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October 10, 2011 - October 3, 2011

Friday, October 07, 2011


InstapunkSinatraGreats

Palate Cleanser

Mark Steyn has a marvelous essay about how difficult this song was and how
adroitly Sinatra arranged and performed it. Alas, Mr. Steyn has concealed it
behind the Internet wall. He wants you to buy his American Songbook. Do so.

YOUTH WILL BE YOUNG
. So I'm old and much of my message to the younger ones isn't about being a Roman candle but a survivor. The world is definitely going to kick the shit out of you. The measure of mettle is how well you come back after the shit-kicking. I know I spend too much time hyping a rock band from the U.K of 50 years standing., but before there were rolling stones, there was another act that lasted fifty years. A solo act. I saw him in his seventies, thinking I would be witnessing an artifact of history. But he was still there. A giant.

For a long time, he lagged in the YouTube race. All you could find were a few videos of "My Way" and "New York, New York," a kind of parody of his career. But build it and they will come. The history is slowly filling itslf in.  He started as a band singer, a crooner with a peculiarly enticing voice who began the modern tradition of screaming female fans who couldn't possibly hear the object of their idolatry as he was performing.

blue skies. He started with the Tommy Dorsey band. He was an instant star.

over the rainbow. He became known as The Voice. He married a bunch of people and so forth.

these foolish things. He was the most romantic scrawny little Jersey boy anyone had ever seen.

ol man river. Then it was over. My mother always said it was this song and this video that did him in.

did you evah? He disappeared for a few years. Of course there have been rumors about how he engineered his comeback.The one unavoidable fact is that when he returned, he knew a lot more sbout singing, phrasing, and performing.

soliloquy. Here's a watershed moment.



And here's a link from Mark Steyn to drive it home.

Frank Sinatra celebrated his 30th birthday, and Zeke Zarchy, the lead trumpeter on Frank’s radio show, went over to the singer’s pad for dinner. “There were half a dozen people,” he told Will Friedwald, “and we all walked into his den where he had his hi-fi set up. He played us some things from Carousel, which had just come out. We heard the big ‘Soliloquy’ that the main character sings, and we were all impressed with it. Frank said, ‘These are the kinds of things that I want to do.’”

That was tougher than it sounds back then. A brisk “Soliloquy” clocks in at eight minutes. Even broken in two, as Columbia did with it in 1946, it’s a tight fit on both sides of a 78. But Sinatra recognized the uniqueness of the piece, from anticipation of all the fun the guy’s gonna have with “my boy Bill” to the slowly dawning terror of responsibility. Halfway through, on that line “What if he’s a …girl?”, Frank, a recent father of one of each, sings with a kind of bewildered disgust. But the sentiment leads into some of the most lyrical passages Rodgers ever wrote and Sinatra ever sang...

Frank stayed with the “Soliloquy” for the next half-century. In the Fifties, he was supposed to do the film of Carousel, but walked off the set when they told him he’d have to do every scene twice, once for the regular cameras, another for the new CinemaScope system...

But he and the arrangement grew together, and into the early Nineties you could still see him on stage in Atlantic City or London or Tokyo pushing himself through a punishing full-scale recreation of Billy Bigelow – the role he should have played on film condensed into ten minutes a night in recital halls and sports arena around the world decade after decade. Round about that last time we met, I saw some guy sing the “Soliloquy” in the Royal National Theatre revival of Carousel: great voice - if you think a voice is about hitting notes and holding them for the requisite length. But the fellow had nothing to say. Sinatra, a couple of years shy of 80, could still make you believe he was a cocky punk, scraping a living along the Maine coast, contemplating the birth of his first child.

september song.  Then his career went on. He got older. Showed his bruises and hurts.

hello young lovers. Oddly for a pop star, he didn't seem afraid of age.

ipanema. He was willing to try new things, new music styles, while still remaining himself.

Then he suddenly retired at the age of 50. Except that he hated retirement.

let my try again. So he had to come back.

there used to be a ballpark. Sounding more wistful.

send in the clowns. And less above it all.

nobody wins. Because life, if you live long enough, is always about loss.

the train. But it's still about hope, with the sad knowledge that hope can be denied.

something. Which makes love something an old man knows more about than kid rock stars.

lady day. Even when you're tragically disappointed.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because it isn't real. What happens in life is the slow rubbing away of our sharpest, surest edges. Sometimes the rubbing scrubs away our humanity. Sometimes it buffs us to a patina still capable of a certain glow. Something the Sex Pistols never got to find out.




Wednesday, October 05, 2011


Sacred Music

Your view of it. Hicks who aren't as smart as you.

NOT AS SMART AS ANYBODY. Why I'm amazed and mad at the same time. You have absolutely no idea how much western civilization has invested in God and Christianity. How many centuries. Which is why you feel entitled to sweep it all away with a few fancy barbs. Because everyone has been waiting for you to be so smart. Phooey. I amassed this list, which doesn't include art and architecture and literature but only music, because I want you to experience some humility. Which will obviously be a brand new emotion for you, maybe one you're incapable of. Because after all, you are you, right, God's Dawkins's gift to the universe. The one who can set us all straight. Right.

I was going to monkey with the order of this list, but there's no need. What you see is what you get. The order in which I found what's here. It's a record of how important God has been to ordinary human beings over the past fifteen centuries, since musical notation became possible. Listen to all of it. And then tell me you're superior to all of it. I suspect you will. But then everyone will laugh. And I know how you don't like that.

Dies Irae. Gregorian chant. Who knows how old it is and how far back it goes?

Lord's Prayer. Someone wrote the music. Someone conducted it. Someone worked her ass off to sing it. And someone wrote the original lyrics. Who?

Requiem. The greatest musical genius of the eighteenth century wrote this. He must have been a far bigger fool than you.

Pie Jesu. Everyone knows little boys are evil. Where does the angelic sound come from? Oz?

Jubilate Deo. Seventeenth century. And an Englishman. What ailed those folks?

Ninth Symphony Ode to Joy. Beethoven. Nineteenth century. Weren't they tired of it all yet? No. They were waiting for Brizoni to correct their errors.

Cut you down. Well, this is more like it. Another hick. I'm sure you have an answer to the real pain in this recording.

Amazing Grace. Oops. Scotland again. Or had you forgotten?

Battle Hymn. And how was it exactly that we fought and won all those wars in defense of right against wrong? Some silly notion about a myth called God.

Tim McGraw. Yeah. Something to make you feel happy with your superiority. Jesus would be an entirely wrong thing to bring into the drug scene that's killing so many kids. Who would know that better than you?

Creed. Worse. Hypocritical rockers. Or does this go farther back than your knowledge of rock history? Sorry.

Elliman. Hippie Christianity. Go figure.

Walk Alone. This one's for my wife. She still doesn't get Sinatra. Maybe this will help.

Ave Maria. I could do a whole post about this song. Intellectually, you might think it's silly. Emotionally? No.

Blind Willie McTell. Yeah. Even the oppressed find something they need in God. Even Jesus. I'm sure you can it explain it away, smart boy that you are.

sicut cervus. In the headquarters of the Antichrist, Harvard. Extra points for identifying the psalm the sixteenth century composer, Palestrina, had in mind..

Symphony of Sorrowful Songs: 1, 2, 3. The twentieth century. You can easily see how the years have diluted the passion of faith. Further evidence of your belief that the Holocaust is a punchline to your 21st century philosophy.

What I know you can't do is imagine the weight of time and its gravity. It's all an iPhone app to you. Your misfortune. And I'm not being glib. I'm being sad.

CORRECTION. Ashbless had a bad link to Rachmaninoff's Bless the Lord, O My Soul. Here's the right link. And thanks, Will, for the beauty of your contributions.

ADDITIONS. Commenter Ashhbless pointed out that my list was a limited one. He was right. The biggest problem for opponents of Christianity is how to explain the rise to worldwide dominance of the faith if nothing happened in Jerusalem c. 30-40 A.D. But you'd have to know some history to know that that's a problem. It's a lot easier just to reduce Christianity to its most primitive advocates. So I'll begin with Brizoni's view:

If you don't love Jesus. Here you go. Feeling smarter than 2,000 years of theological history is this easy.

Hazel Dickens. And if you're from one of the coasts, this number is both incomprehensible and grounds for imagining yourself smarter than all the saints put together. But it's not really that simple. Why does a guy who spoke to maybe five thousand people, tops, get under the skin of people from every nation and walk of life? It's a genuine mystery.

Missa Luba. 1. Congolese. Beautiful.

Chinese. They actually pay a price for their belief. Hmm.

Lebanese. In the middle east, they will kill you for being a Christian.

Cambodian. There are still Christians there. Even though Pol Pot killed a third of his people. (uh, he wasn't a Christian.)

Greek Orthodox. We forget. There's more than one great church. Sure, there's the Roman one. There's also the Greek one.

Romanian. Them too. Maybe even the world's most evil people are open to the idea of salvation.

Brazilian. There's lots and lots of Brazilian Christian music. Usually there are no subtitles, or it's in English. Do your own search.

Norwegian. Land of Vikings, savage killers from the north. Look how sweet they are now.

French. The French remain a puzzle. They don't go to church, and their artists hate everyone and everything, but some of them still believe. Rather sweetly, in fact.

Welsh. You know this one. Or you should.

Panis Angelicus. Ah. Latin. Why does anyone still remember it or use it? You tell me.

Sergeant MacKenzie. Obviously. Scotland. We know everything about despairing, hoping, and dying. It produces great focus on the important things in life.

How big does a question have to get before even the smartest alecks realize there's more to the answer than wisecracks and snappy dismissals?




Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Damage Control

Get ready. The MSM are coming. (I've never seen him angry. Have you?)

I WAS FIRST, AS USUAL. Now that Herman Cain has the Republican nomination wrapped up, it's time to start thinking about Damage Control, meaning what Veep pick would mitigate his obvious vulnerabilities with all those razor-sharp Independents everyone frets about.

Let's face it. Obama is still black and the Millennial Middle still gets a semi-erotic thrill out of voting for a black man, no matter how lousy a president he is. Which puts Cain behind the 8-ball right away because he's clearly the product of the reactionary GOP cult of Dead White European Males. That just doesn't sit well with the oh-so-enlightened voters who have reached the age of majority without being able to decide whether they want freedom and a limited government that lives within its means or an impoverished nanny state that counts calories for the kids and puts you in prison for your Facebook photos. You know. It's so hard to decide.

And Cain has other liabilities that have nothing to do with race. Sure, there are voters who like the fact that he's never held public office. But after four years of Obama, even Independents may be giving a tad more weight to political experience than they did when they elected an Illinois state legislator and college lecturer to the White House. I'm just saying. Maybe the ticket needs somebody with some government experience.

Did somebody mention foreign policy? I thought I heard somebody way in the back mutter something about it. No? Well. I'm thinking about it because the MSM definitely will. Even Obama heard that mutter in 2008, which explains why he made the genius move of selecting Joltin' Joe Biden as his running mate. Well, it doesn't really explain it. Maybe it's more of a theory. Why else would he have chosen the dumbest vice president in history (with the possible exception of Alben Barkley)?

One more thing. People in general may be sick of politicians from elite universities, but single mom Independents are risk-averse and they like to hear comforting words like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and the U. (Well, maybe not so much the U. That would be more the province of their abusive boyfriends.)

They also shouldn't be so ancient they couldn't run for president themselves in another eight years. (Something Bush and Obama have in common; they both flunked this test of leadership big time.)

So we need a non-mummy with government experience, some foreign policy cred, and a degree that cost more than most people's lifetime incomes. And maybe a filip of ethnic or gender pizzazz. Which lets out the whole Republican field of presidential candidates. The only one who can meet even two of these requirements is Michelle Bachmann, but she went to Oral Roberts and have you seen her eye makeup? The single moms won't be buying that package, believe you me. How do you think they got to be single moms? Not by kowtowing to Oral Roberts. Need I say more?

We can't despair though. There has to be somebody. But who? It's not Sarah Palin. She's married, for one thing. To a man. Yuck. And she's a crazy stupid bitch. Ask anyone. Anyone who knows anything, that is. It's not Chris Christie. He's even whiter than Herman Cain and he's really really fat. Which violates the 57th Amendment to the Constitution, the one about how no white male conservative can be president if he's really really fat like William Howard Taft. It can't be Paul Ryan. Eddy Munster hair. Independents just wouldn't stand for that hair unless he were a movie star vampire with no suit and tie. Which he isn't. Marco Rubio, the Cuban in the U.S. Senate? I think not. I have shoes that are older than Marco Rubio. And (to put a bow on it) if Christie won't do, you can forget about all the other governors who have been trying to imitate him. They're only slender shadows of the one and only Fat Man.

Have you given up? Don't. As Sean Hannity is (overly, nauseatingly) fond of saying, "Let not your heart be troubled." I have the answer.

What if I told you there was a potential VP candidate who has an elite degree, mucho government and foreign policy experience, is young enough to be a presidential candidate eight years from now, and is also female? Wouldn't that be a kick in the Democrats' teeth? Here she is.


Condoleeza Rice. Kick Ass.
She isn't even married. Kewl.

And she's also black. The one thing that could really turn Independents in Cain's favor.

Think about it.

P.S. btw, I have a Stones/Jagger song for every Republican candidate. If you're interested, all you have to do is ask. (Or you can guess.) Herman Cain's is an unusually rare cut.

P.P.S. Nobody has a sense of humor anymore. You're all sticks. You have no idea how tired I get:

Gingrich. Callista wanted more  -- Goddess in the Doorway

Romney. He's One Thing. Ot he's The Other. -- Happy OR You Don't Move Me.

Perry. Pretty Much Done  -- Turd on the Run

Bachmann. She's sweet. Who could doubt it?  -- Memory Motel

Santorum. He's a Stone's guy, maybe a bit frantic. But nobody wants a Stones guy anymore  -- Get Offa My Cloud

Cain. If he ever did get mad... -- Kowtow

Paul. There are two of him. So here they are -- Out of Control OR War Baby.

Huntsman . I admit it. No Stones song. for this clown-- Let It Be

Palin. Pretty much no explanation needed -- She Was Hot

Christie. No, he wouldn't want Stones. His weakness -- No Retreat, No Surrender.

You guys never have imagination. I mean, do you ever fucking laugh? I could swear you don't. Not even Brizoni.

But I do. I laugh my ass off. At all of you dim, sad, sorrowful crotchety folks who think the world's coming to an end.

Guess what? It isn't. We're still AMERICA.




Monday, October 03, 2011


Feeling Better
Again About Italy


ABOUT TIME. I'll be back tomorrow. Helk is everywhere today, doing his Citizen Kane impression. Brizoni is sulking. But Amanda Knox is coming home. Which makes this old heart sing.



Get her on the plane and get her home.





Just Like Gettysburg


NOT SULKING. RELOADING. So. I've been reading through last week's comments, and I have to admit, I underestimated you guys. You've argued forcefully and eloquently. You're really making me work for this.

I'm taking a whole week to think things through and make sure all pertinent bases get covered. In the meantime, let's get the whole Republican nomination thing crossed off our To Do list. We're all smart guys here. There's no reason we can't knock it out in a week if we quit screwing around and put our minds to it.

Don't misunderstand. When it comes to the God thing, you're still wrong and I'm still right. But Sweet Jesus, you're making me prove it.

I'm grateful. No joke.




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