Monthly Archives: July 2011

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Stuck In a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of

A few days ago U2 (or at least Bono and L’Edge) performed their song “Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” at their tour stop in Minneapolis, and dedicated it that night to a woman named Amy—a soulful and stylish singer who wasn’t around long enough to scratch the surface of what she might do.

I’m dedicating this particular posting of the tune to Hideki Irabu, a former major league pitcher in America (born in Japan), who died yesterday at the age of 42. When he was a New York Yankee, he didn’t perform at the level many expected, but as a fan I always liked him for the fact that he had wanted above all to be a Yankee.

U2 have written quite a few songs that are kind-of modern day spirituals in one way or another; it’s obviously a mark that they try to hit. I don’t think they’ve ever hit it more squarely than with “Stuck In a Moment.”

And if the night runs over
And if the day won’t last
And if your way should falter
Along the stony pass
It’s just a moment
This too shall pass

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Breivik: Neither Jesus nor Robert Spencer inspired his bloodlust

It is something which adds bitter insult to grievous injury, when a brutal killer is rewarded after the fact of his crimes by having his twisted personal manifesto widely publicized and analyzed, before the eulogies for the victims have even been heard. Often when it happens the killer himself is dead, but not so in the case of Anders Behring Breivik, who will apparently have the opportunity to enjoy his notoriety for many years to come, since Norway does not practice capital punishment (and in theory he may be released after 21 years in prison). Inevitably his 1518 pages of writing, titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence,” will be pored over in an attempt to explain his demonic acts.

Since I already wrote something two days ago regarding the common description of Breivik in the media as a “fundamentalist Christian,” a follow-up on that point based on his writings seems called for, at least in my own mind. There’s no possibility of my reading his entire opus, but I thought a quick probe of his “Christianity” might be possible by simply doing a word search for the name Jesus. Unsurprisingly, the references I found this way betrayed no particular faith and even less any sensitivity to Christian teaching. He seems to stitch in cold references to Christianity merely as part of his process of documenting whatever it is he thinks he is documenting. On page 1307, he explicitly states that he has no “personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God” but instead believes in Christianity “as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform.” I speculate that he may find that this position leaves something to be desired when he meets his Maker. But I know of no kind of “fundamentalist Christian” (a term which in itself is poorly used far more than it is ever accurately used) who would say such a soulless thing. Continue reading Breivik: Neither Jesus nor Robert Spencer inspired his bloodlust

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Evil in Norway (and a Christian Killer?)

It’s impossible to humanly comprehend the carnage that was wrought in Norway yesterday. With a population of less than 5 million, the murder of more than 90 people on a single day is even worse for that society than it would be in the United States, and it would be horrific enough here, or anywhere. Continue reading Evil in Norway (and a Christian Killer?)

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Bob Dylan: the welder of gates – and more from Paul Simon press conference

Paul Simon talked to the press yesterday in Tel Aviv, Israel, in advance of a concert tonight in Ramat Gan stadium. There is what appears to be a gently-edited twenty-minute clip available on YouTube (and embedded below the text here). It’s a pretty low-key, friendly chat, but interesting enough if you—like me—admire Simon a lot as a songwriter and musician. Simon talks about himself as a secular Jew and refers to his puzzlement at being sometimes expected to opine on behalf of Jews in general, especially with regard to Israeli/Palestinian issues. (Simon deliberately avoids commenting specifically on any political issues; of-course as soon as his gig in Tel Aviv was announced he would have begun coming under pressure to cancel it from those who advocate “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” against Israel. Clearly he did not cancel it.) Simon talks about the music on his current album and about playing live, and about how he’s taken to preserving the quality of his singing voice through a somewhat ascetic regimen by avoiding smoking, alcohol, coffee and more. (You would have to say that it seems to be working: he turns 70 this year, and still sounds like he did when he was 22.) Continue reading Bob Dylan: the welder of gates – and more from Paul Simon press conference

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Tony Bennett Sings the Rodgers and Hart Songbook

Tony Bennett Sings the Rodgers and Hart SongbookTony Bennett isn’t very well known for whispering. He’s a big singer—not in the sense that he over sings, but he certainly is known for the power to belt it out above muscular backing bands, and through his career he’s done plenty of that, and to good effect. And even in the plethora of latter day albums he made with the Ralph Sharon Trio, there’s a sense of grandeur to the backing that belies the actual simplicity of piano, bass and drums, and Tony often sings on those albums as if in front of a big orchestra. And that’s something in itself. But for true flat-out intimacy, there’s nothing he’s ever done that exceeds the Rodgers and Hart Songbook..

In 1973, Bennett saw trumpeter Ruby Braff and guitarist George Barnes leading a quartet in New York, with Wayne Wright on another guitar and John Giuffrida on bass. He sat in with them live, it went well, and one thing led to another. They went into the studio and over the course of a few days recorded twenty songs by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Continue reading Tony Bennett Sings the Rodgers and Hart Songbook

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Chihuahua Chases armed robbers from California Store

Dog newsThe Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office has released surveillance video apparently taken during the robbery of a smoke shop in Altadena, California. The 21 second clip (below) shows two masked intruders, one carrying a bag and the other a rifle, running into the smoke shop and loudly demanding “Give me your money.” While the bag is on the counter a Chihuahua runs out barking madly, making one robber back up quickly to the exit in obvious fright, pulling the one with the rifle in front of him as if for protection. The rifle is momentarily pointed at the unfazed pooch. The bag is grabbed again—presumably with some loot in it—and the robbers escape, but the flustered criminals are pursued valiantly down the street by the clearly apoplectic Chihuahua. Continue reading Chihuahua Chases armed robbers from California Store

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Mistaken and Dangerous: David Brooks on “Death and Budgets”

David Brooks on death and budgetsIn a recent New York Times op-ed titled “Death and Budgets,” columnist David Brooks points to the example of a writer named Dudley Clendinen to illustrate what Brooks apparently feels is the correct way to face death, especially from that which we call terminal illness. Dudley Clendinen is sixty-six years-old, and has a diagnosis of A.L.S. (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He wrote a piece himself for the Times called “The Good Short Life” in which he explains his decision to forgo a variety of treatments that could keep him alive for some additional years, albeit in a progressively more disabled state. Essentially he says that he is plumping to let the disease take its course, and he thinks it likely that he will die from aspirational pneumonia some time in the next several months (although he is not opposed to giving himself a shove into death by some other means if he deems it necessary).

David Brooks moves quickly to presenting Clendinen’s story as a valuable “backdrop to the current budget mess.” Health care costs being such a big part of it, he argues, wouldn’t it be great if everyone had the same attitude to death as Dudley Clendinen? Our society would save so much money by not having to provide great quantities of medical care to the elderly and terminally ill, when all it does is provide them with a few more years of living—and diminished living at that. His argument is really just that simple. Continue reading Mistaken and Dangerous: David Brooks on “Death and Budgets”

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Dog Falls 150 Feet Off Cliff; Breaks Tooth

Dog newsWell, so goes the story from UPI, although it doesn’t really sell me on the full 150 feet part. Of-course, anything is possible.

A woman named Gwen Hall was walking her 5 year-old Bernese mountain dog, called Sasha, in Washington State’s Olympic Mountains. The dog “took off after a mountain goat” and in the process at some point ran right off a cliff. The owner failed to find the dog, but later six volunteers from an organization called Olympic Mountain Rescue succeeded in both finding and rescuing her. Sasha is reported only to have an injured paw and that broken tooth. Continue reading Dog Falls 150 Feet Off Cliff; Breaks Tooth

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Libya: No risks of additional escalation

At his press conference the other day, President Barack Obama said of the war in Libya that “there’s no risks of additional escalation. This operation is limited in time and in scope.” That is, the kinetic military action begun over three months ago that was originally supposed to last “days, not weeks.” Continue reading Libya: No risks of additional escalation