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Friday, February 26, 2010

Postel Friday

For those of you who are justifiably disgusted with this blog’s long descent into schlock and dreck, I humbly offer my friend Danny Postel’s latest essay on Iran, this one with 20 percent more Gramsci than his 2009 essay on Iran and the future of liberalism.

Posted by Michael on 02/26 at 08:34 AM
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

All the years of useless search have finally reached an end

Wow.  It turns out that Chris Robinson was not kidding in comment 4 of the previous thread: there really is a YouTube of a CBC segment in which Margaret Atwood teaches us how to play goal.  I didn’t believe Chris at first, not because I didn’t think Atwood had it in her (remember, I’m the one who recalled Hannah Arendt’s and Kenneth Burke’s contribution to the 1969-70 Boston Bruins) but because nobody “stacks the pads” anymore in the Age of the Butterfly.  So I stand corrected.  Thanks, Chris!

Alas, I have no time to blog about last night’s epochal smackdown involving Canada and Russia (6-1 after 24 minutes? are you kidding me?), because I’m off to New York for an MLA meeting.  I do have time, however, to confirm that my people did indeed refuse to speak to Hitler’s people about a guest-posting gig on this resolutely anti-fascist blog, just as Abbas Raza suggested in this compelling version of “Downfall.”

I’ll be holed up in MLA headquarters for most of my stay, but I do plan to sneak away after dinner Friday night and head to the Loser’s Lounge, partly to check on my old bandmate David Terhune and partly to hear the magical music of the Carpenters.  It’s the would-have-been-60th-birthday-celebration of Karen’s work, you see.  I sent Dave an email warning him that I would be in the crowd, and letting him know that I hoped he would be playing teh awesomest guitar solo ever (in a song that sucks) in “Goodbye to Love.” He assured me that he would indeed, though he added that the horns would be taking part of the outro.  In response, I sent him this old post, which of course led me to revisit Steve Rubio’s original post on “Goodbye to Love,” and ...

Z.

O.

M.

G.

Would you look at that comment thread?

The post opens with, “OK, this is a silly thing to write about, because the audience of 12 that I have for this blog has pretty much all heard the story.” It is dated September 22, 2003, back when an audience of 12 would have made Steve’s the 83rd most influential blog on the planet, and nobody responds until one Henrietta R. Hippo (if that is her real name) posts two comments on February 25, 2004.

I originally linked to the post because of Steve’s eloquent closing encomium:

The lyrics were bad enough:

Loneliness and empty days will be my only friend
From this day love is forgotten
I’ll go on as best I can

But then Tony Peluso steps in, with a short solo in mid-song, and then a longer blast to close out the record. And if it wasn’t for those two solos, I wouldn’t even know who Tony Peluso was, but off he goes, with Hal Blaine pounding beneath him ... and the only crime is that there wasn’t a place for Tony on the recent Rolling Stone list of the 100 best guitarists of all time.

And I don’t care if the above pisses off you Carpenter fans, or if I sound like a snob, but fuckin’ A as they used to say, that solo at the end of “Goodbye to Love” is an inspiration, it suggests that anything is possible, it’s the most truly uplifting thing that ever appeared on a Carpenters record, it’s the artistic truth in opposition to the sap that was the Carpenters.

My post was dated July 1, 2005; on July 13, two more readers weighed in chez Steve.  One was someone named Sean, who wrote, “Heh, I was going to comment with this on the ‘Best Guitar Solos in Crappy Songs’ post, but this is even better, since you mentioned it.” So now the post is almost two years old, and we’re at 4 comments from three different people, two of whom may have been directed Steve’s way by this very blog.  Then there’s some more love for Tony Peluso on August 19 of that year, followed by a spray of comments in 2006, one of which is from a Cynthia Michaud who says,

Tony Peluso is my best friend. He loved Karen Carpenter—her voice and her person. So you can be a fan of both with his blessing. He is immensely proud of his work with Tacuba. It’s great that you all appreciate him so much. Check out Antonio Carmona and Natalia LaFourcade.

The next, dated March 3, 2007, is from a Brian Richardson; it opens with

I was in the music dept at Long Beach State when Karen and Richard Carpenter were students there.

On March 22, Steve Richards weighs in to say,

Tony Peluso learned to play guitar by listening to Nokie Edwards, the lead guitarist of The Ventures.... The riff at the end of The Carpenters song Mr. Postman is played by Tony Peluso and is definitely a Nokie Edwards riff.

On August 13, Lucinda Filpi writes,

I knew Tony’s mom most all of my childhood. She gave me singing lessons on Saturday afternoons after she taught catechism class, when I was about twelve or so. I never remember meeting Tony, although I had seen him from a distance on occasion at church.

Then Jimmy Iovine, or someone plausibly claiming to be Mr. Iovine, appears on October 3, with a comment on the Hal Blaine love that had accumulated to that point:

Though Hal Blaine was the Carpenters primary studio drummer, Karen actually played the drums on numerous album tracks. She was also the drummer on some of their most successful hits such as “Yesterday Once More”, “Please Mister Postman”, “Ticket To Ride”, and “Sing”. Buddy Rich recognized Karen as one of his favorite drummers, and Hal Blaine himself praised Karen for her technique and overall ability as a drummer.

And here’s John Gebhart on November 16:

My family and I are blessed to have Tony Peluso as a friend. His remarkable musical talent is surpassed only by the immensity of his heart. And I’m sure I won’t live long enough to meet anyone with a more hyperactive sense of humor (I write with a huge grin).

His solo on Goodbye to Love is remarkable for any number of reasons. A distorted ‘58 335 on a Carpenters record? No way! It took amazing insight to even try it and it was executed with a master’s touch. Perhaps the overarching thing that made it work, no matter how hard he pushed the envelope that day, and he did push, was that Tony didn’t play the instrument, he played the song.

OK, so by this point two years ago, someone can show up and say,

This page is the first hit if you search for Tony Peluso on Google. Congrats to the blogger!

Followed by Spike Stewart on April 14, 2008:

I knew Tony when we where both enrolled at “Blessed Sacrament” grade school across the street from Sunset Sound. I later worked with him at C.P.MacGregor Recording Studios after his house-band gig with ‘The Abstracts’ expired at Bill Gazzari’s on the strip. Unfortunately I’ve misplaced the album long ago, but would love to have another copy sometime. I hope he is doing well and would like to know how David Dinino, Pierre Vigiant, Roland Baston and company are faring.

And in November 2008:

As we speak, Tony is in Houston to attend the Latin Grammys. Here’s hoping he’ll be a winner for his work with Cafe Tacuba! Go Tony!

Also, May 2009:

I know Richard! We talk online all of the time, so be careful of what you say! What the hell are you talking about? Who are you to say anything about the Carpenters.

And the most recent comment is dated November 6, 2009.

So let’s sum this up, shall we?  Steve Rubio posts a whimsical little something in September 2003 that he thinks will be silly and superfluous, because his readers consist of twelve people who have already heard his “Goodbye to Love” bit.  The post then generates forty-nine comments over the next six years, spread out randomly and unevenly as people famous and unfamous show up to look for Tony Peluso, Hal Blaine, friends of Richard Carpenter, David Dinino, Pierre Vigiant, Roland Baston and company.  The whole thing starts off unassumingly and gradually builds into what is clearly teh awesomest longue-durée thread to be found anywhere in the domain of the Internets, surpassing even those meta-meta-threads that are more metareferential than metareferentiality itself

In other words, Steve Rubio somehow wrote a tribute to “Goodbye to Love” that not only becomes the Tony Peluso Virtual Public Square but replicates in its very structure the totally unexpected WTFitude and head-asploding, medium- and genre-transforming brilliance that is Tony Peluso’s solo.  For this, and for this alone, Steve Rubio’s “Tony Peluso” post and the ensuing thread is officially the best Internet Thing ever.

Take it away:

Posted by Michael on 02/25 at 09:48 AM
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Monday, February 22, 2010

Do you believe in unlikelihoods?

Nominations are open today for the 3 Quarks Daily Prize in Arts and Literature.  Here’s how this works:

After the nominating period is over, there will be a round of voting by our readers which will narrow down the entries to the top twenty semi-finalists. After this period, we will take these top twenty voted-for nominees, and the four main daily editors of 3 Quarks Daily (Abbas Raza, Robin Varghese, Morgan Meis, and Azra Raza) will select six finalists from these, plus they may also add up to three wildcard entries of their own choosing. The three winners will be chosen from these by former U.S. Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky, who, we are extremely pleased, has agreed to be the final judge.

The nominating process will end on 11:59 pm this Sunday, February 28, so if you want to nominate a post, you have to do it this week, folks.  You don’t have to nominate one of mine (each person is allowed only one nomination), though of course I’d be honored if you do.  The post must have been written after February 21, 2009, which eliminates all my fine posts from the summer of 2005, and they must be under 4000 words, which eliminates all my other posts.  Personally, I’d recommend this one.

No, wait, that’s not right.  Maybe this one.  I don’t know.  The truth is that when I went through the archives for the past year I found the whole thing kind of depressing.  There’s a little verve here and a little snark there, and of course a series of profound and deeply unsettling debates on His Dark Materials, cultural studies, and teabagging.  (Yes, that was all in one post—and what a post it was!) And, of course, the thing that makes this blog worth the trouble: lots of fun banter with readers in the comments.  But the writing itself, meh.  I’ve seen better. 

Still, the 3 Quarks Daily Prize in Arts and Literature looks like a fun thing, regardless of whether this humble blog is weighed in its scales and found wanting.  So head on over and nominate a blog post you really like.

And now to last night’s game.  Let’s turn things over to the Associated Press:

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Americans didn’t believe in miracles. They just believed.

And they pulled off the biggest Olympic hockey upset since the Miracle on Ice, stunning Canada 5-3 on Sunday to advance to the quarterfinals of an already mixed-up tournament.

Brian Rafalski scored two goals, Ryan Miller held off a flurry of shots and the Americans quieted a raucous, pro-Canada crowd that came to cheer its dream team, only to see it upstaged by a bunch of unproven kids.

One day short of the 30th anniversary of the country’s greatest hockey victory – the unfathomable win over the Soviet Union in Lake Placid – these underrated Americans were faster, more disciplined and more determined than Canada’s collection of all-stars.

Better, too.

Um, no.  Also, no, and furthermore, and in conclusion, nuh-uh.  First, Richard and MCA in this LGM thread have it right: comparing a prelim round game in which a bunch of talented NHL players beat a bunch of somewhat-more-talented NHL players to a climactic medal-round game in which a bunch of talented college kids beat the wizened superstars of the Soviet Union is just silliness distilled.  That’s understandable, given the level of hockey illiteracy in the media; no one expects the AP guy (Alan Robinson) to do a detailed comparison of this game to the Czech run of ‘98 or Belarus-Sweden in ‘02.  But the second “no” is worse:  these “underrated” Americans were not faster than Team Canada.  On the contrary, the Canadians blew their doors off for five, ten minutes at a time, flying through the neutral zone and/or playing keepaway in the attacking zone.  You don’t need to know any hockey history to understand this; you simply have to have watched the game.  The shots-on-goal stat does not lie, and I mean this not only about last night’s game (45-22) but as a comment on the stat in general: I have never seen a lopsided SOG total that did not correspond to a lopsided game.  And it wasn’t just Miller outplaying Brodeur, although that certainly did happen: it was also the Crosby line (I love the fact that Crosby plays with Nash—if only we had a great player named Stills) and Heatley and Toews and Getzlaf and Thornton doing very much what they wanted whenever they wanted to.  Except, you know, scoring.

So let’s be clear: the US was outskated and outplayed.  But that doesn’t mean Canada deserved to win.

As I mentioned in comments last night, whenever you take three consecutive stupid penalties, you deserve to pay for it.  You might even deserve to lose!  The first two were especially awful, coming in the offensive zone and committed by high-skill players: Eric Staal somehow thinking no one would notice if he tried to climb over a defender, and Crosby failing to control his stick around the net.  The third was a stick-breaking slash from Corey Perry, and the US took that 4-2 lead on the ensuing power play.  At that point, I suggested to my viewing companions that we were looking at a 5-3 game, in which Canada makes it close in the final minutes but gives up an empty-net goal.  (Before that point, I firmly believed the Canadians were coming back to win the thing.) So much for the suspense in that house!  But I didn’t predict the part where, after closing to 4-3, Canada owns the puck for ninety seconds in the USA zone while five exhausted Americans are chased around on defense.  That shift was just utterly intense, and well worth the price of admission—but I have a question.  Well, it’s more of a comment.  If I’m Mike Babcock, I pull Brodeur right there.  I don’t wait for the final minute.  I’m running the Americans ragged and they can’t get off the ice; they’re not going to take a long shot at the empty net because they won’t be able to change lines if they miss and the puck goes for icing; and I want to extend this shift forever, because it is a well-known Hockey Fact that no one ever gets tired when the puck is in the other team’s end and you’re peppering their goaltender with shots from everywhere, whereas players get extra extra tired when they’re stuck in their own zone racing from the boards to the faceoff dots and back and then diving to block shots every so often.  Instead, the Canadians had themselves one great shift from the 2:30 mark to the 1:00 mark, and after the US cleared the zone and got the faceoff, the Canadians never really came close again.

And then there is the great Brodeur Question.  It’s interesting to see that someone in the LGM thread brought up this controversial blog, about which I’ve been meaning to write for a very long time.  Suffice it to say, for now, that I don’t think Brodeur is a fraud.  Yes, he has played his entire career with a team that features a stellar defensive system, and he is not the Best Goaltender Ever.  He is not quite in the league of Roy, Hasek, Esposito, or Plante.  But shutouts are not flukes: playing on a solid team (and the Devils have been solid for a very long time now) will help you get that wins record, but the shutout is largely up to you.  I remember being in the Garden in 1970 when the ancient Terry Sawchuk beat the Penguins 6-0: not an impressive win by any measure, but even at the age of eight, I knew enough to think, “dang, I just saw a record that will never be broken—103 career shutouts.” So I give Brodeur his due.  But the second goal was entirely his fault, and anytime you’re stopping 18 of 22 in a big game, you’re just not playing well enough.  (I hesitate to blame goalies for shots that go in off deflections, like Rafalski’s opening stunner off Crosby.  But on that goal and Langenbrunner’s, Brodeur could plausibly have squared up better; his position as Langenbrunner’s went in was downright awkward.) The man is 37, after all, and as Scott says, “the game won’t comfort any Canada rooter who (like me) was concerned about the team dipping into its nostalgia file.” Niedermayer must have turned over the puck half a dozen times alone; in fact, it was when Zach Parise outhustled and outdug him in the corner that the USA gained control of the puck and got it to Rafalski for that first goal.

So my verdict is that Canada is in moderate-to-severe trouble, and that Babcock should start Luongo tomorrow against Germany.  And I don’t like their chances against those crazy Russians.

Update:  According to spyder in comment 36, Luongo it is.

Posted by Michael on 02/22 at 06:14 PM
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Friday, February 19, 2010

AFF Friday

I was absent the day Sarah Palin was elected World Spokesperson for People with Down Syndrome, so I’ll just turn things over to Andrea Fay Friedman.

Posted by Michael on 02/19 at 10:14 AM
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Evan Bayh lashes out at Congress, gridlock

Washington, DC—In a sign that political paralysis in Congress is taking a toll on its own members, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) on Monday unexpectedly announced he would not run for reelection this year, blasting the Senate for its recent failure to address major issues like reducing unemployment and the federal deficit.

“After all these years, my passion for service to my fellow citizens is undiminished, but my desire to do so in Congress has waned,” said Bayh, whose decision to step down was all the more surprising because he appeared almost certain to be reelected to a third term in November even though he represents a predominantly Republican state.

“There is too much partisanship and not enough progress—too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem-solving,” Bayh said in a statement. “Even at a time of enormous challenge, the people’s business is not being done.”

“Two weeks ago, the Senate voted down a bipartisan commission to deal with one of the greatest threats facing our nation: our exploding deficits and debt. The measure would have passed, but seven members who had endorsed the idea instead voted ‘no’ for short-term political reasons,” he said.

“Just last week, a major piece of legislation to create jobs—the public’s top priority—fell apart amid complaints from both the left and right. All of this and much more has led me to believe that there are better ways to serve my fellow citizens, my beloved state and our nation than continued service in Congress.”

Bayh blamed “so-called centrist Democrats” for enabling Republican obstructionism, claiming that they were exploiting Senate filibuster rules to extract concessions that capitulate to capricious Republican demands and water down White House initiatives.  “A handful of ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats in both chambers did all they could to blunt Obama’s agenda, block meaningful health care reform, and reinforce the image of the Democrats as a party unable to govern,” Bayh said.  “The Republicans couldn’t have done it all by themselves—they needed the help of a key group of Democrats who were willing to repeat their talking points and serve as all-purpose concern trolls.  Some of them did it for personal gain, some for sheer pettiness, but it doesn’t matter what their motives were.  What matters is that they have effectively sealed the Democrats’ fate for the foreseeable future.”

Bayh refused to name specific members of Congress in the statement, but a senior aide said privately that Bayh was “especially furious” at Senate Democrats who pose publicly as “deficit hawks” but vote repeatedly to lower tax rates on the very rich.  “Evan wants those people out of the Senate altogether,” said the aide, “and he wants them out now.”

Posted by Michael on 02/16 at 11:39 AM
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Monday, February 15, 2010

Guns and puppies

I keep forgetting to note that State College, Pennsylvania is now the official world capital of basset hound blogging.  Congratulations to TBogg and Mrs. TBogg and their lovely family!  Sorry about the snow.  But you’re all welcome back anytime.

Over at the Timber that Cannot be Straightened, we’re having a nice pleasant discussion about bringing guns to faculty meetings.  I managed to work a District 9 link into the update about Instapundit, but I don’t suppose anyone is going to get it.

Posted by Michael on 02/15 at 05:34 PM
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