Tuesday, May 31, 2011

♪ The Answer, My Friends, Is... Bloggin' In The Wind ♫

The following essay was adapted from The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame forthcoming in 2012 from Nation Books. Like this blogger, Bob Dylan is now 70 years of age. Rockin' (Chair) Geezers! Holy Septuagenarians! Bob Dylan is on tour overseas and returns stateside in mid-July 2011. From Taipei to Beijing to Thackerville (OK) with lots of stops in U.S. casinos at the tour's end. If this is a (fair & balanced) hustle, so be it.
PS: The sound of water falling isn't rain. It's Woody Guthrie, weeping.

[x Dissent]
The Political Bob Dylan
By Peter Dreier

Tag Cloud of the following article

created at TagCrowd.com

When the makers of Hollywood movies, documentary films, or TV news programs want to evoke the spirit of the 1960s, they typically show clips of long-haired hippies dancing at a festival, protestors marching at an antiwar rally, or students sitting-in at a lunch counter, with one of two songs by Bob Dylan—“Blowin’ in the Wind” or “The Times They Are a-Changin’”—playing in the background.

Journalists and historians often treat Dylan’s songs as emblematic of the era and Dylan himself as the quintessential “protest” singer, an image frozen in time. Dylan emerged on the music scene in 1961, playing in Greenwich Village coffeehouses after the folk music revival was already underway, and released his first album the next year. Over a short period—less than three years—Dylan wrote about two dozen politically oriented songs whose creative lyrics and imagery reflected the changing mood of the postwar baby-boom generation and the urgency of the civil rights and antiwar movements. At a time when the chill of McCarthyism was still in the air, Dylan also showed that songs with leftist political messages could be commercially successful. Unwittingly, Dylan laid the groundwork for other folk musicians and performers of the era, some of whom were more committed to the two major movements that were challenging America’s status quo, and helped them reach wider audiences.

By 1964, however, Dylan told friends and some reporters that he was no longer interested in politics. Broadside magazine asked Phil Ochs, another “protest” singer-songwriter, if he thought that Dylan would like to see his protest songs “buried.” Ochs replied insightfully: “I don’t think he can succeed in burying them. They’re too good. And they’re out of his hands.”

Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman and raised in Hibbing, a mining town in northern Minnesota, in a middle-class Jewish family. As a teen he admired Elvis Presley, Johnny Ray, Hank Williams, and Little Richard, and taught himself to play guitar. In 1959, he moved to the Twin Cities to attend the University of Minnesota but soon dropped out. He stayed in the area to absorb its budding folk music and bohemian scene and began playing in local coffeehouses and improving his guitar playing. A friend loaned Dylan his collection of Woody Guthrie records and back copies of Sing Out! magazine, which had the music and lyrics to lots of folk songs. He read Guthrie’s autobiography, Bound for Glory, and learned to play many of Guthrie’s songs.

By then young Zimmerman had changed his name (apparently after Welsh poet Dylan Thomas) and had adopted some of Guthrie’s persona. He mumbled when he talked and when he sang, spoke with a twang, wore workman’s clothes (including a corduroy cap), and took on what he believed to be Guthrie’s mannerisms. At first Dylan seemed to identify more with Guthrie as a loner and bohemian than with Guthrie the radical and activist. Soon after Dylan arrived in New York City in January 1961 at age nineteen, he visited Guthrie, then suffering from Huntington’s disease, in his New Jersey hospital room.

At the time, New York’s Greenwich Village was the epicenter of the folk music revival, a growing political consciousness, and (along with San Francisco) the beatnik and bohemian culture of jazz, poetry, and drugs. The area was dotted with coffeehouses, some of which charged admission fees and others which allowed performers to pass the hat while customers purchased drinks and sandwiches.

Dylan made the rounds of the folk clubs and made a big impression. His singing and guitar-playing were awkward, but he had a little-boy charm and charisma that disarmed audiences. Dylan’s initial repertoire consisted mostly of Guthrie songs, blues, and traditional songs. At the time, he began weaving a myth about his past, including stories about being a circus hand and a carnival boy, having a rock band in Hibbing that performed on television, and running away from home and learning songs from black blues artists. He was, as he continued to do throughout his life, reinventing himself.

Dylan got a huge break when music reporter Robert Shelton wrote a flattering review of a performance at Gerde’s Folk City in the New York Times on September 29, 1961 under the headline, “Bob Dylan: A Distinctive Stylist.” Shelton said that Dylan seemed like a “cross between a beatnik and a choir boy” and referred to four of the songs he performed that night: the traditional “House of the Rising Sun” and three humorous songs Dylan wrote—“Talkin’ Bear Mountain,” “Talkin’ New York,” and “Talkin’ Havah Nagilah.” Shelton made no mention of any topical or protest songs. He did write that Dylan was “vague about his antecedents and birthplace,” which contributed to the singer’s myth-making. The review put Dylan on the map and landed him a record contract, although his first album, Bob Dylan, wasn’t released until March 1962. None of the album’s thirteen cuts (including two original compositions) could be considered political, protest, or topical songs.

In July 1961 Dylan met seventeen-year-old Suze Rotolo, the daughter of Communists and a leftist herself. They soon moved into a Village apartment together. She introduced Dylan to writers and poets (especially Bertolt Brecht and Arthur Rimbaud) that expanded his own lyrical horizons. She also raised his political awareness. Rotolo was working as a secretary at the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) office and each night gave Dylan the latest scoop about the civil rights movement. The sit-ins had erupted the previous year. By the spring and summer of 1961, the Freedom Rides were in the news. The Village folk scene was abuzz with singers writing and performing songs ripped from the headlines.

In January 1962, hoping to be asked to perform at an upcoming CORE benefit, Dylan wrote “The Ballad of Emmett Till,” about a fourteen-year-old African American who was beaten and shot to death in Mississippi in 1955 for whistling at a white woman. It was Dylan’s first “protest” song. Within a year, he wrote several other topical songs, including “Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues” (poking fun at the right-wing organization), “Let Me Die in My Footsteps” (a critique of the Cold War hysteria that led Americans to build bomb shelters), “Oxford Town” (about the riots when James Meredith became the first black student admitted to University of Mississippi), “Paths of Victory” (about the civil rights marches), and “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” (about the fear of nuclear war, which he premiered at a Carnegie Hall concert a month before the Cuban missile crisis made that fear more tangible). These songs were published in a new magazine, Broadside, that sought to encourage topical songs as part of movements for change.

In April Dylan wrote what would become his most famous song, “Blowin’ in the Wind,” which appeared in the May issue of Broadside and the June issue of Sing Out! He took the tune from “No More Auction Block,” an anti-slavery Negro spiritual. Dylan performed the song at Gerde’s Folk City before it was published or recorded, and soon there was a major buzz around the Village about the new composition. Unlike “Emmett Till,” “John Birch,” and “Let Me Die,” “Blowin’ in the Wind” was not about a specific incident or public controversy. The lyrics reflected a mood of concern about the country’s overall direction, including the beating of civil rights demonstrators and the escalating nuclear arms race.

By avoiding specifics, Dylan‘s three verses achieve a universal quality that makes them open to various interpretations and allows listeners to read their own concerns into the lyrics. “How many times must the cannonballs fly before they’re forever banned?” and “How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?” are clearly about war, but not any particular war. One can hear the words “How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?” and relate them to the civil rights movement and the recent Freedom Rides. “How many times can a man turn his head pretending he just doesn’t see?” could refer to the nation’s unwillingness to face its own racism, or to other forms of ignorance. The song reflects a combination of alienation and outrage. Listeners have long debated what Dylan meant by “The answer is blowin’ in the wind.” Is the answer so obvious that it is right in front of us? Or is it elusive and beyond our reach? This ambiguity is one reason for the song’s broad appeal.

Before singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” at Gerde’s, Dylan explained, “This here ain’t a protest song or anything like that, ‘cause I don’t write protest songs.... I’m just writing it as something to be said, for somebody, by somebody.” Dylan may have been being coy or disingenuous, but it didn’t matter. The song caught the wind of protest in the country and took flight.

Dylan recorded “Blowin’ in the Wind” on his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, released in May 1963, but it was the version released a few weeks later by Peter, Paul, and Mary that turned the song into a nationwide phenomenon. The single sold 300,000 copies in its first week. On July 13, 1963, it reached number two on the Billboard pop chart, with over a million copies sold. Millions of Americans learned the words and sang along while it was played on the radio, performed at rallies and concerts, and sung at summer camps and in churches and synagogues.

The song’s popularity turned the twenty-two-year-old Dylan into a celebrity and confirmed his image as a protest singer who voiced the spirit of his generation. Dylan cemented that impression when, on July 5, he and Pete Seeger performed at a SNCC-sponsored voter-registration rally in Greenwood, Mississippi. Dylan sang “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” about the assassination of Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers, which occurred just the previous month. Dylan also sang at the August 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

That year Dylan also wrote “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” (based on a news story from early 1963 about the death of a black barmaid at the hands of a wealthy white man), “Who Killed Davey Moore” (about a black boxer who died after a brutal match), “Talkin’ World War III Blues” (about the threat of nuclear annihilation), “Masters of War” (a protest against the arms race), and “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” which was not about a specific event but rather challenged the political establishment on behalf of Dylan’s youth cohort. The finger-pointing song is addressed to “senators, congressmen,” and “mothers and fathers,” telling them that “there’s a battle outside and it is ragin’” and warning them, “don’t criticize what you can’t understand.” Dylan’s lyric “For the loser now will be later to win” sounds much like the biblical notion that the meek shall inherit the earth, or perhaps that America’s black and poor people will win their struggle for justice. Like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times” became an anthem, a strident warning, angry yet hopeful. It came to symbolize the generation gap, making Dylan the reluctant “spokesman” for the youth revolt.

Dylan’s third album, also called The Times They Are a-Changin’, was recorded between August and October 1963 and included the song “North Country Blues,” which draws on Dylan’s Minnesota upbringing and describes the suffering caused by the closing of the mines in the state’s Iron Range, turning mining areas into jobless ghost towns—a theme that Bruce Springsteen would reprise years later. Remarkably, Dylan tells the tale from the point of view of a woman.

Dylan’s ambition for success sometimes conflicted with his political and artistic principles. In 1963, when CBS told Dylan he couldn’t sing “Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues” on the popular "Ed Sullivan Show" because the song was too controversial—an indication that McCarthyism hadn’t completely faded—he walked out of the rehearsal and refused to appear on the Sunday night show. Yet Dylan was never comfortable being confined by the “protest” label. He disliked being a celebrity, having people ask him what his songs meant, and being viewed as a troubadour who could represent an entire generation. “The stuff you’re writing is bullshit, because politics is bullshit,” Dylan once told Phil Ochs, who continued to write and perform topical songs and identify with progressive protest movements. “You’re wasting your time.”

In December 1963, a few weeks after the Kennedy assassination, Dylan reluctantly agreed to accept the Tom Paine Award from the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee at a fancy event at the Americana Inn Hotel in New York. Nervous, Dylan got drunk and gave a rambling, semi-incoherent speech to the 1400 liberals and radicals in the audience. First he insulted their age: “You people should be at the beach. It’s not an old people’s world...Old people, when their hair grows out, they should go out.” Then he insulted their politics. “There’s no black and white, left and right, to me anymore. There’s only up and down, and down is very close to the ground. And I’m trying to go up without thinking about anything trivial, such as politics.” Then he mentioned Kennedy’s killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, and said, “I saw some of myself in him.” Some of the audience booed. Dylan later sent the group an incoherent letter of mock apology that was more a long prose poem defending his new anti-political mood. He no longer wanted to sing about “we,” he said. He wanted to write about “I.”

By his fourth album, the aptly titled Another Side of Bob Dylan, he had decided to look both inward for his inspiration and outward at other kinds of music. He began to explore more personal and abstract themes in his music and in his poetry. He also became more involved with drugs and alcohol. His songs began to focus on his love life, his alienation, and his growing sense of the absurd. In subsequent decades, Dylan would reinvent himself several more times. With occasional exceptions, he abandoned acoustic music for rock and roll, country, blues, and gospel. His hit “Like a Rolling Stone” from the 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited revealed his talent as a rock musician. Several times he discovered Jesus. For a while he claimed to be an Orthodox Jew.

Even after 1964, however, Dylan occasionally revealed that he hadn’t lost his touch for composing political songs. His 1965 song “Subterranean Homesick Blues” references the violence inflicted on civil rights protestors by cops (“Better stay away from those/That carry around a fire hose”) but also reflected his growing cynicism (“Don’t follow leaders/Watch the parkin’ meters”). The extremist wing of Students for a Democratic Society took their name— Weatherman—from another line in that song (“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”). Other songs, such as “I Shall Be Released” (1967), the Guthrie-esque “I Pity the Poor Immigrant” (1967), “ George Jackson” (1971), “Hurricane” (1975), “License to Kill” (1983), and “Clean Cut Kid” (1984) indicate that Dylan still had the capacity for political outrage.

Dylan performed at several concerts to raise money for liberal causes—hunger in Bangladesh in 1971 and in Ethiopia in 1985, and the Farm Aid concert to raise money for U.S. family farmers later in 1985. In 1991, upon receiving the lifetime achievement award from the Academy of Recording Artists and Performers, while U.S. troops were fighting in Iraq, Dylan performed his “Masters of War.” On election night 2008, Dylan was playing a concert at the University of Minnesota. As Barack Obama’s victory was announced, Dylan said, “I was born in 1941. That was the year they bombed Pearl Harbor. I’ve been living in darkness ever since. It looks like things are going to change now.” Then, deviating from his usual live encore of “Like a Rolling Stone,” Dylan played “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Dylan’s off-and-on engagement with politics is intriguing. But his peace and justice songs have had a life of their own. “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’” in particular will forever be linked to the progressive movements of the 1960s and used to rally people to protest for a better world. Ω

For further reference:

Sean Wilentz, Bob Dylan in America (2010).

Dorian Lynskey, 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, From Billie Holiday to Green Day (2011).

Will Kaufman, Woody Guthrie: American Radical (2011).

Robert Shelton, No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan (1986).

Michael Schumaker, There But For Fortune: The Life of Phil Ochs, (1996).

Anthony Scaduto, Dylan: An Intimate Biography (1971).

Ronald D. Cohen, Rainbow Quest: The Folk Music Revival & American Society 1940-1970 (2002).

[Peter Dreier teaches politics at Occidental College. Dreier earned a BA in political science from Syracuse University and a PhD in political science from the University of Chicago. Dreier writes frequently for the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and American Prospect. His articles have also been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Newsday, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, New Republic, Washington Monthly, Progressive, National Catholic Reporter, Tikkun, The Forward, Commonweal, Chronicle of Higher Education, and elsewhere.]

Copyright © 2011 Foundation for the Study of Independent Social Ideas, Inc.

Get the Google Reader at no cost from Google. Click on this link to go on a tour of the Google Reader. If you read a lot of blogs, load Reader with your regular sites, then check them all on one page. The Reader's share function lets you publicize your favorite posts.

Creative Commons License
Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at sapper.blogspot.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

Copyright © 2011 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Monday, May 30, 2011

There Is One Long-Term Conclusion To Be Drawn: Dumbos/Teabaggers Have ALWAYS Been Stupid !!

Poor Sparky the Wonder Penguin: discussing climate change with a Dumbo/Teabagger is akin to hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. It always feels so good when you stop. If this is (fair & balanced) long-distance diagnosis of Dumbo mental illness, so be it.

[x This Modern World]
"Crazy Liberals"
By Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins)

Click on image to enlarge. Ω

Tom Tomorrow/Dan Perkins

[Dan Perkins is an editorial cartoonist better known by the pen name "Tom Tomorrow". His weekly comic strip, "This Modern World," which comments on current events from a strong liberal perspective, appears regularly in approximately 150 papers across the U.S., as well as on Salon and Working for Change. The strip debuted in 1990 in SF Weekly.

Perkins, a long time resident of Brooklyn, New York, currently lives in Connecticut. He received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism in both 1998 and 2002.

When he is not working on projects related to his comic strip, Perkins writes a daily political weblog, also entitled "This Modern World," which he began in December 2001.]

Copyright © 2011 Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins)

Get the Google Reader at no cost from Google. Click on this link to go on a tour of the Google Reader. If you read a lot of blogs, load Reader with your regular sites, then check them all on one page. The Reader's share function lets you publicize your favorite posts.

Creative Commons License
Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at sapper.blogspot.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

Copyright © 2011 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Uh, Oh! The Krait Has Branded Governor Goodhair: "The Coyote Candidate — Beep, Beep!"

Governor Goodhair advocates sexual abstinence education because it worked for him. No matter that Texas leads the nation in teen pregnancy. Goodhair graduated from Texas A&M [sic] University with a B.S. in Animal Husbandry. No doubt that Goodhair opted for this field of study because of his (after dark) exploits with heifers behind the barn on his family's rural Texas ranch. Goodhair has named his boots — Liberty & Freedom — so that he can tell Left (Liberty) from Right (Freedom). It is a tribute to the intelligence of Texas voters that they have seen this fool take the oath of office as Governor of Texas four (4) times. Texas writer Katherine Anne Porter (1890 – 1980) wrote Ship of Fools in 1962 and if Porter were alive today, she could write State of Fools. If this is a (fair & balanced) warning of nuisance wildlife, so be it.

[x Austin Fishwrap]
"Fantasy Games"
By Ben Sargent

Click on image to enlarge it.

[Ben Sargent drew editorial cartoons regularly for the Austin American-Statesman (1974-2009). Sargent now contributes a cartoon to the Sunday editorial page. His cartoons are also distributed nationally by Universal Press Syndicate. Sargent was born in Amarillo, Texas, into a newspaper family. He learned the printing trade from age twelve and started working for the local daily as a proof runner at fourteen. He attended Amarillo College and received a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1970. Sargent won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1982. He has also received awards from Women in Communications, Inc., Common Cause of Texas, and Cox Newspapers. He is the author of Texas Statehouse Blues (1980) and Big Brother Blues (1984).]

Copyright © 2011 Ben Sargent/Austin American-Statesman
[x NY Fishwrap]
The Coyote Candidate
By Gail Collins

Tag Cloud of the following article

created at TagCrowd.com

Today, we are going to discuss Governor Rick Perry of Texas.

Get back here and sit down.

Perry is the latest Republican Party crush. Rush Limbaugh delivered a 20-minute paean on the radio, begging him to run for president. He’s from the South, and he has great hair! What more could you want?

The G.O.P. is desperately seeking someone who can save the party from the fate of nominating Mitt Romney. But every time a non-Mitt throws his hat in the ring, the hat explodes. Newt Gingrich has been a candidate only about two weeks, and already he has announced that anyone who quotes his comments about Medicare on “Meet the Press” would be lying. And he responded to the question “did you owe a half-million dollars to a jewelry company at one point?” with a series of nonanswers, one of which was “we are very frugal.”

Meanwhile, about-to-announce Rick Santorum told an interviewer that John McCain doesn’t understand about interrogating people under torture.

Perry! Perry! Perry!

O.K., there are a few problems. One is that a Texas Tribune poll this week showed that Perry was only the choice of 4 percent of Texas Republicans for the presidential nomination. (Sarah Palin came in first and Gingrich second, which suggests the Republicans in Texas may not be totally focused.)

On Friday, Perry seemed a little more interested in the whole idea than he had in the past. “I’m going to think about it,” he told reporters after he ceremonially signed a bill making it more difficult for poor Texans who do not have drivers’ licenses to vote.

Anyway, we will refrain from any snide comments about how, in Perry’s case, thinking is a very intense commitment. Really, the guy might be president. Show some respect.

So who is this man called Rick? He is, in his own words, “the kind of guy who goes jogging in the morning packing a Ruger .380 with laser sights and loaded with hollow point bullets, and shoots a coyote that is threatening his daughter’s dog.” That really happened. In fact, it was possibly the high point of Perry’s political career.

You can see the attraction. Try to imagine the Republican convention being asked to choose between Mitt Romney, who once drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of his car, and the guy who shot a puppy-eating coyote. With a Ruger .380 with laser sights!

Also, Perry wears boots named “Freedom” and “Liberty.”

Clearly, this is a force to be reckoned with. So, today, as a public service, I am going to continue my survey of books by potential Republican presidential nominees by examining the collected works of Rick Perry. Fortunately, there are only two. And, if it’s all right with you, I’m going to skip over On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For [2008].

Let’s go straight to Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington [2010], which does read a whole lot like an I’m-running-for-president tome. Somewhere between No Apology: Believe in America (Mitt) or To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine (Newt).

“Something is terribly wrong,” Perry starts off. And he doesn’t mean coyotes or scuff marks on “Freedom” and “Liberty.” American people are fed up with federal government: “We are tired of being told how much salt we can put on our food, what windows we can buy for our house, what kind of cars we can drive, what kind of guns we can own.”

I hate it when the salt police come into your house and interrogate your French fries. The federal government actually doesn’t tell us any of these things. Although it is true that federal regulations have driven the price of machine guns way up.

Perry is a true believer. He hates Social Security. (“A crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal.”) He wants the Supreme Court to stop its activist ways — as soon as it declares the health care reform law unconstitutional.

He hates the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which permitted Congress to pass an income tax. (“The great milestone on the road to serfdom.”) He also hates the 17th Amendment, which allows for the direct election of the U.S. Senate because it reduces the power of state legislatures.

This is where he lost me forever. People, have you ever seen a state legislature in action? Have you ever seen the Texas Legislature in action? I have, and my first thought was not: “Gee, let’s give these folks a whole lot more clout.”

If Perry were elected president, perhaps he would do for the entire United States what he’s done for Texas, which ranks first in the nation in the percentage of the population without health insurance, and 45th in high school completion. We could return to grass-roots, state-driven environmental regulations, the kind that have made Texas the nation’s leader in clean-water permit violations, hazardous waste spills and toxic emissions from manufacturing facilities.

But the coyotes would really have to watch out. Ω

[Gail Collins joined the New York Times in 1995 as a member of the editorial board and later as an op-ed columnist. In 2001 she became the first woman ever appointed editor of the Times editorial page. At the beginning of 2007, she took a leave in order to complete America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines. Collins returned to the Times as a columnist in July 2007. Collins has a BA (journalism) from Marquette University and an MA (government) from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.]

Copyright © 2011 The New York Times Company

Get the Google Reader at no cost from Google. Click on this link to go on a tour of the Google Reader. If you read a lot of blogs, load Reader with your regular sites, then check them all on one page. The Reader's share function lets you publicize your favorite posts.

Creative Commons License
Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at sapper.blogspot.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

Copyright © 2011 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dsk, Dsk!

The former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) is under house arrest for the sexual assault of a maid who entered his NYC hotel suite. This banker is a wanker. A great second act would be for the NYPD to swoop down on Wall (Greed) Street and arrest those "To Big To Fail" wankers. If this is (fair & balanced) daydreaming, so be it.

[x YouTube/VersusPlus Channel]
"Dominique" (1963)
Parody By March Shaffer
(Words and music by Jeannine Deckers (Soeur Sourire "Sister Smile", O.P. [Cloistered Dominican Nuns] — aka The Singing Nun)/English lyrics by Randy Sparks
Additional music by Greg Hilfman









[Janis Liebhart - Lead Vocal, Background Vocal
Joanna Bushnell - Background Vocal
Scottie Haskell - Background Vocal
Greg Hilfman - Music Director
* * *
Special Thanks to Merle Hazard

VERSUS parodies are written by Marcy Shaffer, whose professional writing experience includes television, film, lyrics, verse and… musical parody. VERSUS is co-produced by Russ Meyer, a private equity veteran whose industry expertise includes financial services as well as entertainment. Shaffer is an attorney-cum-parodist (Roll over Stephan Pastis!) and her partner, Russ Meyer, received his MBA from Stanford University. Shaffer writes the words and Meyer counts the beans.]

℗ © 2011 RMSWorks

Get the Google Reader at no cost from Google. Click on this link to go on a tour of the Google Reader. If you read a lot of blogs, load Reader with your regular sites, then check them all on one page. The Reader's share function lets you publicize your favorite posts.

Creative Commons License
Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at sapper.blogspot.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

Copyright © 2011 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Friday, May 27, 2011

According To Eags, When It Comes To Twisters, Floods, & Fires: "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!"

The Dumbos in the U.S. House of Representatives — on April 7, 2011 — approved a bill aimed at preventing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. That's why they're called Dumbos — QED. Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The loons in government at both the national and state levels think that we can pump unprecdented levels of greehouse gases into the atmosphere and there are no environmental consequences. When it comes to climate change, the Dumbos and Teabaggers are insane. If this is a (fair & balanced) diagnosis, so be it.

[x NY Fishwrap]
Twister’s Tale
By Timothy Egan

Tag Cloud of the following article

created at TagCrowd.com
Click on image to enlarge. Ω

[John Sherffius began drawing editorial cartoons for the Daily Bruin, the campus newspaper at UCLA. After two years of working as a freelance artist, after graduation, he was hired by the Ventura County Star in Southern California as a graphic artist and gradually worked his way into editorial cartooning for the paper. In 1998, he was hired by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as the newspaper's editorial cartoonist, a job he held until 2003 when he quit the paper over editorial differences. Sherffius bridled at editorial insistence that he tone down cartoons attacking Republicans. Sherffius then went to work for the Boulder Daily Camera where his cartoons appear regularly and are syndicated nationally by the Copley News Service. Sherffius won the 2008 Herblock Prize for Editorial Cartooning.]

Copyright © 2011 John Sherffius/Boulder Daily Camera

In that swath of the American flatland that has been so brutalized of late, a 93-year-old woman gave me a warning. She had lost her house as a little girl, a homestead property of timber-sheltered memories that shattered in a twister’s strike and took to the Oklahoma sky.

She had cautioned me to be wary of springtime — glorious days in a glorious stretch of prairie that can turn deadly on a dime. “Don’t get too far from a shelter.” Yes, yes, I’d heard plenty about hail the size of grapefruit and how the weather might kick up four things that could kill you — wildfire, blizzard, flash flood, tornado.

But it seemed quaint to these urban ears, a Wizard of Oz artifact from Dorothy’s pals on the farm. What I learned that afternoon in Tornado Alley is that nothing is more terrifying than a sky of robin’s-egg blue turning bruised and churlish, a moment that transforms trees and telephone poles into missiles.

The spring of 2011 is shaping up as one for all the wrong kind of records. Flooding, twisters, Texas wildfires, deaths by fast-moving air that has its own awful category known too well by millions — the Enhanced Fujita Scale, the worst being EF5, winds 200 m.p.h. or more. In a year when almost 500 Americans have died from tornadoes, and 60 or more twisters touch down in a single day, even the cable weather jockeys look humbled as they stand next to flattened neighborhoods.

April and May are the cruelest months, when systems and seasons collide, warm moist air at the surface meeting drier air higher up. Brewing, building, these tornadoes develop out of rotating thunderstorms called supercells.

For an outsider, when the radio suddenly goes into emergency broadcast mode and clouds bleed a ragged black, there is an instant that technical talk turns to terror. You feel exposed in a naked land. You feel a target. You think nothing is permanently anchored. You look for an overpass. You understand, somewhat, what it must have been like in wartime London when the sirens went off in advance of another bombing by the Germans. You feel helpless.

It is human to want to see these storms as part of a larger pattern, to anthropomorphize them with words like “nature’s wrath,” to ascribe a motive to the mayhem. But also something else: to see a warning of the oldest kind, dating to Greek mythology, a warning about hubris.

Earlier this year, Republicans in a congressional panel declared, by a majority vote, that climate change caused by humans does not exist. The majority of the House then voted to get rid of federal funding for the world’s finest scientists in the field to study the changing earth, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Blink, blink, just like that — our representatives wished away the future.

The twisters, floods and fires of this year have another say, and remind us that some political gestures are no more relevant than a lone pair of lips flapping in the wind. Of course, among atmospheric scientists there is ambiguity, at best, about whether global warming has anything to do with the worst tornado season in modern times.

But the consensus of fair-minded research — ignored by those who assume to know better in the Republican Congress — is that an earth warmed by an excess of man-caused carbon emissions will cause more weather extremes. Warm air holds more water vapor than cold air — that’s an axiom that a congressman with a set of talking points paid for by Exxon cannot wish away. Torrential flooding in all parts of the world could easily be part of a new phase brought on by just a few upticks in ocean temperatures. The forecast is simple: You ain’t seen nothing yet.

To recognize this threat, even with its implicit calls for sacrifice in a country that cannot tolerate $4 a gallon gas, is not to be alarmist. The unknown — that is, any possible link between a surfeit of lethal tornadoes and a warmer planet — makes a case for proceeding with caution. We treat our bodies that way, most of us; when a warning comes out of possible cancer links to a food or substance, sensible people change course.

But there is a loud and intellectually corrupt segment of public life dedicated to fact-denial. They will not allow even a slim chance that humans are making a mess of this place. They will not do what a homeowner facing unlikely odds of a fire has to do just to hold a mortgage — take out insurance.

Listen to people who have lived long lives in the American midsection, a place of peril, and a place that is deeply loved. They tell us to be prepared, to be humble in the face of nature, to think about the worst thing that could come from the sky. If this is radical advice, then common sense has surely met an early death. Ω

[Timothy Egan writes "Outposts," a column at the NY Fishwrap online. Egan — winner of both a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as a member of a team of reporters who wrote the series "How Race Is Lived in America" and a National Book Award (The Worst Hard Time in 2006) — graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Whitman College in 2000 for his environmental writings. Egan's most recent book is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (2009).]

Copyright © 2011 The New York Times Company

Get the Google Reader at no cost from Google. Click on this link to go on a tour of the Google Reader. If you read a lot of blogs, load Reader with your regular sites, then check them all on one page. The Reader's share function lets you publicize your favorite posts.

Creative Commons License
Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at sapper.blogspot.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

Copyright © 2011 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dash It All!

One of Emily Dickinson's most famous poems is "Because I Could Not Stop For Death." (Complete Poems, 1924)

Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
And Immortality.

The first three lines finish with em dashes. Em specialized in em dashes. If this is the (fair & balanced) misuse of a punctuation mark, so be it.

[x Slate]
The Case—Please Hear Me Out—Against The Em Dash
By Noreen Malone

Tag Cloud of the following article

created at TagCrowd.com

According to the Associated Press StylebookSlate's bible for all things punctuation- and grammar-related—there are two main prose uses—the abrupt change and the series within a phrase—for the em dash. The guide does not explicitly say that writers can use the dash in lieu of properly crafting sentences, or instead of a comma or a parenthetical or a colon—and yet in practical usage, we do. A lot—or so I have observed lately. America's finest prose—in blogs, magazines, newspapers, or novels—is littered with so many dashes among the dots it's as if the language is signaling distress in Morse code.

What's the matter with an em dash or two, you ask?—or so I like to imagine. What's not to like about a sentence that explores in full all the punctuational options—sometimes a dash, sometimes an ellipsis, sometimes a nice semicolon at just the right moment—in order to seem more complex and syntactically interesting, to reach its full potential? Doesn't a dash—if done right—let the writer maintain an elegant, sinewy flow to her sentences?

Nope—or that's my take, anyway. Now, I'm the first to admit—before you Google and shame me with a thousand examples in the comments—that I'm no saint when it comes to the em dash. I never met a sentence I didn't want to make just a bit longer—and so the dash is my embarrassing best friend. When the New York Times' associate managing editor for standards—Philip B. Corbett, for the record—wrote a blog post scolding Times writers for overusing the dash (as many as five dashes snuck their way into a single 3.5-paragraph story on A1, to his horror), an old friend from my college newspaper emailed it to me. "Reminded me of our battles over long dashes," he wrote—and, to tell the truth, I wasn't on the anti-dash side back then. But as I've read and written more in the ensuing years, my reliance on the dash has come to feel like a pack-a-day cigarette habit—I know it makes me look and sound and feel terrible—and so I'm trying to quit.

The problem with the dash—as you may have noticed!—is that it discourages truly efficient writing. It also—and this might be its worst sin—disrupts the flow of a sentence. Don't you find it annoying—and you can tell me if you do, I won't be hurt—when a writer inserts a thought into the midst of another one that's not yet complete? Strunk and White—who must always be mentioned in articles such as this one—counsel against overusing the dash as well: "Use a dash only when a more common mark of punctuation seems inadequate." Who are we, we modern writers, to pass judgment—and with such shocking frequency—on these more simple forms of punctuation—the workmanlike comma, the stalwart colon, the taken-for-granted period? (One colleague—arguing strenuously that certain occasions call for the dash instead of other punctuation, for purposes of tone—told me he thinks of the parenthesis as a whisper, and the dash as a way of calling attention to a phrase. As for what I think of his observation—well, consider how I have chosen to offset it.)

Perhaps, in some way, the recent rise of the dash—and this "trend" is just anecdotal observation; I admit I haven't found a way to crunch the numbers—is a reaction to our attention-deficit-disordered culture, in which we toggle between tabs and ideas and conversations all day. An explanation is not an excuse, though—as Corbett wrote in another sensible harangue against the dash, "Sometimes a procession of such punctuation is a hint that a sentence is overstuffed or needs rethinking." Why not try for clarity in our writing—if not our lives?

It's unclear—even among the printing community—when the em dash came into common usage. Folklore—if you're willing to trust it—holds that it's been around since the days of Gutenberg but didn't catch on until at least the 1700s because the em dash wasn't used in the Bible, and thus was considered an inferior bit of punctuation. The symbol derives its name from its width—approximately equal to an m—and is easily confused with its close cousin the en dash, used more frequently across the pond, but here meant only to offset sports scores and the like. The em dash isn't easily formed on computers—it requires some special keystrokes on both PCs and Macs—and so I will admit that at least some of my bile comes from, as a copy editor, endlessly changing other writers' sloppy em-dash simulacra (the double dash, the single offset dash) to the real thing.

Perhaps the most famous dash-user in history—though she didn't use the em dash conventionally—was Emily Dickinson. According to the essay "Emily Dickinson's Volcanic Punctuation" from a 1993 edition of The Emily Dickinson Journal—a true general-interest read!—"Dickinson's excessive use of dashes has been interpreted variously as the result of great stress and intense emotion, as the indication of a mental breakdown, and as a mere idiosyncratic, female habit." Can there really be—at the risk of sounding like a troglodyte—something feminine about the use of a dash, some sort of lighthearted gossamer quality? Compare Dickinson's stylistic flitting with the brutally short sentences of male writers—Hemingway, for instance—who, arguably, use their clipped style to evoke taciturn masculinity. Henry Fielding apparently rewrote his sister Sarah's work heavily to edit out some of her idiosyncrasies—chief among them, a devotion to the dash. In Gore Vidal's Burr, the title character complains—in a charming internal monologue—"Why am I using so many dashes? Like a schoolgirl. The dash is the sign of a poor style. Jefferson used to hurl them like javelins across the page." So is the rise of the dash related—as everything seems to be these days—to the "End of Men"? (I kid—calm down.)

More likely, it's the lack of hard-and-fast usage rules—even the AP's guidelines are more suggestions than anything—that makes the dash so popular in our post-sentence-diagramming era. According to Lynne Truss—the closest thing we've got to a celebrity grammarian, thanks to her best-seller Eats, Shoots and Leaves—people use the em dash because "they know you can't use it wrongly—which for a punctuation mark, is an uncommon virtue."

So, fine, the em dash is easy to turn to—any port will do in a storm. But if you want to make your point—directly, with clarity, and memorably—I have some advice you'd do well to consider. Leave the damn em dash alone. Ω

[Noreen Malone is a Slate contributor. She is a graduate of Georgetown University (DC).]

Copyright © 2011 The Slate Group, a Division of the Washington Post Company

Get the Google Reader at no cost from Google. Click on this link to go on a tour of the Google Reader. If you read a lot of blogs, load Reader with your regular sites, then check them all on one page. The Reader's share function lets you publicize your favorite posts.

Creative Commons License
Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at sapper.blogspot.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

Copyright © 2011 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Roll Over, Malthus! Overpopulation Is Bad, But Climate Change Is Worse!

Let's see, what did this blogger learn today? Hmm, the Texas Winter Wheat crop died this year and no one pulled off to the side of the road. The Lone Star State now has disastrous climate conditions that make the Dust Bowl of the 1930s pale in comparison. The Dumbos have the controls in Texas and State agencies fight federal environmental regulation tooth and nail. If this is (fair & balanced) irrationality, so be it.

[x Salon]
Freak Weather & Climate Change: Don't Connect The Dots!
By Bill McKibben

Tag Cloud of the following article

created at TagCrowd.com

Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week's shots from Joplin, MO, you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, AL, or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn't mean a thing.

It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they've ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they're somehow connected.

If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year's record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest — resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi — could somehow be related. And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold air.

It's far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods — that's the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don't let yourself wonder why all these record-breaking events are happening in such proximity — that is, why there have been unprecedented megafloods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in the past year. Why it's just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. No, better to focus on the immediate casualties, watch the videotape from the store cameras as the shelves are blown over. Look at the news anchorman standing in his waders in the rising river as the water approaches his chest.

Because if you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its second hundred-year drought in the past five years, or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the past decade — well, you might have to ask other questions. Such as: Should President Obama really just have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal mining? Should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sign a permit this summer allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta? You might also have to ask yourself: Do we have a bigger problem than $4-a-gallon gasoline?

Better to join with the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 240 to 184 this spring to defeat a resolution saying simply that "climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare." Propose your own physics; ignore physics altogether. Just don't start asking yourself whether there might be some relation among last year's failed grain harvest from the Russian heat wave, and Queensland's failed grain harvest from its record flood, and France's and Germany's current drought-related crop failures, and the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, and the inability of Midwestern farmers to get corn planted in their sodden fields. Surely the record food prices are just freak outliers, not signs of anything systemic.

It's very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did come to worst, it's reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there's no need to worry because "populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations." I'm pretty sure that's what residents are telling themselves in Joplin today. Ω

[Bill McKibben is a graduate of Harvard University and he was president of The Harvard Crimson. McKibben has been awarded Guggenheim and Lyndhurst Fellowships, as well as the Lannan Prize for nonfiction writing in 2000. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College and founder of the environmental organization, 350.org. His most recent book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet (2010).]

Copyright © 2010 Salon Media Group, Inc.

Get the Google Reader at no cost from Google. Click on this link to go on a tour of the Google Reader. If you read a lot of blogs, load Reader with your regular sites, then check them all on one page. The Reader's share function lets you publicize your favorite posts.

Creative Commons License
Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at sapper.blogspot.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

Copyright © 2011 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves