When a society loses its memory, it descends inevitably into dementia. Mark Steyn
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February 28, 2011

Music break: Steyn's Song of the Week

Mark's Song of the Week columns are always diverting and informative, but sometimes just a bit depressing. The great Johnny Mercer was a mean drunk. Frank Loesser smoked his way to a premature death. Sadder still is the story of the lonely life of Lorenz Hart, who considered himself unlovable: 

By 1937, he’d written a hundred love songs for everyone else, and “Funny Valentine” was one for himself, the one he’d like to have had someone sing to him:

Is your figure less than Greek?
Is your mouth a little weak?
When you open it to speak
Are you smart?
But don't change a hair for me...

No one ever did sing it to him.
But this week's column on George Shearing is the opposite of sad, in spite of what one might consider some pretty hardcore early impediments to happiness:
Sir George (as Her Majesty, cutting it exceeding fine, dubbed him a couple of years back) died two weeks ago at the age of 91. Born blind (the result, he believed, of a botched attempt at abortion), he grew up to become one of the greatest pianists of our time. 
Think about that for a minute.


Wouldn't you know it -- Shearing wrote Lullaby of Birdland in ten minutes:
That evening, in the middle of eating his char-broiled steak at their home in Old Tappan, New Jersey, he suddenly jumped up from the table. "What's wrong now?" said the missus. Shearing had been known to leap from his chair when presented with a meal not to his taste. This time, though, he ran to the piano, sat down, began to play, and ten minutes later had the whole of "Lullaby Of Birdland" mapped out. At the end, he turned to Trixie: "What do you think of that?"
 
"I've been back to that butcher many times," he told me, "but I never got a steak that did the trick again."
Mark has often noted how great songs get away from their creators and take on lives of their own. Case in point:



If you'd like a different take, Amazon has 628 other versions.

Read the whole thing.


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February 10, 2011

Must-read: Steyn on Gosnell, Planned Parenthood, and the moral corruption of America

Mark Steyn on Big Government's Back Alley:

This is a remarkable moment in American life: A man is killing actual living, gurgling, bouncing babies on an industrial scale - and it barely makes the papers. Had he plunged his scissors into the spinal cord of a Democrat politician in Arizona, then The New York Times, ABC, CBS, NBC and everyone else would be linking it to Sarah Palin's uncivil call for dramatic cuts in government spending. But "Doctor" Kermit Gosnell's mound of corpses is apparently entirely unconnected to the broader culture. 
Read the rest, especially the last two paragraphs, and pass it on.

You'd think this would be a pivotal moment for anyone who's wishy-washy, personally opposed, or just a bit queasy about abortion. Gosnell and Planned Parenthood have made it easier than ever to choose sides.

On one side we have despair, the stench of decay and death, a butcher who makes jokes as he murders newborn infants (the worst is on p. 114 of the transcript, but be warned: it will break your heart), and an organization that reflexively, pitilessly, aligns itself with slave-masters who force 13 and 14 year-old girls into prostitution.

On the other side we have babies, childhood, health, birth, hope, love, life. The contrast couldn't be sharper. It's time for the lukewarm to get over whatever prejudices are keeping them from getting on the right side of this issue, for the good of the victims of this ghastly culture, and for their own good as well. Steyn:
. . . in a world where statists and social engineers serve as ruthless enforcers for the prevailing ideology, its deep moral corruption will eventually swallow you, too.
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February 7, 2011

Columnist not in the mood to celebrate Black History Month

Colbert King on "the calamity in our midst":

Here we are, another Black History Month: time to lionize great black men and women of the past. Twenty-eight days to praise the first African American to do this and the first African American who did that. Another month of looking back with pride - as we ignore the calamity in our midst.

When Black History Month was celebrated in 1950, according to State University of New York research, 77.7 percent of black families had two parents. As of January 2010, according to the Census Bureau, the share of two-parent families among African Americans had fallen to 38 percent.

We know that children, particularly young male African Americans, benefit from parental marriage and from having a father in the home. Today, the majority of black children are born to single, unmarried mothers.
King connects this disintegration to the entitlements that make it all possible and points the finger where it is so rarely pointed, at the men and boys who beget all these fatherless children. Every baby has a father. Why are these guys never held accountable?
Sixteen, unmarried and having a baby? No problem. Here are your food stamps, cash assistance and medical coverage. Can't be bothered with the kid? No sweat, there's foster care.

Make the young father step up to his responsibilities?

Consider this statement I received from a sexual health coordinator and youth programs coordinator in the District concerning a teen mother she is counseling: "She recently had a child by a man who is 24 years old and has 5 other children. He is homeless and does not work, but knows how to work young girls very well. . . .This young man is still trying to have more children."

He's a cause. Our community deals with his consequences. 
Imagine if Michelle Obama had chosen the broken black family as her pet issue. Mrs. Obama is in a unique position to do some real good. She's fully qualified to speak about the virtues of the intact black family, having emerged from one and created one of her own, and she has the ear and the admiration of the black community. But she and her husband rarely mention it.

Of course, the Obamas' commitment to nanny-government is a huge stumbling block to an honest treatment of the issue. Another is the political incorrectness of touting the superiority of the traditional family, though the advantages it gives to children, and thus to society, are indisputable. But kids are always left out of the equation when empowerment and liberation are the goals.

From Gerry Garibaldi's "Nobody Gets Married Anymore, Mister," which we touched on last week:
“My mom and my grandma both got pregnant when they were teens, and they’re good mothers.”

“Nobody gets married any more, mister,” Shanice and Maria chime in. “You’re just picking on us because we have kids.”

At this point, my “picking” has only just begun. It’s partly for their benefit, but mostly for the other girls in the room, who haven’t said a word. As much as Nicole is aware of her mother’s sacrifices, she is equally proud of her mother’s choice to keep her. It’s locked away in her heart like a cameo. They’re best friends, she offers. The talk turns to her mother’s loyalty and love, and soon the class rises in a choir to mom’s defense.

“Fine,” I say, glowering like Heath Ledger’s Joker. “If that’s your position, like any good journalist, you have to back up your arguments with facts and statistics.”

As do most of my 11th-graders, Nicole reads at a fifth-grade level, which means I must peruse the articles and statistics along with her, side by side. She groans each time I pick out a long article and counts the number of pages before she reads. With my persistent nudging, she and Maria begin to pull out the statistics for the children of single parents. From the FBI: 63 percent of all suicides are individuals from single-parent households. From the Centers for Disease Control: 75 percent of adolescents in chemical-dependency hospitals come from single-parent households. From the Children’s Defense Fund: more than half of all youths incarcerated for criminal acts come from single-parent households. And so on.

“I don’t want to write about this!” Nicole complains. “I’ve changed my mind.”

“Why?”

“Nobody wants to read it.”
Ain't it the truth. Kudos to liberal columnist King for writing about it anyway. Now if Mr. and Mrs. Obama would only follow suit.

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February 1, 2011

No hope or change for urban schools

Today's must-read: “Nobody Gets Married Any More, Mister” by Gerry Garibaldi
Subtitle: Welcome to our urban high schools, where kids have kids and learning dies. Excerpt:

She lifted her face and smiled at her friends, then dropped her head back down. I picked up my grimy metal garbage can and set it beside her desk, just in case. A moment later she vomited, and I dispatched her to the nurse. In the years since, I’ve escorted girls whose water has just broken, their legs trembling and wobbly, to the principal’s office, where their condition barely raises an eyebrow.

Within my lifetime, single parenthood has been transformed from shame to saintliness. In our society, perversely, we celebrate the unwed mother as a heroic figure, like a fireman or a police officer. During the last presidential election, much was made of Obama’s mother, who was a single parent. Movie stars and pop singers flaunt their daddy-less babies like fishing trophies.
You have to read the whole thing to get the full, bleak picture. I don't have much time to comment right now, but again, wouldn't it be lovely if our president hit hard on the theme of responsible fatherhood and commitment to family? And recruited other black celebrities to do the same? Of course one man can't change the culture, but he's got the bully pulpit, and perhaps he could do some small amount of good?

But instead he talks about working on his rap palate, endorsing entertainers that degrade their own culture.

And much more significantly, he's absolutely committed to the culture of entitlement that's a huge part of the problem. From the article:
Connecticut is among the most generous of the states to out-of-wedlock mothers. Teenage girls like Nicole qualify for a vast array of welfare benefits from the state and federal governments: medical coverage when they become pregnant (called “Healthy Start”); later, medical insurance for the family (“Husky”); child care (“Care 4 Kids”); Section 8 housing subsidies; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; cash assistance. If you need to get to an appointment, state-sponsored dial-a-ride is available. If that appointment is college-related, no sweat: education grants for single mothers are available, too. Nicole didn’t have to worry about finishing the school year; the state sent a $35-an-hour tutor directly to her home halfway into her final trimester and for six weeks after the baby arrived.

In theory, this provision of services is humane and defensible, an essential safety net for the most vulnerable—children who have children. What it amounts to in practice is a monolithic public endorsement of single motherhood—one that has turned our urban high schools into puppy mills. The safety net has become a hammock.
Please read the rest. Comments welcome.

Thanks to AS for sending the link.

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