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Baby, Won't You Come On Back With Me
to My Swingin' Legal Pad?

Via the New York Times by way of Idolator, it's:

This ostensibly scholarly article by Alex B. Long, formerly of the Oklahoma City University School of Law, now of the University of Tennessee, examines at length -- well, exactly what the subtitle says it examines at length.  It includes a completely unscientific chart purporting to demonstrate that Bob Dylan is the most quoted songwriter in legal opinions and scholarship.  It also includes, at footnote 198, the only manifestation I have yet seen in a law review article of the idiomatic expression, "Buwah ha ha."

In this anecdote early in the piece, Justice Alito meets The Boss:

Aside from aiding a writer in the quest to communicate about a particular issue, the use of popular music may also humanize an individual in the eyes of others.  During the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings, for example, the news media enthusiastically reported that the conservative Alito was a fan of Bruce Springsteen.  Not willing to cede his blue collar bona fides to the likes of Republican appointee Alito, Senator Richard Durbin took things a step further by using a line from an interview with Springsteen against Alito:

They once asked [Springsteen]: How do you come up with the songs that you write and the characters that are in them?  And he said, I have a familiarity with the crushing hand of fate.  It's a great line. I want to ask you about the crushing hand of fate in several of your decisions.

The article concludes with an unexpected discussion of The Undertones' "Teenage Kicks."  "'Teenage Kicks'," observes the professor, "has universality and verisimilitude to burn, but it’s unlikely anyone is ever going to use it to advance any sort of argument in legal writing.  [Footnote 273: Other than me, I mean.]" 

Since Everybody Who Is Anybody -- blogospheric worthies the like of Harry at Crooked Timber and Ed. at Blawg Review -- has been linking to performances of the The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain over these past 48 hours, I will jump at this opening go there as well.  Ladies and gentlemen, the UOGB's rendition of the aforementioned "Teenage Kicks":

This is pretty good stuff, but it is as nothing compared to the Orchestra's brilliant rendition of David Bowie's "Life on Mars?" -- a song that goes uncited by Prof. Long, notwithstanding the lyric that advises us to "take a look at those law men beating up the wrong guy."

Drive-In Saturday:
Joe's Rose [Amour Fou en Bleu]

Joseph Cornell is best known for his boxes and collages, but he also dabbled in film.  This is his first, Rose Hobart.

Having stumbled on a 16mm print of the 1931 "exotic" action romance East of Borneo, Cornell whittled away three quarters of the picture, leaving behind little but the shots that included the female lead, the aforementioned, titular Rose Hobart.  Cornell shuffled the remaining bits, slowed some it down, stripped the soundtrack, and projected the result through a blue filter to an accompaniment of live cocktail music.  The result was something like this:

[Downloadable .avi version available at UBUWEB.]

A story goes with it, per Ed Halter in the Village Voice:

Cornell's best-known film is his first, Rose Hobart (1936).  Editing down a raggedy scrap-heap print of the 1931 jungle melodrama East of Borneo into 19 time-jumbled minutes, Cornell concentrates on the ethereal expressions of actress Hobart and set-piece moments that gain new surrealist power: crocodile-herding by natives, an eclipse, a volcano revealed behind a theatrical curtain, monkeys gamboling.  When the movie premiered at one of Cornell's 'film soirees' at the Julien Levy Gallery, attendee Salvador Dalí flew into a rage and had to be restrained by his wife, Gala.  Later, Dalí said he'd already thought of inventing the found-footage film, but Cornell beat him to the punch.

For an alternative version of the anecdote, see Brian Frye.

More Joseph Cornell film:

More of Rose Hobart:

Its Secret Hidden in a House of Ominous Mystery! 
"Everything points to you, even the cat! The cat knows!"

Catch a Waveform and You're Sitting on Top of the World

There are posts that get started but that slide into a state of anomie and incompleteness.  They sit round their blogospheric waiting room, waiting, until their author stumbles upon them again, asks brusquely what exactly they think they are doing cluttering up the joint in this fashion, and tosses them unceremoniously out into the twilight. 

This is such a post. 

Most of its content was compiled almost precisely one year ago, and has been loitering about ever since, tossing the occasional recriminating glance in my direction.  I refuse to bend to the conventional wisdom and peer pressure that would impose arbitrary and outmoded notions such as "timeliness" and "relevance" and "being remotely interesting to anyone but myself" as standards, so here we go.  These are the mostly music-related items that were catching my eye this time last year:

This version compares well with the original.

Lovely to discover via the plainly visible logo in that video, that quality Theremins are manufactured by MOOG, itself the great original popularizer of electronic analog synthesis.  The Moog Theremin is not to be confused with the rare and exotic Uma Theremin.

  • Via Said the Gramophone, Michael Barthel's exhaustive, insightful and highly amusing analysis of Leonard Cohen's  "Hallelujah" and exactly how the song -- especially in its Jeff Buckley incarnation, which itself is really a cover version of John Cale's cover version of Cohen's original -- became such an inescapable shorthand for melancholy sincerity.  Filmmakers are in this, as in so many things, the root cause of all our sorrows:

The first significant use of the song in a soundtrack was, somewhat logically, Cale's version in Basquiat (1996), followed by, totally illogically, Cale again in Shrek (2001).  While it seems clear that the gradual revision of the song is what made it appealing as a soundtrack device, it's also possible that when directors saw that the song was so potent, it could impart gravitas on a cartoon Ogre voiced by Mike Myers, [they realized as well that] it could make even the shallowest character seem tragic.

* * *

What's fascinating about all this is not simply the song's ubiquity on TV dramas--it's that it's used in the exact same way every time.  Songs can be used sincerely, ironically, as background shading, as subtle comment, as product placement.  But "Hallelujah" always appears as people are being sad, quietly sitting and staring into space or ostentatiously crying, and always as a way of tying together the sadness of different characters in different places.  In short, it's always used as part of a "sad montage."

There are useful charts, a video demonstration of the aforementioned "sad montage," and a delightful reimagining of the song as a sort of call-and-response beach blanket rhumba.

  • Oh joy!  The Oxford American's annual Music Issue is was out [this time last summer], sporting a fine spooky cover photo of fine spooky Thelonius Monk.  Among the sample articles [still] available online:

This concludes today's rummaging though the lumber room.  Thank you.  Drive safely.  No, wait, I nearly forgot!  This just in:

im in ur yootoob, playing ur theremin

More Songs About Birding and Floods

Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.

-- T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, "Burnt Norton"


Otherwise interesting people* -- presidential candidates of world historical importance, for instance -- often prove to have disappointingly pedestrian tastes in music.  On the other hand, musicians who have the good fortune to be interesting people* in their non-musical lives frequently make equally interesting music.  One such certainly is Jonathan Meiburg, leader of the band Shearwater, who when not writing, singing, recording, performing, etc., is a seriously well qualified ornithologist.

Birds, with much of the rest of the ancient and natural world, feature throughout Meiburg's work, from his band's seabird-derived name to song titles (e.g., "Fierce Little Lark") and album titles such as that of the freshly released Rook.

Musically, Rook picks up where the last Shearwater record, Palo Santo, left off.  I liked Palo Santo very much indeed back in 2006, but Rook is bidding fair to become an even bigger favorite.  Lyrically, Meiburg's songs remain steeped in the non-human parts of the natural world, but not in a sticky-sentimental way.  Perhaps I am only seeing this because I posted about him over the weekend, but there is something of William Blake running through many Shearwater songs: mankind as being in the world but not quite of it.  (Matador Records has posted the complete Rook lyrics [PDF, with sea monsters].)

Prior to the album's release, two officially sanctioned tracks were circulating fairly widely, including this vision of a planet suddenly and spontaneously unfeathered:

On those same lines, Jonathan Meiburg's thoughts on the idea of the end of the world feature prominently in a Dallas Observer interview published today:

'I think the end of the world is mostly a fantasy that people have indulged in as a way of relief from what's actually going on, which is endless change without much of a beginning and without much of an end.  I think people long for an eschaton, some dramatic event that will end everything.  I don't think that's in fact what's gonna happen; I think things are just gonna keep changing.  And the record is, in some ways, a way of trying to address that and acknowledge that and, just for me, kind of come to terms with it.  Especially having worked on these studies in these really out-of-the-way places and seeing little brief glimpses of the world as it was before we were everywhere, eating everything.  And that world is almost gone, and it's gonna continue to disappear.'



Also available: Five streaming selections from a mid-May Shearwater performance on the University of Minnesota's Radio K.  Of particular note is the song identified as "South Col," but which is not "South Col" (an instrumental) at all.  The song is actually "North Col," which otherwise appears only as a bonus track on the vinyl edition of Rook. The band's Radio K set also includes a fine performance of "The Snow Leopard," which with its perpetually-circling piano chord sequence is my current "first among equals" of Rook's songs.

Illustration: "Windswept rook" by Flickr! user foxypar4, used under Creative Commons license.

This post's title reference is explained, for all you young people, here.


*  No, I really can't use the phrase "interesting people" without immediately and reflexively thinking of this and this.  It's a generational thing, I think.

Drive-In Saturday:
Feed the Kitty

This is something a summer repeat, because I already highlighted it two years ago: "Tyger," conceived and directed by Brazilian filmmaker Guilherme Marcondes.  Inspired by William Blake, puppetized, percussed, animated, and urbanized, to impressive effect:



  • More information on the film and its making, as well as large and lovely downloadable Quicktime versions, can be had from the official TYGER website. 
  • The pulsing, pounding, growling musical score is by ZEROUM -- paulistanos under the influence of High Krautrock (Faust, Neu, Magma, Can, etc.) -- and can be downloaded on its own via that link to the ensemble's MySpace page.  Or, heck! you might as well just get it here:

And here is William Blake's own vision of his tyger:


The Expo Has Landed
(Zaragoza the Neighborhood)

Sombras y Curvas (Interior de la Torre del Agua en Expo Zaragoza 2008)

In a rambling, shambling post this past December, I declared my fondness for World's Fairs and international expositions, ending with a preview of Expo 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain.*   The exposition opened officially this past weekend -- it will run from June 14 to September 14 -- so it is time for a quick revisitation, a random walk through Exponential topics:

Expo 2008, emphasizing a theme of "water and sustainable development," has suffered construction delays and been obliged to cancel or modify some events along the riverfront because of -- O! the irony -- excessive rain and flooding.  Although open less than a week, the event is already producing rumors (reliable or not, I cannot say) of disappointing attendance and unhappy workers.

Marcus Fairs of Dezeen has posted a sumptuous portfolio of photos of the combination Expo pavilion/pedestrian bridge designed by the Pritzker-winning Zaha Hadid.  (Link via  The bridge looks very much as though it had just come to rest after buzzing around the quadrant in a Star Trek episode (although not nearly to the extent displayed in Hadid's designs for the proposed Guggenheim Hermitage Museum, Vilnius).  Here is a photo by a Zaragoza resident of the structure as it appeared on June 12:

Zaha Hadid's Bridge Pavilion, spanning the River Ebro at Zaragoza Expo 2008

Visitors' photos from the scene are rapidly accumulating under the Flickr! tag, "expozaragoza2008", including this one (rights reserved hence not reproduced here) showing off the Trekkiness of the bridge to good advantage.

As for other Expo structures, Gizmodo reports (with grainy video) on the Digital Water Pavilion, a structure whose "walls" are made of water droplet generated by some "3,000 digitally controlled solenoid valves," that can be stopped and started to create doors, windows and decorative patterns.  (More details are in an earlier Gizmodo posting, here.)

ExpoMuseum has a broad collection of information and links on the exposition, as well as on its predecessors back to 1851.  (ExpoMuseum creator Urso Chappell now has a blog devoted to international expositional matters, and is en route to attend the Zaragoza Expo later this week.)


Illustrations: "Sombras y Curvas" and "Pabellón Puente" by Flickr! user Zaragozano, used under Creative Commons license.

* And remember, that December post also includes Bob Dylan's Expo-inspired remake of "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall."  The original pre-Expo site touting the Dylan tune seems to have been shuttered, but the MP3 remains available right there, at a fool in the forest.

Sparkling Distractions

A random collection of links and remarks that have been piling up in recent days, weeks, months:

  • It seems like only yesterday that Cyd Charisse was dancing on these pages, and now comes word of her passing at age 87.  By way of tribute, Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News offers a comprehensive collection of YouTube exemplars of Ms. Charisse's terpsichorean artistry.  His choice of Brigadoon as all-time favorite would not be mine, but is entirely defensible.
  • Sir William Hamilton is best known as the cuckolded husband in the romance of Emma Hamilton and Lord Nelson, but he was also The Volcano Lover referenced in the title of Susan Sontag's (excellent) novel.  The Volcanism Blog has an appreciation of Sir William's thoroughgoing fascination with all things Vesuvian: 

(Via Alan Sullivan.)  Previously, of related interest, but not involving volcanos:

  • I have been entirely willing to overlook it, given the beauty and charm of the site and the high fascination value of the objects in question, but Lee Rosenbaum is right: the theming and many (not all) of the supporting labels at the Getty Villa really ought to aspire to a higher lowest common denominator than they do.  (In the Getty's defense, the available audio commentary on much of the collection is generally better than the display labels.)
  • Pound_kitaj Louis Menand in the New Yorker gives a good precis of what was right and wrong (and deeply dreadful) about Ezra Pound.  He also does a good job of capturing what still appeals to me about the High Modern moment at the start of the last century, before the 1914-1918 War distorted and disfigured it beyond recognition and the 1939-1945 War did it in altogether.

[Hugh] Kenner’s title was deliberately ironic: the point of 'The Pound Era' is that a Pound era never happened.  The hopes of the pre-war avant-garde, the artistic excitement of the years between 1908 and 1914, when the modernist movement spread throughout Europe, died in the trenches and the camps. 'Dreams clash and are shattered': two wars of annihilation destroyed the aspirations of poets and painters to be the authors of an earthly paradise

Via former Reasonite Tim Cavanaugh at Opinion L.A.  See also my previous mumblings on Kenner and Pound here.

  • If anyone cares, I am of a mind that the U.S. Supreme Court's recent Boumediene decision, acknowledging the potential habeas corpus rights of Guantanamo detainees, is pretty plainly correct.  This places me in the company of wild-eyed leftists the like of Barack Obama and ... George  Will.  (Link via Tim Lynch.) 


Finally, speaking from personal and ongoing experience, this list by Matthew Baldwin is remarkably accurate:

(Via The Morning News.)

California will ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, effective July 1.  Not good enough: use of the pestilent contraptions should also be prohibited while walking

In fact, I would propose the wholesale reintroduction in this country of the fully-enclosed Telephone Booth, with this difference: instead of containing pay phones, the Booths would be empty.  The Booths would also be declared by law to be the only places, outside of one's home or private office, that cell phone use would be permitted.  There would be no Telephone Booths in public restrooms.

This is an idea whose time will surely come, and you will all thank me for it.


Ezra Pound by R. B. Kitaj, via Second Evening Art
"Phone booth near Death Valley 431-5--Oct 1981" by Flickr! user km6xo, used under Creative Commons license.

Happy Bleepin' Bloomsday


As noted by weblogs around the globe, today is Bloomsday, the annual commemoration of that very particular day in Dublin -- the 16th of June, 1904 -- depicted in such inner and outer detail in James Joyce's Ulysses.  Among those observances is a very fine Ulysses-themed edition of Blawg Review hosted by Dr. Eoin O'Dell, of the School of Law, Trinity College Dublin, at

Ulysses had no legitimate U.S. edition until 1934, the book having been seized and prosecuted for obscenity at the instigation of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, among others, and only vindicated on those charges in 1933.  It is still notorious for its naughty bits and, while certifiably not obscene, still troubles regulatory authorities and those that are regulated by them.  To that effect, see George Hunka's report at Superfluities Redux that for the first time since 1981 there will be no radio simulcast of New York City's annual "Bloomsday on Broadway" event, because the station involved is concerned that Joyce's words may draw the wrath of the FCC and such-like officious intermeddlers.   

On a very much lighter note, you may follow the link below to view an amusing short film -- containing rather more profanity (by far) than I am inclined to embed directly on this page -- in which James Joyce and his sometime secretary Samuel Beckett are found on the golf course . . . waiting . . .


Illustration: Postcard, ca. 1904, from the splendid Joyce Images site, "dedicated to illustrating Ulysses using period documents," curated by Aida Yared.

Paper Puppets in Purgatorio Prequel!

D:    I was totally expecting to see demons, and bondage stuff . . .
V:    This is Hell, Dante, not your personal fantasy . . . .

Via LAist, I learn of what sounds like an interesting exhibition running through August 9 at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, "The Puppet Show."  The Museum provides this description:

International in scope, the exhibition brings together works by 28 contemporary artists who explore the imagery of puppets in sculpture, film, video, time-based media, animation, and 2D work. . . .

The Puppet Show
takes as its historic point of departure a great work of European avant-garde art history: Alfred Jarry’s 1896 play Ubu Roi, which was originally conceived as a puppet show.  The despotic King, who strode on stage roaring the French scatological word 'merdre,' is the perfect source for all puppet allegories of grotesque government and acts of puppet transgression.  More recently, puppets have taken hold of popular consciousness.  They show up on stage, on television, in film, and even online, where assuming a fake identity to garner public opinion is called 'sock-puppeting.'  Seen in correspondence with these pop culture images, the works in The Puppet Show advance the question: why do puppets matter now?

The Museum's listing of exhibition-related events led me to the real find of the day: a new film adaptation of Dante's Inferno, which will be shown on July 19.  The filmmakers describe it thus:

DANTE’S INFERNO has been kicking around the cultural playground for over 700 years.  But it has never before been interpreted with exquisitely hand-drawn paper puppets, brought to life using purely hand-made special effects.  Until now.  Rediscover this literary classic, retold in a kind of apocalyptic graphic novel meets Victorian-era toy theater.  Dante’s Hell is brought to lurid 3-dimensional, high-definition life in a darkly comedic travelogue of the underworld — set against an all-too-familiar urban backdrop of used car lots, gated communities, strip malls, and the U.S. Capitol.  And populated with a contemporary cast of reprobates, including famous — and infamous — politicians, presidents, popes, pimps.  And the Prince of Darkness himself.

The film, directed by Sean Meredith, is based on the contemporizing adaptation of the Inferno created by California painter Sandow Birk in collaboration with Marcus Sanders -- the two actually tackled entire Divine Comedy -- with Dermot Mulroney voicing Dante and James Cromwell (Farmer Hoggett!  Inventor of the warp drive!) as Virgil.  Here is the trailer, which concludes with the bit of dialogue at the top of this post:

Did you spot Paulo and Francesca? 

Superior quality smallish and largish QuickTime versions of the trailer are available at the film's Official SiteDante's Inferno is scheduled for a DVD release on August 26.

When last we encountered Dante Alighieri at the cinema, he was traveling through the underworld in the first-ever (vintage 1911) feature-length Italian film, freshly restored with a new score by Tangerine Dream.  I hadn't yet mastered the gentle art of YouTube embedding back in 2005, so here is a belated repeat of the lengthy trailer for that rather more traditional version: