Friday, November 30, 2012

what a break

I could cry -- salty tears
Where have I been -- all these years
A little while, tell me now
How long has this been goin' on?

There were chills, up and down my spine
Yes, there're thrills -- I can't define
Listen sweet -- while I repeat --
How long has this been goin' on?

Oh I could feel --
that I could melt

Into heaven
I'm hurled

Oh I know how
Columbus felt --

Finding another world...

Kiss me once,
and then once more -- Oh,
what a dunce I was,
before -- What a break--
for heaven's sake,
How long has this been goin' on?

--George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, 1928


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cop-out, she wrote

additions, corrections, and further thoughts...

Realized several days after I posted "Dick and Mick" on this site, that I'd mistakenly referred to Mrs. Richard Nixon as "Patricia" Nixon.  When we hear Mrs. Nixon's first name, it's always "Pat" and I assumed that was short for Patricia -- but Free Encyclopedia lists her original name -- Thelma Catherine Ryan, and says her family nicknamed her Pat because she was born close to Saint Patrick's Day.


Yesterday, enjoyed listening to President Dwight Eisenhower's farewell speech from Jan. 1961, while typing it from the text provided on a site called "American Rhetoric."

The way he spoke, and reading the words, it made me think, "dignity," and "grace."
'...Three days from now, after a half century in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.  This evening, I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.'

in traditional and solemn ceremony

I come to you

...with you, my countrymen

'America is today the strongest, the most influential, and most productive nation in the world.  Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America's leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches, and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.'
(That's an elegant mouthful -- dynamite!)
That's the essence of public service, and you could say, any human achievement -- not just get, get, get, but -- what are we doing to improve the bigger picture...?

When I was typing yesterday, I put the paragraph about the military-industrial complex in bold and italic type -- that was my emphasis, I should have put that in there, mentioned that it was My emphasis -- I didn't mean to make it look like "Ike" stood up and hollered that part...! (?)

The reason I wanted to emphasize that paragraph, is because that concept is one that endures to this day -- at the beginning of the movie JFK, there's a clip of Pres. Eisenhower giving that part of the farewell speech.

And in the 11-27 post here, was considering writing by Steven Soderbergh about violence in movies --
"All I can say to people is that (a) when people stop going to see these films they will stop being made -- this is a business driven completely by money."

I would dispute that statement -- while every business wants money, falling back on the excuse that "this" [film business, or any other business] "is a business driven completely by money" is a cop-out which doesn't address the issue, and is ALSO -- not true.  I can think of two examples, just from my own very light, skimming-type reading about entertainment business, where decisions about TV-shows were not driven by money, but by ego, according to what kinds of shows some network executives wanted to be associated with.  And what kinds of shows they didn't want to be associated with.

The series "Murder, She Wrote" was dropped, not because it didn't bring money to the tv network in commercial sales, and not because it didn't have high numbers of people watching it, but because some of the people at the network wanted to replace it with "edgier" material -- some type of show that would be controversial, and make their names and reputations in Hollywood seem more cool.

Same thing was done to the Lawrence Welk Show, years earlier, same reasons.  (Yes, believe it or not, there were some Southern California thick-carpet-officed Executives who did not think Lawrence Welk was "cool"...!  Figure that out....)

And there are probably many more examples like that, which I don't know about. ...

A paragraph or two later, Mr. Soderbergh turns the tables on his own argument anyway, saying, "I think the ultimate responsibility has to be the film-maker's."


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

the task of statesmanship

Farewell Address
delivered 17 January 1961

Good evening, my fellow Americans.

First, I should like to express my gratitude to the radio and television networks for the opportunities they have given me over the years to bring reports and messages to our nation.  My special thanks go to them for the opportunity of addressing you this evening.

Three days from now, after a half century in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.  This evening, I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.

Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed.  I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.

Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the nation.  My own relations with the Congress, which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and finally to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.  In this final relationship, the Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the nation's good, rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the nation should go forward.  So, my official relationship with the Congress ends in a feeling -- on my part -- of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.

We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations.  Three of these involved our own country.  Despite these holocausts, America is today the strongest, the most influential, and most productive nation in the world.  Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America's leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches,  and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.

Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace, to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity, and integrity among peoples and among nations.  To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people.  Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension, or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt, both at home and abroad.

Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world.  It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings.  We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method.  Unhappily, the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration.  To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle with liberty the stake.  Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.

Crises there will continue to be.  In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties.  A huge increase in newer elements of our defenses; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research -- these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.

But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration:  the need to maintain balance in and among national programs, balance between the private and the public economy, balance between the cost and hoped for advantages, balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable, balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual, balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future.  Good judgment seeks balance and progress.  Lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.  The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their Government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well, in the face of threat and stress.

But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise.  Of these, I mention two only.

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment.  Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.  Our military organization today bears little relation to that known of any of my predecessors in peacetime, or, indeed, by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry.  American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well.  But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense.  We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.  Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment.  We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.

Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience.  The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government.  We recognize the imperative need for this development.  Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications.  Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved.  So is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.  We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.  We should take nothing for granted.  Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.  In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly.  A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields.  In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research.  Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.  For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.  The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present -- and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time.  As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow.  We cannot mortgate the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage.  We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

During the long lane of the history yet to be written, America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.  Such a confederation must be one of equals.  The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength.  That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative.  Together we must learn how to resolve differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.  Because this need is so sharp and apparent, I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment.  As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war, as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years, I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.

Happily, I can say that war has been avoided.  Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made.  But so much remains to be done.  As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.

So, in this, my last good night to you as your President, I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and in peace.  I trust in that service, you find some things worthy.  As for the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.

You and I, my fellow citizens, need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice.  May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nations' great goals.

To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's prayerful and continuing aspiration:  We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings.  Those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibility; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; and that the scourges of poverty, disease, and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth; and that in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.

Now, on Friday noon, I am to become a private citizen.  I am proud to do so.  I look forward to it.

Thank you, and good night.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

there's been a shift...

Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh (in an interview with fellow director Richard Lester):
SS:  Whenever I'm on a panel anywhere, the question always comes up:  'Why are films so violent, and isn't that provoking more violence?'  All I can say to people is that (a) when people stop going to see these films they will stop being made -- this is a business driven completely by money.  So somebody is not being straight here, because everyone is complaining about this and yet everyone seems to still go and see these films.  And (b) these same films are shown all over the world, and in England and in Japan and in France people are not being shot in the street because they don't have access to guns like we do in America....

All that is to say, I think the ultimate responsibility has to be the film-maker's.  I saw Natural Born Killers on Times Square when it opened, and to sit in that audience and feel the crowd being whipped up and excited by the violence in that movie was really disturbing.  I thought, 'What possible purpose is this serving?'  The culture in America had moved beyond the point of satirizing that issue.  That satire, we passed on Tuesday.

...But more than that, at some level, to document violence with such care indicates a fascination on the part of the film-maker....

There's been a shift, in that people who make dumb movies that make a lot of money are now treated with the kind of respect that used to be reserved for people that made good movies.  There used to be a distinction, that if somebody made crap that was successful, they were tolerated but not taken seriously as artists; there used to be an acknowledgement of the crassness of what these folks were up to.  Now that sort of crassness has been completely embraced.  I don't know when that sociological shift began to happen within the industry.

------------------- Sunday, 29 September 1996

{Getting away With It, by Steven Soderbergh.
Copyright, 1999.  Faber and Faber, London}


Monday, November 26, 2012

Mmh, yeah--I didn't order this...

Thinking about how the current Media bombards us with horrid tidbits from the sex lives of public figures and calls that "News," reflected how gossip has migrated from fringe publications whose ink smudges your hands at the first touch to Central Attention in the headlines, and how Picking-On-People has been mainstreamed in behavior and falsely labeled as Journalism and Reporting -- made me recall two things I read that seemed relevant.

The first is an excerpt from an article written by A.J. Liebling:
---------------------[excerpt, "The Long Name for the Lifeboat"]----London, during that summer of 1941 when the tide of war stood still at lowest ebb, just before it started to flow in, was the official capital of eight countries and the unofficial one of France; there were besides the governments of Great Britain, Norway, Poland, Holland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Greece, and the Free French, a half-dozen semirecognized national movements, free Danish, free Rumanian, free Bulgarian, and free Austrian....

All the governments had their own intelligence services.  The prime ministers received exhaustive reports not only on what was happening in their German-occupied countries, where their sources supplemented and sometimes scooped the British Intelligence Service, but on what was happening in London. 

Ministers got reports on their opposite numbers in half a dozen other governments, and operatives shadowed each other, until lunch at Claridge's or the Ritz Grill resembled a traffic jam of characters out of an Alfred Hitchcock film.  Operatives of lower categories and corresponding expense accounts shadowed their opposite numbers at the White Tower, the Greek restaurant on Percy Street. 

Every twenty-four hours there was a general pooling and interchange of information, probably held in Albert Hall or Piccadilly tube station, and then everybody heard the secret information that everybody else had been compiling.

London, since Pepys's day and before, has been a gossiping city.  The coffeehouses of the eighteenth century flourished with talk as the main attraction; the Englishman in his club is sometimes a marvel of malicious veiled curiosity. 

There is a fair argument for the thesis that all the careful barriers the Briton builds around privacy -- the blackball, the no-trespass, the truth-increases, the libel principle in newspaper laws, the mannered reserve, and the choked voice -- began simply as precautions against the national weakness for talking too much. 

The flood of refugee gossip adding to the normally high stream of British indiscretions, the torrent of confidential conversation overflowed its banks and London became the gabbiest city in the world.

My favorites in Babel were the Norwegians and the Poles, I suppose because I am a sucker for extremes.  The Norwegians listened and never talked.  The Poles talked and never listened.
--------------------- [end Liebling excerpt]
{The Road Back To Paris,
by A.J. Liebling.  Doubleday, Doran
Garden City, New York.  1944}

And, second -- a Kirkus review of a book called What The People Know.  (Reviewed on September 15, 1998)-------------------- [the review]-------Veteran journalist and author [Richard] Reeves...reports on the state of the press (print and television).  He is guardedly pessimistic.  Reporting the news was once a fairly simple and, for Reeves, exciting and honorable task:  get the story, get it right, report it. 

Today, however, journalism "is in a crisis of change and redefinition."  The reasons for this crisis are complex and interrelated.  Technology, particularly the internet, has made information instantaneously available to just about anyone.  How do older media like newspapers compete?  The answer has become to report on what the public wants; find out what attracts people and feed it back to them.

And what the public wants increasingly is short, untroubling entertainment.  So we get coverage of scandals, entertainers, health tips ("evening news without news"), while more important events go underreported.  Between 1992 and 1996, for instance, network television reporting on foreign stories, measured in minutes, dropped by almost two-thirds. 

Exacerbating this move toward news-lite is the concentration of media ownership in the hands of a few huge corporations:  Westinghouse, General Electric, etc.  News operations are minuscule parts of such corporations, but they are not immune to the corporate demand for profits.  How does news make a profit?  Give the public what it wants. 

Finally, journalism itself is in part to blame for its own predicament.  In its post-Watergate zealousness to portray all politicians as crooks and all politics as corrupt, it helped create a public mood of cynical lack of interest in public affairs.  Despite these problems, all is not lost.  Reeves sees a continuing role for journalism, and that is simply to tell what "you and I need to keep our freedom -- accurate timely information on laws and wars, police and politicians, taxes and toxics."...Nice reporting.

{Pub Date:  Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN:  0-674-61622-7
Publisher:  Harvard Univ.}

"Giving the public what it wants" is an oft-used excuse of shit-shoveling schlock-meisters.

No.  We don't want it.

You wanted to, and chose to, perpetrate it.

(If they're going to rake in Dollars, they have to accept Responsibility, as well.  But they try not to -- they try to only take the Dollars and shrug-off the Responsibility onto "the public."  How much contempt do you have to have for your fellow man, to bombard them with such empty, shallow, unattractive junk and blame them for it - ?!)

laws and wars
police and politicians
taxes and toxics...


Friday, November 23, 2012

Dick and Mick

Reviewing, and reveling in, the lyrics of the Rolling Stones' "Rip This Joint" (Exile on Main Street), lines play through my head like cheerful billboards --

Mama says yes, Papa says no,
make up your mind 'cause I gotta go --

I'm gonna raise hell at the Union Hall
(how does one "raise hell" at a Union Hall??)

Rip this joint, gonna save your soul --

...start my starter, gonna stop the show....

Mister President, Mister Immigration Man -- Let me in sweetie to your fair land....

(is that a request you make to an immigration official...?  sweetie...?)

Washington, D.C. (referred to as "old D.C.")
San José
Santa Fe
New Orleans
"Alabam'" -- they just like saying -- nay, singing -- the names of American places...!!

..."Dick and Pat in old D.C., Well they're gonna hold some shit for me."

President of the United States at the time the song was written and put out -- Richard Nixon, and his wife, First Lady Patricia ("Pat") Nixon. 

Pretty irresistible.  ("Hold some s--t"...what kinda s--t?  A little Acapulco Gold...?  Mick's teasin' us.  President and Mrs. Nixon would not have been "holding" anything for any of the Rolling Stones unless it was maybe some tea and cookies, and that would probably only have happened if I had been there to talk them into it.

Couldn't help but wonder -- was President Nixon aware that he & his wife had been mentioned, in a humorous way, in a great song, on a transcendant album, by the Rolling Stones?  Would his daughters have heard the song & mentioned it to him?  I hope so -- he could have used a good laugh, I think.

Recently came across article about Pres. Nixon in Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia -- [outtake] --------------------Nixon's presidency was doomed by his personality, [biographer Richard] Reeves argues:  "He assumed the worst in people and he brought out the worst in them....He clung to the idea of being 'tough'.  He thought that was what had brought him to the edge of greatness.  But that was what betrayed him.  He could not open himself to other  men and he could not open himself to greatness."

Nixon believed that putting distance between himself and other people was necessary for him as he advanced in his political career and became president.  Even Bebe Rebozo, by some accounts his closest friend, did not call him by his first name.  Nixon stated of this,

"Even with close friends, I don't believe in letting your hair down, confiding this and that and the other thing -- saying, 'Gee, I couldn't sleep'...I believe you should keep your troubles to yourself.  That's just the way I am. 

Some people are different. 

Some people think it's good therapy to sit with a close friend and, you know, just spill your guts... [and] reveal their inner psyche -- whether they were breast-fed or bottle-fed.  Not me.  No way."  When told that most Americans, even at the end of his career, did not feel they knew him, Nixon replied, "Yeah, it's true.  And it's not necessary for them to know."--------------------------------------------------[end outtake]

"Not me.  No way."  lol - not laughing "at" the former president, but laughing with him....there's wisdom in what he says, and characteristic vigor and curtness in the way he says it -- I can just "hear" him...!

"I believe you should keep your troubles to yourself.  That's just the way I am."

Was thinking recently how sometimes if there's a problem, or a struggle, it's good to communicate about it to someone, while other times you feel more strength and positivity by not discussing it with anyone.  (Nobody else's business...!)  Both tactics can be effective, and it's up to the individual to select which one works for them in which situation.  And other people should respect that -- no one should try to tell another person how to feel.

(And as soon as I'm done typing this, I'm gonna go find someone I can "bother" by telling them how happy, joyful, and optimistic they ought to be....)

"Round and round and round we go....
Ahh-h-h--h -- let it rock!!..."


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tampa bound and Memphis too

Listening to the Rolling Stones' Exile on Mail Street album (CD) is like a trip -- not a journey, but rather a vacation or even just a long weekend -- strolling on a pier, watching the beauty of the water -- picking an orange off an orange tree -- walking in some countryside in France -- sipping a drink in a humble but interesting hole-in-the-wall nightclub -- enjoying benign, loose, flowing interactions with engaging people -- an artist painting images on the sidewalk...And -- or, however...when the listener starts this thing over, and arrives for the second time at the second song in the line-up, "Rip This Joint", then it is less like picking an orange off a tree & more like oranges in a blender, being made into orange juice or a fancy, obscure dessert -- starting off with frantic, celebratory string-strumming -- I think it's what Chuck Berry does, which Eric Clapton described as "double-string," I think -- or maybe "two-string."  ...Then from the strings, you're picked up and taken on a roller-coaster / tilt-a-whirl of sassy, wild, dream-inducing saxophone-playing --
Mama says yes, Papa says no,
make up you mind 'cause I gotta go.
I'm gonna raise hell at the Union Hall,
Drive myself right over the wall.

Rip this joint, gonna save your soul,
Round and round and round we go.
Roll this joint, gonna get down low,
Start my starter, gonna stop the show.
Oh, yeah!

Mister President, Mister Immigration Man,
Let me in, sweetie, to your fair land.
I'm Tampa bound and Memphis too,
Short Fat Fanny is on the loose.
Dig that sound on the radio,
Then slip it right across into Buffalo.
Dick and Pat in old D.C.,
Well they're gonna hold some shit for me.

Ying yang, you're my thing,
Oh, now, baby, won't you hear me sing.
Flip Flop, fit to drop.
Come on baby, won't you let it rock?

Oh, yeah!  Oh, yeah!
From San José down to Santa Fe,
Kiss me quick, baby, won'tcha make my day.
Down to New Orleans with the Dixie Dean,
'Cross to Dallas, Texas with the Butter Queen.

Rip this joint, gonna rip yours too,
some brand new steps and some weight to lose.
Gonna roll this joint, gonna get down low,
Round and round and round we'll go.
Wham, Bham, Birmingham, Alabam' don't give a damn.
Little Rock and I'm fit to top.
Ah -h--h!!  Let it rock!!...

{Mick Jagger / Keith Richards.  Exile on Main Street,

"Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia" says,
-------------- [excerpt] - ..."Rip This Joint" is one of the fastest songs in the Stones' canon, with a pronounced rockabilly feel.  Jagger's breakneck delivery of the song's lines spells out a rambling tale set across America from the perspective of a foreigner. 

Richards comments on the speed of the song:  "It's one of the fastest ones of the lot and it really keeps you on your toes."

...In his review of the song, Bill Janovitz says, "The result is a frenetic pace that approaches the tempos played by hardcore punk banks roughly ten years later, certainly recognizing the raw excitement of early roots rock & roll years before...Though the band most likely did not sit down and preconceive it as such, the record seems to set out to cover nothing less than the wide-open spaces of America itself via the nation's music -- from urban soul to down-home country to New Orleans jazz.  'Rip This Joint' sets the tone for this journey, as a modern-day "Route 66" travelogue from Birmingham to San Diego."

...Nicky Hopkins performs Johnnie Johnson-like piano. ...[end excerpt]

Johnnie Johnson played piano in a band with Chuck Berry in their early days -- Johnson appears in the Berry documentary, "Hail, Hail Rock & Roll", another Chuck connection, along with the guitar style....

Sometimes when I really really like a song, I'll read where a critic is using words like "rockabilly" and "roots" while I'm wishing-I'd-'ve-said-that but am only pleading, "Turn it up..."


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

We Gather Together

This Thanksgiving season remembered -- and then could not get out of head -- a dynamite hymn we used to sing, for Thanksgiving --

We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

First, recalled the melodic, reassuring sound and gentle rhythm of the opening line -- "We ga-a -- ther-to-geth-er, to a-ask the Lord' blessing..."
...then looked up the Lyrics and came to the "wicked oppressing" and was like, Whoa, I forgot that part -- gets a little "feisty" there....

Reading on the on-line "Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia," it tells us [quoting / excerpt]:

[it's] a Christian hymn of Dutch origin written in 1597 by Adrianus celebrate the Dutch victory over Spanish forces in the Battle of Turnhout. ... In the United States, it is popularly associated with Thanksgiving Day and is often sung at family meals and at religious services on that day.

...At the time the hymn was written, the Dutch were engaged in a war of national liberation against the Catholic King Philip II of Spain.  "Wilt heden nu treden," ("We gather together") resonated because under the Spanish King, Dutch Protestants were forbidden to gather for worship.

...The modern English text was written by Theodore Baker in 1894.

According to Michael Hawn, (professor of sacred music at Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology), "by World War I, we started to see ourselves in this hymn," and the popularity increased during World War II, when "the wicked oppressing" were understood to include Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

[And the general-information-and-history portion of the article ends this way]...

This hymn is often sung at American churches the day before Thanksgiving.

This hymn was sung at the Opening of the Funeral Mass for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

-------------------------- [end "Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia" excerpt]

(Hmmh -- that was a little surprise! -- usually I read about Jackie Kennedy to learn stuff -- she leads, I follow -- but in this case, I was researching deeper into something I was already interested in, & had experienced, and then -- she shows up!)

We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised!  O Lord, make us free!

We praise thee, O God, our Redeemer, Creator,
In grateful devotion our tribute we bring.
We lay it before thee, we kneel and adore thee,
We bless Thy holy name, glad praises we sing.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

we are so farre from want

There are 2 (and only 2) primary sources

for the events of autumn 1621 in Plymouth :

Edward Winslow writing in Mourt's Relation and

William Bradford writing in Of Plymouth Plantation

Edward Winslow, Mourt's Relation :

"our harvest being gotten in, our governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a speciall manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours ; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governour, and upon the Captaine and others. And although it be not always so plentifull, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie."

  -----------------------------------------     William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation :

In the original 17th century spelling

"They begane now to gather in ye small harvest they had, and to fitte up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health & strenght, and had all things in good plenty; fFor as some were thus imployed in affairs abroad, others were excersised in fishing, aboute codd, & bass, & other fish, of which yey tooke good store, of which every family had their portion. All ye somer ther was no want. And now begane to come in store of foule, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besids water foule, ther was great store of wild Turkies, of which they tooke many, besids venison, &c. Besids, they had about a peck a meale a weeke to a person, or now since harvest, Indean corn to yt proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largly of their plenty hear to their freinds in England, which were not fained, but true reports."

-------------------------------------------- {reports courtesy of a site called "Pilgrim Hall Museum}   ---------------------- just when I'd been contemplating the True Meaning Of Thanksgiving being that the holiday comes even if a creepy guy ("You’re a mean one Mr. Grinch

You really are a heel.

You're as cuddly as a cactus,

And as charming as an eel,

Mr. Grinch!

...I wouldn't touch you with a -- thirty-one-and-a-half-foot pole!") comes down the chimney and makes off with all the, wait a minute...   it's people getting along with each other, & getting together and celebrating, in traditional style.  Thanking God for our blessings.  Sharing, and being happy.  
 (And this should be MANDATORY - !  Everyone should ALWAYS be HAPPY!!...No, wait a minute, again....)...  


Friday, November 16, 2012

everybody disagrees

What is there in this place that a man should ever want to get into it?

-- President James A. Garfield, 1881 - a comment upon the job...

When at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each of us, it will ask:  "Were we truly men of courage -- with the courage to stand up to one's enemies -- and the courage to stand up, when necessary, to one's associates?"

-- John F. Kennedy, address to the Massachusetts Legislature, January 9, 1961

Congress is so strange.  A man gets up to speak and says nothing.  Nobody listens -- and then everybody disagrees.

-- Senator Alexander Wiley, quoting a Russian observer (1947)


Thursday, November 15, 2012

those bums up in Boston

"The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the nation's greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us."  --JFK

[excerpt, An Unfinished Life]--------More constructive was an eighteen-month battle for statewide control of the Democratic party.  Kennedy had initially been reluctant to get into an intraparty conflict he associated with traditional Boston politics, and his father urged against it as well:  "Leave it alone and don't get into the gutter with those bums up there in Boston," Joe told him.   But O'Donnell and another Kennedy aide, Larry O'Brien, advised otherwise. 

Speculation that Jack might be Adlai Stevenson's running mate in 1956 convinced them that Jack's selection and political future now turned on delivering the Massachusetts delegation to Stevenson at the party's nominating convention.  Consequently, they urged Jack to wrest control of the state party committee from John McCormack and his ally William H. ("Onions") Burke, the chairman of the Democratic State Committee, who intended to back New York governor Averell Harriman for the presidential nomination.

  Massachusetts congressman Philip Philbin also urged Jack to take on McCormack and Burke.  "There is a great 'hassle' going on in the erudite Massachusetts Democracy," he sarcastically told Jack in March 1955.  "Various learned 'savants' and 'intellectuals' who shape the upper crust of our party organization are conducting a campaign for control, perhaps I should say a campaign to insure our defeat at the next election."  Kennedy and his team needed, Philbin said, to "clean up this deplorable situation."

The struggle turned into a no-holds barred contest.  Jack wrote, called, and met with committee candidates to ask for their support in overthrowing Burke.  Needing to suggest a replacement, he reluctantly picked John "Pat" Lynch, the longtime mayor of Somerville.  Lynch was a surprising choice; he was one of the old pols Jack seemed determined to defeat. 

Indeed, when O'Donnell brought Lynch in to see Jack, he "saw the shock on Jack's face."  The small, bald-headed fifty-five-year-old "leprechaun," as O'Donnell described him, dressed in a wide-brimmed hat and velvet-collared coat typical of Boston's Irish politicians was no one Jack wanted to identify with. 

But when the Dever Democrats made clear that it would be Lynch or Burke, Jack endorsed Lynch.  Even then, threatened fistfights and mayhem marked a three-hour committee meeting that produced a 47-31 vote for Lynch and Jack's undisputed control of the state party.

It had been the first time he had been "caught in a mud-slinging Boston Irish political brawl.  We never saw him so angry and frustrated," O'Donnell and Powers wrote.  During and after the fight, Kennedy took pains to divorce himself publicly from "gutter" politics. 

In an article published in the April Vogue and a June commencement address at Harvard, when the university gave him an honorary degree, he decried the current antagonism between intellectuals and politicians and reminded readers and listeners that the two were not mutually exclusive.  Recalling the careers of Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Franklin, and the Adamses, he said "[The] nation's first great politicians . . . included among their ranks most of the nation's first great writers and scholars." 

Recounting an anecdote about an English mother who urged her son's Harrow instructors not to distract him from a Parliamentary career by teaching him poetry, Jack declared, "If more politicians knew poetry and more poets knew politics, I am convinced that the world would be a little better place to live."

The speech partly eased Kennedy's discomfort with the ugly fight he had just passed through, and it may also have been aimed at Adlai Stevenson, who shared Jack's affinity for a union of poetry and power.  But more important, it expressed his genuine idealism about what he wished to see in American political life. 

Seven years later, at the height of his public influence, he repeated the value he placed on those committed to the life of the mind.  In an October 1963 speech at Amherst College, he would say, "The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the nation's greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us."
{An Unfinished Life.  Robert Dallek.
2003.  Little, Brown.}


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

wow that'd be SOME steak

From what I hear, most people, when they go to war, think most about, or want most, to go home.  They talk with each other, in their relaxing-time, about what they're going to do when they get home, "when the war is over" -- see family, see their wife, see their girlfriend and get married, work in their dad's business, sing, dance, or father said one of the soldiers he served with, building the Burma Road, used to say when he got back home he was going to order a "steak as big as a toilet seat."

[from Robert Dallek's JFK biography, An Unfinished Life]:  What remained the same...was an intense interest in the political questions that would need attention as postwar challenges replaced military exigencies.  During his almost nine months in the war zone, while many of his fellow officers diverted themselves with card games, Jack, according to his commander in the Solomons, "spent most of his time looking for officers who weren't in any game, as he did with me. 

We'd sit in a corner and I'd recall all the political problems in New Jersey and Long Island where I come from.  He did that with everybody -- discussed politics."  One of Jack's navy friends in the Pacific recalled:  "Oh, yeah, he had politics in his blood. . . . We used to kid Jack all the time.  I'd say, after the war is over, Jack, I'm gonna work like hell and we're going to carry Louisiana for you." 

Another of Jack's pals, who remembered spending "a lot of time, every single day practically, with him" just before Jack returned to the States, said, "He made us all very conscious of the fact that we'd better . . . be concerned about why the hell we're out here, or else what's the purpose of having the conflict, if you're going to come out here and fight and let the people that got us here get us back into it again. . . . He made us all very aware of our obligations as citizens of the United States to do something, to be involved in the process."

In the winter of 1944 - 45, as he left the navy and settled outside of Phoenix to recuperate from back surgery, Jack wrote an article, "Let's Try an Experiment for Peace," which he hoped might contribute to postwar stability....

Although Jack saw his essay as innovative, editors at Life, Reader's Digest, and the Atlantic Monthly all rejected it.  Reader's Digest thought the piece too "exhortative."  The Atlantic editor dismissed the article as "an oversimplification of a very complicated subject.  Some profounder thinking is needed here and conclusions not based on cliches," he said....

------------ If Jack lacked originality in addressing postwar armament and peace, at least he was well informed about foreign affairs; the same was not true of domestic issues....During his stay in Arizona, he became friends with Pat Lannan....Lannan explained that "labor was going to be a very important force in the country." 

"Jack," Lannan told him, "you don't know the difference between an automatic screw machine and a lathe and a punch press and you ought to!"  Jack took Lannan's words as a challenge and asked his father to send him a crateful of books on labor and labor law.  Lannan remembered that Jack "sat up to one or two in the morning reading those books until he finished the whole crate."

{An Unfinished Life.  John F. Kennedy.  1917 - 1963.
by Robert Dallek.  Copyright, 2003.  Little,
Brown & Comkpany.  Boston - New York -

A crate full of books.

1 or 2 in the morning

finished the whole crate

obligations as citizens

a steak -- that is rather large...


Monday, November 12, 2012

a bunch more records

continuing education

When Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman from Hibbing, Minnesota, up on the Iron Range) started out -- he left Hibbing the day after high school graduation and headed to Minneapolis; after working on learning to play the guitar and sing, there, he left for NYC in 1960 or 61 (approx.) -- he was enrolled at Univ. / Minn., but was too busy playing music to attend classes. 

He was on a pilgrimage of discovery -- a journey to find what he needed to do and to learn  how to do it.
(He says he was a "musical expeditionary.")

Citing the inspiration he found in Woody Guthrie's music, in the Scorsese documentary, "No Direction Home," Dylan says (interviewed approx. 2005) that somebody gave him the book Woody Guthrie wrote, titled Bound For Glory.
He says, "I identified with the Bound For Glory book."

Talking about Woody Guthrie's music, Dylan says, "Woody Guthrie records were almost impossible to find."  He goes on to tell how he knew a guy named Paul Nelson, in Minneapolis, who was a folk music scholar -- he didn't sing the music, but he had an incredible collection, so Dylan was listening to his records.

"I knew," says Bob in the 2005 interview, "they would be away for the weekend, so I went over there and helped myself to a bunch more records."

Paul Nelson (they found this guy!):  "Yeah, 25 records had disappeared -- mostly stuff Dylan was listening to."

Dylan:  "These records were very hard to find -- like hen's teeth.  So if you were a musical expeditionary, like I was, and you came across some Woody Guthrie records, you would have to immerse yourself in them."

Paul Nelson and someone named John, who was 6-foot-four started "trying to track Dylan down.  We tried the fraternity; we tried an apartment where he was supposedly living, but he didn't live there anymore.  We tried two more places -- one of the residents said, 'Wow this Bob fella must be popular, you're about the tenth guy lookin' for him.'

Finally we got an address and we knew where he was.  John, who was about 6-foot-four, got a bowling pin, and a big cigar, and he was going to do a John Wayne production number.
We found Bob -- and John, never intending to hit Dylan, but he was really gonna do the bit -- he started waving the bowling pin over his head and yelling, 'I'm  gonna beat the hell out of you!  Where are my records?!'

And Dylan was really scared, at first, but he managed to keep cool.  And it somehow settled into an absurdist drama:  Dylan would talk, and say something interesting.  And John would get interesting.  And they'd start to talk, and start to like each other a little bit.

Then John would remember why he was there, and start brandishing the pin again, and play the whole scene out again...."

tin pan alley

They have interviews on Disc 1 of "No Direction" with some of the men who were music publishers, etc., in the music business in the early 1960s, as Bob Dylan was getting started: one of them, Izzy Young, refers to notes....He said Bob Dylan's songs, in those early days, "sounded current and old at the same time." 

He says, "I sent Dylan up to Folkways Records" -- they treated him like shit, threw him out in the street."  (? -- some of these stories may gain energy and momentum with the years and decades...)

Then Young sent Dylan to Vanguard Records, where Maynard Solomon listened & later when Young asked for his impression, said, "We don't record freaks."

Listening to Dylan perform in a coffeehouse, Solomon was asked what he thought, and he replied, "Too visceral."

Another music guy from those days, Artie Mogull, talks about someone calling him -- we're going to send you this folk singer, Bob Dylan -- he has a contraption around his neck that holds the harmonica up to his mouth....
"And let me tell you," Mogull says, looking straight at the interviewer, who's probably right by the camera, so it's as if he's staring straight at the viewer, "Nobody had seen anything like this on Broadway, in the music business before.  And I must say -- I'm one of the few people in the business who listens to the words, and back then --  maybe the only one, and when I heard

how many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry,

I flipped.

I said, 'Okay that's it I wancha.'"


Friday, November 9, 2012

amazing grace

-------- "Robert and I have been burgled," she said.  "Four silver spoons -- thank God, most of our things are plate -- eight silver forks, and a Georgian tankard.  I could have spared all but the last."

A faint sigh of relief escaped Lucia.  If the foul atmosphere of thieves permeated Daisy's house, too, there was no great danger that her Guru would go back there.  She instantly became sublime.

"Peace!" she said.  "Let us have our class first, for it is ten already, and not let any thought of revenge or evil spoil that for us.  If I sent for the Police now, I could not concentrate.  I will not tell my Guru what has happened to any of us, but for poor Peppino's sake I will ask him to give us rather a short lesson.  I feel completely calm.  Om."
{Queen Lucia, written by E.F. Benson.  Copyright,
1920, George H. Doran Co.  Copyright renewed 1948
by Kenneth Stewart Patrick McDowall.
Copyright 1977, Harper & Row.}

In the documentary film about Chuck Berry, "Hail, Hail Rock & Roll," there's a song which is introduced in the movie as "Understand Each Other" -- someone on the internet says the "real" title is "It Don't Take but a Few Minutes." 

And actually -- in the film itself there's only a minute of the song, but in the extra materials on the second disc they show the whole performance -- Chuck Berry, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton.  The song was written by Chuck Berry, but is not one of his best-known songs:  It was Eric Clapton's idea to perform it, because he loved it:  he sings, and Keith Richards and Chuck Berry play guitar & there's a drummer, who's a musicologist.

Before they start singing, they talk and laugh and joke around and Chuck Berry is bemoaning the idea that he can't remember the words and Eric and Keith are like, "Well you wrote it!"

And then Clapton counts off -- "two-three-four" --

When I see those big brown eyes is when I take my cue --
It don't take me but a few minutes to get a message through
I talked to you, and you talked to me and we talked to one another
It don't take us but a few minutes to understand each other

If I was twenty-three years old and you were twenty-two
I bet no one would try to run our lives the way they do
We take a chance and try romance, be true to one another
It don't take us but a few minutes, when we want each other

If I was in San Diego and you-were-in Portland, Maine
I'd fly to you lock, stock and bone in hail and pouring rain
Over the mountains, through the valleys, coming home to each other
It don't take us but a few minutes to get to one another

You would write a love song and play on my guitar
And if you should, in Hollywood, become a movie star
Would you let your heart forget, I loved you and you only
It don't take but a few minutes, when you're feeling lonely
It's a fast, up-beat song, like most of Chuck Berry's works -- Clapton plays with energetic precision, and sings with this sort of professorial enthusiasm -- it's all about showcasing Chuck's song....Chuck clowns around a little, frowning and raising his eyebrows as Clapton begins a new verse, and going over to the music stand to squint at the music, like he can't believe, or remember, his own lyrics.  Keith Richards -- is Keith Richards.  He's in the background, near the drums -- toward the end, coming into an "it don't take but a few minutes" line, he makes a kind of subtle swoop where his guitar and his shoulder kind of roller-coaster down a little bit and back up.  Powerful.  He's just kind of an unprecedented, unique force of nature.  S-e-x-y.

Someone I used to work with in the 80s said to me, once, in a vaguely accusatory tone, "You just like all the fast songs."

(Yeah?  Where'd you get your Ph.D.?)

But I like the song "Amazing Grace," and that isn't fast.

...'Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

-------Take that.