URLs du Jour

2017-05-18

■ Rolling the dice on Proverbs 26:21. C'mon, baby:

As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,
    so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.

So true! In related news, today's Getty image is a reconstruction of the Oval Office meeting between President Trump and James Comey.

■ At NR, Ben Shapiro clarifies: Trump Isn’t Playing 8-D Chess. Looking at recent developments:

Trump failed miserably on all fronts — not because of his political principles, which were never philosophically conservative, but because Trump is a deeply flawed man, and thus an even more flawed leader. His obsession with others’ perceptions led him to fire FBI director James Comey — who should have been fired, by all rights, months ago — for the sin of failing to respect Trump’s bizarre theories about Obama-era “wiretapping.” Meanwhile, in an act of extreme arrogance, Trump appeared on national television and proceeded to destroy the supposed rationales for the Comey firing. His pathological insecurities then led him to tweet about “tapes” of Comey, which he then refused to allow his communications team to sweep under the rug.

Yes, Hillary could have arguably been worse. That argument is wearing thin, not even four months in.

■ But impeachment? Nick Gillespie (at Reason) is dismissive: All This Impeachment Talk Is Pure Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Donald Trump, the most-unlikely and least-liked president in the history of the United States, had barely celebrated his first 100 days when calls for his impeachment started flying faster than Anthony Weiner dick pics at a Girl Scout cookout. For the good of democracy, don't you see, the Republicans must not only be kicked to the curb in the 2018 midterms, but the president himself must be thrown into the street, just like he once tried to evict that old lady from her house in Atlantic City!

Good luck with that, Democrats.

■ Moving on to less political, but more interesting, affairs: Tyler Cowan has a brief blurb about a new book from Ben Blatt, Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve. For example comparing authors' Number of -ly adverbs per 10,000 words (Hemingway: 80; E L James: 155).

In the novel The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien used the word “she” only once.  In The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, however, she relative to he is used 79% of the time, the highest ratio of the classics surveyed.  Female authors are very strongly represented on that side of the curve, let me tell you.  And male authors do the “he” far more, in relative terms, than female authors do the “she.”

Definitely going into my things-to-read list.

■ A good one from Michael P. Ramirez:

Speaking of Obstruction of Justice

All true! Life is unfair.

■ And James Lileks has this YouTube video in his Bleat today, animation from a Utah high-schooler. Watch, you won't be sorry.


Last Modified 2017-05-19 6:36 AM EDT

The Cake and the Rain

A Memoir

[Amazon Link]

I have been a Jimmy Webb fanboy for about 50 years, ever since I noticed that those sweet Glen Campbell songs ("Wichita Lineman", "Galveston", …) and a lot of songs off the Johnny Rivers "Rewind" album, and … whoa, Richard Harris's "Macarthur Park" were all written by the same guy.

So over the years, I've bought his albums, I've bought albums from artists who recorded his songs (Art Garfunkel, Linda Ronstadt, even Michael Feinstein, etc.). I've seen him in concert three or four times (I lose track). At one of those concerts, I even got his signature on a poster off his "Archive" 5-CD set.

I used to be kind of bashful about this, but the hell with it. "I celebrate the guy's entire catalog."

Well, actually, that's not true. There are some clinkers. But every songwriter has those.

In his concerts, Jimmy is quite the engaging raconteur, telling yarns about his encounters with Sinatra, Richard Harris, the city of Galveston, etc. He also displays this talent in a lot of documentaries: I'll Be Me (about Glen Campbell); Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?), The Wrecking Crew, etc. You can kind of think of this memoir as an version of those anecdotes, much expanded and R-rated. The book only covers his early life, up to 1973 or so. A hint is dropped at the end that there may be another tome in the pipeline.

I've been reading numerous memoirs from artists I've enjoyed over the years. Mostly musicians: Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Donald Fagen, Willie Nelson, and more. Looking for insights into the creative process, but about the only common threads I can discern: (1) mild mental illness; (2) substance abuse, usually illicit and multiple; (3) violation of one or more of the seven deadly sins. Jimmy's no exception; in his case, the most noticeable sins are lust, gluttony, and pride. He loves the ladies, including those married to other people. There are hilarious/horrible tales of drug use, including an episode at the end of the book (co-starring Harry Nilsson and John Lennon) that nearly kills him. And his tales invariably seem to involve dangerous levels of irresponsibility, stupidity, and (often) wretched excess.

It's not all glibly sordid, however. Jimmy tells some genuinely moving stories about his mom and dad, and his passion for gliding.

As noted, I would have liked to read a little more about his creative process, but there's not a lot of insight here. There is (on the other hand) a lot about the mechanics of songwriting: what songs are offered to who, the logistics of putting together recordings or concerts, dealing with disappointing reviews/sales, and so on.

True fact: "Macarthur Park" was originally offered to The Association, and they turned it down! Surely the course of world history was altered, the planet wobbled in its orbit, and empires fell because of that decision.