Disbar Barr

Over this past week, I’ve been collecting articles about William Barr and the work he’s been doing post-impeachment to help reward Donald Trump’s friends, and punish his perceived enemies. My intention was to write something truly brilliant – something that would explain everything in such a way that people, once they read it, would not only feel compelled to share it with everyone they’d ever known, but also take to the streets and demand Barr’s immediate removal from office. That, at least, was the plan. Then, however, my son pointed out to me that Curt Siodmak’s 1951 Bride of the Gorilla was streaming online for free. So, now, I’m just going to share the following with you. This in an excerpt from a letter posted today by over 1,100 former Justice Department officials calling for William Barr to resign. “Mr. Barr’s actions in doing the President’s personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words,” the authors, who have served both Republican and Democratic presidents, said. “Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice’s reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign.”

It’s worth noting that the authors of the letter don’t just ask Barr to step down. Conceding that the Attorney General, given what we know him to be like, would never do that, the authors of the letter also ask those still working within the Department of Justice to make a stand and defend the rule of law. “(B)ecause we have little expectation (Barr will step down), it falls to the Department’s career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice,” the former officials wrote in a statement… While I’ve yet to hear of large-scale protests within the Department of Justice, news did break late last week that all four career prosecutors who brought the case against Roger Stone have stepped down from their positions in apparent protest of Barr’s decision to overrule their sentencing recommendation. [Stone, for those of you who don’t remember, was found guilty by a grand jury of all seven counts that had brought against him by the Justice Department.]

There’s a hell of a lot more I could say here, about Trump’s tweets, and Barr’s ridiculous claim that he didn’t weigh in on Stone’s sentencing because of pressure from the White House, but I’m going to have to call it a night, as the Bride of the Gorilla is waiting. I would, however, like to share one more thing with you. The following excerpt is from an op-ed that ran a few days ago in the Washington Post by former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman.

…The action runs counter not only to standard practice but also to the standard that the Justice Department is supposed to embody: the administration of justice without fear or favor.

It is hard to overstate the irregularity and impropriety of the department’s rollback of Stone’s sentence.

Stone was convicted of serious crimes: lying to Congress and witness tampering. His recommended sentence was by the book — literally. Federal prosecutors go by a manual from the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Commission that lays out appropriate sentences for specific offenses. The seven- to nine-year sentence that prosecutors had sought was precisely what equal justice mandated. That’s far from the “miscarriage of justice” that Trump called it in a tweet.

…The Justice Department updated its sentencing recommendation Tuesday in a filing that said the initial guidance “could be considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances.” The department’s leadership had been “shocked” at the initial recommendation, an official reportedly told The Post.

Keep in mind, however, that Stone chose to go to trial. He also sought to vilify the prosecution and engage in circus maneuvers designed to suggest his prosecution was a joke. Federal defendants who engage in such tactics virtually never receive sentences lighter than the guidelines stipulate. The system would break down were it otherwise.

But that anomaly is the least of the outrages in this situation. More worrisome is the naked countermand of the recommendation of career prosecutors in favor of a sweetheart recommendation for a political ally of the president. This is indefensible in the U.S. justice system for any reason, least of all raw political favoritism.

..I have never experienced or even heard of a situation in which a career prosecutor had been ordered to withdraw a sentencing memorandum within the guidelines’ range…

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The Trump administration finally issues its formal justification for the assassination of Iranian General Qassim Soleimani, and no mention is made of an imminent attack

At the beginning of the new year, as you may recall, Donald Trump, without either alerting our allies and running the idea by Congressional leaders, gave the command to assassinate Iranian General Qassim Soleimani. At the time, as you may also remember, Donald Trump told the American people that this was absolutely necessary, as they had evidence of an “imminent attack” against U.S. forces… one which could only be stopped by eliminating the powerful Iranian leader. And, in the days following the assassination, as foreign affairs professionals came forward to say that there was no such evidence of an imminent attack, Donald Trump, as he’s known to do, doubled down, telling the us that Soleimani wasn’t just planning to attack one U.S. embassy, but four of them. [Even U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that he “didn’t see” evidence of any such plans on the part of Soleimani.] As Donald Trump told Fox News’s Laura Ingraham at the time, “I can reveal that I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies.” Well, guess what? The Trump administration just released their formal legal justification for the Soleimani strike, and nowhere does it mention an “imminent threat” against Americans. The evidence of an imminent attack that Donald Trump promised, it would seem, does not exist. Here’s Michigan Representative Justin Amash with more.

This, of course, was exactly what we expected to happen. We knew there was no imminent threat. And we knew that we’d been lied to. I just wanted to note it here to formally close the loop on this matter.

One more thing. I know I shared this before, but it’s worth repeating. As Agnes Callamard, the United Nations official in charge of assessing the legality of targeted killings under international law, said following of the assassination of Soleimani, “The test for so-called anticipatory self-defence is very narrow: it must be a necessity that is ‘instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation’”. So, yes, it’s looking like Soleimani’s killing was illegal under international law.

What follows is something that I posted back in January, when we were last discussing the Soleimani assassination. Like the quote from Callamard, I think it too deserves repeating.

…As for why Donald Trump would make a move like this against Soleimani when, in addition to being illegal, so many thought it would only serve to escalate tensions in the Middle East, here’s a possible clue from the Wall Street Journal.

Granted, just because Trump told people that he gave the order to kill Soleimani because Republican senators told him to, it doesn’t make it true, but it warrants investigating. And, thankfully, Americans for Oversight have already FOIA’d “senior State Department and Department of Defense officials’ communications with Senators Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton, and Marco Rubio during the weeks immediately before the strike”. So, with any luck, we’ll find out soon what kind of pressure Donald Trump might have been under from the Iran hawks in the Republican Party… This is a long way from being over.

Speaking of uncomfortable videos of administration officials lying for Donald Trump, here’s National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien telling Chuck Todd that we need to take him at his word when he tells us that there was “exquisite intelligence” about an imminent attack, even though he’s not at liberty to share it, even with members of the House Intelligence Committee… I’m not the biggest Chuck Todd fan, but I loved how, at the end of the clip, he asks O’Brien why, if there was an imminent attack against U.S. embassies in the offing, no embassy personnel were alerted. O’Brien’s response? “It was a very fast moving situation.” If only Chuck Todd had followed up with, “Well, if that’s the case, how is that Donald Trump was talking about the operation to Mar-a-Lago members several days before it happened?”

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Emboldened by his Republican enablers, Donald Trump appears to threaten the state of New York, suggesting that their economy will be made to suffer until investigations into his criminal activities come to an end

During Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, a number of Democrats, when discussing what the future might look like, if the Senate refused to do their job and remove the President from office for attempting to coerce the Ukrainian government into announcing a bogus investigation into Joe Biden, suggested that we could see individual states being targeted by the administration, forced to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do, because of threats to withhold money, etc. Here, for instance, is something said by Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow on the floor of the Senate earlier this month.

…Is it now OK for the President of the United States to ask a foreign leader to investigate a Member of Congress, or any citizen, if it helps him get reelected, and thus, in his mind, benefits the country? Is it now OK for the President of the United States to tell a Governor that they are not getting any critical disaster relief until they endorse him in the next election?

Well, it would appear that something very similar to this scenario suggested by Stabenow may actually be happening right now. Earlier today, Donald Trump tweeted out the following to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The background is a bit complicated, but here’s the gist of it… The Trump administration, according to Politico, recently intervened to stop “New York’s access to the Global Entry and other ‘trusted traveler’ programs that allow New Yorkers faster border crossings and shorter airport lines,” something which promises to have an enormous negative impact on the state’s economy. And, here we’re seeing the President of the United States, tying the issue to the fact that the State of New York is currently investigating the Trump organization for various suspected crimes, stating that “New York must stop all of its unnecessary lawsuits and harassment.” The implication is crystal clear. If New York wants to open up it’s points of entry, and stay competitive with other states, it had to drop any investigations into criminal activities that could implicate Donald Trump.

Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida said it best. “As we predicted, the president is now expanding his abuse of power to blackmailing U.S. states,” she said. “In this case, he’s holding New York state hostage to try to stop investigations into his prior tax fraud.

And, here’s Congressman Adam Schiff, who, as you’ll recall, warned us repeatedly during the impeachment trial that Donald Trump would continue to put his own personal interests above those of the American people. [Durning Donald Trump’s Senate trial, Adam Schiff said the following. “He has betrayed our national security and he will do so again. He has compromised our elections and he will do so again. You will not change him. You cannot constrain him. He is who he is. Truth matters little to him. What’s right matters even less, and decency matters not at all.” Of course, the Republicans, with the exception of Mitt Romney, didn’t heed the warning. They heard Schiff say, “Can any of us really have the confidence that Donald Trump will put his personal interests ahead of the national interests?,” and they went right ahead and voted to acquit.]

And, this, I’m afraid, is just the beginning.

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The Oral History of the Monkey Power Trio… “1996: The Sound of No Hands Clapping”

For the past several years, I’ve been posting my detailed notes here about the annual meetings of my incredibly magical one-day-a-year band, the Monkey Power Trio. I’m not sure why I started to do this, but it’s become yet another thing for me to obsess about. I invariably find myself sitting alone in an airport every year, before heading home from wherever it is that we’ve recorded, writing frantically, fearful that, if I don’t get to it right away, I may forget something of potential importance, like the fact that we fought over Cheez-Its in Manzanita, Oregon or that there were 10 homicides in Baltimore the day we recorded there, or that I fell in a lake before a session in the suburbs of Atlanta and almost couldn’t pull myself back out. It shouldn’t matter to me that these things are recorded, as I know that no one, not even members of my own family, or even other members of the band, for that matter, are likely to care after I’m gone. Yet I feel compelled to record everything, as though what we’re doing during these annual sessions of ours is of some historical significance… When a single group photo would suffice, I find myself writing several thousand words… I think, to a large extent, I do it out of fear. I worry about my ability to remember things, and I think, if I record them here, I’m somehow protecting these fleeting memories of mine. I might say publicly, as I’ve done in the past, that I’m doing it for future musicologists, but, really, it’s just for me. It’s kind of a hedge against getting old. And the impetus has grown more acute as of late, given that we’re all now in our 50s, and we’ve already navigated one significant health crisis within the band. Like it or not, we’re all beginning to fall apart.

Well, not too long ago, I went through the site archives and figured out that I started documenting these sessions in earnest beginning with our 18th day as a band, which was spent in a cabin, surrounded by bears, outside of Reno, Nevada. While I’d made the occasional reference to our annual sessions prior to that, that’s when I started to take the task of documentation more seriously. And, now, because I have OCD, I’m slowly trying to fill in the blanks about those first 17 days we spent together as a band, in an attempt to preserve what can still be preserved. And it’s proving to be really difficult. As much of this happened in the early days of the internet, and before there were cell phones with cameras, a lot of what transpired between us is just gone forever.

So, with all of that said, I’ve begun the process of trying to recreate the past. Earlier this year, as you may have seen, I posted an oral history of our first session, which took place 25 years ago now. And, today, I’m happy to share the second installment of the project with you… What follows is a rough approximation of what happened during our second session, when Matt Krizowsky, Dan Richardson and I invited our old high school friend, Mike Bell, to join us in New York rehearsal space called Tasty Fish and record what would become our second single, The Sound of No Hands Clapping. It would have been sometime in 1996.

[above: Photo by Matt of Dan, Mark and Mike on the street in New York, probably prior to the second session of the Monkey Power Trio, staring at one of Mark’s ever-present ‘to-do’ lists.]

MARK: I seem to recall that, when we were doing the oral history of our first record, “The First Hour,” there was some initial debate over when we decided that we were going to do this same thing every year for the rest of our lives…

MATT: When we did the oral history of the first record, we found the article you’d written about Monkey Power in Crimewave USA. In it, you said that Dan had come up with the idea to do it every year, and that we’d agreed to it before that first session. So it was always planned to have a second session in 1996, but I don’t remember how or when that particular session was planned. It was probably after the first record was pressed, though.

MARK: Dan, do you remember when we first started planning that second session, or how it was that we came to agree that, like the first year, we’d do it in New York?

DAN: I really don’t. I have a terrible memory.

MARK: As for that Crimewave story I’d written, I suspect that I was either embellishing, to make the story more interesting, or just misremembering, which, as you know, I’m known to do. I just don’t see how, before that first session, we would have agreed to play once a year until just one of us was left. I mean, I can see that conversation happening after the session, once we’d recorded a few songs, and started talking about pressing a record, but I don’t see how we would have agreed to the whole thing before that. But, if that’s the way I wrote it, and no one remembers differently, I guess that’s the truth. Regardless, I suspect that you’re right when you say that we probably started planning the second session after getting the first record pressed… Does anyone remember when the first record came out? Did I bring copies with me to New York when I came for the second session, or had I mailed them out prior to that? I’m just curious if that was part of the second session… packaging up the records from the first session, mailing them out etc.

MATT: I don’t remember packaging up the first record around the second session. I’m not sure we had an address list, like we later compiled. It wasn’t as easy to find stuff on the internet in 1996.

MARK: Speaking of Crimewave, I believe Matt has mentioned before that this second Monkey Power session happened not too long after he and Dan represented the zine at the New York stop on Darby Romeo’s Zill Zinesters tour. Maybe that’ll help us zero in on when the session took place.

MATT: According to the order of the 1996 photos in my album, Dan and I represented Crimewave at the zine summit in July, and this Monkey Power session would have taken place between then and Halloween. I’m guessing that it was September.

[above: Crimewave USA contributors Dan Richardson and Matt Krizowsky represent the magazine on the New York City stop of the Kill Zinesters tour, organized by Ben is Dead’s Darby Romeo. The Village Voice report can be read it its entirety here: Part 1, Part 2.]

MARK: I know, historically, I’ve been the one blamed for bringing Mike into the band. And I suspect it’s true, given that both he and I were living in Atlanta at the time, and that we’d tried, on at least one occasion, to start a band there. [I can remember a very short practice in his garage, with him playing guitar, and his wife at the time (another high school friend) on a keyboard.] Nothing came of it, but I guess it could have planted a seed in my mind that he might be up for something like Monkey Power…

MATT: You may have invited Mike, or he may have pressed you to be included after the first record came out. All I remember is that it was settled that Mike would join us for the session, and then both of you flew up together from Atlanta. It was after the session that you, Dan, and I agreed that Mike could formally join the band, as opposed to just being a guest. We considered changing the name to Monkey Power Quartet, but stuck with MPT.

MARK: Was there any debate over letting him in? Was a vote taken?

MATT: It was decided by email in the weeks after you and Mike had left.

MARK: Dan, do you remember there being any weighing of “pros” and “cons”? I’m not suggesting we revisit it. I’m just curious as to how seriously we took it at the time, tying ourselves to Mike for the rest of our lives.

DAN: I don’t remember the discussion. Don’t you save all of your emails?

MARK: That was 25 years ago, when I lived in Atlanta, and MindSpring was my internet service provider. They launched in ‘94, and merged with EarthLink in 2000. And I think they’ve gone the way of AOL… At any rate, I was looking at our painfully out-of-date website last night, and found the following text about Mike joining the band… “(W)e also added a new member, a guy by the name of Mike Bell. He’s not much of a musician, but he’s an old high school friend and he’s pretty fun to hang out with now that he’s stopped feathering his hair and being abusive. He’s still in a probationary period, and we haven’t let him sign the “once a year for life” pact yet, but it’s nice to have a fourth person to split expenses with.” I find this interesting for a few reasons. First, it’s funny that Mike used to split expenses. [It literally takes years to get Mike to contribute anything toward the pressing of MPT records.] And, second, it says here that Mike had been added to the band under the terms of a “probationary period,” which makes me think that we may never have officially voted him into the band.

MATT: Or maybe it’s one of your “embellishments”.

[above: Mike and Matt on Dan and Jen’s couch at 496 11th Street.]

MARK: Mike, do you remember how you came to be at the second Monkey Power Trio session? Did you ask me if you could come, or did I invite you?

MIKE: I believe you saw my amazing guitar skills, and felt that I would be a natural fit. I was also witty and charming.

MARK: It’s probably more likely because I didn’t want to fly alone into New York again, but, if it makes you feel better, we can say that I asked you because I saw potential in you. Potential, which, by the way, has never been realized.

DAN: Sick burn.

MARK: And how did we decide to record at Tasty Fish? As I seem to recall that Mike and I stayed with Dan and Jen, at their apartment over the dry cleaning place in Brooklyn, I’m guessing we no longer had access to the unlocked basement storage room in his old building, where we recorded the first session, and that’s why we decided to rent a space.

DAN: By the time of the second session, I’d moved out of 131 Union, where we recorded the first record, and over to 496 11th Street. I believe I simply looked up practice spaces in some sort of paper, like the Village Voice, or City Pages, and picked one on the Lower East Side.

MATT: Yes, I think it was a print ad, and that Dan found it.

MARK: So you didn’t know anyone who practiced there?

DAN: No.

MARK: And why did you want to do it on the Lower East Side, Dan?

MIKE: That’s what she said.

MARK: Thank you, Mike… Dan, why’d you look for a place on the Lower East Side? Why not Brooklyn, closer to where you and Matt were living?

MATT: I’m pretty sure Dan just found a suitable place that happened to be on the Lower East Side, not specifically looking in that area.

DAN: Maybe a friend told me about Tasty Fish. Maybe it was Anne? I don’t remember. And Matt’s right. I wouldn’t have been looking for something on the Lower East Side.

MARK: I just re-listened to the songs on the 1996 single, and it sounds like there might be drums in places. Was there a drum kit in the space we rented at Tasty Fish, and did they have amps that we could just plug into?

MATT: There was a drum set there… which I didn’t play, because I can’t keep a beat. Amps were also provided by the studio, as was a bass.

DAN: Matt’s right. I remember that I played drums on We are Smart. I also seem to remember that Mike sat at the drums for I’ll Win Your Heart. He held the bass in his lap and played the hi-hat with his foot.

MARK: It’s weird what sticks in your mind. When I asked earlier if you could remember how we came to decide on having our second session in New York, you said, “I have a terrible memory.” But here you are, remembering that Mike had the bass across his lap while playing the hi-hat with his foot.

DAN: I remember it because Mike was like half a one-man band.

MARK: As it was his first session with the band, he was probably trying to impress us. I don’t think he takes that kind of initiative anymore.

MIKE: As my talents can be overwhelming at times, I sometimes elect to govern from behind. You may not realize it, but I’m often directing our efforts unbeknownst to the rest of you.

MARK: Before we move on from I’ll Win Your Heart, I’d just like it to be known for the historic record that it’s me on the harmonica.

DAN: You are also “singing.” Actually, it’s one of my favorite MPT songs. It’s beautiful. Especially the singing and the harmonica.

MARK: Assuming that wasn’t sarcasm, thank you, Dan. I guess, like Mike, I too was at a point in my musical career where I was showing initiative and trying to impress… As for the space, all I can remember is that the bathroom was in the basement, and, to get to it, you had to go down through a hole in the floor, which didn’t have a railing around it. I remember worrying about falling through it. In fact, in the song A Bird in an Egg, there’s a line in all the stream of consciousness meandering that says, “Fallin’ down a flight of stairs,” which I’m pretty sure is a reference to that hole in the floor. I like decoding this stuff. It’s like auditory archeology.

MATT: I remember something like a trapdoor with a ladder to get to the bathroom. Also, the studio had multiple practice rooms for bands, maybe two or three, and we’d just rented one of them. There were other people practicing while we were there.

MARK: Speaking of auditory archeology, A Bird in and Egg also has a line that refers back to what was happening at the time. At some point in the song, I say, “Nostrils flaring, Plaster pouring,” which I’m thinking has to be a reference to the fact that Dan’s old roommate, the sculptor, had done a plaster cast of my head on this trip, which required straws to be stuck up my nose so that I could breathe. I was going to ask if that had happened before or after the session, and now I guess I know the answer… As for that plaster cast of my face, it amazes me how much stuff I tried to cram into these trips when I was young… If I’m not mistaken, this was also the trip where Mike and I went to see the taping of the Ricki Lake Show, right? I’m pretty sure it was.

MATT: I think so. I remember you and he came to my workplace from the airport, dropped off your luggage there — Dan presumably wasn’t home yet, as it was the afternoon — went to the taping, and then came back later that night to retrieve your luggage and go to Dan’s. I was working 1:00 PM to 11:00 PM shifts at the time.

MARK: I actually remember that, Matt. Thanks for watching our bags… OK, I have a really vague memory of walking by Anne’s desk, and her showing us how she basically operated the business of her performance art troupe, The Late Bloomers, from her desk. As I didn’t know many people with “desk jobs” at the time, I remember being both amazed and impressed. The thought of someone doing their own work while working for a company was totally foreign to me. I remember she had a desk drawer with all of their glossy photos, mailing supplies, etc. [note: Matt, at this time, worked for the same company in the financial district as our old high school friend Anne. Anne worked there first, and, in fact, helped Matt get hired there with her employee referral. Anne would later join us for the 2003 Monkey Power session as a guest. If you listen carefully, I believe you can hear her playing ukulele on Butt Science, which, if memory serves, the great John Peel once referred to as “audacious.”] …Back to the plaster cast, I remember that we had to go into Manhattan for a bucket of stuff to make the mold with, right?

MATT: I believe we gathered the supplies during the day on Friday. Since I was there, it must have been on Friday, because I had Fridays off at the time. I remember that you had to carry a 25 pound box of plaster around the streets of Manhattan while we shopped for the rest of the stuff. The plaster was bought at the giant art supply store, Pearl Paints, on Canal Street, which closed in 2014. Then we walked up to National Wholesaler’s on Broadway to buy a plastic bucket for mixing the stuff because Dan’s roommate said they had the cheapest prices.

MARK: As I recall, we also had to go to some kind of office somewhere to buy a bucket of latex… which, come to think of it, must be why I was singing about a “bucket of goo” in the song A Bird in an Egg.

MATT: There also was dental alginate – the stuff used for taking teeth impressions. I don’t remember where you bought it. That’s the stuff that went directly on your face. Plaster went over that. Once the plaster had hardened, it was removed from your head leaving an impression of your face in the alginate. New plaster was poured in there to create a copy of your face, the mold had to be broken up to free it. I believe this plaster copy was used with the latex to create a stable, reusable mold from which you could make more copies, but I don’t remember if you did that the same day.

MARK: All I remember was laying on the floor, in a warm patch of sunlight, and him playing all of the Ennio Morricone music from the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns… Oh, I also remember that people were joking about plugging my nose holes so that I’d die.

MATT: I scanned my photos.

MARK: It’s nice to see that, if nothing else, I accurately remembered that I was lying in a warm patch of sunlight. You guys weren’t making it easy for me, as I lay there, waiting for the dental alginate to solidify on my face, stacking shit on my chest, and joking about killing me, but I remember feeling really nice. I can remember the warmth of the sunshine… Dan, what was that guy’s name?

DAN: David Simon.

MARK: I should probably add that, at the time, I was making a lot of artwork that was autobiographical in nature. I’d rather not spend a lot of time trying to sort out the bizarre psychology behind it now, but there were a lot of self-portraits of me floating around at the time. And I can’t remember the sequence of events, but I’m sure that I started asking Dan if he could get his friend to do a cast of my face the minute I heard that he was a sculptor.

MATT: I think you had heard Dave Simon knew how to do casts of people’s faces, not that he was a sculptor. His sculptures were in their apartment when we did the 1995 session.

DAN: He ended up moving to California to work in Jim Henson Studios for a while.

[above: Matt captures the moment that Mark was set free from the cast.]

MARK: Dan, I mentioned earlier that Mike and I were staying with you and Jen. Would that have been the first time that we’d met her? And do you remember what she thought of us, and of this project of ours? I have a vague memory of going to eat pizza with her at a place called Two Boots, which could have been during this trip, and I seem to recall her being nice, but I’m just curious as to whether she may have expressed concern about this lifelong pact you’d made with us to record once a year.

DAN: She just wants me to be happy.

MARK: And Monkey Power makes you happy?

DAN: Only occasionally, and temporarily.

MARK: Are we your only friends?

DAN: Yes. How does that make you feel?

MARK: Not as good as I would have thought, actually. Sad, I guess… Speaking of the kind of impression we might have made on Jen, this was also the session when Mike got really drunk at Nancy Whiskey, refused to come home with us, and we found him on the front stoop the next morning with a stuffed animal — I think it may have been a giraffe — mumbling about how a cab driver took him to a store, made him buy cleaning supplies, and forced him to clean up his own vomit. Am I remembering that right?

MATT: I remember the Nancy Whiskey part and the stuffed animal, not the details about the cab ride. I met up with you at Dan’s place the next morning after you had found Mike. There was a giant stuffed animal in the trash.

DAN: I remember the stuffed animal and finding Mike on the stoop.

MARK: Would this have been before the session, or after it? And where else did we go before hitting Nancy Whiskey? I remember being at some kind of small dive bar in the early afternoon, opening a door that led to an outside area, and seeing two people fucking on a table. As I recall, I then called Gillian over to verify what I’d seen. Others may have come over as well. Does that sound familiar to anyone?

MATT: My vague feeling is that we went to the bar on Friday night, and had the session on Saturday. We went to Jaycox Coal before Nancy Whiskey, just like we had in 1995, except this time Mike was with us. Jaycox Coal had a 2-for-1 happy hour where they’d give you an empty shot glass with your first drink that you could redeem for your free second. At one point you and Mike (and maybe Dan and others, but not me) were horsing around outside the bar and fighting over each other’s shot glasses, and one got broken. I’m not sure how it happened, I just saw the resulting broken glass… The episode with people purportedly fucking on a table took place in 1995 at a Midtown dive bar called Rudy’s. I wasn’t there, but you wrote all about it in Crimewave USA.

DAN: Matt is correct about Rudy’s. Free hot dogs. Occasional free show in the back, apparently.

MARK: Mike, do you have any memories of this night? Do you remember the cab driver taking you to a bodega and making you buy cleaning supplies?

MIKE: I remember asking Jen what she saw in Dan. And I remember that she responded by saying, “Awwww…. Thank you.” She then immediately left to get a drink.

MARK: I’m pretty sure that Mike and I stayed with Dan and Jen the whole time, in their apartment above the drycleaners, but I have a vague memory of also staying at Anne’s, but maybe we just had a little event over there, or something. Did she have a ground-floor apartment at some point with a small yard?

MATT: As we discussed regarding the 1995 session, you stayed with Anne that year, when she lived in the East Village. Anne’s party was much later — the year we recorded with her in Brooklyn. It would have been around 2003. You both might have stayed at Dan’s because I didn’t have much furniture. Sometime in 1996 I bought a futon couch for my living room, but I don’t remember if that was before or after the session.

MARK: Speaking of Dan and Jen’s place, do I remember correctly that, one night I was making crank calls to restaurants as Snappy Urethra, offering to come in and do comedy for their staffs? I remember sitting near the front window of the apartment, pinching my nose, and laughing really, really hard. We were likely drunk.

MATT: I agree. I do remember during one of the calls, Snappy told the guy he had done comedy for other restaurants and when asked for an example said, “Curry In a Hurry.” Curry In a Hurry still exists. When I go to Kalustyan’s, which is an Indian market with a large variety of spices, teas, and other foodstuffs, I pass by it and always remember Snappy Urethra. I’ve never eaten there though.

MARK: Were those calls recorded by any chance? I seem to recall Dan and me, drinking on the roof of his building, either around this session or the one before it, and getting into a little bit of an argument, and Dan taking the tape out of the recorder I was holding, and throwing it to the street below. [I’d been recording our conversation and he didn’t like something that he’d said.] At any rate, if this happened after Snappy made the calls, I suppose it’s possible that the recordings were on that tape. What a loss for humanity.

DAN: I threw the tape off the roof at 131 Union the year before.

MATT: Yes, the Snappy Urethra calls were recorded. Mike claims they were digitized at some point. I have neither physical nor digital copies.

MARK: Mike, do you have digital versions of the calls that Snappy made that night?

MIKE: There are rumors… I have come across them from time to time. At least I think I have. I recently bought a record player, and, when setting it up, I was going through some old boxes of CDs and tapes. I think one of the CDs had Snappy’s calls, so I must have digitized them at one point. I think I may have the original tape as well… Actually, I’m pretty sure I used to have the digitized recordings on the now defunct MPT Underground site, along with all of our other unreleased material. So I will make it my mission to start procrastinating about finding them.

MARK: So we still haven’t talked about Please Hold (For the King of Mars) yet. Any memories?


DAN: This was basically me making noise with a Boss Digital Delay pedal and Mark thinking that it sounded like hold music on a Martian phone.

MARK: How about Grey, Grey Go Away? I was clearly playing the bass. It’s the same thing I always played with Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink, when we were back in Ann Arbor.

MATT: It was inspired by the songToo True by Wire, which was an early song recorded live in 1977, but not released until the Behind the Curtain compilation came out in 1995. I had been thinking “Grey, Grey, Go Away” matching along to the line “Too True, Too True” from that song. Luckily, I was able to adapt the idea to some original music we came up with at the session, and then came up with further lyrics. I was still reading lots of books about UFOs and the paranormal at the time.

MARK: Mike, do you remember our going to the Ricki Lake Show? I have one very distinct memory. I’d brought prank candy with me, with the intention of giving it to you before the show. According to the packaging, it was supposed to turn your teeth black, and I thought it would be really funny if you showed up in the video of the audience with black teeth. Well, you ate the candy, but, before shooting started, you went to the bathroom, discovered what I’d done, and then returned to the studio to either punch me, or threaten to punch me, before scrubbing your teeth clean. That’s all I remember, other than waiting in line, and going through a metal detector.

MIKE: Yeah. You’re a dick. I didn’t know what you’d done for quite a long time. And, yes, I did punch you. In hindsight, though, it would have been hilarious if your plan had worked and one of us had asked a question. The show, as I recall, was about something depressing, like runaway teenage girls.

MARK: And this was the session, Matt and Dan, when you got the “severed hand” tattoos, right?

MATT: Yes. You’d created a design, and we got them on our right shoulders. You were going to get yours later. And, when you did, you made some changes. You enlarged the image a bit, and adding “Good Will Win” as a caption, to balance out the “Evil Is Bad” tattoo on your left shoulder. Mike was supposed to get one later too, but didn’t.

MARK: I don’t remember Dan getting his, but I remember you getting yours. I remember the guy really liking how pale you were.

MATT: I think his name was Jonathon. He said I had perfect skin for tattooing, pale with almost no hair. I think Dan went first and had more shoulder hair.

MARK: Dan has beautiful shoulder hair… Not hair “down to his shoulders,” but shoulder hair.

DAN: I remember going first. I remember getting my shoulder hair shaved. I still kinda like the tattoo. Sometimes it’s the only thing that makes me want to stay in the band when Mike is an asshole, or Matt is super bitchy. I think, well, if this project ends, this tattoo will be really stupid to have.

MATT: To be fair, I don’t think Jonathon was directly contrasting me with Dan, I think most established tattoo artists have inked their share of extremely hairy body parts.

MARK: As for my tattoo, I’m not sure why I waited until returning to Michigan, but I had it done by Suzanne Fauser at Ann Arbor’s Creative Tattoo. [She opened the place in ‘79, and was held in high regard. She passed away in 2001.] When I showed her the drawing that I’d come in with, she asked to see my other tattoo, and then suggested that I increase the drawing by about 10%, so that it would be more symmetrical with the one on the other shoulder. She also suggested adding words beneath it for the same reason. As always, I did what I was told… So, when did you and Dan get the tattoos done?

MATT: I believe we got the tattoos Sunday night, after doing the session on Saturday. It was a simple design that only took about 15 minutes to do and cost $100. (I think you opted to do yours later because you didn’t have $100 cash to spare at the time.) It was done at Fun City Tattoo on St. Mark’s Place, which I’ve since gone back to twice. In 1996 I had no idea it was situated next door to the building that’s on the cover of Physical Graffiti. Presumably no one else did either, or we probably would have taken a group photo.

MARK: It may be worth explaining that Mike and I, at some point before this session, got matching tattoos. We’d been drinking at a bar in Atlanta, and Mike said something to the effect of, “If you draw something, I’ll go get a tattoo right now.” I grabbed a cocktail napkin and scribbled a little devil kind of character, with the caption, “Evil is Bad.” He said he’d do it, but that I had to get it too. So I went to a pay phone, called Linette, and asked her if it would be alright. We then went around the corner, to a tattoo shop, where a former stripper, with breasts like hardened bags of cement, said that she could do it for us, but it would have to be fast. She said that she was in a hurry, as she wanted to see the movie Tommy Boy. [I just checked, and the movie came out March 31, 1995, so I assume that’s when all of this happened.] So, when I got to New York, I’m guessing that, having heard the story, you guys said you’d be up for something similar, and I drew the severed hand… which was an image that we’d used on the cover of the first record, right?

MATT: I don’t think you and Mike got your tattoos until 1996. I remember you called me while I was at work alone one night (my coworkers left at 6PM) after you had gotten it to tell me about it. I didn’t start working the 1:00-11:00 night shift until late Summer 1995. Also when you and Mike came to my workplace, I remember Mike pulled his shirt sleeve up to show the new tattoo to Anne and me, and I asked him to please not do that. [It was afternoon and my coworkers were all still there.] There wouldn’t have been any novelty in 1996 if you had had the tattoo the last time I had seen you, at the 1995 session.

MARK: I guess it makes the story all the funnier if she had to do out tattoos quickly in order to see Tommy Boy at a cheap, second-run movie place for a dollar. Or maybe she had it reserved at Blockbuster or something, and had to get there before it closed. Or maybe it was coming on cable. I’m sure it was Tommy Boy that she had to see, though. The three things that I remember from that night; she had rushed because of Tommy Boy, her breasts were comically large and looked painfully solid, and she made the “d” in “Evil is Bad” look like an “o,” so I’ve got a tattoo that says, “Evil is Bao,” which was actually prescient, given what we’ve come to learn since about Scott Baio. Oh, and I remember that, when we got there, Mike wanted me to go first, but I refused, thinking that, once I’d gotten mine, he’d run off, leaving me there. He ended up going first, and I got mine right after him. And, uncharacteristically, when it came time to pay, he kept his word and paid for both.

MATT: I thought the “D” that looked like an “O” was just your drunken handwriting.

MARK: It’s a more interesting story if I blame the stripper who was in a hurry to see Tommy Boy, but you’re probably right. I’d written it on a cocktail napkin, and I wasn’t really trying to do a good job of it. At the time that I drew it, I didn’t think I’d be getting it. I just thought that Mike was going to do it. And I have shitty handwriting to begin with.

MIKE: And Scott ‘Bao’ has followed us around ever since. It’s pretty safe to assume that no other humans on earth have anything close to our tattoos. Mark, you also made me a painting of our tattoo, which I still have. I’ll look for it when I go find the Snappy tapes.

MARK: OK, is there anymore to say about this session? We touched on Mike joining the band, us finding Mike the morning after he left us, the tattoos, the songs, the studio where we recorded, the mold of my face… Were those the main points? Are we done here?

MATT: I hope so.

DAN: Yes, please.

MIKE: There you go.

COMPLETED PAST SESSION NOTES: For those of you who haven’t yet had your fill of Monkey Power history, here are the other session notes that have been completed thus far.

1995: Brooklyn, New York
1996: New York, New York
2012: Lake Tahoe, Nevada
2013: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
2014:Cumming, Georgia
2015: Cleveland, Ohio
2016: Cumming, Georgia
2017: Baltimore, Maryland
2018: Manzanita, Oregon
2019: New Orleans, Louisiana

Posted in Art and Culture, Mark's Life, Monkey Power Trio | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

After a week of vowing to “always protect” Social Security and Medicare, Trump submits a budget proposing $800 billion in cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

I had so much fun writing about Trump’s lies yesterday, that I thought that I’d spend a little more time on it today… Following, for your consideration, are three news items from over the past six days.

Tuesday, February 4: Donald Trump vows to “always protect” the Medicare and Social Security of Americans during his annual State of the Union address. We know this isn’t true as he’s attempted to cut both previously, and he just told CNCB’s Joe Kernen that “entitlement” programs would soon be on the chopping block, but the line got a rousing round of applause from Republican lawmakers.

Saturday, February 8: Donald Trump tweets, “We will not be touching your Social Security or Medicare in (the) Fiscal 2021 Budget.” He then goes on to add that “Only the Democrats will destroy them.”

Monday, February 10: Donald Trump presents a budget to Congress which calls for $800 billion in cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. [The administration’s proposed budget also calls for cuts to the EPA, the Department of Education, and the Centers for Disease Control.] Here’s an excerpt from the Washington Post.

Oh, and he’s keeping all of those tax breaks for the rich… the ones that he promised would pay for themselves, but didn’t.

For what it’s worth, this was always the plan. The idea was never just to give the wealthiest Americans a huge tax giveaway. The idea was always to then use the subsequent deficit to justify the shrinking of the government and the rollback of so-called entitlements and social safety net programs.

Posted in Corporate Crime, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments


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