Sunday, November 30, 2008

Beethoven - Quartet in A Minor op. 132 I. Allegro -- The Italian Quartet

Since I didn't post yesterday, it's a two-fer today. Enjoy.

Wolcott on the Real World

James Wolcott usually adopts a, shall we say, airy tone about matters great and small. But when he does get serious, he's always worth reading. For those of us from blue-collar backgrounds, this incident carries a special resonance.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Voice in the Wilderness, Kinda

"Black Friday," indeed. Paul Krugman is, as usual, at least one step ahead of the people who are actually in charge of making the big decisions about our economy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Have a great day. Even if you're not in the USA, even if you don't have turkey today, think of something in your life for which you're thankful and have a great day -- it's non-denominational.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

William Kristol, Self-Made Man

This is a story that deserves to be better known.

I remember back in the late '90s when Ira Katznelson, an eminent political scientist at Columbia, came to deliver a guest lecture to an economic philosophy class I was taking. It was a great lecture, made more so by the fact that the class was only about ten or twelve students and we got got ask all kinds of questions and got a lot of great, provocative answers. Anyhow, Prof. Katznelson described a lunch he had with Irving Kristol back either during the first Bush administration. The talk turned to William Kristol, then Dan Quayle's chief of staff, and how he got his start in politics. Irving recalled how he talked to his friend Harvey Mansfield at Harvard, who secured William a place there as both an undergrad and graduate student; how he talked to Pat Moynihan, then Nixon's domestic policy adviser, and got William an internship at The White House; how he talked to friends at the RNC and secured a job for William after he got his Harvard Ph.D.; and how he arranged with still more friends for William to teach at UPenn and the Kennedy School of Government. With that, Prof. Katznelson recalled, he then asked Irving what he thought of affirmative action. "I oppose it", Irving replied. "It subverts meritocracy."

Hat tip to DHinMI at DailyKos.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Know Your Current Events Civics

So how well do you know the basics of US government and history? Take the quiz.

H/t to BarbinMD @ DailyKos.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Emru Townsend

Some people are just born to make a difference. I never met Emru Townsend, who spent his entire life in Montreal, but am on an e-mail list on which he was one of the most popular members. Apparently that was par for the course: he was a member of many communities, virtual and meat-world, and made friends in all of them. (His enthusiasms were often those of the eighties-era bright teenager that he once was: gaming, computers, anime, etc.) He was a published writer, which expanded the reach of his many enthusiasms. When someone is intelligent, energetic, knowledgeable, and considerate, that is a powerful combination.

Below is a list of several online tributes to Emru, compiled by his sister. Please read them.

The Chronicle.

The Mirror:


Cartoon Brew (with links to others)

PC World


Eyestrain Productions

There are some more blogs and articles and there are quite a few if
you go to Google News and do a quick search.


Emru Townsend was diagnosed with leukemia last year, and was advised to seek a bone marrow transplant as quickly as possible. His friends said that it was characteristic of Emru that, on finding out that his African-Caribbean ancestry meant that it would be much harder to find a donor, due to the under-representation of that group in the bone marrow donor registry, he began to campaign for greater awareness of the registry program. He knew that it probably would not make a substantial difference in his own case, but that it would improve the lives of others in the future.

Emru Townsend died earlier this month. He had eventually found a bone marrow donor, but the disease had progressed too far. He leaves behind his son, his wife, his sister, other family members, a seemingly endless group of friends, and, thanks to his presence in it, a slightly better world.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22, 1968

The Beatles' eponymous double LP, usually known as the White Album because of its cover design, came out forty years ago today. Time sure flies when you're having fun.

To mark the occasion, here's the second song, with a snippet of the first (a jet landing) at the beginning just to show that nothing in this world is perfect.

I once saw Siouxsie and the Banshees play this song live, and it's worth noting that they used almost exactly the same arrangement. No surprise--this may be one of the best song arrangements you'll ever hear. Every part adds something to the overall effect. And there are a lot of parts, but the song never feels cluttered.

Friday, November 21, 2008

November 21, 1963

I was surprised to see that the speech he gave at Brooks Air Force Base was only about nine minutes long. When I was ten years old, leaning against a lamp post and watching him deliver it, the speech seemed to last a million years. I remember that the wind, which you can see in this clip blowing the flags almost straight out, was moving his hair around. When it was all over my father took my brother and me back home, having done his duty as he saw it, taking his children to see the president of the United States. The next day on the schoolyard after lunch some of the children who had gone home to eat, and been around the TV or radio, said that he had been shot. On some deep level, it still makes no sense to me at all. Perhaps that's the point.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Carrie Fisher in Shampoo

Watched this movie again recently, I suppose because it takes place mostly on election day, when a crucial changeover from a president who had become increasingly unpopular takes place. Not that I think the parallels hold up otherwise.

I'd forgotten that the movie (set in 1968, made in 1975) was Carrie Fisher's debut. It may be the saddest comedy ever made.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Life in the Music Biz

Peter Holsapple, alternative rock icon/fixture/whatever, tells true tales about songwriting in the NY Times, either on an irregular schedule or else on a schedule that I haven't figured out. Today he explains what it's like to pour your heart out, as well as your time and energy, and get, basically, bupkus. Or in other words, what the music business is like for most people most of the time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sir Douglas Quintet - I'm Glad For Your Sake (But I'm Sorry For Mine)

Doug Sahm's life came to an end nine years ago today. To celebrate his life and career, here is one of his re-creations of the rhythm and blues that he played as a teenager.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Don Gibson, Songwriter

The great country music songwriter Don Gibson died five years ago today. The best-known version of one of his songs is probably Ray Charles's version of "I Can't Stop Loving You," although Patsy Cline's recording of "Sweet Dreams" is up there too. Here's one of my favorite versions of "Oh, Lonesome Me."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Your Weekly Address from the President-Elect

I love the twenty-first century. The traditional weekly radio address, broadcast every Saturday, becomes a weekly video available to anyone with an Internet connection, at any time.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Deep Thought. No, Really.

The world would be a very different place if stupid people could not be dangerous.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Economic Disaster and the Way Out - Krugman

FWIW, what I like most about Krugman is that under all that erudition seems to be a plain-spoken, sensible, and even kind human being. Here he explains what sort of strategy (as opposed to tactics) in dealing with the economic crisis is most likely to yield results.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mitch Mitchell RIP

Mitch Mitchell, who died yesterday, was an indispensable member of the trio in which Jimi Hendrix first came to public prominence. Like Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, he was an English jazz freak who moved into the more popular rock and roll realm. His skill as a drummer made it possible for him to provide a counterpoint to Hendrix's guitar playing that few could have matched.

Here is an example of his driving power and dexterity; while here he shows with equal dexterity how, unlike most of the famous rock-era drummers, he could play softly without disappearing into thin air.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A "Post-Racial" America

I would love to believe that Obama's election signaled a post-racial America, and in some parts of the country this may be true -- but not everywhere. A New York Times reporter spoke to some political science professors, and then some Southern voters, about what's going on in some parts of the South.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Zakaria on Republican Foreign Policy

Since I generally more or less disagree with Fareed Zakaria, it's only fair to note the occasion when I think he's right.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Frank Rich Explains The Latest Things

So what just happened?

The festive scenes of liberation that Dick Cheney had once imagined for Iraq were finally taking place — in cities all over America.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

James Booker 1939-1983

The great -- make that astounding -- New Orleans piano player James Booker died twenty-five years ago today. I've posted some of his music before, but it's hard to have too much Booker. So here's some more.

I was already planning this post when I stumbled across Sal Nunziato's appreciation of Booker, which definitely deserves a link.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Why Rahm?

Tom Watson on why Rahm Emanuel is a good choice for Obama's White House chief of staff. Not sure I agree, but he makes an interesting, and well-informed, point.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fox News: Palin didn't know Africa was a continent

Hat tip to Undercover Black Man and to ksh01 at DailyKos. And to give credit where credit is due, this is coming from Fox. News. Channel. Maybe it's not a newfound sign of attempted impartiality on the part of Fox so much as it is a shot fired in the civil war among the Republicans, with Fox taking the anti-Palin side, but I'll take it either way.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Why We Fight

Hat tip to Al Giordano at The Field. I posted the full version of this song back in August, so I'm happy to see it being used in this way.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Whither the Republicans?

I think, as usual, Krugman nails it.

Why don't more political commentators say things like this? The answer, my friend, is biblical: there is none so blind as he [or she] who will not see. And their incentive for not seeing is simple -- it makes their lives easier. Krugman will be described by some on the Right as "hate-filled" for saying these things. Other political commmentators don't want to feel that heat, so they don't say such things. Interestingly, they also seem to keep themselves from even thinking such things.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Goodbye Hank Hill

King of the Hill Shuts Down

Many years ago a man who grew up in London told me that most Americans didn't really get Andy Capp, because they didn't know anything about Cockneys. At the time Andy Capp was funny (like I said, this was years ago) but a little impenetrable. Pigeons? Dog racing? Living on the dole and sleeping on the couch all day? What was all that about? This man said he'd known a lot of people whose lives were like Andy Capp's, so he knew the character was not really exaggerated.

Which brings me to Hank Hill. When King of the Hill first came on the air I was living far from my homeland, and couldn't watch the show because it made me so homesick. It's so well done in general that it probably wasn't necessary for viewers around the globe to know how accurate its evocation of ordinary Texans was, but for those of us who knew, it mattered that this collection of lovable dimwits was drawn with such precision and detail. Goodbye Hank, and thank you Mike Judge.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Studs Terkel RIP

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Studs Terkel, Chronicler of the American Everyman, Is Dead at 96

"Mr. Terkel was a Pulitzer prize-winning author whose searching interviews with ordinary Americans helped establish oral history as an important historical genre."