Sunday, February 27, 2011

1 Vs 100: Tea Partier defends himself against Union Members

[The following is from Truth About Bills, and is authored by Michael Simpkins. It is reproduced here in part, with a link to the remainder of the piece, all without permission or shame. -- DLA]

Yesterday protests were held in every State Capitol. Union Members with the organization of rallied together to protest what has been going on in the State of Wisconsin. Even more so to protest the decisions of Governor Scott Walker.

However, there were a few brave Tea Party Members who were there to show their support of the Tea Party movement. In Particular one Tea Party member took on a crowd of union members in their arguments. During the fierce debate Elliot remained calm and collected ... continued

Friday, February 25, 2011

“Honey, if those are Nazis at the door, don’t tell them about the Jews in the attic.”

It's safe to say that title got your attention. But to digress for a moment ...

“Liar, Liar” was recorded by the 1960's garage rock band The Castaways. Written by James Donna and Denny Craswell, it was their first and only hit single. It reached number 12 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1965. It is featured in the films "Good Morning Vietnam" and "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels." The Castaways may be seen performing it in the 1967 beach movie "It's a Bikini World," starring Tommy Kirk (a former Mousketeer), Deborah Walley and Bobby "Boris" Pickett of "Monster Mash" fame.

Now, unless you've been glued to activity in the Catholic blogosphere for the past week, you may be wondering what lying has to do with Nazis knocking at the door ...

(Stay tuned.)

FAMW: My Mitt Romney Moment

It could be a while before the Republicans come up with a viable challenger to the incumbent President, when he's up for re-election next year. No matter where the discussion begins, no matter which rising star is mentioned, sooner or later they do what they did the last time, and go for the guy who would offend the least number of people. They call this "the big tent." It didn't work in 2008, but brace yourselves, kids, we just know it will for 2012.

Which brings us to the only Republican who could ever be elected governor in the state of Massachusetts, that country-club Republican reincarnation of Nelson Rockefeller himself, Mitt Romney.

"He looks like a guy who will offer an alternative to your structured settlement."

"He looks like the professor who didn't heed the warning on the mummy's tomb."

"He looks like the scientist who warns of an asteroid about to hit Earth."

"He looks like the guy who puts on a wig and pretends to be a woman so he can get on a lifeboat."

Ann Coulter thinks that Chris Christie should run for president, even though he has said repeatedly that he would not. According to her, if he doesn't, the Republicans will be "forced" to go with Romney, who will end up losing.

Now, how could that possibly happen? While we consider the lesson that should have been learned in the previous election, by people who couldn't see the answer if it ran over them with a truck, let's have a little fun at this guy's expense, for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

“Say you want a revolution, well, you know ...”

The Manila Bulletin headline of Aquino's assassination on August 21, 1983

Twenty-five years ago today, “Sal” helped overthrow a government.

I told my youngest nephew about how she did this, and he just figured I was messing with him. But it really is true, although she is rather modest about it, and won't talk about it much.

By 1972, the Philippines was ruled under martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos. As time went on, his regime was the catalyst for organized corruption, and even assassination of his rivals. By 1986, the nation was on the brink of civil war. Then the Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Cardinal Sin, called for a peaceful protest against the regime.

Our Lady of EDSA, built in 1989 to commemorate the 1986 Revolution.

First, he contacted two orders of cloistered nuns, directed them to pray continuously before the Blessed Sacrament, until he told them otherwise. Then he got on Radio Veritas, and called upon his countrymen to take to the streets, to meet the soldiers guarding Malacañang (the presidential palace), and plead with them to lay down their arms. The tanks rolling down Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) were stopped in their tracks by devout Catholics on their knees, praying the rosary and singing hymns. Sal was among those who went to the soldiers' encampment with armloads of pastries and other homemade baked goods, to win their hearts through their stomachs.

The rest, as they say, is history.

It became known as the “People Power Revolution” or the “EDSA Revolution” (for the avenue where events culminated, and where they did again for another overthrow in 2001). In the more than seven years I have known her, she has not repeated such anarchic tendencies.

Not yet anyway.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

America’s got a feevah ...

... and the only cure is -- MORE CHRIS CHRISTIE PORN!!!

Here he is on NBC's Today show. No we can't just blame Wall Street for the mess we're in, and no it's not just Republican governors who are putting the pinch on the purses of their respective states, and no he's not forming a political action committee just because one of his pals got a weed up his own arse, and no he's not running for President!

Now click on that thing, will ya?

NOTE TO OUR READERS: It's called "porn," not because of morally questionable content -- there is none -- but in reference to one not being able to get enough of it. That's, uh, just in case you didn't pick up on that.

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre:
“That’s the sound of the men ...”

As part of our usual midday Wednesday feature, we conclude our series on the folkways of Afro-Americans, as part of Black History Month.

We began this series with the performance of the Congolese "Missa Luba" mass setting, which is characterized by the "call-and-response" that is common to the Negro spiritual tradition. This characteristic can be found elsewhere as well.

What came to be known as a “chain gang” is a group of prisoners chained together as part of performing menial or physically demanding work. The practice was common in many state prison systems, particularly in the South, before dying out in 1955. The vast majority of prisoners assigned to this duty were black, so singing to the rhythm of the work facilitated both keeping up the pace, and lightening the burden. A variation of this form of labor, known as "gandy dancers," was used mostly for repair to railroad tracks. In this instance, the men were not prisoners, and were not chained. But the resemblance in the singing is there.

This third clip is a scene from August Wilson's 1995 play, The Piano Lesson, we hear about "'Berta 'Berta," a prison work song the men learned while in Parchman Farm (Penitentiary) in Mississippi. You can hear its roots in the field songs of slaves and in gospel call-and-response, as well as the relation to its distant descendant, rock 'n' roll. Actors: Charles Dutton (an ex-convict before becoming an actor), Courtney Vance, Carl Gordon, Tommy Hollis. This film was directed by Lloyd Richards.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cheeseheads Gone Wild

There has been quite a stir coming out of America's dairyland, and it's not over the recent victory of the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. Would that it were.

Scott Kevin Walker, a Republican, was elected Governor of the state of Wisconsin last fall, and began his tenure on January 3 of this year. Earlier this month, in light of a projected shortfall in the state's budget of $3.6 billion over the next two years, he proposed a radical plan before the legislature to balance the books. This included changes to public employee contracts, such as putting 5.8 percent of their salaries toward pensions (they currently contribute nothing) and paying 12.6 percent of their health-care premiums (about twice what they pay now).

Obviously, this did not go over well with public employee unions, which have converged on the state capitol, along with a smaller, but still sizable, contingent from various "tea party" movements. Meanwhile, inside the capitol, Democratic legislators have been playing hooky, in an ostensibly procedural attempt to avoid the necessary quorum, and the inevitable result of a Republican majority.

The Church has long upheld the right of employees to bargain collectively over a just wage and proper working conditions. In a recent Gallup poll, 61 percent opposed laws limiting such rights for public unions. For those workers to go strike, who have taken an oath which effectively negates such a recourse, is another matter.

Will the people of Wisconsin show any sympathy for state workers who will still, at the end of the day, get a better deal than most of them in the current economic climate? Maybe, maybe not. But when doctors from the University of Wisconsin are in the crowd writing notes for those workers to be able to call in sick, that sympathy may turn to contempt. (The doctors are currently under investigation.) The union leadership has not only the general public with which to contend, but with the rank-and-file membership, many of whom do not want to invoke the public ire.

After all, they know what happened in New Jersey and Rhode Island.

ILLUSTRATIONS: Copyright 2011 by Chris Muir. Used without permission or shame.

Destiny Revisited

As a follow-up to our earlier piece on Detroit, we read a piece in the Detroit News where Michigan has ordered severe cost-cutting measures for the city public school system. It prompted this response in the comments forum:

For 15 years, from the mid 1970's to 1990, I worked in Detroit , Michigan . I watched it descend into the abyss of crime, debauchery, gun play, drugs, school truancy, car-jacking, gangs, and human depravity. I watched entire city blocks burned out. I watched graffiti explode on buildings, cars, trucks, buses, and school yards. Trash everywhere! Detroiters walked through it, tossed more into it, and ignored it. Tens of thousands, and then hundreds of thousands today exist on federal welfare, free housing, and food stamps ...

Where is Eminem when they need him? Discuss.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pillsbury Doughboy (1940 - 2011)

Please join me in remembering a great icon of the entertainment community. The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and trauma complications from being repeatedly poked in the belly. He was 71.

Doughboy was buried in a lightly greased coffin. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs Butterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch. The grave site was piled high with flours.

Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy and lovingly described Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded. Born and bread in Minnesota, Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers. He was not considered a very smart cookie, wasting much of his dough on half-baked schemes. Despite being a little flaky at times, he still was a crusty old man and was considered a positive roll model for millions.

Doughboy is survived by his wife Play Dough, three children: John Dough, Jane Dough and Dosey Dough, plus they had one in the oven. He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart.

The funeral was held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mr Christie Goes to Washington

There has been a lot of talk about the "Tea Party" message, the one that people want to send to Washington. This past week, the Governor of New Jersey came to the Nation's capital to send a message of his own -- if the newly elected "young turks" in Congress want to make a difference, they'll have to take some very big risks, the kind that won't win any friends. They will have to decide what the American people can live without.

In this way, Chris Christie is very much like the late President Reagan. He believes that the American people are smarter than the Government gives them credit for, that they are willing to make the tough choices, to live with the tough consequences. And America had better hope he's right, because the two biggest items in the Federal budget, the two major sacred cows, are Defense spending, and entitlements. The latter can be broken down into Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Everybody thinks that when the budget doesn't get passed, and the continuing resolution runs out, and the government shuts down, it literally shuts down. Actually, roughly half of it keeps on going, including the agency that sends your Aunt Minnie her Social Security check right on time. You think she'll take a missed check lying down?

Christie may want Americans to wait a little longer until retirement, in order for the system to remain solvent, but that's where the hard sell really begins, don't you think?

Or don't you?

FAMW: Ways to Say No (And Still Be Cool)

From the people who brought us “Five Second Theatre” during 2010, comes this timely advice for the youngsters out there. That's right, sonny! Now you can be totally cool and still do the right thing. Make your mama proud.

For more information on how to be drug-free and radicool, call the Hennipen County Kool Kidz hotline at 1-800-700-6000 or mail in for their weekly newsletter. So much for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Never Say ... Whatever!

The internet has gone bonkers over the interview by Rolling Stone of Canadian pop singer/heartthrob Justin Bieber. Some highlights from the issue, dated tomorrow, have already been released:

The Canadian-born Bieber never plans on becoming an American citizen. "You guys are evil," he jokes. "Canada's the best country in the world." He adds, "We go to the doctor and we don't need to worry about paying him, but here, your whole life, you're broke because of medical bills. My bodyguard's baby was premature, and now he has to pay for it. In Canada, if your baby's premature, he stays in the hospital as long as he needs to, and then you go home."

Now, he'd have a point about Canadian health care, although he fails to mention that taxes of our neighbors to the north are quite a bit higher, and that much of the system is financed by state-sanctioned casinos, AND that not every Canadian has had such a positive experience with the system, even when cases are life-threatening. But we should expect the young man to be proud of the land of his birth. That's only reasonable.

But then, according to The Daily Caller, it gets interesting.

Bieber also says he is pro-life. “I really don’t believe in abortion,” he says. “It’s like killing a baby?” However, when asked if he would support abortion rights in cases of rape, Bieber hesitates: “Um. Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I guess I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that.”

OHH. EMM. GEE! Stop the presses. Our young squire has an unexpected opinion about abortion! Let's hear from those purveyors of wisdom in the Washington Post, beginning with columnist Jonathan Capehart ...

Everything happens for a reason?! That's the same kind of thinking lurking on Capitol Hill ... Bieber is entitled to his opinions, of course. I just wish he'd stick to singing -- such as it is.

Wow, so he's entitled to his opinion, just like every Hollywood diva who appears before a Congressional committee with expertise limited to a scene they played in a movie. Mighty sporting of you there, Capehart. Let's move onward and upward to the pair of gossip mavens that preside over "Celebritology."

Since he's got a lot of money and a trademark haircut, he's probably way more qualified than the average teenager. Somehow, we're thinking his publicist called in sick the day this interview was done and is now looking for work.

So a promising career may be cut short, due to the high crime of an original thought by a boy who is barely old enough to shave. But wait, there is hope. The New York Observer comes to the rescue, and reports that Rolling Stone left an important sentence out of the transcript of Bieber's remarks on abortion:

Rolling Stone's corrected quote, which acknowledges an "editing error," reads:

"Um. Well, I think that's really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don't know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that."

The edited version reflects Bieber's uncertainty and confusion about the issue, rather than a glib absolutism (as it first appeared).

So, from "glib absolutism" to "uncertainty and confusion." Well (yawn!), that makes all the difference in the world, doesn't it? And a generation of teenyboppers will live to see another day.

Justin Bieber was asked what he thought of something by a magazine, and he told them. When he gets up on stage and takes a moment in the middle of his act, to remind thousands of screaming young ladies to save themselves for just the right man, that would be a story. For now, this is an opportunity for the pundits to yell "Shut up and sing!" to a sixteen-year-old boy who really isn't out to change anybody's mind at all, unlike scores of others in the spotlight who are lionized by the same brainless boobs we have to hear from now.

Bieber may actually be smarter than most of them. This won't make so much as a dent in his album sales, and he'll laugh all the way to the bank. Good for him!

POSTSCRIPT: Prolife leaders have wasted little time in jumping on the Bieber bandwagon. reports that a Facebook page has already been created entitled "I Love Justin Bieber's Pro-Life Views." Obviously they've yet to learn of his "uncertainty and confusion about the issue." And so, the plot thickens ...

Guitar Workshop: Richard Thompson

We were doing research for our recent piece on the Grammys, when we came across some archival video footage of past award ceremonies. This included a number of interviews and workshops, including several clips of one conducted with British singer-songwriter Richard Thompson, rated by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top twenty guitarists of all time.

We have him here doing "Wall of Death," written during the years he was part of a duo with ex-wife Linda Thompson (1973-82). He is shown performing in this undated clip (probably the 1980s) with Manx singer-songwriter Christine Collister. Notice how Thompson switches from the folk-rock triplet style similar to Roger McGuinn (whose work we highlighted last December), to a screaming lead sound, with a unique tone that has become his signature.

In the next clip, he outdoes Britney Spears, which, as one YouTube commenter points out, "just shows that a good song performed by a real musician can rise above it's original limitations." Most of Thompson's original material deals with the dark and seedy side of life, the stuff of shady characters lurking in dark alleys and so forth, which only proves that, in the end, he's "not that innocent."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Negro Fife & Drum Music

Time once again for our regular Wednesday midday feature, as our special emphasis in February on Black History Month takes yet another unexpected turn. Last week, we reported on the Grammy-nominated (and since then awarded) trio known as the Carolina Chocolate Drops. During our video research, we came upon concert footage showing Dom Flemons playing a snare drum. A related video on YouTube showed us another surprise.

What is shown here is archival footage, attributed to folklorist Alan Lomax from roughly 1960, or a fife and drum group led by Ed and Lonnie Young of Mississippi. This clip includes an earlier recording from around 1954. This tradition is said to have originated in Jamaica as a form of processional music, making fifes out of canes, and using old military drums.

This writer would surmise that such may have influenced the use of marching bands leading funeral processions in Louisiana. You know, for "when the saints go marching in ..."

Yeah, you right.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Much Ado About Grammys

We've been meaning to return to an annual custom once practiced here at mwbh, that of reviewing the Gramophone Awards (as they were once known), or at least those parts of it that interested us. This writer doesn't watch it on television, as it's little more than a skank-fest, and the categories of genuine interest are mostly never televised. The four categories that are not limited to genre (Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist) are a matter of some curiosity, though.

Going to the site of the nominees with the winners highlighted (click here), we see that "Need You Now" by Lady Antebellum put country music in the spotlight for Record and Song of the Year, and Arcade Fire won for Album of the Year (album, record, is there a difference?). Also, a jazz artist won best new artist for the first time, in the person of bassist Esperanza Spalding. On top of all that, Cee Lo Green didn't win in these categories for "F*** You" -- a hopeful sign for the world as we know it. (Oh, and Marty Stuart won for Best Country Instrumental Performance for "Hummingbyrd." Nice.)

The bad news is, there were fewer than ten nominees for Best Regional Mexican Album, so there were no awards in that category. Maybe next year ...

And now, two bits of good news.

Last week, we mentioned that the Carolina Chocolate Drops were nominated for Best Traditional Folk Album. Well, they got it, for their premiere album on the Nonesuch label, "Genuine Negro Jig." We couldn't be more proud if we knew them personally (which we don't -- yet). Best Contemporary Folk Album went to some band I never heard of, Ray LaMontague and the Pariah Dogs, for "God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise" -- the band name has a nice ring to it; you'd think they'd do better than a cliche album title. Could be really good though, winning a Grammy and all. Best Hawaiian Album went to Tia Carrere for "Huana Ke Aloha." (Some of you may remember her. Oh yeah ...)

Even better is the winner of the Best Zydeco Or Cajun Music Album. Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band took the honors for their record on the Swampadelic label, "Zydeco Junkie." Chubby is the son of Roy Carrier, whose passing was honored here last May. Another member of that family, Troy Carrier, goes under the name of Dikki Du, who with his Zydeco Krewe, has let yours truly sit in more than once back in the day. I sure do miss those guys.

But for now, that's all the news that fits.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Contrarian Valentine

A lone young shepherd lived in pain
withdrawn from pleasure and contentment,
his thoughts fixed on a shepherd-girl
his heart an open wound with love.

He weeps, but not from the wound of love,
there is no pain in such affliction,
even though the heart is pierced;
he weeps in knowing he's been forgotten.

That one thought: his shining one
has forgotten him, is such great pain
that he bows to brutal handling in a foreign land,
his heart an open wound with love.

The shepherd says: I pity the one
who draws herself back from my love,
and does not seek the joy of my presence,
though my heart is an open wound with love for her.

After a long time he climbed a tree,
and spread his shining arms,
and hung by them, and died,
his heart an open wound with love.

-- Saint John of the Cross (1542-91)

“... and this time, we’re not kidding around!”

Yesterday after Mass, the celebrant and I (as his master of ceremonies) were greeting those who were leaving, as we usually do. One of our guests identified himself as a member of Austian nobility -- a count, I believe -- who lamented that the Traditional Roman Mass was not available in his native land. We assured him of our prayers. He said to me: "Thank you, Father." (I get that a lot. Can I help it if I look good in black?)

I thought of that young man today as I read this item from the National Catholic Reporter, concerning ...

... 144 leading Catholic theologians from Germany, Switzerland and Austria in a bluntly frank open letter to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Among other demands, the statement calls for ending celibacy requirements for priests, opening the priesthood to women, and in general introducing significantly more democracy into the church's structures.

The thing that was funny about the article, though, was the way it began: “In our roles as theology professors we can no longer remain silent.”

Oh? It surprised me that anyone, even those who agree with them, would be under the impression that they've been holding back all this time. What's more (and you don't hear this often), many dissident Catholic-in-name-only theologians such as these, have approved of the very forms of deviant behavior over the years, that they accuse the Church of covering up today. Notice how their laundry list of demands do not even speak directly to the problem.

Remember that priest in Boston who was active with the National Man Boy Love Association? You really think he was without distinguished company, do you now? And can you really say that violating the innocence of young boys by older men does not constitute a form of homosexual act? If you have a problem with that line of reasoning, ask an openly gay man about what is known as a "chicken hawk."

I rest my case.

A Valentine: “Do You Love Me?”

"What do women want?" I cried out in frustration.

"I bring home the money, fix the plumbing, walk the dog, and keep the kids in line. But no matter how long and hard I work, Susan just gets angrier by the day.

"Ten years we've been married, and the truth is, I'm more frustrated than ever before."

+    +    +

"There's just one thing women want," replied my friend John Schmitt.

"Just one thing ..."

What follows was compiled into a booklet by John Barger of Sophia Institute Press. To read the entire booklet online, or to order printed copies, click here.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Concerning Al Jazeera

“If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn't hesitate to choose the latter.” -- Thomas Jefferson

We here at mwbh are well aware of certain claims against the Al Jazeera network, of inciting "anti-Americanism" in other parts of the world over the years. Such charges are, in at least a few cases, a matter of some conjecture. Our recommendation of this network, as a source for what has transpired of late in the Middle East, is based solely upon their ability to report the news there, with a quality and integrity that exceeds most other outlets, including certain American cable news channels. Loyalty to one's country must not be confused with the endorsement of either the ideologies or policies of those who hold public office, thus to criticize the latter is not to betray the former, as Jefferson (himself excoriated by the press in his day) was quick to maintain.

We would bring to the readership's attention, that the studios of Al Jazeera, located in an office building here in Washington DC, must be identified in the lobby under a pseudonym, as a safeguard against reprisals. Such violence is not a remedy to the challenges that face us, nor would it rest easy with those who pledged their lives to establish this Republic. We would also be remiss, were we not to remind those who work in that location, that even in the face of such precautions, they enjoy a freedom of association and movement that is unknown in their network's country of origin, Qatar, where non-Muslims are subject to unbearable scrutiny. (We have received personal testimony to this effect, shared with us at considerable length.)

The love of America as a people, and as a nation, as well as the outrage over the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, at the behest of Islamic extremists, are indisputable and unwavering in this forum. man with black hat stands behind its position, in providing information on the issues of the day, including that which is the subject of this notice.

Saint Adam of Baghdad, pray for us.

God bless America.

Revolutions Revisited

The situation in North Africa and the Middle East continues to develop, as the call for regime change spreads from Egypt, in one direction to Algeria, and in another to Yemen.

Those who wish to watch continual coverage, highlighted by experts in the region as opposed to the usual empty suits on the other cable channels can go to Al-Jazeera's English-language channel for 24/7 streaming video:

For those of you who are following this on Twitter, in particular by way of TweetDeck, we recommend separate columns with the following search parameters:

#egypt #jan25

#algeria #feb12


There are also early indications that #libya may be in for a turn of events as well. In all these countries, retaliation against Christians is a very real concern. Stay tuned ...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt: The Day After

Yesterday, we reported on events taking place in Egypt, and how "the revolution IS being televised." We watched the streaming video from Al-Jazeera, as the crowd reacted with outrage at the surprising news. Today, that result has already made its mark on Twitter:

RT @alex_kutsko New dictionary word - Mubarak (n.): a psychotic ex-girlfriend who fails to understand it's over

But hey, that was yesterday, and this is today. Maybe it was the crowd giving El Presidente "the shoe treatment." Or maybe it was just the generals taking him aside and reminding him of who they wouldn't be shooting at in the name of law and order. In any case, Mubarek is out, Suleiman is ... well, not exactly in charge, but acceding to a "high council of the armed forces." After thirty years of martial law, you have to ask yourself if military rule isn't going to end up a case of meet-the-new-boss-same-as-the-old-boss.

"We'll see," said the Zen master.

FAMW: Baile de Manos Revisited

Does everybody remember these two kids? Irish stepdancers Suzanne Cleary and Peter Harding created an internet sensation last year, when their twiddling-thumbs-while-awaiting-competition exercise went viral on YouTube, and was the subject of one of our Whimsies last October. We can now announce with confidence that they are officially overexposed, having appeared lately in a McDonald's commercial for overpriced lattes.

The result is, frankly, a rather poor example of whatever particular talent won them their fifteen minutes to begin with. So unless you've seen the viral vid before, you have to wonder what the Golden Arch guys were thinking. Come to think of it, you probably still would. But just the thought that, once again, a pop culture trend can be so easily overdone, is the point of this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Not exactly "Lord of the Dance," huh, guys?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Guitar Workshop: The Best of 2010

For new readers to man with black hat, we have a feature on most Thursdays entitled “Guitar Workshop” which should be self-explanatory. But even though we're running a bit behind with our retrospectives of the previous year, we wanted to give you an idea of what we had to offer here, so you can get an idea of what's coming up. To wit, here are five of the best episodes from 2010.

Feb 25: Pentatonic Scale

We begin with what I wish I'd known better eight years ago, the blues scale used by most lead players as the point of departure for improvisation. This set of three videos, geared toward the lower intermediate player, was followed by a segment for the next level on embellishments. Together, they made for a wonderful pair.

Apr 15: Gettin’ Rhythm

Mother Maybelle Carter was the inspiration for this style of playing, a virtual standard for even beginning acoustic rhythm players. This episode had something for both the novice and the not-so-novice. This clip from that episode shows the range of possibilities.

Sep 30: Beginning Travis Picking

When you read the story behind this one, it only seems as if this was included for sentimental reasons. But this style was very influential on a fifteen-year-old who was too nerdy to rock-and-roll (or so the local kids thought) and too young not to try.

Oct 28: Percussive Guitar (Introduction)

This was our most ambitious series within the series, consisting of five parts, and representing new directions in acoustic guitar playing. Not for the faint of heart, this video by Andy McGee gives the viewer a taste of what is definitely outside the box. While geared to the advanced player, included in the series is an exercise that shows how some techniques contained herein are already possible.

Dec 9: Roger McGuinn and Folk-Rock Plugged-In

Finally, we feature a walk down the memory lane of Roger McGuinn, formerly of The Byrds, who explains the American answer to the British invasion, one that changed the popular culture. It is a place where both acoustic and electric currents meet, resulting in a signature sound that makes its home in both the folk festival and the rock arena. Neither would be the same. Neither was this picker after picking up on it.

We have more where this came from. And while every picture tells a story, the song remains the same. Or something.

Egypt: The Revolution IS Being Televised!

For those who wish to follow developments in Egypt, which are changing by the minute, with Mubarek's reported departure, Al-Jazeera/English is providing the best coverage. As this is written, the military has said it is intervening to restore order (and we don't know what that means yet). A pre-recorded message from President Mubarek is about to be televised, as the national anthem is being played on loudspeakers in what is now called "Liberation Square." A continual live stream can be accessed here:

You can also follow developments on Twitter at #jan25 and #egypt (although the messages are coming in faster than they can be read).

Pray for the Coptic Christians in Egypt, that the violence being preyed on them by Muslim extremists exploiting the situation will stop, and that peace will be restored.

UPDATE: Hosni Mubarek has announced he will NOT resign, but will delegate some powers to the Vice President, and will not run for re-election in November. American officials who were already pretty clueless to begin with are "taken by surprise" with this decision. Early analysis from Allahpundit at Hot Air. Otherwise, stay tuned ...

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Urban Homesteads Revisited

Last May, we spotlighted a suggestion for the biggest waste of real estate in America, namely the residential lawn. ("Spring Cleaning Revisited", included in our "More-Or-Less Best of 2010.") We were introduced to a family in California that converted their own yard into a gardener's paradise, a major component in their household self-sufficiency. The video clip featured in that piece is shown again here.

Now, imagine a reality TV episode called "Invasion of the Valley Girls," or something like it. In this case, it's actually an episode of VH1's You're Cut Off entitled "Down on the Urban Farm." You can witness the first segment here. The other segments in this episode can be found at the series' website.

One thing, though. Showering twice a week is ridiculous, unless you're on a two-week trek in the mountains at Philmont Scout Ranch, in which case you don't even get to shower once until you get back to the base. Yours truly has to shower twice a day in the summer, if only for five minutes, or a decent night's sleep is out of the question.

What do they think we are, animals?

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre:
The Carolina Chocolate Drops

Time once again for our weekly midday Wednesday feature. For this month, we continue our special series for Black History Month.

It would surprise many, black and white, to learn of a tradition of African-Americans playing what was once known as "hillbilly music." For those who would not be surprised, particularly in the Black community, this would be identified with the shameful antebellum era, with ostensibly contented slaves placating their white masters with stereotypical "minstrel show" performances and other self-depreciating routines. The truth is far more complex than that. And if this really is a "post-racial era," isn't it time to take measure of those preconceptions?

The first Black Banjo Gathering was held in Boone, North Carolina, in April of 2005. Sule Greg Wilson and Dom Flemons flew in from Arizona, where they met Rhiannon Giddens. Two months later, they began performing as a trio. Wilson was eventually replaced by Justin Robinson. Today, the Carolina Chocolate Drops are turning heads, and tearing down the walls that define various forms of "roots music."

Among those who may not be as suprised, are those people of color who hail from the Piedmont region -- southern Virginia, and part of both North and South Carolina -- and are themselves the products of centuries of intermarriage between blacks, whites, and native Americans (especially Cherokee). This cross-pollination extends beyond marriage and music. Customs such as "jumping the broom" as the highlight of a marriage ceremony were not confined to indentured servants from Africa, as Scots-Irish whites in the southern Appalachian mountains had a similar practice, due to the infrequency of circuit-riding Baptist and Methodist preachers. (See "Folk Songs of Central West Virginia," Michael E Bush, 1969, self-published.)

But hey, back to the music, right?

Our second clip is a preview of their Nonesuch debut album for the Nonesuch label, Genuine Negro Jig, capturing live performances, and interviews with all three band members. Also included are a few words from the album's producer, Joe Henry, who might want to explain why a full version of this isn't available as a DVD. Our third is a full rendering of "Cornbread and Butterbeans."

What is known as "old-timey music" originated in fiddle tunes from the British Isles, developed in New England and the southern mountains around the dance floor, and was rarely accompanied by lyrics. Bluegrass music, on the other hand, is a relatively modern derivative, mostly as a performance art, which developed around the microphone, and was unsuited for square dancing (which would be lost on many who play Bluegrass, in this writer's experience). Tunes of the sort featured here were more common by the early days of radio, and form a sort of bridge between two very similar yet very different genré.

In more recent news, Genuine Negro Jig was nominated for a Grammy award in the best traditional folk album category. Seeing them get this award would be worth doing a jig, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Our (Obligatory) Robert Gibbs Moment

Robert Gibbs is leaving his position as White House Press Secretary. The unique combination of ineptitude and smugness which characterized his tenure, to say nothing of this administration, will be the stuff of Press Club lounge room chatter for years to come. He is not the first in his position to be known for sidestepping the issues, but he managed to raise such obfuscation to an art form.

To give the man his due, we honor this occasion by presenting this video from POLITICO of some of Gibbs' greatest hits -- and misses. He begins with telling the press all the things he is not. It goes downhill without any breaks from there.

“Once an Eagle ...”

On this date in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America was incorporated in Washington, DC.

Some scouts and scouters on Facebook are replacing their profile pictures with the highest rank they earned as youth members. Personally, I'm too lazy to replace my photo, even temporarily, so my highest rank is shown here. Out of every one hundred boys who enter the Boy Scout program, only three will earn the distinction of being an Eagle Scout. I passed my Board of Review in December of 1971, and was bestowed the award the following February. My only regret is that my unit was going to hell in a handbasket, which cut my post-Eagle adventures in Scouting a bit short -- well, there was the matter of getting a job and finishing high school, but enough of that already -- until July of 2004, when I put the uniform back on again.

And so it goes ...

Monday, February 07, 2011

Destiny and Detroit

Now that we are caught up on our publishing schedule here at mwbh, a few things are coming out of the woodwork, like the famous YouTube “Ad Blitz” gallery of Super Bowl commercials. For some reason, it wasn't easy to find until after the game. Click on the title to see the whole collection. (Now, I ask you, isn't that a sight to see?) In addition, Slate is getting into the act, with a quarter-by-quarter analysis of the entire run, entitled “The Best and Worst Super Bowl Ads.”

We may comment on any of them as the week goes by, and if we're in the mood, but there is one in particular ...

I only visited Detroit once. I was visiting a friend there in the late 1990s. They lived north of the city proper. Going from the airport, up the main drag to their location, was to gaze upon endless city blocks punctuated with boarded up storefronts. One can only imagine the feeling of how, for better or worse, this is home, that the current situation will not change that. What can be said or done to tell a city, yes, it is going to get better?

This ad from Chrysler was the subject of an NBC News segment this evening, and has received over 1.2 million hits on YouTube to date. Featuring recording artist Eminem, it provides a glimmer of hope to those who could use it.

“This is the Motor City. This is what we do.”

John Three Sixteen

“For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.”

The above is from the Gospel according to John, the third chapter, the sixteenth verse. (Douay-Rheims Translation) “John 3:16” is part of the culture of football. We occasionally see it on signs in end zones after field goals and extra point attempts; on players' tape and tattoos; and Tim Tebow was famous for writing it in his eye black. And yet, many fans don't know what it means. “LookUp 316” was to air a national commercial during the Super Bowl yesterday. When the organization took this idea to Fox Sports, host network of this year's game, they rejected the commercial on the basis that it contained -- brace yourselves! -- “religious doctrine.”

So, let's review.

It's okay to show commercials of adult situations you wouldn't pay for your kids to see at a movie theatre, as well as in your own home during other family events, like ... oh, a football game. But we can't show you this, okay? After all, it's not as if the majority of Americans already profess to be Christian in the first place, don't you think?

Or don't you?

[CLARIFICATION: the commercial was rejected by Fox Sports; but was always planned to air on Birmingham (AL) and Washington (DC) affiliates.]

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Ronnie, We Hardly Knew Ye (Revisited)

Today the centennial of the birth of President Ronald Reagan is remembered. History has been kind to him, to say the least. Even President Obama has tried to bask in the glow of a predecessor who everyone with a pulse knows is his polar opposite. In conservative political circles, a wave of nostalgia has been blowing, as one might expect. Who will the next Reagan be?

Not all voices from the "right" have lionized the man. There's Michael Brendan Dougherty, contributing editor to The American Conservative:

I'd like to thank Reagan for abolishing the Department of Education, and the IRS, reducing federal spending, restoring America's moral culture, and preventing the legalization of abortion in California. but I can't.

And that's not the worst of it. Libertarian economist Murray Rothbard wasted little time after the end of Reagan's tenure in 1989:

Sometimes, Reagan’s retentive memory – important for an actor – gave his handlers trouble. Evidently lacking the capacity for reasoned thought, Reagan’s mind is filled with anecdotes, most of them dead wrong, that he has soaked up over the years in the course of reading Reader’s Digest or at idle conversation. Once an anecdote enters Reagan’s noodle, it is set in concrete and impossible to correct or dislodge. (Consider, for example, the famous story about the "Chicago welfare queen": all wrong, but Reagan carried on regardless.)

In response to the myth that Reagan was an "amiable dunce," even The Washington Post was kinder.

Ronald Reagan performed successfully in six different careers: radio sportscaster, movie actor, trade union president, corporate spokesman, two-term governor and two-term president of the United States. Lucky for him he wasn't hampered by Jimmy Carter's intellect!

Whatever one may think of the man's political philosophy, the above is more than most of us could accomplish in one life. Maybe that is why the tribute featured in this video clip will be seen at tonight's Super Bowl.

The following is a reprint, albeit slightly edited, from June 10, 2004, five days after he passed away. This one's for the Gipper.

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"And now he has left us ... It's not hard to imagine him now in a place where his powers have been returned to him and he's himself again--sweet-hearted, tough, funny, optimistic and very brave. You imagine him snapping one of those little salutes as he turns to say goodbye ..."

So wrote Peggy Noonan in the Opinion Journal on the passing of the 40th US President, Ronald Wilson Reagan. She was one of many who served under him, and who authored books about him, hers being titled When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan. You'd think people knew him well enough.

But according to Dinesh D'Souza: "Virtually everyone who knew Reagan well or observed him closely ... [is] familiar with the public Reagan, but their efforts to discover the individual behind the mask have proved frustratingly elusive." Apparently this included his children, and at times his own wife. D'Souza, a domestic policy advisor under Reagan and the author of several books on political and social issues, elaborates on his admiration for his former boss, in his recent book Ronald Reagan: How An Ordinary Man Became An Extraordinary Leader.

I came to Washington in December of 1980, at about the same time as did Reagan, to begin my Federal service career. I didn't hesitate to vote for him. No sooner was he in office, though, than I thought I might live to regret it. One of Reagan's first official acts in office, was to impose a hiring freeze of Federal employees. This was expected by everyone. But he went one step further. He back-dated the order to the day in early November when he was elected. I was hired on December 15. It was a clearly partisan move designed to stem the padding of career civil service ranks with former Carter appointees. Why that had to have something to do with me, I'll never know. The order was even upheld by a Federal judge, perhaps one who was caught up in the enthusiasm to rid Washington of all those wasteful parasites in the Federal ranks.

Me? I just wanted to make a positive contribution to public service (the publishing industry being the largest in the Nation's capital) through the use of my professional talents. I remember hearing at the time, of one Reaganite who spoke at a meeting of government writers, taking them to task for such allegedly superfluous publications as a USDA piece on brown-bag lunches. This was met by a response from one writer within that agency, who pointed out to Mister Know-It-All, that they were getting thousands of requests a year for such information, and a ready-made publication on the subject was cheaper than answering each inquiry individually. Duh ...

Anyway, in the end, I was able to keep my job, since the paperwork to hire me had already gone through, and the freeze on hiring had no provision for firing. I also survived a reduction-in-force two years later, thanks to the personal intervention of my supervisor at the time.

In the early years, I would wade through the criticism of political hacks, bragging about their "real world" experience before coming to Washington (as if political life could possibly resemble the real world), then leave after one or two years to go work for a think tank or some other "Beltway bandit." Many of the fat-ass white boys who wanted to reduce the size of government went on to feed off the Federal trough in some other fashion.

I wasn't sorry to see them leave. But I was sorry to see a few people go, from among the political ranks, whose work and personal character I came to admire. I stayed in touch with many of them for years afterward. (One of them will be mentioned in this weblog next week. Stay tuned ...)

In the years since, I've seen a change of attitude toward the Federal employee. It seems that some people are now convinced we do a genuine public service, especially after "9/11." Even the quality of employee has improved. The Reagan years may have touched off the end of complacency that settled into the Federal ranks during the 1970s. The agency for which I work had a reputation over the years of being what is called a "turkey farm," a place where you put managers -- be they political or career -- when you have no place else to put them, and you can't get rid of them (on the latter point, don't ask me why). I watched many of my agency's "old boy network" retire in the last ten years, to be replaced by younger, more qualified (or just plain qualified in a few cases) public servants. Even working alongside contract employees may have helped to raise the bar on performance. We've taken on a new confidence, and so have I. The last five years have seen some of my finest work.

I was never sorry to be a Federal employee. Nor was I sorry I voted for Reagan twice. It was the character of the man himself, not the unscrupulous attitudes of a few of those who bathed in the glow of his guiding light, that won me over. Starting out life in a small town in the Midwest, coming from a poor family, and son of an alcoholic father, he could have been my father or someone a lot like him.

And so he was a father figure to this Nation, reminding us that, whatever our faults, we were better off loving ourselves and the God under which our republic was founded, than joining our enemies in beating ourselves up. It was that charisma that helped to overthrow communism, and change the shape of the world forever -- to say nothing of how we looked at ourselves.

After he left office, close friends would stop by to see him and Nancy. One commented on how they showed little if any interest in politics. Should that surprise us about a man who made such an impact on the world? Or shouldn't he be allowed to emulate Cincinnatus, who after saving Rome from her enemies, passed on the emperor's throne to return to his plow?

I do not believe that many who surrounded Reagan, much less those who benefited from his position, were as altruistic as he was. It seems everyone is lining up to win his favor, even before he is in the grave. Several years ago, back in my hometown of Cincinnati, the inter-connector once known as Cross County Highway became known as "Ronald Reagan Highway." Closer to the Beltway, someone wants to introduce a resolution in Congress naming the Pentagon after him. This is ridiculous, when you consider that less than a mile away, is the former National Airport, now called Ronald Reagan Airport, where members of the same Congress can park free of charge and get a ten-minute drive to the office. Meanwhile, in the midst of downtown Washington, is what was considered at the time the biggest cost-overrun boondoggle in the history of Federal buildings -- the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center. (It's a nice building, though.)

As if that weren't enough, there is movement in Congress, in the form of a resolution to put Reagan's face on either the ten- or twenty-dollar bill, as if Alexander Hamilton or Andrew Jackson were suddenly out of favor. There's also talk of putting his likeness on the ten-cent coin. Would the man who first espoused the privatization of Social Security take the place of the man who first conceived of it? Will the ironies never end? There is also the wish to put a Reagan Memorial on the Mall, a plaza that is already overcrowded with memorials, to the point that even the World War II Memorial caused concern.

Are they raising monuments to the man, or to themselves and how they benefited from him?

However satisfied with themselves would be those who would ingratiate themselves to Ronald Wilson Reagan, I believe those who managed to look beyond personal ambition, enough to really know the man, would well imagine him rolling his eyes from within his coffin, at all the fuss being made. Those who believe otherwise might take a clue from the humility shown in the letter he wrote to America November 5, 1994, when he found he had Alzheimer's disease. I reproduce it here, in its entirety, as my own tribute to the measure of his character:

My Fellow Americans,

I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Upon learning this news, Nancy and I had to decide whether as private citizens we would keep this a private matter or whether we would make this news known in a public way.

In the past Nancy suffered from breast cancer and I had my cancer surgeries. We found through our open disclosures we were able to raise public awareness. We were happy that as a result many more people underwent testing.

They were treated in early stages and able to return to normal, healthy lives.

So now, we feel it is important to share it with you. In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition. Perhaps it will encourage a clearer understanding of the individuals and families who are affected by it.

At the moment I feel just fine. I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this earth doing the things I have always done. I will continue to share life’s journey with my beloved Nancy and my family. I plan to enjoy the great outdoors and stay in touch with my friends and supporters.

Unfortunately, as Alzheimer’s Disease progresses, the family often bears a heavy burden. I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience. When the time comes I am confident that with your help she will face it with faith and courage.

In closing let me thank you, the American people for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your President. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.

I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.

Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you.

Sincerely, Ronald Reagan

Happy trails, Dutch, and may God ride with you ... until we meet again.

Friday, February 04, 2011

FAMW: Let The (Ad) Games Begin!

With the Super Bowl coming up this Sunday, longtime readers of mwbh (yes, both of you!) know what that means -- a review of the advertisements. First, let's take a look at the best of last year's, shall we?

These televised spots command top dollar every year, and were completely sold by October.

And, as USA Today reports ...

[I]f the famous "1984" commercial for Apple's Macintosh instantly changed the way Super Bowl ads were created, 2011's game may be remembered for changing forever the way marketers expand their campaigns — via new media far beyond the ad they buy in the Big Game.

Small wonder, then, that they have teamed up with Facebook and YouTube to give the viewing public a chance to vote for their favorite ads, starting about one hour before kickoff. Click here. But the big question, the answer to which matters more than the others, is:

Who will win this year's USA TODAY Ad Meter?

Meanwhile, north of the border, the Toronto Star has even announced its own Top Ten list this year. Here we feature on of our personal perennial faves, the eTrade baby ad. Reminds me of my own son at that age, he was quite the precocious one (sigh!). What better way to get a weekend like this one started, for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Missa Luba

February is Black (No, that's not it.) Afro-American (Darn, what did the latest memo say? Oh, yeah ...) African-American History Month. We're going to pay tribute to said month, if in our own unique way.

Most of us are familiar with the tradition of Negro spirituals. The "call-and-response" characteristic that is the trademark of this genre can be traced to its origins in Africa. This is evident in the Congolese setting of the Ordinary of the Mass known as the “Missa Luba”. It was actually arranged by a Belgian Franciscan friar by the name of Father Guido Haazen, and originally recorded and performed in 1958 by "Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin", a choir of Congolese children from Kamina.

Unfortunately, the best we could do for video clips were a bunch of white people. But you get the idea.

The first clip is of the Kyrie and Gloria; the second, of the Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. This Mass setting was originally the result of a sort of collective spontaneity. Only afterwords would Haazen actually transcribe it as sheet music. The rest, as they say, is history.

The liner notes of the original recording, which includes a number of native songs from the Congo, can be found at the website of Professor Philip McEldowney of the University of Virginia.