Up men to your posts! Don't forget today that you are from old Virginia. -- George Pickett

Monday, December 11, 2006

Vince Guaraldi

The man who wrote and performed the greatest soundtrack in the history of television, "A Charlie Brown Christmas," died in 1976. Here's a great piece about the show and Vince Guaraldi.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Another British Obituary

This is another superbly written British obituary from the Times of London. The subject is the film composer Sir Malcolm Arnold, who won an Oscar for the Colonel Bogey March (the whistling song) in Bridge on the River Kwai. Here in the States we turn mawkish and sentimental and non-judgmental when people die; in England the obit writers take the opportunity to give a clear-eyed and fair summation to a life.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hi I'm Back-- Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Sorry for the nonposting. Had a bad month. I intend to get back in the swing of things now that school has started, &c.

Did you hear the story yesterday about the "fact" that Howard Stern is tanking on Sirius Radio? (I'm not a Stern fan, really, but the story was everywhere)-- well, this Slashdot post debunks that story; turns out that it came from "Hits-Link," a phony internet statistical agency. Today that same agency is pushing a story about a decline in Apple OSX market share. Both stories are phony press-agent plants. Don't believe everything you read.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Revolver, for my money one of the two or three greatest pop/rock albums of all time, was released on August 5, 1966, forty years ago today.

Friday, August 04, 2006


One of my favorite songs is Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Here's a good wikipedia entry on the song. Contrary to the article, however, the definitive version is not Jeff Buckley's-- I think by far the best is John Cale's. I hate to admit it, but I first heard the song (Cale's version) on "Shrek." Here's a link to an excellent post on My Old Kentucky Blog with about twenty cover versions. Check out Cale first, and Buckley, and KD Lang, and even Dylan with a live take.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Wartime by Paul Fussell

I finished this book (subtitled "Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War") over the weekend. Fussell was badly injured in France in 1945; he got a PhD at Harvard and became a respected professor of literature; late in life he wrote books about war that are stripped of all cant and that are filled with anguish and sadness and truth about war and which can easily be read to understand the wars of today. (There is a priceless section about the myth of "precision bombing," for example.) Here's an excerpt from p. 285-286:

* * * *

Revenge is not a rational motive, but it was the main motive in the American destruction of the Japanese Empire. A compiler of An Oral History of the War Years in America observes, "I distrust people who speak of the [atom] bombings today as in atrocity they strongly opposed in 1945... I don't believe them. At the time virtually everyone was delighted that we dropped the bombs, not only because they shortened the way and saved thousands of American lives, but also [quite irrationally, notice] because the "Japs" deserved it for the terrible things they had done to our boys at Pearl Harbor, Bataan, Guadalcanal, and all the way through the Pacific."

Those who fought knew this, just as they know that it is as likely for the man next to you to be shot through the eye, ear, testicles or brain as (the way the cinema does it) though the shoulder. A shell is as likely to blow his whole face off as to lodge a fragment in some mentionable and unvital tissue. [...]

How is it that these data are commonplaces only to the small number who had some direct experience of them? One reason is the normal human talent for looking on the bright side, for not receiving infomation likely to cause distress or occasion a major overhaul of normal ethical, political or psycholgical assumptions. But the more important reason is that the large wartime audience never knew these things. The letterpress correspondents, radio broadcasters, and film people who perceived these horrors kept quiet about them on behalf of the War Effort. As John Steinbeck finally confessed in 1977, "We were all part of the war effort. We went along with it, and not only that, we abetted it... I dont mean that the correspondents were liars. ... It is in the things not mentioned that the untruth lies" By not mentioning a lot of things, a correspondent could give the audience at home the impression that there were no cowards in the service, not thieves and rapists and looters, no cruel or stupid commanders. It is true, Steinbeck is aware, that most military operations are examples of "organized insanity," but the morale on the home front must not be jeopardized by an eye-witness saying so. And even it a correspondent had wanted to deliver the noisome truth, patriotism would join censorship in stopping his mouth.

* * * * *

The book is, of course, very highly recommended.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race

This is an interesting and very counterintuitive take on the development of agriculture in human history. Generally agriculture is seen as the technological development that saved us from a "nasty brutish and short" life of hunting and gathering. According to this article, the hunter-gatherers had a better, healthier, and higher quality of life.