Wednesday, March 31, 2010

RIP David Mills

If you don't know who he was, enter his name in Google News.

David was simultaneously down-to-earth and erudite, a rare and wonderful combination. He was also both kind and practical -- another rare combination. I knew him only via his writings, but a few of those were personal e-mails and comments on this blog. At a low point in my life he was a definite bright spot. I was still reading his blog every day.

This is shocking news, and my thoughts are with those who knew him best. Reading some of the tributes to him I came to understand that there were a lot of people like me, who had gotten to know him online and to whom he was always generous. I'm grateful to be one of them. Thinking about him, I remembered this poem. It may not appear to have much to do with a man who was a walking encyclopedia of P-Funk lore, but like I said, David was erudite, not to mention open-minded in a deep and fundamental way. I hope he would have appreciated it.

"On the Death of Richard West"

In vain to me the smiling Mornings shine,
    And reddening Phoebus lifts his golden fire;
The birds in vain their amorous descant join;
    Or cheerful fields resume their green attire;
These ears, alas! for other notes repine,
    A different object do these eyes require;
My lonely anguish melts no heart but mine;
    And in my breast the imperfect joys expire.
Yet Morning smiles the busy race to cheer,
    And new-born pleasure brings to happier men;
The fields to all their wonted tribute bear;
    To warm their little loves the birds complain;
I fruitless mourn to him that cannot hear,
    And weep the more because I weep in vain.

Thomas Gray (1716-1771)

The Box Tops - Cry Like a Baby

Still on an Alex Chilton kick, satisfied here by some typical sixties lip-syncing for a TV show. Great song. Who left the water running?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

nada may be forced upon you

Blogger wouldn't let me in this morning. Hope to have better luck tomorrow.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Krugman on Financial Reform

Paul Krugman is not optimistic.

Health reform is the law of the land. Next up: financial reform. But will it happen? The White House is optimistic, because it believes that Republicans won’t want to be cast as allies of Wall Street. I’m not so sure. The key question is how many senators believe that they can get away with claiming that war is peace, slavery is freedom, and regulating big banks is doing those big banks a favor.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jennifer Warnes - A Singer Must Die

Jennie sings Lennie. Leonard Cohen wrote "A Singer Must Die" and Jennifer Warnes sings it. The unique Van Dyke Parks wrote the remarkable a capella choral arrangement.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Big Effing Deal Bill

Apparently they got the original singer from the Schoolhouse Rock piece upon which this parody is based. Hat tip to my Facebook friend.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Beatles Remembered in Hamburg

Beatles-Platz, opened in 2008, commemorates the Beatles' lengthy residences in Hamburg in the two years before they became famous. "I was born in Liverpool," John Lennon once said, "but I grew up in Hamburg."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Herbert on Republicans

Bob Herbert on the party of civility and bipartisanship.

The toxic clouds that are the inevitable result of the fear and the bitter conflicts so relentlessly stoked by the Republican Party — think blacks against whites, gays versus straights, and a whole range of folks against immigrants — tend to obscure the tremendous damage that the party’s policies have inflicted on the country. If people are arguing over immigrants or abortion or whether gays should be allowed to marry, they’re not calling the G.O.P. to account for (to take just one example) the horribly destructive policy of cutting taxes while the nation was fighting two wars.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Krugman on the Health Care Victory in the House

Krugman's thesis in brief: "a vicious, unprincipled fear offensive failed to block reform."


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Glenn Gould - Goldberg Variations

This is something of an experiment. By lowering the bit rate, I created an MP3 of the complete recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations as recorded by Glenn Gould in 1981. It's a little over fifty minutes long, which makes for a nice way to celebrate JSB's birthday. Truthfully I prefer Gould's 1955 version, but this version was originally recorded digitally, so the sonic degradation caused by the lower bit rate is less noticeable. Plus you get to hear Gould's famous humming in better detail.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sviatoslav Richter - Chopin Etude Op. 25 No.11 "Winter Wind"

What it means to have technical proficiency on a musical instrument at a level that most human beings are incapable of ever reaching. The music's good too.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Great Mashup

In the debate as to whether or not mashups count as art, I know which side I'm on. This example is pure genius. The poster has chosen not to allow embedding, so you'll have to use this link:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

RIP Alex Chilton

Sad news: Alex Chilton has died. Since his bandmate Chris Bell passed away in 1978, the original songwriters for Big Star are both now gone. "The Ballad of El Goodo" is a good example of why the people who were crazy about them were crazy about them. Playing pure pop with deep roots in the best pop/rock of the sixties, their genius went largely unappreciated for many years. Chris Bell didn't live long enough to enjoy their new fans, but Alex Chilton did, and for that, as well as the gifts that he shared, we should be grateful.

And here's the song "Thank You Friends," with some rare film footage of the band.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Red Riding

The Red Riding trilogy is getting attention in the press, with generally glowing reviews. I'll add my voice to the chorus. Thanks to the wonders of twenty-first century technology, I've been watching them on in-demand cable, negotiating the dark corners of Yorkshire from the safety of my couch. Like the movie Syriana from a few years ago, the fact that things are often confusing is not a lapse in narrative skill on the part of the filmmakers. You are in fact meant to feel as if the real import of most of what you see is tantalizingly just on the verge of comprehension. Which it is, but eventually the pieces fit together. It takes several hours, but it's worth the wait. Here's the trailer. If you get a chance, watch all three movies, in order.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Grateful Dead - Box of Rain

Today Phil Lesh, bassist of the Grateful Dead, turns seventy. Hard to believe, but there you go. The song for which he is best-known is the one that opens the American Beauty album, "Box of Rain." In addition to the song, here's a clip of Lesh and lyricist Robert Hunter explaining the song's genesis.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Frank Rich on Rove, L. Cheney, and Spin, Spin, Spin

Linking to Frank Rich as often as I do may seem lazy, but he is in fact really that good.

Obama may well make — or is already making — his own mistakes. And he will bear responsibility for them. But they must be seen in the context of the larger narrative that the revisionists are now working so hard to obscure. The most devastating terrorist attack on American soil did happen during Bush’s term, after the White House repeatedly ignored what the former C.I.A. director, George Tenet, called the “blinking red” alarms before 9/11. It was the Bush defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, who lost bin Laden in Tora Bora, not the Obama Justice Department appointees vilified by Keep America Safe. It was Bush and Cheney, with the aid of Rove’s propaganda campaign, who promoted sketchy and often suspect intelligence about Saddam’s imminent “mushroom clouds.” The ensuing Iraq war allowed those who did attack us on 9/11 to regroup in Afghanistan and beyond — and emboldened Iran, an adversary with an actual nuclear program.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Charlie Parker - Love for Sale

Anyone born on this date in 1955 will now qualify for certain senior citizen discounts, having reached the age of fifty-five. But it doesn't really seem that long ago that on March 12, 1955, Charlie Parker passed away in his sleep in the apartment of a friend.

So much has been said about him that there's little need to add more here. So I'll just post a piece of his work for appreciation. "Love for Sale" was among the last songs he recorded, and among the first I ever heard. A ten-inch disc in an English pressing called C.P. Plays C.P., of Parker playing Cole Porter songs, featured this song. I was hooked.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

George Martin interview on Mono vs Stereo Beatles recordings

If you're a music geek like me (and deep down, aren't we all? well, no, not really) you'll find this fascinating.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant - Flyin' High

There's basically an infinite number of ways to play guitar -- here's some C&W boogie from the fifties. Great technique.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bumps Blackwell - Sumpin' Jumpin

Bumps Blackwell was a key figure in music in the fifties. Instrumental in the careers of Little Richard and Sam Cooke in particular, he released few numbers under his own name. Here he leads a band in a solid instrumental with a great title.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Kitty vs. Robot

What can I say? I'm a sucker for stuff like this. And the camera angle at the end is perfect.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rich on the Enthusiasm Gap

As he is so good at doing, Frank Rich articulates what a lot of us have been thinking.

Once the health care fight is over and out of sight, it will be out of mind to most Americans. We’ve already forgotten about Afghanistan — until the next bloodbath. The 2010 election will instead be fought about the economy, as most elections are, especially in a recession whose fallout remains severe. But that battle may be even tougher for this president and his party — and not just because of the unemployment numbers. The leadership shortfall we’ve witnessed during Obama’s yearlong health care march — typified by the missed deadlines, the foggy identification of his priorities, the sometimes abrupt shifts in political tone and strategy — won’t go away once the bill does. This weakness will remain unless and until the president himself corrects it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Merrill Markoe - Dog Poetry

From the early days of the NBC Letterman show, back when, as Gerard Mulligan says, it was funny. Merrill Markoe is a treasure.

Friday, March 5, 2010

John Belushi - Samurai Delicatessen

This clip is not from YouTube, so you may have to watch a short commercial first, but it's worth it.

Watch John Belushi - Samurai Delicatessen in Comedy  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tennessee Stud - Doc Watson

This isn't the first time I've posted Doc Watson. Probably won't be the last. Here, with his accompanist Jack Lawrence, he does a type of song no longer much written: one that tells a story, start to finish. It was written by Jimmy Driftwood, who had a remarkable career of his own.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Krugman on Banking Reform

I guess I link to Krugman so often because I think he's usually right, but just as with Cassandra of old, being right about the future on a regular basis can be a depressing thing.