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‘They’ll Be Laughing in Moscow and Beijing’ over Scotland Yard’s idiotic Snowden blunder

British Labour MP Tom Watson wrote a scathing must-read essay for on L’affaire Miranda and the news that some boneheads from Scotland Yard thought getting all heavy at The Guardian offices was, like, a good idea:

We still don’t know the full circumstances surrounding David Miranda’s detention at Heathrow airport but I think we probably know enough to conclude that: a) he is not a terrorist and b) it is not a coincidence that he is Glenn Greenwald’s partner.

I think that we can also usefully assume that the spooks did not find enough to detain David Miranda under any UK law and that Greenwald and The Guardian are not dumb enough to forget to make copies of the files that prove illegal state surveillance.

The spooks are not going to get the NSA files back; that genie is well and truly out of the bottle. So why do it? The conclusion must be, as Greenwald speculates, that we were just roughing up his boyfriend in order to psyche him out. I am no Carrie Mathieson but I think the wrong case officer is in charge of this investigation if they think this will shut Greenwald up. He thrives on this stuff. The UK intelligence services have created a global audience for the spectacle of him beating them with a big stick of indignant rebuke.

And they have horrified people across Westminster who know the “inside.” As a former defence minister I have authorised special forces to conduct hostage rescues, covert military entry to foil terrorist plots, as well as approved nuclear submarines to travel to places you do not want to know. So I think I can assess an ill-conceived plan when I see one. And this was a howler.

LOL! Real Tom Watson’s full editorial at

Thank you Michael Backes of Los Angeles, California!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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On the first anniversary of the Pussy Riot conviction, August 17

This is a guest editorial by Hunter Heaney, executive director of The Voice Project, a US-based NGO that has raised over $100,000 for support and safety monitoring efforts for the imprisoned members of Pussy Riot.

They were tired of their rights being stripped away. Tired of their government not representing them any more. Tired of ultra right-wing policies that seemed to be driven by oligarchs and secret concentrations of wealth divorced from the needs of everyday citizens and oppressive to those with less political power in the current plutocracy that seems and acts more and more intimidatingly, more authoritarian every day.

So they sing. In public. They raise their voices as a way to express the basic human right to be heard by those would purport to govern them. And for that they are arrested. Sounds familiar.

It’s not Pussy Riot.

It’s not Russia.

It’s America.

The Solidarity Singers and the Raging Grannies gather every weekday at the Wisconsin state house to sing. They are trying to express their feelings about Governor Scott Walker and the run amok right-wing policies their state seems to be implementing at ALEC’s behest. And the powers that be are having none of it. Not only are the singers being arrested, but so are the spectators, just for attending, just for watching, just for reporting on it. And remember this is all happening in the public space of the state capitol building, the people’s building, the people’s property.

Free speech? Free press? The right to peaceably assemble? Not so much in Russia, not so much in Wisconsin, not so much in a lot of places these days.

Welcome to the modern world, welcome to modern America. Bit by bit we’ve lost the things we held dear. We’ve slowly let the freedoms we were so proud of, that were associated with our dream of this country, be disappeared like an extraordinary rendition to Guantanamo.  No trial, no explanation, just a black bag over the head. Habeas corpus is just a thing we once had, or we thought we had. An effective free press, well, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert remind us every weeknight where that’s gone (and they help us laugh to keep us from sinking into a national depression).

We’re surveilled like something out of the pages of Orwell, propagandized like scenes from V for Vendetta with fear campaigns like The War on Terror, beaten and pepper sprayed for peaceful protests, resigned to our running jokes about how Congress seems to have now abandoned even the facade of representing the people in favor of the supranational corporations and the 1% who finance their campaigns and their lives.

And the poor, well, forget about them. At least that seems to be the hope anyway. How much have you personally heard about one in four kids in this country being on food stamps now? Pensions being stripped away from those who worked and saved for them, just like George Carlin predicted they would be? It happens now through “strategic municipal bankruptcies” and other financial and legal maneuvers. It starts with carefully planned campaigns hatched by conservative think-tanks that talk endlessly about “entitlements.” Isn’t that clever?

We are now a shadow of our former selves. The “Greatest Generation” are dying. My dad was one. There are a few left, but they must not be impressed by what they see, what we are doing with what they fought for. Some of them certainly know that in no universe of realistic thought does Scott Walker’s Wisconsin or our modern America respect the sentiments they held dear enough to defend. They’re codified in Wisconsin’s State Constitution as:

“Every person may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right, and no laws shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.”


“The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.”

No wonder the dystopian-future fantasies are so popular at the box office, they must ring true, or maybe they let us think it’s not quite so bad right now in comparison. But make no mistake, we’re there, welcome to Dystopia. You’re soaking in it. Sometimes I think we’ll wake up from it all—take the red pill.  It does seem to be happening in other places around the world, like Gezi Park and the streets of São Paulo, even if the dissent suppression machines seem stronger than ever.

Here in America though, I often think we’re just like slow boiling frogs, nodding off to sleep while the heat is steadily turned up, too late realizing what happened as things fade to black. Hopeless and specious tropes about how protest songs don’t matter anymore appear to have even some musicians convinced, and seem to signal our giving up. And that’s when I give thanks for Pussy Riot, for the Solidarity Singers, for the Raging Grannies. Let the armchair quarterbacks debate their musical quality or performance characteristics or predict the demise of protest singing. While they’re at it perhaps spoken and written words, literature, ideas and the rest of the humanities should be thrown in there too.

Of course there are ideas and words and performances that matter, like “I Have a Dream” or “We Shall Overcome” or “Redemption Song” or yes, “Punk Prayer” that will speak truth to power, that will inspire, that provide aid and succor to those who will resist. The Solidarity Sing-Alongs are to me without a doubt among the most important performances taking place today. Same with the 40-second performance that landed Pussy Riot in labor camps for two years.

Content matters. Ideas matter. So Pussy Riot is my band. The Raging Grannies are my band and the Solidarity Singers, too. They’ve inspired me to write this, and I’m going to go check and see if some friends want to join me in supporting these singers and what’s going on in Wisconsin.

When members of Pussy Riot were here in New York this past spring, they stayed over and we had some long talks. “Shaiba” said, “It feels like we’re building this great mafia around the world, friends everywhere.” I hope so. I think this is the way it’s going to need to work if we’re ever going to stage a comeback here. We’re going to need to look out for each other, work with each other in the face of great concentrations of power. Some say the key will be localism, a renewed reliance on our geographically proximate communities, but I sometimes worry an overzealous application of these ideas as a solution may lead to isolationism. I believe we’ll need to help each other, even across great distances and divides.

Helotism” is a word I learned from Pussy Riot. Worth checking out the etymology on that one. One of the many things I learned from the girls. These are the kinds of things I’m remembering today, that I’m thinking about on this anniversary. That we can learn from each other, help each other, that we can stick together, we can make songs matter and turn ideas into action, that we can inspire each other, and we can decide to lay down and take it… or not.

Hunter Heaney is executive director of The Voice Project, a US based NGO that has raised over $100,000 for support and safety monitoring efforts for the imprisoned members of Pussy Riot.



Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Is this the single best segment of ‘The Colbert Report’ ever? It very well might be!
09:56 am


Stephen Colbert

One of the most eloquent men in America.

Stephen Colbert is a national treasure, we all know it, and this is perhaps the single best segment that I have ever seen on The Colbert Report.

Huffington Post said that it’s likely to leave you in tears and that’s most certainly true, but this is also absolutely hysterically funny. It’s a cute, sweet, feel-good tale, but when you see the preacher with the oxygen container, well, it goes into the comedic stratosphere after that. The producers and writers, and Stephen Colbert himself, of course, deserve a standing ovation.

I don’t really need to describe this to you, do I? Just hit play and meet Mayor Johnny Cummings of Vicco, Kentucky and the many wonderful people who live in his town (If you are blocked from the Comedy Central link, here it is on YouTube).


Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Meet Anton Kraskovsky, the brave Russian newscaster who came out on live television

Back in May, a Russian newscaster, Anton Kraskovsky, was fired from his job at KontrTV for coming out on live TV, on a government-backed cable network that Mr. Kraskovsky had in fact helped to launch himself. Video of his statement “I’m gay, and I’m just the same person as you, my dear audience, as President Putin, as Prime Minister Medvedev and the deputies of our Duma,” was posted and then immediately pulled down from both YouTube and KontrTV’s website. Then later they returned, apparently, with no explanation.

Kraskovsky told CNN that he knew he would lose his job for coming out. Via The Advocate:

“Somebody should do it,” he said. “I decided it’s time to be open for me. That’s it.”

He told that he felt like a hypocrite after covering the so-called gay propaganda law on a show.

“The meaning of this whole story we are discussing now is that throughout my whole life, I’ve been struggling with myself,” Kraskovsky said. “And this — as you call it — coming out is just another battle with myself, with my own hypocrisy, my own lies, and my own cowardice.”

He said after making the announcement at the end of the show, Angry Guyzzz, the audience and the crew applauded. He said he then went into his dressing rom and cried for 20 minutes before being fired a few hours later.

“They immediately blocked all my corporative accounts, my email. Literally immediately, overnight,” Kraskovsky said.

“They deleted not only my face from the website, but also all of my TV shows, as if I’d never really existed. The next day I wrote to [network head Sergey] Minaev that I was totally shocked. Because it takes them half a day to put up a banner when I ask them to, and here we had such efficiency. One could say they can when they want to. Now they’ve put everything back, but you couldn’t say why, really.”

Good on Anton Kraskovsky, he’s a very brave man. You can read an in-depth interview with him, here.

Personally I’m not one to make a lot of Hitler comparisons—I’ll leave that to the Tea partiers—but if there is anyone who doesn’t think that the Russian crackdown on LGBT people has ominous parallels to Germany back in the day, you need to have your head examined.

(Surely I can’t be the only one watching this clip who wishes the CNN newscaster would just spontaneously combust, am I?)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Christopher Hitchens interviewed ‘In Confidence’: Relevant and controversial to the end
12:28 pm


Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens was a prisoner of chemotherapy, when he gave this interview in 2011. As Hitchens explains, the worst part of his treatment for cancer of the oesophagus was the effect of “chemo brain,” where a mental fog impeded his reading and stopped him writing—which was intolerable as writing was central to his sense of self. Moreover, Hitchens adds with typical aplomb, he feared “chemo brain” made him boring.

Hitchens was rarely boring, and here, the writer, polemicist and broadcaster gives a good account of his life, career, politics and values to Laurie Taylor, for his series In Confidence. Even in the midst of his chemotherapy, Hitchens had lost none of his combativeness or desire to settle old scores.

“I hate the idea that somebody like Henry Kissinger is what, well into his 80s now, or Pope Benedict likewise, would live long enough to read my obituary when I had fully intended to be writing theirs and I make no bones about it. That’s why I don’t ask for sympathy because I’m not intending to dish it out.”

Hitchens died in December 2011, and while it is inevitable to say how much he is dearly missed, etc, I note that since his death, his writing has received a wider readership than it did during his lifetime. With this in mind, it is worth considering that rather than continuing to bewail the loss of such a great journalist and polemicist, it may be worth looking to those who are alive and writing today.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Ask a Homosexual: Historically important call-in TV show from 1972
03:31 pm


Randolfe Wicker

This is one hell of an extraordinary document of the immediately post-Stonewall gay rights movement. It was posted by Randolfe Wicker himself, the very fellow you see here speaking so articulately, intelligently and engagingly about homosexuality for a mainstream Pittsburgh audience that, for the most part, were pretty unlikely to have had much of an idea of “what” a gay person really “was” or “did.”

In 1972, gays answering blunt questions on television was new territory. I was the first homosexual to appear on television, full-faced & undisguised, in NYC on The Les Crane Show in 1965.

I went to Chicago to be on the Kupcinent show in the 1960s because there was no homosexual willing to appear on TV in Chicago.

I used the first money I made in the hippie-oriented anti-war slogan-button business to buy the first portable Sony CV video system. Using that equipment saved this one Pittsburgh appearance from the trash-bin of history. TV stations didn’t save tapes of even nationally broadcast shows, so virtually none of the early appearances by LGBT activists even after Stonewall and into the 1970s have survived.
I consider this my best appearance as an early activist—taking on all callers. I always could talk :-). Even the Hotline host made a joke about that.

The first thing that most people would say about Randolfe Wicker and this clip is that he was “brave” to go on television and represent his community in this way, and at that time. It surely was, but it’s more than that. What’s so fantastic about this and seeing it some 40+ years later in a vastly different context really brings this quality to the fore, is this young man’s open, engaging and generous attitude towards gently and respectfully educating people about homosexuality, a topic most folks were probably blissfully unaware of at that time. [Few people wondered if Elton John was gay then, I remind you. The thought simply did not occur to most people.]

This is an absolute must-see, I thought. Really incredible. It belongs in a museum’s collection. (Wicker’s papers are at the New York Public Library. Aside from his longtime activism, he was the co-author, with Kay Tobin Lahusen of The Gay Crusaders, an influential collection of in-depth interviews with fifteen homosexual people.).

Note that when the host asks Mr. Wicker what the gay rights movement wants, he lists a lot of things—like simple respect, as homosexual acts were still outlawed in many states at that time—but being able to be married and all of the legal protections (and tax breaks) that come along with that aren’t mentioned. It probably seemed almost inconceivable back then, even to most gays.

I also love the anecdote he tells about the article that no one else would publish save for the great hero of the underground press Paul Krassner in The Realist. You can hear that bit at about 7:30 in.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Neil Innes on The Rutles, ‘working’ with Lennon & McCartney and being impersonated by Elvis!
12:36 pm


Neil Innes
The Rutles
The Bonzo Dog Band

Neil Innes as “Ron Nasty,” right. There will be a partial Rutles reunion later this month in the UK.

Because this interview already runs quite long, I don’t want to burden the text with much of a preamble. I think my feelings about the music of the great Neil Innes are pretty clear from the opening question (and if you want to know how I really feel...), but if they aren’t I’ll point you in the direction of an earlier Dangerous Minds post that I wrote about him that has lots of video clips.

The following, wide-ranging interview was conducted via email back and forth primarily while Neil and his wife Yvonne were visiting some of her relatives in Norway. As anyone who has gotten an email from me since 2009 knows, I have a quote from an Innes-penned Bonzo Dog Band song as my sigfile [“There are no coincidences, but sometimes the pattern is more obvious.”] so we used the secret word “Groucho” in the subject line so a search through my Gmail didn’t bring up 60,000 results.

As there is a newly released “Le Duck’s Box Set” of Neil’s three CD Recollections anthology, which includes a bonus DVD of sixteen videos from his Innes Book of Records TV series of the late 1970s and early 80s, that’s more or less where we started:

Richard Metzger: As a big fan of your music since I was very young, I will unashamedly state that I think you’re one of the greatest songwriters that Britain has ever produced. As a fan, I also find it frustrating that your work doesn’t really get the attention it deserves, but it must come down to the fact that you’ve effortlessly mastered so many musical genres that you just can’t be pigeonholed. “Le Duck’s Box,” the new retrospective of your Collections collections available from your website roams all over the place stylistically—an Elton John pastiche, country and western, dub reggae, punk, “New Wave,” Eurovision cliches, Stevie Wonder—and it’s absolutely pitch perfect every time. You’re not a parodist like Weird Al, but neither are you a “wry” songwriter in the mold of Ray Davies, either—compare your idea of “Shangri la” to his—or Loudon Wainwright III.

Your music is as beautiful as it is funny, but it’s an art form that stands apart. Where do you see yourself fitting in or are you perhaps more properly viewed as a genre consisting only of yourself—as many, myself included, would argue?

Neil Innes: Wow! What a question! Is there a short answer? No.

Yes I am different. I don’t try to “fit in.” The Music Business is well known for it’s systematic cultivation and exploitation of sentimentality for financial gain. We all know that. I am an observer. I am more like a painter than a songwriter, more of an artist than a salesman. I am an idiot.

My work gets all the attention it needs. Those who come across it seem to understand it – and even enjoy it – it is successful in its own small, one to one way. True - it is not easy to “pigeonhole” or describe - but I like that.

Why? Because I believe History has proved that Naming and Measuring does not necessarily mean understanding. Aristotle wrote 3 books on Physics – then a 4th - all about what could NOT be named and measured. He called it “Metaphysics.” I’ll settle for being “a far cry from anything you can put your finger on.”

It’s the same with “genres.” Whether it’s a likeness or a shared feeling, Art can only parody Nature because Parody is the nature of Art. Art is a make-believe game that runs through the centuries, from cavemen to CEOs. Never quite the real thing or the whole story because the whole story is forever beyond human experience.

We are once upon a time things. As sociable creatures we strongly feel the need to follow rules of conformity and the desire to accumulate wealth and be admired by others would appear to be top of the list. But I would argue that we all too easily forget that each one of us consists of as many cells as there are stars in the Milky Way. And that’s just one galaxy. Hollywood? Fame? Don’t make me laugh! Oh all right – go on then… once upon a time there were two Irishmen – now look how many there are! Thank you Abbott and Costello… wait a moment - there IS a short answer - “Absolutely!”

Richard Metzger: Maybe you’re the last vaudevillian?

Neil Innes: Maybe I am. Glad I wasn’t the first Vaudevillian - it must have been terrifying!

Richard Metzger: The box set is from the era of your Innes Book of Records TV series and there’s a DVD of several clips from that. Until YouTube and bit torrenting came around, that material went largely unseen for decades, even by your biggest fans. I feel like IBOR is really your magnum opus—you’re carrying the whole thing creatively, musically and you’re in practically every shot as a performer— in a sense, IBOR is kind of like your take on Vaudeville, isn’t it?

Neil Innes: Well, if by Vaudeville you mean “Variety” – then yes – I’m guilty as charged. When Ian Keill, (the producer of Rutland Weekend Television), expressed a desire to make a kind of Rutland Weekend Songbook, we naturally followed in the best BBC tradition and had lunch.

Over soup we heartily agreed that putting pictures to music is a lot of fun, allowing, even demanding, a more abstract approach to entertainment than mainstream television. Over Mains, with a good wine, we discussed how Television has always sadly lacked the basic confidence that viewers are indeed sentient individuals with some kind of emotional equilibrium and that this is why it is constantly “in your face.” Dessert brought the euphoria of a title: “The Innes Book of Records.”

And so it was decided. We would make “Songs and Pictures about People and Things.” But we also agreed that if anyone began to wonder what on earth it was all about – then we would have failed. I suppose there is a lot of “me” on screen but the truth is we didn’t have that big a budget. Michael Palin was a guest and only got the minimum Actors Union rate! IBOR depended on variety, surprise and the unexpected. It was a little “in your face” – but in a laid back way. It was only television after all…

Richard Metzger: I noticed that you’ve got a petition to get the BBC to rerun IBOR on your website. They should! I’ve only seen it myself in recent years and it’s still totally fresh. Surprisingly so—a parody of punk rock from 1979 effortlessly achieves greater authenticity in 2013! (Lucky for you, the same can be said of virtually every genre that you’ve dabbled in.) IBOR would go over great with a generation raised on things like The Mighty Boosh.

Neil Innes: I suppose we were blazing a trail back then – the Music Business was just about to discover “videos” – but I have always loved all kinds of music. As a child I used to conduct the radio with a ruler – and a bare bottom - just before my bedtime diaper. And as “Bonzos,” we reveled in every kind of music. “Pop” music is totally about all kinds of music – much of it very silly! You can’t let all that silliness go prancing by without a little hoot or a catcall!

Yes – I’ve put up a petition – because people are forever asking me if the BBC is going to show it all again – or put it out on DVD. But the number of signees is not all that encouraging, considering we had a peak of 7.5 million viewers in the second series. By the third series, the BBC did me the honour of treating me like Monty Python – changing broadcast times and even cancelling because of snooker. Maybe THEY don’t like it – too weird? It could be that the petition is in the wrong place – my IBOR website is the poor cousin to – 15 years old this month! Thank you Bonnie Rose and Laurie Stevens! Anyway, what will be will be – there’s an idea for a song – I’m with Duke Ellington when he said: “There are two kinds of music – good and bad.”

“How Sweet to Be an Idiot” Sound like something else you’ve heard before, perhaps?
Richard Metzger: That makes for a very easy segue to the next question: “So what was it like to collaborate with Oasis?” I found it delightfully ironic that the world’s most flagrant Beatles… well, wannabes, got sued for ripping off the world’s finest forger of Lennon and McCartney!

Neil Innes: Ah! First of all let me say that Oasis were perfect gentlemen and no one actually got sued! Yes, they had to part with money but that was all sorted out by EMI Music Publishers Ltd. “Their people” were hung out of the window by “my people.” I got “whatever” scraps they threw me! (Ha!)

It was the same with The Rutles. The Music Business is like a school where Big Boys come and take your candy away. No other business in the world gets away with Stealing like the Music Business – apart from Banking.

Yes – on second thoughts – Banking AND the Music Business are the only enterprises in the World that are actually based on Stealing. There ought to be a law against taking stuff that does not belong to you. It should be written in stone.

What gets me is the Denial! Did you know there are 14 songs hidden away in the vaults of International Copyright that are credited to “Innes, Lennon and McCartney”? It’s all there – in black and white! However - under no circumstances am I to be credited for writing any “part” of these compositions. What’s more, I am forbidden to tell anyone this! Yes! It’s all there – in the so-called Settlement Agreement. So – if anyone wants to cover one of the first Rutle songs – like Galaxy 500 did with “Cheese and Onions” – remember - it has to be just “Lennon/McCartney” on the cover or the label.

Now, working with THOSE guys was a blast! I’ll never forget it…

Richard Metzger: Whoa, wait a minute, back up, there… What exactly happened?

Neil Innes: You mean with Lennon and McCartney? Nothing happened! That’s my point. But according to the legal eagles of the music industry I must have collaborated with them in order to write those first 14 Rutle songs. That’s the real irony – people have been copying the Beatles ever since they became the most acclaimed haircuts in the world. No other beat group has influenced popular music more than the Fab Four.

They were famous for being “inventive” – playing with all kinds of genres – and “experimental” - keeping their “creativity” alive and fresh by openly celebrating a vast variety of musical influences. You could argue that not one Beatles song is like another – certainly not in the later years.

But when you imitate them deliberately – whether for comic effect or to simply demonstrate how much you admire their craftsmanship – the music industry throws the book at you. Yet I had no “Criminal Intent” – I should have been allowed to walk free – just like those Banking Fraudsters of 2008. Bradley Manning’s Defense Team take note! “NO CRIMINAL INTENT”!

What actually happened was, when ATV Music [then owners of Northern Songs] threatened my publishers with legal action, my “people” were advised that they would certainly win but it was unlikely they would be awarded “Costs.”  ATV Music had a “slush fund” of a million dollars to file lawsuits against Beatles copyright “infringements.” It’s always about the money. I really wanted it to go to court - so my publishers opted for a “Settlement Agreement.”

Two years later, after my deal with them was over, my publishers demanded an extra album from me because they claimed I had delivered an album of non-original material! The nerve! I told them to “fuck off”… and they did.

Richard Metzger: That’s astonishing. What a shitty act of corporate intimidation. I presume this means a Rutles musical on Broadway would be unlikely? I’ve read that Paul McCartney was “chilly” to All You Need Is Cash at the time. I wonder if he gets the joke by now?

Neil Innes: I don’t think Paul has any issues with me, or Ricky or John. We pretty much just did the music. I think a bit of teasing is OK if you do it in a “nudge, nudge, wink, wink,” way – but Eric did make quite a few cheap shots in the movie – maybe that’s why Paul was a bit chilly and didn’t see the funny side of it. 

The Rutles on Broadway is about as likely as a new musical based on old Monty Python sketches called “Hello Polly”!

Richard Metzger: So the odds are better than I’d have thought… fifty/fifty?

Neil Innes: Actually, it’s not a bad idea – there have been worse!

Richard Metzger: You’re writing from Norway, what are you getting up to there?

Neil Innes: Visiting some cousins-in-law, Yvonne’s relatives. This place is another planet. Huge mountains, some above the tree line. Still plenty of snow on the tops, dribbling into long thin waterfalls… No sign of a Norwegian Blue, so stop that now!

We have a small cabin by the side of a lake-sized fjord that leads into a bigger fjord that stretches all the way to the North Sea and then to the Atlantic and the rest of the World and the surrounding Universe. We have a small boat that takes 15 minutes to get to the shop. It’s a great place to write.

Richard Metzger: Sounds lovely!

Neil Innes: It is.

Richard Metzger:  What sort of material does such an idyllic location inspire?

Neil Innes:  Wool. Thick wool.

Richard Metzger: What are you writing about?

Neil Innes:  I thought you’d never ask! ME! The full working title is: “How Sweet To Be An Idiot – An Exploration of Human Consciousness – featuring the Life and Times of Neil Innes – Ego Warrior, Style Guru and Fantasist.”

Richard Metzger:  Will there be at least a partial reunion of The Rutles at the Edinburgh festival in August?

Neil Innes:  Yes – and no. The Edinburgh Festival ends the day before we play – and yes, Barry Wom will be there and he’s quite partial as far as reunions go. He was a noisy part of the original Rutles on Rutland Weekend Television. He invited me to gig with his band called Fatso and we went out as Neil Innes and Fatso. Then they became the RWT “house band” - known as “The Alberto Vasectomy Five” until the BBC objected – then they were called “The Alberto Rewrite Five”.

But going back to the “Le Duck’s” Box Set for a moment, there is a FREE DVD with 16 top quality clips from Innes Book of Records and if you care to visit the website, you can click on “free dvd” and check out whether or not “Elvis and the Disagreeable Backing Singers” is on there – if not it’s definitely on YouTube – John Halsey [Barry Wom] is wearing a blonde wig.

And talking of Elvis, a friend of mine who is researching a book just told me Elvis was a huge Monty Python fan and adored Holy Grail. Apparently he knew every word and could do all the voices. Now, since I played the “Obnoxious Minstrel” that makes me one of a very select few to have been impersonated by “The King.” I am very happy to be inducted into that Hall of Fame.

This is my jam: “Angelina” by Neil Innes & The World. Download an mp3 file here

Richard Metzger: What are you currently listening to or what are your DIDs?

Neil Innes:  I’m not sure what you mean by “DIDs” – Dissociative Identity Disorders? But then you would have asked; “Who are your DIDs?”…

Anyway, I’m not sure “Dissociative Identity” is a Disorder. According to Wikipedia: “No systematic, empirically-supported definition of “dissociation” exists.” And you can’t get round it by calling it “Multiple Personality Disorder either. Multiple Personalities make up the entire Human Race – “The Apes Who Play With Fire” - and inside each and every one of us is a Baby, a Toddler, a Schoolchild, a Teenager, a Binge Whatever, a Wannabee – we are all like Russian Dolls. These people never go away – even when you ask them to - where can they go?

I suppose what I’m saying is I find it really difficult to answer simple questions like “What are you listening to?”

Music most listened to lately: Django Reinhardt - vintage recordings from the 30’s (Jazz that Hitler tried to stop) and Ry Cooder’s “Mambo Sinuendo” – brilliant “Easy-Listening” virtuosi stuff that Hitler would also have stopped - if he could… What else? A French compilation CD of music chosen by Woody Allen for his movies – “de Manhattan a Midnight in Paris” – from Duke Ellington to Josephine Baker with a little Enrico Caruso in between…

But what has pushed all my buttons in the last week or two is a “Comedy Drama” TV series called Breaking Bad. For a start, I’m SO pleased that “Comedy Drama” has become a genre at last! This program elevates television to where it should be – exploring morals and human values around the Social Media campfire. I love the elegant writing, invisible acting, editing, directing, inspired Music, the EVERYTHING! Fabulous anti-characters flailing about in coincidental flux – talk about the “Empathy Strikes Back”! Is this the new Folk Art?

Is this what Woody Guthrie would have been doing today? I truly hope so…

Thanks to the miracle of Apple TV and Netflix – Yvonne and I are working our way through Season 2 – and Season 3 is about to begin…

Does this answer what my “DIDs” are?

Richard Metzger: I think so!

Purchase the 3 CD, 1 DVD “Le Duck’s Box Set” at Neil Click here for information of the upcoming Rutles tragical history tour.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘There is still no good reason why a Black girl can’t be Wonder Woman’
10:44 am

Current Events

Wonder Woman
Jay Justice

Meet cosplayer Ms. Jay Justice. She’s fierce in these photos as Wonder Woman, isn’t she? Well, According to Jay Justice’s Tumblr she’s terribly tired of two things: 1) being told Wonder Woman is white and 2) being told she can’t be Wonder Woman.

Jay Justice writes:

Why not? In Crisis on Infinite Earths in the DCU, there was one Earth where Superman and his wife were black. In the New 52 DCU, there is an Earth where Wonder Woman is black too. And even if there wasn’t, there is still no good reason why a Black girl can’t be Wonder Woman.

I want everyone to know this. I want to show all of the fans who tell me that they’re afraid to cosplay their favorite characters because they’re not white, that you CAN be whoever you want to be, that you WILL be supported and accepted. That fandom isn’t majority racists and bigots, that there are enough of us out here who just want to have fun together to make it all worthwhile.

Wonderful message.

Jay Justice is currently “fighting for the opportunity to be Wonder Woman at PAX Prime, promoting DC Comics’ Infinite Crisis.” And if enough fans support her in this, she just might… win.

You can support her by voting here.

With thanks to Ian Quinn!

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Holy Freak Out, Batman! Frank Zappa and ‘The Boy Wonder Sessions’

This song, believe it or not, is actually a collaboration between Burt Ward, better known as “Robin” on the 60s Batman TV series, and Frank Zappa. Long circulated on variously titled bootlegs, “The Boy Wonder Sessions” were recorded in 1966 with Mothers of Invention (and Velvet Underground) producer Tom Wilson at the mixing desk. Mothers Jimmy Carl Black, Elliot Ingber and Roy Estrada are present, however Zappa doesn’t actually play on these sessions, although he arranged and wrote most of the material recorded. Note the bit that sounds like Zappa’s later “Duke of Prunes” composition near the end.

From Burt Ward’s autobiography, Boy Wonder, My Life In Tights:

I should have had the wisdom I now have when I signed a recording contract with MGM Records- I wouldn’t have signed it. MGM staffer Tom Scott [I think he means WIlson] was assigned as my producer. He brought in one of the visually wildest groups imaginable as my backup band, the Mothers of Invention. What a sight! Neanderthal. They had incredibly long, scraggly hair, and clothes that appeared not to have been washed in this century if ever. These were musicians who became famous for tearing up furniture, their speakers, their microphones and even their expensive guitars onstage. They were maniacs!

Of all the people in the world to team with this wild and crazy bunch, I can’t believe I was the one. The image of the Boy Wonder is all American and apple pie, while the image of the Mothers of Invention was so revolutionary that they made the Hell’s Angels look like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Even I had to laugh seeing a photo of myself with those animals.

Their fearless leader and king of grubbiness was the late Frank Zappa. (The full name of the band was Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.) After recording with me, Frank became an internationally recognized cult superstar, which was understandable; after working with me, the only place Frank could go was up.

Although he looked like the others, Frank had an intelligence and education that elevated him beyond brilliance to sheer genius. I spent a considerable amount of time talking with him, and his rough, abrupt exterior concealed an intellectual, creative and sensitive interior.

For my records, the plan was to record four sides and then release two singles prior to producing an album. After listening to me sing, Frank got a wild idea to make use of my hideous voice to do a hilarious recording with a song that had some of the Batman feel to it. He picked “Orange Colored Sky.”

I can’t bear to think of this song. The memories are too embarrassing. Though the intent was to create comedy by putting my lousy singing to good use, the actual result was so disastrous that the studio thought the tape had been left out in the sun and warped. They insisted on re-recording.

But first, MGM took a radical step as an insurance policy that my next session would sound better. They sent me to an expensive vocal coach—and no doubt hoped for divine intervention. Back in 1966 they were shelling out about $1,000 a week for those lessons. That was a lot of money, more than three times what I was bringing home after working twelve hours per day in my monkey suit for an entire week. With the coach raking in that much, even I am surprised that after two weeks of training, the lady politely asked me not to come back. I’m not sure if she felt that having me as a student was damaging to her career or if listening to me sing was destroying her eardrums, or both.

In an attempt at self-preservation, the record company had me just talk on the second two sides I recorded. That I could do very well! The material for the song was a group of fan letters that had been sent to me. Frank and I edited them together to make one letter, which became the lyrics for the recording. Frank wrote a melody and an arrangement, and we titled the song, “Boy Wonder, I Love You!”

Among the lyrics was an invitation for me to come and visit an adoring pubescent fan and stay with her for the entire summer. She wrote, “I will even fix you breakfast in bed. I love you so much that I want you to stay the whole summer with me!” The lyrics ended with “I hope you know that this is a girl writing.”

Lots more information can be found here.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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London Swings: Mary Quant’s revolutionary mod fashions, 1967
07:29 am

Pop Culture

Mary Quant

A Pathé News clip previews the fashions of ultra-cool British designer Mary Quant. Quant, was the inventor of the mini-skirt and minidress and popularizer of hot pants, PVC coats, tall boots, and patterned tights. She frequently used models such as Twiggy and Patti Boyd Harrison to display her designs.

Now 79 and an OBE Quant was nominated in 2011 for the Al Copeland Humanitarian Award for “improving the human condition both by adding to our material pleasure and by promoting liberty.” A Mary Quant dress from the 1960s (or earlier) is a valuable museum piece today

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
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