Friday, September 30, 2011

Cool Eighties Song

When they first broke through in the early eighties, the Bangles were kind of an all-girl west coast version of Blondie. Or at least it seemed so if you based the comparison on this song...

Friday Family Blogging Quiz

Here's Lizzie sitting on the arm of the couch in our living room at 74 Penarrow Drive. What I'd like to know is, who was sitting next to her on this particular occasion (before I cropped the person out of the picture)? Put your guesses in the comments section.

Last week, I asked who was portrayed in a highly processed photo. I could not obscure the identity enough to fool Helen's mom, however, so Theresa is the winner. Good luck to all this week!

The Last Movie I Saw

Boy I really wanted to like the new movie Drive. Descriptions I'd read ahead of time made me think it might be a cool genre exercise like those Walter Hill used to make in the seventies and eighties (like the similarly named The Driver) Alas, Nicolas Winding Refn is no Walter Hill, and certainly no Quentin Tarantino (a name that came up in several reviews of the film). There is some good stuff in the movie-- notably the acting by Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, and especially Albert Brooks. Refn does exhibit some style in his direction (I particularly appreciated his ability to slow things down and avoid the kind of quick cutting that is way too ubiquitous in contemporary thrillers). But unfortunately, the good parts don't seem to be in the service of much of anything worthwhile. If there was some kind of payoff for the viewer who sits through this thing, I completely missed it. I guess the point might be that even a criminal can be a decent person, capable of compassion. But I'm not sure that the movie really comes down on the side of that conclusion, since I found it impossible to believe that the main character was ever acting out of anything but selfishness, often pursued in poorly thought out actions. Unlike Columbiana, which was so stupid that you could just give in and go along for the ride, Drive gives every indication that Refn has something more serious on his mind. But in the end, I'm at a loss to say what that might be, leaving me to think Drive is just as empty as that other movie.

More Friday Family Blogging

In this picture, doesn't Nik look an awful lot like Opie from the Andy Griffith Show? I can't recall ever seeing such a clear celebrity resemblance among my family members.

Friday Family Blogging

Brand new college man Gerik, in his younger days. I don't know what that glowing bulge is that he's reaching for, but let's go metaphoric and say it's his increasingly bright future.

Friday Philosophy

This is as neat a summary of the "philosophy" of photography as I've yet found. It comes from the great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004):

"To take photographs means to recognize -
simultaneously and within a fraction of a second -
both the fact itself and the rigorous organization
of visually perceived forms that give it meaning.
It is putting one's head, one's eye and one's
heart on the same axis."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

First Class Rock and Roll

The best live show I saw last summer was put on by these guys: Titus Andronicus. The show I went to was indoors, but this is pretty close to what I got to see:

Toonerville Thursday

Doesn't it seem like just about everyone in Toonerville is up for some mischief, should the opportunity present itself? Old Man Eustis sure knows how to keep things popping.

Quote of the Day

A great insight from Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire (1694-1778), one of the greatest of the French philosophes:

"Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know
no other remedy than to pass quickly through
them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes,
the greater is their power to harm us."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Classic Fifties Vocal Group

I need a little cheering up this evening (as the Braves completed an epic collapse and fell out of the playoffs)-- so I'm listening to the Clovers. And you know what... it makes me feel a little better. Here's one of their great tunes:

Four Pictures: Council Grove State Park

Just outside of Missoula is a small state park called Council Grove. It marks the spot where a treaty between the American settlers and local Indian tribes was signed back in the mid-nineteenth century. I visited last weekend looking for photo ops, and these four pictures represent the best of the shots I took. The river is Clark's Fork.

I was using a new fixed focal length lens that I recently purchased, and I'm pretty pleased with its performance, with regard to color and crispness.

It was a bit early in the year to catch the leaves changing, though you can kind of tell they are on the verge. Hopefully I'll get a chance to get oput again when the colors are really spectacular.

Wednesday's Quote

I like this observation by the late novelist Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007):

"A first grader should understand that his or her culture isn't a rational invention; that there are thousands of other cultures and they all work pretty well; that all cultures function on faith rather than truth; that there are lots of alternatives to our own society. Cultural relativity is defensible and attractive. It's also a source of hope. It means we don't have to continue this way if we don't like it."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Good Song

I have to admit that I'm predisposed to like any band whose name invokes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but these guys justify that faith. The song is called "Shaky" by The Duke and the King:

This Week's Top Five

I like to think that the Top Five lists we provide on Dr. John's Record Shelf have some educational value, but this one was really just for fun.

Tuesday's Thought

Here's something to think about, courtesy of the renowned Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890):

"If one is the master of one thing and
understands one thing well, one has
at the same time insight into and
understanding of many things."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Great Song

I am a huge fan of Buddy Holly's work, and I have to admit that I approached the recent compilation of contemporary covers of his songs with a bit of trepidation. Although I like many of the artists selected to interpret his songs, it was easy to imagine either slavish (and hence unnecessary) imitations or brutal deconstructions. There's a little bit of each, but mostly I enjoyed the record straight through-- perhaps a tribute to the quality of the source material. After the first couple of listens, this is my favorite, from the wonderful Patti Smith (who I could've predicted would offer up a highlight):

The Last Movie I Saw

Terri is the kind of movie that makes you believe it is still possible to tell a story on a human scale in a fictional film, without relying on exaggeration, special effects or star power to grab and hold an audience. Director Azazel Jacobs' establishes a tone that rings true from the first frame, and never wavers in presenting a story of a generally goodhearted kid who is working out how to cope with the largely unfortunate circumstances that he has little control over at home or at school. A loner at the beginning of the story, he discovers that there may be something to gain from developing some friendships, though his efforts in that regard are somewhat tentative at first, and not always successful as it becomes clear that even other goodhearted people can let you down. But at the end, one is left with the impression that Terri has recognized that he has at least some control over what comes next, and that certainly had me leaving the theater in an upbeat mood. It's really strange to me that this kind of film is so rare today, by which I mean I don't get why they don't appeal to large audiences-- or more to the point, why aren't they given the kind of distribution that makes them available to a mass audience. You certainly see elements of this kind of story in more big budget affairs (I'm thinking, for example, of The Blind Side). But in those cases, the manipulation of the audience is so calculated and blatant, while a movie like Terri comes off as totally unpretentious and real. It's like in the former case, the goal is to elicit a cathartic "awww" from the audience at the end; while in the latter case, the goal is to promote empathy for real people, who are recognizable in (if not literally represented by) the characters in the story. I'm not really opposed to the concept of catharsis, but there's a huge difference between feeling like a good person because you went to a movie, and seeing a movie that makes you want to be a better person. I guess those two responses don't have to be mutually exclusive, but given that there were only two people in the theater when I saw Terri, I'm guessing producers see a lot more commercial promise in focusing on the much easier goal of producing that "awww," which is really too bad for all of us.

A Monday Quote

Some good advice from the American journalist Dorothy Dix (1887-1951):

"I have learned to live each day as it comes,
and not to borrow trouble by dreading
tomorrow. It is the dark menace of the
future that makes cowards of us."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Jazz for a Sunday Afternoon

Miles Davis and John Coltrane-- I don't know what more one can say, except enjoy!

Sunday Funnies

Back in the pre-World War II era, cartoonists often had an entire page to fill in the Sunday color sections. In addition tot he featured strip, they often added a topper-- a shorter strip with another group of characters to provide a little variety on the page. H.H. Knerr, the primary artist on The Katzenjammer Kids for almost thirty years created Dinglehoofer Und His Dog to top the Kids. If you're familiar with the former, you'll recognize some consistencies between the two. Anyway, here are a few examples of what weekly readers got from Herr Dinglehoofer back in the late thirties.

A Sunday Quote

With the season winding down (go Braves!), I thought it appropriate to post a good line about baseball here, and former team owner Bill Veeck (1914-1986) had a bunch of them:

"Baseball is almost the only orderly thing
in a very unorderly world. If you get three
strikes, even the best lawyer in the world
can't get you off."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Smooth Soul

I have no idea what the video in this clip has to do with the song, so my recommendation to you is to ignore it and just focus on the music, which is a classic from the early seventies, performed by the Chi-Lites:

Saturday Morning Cartoon

Consider this something of a sequel to Toonerville Thursday, as I've found another example of a cartoon made from that classic comic strip to post here. This episode (I gather there were only a handful of these made) features the Skipper and the Powerful Katrinka (who keeps coming to the rescue). I'm not sure these animated adventures exactly capture the "soul" of the print version, but they are pretty entertaining in their own right:

A Thought for Saturday

I'm not sure I'd agree with Henry Ford (1863-1947) on everything, but on this point I am in total agreement:

"Anyone who stops learning is old,
whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone
who keeps learning stays young. The
greatest thing in life is to keep your
mind young."

Friday, September 23, 2011

I Really Like This Song

Vancougar-- surprise surprise-- hail from Vancouver, and make some really good pop-rock. I think "Philadelphia" is my favorite song on the album Canadian Tuxedo, but the rest is pretty good too. Enjoy:

Friday Family Blogging Quiz

Here's a processed shot of a family baby-- let's see if any of you can guess who this is. Put your guesses in the comments section.

Last week, I asked who Natalie was trying to chase while Ben held her back, and despite lots of good guesses, no one got it right. So I think I'll leave that open for another week and give you all another chance to score.

Soup Diary 110923

When I first started at my current job, there was a small coffee shop on campus that I would frequent for lunch (and other events like films and poetry readings). It was a friendly, comfortable spot, just one building over from my office, and I generally ordered a cup of soup, which were generally quite good. Due to some campus construction, the operation was eventually moved to another building a bit further away. It's not a huge campus, so I'm not talking miles, but it was slightly less convenient and so my visits became a bit more sporadic, though I continued to enjoy the soup. At some point, a new little snack shop opened in the student union that was even closer than the old coffee shop, and so that became a regular stop. They too offered soup, and usually had two or three choices, which made it an especially attractive option, though on occasion I would still stroll the extra steps to the other place-- it was nice to have such choices, and that meant I could be picky in what I had for lunch. But then the proprietors of the coffee shop complained to the campus administration about unfair competition, and the soup vanished from the snack shop. I have to admit, I took this a little personally and fell out of the habit of going to either spot for lunch. Every now and then, I would have a meeting with someone in the coffee shop, and the soup was still pretty good, but I mostly brown-bagged or skipped lunch altogether. All of which is a lengthy prelude to mentioning that I had lunch at the coffee shop yesterday for the first time in probably two years, and I had the soup: cream of broccoli. It was fine (though it could've been hotter), but nothing to cause me to adjust my habits and make it a regular stop once again. I don't really blame the owners for looking out for their own interests, but I wish I still had all those choices, and it doesn't appear likely that things will go back to the way I liked them best.

More Friday Family Blogging

Don't these people look like they're having fun? And this was in Las Vegas! Not an official quiz, but a tip of the hat to anyone who can guess what Sally was doing when I shot this.

Friday Family Blogging

It's a bit grainy, but I like the intent look on Helen's face in this picture-- I wonder what I was holding that so interested her?

Friday Philosophy

Some good advice for any teachers (of any stripe) reading this-- though, like most things, this ought to be applied with moderation-- from the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832):

“If you treat an individual as he is, he
will stay as he is; but if you treat him
as if he were what he ought to be and
could be, he will become what he ought
to be and could be”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cool Song

This song is way too short-- but they get everything else right, so no complaint. It's the Archers of Loaf and "Might:"

Toonerville Thursday

I wonder who would win if Mickey "Himself" McGuire and the Terrible Tempered Mr. Bang were ever to square off against one another? I imagine such a fracas would attract a big crowd in Toonerville.

Thursday's Quote

That Niccola Machiavelli (1469-1527) was a pretty sharp cookie, and not just on the topic of politics (for which he is best known). Here's a comment he made on the subject of history:

"Whoever wishes to foresee the future must
consult the past; for human events ever resemble
those of preceding times. This arises from the fact
that they are produced by men who ever have
been, and ever shall be, animated by the same
passions, and thus they necessarily have the
same results."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Vintage Neil Diamond

I was trying to think of something to post that would especially appeal to my sister (and birthday girl) Liz. I'm pretty sure she's a Neil Diamond fan, so I hope she (and the rest of you too) like this one:

Happy Birthday Liz!

This is a very famous picture within our family, because it proved prescient in that my sister Elizabeth grew up to be a very fine artist. Lizzie, I hope you have a great day and, as always, I can't wait to see what you're working on now!

Quote of the Day

Hard to believe, but this was actually said by the famous newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951):

“Any man who has the brains to think and
the nerve to act for the benefit of the people
of the country is considered a radical by
those who are content with stagnation
and willing to endure disaster.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cool Song

Stephen Malkmus is one of those musical figures who will probably never get out of the shadow of his first band (Pavement). But his solo career (actually with his group the Jicks) certainly demonstrates that he remains every bit the creative and interesting artist he was in the old days. Here's some evidence: the first track off his new album Mirror Traffic:

This Week's Top Five List

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted a Top Five (mainly due to technical problems with the recording apparatus last week). Anyway, I hope this will make the wait worthwhile:

Quote of the Day

Herbert Read (1893-1968) was an English poet and critic. Here's something he once wrote that is worth thinking about:

"Progress is measured by richness and
intensity of experience - by a wider and
deeper apprehension of the significance
and scope of human existence."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Classic Sixties Tune

Here's an example of Tommy James' music (see previous post), one of the great pop-psychedelic songs of the late sixties: "Crystal Blue Persuasion" (though the performance looks like its from at least ten years later):

The Last Book I Read

One of my areas of research, going back to my grad school days, has been the popular music industry in America. One of the things that became evident very early on is just how shady that business was for most of its history. That's not to say that everyone in the industry was tainted, and some were unfairly maligned (disc jockeys, for one example), but you didn't have to look very hard to find extremely unethical if not criminal behavior behind the scenes of the hit-making machinery. Tommy James puts that topic front and center in his book Me, the Mob, and the Music. The framework for the story is essentially his own rise to success and fame in the sixties as the front man for the Shondells, who enjoyed a long string of hits that began with "Hanky Panky" and extended through the late sixties and early seventies. That's the framework, but the persistent theme is how much of that success was orchestrated by the actions of Morris Levy, a notorious mobster who ran Roulette Records (among other enterprises) and used his underworld reputation to pretty much get what he wanted from artists, distributors, broadcasters, and anyone else who might contribute to getting his releases to the top of the charts. It's a gripping story, and James comes off as both a talented artist and an honest reporter about the advantages (and disadvantages) that came along with being employed by Levy. Although tensions inevitably arose from the relationship, it's clear he retains a lot of affection for his "mentor" though eventually the two were estranged as Levy's activities caught up to him and he ended up in jail. The book ultimately is more successful as a music story than a true crime story, mainly because James' perspective on Levy does not come from being in the latter's inner circle. But that's certainly enough to make it a worthwhile read, maybe especially if you've ever danced to "Mony Mony" at a wedding reception or sang along to "Crimson and Clover" on the radio-- which may never have happened without the hidden hand of organized crime.

A Monday Quote

This quote comes from the prominent American sociologist David Reisman (1909-2002), probably best known for his book The Lonely Crowd.

"The idea that men are created free and
equal is both true and misleading: men are
created different; they lose their social
freedom and their individual autonomy
in seeking to become like each other."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Great Song

I could listen to Jimmie Dale Gilmore sing all night long, and this is one of my favorites by him. It;s a tune written by Butch Hancock, in a live version apparently recorded on video just in the last year or so. Enjoy:

Sunday Funnies

Whitney Darrow Jr. was one of the classic New Yorker cartoonists, whose work appeared in that mag and elsewhere for almost half a century beginning in the 1930s. These few examples give you an idea of his style and humor; and though they may have first appeared in print decades ago, I think they remain fresh and funny today. If you can't read the captions, just click on the images for enlargements.

A Thought for Sunday

Here's something to consider from the American writer and critic Lewis Mumford (1895-1990):

"Virtue is not a chemical product, as [Hippolyte] Taine once described it: it is a historic product, like language and literature; and this means that if we cease to care about it, cease to cultivate it, cease to transmit its funded values, a large part of it will become meaningless, like a dead language to which we have lost the key."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I Love This Song

This is one of those songs that has a hook that just digs in under your skin and doesn't let go. The Cash Brothers are out of southern Ontario and I sure hope they've got some more records coming out soon, because their older stuff (like this) just makes me want to hear more:

Saturday Morning Cartoon

This is really cool: a Gerald McBoing Boing cartoon in which the little fellow provides sound effects (and more) for radio programs. I love the mix of super sleek modern design (circa 1953) mixed with a story that seems totally old-fashioned today. Enjoy:

Saturday's Quote

Some good advice from the British playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950):

“A life spent making mistakes is not
only more honorable, but more useful
than a life spent doing nothing.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cool New Group

I posted a video from the late lamented Sleater Kinney a few days ago, and just today I found out that two members of that group have been reunited in a band called Wild Flag. I immediately ordered their album (which came out this week), and found this video to share from an appearance they made last Spring at the SxSW Conference in Austin. Check it out:

Friday Family Blogging Quiz

In the uncropped version of the above photo, Ben is holding Natalie back to keep her from chasing someone. My question to you is, who was she trying to chase? Put your guesses in the comments section.

Last week, I asked for the identities of the five kids sitting around a table in a slightly obscured photo. The effort to hide those identities proved for naught, as Catie nailed the lineup on the first guess (after Mom deferred). They were Brian, Sally, Jeff, John, and Kathy. Let's see if we can't get a few more participants this week!

Italy in Black & White

These are some random photos that I took a few years ago in Milan and Venice. For one reason or another, each seemed to be a bit more striking once I converted them to black and white. The first is a newsstand in St. Mark's Plaza in Venice.

The ornate floor seen above is found in what was described to us as the world's oldest shopping mall in Milan. Of course, we heard the same thing about a complex of buildings in Rome, but at least in this case, the place was still open for business.

It was a rainy day in Venice (actually Milan too) while we were there, and I kind of liked the way these umbrellas appeared looking out through the grated screen onto St. Mark's Plaza.

A somewhat typical scene of a singing gondolier, entertaining both his customers on the boat and the folks walking alongside the canal.

This one makes me wonder what the young woman is looking at, especially since everyone else on the promendae is heading off in the opposite direction.

I enjoy taking pictures in the rain-- more to the pointy, I enjoy the results of pictures taken in the rain. Actually taking them can be a bit of a hassle.