I've changed. I've gone sane. Ain't no king of mean no mo'.

My inner Leona Helmsey has been replaced by a kinder, gentler bitch, uh, I mean, PERSON. I am now a Stepford Wife with a by-line, a crowd-pleasing zombie with faraway eyes, a veritable and charitable dork of love saying only nice things nicely so nice readers sleep nicely in their nice houses and preserve their nice delusions of their nice neighborhood. Isn't this what you wanted, Clintonville?

Thanks to a weeks-long, Comfest-ordered stint in summer re-education camp (hate speech wing), I am now, ahem, safe. Neutered of doing violence to others' self-esteem, like Alex in A Clockwork Orange, I am but a thesaurus of only praise most positive. The life of abusive honesty has been lobotomized right out of my head like Nicholson's Mac MacMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I could no more write a negative review than spank a cute little puppy, drown a kitten, eat at McDonald's or shop at Wal-Mart. I am correct politically. Though technically I am for all practical purposes dead as a door nail, I have seen the light. Yes, lord. And the light is good. For it let's me eat.

Because that's what the Great Schoolmarm wants.

You can imagine my sick feeling when I got to camp and saw it was run by a Candy Wadkins/Nurse Ratchett-type. My heart sank like Sinatra's "Maggio" in From Here To Eternity when the troublesome Army private entered the brig and saw his old nemesis, the brutal sergeant Judson played by burly Ernest Borgnine. But thanks to intensive re-programming, re-indoctrination and forced viewing of MSNBC, I was transformed. I ain't gonna rain on nobody's parade no mo', I promise.  

I blame my mother for the way I was. How many readers have written me over the years those reproachful words: "Didn't your mother ever tell you if you don't have something good to say, don't say anything"? Well, no. She never said that. What she did do and say everyday after elementary school when I walked home from Charlotte Avenue Elementary in Hamburg New York was to stand in the doorway of our modest bungalow bought with sooty steel company money and say through the screen door, "Tell me something funny, Johnny Boy, or I ain't lettin' you in until "Combat!" is over," my favorite TV show with my hero, the tommy-gun wielding Sgt. Saunders played by Vic Morrow, shootin' up the Germans in France, circa 1944. So, I amused her.
Invariably she liked my pope and pollack jokes (she was a fallen Catholic) as well as my Truman Capote and Nelson Rockefeller imitations. A toxic pattern of survival was established. (See Gordon Gee, retiree but reeducated?).

No matter. Transformation is complete. I am safe. When it comes to music reviewing, there will be mercy for mediocrities.

So, now the Black Crowes do rock, Garth Brooks is a genius, Rush are cool, Joan Baez is the New Dylan, Billy Joel ain't a turd, the Grateful Dead aren't scum, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have got soul AND groove, Lady Gaga is original, the Columbus Jazz Orchestra is adventurous, jam bands don't suck and hip-hop is, like, totally awesome, particularly the magnificent Kanye West.

And I believed in hope and change.