The Liner Project Blog

Holiday in Cambodia by The Dead Kennedys Feb 27, 2024

Today I am writing about another one of my favorite songs, Holiday in Cambodia written by Jello Biafra of The Dead Kennedys.

Jello Biafra was born Eric Reed Boucher in 1958 in Boulder, Colorado, which may explain a lot about the future Biafra. His mom was a librarian and his dad a psychiatric social worker. Even as a child he was interested in international politics. He watched the news constantly and one of his earliest memories is of John F. Kennedy being assassinated in 1963.

By 1977 he had become a roadie for a punk band named The Ravers. In 1978 he responded to an advertisement by a guitarist named East Bay Ray that stated, “Guitarist wants to form punk band”. East Bay Ray and Biafra formed The Dead Kennedys. He started using the stage name Occupant but soon switched to a combination of the brand name Jell-O and the short-lived African state Biafra.

Biafra, the African state, was officially called the Republic of Biafra and was a secessionist state in West Africa that existed from 1967 to 1970 during the Nigerian Civil War. Biafra mostly consisted of the homeland of the Igbo peoples. After two and a half years of war almost 2 million Biafran civilians died from starvation caused by a total blockade of the region by Nigeria. Almost 3/4 of the 2 million civilians that died were small children. Biafra surrendered in 1970 and became a part of Nigeria again.

Back to Jello Biafra… he wrote all the bands lyrics. Since Biafra couldn’t play any instruments very well, their bassist Klaus Flouride suggested that he sing the parts to the band. Biafra would sing the riffs and melodies into a tape recorder and then the band would make the music from that. I haven’t heard of anyone else doing it this way. I’m sure there are but I haven’t heard about it.

The Dead Kennedys first single, California Uber Alles, is an amazing song that I almost wrote about instead of their second single, Holiday in Cambodia, but I chose Holiday in Cambodia because it’s Biafra’s favorite Dead Kennedys song and the story of Cambodia is more interesting to me.

Biafra starts out by singing

So, you’ve been to school for a year or two. And you know you’ve seen it all. In daddy’s car, thinkin’ you’ll go far. Back east, your type don’t crawl.

Biafra is talking about the silver spoon, over-educated, white college students.

He then sings

Play ethnicity jazz to parade your snazz
On your five-grand stereo. Braggin’ that you know how the n*****s feel cold
And the slums got so much soul

Biafra is slamming seemingly well meaning activist, college kids because they think they understand the poor, urban, ethnic groups while they have stereos that cost five-grand. Biafra is known for using over the top language and here he uses “the” racial slur to emphasize the inherent racism in the behavior of the silver spoon, white college students.

And then we move onto what Biafra sings would help these types of people

It’s time to taste what you most fear
Right Guard will not help you here
Brace yourself, my dear
Brace yourself, my dear.

Biafra tells them they should spend some time with the people that they talk about needing help and that takes us to the chorus…

It’s a holiday in Cambodia
It’s tough, kid, but it’s life
It’s a holiday in Cambodia
Don’t forget to pack a wife.

This song has so much stuff in it… Cambodia, at the time Biafra wrote this, was experiencing one of the worst atrocities in history inflicted upon a country’s people. The Communist Party of Kampuchea, CPK, or the Khmer Communist Party was a party led by Pol Pot and its followers were generally known as the Khmer Rouge, which translates to Red Khmers. I will get into the atrocity in a bit but we will continue with the song for now.

Verse 2 gets back to talking to the so-called activists of the time:

You’re a star-belly sneetch, you suck like a leech
You want everyone to act like you
Kiss ass while you bitch so you can get rich
But your boss gets richer off you

This verse and the reference to a star-belly sneetch is brilliant. The Sneetches is a book by Dr. Seuss where some Sneetches have stars on their bellies and some Sneetches do not. The star-belly Sneetches discriminate against the Sneetches that do not have stars. They think they are better than the Sneetches that do not have stars. Sylvester McMonkey McBean comes around and charges the Sneetches without stars $3 to put a star on their belly. Of course this makes the original star-belly Sneetches angry so McBean charges them $10 to take the star off. After going back and forth and giving all of their money to McBean, they eventually realize that Sneetches are Sneetches, none better or worse. Go read The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss if you have not, it’s a good read.

Then Biafra brings back up the Khmer Rouge…

Well, you’ll work harder with a gun in your back
For a bowl of rice a day
Slave for soldiers till you starve. Then your head is skewered on a stake

The Khmer Rouge was mostly made up of poor, uneducated peasants from the country who believed that all people that lived in the city were evil and enemies of communism. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia in 1975 and force evacuated everyone from the cities and made them work on farms and in labor camps. People were forced to work 16 hours per day and were only given one bowl a rice. Many, an estimated 1.7 - 2.5 million, peopled died from starvation or being systematically murdered. Approximately 1.3 million of those deaths were from execution. That was roughly one-third of the population of Cambodia.

It’s a holiday in Cambodia
Where people dress in black
A holiday in Cambodia
Where you’ll kiss ass or crack.

The Khmer Rouge regime imposed black unisex clothing in an effort to enforce equality by making people indistinguishable from each other. The last line of the verse is saying that if you didn’t do what you were told you would crack, meaning you would be tortured until you cracked. Biafra uses crack to bring some levity but the actual meaning is not funny. Once again, Biafra being over the top with his lyrics.

Pol Pot, born Salish Sat, was the leader of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. In 1979 the Khmer Rouge government was toppled but amazingly enough Pol Pot lived fairly peacefully until 1998. He was put in house arrest in 1998 just before he died. In his last interview he told Nate Thayer that his “conscience is clear” and he said, “I want you to know that everything I did, I did it for my country.” He rejected the idea that millions had died saying, “To say that millions died is too much”, You know, for the other people, the babies, the young ones, I did not order them to be killed. He died of heart failure a little later and was never convicted for any of his crimes against humanity.

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Ten Second News by Son Volt Feb 11, 2024

Today I am discussing a Son Volt song called Ten Second News off of their first album Trace from 1995, which is my favorite traveling album. It’s the fifth song on this album. Shawna or I will always put it on no matter where we are going if the trip is very long at all.

Here’s the story of how I found Son Volt.

Who remembers Columbia House? Columbia House was, maybe it’s still around, a mail-order music club. They had the deals like get twelve cassettes for one penny. Then every month they would feature one cassette and if you didn’t send back a reply saying you didn’t want it you would get that cassette sent to you in the mail. Well Son Volt was one of those cassettes. I didn’t reply and I got this cassette of a band I had never heard of. I wasn’t a huge fan of the band at the time but they did have songs about Ste. Genevieve, a town on the Mississippi River that I had heard of. They also had a song called Drown on that album that I really did enjoy but I kind of forgot about the album, for the most part, until years later and Shawna and I got into Uncle Tupelo. I found out that Jay Farrar (of Son Volt) was in Uncle Tupelo. I went back and listened to it and fell in love with all the songs and one of those songs was Ten Second News.

Ten Second News is about a ghost town close to Eureka, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis, Missouri.

As a teenager in the mid to late 80s we would sometimes go to Six Flags Over Mid-America, as it was called back then. I think it’s Six Flags - St. Louis now. I loved the Screaming Eagle. It was an old wooden roller coaster that jerked you around a lot but it was so much fun. Six Flags is on interstate 44 in Eureka, Missouri in St. Louis County, just south and west of St. Louis. I44 basically follows the historic Route 66 through Missouri southwest from St. Louis to Joplin. It is evenly numbered interstate with signifies that it runs east-west but it could just as easily be an odd numbered interstate because it runs from the northeast to the southwest. It goes from St. Louis, Missouri to Wichita Falls, Texas.

I can remember traveling there and on the side of the road you would see this ghost town called Times Beach about 15 minutes away from Six Flags. The whole town was still there - houses, shops, gas stations and it was like everyone just ran off. The story I was told back then, as I remember it, was that radon, a radioactive gas, was emanating from the ground and it caused the people to have to leave the area. I don’t think I had any idea what Radon was at the time. I really don’t have any idea now. Come to find out later when I went to research it, that wasn’t what happened at all and the real story is way more interesting. As most real stories are…

Times Beach was founded in 1925 on the flood plain of the Meramec River, probably not the best decision to put a city on a flood plain. The whole town was this crazy promotion by a St. Louis newspaper called the St. Louis-Times, get it Times Beach… You could buy a twenty foot by one hundred foot plot of land for $67.50 and with that you got a six month newspaper subscription. This sounds like getting MAX for six months with your cable subscription. Twenty foot wide doesn’t seem very wide but you did get the newspaper with it so it was probably worth it.

The town was created primarily as a summer resort and even though $67.50 doesn’t sound like much, it would be $1002.64 in todays money, that would be a pretty substantial amount at the time and remember you still had to build the house, and maybe get two plots based on the size. The town quickly became a place for summer houses and a resort of sorts. It was located right on Historic Route 66, Main Street of America so there would’ve been a decent amount of traffic.

Unfortunately the Great Depression of the 30s combined with gasoline rationing during World War II caused Times Beach to be mostly low-income housing. In 1970 when this story takes place the town had a population of 1,240 of mostly lower-middle income families. The St. Louis-Times went out of business in 1951 and the town was not able to fund their infrastructure. Their roads were never paved which lead to a substantial amount of dust.

This leads us to the lyrics of Ten Second News.

The first verse goes like this…

When you find what matters is what you feel
It arrives and it disappears
Driving down sunny 44 highway
There’s a beach there known for cancer
Waiting to happen

And then the third verse goes like this…

And it’s hard enough soaking up billboard signs
You scorch and drown alive, never knowing why
The levee gates are open wide. There’s a cough in the water and it’s running into town

So how did Times Beach become known for cancer? It’s a long story that I’ll try to get through as succinctly as possible.

In the late 1960s, Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company (NEPACCO), started a facility in Verona, a town in southwestern Missouri. The company name at the time was Hoffman-Taff, they produced Agent Orange that was used during Vietnam. One of the byproducts of Agent Orange production was a chemical called Dioxin.

In the early 1970s, after the need for Agent Orange was gone, NEPACCO, started making hexachlorophene, an antibacterial used in soap, toothpaste, and other disinfectants. The byproduct of producing hexachlorophene is also Dioxin.

NEPACCO had a problem because the most effective way to destroy Dioxin is to incinerate it which is very expensive. Capitalism prevailed and NEPACCO contracted Independent Petrochemical Corporation, hereby known as IPC, to dispose of the waste dioxin. IPC charged NEPACCO $3,000 per load. IPC subcontracted Russell Bliss to haul it away for $125 per load. Bliss didn’t get paid much compared to what IPC got paid. Bliss also stated that no one told him what was in the drums other than waste oil. He hauled 18,500 gallons to his facility and mixed it with used motor oil that he already had.

Bliss would spray this waste oil on his horse arena and farm to keep dust down. People that visited him noticed how effective it was and soon he was spraying others arenas and farms as well.

In May of 1971, Bliss was paid $150 to spray an indoor arena in Moscow Mills, Missouri. A few days later, birds began to die and horses began to get sores and lose their hair. Bliss was blamed but denied it. He said that all he sprayed was used motor oil and it wouldn’t have had those effects.

A month later Bliss was hired to spray an arena near Jefferson City, Missouri, the capital of Missouri, if you are interested. This time twelve horses died and some children were diagnosed with a skin condition associated with dioxin poisoning.

Bliss was contracted to do another arena and the same kinds of problems arose.

All of this made the Center for Disease Control (CDC) wonder what was happening, In August of that year, they went to the farms and tested human and animal blood samples. Dioxin really wasn’t understood at the time and the CDC didn’t come to conclusive evidence as to what was causing the problems.

Then in 1972, because of all the dirt roads in Times Beach, they needed a way to suppress the dust. Bliss was hired for $2,400. He sprayed ~160,000 gallons of waste oil in Times Beach from 1972 to 1976.

The EPA noticed the issues around Missouri and stepped into the investigation in 1979 and did testing at the old NEPACCO plant. By 1979 they understood what they were looking for. They found very high concentrations of dioxin. In 1982, the EPA, went back to the farms that Bliss had sprayed and found that they still had much more dioxin than was healthy for humans. A leaked EPA document listed 14 contaminated areas and 41 possible contaminated areas. Times Beach was the largest community on this list.

Residents of Times Beach found out about the document and the public pressured the EPA to investigate the town. During the investigation, the town’s entire road network was confirmed to have extremely high concentrations of dioxin.

On December 3rd, 1982, just after the EPA finished its investigation, a flood of Times Beach caused the entire town to be evacuated. On December 23rd, 1982 the CDC recommended that the town could not be inhabited and everyone was told they could not return.

In January of 1983, President Ronald Reagan created the Times Beach Dioxin Task force. They recommended that the government buy the entire town. The US government paid $33 million and Missouri paid $3.7 million.

Times Beach contained fifty percent of the dioxin in Missouri, so an incinerator was built there to incinerate all of the dioxin material from across the state. 265,000 tons of contaminated material was incinerated. The eventual cost of this program was almost $200 million.

For all the destruction of property and money that it cost to clean up there weren’t a lot of lawsuits brought based on liability. In the end there were lots of new laws created to combat these issues from ever happening again.

Afterward, like almost everything, there were scientists and doctors that believed dioxin poisoning wasn’t as bad for humans as originally thought but either way the town was bulldozed over and a state park was created in its place. It’s called the Route 66 State Park and has one building from the original Times Beach still there. It’s now the Parks visitor center.

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All content ©2024 Ronnie Lutes

macOS Dock Feb 2, 2024

After many months of trial and error, I have decided the best place for my macOS dock is on the right side of the screen. I originally had it on the left but I started using my 12.9” iPad Pro as a second monitor to my 14” MacBook Pro. I always put the iPad Pro on the left of the MacBook Pro which made the dock on the left side problematic. It made it especially problematic if you auto-hide your dock, which is the right thing to do. Whenever you move the cursor to the left side, the dock would reveal but the cursor would be on the iPad. Actually clicking the dock on the left side in my set up was almost impossible. Moving the dock to the right side fixed that issue. Moving the dock to the bottom would’ve also fixed the issue but with a small the vertical screen of the MacBook, I don’t ever want the dock on the bottom.

Also if you auto-hide your dock on macOS, type the below statement in terminal so it’s faster to hide/reveal. You can mess around with “int” to change speeds but I leave mine at 0.

defaults write autohide-time-modifier -int 0;killall Dock

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Games We Love Jan 30, 2024

My wife and I have been married for 23 years and we’ve always been board gamers. We have a great collection of 100+ games. I’ll link to a few of our favorites here. Descriptions are from BoardGameGeek.

Board Games

In the game Azul, players take turns drafting colored tiles from suppliers to their player board. Later in the round, players score points based on how they’ve placed their tiles to decorate the palace. Extra points are scored for specific patterns and completing sets; wasted supplies harm the player’s score. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Stone Age
In Stone Age, the players live in this time, just as our ancestors did. They collect wood, break stone and wash their gold from the river. They trade freely, expand their village and so achieve new levels of civilization. With a balance of luck and planning, the players compete for food in this pre-historic time.

King of Tokyo
In King of Tokyo, you play mutant monsters, gigantic robots, and strange aliens—all of whom are destroying Tokyo and whacking each other in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo.

Splendor is a game of chip-collecting and card development. Players are merchants of the Renaissance trying to buy gem mines, means of transportation, shops—all in order to acquire the most prestige points. If you’re wealthy enough, you might even receive a visit from a noble at some point, which of course will further increase your prestige.

The Quacks of Quedlinburg
In The Quacks of Quedlinburg, players are charlatans — or quack doctors — each making their own secret brew by adding ingredients one at a time. Take care with what you add, though, for a pinch too much of this or that will spoil the whole mixture!

Machi Koro
Machi Koro is a fast-paced game for 2-4 players. Each player wants to develop the city on their own terms in order to complete all of the landmarks under construction faster than their rivals. On their turn, each player rolls one or two dice. If the sum of the dice rolled matches the number of a building that a player owns, they get the effect of that building; in some cases opponents will also benefit from your dice (just as you can benefit from theirs). Then, with money in hand a player can build a landmark or a new building, ideally adding to the wealth of their city on future turns. The first player to construct all of their landmarks wins!

Sushi Go
Sushi Go! takes the card-drafting mechanism of Fairy Tale and 7 Wonders and distills it into a twenty-minute game that anyone can play. The dynamics of “draft and pass” are brought to the fore, while keeping the rules to a minimum. As you see the first few hands of cards, you must quickly assess the make-up of the round and decide which type of sushi you’ll go for. Then, each turn you’ll need to weigh which cards to keep and which to pass on. The different scoring combinations allow for some clever plays and nasty blocks. Round to round, you must also keep your eye on the goal of having the most pudding cards at the end of the game!

In Kingsburg, players are Lords sent from the King to administer frontier territories. The game takes place over five years, a total of 20 turns. In every year, there are 3 production seasons for collecting resources, building structures, and training troops. Every fourth turn is the winter, in which all the players must fight an invading army. Each player must face the invaders, so this is not a cooperative game.

7 Wonders
You are the leader of one of the 7 great cities of the Ancient World. Gather resources, develop commercial routes, and affirm your military supremacy. Build your city and erect an architectural wonder which will transcend future times.

Card Games

The trick-taking game Wizard uses a sixty-card deck that consists of the traditional 52-card deck (1-13 in four suits) along with four Wizards (high) and four Jesters (low).

Love Letter
Love Letter is a game of risk, deduction, and luck for 2–4 players. Your goal is to get your love letter into Princess Annette’s hands while deflecting the letters from competing suitors. From a deck with only sixteen cards, each player starts with only one card in hand; one card is removed from play. On a turn, you draw one card, and play one card, trying to expose others and knock them from the game. Powerful cards lead to early gains, but make you a target. Rely on weaker cards for too long, however, and your letter may be tossed in the fire!

Tichu took much of its rules and mechanics from Zheng Fen. It is a partnership climbing card game, and the object of play is to rid yourself of your hand, preferably while scoring points in the process.

Dutch Blitz
In Dutch Blitz, each player has her own deck of forty cards, with cards 1-10 in four colors; red and blue cards show a Pennsylvania Dutch boy, while yellow and green cards show a Pennsylvania Dutch girl. Each deck has a different symbol on the back to aid with card sorting between rounds.

The Great Dalmuti
A light card game where players gain status by going out first. The 80-card commercial deck contains cards ranked from 12 to 1, along with two Jesters. Each card bears a number, which is not only its rank, but also tells you how many of that card exist in the deck. In other words, there are twelve 12s, eleven 11s, four 4s and a single card ranked 1. The lower the number, the better the rank. The deck is dealt out to all players and the object is to get rid of your cards as fast as possible. The first player out is the Great Dalmuti.

In Dominion, each player starts with an identical, very small deck of cards. In the center of the table is a selection of other cards the players can “buy” as they can afford them. Through their selection of cards to buy, and how they play their hands as they draw them, the players construct their deck on the fly, striving for the most efficient path to the precious victory points by game end.

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John Tyler's Grandson Jan 27, 2024

John Tyler, 10th president, was born in 1790.

He had a son when he was 63 years old, Lyon Gardiner Tyler. Lyon was born in 1853. Lyon had a son when he was 75 years old, Harrison Ruffin Tyler, grandson of John Tyler. Harrison was born in 1928. Harrison is 95 and still alive today (January 27, 2023), 233 years later.

Three generations of one family spanned the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st century, four different centuries. Unfortunately, Harrison is not doing well these days.

Also unfortunately, Harrison Tyler didn’t have a kid in his 60s or 70s. The Tyler family’s last child, William Bouknight Tyler, was born in 1961 when Harrison was only 33…

womp womp womp

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