I am a history professor who grew up in Western New York, but now find myself teaching in Western Montana. My primary areas of interest and research are in American cultural history, especially in relation to the intersection of popular culture and politics. This blog is primarily to help me keep in touch with my far-flung family and friends, and give me the chance to spout off a bit on whatever happens to be on my mind.
Dr. John's Record Shelf is my weekly radio program on KDWG, 90.9 FM broadcast from the University of Montana Western. My goal is to offer an eclectic mix of various styles, genres and eras, focusing primarily (but not exclusively) on music that you won't hear anywhere else on the dial (at least not in SW Montana). My co-host, Art Vandelay and I (with the assistance of station flunky Rico Muckman) also provide some additional bits to liven up the show, including Three People I Know (where I mention three people I know), The Cultural Corner (where we engage in lively banter on art, literature and poetry), Dr. John's Top Five (where we take a shot at ranking almost anything), and Record Shelf Theater (where we re-create a scene from some famous movie, play or TV show). If you find yourself in Dillon, tune us in; otherwise, below are some lists of songs that have been aired on recent shows:
Dr. John's Record Shelf 121104
Bill Fay, "This World"
Steve Goodman, "Turnpike Tom"
Ani DiFranco, "Which Side Are You On?"
Bruce Springsteen, "We Are Alive"
Decemberists, "Don't Carry It All"
Carole King, "Pleasant Valley Sunday"
Bruce Cockburn, "Wondering Where the Lions Are"
Neil Young & Crazy Horse, "Oh Susannah"
Bob Dylan, "Soon After Midnight"
Charms, "American Way"
Belle & Sebastian, "I Want the World to Stop"
Krayolas, "Find a Girl"
Beatles, "Tomorrow Never Knows"
Neko Case, "Things That Scare Me"
Avett Brothers, "Will You Return"
Craig Finn, "New Friend Jesus"
Dr. John's Record Shelf 121028
Fleet Foxes, "Helplessness Blues"
Golden Shoulders, "I Will Light You on Fire"
Spoon, "Finer Feelings"
Girls, "Just a Song"
Devandra Banhart, "Shabop Shalom"
Gaslight Anthem, "The '59 Sound"
Those Darlins, "Mystic Mind"
Son Seals, "I Can't Hold Out"
Johnny Ace, "Pledging My Love"
Charlotte Gainsbourg, "Dandelion"
Aimee Mann, "Borrowing Time"
Elliott Smith, "Between the Bars"
Carpenters, "It's Going to Take Some Time"
Hayes Carll, "Girl Downtown"
Fiery Furnaces, "Even in the Rain"
Billy Ward & the Dominoes, "Chicken Blues"
Anna Kramer & the Lost Cause, "You Think You Know Me"
Sophie Zelmani, "Most of the Time"
Dr. John's Record Shelf 121021
Cabaret Voltaire, "No Escape"
Us3, "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)"
Hank Mobley, "The Break Through"
Rodriguez, "Sugar Man"
Mary Weiss, "My Heart is Beating"
Pete Shelley, "Think For Yourself"
Buddy Holly, "Take Your Time"
Raincoats, "No One's Little Girl"
Detroit Cobras, "Ya Ya Ya"
Public Image, LTD, "Public Image"
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, "Bad Reputation"
Love Is All, "Wishing Well"
Louie & the Lovers, "I KNow You Know"
Forty-Fives, "The Devil Beats His Wife"
John P. Strohm, "Better Than Nothing"
The Naysayer, "Currency"
Sir Douglas Quintet, "Who'll Be Next in Line"
The Seeds, "Mr. Farmer"
Dr. John's Record Shelf 121014
TV on the Radio, "Second Song"
Can, "Oh Yeah"
White Stripes, "300 MPH Torrential Downpour Blues"
Mary Lou Lord, "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go"
T-Bone Burnett, "The Murder Weapon"
New Bomb Turks, "Statue of Liberty"
Ramones, "Surfin' Bird"
Paris Sisters, "Dream Lover"
Lee Dorsey, "Ride Your Pony"
Michael Hurley, "Sweet Lucy"
Gary Numan, "Cars"
Neil Diamond, "Delirious Love"
Undertones, "We All Talked About You"
Shadows of Knight, "Shake"
Cub, "Magic 8 Ball"
Rilo Kiley, "The Frug"
Terry Allen, "Lubbock Woman"
Kinks, "Lincoln County"
Dr. John's Record Shelf 121007
Corin Tucker Band, "Summer Jams"
Go-Betweens, "Too Much of One Thing"
Feelies, "Change Your Mind"
Billy Bragg & the Blokes, "Baby Faroukh"
Marcia Griffiths, "Don't Let Me Down"
Velvet Crush, "Hold Me Up"
Chris Mills, "Calling All Comrades"
Insect Trust, "Hoboken Saturday Night"
Broken West, "So It Goes"
REM, "Exhuming McCarthy"
Dire Straits, "Twisting By the Pool"
Tom Rush, "Urge for Going"
Paul Westerberg & Joan Jett, "Let's Do It"
Fred Astaire, "Cheek to Cheek"
The Who, "I Can See For Miles"
Liz Phair, "Uncle Alvarez"
Steve martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers, "King Tut"
An interesting observation from the pen of German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855):
"It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act
of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment. When I have
clarified and exhausted a subject, then I turn away from it, in order to
go into darkness again; the never-satisfied man is so strange if he has
completed a structure, then it is not in order to dwell in it
peacefully,but in order to begin another. I imagine the world conqueror
must feel thus, who, after one kingdom is scarcely conquered, stretches
out his arms for others."
This must be one of the earliest videos-- the song certainly precedes the arrival of MTV, if not this clip itself. A great song, by the Pretenders (and ironically, Chrissie Hynde today is the proprietess of a restaurant in what I believe is her hometown of Akron Ohio):
Here are a few panels that will give you a good idea of the comic artistry of the great Gluyas Williams. His work appeared in the New Yorker and other magazines, then later was syndicated to newspapers. Enjoy.
I found this quote by English mathematician John Arbuthnot (1667-1735) to be appropriate to post on my Uncle Dick's birthday, since my uncle is both a mathematician and a priest:
"The Mathematics are Friends to Religion, inasmuch as they charm the
Passions, restrain the Impetuosity of the Imagination, and purge the
Mind from Error and Prejudice. Vice is Error, Confusion, and false
Reasoning; and all Truth is more or less opposite to it. Besides,
Mathematical Studies may serve for a pleasant Entertainment for those
Hours which young Men are apt to throw away upon their Vices; the
Delightfulness of them being such as to make Solitude not only easy, but
I mentioned Jackson Armstrong a couple of posts ago, and that prompted me to see if I could find an example of his work to share here. Here's an aircheck from WKBW in Buffalo from December of 1970 (right around the time I might've been tuned in). Maybe this will bring back some fond memories for some of you, as it does for me...
If, like me, you are a fan of classic rock and roll radio, you might want to check out the sites Airchexx.com and Rock Radio Scrapbook. They are repositories for recordings of disk jockeys spanning the whole rock era, and most of the country as well as Canada. Depending on the site, you can search by era, region or personality (I highly recommend checking out the listings for Jackson Armstrong-- that's him in the picture-- who I listened to on WKBW in Buffalo, but who worked almost everywhere at one time or another). There are similar sites out there with more listings, but these are the two I've found where it's free to listen, so check them out.
Marenka and her dad Richard. Considering that Marenka graduated from college last year, I know this one goes back a few years-- long enough that I had totally forgotten that tapestry hanging on the back of the front door.
Happy Anniversary to by brother Nick and his lovely bride Eileen (with daughter Raechelle in this photo)! I'm terrible at keeping track of how long its been since things like weddings happened, but I think this must be the seventeenth? Can it really be that long? Feel free to correct me in the comments.
From Meditations by the Roman emperor and thinker Marcus Aurelius (121-180) comes this wonderful passage:
not spend your thoughts upon other people, nor pry into the talk,
fancies and projects of another, nor guess at what he is about, or why
he is doing it. Think upon nothing but what you could willingly tell
about, so that if your soul were laid open there would appear nothing
but what was sincere, good-natured and public-spirited. A man thus
qualified is a sort of priest and minister of the gods, and makes a
right use of the divinity within him. Be cheerful; depend not at all on
foreign supports, nor beg your happiness of another; do not throw away
your legs to stand upon crutches."
Charlie Pickett is another one of the many artists who deserved to be much bigger, but it doesn't seem to have interfered with his ability to make some great rock and roll. I wish the audio were a little clearer on this clip, but the energy definitely comes through:
Wise counsel from the writer E.B. White (1899-1985):
"I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for
its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We
would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to
this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and
I'd call this a good example of a one-hit wonder, but I don't think it was a hit (at least not until it was remade years later by Salt'n Pepa)-- which is kind of hard to believe. A truly great performance by Linda Lyndell:
So yesterday evening I was casually channel surfing when I stumbled onto the Chelsea-Barcelona semi-final match in the UEFA Champions League (which I thought was coming up later in the week). Being a Chelsea fan, I settled in to watch and was rewarded with an amazing game which the Blues played a man short for the entire second half after their captain took a really stupid penalty. For those who aren't big soccer fans, Barcelona is widely considered to be one of the premier teams in the world, led by the incredible Lionel Messi. They put tremendous pressure on Chelsea, keeping the ball in their end for virtually the entire second half (and already with a 2-1 lead). Messi himself hit the post a couple of times. But my guys withstood the pressure and miraculously scored a goal themselves at the very end to clinch a berth in the finals (holding the tiebreaker against Barca). Then, as if that wasn't enough sports excitement for one night, I went on-line to see how the Braves were doing in their game against the Dodgers and discovered that mlb.com was offering a free telecast of the game (usually I just get the radio feed), AND it was being announced by the one and only Vin Scully, quite possibly the greatest baseball announcer ever. Not only that, but he did the full nine innings totally solo, no color guy, no reporters in the dugout or the studio cutting in. What a treat-- great play-by-play intermixed with fantastic anecdotes of past games spanning Scully's sixty-odd year career. And, to top it all off, the Braves won in dramatic come from behind fashion. I can't remember the last time I had such an enjoyable day watching sports, and wonder if the stars will ever align so perfectly again.
Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) is widely credited as the primary inventor of the radio. Here's something he said in a speech from 1934:
"If we consider what science already has enabled men to know — the
immensity of space, the fantastic philosophy of the stars, the infinite
smallness of the composition of atoms, the macrocosm whereby we succeed
only in creating outlines and translating a measure into numbers without
our minds being able to form any concrete idea of it — we remain
astounded by the enormous machinery of the universe."
If I were pushed up against a wall and forced to name my favorite Replacements song, this would probably be the one, though I'm sure I'd run through most of the rest of their catalog in my head first to be sure. Great stuff...
I don't consider myself a Titanic buff (like my nephew Ben), but I found this photo essay about remnants of that famous disaster that still exist in New York City to be quite fascinating. Be sure to click the link at the bottom of that page to take you to Part 2.
British author Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) offered this astute comment:
"Considering how much we are all given to discuss the characters of
others, and discuss them often not in the strictest spirit of charity,
it is singular how little we are inclined to think that others can speak
ill-naturedly of us, and how angry and hurt we are when proof reaches
us that they have done so."
If, like me, you are a fan of singer-songwriter Amy Rigby, you might enjoy this webcast in which she and spouse Wreckless Eric (not a bad performer in his own right) are interviewed by Jack Rabid. A number of their recordings (alone and together) are played, along with several live performances by the duo.
I totally forgot to log on to the blog yesterday, even though I had already saved this strip as the feature for Sunday Funnies. Rather than wait another week, I thought I'd go ahead and post it today. Calvin & Hobbes waxing philosophical...
Like every other music fan with a weblog today, I've got to pay tribute to the great Levon Helm, drummer and vocalist for the Band-- the guy who gave a bunch of Canadians some real down-home credibility. This is a memorable performance from The Last Waltz:
Last night I attended the annual International Food Fair here in town, and for the first time was one of the cooks. This is an annual affair to raise money for students who are studying abroad, and it keeps getting bigger every year, at least in terms of the amount of different dishes offered (all brought by volunteers like me, and representing a variety of ethnic fare. My contribution was a big pot of African Peanut Soup, which I first had at Fables Cafe about four years ago-- in fact it was one of the "exotic" varieties that launched me on my quest to sample as many different kinds of soup as I could find, and write them up in this diary. I found a recipe on-line, and added a few variations in my version: I added a couple of sweet potatoes (and next time, I'll add a couple more as their impact was somewhat muted in this batch), and mild salsa in place of plain diced tomatoes. Just about every one who had some came back with compliments, though only about twenty folks actually tried it (there were a lot of options at this year's fair, so I can't complain if the customers filled up at other stations). I'll probably bring it again next year, with a few modifications (including reducing it from 50 to 30 servings). I'm going to be enjoying the leftovers for the next week at least, so there's a good chance I won't be writing about anything new here for awhile.
Unlike the last photo (below) I know where this was taken: Tiger Mountain in Washington. This was actually on the same trip, and judging from Maria and Joseph's apparent ages here, I'm thinking it was the summer of 2002. Does that sound right?
One problem with taking as many pictures as I do, is that it's easy to forget where and when I shot one. That's less of a problem with digital photos, because I can just save them into files labeled appropriately. But this was back int he good old days of film, and, while I know it was on a drive across the country with Sally, Natalie and Ben, I can't remember for sure where this was taken. I think it may be Curt Gowdy State Park in Wyoming. Does anyone else recognize the spot?
Something to think about from Human Society in Ethics and Politics written by Bertrand Russell (1972-1970):
“There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who
cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths.
Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that
he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dare not face
this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his
opinions are not rational, he becomes furious when they are disputed.”
I like how the Toonerville strips are not only a slice-of-life perspective of small towns (you gotta love the idea of "Good-For-Nothing Uncles Day), but also offer some historical perspective of the period between the World Wars (you know, the era of bathtub gin).
Once again, nice weather prompted me to grab my camera and head over to Bannack for some picture-taking a couple of days ago. Here are a few of the shots I took.
My favorite barn, along with the beat up wagon out front, against the background of an interesting sky.
I'm not sure exactly what I did to create the two-tone effect in this picture but I kind of like the effect.
I've probably posted a variation of this shot before, as it is a spot I've photographed about a diozen times over the years. In this version, I employed the HDR function on my camera, which takes three shots with different exposures, then combines them into a single image. I'm quite happy with the result, which seems particularly evocative of the ghost town atmosphere.
I agree with this sentiment from the great British scientist Thomas Huxley (1825-1895):
"We live in a world which is full of misery and ignorance, and the plain
duty of each and all of us is to try to make the little corner he can
influence somewhat less miserable and somewhat less ignorant than it was
before he entered it."
The Top Five List that we aired on Dr. John's Record Shelf this week was a result of endless discussions between myself and the crack staff. Although we ultimately reached a consensus, I'd be curious to hear if any of our readers have any nominees for an expanded version of this list, and if so, please note them in the comments. I think you'll see what I mean when you hear this:
I don't think you can beat this definition of "experience" as related by the novelist Henry James (1843-1916):
"Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense
sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web, of the finest silken threads,
suspended in the chamber of consciousness and catching every air-borne
particle in its tissue."
I was passing through Nevada City (one of the local "ghost towns") this past weekend, and stopped to take a few pictures (the weather was growing cold and blustery, plus the main portion of the town was closed, so I wasn't there long). Considering how few shots I took, I'm really happy that these turned out so well.
Because of the overcast skies, there was a nice, muted light around the old depot, where all of these were taken.
At one time, Nevada City was a booming mining town, which grew up around the strikes in Alder Gulch back in the 1860s. The existence of the train station suggests it was still a going concern into the twentieth century, but the gold played out around there sometime before World War II. It remains a nice spot to take pictures though.
This was written by the novelist Thornton Wilder (1897-1975):
"The test of an adventure is that when you're in the middle of it, you
say to yourself, 'Oh, now I've got myself into an awful mess; I wish I
were sitting quietly at home.' And the sign that something's wrong with
you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of
A nice tribute song to the late, great Clifford Brown, performed by the Jazz Messengers, written by Benny Golson (on sax here) and featuring Lee Morgan on trumpet and Bobby Timmons on piano. The drummer is Art Blakey with Jymie Merrit on bass. Very cool...