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Ritland Daily Ramble #20

Quote of the day
I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent the implication that some of the places that I have sung, and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, make me less of an American.
– Pete Seeger

Rambles
Pete Seeger: True American Hero
Pete Seeger
Legendary singer, songwriter, banjo player, music scholar, song collector, and all-around good guy Pete Seeger died Monday. Coincidentally all day I was reading the early chapters of Sean Wilentz’s wonderful book Bob Dylan in America which mentions Seeger a lot. I was thinking all day about how great it is that Seeger, one of the last living links to Woody Guthrie, was still around. I found out about his death from a post by one of the Band’s only living members, keyboard guru Garth Hudson, who is also mentioned in Bob Dylan in America.

How well Seeger presented himself, and how strongly he stood by and defended his beliefs, was admirable regardless of whether or not you agree with his sometimes radical leftism. During the McCarthy blacklist he repeatedly stood by his First Amendment right to believe whatever he wanted, even though it cost him his livelihood. He lost his popular TV show Hootenanny! and couldn’t get work at any musical venues that paid any money. He was forced to play for small paychecks at college campuses to survive.

Seeger was a quiet, well-stated man. If you watch any interviews with him you wonder how he was ever considered a threat. He expressed his views, sure, but he wasn’t an anarchist that wanted to overthrow the government or anything. He was simply a perceptive man who, like a true patriot, tried to influence the country he loved in what he thought was the best way. Anybody who finds freedom important, and respects people who are strong in their beliefs at any cost, have no choice but to see Seeger for what he is: a true American hero.

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Picture of the day

PBS#01248

Seeger and Dylan in the early ’60s.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North and writes frequent Daily Rambles. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.

Ritland Daily Ramble #17

Quote of the day
Civilization had too many rules for me, so I did my best to rewrite them.
– Bill Cosby

Rambles
Return of one of the good guys

bill-cosby

The man.

NBC announced that Bill Cosby is returning to prime time this fall. Fittingly, he’s playing the patriarch of a multi-generational family.

Cosby’s contribution to television and comedy is undervalued. He proves that it’s possible to be very funny without resorting to profanity and cheap, easy sexual jokes. His ‘80s sitcom combined entertainment and meaning in a way very few, if any, other TV shows ever have.

I’m excited at the idea of Cosby making a comeback but I’m also afraid that the network will somehow mess it up. There are no good sitcoms on network television right now. This is largely because networks assume all Americans are idiots and dumb down their programming accordingly. There may be a lot of idiots out there but they must not be that dumb because viewership of network sitcoms is at an all-time low.

If Cosby is given creative control of his show it has a chance to succeed, although perhaps his brand of subtle, intelligent humor will have trouble resonating with contemporary America. One thing is for sure, though: he’ll wear some kick-ass sweaters.

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Picture of the day

a97678_g240_15-strange

I hope I can find this somewhere in Minnesota…

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North and writes frequent Daily Rambles. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.

Ritland Daily Ramble #11

Pope Francis, the religious and secular in America, a surprise musical collaboration, John Candy with a beard.

Quote of the day
Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.
– Pope Francis

Rambles
Voice of Dissent: R.R. Reno on Pope Francis and Culture
The Catholic Church disagrees with contemporary culture in many fundamental ways. Is Pope Francis helping the situation? Is America a religious nation or a secular one? How should religious and secular people move forward? I delve into these questions on my second reflection on this R.R. Reno piece.

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Surprise collaboration
It is being reported that Jack White and Neil Young have recorded an album of covers together that will hopefully be released soon. Songs include Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and one of my favorite ‘60s folk songs, Phil Ochs’ “Changes.”

I love that guys like Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and Paul McCartney keep working on their craft instead of just resting on their past accomplishments. They don’t just re-hash their old sound, either, instead collaborating with people to keep their music fresh. Young is teaming with White, Springsteen with Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello on his new High Hopes album, and McCartney with several noted contemporary pop producers on his last record New.

It’s too bad that people are largely ignoring what they’re doing. Listeners of new music don’t have time for the past and listeners of old music just want to hear the songs they’re used to. Both are ruts worth avoiding.

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Picture of the day

John_Candy

John Candy looks fucking sweet in a beard. That is all.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North and writes frequent Daily Rambles. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.

Ritland Daily Ramble #4

Quote of the day
Donny, you’re out of your element!
– Walter Sobchak

Rambles
Our stuff is just stuff
My friend Travis Mataya published a post on Amazing Stories Magazine today about the differences between being a geek now and when he was growing up. He argues that the books, movies, and video games that geeks enjoy have become such a part of mainstream culture that it’s becoming harder to differentiate between actual geeks and people who just like the stuff casually: “So what differentiates a geek from just a normal person who grew up with all the same entertainment? The answer is becoming muddier with every passing year as the crowds at various cons grow bigger, video game sales skyrocket, and comic book films continue to take over an industry.”

This observation about geek culture is an example of the general watering down of everything in our consume everything now, fast food culture. With the world at our fingertips on the internet it has become impossible to tell whether anybody legitimately likes, or has a passion for, anything. Indeed, it’s made it difficult for people to be legitimately passionate about anything. “Today, our stuff is just stuff,” Travis says. “It’s so easy to obtain that it doesn’t reflect much on our passions.” Slowly, due to this, our passions are becoming less and less passionate.

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Good times, great oldies
Coffee shops, especially chains, usually play fluffy, inoffensive new pop music, the sort that makes up 90% of the playlist on the Current. While writing this blog at Dunn Brothers on West 7th Street in St. Paul, though, I was transported back to the oldies stations that used to exist when I was a kid, only better. Songs included “Bad to Me” by Billy Joe Krammer and the Dakotas, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum, and “Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)” by Manfred Mann. The last song was especially cool to hear because I inherited my mother’s 45 of it when I was growing up and it was written by Bob Dylan during my favorite period of his songwriting, the Basement Tapes.

So yeah, coffee shop owners take note: not everybody wants to be lulled to sleep by Neko Case when they’re drinking their coffee.

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goodmanPicture of the day
Jive Time Records in Seattle, one of the coolest record stores in America, posted this picture of John Goodman and I had to share it. While I was unsuccessful in finding out any information about it I did find the hilarious Fuck Yeah John Goodman tumblr account which proudly proclaims:

WE FUCKING LOVE JOHN GOODMAN.
DO YOU FUCKING LOVE JOHN GOODMAN?
SUBMIT YOUR GODDAMN PICTURES OF JOHN GOODMAN.

Fuck yeah, John Goodman.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.