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"
Here are a last few photos taken a couple weeks back on my trip to Washington with Ben and Natalie. Above is the fountain in the middle of the national Gallery of Art.
The old Post Office Building in DC has been converted to a touristy mall, with restaurants, boutiques and a performance space. But the most interesting part of the place remains the architecture.
The main hall of the American Art Gallery (not to be confused with the National Gallery of Art) was once the Patent Office, and this main hallway was once considered the largest room in the country-- necessary to hold all the models of inventions that passed through the building.
After leaving DC, we stopped in Frederick, MD on our way to Gettysburg. This was a display in an antique store there. Below are Ben and Natalie outside of an old mansion in the town.
I think there is definitely something to this line by the Italian chemist Primo Levi (1919-1987):
"The bond between a man and his profession is similar to that which ties
him to his country; it is just as complex, often ambivalent, and in
general it is understood completely only when it is broken: by exile or
emigration in the case of one's country, by retirement in the case of a
trade or profession."
Here's a counterpart to the photo a couple of posts down-- this time, Natalie stands amid the trees in the Boston County Forest down south of Buffalo. I'll let you decide which setting appears more inviting.
Back in the late eighties/early nineties it seemed like I was going down (or through) DC regularly to attend a conference or do research. Every time, I made it a point to give my regards to Charlie McCarthy at the Smithsonian History Museum. After fifteen plus years I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to say hello again to the little guy, though he wasn't in his former regular spot (I gather they were doing renovations or something in what had been the pop culture wing). Luckily for me, I came across Charlie in a temporary exhibit room (shared with Archie Bunker's chair, Fonzie's jacket, and Dorothy's red slippers), though he seems much less dapper without his trademark top hat. It was good to see him again. Below are some of the sculptures from the National Gallery of Art-- beautiful pieces all, but lacking some of McCarthy's insouciant charm.
A few more pictures from our trip to DC last week. Above is a shot through one of the archways that make the Union Station such an architectural landmark.
A view of the capitol from the east side of building. The Supreme Court Building is also nearby.
I remember years ago wandering into the Library of Congress, going to the card catalog and looking up an obscure pamphlet, whose number I passed to a librarian, and ten minutes later I was perusing the booklet at one of the tables in the iconic reading room. Nowadays, that whole area is secured and accessible only to those registered as serious researchers. That's tto bad, but at least the lobby is still open to casual visitors, and it's kind of impressive too.
We didn't go into the Botanical Gardens (the prospect of the likely humidity being rather off putting in the 90+ degree heat), but even the grounds looked pretty nice.
We did go into the Museum of the American Indian though, and it was quite cool (in both senses of the word), starting with the impressive architectural design.
Here's a memorable line from The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, pere (1802-1870):
"It is the way of weakened minds to see everything through a black cloud.
The soul forms its own horizons; your soul is darkened, and
consequently the sky of the future appears stormy and unpromising."
Natalie, Ben and I spent a few days on the road this past week, visiting Washington DC (and a couple other spots). These are a few pictures from our first evening in the capital, starting with a shot of the National Archives building (where I turned down a job about twenty years ago). The plaza there was where we got off the train to begin our walk around the Mall.
There was a giant movie screen set up in the middle of the Mall, and a big crowd waiting to watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I told Ben and Natalie that if they would have been showing It Happened One Night (scheduled for next week according to a poster we saw), I would have insisted we stay to watch, but I wasn't abut to inflict Butch Cassidy on them (one of the most overrated movies ever, in my opinion). That's the Smithsonian Castle int he background.
Instead of staying for the film, we walked down to the Lincoln Memorial (seen above in the distance behind the Washington Monument). They were doing a lot of work on the grounds, and several areas were fenced off (including, unfortunately, the reflecting pool). But there were a lot of folks out exploring like us, enduring the extremely warm weather.
The World War II Memorial was not yet built the last time I was in DC, and it's an impressive memorial, maybe especially at night (sitting between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial). We spent a little while walking around the site.
Looking back the way we came from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I'll be posting more pictures from our trip over the next week or so.
Something to think about from the author and editor 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."
A harsh, but probably accurate, observation from one of the great figures of the Italian Renaissance, Petrach (Francesco Petrarca 1304-1374):
"Believe me, many things are attributed to gravity and wisdom which are
really due to incapacity and sloth. Men often despise what they despair
of obtaining. It is in the very nature of ignorance to scorn what it
cannot understand, and to desire to keep others from attaining what it
cannot reach. Hence the false judgments upon matters of which we know
nothing, by which we evince our envy quite as clearly as our stupidity."
Something to think about from the great Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 BC):
"All things are nourished together without their injuring one another.
The courses of the seasons, and of the sun and moon, are pursued without
any collision among them. The smaller energies are like river currents;
the greater energies are seen in mighty transformations. It is this
which makes heaven and earth so great."
Here's a nicely optimistic perspective, from the former Canadiaan Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (1919-2000):
"Perhaps the rediscovery of our humanity, and the potential of the human
spirit which we have read about in legends of older civilizations, or in
accounts of solitary mystics, or in tales of science fiction writers -
perhaps this will constitute the true revolution of the future. The new
frontier lies not beyond the planets but within each one of us."
I just read that Soundtrack Of Our Lives is breaking up, which is a pity since I've enjoyed their run of fine albums over the past few years. Luckily, they're going out with one last release, which includes this song: