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"
Another view of the ultra-modernistic Vancouver skyline, this time looming up behind the marina. It seems like virtually all of the buildings there were built in the last twenty years or so-- all glass and sharp angles in the designs.
This view is from roughly the same spot, but looking to the left rather than to the right as in the first shot above.
One of the neat features I discovered in Stanley Park-- the Totem Garden. Below is another look at North Vancouver , out past the lighthouse on the eastern point of Stanley Park.
Some more images collected on my recent visit to Vancouver, BC. I posted a group photo of the laughing men a week or so ago; this close-up gives you a better idea of just how much fun they were having.
I took this picture on a lake in Stanley Park, the name of which I've forgotten. As I recall, it was set aside as a wildlife refuge and, though they aren't visible here, there were lots of birds around.
The skyline of downtown Vancouver was quite striking in this view from the eastern tip of Stanley Park.
This is another view from Stanley Park, this one looking across the strait to the skyline of North Vancouver, and the mountains behind.
All the best to my little sister Mary Catherine today on the anniversary of her birth! I have vague recollections of sitting in the car outside the hospital waiting for Dad to bring Mom and the baby out from the hospital (kids weren't allowed in back then), and being really thrilled with my new baby sister-- and I still feel the same way today. I hope you have a really great day Catie!
Here's another standard from the Duke Ellington repertoire. "It Don't Mean a Thing" was first recorded about ten years before this version. Playing it all those years on the road no doubt meant the band had really honed this one to a fine groove...
Mark Evanier has a good post up here, quoting a Thomas Friedman New York Times piece on so-called Obamacare (and other aspects of Obama as president). I would have linked directly to the Friedman piece (which Evanier does), except I thought Evanier's added comments were also worth reading. I'm not really a fan of Friedman, who strikes me as out-of-touch on a lot of things, but he's largely on target with this particular analysis.
I don't know if the writer Leo Rosten (1908-1997) was right in this observation, but it's worth thinking about a little:
"I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the
purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate.
It is, above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have
made some difference that you lived at all."
I totally agree with maestro Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) on this point:
"Any great work of art ... revives and re-adapts time and space, and the
measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant
of that world - the extent to which it invites you in and lets you
breathe its strange, special air."
Above you can see some of the armada of tankers I mentioned in the previous post, viewed through some of the lovely flora adorning Stanley Park.
Speaking of flora, here's one of the lovely gardens that dot the park. Lots of flowers were blooming when I was there.
Where you find flora, there is usually also some fauna-- note the birds in the upper left and lower right of this picture. The fountain's kind of nice too. As is the statuary, like the jocular crowd below.
The last major stop on my circuit of the Pacific Northwest was Vancouver, BC, where I spent a wonderful day mostly wandering around Stanley Park. The Park sits on a large peninsula in the center of the city, which sticks out into what I believe is Georgia Strait, and affords all manner of picturesque vistas of the city and the surrounding mountains and waterways. Above is the southwest corner of the park that adjoins the edge of downtown Vancouver.
There's a beautiful beach stretching out from that same SW corner pictured above. I'm guessing that in the summer, this place is packed, and the bordering neighborhood has lots of restaurants and small shops to make the rea doubly attractive to tourists.
Here's a view of the beach from the other end, giving a nice view of both the high-rise apartment buildings near the Park and also the mountains in the distance. Below, another perspective of Stanley Park, with a big tanker looming off the coast (there were actually quite a lot of those ships out there).
I kind of think this quote applies to the Chelsea squad I mentioned here, as well as many championship athletes. It was uttered by the immortal Muhammad Ali, who would presumably know a great deal about the subject:
"Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they
have deep inside them: A desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have
last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have
the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill."
In the previous post, I mentioned that Natalie and I would sometimes serenade Chipper Jones when he came to bat for the Braves back in the nineties. Son of a gun if I didn't find a copy of the original song posted to YouTube. We did it without the poodle references:
As an Atlanta Braves fan, it is going to be a bittersweet season this year, as the team's longtime star third baseman Chipper Jones has announced his retirement at the end of the season. He's been a mainstay of the team since the mid-nineties, and continues to be a productive player at 40 years of age. I don't know if she'd remember this, but when I babysat my niece Natalie when she was very small, she'd watch Braves games sometimes with me, and we'd sing "Chip, Chip, Chip, Chip, Chip, Chip, C'mon!" when he came to bat (some of you might recognize that as a lyric to an old Slim Gaillard song). Anyway, as he makes his way around the league one last time, a lot of the opponents are giving him tributes. This week, the team is in Cincinnati, and they've come up with a really nice homage, which you can read about here. Kudos to the Reds for a classy gesture for a classy player.
I had a couple of interesting cups of soup on my recent trip, one that was unsurprisingly good, and one that was surprisingly disappointing. The first, a chicken and roasted red pepper was very creamy with a slight buttery flavor. Along with the chunks of chicken there were a few cheese tortellinis mixed in as well, which were a pleasant addition. The disappointment was a Mexican Avocado (similar to that in the picture above), which had a decent peppery flavor, but little hint of the titular avocado (which is what I craved as soon as I saw it on the menu). It was somewhat similar to a chicken tortilla soup in terms of its hotness, but without the chicken or tortillas, of course. That's the risk in going for the offbeat option, that it won't live up to expectations. But then, even the standards often fall short, so I guess it's 50-50 no matter which direction you go. Over the past few years, I think I'd say the risks have been well worth it, since the truly great soups seem to more often emerge from the ranks of the new and different than the familiar. Let's hope that continues to be the case through the remainder of my summer travels.
Today's words of wisdom come from the father of the American Constitution, James Madison (1751-1836):
"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to
govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would
be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men
over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the
government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to
I've been through Portland, Oregon a few times before, but never really spent any time there (aside from a couple visits to Powell's bookstore and the art museum). After a couple of days of wandering around the town last week, I'm even more impressed by the place. For one thing, it's very pedestrian (and bike) friendly, so it was easy to wander around a bit and explore. The shot above was taken in the park that runs along the Willamette River that cuts through the downtown of the city.
The shot at top was taken looking to the north, this one looking south. The park itself was quite busy, even though it was a workday morning. Actually, with all the nearby office and commercial buildings, maybe many of the folks strolling or pedaling along were actually on their way to work.
This is a spot called Ankeny Square, a couple of blocks west of the river. It almost looks like a piazza one might find in Italy or Spain. The last picture below was snapped on the campus of Portland State University, which was located just on the edge of downtown Portland. Looks like a nice place to go to school.
One of the stops I made on my recent travels around the Pacific Northwest was a small place called Cascade Locks, which I'm guessing were created back when there was a dam constructed on the Columbia nearby (but which isn't there any longer). There's a nice little park there, which I strolled around, taking pictures.
Lewis and Clark went through here, and there's a nice statue of Sacagawea pointing to the west. She's reaching back to touch the hand of her son, who she carried along on the expedition. Alongside the sculpture of Sacagawea is another of Seaman, Captain Lewis' Newfoundland dog, who also accompanied his master on the trip.
This sternwheeler was docked near the statues. I'm guessing it's used for party cruises and the like. In the picture below, it appears that the local geese appreciate the scenery too.
This week, I'm featuring another of the great New Yorker cartoonists, namely Gardner Rea. Rea had a very distinctive style, with a simple line and pointed humor, and his work was a mainstay in the magazine for almost forty years. He belongs right up there in the pantheon of panel cartoonists with the likes of Peter Arno, Whitney Darrow, and Charles Addams, as you can see from these examples.
Tom Rush was one of the great voices back in the folk/singer-songwriter era of the late sixties and early seventies. Mostly he performed other people's compositions (he was dynamite on Joni Mitchell tunes) but this song shows that he was no slouch as a composer himself. This would be better only if it were longer (and on his album, The Circle Game, it is):
I've mentioned a couple times here how much I've come to enjoy watching soccer over the last couple of years. Today it was made even more worthwhile as my team, the Chelsea Blues defeated Bayern Munich to win the UEFA Champions League tournament-- apparently the most prestigious competition in the sport (certainly among European clubs). Chelsea did this despite being decided underdogs through the last few rounds, including in today's final. But thanks to the heroics of goaltender Petr Cech (who stopped three-- three!-- penalty shots by Munich) and striker Didier Drogba (who scored the tying goal with just two minutes remaining in regulation, then calmly scored the decisive tally when the game went to penalty kicks; second from right above), they came out on top, despite Munich's edge in just about every statistical measure (e.g., shots, possession time, 16 corners to only one for Chelsea, etc.). After a game like this, which was televised on US network TV (somewhat to my surprise), it remains a total mystery to me as to why so many Americans (and especially sportscasters) refuse to embrace this exciting sport. Their loss.
I found this to be an interesting take on things by the English philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873):
"Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character
has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally
been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and courage
which it contained."