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September 2014

52 Guitars: Week 39

Ralph Towner

I don't think I had even heard Ralph Towner's name when I saw Blue Sun in a record store sometime back in the 1980s and bought it on the strength of the cover art. I don't know how well you can make out the photograph that occupies the center of it, but it's a very beautiful sea and sky picture that makes me think of a Scandinavian summer.  



Image swiped from the great ECM fan site between sound and space 

Not everything on the album lived up to the promise of that image, but enough of it did that I didn't regret the purchase, and have bought two other Towner albums over the years. Most of his work is on the wonderful ECM label, and I've learned since that I can pretty well rely on finding anything issued on it at least interesting.

Towner's music occupies a sort of indeterminate territory which comes out of what could broadly be considered a jazz culture or sensibility, but is not exactly jazz, and not exactly anything else, either. It could be called ECM territory, as a lot of the label's output fits there. 

From Solstice, which I don't have, but which says is his best album, and so worth investigating, here is "Nimbus":


From Ana, "The Reluctant Bride" and "Green and Golden":


I don't know of anyone else in the world who can play a 12-string like this. "Spirit Lake" can be found on Solo Concert, but this is a different and even more spectacular performance. 


Bergman: Sawdust and Tinsel (and Port of Call)

I think I put this early (1953) Bergman work in my queue almost as soon we joined Netflix, which is getting to be quite a while back now. I did it more out of a sense of duty than in expectation that I would actually like it, as I didn't expect it to be as good as the classics that would soon follow it in Bergman's career. So it sat there, like a number of other movies, never getting to the top of the queue because my wife and I were always putting other things ahead of it. But lately I've been noticing more obscure titles disappearing from Netflix, and others flagged as being available only after a "long wait," or in the case of this one, a "very long wait." 

So I put it on top of the list, and it turned out that the Very Long Wait was only a week or so, and I tried to watch it promptly in hopes of sparing some other Bergman fan a Very Long Wait.  It more than fulfilled my expectations. It's a story of futility, humiliation, and defeat among the losers (I don't care much for that word, but it is perfectly accurate here) who comprise a traveling circus company that's barely surviving. It contains much that makes many of Bergman's films so grim, but without the magic touch of genius that elevates the others. Not that it's bad, by any means. It's very well done, very well acted, and it does deliver the blow it intends to deliver. But it doesn't strike me as great. I would recommend it only to Bergman fans who want to see everything by the master. Here's a link to the Criterion Collection page. Put the words "circus" and "misery" together, and you have the general idea; even the bear is miserable. Here, for instance, is a characteristic moment in the life of the clown.


And while I'm at it: it's been several months now, but I also saw an even earlier Bergman work: Port of Call, released in 1948. It didn't make a really strong impression on me, but it's worth seeing, maybe even if you're not a huge Bergman fan. Although this is a bit of a spoiler, I have to reveal one thing about it, only because it's so surprising: it has a happy ending. Here's its Criterion Collection page.

Thinking about the two together, I realize that one reason for my lack of enthusiasm is that neither has any of the pointers toward the big theological and philosophical questions that filled the works that were to come over the next ten or fifteen years. Nor do they have much of the visual magic, at least to my eyes, though Sawdust  does have its moments in that respect.

Youthful Idealism

Youth, as everyone knows who has passed through it some time ago, is the age not of idealism but of self-importance, uncertainty masked by certitude and moral grandiosity untouched by experience of life — or, of course, the age of total insouciance. 

--Theodore Dalrymple

Dalrymple is musing on the dangerous mixture of youth and ideology in Muslim extremists, especially the British ones; the whole piece is at National Review Online. This is the opening sentence, and it really struck me. It certainly describes me as a young man, and fits many of the people I knew then. I've been saying for a long time that what was called idealism in the youth culture of the 1960s was generally not that at all, but I've never managed to say what it actually was as well as Dalrymple does here.

A few months ago I read an article about the heavy bias toward youth in the technology industry, where even being as old as forty is a marked disadvantage if you're looking for a job. Some entrepreneur still in his twenties admitted that he didn't even consider hiring anyone much older than himself, and said, "Let's face it: young people are smarter. That's just a fact."

I snorted at that and thought No, young people are stupid. But that's not right, either. Young people in general do have quicker minds, can more readily learn new things, and do complicated tasks more rapidly, and those are qualities very desirable in a programmer or engineer. But what often strikes me about young people is that they tend to be foolish. I don't know that as a group they're any more foolish than the youth of any time, but very foolish many of them are, and ignorant as well. Moreover, they tend to be arrogant in their foolishness. Youth possesses many gifts, but that wisdom is not often one of them is part of the wisdom of the ages, and of age, that it doesn't yet grasp.

52 Guitars: Week 38

Jim Thomas

Who? Well, allow me to introduce you to The Mermen. Don't be too quick to turn up the sound.


They're an instrumental trio who began around 1990 as a sort of neo-surf band, but they've gone far afield from that, though you can still hear some of it in their sound, which at times might be described as Dick Dale meets Jimi Hendrix. Their web site calls it "psychedelic instrumental ocean music," and says that the band's name was derived from the Jimi Hendrix song/soundscape "1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be").

Thomas is the guitarist, and along with bassist Allen Whitman and drummer Martyn Jones the Mermen make music that is both fierce and melodic. Their 1995 album A Glorious Lethal Euphoria is one of my all-time favorite albums, period. The opening track from it, "Pulpin' Line", is the one I really wanted to use instead of the preceding track, but the album version is not on YouTube. There are some decent live performances of it, but they don't have the same intensity, and the sound quality is not so great.

Here's something from that album. Again, don't be quick to turn up the sound.


They aren't always fast and loud and noisy; sometimes they're slow and loud and noisy, and sometimes they're even quiet. "And the Flowers They'll Bloom", all nearly-ten-minutes of it, is a showcase for the expressive power of an electric guitar and a rack full of effects.


There is a strangely mystical quality about the album, as is suggested by the cover (what you see in the two "videos" above), and by some of the song titles: "The Drowning Man Knows His God," "With No Definite Future and No Purpose Except to Prevail Somehow." Other titles are just whimsical, often somewhat bent, e.g. "Scalp Salad."

The Mermen seem to have become a sort of cult California jam band. Until a few minutes ago, when I looked at their web site, I didn't think they'd released an album since 2000's Amazing California Health and Happiness Road Show, but there is a more recent one, In God We Trust. I like Road Show but I'll be surprised if they ever surpass Euphoria. If you like what I've posted here, get it--you won't be sorry. (The first track is from Songs of the Cows, a less-than-full-length follow-up to Euphoria and sounds very much like it, and is almost as good.)

H. Beam Piper: "He Walked Around the Horses"

I wondered the other day whether some novelist had written an alternate-history exploration of what the world would have been like if the French Revolution had not happened. Paul obligingly posted a link to this 1948 story by H. Beam Piper, which you can read or download in various electronic formats at Project Gutenberg. It's an enjoyable story, though given its length it doesn't go into much detail about the world in which it takes place. And as an introductory note asserts, it is in fact based on a real event, the disappearance of an English diplomat in Prussia in 1809.

I recognized the author's name from my teenage days when I had a science-fiction mania, but I didn't know anything about him. His Wikipedia entry is interesting. One of the things there that struck me, having just finished the story, is that he was largely self-educated. The story includes a knowledge of history that I suspect would be beyond the average college student of today, and assumes a comparable level of knowledge on the reader's part, which is also interesting because it appeared in the April 1948 edition of Astounding, which was not aimed at a highly educated audience.


Piper committed suicide at the age of 61 in 1964, about the time I was becoming consumed with interest in sci-fi. He left a note which is both clever and heartbreaking:

I don't like to leave messes when I go away, but if I could have cleaned up any of this mess, I wouldn't be going away.

What a waste.

And by the way, as I should have expected, there is no lack of speculation on my original question, and moreover there is, as I should also have expected, a whole thriving community of alternate-history enthusiasts. 

The Anglican Muddle

The Panther and the Hind, by Aidan Nichols, O.P.

This book has been on my "do a blog post about this" list for several months now, so many that its details have begun to fade. One aspect of it that will not fade, though, unless I am overtaken by senility, is the clarity with which Fr. Nichols makes the case that Anglicanism was a theological muddle from the very beginning, and that the possibility of something more definite forming itself from the muddle is remote. This is not to deny tendencies such as that of the American Episcopal Church to become pretty well unified along liberal (to use the polite term) theological lines. But that sort of evolution is not an expression of the unity of Anglicanism, but rather of its splintering, as those who hold other views depart, either individually to other communions, or corporately into a schism which holds itself to be the continuation of real Anglicanism.

Over the past thirty or forty years it has become increasingly difficult to hold that there is any one thing that can be called Anglicanism apart from saying (tautologically) that it is whatever is formally encompassed within the Anglican Communion. And even that requires excluding from the picture those bodies which persist in calling themselves Anglican but are not part of the Communion. 

Fr. Nichols does not use the word "muddle" (as far as I recall). But that is what he describes. The crucial analysis is found early in the first chapter, under the subheading "The Theological Structure of the English Reformation." 

In dealing with the theological, as distinct from the narrative, structure of the English Reformation, we can single out four factors. These I would term the Wycliffite, Erastian, Lutheran, and Reformed elements. 

I'll summarize his summary, following his structure:

A. The Wycliffite element: the current of thought which is perhaps most recognizable to Americans in the form of Evangelical Protestantism. There is no visible Church, and the Bible is its one authority. 

B. The Erastian element: the Church is subordinate to the state; "the [element] likely to be overlooked by the modern student--whereas the historian Maurice Powicke wrote in his The Reformation in England, 'the one definite thing which can be said about the Reformation in England is that it was an act of State'".

C. The Lutheran element: scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone;  "the chief practical effect of Lutheran ideas lay in the dismantlement of those forms of mediaeval piety which were meaningless or indefensible in terms of justification by faith alone";  the visible Church remains, but mainly as the vehicle for transmitting those three central doctrines; sacramental practices remain, but are largely redefined.

D. The Reformed element: Nichols is referring here to Calvin and the others who systematized Lutheranism, and worked out some rather chilly doctrines about predestination and the like as logical deductions from Luther's ideas; I think this is in Nichols' view almost a matter of theological approach and culture, in its recourse to abstract ideas, an approach to which the English were not necessarily sympathetic.

Many of those elements may be reconcilable at the level of systematic theology, although probably at the cost of agreeing to disagree about some fairly important things. But some conflicts--for instance those between A and B, and D and everybody else--can only be accomodated within one institution by sacrificing truth (as conceived by one party) for unity. It is not surprising that the more radical elements of the Reformation soon became bitter enemies of the Church of England. 

At any rate, there is no place among those four elements, either within any one of them alone or the group as a whole, for a Catholic party. Those who continued to believe along Catholic lines regarding questions apart from the nature of the Church could find ways of existing within the Church of England, but could not plausibly regard themselves as having any sort of official place. I use "plausibly" from my perspective; of course many of them did believe that they had a real place, and a Catholic party did exist. Although Newman's journey was the story of his coming to the conclusion that Anglo-Catholicism as he wished to understand it was not in fact tenable, Anglo-Catholics who disagreed with him remained in the Church of England.

But as I understand (and remember!) Nichols, it is part of his thesis that the Catholic party could never be anything more than a party or a faction, and that this was so not by historical accident but intrinsically, because it was in the very foundation of the Church of England that it must accomodate factions animated by mutually exclusive ideas, and decide in favor of none. You can argue that this is not a muddle, but rather a healthy tolerance. But you can't reconcile it, institutionally or theologically, with Catholicism. It simply won't fit. Anglicans and Catholics can't hope to attain unity by following Augustine's counsel about agreeing on the essentials and letting the rest go because we don't agree about what the essentials are.

Nichols goes on to trace Anglican theology up to the time of his writing, 1993, and I will leave it to those interested to follow him by reading the book itself, which is not very long and an excellent place to being for a Catholic who wants to know something of the history of Anglicanism. Much that is either Catholic or entirely compatible with Catholicism found its way back into Anglicanism, taking on an English flavor (and including, of course, some very rich writing), but always as a minority view. Nichols ends, not surprisingly, with a pessimistic view of the possibility of institutional reunion, and a suggestion that will sound both plausible and familiar to many:

Supposing, as I believe to be the case, that Anglicanism is so very much three churches within one that no satisfactory ecumenical negotiations can ultimately be carried out with it (not, at any rate, to the point of organic reunion), what is to be done? An Anglican church united with Rome but not absorbed, an Anglican Uniate church, is perfectly feasible....

Such an Anglican Uniate community might be relatively small in numbers, yet, provided with its own canonical structure, liturgical books, parishes, and means of priestly formation, it would enrich Roman Catholicism with its own theological patrimony....

Well, that pretty well describes what Pope Benedict created in 2009 with Anglicanorum Coetibus: the Anglican Ordinariate. It was an answer to the prayers of many an ex-Anglican, including myself. And I'm lucky enough to have a local Ordinariate group and an Anglican Use Mass. But I fear the Pope's gracious move may have come too late--about thirty years too late. In 1980 John Paul II established a much more limited accomodation for Anglicans, the Pastoral Provision, which allowed married Anglican clergy to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood and provided for an Anglicanized liturgy in parishes which came over as a group, along with their priest. But there was no institutional structure, and only a few Episcopal parishes availed themselves of the offer.

Moreover, that period--the early 1980s--was probably the peak of dissatisfaction of Catholic-leaning Episcopalians with the Episcopal Church. In the interim, many of the dissatisfied have struck out into various continuing Anglican bodies--some of them no more sympathetic to Rome than the Episcopal Church of, say, 1900 way--or come over to Rome as individuals. Most of those who remain, even if they are unhappy with the leadership and general direction of their church, have resigned themselves to living with it. What we've seen in the Ordinariate is a few clergy converting, but no substantial movement of lay people. 

I'm a bit disheartened by this. And I've been less surprised by the lack of converts from Anglicanism than that the movement has not met with more interest from Catholics who might be drawn to the Anglican liturgy; my impression is that the usual reaction is "That's weird." (Naturally, Catholics who love the liturgical trends of the 1970s are appalled; I read somewhere a comment from one of them describing it, bizarrely, as "narcisisstic.") But the story is certainly not over, and there may be happy surprises yet to come. At any rate we will continue to try "to enrich Roman Catholicism" in whatever ways we can.

"The Panther and the Hind," by the way, is the title of a long poem by Dryden written on the occasion of his conversion to Catholicism in 1687, and arguing the Anglican-Catholic controversy. I've never read it, but I intend to, based on the excerpts from it included in this book, for instance this, on sola scriptura:

Suppose we on things traditive divide,
And both appeal to Scripture to decide;
By various texts we both uphold our claim
Nay, often ground our titles on the same:
After long labour lost, and times expence,
Both grant the words and quarrel for the sense.
Thus all disputes for ever must depend;
For no dumb rule can controversies end.


By the way, the only edition of the Nichols book that I was able to find available at reasonable cost is published by T&T Clark of Edinburgh, and is somewhat poorly printed. The binding and the paper are fine, but the type looks as if it was printed at inadequate resolution and then scanned.


52 Guitars: Week 37

Albert King

Here's the third of the Three Kings. Albert is maybe the least striking of the three: not as sophisticated as B.B., not as fiery as Freddy. But just as satisfying, and pretty much perfect as a representative of pure straight-up blues.

"Born Under a Bad Sign" contains one of the immortal complaints of the blues: "If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all." I think that was probably a folk saying before Booker T. Jones and William Bell wrote the song, but that doesn't matter. (I see it had occurred at least once before in a commercial recording.) People of my generation, and younger ones who like the music of the '60s, have probably heard the song as performed by Cream on the Wheels of Fire album. Personally I never found Jack Bruce very enjoyable as a blues singer, and although that version has a lot of rock-and-roll intensity, it misses the mark in comparison to King's original. Here is his studio version, which does not particularly feature the guitar, but makes that famous riff pretty clear: 


And here's a very good live version:


 I only recently heard "Breaking Up Somebody's Home" for the first time, and was really struck by the lyric. Not a sentiment one can approve, obviously, but it tells a truth about the difficulty of the struggle against jealousy and misdirected romantic love: "After all, I didn't make myself."


And here's a great live version of the Elmore James classic, "The Sky Is Crying":


Here's King's Wikipedia entry. He was a big influence on Stevie Ray Vaughan (which is obvious if you've heard Vaughan's "Sky Is Crying") and there is an hour-long video of the two of them playing together, which can be found on YouTube, of course, no doubt in massive violation of copyright. I hadn't planned to feature Vaughan in one of these posts, which may seem surprising. He's a very very fine guitarist, obviously, but somehow his take on the blues has never appealed very strongly to me--it seems tense and overdriven. I reserve the right to change my mind, though.

"...we have to hide the fact we are Jewish."

Where? The complete sentence is "In France we have to hide the fact we are Jewish."

In France? How can this be? I've read many times over the past five or ten years of an increase in anti-Semitism in some parts of Europe. But that Jews are "leaving France by the thousands" is startling.

One commenter offers the inevitable justification: "It isn't anti-semitism. It's anti-zionism." You can certainly be anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic (obviously, since there are many anti-Zionist Jews). But when you blame and physically threaten all Jews everywhere precisely because they are Jews, that argument just looks like a dodge. 

Revolutionary Hopes

You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs, they tell us, but while the eggs are surely broken, the omelet is never made.

--Gary Saul Morson

Morson, a professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at Northwestern University, makes that remark in a New Criterion piece about Alexander Herzen, a strange German-Russian writer of whom I knew no more than his name until I read this piece, an overview of his life and work (not online, unfortunately). 

I don't know that I agree that the omelet is never made. The one promised and envisioned by the revolutionaries certainly is not, and the result has often been much worse than no omelet at all. But there may be an omelet of sorts. I wonder sometimes: what would France have been if the Revolution had not happened? No doubt some novelist has written an alternative history based on that idea.


Pop Music Critics Say Funny Things

The statement:

The black-and-white image of a pyramid on the cover of Conversations tells you almost everything you need to know about Woman’s Hour’s music.

The image:


You mean it's about pyramids? Well, she did say "almost." You can read the entire review here.

Israel and the Press

I've only written about Israel a few times here. Actually I couldn't remember having done so at all, but since I've been doing this since 2004, and have accumulated over 2500 posts, I know I can't entirely trust my memory on that sort of thing, so I checked, and there were a couple of brief posts in 2006 (here and here). I generally avoid taking strong stands on questions where matters of fact are all-important and I don't think I have an adequate grasp of them. And the question of Israel and the Palestinians is one of those. My more or less instinctive sympathy tends toward Israel, but one of the few things I feel pretty sure of regarding that situation is that there are two sides to the story.

I can't help noticing, though, that news and commentary on that conflict generally focus far more on Israel, and especially on news that reflects badly on Israel, than on any of the other issues involved. Beyond that, news about Israel is given far more attention than it would seem to deserve based on any objective appraisal of its size and role in world affairs. That role, as Israel seems to see it as far as I can tell, is simply to continue to exist. And while in Israel's case that is not an uncontroversial view, the attention does seem excessive. Moreover, while I don't think the coverage is wholly anti-Israel, it certainly seems to focus more on the rights and wrongs of Israel's behavior than on the situation to which Israel is responding. 

A week or two ago someone posted on Facebook this story by Matti Friedman in The Tablet about this phenomenon, and it's well worth reading. The writer speaks from experience as a former Associated Press reporter. Here's a lengthy excerpt in which he describes the journalistic practice:

To offer a sense of scale: Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the permanent AP presence in that country consisted of a single regime-approved stringer. The AP’s editors believed, that is, that Syria’s importance was less than one-40th that of Israel. I don’t mean to pick on the AP—the agency is wholly average, which makes it useful as an example. The big players in the news business practice groupthink, and these staffing arrangements were reflected across the herd. Staffing levels in Israel have decreased somewhat since the Arab uprisings began, but remain high. And when Israel flares up, as it did this summer, reporters are often moved from deadlier conflicts. Israel still trumps nearly everything else.

The volume of press coverage that results, even when little is going on, gives this conflict a prominence compared to which its actual human toll is absurdly small. In all of 2013, for example, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict claimed 42 lives—that is, roughly the monthly homicide rate in the city of Chicago. Jerusalem, internationally renowned as a city of conflict, had slightly fewer violent deaths per capita last year than Portland, Ore., one of America’s safer cities. In contrast, in three years the Syrian conflict has claimed an estimated 190,000 lives, or about 70,000 more than the number of people who have ever died in the Arab-Israeli conflict since it began a century ago.

News organizations have nonetheless decided that this conflict is more important than, for example, the more than 1,600 women murdered in Pakistan last year (271 after being raped and 193 of them burned alive), the ongoing erasure of Tibet by the Chinese Communist Party, the carnage in Congo (more than 5 million dead as of 2012) or the Central African Republic, and the drug wars in Mexico (death toll between 2006 and 2012: 60,000), let alone conflicts no one has ever heard of in obscure corners of India or Thailand. They believe Israel to be the most important story on earth, or very close.

A reporter working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel. If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate. The West has decided that Palestinians should want a state alongside Israel, so that opinion is attributed to them as fact, though anyone who has spent time with actual Palestinians understands that things are (understandably, in my opinion) more complicated. Who they are and what they want is not important: The story mandates that they exist as passive victims of the party that matters.

The piece is long, going not only into the disproportionate amount of coverage but its deliberate slanting, and I won't try to summarize all that, but I repeat: if you're interested in the question at all, it's well worth reading. 

It got me to thinking about the peculiar focus on Israel among certain elements of the left. Even if you take the worst-case appraisal of Israel's faults, the fact that there is a very vocal movement attempting to turn Israel into an international pariah--the BDS movement ("Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions")--has always puzzled me. There are, as far as I know, no similar movements on the left toward ostracizing governments which have truly deserved it, such as the various despotisms of the Middle East. Nor does the enormous death toll of intra-Muslim conflicts currently in progress throughout that region seem to bring much impassioned condemnation of the participants, but rather blame for the West for having created the situation in the first place. There's something to that, but it seems odd to make it the problem, when the more immediate driver is the most brutal sort of struggle for power.

The author of the Tablet piece believes that the exaggerated emphasis and blame heaped on Israel is a manifestation of anti-Semitism. And I don't have any trouble believing that that's a factor, especially in countries with a long history of it. 

But there's something else at work, too, something having to do with the moral status assigned to victimhood in the post-Christian West, most especially to victims of Euro-American civilization. Many wrongs were perpetrated by that civilization, and sympathy for the victims of those wrongs by the descendants and inheritors of those who committed them is a good thing. But there's a point, reached a long time ago by many, where it becomes pathological, unable or unwilling to recognize the virtues of its own past or the vices of its victims. And Israel, by virtue of the place of Jews in that culturally Christian civilization, and of the role of Western powers in the creation and support of Israel, is seen as an outpost of the oppressor, one of the last remaining in the one-time colonial lands. (But if Israel is said to have no right to exist because its borders were drawn by the colonial powers, why not also others, such as Iraq? Would there be any nation-states in the modern sense at all in that region if not for colonial impositions?)

One of the features of this view is that it attributes little or no active will or capacity for action to the victims; they can only react to the actions of the oppressors, like the balls in a pinball machine, and are not assigned serious moral responsibility. The focus on Israel is thus a back-handed compliment to Israel, and a back-handed insult to the Palestinians. Israel, insofar as it is a part of the liberal democratic-commercial Western order, has responsibilities, and is held to a high standard of conduct. There are no similar expectations of the Palestinians. One of the few memorable things George W. Bush ever said (and presumably they were someone else's words) was his reference to "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

I shouldn't discuss this topic at all without acknowledging that there is, at least in the U.S., a right-wing view that pretty much absolves Israel of any blame for anything, sees the Palestinians, and Arabs or Muslims at large, as monsters, and is at least as simplistic as the BDS movement. But that's a different set of errors, made for different reasons.

52 Guitars: Week 36

Freddie King

Of all the black blues players from whom the English and other young white kids of the 1960s learned, Freddie King is probably the one who will strike a new listener as sounding more like, for instance, Eric Clapton, though the influence is of course the other way around. He has a loud and aggressive sound, closer to what would become blues-rock than some of his peers, like B.B. King.  I found a number of live performances from the early '70s on YouTube, and discovered that although there is some killer guitar work in them, overall they tend to seem over-driven and harsh in comparison with some of his earlier recorded work. 

Here, for instance, is a song for which he was well-known, "Have You Ever Loved a Woman?", in a live performance from 1970.


And here's the same song from the original 1960 recording. The sound is not great, and since the song had to fit on a 45 single, there's not room for a whole lot of guitar. But the vocal is richer and more varied, and overall it's just a more comfortable-feeling performance.


"Tore Down", 1963:


For another comparison, here's a live performance which I think is ca. 1970, though there is no info with the clip: faster tempo, impressive guitar, but overall just lacking in feeling, in my opinion.

But this "Ain't Nobody's Business", which seems to be from the same performance, is good--though to my taste it's still pushed a little too hard. I don't know if it was just his personality, or if the rock influence had begun to flow the other way.


There is an excellent compilation from Rhino, Hideaway: The Best of Freddie King, which includes 20 tracks recorded from the late 1950s until 1970, with emphasis on the earlier stuff. (Why "Hideaway"? Because it was his most popular single, and made the non-R&B pop charts.)

Your Favorite Movies

Rob G suggested in a comment on another post that a discussion of favorite movies would be interesting. I agree, so here you go: list your top five, or top ten, or top fifteen, or some reasonable number--I always find hitting a specific number in games like this to be kind of a problem.

For me, the ones that come instantly to mind are several by Bergman and one or two by Antonioni:

  • Winter Light
  • Wild Strawberries
  • The Seventh Seal
  • The Virgin Spring
  • Blow-Up

That'll do for a start. I'd have to do some thinking about others. Perhaps L'Avventura or L'Eclisse. Something by the Marx Brothers, but I'm not sure which one. How about American classics like Casablanca? Tough decisions....when I start thinking like this, it starts to become a desert island list, and so I want to cover multiple styles and genres. I'll be very interested in seeing what you pick.

Orwell Reviews Hitler

Speaking of Orwell, I ran across this a few days ago: his review of Mein Kampf. Quite interesting. It was written after the beginning of the war, though; what would have been really interesting would have been a review written before Hitler's true nature and intentions had become indisputably clear. The opening paragraph is nevertheless striking:

It is a sign of the speed at which events are moving that Hurst and Blackett's unexpurgated edition of Mein Kampf, published only a year ago, is edited from a pro-Hitler angle.


I Really Must Read More Orwell

England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution.

The USA has of course long since been added to this list. I don't know if it's true of other one-time parts of the Empire or not. Left-wing American intellectuals, and the far larger coterie of left-wingers who like to think of themselves as smarter than everyone else, have been predominantly of this mind for several decades now.

The passage from Orwell above is quoted in this piece in the Telegraph about the role of leftist contempt for their own countrymen in enabling, among other things, the horrendous organized sexual abuse, including out-and-out rape, of white girls by Pakistani Muslim men in Rotherham. 

We don’t need to rehearse the facts. We’ve all read them, and reeled away in horror. The interesting question is how and why would any country allow the racialised gang-rape of its own daughters?

Why? Because too many in that country, especially on the Left, most especially in the Labour Party, despise their own ordinary people: the white working classes.

Take this comment by Jack Straw, Labour MP for Blackburn, and Home Secretary from 1997-2001, when the Rotherham atrocities were beginning. “The English are potentially very aggressive, very violent.” It is almost unimaginable that any senior politician would say this of his own people in America, Russia or France. Yet here it comes straight out of the mouth of a very senior politician indeed – along with many other expressions of Guardianista sneering: at the white working classes with their “chav culture”, “BNP values”, “Gillian Duffy bigotry” and so forth.

What kind of message does Straw’s statement send to everyone else? It says that the English are dislikeable, that they are to be feared, and contained, to be treated with contempt. It says that the ordinary English are a nasty race who need to be diluted by mass immigration; it says, in particular, that poor white English people are especially worthless.

It is not, however, at all "unimaginable that any senior politician would say this of his own people in America, Russia or France." I can't think of any examples quite as straightforward as Straw's from senior politicians, but among the left at large, especially the wealthy and those in academia, journalism, and entertainment, such talk is normal. And does anyone doubt that, for instance, Hillary Clinton is privately of similar mind? (The remark about mass immigration is particularly applicable here, when so many left-wing voices clearly see the diminishment of white America as desirable in itself.) There is evidence that President Obama's own views, unedited, and among those whom he considers his peers, which is to say wealthy liberals, are similar, as suggested by the famous "bitter clingers" remarks, never meant to be made public:

And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Obama was actually trying to express sympathy for working-class people here, which perhaps makes his lack of comprehension of them even more obtuse. The sad fact is that snobbery is a major component of liberal-leftism in this country. I'm sure there are leftists out there who really know and do not despise most of their fellow-countrymen, especially working-class whites, but they have almost no visible presence in the public face of liberalism. (Look, I found one.)

The Telegraph writer quotes Orwell again:

...who once said that, however silly or sentimental, English patriotism is “a comelier thing than the shallow self-righteousness of the left-wing intelligentsia”.

"Comelier"--yes, a good choice of word. Decades ago, the casting off of my own youthful leftism began in part with the same recognition. I became disgusted by the disgust my fellow leftists evidenced toward their own country and countrymen. Another important factor was simply empirical: I began to suspect that leftist diagnoses of our problems were not very accurate, and leftist policies not generally the best solutions, or even workable.

Not that most of the right's are adequate, either.