Archive for August, 2018

Walter Becker was my friend, my writing partner and my bandmate since we met as students at Bard College in 1967. He was smart as a whip, an excellent guitarist and a great songwriter. He was cynical about human nature, including his own, and hysterically funny.”

— Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen in his tribute to his brother from another mother Walter Becker, who died last year age age 67

Hello, rockers.

I desperately need some cool Music Therapy.

You probably do, too. So I’m here to serve us both with a Happy Friday song from my era, one sure to get your Jitterbug leg shaking.

Longtimers here at The Cult of the Jitterbug know that I’m a lunatical fan of that Dynamic Duo that was the inimitable Steely Dan.

The World’s Most Dangerous Duo: Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.

(AN ASIDE IS IN ORDER: As Dave Berry would say, “I am not making this up”: Years ago I was the co-founder and self-appointed chaplain of an online Fan Club called the All-Night Underground Steely Dan Fan-Land Cult Club, comprising, as I used to say, graduates of the some of the best drug and rehab clinics in the world. Many members were fragile people — several were Vietnam vets — who sent me private prayer requests and asked me all kinds of great theological questions. I think there were 11 members at its peak. For a couple of years, Steely Dan brought us together in a strange, holy community in cyberspace before the small but intense community fizzled out.)

I’m still mourning the death of Walter Becker. I can’t imagine the grief his brother by another mother, Donald Fagen, is working through, even as he and his Steely Dan Band continue to be the musical road warriors that Becker/Fagen and their select, precision musicians always were.

Steely Dan’s great body of work contains songs and lyrics that are, by turns, dangerously dark and edgy, uplifting and funny as hell; sad and sweet; nostalgic and cutting-edge.

Their music can be pessimistic, raw and cynical, or so upbeat and optimistic (and ironic and witty) as to be just finger-snapping groovy, baby.

Much of the always idiosyncratic music is subversive. They did take the name “Steely Dan,” an underground word for a dildo, from a William Burroughs novel.

    (Imagine, if you will, an episode of the Beaver:

    BEAVE: “Gee, Wally, what’s a Steely Dan?”

    EDDIE HASKELL: “It’s a Superman thing. Beat it, ya little twerp.”)

Sometimes an enigmatic Steely Dan song is all the above wrapped into one.

Donald Fagen released a lot of songs on solo albums inspired by his personal point of view, which was informed in a comfortable, middle-class, suburban upbringing.

But even Fagen solo songs with the Fagen POV were produced by Becker. He grew up in a rotten, abusive home, which gave him a hard-nosed, cynical POV.

Yet their POVs meshed as perfectly as their perfectionist musicianship. They were two intellectual renegades, both drawn to great, cutting edge art in music, literature, films and life’s theatre of the absurd.

Donald Fagen’s moody Nightfly album, “with jazz and conversation and sweet music — from the foot of Mount Belzoni.”

I love Donald Fagen’s hit from The Nightly album, “New Frontier.” It’s inspired by those growing-up years of his in the fifties and early sixties. I’m the same age as Fagen and Becker and that was my own era.

It was a time in which so many of us grew up in with our little transistor radios playing “Elvis, or somebody else’s favorite song,” with our pillows over our heads, long after the lights were turned out.

I can relate to everything referenced in Donald Fagen’s “New Frontier”:

— America’s ludicrous, irrational response to the Cold War and nuclear bombs;

— the limbo rock fad;

— the pioneering cool jazz of Dave Brubeck (Steely Dan’s idol and inspiration);

— and the yearning of a small-town or suburban middle-class white boy to take in the bright lights of the wicked city.

Maybe more than anything else, I can relate to the duo’s boyhood infatuation with a mostly forgotten Hollywood sweetheart — the Queen of the Prom who had a slightly dangerous edge — with whom all of us adolescent boys were infatuated (I guess that’s the right word): Tuesday Weld.

A smart, terrific actor beginning in childhood, she received a Golden Globe in 1960 as “Newcomer of the Year.”

OY! Even the name was perfection:


Tuesday Weld and David Janssen in “The Fugitive.”

Anyway, the boys of Steely Dan would never have vomited a commercial song as poppy and sentimental as “Penny Lane.”

As much as I love The Eagles and the cynical and often edgy Don Henley, Becker and Fagen would sooner have stabbed themselves in the eyes with drumsticks than put out an atrocity as awful as “There’s a New Kid in Town.”

Or worse, a song like “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” for an easy paycheck from Hollywood. (I could never change the radio dial fast enough.)

Below is the video version of “New Frontier” with the lyrics, and lots of images of Tuesday.

Don’t let em take your mind.

Read Rolling Stone’s obituary of Walter Becker here.

See the Steely Dan Websites here.

And for bonus listening … another weird, witty and wonderful Dan classic …

Get your fez on: I want to be your Holy Man.

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Me & Stephanie Garcia, who struggled mightily through most of her school life but finally came through and completed her first year of high school with flying colors.

Longtime followers of my blog know that I financially support my 5-year-old Belizean daughter Paulita (Miss Belize) McKay and her siblings: Stephanie and Felix Garcia, ages 16 and 13, respectively.

Stephanie–who completed her first year of school at the Catholic St. Ignatius High School in June — finished the year with a 3.4 grade point average, a solid B!.

It was quite an accomplishment for a young lady who could barely read and write English when I started tutoring her and Felix five years ago.

Stephanie has blossomed academically and I’m hoping she will complete three more years of high school and, possibly, advance to college as well.

But the high cost of the private high schools in Belize — where 95 percent of the schools are church schools and therefore expensive — is too much for me to pay on my limited income. I support the entire family financially with needs other than schooling.

Stephanie in the mestizo dress her mom made for her during Culture Week at St. Ignatius High School. I vastly underestimated the cost of Steph’s high school education because of the many expenses required for her to participate in events like Culture Week. I do want her to be involved in all the extracurricular events she can get in, however, which could help her application to college in three years.

All this is to say that I’m asking for financial help from folks willing to donate money for the costs of Stephanie’s second year of high school, which begins soon.

This year, I’m hoping to raise $1,100 ($2,200 in BZ currency) for the entire 2017-18 academic year.

Last year, my goal was $800 — which was not nearly enough because of so many expenses I didn’t anticipate in budgeting.

Tuition for Stephanie’s second year is covered. On July 3, I paid a down payment on tuition of $150 ($300BZ). Between what I will pay of the $40 and a Belizean government grant of $300BZ that all first- and second-year students receive, Stephanie’s tuition for the 2017-18 is covered.

It’s the massive number of costs that pop up throughout the school year that are too much for me to keep Steph in school on my retirement monies.

So I’m asking once again for the many generous donors who have contributed dollars since last year to consider another donation toward the $1,100 goal.

Also, I’d ask the many new readers of the blog and new friends on social media to consider a donation.

I have learned that most donors much prefer to contribute through my PayPaul account at revpaulmckay@gmail.com.

I have set up a new fund for the second year, however, at GoFundMe, for those who prefer that system. The downside of GoFund Me is the significant dollars in fees that the fund takes off the top of every donation. PayPaul’s fee is a few pennies. (The payment processing fee is 2.9% plus $0.30 per donation.)

Whatever route you may choose, please know that I’ll keep you posted on the payments and on Stephanie’s academic progress as it did last year.

And many thanks in advance from me and Stephanie for whatever amount you give — and know that $10 is appreciated as much as $100!

Here is the like to the GoFundMe site where I give more detailed information on the breakdown of expenses I didn’t anticipate for the first year of Stephanie’s high school education. Trouble is, GoFundMe, which has a deserved reputation for being technical problems, is not allowing me to post a link here. If you want to find it, go to the link and do a search in Education for Steph’s Education Fund, 2018-19.

Stephanie finished her first year of high school with a 3.4 GPA on a 4.0 system. She had a C and a C+ in what is always her most challenging subject, English.

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Nightmarish tales are beginning to emerge of parents being reunited with their kids only to have them taken away a second time; or of parents being told that they are about to be reunited with their children, only to wait hours before being returned to holding facilities without seeing their kids — and without any explanation.

— from Texas Monthly Magazine

Meanwhile, in other news being overwhelmed by 20 lies and distractions a day on one Twitter account alone, brown-skin children and their parents in the United States of America continue to be treated like Jewish children and their parents were treated in Nazi Germany in the thirties.

This is not Christian.

This is not humane.

This is not the American way.

This is not acceptable.

Thank God for ACLU lawyers, Christian activists and other unsung heroes working so hard to uncover the truth and to protect the very people that our Lord Jesus fought the greatest fight for.

That includes the supposed “enemy of the people” like the journalists at the venerable Texas Monthly and Texas Observer magazines trying to keep up with this ungodly mess.

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The world won’t get no better if we just let it be.”

I still prefer listening to the original “Wake Up Everybody” by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.

But this cover, with all the star power in the video, makes a seriously prophetic and ever-relevant song a joy for a Happy Friday morning.

You’re welcome.

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