Forever Lester Young

Jazz can be addictive, and it can also be repulsive. It depends where you’re coming from – Ed Sheeran to late Coltrane, for example, would be a big jump – and also on what you use as your entrée to its many wonders. You don’t want to be put off right at the start.

For me it was Lester Young. A double LP of 1940’s Lester, borrowed from my local library (look it up, kids) on a whim, pretty much kindled my interest, poor sound quality and all. Lester’s warm breathy tone, and his sly languorous solos floating across the band were pretty ear catching. And he had a certain personal style, verbally, sartorially, musically.

It’s hard to find a perfect example (more below), but here’s a taste..

Yesterday in a charity shop I came across a classic book on jazz, by Anglo-American Leonard Feather, who knew them all. Jazz inspires some truly compelling writing, both on the music (1, 2 for example) and on the people (Miles Davis’ brutal memoir is one for the ages). Feather’s smallish book is a series of portraits of the big names who he actually knew and with whom he worked – Armstrong, Holiday, Miles…and Prez, AKA Lester Young. The essay is a concise gem of Prez’s genius and his suffering. I reproduce it below.

If you read it you’ll see that it all went downhill pretty quickly. A lot of jazz fans claim that his later work is a pale shadow. I’m not convinced. The same was said of Charlie Parker **just before he had to enter the asylum at Camarillo, and people give his version of Loverman as evidence, recorded allegedly when he was blind drunk. When you hear it though, it’s actually achingly beautiful, one of the finest pieces of any music on record I’d say, reflecting all of Bird’s recent pain. Some people are hard to please.

I was lucky enough to be in the world’s greatest record shop recently, Amoeba Music in San Francisco, and got my hands on Lester’s Verve studio recordings, so in much better sound than some of the live stuff. It was out of print until a new release this year. A lot of people say he was already past it. It’s too early for me to have a view on it, but I doubt that the critics are right. Here’s an insightful review from their first release. I quote: Why does anyone need to hear eight CDs that trace the decline and collapse of this great man? Perhaps no one does. And perhaps no one needs to read King Lear, see Death of a Salesman or listen to Mahler’s 9th Symphony. Those who do will be enriched.

Jazz is as full of tragedy as Shakespeare, for sure. As a well considered Amazon review noted: But, while the first five discs will give you many hours of unalloyed joy, there is a scary, deepening sadness that comes with the final three. These are the last days of Lester, and beginning about halfway through disc six, you can hear the magic leaving him. From then on, he seems to shrink, suddenly losing all sense of the beat, sometimes playing only a few wayward notes, inept as any amateur on the instrument. By the time you hit the last Paris sessions of 1959, it is painful to listen to. What makes it even worse is the occasional flash, like dying lightning, of the old genius.

However, here’s that perfect example of prime 1944 Prez, a real find on YouTube. The filming is perfect, the remarkable Marie Bryant is perfect, and Prez is, well….perfect. Enjoy.


**Bird and Prez did record together too, check it out.


The Devil, probably

Washington DC, last week

You don’t have to be a dyed in the wool Republican, or generally lean towards the conservative end of politics, to be shocked by the events of this last week, in Washington. I have no doubt that the legions of Hillary fans and Trump haters will have said to themselves “thank God it’s not happening to me or my family“, as they contemplated the attempted evisceration of Brett Kavanaugh, on the incredible grounds that he is a rapist manqué. 

And I mean incredible in the sense of not being credible. What the hell is going on?

Well, aside from sheer politics, there is an undercurrent of plain old evil here. Lots of people have commented on it. I have no idea if others mean evil in a religious sense, or just bad behaviour. I specifically mean the former, and I know that would get me laughed at in what passes for polite society. In following UK politics you will encounter all sorts of badness, solipsistic idiocy, bullying, arrogance and many many other vices. And that’s just Alastair Campbell. But evil? Not so much.

Accusing a man of rape, knowing there to be no evidence is undoubtedly evil. Attempting to wreck the lives of his wife and children is evil. Abandoning the presumption of innocence is evil (and foolish).

Surely we can all agree on this, in theory at least***. So why would you do that?

I get the “all’s fair in love and war” cliche. I know that politics is a rough game, although part of the problem is that the judiciary should stand apart from politics, and doesn’t. I know that the Supreme Court stakes are very high for all parties. But this latest assault on Kavanaugh is something else, something much darker.

Again, this is not a left/right thing. Any reasonable person should be appalled. The fact that it’s still being pursued is a mark of how strong, the evil impulse is. It is not politics as normal. It is nothing to do with investigating sexual assault. The latter is being cynically used as a vehicle by people who have in fact routinely supported sexual abusers.

Back to religion. Give up reading now, if you are groaning inwardly, but the truth is that Charles Baudelaire – no stranger to evil, by his own admission – was right when he stated: la plus belle des ruses du diable est de vous persuader qu’il n’existe pas. Most people will be able to work that one out: the devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.

He has a point.

When ISIS, or Mexican drug cartels do their now almost banal torturing people to death, we can all agree, that’s evil. It’s also mostly in a land far away, removed from our comfortable existences. And we do use the word evil in describing them, we also use the words devilish, demonic, and hellish, and rightly so. But this week in Washington it has been in our own backyard, metaphorically. You don’t have to saw heads off to merit the use of these terms.

I trust that it will still end well, with the manifestly innocent Kavanaugh being eventually confirmed, although badly battered, and that the very real problem of sexual abuse will return to being a crime worthy of investigation and punishment – not a handy weapon for evil people to attack their opponents with.

To quote the eloquent Effie Deans, a voice of reason on this side of the pond: The madness that has taken over the United States is such that people’s lives are being ruined because of unsubstantiated allegations that go back decades. If we allow this to become the norm then our politics will simply become impossible.

That’s the practical problem**. The moral problem goes much, much deeper. Until recently this theme of evil, and dealing with the Devil in order to get ahead, would have been widely understood . The whole Faust legend, embedded in Western culture in numerous forms is a perfect example of that (see the top picture). Dante, Milton, Goethe, Bosch, Berlioz, Pasolini, Bresson, Dostoevsky, Chesterton and innumerable others all created masterpieces from this, the temptation that resonates with every person. As recently as 2011, a movie on Faust won the Venice Film Festival Golden Lion prize. This timeless dealmaking didn’t come out of nowhere, nor did it come out of superstition. It was probably easier to understand the ways of the world 400 years ago than it is now.

Oddly enough, today is Michaelmas, or the Feast of  St Michael and All Angels. He kicked Lucifer and his rebel army out of heaven, the story goes. 

Very timely.

Cleaning the body politic…Feinstein, Booker, Blumenthal, Harris…mustn’t forget Schumer… (Bruegel, The Fall of the Rebel Angels, 1562. Musee des Beaux Arts, Brussels)


**John Hinderaker enlarges on the wrecking tactics here. My piece is more on the morality and…er…metaphysics

***Maybe not all of us would agree, sadly. If you think all this talk of evil – and the Devil – is nutty religious hyperbole, think again.

Trump v Thanos: prediction time again


Hillary/Barack/MSNBC etc etc

Avengers: Infinity War is not a terrible movie, but nor is it a particularly good one**. The action is chaotic, most of the Avengers are annoying, and by far the best thing in it is Thanos, the crazed Titan. He is absurdly powerful, ruthless, amoral, charismatic yet prone to sentiment and generally he gets what he wants. Everyone is scared of him and sucks up accordingly. His basic schtick is that he will rule everything, forever. It’s his destiny. People will suffer of course, but that’s all justified. It’s the way things have to be.

This sounds familiar.

I watched it on the way to the US recently, which was strangely appropriate. Here’s the parallel: Thanos represents the opposition to Trump, which based on my careful scientific analysis is: 45% various Clintons, 35% the Godking Obama (and toadies like Brennan), 20% most of the media, trailing in the wake of the big two. Trump is, I suppose, the Avengers. The analogy falls down a bit, as however much you may dislike Trump, he’s nowhere near as irritating as Chris Evans playing Captain America, or Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk.

Anyway, more than two years ago, despite numerous claims regarding the November 2016 election that ‘nobody saw this coming‘, the outstanding Salena Zito did. And I did.

Three takeaway quotes from my piece, which was written before Trump even got the nomination:

~ he’ll gain votes from former Democrats who can’t stand Hillary and actually like what Trump says, but they won’t tell pollsters that

~ he will gain more of the black and Hispanic  votes than anyone is predicting at the moment

~ foreign policy will be left to a smart Secretary of State and the military

Feel free to disagree, but they stand up well  in  my view, although I think Trump personally has been pretty canny in foreign policy, aided by a superb team. Apart from my ego, though, why am I writing this? Because the midterm elections are imminent, for all of Congress, some of the Senate and various governorships, and the drums are already beating for the 2020 presidential contest.

My own take from hanging out in California for a while, and talking to lots of people can be easily summarised:

  • affluence is increasing, nearly across the board
  • everyone is pretty happy with this
  • net immigration is still essential for the economy, but there is no reason why this cannot all be through the ordinary legal procedures, ie. there is no reason for illegal immigration other than to increase the potential Democratic Party voter base
  • there is not – apart from in various parts of the media – lots of overt hatred for Trump, nor any huge wish for Hillary. In fact, in all of my travels around San Francisco  – not in the tourist areas – I saw a single solitary faded Hillary flyer (pictured below)
  • Trump’s ‘unexpected’ popularity with ethnic minority voters seems likely to continue, and almost certainly increase

The last point is relevant, given the new evidence – not denied – that Google did its very best to influence Hispanic voters to go for Hillary, yet they failed. Miserably.

I conclude that in 2020 there will be virtually no Trump voters who change sides – barring some unpredictable disaster – yet there will be former Dem voters who do cross over, with their new jobs, higher wages and sense that the country is moving on. Which it is.

The reliance by the Dems, with their overweening sense of entitlement, on the votes of black and Hispanic and voters in perpetuity exactly mirrors Gordon Brown and Labour’s hubristic view of Scotland. Keep ’em poor and reliant on the government. When the hyped up SNP came along, Labour – to use a phrase – didn’t see it coming. The SNP are losing support now, deservedly, given their incompetence, bullying and parochial obsessions, but it took a while. Trump is probably still in the ascent phase.

So I predict Trump with a straightforward win in 2020 – health permitting, assuming no unforeseen calamity. ‘Russian collusion’ won’t finish him, mainly because it doesn’t exist.

As for the midterms, I can’t say. I suspect however that they will also go the Republicans’ way, but they do highlight a strange fact – Trump is a one off, and people will vote for him and continue to loathe their local Republican, so all bets are off for now.

As for Thanos – he always fails in the end, causing immense misery and destruction on the way.

Not a bad analogy for the miserable Dems.

45% of Thanos, approximately


** Most of the related comic books, though, are outstanding (eg. 1, 2)

Poetry corner: Loss

…more than you realise…

I recently lost a very close relative, in tragic circumstances. Without getting into the details, one of the things that I found hard initially was how to express the loss and the grief, and indeed how to celebrate their life. There is obviously no one way to do this, but poetry is certainly in there. The permanence of the written word and the associated opportunity to ponder and slowly assimilate what’s happened and how best to encapsulate who that person was in life is actually a great relief, I found, and in a way a joy to experience.

Some years ago I attended the funeral of a young man who’d taken his own life. It was a harrowing, if beautifully conducted event. His mother’s parting words to us were “please don’t forget him“. A profound plea, that reflects how quickly we often move on, partly I think to protect ourselves.

In any event, poetry plays its role in such remembrance. It avoids the impermanence of a memory that gets pushed out of our crowded minds, and goes far beyond the intrinsic flippancy of the now routine social media tributes.

My relative had a long affinity with some Marvel characters – don’t be surprised, the now ailing Stan Lee was a gifted storyteller, with a deep understanding of human frailty and human nobility. He had for years loved the Silver Surfer, both as a character and in pretty much all of the multifarious Marvel output that involved the erstwhile Norrin Radd (though much better in print than in the movies). So had I. I think our mutual feelings about the Surfer arose from playing Top Trumps, with the ace card being the one in the picture above (click on it). That little piece of prose is perfectly weighted to express the character, and in some ineffable way, the possibility of life after death**.

It reminded me, sharply, of a few phrases that many people will know, often from a vague memory of Ronald Reagan pitching it perfectly in his speech after the Challenger disaster in 1986. It was written, like so much of his best stuff, by the wondrously gifted Peggy Noonan – still around today. She however was on this occasion merely the messenger. The poetry came from John Gillespie Magee, a Canadian airman who died in 1941, aged 19. His father brought the poem to the public’s attention, and I’m being entirely unoriginal in presenting it here – it’s already extremely well known. Nevertheless, I make no apologies for so doing. It easily transcends cliche and corniness, and keeping that image of the Surfer in mind, it performed the great service of helping to deal with a devastating loss, for which I am truly thankful.


Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.


**…even if, as is the case with me, you already do believe that there is an afterlife. It’s a question every one of us will have asked, and will continue to ask.

Once more into the breach – abortion

A young Nat, hanging out with Charles Mingus

For many people abortion is about the sanctity of life. This deeply rooted belief often has a religious underpinning. Of course it would, and no shame there. It doesn’t have to be a religious argument though.

One of the problems I have with the abortion debate is that we end up talking from entirely different premises. I have no issue discussing matters with someone who is pro-abortion, but nevertheless avoids equivocating about what it is – taking a life. I actually get the utilitarian argument that it solves an immediate ‘problem’ – even if it creates a myriad more.

So what do atheists think about it? Naturally many of them go down the well worn path of moral relativity and making judgements about ‘quality of life’ etc etc.

But not all. Consider lefty polymath Nat Hentoff, jazz guru and author of hundreds of insightful sleeve notes, among many other accomplishments. Also, the gritty maverick Christopher Hitchens. Both are now dead, both held the line against the moral blurring behind which so many people hide.

Here, from a fine article are their views in a nutshell…

2018-07-15 (28)

I don’t think the answer to this very real crisis in our world is to criminalise women who have abortions. Ultimately it all comes down to a personal moral issue, and I am very aware that it can be unimaginably difficult for those in the middle. However, Hitchens and Hentoff are both factually correct. To claim otherwise recalls the great Sir Michael Dummett’s quote on the perils of moral relativism:

“it will bring down a curse upon us worse than that which God called down on the builders of Babel; rather than our speaking different languages, not to be speaking a genuine language at all.”

Lest we forget: the reality of #terrorism

So much of the harsh reality of life is glossed over. We’re shielded from pictures of abortion, given its intrinsic horror, despite convulsing over it in public debate, war pictures are always empty rubble filled streets (in the UK media) – not body parts etc. And because of certain tensions, terrorism, which is hardly on the decline, is primarily viewed almost as a political and societal challenge, as opposed to violent murder.

So it’s a painful, if salutary, experience to appreciate what actually happens to people – victims and families. Here is an extract from an article on the somewhat dishonest debate on the confirmation of Gina Haspel as the new CIA Director.

Gordon Haberman concurs: “Our beautiful, vibrant, loving Andrea was subjected to torture.  She was alive after the building was hit and then brutalized in a desperate attempt to escape the inferno.  She was then ripped apart as she died.  It haunts me till this day.  I only hope she was dead before being dismembered in this manner.  In seventeen years, they have recovered and identified eleven pieces of her.  Do I worry about how those who perpetrated this act were treated after being caught alive and are still alive?  No.”

He was referring to his daughter, of course. The father’s pain is crushing, understandably.  Forgiveness is needed throughout life, but you can only forget and move on if the reality of what happened is acknowledged honestly. Plenty of people are not interested in that happening.

Haberman Rose 2.2
The 9/11 memorial is heartbreaking, believe me

How to run your first marathon

….piece of cake…

Warning: this post contains no references to politics, the media, celebrities, experts or any other subject of my usual snarking. It is what it says on the tin.

The reason is that I have indeed just run my first – and probably only – marathon, in my ‘middle age’, and in truth it was fine. I actually enjoyed it, and I was happy with under 5 hours. Lots of people gave me advice, some good, some less so, some only really relevant to the person doing it. So here, in no particular order, is my list of tips/advice:

  1. Everyone is different – in their running style (watch it on TV, some great runners look like they are about to fall over), their outfit, their shoes, their nutrition. If you train adequately you’ll soon learn what suits you. You do not need weird Mo Farah sleeves. In fact nobody does, including him.
  2. Definitely use a distance + route tracker, and the app/website that goes with it. I used a Garmin Forerunner 220  (which is actually fairly primitive these days) with a heart rate monitor. Totally reliable and Garmin have a great phone app. There are lots to choose from. eBay has some bargains.
  3. There are very funky secondary apps that give you aerial route views etc that you can share – if you’re so inclined. I liked Relive.
  4. Start training about 4 months before the event, if you’re not used to long distance. The longest I’d done before it was a half marathon, though I keep reasonable baseline fitness
  5. A lot of people like running partners or training in a group. I don’t, and I rarely play music either. Whatever suits, but Alan Sillitoe was onto something interesting with The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, as was Haruki Murakami with What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
  6. If you go with that 4 month plan, spend the first month or thereabouts knocking off 5-6 milers so that you’re doing it comfortably and you’ve sussed out the best shoes for you. If you can only manage a mile at first, it doesn’t matter. You will rapidly improve.
  7. Spend another month at 10-12 miles but push it further if comfortable to 16-18. One big run a week, a smaller one midweek is enough
  8. It can be quite hard to get good routes for road running to ease the monotomy and test yourself. On runs greater than 10 miles I needed fluid, so I bought this excellent belt and built my runs around corner shops every 6-7 miles to fill with isotonic drinks. Makes a big difference. On marathon day they bring the drinks to you, of course. I often did a long loop to end up back at my starting point. A straight there and back, same route, was off putting for me. Getting dropped off or picked up with a long single direction run certainly breaks it up too, and you feel good at having ended up much farther from home than you thought you could.
  9. A month before the race you should be comfortable at 16-18 miles. However, a handy way to think about it is the duration of the run (and bear in mind very long runs can be boring, mental endurance is part of the deal). Estimate your hoped for marathon time – usually 4-5 hours if you’re in my bracket, and make sure you can run continually for 80% of that, however slow or fast.
  10. If you can, make your last 3 big runs 18, 20 and 22 miles, don’t worry about the time. On the last one you’ll probably get a useful taste of  The Wall, which is a real phenomenon (I’ll come back to this). However, that last run should be at least a week before the day of the race
  11. A lot of people go on about diet. My take is that it’s all fuel if you’re exercising hard enough, though if you’re trying to really build muscle you obviously specifically need protein. I think it’s pretty overdone as a topic, but I did do without booze in the last week. The night before the race I made the ultimate sacrifice – I ate macaroni cheese for the carbs while everyone else guzzled burgers. A steak and three pints of Guinness would have been unwise though.
  12. Likewise sleep. Lots of sleep would be great, but most people’s sleep patterns are not that controllable, and sleeping well before the race can be difficult with all the anticipation. I suppose ‘don’t intentionally stay up late when doing long runs’ is the best one could say
  13. In the last week before the race or thereabouts, The Taper is also a real thing. Either don’t run, or just do an easy short one to assuage your guilt. Let the minor injuries heal. You will not lose fitness.
  14. If you’re really injured, don’t race. There will be a next time. You may make an injury worse, and even more depressing, you’ll have to drop out once you’ve started. As a medic with a lot of experience of the dubious specialty of Sports Medicine, I can tell you that the main treatment is always the same – R E S T.
  15. I wore Saucony trainers, with fairly thick heels. I very much doubt that many runners are real ‘pronators’ and need special shoes. Probably people with obvious flat feet, but nearly any brand is adequate, I suspect. The online reviews are often ridiculously nitpicky. I ended up buying second hand pairs on eBay with plenty of tread left for about £20 usually. They come ‘worn in’ often. You will probably need two pairs, don’t run the race in shoes with worn out heels. Double skin socks are very comfy and probably do reduce blistering.
  16. Before a big run, and obviously on race day, I took a couple of Ibuprofen tablets. I did take a further two at about 18 miles, more pre-emptively than anything else. Paracetamol works differently, so if you’re my age, wracked my musculoskeletal pain, you can take it as well as the Ibuprofen (or a similar nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory). Be prepared!
  17. Move your bowels before the run – so leave enough time – and have a light breakfast.
  18. Everyone advises this, but do not start like a rocket. It is wasted energy and counterproductive. I tend to keep a steady pace anyway, but if lots of people run past you at the beginning, just shrug your shoulders and nod in a friendly way when you trot past them at 15 miles.
  19. I found a half marathon the year before pretty straightforward, but back then I never thought I’d manage a full 26.2 miles – my ankles were too sore, the training would be too much etc. I was wrong. All my weight bearing joints and sore tendons felt better two days after the full race than they had done in ages. However, a full marathon is a lot more than twice the energy expenditure than a half, probably nearer 4 times as much. So have a source of rapid energy handy – jelly babies, glucose tablets, those weird sachets of gloopy stuff (very good actually). Which brings me to…
  20. The Wall. Described as that point where competitors “run out of carbohydrates stored in their body and have to suddenly shift to burning mostly fat to keep them going”. Usually after 20 miles, and it seems some people aren’t prone to it, some people claim to preload with carbohydrates in the preceding days, but basically, you’ve run out of fuel and you suddenly feel terrible and your judgement becomes a little flaky. My solution: DO NOT WALK, guzzle as many of those sachets/alternative energy sources as you can, maintain a steady pace and focus on completing. A lot of it is mental discipline. Think of David Goggins.
  21. If you walk at this point you’ll struggle to run again for any distance. In my last 5km I was overtaken by 24 people, but I overtook 471, most of whom were walking but younger than me. It is a tortoise and hare phenomenon.
  22. I’ve mentioned trainers and the running belt (handy for phone, painkillers, money, don’t bother with your own drinks), but my advice is don’t skimp on essentials. I had a great pair of running shorts with a deep lycra layer and lots of pockets for any gels etc, but they cost more than £40. It’s worth it. Likewise, when you’re sweating and chafing, a lightweight wicking fabric running top is way better than a clinging cotton T shirt.
  23. Don’t overdo it! My friend who in his 50’s just did the Paris Marathon in under 4 hours (in 28 degree heat) tells me that runners, probably after their Personal Best were collapsing in front of him at 24 miles, needing medical input and not finishing. As Clint Eastwood rightly observed “a man’s got to know his limitations”. Slow down if you have to, but DON’T WALK.
  24. When you get to the end, don’t expect to feel great. Take your time, drink that electrolyte solution, and if you feel faint, sit down again. It’ll pass. Be prepared for runners’ bowel reperfusion syndrome (ie. where is there a toilet one hour from now?)

See, it’s not that bad. Go for it.

Protecting/hating women – the #Clinton rulebook.

A women writes…but the problem is that the woman in question is Ann Coulter. Ms Coulter is tall, blonde, ferociously articulate, very funny, very opinionated, very well informed, and she’s also a dynamite writer. She’s the Lefties’ nightmare stalking in broad daylight, with a high output of books, columns, TV appearances and the rest. She is – like your humble author – one of the few people who predicted Trump’s success, and for the correct reasons.

She is of the mainstream, with her media presence, but stands apart from it. She is thick skinned (she must be) but takes torrential abuse from her political opposites, and here’s the kicker – much of it revolves around her appearance and her gender. It is appallingly sexist, violent and bigoted. All the accusations hurled by people to whom the same terms simultaneously apply. The hypocrisy is as breathtaking as it is predictable.

All of which is a preamble to her latest column, on the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ kinds of abuse of women – the answer, in case you wondered, is it depend on who is doing the alleged abuse. Put simply, would a friend of luvvies and liberals like Harvey Weinstein be in trouble today – with the #metoo hordes revelling in his downfall – had Hillary won the election?

Clearly not. And the same double standards apply over here in the UK, I would venture.

Take it away Ms Coulter:

A New York Times article on Weinstein’s court appearance noted how the “ground shifted” last year, finally ending the “code of silence” surrounding powerful men. Why “last year,” if this has been going on for decades? The article explained that Weinstein’s power was enormous, his connections extensive and his willingness to play dirty without bounds. Did Harvey lose his money and connections “last year”?

Nope. But “last year” was the first year of Trump’s presidency, or as I like to think of it, the first year of Hillary not being president. Ever.  The liberal protection racket for sexual predators was always intimately intertwined with the Clintons. The template used to defend Bill Clinton became a model for all left-wing sexual predators. They all hired the same lawyers and detectives and counted on the same cultural elites to mete out punishment to anyone who stood in the way of their Caligula lifestyles. It was Total War against the original #MeToo movement. Even Teddy Kennedy never plotted revenge on reporters or smeared his sexual conquests as bimbos, trailer park trash and stalkers. That was the Clinton model.

She has a point. It gets worse, as back then private investigators were hired to find dirt on anyone who had spilt the beans on the Clinton bad behaviour. This, by the way, is fact, not paranoia or speculation. Any dirt would, do, irrespective of whether it was true, or of the damage it would cause. Nice, huh? As Ann goes on:

No one cared about any of our private lives. The only point was to humiliate anyone who hadn’t endorsed Clinton’s treatment of women as his sexual playthings. There were plenty who did.

Well into the Monica Lewinsky scandal — which followed the Gennifer Flowers scandal, the Paula Jones scandal, the Dolly Kyle Browning scandal, the Elizabeth Ward Gracen scandal, the Sally Perdue scandal and the Kathleen Willey scandal — feminist icon Gloria Steinem wrote her infamous New York Times op-ed, announcing the “One Free Grope” rule for progressive men.

“He takes no for an answer,” Steinem explained. Whether he was groping Kathleen Willey in the Oval Office or dropping his pants for Paula Jones in the Excelsior Hotel, she said, Clinton “accepted rejection.”  Soon thereafter, we found out about Juanita Broaddrick.

As Bob Herbert wrote in The New York Times, the reaction of the feminists to Clinton’s predatory behavior “can most charitably be described as restrained.” (This was when the Times was still an occasionally serious newspaper.)

Not one Senate Democrat voted to remove Clinton from office for various felonies related to his sexual assaults.  The message was clear. Liberal men got a pass for any sexual misconduct, even rape. But woe be to those who accused them. (Even last year, NBC News was still following the old rule: It fired Ronan Farrow rather than publish his Weinstein expose.)

Liberal males treated progressive politics like carbon credits for rape. Last year, MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt reported that Democratic sexual predators on Capitol Hill say, “I can’t be sexist; I’m a progressive.” ….. It’s hard to avoid the impression that a big part of the reason Weinstein was finally exposed is that the Clinton machine is dead. Trump killed it. Would anyone have called out Weinstein if his good friend Hillary Clinton were “Madame President”? I doubt it. The Clinton protection racket would have gone on and on and on.  After years of feminists excusing sexual predators, once the Clintons were out of the way, the dam broke. There was no reason to keep humiliating themselves by defending the indefensible.

The Worst Generation has flatlined. There are no more Clintons to save. But as absolutely intellectually convinced as I am of the Clintons’ demise, I’d feel a lot better if someone would keep a wooden stake handy.

This is the truth of the current sorry state of affairs amongst the rich and powerful. Don’t ever give these people a pass again.



Great Landscapes: Grant Wood

Everyone knows American Gothic, which, great though it is, is in some ways slightly unrepresentative of Wood’s work, although it absolutely captures a certain Midwest ambience – Wood was basically an Iowan to the end of his days (1942, aged 51, pancreatic cancer), although he had a most eclectic approach to art – visiting Europe and soaking up Northern Renaissance masterpieces, amongst others.

In landscape terms though I present three. Two had the ‘wow’ factor when I first saw them, but the first is a deceptively simple pastorale which is almost abstract in what it depicts, Spring Turning:

Spring Turning, 1936. Reynolda House Museum of American Art, North Carolina

Completely original and in its own way, very influential.

The next is a dark fable neatly trapped in the confines of a rectangular frame, Death on the Ridge Road. You could view this simply as an almost cartoonish reflection on the burgeoning spate of motor vehicle deaths as America industrialised and became richer, or just as easily you can turn it in on itself, like this author did: To deepen and nuance the scholarly understanding of this painting, depictions of automobiles and nature within the image are closely considered, focusing on the metaphorical content they express.  This analysis regards questions about what cars and nature meant to Americans at this time.  How might cars represent manhood in Wood’s painting?  If they are a vehicle for gender identity, might their placement and movement in the image suggest the struggle for acceptance that homosexuals faced generally, and Wood may have faced specifically?

You decide. It is a brilliant composition, delivered with great technical assurance.

Death on the Ridge Road, 1935. Williams College Museum of Art, Massachusetts

Lastly, the earliest of the three, an epic, cinematic snapshot of a key moment in American history – Wood is one of the most instinctively American of painters. I still marvel at the perspective – a precursor of drone photography – the New England neatness, the perfect evocation of night, and the arcadian landscape disappearing behind the buildings, those perfect trees. Paul Revere himself is almost incidental – shades there of Bruegel’s Icarus, a feature not lost on WH Auden.

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, 1931. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City