Viva Hate!

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2020 Election Has Begun- The BBQ Show
One thing about living in Iowa is that it is constantly election season; or perhaps it's just that politicians like to visit New Hampshire and Iowa as their pick of many possible winter vacation locations.

The conventional wisdom (as perpetuated by social media) is the Democrats are a party in ruins. This is the same thing I heard in 1984 with the Reagan landslide over Mondale. It's what we heard about the GOP in 1996 and 2012 as a two term President cruised to victory over minimal opposition.

The other talk is of the Bernie and Hillary split. I don't put much credence in this as I don't see either running in 2020 (both will be over 70). There might be hard feelings but I liken Bernie to Ron Paul, and his absence will lighten the memory.  Besides my gut instinct that it's no longer a thing, and your social media feed still reading like Summer 2016, recent polls indicate Dems are more united than Republicans.

In any case, the Dems are generally the party of the Fresh Face. It's the party of Kennedy. It's the party of relative unknowns like Clinton and Obama. It's why Gary Hart, John Edwards and Dick Gephardt were exciting the first go around, but were lagging in the polls on their second efforts.

This of course, doesn't explain HRC (or Gore or Mondale), but then again she didn't win, did she?

The GOP is the Party of Nixon. it is the party of 'doing your work and putting in your time". The Party of Nixon, Reagan, Dole, and most recently Romney and McCain- candidates who fell short in their initial run. Trump doesn't follow the rule of Conventional Wisdom, but when did Trump follow CW.

There are bellwether events on both sides before the election.  A prominent one was the Indianola Steak Fry which was hosted by longtime Senator Tom Harkin.  Harkin has retired but the Democrats still use the fundraiser to bring big names to the Hawkeye State.

This event took place recently and despite it being very early, it is still one of those necessary stops for those who are interested in plotting out a campaign.

This early on, the heavyweights like Kaine, Biden and Booker probably don't need to pound the pavement.  Still, those who are working from further behind are making their moves.  The excellent Des Moines Register correspondent Jason Noble reported on the event which I drew upon here.  Noble suggests some of those who attended are looking more at 2024 than 2020.

In any case, here's six people you have never heard of that could be our next President, and remember I said it first.

Tim Ryan- Everything about Tim screams Presidential candidate.  He is a Representative from Ohio.  He says he is not interested in running for Governor in 2018 (which frees him up for 2020), but he also says he is "probably" not running for President.  In any case, if he is not running, he has been busy making trips to Iowa and South Carolina to stump for local candidates.  Ryan's biggest moment has been after the election, when he ran against Nancy Pelosi for Minority Leader (She promised more opportunities for junior Congressmen and he lost by a ratio of 2-1).  Ryan with his challenge of Pelosi and his trips to Carolina appears to be setting himself up as the kind of Pre-Obama Red State style Democrat that everyone thought was needed to win the White House.  He is in a district that went for Trump, so the GOP will be trying to beat him before he gets the chance to do more,

Seth Moulton- Moulton is a Rep from Massachusetts who fits even more in that Jim Webb Red State mold.  He's the subject of an article that is called Generals Love him, Top Democrats hate him.  He has unlikely friends like David Petreaus, David Gergen and Stanley McCrystal.  He had four tours of duty as a Marine in Iraq so he has been attacking Trump's military record.  He was also one of the most vocal opponents of Nancy Pelosi's re-election as Minority Leader.  He seems to have appeal for those red state Democrats who don't see Pelosi as a 'good kind of liberal'.  Although he is from a Liberal State, he is from the most Conservative of districts there.

Jeff Merkley- There will surely be a rush to grab Bernie supporters, and this Oregon Senator will likely be one beneficiary.  Merkley was the only US Senator to support Bernie Sanders.  Merkley, in those "gradecard" scores of Liberalism consistently ranks with Sanders and Warren as the Bluest of the Blue.  he has a Universal Health care system he calls "Medicare for All" and  is a strong voice for education spending and infrastructure.  Merkley has been quietly active in Iowa, so expect to hear more out of him.

Cheri Bustos - Illinois congressman Bustos based out of Peoria is probably not looking at 2020, but is a rising star in the Democrat Party.  She was touted as a possible candidate for the vulnerable state house job held by Republican Bruce Rauner.  She isn't running, which probably makes sense since it is an already a crowded field, one with a Kennedy, and he's not even the favorite.  She was one of only eleven Representatives to win in a Trump-won district, and she won it in a landslide.  She is a Pro-Choice Catholic, limited on gun control, pro-pipeline, and called the ACA "imperfect"- a center-left politician that can fight off the "out of touch Coast Liberals" .  She is the only Midwesterner in the Democrat House Leadership and may have some Red State appeal that others don't.

Pete Buttigieg - Although only 35 and his highest held position is Governor of South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg deserves some notice.  He sounds like something off a check list- a gay ex-Navy Harvard graduate who has won big in a Red State.  Buttigieg impresses wherever he goes and has favorable quotes from the likes of David Axelrod and Jeff Weaver, the chairman of Sanders 2016 campaign.  He ran for DNC chair which put him on the radar, and is a voice for the millennials.  It seems unlikely a mayor of such a relatively small town would make the Big Run, but he has been in Iowa enough that he is definitely up to something.

Grace Meng- Unlike the other six, Meng did not attend the Steak Fry, but deserves mention as she was in the State during the same time, hosting a Women's Event as DNC Vice Chair.  Like Bustos, the article thinks Meng is likely looking further down the calendar than 2020.  As a congresswoman representing Queens, she is the highest ranking Asian American in New York City.  Her talking points have been building up a new coalition, criticizing Debra Wasserman Schultz' s tenure and saying the only way the Democrats can get back to winning is to bring in minority groups like Asians, Latinos, and African Americans.

On the Shelf 187: Mark Lanegan Band
Leonard Cohen always loomed in the background of Mark Lanegan records, so no doubt he is on my mind when reviewing Gargoyle.

I guess I always figured Cohen would live to be 120 years old, but we knew the next generation had worthwhile successors, of which Lanegan is one of the most prominent ones.

Also, via rock's history of tragedy, Lanegan is on of the few leading men from the Grunge era. Cobain, Staley, Weiland, and now Cornell have all gone. Improbably, it's Mark Arm and Lanegan as some of the last few.

In any case, wisened old age has served Lanegan well. He fits into the shoes of an old blues singer like few others.

It was around 1994 when Lanegan 's star first shone brightest on Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, an offering on Sub Pop which many would have at the time considered a 'hobby' for someone whose main job was Screaming Trees. Ten years later, six albums in, 2004's Bubblegum made us all look backwards and realized that he had built a career that would dwarf his band's, and he was just getting started.

In that first decade of the new century, Lanegan was busy recording with Queens of the Stone Age, collaborating with the Soulsavers, and recording duets albums with Isobel Campbell and Greg Dulli. There's probably about ten albums in those years that range from 'very good' to 'essential'.

Whether we realized it at the time or not (and I think many of us did), Lanegan had a stretch that very few others could compare to in terms of artistry.

For me, personally, the current decade has been somewhat of a letdown. It almost would have to be after that. Still, it's not that Lanegan wasn't recording. he was as prolific as ever, but this time his artistry took him down some other paths- a covers album, a instrument-heavy collaboration with Duke Garwood, a collection of previously recorded demos, etc.

Cohen's Achilles heel was usually his backing band. Cohen wasn't a dual guitar, bass, and drums rock n roller. He often had background vocalists, strings and heavy production.

Lanegan similarly knows that his music is best rendered as soundscapes and not traditional rock band. For me, much of the let down on Phantom Radio and Blues Funeral was the music.

Still, Lanegan was born from Grunge, and he's always going to have an ear for rock.

Gargoyle dials that up quite a bit. The best moments are the hardest rocking like the not so imaginatively titled "Nocturne", which evokes the title in a hard-charging slightly seedy David Lynch soundtrack kind of way. the kind of music that is Barry Adamson's stock in trade.

The album's best song is "The Emperor", which cuts way too close to being a cover of Iggy's "The Passenger". Given the Josh Homme connection and everything else, it's likely more of a homage than a rip-off.

What helps this album out is that even the less remarkable tracks stand up. There really is nothing here that isn't good to some degree. When The Guardian gave this Five Stars out of Five, I totally get it.

I stop short of that, though diehard Lanegan fans will not be disappointed. To me, many of the songs are great but don't really leave much of a lasting impression (For example, "Death Head's Tattoo" which precedes "Nocturne" isn't really much different than its successor). Lanegan (on here) doesn't really have anything that is quite on par with any of other of Cohen's heirs like Cave or Waits.

Still, you can't quite expect that, either. It's a fine album and to me, one of his best in awhile.

The Event
I mis-timed seeing the event of the year. Indeed, only by one week. I was just in Southern Illinois, where I spent nearly three decades of my life. Still, schedule didn't coincide with the Big Event.

Indeed, it sounded like the weather did not cooperate anyway.

I am of course, talking about the Elvis balloon

There are plenty of Balloon Fests around the country and I am not sure how the local one compares nationally, but my understanding is that weather hampered the event.

Oh, and there was that other big August Event at the same time- the Total Solar eclipse with the primary spot for viewing as Carbondale, Illinois, and the buzz around the area from Mt Vernon, Illinois to Paducah, Kentucky.

Given I spent so much time in this area, it would have been good to go, but it just didn't happen.

Carbondale has been on a downward economic slide since I lived there in the 90s.  The Eclipse was 2017's biggest saviour, with the hotels and restaurants all filled up.

I heard stories of people renting their backyards at $50 a pop for tents, which seems realistic.  Friends in the area said the traffic was like a Big City after a traffic accident- one car after another.

I looked at the Carbondale schedule and whatever your hobby is (quilting, comic books, etc) there was a place in C'dale to celebrate your interest.  There were bands though disappointing to me, they were Fleetwood Mac, U2 and Metallica cover bands.  I don't expect The Mac or U2 to come to town, but would have liked to seen 'real' bands play.

The biggest event was in the small town of Carterville which landed Ozzy Osbourne

This was a real coup to get Ozzy who has also reunited with Zakk Wylde.  I imagine you have already picked up on the Bark at the Moon reference, but he performed it during the eclipse (get it?).

Initial lineup for the four day festival seemed week, but ended up landing quite a few big names of the genre- Theory of a Deadman, Saliva, Halestorm, Five Finger Death Punch, Texas Hippie Coalition

(Also in case you wondered, Bonnie Tyler who also seemed primed to cash in, did so on a Cruise Ship just off the coast of Florida backed by DNCE.  She performed a two minute version of the song.  Just because God and Nature's plan of the eclipse was much shorter in scale than the plans of Jim Steinman, who made Tyler's original song eight minutes long).

In Paducah, a mall owner decided that God's Wonder wasn't enough and that what the two minute Total Eclipse needed was fireworks.  I am not sure how that went over, but he ticked a lot of people off by attempting it.

I was in Central Iowa, far enough away for only a partial eclipse on a very overcast and stormy day, it did get dark but it was hard to determine what was caused by rainclouds and what was the eclipse.  I doubt we had any cattle going to sleep or owls flying or anything like that.

My friends in that prime area of Southern Illinois (or maybe 40 miles north) reported something similar.  Certainly darkness, but twilight darkness not pitch black midnight darkness.

For a Once in the Life time event, everyone is already excited for the April 2024 Total Eclipse which should follow a similar path.

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'
There are a lot of unique things at the Iowa State fair, and I have pretty much been able to blog them all. Still, I am sure I miss something.

In any case, I know that i have not mentioned Parlor Rollers.

Parlor Rollers are a type of domesticated pigeon that involuntarily rolls across the ground.

The story is that royalty over the years have bred and raced these flightless birds. These continue to be competitions.

Sure, it is easy to mock this Sport of Kings when you have full seasons of Game of Thrones available on your phone, but it was not always that way.


Iowa State Fair: Butter....
So each year I post about the Butter Sculpture at the Iowa State Fair.

It's sort of been a who's who of culture and history - Butter Elvis, Star Trek, the Last Supper, Tiger Woods, the moon landing, Snow White, Dr Seuss, John Wayne, Superman and many others.

I didn't see much of anything written about ths year's Butter Sculpture.  Perhaps in the Facebook/Reddit age, things truly have to be bizzare to go viral.

In any case, while it's good to see a salute to literature, Butter Laura Ingalls Wilder doesn't have the same buzz as Butter Spock.

I looked up Wilder, and my initial thought was the Dakotas.  Indeed, you can travel her home and museum in South Dakota.

Wilder did live in Iowa, though not on the Western side, as you might expect, but on the East.  She was born in Wisconsin and she taught on the other side f the Iowa/Wisconsin border.  She also spent a large amount of her life in Missouri, which could stake a claim to her, and as far as I can tell- Kansas, Minnesota, and New York too.

In any case, not a year passes that i don't post something about the butter sculpture, so mark this one in the books.

Comic Review: Dastardly and Muttley #1
Dastardly & Muttley (2017-) #1Dastardly & Muttley (2017-) #1 by Garth Ennis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dang it. When I saw this on the rack, I knew I was going to end up buying it. Never mind, there surely are other books I am not picking up which are more deserving of my four dollars.

In any case, it's Ennis, and though he hit a post-Preacher slump, he is back on a roll. His comic skewering All Star Six Pack was nothing short of brilliant.

Besides the name must sell enough comics, because I have no idea why D.C. keeps green lighting this kind of stuff. I would love to see D.C. give a bit more work than the once or twice a decade projects they throw to people like Pete Bagge and Evan Dorkin and R Crumb, to name a few.

As you can guess, this s the Dick Dastardly and Muttley of Wacky Races. I think there probably is enough audience to justify a six issue miniseries. Yet, because D.C. cant leave well enough alone, this is some weird story that imagines Muttley as some Morrison-sequel We3 character. Lol wut?

Ok, so Ennis is the go to for WW2 comics and the go to for The Boys type gross out jokes. Mauricet is a worthy heir to Derrick Robertson, Dillon, Pugh and other Ennis collaborators.

I don't really know how to review this, because I am not sure what to make of it. On the positive side, there are enough Ennisims that I feel justfied in my purchase. On the other hand, this seems like a wholly unnecessary comic. It's not a parody. Despite the twists and drugs, it's not really a Vertigo title. For sure, it doesn't seem to have anything at all to do with Wacky Racers, despite all the references.

I will throw in the extra star though because Garth Ennis injects his style of humor throughout, and although it's not laugh out loud funny like Six Pack, it is pretty clever.

View all my reviews

On the Shelf 186: Steve Earle
Steve Earle has released his 16 th album So You Wanna Be an Outlaw.

Earle's career has had three parts. His trailblazing 80s work where he conquered both the rock and country charts, earning the title of the next Springsteen and writing a song that plays in bar jukeboxes every single night "Copperhead Road". His 90s work took it to the next level, with masterpieces of alt-country like "I Feel Alright" and "El Corazon" that defined the genre. His third act has been him doing whatever he pleases with the doors that open with celebrity. He's acted, wrote short stories and novels, hosted radio shows on Air America and Sirius XM. He's done albums of bluegrass, duets, and blues, with journeys into Cajun and World Music.

None* of his post Revolution Starts Now (2004) output is essential, but each record has songs that are. (*- Almost none -The Lost Highway is pretty close to essential, and although I am a minority opinion, I consider his collaboration with Shawn Colvin an essential purchase).

So, you can't blame Earle for doing a straight up "outlaw country" album that imagines he was picking up from 1990's The Hard Way.

Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell have made quite successful careers around the type of music Earle pioneered. Stapleton has crossed over big time into Mainstream Country airplay. Even in the wasteland of country music, Eric Church won a CMA award for album of the year with a record whose title track sounds like it could be on Exit 0, Earle's second disc.

No doubt, if Willie Nelson is the godfather of "Outlaw Country", the extent of the genre and the diehard fans wouldn't exist without Earle.

So, undeniably Earle can write a 'outlaw' record in his sleep and it will be a keeper. It may not bother the pop charts, but it's doing well.

With a critical ear, I must say this is a fun listen. So, it is hard to say, but though Earle can whip up outlaw country tunes in minutes. This sort of feels like that. It's all good, but nothing here that particularly stands out. "Lookin for a Woman" is a single, and it's great but it's pretty basic. Earle's duet with Miranda Lambert (another rare case of a great artist making country chart inroads) and the plaintive "News from Colorado" are beautiful, but like so many songs on this record, he's always done that. "Walkin in Los Angeles" isn't a country version of the Missing Persons song, but it would be a lot cooler if it was. "You Broke My Heart" is a great Hank Williams Sr style song, but pales to its brethren on El Corazon. "If Mama could see me" is a classic Earle song from the guy who wrote classic songs like "Devil's Right Hand" and "I Aint Ever Satisfied".

In short, a terrific record, that for anyone else would be a defining record. I have no real complaints, it's just that Earle has such an amazing body of work, it's impossible to compare. How do you compare songs like these to "Guitar Town" or "Someday" or "Fearless Heart" or any of the hits I mentioned above or anything off "I Feel Alright". You simply can't.

Of note, the title opener, appropriately features the Red headed Stranger guesting. If one was hoping for an all-time classic like "Pancho and Lefty", you're going to be disappointed, but it's still a rollicking fun time to see Willie and Steve record a song together. Big fun.

On the Shelf 185: Magnetic Fields
Conventional Wisdom suggests that Stephin Merritt's greatest achievement was his 1999 triple album 69 Love Songs.

It's hard to argue. Still, as a huge Merritt fan, I find that I often reach for his single albums for listening rather than his opus. Maybe for a few different reasons.

In any case, Merritt does get inspired when he thinks big, so 50 Song Memoir has lofty ambitions. It is a song for each year of Merritt;s life. There's added caveats such as each song is limited to seven instruments, and no instrument is to appear more than seven times on the album.

It's a big success. I think partially, because given the framework, there's no bad ideas. Song ideas that might get tossed for being incomplete, fit that patchwork perfectly.

It works great as an album listen, and since we live in an ipad world, I think it also works as one song snippets in your music mix.

In any case, it's mostly a work of genius, with a few doldrums as finally reaches the end.

There are obvious singles like Hustle 76, 84 Danceteria, 79 Rock and Roll will Ruin your life and especially 02 Be True to Your Bar which seem to be destined to be anthems.

But we know about those, it's when the lines get less obvious like the love (?) story of 93 Me and Fred and Dave and Ted and the Blizzard of 78 which is a story of his early musical acts (As far as practice, we made the Shaggs look like Yes).

The amazing thing is that these songs is not that they are incredible on first listen, but once we've learned the punchlines , they are still listenable.

Merritt is all genius lyrics, but what makes this so great is the mix of music styles. It's disco and new wave. It's glam and icy goth. Merritt even writes a brilliant Cramps-ish surf rocker in the very anti-surf 08 Surfin.

The lyrics are there too. The anti-Vietnam 68 They're Killing Children Over There and the (maybe not so) deep thinking rumba-ish 67 Come Back as a Cockroach.

It's hard to think of any band that jumps genres so much in a record without reaching to bands like Ween. Yet, that comparison might not be totally apt, as no matter what genre he tries, it all sounds like the Magnetic Fields.

I love this album. It's everyhting the concept could be, but given the expectations, delivers even more.

2020 Election Has Begun
For many years, I blogged about politics.  For many of us, the 2016 election took some joy out of that.  It took joy out of that for everyone, I suspect.

Still, my favorite thing has been Presidential campaign politics, and especially those moments when everyone is a legitimate contender.  Particularly, when the candidates go to the Iowa State Fair and canvas to the people.

It is early, of course, and heck, maybe even Trump won't run in four years.  Anything can happen, but someone is always willing to run, and at this moment, there seems to be the posibility of a beating an incumbent,

We speculate now.  Cheap headlines are grabbed every time speculate that Hillary, Bernie or Al might be considering a run (though all are entering into their 70s, Bernie well into his late 70s)

In any case, one might expect the 2018 Iowa State Fair to be filled with out of town politicians.

But 2017?


It's John Delaney, the first "major" candidate to announce his candidacy.  (It should be noted that some perennial candidates like Rocky de la Fuente and Jack Fellure ahve already announced their candidacy, likely did this the day after the last election.)

Don't know Delaney?  Me neither.  He seems to have even less of a chance of winning than similarly named John Mulaney (he of the failed Fox sitcom).

Delaney has a few things going against him.

He is a House member, not a Senator or Governror.  He's bald.  He's from Maryland (Sorry Terrapins, but Martin O' Malley didn't light the world on fire)

I like to think I am above making appearance jokes, but if your visage is going to remind people of a politician, you might be in bad shape if that person is Gerald Ford.

Delaney realizes his road to the White House is steep, which is why he is the earliest candidate to ever announce his run.  Pete DuPont, who announced in Sept 1986 before his 5th place finish in 1988 was the earliest, though other sources, dug up Reubin Askew's 1984 run, which had roots in an exploration in Fall of 1981.

Delaney ranks high on Bipartisianship grades during his time in the House, so he's likely to use that in his campaign.

The esteemed PPP is already running the numbers and have Delaney in a dead heat with Trump (38-38), which probably has more to do with anyone running against Turmp rather than some insight on Delaney.  Faring much better are the buzzworthy candidates Biden (51-39)  Cory Booker and Richard Blumenthal (both 42-39) buzz of the hour Mark Cuban (42-38), Bernie (51-38) and Elizabeth Warren (45-40).  (If you are interested in the other side, Trump far outdistances any of his GOP adversaries for his party's nomination).

Delaney might pick up those Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb voters (both of them).  He is self-finanaced.  He has ticked off the AFL-CEO by supporting the Trans Pacific partnership, and his background is banking and the NYSE.  Though given the last election was won by a wealthy businessman who was decrying partisanship, well, I won't say it not impossible.

In any case, it's on!

Comics Pull List 2017
The annual review of what comics I read on the monthly.

A fairly pared down list this year, with Marvel with the lion's share as usual.

Champions (Robinson)
Defenders (Bendis)
Infamous Iron Man (Bendis)
Invincible Iron Man (Bendis)
Iron Fist (Brisson)
Jessica Jones (Bendis)
Powers (Bendis)

All Star Batman (Snyder)
Astro City (Busiek)
Flash (Waid)
Nightwing (Seeley)

Devil's Due
Lark's Killer (Willingham)

War Stories (Ennis)


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