In My Life: Lennon remembers…

There’s something Shakespearean about Lennon’s meditation on life and meaning.

“I think ‘In My Life’ was the first song that I wrote that was really, consciously about my life, and it was sparked by a remark a journalist and writer in England made after In His Own Write came out. I think ‘In My Life’ was after In His Own Write… But he said to me, ‘Why don’t you put some of the way you write in the book, as it were, in the songs? Or why don’t you put something about your childhood into the songs?’ Which came out later as ‘Penny Lane’ from Paul – although it was actually me who lived in Penny Lane – and Strawberry Fields.”  – John Lennon

Outtake for the Rubber Soul album cover (image courtesy “Yer Doin’ Great”

The marvelous Beatles Bible offers four John Lennon quotes about the composition of “In My Life.” Lennon considered it one of his most important songs for several reasons. It was the first song, he says, written about his life – the result, Lennon told multiple interviewers, of a comment by British journalist Kenneth Allsopp concerning Lennon’s first book, In His Own Write.

Another concern Lennon has was his ability to write melodies – something that his writing partner, Paul, was and is particularly adept at. “In My Life” is predominantly John’s melody (though he says Paul wrote the middle eight). Continue reading

What does it mean to be a “good ancestor”?

usa-2074What is a good parent? What is a good grandparent? These terms don’t mean what they used to.

I heard a comment a few weeks ago about someone who wanted to be thought of as a “good ancestor.” It has stuck with me, and I have been wrestling with what, if anything, is meant by the phrase. It’s a serious attempt to capture something that up to a decade or two ago would never have been in question. Up until recently, ancestors generally were good in the same way. They tried to make a career and livelihood for themselves that could be passed on to their children, or to equip their children with the tools necessary to survive and, hopefully, to prosper. My grandparents took this responsibility seriously—this is why some of them emigrated to America from Germany. And this sense of responsibility preceded them by generations, and was passed on to their children, who tried to, and sometimes even succeeded in, passing it on to my generation. Leaving the world a better place was a given.

But the world has changed. All of this took place in a world that seemed to have no limits—natural capital, if it was thought about at all, was thought to be inexhaustible. But we know now that this is not true. Not only is natural capital, the foundation of the global economic system, exhaustible, some parts of it (such as water) are being depleted at a more rapid rate than anyone could have anticipated. Continue reading

S&R at 10: Still thinking, ’cause it ain’t illegal, and we want to keep it that way

Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim— George Santayana, 1863-1952

We’re not fanatics here at Scholars & Rogues. As our founder, Sam Smith, writes today on our 10th anniversary, our unruly mob of scholars and rogues believes in a “fierce commitment to confronting challenging questions facing ourselves, our society and our communities.”

S&R-logo-originalMany, if not most, of those challenges arrive at our digital doorstep because those who are fanatics have lost both their aim and their minds. We, as do you, routinely witness assaults on common sense, on dignity, on respect, and on intelligent public discourse.

We’ve tried to be more than mere witnesses here. When we’ve seen stupidity, we’ve shouted, sometimes whispered, “Hey! That’s not right. Don’t do that.”

But that’s not enough. To again paraphrase my favorite fictional president, Andrew Shepard, those who have lost their way or their minds on an issue do two things and two things only: Telling you to be afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it.

Continue reading

The new-new Enlightenment and the Counter-Reformation

On lighting a fire for scholarly rogueship

US-nazi-flag.pngTen years is a long time, and it passes in a heartbeat.

When Sam invited me to join the Scrogues a decade ago, it was to be the ‘libertarian’ to counterbalance what he saw as a quite left-wing team of writers and scholars who were coming together to think deep thoughts about the world we wanted.

My opening gambit was to point out the dangers of low expectations of those whose betterment we seek.

In truth, perhaps our mistake was assuming high expectations for democracy and liberalism. Continue reading

Scholars & Rogues marks its 10th anniversary

A brief history of S&R: It’s been a great decade. We hope you’ll stick around for another 10 years.

On April 16, 2007, a few of us (mostly immigrants from The 5th Estate on LiveJournal) opened shop at ScholarsAndRogues.com. I suppose we hoped for a doorbusting response, as hordes of people, starving for our unique brand of irreverent wisdom, metaphorically trampled us with pageviews.

That initial team included myself, co-founder Mike Sheehan, Brian Angliss, Jim Booth, Denny Wilkins, Gavin Chait, Rori Black, Robert Silvey and Martin Bosworth. Robert retired, Martin left to start his own site (and then tragically died), Mike doesn’t write much anymore but he’s skulking around here somewhere and I’ve been trying to lure Rori back for years but she’s having none of it.

Along the way we picked up more stragglers, and hopefully you’ve had occasion to enjoy their insight into the contemporary condition as well. Continue reading

The kitten, the junkie, the dog, and Steven

Extremes enrich an abundant life…

In my chosen profession there are extremes which exist outside of me and are mine (or yours) to take or leave. The world is ugly, and the world is beautiful, and I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable calling myself a photojournalist if I wasn’t willing to embrace how wonderful and horrible the world can be. You got to love the hate and hate the love, so to speak.

Scholars & Rogues has given me a forum to show you, our faithful readers, the weird bits of pathos, promise, and pain that I encounter as I wander in and around San Francisco, California and its suburbs. I do this to show you that we are not just a collective of progressive thinkers, critics, and college professors. We are also no strangers to the street. We have been in, and sometimes slept in, the gutters and found within ourselves the strength to take a realistic but also an humane and compassionate view of American life and how our country fits into the world.

So on the tenth anniversary of Scholars & Rogues, I want to make you feel good. And I want to make you feel bad. And I want to give you hope. Because that’s what life does to all of us on a regular basis. And to start here’s my kitten Kuro-chan grooming himself at my house in Brisbane, California…

Continue reading

Music and Popular Culture

Carole, Joni, and Carly: sometimes it’s hard to be a woman…

“A young woman in the spring and summer of 1967 was walking toward a door just as that door was springing open. A stage was set for her adulthood that was so accommodatingly extreme—so whimsical, sensual, and urgent—that behavior that in any other era would carry a penalty for the daring was shielded and encouraged.” – Sheila Weller, Girls Like Us

Girls Like Us by Sheila Weller (image courtesy Goodreads)

Sheila Weller’s triple-decker biography (and I use this word advisedly) Girls Like Us gives readers a look inside the lives of three of the singer-songwriter era’s biggest stars: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon. Weller’s book is well-researched and the reader learns a great deal about each of these major figures. What becomes a question for the astute reader as he/she progresses through the book is whether what is being learned is always useful or meaningful.

This is not to say that Weller’s book isn’t compelling reading, especially for music buffs, fans of any of these particular music legends, or Boomers nostalgic for the era in which King, Mitchell, and Simon did their finest work. It is.

What may not work for some readers is the focus of Weller’s biographical studies. That may be because the work of these three songwriters are feminine (and feminist) concerns. One certainly cannot argue that three writers known for highly personal and confessional songwriting are treated unfairly by the author’s looking at their artistic careers through the lens of their personal lives. What might be giving me (and may perhaps give other readers) pause is the level of detail that Weller goes into in exploring King’s, Mitchell’s, and Simon’s private lives. Continue reading

Republican President Trump

It’s Donald’s party now. Make sure no one is allowed to forget it.

by djerrid

A piece of advice for Democratic message makers: There is no “President Trump.” There is only “Republican President Trump.”

Those who represent the Democratic Party should literally not say his name without putting “Republican” in front of it. Tying Republican Trump to the Republican Party should be done now so that it becomes an entrenched symbol of his identity in the minds of the average American voter. It will send a clear and obvious message that a major strategy of the Democrats is to put their counterparts in the tight and suffocating embrace of “their” president. Continue reading

Varner outs Zeke: the outrage is reaffirming

A gay man’s assault on a transgender fellow player was stunning. The response by the tribe, the host, the audience, and most importantly the target, gives a little hope to those of us losing faith in our fellow humans.

On last night’s episode of Survivor, Jeff Varner, who was fighting for his life in the game, turned to fellow contestant Zeke Smith during tribal council and asked him, “Why haven’t you told anyone you’re transgender?” It was like someone had dropped a bomb on the place. Ten seconds of staggered silence gave way to a deluge of outrage against Varner, with members of the tribe shouting over each other in a moment unlike anything in Survivor history. It was a beatdown of unprecedented proportions and it was richly deserved. A Google search for [zeke smith jeff varner] is currently returning ~82,000 results – stories, tweets, videos, you name it, so feel free to sample for yourself the public response.

Continue reading

Imperial Stormtroopers are precise in exactly which galaxy far, far away?

Image credit: Knowyourmeme.com

If you have ever watched the original Star Trek TV series, you know that anyone on an away team wearing a red shirt was doomed to die. Except Scotty – Scotty is invincible.

And if you’ve seen the original three Star Wars movies (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi), you’ll know that Stormtroopers can not hit anything. Combine these two foibles and you get the SF fanboy/girl joke at right.

Which brings me to my point. Continue reading

Economic development, and the decline of rural prospects, is a tale of many cities

Economic neglect unleashes the stalking demons of fear and bigotry.

We have seen those demons basking in the movements which gave us Brexit in the UK, Donald Trump’s election in the US, and which may soon yield Marine le Pen as the new Vichy leader of France.

I have started visiting small towns and cities around the UK in an effort to both understand what is happening there, and to promote small business investment in those areas.

I won’t post all the episodes here, but you can follow along at Coffee Conspiracies on YouTube.

In this episode, I look at the data for every local authority in England and Wales and consider the opportunities and threats for their communities.

S&R’s 2017 Word of the Year: “re-accommodation”

Is it too early to name something the ______ of the Year? Heck no. Let’s call it.

You probably saw where United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz lamented the need to “re-accommodate” that uncooperative passenger.

What a word, that: “re-accommodation.” It doesn’t just apply to airlines – it’s application is nearly limitless.

Every night in bars across America bouncers re-accommodate unruly guests.

The US government re-accommodated the Japanese during WW2.

The US also re-accommodated the Native Americans. For example, they re-accommodated the Cherokees from NC to Oklahoma (although we have to come up with something better than “Trail of Tears”).

There’s some re-accommodation going on right now at Standing Rock. Continue reading

Aside

When I voted for Trump, I never thought he would disrupt the electro-weak forces binding my subatomic particles, dispersing me to the wind. But I still believe in my heart that he’s a good man and I’ll be voting for him again in 2020.
Your Daily Devotional is a lightly-edited entry from my Twitter feed. Follow me at @jefftiedrich

Your Daily Devotional for April 11, 2017