Posted in Headlines, Music, Politics, Writing

Playlist for the Apocalypse: 15 Murder Most Foul

On January 31, 2020 Representative John Delaney of Maryland officially dropped out of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. Who?

In June of 2019, Joe Biden skipped the Democratic Convention in California to publically display his disdain for the progressive direction of the Democratic party and exhibit his firm belief that the identity politics of 2008 are the future of the party.

Someone had to represent the interest of the party status quo, the insurance companies, and big pharma. Delaney did just that, contrasting his hopeless campaign strategy with views of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others on the party’s left. By July 2019, Delaney along with a dozen and a half the other presidential hopefuls participated in the Democratic Primary debates in Detroit, MI. Again, it seemed Delaney’s main agenda was poking any holes possible into any healthcare proposals that resembled Medicare for All. Delaney found his chief adversaries in Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. But, sometimes you just can’t stop the shining.

In what was once the widest, most diverse, Democratic primary race ever, the old white guy from Maryland had served his purpose. By November 2019, after some very contentious primary debates and public criticism, Sen. Warren had finally laid out a bizarre healthcare plan, that leaned away from Medicare for All.

During the early months of 2020, while the Trump administration was tragically mishandling information about coronavirus, the Democratic party was manhandling a primary to make sure the status quo is preserved: Between November and March, Mike Bloomberg came and went. Joe Biden had a surprise win in the South Carolina Democratic primary on February 29. On March 1, Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the race. March 2, Amy Klobuchar dropped out as well. Klobuchar and Buttigieg both endorsed Biden. With party leaders rallied around Biden, he won Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia on Super Tuesday. On April 7, despite the COVID-19 outbreak, the Wisconsin primaries were held, putting thousands of lives in danger. On April 8, Sanders suspended his campaign making Biden the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee.

Back in March, while a Nazi flag was being waved at the rally of a Jewish presidential candidate, mainstream media chose to ignore that story in favor of hard-hitting exposés about Bernie Bros, the dirtbag left, and snake emojis. March was a rough month. And as some US states pivot toward reopening, the worst is likely yet to come. But somewhere in between the waving of swastikas at a Sanders’ rally and Bernie suspending his campaign in early April, Bob Dylan released a 17 minute long, new song on March 27, titled “Murder Most Foul.”

Murder was the first original Dylan song the world heard since the release of his 2012 album The Tempest. Shadows in the Night (2015), Fallen Angels (2016), and Triplicate (2017) were all covers and reworkings of traditional songs. What could bring the 2016 recipient of The Nobel Prize in Literature out of retirement?

The day that they killed him, someone said to me, “Son
The age of the Antichrist has just only begun”
Air Force One coming in through the gate
Johnson sworn in at 2:38
Let me know when you decide to thrown in the towel
It is what it is, and it’s murder most foul

Now the ” age of the Antichrist ” is in full swing. In 2020, Oligarchs don’t need a patsy. You don’t need Lee Harvey Oswald or Jack Ruby when you have John Delaney and Joe Biden. In the world of social media, purposeful disinformation campaigns, and corporate-owned Cable News Networks in bed with either the GOP (FOX) or DNC (MSNBC & CNN), character assassination is all political pundits need to aim, fire and destroy those dirty, filthy, socialists, Russian loving, snake emoji tweeting, liberals! They must hate women!

Actually, people are universally pretty shitty toward women. That is not unique to any social, religious, or political affiliation or leanings. But this is not about Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or even a rising star like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who has been drafted for the Biden train).

This murder was about power. It was about who gets to cast the narrative.  The U.S. Representative for California’s 53rd congressional district sold shares in Alaska Air and Royal Caribbean cruise lines on Feb11!!! This time mainstream media compared the supporters of a Jewish candidate to the stormtroopers of the Nazi Party. Then the media cast Sanders himself as a Russian asset insurgent over and over again. Trump derangement syndrome has a whole party fighting, scratching, and clawing over each other to prove who is the truest, pro-big-bank, pro-corporate, anti-Medicare candidate… for all. This was a character assassination not merely of Sanders, Warren, or other progressive officials. This was a character assassination of progressives in the United States. Anyone left of the center would not be standing when all was through. It happened so quickly – so quick by surprise right there in front of everyone’s eyes. Or, maybe its been happening over and over for the last 50 years.

Posted in Health, Mental Health, Music, Politics, Racism

Playlist for the Apocalypse: 12 White Man’s World

I am a 43-year-old white male. For hundreds of years, guys with my skin color, similar Western European lineage, similar religious backgrounds, and usually right about my age have been in charge of the whole goddamn world. In 1492, we set sail from the old world. We conquered. We colonized. We stole this land from men, women, and children with different skin color, red skin. We brought with us men, women, and children with more melanin in their skin. We brought our own women for the reproducing and rearing children and the keeping of a new homestead.

This is the land that white hands stole.
This is the empire black hands built
These are the homes soft hands have made

Between the establishment of the first colonies along the Atlantic shoreline in the early 17th Century, and where we find ourselves today, a couple of decades into the 21st Century: Smallpox, French and Indian War, Civil War, Emancipation Proclamation, 13th Amendment, Women’s suffrage, world wars, FDR, JFK, LBJ and 500,000 other horrible and terrific things. But most of them mundane: vanilla, saltine, plain… white.

I sometimes forget my privilege. I honestly rarely think about being white or even being a male. I can’t imagine what it must be like to worry – a palpable worry that we ALL KNOW is real – that I might be killed for the color of my skin. I don’t know what it’s like to be afraid to walk down the street at night alone or to have my heart rate increase with the pace of the steps of the man or men behind me. I can’t imagine the distrust I would have of me and people who look like me if I was Japanese American and had family live through the days of Internment Camps. I can’t even begin to imagine the life of a Somalian immigrant in the Twin Cities or a Syrian Refugee in Dearborn.

Growing up (relatively) poor doesn’t make me not white. Struggling with learning disabilities in school and getting government-funded free lunches doesn’t make me not white. Being attracted to both women and men doesn’t make me not white. In fact, it makes me suspect to some people, and it means nothing more than I’m just like everyone else to some other people. I have immense piles of student debt and not much to show for it. But, like… get in line with the rest of the country!

I think a lot of white dudes go through similar struggles and they forget. They forget the immense amount of privilege that they – we – carry in our very being. This is not an innate privilege, of course. Its is a product of a time, a place, a transatlantic slave trade, a world that I didn’t build.

But I’m here. I want to live a better life in this world, a fair one, a life in which I see the beauty in the wide spectrum of human beings around me. The differences in skin color and tone, and melanin distribution. The plethora of ethnic lineages, gender diversity, and an array of sexual orientations.

The goal of living “color blind” of not seeing differences, of saying “love is love” is in some ways like the old “eye for an eye” ethic of life, in that if we live a life that way, we all end up blind. We can’t see others when we can’t see beyond ourselves. Likewise, if we can’t even see ourselves, to begin with.

Posted in Headlines, Music, Politics, Racism, Writing

Playlist for the Apocalypse: 10 Highwomen

When Brandi Carlile first made her mark in the Indie-Folk/Adult Alternative world in 2007 with her Grey’s Anatomy featured debut single, “The Story” I would have never guessed that a decade later she would go on to form an all-women country supergroup. But that’s probably because I wasn’t paying really close attention to the music world at the time. In retrospect it all makes sense, “The Story” was produced by none other than T-Bone Burnett. Carlile, like Burnett, has made a career of producing music that brings the fringes of folk, alternative, and outlaw country to mainstream audiences.

So, when Brandi Carlile and Amanda Shires formed the Highwomen as the female answer to the male country supergroup the Highwaymen and rounded out the roster with Maren Morris and Natalie Hemby it all seems to somehow make sense now. Their Dave Cobb produced album, The Highwomen is as pure as country music gets. Cobb has produced for a number of my favorite artists doing contemporary “neotraditional” country and folk that blends and bends those definitions further with elements of roots, rock, pop, and alternative music: Jamey Johnson, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and my personal favorite, Ian Noe.

The album breathes a strong, independent, fierce, sensual, feminine, and feminist (in the best way) breath of fresh air into the still male-dominated world of Country music, hell the world of music in general. The album’s songs are packed with lush acoustic guitar and piano, much of both instruments are handled by Carlile. There are punctuation marks of old-time violin played by Shires. The songs on the album provide anthemic and often brilliant portraits of the lives of women: lovers, mothers, single women, working women, straight women, gay women, and on the album’s (and the group’s theme song) a strong black woman.

The decision to remake the group’s theme song to the tune of the original Highwaymen theme song was bold. As Carlile described in Roling Stone, of the ladies giving the old country, outlaw, ghost anthem an update:

[Their characters] all died doing things that men do,” says Carlile. “Willie was a bandit. Johnny Cash drove a fucking starship, nobody knows why. We rewrote it with fates that befell women: a doctor convicted of witchcraft; an immigrant who died trying to get over the border but got the kids over safe and sound; a preacher; and a freedom rider who gets shot.

It is perhaps the decision to include the story of a black freedom rider on their theme song that was the group’s boldest and riskiest move. Maren Morris sits out on her lead vocal duties on the album’s lead track and the Supergroup’s theme song. In her usual place is Yola Carter (formerly of Phantom Limb and a powerhouse of a vocalist in her own right) singing a verse only a black woman can sing: the story of a freedom rider killed in the bus attacks carried out by white supremacists groups in the south, in this instance in Virginia in 1961. I mean theses kick-ass women made a theme song that doesn’t include one of their key members. This is a key “Character” to the group, to the degree that The Highwomen is a re-envisioning of The Highwaymen. It’s as if Carlile, Shires, Morris, and Hemby know that no circle of women singing feminist anthems is complete if it only includes white women.

And that’s why it makes it to today’s Apocalyptic Playlist track. These women aren’t making merely feminist country music. They’re at least attempting to make inclusive feminist country. It may not be consciously womanist, but it is at least intentional about the inclusion of black bodies when they sing their song of women outlaws who laid their lives down to change the world and now live on.

After all, the roots of Country Music, like all almost all forms of American music trace their roots to black music: the banjo, the gospel choir. Country, perhaps even more than Rock and Roll, has become a predominately white art, deeply indebted to black art. Not just Charley Pride and Darius Rucker, though they’ve made some fine contributions. But Country music is deeply indebted to traditional African American Music that goes all the way back to slave spirituals and field songs.

Bravo ladies! Folks we are never going to make it as a society though if the lives and bodies of all women and in particular black women and other women of color aren’t seen as more than symbols of powerful women from the past and still today, as tokens, tools, useful for their electability and the power of their potential voting block. That’s the way public discourse about potential VP running mates for Joe Biden seems to be taking place. And the way the public seems disinterested in the acts of aggression both presidential candidates have committed against women is just astounding. We need to be reminded still – and sadly more than ever – that the lives of women – all women – matter!

As always, please enjoy, subscribe, follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I always appreciate when you folks share these posts on social media. Thank you so much for those of you that have been doing so! Please remember to include the hashtag #PlaylistfortheApocalypse

And please, whether you’re in quarantine, an essential worker, or in a place that is back open if you’re enjoying the posts and the playlist, say hi, feel free to introduce yourself or interact. I am always up for community building. And as I’ve said I am in Michigan, with a stay at home order, now expanded until March 28. So if you have requests for content, questions, or comments it looks like I am going to be having some more time on my hands when this playlist ends next week. Until Monday, Namaste.

*It seems WordPress and Spotify are still not getting along. Apparently, I’m not the first or only one this has effected. Sorry, but for now, no embedded playlists.

Posted in Headlines, Music, Politics, Religion, Writing

Playlist for the Apocalypse: 09 Don’t Worry If There’s A Hell Below We’re All Going To Go

Curtis Mayfield released “(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below We’re All Going To Go” in November of 1970. As part of the Soul/R&B vocal group, The Impressions, Mayfield had already given the world “People Get Ready” in 1965, which helped to provide a soundtrack for the civil rights movement. In 1965, JFK had just been assassinated. But there was still hope in the air that we breathed. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “People Get Ready” the unofficial anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. The song was used to provide solace and motivation to marchers.

The public mood had definitely shifted in the five years between the uplifting Impressions track and “Don’t Worry” in 1970. The US was a mess of social unrest: deeply embroiled in the Vietnam War. The summer of 1969 brought American young people Woodstock. However, the stabbing and death of Meredith Curly Hunter, Jr. in October of 1969 at a Rolling Stones concert had revealed that the dream of “all god’s children” singing and holding hands was yet a ways off.

It was in this environment of social unrest, confusion, and rebellion that Mayfield released his first solo project. “(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below We’re All Going To Go” was the first song and first single released from Mayfield’s 1970, debut solo album, simply titled Curtis. The first words people heard from the “People Get Ready” artist, gone solo were: “Sisters, n___rs, whites, Jews, and the crackers: Don’t worry, if there’s hell below, we’re all gonna go.” And then Curtis screams as a fuzzy bassline gives way to a funky explosion of sound.

Like the songs from the 1960s that made the Playlist last week, we can see that Curtis Mayfield was addressing many of the same problems we are still facing today: crooked police, “political actors,” drug abuse, “catcalling, love balling, fussing and cussing.” He also expresses angst about pollution (this was the same year as the first Eart Day) and he namechecks Richard Nixon, who in his first year of office was trying to assure people not to worry. He also went on to – as we all know – do some very corrupt things. His rally cry in the post-JFK, post-LBJ, world was “unity.” In his Inaugural address, Nixon said, “We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.”

While that sounds like really great advice, how did the be quiet let’s all just get along and let the government do what they do approach work out for the American people? How are we here? 50 years later? Same problems!?!?! Now with a pandemic on top!?!?! And supporters of two of the worst presidential candidates in history, want us all to just get in line and choose the brown pill or the red one? How can we be quiet? I don’t know what all the answers are. But I know it starts with love. And I agree with Mayfield, if there’s Hell below, we’re all gonna go. Of course, I don’t believe in a literal Hell. But we all got ourselves into this mess. We have been living a lifestyle that is unsustainable in a multitude of ways for so long. It seems everyone has a hustle from the police and political actors, to the fussing and cussing dealer, pimp or… hustler. #PlaylistfortheApocalypse

Posted in Headlines, Mental Health, Politics, Writing

Playlist for the Apocalypse: 08 Ball of Confusion

Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)

People movin’ out, people movin’ in
Why, because of the color of their skin
Run, run, run, but you sho’ can’t hide
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
Vote for me and I’ll set you free
Rap on, brother, rap on
Well, the only person talkin’ ’bout love thy brother is the preacher
And it seems nobody’s interested in learning but the teacher
Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, aggravation,
humiliation, obligation to our nation
Ball Of Confusion that’s what the world is today


Every single line in this song is relevant today. Need I say more? Now listen to the damn thing, share it, and tell a friend, to tell a friend, and have them send it to their aunt Karen’s iPhone. Teach aunt Karen how to use Spotify! Where else are you going to find your daily news with a dose of comic relief, a dash of existential uncertainty, and a kick-ass Playlist? This is your chance to be at the front of something big. The stock market is tanking. Don’t you want to be able to say that you shared the #PlaylistfortheApocalypse before it went viral? You do not want to be in the “long time first time” queue when people are having that conversation, do you? So jump on now.

Seriously, I hope you’re enjoying the Playlist. I hope this is not turning out to be an Apocalypse for you. I feel in some ways like each day is a mini-apocalypse for me since this all began. You see, I’ve been trying to save the world since before I knew what salvation meant. I inherited this from my mother in two ways: First, and most importantly for my mom, it was important that people “hear the gospel.” My mother and the church culture I grew up in told me that we were all born with some cosmic debt owed to a holy and righteous but angry god and if we just accept Jesus’ human sacrifice for our sins, his death could be the substitution for our cosmic debt. Secondly, my mother – and later the Reformed tradition that I came to be ordained in – taught me that we need to be in the business of “saving” people – flawed human beings, saving each other – from the complex network of structures that keep us all oppressed in some way.

So, where were we? Oh, yes! My daily mini-apocalypse. I became indebted to Uncle Sam in order to college and Study religion. Then it was Seminary to become a pastor. I was trying to help myself – and the world – climb out of our cosmic debt. Somewhere between my mom’s death, coming out as bisexual, and an agnostic atheist or a mystic Christian (it depends on the day and who is asking, either way, I’m a heretic, haha), I also stepped away from church leadership. For the last couple of years, I have been working a series of underpaid customer service and manual labor jobs while I try to “figure my shit out.” Well, I felt like, for the first time in years I was on the verge of “having my shit together” when I heard the words novel coronavirus and Pandemic strung together for the first time.

I had just accepted a new position at a nonprofit, working with disadvantaged youth. I had one paid four-hour training session before Michigan went into Stay at Home Orders. I thought I was totally screwed. I could not work. But I could not file for unemployment. Then, at the end of March, I got a notification in the actual paper mail. I was informed that an unemployment claim I filed in December had been reevaluated and I had to call to certify. For the whole month of April, my daily task was trying to certify my claim – both online and on the phone. Two days ago, finally, success! I was approved for unemployment plus the extra $600/week through the CARES Act.

But, this morning I found out online (after waiting for a deposit that never came) that my claim is being reevaluated again. Meanwhile, I am stuck at home for 10-12 hours every day while my wife is working (the perks of being an essential worker). My kids are with their mother. My parenting time with them has been reduced walking with them around their mom’s neighborhood, six feet apart, with masks on. I want to snuggle with them on the couch and catch up on Marvel’s Runaways with my son and Party of Five with my daughter. I can’t even hug or kiss them right now!

When I say each day is a mini-apocalypse, it’s because I know that other people have it much, much worse than I do. Somehow, that notion has never provided me with much comfort. I hope I have a job when this is all over. I hope I have some form of income before then. But in the meantime, I know how fortunate I am to have a partner with a job, a steady income, and good medical benefits (that I hope to god we don’t need for COVID-19 related disaster). We will probably get through this time (nothing is ever guaranteed).

I guess I don’t suppose anymore that any of us can ever really “save” anyone, existentially, financially, emotionally, or otherwise. But, I hope I am in the business of helping people – community: us helping each other – navigate the complex network of structures that keep people oppressed. I think the best way I can do that – with or without a Pandemic – is through my writing.

I have a memoir I am working on. If you like these posts full of daily news with a dose of comic relief, a dash of existential uncertainty, and a kick-ass Playlist, then I think you’ll love the book. My daily routine for keeping sanity these days is to work on these posts for my anonymous, faceless, followers.  A few “likes” on Social Media and site statistics tell someone is there. When I am done with the daily posts, I put whatever remaining energy I have into Playlist: A Memoir. It’s a reflection on finding love, self-worth, and a passion for life after leaving the Christian faith behind. The “lens” for looking back and forth from Childhood interactions with my mother to the present day is a Playlist I made the last night she was verbal, a few days before she died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Someone somewhere will call it “a triumph” and “a celebration of the human spirit’s resilience” or some shit like that.

Until that’s ready, for however long this national ball of confusion drags on: Whether you’re in Quarantine or an essential worker in Michigan, a barbershop owner dealing with reopening in Georgia, working on the front lines in a hospital or doing your best to wash your hands and stay safe at the office, I’d like to go with you! And hopefully, when this is all over, I’ve finished a book I have been dreaming about and conceptualizing forever, but didn’t feel I had time to work on until now. I don’t need a Kickstarter campaign. But I will ask one favor, if you’re enjoying the music or finding any comfort, solace or mere comic relief in the daily posts, then please listen to the Playlist, read, comment, and share #PlaylistfortheApocalypse