Saturday, February 28, 2009

Andy Griffith - Darlings - There Is A Time

A friend of mine told me I should check this out on YouTube. It's the Dillards performing on the Andy Griffith show, with the assistance of "Charlene" on vocals.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Krugman Looks at the New Budget

Since I've been assiduously linking to Paul Krugman whenever he explains why the economy is in the toilet, it's only fair to do so when he sees some signs of hope.

The budget will, among other things, come as a huge relief to Democrats who were starting to feel a bit of postpartisan depression. The stimulus bill that Congress passed may have been too weak and too focused on tax cuts. The administration’s refusal to get tough on the banks may be deeply disappointing. But fears that Mr. Obama would sacrifice progressive priorities in his budget plans, and satisfy himself with fiddling around the edges of the tax system, have now been banished....And these new priorities are laid out in a document whose clarity and plausibility seem almost incredible to those of us who grew accustomed to reading Bush-era budgets, which insulted our intelligence on every page. This is budgeting we can believe in.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

T. S. Eliot - Ash Wednesday

Yesterday, to mark the occasion, Tom Watson posted on his blog a recording of T. S. Eliot reading his poem "Ash Wednesday." It's fourteen minutes long, and, to me at least, there is probably not a better way you could spend fourteen minutes than by listening to it here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Economy: How We Got into this Mess

I had never before heard of Dennis X. Li. He's not to blame for what happened, but he opened the door to what happened.

H/t to kos

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Elaine May, Your Basic Hilarious Genius

I've been an Elaine May fan for about a thousand years, and although she's less visible than she once was she's still got the goods in terms of that whole razor-sharp funny person thing. Here she responds to a questionnaire from Vanity Fair.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Big Banks: Now What?

So Krugman in his usual fashion lays out the alternatives and tries to help the frightened moguls to face reality.

Still, isn’t nationalization un-American? No, it’s as American as apple pie.

Lately the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has been seizing banks it deems insolvent at the rate of about two a week. When the F.D.I.C. seizes a bank, it takes over the bank’s bad assets, pays off some of its debt, and resells the cleaned-up institution to private investors. And that’s exactly what advocates of temporary nationalization want to see happen, not just to the small banks the F.D.I.C. has been seizing, but to major banks that are similarly insolvent.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What's the Matter with Texas?

Being more a Ralph Yarborough type of Texas Democrat myself, I don't find the decline in power mentioned in this article to be a bad thing. But it's worth reading--I haven't seen these matters discussed so cogently before.

But now, barely a month into the Obama administration, even the proudest Texans must admit: The days of Lone Star Power are over. You may greet this news with tears or with relief, but there's no denying it. Now that George W. Bush has hightailed it back to Dallas, there is no Texan of any real significance left on the national stage. Kay Bailey Hutchison is still hanging on, and Texas has that governor, Rick whatsisname, the guy with the haircut, but the most visible Texan in Washington right now is probably the Libertarian Ron Paul. I don't think I need to say much more than that.

The twangy voices of political Texas, once so loud and proud, have been hushed. Molly Ivins is gone; great lady, sorely missed. Progressives such as Ronnie Dugger and Jim Hightower still soldier on, but not like before. The closest thing to a public intellectual Texas can now claim is Kinky Friedman, a Lone Star icon whose political pronouncements -- you'll recall he was a viable candidate for governor a while back -- make Ron Paul look like Lincoln. Offhand, I can't even name another Texas congressman. You?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Kingis Quair

Today of course millions around the globe will mark the death in 1437 of King James the first of Scotland, universally celebrated as the author of The Kingis Quair, a long poem that marked a high point in the work of the Scottish Chaucerians. Written in rime royal, the same stanzaic form used in the Canterbury Tales, The Kingis Quair is an example of the medieval "dream vision," in which the bulk of the work recounts a narrator's, well, dream vision.

What, you may say, the hell are you talking about? Well, it's pretty simple. When I read The Kingis Quair in school, I liked it. And it doesn't hurt to be reminded that of all the works of art that we may attach ourselves to, they are only the proverbial tip of the iceberg: there are millions more that we will never get to experience unless we get lucky. Often when we do experience them, we find that they are very good. Even if you try to be open to new experiences, there's always much more of which you are unaware. Which is a good thing to remember.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Nirvana - About A Girl

Happy birthday to Kurt Cobain. This is one of my favorite of the songs he wrote, and a lot of people agree, including Patti Smith who wrote a song on Cobain called "About a Boy." The version on Bleach is more fleshed out, with background vocals that add a lot, but this live version captures something of its own.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What Some People Do for Fun

What some people do for fun is take a twenty-first century digital keyboard, take it apart, and install it inside an old upright piano. Then they post a video about it on YouTube.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

All in the Same Room

That's Jerry Garcia, Mike Bloomfield, and Jorma Kaukonen, probably in 1967. Over at the blog If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, they post photos like this under the heading "When Legends Gather." I'd give credit to whatever the place on the Web was where I found this if I could remember what it was.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Krugman's Okay Too

Again going through a period of having too much going on. But you know, you could do worse than read what Paul Krugman has to say about the economy.

Last week the Federal Reserve released the results of the latest Survey of Consumer Finances, a triennial report on the assets and liabilities of American households. The bottom line is that there has been basically no wealth creation at all since the turn of the millennium: the net worth of the average American household, adjusted for inflation, is lower now than it was in 2001.

At one level this should come as no surprise. For most of the last decade America was a nation of borrowers and spenders, not savers. The personal savings rate dropped from 9 percent in the 1980s to 5 percent in the 1990s, to just 0.6 percent from 2005 to 2007, and household debt grew much faster than personal income. Why should we have expected our net worth to go up?

Yet until very recently Americans believed they were getting richer, because they received statements saying that their houses and stock portfolios were appreciating in value faster than their debts were increasing. And if the belief of many Americans that they could count on capital gains forever sounds na├»ve, it’s worth remembering just how many influential voices — notably in right-leaning publications like The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and National Review — promoted that belief, and ridiculed those who worried about low savings and high levels of debt.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

This Frank Rich Guy, He's Pretty Good

Like I say, there are good reasons that I link to Frank Rich so often. In this column he discusses how the Republicans, and therefore the mainstream press, portrayed the struggle over the stimulus package. He tactfully uses the word "clueless" only once.

This G.O.P., a largely white Southern male party with talking points instead of ideas and talking heads instead of leaders, is not unlike those “zombie banks” that we’re being asked to bail out. It is in too much denial to acknowledge its own insolvency and toxic assets. Given the mess the country is in, it would be helpful to have an adult opposition that could pull its weight, but that’s not the hand America has been dealt.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Magic Sam -- Mama, Mama - Talk To Your Daughter

Happy birthday to Samuel Maghett, who didn't even make it to thirty-five but left behind a body of work that is still being raided for cover versions by aspiring blues performers. "Talk to Your Daughter" is probably his best-known work. It is an example of the type of "sweet" blues that the casual listener may not even recognize as a blues song, like Ivory Joe Hunter's "Since I Met You Baby." Magic Sam was a product of the west side of Chicago, and the distinctions between the West Side style and the South Side blues of musicians like Muddy Waters has probably already been the subject of a few dissertations.

Friday, February 13, 2009

So This Krugman Guy Says...

As usual, Paul Krugman seems to have the clearest take on the most recent events in the financial crisis.

Over all, the effect was to kick the can down the road. And that’s not good enough. So far the Obama administration’s response to the economic crisis is all too reminiscent of Japan in the 1990s: a fiscal expansion large enough to avert the worst, but not enough to kick-start recovery; support for the banking system, but a reluctance to force banks to face up to their losses. It’s early days yet, but we’re falling behind the curve.

And I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach — a feeling that America just isn’t rising to the greatest economic challenge in 70 years. The best may not lack all conviction, but they seem alarmingly willing to settle for half-measures. And the worst are, as ever, full of passionate intensity, oblivious to the grotesque failure of their doctrine in practice.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Charles Darwin

As even Google is noting on its home page, today is the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free," it says in John 8:32, but many people who study that verse aren't interested in the truth that Darwin brought us. In any event, if you're looking for a Darwin resource that goes deeper than most, here you are:

The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online

The Darwin Correspondence Project

h/t Patrick Leary

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

That Money Stuff

Josh Marshall provides some insight into an article in the NY Times--some banks are talking about returning the government money they've received. Mr Marshall thinks that this is unlikely, to put it politely.

Chafing under new scrutiny and limits on executive paychecks, many big banks are deciding that they've had quite enough of Uncle Sam and want to give the bailout money back as soon as possible. You get the sense we shouldn't have treated them so badly because if we hadn't they wouldn't be forcing us to take our money back.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Beatles - Please Mr. Postman

First a little comedy routine, then the Beatles show their Tamla/Motown love. John Lennon shows us what it means for a singer to sell a song.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sunday, February 8, 2009

On the Economy, Again

I don't think I've ever linked to David Ignatius of the Washington Post before, but he provides a nice summary of what's going on in the ranks of economists these days.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Peter Blegvad - King Strut

The one thing you need to know before listening to this song is this: at one point King Strut was on a diet, growing luminous by eating light.

Friday, February 6, 2009

John Holt - Stick By Me

Three reasons to listen to this song, a classic-era reggae recording derived from an American doo-wop original:

1. It's a great song.
2. It's a love song--gives you a start on Valentine's Day.
3. Illustrating the many forms of culture that there are in the African diaspora, it suits Black History Month.

Which just goes to show that nothing is simple if you're paying attention.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Free Concerts on yr Computer

Wolfgang's Vault is on online service that provides, like many other online services, music and music-related merchandise (posters, t-shirts). But they have something that few if any of the others have: access to a deep well -- or vault, if you will -- of concert recordings dating back over forty years. The "Wolfgang" in the name is a hint to the source of those recordings, since Wolfgang Grajonca was the birth name of Bill Graham, legendary San Francisco-based concert promoter. So there are many rarely heard concerts from the classic era of late sixties music, available for your listening pleasure. But wait, there's more! Every week a few of those concerts are available for free streaming at your computer. Last night I listened to a Miles Davis show from March 1970, which means the band was most likely Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, and Airto Moreira. Pret-ty cool.

You do have to register with the site, which means you get e-mails once or twice a week, but that's a small price to pay for access to great music, some of it free. Haven't bought any of the other stuff yet, but some of it looks good too.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Zakary Thaks - Face to Face

The first fuzz-tone guitar I ever heard was in this song. For what that's worth.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Buddy Holly - True Love Ways

Fifty years.

If you're a singer and you've never really listened to this song, listen to it now. Sure, the arrangement verges on treacle, but Buddy's voice is amazing -- he shows the sort of complete control of his vocal instrument for which people like Sam Cooke are acclaimed.

This was one of his last recordings, and the distance he had traveled in eighteen months (as both singer and songwriter) is remarkable. Where he could have gone had fate not intervened, we'll never know.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Frank Rich Explains The Republicans

As is usually the case, Rich puts most of the other NYTimes columnists to shame (Krugman excepted, of course). Here he talks about whatever the hell it is the Republicans are doing nowadays.

The current G.O.P. acts as if it — and we — have all the time in the world. It kept hoping in vain that the fast-waning Blago sideshow would somehow impale Obama or Rahm Emanuel. It has come perilously close to wishing aloud that a terrorist attack will materialize to discredit Obama’s reversals of Bush policy on torture, military tribunals and Gitmo. The party’s sole consistent ambition is to play petty politics to gum up the works.