Sunday, February 26, 2012

Toiling in the indoctrination mill...

"Dark Satanic Mills" has taken on a whole new meaning... it's called college!
Rick Santorum: "I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely..."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Newt pledges $2.50 a gallon... I say why not $6.00?

One of my fantasies is that someday we'll have a politician with the gumption to say, "You know folks, I don't feel any better than you do about Exxon and the Saudis getting richer at our expense, but when we get serious about climate change, we all should be prepared to pay even more at the pump..."

That doesn't seem to be the president's message... but at least he seems to have some realistic notion of how the petroleum market works...

Monday, February 20, 2012


In Boston over the weekend, I took in a showing of Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, part of a retrospective on Studio Ghibli at the Museum of Fine Arts. I had seen it on the small screen before, but it is a treat to see one of Miyazaki's masterpieces in the theater. Like some of his other films, it is unabashedly eco-feminist-pacifist in its politics, blended with a healthy dose of pop Japanese mythology and Gaia-style new-age spiritualism. If that sounds dull or preachy, think again. The story is gripping and moving, the characters vivid. The overall tone is deeply sad, despite many humorous moments, an irresistibly spunky heroine, and a somewhat hasty and forced happy ending.

In the film the forces of love and life face off against the forces of rage and violence; the former are often associated with nature and the female, the latter with technology and the male, but Miyazaki is no dogmatist, and the correlation is far from one-for-one. The gigantic insect-like Ohm, standing in for nature and the earth itself, are capable of love but also blind and self-destructive rage; our heroine Princess Nausicaä is inspired and assisted by Master Yupa, who appears at first to have walked straight into the film from a John Ford western, but is really a buddha-like seeker.

Seeing it I was reminded yet again of how exquisitely beautiful Miyazaki's films are, how cinematic, and how downright visually clever. In Nausicaä, there is great beauty to be found in the tranquility and fecundity of the natural world, but also in the scary, explosive violence of battle. At no point is your eye tempted to wander from the screen.

Like his later Princess Mononoke, this is a cautionary tale, and part of the sadness comes from knowing that we humans are busily failing our planet, and ourselves. Alas, only in the movies are we saved by the heroic princess.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 7

A small band of protesters outside the Grammy awards complained about the Recording Academy's dropping some 31 categories of awards (including Latin jazz!). The Academy refers to this as "restructuring," a popular euphemism for "eliminating." You can find their rationales here. I especially enjoyed this one: "As to other changes, the chamber category was folded into the small ensemble category, the only distinction having been the number of players in the group (chamber being smaller), and the fact that small ensemble recording could, though not necessarily, employ a conductor." Next year they can fold in the best orchestral performance category as well, and use exactly the same justification!

Meanwhile, inside, the pall of death hung over the proceedings, and I'm not just referring to poor Whitney. A parade of aging pop stars was trotted out for a most remarkably awful set of performances. There was the former genius Sir Paul, atrocious (and even brought back on for a second song!); the former genius Brian Wilson with his old (and I mean old!) band, looking for all the world like a C- final project for Taxidermy 101; the not-so-genius Glen Campbell--sad, he will not be back next year. Even the formerly ageless Tony Bennett sounded washed up in his duet with overrated Underwood. The Boss opened the show, and at least he put some effort into it, although he sounded like he was trying very hard to sound like... the Boss. And as if to prove that you don't have to be old and tired to sound that way: Foo Fighters.

Amidst all this evidence of decline and decay, was there any manifestation of the life force, which is what we expect and deserve from popular music? Well, Bonnie Raitt showed Alicia Keys a thing or two about singing the blues, and perky Taylor Swift did good, looking fine in her cowgirl dress as she mugged and strummed along to "Mean."

But surprise surprise, the night belonged to Adele. Testing out her recently refurbished set of pipes, she found them to be in good working order. She's the real deal, but she is especially blessed to have a perfect pop song in "Rolling in the Deep." Once you've heard it, you groove along to her bluesy delivery of the rather undistinguished melody of the verse, in sweet anticipation of that marvelous soaring chorus, complete with the most effectively hooky background vocal arrangement in recent memory.

The show would have been vastly more enjoyable if they had dispensed with the old farts and let Adele sing "Rolling in the Deep" five or six times, taking a break inbetween to collect her breath and her awards.

I wonder if she can sing Latin jazz.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Wild Goose

I encounter them frequently on my runs through the Palo Alto Baylands. Well, to be honest, these ones seem more tame than wild. But at any rate they have inspired some very fine songs...

Here's the extraordinary voice of Louis Killen singing the old shanty... more about sailin' ships and pretty girls than waterfowl, I suppose...

And here's the somewhat less than extraordinary voice of Peter Stampfel singing his heart out on the 1950s hit, "Cry of the Wild Goose." Go to his web site and buy all his music!

Cry of the Wild Goose

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bill Cosby plays drums

Those Lincoln Center tributes on PBS can be annoying love-fests, but when they played this clip, I must confess I understand why Jack Benny just about fell out of his chair. The man was (is) very funny... Added bonus: Rita Moreno's strangely sultry rendition of "Brazil."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What's for dinner, Mark?

This young Zuckerberg fella is a neighbor of mine. Now that he's worth $28 billion or so, I think he can afford to invite me over for a nice meal. I wonder if he has a hot tub...