Monday, August 31, 2009

Foreign poicy flunks left-wing history

Foreign Policy magazine has a fascinating selection of photos from David King's Red Star Over Russia: A Visual History of the Soviet Union from the Revolution to the Death of Stalin.

But in the caption for the first photo, FP has a world-class howler. They write

Lenin stands on the left side of the bottom step with comrades at a Marx Day rally in Moscow's Red Square in 1919. On a gramophone record, Lenin mercilessly lambasted the leaders of Karl Marx's First International and the Third International organizations, saying: "They betrayed the workers, prolonged the slaughter, became enemies of socialism, and went over to the side of the capitalists." [emphasis added]
In reality, the First International, in which Marx and Engels had played leading, had ceased to exist in 1876 . It was the Second International, home of the reformist socialist and labor parties of the world, which Lenin attacked. It was Lenin himself who demanded the formation of the Communist, or Third International.

Don't let FP's howler divert you from King's book. If you are interested in Soviet history, it is something you will want to check out. King is the author of The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin's Russia, a classic.
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Jenkins Voted for, but didn't read, resolution which cited "great white hope'

Jan Biles of the Topeka Capital Journal reports

Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins had not read a resolution that contained the phrase *"great white hope" and urged President Obama to posthumously pardon black boxing champion Jack Johnson when she supported the measure last month, her press secretary said.
Jenkins, R-Kan., supported a resolution containing the phrase when the House approved unanimously on a voice vote. The resolution was sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and co-sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., in the Senate. The House version co-sponsored by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill.
"No, she did not read the specific resolution," Mary Geiger, Jenkins' press secretary, said Monday morning.
*Whereas the victory of Jack Johnson over Burns prompted the search for a White boxer who could beat him, a recruitment effort dubbed the search for the 'Great White Hope';
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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Charlie Parker: America neglects one of its musical geniuises

August 29 1920 – March 12, 1955.

America differs from Europe not by having less great art, but by a failure to recognize and honor our artistic geniuses. At least if their skin is the wrong color.

Jenkins: GOP looking for "great White hope"

Kansas's Second District Representative Lynn Jenkins used racist code words at an August party event in Hiawatha.

Jenkins told people at the Hiawatha forum the nation could benefit from inspired leadership of a group of "really sharp" young Republicans in the House, particularly Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. Cantor was mentioned as a possible GOP vice presidential candidate in 2008 and is thought to be interested in seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2012.

"Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope," Jenkins said to the crowd. "I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington."
When African-American Jack Johnson won the heavyweight boxing crown about a century ago, it was considered an affront to whites. A search went out for a "great white hope" to win back the crown. Congress even passed a law to prohibit the interstate transport of boxing films.

When another African American Joe Louis was finally given a change to fight for the title and won it, the search again went out for a "great white hope."

There was a 1967 play and 1970 movie based on Johnson and the reaction to him.

Another Kansas GOP leader, Secretary of State candidate Kris Kobach got in trouble for making a "birther" joke at a party fundraiser. I don't think it's accidental.

UPDATE: Keith O. on LJ

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Alfie the movie theme song that wasn't

I always thought that the Burt Bacharach song "Alfie," a big hit for Dionne Warwick was the theme song for the Michael Caine movie.

Turns out, I was wrong. The 1966 movie actually features a great jazz score, arranged by Oliver Nelson, and featuring the great tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins.

Bacharach was inspired by the movie to write the song "Alfie", which became became a top ten hit in the UK for Cilla Black. In the US version of the movie it appears over the end credits, sung by Cher. Bacharach and David won an Oscar for the song.

There's a trivia question or two in these facts.

Critics and viewers like the classic Caine version much more than the remake with Jude Law. I agree.

And, that's not even taking into account the vast superiority of the soundtrack.

Here's Sonny playing the real "Alfie's Theme" in 1973.

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AFL-CIO President John Sweeney welcomes LabourStart

The 2009 LabourStart conference got off to an impressive start last Monday with welcoming remarks from AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

Teamster President James Hoffa at LabourStart 2009

LabourStart, the international labor news and campaigning site. held its 2009 conference last week in Washington D.C. On Monday, the Teamsters held a reception for LabourStart. President James Hoffa talked about LabourStart, unions, and the media,the employee free choice act, and health care.

President Hoffa stayed at the reception for quite a while, talking not only to the US correspondents, but also to our colleagues from Canada, India, Finland, and Australia.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

We remember Les

Les Paul, guitarist extraordinaire, inventor of the solid body guitar and multitracking died today at the age of 94.

There's going to a lot written about Paul in the coming days, but it is doubtful that any will surpass this from jazz critic David Adler

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

"The Government can't do anything right"

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy.

I then took a shower in the clean water provided by a municipal water utility.

After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC-regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like, using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

I watched this while eating my breakfast of U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time, as regulated by the U.S. Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Naval Observatory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank.

On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the U.S. Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to my house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and Fire Marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.

And then I log on to the internet -- which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration -- and post on and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Question everything you know about rock and roll

I really want to read Elijah Wald's new book and you should, too. But if you're of a certain age or younger, you may find your mental universe exploding.

Wald challenged conventional wisdom about the blue in his highly recommended Escaping the Devil: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues,

Here's the title of the new book.

How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music.
You can't get more provocative than that.

Here's the description from Wald's website

How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ’n’ Roll is a history of American popular music stripped of the familiar clich├ęs of jazz and rock history. Tracing the evolution of popular music through developing tastes, trends and technologies, rather than applying modern standards and genre categories, it gives a fuller, more balanced look at the broad variety of styles that captured listeners over the course of the twentieth century.

Wald goes back to original sources—recordings, period articles, memoirs and interviews—in an attempt to understand how music was heard and experienced over the years. He pays particular attention to the world of working musicians and ordinary listeners rather than to stars and specialists, looking at the evolution of jazz as dance music and of rock 'n' roll in terms of the teenage girls who made up the bulk of its early audience. There are plenty of famous names—Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, the Beatles—but they are placed alongside figures like Paul Whiteman, Guy Lombardo, Mitch Miller, Jo Stafford, Ricky Nelson and the Shirelles, who in some cases were far more popular and more accurately represent the mainstream of their times.

As the title suggests, this is not a hesitant or stolidly academic history, but neither is it heedlessly provocative. Wald’s intention was to explore the past with an open mind, asking some new questions and answering them as honestly and accurately as possible, and to make sense of times and people who often seem very foreign, though they are our own parents and grandparents. He has also tried to make that journey amusing and interesting, whatever we may think of ballroom orchestras, bobby-soxers, pop balladeers or British invaders.

I suspect that everything that won the Beatles praise from the likes of Leonard Bernstein and the cultural elite is regretted by Wald.

Erik Himmelsbach explains Wald's provocative thesis in a LA Times review:

Wald explains that the Beatles did in fact destroy rock 'n' roll by creating a schism between white and black music that's only grown farther apart in the decades since the dawn of Beatlemania (see: disco, soul, hip-hop). Like many early rock bands, the Beatles were rooted in the music of Chuck Berry and Little Richard. As the band found its creative voice, they abandoned their early influences. The results included "the effetely sentimental ballad" "Yesterday," a song that Wald claims "diffused" rock's energy and opened the door for milquetoasts such as Simon and Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Billy Joel, and Elton John. With the Sgt. Pepper album, the band draped their music "in a robe of arty mystification, opening the way for the Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd, Yes, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer."

"Rather than being a high point of rock," he continues, "the Beatles destroyed rock 'n' roll, turning it from a vibrant (or integrated) dance music into a vehicle for white pap and pretension." And what, again, was so revolutionary about Pat Boone?

UPDATE August 19 Be sure to read the comment from Elijah Wald.

I bought the book yesterday at Kramerbooks in DC. I've already read through the first six chapters. Essential reading for those interested in American popular culture.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Thomas Frank on Wrecking Crew

Thomas Frank has an entertaining video about his new book The Wrecking Crew.

He'll be in Wichita on Sept 16 (7:00 PM) at Watermark Books.