I am a history professor who grew up in Western New York, but now find myself teaching in Western Montana. My primary areas of interest and research are in American cultural history, especially in relation to the intersection of popular culture and politics. This blog is primarily to help me keep in touch with my far-flung family and friends, and give me the chance to spout off a bit on whatever happens to be on my mind.
Dr. John's Record Shelf is my weekly radio program on KDWG, 90.9 FM broadcast from the University of Montana Western. My goal is to offer an eclectic mix of various styles, genres and eras, focusing primarily (but not exclusively) on music that you won't hear anywhere else on the dial (at least not in SW Montana). My co-host, Art Vandelay and I (with the assistance of station flunky Rico Muckman) also provide some additional bits to liven up the show, including Three People I Know (where I mention three people I know), The Cultural Corner (where we engage in lively banter on art, literature and poetry), Dr. John's Top Five (where we take a shot at ranking almost anything), and Record Shelf Theater (where we re-create a scene from some famous movie, play or TV show). If you find yourself in Dillon, tune us in; otherwise, below are some lists of songs that have been aired on recent shows:
Dr. John's Record Shelf 121104
Bill Fay, "This World"
Steve Goodman, "Turnpike Tom"
Ani DiFranco, "Which Side Are You On?"
Bruce Springsteen, "We Are Alive"
Decemberists, "Don't Carry It All"
Carole King, "Pleasant Valley Sunday"
Bruce Cockburn, "Wondering Where the Lions Are"
Neil Young & Crazy Horse, "Oh Susannah"
Bob Dylan, "Soon After Midnight"
Charms, "American Way"
Belle & Sebastian, "I Want the World to Stop"
Krayolas, "Find a Girl"
Beatles, "Tomorrow Never Knows"
Neko Case, "Things That Scare Me"
Avett Brothers, "Will You Return"
Craig Finn, "New Friend Jesus"
Dr. John's Record Shelf 121028
Fleet Foxes, "Helplessness Blues"
Golden Shoulders, "I Will Light You on Fire"
Spoon, "Finer Feelings"
Girls, "Just a Song"
Devandra Banhart, "Shabop Shalom"
Gaslight Anthem, "The '59 Sound"
Those Darlins, "Mystic Mind"
Son Seals, "I Can't Hold Out"
Johnny Ace, "Pledging My Love"
Charlotte Gainsbourg, "Dandelion"
Aimee Mann, "Borrowing Time"
Elliott Smith, "Between the Bars"
Carpenters, "It's Going to Take Some Time"
Hayes Carll, "Girl Downtown"
Fiery Furnaces, "Even in the Rain"
Billy Ward & the Dominoes, "Chicken Blues"
Anna Kramer & the Lost Cause, "You Think You Know Me"
Sophie Zelmani, "Most of the Time"
Dr. John's Record Shelf 121021
Cabaret Voltaire, "No Escape"
Us3, "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)"
Hank Mobley, "The Break Through"
Rodriguez, "Sugar Man"
Mary Weiss, "My Heart is Beating"
Pete Shelley, "Think For Yourself"
Buddy Holly, "Take Your Time"
Raincoats, "No One's Little Girl"
Detroit Cobras, "Ya Ya Ya"
Public Image, LTD, "Public Image"
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, "Bad Reputation"
Love Is All, "Wishing Well"
Louie & the Lovers, "I KNow You Know"
Forty-Fives, "The Devil Beats His Wife"
John P. Strohm, "Better Than Nothing"
The Naysayer, "Currency"
Sir Douglas Quintet, "Who'll Be Next in Line"
The Seeds, "Mr. Farmer"
Dr. John's Record Shelf 121014
TV on the Radio, "Second Song"
Can, "Oh Yeah"
White Stripes, "300 MPH Torrential Downpour Blues"
Mary Lou Lord, "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go"
T-Bone Burnett, "The Murder Weapon"
New Bomb Turks, "Statue of Liberty"
Ramones, "Surfin' Bird"
Paris Sisters, "Dream Lover"
Lee Dorsey, "Ride Your Pony"
Michael Hurley, "Sweet Lucy"
Gary Numan, "Cars"
Neil Diamond, "Delirious Love"
Undertones, "We All Talked About You"
Shadows of Knight, "Shake"
Cub, "Magic 8 Ball"
Rilo Kiley, "The Frug"
Terry Allen, "Lubbock Woman"
Kinks, "Lincoln County"
Dr. John's Record Shelf 121007
Corin Tucker Band, "Summer Jams"
Go-Betweens, "Too Much of One Thing"
Feelies, "Change Your Mind"
Billy Bragg & the Blokes, "Baby Faroukh"
Marcia Griffiths, "Don't Let Me Down"
Velvet Crush, "Hold Me Up"
Chris Mills, "Calling All Comrades"
Insect Trust, "Hoboken Saturday Night"
Broken West, "So It Goes"
REM, "Exhuming McCarthy"
Dire Straits, "Twisting By the Pool"
Tom Rush, "Urge for Going"
Paul Westerberg & Joan Jett, "Let's Do It"
Fred Astaire, "Cheek to Cheek"
The Who, "I Can See For Miles"
Liz Phair, "Uncle Alvarez"
Steve martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers, "King Tut"
In case you thought I was exaggerating in my post last night about the imminent change in weather here in SW Montana, here are a couple shots of what I saw outside my front door this morning.
Monday, the temperature here hit about 85, yesterday afternoon it was still in the mid-seventies. I don't imagine this means that we won't get a true autumn, but the snow is mostly still on the ground about ten hours after I took these pictures, so winter is definitely knocking on the door. Why does it always seem to come too soon?
Sir Herbert Read (1893-1968) was a well-known British poet and art critic. Here is something he wrote in 1952 that bears some consideration:
"Art is not and never has been subordinate to moral values. Moral values are social values; aesthetic values are human values.... Morality seeks to restrain the feelings; art seeks to define them by externalizing them, by giving them significant form. Morality has only one aim-- the ideal good; art has quite another aim-- the objective truth... art never changes."
The prediction is for snow-- snow!-- in Dillon on Wednesday night, which makes me realize that the lingering summer (it was over 80 yesterday) is winding down. So, here are a few random pictures I took when the weather was fine and looked like it might last forever. Above is a shot of the Erie Basin Marina cluttered with boats.
Here's a shot of one of the daily free concerts at Marine Midland Center in downtown Buffalo from back in July. I can't recall the name of the band but they were kind of a punkish polka outfit, and a lot of fun.
This was taken on the path down to Devil's Hole near the Niagara Gorge. I guess it'll be awhile now before I see those natural greens again. Time to batten down the hatches for winter, I guess.
This past Sunday, we celebrated our 300th show on Dr. John's Record Shelf. I only mention that because it meant that we played some clips of earlier shows that we thought were somewhat memorable, including a classic Top Five List from some years back. Some of you may have heard this before, but hopefully it will still inspire a chuckle (or even a twitter in the old sense of the term):
Back in the eighteenth century, William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield offered up this statement as his "Credo for Judges," though it's not bad advice for anyone in public life:
"I will not do that which my conscience tells me is wrong to gain the huzzahs of thousands, or the daily praise of all the papers which come from the press; I will not avoid what I think is right, though it should draw on me the whole artillery that falsehood and malice can invent, or the credulity a deluded population can swallow."
This video includes some of the most self-conscious, unconvincing lip-synching you'll ever see (not to mention fake drumming). But in our Battle of the Bands (see previous post), it's what's on record, not videotape, that counts, so the Standells are going on to round two.
Yesterday was the 300th episode of Dr. John's Record Shelf, so we were in a bit of a celebratory mood. In addition to playing a lot of great music and some favorite bits of the past, we added an extra Battle of the Bands contest and welcomed "celebrity" judges the Rock Doctor (who you may recall inspired the Battle in the first place), the Blue Collar DJ (another great KDWG personality), as well as the return of Squeegy Beckenheim and, of course, Art Vandelay (for a total of five instead of the usual three judges, counting me).
The Beach Boys
In the first matchup, pitting no. 2 seed the Beach Boys against no. 15 the Mothers of Invention (Southwest Bracket), we had a mild blowout, with the favorites, behind "Good Vibrations," moving up rather easily. The Mothers were competitive with "Trouble Every Day," but it just wasn't enough going against the the powerhouse surfer dudes (well, one of them anyway). The other two bouts went to the underdog, with the Standells (15) surprising Paul Revere & the Raiders (2) in the Northwest Bracket on a split 3-2 vote, and the Shadows of Knight (9) tripping up the Buckinghams (8) in the Midwest Bracket.
Shadows of Knight
The Standells won with "Dirty Water" vs. "Kicks" for Paul Revere & the Raiders; and the Shadows, you can probably guess, advanced behind "Gloria" while the Buckinghams went with "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" (and may be kicking themselves that they didn't put "Kind of a Drag" on the floor instead).
If you are a newcomer to the blog, and want to see all the regional brackets in our little competition, you can find them here, here, here, and here. In earlier action, The Byrds, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Lovin' Spoonful, the Gants, the Cowsills, the Outsiders, Steppenwolf, and Spirit all advanced to round two. The whole competition will unfold over the next few months, on my radio show, which can be heard at 90.9 fm if you happen to be in SW Montana.
I know I've mentioned here before that my favorite TV show is the original Maverick series, which I remember fondly from when I was a kid. Every ten years or so, it would pop up again in syndication, and I'd become reacquainted with Bret and Bart, and such recurring characters as Dandy Jim Buckley, Samantha Crawford, and Gentleman Jack Darby; but those revivals were always short-lived. When I upgraded my cable service earlier this year I was thrilled to discover that among the new channels I'd have access to was Encore Westerns, which airs episodes of Maverick three times a day in their original order. I've been burning the episodes to DVD, so that when it inevitably goes off the air again, I'll still be able to get a regular fix (I just need five more episodes, all of which are scheduled over the next week!). Anyway, the reason I'm bringing this up is that I've been watching episodes in the morning while I ride my stationary bike, and I've become somewhat obsessed in trying to figure out which of the Maverick brothers-- Bret, Bart, or Brent-- was older. There are plenty of episodes where Bret and Bart both appear (they generally rotated appearances), and at least one where Bart and Brent are together (I'm not considering Beau, because he was a cousin), but not once have I detected a single clue, through dialogue or anything else, to signal which is the elder sibling. To me, Jack Kelly, who played Bart looks a tad older than James Garner (Bret) and Robert Colbert (Brent), but that's hardly definitive. Likewise, since Garner preceded Kelly as the star of the show, there's a perception that he's older, but again, hardly compelling proof. I'm tempted to check the actors' ages at the Internet Movie Database, but that seems a cheat. If the evidence is there in the show, I want to find it... as if I needed another reason to keep watching.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was one of the key figures in the evolution of modern psychiatry, and a rather prolific author. Here's a quote from his book Civilization and Its Discontents:
"The impression forces itself upon one that men measure by false standards, that everyone seeks power, success, riches for himself and admires others who attain them, while undervaluing the truly precious things in life."
The video of this one is pretty rudimentary, but that's okay. Just close your eyes and enjoy the singing by the great Emmylou Harris (performing a Steve Earle composition). I could listen to this over and over again...
I came across this little video essay and thought I might share it with you. It's about Freaks and Geeks, one of my favorite television shows of all time (probably in my top five). It's available on DVD, so if this summary/analysis whets your appetite, it ought to be easy to find. It was produced by Judd Apatow, who has gotten a lot of attention for his recent films (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, etc.), many of which feature actors who got their start on Freaks and Geeks. Anyway, check this out:
This is one that I only discovered years after its heyday, but it was always a treat to run across Our Boarding House (created by Gene Ahearn, and later done by Bill Freyse). I guess boarding houses were kind of a relic of the first half of the twentieth century (Moon Mullins was also set in one), which gives the strip a real nostalgic air. But the real appeal is the great character of Major Hoople, the lazy blowhard proprietor of the house whose wife did all the work while he regaled the tenants with his various theories and tall tales.
During the week, Our Boarding House was a single panel cartoon, but even with that limited space Ahearn and Freyse did a good job of conveying the setting, without sacrificing the rather long-winded dialogue, especially by the Major.
Everyone in the strip looks and sounds like a real person-- not that the style is very realistic, but the artwork conveys a sense of place and time and character that rings true.
In a lot of ways (visually especially), this strip reminds me of Gasoline Alley, but with the emphasis on a more adult perspective of the world, one that's a little cynical and cognizant of how likely it is that one might not always realize one's dreams. But in a humorous way, of course.
Major Hoople's neverending self-importance also suggests a kind of courage in the face of adversity, or anyway, in the face of an otherwise mundane existence, and there's something almost inspiring about that.
I can't think of a contemporary counterpart to Major Hoople or Our Boarding House; maybe it was such a product of its unique times that it's themes wouldn't make much sense to contemporary readers, but I doubt it. There are still people who dream big despite their limitations, and you'd think there'd be a way to incorporate that into the comic page. Idon't know-- given the space alloted to current strips, maybe it's just a situation where there's no room for the expansive bloviating of a character like the Major. Too bad.
Some years back, a Chinese restaurant opened in Dillon. The place was so busy at first, that they actually ran out of food after a couple of days and had to shut down so they could re-supply (after hearing raves from friends, I showed up the day they were closed). After the novelty wore off, business calmed down and I would go there once every other month or so, usually with a pile of papers to grade. I would plow through my work munching on egg rolls and kung pao chicken from the buffet. But then the food took a turn for the worse, becoming greasier and saltier, and I stopped going at all. This afternoon though, I had some grading to do, noticed that there were a fair number of customers in the place (generally a good sign), and thought I might give it another try. My lunch was better than I remember from my last couple trips, but still nothing special. Actually, the Egg Drop Soup (one of the buffet offerings) was probably the highlight of the meal, garnished with some fried noodles and augmented by a couple of egg rolls. Really though, it was mostly a case of low expectations being easily met, and I imagine it'll be a long time before I go back.
Some of my younger readers may remember the recent live-action movie featuring George of the Jungle, starring Brendan Fraser as the dimwitted vine-swinger. But it actually goes back a good forty plus years when it was a Saturday morning cartoon. It was produced by the same folks who did Rocky & Bullwinkle, and exhibits the same slightly bent sense of humor. Here's a sample:
One might take issue with the kind of social engineering that derived from Robert Owen's ideas, but the Welsh thinker (1771-1858) certainly had an optimistic view of what people might accomplish:
"...I know that society may be formed so as to exist without crime, without poverty, with health greatly improved, with little, if any, misery, and with intelligence and happiness increased a hundredfold; and no obstacle whatsoever intervenes at this moment, except ignorance, to prevent such a state of society from becoming universal."
Here's a song written by Butch Hancock, but pretty much owned by Jimmie Dale Gilmore. The two were and are in the Flatlanders together (along with Joe Ely), a band that faded after a single album in the early seventies, only to have the respective members enjoy various degrees of individual success over the years before reforming about five or six years ago. I first heard this song on Jimmie Dale's solo album, Fair and Square, though this particular version is more recent than that. I hope you like it:
I believe that satire is really only effective if the target is both deserving and substantial enough, and the goal of the barb is to actually make a po0int and not just generate a laugh. A show like Saturday Night Live too often goes for the cheap and easy shot, and rarely hammers the real culprits (or the right actions by those culprits), and it certainly doesn't represent an actual, thought out perspective of its own; Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are better on the first point, but again, one would be hard-pressed to say with certainty what, if any, constructive political goal is evident in their skewering of others' misplaced pomposity. That isn't meant as criticism, and certainly not an argument that they aren't funny (I even find enough to laugh at in the recent seasons of SNL to tune in just about every week), just a reason for why I think they fall short of qualifying as true satire.
In the Loop, the new film by Armando Iannucci, is real satire. Its target is the system that allowed for the fabrication of a rationale for war with Iraq, and the self-centered opportunists who drove the process. Every action that unfolds among its large cast of characters is calculated by the individuals to maximize their own chance for advancement, politically or otherwise (and that's as true of the war's opponents as it is of its advocates). They remain essentially uncaring about the effects on the rest of the world outside their bubble, and define success only in terms of the immediate points scored against their closest rivals. That sounds pretty bleak, but the movie is darkly hilarious nonetheless. The key to its success, I think, is that its all-out attack on the short-sighted, selfish, and downright stupid behavior of those purportedly in charge amount to an argument for greater accountability and oversight that is possible if the masses will only start to pay attention. That is, Iannucci can imagine a government based not on the ideology of power unchecked (whether defined individually or institutionally), but service to the community (represented here by the angry constituent who just needs a bit of help to prop up a crumbling wall). I remain dubious if a film can really generate that kind of response from its audience, but I hope filmmakers like Iannucci keep issuing the call.
One other thing: it was nice to see a couple of actors in this film who I haven't seen in anything in fifteen or twenty years, and both playing characters worlds away from how I remember them. Peter Capaldi, who was the whimsically clumsy Danny in Bill Forsyth's Local Hero, is here as the almost pure evil Malcolm Tucker: an amazing and very funny performance. Anna Chlumsky was last seen (by me anyway) as the pre-teen heroine of My Girl; she's more subtly devious than Capaldi's character in In the Loop, but an equally long road from the innocence of that earlier character.
Alright, let's try something a little different this week. The above is a cropped picture of a baby member of the family (that is, the person was a baby when the picture was taken). Who do you think it is? Put your guesses in the comments section (all correct answers will be acknowledged, but the first correct answer get special extra credit).
Last week, I asked where the photo of Natalie and Nicky was taken, and the week has passed without a correct answer, so I'll leave that open. Go back, take a look, and put on your thinking caps. But don't forget to play this week's game too!
I like this picture of Helen, although it does convey a more serene character than she usually exhibits. I think she was watching for Nicky's school bus, but she might've just been plotting her next burst of activity.
Here's one of the quintessential New York City songs (suggested by my previous post), written by Billy Strayhorn back around 1940. It would become something a theme song for Duke Ellington's big band, though here we see him performing the tune with a small combo. It looks like this is from the 1960s-- by that time I think it's safe to say Ellington had the song down cold.
Over the past few months I've posted some photos I've taken, a fair number of which have been inspired by the work of Berenice Abbott. Abbott, working for the Federal Art Project during the 1930s captured, in an extensive series of photos, what she labeled "Changing New York."
"El" Second and Third Avenue Lines; Bowery and Division Street, Manhattan(1936) Smithsonian American Art Museum
Abbott's work captured the city at a time when it pretty much defined the contemporary urban environment, but as her title implies, vestiges of its less aggressively modern past were still plentiful. Part of what makes her work so striking to me is how seamlessly the inhabitants fit into the concrete and metal landscape (compare that to the urban landscapes common in abstract painting of that era-- work by Lyonel Feininger or Georgia O'Keefe, for example-- where human beings are often invisible or portrayed as just another cog in a mechanistic composition). They may be dwarfed by the size of the structures surrounding them, but its clear that those structures serve them and not the other way around.
Pike and Henry Street. Mar. 6 (1936) New York Public Library
I worked in New York for a couple years back in the early eighties, and I spent a fair amount of my free time exploring Manhattan on long walks through the different neighborhoods. Looking at Abbott's photos calls to mind favorite spots, even though the evolution she documented 50 years earlier hadn't stopped in the intervening years, and the spots I recognized didn't really look exactly as she captured them. But the vibrancy and the energy of the city did not change, and those elements are as evident in her work as they are standing in Washington Square or on Fifth Avenue, or in most any other part of the city. In fact, looking at her photos today is like taking a quick trip back to New York (minus the noise), and its a trip I look forward to making every now and then.
The following quote may have been more recognizably relevant in 1960, when it was written by the Spaniard Salvador de Madariaga (1886-1978), but even with the end of the Cold War, it still may apply today:
"The trouble today is that the Communist world understands unity but not liberty, while the free world understands liberty but not unity. Eventually the victory may be won by the first of the two sides to achieve the synthesis of both liberty and unity."
This clip goes back almost twenty years before I was born. It was close to another twenty years after the latter event that I first discovered Fibber McGee & Molly, but I've been a fan ever since. This is just a portion of a program, but you get a good idea of what their particular brand of humor was like. Fibber, as his name implied, was given to telling whoppers, and he had a real flair for exaggeration; Molly was more down-to-earth. They were regularly visited by a string of friends and neighbors including Doc Gamble (voiced by Arthur Q. Bryan, who also played Elmer Fudd in teh Warner Brothers cartoons), Wallace Wimple, Mayor LaTrivia (Gale Gordon, later Lucille Ball's long-time foil), the Old-Timer, Teeny, and [The Great] Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve (who spun off into his own longlasting series). If you enjoy this little taste, you can find a whole slew of episodes at the OTR.Network Library (along with a whole bunch of other radio shows):
I really like The K Chronicles by Keith Knight (posted every Wednesday at salon.com). It's sharp, funny, and more often than not rings true, whether he's addressing a political issue (as in the above strip) or a more personal one (often on the travails of first-time parenthood). I think he's on to something about the odd double standards that seem to apply in current political discourse, and I don't just mean each side giving their respective extremists a pass (check out this recent poll data). It's the quick dismissal of not the substance of a statement, but its source (often basing the decision on a stereotype promoted by some demagogue). For some reason we'll only acknowledge someone's credibility if we suspect they see things our way. Maybe it's always been like that, but I know that we have passed long periods in our history where it was possible for people of different partisan sympathies to sit down and talk to each other, and in fact, often reach compromises for the general good of the country without the rancor that dominates today. Why does it have to be like that? I'm glad that someone like Knight can find the humor in this recent trend, as it suggests to me that perhaps we aren't too far gone.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was a pretty smart guy. He actually wrote a dictionary. Here's a thought expressed in an essay from The Adventurer:
"He that never compares his notions with those of others, readily acquiesces in his first thoughts, and very seldom discovers the objections which may be raised against his opinions; he, therefore, often thinks himself in possession of truth, when he is only fondling an error long since exploded."
Here's a clip from last Sunday's edition of Dr. John's Record Shelf. You'll immediately notice a change from past "Top Fives"-- Art Vandelay was under the weather (I wonder whatever happened to his brothers, Bart and Darth, who filled in ably during past absences?), so Squeegy Beckenheim took over the co-hosting duties. Thanks Squeegy!
Last Saturday I went to see the new Steven Soderbergh movie, The Informant! Soderbergh is a real hit or miss artist, though he always turns out something interesting. The Informant! is one of his more entertaining efforts (it reminds me, in tone if not plot, of his earlier Out of Sight), but also offers something of an intellectual kick as well. Matt Damon plays the titular snitch, a high level executive in a massive corporation engaged in all kinds of nefarius shenanigans. Based on a true story, it hints at how the corruption of big business infuses the entire system, while any efforts to clean things up get hung up on the inevitable revelation that no one can be trusted to come entirely clean. A lot has been made of the jokey soundtrack music by Marvin Hamlisch, and it's seeming incongruity with the more serious dimensions of the film. But in the end, it's perfectly appropriate: either Soderbergh is saying that all you can do is laugh, or, alternatively, admit that the joke is on us-- "us" being the poor saps who are ultimately victimized by such institutional graft, which continues regardless of what happens to those few who happen to be caught. There was a time when I thought that films like this might shake people up enough to do something about the problems they expose; but as time goes by, it's hard not to think most viewers will merely see it as an evening's entertainment, maybe applaud at the end and go home and forget it. I'd like to think Americans haven't lost their capacity for deserved outrage, but I no longer harbor the illusion that it can be sparked by a movie, even one as good as this. Which I guess means the joke really is on us.
Today's quotation comes courtesy of the Swiss philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881):
"The natural liking for the false has several causes: the inheritance of prejudice, which produces an unconscious habit, a slavery; the predominance of the imagination over reason, which affects the understanding; the predominance of the passions over the conscience, which depraves the heart; the predominance of the will over the intelligence, which vitiates the character."
In the previous post, I mentioned that Spirit has advanced to round two in the Battle of the Bands unfolding on my radio program. So, for those of you who may not be familiar with this really fine band, here's an old style video of their winning number, "I Got a Line on You." A little Spirit trivia: you'll notice the bald drummer for the group appears a bit older than the other members. His name is Ed Cassidy, and he is actually the stepfather of lead guitar player Randy California (and had a long career as a jazz drummer before hooking up with his kid in Spirit). So in a way, after the Cowsills last week, this is our second family-oriented band to advance in the tourney.
p.s. right around the time this film was shot, Spirit appeared in a really odd but cool movie directed by French ex-patriot Jacques Demy called Model Shop. Most of the film is comprised of the main character driving around Los Angeles in his convertable visiting friends (including the band as they rehearse), making it a fascinating artifact of the city in the late sixties. It pops up on Turner Classics now and again, and is worth a look if you're at all interested in the SoCal scene of that era.
This week on Dr. John's Record Shelf, we matched up the 6 and 11 seeds in the Southwest and Northwest brackets in our ongoing Battle of the Bands competition. That meant the Monkees (6) took on Spirit (11), and Steppenwolf (6) went up against Moby Grape (11). While the Monkees offered a strong track in "Pleasant Valley Sunday," they ended up being upset by Spirit's rollicking "I Got a Line on You," the second maor upset of the competition so far. All three judges (Art Vandelay, Squeegy Beckenheim, and Tom Rosiek) gave props to the Monkees (Art actually voted for them) but the split decision went Spirit's way, so they move on to round two.
In our second contest, Steppenwolf was represented by one of their true classics, "Magic Carpet Ride," while we heard "Omaha" by Moby Grape. Once again, it was a split decision, and again a couple of judges (Squeegy and Art; the third judge was Natalie Rosiek) almost talked themselves into a different conclusion. But Steppenwolf eked out a close victory. I feel a little bad about this one for selfish reasons: since Squeegy was visiting the studio, I gave her my vote and I would've opted for "Omaha" if that weren't the case. Oh well-- such is the nature of such a tournament; sometimes personal favorites fall by the wayside.
If you are a newcomer to the blog, and want to see the four regional brackets in our little competition, you can find them here, here, here, and here. In earlier action, The Byrds, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Lovin' Spoonful, the Gants, the Cowsills, and the Outsiders all advanced to round two. The whole competition will unfold over the next ten months, on my radio show, which can be heard at 90.9 fm if you happen to be in SW Montana.
My little sister Elizabeth turned [mumble, mumble, mumble] today, and here's hoping she had a great day: big cake, lots of presents, a favorite meal, etc. etc. The above may not be the most recent picture I could've posted, but I think it captures her essential "Lizzie-ness" and may even be one that many reading this had not seen before, or anyway recently. So have a great day Liz, and here's wishing all your days are just as good!
I wrote earlier in this space about my experiment to make some 16 Bean Soup from scratch, and how it didn't turn out quite as well as I'd hoped. Well, yesterday, I decided to experiment a bit with the remaining leftover soup to see if I couldn't improve it. First, I broke in my new blender and ground the stuff down to the consistency of a rather loose oatmeal. Before switching on the blender, I dropped a half slice of Swiss cheese into the mix. After heating up the result, I dropped a dollop of sour cream into the bowl, swirling it into the creamy soup. Success! The result was much better than the original, and it only goes to show that almost can be improved by the addition of cheese (thanks to Mom for the suggestion!).
Today's quote comes from one of the founding fathers of the United States, and staunch supporter of the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton. His implicit warning below bears heeding today:
"History teaches that among the men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues and ending tyrants."
It was a beautiful day in Western Montana yesterday, so I decided to take a drive up to Missoula to spend the day. I did a little shopping, saw a movie and spent a couple hours down by the Clark Fork River at a music and X-games festival. Here's a short video of the latter scene (the quality's not that hot, but it gives you an idea of what was going on):
This still picture is a bit clearer, to give you a better idea of what things looked like:
You'd think that, if an item is featured on a menu as a popular favorite that it would actually be, you know, good. I had lunch yesterday at the Staggering Ox, a well-known Missoula eatery that I've been to a number of times before. Their specialty is the clubfoot sandwich, which is pretty unique and quite tasty. It's trademark feature is a roll that resembles a ribbed tumbler, with its bready innards removed and replaced with sandwich fillings (meat, cheese, lettuce, etc.). They also promote their French Onion Soup on the menu, and so I decided to try a bowl along with my sandwich (and you can only get a bowl, no cups, and it's kind of pricey). It was almost the worst bowl of onion soup I've ever had (that dishonor goes to a place here in Dillon that shall remain nameless). The onions did not appear to have been carmelized, the broth showed no evidence of spices, and the melted cheese on top seemed to be of the individually wrapped, processed Swiss variety. What a disapointment! Luckily my Turkey Clubfoot picked up the slack so the meal wasn't a total washout. I wonder if I just hit them on a bad day or something. Surely no one would order the stuff I had more than once, and it that were the case, wouldn't they have dropped it from the menu long ago?
When I was a kid, the then Buffalo Evening News did not publish a Sunday edition, and so published a color comics section on Saturday afternoon instead. On Sundays, we picked up a copy of the Courier-Express, and so we got a second weekend dose of color comics. Of course the two competing papers had completely different line-ups, and part of my memory is of the respective layouts of the two sections. Blondie was always the lead strip on Saturday, and Bringing Up Father had the top of the page on Sunday; we got Terry & the Pirates and Superman on Saturday, Steve Canyon and The Phantom on Sunday; They'll Do It Every Time on Saturday, There Ought to Be Law on Sunday-- you get the idea. The reason why I mention all this is because, try as I might, I can not remember which section hosted Otto Soglow's The Little King. I find it a sure sign of its singular quality that it stands alone in my memory that way.
Since it was mostly a pantomime (the King himself never talked), I recall that this was an early favorite since I didn't require anyone to read it to me. Soglow's little vignettes were easy to follow and understand, and their whimsical nature still entertains me.
I later learned that the character of the Little King started out in panel cartoons for the New Yorker, and I can see a connection between Soglow's work and that of someone like James Thurber, at least in the incredible economy of their artistic style. There's also something highly modernistic about much of Soglow's work, which is related to his simple, one might say stream-lined, compositions.
One doesn't often see Soglow listed in conjunction with George Herriman (Krazy Kat), Cliff Sterrett (Polly and Her Pals) or Charles Schulz (Peanuts); but if he's not quite in that top tier of comic strip creators, he's certainly not very far behind.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is one of those guys who some suspect of being the true author of Shakespeare's works. I don't put much stock in that theory, but he certainly wrote some great stuff under his own name, as in the following:
"The pleasure and delight of knowledge and learning, it is far surpasseth all other in nature.... We see in all other pleasures there is satiety, and after they are used their verdure departeth; which showeth well they be but the deceits of pleasure, and not pleasure: and that it was the novelty that pleasured, not the quality."
Here's a nice picture of cousins Natalie and Nicky. The question I have for you will sound familiar: at what event was the picture taken? Be as specific as possible, and post your answers in the comments section.
Last week, I asked you to identify whose shoulder Emma was leaning on in a cropped version of the above photo. As you can see, and as Mom (or Gramma, in relation to the photo subjects) correctly guessed, the shoulder belonged to Ben. Congratulations Mom! Thanks to all who played-- and remember that this week's contest is now open to entries.