Cole Porter and Ella Fitzgerald

 

My post yesterday was to say something worthwhile about Ella on her centenary. I tried to show her moderating effect on Cole Porter’s music. Let me summarize my remarks without repetition: Ella has power, but she has sweetness as well, and no one ever got a heart attack from her music. Her phrasing and diction have the wonderful power of removing from Porter’s wit his least attractive characteristic, his fickleness. Her command of the music allows the wit to shine but removes most of the sting. Her mood is not as ironic as his; instead, there is something better even than his self-deprecatory humor about his fickle love — she can console even as she pleases. This is a rare achievement and there is little more that I can do than signal it.

I will return to my theme, and give it a name. Ella Americanized Porter. I have joked here before that my contemplated book on Porter has a title already — Love We’d Prefer Immoral — and I will write about Cole Porter again. But Ella is the exception to that attitude. I want to talk to you again about her moderating effect as a singer, but in a surprising way: Not by a soft lyrical attitude, as before — but by jazz. I’ll talk to you about a number with much more swing to it, “It’s All Right with Me.”

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Waitress

 

She works in a diner called the Desert Rose which sits along the northwestern edge of Colorado, near the Utah border. It’s a small and undistinguished affair, worn and weathered but always brightly lit and burning like a little beacon in that high American wasteland. Triangles of cherry pie sit bleeding in the pie case, and strips of honey-yellow flypaper spiral down from the low stucco ceiling.

She was born and raised in a tiny mountain town one-hundred miles southeast. She grew up uncommonly good-looking, self-reliant, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes with all the other small-town girls and boys. She began working when she was in the eleventh grade, and she’s not stopped working since. Waiting tables is what she’s done for most of her life. She graduated high school but never went to college. After school, she drifted awhile, developed a taste for books, black coffee, practical knowledge.

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Ella Fitzgerald’s Centenary

 

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ella Fitzgerald. I want to present her to you in the way that, so far as I can judge, shows best what is memorable about her. The singers may love something which we do not all know and the connoisseurs may have memories of her singing that we cannot all share. But the albums she recorded, especially the ones that recapitulate and thus justify the great American songbook, are a possession for all, and one of the small blessings that add joy to life.

My friend Mark would say something like this about Ella Fitzgerald, that she is at home wherever she chooses to sing, and she chooses freely. To understand what it means to be at home in being free in singing seems to me to understand the delight Ella offers and the cause finally of her dominating American popular music in her time. I want to show you a few things about Ella’s art and the poetic effects she desired to achieve and achieved effortlessly. I will look to the great American songbook, because Ella’s career, moving away from jazz and bebop, only attained to greatness when she turned to the standards in the Fifties, when she was no longer a girl. It is no surprise that the most gifted singer of her time should have taken her sweet time to get to the most worthwhile songs. After all, in America the excellent were called standards…

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Sick Days, Vacation Days … Social Justice Days?

 

There’s a new trend in corporate benefits packages. Not satisfied with vacation days, sick days, and family and medical leave, many employers are now offering days off to protest the injustice of Trump’s America. From CNBC:

Technology start-up Polaroid Swing launched a policy on Tuesday allowing its employees to take paid time off work for political engagements such as protests or running for political office, co-founder Tommy Stadlen told CNBC.

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The Bill O’Reilly Scandal

 

The biggest media story of the moment is that Bill O’Reilly has been dropped by Fox News as a result of multiple credible sexual harassment allegations. The most intriguing part of this story is why Fox forced O’Reilly out. It did not ease him out because of low ratings or because he admitted to wrongdoing. In fact, O’Reilly railed against the “unfounded claims” lodged against him. Nor did anyone invoke the laws against employment discrimination. No, the reason for his departure was the power of market forces.

In light of the sketchy revelations, over 50 advertisers pulled their spots from O’Reilly’s show, exposing Fox to the risk of financial losses and a reputational drubbing. There’s a lesson here for proponents of the administrative state: The best way to deal with thorny issues like sexual harassment is by following due process and allowing market forces to take their course. We do not need massive federal enforcement of the civil rights laws to curb aggressive and abusive behavior.

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Furniture for the Vapid

 

The following is a repost of a piece I wrote five years ago here, but when I saw Mike Rowe riffing on pre-distressed and pre-stained jeans at Nordstroms, I felt it deserved unearthing. I’ll have you know, the motor oil stains on my jeans ($30 Wranglers) are genuine, but if someone wants to pay me to stain theirs too, yeah, I’ll take their money! All $425 worth. Anyway, in honor of the latest effort at rich people attempting to look like the proles, I again offer up Furniture for the Vapid….

Today I received a catalog set (I do not know why) from Restoration Hardware, a company well known for its overpriced furniture. I would have tossed it out, but my wife snatched it from me and pointed to a page saying “Hey, do you remember the movie Zoolander? You remember Derelicte?” (I’ll wait here while you look up the reference.) My interest was piqued.

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A Bloody Cross

 

Tradition has it that, on April 23 in AD 303, a young and promising Roman soldier in the army of the Emperor Diocletian was beheaded after gruesome torture, and died professing his Christian faith to the end.

Very little is known of his life, but it’s believed he was born into a devout Christian family, perhaps in Cappadocia, an ancient district of Anatolia, somewhere between AD 270 and 280, and that he was raised at least partly in his mother’s home city of Lydda (Lod), in what is now central Israel.

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Humor in Uniform

 

Reminds me of a story: I was a LT and we were doing some training in mainland Japan with their Ground Self-Defense Force. The three USMC rifle platoon commanders from my Company, Echo 2/9, were invited to our Japanese counterparts’ tent for dinner and drinks. An invitation, for obvious reasons (not the least of which was that the Japanese ate “real food” in the field and at that time MREs were still inedible [although they have gotten somewhat better over time]), that we immediately accepted.

We’re having a jolly old time and getting a serious saki and soju buzz when the Japanese officers’ Major joined us. All is well and rolling rolling rolling – rawhide(!) until he challenges me to arm wrestle him. I was always more the lean and mean type, and my buddies were built like fire hydrants so no wonder that I was the one who was “called out.” I begged off but the Major would not be denied. We go right handed and had a battle royale, which I eventually won. Then he wants to go left handed, I begged for mercy but he would not hear of it. We go again, and this time I win relatively quickly. The Major barks something to the Japanese LTs, and then one of them says a bit sheepishly, “Party over. You go home now.”

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