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Friday, March 28, 2014

Fred Armisen & RAM

Fred Armisen is currently my favorite comedian. I love Portlandia, but also check out these top moments on Late Night: 5 hilarious short skits. If you didn't know, he's the Late Night band leader. I found this LA Times article of his favorite five albums. He says Paul McCartney's 1971 album 'Ram' is his favorite of all time, which I had never listened to before. In the last few days, I've listened to it a bunch, and what a great album. Here it is:  Paul McCartney – RAM.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Book Review: The Years of Lyndon Johnson 1: The Path to Power, by Robert Caro

Robert Caro has been writing The Years of Lyndon Johnson for more than 30 years, beginning with The Path to Power, which was published in 1981. As of now, he's written 4 volumes -- they are all considered classics -- and is currently writing the last installment.

I like this book a lot, though it's different from other similar biographies I've read (Adams, Truman, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Mansfield) in the sense that you really get a 'warts and all' view of Johnson. Those other biographies leave you with a sense at the end of being inspired by the man and his strengths; the sordid details of how these men rose to power are left out, perhaps because there aren't sordid details, but more likely because they have been lost to history. Not so with Johnson. Caro researches relentlessly and provides, seemingly, every detail of Johnson's rise to power. Lucky for Caro, many of Johnson's contemporaries (both friend and foe), were alive when he was writing the book, so he could obtain first hand accounts.

Johnson's strengths are there in abundance: his super human energy, his extraordinary drive and ambition; his political genius; his extraordinary ability to read, manipulate, and lead men -- the list goes on. But his weaknesses are also laid bare: insecurity, the need to win at all costs, a lack of strong principles ('Lyndon goes where the wind blows'), a seeming lack of a moral compass, a lack of loyalty, infidelity -- this list goes on as well. One gets the feeling that such a 'warts and all' book could have been written about most (if not all) presidents, but we only have it for Johnson because such details are carefully guarded, aren't written down, and are only in the minds of other men and women. Thanks to Caro, they were found and used to create a rich, very human picture of the man.

Johnson was a remarkable man -- a truly extreme, one-of-a-kind individual. I feel privileged to have gotten to know him, and as with every great biography I've read, I learned about myself, and humans in general, along the way. I would definitely recommend this book, though it errs on the side of too much, rather than too little, detail. It was one of those reads that required dedication and several months for me to finish.    

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Recent Listening, March 2014

Here's a mix of music I've been listening to lately, including the new Beck (awesome), Volcano Choir, Vampire Weekend, Danny Brown, and Childish Gambino, to name a few.

Recent Listening: March 2014