Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day 2016

Feast Day

Statue of St. Valentine, Whitefriar Street Church, Dublin
Relative to other saints, we really don't know all that much about Saint Valentine, whose feast day we celebrate today.

Opinions also vary with regard to how Valentine's feast day came to be associated with romantic love, but the best evidence is that the practice began in the 14th century in England, chiefly due to Geoffrey Chaucer's poem "Parlement of Foules."

Of course millions of people celebrate Valentine's Day every year with no regard whatsoever for the saint for whom the day
is named.

Regardless of all that, Valentine remains the patron saint of courtly love and romantic devotion. Someone living the sort of life I am now living can still have a sentimental affection for the holiday, even if as a practical matter it no longer has the significance
it once did.

"Would some nice chocolate-covered ants cheer you up?"

I'm fine, thanks...

Requiescat in Pace

March 11, 1936 - February 13, 2016
What was already a pretty miserable day yesterday was made immeasurably worse with the news that Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia had died in his sleep while on a hunting trip in Texas. He was 79 years old.

Losing the court's intellectual anchor and most steadfast conservative voice is calamitous at
a time when essential liberties are under assault on a daily basis.

Justice Scalia on a visit to Texas

Of course progressives were quick
to share their disgusting glee at his passing, and were equally quick to begin their campaign to undermine the legitimacy of the Senate's constitutional role in approving nominees to the court. They have suggested that any attempt to block President Obama from filling the vacancy would be unprecedented and shameful.

That point of view ignores the history of SCOTUS nominations in general (in which the Democrats have often blocked Republican nominations), and in particular the situation we have now, where the vacancy occurs during a presidential election year with a lame-duck president in the White House, but given the progressive leanings of the mainstream media only one side of that history will be included in the news coverage to come.

At a time when people are faced with a surfeit of ugly political rhetoric, the sort of partisan rancor Scalia's death has triggered is especially dispiriting.

Sometimes, Less is More

From the delightful comic strip FoxTrot, by Bill Amend, which you should read every Sunday, as I do.

Until Next Time...

Ever since I was a teenager I have had a fondness for what are known as "live" albums, recordings of an artist or group in concert before a live audience. Some of my all-time favorite albums are of this type, and the best of them capture the performer's essence as well as the audience's enjoyment of the moment.

On February 14, 1970 my favorite band, The Who, recorded a concert in the University Refectory at the University of Leeds which would become one of the highlights of the band's career, and one of the landmark live recordings in all of rock music history. Although many notable performers have appeared at this venue over the years, only one has a special plaque there commemorating the event.

Original 1970 album cover

Live at Leeds was recorded just
a few months after the band's legendary performance at the Woodstock Festival, and it was released just as my junior year of high school was drawing to a close in May 1970. I had tickets to see the band live in Kansas City that July, so I was particularly interested in hearing how they sounded in concert.

Even though the album was only excerpts from a much longer show, and had almost
as many cover songs on it as performances of the band's own original material, I was enthralled.

The album was a major hit for the band, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, and the subsequent remastered and expanded releases including the entire show have proven popular as well. Live at Leeds will always be a part of the soundtrack of my coming of age.

One of my favorite tracks on the album was the band's performance of Eddie Cochran's classic "Summertime Blues," which was part of the band's live set list for more than a decade. The Live at Leeds version was released as a single, and reached No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart.

Today's send-off is the band's performance of the song from the 1995 remaster of the original tapes. Enjoy...

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