Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Blues All 'Round My Head

Blind Willie McTell, bluesman extraordinaire

I've been sick for the last two weeks. The fun included two trips to the doctor and a mind-numbing 6-hour gig at the Emergency Room one beautiful Sunday. (All for very simple issues.)

But that's not why I haven't been blogging.

Basically, I haven't had anything to say. It seems that I've got . . . well . . . the blues.

The War in Iraq reaches another horrific milestone - 4,000 dead American soldiers. (Not to mention hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians.) But nobody really cares or wants to hear about the war:

The War Endures, but Where’s the Media?

Iraq coverage by major American news sources has plummeted, to about one-fifth of what it was last summer, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Meanwhile, the race for the Democratic nomination has devolved into a bitter, ridiculous, and seriously damaging battle. I see no light at the end of the tunnel.

Hello, President "Walnuts" McCain!

Things are so bad, I'm linking to a David Brooks article: "The Long Defeat," from today's New York Behind-the-Times.

Last week, an important Clinton adviser told Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen (also of Politico) that Clinton had no more than a 10 percent chance of getting the nomination. Now, she’s probably down to a 5 percent chance.

Five percent.

Let’s take a look at what she’s going to put her party through for the sake of that 5 percent chance: The Democratic Party is probably going to have to endure another three months of daily sniping. For another three months, we’ll have the Carvilles likening the Obamaites to Judas and former generals accusing Clintonites of McCarthyism. For three months, we’ll have the daily round of résumé padding and sulfurous conference calls. We’ll have campaign aides blurting “blue dress” and only-because-he’s-black references as they let slip their private contempt.

For three more months (maybe more!) the campaign will proceed along in its Verdun-like pattern. There will be a steady rifle fire of character assassination from the underlings, interrupted by the occasional firestorm of artillery when the contest touches upon race, gender or patriotism. The policy debates between the two have been long exhausted, so the only way to get the public really engaged is by poking some raw national wound. . . .

When you step back and think about it, she is amazing. She possesses the audacity of hopelessness.

Why does she go on like this? Does Clinton privately believe that Obama is so incompetent that only she can deliver the policies they both support? Is she simply selfish, and willing to put her party through agony for the sake of her slender chance?

The better answer is that Clinton’s long rear-guard action is the logical extension of her relentlessly political life.

For nearly 20 years, she has been encased in the apparatus of political celebrity. Look at her schedule as first lady and ever since. Think of the thousands of staged events, the tens of thousands of times she has pretended to be delighted to see someone she doesn’t know, the hundreds of thousands times she has recited empty clichés and exhortatory banalities, the millions of photos she has posed for in which she is supposed to appear empathetic or tough, the billions of politically opportune half-truths that have bounced around her head.

No wonder the Clinton campaign feels impersonal. It’s like a machine for the production of politics. It plows ahead from event to event following its own iron logic. The only question is whether Clinton herself can step outside the apparatus long enough to turn it off and withdraw voluntarily or whether she will force the rest of her party to intervene and jam the gears.

So, Bill Richardson endorsed Obama. A few weeks too late.

And James Carville called Richardson "Judas" for betraying the Clintons. Then he refused to apologize.

Thank God! I'm so sick of all these surrogates calling each other names and then having to quit or say they're sorry. If you're going to resort to schoolyard taunting, then buck up and stick by your nasty names for God's sake!
“I was quoted accurately and in context, and I was glad to give the quote and I was glad I gave it,” Mr. Carville said. “I’m not apologizing, I’m not resigning, I’m not doing anything.”
For the record, I think Hillary Clinton is a "monster." And I'm not resigning either. Deal with it.

(Well, at least she and Bill together are some form of monster species.)

Don't even know where to begin with the Jeremiah Wright stuff and Obama. Liam had a good post on it. If everyone in the U.S. was as intelligent and thoughtful as Liam, there wouldn't be a problem for Obama. (Though if everyone were like Liam, we'd have a lot of other problems! We'd all have to root for the Utah Jazz, for one thing. On the other hand, we could finally appoint Nick Cave as Ambassador to Groove-istan.)

But this is the country that re-elected George W. Bush. The country where half the Democrats don't think what Geraldine Ferraro said might be considered racist and insulting. Personally, I think the Wright stuff has probably done in Obama's candidacy. And I don't know why he didn't deal with all of this way ahead of last week. It was a major shit storm waiting to go Level 5 at any moment, yet they seemed surprised. Whatever. I'm a lousy prognosticator, so I hope I'm wrong.

Did I mention that the economy's in the toilet?

Ah . . . But at least I have the Blues. Since I didn't feel like blabbing away on my blog, I spent time creating a new playlist at Finetune: Blues All 'Round My Head.

It's still in progress, but check it out anyway.

And though I've got the blues, my face did brighten when I saw this wonderful poster today and read about the DVD release of The Phantom Empire:
For indigenous American surrealism, it’s hard to beat the Saturday matinee serials of the 1930s, and I’m not sure that “The Phantom Empire,” a 1935 release from the Poverty Row studio Mascot, can be beat at all. Very likely the world’s first singing-cowboy science-fiction adventure, this 12-episode chapterplay, directed by Otto Brower and Breezy Easton, features Gene Autry in his first starring role — as “Gene Autry,” the proprietor of Radio Ranch. This curious institution seems to be at once a working cattle concern and a full-scale broadcasting business from which Gene and his pals (including his longtime sidekick Smiley Burnett) send out a daily program of country-western songs.

Life is sweet at Radio Ranch until a band of “renegade scientists” arrives, looking for the massive radium deposits of the secret underground nation Murania, the gateway to which happens to be located in a canyon behind Gene’s ranch. Before too long, Gene and his two l’il pardners (the child actors Frankie Darro and Betsy King Ross) find themselves caught between the rampaging savants and the legions of Wagnerian Thunder Riders (accompanied by appropriate sound effects) and lumbering mechanical men (whimsical robots built for a production number in MGM’s “Dancing Lady” but cut from the final film) sent forth by Murania’s “She”-like Queen Tika (Dorothy Christy) to prevent her land of peace and plenty from being invaded by rapacious “surface men.” It’s a lot for Gene to handle, particularly since he has to get back to Radio Ranch by 2 p.m. every day for his broadcast, which he carries on as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

It is said that Wallace MacDonald, one of the serial’s five credited writers, came up with the concept while under the influence of nitrous oxide at his dentist’s office. That seems quite possible, given the screenplay’s furious imaginings, which include an interesting kind of television that requires no cameras (but has an inconvenient, floor-level circular screen) and “radium bombs” posed to destroy the entire planet.

Absurdity saves the day!

And now, back to Blind Willie McTell and Lonnie Johnson. . . .


crystal said...

Gene Autry :-) My grandfatherplayed a lot of cowboy music when I was a little kid. I hope you're feeling better now.

Jeff said...

Sorry to hear you weren't well, William. Several hours in the emergency room? Hope you're feeling better now. With the kids, I've been to the emergency room so many times in the last couple of years, they should give me a Gold Card. I'm convinced they'll either do that or call DSS on me.

A blues playlist on finetune!! Excellent. I'm looking forward to listening. There are worse ways you could have spent your time, believe me. That's great. I'm a big Lonnie Johnson fan. I posted my favorite Lonnie Johnson Youtube once, and it wound up getting pulled. Grrr.

You've been a pretty busy boy on finetune. I especially liked your 70s playlist, by the way. It certainly brought back memories of those pimply, gangly days of oily skin, acne, bad hair, bad clothes, Junior High school bullies, saying foolish things to girls if I could come up with anything to say at all, and flogging it several times a day.

The presidential race has really gotten depressing. On one side, you have an old man with increasing hints of Alzheimer's who admits he doesn't know anything about economics and barely gets called on it by the press when he conflates al Qaeda with Iran. On the other side, well, you put it well. I was really thinking at one time that this country had finally gotten to the point where race wasn't going to be an issue in a campaign. That we had finally gotten over that hump. As it turns out, not only haven't we gotten over it as a country, we haven't even gotten over it in the Democratic Party. Talk about hopelessness. Not only does this represent a failure in race relations, it might wind up setting them back a decade or two when all is said and done.

cowboyangel said...


Not just Gene Autry - a Gene Autry sci-fi flick! That knocks me out.

He was a Texas boy. He wrote "Here Comes Santa Claus." Which is amazing, considering that Santa Claus rarely travels down to Texas.

And, of course, he made "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" a hit.

What a guy!

cowboyangel said...


Lonnie Johnson's a real discovery for me. I was checking out some anthologies of early blues in order to listen to Blind Wille McTell, and suddenly these Lonnie Johnson songs just started knockin' against my head. So I got one of his CDs. Great stuff.

I love these 1920s-1930s blues.

Yeah, I'll be curious to hear your reaction to the playlist, if you listen. I'm working towards something, but don't have a good sense yet what I'm trying to do. It was trying to explore the jazz, blues, country/folk axis. Louis Armstrong records with Jimmie Rodgers. He records with Bessie Smith. Lonnie Johnson plays with some jazz guys.

Later, you see the same axis in Ray Charles: jazz, blues, country.

But in the 1920s, before the generes had hardened into strict categories, there was some really interesting crossover going on. The playlist doesn't quite reflect that yet.

Garpu the Fork said...

Hospital? Geez...that flu that's been going around is *nasty*. Here's hoping you're feeling better.

I've had to take a break from politics. It just all becomes too much, you know?

cowboyangel said...


The ER visit was just because it was the weekend and the local clinic isn't open. I was lucky and didn't have your Martian Death Flu - just a stubborn ear infection and some other minor ailments.

I, too, have taken a break from politics. Just burned out on the whole ugly thing.

Too bad - the campaign felt exciting in the beginning. Too bad it's ground down into such a bitter slog.

Garpu the Fork said...

Geez. Here's hoping they gave you some good drugs for it. Last time I went to a UW place for an ear infection, they told me to take tylenol. :/