The Living is Easy

DE_Beach_codeEndless Summer

Comes the middle of August, when the days are noticeably shorter and the light is longer and yellower, I yearn for the beach.  With the water at its warmest and the crowds beginning to thin there’s no better place to be.

Maybe next year I’ll kick  summer off with music. This year, I was set to thinking by a Mark Spitz post on Salon. Spitz has a late summer ritual built around a song. I get the sense that for him it’s a guilty pleasure, something he takes out and wonders anew at every August.

Why bury treasure? For me the wonder of music is that under the best circumstances–the right singer, song and arrangement–I’m taken back to a moment. I hope others have had this experience, not nostalgia, not memory but emotional time travel back to the perfect circumstance you and you alone will always associate with that one song.

It’s powerful stuff.

So here’s a handful of songs that always drag me back to those last few weeks before the autumnal equinox and plop me firmly on a pile of sand at the edge of the Atlantic. No matter what the calendar says

What Does it Take (to Win Your Love)–Jr. Walker and the All Stars 1969
Not an obvious front man, Junior Walker, born Autry DeWalt Mixon, Jr., was one of Motown’s dependable hit makers. Never a master vocalist, it was Walker’s tenor sax that anchored the band’s sound. (Rock fans, listen to Foreigner‘s Urgent to hear him tear it up). The start of the sax break in this gem from my childhood always tears at the edges of my heart.

Stolen Moments–Oliver Nelson Septet 1961
While the reigning belief is that things have never been more diverse and all-embracing a quick look at the pop charts from 50–even 40–years ago will demonstrate the opposite. Here’s a jazz standard with a haunting theme that I first heard as a child and reconnected with when I discovered WBGO. The longing is palpable.

Thankful for What You Got–William DeVaughn 1974
This 1974 slow groove always sets me to just lazing about. The story goes that De Vaughn wrote the song and scraped together the funds to record it from family and friends. Recorded in Philadelphia, it was heard by one of the Gamble & Huff mafia, polished up and became a monster hit with a message I think we all ought to take a moment to remember.

Ball and Chain–XTC 1982
The bands of our youth always mean the most to us. I discovered XTC when their brilliant double album, English Settlement, was released.  Just buy it, there isn’t a bad track on the album and when you do, look for this song. There’s a recurring synthesized horn bit, a descending melancholy figure that takes me right back to my car roaring up I-95 in Connecticut on my way  to one last September afternoon at the beach.

Promises, Promises–Naked Eyes, Tony Mansfield 12″ Mix 1983
My friend, the medievalist Andrew Tomko,  who will agree this song should be on some list,  says the extended mix is the required version. So here it is, with a long slow build to a moody masterpiece driven by disco-y guitar. EDM is never going to equal music made with real instruments. I hear this song, and I see the seagulls hovering in the late afternoon light over West End 2.

Cruel Summer-Bananarama 1983/1984
Released in the UK in 1983, it wasn’t until the  following summer that the girls stormed the  US charts. Because of their Fun Boy Three association these ladies still had some credibility. Absent that,  this song would still earn them a place on the list. Another late-August-watching-the summer-slip-away gem that requires the extended version to prolong the excruciatingly beautiful sense of loss.

See you when I get back from the beach.

VIDEO BONUS

Don Henley–The Boys of Summer 1984
I couldn’t not include the song, driven by Mike Campbell’s understated yet perfect guitar bits,  that set this all off. It was actually released well into the fall of 1984 and I distinctly remember being on the Throg’s Neck Bridge, approaching the Bronx and being stunned by that incredibly visual lyric Spitz notes as well: “Out on the road today/I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac” I’ve always been older than my years and so this approaching-midlife mood-setter appealed to me even at 22. It still does.

The Values that we had Once Upon a Time

Part of Our Time: Some Ruins and Monuments of the Thirties
Murray Kempton

time_kemptonIf print media are dinosaurs then newspapers are  apatosauruses .

But I grew up with these now-lumbering beasts. We were a two-paper a day household and my first job was delivering the now long-defunct Long Island Press, a broadsheet like the Times. Our competitor was Newsday.

I don’t know why we were a Press household. We also took the Daily News and that was the paper I preferred–it had better (and more) comics, including Bill Gallo in the sports section. Like Newsday, it was Continue reading

Fruit of Sweating Golden Inca

The Tupac Amaru Rebellion
Charles F. Walker

TupacWhat do a dead rapper, a failed group of urban guerillas and colonial era insurrectionists have in common? Stick around, you’ll find out.

History grabbed hold of my imagination more strongly than fantasy ever did. And if it happened in the western hemisphere I was on top of it. I honestly can’t keep all the dynastic nonsense and interminable warring of Europe Continue reading

Upside Down

Photo by Grey Villet/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images no infringement intended

Photo by Grey Villet/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
no infringement intended

When I was trying to get into the  ad business I quickly learned to be shameless. Wallflowers and polite young people taught to say Mr. and Ms. were at a distinct disadvantage.

So I changed my ways in order to get someone, anyone, with a job in advertising to hire me. A friend of a friend worked for legendary copywriter Tom Messner, pictured at right, who was part of an attempt to reconstitute the Tuesday Team, that group of top shelf ad guys who created Continue reading

When Your Bird is Broken

That Girl from Arizona

LRWhen it comes to writing about music I seem to find myself stuck in the 70s. Maybe it’s easier to make sense of the songs I’ve been listening to  for most of a lifetime.

Or maybe I just can’t stand today’s Swedish-produced pop music.

In any case, no female performer from my teen years stands out more than Linda Ronstadt. More than once I’ve referred to her as the first Mexican-American girl I ever had a crush on. That ethnic bit is true. The Ronstadts were immigrant farmers from Continue reading

From Diego to tha Bay

Where I Was From
Joan Didion

Didion-WhereOver the course of my life I have, on more than one occasion, had the opportunity to meet a ‘native’ Californian, a rare breed that harkens back to covered wagons and geographic touchstones in the middle of nowhere in a way that certain New England families, even those of what might be termed a lesser station, trace their origins to the Winthrop Fleet or the Mayflower.  So aligned are the tales that one wonders whether the proper way into either is through a frame labelled immigration, flight or protest.

There’s a reason that paragraph reads the way it does that I’ll come back to. For the moment let us turn to this early 21st century work by Joan Didion, formally Joan Didion Dunne,  which she published in the year of her husband’s death. That event led Continue reading

It’s a Gas Gas Gas

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt
Michael Lewis

flash_boys

In a perfect storm of coincidence the subject of this book was legitimized the week I finished reading it. Legitimacy is welcome since this is a tale, in part, about selling the immeasurable as the irreplaceable even though what it may really be about is behavior that is irredeemable.

That’s a lot of  words starting with im- and ir-. If I were you I’d be wondering just what had gotten  ahold of me.

The subject, once again, is Wall Street. Most of the time I Continue reading

I Must be Rhythm Bound

The Anthologist
Nicholson Baker

AnthologistI had novel-reading days. Great heaps of literary fiction inhaled at a ferocious rate. Then I stopped and I’m still not sure why.

Maybe I got to a point where the thrill of the first encounter was gone.  Maybe I was dismayed, having burned through all the writers I’d discovered whose work resonated with me. Maybe feeling I was always missing something finally caught up with me and I gave up.

So I stopped almost cold turkey. There were a few false starts, moments when I hoped I’d encountered a new voice–maybe one more Continue reading

Running into the Sun

The  Best American Sports Writing 2015
Wright Thompson, Guest Editor; Glenn Stout Series Editor

Best_Sports_15Cutting corners. It’s what we do to survive.

And yet I have a suspicion that doing so doesn’t sit easily with many of us. In my own case, blessed with the near-eidetic ability to recall every flub and deliberate act of incompleteness, it’s a glued-on hairshirt. Others, I  hope, have saner ways of coping.

Perhaps that explains the general  fascination with sports. I have said before that I have a complete inability Continue reading

My Grammar Ain’t So Good

grammarTrue confession: most of what I know about grammar starts with ABC. That’s why this post about language will devolve into math.

I’m certain that would be unwelcome news to the Sisters of St. Joseph who did everything in their power to make the prescriptive case for language. Their chosen texts, as I recall, were arranged in numbered sections, like a technical Continue reading

It’s Memorial Day: A Six Pack and Playlist

Park_Ridge_Memorial_Day_Parade,_May_2012On Monday morning, like many Americans in many towns, I’ll wander down the block with my son to watch the Memorial Day parade. For him it will be about the candy the paraders throw at the crowd (and it is a crowd). For me, though. it’s always about something more profound.

War is an ugly word. It draws out the worst in us and Continue reading

An Old Man Kind and Wise with Age

Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year Old Author
Herman Wouk

Wouk_SailorAfter my mom died my dad took on more charitable activities. Already involved in Parish Outreach, he adopted, seriatim, a string of what he sometimes referred to as his “old ladies.”  The first of these was Ida.

Ida lived about 5 blocks from my dad, in a tiny house on a neat lot that I remembered from my childhood because my grandparents lived across the street. I have no childhood Continue reading

Amber Waves of Grain

The Pit
Frank Norris

the_pitOpen outcry. It may be the romance in finance, to turn the old Tiny Grimes lyric on its head,

Readers of a certain age may not even recognize the term. But from the earliest days at the buttonwood tree until about 10 years ago open outcry was a way, and for a very long time the only way, traders communicated with each other. A trading floor in full roar may be the ultimate Continue reading

And Men Plunder

Plunder and Deceit: Big Government’s Exploitation of Young People and the Future
Mark R. Levin

plunderEver since I was a kid I’ve enjoyed getting a package in the mail. Paradoxically, the mystery contained in the big envelope or box remains even when I’ve place the order myself.

So when I found a Jiffy bag on my doorstep one day last fall I was intrigued. I hadn’t ordered anything. What could Continue reading

Science is Mankind’s Brother

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2012
Dan Ariely, Guest Editor; Tim Folger, Series Editor

Best_science_12Human beings love patterns. We seek them even when they don’t exist. So I’m not in alien territory when I wonder whether the pattern I’m stuck in with these science annuals is reading them at 12- to 18-month  intervals or picking volumes from  years divisible by two.

More likely there’s no pattern at all although I do have a common reaction which is that I cheat myself by not Continue reading

Turning Rebellion Into Money

Has it Come to This?
Rolling Stone’s 40 Greatest Punk Albums of All Time

14_ST_in_the_Day

The streetscape that defined an era. You can’t go back again. East 14th Street at 3rd Avenue, I think.
Photo (c) Ann Sanfedele and borrowed from Jeremiah Moss’s inspired blog ‘Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York’ with apologies. Click the shot to visit this fabulous site.

The first kid I knew who listened to punk rock was Danny Perlowitz. I have a distinct memory of him in 1978 bouncing on the balls of his feet, clad in a leather jacket that never came off and blue jeans, making his way through a crowded high school Continue reading

There is a Road

Tao Te Ching
Lao Tzu
Trans. by Stephen Addis & Stanley Lombardo

taoThere are three books I reread in more or less constant rotation. While you’ll never see them written about here they mean the world to me and keep me sane.

This is not one of those books.

It is however the basis for one of those books. More importantly, it is one of those books lying at the core of human civilization that we really ought to read. Think of the Continue reading

Social Structure Seemed a Simple Thing

Selected Works of Herbert Blumer: A Public Philosophy for Mass Society
Herbert Blumer, Stanford M. Lyman and Arthur J. Vidich, Eds.

Blumer

If you wait long enough, everything comes around again.

At least that’s how it seems to me. Those long gaps between acquiring a book and actually reading it are just me waiting for the zeitgeist to align with the author at hand and my interest of the moment.

So as soon as I picked up Blumer there he was in The New Yorker. Well not him, of course–Herbert George Blumer’s Continue reading

The Ghost of a Romance

Indian Summer
William Dean Howells

Indian_SummerI was raised on classic romantic comedies. True, you couldn’t escape the endless stream of WWII movies in constant rerun, but if there was a choice Mom always picked the chick flick. Which is why I have a weakness for the form.

William Dean Howells has convinced me that before we Continue reading

I’ve Got the Fever

Fever Pitch
Nick Hornby

fever_pitchI hate to say this, but I think my mom was wrong.

Growing up my mom was the reader in the house even though the demands on her time had reduced that to mostly newspapers and magazines with the occasional book borrowed from the local library.  The hard evidence was locked away in an antique oak bookcase with a glass door that lived in the basement. There stood several Continue reading

Ready to Tear Up the World

Wolf Hall
Hilary Mantel

Wolf_HallI grew up lost in historical fiction. Johnny Tremain,  was big. So was The Link Boys, set in London a bit earlier than 1700.  I can’t explain the fascination. I only know it faded sometime after I read Ragtime. Too many coincidences for one family, I thought.

And so, when I read a profile of Hilary Mantel I wondered what the fuss was about. In part it was the Continue reading

Oh Mickey You’re So Fine

The Reversal
Michael Connelly

reversalHere’s my crime fiction trifecta: Los Angeles, murder and an Irish Catholic writer. There’s something about the City of Angels and writers raised in such self-identified ethnic homes that makes for an entertaining read.

At least for me and at least when the writer is James M. Cain.

Or Michael Connelly. Continue reading

History Never Repeats

This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly
Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff

this_timeLong ago I took a class in economic history. It was taught in the history department, by visiting faculty not terribly well versed in economics.

Let me qualify that last  bit. Not terribly well versed in the quantitative, equation-driven neo-classical post-Samuleson economics most often taught in the Econ Continue reading

Could Spark Up Nostalgia

FramptonFrampton Comes Alive 
Peter Frampton
Originally Released: 1976

More than a few decades back it seemed like every high school-aged white kid in America was issued the same five albums. On Long Island, there was a bonus sixth record.

I owned most of them but even if you didn’t you couldn’t escape. None of us could and in certain precincts of the FM dial you still Continue reading

A Man With A Calling

The Charm School
Nelson DeMille

Charm_SchoolReturn with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. No, not the wild west, or even The Wild, Wild West, but to the days of East versus West.  Around these parts vacation means light reading and nowadays Cold War thrillers seems downright quaint.

This time Mr. DeMille takes us a little farther afield than Long Island, the site of the last Cold War tale we read from him. If you’ve been here before you know that one  of my Continue reading

Cos’ it Runs in the Family

The Politics of the Family and Other Essays
R. D. Laing

polticsI first encountered the title of this book’s central essay in college where it was used to label one of the courses in the nascent Women’s Studies curriculum. I sat in on a session, and opted not to take the class, but I did pick up a useful phrase and concept.

Eventually a First Edition of the original fell into my hands and I dove in. I already knew who R.D. Laing was. At a formative stage–actually I think I’m eternally in a Continue reading

I Ran So Far Away

Readling Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
Azar Nafisi

Reading“There ain’t no such thing as a coinky-dinky.” I’m pretty sure Tennessee Ernie Ford, playing Cousin Ernie on “I Love Lucy,” said that. And whether or not I scrambled the facts in my Cuisinart of a memory, I think I’ve always sort of taken it as received wisdom.

So much so that I went to graduate school to get a degree in why that shouldn’t be so. Yet I remain the superstitious Continue reading

By Night Beware

Night Vision
Randy Wayne White

12v6_Night-VisionThere are probably worse jobs than professional fishing guide. Sun, sea, fish, fun.

I suppose, though, if the fish aren’t biting the customers might get unhappy. And bad weather probably directly affects your income. But all in all it’s like the bumper Continue reading

Another Year Over

The Year in Music: A Titular PlaylistLP

Earlier this year I started using song lyrics to title my posts. The first time was a fluke. But since I drive people crazy with lyrics I kept it up as a challenge to myself.

I’ve taken some time off to repair and enjoy my family. So the writing has diminished but the listening never does. So here’s a year-end present for you: a play list (on Spotify and Continue reading

A Walk on the Slippery Rocks

Memoirs of Socrates & The Symposium
Xenophon (trans. by Hugh Tredennick)

xenophonI feel sorry for philosophy majors.

Because somehow, somewhere along the line, philosophers came to be the whipping boys and girls of higher education. Who’d have thought it would ever come to that?

Quite some time ago, as a freshman, I had to take a year- Continue reading

There’s a Rat in Mi Kitchen

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
John le Carré

tinker tailorEspionage. It’s probably one of the cooler words we English speakers borrowed from the French even if we’ve had a word with a similar sounding root bouncing around since 1200 or so. (For the curious, that word is espy.)

A great word ought to serve a great purpose and so it does. At least when it comes to the 20th century version of the craft. You could be forgiven for thinking that the practice somehow emerged full-blown from the foreheads of the US and Soviet governments after Continue reading

The Music Goes ‘Round and Around

MusicophiliaMusicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain
Oliver Sacks

Earlier this year, at the age of 82, Oliver Sacks passed away.  Along with Lewis Thomas (and, arguably, Benjamin Spock) he broke down the doors between the high priesthood of medicine and the poor supplicants who require medical help.

Sacks was a neurologist  whose notoriety grew over the last 4 decades or so as he published case studies of his most interesting patients. If the old saw is that medicine is as much an art as a science, Sacks did his best to live up to that. His writing was never fussy and while he never Continue reading

Soft be Her Tears

Le-TricoloreParis grieves and I do with her.

It seems pointless to stick to a normal schedule in the wake of such madness. Those of us who were in Manhattan on a September morn fourteen years ago know too well the shock, sadness and anger Paris is experiencing.

Paris is the world city I know best after New York. I’ve rambled all over its streets, ridden the Metro to points more distant, relaxed in its cafes and ambience. It is difficult to remember that the City of Light has often seen, as it is seeing now, war.

War is a harsh word, one Mssr. Hollande, I am sure, chose carefully.  But it is the apt word. The grand strategists, the students of von Claussewitz and von Metternich, like to say war is diplomacy by other means. But what if diplomacy is not the desired end?

Because before there was grand strategy there was harsh reality: war imposes a cost in blood and treasure so high that at some point it forces a change.  That is the goal that terror seeks, expending lives to take lives in the quest of who knows what end. The logic of war–the lesson of the century just past–is that halfway measures don’t even achieve halfway results.

I fear for the children, my own included. The world seems unlikely to cooperate in delivering security.  I hope for the best but the madness of this moment seems too deep.

For now, I mourn with Paris.

 

 

Food for the Thinkers

Young_A-TECHNIQUEA Technique for Producing Ideas
James Webb Young

Like everyone, okay, like many people I know, there are days when I doubt the choices I’ve made. I’m talking about the big choices and among the biggest is what I’ve chosen to do to earn my bread.

On the best of days–and oh how I wish there were more of those–I’m pretty certain I could have made another choice. But I’m also pretty certain that the Continue reading

Sugar and Stress

The Trouble with Testosterone
And Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament
Robert M. Sapolsky

the-trouble-with-testosterone

Last I looked,  Mighty Mouse had little to do with science.

Yet an editor agreed to use his image on a book cover–and a science, no, not just a science, a biology book cover at that–for a reason. And it wasn’t just to crack me up.

(It probably was intended to draw my attention to the book on the shelf. Alas for the bean-counters and the Continue reading

La Mer

The Outlaw Sea: A  World of Freedom, Chaos and Crime
William Langewiesche

outlaw_sea

Who remembers this favorite grade school question: Which direction do all rivers run? The answer: to the sea.

Strictly speaking that’s wrong. It’s the word all that messes everything up. But in a more general sense it’s true because no matter how you slice it, this big, blue ball is blue because there’s more water on it than land.

William Langewische wants us to know just how much water that is. While he’s at it, he’d also like us to Continue reading

Change is Hard

The Ordeal of Change
Eric Hoffer

The Ordeal of Change by Eric Hoffer

Imagine this if you can.

Suppose you were a fan of Sunday-morning talking-head shows. Or maybe its easier to picture yourself as the type who prefers a weeknight alternative, say Charlie Rose or the PBS News Hour.

Whichever, I’m sure you have some sense of who you’d expect to see. There’s a great leveling force at work on those shows such that  academicians, experts and everyone Continue reading

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted

H_is_for_Hawk_coverH is for Hawk
Helen Macdonald

The Pope was in town while I was reading this book.  So I had plenty of opportunity to contemplate just how inventive human beings can be when they set their mind to it. How otherwise to account for so many disparate viewpoints finding a common advocate in Francis?

It’s the same with books, as any honest English professor would tell you.  It’s just that sometimes the blank slate the book offers is more apparent than others. In the present case you might say that the Continue reading

Don’t Go Back to Rockville

spencervilleSpencerville
Nelson DeMille

Let me state the obvious: there is no song lyric about Spencerville, at least that I’m aware of. And so I find myself stretching to make a completely unrelated burg serve as a stand-in so I can maintain a conceit about post titles.

Well, I had to fail sometime. And since none of this has Continue reading

Everybody Eats (When They Come to My House)

McWilliams_RevolutionA Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food
Shaped America
James E. McWilliams

New England Boiled Dinner. Can there be four more fearsome words in the English language? I grew up in a boiling household and the idea of enshrining that flavor-destroying technique  in the name of the meal strikes terror in my tummy.

So you can imagine my confusion when confronting a litany of the typical New England kitchen garden circa 1700 or so. This is just a patial list of things I didn’t expect to see: leeks, currants. mint, asparagus. artichokes, basil, garlic, Continue reading

The Things That We’ve Learnt

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004pinker_best Steven Pinker, Guest Editor; Tim Folger, Series Editor

Birds. I can’t help it, they irk me even though I love birdsong. But as creatures, unh unh. Count me out. What with their unblinking eyes and ability to poop on me from above. I just know they’re waiting to take the planet back.

Which is why I’m shamefaced to point out that the most enjoyable piece of writing in this decade-or-so old Continue reading

A Walk-on Part in the War

the-end-of-the-battleThe End of the Battle
Evelyn Waugh

My tombstone was going to read, “Never Tweeted. Never Texted. Never Wrote a Blog. He was a Human Being.” Having failed  on all three fronts there’s no alternative but the former front-runner: “Never Saw Star Wars.

That didn’t keep me from seeing the rest of the original trilogy. I’m just not a lunatic completist, even if that means Continue reading

(Ain’t but) One Way Out

Wendell_HolmesWendell Holmes
1944-2015

In my current suburban dad existence the things I used to be on  top of take longer to find me. So it was almost two months before word of Wendell Holmes‘ passing made its way onto  my radar screen. He was only 71.

Wendell was the guitar player in The Holmes Brothers, a blues trio–sometimes a Continue reading

Rocket Man

It's always best to begin at the beginning. Sun Ra and co in 1955.

It’s always best to begin at the beginning.
Sun Ra and co in 1955.

What did rebels do before Elvis? And what happened to them once he arrived? Some, I think, reconnected with their home planet.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The place to start is Birmingham, Alabama in the second decade of the 20th century. In the year that Europe began its descent into madness, the Blount family welcomed their Continue reading

Come on in my Kitchen

LoomisIn a French Kitchen:
Tales and Traditions of Everyday Cooking in France

Susan Hermann Loomis

A modest proposal : let’s make a simple one-word tweak to the national motto of France. Henceforth let us speak of liberté, égalité, pâtisserie

I suppose, though, that if push came to shove I’d be willing to restrict the use to cookbooks and slice-of-life tales. Or, as is the case with Susan Loomis’ book, titles that are both at the same time.

Publishing, as I’ve said repeatedly, is a for-profit business although publishers might Continue reading

Brothers (in Arms)

In some arenas, brotherhood works.

In some arenas, brotherhood works.

I find it hard to concentrate these days. I’m unable to finish even the simplest book. And the meaty stuff is stacking up ever higher. All signs of drawing too close to the borders of darkland, which is understandable but undesirable.

So I turn for solace, as ever, to music. And what prompts me to attempt writing today is a post from back in May on Every Record Tells a Story. That piece brought to my attention an incident I didn’t know about: a dust-up between Dave Davies and Mick Avory Continue reading

Hey, Baby, It’s the Fourth of July: A Six Pack and Playlist

Flag stampDespite myself, I am terribly sentimental about the Fourth of July. Without disrespecting anyplace else, it’s a singular privilege to live in this grand, glorious mess of a nation which is still, as far as I know, the only one built on an idea.

There are two things that make at least this American proud. One is the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics when after watching nation after homogeneous nation march by the US contingent rolls in, a fabulous mosaic of all the types of people who are just like the rest of us (only faster or stronger or more coordinated, it is the Olympics after all). The other is in the music this Continue reading

Back off Boogaloo

boogalooBoogaloo: The Quintessence of American Popular Music
Arthur Kempton

Music is my obsession. I revere scholarship. You would think a combination of the two would prove intriguing. But that would require the involvement of a scholar. Sadly, this lengthy tome lacks it.

Kempton states his thesis  in his subtitle: American popular music  is based on forms developed by Black Americans. That’s hardly startling. We have heard it before, particularly from a certain rock critic. What’s unique about Kempton’s arguably workaday thesis is how he chooses to defend it.

Typically this story is told as slightly offset parallel tracks: rhythm and blues becomes rock-‘n’-roll by way of Sun Studio is one common telling. You Continue reading

Color Him Father

Thomas L. McCreight
December 2, 1928–June 8, 2015

The Lion in Winter My Dad, May 2015

The Lion in Winter
My Dad, May 2015

Until now this space has limited the personal to opinion. That’s by design. Today I’m breaking that mold to write about my father who passed away on June 8. Roman Catholic ritual doesn’t embrace eulogies so consider this his.

Almost anyone born at the start of or during the Great Depression can tell tales of want and fear. Even my mother-in-law, born in 1932 of two college-educated parents, could summon a tale or two. My dad’s tale is a bit worse than many. Born into difficult circumstances he and his brother, who was two or three years older, were removed from their mother’s care and sent to an orphanage run by Dominican Continue reading

Wondering

How Americans (or anyone else for that matter) would react to a New York/Tri-state dream ticket.

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