Thursday, June 30, 2005

I Have a New Hero(ine)

Fresh from yesterday's righteous gutting of Rep. Tom Davis' thuggery toward Major League Baseball in the Sports section of the WashPost -- the only MSM outlet where you could have read about the disgusting gimlet-eyed power-play yesterday -- Sally Jenkins returns today with a howlingly funny imagining of the exchange between Vladimir Putin and NEPatriots owner Robert Kraft, in which Putin walked off with Kraft's Super Bowl ring in his pocket:

Putin: Is gift, no?

Kraft: No.

Putin: Yes.

Kraft: No.

Putin: Is nice.

Sally's the daughter of my favorite Guilty Pleasure, the Neanderthal-but-admit-it-hilarious Dan Jenkins, he of Semi-Tough and Baja Oklahoma, as well as some of the finest golf writing ever to grace the pages of Sports Illustrated.

She's done her daddy proud this week.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Street Day

Oh, you can't scare me, I'm a-workin' for the union...

Hey, how 'bout that wacky Rev. Tom Davis (R.-Va) making growling noises at Major League Baseball, hinting darkly that they could get into antitrust trouble and endanger a publicly-funded stadium for the Washington Nationals if MLB sells the team to a group that includes MoveOn PAC donor and liberal gadfly George Soros?

I couldn't make this up...

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I, Too, Am Glad That She's My Little Girl

Making Light kids -- Many thanks to Teresa for linking to me! If you like what you see in this post, you might like to check out How to Write an Earworm (about an Andy Partridge obscurity that will blow your mind), Things Apall a Fart (Paul McCartney's marvelously subversive -- yes, I said subversive! -- Super Bowl appearance), and Jesus Christ I Love Junk, about the Wonders' fictional Beatlesque hit "That Thing You Do." If obscure Civil War Psychos float your boat, check the John Mobberly Story on my main page. It's in the right column. You'll be glad you did.

Today's Best pre-1967 Beatles Song That Isn't "She Loves You" or "I Want to Hold Your Hand":

(Drumroll please!)

"I Feel Fine."

Thank you very much.

(Don't feel bad about streaming it; I'll count the hits on the logs and send a check to Paulie, Rings, Yoko and Olivia.)


First feedback on a record, sez Holy Saint Lennon Martyr, although Pete Townsend, who in late '64 was already blasting audience eardrums with it in the clubs (clubs, it needn't be pointed out, that Dr. O'Boogie attended avidly), might clear his throat and quietly point t0 "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere." We'll let Winston have this one. He's dead and Pete mostly isn't.

There's actually two sounds going on in there, first Paul plunks an A on the bass, then Johnny follows up with the feedback. It's a slightly tricky thing, you have to mute all the strings with your picking palm except the one you want to vibrate, and you don't get it right every time. And it's a cute little 1964 stereo trick George Martin pulls off, panning bass & drums left and guitars right so that the bonggg happens over here and the nyyyaaaaaww comes in over there, and vocals center. Boy knew what he was doing.

And that riff! That riff! This one'll separate the men from the boys. As BeatleSongs go, it's not a particularly sophisticated thing theoretically -- just fist-chords at D, C and G -- but the pinkie work turns it into a real wrist-melter, along about the 1:30 mark. You'll know you're a warrior, my son, a rock-and-roll patriot, when you can keep that sucker up for the duration. Thing you've got to listen for is George, who plays some amazingly subtle stuff. Compare the first phrase of the opening riff to the third phrase. George isn't there at the start, but he comes in shortly afterward, playing on the low strings. By the last phrase, just before the vocal starts, they're doubling. George's supporting playing becomes easier to hear in the fade. Listen carefully to the interplay between the two all the way through, and especially during the solo. It's some of the best guitar playing on a Beatles record.

(D'you know, I could swear I saw a bit of the Anthology where John was playing "I Feel Fine" live with a plugged-in acoustic? Do any of the rest of you remember that? I might have to go home and dig it up... If so, that'd explain the feedback!)

So, yeah, killer guitar work, sure, that helps. But what really sends this one into the stratosphear is the chorus, the way the three Beatlevoices (George low, John middle, Paul high) mingle with that cruddy Sixties reverb on "I'm so glad/That she's my little girl!" while Ringo Bernard Purdie leaves off the wacky Latin beat and kicks it into splashy four-on-the-floor rock and roll. Pure, distilled sunshiny 1964 joy, man. Bottle it up and sell it on Sullivan.

More Ringo Bernard: Check the ratty little fill he plays when coming back into the Latin beat at 0:54. The drumming's just great throughout.

Try this on for size: When Paul mentions "diamond rings" in a song, you don't want to fault him for being lazy because he's working his ass off selling the song. When Lennon does it, you know it's from pure, unalloyed laziness -- something he was always flirting with. Lennon's heart really isn't in this song, because we know he's about to start succumbing to the depression that always stalked him.

Released in late 1964, "I Feel Fine" is pretty much the last uncomplicated, sunny boy-girl song to come from Lennon for the rest of his Beatle career. On next year's Beatles for Sale we'll get anger ("No Reply"), self-hatred ("I'm a Loser"), self-pity ("I Don't Want to Spoil the Party"), an Edgar Allen Poe cop ("Yes It Is"), and on into "Help," "You've Got to Hide your Love Away," and so on. "Ticket to Ride"? Not really sunny, is it? And in the later periods, when the matter comes up at all, it trends into the creepily heroin-soaked and infantile: think "Julia," "Don't Let Me Down," "I Want You (She's So Heavy)."

But sometimes you really, really need that Moptop Joy. And at that point you can do worse than to throw on "I Feel Fine."

Monday, June 27, 2005

Maybe She'll Pay Me in the High Two Figures

In an unguarded moment, the wily and parsimonious Blue Girl in a Red State has caught me out. And you know? I asked for it.

In her Comments area, the subject of Calvin Trillin came up (as it so often does, of course) and I allowed that your average beguiling temptress could most easily find her way to the Jingo heart with honeyed, flattering words of comparison to the Sage of 33 Irving Place. Just trying to make conversation, you know how it is. Small talk. Cocktail chatter. It happens all the time:

"If the average beguiling temptress were to try to insinuate herself into your heart with honeyed, flattering words of comparison, the better to enslave you into durance vile, to which would you prefer being compared: Calvin Trillin or Stalin's Great Purger, NKVD capo Lavrenty Beria?"

"Oh, I think I'd take Trillin in a heartbeat."

And that's just what happened.

Consider me enslaved. I don't actually have the haunted moue about the eyes that Calvin's got in Blue Girl's pic, up there: My phiz generally takes a more dyspeptic cast, much like Doctor Johnson might appear as imagined by William Hogarth during a particularly irksome episode of gout. But clap the darbys on me anyway. Aw, hell, look at that -- she's not even going to make me a pie.


Actually, a series of photographs have recently come to light that show your correspondent having an actual nice time. Dramatis Personae: two historical field researchers, Wonder Woman, and a sweaty bumpkin know only as "Landowner." See if you can pick him out with his new weaponry.

Enter Landowner, wet...

Friday, June 24, 2005


It's a shame that the Digital Age has taken away our ability to monkey around with our record collections. Oh, sure, you can get VST filters and such that will let you speed up or slow down a record, but it's nothing like the giggles you'd get from just switching the turntable up to 45 RPM to hear the Monkees sound like the Chipmunks.

I think the best gut-laff I ever got from this now-closed avenue of pleasure was the time Pasq Wilson took a 45 of Grand Funk Railroad's "We're An American Band" and played it at 33. With the volume on his thousand-watt Marantz amp turned up to 11. And the speakers pointed out the window at the Deke House.

The Seventies. Didn't take much to amuse us, back in those days.

I can say this with complete confidence and in the full assurance that I will not be gainsaid:

Grand Funk Railroad sucked longer, louder and with more consistency than any band in the history of Rock and Roll. By a moonshot. By a light-year. By a parasec. Take three REO Speedwagons, four Golden Earrings, eight Nazareths, two Starships, and three Status Quos, mix 'em up in a big-assed blender, toss in some Olson Twins videos for crunch, and you will still have only a small jigger-load of what you'd need to make up a bowlful of brand-clean Grand Funk Suck. When the the Great Scorer comes to mark against their name, he writes not that they won or lost, but how much they just plain Sucked.

Even when I was thirteen years old and very impressed with ELO and Brownsville Station, I could tell how bad they sucked. My eighth-grade classmate Bob Something-or-Another, a major Funk-head, announced to me, with a glint of pride in his eye for his exquisite taste, that Mark Farner had "the longest hair in rock-and-roll."

That was an important criterion back then, I guess. Bob also loudly dug Chicago, which should tell you something.

So this morning I'm driving in to work on Route 7, past the park where they have the annual Ashburn Summer Music Festival, and what to my disbelieving eyes should appear at the very top -- headlining! -- the sign announcing the Festival: Grand Funk Railroad in all their glorious suckaliciousness.

Oh, dude, I am so fuckin' there!

According to their tour schedule, the Funk will be fresh from stinkin' up the house at a two-day stand at the Casino Rama Entertainment Center in Rama, Ontario, and lookin' forward to blowin' some dead bear at the North Branch Lions Field Sesqui-Centennial Celebration in North Branch, Michigan.

Jesus Honking Christ, look at that schedule. And to think, I once wanted to be a musician. Can you imagine the Spinal Tappian backstage scene at the Miccosukee Indian Village Fest in Miami, the groupie action at the Texas Twister Rally in Waco... Last night at the Thunder Valley Biker Rally in Crandon, Wisconsin, put me in a haze... Feelin' good, feelin' right, it's Saturday night at the Moondance Ranch Jam 14 in Walker, Minnesota -- the hotel detective he was outta sight!

(Turn the turntable down to 33!)

Now these fine ladies,
They had a plan
They were out to meet the boys in the band
They said, Come on, dudes!
Let's get it on!
And we proceeded to tear that hotel down!

(Fish in a barrel. I know. Next week: The Grateful Dead. Now there's some Suck!)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Guantanamesque? Abu Ghraibian?

It appears that the Righteous Worthies who lambasted Dick Durbin and Amnesty International for using Nazi concentration camps and Stalin's gulags as measuring sticks against which to compare -- and find important points of similarity with -- US treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, don't like metaphors very much.

Godwin's Law rules the land, no matter how apt the comparison, how accurate the simile. If "we're not nearly as bad as the Nazis" is a hair they're happy splitting, then I will be content to stand by, slowly applauding. And laughing until nausea sets in again.

So if each period of history is unique, and one cannot justly compare one to another without opening oneself to charges of ahistoricity (which is, after all, what the Righteous W's now bray), then all historical similes must die. No more Hitlerian or Neronian; no more Draconian or Spartan. Inapt. Not Comparable. Times Are Different.

What solecisms will history undergraduates commit in future years, when asked to describe the atrocities and genocides that will (beyond a shadow of doubt) deface their own times? Will angry red professorial pen strike out words like Bushian and Rovian and Rumsfeldian and scribble in margins, "NO! We're not as bad as that!" Will some future Dick Durbin in some far-off future time have to genuflect abjectly when Righteous W's take wattle-shaking umbrage at his employment of the adjective Guantanamesque?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Gaming, Drinking, Etc.

I'll tell you why the ladies of Hillsboro thought John Mobberly was such a bloomer-dampening hot patootie.

Because for comparison they had Philip Derry.

Let's explore that, shall we?

This is a carte de visite Mobberly had printed up and which he handed out quite generously. They still show up all over Loudoun County. (A carte de visite was a calling card with the bearer's photograph on it; these enjoyed a huge vogue in the 1850s and '60s. Read more about them here.)

Let's leave aside for the moment the question of why a busy Civil War guerrilla would have photos of himself printed up (the words rock star suggest themselves). The guy certainly isn't much in the looks department, is he. Unprepossessing, you might say. Richard Crouch opines he looks "for the most part, like a rather spoiled prep-school bully," and I'm not going to argue, although Bud Butts, interviewed in 1955 as the last living man who had ever seen Mobberly alive, described him as "six feet tall, handsome, with jet-black hair."

But tradition tells us that he was just catnip to the ladies of Hillsboro, who (we've seen before) gave him a hero's grave. Tales of his derring-do, no doubt exaggerated beyond recognition, resounded up and down the Rebel-sympathizing central Loudoun -- just as, over in the Unionist German Settlement that he hounded, recountings of his depravities, no less embellished, made the rounds.

So while it's a given that there's nothing like a reputation for daring horsemanship, devil-may-care recklessness in battle, and the weight of a Tragic Lost Cause on the shoulders to make up for a pudgy physique and a certain loutishness about the face, it doesn't hurt either that he was single, passionate, and relatively sober.

So if Mobberly was one exemplar of Old Dominion manhood, Philip Derry might well be held up as another.

In a divorce proceeding brought by Rachel Derry, a woman of 34 years of age in October 1866, her husband Philip is revealed as a liar, a womanizer, a drunk, and a serial abuser:
Her said husband [her complaint reads] on the other hand has, since their intermarriage been guilty of adultery, with a Margaret Collins and others, and has been totally negligent of the personal security of your Oratrix, and insufferably abusive and violent to her, beating and otherwise maltreating her and threatening to take her life with pistols until to protect her person from violence and preserve her life she has been compelled to leave her home and take refuge in the house of a friend as cook etc. etc. where she resides with her children practically without any protection and the children without a father. That the said adultery complaint occurred within five years preceding the institution of this suit, and has been continuous to the present time and is open and notorious. The said Margaret Collins and perhaps others living with her in his own house, her former home. And your Oratrix arces [? sic], that said adultery was not committed by her procurement & commissarce, and that she has not cohabited with the said Philip Derry since she had knowledge of the fact of said adultery.
Philip hotly denied all this in the proceeding, of course, and tried to turn the tables on his long-suffering wife by claiming she was herself unfaithful with a local man -- but he needn't have bothered with the slander. Divorce was granted, and through a maneuver that was as heartless a thing as I have ever seen, the court allowed to stand an earlier agreement -- made under obvious duress during the couple's years-long breakup -- that Philip should get the farm they lived on.

Which Rachel brought into the marriage, having inherited it from her grandfather.

Rachel got $800. The farm was worth thousands.

She later remarried (one hopes to less of a sniveling shit) and her mother sued to get the property back, which did happen, and Rachel inherited it back when her mother died.

The Derry house today. The wings were added later.

Philip Derry was nominally a Unionist (he's listed as having voted against secession in 1861), although I've heard quiet mutterings that this was not out of much conviction.

In 1864, when the Derrys occupied this house and Philip was regularly beating the stuffing out of Rachel, John Mobberly was ambushed here by Federal troops and barely escaped with his life.

There are two differing stories -- one a local word-of-mouth legend and the other based on more reliable documentation. As these things always are, the legend is more colorful -- and contains some germs of believability. Here's how it's told in a 1950 pamphlet, "Old Stone Houses of Loudoun County" by Solange Strong:
During the Civil War the house was owned by a well-known P____ D____ [why Derry's name is redacted this way is anybody's guess] who "farmed a little, but was mostly full of the devil, besides being a Yankee right out," though pretending to be neutral. His home was largely given over to gaming, drinking, etc. [oh, the stiff-necked Old Dominion propriety dripping off that "etc"!] and was a favorite rendezvous for the soldiery.

One memorable evening [Derry] invited several attractive ladies for a card-playing soirée, neglecting to tell them he had a few Federals hidden in the basement. He is quoted as saying that he "expected nature to take its course." Nature took its course through Confederates Ross Douglas and the redoubtable John Mobberly, the "detached scout." Lured by lights and ladies, they were riding lickety-split across the fields for an evening's fun. Douglas, jumping his horse over the last fence, entered the house first. Just as he was settling into a hard-bottomed Windsor chair, the Federals burst out of the basement and let him have it. The bullet went through him and the back of the chair.

Mobberly, whose horse had refused the jump and had to be led through the gate, was just tying the nag up. On hearing gunfire he quite understandably remounted and left. Douglas, taken outside for dead, was thrown across his horse and left to wander. Having the good luck to end up at a friend's, he eventually recovered. Even the chair wasn't permanently impaired. Last heard of sold at auction several years ago, it is still supposed to be in the county, easily identifiable by the bullet hole.

I suspect this of being the descendant of the fence Mobberly's horse refused.

I have to confess I'm skeptical about several of the details of this story, but we do know about Derry's turpitude and propensity for whoring. Two women, Clementine and Margaret Collins, are named in Rachel's suit, and look like excellent candidates for the "attractive ladies" mentioned in Strong's account, and have to wonder what Derry meant by his expectation that "nature" should "take its course" that night. (But then, I've got a filthy 21st century mind, and may have watched perhaps too much Deadwood lately.)

Richard Crouch gives us an account that's a bit less folksy:
A contemporary northern newspaper account stated that Lieutenant C. H. Pearson of General Stevenson's staff and a squad of six men stopped at Philip Derry's house, about 15 miles from Harpers Ferry, on the night of October 26, 1864. "Knowing it to be the resort of some of Mosby's guerrillas, they immediately surrounded the house. Pearson walked up and knocked at the foor, which was opened by Darby's [surely a misspelling of "Derry's"] wife. He immediately called upon them to surrender, to which they answered 'never!' and before they had time to draw their revolvers he shot both of them dead."
We know Mobberly wasn't killed in 1864, and the newspaper account mentions nothing about him, so it's possible this is a different incident than Solange Strong's. But if both these incidents (or "this incident," if they're the same) are true, Philip Derry certainly doesn't come off very well in either of them, does he. Either he's a drunk, gambling, whoring duplicitous Yankee, or he's wearing Yankee colors, voting Yankee, and running a doss-house for Mosby's guerrillas.

Hardly the sort of thing you'd want your daughter marrying.

And anyway -- your daughter has the hots for John Mobberly instead.



Richard Crouch, Rough-Riding Scout: The Story of John W. Mobberly, Loudoun's Own Civil War Guerrilla Hero, Elden Editions, 1994

Solange Strong, Old Stone Houses of Loudoun County, Virginia, 1950

Many thanks to Connie Derry, descendant of Philip Derry, for help in the preparation of this essay.

Effusive thanks also to the Ginsberg family for permission to photograph their beautiful home.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I'm Never Going to Be Taken Seriously in BlogSpace Ever Again

Uranus vegetation.

Keepin' It Surreal

So Waste Management, Inc., told me they wanted fifty of my hard-earned dollars a month for the privilege of gathering up my carefully cultivated collection of non-compostable maggots and styrofoam and carting it to the Loudoun County Landfill.

Well, shuck that fit, as the Man once said.

I do it myself. It's on the way to work, fercryinoutloud.

The way it works is, on arrival you drive up onto a scale that weighs your vee-hickle. Then, after you've put your carefully cult. coll. into the dumpsters provided, you drive back onto the scale. The difference between weight going in and weight going out is what they charge you for. Usually about four clams for about a month's worth of trash. Nice savings.

When you arrive they hand you a card with a number printed on it, which you hand back when you get weighed. This card gets recirculated each time another car comes in. Gets seen by probably a hundred people a day.

In line to get weighed on the way out, I took a pen and wrote
in small letters on the card.

Practicing Random Senseless Acts...

Monday, June 20, 2005

More Googlage

I'll stop with this silly mania soon enough, but just indulge me this.

Apparently I'm even responsible for what you clowns put up here: Google now considers By Neddie Jingo! to be the world's second-leading authority on Titty-Bingo stickers.

I don't even know what a goddamned Titty-Bingo sticker is! Go ask Chris Vreeland, leave me the hell out of it!

(That Dukes of Simpleton project is the tits, all praises to Chris and the gang! Check this shit out!)

Mobberly post tomorrow, I promise. Just a couple of t's to dot and some i's of cross. Don't want to be inaccurate, dig?)

The Rain in Spain

Richard Thompson is not only the World's Greatest Living Guitarist,* but damn he's amusing.

As circumstance would have it, his youngest son attends the same school as Arnold Schwarzenegger's and, being English and all, Thompson was tapped to coach the boys' soccer team. The assistant coach is The Governator Himself. The most attention-worthy items to emerge:
  1. Young Wolfgang Schwarzenegger is a bit of a ball-hog; and
  2. Richard's giving Arnold elocution lessons.
He writes about the experience at his web site: try first here and then here, -- and in fact throughout his online diary, which is here.
We then had a scrimmage – first team against the reserves, parents, and coaches – and I put Arnold as sweeper, and one of his security men in goal. I will long treasure the sight of the CIA operative, earpiece still in place, dark jacket removed and carefully hung on the goalpost, but gun still firmly in shoulder holster, making a commendable diving save at the feet of young Gabe Silver, our star left-winger. Arnie himself was less impressive; apparently a good player in his youth, his physique was now such that it threatened to topple him every time he kicked the ball or changed direction. I suppose it was sheer bulk and top-heaviness; soccer demands a lot of twisting and turning, and a ballet-like agility, not to mention the fitness to run for ninety minutes; being able to stroll through a barn door carrying three injured platoon-mates doesn’t really cut it.
*The World's Greatest Dead Guitarist was until recently Eldritch "Snuffy" Grimes, who held forth at the Thanatos Club in Kansas City. However, in an unfortunate turn of events, Mr. Grimes has been rendered unable to perform owing to the loss of both arms in a decomposition-related incident. The mantle now falls to Patches "El Muertito" Rodriguez of Caracas, who has developed quite a loyal audience despite the overwhelming stench of putrescent flesh that attends even his most informal performances.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Aliens Among Us

My early years were a bit of a mess.

Mostly in a good way, but occasionally the mess got a little too...messy.

Pops was in the U.S. Diplomatic Corps, and we lived in a lot of different places through the Sixties and Seventies -- Colombia, Finland, Sweden, Chile, Spain, Germany. With spells at home in Washington to catch our breath. For the most part it was glorious, and I wouldn't trade childhoods with anybody.

But this sort of thing can put a bit of a strain on a family, and in the early Eighties, things kind of exploded and the various bits and pieces went their separate ways.

My brother Bob, the youngest of us kids, felt the effects of that explosion more than any of the rest of us. Excepting him, we'd moved out and had started independent lives, and he was the one left holding the family bag.

One thing about spending your teenage years the son of the U.S. Commercial Attaché in Augusto Pinochet's Chile -- you have no choice but to live intensely -- with your eyes wide open. I think perhaps the single most Magical Realist moment in my entire life was once in Coquimbo, a fishing port at the southern edge of the Atacama Desert. I was fifteen -- a very mature fifteen, but fifteen nevertheless. I'd spent the whole night on a compound for the University of Arizona astronomers who worked at La Serena Observatory. I'd been drinking wine and smoking serious doobage with the sons and daughters of the astronomers. At dawn, at the expiration of the toque de queda -- the immensely inconvenient midnight-to-four curfew during which you did not dare show your face on the street or risk being summarily shot -- my buddy Carlos Davila and I took a bus into sleepy Coquimbo -- a creaky, windswept, hilly Pacific town, all wind-blasted wood, sand and stone -- to change for a local bus to catch our ride back to Santiago.

As we reeled around Coquimbo at dawn, still pretty baked from the night before, the awakening town put on a Garcia Marquez show for us. A drunk reeled out of a toque-a-toque party and collapsed in his own puke on the street at our feet, just as a bakery opened its doors and flooded the street with warm yeast. Immediately next to the bakery, the mortuary opened its shutters. The proprietors brought out coffins of all shapes and price-points for street display as vegetable vendors pushed carts piled high with produce up the steep street past them. And through it all, dazed at the sheer aliveness of it, wandered these two stoned Gringo kids.

Nothing about the scene, it struck me like a fist, placed it in any particular century. It could just as easily have been 1875 as 1975.

But this isn't about me. It's about Bob. And me.

Only two other people on this earth have had a childhood that remotely resembles mine -- who can understand the intense loneliness, the Perpetual Foreignness, the constant feeling of being Outside, that a Diplomat Brat experiences. Bob, and our sister Nora. This is not at all a whine or a plea for understanding -- as I said, I wouldn't trade my childhood for yours for any price. But you lived intensely. This can take a toll.

I offer as evidence this post by Bobby Lightfoot.

I feel this one down to my veriest toenails, folks. This is Really What It's Like. Living at one remove. Even now, thirty years on, unable to shake the feeling you're an Alien.

Absolutely nothing he says in that post is untrue.

I feel privileged to share a life with him.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Your eyes are filled with dead men's dirt, your mind is filled with dust

Jingo-Gracer-With-His-Presencer Randy Sparkman, proprietor of Jubilation Rising, which has just popped up in the Blogroll over there, informs me he just got a piece on Emmett Till published at Slate. And he ain't just whistling Dixie.

Atta boy, Ran-man!

(Memsahib Jingo, back in the Befuddling Sixties, used to corrupt this phrase to "I'm not just whispering dickies," and for many long years I labored under the misapprehension that that was the correct version of that phrase. Well, hell, if Mom says it that way, it must be right!)

In other news, a Major Breakthrough has happened on the John Mobberly front: After a long & frustrating search I've found and verified the house where The Mobster (the Mob-man! The Mob-meister! The Man of Mob-Stinnia!) was set upon and ambushed by the Federals and barely escaped with his life. Watch This Space!

Item: I've just discovered to my great amusement that Blogger accepts the Blink tag. Be extremely grateful that good taste overcame the impulse to mischief a minute ago.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Practice Makes Perfect

Some while ago I was at a traffic light behind Wiccie the Witch, and I fixated on one of her many bumperstickers.


Well, certainly not an imperative that I have much of a problem with, I daresay. World would be a much nicer place, and all that.

But old Johnny Editor, that part of my brain that just can't goddamned leave well enough alone, sneakily took a pair of mental scissors and lopped off half the sticker. Wow. That's much better -- much more in keeping with the Jingo Weltanshauung, innit:


So that's what adorned the dear old Prizm until I had to give it up for the Mullethead Truck last summer.

But I'm itchin' for another one just like it.

I like that: Practice the senseless acts. I don't want you to commit them -- just work on your delivery.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Street Day

Over at The American Street, I've posted a chillingly stark passage I found in The Press-Gang Afloat and Ashore, by John R. Hutchinson (1914) a book about the coercion by force of unwilling men into the armed forces, most particularly by the British Navy in the 18th century.

Can't imagine what it's alluding to...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I Lost It At Google

This is getting ridiculous.

By Neddie Jingo! is #1 at Google for the phrase virtuous mean.

Because of this post.

Beating, by a nose, this page.

Jeezis H. Kleist. Sorry, all you frosh cribbing your Philosophy 101 papers from the Web. Hint: You'll probably get a better grade (if not a more amused Philosophy prof) if you cut-and-paste from the Artistotle site, not here.

Did You Mean: Turkey Patties


Now I'm Number One at Google for "turkey pitties."

Monday, June 13, 2005

Posting Lite

I'm attending a conference downtown today and tomorrow, so posting's going to necessarily be a little sparse.

Conference title: "Tempest, Meet Teapot: The American Left's Amazing Propensity to Chew Its Own Legs Off in Fine Weather and Foul."

Meanwhile I'm making some astonishing discoveries.

For one thing, apparently By Neddie Jingo! has been deemed by the pitiless, seething Darwinian Google selection process to be a World's Leading Authority -- seriously, the Internet's Go-To Guy -- on the toweringly trivial twin topics of Evangeline Lilly's parachoques and Sixties food.

Such responsibility! I'm a veritable Daily Kos when it comes to turkey pitties and Tang. How can I most effectively alienate such a burgeoning audience? The Comments section awaits your acerbic suggestions.

Friday, June 10, 2005

An Enthusiastic Endorsement

When it comes to wisdom, clarity and centeredness, Blue Girl in a Red State emits the clear white light of Enlightenment from her very pores. She Embodies Wisdom. Just so's you know.

Spelled Backwards, "Ul-Ul"

For your Friday delectation, I thought you might like to try a little multitasking exercise, a little confluence of High and Low Culcha.

Listen to Spike Jones' "Hawaiian War Chant."

(Easy enough, Nedster: it's a sprightly little piece that's been covered by every Hawaiian hack from David Keli’i with Al Kealoha Perry & his Singing Surfriders to Sam Makia with Lani McIntire & his Orchestra, with stops at Danny Stewart with Andy Iona's Islanders and Basil Henriques & his Waikiki Islanders, dude. Gimme a challenge.)

All right. Here's your challenge. Listen to it while reading Thomas Pynchon's liner notes to "Spiked! The Music of Spike Jones."

See if your head don't asplode.
Spike told an often-reworked story about going to hear Stravinsky conduct The Firebird at the Shrine Auditorium in L.A. Stravinsky is wearing some new patent leather shoes, and Spike is sitting close enough to notice that every time the composer-conductor goes up on his toes just before a downbeat, the shoes squeak. "Here would go the violins," as he told it, " and 'squeak squeak' would go his shoes. He should have worn a pair of sneakers. And the pseudos who went down to see the ballet, they didn't know what they were looking at anyway. They thought, Stravinsky's done it again. New percussive effects." But then later, driving home, Spike gets to thinking -- "...if you made planned mistakes in musical arrangements and took the place of regular notes in well-known tunes with sound effects, there might be some fun in it."
Does comedy belong in music? You bet your ass it does.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Meme Grows Hair

A month or so ago, I began to grope my way toward the Dumb-Fuck Theory of History, a sort of variation on the Great-Man Theory but in a sorta, kinda, opposite way.

Lance Mannion got the same idea at about the same time, and wrote a great post about it.

Now we've got one Naman Crowe, in the op-ed pages of the Chattanoogan, with a stemwinder of a rant on the topic. I don't know who he is, but I'd like to buy him a beer, wind him up and watch him go.
We are born much more stupid than intelligent. And we are born into a world that is much more stupid than intelligent. Our environment - from our family and playmates, to our churches and schools, the things we read and the things we see and hear on our TVs, to the workplace, the marketplace and all other places where people congregate and socialize – is like a sea of stupidity soaking into our brains without letup, leaving minds by the countless millions as dead as drowned rats way before the individuals are literally and physically dead.
Although Frank Zappa said it more pithily:
Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.

If Walls Could Talk

This morning's WashPost, milking it to the last, had a human-interest story about the central Fairfax County neighborhood where W. Mark Felt lived while he was Deep Throating Woodstein.

The story included a photo of the house he lived in in 1974:

A brick rambler. I've been in hundreds of them. Three, maybe four bedrooms, one-car-garage, probably a fake-wood-paneled den downstairs opening out to a tiny pool in back. Maybe an eat-in kitchen, maybe not. Dig that bow window in the formal living room -- speaks of fake plants, hand-quilted seat cushions, heavy mahogany Ethan Allen corner cupboard for the china and the good silver service. Third of an acre, just enough to mow with an electric push-mower. Which I guarantee you, Felt did himself -- the Felt kids being all grown up with houses of their own by 1974.

Human scale.

Now, I know FBI salaries were notoriously stingy in those days -- still might be, for all I know -- but as Associate Director of the FBI (the position he was promoted to by Hoover and the position he had under L. Patrick Gray during Watergate) Felt had to have been making some fairly decent scratch. If it has any equivalency to today's Govvie pay scale for executive-level positions, he was probably pretty comfy. My own pops, at State in 1974, while nowhere near Felt's seniority, didn't do too badly by us.

But look at the scale of that house. Belonging to the Associate Director of the FBI. Number-two G-Man in the country.

Today's equivalent to Felt at FBI is one John S. Pistole.

Wonder what his house looks like.

I'm not at all implying anything on Pistole's part -- hell, for all I know he lives in a tin-roof shack in Anacostia and tithes his salary to Habitat for Humanity.

(Errrr.... No, I bet he doesn't.)

But no: No opprobrium on Pistole. You live where you can afford to live. But I am willing to bet a hefty chunk of change that the Deputy Director of George Bush's FBI doesn't live in a one-story brick rambler in Fairfax.

O tempora, o mores, and what have you.

To further calibrate the scale thing, here's an 1820's house not a million miles from Felt's. (I mistakenly believed it figured in the Mobberly story, but no. Right surname, right part of the valley, different branch of the family.)

The addition was put on later, and from the fact that half of the addition is made of cinderblock, this house was occupied by Real Live People within living memory. The detritus around the place -- beer cans, frozen-orange-juice cans, liquor bottles -- lots and lots and lots of liquor bottles -- points to just about exactly the same time that Felt was occupying Wyford Drive.

The front of the older part of the house could easily be spanned by three adult men holding their arms out.

I'll just throw this one up, from the web site, then I'll ring the doorbell and run away giggling. It's just around the corner from Felt's old place.

Know any FBI Deputy Directors looking for a crib?

A Great Day for Music

Surely ... surely ... SURELY I'm not the only grubby obsessive out there in BlortSpace who, when being apprised by this morning's Washington Post of the discovery of a fragment of a hitherto unknown Bach aria in a shoebox in Weimar immediately supplied the remainder of the lead paragraph:
In 1954 Professor Peter Schickele, rummaging around a Bavarian castle in search of rare musical gems, happened instead upon the original manuscript of a Sanka Cantata by one P.D.Q. Bach, being employed as a strainer in the caretaker's percolator. A cursory examination of the music immediately revealed the reason for the atrocious taste of the coffee; and when the work was finally performed at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople, the Professor realized too late that he had released a monster on the musical world.
Inspired, I hopped over to my Short-Tempered Clavier and banged out a Pervertimento, a Serenude, a Perückenstück, and the Andante from the Schleptet in E-flat major.

What a wonderful day for music!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

How's Uranus?

Is Uranus' corporosity sagatiating? Are the rings of gas surrounding Uranus visible with the naked eye? Is there vegetation on Uranus? Could a human being survive on Uranus?

And most importantly of all: Would Uranus stand up to close visual inspection?

Sometimes one's inner eight-year-old demands satisfaction.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Jesus Christ I Love Junk

Can anything compare to the feeling I had somewhere in the early Eighties when I floated joyfully out of a screening of "A Hard Day's Night" with three friends (in the pre-VHS era, it hadn't been seen anywhere since 1965), and we bounced madly down Bleecker Street, Beatling Liverpoodlingly all over everyone and everything in our path, knowing that the noblest and bravest aspiration -- in fact the only honorable aspiration for a young man in the waning days of the Twentieth Century -- was to be in a rock group consisting of two guitars, bass and drums and lots of vocal harmonies?

Anything else -- any other way of making a living! -- came a stupefyingly dull second.

One-a those DishNetwork stations way up the dial has been showing the movie "That Thing You Do" pretty incessantly, and sucker that I am I just can't click past it.

It's that damned song. (Go ahead, have a listen.)

"That Thing" is set in March of 1964, a few weeks after the Beatles' epoch-making invasion of America, and of course tells of the rise and nearly immediate fall of The Wonders, one of the thousands and thousands of little rock bands that immediately formed in the aftermath of that mindboggling event, who rise to near-stardom on the strength of their one Beatlesque hit and then immediately sink without a trace. It's a really touching little movie in a lot of ways, especially in the scene where the lads first hear their song on their local radio station and do a little Liverpoodling of their own in the staid main-street appliance store where they work. We'll never know the Sixties again. All that possibility.

But that scene isn't the one that really gets the old lower lip trembling and puts a mist in the eye for Lost Youth.

No, what sets me off is a tiny little detail shown while they're recording the song in a borrowed church -- nothing more than an establishing shot, really: The song's producer (played by Chris Izaak) and Liv Tyler as Faye are recording the handclaps heard throughout the song as the band plays in the background:

Beat, clap-clap, clap! Clap-clap, clap!

What makes rock and roll so goddamned wonderful, so worth giving your whole life over to, is lurking somewhere right in those stupid bubblegum handclaps. Somewhere in that little syncopated figure, that obvious bit of calculated cultural junk, lies something that's as close as a human being can aspire to Perfection.

I've spent quite a lot of my adult life (seriously -- more than is healthy) thinking about what makes a song deserve to be called Beatlesque. My slavering devotion to the music of Andy Partridge and XTC (and especially their wonderful psychedelic alter egos, the Dukes of Stratosphear), probably the artists most often associated with that adjective, has no doubt fueled that obsession.

Adam Schlesinger, later of Fountains of Wayne, wrote the song to order (he won a competition that Andy Partridge also entered), and it's clear what his brief was: Write a song that will invite immediate comparison to the early Beatles without being a Rutles-ish pastiche or parody. It must be as sincere as possible without being mawkish. Above all, it must invoke the huge quivering shot of amphetamine optimism that the Beatles injected into a country that was plunging into depression over the Kennedy assassination.

Interestingly, if you make a study of early Beatles records, there's no one song that's got all the elements Schlesinger packed into this one. Perhaps most glaringly, the only Beatle song that I can find that overtly emphasizes that stomp-clap-clap, (pause) clap beat is a Motown cover: The Marvelettes' "Please Mr. Postman." Play "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (released in the U.S. two months before this movie takes place) next to "That Thing You Do," they're plainly different beasts: They share drive, energy, infectious enthusiasm, wonderfully unpredictable chord changes, great ensemble singing, varied textures -- but Schlesinger is writing with, what, thirty years' worth of hindsight, having absorbed not only the original Beatle texts but everything that came after, from Badfinger to Big Star to ELO to Utopia to XTC.

Some of that stuff is going to rub off.

The background vocals alone are just fantastic, with passing tones created by moving from major to equivalent minor keys. Check the lines, "Just so hard to do," (I-I7-IV-iv yeah!) the "ahhhs" under the second verse leading into the "I've tried and tried" bridge (awww, fuck that's great) and the entire middle eight. Masterful.

The chord tab that I found on the Net gives a little notation -- "Wow!" -- at the end of the middle eight, where the while thing modulates upward a half-step from the B7 that's the V7 of our home key, E, into C ("I just can't take it any more!"). This makes absolutely no sense harmonically -- but yes. Wow.

That is Beatlesque. Breaking rules because you don't know they aren't supposed to be broken.

But maybe that's the bittersweet thing, right there. The Fabs broke rules not knowing they were rules and created magnificent music that we'll never hear again the way we heard it when it was new. But in order to be Fabulous, you have to break the rules in ways that you've carefully studied, having tweezed apart every Beatle record down to its submolecular components to find out what makes it tick.

And how many young men now consider it their sacred, noble duty to form wonderful little two-guitars-bass-drums-lots-of-vocal-harmonies rock bands, for the sheer joy of hearing Beatlesque music coming from their mouths and instruments?

But the fact remains: there is still no more honorable work.

Enemy Routed

I suppose I owe you a followup from the Big Scary Road-Paving Meeting from Friday evening.

I guess I began to suspect that things might turn out all right when Our Hostess, having called the meeting to order, noted that she liked to begin such things with a check-in with The Man Upstairs, bowed her head and began to intone some monotheistic platitudes. Not being a praying man myself, and feeling quite creeped out by her automatic assumption that none of us objected to beginning this entirely profane bit of business with a jolly grovel before Old Nobodaddy, I rolled my eyes, inhaled sharply through flared nostrils, and looked around.

At least five other people were doing exactly the same.

Turns out I didn't need to worry too much about my neighbors and selling out. A very large proportion of the Two or Three Assembled wanted nothing to do with this family's's obnoxiously self-interested desire to protect their idiotically sited home from road-dust. One particularly exercised bohemian indignantly told Our Hostess in so many words to plant a goddamned hedgerow and some trees like a sane person would.

Saving me from the task.

No one took any formal votes, but I believe the consensus that emerged was that this woman should go stick her asphalt millings in her ear, and that we should hold the County's feet to the fire on the matter of road maintenance -- there's no reason in 2005 that a dirt road should be as dusty as this one admittedly is. More regular grading, plus the addition of calcium chloride to the gravel which allows it better to retain moisture, should control the dust.

Perhaps the most interesting thing that came out of the meeting was the apparent common suspicion among the old-timers that the preponderance of dirt roads in northern Loudoun was Richmond's revenge for their ancestors' Union sympathies during the Recent Unpleasantness: When the time came for distribution of WPA money for public works during the New Deal, not a penny came for road improvement around Lovettsville.

Which, all things said and done, suits me just fine 70 years later.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Not Looking Forward to This

I'm a little afraid of what I might do tonight.

Two days ago on my way home from work I passed a sign that had been put up in a neighbor's yard: "Meeting Friday Night about [Our Common Road]"

This winter this guy took about 30 acres of open pasture -- a Civil War battlefield -- and subdivided it and put up about 10 Hummer-Houses. (You can actually see part of it in this post.) People are starting to move into the houses now. Traffic on the little dirt road has tripled, quadrupled, since he did this.

I know what this guy wants to do: He wants to agitate to get our road paved.

He claims his house -- the first to be built on that pasture -- is dusty from the road. Damned right his house is dusty -- he plunked it down in a peninsula of pasture, surrounded on three sides by the road, and not a tree or shrub has he planted to shield the house. A spectacularly stupid bit of home-siting. A boy of five could have told him not to put his house there. (Several boys of five, lined up on their tricycles, shook their heads sadly and looked chopfallen as the bulldozers broke ground.)

But here's what's got me worried. In my interior monologue I am making this guy a scapegoat for every goddamned avaricious, mendacious, soul-destroying crime against sanity perpetrated by beauty-hating, know-nothing, land-raping, Iraq-invading, home-schooling, Christ-insulting, religion-perverting, Kerry-slandering, Abu-Ghraib-denying, history-mangling, language-destroying, WMD-inventing, plutocrat-tax-relieving, wingnut-judge-appointing ASSHOLE in the last five years.

Do you know, this morning a woman drove past me with a personalized license plate that said GOP GIRL and some frother bumperstickers -- and I flipped her the finger?

That's what I'm afraid of. I'm losing my mind. Civility gets harder and harder to fake.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Damn You, Jon Stewart!

Material-stealin' boogerhead
went to Wonder Woman's
high school too.

I'm taking it as READ that Jon Stewart's writers are hangin' chez Neddie. Last night's Daily Show report on the Tom DeLay bala gash from a couple of weeks ago (the show was dark for the last two agonizing weeks, and they must have been catching up on old stuff too delicious to be passed up) bore an eerily familiar cast. I'm not gonna make too big a deal out of it, but you enter "Tom DeLay" AND "Pete Seeger" AND "hammer" in at Google, and up pops AlterNet's link to my post from May 13. Followed by two direct links to moi. Followed, way down the page, by David Corn and Daily Kos.

I'm just sayin'.

Stewart directly namechecked my Streetmate Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, but that's just 'cos his blog's name is inherently funny. Unlike mine, which is funny only if you look it up in Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English.

Nyah, and again, sir, I say, nyah.

Stewie did get off a pretty good line: "If Tom DeLay had a hammer, he'd use it to bludgeon Pete Seeger to DEATH!"

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Street Day

I found a transcript of a White House conversation between Richard Nixon and Bob Haldeman in which Nixon expresses horror that Mark Felt, whom he thought to be a Jew, could have advanced so far in the FBI. Just after he hints he'd like him killed.

Better comedy you're not likely to find. Whatta guy!