it goes: Bruce Springsteen, Buffalo 1984. Neil Young, Frankfurt 1989. The Cure, Leipzig 1990. Mogwai, Reading 2001. Van Morrison, San Francisco 1974. New Order, Barcelona 1984. And the molten fury of PJ Harvey in London on April Fool's Day, 1999.

Ultimately, I think the thing that most appealed to me about bootlegs is that they were genuine. There was no studio sweetening. No overdubs. No glossing over of bum notes or fumbled passages. They were audio verite. Bootlegs laid it all out there as it happened—documentary-style.

And to their eternal credit, my heroes could go out there and do it. A couple of guitars, a bass, a drum kit and a good voice and they could set an audience on fire. And a bootleg didn't require corporate America's approval to hear it all go down.

Inevitably, there is a downside to this cornucopia of joy and time-travel. To date, I have downloaded in excess of three-thousand shows, performed by over four-hundred musical aggregations.

It poses a question: when did I become a collector and stop being a listener? Despite prolonged underemployment, I find myself with more music than I could ever listen to. And isn't unheard music a kind of crime?

Despite this, I continue to download. I continue to seek unheard doses of musical ecstasy; new-to-me discoveries that stem the contractions of my shrinking world.

To those of you who continue to share the glories of live, uncensored rock and roll, my heartfelt thanks.

People who listen to Justin Beiber on cell phones will never understand.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Addendum

Two-weeks after divesting myself (and my computer) of Avast Anti-Virus, I received my first edition of The Download, their monthly security newsletter.

Which is interesting, because it means my request for a billing adjustment was seen by someone and promptly ignored. But they did think to put me on their mailing list, which is (apologies to C + C Music Factory) definitely a thing that makes you go "Hmmm".

I'm thinking the folks at Avast sit on the TV and watch the couch. 

And if not that, they incubate an attitude not dissimilar to the neighborhood brat who is prone to sticking out its tongue and saying nyah nyah, which is always a good stratagem for growing the business.

Avast has told me (and you) who they are. All we need to do is listen.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

My Experience with Avast Anti-Virus Software

At the height of the Great Recession, I needed new anti-virus software for my computer. A survey in PC Magazine indicated that Avast was one of the better ones out there, plus free subscriptions were available.

I bit. I downloaded.

Win-win, right?

For a long time, it was. The glowing orange sphere (complete with lower-case a) that adorned the bottom right-hand corner of my monitor's screen was a friendly and reassuring reminder that my computer was being protected.

Updates were both regular and free. Scans appeared rigorous. Threats were detected and removed. Despite the heavy usage the computer received from two users in the midst of desperate job hunts, Avast kept it clean and functioning.

Eventually, I moved to a paid subscription. Like all good consumers, I believed that if free was good, paid just had to be better.

And again, Avast seemed to be doing the job. But there were clouds on the horizon (which might have had something to do with the sun-like graphic disappearing).

The first change was in the scans. After a point, the only potentially harmful condition they could identify was that I hadn't purchased enough Avast software. There was never a report, an indication of any harmful malware, etc. Just fluff about weak passwords and file conversion software that hadn't been updated.

And all I had to do about those was open my wallet.

Then one day I discovered my computer was infected. It took a $200 visit to a repair facility to clean it up. That was strike one.

Strike two occurred when, in the course of pursuing a fix for a technical issue, I discovered Avast had double-billed me the same month I cleared-out and prepared my parent's house for sale, moved, oversaw three separate sets of tax returns all while caring for a sick mate and working.

Nice.

Strike three arrived just minutes later, when an Avast staffer named “Helen” informed me that despite having my license number and purchase ID, I would not be getting my anti-virus package (which had been accidentally deleted) re-installed until I signed on for a $79.99 computer repair to fix fourteen issues she had discovered.

Despite a complete absence of food or drink in or around my esophagus, I began to choke.

When the choking subsided, I asked “Helen” if she knew what extortion was. I asked why I should pay $79.99 to do what my paid subscription should have been doing for a quarter of that. I asked how many people fell for this, and how badly they were injured in the process.

The play on words was lost on “Helen”, who for lack of alternatives stuck to the script and grimly recited what I needed to do. “You have fourteen issues on your computer. You need to fix them before you can have your anti-virus back.”

Yes, but for the second time shouldn't my software package have prevented those?”

There was a sigh. “We will reduce it to $49.99. But that is final negotiation. No more.”

Helen, leave my computer alone. Don't touch a thing” I rasped.

With my vocal cords straining like Donald Trump's credibility, I inquired of “Helen” one final time: “So what do I need to do to get a refund on the overcharge?”

From the Avast web site I composed a heated e-mail detailing what I wanted, and why. Shockingly, there was no response. Nor has there been in the nine days since.

Thankfully, my credit card company was able to file a dispute and credit the charge. And I was able to file a complaint with the Attorney General's office.

In PC Magazine's most-recent survey of the best Internet protection packages, Avast ranked a very middling 25th.

That sounds about right.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Free Advice (And a Business Opportunity) for Our President!

Dear President Trump,

As a caring, feeling American, it pains me to see you twist in the wind as you refuse to acknowledge the protocols of your position and instead pretend the White House is just another boardroom in the Trump business empire.

You are a CEO. And a very wealthy man. You aren't used to having people tell you what to do. Hell, the closest you ever got to a cabinet before reaching 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was when you asked the maid to fetch you a Twinkie. 

Because you are such a wealthy and powerful man, people attempt to curry favor with you. This happens so often that you have come to expect it. In fact, you're put-off when it doesn't happen. When was the last time you picked-up a check or reached for your wallet, anyway? 

(This is probably a good thing, because I imagine it's quite heavy. And as America's oldest-ever president you aren't as limber—or as strong—as you used to be, are you?)

Like I said, I'm an American who cares. So I'm going to celebrate the Fourth of July by offering my president (that's you) some free advice. Don't even think of reaching for your wallet--not that you would.

In the restless, dark night of your presidency, you Tweet about witch hunts and fake media and how nobody loves you. I don't think it's stretching the truth to say that since becoming president, every day must seem like Halloween. Grotesque and horrible days full of people who don't bow and scrape like employees, unwilling to display the blind obedience you have come to feel is your birthright.

That's rough.

Okay, Mr. President, put the phone down. I know—the ADHD is kicking in. I'll get to the point.

Mr, President, the point is this. If you're tired of witch hunts have you ever considered not being a witch? Have you considered adapting to the office instead of petulantly demanding that it adapt to you?

Have you considered growing up?

Have you considered not sharing every single thought that passes between your ears? Do you realize it was the so-called fake media who informed me last November that you would be my next president?

Is that fake news? And if so, does it mean you're not?

Have you considered that for over two-hundred years this country has survived very well without you?

As hard as it is to imagine Mr. President, some things are bigger than you. Like the office you inhabit. In fact, it's even bigger than your child-like sense of self-importance.

Yes Mr. President, once upon a time your father called you son. But that doesn't mean the planet revolves around you.

Finally, I'd like to get to that business opportunity I spoke of. Don't worry—no contracts or handshakes are expressed or implied.

Have you ever considered starting-up a winery? Because I think you'd be a natural. I mean, five months into your presidency, it couldn't be more clear that you and wine go together like shit and stink.

I even have a name: The Trump Whinery.

Just sayin', Mr. President. Enjoy your Fourth.


Best Regards,

La Piazza Gancio


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Confronting the Unfathomable

I want you to sit down. I want you seated in your favorite chair; a chair simultaneously stable and comfortable. I don't care if it's a Louis XIV antique or the latest offering from IKEA or some beat up old thing you salvaged from your Grandpa's house when he died. 

Sit down.

Ready?

I am pissed-off. Granted, this doesn't exactly qualify as news. But I am.

There are things I just don't understand. Like voting for Donald Trump. Or putting ketchup on french fries. Or why we are okay with some kinds of carnage but not others.

Take the FDA's proposed ban on Opana. One thing twenty-first century Americans can agree on is that we're in the midst of a very serious opioid epidemic. When they're not gobbling them like candy, America's opioid addicts are dropping like flies.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention figures about 40,000 did in 2016 alone.

So the FDA is taking decisive action, and asking the manufacturer to cease production. And unless you're an Endo Pharmaceuticals shareholder, who can't get behind that?

What I don't understand is why we don't do the same thing to Smith & Wesson.

If anything, gun deaths are an even bigger tragedy. And I'll tell you why. Excuse the reference, but no one is holding a gun to the head of opioid addicts demanding that they swallow Percocet and OxyContin and Opana in quantities not endorsed by their manufacturers.

I think we can agree this a fairly voluntary activity.

In contrast, no one agrees to be shot to death. Not as they walk down a street or drive a cab or walk through a college campus to their next class. It is a highly involuntary occurrence. It is one that is forced upon you against your will. You absolutely, positively do not want this to happen to you.

And yet tens of thousands of people die each and every year in gun-related homicides. Tens of thousands more have their lives irretrievably altered as the result of a shooting. In 2015 alone, 13,286 people died in a gun-releated homicide. Another 26,819 were wounded. 

On a per-capita basis, the U.S. looks like a third world nation insofar as firearms-related deaths are concerned. We're number eleven, right between Uruguay and Montenegro. Of course, with a world-leadng 112.6 guns per one-hundred people, it could be said we have an unfair advantage. 

And exactly what do we do about all these guns and all this death?

Nothing.

Cowed by a moneyed and well-entrenched special interest group known as the National Rifle Association, our elected representation nervously avoids any conversation about gun control lest the Chuck Norris wanna-bes who constitute the NRA's membership threaten to hold their breath until their lips turn blue.

And in this instance, our representation is highly sensitive to being viewed as the source of bodily injury.

Even the most sensible, level-headed suggestions (i.e. banning assault weapons or employing smart gun technology, which confirms the owner's fingerprint before firing) are routinely regarded by the NRA as heresy.

They lean heavily and indelicately upon our Congress until their will prevails. There shall be no restrictions on firearms whatsoever. Period. (God originally issued eleven commandments, but only NRA members are privy to this fact.)

So the carnage continues. The next time you hear of half-a-dozen high school or university students mowed down in the prime of life, consider this twist on a former NRA tagline: Guns don't kill. Special interest groups do.

And sad to say, it is with our consent.

I only wish we had the compassion for once and future murder victims that we do for junkies.