March 27, 2014

Smithsonian on the 50th anniversary of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme

Filed under: History, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:04

One of my all-time favourite jazz albums is turning 50, and the Smithsonian is marking the occasion:

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will kick off the 13th annual Jazz Appreciation Month March 26 at 11 a.m., with donations from Ravi Coltrane, son of international music legends, John and Alice Coltrane, and from notable jazz photographer, Chuck Stewart. Coltrane will then discuss his father’s career and the famed studio album, A Love Supreme, widely considered one of the greatest jazz albums of all time and celebrating its 50th anniversary. During its own 50th anniversary year, the museum is displaying Coltrane’s original score in the “American Stories” exhibition through June 17. The ceremony will be webcast live online.

Ravi Coltrane will donate his father’s Selmer Mark VI tenor saxophone, made in Paris about 1965, the year that A Love Supreme was released. The saxophone is one of three principal saxophones Coltrane played and will be on view in the “American Stories” exhibition starting June 17. An accomplished bandleader and composer in his own right, Ravi Coltrane tours extensively with his own groups and with many other artists, including jazz musicians. He is a Blue Note recording artist.

“Today, a cherished and beloved Coltrane family heirloom becomes a national treasure and through Stewart’s never before seen images, our view of Coltrane expands,” said John Gray, director of the museum. “These generous donations help us preserve not only the legacy of individual artists, but of jazz music as a whole and its integral role in the history of music in America.”

H/T to Julian Sanchez for the link.

March 14, 2014

Iain Martin on the three phases of Tony Benn’s political career

Filed under: Britain, History, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:12

The death of Tony Benn was announced this morning, and the Telegraph‘s Iain Martin says that Benn’s political trajectory had three distinct phases:

The BBC‘s James Landale described it well this morning only minutes after the death of Tony Benn was announced. There were, he told the Today programme, three phases of Tony Benn the public figure. That is right, and in the second phase Benn almost destroyed the Labour Party. His death — or his reinvention as a national treasure from the late 1980s onwards — doesn’t alter that reality.

In the 1950s and 1960s Benn was part of Labour’s supposed wave of the future, serving in Wilson’s governments and embodying the technocratic approach that was going to forge a modern Britain in the “white heat of technology”. It didn’t work out like that.


But it is when Labour found itself out of power in 1979 that Benn the socialist preacher applied his considerable talents — his gift for public speaking and the denunciation of rivals — to trying to turn Labour, one of Britain’s two great parties that dominated the 20th century, from being a broad church into a party that stood only for his, by then, very dangerous brand of Left-wing extremism. In the wars of that period against Labour’s Right-wing and soft centre he did not operate alone, but he was the figurehead of a Bennite movement that created the conditions in which the SDP breakaway became necessary, splitting the Left and giving Margaret Thatcher an enormous advantage to the joy of Tories. When Labour crashed to defeat in 1983, Benn even said that the result was a good start because millions of voters had voted for an authentically socialist manifesto, which would have taken Britain back to the stone age if implemented.

From there, after a bitter interlude and a sulk, Benn began his final and, this time, wonderful transformation, during which he was elevated to the ranks of national treasure — a pipe-smoking man of letters, like a great National Trust property crossed with George Orwell. As with many journalists of my generation, I encountered him one on one only in that third phase, and found him, as many others did, a deeply courteous, amusing and interesting man. It was his defence of the Commons, against the Executive, that I liked, and when he spoke on such themes it was possible to imagine him at Cromwell’s elbow in the English Civil War, or printing off radical pamphlets before falling out with the parliamentary leadership after the King had had his head cut off.

January 18, 2014

How “safe” is your safe?

Filed under: History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:44

Safe manufacturers generally ship their products with a factory-standard combination. Many people fail to change them once the safe is in use:

In England many years ago, chatting with a locksmith while he worked, I learned the following thing: One of the country’s leading manufacturers of safes shipped all its products set to a default opening combination of 102030, and a high proportion of customers never reset it.

He: “If I need to open a Chubb safe, it’s the first thing I try. You’d be surprised how often it works.”

This came to mind when I was reading the story about Kennedy-era launch codes for our nuclear missiles:

    …The Strategic Air Command greatly resented [Defense Secretary Robert] McNamara’s presence and almost as soon as he left, the code to launch the missile’s [sic], all 50 of them, was set to 00000000.

I use a random-string generator for my passwords and change them often. I guess safeguarding my Netflix account is more important than preventing a nuclear holocaust.

January 7, 2014

“Boomer Classic” and “Boomer Reboot”

Filed under: History, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:45

Chronologically speaking, I’m a late Baby Boomer, but I’ve never felt I was a Boomer culturally. In the New York Times, Richard Pérez-Peña helps to explain why this is:

This year the youngest of the baby boomers — the youngest, mind you — turn 50. I hit that milestone a few months back. But we aren’t what people usually have in mind when they talk about boomers. They mean the early boomers, the postwar cohort, most of them now in their 60s — not us later boomers, labeled “Generation Jones” by the writer Jonathan Pontell.

The boom generation really has two distinct halves, which in my mind I call Boomer Classic and Boomer Reboot. (Take this quiz to see where you stand.) The differences between them have to do, not surprisingly, with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll — and economics and war. For a wide-ranging set of attitudes and cultural references, it matters whether you were a child in the 1940s and ‘50s, or in the 1960s and ‘70s. And it probably matters even more whether you reached adulthood before or after the early ‘70s, a time of head-spinning changes with long-term consequences for families, careers and even survival.


Late boomers like me had none of that — no war, no draft, no defining political cause, and most of our fathers were too young for World War II. I remember, as a teenager, seeing old footage of the riots outside the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, and thinking, “People my age don’t feel that strongly about anything.”

People raised in the immediate postwar years had more faith in their government, and an idealistic view of America that curdled in the ‘60s and ‘70s. My childhood memories of the evening news, on the other hand, include the war, protests, Watergate and the dour faces of Johnson and Nixon, not the grins of Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy.

In this way, I think we late boomers have more in common with the jaded Generation X that followed: we had less idealism to spoil. No, I don’t remember where I was when Kennedy was killed and innocence died (I was an infant), but I sure remember where I was when Nixon resigned and cynicism reigned. Older boomers may have wanted to change the world; most of my peers just wanted to change the channel.

H/T to Kathy Shaidle for the link.

Paul Hellyer – architect of Canada’s unified forces and certified loon

Filed under: Cancon, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:25

To be kind, I wasn’t a fan of Paul Hellyer even before he started talking about aliens:

Paul Hellyer was Canada’s Minister of Defense in the mid-1960s. He is now a critic of the United States’ willingness to trigger an interstellar war with aliens — aliens who might give us more advanced technology if only we were less belligerent.

“They’ve been visiting our planet for thousands of years,” Hellyer told RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze in a televised interview.

“There’s been a lot more activity in the last few decades, since we invented the atomic bomb. and they’re very concerned about that, and about the fact that we might use it again,” added Hellyer, who said that a cold-war era commission determined that at least four alien species had come to Earth. “The whole cosmos is a unity, and it affects not just us but other people in the cosmos, they’ve very much afraid that we might be stupid enough to start using atomic weapons again. This would be bad for us and bad for them too.”


“I have seen a UFO, about 120 miles north of Toronto, over Lake Muskoka,” Hellyer said. The UFO “just looked like a star … we watched it until our necks almost broke. It was definitely a UFO, because it could change position in the sky by 3 or 4 degrees in 3 or 4 seconds. … There was no other explanation for it except that it was the real thing.”

The Star of Bethlehem, he added, was one of God’s flying saucers.

Moreover, the number of known alien species has leapt from “between two and 12″ to as many as 80, said Hellyer, the senior cabinet minister from Pierre Trudeau’s 1968 cabinet. “They have different agendas. Maybe all of us on earth should have have the same agenda. … Nearly all of them are benign, but one or two are not, and that’s what I’m investigating now.”

January 5, 2014

In the dictionary, the word “narcissism” is defined as “baby boomer default mental state”

Filed under: History, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:22

Okay, it isn’t really (but if you think it is, you’ve probably fallen for the “gullible isn’t in the dictionary” prank as well). In the Wall Street Journal, Terry Teachout discovers that every defining event of the Baby Boom era always comes back to being about the Baby Boomers themselves:

Most “Monty Python” fans are, of course, baby boomers, who have long been a nostalgic lot and are growing more so as they totter toward old age. Witness their tiresomely obsessive fascination with the popular television series of their youth. Likewise their undimmed passion for the rock music of the 1960s and ’70s, which they still love so much that they’ll buy expensive tickets to see wrinkled old codgers play it onstage.

As always with the boomers, this nostalgia contains more than a touch of narcissism. The same narcissism was on display in many of the countless gushy boomer-penned reminiscences occasioned by the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. An indisputably major historical event, to be sure, but there was also something decidedly creepy about the self-centered tone of those suddenly-my-world-changed pieces, which was deftly skewered by this Onion headline: “Area Man Can Remember Exactly Where He Was, What He Was Doing When He Assassinated John F. Kennedy.” Like everything else in the boomers’ world, Kennedy’s death turned out in the end to have been all about them.


Not surprisingly, my parents’ generation did everything they could to make life easier for their own children. Was that good for us? I wonder. It certainly didn’t do us any good from a cultural point of view. I’m struck by how few boomers have embraced adult culture in middle age. My impression is that they’d much rather watch sitcoms than read novels, go to the opera or listen to jazz. In large part they’re a cohort of Peter Pans, determined not to grow up any more than they can help. Indeed, not a few of them seem to take a perverse kind of pride in their adolescent enthusiasms. I read the other day that a “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” lunch box from 1973 now sells for $1,200 — and that the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History owns one. I’m not quite sure which of those facts makes me sadder.

If I live long enough, I’ll enjoy finding out how the millennials remember the world of their youth a quarter-century from now. Since they’re having a much harder time earning a living than did their baby-boom parents, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if their attitude ends up being much more like that of the wised-up kids of the Great Depression, especially as regards cultural matters. While I don’t know whether they’ll go in for late Beethoven by the time they reach their 50s, somehow I doubt that watching an ancient episode of “30 Rock” will cause them to recall with fondness the good old bad old days when they were living in crummy studio apartments — or their parents’ basements.

November 22, 2013

“…you wonder why it took so long for somebody to shoot the swinish bastard”

Filed under: History, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 17:28

Colby Cosh makes no friends among the over-60 Kennedy worshipping community:

The myth of Kennedy as a uniquely admirable knight-errant has finally, I think, been wiped out by the accumulation of ugly details about his sexual conduct and family life. For a while it was still possible to regard JFK’s tomcatting as the inevitable concomitant of super-masculine greatness. By now it is pretty clear that he was just an abusive, spoiled creep. There are scenes in White House intern Mimi Alford’s 2012 memoir that make you wonder why it took so long for somebody to shoot the swinish bastard.

As for the assassination itself, the experience of seeing conspiracy theories bloom like a toxic meadow after 9/11 has hardened us all against the nonsense that was still popular in the 1990s. Most adults, I think, now understand that Oliver Stone’s JFK was a buffet of tripe. It is no coincidence that Stephen King’s 2011 time-travel book about JFK’s slaying, written after decades of fairly deep research, stuck close to the orthodox Warren commission narrative.

The new favourite themes in the 50th anniversary coverage dispense with grassy-knoll phantoms and disappearing-reappearing Oswalds. One new documentary has revived Howard Donahue’s idea that the final bullet that blasted Kennedy’s skull apart might have been fired accidentally by a Secret Service agent in one of the trailing cars. This would help explain the oddity of the Zapruder footage, and might also account for some awkwardly disappearing evidence — notably JFK’s brain — without requiring us to believe anything obviously outrageous.


In the early ’70s Lyndon Johnson made a cryptic remark about JFK possibly being killed because his administration had been “running a damn Murder Inc. in the Caribbean.” This offhand remark turned out to be quite specific; rumours of multiple CIA assassination attempts against Castro were true, as were wilder tales of literal Mafia involvement (confirmed when the CIA “Family Jewels” were declassified in 2007). Oswald would not exactly have been anyone’s first choice as an intelligence asset, and probably had no state sponsor. But notice that it’s 2013 and we still have to say “probably.”

November 20, 2013

Jacqueline Kennedy and the Camelot myth

Filed under: History, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:56

Virginia Postrel on the legacy of Jacqueline Kennedy:

When she was 22, the future Jacqueline Kennedy won a Vogue contest with an essay in which she dreamed of being “a sort of Overall Art Director of the Twentieth Century.” As first lady, she proved herself a genius at visual persuasion. She crafted her own image, refined her husband’s, re-created the White House’s, and even shaped America’s abroad.

Her most evocative and enduring image-making came when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, 50 years ago this week. She art-directed the funeral’s pageantry and then, in an interview with T.H. White for Life magazine, memorably linked her husband to one of the most powerful legends in the English-speaking world. Jackie created the myth of the Kennedy administration as Camelot: the lost golden age that proved ideals could become real.

The Arthurian legends traditionally operate as what the cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken calls “displaced meaning.” Every culture, he observes, maintains ideals that can never be fully realized in everyday life, from Christian charity to economic equality. Yet for all their empirical failings, such cultural ideals supply essential purpose and meaning, offering identity and hope. To preserve and transmit them, cultures develop images and stories that portray a distant world in which their ideals are realized — a paradise, a utopia, a golden age, a promised land, a world to come. Camelot is such a setting.

“When they are transported to a distant cultural domain,” McCracken writes, “ideals are made to seem practicable realities. What is otherwise unsubstantiated and potentially improbable in the present world is now validated, somehow ‘proven,’ by its existence in another, distant one.”

[...] The Kennedy administration ended with sudden violence from without, making Jackie’s analogy doubly potent. It suggested a parallel with a legendary Golden Age while simultaneously implying that, left to itself, this new Golden Age might have continued indefinitely. This Camelot was pure glamour: a frozen moment, its flaws and conflicts obscured.

Glamour invites projection. For 50 years, Americans of various persuasions have imagined their ideals embodied in a Camelot that might have been. Advocates of a vigorous Cold War foreign policy claim John Kennedy. So do their opposites. He did less for the civil-rights movement than his unglamorous successor, Lyndon Johnson, yet in imagination he would have done more. Above all, people imagine that somehow a living Kennedy would have prevented the tumult of the 1960s.

November 6, 2013

“…the only real Doctor was William Hartnell”

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:33

In the Telegraph, Tim Stanley discusses the original Doctor Who:

Everybody has a favourite Doctor, but the only real Doctor was William Hartnell. No one else came close to matching his authority and scariness. He was genuinely alien.

Hartnell the man was born in poverty to a single mother in 1908. His career took off in the 1940s, playing hard men and soldiers in cop shows and sitcoms. He was spotted by producer Verity Lambert playing a rugby talent scout in This Sporting Life and offered a part in a new sci-fi show called Doctor Who in 1963. Bill was reluctant at first to work on a mere kids programme — but it turned out to be rather more special than that.

The genius of that early series was that it was pitched perfectly between children and adults; it’s a testament to how much more “adult” children were treated back then. The real focus of the plot were two teachers, Ian and Barbara, who follow a precocious pupil home and find that she’s living in a police box. The police box turns out to be a time ship (rather roomier on the inside than out) and her “grandfather” — the Doctor — is less than thrilled to meet them. In fact, he’s so furious that he shuts the doors, presses a button and kidnaps them. Compare that with present-day Who where the Doctor only ever meets young women with regional accents who he instantly wants to bed but can’t because — I don’t know — he’s impotent or something. Everything about 60s Who was way more mature and sinister.

To be honest, Hartnell’s stories can be tough to re-watch. Each serial ran for upwards of 12 episodes a time, some of the scripts were plodding (I challenge you to sit through The Space Museum without slipping into a coma) and the effects shockingly poor. The Web Planet featured a cast of gay butterflies on strings, dancing ants and grubs on rollers that occasionally crashed into the camera. Bill sometimes let the side down by fluffing his lines (When invited to climb a hill: “My dear, I’m not a mountain goat and I prefer walking to any day.” Awkward pause. “And I hate climbing”). There are moments when he looks lost and helpless before the cameras, the line on the tip of his tongue but he can’t remember if it’s “Daleks” or “cabbages”.

October 12, 2013

Not quite as I remember it (from hiding behind the settee in the living room)

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

Published on 10 Oct 2013

Trailer for the newly-recovered and remastered Patrick Troughton Doctor Who episode The Enemy of the World. Unseen in the UK for 45 years, and formerly considered missing, The Enemy of the World sees Troughton play the dual-role of the Doctor and also Salamander – the “saviour of the world”. Or is he… Also starring Frazer Hines as Jamie and Deborah Watling as Victoria.

October 11, 2013

Jonah Goldberg on Scooby Doo

Filed under: Humour, Media, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:53

For this week’s Goldberg File email, Jonah Goldberg ran an old piece from some time in the last few years, talking about the cultural implications of the TV show Scooby Doo:

So my daughter and I have been talking about Scooby Doo a lot. She thinks the show, in all its myriad incarnations, is riveting. She will interrupt conversations with “Oh, Daddy, did you know …” and I will expect to hear about something from school or from her daily life, and she will commence to tell me something about Shaggy or Velma or Scooby.

The show has gone through a lot of changes over the years (the Wikipedia entry is disturbingly interesting; one of these days I must remember to carve it into a great chain of toilet seats). In case you didn’t know, the show now features real monsters and ghosts quite often. Not always, but often enough. For decades, the monsters weren’t real, merely the attempts of hucksters and con men. Now the makers of the show teach little kids that there really are vampires and witches.

At first, I thought this scandalous. I always thought the point of the show was to teach little kids not to be scared of things that go bump in the night.

But this is actually the least offensive thing about the show. Bear with me.

Recently, I caught the tail end of one of the newer episodes, and I was dismayed to discover that the perpetrator of the scary hoax was not the bad guy. He was something of an environmentalist/historic preservationist who wanted to keep some greedy corporate fat cats from developing some land. It seemed like something close to an endorsement of ecoterrorism.

Obviously, I was going to turn this revelation into an NR cover story. But as I pondered it, I thought more deeply about the original series. The show starts in 1969. The kids of Mystery Inc., who seem to have absolutely no parental supervision, are clearly counter-cultural. Freddie may not be gay, but he wears an ascot, and, for anyone under the age of 60, that alone is an invitation to a beating. And given that the show was launched in 1969, he may just be dressing that way to duck the draft. (Indeed, why the heck aren’t Fred and Shaggy knee-deep in some rice paddy somewhere?) Velma, meanwhile, certainly looks like she runs a pottery shop in Burlington, Vt., if you know what I mean.

And Shaggy, well, he’s a filthy hippy who always has the munchies. ‘Nuff said.

October 6, 2013

Nostalgic Doctor Who fans rejoice

Filed under: Africa, Britain, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:01

According to a report in the Mirror, over 100 lost Doctor Who episodes have turned up in the most unlikely spot:

A group of dedicated Doctor Who fans tracked down at least 100 long-lost episodes of the show gathering dust more than 3,000 miles away in Ethiopia.

It was feared the BBC ­programmes from the 1960s — featuring the first two doctors William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton — had vanished for all time after the Beeb flogged off a load of old footage.

But after months of ­detective work the tapes have been unearthed at the Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency.

A television insider said: “It is a triumph and fans ­everywhere will be thrilled.

“This is a really big deal for the BBC and is set to make them millions from the sale of the DVDs.”

H/T to Tabatha Southey for the link.

September 26, 2013

Charles Mingus

Filed under: History, Media, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:09

In The Nation, Adam Shatz looks back at the turbulent and creative career of Jazz giant Charles Mingus:

Mingus rarely left his pieces alone when he took them on the road with his Jazz Workshop, as he began calling his bands in the mid-1950s. When the Workshop played “Fables of Faubus,” a dart of sarcasm aimed at Arkansas’s segregationist governor Orval Faubus, at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the jaunty eight-minute tune swelled into a half-hour suite, punctuated by tart allusions to “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “God Bless America” and a bass clarinet solo of blistering intensity by Eric Dolphy. (The performance is one of five concerts included in The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964–65, a seven-disc boxed set on Mosaic Records.) In the studio, Mingus was always splicing, dicing and overdubbing, enriching the texture of his music, increasing its density. He tinkered with titles, giving old pieces new and sometimes cryptic names: the tender portrait of a woman he loved, “Nouroog,” reappeared after their breakup as “I X Love”; “Better Get It in Your Soul,” a foot-stomping gospel tune that’s still played on jukeboxes, became “Better Get Hit in Yo’ Soul,” a message to junkies that they’d be better off with a boost from the Lord than one from the needle.

Mingus was always true to his ever-changing moods: he wanted to create music that, in his words, was “as varied as my feelings are, or the world is.” For sheer range of expression, his work has few equals in postwar American music: furious and tender, joyous and melancholy, grave and mischievous, ecstatic and introspective. It moves from the rapture of the church to the euphoria of the ballroom, from accusation to seduction, from a whisper to a growl, often by way of startling jump cuts and sudden changes in tempo. Vocal metaphors are irresistible when discussing Mingus. As Whitney Balliett remarked, music for him was “another way of talking.”

Though he wrote only a few songs with lyrics, his compositions — and his own bass playing, which revealed new dimensions of the instrument and helped liberate it from its traditional time-keeping role — were supremely vocal. He collaborated with poets in East Village coffeehouses and never hesitated to call out to his sidemen when the spirit caught him, as if he was leading a gospel choir. Each instrument in a Mingus tune evoked the voice, invariably in conversation with other voices; and each voice was an extension of his famously tempestuous personality. (“We don’t need a vocalist,” he told the trombonist Britt Woodman. “This band can have an argument with instruments.”) Philip Larkin was astonished by “how every Mingus band sounds like a great rabble of players, like some trick of Shakespearian production.” No matter how small the ensemble, he could create a sense of passionate, often combative dialogue: as one of his sidemen put it, Mingus “liked the sound of a struggle.” If his Workshop settled into a groove, he would suddenly change the time signature: he didn’t want anyone to get too comfortable. Struggle — against complacency, against the confinements of race and genre, against the record industry and the American government — inspired him; he depended on it to create. Though he dreamed of finding refuge on some “colorless island,” it wasn’t clear how he’d spend his time there. He needed something to fight against; his anger, in Geoff Dyer’s words, was “a form of energy, part of the fire sweeping through him.”

August 27, 2013

Martin Luther King and the American Dream

Filed under: History, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:21

Brendan O’Neill on MLK’s most famous speech:

Tomorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, made on the Mall in Washington, DC on 28 August 1963. Re-reading the speech 50 years on, the most striking thing about it is how much faith it puts in the American Dream. Where today it is positively hip to be disdainful of all things American, to look upon America as a land of shopping addicts and fat rednecks, King and his listeners were passionately devoted to the idea of America and an American project. Using tellingly capitalistic lingo, King said of those gathered that “we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.” King said that his dream, of racial equality, was “deeply rooted in the American Dream”.

Not for King the fashionable disgust for America’s obsession with consumerism and wealth. On the contrary, he said blacks were sick of living on “the lonely island of poverty” and longed to wade in America’s “vast ocean of material prosperity”. Not for King any sneering at America’s promise of wealth and opportunity to its citizens — “now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children”, he said. Not for King any mocking of the founding fathers of America, who have in recent years been judged by radical Leftists to have been racist and evil (in the words of The Nation magazine just last month, Thomas Jefferson was a “slave-owning rapist”). Instead, King extolled the “magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence” and talked about all men’s “inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.

In the run-up to the fiftieth anniversary of King’s speech, there’s been a great deal of debate about what has changed, especially for America’s blacks. But perhaps the most sweeping, dramatic change has been in attitudes towards the very idea of America. Today, cheap anti-Americanism is the glue that holds so-called liberals and radicals together. Tapping one’s toe to the Green Day song “American Idiot” while laughing knowingly at the fallacy of the American Dream is what passes for being edgy these days. Both within and without America, many Leftish activists and serious thinkers view America as dumb, fat, polluting, reckless and unwittingly hilarious, founded by narcissists and drunks, a “greedy and overweening power”, as the New Statesman said in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

August 22, 2013

Sixties TV – it was different if you were under 12

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 14:14

James Lileks looks at a few Gerry Anderson productions:

The Sixties - different under 12

Gerry Anderson! You’re going to get everything you need for crackerjack adolescent-satisfying sci-fi: spaceships, shuttlecrafts, computers, control rooms, crisp commanding officers, futuristic gadgets, and a big score. And none of it will work half as well as you hoped. The spaceships will look great, though. The computers will blink and there will be switches, but nothing makes Star Trek Sounds. The control rooms are clean but everyone is talking in a British accent for some reason, like they have their own NASA that’s just as big. The gadgets are okay. The score has a trademark echoey quality you found in soundtracks, particularly British ones, from the late 60s to the early 70s. It should be good! Why isn’t it great?

I’ve pondered that mystery for a long time. Sometimes you have a revelation — hey, the founding concept of “Space: 1999 was really stupid” — or you carp about the details, wondering why the UFO interceptors went hunting with one (1) missile that required a direct hit to be effective, instead of just blowing the hell out of the area. Then you realize it’s not great because it’s all the work of someone who made horribly grinning square-headed puppets, that’s why, and never stopping thinking he was making entertainment for 8 years olds.


The title theme is here, complete with oddly romantic piano interlude. It’s every Barry Grey piece that ever left me cold, right there. In general I just don’t feel Barry Grey’s music — except for the opening of the “Space 1999” theme before it goes full whacka-chicka, and of course that other theme. Here’s a guy who wrote miles and miles of scores for things like “Supercar,” for heaven’s sake, and he turns around and knocks off the tightest, sharpest theme of the 70s.

Still, Laurie Johnson was better.

Older Posts »
« « Chinese government philosophy in the headlines| Exercises in “guerrilla ontology” » »

Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: