Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fab Four

If this isn't my favorite Beatles song, it's definitely in the running-- along with about a quarter of their catalog. This clip is clearly lip-synced, but no less fun for the illusion. Check it out:

Soup Diary 101130

On the day after Thanksgiving, my sister Liz promised to take me to a soup place in Tacoma that served up something like twelve different varieties every day, including many exotic flavors (she showed me their website, and it made my mouth water). So I was anticipating something new and exciting like roasted jalapeno or watermelon gazpacho or Ethiopian spiced greens... you get the idea. Sadly, when we arrived at our destination we discovered that they had closed for the entire long Thankisgiving weekend-- no soup for me, at least there (by the way, peering in the window, the place did kind of resemble the Soup Nazi's stand from Seinfeld, further adding to my disappointment). So we ended up at a little cafe a little ways away, where the soup options were chicken noodle and clam chowder. I had the former, and it was okay, but virtually identical to every other bowl of chicken noodle I've had over the years (a dead ringer, in fact for the bowl I had in Missoula just a few weeks back). Believe me, when your mouth is getting all droolly at the prospect of some Ecuadorian peanut soup, chicken noodle is just not going to cut it.
Luckily, this place also offered pie, and in particular a sour cream lemon pie, that almost made up for the humdrum soup selection. I doubt I would've got pie at the other place, so in the end, I reckon I came out close to even-- and I can still look forward to going to the soup place on my next visit. By then my expectations will likely rise to the level where I have to sample two or three of their specialties. So you can look forward to a really long diary entry after I get back to Tacoma.

This Week's Top Five List

I'm not sure if it's all the snow we've had on the nearby mountains (casting a somewhat Alpine air on the Beaverhead Valley) but this week's Top Five List from Dr. John's Record Shelf may make you long for the slopes of southcentral Europe:

A Thought for Tuesday

Here's some advice to consider from the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804):

"Seek not the favor of the multitude; it is
seldom got by honest and lawful means. But
seek the testimony of few; and number
not voices, but weigh them."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Battle of the Bands Winner

Here's the Searchers version of "When You Walk Into the Room" which helped them take their first round contest in the current Battle of the Bands on Dr. John's Record Shelf. The Searchers, as you'll be able to tell from this song, were kind of the British version of the Byrds, what with all the jangly guitar and folk-rock licks. The song, by the way, was written by Jackie DeShannon, whose own version is pretty cool too...

Three Pictures: Tacoma

I didn't take as many pictures on my recent trip to the Northwest as I would have hoped, mainly because the weather was pretty bad, which made driving anywhere kind of treacherous. But I did get out for a morning with my sister Liz, and we went down by the Tacoma waterfront, where these first two shots were taken.

This third picture was taken in a small park with a big pond in it. I liked the play of colors-- blue sky, green trees, golden brush. What's weird is that there was no sign of snow, although just a couple days earlier, it was virtually impossible to see anything but white. Hopefully on my next visit, I'll get out and about a bit more for a wider range of pictures.

Battle of the Bands Update

Herman's Hermits

Round One of The Battle of the Bands to determine the great British rock and roll group of the sixties and early seventies is winding down on my radio show, Dr. John's Record Shelf. Last night we had the penultimate match-ups, from the Pop Bracket, in which Herman's Hermits (seeded no. 4) took down the Shadows (13) by a 7-4 vote, while the Searchers (5) eked out a victory over Status Quo (12) by a score of 6-5.

The Searchers

This week's songs included "When You Walk Into the Room" by the Searchers; "Pictures of Matchstick Men" by Status Quo; "I'm Into Something Good" by Herman's Hermits; and "Apache" by the Shadows. This means that the Searchers will face Herman's Hermits in Round Two. Next week, we'll wrap up the first round with the last two Pop Bracket pairings, including one involving the presumptive favorites in the whole competition, the Beatles. Check back next Monday to see how the Fab Four makes out.

Quote of the Day

I like this idea from the great American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864); good advice for anyone to follow:

"It contributes greatly towards a man's
moral and intellectual health, to be brought
into habits of companionship with individuals
unlike himself, who care little for his pursuits,
and whose sphere and abilities he must go
out of himself to appreciate.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Circus Music

Here's one of those artists who deserves to be much bigger than they are: Webb Wilder. Here he is, performing a song called "Human Cannonball"-- which really rocks:

Sunday Funnies

I think a strong argument could be made that Bill Mauldin was the greatest of all American cartoonists. He first came to fame depicting his fellow soldiers in World War II for Stars and Stripes and other military papers, winning the Pulitzer Prize when he was still in the service (and still in his early twenties).

After the war he became an editorial cartoonist, winning another Pulitzer for his work in that area. The guy sure knew how to combine humor, compassion, and beautiful artwork to convey a message that spoke to the common humanity of both his subjects and his audience. He also wrote several really good books about his experiences-- especially The Brass Ring, a memoir of his wartime experiences.

One really gets a sense of what it was like to be stationed in the front lines of the war from his World War II cartoons, and he certainly provides a perspective that isn't always that found in the more traditional histories-- which is incredibly valuable, so I hope he and his work is never forgotten.

Battle of the Bands Update

Bachman-Turner Overdrive

I never posted the results of last week's Battle of the Bands matchups, so let's rectify that now. You'll recall that on my radio show, Dr. John's Record Shelf, we're trying to determine the greatest British (or Commonwealth) rock and roll group of the period 1960-1974. Last Sunday, we polished off the Teddy Boy Bracket, with Bachman-Turner Overdrive (seeded 10) upsetting Them (7) by a 9-2 margin, while Cream (2) knocked off Marmalade (15) 8-3.


The songs in competition last week were "You ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" by BTO, "Here Comes the Night" by Them, "Strange Brew" by Cream, and Reflections of My Life" by Marmalade. This wraps up Round One in the Teddy Boy Bracket, so Round Two will look like this: Rolling Stones (1) vs. Mott the Hoople (8); Free (12) vs. Manfred Mann (4); Black Sabbath (6) vs. the Animals (3); and Bachman-Turner Overdrive (10) vs. Cream (2). If you like to suggest songs to represent any of these groups in the next round, feel free to do so in the comments (remember, they can't be represented by the songs used in previous rounds). Round One will conclude next Sunday, and after that I'll start making decisions about the tunes that will comprise Round 2.

Sunday's Quotation

Here's a classic line from the quintessential Renaissance man, Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519):

"Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water
loses its purity, and in cold weather
frozen; even so does
inaction sap the vigors

of the mind."

Friday, November 26, 2010

On the Road Again

Apparently some readers use this site to monitor my whereabouts (and not in a sinister way). So this is just a quick note to let you know I'll be on the road again tomorrow (and possible Sunday morning). So the next posts here ought to pop up on Sunday night.

Friday Family Blogging Quiz

Someone here is making a point, but I've distorted the image by passing it through a couple Photoshop filters. Let's see some guesses-- no, let's see a lot of guesses!-- on who this budding orator is. You can put those guesses in the comments section.

Last week, I asked whose lips were lingering behind Nik's head, and Mom correctly identified them as Natalie's. I kind of had to give you an easy one after stumping the team the previous two weeks. Let's see if anyone can nail this week's question!

A Couple Pictures of Birds

Liz and I took a stroll along the waterfront in Tacoma this morning, and I took a few pictures. Here are two that focus on the numerous seagulls hanging around near the remnants of an old pier.

More Friday Family Blogging

Notice the incredible level of respect exhibited by Gerik and Marenka for the impending meal. You can tell they've been raised well.

Friday Family Blogging

I had a great Thanksgiving dinner out at my sister Liz's yesterday. In case you need proof of just how full we all got, here's are "before and after" shots of me, Marenka and Gerik. Note that we ate soooo much that we actually had to change clothes once we were finished with our dinner! Special thanks to Liz and Richard for doing most of the cooking-- I hope I can come back next year too (I think that'll give me enough time to clear some space in my stomach).

Friday Philosophy

On the day after Thanksgiving, it seemed appropriate to post a line from the great chef, Julia Child (1912-2004). So here it is:

"Moderation. Small helpings. Sample a
little bit of everything. These are the
secrets of happiness and good health."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

If you saw Lizzie's comment on the previous post, you know I made it safely to the great Northwest, despite some inclement weather. It should be an easier return trip-- but I've still got a couple days to relax. I hope everyone has a great holiday and enjoys the turkey (or whatever you may be eating) today!

P.S. Toonerville Thursday will return next week!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On the Road Again

Posting will be light to non-existent for about a week, as I head off to enjoy the holidays with family. Please come back next Sunday for new stuff; and in the meantime, feel free to go back and throw up some comments on past posts, or to take a shot at the quiz.

Prime Leonard Cohen

This is kind of a bleak song, but oh so poetic. Plus, Cohen's deep baritone makes it go down real easy. Definitely one of the great songwriters of the past fifty years:

Sunday Funnies

Here are a couple of great panels from H.T. Webster, the master of the form. It's so easy to identify with his characters, as the topics of his cartoons are universal in theme if not every detail.

Sunday's Quote

Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) was a French poet, artist, filmmaker, and a bunch of other things. So I think he'd given considerable thought to this particular point:

"Art produces ugly things which frequently
become more beautiful with time. Fashion,
on the other hand, produces beautiful things
which always become ugly with time."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Classic Nick Lowe

You can tell this video hails from the early days of MTV, with its lame attempt at creating a narrative that has little to do with the song (I'm pretty sure the bride is Lowe's then-wife Carlene Carter, daughter of June Carter and Carl Smith, and stepdaughter of Johnny Cash). But that song is a good one, and the sound quality is high, so give it a listen:

Three Pictures of Spain

Here are a few more shots from my trip to Spain. Above is the royal palace in Madrid. Or maybe it's the government building that sits opposite the palace-- I'm afraid I don't remember (and I believe the two buildings look pretty similar).

One of the most memorable spots we visited was the Museum of Torture, located in a basement right across the street from the cathedral in Toledo. I believe this was where many of the "confessions" were elicited during the inquisition and there were plenty of tools on display-- like the suspended cage above-- that no doubt helped prompt the heretics.

I can't remember the name of this street, but it was in the heart of the financial and government district in Madrid. I really liked the winged figure on the top of the building in the center.

Saturday Morning Cartoon

The inimitable Yosemite Sam goes a' rabbit huntin' in this classic Looney Tunes cartoon:

A Thought for the Day

Here's something for you to consider: a quote from the author William S. Burroughs (1914-1997):

"Most of the trouble in this world has
been caused by folks who can't mind
their own business, because they have
no business of their own to mind, any
more than a smallpox virus has."

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Roots of Rock

I know that Nat King Cole isn't normally associated with rock and roll, but his early trio sides sure have a lot in common with the likes of Louis Jordan and Roy Brown-- so let's give him some credit as one of the grandfathers of rock. You can hear what I mean in this cut:

Friday Family Blogging Quiz

Here's a nice picture of Nik and his big blue eyes. The question is, who is holding him (the owner of the lips in the upper left corner)? Put your guesses in the comments section.

Last week, I stumped you all again. The question was who the crossed eyes belonged to, and the correct answer was Raechelle (which nobody guessed-- see below). That's two stumpers in a row for me-- let's see if you can't do better this week!

The Last Movie I Saw

Howl, directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, is a weird hybrid of a movie, which actually seems entirely appropriate to its subject. Unfortunately, it falls a bit short of generating the kind of excitement the presentation seems designed to elicit. I'm inclined to think that the filmmakers wanted to create something truly poetic, to match the accomplishment of Allen Ginsberg with his masterpiece, the poem that gives this movie its title. And much of what's on-screen really does suggest the visceral impact of that poem, through a re-creation of the famed reading by Ginsberg in San Francisco back in 1955, and animated sequences that do a fair job of approximating the dream-like imagery Ginsberg's words call forth. Even the segments of Ginsberg being interviewed, inter-cut with the other material, work to emphasize the personal vision from which the poem was born. But there's a fourth component that, while on its own terms is pretty compelling too, kind of upsets the overall balance. That part, comprised of testimony offered in the obscenity trial of Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Howl's publisher), creates a narrative anchor that doesn't quite gibe with the rest of the film, kind of reeling it in as a concession to literal clarity that operates almost at cross purposes with the rest of the piece. This is hardly a fatal flaw-- I imagine it may have been necessary to secure either funding or distribution-- but it does inhibit what might've been a truly transcendent piece of avant-garde art (if not quite to the level of the poem itself). It's still well worth seeing, for the reasons mentioned plus the fine performance of James Franco as Ginsberg, and the job he does especially in channeling the poet's measured emotion in the reading of Howl. The trial scenes too include a number of excellent acting turns, by Jeff Daniels, David Strathairn, Bob Balaban and others. I kind of wish this had been split into two movies-- the material is certainly rich enough to justify that.

More Friday Family Blogging

Here's a somewhat newer photo (compared the the previous post). That's Emma playing in the little portable tent that several generations of nieces and nephews have dragged out of Gramma's shed.

Friday Family Blogging

Here's another of those recently scanned pictures from my long-ago Spain trip. I can't remember exactly where this was taken, though I suspect someplace in Madrid. Catie, do you remember?

Friday Philosophy

Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) may have been the scientist most in tune with the general public, by which I mean he could communicate complex ideas in a clear and even entertaining way (plus, he was a baseball fan, so he gets extra points from me). Here's an example:

"Few tragedies can be more extensive than
the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than
the denial of an opportunity to strive or even
to hope, by a limit imposed from without, but
falsely identified as lying within."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Classic Fugs

There really was no group that really sounded like the Fugs. Maybe the Holy Modal Rounders came close, but not really. Here's a song off the second Fugs album from 1966 that on the surface isn't very representative of their oeuvre (being considerably less confrontational than most of their songs), except that it is in its own way totally unique, just like everything else they did. Good stuff.

A Milestone

Apparently, sometime earlier today I surpassed the 10,000 visitor mark to this blog (actually pageviews, but I think that kind of amounts to the same thing, right?). In any case, thanks to everyone who checks in-- I hope it was worth your time!

Toonerville Thursday

I've been a bit tardy on a couple of the regular features this week, but no way am I forgetting about Toonerville Thursday! Today, the focus is on one of Fontaine Fox's greatest creations: the Terrible Tempered Mr. Bang. Enjoy.

More Pictures of Spain

Here are four more shots from my trip to Spain back in '88 (recently scanned and digitized). Above is another angle on the cathedral in Toledo, which was a truly awesome structure, both inside and out. Sadly, I don't have any interior shots (I'm trying to remember if the camera I was using even had a flash).

This is the main square in Alcala de Henares, where Catherine and I were staying with my brother Nick. This is Cervantes hometown, and that's a statue of the author in the middle of the square. Every night, virtually the entire community converges on this spot to socialize, shop, eat, and generally hang out. It's a pretty neat custom that I wish were more common in this country.

These last two images are different views of the ancient Roman aqueducts that dominate the center of Segovia. Twenty plus years ago, they looked like they could still handle the job of delivering water to the city, and I bet that's still true today.

Quote of the Day

Bernard Berenson (1865-1959) was an American art critic. I really like the sentiment expressed in this quote of his:

“All of the arts, poetry, music, ritual, the
visible arts, the theater, must singly and
together create the most comprehensive
art of all, a humanized society, and its
masterpiece, free man”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Favorite Song

I was looking for a clip of the Patti Smith Group's appearance on Saturday Night back in the mid-seventies, when they performed a truly killer version of "Gloria." Alas, I couldn't locate that one, but this is nearly as good-- not as incendiary, but much newer and just as compelling (even without her band). I think I'd put Patti at the top of the list of performers I'd most like to see live and hope I get the opportunity some day.

This Week's Top Five

This is another older Top Five, from way back in October of 2005, since we didn't include one in this week's program. Notice how much younger Art and I sound...

Political Comment

For some reason, a huge number of Americans buy into the canard that Democrats are spendthrifts, even though the evidence shows that to be largely untrue. In fact, just the opposite, Republican administrations pretty much always outspend their Democratic counterparts. The information in this article from The Atlantic, has been in circulation for years, but somehow it never seems to circulate more widely than among those likely to read magazines like The Atlantic (and that doesn't mean that The Atlantic only appeals to those of a particular political persuasion, but that it is aimed at an audience with better than fifth-grade reading capabilities). Some might say this is misleading because Congress authorizes spending, not the president, but that's only true with respect to process-- the chief executive is responsible for formulating and submitting a budget, and while its true Congress can add to it, the odds of creating a deficit increase considerably based on the president-approved starting point-- which tends to be top heavy with military allocations regardless of the administration. It sounds like some of the new arrivals in Washington are actually promising to look at that component of the federal budget, and I hope they follow through. But to be honest, I fully expect them to cave in to the same same bogus arguments that have worked to scuttle serious economic oversight of the Pentagon for generations (and in that regard, party affiliation seems irrelevant). Maybe if they all go back and read Dwight Eisenhower's farewell address, that might shake them up a bit.

Wednesday's Quotation

I don't really buy the notion that all politicians are evil or crooks, but there's definitely truth in this statement from the great Irish novelist Jonathan Swift (1667-1745):

"...whoever could make two ears of corn, or
two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of
ground where only one grew before, would
deserve better of mankind, and do more
essential service to his country, than the
whole race of politicians put together."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Battle of the Band Losers

I usually feature a song from among the winners each week from our Battle of the Bands, but I thought it would be more fun to watch a little bit of the Bonzo Dog Doodah Band (who were crushed by Led Zeppelin in the competition). These guys were good musicians, but seemed more interested in having a laugh, and even had connections with the guys in Monty Python. In fact, Neil Innes, the lead singer on this cut, would later form the Rutles with Eric Idle. The Rutles were the best ever Beatles parody band, but that's not the only Fab Four connection-- "Urban Spaceman" was produced by none other than Paul McCartney. Enjoy:

Battle of the Bands Update

Small Faces

I'm a day late getting this posted, but here are this week's results in the Battle of the Bands playing out on my radio show, Dr. John's Record Shelf. Our goal, which we ought to reach sometime next May, is to find out the greatest British (or Commonwealth) rock and roll band of the period 1960 to 1974.

The Zombies

We finished up the Empire Bracket this week, with four pairings that led to the following decisions: Led Zeppelin (no. 1 seed) clobbered the Bonzo Dog Doodah Band (16) by a 9-1 score; The Zombies (8) squeaked by Derek & the Dominoes (9) 5-4; the Small Faces (5) held off Emerson, Lake & Palmer (12); and the Dave Clark Five (4) took care of Gerry & the Pacemakers (13) by a 7-2 margin.

The Dave Clark Five

The songs in competition this week were as follows: "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin; "Urban Spaceman" by the Bonzos; "Time of the Season" by the Zombies; and Layla" by the Dominoes. Also, we heard: "Talk to You" by the Small Faces; "Lucky Man" by ELP; "Glad All Over" by the DC5; and "How Do You Do It" by the Pacemakers.

Led Zeppelin

As mentioned above, this completes Round 1 in the Empire Bracket, so here are the Round 2 matchups (which will play out after Christmas): Led Zeppelin vs. the Zombies; the Small Faces vs. the Dave Clark Five; Jethro Tull vs. the Bee Gees; and Badfinger vs. the Kinks. Needless to say, we'll keep you posted on the results right here.

Quote of the Day

Arthur Hays Sulzburger (1891-1968) was the publisher of the New York Times back in the mid twentieth century, so you might say he has a vested interest in the validity of this statement. That doesn't make it any less true:

"Obviously, a man's judgment cannot
be better than the information on which
he has based it. Give him the truth and
he may still go wrong when he has the
chance to be right, but give him no news
or present him only with distorted and
incomplete data, with ignorant, sloppy
or biased reporting, with propaganda
and deliberate falsehoods, and you
destroy his whole reasoning processes,
and make him something
less than a man."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Great Song

I think the Undertones are the best band to ever come out of Ireland (and that includes U2). I just wish they'd been a bit more prolific in their day, or not broken up so soon (though I think I read that they've recently regrouped). Here's one of their late seventies classics:

Three Photos: Helena

Here are three more recent photos than those in the previous post. These were taken this past weekend while I was up in Helena. Above is a shot looking out over the northwest part of the city from Mt. Helena Park. The prominent buildings in the foreground comprise the campus of Carroll College.

This picture was actually taken about fifteen miles east of Helena, on the banks of the Missouri River at a spot called Clark's Ferry Landing.

Last is a shot of the moon behind the spires of the Cathedral of St. Helena. I caught sight of this view as I was heading out of the city, and pulled over to take this picture. I'm glad I did, as I think it turned out pretty good.