Monday, October 30, 2017

115 Days In Rock

(a reworking of a post from a few years ago)

I think for each of us who love music there is a particular time and place where it most connects with us. While putting together a mix of some favorite tunes from the 60s, I realized many were released in a very short time from October 30, 1967 through February 21, 1968.

There were many fine singles on the charts during those months, including Dock of The Bay (Otis Redding); Dance To The Music (Sly & The Family Stone); What A Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong); and Chain Of Fools (Aretha takes it to another level with her alternate take), but I'm going to focus on 15 albums released in that period.

It's a bit surprising but we can ignore The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. In October The Beatles released their weakest album, Magical Mystery Tour, while the Stones were wandering in the desert, releasing the ridiculous Their Satanic Majesties Request. Hardcore Stones fans are still pretending it never happened. They were not to return to the Promised Land until the summer of '68 under the captaincy of Jumpin' Jack Flash.

October 30, 1967
Buffalo Springfield Again
November 1967
Forever Changes (Love)
Disraeli Gears (Cream)
Days Of Future Passed (The Moody Blues)
After Bathing At Baxter's (Jefferson Airplane)
December 1967
Axis: Bold As Love (Jimi Hendrix Experience)
Mr Fantasy (Traffic)
Pandemonium Shadow Show (Harry Nilsson)
Earth Music (The Youngbloods)
The Who Sell Out
John Wesley Harding (Bob Dylan)
Songs of Leonard Cohen
January 1968
Born To Be Wild (Steppenwolf)
Gris-Gris (Dr John)
February 21, 1968
Child Is Father To The Man (Blood, Sweat & Tears)

I still listen to Buffalo Springfield Again featuring the writing, singing and guitar playing of Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Richie Furay. Their debut album, Buffalo Springfield, had terrific songs but was horribly produced. This was their next try and both songs and production are excellent. The tensions that were to break up the band later in 1968 were already evident as the production notes inform you that the band members were often not even recording in the same studio. Every song is good, some are great. The best:
Mr Soul. Blazing guitar from Neil; "she said you're strange, but don't change and I let her".
Rock n Roll Woman. Perfect pop. Featuring soaring harmonies, a blown-out Hammond B3 and some of Stills' best vocals.
Expecting To Fly. Ethereal. Another Young penned song. "There you stood on the edge of your feather, expecting to fly".
Bluebird. By Stills, with sparkling guitar work by he and Neil.
Forever Changes by Love. A wonderful record that remains a favorite of mine. The band started in 1965 with a proto-punk sound on songs like 7 And 7 Is. For this album they adopted a more mellow and smoother tone. Beautifully produced and sounding which is a wonder because reportedly most of the band members were so under the influence of drugs that the individual songs had to be cobbled together in bits and pieces from various recording sessions (Arthur Lee, the vocalist and co-composer of many of the songs eventually spent more than a decade in prison on gun and drug charges). The lyrics are preciously psychedelic as are the song titles, capturing the silliness of 1967:
Alone Again Or
A House Is Not A Motel
Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hillsdale
The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This
But put aside the silly titles and give it a listen.

Disraeli Gears, the second album from Cream and the one that made them as a big act in the U.S. Contained their first American hit single Sunshine Of Your Love and a series of strong tunes featuring the music of bassist Jack Bruce along with Peter Brown's insane lyrics; Tales of Brave Ulysses; SWLABR, Dance The Night Away and We're Going Wrong (a concert highlight from their 2005 reunion tour), and Albert King's Born Under A Bad Sign. I saw them play in a half-empty high school auditorium during their early 1968 tour in support of the album.

I was not a big fan of The Moody Blues but there is no doubt that Days Of Future Passed is is a classic rock album.  Tuesday Afternoon or Nights In White Satin, anyone?
After Bathing At Baxter's. The followup to Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow album which launched the hits White Rabbit and Somebody To Love. With Baxter's, the Airplane deliberately avoided coming up with another hit single, instead opting for a woozy smorgasbord of sound and lyrics. Good at the time but it's aged badly. Best songs: The Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil, Watch Her Ride (from a Perry Como Special!), Two Heads ("Two heads can be put together, And you can fill both your feet with sand, No one will know you've gutted your mind but what will you do with your bloody hands?" - someone actually let them do this on TV) and their celebration of hippiedom, Won't You Try/Saturday Afternoon (here at Woodstock, appropriately).
Saw the Airplane at the Fillmore East in November 1968. They sounded much heavier live mostly due to Jack Cassidy's thundering bass lines.

Axis: Bold As Love by The Jim Hendrix Experience. Contains two of his most beautiful songs, Little Wing and Bold As Love, along with If 6 Were 9 and Castles Made Of Sand ("fall in the sea, eventually"). No one sounded like Jimi. Links all removed from YouTube, but if you can find the live version of Little Wing from the Albert Hall concert, listen to it.

Mr Fantasy from Traffic featuring Steve Winwood. Another psychedelic pop record featuring their biggest hit Dear Mr Fantasy on which Winwood, who normally played keyboard, lets rip with some memorable guitar riffs. Other strong (and quirky) tunes include Coloured Rain, Paper Sun and Heaven Is In Your Mind along with Smiling Phases which later became a hit for the post-Al Kooper version of Blood Sweat & Tears. Pandemonium Shadow Show, Harry Nilsson's quirky debut album, was released to critical acclaim and low sales. Without Her (with its distinctly non-rock orchestration) and 1941 (with orchestration sounding like a mashup of Pet Sounds and Sgt Pepper) are the best known tunes. Nilsson went on to write Three Dog Night's smash hit, One (Aimee Mann's version is the one I prefer). Harry is also the only person to record with all four Beatles individually. The album title comes from Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes which is what Nilsson wanted to title the album but when he could not obtain the rights in time, named it after the novel's mysterious carnival that arrives in a small 1920s Illinois town - Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show.

Reading the Bradbury novel at 12 or 13 years old I thought it wonderful.  Rereading it a few years ago I loved it just as much but realized it was really about something different than I thought all those years ago.  Funny how your perspective changes with age.

Earth Music by The Youngbloods. An underrated band, even at the time. Best known, even today, for their worst song and only hit, Get Together. Though their finest song is 1969's Darkness, Darkness, Earth Music is their best album, featuring Jesse Colin Young's warm and pure vocals. Included are a cover of Tim Hardin's Reason To Believe, the jug band influenced Euphoria and best of all, All My Dreams Blue.

The Who Sell Out. Contains I Can See For Miles, Tattoo (Live At Leeds version), an ode to  Mary Anne With The Shaky Hands, the beautiful I Can't Reach You ("you're so alive and I'm nearly dead") and Rael ("the wretched in their millions, will overspill their borders and chaos will reign in our Rael") with riffs that would later be incorporated into Tommy. Finally got to see them in concert twice during 1969.

John Wesley Harding. Bob Dylan's first comeback album. Dylan disappeared from public view shortly after his tour following the May 1966 release of Blonde On Blonde, allegedly because of injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident, but given the elusive nature of Bob no one has ever really been certain why. A double album, Blonde On Blonde was the culmination of an astonishing 15 month period of creativity after Dylan went electric which also saw the release of Bringing It All Back Home (March 1965) and Highway 61 Revisited (August 1965). On those albums were songs like Mr Tambourine Man; It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding); It's All Over Now, Baby Blue; Maggie's Farm; Subterranean Homesick Blues, Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues; Like A Rolling Stone; Ballad Of A Thin Man; Queen Jane Approximately; Just Like A Woman; I Want You; Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 and Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again. Maybe he just needed a rest.
Harding was different; quiet and restrained with lyrics pared down from the increasingly ornate style he'd deployed in the earlier albums. Most of the songs were backed only by Dylan's acoustic guitar and harmonica. My picks (no links to originals as they are gone from YouTube):
All Along The Watchtower. Haunting. Covered by hundreds of musicians. Listen to the best cover (by Mr Hendrix) here.
I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine/ Alive with fiery breath/ And I dreamed I was amongst the ones/ That put him out to death/ Oh, I awoke in anger/ So alone and terrified/ I put my fingers against the glass/ And bowed my head and cried
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight. "Bring that bottle over here". Wacky and relaxed. He evens rhymes "moon" and "spoon"!

I'm not a big fan but Songs of Leonard Cohen was his influential first album so attention must be paid!  If you listened to early FM radio you heard Suzanne a lot. And then he goes wild (at least for Leonard Cohen) with So Long, Marianne.

Steppenwolf, the debut album from, who else, Steppenwolf! Not a strong album, but listed here because it contained the monster hit, perennial rock anthem and persistent movie soundtrack standard, Born To Be Wild (not linked here, just because), the birth of "heavy metal thunder", along with the overwrought Hoyt Axton saga, The Pusher. Axton went on to write the awful Joy To The World, a smash hit for Three Dog Night, and to star as the dad in the movie Gremlins.

Gris Gris, the debut album from Dr John, the alias of Louisiana musician Mac Rebennack who's gone on to a long and storied career as a living historian and performer of New Orleans music. A dreamy stoner's delight with the help of a magic gris-gris man who's just emerged from the swamp. Featuring Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya and the hypnotic and indescribably weird (even by the standards of this very weird record) Walk On Guilded Splinters; "Walk through the fire, fly through the smoke, see my enemy at the end of a rope". If you are not in a stupor when you start listening you will be by the end.,Sweat%26TearsChildIsFathertotheMan.jpg

One of the best sounding records of the era (it still sounds great today), Child Is Father To The Man was Blood Sweat & Tears debut record. From Rolling Stone's review:
"This album is unique. More precisely, it is the first of its kind — a music that takes elements of rock, jazz, straight blues, R&B, classical music and almost anything else you could mention and combines them into a sound of its own that is "popular" without being the least bit watered down."
It was not until the release of their second album in late 1968 that they achieved big record sales, but Child remains the best work done by the band. BS&T was the brainchild of Al Kooper, founder of The Blues Project and session man (and self-promoter) extraordinaire - that's him playing the swirly organ on Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone.

Kooper recruited top notch jazz horn players to add to a traditional rock band lineup. Working with John Simon, one of the best producers of the 60s, Kooper wrote most of the songs for the album and also demonstrated a great ear for new, and little known, talent choosing to do covers of songs by Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson. He was also responsible for the creative arrangements for each song. Al's one weakness is also apparent on the record. He insisted on being the lead singer, and he was lousy at it. His refusal to relinquish that role lead to the rest of the band turning on him and he was forced to leave, being replaced by David Clayton-Thomas for the second album.

My Days Are Numbered
I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know (listen to how the arrangement builds throughout the song)
I Can't Quit Her
So Much Love/Underture

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The JFK Files

The recently released government documents on JFK's assassination contained this bombshell:

(courtesy of Jim Geraghty of NRO)

For what really happened read these THC posts.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Farthest Outpost

The reach of Rome was enormous, extending further than commonly recognized today.  It's even more impressive given the slow pace of travel 2000 years ago.  We've discussed Roman penetration into the northern part of what is now Saudi Arabia, but the empire maintained a garrison several hundred miles further south, near the entrance to the Red Sea, on the Farasan islands close to the border of Saudi and Yemen (see maps below). Their presence introduces us to a Roman world not solely defined by the borders of empire drawn in solid lines on a map but to a much broader world of commerce and interconnection extending well into the Indian Ocean.

Although there are some obscure references in classical literature to a Roman presence in the southern portion of the Red Sea, it was only confirmed with the 21st century findings of two inscriptions on the islands.  These show the island was first garrisoned during the reign of Trajan (98-117 AD) and the presence likely continued for several decades, possibly into the third century AD.

The outpost was 600 miles from the nearest Roman port, Berenice on the Egyptian side of the Red Sea, 1,200 miles south of Alexandria, 3,000 miles from the city of Rome, and more than 4,000 miles from Hadrian's Wall on the northern borders of the empire.

To understand why there was a Roman presence deep in the Red Sea we need to discuss Rome's eastern expansion and the critical economic role played by its trade with southern Arabia, India and, to a lesser extent, Ethiopia and Somalia.  It was during the 1st century BC that Rome first came into extensive direct contact with these areas.  Pompey the Great's campaigns during the 60s resulted in Syria and Judea becoming provinces and client kingdoms of Rome.  Caesar's victory in the civil war with Antony and Cleopatra led to Egypt becoming a Roman province in 30 and Nabataea, with its famous capital of Petra, situated east of the Sinai and south of Judea, submitting as a client kingdom.

The civil war settlement created opportunities and problems.  At the end of the war there were sixty Roman legions still in the field, perhaps more than 500,000 soldiers including auxiliaries.  Augustus needed to disband some of these units but also find a way to field a large enough army to protect the expanded borders of the empire.  His solution was to create a professional, paid army of 28 legions (nearly 300,000 including auxiliaries).  Soldiers would serve for 20 years and upon retirement be granted a pension.

Where would the funds come to support the army?  Estimates are that perhaps 70% of the Empire's annual spending was needed to pay for the army.  Rome had relatively light taxes on its provinces and many of the newly acquired border lands did not provide enough revenue to support the legions stationed there.  The light taxation was part of the deal which kept newly conquered lands quiescent and willing to assimilate into Roman ways.

Part of the solution was Egypt, an astonishingly wealthy land by classical standards, with a flourishing agricultural sector and trading connections to the East.  Egypt alone may have contributed 1/3 of the revenue of the Roman Empire and in the immediate wake of Augustus' annexation increased Rome's revenue by more than 50%.  Egypt was so important that Augustus, and his successors, retained it under their direct rule.  Roman senators were not allowed to visit Egypt except if permitted by the emperor and its governor was always appointed from the lower equestrian class.

By that time, Egypt had already opened up direct trade with India from the Red Sea ports of Myos Hormos and Bernice.  In 118 BC, a Ptolemaic ship had rescued an Indian sailor blown off course in the Indian Ocean.  From him, they learned the secrets of the monsoon winds and how to use them to sail in the late summer for India and return in late winter.  At the time of the Roman conquest perhaps a couple of dozen ships were sailing each year from Egypt to India or to points in between where Indian traders would meet them.

But with Rome's increased wealth and the exposure of its upper classes to the exotic goods of Arabia Felix (modern Yemen and Oman) and India, trade exploded.  By the first century AD over 100 ships a year were sailing directly from Egypt to India with countless others visiting points between in Africa and Arabia.  To accomplish this, the two ports were improved and Rome established and protected a road network from the town of Coptos on the Nile to the ports.  Travelers were required to have government issued permits in order to travel from Coptos to the ports.

It was a twelve day sail down the Nile from Alexandria to Coptos and seven to twelve days further to the ports.  The army established watering stations and garrisons to protect caravans from raiders.  Along the trail extensive commercial operations could be found - granite and porphyry quarries along with emerald and gold mines.  Along with trade goods the road network also allowed for support of the working populations in the ports (it's been estimated that 500 camel loads a month were required to support Berenice).  This required a substantial investment in infrastructure and commitment of sizable military forces.  It was paid for by a 25% tax on all imports (this contrasts with a 2.5% tax on goods traveling between Roman provinces, a tax from which Italy was exempt).  The revenue from the tax became a substantial contributor to the budget of the empire and aided in maintaining the legions.

What was it that attracted the Romans?  The best description of this trade can be found in The Roman Empire and the Indian Ocean: The Ancient World Economy and the Kingdoms of Africa, Arabia and India (2014) by Raoul McLaughlin (some of the conclusions the author draws regarding the relative economic value of the trade and its economic contribution to the Roman state are made on very sketchy and extrapolated data and should be used with caution, but his overall picture of the trade is enlightening).

McLaughlin writes:
"Eastern goods transformed Roman culture by offering new food flavorings, perfumes, medical remedies, jewellery styles and clothing fashions.  As Piny the Elder observed, 'people used to gather their ingredients from home and there was no demand for Indian pepper and these other luxuries that we now import from overseas'."

"The town houses and country villas of wealthy Romans were stocked with fashionable ornamental furniture made from ebony and other exotic woods, embellished with bright turtle shells veneers and ivory inlays.  These materials were used to make dining couches, centrepiece tables and more private furniture, including beds."
Another concise description of trade can be found in the New Testament: Revelations 18:23 (early Christians referred to Rome as Babylon).  I've boldfaced those items obtained from the eastern trade:
"your businessmen are the most powerful in the entire earth and with your bewitchments you have deceived all the nations of the world . . .. merchandise of gold, silver, jewels, pearls and fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, ivory, articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh and frankincense".
The last three on the list were primarily supplied by Arabia Felix, which obtained the Latin designation of Felix because of what was viewed as its favorable climate, its protected geography (to the north lay the desert and to all other sides the ocean), and the wealth generated by its products (which also included gold and gems).  Some of the incense crops could also be found in Somalia, while pearls came from both the Red Sea and India.  India was the source of spices, of which the most important was pepper, along with gemstones which McLaughlin describes as "a stunning range of gems with a bewildering variety of colours and attractive properties."

There were also other exotic imports from the area such as wild animals from Ethiopia and Somalia and tortoise shells.  More mundane items also show up.  Rome's monumental structures required enormous amounts of cut marble and it was discovered that the best cutting sands to aid in the process came from Ethiopia prompting it to become a major import.

Roman ships also sailed down the east coast of Africa as far as Zanzibar to trade.  They routinely visited the Tamil kingdoms of south India, where Roman artisans and ex-soldiers were recruited to serve as carpenters and mercenaries for the royal families.  The chief port of the area had a permanent Roman presence, including Jews and early Christians, that grew into the thousands in the late fall when the ships arrived with the monsoon.
File:Map of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.jpg
In 52 AD direct communication was opened between Rome and Taprobane (Sri Lanka) when a freedman of the Alexandria trader Publius Annius Plocamus was caught in gale, swept out to sea.  The freedman obtained an audience with the king, who was impressed enough to send an embassy to Emperor Claudius.  Claudius gave a gift of red coral, a material highly valued in India and Taprobane, to the embassy which was donated by the king to a Buddhist temple which remained celebrated as a treasure from "Romanukha"  in local literature a thousand years later.  Direct sailing from Egypt to Taprobane commenced and soon Roman ships began exploring up east coast of India.  By the early second century Ptolemy listed sixty cities and ports on the east coast all the way to the Ganges Delta in Bengal and Bangladesh.  The most venturesome of Roman captains made it as far as Tamala on the northwest edge of the Malay peninsula.

The demand during for goods during the first and second centuries AD caused the trade to grow and it generated huge profits for businessmen (one pound of incense cost the equivalent of 50 days of wages for a skilled labourer) and substantial tax revenues for the empire.  The demand was so high that the second century orator Aristides proclaimed:
"there is clothing from Babylon and ornaments from the barbarian world beyond . . . there are so many cargoes from India and Arabia Felix that you might imagine that their trees have now been left bare . . ."
There was always a delicate economic calculation in determining whether it was more valuable to the empire to annex new territories or whether it was more profitable to maintain trade arrangements from which more substantial tax revenues could be derived.

In the time of Augustus (at least until the disaster in the Teutoberg forest of Germania in 9 AD) the balance weighed in favor of expansion.  After the acquisition of Egypt and Nabataea becoming a client kingdom Rome became fully aware of the wealth of Arabia Felix.  The Nabataeans in particular maintained a lucrative land and sea trade, serving as middlemen for the incense trade.  Augustus decided to conquer Arabia Felix and specifically the kingdom of Sabea in the mountains of northern Yemen, which lies approximately across the waterway from the Farasan Islands.

To accomplish this task the Roman governor of Egypt, Aelius Gallus, led an expedition in 25 BC.   A fleet was built to support the effort and two legions marched overland from Nabataea.  A march of 80 days brought them several hundred miles south nearing the Sabean capital.  But severe disease (possibly scurvy) struck Gallus' force and he ordered a retreat.  Upon his return Gallus advised Augustus that Arabia Felix could not be conquered by soldiers from the Mediterranean, putting an end to Roman expansion into Arabia.  However, one beneficiary byproduct to Rome was that its campaign destabilized the Sabean regime which was overthrown.  The new rulers of the Saba-Himyarite Kingdom were friendly to Rome, opening their ports to direct trade.

Over the next century, relations between the Saba-Himyarites, Nabataeans, and Romans remained cordial.  The Nabataeans patrolled the Red Sea coast protecting their ships from pirates and trade prospered.

In 106 AD the situation changed.  With the death of the Nabataean king, Emperor Trajan decided to annex his lands and make it the Roman province of Arabia.  Rome took over direct management of the trade routes.  Soon thereafter we have the first inscription documenting the Roman garrison on the Farasans.  Whether the Romans took over a pre-existing Nabataean fort, were invited by the Saba-Himyarites, or just decided on their own to occupy the islands is unknown.  The troops were a detachment from Legio VI Ferrata, whose home base was in Nabataea.

The specific purpose of the Roman garrison can only be speculated upon.  The islands were only 60 miles from the main Saba port of Muza and 120 miles from the important Ethiopian port of Adulis on the western shore of the Red Sea.  It was also not too far from the rich pearl fisheries in the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb at the southern entrance of the Red Sea.  The garrison, along with elements of the Roman fleet, could have helped suppress pirates and protect the nearby ports, pearl fisheries, and Nabataean trading settlements in Somalia, as well as serving as a customs outpost.

Trajan may have had a longer term plan in mind as well.  In 115 Trajan invaded Parthia, captured its capital and reached the Persian Gulf.  If he had succeeded in maintaining that conquest, it's possible that reviving Roman plans to occupy Arabia Felix may have been next and the Farasan garrison might have been an advance force.

However, with Trajan's withdrawal from Parthia any such plans were cancelled though the Farasan garrison remained in place.  What did change is how it was garrisoned.  The second inscription recently discovered dates to 143-44 and is by garrison commander Castricius Aprinus, described as Prefect of the Port of Farasan and of the Sea of Hercules (Bab-el-Mandeb). The title indicates the formality of Roman occupation and its wide ranging scope.  Aprinus is also from the Roman legion stationed in Egypt.  The change is a likely indicator of the relative decline in the importance of Nabataean trade and the growing significance in Egypt's connections with the East.

We have no evidence on when the Farasan garrison was withdrawn.  Perhaps, now that the two inscriptions have been discovered additional archaeological work may help answer that question.

There is one last intriguing aspect of Rome's connection with the East.  In 166, the chronicles of China's Han Dynasty record a Roman delegation from Marcus Aurelius having an audience with the Han Emperor.  There are two schools of historical thought about this "delegation".  One that it was merely a group of Roman merchants who branded themselves as a formal embassy to obtain access to the emperor, the second that Marcus Aurelius really did send an embassy on a merchant ship possibly to seek Chinese support in his planned expedition against Parthia.  There was to be no followup from Rome.

A couple of years before the Roman delegation reached China, the Han army on its northwest frontier suffered an epidemic outbreak of disease.  Up to a third of China's soldiers may have died.  The epidemic moved west along trade routes, reaching Parthia and then infecting the Roman armies in the East who has they returned carried the disease into Rome's European territories.  What became known as the Antonine Pandemic killed untold millions in the Roman Empire, weakening its armies and economy.  At the same time, the invasions of Germanic tribes across the Danube began, even penetrating into Italy at one point.  Countering this threat was to preoccupy Aurelius until the end of his reign in 180 (events portrayed in a fanciful, and very entertaining, way in the movie Gladiator).  Though Aurelius ultimately triumphed, Rome's treasury was exhausted.

Trade and eastern connections were further damaged by the events of the third century.  Rome went through a chaotic period from 235 to 284 with civil war and almost fifty emperors and pretenders.  The Parthians were overthrown by the Sassanians who posed a greater threat to Rome.  The most powerful of the Indian kingdoms Rome had traded with also broke up during this century leading to more unsettled conditions, and the Han dynasty collapsed in 220 leading to a long period of instability in China.

Behind all this was a long term economic conundrum that Rome could not solve.  Rome's appetite for eastern luxury goods was insatiable.  But while there were certain goods desired in Arabia and India in exchange (wine, red coral, furniture, tableware, art) it was not enough to pay for Roman imports.  The difference had to be made up by gold and silver bullion (often in the form of coins).  By later in the second century Rome's primary sources for both, much of which were located in Spain, were in decline, leading to both devaluation of currency and difficulty in financing imports.  At the same time, as trade declined Rome's tax revenue from imports also declined impacting its ability to support the army.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Dinner With Don

This January, less than three months before he passed at the age of 90, Don Rickles filmed a series of short clips called Dinner With Don.  This is my favorite, with Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorcese.  Enjoy.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Thick As A Brick

Ran across this acoustic version of Jethro Tull's Thick As A Brick by Australian musician Carolyn Oates.  I like it better than the original.

While we're on Jethro Tull, here's a dynamite version of one of the best rock guitar solos, Martin Barre's work on Aqualung.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Cowgirl In The Sand

Enigmatic rock classic that never gets old.   Recorded in 1969 by Neil Young & Crazy Horse, it remains a staple of Young's concerts nearly 50 years later.  This version, from a 1990s concert, is 18 minutes long.  If you don't have time to listen to the whole thing, just take in the guitar intro during the first three minutes.

The story is that one day when Young was sick abed with a fever he wrote Cowgirl In The Sand, Cinnamon Girl, and Down By The River.  I read it on the internet so it must be true.

And here's an acoustic version from 1971.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sam Houston, Dual Citizen

During his lifetime, Sam Houston (1793-1863) was, at various times, a citizen of the United States, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the Cherokee Nation.  One of my favorite characters in American history (for more, read Sam Houston: The Raven), I was not aware until today that his Cherokee citizenship was actually embodied in a document, and that the document still survives (see below).  It was issued on October 21, 1829, one hundred and eighty eight years ago on this date.

Houston had a long history with the Cherokee, having run away to live with them for three years as a teenager.  Several years later, he became the US government Indian agent for the Cherokee, though it is likely he was representing the tribe's interests to the government as the reverse.  Then, after the publicly humiliating collapse of his marriage caused him to resign the governorship of Tennessee, he fled to join his friends, now exiled to the Arkansas-Oklahoma borderlands.

In 1829 no one anticipated that Sam would go on to lead Texas to independence, becomes first president of the new republic, and then a U.S. senator and governor of the Lone Star State.

Document admitting Sam Houston to Cherokee nation, October 1829"

____ [?] an order has been published by the agent of
the cherokee Nation requiring all white men who re-
side in the Nation without the consent of the chiefs
of the Said Nation to comply with certain rules
and regulations set forth in Said order. Now be it
Known by them present, that Genl Samuel Houston,
late of the State of Tennessee, has been residing in
the Nation for Some time past, and has manifested
a disposition to remain with us. In consideration
of his former acquaintance with and Services rend-
dered to the Indians, and his present disposition,
to improve their condition and benefit their cir-
cumstances, and our confidence in his integrity, and
talents, if he Should remain among us; We do as
a committee appointed by order of the principal
chief John Jolly; Solemnly, firmly, and irreconcil- [?]
ably Grant to him for ever all the rights, privileges
and numunities [immunities] of a citizen of the cherokee Nation
and do as fully impower [sic] him with all rights  and
liberties as tho he was a native cherokee, w[hile]
at the Same time the Said Houston be [?]
required to yield obedience to [text missing]


(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, via Foundation for Economic Education)