Friday, September 28, 2012

A Folk Classic

Here's one of my favorites from the great folk scare of the 1960s, courtesy of Tom Paxton:

More Friday Family Blogging

This is one of the first pictures I ever took with a digital camera, which I borrowed from the school library.  I think it was a 1.8 megapixel  job, with images saved onto a 3.5" floppy disc (remember those?).  Anyway, I mention it in case you were wondering why Gerik looks a little splotchy-- it was the camera.

Friday Family Blogging

Here's a nice shot of Natalie that I took a few years back. I don't remember why she was imitating the famous tower at Pisa.

Friday Philosophy

I kind of like this line from Jean de La Bruyere (1645-1696), the noted French essayist:

"The true spirit of conversation consists more in bringing out the cleverness of others than in showing a great deal of it yourself; he who goes away pleased with himself and his own wit is also greatly pleased with you."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Good Song

Chip Taylor wrote "Wild Thing" and "Angel of the Morning" way back when; he's also Jon Voight's brother.  But he really came into his own as a performer when he hooked up with Carrie Rodriguez a few years back.  Here's one of their earliest, and best, songs:

Toonerville Thursday

Of all the wonderful characters who inhabit Toonerville, no one makes me laugh as much as the terrible tempered Mr. Bang!

A Thought for Thursday

You know, with this line I think that Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929) hit on the inherent flaw of politics:

"When a man asks himself what is meant by action he proves that he isn't a man of action. Action is a lack of balance. In order to act you must be somewhat insane. A reasonably sensible man is satisfied with thinking."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cool Song

The Mutton Birds were out of New Zealand, so I'm guessing that Dominion Road is in Auckland or Christchurch.  But it really doesn't matter much-- it's a great song even if it's a totally made up place:

This Week's Top Five

From this week's edition of Dr. John's Record Shelf, it's the Top Five List-- on a topic I'm surprised we didn't get around to much sooner...

Tuesday's Thought

An interesting comment from the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976):

"Everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology, whether we passionately affirm or deny it. But we are delivered over to it in the worst possible way when we regard it as something neutral; for this conception of it, to which today we particularly like to do homage, makes us utterly blind to the essence of technology."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cool Song

If you were a fan of the late great Joe Strummer, this tune by Billy Childish will require no explanation.  If you weren't a fan of Joe Strummer... well, you've got some catching up to do:

Summer Movie Roundup 2

Another movie I saw this past summer was The Dictator, starring Sascha Baron Cohen.  I think I get Cohen's particular brand of comedy, and he certainly makes me laugh pretty regularly, but like his previous films I found this one ultimately shallow and unsatisfying.  His idea to spoof the likes of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi is valid, but not as edgy as he seems to think (heck, the Three Stooges took on Hitler even before the US declared war on Germany in World War II). One can marvel at Cohen's deep immersion into character, and the way it carries over into real life, but that doesn't make the film itself anything more than a series of gags, some of which hit and some of which don't.  Given the subject matter, some real biting satire would demonstrate actual thought about his subject. But he seems satisfied to zero in on those superficial characteristics that can be played broadly for easy mocking-- the sort of  comedic riffing that can be applied to any nitwit fad that captures the public attention, like reality shows or pop stars.  To put it another way: if the goal is to take on the truly evil elements of the world (something comedy is well-positioned to do), how about taking aim with ammunition more potent than a fake beard and phony accent.

Today's Quote

Something to think about from writer Shel Silverstein (1930-1999):

"Craftsmanship is something that's really going out now. The young people have no patience with craftsmanship any more. They think, therefore they am. It's not enough. You don't think, therefore you are. You do, therefore you are, or else you aren't."

Friday, September 21, 2012

Birthday Song

As I recall, this is a song that my sister Liz (aka Birthday Girl) likes.  So here it is for everyone to enjoy:

Friday Family Blogging

Marenka looks quite intent on conking someone with that beach ball--- wait a minute... she was clearly aiming at me!

Happy Birthday Lizzie!

Many happy returns to by little sister Elizabeth, who celebrates her birthday today.  I wonder if she'll get any presents as cool as that fire engine!

Friday Philosophy

Words of wisdom from the poet and musician Leonard Cohen:

"To every people the land is given on condition. 
Perceived or not, there is a Covenant, beyond 
the constitution, beyond sovereign guarantee, 
beyond the nation's sweetest dreams of itself."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cool Song

Here's a fondly remembered (by me anyway) tune from R.E.M., an alternative band out of Athens, Georgia.  I wonder what ever happened to them...

Toonerville Thursday

It appears that everyone in Toonerville knows that it's only a matter of time before Mickey (Himself) McGuire blows his stack at someone.

A Thought for Thursday

Something to think about from the pen of novelist Upton Sinclair (1878-1968):

"There is one kind of prison where the 
man is behind bars, and everything that 
he desires is outside; and there is another 
kind where the things are behind the bars, 
and the man is outside."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Classic Rock

This brings back some nice memories. It's Nick Lowe, backed by Rockpile, on what was his biggest hit...

This Week's Top Five List

My radio show, Dr. John's Record Shelf, is undergoing some renovations over the next few weeks as we review some of the regular features to determine whether or not they should continue.  But you can rest assured that the Top Five List isn't going away, and I'll continue to post them here as they are broadcast.  This week's list was inspired by a viewing of the classic Fred Allen motion picture It's In the Bag.  Those who've seen the movie will recognize the connection immediately; if you haven't seen it, well, I recommend a visit to Netflix or some other video source...

A Tuesday Thought

It's sometimes a bit difficult to understand what the great thinkers are getting at in their pronouncements.  That might be the case in this quote from the renowned philosopher Julius Henry Marx (1890-1977):

"Well, Art is Art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Classic Comedy

Eugene Levy as Howard Cosell, Martin Short as Mr. Rogers, and the late great John Candy as Julia Child-- the master parodists of SCTV had a good time with this, the Battle of the PBS Stars...

Summer Movie Roundup I

For a variety of reasons, I did not post any notes on most of the movies I saw over the past three months. But I did want to address at least a few of them here, as it's turned out to be one of the better movie years in memory, at least from my perspective.  The cream of the crop is Wes Anderson's Moonlight Kingdom, which has been widely praised already by both mainstream and alternative critics (I draw the distinction because there's usually a split between the two, with the former overly smitten by commercial prospects and the latter often keyed to some notion of hipster aesthetics).  Personally, I've liked all of Anderson's previous films, with The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou among my all-time favorites-- though I know the general consensus is that it's the least of Anderson's efforts.  Moonrise Kingdom may pass it in my estimation, though I'd want to see each a couple more times before making that call.  Anyway... Kingdom is the story of Sam and Suzy, twelve-year-old soulmates who run away together to find some idyllic solace from the dispiriting reality of their daily lives.  The story is charming and exciting, filmed with the rhythm and style of a '60s classic of the French New Wave.  But what really puts it over the top for me is the characterizations-- virtually everyone who appears in the film displays a realistic degree of complexity in response to the circumstances of the plot.  To put it another way, they all seem to be figuring things out as they go along, and often muck things up regardless of the good (or bad) intentions that motivate them.  In a cinematic age overburdened with superheroes, that's really refreshing.  To give one example, the scoutmaster played by Edward Norton starts out as a seeming hard-hearted martinet, but when confronted with the information that runaway Sam is an orphan, Norton makes palpable the uncertainty that follows the realization that he is something of a surrogate parent to his charges and not just a higher ranking officer.  Similar kinds of revelations overtake a number of characters, and they revise their actions accordingly (sometimes to humorous effect).  It's  brilliant screenwriting matched with excellent acting, and while much of it might seem highly stylized-- well, what difference does that make if it leads to some deeply felt emotional truths?  Anderson's work reminds me a lot of that of novelist Mark Harris, who also developed a unique way of having his characters talk to one another.  Let me recommend his novels Speed and Something About a Soldier, in both of which you'll find a gentle, idiosyncratically told coming-of-age tale that will remind you of the style and atmosphere of Moonrise Kingdom.      

Monday's Quote

This comes from the mind of the eminent psychologist Alfred Adler (1870-1937):

"What do you first do when you learn to swim? You make mistakes, do you not? And what happens? You make other mistakes, and when you have made all the mistakes you possibly can without drowning — and some of them many times over — what do you find? That you can swim? Well — life is just the same as learning to swim! Do not be afraid of making mistakes, for there is no other way of learning how to live!"

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Classic R&B

Ruth Brown was known as Miss Rhythm, and for good reason.  Here's one of her early hits, from about 1955:

Saturday Morning Cartoon

I haven't done one of these in awhile, but I stumbled across this cartoon on YouTube. It was one of my favorites as a kid, and so I thought I'd put it up here.  It's a great Warner Brothers take off on the Jack Benny Show, with most of the radio (and TV) show's cast on board for the voices:

Quote of the Day

I'll buy this conclusion by the noted educator Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990), the guy who came up with the Peter Principle:

"If you can tell the difference 
between good advice and bad 
advice, you don't need advice."

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cool Song

Moe Tucker was the drummer for the legendary Velvet Underground.  When that group broke up in the early seventies, she kind of faded from view (I gather she was working at Walmart and raising her kids), but eventually came back on the music scene and did some pretty cool stuff like this:

More Friday Family Blogging

Sorry if this one's a re-post, but I really like this shot of Ben & Natalie. They look like they are having a good time.

Friday Family Blogging

I really like the way this picture of Emma turned out. I think that's her Uncle Nick in the background.

Friday Philosophy

I do believe that Robert Benchley (1889-1945) is correct on this point:

"Anyone will be glad to admit that he knows nothing about beagling, or the Chinese stock market, or ballistics, but there is not a man or woman alive who does not claim to know how to cure hiccoughs."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Great Song

This is a pretty cool fan made video for one of my favorite songs-- "Sound of the Rain" by Rank & File.  Enjoy:

Toonerville Thursday

Time once again to take a vicarious ride on the good ol' Toonerville Trolley....

A Thought for Thursday

A good line from Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986), a long-time syndicated columnist out of Chicago:

"Most people are mirrors, reflecting the moods and emotions of the times; few are windows, bringing light to bear on the dark corners where troubles fester. The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Classic Pop

Here's a song I think my Mom (the birthday girl) might like...


Happy Birthday Mom!

Best wishes to my Mom on her special day.  I hope you enjoyed some cake and ice cream!

Wednesday's Words

You know, I think that William Makepeace Thackery (1811-1863) could have written the following in reference to me:

"For his part, every beauty of art or nature made him thankful as well as happy, and that the pleasure to be had in listening to fine music, as in looking at the stars in the sky, or at a beautiful landscape or picture, was a benefit for which we might thank Heaven as sincerely as for any other worldly blessing."

Monday, September 10, 2012

Weird Song

This is probably the oddest song to crack the top ten in the rock and roll era, going all the way to no. 3 on the charts in 1966.  It's distinctive charms (such as they are) remain undiminished today, forty-six years later....

A Day at the Zoo 2

A few more pictures taken this past Saturday at the Idaho Falls Zoo, starting with a couple of the King (and Queen) of Beasts.

I don't know what this next guy is, but he's a pretty impressive looking bird...

Here's a closer look at his plumage...

The zoo has a walkway where you can actually get inside the cage with the wallabies (though they tend to be a little shy about getting too close).

What would a trip to the zoo be without a visit to the monkey cage.  This guy was dropping his biscuits into the water to soften them up before munching away.

Monday's Quote

From the noted short story writer O. Henry (William Sidney Porter, 1862-1910) comes this pearl of wisdom:

"My advice to you, if you should ever be in 
a hold up, is to line up with the cowards and 
save your bravery for an occasion when it 
may be of some benefit to you."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Jazz for a Sunday Afternoon

Here's the second greatest jazz sax man named Sonny (after Rollins, of course), namely Sonny Stitt.  Check it out:

A Day at the Zoo 1

Trying to think of someplace to go and take pictures yesterday, I hit on the idea of visiting the Idaho Falls Zoo.  I took a lot of photos, and here are a few that I thought turned out pretty good.

I took over 100 shots of the penguins, and this is one of about six that looked any good.  I don't know why they were so hard to capture-- it wasn't like they were moving around too much.

A lot of the animals were behind wire fences (you can make see the blur of the wire in this shot across the parrot's beak), so it was a bit of a challenge to get good shots.  I'm pretty pleased with this one even despite the blurry part.

More fence.  These brown pandas were one of the most interesting exhibits-- they were very active wandering around their pen, and I even saw a couple of them get into a brief tussle-- but the fence made it very difficult to get a focused picture.  This one was about the best. 

The tiger and lions were a special highlight.  I'll post some pictures of the latter tomorrow or the next day.  

A Sunday Quote

It's not as funny as most of his writing, but this comment from P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) certainly has some merit:

"A man's subconscious self is not the ideal companion. It lurks for the greater part of his life in some dark den of its own, hidden away, and emerges only to taunt and deride and increase the misery of a miserable hour."

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fun Stuff

It's been awhile since I posted something by the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain-- and this clip has something for pretty much everyone, with tunes ranging from the Tin Pan Alley canon to disco.  Enjoy:

Happy Birthday Helen!

Here's hoping my niece Helen had a spectacular day filled with all kinds of good times.  I wish I were there to help her celebrate!

Saturday's Quote

One can infer some great advice from this comment by C.S. Lewis (1898-1963):

"If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come."

Friday, September 7, 2012

Cool Video

I can't explain why, but I really liked the video for this Mumford & Sons tune (the song's a good one too).  Maybe I've just been driving way too much of late. 

Friday Cat Blogging

I don't have a cat, so I don't get much practice taking pictures of felines.  But I kind of like the way this shot of Puss turned out (post-processing), so here it is.

The Last Movie I Saw

I really enjoyed the new film Premium Rush, a movie choice made only because nothing else at the cineplex looked even remotely interesting.  It's chief appeal?  It looked like there would be a lot of location shooting in the streets of Manhattan, and that turned out to be even truer than I expected.  I've thought about visiting NYC each of the past several summers, but for one reason or another I never go.  So a movie like this serves as a kind of imaginary vacation, as long as the photography lets you really take in the surroundings.  Despite the fact that a lot of this movie speeds along with a bicycle messenger noted for his lack of brakes, there's plenty of chances to appreciate the landmarks, and hustle and bustle especially of the neighborhood stretching north along Broadway north of Columbus Circle (one of my regular stomping grounds thirty years ago).  What surprised me is how this stripped down story-- told in barely ninety minutes-- balanced action, romance, and comedy in more or less equal measure involving fairly well delineated characters. That last part is not typical of your standard summer action fare. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays the lead character, is a fine actor so no surprise that he brings some depth to the role of the committed speed demon.  But the real scene stealer is Michael Shannon as the rider's nemesis-- a cop gone bad trying to intercept the messenger's delivery.  In fact, he may be the most entertaining bad guy since Alan Rickman's Hans in the first Die Hard movie.   The element that I most appreciated about this movie is that really nothing is overblown.  There are some nice stunts, but none that really stretch one's credulity.  It's a tightly told story, with great tension and a satisfying ending.  There really should be more movies made that adhere to such simple virtues.   

More Friday Family Blogging

Doesn't Helen look like she's enjoying herself in this shot?  I wonder what she was looking at.

Friday Family Blogging

Natalie looks like she was about eight or nine here, which makes this about nine years ago.  Our annual visits to the Allentown Art Festival are one of the highlights of my summers. 

Friday Philosophy

Words of wisdom from the pen of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862):

"All that man can say or do that can possibly concern mankind is, in some shape or other, to tell the story of his love — to sing, and if he is fortunate and keeps alive he will be forever in love. This alone is to be alive to the extremities. It is such a pity that this divine creature should ever suffer from cold feet. A still greater pity that the coldness so often reaches to his heart."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Primo Garage Rock

The Leaves came out of the same L.A. rock scene that spawned the Byrds, Love, and the Doors.  I don't know why they weren't as big as those other acts, based on the evidence of this (not to mention their other great recordings from the mid-sixties, including one of the best versions of "Hey Joe" ever committed to vinyl):

Toonerville Thursday

A couple of more entertaining episodes involving the colorful characters of Toonerville!