Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

To follow up on DougJ’s generational musings last night let me share a story with you. A few years ago I was worrying over my figure and when I expressed concern to my wife she said, “Chubby? No. You’re not chubby. I mean, you wouldn’t call Bing Crosby chubby, would you?” I still puzzle over this.  Not too long after that we were listening to something or other by Crosby and my wife was telling me  about this soporific’s profound popularity. It was seriously like Beatlemania. Sarah observed that Crosby was emblematic of the war generation. Play some Bing and you’re right there spiritually.

For the boomers when you play “Paint it Black” I fully expect to see helicopters flying over the jungle. “Magic Carpet Ride” will always be accompanied by hippies cavorting naked in some sylvan setting.

“But what music is emblematic of your generation?” she asked. What will be the documentarian’s shorthand for Generation Xers? My first impulse was to say The Pixies but she rejected that as being too artsy and underground. She’s probably right. They are not universally known. I thought about it some more and concluded, for better or worse, it’s probably U2. Or maybe Run DMC? Michael Jackson?

What do you think? What about you in-betweeners who are too old for MTV but too young for the Beatles. Is it disco? And if there are any millenniums out there (this is what may dad calls millennials) what is the one song or band that will be the shorthand for your period?

And after you’ve sorted that out, go ahead and see if you can dig a little deeper for the fund that’s split between all eventual Democratic nominees in House districts currently held by Republicans.

Goal Thermometer

Cruel to be Kine

This post was overtaken by fast moving Mueller events earlier today so I’m reposting it now.

Don’t ever let some snooty keyboard player tell you that they invented the Theme and Variations. It was us, the fretboard players! I have a theory why we did so; the particular technical demands of the instrument require lots of practice to get a piece of music under one’s fingers. Guitarists can be trained to sight-read fluently, but in general we don’t. We hole up in our bedrooms or studios or dining room tables and hammer away at something for weeks or months or even years. So, the stuff we learn carves a deep groove. Plus we want to get value for our effort, so we come up with ways to spin stuff out another sixteen bars or times through the verse. Variation comes naturally to us. Even intermediate players feel the call to improvise and compose. Learning guitar music is quite a solitary pursuit, too. There’s no conductor beating time and telling us we’re done with our part, no other musicians to yield to. We can just go on and on if the fancy takes us.  That’s my theory, anyway.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I am working up a set of stuff suitable for background music for happy hours and the like. I’ve decided that it will take the shape of a walk through music history. Partially for aesthetic purposes and also for practical ones. My repertoire is spread pretty evenly from the Renaissance up to the 20th century. I tell you this to illustrate how a a swell idea blossoms into an arduous task, an untenable ordeal, and finally a high-minded failure. But it keeps me off the pavement.

The vihuelaist (the vihuela is a cousin of the guitar) Luis de Narvaez  set of “differencias” or variations was the first ever published. This is his Guardame las Vacas which is in a slightly different in character. It is a set of variations based not on a theme but a ground. That is, a set of chords that repeats over and over. If you listen closely you can hear the harmony I play repeats while what goes over the top becomes increasingly more elaborate. Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” is a bit like that, for reference. If you listen to his guitar part you will find rather than strumming some set pattern he varies it with almost every iteration. Did he know he was partaking of a centuries old guitar tradition? Very likely, I think!

Still a little rough (I just started it in earnest a few weeks ago), but coming around nicely. I’m like the only classical player I know who doesn’t know this one already. Shameful. Just one of those odd lacunas in one’s education.

I think both Luis de Narvaez and Jimi Hendrix would recognize a tip jar when they see it. And this is mine. It is the fund that’s split between all eventual
Democratic nominees in House districts currently held by Republicans.

Goal Thermometer

He Never Ever Learned To Read Or Write So Well

I am working up a set of some fingerpicking stuff suitable for happy hours and the like and remembered this song. I was pretty obsessed with the guitar part when I discovered it about ten years ago. When I searched for how to play it on the internet, all I could find was a lot of arguing about the tuning and speculation that it was done on two tracks. Maybe someone had done the legwork now and I can find out how it’s done. For likers of Richard Thompson, especially recommended:

This chiming, percussive style is all over his works but Nic Jones got into a bad car accident a couple of years after recording this, effectively ending his career. No doubt the NHS helped Nic to get back on his feet and live his life out richly and with dignity. Your equivalent American musician would be shit outta luck.

So if we’re going to change that we’ve got to move some dems into the House. With that, here is the fund that’s split between all eventual Democratic nominees in House districts currently held by Republicans.

Goal Thermometer

Bonus! “Cisco! Are you ready to watch the beautiful show basenjis  at Westminster?”

I know that I must do what’s right As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become

A Battle of Eight Armies: Syria Update

Events have begun to spin out of control in Syria. Last week the Israelis lost an IAF F-16I Fighting Falcon. Though both the pilots were able to safely eject and survived. They came down in Israeli controlled territoryThe Israelis, of course, responded to the downing of their F-16 with a large scale reprisal. This included shooting down an Iranian drone – based on the US drone the Iranians downed in 2011. So we can now confirm that actually happened.

While this Israeli Vs Iranian in support of Syria and backed by Russia engagement was happening, the Syrian/Iranian/Russian coalition stepped up their attacks on Idlib and Ghouta.

The Turks lost a rotary wing (helicopter) craft last week as well. It was shot down by the US allied Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) near Afrin. Two Turkish Soldiers were killed.

Syrian Arab Armed Forces also conducted an attack against the US allied Kurds, which prompted a response from the US led coalition – Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF OIR):

US Special Operations Forces (SOF) are currently stationed in Manbij in a train, advise, and assist mission to the YPG.

It has been reported that anywhere between 100 (the official-ish number) and 600 Russian contractors fighting in Syria were killed in the US Coalition strikes last week.

While LTG Funk, Commander 1st Corps US Army and Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve talked about deconfliction and deescalation in the CNN clip above, he has a battlespace that is becoming more and more complex by the day. There are a lot of moving pieces in his operating environment (OE): Kurdish militia forces being supported by US SOF, the Syrian Arab Army and Air Force, Russian contractors, Iran’s Qud’s Force, Hezbullah’s military wing in support of Syria and Iran, the Turkish military, and Israel. And don’t forget ISIS. They may have lost almost all of the territory they seized to form their caliphate, but they are by no means finished. That is a lot of deconfliction and deescalation!

Moreover, while all of this is going on, and the US is being sucked deeper into the mess that is the Syrian Civil War, Russia continues to expand its interests in the region. In November it struck a deal with Egypt for basing Russian Air Force planes. Just last week the Russians and the Sudanese (that’s the northern, Republic of Sudan of the Sudans) came to an agreement for Russian military support to train and modernize the Sudanese Army.

Finally, it is unclear what the official US response will be. While the US led coalition is sticking with its Kurdish allies in Syria, it is unclear what decision will be made in DC by the National Command Authority. The President’s predilection for Russian President Vladimir Putin has kept the new, Congressionally mandated sanctions from being imposedAnd it appears that the decision to get rid of the Interagency produced, properly put together list of Russians to be named and shamed was made by a senior administration official, which lead to the rush job copy and paste from Forbes that was released.

A “name-and-shame” list of Russian oligarchs who made their money corruptly from their ties with Vladimir Putin was compiled by the US government agencies but then cancelled last week by a senior administration official, according to a Russia expert who was consulted on the list.

It was replaced by an all-inclusive list of rich Russians apparently copied straight from the Forbes magazine’s ranking of wealthy Russians, together with the names of some top Kremlin officials.

While the President has been very solicitous of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan even as Erdogan drags Turkey farther and farther into autocracy, he also warned the Turks against escalating against the US led coalition in Syria. The Turks have disputed the US account of this conversation.

U.S. President Donald Trump urged Turkey on Wednesday to curtail its military operation in Syria and warned it not to bring U.S. and Turkish forces into conflict, but a Turkish source said a White House readout did not accurately reflect the conversation.

“He urged Turkey to deescalate, limit its military actions, and avoid civilian casualties,” a White House statement said. “He urged Turkey to exercise caution and to avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces.”

However, a Turkish source said the White House statement did not accurately reflect the content of their phone call.

“President Trump did not share any ‘concerns about escalating violence’ with regard to the ongoing military operation in Afrin,” the source said, referring to one comment in the White House summary of their conversation.

 “The two leaders’ discussion of Operation Olive Branch was limited to an exchange of views,” the source said.
Right now there are a lot of moving pieces in Syria. All of them are rubbing against each other in a confined (battle) space. And the alliances don’t really line up with how the President seems to see the world. He’s favorably inclined to Putin and Erdogan. Yet the former is allied with the Syrians, Iranians, and Hezbullah and the latter’s actions have the potential to pit NATO allies against each other. Since there is no clearly delineated US policy, or rather policy change, to what the US is trying to achieve in the Syrian part of the Levantine theater from the past administration to the current one, it is unclear what the President really wants to do. How deep he wants the US and the US led coalition involved in the Syrian Civil War. And just what end state he envisions as a result of the US’s actions in this highly complex theater of operations.

Stay frosty!

Open thread!

All Calendars Are in the Mail

Even for the checks I received this morning.

Well the Girls Would Turn the Color of the Avocado

Since I am here at the sufferance of DougJ, I thought I would look in on one of his old friends. Fairly or unfairly, I’ve always felt like anyone who identifies as a libertarian past the age of fifteen occupies a space somewhere on the spectrum between sociopath and asshole. I don’t know if anyone even takes them seriously anymore. Anyway, our favorite gastroenteritis sufferer has just turned forty-five, gained wisdom, and is comin’ Moses-like down from the mountain to share it via a little something she likes to call…

After 45 Birthdays, Here Are ’12 Rules for Life’


1. Be kind. Mean is easy; kind is hard.

Is it? Does being mean really come so easily to you? Huh. I’ve always found that people respond quite positively to kindness and cooperation. Maybe you are some kind of asshole?

2. …If you have to choose between politics and a friendship, choose the friendship every time. 

This second one is really about you being an asshole again, isn’t it?

3. If you can’t afford to order that one extra dish, then the restaurant is too expensive for your budget and you should find a cheaper one.

I guess there is a market for this kind of patronizing “financial advice,” because I see it elsewhere. It’s super irritating.

 4. Give yourself permission to be bad.

I give you permission to be good. At anything. (A cheap shot, I know. I gave myself permission.)

5. Go to the party even when you don’t want to. Nine times in 10, you’ll be bored and go home early. But the 10th time, you will have a worthy experience or meet an interesting person. That more than redeems those other wasted hours. 

Hey, everyone who invited Megan to a party or talked to her at one? Only a 10% chance you weren’t wasting her time.

6. Save 25 percent of your income. No, don’t tell me how expensive your city is; I have spent basically my whole life in New York and Washington, DC. You can save if you want to…

So galling. It’s okay to never know poverty, never sniff economic hardship, to live out your life assured of your next meal and a roof over your head. I think everyone should get to live this way. But let me drop a little asymmetric info on you: Not everybody does. If you are so uncontaminated by curiosity you cannot imagine what kind of choices people who are bobbing along with their snouts just above water have to make, why should you have an economics column?

7. …Here’s a funny thing I have learned by being just a little bit internet famous: it doesn’t matter how many times you hear them, the words “You are amazing, and here’s why” never get old. They do not go out of style. You will be wearing them to your 80th birthday party, along with a dazzling smile.  

Am I the only one who suspects that Megan thinks 2 x 45 = 80?

8. That thing you kinda want to do someday? Do it now. I mean, literally, pause reading this column, pick up the phone, and book that skydiving session. RIGHT NOW. I’ll wait. Pixels are patient. 

Can’t, dog. My dreams cost money and I’m hanging onto that 25% of my income. Remember?

9. Somewhere around that same eighth-grade mark where we all experimented with being mean...

We did? I seem to recall experimenting with weed and getting into Pink Floyd. What is it with you and the meanness?

10. Don’t try to resolve fundamental conflicts with your spouse or roommates.

Interpersonal conflicts are something I expect you have a lot of experience with, seeing as though meanness is your default setting. Since you brought it up, I’m listening.

…You should never, ever argue with your spouse about anything that could be solved with a proper application of money or ingenuity.

 Oh, my pots of conflict-resolving money. Right.

11. Be grateful. 
“Gratitude is an alien concept to me. Let me explain it to you as though you don’t understand it either.” This is in there:

Many billionaires, however, squander most of their fortune on bitter recriminations about how unfair everything is. Many of them are right, and it really is unfair.

Since this is Bloomberg, they are editorially bound to say that the rich are right about something somewhere in every column. It’s just policy, folks.

12. …

is just some cutesy-poo foodie shit.

So what can be done about people who both lack basic empathy for others and a set of principles that guide them toward decency and mercy? I’m not sure. In the public sphere, though, it means electing folks from the party that makes an effort to help. And so I bring to you fund that’s split between all eventual
Democratic nominees in House districts currently held by Republicans.

Goal Thermometer

I Saw Her Standing There

Last year, the fruit of many long labors was borne for my wife, and she was awarded a Princeton fellowship to further her scholarly work. By pure coincidence, or so she claims, Paul McCartney was playing in New Jersey the same September week that she had arranged to be there. She’d seen two shows from McCartney’s 2016–17 tour with her father over the past year, and both were almost identical in content. Nonetheless, a week or two before her departure to Princeton, she confessed in an offhanded way that she had gotten tickets to see Macca a third time at one of his two Prudential Center shows in Newark.

“Oh?” I said.

Yes, she’d purchased a twenty-third row ticket, then paid a nominal $5 fee to upgrade to an eighth-row, center-stage ticket which would really put her in the thick of things.

We don’t have one of those marriages where we must obtain permission to spend our discretionary funds, so I was like, hey, if you want to blow your money on the same Paul McCartney concert all over the US, knock yourself out. That’s a level of fandom to which I can only bear witness, despite being a huge Beatles fan and general Paul partisan. She might deny it, but in addition to being a scholar of early modern women’s reading, my wife comes close to having a doctorate in Beatleology too, so encyclopedic is her store of Fab Four knowledge. She’s my go-to for Beatles info—and I’m supposedly the musician in the family. I want to say she, in her early thirties, is The Last Beatlemaniac, though time will tell.

Anyway, the day of the concert arrives, and Sarah hops on a train to Newark after toiling mightily at the Firestone Library all day. I’m at work that night receiving a steady commentary on her journey upstate and then the concert itself. She sends pictures and short videos. She’s super close! She could almost reach out and poke Paul.

During the encore, a truly amazing thing happens: he seems to make eye contact with her and does a little waltz step, referencing the sign she’s been holding up. Sign? Yes, she’s made a different sign for each of the concerts she’s attended. This one says: BALLROOM DANCE WITH A VEGETARIAN LIBRARIAN?

Wow! Acknowledged by a Beatle. Pretty good. Worth the effort.  I don’t hear from her for awhile then I get some garbled, semaphoric texts that I can’t make heads or tails of.

Then at 10 p.m. Eastern time, she texts me. “You’re never going to believe it.”

And then …

Here I thought that Sarah was going to see the same concert and over when really she was working on her sign game. Third time’s the charm!

But you say you want a revolution? Well, you know, that’s a bit of a tall order. But you could contribute to the fund that’s split between all eventual Democratic nominees in House districts currently held by Republicans.

Goal Thermometer