Friday, February 29, 2008

Total Lunar Eclipse - February 20, 2008

People-powered video, courtesy of YouTube and an amateur astronomer using stop-motion photography.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

William F. Buckley, Jr.: An Appreciation

William F. Buckley, Jr. died yesterday. He had been a part of my life for so long that it hardly seems credible he's gone. I was reminded of a story about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. The story is that when Joan Crawford died, Bette Davis said, "Now that Joan is dead I can say something good about her. Joan is dead. Good."
For reasons best left unsaid, I was watching Fox News Channel when they aired a "tribute" to Buckley. The tribute consisted of a series of still images for about thirty seconds. That was it. The man who was the public face of conservatism between the Goldwater debacle of 1964 and the election of Nixon in 1968; who championed Ronald Reagan when the former governor of California was still widely regarded as an unelectable loon; who swallowed his considerable pride and publicly praised Rush Limbaugh after Limbaugh surpassed him in influence; who had stood his ground, however wrongheaded such effort may have been, as the conservative movement left him; and who was famed for his articulate defense of his beliefs, was not allowed even a few posthumous words. It was exactly what he deserved. He had become a name and nothing more, derided as senile by his own political offspring once he criticized George W. Bush.
Like George Will, only in the pompous precincts of inside-the-Beltway politics could Buckley have been considered an intellectual. On any decent campus he would have been just another blowhard of above-average IQ and above-average self-regard. But in the sixties, he was adopted by the then-dominant moderate Democratic elite as their pet conservative, since he was not the pathetic ignoramus that typified the conservative movement of the mid-sixties (e.g., Robert Welch, whom in fact Buckley condemned in 1965, and George Wallace, whom he chastised on Firing Line in 1968). "But he's so articulate," people would say, and John Kenneth Galbraith among others became his friend. Buckley parlayed this opportunity into a prominent position as a commentator on TV, then during the Reagan administration was seen as a sort of John the Baptist figure, a voice that had been crying in the wilderness, now justified by the arrival of a savior.
But those pathetic ignorami who were then and are now the true heart of the conservative movement had the last laugh, as that Fox News tribute showed. Pushed aside at the very time the conservative movement had reach its greatest power ever, aging, in poor health, Buckley was far from vital and far from the center of the movement he had devoted his professional life to promoting. What he worked for had come to him; then it pushed him away.
The writer Larry L. King spent a few days with Buckley around 1965 and then wrote about the experience. The denouement is when Buckley publicly and angrily calls King a son of a bitch when he very obviously misunderstands a joke that King has made. King concludes the piece by saying in effect that only someone who has lived a hopelessly sheltered, and rather self-centered, life could behave as Buckley does. That was always true of the man. In his private life, where for all I know he may have been a true gentleman, there may well be those who will miss him. In the public arena where he proudly made his name, on both right and left, there will be none.
After I wrote this, I came across this post by tristero at Hullabaloo. And here's Glenn Greenwald's take, a fairly comprehensive overview of Buckley's life and career, plus his relationship to the conservative movement of today.
And after first publishing this post, I came across James Wolcott's piece.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mildred Bailey - Lazy Bones

Happy Birthday, Mildred Bailey, you would have been 101 today. Let her be remembered as an excellent singer and as a cultural marker in our nation's fiercely contentious racial history.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

Glenn Greenwald Rules our World

Well, not the way that Matt Drudge rules Mark Halperin's world, but still. As usual, he's got the goods.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

There Will be Blood Movie Trailer

I guess I fall into the group that thinks "glorious mess" when trying to describe "There Will be Blood." I absolutely loved "Boogie Nights," so I'm hardly a Paul Thomas Anderson hater, but I just thought this movie was a bunch of loosely connected bright spots. On the other hand, considering how much lazy crap comes out of our movie industry, it's hard to fault a movie that features serious consideration of timely themes and has solid acting. Let's see if DDL gets his second Oscar tonight.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Allman Brothers with Duane at Fillmore East

Just a guitar player's note: at no point during either of Daune's solos do you get a clear shot of him playing that solo. Sigh.

Friday, February 22, 2008

John Coltrane - I Want to Talk About You (Live)

John Coltrane is almost more of a name than a presence now. Beloved by bohos of every generation for over forty years, his reputation as an uncompromising trailblazer is fully earned, but misleading. Like, say, William Shakespeare, one of Coltrane's more impressive features as an artist was his emotional range. In other words, he didn't just do one thing brilliantly, he could do a lot of different things. Here he shows what he could do when playing a ballad. It's beautiful in every old-fashioned sense of the word, but he never stops being Coltrane.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cats on Monday

Humorous Pictures
moar humorous pics

Today we present an offering from Bizarro World, where Friday Cat Blogging takes place on Mondays.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

For the Times, They Are...well, you know the rest

The fact that some people on the right think that Frank Rich is a hard-core liberal is merely one more example of how far removed they are from reality, but his column today does a nice job of summarizing how some of our cultural changes are driving our political changes.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Mamas & The Papas - Safe In My Garden

"Safe In My Garden" dates from the end of the classic period of the Mamas & The Papas (1965-1968), and is from the last album they released at the time. It's not John Phillips's most earwormy song, but for that reason it's played less often, and it's still very good. The elegiac tone suits the mood of both the band (on the verge of splitting apart) and the nation (on the verge of splitting apart) in the spring of 1968. Correspondingly, the lyrics speak of a need for refuge in a time of pain and chaos. The voice of Cass Elliott when she sings "Take us away" is still a small bit of transcendence forty years later, and the biggest reason I keep coming back to this song.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Jacques Brel - The Desperate Ones (Les Désespérés)

Technically this recording is not by Jacques Brel--it's from the original cast recording of the Off-Broadway show "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris," from I think 1968. But as the show's title indicates, it's all about Brel, the songwriter, and introducing him to an English-speaking audience. This is one of his quiet pieces, but Brel's most pronounced characteristics--"pretty" music supporting a grim view of human existence--are fully evident.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bob Weir - Playing In The Band

This song dates from when Robert Hunter was still Weir's lyricist as well as Garcia's. Today it has some personal resonance for me.

Monday, February 11, 2008


It's a short clip, but may give you an idea of the film, if'n you haven't seen it. About 1965, Woody Allen wrote new dialogue for a Japanese martial-arts/spy movie. This is a sample of the results.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

James Booker - Blues Minuet / Until The Real Thing Comes Along / Baby Won't You Please Come Home

Everything you've ever heard about New Orleans piano players is true, and in the case of James Booker even truer. Here he strings together three different moods into one coherent piece of music. For more info, here is his AMG entry.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Thanks, my blood wasn't already boiling--part 10

Being the sophisticated speculators that they are, in their free time they went off the play the slot machines.

Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grapelli

Another guitarist. Django was a favorite of, among others, B. B. King in his formative years. Probably the first non-American to get respect as a jazz musician, along with his frequent partner the violinist Stephane Grappelli. I don't have time to post AMG and Wikipedia links, but if you're curious about him definitely go learn more.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Oops 3

I forgot to post today! That's what happens when your schedule goes arsy-varsy. Here, go read some Wolcott. Hard to go wrong there.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

nada - yet again

If you're in a jurisdiction where there's voting, go out and vote. Otherwise, nothing today.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Howlin' Wolf - Shake For Me

This song is a great reminder that among his many other strengths, in the fifties Howlin' Wolf had a great band.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Altered Images - Happy Birthday (1981)

Geez, all the other bloggists are linking to YouTube to showcase their favorite early-eighties music videos, and I don't wanna be left out. Here's one I always liked from the early MTV days.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Groundhog Day

Spirit plays a song about groundhogs, or Groundhog Day, or something. Enjoy.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Friday - Cats

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

As a blogger, I am contractually required to post a set number of images from every month.