Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I guess it's a sign that I've been doing this a while; I'm starting to come across things that remind me of past blog posts. First, this from James Lileks, who recently did something that I did and mentioned here a few months ago. Naturally, he is more eloquent.

It’s the Parade of Homes, if you can describe driving all over hell and back to look at large, stationary objects. If they all floated past down the street with the occasional elephant, that would be different. But no. You go somewhere, take off your shoes, wander around and think “relative to these people, I have failed.” All the things one would like in life – incredible views, big living rooms with comfortable appointments, perfect offices, tubs built for a sumo wrestler – here they are, and this is as close as you’ll get, pal.

Then the other day a co-worker asked me how I thought Obama was doing in a tone that suggested (a) that she is not an Obama supporter and (b) she thought that I am, as opposed to my actual stance since before the election, which has been that competence was badly needed in the office after 8 years of buffoonery, and that only an Obama victory would guarantee the necessary housecleaning. I told her that I have never had terribly high expectations for his administration. When he took office Obama was handed a burning bag of gasoline-soaked manure. Stomping on it would only do so much; he would have to let it burn out and accept the fact that he was going to smell bad in the process. I also said that I wondered if a small part of John McCain is glad he lost.

This conversation brought back a memory of some posts back in September 2008. One was an offshoot of my thoughts on political ads of 1976.

.....when I remember what the country was like at the time, I can't help but think that whoever won that election was probably screwed. When Harold Macmillan was asked what represented the greatest challenge for a statesman, he replied "Events, my dear boy, events." Events of the time were overtaking the ability of just about anyone to deal with them. They were going to have to run their course, and the President overseeing it was going to take a beating. Part of me wonders if that's going to be the case in 2008.

Then a few days later....

In a post last Sunday I mentioned the possibility that the next President is in for trouble. Gerard Baker agrees.

When the votes are counted his people might ruefully conclude that the victor is not Barack Obama or John McCain. The real winner will be Hillary Clinton, or Mitt Romney, or Mike Huckabee, or some now happily anonymous figure whose star will rise in the next four turbulent years.

2008 may be the best year there has been to lose an election.

I wonder if Herbert Hoover - at one time one of the most admired men in American history - ever wished he had lost in 1928?

The short answer I should have given my colleague was, "So far, sadly, about as well as I expected."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Frank, Glenn, John and Ludwig

VH1 recently put together another of their "list shows", this one being "Top 100 Artists of All Time". That rather ambiguous title leaves a lot of room for interpretation, although a quick glance at the top 5 pretty well clarifies how the participants defined it.

The Beatles
Michael Jackson
Bob Dylan
Led Zeppelin
The Rolling Stones

Overall, it's mostly pop/rock/rap performers who were big in America in the last 60 years. It seems to me that many of the people polled confused "great" with "people who really influenced me personally". I also get the impression not many music historians were included in the poll. Of course, the main purpose of these lists - besides giving VH1 a reason to exist - is to stimulate argument, and this one has done it.

As I scanned the list, I thought of a few people I thought deserved places, based on my own interpretation of who should be on it.

- Frank Sinatra. His absence surprised me a bit, since quite a few of the people interviewed in the show have expressed admiration for him in the past. He may have been the first big teen idol. The girls who screamed for Elvis got the idea from the bobby soxers who screamed for Frank 15 years earlier. His overall image became part of American culture, and he and the Rat Pack gave Las Vegas the cache that helped make it what it is. It's also important to remember that he really could sing, especially in that bobby soxer era before he hurt his vocal cords. And to expand the term "artist" a bit, I don't see anyone else on that list with an acting Oscar.

- Glenn Miller. A recent classic Casey Kasem broadcast provided a bit of trivia. Billboard started publishing its charts in 1940. In the first 3 years of that chart, the Glenn Miller Orchestra had 36 top-10 songs. No one else has had so much chart success in such a short time. As Casey noted, had the charts been in existence sooner, and had Miller not disappeared in 1944 in a presumed plane crash in the English Channel, it would have been greater. In The Mood might be the biggest song of the Big Band era, and one of the greatest American songs of any type. Grandbaby likes to shake her rump to it.

- John Philip Sousa. 100 years ago, he was as big as anyone has ever been. He wrote official songs for the Army and Marines, as well as several universities. His work is used in the credits of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Almost every marching band in a parade will at some point play something he wrote. The Stars and Stripes Forever could join In The Mood on that list of great American songs.

I could add others as well. Beethoven immediately comes to mind, based on the presence of his work in modern culture (the Ode To Joy and the Fifth Symphony are both regularly used in various forms and venues). A good case could also be made for the Carter Family, given their influence on many forms of American music. Others, I'm sure, could add to the list. Expanding the inputs worldwide would provide yet more nominations, and material for bloggers like me, who can always use it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Ah, a day off with little to do, other than laundry and taking the wife out for supper for her birthday. No plans to attend any Koran (Quran?) burnings this weekend, if any such thing is happening around here. (I don't think you could find enough Korans in this town to make a decent fire; you would have to import them.) I assume I'm not the only one who thinks of that as another adult equivalent of Grandbaby's temper tantrums. Unfortunately it seems to be having the desired effect of getting attention, and no doubt (he says cynically) raising money.

What I really need to do is go through my list of website links. I have been embarrassed in the past to check a listed blog and find that it had died months before. I noticed the other day that Blog Net News disappeared. 2 Blowhards...done back in July! One of its creators, Ray Sawhill, has his own site. It looks interesting, so I'll give it a try. I also saw that nothing new has been posted at Incertus since June, but I won't give up on them quite yet. As I recall ,Brian and Amy are teachers, so it could be a summer break. I added Calculated Risk because I saw it recommended by commenters at Balloon Juice, and I've had good luck with those.

OK, down the list. Amused Cynicism....I never seem to get there, but I like the Englishness of it, so it may as well stay. Andrew Sullivan...again, I don't get there as often as I would like, but I tend to get caught up when I do. As for Arts and Letters Daily, it's still the same. I could probably get by with just it and perhaps two or three other sites. Balloon Juice and Crooked Timber are both fine. Dakota Today....I don't have enough South Dakota sites, and I like Doug Wiken.

Dave Barry, still funny. Dale at Faith In Honest Doubt, well...he's one of those two or three other sites I mentioned earlier. An anchor of the list, as is James Lileks. Live News Cameras...a cute idea, but I never use it, so it's gone. As for the rest, all are still worth keeping, at least for anyone who may stumble across my site and want to go somewhere better. Hopefully I can keep them that way.