Friday, October 31, 2008

That's What I Like About The South

Ever wonder how low a desperate Republican would sink? We just may have found out:



Needless to say, incumbent Dole trails Democrat Kay Hagan in the race for one of North Carolina's senate seats. An understandably outraged Hagan responded with an ad defending her Christianity. It's all irrelevant, or should be, but Hagan does get in a terrific dig at the close of her spot:



FiveThirtyEight compares Obama's formidable ground game with McCain's flimsy effort. Scroll down to the telling photos of empty, near empty, and closed McCain offices from around the country...

In fact, McCain has pretty much abandoned the ground game and taken to the air: 
This week, a number of veteran GOP operatives who orchestrate door-to-door efforts to get voters to the polls were told they should not expect to receive plane tickets, rental cars or hotel rooms from the campaign.

"The desire for parity on television comes at the expense of investment in paid boots on the ground," said one top Republican strategist who has been privy to McCain's plans. "The folks who will oversee the volunteer operation have been told to get out into the field on their own nickel."
Friday's Choice: Happy Halloween from The Jersey Devil himself!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Scorecard


I found this great picture of Barack Obama at a recent rally in Pennsylvania at Change Your World. There are more here, plus a partial transcript and video of last night's infomercial here...

The infomercial pretty much succeeded on its own terms. It seemed intended to spur on committed supporters and allay any lingering fears of leaners. I doubt that it changed any minds or won over anyone truly undecided, but it wasn't trying to accomplish that, either...

BTW, the infomercial did not delay the World Series. In some time zones, it preempted the pre-game show, thus sparing millions of  Americans from the pontifications of Joe "This Is Really, Really, Really Serious" Buck and Tim "Flab Lip" McCarver. Republicans and Democrats alike should be grateful for that...

With less than a week to go, here's h0w some pundits and prognosticators see the electoral vote count:

Obama 344
McCain 194

Obama (strong) 272
Obama (lean) 039
Obama total 311
McCain (strong) 123
McCain (lean) 019
McCain total 142
Toss-up 085

Obama 357
McCain 181

Obama 311
McCain 157
Toss-Up 070

Obama 286
McCain 163
Toss-Up 089

Obama (strong) 203
Obama (lean) 088
Obama total 291
McCain (strong) 122
McCain (lean) 041
McCain total 163
Toss-up 084

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Hot Rod Ford And A Two Dollar Bill

The filmmaker's camera pans the single street of a desolate north Texas town as a the ripping wind of a blue norther flings vague clouds of dust and debris in random directions. The camera rests on a truck coughing and backfiring futilely. So begins Peter Bogdanovich's great film The Last Picture Show. In the truck, Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) stomps on the clutch, shoves in the starter, and rubs his frozen hands. The wind rips endlessly. Sonny pauses to turn up the radio: It's Hank Williams singing "Why Don't You Love Me Like You Used To Do." Sonny works the starter again, the protesting engine finally starts, and the truck pulls away from the curb.

Ever since I saw that scene, I like to listen to Hank Williams in my car, preferably when its cold out. It's the ideal way to appreciate his stark vision of loneliness and disappointment. Has anything ever evoked the feelings of frustration and resignation than that mournful, inimitable voice wondering "Why can't I free your doubtful mind/And melt your cold cold heart"? "Ramblin' Man" might be the spookiest song I've ever heard, especially when I'm driving alone on a cold dark night. There's nothing like it.

Now, thanks to Time-Life Records, I can listen to Hank's actual radio broadcasts. They've released 3 CDs of songs he recorded for a Sunday morning program. As such, there's a preponderance of gospel, most of which I've never heard. I'm only through one CD so I'm not ready to review it, but so for I'd give it about seven stars out of a possible five...

The opening seven minutes of The Last Picture Show:



And, yes, that's  21-year old Jeff Bridges at the end of the clip.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Socialist Orator Draws Over 100,000 Denver Dupes

I wonder how many of them are plumbers. According to Rachel Maddow on Air America, a John McCain rally the day before -- also in Denver -- attracted 4,000 true believers.

John McCain has become unhinged. Watch:



Now, why would anyone cheer -- make that cheer wildly -- a remark like this? How many of them would be o.k. with a nuclear reactor in their town? That's the big flaw in his plan for 45 new nuclear reactors: Who would take them? Who would take the waste?

Similarly, I heard a radio clip of a McCain crowd booing a McCain accusation of Obama's desire to "spread the wealth." Johnny, that's just not a winning theme, especially when Republican tax policies have been spreading the wealth up for the last eight years. As Hendrik Hertzberg points out here, McCain's point is pretty silly:
The Republican argument of the moment seems to be that the difference between capitalism and socialism corresponds to the difference between a top marginal income-tax rate of 35 per cent and a top marginal income-tax rate of 39.6 per cent.
Deliciously, Hertzberg has uncovered a quote of McCain arguing that the wealthy should pay higher taxes and of Sarah Palin bragging that in Alaska, "we share in the wealth." It's great reading; don't miss it...

I loved 'em, my kids loved 'em, and it's nice to know that my grandsons probably will, too. Thanks to Hot Wheels, Mattel has a higher market valuation than General Motors. More here, and great pix of vintage models here...

Change Your World has taken the time to collect transcripts of nine McCain robocalls and exposing the lies and half truths. Great work...

Molly the Dog of the blog Caterpillars and Butterflies is a nurse at an inner city clinic. Here, she writes of her encounter with an aging construction worker who can't afford his meds for high blood pressure and diabetes...

Joe the Rat prepares to desert the sinking ship...

Here's the worst idea since John McCain picked Sarah Palin: Led Zeppelin considers touring without Robert Plant. Think of The Who touring without Roger Daltry. Or Pearl Jam touring without Eddie Vedder. Or George Bush being interviewed without Dick Cheney. Or Santa delivering presents without Rudolph. Or the Army Corps of Engineers without an excuse for every gallon of water that broke through the New Orleans levees. Don't do it, guys...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Funnies & So Much More



As always, click to enlarge www.tomthedancingbug.com for more...

Adding clairvoyance to their brief, Focus On The Family Action has published a twisted 16-page letter to the faithful, purporting to be a communication from "Obama's America" in 2012. The words "homosexual," "homosexuals," and "homosexuality" appear 16 times, mostly in the first six pages. ("Same sex" appears four times and, oddly, "lesbian" only once. One gets the impression that -- like Queen Victoria -- James Dobson and his demonic ilk simply won't believe that it exists.) Among other dire consequences of an Obama administration are gay troop leaders sharing tents with innocent Boy Scouts, gay church youth leaders, and the suppression of "hate speech" (quotes theirs). About the only good news is Antonin Scalia's retirement from the Supreme Court because he's sick and dying or something. The whole sick enterprise is enough to make one question the right to vote...

I spent yesterday afternoon phone banking for Obama. The office was full of volunteers, and neighborhood canvassers came steadily in and out the whole time I was there. We're going to win this thing...

Onward and upward to the Arts:








Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8 (1989-2006), Bob Dylan. Who would have thought that a collection of demos, alternate versions, old folk songs, live cuts, and previously unreleased songs would be one of the top releases of the year?  It helps when the demos and alternate versions are superior to the original releases. It helps even more when the sum total projects the dystopian vision of a world gone wrong from the most significant American songwriter ever. This world is no great shakes, Dylan says, but listening to the music is at least a way of getting to the truth of it while celebrating the ability of humans to create and communicate through song. Then he takes us on a tour of virtually every popular American music form that involves setting words to a tune. What in lesser hands might have made an interesting collection of an artist in development instead becomes a great album, arguably the best of the year and inarguably one of the best of an amazing career.









Shake Away/Ojo De Culebra, Lila Downs. Crossover albums risk diluting an artist's sound by flirting with a low common denominator aimed at making him or her "accessible" to a wider audience. Too often, an authentic sounds becomes bland and the album neither crosses over nor satisfies the artist's original audience. Happily, the Mexican-American singer Lila Downs uses the opportunity to expand her sound to a pan-Latin musical vision encompassing the border, the Caribbean, and the jungles and beaches of Central and South America. Singing in both English and Spanish, Downs' dazzling contralto bounds from rock to folk to blues to Latino ballads and dances with the exuberance of children rushing to recess on the first sunny day of the year. The creative arrangements fit her like a glove: A soprano sax extends her voice. A New Orleans brass band tuba marks the beat for salsa horns. Guitars swoop in and out like hawks. Seemingly at will, her contralto leaps to a high soprano. Wow.









South Pacific (New Broadway Cast), Kelli O'Hara, Paulo Szot, Matthew Morrison. To these ears, it surpasses the original cast, which is saying something. Opera singer Szot's dashing Emile elicits all of the romance and passion from "Some Enchanted Evening" and the showstopper "This Really Was Mine." Morrison's fine tenor elicits the longing and sorrow of Lt. Cable's doomed affair. But it's Kelli O'Hara's Nellie Forbush that shines brightest. Through the first act, she brings just the right touch of self-importance to Nellie's insouciance and cock-eyed optimism. Then when confronted with her own bigotry, the self-importance gives way to the self-knowledge that makes Nellie a true heroine. It can't be easy to convey this in the soundtrack of musical, but O'Hara is more than equal to the task. Moreover, all of the beloved favorites are performed with just the right touch, especially Loretta Ables' knowing "Bali Hai" and "Happy Talk." Note: As this is the CD era, we get all of the reprises and incidental music that the space limitations of vinyl precluded...

Fan's Notes: We're having internet difficulties at home, so blog entries could be sporadic for a few days.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Gumbobama!

How can you beat this:



I know that Danny Young is enjoying this one.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Way Down In The Hole











From McCarthyite yowls accusing Obama of socialism to false accusations of sexual assault, the end game of the McCain campaign and its supporters recalls the death throes of a mastodon, a prehistoric elephant trapped in the tar pit it walked into and every effort to extricate itself making matters worse...

Larry David writes that waiting for Election Day is worse than waiting for the results of a biopsy...

WWOZ of New Orleans broadcasts live this weekend from the Voodoo Music Experience. Schedule here...

The New York Times endorses Barack Obama: "Mr. Obama has met challenge after challenge, growing as a leader and putting real flesh on his early promises of hope and change. He has shown a cool head and sound judgment. We believe he has the will and the ability to forge the broad political consensus that is essential to finding solutions to this nation’s problems..."

Several more reasons why I'm glad I don't have to date...

The Number That Explains It All: Obama has tailored his campaign to middle class concerns and McCain has not, at least in a meaningful way. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight explains...

Book Review: The Turnaround, George Pelecanos. Disappointing offering from Pelecanos jumps back and forth from the Seventies to present day, exploring the impact of a street incident when the principles converge years later. The events of the Seventies represent Pelecanos at his best -- you can practically hear the music as bored teenagers cruise looking for action -- but he stumbles badly in the contemporary setting. The novel becomes surprisingly talky -- never a flaw of Pelecanos until now -- as the characters orate at each other rather than converse. Moreover, an unnecessary (and unbelievable) twist and a pat, Hollywood closing mar the conclusion. Pelecanos attempts to personalize the societal forces bearing down on the working class; it's a worthy theme held back by stock characters and wooden dialogue. To read Pelecanos at his considerable best, try Hard Revolution...

Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, and Richard Price -- all of who wrote teleplays for The Wire -- are often cited as America's premiere contemporary crime novelists. The Turnaround notwithstanding, Pelecanos is the most consistent although arguably the least ambitious of the three. Lehane's reputation rests on the Kenzie-Gennaro series and Mystic River. (His new novel, The Given Day, has gotten strong reviews.) While Mystic River is superb, I personally find the Kenzie-Gennaro series to be dull and turgid. Price is the most highly regarded, but he needs an editor badly: With the exception of The Wanderers, anything I've read by him could have been cut by at least 100 pages.

This is all a long way of giving a shout-out to a crime writer whose work stands with these three: The Baltimore novelist Laura Lippman. Lippman, whose husband David Simon produced The Wire. Lippman writes an engaging series featuring the insouciant private detective Tess Monaghan. But the literary strength of her work lies in three standalone novels: Every Secret Thing, To The Power Of Three, and What The Dead Know. Lippman's milieu is the leafy suburbs and the middle-class neighborhoods hiding desperate secrets. She creates three-dimensional characters with flaws and strengths and presents them sympathetically. Moreover the mysteries at the heart of the narratives are involving and well-plotted. As anyone who reads mysteries knows, a compelling plot with credible twists and peopled by strong characters is the Holy Grail of crime writing. I hesitate to call anyone the best crime writer around, but the best of Lippman's work belongs on the A List...

Friday's Choice: This Friday's choice goes out to John McCain and the Republican party.  Each season of The Wire featured a different version of Tom Waits' "Way Down In The Hole," starting with the Blind Boys Of Alabama in Season 1:



Tom Waits introduced Season 2:


Season 3 featured The Neville Brothers:


Season 4 (the best season and the best credits, IMHO) featured a group of Baltimore teenagers called DoMaJe:


Last, Steve Earle and Season 5:


Thursday, October 23, 2008

People Are Strange

Since the publication of Jane Mayer's New Yorker article about Sarah Palin, I've been monitoring the comments on the Draft Sarah Palin For Vice-President blog alluded to by Mayer. Most of it is dull and fatuous. There's a lot if whistling in the dark, media and poll bashing, and reassurances that whatever happens on November 4 will be God's will. Of greatest curiosity is the debate between  supporters of one crackpot idea -- that Obama is actually a citizen of Kenya and not the United States -- and those of an utterly shattered pot -- that he is actually an illegitimate child fathered by a Marxist pedophile friend of the family. I kid you not.

Plainly, both "ideas" hold about as much water as a butterfly net, if that much. One poster is convinced that as soon as the truth about Obama's lineage emerges (she subscribes to the citizen of Kenya theory), he will be forced from the ticket and replaced by Hillary Clinton. Her main concern is that Obama's trip to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii is actually a cover story that will allow him to personally destroy the evidence, and hopes that the media will tail him. Again, I kid you not.

The fixation of the right with Obama's ancestry fascinates. It echoes, resoundingly, the slaveholding and  southern and colonialist system of defining "black" according to the fraction of African ancestry. The French colonialists of Sainte-Domingue constructed a system of classification that identified 64 different types of black person, from full-blooded African to one-sixty-fourth African. (No link; my source is an appendix of the complete nomenclature in All Soul's Rising, Madison Smartt Bell's novel about Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian slave revolution.) It was an obsession aimed at preserving white status and, no doubt, at assuaging doubts about the legitimacy of slavery. Psychologically, it springs from the same poisoned well as the frenzied right-wing attempts to project Obama as not one of us...

Readers from Seattle are will appreciate this bit of comedy from one of the blog comments: 
"Have you ever read the Wikipedia bio of Obama? Barry' mother came of age not in Kansas (another fantasy) but in liberal Seattle in one of the most liberal schools, Mercer Island High School. Many of her teachers were socialists or maxists. It makes sense that she would be infatuated with one."
(The "one" being the family friend who allegedly impregnated her with the next President of the United States.) Now, when Ann Dunham attended high school in the late Fifties, you would no more likely spot a Marxist on Mercer Island than you would see an African-American in a noncustodial job. Until a few years ago, it was as rock-ribbed, country club Republican as it gets...

Parts 2 and 3 of the LA Times series about the health care system are here and here. Part 2 shows how insurers, using Healthcare Savings Accounts as a spearhead, are "moving away from their traditional role of pooling health risks and are reinventing themselves as money managers -- providers of financial vehicles through which consumers pay for their own healthcare." Part 3 explores the extent to which insurers have dedicated resources to not paying hospital and doctor bills that they had already agreed to cover, and the stress that puts on the system's capacity for providing health care...

Moderation breaks out at a McCain rally...

Apparently, the McCain campaign did not permit the Muslim state campaign chair from the video to appear on CNN. I suppose that at this point they are looking at such an electoral rout that they are unwilling to ruffle the feathers of the right-wing base even to publicize something that might appeal to independents...

Meanwhile, Chris Matthews obliterates McCain spokesperson Nancy Pfotenhauer on the topic of Palin's weird contention that the vice-president is "in charge" of the Senate:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"What About That Lady Who Just Got Elected In Alaska?"

Jane Mayer's "The Insiders: How John McCain Came To Pick Sarah Palin" in the current New Yorker isn't up to her usual standards. It is not, as the headline suggests, a blow-by-blow account of how the campaign rejected initial choices and wound up settling on Palin. There's no detailing of the internal debates; all Mayer tells us is what we already know: That McCain wanted Joe Lieberman on the ticket and was ultimately discouraged by fears of a convention floor fight with the party hard right. Moreover, she confers far too much stature on Alaska small-timers and the callow blogger Adam Brickley ("an authentic heartland voice"), who last February launched a blog to promote Palin as an antidote to expected Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

But as an inadvertent portrait of Palin's capacity to seduce older men into ballyhooing her rise to prominence, Mayer's account is invaluable. The former beauty queen is clearly comfortable with men. The Circe of the Northern Lights has the ability to reduce them to stammering suitors, reminiscent of the Tarleton twins begging Scarlett O'Hara to eat barbecue with them Indeed, although her addition to the Republican ticket was initially thought to be an effort to attract women voters, it's now clear that her primary appeal is to men.

So, when fundraising cruises sponsored by the National Review and the Weekly Standard made port in Juneau, Palin was quick to invite their mostly white, middle-aged male pundits and families to lunch in the governor's mansion, followed by a helicopter tour to a gold mine. (The mine was of particular interest to Palin because environmentalists -- unfairly, in her view -- had invoked  "the Clean Water Act to oppose a plan by a mining company, Coeur Alaska, to dump waste from the extraction of gold into a pristine lake in the Tongass National Forest.") At any rate, in terms of Palin's aspirations, the visit was a resounding success. The National Review put her on its cover ("The Most Popular Governor"), one pundit called her "a mix between Annie Oakley and Joan of Arc," and William Kristol began flogging Palin for vice president.

A subsequent lunch with National Review writers and guests was equally successful. "This lady is something special. She connects. She's genuine." Palin charmed John Bolton by speaking approvingly of his efforts to reverse international controls on the trans-border flow of small arms. (She sure knows how to sweet talk a guy.) And she huddled with Dick Morris for a lengthy, private conversation during which he told Palin that she was of vice-presidential timber. 

But the most revealing comment came from National Review editor James Nordlinger, who subsequently described Palin as  “a former beauty-pageant contestant, and a real honey, too." He added, "Am I allowed to say that? Probably not, but too bad.” Thus the impression one gets of the two lunches: A shrewd, attractive, younger woman bewitches a group of supposedly sophisticated pundits, academics, and experts by the time-tested expedients of showing them a good time and agreeing with them.

What of Adam Brickley, the blogger who first called attention to Palin? Although Mayer portrays him as a knowledgeable comer, his blog (Draft Sarah Palin For Vice President) is a facile, uncritical fanzine that refers to "Sarah" and "Todd" as if they are personal friends. Brickley sincerely believes that Palin upstaged Tina Fey on SNL and considers Obama's tenuous connection to ACORN to be as sinister as he thinks Troopergate is innocent fun. All in all, Brickley comes across as a lovelorn college student transfixed and infatuated by the MILF living next door. This may or may not be authentic, but it's hardly a heartland voice: Brickley is no John Cougar Mellencamp.

Judge for yourself whether Palin consciously uses her attractiveness and sexuality to further her career. Conscious on her part or not, this has undoubtedly happened. She has certainly not been shy about promoting herself to the point to where she has gone too far too fast. She's like a raw minor league talent who makes the major starting lineup based on self-hype rather than actual accomplishments. Except that this isn't a game. Mayer quotes former McCain strategist Matthew Dowd saying that John McCain  “'knows in his gut' that Palin isn’t qualified for the job, 'and when this race is over, that is something he will have to live with. . . . He put the country at risk...'” 

Must Read Dept.: Today, the Los Angeles Times begins a three-parts begins a three-part series on the rapidly failing "system" of individual and employer-provided health insurance, which sounds about as stable as a New Orleans levee. Part I shows that the 85 million Americans with individually purchased health insurance lodge protect their dreams in a house of straw...

FiveThirtyEight has an interesting and readable summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the major tracking polls here. If you've ever wondered why they differ but don't want to take a statistics class to find the answer, this more than suffices...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Obama For President


Newspaper endorsements are well-publicized events in the quadrennial hoopla Americans call the presidential campaign. Their actual impact is doubtful, yet no candidate has ever turned one down. So far this year, Obama dominates the endorsement derby, including nods from staunch Bush supporters like the Houston Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune. In fact, the Trib's endorsement of Obama marks the first time in the paper's 161-year history that it has supported a Democrat for president.

The endorsements, some exceptionally eloquent, some unreserved, some ambivalent, coalesce around four main themes:
  1. The wreckage of the Bush Administration leaves the next president with a nearly impossible job
  2. Obama's always impressive poise, command, and leadership have grown as the campaign lengthened and will serve to both inspire the nation and pull it together
  3. McCain's disappointing campaign shows that he has neither the solutions nor the temperament for the presidency, especially in trying times
  4. His choice of Sarah Palin as running mate was so reckless as to practically disqualify him by itself
Links to selected endorsements follow. The New Yorker provides an especially detailed and thorough analysis of the conditions the next president will inherit and a probing argument of why Obama is the best hope to address them.

Boston Globe: "The nation needs a chief executive who has the temperament and the nerves to shepherd Americans through what promises to be a grueling period - and who has the vision to restore this country to its place of leadership in the world."

Chicago Tribune: "On Dec. 6, 2006, this page encouraged Obama to join the presidential campaign. We wrote that he would celebrate our common values instead of exaggerate our differences. We said he would raise the tone of the campaign. We said his intellectual depth would sharpen the policy debate. In the ensuing 22 months he has done just that."

Denver Post: "Republicans love to mock Obama's history as a community organizer. But here was a man with no money to offer, no patronage to dispense, no way to punish his opponents. All he could do was to work with people from all walks of life, liberals and conservatives, business people and the unemployed, and bring them together in common cause for a better community. Could there really be better preparation to reunite a worried and divided America to again pursue our 'more perfect union'?"

Houston Chronicle: "Obama appears to possess the tools to confront our myriad and daunting problems. He's thoughtful and analytical. He has met his opponents' attacks with calm and reasoned responses. Viewers of the debates saw a poised, well-prepared plausible president with well-articulated positions on the bread-and-butter issues that poll after poll indicate are the true concerns of voters."

Los Angeles Times: "We may one day look back on this presidential campaign in wonder. We may marvel that Obama's critics called him an elitist, as if an Ivy League education were a source of embarrassment, and belittled his eloquence, as if a gift with words were suddenly a defect. In fact, Obama is educated and eloquent, sober and exciting, steady and mature. He represents the nation as it is, and as it aspires to be."

New Yorker: "The election of Obama—a man of mixed ethnicity, at once comfortable in the world and utterly representative of twenty-first-century America—would, at a stroke, reverse our country’s image abroad and refresh its spirit at home."

North Carolina News & Observer: "[T]he junior U.S. senator from Illinois -- the son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya, the product of humble beginnings and a raising by his extended family, the kid with big dreams, the young man with much ambition, the hard worker who made the most of his education and his opportunities and then went to Chicago to help others do likewise -- could not be more of an example of all that America is and all that it can be."

Oregonian: "Barack Obama can recall the United States to its own highest principles and priorities. He can change course after an administration that has often cut constitutional and legal corners, and frequently stumbled into policy and philosophical embarassment."

Salt Lake Tribune: "Under the most intense scrutiny and attacks from both parties, Obama has shown the temperament, judgment, intellect and political acumen that are essential in a president that would lead the United States out of the crises created by President Bush, a complicit Congress and our own apathy."

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Obama is the best candidate for president. He has the vision, patience and fortitude to put America on a track to recovery after an eight-year run of financial irresponsibility, aggressive adventurism abroad and mismanagement, secrecy and dissembling on numerous fronts."

Washington Post: "Mr. Obama's temperament is unlike anything we've seen on the national stage in many years. He is deliberate but not indecisive; eloquent but a master of substance and detail; preternaturally confident but eager to hear opposing points of view. He has inspired millions of voters of diverse ages and races, no small thing in our often divided and cynical country. We think he is the right man for a perilous moment."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Here Comes The Sun

I found this on Richie Havens' web site:



Which begs the question, What are John McCain music videos like? BTW, Richie's new CD features a terrific rendition of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," which you can download from iTunes.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

R. I. P., Levi Stubbs

Even if you don't know his name, you know his voice. Levi Stubbs, lead singer for The Four Tops, enchanted listeners for decades with an operatic, emotive vocal style that skated the edges of melodrama but had too much swing and soul to ever step into that snare. Stubb's influential baritone -- oft imitated but never remotely equaled -- was the signature of such all-time classic singles as "Baby, I Need Your Loving," "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)," "It's The Same Old Song," "Reach Out I'll Be There," "Standing In The Shadows Of Love,"  and "Bernadette." Levi Stubbs passed away yesterday after a long illness. The New York Times obit is here...

Of Stubbs, Dave Marsh writes:
When I was 15, I met the Four Tops on a downtown Detroit street, where they were doing a photo shoot with the Supremes. The group—especially Duke Fakir—were extraordinarily kind to a trio of white kids totally out of their element. I love the Four Tops for that, but I would have loved them anyway. They are the voice of adolescent angst and adult heartbreak, the pure, the absolute joy that humans can take in one another. Call them love songs –I’d say it was more like lifelines—but call them silly and you’ve branded yourself as a fool. 

Phil Spector once said that “Bernadette” was a black man singing Bob Dylan. The name of that black man was Levi Stubbs. And for those of you who are Bruce Springsteen fans, go find the Tops greatest album, The Four Tops Second Album, and listen to “Love Feels Like Fire” and “Helpless,” two of my alltime Motown tracks (and they weren’t even singles). You’ll feel the same thing. Those crazed sax breaks are as close to free jazz as Motown ever let itself come, and they got away with it there solely because the Tops were such a perfect machine with the most powerful voice of its time at the fore. I could never figure out whether Levi was the toughest or the tenderest singer at Motown, so I finally accepted that he was both.

Yeah, a lot of the Tops is formula Holland Dozier Holland. Sometimes even I think it’s the Supremes when the intro to “It’s the Same Old Song” or “Something About You” comes on. So what? To begin with, HDH created the greatest formula in the history of rock and soul. Now: Go listen again to “Reach Out” and see if you can think of a Supremes record that could grab you in the gut that way. It’s the “Like a Rolling Stone” of soul—with a flute and hand percussion leading the way! The group always got Eddie Holland’s greatest lyrics (and he the most under-rated lyricist of the ‘60s) and that’s one.

They got those songs because Levi could sing the most impossible stuff. Any other soul singer I know would have insisted on editing. The great, long, image rich lines in “Bernadette” and “Ask the Lonely” were too long, that they needed more space to really sing. Not Levi. He charged into those words and wrestled everything out of them, and somehow, he sounded graceful as he did. “Loving you has made my life sweeter than ever” is so multisyllabic that they had to shorten it for the title: “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever” fit the label better, I guess.

The Tops got away with that as a group because they knew how to work with such vocal intricacy. By the time they had their first Motown hit they’d already been together for ten years. Duke told me recently that their earlier sojourn at Columbia Records in the late ‘50s came after a brief appearance at the Apollo. The talent scout who signed them was John Hammond—the same guy who found Bob, Bruce, and Aretha. That’s the company the Four Tops, and Levi Stubbs, in particular belong in. Who else could turn “Walk Away Renee” into soul music? Who else could get away with “7 Rooms of Gloom” as a love song without a hint of irony, let alone comedy?

I will testify. Levi and the Tops were among the graces of my own soul. When I get nervous before an interview, I always remember how kind those guys were to that 15 year old kid, and I feel beyond harm. When I listen to “The Same Old Song,” I remember once again the sweetness of sour. “Bernadette” calls to my mind the futility of believing you’re in control, and how easy it is to confuse passion with obsession. “Reach Out” is simply as colossal an extravaganza as rock and soul music have ever produced, as monumental in its way as “Like a Rolling Stone.” The focal point of all that musical gingerbread and the mighty Funk Brothers is not the group—it’s one man, Levi Stubbs, pushed not to his limit but way past it. But there’s not a hint—not a second—where Levi Stubbs sounds like anything but a guy from down the street, across the way or in your mirror. Imagine a Pavarotti on the corner. There he is. All of it helped, somehow, make my own life possible.

This is no case of “Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over).” Levi Stubbs was 72 years old. He hadn’t been in good health for several years. This isn’t Marvin Gaye or David Ruffin or Tammi Terrell. This is a man who made his full contribution to our culture, our lives. That doesn’t make it all that much easier to hear the word.  

At the Tops’ golden anniversary show in Detroit several years ago, he sang from a wheelchair. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” his friend and attorney, Judy Tint, told me this afternoon.

Ain’t any in this house today, either.

Levi Stubbs and The Four Tops sing "Baby I Need Your Loving":

Friday, October 17, 2008

How Do You Like Them ACORNs?

The latest Threat To Democracy As We Know It is the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, a.k.a., ACORN (their server is down, so the link is to a Wikipedia article). Formed in 1970 in Little Rock, Arkansas, ACORN has grown internationally: It turns out that its subversive mission of improving wages and services for poor people has a mysterious appeal in such prosperous nations as Mexico and Peru. In 2004, ACORN added voter registration to its brief. As suppression of voter turnout is a key tactic of the Rove-Delay strategy for a permanent Republican majority (remember that?), ACORN's efforts to increase voter turnout incurred the wrath of the Republican party, which immediately began accusing the 350,000 member of organization of criminal interference in the sanctity of the vote. In short, ACORN is one of those community organizations that the right ridicules because they fear its strength.

Typically, the sanctimonious uproar over ACORN is the usual demagogic twaddle aimed at concealing a darker agenda. After all, no one will say that they oppose a high voter turnout; that would be downright un-American. Better to put lipstick on a pig by claiming to protect a sacred right from hordes of poor people who would ruin the feast if they insisted on sitting at the table. ACORN use of paid signature gatherers seemingly offered an opening, and every conservative from John McCain to Rush Limbaugh has moved to exploit it (exploitation being something they are very good at).

Except, as Hendrik Hertzberg points out here, it's a sham. It turns out that ACORN is well-aware of the temptation for signature gatherers to inflate their paychecks by submitting false registration papers. So, it cooperates with state authorities by taking steps to identify bad submissions. So, there's nothing to worry about. The greatest danger here is that Republican hot air will hasten the global warming process...

I've been remiss by failing until now to include a link to Hertzberg's daily New Yorker blog on the Election 2008 sidebar. Hertzberg is arguably the best liberal political writer we have, consistently educing nuanced insight with elegant, witty prose...

I knew better. I knew better I knew better I knew better. Don't give up on the Red Sox! Even so, I gave up last night when Tampa Bay took a 7-0 lead in the top of the seventh and missed out on the late-inning impossibilities as Pedey, Pap, Big Papi, Youk, Coco, Justin, and J.D. architected the best post-season comeback since 1929. Pedroia singles in a run. Boom! Big Papi's bat wakes up to the tune of a three-run homer and it's 7-4 after seven. Fenway Park goes nuts. Boom! J. D. Drew clouts a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth and Mark Kotsay's double fall just out of the reach of B. J. Upton, the Rays' splendid center fielder. Coco Crisp then fouls off pitch after pitch until he decides that he really likes the tenth offering and laces it to center to drive in the tying run. In the top of the ninth, shaved-headed rookie Justin Masterson works out of a jam by forcing a double play ball. With two out and the sacks empty in the bottom of the ninth, Kevin Youkilis scrapes out an infield single and takes second on a throwing error. The Rays walk Jason Bay to set up a force play and to make the left-handed batting J.D. Drew face a left-handed pitcher. The laconic Georgian crosses them up with with a game-winning single that bounces into bullpen in right field. Much happiness and jumping up and down on the field and in living rooms all over New England.

The Sox are still down three games to two and have to go to Tampa for the remainder of the American League Championship series. Tampa is plenty good and you have to like their chances. But talk about one hell of a last hurrah!...

How about those TCU Horned Frogs, anyway?!...

Friday's Choice: NOLA's own Zigaboo Modeliste serves up "O-B-A-M-A, Obama (Obamagroove)." Available for download on iTunes:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Debate III: The Wheels Come Off

I hate to admit it, but McCain started off well last night: He was uncharacteristically crisp and engaged. Obama, on the other hand seemed to be somewhere else. In fact, an early split screen caught him staring into space during one McCain statement. Then came the question about negative campaigning, specifically was either candidate prepared to say to the other's face what their ads had been claiming. (Unsurprisingly, neither man took up the opportunity.)

Instead, McCain started whining about John Lewis, and at the same time tried -- not to sound like Joe Biden, but it fits here -- literally incredibly to claim that his campaign had taken the high road of jobs and the economy. At this point, the wheels came off. In a near Muskie moment, the former POW and 26-year veteran of national politics whimpered that Lewis' comparison darker aspects of the McCain campaign to George Wallace's race-baiting to be "hurtful." This is the guy who "knows how" to capture Osama bin Ladn and "win" in Iraq?Meanwhile, Obama remarked that while it was in fact a tough campaign, he could take three more weeks of negative campaigning but the American people couldn’t take four more years of Bush economics.

McCain didn’t do himself any favors by sneering at protecting the health of a woman as being a necessary part of any abortion legislation. This is a line Democrats, independents and more than a few Republicans simply won't cross. By deriding it, McCain not impugned the ethics of millions of voters, he all but said that they hadn't given the matter serious thought. By now, I'd say that if there's one thing Americans have given a lot of thought to, it's reproductive choice. Not a shining moment for the Straight Talk Express.

McCain is all over the place. He talks about a spending freeze on one hand and building 45 nuclear power plants on the other (estimated cost 9 bil per, and I’d like to know what nuclear power plant ever came in at its estimate. Plus, who will take them?). He invoked Trig Palin as an example of the need for Americans to "dig deep" to find a cure for autism (Trig actually has Down's Syndrome, not autism) while averring time and again that throwing money at problems was not the way to solve them.

McCain's closing — which might have been effective eight years ago — was counterproductive. He basically said “trust me because I”m a McCain and I know how to...” but that’s what we’ve been hearing from Bush for two terms. Right now, people aren’t going to buy that from anyone, no matter how well-intended.

Obama had his good moments and weak spots — he was kind of slack at the beginning — but basically he ran the ball into the line to kill the clock. To me, his finest moment came when he steadfastly defended his policy toward Colombia ("our closest ally" in South America McCain called it) on the basis of that country's poor record on human rights and labor. When it comes to Central and South America, the Unites States does not have a proud history; it was inspiring to hear a presidential candidate put human rights and decency ahead of realpolitik. 

I was a little surprised that the snap polls showed Obama winning so handily, although maybe that isn’t so surprising when you consider the lead he’s built up. Plus, McCain's claims that he was running a positive campaign based on issues strained credulity to the point that the few remaining voters may well conclude that he is a liar. And once that happens...

When the debates began, I thought that Obama had a tendency to miss openings. Now, I've come to believe that he chooses the ones he wants to blow through. McCain offers so many, and the last thing Obama needs is to look like he's mugging an old white guy...

I'm not going to say much about "Joe The Plumber" other than something that started out as condescending swiftly became comical...

For those of you unfamiliar with the name of John Lewis, the 21-year Georgia congressman began his career in public life as a Freedom Rider. Beaten by an Alabama mob in 1961, he rose to leadership of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and spoke at the famous Washington March of 1963, the event at which Martin Luther King gave his "I have a dream..." speech. Although a Hillary Clinton supporter, Lewis had this to say about Obama's nomination: 
“If someone had told me this would be happening now, I would have told them they were crazy, out of their mind, they didn’t know what they were talking about ... I just wish the others were around to see this day. ... To the people who were beaten, put in jail, were asked questions they could never answer to register to vote, it’s amazing.”
You know, if John Lewis says your campaign has taken on elements of segregationist hate, perhaps you ought to listen. It's not like he doesn't know what he's talking about...

Has the McCain campaign taken the low road? And if not, what to make of supporters like these:



To wash the bad taste from your mouth, here's the TV ad version of Ralph Stanley's endorsement of "Barack." And dig Ralph's accent when he pronounces "Virginia"!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hymn To Him

Male Kitchen Efficiency Tip: For today's lunch of leftover pulled pork and barbecue sauce (yet another Premium T. triumph), I left the pork in its container and spooned barbecue sauce onto it. I then microwaved the pork -- still in its original container -- and ate it using the same spoon used for the barbecue sauce. Satisfaction Factor: High (Premium T. made it, after all). Hassle factor: Very Low. Number of dishes to do: Two, counting the spoon.

Alternate approach: Place pork and sauce into separate dishes suitable for presentation. Microwave both and put them on a table fully set for one, with separate serving utensils for each. Add pork to plate, top with sauce. Satisfaction Factor: Moderated to High (downgraded some because of the number of dirty dishes). Hassle Factor: Moderate to High. Number of dishes to do: Nine, counting utensils.

Bonus points: Since I just got back from the gym and am going to shower anyway, there's no real need to waste a napkin...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My God Can Pound Your God

Ugh. I have the crud today. Frankly, I'll take any deity -- God, "Hindu," Buddha, Allah, or...miscellaneous -- that can get rid of it:



As for the rest of the day, it's time to regress into soup and McHale's Navy, which my brothers and I watched religiously after school. Come to think of it, if Ernest Borgnine has any ideas for this cold, I'll take them.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Decline Of Intellectual Conservatism

Leonard Pitts writes of the tattered remnants of intellectual conservatism, "Are we to regard unthinking conservatives...as the only true conservatives?" Sarah Palin, Pitts writes, is as advertised: One of us.
And by "us," I don't mean you, necessarily, or me. I mean the lowest common denominator us, the us of myth and narrative, the us of simple mind, the reactionary, ill-informed, impatient with complexity, utterly shallow us.
He commiserates with fellow pundits Kathleen Parker and David Brooks, conservatives whose criticisms of Palin invoked the wrath of the Republican rank and file. 

To my way of thinking, though, the likes of Brooks and Parker brought this on themselves. Long ago, they looked the other way as the religious right brought both fervor and anti-intellectualism to the Republican cause. No doubt believing that the mob could be controlled, they stood silent while Creationism, homophobia, and irrationality seeped into the public discourse. If Brooks' and Parker didn't exactly create the sans culottes of modern conservatism, they stood by as the rampage began. They spoke out only when their purpose was no longer served, then acted offended when the mob came for them. 

The culmination of this is, of course, the explosions of rage at recent McCain rallies. The reactionary, ill-informed us, aggrieved and resentful even when in power, see their influence and importance slipping away. Fearing irrelevancy, they howl that Obama is a socialist and a terrorist, both patently ridiculous accusations that serve to show how intellectually bankrupt Republicanism has become. Of course, when an ideology characterized by its own moral certitude had driven the country into a ditch before the financial panic made matters worse, perhaps it's to be expected that its adherents will lash out at perceived enemies rather than look to themselves.

Then there are the other conservative intellectuals -- thinkers like William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer. They long ago put their ability at the service of ideology, and now have the credibility of a party intellectual in Stalinist Russia. In a typically over the top column, Krauthammer fulminates about Obama's "associations." Krauthammer admits that Obama is neither corrupt nor racist, but argues that his unscrupulous "use" of William Ayers, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and Anthony Rezko prove how cynically ruthless Obama is at his core. That this doesn't pass the laugh test bothers Krauthammer not at all, a man who will say or write anything to advance his personal agenda of keeping the United States deeply involved in Middle Eastern politics (with the exception of Israel's Likud party, with whom we have a moral obligation to follow in lockstep).

One problem with Krauthammer's argument is that everyone has associations. For example, I find John McCain's association with George Bush, Phil Gramm, Joe Lieberman, and the "shallow us" much more deeply problematic than than Barack Obama's tenuous connection to a former Sixties radical. Were he or she to think about it in those terms, the typical voter probably agrees. 

William Kristol, a leading cheerleader for the Iraq war, also thinks Obama's associations are a legitimate campaign issue. But Kristol counsels McCain to make nice anyway, ignoring the reality that they let the wolves out of the cage a long time ago and that the anger of McCain's supporters has been an inescapable part of the story.

The Kristols and the Krauthammers served an important function in the rise of modern conservatism. They provided a useful intellectual veneer for the gutter politics of Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay, and Karl Rove. By surrendering their independence, they've lent ramshackle intellectual trappings to the savagery of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter. They are also the other half of the story that Leonard Pitts writes about, that modern conservatism is as much about intellectual dishonesty as it is anti-intellectualism...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Something Is Happening Here...

As if the implosion of the free market weren't enough, endangered Republican incumbent senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota suddenly finds himself at the center of Suitgate. It seems that major Coleman donor Nasser Kazeminy may have covered the tab (at Neinman-Marcus, no less) for some of Coleman's suits. I say "may have" because it ain't exactly clear...well, watch this grilling of Coleman's campaign manager and judge for yourself:



Chris Cizzilla of The Washington Post called it "the most awkward press conference in the history of politics." For sure, this guy no Ari Fleischer ("a great evasive bore," Michael Kinsley once wrote of Fleischer). 

Could Al Franken be the next senator for Minnesota? The economy, Suitgate, and Coleman's general unpopularity have given Franken a slight but clear edge in polls. Come to think of it, that press conference sounds like something Franken would have written back in his Saturday Night Live days...

More great voodoo dolls from Ima Pissdov:
























Respondele a Obama: "Even my Republican mama/Is voting for Obama." (Thanks, Foxessa!)


Friday, October 10, 2008

Who Couldn't Use A Laugh These Days?

Friday's Choice: "Stay All Night" by Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys, with a little help from his friends:


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ad Man

If you're like me, you don't live in a battleground state and so don't see Obama or McCain television spots. While this probably a good thing, it can make me feel out of touch at times. Here's a little of what I've missed, starting with one called "Mother":




This is an attack ad called "Honor":




Finally, an issues ad aimed at women:


And just to show that we're fair and balanced at Citizen K., we'll let the NRA weigh in:

"Tax returns of gambling stake,/In the cauldron boil and bake;/Eye of Christian and toe of Jew,/Drums of war – throw in a slew,/Soldier’s tongue and Hannity’s sting,/Keating’s leg and Palin’s wing..." Yes, it's the tragedy of MacCain...

Palin Watch: Tom Friedman isn't my favorite liberal, but he has an awfully good question for Sarah Palin: "Governor Palin, if paying taxes is not considered patriotic in your neighborhood, who is going to pay for the body armor that will protect your son in Iraq?" More here...Meanwhile, conservative writer David Brooks describes Palin as "a fatal cancer to the Republican party" here...

Did you know that no matter who you are or what you believe, 60,000,000 people will vote for the other guy? Shocking...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Debate II

I went to bed feeling good about the debate and woke up feeling even better. Barack Obama came across as a poised and independent thinker who has considered the issues and developed cogent policy responses. McCain -- especially on domestic policy -- often spoke in fragments and non sequiturs until he could steer the response to stump remarks, and as a result often sounded incoherent. While he may have known what he was talking about, it's not clear to me that anyone else did. 

Obama, on the 0ther hand, took the same approach to this debate as he has to his campaign. He reminds me of the Bjorn Borg, the Swedish tennis star and five-time Wimbledon champion. Borg remained unflappable at all times, pounded away relentlessly from the base line, and collected points as industriously as an ant laying up supplies for the winter. Suddenly and imperceptibly, he was in control of match. To say Obama "hasn't closed the deal" or didn't land a "knockout punch" fundamentally misunderstands how he has gone about his campaign. Last night was no different: He answered the questions respectfully and articulately and let his persona sink in while his lead accumulated. It's no surprise that the post debate snap polls had him winning handily (here, here, and here)...

The format supposedly favored McCain, but after watching his performance it's hard to see why. His strongest moment came when he answered the question posed by the former Chief Petty Officer. McCain was in his element and his appreciation of the man and his service was obviously sincere. However, the more removed the questioner was from a white male with military service, the less certain McCain appeared. It occurs to me that he may have performed better in previous town hall-style debates because the attendees were mostly Republican...

The early CW is that tonight's debate was not a game changer and that the polls will remain the same. I disagree: I think this was a strong night for Obama and that he will continue to build on his lead. This is now Barack Obama's election to lose...

Top moment: A presidential candidate (Obama, natch) stating directly and unambiguously that health care in this country is a right...

Most irritating moments: McCain repeatedly using Joe Lieberman as an example of his capacity to work with Democrats. One of my fondest hopes for Election Day is that Democrats win enough Senate seats to drum the Benedict Arnold of the Connecticut out of the party...

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight thinks its time to start wondering what Obama's ceiling might be...

The New York Times reflects on the debased state of the McCain-Palin campaign: "It is a sorry fact of American political life that campaigns get ugly, often in their final weeks. But Senator John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin have been running one of the most appalling campaigns we can remember." The rest is here...

Finally, the great Ralph Stanley -- a national treasure if there ever was one -- endorses Barack Obama for president. Listen here...


Monday, October 6, 2008

Geezers Rule!

Just because a musician gets old and gray doesn't mean that she's a nostalgia act or that his creative days are behind him. Here are three new CDs that prove the point:









About Time, Paul Bley (Age 75). The brilliant avant-garde pianist improvises for 33 minutes about the nature of time and memory. Tempi shift suddenly, dynamics change, and time goes on. Largely contemplative, Bley explores the elusive nature of his subjects with insight and nuance. While his introspective style recalls Bill Evans, to these ears Bley plays with greater complexity and muscularity. Like time, "About Time" passes all too quickly while seeming to stand still, so for fun he includes an interpretation of Sonny Rollin's "Pent-Up House." Beautiful, wise, and compelling.








Can You Deal With It?, Andre Williams and the New Orleans Hellhounds (Age 71). Go figure: A journeyman R & B shouter teams up with a New Orleans bar band and channels the heart and soul of The Clash. They may not be The Only Band That Matters, but I guarantee you that somewhere Joe Strummer is listening and smiling. Not to mention tapping his feet.









Day After Tomorrow, Joan Baez (Age 67). The pristine soprano is now more of a weathered contralto. But the voice of experience buttressed by a deeply held faith and Steve Earle's sympathetic production easily betters the easy certainties of her youth. Singing ten songs by the likes of Earle, Patty Griffin, Elyza Gilkyson, Elvis Costello, and Tom Waits (!), Baez makes them all indelibly hers. She looks back with few regrets, looks ahead with hope, and still believes...

Paul Bley performs "Lucky" and reflects on the role of art in anticipating the future and defining the past:


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday Funnies & So Much More

Ruben Bolling, on target as usual. Click to enlarge; for more, see www.tomthedancingbug.com.



Last Wednesday, we caught Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, backed by a terrific band that included T-Bone Burnett (looking like a Civil War general) and guitarist nonpareil Buddy Miller. Selections ranged from gospel a capella to spirituals to R & B to rockabilly to Townes Van Zandt to Led Zeppelin. Plant and Krauss shimmered on a slowed down version of "Black Dog" introduced by a banjo tuned to a minor key. "Nothing," the Van Zandt number, was as haunting as the Everly Brothers' "Gone Gone Gone" was spirited. Both singers clearly enjoyed themselves, and Plant even gave us a few of his LZ yowls. Gene Stout of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has more here...

Eric Alterman writes:
McCain and Palin are losing to Obama and Biden, thank God. But even the possibility that the most powerful nation on Earth is in danger of electing yet another president characterized by dishonesty, belligerence, ideological obsession and personal recklessness -- coupled with a vice president whose life experience makes her more appropriate for a casting session of "Desperate Housewives" than a Cabinet meeting -- gives one pause when considering the future of this country, regardless of whether we manage to avoid this catastrophe on Election Day.
More here. Alterman blogs each weekday here and writes about media issues for The Nation...

Whatever else it may be, the Obama campaign is relentless. Nebraska (along with Maine) splits its electoral votes, and the campaign sees a chance to pick up one of them. In a sign of how worried he is, McCain has dispatched Sarah Palin to campaign in Omaha. More here...

Friday, we joined some friends at an invitation-only dinner featuring nueva Mexican cuisine prepared by chef Naomi Andrade Smith and wine pairings from Argentina, Chile, Spain, and Portugal selected by wine consultant Catherine Reynolds. The menu and pairings:

SALPICóN DE PESCADO CON AGUACATE
Minced sautéed rockfish w/ chile and avocado with hand-cut chips
2007 Zuccardi Organic Sparkling Chardonnay (Mendoza,Argentina)

ENSALADA DE NARANJA, JíCAMA Y BERROS
salad with jicama, orange and honey-tamarind dressing
2006 Montenovo Godello (Valdeorras, Spain)

TAMALITOS DE SETAS AL GUAJILLO
Chanterelle mushroom tamales steamed in banana leaves
2006 Gougenheim Cabernet Sauvignon (Mendoza, Argentina)

CHILES EN NOGADA
Chicken picadillo-stuffed poblano chiles with walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds
2005 Alto Almanzora Este (Valle de Almanzora, Spain)
2006 Araunco Pinot Noir (Valle Central, Chile)

COSTILLAS DE CERDO
Chipotle-rubbed pork ribs with jalapeño/pineapple glaze
PASTA DE FRIJOLES CON FRISEé DE TORTILLAS
Creamy coconut refried beans
2005 Quinto do Crasto (Douro, Portugal)
2005 Mas Doix Salanques (Priorat, Spain)

EL GRAN FLAN CON ZARZAMORAS
Flan for a crowd with raspberries
Broadbent 5-year Reserve Madeira (Portugal)

CAFé MOCAMBO
Villa Victoria's own roast coffee