Doesn't really have much to do with Hallowe'en, aside from talking about our favorite horror movies (which turned out to be a bit of a non-starter, as neither of our guests are particular fans of the genre), but we think you'll enjoy this episode a lot. Our guests are Kevin Barry and Lu Ann Landau, and we premier the new Psychedelicatessen Radio Theme Song, composed for us by The Coconut Monkeyrocket! Lots of talk about growing up (snake handling and beauty pageants for Lu Ann, nuns and Wonder Woman costumes for Kevin). We also talk Prop 19, and Kevin calls out Dan Savage.
Excellent article by Lenore "Free Range Kids" Skanazy on the taming of Hallowe'en. There's really not that much danger out there, people! Here's another one along the same lines from the Atlantic Food Channel. And Rob McDougal points us toward a nice Harper's article on persistant vampire belief in modern Eastern Europe.
And of course, TCM is doing old scholl horror all weekend. Here are my reccomendations for TiVo-ing:
Friday: I Walked With a Zombie: It's like Jane Eyre with Zombies! Amazing, atmospheric cinematography haunting voodoo drums.
Saturday: The Old Dark House: Directed by James Whale (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Invisible Man). Probably a primary source for Rocky Horror, and featuring Gloria Stewart from Titanic as a young starlet. Mad Love: Peter Lorre's best.
Sunday: Freaks: obviously. The House on Haunted Hill: cuz you gotta have some Vincent Price in there.
On November 2, Californians will have the opportunity to vote to end marijuana prohibition in the state. Prop 19 on the ballot will make it legal to grow, posess or sell marijana, a plant that, when ingested, gives a mild euphoria to the user with little to no harmful side effects, for which some 850,000 people are arrested every year.
The vote may turn out to be largely symbolic, as marijuana will still be illegal under federal law, and Attorney General Eric Holder has said that he intends to continue enforcing that law (to the extent that the feds are able). For that matter, Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca has also said that he will constinue to enforce marijuana laws if Prop 19 passes, although the sheriff department doesn't really have that much enforcement power in L.A. (they mostly run the prison system). But if nothing else, this will be a first step towards a sensible drug policy in this country.
Now, me personally, I'm all for personal freedom to do whatever you want as long as it doesn't harm or infringe upon the rights of others, so as far as I'm concerned we could just get rid of all laws banning drug use, gambling, prostitution, gun ownership, gay marriage and public smoking, or mandating the use of seatbelts or helmets (and yes, I find the individual mandate in the health care bill pretty repulsive).* But I understand that not everyone sees things this way. For instance, addictive drugs like heroin, cocaine and meth really do cause serious damage to society, and I can't really see going for full legalization with smack available at 7-11 (with a free toy in each balloon!). I'm not sure how you could make it work, but I'm also not sure how it could be worse than the system we have now. Prostitution would require some kind of intensive regulation to make sure that the system would in no way resemble the current black market in prostitution, which is basically human trafficking (you could argue that this system is the result of the black market status, but nonetheless it seems unlikely to just disapear with a change in legal status).
Marijuana is different. Marijuana doesn't cause the kind of damage that hard drugs cause. It doesn't even cause the kind of ruin that gambling can cause. For this reason, marijuana should be considered seperately from the broad category of "drugs." There have been countless studies over the last century attempting to find the dangerous effects of the drug, and no signifigant dangers have been found. Everyone who has ever smoked it (which includes a near-majority of American adults) knows this to be true. There are no consequences for legalizing the plant. The consequences of the current system are a criminal black market, human cost of incarceration, and the cost to society of incarceration and enforcement.
In California, we've already gotten halfway there. A few years back, we legalized medical marijuana. The result is that just about anyone can find a quack doctor, pay a hundred dollars or so and receive a certificate that allows them to go to a licensed dispensary and buy marijuana. This is nice, but it's also kind of idiotic. It either means that we support a complete sham of a system that turns doctors into scam artists and limits the market of competition, or we have police waste their time trying to figure out who has a legitimate medical need for the plant and who doesn't. Why? We're talking about a harmless, natural and potentially very profitable plant here. This is ridiculous.
Besides, California voters need to redeem themselves for passign Prop 8 two years ago. Back in the 90's, I was absolutely positive that marijuana would be legal in my lifetime. As time went on, I started to think I was wrong. There just seemed to be no progress on it. Maybe it would never change, and we would just live with this stupid law forever. Now, suddenly, just as I was about to give up, things have started moving again. This proposition could be the tipping point. In 10 years, we could be living in a country where Mary Jane is fully legal. Our state is already going to have a black eye in history by having voted against gay marriage, which we all know will be not only legal but universally accepted within the next decade. Let's not be on the wrong side of history on this one, too. And seriously...if you live in California, and you don't go out and vote for Prop 19 next Tuesday, just DON'T FUCKING TALK TO ME.
As an aside, there is one law that is even more ridiculous than marijuana prohibition: the ban on liquor distillation ("moonshine"). Liquor is legal, but unlike beer or wine, it's illegal to make your own at home. Why? Can anyone give me a good reason for this? It makes no sense at all. Below is a video from Reason TV. Good thing about reading libertarians is that sometimes they think of arguments that I, as a liberal, wouldn't even consider. I think the ban on moonshine is ridiculous for a variety of reasons, but I never considered the capitalist argument that this clip makes. We have a robust craft beer movement in this country, but our liquor is made by a handfull of corporations. I mean, gin is basically vodka infused with various aromatics. There should be hundreds of microdistilleries in America making artisinal varieties of gin! We import wonderful rums from the Caribean and Latin America. Why aren't we creating our own wonderful rums?
*When I was young, I thought this made me a libertarian, until I started reading actual libertarians and found out what they actually believe.
This seems to be the cycle: we elect Democrats. They are really fucking lame. We are constantly annoyed at them, but we keep voting for them because the Republicans are so much worse. Finally, we get sick of it, and stop showing up to vote (or vote for Ralph Nader!). Republicans get in, and they're SO MUCH WORSE THAN WE EVER IMAGINED. We spend a decade sputtering and steaming about how fucking awful they are. Finally, we elect Democrats again. Repeat.
Look, I didn't expect Obama to be any kind of saviour. I expected to be infuriated by him. And most of the stuff, I can't really even blame him for. The confusing mess of a health care bill we got was probably the best health care bill congress could have passed. The votes probably weren't there for any kind of decent energy bill. There's probably no politically viable way he could have gotten us out of Afghanistan, or gotten those last 5,000 troops out of Iraq. And as much as the bailouts infuriate me, I kind of like not living through the Grapes of Wrath. But then there are the other things, things that would have cost him nothing. Like the raids of medical marijuana dispenseries in California that have not stopped, and Eric Holder's promise to keep enforcing federal pot laws in California if Prop 19 passes. Like the Justice Department going to court to defend the Defense of Marriage Act or to stop the overturning of Don't Ask Don't Tell (putting the administration to the social right of the Log Cabin Republicans!). Like failing to make any real progress on ending DADT, despite campaign promises to do so, and despite a 75% majority of Americans favoring it! And like failing to pass any kind of financial regulation to go with those bailouts. I don't understand what is being gained from these positions, or what there is to lose from doing the obviously right thing on these issues.
And the worst part of it is, the rest of the party is MUCH, MUCH WORSE than Obama. I mean, look at the ads this idiot is running against Rand Paul:
Think about this: a guy who is NAMED AFTER AYN RAND is NOT the most annoying person in this race! What the fuck?
The one advantage we have right now is that Republicans are doing a really good job reminding everyone how much worse they are. Bill Maher said it best a few weeks ago: "The Democrats' symbol is (D), because it's just barely passing. And the Republicans' symbol is (R), because that's the sound a pirate makes before he robs you and feeds you to the sharks." How horrible does a candidate have to be to make you root for Harry Reid? THIS FUCKING HORRIBLE:
We didn't get to record a podcast last week, which is disapointing since Jason recorded an AMAZING new theme song just for the show, and I can't wait for everyone to hear it. But in the meantime, some random stuff, and a rundown of my favorite blogs and tumblrs and whatevers.
Somebody went to the trouble of archiving all of Ta-Nehisi Coates' bloggings abour the Civil War in one place. Next time you get in an argument with some relative who insists the Civil War was not about slavery, you can pull this up and shoot 'em down real quick-like (start with this, this and this).
The postcard image above (from “CASPER’S ALLIGATOR AND OSTRICH FARM On U.S. 1 — 2 Miles North of St. Augustine, Florida") looks an awful lot like the cover of the VooDoo Idols' Crocodile Smoke EP. I grabbed it from one of my new favorite blogs, Bad Postcards. I've also been enjoying this grammar geek blog, Throw Grammar from the Train. As long as I'm on the subject, my current favorite music blog is The Hound Blog (the guy who used to write the Hound's Eye View column in High Times, and a former WFMU DJ, posts lots of great old rock n roll sides with incredibly extensive liner notes). For full album downloads, I've been getting a lot of great stuff from Holy Warbles, which I got started with thanks to Mining the Audio Motherlode on the WFMU blog. This stuff is taking up way too much room on my hard drive! And my current favorite writer about movies is Chris Stangl at The Exploding Kinetiscope. This is a guy who can find incredibly interesting things to say about a shot from Rocky Horror, or an old Fritz Freleng cartoon. So I leave you, for now, with one last video:
Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Truth, Part 4
It's been interesting, over the course of the last 20 years, to see how the perception of the music of the 80's has changed. Not so much among my peers--everyone gets nostalgic about the music of their adolescence, so it doesn't surprise me to see people I went to high school with post stuff on Facebook like "The 80's was the best decade of music ever! Why is there no good music now?" What surprises me more is stuff like my niece's best friend, born sometime at the end of the 80's, telling me her favorite band is Soft Cell. Which probably puzzles me the same way that it used to puzzle baby boomers in the 80's when they found out there were people of my generation who were obsessed with the Standells or the Count Five.
When I was in high school, everyone seemed to agree that we were living through a dark age of culture, and especially of music. I know that's not entirely true--obviously, most of the people I went to high school with were pretty much happy with the songs that were hits, or they wouldn't have been hits. But in my social circle, there was a persitent frustration with what made it on the radio and MTV. And to be clear, when I talk about 80's music for the rest of this piece, understand that I'm talking about what you could hear on the radio or see on MTV. Punk was completely underground music in the 80's, hip hop was like an iceberg with only a few peaks jutting into the mainstream, and even metal bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica were kind of marignalized. So as far as the mainstream went, it seemed like a vast wasteland. I was living in suburban Florida, with minimalls and tract houses as far as the eye could see, and the consistent blandness of the suburbs and the cultural boredom of the 80's seemed to mesh into one seemless fabric of boring blanditude.
So when 80's nostalgia started up, which seemed to happen as soon as (and maybe even before) the decade ended, I couldn't really figure it out. 70's nostalgia I could feel a little, because I was a kid in the 70's, so when someone broke out some song that I hadn't heard since I was a kid, it was like I could remember it from a past life. The 70's were a cloudy, ancient past that I could see through a mist, but 80's music was just shitty music from a few years ago.
Now, I look back at the early 80's as a sort of golden age of quirky, personality-driven pop songs. That "early" qualifier is important. The stuff from 1980-84 feels very different from the stuff from 1985-89. Looking back, you can almost see a visible line dividing New Year's Eve 1984 from New Years Day 1985, like a fall from innocence. At the start of the decade, the music we refered to as "new wave" was pretty amazing. Bands like Devo, The B-52's, Talking Heads and Oingo Boingo were way too weird to be as popular as they were and too much fun not to be. By the time MTV arrived in our sleepy burgh (about fall of '82, I think), the bands were a little less far out, but still a lot of fun: Billy Idol, The Stray Cats, Culture Club, Dexy's Midnight Runners, Big Country, Musical Youth, The Thompson Twins...you could almost list them forever! And there were a few bona fide genii buried in there: Bow Wow Wow, Thomas Dolby, Madness, Adam Ant. By 1985 (following the peak of the MTV era in 83-84--Rio, Thriller, Purple Rain, Like a Virgin, Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual, Van Halen's 1984, BROOOOOSE's Born in the USA, etc.), it was all boring shit like Tears for Fears and Simple Minds, too lightweight to be taken seriously but too fucking morose to be any fun. You can see the same progression in rock: the decade started with Van Halen, AC/DC and Ozzy Osbourne (with Randy Fuckin' Rhoads!) as the rock gods. By 1982-83, it was hair bands like Motley Crue, Twisted Sister and Quiet Riot, doing pale imitations of those earlier bands, but they did still have good, aggressive guitar sounds and weren't afraid to rock out a little. From 1985 on, it was mostly stuff like Bon Jovi, Winger and Nightranger: slick production, smooth keyboards, sweet vocal harmonies, and a power ballad for the lead single of every album. (Punk, and probably even hip hop, had similar changes at precisely the same time, but those are topics for another post.)
So while I've reevaluated the early 80's, I still think the late 80's were about as awful as music ever got. Part of it was the production. There are a lot of albums that I genuinely like from that period (REM's Green, The Replacements' Pleased to Meet Me and Fishbone's Truth and Soul, just off the top of my head--I think all three are the respective band's best collection of songs, but none are my favorite albums by those bands) that are marred by some really awful sonic choices. I'm not sure I can even pinpoint what it is about those recordings that bother me (what do you call that weird, reverb-y drum sound?), but they just sound "artificial."
I guess you could say that this is all very subjective. There's no reason that those 80's production values should offend me, it's just my personal taste. Fair enough, but my ears still react to it. But then, when you add that sterile production to the awful music being made at that time, it starts making me nauseous. Besides the boring post-new wave pop and the watered down hair metal, you also had that syrupy r&b like Luther Vandross. I know some people like Janet Jackson, but...well, more power to ya. But the worst stuff of all was what I call "nothing rock." Or "blah rock." This stuff...it's not even that I don't like it, there's just nothing to like. It's just...nothing! Nothing appealing at all. Listen to this and tell me I'm wrong:
This last one, the Richard Marx song, is the worst, because it's not that bad. It's a catchy song. I mean, around this time, when some idiotic song by Millie Vanillie or Vanilla Ice or White Lion would come on, it would get my blood boiling because it was so bad! This...I just have no reaction to this at all. Which is the worst possible way to fail as a musician.
A handy reference: Top 14 Anti-Gay Activists Caught Being Gay. Many more added in the comments! This has become such a common thing it almost goes without noting. Basically, if you're an anti-gay activist, we're all assuming you're a closeted gay dude. Which makes the Tea Party Rallies look like the biggest damn Gay Pride Parades in history! Except Gay Pride is obviously not the right term. How about Gay Shame Parades? That's what we should call these rallies from now on.
We got a lot of good material from this, but when I edited it down to an hour, I concentrated on what are turning out to be the recurring themes of this show: the art of comedy, race, and titties. I guess those are just the subjects that interest us. I like the idea of discussing the same topics with different guests every week. Maybe I'll eventually post some mixes of the best talk about comedy, or race, or titties on the show.
The documentary we referred to incorrectly as B-Boy Nation is actually called Planet B-Boy. Here's the trailer:
I am unable to find any evidence that Ben Franklin actually invented a machine to poke out homeless peoples' eyes, although he did say "I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it," which some people apparently take to mean that we shouldn't be giving homeless people the good life by letting them sleep in comfy public parks.
My name is Chris Oliver. I'm a stand up comic, writer and English (ESL) teacher living in Los Angeles. With my wife, comic Bobbie Oliver, I am the co-proprietor of Tao Comedy Studio. I direct the web series Saving Face (starring Bobbie Oliver and Sally Mullins), host the comedy/talk show podcast Psychedelicatessen Radio (with Bobbie) and host the music podcast Sleestak Lightnin!!!. I was born and raised in Stuart, Fla. (Jensen Beach, to be more precise), a small, beachy suburb north of Palm Beach on the Atlantic coast. Went to LaGrange College in GA. Got married after graduating and moved to Athens, GA. In '97, we moved to L.A. Psychedelicatessen is the name of a band I was in in high school and college. You can find links to my comedy videos, podcasts, web series and more right below.