HOMECOMING

November 16, 2006

Please join us back at BrothersJudd for our regularly scheduled program.


THOSE WACKY LEFTIES:

November 16, 2006

Renewable Fuels May Provide 25% of U.S. Energy by 2025 (JOHN J. FIALKA, November 13, 2006, Wall Street Journal)

A new Rand Corp. study showing the falling costs of ethanol, wind power and other forms of renewable energy predicts such sources could furnish as much as 25% of the U.S.’s conventional energy by 2025 at little or no additional expense.

A second renewable-energy report soon to be released by the National Academy of Sciences suggests wood chips may become a plentiful source of ethanol and electricity for industrial nations because their forested areas are expanding, led by the U.S. and China.

Because use of renewable fuels to replace oil and cut emissions of carbon dioxide is an area on which Congress’s coming Democratic leadership and the Bush administration agree, the studies are likely to hasten efforts to increase production incentives next year, either in a new energy bill or a farm bill.

Cue the folks who reflexively claim there’s no other option but gasoline….

MORE:
It heats. It powers. Is it the future of home energy?: Residential ‘micro-combined-heat-and-power’ units are efficient furnaces that create electricity. (Mark Clayton, 11/14/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

Factories and other industrial facilities have used large CHP systems for years. But until the US debut of micro-systems in greater Boston, the units had not been small enough, cheap enough, and quiet enough for American homes. Add to that the public’s rising concern about electric-power reliability – seen in a sales boom of backup generators in the past couple of years – and some experts see in micro-CHP a power-to-the-people energy revolution.

“Right now these residential micro-CHP systems are just a blip,” says Nicholas Lenssen of Energy Insights, a technology advisory firm in Framingham, Mass. “But it’s a … technology that … could have a big impact as it’s adopted more widely over the next five to 10 years.”


THANKFULLY:

November 16, 2006

Bob Woodruff Opens Up About Injuries (People, NOVEMBER 08, 2006)

Standing steady at a Washington, D.C., podium with no visible sign of impairment, former coanchor of ABC’s World News Tonight Bob Woodruff said on Monday about his grave injuries of January, “It’s kind of hard to believe it now,” PEOPLE reports in its latest issue.

Thanking the soldiers who helped him out of Iraq and the medical staff who saved his life, he accepted a Victory Award for courage at the National Rehabilitation Hospital’s 20th Anniversary Gala.

Woodruff no longer needs physical or speech therapy but does cognitive rehab three times a week to work on “word recall” – calling up desired words at the right time. He’s preparing a TV special on his ordeal and writing a memoir with his wife, Lee, 46, both due out next spring.

All this seemed a fantasy last March when he awoke from medically induced sedation.


WHEN EVEN AFRICANS WON'T BUY THEM… (via Jim Hamlen):

November 16, 2006

South African Airways to grow Airbus A340 fleet, no A380 for now: Carrier shelves plans for A380 ‘at this point of time’ (Brendan Sobie, 11/13/06, Flight International)

South African Airways (SAA) is looking to acquire more Airbus A340s to keep up with soaring demand for its long-haul services, but sees no near-term requirement for the ultra-large A380.

Chief executive Khaya Ngqula says SAA’s fleet of 21 A340s and eight Boeing 747-400s is not sufficient and it urgently needs more widebodies. He says SAA is interested in buying more A340s but Airbus is only offering delivery slots from 2008, which is not quick enough. SAA will soon begin talks with leasing companies over available A340s, he adds. [...]

He said in an interview for a forthcoming issue of Airline Business: “There is a cost of adding a third widebody type. There’s uncertainty. We don’t want to rely on something that may never fly.”


FROM EXILE TO EXILE (via Mike Daley):

November 16, 2006

Solzhenitsyn sons salute an artist foremost (Carlin Romano, 11/12/06, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Like many great writers who outlive their regular presence in the media, Solzhenitsyn is unfamiliar to many younger American readers. Older ones know him as the writer who introduced us to the word gulag – a Russian abbreviation for Soviet concentration camps. Solzhenitsyn served eight years in forced-labor camps after being arrested in 1945 for criticizing Stalin in letters to a friend.

So the Union League event, attended by many students affiliated with ISI, a Wilmington-based institution devoted to “educating for liberty,” also allowed attendees to reflect on how the world’s best-known writer in the early ’70s embodied the claim of a character in The First Circle that “a great writer is, so to speak, a second government of his country.”

Confronting one misconception, Ignat acknowledged that his father considers Orthodoxy “an integral component of Russian history, of Russian identity. To erase that, to pretend it to be otherwise, is to do a great disservice to the Russian future.”

“Having said that,” Ignat added, “never, ever, anywhere, in a speech, in a book, in an essay, has he proposed any kind of a theocracy.”

Stephan said that to think so ignores his father’s complaint that the Russian Orthodox Church ended up “effectively under the thumb of government” from Peter the Great on. “But that, too,” he lamented, “always gets ignored.”

Asked what their father thinks about Russia under Vladimir Putin, increasingly criticized for suppressing democracy in Russia, both stressed a brighter side.

“I would say it’s his view,” Stephan replied, “that the 1990s were a period of chaos and destruction for the great majority of the population, and he views that as a calamity… . The restoration of some modicum of order doesn’t mean that Russia has come nearly far enough or that it has cured its problems or that it’s not corrupt. He recognizes that. But it’s a great improvement over what you might call the Yeltsin period. And he’s also stated many times that what we have in Russia today is certainly not democracy.”

“Nor,” Ignat intervened, “was it ever a democracy in the ’90s, which is to say we still want to get to democracy, but let’s not pretend we ever had one.”

Both sons tire quickly of political questions. They want to stress what Stephan calls his father’s “extraordinary artistry.”

“I would urge any reader of this book,” Stephan said, “to get away from ‘views’ and toward the literature.” Ignat emphasizes his father’s early poetry, which he read to the gathering. “Obviously,” he said, “there are views and moral judgments being made, but first and foremost it’s an artistic endeavor.”

We were eager enough to hear the first part of his message, but not the second.


READ, SEEN, HEARD ANYTHING GOOD LATELY?:

November 15, 2006

DVD: Taggart

The Scottish detective series Taggart is terribly bleak and hard as heck to understand sometimes, but the brusque and solitary eponymous hero, played by Mark McManus, is oddly compelling. No wonder it’s the longest running show in their history.

DISC: William Lee Ellis

Mike Daley recommended this guy, who’s named for Bill Monroe, whose band his dad played in. He’s more of a blues artist and just terrific.

BOOK: The Inscrutable Americans (Anurag Mathur)

America has never seemed more unique than through the eyes of the young Indian who comes here for college in this very funny novel. his first letter home, which opens the story, is available online. The book is something of a publishing phenomenon in India, though relatively unknown here.


HANDY WITH AXES:

November 15, 2006

Tenor Madness: Sonny Rollins Quartet (J Hunter, All About Jazz)

He wasn’t scheduled to play, but John Coltrane had his axe in hand when he came to watch Miles Davis’ rhythm section record with Sonny Rollins. Trane not only played on the date, but the resulting duet is the centerpiece of Tenor Madness, one in Prestige’s latest series of RVG-remastered releases.

Theoretically, Coltrane’s appearance on the title track should be legendary—Saxophone Colossus meets Interstellar Space, in a way. However, this was 1956: Kind of Blue was still three years away, and Trane’s historic Impulse! recordings were not yet even in the realm of possibility. In short, Coltrane had not found the voice that called us to worship on “Transcendence” and mesmerized the Vanguard with the stream-of-consciousness “Chasin’ the Trane.”

That said, Coltrane’s fearlessness is front and center as he takes the first solo, firing flurries and fusillades from the high end of his tenor sax. He is definitely on his game for the time. He’s a willing teammate as he trades fours with Rollins on an ending dialogue where the two players happily finish each other’s thoughts.


GOOD PIANOS:

November 15, 2006

Ken: ‘You never got into drugs, did you?’ Stan: ‘Of course I did!’: Jazz-lover and Conservative MP Ken Clarke talks to his hero Stan Tracey about playing – and partying – with the greats (Ken Clarke, November 13, 2006, The Guardian)

KC: How did you get into music?

ST: I used to listen to radio broadcasts from British dance bands. There was a guy called Harry Roy, the king of a dance craze called ha cha cha. Not cha cha cha. Then I saw an accordion in the local music shop, a beautiful, big shiny thing. It was the glitter that did it for me. So I started learning that. But it put you in arsehole-land as soon as you strapped it on, it was such a ridiculous thing. I played with the forces entertainment service, in a Gypsy accordion band with no Gypsies. We toured factories and played to people during their lunch hour, to encourage the war effort. I think they had us to make sure the workers didn’t take too long over their lunch. They couldn’t wait to get out.

KC: And was that when you first heard jazz?

ST: Yeah. I heard the American records – Basie, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum. I thought it was all wonderful, but I thought boogie-woogie was the ultimate. A bit later on, British musicians playing on the transatlantic liners started visiting New York. I could sit in [New York jazz club] Birdland all night for a dollar and listen to Charlie Parker, the original quartet with Dizzy Gillespie in it. A very young Miles Davis, too.

KC: Then you found yourself the house pianist at Ronnie Scott’s in London, playing behind all these godlike figures like Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon and Stan Getz.

ST: Yes. I did that for six years, and though it wasn’t always pleasant, it taught me an amazing amount.

KC: Some of them could be difficult to deal with because of drug problems, I heard.

ST: That, and some of them wanted to make it clear they were used to much better than British rhythm sections. But Sonny Rollins wasn’t like that. He’d always converse with you musically, and he’s a great guy. Getz was a great tenor saxophonist, but not a nice guy. One night my wife Jackie was in, I was playing a solo, and he crept over to her and told her which hotel he was in and his room number, then he went back on the stand. I thought that was thoughtful of him.


COMPLETISM IS NOT A VIRTUE:

November 14, 2006

Collecting Legends (GARY GIDDINS, November 14, 2006, NY Sun)

For the past 50-plus years, you had about as much chance of seeing a complete print of a 1940 Bing Crosby vehicle called “If I Had My Way” as you did of, say, the initial seven-hour version of “Greed” — which is to say no chance at all. Admittedly, there wasn’t much demand for it. Still, while “Greed,” the lost grail of cinematic obsession as practiced by Erich von Stroheim, was permanently sacrificed to greed, Universal held onto what a company archivist assured me was a “pristine” interpositive of “If I Had My Way.” The studio just didn’t want anyone to see it. But more about that in a moment. [...]

The Crosby set wins by a tonsil: Even when all around him turns to shtick, der Bingle remains a great singer in peak voice. The low point in the set is the naval recruitment orgy, “Here Come the Waves” (1944), an incessant Mark Sandwich musical with Betty Hutton as twins, though only one is as annoying as Betty Hutton. The joke is that Crosby plays a Frank Sinatra-style crooner, clutching a microphone stand as a swooning woman is carried off on a gurney. Unhappily, Crosby’s weakness for blackface is exercised in a duet of “Accentuate the Positive” with dim-bulb Sonny Tufts — especially galling given the segregation that divided the armed forces.

Frank Tuttle’s “Waikiki Wedding” (1937), a megahit in its day, spurred interest in all things Hawaiian with its score (“Blue Hawaii,” “Sweet Leilani”) and scenic shots by master cinematographer Karl Struss. Dated by low humor involving a pig, it is polished by Tuttle’s imaginative staging and a neat plot device designed to fool viewers along with leading lady Shirley Ross. “Double or Nothing” (1937), sluggishly directed by Theodore Reed, leavens another millionaire-with-a-munificent-plan story with intermittent rewards, like Martha Raye’s azure-tinted fuax striptease, “It’s On, It’s Off.”

Of greater interest are the two films Crosby made at Universal as an independent agent and co-producer with director David Butler: “East Side of Heaven” (1939) and “If I Had My Way.” The former is a minor but swift-moving screwball musical festooned with inside show-biz jokes and a splendid cast led by Crosby and the curvaceously brighteyed Joan Blondel. Bing plays a purveyor of singing telegrams who gets stuck with an infant (surely the oddest box-office attraction of the era, Baby Sandy, who retired at four).

The mystery of the butchered “If I Had My Way” gets to the nub of why it was made. Crosby and Butler shared a love of old show business, especially vaudeville and minstrelsy. Crosby’s films are littered with references to that era (“Double on Nothing” has an interpolated vaudeville show). For this film, they contrived a story that allowed them to preserve on film a few figures who had faded from view many years earlier, especially the legendary minstrel Eddie Leonard, whose three-minute “Ida” is his only filmed legacy.

When the film was sold to television in the late 1940s, it was cut to 80 minutes from 94 to accommodate ads — not because of Leonard’s blackface number, as was widely assumed. All the vaudeville numbers were cut along with a solo by Bing’s 14-year-old co-star Gloria Jean. The missing minutes were thought lost: Even the personal copies of Crosby and Gloria Jean lacked sequences.

So now we have a pristine print. Great film? Hardly, but it is a highly entertaining mixture of lend-lease politics, show-biz lore, and social wish fulfillment.

Stick to Mr. Giddins bio and Bing’s tunes instead.


BRING IT

November 14, 2006

What the Heck Is a Gyroball? – (Keith Chu, 11/10/2006, Slate)

Ace pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is being auctioned off by his Japanese baseball team this week. Early reports indicate that major-league clubs may be willing to pay $40 million or more for the rights to negotiate with Matsuzaka, who is supposed to be able to throw a mysterious pitch called the gyroball. What is the gyroball?


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