Thursday, April 30, 2020

COVID-19: Putting The Latest Clinical Trial Data Using The Antiviral Drug Remdesivir Into Perspective.


Yesterday, we noted Anthony Fauci's comment on the limited early release of summary data from a multicenter, placebo-controlled clinical trial using the antiviral drug remdesivir in  COVID-19-confirmed patients with lung symptoms.

Essentially, Fauci touted the modest, yet statistically significant, improvement in 'time to recover' as well as the modest, yet not statistically significant (at least in conventional terms), mortality improvement as being important because these findings will now open the door to further improvements using subsequent combination treatment regimens.

You can listen to Dr. Fauci's comments (which he buttresses with the fact that the first efficacious antiviral drug against HIV-induced AIDS, AZT,  also only had modest effects on its own), here.

Of course, this has led to all kinds of speculation about how important the latest remdesivir findings actually are.

Derek Lowe, who has proven to be an honest broker in such matters, puts these and the other less impressive clinical trial data, including those published in the Lancet yesterday, in perspective:

...(T)he picture that’s emerging is that remdesivir may be of some help in less-severe cases. It is not a cure; a cure would have shown up in the trials we’ve run already, and cures are mighty thin on the ground for viral diseases. We can hope that the time-to-recovery is actually a useful measure and that the drug might get people out of hospitals a bit earlier, and hope a bit harder that there really is a mortality difference that will turn out to be real as we go into larger and larger numbers of patients. But working against that is the possibility that wider use of the drug will obscure the effect rather than make it more obvious...

Helpfully,  Dr. Lowe also gives his thoughts on remdesivir vs. the hydroxychloroquine:

...To forestall some questions that I know will come up: what do I think about this versus hydroxychloroquine? Well, we have more controlled data to work with on remdesivir, for one thing, so whatever benefits there are, are more obvious. The balance of what controlled data we have on HCQ is negative, and here we’re at least more mixed. There is also (to the best of my knowledge) no particular safety signal for remdesivir, as opposed to HCQ (particularly the HCQ/azithromycin combination). So while I’m not bowled over, I’m more optimistic than I am about hydroxychloroquine...

As for the combination therapy breakthroughs that Fauci is hoping for down the road? Well, here Lowe is more pessimistic. They seem to have different views on the applicability of targeted monoclonal antibody-based drugs.

Lowe notes a weird quirk in the data in the Lancet paper, which is that remdesivir treatment did cause a noticeable decrease in viral load in that trial (which was carried out in China)...Given that remdesivir is designed to work by blocking the ability of the virus to make more of itself, if it really and trulyresults in a clinical improvement without decreasing viral load one would, as Lowe points out, 'have to wonder what's going on.'
For those of you new around these here parts, I previously wrote about Dr. Lowe's bonafides, both from an online communication and scientific perspective...Here.
Please note: while I am in the science geek game on the biology side of the ledger, I am not a virologist or drug developer, at least not in the strictest sense....That is why I am relying on honest brokers like Dr. Lowe in this case.


Hey. It Worked In Ukraine, Right?


From Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes, Edward Wong and Adam Goldman in today's New York Times:

Senior Trump administration officials have pushed American spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that a government laboratory in Wuhan, China, was the origin of the coronavirus outbreak, according to current and former American officials. The effort comes as President Trump escalates a public campaign to blame China for the pandemic.

Some intelligence analysts are concerned that the pressure from administration officials will distort assessments about the virus and that they could be used as a political weapon in an intensifying battle with China over a disease that has infected more than three million people across the globe.

Most intelligence agencies remain skeptical that conclusive evidence of a link to a lab can be found, and scientists who have studied the genetics of the coronavirus say that the overwhelming probability is that it leapt from animal to human in a nonlaboratory setting, as was the case with H.I.V., Ebola and SARS...

Personally, I would not be the least bit surprised if it turns out that this politically-driven, Cheneyesque 'conclusion shopping'  is really happening once again.

After all if they could blame all the Manafortian corruption in Ukraine on the Bidens in Ukraine and get away with it, why not send Rudy or, more likely, his remote-controlled henchmen to Wuhan?

And then, perhaps, they can get the dog breeder to do the bioinformatic analysis of the genetic fingerprinting.



Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Pretzel That Is The Logic Of Mr. Sloan


The good Mr. Sloan of Mississauga has written a letter.

It is not clear who, exactly, he has written said letter to, but it would appear he wants everyone in Canada, or at least everyone in #CdnPoli, to read it.


In his letter Mr. Sloan explicitly states that he never questioned, or even intended to question, the loyalty of Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam:

"...I did not - and I am not - questioning Dr. Tam's loyalty to Canada. There was no intention to question it..."

Which means everything is all fine and good, right?

Well, actually, no - at least according to the actual record and, as you might have guessed, Mr. Sloan himself just three paragraphs later in his very own letter:

"...The question regarding whether she works 'for Canada' or 'for China' was a rhetorical question. Sure I could have just as easily asked does she work 'for Canada' or 'for the World Health Organization'..."


Even if one ignores the issues with syntax and punctuation, after reading that it is almost impossible not to ask the following question...

Does this very fine young fellow even knows what he is saying and/or questioning?


National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Press Release On Remdesivir Trial For Advanced COVID19 Patients.


Note: Please a follow-up to this post....Here.

You're going to be hearing a lot more about the antiviral 'remdesivir' from all quarters in the coming hours...

The NIAID release is here.

Here is their kicker:

Here is Anthony Fauci's announcement regarding the NIAID sponsored multicentered trial's preliminary results:

Please note
that Fauci heads the NIAID as his day job.

No Hot Take Here...Will update once the honest brokers weigh in.....


Our Wednesday Pick...John Fogerty And His Fortunate Sons And Daughter.


There was a time, when he was at his peak as both a musician and the quintessential roots rockin' American songwriter of the time, that John Fogerty could not bring himself to play his own songs because they were owned, lock, stock and barrel, by his rapacious record label.

Later, the head of that same label sued Fogerty for sounding like himself when he made his comeback with the album 'Centerfield' in the mid-80's.

And even now, though he's made up with the label since it was sold to new owners awhile back, Mr. Fogerty does not own his greatest hits.

That, he figures, will start to happen in about five years:

..."I don’t own them, still," Fogerty (said in the fall of 2019). "But hopefully I'm going to live long enough that they finally revert to me. It's a period of about 56 years, and so far, we've been celebrating the 50th anniversary of 'Proud Mary,' so you do the math. It should be pretty soon."...

All of which makes it truly amazing that Fogerty nows feel comfortable enough to play said songs, essentially in a round, with his three kids for all of us to see and hear.

And, yes, even at age 74 he still sings in the same goddamn key that nobody else can really hit.



Tuesday, April 28, 2020

If Jonas Salk Flew In Today.....


First, from the front page of today's digital grey lady...

Second, from crazy town...

Finally, from the poll-fevered, chart-busting minds behind USA Today...

Nearly one-third of Americans believe a vaccine already exists to prevent coronavirus infection but is being withheld from the public, while nearly half believe the COVID-19 virus was created in a lab...


You know, I wonder...

If Jonas Salk flew in today, would the media tell us that 'some experts argue that the Polio virus is not actually a serious threat to human health and wellbeing'?

The irony here is that a number of vaccines are now starting to enter early stage clinical trials....And if one of them hits a home run soon, will Mr. Trump's GOP-stopped America even be able to distribute it to everyone, regardless the letter after their governor's name, in a timely and orderly manner?


John Ivison Says What?


Under the headline 'Trudeau's lavish handouts risk turning workers into welfare slackers', the good Mr. Ivison's writes the following in his latest legacy media, hedge fund-owned newspaper column:

...The reason is that the launch of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program (by the federal government) on Monday creates the conditions for moral hazard — where parties protected from risk will act differently than they might otherwise have done if they were not protected.

Specifically, there is a worry that some workers might prefer to sit on their duffs for the next three months, pocketing $2,000 a month, rather than going back to work when called by their employers...


From a report in Mr. Ivison's legacy media, hedge fund-owned newspaper awhile back:

The (federal) government is pledging nearly $600 million over the next five years to help news organizations struggling to adapt to a digital age that has disrupted traditional business models...


...Paul Godfrey, the CEO of Postmedia, which publishes the National Post and daily broadsheets in many of Canada’s largest cities, said that tax credit “could be looked upon as a turning point in the plight of newspapers in Canada.”

“I tip my hat to the prime minister and the finance minister. They deserve a lot of credit,” said Godfrey. “Everyone in journalism should be doing a victory lap around their building right now.”...

All snark aside, it would appear that Mr. Ivison is actually arguing for the social breakdown we are seeing south of the 49th.


Meanwhile, despite the earlier bailout, a lot of folks at  the always hedgy/forever debt-laden Postmedia will now lose their jobs...Gosh, I wonder what they might have to say to Mr. Ivison about his denigration of their lifeline from the feds? (see reader Lew's insightful take on this in the comments).


Monday, April 27, 2020

Our Monday Pick....Tune-Yards.

I do not have a hip-ness bone in my entire body.

However, every once in awhile I stumble into such things, usually somewhere out on the edge of MusicVille.

This happened a while back with Tune-Yards, a wonderfully inventive project of Merrill Garbus and her musical partner Nate Brenner.

The core of how they do things, layer-by-layer, can be seen in the video above, but there are all kinds of way more riotous examples of them going berserk in the tubes.

And if you want to see them present tense, up close, they'll be doing a livestream tomorrow/Tuesday afternoon at about 4:20pm.

NPR has an eclectic listing of upcoming musical livestreams....Here.
What sent me back to the works of Ms. Garbus in the here and now?...Well, I was listening to the New Yorker radio hour on the weekend and learned that she does their theme music.


What John Ivison Did Not Say About The Words, Deeds And Actions Of Mr. Sloan.


The following is from John Ivison's recent National Post piece on the Conservative party's response to Conservative party leadership candidate Mr. Sloan's overt racism:

...Even though (current) leader Andrew Scheer is a lame duck, he is still responsible for the credibility of a venerable political party that professes to represent all Canadians.

In a multi-ethnic country where visible minorities make up a quarter of the population, no party tainted by racism can win power.

Yet when Scheer was asked to denounce Sloan’s statement, he turtled, saying he did not want to comment on the behaviour of a leadership candidate. That didn’t stop then interim Conservative Rona Ambrose dumping on Kellie Leitch’s bogus “Canadian values” test in the last leadership go-round.

If Scheer doesn’t see the need to decry comments from a sitting member of caucus that tars all Conservative MPs and the party with the brush of intolerance, he should go now...


Do you see what Mr. Ivison did not say?

And, no, I did not cherry pick...The good Mr. Ivison does not flat out say that Mr. Sloan's racism itself is objectively bad anywhere in the column...Instead, it's all about how said racisdm is bad for Conservative party politics....In fact, the first sentence of the colum is the following..."It’s not so much the bigotry as the hypocrisy that is so exasperating."...So, what is a reasonable and logical take home message for those actually paying attention?...Well, if the entire country was more like the base, then, perhaps, meh...


Saturday, April 25, 2020

Our Saturday Pick...Weekend Edition, Saturday.


I was a post-doc when we lived in Berkeley, a long time ago now.

During the week I would ride and/or walk my bike up the hill, above, to the lab.

But on the weekends I would usually drive given that C. didn't need the car for work.

On Saturdays I would often go in early to smell the eucalyptus and get my 3-dimensional tissue culture done, which was pioneered in the lab where I was lucky enough to be learning my trade.

And, invariably, I would set up the ghetto blaster on the bench next to me so that I could listen to Scott Simon, who's still at it, host NPR's Weekend Edition, Saturday.

It's an all over the map kind of 'news-and-more' show that I think reader E.G. would really enjoy...

Even way back then Mr. Simon seemed like a bit of an all-knowing, if gentle and jokey, father figure...Weirdly, it turns out that he's only a few years older than I am.
One of the reasons to get in early on Saturdays was to later get out early so that we could take off and do something fun on Saturday afternoons...One of our favourite places to go was the Point Reyes National Seashore.
The image above is of Strawberry Canyon...The lab was/is about halfway up...It was an exciting place to be, with people from all over the world...My boss back then just won a big award, at least in part because of the work we were doing at the time.


Friday, April 24, 2020

Our Friday Pick....Banksy Keeps Working.

Apparently, however, his wife hates it when he works at home.


"Nevermind The Vaccine Scientist And The Dog Breeder, Get Me The Racist!"


We already told you about the firing of the vaccine scientist and the elevation of the dog breeder.

Enter, stage (way, way, way) right....

The racist, whose story is brought to you by the fine folks at CNN:

The new spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services in a series of now-deleted tweets made racist and derogatory comments about Chinese people, said Democrats wanted the coronavirus to kill millions of people and accused the media of intentionally creating panic around the pandemic to hurt President Donald Trump.

Michael Caputo, a longtime New York Republican political operative who worked on Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, was appointed last week as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at HHS, a prominent communications role at the department which serves a central role in the federal government's response to the coronavirus pandemic...


And, to hammer home the fact that the very best Trumpists cannot now, and never should in the future, be separated from the griftilicious modern Republican party herd, there is this, from the good Mr Caputo's Wiki bio:

...Caputo became enamored with Ronald Reagan while serving in the military and became a Republican, later working for politicians including Jack Kemp. He worked for the Reagan Administration with Oliver North, and later as director of media services on the campaign for President George H.W. Bush in the 1992 United States presidential election.

Caputo moved to Russia in 1994, after the fall of the Soviet Union, and was an adviser to Boris Yeltsin; he helped elect Yeltsin to a second term as President of Russia. He worked for Gazprom Media in 2000 where he helped improve the image of Vladimir Putin in the U.S. He moved back to the U.S. and founded a public relations company, and then moved to Ukraine to work on a candidate's campaign for parliament.

Caputo worked as the campaign manager for Carl Paladino in his 2010 bid for Governor of New York. Caputo worked for the Donald Trump campaign from November 2015 to June 2016, and was in charge of communications for New York. He left the campaign after publicly voicing his approval for the replacement of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski with Paul Manafort...

Enough said?


Nevermind The Vaccine Scientist, Get MeThe Dog Breeder!


Yesterday, we mentioned that an actual vaccine scientist who oversaw successful responses to previous pandemics was fired by the Trump administration for doing the right thing.

Today, we present  the story of the fine young fellow who currently runs the day-to-day COVID-19 response for Mr. Trump's Health and Human Services Department, thanks to a Reuters piece by Aram Roston and Marisa Taylor:

On January 21, the day the first U.S. case of coronavirus was reported, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services appeared on Fox News to report the latest on the disease as it ravaged China. Alex Azar, a 52-year-old lawyer and former drug industry executive, assured Americans the U.S. government was prepared....

Of course, it has proven to be the case that Mr. Trump's government was demonstrably not prepared at all.

But wait, there's more!

...Shortly after his televised comments, Azar tapped a trusted aide with minimal public health experience to lead the agency’s day-to-day response to COVID-19. The aide, Brian Harrison, had joined the department after running a dog-breeding business for six years. Five sources say some officials in the White House derisively called him “the dog breeder.”...


Where did the Glimmer Twins, Mess'rs Azar and Harrison, the fine fellows running the show actually come from?

...Azar is a Republican lawyer who once clerked for the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and counts current Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as a friend. Under George W. Bush, Azar worked for HHS as general counsel and deputy secretary. During the Obama years, he cycled through the private sector as a pharmaceutical company lobbyist and executive for Eli Lilly. After Trump’s first HHS secretary was forced out in a travel corruption scandal, Azar stepped in, in January 2018.

Two years later, at the dawn of the coronavirus crisis, Azar appointed his most trusted aide and chief of staff, Harrison, as HHS’s main coordinator for the government’s response to the virus.

Harrison, 37, was an unusual choice, with no formal education in public health, management, or medicine and with only limited experience in the fields. In 2006, he joined HHS in a one-year stint as a “Confidential Assistant” to Azar, who was then deputy secretary. He also had posts working for Vice President Dick Cheney, the Department of Defense and a Washington public relations company.

Before joining the Trump Administration in January 2018, Harrison’s official HHS biography says, he “ran a small business in Texas.” The biography does not disclose the name or nature of that business, but his personal financial disclosure forms show that from 2012 until 2018 he ran a company called Dallas Labradoodles.

The company sells Australian Labradoodles, a breed that is a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle. He sold it in April 2018, his financial disclosure form said. HHS emailed Reuters that the sale price was $225,000....


With the finest, most excellent 'best people' like that running things, what could possibly go wrong?

Subheader got you deja-vu'in'?....This.
Tip O' The Toque to Driftglass who wants everyone to remember that, in addition to the good Trumpists, the Republican Party is also full of, well....Republicans.


Thursday, April 23, 2020

America's Vaccine Scientist-In-Chief Fired For Being Pro Science.


It started as a somewhat bland and apparently bureaucratic item late Tuesday that a scientist named Rick Bright, the head of something called the 'Biomedical Advanced Research and Developmental Authority' in the States, had been sacked.

The original piece, by Nicholas Florko in the mass market biotech publication 'STAT News', hedged completely as to the 'why' for the firing. However, the following, buried way, way under the lede was of interest:

...Bright’s career has largely centered around vaccine and drug development. His work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focused on influenza viruses, antiviral drugs and tests. He has also worked in the biotechnology industry and served as an advisor to the World Health Organization. Before becoming BARDA director, he led the agency’s Influenza and Emerging Infectious Diseases Division...

And then, there was this, late yesterday from the the New York Times:

The doctor who led the federal agency involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine said on Wednesday that he was removed from his post after he pressed for a rigorous vetting of a coronavirus treatment embraced by President Trump. The doctor said that science, not “politics and cronyism,” must lead the way.

Dr. Rick Bright was abruptly dismissed this week as the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, and as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response...


...Dr. Bright, who is a career official, pointed specifically to the initial efforts to make chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine widely available before it was scientifically tested for efficacy with the coronavirus.

“Specifically, and contrary to misguided directives, I limited the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit,” he said.

“While I am prepared to look at all options and to think ‘outside the box’ for effective treatments, I rightly resisted efforts to provide an unproven drug on demand to the American public,” Dr. Bright said, describing what ultimately happened. “I insisted that these drugs be provided only to hospitalized patients with confirmed Covid-19 while under the supervision of a physician.

“These drugs have potentially serious risks associated with them, including increased mortality observed in some recent studies in patients with Covid-19.

“Sidelining me in the middle of this pandemic and placing politics and cronyism ahead of science puts lives at risk and stunts national efforts to safely and effectively address this urgent public health crisis,” Dr. Bright said...


It would appear that Dr. Bright was fired for doing the right thing and refusing to be a good Trumpist.

This, and not stupid stuff like how governors have been reduced to figuring out how to get Jared Kushner's cell phone number, should be the biggest story in American media for the next 5 or 7 news cycles.

Derek Lowe has this to say:

...Get to the bottom of this. Get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible. This is supposed to be a great nation, not a racket run by a bunch of smirking grifters...

Personally, I find it hard to argue with that.


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Things I Learned Today....


Academia Abhors A Vacuum...
Five, count 'em, five!...Zoom meetings today, which meant that I didn't actually start working on anything substantive until after 3 o'clock....And here's a slightly weirdish thing about this Zoom business...Because you don't actually get up and walk to a new place in between get togethers it's very easy to forget to make a trip to the washroom until it's too late...

The Kids (In The Lab) Are Alright...
Pretty much everything we do is 'wet bench' experimentation and, because we don't work on anything virus-related, we are shut down tight for the duration. This is really tough on the gradual students and post-docs in the lab because they can't generate any new data...However, during this morning's lab meeting two of those very same whippersnappers mentioned that they were takin advantage of the extra time to teach each other 'R', which is a very useful skill for anyone who analyzes data for a living to have, indeed...

Podcasts Have Ruined CBC Radio One For Me...
Seriously, why should I tune in to bland 'pitch-it-to-the-execs-to-win' shows with an angle that don't have the guts, or give their audience enough credit, to really dive deep into the crevices of said angle when I can find the latter, in spades, just by tapping my phone?...


Our Tuesday Pick...Drug Discovery Guy Derek Lowe.


Derek Lowe's 'In The Pipeline' blog has been over there on the left-side, post-rolling thingy for awhile now.

But, until I did a little digging, I had no idea that Lowe has been blogging since the dinosaur times (i.e. 2002).

As for his scientific work in the actual drug discovery field, well, he's been at that for even longer, given his PhD from Duke that was followed by significant stints at Vertex, Bayer, Schering-Plough and Novartis.

All of which, of course, makes him suspect for some who have an issue with big pharma.

Personally, as a science geek of a certain bent I've had enough tangential interactions with such entities over the years to always be wary of their intentions, particularly from a 'business' point of view. They are corporations after all.

However, I've never had any issues with the scientists in the trenches.

Regardless, in the years that I've been following Mr. Lowe's blogging I've found him to be a knowledgeable and insightful honest broker on anything he covers.

And lately he's been doing a bang-up job covering the development of potential COVID-19 intervention strategies.

Additionally, he can also really write, which means that you don't have to be in the game to understand what he has to say.

The following snippets are from a recent post titled 'What's happening with Remdesivir?' that I wish every broadcast and print media outlet with any reach at all would refer to every time some imbecile says something stupid regardless said imbecile's point of view:

Well, everyone was just dealing with the news that Gilead’s antiviral remdesivir had had two trials suspended in China, when Stat‘s Adam Feuerstein and Matthew Herper broke news last night about a trial here in the US....


...(N)ow that it’s out there, let’s talk about what’s in the leak. Gilead stock jumped like a spawning salmon in after-market trading on this, and one of the reasons was that that 113 of the 125 patients were classed as having “severe disease”. People ran with the idea that these must have been people on ventilators who were walking out of the hospital, but that is not the case. As AndyBiotech pointed out on Twitter, all you had to do was read the trial’s exclusion criteria: patients were not even admitted into the trial if they were on mechanical ventilation. Some will have moved on to ventilation during the trial, but we don’t know how many (the trial protocol has these in a separate group).

Note also that this trial is open-label; both doctors and patients know who is getting what, and note the really key point: there is no control arm. This is one of the trials mentioned in this post on small-molecule therapies as being the most likely to read out first, but it’s always been clear that the tradeoff for that speed is rigor. The observational paper that was published on remdesivir in the NEJM had no controls either, of course, and that made it hard to interpret. Scratch that, it made it impossible to interpret. It will likely be the same with this trial – the comparison is between a five-day course of remdesivir and a ten-day course, and the primary endpoint is the odds ratio for improvement between the two groups...


Bottom line: I’m sounding like a defective parrot here because I say this so often, but we have to wait for controlled trials in order to say anything definite. Such trials are underway, with actual comparisons to standard of care, but they take longer. Fast trials are generally not very interpretable, interpretable trials are generally not fast. I will be glad to see these numbers when they appear, but don’t believe anyone who runs with a “Cure for Covid!” headline, because it’s extremely unlikely that remdesivir (a single agent with a broad mechanisms that’s not optimized for this virus) is any such thing. Remember, there are as yet no single-small-molecule antiviral cures for anything, coronavirus or not. My hope for the drug is that it is effective enough to get people out of the hospitals more quickly and to keep more of them off ventilators than if they were not taking it. For that hope to be realized, we need that comparison to the people who are not taking it. This trial doesn’t have it.

You can get more very worthwhile stuff like that from recent posts on vaccine and small molecule/targeted therapy developments as well as a summation of recent hydroxychloroquine trials.

Bottom line for me? When I need a reality- and science-based check on all of this stuff I will always look to Dr. Lowe, not Oz or Phil.


Please note....As I've mentioned before, anti-viral drug development is most definitely not my field which is why I find Derek Lowe's perspective, rigour and expertise most helpful here.


Saturday, April 18, 2020

Our Saturday Pick...The Lumineers (Get Tiny).

Given how fast they got blow-out big I do realize that it is now easy for some to slag them.

But, regardless, they are good enough, in my estimation at least, to justify all that bigness.

Plus, I still really dig a small, but important, chunk of their origin story, as distilled and retold by Matt Driscoll in Seattle Weekly some time  ago now:

At 4:30 a.m. on a January morning in 2012, KEXP’s John Richards was looking for something awesome. As usual, a stack of CDs sat by his desk waiting to be scoured for songs that might fit on the indie radio station’s airwaves. KEXP estimates it gets 200 CDs through the mail every week, roughly 500 songs via e-mail, and about a dozen albums hand-delivered. That morning, one of those hand-delivered CDs came from Onto.

“Every once in a while, it happens,” Richards recalls of hearing “Ho Hey” for the first time. “I put it in and I was blown away. I couldn’t believe it. I thought, ‘This is one of the catchier songs I have ever heard, and it has the perfect formula of what’s kind of been building in the music industry.’”...


It was Richards’ decision to play “Ho Hey” not once, but twice—back-to-back—that morning that many mention as a turning point for the Lumineers. Richards would repeat his double play of “Ho Hey” throughout the week. “It’s maybe a few times a year you get something this tremendous,” he says. “As it’s playing I thought, ‘I’m totally playing that again.’ For some reason, it touched a nerve with people, in a good way.”...

That said, it turns out that an even bigger part of the band's origin story was the recording of a home video in 'this girl named Tracy's house' in Denver Colorado two years earlier:

On a snowy November day in 2010, Isaac Ravishankara went to see a band in Denver at “this girl named Tracy’s house.” After hearing one song, Ravishankara was so moved by the impromptu vibe of the moment and the rapt attention of the couple dozen people in attendance that he ventured to his car to retrieve his video camera.

“You can just feel it sometimes,” Ravishankara says of the performance. “It was very spur-of-the-moment.”

The band was young, not long removed from the New York music scene from which it had escaped to Denver. There was little footage of the band online. As a favor, Ravishankara uploaded to his YouTube page...

Of course, as you may have guessed, an A&R guy saw the kitchen party video of 'Ho, Hey' and the rest is history.

Here is that video...


Friday, April 17, 2020

My Outrage Meter Runneth Over.


I don't know about you all, but I have been doing my best to keep my outrage meter hidden in the closet for the duration.

However, this, just in from Michael Shear and Sarah Mervosh, writing in the NYTimes, is just too much:

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday openly encouraged right-wing protests of social distancing restrictions in states with stay-at-home orders, a day after announcing guidelines for how the nation’s governors should carry out an orderly reopening of their communities on their own timetables.

In a series of all-caps tweets that started two minutes after a Fox News report on the protesters, the president declared, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” — two states whose Democratic governors have imposed strict social distancing restrictions. He also lashed out at Virginia, where the state’s Democratic governor and legislature have pushed for strict gun control measures, saying: “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

His stark departure from the more bipartisan tone of his announcement on Thursday night suggested Mr. Trump was ceding any semblance of national leadership on the pandemic, and choosing instead to divide the country by playing to his political base.

Echoed across the internet and on cable television by conservative pundits and ultraright conspiracy theorists, his tweets were a remarkable example of a president egging on demonstrators and helping to stoke an angry fervor that in its anti-government rhetoric was eerily reminiscent of the birth of the Tea Party movement a decade ago...

This is fascism, plain and simple.

And anyone who normalizes these words, actions and deeds, by going along to get along, even if their intentions are noble, is just making it worse.

And by anyone, at this point I have to very reluctantly, with great regret, include Anthony Fauci.


Please note: I removed all of the Gray Lady's links to Mr. Trump's tweets in the passage above on purpose.
Meanwhile, Washington governor Jay Inslee has responded by saying Mr Trump is fomenting domestic rebellion.


Our Friday Pick....Dee Dee Says.

"I Wanna Do 'I Don't Wanna Go Down To The Basement' Too!"

From one of their first bickerfests, otherwise known as a 15 minute set at CBGB's, in September of 1974...

After the show, proprietor Hilly Kristal told them they were terrible just before he invited them back....I guess maybe he had a problem with Joey's leg kicks and/or Johnny's shirtlessness, or some such thing.

When he saw/heard them do the same tune in 1975, Seymour Stein signed them to Sire Records, pretty much on the spot, after first relenting to Johnny's demand of a $3,000 advance so they could buy some decent equipment.

Pretty soon, all the kids were tryin' to  do it...

And by 1977?

Well, by then the evolution of the band and the uniform were both complete...


Thursday, April 16, 2020

Canadian Media Are Not Immune To The Trumpeting Of The Stupid.



I don't give a hoot-in-heckfire about the 'debunking-by-an-expert' theme of a story like the one trumpeted above.


Because running a lede like the following below the header shown above only serves to legitimize complete codswallop such that it can later be used to germinate the seeds of the worst kind of behaviour (like, for example, this):

CALGARY -- An Alberta father, who was charged with the death of his toddler son for failing to seek professional medical care, says the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax, meant to bring on "fancy new vaccines."

David Stephan posted about his views on COVID-19 on social media, claiming facts and figures about the illness are 'falsely inflated.'

"I can't help but state it as I see it… a HOAX!!! A hoax that is being used to usher in a one-world government, with a digital currency and some fancy new vaccines that you will have the chance to experience, whether you like it or not," he wrote....


And please note that this story was not generated by an extremist site.

Instead, it is coming from a mainstream corporate media organization desperate for a click-gathering 'news' angle.

Personally, I believe that this kind of egregious behaviour has to stop.

Because rotting garbage is just that.

And rotting garbage should always be dismissed out of hand rather than de-odorized through debate.

I mean, just the fact that this 'news' organization decided to seek out an expert to provide a counter factual means that some folks of a certain bent will now see this as a matter of opinion rather than as a matter of actual, you know, fact.



Our Thursday Pick...'No Dogs In Space' - Deep Diving 10 Punk Bands That Mattered.


Our pick today is an audio series from 'The Last Podcast' franchise.

I wouldn't even know about it if it wasn't for Bigger E's recommendation and yet, I am now fully hooked.

It's informative, entertaining, and the level of detail is incredible.

Also, the kibbitzing between real life partners Marcus Parks and Carolina Hidalgo really grows on you.

It started with eight hours on the Stooges spread out over four episodes and now they're into the Ramones.

In between there were slightly shorter mini-series on The Damned and Suicide, pictured above.

I had no idea that the two guys in the band that freaked out so many while they simultaneously synergized with Kraftwerk were also, well, nice.  Additionally, in the Suicide series you really get a feeling for the crazed, art-collective, music-mad, human and physically decaying world that was lower Manhattan in pre/proto-punk's earliest 1970's days.

Anyway, this one's for Mr. Beer  'N Hockey because I reckon the drive to and from the sawmill everyday will take up just about one episode.....



The only issue which is that this podcast series is on the evil Spotify empirage.

However, you can also get in through  the still-free RSS-driven LibSys site if you like...

Dig It!


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

What A Difference A Border Makes.


The state of Michigan has a population of just under 10 million compared to Canada's 37.5 million.

Unfortunately, despite having less than one-third the number of peopleMichigan now has approximately the same number of reported COVID-19 cases as Canada (~28,000).

Even more unfortunately, Michigan has almost twice the number of reported COVID-19 deaths as Canada (1,921 vs 1,010).

As a result, and not surprisingly, the governor of Michigan, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, has not yet lifted stringent statewide lockdown orders.

And how have Michigan Republicans responded?


Which just goes to show...

Both sides most definitely don't.

So, where is this stuff coming from?....Well, would it surprise you to know that 'Lock Her Up!' was the chant of non-socially distanced protesters on the steps of the Michigan state house earlier today?


Our Wednesday Pick....Waltzing Matilda.


The concert, above, shot in its entirety, is from the summer of 1976, performed in the land of a still-then-young, just barely post-run Springsteen, Asbury Park, New Jersey.

In other words, it occurred just before Mr. Scorsese turned The Band into, as Levon Helm later said, 'Robbie Robertson and His Sidemen'.

And, as (the) one YouTube commenter (that ever made sense) wrote...'This is the Holy Grail of The Band Bootlegs'.

Dig It!

And, ya, I know it was actually four-to-one....But I figured it made for a good 'Cripple Creek'-inspired turn of subheader phrase...
Oh, and as for that first sentence (of the post)....The comment quotient, though.... A record, I reckon, even for this place...I think that this enforced homestay is starting to get to me...For instance, I had no idea that I'm actually allergic to our cat...


Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Grandstanding During A Crisis...Dumb And Dumber.


Apparently, the leader of the the B.C. Liberal Party, Andrew Wilkinson, has a problem with John Horgan leaving things to the competent professionals.

Here is the good Mr. Wilkinson asking a question on Mo Amir's local Lotuslandian podcast recently:

"Where's John Horgan?"

Interestingly, as soon as he asks said question Mr. Wilkinson immediately answers it.


"Well, about once a week they trot him out with something that seems to be almost marginal. And yet, every Premier and Governor in North America is on TV, radio, the Web every day talking about the status in their community and talking about what needs to get done."


I guess Mr. Wilkinson wishes Mr. Horgan would just get out there and muddy the waters with super-fine, uber-leadersbraumish, de-regulatory, wrexskittish pronouncements like, say, this:

Albertans should have access to COVID-19 tests, medicines and vaccines approved by trusted regulators in other countries, Premier Jason Kenney says.

On Monday, Kenney said products approved by European or American health regulators should be available for use in Alberta even while awaiting Health Canada's approval.

"The direction I've given our officials is if we see a highly credible regulator, medications in a peer jurisdiction like the European Union, Australia or the United States that has approved a test or a vaccine or medication, we should pursue that," he said on CBC's Power and Politics. "We should not wait for Health Canada to catch up."...


Update: Bob Mackin weighs in in the comments, noting that Mr. Amir's pod is a favourite and, apparently, friendly place for the good Mr. Wilkinson to make pronouncements unchallenged....Case in point previously?....This.


Our Tuesday Pick....Not Your Grandpa's Favourite Uncle.


The image above features Mortimer Hearseberg, a 1948 Buick Roadmaster that carried Neil Young and the Squires around central Canada in the mid-60's before it crossed over the great divide in Blind River near Sudbury, Ontario in 1965.

Anyway, these days, especially given that I've cut my caffeine consumption considerably, sometimes I need an aural kick in the pants to get going in the morning.

This, where uncle Neil joins and jams individually with every single member of Pearl Jam, does it every time...

Young is running some really great stuff over on his shambolic and massive archive pretty much everyday...I especially enjoy the homespun 'Fireside Sessions'.
Oh, and just in case you didn't know until you dug into it (or you are my brother) like I did....'Mort' is not the same hearse that carried Young to Los Angeles for that fateful meeting with Mr. Stills on Sunset...


Monday, April 13, 2020

Our Very Last Easter Weekend Pick....Brawling With The Bunny.


This time last year a fracas broke out on the streets outside the Florida mouse house and the Easter Bunny had to step in:

A man in an Easter Bunny suit hopped to the defense of a woman and started throwing punches during a brawl Sunday night in Orlando, Florida, that was captured on video.

Bunny bystander Antoine McDonald insisted that he had no choice but to join the fray after seeing the woman getting punched...


This year, impersonator Frank Caliendo overdubbed video of the 'event' (in which no one was hurt) with play-by-play and colour commentary from Pat Summerall and John Madden, respectively (make sure your sound is on - it's worth it).

That is all.


Our Monday Pick....'Unspooled'


Lots of podcasts cover the blockbusters, or the newest, or the worst, or the artsiest, or even the indyest.

But few dig into the best.

The best movies that is.

'Unspooled' is one podcast that does try to do just that, using the AFI's top 100 as a jumping off point and then riffing all over the place.

It's hosted by the near ubiquitous, just-below-the-scattering-waves comic Paul Scheer, who I know from 'The League' and the later seasons of 'Veep', as well as Amy Nicholson, an actual film critic with a POV so subversive (read: sane)  that the culture warrior-worry-wart-wearers at 'The Federalist' take great offense:

...While many of her hot takes are terrible, it’s her personal politics that really make her unbearable. Nicholson fills in her lack of interesting things to say about movies with incredibly self-righteous posturing as a “feminist hero to the film industry.”

From her soapbox, she often cites the lack of ethnic and sexual diversity in movies on the AFI’s list, with little acknowledgement of the era in which they were created. She has made several allusions to her strong distaste for President Trump, and once referred to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as “the ultimate ringwraith” while reviewing “The Lord of The Rings.” The more she finds confidence in her role as a left-wing crusader, the less she talks about films...

If only for that Ms. Nichoson would be worth listening to, but she's also really good, especially when she acts as the fearless foil to Mr. Scheer's often more old-fashioned, if good-natured, take on things.

Their latest dissection is 1969's 'Easy Rider', which is #.... on the AFI list:

You can take a listen here.

In addition, if your livestream dance card for this evening is not yet quite full you can join in this evening starting at 5:30 pm Lotusland/Pacific time on the 'Earwolf' Youtube channel to hear Nicholson, Scheer and various friends as well as influential aunts and uncles discuss 'Clueless'...
Personally, I'm a little conflicted about what is now the 'Earwolf' auditory sprawl....To be clear, all of their recent stuff is still free and it is not nearly as bad as that stitched-together, ten million megaton cochlear implant that also controls the entire music industry but, still, what was once a scrappy little start-up built on a content-aggregation-by-partnership model soon rolled itself into a mirrored advertiser aggregator before selling the entire chimera to EW Scripps and Co....It's important to realize that, like linear blogging before it, the salad days of a multi-dimensional, free-form RSS-caught podcasting universe were over before we even realized it.


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Our Late Night Easter Sunday Pick...Nardwuarology.


This just in, five years ago, from Jeff Cardello and his fellow snarkoleptics at 'The Hard Times':

JERUSALEM— Nardwuar, the Human Serviette, known for his well-researched interviews and thoughtful gifts for his interviewees shocked his latest subject, Jesus Christ, with the original pressing of the Ten Commandment Tablets, amazed sources confirmed.

“I opened the interview the same way I always do by thrusting my microphone into my guest’s face and asking, ‘Who are you?’ said Nardwaur following his time with the lamb of God. “So there is Jesus, bearded and gentle-eyed and he responds ‘I am He, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of God.’ You could tell he had no idea what was about to happen.”

Jesus’ fanbase has swelled to billions in the last 2000 years and many people feel like the time is right for his return.

“You know, man, I’ve really just been focusing on my carpentry but, when the time is right, I will come again,” Jesus responded. “Today I wanted to take a break from cleansing the sins of the world and just have some fun. Nardwuar is a really solid dude.”

Nardwuar had an assortment of gifts that he sprung upon Jesus throughout the interview. Things started out slowly, with Jesus not quite knowing what to make of a 7” from the Canadian hardcore group D.O.A. However, the son of God’s level of excitement did grow as Nardwuar revealed each successive gift.

“When I busted out the Shroud of Turin Jesus looked so excited I thought he was about to blow a gasket,” said Nardwaur. “I had to call in a lot of favors to get that, but it was all worth it to see the look on his face.”...


What makes the local iconographicalogical front man of The Evaporators tick?

Well, it turns out that Kevin Sexton of Canadaland first put together an oral history of Snoop Dog's favourite Canadian and then actually got the only decent long form interview I've ever heard from the man previously known as John Ruskin...

Dig It!

Need more?....Here's the most recent Snoop-Nard accord.


Our Sunday Long Weekendish Pick...'The Best Show'.


Tom Scharpling, the guy behind 'The Best Show', which he started on Philadelphia's free-form WFMU back in the earliest days of the millenium and used to archive for on-demand interwebz playback on that old warhorse, 'Real Player', just may be the real godfather of podcasting.


TS, talking to his various and assorted sundry assemblage of wastrels and weirdos, is back!

Except these days Scharpling roams around Southern California with a sterilized 25 foot length of co-axial cable that he throws out his car window so that he can safely talk to his next victim at a distance, which he did recently with that other garage band conversational Joe-Schmoe visionary  (i.e. the Strummer to his Ramone?), Marc Maron and the latter's super-sharp lockdown partner, film director Lynn Shelton.

Dig it!

And, returning to something serious for a moment...As more trial data starts to come in, the hydroxychloroquine story remains as murky as ever...Derek Lowe, a knowledgeable and proven honest broker on such matters, has the latest update.


Friday, April 10, 2020

John Prine - We Miss Him Already.


Ummm, Mr. Spotify, actually, no....


As I'm sure you have heard, John Prine passed away last week:

From Fiona Whelan Prine...

Our beloved John died yesterday evening at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville TN. We have no words to describe the grief our family is experiencing at this time. John was the love of my life and adored by our sons Jody, Jack and Tommy, daughter in law Fanny, and by our grandchildren.

John contracted Covid-19 and in spite of the incredible skill and care of his medical team at Vanderbilt he could not overcome the damage this virus inflicted on his body.

I sat with John - who was deeply sedated- in the hours before he passed and will be forever grateful for that opportunity.

My dearest wish is that people of all ages take this virus seriously and follow guidelines set by the CDC. We send our condolences and love to the thousands of other American families who are grieving the loss of loved ones at this time - and to so many other families across the world.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the outpouring of love we have received from family, friends, and fans all over the world. John will be so missed but he will continue to comfort us with his words and music and the gifts of kindness, humor and love he left for all of us to share...


Bigger E. and I had already been working on a particular JP tune for awhile, but now she thinks we should, perhaps, move a little deeper into his catalogue given that just about everyone in the folk world is covering this one now.

Regardless, I really like our ramshackle, mess around version. So, here it is....

If you want to hear Mr. Prine talk all about his art, his life and his method, Marc Maron has their conversation from 2016 up right now....Oh, and just in case you missed it, on his latest Maron actually plays Angel pretty much right through on his own guitar, which is the kind of thing he, the noted riff mangler, pretty much never does...
If you want to read about how and why Mr. Prine has become so important to about a zillion, gazillion singer-songwriter types, Jason Isbell tells you all about it in the New York Times...
As for that other tune to cover from deeper into the Prine catalogue?.... E. figures 'Come Back To Us Barbara Lewis Hare Krishna Beauregard' just might be the ticket....Stay tuned, because it could show up in our upcoming livestream thingy....


Our Friday Pick Of The Good....Sqwabb.


Stanley Q. Woodvine, pictured above*,  writes and lives rough by choice in, mostly from what I can tell, the Fairview area of central Lotusland.

And when you read Stanley's stuff, either on his blog or his twitter feed, which he calls Sqwabb, you can see how hard homeless folks have to work just get through the days and, especially, sometimes, the nights.

I mean, so incredibly hard that I can't actually really imagine it.

But you can also see the joy and the beauty and the mundanity and the humanity and the camaraderie and the pathos and the poetry and, sometimes, even the good deeds for no immediately apparent reason at all*...

*The image at the top of the post is from Chris Cheung's excellent profile of Mr. Woodvine in the Tyee in which it is revealed that he has been wiping down/sanitizing the recycling bin handles in an effort to try and help keep other binners safe.
When you read Stanley's stuff sometimes, even though he generally does not trumpet it, you can also see how easily we, the people with walls, etc. can be jerks to those less fortunate.
I get the 'SQW' part of Sqwabb but I have no idea what's up with the 'BB' part...
Oh, and before I (and the new publishers) forget....SQW also writes great stuff for the Georgia Strait as well.
Tip O' The Toque to reader Glen for his long ago heads-up on this one.