April 30, 2010

Only in the NHL

Brooks Laich, man of honor.

To Close Confederate History Month, the Dead March from Saul

April 29, 2010

The Story of the Battle Hymn of the Republic - Orson Wells

This is fascinating - you want to reject it as gooey propaganda; it does have that hokey 70s video sheen. But cutting through, this is the song the Union Army sang in the camps. The song called - and calls- upon a great moral and national duty to end slavery, to prepare to die to for this end.

Let me end Confederate history month this way: when you hold to nostalgic whitewashing of the Confederate cause, you share not in any glory of the Confederacy, but only in its everlasting shame.

Whose Side Are You On?

Excerpted from The American Heritage New History of the Civil War, Chapter 6:

The war had a direct bearing on the United States' foreign relations and the relations that were most important were those with the two dominant powers of Europe, England and France. Each country was a monarchy, and a monarchy does not ordinarily like to see a rebellion succeed in any land. (The example may prove contagious.)  Yet the war had not progressed very far before it was clear that the ruling classes in each of these two countries sympathized strongly with the Confederacy-so strongly that with just a little prodding they might be moved to intervene and bring about Southern independence by force of arms. The South was, after all, an aristocracy, and the fact that it had a broad democratic base was easily overlooked at a distance of three thousand miles. Europe's aristocracies had never been happy about the prodigious success of the Yankee democracy.  If the nation now broke into halves, proving that democracy did not contain the stuff of survival, the rulers of Europe would be well pleased.


On October 7 [1862] the Chancellor of the Exchequer, William E. Gladstone, made a notable speech at Newcastle in which he remarked that no matter what one's opinion of slavery might be, facts had to be faced: "There is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South have made an army; they are making, it appears, a navy; and they have made what is more than either-they have made a nation." He added, "We may anticipate with certainty the success of the Southern States so far as regards their separation from the North."  [Antietam prompted a revision of this view around England.]


[After the Emancipation Proclamation] the American Civil War had become something in which no [European] government dared to intervene. The government of Britain, France, or any other nation could play power politics as it chose, as long as the war meant nothing more than a government's attempt to put down a rebellion; but no government that had to pay the least attention to the sentiment of its own people could take sides against a government which was trying to destroy slavery. The British cabinet was never asked to consider the proposition which Palmerston and Russell had been talking about, and after 1862 the chance that Great Britain would decide in favor of the Confederacy became smaller and smaller and presently vanished entirely. The Emancipation Proclamation had locked the Confederates in an anachronism which could not survive in the modern world.

A little perspective

D-Day was a pretty bad day, perhaps 3,000 Allied troops died taking that beachhead.

A couple of years later the People's Republic of China had a worse day, losing about 4,000 killed and 5,000 captured in the disastrous attack on Kuningtou.

The Confederate body count at Gettysburg (4,708) was worse than either of those days.

Never Forget

Back in the late 80's I rode my bike through the Amish Country.  A beautiful experience, and an opportunity to connect with the landscape and people more closely than one could through, say, the window of a tour bus.

Riding a bike on those roads is about as close as one can come to the experience of riding a horse on them, and the pacing is not far off either.  As I rode west, the country became more rural and I had the sense that I was going back in time.  I can still remember the warm wind and the sound of the birds, and the occasional clatter of hooves as a carriage went by.

The sense of regression became even more palpable as I came across the Wrightsville Bridge, destroyed during the Gettysburg campaign to halt the rebel advance:


I'd meant this to be a bucolic vacation, and it hadn't really registered that I was on the road to Gettysburg. After twenty more miles (and a flat tire), I was standing on the battlefield.

I hadn't known about all the monuments. The field is covered with them, marking for all time the place where soldier fell, a company fought a heroic delaying action, or a regiment was swallowed up in the fog of war.

I paused at a particularly striking one, that of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry:


I'd never heard their story, but it's there on the plaque:
On the afternoon of July 2, 1863 Sickles' Third Corps, having advanced from this line to the Emmitsburg Road, eight companies of the First Minnesota Regiment, numbering 262 men were sent to this place to support a battery upon Sickles repulse.

As his men were passing here in confused retreat, two Confederate brigades in pursuit were crossing the swale. To gain time to bring up the reserves & save this position, Gen Hancock in person ordered the eight companies to charge the rapidly advancing enemy.

The order was instantly repeated by Col Wm Colvill. And the charge as instantly made down the slope at full speed through the concentrated fire of the two brigades breaking with the bayonet the enemy's front line as it was crossing the small brook in the low ground there the remnant of the eight companies, nearly surrounded by the enemy held its entire force at bay for a considerable time & till it retired on the approach of the reserve the charge successfully accomplished its object. It saved this position & probably the battlefield. The loss of the eight companies in the charge was 215 killed & wounded. More than 83% percent. 47 men were still in line & no man missing. In self sacrificing desperate valor this charge has no parallel in any war. Among the severely wounded were Col Wm Colvill, Lt Col Chas P Adams & Maj Mark W. Downie. Among the killed Capt Joseph Periam, Capt Louis Muller & Lt Waldo Farrar. The next day the regiment participated in repelling Pickett's charge losing 17 more men killed & wounded

That's the Civil War for you. Those men bought the Union eight minutes so that Hancock could fill the gap in the line created by Sickles' incompetence. That was the full measure of their lives. It was what their mothers had (unknown to them) been raising them up for.

Lincoln spoke fine words on this field later on, but for these men to be asked to do this - to charge a superior foe with virtually no chance of survival - and for them to do it and trade their lives for that fleeting tactical objective...there really are no words that can redeem the loss or settle the account. Lincoln acknowledged as much in his speech.

Governor McConnell's proclamation suggests we specially "understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War."  After all, it's their month.  Well, I think the men of the First Minnesota deserve a moment of our time as well.  And I wonder if, 147 years on, they might not gently suggest to us that it was time to move on.

After you, Governor McConnell.

April 28, 2010

It's the concussions. Definitely the concussions.

Head injuries make Ben act funny...

Sherman to the Confederacy, Dec. 1860: "You're high."

"You people of the South don't know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it… Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth—right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail." -- William Tecumseh Sherman


This is excellent.

Can it be ending so soon?

My goodness, Confederate History Month is rushing to a close, and there is so much we haven't talked about - Jeb Stuart's comeuppance at the Battle of Brandy Station, the last Confederate General to surrender, the Irish Confederates, the Battle of Bentonville - we've barely touched on the Western Campaign...

My personal favorite there is the Battle of Missionary Ridge, in which a spontaneous and disorganized but determined Union frontal assault carried a position that even Grant had thought impregnable.  The attack was originally ordered by Grant as a diversion, but as the Union troops cleared out the rifle pits on the lower parts of the ridge, they came under fire from above and apparently decided on their own to seize the heights.


I watched their progress with intense interest. The fire along the rebel line was terrific. Cannon and musket balls filled the air: but the damage done was in small proportion to the ammunition expended. The pursuit continued until the crest was reached, and soon our men were seen climbing over the Confederate barriers at different points in front of both Sheridan’s and Wood’s divisions. The retreat of the enemy along most of his line was precipitate and the panic so great that Bragg and his officers lost all control over their men. Many were captured, and thousands threw away their arms in their flight.

It was a beautiful moment for the Union. It exorcised the demons of Fredericksburg and showed that  Union troops could fight as aggressively and effectively as the rebels.  It secured Chattanooga and made possible the campaign against the deep south, and ultimately the capture of Atlanta in time for the 1864 elections.

It was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.  General Braxton Bragg had Grant's Army of the Cumberland bottled-up and starving, but let them off the hook.  Bragg and his subordinates (notably Hill) were so at odds before the battle that Jefferson Davis had to come out and settle things, demoting Hill.  When the rout was over, Bragg was reassigned to various minor commands, then served as Davis's personal military advisor.

After the war Bragg ran the New Orleans waterworks and worked as a railroad inspector.

Sousa Up On This Bitch

Stars and Stripes forever: A Proven Curative for Dropsy, Rickets, Melancholia, and Excessive Relaxation.

Above, Capt. Bragg raising the Flag over Ft. Sumpter, Feb. 18, 1865

April 27, 2010

I hate Philadelphia Nazis. So does Philadelphia, apparently.

Nothing like an SS uniform to inspire a beatdown in the City of Brotherly Love.

I guess I'm too much of a civil libertarian to want to do much about all this Nazi uniform wearing, and after all, beatings were a favorite Nazi tactic, and it can't be good to imitate them.  So I can't endorse this.  But, as Sam Kinison might add, (screams at top of lungs) I UNDERSTAND IT!

I wonder if we couldn't set up some sort of a program where any person who is involved in a civil disturbance while wearing a Nazi uniform automatically gets a free informational trip to Volgograd?

Costs of the program could be defrayed by having the prison... er, detainees...I mean, exchange students (yeah, that's it) sweep streets, scrub statues, paint things, and be generally useful.  At Russia's minimum wage for foreign manual labor, they should be back stateside in just a few short years.  Hopefully with a little more robust appreciation of what that uniform means.

If the Russians are at capacity, maybe the Belgians would let us set up an educational retreat around Malmedy.

Fire on 44th Street

Woke up in New York this morning, leaving this afternoon, but had a moment to reflect on the impact of the Confederacy on 44th Street.  This is my old neighborhood from the good old analyst/tramp days of the 1990s, where anyone who could spin a story and work a spreadsheet could have a nice dinner and pay $500 for a bottle of wine sold in Napa for $50.  I miss those days.

Even in today's subdued environment, 44th Street is in pretty good shape.  The Penn Club looks fine, and the Harvard Club of course is in fine fettle.  The Algonquin is in better shape than I remember, although the lobby has the same feel as it did a decade ago.  Management seems to have given up on the idea of having an identity distinct from Dorothy Parker's, however - there is now a Dorothy Parker quote on the door of every room, and the wallpaper in the hallways is made up of New Yorker cartoons.  It works fine.

I know you were wondering - yes, the New York Yacht Club is in very good shape, and its limestone Beaux-Arts facade is a testament to the redemptive power being one of a group of enormously wealthy men:


The Club was built in 1901 as America looked forward with optimism to the new century, and the interior decor, accented by hand carved wood and gorgeous marbles pillars, outshines even the stylized exterior:


It is testimony to how far 44th Street had come since the Civil War.  It is hard to believe that just 37 years before draft rioters had wrecked the area, burning the Bull's Head Hotel to the ground and retreating only when faced with Gatling guns manned by the staff of the New York Tribune.

The Tribune was the leading Republican newspaper in the city, and a special target of the rioters who were mostly poor and therefore unable to buy their way out of conscription.  Many were Irish, and resented African Americans because of the wage pressure caused by freed slaves, and, in the bargain, for 'causing' the war in the first place.  Black men were lynched.  The Colored Orphan Asylum on Fifth Avenue was attacked, but the Police held off the mob long enough for the children to escape.

But by 1901 that was all over.  Union capital had won its war against Confederate capital, and the industrial revolution was in full swing.  It was a good time to be a rich man.

JP Morgan's Columbia, Winner of the 1899 and 1901 America's Cup


April 26, 2010

The Civil War from 30,000 Feet

I'm currently passing over Sandusky, Ohio, near Johnson's Island, where the Union had a big prison camp.  Purpose-built, prisoners were treated reasonably.  At first.  According to the Johnson's Island Preservation Society...
Prison life was severely impacted when the treatment of Union POWs in Confederate prisons such as Andersonville, Salisbury and Libbey, became known to the War Department. Rations were cut in half, and some items such as coffee, tea, and sugar were eliminated altogether. Prisoners were no longer allowed to buy food at the sutler’s store. However, they were still allowed to purchase such items as tobacco, clothing, pens, ink, and paper for letter writing. Packages from home could no longer include food and, much to the joy of the guards, items such as Virginia hams and alcoholic beverages were confiscated as contraband. However, even under these restrictions, the prisoners were eating better than many of those still fighting for the Confederacy.
Lots of interesting stuff on the website.  Of course men died at Johnson's Island, but only 200-300 out of 9,000 internees.  There is a Confederate cemetery on the site, and considerable efforts were made to preserve it from the 1880s onward.   In 1910 the United Daughters of the Confederacy dedicated a memorial statue:


As Lincoln said of the Union dead at Gettysburg, "it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this."  So, as I fly over the state to which my ancestors immigrated, and in which my father and grandfather were born, I'll take a somber moment to remember that people died for the the Confederacy, too, and that their families and communities felt their loss as sharply as did those in the North.

Grant once wrote that on Lee's surrender he was "depressed at the defeat of a foe who had fought so valiantly," but added that he thought the Confederacy "the worst cause for which anyone has ever fought."


I am totally blogging from an airplane!

April 25, 2010

What the Fawkes?

The sound of a political party (or is it a country?) committing suicide (via TPM).

What the cluck?

I don't know much about Sue Lowden, but we can be eternally grateful to her for this.

O.L.O.L. : Opera Laugh Out Loud.

OLOL. Because sometimes, you just have to laugh with bitter, theatrical irony.

April 24, 2010

Seahawks add 24 players in one day

Busy day for the Seahawks front office. Let's see if I can do this without missing one.

LenDale White, RB (6'1", 235 lbs) - acquired in trade with Tennessee Titans
Comments: 25 year old power back, played for Pete Carroll at USC. He's struggled with his weight.

Kevin Vickerson, DT (6' 5", 305 lbs) - acquired in trade with Tennessee Titans

Leon Washington, RB (5'8", 195 lbs) - acquired on trade with NY Jets
Comments: 27 year old tiny speedster. Recovering from a broken leg suffered in week 7 of last season.

Walter Thurmond, CB, Oregon (5'11", 189 lbs) - Round 4, pick 13 (111)
Comments: Recovering from a knee injury, very fast, returns kicks.

E.J. Wilson, DE, North Carolina (6'4" 286 lbs) - Round 4, pick 29 (127)

Kam Chancelor, FS, Virginia Tech (6'3" 231 lbs) - Round 5, pick 2 (133)
Comments: Carroll loves him some big safeties, it went against his grain to have picked Earl Thomas in the firs round.

Anthony McCoy, TE, USC (6'4" 259 lbs) - Round 6, pick 16 (185)
Comments: Matt Taibbi's rule #1 for the NFL Draft is, "Dope smokers are a bargain." We can thank The Chronic for delivering a 3rd round talent to the Seahawks in the 6th round.

Dexter Davis, DE, Arizona State (6'1" 244 lbs) - Round 7, pick 29 (236)
Comments: Kind of like Nick Reed, but better. (Sorry, Nick.)

Jameson Konz, WR, Kent State (6'3" 227) - Round 7, pick 38 (245)
Comment: A great athlete, but not yet a great football player.


Rob Rose, DT, Ohio State
Quintin Hancock, WR, Tennessee
Josh Pinkard, DB, USC
DeMarcus Granger, DT, Oklahoma
Jeff Byer, OG, USC
Kyle Burkhart, OT, Southern Miss
Will Harris, FS, USC
Joe Pawelek, ILB, Baylor
Jacob Phillips, OT, Belhaven
James Brindley, FS, Utah State
Marcus Brown, CB, Arkansas State
Reggie Carter, OLB, UCLA
Patrick Devenny, TE, Colorado
Kevin Dixon, ILB, Troy
Adrian Martinez, C, Colorado State


Steve Wyche at NFL.com declares Seattle the winner of the draft.


April 23, 2010

Who would've guessed?

Blippy sucks.


Seattle sports press strike Gold as Seahawks take Golden Domer Golden Tate in second round of NFL draft.

I guess you could say Golden had a good year in 2009, averaging 125 yards receiving and 1.25 touchdowns a game against actual competitive college football teams (Notre Dame went 6-6 last year). He toasted Washington for 244 and a TD. He scored two touchdowns against his new coach's Trojans (in a loss). I did the arithmetic, and if you had him in Yahoo! fantasy football, he would have averaged 21.5 points a game.


Below is a highlight reel for your enjoyment. Especially, enjoy the fact that he won't be playing for Notre Dame, anymore.


April 22, 2010

Who is Earl Thomas?

Longhorn safety Earl Thomas was expected to go in the middle of the first round, nobody predicted the Seahawks would pick him.

Born in 1989, he turns 21 next month. He played defensive back, running back, and wide receiver in high school, where he was a four sport varsity athlete. He entered the NFL draft after two years starting for Texas.

He worked as a volunteer in a Katrina rebuilding project, and plays piano in the church where his grandfather (also Earl) is pastor (disappointing my expectations for today's dreadlock-wearing youths).

A bit small for a safety at 5'10, 200+ pounds. Had a good, but not stellar, combine. Not the most solid tackler, but a real ball hawk (had eight INTs and two pick-sixes last year).

NFL Networks draft expert Mike Mayock loves him some Earl Thomas. See highlights here and here.


Honor requires that we post this

Ok, that's good too...

earl-thomas.jpg picture by DoctorX

The 30th-ranked pass defense of 2009 gets an immediate upgrade with [Earl] Thomas, a rangy center fielder who led the country with 24 pass break-ups last year when he also intercepted a Longhorns record eight passes. He steps into a secondary that recently dumped Deon Grant and will join Jordan Babineaux on the back line. And how much does Pete Carroll think of Thomas? Apparently a lot given he chose Thomas over highly regarded S Taylor Mays, who played for Carroll at USC. - USA Today

Ok, that was smart

Russell_Okung1.jpg picture by DoctorX

Seattle Seahawks: Russell Okung, T, Oklahoma State

Back to the Big 12 in what's really a no-brainer pick for Seattle given the expected retirement of perennial all-pro LT Walter Jones, who's 36 and missed all of 2009 with a knee injury. Like Williams in Washington, Okung takes the reins from a longtime anchor and should become the first rookie cornerstone of the Pete Carroll era. This is also good news for aging QB Matt Hasselbeck, who's spent much of the past two seasons running for his life, and a Seattle ground game that's essentially been grounded since the franchise's 2005 run to Super Bowl XL.

- USA Today

April 21, 2010

Gayer than thou...

"Three bisexual men are suing a national gay-athletic organization, saying they were discriminated against during the Gay Softball World Series held in the Seattle area two years ago."

Guess they'll have to go back to playing for the Yankees, then.

A fool, I tell you

Pete Carroll tweets his draft plans.

On the other hand, Reggie will just write a check instead of testifying, so that's a step in the right direction.

I found our quarterback

"The bad behavior of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback' Ben Roethlisberger resulted Wednesday in a six-game suspension by the NFL and reportedly has triggered what once would have been unthinkable: The Steelers are testing the market to trade him."

With their first round pick, the Seattle Seahawks choose...
a)  Purvis Wedgewood, Clintonia State
b)  Egon Fleckle, Southeastern Abrasia U
c)  Ben Roethlisberger, Super Bowl Champion quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers

That's not a tough call for me...

Hit "Print" Again on that Koolhaus Library, Would You Mind?

Giant scale 3-d printer, in a kind of magnesium epoxy sand-stone which requires no reinforcement. For sculptors and builders - good and terrible all at once.

Today on Mythbusters: Organized Religion as the Sole Arbiter of Morality

Adam Savage blows up religion as he speaks to the Harvard Humanists.

I think one of the defining moments of adulthood is the realization that nobody's going to take care of you. That you have to do the heavy lifting while you're here. And when you don't, well, you suffer the consequences. At least I have. (And in the empirical study I'm performing about interacting with the universe, I am unfortunately the only test subject I have complete access to, so my data is, as they say, self-selected.) While nobody's going to take care of us, it's incumbent upon us to take care of those around us. That's community.
The fiction of continuity and stability that your parents have painted for you is totally necessary for a growing child. When you realize that it's not the way the world works, it's a chilling moment. It's supremely lonely.
So I understand the desire for someone to be in charge. (As a side note, I believe that the need for conspiracy theories is similar to the need for God.) We'd all like our good and evil to be like it is in the movies: specific and horrible, easy to defeat. But it's not. It's banal.
There's a quote I love: "Evil is a little man afraid for his job." I always thought some famous author said it, but I asked my 200,000 followers on Twitter today, and it turns out that Roy Scheider said it in Blue Thunder.
No one is in charge. And honestly, that's even cooler.

April 20, 2010

Longhairs and Brothers Get it Done

Jimmie Johnson explains how it went down - more on the Muscle Shoals sound here:


April 19, 2010

Dr. X on Jung, Canada, and The Confederacy

Dr. X posts this from Memphis, where he is researching his next book, Sun and Signification - A Semiotic History of Rockabilly:

Front, enough of your endless provocations!  I can contain myself no longer.  Your attempt at Canadian/Confederate musical juxtaposition mistakes Pittsburgh Barry for San Francisco Barry.


The Baghdad-by-the-Bay Bambino is, in this instance, a dramatic monologue worthy of Robert Browning: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down by The Band.

Written by Canadian Robbie Robertson in collaboration with Arkansian Levon Helm, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down is a remarkably direct account of the suffering brought on by the Union's decision to escalate to total war in the last 12 months of the conflict.  Unable to win in a straight-up fight, Lincoln and Grant determined to attack simultaneously on multiple fronts (so that scarce resources could not be shifted in defense of any one area), to target the fertile farmland of the Shenandoah Valley, and, as a special bonus, to terrorize the civilian population.  This was not collateral damage - Grant instructed Sheridan:
The people should be informed that so long as an army can subsist among them recurrences of these raids must be expected, and we are determined to stop them at all hazards. ... Give the enemy no rest ... Do all the damage to railroads and crops you can. Carry off stock of all descriptions, and negroes, so as to prevent further planting. If the war is to last another year, we want the Shenandoah Valley to remain a barren waste.
The mission was pillage, although rape was included at no extra charge.

Robertson took the trouble to research the facts.  Lee's army was starving, and Stoneman's cavalry did tear up the tracks, although many artists mis-sing "so much cavalry" or "Stonewall's cavalry."  (This last is a bit ironic, as Confederate General Stonewall Jackson was Stoneman's roommate at West Point.)

Although often played and endlessly covered, there is only one performance that really matters:

The song is potent.  As a musical clinician I am rarely affected by the object under study, but must admit that when I first heard it even I suffered a twinge of rebel sympathy.  For those lacking my studied analytical detachment, the effects can be profound:  I once played it for the floor manager of a Chicago munitions factory and he walked around for days muttering things like, "damn Yankees won't let a simple man live in peace."

I can only attribute this to a fortuitous connection with a massive collective Jungian neurosis, an hypothesis supported by Robertson's account of its writing:
It took me about eight months in all to write that song. I only had the music for it, and I didn't know what it was about at all. I'd sit down at the piano and play these chords over and over again. And then one day the rest of it came to me.

Canada Knows from the Jungian Subconscious

Further evidence of a Jungian meet-up - the tune has been covered by, among others, The Black Crowes, Johnny Cash, Joan Baez and the Muppets, Lawrence Welk, John Denver, Olivia Newton-John...you get the idea.  And what but the Collective Unconscious can explain that none of these versions is actually bad?  Compare and contrast with The Beatles, who despite considerable good fortune in the entertainment business, were unable to write a song that anyone else could make sound good (example here - possible exception here).

By the same token, it is so hard to improve on the original that hardly anyone bothers to try a different approach.  The Richie Havens version deserves special praise for its austerity and courage:

Perhaps one reason Confederate nostalgia has come back like a bad case of amoebic dysentary is that the massive catharsis of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down originally played out on national television, a medium that is now in severe decline.  Perhaps if the song could be placed on a "website" or "blog" it could be heard by the younger generation, and help them to effectuate a renewed sense of friendship and civility between North and South.

And then, perhaps, at long last, the Civil War will be over.

Sherman's Instructions

Headquarters Military Division of the Mississippi, In the Field, Kingston, Georgia, November 9, 1864

I. For the purpose of military operations, this army is divided into two wings viz.: The right wing, Major-General O. O. Howard commanding, composed of the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps; the left wing, Major-General H. W. Slocum commanding, composed of the Fourteenth and Twentieth Corps.

II. The habitual order of march will be, wherever practicable, by four roads, as nearly parallel as possible, and converging at points hereafter to be indicated in orders. The cavalry, Brigadier - General Kilpatrick commanding, will receive special orders from the commander-in-chief.

III. There will be no general train of supplies, but each corps will have its ammunition-train and provision-train, distributed habitually as follows: Behind each regiment should follow one wagon and one ambulance; behind each brigade should follow a due proportion of ammunition - wagons, provision-wagons, and ambulances. In case of danger, each corps commander should change this order of march, by having his advance and rear brigades unencumbered by wheels. The separate columns will start habitually at 7 a.m., and make about fifteen miles per day, unless otherwise fixed in orders.

IV. The army will forage liberally on the country during the march. To this end, each brigade commander will organize a good and sufficient foraging party, under the command of one or more discreet officers, who will gather, near the route traveled, corn or forage of any kind, meat of any kind, vegetables, corn-meal, or whatever is needed by the command, aiming at all times to keep in the wagons at least ten day's provisions for the command and three days' forage. Soldiers must not enter the dwellings of the inhabitants, or commit any trespass, but during a halt or a camp they may be permitted to gather turnips, potatoes, and other vegetables, and to drive in stock of their camp. To regular foraging parties must be instructed the gathering of provisions and forage at any distance from the road traveled.

V. To army corps commanders alone is intrusted the power to destroy mills, houses, cotton-gins, &c., and for them this general principle is laid down: In districts and neighborhoods where the army is unmolested no destruction of such property should be permitted; but should guerrillas or bushwhackers molest our march, or should the inhabitants burn bridges, obstruct roads, or otherwise manifest local hostility, then army commanders should order and enforce a devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of such hostility.

VI. As for horses, mules, wagons, &c., belonging to the inhabitants, the cavalry and artillery may appropriate freely and without limit, discriminating, however, between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor or industrious, usually neutral or friendly. Foraging parties may also take mules or horses to replace the jaded animals of their trains, or to serve as pack-mules for the regiments or bridges. In all foraging, of whatever kind, the parties engaged will refrain from abusive or threatening language, and may, where the officer in command thinks proper, give written certificates of the facts, but no receipts, and they will endeavor to leave with each family a reasonable portion for their maintenance.

VII. Negroes who are able-bodied and can be of service to the several columns may be taken along, but each army commander will bear in mind that the question of supplies is a very important one and that his first duty is to see to them who bear arms.

William T. Sherman, Military Division of the Mississippi Special Field Order 120, November 9, 1864

April 18, 2010

I wish this could have happened a little more often

Can Republicans Condemn the Confederacy?

I'm really wondering if any national Republican leader has the balls to condemn not only slavery but the rebellion of the slave states to the United States; noting, by way of passing,that  stopping this treason was the original Republican big idea.

The Democratic Party is proud of rejecting its appalling Civil War and Reconstruction history- and THAT took far, far too long.  The GOP seems so ashamed of theirs-  the one thing they should be unambiguously proud of - that they rarely if ever mention it. 

Here's a statement I'd love to see: "The Republican Party is justly proud of the heritage of Abraham Lincoln, who defeated the treasonous armies of the Confederacy, and ended the unambiguous evil of slavery." Good luck on that, I think. 

Honor, Heritage, Bioterror

Jane Singer, "The Fiend in Grey", Washington Post, June 1, 2003
Both sides in the Civil War contemplated acts beyond traditional warfare, according to legal documents, court testimony, historical records, books and newspaper accounts of the day. Artillery shells filled with chlorine for use on the battlefield were proposed by New York schoolteacher John Doughty early in the war. Lincoln refused to consider such chemical weapons, viewing them as being outside the laws of war. Sure that the Confederacy would rapidly overpower its enemies, President Jefferson Davis initially shied away from such measures as well. 
But as the internecine conflict lengthened from months to years, and the casualties mounted from the thousands to the hundreds of thousands, the South's desperation spawned a largely untold story: a series of terrorist plots against Washington and New York that eerily foreshadowed September 11, 2001, and its aftermath.

April 17, 2010

I hate Los Angeles Nazis

So does Los Angeles, apparently.

Our Official Response to Alexander Stephens


Nice op-ed from Norman Ornstein here.

Celebrating Confederate History With Thomas Nast

Art History, Complete.

Subtle piece from the Onion, on Art. Not to mention, a fair point.

We're halfway through Confederate History Month!


Confederates massacre surrendered Union troops at Fort Pillow. "[O]ne of the bleakest, saddest events of American military history." - David Eicher

April 16, 2010

From Harper's Weekly, May 21, 1864


THE picture on pages 328 and 329 illustrative of the atrocities committed by the rebels upon Union troops, white and black, is of particular interest at this time. The scenes presented represent only a few of the sad facts which rebel inhumanity has forced into the history of the time, but they are significant types of the whole, while the design of the central scene most happily presents the origin of the black flag policy and the persons responsible for its adoption. All these butcheries are the result of the proclamation of JEFFERSON DAVIS, issued December 23, 1862, in which he declared, " That all negro slaves captured in arms be at once delivered over to the Executive authorities of the respective States to which they belong, to be dealt with according to the laws of said States. That the like orders be executed in all cases with respect to all commissioned officers of the United States when found serving in company with said slaves in insurrection against the authorities of the different States of this Confederacy." Under this proclamation the rebels proceeded to act at the first opportunity. 
At Galveston, January 1, 1863, part of a Massachusetts regiment was captured, and the rebels took two negroes, free born citizens of Massachusetts, residents of Norfolk county in that State, and sold them into Slavery. 
Near the end of that month, twenty teamsters driving a wagon train of General ROSECRANS'S were captured near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, tied to the trees by the road side, and shot. 
In May, two negroes in the service and uniform of the United States were captured on picket at Port Hudson and forthwith hanged. 
On the 27th of May, the first assault on Port Hudson was delivered, and many of the negro troops fighting with great courage were wounded and fell into rebel hands. Of these, some were murdered on the spot in the sight of their comrades. 
On the 6th of June there was an engagement at Milliken's Bend between about 200 negro troops and an overpowering force of rebels. A large number of the negroes were murdered on the field after they had surrendered. Some of them were shot. Some were put to death by the bayonet. Some were crucified and burned. Of those whom this last fate befell, several were white officers in command of the negro troops. And so at all points the work of butchery went on, culminating finally in the wholesale massacre at Fort Pillow, which is still fresh in the public recollection. 
The incident presented in one of our sketches —General FORREST murdering the servant of a Union officer—occurred about two years since, and is thus stated by Major-General STANLEY :  About the middle of the summer of 1862, FORREST surprised the post of Murfreesboro, commanded by Brigadier General T. T. CRITTENDEN, of Indiana. The garrison was composed mostly of the Ninth Michigan and Second Minnesota Infantry and the Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry. After some little fighting the troops were surrendered. A mulatto man, who was a servant of one of the officers of the Union forces, was brought to FORREST on horseback. The latter inquired of him, with many oaths, "what he was doing there? The mulatto answered that he was a free man, and came out as a servant to an officer—naming the officer. FORREST, who was on horseback, deliberately put his hand to his holter, drew his pistol, and blew the man's brains out. The rebel officer stated that the mulatto man came from Pennsylvania, and the same officer denounced the act as one of cold-blooded murder, and declared he would never again serve under FORREST.
The treatment of our prisoners at Belle Isle and in Southern prisons is well known to the public, and need not be referred to here. 

I Don't Know...Maybe Slavery?

From Southern Political Report:
I ran a hypothesis test to determine if states left the Union to join the Confederacy over slavery, or whether that was more of a side issue.  I located the declarations of secession for four different states that were available: South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas.  

The word “slave” appears 82 times in these four state declarations.  The states even refer to themselves as “Slave-Holding States.”  I always thought that was a Northern term. On the other hand, the words “State’s rights,” “states’ rights” or “states rights” do not appear in any of these four secession declarations.  The word “rights” appears 14 times and “right” appears 32 times, but many of these references involve “the right to own slaves.”

The Cornerstone of the Confederacy

The vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, was a remarkable man.  Sickly (he weighed less than 100 pounds) and cursed with a shrill voice, he nevertheless earned the respect of people across the South by virtue of his penetrating intellect, generous nature (he gave money and aid to the needy, both white and black), and deep affection for the southern way of life.


Unlike most modern politicians, he was a serious and well-educated man.  Born poor, he made the most of his opportunities and graduated at the top of his class at Franklin College (later the University of Georgia).  As every schoolchild knows, in March 1861 he sought to explain the reasons for the secession of the southern states in an extemporaneous oration known as the Cornerstone Speech.

With respect to slavery and matters of race he said:
The prevailing ideas entertained by [Thomas Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time.

The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew."

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. 

Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. 

If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. 

The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.

By all means, let's remember this.

Stephens rapidly became disenchanted with the policies of Jefferson Davis, and ultimately became an outspoken critic of conscription and the suspension of habeus corpus.  After the war he went back to Congress, and died Governor of Georgia.

April 14, 2010

The Wilderness

In 1864 the war was taking on a desperate character for both sides.  Despite the success at Gettysburg in 1863, the pursuit had been ineffective and the North had, once again, been unable to make significant progress against Virginia, the heart of the Confederacy.

The problem was simple - every time the Union took an army to Virginia, the Confederates would, with inferior numbers but superior officers and strategic capability, outmaneuver the invaders and force their retreat.  It happened every year:
  • 1861:  
  • 1862:  
    • The Seven Days Battles (June) - McClellan threatened Richmond, but was outgeneralled by Robert E. Lee and ultimately withdrew.
    • Fredericksburg (December) - The most one-sided battle of the Civil War, with Burnside's ill-advised aggression arguably overcompensation for McClellan's overcautiousness.
  • 1863
So four men had gotten into the ring - McDowell, McLellan, Burnside, and Hooker - and four men had been thrown out.  Now it was Grant's turn.  In 1864 he headed into the same region Hooker had entered the previous year.

It was a hard place to walk, let alone fight.  Lee was badly outnumbered (60,000 against 100,000) so tried to force action in the difficult terrain.  Grant hoped to avoid it.  As usual, Lee got the battle he wanted: the two armies met a few miles west of the Chancellorsville battleground.

It was one of the largest battles of the war (30,000 more men were involved than at Gettysburg), and it was horrific.  At one point a brushfire broke out, burning to death hundreds of wounded men between the lines.  Top-level command and control was impossible.  As usual, the veteran Confederate units fought effectively, and after two days had once again bloodied the Army of the Potomac.  The South had 11,000 dead, wounded or captured, while the Union had lost 17,000.  The 140th New York Zoaves, heroes at Gettysburg, lost half their men and virtually all their officers in just a few minutes of combat.


Even Grant was shaken.  "More desperate fighting," he would later write, "has not been witnessed upon this continent."  Historian Shelby Foote said:
Grant in the Wilderness, after that first night in the Wilderness, went to his tent, broke down, and cried very hard. Some of the staff members said they'd never seen a man so unstrung.
But, Foote continues, he wasn't crying the next morning.  He got up and they fought again the next day.  And then, as usual, the Union forces began to pack up and move out.  In his fine Battle Cry of Freedom, James McPherson writes:
But instead of heading north, they turned south. A mental sunburst brightened their minds. It was not another "Chancellorsville ...  another skedaddle" after all. "Our spirits rose," recalled one veteran who remembered this moment as a turning point in the war.  Despite the terrors of the past three days and those to come, "we marched free. The men began to sing." For the first time in a Virginia campaign the Army of the Potomac stayed on the offensive after its initial battle.
It was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.  Lee would have to face Grant again in two weeks at Spotsylvania, and in a month's time at Cold Harbor.  In each of those battles, the Confederates inflicted more casualties than they suffered.  But in percentage terms Lee's losses were greater, and  Grant could make good his losses while Lee could not.

Historians treat Grant's long march to Appomattox as three separate campaigns - the Overland Campaign, the Siege of St. Petersburg, and the Appomattox Campaign.  But in reality it was one extended death embrace, and it began at the Wilderness, at about the corner of the Orange Turnpike and the Germanna Highway.

Today, Wal-Mart is planning to build a store there (photos here), and threatening to bring significant additional traffic and further development pressure to this historic area.  The only reason they haven't done so already is the determined opposition of patriotic organizations seeking to preserve this and other Civil War battlefields. We urge readers of this blog to support these organizations.

We don't hear it said much anymore, but it's still true:  American is a free country.   That freedom was hard-won.  We should show a little respect to the memory of those who won it, even when it is not profitable, even when it is not politically advantageous.  Surely we owe them that much.

April 13, 2010

Birther to cooler

The U.S. Army will court martial a lieutenant colonel who refuses to deploy to Afghanistan because he considers orders from President Obama to be "illegal."

I feel a draft (and it's gonna be awesome)

Last year, I fearlessly predicted that the Seahawks would pick their left tackle of the future, Eugene Munroe, with the fourth selection in the 2009 NFL Draft -- the same Eugene Munroe who plays offensive guard for the Jaguars, now. (Of course, I was secretly hoping they would pick Michael Crabtree, who turned out to be a holdout diva with the Niners; it's okay, I am so over that guy.)

One year later, with Walter Jones tweeted retirement likely to become official before the beginning of the season, the need for a new offensive tackle is now urgent.

Luckily for the Seahawks (a phrase I've become unaccustomed to in the past two years), they have the number 6 pick (thanks to their lousy 2009 season) and number 14 pick (thanks to Denver's insane trade in last year's draft) in a first round chock-a-block with awesome offensive tackle talent.

There are three top OT prospects, one of whom the Seahawks will pick mark my word. In my opinion, the best-case-scenario is Oklahoma State's Russell Okung (pictured above in contact with normal-sized human). He has the skills to play tackle in the NFL now, and has excellent athleticism. If the Seahawks don't have the opportunity to pick him, they will almost certainly grab one of the other two elite tackles: Bryan Bulaga of Iowa or fast-rising Sooner Trent Williams. So, one of these three guys -- done deal. Let's move on.

The number 14 will be less predictable. Defensive end Patrick Kearny announced his retirement, today, but even before, many were predicting Seattle would take DE Derrick Morgan of Georgia Tech (pictured here stealing the football from an LSU girly-man).

But my favorite at number 14, as I have hinted previously, is the Clemson speedster C.J. Spiller (pictured here on a casual stroll to check field conditions, not setting it off very hard).

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April 12, 2010

Our President is Good


There's that weird feeling again. Pride.

The High Water Mark of the Confederacy

One could say many things about Pickett's charge at Gettysburg.  Certainly it represented the high water mark of the Confederacy.  It is viewed by many as a long overdue comeuppance for an overconfident Army.  I think of it as the moment when certain Pennsylvania units decided that this time, on this day, they would not break.

I wonder, too, if it could have been straight up karma for Lee's remark during the slaughter at Fredericksburg that if war weren't so terrible, we might enjoy it too much.  Indeed, Union troopers reportedly shouted "Fredericksburg!" as Pickett's men moved forward.

It was Virginia's darkest hour of the war so far, but many more dark hours lay ahead.  From this moment on, Lee was going backwards.

April 11, 2010

Union Victory Appreciation Month


Celebrating Confederate History Month

Let's start with Andersonville.


We think of the concentration camp as a 20th century phenomenon, but the Confederates were early innovators (not that the Union camps were much better).  Andersonville had many of the features of later Soviet and Nazi camps: guard towers overlooking a 'dead zone', deliberate malnutrition, overcrowding, and, as a special bonus, a fetid swamp in the center.  13,000 Union prisoners - about a third of those who were incarcerated - died there.

By all means, let's remember this. 

"...Confederacy and slavery are inextricably and forever linked.  That has not, however, stopped Lost Causers who supported Mr. McDonnell’s proclamation from trying to recast the war in more respectable terms. They would like what Lincoln called our “fiery trial” to be seen in a political, not a moral, light. If the slaves are erased from the picture, then what took place between Sumter and Appomattox is not about the fate of human chattel, or a battle between good and evil. It is, instead, more of an ancestral skirmish in the Reagan revolution, a contest between big and small government. We cannot allow the story of the emancipation of a people and the expiation of America’s original sin to become fodder for conservative politicians playing to their right-wing base."

'Southern discomfort' - Jon Meacham, New York Times

"If a Confederate soldier was merely doing his job in defending his homeland, honor and heritage, what are we to say about young Muslim radicals who say the exact same thing as their rationale for strapping bombs on their bodies and blowing up cafes and buildings?"

'Were Confederate soldiers terrorists?' - Roland Martin, CNN

April 10, 2010



April 09, 2010

A question for Dr. X

Dr. X posts this from physical therapy, where he is being treated for injuries from the explosion of his rock-o-meter and carpal tunnel due to clicking this link over and over again:

A question from the mailbag...

Q:  What sort of wine is appropriate for homecoming of a perfect Marantz 2385 that we just adopted from the Salvation Army?

A:  Whoa!  What do you feed a bear?  Whatever he wants!  Before answering your question let's be clear.  If I understood you, you said you acquired a perfect Marantz 2385, the audio equivalent of a moody but engagingly attractive 220 lb. woman wrestler.  I wish you well, and hope you know what you're getting into.

But I must assume you know who you are.  What kind of wine goes with a Marantz 2385?  Something bold, powerful, and uncompromising, yet beautiful and engaging across the flavor spectrum.  A wine that knocks you down and hurts your feelings, then picks you up and kisses you, then knocks you down again.  A wine with no apologies, no excuses, and no regrets.  A wine that shakes you to the core and makes you realize you want to be shaken again.  

I suspect you will find the Talley Rosemary's Pinot Noir Arroyo Grande 2006 a suitable governess, er, beverage (a few cases are left here).

- Dr. X

PS - I assume you have acquired the Marantz 2385, and NOT the Marantz 2385B.  If you have the B model, I would recommend something from Australia.

Who shamed the Space Needle?

"The restaurant at the Space Needle could be a marvel, a serious gourmet dining experience with the world's best view for the most special of special occasions—a source of civic pride. Instead, it's a rip-off and a joke..."

April 07, 2010

A non-partisan message

To: Robert McConnell, Governor of East Virginia
From:  The Front 
Subject: WTF?

You sir, are a tool

Here's a song for you.

April 06, 2010

Facebook Note to A Professor Dragging Reluctant Poli Sci Students to a Picasso Show.

As a painter who left politics, I have rarely done overtly political subject matter-  but I would argue that human experience cannot be understood without a social class of artists- living artists, mind you- working at the limits of the human capacity to understand and perceive what it is.

There is a reason that extreme religious cultures often discourage or ban art, and that China has both an explosion of contemporary art and a strong suppression of political paintings. (I've been fascinated that Middle East universities hire oodles of Graphic Design professors but rarely, if ever, Art professors.)

Goya's etchings of the horrors of the Napoleonic wars in Spain were censored until Franco died.

Picasso had a small sculpture- a brass skull, stylized, squashed. The weight of the whole room bears down on it. It is a poetic indictment of fascism, more timeless about any brutality than Guernica. (Fascinating too that the Nazis didn't touch him in Paris.) The only problem with Picasso is the warm fuzzy haze around him - it's too easy to see him in safe, romantic haze.

I would also direct your students to the (late) Leon Golub, Cindy Sherman, Anselm Kiefer, contemporary artists exploring directly contemporary experience with the understanding that this moment is also part of a timeless historical moment. Golub takes on the raw horror of torture with an unsettling combination of ugliness and formal beauty. Sherman puts herself inside cultural constructs of gender.  Kiefer remakes in massive paintings the very ground of the Holocaust, plowing a field of rebirth.

Art, like religion, and sometimes instead of it, is a powerful cultural tool that develops what human values are.

"It is as though he responds to the observation that what we see is not real with the further observation that something solid lies beneath our sensations."  (Your comment on Picasso) is a key part of your argument, and lies exactly at the point where language fails to describe experience and Art must begin.

I intend to introduce the feeling of scale in war to propogate and explore my political values.  But I emphasize that it is in the physical creation of the forms and illusions that I begin to understand not only the history, but my own (expression.)

April 05, 2010

Sign Campbell

He's 28, and has held a starting NFL job for the past three years. His IAYPA was better than Eli Manning's during that period. He's expendable now that McNabb's in Washington.

Don't question his skills:

rakasta minua

April 04, 2010

Yeah, it's out

That guy's review of Attack of the Clones...part 1 here.

La Primavera

Kick Out the Jams: A Short Critical History

Dr. X posts this from Neumos:

In the beginning there was the MC5.

"Kick Out the Jams" was originally a rejoinder to the self-indulgent and sometimes low-energy jamming of British bands when they came through Detroit.  Attempts to connect its message to Marxist dialectics are ill-advised.  It is not intended to be a coherent socioeconomic statement.  It is intended as an artistic manifesto, and a denunciation of bands that don't try.

Sammy Hagar:  "It's just so intense...it's so uptempo...and yelling and screaming, and belligerent.  It sounded like it was ready to fall apart the second it started."

As linked below, MC5 were playing it like this in 1970 (*****).  Later on they did it like this (****).

Despite the passing of front man Rob Tyner and guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith in the early 90s, MC5 has played together in various incarnations and officially re-formed in 2003 (website here).  Here is an excellent 1997 version of "Kick Out the Jams" from a band with two original MC5 players, guitarist Wayne Kramer and drummer Dennis "Machine Gun" Thompson.  Can you call it self-indulgent if it's ridiculously good?  I'm going with...no (****).

The song eventually became a touchstone of sorts, and, I would say, a pure test of intention and rock capability.  I can't think of any other song that so punishes lack of commitment (or a drummer).  Just playing the notes correctly isn't enough, as this version (**) illustrates.

This is not to say that skill counts for nothing.  The PUSA brief homage (****) is not the craziest or fastest (and can it really be "Kick Out the Jams" if you don't shout "mother...fuckers!") but...you may have noticed...the PUSA know how to play rock music correctly.  They understand the song, they bring total commitment, and they're done before you know what hit you.  Yes, the lyrics are sanitized, but how else are you going to play it at Mount Rushmore? (*** 1/2*)

But, and I say this seriously:  "Kick Out the Jams" is high art because it is immutable:  it really cannot be remade into anything else.  You could sing Running With the Devil as a blues tune, and actually, it would probably be better (well, judge for yourself).  The Dickies demonstrated that almost any rock ballad can be transformed into a serviceable speedpunk rant.  But you can't play "Kick Out the Jams" too fast or you lose the (real) poetry in the lyrics, and you can't play it too slow or you lose the sexual urgency.  It is not easy to do right.  But when you're doing it right...well I guess the song covers that.

Perhaps this immutability explains the disastrous Rage Against the Machine version.  They make it their own, and it sucks (1/2*).

I am much fonder of Trent Reznor's raid on the tune (****) with Street Sweeper Social Club last year.  This song seems to work well when a fat guy with big hair sings it (hence the PUSA lyric, "I shaved off my perm").

Blue Oyster Cult got it mostly right (****), though I could wish for less Yin and more Yang.  Pearl Jam and Mudhoney strike a better balance, and high grades, too, for energy and execution (**** 1/2*):

This one, with the estimable Jerry Cantrell is ok too (*** 1/2*), but a little too stadium for my taste.

It is impossible to disrespect the Henry Rollins/Bad Brains version (***), but it's also hard to like.

I believe this version, which blends the MC5, PUSA and Mudhoney personnel (Mark Arm appearing seemingly from thin air at 3:50) and implementations, while simultaneously mocking Rage Against the Machine, must be regarded as definitive:

It's a national treasure, ******.  Good night Miss Mackenzie, wherever you are.

April 03, 2010

A Musical Education

Or, Songs the Laird Turned Me On To After He Went to College:

(among others)
1982 - Mexican Radio (further study here)
1984 - Working in a Coal Mine (further study...have I mentioned the Polysics?...here)
1992 - Mojo Nixon generally (Mojo goes viral, here)
1994- I'm a Loser (further study here)
1995 - I Want You Around (further study here)
1996 - Tiki God (further doubleplusgood study here and especially here)
1997 - The Way We Swing
1998 - Intergalactic (further study here)

April 02, 2010

Exciting sounds from Ohio

I predict great things for this band:

Encore here.

April 01, 2010

It's always in the last place you look

they found the universe