Archive for January, 2009

James Booker

I’ve heard the name a hundred times but only recently did I discover the music of James Booker.  If Ray Charles was a genius, then Booker was a brain surgeon.  If Harry Connick Jr. is an artist, then Booker was da Vinci.  Seriously, this guy is phenomenal.  But Booker wasn’t just a jazz pianist, he played blues, gospel, latin, and classical.  Singer-Songwriter?  He did that too.  Even Ben Folds admits to being influenced by James Booker in his iTunes celebrity playlist.

I have a few friends (Dénes Dosztán, I’m sorry) that would kill me for waiting so late to ‘discover’ James Booker but, in my defense, he really is underplayed and underrecognized as the giant that he was.  A little gospel, a little classical virtuoso, a little jazz and blues, a little latin, more drugs and alcohol than most rock stars dream of, a lot of New Orleans and all legend.

I apologize to all 3 readers of this blog for the last couple posts about baseball.  It’s the baseball off-season and I’m itching for Spring Training.  I’ll try and focus on slightly more interesting (and maybe important) things.

From Alexander Tytler:

“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government.  A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.  From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.  The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years.  During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence:

1. From Bondage to Spiritual Faith;
2. From Spiritual Faith to Great Courage;
3. From Courage to Liberty;
4. From Liberty to Abundance;
5. From Abundance to Complacency;
6. From Complacency to Apathy;
7. From Apathy to Dependence;
8. From Dependence back into Bondage.”


The above quote is attributed to 18th century Scottish lawyer/historian Alexander Tytler, however, it has only caught like wildfire since the 2000 US presidential election.  Loren Collins and Gary North present solid arguments for this quote being much younger than the 18th century.  I’m not going to argue the age or origin but I would like to consider some of the content.  Dozens, perhaps  hundreds of blogs attempt to chronologically place the US somewhere near the end of the cycle.  At least the tone of the blogs sound like the end of something.   But since no cycle has an end, look somewhere between stages 6 and 8 above for the popular blogger consensus on where the US currently stands in the cycle.

But can US civilization be classified along with the Greeks and Romans and others?  Some argue that we are an empire instead of a civilization, but is the US economic empire comparable to the British or Mongol military empires? Perhaps.  But note the change in terms in the above Tytler quote: the demise is predicted of democracies while the evidence presented is about civilizations.  Quite frankly, the US is neither.  With the modern communication, airlines and the internet it may be possible to classify the entire Western world as a civilization but not the US as its own civilization (if any Brits read this … please claim US culture as British in the comments below).  Furthermore, the US isn’t a democracy but a republic.  Semantics?  Not even close.  A republic is a representative democracy but the founding fathers were careful not to create a government that fell the same way Athens did (Tytler was writing about Athens in the above quote).

Tytler was correct with regards to many democracies and civilizations in history and there are easy comparisons drawn after the election of Obama.   Perhaps we did elect the candidate who promised the most benefit from the public treasury (think bailout).  Maybe America is at the ‘end’ of the Tytler cycle or maybe we still have some more re-inventing to do.  Where would America fall into the Tytler Cycle?

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

– Winston Churchill

Even Andruw Jones lost his job with the Dodgers (with $22 million in severance pay)

Recession? The LA Dodgers just paid Andruw Jones $22 million to NOT play for them over the next 6 years.

The LA Dodgers just paid possible future Hall of Famer Andruw Jones $22 million to not play for them.  Knowing this was coming, Andruw Jones was back in Atlanta working out with former Braves teammates Chipper Jones and Brian McCann.  Andruw even wore a Braves hat to a Georgia Tech game in the ATL the other night.  The Braves need a power hitting outfielder and Andruw wants to come back to Atlanta.  He would likely even play for the MLB minimum salary.  In fact, it’s worth paying Andruw the minimum salary just to make sure he doesn’t end up with the likes of the Mets or the Phillies.  This is a no brainer: fan favorite, potential Hall of Famer, only 31 years old and he’s finally on a diet.  C’mon Frank Wren, this one’s in the bag.

Mark McGwire who ranks 8th in career homeruns (ahead of Hall of Famers like Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt) isnt recieving much attention in the Hall of Fame voting.

Mark McGwire who ranks 8th in career homeruns (ahead of Hall of Famers like Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt) isn't recieving much attention in annual Hall of Fame voting.

Yes, I was that little boy who lived outside of Oakland during McGwire’s torrid rookie season.  I had the McGwire poster on my wall, the rookie card and even the poseable figurine … which if I could find again may be worth something if McGwire ever makes the baseball Hall of Fame.  In the Hall of Fame voting results yesterday McGwire was listed on just 21.9 percent of the 75 percent needed for induction into the Hall.  So how is it that the player that ranks 8th in career homeruns may not have a shot at Cooperstown?  My theory – most of the voters are still scared of Big Mac.

Of course it’s not just McGwire that draws fear but it’s a whole era of steroid inflated statistics.  We’re not sure how certain home run records fit into baseball history or what history will think of us if McGwire makes Cooperstown.  Over the  next few years we will find out about more players who took more types of steroids.  The whole era is tinged with performance enhancing drugs and inflated statistics but that’s not reason for punishing specific players.  We don’t even know exactly what McGwire took or how many other players were taking exactly what he was taking.  In fact, for most players (including McGwire) in the 80s and 90s the performance enhancing drugs that were being taken were  legal.  Every athlete is trying to gain a little edge and for baseball in McGwire’s era it was steroids.  I wonder what the old timers thought when players started using batting gloves?  Should players be allowed to wear the ‘batting armor’ they wear so that they can stand closer to the plate and reach for more pitches?  What about the magnetic necklaces that were all the rage in the past World Series?  Are batting gloves, shin guards or magnetic necklaces considered performance enhancing?  But what if they are legally available to every player?  In the era where many were on the juice and everyone was hitting homeruns, McGwire was still homerun king.

So if the top performers from the last 20 years don’t get elected to the Hall of Fame, then who does?  Do we elect the guys who best kept their noses clean?  Let’s stop ignoring the steroid era in baseball and get back to electing the most deserving, top performing players every year.

Victoria Hesketh (stage name Little Boots) now has some bigger boots to fill.  She was recently named the top Sound of 2009 by BBC and may have already labeled her the ‘future of pop’.  Who’s to say if this 25 year old blond really is the ‘future of pop’ (though if Britney can make a comeback then anything is possible) but watching the one-woman act perform is at least addicting.  And for those not yet convinced she wrote a dissertation entitled “The concept of originality in the music of Jamie Cullum” (that’s enough to make me stop and listen).

Not satisfied with being another Norah Jones (or Jamie Cullum apparently), Hesketh was involved with number of different acts before coming into her own in 2008 and creating a pop sound that is a bit like a British Vanessa Carlton (with better songs) being locked in a room with Japanese DJ.  Yet the singer/songwriter who started with Joni Mitchell covers does a great job of combining catchy piano riffs with an electronica edge.

What really impresses me is how Little Boots uses the Tenori-On in live performance.  Somehow it seems like using a flashing Japanese inspired touch screen musical instrument would be tacky but Little Boots makes it classy (check out the YouTube video below).  This should silence the critics a few years ago who claimed that the Tenori-On was too much of a toy and not a real instrument … but I assume they are now all too busy playing Guitar Hero World Tour to care.    Now why can’t I find a Tenori-On on eBay?

Once

Posted: January 7, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

I’m way behind on this one but I finally saw the movie Once last night. I’ll save the amazing details that you could find more easily on the Once Wiki page. Things like the film was shot in Dublin, Ireland for a budget of $160,000, it wasn’t supposed to be a success but still made it onto many critics movies of the year lists, neither Hansard nor Irglova seem like Grammy nominee or Oscar winning caliber musicians, or the fact that an independent album release that was a soundtrack from an independent film reached #27 on the US Billboard charts … like I said, just check the Wikipedia article.

Everyone needs stories and nothing competes with simple and honest storytelling backed by simple and honest songs. I’m not sure at this point if I’m blogging on the music or the film but the best way to experience both is definitely to see the film.

I love epic films and I’m not one of those artsy types who keeps independent European films on a shelf next to a copy of The Complete Sylvia Plath. But this film inspired and touched me and many others with it’s visual and musical storytelling.

Rent it. Buy it. See this film.

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