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October 2006
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December 2006

Seeking After Foolthy Lucre


Inspired by the mercenary go get 'em entrepreneurial example of the likes of big-time weblogger and Economist correspondent Megan McArdle, I have created my very own little corner shop, or "aStore," at and stocked it with goodies -- books and CDs  mostly -- that I recommend to anyone who might be interested.  Some are items I have written about here, others I will write about, and still others are hearty perennials.  The shop provides a perfect spot in which to curl up in a comfy chair and carry on your holiday shopping, or perhaps pick up a little something for yourself. 

I have named my little electronic pushcart

and it is accessible through that overstuffed link or through the link in the left sidebar, just above the "Recent Posts" section. 

Should you browse around there and make a purchase, or if you click through the link at the bottom of each page to reach the main Amazon site and make a purchase after having passed through TFT, I receive a small stipend from Jeff Bezos & Company.  Purchases of Amazon Gift Certificates count, too.

Your custom is always appreciated and as a customer you are always right.  May I help you out to your car with that?  No, no: it is I who thank you.

Incidental Intelligence:

  • One of the recordings I placed on TFT's virtual shelves is the self-titled CD by the Chicago band Hummingbiird.  Imagine my pleasure and surprise when I discovered that the "Editorial Reviews" section on that Amazon page -- the section that usually draws from the work of actual critics and respectable journals -- includes an excerpt from this January 2006 post.

Eyeful of Gazza, or, The Magpie Redeemed

Such is the poisonous brilliance of the use of music in Stanley Kubrick's film version of A Clockwork Orange that it is often difficult after seeing the film even once to separate those musical selections from "a bit of the old ultraviolence."  Beethoven's Ninth Symphony suffers in this regard on screen as it does in the novel, and "Singin' in the Rain" has never been quite the same since accompanying the late night "surprise visit" of Alex and his droogies.  But perhaps no composer takes more of a beating, so to speak, than poor ol' Gioacchino Rossini, whose opera overtures are twice used by Kubrick to accompany deplorable antisocial behavior: The overture to Guillaume Tell, already shackled for all time to The Lone Ranger, accompanies the absurd high-speed multi-participant sex scene that singlehandedly earns the film its original MPAA rating of "X", while the lovely, crinkly frontispiece to La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) accompanies a full-on brawl in an abandoned casino, with yet another unclad young woman as the point of contention.

Now, the good citizens at the Sony corporation have provided an antidote for the last of these examples, using the Magpie overture as accompaniment to the latest advertisement for their Bravia flat screen television.  Bravia ads tend to go happily viral once unleashed on the internet: this new one follows on the heels of the Jose Gonzalez/Bouncing Balls ad to which I pointed late last year, and features the high intensity paint bombardment of a Glaswegian housing block.  A clown is also implicated.  Here is a YouTube version:

While it makes videos of this sort easy to embed, YouTube's low fidelity does not begin to do the thing justice.  Fortunately for those with the time and the bandwidth, Sony has made high, higher and highest quality Quicktime versions available for streaming or download here, accompanied by a behind-the-scenes short, a game, and sundry other gewgaws and gimcracks including, yes, a link to the aforementioned Bouncing Balls.

These Bravia spots are the latest in a long line of advertisements for color televisions -- Texas Instruments' peculiar ads with the little girl and the elephant work similarly -- that use stunning sights to impress the viewer with the capabilities of the advertiser's set.  (Am I showing my age?  Does anyone call it a "television set" any more?)  Media eons ago, when television was making the transition from black and white to color, it made sense to emphasize that mucky muddy black and white visuals looked bad because they were actually meant to be viewed in color, so that one could take it on faith that the upgrade to a color set would produce a vast improvement.  That logic no longer holds: the technical skills that are brought to bear in these commercials assure that the sights will look Really Good on the set (or computer monitor) on which the viewer is already watching them, so they don't really serve to persuade the viewer that those same sights would look So Much Better if only one were watching them on a Sony Bravia or a Texas Instruments DLP or whatever.  Whether these spots actually sell televisions is a mystery to me.  They do make for a nice distraction, though, and this one may wash memories of A Clockwork Orange right out of your Rossini-drenched and paint-bespattered head.

To Viktor Frahnkensteen Go the Spoils

Fans of Mel Brooks, detractors of Rupert Murdoch, and seekers after truth (or true killers) will find common ground on the Futurballa Blog as Rick unleashes his Photoshop skills to produce the unholy marriage of a joke from Young Frankenstein to a low point in contemporary media judgment.



Riding upon the success of his stage musical adaptation of The Producers, Mel Brooks is now at work on a similar proscenial transmigration of Young Frankenstein.  Details reported here and here.  The most intriguing casting choice is for the role of -- hold your horses -- Frau Blücher, memorably essayed on film by Cloris Leachman.  On stage, the role is set to be played by . . . Cloris Leachman.

A St. Cecilia Thanksgiving


It has become an annual Thanksgiving tradition on this weblog  -- see prior instances here (2005) and here (2004) -- to post a version of Fairport Convention's "Now Be Thankful."  Today, November 22, is also Saint Cecilia's Day, so the inclusion of music in our holiday observance is especially timely. 

This year, courtesy of The YouTube  -- get it while it lasts, and be thankful -- I offer up a video version of the tune, taken from an outdoor Fairport Convention appearance at Maidstone, Kent, in 1970.  Sandy Denny had departed the band at this point, and Richard Thompson was about to do the same.  Thompson's little grin at the conclusion of this performance is particularly lovely.*

As for another of my annual Traditions, the space following this paragraph will soon be occupied by here is a photograph of the President of the United States pardoning this year's turkey.  No Karl Rove jokes, please:


The White House provides the text of the President's Remarks at the Pardoning.  There is video of the blessed event to be had as well.

Following the presidential precedent of last year, the Nation's Turkeys will be packed off to Disneyland following their pardon, there to appear as Grand Marshals of the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade and to serve out their natural lives under Mouse arrest.  It is to be hoped that the Disneyland birds will be spared the fate of "Clyde," last year's official Pardoned Turkey of the State of Alabama, whose fate it was to be eaten by a wily coyote.

Speaking of clever predators, the presidential turkey pardon turns out to be the subject of a book by Magnus Fiskesjö, a Swedish anthropologist.  A sample observation: 

The Thanksgiving turkey pardon is a prime example of an act that is only seemingly innocuous but actually serves to shape our modern consciousness.  Masquerading as a joke, it is really a symbolic pardoning act which, through public performance, establishes and manifests the sovereign’s position at the helm of the state by highlighting, as an attribute of his position, his power to control matters of life and death.  Alas, the etymological coincidence of the words ‘executive’ and ‘execution.’

Alas, indeed.  Meanwhile, Jack Kelly of American Heritage magazine ladles out heaping platefuls of turkey lore, including the disputed origins of the annual Pardon and this:

Sarah Josepha Hale, among the first American women to write a novel (she also composed 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'), began to campaign for an official Thanksgiving holiday in 1846.  There were only two national holidays at the time, Washington’s Birthday and Independence Day.  Many states adopted the autumn celebration before Lincoln proclaimed it for the entire country during the Civil War. Hale, who had not previously connected Thanksgiving to the Plymouth settlement, mentioned in 1865 that 'the Pilgrim Fathers incorporated a yearly Thanksgiving day among the moral influences they sent to the New World.'  It was not true, but, Smith notes, 'textbooks were retelling the tale of the first Thanksgiving dinner by 1870.'  The myth of that original feasting ritual became established and was embellished by Victorian novelists, who attributed elaborate menus to the struggling Pilgrims.

The President having hurried home from Asia just in time to bestow the Nation's pardon on this fine fowl, it is appropriate to consider the Thanksgiving challenges faced by our fellow citizens in far away places.  Samia Mounts, an American in Seoul, explains the holiday for Korean readers and reports:

Many Americans live in Seoul, and Thanksgiving can be a challenging holiday for them.  They find it a challenge to find a turkey to roast, because the markets in Seoul do not carry turkey.  However, if one is creative, one can overcome any culinary obstacle.  A large chicken can substitute for a turkey, and almost all the other Thanksgiving trimmings are available here in Seoul.

Ms. Mount provides an intriguing recipe for Ginger Peanut Stuffing, which is sure to give your large chicken real global flair.

  • Given that characters nicknamed "Turkey" and "Ginger Nut" both appear in Melville's tale of "Bartleby, the Scrivener," one might rename this dish "Herman Melville Dressing."

Or one might prefer not to.

And on those eclectic and festive notes, here's wishing to each of you a bountiful, healthful, mellifluous and Happy Thanksgiving.


*  Apropos of St. Cecilia and the art of which she is patroness, this fool enthusiastically endorses Richard Thompson's 2003 recording, 1000 Years of Popular Music, which covers exactly that: from "Sumer is icumen in" to "Oops, I Did it Again" by way of Henry V, a memento mori ("Remember O Thou Man), mining protest songs ("Blackleg Miner"), Gilbert & Sullivan ("There is Beauty in the Bellow of the Blast"), Cole Porter ("Night & Day") and the Easybeats ("Friday on My Mind").   Now available in a deluxe edition with accompanying DVD (which I have not seen myself).

Illustration for Dryden's "Ode to Saint Cecilia" from The Illustrated London Reading Book, by Various Authors (Third Edition, 1851).

You Won't Be Elected Governor, Charlie Brown

Vote2_1Vote today, please, if you have not done so already. To inspire you, we offer an election day anecdote.

At New West Notes, the intrepid Bill Bradley has already identified this year's winner of the "Saddest Spot in California" Award:

NO BALLOON DROP. Trailing California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides canceled the balloon drop last week for his victory party [tonight] at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento.  Angelides will be joined at his election night party by Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, the party's trailing candidate for state insurance commissioner.  Bustamante, the Democrats' replacement nominee for governor in the 2003 California recall campaign, was buried in a landslide that year by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I'm not sure which makes me feel sorrier for poor sad sack Phil Angelides: no balloons or the prospect of an evening with Cruz Bustamante.  As for Bill Bradley, he announces he'll be providing video coverage of the Schwarzenegger party in Beverly Hills.

Cal: O, Youth!

Let's drink a toast as each of us recalls
Ivy-covered professors in ivy-covered halls . . . .

        -- Tom Lehrer, "Bright College Days"

Oski Scheduled to be out of town for depositions in San Francisco yesterday, I took the excuse to run north early for a Sunday afternoon with my old school chum Rick Coencas.  We revisited, for the first time in decades, our haunts in and around our beloved University of California, Berkeley.    (Albeit I am no particular follower of college football, I cannot but boast that at this moment Cal towers undefeated in conference play, #1 in the Pac-10 Standings and, glory be, #8 in the BCSGo Bears!)

Having no time to prepare a report of my own, I refer you to Rick's version, which comes complete with loverley photos and a title drawn from a poor joke that I made while we ambled through a fog of reminiscence toward Sather Gate.