Saturday, August 17, 2019
Welcome to deep (Stax) Volt (Enterprise)! Volt 151, from June, 1967. That's an outfit with a catalog that is deep and wide. Things changed after 1968, when Atlantic records was sold and Stax/ Volt/ Enterprise reformed around a new distribution deal. I could mention that Otis died around this time, but that would be too sad.
There were a lot of great records after the break from Atlantic, but the feel was different. The Emotions, the Dramatics, the Staple Singers, I'll let the musicologists explain it. For me, the material from the Atlantic years is part of the high-water mark for Soul music.
Friday, August 16, 2019
He'll probably want to change the name.
Many of us like to complain about Trump, and we sometimes lose sight of his inherent power to amuse us. El Presidente can be a funny dude. Usually this is unintentional, but the comedic effect is just as real. Take a movie like “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” for instance. No one set out to make that movie funny, but it is nevertheless pure comedy gold.
Similarly, there is zero possibility that Trump is trying to make us laugh by wearing that silly thing on his head every day, and yet, every day, it gets a chuckle out of me. (No, I do not mean the MAGA hats.) When Trump opens his mouth, there is no telling what will come out. His utterances range from jaw-droppingly ignorant to totally ridiculous. No kidding, that's about the range of it. Funny stuff, though, either way.
Trump went full boffo this morning with a proposal that the United States enter into negotiations with Denmark about them selling us Greenland. It reminds me of that old Margaret Cho joke, “does anyone in the audience want a vagina? I've got one I'm not using.” It also reminds me of a joke that many of us had a chance to tell back in the old days. “I just flew back from Europe, and the weather was clear enough to give us a good look at Iceland and Greenland. It's some kind of joke: Iceland is mostly green and Greenland is covered in snow.” The joke is now on us, of course, because the ice and snow that once covered Greenland is disappearing faster than rats escaping from a sinking ship. This has suddenly gotten Trump's nose open. He's a very bold businessman, after all, especially with other people's money. Ordinary people will look on with mild bemusement at Greenland losing its sense of irony, but the great billionaire sees a wonderful opportunity. It's the last such undeveloped lot in the world! Greenland becoming green creates an awful lot of prime real estate! Really, an awful lot. 835,000 square miles of it.
That comes to 535,000,000 acres! Trump obviously expects the Danes to sell cheap. His whole team believes the Danes to be a bunch of stupid hippies who go through life making one socialist mistake after another. Let's make 'em an offer! Throw it on the wall and see if it sticks!
Trump claims to be a tough negotiator, and I'm sure that he is. “Let's see,” as he makes that ridiculous tough-guy face, “we bought Alaska for seven point two million, and that was almost 600,000 square miles, figure some inflation, how about $50,000,000?” The Danes do not appear to be as desperate as the Tsar was back in 1867, so they'll probably hold out for a lot longer than he did. How much is Greenland worth, anyway?
Let's consider Iowa, that's a nice flat place with a lot of good farmland. Thirty-seven million acres total, and twenty-eight million of them are devoted to agriculture. The low-end estimate for Iowa farmland is $4,000 per acre . . . that comes to $112,000,000,000 (one hundred and twelve billion dollars). You can have the rest of the state free. There are fifteen times the number of acres in Greenland when compared to Iowa, 535,000,000 compared to 37,000,000. So you can scale up the estimate.
Nobody is expecting Greenland to be as fertile as Iowa, although it might be. The Vikings seemed to like it when they were there. The growing season will be shorter, even without the ice and snow all the time. So there are negatives. There are also enhancements, as you might expect. Look at that extensive coastline! New opportunities for tourism and trade. With glaciers that thick, I doubt if there has been a comprehensive survey of the natural resources, but I think that it is safe to say that Greenland offers much more in the way of valuable resources than Iowa. This thing is not going to be cheap.
Assuming that only twenty percent of Greenland turns into decent farmland, that comes to 107,000,000 acres. At a value of 75% of the low-end price for farmland in Iowa ($3,000 per acre), that comes to $321,000,000,000 (Three hundred and twenty-one billion dollars). Another portion of the land will no doubt be good for grazing sheep or something, so tack on another $50,000,000,000 (fifty billion dollars). Then you've still got eighty percent of the land to fool around with, and a lot of that is coastline. The resource profile will probably be similar to the rest of the northern edge of the world, which is resource-rich. That would be Alaska, Canada, and Russia. (And I guess little bits of Norway, Sweden, and Finland.) So if I'm the Danes, I'm looking for two trillion dollars in cold, hard cash. ($2,000,000,000,000.) It would probably be higher if I did some more research. That's a bargain, too. That's less than we spent on useless Middle Eastern wars that only made us look bad with nothing to show for our blood and treasure. It's a lot less than we spent to dig our way out of that George W. Bush economic collapse thing. Two trillion, that's my take-it-or-leave-it price. You snooze, you lose. I'm smiling for six or seven minutes and then I'm looking at my watch, putting some phone numbers on the table, and walking out the door. You know where to reach me.
No exclusive rights for any particular purchaser, either. Maybe the Russians or the Chinese are interested. They might want to start a bidding war. Who else could afford it? Cash on the barrel head; serious buyers only. Let's not make a list of the untrustworthy ones, although we know who they are.
Yeah, that El Presidente Trumpo, he's a hoot. Make 'em an offer! Let's make a deal! He's a regular laugh a minute. How much do you think the Mexicans will take for Baja California? We could always use more of California.
Thursday, August 15, 2019
Down this column a ways is a post from August 11th that has the word “flaccid” in the title. Coincidentally, I read an article in Harper's Magazine yesterday about the degeneration of the English language. It was brought to my attention that we are all saying flaccid wrong, or maybe our way is no longer wrong. Things are changing so fast that it's hard to tell anymore.
I have always understood the word to be “flasid,” and I have always pronounced it “flasid.” I'm pretty sure that I have always heard the word pronounced “flasid.” The writer of the article, however, has a much greater license than me to have an opinion about the proper pronunciation of English, and she said that the word is actually, “flaksid.” Recall that this was in Harper's Magazine, and they have a lot of credibility in such matters. She did allow that “flasid” was becoming an acceptable alternative. You could have knocked me over with a feather.
I consulted my big-as-a-house Oxford Concise Dictionary. It's a good one, with full etymological information. The Oxford is a United Kingdom publication, but they are scrupulous about setting forth the British and the American versions where there are differences. Sure enough, the pronunciation guidance was given as, “flasid, flaksid.” No geographical separation, just a simple pair of alternative pronunciations. I don't think that I've ever heard it pronounced “flaksid,” but I wouldn't be surprised if there were people in England who would do it.
People who had undergone the old-fashioned classical education in England, especially. I took two years of Latin in high school, but honestly I did not pay that much attention. Flaccid comes to us via the Latin word flaccus, meaning flabby. The Romans applied the hard “c” to Latin, but for all I know the double “cc” was pronounced “ks.” That would explain “flaksid,” working backwards.
Even so, “flasid” was the first suggested pronunciation ten years ago, so I guess we're okay to say it that way. That's a relief.
Or you can just steal the entire musical idea, add new lyrics, and the hell with the footnotes. Marvin Gaye's Hitch Hike, in the space of only five years, went from a bouncy, early Motown, full-band pop hit, to a rough-sounding guitar band cover by the Rolling Stones, to finally be reimagined through the dark vortex of the Velvet Underground as There She Goes Again.
Isn't music wonderful?
The Rolling Stones were a great cover band. They never simply copied anything, like Chubby Checker's precise duplication of Hank Ballard's "The Twist." The 'Stones put the songs through the filter of their own considerable attitude. They also credited what they "borrowed." Not like some people. This is how it works: good musicians start out playing what they have heard, and after they have played it all a sufficient number of times they start to sound like themselves.