Wednesday, November 30, 2005
I love music. Different kinds of music. With me - it's not so easy to describe who or what I like. It's more - I know what I like when I hear it. So to speak. OK - I am a big band, jazz, blues, croonin' junkie -but at the same time I love Sting, INXS, Queen, Barenaked ladies, Aaron Copeland, Beethoven, Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Rosemary Clooney- do you see what I am getting at? Eclectic doesn't begin to describe my collection. I like me some Brazilian Bossa Nova, and am just as likely to put Celtic harmonies, the Boston Pops, or the Beatles on my playlist. Again I know what I like. I love discovering new music- even though it just may be new to me. A couple of years ago I saw O Brother, Where Art Thou, and - like many other Americans - bought the soundtrack. That led to discovering and loving the music of Allison Krauss and Union Station (one of the most beautiful voices in music today) - even though I don't consider myself a Bluegrass gourmet. Soon after I wandered into the realm of Ralph Stanley, and for a reason I don't remember, Johnny Cash. That led me to rediscover Lynard Skynard. Maybe unrelated links, but a thread nonetheless.
I enjoy something which has been dubbed- "The Great American Songbook." Thanks to Rod Stewart, a Scot, many have started to discover or rediscover great "American" songs - stuff sung by Sinatra, Martin, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima, Nat King Cole, and others. You probably know most of the songs, or at least heard of them. They are American classics like "As Time Goes By", "Over the Rainbow", "That Old Black Magic", and one of my personal favorites, "Stardust." The thing about these songs is that they evoke some of the common culture, influences, and spirit of our country. And that's nothing to be ashamed of. Why did it take a Scot to make us remember that this stuff is great? Don't know - but thanks anyway. I've been enjoying this music for many years- but it's great to see so many others discovering it now.
Now if someone where to ask- "Do you love Bluegrass? or Do you love Country?" I would probably answer "Not really." However, were they to ask about certain artists or play certain songs within those genres - I might answer differently. I don't know why. I know what I like - and I don't always identify or like an entire genre of music. I don't really know anyone who could honestly claim they like every performance, every performer within a genre of music. We are too human, too rooted in our own life journey for that. But that doesn't mean we can't discover music, artists, or performances. I think the very act of discovery - the discovery of knowledge, music, art, film, words, and ideas - keeps us young and alive, no matter what our age. When we stop discovering, we stop living.
Music, to me, is a journey. I particularly think that our culture, our history, and our identity as a nation of peoples is so beautifully expressed in music, as much as in words or pictures. So its a wonderful thing to make discoveries and to return to old favorites. I have always enjoyed taking an artist I like and then making a journey of discovery through them. For example, I enjoy the work of Harry Connick, Jr. So - who influenced him- who does he influence? Who has a similar sound and what do they do differently with it. Potentially one could start with Harry- and then discover one of his influences- Thelonious Monk. It's then possible to go from Monk to John Coltrane, or one of his influences, Duke Ellington. Duke could lead you to Fats Waller and then, you could study Jazz during the Harlem Renaissance and then the roots of Jazz and Blues in the Mississippi Delta and the South. It is then possible to go from there to traditional Southern Mountain music and even the African influences of music in the Gullah areas of the Charleston coast. Could you then go from the mountain music and it's parentage in Scotland and Ireland and then pull back into traditional Gaelic music in the present? Sure. Or even go to Africa and discover the drums of West Africa.
See - a journey. One that all started with a Harry Connick Jr. CD that you popped in and listened to one afternoon. Music has such potential. We can take a wonderful journey, if we just act on our curiosity and impulse to learn. We are truly only limited by our curiosity and imagination.
We linked to a website in our last post- Pandora. Pandora is part of the online Music Genome Project. If you enter in an artist's name- Pandora will then play a selection by that artist and follow that with other artists with a similar musical DNA, if you will. We didn't do the site credit yesterday - but you will notice it is now a part of the Shelf links (along with some other new links). Check it and see what I'm talking about. Another great site is allmusic. You can make a very similar journey by searching out artists and checking out their work, bios, and influences.
Take a little trip before we are truly inundated with Holiday music. Not that I don't love Holiday music- in fact, I do love it. But the wait will make it all the more enjoyable- trust me. In fact, once we roll into December you can also add Holiday music to Pandora and see what it comes up with. Enjoy.
I don't care what you call me, man, just as long as my name is on the record.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
The in-between time is a kind of anti-climatic limbo time- it's time when things not quite end and not quite begin- and it's hard to focus. Therefore today is a mishmash of linkage - a small salad in the lunch that is the blogosphere.
Black Friday seemed to be Black and Blue Friday for some shoppers.... while it ended up being a Black Friday for Wal-Mart and Blue Friday for just about everyone else. Here are Rush's thoughts on Black Friday economics.
It seems as if the 12 Days of Christmas is subject to inflation as well as virtually everything else.
If you love exploring music - this is one of the more interesting website that I have come across in a while.
What's this? Mainstream news is talking about animated specials? Have they been reading The Shelf? Check it out for some listings of upcoming airings.
In the political talk realm here's an op-ed on political free speech by George Will. Ol' VDH has a great article on our efforts in Iraq and the political fight at home
Lastly, Senator Joe Lieberman has a must read opinion piece (you may have to register -it's free- but it's worth it) on the progress made in Iraq and why we need to make sure we stay to do it right. Just a smidgen to whet the appetite:
"Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory."
Read it without your political party blinders on.
Just wanted to add- Christopher Hitchens had a interesting article about Thanksgiving that I debated linking to. I argued that Thanksgiving was past and we needed to move on, but then I countered that the message was still important and Hitchens had an interesting perspective. I couldn't argue with that so I conceded to myself. So here it is- check it out. Having lived outside the country for several years and also having grown up with several friends from other countries, I have always been interested on how we view ourselves as Americans and how others view us. I don't necessarily care what others think, I just find that, contrary to what mainstream media would have us think- we are much harder on ourselves than others are. While there may be some resentment, many envy the freedoms and opportunities we have, and at the same time shake their collective heads at how we disparage those freedoms and take them for granted. Maybe we should think about that for a while. Now back to your regularly scheduled Shelf post.
Well Shelfers- that's it until next time. Do yourself a favor- chill out don't create more stress for yourself than necessary. Go see a movie- Chicken Little is great. Make yourself a popcorn cake. Good stuff- this is the time of year to enjoy life- not overstuff it.
Scut Farkus! What a rotten name! There he stood, between us and the alley. Scut Farkus staring out at us with his yellow eyes. He had yellow eyes! So, help me, God! Yellow eyes!
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Shelfers, in the midst of your traveling and cooking or cleaning for the holidays, we hope that you will take the time to bow your head and take a moment of silence for an endangered species: Thanksgivingus animatis specialus. We will not review the material from our previous class, so if you need to- you may catch up later.
As we discussed previously, in the past decade the animated holiday special has all but disappeared from Network prime time television. This would be a real tragedy if not for concurring events and technology, namely cable and satellite television and DVDs. Walk into any Best Buy or Circuit City, etc. and you will see many holiday DVDs; movies and animated shows alike. In recent years, the networks have sniffed the ad revenue in the air again and perhaps have realized that there is indeed something to running those specials. In fact, ABC has taken a bit of a lead in running the classics. ABC secured the rights to air the Peanuts holiday specials, taking them from CBS, the long time champ of the holiday special. Peanuts ruled CBS for 35 years. What kid doesn't remember the CBS eye logo spinning around with the dramatic music surging underneath telling us another holiday special was next?
CBS was smarting when ABC took the rug out from under them. The specials were getting perfunctory attention at CBS- ABC took the initiative and invested advertising and commercials in the series and it looks like it has paid off. At first they claimed that ratings was not a big deal; the network claimed at the time that they "won't miss the ratings. They were pretty modest. It's a matter of tradition."
That was then. Now the ratings have turned around to ABC's favor in regard to their investment. Now they are taking another step in the right direction. This year ABC is also running a longtime fan favorite Santa Claus is Comin' to Town. This is perhaps the first time in many years it has been run in primetime on a major network. ABC is also running two Charlie Brown Christmas specials (there are actually three) and The Grinch as well. CBS still has the rights to several Rankin Bass specials, Rudolph and several Frosty specials and will be airing those (Rudolph runs twice!). For many years the original Charlie Brown, Rudolph, and Frosty were the only specials you saw on network television- and they were rarely aired on the weekend. You had to go to cable to see anything else. That is beginning to change. The original fans of these shows are now adults and have or are starting to have kids of their own. They want to share these (and see them also) with their own children. Something that became tradition, then went away, seems to be making a comeback - at least where Christmas is concerned.
What does this mean for Thanksgiving specials? Well, not much- at least not in the present. The truth is that Thanksgiving specials were never in great abundance. Thanksgiving day has been the official start of Christmas programming for television right after the Macy's parade has gone off the air. I mean if Macy's winds up with Santa Claus as a finale- who are the networks to delay the inevitable. ABC, in a bold move (students, please not the light air of sarcasm in this statement) is airing A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on the night of Thanksgiving. This year that seems to be it. However, in the 70s and 80s in the weeks before Thanksgiving, families were able to sit down in front of a least a couple of animated Thanksgiving specials. Very few of them retained a special place as a must see special- but there have been more than you think. Today, in honor of this most rare of species we will list out the Thanksgiving animated specials that have appeared over the years, many which have been largely forgotten (some deservedly so). A few deserve to be remembered and seen still. Perhaps you will enjoy this trip down memory lane. Take the time to watch the specials when they air, and perhaps the trend that is returning, starting with Christmas, will spill over to Thanksgiving as well.
Not counting the occasional Saturday morning holiday themed special, very few Thanksgiving specials appeared in prime time. Here are a few that only appeared a few times.
The Mouse and the Mayflower (Rankin Bass, 1968)
If you thought the masters of the holiday special missed Thanksgiving, you are wrong. Rankin Bass hit Thanksgiving hard like your Aunt Mabel's Turkey Tofu Loaf. This cell animated adventure is about a Mouse that takes a trip along with the pilgrims aboard the Mayflower and ends up saving the ship and eventually Thanksgiving. Natch. Rankin Bassaficionadoss (including yours truly) eagerly await the DVD release of this classic. You can find it only used on VHS if you can't wait.
The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't (Hanna Barbara, 1972) This was a fairly saccharine-sweet adventure style cartoon. A young settler befriends a young Indian around the time of the first Thanksgiving. Some forest animals of the Snow White variety hang out with them, until they are dangerously cornered by a bear. Who will save the day? I actually don't remember this from childhood, but from having seen it on Cartoon Network about seven years ago.
Bugs Bunny Thanksgiving Diet (Warner Brothers, 1979) Bugs Bunny is the head of a diet clinic helping out other Looney Tunes characters with food related problems. Each problem transitions into a classic cartoon with a food theme. This one is actually funny and the new animation does a better job of leading into older segments. Although not on prime time anymore, you can probably find this on VHS at a rental store or online.
Daffy Duck's Thanks For Giving (Warner Brothers, 1980)
This is really only a Thanksgiving special in name only. Classic Daffy Duck shorts are joined by new animated transitions which have Daffy trying to get "J.L" to produce a new Daffy Duck film adventure: "Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24th 1/2 Century."
(Paramount, 1988) While is not necessarily a "Thanksgiving special" it is an enjoyable and fairly informative look at the story of the meeting of the Pilgrims and Native Americans. Part of the "This is America" series, this special is available as a second feature on the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving DVD.
Garfield's Thanksgiving (Fox, 1988)
A great classic! Garfield's vet tells Jon that Garfield must go on a diet, right at Thanksgiving. Jon is able to convince the lady vet to come over for Thanksgiving. When she comes over, she takes pity on ol' Garfield and tells him he can take a break from the diet for the special diet. Jon almost ruins dinner, but luckily it's his Harley- riding Grandma to the rescue. This one is readily available on the Garfield Holiday Celebrations DVD.
And of course perennialnnel classic:
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (Paramont, 1973)
What else can we say, other than perhaps no other special is able to top it. Peppermint Patty invites herself, Franklin, and Marcie over to Chuck's for Thanksgiving. One problem - Charlie Brown and Sally are headed to Grandma's for dinner and aren't cooking. Linus recommends that perhaps they have two dinners: one for the gang early and then the Browns can head to Grandma's. Snoopy handles cooking duties which includes Jelly Beans, toast, popcorn, pretzels and sundaes. Peppermint Patty gets pretty ticked and freaks out. Marcie reminds her that she invited herself over and PP apologizes to Chuck. Then Charlie Brown does what he should have done in the first place: he asks Grandma if his friends can come for dinner. When the gang heads for Grandma's condo, Snoopy and Woodstock then pull out the real Thanksgiving food that he hid for themselves. Woodstock, who apparently has no issues with cannibalism, wins the wishbone. I love this special- it's actually one of my favorite Charlie Brown specials. Also it has a very under-appreciated song: "Little Birdy." Love it. Do yourself a favor - watch it Thanksgiving night.
Well Shelfers- that's the case for Thanksgiving we think it deserves all the respect we can give it. Hopefully animated specials will continue the trend and return in abundance soon. Until then, enjoy them on DVD or cable if you can.
Six Degrees puzzler for Thanksgiving weekend: Connect Ron Howard to classic movie star Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. . Difficulty: cannot use Ron Howard as director- must use him as an actor. Good luck!
Finally from all of us at The Shelf- Happy Thanksgiving! Snag a drumstick and an extra helping of pie for us and enjoy Charlie Brown tonight! Be safe-
Monday, November 21, 2005
You will, no doubt, remember our award winning coverage of the history of animated specials and the Top Shelf picks for Halloween specials. When I say award winning, I mean that it should have won an award if there was such a thing. But let's stay on track here...
Thanksgiving is no stranger to the animated special. However, it does get short shrift as far as the amount and quality of specials. In fact, we dare say that only the Fourth of July and Labor Day fare worse. Labor Day was a goner the minute Jerry Lewis locked it in, and they realized no one care to see an animated musical about the AFL-CIO. Columbus Day doesn't count, because we all know it's not politically correct. Are there still places that celebrate that archaic holiday? I mean when will people learn that Columbus, OH is frightening place and never deserved a holiday to begin with. Just think of all the other deserving towns or cities that deserve... wait a second... I'm getting some information from the production team... Christopher who? Oh... I see. Well, that's different. Ahem.
Back to our feature.
Like the Thanksgiving animated special, the holiday itself is sort of in a bit of limbo. I know many people who enjoy Thanksgiving as one of their favorite holidays, myself included. Everything about it is pleasant, especially the older you get. I mean, once you get bumped up from the kiddy table to fill a vacancy at the "Main Table" - there's no turning back. At least until Aunt Mabel comes back next year when her rheumatism isn't so bad. Darn that Aunt Mabel.
Since Halloween folded up and left town, Christmas busted into town, without any regard for Thanksgiving, or even without calling ahead first to let us know it was on the way. In the rush to get the house ready- Thanksgiving- expected and invited- was knocking at the door. We answer the door sheepishly, knowing what needs to said. Thanksgiving, grinning from ear to ear has no clue. All we can say is, "Come on in, Thanksgiving. Good to see you. Sorry we can't visit long. You see, Christmas just blew into town and we kind of weren't expecting him this early. I'm sure you understand. Just stay and have some dinner and watch a little T.V. before Christmas gets here. Then we've got to rush, rush, rush. You know how it is. The house has to be just right."
Yeah. See what I mean. Short shrift.
Retail stores are barely putting discount signs on the Halloween candy the day before Halloween, and the Christmas candy and other holiday flash and tinsel was on the next shelf- waiting for Halloween to vacate the place like some New Yorker waiting for the tenant above them to die so they can move in to that rent controlled haven. It's fairly pathetic. The day after Halloween, I snuck down to the nearby unnamed electronics store chain and they were playing Christmas music. Freakin' Christmas music. Shelfers, I know you have been there. I know you have your own sad little experiences. It's not that Christmas isn't great. It is. We are big fans of Christmas here at The Shelf, as you will see coming in the month ahead. But all things must be enjoyed in moderation and in perspective. In fact, I would argue that without first commemorating a day of thanks, we are essentially diluting the true spirit of Christmas and the season in general. Since when did our culture stop needing to feel and recognize gratitude? Since never. Duh.
Popular culture is a wonderful thing, but it sort of has an "evil twin" side to it called over-commercialization. That used to be a very popular term back in the 60s and 70s when everyone worried about the holidays becoming too commercialized. But I've got news for ya': it's been going on for decades. It's fine in some aspects. Surely, certain holiday commercials and products occupy warm spots in our hearts. But when it is done in non-stop excess, we can't enjoy it. In fact we may resent it. And the thing is, Thanksgiving is kind of hard to commercialize, outside of food and maybe cards. It doesn't mean companies haven't tried, but in the end a day based on gratitude is a hard way to sell toys and candy. So the companies pay perfunctory tribute to Thanksgiving while they are rolling out the toys and candy and hawk decorations and advice on how to have the perfect Christmas. The T.V. and stores tell you to hurry, "time's a-wastin' "(wither Snuffy Smith?) and you have to buy this and that to have it just right. If it's not right, then no one will enjoy it! Rubbish. As it is- all this stuff puts family time in tretcherous territory. Now, don't get me wrong. Decorating, baking, etc. is wonderful for the holidays. But when you are worrying about perfection, what time do you have left for the loved ones who don't want perfect- they just want you. Truth hurts, doesn't it? If you only learn one thing today Shelfers, learn this: There can be too much of a good thing. Too much of anything leaves little room for anything else.
Remember Willy Wanka and the Chocolate Factory? All the kids that were abducted by Oompa Loompas and never seen again, were children in excess. All kids like candy and television, etc., but it has to be moderated by things like heart, learning, and living a good life. The true blessing of childhood is the ability of children to see truth, feel love and express them both. When we adults cram everything down their throats and indulge every single whim- we dilute that. Sometimes to the point of obliterating that. That's what the Oompa Loopmas were singing: "Who's to blame? The Mother and the Father." Didn't catch that the first time you saw it did you? Oompa Loompa, Doompety do.
Perhaps it's the feeling that holiday purchases are being forced down our throats- or perhaps it's because we feel like the things like products and perfection are getting in the way of time with family and friends; but that same thing happens to holidays. Days that were meant, like children, to express love and truth- become diluted by gross commercialization.
Therefore, today at the Shelf we are making the case for Thanksgiving. We throw the gaunlet down- we dare you to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, in full, and hold off on Christmas til next week. Sit down with your kids and enjoy some holiday cheer. Keep the Christmas stuff in the attic for now. Watch some Thanksgiving specials, bake some pumpkin pies, and heck throw in the ol' hand turkey. Enjoy Thanksgiving in it's fullness and aromas, in it's family time and goofy traditions. And be grateful that old Aunt Mabel is still around to tell you those silly stories about her rheumatism. Remember she may not be around next year. While you may be bumped up to the "Main table," we know that you look back at the kiddy table with fondness. Maybe next week once you are in the stores, hearing der Bingle croonin' about Rudolph above the din of the crowd, you will have carried a bit of the grateful spirit along with you. And then you'll thank us. Trust me, it will be worth it.
And next year, when Christmas blows into town right after Halloween skips out, tell 'em you already got company. Thanksgiving is propping it's feet up and staying a while. Tell Christmas you'll be glad to see it in December.
Tomorrow in part II, we look at the rare species known as Thanksgivingus animatis specialus. Be here.
I went down to buy a turkey tree and all they have are things for Christmas.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Speaking of DVD's and the reference in our post title, The new collector's set of The Wizard of Oz
is now out. It is jam packed and far exceeds previous versions. It does give me pause, however, when I look at it and wonder: "Should I wait and see if they will release a 'Mega-Collector's Edition." Makes you go "Hmmmm...."
Next week: Thanksgiving extraviganza! Animated specials, side dish classics, and parade hijinks!
Don't miss it!
Will you promise not to miss it if I add more exclamation marks?
Don't miss it!!!
He used to be a big shot...
"Great services are not canceled by one act or by one single error."
Benjamin DisraeliBritish politician (1804 - 1881)
Recently I had planned to write up a post about the doofus formerly known as President Jimmy Carter, but was referred to this wonderful article that said it all before I could. Here's the first line of it which immediately had me hooked, "The only thing more painful than listening to Jimmy Carter lecture President Bush on how to conduct a successful presidency was living through his disastrous attempt to turn his advice into reality". Check it out.
I also wanted to address those Shelfers kind enough to post comments recently. We greatly appreciate your participation and kind words. I say participation because, we read those comments as additional statements to our own articles. You are The Shelf. Loophole and I write in order to share with you all our thoughts in hopes that you do the same in the comments section. We hope to eventually establish an interactive website with the typical Shelf fodder as well as a chat room for topic discussion allowing us all to pick each other's brains about whatever interests us at the time. Your encouragement is what keeps us working towards that goal, and with your help, we intend to accomplish it. There is no timetable, but we hope it will be soon. The best way for you to help is to continue supporting the site though frequent visits and sharing the site with as many as you know who would be interested in our scribblings. Again, thank you for your continued support and as always we love to read your comments.
P.S.- We are now listed on google!! So when you tell your friends about us, just tell them to type randomshelf in the search block and the link will pop up.Thanks again
Pease feel free to comment if the need strikes you.
Think for yourself
If you saw the episode this week you know what I'm talking about. In a week where Bird Flu scares were heating up just in time for Thanksgiving, people were worried about errant leaks spilling the goods like a washroom attendant clutching his mop, school principals acting like jerks, the United Nations acting with typical "above ethics and law" manner, weird stuff with laws, downright neglect and stupidity, and some very, shall we say, less than intelligent people making some stupid decisions- what does South Park do? They tackle the Church of Scientology- who just might sue me for mentioning their name. It wasn't the greatest episode- in fact the ending was rather weak and some puns and jokes were carried on too long- but it was great satire. It was cathartic and refreshing to see that someone else is looking at this stuff and saying to themselves, "No way! That is some messed-up stuff right there." Watching it reminds you that yes, there are some stupid and crazy people in this world and there always will be, but you have to sometimes just look at it all and laugh. Some people just take things way too seriously. This season has had quite its share of biting satire. Love it, love it. It makes being a pop culture gadfly rewarding when you can watch satire and know where its all coming from in its subtlest ways.
In the also ran section-If you have been paying attention you will remember our previous post that mentioned historian and commentator Victor Davis Hanson. Well, it seems that Mr. Hanson and Arianna Huffington were guest speakers at a lecture series sponsored by the Grand Valley State University's Ralph Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. The question on which the guests were asked to speak was whether or not the United States should be considered an empire. While Mr. Hanson spoke to the characteristics and histories of empires and how we do not fit within that model, Ms. Huffington emoted about Iraq, big oil, and hurricanes. Way to use your brain there, Huffy. Ms. Huffington suggested that "the essence of an empire is the combination of hubris and incompetence." Ms. Huffington fails to understand that hubris and incompetence is the essence of failure in an empire. It is what brought down Rome and the world-wide British Empire and small empires of the east and orient. It is also rather the hallmark of a bureaucratic democracy on a smaller scale. Empires thrive on centralized power and the continued succession of that power- not spread out and transferred to different hands in varying cycles. History has taught us this much. But again, we suggest you read and think for yourself.
Here is something that should be on the front page of newspapers nationwide- but was hardly covered, regarding prewar information. Sometimes I am just so tired of so-called journalists, media hounds, and commentators who repeat less than honest slogans and throw about baseless accusations and inaccurate and selective evidence like Jesus Juice at a Michael Jackson sleepover. They must think if they say it enough that eventually everyone will just believe it. Wrong- remember what we have said about groups who want to change how history is viewed or interpreted: "Charlatans do not want history to be studied. It exposes them for who they are. And if they cannot keep it from being read, they will manipulate it, truncate it, and regurgitate their own version to you." (November 10th post). Case in point: Senator Jay Rockefeller. Rockefeller had been supportive of war efforts as well as Senators Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and former Senator Tom Daschle. In fact, former President Clinton and many democrats and administration officials such as Sec. of State Madeline Albright echoed that Saddam was dangerous, a threat, and a potential nuclear problem. In fact here is a statement from October of 2002: "Saddam's government has contact with many international terrorist organizations that likely have cells . . . in the United States. . . . I do believe that Iraq poses an imminent threat, but I also believe that after Sept. 11, that question is increasingly outdated. It is in the nature of these weapons, and the way they are targeted against civilian populations, that documented capability and demonstrated intent may be the only warning we get. To insist on further evidence could put some of our fellow Americans at risk. Can we afford to take that chance? We cannot!" That was none other than Senator Rockefeller himself. (Quote from a David Reinhard article Prewar Intelligence in Nov.14th The Oregonian)
Now these same individuals are changing their tune and belting out a different one. They want you to believe that "they were lied to" and that they never really supported the efforts against Iraq, and Saddam was never really a threat. The ONLY reason they have change horses midstream is because of politics. They saw the same intel and relied on the same information that President Bush had, which included intel from the Clinton administration. Now Rockefeller has admitted that neither he nor most of his colleges (including Clinton and Reid) had even read the intel report before voting. What was that Ms. Huffington said about incompetence? How can you claim to have been lied to if you never heard the supposed lie?
Moreover Rockefeller is now saying "I took a trip by myself in January of 2002 to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and I told each of the heads of state that it was my view that George Bush had already made up his mind to go to war against Iraq, that that was a predetermined set course which had taken shape shortly after 9/11."
(from November 13th Fox News Sunday program). Um, what? A U.S. Senator acting in a manner tantamount to giving away prewar intel? It seems to me that understanding what our Senators, especially those in intelligence committees, were doing before the war, is more endemical to understanding where mistakes were made and how to fix things, than worrying about a former CIA desk jockey and her husband.
A lot of this stems from political posturing and the desire to be liked by everyone else. There is some sort of inbred notion that if we can just get others to like us or understand us, everything will be OK. This leftover claptrap from the 60s is naive and ultimately futile. Its a notion that depends upon the other person or nation wanting to understand and like us. We can only control, defend, and take care of ourselves. It is true that we must do it with regard for other's interests, but it is moronic to believe that we have to do it with disregard of our own. In fact, it is self-defeating and dangerous. When we fall back on this hippie (sorry -that's the Cartman in me coming out) nonsense, we ultimately leave ourselves open to heartbreak. Just ask someone who was dumped by someone else who used and abused them with out quid pro quo consideration and love. They get it.
Why do we worry so much about why others like us? Didn't we all learn from after-school specials that we shouldn't worry about what others think, so long as we are doing what is right? Mr. Hanson - we'll let you take it from here.
Mr. Hanson also has a patient and important memory lesson to an angry reader, who is regurgitating the media and political mantras. It is worth a read.
Some other items:
Dennis Prager asks five important questions that will probably never be answered.
Looks like we really should be telling Reid, Clinton, Rockefeller and others to quiet down so we can examine what's happening in Iran.
We can't forget that terrorists are not only attacking American soldiers, they are attacking their fellow countrymen. The situation is more complex than them not liking us, and we just need to leave. It is vital for us to stay to assist a fledging democracy in establishing it's foundation of law and order and the enforcement thereof. We have stayed much longer in places like Germany and Japan to help ensure a safer future. Some may say what they will and believe what they want about money, oil, etc. and the war. Someday maybe they will understand that establishing democracy and protecting freedoms cost much in the short term and pay much more in dividends in future. Cutting and running costs us less in the short term and will cost us much more in the future. In fact, it may cost us our future.
Wow- even I was way too serious today. Gotta go laugh some more. Why don't you do the same? Go watch some entertaining T.V., read a book, read a Dr. Seuss book to your kid, or make cookies. Enjoy and make your life fulfilling. Always remember when you serve and help others you are enriching two lives- the person you serve and your own.
As for you Rod, you really need to quit smoking. It'll kill you. Oh, wait....
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity.
This is a confession shelfers. I broke one of my own rules. In a brief moment of confusion, I actually read something from Time magazine. I was in someone's office and saw it open to an article that drew my attention. The line of small text at the top of the page read, "The WORST Governors in America". I didn't realize which periodical I was reading, but the first nominee in the article had me agreeing with it. It was Governor Bob Taft of Ohio. If you aren't very familiar with him I'll give you a brief run-down. As governor, the article states that he is "widely considered an inept and ineffective leader". The worst though is his failing to report 47 golf outings paid for by other individuals, who were most likely whispering in his ear whilst the good Guv picked his sand wedge. Can we say "Corruption"? I mean, 47 golfing trips! If he didn't report those, I wonder what else went unreported.
next on the list was the infamous Governor Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana. Do I really need to explain how she made the cut? Borrowing a word from Gov. Taft's bio, with Gov. Blanco ineptitude is served up by the bucket. Until the whole natural disaster thing brought her into the spotlight, I hadn't a clue about her performance. Even though she was not solely to blame (I think Mayor Nagin is swinging the other end of this jump-rope) for the horrible way in which the disaster was handled, it did peak interest in her pitiful performance in the office. In reference to the Hurricane evacuation (or lack of) that she and the Mayor encouraged, it somewhat resembled Hanna Barbera's Wacky Races with the two playing the role of Dick Dastardly and Muttley. I'm not saying I would have been perfect in that situation, but even wild animals know to run to the hills in that situation. Hurricane's aside, look at the pitiful condition of the state she leads PRIOR to the disaster. There was quite a bit of lavish spending as well as spending of allocated monies to other, unnecessary projects. She was pretty much a no-brainer for this list.
Then there was the last Governor on this countdown of the Worst Governors. Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina. He's too frugal it says. Wait,.....run that by me again. He's too frugal? This is where I finally realized what magazine was reading. Only Time magazine would print a list of the Worst Governors and include one who is "too frugal" with a man charged in a government corruption scandal and a woman who co-authored the biggest crisis response situation in our country's history. The story starts of by telling us that "as a U.S. representative in the 90's", he "slept on an office futon instead of renting a Washington apartment" with taxpayer money. Does anyone out there have a problem with that? The major attack the story pitches towards him is the state's slip from a AAA rating in the S&P to an AA+ "citing unemployment of 6.3% and a per capita income of $27,172" and the failure of his state to win a bid for an Airbus plant. Does this mean that the Governor went around the state firing people one by one from their jobs and forcing their bosses to pay them just under $30,000 a year? Somehow I don't think he did that. Personally, I know a lot of people who would love to get a job paying that much. Airbus eventually went to Mobile, Alabama citing a location with much closer water access and a commitment from the Alabama legislature "to get Airbus an Air Force contract to build refueling tankers" also "the Mobile site is near a deep-water berth, allowing large assemblies, some more than 20 feet tall, to move less than 2,000 feet from a ship into the plant for assembly."Another "negative" in the article was the retelling of Governor Sanford's protest of the state legislature's pork barrel spending by releasing to piglets (who had the words "pork" and "barrel" written on them) into the assembly hall whilst they were meeting. I don't know about you Shelfers, but I'm not disgusted. I'm impressed. How Often do we hear newspapers and other media outlets attack politicians for overspending and creating a huge deficit? Anyone seen the details on the Alaskan "bridge to nowhere" that's been all over the news? Why is it that in a country where the need for government frugality is constantly preached, a man is put on the list of our country's WORST Governors for practicing just that? Yet again I wonder: What is Time thinking? Are they thinking? Shelfers, I did a google search on each of the three "WORST" Governors. The search on each, of course, had your standard state homepage and government listings, but the other results were telling. On the first page of listings in the search I did for Bob Taft, one of the listing titles is, "Taft admits ethics violations". The search for Kathleen Blanco has the listings, "Kathleen Blanco:Failure" and "Impeach Kathleen Blanco". Then came the third. The first page for the Mark Sanford search produced three "Draft Mark Sanford for President 2008" links. These are three different links from the private sector, not ones sponsored by him or his staff. Does that tell you something? It tells me that I'm right about Time magazine and I need to make sure I obey my own rules. Lastly Shelfers, notice that I never mentioned to which party these individuals belong. That's because, like we always say here at the shelf, "do not elect the party, only the individual".
Please feel free to comment if the need strikes you.
Deeds, not words shall speak me.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Red Skelton once said, "God gives us talent. That is His gift to us. When we use it, that is our gift to Him." I have reflected on that saying several times this week. Today is Veteran's Day here in the United States where we remember those who have served in all branches of the armed forces. There are those that we especially commemorate, who gave their lives in the service of our country. Red Skelton's message resonates with me when I think of all who have served. They gave of their gifts to all of us, and some gave their greatest gift of all- their lives.
I come from a family that has several veterans from The American Revolution all through the Vietnam Era. I have close friends who have and are serving in Afghanistanstan and Iraq. This is not something I take lightly.
I don't really care what your view of the military, or wars past and present are. I don't car what you may think of the United States. The simple truth is that freedom exists in a most unique way in the U.S. and it exists in other parts of the world because of freedom loving people around the world who are willing to fight to help others enjoy freedom. That especially includes Americans. No matter what fanatical axe that you have to grind - one thing that has to be clear to all people looking at the history of the world: freedom is precious and has to be defended. If you aren't willing to sacrifice your time or efforts, you still have the rights that everyone else does. That's the beauty of this nation. And we owe a debt of gratitude to those who were willing to serve and sacrifice.
Even if you haven't served- perhaps you can serve you country be serving your fellow man. Be a good citizen: respect others, respect the laws and freedoms of our country. Help your neighbor; see beyond the confines of your our front yard. Think about these things when you vote- and vote according to your conscience and to the belief in what this country represents and does. Don't vote according to how a Hollywood big mouth tells you to, or how some blowhard newscaster thinks you should. Nod at them, smile politely and do the right thing. Think for yourself.
I want to say just one other thing today, and I hope you will follow suit. To the veterans and current members of the armed forces: Thank you. I cherish your sacrifice.
To my father who was in the Air Force: Thank you - your example resides deep within me and I appreciate the time you gave to your country (and to me!)
To my grandfather who was in the Army during World War II and earned a purple heart: Thank you. What you did in defense of our country and of freedom around the world, stands as a testament to what people can do in the service of others.
You were right, Red. You were so right.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Random Note #1
If you don't know historian and commentator Victor Davis Hanson, read some excerpts from his latest book, A War Like No Other : How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War. Hanson is one of the few intelligent, rational, and thoughtful commentators on current military operations and the war on terror. His commentary can be found in papers such as the Wall Street Journal and also on National Review Online. NRO has been publishing excerpts from the book this week: here be the first, and a section on the sidebar will allow you to link to the others. If you think this may be boring stuff- Hanson's comments and insights on today's world benefit greatly from his work as a historian. Just read the excerpts (it's free!) and judge for yourself. His work is excellent and its relevance for today makes a case for a return to classic elements in education.
Being a burgeoning historian myself, many people have commented to me that there is nothing to learn from the Romans or the Greeks, much less from our own Founding Generation. There is much excellent work being done by historians that point to lessons learned, mistakes made, and victories hard-won from the past by all peoples. Too much work for us to ignore. There are things we can learn and there are too many mistakes that we are making in the world, as a human race, to discard the past as useless and irrelevant. A person who has forgotten or failed to learn of the past, is like a person suffering from amnesia: disjointed, scared, lost, and adrift in a world they don't remember. It is vital for all to learn from the past. History is suffering an assault from all sides: left wingers with agendas, right wingers with agendas, radical political groups, lazy parents, teachers, and students and - worst of all - narrow-minded fringe groups who argue that history does not speak enough about them or their culture and therefore has no relevance.
History is what it is: history. It is the story of life and the interaction of life on this planet. It is failure and achievement, it is hate and love, it is action and rhetoric, it is belief and disbelief. It is what it is. The storytellers of history are those who choose to reflect and expound upon certain parts of the story. Thus you pick up a book about the ruling dynasties of China and do not expect to read too much about French painters. Warning: those who condemn history as passe, more often than not do not want anyone to learn from history, thereby covering their own fallacies and shortcomings. It is the Wizard of Oz syndrome all over again: Do not pay attention to the man behind the curtain. In other words, if we don't let others to study the past, they won't discover that we have said these things before and failed in the past. Charlatans do not want history to be studied. It exposes them for who they are. And if they cannot keep it from being read, they will manipulate it, truncate it, and regurgitate their own version to you. You have been warned. The Shelf mantra, again me hearties: "Think for yourself".
Random Note #2
Usually, these groups lack a sense of humor. Evidence: Barney Frank's reaction to being on a political satire show: The Colbert Report. Frank found nothing funny about the interview. He said "This wouldn't be funny in Junior High." He's right- most junior high kids wouldn't get it. It's difficult for them to grasp political satire. It was darn funny to the older crowd. Not so funny when the "Kick Me" sign is on your back, is it Barney? By the way- why do these so-called politically savvy people go on The Daily Show, et al? Have they been under a rock and have no idea who these people are? Apparently so. That's alright - it makes for the funny occasionally. Just a reminder to Jon Stewart: heavy-handed political bias isn't always funny to everyone. You criticize and lampoon the press for the same bias that you demonstrate sometimes. Your defense that it's an entertainment show doesn't make it any less hypocritical. As for the politicians: an 18-year old kid just got elected mayor. After he installs a private Mountain Dew Soda Fountain in his office and establishes a Taco Bell counter at City Hall, I wonder what his first move will be? Actually- this one bears watching - sometimes kids are willing to try and solve problems without a lot of political posturing and defeatist attitudes weighing them down. That is, until they get to college. Better look out Senators- he'll be after your job one of these days.
It also seems that Paris is fully capable of burning without any outside help. Should we continue to look towards the French and Europe in general as the zenith of culture, progressive government and the model of an enlightened society? I think not. Lest we forget, Europe was the birth place of many of the World's worst wars, political blunders, genocides, and some the worst "isms" (fascism, communism, socialism) the world has seen. Doesn't exactly inspire a Disneyland ride, does it? Don't get me wrong: no one society has or ever will be perfect. And European history and culture has many wonderful contributions to history: it just doesn't come without its baggage. Of course the press is reporting this as: "Move along, nothing to see here." Since when has a headline like "Less killing, rioting, and car burning" ever bespoke confidence?
If you remember the hurricane coverage criticism we unleashed here at the Shelf, you may be interested by Al Roker's reaction to everyone else's reaction to his windswept coverage during Wilma. Ooohhh- Better watch out, Al is a mite testy! Mediabistro has it covered!
Looks like grandpa's not so much of a luddite after all.
It seems as if other parts of the world are starting to understand that Al Queda and the war on terror has nothing to do with culture, nationality, religion, or race. The war Al Queda started and is waging has to do with ideology, power, and control. Just like all other wars. Hopefully, others in the world and in this country will wake up before its too late.
If you are interested in what history has to say about freedom and society, politics and the welfare state, do yourself a favor and pick up last week's Shelf pick, Rubicon. The last few centuries of Romans society can teach us much. Wow, all the way back to history. Who said I couldn't bring it full circle.
New post tomorrow; 'til then- be good.
A good body with a dull brain is as cheap as life itself...
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
We have added a new section on the sidebar: "Shelf Community" - it is there that you will find links to friends and fellow bloggers of note in the cyber-sphere. Check it out.
I know this is early, but being that it is close to Christmas, TV has naturally offered quite a bit of childhood "bling" to jaw about on Santa's lap. Some of the toys I have seen offered are quite cool. Others are perplexing. Some of it is downright disturbing. Hey, parents? Let your kids have a childhood. Don't give them stuff that makes adults uncomfortable. Let 'em be kids. Also- note to Santa- ever thought about posting a height and weight limit next to your chair? They do it at Disney World. Might help out the lumbago and get those parent's basement-dwelling, unemployed "big kids" off your case. Hey, if you are past "intro to hormone" stage and can legally work to earn Christmas money give the jolly fat man a break. If you're into the lap thing- keep that at home. We've seen you at the mall. Yes, it's cute for you and your high school pals to get a picture with ol' SC. But have you seen the man's medical bills? They must be horrible. And he probably doesn't have good insurance. It's got to be difficult to find a group plan for an old married couple, hundreds of elves, and a flying sleigh with flying reindeer.
But I digress...
This time of year is a virtual cornucopia of DVD offerings for film buffs. Here is a very short must list for any Shelfer. Of course, our own list is longer. You may add titles according to your tastes.
Warner's Classic Holiday Collection is a must have. Get this straight: these are CHRISTMAS movies. Those of you offended that someone made a Christmas movie- get over it. Move along nothing for you to see here. Why they had to call it a "holiday" collection is beyond me- no Thanksgiving movies here. The 3 DVD set includes Spencer Tracy's Boys Town, Barbara Stanwyk's screwball comedy, Christmas in Connecticut, and the early 1938 classic A Christmas Carol starring Reginald Owen (Admiral Boom from Mary Poppins), Leo G. Carroll (the Professor in North by Northwest) and June Lockhart (c'mon people! Lassie, Lost in Space, Petticoat Junction? ) in first screen role. All for less than $30. At that price, Santa can give it as a Thanksgiving treat so we can gather round and watch while eating leftovers and pumpkin pie.
The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3 continues the tradition of DVD superiority that the first two volumes established. Tho' packed with features, interviews, documentaries, and commentary, its the shorts that are what 'ya come home fer. The four disc set contains many historical shorts that have never made it to either VHS or DVD, including Warner's first cartoon short: the black and white Sinkin' in the Bathtub. Also included are the first appearances for Porky, Foghorn Leghorn, and Daffy in his first starring role in a cartoon. Do yourself a favor- put it on your list or sneak it onto your kid's list before they mail it to the North Pole.
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection is a fantastic set from a very different chubby man- sans whiskers and red suit. This set hit the stores just last month and it features 14 of Hitch's films. Many of them are some of his best like Vertigo, The Birds, and Rear Window. Several other less than great films like Topaz and Family Plot round out the set, dubiously included as part of this "masterpiece collection". If you are a Hitch fan, as we are here at the Shelf, it is a no-brainer purchase. If you tend to pick and choose over your Hitchcock films, like a vegan at a Golden Corral buffet, you might want to pick up your favorites as single purchases. To truly create a great Hitch collection get this along with The Signature Collection, which contains some of Hitchcock's best; including Strangers on a Train, North By Northwest (a Shelf Top pick classic), and Dial M for Murder. It may seem somewhat pricey, but for a film buff, 23 films by one of cinema's best directors for less than $150 is a sound investment for a collection. They are at the top of my Christmas list.
Also on our list:
For Dean Martin fans: The Matt Helm Lounge DVD set contains all of Dean's campy spy films. He played the spy with tongue firmly planted in check way before a certain Mr. Powers arrived on the scene. The set contains all four spy spoof films, of which The Silencers is perhaps the best.
A true cinema icon, the original King Kong is available in both a single Collector's Edition and in a Collection set with The Mighty Joe Young and Son of Kong. Fay Wrey never looked so good- a DVD set with plenty of extras.
For pure silent comedy genius you can't go wrong with Harold Lloyd. The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection Box set features all eleven silent feature films and many of his shorts. A bonus disc filled with features including interviews, retrospectives, some of Lloyd's own home movies and some of his photography. (What? You didn't know that Lloyd was an accomplished photographer as well? It's time to turn in your "Pop Culture Gadfly" membership card!) Harold Lloyd's famous short, Safety Last (You know, the one where he is hanging from the huge clock on the side of the building?), is just the tip of the iceberg. If you only know silent comedy as featuring Charlie Chaplin, you don't know much, brother. Introduce yourself to one of the greats, alongside Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
Don't forget those books and CDs!
It has been hard finding a excellent book on Dean Martin, as well as Jerry Lewis. I think a book has arrived that just might be the ticket. Dean and Me: A Love Story was written by Lewis and is a seemingly candid portrait of their partnership, and a loving tribute to his friend Dino. If you are a fan- ask Santa to bring you this one post haste.
By the way Santa, a great stocking stuffer would be Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall. This recently discovered set of records by Monk and Coltrane are a jazz lovers find. Taped at a benefit in 1957, this performance ended up sitting in the National Archives for years. The CD shows Monk and Coltrane in rare form- a burgeoning master and a musician in transition, Coltrane had left Miles Davis and was now finding a grove with the complex master of music Monk. The two fed off each other's energy and you can hear Coltrane starting to break free and find his sound. Santa- don't leave this one in the sleigh.
Link Specials on the Shelf Menu today:
Along with your apple pie you can enjoy a little scoop of spoiler pix goodness for those of you eagerly awaiting Spiderman 3 .
A tough chew item on the menu: This is another sign that traditional newspaper comics are continuing their gradual descent into oblivion. In our ever-be-so-humble opinion they ruined Cartoon Network- this is just the next step. You might need the Tums after you read it.
Lastly, in the hard to swallow category of our menu: seems as if the Evil Twin plan works.
Enjoy the midweek, Shelfers. For your delight: a new "Classic Six Degrees" Competition for this week. Connect a current actor/actress to a star from classic films in six films or less. Today's challenge: Connect Billy Crystal to Abbott and Costello. Difficulty- no narration on Documentaries or Bio-pics. Good Luck. As always - post answers and/or comments in the comments section.
I'm neither poor nor innocent.