Fascinating Rhythm

Rhythm is one of those words I cannot spell; another is subpoena. I wonder if Ira Gershwin had the same problem. It’s a subject I find endlessly fascinating. Why? I’ll never know.

George and Ira Gershwin wrote Fascinating Rhythm in 1924 for their smash hit musical Lady Be Good, which is another swell-n-swinging song.

Fascinating Rhythm has been recorded nearly 300 times according to the bible of the Friday Cocktail Hour, SecondHandSongs.com. You didn’t think I did this without help, did you?

We begin with the Velvet Fog with the Marty Paich Dek-tette:

Next up, Ella Fitzgerald and her fascinating friend Nelson Riddle:

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Ashli Babbittry

Sinclair Lewis is back in fashion because of his parable of American fascism, It Can’t Happen Here. I’m not sure how many people have read the novel as opposed to posting pictures of the cover on social media. That’s more common than you might think. It’s gotten to the point where I ask errant social media commenters if they’ve read the post of mine they’re attacking. They usually have not.

I had a high school English teacher who was kin to Sinclair Lewis. I don’t recall the consanguinity, but her stock line was “Sinclair Lewis, not Upton Sinclair.”

People were just as easily confused in the 20th Century as they are now. I wish I could say that Twitter birthed mass stupidity, but its been with us forever. Hell, when I ran a Google search for Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair’s name came up almost as often.

That brings me to another Sinclair Lewis novel Babbitt, which is a fine example of satire circa 1922. It was the story of a Midwestern real estate developer named George Babbitt. He was the epitome of vapid conformity and banal boosterism.

It’s every writer’s dream to coin a word or phrase that makes the dictionary. That happened with Babbitt, which is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as:

“a person and especially a business or professional man who conforms unthinkingly to prevailing middle-class standards.”

A mini essay at Merriam-Webster.com adds this thought about Babbittry:

The values, attitudes, and mores associated with the American middle class in the 1920s can be summed up in the word Babbitry. It derives from the protagonist of Babbitt, a satirical novel by Sinclair Lewis published in 1922. George F. Babbitt epitomizes the unimaginative and self-important businessmen that Lewis found typical of the provincial cities and towns of America. Despite his evident prosperity and status, he remains vaguely dissatisfied with life and makes tentative attempts at rebellion; however, in the end, he finds his need for social acceptance greater than his desire for escape.

To a great extent that describes the conformism that is Trumpism. Trumpers tend to trumpet the cliches they’ve heard on Fox News, Newsmax, Breitbart, and other wingnutty web sites. Trumpism is a conformist creed that relies on talking points instead of independent thought hence the anti-intellectual attacks on science and education. Who among us isn’t tired of hearing about cancel culture?

The anti-intellectualism of Trumpism is nothing new. George Wallace was fond of attacking “damn pointy-headed intellectuals who can’t park their bicycle straight.”

The Impeached Insult Comedian was never that witty.

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Today on Tommy T’s Random Ruminations – Ants and Uncles edition

There’s a lot of jibber-jabber from the right-wing about Tim (Look! We have a black friend, so we can’t be racist) Scott’s responding to President Biden’s first address to congress. Most of it centers around the “Uncle Tom” thing currently bouncing around in hashtag land. I’m a musician. And an engineer/producer. I’ve had (and still have) a number of black friends and associates. And yes, I’ve heard the “Uncle Tom” thing used. By them. I’ve never heard one white person call a black person an “Uncle Tom”. Not one. It’s  a term exclusively used by black Americans to describe someone … Continue reading Today on Tommy T’s Random Ruminations – Ants and Uncles edition

A Postcard From Menlo Park (CA)

Greetings From Facebook Jail

 

This week’s postcard is actually from several places.

It’s from Menlo Park. But it’s actually from East Menlo Park. To be more specific from the campus of Facebook in East Menlo Park.

More specifically it’s from the cyber location called Facebook Jail.

No, I’m not in jail, but in the last few weeks a couple of my friends have been placed there, so like in Monopoly, I’m just visiting. I get to pass Go and collect $200.

It’s the algorithms I tells ya, they rat you out before you can even finish the comment.

Take my friend Don. Nice guy. We used to write together. We even wrote a musical for him to star in.

He’s the blonde on the left. If you’re thinking to yourself I know that face it’s probably from one of his many commercials or appearances on Letterman. He semi-gave up the glamour of show business for the academic life a few years ago and now teaches creative writing at a college in Connecticut. Which makes his crime even more, what’s the creative writing term for it, ironic.

Why is he in Facebook Jail? Because he had the temerity to make the following comment as a reply to someone else’s post:

We have more stupid Americans than at any other point in my lifetime.

That’s it. That’s all. For making the rather obvious statement of fact/opinion that a huge swarth of the American public are stupid. If I’m not mistaken Tucker Carlson has built an entire career on the basis of that assumption. The Repugnicant party as well.

I can hear you now saying to yourself “self, what’s so bad about saying a great number of people are stupid? It’s not like he called a specific person a particular racial slur or maligned an entire group of people by saying all were stupid, he just said there are a lot of stupid people living in America.”

Well self here’s the answer. The algorithm Facebook uses to check for hate speech on it’s site considers the word “stupid” to be hate speech.  Why? Apparently because some people still use stupid as a derogatory synonym for mentally challenged, hence stupid in the context of other human beings is hate speech. Stupid in the context of The Bachelor is okay, though don’t call whoever is the bachelor on The Bachelor stupid even if he was mentally challenged enough to go on a reality dating show.

But stupid has other meanings in relation to humans.

  • “A benumbed or dazed state of mind” as in “I was rendered stupid for awhile after I fell off the ladder”.
  • “Tediously dull, especially due to lack of meaning or sense” as in “This party is stupid”.
  • “In a state of stupor” as in “I am stupid from staying up all night”.
  • “Annoying or irritating” as in “This recitation of all the meanings of stupid is stupid”

So Facebook, do I go to jail for saying “Man last night I was so stupid from going to that stupid party that I tripped on the curb, hit my head, and got stupid for so long that I was stupid to the guy who gave me a ride home”?

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Snake Bite Love

Water Serpents II by Gustav Klimt

Perhaps I should have used Zachary Richard’s Snake Bite Love as our theme song while we were Festing In Place but I couldn’t let go of using Can’t Let Go last week. Besides, it’s never too late for a Zack Attack.

We have two versions of Snake Bite Love for your listening pleasure: the 1992 studio original and a 2009 live version from a Jazz Fest set I attended.

One more snake song before we slither to the break:

Ouch that hurt. Time to turn the virtual page.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: For Shame Of Doing Wrong

New York Movie by Edward Hopper.

I’m trying something different this month. I’m pairing the artwork of Edward Hopper with the music of Richard Thompson. Each Saturday in April will feature a different EH image and RT tune. I think they work well together.

My oak pollen allergy has been bonkers this year. We’ve hit a prolonged dry patch: no rain since some time in February. We tend towards extremes in New Orleans. It either rains too much or not at all. The happy medium is unknown in our forecasting annals.

The worst thing about this allergy season during the pandemic is that it’s hard for me to go outside at all. The last time I took a walk, I had a pollen related sneezing jag, which led some fellow strollers to glare at me as if I were Typhoid Mary. So it goes.

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson for the Pour Down Like Silver album. I have a soft spot for that album: it was the first RT album I ever purchased but not until 10 years after its release. I was a late RT bloomer.

We have three versions of For Shame Of Doing Wrong for your listening pleasure: the Richard and Linda studio original, a poppy version produced by Gerry Rafferty, and a cover by RT’s former Fairport band mate, Sandy Denny.

Is it shameful that I like the poppy version from Rafferty’s Folly? Hell, I like the song below too. It was inescapable in 1978:

As I hang my head for shame of doing wrong, let’s jump to the break in a shameless manner.

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