You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘the nostalgic ramblings of an old man’ category.

The latest round of Ron Paul excitement reminds me of this blog’s long and rich relationship with the mad doctor. Herewith a holiday selection of oldies.



It wasn’t two years ago, or on Thanksgiving, but this song is a Thansgiving song, so it makes sense to re-post it on Thanksgiving … anyway. Happy Thanksgiving, all.

I was looking for a personal assistant and baggage handler on recently, and while chatting up the young men I heard many reasons why Gordon Brown is headed for a bad election result– reasons that aren’t prominent in recent conversations between Yglesias, DeLong, and Krugman. Seven rock-hard reasons had my hustlers:

(a) incumbency fatigue — Labour have been in since 1997;
(b) scandal — the Labour MPs were revealed to have been cashing in on expenses for items that really, they shouldn’t have been charging to expenses;
(c) populist rage — bank bailouts to a much greater degree than here (purchase of Northern Rock) accompanied by big fat bonuses to banking executives;
(d) the Iraq war — the British think it’s much more obviously illegal than we do;
(e) the encroachment of surveillance culture under New Labour onto the life of the average Briton to an unprecedented degree;
(f) the, what the hell, this is Labour? factor — b, c, d, and e aren’t the kind of thing you want from your party of the people;
(g) Brown himself — an uncharismatic, grumpy Scot who — remember this, because Yglesias, DeLong and Krugman don’t — was never actually ratified in the premiership by a general election! This is not all that uncommon, but it’s not a sign of strength, either, and lots of people wanted him to call an election well before this to gain some legitimacy.

Interesting thoughts, and I thought I’d pass them along. Off to the steamroom!

The Smiths’ second album released 25 years ago on Valentine’s Day. Some reflections from younger musicians here. And here’s Rusholme Ruffians.

I think the album holds up pretty well. There’s lots of good playing and the lyrics are twee but funny enough to age all right. “Scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen– this means you really love me.” Verdict: nothing to be ashamed of!

(Would that were true of all the music I was rocking out to at the time; Martin Gore, I’m looking at you. Warning: may cause seizures.)

(Image by Flickr user northcascadesnationalpark, used under Creative Commons license.)

Gary Snyder has written a lot of rewarding poetry over the years. But for me no single poem has been as coherent and satisfying as the first piece in his first collection:

Read the rest of this entry »

In the 12/18/2009 NB column in the TLS, we find the following presumably real-live riff on “Humiliation”:

In 2003, Sebastian D. G. Knowles looked at himself in the mirror: he was the author of a study of James Joyce; he was Professor of English at Ohio State University (specializing in Joyce). He had attended dozens of Joyce conferences. But he had never read Finnegans Wake. “Worse, I had never even tried to”, Professor Knowles writes in the current James Joyce Quarterly. Guilt-ridden, he decided to confess his failing in a song to be sung at the after-dinner entertainment at a Joyce conference in Miami:
Read the rest of this entry »

Kevin Drum says he’s adopting Sir Rex Richard Mottram’s extended conjugation as his personal mantra:

We’re all f*cked. I’m f*cked. You’re f*cked. The whole department is f*cked. It’s the biggest cock-up ever. We’re all completely f*cked.

Which reminds me of what I believe Walter LaFeber said was Brooks Adams’s shaving song: the phrase “God-damn” repeated to the melody of the Westminster chimes. I mean, it probably is too much to ask that one’s fatalism be cheerful, but musical seems a reasonable request.

One of the best New York things I ever did, during the time I lived there, was to go see Bobby Short one cold night at the Café Carlyle. It was impressive how Bobby Short could make you love a nothing song like this one. Or maybe Cole Porter could write a nothing song that was somehow easy to love.

Anyway for some reason I like to hear that kind of music this time of year. Since we previously featured a Cole Porter tune roundly denounced as derivative, here’s the Muppets performing the tune from which, we are told, that one is derived.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "cole", posted with vodpod

Happy new year. If you like, throw a link to your favorite Cole Porter or other tinpantithetical tune into the comments.

Back when I was in grad school, lots of people were buzzing about Foucault.* But the really hip kids were deep into Walter Benjamin. And being hip**, I hopped on the bandwagon and never jumped off. Benjamin’s work has become especially important for me recently, as I’ve tried to finish my book on the politics of memory surrounding the Sand Creek massacre. Which is all just a long way of pointing out that Terry Eagleton’s study of Benjamin has been re-released (though maybe not in the States). Regardless, it’s worth a read. And now, having said all of that, I find myself wondering: which theorists are the kewl kidz*** reading these days?

* Yes, I’m that old. And also washed-up, but that’s a story for another day.

** Well, not really. But some of my best friends were Europeanists.

*** I know, I know, historians can never really be kewl kidz. Except for Marc Bloch, bitchez, who was kewler than Elvis and Beeker combined.

Of other people’s career arcs, you mean? Well, yes, occasionally I am. Look, I’m not proud of my covetous nature, particularly not with the Day of Atonement fast approaching (note to self: get right with God). But there it is. And this interview with Jill Lepore didn’t exactly make me feel better. An endowed chair at Harvard, a published novelist, a staff writer for the New Yorker, sigh, it is to want.

Anyway, the interview is interesting. And you should read it. But the part that caught my eye was where Lepore talks about why she became a historian. Oddly enough, someone asked me that question over the weekend. Usually the issue doesn’t come up, because when people ask me what I do for a living, I say that I’m a teacher. Or a shepherd*. Anyway, before my older boy’s soccer game on Saturday, one of the other parents wanted to know why I became a historian. And I totally fumbled the answer, pointing to various teachers**; an untold number of childhood Shabbat dinners, during which my grandparents screamed**** at each other about their experiences during World War II; and my rather extraordinary success at National History Day*****. Thinking more deeply about it, I think the answer is probably some combination of those things. Regardless, I need a stock reply that I can get out in 30 seconds or less. And you? Why are you in this line of work?

* A guy can dream, right?
** Thanks Dr. Newby, Mrs. Stout, and Professor Sewell.***
*** This list is not exhaustive.
**** Always with love. Seriously, my grandfather insisted, ’til his dying day, that he and my grandmother never had an argument. They simply had loud discussions.
***** Ask me! Oh please, ask me!

Via Ralph.

This is officially an award-winning blog

HNN, Best group blog: "Witty and insightful, the Edge of the American West puts the group in group blog, with frequent contributions from an irreverent band.... Always entertaining, often enlightening, the blog features snazzy visuals—graphs, photos, videos—and zippy writing...."