Sunday, October 26, 2008

Soggy Sunday, nearly Samhain

Well, Samhain's next Friday; but the powers-that-be have determined today is the day that Summer time ends and we have to manipulate all the clocks. As Malcolm's dear, dead, old Dad half-yearly recited, "Spring forward; Fall back."

Now, it's winter all the way to next April.

That means tomorrow will feel the gloomiest evening of the year: dark coming home from work. Dank and gloomy. And today, in London, it is steel-grey skies and a wet, wet morning.

This was the day the greatest Englishman, King Aelfred, died, back in 899. It is a national holiday in Austria, marking the end of the post-WW2 occupation. It is the day that Christmas puddings are made at Redfellow Hovel; so Malcolm deems it a good day to be doing mundane tasks, well away from the kitchen-cum-battlezone.

The new Big Bugger

One easy task is setting up his new terabyte hard-drive. That's a no-brainer, thanks to the seamless workings of MacOs and LaCie. Plug in; power-up; click: that's it. Now he sits back and meditates while the iTunes library migrates and Time Machine does its business.

He notes that he spent less on this new appliance than he did to upgrade his first computer, a BBC Micro, to a cracking 32Mb of RAM. That prompts thoughts of how this reflects Gordon Moore's Law. When Malcolm's sturdy 68030 IIVX began to creak under the strain, he dibbed it a SCSI hard-drive: all of 2 gigabytes. That drive lived on through the iterations of LCs that followed. It fell foul of the end of SCSI and the arrival of Macs.

So the next external hard disk had to be a Firewire 160 Gb: that's still going, touch wood. It was superseded by a 320 for all those ever-expanding iTunes and iPhoto libraries. Then came the 500: surely, surely, that could fulfil all requirements? Yes, but a Brooklyn Brewery fuelled lunchtime, coinciding with a stroll through the Fifth Avenue Apple Store added a portable Verbatim 320Gb -- just in case, one appreciates. And now a new departure: this one must be the tops ... and yet ... there's this Drobo storage robot which looks promising.

And so to iPoddery

Time for an autumn playlist: just the notion to keep Malcolm busy and out of culinary harm's way.

Where to start?

A prelude with Harry Connick Jr's piano instrumental of Autumn in New York. A nice piano roll to set the mood, best known from When Harry Met Sally. Our Malc reckons on this rather than a vocal version. Were he pushed for a voice, he'd probably be putting the versions by Billie Holiday, Jo Stafford, Sarah Vaughan or Ella Fitzgerald in something like that order:

Ever since he had his first, though second-generation, 20 Gb iPod (again, still cranking along and designated "Old Faithful") it has been Malcolm's custom to upload the Complete Atomic Basie album. That gives him three superb and favourite tracks (though the other baker's dozen are not far behind): The Kid from Red Bank and Whirly Bird:

That will keep anyone awake as the autumnal dark sets in, plus Li'l Darlin'. Malcolm expects anyone used to the Neal Hefti recording (and Hefti, if anyone, should be the arbiter) will strain at the restrained Basie tempo: this is the ultimate "sweet" jazz tune, but Malcolm is happy to go with the flow.

More big band stuff

Well, to keep the balance, there needs to some Ellington. It's tempting, since we are dealing with the 32Gb of a iPod Touch here, to drop in all 24 CDs of the Centennial Edition of the Complete RCA Victor recordings. That would be cheating. So let's settle for some "Best of ...". That has to be Sophisticated Lady, Mood Indigo, Black-and-Tan Fantasy, Rockin' in Rhythm, Perdido, Take the A-Train ... Where does one stop? Ah, but versions of all of those are on the sampler for the Centennial Edition. Not necessarily Malcolm's favourite versions, but quick and simple to upload.

Hell's teeth! We're still missing:

More! More!

Well, Malcolm insists on Charlie Barnett's Skyliner and Cherokee. There's nothing here from two of Malcolm's other standy-bys: Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. That's easily, if minimally redressed . For the former, swiftly uploads Frenesi, Begin the Beguine, Dancing in the Dark and Nightmare (that last being perfect for Oíche Shamhna/Hallowe'en, when Malcolm will be driving back to London from Yorkshire). For Benny, he picks his way through the classic 1938 Carnegie Hall concert. That gives him One O'Clock Jump (which could have come equally from the Basie band), Avalon, Honeysuckle Rose, Stompin' at the Savoy and Sing, Sing, Sing. And, of course, Don't Be That Way:

We want some lyrics!

Yeah, that does overload the instrumentals a bit. For balance, Malcolm drags in:
  • A Foggy Day (Jo Stafford wins out over Lady Day, simply because of the atmospherics, while the Julie London version overdoes the sound effects: pity, that);
  • a quick nip round the Piccadilly corner for those Angels dining at the Ritz (let's have the Manhattan Transfer for Nightingale).
As that was playing, shuffle mode threw in, uninvited, Willie Nelson doing Stardust. Malcolm happily lets it stay, along with Georgia on My Mind (though that squeezes out Ray Charles, who'll have to be represented by You Are My Sunshine or ...). Hey, there's enough Nelson, some eight gigs already, in there already: enough to circumnavigate!

Sticking to the ladies, here's
  • Dakota Staton and I Can't Get Started. That was going to be Sarah Vaughan (a better version, except for the celeste or vibraphone accompaniment),
  • so to keep the divine Sarah represented, It's De-Loverly (she does the complex lyrics magnificently);
  • further bumping up the Cole Porter quota (and adding a missing ingredient) Anything Goes from Ella Fitzgerald; and
  • the ultimate autumnal song, Peggy Lee's The Folks Who Live on the Hill. Not a dry seat in the house.
Time to stir the pudding!

The call to duty. So, for the moment, a quick finish. That's got to be:
  • Les Feuilles Mortes, with Charles Trenet (that and La Mer are already in another play-list). Very different to what Johnny Mercer did to it. He somehow left out those romantic dead leaves collected on the shovel, which sound so much better in French:
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi
Mais mon amour silencieux et fidèle
Sourit toujours et remercie la vie.
Je t'aimais tant, tu étais si jolie.
Comment veux-tu que je t'oublie ?
En ce temps-là, la vie était plus belle
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu'aujourd'hui.
Tu étais ma plus douce amie
Mais je n'ai que faire des regrets
Et la chanson que tu chantais,
Toujours, toujours je l'entendrai !

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Says it all

All kudos to

Malcolm, back around 1962 or so, signed up for the Irish Labour Party/Dream an Lucht Oibre, The Party Constitution went far beyond Sidney Webb's Clause IV. Clause 11 or 12 (the precise number now eludes Malcolm's recollection) called for the nationalisation of banking and insurance.

Malcolm thought then that such was a:
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself.
Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

From sea to shining sea

Malcolm, usually inherently suspicious, missed one point until now. He should have remembered, having blogged the link previously.

He was amused that the Miami Herald was engrossed by the personality and background of Sarah Palin, from the diagonally opposite corner of the States. Mrs Mooseblaster is now on a two-day "swing" through Florida, hoping to pick up $3 million for the strapped McCain coffers, and so incurs even greater local interest

Yet the Herald seems to have a down on Mrs Mooseblaster. This might be a recognition that Florida is not showing appropropriate reverence for the McCain-Palin ticket: Fox/Rasmussen has them now falling fully seven points adrift -- and southern Florida is far stronger for Obama than the State as a whole.

That would not explain Carl Hiaasen's brilliant demolition stomping over the Mooseblaster reputation, before the Veep debate. Hiaasen escalates from:
the same right-wing gasbags who've trashed Hillary Clinton for 16 years have morphed into sensitive souls when it comes to their own hockey-mom candidate. Each unsettling news revelation about Palin is automatically decried as a sexist smear.
via permutations of the formula:
If Palin were a male candidate, Democrat or Republican, she'd be taking heat for ...
Each jab punctuated with a reprise of those grimy moments of the Mooseburger rise to fame and fortune. This concludes with:

If Palin were a man, she'd be questioned closely about her professed aversion to pork-barrel government spending, since she has happily pledged $500 million of her state's money toward a 1,715-mile natural gas pipeline.

Speaking about that as-yet unbuilt project, Palin got on stage at the Wasilla Assembly of God and told churchgoers: ''God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies in getting that gas line built, so pray for that.'' As you might imagine, this is a popular clip on YouTube.

A male candidate would be ridiculed -- no, make that crucified -- for suggesting that the Lord has taken a personal interest in natural-gas extraction. Luckily for Palin, the Sarah Rules censure such commentary as anti-religious...

Wondrously, though, Palin has yet to face any questions about her weird anti-witch inoculation at the hands of one Pastor Thomas Muthee in 2005. It's sort of creepy to watch, but who knows -- maybe this stuff really works for future vice presidents. Maybe Spiro Agnew should have tried it.

That is pure, delicious vitriol.

[The YouTube video mentioned is essential viewing. The Mooseblaster doctine is that gas pipe-lines and the US mission in Iraq are "God's plan":]

Today's Herald editorial pursues Hiaasen's central point:

She doesn't hold news conferences and has kept interviews to a minimum. She doesn't field questions from her own donors at fundraising appearances, as Sen. John McCain does. As a campaign strategy, running against the media may ingratiate her to the party faithful, but it does nothing to reassure doubters and undecided voters.

A news conference is an effective way to communicate. Gov. Palin should be eager to show that she is ready to compete in the same arena as other candidates by taking part in this time-honored ritual. Her reluctance adds to the appearance of a lack of transparency in her campaign.

This disturbing pattern includes the ongoing ''troopergate'' investigation in Alaska involving her firing the public safety commissioner. McCain-Palin spokesmen call it a political trick designed to undermine the campaign. How could that be when the investigation began well before she joined the GOP ticket?

The Herald is a modest operation, but a successful one: less than half-a-million circulation for the fat Sunday edition -- but still in the top two-dozen best-selling dailies across the Nation.

And the stinger?

Behind the Herald stands the McClatchy Company, the third-largest newspaper operation in the US -- which also owns the Anchorage Daily News. Malcolm enjoys reading between the lines of that journal, as its decent liberal regard for the truth and the facts compete daily with the fervour of the local Alaskan Republican norms favoured by its readership.

Today's gem is the coverage of Senator Ted Stevens, up on corruption charges: a distinguished Attorney General of the US, Alaskan of the Century, indulging in a foul-mouthed rant against the FBI agents who were charged with investigating Stevens and others.

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, October 3, 2008

Here's one we made earlier...

'Nuff said.

Watcha make of that?

(Tip o' the hat to Carolyn Kay at Sphere: Related Content
Redemption from "Covergate"?

Malcolm remembers Boston, in the Great State of Massachusetts (as they say), for many reasons, almost all pleasant. One that was more dubious was the New Yorker magazine issue which produced the infamous "Covergate":

For a gnat's lifetime, the usual longevity of a non-story, US media became obsessed with Barry Blitt's "satirical" image: "President" Obama in the Oval Office, in robe and head-dress, Old Glory burning in the fireplace, Michelle Obama with AK47 in combat-gear.

Malcolm knows from repeated contact with New Jersey that his US associates and in-laws do not easily relate to irony.

Now, the current issue of the New Yorker has endorsed Obama:
At a moment of economic calamity, international perplexity, political failure, and battered morale, America needs both uplift and realism, both change and steadiness. It needs a leader temperamentally, intellectually, and emotionally attuned to the complexities of our troubled globe. That leader’s name is Barack Obama.
If we are to believe the Huffingtons of this world -- normal diplomatic relationships have been restored.

As if the New Yorker and its readers were going to vote anyway else. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Malcolm's missus makes a guest appearance:

She sends him a clipping:
Working people frequently ask retired people what they do to make their days interesting.

Well, for example, the other day the wife and I went into town and went into a shop. We were only in there for about 5 minutes. When we came out, there was a cop writing out a parking ticket.

We went up to him and said, "Come on man, how about giving a senior citizen a break?"

He ignored us and continued writing the ticket.

I called him a Nazi turd. He glared at me and began writing another ticket for having worn tires.

So the wife called him a shithead. He finished the second ticket and put it on the windscreen with the first.

Then he started writing a third ticket.

This went on for about 20 minutes.

The more we abused him, the more tickets he wrote.

Personally, we didn't care. We'd come into town by bus.

We try to have a little fun each day now that we're retired. It's important at our age.
Sphere: Related Content
When comes such another?

Hidden at the bottom of the New York Times's morning e-mail:

On Oct. 2, 1967, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming the first black to serve on the high court.
This clicks through to the news report from 1967:
President Johnson paid an unannounced visit to the Supreme Court this morning to witness the swearing in of Thurgood Marshall, who became the first Negro to sit on the high court. Mr. Johnson took his seat in the "family section" near the bench, shortly before the Justices took their seats for the opening of the new term. The President left immediately after the five-minute ceremony. He did not attempt to congratulate Justice Marshall, who remained on the bench with the other Justices for almost an hour, as 223 lawyers were admitted to practice before the Court. Justice Marshall, the great-grandson of a slave, gained national fame as a counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He swore today to "administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich."
Thye image above (left) is of marshall as LBJ's Attorney General: the others are from the stage production and are of Laurence Fishburne.

This anniversary reminds us, in so many ways, how far we have come since then. And how far still to go (not original: see third point below).

First, there's that subtle change of vocabulary. The Times in 1967 felt free to use the term "negro", whereas today's prompt uses "black". No qualms there about those dubious hyphenations like "Afro-American".

Second, there's the nudge that LBJ was as progressive in his domestic policy as he was accursed in his Ind0-China embroilment (though, in fairness, he inherited both from the sainted JFK).

Third, last, and most significant here, it reminds Malcolm that he caught Thurgood, Laurence Fishburne's superb one-man show at the Booth Theater. This is George Stevens' racy narration, directed by Leonard Foglia, of Marshall's life, from the streets of Baltimore to a quarter-century on the Supreme Court. It's more than a play, as is witnessed by the publication of an educational guide (and it's not a kiddie's guide, either) to go with it.

Apart from being a cathartic experience, Malcolm noted this was the most mixed audience he had seen in any theatre/theater ... no, not "for a long while" ... ever. It denied one of the implications of Arthur Miller's title, A View from the Bridge: this was no privileged audience who had ridden from Long Island or Connecticut, into Manhattan, passing over the heads of the folk living below the Brooklyn or Triborough bridges. And rarely has he shared a mood of such involvement. As Charles Isherwood's review properly began:
It’s a safe bet that Thurgood is the only play on Broadway at which the announcement of a famous legal verdict is greeted by a burst of heartfelt applause.
For once the fictive drama was reflecting the true man: it was making a difference. Just as Marshall had done. Sphere: Related Content
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