Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Thoughts on Labor Day

An interesting take on Labor Day from the Washington Post. Or, why the minimum wage has stayed the same since the mid-1990s while CEO pay has grown exponentially. Or why the median income in North Texas has decreased since 2000 and the number of those living in poverty has increased. Or, in a nutshell: Dear American Worker, You're screwed. But you should vote for me because I'll make you safe. Love, W.

When will America wake up?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I'm Done With August

Why does August try so hard
To hoist itself on its own petard?
-- Purple Avenue by Tom Waits
Ah, August, a kidney stone of a month. I hate August, or should I say, I hate this August. I’m tired of it. It’s hot, about 185 degrees today, as it has been for every day I can remember. No rain. People are in a foul mood. It’s ugly.

The news is horrible. I can’t hardly listen anymore. So, as August swirls the bowl toward its inevitable conclusion, allow me to say good riddance. We don’t need you. Bring me the first crisp breeze of September. The State Fair and stroll down the Midway with my daughter and a Fletcher’s Corny Dog. Give me UT football and the fading light of a fall afternoon. Give me the smell of a fireplace and falling leaves. I’ll even take the bitter memory of 9/11 again for the fifth time. Get behind me August. I’m through with you.

A few thoughts on August from Slate, including an idea to take the month down to 10 days. I’m all for it.

Horse Sense

Former Dallas Cowboy Jay Novacek published an op-ed in Monday's Star-Telegram opposing HR 503 to stop the slaughter of horses. I've heard these arguments before and I'm not sure I believe them.

Another S-T op-ed on Wednesday summarizes my feelings better:

Of course, if you accept the slaughter industry's line of argument, we would have no laws against any form of cruelty. The dogfighter or cockfighter could just as readily invoke this principle in defense of his own depravities. The argument further unravels when you realize that there are already good federal laws -- including the Horse Protection Act -- that forbid the harming of horses for profit. In fact, historically, it was rank cruelty to horses that first inspired our state laws against cruelty.

If we are going to slaughter horses like this, why not do the same with dogs. Other parts of the world eat dog, so why not export them for food also? Funny how no one makes that argument. To me, dogs and horses are the same -- noble creatures who deserve better.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Johnny Cash Reconsidered

Slate asks the question can Johnny Cash's late works be considered great art and schlocky at the same time? My first though is that even though he was covering Neil Diamond and Depeche Mode, his last recording had a gravitas that can only come with time and experience (much like the work Tom Waits is doing now -- and yes, I know I am delinquent in posting by thoughts on his Chicago show two weeks ago. I'm busy and I want to do it right.)

Yeah, even when Cash is singing Personal Jesus, it's not schlock. He adds a dimension to the song that I had never considered before -- it's much more personal. When Cash sings it, it sounds like he means it. The Depeche Mode version is good, but it just makes me want to have another drink.

And when Cash sings U2's One, he takes that song to a whole new level. He took what may be the best song U2 has ever done and completely owns it.

I'm still waiting for my friend Johnny, the world's biggest Cash fan, to weigh in on this. He did, however take in Rosanne Cash's set recently at the Newport Folk Festival and highly recommends her new album, Black Cadillac. Boston ... er, not so much.

Monday, August 07, 2006

CHEZ BEZ: I Can Die Now. I Saw Tom Waits At The Ryman.

CHEZ BEZ: I Can Die Now. I Saw Tom Waits At The Ryman.After reading this, I am all geeked up to see Tom Waits in Chicago on Wednesday!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sucks Doesn't Suck

A defense of sucks from Slate which includes theis gem: "Sucks is the most concise, emphatic way we have to say something is no good."


And in that spirit, I offer you the most creative usage of this work, when Homer Simpson described a team as: "The suckingest bunch of sucks who ever sucked."

Opera Diva Schwarzkopf Dies

Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, one of the great sopranos of the 20th Century, went to the big opera house in the sky. If you haven't heard her interpretation of Strauss' Last Four Songs, do so immediately. It will bring tears to your eyes.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Rational Exuberance

Tony Bennett turns 80 this week and the New York Times printed an appreciation of his work that included an interested contrast of Bennett and Frank Sinatra:

Careers that last as long and have been as distinguished as Mr. Bennett’s have something to tell us about collective cultural experience over decades. It has been said that Sinatra’s journey from skinny, starry-eyed “Frankie,” strewing hearts and flowers, to the imperious, volatile Chairman of the Board roughly parallels an American loss of innocence. As Sinatra entered his noir period in the mid-1950’s, his romantic faith gave way to a soul-searching existentialism that yielded the most psychologically complex popular music ever recorded. Following a similar arc, the country grew from a nation of hungry dreamers fleeing the Depression and fighting “the good war” into an arrogant empire drunk on power and angry at the failure of the American dream to bring utopia.

Mr. Bennett is something else altogether. A native New Yorker and man of the people, he never strayed far from his working-class roots in Astoria, Queens, where he was born Anthony Benedetto. Although he came out of the same tradition of Mediterranean balladry as Sinatra, he retained the innocence and joie de vivre of his youth. Disappointment is not in his vocabulary. We don’t go to him for psychological complexity, but for refreshment and reassurance that life is good.

Believing in the power of art to ennoble ordinary lives, he sings what he feels with a rare mixture of humility and pride: humility in the face of the daunting popular-song tradition he treasures and pride that he is recognized as its custodian. Gratitude and joy, gruffness and beauty balance each other perfectly in singing that has grown more rhythmically acute with each passing year.