Sunday, December 11, 2011

Trailer: "Heaven Adores You (An Elliott Smith Project)"

Here's the trailer for a work in progress on the legacy of my friend Elliott Smith, singer, songwriter and musician extraordinaire. The director/cinematographer and co-producer is Nicholas Rossi.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash - "Girl from the North Country"

This Dylan classic first appeared as a track on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963) and then again in a duet with Johnny Cash on "Nashville Skyline" (1969). This version is from the Johnny Cash Show (1969-71). It's a bit tentative (as it is on Nashville Skyline itself), but still charming four decades later.

Was Suze Rotolo (who appears with Dylan in the famous cover photo for Freewheelin) the "girl" in question? She's arguably from the "north country" (New York City), but not "where the winds hit heavy on the borderline." It seems more likely that the "borderline" is in Minnesota, where Dylan lived before he moved to New York in 1961.

The lyrics are on Dylan's website.

Maybe one of these days I'll stop reposting and write a new blog entry...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Revolver covers Steven Stills' "Helplessly Hoping"

Revolver is a French band that formed in Paris in 2006. In the Wikipedia entry, their music is ungrammatically described as "a bridge between pop and classical music or even the Renaissance or the Baroque and [their] influence everything from Beatles to Bach, from Benjamin Britten to Elliott Smith."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"The Daily Show" on class warfare

These two segments from "The Daily Show" (August 18th) reveal Jon Stewart and a band of excellent research staffers at their very best:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
World of Class Warfare - Warren Buffett vs. Wealthy Conservatives
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

And Part II, from the same show:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
World of Class Warfare - The Poor's Free Ride Is Over
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on FacebookFacebookFacebookFacebookFacebookFacebookFacebook

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Blues break: Mississippi Fred McDowell - "All The Way From East St. Louis"

Another fine performance by a blues master. I had the great good fortune of seeing him at work in Portland in 1972, a few months before he died at the age of 68.

Friday, August 05, 2011

A modern masterpiece: the Dude and his courtesans

Invitation to art historians:  If you can identify the painter and find a poster, please let me know -- and you'll get full credit on this blog.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The rich get richer (and ever whiter)

From an Associated Press article by Hope Yen (July 26th):
The wealth gaps between whites and minorities have grown to their widest levels since the U.S began tracking more than 25 years ago. The recession and uneven recovery have erased decades of minority gains, leaving whites on average with 20 times the net worth of blacks and 18 times that of Hispanics, according to an analysis of new Census data...
The median wealth of white U.S. households in 2009 was $113,149, compared with $6,325 for Hispanics and $5,677 for blacks, according to the analysis released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center. Those ratios, roughly 20 to 1 for blacks and 18 to 1 for Hispanics, far exceed the low mark of 7 to 1 for both groups reached in 1995, when the nation's economic expansion lifted many low-income groups to the middle class...
Other findings include:
  • About 35 percent of black households and 31 percent of Hispanic households had zero or negative net worth in 2009, compared with 15 percent of white households. In 2005, the comparable shares were 29 percent for blacks, 23 percent for Hispanics and 11 percent for whites...
  • Across all race and ethnic groups, the wealth gap between rich and poor widened. The share of wealth held by the top 10 percent of U.S. households increased from 49 percent in 2005 to 56 percent in 2009. The threshold for entry into the wealthiest top 10 percent, however, dipped lower: from $646,327 in 2005 to $598,435.
Strangely, the story fails to mention the effects of the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest, which clearly benefited white elites more than any other group. The expiration of that tax cut, or an unlikely budget deal that accelerates that date, would be a small step towards reversing a trend that is revealed in the following chart.

The class disparities in wealth distribution are even greater than the glaring ethnic differences. The lower four quintiles (bottom 80%) of the U.S. population control only 7% of the nation's financial wealth. The top 1% controls 43%.  This is easily the greatest concentration of wealth in an economic elite since the 1920's. That elite, of course, is almost exclusively white.  While desperate negotiations and posturing continue over the debt ceiling crisis, neither party is proposing any steps to seriously address it.

This indifference is not surprising: as of 2010, 245 of the 535 members of Congress were millionaires. That’s 46% percent, compared to about 1 percent of Americans overall.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dog Mtn trail - Columbia River Gorge, Oregon/Washington

A grueling trail (6.6 miles / 11 km, about 3,000 vertical ft. / 950 m.), but hikers are abundantly rewarded for their effort.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bridge / No Bridge

This is approved design for the Columbia  River Crossing, the replacement for the Interstate Bridge that now connects Interstate 5 from  Oregon to Washington.  It really doesn't qualify as a bridge:  it's simply the place where the freeway crosses the river. The sole criterion for the decision was the $3.6 billion price tag, even though there were far better alternatives that didn't cost much more.

It will be a suitable monument to a culture that aspires to nothing -- the product of a political process that "knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."  [Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan, 1893]

While mediocrity rules and infrastructure decays at home, the U.S. will spend $4.4 trillion on post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. The noneconomic human cost -- including such "externalities" as 225,000 deaths, nearly 8 million refugees and generalized misery -- is incalculable. The cost of a lost opportunity, such as an iconic bridge on the Columbia, hardly deserves mention in this context, but it will exact its own toll over time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lucinda Williams: "Joy"

Though I'm not a big fan of Lucinda Williams, she and her band really nail this version of "Joy" (especially in the transition around 6:40).  If I had the ability to play electric blues guitar (and I don't), I'd want it to sound a lot like this -- especially like the young guy to the right (whose name I'd look up if I were less lazy).  The lyrics are, to say the least, "uncomplicated," but still...

Forest Grove Lebowski Fest Qualifying Exam

In order to qualify for admission to the 1st Annual Forest Grove Lebowski Fest, each guest must achieve a score of at least 4% (one correct answer) on this exam, which will be administered orally at the door.  Alternatively, since the bums always lose, you can pay an admission fee of $0.69 (checks only).    

GRAND PRIZE: The person with the highest score can take any rug in the house.
1)     For whom is the Dude taking it easy?
2)     Which “aggression will not stand,” according to the Dude? 
3)     Who is about to enter a world of pain — why and where? 
4)     Why does the Dude get tossed out of the taxicab? 
5)     What evidence does the Dude offer that he’s not married? 
6)     Who were the members of the Seattle 7?
7)     How does the Dude keep his mind, uh, limber? 
8)     How many more detectives were assigned to the Dude’s case, and what’s the cause of the odor in his car? 
9)     What score does Smokey want to enter on his bowling card? Why does Walter object?
10)  What does the cable guy do after he arrives at the apartment in Bunny’s movie?
11)  Who are the Knutsens?
12)  Describe the darkness that washed over the Dude. 
13)  According to Walter, what has the Supreme Court roundly rejected? 
14)  What do you call the Dude if you're not into the whole brevity thing? 
15)  How, in one word, does the Dude describe nihilism? 
16)  How does the Stranger describe the Dude in the opening sequence? 
17)  What is the Dude’s answer to everything, according to the Big Lebowski?  And where does he say it should be tattooed? 
18)  What class is Larry Sellars flunking?
19)  What is ten percent of a half million dollars, according to the Dude? 
20)  According to the Stranger, what do you sometimes eat? 
21)  What did the Dude do in college? 
22)  Why did Digby Sellars stop writing?
23)  For whom was the Dude a roadie? 
24)  What is the Dude’s primary activity and goal? 
25)  What was Donny’s full name, and where did he surf? 

For answers, visit the IMDB or check out the entire script

Return to the Invitation

Monday, June 13, 2011

"...the whole durned human comedy keeps perpetuatin' itself." (The Stranger)

All LITTLE LEBOWSKI Urban Achievers are invited to the

At: 534 Watercrest Rd. in the Grove
Date:  Saturday, June 18th / Starts: Whenever / Ends: Whenever

Join us: 1) In Wishing Katy a Bon Voyage as she leaves for her summer in Europe and, 2) In Celebrating Jesse’s graduation from PSUSOSW (and his MSW)!

1) Bring your own beverage (pizza & white Russians provided)
2) Nihilists warmly welcomed — an ethos will be provided.
         3) Marmots and other amphibious rodents must be leashed at all times.
         4) No rolling — it’s Shabbos!
         5) All guests must be housebroken.
         6) Certain things have come to light — learn what they are!
7) See what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps.

NOTE:  All guests must RSVP and pass the FGCLLUA Qualifying Exam

Directions to the Grove

Thursday, May 19, 2011

More blues from Mali: Tinariwen's Cler Achel

More splendid blues from Mali, with many thanks to Michael Durkan, my ethnomusicological guru. (Sorry for the poor fit on the page -- I need another format for widescreen videos.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Music from Mali: Oumou Sangaré performing "Djorelen" with Béla Fleck

If there are better musicians in the world than those coming out of Mali, I haven't found them.  Even the shortest list would have to include Toumani Diabate, Ali Farka Touré, Salif Keita, Kandia Kouyaté, Bassekou Koyaté, Vieux Farka Touré and, in this sample, the great vocalist and humanitarian Oumou Sangaré. 

This moving performance of "Djorolen" is from Bela Fleck's documentary on his search for the banjo's African roots: "Throw Down Your Heart" (highly recommended). The music begins at 1:35, but be sure to watch what comes before it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Three catastrophes: the view from downwind and downstream

Now that Japan's nuclear meltdown is being officially compared to Chernobyl, a month after the quake and tsunami, this triple catastrophe leads to a few inescapable conclusions:

1. Earthquake: Japan was admirably prepared for the earthquake, the fourth largest ever recorded, and most buildings escaped without major damage. In fact, no country on the planet has taken comparable measures to accommodate a "worst case" seismic event. (According to an ABC report, thousands of California schools don't meet even minimum legal standards for quake resistance in the that state's Field Act.)

2. Tsunami: The tsunami was so overwhelming that it fell far outside the design parameters of Japan's massive seawalls and other coastal protections. One could argue that the walls and barriers needed to be even higher, certainly around the Fukushima nuclear plant, but the required investment would've been astronomical. But the only alternative would be to entirely prohibit structures on coastal plains and adjacent river valleys, requiring the relocation of entire cities and tens of millions of Japanese.

3. Meltdown: The nuclear disaster was entirely foreseeable and, therefore, preventable. The General Electric Mark I reactor, the type used at Fukushima and at least 23 plants in the U.S., has long been criticized for various design flaws. The proximity of the spent-fuel storage pools to the failing reactors in the Mark I has created insurmountable problems. For example:
"The spent-fuel pools are also not housed within robust concrete containment structures. Instead, 'the pools are often housed in buildings with sheet metal siding like that in a Sears storage shed,' Lochbaum [an expert] said."

This vulnerability, combined with inadequate protection from tsunamis and lack of redundancy in reserve power systems, combined to create a perfect nuclear storm that was the essentially the result of human error and, finally, greed:
"G.E. began making the Mark 1 boiling-water reactors in the 1960s, marketing them as cheaper and easier to build — in part because they used a comparatively smaller and less expensive containment structure.
"American regulators began identifying weaknesses very early on.
"In 1972, Stephen H. Hanauer, then a safety official with the Atomic Energy Commission, recommended that the Mark 1 system be discontinued because it presented unacceptable safety risks."
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we're several days downwind from Fukushima. Its radiation has already been detected, in minute amounts, in milk from Spokane farms. We're also downstream, thanks to the Japan Current, which will carry tsunami debris and radioactivity across the North Pacific during the next 3-5 years. The radioactive isotopes, we're told, will be so diluted by the time they reach the West Coast that there will be no risk to human health.  As the meltdown continues at Fukushima, with no end in sight, it's hard to feel reassured.

[Photo: SciAm]

Blogging v. Facebook

Here's the tradeoff, as I see it, between blogging and Facebook:

Blogging advantages:
  • No significant restrictions on length of entries or comments.
  • Postings and comments older than a day remain easily accessible, unlike Facebook postings that are quickly buried and forgotten within a few hours under an avalanche of new submissions. 
  • A more sustained and focused dialog is possible, and in much greater depth.
  • Can serve as a journal, a place where compulsive writers (like me) can process what interests them, or seems important, on any given day. Audience size matters little from this perspective.
Blogging disadvantages:
  • Minuscule audiences (if any), with rare exceptions. Quality and audience size don't necessarily correlate, as some of my favorite blogs demonstrate.
  • Regular entries, ideally every day, are needed to encourage visits. But the incentive to make regular submissions declines as the number of readers stagnates: a demoralizing feedback loop.
  • Difficult to promote, even with RSS feeds and other devices, due to the overwhelming number of blogs on every conceivable subject.
  • Standard blog formats are often boring, and many of us lack the HTML skills needed to create our own.
Facebook advantages:  
  • In theory, a chance to enter into an instant dialog with Friends (just 87 in my case, a very modest total compared to most users);
  • Little effort required to submit original postings or repost articles, videos and photos;
  • Constant, and often very lively, interactions promote a sense of community.
Facebook disadvantages:
  • Entries limited in length, unless you use the message function -- essentially the equivalent of private email.
  • Exchanges tend to be in snippets, with an emphasis on witty but often superficial comments.
  • Difficult to sustain any focus in conversations due to the distracting onslaught of information from all directions.
Of course the two options aren't mutually exclusive, so my preference for now is to return to regular blogging while continuing to regularly check Facebook and submit posts. I'll approach this blog an online journal and if others want to participate, I'll be very pleased to welcome them.