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Posted by on Jan 22, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

Republicans in 2020: The Party of Liars and Obstructionists

 

 

Late last night past midnight, ALL 53 REPUBLICAN SENATORS voted AGAINST a Senate resolution to call Trump’s former National Security Advisor, John Bolton to testify in front of the American people.

Think about that.

EVERY single Republican stonewalled the pursuit of truth and justice.

John Bolton, a first-person witness to charges of impeachable crimes, a man who has stated publically repeatedly that he is *willing* to testify — Republicans blocked it.

Just wow.

What is the party of panting Trump lapdogs afraid of? Why did they block one of the most important witnesses in the Ukraine scandal from coming forward and testifying under oath?

This would be like Republicans in 1973 blocking John Dean from testifying in the Watergate hearings. At least most Republicans back then had integrity and were honest. Now, they’ve tumbled into the abyss.

Republicans have ZERO credibility. They’re nothing more than Trump toadies.  Every single one of them.  Without exception.

Research and polling reveal that about 67 percent of Americans believe Bolton and other key witnesses should be called to testify.  More than two-thirds of Americans, and nearly HALF of all Republican respondents.  Yet, every Republican blocked the measure. Every motion to allow testimony and additional documents — and there were 11 such instances yesterday — was BLOCKED.

Ask yourself — what are they hiding? Trump even says he would step in and block Bolton from testifying, by invoking “executive privilege.” Hmmm. Does this sound like someone who is *innocent?*

Total scum. Trump. All the Republican senators. His waffling dirtbag attorneys. Every one of them.

Slime.

NEWS LINK:  REPUBLICANS BLOCK BOLTON FROM TESTIFYING (THE HILL)

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Posted by on Jan 21, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Personal, Rants and Raves | 0 comments

My 2020 New Year Resolutions — Twenty Days Later

 

train crash

 

So, how are the 2020 New Year’s resolutions going?

Now so good, huh?

You’re not alone.  Here’s my 20-day update into the year 2020:

 

RESOLUTION #1: Lose Weight

People carrying a few extra pounds typically announce that they’re going on a diet when a new year begins. A week later, we’re at the All You Can Eat buffet pounding down a second slice of cheesecake.  Sure, we want to lose weight. But why kid ourselves? We’re not chasing a magic number. A weight scale shouldn’t be our barometer of happiness. Instead, our goal should be — to get healthier. To feel better. Losing weight shouldn’t be the end game, but rather one numerical consequence of striving for something higher. There are certainly ways to reduce one’s weight (so, I hear), but they aren’t always healthy. Some are even risky. Our top priority should be to enjoy life to the greatest extent possible. Sure, I’d like to drop a few pounds. But if I get through the year 2020 at 225 pounds (my current weight) and maintain my health, that’s a victory.

 

RESOLUTION #2: Travel Less

I love traveling. That is, once I get there. Unfortunately, the journey getting from point A to B is often a miserable experience. Flown lately? Been strip-searched by overzealous TSA agents? Paid nearly the cost of the air ticket for baggage fees? Been sardined into a middle seat? Sat beside the rapper yapper or the screaming infant? Leisure travel can be a tremendously rewarding experience. But traveling just for the sake of going somewhere and then returning home again is often more stressful than a typical workday spent at home. Especially if you’ve got kids or pets and have to board them (board the pets I mean). I hope to travel less in 2020 unless there’s a first-class hotel and wine involved.

 

RESOLUTION #3: Manage My Stress Better

Zen philosophy is becoming increasingly popular. I can certainly understand why. The problem with Zen is, it encourages us to disengage from challenges. I wholeheartedly reject this approach. Some things in life must be confronted. Always. Always. Always. And passion is the rocket fuel that lights the engine. Vested emotions and intensity can be a great motivator. Sorry, but Zen people don’t usually change the world. Action-minded people do. Those with passion do. I want to get fired up about life, not skate through it calmly. Forget worrying about rocking the boat. Rock the hell out of it. That’s my motto.

 

RESOLUTION #4: Drink Less Alcohol/Quit Drinking

If drinking is a problem in your life, then, by all means, do try to cut back and/or get some help. But let’s face it. Drinking serves as a wonderful bonding experience for many people. Without drinking, I doubt many people would be as close as they are. Booze is both a sugar cube and a truth serum. While this freedom can be dangerous when abused (and there’s lots of abuse), the loss of inhibitions can also be tremendously liberating. Think of it another way. I have a theory that outlawing bars (and forbidding drinking/intermingling of sexes) in Muslim countries frustrates the hell out of a lot of people, especially young men, and that’s what causes much of the world’s problems. Here’s a thought:  Open bars all over the Middle East.  Acts of terrorism would be cut in half.  Yes, I believe that. As for me, I plan on drinking exactly the same amount with the same frequency in 2020 as I’ve done in the past. I see no reason to make changes. And, to reiterate my point — some places in the world need a lot more drinking, not less.

 

RESOLUTION #5: Get Out of Debt

I’d love to be debt-free. I’d also like to be 25-years-old again and a member of the Rolling Stones. Fact is, when the date December 31st, 2020 rolls around, most of us are still going to be in hock up to our asses to the banks. We’ll still owe on our mortgages, own credit card debt, and have to beg some joker dressed in a golf shirt for a new car loan. I take a much simpler approach, a goal I can actually achieve. It’s this. Try and stop the bleeding first, which means not to take on any more debt. That’s the first goal everyone currently in debt should have, since our poor spending and saving habits likely got us into trouble in the first place.  Especially me.

 

RESOLUTION #6: Eat Healthier

I don’t believe in diets of denial. I want to eat good food and plenty of it. That means I won’t be ashamed of enjoying my large portions, my red meat, my loaded baked potato, my real butter, my rich desserts, my deep-fried foods, and pretty much whatever I want. That said, I refuse to eat fast food or consume prepackaged garbage that’s sold in supermarkets because that’s poison. And, I’ll never drink a soda, which is packed with sugar and chemicals. Never! So, that means I can enjoy just about everything else so long as it’s natural. A side note: I suffered a health scare late in 2019, so this might change — but all tests showed diet wasn’t a factor.

 

RESOLUTION #7: Be a Better Father/Husband/Friend/Son/Whatever

Sounds all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it. The mantra goes something like this — I don’t spend enough time with so and so, which means I must change. Says who? You work hard, right? You earn the bread, right? You love your family and friends and are there for them when they need support, right? I think it’s vital to be comfortable in our own skin. You also need your time, just for you. If people get offended by the things you say or do, maybe the problem lies with them — not you. Think about that. Be who you are and take time for yourself. You probably deserve it. And there’s no reason to apologize for feeling this way, just as those you care about also deserve their own time and space.

 

RESOLUTION #8: Go Back to School/Get an Education

I’m all for learning. But getting an education doesn’t have to cost you 30 grand a year. The education lobby and the lending cutthroats have warped our sense of reality. They’re loading up millions of kids with crushing amounts of debt, and then providing few tools to escape the chains other than slaving away for years to pay off the loans (this is entirely by design). Yes, I believe people should learn as much as they can, and get an education. However, it’s far easier to read a book on your own, or become part of a social club, or join an Internet group which provides opportunities to learn just as much. And, it’s basically all free. Self-learn. Take a guitar lesson online. Get a library card.  Volunteer to coach a kid’s soccer team.  I’ve done all three.  Learning shouldn’t be a once-a-year resolution. Education should be a lifelong mission that never ends.

 

RESOLUTION #9: Donate Blood/Give to Charity

This one will piss-off some people. I’ve donated blood before. Many times. However, many blood banks (and drives) are nothing but scams. Make sure the blood you give is really going to someone needy and won’t be sold off for a profit by some medical company. When it comes to donating time or money to a charity, be sure they do what they say. And check out the salary of the head honcho running the show (non-profits are required to make this information public). Some of the biggest charities in America are detestable, horribly-managed, money-making enterprises. I give to charity when I can. But I refuse to give anything to a charity that pays fat salaries to its executives or is based in ridiculously expensive cities like New York and Washington. Move the charity to someplace where operating costs are significantly cheaper so more good can be done. The point is — give, but with greater discretion. I also volunteer, once a week.  I wish I could do more, but this is the right balance.  I recommend trying to find your own balance, whatever it is.

 

RESOLUTION #10: Quit Gambling

You’re kidding, right?

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Posted by on Jan 20, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

My Thoughts on Alan Dershowitz

 

 

MY THOUGHTS ON ALAN DERSHOWITZ

Alan Dershowitz has been picked to be on Donald Trump’s legal team in the U.S. Senate’s upcoming impeachment trial. Here are my thoughts on this high-profile legal celebrity.

I keep on hearing that Alan Dershowitz is a great legal scholar. Yet, what I’ve observed over the past 25 years is an artfully-crafted illusion, the concatenation of a media-obsessed subterfuge of publicity willing to argue *any* side of *any* legal controversy, no matter how ridiculous, so long as he gets to appear on television and reinforce his own mythology. I haven’t seen nor heard Dershowitz argue *anything* convincingly since the Von Bulow trial, and that fabrication four decades ago was spun by a movie.

First, let’s get one thing out of the way. I have no issue with any attorney taking any case to provide the best legal defense possible. I need not explain that to readers. If you don’t understand it or disagree, then please stop reading. We have zero common ground. What I take exception to, and hereby question is Dershowitz’s presumed commitments to justice when he’s so often been on the opposite side of is own arguments.  Moreover, I’m not casting aspersion to the legal defense of murderers and scumbags, rather — I’m stating Dershowitz has demonstrated an appalling lack of ability to persuade and be effective, despite countless opportunities to argue in dozens of settings and cases.

Dershowitz’s willingness to play the provocateur of persuasion is certainly good for theatrics. He’s a master ringleader of any political circus once he enters the big tent. Yet, he’s become so soiled with personal and professional contradictions, it’s now impossible to take him seriously, on anything. Especially anything with a political connotation. Go back and watch Dershowitz’s commentary on the Clinton impeachment during the late 90s, or his countless appearances in defense of murderer O.J. Simpson. They’re cringeworthy.

Do you want a better example of Dershowitz as a legal and political failure? I’ll give you three, each off the top of my head:

1. Years ago, ESPN did a mock civil trial on Major League Baseball and the battle between big-market and small-market teams. The question was on baseball’s competitive balance. It was a bold three-hour experiment on live television. Dershowitz argued on behalf of small-market teams, a view which I was vociferously in agreement with. Yet, Dershowitz was destroyed by opposing counsel Bruce Cutler. It was a major league ass-kicking. I had several arguments swirling in my head while watching, which Dershowitz failed to bring up. It was an embarrassing performance and the first hint that Dershowitz wasn’t nearly as smart or gifted as we thought.

2. Following the 2000 presidential election debacle (the Florida results went to the Supreme Court), Dershowitz wrote a book titled How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000. Entirely sympathetic to Dershowitz’s argument, I was seeking supporting material on my own for Gore’s case. So, I bought and read the book. Rarely has any text ever swayed me in the opposite direction, but somehow this legal scholar managed to do exactly that. This book, written for laypeople (non-legal people like me, was an appalling misfire. How does an author manage to defeat his own argument within his own text? I vowed never to waste $25 on another Dershowitz book again.

3. A few years later, Dershowitz wrote The Case for Israel, supposedly a defense of the Jewish state. Eager to expose myself to opposite points of view, I cracked open the book at a Barnes and Noble and spent an entire afternoon suppressing disbelief at how poorly-constructed Dershowitz’s written arguments were, both morally and politically. Any contributor to Foreign Affairs could easily have deconstructed and destroyed Dershowitz’s so-called “defense” of Israel. Once again, he managed to move a reader *away* from his side of the argument.

In fairness to Dershowitz, I’ve seen him debate numerous times (twice in person). Once, he debated Alan Keyes on the topic of religion in government. Predictably, Dershowitz took the secular side and mopped the floor with Keyes, which wasn’t exactly saying much. More recently, Dershowitz (I thought) won a heated debate about BDS (sanctions against Israel) against Dr. Cornel West, who appeared woefully unprepared in the back and forth. Those are the only two moments of Dershowitz’s lengthy career when he advanced his case in any way, and both wins were softballs.

Now, Dershowitz somehow gets pegged for Trump’s legal defense. Call me unimpressed.

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Posted by on Jan 18, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

2019-2020 NFL Season: Conference Championship Games

 

conference championship games

 

Read my analysis of both conference championship games at onlinegambling.com.

Here are the links:

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:  GREEN BAY AT SAN FRANCISCO

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:  TENNESSEE AT KANSAS CITY

 

**************************************************************

2019 NFL WAGERING RECORD

Wins — Losses — Pushes          79 — 67 — 3

Starting Bankroll:   $ 8,398.

Current Bankroll:   $9,466.  (+ $1,068.)

Last Week’s Results (Week #20):         1 — 4 — 0  (- $850.)

**************************************************************

THIS WEEK’S WAGERS 

This week, I made THREE wagers.  I’m wagering $917.50 to win $750.  Here are my thoughts:

TENNESSEE at KANSAS CITY (-7) — Total 53

Andy Reid-coached teams have a history of folding at this stage of the playoffs. However, this appears to be his most talented team. Certainly, the Chiefs field an explosive offense, which as was proven last week, can put up lots of points quickly. Kansas City stunned just about everyone by overcoming a 24-0 deficit en route to a convincing 51-31 win. They are rightly favored big in this game. However, Tennessee might be the worst possible opponent for the Chiefs in this spot. The red-hot Titans have pulled off three straight road wins, all versus division winners.

The Titans’ defense has been suffocating, holding the Texans, Patriots, and Ravens respectively to 14 points or less each time. The big question is — can the Titans’ power running attack do it one more time? If RB Derrick Henry runs anything like he’s done in the last two months, that does more than help Tennessee move the ball. More important perhaps, success at running the ball keeps the Chiefs’ offense on the sidelines. Tennessee has proven itself capable of upsetting solid teams. They’ve also defeated Kanas City earlier this season and beat Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium in a playoff game two years ago.

While there’s been considerable change in personnel since then, Tennesee looks like a very attractive underdog getting plus-7. At plus-7.5, they are absolutely worth a wager.  But I can’t get that number, so this is a pass.

Betting this total to go over looks way too obvious. Both teams score plenty of points. Both offenses are explosive. Weather doesn’t appear to be a major factor although temperatures will be cold (20 degrees at game time). Temperatures in this range have not impacted scoring, historically speaking. No wind is in the forecast. What the total doesn’t reflect, however, is the recent play of both defenses. Both units have stepped up significantly in recent games. In the seven games since the mid-season loss at Tennesee, Kansas City has posted 5 unders and just 2 overs. The defense has allowed only 16 points-per-game.

Meanwhile, Tennessee’s defensive numbers are equally as impressive, surrendering just 18 points-per-game over their past seven contests. The total at 53 is the highest of any Titans’ game this season. The Chiefs have seen five games with a total at 53 points or higher — producing 2 overs and 3 unders. Given this total is considerably higher than average, especially for a championship game, there are compelling reasons for contrarians (gamblers who like fading the public and popular perception) to bet under.

One other statistic worth noting: QB Tannehill has completed only 15 passes in his two playoff starts this season (both wins). This is a startling stat, especially in the modern pass-crazy NFL. The Titans’ unproven passing game with the pressure gives even more confidence to the under.

Bottom Line:  I expect Tennessee to run the ball heavily, milk the clock, and not commit costly turnovers.  This should play into a lower-scoring game than is projected.

MY WAGER: 

TENN/KC UNDER 53 — Laying $330 to win $300

 

GREEN BAY at SAN FRANCISCO (-7.5) — TOTAL 46.5

Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers has been in plenty of big games before. He’s posted a 10-7 career playoff W-L record. For all the accolades the 49ers so rightly deserve for earning the NFC top seed, Rodgers’ experience should be weighed heavily here when picking a side. Moreover, Green Bay was held to their fewest points of the season (a trash touchdown with a 2-point conversion) in a humiliating 29-point loss at San Francisco in mid-season. We should look for a far better effort this time around.

The Packers’ defense has also carried much of the load en route to a 13-3 season. Green Bay’s defense allowed just 17 points-per-game the last six contests. This is the kind of team that’s traditionally a strong value — experienced QB, solid defense, getting points.

However, San Francisco has demonstrated its ability to completely shut down opponents and looks to be the superior unit. When the 49ers defense plays at peak level, this team looks unbeatable. Offensively, the 49ers have been explosive — eclipsing the 30-point mark in half of their games. They’ve also faced a considerably stronger schedule of opponents. The 49ers are rightly favored, but should they be laying more than a touchdown?

Several factors appear to neutralize each other when weighing the evidence. However, getting the added half-point with the underdog is a tipping point. The Packers are more than capable of winning this game outright. Getting more than a touchdown makes them a compelling team to bet on in this situation.

The total opened up at 45 and has been bet up to 46.5. Some handicappers think this total could reach 47 by kickoff. However, let’s presume the betting total is 46.5 for the purposes of discussion.

The betting public likes betting overs and these two teams could deliver points. However, both defenses are also capable of domination. If either defense flexes its muscles, the number should fall below the total.

Here are a few significant stats to look at from last week:  QB Jimmy Garopollo was just 11/19 for 131 versus Minnesota, which wasn’t impressive. He’ll have to do much better than that against Green Bay. Second, the 49ers rushed by more than a 2 to 1 margin last week, with 47 rushes and just 19 passes. Assuming a similar game plan carries over, the 49ers stressing the running attack will drain the clock and significantly help under bettors.

This is a very challenging total to handicap. No discernable edge appears to exist. It’s best to pass on the total, in my opinion.

However, Green Bay’s team total is posted at 19.5 (-125). This seems a fraction low, even with the high juice. Green Bay has scored 20-plus points in six straight games. QB Aaron Rodgers has produced 20-plus points in all 17 of his career playoff appearances. Read that again: 17-0 to the “OVER 20.” Based on history, a wager on the Packers team total to go over 19.5 is worth the risk. Note that I got burned on this wager last week with the Vikings, but the Packers are a superior team with a much better QB.

Bottom Line:  I expect Green Bay to stay with San Francisco most, if not all of the game. Rodgers can never be counted out of any playoff matchup, and it’s rare to get so many points with a veteran QB in a championship game. Give me the +7.5 and the Pack to get to 20.

MY WAGERS: 

Game Line:  GB +7.5 vs. SFO — Risking $275 to win $250

Green Bay Game Team Total Over 19.5 (-125) — Risking $312.50 to win $250.

 

 

INVESTMENT GROUP [37 persons Active]

Investor  —- Amount —- Pct. of Total Fund
Heldar $ 211 2.51%
Watanabe $ 100 1.19%
Peter Lucier $ 1,000 11.91%
Kramer $ 302 3.60%
Finbar O’Mahoney $ 200 2.38%
Howler $ 100 1.19%
Linda Keenan $ 500 5.95%
John Pickels $ 100 1.19%
Patrick Kirwan $ 100 1.19%
Sean McGinnis $ 300 3.57%
Jim Anderson $ 252 3.00%
Chad Holloway $ 200 2.38%
Eric Schneller $ 500 5.95%
Randy Collack $ 351 4.18%
Dave Lawful $ 100 1.19%
Paul Harris $ 1,000 11.91%
Dan Goldman $ 51 0.61%
Sharon Goldman $ 51 0.61%
Ken QB $ 102 1.21%
Chuck Weinstock $ 102 1.21%
Peter Taki Caldes $ 102 1.21%
Kenny Shei $ 51 0.61%
Jeff Deitch $ 51 0.61%
Kevin Un $ 128 1.52%
Becca Kerl $ 22 0.26%
Corey Imsdahl $ 102 1.21%
Don Bingo Rieck $ 102 1.21%
Jeff Siegel $ 1,000 11.91%
Stephen Cohen (payment pending) $ 100 1.19%
John Reed $ 114 1.36%
George Wattman $ 51 0.61%
Mickdog Patterson $ 51 0.61%
Larry Lubliner $ 100 1.19%
Grizz Berentsen $ 100 1.19%
Edmund Hack $ 100 1.19%
Bob Feduniak $ 500 5.95%
David “Quick” Horowitz $ 102 1.21%
TOTAL $ 8,398 100.00%

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Posted by on Jan 16, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

The Van Morrison MasterClass: Week 6

Part 6 (Days 36-42) of an ongoing retrospective on the music and career of Van Morrison

 

Van Morrison and Janet Planet

“I write songs.  Then, I record them.  And, later, maybe I perform them on stage.  That’s what I do.  That’s my job.  Simple.”

 

THE VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS:  WEEK 6

 

WAIT! IS THAT VAN MORRISON OR MICK JAGGER?

THE VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS: DAY 36

“Go On Home, Baby” (1965)

Some of Van Morrison’s earliest recordings with the Northern Irish band, Them, are often misidentified as Mick Jagger with the Rolling Stones. It’s easy to understand why listeners — both then and now — would presume the vocals belong to Jagger. However, Van’s voice was always a slight bit raspier. Moreover, Van never went commercial, sold out his music, nor played the fame game like most of the so-called “British Invasion” groups (a misnomer that absolutely incensed members of Them, who were proudly and distinctly Irish!).

Here’s an obscure track that could have been from any recording by Them at the time. It’s from the album titled, The Angry Young Them, which was marketed as a rebel statement and sound, which now seems terribly dated and ultimately failed to connect in the same way other groups such as the ‘Stones and the Animals were able to exploit the bad-boy image.

The album’s only hit single was the iconic “Gloria.” It contained several original Van Morrison compositions, which was still unusual at the time (Bob Dylan and the Beatles largely broke the record company’s stranglehold on bands being their own songwriters and studio players). The album also included Van’s cover of the John Lee Hooker classic “Don’t Look Back,” considered by many to be the standout track. Van’s early love for Hooker’s blues became a lifelong devotion. It would result in Hooker inviting Van into the studio in 1972 to record a duet on what would become Hooker’s most acclaimed album. More to come on that album in a future lesson.

But for today, let’s go back to one of Van’s early recordings, from 1965. The intent here is to notice the similarities in Van’s vocals with Mick Jagger, but also to notice that Van sounds a bit edgier. Perhaps sound engineers tried to intentionally make Van sound rough and mean. Now 55 years later, Van in his mid-70s, is a deep baritone and would have no shot to replicating this vocal range.

 

THE VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS: DAY 37

“Comfortably Numb” (1990)

Van Morrison rarely performs in gigantic rock extravaganzas, opting for reasons best left for him to explain, to decline every invitation except those connected to various charities in his beloved native Ireland (where he’s done several public appearances). For instance, he opted to skip Live Aid, the “We Are the World” recording session, the Concert for Bangladesh, Woodstock, California Jam in the 70s, and virtually all concerts with a cavalcade of rock stars.

Notable exceptions to Van’s self-imposed segregation from rock stardom were his connections to The Band (and the much-celebrated The Last Waltz concert in 1978) and his appearance at the Berlin Wall in the summer of 1990 for the epic “Live in Berlin” concert (and album) organized and hosted by and headlined by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.

Waters performed The Wall album in an epic setting, witnessed by 350,000 spectators and really, the entire world which was witnessing one of the seminal events of the 20th Century. The Pink Floyd co-frontman invited several musicians to attend. Many were committed to tours elsewhere that summer. However, Van happened to be touring in Germany and took an express to Berlin where he was asked to perform the lead vocals on one of Pink Floyd’s best-known songs.

Van looks like a middle-aged insurance salesman who somehow slipped onto the stage in the middle of the act. He’s about as unappealing as imaginable given the panoply of rock stars who were present. However, Van’s vocals are soaring on this track. It’s rare for a substitute vocalist to generate the same electricity as the original, but Van manages to fill in nicely.

On a far more personal note, while this concert was happening I was living and working in Romania, which had also undergone a revolution, albeit far more violent. During the same week of this Berlin concert, I did a TDY in Frankfurt, West Germany. I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t travel to Berlin, instead (which would have been just as easy). Germany that summer was a rocking spectacle, as the Germans won the World Cup played in Italy. The Iron curtain fell and was ended. The West and East would reunite as one nation, soon thereafter. And, Pink Floyd’s music was the perfect soundtrack.

Back then, everything seemed ideal. The worst was behind us — or so we thought.

 

THE VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS: DAY 38

“These Are the Days” (1989)

These are the days of the endless summer
These are the days, the time is now
There is no past, there’s only future
There’s only here, there’s only now

The lyrics and message of “These Are the Days” couldn’t be more clear. Live life for the here and now.

Van Morrison’s words are set to an elegant melody accompanied by guitar, an accordion, a string section, and superb backing vocals. Characteristic of many of Van’s compositions, the song begins softly and builds gradually towards a stirring crescendo.

“These Are the Days” is the final track on Avalon Sunset, which received favorable reviews but a more lackluster reaction from the public. The album sold well in the UK but barely cracked the Top 100 in the US market. Nonetheless, all 12 original tracks stand the test of time well and could just as easily be released today.

Van rehearsed his new songs in two days along with his backing band (which included organist Georgie Fame for the first time) and then went into a London studio and recorded all the tracks in another two days. This is one of several albums essentially crafted in less than a week’s time. However, to its great credit “Avalon Sunset” sounds far more polished than the jazz and blues recordings he typically rushed off the studio assembly line in other projects.

After the recording sessions, guitarist Arty McGlynn remarked about the band’s feelings — “we still don’t know if it’s an album, or maybe a demo for an album.” The answer to that question was abundantly clear: Van was aiming for spontaneity. This was evident on finalized tracks where Van he can be heard barking out chord changes to his bandmates and occasionally mumbling his approval when the sound matches the vision.

Indeed, even inside the recording studio, Van lives and follows his own lyrics:

There is no past, there’s only future
There’s only here, there’s only now.

 

THE VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS: DAY 39

“Brand New Day” (1970)

The extraordinary gift of a song can inspire us and change who we are. A song heard in a crisis can become a turning point. There are people who have written and said the paradigmatic melody and lyric of a song can spur hope and even save a life.

“Brand New Day,” an original composition from Van Morrison’s 1970  Moondance album is precisely such a song.

Van has written dozens of catchy tunes stoked with optimism. “Brand New Day” may convey this simple concept the best. Van later admitted he wrote the song during a low point in his career following the commercial failure of Astral Weeks. Van’s recording contract was a disaster, leaving him broke. He spent the winter of 1968-69 living in Boston while playing small gigs in bars and nightclubs throughout New England.

“Brand New Day’ expressed a lot of hope. I was in Boston and having a hard job getting myself up spiritually,” Van recalled. “Then one day this (other) song came on the FM station and it had this particular feeling and this particular groove and it was totally fresh. It seemed to me like things were making sense…..I didn’t know who the hell the artist was. It turned out to be The Band. I looked up at the sky and the sun started to shine and all of a sudden the song just came through my head. I started to write it down, right from (the first lyric), “When all the dark clouds roll away.”

Although 50 years old now, the song remains as fresh and meaningful as ever. Unfortunately, the track was somewhat lost and forgotten amidst the collection of treasures on arguably Van’s most popular album, Moondance, producing no less than six songs which received widespread airplay. Most notably, this included the title track (“Moondance”), Crazy Love (later covered and made into a hit by Ray Charles), and the timeless masterpiece “Into the Mystic.”

There’s not much to the song instrumentally. Its weight stems from lyrics that move the mind and melt the heart. And that’s more than gratifying.

 

THE VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS: DAY 40

“Bulbs” (1974)

In 1968, Van Morrison departed his native Belfast and spent the next six years living in the United States. Although he toured extensively throughout North America, he didn’t perform live in the U.K. or Ireland during this period. A century after millions of his ancestral countrymen had written their own chapters in the disparate story of the American experience, Van had become an immigrant.

In the middle of 1973, Van divorced his Texas-born wife Janet Planet and returned to Ireland for a much-needed vacation. He’d hoped to stay in Belfast, but the brutal terror of The Troubles made this way too dangerous. So, Van took a sabbatical from recording and touring to focus extensively on songwriting while staying on an estate in the southern part of the Irish Republic.

Three weeks later, he had enough fresh material for a new album, which would soon become Veedon Fleece.

Veedon Fleece is frequently cited as Van’s sequel to Astral Weeks, recorded six years earlier. The same stream of consciousness remains fluid throughout the 12-song collection, rooted in Celtic traditions with a distinctly country-folk twist. It’s a perfect distillation of bi-national sentiment, though Van clearly remains emotionally and spiritually attached to the homeland. The album cover includes a photo of Van sitting in an open field flanked by two Irish wolfhounds.

Many of the titles and lyrics are intentionally vague, open to broad interpretation. For instance, what does “Veedon Fleece” mean? Van later explained it was simply a phrase he made up on the spot, a sort of musical allegory “about people stunned by life, completely overwhelmed, stalled in their skins, their ages and selves, paralyzed by the enormity of what in one moment of vision they can comprehend.”

“Bulbs” is one perplexing piece of Veedon Fleece’s expansive puzzle. The song seems rooted in immigration and the unbreakable bonds between the past and future. One verse goes as follows:

She’s leaving Pan American
Suitcase in her hand
I said her brothers and her sisters
Are all on Atlantic sand.

“Bulbs” begins acoustically, then uses various instruments as building blocks until the end when there’s a towering celebration of sound. There may be different ways to interpret Van’s intent, but it remains a prized gift of self-revelation which not only speaks to the composer’s complexities, but our own, as well.

Even “Bulbs,” the enigmatic song title appears to have duel meanings. It’s both the origin of a flower and the first sight one sees when landing at an airport. Note — “blue bulbs” appear in the lyrics referring to the lights on a runway.

Enjoy the journey.

 

THE VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS: DAY

“Rough God Goes Riding” (1997)

For many readers, The Healing Game will be one of many yet undiscovered gems in the vast Van Morrison pantheon of albums and songs. Let this latest installment allow the light of day to shine on this extraordinary collection of original tracks.

The 1997 album begins with “Rough God Goes Riding,” an odd title for the first song on an album constructed around themes of redemption, healing, and undying love. Music critic Greil Marcus even penned a book with a title based on this song. In Marcus’ bold narrative, he wrote:

The deep burr of Morrison’s voice buries the words, which cease to matter; you might not hear them until the tenth time you play the album, or long after that. ‘It’s when that rough god goes riding,’ he sings, drawing the words both from Yeats and down in his chest, and you might never know it’s the Angel of Death that has you in its embrace.

True to form for so much of Van’s music composed during the 80s and 90s (certainly a mellower period in contrast to his combustible early career), a single was released and reached only as high as #168 on the charts. Now, more than two decades later, the song is regarded as one of the best racks on one of Van’s most deeply personal albums. The album was recorded mostly in late 1996 in Dublin, Ireland.

Side Note: The extended (2008) re-issue of this album is astounding, complete with 30 studio recordings (including some notable collaborations), plus another 14 live tracks taken from Van’s 1997 appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Four discs and 44 total songs — an amazing output.

This live recording here is simply outstanding, especially if you like watching the interplay between great musicians. Georgie Fame, Brian Kennedy, Pee Wee Ellis are wonderful. The dueling sax solos about two minutes in makes the live recording a killer. Van is in top form here and clearly enjoying himself singing his new song, which at the time of this live concert had not yet been released. In fact, it’s obvious this is the first time Van and the band had performed this song live.

Introduced to the audience by Van as simply “Rough God” (perhaps the rest of the title was added later), the song sounds fresh and vibrant, an ideal kick-off to an outstanding album that will be covered later in some detail in this MasterClass series.

 

“SIR” VAN MORRISON

THE VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS: DAY 42

Then and Now: Two Interviews — 50 Years Apart

It’s all about the music. Not fame. Not being a celebrity. It’s always been about just one thing — the music.

Van Morrison is a great songwriter and musician. But he’s a terrible rock star.

Multiple musical aficionados have noted that had Van wanted to be on the perch of Sinatra of Elvis, he could certainly have pulled it off. But superstardom wasn’t ever in the equation. Becoming famous wasn’t an ambition. It was the price.

Accordingly, his interviews tend to awkward, even painful. It seems the last thing Van likes talking about is himself.

Consider these two interviews done nearly 50 years apart. The first shows Van months after leaving the group Them on the way to a solo career. He’s interviewed by a Dutch television station. Burned out on the rock scene at 22, Van calls the music industry “phony.”

“It isn’t real,” he insists.

The next interview shows Van in quite a different setting. He’s being knighted by Prince Charles, thus earning the royal title, “Sir” Van Morrison. Surely, given his long history of refusing accolades, he had to be somewhat reluctant to be honored in this manner. Recall the Van didn’t even show up for his own Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction. In this short interview outside Buckingham Palace Van can’t help but take a shot at celebrity. “I want to get into the music,” Van insists.

The more Van changes musically, the more he stays the same in his devotion to core principles.

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