The Dan

I was truly saddened by the death of Steely Dan’s Walter Becker earlier this week, and I was going to write something about him and Donald Fagen when I remembered that I’d already done so back in October 2007. I found the piece, re-read it and cannot add a single thing to it. Here it is.

No Pumpkins Here

After revealing my love for the music of ABBA and the BeeGees last week, I got an email from a Reader:

Okay, I can’t believe you like that commercial crap, with your taste in classical music and all. What is your favorite kind of music then?

Leaving aside the classical music for a moment, to concentrate on errrr “modern” music, I have to say that I prefer complex music when it comes to pure listening pleasure.

“Favorites” is a loaded term, because in making that decision, it almost depends what I last listened to.

You all know about my “art rock” preferences (eg. Genesis, King Crimson, Yes, Happy The Man, and Jethro Tull), so I’m not going to talk about that stuff here.

Those who know my dislike for jazz, however, may be surprised by a band whom I absolutely love, and whose albums I have in their entirety: Steely Dan.

There is a need and a time for straight-ahead rock, and then there’s a time to enjoy the dense, complex music patterns of Messrs. Fagen and Becker.

I started off with Steely Dan’s Royal Scam album—I’d heard their earlier hits like Reeling In The Years, but for some reason I never got round to listening to their albums. Then, on a whim one day, I bought Royal Scam along with a couple of other tapes, to listen to on a long car trip I was taking.

For the next four days, the Steely Dan album was the only music I listened to—none of the others could hold up. To this day, if I hear a single song off the album, I have to get the CD out and listen to the rest.

Lots of words have been written about Steely Dan’s music, so I’m not really going to add many of my own to the chorus. Suffice it to say that whenever someone asks me to list my favorite songs of all time, it’s really difficult for me—because I can’t even list my favorite Steely Dan songs, so much do I enjoy them. The arrangements are tight and dense. I use the word “dense” a lot with their music, because there’s really no other way to describe the busyness—there’s always a lot going on with the instruments, but even within each instrument, all sorts of stuff is happening. (The next time Donald Fagen plays a straight major chord will probably be his first.)

And all the musicians who’ve ever played with Fagen and Becker have been artists and craftsmen of the highest order. To see exactly how good these guys were, you have to try and play a few Steely Dan songs—and I don’t mean an approximation of the song, I mean an exact copy of the song, to see how good these guys really were. I think I only ever managed a few: The Fez, Don’t Take Me Alive, With a Gun [duh], and Boston Rag. Players like Skunk Baxter, Lee Ritenour and Larry Carlton were the norm, not the stars—and current bassist Freddie Washington is beyond astonishing in his virtuosity.

But above all, one has to allow that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker themselves are brilliant musicians, and beyond-brilliant composers and arrangers. The cerebral, cultured Fagen and explosively-funny, irreverent Becker combine to make music that is… cerebral, cultured, funny and irreverent. And just to make things more confusing, they look like a pair of Ivy League college professors:

I’m also love with, in addition to the music itself, the wry, ironic feel to the lyrics and melodies. This is really unusual for me, because when it comes to that kind of thing, I’m an unashamed sucker and romantic. Hell, I’ve shed many a tear on maudlin ballads of the Streets Of London genre, but of course, tears are not what comes from listening to the hip, sly and obscure Steely Dan lyrics—that would not be cool, after all; and “cool” is a word which describes Steely Dan’s music better than any other. “Cool”, in lesser hands, could easily lead to “cold”, but it’s impossible to feel that way when listening to, say, Any Major Dude or Pretzel Logic.

And if you can’t see the comic genius and intellect of the people who wrote this letter and this article, you’re beyond redemption.

For the musicians among my Readers, I tend to prefer Skunk Baxter’s guitar work over Larry Carlton’s, not for any technical reasons—Carlton is a genius—but simply because I like Baxter’s sound for this kind of music. But that doesn’t stop me from preferring Royal Scam (a “Carlton” album) to any other of their offerings.

Did I imply from the above that I have a “favorite” Steely Dan album? Well, maybe. Royal Scam is certainly the first among equals, but then again, that’s just because I haven’t heard Countdown To Ecstasy or Pretzel Logic recently.

So I’m going to go and remedy that situation, right now. You could do worse than follow my example.

If you’ve never heard Steely Dan before (and there may be one or two sad souls who haven’t), and you like your music to have a complex, slightly jazzy feel, then here’s Amazon’s main Steely Dan page. Help yourself, to any one. You will not be disappointed, regardless of your choice; and how many bands can you say that about?

(I’d recommend the Citizen Steely Dan set for a starter choice, myself.)

And of course, not all Steely Dan’s lyrics were cynical and ironic.

Charlie Freak had but one thing to call his own
Three weight ounce pure golden ring no precious stone
Five nights without a bite
No place to lay his head
And if nobody takes him in
He’ll soon be dead

On the street he spied my face I heard him hail
In our plot of frozen space he told his tale
Poor man, he showed his hand
So righteous was his need
And me so wise I bought his prize
For chicken feed

Newfound cash soon begs to smash a state of mind
Close inspection fast revealed his favorite kind
Poor kid, he overdid
Embraced the spreading haze
And while he sighed his body died
In fifteen ways

When I heard I grabbed a cab to where he lay
‘Round his arm the plastic tag read D.O.A.
Yes Jack, I gave it back
The ring I could not own
Now come my friend I’ll take your hand
And lead you home.

R.I.P. Walter


Grabbing Guns

Not sure how this little idea would have played out in Texas:

U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp signed an emergency order allowing the seizure of private guns, ammunition, explosives and property the National Guard may need to respond to Hurricane Irma.

Couple-three questions here:
1) Why would the Guard need any privately-owned weapons in an emergency? Don’t they have enough, and if not, why not?
2) What happens if people are unable to protect their houses and such from looters and other associated filth? (“Bend over and spread ’em” is the likely government response.)
3) How would the government know where to get said weapons?

Oh, lookee here. From Wikipedia:

The U.S. Virgin Islands have a stringent and restrictive licensing process to purchase or carry a firearm. A person must be 21 to get a non-carry weapons license, along with several other requirements. Applicants must pay $75 licensing fee, submit a signed application, be fingerprinted and photographed, and be of good moral character. That process is just for a permit to purchase firearms to store in a residence or business, and not for a concealed carry permit. There are six types of licenses:

  • Blue, Business Protection
  • Yellow, Home protection and handguns only
  • Gray, farming and long guns only
  • White, all active law enforcement
  • Pink, current and retired law enforcement, personal protection, and special circumstances
  • Green, target shooting, sports use and home protection

To qualify [for any of the above] you must belong to a gun club. To acquire a concealed carry permit, or “Pink” permit, a person must meet a specific set of criteria. To apply, you must either be a government employee, valuable goods carrier, firearms manufacturer, or be a bona fide resident or business person of the islands. You must prove you have good reason to fear death or great injury to your person or property and present at least two affidavits from credible persons who attest to that need. Due to this process, in most cases concealed carry permit applications are denied for normal resident applicants unless in grave circumstances.

The next time somebody of your acquaintance suggests that guns be licensed, or that only cops should carry guns… well, you know the rest. Wear Army boots.

Afterthought: here is yet another reason, as if any were needed, that everyone should own at least one gun about which government knows nothing.

Weeping Willows


“Fordham University has launched an investigation after students were reduced to tears by the screening of a PragerU video during a Resident Assistant (RA) training on sexual assault.”

I’d excerpt more, but I’m pretty sure some of you will be wanting to eat breakfast, and I’d hate to spoil your appetite.

Bloody snowflakes. I wonder how they’d have responded to newsreel footage of Jews being slaughtered at Babi-Yar. Probably with cheers, come to think of it.

And here I thought Fordham was a Jesuit school, whose emphasis is that “Jesuit education prepares men and women to go out into the world.” If grown women can be reduced to tears by a factual exposition of a contrary opinion, I would suggest that Fordham is failing in its mission. Feel free to read this little piece as a companion to the first link, and judge for yourself by how much.

Back To The Past

One of the many sins of Marxism is its demonization of the word “bourgeois“, the French term for the conservative middle class. The bourgeoisie had always been a target of scorn for the nobility, of course, because those worthies always thought (and in many cases were correct in thinking) that bourgeois values, customs and indeed laws didn’t apply to them, the anointed.

But the real problem arose for the bourgeoisie when Marxism became ascendant — because Marxism requires only two classes: the ruling elite and the proletariat working class, because those messy middle-class types refused to sacrifice their conservative values on the altar of the sainted Party.

And needless to say, the idea of a ruling class and worker / peasantry found (and continues to find) great favor with the so-called intelligentsia (another verbal creation of Marxism), because they have always fondly believed that they would be part of the ruling elite.

It’s not just my antipathy towards Marxism which causes me to rage occasionally about falling societal standards; it’s mostly because of my staunch support of and adherence to middle-class values, without which I believe that society descends rapidly into totalitarianism, anarchy and chaos, in no particular order. So you can imagine how much I welcome scholarly opinion which happens to agree with mine.

Apparently, this op-ed article has got its two authors in trouble with The Usual Suspects (race hustlers, the other-gendered, closet Marxists — you get the idea). But in all seriousness, please explain to me how anyone can disagree with the following statement:

“Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.”

Not only are these precepts pure common sense; history has proven them to be not only that, but that the lack or rejection thereof produces catastrophic results for any society.

And let me say right now that these principles are not just applicable to White First World societies. As Wax and Alexander note, all societies prosper when they maintain those values; the fact remains that the values originated not just in Western culture over the centuries but, at least in part, in other societies as well.

Also needless to say, those elements in our so-called modern society who are up in arms about the Wax-Alexander article are precisely those who are causing the greatest amount of division within it today.

I say: a pox on all of them. We need to reinstate those bourgeois values and principles in general, and not rely on The Remnant to keep that flickering flame alive in only their children and friends. We need to go back, and discard all the laws and customs which have attempted to overturn bourgeois values — indeed, in some cases these excrescences have already succeeded in doing so.

Note, by the way, that the above principles exist outside the Enlightenment and, for example, our own Constitution, for the simple reason that they predated them. In fact, much of today’s societal woes can be attributed to the malapplication of Constitutional precept into such silliness as “gender fluidity” under the (incorrect) aegis of, say, freedom of speech and thought, or equal protection under the law.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that the Constitution is not the wonderful document and institution that it is. But if anything, it has always relied on the good intentions of society — good intentions which have crumbled and disappeared under the weight of Marxism, post-Modernism and all the other cynical and baleful movements which have caused today’s societal ills.

I for one would welcome a return to 1950s values with open arms. I suspect I’m not alone in this sentiment, as deplorable as others may find it.

Taking A Hammering

So the morning after the day of the Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace (see here and here, below), I was rudely awoken by Mr. Free Market hammering on my door with a cheery, “Come on! Let’s go do a little shooting!”

Now I have to admit that I’m not the drinker I used to be, and the Whisky Hobgoblins were using jackhammers on the inside of my skull. Still, a little plinking at rabbits with .22 rifles somewhere on the Free Market Towers estate couldn’t hurt, I thought as I stumbled from my bed.

Did I say “.22 rifles”? Not really. Mr. FM (who is obviously made of sterner stuff than I) had decided that we were going to do some serious shooting, as evidenced by the rifles he was stowing away in the back of the Land Rover. They are, from top to bottom: Blaser R8 in .300 WinMag, Blaser double in .30R (the Euro equivalent of the .30-06), another Blaser double in .375 H&H Magnum, and my Mauser M12 in 6.5x55mm (in Mr. FM’s words, “so that you won’t get too banged about”).

Fortunately, a couple pints of strong black coffee restored my health somewhat (I turned down a suggestion of “a hair of the dog” from Fiend FM), so off we went.

At the Corinium shooting range up in Gloucestershire, Mr. FM and I first sighted in our single-barreled rifles from the bench — I discovered that the difference in zero between a 6.5x55mm bullet of 140 grains and 120 grains amounted to approximately 1″ per 10 grains, i.e. a zero with a 140-grain bullet meant that the zero drifted up 4″ when shooting the lighter 120-grain one — while Mr. FM fired but two rounds of .300 WInMag, got a quarter-inch group in the bull and declared himself satisfied (as well he should be), and then we went downrange to play with the double rifles. (All pics by Mr. FM, by the way.) Here’s what we were shooting (l-r: Merkel .470 Nitro, Blaser .375 H&H, and Blaser .30R):

…and from the business end:

Dear Readers, I’m not going to use my hangover as an excuse for what followed.

I have always prided myself on being able to shoot offhand competently from a standing position — in the past, I have been capable of sideplate-sized groups at close range (25 yards) — but I haven’t had much (okay, any) practice in this particular discipline in several years, and boy, did it show. Here’s a pic of the fiasco:

Shooting Mr. FM’s .375 H&H double, the first shot was a clear miss of the deer — about a half-inch below the body, the second marginally better (in that it actually hit the deer silhouette), but the bullet strike was still about a quarter-inch outside the kill-zone. Result in real life: a wounded deer. Ugh. Even worse, I fired a few more rounds with range owner Paul’s Merkel .470 Nitro Express (loaded with bunny-fart practice ammo) and I still couldn’t hit anything. And recoil was not an issue, either. Here are the pre- and post pics which demonstrate the recoil — which was not excessive.

Shit. Poor shooting like this is total bullshit, and I cannot allow that to stand. So when I get back Over The Pond in two weeks’ time, I am going to be putting in some extensive trigger time in Texas on my offhand shooting: of that you can be sure.

I can only apologize to Mr. FM and Paul for my pathetic shooting, but I promise that the next time, I will not make a fool of myself again.

On a side note: I have got to lose some weight — fucking hell, I look nine months pregnant — so there’ll also be a lot less fork time when I get back.

Blenheim Salon Part 2

So after having ogled the cars etc. in the exhibition area (and the avenue leading into the exhibition, see yesterday’s post), Your Humble Narrator ambled off to the auction hall, where sundry items of deliciousness were to be found, pre-auction. Once more, I shall say but little, just post a few examples. The model dates are approximate, for reasons which will become apparent later.

1963 MG:

1950 Jaguar Mk V:

1958 Mercedes 300S:

1962 Sunbeam Tiger:

1965 Lancia Flavia (This car was so beautiful — the picture does not do it justice — that I wanted to marry it so that it could bear my children. Suffice it to say that of all the automotive pulchritude on display, even Mr. FM had found it memorable.)

1958 Jaguar XK 140:

Now, I have to confess that Mr. FM was getting somewhat impatient, tapping his watch and muttering something about “getting going before darkness falls”. Also, I have to confess that by this point, some six hours since our arrival, I was starting to feel the effects of the open bar at the Privé — let’s just say that I’d consumed fairly substantial quantities of wine, champagne and J&B — and I think Mr. FM was trying to spare me from the indignity of loud proposals of marriage to some of the cars. At least, that’s what I thought at the time.

So he bundled me into the Range Rover and off we went — but curiously, not along the same road we’d come in on. Instead, he took an abrupt turn off the main road and plunged down into a series of hills and dales along an allegedly two-lane road that was so narrow, I would have had trouble riding a Fiat 500 down it without grazing both rearview mirrors on the roadside hedgerows. Then, as the evening sun was getting close to the horizon and we reached the bottom of a valley, he pulled off onto a small piece of open land and said, “You might want to take a picture of this.”

And I did; more than one. First, the house of (I think) the owner of the property:

…followed by a couple of vistas:

Good grief. Words cannot describe the beauty of the Cotswolds. You just have to see it for yourself.

Then we went home, and Mr. FM and I finished the day’s festivities off by imbibing vast quantities of whisky before retiring for the night.

Altogether, an unforgettable day, and one for which I will be eternally grateful to my gracious host.