Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cool Video

A lot of the songs I post here come along with video that is often somewhat less interesting than the music it accompanies. That's not the case here. It's a great cartoon to go along with a fine Wilco tune, in which Jeff Tweedy competes with Popeye and Bluto (or is it Brutus?) for the attention of Olive Oyl. It sure tickles me on a couple of levels, and I hope you like it too:

This Week's (Classic) Top Five

Dr. John's Record Shelf was finally back on the airwaves this past Sunday after a long winter hiatus, but for a couple of reasons we aired without the usual Top Five List. Luckily, I have bunch that were recorded over the years, so I'm going to post one of those. This goes back to December of 2009, and is pretty self-explanatory:

Tuesday's Thought

A noble ideal, as expressed by Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948):

"I want to realize brotherhood or identity not
merely with the beings called human, but I
want to realize identity with all life, even
with such things as crawl upon earth."

Monday, January 30, 2012

Good Song

Here's another key figure in the latest folk revival, British division: Laura Marling. Her last album, called A Creature I Don't Know, is filled with great material like this song, called "Salinas" (in a version with a backing band):

Four Pictures: A Trip to the Museum

One of the neat things about going to the Burchfield Penney Art Museum is that they let you take photos (no flash, of course), and the works on display offer a wide variety of challenges for capturing them in a photograph. All kinds of textures, compositions, colors, etc. are on display, and it's fun to try and turn them into something interesting in a picture.

The current exhibits include a large number of sculptures and 3D works, which makes them particularly photogenic.

I do wish I had thought to jot down the names of the artists who created these works; next time I'll try to keep that in mind.

Monday's Quote

I don't know if this comment from the novelist Thomas Mann (1875-1955) is entirely true, but it's something to think about:

"Politics has been called the 'art of the possible,'
and it actually is a realm akin to art insofar as,
like art, it occupies a creatively mediating position
between spirit and life, the idea and reality."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cool Song

I always kind of liked the Fiery Furnaces, but the first solo album by Eleanor Friedberger just knocked me out. Here's a video of the lead track off that record-- see if it doesn't have a similar effect on you:

Sunday Funnies

Syd Hoff was one of the great New Yorker cartoonists, whose work popped up in a lot of other places as well, including a whole bunch of children's books. I remember as a kid reading a "How to be a Cartoonist" book that he wrote, though I never developed much talent in that area. Anyway, here are a few examples of his work from the 1940s.

Quote of the Day

Boy, I wish more people thought the way John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2004) did, based on this quote:

"I react pragmatically. Where the market works, I'm for that. Where the government is necessary, I'm for that. I'm deeply suspicious of somebody who says, 'I'm in favor of privatization,' or, 'I'm deeply in favor of public ownership.' I'm in favor of whatever works in the particular case."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Brand New Springsteen Song

The Boss has a new album coming out in March, and the first single was released this week. Here's the video of "We Take Care of Our Own," kind of a throwback to the same sentiments he once expressed in "Born in the USA."

Yet More Friday Family Blogging

Natalie and Tom at Hunter's Creek last Tuesday. When I took this I commented that it was a blog-worthy shot, so I think they would've been disappointed if I didn't get it up here.

Soup Diary 120127

I'm happy to report that my last cup of soup on my current travels turned out to be the best cup of soup encountered on the entire trip. It was Chicken Poblano at the Grapevine Restaurant, a favorite spot. In fact, going in I anticipated ordering the French Onion Soup, a reliable standby, but when I heard the server utter the word "poblano," I knew I had to try it. The reason for that is that several years back, it was a cup of Sweet Potato Poblano Soup at Fables Cafe that registered as perhaps my all-time favorite, though I'm willing to consider the possibility that it's exquisite flavor has been enhanced by memory and perhaps a little wishful thinking. Nonetheless, in all the time since, it wasn't until this week that I came across another soup that shared the Poblano name, and so I had to try it. It did not disappoint-- a nice creamy, peppery broth with chunks of chicken, black beans, I think some celery and very tiny shards of the titular poblano chiles. It was outstanding. So now, the bar of excellence has been re-established (or re-affirmed-- I think this experience proved that my memories of the sweet potato variety were in fact accurate), as I set out on the next stage of my soup tasting mission.

More Friday Family Blogging

I think Dad must've been babysitting Natalie when this picture was taken. The evidence: the doll on the table next to him and the gate in front of the stairs. Heck, maybe Natalie took this picture?

Friday Family Blogging

Did Gramma burn herself on something hot? Or maybe get caught by the photographer with her hand in the cookie jar (metaphorically speaking)?

Friday Philosophy

This item from Credo by the noted psychologist Erich Fromm (1900-1980) deserves some consideration:

"I believe that none can "save" his fellow man by
making a choice for him. To help him, he can indicate
the possible alternatives, with sincerity and love,
without being sentimental and without illusion."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Classic Girl Group Sound

I think this goes back to 1964, and it represents (to me) the epitome of the girl group sound that was soon to fade as the British Invasion kind of took over the charts. I tend to think Phil Spector is a tad overrated, but this is a true masterpiece, and he likely deserves as much credit for it as the Ronettes:

Toonerville Thursday

Gee, I hope these aren't repeats (I'm without my usual source of strips to share at the moment). Even if they are, they're probably worth another look, right?

A Thought for Thursday

There's a great lesson to keep in mind from this quote from the Tom Stoppard play Jumpers:

"The National Gallery is a monument to irrationality! Every concert hall is a monument to irrationality! And so is a nicely kept garden, or a lover's favour, or a home for stray dogs! ... if rationality were the criterion for things being allowed to exist, the world would be one gigantic field of soy beans!"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Classic Song

Just about everybody's seen (or heard) this one, but I enjoyed revisiting the tune when it popped up among my recommendations on YouTube, and figured it's worth a post here:

The Last Books I Read

Somewhat by chance, I recently picked up two books to read that were awfully similar in topic, thesis, and format. They are oral histories on, respectively, the MTV and ESPN cable TV networks. Both are quite fat and loaded with testimony from all manner of folks involved with the two enterprises (managers, production folks, on-air personalities, athletes, musicians, critics, etc.), each of which can claim considerable impact on American culture over the past thirty years or so. What was kind of funny was that I was looking forward to reading the ESPN book, but thought I'd only scan the MTV story, and it turned out to be the other way around. I found the story of music television much more compelling and consequential than the story of sports television. To start with the latter, the best parts there were about the creation of the so-called Big Show starring Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann in the nineties (of which I was a big fan), and the various ways that Olbermann ticked everybody off. I found myself skipping long sections about negotiations for NFL broadcasting rights, the NBA, and NASCAR. Some of my antipathy for the book is because I was a big-time viewer of ESPN back in the nineties and early oughts, and remember reading about or actually seeing a lot of what is described here. It was a lot of old news. On the other hand, I was never really a big MTV consumer-- I think the only thing I ever watched with some regularity was Beavis and Butthead, also in the nineties, so much of this material was new to me. I'm also inclined to think that while ESPN has had a huge impact on society, it's influence is more superficial than that of MTV. In fact, while it's easy to see how MTV has shaped even sports in recent years, I don't think that there's much reciprocity there. Certainly a lot of the visual style of contemporary sports on TV owes something to music videos, and clearly the influence of hip hop style on sports (especially basketball) would be unimaginable in a non-MTV universe. I guess you really need both sides of this story to understand how television (and especially cable television) has evolved and effected the broader society since the 1980s, so both books are worth a look, but I certainly enjoyed the MTV story more.

Wednesday's Words

I've had plenty of opportunities the past few weeks to indulge in this delight, as defined by the great chef Julia Child (1912-2004), and sadly they are about to become much less common for the next few months:

"Dining with one's friends and beloved family is certainly
one of life's primal and most innocent delights, one that
is both soul-satisfying and eternal."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cool Song

I really like the debut album from the group Wild Flag. Here's another great song off that lp:

Five Random Pictures

Today I came across a memory card that I haven't looked at before, at least not since I took the pictures (some of which go back more than a year). These were shot on my little pocket Canon which I carry around when I don't feel like lugging my DSLR, and some of what I look for when I have this camera in hand is quick "sketches" that amount to experiments with composition or lighting, or sometimes both.

None of these have been edited, though some would probably benefit from a little work. But I thought I'd go ahead and post them because I think they look kind of interesting.

These were all taken in Western New York, starting with the top shot at Artpark; next a photo taken at the graduate library at the University of Buffalo (where they seem to be removing big chunks of the collection; the light pole in front of my mother's house; and the new science building looming over the construction trailers on the Main Street campus of UB.

This last one was taken at the Italian Festival on Hertel Avenue last summer-- a gondolier posing in front of a model of the Tower of Pisa.

A Tuesday Thought

This strikes me as an incredibly astute observation from the journalist and broadcaster Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965). It's one of the reasons it's so hard to generate much trust in public figures:

"Except for those who think in terms of pious
platitudes or dogma or narrow prejudice (and
those thoughts we aren't interested in), people
don't speak their beliefs easily, or publicly."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cool Kinks Video

I remember this song being a show stopper during the Kinks concerts I saw in the late seventies. The video created to go along with the lyrics is pretty good too (fun to see how many faces you recognize):

The Last Movie I Saw

My Week With Marilyn, directed by Simon Curtis features a really nice performance by Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe. It's a decently told story of how Monroe went to England to star in a movie with Laurence Olivier during the period of the mid-fifties when she was a star but not yet an icon, and much of the story revolves around her insecurities in living up to the roles being thrust upon her, both in personal and professional terms. Judy Dench is also quite good. To be honest, I saw this a few days ago, and its already fading from my memory. It was an enjoyable enough way to spend an evening, but in the end it was somewhat lightweight and just a tad too broadly drawn for my tastes (betraying the story's origin as a play, perhaps). I thought Kenneth Branagh was well-cast as Olivier as well. What was it that Abraham Lincoln was supposed to have offered as a diplomatic response to a request for a review of a book he'd read? "People who like this sort of thing (celebrity biography; backstage expose; coming-of-age story; etc.) will find this the sort of thing they like." But aside from Williams' surprisingly effective turn in the lead, I have a feeling I'll have forgotten even seeing this after another week or two.

Monday's Quote

I don't know if this is true (or anyway, always true), but it's worth thinking about. From the pen of the satirist Jonathan Swift (1667-1745):

"The latter part of a wise man's life is taken
up in curing the follies, prejudices, and false
opinions he had contracted in the former."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Remember These Guys?

Devo is still around, as is evident from the album they released back in 2010 (I almost wrote "last year"), and still as interesting as ever. Here's a song off that album:

Sunday Funnies

Gluyas Williams was one of the great slice-of-life panel artists of the mid-twentieth century. Unlike counterparts like J.R. Williams, Clare Briggs, and H.t. Webster, his was less a small town perspective-- his style was definitely more urban (not to say urbane). These few examples of his work will give you some idea of his style.

Quote of the Day

Here's something to reflect upon, from the pen of philosopher William James (1842-1910):

"All the higher, more penetrating ideals are
revolutionary. They present themselves far
less in the guise of effects of past experience
than in that of probable causes of
future experience."

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cool Song

Here's a song that's getting close to twenty years old-- which is a little hard to believe. Still sounds totally fresh to me:

Saturday Morning Cartoon

Here's an old cartoon that seems real familiar to me, though I can't for the life of me think of where I might have seen it. Probably on the Commander Tom Show, or maybe Rocketship 7 (two local programs hosted by guys who otherwise did the weather reports on the six o'clock news).

Saturday's Quote

I like this line from the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944):

"How could there be any question of acquiring or
possessing, when the one thing needful for a man
is to become - to be at last, and to die in
the fullness of his being."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cool Song

I've featured clips of the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain here before, and here they are again, applying their special talents to a Talking Heads classic:

Yet More Friday Family Blogging

Still no formal quiz, but if anyone wants to speculate on what it is that commanded the attention of Sally (in the background taking a picture), Tom and Andromeda, feel free to offer some guesses in the comments section.

Soup Diary 120120

Longtime readers will recall that my soup obsession (if you can call it that) began when I started ordering the exotic soups offered at a place called Fables, which is a cafe located inside the Buffalo and Erie County Library. At that time, they had a chef (or maybe chefs) who were true artists, and I could count on regularly encountering something out of the ordinary in both selection and taste. A year or so ago, the place changed hands, and it just hasn't been the same. They still offered soup every day, even multiple varieties; but more and more it was standard fare, both in selection and taste. This past week, I was in the library doing research on three separate occasions, and on only one of those day did they offer something that hinted at the glory days of the past. The other two times, I didn't even bother ordering anything (I have little confidence that their minestrone, tomato basil or chicken rice will be all that worthwhile). It's sad. But I have to say that the one soup that did tempt me, the Greens and Beans and Chorizo, turned out to be pretty good. It actually reminded me of the classic bean soup I used to get years ago at a late, lamented eatery known as Bagel Brothers. There wasn't actually much Chorizo in the cup I had, but that was okay with me as it's flavor was evident enough in the broth, the beans, and the kale (I think, maybe spinach). Fables is not what it once was, but then, what is? As long as I can at least occasionally count on a good cup of soup there, I'll be happy.

More Friday Family Blogging

Theresa and her two girls-- hard to believe this was taken over two and a half years ago! Where does the time go?

Friday Family Blogging

I wish this one was a little sharper-- it sure seems like everyone was having a good time in this shot. That's Ben, Thomas, Natalie, and Sara, with Gramma in the background.

Friday Philosophy

A lovely sentiment from the author of many maxims, Francois de la Rochefoucauld (1613-1680):

"It appears that nature has hid at the bottom of our hearts talents and abilities unknown to us. It is only the passions that have the power of bringing them to light, and sometimes give us views more true and more perfect than art could possibly do."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cool Song

I'm not really all that into motorcycles, so the video here does nothing for me. But I really, really like the song-- definitely one of my favorite Lou Reed tunes. Check it out:

Toonerville Thursday

For a change of pace, here's an animated version of Toonerville Trolley produced by the Commonwealth Pictures studio back in the mid-1930s's. Fontaine Fox had been producing the strip for close to twenty years already at that point, long enough to build up a substantial fan-base for the likes of the Skipper, Katrinka, and the terrible tempered Mr. Bang (all of whom appear here). Enjoy:

A Thought for Thursday

A comment on aging, from the noted man of letters Clifton Fadiman (1904-1999):

"To divide one's life by years is of course to tumble into a trap set by our own arithmetic. The calendar consents to carry on its dull wall-existence by the arbitrary timetables we have drawn up in consultation with those permanent commuters, Earth and Sun. But we, unlike trees, need grow no annual rings."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Classic Tune

From one of the greatest rock albums of all time, Forever Changes, here's "Alone Again Or" by Love:

Another Day at the Beach

For some reason I seem to go to the beach more often in winter than summer. It's a surefire system for beating the crowds (and letting dogs run loose). So a couple Sundays ago. I went with Tom, Sally, Natalie, Ben and Andromeda up to Fort Niagara State Park on Lake Ontario. These pictures were taken there. That's Sally scanning the ground for shells and porcelain fragments above.

The weather was actually pretty mild, even with the wind blowing in off the lake. But you can definitely tell from the leafless trees framing Natalie, Ben and Andromeda that it was still winter.

I wonder how long that tree has been leaning into the pounding wind and water? I wonder if it'll still be there the next time I go?

This is one I'd like to work on a bit, to see if increasing the contrast of those shadows on the sand would make a difference. But I think it looks pretty good as is.

Words for Wednesday

An interesting comment from the noted mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947):

"Familiar things happen, and mankind does not
bother about them. It requires a very unusual
mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Classic Tom Lehrer

As long as I mentioned Tom Lehrer a couple of posts ago (today's quote), I thought it only right to also include a video clip of his work. This may be his most famous song (though there are certainly other contenders):

The Last Book I Read

Back when I was in high school I somehow stumbled upon the Village Voice, which might be considered the granddaddy of the alternative press in this country (probably not literally true-- but not too far off the mark either). Initially, I was mainly interested in the film reviews of Andrew Sarris and rock criticsim of Robert Christgau, but as I became at least a semi-regular reader I began to develop other favorites among their stable of writers in that period, including among them: Nat Hentoff (mostly on politics and civil rights, occasionally still on jazz), Alexander Cockburn (on politics and media), Jack Newfield (local politics), Geoffrey Stokes (who took over Cockburn's media beat and also wrote wonderfully on food as "Vladimir Estragon"), and James Wolcott on television and music. My conception of life in the Big Apple was largely shaped by what I read in the pages of the Voice in the late seventies (along with a slightly more romantic version built up from reading the complete works of O. Henry). When I was offered a job in NYC in the early eighties, I jumped at the chance more because of my desire to explore places like Greenwich Village than because of the career opportunity. I only wish my experiences had been as deep as those Wolcott writes about in this book, which recount his own arrival as a nineteen year old in the city (about a decade before me) and the various cultural scenes he participated in as he began his rise in the world of New York publishing (working not only at the Voice but also the New Yorker, Esquire and elsewhere). His glimpse behind the scenes at the Voice is fascinating, as are his lengthy remembrances of his friendship with film critic Pauline Kael, the emergence of punk at CBGB's on the Bowery, and how he fell in love with ballet. In all cases his distinctive voice is evident-- one that combines a fluid exposition dotted with allusions (seemingly picked at random but always relevant) with an obvious graciousness towards his subjects whether they be friends or foes (this is not a score settling tome in any way, though one gets the sense it could have been if Wolcott were the kind to hold a grudge). I guess the best thing I can say about the book is that, much like reading the Voice back in the seventies, it makes me want to go back to New York and discover it all over again (though I'm well aware it's no longer the same place). By the way, you can catch Wolcott's current writing (some of it at least) at his blog at the Vanity Fair site. It's definitely worth a regular visit.

A Thought for Tuesday

One doesn't necessarily expect deep insight from what passes for satire today. But things were a bit different back in the sixties, which is when Tom Lehrer (b. 1928) said this:

"I'm sure we all agree that we ought to love
one another, and I know there are people in
the world who do not love their fellow human
beings, and I hate people like that!"

Monday, January 16, 2012

Great Song

I heard this song on the radio today, and what an unexpected treat it was (probably the first time I've heard it over the airwaves since way back in the mid-eighties). In the wake of their recent breakup, R.E.M.'s early days have been getting a lot of retrospective attention, and deservedly so. I actually heard this for the first time when they appeared at Springfest (or was it Fallfest?) at the University of Buffalo a month or so before Fables of the Reconstruction came out-- what a dynamite show they put on that day, one of the most memorable I've ever seen.

Cat Blogging

I don't normally put up that many pet pictures here, but Montana was such a good sport posing for me the other day as I was played around with a new-ish lens that I use primarily for portraits, and this shot turned out so good, that I just had to share.