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February 10, 2013 - February 3, 2013

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I almost forgot...
The Other Sinatra

BEYOND SINATRA. So sue me. The greatest album of love songs ever recorded was Nat "King" Cole's The VeryThought of You. He started as a piano player, but then someone discovered he could sing. And, boy, could he sing. If you love her and want to prove it to her, play this for her. I don't care how young you both are. I don't care how many tattooes she has or how many bolts sticking out of her, she wants to hear this about how you're feeling.

The old man is doing you a favor.

The saddest thing to me about the youngsters is that they have lost their sense of romance. The romance of life. And worse, the romance of romance.

I'll tell you a secret. I listen to these songs when the missus isn't even here. Because I miss her every moment she isn't.

She prefers Neil Diamond. And because she does, so do I.

She tells me she has no more idea what this song is about than I do. She just likes it. Why men love women. Women don't need a reason. We always think we do. Wrong.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Basket Case

LONG TIME AGO. Ordinarily, I don't have much use for HotAir's daily feature "Quotes of the Day." The only attributions are by hyperlink, and the only editorial contribution is a snarky caption on the main page. CSI Miami style. You know. Too cute by half and far too self-involved to pay attention to. Today, though, I was struck by it. Obama is in trouble. Not just politically but personally (read the whole thing):

“The reports are not good, disturbing even. I have heard basically the same story four times in the last 10 days, and the people doing the talking are in New York and Washington and are spread across the political spectrum.

“The gist is this: President Obama has become a lone wolf, a stranger to his own government. He talks mostly, and sometimes only, to friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett and to David Axelrod, his political strategist.

“Everybody else, including members of his Cabinet, have little face time with him except for brief meetings that serve as photo ops. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner both have complained, according to people who have talked to them, that they are shut out of important decisions.

“The president’s workdays are said to end early, often at 4 p.m. He usually has dinner in the family residence with his wife and daughters, then retreats to a private office. One person said he takes a stack of briefing books. Others aren’t sure what he does.”

So I was on the phone with the missus and I said, "This has to be a post but I don't know what to say." And she said, "Well, that's hardly surprising. You said it all already. For four years." Then I think she yawned. But it's the phone, so who knows for sure?

And I said, "But... but... but..."

"Well, you'll think of something," she said and hung up. I think it's pizza day at the ultra-secret facility where she works.

Talk about a build-up. What can I do to meet this level of expectation? Only this:

The idea of a president alone is not in itself disturbing. We all tend to think of Lincoln that way, contemplating the weight of issues only he had the wisdom to penetrate. And for whom is this not the favorite photograph of John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Alone isn't the problem. Alone is better than some images. Richard Nixon roaming the White House halls talking to presidential portraits with a glass of scotch in his hand. And who hasn't heard the pitiful stories of Jimmy Carter holed up in the Oval Office managing the schedule of the White House tennis court while the whole country was circling the drain? That's a picture I'd rather not have in my head.

So what is it about the image of Obama creeping into his private study with briefing books he may or may not be reading that strikes me as so affecting?

It's the unexpectedness. Which represents a disconnect between the mass media illusion and the facts of the matter. That's what's unsettling.

To some extent, we're used to being gulled by MSM idolatry of the saintly Obamas. (Yeah, we know he smokes and she has Cheetos in that great big purse. Who cares?) But if there's one thing we think we know for sure, it's that our president never ever stops talking to his inferiors. Today he's a lecturing Harvard snob sneering at the cameras. Tonight he's a black preacher dropping g's in a Wisconsin union hall or wherever. Doesn't matter. The man is ALWAYS on TV. I don't think I've ever turned on Fox News in the middle of the day without seeing him either lecturing or preaching at me about the evils of making money in a sick economy. How does he have time to go to the bathroom by himself, let alone quit early and find a teleprompter-less room of his own in which to hide?

The missus was right that I always knew he wasn't up to the job. But she forgot about the part where we get these sad and even tragic images of his loneliness even as he insists on being the most omnipresent image on TV since Kermit the Frog and Barney the Dinosaur.

Here's the worst part. I don't believe that private study doesn't have a teleprompter. I think he's in there making speeches to himself and watching his banal rhetorical brilliance on a 60-inch widescreen high-def TV. I'm thinking Sunset Boulevard Pennsylvania Avenue style.

Why, probably, the missus hung up on me. She thinks I go down imaginary corridors no one should explore. She's right about that.

Which suggests I should provide some assistance in getting rid of that last unfortunate image. Contest! What song best describes our beleaguered president's mental condition? For inspiration, here's Wiki's list of the most depressing songs.

Have at it.

Also, read Jonah Goldberg. (I'm pretty sure I should always say that....)

WE MIGHT HAVE A WINNER! At least, I was pretty impressed by Helk's nomination. Who'd'a thunk Helk knew a piece of music more than ten weeks old?

By all means, keep trying. But this is the new bar you have to surpass.

Friday, October 07, 2011


Palate Cleanser

Mark Steyn has a marvelous essay about how difficult this song was and how
adroitly Sinatra arranged and performed it. Alas, Mr. Steyn has concealed it
behind the Internet wall. He wants you to buy his American Songbook. Do so.

. So I'm old and much of my message to the younger ones isn't about being a Roman candle but a survivor. The world is definitely going to kick the shit out of you. The measure of mettle is how well you come back after the shit-kicking. I know I spend too much time hyping a rock band from the U.K of 50 years standing., but before there were rolling stones, there was another act that lasted fifty years. A solo act. I saw him in his seventies, thinking I would be witnessing an artifact of history. But he was still there. A giant.

For a long time, he lagged in the YouTube race. All you could find were a few videos of "My Way" and "New York, New York," a kind of parody of his career. But build it and they will come. The history is slowly filling itslf in.  He started as a band singer, a crooner with a peculiarly enticing voice who began the modern tradition of screaming female fans who couldn't possibly hear the object of their idolatry as he was performing.

blue skies. He started with the Tommy Dorsey band. He was an instant star.

over the rainbow. He became known as The Voice. He married a bunch of people and so forth.

these foolish things. He was the most romantic scrawny little Jersey boy anyone had ever seen.

ol man river. Then it was over. My mother always said it was this song and this video that did him in.

did you evah? He disappeared for a few years. Of course there have been rumors about how he engineered his comeback.The one unavoidable fact is that when he returned, he knew a lot more sbout singing, phrasing, and performing.

soliloquy. Here's a watershed moment.

And here's a link from Mark Steyn to drive it home.

Frank Sinatra celebrated his 30th birthday, and Zeke Zarchy, the lead trumpeter on Frank’s radio show, went over to the singer’s pad for dinner. “There were half a dozen people,” he told Will Friedwald, “and we all walked into his den where he had his hi-fi set up. He played us some things from Carousel, which had just come out. We heard the big ‘Soliloquy’ that the main character sings, and we were all impressed with it. Frank said, ‘These are the kinds of things that I want to do.’”

That was tougher than it sounds back then. A brisk “Soliloquy” clocks in at eight minutes. Even broken in two, as Columbia did with it in 1946, it’s a tight fit on both sides of a 78. But Sinatra recognized the uniqueness of the piece, from anticipation of all the fun the guy’s gonna have with “my boy Bill” to the slowly dawning terror of responsibility. Halfway through, on that line “What if he’s a …girl?”, Frank, a recent father of one of each, sings with a kind of bewildered disgust. But the sentiment leads into some of the most lyrical passages Rodgers ever wrote and Sinatra ever sang...

Frank stayed with the “Soliloquy” for the next half-century. In the Fifties, he was supposed to do the film of Carousel, but walked off the set when they told him he’d have to do every scene twice, once for the regular cameras, another for the new CinemaScope system...

But he and the arrangement grew together, and into the early Nineties you could still see him on stage in Atlantic City or London or Tokyo pushing himself through a punishing full-scale recreation of Billy Bigelow – the role he should have played on film condensed into ten minutes a night in recital halls and sports arena around the world decade after decade. Round about that last time we met, I saw some guy sing the “Soliloquy” in the Royal National Theatre revival of Carousel: great voice - if you think a voice is about hitting notes and holding them for the requisite length. But the fellow had nothing to say. Sinatra, a couple of years shy of 80, could still make you believe he was a cocky punk, scraping a living along the Maine coast, contemplating the birth of his first child.

september song.  Then his career went on. He got older. Showed his bruises and hurts.

hello young lovers. Oddly for a pop star, he didn't seem afraid of age.

ipanema. He was willing to try new things, new music styles, while still remaining himself.

Then he suddenly retired at the age of 50. Except that he hated retirement.

let my try again. So he had to come back.

there used to be a ballpark. Sounding more wistful.

send in the clowns. And less above it all.

nobody wins. Because life, if you live long enough, is always about loss.

the train. But it's still about hope, with the sad knowledge that hope can be denied.

something. Which makes love something an old man knows more about than kid rock stars.

lady day. Even when you're tragically disappointed.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because it isn't real. What happens in life is the slow rubbing away of our sharpest, surest edges. Sometimes the rubbing scrubs away our humanity. Sometimes it buffs us to a patina still capable of a certain glow. Something the Sex Pistols never got to find out.

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