Beeswing: Richard Thompson’s Memoir

Richard Thompson is my favorite musician. Between 1967 to 1975 he was involved with some of my all-time favorite music.

So I read his memoir, Beeswing: Losing My Way and Finding My Voice 1967-1975, as soon as it was published (on April 6, 2021). If you need a sample of RT’s work, you could do worse than the song “Beeswing” (which is set during and after “the summer of love”).

Beeswing the book was well worth reading, especially for the painful passages related to Fairport Convention. If you don’t find painful stuff worthwhile, then you’re probably not a fan of RT’s music, and won’t enjoy this book. One of those passages describes the 1969 road accident that took the life of Martin Lamble, Fairport’s drummer: an excerpt is available at Rolling Stone.

Other passages are wrenching without being deadly, such as the sacking of Sandy Denny, and Richard’s decision to leave Fairport.

RT’s book, like his music, made me laugh amidst the darkness. I loved the scene in which he and Nick Drake were on the same Tube platform. RT “had to strike up a conversation, or what would pass for one, between two socially inept introverts.”

I loved Beeswing because I love RT. I think I love it more than it deserves: towards the end, RT seems uncertain about what to include and how to cover it. Joe Boyd’s White Bicycles is in many ways a better account of the same scene. To use the Goodreads 5-star systems, White Bicycles is a 5, whereas Beeswing is “only” a 4. But I’m very glad to have bought it, and will re-read it at least once.

Rick the Musical ELK

An ELK is a content creator who is enthusiastic, likeable, and knowledgeable. One such is Rick Beato: musician, teacher, and much more. Rick has just posted to his YouTube channel the 100th entry in his series, “What Makes This Song Great?”

In each entry, Rick demonstrates how the different parts contribute to the whole track. My favorite example is the third in the series, on Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne”, with a great account of Larry Carlton’s guitar solos.

Who are your favorite MusicTubers?

Fastest DNF So Far

I just DNF’d (Did Not Finish, and will not finish) a well-regarded novel after five pages. The novel in question is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which currently has a rating of 4.32 on Goodreads.

I was suffering from adjective fatigue. For example, a character “gestures toward an orange chair on the opposite side of her lucite desk”.

Every other sentence seemed to start with “Suffice to say”, “But unfortunately”, or some such phrase. This, like the adjective load, may actually be good writing by the author, Taylor Jenkins Reid.

The writing may be giving us insights into the first-person narrator: Monique, a journalist. But the thought of spending another 300+ pages reading Monique’s prose made me shudder and put the book down.

I returned it to the library the next day. I think that there’s a wait list for it. I hope that the people after me on the list like it more than I did. I expect that they will, given the many glowing reviews.

What’s your fastest DNF?

End of Summer 2019

Yesterday was Labor Day, today the kids went back to school. I used to sing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” when the schools restarted, but the kids didn’t seem to like that somehow. So I don’t do that any more.

The highlight of the summer was our trip to Asia. I must get some pictures and posts up about that.

I hope you had a great summer, and have a great autumn, or whatever the seasons and names for them are wherever you are.

Minding the Gap in Hong Kong

We were in Hong Kong for just a few days earlier this year. One of those days was July 1, the anniversary of the Handover of Hong Kong. We knew that there would be demonstrations, and stayed away from them.

We did our tourist things. We ate excellent dim sum, bought notably inexpensive goods in markets, and so on. We got around by boat, on foot, by taxi, and on the excellent MTR.

On the MTR, I had to photograph the Mind the Gap signs. They are on the sliding doors, in Chinese on one door and in English on the other. The announcement is made in Cantonese, in English, and in Mandarin.

Since we were there, the gap between Hong Kong and mainland China has become more dangerous. Violence has increased, from both sides, and verbal threats have escalated.

I wish I could see a way to peaceful resolution of matters between Hong Kong and mainland China. The principle of “one country, two systems” seems to mean different things on different sides of the gap. The same principle officially applies to Macao (which we also visited) and China, but may be difficult to implement there as well.

I’d love to hear any ideas as to how this gap can be managed.

Gingrich on Trump

Some of what I heard on Trump and Trumpism from Newt Gingrich has subsequently become a lot more interesting. On January 17, I visited the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC for one of a series of presentations on Trump and Trumpism, given by Newt Gingrich. This post captures some of the notes and recollections that have become more interesting in the intervening nine or so weeks. I’ll include at the end an overview of the presentation.

Many of the things that now strike me as I now look at my notes were about specific individuals. This was in mid-January, remember.

Gingrich can forgive Trump virtually anything for at least the next two years, because he is not Hilary Clinton. I am not on a Newt-watch to determine the limits of Gingrich’s forgiveness.

Trump’s “team of winners”… yes that’s a quote. Continue reading “Gingrich on Trump”

Springtime for WordPress

Happy new season: spring if, like me, you’re in the northern hemisphere; autumn if you’re in the southern. Here are some thoughts about WordPress, the platform on which ChangingWay is published.

Three things:

  • Jetpack, important feature of the WordPress landscape.
  • HTTPS, increasingly important to how the web, including WordPress, works.
  • SASS, tool for managing the “Style” of web sites, potentially including WordPress sites.

Jetpack is a plugin by Automattic. Automattic is the for-profit organization founded by Matt Mullenweg, Mr WordPress. Jetpack is free, in two ways: it is available at zero cost (free as in free beer); it is free/open source software (free as in free speech, as in freedom). Continue reading “Springtime for WordPress”

If I Were a Patriot, Invited to the White House

If I were a Patriot, I’d be proud, but uncertain about how to reply to the invitation to the White House. The word Patriot here refers to the Superbowl-winning New England Patriots. I’m not a Patriot in that sense.

So, if I were a Patriot, what would I be thinking? I believe Tom Brady’s statement: Everybody has their own choice. I’d respect each teammates’ individual decision, whether it be Brady’s decision to go this time, or the decision of several others not to enter the Trump White House.

I’d go. I’d take a gift for the 45th President: a book on the constitution. Given the recipient, it shouldn’t be a tome. I’d go with The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution. The pages are neither large nor numerous (a little over 200 of them). The type is not small.

Constitutional scholar Richard Beeman adds annotations and a few short chapters to:

  • The Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson’s second paragraph describes governments as “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”.
  • The Constitution itself.
  • The Amendments. I might highlight the first amendment, which of course is about freedom: of religion, of speech, of the press, of assembly, and of petition.
  • Three of The Federalist Papers: 10, 51, and 78. The last of these is Alexander Hamilton’s essay on the importance of protecting “the weakest of the three departments” of government: the judiciary. I think that the judiciary will prove less weak than Hamilton feared, or than Trump seems to hope.

What would you do, if you were a Patriot, invited to the White House?

#rosesarered #hamilton

Hamilton’s read
For dropping some knowledge.
Smelliest dropping?
Electoral College!

Valentine’s day approaches, and “Roses are red”-like poems are everywhere. Everything’s been coming up Hamilton in my mind for a while now. Above is my best combination of the two things. Note: Hamilton described the Electoral College as “at least excellent” in Federalist Paper 68.

I’ll spare you most of the others, except:

Roses are red,
Like Hamilton’s blood.
A. Burr, you spilled it!
Your legacy’s crud.

Any other Hamiltonian Valentine poems?

Bruce's "Badlands" Blasts Bad Boss

Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America. What songs are appropriate to this state of affairs? I’m sure I’m not the first to nominate Bruce Springsteen’s “Badlands”.

“Badlands” is far from new. It was on Bruce’s 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town. Here’s a live performance from that year.

Why is “Badlands” so relevant, almost 40 years later? Here are just a few of the reasons.

Other reasons that should also be on the list? Other songs appropriate to the moment? That’s what Comments are for!