I've heard of bad hair days ... but this? ....
SEPARATED at BIRTH - Washington Post Ombudsman Patrick Pexton and and former Ohio congressman Jim Traficant.
As Bob Dylan sang, "We live in a political world" .... but if you need a break: stop in for a look at news items outside the headlines, in the arts and sciences; foreign news that generates little notice in the US media and ....well, just plain whimsy.....
ART NOTES - a career retrospective of the Ukrainian-born American abstractionist painter Jules Olitski is at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas to May 6th.
SCIENCE NOTES - Russian scientists have confirmed they have drilled through more than 2.3 miles of ice to reach Lake Vostok - a 6,200 sq mile body of water that has been isolated from the rest of the world for almost 15 million years, sitting under the thick layer of ice on the Antarctic continent.
IN CITING his interview in the current issue of Playboy magazine, Paul Krugman assures us that the accompanying photo - to the interview conducted by Jonathan Tasini - does not show him with 'a staple in his navel'.
MONDAY's CHILD is Pudding the Hero Cat - a shelter kitteh that a Wisconsin woman wasn't intending to adopt ... but just couldn't resist. Good thing: because that very night Pudding intervened when the woman was having a diabetic seizure and when she couldn't wake her son verbally, Pudding went to his room to do so.
CONGRATULATIONS to the pastor and former East German human rights activist Joachim Gauck - who seems poised to win election to the ceremonial (yet influential) post as Germany's next president. Although a Social Democrat, he emerged as the compromise candidate acceptable to conservative prime minister Angela Merkel - herself an East German pastor's daughter. If elected, Gauck will replace Christian Wulff, who resigned last week over corruption charges.
SEPARATED at BIRTH - Israeli actor Shlomo Bar Aba and former UK prime minster (and now UN Middle East envoy) Tony Blair.
ART NOTES - a mid-career retrospective of the Dutch portraitist Rineke Dijkstra is at the San Francisco, California Museum of Modern Art thru May 28th.
A PROFILE of the 80's British pop star Adam Ant mentions his bi-polar disease and legal problems ... but who now runs his own record label, begins a tour complete with a photography exhibit, and later this year releases a new album.
DEBAUCHERY CENTRAL - a Cincinnati entrepreneur is offering couples a chance to join the mile high club with a $425 flight in a single-engine Piper ... and says he's had two weddings and a 50th anniversary couple sign-up, as well.
TUESDAY's CHILD was named Mr. Bates the Cat by veterinarians after his left leg had to be amputated when caught in an illegal trap. If unclaimed, the central Massachusetts kitteh will be up for adoption.
SINCE I MENTIONED a Paul Krugman interview in Playboy: turns out they also conducted one with MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell in May of 2011.
HISTORY NOTES - if December 7th, 1941 is "a date that will live in infamy" for the USA: then February 19, 1942 is the equivalent for Australia ... because 70 years ago, Japanese bombers swooped on Darwin (in northern Australia) sinking Allied ships and killing hundreds of people. For years the attack was rarely mentioned, but now the story is finally being told.
ART NOTES - The first museum exhibition to trace the rise of the American sports culture is at the Minneapolis, Minnesota Institute of Arts to May 13th.
A BBC REPORTER took note of security forces in China - who tracked him across town, "spotting the same people at different points and different times" - and also that China's internal security system is expected (for the first time) this year to cost more than its entire armed forces.
ART NOTES #2 - the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch created several versions of his famous work The Scream - and an 1895 version (created using pastels) is the only version still in private hands ... but will be sold at auction by Sotheby's in New York this coming May.
WEDNESDAY's CHILD is Social the Cat - who lived with a homeless California woman, unwilling to go to a shelter as "they make you surrender your pet". Fortunately, she and Social have now found permanent housing ... together.
END of an ERA - last week, I noted the 100th birthday of a famous film studio in Germany that is observing its 100th birthday - but a studio that will close in this, its 99th year is London's famous Twickenham Film Studio - which has played home to films like Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner", Roman Polanski's "Repulsion", and this year's Oscar-nominated "The Iron Lady" and "My Week with Marilyn".
FATHER-SON? - musician Bob Dylan and "Saturday Night Live's" Andy Samberg.
THE WHEELS of JUSTICE turn slowly - in this case, 385 years after Katharina Henot was burned at the stake in the German city of Cologne in 1627 for being a witch - as an extraordinary re-trial is to begin to clear her name ... which could pave the way for other similar hearings to take place.
ART NOTES - a survey of full-length portrait paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir - with many works on loan from international institutions (such as this one from Boston's MFA) are at the Frick Collection in New York City thru May 13th.
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS after his death, the work and influence of Andy Warhol seems even stronger on today's art market than when he was alive.
IF YOU DID NOT have a chance yesterday to listen to the weekly NPR commentary by sportswriter Frank Deford - on the Division III basketball player given a chance to enter a game despite having suffered a major stroke - well, his essay "When There's More To Winning Than Winning" is available at the link in both audio and transcript form ... and is the best 3-1/2 minutes you'll spend today.
THURSDAY's CHILD is Shankly the Cat - an English kitteh who appeared in this space two weeks ago (courtesy of martyc35 with a short video at that link) by running onto the field of a Liverpool football (soccer) match, with the US-born goalkeeper Brad Friedel unable to scoop up 'Shanks'.
Well, the animal shelter where he was brought couldn't keep him under wraps either, as he battered down a sealed cat flap - since, in the words of the shelter coordinator, street toms 'know every trick in the book'.
WHILE THE SUBJECT of how black women care for their hair is a popular subject - Chris Rock even produced a documentary on it - women of all races in the African nation of Namibia are fond of various styles (especially hair extensions).
SEPARATED at BIRTH - veteran English singer Peter Noone (of "Herman's Hermits") and stand-up Texas comedian Ron White ("Blue Collar Comedy Tour" and "You Can't Fix Stupid").
RECENT FLOODS forced the closure of a border crossing between Peru and Chile as flooded waterways destroyed crops, blocked highways, and .... uncovered land mines laid during border disputes in the 1970's.
FRIDAY's CHILD is the late Ozzie the Cat - who for nearly twenty-four years oversaw operations at a Missouri office supply store, acting as the store's greeter ... until a tumor reduced his weight from 16 to only six pounds.
....... and for a song of the week ............................................ once again, another look at "musician's musicians" - not household names, better known for backing others (and some experiencing depression). But many are revered by more famous musicians for their abilities, often falling into what's now called "roots" music (where blues, rock, country and rockabilly meet) and their recorded legacy has outlasted some of their lives.
Case in point: in trying to draw a line from the first bluesman who cranked up his guitar amp to create a distorted sound - to the Hendrix/Page/Townshend power chord guitarists - that line must pass through Link Wray who - if he never recorded another song than Rumble fifty years ago - would have a place in music history. And while he never scaled those heights again: he had a career worth noting.
Frederick Lincoln Wray (who had part Shawnee ancestry) was born in Dunn, North Carolina in 1929, with his family eventually settling in Maryland. Link served in the Korean War where he suffered from tuberculosis (eventually losing a lung). He concentrated on his guitar work and formed Lucky Wray and the Palomino Ranch Hands, a western-swing band in the mid-1950's.
This later evolved into the Ray Men when they became the house band on a Washington, D.C. TV show. Backing others (such as Fats Domino and Ricky Nelson) they became a more instrumental band (as Link's vocal abilities were limited due to the loss of that lung).
Then while backing-up The Diamonds in 1958, Link Wray improvised a 12-bar blues instrumental titled "Oddball" which had a distorted sound when Wray poked holes in his amplifier's speakers (much as Ike Turner's dropped-and-damaged amp delivered a sound on Rocket 88 he came to believe was advantageous). It was a hit with the audience, yet Cadence Records producer Archie Bleyer was unimpressed.
But his daughter loved it, telling Bleyer it reminded her of the rumble scenes in "West Side Story" and the song was renamed Rumble - which, while primitive: doesn't sound dated over fifty years later, and guitarists from Jimmy Page to Bob Dylan to Jimi Hendrix all cited the song as an influence. The Who's Pete Townshend went further: stating in liner notes (for a 1970 Link Wray album) that, but for that tune: "I would never have picked up a guitar". Some radio stations banned it (as 'encouraging teen violence') .. which only increased record sales.
Link and the Ray Men followed it up over the next few years with "Rawhide" and "Jack the Ripper" but then settled into an on-again-off-again remainder of his career. One reason is that record companies thought that - if they could dress him up and not be a juvenile delinquent poster child - he'd sell more records. Yet Link Wray was not cut out for playing "Claire de Lune"(!) as he did in 1960, and eventually Swan Records gave him room to stretch out. There were also periods of retirement, as well.
I recall him teaming up with rockabilly singer Robert Gordon throughout the 1970's and he eventually married and relocated to Denmark, as his audience as a solo performer increasingly shifted across the Atlantic. One band-member for a time in the 1980's was Anton Fig, who later joined Paul Shaffer's "Late Show" band. His last album was Barbed Wire from 2000 and his music has been featured on such films as "Pulp Fiction", "Breathless" and John Waters' "Pink Flamingos".
Link Wray died in Copenhagen, Denmark in November, 2005 the age of 76. Former Maryland Governor Erlich declared January 15, 2006 as Link Wray Day, and he was named as #45 on the Greatest Guitarists of All Time list by Rolling Stone.
He has also been inducted into two Halls of Fame: those for Native American Music ... and for Rockabilly after his death. Rhino has a compilation album of note, and as long as guitarists want a sound that is anything-but-clean: the music of Link Wray will have a place.
You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast
Yonder stands your orphan with his gun,
Crying like a fire in the sun
Look out the saints are comin' through
And it's all over now, Baby Blue
The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense
Take what you have gathered from coincidence
The empty-handed painter from your streets
Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets
This sky, too, is folding under you
And it's all over now, Baby Blue
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There's nobody who hates navel-gazing more than I, so I will try to dispense with this quickly. Glenn Thrush thinks I'm wrong to attribute the same perspective on Eric Schneiderman to Tom Miller, who dissed him on the record, and Shaun Donovan.[...]
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Last night, over at my alma mater?the University of Virginia?jurors came to a verdict in the George Huguely case after nine hours of deliberation. Huguely, who played lacrosse for the University, was convicted of second-degree murder and faces 26 years in prison for the 2010 beating death of his former girlfriend, Yeardley Love.
The murder and the trial revealed the extent to which domestic abuse?i.e. serious physical violence?is a reality for too many students, obscured by a pervasive culture of silence.
Keep this in mind as you read this column from Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri, who uses George Huguely to bemoan ?hook-up culture? and alcohol use:
This is a story of growing up in a world where people sand off life?s edges on your behalf. Where parents and institutions exist not to protect you from mistakes, but from their consequences. [?]
The setting is a character on its own: the college campus, where hook-up culture runs rampant and you are expected to drink four times a week, where you can sleep with someone and he can come to the stand and say that you were just friends, and it can be true. It?s a no-man?s land in which everyone wants to have fun without consequence. Where people are just mature enough to act immaturely. [Emphasis mine]
Petri mentions hook-ups twice, and complains that students don?t study enough, but I?m not even sure what she?s trying to say. That Yeardley Love would have been alive had she enjoyed chaste friendships and monogamous relationships? That college drinking?which does have its own set of problems?leaves everyone morally suspect? Or is it that?in a line which sounds very familiar given the recent controversies over birth control?college students shouldn?t be able to have fun and enjoy the freedom of youth without ?consequences??
I'm not being facetious. I genuinely don?t know what Petri is arguing here. What I do know is that thousands of college students drink and have sex without beating their partners to death. Yeardley Love?s death wasn?t about ?immaturity" or the privilege that pervades a place like UVA (even if it is very problematic). George Huguely?like countless other abusers?is the natural outcome of a culture that continues to present women as objects to be used by men. If Petri wants to rail against something, she should rail against that.
Whoever programmed Mitt Romneybot last night made him act like a total dick
(Joshua Lott / Reuters)
So the consensus, at least from pundits, is that Mitt Romney won last night's GOP debate?not because he performed particularly well, but because Rick Santorum flubbed it. But even though Romney may have won?albeit, by default?last night was not a good night for his presidential ambitions or those of the Republican party.
The bottom-line is that anyone who watched last night's debate?except for hard-core right-wingers?was almost certainly horrified by what they saw on that stage. But as painful as it was to watch last night's clown show, it's unfortunate that it's probably the last one. The more chances voters have to see these guys, the less likely it becomes that any one of them will ever sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.
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Rick Santorum's performance in Wednesday's debate was not his best. Perhaps the pressure of being criticized by news outlets including his own Fox News is getting to him. Or maybe he was tired. Or maybe he has been made to accept the fact that Mitt Romney will be the Chosen One, no matter how well he performs on the campaign trail or in debates.
Still, this moment was weird for a couple of reasons. First, he admitted voting for NCLB without being prompted. This, of course, generated the already-primed audience to erupt in a series of boos, which prompted this response from him:
I have to admit, I voted for that. It was against the principles I believed in, but, you know, when you're part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake.
(BOOING) You know, politics is a team sport, folks. And sometimes you've got to rally together and do something. And in this case, you know, I thought testing was -- and finding out how bad the problem was wasn't a bad idea.
Here's the thing. No Child Left Behind passed the Senate on a vote of 91-8. So what, exactly did he "take for the team?" Yes, he managed to insert an irrelevant and insulting intelligent design amendment into it, but he could just as easily have voted against it altogether and stayed true to his "conservative principles."
But what came next? Well, that was rich indeed.
SANTORUM: What was a bad idea was all the money that was put out there, and that, in fact, was a huge problem. I admit the mistake and I will not make that mistake again. You have someone who is committed.
I know the importance of local control of education. And having gone through that experience of the federal government involvement, not only do I believe the federal government should get out of the education businessI think the state government should start to get out of the education business and put it back to the state, -- to the local and into the community.
Two points of order here. First, there's the small matter of this home-schooling dad utilizing an online school in Virginia which taxpayers in Pennsylvania were on the hook to pay, and no small sum -- $72,000.00. That strikes me as inconsistent with those "conservative principles."
But beyond even that, there is a disturbing pattern in his reference not once, but twice, to the "education business." Education is not a business. It is what civilized societies do. I repeat: Education is not a business. I don't care what Rupert Murdoch and the rest of them say. It's just not, nor is making it a business the pathway to academic competitiveness on a global level. I also loathe NCLB and always have, because it separates students from real-life experiences and forces teachers to teach to the test and standards without regard to what is actually going on in their lives or their communities.
However, since standardized tests are (for now) the measure of success, let's consider the international ranking of the United States education system as it stands today, which is "mediocre." This is something that Michelle Rhee, President Obama and Arne Duncan all use as the hammer for education reform. That's fine, but the problem is what they propose to do with it.
Taking assessments and turning the educational system on its head by privatizing schools in the name of improving test scores has one result: discriminatory education weighted toward communities who can afford to feed the for-profit beasts. Or government feeding it. It means variance in curriculum and no assurance that the quality of education will be any better than a publicly funded school.
But wait, there's more. Rhee's formula of firing teachers by test score rankings is one that is gaining traction nationwide. New York recently reached an agreement with their teachers' unions to use this particular method of assessment, and as Diane Ravitch writes, the consequences will be ugly:
This agreement will certainly produce an intense focus on teaching to the tests. It will also profoundly demoralize teachers, as they realize that they have lost their professional autonomy and will be measured according to precise behaviors and actions that have nothing to do with their own definition of good teaching. Evaluators will come armed with elaborate rubrics identifying precisely what teachers must do and how they must act, if they want to be successful. The New York Times interviewed a principal in Tennessee who felt compelled to give a low rating to a good teacher, because the teacher did not ?break students into groups? in the lesson he observed. The new system in New York will require school districts across the state to hire thousands of independent evaluators, as well as create much additional paperwork for principals. Already stressed school budgets will be squeezed further to meet the pact?s demands for monitoring and reporting.
President Obama said in his State of the Union address that teachers should ?stop teaching to the test,? but his own Race to the Top program is the source of New York?s hurried and wrong-headed teacher evaluation plan. According to Race to the Top, states are required to evaluate teachers based in part on their students? test scores in order to compete for federal funding. When New York won $700 million from the Obama program, it pledged to do this. What the President has now urged (?stop teaching to the test?) is directly contradicted by what his own policies make necessary (teach to the test or be rated ineffective and get fired).
No high-performing nation in the world evaluates teachers by the test scores of their students; and no state or district in this nation has a successful program of this kind. The State of Tennessee and the city of Dallas have been using some type of test-score based teacher evaluation for twenty years but are not known as educational models. Across the nation, in response to the prompting of Race to the Top, states are struggling to evaluate their teachers by student test scores, but none has figured it out.
You should read the whole thing. As Ravitch says, "this is madness," but what it isn't, is a business. To hear Rick Santorum refer to education as a "business" is chilling and indicative of how all of these candidates view education in this country. The problem is, they're all so insane I can't see how we can actually have a decent conversation around the issues. And yes, that means on all sides of the debate, including President Obama.
(Via the Rachel Maddow blog)First-time claims for unemployment insurance benefits for the week ending Feb. 18 were a seasonally adjusted 351,000, unchanged from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 351,000. (The original Department of Labor announcement last week set the number of first-time claims at 348,000.) The four-week moving average, which flattens volatility in the weekly numbers, fell 7,000 to 359,000. This marks the 14th week out of the past 16 that the claims numbers have been below 400,000, a sign of an improving labor market in the view of most analysts.
For the week ending Feb. 4, the number of Americans claiming benefits in all unemployment insurance programs, including the federal "emergency" extensions, totaled 7,502,791, a decrease of 178,619 from the previous week.
That total will shrink markedly over the next few months because of the congressional payroll tax-cut deal. That compromise reached last week and signed by President Obama this morning will reduce the number of weeks an out-of-work person can collect benefits in the 18 states with the highest jobless rates from 99 weeks to 73 weeks by September. In most states, the benefits will only last 63 weeks by then.
If Congress had failed to cut a deal, about a million people would have lost jobless benefits next month. The average worker receives less than $300 a week in benefits.
While the benefits numbers indicate improvement, 23.8 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. For every four job seekers, there is on job opening. Some 43 percent of the nation's nearly 13 million officially unemployed American have been without work for more than six months, double the rate of any other recession since the 1930s.
More children in Pennsylvania are calling high-poverty areas home, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Joan Benso, president and chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, says the KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot shows that nationally, the number of children living in those communities rose from 9 percent to 11 percent during the past decade.
"But Pennsylvania actually did worse. We also grew to 11 percent of our children living in a community with concentrated poverty, but 10 years ago we were doing better than the rest of the nation."
The change marks a 27 percent increase. In three out of four of those homes, Benso says, at least one parent is employed. She says it points to a need for Pennsylvania to prioritize programs that help families having a hard time making ends meet, such as subsidized child care and free health insurance for children through Medicaid.
Benso says the high-poverty communities, where an estimated 64,000 Pennsylvania children live, lack the infrastructure they need to thrive.
The full report is online at aecf.org.
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A framework for a bipartisan approach to corporate tax reform. Middle Class, if there are any of you left, hold on to your wallets.[...]
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