The Sunset Limited

It takes only two or three hours to read, but it leaves one with a lifetime of contemplation. Or to put it more precisely, a contemplation of lifetime.

Sunset Limited

From the jacket:

A startling encounter on a New York subway platform leads two strangers to a run-down tenement where a life or death decision must be made.

In that small apartment, “Black” and “White,” as the two men are known, begin a conversation that leads each back through his own history, mining the origins of two fundamentally opposing world views. White is a professor whose seemingly enviable existence of relative ease has left him nonetheless in despair. Black, an ex-con and ex-addict, is the more hopeful of the men–though he is just as desperate to convince White of the power of faith as White is desperate to deny it.

Their aim is no less than this: to discover the meaning of life.

Ex-Wilco Member Jay Bennett Found Dead at Age 45

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The Wilco fans among you may remember Jay Bennett from the Yankee Foxtrot Hotel days and his (fairly obviously tweaked-out) performance in the movie from that album, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart. Bennett was kicked out of the band immediately after YFH was released in 2001.

Bennett was a tortured artist in every sense of the word, a control freak with very, very little charm. But he he did make some good music with the band, including the tracks on the Mermaid Avenue salute to the unfinished music of Woody Guthrie. It’s sad see someone destroy themselves in this manner. Well Jay, it’s over for you now. R.I.P.

I borrowed this video Yahoo!, so I can’t take credit for immediately thinking of this most appropriate line from “Pot Kettle Black”:

It’s become so obvious
You are so oblivious to yourself…

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MA

It was a big weekend of celebration around here in the Greater Lafayette area as my Master’s career has come to fruition.

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My new little nephew, Jayden, came by on his first road trip. Only 20 some odd days old and already on the road. This kid is going places, even if it all makes him a little sleepy.

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One of the funnest this things I did this weekend was get a chance to cook and clean with my mom.

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And I got to hang out with my lil’ sis, Nikki, who seems to be a natural born mommy.

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Here’s my mom’s significant other Tom hanging out on my porch reading the paper.

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I got to be a wizard with the ribs that they brought along.

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Damn tasty if I say so myself.

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A feast fit for a king, queen, and a baby prince on Similac.

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That little stick figure under the big screen on the right is me in the first moments of official MA-hood.

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A bunch of familial love and peace. The way it should be.

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Eurovision Winner 2009: Norway

So my Bosnians finished a respectable 9th out of 25 national contestants (Croatia finished 18th), but the prize was taken by Norwegian fiddler Alexander Rybak with his song, “Fairytale,” which is fairly impressive in its own right. Congrats.

Bosnia Enters Eurovision Finals with Regina’s “Bistra Voda”

Bosna i Hercegovina will be one of the nations taking part in this Saturday’s Eurovision Finals in Moscow. A band called Regina will be performing “Bistra Voda” (Clear Water). Although I find the song only moderately enthralling, the costumes and stage act are pretty bad-ass.

Here’s a clip from their semi-finals performance in Turkey:

The official video of the song is kinda cool too:

Of course I have a real soft spot in my heart for Bosnia, so I wish Regina all the best. Go Bosnia!

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May 9, 1873: Gründerkrach and the Long Depression

Volksbank kurz vor dem Krach (People's Bank Shortly Before the Crash) by Christian Ludwig Bokelmann

Volksbank kurz vor dem Krach (People's Bank Shortly Before the Crash) by Christian Ludwig Bokelmann

On this day in 1873 the Vienna Stock Exchange (Wiener Börse) crashed, setting off ripples that would lead to the Panic of 1873 and the Long Depression. Since it began shorty after the founding of the German Empire (aka the Second Reich) it became known as the “Founder’s Crash” or Gründerkrach.

Some theorize that it all kind of starts with Austro-Prussian War of 1866. Prussia’s quick victory at the Battle of Königgrätz/Sandowa in Bohemia ticked off the French public who had backed Austria. The French cries for “Revanche pour Sadová” would eventually help lead to the Franco-Prussia War of 1871. Both events allowed Otto von Bismarck to consolidate and finalize the Unification of Germany under the Prussian Crown without the rival powers from Habsburg Austria. This would turn Austria’s attention away from German affairs and toward Balkan and Slavic ones within its own empire. Soon they would occupy Bosnia and before you know it WWI gets underway (there are a lot more parts in between, but those are for other posts).

Battle of Königgrätz by Gegorg Bleibtreu

Battle of Königgrätz by Georg Bleibtreu

Although Austria was left out of Germany, many Germans still invested at the powerful Vienna Stock Exchange. The influx of capital into Germany from Austrian and French war reparations fueled wild speculation in the hot hi-tech items of the day like railways, factories, and steamships. America also had “irrational exuberance” in those same industries.

Panic of 1873, Run on the Banks, NYC

Panic of 1873, Run on the Banks, NYC

On this day in 1873, the bubble burst and things were not very good for a lot of people for a long time. Both European and American history are genuinely lacking in the amount of scholarship devoted to the Long Depression. The granddaddiest one of them all the Great Depression has overshadowed it. As a result I think we sometimes lose a little perspective when we only have one example to to go on.

The Burdens of the Long Depression on Pres. U.S. Grant's Shoulders

The Burdens of the Long Depression on President U.S. Grant's Shoulders

So in these down economic days of the late millenial aughts, I challenge my colleagues to pick it up a little and give us some perspect on the 1870s. From what I gather, those days seem more appropriately juxtaposed to what is going on today than the Great Depression. Please feel free to email or write any comments if you have a book that covers the Long Depression well. And happy gathering.

Update: Reading through the H-Net sites I found this call for articles from the Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory. They are putting together a special issue on “Crises and Depression.” The due date is December 1st.

The K&D Book Outlining Sessions

Just sitting, chilling, outlining some books, and listening to Austria’s finest—Kruder & Dorfmeister—set the ambiance:

Cinco de Mayo is on Tuesday!

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Here’s Ween with “Buenos Tardes Amigo,” possibly the most insane song of jealousy, murder, and revenge ever written (lyrics here). It gets really good at about 3:51 in when the smoke gets flowing and Dean revs up his tight guitar break. Enjoy.

And this is just freakin’ hilarious. Here are two German guys who call themselves Fischblende drunkenly covering the same song.

It was 20 years ago today…

Tiananmen Square

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Well, actually, May 4, 1989 was a major day of escalation in the Tiananmen Square protests. On that day 100,000 people gathered seeking greater press freedoms and a direct open dialogue with the communist government.

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Contrary to popular belief, the protests were not about bringing down the government. Although often unfocused in their message, most of the student groups and others sought greater openness from the existing government and an implementation within that government of the democratic principles inherent in Marxist theory.

Little did they know that they were kicking off a process that would bring tanks down upon them on June 4th and inspire the people of Eastern Europe to throw off the governments imposed on them at the end of WWII.

I plan on chronicling the time points of that history—many of which make up my earliest civic-minded memories—in the weeks and months ahead. Stay tuned.

Execution by Yue Minjun (1995)

Execution by Yue Minjun (1995)