Mad Monk of the Midlands

Name: Mad Monk of the Midlands

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Third Reich Revisited

Civil discussion be damned! If you can't beat 'em, shout 'em down.
Anybody else see echoes of brown shirts in the '30's in the current disruption of so-called town hall meetings with
Congressmen? I might not agree with everything that's being proposed in the health care reform process going on in Washington. But I fully agree that something needs to be done. Young people in minimum wage jobs can't afford health care. Those of us lucky enough to still have jobs with insurance are not only giving back wages, but any raises we've seen in the last ten years have been gobbled up by increases in our health care costs. But at the hearings around the country on the summer recess, nothing gets done, because some angry people just start shouting. Smells like Karl Rove to me. Back in the summer of 2004, I attended a George W. Bush rally. The crowd allowed in was closely controlled. But I overheard organizers telling some of the attendees, if any unfriendly voices get in, immediately confront them and start shouting, "Four more years!" Sound like a modus operandi for the current disarray. I don't know how to calm down the rhetoric. Maybe if we banned Glen Beck from the radio. He's an argument against free speech, if ever there was one. What's really ironic is, many of these shouters claim to be patriotic Americans. But don't patriotic Americans allow even people they disagree with to have their say? Instead of arresting these rabble rousing protesters, let's just require them to wear brown shirts and jack boots.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A few minutes with Orderly Al

So it's three in the morning, I'm awake, can't sleep, thinking about the stimulus package. No, silly, not Cialis, the financial stimulus, the one that'll save Citibank and AIG and then the rest of us. I get up and decide to go for a drive. Wend my way through the suburbs, out to the main drag. Not many people out this time of the morning. A few delivery trucks. A few drunks just now making it home from the bars. Come to a stop sign. Stop. Wait. Wait some more. Is there a God? If yes, why isn't God making this light turn green? Silly, it's a vast universe, and God's got a lot more to worry about than your little stop sign. There's black holes and supernovas and stuff like that for God to worry about. Maybe I should go through. I mean there's no one around. 'Course, be my luck that the minute I drive through this red light, a cop would pull up behind me and pull me over. So what's on the radio this hour? Probably some right-wing ranter hammering liberals. You know, I bet Jesus was a liberal. I mean, a liberal is someone who cares about other people, who tries to walk in their shoes. Liberals can see the other guy's point of view, even if that other guy is a conservative or Rush Limbaugh. Rush could never see my point of view. But Jesus turned the other cheek. Rush would never turn the other cheek. Conservatives really don't like to turn the other cheek ever, yet they act like they own Jesus. I wonder if we could get "Liberal" classified as a disability. Then Rush and Hannity couldn't criticize us. They'd get hammered like Obama did about Special Olympics bowling. Man, this light is taking an absurdly long time to change. Back when I was 20, I wouldn't have waited this long. I'd have driven through. But as age increases, so do fear and caution. Still, maybe I should consider how much gas I'm wasting, just sitting here idling. That's not a good liberal thing to do, wasting gas, increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. I should have gone for a walk instead of a drive. Oh, look, in my rearview mirror, here comes another car. I'll see what that driver does. Oh, geez, I can hear they got some real sub-woofers in their sound system, man, they're a quarter mile away, and I can HEAR them coming. I'll roll down my window, see if I can figure out what they've got on the radio. Oh, yeah, it's "Womanizer", the Britney Spears tune. Here they come, pulling up beside me. Wow, it's a cute young woman. Wonder if she'll even look at me. Probably not, in my LeSabre. She ain't gonna find what she's looking for in no LeSabre. Maybe if I had a red Mustang. Oh, hey look, the light is green. I can go! And thanks to that lovely young woman, I just had this wonderful insight: when you let the Marketplace decide, not only do you get Bear Stearns and AIG -- instead of Mozart, you get Britney Spears.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sundogs and sundry thoughts

January 23rd in Minnesota, sundogs flank the sun and mock its warmth. A bitter January day in an already long winter. Beautiful sky, however, as if done by some incorporeal Impressionist, the sundogs hazy behind the lower atmospheric layer of dust and snow blown all the way from the Dakotas by the freight-train winds. Later, at sunset, the sky still smoky, refracting apocalyptic oranges and fuchsias, imitating Rubens...

On becoming a Third World Country...
The rich are still doing just fine, the rest of us are learning to struggle.
Wall Street takes the bailout money from the taxpayers and distributes it as bonuses to the schmucks who gleefully got us into the current mess.
My neighbor wants to raise chickens in her back yard -- she calls it a sustainable economy. Before long, I'll be offering to shovel her walk as barter for eggs. Talk about the end of the cash economy....

Idolizing the outrageous, or, Maybe we deserve to struggle?
Watching the TV promos for WWE Smackdown. Mindless and with a talent mostly for hype, these steroidal specimens with perfect pecs strut and posture, and are in fact rewarded with loyal audiences, adoring women, and large salaries. And they are tame compared to Ultimate Fighting. The New Rome.

January 31st in Minnesota, at last the hard winter breaks -- it hits 45 today, the ice begins to melt, people are back out on the street and in the malls and restaurants. I go into one of the high-toned coffee shops and ask for a "Cafe au Lait." "A what?" the young woman behind the counter asks. "Coffee with steamed milk." "Oh, a Latte?" Yeah, whatever. And then she overcharged me by a buck.

Dorkball Fashion
It's really hard to look cool or fashionable at any time during Winter in Minnesota. Frump is the fashion, it can be plaid or olive or polka-dot, as long as it's heavy and it's wool or down. Still, what's with trying to look even uglier than you have to? I'm seeing these beanie caps with a duckbill brim. You look like Elmer Fudd. Still, these guys are young and I'm not, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the young woman behind the bar is winking at them and not at me.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

On my way to becoming a Creature of Light

... And nothing's forever, except the Wind that scours the Earth...

January fourth in Minnesota began a brutal two-week perioud of unrelenting snow, ice, wind and cold. At one point, places like International Falls were as cold as the South Pole.
I looked out at the absolute whiteness and wondered, why would any human have decided to stay here?
The whiteness is stunning, to be sure, and the cold is serene, because so little moves or makes noise, except the wind. But Winter makes everything more difficult. The cold slows everything down. You need to put on more layers of clothes, your glasses fog up, ice forms on your mustache and eyelids, the muscles don't respond as quickly, you need to allow at least twenty percent more time for any task or to go anywhere.
Winter thins the Herd. Some succumb to its harshness.

Sunday the 18th: in the Time of the Great Dread, and the Time of the Great Relief...

The Great Dread: that everything is falling apart. We're all going broke, and between Israel and Iran and Al Qaeda, Armageddon's a better bet than Wall Street.

The Great Relief: after eight gloomy years stumbling under the weight of the vision of W and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Dickie Dark, at last there's a Shining Light, and America could once again become the City on a Hill....

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

If you only had two albums

Okay, we’ve all fantasized about being stranded on a desert island. Which two books would you take? Is it cheating to say The Bible? Since that’s a collection of lots of books. Maybe “War and Peace,” since I’ve never read it, and on that island, I’d have the time. I think I could read Ron Hansen’s Mariette in Ecstasy, over and over and not get tired of it. Maybe Walden would be an appropriate book to have on an island, and certainly Shakespeare’s sonnets.

But I am not trying to mislead. I promised to talk about two albums. Of course, we’d have to premise this on also having a big supply of batteries for our boom box, since it’s assumed there’d be no electricity. I could cop out and say Album One would be Emmylou Harris’s Elite Hotel. Out of all of her brilliant albums, her second might be the best. Or would Angel Band, the gospel album, be more appropriate for a stranded person? I could also cop out and say Album Two should be Alison Krauss’s Lonely Runs Both Ways.

But Milo’s not copping today, and besides, he promised a “surprise.” So are you ready, with pencil and paper, or your Blackberry stylus?

Numero Uno would be the 1974 album I pull out and listen to at least ONCE every November-- I mean, it is not truly November unless I listen to, in its entirety, Norman Blake’s classic, The Fields of November, on Flying Fish records. From the sepia-toned cover of the original LP, to the lyrics and melodies of “Greycoat Soldiers” and “Southern Railroad Blues,” this album captures the universal essence of November, and, I suspect, although I’m less expert about this, of the South. And of course, any acoustic guitarist worth his or her salt really can’t be called a virtuoso until they’ve mastered Blake’s tour de force, The Old Brown Case.

Album numero dos comes from the fecund creative depths of Bruce Springsteen. That’s right; the legendary rocker took a hiatus to produce the stark and stunning, Nebraska, a true folk classic. If you’ve never listened, it’s not for the faint of heart, and be sure to take your Prozac before you listen. But the album is so brilliantly conceived and realized that it’s always breath-taking to put it on again. And it also contains one of the quintessential lines that explains all of human existence. Before I end these thoughts by quoting that line, here’s a refresher on the other QUINTESSENTIAL LINES. If you memorize all four of them, you will know all you need to know about this puzzling quandary that we have come to know as conscious being on Earth:

From Bob Dylan: “You know something’s happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?”

From Jack Nicholson in Roman Polanski’s Chinatown: (wondering why
Justice is so elusive) “Jake, it’s Chinatown!”

From Dorothy in “Wizard of Oz,”: “Toto, we’re not in Kansas, anymore!”

Okay, now are you ready for the Springsteen line that belongs with these? It comes from the title cut, “Nebraska,” contemplating the persistence of Evil: “I guess there’s just meanness in this world.”

Harsh, yes, but true. But hopefully you and I can try to spread more kindness and compassion. Good sailing to your island of strandedness!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Santa and His Ho! Ho! Ho!

By now, if you’ve checked the website, you probably know you can get the newest Milo Bobbins and the Budget Boys’ tune for free. Hey, it’s about Santa, and Santa’s all about GIVING!

The idea for the song came during Christmastime of 2007. I heard a radio report that some folks, I believe in Australia, were worried it would send the wrong message if Santa kept laughing with his trademark “Ho-ho-ho!” Remarkably, it seems they believed that somehow a connection would be made between Santa and hip-hop performers who often refer to women as “ho’s”— ­ of course, a slang abbreviation for “whore.”

I was stunned that political correctness could go this far. Then again, any movement that tends toward hysteria: ­ witch-burning, “The Final Solution”, “Obama is a Muslim”—eventually goes off the deep end.

So the idea kept rolling around in my mind, as I imagined pot-bellied-Santa’s elves morphing into red-bikini-clad hotties. Eventually I worked out the lyrics, and my brother, Harmonica-Billy, and Keyboard-Wiz-Putter and I gathered at the Wine Café to record it on a Saturday afternoon in October. We got some really good takes, but unfortunately, Milo tends to take liberties with the rhythm, and we had to redo and re-mix it. So five days later, we gathered at Putter’s Tea House at the edge of the Ravine and did the final take. Putter mixed it down, and we hope you enjoy.

Money is always short for Milo, as it is for the majority of us, but we’re hoping to do a video of the song next summer and load it up to You Tube.

The Red-Man has already agreed to play Santa. That should be a tough part, havin’ to hang with the Ho’s. We might even have some sort of party to film it live. Who knows how it’ll work out?

I don’t know why I’m drawn to quirky Christmas themes. I love the feeling of Christmas, but I think I’m overwhelmed by the commercialism of it, the Marketing Vehicle it’s become for just about everything except peace and forgiveness and love. I don’t think Jesus would be happy that a guy got trampled at Wal-Mart by Christmas shoppers stampeding for bargains.

Anyway, Milo’s next album project is likely to be a Christmas-New Year’s-themed jobbie. Got some songs stashed, and half-gestated on some legal pads strewn around the Disaster Room where I create. In the meantime, Happy Holidays, and do some Random Acts of Kindness.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mad Monk of the Midlands Chills Out

With interest spreading about Eastern religious concepts like reincarnation, I began an exercise in trying to ascertain who or what I might have been in a past life. My wife surmises I was a SQUIRREL, given my penchant for hoarding substantial piles of books, magazines and old newspapers. A recent experience, however, has given me a different insight: I might have been a monk! Here's the story: We took our gas-miserly little Yaris up to a secluded place along Minnesota's Gunflint Trail. It's a place without a TV, a place where your cell phone plainly reads "no service." Now I must tell you, this isn't quite the Middle of Nowhere, since they do have electricity, indoor plumbing, and an 800-land line number. But by and large, the place is quiet, except for the birds and insects and wolves (at night), and a nearby murmuring stream, and it's definitely out of the way. In the moonlit, windless night, the silence is nearly absolute: no passing cars, no sirens, no train whistles, just the murmuring stream, a loon call at twilight, and perhaps a wolf's howling. And I loved the seclusion and the quietude, the opportunity to contemplate. It seems in modern society, we're mostly too busy to contemplate. We want continual stimulation and instant analysis. When we go for a walk, we don't listen to the birds and the wind in the trees, we stick in ear-buds to hear pre-programmed sound. Sit in a room with several people, even a waiting room with strangers, and someone will quickly start talking, maybe a simple comment about the weather: silence intimidates us. But I loved the silence, and not having to talk. Like a monk in the middle ages, who had to take a vow of silence for certain times of the day. If you're always talking, how can you let in the voice of God? If the televisions are blaring in the crowded sports bar and the TV screens are everywhere these days, all that pre-programmed sound is going to block any original insights. He who cherishes serenity, I mused, just might have been a monk in a past life!

When I travel, I love to look at the countryside. But kids only want to look at their Gameboys or their videos. God's Creation is not good enough. Virtual heroes taking out virtual villains are preferable to Holsteins grazing in a harvested field or the rolled stacks of hay left out in a field that look exactly like something Monet would have painted. I rebel against Media World, even though I make my living from it. The Titans of Media World are the New High Priests of Modernity. They want to call the shots and direct our behavior. Example: check out the local news at six. They've got a murder, and that's the lead, of course. You too, should be scared, that's the subtext, be very scared and stay home and watch our news, and we'll tell you how to stay safe. Hey, eighteen people have been murdered in Minneapolis so far this year, and YOU COULD BE NEXT! Of course, they never say that 499-thousand-982 have NOT been murdered. That's because, if you start calculating the odds, and decide you actually can go outside, you won't stay in and see who's sponsoring C S I tonight.

Bristol Palin and Jamie Lynn Spears
Republicans and Barack Obama have said, it's no one's business that the teenaged daughter of a vice-presidential candidate is five months pregnant. It is unfortunate that this young woman, Bristol Palin, will now be dragged into the national spotlight. But she should be thankful she's a Republican. Can you imagine the hue and cry that would be raised by Rush and Sean Hannity were this the child of a Democrat? See, they'd rail, this is what happens with Democrats: more out of wedlock children, rampant pre-marital sex, another potential welfare mother, more children growing up without a father, no wonder the Republic is in such dire circumstances!But aren't there a few questions to be asked? For one, is this the end result of the Republican's "abstinence-only" mantra for sex education? And why are the social conservatives James Dobson and others so all fired up about Sarah Palin? Wouldn't Dobson prefer that she stay home with her five children? I've heard him say on his radio program that it's honorable and important for someone to be home with the children, and by that, Dobson certainly means the mother, since he KNOWS God intended men by nature to be the breadwinners. Would Dobson even think to ask, if Sarah had been home with her children more, maybe the result would not have been an unplanned pregnancy?Just a few questions and only because it seems ironic that this has happened to those who profess to be the caretakers of the FAMILY, the ones who are aghast at the moral decay of the nation. I mean, didn't I hear some righteous lamentations from these same folks when Jamie Lynn Spears popped up on the covers of the celebrity mags as an unwed expectant mother? I wonder who Jamie Lynn will endorse?