Monday, December 29, 2014

Two songs I tend to listen to back to back

"Highway 61 Revisited," by Bob Dylan:
Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61”

And "The Story of Isaac," by Leonard Cohen:
The door it opened slowly,
My father he came in,
I was nine years old.
And he stood so tall above me,
His blue eyes they were shining
And his voice was very cold.
He said, "I've had a vision
And you know I'm strong and holy,
I must do what I've been told."
So he started up the mountain,
I was running, he was walking,
And his axe was made of gold.

Well, the trees they got much smaller,
The lake a lady's mirror,
We stopped to drink some wine.
Then he threw the bottle over.
Broke a minute later
And he put his hand on mine.
Thought I saw an eagle
But it might have been a vulture,
I never could decide.
Then my father built an altar,
He looked once behind his shoulder,
He knew I would not hide.

You who build these altars now
To sacrifice these children,
You must not do it anymore.
A scheme is not a vision
And you never have been tempted
By a demon or a god.
You who stand above them now,
Your hatchets blunt and bloody,
You were not there before,
When I lay upon a mountain
And my father's hand was trembling
With the beauty of the word.

And if you call me brother now,
Forgive me if I inquire,
"just according to whose plan?"
When it all comes down to dust
I will kill you if I must,
I will help you if I can.
When it all comes down to dust
I will help you if I must,
I will kill you if I can.
And mercy on our uniform,
Man of peace or man of war,
The peacock spreads his fan.
Story Of Isaac lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

And the only thing that's permanent...

I've been having a bit of a conversation on FB about how our lives change, and it reminded me on one of my favorite songs of all time, written by Johnny Rivers and on his 1971 album Home Grown.  The song is "Permanent Change," and here are the lyrics:

I've been sitting here for days
Thinking of different ways
To change my life so I can start anew
The one thing is not clear
What is this sound I hear?
Is it me or maybe it is you

I see colors everywhere
People who just don't care
Those who think that they can change the world
Looking back on all the years
Of happiness and tears
I've found now there's only thing that's for sure
You only get what you give
The way you die is the way you live
And what you want is not always what you need
cause you might want it today
but tomorrow you'll throw it away
and the only thing that's permanent is change

I see colors everywhere
People who just don't care
Those who think that they can change the world
Looking back on all the years
Of happiness and tears
I've found now there's only thing is for sure
You only get what you give
The way you die is the way you live
And what you want is not always what you need
yeah you might want it today
but tomorrow you'll throw it away
and the only thing that's permanent is change
oh, the only thing that's permanent is change
the only thing that's permanent is change
Peace and love, my brothers and sisters.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Greatest Christmas Movie Ever

The original Miracle on 34th StreetJust sayin' (Watching it is our only Christmas ritual.)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

More Sunday Photoblogging

Chris Bertram has a lovely, very formal shot of the Natural History Museum in London; I have a not-so-lovey shot of the gallery at the Louvre wherein one can fight one's way to the place where the world's most famous painting hangs behind bullet-proof glass.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How the Scots Created the Modern World

I'm reading Arthur Herman's recent wildly popular book, How the Scots Created the Modern World, and I am, overall enjoying it greatly.  And I should probably finish it before I begin commenting on it.  Except...

It feels very much as if he come to a conclusion--that much of the intellectual foundation for modernity (however one may choose to define it, but let's go with representative, non-authoritarian governments and private-property ownership economies, with a strong commitment to the rule of law) arose in Scotland.  And that the book was written as, well as more than an argument for that conclusion.  More as a campaign speech.  Two examples, one fairly minor, the other, to me, extremely serious.

Minor.  The Scots thinkers about whom he writes clearly did not agree with each other.  Hume's skeptical rationalism and Witherspoon's religious-based appeals to custom and order make strange bedfellows.  Adam Smith's foundation of the wealth of nations in the operation of reasonably free markets does not play well with James Steuart's mercantilism (his Principles of Political Economy was published in 1767, 9 years before Smith's An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations--they were, essentially, contemporaries).  This is, however, somewhat minor.  No period of intellectual ferment--and the late 18th century was that--is a single stream of thought.

Major.  Herman devotes a chapter to the role of Scots who emigrated either from Ulster or from Scotland to America in the foundation of the United States.  He notes their championing of limited government and individual rights.  He also notes that many of them were prominent politically and professionally in the southern colonies.  Oddly, to my mind, there are only two mentions in that chapter of slavery.  One is a reference by one of the people he focuses on, referring to England's restrictions on colonial economic activity as slavery.  The other is a throwaway mention of disputes over slavery during the (1787) Constitutional Convention. 

But is seems obvious to me (as, indeed, it did to a fair number of people in the late 18th century) that in a society as dependent as the U.S., and in particular as dependent as the southern colonies-soon-to-become-states, were on slavery, rhetoric about freedom may ring hollow.  This disconnect between what people like Patrick Henry were saying in the course of their political disputes with England and how they prospered--by owning, and exploiting, slaves--is too stark not to at least address. 

So I don't know where I will come down at the end.  At the moment, there is a serious flaw at the core of the argument, and one that I'm not sure is capable of being remedied.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Another photo playing off Chris Bertram's photpblogging

Chris Bertram's got another good one over at Crooked Timber.   Here's something of mine, not exactly similar, but with steps in it.  Taken in Sorano, Italy, in 2002, when I was doing a photo workshop.

OK, here's another one, taken at DePauw University in 1999 (at a reunion).

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Mark Rothko, John Logan's "Reds, and Me

We were at the Indianapolis Repertory Theatre this afternoon, for the performance of John Logan's Tony-winning (2010) play "Red," about Mark Rothko. It's a very strong piece of work (two characters, Rothko and an aspiring painter who comes to work for Rothko as a studio assistant), set around the time Rothko received a commission to paint a series of murals for the Four Seasons restaurant in the then-under-construction Seagram Building in NYC. (Frankly, a less likely place ...for a set of paintings by Rothko is hard for me to imagine.) Well-acted, with a well-designed set, and well worth seeing. (I suspect it'll be around for a while--two characters and an easy set to's not an expensive play to produce...and short--one act, about 90 minutes.)

One thing it did, though, was remind me of two of the encounters I have had with Rothko's work. The first was in the early 1970s (I think) at MOMA. First time I ever saw one of his paintings, and all I wanted to do was crawl inside it and never come out. I don't remember much about it, except that is was multiple shades of (of course) red. (I've pasted a photo of a Rothko painting in red for you all).


The second was at the Rothko retrospective (apparently at the Whitney in 1998). It was at this show that I learned that Rothko thought his paintings should be viewed from about 18", so that the work completely filled your visual space and seemed to surround you. I walked into one of the galleries, turned to the wall, and saw a work in filled me with so much joy that I grinned and started laughing...

For me, Rothko is the greatest American painter of the 20th century (with Pollock, Motherwell, and Frankenthaler right there)

Monday, September 15, 2014

And now, 10 movies

So now I guess the thing is 10 movies that have stuck with us. 10 books was hard enough...

Casablanca. The greatest movie ever.

 The Big Sleep. So far, it's a Bogart festival.

 The Graduate. It has it's flaws, but...

 The Hustler. Maybe Paul Newman at his finest.

 Little Big Man. Chief Dan George steals the movie.

 Catch-22. Terrifying in its own way.

 M*A*S*H (the first half). Yes, the tv series was better.

 The Return of the Seacaucus Seven. I've come to appreciate 
The Big Chill more than I once did. But this is much better.

 Matewan. The best movie ever about the US labor movement. And that's 2 directed by John Sales.

 Midnight Cowboy.

That's 10. I might be able to do the list over de novo (All the President's Men; Parallax View; The Conversation; The Empire Strikes Back; Bonnie & Clyde; Easy Rider; Cabaret; The Station Agent; Reds; Indiscreet; The Seventh Seal...)
And over again...I'm sitting here doing a third list...The Sting; Butch Cassidy; Double Indemnity; The African Queen; Raiders of the Lost Ark; American Graffiti; The Americanization of Emily; The French Connection; Duck Soup; 2001: A Space Odyssey...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

10 Books

Over on Facebook, there was a meme asking people to post 10 books that have stuck with them.  Without over-thinking it.  So here's my 10, in no particular order:

Duane Decker, Rebel in Right Field. Right in the middle of this baseball book (published in 1958) aimed at early-teens, there's a rant against major league baseball's reserve clause. Made me, at age 10 or so, stop and think.

J. D. Salinger three ways:
The Catcher in the Rye (which I have found unreadable as an adult).
Franny and Zooey
Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction
. Seymour is an amazing portrait of a man having something of a breakdown.

Michael Harrington, The Other America. 1963 (?), and my first real acknowledgement that American poverty was something to be very concerned about.

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time. Two amazing essays that took me into a life I could never have imagined.

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings.

Rex Stout, The Doorbell Rang. A mystery, but mostly memorable for its rather subversive view of the FBI.

Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep.  The opening paragraph might be the best opening ever to a mystery novel.

Paul Goodman, Compulsory Mis-Education and the Community of Scholars. Two brilliant essays on elementary/secondary and higher education. I read this while contemplating committing grad school, and it helped shape my view of what it means to be a member of the community of scholars

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Window and shadow

More photoblogging at Crooked Timber by Chris Bertram, and my version of the topic.

I took this in Milan in 2005.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Photoblogging again

Over at Crooked Timber, Chris Bertram continues his Sunday photoblogging, with a beautiful shot of Severn Beach.  I can't come close to that, but I am fond of this shot of Lago Bolsena, in Tuscany.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

War Memorials: France, 2000 and Italy, 2002

At Crooked Timber, Chris Bertram continues his Sunday photoblogging series, with War Memorials.  He posts an aerial photo of "...the Arlington West memorial at Santa Monica beach..."  I have a couple from World War II.  The first is a plaque on a wall in Paris, commemorating a Yugoslavian patriot; the second, at a cemetery in Pitigliano (a Tuscan hill town), in memory of one of the Jews of the city who were deported.



Monday, July 14, 2014

Photo cycles

Over at Crooked Timber, Chris Bertram is photoblogging bicycles on the Via Cavour, in Florence.  I have no bicycle pictures, but I do have motorcycles (on the Via Veneto) in Rome:

And in Pisa (by the river):

Friday, July 4, 2014

It's July 4

And here are some of the people who were born on the 4th of July:

Ashikaga, Shogun of Japan (d. 1367)
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Guiseppe Garibaldi
Hiram Walker
Stephen Foster
Calvin Coolidge
Rube Goldberg
Gertrude Lawrence
Meyer Lansky
Lionel Trilling
Jimmie Rodgers
Tokyo Rose
Manolete (the bullfighter)
Abagail Van Buren
Ann Landers
Eva Marie Saint
Gina Lollobrigida
Neil Simon
George Steinbrenner
Chuck Tanner
Bill Withers
Ron Kovic
Morganna Roberts (“The Kissing Bandit”)
Pam Shriver


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Robert Goldsborough

Beginning in 1986, Robert Goldsborough published 7 Nero Wolfe novels (with the permission of the estate of Rex Stout) in 8 years; more recently, he has written two more.  I have them all, and I was glad to be able to read new Wolfe mysteries, but there was always something missing (the two most recent ones are better in that respect).  After a while, I thought I knew what it was--Goldsborough was unable to get Archie's "voice" right, and, since everything is seen from his viewpoint, everything was just slightly off. 

So I was interested in seeing what Goldsborough would do with a character of his own, and I now have had a chance to get into the Steve ("Snap") Malek books.  Malek is a reported for the Chicago Tribune (where Goldsborough worked for years), working out of  the press room of police headquarters, in the 1930s and 1940s.  The first book (of 5) in the series is Three Strikes, You're Dead, involving the murder of a wealth Chicago political reformer about the make a run for mayor in 1937.  In the second, Shadow of the Bomb, two physicists at the University of Chicago die--because of their participation in the atomic bomb research underway?  Or for some other reason?  (Enrico Fermi makes a cameo appearance.)

Malek in an interesting character (and I have and will read the next three books), but, at least in the first two, the endings are somewhat anti-climactic.  In both books, Malek becomes involved in his own investigation of the murders (rather than being just a reporter).  But, also in both cases, his investigations (while they uncover some interesting things) never lead him to the solutions of the crimes.  In both cases, the murderers take actions (attacks on Malek) that reveal his identity.  But in neither case did Malek, in fact, have a clue as to what was actually going on.

This is, ultimately, unsatisfactory.  If we are to remain interested in the activities of an amateur sleuth, that sleuth must (it seems to me), ultimately, uncover the truth.  To have the truth revealed only because the murderer was too incompetent to finish Malek off is, well, a let-down.  But, for now, I'm off to read #3, A Death in Pilsen.

UPDATE: 11 June 20144: Having finished A Death in Pilsen, I'm sorry to say that we now have three instances of Malek failing to solve a mystery.  In this case, the murderer commits suicide and leaves an extremely detailed suicide note, explaining why and how the murder was accomplished.  Oh, well...two more shots for Malek actually to detect something...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Wherein I Am Unkind to a Book

WARNING:  What follows is filled with spoilers.  Proceed at your own risk.

I recently read Ian Hamilton's The Disciple of Las Vegas, the (apparently) second book (but the first one I have read) in a series (now encompassing 6 books) featuring Ava Lee, a Canadian based, ethnic Chinese recoverer of misappropriated funds.  (Although the series description of her is as a forensic accountant, at least in this book, there is no accounting at all.)  Barring a couple of rather unnecessary stylistic tics, Hamilton writes reasonably well.  But The Disciple of Las Vegas is a mess of a book, and I am uncertain whether Lee will grow on me as a character.

Strictly speaking this is not a mystery.  We know very early on what has been done and who did it.  (For those who insist on murders in their mysteries, look elsewhere; no one dies in the making of this book.)  Lee actually discovers nothing--all the discovery is done by others.  It's more of a reverse-caper story.

To summarize the plot:  Lee and her (unnamed) uncle operate a business which recovers money stolen from their clients.  Her uncle (and the business) is based in Hong Kong; Lee lives in Toronto.  Lee, who attended a number of excellent schools and has qualifications in accounting (although it's not clear whether she has the equivalent of a CPA license), teamed up with her uncle because, well, accounting is boring.  In addition to her accounting qualifications, she is a martial artist of some skill. 

In this second entry in the series, Lee is recovering from her last job (in which she was apparently beaten rather severely with a belt) when her uncle calls her about a job offer from Tommy Ordonez (an ethnic Chinese who has adopted a Philippine name), a Manila-based billionaire with a diverse set of business interests.  (These are co-run by Chang Wang, an old friend of her uncle's--they are from the Wuhan district of China.)  Ordonez's brother (Phillip Chew), who is nominally in charge of the Canadian part of the empire, has apparently lost about $60 million in a real-estate investment scam.  Ordonez wants to get it back.  Actually, Chew has lost the money playing Texas Hold-'Em on an online poker site called The River.  Lee's job is to recover as much of the $60 million as possible.

With that as a summary, let me get immediately to the aspect of the book I find most problematic.  Lee eventually recovers the money by torturing David Douglas (a/k/a "The Disciple," in poker-playing circles) and his partner Jeremy Ashton, who essentially own The River.  As it happens, the site is losing, not making, money.  Because of these losses, they have installed a piece of code in the operating system that allows them to see everyone's hands; Douglas, using two aliases, has been playing in the games and, using his knowledge of all the hands, winning a lot, and using those winnings to convince their primary backer that the venture is profitable--although any audit of their books would clearly show that it is not making any money.  Under torture, they sign confessions about their subversion of the games on their site and also sign a letter authorizing transfer of the funds to accounts specified by Lee (and she threatens to have them killed if they do anything about it).  (This letter also requires the signature of Ashton's fiancĂ©e, Lily Simmons, whose father is a self-made British industrialist-turned-politician currently in the Cabinet.  Lee attempts to blackmail Simmons into signing.)

First of all, had either Douglas or Ashton gone to the police after they were released, they could have easily repudiated their signatures, as they were given under duress (proof of which is Douglas's missing left thumb).  And Simmons--who eventually did sign the transfer letter--could also easily have repudiated her signature.  So, given rational antagonists (and assuming that part of that rationality is not believing her murder threats), what has she got?  Exactly nothing.

Second, I have trouble taking the side of a protagonist who uses such methods, even for desirable objectives (and I'm not assuming the objectives are necessarily desirable).  I prefer my protagonists to be at least somewhat ethical.

This is not the end of the plot problems.  Douglas and Ashton got in trouble because The River was not making a profit.  But Hamilton never lets us understand how that happens.  The losses are simply a MacGuffin.  So how do poker sites turn a profit?  Well, first of all, their costs are fairly low.  They need very few employees--and no physical facilities.  They need a deal-generating program.  And they need a program that allows them to collect fees from the players and transfer funds from losers to winners.  (And they need to advertise--probably the biggest expense.)  Their fees come from the following sources:  (1) A cut from each hand played, either a flat fee per hand, or a (small) percentage of each pot.  (2) A flat playing fee.  (3) Tournament entry fees (for tournaments, rather than regular games).  So, basically, to lose money, a site must be failing to attract players.  This is never apparent from the book.

Another problem is that The River is "located" on a Native American reservation and regulated by the tribal council.  And the regulators know who is playing behind the table aliases.  So the regulators know that Douglas is playing in a game on a site that he owns.  I'm not sure about this, but I suspect that, for any honest regulator (and the tribe involved is presented as honest), this would be a serious red flag.  And for any players, having the owner of the site in the game should also be a red flag.  Yet no one seems concerned by any of this.

A third problem concerns wire transfers of amounts in the millions.  This is a lesser problem, because there are places that will gladly make and accept such transfers.  U.S. banks will  transfer such funds and also accept them, but they have to be reported to the IRS.  And U.S. banks are involved in at least the transfers from the scammed players.  Yet no mention is made of this.

Finally, there is the issue of the continual reference to the real, high-end consumer products that seem to dominate Lee's existence--her clothing, her perfume, her watch, hew luggage and handbags (we know, for example, that she has with her on the travels both a Hermes bag and a Chanel bag).  I realize that Hamilton is trying to use this to help define her character (including her tendency to notice, and be able to identify, what others are wearing), and I'm OK with that--to a point.  When the number of such things throughout the book passes the century mark, however, it's distracting and annoying.

If this is as good as it gets, this is not a series for me.  I expect more from my authors.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

More Photobloggins--Ships

Continuing the themes from Crooked Timber.

Two from the San Diego Harbor

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Photoblogging: Stripes

A roof on a shed near Lucca
Somewhere in Boston
Lake James, in northern Indiana
A stable, also in northern Indiana

Brancusi, in a museum in Paris

The aftermath of a farmer's market, in Lyon

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tuscany, October, 2013

A view from the terrace of a restaurant in Colonnata,
in the marble-quarrying district of Carrara.
A side street in Sorano
Another side street in Sorano (Photoshopped a bit)
"Big Foot," at a museum on the Capitoline Hill (Rome)
Lake Bolsena
A window in Milan
Bikes in Rome

Friday, February 14, 2014

Songs Dylan wrote, but didn't release (until much later)

I played a John Mellencamp CD today while I was in the car--Rough Harvest--and found myself singing along to "Farewell Angelina," one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs.  Written (or, at least, copyrighted) in 1965, he apparently didn't have room for it on Bringing It All Back Home or Highway 61 Revisited (both 1965) or Blonde on Blonde (1966).  It first appears on The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1 - 3 (1991).  Joan Baez recorded a version for her 1965 album, for which it was the title (and opening) track, which was where I first heard it.  (Lots of YouTube versions are available at this time.)

It's a beautiful--but very strange--song  As with many of Dylan's songs, I'm not sure I understand it, and I'm not sure I need to.

Farewell Angelina
The bells of the crown
Are being stolen by bandits
I must follow the sound
The triangle tingles
And the trumpets play slow
Farewell Angelina
The sky is on fire
And I must go

It's not exactly clear what the relationship between Angelina and the singer is, or why he has to follow or why the sky is on fire.  But apparently he's trying to persuade her not to be angry about it:

There’s no need for anger
There’s no need for blame
There’s nothing to prove
Ev’rything’s still the same
Just a table standing empty
By the edge of the sea
Farewell Angelina
The sky is trembling
And I must leave

Then things get even stranger (although I always thought this verse is a reference to Alice in Wonderland):

The jacks and the queens
Have forsaked the courtyard
Fifty-two gypsies
Now file past the guards
In the space where the deuce
And the ace once ran wild
Farewell Angelina
The sky is folding
I’ll see you in a while

 The next two verses don't make things any clearer, either:

See the cross-eyed pirates sitting
Perched in the sun
Shooting tin cans
With a sawed-off shotgun
And the neighbors they clap
And they cheer with each blast
Farewell Angelina
The sky’s changing color
And I must leave fast 

King Kong, little elves
On the rooftops they dance
Valentino-type tangos
While the makeup man’s hands
Shut the eyes of the dead
Not to embarrass anyone
Farewell Angelina
The sky is embarrassed
And I must be gone

And then we come to the end...

The machine guns are roaring
The puppets heave rocks
The fiends nail time bombs
To the hands of the clocks
Call me any name you like
I will never deny it
Farewell Angelina
The sky is erupting
I must go where it’s quiet

So the sky is the recurring image here.  It's successively "on fire," "trembling,"  "folding," "changing color," "embarrassed," and "erupting."  It's never calm or peaceful.  I think the sky must be the singer's metaphor for the state of his relationship with Angelina...which is clearly not a soothing one.  And eventually, he tells her not just that he's leaving, but where he must go, and, implicitly, why.  I think.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Is it really possible to pick Springsteen's 10 best songs?

At his blog, Joe Posnanski has a poll asking people to vote for their choices for Bruce Springsteen's 10 best songs.  (Earlier, he asked for nominations, and received 203 different titles.)  He gives us a list of 27 songs:

Atlantic City
Born In the U.S.A.
Born to Run
Brilliant Disguise
Dancing in the Dark
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Glory Days
Growin’ Up
Hungry Heart
I’m On Fire
Incident on 57th Street
Land Of Hope And Dreams
No Surrender
The Promise
The Promised Land
Prove it All Night
Racing in the Street
The Rising
The River
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Spirit in the Night
Streets of Philadelphia
Tenth Avenue Freeze Out
 Thunder Road

 The kicker is not just picking 10, but ranking them from 1 (the very best) to 10.

Without comment, here's my list (from #1 to #10):

Born to Run
Thunder Road
The Promised Land
Atlantic City
Brilliant Disguise
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Hungry Heart

No Surrender
The River
Spirit in the Night

Having voted, I realize that I might move "The River" up to #4.  Oh, well.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Day The Music Died

On February 3, 1957, the airplane carrying Richie Valens, Buddy Holly, and The Big Bopper (J. P. Richardson), and 60+ others crashed.  No one survived.

On February 4, 1957 (my 9th birthday), we read about it in the newspapers and heard about it from our local djs.

On October 24, 1971, the album American Pie, by Don McLean was released.  The song "American Pie" is one of those songs that is somehow both a part of the time of its release and a part of the childhood of everyone around my age:

A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while

But February made me shiver
With every paper I'd deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn't take one more step

I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died

The entire song consists of codes for the passage of time from those deaths to the time that the singer has taken the stage.

Did you write the book of love
And do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?
Now do you believe in rock and roll
Can music save your mortal soul
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

Well, I know that you're in love with him
'Cause I saw you dancin' in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues

I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died

Elvis and Don & Phil and Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard...Eddie Cochran...

Now for ten years we've been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rollin' stone
But that's not how it used to be
When the jester sang for the king and queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
And a voice that came from you and me

Oh, and while the king was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned

And while Lenin read a book on Marx
A quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died
Bobby and Elvis again and John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

Helter skelter in a summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast
It landed foul on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast

Now the halftime air was sweet perfume
While the sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance
Oh, but we never got the chance

'Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?

Mick and Keith and Roger McGuin and David Crosby and Chris Hillman.  And fifty thousand dead.

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went down to the sacred store
Where I'd heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn't play

And in the streets, the children screamed
The lovers cried and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken

And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died

Janis.  Jimi.  Four dead in Ohio.  And John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King (or so it always seemed to me). 

This is, really, a song about deaths, actual and figurative and spiritual.

And they were singin' bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye
Singin' "This'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die"

 They were singin' bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry
Them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye
And singin' "This'll be the day that I die"
Good-bye to youth, to illusions.  Hello, reality.  Hello, death.

Friday, January 31, 2014

50 Essential Mysteries Everyone Should Read

This not my list; I found it at a place called Flavorwire,  but it's interesting as  point of departure.  Of the 50, I have read 29, which I have listed here in the order they appeared on Flavorwire (with a few comments).

Conan Doyle, Arthur.  Hound of the Baskervilles.
Sayers, Dorothy L.  Gaudy Night.
Ambler, Eric.  A Coffin for Dimitrios.
Chandler, Raymond.  The Big Sleep.
Hammett, Dashiell.  The Maltese Falcon.
Christie, Agatha.  Murder on the Orient Express.
James, P.D.   An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.
Poe, Edgar Allan.  The First Detective:  Complete Auguste Dupin Stories (The Murders in the Rue
      Morgue; The Mystery of Marie Roget;
      The Purloined Letter).

Carr, Caleb.  The Alienist.
Himes, Chester.  A Rage in Harlem.
Collins, Wilke.  The Woman in White.
Auster, Paul.  The New York Trilogy (The Red Room;
      Ghosts; City of Glass).  (God, how I hate
      these books.)

Moseley, Walter.  Devil in a Blue Dress.
Cain, James M.  The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Le Carre, John.  The Spy Who Came in From the

Hansen, Joseph.  Fadeout.
Eco, Umberto.  The Name of the Rose.
Tey, Josephine.  The Daughter of Time. 
(Nowhere near her best work.)

Fleming, Ian.  From Russia With Love.
Highsmith, Patricia.  The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Turow, Scott.  Presumed Innocent.
Forsyth, Frederick.  The Day of the Jackal.
Buchan, John.  The 39 Steps.
Follett, Ken.  The Eye of the Needle.
Spillane, Mickey.  I, The Jury.
Greene, Graham.  The Third Man.
Ellory, James.  The Black Dahlia.
Smith, Alexander McCall.  The No. 1 Ladies Detective
       Agency.  (I disliked this so much, I have yet
      to read another of his books.)

McDonald, Ross.  The Blue Hammer. 

And here are the ones I have not read, also with the occasional comment:

Barnes, Julian.  Arthur and George.  (Once owned it.)
Du Maurier, Daphne.  Rebecca.  (Saw the movie.)
Whitehead, Colson.  The Intuitionist.  (Never heard of
      it, or the author.)

Chabon, Michael.  The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. 
(On the shelf.)

Ishiguro, Kazuo.  When We Were Orphans,  (Never
      heard of it; have heard of the author.)

Faye, Lyndsay.  Dust and Shadow:  An Account of the
      Ripper Killings.  (Never heard of it, or the author.)

Rinehart, Mary Roberts.  The Circular Staircase.
Dunne, John Gregory.  The Confession.
Millar, Margaret.  Beast In View.
Lehane, Dennis.  Mystic River.  (Started it,
      couldn’t finish it.)

Berger, Thomas.  Sneaky People.  (Know the author,
      not the book.)

French, Tana.  In the Woods.  (My wife has it on the
      shelf, but she has not read it, either.)

Vine, Barbara (Ruth Rendell).  A Dark-Adapted Eye. 
(Know the author; have read some of her
       books as Rendell, started this one and put
      it down.)

Traver, Robert.  Anatomy of a Murder.  (Saw the

Larsson, Stieg.  The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. 
(Started it; found it unreadable.)

Neely, Barbara.  Blanche on the Run.
Hoeg, Peter.  Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow. 
(Started it, couldn’t finish it.)

Conrad, Joseph.  The Secret Agent.  (I don’t know,
      but I just never got around to it.)

Nesbo, Jo.  The Snowman.  (Read a couple of
      Nesbo’s books, never wanted to read another.)

Caspary, Vera.  Laura.  (Saw the movie.)
Leonard, Elmore.  La Brave.  (I may be the only
       mystery fan in the world who’s not crazy
      about his work.)

So I have owned 7 of them, started 4 of those.  I've seen movies made from 3 more.  But 11 of them I have never even attempted. 

I'll be back tomorrow (or sometime soon) with some comments about authors who don't appear on the list.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Somebody to Love

I woke up this morning with a voice in my head.  Grace Slick's voice.

When the truth is found to be lies
and all the joy within you dies

Which may not be the most cheerful two lines to wake  up to.  And, then, of course,

 don't you want somebody to love
don't you need somebody to love
wouldn't you love somebody to love
you better find somebody to love

And I'm back in 1967, Surrealistic Pillow has just been released, and my musical world is changing (an you can listen to the whole thing here).  I don't think there'd ever been a voice in rock-and-roll quite like Grace, maybe not ever in any musical genre. 

When the garden flowers baby are dead yes
and your mind , your mind] is so full of dread

Challenging, daring, compelling you to listen.

 your eyes, I say your eyes may look like his
but in your head baby I'm afraid you don't know where it is

 And, yes, I did want somebody to love, and, yes, I did need somebody to love.  But it would be a while. 

don't you want somebody to love
don't you need somebody to love
wouldn't you love somebody to love
you better find somebody to love….love

 And then I did find somebody to love...