I’d Know Where to Find You: Art Laboe’s Charmed Life On Air

Oldies stations are one of the most tried and true formats on the FM radio dial, seemingly ubiquitous if often absorbed subconsciously. Whether heard in the produce aisle at the local supermarket, planting an earworm for days, or while driving on the interstate through an unfamiliar city, “great hits of the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, etc.” can reliably be found – or find you. Depending on the depth of a station’s playlist, a warm, nostalgic doo-wop track by the Penguins (featuring Cleve Duncan) might float past. Over the same stately chords as the Penguins’ best-known hit, “Earth Angel,” Duncan sings of lost love and happier times: “I'm all alone,/ Feeling so blue,/ Thinking about you,/ And the … [Read more...]

Thin Is In: Rethinking 40 Years of Intellectual History in the Age of Fracture

But let us honestly state the facts. Our America has a bad name for superficialness. Great men, great nations, have not been boasters and buffoons, but perceivers of the terror of life, and have manned themselves to face it. The quote is by Ralph Waldo Emerson from “Fate,” the first essay in his 1859 collection, The Conduct of Life – a somber, more dialectical late-career work in light of his reputation as an irrepressible optimist. In the essay, Emerson describes at metaphorical length the necessary tension – a fistfight even, like “two boys pushing each other on the curbstone of the pavement” – between Fate and Power (or at another point Nature and Thought). If America is to achieve its … [Read more...]

Remembering Harry Nilsson for the First Time: Best of 2012 Part III

As part of ToM’s Best of 2012 our contributors reflect on books, movies, music, and other pop culture stand-by’s that they discovered this year, no matter when their source of inspiration originated.  That’s right, it’s a vaguely “objet trouvé” Best of 2012.   Art historians everywhere are recoiling.  For Part I click here and Part II - here. The main source of my fogyish inability to keep up with the current crop of bands is that there always seems to be a new genius to discover in the history of pop, rock, and jazz. My “new” find this year (really late to the party, I know) is someone who has lurked on the edges of my musical consciousness forever but never quite fully arrived: Harry … [Read more...]

Dog Days Classics: Robert H. Wiebe and The Search for Order

“Men in confusion clutched what they knew.” This is how Robert Wiebe describes the actions of America’s leaders in their “rudimentary bureaucracy” as the nation entered World War I in 1917. Much of the debacle that followed – both the wave of violent repression at home and the political failures of Woodrow Wilson, outfoxed at Versailles and in the Senate – resulted from just such limits of knowledge and practice. In essence, Progressive leaders used old solutions to solve new problems. But rather than a condemnation of human weakness, this sentence encapsulates Wiebe’s subtly empathetic historical vision: that historical actors of all stripes – radical or conservative, anonymous farmers or … [Read more...]