Friday, February 28, 2014

Anson Funderburgh Feat. Sam Myers - Come On...

Here's a version that doesn't get much play.  Stays up on the subtle, like Earl, and keeps a close hold on the musical idea too.  Those are good things.

Earl King - Come On

This is the original (I think) of a song that was famously covered by Jimi Hendrix on the LP, Electric Ladyland.  I love Earl King, his biggest "hit" was "Trick Bag."

YouTube is funny.  The comments usually degenerate into a "who done what best" dog fight.  For this song, the argument is between Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn.  People ignore poor Earl.  Now Jimi and Stevie were great players, for true, but for my money Earl's version is worth considering.  Earl stays the closest to the musical idea, it's a song with a narrative after all.  It's got charm and it rocks too.  The guitar is very accomplished, and I like the tone a lot.  The sound is string oriented, not way up in the amps somewhere.  It's subtle, which is an adjective that is rarely applied to Jimi or Stevie. 

New Orleans music by the way, which is always okay by me.

All of you YouTube commentators out there, chill out.  There's usually no "best" version.  There's only different.  Any player can pick up a song and make his or her own version.  So let it go already, and just enjoy the variety. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Whiteys Lindy Hoppers .. Hellzapoppin.

Not to put too sharp a point on it, and these two videos do not make a fair comparison, but let's face it, black and white Americans bring a different attitude to dancing.  To say the least.

The Original Stroll - February 1958

So the zombie craze is not entirely a new phenomenon.  These zombies were strolling out way back in '58. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Alert The Media: Rita Tushingham Still Alive

Good news! Rita Tushingham is not only still alive, she's also been working consistently from her heyday in the early '60's right up to the present.

I lose track of things, even of things that I'm quite fond of.  Then I get a sudden attack of, "what ever happened to . . ."  and I ask Professor Google.  Sometimes the news is not encouraging; sometimes, like today, it's very cheerful. 

I always liked Rita.  She's a perfect example of a very English phenomenon: the actress that was hired for her acting ability.  I always wonder, do they do it because of the acting and in spite of the woman's looks, which can range from plain to awkward to unpleasant?  Or do they do it on purpose, as a gesture at reality?  She's cute enough, so this whole subject is unfair.  And she makes a very pretty seventy year old at this point (photo 2012).

The bottom photo is from an old favorite of mine.  "The Leather Boys," 1964, an English biker flick with a strong homosexual sub-plot, very unusual for the times.  Thanks to my old friend David Augustus Ehrenstein for dragging me to some art-house in 1965 to see it.  He was my informal professor of film studies there for quite a while, and he was a good one. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Importance Of Democratic Institutions

Many countries around the world are struggling with “democracy.”  They struggle to obtain it, or to understand it, or to be able to say that they have it when really it is the furthest thing from their minds.  

Fledgling democracies tend to focus on the right to vote as the ne plus ultra of democracy, and there is a common belief that “free and fair” elections are the real hallmark of democracy.  Is that a fair judgment?  Should I be challenged for thinking so?  There is a lot of this focus on elections around, that much can at least be said.   Although it is certainly true that the elections component is important, it is also certainly true that there is a lot more to it than that. 

I believe that the emphasis on elections is wrong, and I believe that there is a widespread misunderstanding of the meaning of elections.  Democracy does not equal majority rule, that’s the key thing to remember.  Being elected as an individual, or being voted into power as a political party, does not mean that you have a mandate to do whatever you feel like doing.  Neither should it mean that you are free to institute any program just because you included it as part of your platform in the run up to the election. 

This folly of “election as mandate,” or “we were elected so now we run the joint,” has been on display since the beginning of democracy, with results that run from mere mischief to real horror.  There have been many recent examples of political parties being voted into power only to change the constitution of the country to oppress political opponents and stack the deck in their own favor, with an eye to achieving permanent power.  There have even been recent examples of political parties being voted in on a platform of ending democracy and returning to some kind of authoritarian rule.  Hitler was, in fact, elected, and some of us remember how that worked out. 

Elections, the right to vote, representative democracy, these things only mean that each citizen’s voice will be heard, within the limits set by an agreed-upon democratic constitution.  No particular majority’s wishes will be honored above the rights, privileges and freedoms set forth in the country’s constitution.  No particular majority will receive ascendancy over any resulting minority. 

It is critical to remember two things about democracy:

1. Democracy does not spring forth fully formed on a seashell (like the goddess Venus was supposed to have); it must be worked on and perfected over a period of years, sometimes many years; and

2. Democracy, once it has been achieved, must be diligently watched over and jealously guarded, lest it be lost.

More important than the voting process is the creation of durable democratic institutions within a framework that treats all citizens equally, whether rich or poor, black, white or Puerto Rican. (Forgive my use of a phrase popular in my youth, when those were pretty much the choices in New York City.) 

These institutions must include, but are not limited to:

The Law:  The law, and its enforcement, must be neutral in its purposes and impartially applied.  Police, the courts, and legislatures themselves must be subject to democratic controls that will discourage abuse. 

Commerce:  There was once something called “the covenant of good faith and fair dealing,” and it was once implied in all contracts and indeed in all commercial transactions.  It was a good idea, and I would like to see it more generally honored today. 

Politics: Governments and political parties should be set up to encourage people to work together, and to compromise when appropriate.  Differing parties and institutions should be guided towards cooperation.  Self-dealing must be clearly defined and forbidden.  Corruption in all of its forms should be ruthlessly stamped out.

Equal Opportunity:  Artificial preferences and discrimination must be avoided.  There should be institutions in place to spot these problems when they occur, and, even better, to spot them in the development phase and avoid them in the first place. 

Rights:  Any democratic constitution confers on citizens certain rights, and someone should be constantly watching to make sure that these rights are not eroded or lost. 

Freedoms: Another class of gifts from any benevolent constitution that must be guarded. 

Religion:  The adherents of any institution of religion should have the right to observe their customs, as long as they do not infringe upon the rights of citizens that do not observe those particular customs.  So there must be not only freedom of religion, but freedom from religion. 

Education:  Education in any democracy must be universal, accessible and effective.  That is to say, it must be freely given to all; affordable to all; and it must provide the raw materials for gainful employment and the understanding of a common identity as citizens. 

Which brings us back to point two, above.  Once you have gotten your democracy up and running it is of critical importance to be vigilant.  People in many countries today look up to the United States as a mature democracy that is worth emulating, and it is well that they should.  But among the lessons that they may learn must be a careful analysis of the weakening of democratic institutions in America over the last twenty or thirty years.  As for education, quality education is no longer universal; higher education is no longer generally affordable; and even the effectiveness of education is questionable.  As for religion, adherents of various faiths are trying our patience on a daily basis, demanding a spread of their particular beliefs into the public sphere, in many cases with government assistance.  As for our rights and freedoms, well, does anyone besides me fondly recall probable cause?  Ooooops!  It was good while it lasted.  As for equal opportunity, there is a good argument that the current tax codes are an artificial preference for the very wealthy.  There are also recent voting laws and discriminatory statutes to consider. As for politics, can anyone tell me why anyone who enters politics these days, and is successful over time, can expect to become very wealthy in the process?  And why has “compromise” been allowed to become a curse word?  As for the law, has anyone besides me noticed that America is no longer protecting the have-nots from the haves, but has switched over to protecting the haves from the have-nots? 

These things slip away if we are not constantly on guard against the loss. 

So good luck to fledgling democracies around the world.  Choose your democratic institutions well, and invest them with all of the necessary power.  And good luck as well to the so-called mature democracies of the world.  Your continued existence is threatened.  A little more caution is in order.  

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Tonight Show, Staring Jimmy Fallon!

The big cable channel in Bangkok has been running a week's worth of Jimmy Fallons every Saturday night for a couple of years now.  (CNBC has the feed.)  Much to my delight, they're going to be showing the new Tonight Shows in the same way. 

"I'd like to thank all of my predecessors," he said in the monologue.  "Jack Paar; Steve Allen; Johnny Carson; Jay Leno; Conan O'Brian; and Jay Leno."  So he got in a couple of zingers about that, saying that he would be the host, "for now."

U2 playing "Invisible" on the roof of Rockefeller Plaza.

Let's see how this goes.  Jay Leno had a conservative, white bread show.  He played to the Rubes, and partly as a result he hadn't actually been funny for years.  Johnny Carson was himself a Rube, so there's that.  The Tonight Show has been Clem Central for a long time.  Jimmy is Big City.  He's a very likeable guy, and very funny, but he is also very multi-diverse, generally urban, and much further out in general.  I love the Roots, big time, but they're not the traditional Tonight Show band.  The Roots, hell, look up "urban" in the dictionary, they show a picture of the Roots.

So I wonder what the Right Wing Echo Chamber will make of all of this.  I see already where they criticized Michelle Obama's appearance on the show.  How dare she say that young people dance on bar stools!  The nerve!  I'm sure that they'll find lots more to complain about.

"People said that I'd never get the Tonight Show," Jimmy deadpanned, "in fact, a good friend of mine who bet against it owes me $100."  Then Robert DiNiro came out and handed him a hundred.  Then Tina Fey, then Mariah Carey; Rudy Gulianni; Joan Rivers; Kim Kardashian; Seth Rogan; Sara Jessica Parker; Mike Tyson; Lady Ga Ga; and Stephen Colbert, who added, "welcome to 11:30, bitch!"

The show is essentially the same as Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.  The new studio is big and extravagant, but the show retains the friendly, slightly goofy vibe of Late Night.  I was very happy to see that they were letting Jimmy be Jimmy.  Maybe they learned their lesson from the Conan debacle.  Maybe it's up somewhere on a big plaque: DON'T TRY TO REMAKE THE HOST IN YOUR IMAGE OF THE TONIGHT SHOW. 

Jimmy knows best.  Good luck, Jimmy!  

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Exciters - Do Wah Diddy

This is the original; the Manfred Mann cover was a much bigger hit. 

In fact, I'll admit it, I don't think that I'd ever heard this version until recently.  The Exciters were mercilessly covered by those English Invasion guys, and usually the Englishmen got better results.  "He's Got the Power," maybe it wasn't a hit by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders but their version was great. 

Whatever, I like this song, and I like it by the Exciters (from Jamaica, Queens!  I delivered the mail there for two years!)  and I like it by Manfred Mann too.  There's always room for another good version.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

HOT CHOCOLATE - Brother Louie

A group called Stories had the hit with this one in America.  Not a bad version, and it did make it to number one. 

This is the original version, and I think it's the better one.  Hot Chocolate are a very underrated band.  They had their hits, and they were good ones.  "You Sexy Thing," and "Everyone's a Winner," those are great cuts.  This one's pretty good too. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Accompanying Photographs

I do like the historical sites too.  I stayed around the edges this trip, I didn't get to the heart of the old city.  Sukhothai is such a rich site that even the edge had lots of great stuff. 

Welcome To Sukhothai

I was up in Sukhothai last weekend, teaching a class.  "English for Lawyers," for the LL.M degree.  I stayed an extra day to cool out and look around.  As usual, I was more interested in the vehicles than the historical sites. 

But not by much, not in Sukhothai.  Sukhothai was the capitol between about 1200 and 1400.  The temples are a wild mix of styles, Thai style, Khmer style, Indian style, Buddhist art, Hindu art, that older lingus/yoni stuff.  Different styles right next to one another, or even in the same temple. 

The vehicles were cool too, as evidenced by this motorcycle tuk-tuk, one of the nicest ones that I've ever seen. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

(พากย์ไทย) แมวทะเลาะกันอย่าง ฮา (Funny Cats)

All the world loves funny cats.  Fat cats; cats in compromising positions; funny looking cats.  It's all about the cats.

And so, cats.

But really, run the video, it's very compelling.  What the hell are they thinking?  

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Meters - Cissy Strut

Like that drummer?  (Playing on the Lee Dorsey cut.)  Want to hear him again?  Here you go!  Thanks to the 'Tube.

I don't believe in "the best," or even, "my favorite."  There's always room at the top for some quantity, and some variety too.  But Ziggy is definitely one of the best (most effective) kit drummers in history, I say that with confidence, and also definitely one of my favorite drummers.

That would be Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste, from way down yonder in New Orleans.  A few months younger than I am, so it turns out, he just turned sixty-five.   He's done a lot of great work, and should definitely be as famous as a lot of guys whose names you have right on the tips of your tongues.

But if life were fair, I wonder, what color would the sky be on that planet? 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Lee Dorsey - Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky

I think that the man is agreeing with Tom Ripley, essentially.  Tom feels that what happens to us in life is not the important thing, because, as you know, things happen.  What is important is our attitude towards what has happened.  Stay flexible, maintain relaxed alertness, as the Samurai say, and always make the best of it.  Maintain a blithe nonchalance!  In other words, perhaps, stay funky. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Car

This was my car (explanation later).

It's a 1997 Honda Prelude; I bought it new in that year.  This was a new body style for the mark, and the first year of the square headlights.  Honda had high hopes for this car, and to give it a good send-off they wildly overbuilt the '97's.  Power assisted rack and pinion steering; limited slip differential; 2400 cc, 195 hp Vtec engine; everything heavy duty; four wheel ABS disk brakes.  The last time I drove it, in early 2013, it still felt like a new car.

It was always well maintained.  Frequent oil changes; the timing belt was replaced long before it could be expected to break.  And man! what a rocket!  The clutch and gear box were very precise and smooth.  The red line was around 9500 rpm, and you could down shift with no trouble at 7000.  I kept good tires on the car too, Pirelli P2000's as often as I could afford them (they're on the soft side and don't last as long as most radials).  The phrase "it cornered like it was on rails" was written for this car.  I spent many a thrilling afternoon risking my life up in the canyons of Malibu. 

It was a luxury hot rod, bone stock.  It was the best, and my favorite, of all of my cars over the years, by far.  Was . . .

They sold it last year, without even telling me.  I found out almost by accident.  Sold it for $2,500, which might have been around the Blue Book but which represents one of the greatest values in the history of cars, or the history of money for that matter.  Telling me was an afterthought.  Who are they?  That's a story that I am leaving for another day. 

I miss a lot of things these days, most of all my granddaughter.  People come first, way beyond mere things.  But I miss this car like crazy.  I'll never see its like again.  I suppose that the proper attitude now is just to say that I was lucky to drive it while I could, and I'm happy now to have had the chance. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Free - Seven Angels

Maybe you had to be there.  Probably. 

Free were such a mess by the time this album came out.  They were a great band, it's all great stuff, and we can understand how hard it must be when the great records don't sell enough to pay the bills.  Somehow they put this album together with help from a variety of substitute players. 

"Wings on my back!"

Wait, how did that happen?  Is it all over so soon? 

My Enduring Legacy

I don't know if my grandfather ever wrote a sentence in his ninety years on earth.  So for me, there's nothing of him to read.  I'm a very different story.

Thousands of blog posts, e-mails and letters.  Letters!  Remember those?  Hundreds of poems, a few short stories, what I like to call "half a novel."  Notebooks by the double dozens.  I have one grandchild already, and the chances are good that there'll be more.  So I have the chance of a genetic future.  The question is: will they ever read anything that I've written?

Even my two children show little inclination to read anything of mine, and even less inclination to preserve anything.  So I guess that it's all going straight onto the junk heap.  Will my descendents know anything about me at all?  It would be very comforting to think that they might, but the odds are slim to none.

If anything at all survives, it will probably be the now calcifying, totally untrue opinion that I went coo-coo-for-Cocco-Puffs and abandoned my family to become some kind of Surabaya Johnnie in South East Asia.  My own version of these events is very different, but I have no desire to make trouble for anybody.  Taking the blame for things is what I do best.

So I'm left with no champions, and I've never had the least ability to self-promote.  Of Inquisitors, there are a few, but the silver lining is that their opinions will pass from the earth almost as quickly as I will.