Monday, February 27, 2017

Trumpism Is White Baby Boomer Generational Warfare

For pretty much all of my adult life I have seen generational warfare afoot in this country, but never on the level of Trumpism. Trumpism is white baby boomer generational warfare at its most acute, as Trump's recent budget proposal proves.

This budget would add tens of billions of dollars to the defense budget, a military buildup likely to lead to a war (they always do) where the youth of America will be sacrificed. At the same time, social and environmental spending will be slashed, while Social Security and Medicare will remain untouched. The elderly white middle class will thus retain their entitlements and be protected unto their deaths, which will likely happen before the effects of mass pollution take hold for everybody else.

The aging white population came out for Trump in a big way. They are basically fine with making everyone else suffer as long as they are protected. Back in the 1980s, Reagan had also figured this out. He too sheltered Medicare and Social Security while slashing away the parts of the safety net that helped the young and poor. Reagan was a shrewd enough politician to know that his free market hocus pocus didn't wash with the great masses. He also knew that middle class white people would support him if they knew that other people were getting nailed harder than they were. It's a tale as old as time in this country, my friends.

Those of us below a certain age will likely find out that the tiller is empty when we come to collect our retirement. In the meanwhile we'll be breathing polluted air and watching the thermometers rise. That's been par for the course for the older generation, of course. They grew up with a robustly supported education system that made it cheap to attend public universities. At the same time, they could get good jobs still without higher education. Then, once they reached adulthood, they decided they'd rather not pay the taxes their parents did, and made public universities insanely expensive right as they became more essential for entry into the middle class. They were the first generation and in fact the only generation to benefit from the post-New Deal state from the cradle to the grave.

The generational war is over now, and those of us not fortunate enough to be on the winning side are going to have to face a bitter defeat who consequences still can't be foreseen.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Episode of the Old Dad's Records Podcast: Bowie, Pop, Berlin

I've just put up episode five of the Old Dad's Records Podcast. In the interest of keeping things lively I will be breaking from the usual formula every fifth episode. This time, instead of highlighting an overplayed song, a cheap album from my collection, and a new song I'm currently digging, I talked about some of the more prized records in my collection. In this case, it's three of the records that David Bowie and Iggy Pop made in their Berlin period: The Idiot, "Heroes," and Lust For Life. This happens to be some of my favorite music of all time. It's also very difficult to disentangle this music from a specific time in my life. I delved deep into it while rooming with my friend David in Chicago, he the "rocker" preferring Iggy and me the "mod" preferring Bowie. He died very suddenly four years ago, and it is still difficult for me to believe that he's not here anymore. As I say in the podcast, if there's a close friend who lives far away that you haven't talked to outside of social media, give them a call or write them a letter.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

World War I On My Mind

At my school we have five short terms instead of two semesters, which allows more room for short electives. I'm teaching a class starting tomorrow on World War I, at long last.

World War I was the historical event that first got me into history. I picked up a book about it at the school library at the age of 9, and I was shocked and intrigued by the images. Some of them still stick with me, like Gavrilo Princip being mobbed after his assassination of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie, with quaintly dressed police with swords and fezes in the shot. 

Or a photo of a corpse with its face eaten away, but its hand held up to shield from certain death.

I was a morbid child, what can I say? 

It is an event that still fascinates me above all others, even if I never ended up making it the subject of my dissertation. As my course prep has shown me, too much time spent in this world of useless death and suffering makes me too depressed. I am not capable of immersing myself in the trenches with any sense of emotional remove.

In this year of our Lord 2017, I also feel the pull of World War I in different ways. It was a truly cataclysmic event, one that broke empires, inspired revolutions, and sent Victorian notions of culture and propriety to the grave. It was the ultimate catalyst for the 20th century in all its feats and horrors. I feel that I am now living in times more tumultuous than I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. To paraphrase Marx, all that is solid is melting into air. The post-1945 international order looks doomed. Our president is a kleptocratic ruler (not office holder) who does not adhere to the norms of democracy. Nationalism of the worst kind is on the march around the world, from America to Russia to France to India. 

I can feel the tectonic plates of history shifting, as surely as the Red Guards felt them in Petrograd in 1917 or the Arab army when it took Damascus. I do not know where it will end, and I seriously don't feel like I have any control over it. We have been cast into the whirlwind, I only hope it will be without as much bloodshed this time.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Green Lantern Movie I Want To See

As I have mentioned on this blog, I have recently re-entered the world of comic books after a quarter-century absence. I am of the opinion that everybody needs silly cultural diversions, and I find comics more fulfilling than television and more ethical than watching the NFL or college sports like I once used to. I also enjoy watching so-bad-it's-awesome movies, but my lovely spouse is not as enamored of this pastime.

I am a born contrarian, so I also tend to like stuff other people don't, like the Mets, White Sox, prog rock, and the Green Lantern. He is definitely a second-tier hero, and being in the DC universe, already has a strike against him in the hipness department. One of the big reasons I like him is that many of his adventures take place in space, and "cosmic comics" are able to render scenes that millions of dollars in CGI can't replicate. One of the things I love most about comics is how they can render visual flights of fancy that other mediums cannot, and Green Lantern is especially conducive to this. He is also limited in key ways as far as his powers are concerned. The Green Lantern derives his power from his ring, and he has his ring as part of his job as a galactic law enforcer. His ring only works through his willpower, meaning that his inevitable human weaknesses can thwart him. Superman never has that problem.

So far there has not been a good film adaptation of the Green Lantern. I have yet to see the Ryan Reynolds flick all the way through, but I've seen and heard enough to know it's sub-par. I doubt we'll get any new adaptation any time soon, especially considering the failures of the Zach Snyder (blech) driven DC films. But I know a great one that could be made, and with a more limited budget, to boot.

Green Arrow gets woke

Back in the early 1970s, when comics were losing readership, DC teamed up Green Lantern with Green Arrow in a short-lived but influential title: Green Lantern and Green Arrow. It was written by Denny O'Neil, and drawn by the great Neal Adams. While the title lasted only about a year, it was revolutionary. After being confronted by an African American man over Green Lantern's neglect in helping the oppressed people on this planet (as opposed to others) he joins with the far more socially conscious Green Arrow on an Easy Rider type road trip across America. That trip and later issues dealt with things like drug abuse, slum lords, racism, environmentalism, and political corruption. While many of the title's stories come across as ham-fisted or dated today, the approach taken was revolutionary.

I would not want to see a period piece or direct adaptation on film, but a Green Lantern movie set today with the same conceit. I would like to see a superhero confronted with their complicity with authority. I would like a superhero movie where structural inequalities and the political system, not outlandish super villains are the enemies. It would be a good way of showing how pernicious and powerful those things are if superheroes who can take on Sinestro cannot defeat them. I also think the interplay between Green Lantern and Green Arrow would work well, and could be used in some interesting ways. Green Arrow would still be the radical, Green Lantern still the decent person unaware of how invested he is in the power structure. Green Arrow could even be used to show the pitfalls of "white saviorism" and bad allyship.

And if I could get real crazy, I would love to see Batman and Superman as antagonists. After all, Batman is a violent, vigilante billionaire out for vengeance with little understanding of social justice. Superman pledges himself to the "American way," which includes a lot of injustice within it. If I could be truly gonzo, I could see a movie where Superman maintains his loyalty to the government under President Trump. In the end Batman would realize that he needs to make war on more than criminals, and Superman would realize that his immigrant roots are more important than his loyalty to the American state.

 I know this will never get made, but a Green Lantern fan can dream, can't he?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Episode 4 of the Old Dad's Records Podcast

Episode 4 of my podcast, Old Dad's Records, is now up. In this episode I took the theme of "bridge and tunnel," and looked at artists from the fringes of the New York City metropolis. The song of the week is "Two Tickets To Paradise" by Eddie Money of Long Island. The album I focused on is the debut of The Roches from right here in New Jersey. That record even features a song about riding a commuter train! Last but not least I discuss Steel Mill, Bruce Springsteen's early 70s band before he was famous. As someone who's moved to bridge and tunnel territory and commutes to Manhattan every day, I feel a kinship with this music.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Stop Pretending Impeachment Is Easy Or A Foregone Conclusion

Nixon drunk-dialing his former chief of staff Bob Haldeman on the day of the latter's resignation is one of my favorite things. It took over another year for Watergate to run its course.

In the wake of the Flynn scandal, a lot of liberals and progressives have been joyously discussing the possibility of impeachment, or even the fatuous notion that we will have an election "do over." Sorry folks, I'm here throw a bucket of cold water on you. As a historian, that's kinda my job.

As to the "do over," there's absolutely no constitutional precedent for that, so just stop talking about it like it's a thing. As to impeachment, it should never be discussed as if it were something easy to do. No president has been removed from office via impeachment. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached but survived the process, and Nixon resigned before impeachment proceedings could be voted on. I am pretty sure Nixon would have been impeached and removed from office, so I guess I'll let you have one example of a successful impeachment.

My point is that it is almost impossible to pull off. It is beyond impossible if the president's party is in control of Congress, which means you should just stop thinking Trump will be impeached before the next midterm election. It won't happen. It's much more likely that a 25th Amendment scenario happens, but I doubt that'll happen, either. Paul Ryan is creaming his shorts about the prospect of eliminating the social safety net, and if Trump is a vessel for that, so be it. I've said it before, I'll say it again: there's no such thing as "Trump voters" anymore, only Republicans, and Trump is putting forth an aggressively Republican agenda.

So let's say the Democrats manage to win back Congress in 2018. (I'm not holding my breath.) The process behind impeachment is extremely time-consuming. The early Watergate allegations against Nixon started getting serious in January of 1973. He would not resign until a year and half later, in August of 1974. That was even with a Democratic congress. Nixon did everything he could to slow down the process. Later presidents learned from this scandal to make it even more difficult to unseat them. For example, in the Iran-Contra Scandal of the 1980s, Oliver North merely shredded the relevant documents, destroying the evidence. I imagine Trump has minions willing to take the fall, too.

I don't like this impeachment talk because it is yet another wish for the salvation to come miraculously come from on high and end Trump's rule. That simply is not going to happen. Instead of waiting for a miracle, we need to be out there opposing Trump tooth and nail. We need to fight like hell in 2018. We need to keep up the pressure. We need to put our bodies on the line, if need be. The legal processes of this country installed Trump in power, start trusting yourself instead of trusting them for a change.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Yo La Tengo, "From A Motel 6"

February is the worst month of the year. Winter refuses to go away. With Super Bowl over and March Madness and the baseball season yet to start, sports options are really lame on nights when I have nothing better to do than watch television. Hollywood dumps its shitty movies in the theater. Awards shows and their fatuous celebrity worship are everywhere.

Every year at this time I never fail to get into the dumps. In these times I have lean especially hard on music for help. Back in grad school I even made a mix tape (one of my last) called "Late Winter Blues" that I kept in my car tape deck through the whole month of February. One of those songs, one that I always return to, is Yo La Tengo's "From A Motel 6." While this came out during their 1990s heyday, I did not discover them until I met my friend Kevin back in the year 2000, when we learned we were both way into indie rock. The Painful album was one of the first CDs anyone ever burned for me. The year we spent rooming together was a musical education, one I am still grateful for.

I like Yo La Tengo's 90s period in winter because of the droning, Velvet Underground-derived guitar. It's the sound of hard, cold winter sunlight reflecting off a snowbank whizzing by my window while I drive on slushy streets. I have no idea what the song's about, I just know that the title is a reference to Bob Dylan's "From A Buick 6," which also has a strong riff behind it. When I listen to this, like a lot of 90s indie guitar rock, I let my mind wander in the swirls of the feedback-drenched guitars, losing myself for a few minutes. It's a welcome deliverance from February.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Fascistic Tendencies Of The New Regime (And Some Tentative Reasons For Hope)

Now that Donald Trump has been in power for three weeks, it is becoming obvious that his decision-making is being driven by ideological considerations. I think Trump's personal ideology is rather soft, but his general proclivities align well with the Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, who are converting those general notions into hardened directives. Trump is obviously an instinctual ethnic nationalist (it's the one thing he's never compromised on) and in favor of scrapping the international order in favor of making America a free agent. Bannon the self-described Leninist is using this golden opportunity to advance his obsessions, which overlap enough with Trump. It is getting harder for me to deny that it is an inherently fascistic regime that we are dealing with. (Not sure I can say it's pure fascism due to lack of paramilitary arm or abrogation of the constitution, but it definitely rhymes.)

Based on earlier statements and his intellectual interests, it seems that Bannon differs from others on the nationalist right with his interest in religion. He truly believes in a Christian West eternally at war with the Other, especially the Muslim world. His assumption, which is also held by Miller and Trump, is that all Muslims are inherently America's enemy. Based on what I've gleaned from articles about Bannon and the circles he runs in, he is a believer in "organic" notions of society, which fits with his emphasis on religion. And yes, this worldview tends to overlap very heavily with fascism. Fascist movements in Hungary and Greece (like Golden Dawn) are firmly rooted in organicism. For the new organic society to grow, the forest of the current political order be clear cut and the stumps burned. This new regime is not conservative or reactionary, but revolutionary. In that respect, as an ideology of right wing revolution and transformation, it is fascistic.

As with fascism, it all boils down to the nation. Jeff Sessions has been reading all the same articles we all have about how America will become a nation without a white majority in the coming years, and decided to stop that. Trump's regime isn't just going after undocumented immigrants, it is planning to severely curtail legal immigration, too. It is hardly surprising that the first sweeping actions by Trump have been to bar Muslims and deport Hispanics and to build a border wall. The regime's goal behind all of this is to maintain a white majority nation, and to keep white people in charge. Hence the very fast-moving effort to root out "voter fraud." This practice has been used to essentially make it harder for people of color to vote, but now will be tried out at the national level. Trump will need no Enabling Act, by barring enough of his opponents from voting he will be able to maintain his position.

Of course, the fascistic nature of this regime is especially apparent when it comes to the way it wields power. Trump has shown a staggering and unprecedented contempt for the legal system. Today on television Stephen Miller basically said that Trump was above the judges, meaning that he is above the law or constitution. Fascists pride action and conflict over all else, and that has been the hallmark of this administration. Witness ill-fated raid in Yemen, or Kellyanne Conway's touting of Trump as "a man of action." Miller claimed today that Trump had accomplished more in his three weeks than most other presidents had in their entire administrations. That claim is patently false, but Miller needs it to be true to burnish the image of Trump as that man of action.

Ultimately, fascists believe there is no truth except for the nation, the leader, and power. Already we are seeing how feeble it is to "fact check" the current regime. They have no regard at all for the truth, They lie and lie and lie and lie about crime rates and made-up terror attacks. And these aren't just lies, they are lies intended to justify the use of state power and violence. Accordingly, this regime has made war on the press in unprecedented ways. Just remember the day after the inauguration, when Trump sent out Sean Spicer to scream at reporters and peddle the lie that attendance at the inauguration had been underestimated. That was, in many respects, Trump's first real act as president.

Amidst this fascistic onslaught, there are reasons for hope, though. Successful authoritarians rely on mass popularity, which Trump does not have. They also rely on total control of the state, but Trump has been stymied by the courts. They can close the gap by destroying civil society, but civil society, from Twitter to SNL to the Washington Post, has not been forced to bow. The day after inauguration saw the biggest mass protest in this nation's history. Trump is deeply unpopular, opposed by the courts and elements of the deep state, and dogged by scandal.

My reasons for hope are tentative because Congress is in his hands, he will get the swing vote on the Supreme Court, and he has a major ace up his sleeve. If there is a terror attack by Muslims on American soil and/or the United States goes to war, all opponents will be called traitors. I think Bannon is counting on this. I remember well how the hapless Bush regime exploited 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. Fascists see war as a positive good rather than a necessary evil, and if this regime continues in its fascistic ways and the general posture of America in the 21st century, war is sure to come soon. Without war, I can see this regime imploding. With war, all bets are off.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Episode Three Of The Old Dad's Records Podcast

I just can't stop making these podcasts! I find it awfully relaxing and fulfilling. One of the best things about the internet is that dilettantes like myself can indulge in a creative pursuit and put it out there. I need creative outlets more than ever in my middle age, where I spend too much time at home on Saturday nights.

In this podcast the main song under discussion is "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" by Lou Rawls. The album is the Bee Gees' Horizontal, which I will defend with every fibre of my being. The contemporary music I discuss is by the Swedish singer-songwriter Lykke Li. I'm hoping to record another episode this weekend, and I'm leaning towards my first country track.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

My Letter to Senators Sasse And Fischer

Dear Senators Sasse and Fischer:

I am writing both of you as a proud son of Nebraska. Although I currently live in New Jersey, it was Nebraska where I was born, raised, and educated. Here in the Northeast I often expound on Nebraska’s natural beauty, the friendliness of its inhabitants, and how Lincoln and Omaha are two of the nation’s most livable cities. While I am not your direct constituent, most of my family still lives in Nebraska, and it is my spiritual home.

I am writing because I am disturbed by your recent votes supporting the nominations of Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions. Although both of you claim to represent “Nebraska values,” I see little of those values in Sessions or DeVos.

I grew up in Hastings, and benefitted from an excellent public school education. Even though it was a politically conservative town, people still generously supported public services, which had a great effect on the community. My family has had a lot to do with that. My mother taught in Nebraska public schools for four decades, a tradition taken on by my younger sister (who has been calling your offices about Betsy Devos in recent weeks.) Nebraska’s public education system has consistently outshone most others in the country, and it has been founded on vigorous support and respect. Betsy DeVos, on the other hand, has contempt for public education. Her actions in Detroit are evidence that her goal is to break the public education system for reasons of ideology and profit. Those policies have also proven to be a massive failure. I cannot think of an action more alien to the “Nebraska values” that I was raised with and benefitted from. The type of policies DeVos favors also do not fit with the priorities and realities of the rural school districts where a large number of Nebraskans are educated. By voting for her you have not only gone against the values of Nebraska’s public school system, but also of the interests of the very people you are supposed to represent.

I am also very disappointed in your votes for Jeff Sessions. His record on civil rights was so atrocious that a majority Republican Senate refused to accept his nomination to the federal bench in 1986. Coretta Scott King’s letter to Congress in response to his nomination that year is a document so damning that you and your fellow Republican Senators cowardly silenced Senator Warren’s attempt to read it into the record. You cannot hide from the fact that Sessions is a white nationalist with a history of seeking to limit the ability of black Americans to vote. I now must assume that you hold with his beliefs that voting rights be limited and that America ought to be a fundamentally white nation. During the 1980s your Republican forbears refused to countenance such behavior, now you are openly endorsing it. It is a disgrace that you are willing to support a man whose racism and xenophobia will do so much harm to so many Nebraskans once he is the nation’s leading law enforcer. Of course, I know full well the absolute lack of empathy or concern most people in your party have for people of color. Your vote for Sessions has made that indifference to their rights as boldly manifest as possible.

Perhaps you both are concerned about furthering your political careers, and deep down have reservations about the unhinged tyrant who now resides in the White House. I would hope that you would value the needs and livelihoods of your constituents over political expediency. History will record that you had the chance to stop a disastrous president from putting a white nationalist in charge of enforcing civil rights and an unqualified billionaire who wanted to destroy public education in charge of public schools.

I am honestly not sure how you can sleep at night. Maybe you are true ideological believers. That ideology, however, has nothing to do with “Nebraska values,” and you should be ashamed at having the unmitigated gall to use those words in support of an agenda that will do great harm to Nebraskans. Although I hold out little hope that you would do this, I would beg of you that in this important time that you do not respond to an autocrat like Donald Trump with automatic support. Nebraska, and the country, deserve a lot better than that.


Dr. Jason Tebbe

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

REM, "Life And How To Live It"

World events got me down to begin with, and I witnessed something today personally that's got me down much that much more. (Being cryptic, but don't worry, it doesn't directly effect me.) I've been leaning a lot on why I would call "comfort music" these past few weeks, and none has been as comforting as early REM.

REM was the first artist I really obsessed over, the first group whose whole back catalog I consumed. Their music has become almost elemental to my being. I have a special love of their first three albums, perhaps especially Fables of the Reconstruction, an album the band itself used to poo-poo due to its difficult recording in England. It was meant to evoke their native Georgia, and it does have a feeling of Southern Gothic weirdness mixed with London fog. I've used it for 25 years as a warm musical blanket to help me survive winter.

"Life and How to Live It" is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It is a fast-paced song, reminding me a little of the ravers on their Chronic Town debut EP. There's punk propulsion, but it's been put in the service of something more artistic and less angry. In a lot of ways REM were the most successful postpunk band in America, but their rootiness has seemingly caused people to miss that.

Like a lot of REM songs from this period, the lyrics are hard to make out, much less decipher. Michael Stipe's genius was to use his lyrics as a kind of Dada sound poetry, creating moods and ambiguous meanings that the listener could search for. This song makes me think of driving in a Midwestern snowstorm, the flakes flying around me as I sit in rapt concentration, slightly frazzled but pumped up by the adventure.

It's good to go back to music like this, I need it more than ever.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Second Episode Of My Podcast

Keeping with my tradition of letting a creative gusher flow rather than trying to refine what I'm doing, I've put out another episode of my podcast. This is the same world-beating strategy that has lead my to 12 years of writing on the internet without much recognition.  Well, I can't help myself, since I am doing this all to get out what's inside me that needs getting out.

My second episode discusses the Steve Miller Band's "Jet Airliner" as well as Mott the Hoople's All The Young Dudes album, along with a gloss on The War On Drugs (the band). At one point my dog interrupts me.

Friday, February 3, 2017

"Trump Voters" Are Just Republicans

Okay, I am going to make this short and sweet. If more people followed my on Twitter it'd be a tweetstorm, but I'm too old fashioned and unpopular for that.

We've been hearing for well over a year now about "Trump voters." They are supposedly all retired industrial workers in Youngstown and Green Bay who love Trump for his "populism" due to their "economic anxiety." There's a shit ton of bullshit in that narrative, but it's the assumption behind it that bugs me the most. You could've talked about "Trump voters" in the primaries, but since the general election they don't really exist. "Trump voters" are essentially just Republicans. Trump only got 46% of the vote, which was less than Romney in 2012. He did not attract a massive wave of new voters. Yes, he did manage to poach a few Obama voters in the upper Midwest (which tipped the electoral college), but nationwide this does not amount to some new species of voter. He also won the election because Republicans who did not like him in the primaries went out and voted for him in the general election.

They did not necessarily vote for the media's version of Trump. They wanted things like an anti-abortion Supreme Court justice, business deregulation, tax cuts, etc. This is why I am so surprised that people think that Trump's moves to scrap Dodd-Frank or put a bunch of Goldman Sachs alums in the White House will somehow alienate his voters. It won't. They're Republicans, after all. As long as Trump keeps hurting the people they don't like (Muslims, brown-skinned immigrants, African-Americans, the poor etc.) and makes liberals mad, they'll be all for him. Even if their economic prospects worsen, they'll be happy as long as those other folks are getting nailed a lot harder.

It's also why the GOP establishment won't "come to its senses" and turn on him. He is pushing voter suppression, attacks on immigrants, Islamophobia, financial deregulation, and an ultra-conservative Supreme Court nominee. That's exactly what they want! Why would they change that? Plus, if the shit hits the fan and things go wrong, they can just blame them and pretend they never really supported him. I doubt they'll ever actually have to do that. Trump and the Republican leadership have entered into a blood pact, and there's no going back. After all, autocrats never lack for willing collaborators.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Consolation of Classical Music

I'll admit that Bugs Bunny first gave me an appreciation for classical music

I write a lot about pop and rock music on this blog, but I have a pretty wide range of listening interests, including jazz and classical music. Those two genres of music are notably declining in popularity in our poptimistic age, which treats love of anything intricate and refined as somehow undemocratic. This flusters me mostly because I came up in a rural lower-middle class world where being able to appreciate music like this was a way of displaying one's refinement in a positive, not negative way. Now I must live in a topsy-turvy world where the children of affluent suburbs who went to Vassar and Amherst and now reside in Manhattan pretend at being populist by applying the cultural theory they learned there to The Real Housewives shows. They get to have pedestrian cultural tastes and simultaneously show their class superiority. That way they can knock down the strivers who are attracted to what was once elite culture while basking in their own moral and class superiority.

Okay, okay, I'll stop griping about my class resentments and get down to business. Classical music has a power that is difficult to match. I find it capable of plumbing depths of emotion that other kinds of music can't even get close to. Ever since election day I have been returning to classical music for comfort and for wallowing. It can put my mind at ease, but it can also get me weepy, depending on what I need that day. Here's a sample of stuff that works for me:

Samuel Barber, "Adagio For Strings"

Beautiful. Devastating. I feel like this is what they should be playing on the radio right now on a 24 hour loop. I have never heard any piece of music that sounds more like my soul in a state of mourning. I have a hard time even articulating something to say about this work of music, it moves me so much.

Albinoni, "Adagio in G Minor"

This YouTube link contains an ad for online therapy. That just about says it all, doesn't it? Evidently the original baroque composition was just a fragment discovered in Dresden after World War II, which was then worked into a real piece by Albinoni's biographer. That makes sense, since this is the sound of devastation, and Dresden was devastated like few other cities in the war.

Shostakovich, "Symphony 5, Third Movement (Largo)"

Like a lot of other modernist artists in the Soviet Union, Dmitri Shostakovich faced persecution once Stalin started pushing Socialist Realism. For his fifth symphony he would have to create something to please the state, or else. Most of it is upbeat and "heroic," especially the fourth movement, which he intended to be a ridiculous parody of "inspiring" music. The third movement, however, is Shostakovich's requiem for his friends jailed and murdered by the Soviet state. I remember hearing it played live at the symphony and fighting to control my emotions. Nowadays I get extra emotional thinking about how his dedication has managed to live on while Stalin's body still molders in the grave. I take my hope where I can find it.

Beethoven, "Symphony 6, First Movement"

Alright, enough of the mopey music. I used to love the real headbanging Beethoven music, like the 5th or the 9th, but in my middle age I have attained a huge love of the 6th, or "Pastoral" symphony. The Romantic movement was obsessed with nature, and it never was personified as gorgeously as in this symphony. The glory and beauty of the natural world is mostly muted in the winter time, so I put this symphony on to get a taste of it.

Mozart, "Marriage of Figaro Overture"

Bach may be more satisfying, Beethoven more emotional, but neither is as joyous as Mozart. There is something in his music that I can't quite name that just makes me glad to be alive. Mozart just makes me smile. His joyful, light touch might be expressed best in the overture to Figaro. I dare you to be in a bad mood after listening to this.