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30 October 2005

Rosa Parks given an unprecedented honour

Rosa Parks is to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Who would have ever predicted such a thing? The only downside to this story (apart from her being dead, but she did have 92 years) is that she is the first woman to have this honour in over 200 years.

I AM the President

: "

Powerful. Intimidating. Trivia Nazi. President Bartlet is all of these and more. A super-nerd who's into chess, National Parks, and rambling off things in Latin, POTUS is the 'real thing.' Not being completely upfront with the American people may cause him re-election headaches, though...

:: Which West Wing character are you? ::

Before the deluge

Could we be seeing the beginning of the end for the Bush administration? Could there be a premature departure in deepest shame, a la Nixon? We can but hope. It feels like the tipping point is just around the corner, and the feverish comment on the ins and outs is very alluring.
DH asked: what the heck kind of a name is "Scooter" for a grown man? "Frat boy," I answered.

22 October 2005

A decent review of Dylan

Dick Jones of Patteran Pages is eminently qualified to do that movie review of Socrsese's Dylan epic, but unfortunately I don't know if he saw it. He did see the The Madhouse on Castle Street, and become a lifelong advocate of everything Dylanesque (that's Bob D, not D Thomas, of course, although the two often go hand in hand.) Dick says the things I wanted to say about Dylan:

My relationship with Dylan as a key figure in that movement of souls that gathered us up in the ‘60s & dumped us, high & dry, somewhere in the middle of the ‘70s was never one of acolyte. Rather he represented for me a symbol of detached individualism. He followed his own trail, not because some imp of perversity had him flouting the protocols, but because he was driven by creative forces over which he had no control. In an era of largely spurious non-conformity, in which fashion & popular cultural diktat functioned significantly at the behest of commercial concerns, Dylan walked alone. Drawn by his eccentric star, he entered the forbidden realms of country music, recorded utterly unsuitable cover versions, embraced the suffocating sterility of fundamentalist Christianity, & then – his voice shot & with blood in his eye – he returned to the timeless blues, ballads, rags & hollers of his seminal years.
Ever the maverick, evading the obsessive efforts of the media finally to bind him to the ground like Gulliver, Dylan has maintained triumphantly an inviolable uniqueness amongst his many peers. Inhabiting as he has for so long a bewildering multitude of roles & identities, each drawing deep on America’s rich resources of popular culture, he has enjoyed a measure of creative freedom & self-determination experienced by very few artists.
I’ve been tempted to shell out for increasingly expensive concert tickets each time he has toured. But somehow, after all these years, from beatnik cherub to ageing troubador, it’s simply enough to know that he’s out there.

19 October 2005

The Antidote to Civilization?

I saw the above slogan (but without the question mark) on a very large banner on the outer wall of the Methodist Mission in Nottingham city centre. This is just so wrong on so many levels. It presumes that 1) civilisation and Christianity (or Protestantism? or Methodism?) are antithetical; and it presumes that 2) civilisation is a bad thing and that perhaps the luckless masses exposed to it need treatment to ameliorate their suffering; and it presumes that 3) what is wrong with the "modern world" is the presence of civilisation, rather than its all too conspicuous absence. You see, this is what happens when people who are far too shallow and stupid to understand any philosophy at all are allowed to read or hear a little about post-modernism. All I can think is, poor old John Wesley must be rolling around in his grave.

08 October 2005

Body and Soul: The pursuit of happiness

This classic post from yesterday in the excellent blog Body and Soul is about human scale economics, what you have vs. what you own. It really hit me right where I live. This is an absolute must-read, and it is right on target for the sort of thing I would now be publishing if I had pursued my dream to be an academic economist. My grand thesis which never happened was based on this tantalising paradox: economics started out as a branch of philosophy that was concerned with the human drive to be happy. It is now called, half-affectionately and half-disparagingly, "the dismal science". How did this branch of knowledge transform itself from the art of happiness to the science of immiseration? Ah, that's a very good question ...

04 October 2005

Dylan - A Complete Unknown

I had high hopes of this City Pages review of Scorsese's No Direction Home, based on the title and the "hook" (Scorsese takes 200 minutes to preserve the mystery of Dylan). But I was disappointed, very disappointed. Biggest problem with it? The reviewer confesses that he is too young "to have ever trusted the dude in the first place" and then continues, thinking himself very hip and clever:

The combative mid-'60s press conferences, the autobiographical fabrications, the mumbled cryptoquips, the endless string of overrated best-album-since-Blood on the Tracks-es--all were part of the legacy passed on to us post-Boomers.
Excuse me, but do give it a rest. "Us Boomers" have heard this particular whinge quite enough, thanks. But then, having framed this as another us-vs-them generational pissing contest, he allows several howlers to creep in. He notes that "Like A Rolling Stone", in a week when it was no. 2 in the Top-10, "nestled not incongruously between the Beatles' Help and the Beach Boys' California Girls" in a screen-shot in the film. Damn, when in the 1980s or 1990s or this decade did you have three top songs of that calibre? Isn't it just too obvious that post-Boomers are suffering from the most massive case of Bloomian anxiety of influence imagineable? Isn't it all just too darned Oedipal? And then, and then, the twerp has the gall to cast aspersions on Scorsese's choice of a sound-track to the 1950s. Hey, dude, you have just told us that you were not around then, and Scorsese most definitely was, and he is a cultural giant while you are a lowly insect toiling away as a stringer for a local weekly! Where the heck do you get off telling Scorsese he got it wrong?
Truly, I wish someone would write a good review of No Direction Home. Someone who "gets" Dylan, who was alive in the 60s, who respects but doesn't worship Scorsese and who doesn't have an axe to grind. Damn, that could be me. Too bad I'm so lazy.

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