Friday, February 26, 2010

It Came From Florida: Cliff Buckosh

Cliff Buckosh - Confusion Corner
Cliff Buckosh - I Wanna Be a Florida Cracker
Cliff Buckosh - Florida

When I was a kid, this guy used to come to Jensen Beach Elementary and play songs for us on his acoustic guitar. He had two songs: "Armadillo" and "The Dog That Bit Georgia's Nose." I think this happened twice over the time I was there. In 1979, he released a private press album of songs about Florida, some of them specifically about our hometown of Stuart. He gave a performance of these songs at Stuart Middle School, the last time I saw him.

A year or two ago, I was having an email conversation with my friend Bob about wacky private press Florida records, and I brought this guy up. I couldn't remember his name, "Mr. Buckox or something." Bob came right back with "Oh yeah, Cliff Buckosh." So I had a name. And after a year of searching, I finally found the album on ebay.

I'm not posting the whole album, but here are three highlights. "Confusion Corner" was the most famous song on the record, about Stuart's most heralded local landmark, a poorly planned intersection of eight roads and a railroad track. Over the years, this has been improved with a roundabout, so it's really not all that confusing anymore. Back in the day, there were T-shirts and everything. There's just not that much to be excited about in Stuart. I played this song on my recent visit with Zane and Jason on the Sonic Safari podcast.

"I Wanna Be a Florida Cracker" is the kind of song you just have to dance like Jethro Bodine to. Kinda nice, actually...all that time growing up, wishing I was black or something, here was a guy who actually envied my position as a native Floridian. Actually, in my suburban upbringing, I probably don't qualify as a "Florida Cracker," but maybe some of my kin in Okechobee do.

And finally, the tourist board ballad "Florida," with it's very specific references to my hometown ("Where the St. Lucie flows to the Indian River/Sailfish are jumping and sea turtle lay").

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Without a Voice

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ginger Baker in Africa (Tony Palmer, 1971)

Add this to your Netflix queue NOW.

In 1971, Ginger Baker (drummer for Cream and Blind Faith) traveled to Lagos, Nigeria with the objective of building a recording studio to record African musicians. He made the trek overland through the Sahara, and filmed local musicians along the way, including a visit with Fela Kuti in Nigeria. The film opens and closes with the monumental jam embedded above. It's no surprise that any jazz/rock drummer should be fascinated by African music, and if you've listened to comps like Nigeria Rock Special or World Psychedelic Classics, it's not really any surprise to hear Nigerian musicians playing acid rock-influenced licks like the ones in this clip, but man, this shit is just off-the-map of hotness! Sounds almost like Can at times.

The documentary is less than an hour, and I'd be lying if I tried to deny that these two YouTube clips contain most of the best shit, but it's worth watching the whole thing. The footage of the drive through the desert is beautiful. The roads through the Sahara are basically a graveyard of cars that overheated, broke down or burnt, and were abandoned on the side of the road. At one point, they come across a camel skeleton picked clean by scavengers, bringing up memories of the giant fish fossil the droids pass by in the Tatooine desert near the beginning of Star Wars. The footage is scored to the hypnotic jams they recorded (I know "hypnotic jams" is a bit of a cliche, but I'm being literal here--after an hour of this stuff, you start to feel altered states in your brain), while Baker narrates, occassionally falling into stoned hippie verse. You also get to see The Sweet Things, a girl group (I'm not sure if they sing or just dance, there's no footage of them singing) with Supremes hairdos and fringe leather mini-skirts doing moves from traditional African dances to their band's funk jams. I wish I could have seen this documentary when I was in college, but maybe it's better that I didn't. I'd have probably tried to run off to Lagos and died in the desert.

The Fela footage is amazing. His live jams sound much rawer than any of his recordings. He brings each of his female dancers to perform for the camera in turn (the dominant body language he uses toward the women is disturbing, but then he acts about the same way with his male dancer), and they each do some pop-locking moves that look like the the shit you see in Rize. Then he brings up a male dancer, and this guy starts interracting with the sax player. His moves respond to the sax licks, the horn man responds to his moves. Just unbelievable. The movie never talks about whether the studio was ever built, and nothing I can find on the internet mentions it, but it's all about the journey, right?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Songs of the Season, Part 21

Sunday, February 07, 2010

2009: The Realy Last Final Post For Real

A chance to highlight some of my favorite posts from last year. My favorite was a series called Stumpin' in the Crates, where I posted some records made by politicians, including Lester Maddox (there's a bonus photo of Lester here), Senator Everett McKinney Dirksen, Senator Sam Erwin, and a bizarre Jimmy Swaggart record where he insists that God has cursed the Kennedy family.

I briefly revived the Single of the Week series (there's more to come, if I get my ass on it) with singles by Meco, The Gentrys, The Mark IV, Rufus Thomas, The Hassles, and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band.

Some more musical happenings: from Florida, a couple choice Bowie rip-offs from White Witch, a full LP of 80's metal from The Drills, and a mystery single (courtesy of the Sonic Safari gang) from You Josh and Me. On 9/9/09 (the day The Beatles' Rock Band game and new remasters of all their recordings were simultaneously release), I put up two posts of Beatle-related oddities: Part 1 and Part 2. Here's a funny album of cheesy Vegas comedy (yes, I posted it before Balkinage!), Bottom's Up for Swingers. A few random posts on Rance Allen, Melvin Gibbs and The Fiery Furnaces.

I'm especially proud of my tributes to Lux Interior and John Hughes.

A few random movie posts on Drag Me to Hell (I saw it at the drive-in!), Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers, Stormy Weather, and the incredible experience of Joe Dante's Movie Orgy!

Two very random YouTube-based posts, one a nostalgic rememberence of movies I saw at the Mayfair Theater in Stuart, and one post on the musical evolution of "Cow-Cow Boogie" and "Train Kept A-Rollin'".

My look back on the past decade: Part 1 (personal shit and the political scene), Past 2 (music), Part 3 (movies). A mix of my favorite songs from the 00's: Side 1, Side 2.

I don't ususlly include the political posts in these round-ups, but I was kinda proud of these three posts about the healthcare debate.

If you're interested, here's a similar roundups of my posts from 2008. And don't forget to listen to my Special Guest Appearance on Sonic Safari!

And finally, at long last, my top 10 movies of the last year:

1. Where the Wild Things Are: This takes my top spot because it hit an emotional spot in me. Some people seem to think that it fetishizes childhood, an accusation that seems to fit better with something like The Science of Sleep, but to me it just feels like a very honest and accurate portrayal of the inner life of a certain type of kid: rambunctious, sensitive, imaginative, and a little troubled. I went back and looked at the book and was surprised to see how closely the movie follows the ideas in the book, even the way Max's fantasy world is informed by events and feelings from his real life.
2. Inglourious Basterds: This one grew on me over time. I had it much lower on my list, but I find myself thinking about it more than any other film from 2009.
3. Up: Possibly my favorite Pixar movie (and positively my favorite Pixar that's not a Brad Bird joint--his films are almost their own sub-genre). This just barely edges out Toy Story 2 for a few reasons: (1) Up has this sense of high adventure that you get a little of in other Pixar films, but really comes across here more than ever before. (2) there's a lot of sad stuff in Up, but it's all bittersweet. I feel like they slightly miscalculated the "When She Loved Me" song in Toy Story 2, and it ended up just a little TOO sad. It kinda bums you out for the rest of the movie. And (3) Toy Story 2 does an amazing job of following all these different character arcs in a lean 90 minutes, but I think Up being slightly less cluttered with characters has a little more room to breathe.
4. Moon: Strange thing about science fiction: the genre seems to be all about ideas, but when you get down to it, you realize that a film like this can succeed even though there really aren't any terribly original ideas in it. There's nothing in this film that you couldn't find in a dozen old paperbacks on the scifi shelf in your local used book store, but somehow these ideas remain fascinating even after being examined over and over. And as far as the Oscars go, Sam Rockwell was FUCKING ROBBED!
5. The Hurt Locker: Man, this movie is fucking INTESNE.
6. In the Loop: One of the things I like about this movie is that it doesn't try to make some big statement about How We Got Into This Mess. The war is just the backdrop. Rather, it's a movie about the way society rewards cowardice and punishes courage, even (especially!) in a time when courage is most necessary, and the way that the ultimate virtue in politics is to never say anything of substance. That, and the amazing foul-mouthed dialogue (imagine a world where everyone talks like Ari from Entourage, only you have good writers writing Ari's dialogue).
7. Away We Go: I'm as surprised to see this on my list as anyone, but like Wild Things, this spoke to a specific moment in my life, that moment being about the time my peers turned 30 and began having children en masse (I remain childless, a condition that I have deeply ambiguous feelings about). There's a unique comic voice at work here, and it's difficult to get a handle on it as it verges wildly from the lead couple's very real and natural performances, and the wacky charicature couples they encounter along the way. But these wacky couples work for me as both a satire of the over-thinking parents you see trying so hard to engineer their children's happiness, and as a personification of the insecurities the new parents-to-be experience. The generation raising kids today feel that they're navigating a minefield of potential complexes and neuroses that they can instill in their children for life simply by fucking up. There's a point to which this is probably positive, but I think it ends up driving parents AND children a little crazy.
8. The Fantastic Mr. Fox: My favorite Wes Anderson movie? Probably not, but certainly my favorite of this decade. Tennenbaums is beautiful, but a little too rigid. Mr. Fox captures some of the anarchic energy that was present in Anderson's pre-Tennenbaums work, and the simplicity of the story helps focus Anderson in a way that hasn't happened in years. How is it that Mr. Fox and his family and neighbors feel more like real characters than Steve Zissou or the brothers in Darjeeling Limited?
9. District 9: It's not that District 9 has much to say about apartheid, more that the apartheid setting roots the action in a real and living world (at this point I should say something like "contrasted with the storybook rainforests of Avatar," but I still haven't seen Avatar, so who knows?). But what really makes the movie special is that the main character, Wikus, is such a despicable little weasel, and not a particularly bright one either, which makes the mechanics of the story more interesting than following a hypercompetent Jason Bourne type.
10. A Serious Man: This meditation on the unknowableness of God is hardly my favorite Coens film of the decade, but it's a brilliant construction, with every scene, image and line reflecting and commenting on the story's themes and questions. Plus, best 70's interior decor movie ever. Or late 60's, I guess.

Caveat: I need to see The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus again. On first viewing, it was a visually stunning and thoroughly entertaining film that has no idea what it's trying to say, but then, that was exactly what I thought after my first viewing of The Adventures of Baron Munchaussen. So the Coens hold their spot very tentatively.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A Whole Mess o' Videos

Louis CK just fucking killed me with this:

I liked this bit, too. Very close to home. And then there's this, which just is:

John Oliver's New York Standup Show has been pretty great. This was the funniest I've seen Garofalo since forever.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Reasons to be Cheerful!

I swear, sometimes being a liberal in America feels like being a fan of one of those baseball teams that never wins because they got cursed by a goat or something. But we actually do have some reasons to be happy about bothering to vote last year. For example...

Yet there is one extremely consequential area where Obama has done just about everything a liberal could ask for--but done it so quietly that almost no one, including most liberals, has noticed. Obama’s three Republican predecessors were all committed to weakening or even destroying the country’s regulatory apparatus: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the other agencies that are supposed to protect workers and consumers by regulating business practices. Now Obama is seeking to rebuild these battered institutions. In doing so, he isn’t simply improving the effectiveness of various government offices or making scattered progress on a few issues; he is resuscitating an entire philosophy of government with roots in the Progressive era of the early twentieth century. Taken as a whole, Obama’s revival of these agencies is arguably the most significant accomplishment of his first year in office.


There seems to be little to endear citizens to their legislature or to the president trying to influence it. It's too bad, because even with the wrench thrown in by Republican Scott Brown's election in Massachusetts, this Democratic Congress is on a path to become one of the most productive since the Great Society 89th Congress in 1965-66, and Obama already has the most legislative success of any modern president -- and that includes Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson. The deep dysfunction of our politics may have produced public disdain, but it has also delivered record accomplishment.

The productivity began with the stimulus package, which was far more than an injection of $787 billion in government spending to jump-start the ailing economy. More than one-third of it -- $288 billion -- came in the form of tax cuts, making it one of the largest tax cuts in history, with sizable credits for energy conservation and renewable-energy production as well as home-buying and college tuition. The stimulus also promised $19 billion for the critical policy arena of health-information technology, and more than $1 billion to advance research on the effectiveness of health-care treatments.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has leveraged some of the stimulus money to encourage wide-ranging reform in school districts across the country. There were also massive investments in green technologies, clean water and a smart grid for electricity, while the $70 billion or more in energy and environmental programs was perhaps the most ambitious advancement in these areas in modern times. As a bonus, more than $7 billion was allotted to expand broadband and wireless Internet access, a step toward the goal of universal access.

Any Congress that passed all these items separately would be considered enormously productive. Instead, this Congress did it in one bill. Lawmakers then added to their record by expanding children's health insurance and providing stiff oversight of the TARP funds allocated by the previous Congress. Other accomplishments included a law to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco, the largest land conservation law in nearly two decades, a credit card holders' bill of rights and defense procurement reform.

And even before this morning's announcement of a plan to finally get rid of Don't Ask, Don't Tell:

We expect the Department of Defense to announce at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Feb. 2 that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" discharges were down by almost 30 percent last year. Indeed, the department may release the discharge numbers before the hearing. As we alerted you here last week, the new trend is indeed welcoming news, but it is not a substitute for full repeal in 2010.

And on the education front:

Over the past year, President Barack Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, have started talking quite a lot about great teaching. They have shifted the conversation from school accountability— the rather worn theme of No Child Left Behind, President George W. Bush’s landmark educational reform—to teacher accountability. And they have done it using one very effective conversational gambit: billions of dollars.

Thanks to the stimulus bonanza, Duncan has lucked into a budget that is more than double what a normal education secretary gets to spend. As a result, he has been able to dedicate $4.3 billion to a program he calls Race to the Top. To be fair, that’s still just a tiny fraction of the roughly $100 billion in his budget (much of which the government direct-deposits into the bank accounts of schools, whether they deserve the money or not). But especially in a year when states are projecting $16 billion in school-budget shortfalls, $4.3 billion is real money. “This is the big bang of teacher-effectiveness reform,” says Timothy Daly, president of the New Teacher Project, a nonprofit that helps schools recruit good teachers. “It’s huge.”

Washington, D.C., is also applying for Race to the Top money from the Obama administration, along with many states. To qualify, states must first remove any legal barriers to linking student test scores to teachers—something California and Wisconsin are already doing. To win money, states must also begin distinguishing between effective and ineffective teachers—and consider that information when deciding whether to grant tenure, give raises, or fire a teacher or principal (a linkage that the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, has criticized as “inappropriate” federal interference in local prerogatives). And each year, states must publish which of their education and other prep programs produced the most effective (and ineffective) teachers and principals. If state and local school officials, along with teachers unions, step up to the challenge, Race to the Top could begin to rationalize America’s schools.

That's one that even our conservative brothers should be happy about, and there's more. The President's budget proposes cuts to farm subsidies (an uphill fight, for sure, but at least he's making the effort), and that proposal to allow interstate commerce in health insurance that conservatives were so mad wasn't in the bill? It's in the bill.

Take a Sonic Safari With Me!

On my brief Florida vacation over the holidays, I made a Special Guest Appearance on Zane and Jason's Sonic Safari podcast. We discuss Dinosaur Attack Cards, Billy Barty, local convenience stores, and play lots of wacky records. I brought Cliff Buckosh's "Confusion Corner" with me, a real nostalgia trip for any locals out there.