Memorial Day

As I discussed on the show on Saturday, there are really two sides to Memorial Day, to me.

The first part is the obvious part; remembering those who’ve died to keep this country free.

There are many of them; well over a million men and women have died in the service of this country, in wars big – the Civil War, World War 2 – and small (the Philippine Insurrection, Desert Storm).

And their memory – and the ones that lived, and are with us – deserve a world of thanks.

———-

A friend of this blog – a Navy veteran, as it happens – posted this on Facebook late last week:

Good morning all! It’s Memorial day weekend again.

Instead of exhorting patriotism and thankfulness from folks who don’t want to hear it I’d like to remind you that our government is keeping tabs on all of us. They are flying drones over our homes and collecting our communications. There are cameras *everywhere* taking our pictures, recording our movements. Our local police are now a military force, equipped with heavy weapons and armor. If you have made any firearm related purchases, or frequent arms related websites, your name is on a list. If you happen to belong to a conservative political group, the IRS has your number, but don’t feel left out Lefties, sooner or later they’ll get around to you too. If this situation is not OK with you, what have you done about it? Written anyone? Called anyone? Shown up in person anywhere to get in your legislators grill?

If you don’t care enough to protect the freedoms so many have died for, please don’t post a bunch of smarmy pictures & canned slogans; I don’t want to hear it.

There’s a place for the simple and the sentimental, of course…

…but the writer is correct; the real challenge facing those of us who haven’t died in the service of this country is to make sure that this country is worthy of their sacrifice.  To make sure that those who died to preserve freedom didn’t die in vain.

Those who founded this country knew perfectly well that the greatest threats to this nation’s freedom weren’t from overseas.

The writer wrote the piece in honor of a comrade…:

CWO3 Mike Sheerin; missing you today brother. Not many left around to pick up the slack you left; nobody at all to fill the shoes.

We’ve been blessed with just the right people to pick up the slack when they’ve been needed.

And these days, we all have slack to pick up.

An Anniversary

It was ten years ago today that a roadside bomb in Anbar province killed two soldiers from the North Dakota Army National Guard’s 141st Engineer Battalion.

One of them, Specialist Brown, was the nephew of two of my high school classmates and of my seventh-grade history teacher. I remember him as a little kid, back in North Dakota in the eighties. His grandfather, as I recall, is a friend of my father’s.

Different people get different things out of remembering.  If nothing else, I hope it prompts you to send a prayer to the Brown and Holmes families, and all the families who’ve lost loved ones in this past decade and a half.

RIP Otis McDonald

In the late sixties, a justifiably obscure SCOTUS’ “decision”,  ”US v. Miller” (a depression-era case involving a robber who was murdered before his case made it to the court, and for whom no attorney argued before the high court) was dragged out of the legal ether by a series of liberal, activist judges, and installed into a misbegotten place as binding precedent that led, by a tortuous “logical” route, to the Second Amendment being interpreted for four decades as a “collective right”.   Just the way the Ku Klux Klan interpreted it until the 14th Amendment came along.

The Heller case began the process of flushing this noxious bit of authoritarian posturing down the latrine of history.

But it fell to Otis McDonald – a seventy-something black man who just wanted to defend his life and property against the crime that had overrun the neighborhood where he’d lived since 1971, in which he’d raised three of his children – to deliver the coup de grace against Chicago’s racist, classist gun ban.

Otis McDonald

It was merely the latest of several fights for McDonald, who was 76 when the SCOTUS upheld his demand to be allowed to defend himself, his family and his property, and not be treated like the government’s livestock.

It was one of many battles he fought in his long, full, unsung-but-productive life.

McDonald started life as one of 12 children of a Louisiana sharecropper who’d left the land at 17, deep in the Jim Crow era.  He worked for decades as a janitor at the University of Chicago, joined the union, earned a living, raised a family…

…and watched his neighborhood decay from a comfortable blue-collor area to a crime-ridden gang shooting gallery.

He sought “permission” to own a handgun – because as an older man, he couldn’t stand up in fight against one predatory teen, much less the whole pack.  The city of Chicago, adhering to the gun control movement’s orthodoxy that black people must only be seen and heard at the polls, and shouldn’t be getting all uppity in between elections, shut him down with, as it were, prejudice.

And so he, along with three other co-plaintiffs, filed suit – which duly led to the Supreme Court and, in 2009, victory in the case that bore his name, and incorporated the Second Amendment as law binding all lesser jurisdictions; the right to keep and bear arms was, as it has always been, a Right of The People, not the National Guard, not to be frittered away by self-appointed racist elitists out of the fear of armed brown men that motivates all gun control.

McDonald, on the day of his case’s epic victory.

McDonald, a humble man without even a high school education, accomplished more to secure freedom than many buildings full of Ivy-League-spawned pundits and lawyers ever will.

Otis McDonald passed away last week at age 79, after a long battle with cancer.

Massood Ayoub:

As a black man in America, he fought his way up from economic disadvantage to earning a good living for his family. He fought against violent crime in his adopted city of Chicago, and in so doing came to his most famous battle as the lead named plaintiff in McDonald, et. al. v. City of Chicago. In the plaintiffs’ landmark victory in that case in 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that neither the Windy City nor any other city could ban law-abiding citizens from owning handguns for defense of self and family. The McDonald decision helped pave the way for the concealed carry permits now being issued throughout Illinois

.And the wages of McDonald’s victory are being felt – despite the media’s attempt to suppress them – today.  More at noon.  Oh, yes – oh, so much more at noon.

And so rest in peace, Otis McDonald.  Your legacy – leaving your world a freer place than the one you came into  - is one that shames those of a whole lot of people who came into this world with advantages you never dreamed of.

At noon today:  McDonald’s legacy is already saving lives.

RIP Harold Ramis

Via Sheila O’Malley, to whom I often outsource my show-biz obits:

Of all of the films that have come out during my lifetime, all the huge important Oscar-winning serious films, all the weighty masterpieces, all the films about important topics, all of the “instant classics”, the beloved movies, the camp classics, the game-changers, the films draped in awards … of all of them, if I had to choose one film to be the #1 contender for “Film That Will Be Watched Regularly 150 Years From Now”, it would be Groundhog Day.

Not sure I could disagree.

Pay Me My Memorial Down

Leni Riefenstahl was the world’s first notable female filmmaker, and the greatest female filmmaker of the 20th century.  She created innovations in the technique and aesthetics of film still used not only in cinema, but in the filming of crowds and athletic events; some of the techniques you see at the Super Bowl are evolutions of techniques Riefenstahl pioneered in filming the 1936 Olympics.

But it’s not considered polite to applaud Riefenstahl in public with out an emphatic verbal “asterisk”, because of her association with the Nazi Party.  Her best-known work, Triumph Des Willens (Triumph of the Will) is an epic documentary and one of the world’s best known and most influential pieces of propaganda.

And so Riefenstahl was ostracized for the rest of her long life (she died at age 101 in 2002) as a Nazi impresario, for her association with a regime that killed 11 million people directly and triggered a war that swallowed tens of millions.

I write a fair amount about music in this blog.  And when a major musical figure passes away, I often try to write something.

And in his way, Pete Seeger was one of the most important figures in popular entertainment, ever.

Not necessarily because of his music.  Oh, he had a few classics of American folks music, to be sure.  And dozens of forgettable songs – but that’s true for any songwriter, or any artist in any genre for that matter.

Many conservatives writing about Seeger’s passing note that he was a committed Communist.  It’s true – he was, and in a way that seems straight out of Orwell, as during this episode after Stalin and Hitler signed their non-aggression pact in 1939:

In the “John Doe” album, Mr. Seeger accused FDR of being a warmongering fascist working for J.P. Morgan. He sang, “I hate war, and so does Eleanor, and we won’t be safe till everybody’s dead.”…The film does not tell us what happened in 1941, when — two months after “John Doe” was released — Hitler broke his pact with Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union. As good communists, Mr. Seeger and his Almanac comrades withdrew the album from circulation, and asked those who had bought copies to return them. A little later, the Almanacs released a new album, with Mr. Seeger singing “Dear Mr. President,” in which he acknowledges they didn’t always agree in the past, but now says he is going to “turn in his banjo for something that makes more noise,” i.e., a machine gun. As he says in the film, we had to put aside causes like unionism and civil rights to unite against Hitler.

For years, Mr. Seeger used to sing a song with a Yiddish group called “Hey Zhankoye,” which helped spread the fiction that Stalin’s USSR freed the Russian Jews by establishing Jewish collective farms in the Crimea. Singing such a song at the same time as Stalin was planning the obliteration of Soviet Jewry was disgraceful. It is now decades later. Why doesn’t Mr. Seeger talk about this and offer an apology?

It’s impolite in polite society to laud Riefenstahl after her association with a regime that murdered over 10 million people.  Fair enough.

So why does Seeger escape any questioning for doing so much to support a regime that may have killed five times as many?

But as Howard Husock noted in his classic essay on Seeger, his most lasting impact on American culture may have had little to do with music.

Because there was a time when Hollywood’s political ideals weren’t all that different than the rest of the country’s.  Seeger was a vital part of a movement that changed all that:

Adopted at the Seventh Congress of the Communist International in 1935, the Popular Front tasked communists in the West with building “progressive” coalitions with various institutions—including political parties and labor unions—that the party had previously denounced as bourgeois and corrupt. The front reflected fears haunting Stalinist Russia at that time. “Hitler had shown a strength that made Communist predictions about his imminent collapse seem grotesque,” observed left-wing historians Irving Howe and Lewis Coser… Following this new strategy, the American Communist Party suddenly asserted that it wanted to build upon, not destroy, American institutions. “Communism is 20th century Americanism,” Earl Browder, the American party’s general secretary, enthused, while extolling Abraham Lincoln in speeches.

This led to the creation of the “Popular Front”, whose mission was not so much to assault capitalism as to co-opt it.  And one of the institutions it marked for co-option was the entertainment industry.

And Seeger was a key cog in that machine:

It took a while for the Popular Front’s strategy to get results in popular music—and Pete Seeger was the catalyst. Many critics mark Elvis Presley’s arrival in the 1950s as a turning point in postwar American popular culture, not just because he injected a more overt sexual energy into entertainment, but also, they claim, because his rebellious spirit anticipated the political upheavals of the 1960s. But neither Presley nor the newfangled thing called rock ‘n’ roll had any explicit politics at the time (and Elvis would one day endorse Richard Nixon). A better leading indicator of the politicization of pop was the first appearance of a Seeger composition on the hit parade.

 

It happened in early March 1962, when the clean-cut, stripe-shirted Kingston Trio released their recording of Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Seeger’s lament about the senselessness of war and the blindness of political leaders to its folly soared to Number Four on Billboard’s easy-listening chart, and it remained on the list for seven weeks. “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” eventually became a standard, sung on college campuses and around campfires nationwide. At the time, the song proved one of the biggest successes yet of the folk-music revival then under way, and it marked a major improvement in Seeger’s fortunes. Not long before, his career had suffered from the fifties anti-communist blacklist. Now it was on a new trajectory—culminating in his 1993 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and his 1994 National Medal of Arts.

Seeger did not, himself, “make Hollywood leftist”.  But he was a key part of that transition.

Forget his music.  That was his real legacy.

Harmony

Phil Everly died over the weekend.  He was 74.

Rock and Roll, we are told, started as a blender-mix of rockabilly and R&B.  Elvis put a rockabilly delivery onto a rhythm ‘n blues beat.  Chuck Berry sped up the blues to rockabilly speed.  Johnny Cash did rockabilly over a persona that could have made Howlin’ Wolf go “wow.  That’s the blues”.

And the Everly Brothers brought the final piece of the “billy” half of rockabilly – the tight, keening vocal harmonies that characterized bluegrass music – out of the holler and onto pop radio.

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The Original Wrapper

Lou Reed died over the weekend, proving once and for all that only Keith Richards can ingest absolutely every recreational chemical known to modern science and live to tell the tale forever.

It took me a long time to really get into Lou Reed – which may seem really counterintuitive, if you know me and my taste in music (and if you read the “Music” category of this blog, you do, sort of; I haven’t written about everything, just yet).   After all,everyoneknows Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground were the godfathers of punk – right?

Sure. 

But even though the Venn diagram among the different outbreaks of “punk” in New York in the seventies has tons of overlaps, there was a yawning gap between the joyful, garage-band-y noise of the Ramones and the New York Dolls (and their Cleveland descendants, the Dead Boys) and the Greenwich Village scene that spawned Reed, crawling as it was with high-art pretension.  The likes of Andy Warhol and William S. Burroughs saw and were seen among the rat-bitten warrens of the Village, hobnobbing with and encouraging the likes of the largely unlistenably shrill Patti Smith, the campy “Stilettos” (featuring a young Debbie Harry, who’d form “Blondie” by the mid-seventies), and of course Reed and the Velvets. 

It probably wasn’t until I moved to the Cities and started doing music here that I took a step back, at the urging of my band’s old drummer.  “Forget all the BS”, he said, “and just focus on the fact that he’s a guy who loves doing basic rock and roll”.

And in one sense it was true – the classic Lou Reed was all about the joy of playing the most basic rock and roll, simple and unadorned and pared down to its most basic components, filtered through a layer of New York grime.

Usually. 

Reed was also an experimenter.  In “The Original Wrapper” (from 1986′s Mistrial), he wryly claimed the title of the orignal, well, rapper – since he never so much “sang” as “spoke in rhythm”.  He delved through jazz, experimental music, screeching noise…

…even some pared-down pseudo-classical music – as in this very, very, very pre-MTV video for his classic “Street Hassle”, featuring a spoken-word coda by Bruce Springsteen around the eight-minute mark:
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So I’m going to find my old copy of “Rock and Roll Animal” this week here, and give it another spin.

The Lightning Rod

Rod Grams has passed away after a long battle with cancer. 

Son of a dairy farmer from Princeton, MN, Grams came up through broadcasting, working his way from small radio stations into the anchorman’s seat at Channel 9 by the mid-eighties. 

From there, he went into politics – defeating Gerry Sikorski, who was hobbled by a capitol banking scandal that showed the door to not a few Congresspeople that year. 

And in 1994, at the crest of the “Contract with America”, he took over Dave Durenberger’s Senate seat, after beating Ann Wynia by  squeaker in a race that showed both the nascent power of conservatives in the exceedingly moderate Minnesota Independent Republican party, and the rising power of the state’s Second Amendment lobby. 

His term in the Senate also was a barometer for the slide of the Twin Cities media into outright partisanship; the Twin Cities media lavished coverage on the twists and turns in Grams’ personal life, and breathless wall to wall scrutiny on the travails of Grams’ son Morgan – of whom Grams’ ex-wife had had full custody – in a way that they never quite managed to for DFLers. 

But it is an objective fact that Grams accomplished more in his six years in DC than the celebrated Paul Wellstone did in 12, or than Amy Klobuchar likely will in her entire career. 

After being defeated for re-election by future “Worst Senator in America” Mark Dayton in 2000, Grams went back to his first love, broadcasting; he owned a cluster of radio stations in Central Minnesota.  

I had the pleasure of interviewing Senator Grams two or three times on the NARN.  He had a broadcaster’s knack for being a great interview subject. 

I urge you to direct your prayers – or whatever your worldview calls for – to his family.

If I Were Paranoid…

…I’d look at the deaths of Vince Flynn and now Tom Clancy within a few months of each other…

…and connect it with all the other top-secret hanky-panky with the NSA, the IRS and the Justice Department…

…and figure there’s a government conspiracy to knock off conservativsm’s few iconic pop-culture figures.

Good thing I’m not paranoid, huh?

(Just in case, though?  Be careful, Gary Sinise, Ted Nugent, Joe Perry, Tom Selleck, Fred Thompson and Angie Harmon).

UPDATE:  Steven Green:  “Is it really possible that Larry King, who’s looked like day-old scrambled eggs for thirty years, outlived Tom Clancy? Stranger things have happened, but this one I’m taking a little personally. “

Doubting Thomas

“I censored myself for 50 years when I was a reporter. Now I wake up and ask myself, ‘Who do I hate today?’” – Helen Thomas

The Grand Dame of the Washington Press Corps files her last report.  Will they regret giving her so much deference?

——

The memoriams to Helen Thomas have thus far ventured no where near hagiography-status, due largely to the anti-Semitic statements and acrimonious questions that defined her later years.  But to follow Thomas’ career trajectory is to follow the style and influence of the mainstream media.  Thomas admirably fought her way into the newsroom, asked probing questions with at least a veneer of respect (hence, her concluding remarks of “thank you, Mr. President” after every presidential press conference), and then devolved into a caricature of an angry, biased reporter holding some extremely ugly and racist views.

Indeed, it would appear that most of Helen Thomas’ biography resides in her later years as she viewed American foreign policy through a Star of David lens, leading even prominent liberals to ostracize her.  Much of the coverage of her passing, from news reports to her Wikipedia page, focus largely on her 2010 comments on Israel, declaring that Israelis should “go home” to Europe and the United States.

Thomas’ start in the media was anything but controversial.

The daughter of Lebanese immigrants, Thomas worked as a reporter for the United Press in 1943 on “women’s topics” – essentially fluff articles on baking and clothing.  It wasn’t until the mid-1950s, after having written the equivalent of Washington gossip columns, that Thomas was able to cover major federal agencies and far more noteworthy news items.  From her post as the head of the Women’s National Press Club and later a White House correspondent during the Kennedy administration, Thomas was able to get women a greater role in journalism – having previously been denied access to organizations like the National Press Club and events like the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Worthwhile accomplishments, to be sure.  But having spent most of her professional life fighting for acceptance, even once Thomas was in the door, she couldn’t stop her role as an endless antagonist to those she personally disagreed with.  Thomas was most certainly not an “example for journalists,” although her behavior of biased reporting and lack of decorum has definitely been followed by many current reporters.

Thomas’ defenders often claim she was a bitter pill to politicians of all stripes.  Of course, Thomas’ White House harangues for Democrats typically involved criticizing them for not moving further left, as she once famously declared that Barack Obama was not liberal.  Bill Clinton “personified the human spirit” while George W. Bush was the “worst president in history.”  When Thomas joined the Hearst Syndicate in 2000, whatever restraint she had held before vanished, hence her above quote about being able to “hate” whomever she pleased.

From trail-blazer, to provocateur, to angry activist with a byline – does that not also describe the evolving role of the mainstream media in the past 60 years?  Thomas was unfortunately another trendsetter in the end – a forerunner of the mixture between opinion and reporting; of a style of journalistic coverage that smears ideological opponents and debases politics regardless of facts.  Stephen Colbert might recoil at the thought, but Helen Thomas was one of the originators of the “truthiness” that Comedy Central’s mock conservative loves to sling at others.

I’m a liberal, I was born a liberal, and I will be a liberal till the day I die. – Helen Thomas

Not For Turning

Joe Doakes got to writing before I did this morning:

A research chemist turned lawyer who became a elected representative of the people of Finchley, Margaret Thatcher changed the world.

Margaret Thatcher

As Great Britain’s longest-serving (and only female) Prime Minister, “The Iron Lady” fought Liberalism and championed Conservative policies that won a war, rejuvenated the national economy and defeated the Soviets.

Margaret Thatcher passed away today, April 8, 2013. She was one of my heroes.

And mine, too.  Although it took a while.

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RIP Karl Bremer

Karl Bremer passed away from complications of pancreatic cancer yesterday.

Bremer, the co-author of “The Madness of Michele Bachmann: A Broad-Minded Survey of a Small-Minded Candidate,” died Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 15, at his house in Stillwater Township, from complications related to pancreatic cancer. He was 60.

Bremer was a tenacious muckraker, an award-winning blogger and an avid photographer. His blog — Ripple in Stillwater — was named Best Local Blog by City Pages in 2012. He also received several Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists awards for best use of public records.

I’d never speak ill of the dead.  Bremer had his friends and family.  I’m sorry for everyone’s loss.

But looking at all the references to Bremer as a “journalist”, I have to ask – is Brian Lambert going to ask to see his “badge?“, retroactively?

The Accidental Commando

Birger Strømsheim passed away over the weekend, at age 101.

Birger Edvin Martin Strømsheim was born Oct. 11, 1911, in Alesund, Norway. His parents had a small farm. In addition to his son, survivors include a daughter, Liv Kristen Oygard; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His wife, Aase Liv, died in 1997.

“Birger who?”

Well, if you read this blog, you’ve met Mr. Strømsheim before.  He was one of the commandos who, seventy years ago this February, destroyed the German heavy-water operation in a daring raid on the Norsk Hydro plant in Rjukan, Norway.  I won’t rewrite the whole story (’til February, anyway), but here’s the piece I wrote about the raid a couple of years back.

Strømsheim didn’t start out that way, though; he had no military experience.  When Germany occupied Norway, he was working as a contruction contractor; he even found work building barracks for the occupiers, before escaping to Scotland:

 After the Germans took control of Norway in 1940, Mr. Stromsheim and his wife were among many people who left for England. Mr. Stromsheim had not been a soldier in Norway, but he became part of the Special Operations Executive, which the British formed to support and coordinate resistance in the occupied countries of Europe.

The mild-mannered Strømsheim, an expert cross-country skier and hunter, became an explosives expert, and the leader if not commander of the raiding party.  Older than the rest of the team, his calm stoicism (even by Norwegian standards) anchored and centered the rest of the team on the raid.

  He and other members of the mission at Norsk Hydro received medals from several Allied countries. In 1965, Hollywood produced “The Heroes of Telemark,” a film starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris that included shootouts, dramatic chases through the snow and love scenes. The soldiers roundly panned the movie as unrealistic.

 “He saw that,” Mr. Stromsheim’s son said. “He didn’t like it. It was too glamorous.”

And totally unbefitting the men who actually did the job.

RIP, Birger Strømsheim.

Brubeck

True story – I was watching this video (embedding has been disabled, so you gotta click over) yesterday, probably about 2-3 hours before I heard that Dave Brubeck had passed away at 91.  It’s jazz guitar great George Benson playing “Take Five”.

I’ve never been a huge jazz fan.  Not quite to this level…:

…but it’s not like I’ve never felt that jazz, especially in its late-fifties bebop incarnation, was a self-indulgent, self-referential little musical ghetto that squares just weren’t intended to get.

Sort of like this:

But I saw Dave Brubeck in 1985 at the U of M. It was bebop, and very very very proficient…

…and unexpectedly human. Which was not something I’d expected.

“Take Five” was his biggest hit – selling a million copies, which was unprecedented in the jazz business:

RIP Dave Brubeck.

The Do-It-Yourselfer

It’s a bit of a whack upside the head to see that George Chapple – better known as “Dark Star” – has passed away:

Chapple grew up in Ohio and Long Island, NY. He was a Vietnam veteran, and originally came to the Twin Cities with his parents in the 1970s.

After dabbling in the auto business, Chapple became known to radio listeners in the 1980s via Steve Cannon’s WCCO Radio show where he handicapped horse races at the newly-opened Canterbury Downs (later renamed Canterbury Park).

Before that, though, he was a regular caller on sportstalk shows all over the Twin Cities, including KSTP when I was there in the mid-eighties.

The brief Strib obit skips past what was a convoluted and almost comical path to sports-radio celebrity.  When I first met Dark, he was hosting a cable-access handicapping show at Canterbury Downs, in the next press booth over from the KSTP Sportstalk show I was producing.  I ran into him again in…er, 1988?  He and, of all people, Mike Gelfand were hosting an evening sportstalk show on the old AM1470 in Anoka, doing a remote broadcast from an old Chi-Chi’s in Brooklyn Center.  In both cases, he bellowed out “Mitch!” – to me, one of the lowliest peons on Twin Cities radio – like I was Steve Cannon himself.

It wasn’t long after that that he got his job at ‘CCO.

And I spent years thinking of that example – going from regular caller to night-time host, one of America’s dream jobs.  And the lesson of that example – make your own opportunities, and be both creative and persistent about it – was in the front of my mind in 2003 and early 2004 when I first broached the idea of an all-blogger talk show to AM1280.

So anyway – RIP Dark Star.

RIP MCA

Adam Yauch – “MCA”, of the Beastie Boys” – dead of cancer at 47:

Mr. Yauch, who went by the moniker MCA, had been battling cancer since 2009, when a tumor was discovered in his salivary gland. He did not come to the Beastie Boys induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April and his treatments for the illness forced the group to delay the release of their last album “Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2.”

Emerging from the hard-core punk scene in New York in the late 1970s, the Beastie Boys were the first white group to successfully sing rap songs and have remained popular for more than a quarter century. Mr. Yauch co-founded the group with Mike Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) as a punk band in 1981 and first began experimenting with hip-hop the following year, when they released a 12-inch vinyl rap spoof “Cookie Puss.” All three were teenagers from affluent New York families when they met.

But in 1986, they crossed into the rap mainstream with “Licensed to Ill,” which was the first hip-hop album to hit No. 1 on the albums chart and featured hits like “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)” and “Brass Monkey.” It was just the first of a string of hit records, like 1989’s “Paul’s Boutique,” 1992’s “Check Your Head” and 1994’s “Ill Communication.”

And the fun times from my twenties just keep on passing along.

I wrote about the Beasties at some length last year, in my “Real Eighties” series,in my “Things I’m Supposed to Hate But Don’t” series, and life with the Beasties in the clubs back in the day, when Paul’s Boutique was just about the best thing in the history of hip-hop.

Here’s one of my favorites:

No Sleep Til Brooklyn!

 

Sara Tiedeman

Sara Tiedeman has passed away.

She and her husband, PR guru Chris Tiedeman, were gravely injured in a collision with a drunk driver last month.  Sara’s prognosis was dire from the beginning, according to a source close to the Tiedemans, but we all hoped and prayed that every day she hung on was a day closer to turning the corner.

Chris has been recovering well.

Please direct your thoughts and prayers toward Chris and the rest of their families.

Cowles

Long-time Strib publisher John Cowles passed away over the weekend at 92.

Brian Lambert at the MinnPost carries the lengthy list of paeans to Cowles and his regional media legacy, which includes ponying up money to help found the MinnPost.

Of course, if you follow politics in Minnesota, Cowles’ legacy is inescapable; he ran the Star Tribune, from an institutional perspective, as a prime mover for the Strib’s own interests – Cowles was a key lobbyist for putting the original Metrodome downtown, and was a vital player in the “Downtown Brotherhood” that has has such a disproportionate impact on state politics these past forty years – and for the DFL.

The Strib didn’t become a cheerleader for the left on Cowles’ watch – although one could make a case that that cheerleading became more institutionalized and ingrained in the paper’s culture (the results of the Strib’s “Minnesota Poll” started swerving into left-leaning fantasy land in the eighties, after Cowles merged the Star and the Tribune).   And Cowles’ personal and financial support for the DFL and the the left was a matter of record.   In the Twin Cities mainstream media, support for the center-left is so institutionalized that it’s considered “balance” and the norm; Cowles and his generation of business and news staff did as much as anyone to make it that way.

Which is not to belittle his accomplishments – giving the Strib a legacy worth squandering, creating a media and business-political powerhouse notable enough that its decay and retrenchment over the past 15 years would be of national note.  Far from it.  Cowles, along with the seniors of the Hubbard clan, was a throwback to the long-lost golden age of Minnesota media.

My condolences to Cowles’ friends and family.

Andrew Breitbart – 1969-2012

Andrew Breitbart passed away this morning in Los Angeles.

Larry Solov at BigJourno writes:

We have lost a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a dear friend, a patriot and a happy warrior.

Andrew lived boldly, so that we more timid souls would dare to live freely and fully, and fight for the fragile liberty he showed us how to love.

Breitbart gave the conservative alternative media something it needed; a full-time, tireless, fearless crusader, a rebel without a pause.

Liberals hated him, because he and his group of fellow media Visigoths played their game, only better; BigJourno and Big Hollylwood were like the Huffington Post, only not vapid and obsequious to their subjects. Andrew and his protegees did John Stewart and Steven Cobert one better; news, sometimes straight, sometimes satirical, but without the miasma of self-satisfaction in which the lefty shows marinade themselves.

I only met Breitbart once, at a party at Lileks’ place during Right Online last summer:

Lileks, Chad The Elder, Breitbart, Margaret Martin, David Strom, Laura Hemler, Laura's friend Cindy Olson, and the Giant Swede, last summer.

My biggest impression, other than the fact that he’d been pretty much mobbed, with admirers and, er, detractors during the entire event (he was the star of both Right Online and the sad, dyspeptic ”Nutroots Nation”, also in town that weekend) was that, as much as he was into, as big a counter-media-culture empire as he’d built, as potent an instrument as he controlled, the greatest adventure of his life was raising his son, whom he very visibly couldn’t wait to get home to see, and whose fourth birthday party was going to be the real highlight of the week.

And it’s for his family I pray, and to them I send my sympathy and condolences.

For the rest of us?

Solov quotes Breitbart in the foward to his latest book:

Three years ago, I was mostly a behind-the-scenes guy who linked to stuff on a very popular website. I always wondered what it would be like to enter the public realm to fight for what I believe in. I’ve lost friends, perhaps dozens. But I’ve gained hundreds, thousands—who knows?—of allies. At the end of the day, I can look at myself in the mirror, and I sleep very well at night.

Breitbart discovered – on a grand scale – what a lot of us bloggers did almost a decade ago; that showing up, that deciding to make a difference, could be the beginning of something great.   For many of us, it has been.  And here’s hoping his example creates a thousand more like him.

Solov:

Andrew is at rest, yet the happy warrior lives on, in each of us.

And that’s the key.  To be a warrior – but a happy one.  A gentleman.  A full, completely realized, multifaceted human being, not a frothing acidic polibot.

He’ll be much missed.  But he’s created thousands of memorials, and God willing there’ll be ten thousand more today and tomorrow.

RIP Mike Colalillo

Minnesota’s last living Medal Of Honor recipient, Mike Colalillo, has passed away.

He was awarded the Medal for an action near Untergriesheim, Germany on April 7, 1945 – bare weeks before the end of the war, at a time when the battle in the West alternated unpredictably between Germans eager to surrender to any Western army, and fanatical SS or Hitlerjügend holdouts who fought ferociously.

Colalillo encountered the latter, according to this story in the Winona Daily News:

“Inspired by his example, his comrades advanced in the face of savage enemy fire,” the citation read.

When his pistol was disabled by shrapnel, Colalillo climbed onto a friendly tank and manned its machine gun. And, as “bullets rattled about him, fired at an enemy emplacement with such devastating accuracy that he killed or wounded at least 10 hostile soldiers and destroyed their machine gun.”

After that gun jammed, he borrowed a submachine gun from the tank crew and continued the attack on foot. When his company was ordered to withdraw, Colalillo remained behind to help a wounded soldier cross “several hundred yards of open terrain rocked by an intense enemy artillery and mortar barrage,” the citation said.

Colalillo was later sent to Washington, where President Harry S. Truman presented him with the medal on Dec. 18, 1945.

A few years back, at the dedication of the Minnesota World War II memorial, Ed and I were slated to interview Colalillo.  The interview fell through – the dedication ceremony ran too long.  As much fun as I had talking with the mass of World War II veterans that day, missing out on talking with Colalillo was a major loss.

RIP Christopher Hitchens

Christopher HItchens, one of the last of a dying breed of intellectual progressives commentators, has passed away after a two-year battle with cancer.

“Cancer victimhood contains a permanent temptation to be self-centered and even solipsistic,” Hitchens wrote nearly a year ago in Vanity Fair, but his own final labors were anything but: in the last 12 months, he produced for this magazine a piece on U.S.-Pakistani relations in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, a portrait of Joan Didion, an essay on the Private Eye retrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a prediction about the future of democracy in Egypt, a meditation on the legacy of progressivism in Wisconsin, and a series of frank, graceful, and exquisitely written essays in which he chronicled the physical and spiritual effects of his disease. At the end, Hitchens was more engaged, relentless, hilarious, observant, and intelligent than just about everyone else—just as he had been for the last four decades.

Hitchens was a contradiction in ways that didn’t used to contradict each other; an irascible wit; fiercely civilized; an open-minded and spiritually-questing atheist (among an atheist scene that has become more dogmatic, rigid than Wisconsin-Synod Lutherans, and intellectually dead to boot), a progressive who sought human progress.

RIP Al Stene

Al Stene – who was thrust into the center of the Crow Wing County voter fraud scandal – has tragically passed away.

From a source close to the Stene family:

I just got off the phone with Sharon Stene. She said that Al had died yesterday of a heart attack. He had just returned home with James Stene after Crow Wing County had denied justice for the exploitation of their son James at Clark Lake Homes by Lynn Peterson. No one in Crow Wing County helped him and his son. In talking with Al before he left you could tell just how heart broken he was. I had never seen Al that way in all the years I have known him.

Let’s be clear on exactly what happened:  as we showed a few weeks back, there was clear, documentary evidence that four vulnerable adults who had been ruled incompetent to vote (along with Stene, who had never been ruled incompetent, but in testimony to the Crow Wing County Commission showed no interest in or knowledge of elections) were in the Crow Wing County Courthouse exactly when Monty Jensen said they were, and all voted, despite not only the court orders but the presence of group home workers who are supposed to keep their charges in compliance with the law.  The County Attorney convened a grand jury – which, in case the point is lost on you, essentially confirmed that everw single thing claimed by Stene, Monty Jensen and the Freedom Council was true, but nonetheless ruled (according to sources close to the case) that ignorance of the law is an excuse under Minnesota law, at least when it comes to election fraud.

This is tragedy beyond words. Please pray for his family. Al is in a better place, the is justice there.

I spoke with Al Stene.last spring,  He was furious at his son’s exploiitation at the hands of the group home staff – and at the sense of entitlement they expressed at his objections.