Friday, September 30, 2011

R&R HoF 2011 Nominees

 The nominations for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 were announced today:
 The nominees are:
·    Beastie Boys
·    The Cure
·    Donovan
·    Eric B. & Rakim
·    Guns 'N Roses
·    Heart
·    Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
·    Freddie King
·    Laura Nyro
·    Red Hot Chili Peppers
·    Rufus with Chaka Khan
·    The Small Faces/The Faces
·    The Spinners
·    Donna Summer
·    War

I don't envy the claque that makes these nominations.

Personally, I think the Cure are for the ages, and that the Faces are criminally overlooked, if not underrated.

If I were voting, the Cure, the Spinners and the Faces would have a lock, and Erik B would edge the Beasties, much as I love them, for the hip-hop slot.

Would they could both win, but I think it's one rap group per induction ceremony, thank you. Place your money on Adam and the Boys. 
Freddie King would be giving a heartfelt acceptance speech, after an induction by Eric Clapton.  

Instead, you can bank on Heart, G&R, and with all due respect, Joan J.

Also, if you're asking me, and you didn't: Nyro, Summer and Donovan deserve respect. 

On War and the Chilis, I'm ambivalent; i.e. the Chilis probably have a lock they deserve a few years down the line. War has a handful of hits that deserve recognition, eventually. 

As to who've been left out, don't get me started.    

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Teacher Thursday

Ran across a number of links during my early morning coffee today, so here are few you can click through:

My Education Week feed featured an article on what teachers can learn from the career trajectory of Jay-Z. Since my students love Jay-Z, I read with interest. Of note, Robert Christgau recently made the case for Mr. Z as not only one of the greatest rappers ever but one of the finest pop stars of all time. Would that this Mr. Z had the other's unflappable coolth.

Also from EdWeek comes word of the Internet marketplace Teachers Pay Teachers, where you can make money selling lesson plans for mini-payments.  There are plenty of free lesson plans available on the Net, of course, but this seems like a nice way of supporting your fellow educators.

A recent Kos diary warms the heart with the story of a New York seventh-grader who sent care package to tornado-ravaged classroom in Joplin, MO. Read it and go Awwww.

Here in AZ, our schools continue to draw national attention for all the wrong reasons. Here's the story of a court striking down the insulting "accent police" witch hunt our state government inflicted on us. Here's one about our embarrassing state superintendent of schools, who's evidently never heard of Godwin's Law.

Finally, here's a tale of a professor who smiles on as his students provide a teachable moment or two for a young Republican. Would that the older ones had similar opportunities.

Okay, gotta go teach!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

CIA Update Update

The six new chapters and the six new illustrations for the update to The CIA's Greatest Hits have been delivered; right now we're in the editing process. The new edition is due in stores early in 2012.

I've been adding in some URLs to the "Sources" section, but of course it makes much more sense to provide them as online links. So I've created a page here on this blog to host the entire section. You can find a link to it on the right, just underneath the book cover. Or right here, for that matter.

Right now it's a work in progress. I've posted all the sources from the 1994 edition, and some new links for the first five chapters - along with sources for the new Hit #45, on the 9/11 Attacks. There'll be a comments section, too, if you have any questions, hate mail, or corrections to my bonehead errors.

And now I have to get back to work on it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

So long, R.E.M.

I didn't want to kvetch about this on Wednesday, because of the other, much sadder news out of Georgia. But I hate to see these guys go. Back in the day, they were my new favorite band, and it was enthralling to watch them unpack one nearly flawless album after another during their heavyweight years. To my mind, they never made a bad album (though in latter years they seemed somewhat less magnificent). Their videos and packaging and fan club operation were always top-notch, suffused with caring. And they delivered two of the finest live shows I've ever seen, in 1989 and 1995. Here's hoping they all find fulfilling projects during their solo years. Thanks for showing how it oughtta be done.

This one was always one of my favorites:


UPDATE: Couple of things.

First is that, even if you sing it soft and slow, unlike "Wouldn't It Be Nice" or "All my Loving," this song just does not make a good lullaby. The kids and I had a nice discussion of what the hell it means, though, involving just what is a "violent green" and who Dan Rather was.

Second, even if their later albums were slightly less magnificent, I stand with the consensus that Collapse Into Now was a welcome return to form. I also note that latter-day singles, like "Leaving New York" and " Living Well is the Best Revenge" can stand with the best of their work.

Third, since I know that my mom reads this blog, let me offer up a song that is not only makes a case for their greatness, not only is a lot less weird, but that is one for the ages. Either "Losing My Religion," or on second thought, this one:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

No Justice for Troy Davis

Despite the best efforts of thousands advocating on his behalf, the State of Georgia ended the life of Troy Davis last night. Considering the numerous evidentiary problems in the case, the standard of reasonable doubt about his guilt has long since passed. You'd think that even death penalty advocates would see it as in their interest to make sure no one is executed under such circumstances, but if you thought that, you'd be wrong.

This morning Matt Yglesias draws our attention to a 1993 opinion by Justice Scalia, whisch asserts:
There is no basis in text, tradition, or even in contemporary practice (if that were enough), for finding in the Constitution a right to demand judicial consideration of newly discovered evidence of innocence brought forward after conviction.
The rest of the opinion is rife with Scalia's characteristic snarkiness, including this gem:
If the system that has been in place for 200 years (and remains widely approved) "shocks" the dissenters' consciences, post, at 1, perhaps they should doubt the calibration of their consciences, or, better still, the usefulness of "conscience shocking" as a legal test.
Now I'm no legal scholar, but as I recall the Constitution, it seems like there's some sort of prohibition on "cruel and unusual" punishment. I know that Justice Thomas, for one, makes use of that "and" to argue for allowing punishments that are cruel, but not so unusual. But this case should probably satisfy both requirements. After all, as Scalia wrote in that same opinion:
With any luck, we shall avoid ever having to face this embarrassing question again, since it is improbable that evidence of innocence as convincing as today's opinion requires would fail to produce an executive pardon.
Perhaps the justice needs to recalibrate his faculties for estimating probabilities.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monday Random Ten #27

Here are the first ten songs to pop up on my iPod; Artist/ Song/ Album:

1. Velvet Underground/ White Light/White Heat/ The Best of the Velvet Underground

2. David Bowie/ Cracked Actor/ Aladdin Sane  

3. George Harrison/ If Not For You/ Beware of ABKCO

4. The Knife/ The Height of Summer/ Tomorrow, In a Year

5. Goldfrapp/ Lovely Head/ Felt Mountain

6. Taj Mahal/ Leavin' Trunk/ In Progress & In Motion

7. Eileen Jewell/ You're Lookin' at Country/ Butcher Holler (A Tribute to Loretta Lynn)

8. The Softies/ Holiday in Rhode Island/ Holiday in Rhode Island

9. The Libertines/ Eight Days a Week/ Time for Heroes

10. Solomon Burke/ Just Out of Reach/ The Very Best of Solomon Burke

Blog, I Miss You

I'm sorry, blog. I've been ugly busy with the update to The CIA's Greatest Hits, along with a few other projects piled on my plate. I'd be posting if I could. Here's a little sneak preview of one of the illustrations for the new edition, which is due in the spring of 2012. Then I'll kick out a Random Ten and go to bed. Stay here for me, blog, and I'll be back, I swear it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Random Ten # 26

Here are the first ten songs to pop up on my iPod; Artist/ Song/ Album:

1. A Band of Bees/ Chicken Payback/ Free the Bees

2. The Clash/ London Calling/ London Calling

3. Charles Mingus/ Slop/ Mingus Dynasty

4. Otis Redding/ Mr. Pitiful/ Atlantic Rhythm and Blues, vol. 5

5. Dr. Strangely Strange/ When Adam Delved/ Heavy Petting

6. Viola McCoy/ I Ain't Gonna Marry, Ain't Gonna Marry/ Viola McCoy vol. 2

7. Charlie Parker/ Now's the Time/ The Essential Charlie Parker

8. The Dandy Warhols/ Get Off/ Thirteen Tales

9. Lee Dorsey/ Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley/ Yes We Can

10. Arto Lindsay/ Personagem/ Salt

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Unhappy Anniversary

If you were old enough to comprehend what was unfolding, you are now observing the anniversary of one of the worst days of your life. Perhaps appropriately, I'm spending most of the day working on the update to The CIA's Greatest Hits (which will include a chapter on the CIA's strange relationships with some of the hijackers).

Meanwhile, Arthur Naiman, my editor and publisher on the original edition of CGH, has just written 9/11: The Simple Facts: Why the Official Story Can't Possibly Be True. I'd urge everybody to pick up or download a copy, and check out the online videos and other resources he offers to help with understanding his premise.

Over the past few days, a torrent of verbiage has been posted online (I don't watch any TV, so I've mostly escaped that torrent). Here are some notable highlights:

Glenn Smith's "The Fall to Earth" at FDL is one of the most poignant pieces I've seen. Also in that league is Mona Eltahawy's "I Stayed to Fight," a love letter from a Muslim immigrant to her adopted country. Rounding out the must-reads is the lead op-ed at, "Who Really Kept Us Safe After 9/11," by Steve Chapman. Word. also links up to Robert Jensen's excellent survey "Imperial Delusions: Ignoring the Lessons of 9/11." Along those same lines, Jim Lobe's piece is spot on, and the title tells the tale: "Al-Qaeda’s Project for Ending the American Century Largely Succeeded." Remember, the plan was to get us to overreact, get bogged down in land wars in Asia, alienate Muslims across the planet, and bankrupt our treasury. This wasn't exactly a secret, either.

Arun Gupta offers complementary insights on Alternet, in his "Empire of Chaos," subtitled "The neoconservative ideas that shaped the war on terror have evaporated as the United States is battered by an economic depression that shows no end." Hard to argue with.

Also on AlterNet, economist Joseph Stiglitz's Al-Jazeera article puts some data behind those opinions. Rinku Sen gives us an optimist's take on the anniversary, "The Story I Choose To Tell: We All Belong to Each Other." Adele Stan speaks for the pessimists. And over at Salon, the redoubtable Glenn Greenwald posts about some counterintuitive polling data about 9/11, ten years on.

The HuffPo has a full page of coverage, and there you can find a link to the videos of David Letterman's and Jon Stewart's return to the airwaves. Jesse Kornbluth offers his memories of hosting an online AOL chat room in the hours following the attacks. They also link to an LA Times story about how hard it is to teach about 9/11 to schoolchildren, Believe me, it is. Oh, and Earl Ofari Hutchinson tut-tuts about how sad it is that people still believe in conspiracy theories about 9/11. Yeah, damn shame.

So what's the best thing you've read about 9/11? Any recommendations?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Definitely Friday, Definitely a Video

The Ballad of Abbott and Gus

Gil's untimely demise was a kick in the teeth for all of us, not limited to the humans among us.  In particular, his brother Gus, not previously noted for histrionics, had taken to yowling plaintively in the wee hours of the morning, lamenting the absence of his companion. Gil and Gus were brothers of the same mother, of radically different temperaments, and yet, as cohabitant cats will be, mutual cuddlers, groomers, and playmates.

During Gil's long decline, both the cat and the dog avoided him, gave him his space, and seemed to know he was a dead cat walking. much as they know an earthquake before it hits. After Gil was gone, Gus of course felt the loss more acutely than did Carter. Gus, unlike, Gil , had no relationship to speak of with the dog, and showed no predeliction for expanding same in the absence of his kin.

Given Gus' obvious distress, it was decided that what he really needed -– and not him alone – was a kitten. But as previously noted:
The problem with a kitten is that  
Eventually it becomes a cat
And selecting a cat is, basically, selecting a life companion for a good fraction of one's life - perhaps a quarter, if one and the cat are lucky, or, if not, a fifth, a sixth, or less. My cats and I, as careful readers will have noted, have not had good luck.

Of the twelve cats in my life, half of them have cashed in their chips rather on the early side. The other half lived into a ripe old age, which is, of course, what I wish for Abbott and myself. If we're both lucky, we'll be together when my children have assumed their college debts and given me my grandchildren. 

If not, either he or I - or both - will leave grand memories behind for our survivors. At present my family and I are rapidly racking up grand memories of Abbott, a singular cat if ever there was one. 

By now I think I've known enough cats to recognize the spark of intelligence in their eyes (or lack of same). Gil had it, and his sweet doofus brother, alas, does not. Abbott, on the other hand, is clearly a cat who lives by his wits.  When considering Abbott, we also considered the many alternatives. Of the key contenders, it was decided that Finn was too bold, and Wren was too shy. though both would doubtless find good homes. 

It might have been easier for Gus if we had gotten a younger kitten - Abbott is nearly five months old at this point, and has spent some considerable time starving on urban landscapes, gaining streetwise skills Gus will never know. 

So upon the arrival of the newcomer, Gus, who is easygoing to a fault, did not exactly take offense, but neither did he embrace Abbott as the answer to his despair. Eventually, it's clear, they will be fast friends, but right now, we're in the transition phase, and even a four-year-old cat has his dignity. 

Gus and Abbott spend a bit of time together, but though  Gus is the elder, Abbott is the wiser, and he runs rings around his elders, both cat and dog. Like Gil, Abbott regards the dog as a simpleton placed on this earth for his amusement, and regards Gus as, at best, an equal.

As far as I'm concerned, kittens are placed on this earth for my amusement, and Abbott is worth every penny we paid. If he's lucky, and I am, as well, we'll enjoy retirement together in our dotage, no matter the statutory eligibility for Medicare and other such benefits.

Abbott Arrives

R.I.P Gil; I miss you every day.

Welcome, Abbott. Every day you make me laugh. Kittens rule!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Monday Random Ten #25

It's Monday, isn't it?

Here are the first ten songs to pop up on my iPod; Artist/ Song/ Album:

1. Little Richard/ Rip It Up/ 18 Greatest Hits

2. Louis Armstrong/ Heebie Jeebies/ The Hot Fives and Sevens vol. 1

3. Matt Wilson Quartet/ Swimming in the Trees/ Humidity

4. Glen Campbell/ Witchita Lineman/ All the Best

5. The Gun Club/ My Man's Gone Now/ The Las Vegas Story

6. Don Omar/ Dile/ Da Hitman Presents

7. Badly Drawn Boy/ Magic in the Air/ Hour of the Bewilderbeast

8. Jeff Buckley and Elizabeth Fraser/ All Flowers in Time Bend Towards the Sun/ Rarities from NYC

9. Paul McCartney/ Here Today/ Live at Amoeba Records

10. The Clientele/ The Violet Hour/ The Violet Hour

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Yanking the Ads

Sometime today I had my ten thousandth visitor to this blog. Thank you so much for stopping by from time to time. To show my gratitude, I'm yanking the ads.

Maybe if I were getting ten thousand hits a day, having ads would make sense, but so far they've generated a total of 82 cents in revenue. It's not worth it to have them cluttering up the place. You get enough ads in your life, anyway.

Carry on!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Gotta Song Stuck in my Head...

Have a great weekend!

I'll Pay You to Take My Money

Both Drum and Yglesias have continued to point out the singular fact that, unlike you and me, the federal government can currently borrow money at negative interest rates. This reminds me that some of my readers said that they didn't understand my previous post about negative interest rates. My response: sure you do.

Say you buy a sofa for $1000, and borrow the money to do so at 5% interest. That means buying the sofa on credit will cost you an extra fifty bucks, so you're really spending $1050.

But if you can borrow the money at negative interest rates, my friend, you've got a better deal. If that rate is negative five percent, then when you pay back the loan, you've got yourself that same sofa for $950.

In effect, the lenders are paying you to take their money! This is the situation your Uncle Sam finds himself in these days. It's a historically unique situation, but it would be bonkers not to take advantage of it, because... wait, wait. You still don't get it?

You say that nobody in their right mind would lend money at negative interest rates. Well, if you're selling a sofa, sure. Nobody's giving you that deal. But that's what kind of deal the bond market is giving Uncle Sam.

Stay with me! I know that some of you just clicked over to fluffy animal videos when I mentioned the bond market, but I know you can get this.

To borrow money, a government issues bonds, like T-bills, war bonds, savings bonds, municipal bonds, and so on. You park your money in their account, and eventually, the government will pay you back with interest.

Now, if very few people are buying bonds, then the interest rates automatically go up, to attract more buyers. So the government's cost of borrowing also goes up. But if lots of people are buying bonds, the rates go down, and so do Uncle Sam's borrowing costs. You with me so far?

Right now, so many people are buying US government bonds that the rates have gone below zero. They're negative interest rates. And people are still buying them, because they think parking their money with the US government is so safe (compared to say, the stock market) that they're willing to take a slight loss in order to do so. Maybe you don't think so, but the bond market – people who buy lots of bonds – do think so. And in a market economy, the markets set the prices.

Okay. Back to the sofa. I'm too lazy to look it up right now, but a month ago, the five-year yield on US bonds was negative 0.72 percent. The seven-year yield was negative 0.18 percent, and the ten-year yield was just barely above zero, at 0.38 percent.

What this means is that at the ten year rates, buying the sofa would cost you an extra $3.80, and at the seven-year rates, you would be saving a dollar and eighty cents. And if you borrowed money to buy the sofa at the five-year rate, you'd save seven dollars and twenty cents. So the sofa would really only cost you $992.80. And if you really really need a sofa, there is never gonna be a better time to buy, my friend.

Well right now, there are a lot of things that the government really really needs to do. There are fourteen million people out of work, and we have crumbling roads and bridges and schools and power lines, and we're killing our planet with our oil addiction. Why not borrow some money to put those people to work fixing those things?

Instead, we just spent months in a debilitating battle, inflicting considerable political damage to both sides, over how we can cut spending so we don't borrow so much and keep adding to the debt. Except that borrowing money right now adds less debt than you're borrowing! People will pay us to take their money.

Specifically, if Uncle Sam borrowed a trillion dollars to buy the world's largest sofa, he'd be saving seven point two billion dollars! That's real money, even in Washington DC! You could hire a lot of teachers with that.

So why don't we? Because our political system is completely dysfunctional, utterly broken, and batshit crazy. And everybody can understand that.

UPDATE: Edited to fix my bonehead math. 7.2 billion, not 720 billion. That's why I'm not OMB Director.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Krugman Gets Hip

I don't relish having to compete with the guy if he turns his economics blog into a music 'n' politics site. But I just love this post:
Meanwhile, my very belated discovery of Arcade Fire punctured my dour baby-boomer belief that nothing good has come out of music since I turned 30 or so. So I’m now on the lookout for post-1990 music I like (hey, I’m serious about that baby-boomer stuff), often finding it by following recommendations from videos of other music I like. As you may have noticed, my tastes run very strongly to indie bands — I don’t think I’m going to fall in love with any of the mega-commercial artists, although you never know. Also, I like live performances a lot better than highly produced videos. 
And every few weeks I discover a new band I really, really like. It’s wonderful — and it’s providing some much needed relief from the dismal stuff that is my business.
More power to him if he's gotten past that ridiculous generational prejudice that inexplicably possesses many of my fellows in the Largest Generation. It makes them sound just like their parents, lamenting how Elvis killed off the Swing Era.

There's even a ridiculous bible of sorts for clueless Boomers who think everything since the first Boston album sucks, except maybe Born in the USA (which was right around when Krugman turned 30). Dave Thompson's I Hate New Music is a cranky, cliche-ridden, poorly-argued rant against damn near anything recorded after 1978. For instance, did you know that Radiohead sounds exactly like Pink Floyd? Me neither. What a maroon, as Bugs Bunny used to say.