Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What Are You Doing On New Year's Eve?

Monday, Premium T. and I celebrated our first anniversary by returning to the corner table at Cafe Juanita. Tonight, we plan to celebrate New Year's Eve by staying at home, lighting a fire, listening to music, and reading together...

I'm going to reorganize the Citizen K. sidebars, consolidating some, renewing others, and starting a new feature or two...

Neither of us like to go out on NYE, especially here with the night rain making the drunks' drives home even more challenging...

This morning, I'm going to an Obama transition-sponsored community meeting on health care reform. The position overview sent out in advance needs a great deal of work: The writers appear to believe that the essential challenge is the need to modernize a dilapidated system without altering its fundamentals. There is no mention of health care as a right and it dances around the corrosive role played by private insurance...

The Soul of New Orleans: "The city has been through hell, but somehow the heart of this town is still beating." Don't miss the tantalizing review of New Orleans hot spots -- places to eat, drink, sleep, shop, and visit that may or may not be in standard guide books...

At this moment, Citizen K. is listening to Raphael Saadiq's homage to 1960's Motown, The Way I See It. While the sound is a throwback, the lyrics aren't: "Big Easy" is a harrowing account of lovers separated during the terror of Hurricane Katrina:

Monday, December 29, 2008

Old And Leading The Way

I appreciate that I'm not getting any younger and that much new rock and rap music doesn't speak to me by virtue of differences in life experience. That hardly disqualifies it from excellence, but it does disqualify me from grasping it well enough to give it either a thumbs up or a thumbs down. That being said, I'm nonetheless struck by the exceptionally high quality of music released in 2008 by older artists, even if I am predisposed to appreciate it.

Seven of the performers on the following list are over 60, and three of them are over 70. Other older artists who released outstanding music in 2008 include Jackson Browne, Dr. John, Emmylou Harris, Richie Havens, and Andre Williams. This year, I saw outstanding performances from Joan Baez (67), Kevin Burke (58), Dick Gaughan (60), Charles Lloyd (70), Robert Plant (60) (with Alison Krauss), Bruce Springsteen (59), James Blood Ulmer (66), and Johnny Winter (64). 74-year old Leonard Cohen toured Europe and received scintillating reviews. If I had to pick, the best live performance I saw last year was by the 70-year old Lloyd. It's enough to make me believe that my most creative days lie ahead.

Anyway, here's some counsel on how to use some of those gift cards you got for Christmas. I reviewed each album on Citizen K.; click on the link for my original review.

This collection of demos, alternate versions, old folk songs, live cuts, and previously unreleased songs coheres unexpectedly into a sweeping statement of Dylan's world view as he heads toward old age. He has become the master curator of his own work. Brilliant. 

These albums had the heaviest rotation on the Citizen K. sound system. 

Con El Permiso De Bola, Francisco Cespedes with Gonzalo Rubalcabal

Black Ice and Propane, Erik Friedlander

Traveling, Steve Poltz

Hernando, The North Mississippi All Stars

Just A Little Lovin', Shelby Lynne

Accelerate, R.E.M.

Rabo de Nube, Charles Lloyd Quartet

Lumiere Dans le Noir, Zachary Richard

Exit to Mystery St., Paul Sanchez

Good Neighbor, John Boutte

Peace, Love, & Understanding, Big Sam's Funky Nation

Note: The link is to a review of a Dick Gaughan concert.

The Cole Porter Mix, Patricia Barber

About Time, Paul Bley

South Pacific, New Broadway Cast

Simply Grand, Irma Thomas

Liejacker, Thea Gilmore

Gracias, Omara Portuondo

WWOZ anticipates a tough 2009. "If a jazz station in New Orleans can't survive, what chance has jazz to survive?" Good question. I'll be sending in my contribution. How about joining me?...

The Charles Lloyd Quartet shows its stuff in a montage of their performance at Antwerp's Jazz Middleheim 2008:

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Funnies

Looks like Rudolph's colleagues didn't take the slaying of their leader, renowned for his carmine proboscis, lying down:

As always, click to enlarge. For more, go here, here, and here.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday Address: "We share a common destiny as Americans – that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper"

The Morning After

We had a very nice Christmas, though tempered by grief over Rudolph's demise and a plumbing leak. [There is a new development on the story (Rudolph's death, not the leak) which I'll report on later in the day.] With older kids in the mix, we didn't get around to exchanging gifts until noon, once they were all up. In the meantime, Premium T. weighed in with a premium breakfast of blueberry pancakes and sausage...

That afternoon, she took kind of a break from cooking and baking to watch Remember the Night with me, a truly delightful 1940 holiday movie with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck. In short, NYC prosecutor Fred winds up taking shoplifter Babs to his rural Indiana home for Christmas. It sounds hokey (and it is to some extent), but the two stars are fine together and the Preston Sturges script elevates the story. (Great line: "There's nothing scarier than a square guy. If all men were like you, there wouldn't be any nice girls left!") Night is definitely the kind of movie they don't make 'em like any more. In this scene, Sterling Holloway sings "The End of a Perfect Day":

What is your favorite holiday movie? As much as I enjoy Remember the Night, mine is still Holiday Inn...

Friends joined us for dinner, and we had a great time. T. and Reilly pretty much outdid themselves with the homemade eggnog; prime rib with red win jus; mashed potatoes with truffle oil; gratin of rutabaga, parsnips, and butternut squash; sauteed forest mushrooms with garam masala, braised endive; pumpkin pie, meringues, and sugar cookies. The gym beckons...

Officials call Bayou St. John a flood protection liability, but New Orleanians call is a 'treasure': A fascinating article that typifies the engineering and environmental complexities faced by New Orleans as it rebuilds. The comments, which are by-and-large respectful and impressively informed, are as integral to the story as the article itself. They provide a window to the extent of which New Orleanians have educated themselves on the minutiae of flood control and environmental protection...

I for one can't wait for this. I can already hear the wingnuts grinding their teeth and howling in agony...

Incredible aerial footage of the extent of the TVA storage pond breach in Harriman, Tennessee here...

In a witty and original analysis, Another Old Movie Blog unravels the cinematic eroticism of the typewriter here...

Is Obama a geek? Or is he "too cool, too athletic, too normal"? The debate rages here. The article also explains the elusive difference between a geek, a nerd, and a dork...

My friend Margeaux Kent explains her bookmaking technique:

There's more about Margaux's superb work here. The web site for her business, The Black Spot Books, is here...

Friday's Choice: With the old year winding down, Hot Tuna reminds you to "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning" because your race is almost run:

Jorma Kaukonen explains how to play "Lamp" here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Update: Pagan ritual celebrates Rudolph's demise

Blogger Helen Wheels has released a video on her blog Just Ain't Right, purportedly obtained from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), that shows leading Republicans celebrating the death of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. 

The Republicans, who included former presidential candidate Senator John McCain and former vice-presidential candidate Governor Sarah Palin, appear as participants in a bizarre pagan ritual glorifying the success of a hunt. (Governor Palin has already taken credit for downing the fabled cervine.)

According to Ms. Wheels, the video was smuggled out at great human cost: "People died so that the public could view this disgusting rite. Whatever the danger to me personally, I owe it to those heroes to put the truth on display."

Republicans were quick to deny that the ritual -- which they called a "party" -- in any way celebrated the death of a holiday icon who brought happiness to millions of children around the world. "We're not happy that Rudolph died in a completely legal, in-season shooting by a experienced hunter who scrupulously complied with all state hunting regulations," said a spokesman who declined to be identified. "I mean, this isn't a Dick Cheney thing. Why would we celebrate a simple deer hunt when we have so much else to celebrate? Like... And... O. K., so it looks bad."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Update: "He will be missed"

With the Red Nosed family in seclusion following Rudolph's violent death, close family friend and confidante Hermie the Elf (shown here conferring with the storied ungulate) issued the following statement:

"It is with great sadness that we confirm the sudden and inexplicable death of a beloved father, husband, and friend. The shooting happened during a routine practice run for what shapes up as a particularly snowy Christmas Eve. He will be missed.

"Rudolph loved children, birds, and deer feed, and was never happier than when flying through the air with the greatest of ease. Moreover, he turned what many regarded as a glaring physical defect into an asset that made Christmas possible for millions of children around the world.

"The Red Nosed family categorically denies that Rudolph interfered in any way with oil and natural gas drilling. Moreover, the family does not understand Governor Palin bragging about her shooting prowess at this time of sadness."

Mr. Elf declined to answer questions about whether the Red Nosed family would seek legal redress. "They're not thinking about anything but their grievous loss," he said.

Update: Rudolph death confirmed

Alaska state officials confirmed this morning that Governor Sarah Palin had indeed shot Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. 

At a press conference, the former Republican candidate for vice president described the "shootin' as necessary to the policy of 'Drill Baby Drill." According Governor Palin, the glare from Rudolph's nose made drilling on Alaska's North Slope "just about impossible." 

Governor Palin dismissed the possible environmental impact of the killing: "Ya know, I know there's just one red-nosed reindeer, but it hardly qualifies as an endangered species. And when ya gotta drill, ya gotta drill." 

As for the famed ruminant's importance to the delivery of toys on Christmas Eve, Palin pointed out that the additional oil and natural gas gained from the shooting meant that Santa would have plenty of fuel for his annual trip, although she allowed that there "would have to be some modernizin' of equipment."

Governor Palin took offense at suggestions that the shooting was accidental: "With that nose? As good a shot as I am, I coulda hit him blindfolded."

Breaking News -- Rudolph Slain

Details to follow as they become known.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Enough Already

Enough is enough. Yesterday, it took a shovel, boiling water poured on ice, and kitty litter to get the car away from the curb. On my way to the airport to pick up my son -- who had been stranded in Salt Lake City en route from Boston -- snow froze on the windshield wipers, rendering visibility somewhere between challenging and nonexistent. Outside of taking the wrong exit and driving halfway to Tacoma before realizing my error, the trip home (with cleaned wipers) was relatively uneventful until I exited the freeway. The car hydroplaned immediately, but regained traction that it lost going downhill right as I came to a red light that I slid through. Luckily, the intersection was empty. The car slid again when I turned onto our street, this time coming to rest in the snow. The combined efforts of me, my son, a neighbor and his son, and a passing Good Samaritan got the car back on the road and safely to my house where it's going to stay for a while. This just isn't pretty any more...

In case you're tired of Christmas music or just an old Scrooge, you might consider these alternatives:

Gracias, Omara Portuondo. Supposedly, she's 78, but you can't tell that from her voice: Omara has the pipes of 25-year old but sings with the wisdom of age. Gracias consists mostly ballads and lullabies supported by spare arrangements featuring fingerpicked 7-string guitar and various Cuban percussion instruments. The occasional guest enhances the proceedings, but they are hardly necessary. The accompanying booklet is a gem: There's a photograph for song of Omara at different stages of her life, starting with childhood. The pictures range from candid family photos to glam shots from her days at the Havana Tropicana. The name of the CD may be Gracias, but it's we who should be thanking her for recording it.

Liejacker, Thea Gilmore. Impressively mature songwriting from a 30-year old Brit. She's says she's "looking for an old soul," but she needn't search any further than her own lyrics. She knows it, too: 
Well the cars are leaving town
The winter's moving in
A tree has been torn down
By an ill wind, an ill wind
Oh, Rosie, can you tell my age from where I sit?
I'm younger than I look but old enough to know the half of it
What's more, there's an outstanding duet with Joan Baez. Download tip: Don't miss Gilmore's acoustic cover of "Bad Moon Rising."

No One Left To Crown, Richie Havens. Say it isn't so, the old pro laments, "That people must bend/To this war without end/I can't believe it." So, he vaults into the breech again, vowing in his brilliant cover of "Won't Get Fooled Again" that they won't get us this time. Sadly, there's a worry and resignation in his voice that makes him less certain than he once was. Overall, No One Left To Crown is a fine effort from a working folkie who continues to travel the country spreading the word to people who still need to hear it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Weekly Address: The Science Team

...Promoting science isn’t just about providing resources—it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient—especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us.
Imagine: A science team with actual scientists encouraged to do their jobs. That's something we haven't seen in eight years.

Sunday Funnies

As always, click to enlarge. For more, go here, here, here, and here.

Last night, high winds (up to 90 mph in the Cascades foothills) forced closure of Sea-Tac International Airport, which in turn forced my son -- en route from Boston -- to lay over against his will in Salt Lake City. He arrives today at noon; I'm picking him up and we're heading straight for the Seahawks-Jets game.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

From Baugh to the Boss

If you didn't click on yesterday's link to Sammy Baugh's obituary, you missed this picture, one of the best sports photographs I've ever seen...

Once again, Helen Thomas tells it like it is:  "...a bevy of Republican senators from the South are trying to break up what the United Automobile Workers have struggled since the 1930s to achieve -- a middle-class life for union members." Is there any doubt of this?...

Foxessa reports that the New Orleans Public Library system faces difficult times: "It's happened before in many communities, that the public library becomes a playing field for the town or city's political rivalries and power struggles. But these plays have hardly ever been done so flamboyantly, with so little disguise anywhere else..."

Derrick Jackson wonders why in the world the Bush Administration thinks it's a good idea to allow concealed weapons in national parks: "This completes eight years of political cruelty to animals and a final imposition of the National Rifle Association on what is left of public serenity in America -- our shared natural sanctuaries..."

PWALLY 'fesses up... "I ran out and told Judy to get in the car and leave the scene, whispering loudly that they hadn’t heard a thing and hadn’t been sitting near the window so they didn’t see anything, either. Hurry!!" projects a 40-vote lead for Al Franken in Minnesota. Unreal. As much as I want Franken to pull this out, statistically speaking the race is a tie with no way of knowing who really got the most votes. By all accounts, Minnesota's recount process and the people administering it are first rate. No matter which candidate prevails, he will have as clean a decision as the circumstances allow...

Time Goes By thinks that the MSM passes over the real stories of the economic crisis: "What’s missing, however, are stories about how most of us – the poor, the middle class, the people who live paycheck to paycheck and one small emergency from destitution - are getting by."

A Chicagoan visits New Orleans and has a most unusual life-changing encounter. (T'anks to Da Ladda!)...

You Can't Make This Stuff Up Dept:  A Palinista worries about her dreams: 
This might seem like a strange question, but have any of you had dreams about Obama lately? I'm not suggesting that they are sexual dreams in nature; just any dreams about him?
I know a lot of people who are having various types of dreams about BO, and finally I did, too (nonsexual, I must add), so I'm wondering....
Maybe they just signal worry/concern about what BO might do as President?
Sock And Awe Dept: Click here and throw shoes to your heart's content. (Thanks, Stupid!)

Happy Birthday, Emily!

Friday's Choice: Bruce "D'Artagnan" Springsteen sings "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" with a little help from his friends:

There's No Business Like Shoe Business

During his first debate with John McCain, Barack Obama said that the Wall Street financial crisis was the final verdict on the Bush economic policy. Now, the final verdict on Bush's foreign policy is here, and it came in the form of two hurled shoes. The man threw the second shoe, he said, for "...the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq..." Although security guards kicked the man repeatedly, he has apparently become a folk hero in the Arab world. As Robert Scheer writes in The Nation, once again American intentions fell victim to the simple reality that an occupied people tend to hate and resist the occupying force.

It's an article of faith among the right wing that ungrateful Iraqi people have turned on their selfless American friends who want only to bring that country into the cozy bosom of democracy. (Don't miss this gem, which contains such penetrating observations as "Iraq is a large country" and "U.S. troops have been trained to be nice to Iraqis.") American foreign policy makers have long had difficulty distinguishing between benign, theoretical intentions and hard consequences. In Iraq, the results of this failure are dismal.

Last Friday, the Senate Armed Services committee released a bipartisan report concluding that "senior officials" sanctioned the torture techniques used at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo. Besides causing severe damage to the reputation of the United States, torture has likely contributed directly to the deaths of American soldiers. One committee witness testified that
there are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq – as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat – are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
Moreover, the report concluded that the truth about Abu Ghraib and Gitmo bolsters Taliban and Al Qaeda recruiting. And to what end? The report also states that the torture techniques were "...based, in part, on Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean war to elicit false confessions" (emphasis mine). Think about this for a second: The Bush administration sanctioned an approach to interrogation that it knew led to false confessions. What, then, could possibly have been the motives of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al.? 

Consider this story from last Sunday's New York Times about a 513-page federal history now under review that covers the failure of reconstruction efforts in Iraq. The money quotes:
Among the overarching conclusions of the history is that five years after embarking on its largest foreign reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II, the United States government has in place neither the policies and technical capacity nor the organizational structure that would be needed to undertake such a program on anything approaching this scale.
The bitterest message of all for the reconstruction program may be the way the history ends. The hard figures on basic services and industrial production compiled for the report reveal that for all the money spent and promises made, the rebuilding effort never did much more than restore what was destroyed during the invasion and the convulsive looting that followed.
Five years after the invasion of Iraq, the history concludes, “the government as a whole has never developed a legislatively sanctioned doctrine or framework for planning, preparing and executing contingency operations in which diplomacy, development and military action all figure.”
Thus we and the Iraqis are force-fed the rotting fruit of undeclared, preemptive war and the reliance on military power at the expense of diplomacy. And Bush gets away with a ducking a pair of shoes, a failed administration, and a certain historical verdict that will rank him among the worst presidents ever. Hardly seems fair...

The history also quotes then Secretary of State Colin Powell as complaining that the Defense Department  “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces — the number would jump 20,000 a week! ‘We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000," an assertion backed up Paul Bremer and General Ricardo Sanchez. This rang a bell, so I conducted a little research. 

Sure enough, on October 29, 2004 during his first debate with John Kerry, Bush claimed that 
...that the best way for Iraq to be safe and secure is for Iraqi citizens to be trained to do the job. And that's what we're doing. We've got 100,000 trained now, 125,000 by the end of this year, 200,000 by the end of next year...
We now know that those numbers were not merely inflated, they were pulled out of thin air and offered to the American people as plain fact...

Eric Alterman writes that claims that United States is a "center-right" country is just another conservative canard...

Obama's nomination of Colorado senator Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior creates yet another vacancy in the Senate. (The other two are New York and Delaware.) Hendrick Hertzberg writes that some appointed senators have had distinguished careers...

Over at, Nate Silver wonders whether the Republicans are a national party any more. Democrats won 219 House races by 15% or more; 218 are needed for a majority. He also argues that Obama's victory was even more decisive than it seems...

Some people should never, ever have children...

This Morning...

Here's what we woke up to this morning. And BTW, WWOZ has some great Christmas music going right now...

R. I. P. Slingin' Sammy Baugh, Washington Redskins and TCU Horned Frogs great. My father saw him play...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Time's a-Comin'

Some people hate holiday music and won't listen to it. I'm not one of them. In fact, listening to holiday music has in many ways expanded my tastes and introduced to styles and artists I would never have heard of otherwise. For instance, I had never heard of the Boston Camerata until I picked up one of their Christmas CDs; now, I'll listen to just about anything they perform. So, read on with an open mind:

Christmas Soul Special, Wilson Pickett, Martha Reeves, Ben E. King, Mary Wells, Sam Moore, Shirley Alston.
The Wicked Pickett is in especially fine form, but none of them concede a thing to middle age. Great cover, too.

An American Christmas, Boston Camerata.
Gorgeous classical arrangements of American folk holiday songs supported by period instruments. One of my favorites.

Light of the Stable, Emmylou Harris.
A traditional album of country and mountain music arrangements sung by The Voice. She brings to it her usual integrity and impeccable taste.

Go Tell It On the Mountain, The Blind Boys of Alabama.
Download Tip: The title track with guest Tom Waits

Santa's Got A Brand New Bag, James Brown.
Huh! Santa! Good God! Collects singles and highlights of no less than three Christmas albums. You get the full Godfather of Soul treatment, too.

Handel's Messiah Highlights, Sir Neville Marriner.
The version of "Hallelujah Chorus" that we played on Election Day

O Holy Night, Luciano Pavarotti.
Even though it's more sentimental than It's A Wonderful Life, I've never been able to resist LP's version of "Gesu Bambino."

Joy, Melissa Manchester.
Christmas favorites arranged and performed as Fifties cocktail music. MOR, but MOR at its most broadly accessible.

Christmas Carols, Choir of Westminster Abbey.
The Spirit of Christmas, St Paul's Choir
Candlelight Carols, The Choir of Trinity Church
Alike in the beauty of their voices, each choir puts its own stamp on traditional carols.

The Last Month of the Year, The Kingston Trio.
I've been listening to this one as long as I can remember!

Christmas, Bruce Cockburn.
My late wife didn't like this one when I came home with it in 1993, but our boys and I sang along with it so infectiously (and insistently) in the car that she eventually came around.

A Christmas Gift for You, from Phil Spector.
The guy may be a twisted creep, but that didn't keep him from producing the greatest Christmas album ever. Heck, it's one of the great albums ever, never mind Christmas. All they owe us is their art.

The Wonderful World of Christmas, Elvis.
"I can sing anything," he told the secretary at Sun Records. Here's proof.

An Austin Rhythm and Blues Christmas.
Like everyone else at the signing party at Waterloo Records, it never occurred to me that this would become a holiday classic played over mall sound systems everywhere. I still have the vinyl edition autographed by then neighbors Marcia Ball, Jimmy Vaughn, and Paul Ray.

New England Christmastide.
Bought on a whim, this has become a perennial favorite. Acoustic instrumental versions of tradition carols played on period instruments. A real treat.

Christmas, Jorma Kaukonen.
I liked this so much that I checked out the rest of his catalog, dug out my old Hot Tuna LPs, and went on a Jefferson Airplane jag. A 20-year valet parked my car in the middle of the "Holiday Marmalade" jam (get it?) and told me it was the best Christmas music he had ever heard. Anything that makes you cool in the eyes of a 20-year old...

Christmas, Chris Isaak.
A typically excellent Chris Isaak album that happens to feature Christmas songs.

Cool Christmas Blues, Charles Brown.
Late night holiday music in the hands and voice of a master.

A Boston Rock Christmas, Del Fuegos, Native Tongue, Jeff & Jane, Christmas, SSD.
Good luck finding this gem of an EP. I found it for 99 cents way back when in the remainders bin. SSD's punk version of "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" has given me my money's worth and then some.

A Charlie Brown Christmas, Vince Guaraldi Trio.
A phenomenon, really: An album of original jazz material that became a holiday classic. Good enough to listen to year round, special enough to hold back for the last month of the year. (Thanks to RFB for reminding me of this one.)

Merry Christmas, Bing Crosby.
But of course.

This holiday season, the newlyweds went out together and came home with

Little Steven's Underground Garage Presents Christmas A Go Go.
Hey, where else are you going to find Christmas rock and soul from Keith Richard, Darlene Love, Joe Pesci, and Soupy Sales? Nowhere, is my guess.

A Swingin' Christmas, Tony Bennett and the Count Basie Band.
He sounds as good as ever at age 83. You go Tony!

What are your favorites?

Hype and Glory Dept: Premium T. and I received very gracious plugs from a blog called Robert Frost's Banjo:
Citizen K.: An extremely well-written & thoughtful blog about (per the masthead) “Politics. Music. Movies. Books. Travel. Outrage.” The posts cover this blogger’s interests as advertised. Some interesting videos—most recently the Treme Brass Band performing “Down By the Riverside” in support of a protest to save “the oldest black Catholic parish in the nation”; a righteous cause, & some righteous music: love the trombone solo, & really love the sousaphone. Anyone who says blogging is killing the quality of writing should read Citizen K. Listed under Blog Gumbo
Premium T.: Another very well-written blog, this time by a poet. A lot of musings on daily life—all the ones I’ve read being extremely compelling; to me, the best part of blogging is the overt subjectivity; the latest entry is just one example of a well-told story—completely personal, but in a way that should be of interest to anyone. Also entries on food, poetry (including posts of her own work), travel, & some truly gorgeous photographs. A blog by someone with diverse interests who’s able to articulate her fascinations with each. Listed under Blog Gumbo

RFB writes about poetry, food, movies, and life in rural Idaho. I especially like the interviews with musicians who have become family friends. Here's one about a guitarist and songwriter who made his own drum kit...

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has released the schedule for its 2009 40th Anniversary jamboree...

Last Wednesday marked the anniversary of my first blog entry. I wrote in part of a house T. and I were considering. We eventually rejected it because of a parking issue (there wasn't any); thus the absence of a driveway prevented us from buying near the Seattle market's peak. We eventually decided to keep the places we had and not buy at all, essentially because of sticker shock. While not buying frustrated us at the time, it turned out to be one of the best decisions we never made...

Whatever you do this holiday season, don't bogart love:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sunday Funnies & So Much More

As always, click to enlarge. For more from Tom Tomorrow, Tom Toles, Ben Sargent, and Scott Adams, go here, here, here, and here.

A Christmas Tale. D: Arnaud Desplechin. Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Amalric, Jean-Paul Rousillon, Anne Consigny. Penetrating, often brilliant study of a French family emotionally and physically rent by the death of child thirty years earlier, now brought together by the mother's (Deneuve) cancer. Although is it sounds like Hallmark Channel treacle, A Christmas Tale is anything but that. Always more than it seems, the film meanders to its satisfying irresolution buoyed by excellent performances (especially Rousillion's stolid father), an insightful and intricate screenplay, unexpected humor, moving set pieces, and an overarching Gallic sensibility. Not to be missed. In French with subtitles, click on link for the trailer.

Milk. D: Gus Van Sant. Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay official elected to public office in the United States. He was both an successful movement leader and an effective politician; after his assassination, he became a saint and a martyr. The movie concentrates on the latter aspect of Milk's life, and you get the strengths and weaknesses that come with that. The strengths are Sean Penn's bravura performance and the plain fact that Harvey Milk was a genuinely inspirational figure whose life and accomplishments merit such treatment. The weaknesses are the standard biopic structure and a toleration for bluntness that obscures the tension inherent in Milk's dual role as movement icon and politician. Nonetheless, Milk is overall a satisfying film about a consequential man...

Incidentally, Milk director Van Sant chose to present Anita Bryant, the bete noire of the gay movement, via news footage instead of casting an actress for the part. This seemingly minor choice shines a merciless light on the serene monstrousness of a real-life Nurse Ratched...

At age 65, Catherine Deneuve retains all of her elegant beauty...

Weekly Address: Shaun Donovan To Be HUD Secretary

Wish I Was In New Orleans...

...sittin' on a candy stand. Thanks to the New Orleans News Ladder for inspiring today's blog!

If you lived in New Orleans, you could start out the morning at the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival and end up tonight on the 3rd annual Very Bad Santa Crawl. Not enough music from John Boutte, Paul Sanchez, and the Treme Brass Band? No prob -- head over to Tipitina's for the Cajun Zydeco Dance Festival.  

If you have Christmas shopping left undone, the Colton School's Holiday Affordable Art Bazaar has what you're looking for. 

To finish up your evening with a little dancing, leave the Santa Crawl for the Mid-City Lanes Rock'n'Bowl, where Big Sam's Funky Nation will hold court. Or if you'd rather hear some world class jazz, you can take the ferry to Algiers for Delfeayo Marsalis' 7 p.m. set at the Old Point and get back in plenty of time for the back end of the Santa Crawl. Le bon ton roulez indeed!...

The Treme Brass Band shows off the art of resistance, supporting a sit-in at St. Augustine's church. The church of the oldest black Catholic parish in the nation was slated for demolition until protesting parishioners successfully intervened.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday's Choice: Cry Baby

This performance by Janis Joplin is the highlight of the 2003 film Festival Express, a documentary account of a traveling rockfest that journeyed across Canada by train in the summer of 1970. Besides Janis, performers included The Grateful Dead, Buddy Guy, and The Band.

The upcoming excerpt is a near-perfect example of "less is more" film making. Frankly, few if any modern directors would have the courage to handle 30 seconds of a movie in this manner, much less six minutes. Using at most two cameras, director Frank Cvitanovich makes minimal cuts (I counted seven) and uses on slow zooms and pullbacks that allow Janis' brilliant, kinetic performance to speak for itself. In fact, the camera remains stationary for at least the last three minutes, but Janis' energy and commitment is such that you don't notice. Which is the way it should be: Performance and composition is all; manipulative multiple cuts and swoops are gimmicks nowhere to be found.

At one point, the camera zooms carefully to an extreme close-up, then holds its position as Janis' head pops in and out of view, allowing the viewer to interpret her performance in a way not available to the fans who attended the show. She's amazing, but give the director credit for trusting his star and applying a nuanced, subtle technique that reveals her performance rather than upstages it or, worse, gives it a death of a thousand cuts.

Janis Joplin died from an overdose of heroin about three months after the filming of this performance.

R.I.P., Bettie Page.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hey, At Least Ammo Is Affordable

Referring to a recent study by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, the Seattle P-I makes important points here about the lack of access to higher education in Washington state and nationally. The money quote: "[Washington state] received an F in affordability, along with every state but California." (emphasis mine).

Think of that: A college education is out of reach for all but the most well-off in 49 of the 5o states. When I went to graduate school at the University of Texas in 1981, tuition costs weren't even a budget item, they were so low. Texas had four year schools in the most remote reaches of the state, and it was a given that anyone who could get into college could go to a state institution because the price was so low. And this had to have held down the cost of Texas private schools as well.

The P-I editorial points out that "...the United States, formerly the leader, ranks behind a half-dozen countries in college participation. Just more than a third of young adults enroll here, far behind the 53 percent who attend college in Korea." Which means that at the same time that blue collar jobs are disappearing, the entry cost -- a college education -- to the white collar world is prohibitive for most American young people. 

This is yet another example of the bias against the working class in this country: In the interests of union busting, conservatives begrudge a bailout to the auto industry that is less than 2% of the money used on the Wall Street bailout even though auto making is one of the few industries that pays blue collar workers reasonably well. I yield to no one in holding contempt for top management of the American automotive industry, but arguably millions of jobs -- in the middle of a recession yet -- are at stake here.

Anyway, here's the sum total of the deal offered by conservatives to working people: You can't send your kids to college and you can't make a decent living, but you do get to own as many guns as you want...

Republican National Committee chair Mike Duncan talks about the future of his party here. Listen as he dances around the issue of the religious right's influence and at one point squirms in silence. It's his problem, but just what do you do when your party is identified with a lunatic fringe group?...

The Nation has an informative and positive review of Ned Sublette's terrific book The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver To Congo Square...

Media Matters has compiled a depressingly long list of MSM outlets eager to hitch Barack Obama's wagon to Rod Blagojevich's fallen star, despite a dearth of evidence connecting the two. It's not even as meager as guilt-by-association, as Obama has assiduously kept Blagojevich at arm's length. Personally, I think this whole mess will redound to Obama's favor. The MSM comes across as playing the Same Old Game, except that today there is a blogosphere to call them on it. And they're playing the SOG against someone whom the public wants to succeed...

Chutzpah Dept: You have to see this to believe it...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Coldest Winter, Continued

As I read more of  David Halberstam's The Coldest Winter, I'm struck by the parallels between Korea and Iraq, especially the events surrounding Douglas MacArthur's disastrous decision to invade North Korea and push to the Manchurian border. This brought the Chinese into the war and created the bloody stalemate fought out for more than three years.
  • Republican politicians taunted Democrats as appeasers
  • Americans by and large believed that the Chinese people wanted nothing so much as to live in an American-style democracy. (In fact, the Chinese generally regarded Americans as part of the western colonialism that had exploited their nation for over a hundred years.)
  • American politicians backed Chiang Kai-Shek, whom -- like Chalabi in Iraq -- they mistakenly believed to represent the mass of Chinese people
  • MacArthur's desire to invade the north and his certainty that the Chinese would not intervene resulted in cooked intelligence to support his position
  • The utter failure of American decision-makers in both parties to understand the nature of their Communist adversaries in Moscow and Beijing, who were motivated as much or more by nationalism than ideology
Halberstam also digs up the roots of post-War conservative foreign policy. It was driven, of course, by a rabid anti-Communism coupled with a by-and-large successful effort to paint Democrats as soft appeasers. It's a fascinating look at a political movement that has become hoist on its own petard. 

Modern conservatives have attempted to redirect the politics of fear against terrorists and immigrants, but it has proved self-defeating: Hispanic voters turned against Republicans, and the application of militarism has failed dismally in Iraq and Afghanistan. The door is open to the enlightened internationalism advocated by Barack Obama...

Hendrik Hertzberg ("...a real jerk," sez Newtie) flays Bill-o wide open and leaves him out to dry in the hot sun...

Mesmerizing, Brilliant, and Beautiful Dept: Don't miss this incredible performance by the Pilobolus Dance Theatre on Renegade Eye's blog. The sequence between 4:30 and 6:00 especially blew my mind, but the entire dance is a wonder...

Monday, December 8, 2008


As the Democrats move toward a Big 3 bailout package that includes Federal oversight, I find myself leaning more and more toward a preference for partial nationalization. Taxpayer money is being used to bail out a vital industry -- arguably the vital industry -- that has been mismanaged beyond belief. Under the circumstances, we deserve and can legitimately demand seats on the boards of these companies.

Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) said the other day on Air America that somewhere in the world there has been one bailout after another since he came to Washington, and he angrily listed them: The S & L bailout, the Asian stock market bailout, the Mexican peso bailout, the Wall Street bailout, and now the Detroit bailout. As Sanders pointed out, each of the first four crises came after a round of deregulation that allowed businesses and individuals to milk an industry for windfall profits until it was on the verge of collapse, after which they turned to the taxpayers for help.

I would put it more strongly: They've blackmailed the taxpayers for even more money with the threat that matters would get even worse without it. Unfailingly, they've gotten the money and the government has then gone on to deregulate even more! Taxpayers across the political spectrum have become understandably resentful. That, and the damage inflicted on the economy by deregulation presents, it seems to me, a golden opportunity for the development of a political coalition based on economic populism and not cultural values and racial attitudes. 

With the collapse of neoconservatism as a politically viable ideology, the Republicans have knocked their intellectual rationale out from under themselves. The party may soon be dominated by no-nothing nativists and yahoos who will fight yesterday's battles on gay rights and abortion, and prate self-defeatingly about the free market. Since conservatives also surrendered any claims on competence, all the Democrats have to do is act responsibly. The danger, of course, is that they'll settle for that, which means that progressives must keep a watchful eye on their side of the aisle and not be reticent to apply pressure. 

Bush and his Republican enablers in Congress have left the country broke and in a mess. Now is the time for universal healthcare access. Now is the time to repair and upgrade infrastructure. Now is the time to invest in education. Now is the time to get out of Iraq and reform the Department of Defense. If not now, when?...

Quote of the Day: 
"The employees, dealers, suppliers and the GM board of directors feels strongly that Rick Wagoner is the right guy and best guy to lead us through these tough times."
General Motors spokesman Steve Harris, in response to Senator Christopher Dodd's call for General Motors CEO Wagoner to step down as a condition of any bailout.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Weekly Address: "My...recovery plan will launch the most sweeping effort to modernize and upgrade school buildings that this country has ever seen"

Here's another kind of program that deserves support: The Colton Kitchen Project in New Orleans.
It incorporates cooking, storytelling, and eating around the table with family – all things that should be the cornerstones of our lives, but don’t happen enough. While other H.S. programs are focused on vocational training, "Family Meal" focuses on basic cooking skills and family time.

In his inimitable way, Stupid and Contagious writes a spot-on appreciation of Leonard Cohen's "Hallejujah."

Starting with the shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake, Nita Lou learns to expect the unexpected in New Orleans...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hellzapoppin' With God

One night we went to see Slim Gaillard in a little Frisco nightclub. In Frisco great eager crowds of semi-intellectuals sat at his feet and listened to him on the piano, guitar and bongo drums. ... Now Dean approached him, he approached his God; he thought Slim Gaillard was God." 
Jack Kerouac, On The Road

Friday's Choice: The recent discussion of galvanizin' and galliardisin' brought Slim Gaillard to mind. So here he is, along with Whitey's Lindy Hoppers from the 1941 movie Hellzapoppin':

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Stonewall Jackson Of Redmond, WA

Our cat Sally could teach infantry tactics at West Point. Earlier this week, T. brought home a cat from her old neighborhood; for the time being, Marley lives in our bedroom while she adjusts to her new digs. When we got up this morning, we found Sally perfectly positioned on the stairs outside of the bedroom. She was on the far left at the top of the staircase, which afforded her both a maximum field of vision and plenty of time to block Marley should she dare to exit the room. Moreover, Sally set herself so that she could easily cut off any desperate attempt to go up the stairs. It was a masterful performance that would impress any cadet...

The MSM has begun complaining that Barack Obama has been overly reticent about the details of his stimulus plan, how a Big 3 bailout would work, etc. At the risk of sounding like an apologist, why should he do anything different? First of all, he regrettably is not yet the president. Second, it would distract from the efforts underway. Third, what has happened is the combined result of a disastrous presidency, decades of shortsighted mismanagement, and historical forces that we as a nation have neither recognized nor adapted to. Nothing Obama says or does now will influence the near term, so why not wait until his administration is in place?...

Journalism professor Charles Seiffe writes in The New York Times that the Minnesota senate election is effectively a tie, and that we will never know who won. He's right: When more than 3,000,000 produces produce a winning margin of 215, no recount will ever produce a result that exceeds the margin of error. Minnesota's highly regarded election process appears to have survived the idiotic Republican charges of bias; at this point, we just have to let that process play itself out. For what it's worth, the Franken campaign now claims a 22-vote lead...

Slug to Mutt: "I'm no Sarah Palin." Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida congresswoman who hung up on Barack Obama not once but twice, explains what happened here. It turns out that a radio station in her district is notorious for making prank calls to politicians, and she assumed that someone from the station was doing an excellent impression of the president-elect...

R. I. P., Odetta. Read the personal reminiscence on Foxessa's blog here, then watch Odetta's amazing rendition of "House of the Rising Sun:"