Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Booker T with Neil Young - New Music

Not sure how long this link will last, cuz I couldn't get the permalink to work.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Kids in the Hall - Things You Can Do with Toast

The funniest thing I've seen in awhile.

H/t the Onion A/V Club, "Guaranteed pop-culture laughs."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Potential Damage from a Solar Storm

One more thing to worry about: if a solar storm as powerful as the one recorded in 1859 were to occur today, it could devastate modern civilization by destroying the electrical grids in developed countries.

Update: I really should have given a hat tip to the blog where I first came across this, but...after a thirty-minute search I can't figure out what it was. My bad, my apologies.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Flannery O'Connor, Student of Human Nature

For today, a quote from Flannery O'Connor's story "Good Country People":

"Mrs. Hopewell had no bad qualities of her own but she was able to use other people's in such a constructive way that she never felt the lack."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stephen Fry on Peter Cook

I've been thinking about Peter Cook for some reason, and while rooting around on YouTube came across this.

If you're not familiar with Peter Cook but love comedy, you should immediately go to Hulu.com and watch Bedazzled. The original, needless to say, not the Elizabeth Hurley remake.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Deep Thought, Sort Of

It occurred to me that apparently, for a lot of people, there are only two ways to live in the world: as someone who believes in nothing much or as someone who really really believes in something. In other words, you're either 1980s-era Michael Eisner or you're Jerry Falwell. What's missing from this approach is the notion that if you do believe in something, it makes a difference whether what you believe in is actually based in reality.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Krugman Thinks We're in Real Trouble


If the reports are correct, Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, has persuaded President Obama to recycle Bush administration policy — specifically, the “cash for trash” plan proposed, then abandoned, six months ago by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. This is more than disappointing. In fact, it fills me with a sense of despair.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Frank Rich Explains The AIG Bonus Payment PR Disaster

When I need a Sunday post, it's always a good idea to see what Frank Rich is saying.

Why has there been so little transparency and so much evasiveness so far? The answer, I fear, is that too many of the administration’s officials are too marinated in the insiders’ culture to police it, reform it or own up to their own past complicity with it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

J. S. Bach - Little Fugue in G Minor

Happy birthday to Johann Sebastian Bach, here represented by Wendy Carlos playing the Little Fugue in G Minor.

My grasp of the term "fugue" is better than that of the average person in the street but worse than that of a trained classical musician. Basically a fugue is a more complicated version of a round, such as "Row Row Row Your Boat," in which the same part is played by multiple performers in alternating sequence, so that the parts overlap and form harmonies in counterpoint. Where it gets more complicated is that the underlying melody in a fugue can be varied in a number of ways, unlike our boat-rowing song. Those variations are what can take a fugue from mechanical to sublime, in the right hands. A lot of people think that Bach had the best hands for this purpose.

This is not the best version ever, but it's pretty good. Listen for the ways in which the original melody keeps reappearing throughout the piece, passed around the different parts, then gets modified. Also note how each of the four instrumental parts is both its own voice and a necessary part of the entire ensemble. I've been told that with the right training, almost anyone can write a fugue -- the hard part is writing one that's worth listening to. Hardest of all would be writing one that people still want to listen to three hundred years later.

Friday, March 20, 2009

It was forty years ago today...

...that John and Yoko got married. Then John wrote a song about it. Interestingly, the only two people on this recording are John and Paul, doing multiple overdubs.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Beach Boys - Feel Flows

My favorite music by the Beach Boys is from 1968-73, when they were no longer on top of the charts but were not yet a nostalgia act. During that time they blossomed creatively -- particularly the other members while Brian Wilson fought his demons. Here's a song written and sung by Carl Wilson (with lyrics by Jack Reilly). Charles Lloyd, fellow TM-er, adds flute and sax. Nice Moog work too.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

David Bromberg Sings a Sad Song

I posted some Bromberg just the other day, but more can't hurt.

This song is about misery, betrayal, and death. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Journalism-Like Activity

Been a little while since I had a "What Digby Said" moment, so it's time. Here the subject is once again contemporary journalism.

This horrible little screed is the most vivid example of everything that's wrong with American journalism I've seen in quite some time --- the adolescent shallowness, the shrill sanctimony, the arrogance with which they wield their power, the sheer immorality of wrongly accusing someone of a heinous crime and feeling absolutely no remorse.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Josh Marshall on the AIG bonuses. Here's the key point:

I don't believe the bonuses themselves are the heart of the matter, nor the fact that they're going to the very executives who caused AIG's implosion or even the galling reality that, since all money is fungible, they're being paid with taxpayer dollars. What's really driving this forward -- and what makes it such a dangerous moment for the White House -- is the jarring image of the administration's impotence.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

David Bromberg - Lower Left Hand Corner of the Night

Bromberg says this is the first song he ever wrote, when he was learning to play guitar. I saw him a couple of years ago, and he's still got it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Duane Allman & Eric Clapton Jamming in the Studio

No big message here, just two excellent guitar players at the height of their powers, stretching out in a recording studio.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Albert King, Steve Cropper, Pop Staples - Tupelo

In the wake of the 1968 album Super Session (featuring yesterday's duo of Bloomfield and Kooper), there was a brief craze for similar enterprises. This song is the fruit of one of those efforts, from Stax Records. Albert King, Steve Cropper, and Roebuck "Pop" Staples were all on the label at the time: King was at the height of his commercial success with a series of Cropper-produced records, as were the Staples Singers. Pops takes the lead vocal here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper - Green Onions

Since I'm among the legion of people who love the sound of the Hammond organ, here's an example from the late sixties. Al Kooper is of course best known for playing the organ on the original recording of "Like a Rolling Stone." Here he is in a live performance with the great guitarist Mike Bloomfield, turning the Booker T & the MG's classic from an R'n'B number into a piece of rock music.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Nada, Chapter XXXIII

Sorry, nothing today. Daylight savings time is kicking my hypoglycemic ass.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac - Green Manalishi

Some more Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac. Props to Judas Priest for recognizing the worth of this song, but here's the original version. And the Wikipedia article is well worth reading.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fleetwood Mac - World In Harmony

As you'll see when you view the image that goes with this song, this is not the Stevie Nicks-era Fleetwood Mac. "World In Harmony" dates from their early years, and features nice guitar work from Peter Green and Danny Kirwan.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Thought

One thing that caught my attention while reading about the kerfuffle among the Republicans last week was that Rush Limbaugh over the last few months has repeatedly said that the only reason Obama was elected is because he's black. This theme is a regular one for Limbaugh -- he got fired as a football commentator for saying that Donovan McNabb received media attention only because he was a black quarterback. This of course ignored McNabb's statistics, which put him in the future-Hall-of-Famer category.

But what then came to mind was the memory of Alan Keyes. Keyes, if you don't remember, is an African-American conservative Republican who ran for president in 2000. He didn't get many votes, but he made an impression. The people who seemed most impressed were behind-the-scenes Republican leaders, because when Barack Obama, after making a big splash at the 2004 Democratic National Convention with a well-received speech, ran for the US Senate, these leaders talked Alan Keyes, who had never lived in Illinois in his life, into being Obama's Republican opponent in that campaign. It was as if they believed the same thing that Limbaugh has said: that the only reason Obama was receiving attention was because of his skin color. So the way to counter him was to find a black Republican, even if they had to go out of state to find one.

You see what's next. The two most visible faces of the national Republican party in the last few weeks have been Michael Steele, an African-American, and Bobby Jindal, an Indian-American. Neither of them, to point out the obvious, is white. It's hard to fault either of them. In this situation, Steele and Jindal are behaving the way that politicians normally behave. There is a chance to reach a larger audience, and they're taking it. That's what all politicians do, including all the other nationally known Republicans such as Mitt Romney. But Steele and Jindal were the ones selected by other Republicans, nearly all of them white, to be the public face of the party. The trend seems clear, and it reveals something about the leadership of the Republican party that indicates a sad stupidity.

They honestly agree with Limbaugh: they think that Obama's popularity is based on one factor and one factor only -- the color of his skin. So when a face is needed to present the Republican response to Obama, they look for a dark one. The fact that Michael Steele is at best a mediocre politician who has never won elective office except as someone else's running mate, or that Bobby Jindal is one of those smart people who can't deliver a speech, doesn't matter to the Republican leadership. They're non-white Republicans, and that's enough.

As a Democrat, I have no trouble with Republicans doing such a poor job of reading the electorate that they do something shallow and pointless. But as an American, I feel embarrassed that a large portion of this country has such a poor understanding of race relations that they can fall for such an obviously ridiculous idea; that they truly believe that the only reason Barack Obama is popular, the single factor that overrides all others, is that he is black. His election as this nation's first black president is cause for celebration and shows how far we have come -- the fact that his color is the only thing some people notice shows how far we have to go.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Charley Patton - Poor Me

This song is from the collection Founder of the Delta Blues, a title chosen because Charley Patton was a generation older than cohorts like Robert Johnson. Towards the end of his life his voice became more and more gravelly, and the contrast between that roughness and his often delicate guitar playing creates a unique sound. As always, if you're unfamiliar with this music but like it, check out the information about Patton available on the Web.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Jon Stewart explains CNBC

This has been making the rounds, but in case you haven't seen it yet...it's very good.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

William Blake: "Jerusalem"

Enjoy an English (definitely not British) experience. Here is a choir accompanied by organ, singing a work that most people who grew up in England in the last century would have heard in a form very much like this. For comparison, listen to Billy Bragg's version.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Son House - Death Letter Blues

Son House climbed into a time machine so he could a learn White Stripes song. Or maybe there's another explanation.

For some reason I'd never noticed before that this song is related to Robert Johnson's "Walking Blues." But then old blues songs tend to be members of song families more often than not.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Mamas & The Papas - Monday, Monday

So okay, this is not the most original idea for a post for a Monday. But I couldn't think of anything better because, after all, it's Monday.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Darwin College Lecture Series on Darwin

So it's no longer February, the month that contained the Darwin bicentennial, but what the hell. Darwin College of Cambridge University has an annual lecture series with a common topic, and for 2009 they chose, appropriately enough, Charles Darwin. If you have iTunes, then you can follow this link in order to listen to those lectures. There will be eight in all--so far only six have been posted. The only complaint I have about them is that nobody in charge considered the fact that these are lectures with visual images, which of course are lost. But they are still well worth it, and have constituted the bulk of my iPod listening for the last week. The lectures are each about an hour long, and are free.

UPDATE: Okay, the link I cut and pasted does not work. So instead open iTunes, go to the store, then open iTunes U. Look for the box labeled "Spotlight: Charles Darwin." In that box one item is "Darwin College Lecture Series; Cambridge University." Click on that and you'll be there.