Monday, November 30, 2009

Classic Love

Here's the Love song that took the group into Round 2 of the Battle of the Bands on Dr. John's Record Shelf last night. There are some recent live versions from when the band was reformed by Arthur Lee in the early 2000s avaialble on YouTube, but that version of the band did not include the late Bryan Mclean who wrote this song and took lead vocals on the version that appeared on the classic Forever Changes lp (the cut we played on the show). So the video here is nothing to get excited about, but the song, well, the song is fantastic:

Battle of the Bands Update


This week on Dr. John's Record Shelf, we finished up Round 1 in the Southwest Bracket of our ongoing Battle of the Bands (American, 1954-1974). The Doors, seeded no. 3, took a split decision from the Seeds (14), while Love (13) scored a unanimous upset over the Eagles at no. 4.

The Doors

The songs played were "Light My Fire" by the Doors vs. "Pushin' Too Hard" for the Seeds, and Love's "Alone Again Or" against "Take It Easy" by the Eagles. Our guest judge this week was Tom Rosiek, voting along with Art Vandalay and myself (I struck the lone dissenting vote on the evening by picking the Seeds).

So, with one week left in the first round, we'll be finishing up the midwest bracket next Sunday. I should have the full slate of second round matchups posted here sometime the following week, including the songs to be played (which, by the rules of the comptetion, must be different from those in round one). The bands squaring off in the SW Bracket's second round will be: the Byrds vs the Doobie Brothers; Bobby Fuller Four vs. Love; Spirit vs the Doors; and the Sir Douglas Quintet vs. the Beach Boys.

The Last Movie I Saw

Yesterday I wrote about Pirate Radio, a British movie set in the sixties about (partly) a young man's coming of age working on the titular vessal. The same day, I also saw An Education, a British movie set in the sixties about a young woman's coming of age working her way through school with aspirations of going on to Oxford. As mentioned in the earlier post, Pirate Radio was not very good, but nonetheless somewhat likeable. An Education is much better if ultimately kind of inconsequential in its lesson (such as it is). Directed by Lone Scherfig (apparently her first English-language film) and written by Nick Hornby (who I'm convinced is incapable of turning out anything less than interesting), An Education is much better constructed than the other movie, and the performances by Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, and especially Carrie Mulligan as the main character, Jenny, are first-rate across the board. As the plot unfolds, the precocious Jenny seeks to define her future on her own terms (as opposed to those laid down by her father and teachers), and siezes on the opportunities represented by her older "boyfriend" David (Sarsgaard), who it turns out is manipulating her in his own quietly selfish way. The trajectory of this smart girl's seduction into David's world-- a world she covets even before she meets him-- and the subsequent revelation of his betrayal could be the stuff of lurid melodrama or exploitation. But Scherfig and Hornby keep this on a realistic, human scale, which plays out less in histrionics than the slow concession to the sort of personal compromises that most of us accept in the face of unanticipated setbacks. That's what I mean by the film being somewhat inconsequential: it's an interesting, even compelling story, well told and well-acted. But in the end it's hard to see that it really stands out as anything more than that, since the consequences of the climactic revelation merely reaffirm notions most of us would accept as common knowledge, reflecting the all-too-familiar expectations we have about "playing with fire." That's actually consistent with Hornby's fiction generally, which hardly effects it's entertainment value (his novel Slam has much in common with this film, for example), but for some reason I was led to expect something more-- although I'm hard-pressed to say exactly what that was. On balance, it was a good film, and I'd see it again, if only for the combination of good qualities that pulled me in and made me interested in the outcome, even if that outcome itself was something less than spectacular.

Soup Diary 091130

I had a nice cup of Split Pea Soup a few days ago, worthy of mention here. It was actually a mix (from the Nutrisystem program)-- just add boiling water. I have to say, it was pretty tasty, not at all what I would expect from a diet program-- except that the portion was kind of small. I recently bought a box of organic split pea soup to try as well, along with some potato leek and sweet potato soup from the same company. These store-bought package soups are not readily available locally, but since I was on the road, I checked the selection in some of the bigger towns I visited. So it looks like soup for dinner or lunch through most of this week. The irony is that the weather is warming up a bit, just when I was expecting the opposite, so I may not always be in a soup-mood. But who am I kidding... I'm almost always in the mood for soup, especially if it turns out to be good (I have especially high hopes for the Sweet Potato). I should mention that being in Washington last week also provided me with the opportunity to once again enjoy the truly excellent Chicken Tortilla Soup at Baja Fresh-- I've written about it a couple times before, so suffice to say that I have yet to discover a chain restaurant staple that comes close to this glorious concoction, complete with avacado slices. If the executives at Campbell's ever tasted this, they'd have to be embarrassed to call the stuff they can "soup."

Monday Philosophy

William Henry Channing (1810-1884) was a Transcendentalist, inspired by Margaret Fuller to embrace a philosophy of self-discovery and individual revelation. Here's his definition of what that meant to him:

"To live content with small means; to seek
elegance rather than luxury, and refinement
rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable,
and wealthy, not rich; to listen to stars and birds,
babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard;
to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await
occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the
spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up
through the common—this is my symphony.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Great Betty Hutton Performance

I'm not sure if there was anyone who could sell a song like Betty Hutton. She was also a wonderful comedienne (check out The Miracle of Morgan's Creek for proof). Here's one of her best, from (I'm guessing) about 1944:

The Last Movie I Saw

By almost any objective standard, Pirate Radio, directed by Richard Curtis, is a bad movie. It's does a crummy job of plot construction, character development is spotty at best, and visually it is unnecessarily chaotic and choppy. It is well cast, and the soundtrack is pretty good (despite a couple odd anachronistic insertions), but aside from that it's pretty much a mess. But I'd have to throw it in the guilty pleasure category for its adoption of the increasingly quaint notion that "rock and roll can save the world," and sticking to it. That really did seem possible in 1967, when the film is set, and I'm just enough of a musical romantic to want to believe that message has not become completely irrelevant as time has passed. Part of the problem the movie can't quite overcome is its tacit insistence that it was that specific moment in time alone that was ripe with possibility, kind of leaving contemporary audiences (or at least that segment that wasn't around in 1967) scratching their heads about what to do with a message that the film itself implies is embedded-- maybe that should be "embalmed"-- in the past, despite the montage of subsequent album covers that accompany the end credits. As someone who loves rock & roll and radio, on many levels this seems like a terrible missed opportunity; but then again, maybe a big part of rock radio's charm is its inherent sloppiness, which can only be expressed by wallowing in the mess-- in which case, maybe Curtis and crew deserve more credit than I'm giving them here. But I doubt it.

Sunday Funnies

Of course The Flintstones did not originate on the comics page, but rather as the first prime-time cartoon on television. But cross-marketing being what it is, it didn't take long for the folks at Hanna-Barbera to get it into the Sunday papers too. I don't know how long it lasted in that format, but I have fond memories of reading it as a kid, and here are a few samples from that period.

I wouldn't put thses in the classic category, but they were fun. And you can see that there was a time, not so long ago, when artists could put a bit of detail into their work-- certainly much more than you see today in the funnies.

Although Hanna and Barbera signed the strips, I imagine the work was actually done by folks working in their studio. One difference between the strip and the show is that I don't recall any celebrity cameos in the former, but that could just be my faulty memory.

Maybe next week I'll post some examples of The Flintstones sister strip, Yogi Bear, also produced by the folks who brought us youngsters the well-known cartoon (and appearing, at least in the Buffalo Courier Express, on the same page in the Sunday funnies).

Today's Quotation

Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was one of the giants of educational theory. Here's an idea of his that ought to be embraced by all teachers:

"The principal goal of education is to
create men who are capable of doing
new things, not simply of repeating
what other generations have done."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Breaking in My New Camera

Hoping to take my recently-adopted hobby to a new level, I recently purchased a new camera, a Pentax K-x DSLR. My trip over Thanksgiving gave me my first real opportunity to check it out , and so far I'm quite pleased. I'll probably be posting some of my favorite pictures over the next few days, starting with these from an afternoon wandering around downtown Spokane. The first two, above and below, are of the Spokane Falls, which rush by just a few steps away from the downtown shopping district.

Below is the giant Christmas Tree in the downtown mall (can't remember what it's called-- maybe Riverwalk or Riverfront). It's in a gant atrium that extends the height of the facility-- four floors of shopping and movie theaters. What's neat is that you can look out past it all the way up the hill that rises from downtown to out past the interstate. It's a great view, especially at night.

Last, for now, is a shot of a clock tower that's adjacent to the river. I think I can make this one a little better with a bit of editing, but I'm pretty pleased with the raw version too. The new camera does a nice job on those night shots I like so much.

Soup Diary 091128

I'm actually a few days behind on these diary entries, but I should catch up soon enough. While driving to western Washington for Thanksgiving, I passed through and had a meal in Spokane, at a diner called Flapdoodles. I like diners-- they often make me feel like I'm stepping back in time to a different kind of restaurant experience than what one finds in the now-more-common fast food places. Part of that is that they tend to offer soup, and if you're lucky, homemade soup. That was the case here. The choices were Cream of Tomato and Cabbage Kielbasa. As you can guess from teh picture above, I went with the latter. I should mention that, when the waitress told me the options, my gut reaction was to go with the Tomato, as I'm not that big a fan of either kielbasa or cabbage. But I decided to be adventurous and I was amply rewarded. The broth was very rich and tangy, the cabbage still had a bit of crunch to it, and the though the kielbasa was in short supply (just one chunk, by my count), it definitely lent some flavor to the concoction. So, score one for taking a chance-- I just hope my luck holds the next time.

Saturday Morning Cartoon

I remember really liking these cartoon "documentaries" when I was a kid. I don't recall on what program they aired, but there were so many shows that included cartoons back then, it could've been any of them. Anyway, here's a good example of that style, made by the immortal Tex Avery:

Quote of the Day

Walter Benjamin (1895-1942) was one of the thinkers associated with the Frankfurt School, and wrote quite a bit on aesthetics and culture. Here's an idea he expressed that bears repeating:

"Opinions are to the vast apparatus of social
existence what oil is to machines: one does
not go up to a turbine and pour machine oil
over it; one applies a little to hidden spindles
and joints that one has to know."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Family Blogging Quiz

The above picture was taken on someone's birthday... whose? Also, for bonus points, what birthday was it (year) and what was the main present for that person? Put your guesses in the comments section.

Last week, I asked you to identify the subject of an altered photo. The correct answer was Maria, which Natalie was the first to guess (Catie and Thomas also knew it was Maria). Sally correctly identified the place as the family reunion back in 2008, and Lizzie got the balloons part, so just about all the players got something right. Thanks to all who played!

More Friday Family Blogging

Here's the Dobes Family ready to give the Cowsills or Jonases a run for their money (though harder rocking than either).

Friday Family Blogging

Visiting family (as I am over Thanksgiving) means lots of new pictures. Here's one of Joseph, Maria, Kitty, and I'm pretty sure Thomas' fingers.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!

I'm visiting family in Washington, so posting will be light for a couple days, but I wanted to wish all the readers of this blog a happy and filling Thanksgiving. Enjoy the turkey, or whatever, and the company. I shoud be back on my regular schedule of posting by Friday (with new family photos).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Christmas List

This is a little self-serving, but I think a few folks who read this blog may have me on their Christmas lists, and I thought it might be useful if I posted a list of books (and a couple cds) that I would not mind finding under the tree on December 25th. They are listed below. By the same token, if anyone reading this would like to post a wish-list in the comments, I might be subject to some friendly suggestions as I go about my own holiday shopping.

Books I'd Like to Read:
Morris Dickstein, Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression [history]
Greil Marcus & Werner Sollors, eds. A New Literary History of America [history]
William Knoedelseder, I'm Dying Up Here! Heartbreak and High Times in Stand-Up Comedy's Golden Age [humor]
Robert Pinsky, Thousands of Broadways: Dreams and Nightmares of teh American Small Town [history]
Ian Almond, Two Faiths, One Banner [history]
Jim Walsh, The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting [music]
Tony Judt, Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century [history]
Neil Harris, The Chicagoan: A Lost Magazine of the Jazz Age [history/media]
Mark Steel, Vive La Revolution: A Stand-Up History of the French Revolution [humor]
William H. Goetzmann, Beyond the Revolution: A History of American Thought from Paine to Pragmatism [history]
Jackson Lears, Rebirth of a Nation:The Making of Modern America 1877-1920 [history]

Compact Discs I'd Like to Hear:
Various Artists, Where the Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968*
Cornershop, Judy Sucks a Lemon
Various artists, Mad Mike Monsters, Vol. 1-3
Various Artists, Honey & Wine: Another Gerry Goffin and Carole King Song Collection

*This one is kind of expensive, but can be had at considerable discount at

This Week's Top Five

Direct from the airwaves of KDWG fm in Dillon, Montana, here is the Top Five List from last Sunday's edition of Dr. John's Record Shelf. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did broadcasting it...

Tuesday Philosophy

Today's words of wisdom come from the great Scottish skeptic, David Hume, one of the key figures of the Enlightenment:

"The mind is a kind of theater, where several
perceptions successively make their appearance--
pass, repass, glide away, and mingle in an
variety of postures and situations.
There is
properly no simplicity in it at one
time, nor
identity in different, whatever
propension we may have to
that simplicity and identity..."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Battle of the Bands Victor

Here's a live clip of Country Joe and the Fish performing a live version of the song (from the Monterey Pop Festival) that took them into round two in the Battle of the Bands playing out on Dr. John's Record Shelf. To me, this is perhaps the quintessential sound of the San Francisco scene circa 1967:

Battle of the Bands Update

Jefferson Airplane

We finished up the first round in the Northwest Bracket this past Sunday evening on Dr. John's Record Shelf with a couple of split decisions. Moving on to round two are Jefferson Airplane (the no. 3 seed) and Country Joe and the Fish (13), the latter in an upset. Their competition was the Quicksilver Messenger Service (14) and Santana (4) respectively. Our guest judge was once again the Rock Doctor (and US Professor of the Year) Rob Thomas.

Country Joe & the Fish

"Somebody to Love" was the song used by the Airplane to advance, nudging out "Fresh Air" by Quicksilver (who Art Vandalay voted for), while Country Joe advanced behind "Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine" which was matched against "Evil Ways" by Santana (who garnered the Rock Doc's vote).

So, here's how the second round stacks up in the NW Bracket: Creedence Clearwater Revival v. Big Brother & the Holding Company; the Electric Prunes v. Country Joe & the Fish; Steppenwolf v. Jefferson Airplane; and the Kingsmen v. the Standells. Next week we'll wrap up round one in the Southwest Bracket.

Monday's Quote

Here's a truly radical concept, promoted by Prince Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921), a Russian geographer and philosopher. I wonder if people will ever develop to the degree implied in this idea:

"Anarchism is the name given to a principle or
theory of life and conducted under which society
is conceived without government-- harmony in
such a society being obtained, not by submission
to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by
free agreements concluded between the various
groups, territorial and professional, freely
constituted for the sake of production and
consumption, as also for the satisfaction of
the infinite variety of needs and aspirations
of a civilized being."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Klassik Kinks

Here's another example of the amazing stuff I never would've dreamed of finding, yet there it is on YouTube. In this case the Kinks doing one of their hits from about 1966. I have no idea where or for what this was originally produced, but it's a kick to see it however it came about:

Sunday Funnies

Today I thought I would highlight a whimsical strip called King Aroo by Jack Kent. This apparently only ran for a couple years in the 1950s, and I only discovered it later when someone wrote an article in Nemo magazine about lost and forgotten strips.

Visually, this reminds me a bit of Pogo by Walt Kelly, and in the strip below you'll see a direct homage to George Herriman's Krazy Kat.

It's great that one can prowl the web these days and find great examples of classic strips like this, especially ones that didn't have along history like Peanuts or Pogo. I wonder why it didn't last-- certainly it wasn't a reflection of Kent's artistry or the quality of the strip itself. Maybe it was just a little ahead of its time.

Quote of the Day

Niccola Machiavelli (1469-1527) was an Italian statesman, often credited with being the father of political science. Here's a particularly insightful comment from one of his books:

"Men ever praise the olden time, and find fault
with the present, though often without reason....
Having grown old, they also laud all they
remember to have seen in their youth. Their
opinion is generally erroneous.... We never
know the whole truth about the past."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Near Perfect Comic Strip

Maybe you saw this in the paper this morning. It is a thing of beauty: Lynn Johnston nails the kids expressions (and Farley's too), there's a clear narrative trajectory that is not obvious or predictable from panel to panel, and it's really funny. Plus, in these reprints of older strips, Michael resembles my nephew Nick and Lizzy looks like my niece Emma (if they only had a dog!). So I take back the heading-- it is perfect.

Soup Diary 091121

When I started compiling this diary, it was to chronicle all the wonderful varieties of soup I was trying as it became a habit to include a cup with most of the meals I ate away from home. My intention was to stay away from the standard fare and always select something I hadn't had before, or something that was most subject to individual distinction from one restaurant to another. Consequently, I think the only chicken noodle soup I've eaten in the last year is the stuff I make myself, as it tends not to be anything special in most eateries. Today, I was in Idaho Falls and came across a diner I'd not previously patronized, and went in for lunch. They actually had three choices for soup, and the menu entry prominently stated: "Made fresh daily." I took that to mean they made it from scratch, and figured there was a good chance the chicken noodle might just be something special (the place had that kind of air about it). No such luck. Apparently, "made fresh daily" just means they mix up a new batch every day, but this was definitely from a mix. It was identical to the soup they serve in the cafeteria at school, and at the Safeway deli. It wasn't terrible, just the same old same old, and (as with the others mentioned) too salty. I guess I'll have to be more discriminating in how I read a menu from now on-- of course, even if I'd gone with one of the other options I probably would've been disappointed.

In other soup news: while visiting the Buffalo Library webpage for another reason a week or so ago, I noticed they had a link to Fables Cafe (the coffee shop in the library where I had many a great cup of soup when I was home over the summer). Clicking on it, I discovered I could have them send me an e-mail everyday with their specials, including the soup menu. So now each morning when I get to work and open my account, I'm tantalized by the offerings-- two thousand miles away!-- of spicy black bean, sweet red pepper with chorizo, African peanut, and on and on. I'm not sure it's such a good idea that I start the day with uncontrolled drooling, so I may have to stop the updates. I mean, why should I torture myself?

Saturday Morning Cartoon

Apparently, this week is the fiftieth anniversary of the debut of The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, which means I'm kind of obligated to post an episode here. Not that I'm complaining... this was one of the all-time great cartoon series:

Saturday's Quotation

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) was a British statesman and writer. Here's something from his work Letters on a Regicide Peace from 1797:

"Manners are of more importance than laws.
Upon them, in a great measure, the laws
depend. The law touches us but here and there,
and now and then. Manners are what vex or
smooth, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase,
barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady,
uniform, insensible operation, like that of the
air we breathe in. They give their whole form
and color to our lives. According to their quality,
they aid morals, they support them, or
they totally destroy them."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Congratulations Rob!

Regular readers of this blog will recall occasional references to the Rock Doctor, Rob Thomas, a fellow DJ on KDWG and faculty member at the University of Montana Western. He actually inspired the Battle of the Bands we've been staging on my radio show, and recounting every Monday here on Dr. John's Journal. Needless to say, Rob's accomplishments are many and more diverse than that description implies, and that fact was recognized yesterday when he was named Outstanding Baccalaureate Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in Washington DC. In all my years as a student and a teacher, I can't think of anyone I've ever encountered more deserving of such recognition. So congratulations to Rob and his family on this wonderful honor!

Pretty Song

If you ever wondered what it would sound like if a classic punk rocker (like Sally Timms) tried her hand at a big band ballad ("Perfidia") accompanied by a master of the pedal steel guitar (Jon Rauhouse), well, wonder no more:

Friday Family Blogging Quiz

Here's a new wrinkle on the weekly quizzes: I've photoshopped the above photo to make it somewhat less distinct. Who do you think it is, what is that person doing, and where was he/she doing it? Partial credit is available if you only get one or two parts correct. Place your guesses in the comments section.

Last week I asked who a set of eyes belonged to. For some reason, mothers seem to do really well on these quizzes and so no surprise that Catie was the first to correctly identify her youngest, Joseph (the Rosieks were unanymous in corroboration). Thanks to all who played and good luck with this week's puzzler!

More Friday Family Blogging

This was taken on New Years Day about five years ago (anyone remember for sure? the date stamp is definitely wrong), when Gramma, Sara, Ben Natalie, Tom and I went for a walk in Stieglemeier Park (am I even close on that spelling?). Good times, good times.

Friday Family Bloging

I thought you all might enjoy this photo of my niece Raechelle. The kid's got a great smile, doesn't she?

Friday Philosophy

Here's a comment from Abraham Lincoln, some years before he became president:

"And, inasmuch as most good things are produced
by labor, it follows that all such things of right
belong to those whose labor has produced them.
But it has so happened in all the ages of the
world, that some have labored, and others have,
without labor, enjoyed a large proportion of the
fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue.
To secure to each laborer the whole product of his
labor, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy
object of any government."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Doo Wop Heaven

Here's one of the all-time great street corner harmony songs, performed by the Flamingos (though I can't tell if these are the original members of the group). The song has been done many times since, but never better:

Interesting Article

Some of the criticism I'm hearing lately about the prospective health care reform bills working their way through Congress is that most of the higher profile components (including, for example the creation of the public option) would not go into effect until 2014. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post has an article outlining what parts of the reform would actually go into effect right away, should a bill pass this year. It's not an inconsiderable list, even for someone like me who has half-way decent coverage already-- that is, I would see some real benefits from these changes, and odds are you would too.

Today's Quotation

It's not entirely clear to me who deserves credit for the following line. It was spoken (and possibly written) by Orson Welles, who you see pictured; the film in which he said it is The Third Man, whose screenplay was written by Graham Greene. In either case it's a great line if not exactly factual:

"In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias,
they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed.
But they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo
DaVinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland,
they had brotherly love. They had 500 years
of democracy and peace. And what did they
produce? The cuckoo clock."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cool Song

Whatever happened to Graham Parker (with or without the Rumour)? Actually I know he's been active recently with recordings, but how come he doesn't get the same kind of critical respect and attention of someone like Elvis Costello, who emerged from that same post Sex Pistols British scene in the late seventies? Here's one of his better songs from that early period:

Photoshop Fun

Here are a few pictures that I've monkeyed around with on Photoshop Elements. Above is a shot of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery put through a few arty effects.

This was a series of archways alongside the St. Clare Church in Assisi, run through a couple of filters.

The Hotel Lafayette in downtown Buffalo shows the signs of being a former showplace, though frankly, it's become a bit rundown over the years. This view, looking up at the southwest corner of the building and with a couple painterly effects give some impression of its former glamour.

Last, a picture of Tacoma Rainiers pitcher Brandon Morrow made to look like a painting. I recently bought a new camera, a Pentax K-x DSLR, so I should have more photos soon to play around with. This photography stuff is becoming a great hobby.

The Last Movie I Saw

One of my favorite lines from Shakespeare is: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." I guess you can say that summarizes the main theme of Grant Heslov's The Men Who Stare at Goats, which opens on a title card promising "More of this is true than you would believe," and proceeds from there to relate the development of a secret military operation based on New Age mumbo-jumbo, martial arts mysticism, and hippie hokum all combined in the pursuit of victory without violence (though violence is a rather relative term in this context). The set-up is great, and the extended introduction of the key characters, especially those played by George Clooney and Jeff Bridges is hugely entertaining, but about halfway through, the movie starts to lose steam. The starting premise is so good, and the buildup leading to the present and a foray into wartime Iraq promises a payoff that it never really delivers. Maybe that's because they hewed too closely to real events, which more likely than not ended in an even bigger anticlimax than is on display here. The actors (add Kevin Spacey and Ewan MacGregor to those mentioned above) are all good and keep things watchable, but ultimately the movie was a bit of a disappointment, especially given the gonzo potential of its premise and the efforts of especially Bridges and Clooney to sell it.

Wednesday's Quote

Robert Henri (1865-1929) was an American painter who also wrote about art and its social role, evident in work of he and his colleagues in the so-called Ashcan School. Here's something he wrote reflecting on the connection between art and life:

"Art cannot be separated from life. It is the
expression of the greatest need of which life
is capable, and we value art not because of
the skilled product, but because of its
revelation of a life's experience."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Video of the Day

This is kind of short and sweet: a scene from the old TV show Mr. Ed. They don't make them like this anymore, and I don't know if that's a good thing or not:

This Week's Top Five List

Once again Squeegy Beckenheim was filling in for Art Vandalay on this past Sunday's radio show, as you can hear in this week's Top Five List (the concept of which, I should note for any newcomers, was ripped off from Nick Hornby, not David Letterman):

Quote of the Day

Fred Allen (1894-1956) was one of the great comedians of the twentieth century, whose sharp wit went along with a keen insight into the American scene. Here's what he recognized about television way back near the birth of the medium:

"Television is a triumph of equipment over
people, and the minds that control it are so
small that you could put them in a gnat's
navel with room left over for two caraway
seeds and an agent's heart."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Battle of the Bands Winner

In what has to be considered something of an upset, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show used this ballad to knock off the much more rockin' Raspberries in the Battle of the Bands competition on my radio show.

Battle of the Bands Update

Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show

Last night on Dr. John's Record Shelf, we finished up the first round matchups in the Northeast Bracket of our Battle of the Bands. Moving on are Three Dog Night (seeded no. 3) who dispatched The Nazz (14), and Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show (10) who knocked off the Raspberries (7). With Art Vandalay on the road, judges included Squeegy Beckenheim , Tom Rosiek and Nick Hajduk.

Three Dog Night

"Mama Told Me Not to Come" was the song that propelled Three Dog Night into Round Two in a unanimous decision where they will meet no. 11 seed the Flying Burrito Brothers (The Nazz went with "Open My Eyes"); Dr. Hook scored with "Sylvia's Mother" against "I Wanna Be With You" by the Raspberries, though it was a split decision, 2-1. They will meet no. 2 the Lovin' Spoonful in the next round.

The rest of the Northest Bracket in Round Two looks like this: Velvet Underground (1) vs. the Cowsills (8); and the Remains (12) vs. the New York Dolls (13). Next week, we'll have the Midwest Bracket's second round matchups set, with the Southwest and Northwest following to wind up the Fall season. The rest of the competition will play out over the Spring. If anyone would like to volunteer to be a judge in Round Two, leave me a comment and we'll see if we can set it up.

Today's Quotation

George Bancroft (1800-1891) was an eminent scholar and political figure in nineteenth century America. The following is taken from his essay "The Office of the People in Art, Government and Religion" from 1835:

"There never was a school of philosophy, nor a clan
in the realm of opinion, but carried along with it
some important truth. And therefore every sect
that has ever flourished has benefited Humanity;
for the errors of a sect pass away and are forgotten;
its truths are received into he common inheritance.
to know the seminal thought of every prophet and
leader of a sect, is to gather all the wisdom of mankind."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weird Videos

They used to say that TV allowed for the continuation of vaudeville-- keeping acts alive that were truly bizarre but certainly held one's attention for five or ten minutes between the more mainstream singers and comedians who populated the variety shows of the day. Here's an example, perpetrated on little kids by Captain Kangaroo. I defy anyone to try and make any sense out of this aside from it's incredible strangeness. You'll never see anything this cool on a "reality" show:

Here's an earlier version from the 1930s, introduced by Red Skelton, who makes the connection to vaudeville explicit (I don't think the two performers are the same guy, but I could be wrong):

Sunday Funnies

Sometime back I wrote up a little appreciation of Cliff Sterrett and his work on Polly and Her Pals. I don't really have anything to add to that, but I have found some other great examples of his work on-line, so it seemed worthwhile to post them here. Click on the strips to blow them up, and enjoy ne of the true masters of the comics medium.

These strips all go back to the 1920s and 1930s-- but I think you'll agree they have a timeless quality that make them easy to appreciate even today.