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Friday, March 31, 2006

Alexandra's Blogging Again -- or Still
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Alexandra, of the blog Out of Lascaux, was one of the earliest of the art-history bloggers, perhaps even the first. She put up a lot of fully-felt, informative, and wonderfully clear cultureblogpostings. But by the time blogging really took off, Alexandra seemed to have grown tired of blogging. Until tonight I hadn't checked in with Out of Lascaux for a long time. But I just discovered that Alexandra is in fact back to to putting up first-rate postings with a lot of first-class reproductions. Here are two about Mary Magdalen as a subject in art. If you haven't visited Out of Lascaux yet, please do. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 31, 2006 | perma-link | (2) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Another cultural-history gem from Steve Sailer: a discussion of the iconic California labor leader Cesar Chavez. * Andrew Ferguson says that Charles Murray's proposal to replace welfare with $10,000-a-year grants isn't just provocative. * Geitner Simmons recommends some history blogs. * Scott Chaffin sums up his feelings about the immigration debate in characteristically rowdy and salty fashion. * Ah, tolerant old San Francisco ... * If earnest there must be, then yoga and Vipassana Buddhism are my kind of earnest. Phillip Moffit writes about happiness, and our tendency to cling to it. * Occasional 2Blowhards nude-modeling correspondent Molly Crabapple sponsors some very Downtown -- ie., bohemian/burlesque -- figure-drawing sessions in New York. The next one takes place tomorrow (Saturday), from 3 to 6 pm. Details here. Fun to see that Dr. Sketchy's is going nationwide too. * Right Reason's Max Goss has posted some thoughtful reactions to Rod Dreher's book "Crunchy Cons." * Fred Himebaugh is discovering the joys of baking his own bread. Is Fred going Crunchy? * Scott Wickstein thinks that the time has come to set aside politics and economics, and finally discuss a subject that really counts: pizza. * Today's outgoing, well-schooled, forward-looking adolescent girl evidently feels the need to master the art of booty shaking. * Richard North meditates on rogue environmentalists Edward Abbey and Doug Peacock. I'm not quite sure what North's point is -- he seems to have no grasp of how America works, for one thing. But it's good to see Abbey and Peacock given some attention. They're my kind of eco-freaks. * Here's a nice little lesson in unintended consequences. Birds perched in cypress trees deposit a lot of bird crap. City workers solve problem by cutting down cypresses. But birds still gotta crap ... * Lynn finds it outrageous that the people who publish the "For Dummies" books have been allowed to trademark the words "for dummies." * Lawrence Auster explains the fundamental problem that lies at the heart of liberalism. * Coming to you from Dubai and soon to be the world's tallest structure ... * Santiago Calatrava's new skyscraper in Chicago will certainly contain some of the world's most strangely-shaped rooms. * 9 out of 10 British women think that one-night stands are immoral. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 31, 2006 | perma-link | (18) comments

Movie Linkage
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * What to do if movie-theater ticket sales are dropping while DVD sales are booming? Why not release your films straight to DVD? * Joi Lansing is trapped in the web of love. * Thomas Groh enjoys showing off tacky and sensationalistic movie posters from eras when movie posters were really movie posters. (Link thanks to Colby Cosh.) Check out this scandalous beauty -- now that's the kind of ad that can get me to a movie theater pronto. * Ilkka predicts -- convincingly, to my mind -- that in five years no more physical video stores will remain. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 31, 2006 | perma-link | (4) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Heavens! The people you can meet on Amazon! Do a Google Images search (when the boss isn't watching, of course) to see examples of Chanta Rose's work. I'm tickled to see that "Mary Poppins" is on Chanta's Wish List. * Heavens! The things that can be bought (and ogled!) at Amazon! * Heavens! The things you can find in Wikipedia! Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 31, 2006 | perma-link | (3) comments

Thursday, March 30, 2006

"Be Here to Love Me" on DVD
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I raved recently about the music of the Texas folksinger Townes Van Zandt, and about "Be Here to Love Me," Margaret Brown's moody and evocative documentary about Townes. I notice that the film is now available on DVD: Amazon, Netflix. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 30, 2006 | perma-link | (0) comments

Ionarts on Bonnard
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- As long as FvB has all our minds on French art ... Don't miss Charles Downey's beautifully-written and lavishly-illustrated visit to a show in Paris of the art of Pierre Bonnard. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 30, 2006 | perma-link | (0) comments

"Ugetsu" on DVD
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I just woke up to the fact that Kenji Mizoguchi's "Ugetsu" has become available on a Criterion DVD. That's a long-in-coming treat: Mizoguchi is one of the most underrepresented-on-DVD of the genuine filmmaking giants, and "Ugetsu" is one of his two or three best-known, and best-loved, movies. Me, I'm a bigger fan of "Sansho the Bailiff" than I am of "Ugetsu." But dickering over which is better is like arguing about whether "Hamlet" or "Lear" is greater -- a dumb waste of time. Why not enjoy both? In any case, "Sansho" isn't on DVD yet. Back in the days of Standard Film History, Mizoguchi was considered to be, alongside Kurosawa and Ozu, one of the icons of the Japanese cinema. Each director's work had its own distinctive style and flavor; together they were thought to define the range of Japanese movies. Kurosawa's movies were usually dynamic and hyperdramatic; Ozu's were quiet, still, and melancholy. Mizoguchi's movies typically merged the qualities of fables with those of women's pictures. They were painful but transporting, in a poetic and magical way. And, oh baby, those tracking shots! I watched a lot of Mizoguchi in college and found many of the films both beautiful and draggy. But "Ugetsu" and "Sansho"? Perfection/rapture/bliss. Criterion seems to have loaded the package with goodies, which is nice -- though, given the price Criterion is asking, maybe the film is better rented than bought. How does Criterion continue to get away with charging such outrageous prices? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 30, 2006 | perma-link | (11) comments

Aspie Links
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * I've been enjoying the blogpostings of Astryngia, a British woman who wrestles with a heavy dose of Asperger's in her life. Her mom, her husband, and her son are all Aspies -- that has got to be seriously challenging. Astryngia is blunt, honest, and insightful about her struggles and frustrations. * Did you know that 2006 is International Asperger's Year? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 30, 2006 | perma-link | (4) comments

Art and Narcissism
Friedrich von Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards: During the last week, I’ve been reading The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays by Charles Baudelaire. The title essay is of course a major landmark of Modernist art theory, being the very work in which Baudelaire introduced the term “modernity” to the world. It is also far more charming than most works of criticism and virtually all works of art theory. It may say something about modernism, of course, that Baudelaire’s description the ideal artist is essentially (and fairly transparently) a description of himself, although the essay is ostensibly devoted to the French draftsman Constantin Guys. I preferred another essay in the book, Baudelaire’s eulogy of the great French Romantic painter Delacroix, because it seems rather more objective about its hero. However, by some odd chance, on the same evening I read this essay I happened across a website devoted to narcissistic personality disorder. (Michael Blowhard wrote about narcissistic personalities and mentioned the author of this webpage, Sam Vaknin, here.) The website, which you can read here, lists nine characteristics that may be present in this disorder. (The true narcissist apparently possesses at least five of these.) Looking over the characteristic traits of the narcissist, it suddenly dawned on me that Baudelaire had described Delacroix as possessing several of them. To amuse myself, I went back through Baudelaire’s laudatory essay and pasted quotes from it underneath the list of traits listed by Mr. Vaknin, supplementing them in several cases with my own knowledge of Delacroix’s art or career. The following is my result: Narcissistic Trait #1: “Feels grandiose and self-important (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)” Baudelaire considered Delacroix his touchstone of artistic greatness, and would have been horrified at any suggestion that Delacroix’s feelings of artistic self-importance weren’t backed up by his actual performance with paint and canvas. Furthermore, Baudelaire never suggests in any way that Delacroix was a pathological exaggerator; in fact, he repeatedly emphasizes the artist’s aristocratic reserve in company. All this being said, however, the essay is quite explicit about Delacroix’s feelings of grandiosity and self-importance: One of our painter’s [i.e., Delacroix’s] greatest concerns during his last years was the judgement of posterity and the uncertain durability of his works. One moment his ever-sensitive imagination would take fire at the idea of an immortal glory, and then he would speak with bitterness at the fragility of canvases and colours. At other times he would enviously cite the old masters who almost all of them had the good fortune to be translated by skilful engravers whose needle or burin had learnt to adapt itself to the nature of their talent, and he keenly regretted that he had not found his own translator. Narcissistic Trait #2: “ Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love... posted by Friedrich at March 30, 2006 | perma-link | (11) comments

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Digi-Photo Links
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Hugh Symonds makes what are without doubt the most beautiful cellphone photographs I've ever seen. Talk about a whole new aesthetic ... * What's real in the age of Photoshop? And does even National Geographic know for sure? Steven Kapsinow muses about some funny goings-on. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 29, 2006 | perma-link | (8) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Is your domain name secure? Dr. Weevil woke up one day to discover that his domain name had been hijacked by sleazeballs. Read the infuriating tale here, curse the name of Earthlink, and pay a visit to the good Dr. at his new web address. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 29, 2006 | perma-link | (4) comments

The Forever Fern
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I have a fern in my apartment. I am not a fern fan. I am indifferent to plants of all kinds. Don't hate 'em, don't love 'em. Would just as soon not bother with 'em. Here's a picture of the kind of fern I have. Hares Foot Fern. Among other places, it comes from the South Pacific. So why do I have and care for something I don't especially care about? Let me tell you the story. During World War 2 my father worked for the Army Engineers. After the war ended, a lot of employees were let go including my father and a guy originally from someplace in New Jersey. The New Jersey guy and his wife decided to leave Seattle and return to New Jersey (the fools!! ... sorry, I just couldn't help it). And they had this fern they couldn't easily take with them. So they asked my parents if they would be kind enough to give the fern a good home. My parents agreed. That was in 1946. Sixty years ago. The fern has been in my family ever since, making good on that promise. My parents are dead and probably the New Jersey couple too. The fern lives. I have it and maybe a niece has part of it as well. Is this a case of pig-headed foolishness or one of principle and steadfastness? I dunno. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at March 29, 2006 | perma-link | (13) comments

Charlton Griffin
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Let me alert visitors and Blowhards to the fact that one of our visitors, Charlton Griffin, is also one of the very, very best audiobook readers there is. Given what a loudmouthed audiobook fan I am, I feel very foolish, because I only recently became aware of Charlton's work. Downside: Damn, what a clueless fool I can be! Upside: A lot to look forward to! In any case, I recently loved Charlton's brilliant rendition of this collection of Maugham stories, and I'm hoping to get around to his performance of Xenophon soon. Charlton brings a lot of chops, dignity, and feeling to what he reads. He also has something very rare: a gift for bringing a listener into contact with multiple layers in the work he's presenting -- the words, the sentences, the characters, the story ... He has exquisite but never overbearing taste: There's a lot of lowkey beauty on the surface of his productions, but it's all in the service of taking you further into the material. You can tell that Charlton loves his craft, and also that he loves the books he's reading. The result, as far as I'm concerned, is something rare. These aren't audiobooks to be listened to in reluctant place of the great originals. They're beautiful works of art to be enjoyed ... OK, I'm hesitating but I gotta say it: to be enjoyed in preference to the originals. When I read Maugham on my own, it was a wonderful experience. But listening to Charlton read Maugham was even better. I encourage audiobook listeners to search out Charlton's work -- and I encourage those who haven't yet got the audiobook bug yet to come to their senses. Charlton isn't just the narrator of these books, by the way. As the sole owner and in-house one-man-band at his boutique publishing company Audio Connoisseur, he also selects, edits, and produces his recordings. Check out Audio Connoisseur's website, and drool over its classy and enticing list. Just think: You could be listening to all that great literature, beautifully presented, as you do your commuting or exercising ... As far as I can tell, Amazon carries nearly all of Audio Connoisseur's titles. You have no excuses not to start indulging and enjoying now. A quick Google sweep turns up this collection of terrific Amazon reviews by Charlton. I also enjoyed this appreciative and perceptive profile of Charlton. Click on the red "play" button to listen to Charlton's very silky voiceover reel. Best, Michael UPDATE: A convenient way to avail yourself of Charlton's work is to sign up with Audible, the downloadable-recorded-books website. Nearly all of Charlton's recordings are there to be purchased, and they play very well with iPods.... posted by Michael at March 29, 2006 | perma-link | (0) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- This is a question for the da guyz. You're going out -- for an hour, for a walk, to do some chores, or maybe longer than that. You have various items that you need to take with you: keys and wallet at a minimum, but possibly also cellphone, pen and paper, reading material, eyeglasses ... What do you do with all of it? I confess that I've never come up with a solution that has made me very happy. Pockets aren't sufficient for what I tend to take with me. (Note professional white terrycloth backdrop.) The minimum Not being a suit-and-tie kind of dude, I've never owned a briefcase. And, given my age, the backpack I often use is starting to look mighty silly on me. What to do? Men in Italy, preferring very tight, you-know-my-religion pants, and not wanting to distract from their man-curves, used to carry little leather man-purses. But I'm not a man-purse kind of guy, let alone a tight-pants one. The film producer Samuel Goldwyn favored expensive bespoke English suits; he had an assistant carry his keys and wallet so that they wouldn't "spoil the line" of his own attire. Alas, at the moment I can't afford an assistant. I'm happiest for a few weeks in spring and fall. Light jackets with a variety of zipper pockets suit my needs well. But then the weather changes. I hit my low spot when I head off to yoga class. The backpack is too big yet I do need something to contain the coins and doodads ... So I drop 'em into a plastic shopping bag. Good lord: I've become a shopping-bag person. Thanks to the mellowing effects of yoga, this doesn't bother me much. There's always cargo pants and safari jackets, I suppose. But cargo pants reek of college in the '70s, and safari jackets are little too nature-photographer/film-directorish for me. What's your solution? Or your favored way of contending? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 29, 2006 | perma-link | (27) comments

Fast Food and Immigration
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- While 60-80% of Americans routinely tell pollsters that they'd like to see immigration better-controlled and immigration rates cut 'way, 'way back, our elites -- Dem and Repub both -- waltz ahead with their own plans. This year, immigration finally made its way into the headlines and onto the public agenda. It became something that our legislators could no longer avoid facing. Pulling their courage together and drawing on deep feelings of loyalty and service to their constituents ... the Senate Judiciary Committee has, in essence, recommended lifting many restrictions. If the Judiciary Committee's recommendations are followed, that could mean amnesty for as many as 12 million people. And won't that send a heckuva message to a Mexican peasant considering sneaking into this country? Namely: Come on in and help yourself! What a surprise to learn that Mexico is jubilant. Hey, American legislators: Great job of defying your own citizens' preferences while kowtowing to foreigners. Ah, representative democracy: Ain't it great when neither party represents the preferences of their nation's people? Hey, have I ventured my new theory to you? It's that we are indeed a nation of two political parties. It's just that they aren't Dems and Repubs. Instead, our two parties are our (clueless and self-interested) elites, and Everybody Else. The Dems love the new numbers, by the way: 12 million voters ripe for the picking. The Republicans love the cheap and easy-to-exploit labor. Meanwhile, many of the rest of us watch these nation-altering developments with apprehension and dislike. Jonah Goldberg rehearses the relevant figures: Our border with Mexico allows for levels of illegal immigration that have no historical precedent. In 1970, there were fewer than 800,000 Mexicans in America ... In 1980, there were 2.2 million. In 1990, the number reached 4.3 million, and by 2000 it had climbed to 7.9 million. In 2005, there were 10.8 million - a spike of 37 percent in half a decade. By coincidence, I just today read a passage in Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation" where Schlosser writes about fast food, meatpacking, and immigration. Schlosser overdoes his "fast food is at the root of all evil" thesis, but he volunteers a lot of interesting facts nevertheless. A few unappetizing but a propos tidbits: The U.S.'s major meatpackers rely heavily on immigrants -- legal and illegal -- for their workforce. The turnover rate in many meatpacking/meat-processing plants is about 400%. In other words, the average worker stays at his job for a little more than 3 months. According to the INS, one quarter of meatpacking workers in Iowa and Nebraska are illegals. In some American meatpacking plants, 2/3 of the workers speak no English. One major meatpacking company maintains an employment office in Mexico City, runs ads on Mexican radio offering employment in the States, and operates a bus service that shuttles people between small Mexican towns and meatpacking locations in the U.S. I'm finding it hard to resist typing "Think about these figures the next... posted by Michael at March 29, 2006 | perma-link | (38) comments

Tyler Cowen's New Book
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm happy to see that Tyler Cowen's new book, "Good and Plenty : The Creative Successes of American Arts Funding," is about to go on sale. I'm a big Tyler fan. He's an intelligent and quirky arts enthusiast as well as a first-class economist, and how lucky it is for us that each side of Tyler enhances the other. He appreciates the head-turning qualities of the arts, yet he's able to be down to earth about how the works arise. He's clear-eyed about the benefits of markets, yet his brain is anything but the whirring computational device that the brains of so many market-oriented economists are. Tyler's always aware that what's being discussed is people, not utility-maximizing robots. If I were emperor, one of the first things I'd do would be to hand out copies of Tyler's book "In Praise of Commercial Culture" to all beginning arts students. That way, a few of them might be spared years of pointless wrestling with uninformed, unworldly, and often leftist arts thinking. Tyler's book about the cultural impacts of globalization is similarly informative, nuanced, and open-minded. So I'm very eager to see what he's been thinking about and researching recently. Judging from the excerpts Tyler has posted on Marginal Revolution (here and here), the book is lookin' informative, fun, and provocative. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy Tyler's combo of decency, smarts, and mischief? In any case, I've placed my pre-order already. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at March 29, 2006 | perma-link | (1) comments

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Impressions of Belarus
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Belarus has been in the news because of its recent controversial election and reactions to it in the West and on the streets of Minsk. The country has the reputation of being the last of the Communist-like dictatorships in eastern Europe. I won't go into the details of the political situation. Instead, I thought I should simply pass along my impressions of Belarus, which I briefly visited last September. I was there only a few hours. Our tour was in Belarus for the sole purpose of getting from Smolensk (in Russia) to Vilnius (in Lithuania). Because previous tours found hotels in Smolensk distinctly sub-par, our tour was timed to overnight in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, a city with a population of around 1.7 million. We arrived in Minsk at the end of a long day on the road. The bus left Moscow in the morning rush hour and rolled west to Smolensk. We drove into Smolensk for a brief visit to the cathedral, but it was Smolensk itself that interested me -- I had had my fill of churches by this point in the tour. Compared to St. Petersburg and Moscow, Smolensk struck me as pretty ratty. Most of the building we saw were in disrepair; I don't recall seeing any significant new construction along our route. A short while later we crossed into Belarus, leaving a conventional four-lane highway and entering a toll freeway that whisked us to Minsk. The freeway cut through the countryside, seldom getting near villages or towns. The ground had a slight roll to it, fields being punctuated by woods. From time to time I saw in the distance clumps of buildings that I took to be collective farms -- barns, outbuildings, possible dormitories or apartments. The overall impression was one I'll characterize as "tidy." This same tidiness carried over into Minsk. (For an overview of Minsk, see here.) Minsk was pretty well destroyed during World War 2 and the Soviet regime made no real attempt to recreate it. Aside from a small, semi-restored downtown, the city seemed to be mostly comprised of apartment blocks interspersed with parks and lakes. Our tour bus made a pass through downtown on its way to our hotel. There were parks, a McDonald's and some older stone-faced buildings. Young people were everywhere, conservatively dressed for the season. People-wise, the street scene was hardly Parisian, but not grossly different from what one would find in northern Europe. I didn't notice trash along the curbs or in the parks. There was a fair amount of traffic. The hotel (pictured below) was a modern-looking tower on the edge of a park. Its interior was less impressive, having been built perhaps around 1980-85 and experiencing no renovation since. Also of interest was that each floor had a desk near the elevators, the desk on our floor occupied by a pudgy, middle-aged woman with a big smile and (likely) direct phone lines to the police and internal... posted by Donald at March 28, 2006 | perma-link | (3) comments

Monday, March 27, 2006

Enough Rope: the Creativity Paradox
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- The "bottom line" to this post is nothing new. But how I got to it might interest some of you, especially if you've had to do "creative" work at one time or another. Countless years ago when I was a commercial art student, our instructor always gave us assignments that included various restrictions. One time it might be the size ("two columns wide and seven column-inches deep"), another time color ("assume a two-color press run") or something or other else. After months of this, the class became restless. We began to badger Mr. Wellman to cast aside those pesky restrictions, to let us cut loose and be creative. And one day he did. We could do whatever we wanted for the next assignment. The only restriction was that the due-date was two weeks away. As you might expect, I soon found myself paralyzed. I found it very hard to come up with a subject and then had trouble deciding on how to do the art work. I met the deadline, though I've forgotten what I produced. I do recall that I wasn't pleased with what I had done: it wasn't very good. I might have done better if I'd had a fantastically great idea bubbling within me that would have burst forth when Wellman finally turned us loose. But I didn't, and that was a good thing indeed. Because what I got out of the assignment was a vital object lesson: The path to real creativity is usually shaped by constraints -- without restrictions there likely will be no path at all. Best of all was that this revelation hit me -- strongly -- then and not later. I didn't try to rationalize my way out of it. I knew that I produced a piece of junk and I knew why. This experience would not have happened to an Engineering student. They know from the start that everything they create is subject to various constraints, including economic ones in most cases. Liberal Arts students -- especially those in so-called "creative" fields such as writing, musical composition and art -- might think they are able avoid constraints or else simply do what they do without really being conscious that they are being constrained. An example of the latter might be painting in oils as opposed to watercolors. Most artists recognize that watercolor is a difficult medium whose constraints must be fought at every stroke of the brush. Oils, on the other hand, are much easier to use, their most obvious restriction being variability in drying time of different colors. Most experienced painters treat the properties of their medium as background factors rather than the constraints they are, and are mostly conscious of constraints exogenous to the tools of their trade. When I became a computer programmer I found myself developing an "engineering mentality." Constraints were everywhere and I found that I had to use a good deal of imagination -- and, yes, creativity -- at... posted by Donald at March 27, 2006 | perma-link | (22) comments

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Buck Owens
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I was sorry to learn that the country-western giant Buck Owens died the other day at the age of 76. Buck played a huge role in establishing something I'm very fond of: "the Bakersfield sound," a rough-edged and rip-roaring honkytonk style that contrasts with the genteel, sweeter music that comes out of Nashville. The Bakersfield sound endures today most notably in the music of Dwight Yoakam. It's aggressive music, masculine and raw -- a bar-band sound that arose to please an audience of oil workers and truckers, and the gals who loved them. Buck came by his grit honestly. He was the son of a family of Texas sharecroppers who really did flee the Dust Bowl for a better life. After some years driving trucks and working in the fields, he started performing music. Success didn't come overnight; it took Buck some time to pull his thing together. He worked as a DJ, learning a lot about how make music sound good on the radio. He found some supergifted collaborators, including Don Rich and Harlan Howard. He pulled together a lot of the popular and folk sounds around him -- rockabilly, polka, and Mexican music especially. One of Buck's greatest gifts was in the studio, where he was able to create studio tracks that had the crackle of live performances. Finally -- he was now in his 30s -- he had himself a career in music. And what a career it was. During one four-year stretch in the 1960s, every song he recorded -- 15 of 'em in a row -- went to #1. Buck's best music has the kind of lowdown, kickass wildness that you generally associate with an outlaw, misspent life. Yet, unlike a lot of the other top manly-man, working-class C&W stars, Buck was never a screw-up. He didn't drink; he didn't do drugs; he invested his earnings wisely; he remained based in Bakersfield instead of moving someplace glitzier ... He was a big ol' square, in other words. He even hosted "Hee Haw" for many years. I wonder if this combo of funk, gumption, and wholesomeness was part of what made Creedence Clearwater such fans of his. Buck's musical fortunes waxed and waned more than a few times over the years. Finally, in the mid-1980s, he decided that his moment had passed, and he began to focus on his investments. But country music's style-wheel was turning over once again. When Dwight Yoakam became a big star, Dwight was generous in praise of Buck, and he helped put Buck back in the spotlight. It's pleasing to read that, on the night before he died, Buck performed a 90 minute set of music at his own Bakersfield club. Here's Buck's own website. It features a good biography. Gary Kaufman's appreciation in Salon is informative and moving. A nice Kaufman line: "He was a rebel without a dark side." Wikipedia's article on Buck -- which I notice is remarkably close to Kaufman's Salon... posted by Michael at March 26, 2006 | perma-link | (11) comments