Still Brian after All These years Review: Brian Wilson, Carolina Theater, Durham, NC 11/19/15

The last time I saw Brian Wilson in person was April 14, 1973.  He showed up 3 hours late to entertain me at Pirate’s World, a now-defunct amusement park in Dania Beach, FL.  I was 17.  Brian was 30. Creatively, the Beach Boys had already been declared dead by then, relegated to Oldies status.  The fact they were playing Pirate’s World may have been a tipoff.  Brian had already peaked, achieving full musical genius status, and had begun to enter his couple-decades-long descent into drugs, depression and general estrangement from humanity.


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I’m at that age now where you do the math on everyone, followed by an analysis of how you’re doing relative to any particular person.  Brian was 13 years older than me then.  He still is. Whatever resiliency and luck enabled him to emerge from the darkness to be able to be out there right now brilliantly recreating his own music, making me way more happy to see him these 42 years later…. I’m thankful for it and so, so glad for the moment this week in Durham, NC at The Carolina Theater, as was the News & Observer’s David Menconi. “Ultimately, the songs themselves were the real star of the show, tapping into an almost primal sense of music as gateway to a private emotional cosmos. It was awe-inspiring to take in the set list and marvel at how many inarguable icons of Western culture Wilson is responsible for. The closing pre-encore stretch was “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” to “Sloop John B” to “God Only Knows” to “Good Vibrations,” and they were all still transportive from first note to last. Anyone there whose heart wasn’t breaking could not possibly have had one.”



No, he can’t hit the high notes that fifty-year-old falsetto demands, not that he tries.  So? Brian saunters out in his Del Boca Vista shirt, plants himself in his chair in front of the Steinway and barely moves for 90 minutes.  Occasionally the arms wave in unison.  But you don’t care.  It is the Creator, Brian Wilson, who has assembled such an array of talent around him, including Beach Boy Al Jardine and Al’s son Matt (who is the the falsetto designated hitter… and he’s great!) that such difficult harmonies as I Get AroundHelp Me Rhonda and Wouldn’t It Be Nice were utterly pristine.  The live recreation of extremely studio-dependent records such as Good Vibrations and God Only Knows, which Brian reminds you is the greatest of his great songs, takes 13 people….. and it works near-perfectly.  No French horn and you ain’t got God Only Knows.  They had it.  Jardine’s male version of “And Then He Kissed Me,” the Crystals/Phil Spector classic, was a great selection and salute to the era beyond Brian.  Jason Rubin’s Fuse Concert Review expands…. There are some artists where in concert you never know what you’ll get. Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, for example, are as capable of giving unnerving performances as they are at delivering mesmerizing ones. Brian Wilson is a little different. His unpredictability is itself highly predictable.


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If you’ve seen Brian Wilson lately on tv, you know he is a slow motion version of his former self.  Don’t do drugs, kids.  While physically Brian’s 73 going on 93, when you are privileged to visit Mt. Rushmore. you simply marvel in the grandeur and the eternal brilliance you’re witnessing.  I’m sure Thomas Jefferson couldn’t hit the high notes when he was 73, either.

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BONUS SNARK!  Listen closely and tell me these guys aren’t singing, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Bomb IRAN!  Just like John McCain back during the campaign in 2007!!









One of these is just like the other… and the other is just like one of these…..

Donald Trump is the Charlie Sheen of American Politics. By supporting him and associating with him and thinking he’s a truth-telling funny guy hooked on “Winning,” you will wake up one day and realize you have contracted a deadly disease.

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Do we always worry about the wrong thing because politicians go for the cheapest available political layup, or does it just seem that way?

We’re not a breaking news site with a staff of 50, so since the last post the number of governors who Just Say No to Syrian refugees has passed 30.  I believe most people think that we let people into the United States who claim refugee status as if it’s still 1910…. they arrive by boat to Ellis Island, wait in line for a few hours, and zoom…. Welcome To America, you’re in!  Screen shot 2015-11-18 at 9.58.05 AM

Since we operate in a political atmosphere most successfully driven by fear, it’s easy to leave out the facts about refugees and Syrian ones, specifically, and go for the Full Demagogue.

Screen shot 2015-11-18 at 10.10.21 AMIt’s always been tough to get in.  The process and the vetting take, at minimum, 18 months to 2 years, and you’ve got to prove to us that you’re not a terrorist, that you’ve never been associated with terrorists and no one in your family has, either.  It’s like the way cable used to force HBO on you….. it was there without asking, they’d bill you and you had to make them take it off.  It hasn’t been that way for a long time…. the dreaded “negative option,” but it still exists for US immigration.  You’re guilty until you’ve proven you’re clean.  And it should stay that way. Vox: The US couldn’t have started taking in hundreds of Syrians in 2011, when the country’s civil war began, even if it had wanted to. But in large part, it’s because the Obama administration has been extremely worried about the very terrorist threat that Republicans are hyping now. And it’s led the administration to be so cautious in processing applications that barely any refugees have qualified to come.

Why is no one running for president willing to address the fact that five years ago the Government Accountability Office stated that: “Membership in a terrorist organization does not prohibit a person from possessing firearms or explosives under current federal law.”  The law prohibits felons, fugitives, drug addicts and domestic abusers from purchasing a firearm in the United States. But people on the FBI’s consolidated terrorist watchlist — typically placed there when there is “reasonable suspicion” that they are a known or suspected terrorist — can freely purchase handguns or assault-style rifles. The Washington Post reported that “as the GAO found…. between 2004 and 2014, suspected terrorists attempted to purchase guns from American dealers at least 2,233 times. And in 2,043 of those cases — 91 percent of the time — they succeeded.”

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91%.  That matches up nicely with the 90+ percent failure rate the TSA has in finding weapons during its own internal investigation earlier this year.   Not so politically sexy to keep pointing out that 14 years after 9/11…. quite a big hole in our security that has never been really filled.  Especially because it bumps up against seriously tightening background checks for guns and the NRA runs our country, plain and simple. But the ISIS Guy Behind the Syrian Refugee Mask theme is much easier to understand.  Facts mean nothing here, as we run this Security Theater Charade on emotion, as Reason points out:

The history of the U.S. refugee program demonstrates that the lengthy and extensive vetting that all refugees must undergo is an effective deterrent for terrorists. Since 1980, the U.S. has invited in millions of refugees, including hundreds of thousands from the Middle East. Not one has committed an act of terrorism in the U.S. Traditional law enforcement and security screening processes have a proven record of handling the threat from terrorist posing as refugees.Demagoguery is the practice of a politician to gain power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people. For shame!

Note: Several commenters suggested Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev, who committed the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, were refugees. Strictly speaking, they were the children of asylees. As Bloomberg News explained the two were given “derivative asylum status” and didn’t come through the refugee admissions program. Apparently the legaldistinction is too fine a point for some readers. So be it, but they should nevertheless keep in mind that the brothers were two people out around 1.8 million people who were granted refugee or asylee status between 1995 and 2013.


Shepard Smith, who really must have a “Don’t F-With Me, Roger… No, I Really Mean It” Clause in his Fox Contract, Hides Behind Miss Liberty

Let’s not even pretend the United States is not going to panic and not give in to its worst xenophobic tendencies as it relates to the Syrian refugee issue.   Governors trained hard and learned their lessons a year ago in losing their marbles over Ebola.  Memba that?  This is even more pronounced and blatantly political, as all but one of the we-don’t-want-no-stinkin-Syrians are Republican governor states.  New Hampshire’s Democratic governor Maggie Hassan is onboard, too.  But she doesn’t count, because she wants to displace Republican incumbent US Senator Kelly Ayotte, and must prove her rightie fear-mongering bona fides on this subject to stay in the hunt.Screen shot 2015-11-17 at 11.33.07 AM

Shepard Smith, meanwhile, continues his remarkable run on Fox News Channel as a guy who gives commentaries that are often to the left of a Chris Mathews.  I’ve always thought he is highly-paid and tolerated because Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes know he’s the one guy who could truly put a dent in Bill OReilly at 8 Eastern if he were to leave the plantation and show up on CNN or MSNBC.  Standing clearly for the rights of refugees, Smith said, “Today we mourn, but we cannot allow ourselves to become like those who want to destroy us. We cannot resort to the tactics of the barbarians…..We must fight for what we believe in and who we are. Guard our freedoms faithfully for the generations to follow, and we must not let the rhetoric of potential and political extremists among us lead us to self-destruction….”  While the “shining city on a hill” is vulnerable, Smith said, refusing to accept those fleeing terrorists would denigrate what he described as the country’s “unique experiment in freedom, tolerance, openness, and equality…. When there’s panic, we show resolve. When there’s call for extremism, we resist,” he argued. “We are America. We must lead.” 


What Would Jesus Do? NO! REALLY?

Man! It seems like such a more innocent time (last week) when we got our panties in a bunch over a coffee cup. Then, a fake war was interrupted by a real one

French attacks

In the wake of these abhorrent, despicable attacks, many people are re-thinking the idea of taking in Syrian refugees. In North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory was able to score a few cheap political points by telling Obama that they’d need to take a long look at the process. TRANSLATION: Man, those brown people are SCARY! (no, not those brown people). This will serve Mr. McCrory well in his re-election bid, as he attempts to follow Donald Trump’s lead by employing the popular “scare white people” strategy

You see, here’s the tough thing about being a Christian: The stuff that gets you into heaven probably won’t be seen by a lot of people. Christianity isn’t an SEC football game. 70,000 people will not chant your name and 40-year-old men won’t buy your jersey if you give someone a few bucks to get a meal. God sees what you did. God knows. And he’s happy you do good stuff, but, that’s what you’re SUPPOSED to do

You get a lot of “attaboys” for viral videos, in which you “froth for Jesus” over this slight or that. Maybe you put the fish on your car. That’s great! But, do you really think St. Peter will ever say this to you: “You know, you were right on the edge, but, that three-dollar fish you grabbed at Stuckey’s really put you in the end zone. Welcome to heaven!”?

Christianity…real Christianity involves doing the tough stuff. Like taking in refugees who were running from terrorists. That’s what is commanded of us and it’s not sexy. It won’t get you 29 million views or girls or speaking engagements at mega churches across America. But, it just might get you into heaven

It’s fair to take a look at the process and make sure that terrorists aren’t slipping through. But, this is the greatest country on earth and the reason we’re great isn’t because we can bomb the hell out of anybody, anytime we want. It’s because we do the things no other country does

And when we do welcome the refugees to various communities across this great land, maybe we should take them to Starbucks for a Flat White. I think they’ll be ok with the cup

“Ok…. what is the secret word, George?” “It’s ‘radical ISLAMIC terror’ Groucho.” “So the secret word really is ‘ISLAMIC?” “You Bet Your Life it is!”

Wonkette:  The post-massacre consensus is in: Paris would be safe today if Barack Obama had the balls to say the magic words “Radical Islamic Terrorism.” Or maybe it’s that we can’t actually win until he says them. Or until we elect another president who will say them. They are such incredibly powerful magic words that the president’s refusal to say them suggests to some that he is in fact a Radical Islamic Terrorist himself, or so weak that he is unable to say them with enough magical force to roll a +20 killing hit against ISIS.

Screen shot 2015-11-16 at 5.49.12 PMDemanding the correct words or knowing the name of your opponent and (not) saying it to his face

has a long and storied history, in fact and in fiction.  In 1967, Muhammed Ali was probably the most

controversial athlete in America, for converting to Islam and refusing to be drafted for service in Vietnam.

Eventually stripped of his heavyweight title and license to box, he fought against Ernie Terrell in 1967.

As part of Terrell’s pre-fight taunting shtick, he called Ali “Cassius Clay,” his former name.  During the

fight itself, as Ali pounded Ernie, he shouted continuously, “what’s my name?”  More here.

From “what’s my name?” to “say my name”…. not the Destiny’s Child #1 hit from 2000, courtesy of

Something tells me that the rise of Al Qaeda and now ISIS has very little to do with those guys sitting around a cave or a cafe or a mosque demanding that (first) George W. Bush and now Barack Obama “say our name.”  Wisely, neither president has taken the bait.  Incredibly and to his credit, Bush never wavered on this important linguistic point…this from a guy not exactly known for his speechifying.

Right now the heat out there is major intense on the importance of using the phrase “radical ISLAMIC terror” or its variations that supposedly would let

us know who the real enemy is when we finally elect a president who actually realizes who the real enemy is instead of President Wimpbama.  None of the 3

Democratic candidates went there at Saturday’s debate, and as Vox reports: “I don’t understand it,” Marco Rubio said Sunday. “That would be like saying we weren’t at war with Nazis because we were afraid to offend some Germans who may have been members of the Nazi party, but weren’t violent.” And Donald Trump chimed in in a tweet: “When will President Obama issue the words RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM? He can’t say it, and unless he will, the problem will not be solved!”   Why didn’t I think of that?  The whole tadoo from Vox:


Reflexive American Boots-on-the Ground Response to Isis in Paris while expecting a different result is not Insanity. It’s just plain stupid.

Last Thursday (11/12) ISIS took credit for two suicide bombings in Beirut that killed 43 and wounded 240.  We barely noticed.  It didn’t rise to the level of stop-the-worldness that Friday’s better-coordinated, even more devastating (132 dead, so far) attacks in Paris did.  Add that to the downing of the Russian airliner over Sinai two weeks back and the Rule of Threes kicks in.  Ed died 6/23/09. Farrah and Jacko on 6/25/09.

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Serious enough for Brian Williams to finally crawl out from beneath the $10 million per year MSNBC mothballs he resides under.  Serious enough for CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to finally confront how depressing it is to be Wolf Blitzer. Serious enough for Roger Ailes to tell Hannity and OReilly to stay away, keep your mouths shut for a few days while Fox puts on the way more credible Shepard Smith to present factual information in the immediate wake of the terrorism.  Plenty of time soon for you to resume your main job description…. blaming Obama for having confiscated all the guns in Paris and leaving the citizenry defenseless.  Maybe Bill OReilly can call for a reinstatement of his idiotic 2005 boycott of France.  2/18/05: Until we see the French government do something to help in the war on terror, we should consider that country hostile to our safety. And so, the boycott of France is on. Bumper stickers are available on Get a bunch of them. Spread the word.  

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Job One for the world in responding to ISIS’s “Fatal Attraction” I Won’t Be Ignored moment is to not react exactly as they want us to in order to fertilize their recruiting…. with western ground troops, especially from the United States, back in big numbers on their home turf in Iraq and Syria.  In the UK Independent, Sunny Hundal writes:

Isis is also doing this to create division and exploit tension in our modern multi-racial societies. They want western Muslims to feel unwanted in their homes in Europe, and to instead join them in Syria. They want western Muslims to feel that they can only truly be at home at the Isis Caliphate. And Isis wants to see western countries become closed, authoritarian societies where we live in fear of them and their capabilities. They hate what we stand for and they want to provoke us into changing that. The temptation to react to Isis in the way they want will be strong in the aftermath of Paris. Francois Hollande says our response to Isis must be “merciless” – and I agree – but it must also be strategic so we don’t fall into their trap. We must stand for our values: liberalism, secularism, openness, free speech and equality: those are the values we swear by and those are the values we must now strain every sinew to live by.

We keep insisting here that we, here in the American melting-pot of superior cultural and religious inclusion, have been much better at assimilating Muslims than Europe has.  That holds until any kind of crime or terrorist incident occurs involving someone who is Muslim.  Add the Republican Rhetoric that says if this president (and Saturday night, all 3 Democratic debaters) would just SAY the words “radical Islam,” we’d know they know who the real enemy is and we’d be safer and on our way to victory.  “Radical Islam” means you’re strong; “Radical Jihadists” means you’re weak.  The truth is, though, it wouldn’t materially change any policy, and it just might push a few more American Muslims into believing they need to change sides in the “Clash of Civilizations,” another grandiose term of the apocalypse.  The Pamela Gellers, Ann Coulters and Bill Mahers of the world think they wield some kind of moral truth for pushing this.  And we shall see if the Warmongering Party is really ready to once again send their our sons and daughters back to the no-win Middle East, the Land of the Unintended Consequence That is Always Worse Than Imaginable. It looks like they are.  At least for now you can say goodbye to freedom fries. If we haven’t figured out by now that we’ve already got all the troops and guns and bullets we’d ever need, and they’re beating us with brains, a sickeningly seductive nihilistic ideology, and easily available AK-47s… then the discredited and absolutely false definition of insanity (it’s a legal term, nothing more) as repeating the same thing over and expecting a different result may be ready to truly apply.

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Such a great line from Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in Godfather III: “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.


Burned-out veteran descriptive phrase, “Days of Rage,” threatens retirement. Angry response planned.

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Everyone announces their grievance on everything using grizzled veteran iconic term “Days of Rage.” Its modern used started in 1969, when the Students for a Democratic Society’s Weather Underground staged 3 days of protests that included marches in Chicago and some stupid vandalism, resulting in about 300 arrests, and few hundred thousand dollars of police overtime.  The Weather Underground was founded, in part, by Bill Ayers, who later went on to be Barack Obama’s campaign manager.  Ok, that last part’s not really true, but I figure that’ll appear in Obama’s bio one day in a Texas public school textbook.  A Bryan Burrough book this year is even titled, “DAYS OF RAGE: AMERICA’S RADICAL UNDERGROUND, THE FBI, AND THE FORGOTTEN AGE OF REVOLUTIONARY VIOLENCE.”

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Today, there are frequent Days of Rage on the West Bank when the Palestinians want to kick it up a notch against Israel.  A tenant/renters group called The LA Tenants Union (great name for a 60’s band that never was) asked that you wear red and attend performance art shows on their Days of Rage because the rent is too high and people get evicted too easily.  You get the point.

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I’m deeply concerned about the overuse and burnout factor here.  Just this week, we’ve seen the Days of Rage theme used locally and nationally relating to the campus protests at the U. of Missouri and beyond.  Are the approximately 1000 Walmart workers across the country using the term to describe their 15 days of protests to get a $15 minimum wage leading up to Black Friday?  It doesn’t appear so, but they should have.  I did run into another 2015 book with the title, “DAYS OF RAGE,” by Brad Taylor, described like this: When Russia passes a weapon of mass destruction to Boko Haram, an extreme Islamic sect in Nigeria, Pike Logan and the Taskforce must halt the threat while trying to discover who is attempting to hunt them down.   Ubiquitous and well done, sir.

Possibly the ultimate first-world-problem Day of Rage-type protest occurred on Friday morning in New York, when, as reported by CBS-NY, a rally was held outside the state Attorney General’s office in Manhattan calling for a change to a ban on daily fantasy sports betting. The ‘Fantasy for All’ rally attendants chanted “Ban Schneiderman” and “No Sports Fun For New York,” “Fantasy For All” and “Let Us Play” following AG Eric Schneiderman sending the top betting websites– Draft Kings and FanDuel– cease and desist letters, ordering the sites to stop accepting bets.

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From protesting the draft to Draft Kings…..  from Cam Ranh Bay  to Cam Newton….. Long Live the Days of Rage!


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Nice try, NFL…. dressing up your players in red and green to evoke a “holiday” motif. But I’m not fooled and no Christmas symbols are on those uniforms. Not nowhere. Be prepared for a Christian backlash, ala Starbucks. You have been warned, NFL Commissioner Goodell.

Thank you, Mr. Trump, for refraining from saying “Wetback” in public while we all got cryingly nostalgic over Ike’s “Operation Wetback.”

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So Mr. Political Correctness is Killing This Country Trump decides the other night while he was using the mid-50’s example of “Operation Wetback” to not use the exact word because THAT’S the line of rhetorical offensiveness that he has suddenly decided is too vile to cross?  It was not the action itself, rather the name of that action that must not be spoken?  A military-style roundup of people, sticking every damn one of those illegals on planes, trains, and ships and dumping them further and further into Mexico to prevent them (supposedly) from making it back would be politely updated for the 21st Century. (Give ’em a bottle of Dasani and a free Obamaphone, fully charged)  It would be the most humane roundup you’ve ever seen!  Now I’m not here to throw cold Dasani on such a great, well thought-out plan, but only about half of the illegal immigrants are from Mexico, according to Pew Research. Do Asians really like Acapulco?

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Mae Ngai, a professor of history at Columbia University in New York, told ABC News:  The other half of the program, not mentioned by candidate Trump, was the mass, short-term legalization of unauthorized farm workers, known as the Bracero program, stemming from the need for labor in the United States during World War II and lasting until 1964. It was Mexico’s way of contributing to the war effort without sending soldiers, Ngai added. Most of the undocumented in the 1950s were temporary or seasonal workers. “They [the United States] had a duel policy. One hand deported and the other hand legalized,” she said. “They even had a big ‘show,’ allowing them [immigrants] to basically step over the border 18 inches into Mexico and then step back into the U.S. and called it legal re-entry and they did that for thousands of people.”        Screen shot 2015-11-12 at 10.26.24 AM

How many of us knew about Operation Wetback until this week when Trump invoked the name of President Eisenhower to justify and legitimize his going downmarket past his competitors with Donnie’s Cattle Car Caravan to Chihuahua?  As the years tick by, most of us now only know Eisenhower for a few things, if any.  He was the D-Day General Normandy guy, he played a lot of golf while president, warned of something called the  “military-industrial complex” on his way out of office, and was only elected because of the slogan “I Like Ike.”

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Justice Scalia warned in 2014 that he thought that one day we’d once again justify World War II-style internment camps, like we did with Japanese-Americans. “You are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again,” Scalia told the University of Hawaii law school while discussing Korematsu v. United States, the ruling in which the court gave its imprimatur to the internment camps.The local Associated Press report quotes Scalia as using a Latin phrase that means “in times of war, the laws fall silent,” to explain why the court erred in that decision and will do so again.  Look at the support and faces of the slavish crowds lining up behind Donald Trump, who is now using war-whipping language to gain Republican-primary support on mass deportation.  The words of the strongman demagogue.  It’s not hard to think of at least one other group of people in this country who could easily be labeled as a collective threat to the country right now.  Want to say their name, Donald?

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