Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
May 7, 2008 - April 30, 2008

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

President Obama

The Trans-Racial, Trans-American, Trans-Human Candidate. Cool

DONE AND DONE. I don't know how CountryPunk knew the race was over before the first votes were reported, but he did. Now I have two tasks. One, to acknowledge that Obama will be the nominee of the Democratic Party, and two, to renounce any possibility of my support for John McCain.

America wants to reap the whirlwind. So be it. You want an angry young man for president? Have him. Just be aware that the best way to judge a man is to know his wife. Michelle Obama is no Jackie Kennedy. She's a good looking woman to be sure, but she's also a bitter, whining harridan who probably makes her husband as miserable as he will make us. I cringe at the thought of her being the hostess of state dinners. But we survived Rosalynn Carter and we'll survive the pissed-off, victimized Princetonian, too.

Now for McCain. My fleeting hope was that he was actually a politician. He isn't. He's just an arrogant asshole. His decision to speak to La Raza -- in clear defiance of the conservative base of his party, which believes in the rule of law and disdains race-based extortion -- is both unconscionable and incredibly stupid.

It's the last part that's so dismaying. Politicians routinely do unconscionable things. But they normally do them to satisfy the people who have worked and sacrificed and gone the extra mile to get them elected. John McCain is yet another of the new breed of western Americans who are willing to betray their country for the sake of Spanish architecture, Mexican food, and cheap gardeners. Only it's not that cheap. It's that the braggart of the Straight Talk Express is actually in the pocket of all the special interests who are willing to do anything to keep the flow of illegal low-cost labor flowing into the United States, law and cultural integrity be damned.

Forget the hero of the Hanoi Hilton. The John McCain of 2008 is corrupt. So corrupt that his debts to the illegal immigration promoters outweigh even his desire to be president of the United States. That's a big fucking debt.

We're all on our own now. Do whatever you want. The United States is lost. Run a third-party ticket for Ron Paul. Run a fourth-party ticket for Mike Huckabee. Stay at home and give Obama the biggest congressional majority any president ever had. The Democrats will have their day now.

And I have just stopped caring. Go to hell. All of you. Pretend that the Islamists don't want to kill you. Maybe they'll relent and give your wife and daughters an anesthetic before they cut off their clitorises. Pretend that Iran doesn't really plan to nuke Israel. Just remember to act surprised when it happens and Obama initiates a new round of talks to deal with the implications. Pretend that the Iraq War is nothing but a drain on American resources and explore the cornucopia of consequences when we abandon them for the tenth time in twenty years.


Me? I love Obama. He's so coolly eloquent. Isn't that the height of statecraft? Sure it is.

Whatever. I don't know anything. I thought the Republican Party would have the balls to defend their own president, who accomplished an absolute goddam miracle -- preventing another major domestic terrorist attack for more than seven years. But no. They don't even want to appear on the same podium with him. Fuck them. They don't deserve anybody's vote. Give the damn Democrats every single seat in the House and Senate and then see how quickly you want to throw them out of office. HINT: When they decide all your paychecks should go directly to them first, so they can decide how much you're not allowed to spend on Big Macs, spinner wheels, rodeo tickets, smokes, hookers, tattoos, cheesy lingerie, Southern Comfort, ten-gauge ammunition, and RVs. That'll settle your hash. Oh. Excuse me. No, it won't. You'll happily trade all that for FREE healthcare.


Thanks a lot, John McCain. There's more than one kind of traitor. There's the kind who talks when he shouldn't. And there's the kind who sells out the whole damn country because he's too smug and rich to remember what his country is even about.

And thanks, Obama. We need you. In a strange, fucked up way, we need you. We really do. Let's just hope the lesson you're there to teach us doesn't kill us. It probably won't. But not because you won't be trying.

Have at it, weed.

Be Calm

MORNING. It's clear that CountryPunk and, obviously, TruePunk overreacted to last night's election results. As to their gratuitous slamming of McCain, I can only assure you that I have sent them both stern emails reminding them of the unfailing admiration we have always had here for the Republican presidential nominee:

Time Out
Ear to the Ground
InstaPunk Is Always Right
Where's the Dark Matter?
The Superior Conservative
McCain for President
Pressing the Point
A Surge McCain Doesn't Support
No Republicans Left in the Race
Six Is a State of Mind
McCain Reacts Angrily to NYT

Well, there's more, but you can see that we've been in the bag for McCain from the very beginning. Sort of like Hugh Hewitt and Dean Barnett were for Mitt Romney. But that doesn't mean we're incapable of being objective. We love the guy to death, but we can still speak from a certain distance. Just like Hugh and Dean said they could.

It's all going to be okay, people. Truly. It's absolutely not the case that Mr. McCain is some kind of loose cannon, egomaniacal, rude, arrogant, just-plain-nasty closet liberal control freak who thinks government should be limited except when people behave in ways he doesn't approve of. That's not who he is at all. He would absolutely talk to Rush Limbaugh if he didn't already know that Limbaugh is a treacherous, uneducated, and largely malicious distraction from the, well, sanctity of the ongoing dialogue between the American people and the mainstream press, which has always been so supportive of patriots like, uh John McCain.

I know from some of your emails that you're concerned I might be withdrawing my declaration of support for the Arizona senator's bid for the presidency. Not a chance. I understand the objections. CountryPunk has a parochial view. TruePunk is just crazy. But we all always knew that.

Why would anyone think it's reasonable to expect a Republican nominee to subscribe to all Republican positions? Isn't it enough to be vaguely pro-life? Why can't a Republican kinda sorta believe in Global Warming and the need to pulverize the entire global economic system to make it one percent cooler? Who wouldn't want to turn the American southwest over to an ethnic minority that would rather be Spanish than Indian if it means laying a more persuasive legal claim to lucrative lands developed by Anglos? And is it really so bad to have spent seven years undermining and sniping at a president who dared to undertake an attack on enemies who'd been bombing us for a decade before he took office? Of course not. That's just understandable maverickousness, common in Washington as a head cold.

I really want to be clear about this. Especially now that we know Obama will be the Democratic nominee. How should I put it? I want to be precise. Here's my best attempt:


Does that clarify matters for you?

I thought it would.


YouTube Wednesday

You see. It's all been a Broadway number. Are we having fun yet?

YTW. No, we're not going to keep talking about Hillary and Obama. YouTube Wednesday is about distractions, not current events. Although we couldn't resist this one, which will be ancient history by tomorrow, so we have to do it today.

That's it. Done with the candidates. Honest. For example, how could one get more high-toned and above it all than promoting some Physics Phun?

Oh. You prefer no-toned and below it all? We got that covered too.

Okay. That was kind of ucky. We admit it. Makes us want to take a bath. You know. Get really clean. That's what the "Devil's Pool" is all about. If you're evil enough, you can paddle around inches away from the tallest waterfall in the world. InstaPunk contributors spend every single day of summer there every year.

Too sinister? For good people, maybe. That's probably why our genius American environmentalists are fully prepared to ban water altogether.

They might even get away with it. Unless Bengal cats find out about it.

You don't know about Bengals? Get with it, folks. Most of the cats you're seeing these days in cat food commercials are Bengals. They're, uh, intensely interactive with every environment. Camera show-offs too. And kind of scary. Like seven pound leopards.

They won't let us embed this one. But you have to see it. Here.

But clumsy. For some reason, they just don't care about heights. When they fall, they don't even land on their feet. That would be caring. About heights.

Actually, you can keep YouTube Wednesday going indefinitely if you just follow the Bengals...

Now, isn't that better than all the political harping and carping you're getting everywhere else today? You know it is. Bengals make lots of speeches. But they absolutely never make any promises and they never ask for your vote. They pretty much do whatever they want to. Follow their example as long as you can. You've got till maybe January or February to squeeze it all in.

Get busy.

P.S. Couldn't resist. One more. It's kind of like peanuts. Hard to stop.

But we're GOING to stop. Right now.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

False Dawn

Well, it's at least more poetic than the "light at the end of the tunnel" cliche.

HOPE VS. REALITY. Led by Rush Limbaugh and other inveterate optimists, Republicans are starting to believe they might actually win the 2008 presidential election. The increasingly dirty infighting between the Clinton and Obama campaigns reminds them of 1968, when the Dems ripped their own party apart at the Chicago convention and couldn't heal the divide in time to beat Richard Nixon. Perversely, the extreme left wing of the Democrat Party is bolstering the analogy by promising to "Recreate '68" at the 2008 Denver convention.

But sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel really is an oncoming train. That's very probably the case this time. It's a terrible year to be a Republican, "maverick" or not. What the Republicans should remember about 1968 is just how close the Democrats came to winning -- even though they were the incumbent party of the White House and both houses of Congress, who had presided over an incredibly unpopular war, huge budget deficits, escalating inflation, and an ugly generational confrontation that seemed at times on the verge of armed civil war. Yet the FDR coalition of big government petitioners and identity panderers fell only a couple hundred thousand votes short of electing a sitting Vice President who was inextricably linked to every policy that had engendered such national chaos. The lesson to remember? Republicans aren't Democrats. If they fail to make or keep popular promises, they get fired. Think Ford and Bush 41. When Democrats fail to perform (always) -- and even when they spend months sawing at each others' throats -- they can still unify a lot of voting blocs on a single Tuesday in November.

The Democrats will come back together by November, regardless of how intramurally bellicose they sound right now. And it's highly likely that they will defeat McCain in the general election. But not for the reasons most of the pundits are citing. The analogy year, if you must have one, is 1976. The candidate who is closest to Obama in recent American history is Jimmy Carter, a total outsider who capitalized on the nationwide -- and utter -- disgust with the entire Washington, DC, establishment to seek the presidency based on nothing but vague promises that we could trust him to make everything better. So we elected the first engineer president since Herbert Hoover, with remarkably similar results.

Call it what you will. Denial. Flight from reality. Romantic fantasy. It all amounts to the same thing, an election that is decided on almost deliberately superficial terms. Carter had that impossibly wide and friendly smile. Nobody noticed the hard little eyes of a martinet micro-manager. Obama has his rhetorical style, so empty that it's majestically weightless in the heights it attains. Nobody wants to notice the Carterlike solitude of the man within, a remoteness we confuse with greatness, the untouchability we'd all feel in retrospect for the persons of Lincoln and Washington. And JFK. Which is who so many Americans want him to be. So desperately that they're willing to make up all the points of similarity out of whole cloth. Never mind that he hasn't the wit, the indescribable common touch, the gift for self-deprecating humor, or the steely inner confidence to surround himself with better brains than his own. We want another JFK -- the one of our myths and imaginings -- and we're sick to death of DC mediocrities and the messiness of the world and the complications of being the most powerful nation on earth when all we really want is a pleasant weekend with no one bugging us. For a change.

And there's another thing. We're completely spoiled. Since Ronald Reagan somehow solved the unsolvable economic woes of the Johnson-Nixon-Ford-Carter years, we've had a quarter century of very nearly unbroken prosperity, punctuated by the merest handful of mild recessions. All politics aside, the difference between the Clinton economy and the Bush economy has been mostly the media coverage. But now we've had our first real oil shock since Carter, and we're not going to stand for it, dammit. Make it stop. All the youthful voters everyone's so happy to have join the electorate have never known real privation of any kind. Why are they so energized? They're bored with the mundane dreariness of prosperity as usual. Bored. They have the most dangerous form of nostalgia -- ignorant yearning for a glamorous time they've heard about but never experienced. They think they'd have been heroes of the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War protests, the unofficial coup by rock and roll that's fueled all their hero worship of dead and decaying rock stars. They want to have that glorious feeling of being excited. About something. Anything.

That's what McCain is competing with. Despite his energy, he's an old man. His time has passed. The stars are aligned for one of America's periodic irrational outbursts, the election of a president whose only real qualification is that he's different from the norm. And that would be Obama. All hail the comforting illusion.

Conservatives have carped a lot about McCain as the Republican nominee. Threatened to stay home because it would be better to have all the liberal foolishness enacted by (and blamed on) a Democrat than a renegade liberal Republican. Fine. All I'll point out is that when the November tantrum occurs and the Republicans are crushed in Congress and the presidential election, where will you stand on the blame game then? Would you be happier to have the slaughter blamed on a genuine conservative (if you could actually find one) or a truculent old bastard who split with his own party faithful on at least three of their top ten issues? What candidate would better enable the Republicans to rediscover their core identity, principles, and balls as a party when Carter, er, Obama, comes up for reelection in 2012? Conversely, what candidate offers us a better chance in 2008 to prevent the election of another Jimmy Carter? Is there something better than a cantankerous old real-world survivor to run against a chimera? You tell me.

To answer these questions honestly, though, you'd have to admit that Republicans really are staring at catastrophic defeat in the fall, barring some miracle nobody could reasonably foresee. Can you do that?

Monday, May 05, 2008


Passing of the Elves

What Pat Buchanan forgets. They will miss us. And remember us.

AN OLD FAVORITE. Good old Pat Buchanan, so beloved by cro-magnon conservatives, has suddenly tumbled to the alarm raised long ago by Mark Steyn's America Alone. In a column called "The Way Our World Ends," Pat says:

An Augusta, Ga., group, The National Policy Institute, has meshed the figures on fertility rates with the continents and races on Planet Earth -- to visualize what the world will look like in 2060.

In 1950, whites were 28 percent of world population and Africans 9 percent, a ratio of three-to-one. In 2060, the ratio will remain the same. But the colors will be reversed. People of African ancestry will be 25 percent of the world's population. People of European descent will have fallen to 9.8 percent.

More arresting is that the white population is shrinking not only in relative but in real terms. Two hundred million white people, one in every six on earth -- a number equal to the entire population of France, Britain, Holland and Germany -- will vanish by 2060.

The Caucasian race is going the way of the Mohicans.

Arabic peoples, 94 million at the birth of Israel in 1948, outnumbered seven to one by Europeans, will rise to 743 million in 2060, a tenfold increase, and will be 75 percent of the white population.

Fleshing out the NPI picture is the U.N. population survey of mid-2007 that points to the 21st century disappearance of Western Man.

By 2050, a fourth of all the people of Eastern Europe will have vanished. Ukraine will lose one-third of its population. Russia, 150 million at the breakup of the Soviet Union, 142 million today, will be down to 108 million. Such losses dwarf what Hitler and Stalin together did to these countries.

Geez. Pat seems disturbed all of a sudden. The Aryans are going away. What does it all mean? I admit I haven't read Steyn's response to Buchanan, so I'm probably risking a repeat of his points, but I'll chance it anyway. Because the meaning is incredibly important, and it's something all you damn imbecile Paulistas (and you know who you are) should pay attention to along with the cro-magnon Republicans.

What it means is this: Thank God for the British Empire and the aggressive American interventionism of the twentieth century. That's right. In the scenario being described by Buchanan, the only chance the world has to avoid a thousand-year dark age is whatever the newly ascendant populations can remember and imitate of what they learned from their experience of western colonialism and imperialism. For example, India has a shot at holding together as a society and an economy in this scenario because of the Raj, which embedded law very deeply into their culture. So might some of the middle eastern muslims -- if they can prevent their homegrown religion from requiring them to behead each other into bedouin medievalism.

The disappearance of Europeans and their American descendants will threaten a lot of things: Christianity's openness to science and its ongoing contribution to individual consciousness and personal responsibility, the liberal political tradition of republics and democracies, the systems of capitalist economics, and the concept of art as a cultural force independent of politics and religion, endowed with a mission to criticize both. If any of these traditions survive, which is debatable, it will be because the survivors remember and honor what they learned from those who have departed, regardless of how traumatically they learned it.

Without the survival of these traditions, the world will be plunged into unutterable chaos and violence. Nuclear weapons will be used until there are no more weapons. Tribes will turn upon one another, totalitarian systems will devour and exterminate the tribes who undermine order, and the population figures will change dramatically again, but always lower. And there will be no more Jews to push science, law, business, art, and entertainment forward. The slippery slope will be an accelerating backward slide into irreparable misery.

So. Pat. Now that you understand the "new population bomb," do you still think it would have been best for America to sit smugly at home while the dark side of European intellectualism essayed its first attempted suicide of full human consciousness? Or was it perhaps better somehow that before we sailed to the Grey Havens we did as much as we could for a full century to share our vision of a world in which all men and women could be free to pursue happiness as they conceived it?

I don't like the thought of my own traditions and ancestry passing away from the earth. But I do believe we made a contribution. It will be up to the survivors to determine whether that contribution was a footnote or a legacy. I'm also glad that we made a worldwide effort to achieve the latter.

Pat? He's probably grimly hoping for the former. It's called vengeance. Something a son of Nixon (i.e., elves bred down to orcs) would know more about than anybody else.

Pat's pissed.

I'll be thinking other thoughts during the final recessional hymn.

Elbereth, Gilthoniel, silivren penna miriel...

Yell it in the "Live, damn you! LIVE!" voice, not the "Spriiing Breeaak!" voice.

CINCO DE MAYO! It used to be the most cynically patronizing holiday on the American calendar. Now it's like another St. Patrick's Day, only without all the class and solemn dignity of March 17 to get in the way of the drinking. Sigh.

I'm not the first to notice this: If things are so bad in your country that you have to look for work in a different country, you might want to temper that expatriated national pride a smidge.

Unless you want to argue that America took all the parts of Mexico with good jobs. That economic success is primarily a function of geography rather than society. That's too dumb to state outright, but if you only allude to it, never getting more specific than a hinted-at accusation that America took something from Mexcio, you're in business. You'll know you've gotten away with it when your audience at the reconquista rally gives you the slow, thoughtful "how true" nods.

So cynical, Brizoni. And so out of the blue. For heaven's sake, why?

Clearly, I'm not in the Cinco de Mayo spirit. The phone card/money wiring kiosk (which I like because everyone in there is honest enough to not even pretend to care about speaking English) was out of giant Virgin Mary tapestries. How am I supposed to celebrate this High Holy Day without one? And I just found out Corona beer isn't even Mexican. Did you know that? It's bottled in Minnesota or Whitesylvania or thereabouts. Weak. Who wants American worms wriggling around in their booze? And they have this new variety called "Corona Extra"? Extra what? "Extra" lack of melanin at the brewery? "Extra" Lawrence Welk played over the intercom?

I'm just feeling, like, disillusioned with the whole enterprise, man. Maybe my own celebratory setbacks are why I'm all existential about today. Independence sounds fine and good for any country, so I guess I'm happy for Mexico. But... you know... I hesitate to even think it... look what they've done with it. They've made kind of a... you know... a corrupt little cesspool of misery for themselves down there, haven't they? I don't see what there is to celebrate.

I guess it makes sense that their Independence Day has only the vaguest lip-service to freedom and all the other important nation stuff. In its place, you get ranchero music (known by the state of California to cause birth defects and reproductive harm) loud enough to blow out the part of the brain that feels shame at being from Mexico.

Sorry. I'm just cranky. Which of course means there no truth to be found in any of this slander. Enjoy your cerveza, esse! Arriba! Santa Anna! Cesar Chavez! All that.

UPDATE: Looks like my last column from the road got lost in the, um, mail. It's a thermodynamic miracle of wrong guess after wrong guess. Each of them was shown to be exactly wrong, mere days after I wrote. You'll see it tomorrow.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Philadelphia's Liberty Medal: A
Hometown Nomination for Once

Sid Mark, The Voice of Philadelphia for more than 50 years.

NOD TO THE PAST. The criteria for Philadelphia's Liberty Medal sound lofty:

The Liberty Medal is awarded annually by the National Constitution Center to men and women of courage and conviction who have strived to secure the blessings of liberty to people the world over.

Yeah, they gave it to Nelson Mandela once. But last year they gave it to Bono. They've also given it to Sandra Day O'Connor and Kofi Annan. There seems to be some latitude here, some give and take in what constitutes courage, conviction, and the blessings of liberty. Which is as it should be. Sandra Day O'Connor never stood in front of a tank. Kofi Annan never served a day as a political prisoner and has probably eaten in more four-star restaurants over the years than Frank Sinatra.

Which brings me to my point. Why can't the Liberty Medal be granted, for once, to an actual Philadelphian who has performed a huge service in communicating the blessings of liberty to the city where constitutionally guaranteed liberty began in the first place?

It's a truism of art and writing and music that "before you can be universal, you must be local."

I'd be willing to bet there are thousands if not millions of people like me, who grew up listening with their parents to "Friday with Frank" and "Sunday with Sinatra," hosted by Sid Mark on WWDB (and now WPHT) in Philadelphia (and syndicated to other stations throughout the country). What did we learn? That there was a special poignancy to the lives of the World War II generation, which garnered Tom Brokaw waves of acclaim when he acknowledged it belatedly, but which we children of that generation learned firsthand by hearing Sid Mark respond week after week to Sinatra classics with an impeccable sense of how every song sounded when it was released and what chord it touched in its audience. The Brokaws somehow seem to forget that the Greatest Generation also came home after the war and rebuilt the world even though they were in all probability suffering from what is today called Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder.

My dad was. He endured nightmares for years. But Friday night was a ritual. We gathered in the den and turned on the FM radio. It was Sid Mark time. The songs Sid played spanned 20 years, from the pre-war Tommy Dorsey era to the beginnings of the Rat Pack and beyond. It was a time machine that helped us youngsters learn what our parents had been through. Both my parents adopted, at one time or another, the pose that Sinatra wasn't even the best Big Band singer, despite all the screaming bobby-soxers. I heard both my parents seriously argue that Dick Haymes was a better vocalist than Sinatra and that Sinatra's career should have ended after this disastrous recording of Ol' Man River.

But it was Friday night, and Sid was playing the songs, and my sister and I were little and full of questions -- besides being intoxicated by the sound of Sinatra -- and so this family time also became a history lesson. My prejudiced father hauled out his Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Teddy Wilson, and Coleman Hawkins LPs to prove to us that Sid Mark's description of America as one vast Sinatra audience was incorrect. The very first time I fell in love was at the age of six when I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing "The Man I Love," and the very first time I knew there was a racial divide in my country was when my Dad showed me the Ella/Gershwin album cover -- Ella was not white, slim, or gorgeous the way women who can sing like that automatically are to little boys who have beautiful blonde mothers. "Forget the picture," my dad said. "Just listen to the way she sings. That's music. Sinatra is an ugly little guy. And you like him."

I did. Me and how many countless others who learned about him from Sid Mark. More than my parents did. In fact. my first rebellion was realizing that Sinatra was better than Dick Haymes and every other Big Band singer. I realized that he was singing my own parents' lives, the parts they couldn't admit, the pain and wistfulness and sorrow they could never acknowledge, along with the upbeat determination that kept them going, and dancing, even when they must have wondered what the hell was going on. It was as if the real appeal of Sinatra to adults was a secret -- they pretended he wasn't an arterial necessity; he was just historical and because he was connected to every successful jazz musician, composer, and arranger, he was safe. When he let loose with his "three o'clock in the morning," "when I was seventeen," or "strangers in the night" bits, the parents mixed another cocktail and fell silent.

Truth is, what I learned from Sid Mark and his Sinatra shows was that my parents and their generation had real and incredibly deep passions in their lives. That was the knowledge that enabled me to bridge the Generation Gap of the sixties. I understood that mine wasn't the first generation to have been powerfully motivated and transformed by music. A tenuous bridge was constructed which survives to this day. Yeah, my dad couldn't get the heroin jazz, or the rock and roll, or even the bee-bop. But long after the war that forced and anguished his character, he HAD to listen to the one man who ensured continuity and whose genius phrasing somehow contained an entire generation of experience.

Without Sid Mark, my parents would have been a blank to me, the way so many parents are a blank to their kids today. Thanks to Sid, there were moments in my childhood when I felt at a cellular level what it was to be my parents when they were young, in danger, and fighting like hell for their lives. I'm absolutely damn sure I'm not alone in that. Is this a service which helps to "secure the blessings of liberty"? Yup. And then there was "Watertown." Which only Sid ever promoted and proved to me that Sinatra AND Sid were eternal. Sid Mark is a national treasure.

I think that. But then I'm not a Philadelphia politician.

P.S. The audio file has been Sid Mark's close to every Sinatra broadcast for 50 years. It's burned into my soul. My Catholic friends who confidently expect me to confess the one true faith at the last second had better bring this recording with them to my deathbed.

UPDATE 5/12/08. Last night, one of the public television channels ran a 1966 show called "Sinatra: A man and His Music (Pt I)." It was a time machine moment. Sinatra in a recording studio with Gordon Jenkins and his band. He stood at the studio microphone, introduced the songs to the audience and then -- without a cut -- delivered a perfect performance of standards like "Fly Me to the Moon." It made me remember something I'd left out of the original post, which was about Sid Mark more than Sinatra. But, again thanks to Sid, I followed up an opportunity many years after my youth to see Sinatra perform at an open-air concert in Cincinnati, Ohio. I convinced my wife to attend, telling her that it was a chance to see a living legend, even if -- as would obviously be the case -- he was far too old at nearly 70 to be able to sing anymore. But he still could sing. And he did. He had the entire audience, from octogenarians to teenagers, in the palm of his hand. Thank you for that, too, Sid Mark.

Which leads me to the real reason for this update. Daniel Rubin, a talented Philadelphia columnist, linked this post at at, where he does an entertaining blog called Blinq. I checked back today and found a real gem of a comment, one that should tell you more about Sid and Frank and Philly than I could in a dozen posts. I just have to share it with you. This is who we are in this neck of the woods:

I had known F Sinatra and when he had appeared at the Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, N.J. I would hang out backstage with Pat Henry, his opening act and this one night I seen this tall gentleman standing outside of Sinatra's dressing room for a short time and asked if he was waiting to see Sinatra and he answered yes. I knocked on Sinatra's dressing room door and he put out his hand to say please don't but it was too late and Jilly Rizzo, his best friend opened the door and a friend of mine also. I told Jilly that Sid Mark was here and immediately Jilly said Sidney what are you doing out here come in. As he closed the door I seen Sinatra come forward and said Sidney what are you doing outside and gave him a big hug and a kiss. That I believe was in 1972 and from that night Sidney and I became very good friends. I would say we refer to each other as brothers and I am extremely proud of that. The reason I tell this story is to demonstrate what an admirable gentleman Sidney is. His wife Judy and his children are all wonderful and respect all. This man does not want to make a nusiance of himself and never pushes himself forward almost to the point that he appears shy, however, if the situation arises he can account for himself respectfully. A genuine gentleman loved by all his peers and listeners alike. It would be wonderful if he were to be the recipicant of the "Liberty Medal". Knowing this man who had served his country in the Armed Forces and born in Camden, N.J., and a hard working man all his life in addition to being a great humanitarian I beleive makes him a fine candidate for this prestigious award. I am confidant that there would no one more deserving as throught the years he has made millions enjoy the beautiful sequenced of songs he has programmed, not to mention his voice. God Bless you Sidney and all concerned and also to you Mr. Rubin for having suggested this talented man be recognized.


Don't you just absolutely love it? Well, I do, anyway. And here's the larger point. I wasn't kidding.

Brother Bear, Philadelphians, and New Jersey folk (Frank was from Hoboken, let's not forget), put the pressure on. I was absolutely serious in nominating Sid Mark for the Liberty Medal. Generate some cards and letters to Mayor Mike Nutter, whose address and other contact information is here. Sid Mark for the Liberty Medal. Make it happen.

Please. Even if you're not from Philadelphia. Pretend. (This is a city that always votes over 100 percent of its registered Democrats. They'll understand.)

Thank you.

UPDATE 5/20/08. Welcome to all you fans of Michael Smerconish, who has linked to this post from his website at WPHT in Philly. Thanks, Michael. There's a special treat available for listeners of Sid Mark's Sinatra shows. At, the "columnist to the world" has been honoring the tenth anniversary of Sinatra's passing by writing in-depth accounts of the writing and recording of the greatest Sinatra standards. If you really love the music you won't want to miss a word. Thanks for stopping by. And much greater thanks if you follow through by contacting the Mayor with a Sid Mark nomination.

Friday, May 02, 2008

A Friday Folly

TGIF. I found this via Jonah Goldberg at NRO, who got it from 'Debby, the Odd Link Gal,' who found it here. The thumbnail description is this:

"Food Fight is an abridged history of American-centric war, from World War II to present day, told through the foods of the countries in conflict. Watch as traditional comestibles slug it out for world domination in this chronologically re-enacted smorgasbord of aggression."

The site also contains a complete synopsis and spoilers. Decide for yourselves if you want to experience with or without a full briefing.

I think it's fun to just watch it and guess what's going on. But that's me. And, yeah, I know, a couple parts are in dubious taste, but it's Friday. Lighten up.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


FORGETTING THE VERITIES. I don't watch baseball for politics. I don't need the play-by-play interrupted (as it was) by some front-office goof blathering about how worried we all are about Global Warming. The Phillies front office isn't even good at finding a few quality free agents to beef up a team that's been hovering on the edge of being really good without ever seeming to get there. So why would anyone want to hear their thoughts on a subject they know even less about than assembling a decent pitching staff?

I hate to say it but I'm glad they lost. The only real science of baseball is superstition, and now the players know that wearing those godawful green caps isn't good luck.

Is it really all that unreasonable to ask that professional sports be about sports? If somebody's got some cause to promote, let them do it in a public service announcement during commercial breaks or, better yet, dream up their own special sporting event. Organize a marathon or a bike race or something. Something where participation is voluntary. We average joes do not need our professional teams, which are supposed to be an entertaining diversion from real-world cares for everyone in a given geographic area, to become billboards for any particular point of view, even if it's done with the best of intentions. We don't need the Phillies wearing pink hats for breast cancer awareness, blue hats for prostate cancer or thyroid disease awareness, yellow hats for hostages somebody's holding somewhere, or even amber hats for a missing child. It's not about not caring about those things. It's about not needing to care about them during a major league baseball game. Or an NFL game. Or an NHL or NBA game.

Too much to ask? Apparently so. This is one case where the slippery slope argument was valid. We let them get away with naming all our sports stadiums and arenas after corporations. Now we're stuck with the slow transformation of the teams themselves into hideously expensive public relations vehicles for the cynical good citizenship charades of banks and insurance companies.

Keep it up. Eventually, there will be a backlash. Do you know what I'm going to do after I post this? I'm going to go put some empty plastic soda bottles into the regular trash. In honor of the damn "Green" Phillies. How do you like them apples?

Meaning No Disrespect

ELECTION STUFF. It's fine to be old. I've got no problem with that. Old is cool. Very old is very cool. But what's the deal with being a truly ancient U.S. Senator running for reelection? Running. Ha. Ha ha.

This weekend, we in the Delaware Valley started getting campaign commercials for the reelection bid of Frank Lautenberg for one of the two U.S. Senate seats in New Jersey. Yeah, I know every state gets two U.S. Senate seats, but New Jersey ain't Montana or West Virginia. We have a bigger population than Israel and you know how much trouble they are on the world stage. Is it really possible that the public service orientaton of the Democratic Party in the Garden State is so incredibly pure and altruistic that the leadership is willing to make a laughingstock of itself by insisting that the very best candidate available is an 84-year-old man who was happily retired until he got drafted from his comfy screened-in porch to bail the Dems out of an ugly political scandal five years ago?

It's a scenario that suggests several unwelcome thoughts. First, obviously, that incumbency is such a potent political weapon in these democratic United States that the parties who declare themselves to be committed to our interest would be willing to run a large zucchini for public office if they thought they could re-elect it. Second, that being a United States Senator must be a remarkably easy job, something like being a cigar store Indian at a hick tourist trap -- just being there is absolutely and perfectly sufficient. (How else could anyone characterize the contributions of Robert Byrd (D-WV), Strom Thurmond (R-NC), or Ted Stevens (R-AL)? And why else would a decently honorable old man consent to it? If it weren't a total cinch, why wouldn't he prefer to spend his decliningsurplus years dandling grandkids on his knee rather than drooling into microphones at endless subcommittee hearings? Or is an octogenarian politician really an avaricious alien satyr instead of a normal human being? Is his last remaining aspiration in life stealing another million from the public treasury and copping one more feel from his most nubile young staffer? If so, I don't want to know. GO HOME. And that includes mere septuagenarian congressmen like John Murtha, too. (What really does bother me is this: if being a U.S. Senator is so effortless, what does it mean that all the remaining presidential candidates have exactly this same do-nothing job?)

Third, if we really are prepared to elect and re-elect and re-elect (etc, etc) virtual dead men to public office under the delusion that they actually care about us and can do a competent job of protecting our interests, what does that say about us? Doesn't it say that we deserve every vile, corrupt perversion of office these Struldbruggs wreak upon us?

Come up with your own answers. I don't care. But I will share with you my write-in candidate for Lautenberg's New Jersey Senate seat. He's much more accomplished than old Frank. And almost certainly smarter. Even now.

Ramses II, The Great

Not to mention better looking. I'm pretty sure he would have liked Jersey. And he still looks alert enough to grab the earmarks we're all counting on. The carpetbagger thing doesn't bother me so much since Hillary got elected Senator from New York.


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