Monday, November 30, 2009

What a Week
Obama announces troop increase and plan for Afghanistan (pissing off the left), and health care debate starts in the Senate (pissing off everybody else), basically doing all the stuff he said he would do when he ran for President, with the added bonus of now nobody likes it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Try It

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Aftermath Deep Thought
I guess it is possible to eat too much green bean casserole after all.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Abbey Road Thoughts?
Class finishing up - discussed Abbey Road this short week. It's been an interesting and fun experience to spend a semester going through each album chronologically, roughly a week on each. You hear different things. With this, their last (I consider) album, 2 sounds *really* stick out that never did so much for me before: 1) Paul's bass playing explodes on Abbey Road - so active, dominant on many tracks. 2) This album is the first in which they make use of a Moog synthesizer - an appearance in several songs. For some reason, I've just never paid the least attention to that sound before on Abbey Road; maybe because it was the first Beatles album I ever heard, took it for granted, whatever. It's done tastefully of course, with George Martin back in charge, but such crazy, unexpected sounds. In the context of the other albums, the Moog truly sticks out when it's in there.

Students were fascinated by the Chuck Berry song "You Can't Catch Me", from which John took a line (and was eventually sued over, "Here comes ol' flat top..") and the vocal phrasing for "Come Together". If you haven't heard them next to each other, give it a try. We had a good conversation wondering how the same mind could be driven to write lyrics as opaquely disjointed as his songs like "Come Together", and also near the same time develop "I Want You", which seems equally important to him, and has all of 9 words: "I Want you so bad, it's driving me mad". How to define those 2 philosophies of language and poetry? Is there any overlap?

They also marveled at how George could have gone from blossomed into writing "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something" so abruptly (does "While My Guitar..." give sufficient indication he has songs like that in him? Certainly Blue Jay Way doesn't.)

Everyone was impressed and excited by the medley making up most of Side 2, especially the transition to "The End".

What do you love, or think, about Abbey Road?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nervous Political Logic
The argument goes something like this: Reagan was a clueless dunderhead who said a whole bunch of nothing that passed for inspiration in right-wing circles, and so Democrats didn't take him seriously in 1980, and he won. Sarah Palin is a clueless dunderhead who says a whole bunch of nothing that passes for inspiration in right-wing circles, and so Democrats aren't taking her seriously in 2012. Therefore, she will win too, unless we start treating her like a serious candidate with considerable political skills. Discuss.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What's the End Game?
Senate Dems have just enough votes to proceed with health care debate, but Sen. Lincoln joins Lieberman in vowing to filibuster any public option. Stay tuned, I guess.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Republicans are Smoking Crack
52% of them anyway.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Go Vote!
For the Nashville-Ottawa game in this poll of the best games so far in the NHL. The top 3 vote-getters will be re-broadcast on Thanksgiving on the NHL Network!
White Album Update
In order of most-to-least preferred, below is the list of tracks my students would have placed in The Beatles' White Album if it were only a single LP of 14 songs. We didn't take track length into account, even thought that would have been a practical concern if they had actually decided to whittle it down like George Martin urged. Our goal was just get it down to 14 and order them into side A and side B.

A few notes:
--Many of the students were familiar with a couple of the more generally popular songs, and a couple students who came to class as big fans already knew the album fairly well. But hardly any of them had really listened to the whole thing, even once, until completing this assignment. So, most of their decisions were really first impressions.

--"Blackbird" was the only unanimous selection.

--No song received zero selections (out of 20 students).

--In our discussions, the first thing I did was raise the issue of Revolution 9, assuming that none of them had chosen it. In fact, I was able to beam like a proud parent after a solid handful of them said they picked it in their necessary 14 - proud not because I agree (it wouldn't have come close to my 14), but because I figured they would dismiss it. In fact, many of them had great reasons for including it despite not being something they would likely listen to, say, in the car. To them it seemed to fit in line with many of the things we have discussed from Revolver through Sgt. Pepper's. It was nice to be able to talk about whether or not the piece worked on the album and rewarded close listening, and not have to only defend the idea of electronic collage as legitimate musical expression.

--Revolution 1 was not especially high on their list, but I can explain that. In the previous class, we discussed the single that preceded The White Album, "Hey Jude" with "Revolution". They loved the single version of Revolution and were a bit deflated when I showed them the very different version of the song (Revolution 1) that ended up on the White Album. I like both, but from an energy level standpoint, the album version really does suffer when you play them back to back. So, most decided they could remove it from the album and still have the song as a single. A win-win. (That let them count it out. in.)

--Their album was required to include a George song and a Ringo song. Nobody was too taken with either Ringo selection, but they preferred "Good Night" to "Don't Pass Me By". That's why it made #6.

--Otherwise, most of our discussion focused on whether or not all the seemingly throwaway tracks like "Why Don't We Do it in the Road" or "Wild Honey Pie" were really expendable or if a few of them had to be kept to preserve the character of the album, and whether that character was worth preserving.

--In general, they seemed to like some of the individual songs quite a bit, but didn't care as much for the album as a whole. And they were saddened to learn how many of the tracks were really the work of only 1 or 2 of the Beatles in isolation from the others. Or maybe they could just tell I was sad about it and were playing along. Who knows.

By how often selected for 14-track version (* means it made my list):
*1. Blackbird
*2 While My Guitar Gently Weeps
*3. Helter Skelter
*4. Back in USSR
*5. Dear Prudence
6. Good Night
7. Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da
*8. Happiness is a Warm Gun
*9. I Will
10. Cry Baby Cry
11. Birthday
*12. Sexy Sadie
*13. Julia
*14. Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey
*15. Glass Onion
16. Mother Nature's Son
17. Revolution 1
18. Rocky Raccoon
19. Revolution 9
*20. Why Don't We Do it in the Road?
21. Honey Pie
*22. Don't Pass Me By
23. Yer Blues
24. Long, Long, Long
25. I'm So Tired
26. Piggies
27. Martha My Dear
28. Wild Honey Pie
29. Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
*30. Savoy Truffle
Hockey Goal Celebration Fail
Major league goal + major league celebration attempt + minor league rink =
via Puck Daddy.
Health Care Numbers [UPDATED]
Harry Reid is expected to lay out his Senate bill today and along with it the scoring of the CBO. Early buzz is promising.

[UPDATE: the Senate bill will cost $849 billion, reduce the deficit by $127 billion over 10 years, and will likely result in 31 million currently uninsured Americans gaining coverage, raising the level of coverage in the U.S. to 94%, according to CBO estimates. The national health exchange created by the bill would include a public option that, after a period of time, would be only optional for states. A vote is expected on Saturday to bring the bill to the floor. It will need, and I expect it will receive, 60 votes. Then, the amendment process will deal with some of the more contentious issues. It would take 60 votes to remove the public option, and there are not likely 60 votes to do that. That's the beauty of Reid's insistence on having it in the bill he brings to the floor. On the other hand, it will take 60 votes to pass the final amended bill and, thanks to Lieberman, there aren't 60 votes with the public option either. Not really sure what the plan is at that point, maybe the hope that the spirit of Hanukkah will warm his Scrooge-like heart?]

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sorry, Been Out of Town
Did I miss anything?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Your Beatles Assignment
I thought you may be interested in playing along with the homework for Thursday, which is White Album day. The task is to create a shorter track list, imagining The Beatles had agreed to turn it into a single album of only 13 or 14 tracks. Which ones make the cut? In what order? Remember that to be a Beatles album, it will need at least one song of George's and one that features Ringo. How does the character of the album change? Or not? Let's see your track list in comments.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Dream Theater
A new study profiled in the NYTimes gives nightmares to Freudians, Jungians and psychology majors everywhere, suggesting that your dreams aren't in fact your subconscious trying to speak some inner personal coded truth to you.
Health Care Reform
Josh Marshall comments on the big-picture significance of this weekend's house vote, predicting it will be seen as a "genuinely historic development." The momentum, he argues, will be difficult to turn around and we will get a bill signed by the President pretty soon.

I don't disagree. All in all, it was a pretty inspiring weekend. And it was hard not to be calmed and optimistic by the fact that President Obama's methodical, keep-moving-forward approach seems to have actually worked. He sounds honestly assured he will eventually win the day, not just on this issue but many, reminiscent of his no-drama campaign style that refused to get caught up in the daily crap. And whether or not he actually is so sure, we apparently really do have a President who is determined to be...steady. It's not a normal feeling. Given the 8 years worth of jitters (really, maybe even more than 8. For all Clinton's greatness, I'm not sure "steady" would be an apt describer.) we lived through previously, it's almost hard to know how to just relax and be basically confident.

All that to say, now that Monday is here, it's probably the inability to find my inner Obama that leaves me with this barrier to celebration over the close weekend vote: the House was supposed to be the easy part! Lots of struggles ahead to wind up with a bill that will surely be less attractive when it comes out the other side, assuming it does.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Smartest Man in Congress
Kenny Byrd weighs in on the historic health care reform vote pending in Congress, reminding us of one bit of history: for all of his undeniable intelligence, Representative Jim Cooper voted against the Americans with Disabilities Act.

[UPDATE: Cooper is a yes.]
If You Care
Call Jim Cooper's office and urge the Congressman to get off the fence and vote for health care reform. The vote is scheduled for tomorrow. He's one of the few who claims to remain undecided.
Nashville Office - 615-736-5295
DC - 202-225-4311
Stewart Does Beck
It's funny even if you haven't watched Glenn Beck before. But if you have had the misfortune, it's hilarious.
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Explaining To Do?
The FBI knew?
At least six months ago, Hasan came to the attention of law enforcement officials because of Internet postings about suicide bombings and other threats, including posts that equated suicide bombers to soldiers who throw themselves on a grenade to save the lives of their comrades.

They had not determined for certain whether Hasan is the author of the posting, and a formal investigation had not been opened before the shooting, said law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the case.
He was about to be deployed to Iraq. Didn't that make it a good time to find out for certain if it was him?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

I'll never understand incidents like Ft. Hood today.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What the...
There's no crazy like Bachmann crazy.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

It's the First Tuesday After the First Monday in November
Therefore, people are voting. The media has decreed that 3 races matter: VA Governor (where Dems will lose), NY-23 (where Dems probably lose), and NJ Governor (where it looks to be a toss-up). 1 out of 3 would be nice; 2 out of 3 would be great (even though the Dem candidate in NY-23 isn't so good on issues).

What I care more about though tonight is the gay marriage referendum in Maine. Polls show a tie. A No-vote (pro-gay marriage) would make the other losses worth it for me. Would be nice to see one more state do the right thing.

[UPDATE: 1 out of 3 in high profile elections, and not the one I expected (NY-23), but sadly gay marriage looks defeated in Maine. 53-47 with a little counting still to be done. Tough night for equality and good sense.]

Monday, November 02, 2009

Opening the Exchanges
I don't completely understand this, but it sounds like a good idea - what part of it I do.