Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Sunset for Florida Democrats - The Sequel

Georgia ain't on my mind now.  Let me talk about Florida.
Two weeks ago today, I saw Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and incumbent Florida senator and re-election candidate Bill Nelson come up short in their respective campaigns but by the end of the night, neither race had been called and subsequent recounts had to be held, providing a modicum of hope for Democrats in the Sunshine State.
As of this weekend, however, Ron DeSantis is to be the new governor of Florida, and Rick Scott - who, like Madonna, somehow manged to turn accidental fame into a long career - is the state's new U.S. Senator. 
So what went wrong?  How did the two most loathsome Florida politicians not named Debbie Wasserman Schultz (who, alas, was re-elected to the House) pull off such high-profile wins when much of the rest of the country was turning against Trump Republicanism? The answer is not in the incompetence of Broward County election officials, but rather in three simple facts.  First, Florida is as divided as the country at large.  Second of all, despite Florida's young multiracial population, retirees - most of whom are white - keep moving into the state at a pretty good clip, and even the registered Democrats among them are more conservative than the state's younger and browner residents.  Older people, of course, vote more than younger people, though Florida likely has a lot of young white conservatives - DeSantis, at 40, is one of them..  Third, retirees and working people alike live in Florida for the low taxes as well as the (mostly) sunny weather, and the policies Gillum in particular espoused meant more amenities and, thus, more spending.
Florida has long been seen as the country's most populous swing state.  But is it time to cede Florida to the Republicans?  Probably.  Because after the debacles of centrist candidates for statewide office such as Alex Sink and Patrick Murphy, Florida Democrats tried something new by nominating a black progressive for the governorship even as it renominated a tried-and-true incumbent three-term white moderate senator for re-election.  They both ended up losing, albeit narrowly, to Republicans.  Two different sorts of Democrats . . . losing to Republican opponents . . . in the same state in the same year. 
That show of solidarity Gillum and Nelson had with former President Obama made for good pictures but also made for ineffective politics.
At 76, Bill Nelson is now, like many Floridians his age, retired.  And Gillum?  Pundits are already saying that Gillum isn't going anywhere, though by that they mean that he will remain active in Florida politics.  Really?  As the mayor of Tallahassee?  That's hardly a springboard for future endeavors for higher office.  Florida doesn't have another election for statewide office until 2022, when Ron DeSantis runs for a second term as governor and Marco Rubio is up for re-election to the Senate.  A rematch between Gillum and DeSantis is unlikely; Democrats never renominate to oppose an incumbent Republican officeholder the guy that incumbent Republican defeated for that office; DeSantis would like nothing better than a rematch with someone he's already creamed once.  And Rubio is such a huge political star that Floridians will keep sending him back to the Senate for as long as he wants to be sent back.  Gillum said that the struggle to move Florida in a more economically and socially just direction wasn't about him.  He's right; by 2022, Florida Democrats will have moved on to someone else.
But who?  Gwen Graham?  (Excuse me while I laugh at the thought of her name.)  Philip Levine, the millionaire businessman who ran for governor in the Democratic primary in 2018 and was mayor of Miami Beach from 2013 to 2017, might want to try again for either the governorship or Rubio's Senate seat.  But even being an incumbent mayor of Tallahassee is preferable to being a former mayor of Miami Beach.
So, despite a few key (no pun intended, if you get my drift) U.S. House victories two weeks ago, Florida Democrats are still in the dumps.  And their queen bee, their top honcho, their most visible pol, is still Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Pathetic.         
I have friends and relatives in Florida who keep inviting me to come down there.  In their dreams.  As long as Florida keeps electing bigoted climate-change deniers to office, I plan to boycott Florida completely.  (California orange juice all the way!)  Instead of traveling to Florida, I hope to take a vacation to warm, sunny, exotic . . . Wisconsin! :-D
Congratulations to Wisconsin's incoming Democratic governor, Tony Evers.

Monday, November 19, 2018

O Alexandria!

I have a new celebrity crush.  I'm in love with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Yes.  I'm hot for the woman soon to become the U.S. Representative for New York State's Fourteenth U.S. House district. Because she's cooler and more exciting than any movie star or top model today.
Yes, I've long had a crush on Olympic swimmer Janet Evans, as you all know, but now she seems a bit too California, too all-American, and besides, unlike Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, she's already married.   Besides, it's hard to resist the appeal of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, easily on her way to becoming Washington's most eligible bachelorette.
For starters, she's hot.  She defines puertoriqueña hotness more than Jennifer Lopez or Joan Smalls, the two previous avatars of Puerto Rican womanhood.  That ravenous black hair, that slender figure, that olive complexion, those smoldering charcoal eyes - ooh,  I just melt! :-D  And of course, there's that inter-ethnic attraction, which adds a little mystery and romance to any relationship.  But looks aren't everything, and in this day and age, that's been made clear in no uncertain terms.  No, I love her especially for her politics. She wants to make Medicare available for everyone!  She wants to mandate a living wage for every American!  She wants free college!  She wants gun control!  She wants Americans to have something like ICE - no, not the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau, which she wants to abolish . . . I mean she wants us to have something like the Inter-City Express bullet trains in Germany.  At least I think she does, since progressives like she support more mass transit.  But the biggest reason I love her is she wants to do something about climate change - now! 
How serious is she about climate change?  Enough to storm into the office of Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and urge him to form a panel to figure out what to do about it.  Enough to join protesters in front of House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi's office advocating for a  "Green New Deal" to create jobs in renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure.  She's truly a woman after my own heart.  She's got spunk.
Unlike Lou Grant, I love spunk.
I also have a feeling that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez - ooh, I love that double surname, it sounds so classy, so . . . British! - will one day become our first Latina President, and I would love to be her First Gentleman.  Indeed, any male American liberal would consider it an honor to be the husband of the first Hispanic woman in the White House.  Because she'd be a President who only makes men melt - not glaciers!  And while there are many beautiful, intelligent women who can take you to a place where no one's ever been, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is ready to take America to a place it's never been before - a place where everyone can see a doctor and get there without a car.  (Unless they want to use a car, but their cars will be electric subcompacts.)  She made me swoon with her pro-Palestinian stand on the Arab-Israeli conflict before I even noticed how lovely she is.  She's drop-dead gorgeous and against the death penalty!  Wow, how great is that?     
The only drawback here is that she's 24 years younger than I am, meaning that I'm old enough to be her father.  But heck, French President Emmanuel Macron has a wife 25 years older than he is,  so if a First Spouse can be a generation older than the president in France, what would be so bad about me being a generation older than my gorgeous-President wife?
So, Alex - may I call you Alex? - will you marry me? :-)
Now, I'm obviously being tongue-in-cheek here, as I never expect to even meet Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, much less marry her.  But I do love this woman, and mainly because she has the right priorities for this country and I want to see her have a long, successful political career.  And she is hot. ;-)
But I doubt if I could have a successful relationship with any woman too young to remember the Reagan administration.  It all comes down to musical taste.  Women of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's generation are all into Taylor Swift or Rihanna.  Ms. Ocasio-Cortez would probably think that Crosby, Stills and Nash are my lawyers.
Carry on. ;-)         

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The White Album 50 Project: The Artwork

Oh come on, now, you didn't think I was going to stop writing about the White Album as soon as I finished writing about each individual track, did you? :-D
Almost as soon as the Beatles began recording the White Album, they bandied about different ideas for the title and also for sleeve artwork.  The challenge was to come up with something even more daring and clever than the cover of their previous album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.  The group had become known for producing bold, eye-catching LP covers, especially from the release of Rubber Soul on, and they were eager to do it again in 1968.  In the early weeks of the sessions, as I wrote earlier on this blog, the Beatles had planned to call the LP A Doll's House, after Henrik Ibsen's play about finding one's own independence, until the Leicester band Family beat them to punch with their debut LP, Music In a Doll's House.  And thank goodness for that, because this is what the front cover most likely would have looked like if the Beatles had been able to stick with the original title.
Dude, this is even more hideous than that album cover showing Sammy Davis, Jr. sporting a Nehru jacket!
For the record (no pun intended), the cover above was designed by John Patrick Byrne, a Scottish playwright and artist who proves here that as a fine artist, he's one hell of a writer.  Though, to be fair, he made out better a decade later with his artwork for the cover of Gerry Rafferty's City to City album.  (Byrne's rejected artwork for the Beatles' double album was used in 1980 for The Beatles Ballads, a compilation LP issued outsde the United States.)  
At the time, many rock acts were trying to come up with covers more colorful and elaborate than that of Sgt. Pepper, and the Beatles themselves produced a garish sleeve for their Magical Mystery Tour double EP, showing the Fabs as the Walrus and his Eggmen from the film, that, like the music inside, was mostly a pale imitation of Pepper-style psychedelia.  The sleeve became even more garish when Capitol Records in the U.S. turned Magical Mystery Tour into an album of all of the Beatles' 1967 non-Pepper song releases, listing all the songs on the front cover with a hideous letter font.  
It was Paul McCartney, now assuming more of a leadership role in the Beatles in the wake of Brian Epstein's death and the founding of Apple Corps, who took the initiative to get the artwork going.  He'd become acquainted with London art dealer Robert Fraser, who had helped put together the Sgt. Pepper sleeve, and Paul knew many artists through him, one of which was Richard Hamilton.  Hamilton, a generation older then the Beatles, was known for his "minimalist" art.  He reduced objects to their most basic elements, using simple shapes that used order and simplicity to project purity and subtlety.  Minimalist art was typified largely by paintings with mostly one color or sculptures that were no more than basic shapes.  The concept was gently made fun of in the 1969 romantic-comedy movie The April Fools (Catherine  Deneuve's first Hollywood film, by the way), in which characters debate whether a piece of art - a tall rectangular sculpture in the shape of a pedestal - makes its own quiet statement . . . or whether there should be something on it.     
*
"The White Album, Ian - there was nothing on that damn cover!" - Fran Drescher as Bobbi Flekman in This Is Spinal Tap
Well, when Richard Hamilton considered the upcoming Beatles double album in 1968, he proposed that the cover should make, well, its own quiet statement, presumably as a response to the overblown rock album artwork of the time.  He proposed a blank, white sleeve with a title as minimalist as the cover: The Beatles.  It would be the perfect counterpoint to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which had a very long title and and had a front-cover photo filled with a cavalcade of faces and decorations.  I don't know if Hamilton heard any of the new songs the Beatles had recorded, but, as with the cover of Sgt. Pepper, the sleeve for the double album would reflect the music on it - simpler, sparse, and virtually devoid of the experimentation of the Beatles' 1967 output.
Paul McCartney loved the idea, but he had to check that there had never been an album simply called The Beatles.  There had been several eponymously titled albums from the group not just in Britain (With the Beatles and Beatles For Sale) or America (Meet the Beatles!, Beatles '65, Beatles VI, and others), but also in Germany (And Now: The Beatles), Mexico (Conozca A The Beatles), Japan (Beatles No. 5), and several other countries.  In fact, the group's name by itself had never been employed as an album title, and so everyone agreed that they should go for Hamilton's idea.
The final sleeve was a blank white space with the group's name embossed in white lettering, at a crooked angle, plus a nice added touch:  Each copy of the first edition of the double set would have its own seven-digit serial number, thus no two copies would be alike and each one would be an individual work of art.  In the United States, a separate set of seven-digit serial numbers prefaced by the letter A (for America) was used.  Ringo Starr got copy number 0000001 - "because I'm lovely!" he explained.  Copy A0000001 was last offered for sale in 2013, while Ringo put his copy up for auction in 2015; it sold for a whopping $790,000.  Subsequent editions of the White Album were printed without serial numbers, and the embossed-white lettering of the LP title was replaced by printed gray lettering, though still askew.  (For the thirtieth-anniversary CD re-issue of the White Album in 1998, which I own a copy of, the embossing white lettering and serial numbers were revived.  I have number 0298527.)
Opening the gatefold, one finds on the left the track listing printed in dignified, gray lettering in the Sabon font, each title separated by a colon.  In keeping with the minimalist theme, there's no delineation between the last track on one side and the first track of the next.  To the right are black-and-white photo portraits of each of the Beatles, taken by John Kelly.  That's it, and that's all.  
Until you open the record wallets.
By keeping the cover stark and simple, the Beatles and Hamilton were able to pass the savings onto the fans in the form of goodies cooler than any prize ever found in a Cracker Jack box.  There was the collage poster, of course, which Hamilton conceived before he considered the cover, tacking up photos supplied by the group and then strategically adding white space between them to give them some sort of proportion.  "He explained that this was so the whole picture could breathe," Paul McCartney later said.  "You could see through the density, which was a great idea and gave me my education about negative space."
The pictures included are a curious and revealing look into the Beatles' personal and public lives.  There are numerous Mad Day Out outtakes, stills from the "Hey Jude" and "Revolution" promotional videos, and proofs of their visit to India, as well as a naughty doodle from John Lennon of himself and Yoko - and a very naughty picture of Paul wearing an open robe with nothing underneath, hiding his privates behind a pillar!      
Other notable snapshots include Paul in disguise while traveling aboard in late 1966, John, Paul and George Harrison trying out brass instruments with Brian Epstein looking on, John and Ringo wearing Napoleon hats while in France in 1964, Paul soaking in the bathtub, Ringo posing with Herb Rooney of the pop group the Exciters, with whom the Beatles toured in 1964 (I always thought that was soccer star Pele!), the Beatles with British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and even Ringo dancing with Elizabeth Taylor.  And look at John, will ya?  Whom could he be talking to on the phone - and about what - while Yoko Ono sleeps beside him?  The photos, like the double-record set, are sprawling and comprehensive, but their scattered nature betrays the fractured nature of the band.  Consider the pictures in the lower-right-hand corner of the poster; you have black-and-white shots of at least three of the Beatles looking like something is very wrong.  Ringo looks depressed, George looks distracted, and Paul is deep in thought.
Turn the poster over, of course, and you find a lyric sheet.  Once again, the Beatles, even though they couldn't control how people interpreted their songs, were going to make sure that at least the fans would get the words right.  This was the third time the Beatles offered a lyric sheet with a record release, after the Sgt. Pepper LP and the Magical Mystery Tour double EP.  (The American Magical Mystery Tour LP was also issued with the lyrics for the songs from the film of the same name, but not with the words for the supporting singles on side two.)   It would also be the last. As their partnership deteriorated through 1969 and 1970, they couldn't be bothered to include lyric sheets for Abbey Road or Let It Be.
And finally . . . color versions of John Kelly's White Album portraits, suitable for framing.  Of course, these went up on the walls of bedrooms and college dorm rooms all over the world, and John Lennon's picture became iconic in its own right, with his pensive, inquisitive expression.  And I'm sure it led to spikes in sales of granny glasses and denim jackets.
Again, though, the pictures spoke to the disjointed, discordant nature of The Beatles . . . and the Beatles.  They were attached along perforations, but in tete-beche style; that is, if you tried to display then without separating them, two of them would be upside down.  By the way, why didn't they pose for a group photo?  And did you notice that none of them are smiling?  (There were outtakes showing the Beatles smiling for Kelly's lens, though, obviously, none of them made the cut.  I've already shown a couple of those outtakes in this blog.)  In the spirit of the symbolic title they almost used for the White Album, they were clearly in their own separate rooms while making music in the doll's house that was EMI Studios.  Literally as well as figuratively; sometimes, John and Paul would be working on two different tracks in two different studios at the same time.
The White Album's artwork left as much room for interpretation as the music, but for the most part, the fans didn't analyze it - they took Rolling Stone co-founder Ralph Gleason's advice for approaching pop and just dug it.  High-quality portrait photos, a cool poster with the words to all the songs, and a simple, basic antidote to the pretentious LP artwork then filling record stores (Remember record stores?  They were popular before the days of Amazon and streaming!) were indicative of how the Beatles respected and valued their fans.  Value for money and impeccable taste with the packaging of the music as well as with the music itself show how the Beatles re-wrote the rules for how to sell recorded music.
Too bad those rules have since been re-written.      

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Snovember

A November snowstorm in the Northeast?  Let's review:
Initial forecasts for snow on November 15, 2018 in the greater New York area called for one to three inches, turning to rain by 6 P.M. and washing the snow away.  No big deal.
Then forecasts called for two to four inches with the snow turning to rain at about 9 P.M.  Still, no big deal.  Just a winter weather advisory for my area.
Then on the appointed day of the snowfall, last-minute forecast changes upgraded the advisory to a winter storm warning - ironically, without warning - and more than six inches - nine inches in some parts of New Jersey - fell and fell fast.  And Governor Murphy in New Jersey and Mayor de Blasio in New York City are in trouble for being ill-prepared for a storm that wasn't supposed to be so bad and for preparing for what the forecasters originally told them?  This was comparable to cooking dinner for two guests and finding out that eight people are showing up for dinner half an hour before the main course is ready to take out of the oven. 
And I, meanwhile, had to shovel the snow myself rather than call someone to do it for me, which I hadn't done in time for the same reason public officials didn't take the storm - now being called a nor'easter - seriously:  The forecast had called for a manageable, negligible snowfall and then almost literally changed at the last minute, and it was too late to adapt.  I could no longer call the kid who clears our snow for us; it would have taken him forever to get to my house if I tried to call him at the last minute.
And the snow hasn't really washed away, because snow half a foot deep in sub-40-degree-Fahrenheit weather has a tendency to take its sweet time melting.  Besides, the rain we got turned back to snow in the end, and the roads were still covered with icy slush when the skies cleared.
Call this storm a November surprise.
At least our electricity didn't go out due to snow on leafy trees. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Music Video Or the Week - November 16. 2018

"Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell  (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The White Album 50 Project: "Good Night"

And now, the grand finale. :-)
What better way to end a double album with a musically diverse selection of recordings and a running time of over ninety minutes - longer than even some feature movies - than with an exquisitely orchestrated lullaby, and one sung by Ringo Starr at that?  Nighttime is probably the most convenient time to listen to any record album for most people, and when you've been listening to the Beatles' White Album in the evening hours, "Good Night" provides an appropriate close.  Especially after "Revolution 9," as exhausting to listen to as the twenty-eight previous tracks combined.  And the sudden shift from avant-garde experimentalism to something that could have been played on the BBC Light Programme is such an obvious joke that it's easy to see why the album's final two tracks were so sequenced.
There's nothing jokey about "Good Night" as a song, though.  John Lennon wrote it for his son Julian, then five years old, in the same way that he would write "Beautiful Boy" in 1980 for his son Sean, when Sean was five years old.  But John wrote "Good Night" under dubious circumstances; his marriage to his wife Cynthia was falling apart, and he was leaving Julian behind to be with Yoko.  "Good Night" was John's effort at keeping a connection with his son.  John's and Julian's relationship weathered the storm of John's divorce from Cynthia; father and son managed to stay in contact and get together even after John moved to America in the early seventies.  But at the time John wrote "Good Night," his domestic life made things awkward as far as Julian was concerned.  Perhaps that's why he had Ringo sing the lead vocal.
Indeed, given John's own troubled childhood, and with his own disconnection from his father Fred (with whom he'd briefly reconciled) likely on his mind, it was undoubtedly easier for him to let someone else sing "Good Night."  As Rob Sheffield wrote recently in Rolling Stone, it "expresses the naked vulnerability John was afraid to show - it was easier for him to hide behind Ringo."  And Ringo himself  was quick to point out that John, and not Paul McCartney, had written "Good Night" as soon as the White Album was released.  "He's got a lot of soul, John has, you know," Ringo said.
But there's yet another reason Ringo got to sing this song.  John wanted "Good Night" to sound as lush as possible, as befits a song for a five-year-old boy - he later admitted it was "possibly overlush" - and Ringo's unassuming vocal style perfectly counterbalances the song's musical arrangement.  John had told George Martin to "arrange it like Hollywood," and Martin delivered with a 27-piece orchestra - twelve violins, three violas, three cellos, one harp, three flutes, one celesta (played by Martin), one clarinet, one horn, one vibraphone, and one string bass, according to Wikipedia.  For good measure, eight vocalists from the Mike Sammes Singers - you already know them from "I Am the Walrus" - offer a backing choir.  (Incidentally, Mike Sammes himself would sing backing vocals for Olivia Newton-John in the seventies.  You know the backing basso voice on "Let Me Be There?"  Him.) Ringo, delivering John's simple but poignant lyrics, carries the tune in his own doleful way, unencumbered and uninhibited by the treacle that threatens to envelop him.  His everyman posture is what keeps "Good Night" from being pure schmaltz.
Paul, though, wishes John had performed "Good Night" himself for the White Album, having heard John sing it when he was working on the song with Ringo.  "I think John felt it might not be good for his image for him to sing it but it was fabulous to hear him do it, he sang it great," Paul said.  "We heard him sing it in order to teach it to Ringo and he sang it very tenderly.  John rarely showed his tender side, but my key memories of John are when he was tender, that's what has remained with me; those moments where he showed himself to be a very generous, loving person.  I always cite that song as an example of the John beneath the surface that we only saw occasionally . . ..  I don't think John's version was ever recorded."
The final recording captures a tenderness unique among pop songs devoted to children, especially lullabies.  It's a lullaby more personal than Paul Simon's whimsical "St. Judy's Comet" and warmer than Billy Joel's stark, rather harrowing song "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)."  And, by the way,  Simon and Joel wrote those songs for their own children, in both cases their first-borns.
Although Ringo is the only Beatle who appears on "Good Night," the song was actually a group effort.  John and Ringo (pictured above) recorded a rhythm track together to allow Martin to score the song, and Paul and George Harrison were in the studio offering ideas for the recording.  The four of them even harmonized on a take of "Good Night" with John playing guitar in the double-thumb style Donovan had taught him.  Ringo added some unused spoken preambles himself, which would have solidified the song's charm had any of them made it on the final master.  Only Ringo could have gotten away with opening a song with spoken verses like, "Come on, children! It's time to toddle off to bed. We've had a lovely day at the park and now it's time for sleep." Or, "Put all those toys away. Yes, Daddy will sing a song for you!" Or, "Cover yourself up, Charlie. Pull those covers up and off you go to dreamland!"
And in the end . . . Ringo instead concludes with a quiet, universal message to ladies, gentlemen, and children of all ages all across the world.  "Good night . . . good night, everybody . . . everybody everywhere . . ..  Good night."  It's a message of peace and hope, not unlike that auspicious moment a month after the White Album's November 1968 release, when the astronauts of Apollo 8 read the opening verses of the Book of Genesis on Christmas Eve as they passed by Earth in their module.  It was that same mission that produced the first-ever photograph of Earth from space.  Nineteen sixty-eight had been a tough year for the world - and for Americans, that went double - and, in wishing the world sweet dreams as the White Album faded out, the Beatles were once again in step with history.
It's getting late, boys and girls.  Good night. :-)       

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Hard To Believe

Some things are hard to believe, aren't they?
Hard to believe that Trump would arrive at the celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I separately and also deliberately apart from virtually every other world leader, right?  No, the thing that's hard to believe is that he made it at all.  He wouldn't honor American war dead at a cemetery outside Paris because it was raining and he didn't want to muss up his hair.  He skipped a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery back home for the same reason.  What you expect from someone whose biggest obsession is himself?
Hard to believe that Trump razzed French president Emmanuel Macron for suggesting a pan-European defense force and proclaimed that American military superiority saved the French in both world wars? No, I believe it, because Republicans like Trump are renowned for always taking the opportunity to dismiss the French, especially for their bad luck in military engagements.  But then Republicans never appreciated that the French are better at making love than making war.
Hard to believe that Democrat Kyrsten Sinema edged out Republican Martha McSally in the U.S. Senate election in Arizona, to become Arizona's first female senator and become the first Democrat elected to the Senate from the Grand Canyon State in three decades?  No, because McSally tried to make immigration an issue in a state with a growing Hispanic population and left a bitter taste in people's mouths.  However, award McSally points for her gracious concession video, which also included her dog. 
Hard to believe that they're still counting votes in the gubernatorial and senatorial elections in Florida?  Really?  Are you kidding?
Hard to believe that a Mississippi Republican senator said something racist referring to lynching in this day and age?  See above. 
Hard to believe that Trump would get rid of Kirstjen Nielsen at the Department of Homeland Security at a time when he has 15,000 soldiers at the border defending America from . . . what?  A thousand women and children?  No, not really, because Trump doesn't think through things when he doesn't know what he's talking about.
Hard to believe that Trump would blame California for its forest fires because of bad forest management even though the latest fires are brush fires and federal forest management is a federal responsibility?  No, because Trump hates Californians for not voting for him in 2016.   Hey, he's petty. 
Hard to believe it's going to snow in the Northeast tomorrow when it's only November?  No, because that's the result of what's fueling the California wildfires - climate change. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Hero of 'Yellow Submarine'

I had hoped to write more about the fiftieth anniversary of the movie Yellow Submarine, which I first wrote about in July, between then and today, today being the fiftieth anniversary of the the animated Beatles movie's American release, but circumstances prevented me from doing so.  Today, though, I am happy to revisit the topic once again in pay tribute to the movie's greatest hero - its art director, Heinz Edelmann.
A lot of talented people worked on the Yellow Submarine movie, including the Beatles TV cartoon director George Dunning, who contributed worthy ideas of his own such as the "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" sequence, which traced over old black-and-white film footage from an old musical.  But it was Edelmann set the tone and feel of the movie with his splendid use of color and lines.  Edelmann's style was notable for its liberal use of color and its sweeping, flowing lines in his drawings.  He had begun his career as a freelance illustrator in Germany, developing ads and theater posters. But it was his work with the German youth magazine twen, where he worked from 1961 to 1969, where his talents rally blossomed.  His illustrations captured the spirit of the emerging postwar generation in Western culture, and he was the perfect choice to oversee the development of Yellow Submarine.  His work was as much an illustration of the sixties as it was an illustration of the Beatles at the height of their powers. 
For the longest time, though, Edelmann, who died in 2009, didn't get the credit he deserved - because it want to someone who didn't deserve it. Edelmann's style was so similar to that of American pop artist Peter Max that many people mistakenly believed that Max had been the Yellow Submarine movie's art director.  Max had in fact done some Beatles-related illustrations - including an interpretation of the Rubber Soul song "The Word" (below) - and had apparently been in contact with Yellow Submarine producer Al Brodax about possibly contributing to the animation, but Max in fact had nothing to do with it.
So what?  A mere misunderstanding by the fans, right? Well, what was so bad about that?  This: While Max never said he worked on the Yellow Submarine movie, he never said he didn't, either.  That is, he let people think he worked on the movie.  This infuriated many Beatles fans, and it aroused George Harrison's indignation; Harrison came right out and said that Max had made a career on the mistaken assumption that he was Yellow Submarine's art director.
Fortunately, the historical record as been corrected, and Heinz Edelmann is recognized today and for all time as the artistic genius behind the Yellow Submarine movie.  Max produced a good deal of fine work himself, including a U.S. commemorative stamp for the 1974 Spokane world's fair that is one of my favorite U.S. postage stamps of the seventies I'm a stamp collector), and Milton Glaser, another artist of the psychedelic age, also came up with some pretty good illustrations.  But Heinz Edelmann set the standard for the great illustrations of that era, and his creations - including his greatest, the Yellow Submarine movie - are indicative of a bold, daring style that we will never see again.
I hope to say more about this great movie later on.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Quo Vadis, Martin?

I watched the election returns come in this past Tuesday night looking for clues as to whether former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, who backed numerous state and local candidates all across the country through his Win Back Your State PAC, would run for President in 2020.  With the knowledge that Win Back Your State was as much about building up O'Malley nationwide as it was about building up the Democratic base, my metric was simple; if the Democrats did well, he would run, and if they didn't, he would choose not to run.
The result on Tuesday night was mixed.
While the Democrats did gain 32 seats in the House and are likely to gain more as votes are counted and certified, and while they flipped seven governorships, they were less successful with state legislatures, Win Back Your State's main focus.  They gained about three hundred seats, but Republicans still control about three-fifths of the state legislative chambers.  The bright side?  The Democrats go into 2019 controlling the governorship and both legislative houses in fourteen states, a net gain of six.  But that's still far short of what the Democrats need to produce meaningful change at the state level.  O'Malley didn't concentrate his efforts on the U.S. Senate as much as he concentrated on the state legislatures, the governorships, or U.S. House seats, and with good reason; the Senate map favored Republicans from the start, and the GOP may end up adding at least two additional seats.  And Democratic hopes of retaking the Senate may be a long shot for years to come, given the growing Republican power in the smaller states, as Dylan Matthews of Vox.com explains.
And then there's O'Malley's home state of Maryland.  Democrats retained control of the legislature, called the General Assembly, but Republican governor Larry Hogan won re-election and gets another four years to undo O'Malley's legacy.  O'Malley spent practically zero time in his home state, but then the Democrats didn't need his help to maintain control of both houses of the General Assembly.  But former NAACP president Ben Jealous, Hogan's Democratic opponent, sure could have used his help.  O'Malley's decision to keep his distance from Jealous, whom he did not back for the Maryland gubernatorial election, reflects badly on the former governor.  While I suspect that O'Malley did not back Jealous because he believed he was going to lose, some wags have opined that the real reason O'Malley kept his distance from Maryland is because he's still deeply unpopular as an ex-governor, and that his support for Jealous or other Democrats would have hurt rather than help them.  And truth be told, O'Malley's failure to secure then-Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown's election as his successor in 2014 despite Brown's consistent lead over Hogan in the polls was likely the first blow against his 2016 presidential hopes.  Democratic leaders looking for an alternative to Hillary only had to see the 2014 election results in Maryland - and O'Malley's plummeting approval rating - to shake their heads and look elsewhere.
O'Malley helped Democrats make great strides in state elections, to be sure, but so did other political action committees. Win Back Your State deserves credit for its efforts at building up the party, but other groups will also take credit, diluting O'Malley's stature. 
Also, there are the unknown variables involving O'Malley's competition. All eyes are on Beto O'Rourke possibly running for President in 2020 after his loss in the U.S. Senate race in Texas to Ted Cruz.  There are several other possible candidates, many of whom have been getting the sort of repeated media exposure that O'Malley can only envy.  Of course, Beto may not run, and some high-profile Democrats considering at presidential run, such as Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, have embarrassed themselves in the public eye - Harris and Booker with their grandstanding during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings that ended up helping the Supreme Court nominee win confirmation, Gillibrand for her naked power play against Al Franken - while other prospects such as Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are seen as past their prime.
What O'Malley may have going for him this time is something I alluded to in my earlier comments about the 2018 elections.  I noted that progressives who were nominated for office, including Jealous, lost decisively and that the Democrats have been warned not to nominate a progressive presidential candidate.  Except that earlier Democratic efforts at moving to the center - in presidential and down-ballot elections alike - have also fallen short.  O'Malley represents a third alternative, a platform with progressive policies - infrastructure, opposition to the death penalty, expanded homosexual rights, a tough line on guns - with an approach to building consensus and getting things done that centrists can admire.  That third way didn't get any attention when he ran against progressive Bernie Sanders and the centrist Hillary Clinton, but maybe after four years of Donald J. Trump, O'Malley's political philosophy may get another look from rank-and-file Democrats.
In short, O'Malley's chances of running for President in 2020 are, well, 50-50.  My take is that he can still run and he can still win - but it won't be easy. 
So, Governor, are you in, or are you out?  Where are you going? 
I await the answer.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

World War I Armistice Centennial

In honor of the fallen. 
Armistice Day, Armistice Day . . .  that's all I really wanted to say . . .. :-(    

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Blue Rising

I gotta tell ya, I was nervous Tuesday night when the returns came in.  It was obvious soon enough that the Democrats were going to take back the House, but I got nervous when Florida Democrats fell short in their bids to win the governorship and hold Bill Nelson's Senate seat.  And I was on the verge of melting down when I saw that Scott Walker was winning his bid for a third term as governor of Wisconsin over Democrat Tony Evers while Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly was going down in Indiana and Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill was losing big time in Missouri.  Beto O'Rourke could not unseat Ted Cruz in the Texas Senate election.  And when I learned that the insufferable Marsha Blackburn was elected to the Senate from  Tennessee, I wanted to throw up.
But the Democrats have won more House seats than originally thought, as the votes continue to be counted. And something interesting is happening in the uncalled Senate contests.  Rick Scott's lead over Nelson in Florida is so tenuous that a recount is likely.  Ditto for the gubernatorial election there. Andrew Gillum has conceded, yet a recount could actually put him in the governor's mansion after all.  Well, it would be easy for him to move there from his house, as he is the mayor of Tallahassee.  But voting shenanigans in Broward County have led Governor Scott to try to stop the process - which would certainly benefit his candidacy!  
And despite his self-serving efforts to block a recount, Scott may have a case. Brenda Snipes, the woman in charge of elections there, is notorious for screwing up the vote count.  Even progressives are angry with her.  (She supposedly helped rig the Broward County vote for Debbie Wasserman Schultz's 2016 re-election bid!) 
Be that as it may, Florida's elections haven't been decided yet, and neither has the Arizona Senate race between Krysten Sinema and Martha McSilly - uh, McSally.  If Sinema, the Democrat, wins, and if Nelson should somehow pull through in Florida - and if Democrat Mike Espy somehow pulls off an upset in the runoff for the Mississippi special Senate election -  the Republicans would have a net gain of zero in their majority Senate caucus.  But who cares when Wisconsin voters, by a narrow margin, sent Scottzo the Clown packing!

Among the victories I did not see coming: Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine winning the governorship in that state - at the age of 71 - on the same day Sherrod Brown, who defeated DeWine's bid for a third term in the U.S. Senate back in 2006, win his third term in the U.S. Senate; Kansas electing a female Democratic governor, Laura Kelly, over phony voter-fraud crusader Kris Kobach; Mark Sanford's old South Carolina U.S. House seat going to Democrat Joe Cunningham after Trump Republican Kate Arrington won the nomination over Sanford for the seat and ran like she was the Donald's best friend, and: Democrat Lucy McBath in Georgia defeating Republican incumbent  Karen Handel for the seat in the state's Sixth U.S. House District, the same seat Democrat Jon Ossoff attempted to win in a special election last year.  Meanwhile, a runoff in the gubernatorial election in Georgia between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams is still possible.
Despite Republican successes here and there, the Grand Old Party faces strong headwinds going into the 2020 presidential and congressional elections. Trump is toxic; the Democratic victories this past Tuesday were a clear expression of displeasure in the way he's "governed" this country.  Democrats, meanwhile, have been warned not to nominate so many progressives - and certainly not one for President - next time around, as so many progressive nominees, especially Ben Jealous, the Democratic nominee for governor of Maryland, lost big time.  I'm of two minds about that, particularly where it pertains to the presidential election in 2020.  I'll have more on that later. 
Oh, yeah, Mikie Sherrill was elected to the House from my district.  So let's celebrate the first Democrat to be elected to the House from New Jersey's Eleventh U.S. House District since 1982.  
Ladies and gentlemen, Rebecca Michelle Sherrill!
Oops!  Hold on, I'm still mixed up . . . 
There we are . . . ;-) 

Friday, November 9, 2018

The White Album 50 Project: "Revolution 9"

"Revolution 9" is the longest - and also the most controversial - Beatles track ever released.  (Eight minutes, twenty-two seconds, or 8:22.)  An offshoot of John Lennon's and Yoko Ono's work with avant-garde art, it was their attempt to sonically depict a revolution against the system.  It was derived from the last six minutes of the full ten-minute rhythm track of Take 18 of "Revolution 1," that take providing the master recording of "Revolution 1" for the White Album.  In those final six minutes, John produced some strident guitar noise while screaming, All right, all right! Right! Right!  Right!" over and over while Yoko muttered various phrases.
Along with that, John, Yoko, and Abbey Road technicians assembled and compiled various tape loops and spooled them onto tape machines.  John and George Harrison even created new vocal tapes for the collage.  John then mixed them altogether to get the magnum opus that appears on the White Album.  
How on earth do you write about a track like "Revolution 9"?  If writing about music is like dancing about architecture, then writing about a tape-loop collage is like using mime to describe quantum physics.  But there is a definite structure to how the sound effects evolve and build up as the track progresses.  Even if sound collages aren't your cup of tea, you have to concede that John clearly knew what he was doing.  As Tim Riley noted, none of this was random.  A trajectory was mapped out - either in advance or as John went along.
Before we get to that, though, I must acknowledge the compère of this sonic excursion: the faceless voice repeating the words "number nine."  John heard it on an exam tape for the Royal Academy of Music - the voice artist was announcing the ninth question on the test - and thought it was, in the words of Abbey Road tape operator Richard Lush, a real hoot.  So John made a loop out of it, fading it in and out of the mix at will.  As spooky as it sounds when it kicks off the track with a plaintive piano in the background, what makes it spookier is that no one knows who the voice belonged to.  The exam tapes for the Royal Academy of Music were disposed of long ago, and so there's no way to identify the voice artist who recorded them.  It's a voice out of nowhere, calling from some long, distant past that was already long and distant by 1968. The Beatles and other musicians of their ilk had found success without having to go to some silly, elitist music school.
The intensity of "Revolution 9" is set by the muted, ironically contentious dialogue that precedes it, which is a studio control room recording of Beatles producer George Martin asking Beatles assistant Alistair Taylor about a promised bottle of wine and Taylor apologizing to Beatles producer George Martin for having forgotten it.  They resolve things with Taylor asking, and Martin granting, forgiveness, for a laugh - "Cheeky bitch!" Taylor says as the "music" begins.  The piano and the repeated words "number nine" suggest, to first-time listeners, an intro to an orchestrated, aggrandized version of the song "Revolution."  John, cheeky bitch, quickly makes it clear that we're listening to nothing of the sort as soon as other elements of sound enter the mix and start to ratchet up the tension.  Loops of string instruments, choirs, and repeated classical riffs filter in and out before a cacophony of horns takes over and leads into voices fading in and out, John and George offering random phrases in half-heard conversations.  A disgruntled population of souls yields to and enters into samples of music spinning backwards and forwards.  A woman's laughter turns into a child's panting (at about 1:58 into the track).  Screams from "Revolution 1" briefly take over in isolation.  Auto traffic goes back and forth.  Children are crying.  People are ready to revolt.  Something is going to happen.  There's a call to arms that gets repeated - "Hey . . . everybody!"  Voices of authority try to reassure us that all is well ("They are standing still."  "That's wonderful!")  And that damned voice keeps reminding us we're in "number nine, number nine . . ."  At about 4:01 into the track, another number is announced: "Number thirty!"  Part of a head count of the foot soldiers in the revolution John and Yoko are depicting?  (Not a reference to the number of tracks on the White Album, which wasn't finalized until long after this track was finished.)   A few seconds later, at John's goading ("All . . . right . . ."), a crowd cheers and, at 4:27, the strings subsequently swell up against the horns.  It keeps building, building, building . . ..  Then, at the five-minute mark, all hell breaks loose.
The roar of a crowd takes over everything, sounding as if a government building - a palace, a prison, Parliament - is being stormed.  A baby's cry is turned on; the pace of the car horns quickens as people yell and march . . . and that's when everything really goes off the rails.  The cracking of plaster (at 5:43) is followed by the sounds of gunfire, explosions, and buildings collapsing, while the choirs keep singing. As the dust settles, John contemplates the aftermath in terms of reality ("industrial output . . . financial imbalance . . .") and, as the classical piano piece "Revolution 9" began on quietly returns, lost innocence ("the Watusi . . . the Twist . . ."), while George pines for a greater ideal ("Eldorado").  And then . . . "Take this brother, may it serve you well!"
"This" is a melody of piano notes that suddenly falls apart into static before collapsing completely with a fist on the keys, leaving a shell-shocked Yoko Ono to pick up the pieces.  From her disjointed prose, a sense of defeat and disillusionment emerges, as operatic voices leap out from the catacombs behind her.  An initially spirited piano riff turns mournful and fades into Yoko's final thought . . . "If . . . you become naked."
"Revolution 9" is, as John realized after the track was put together, anti-revolution.  The structure of the piece and the strategic mixing in and mixing out of the sound effects paint a picture of the destruction that John had said in the single release version of "Revolution" he clearly wanted out of, a sonic equivalent of Guernica, Pablo Picasso's mural responding to the Spanish Civil War (which the bad guys won).  It's an anti-war message, albeit a pretentious and self-indulgent one.  As you can gather, I have a love-hate obsession with this track.  And while many other Beatles fans simply hate it, many find it fascinating, no doubt in a morbid way, trying to explain and interpret it.  And then there were those who heard it and thought that John Lennon had gone completely off his rocker (my mother heard a bit of "Revolution 9" and dismissed it as "sick John Lennon crap").  One of those people was George Martin, who was no fan of sound collages and found them non-constructive.  Geoff Emerick confessed to finding it interesting, although, he added, "it seemed as though it was as much Yoko's as it was John's. Certainly it wasn't Beatles music."  But then there was also Beatles author David Quantick, who called the track "one of the most exciting recordings ever made . . . the most radical and innovative track ever to bring a rock record to its climax."  Really.
Incidentally, "Revolution 9" did not get its title from the fact that it fades out part of the way through the ninth minute, nor did it get its title from the "number nine" loop.  EMI studio documentation shows that John was calling this piece "Revolution 9" from the moment he started gathering sound effects, before he stumbled on the "number nine" voice, and before he could have known the timing of the final master.  Nine simply happened to be John's lucky number.  He was born on the ninth of October, he first lived at 9 Newcastle Road in Liverpool, Brian Epstein first saw the Beatles perform at the Cavern in the ninth of November, which used to be the ninth month (hence its name), and the Beatles made their debut on Ed Sullivan's variety show on the ninth of February.  And in 1974, the same year John's solo song "#9 Dream" peaked on the Billboard charts at number nine, his greatest nemesis, President Richard Nixon, who tried to have John thrown out of the United States, resigned his office on the ninth of August.  Also, John noted, nine is the highest single-digit number.  After that, it's back to zero.
Paul McCartney's reaction to "Revolution 9" is worth noting.  When Martin insisted that the track be cut from the final album, Paul sided with him.  But Paul was by no means opposed to sound collages.  He'd made a few himself, under the influence of German avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.  He collaborated with John on a sound collage for the Carnival of Light show in London in 1967 at Abbey Road during the Sgt. Pepper sessions, much to the consternation of George Martin. Martin couldn't remember that session twenty years later (and told Beatles author Mark Lewisohn that he didn't care to!), and he'd reacted to the Carnival of Light session the way a father might react to a twelve-year-old son's silly drawings and doodles on scrap paper.  Many Beatles fans suspect that Paul didn't want "Revolution 9" on the White Album because he didn't want John to take the credit for being the group's chief innovator with sound collages, while others thought that he didn't think John's piece was good enough.  More likely, it was because of what Emerick said - it wasn't Beatles music.  Paul's only objection might simply have been, and probably was, based on the opinion that such avant-garde excursions didn't belong on a Beatles record.  Besides, John and Yoko put out their own sound-collage record at the time of the White Album's release - Two Virgins, the album with the controversial cover of John and Yoko in the nude. But, of course, putting such a piece of musique concrète on a Beatles record would ensure that Beatles fans would hear a sample of the genre at least once, whereas Two Virgins was destined not to be a big seller (though it did chart higher than some of Ringo Starr's solo albums would).

Beatles author Dave Rybaczewski notes the importance of the placement of "Revolution 9" as the penultimate track of the White Album, a position "meant to leave the listener awestruck and in a jaw-dropped condition."  That it did.  And once fans got over their initial shock, those who had the stamina to hear it again (and again and again, just like the voice uttering "number nine" again and again) did so with the intention of seeking out new sounds they hadn't heard before.  Sometimes this meant playing "Revolution 9" backwards; other times it meant hearing it with one of the speakers turned off (most people bought the White Album in stereo).  Or cranking the volume up full blast, which probably blew a few speakers.  Even today, fifty years later, listeners can still find new sound effects they hadn't heard before.  I'm still trying to find that loop of George Martin instructing Geoff Emerick to "put the red light on."   And there ain't no rule for the company freaks.  (I'm still trying to find that quote in the mix, too.)  And after all of this radical avant-garde stuff,  listeners would inevitably need something soothing to listen to afterwards to close the album . . . something more conventional, more conservative, with, say, a Mantovani-style arrangement.  Hmm, now what sort of song could fit the bill?  A lullaby, maybe?  ;-)


"Revolution 9" fades out with a crowd of spectators at an American football game exhorting the home team to intercept the visiting team's attempt at a field goal ("Block that kick!").  The symbolism is obvious. The people have resumed their silly games. The revolution is over. It failed.

Music Video Of the Week - November 9, 2018

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" by the Beatles  (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Out of Sessions

I've never seen so many liberals shed tears not of the crocodile variety over the forced resignation of a racist, reactionary Attorney General.  Jeff Sessions was not an icon of equal justice under law, but he showed integrity in recusing himself from the Russia investigation, allowing for the appointment of Robert Mueller as special prosecutor in the investigation.  Now this new clown Matthew Whitaker, a Trump loyalist and a Mueller critic,  is the acting Attorney General and is poised to find a way to undermine Mueller in a way that Trump never could before Sessions was forced out.
Popular wisdom is that if the Democrats had gained control of the Senate - which was never going to happen - Trump wouldn't have forced Sessions out the day after the election.  That's correct.  If the Democrats had taken back the Senate, Trump would have forced Sessions out a week after the election.  The possible expansion of the Senate Republican majority, depending on how elections in Arizona and Florida turn out, only emboldened Trump, as his belligerent attitude in his last press conference ("Did you see Trump's last press conference?"  "I hope so!") demonstrated.
But Democrats have just regained control of the House (I'll talk about that later), and they are getting ready to pick up where Mueller may be forced to leave off.  I'm not for impeaching Trump for as long as there's no evidence to warrant impeachment, but I am all for the investigation.  Just because there may not be any evidence of Trump colluding with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election doesn't mean Mueller and the Democrats don't have to look.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Ten Years Gone - No, Wasted!

Remember ten years ago today, when Barack Obama was elected President?  Remember when we were n the cusp of a golden age?  Remember when we were at the dawn of a positive, enlightening era?  Neither can I.  Because almost as soon as Obama took office, it was back to business as usual.  Then it got worse - Citizens United, the Tea Party, the rise of voter suppression and cuts to social programs an amenities, the return of climate-change denial (marginal risk of severe thunderstorms in the New York area - in November! - this Election Day) and a bunch of centrist weenies in the Democratic Party who lost the House, the Senate, governorships, and then gave us Hillary Clinton, the last brick in the road to hell taken by Donald J. Trump.
So what went wrong?  Obama couldn't coordinate his Organizing For America's abilities to get Democratic voters activated and engaged with the Democratic National Committee's abilities to . . . to . . .to . . ..  Well, I don't know what the Democratic National Committee has the ability to do, except write off blue-collar voters and rig the primary vote for its preferred presidential candidate (the latter ability failed them in 2008, when Hillary first ran).  And that golden age?  Last time I checked, there are no high-speed passenger rail lines, no universal health coverage, no sensible gun laws, no sensible auto fuel-economy standards, no support for the arts, none of that stuff.   And ten years to the day after we elected our first black President, the Republican candidate for governor of Georgia, who is also the Georgia Secretary of State, is investigating an unsubstantiated charge of the state Democratic Party trying to hack the state voter registration database to thwart the election of the nation's first black female governor.
Dear Democrats:  This is your last chance to get it right.  If you screw up this time, you are going . . . to Whig . . . out.  And no one will miss you.
And in a hundred years,  it won't matter who the first black President was.       

Saturday, November 3, 2018

This He Believes

Two years from today is the next presidential election, the day we get a chance to throw Donald Trump out of office.  And even though Martin O'Malley hasn't said he will run for President again, he is beginning to act like a candidate for the office.
The former governor of Maryland has launched a series of videos on his YouTube channel, the series called "This We Believe," which features videos of O'Malley explaining in clear, concise terms what he stands for and what the Democratic Party should stand for.  He's doing a pretty good job of enunciating his policy positions, but his presentation seems to be a little flat.  One fellow O'Malley supporter I befriended on Facebook says that they play like corporate training videos from the eighties ("Quality") and have the same bland background music, and I have to agree to some extent.  Though I would suggest that those corporate training videos from the eighties had better music.  Bear in mind that the biggest complaint about O'Malley is that he's Kennedyesque without the Kennedy part.  He's just . . . esque.
Be that as it may, it's still very early, and O'Malley is only getting started in his efforts to (re)introduce himself to a Hillary-smitten Democratic electorate that couldn't be bothered to get to know him in 2016.  He has time to improve his messaging.  A thousand-mile journey (or a thousand-kilometer journey, in case the next Democratic President makes Lincoln Chafee Secretary of Commerce and allows him to pursue his cherished goal of making the metric system official) begins with one step, and this step on YouTube is O'Malley's start of a journey that will get him elected President of the United States two years from today.  This, I believe.
To access Martin O'Malley's YouTube channel, click here.      

Friday, November 2, 2018

Music Video Of the Week - November 2, 2018

"I Can Play That Rock & Roll" by Joe Walsh  (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The White Album 50 Project: "Cry Baby Cry"

John Lennon told official Beatles biographer Hunter Davies that he'd gotten a slogan from an advertisement that went "Cry baby cry, make your mother buy," and he thought he could make a song out of it.  That song made it onto the White Album, and it's the last song John would ever write under the influence of Victorian children's literature.  
"Cry Baby Cry" is a sly little song that presents a social satire in the form of a deceptively fanciful nursery rhyme.  Based on "Sing a Song of Sixpence," John's song starts out painting a quaint picture of a king and queen who engage in activities designed to please others, like the king making breakfast for the queen while she plays piano for their children.  The music starts off as sweetly as the words, the sound dominated by am acoustic guitar, light piano and, courtesy of George Martin, a harmonium.  The elders of this royal family of the fictional country of Marigold, though, are utterly clueless, living in their own little bourgeois bubble without a care in the world and involving themselves in irrelevant activities.  As "Cry Baby Cry" continues, Paul McCartney's bass and Ringo Starr's drums and percussion become pushier, coming down hard at the conclusion at each line.  George Harrison's lead guitar gets especially biting as John snidely observes the duchess of Kirkcaldy (an actual town in Scotland) being tardy for tea time while her husband has issues - "problems" - at a local pub.  
The last verse of "Cry Baby Cry" finds these silly adults gathered around the table for a seance with the children exploiting their silly beliefs and practices by pretending to be spirits from the great beyond - "voices out of nowhere put on specially by the children . . . for a lark!"  The music has gotten more vicious, not only making clear the same contempt John has for the stuffy ruling classes that George displayed in "Piggies" (albeit with greater subtlety here), but also illuminating the paranoia the ruling classes have toward the younger generation.  "As a metaphor for the fear the youth culture's sounds instilled in their parents," Tim Riley wrote in "Tell Me Why," "'Cry Baby Cry' is an underrated Lennon royalty satire;  it's his most accomplished Lewis Carroll pastiche."
And it's also inspired rather novel counterculture art, like the late Alan Aldridge's illustration of the song.
I don't get it either.
The verses revolve around the refrain of "Cry baby cry, make your mother sigh, she's old enough to know better - so cry baby cry." Each recitation of the refrain seems to have more bite, and the beat is more pronounced here than in the verses.  The message of the refrain lyric is obvious: Mum can't be bothered with her kid's tantrums after having seen adults purporting to be her superiors romp through the landscape making fools of themselves.  So trouble your mother all you want, little baby; she's seen it all.
Such a sophisticated song would be a feather in the cap of any pop songwriter, but John actually disliked "Cry Baby Cry" so much that he denied having written it.  ("Not me," he said of the song in  1980, "a piece of rubbish.")  But it's a clever song in so many ways, particularly with how the vocal and the music begin simultaneously and, apart from a piano echo, end together definitively.  And just like that, the song is over.
Except that it isn't.
*     
The Beatles throw in an unexpected song fragment after the moment of silence that follows the dying moment of "Cry Baby Cry."  Conceived by Paul, it's a subdued tune with lyric a along the lines of "Can you take me back where I came from?".  Paul's vocal sounds apparitional, and the light percussion adds to the sense of unease.  Is it a coda to "Cry Baby Cry," with Paul wishing to return to childhood innocence? Or is it a preamble to the White Album's next track, the sonic collage "Revolution 9" - a request from the Beatles to go back to the primordial understanding of music as the art of sound?  It's neither, of course.  As we already know, it's an excerpt of the nineteenth take of Paul's ballad "I Will," an improvisation Paul came up with when at a loss for how to proceed with the song he was working on with John and Ringo (who played percussion) - which, you'll remember, I first mentioned in August when I wrote about "I Will" itself.
So why is this song improvisation here?  Here's my explanation, which I admit may be the wrong answer (but I doubt it).  See, as noted before on this blog, John and Paul (below) agreed when they were compiling the White Album that neither one of them should have more than two tracks in a row, yet they somehow ended up with side four having three consecutive tracks at the end that were composed by John.  To avoid running afoul of the aforementioned sequencing rule, this ad-lib from Paul was inserted between two of those last three tracks.  The ad-lib, I might add, was taped long after "Cry Baby Cry" and "Revolution 9" were finished.
But it's not entirely random that a piece of "I Will," Take 19 (yeah, yeah, I know, I'll take nineteen what?) ends up being the extra recording that breaks up John's domination of side four.  There were other improvisations from Paul from the "I Will" session that could have been used.  This one befits the unsettled mood of side four, with its songs about revolution, the aftereffects of overindulgence, and royal seances; Paul's pleas to return to from whence he came suggests a wandering soul looking for a place to rest.
Beatles author Dave Rybaczewski adds an interesting perspective on how "I Will," Take 19 fits in.  "This section works nicely here," he writes,  "especially because the beat coincidentally is the same as the body of the song we just heard. It also creates a creepy atmosphere that leads perfectly into the cacophony of sound that follows it on the album."
As for the ad-libbed song itself, it's a look into how Paul's mind works and how effortlessly he comes up with song ideas.  It also demonstrates, alas, how he doesn't follow through on enough of his ideas.  He could have written a masterpiece of a song based on the idea of returning to where one came from (a challenge accepted by Rod Stewart and Ron Wood when they wrote the classic title song for Stewart's Gasoline Alley album).  But it's still an intriguing bit piece, operating like a link in much the same way as "Wild Honey Pie" does on side one. And as Tim Riley pointed out, it shows how the Beatles were so prolific in 1968 that they could come up with more material than is necessary for a double album.   
Here's the full Take 19 of "I Will."
            

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween?

No, no. no.
With fifteen bombs having been sent to prominent American figures, a synagogue in Pittsburgh having been shot up by an anti-Semite, and Donald Trump still stoking fears of "others" while threatening to invalidate the citizenship birthright clause in the Fourteenth Amendment - and even threatening to deport American-born children of illegal immigrants! - it doesn't seem right to wish anyone a happy Halloween.
Halloween is about being scared for the fun of it.  There's no way we can be scared for fun when reality is scaring us every damn day. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Decline of the Democratic National Committee Explained

If the Democrats manage to win back the House of Representatives and take over eight governorships next week, it will be no thanks to the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Let me explain how the DNC declined and fell like the Roman Colosseum.
Under DWS, when the political careers of many Democrats went RIP,  the DNC went DOA.
In 2016, when the DNC got in trouble for tipping the scales for Hillary Clinton's presidential nomination, and DWS was Xed out, the party had to turn it up a couple of DBs.
 And once America got the DTs . . .
. . . the Democrats TP'ed themselves in response.
And so many rank-and-file Democrats are disillusioned, they want to go running to Mom.
Maybe they should consider running to M'OM.
Because, through his Win Back Your State PAC (don't you hate those silly initials?), Martin O'Malley has learned what voters want and what voters are concerned about.  Unlike the Democratic National Committee.  If the Democrats do well in this election, thank Martin O'Malley, and pay attention to what he says if and when he runs for President again.  
Listen to your M'OM.
Win Back Your State.  Because the DNC won't.  

Monday, October 29, 2018

Election Endorsements 2018

Oh, great, is it election endorsement time again?
I should just tell you all to vote Democratic no matter what, except vote Green when the Democratic candidate is a woman named Hillary or Oprah.  And yes, I'm going to do that.  Vote Democratic, exceptions noted.  But I'm also going to single out candidates for office in campaigns where I especially want to see the Republican candidate lose and lose big time.  That's how much I dislike them. And in the case of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, I literally hate him.  So here goes:
For U.S. Senate, Texas:  This blog enthusiastically endorses Democrat Beto O'Rourke.  Not only is he the most ardently progressive candidate for statewide office in Texas in a long time, he has the energy and the commitment to help Democrats running for office throughout the state and to inspire them throughout the country.  Also, his opponent is incumbent Republican senator Ted Cruz, a man even arch-conservative Republicans don't like.  Time for some Cruz control in the Lone Star State.
For governor of Wisconsin:  This blog endorses Democrat Tony Evers. Evers, the Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction, wants to improve education in the state - and a whole lot of other things.  Education is one of the many institutions in Wisconsin that der Führer WalKKKer has laid waste to in the past eight years.
For governor of Georgia:  This blog endorses Democrat Stacey Abrams.  She's committed to making a Georgia a fairer and better place for all of its residents, and she's also living proof of Zerlina Maxwell's comment that it's going to take a black woman to save America - or at least Georgia - from itself.  Also, her white male Republican opponent, Georgia Secretary of State and noted vote suppressor Brian Kemp, has all the charm and compassion of an electric eel. 
For U.S. Senate, Arizona: This blog endorses Democrat Krysten Sinema. She's talking about issues people care about, like making sure that pre-existing sanctions are covered by health insurance, while her Republican opponent Martha McSally (who, being a woman from the Southwest and because of her name, would have made a great running mate for Martin O'Malley - get it? - in 2020 if she were a Democrat) keeps trying to change the subject to that stupid caravan issue - which isn't an issue at all.  
For U.S. Senate, New Jersey:  This blog, ho hum, endorses Democrat and incumbent Bob Menendez.  Because when you have two ethically dubious 64-year-old guys from Union City, New Jersey named Bob running for Senate, you should always go for the one with the D after his name.  
For governor of Florida:  This blog wholeheartedly endorses Andrew Gillum, who, if he wins, will make Florida the largest state in population with a black governor, but also the second-largest state in population (after California, which is a gimme for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom) with a progressive governor.  Florida needs bold, new, energized liberal leadership that it's been lacking since, oh I don't know, Reubin Askew was governor in the seventies?  Now's the time for the Sunshine State to come of out the darkness of Republicanism and Democratic centrism. 
For U.S. House, New Jersey, Eleventh District: This blog endorses Rebecca Michelle "Mikie" Sherrill.  Republican Jay Webber supported that federal tax reform law that screws New Jersey, he doesn't believe that women have any rights, and he gets a good rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA).  Mikie Sherrill will fight to restore federal tax deductions for New Jersey homeowners, support equal rights for both sexes, and fight the NRA.  You can trust her.  She has an honest face.
See?

Oh, mercy me, where is my head?  That's actually a picture of my Olympic heartthrob, champion swimmer Janet Evans. This is Mikie Sherrill.
They do look alike, don't they? :-D 
Right.  Those are all of my endorsements.  You know the drill - vote on November 6.