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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, dobro guitar version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greeting, listeners from your prophetically genial host John Derbyshire, here among the mists and mellow fruitfulness of Fall on Long Island.
The opinionating world is loud with domestic issues this week: President Trump, Mrs Clinton, Harvey Weinstein, tax reform, the FBI … Ever the contrarian, I'm going to leave all that for you to peruse elsewhere — there are enough opinions about it all, Heaven knows — and devote this week's podcast to foreign topics and broad Culture War issues.
First let's travel to foreign parts. Abroad, this was a week of elections. I counted three, each one interesting in its own way. Let's take a look.
02 — Foreign elections: Czechia. Sunday the Czechs had an election in their country, which so far as I am concerned is Czechia. This was a parliamentary election, to select members of the national legislature. The Czech head of state, the President, is elected separately, on a different schedule — next time, this coming January.
The current President, by the way — the one up for re-election in January — is the very same guy, name of Miloš Zeman, whose 2015 Christmas message to his people I quoted here on Radio Derb at the time. That message was a stirring affirmation of national sovereignty and demographic stability after the great European immigration crisis of that summer. President Zeman's closing words to his fellow Czechs were, quote:
To close my Christmas message, I would like to tell you two clear sentences:
Well, that was the President, up for re-election in January. Meanwhile, last Sunday's elections to the Czech parliament turned the country's political system upside down.
President Zeman belongs to the Social Democratic Party, which was the biggest party in parliament after the last election four years ago. On Sunday the Social Democrats placed an embarrassing sixth.
Sunday's winner was the Trumpish ANO Party, which was only founded five years ago — impressive, even allowing for the fact that the modern nation of Czechia is itself only 24 years old. "Ano" means "yes" in the Czech language, and it's also an acronym for "Action of Dissatisfied Citizens" in that language. So plainly there are a lot of dissatisfied citizens over there.
What they're dissatisfied with, like so many people elsewhere, is their political establishment. Leader of the ANO party is Andrej Babiš, a billionaire businessman. Sample quote from him:
I will not accept refugee quotas [for Czechia] … We must react to the needs and fears of the citizens of our country. We must guarantee the security of Czech citizens. Even if we are punished by sanctions.
Dissatisfied Czechs seek a solution to their dissatisfaction in Trumpish nationalism. They were already pretty darn nationalist, as President Zeman's 2015 Christmas message showed. Czechia belongs to the Visegrád Group of East European countries, along with Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia, with Austria hovering on the edge of joining them after this month's election. The Visegrád group like the economic aspects of European co-operation but very much dis-like the EU's policies of mass Third World immigration.
Well, now the Czechs have taken a step further away from globalism and open borders. ANO isn't the most nationalist party in Czechia, by the way. That would be the Freedom & Direct Democracy Party, the local equivalent of France's National Front, Germany's AfD, or Geert Wilder's party in Holland. Freedom & Direct Democracy doubled their vote share on Sunday, to ten percent.
Yes, stuff is happening in Europe, and the political establishment is on the run. Good luck to the Czechs with their new parliament; and good luck to President Zeman in January.
Also on Sunday there was an election in Japan.
That country of course does not have a President. Its head of state is an Emperor. It has a parliamentary government, though, with elections at no more than four-year intervals by law. This interval was actually just three years, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling a snap election one year earlier than the legal limit.
Why did he do that? To distract from various simmering scandals, say cynics. To take advantage of a bump in his poll numbers for standing firm against Kim Jong Un's provocations, say the somewhat less cynical. Some of that, maybe; but mostly because his political opposition is in a state of disarray — always a good moment to call an election.
Abe won his election. That would seem to confound my narrative of an anti-establishment tide sweeping the world's democracies. You can't get any more establishment than Abe's party, the LDP, which has held power — or been the strongest party in a coalition — for 57 of the last 62 years. That would be like Republicans having had just one presidential term since Eisenhower. Yeah, I know, it sometimes seems like that …
So why is Japan bucking the anti-establishment trend? The same reason a dog licks its weenie: because it can.
The anti-establishment turnovers in Europe and the U.S.A. are a result of smug, cocooned political and media elites turning against their own people — embracing globalism, mass immigration, trade policies that destroy whole districts, and cultural attitudes that mock the idea of nationhood.
None of that applies in Japan. The Japanese people — including the elites! — like being Japanese. They don't want to be replaced by foreigners, however much Wall Street Journal editorialists tell them they should.
In the first half of this year Japan accepted just three refugees, out of eight and a half thousand applications. That's actually down from last year: in the first half of 2016 they accepted four. I guess someone was asleep at the switch there in 2016.
So the great ructions over globalism, nationalism, multiculturalism, and mass immigration that are driving anti-establishment feeling in the West just aren't in play in Japan. The Japanese electorate can concentrate their attention on other matters: energy policy, national defense, social security, the economy.
It sounds nice, doesn't it? A real nation, of people who know who they are, trying collectively to cope with unavoidable political issues — not with horrible problems they have blindly, stupidly, unnecessarily brought upon themselves via ethnomasochism and sentimental fantasies about human nature.
We can only admire, and dream.
04 — Foreign elections: Kenya. One more election. This one was in Kenya, for the presidency of that country.
Kenya is in Africa, so you know an election there is going to be … colorful, with the red of spilled blood prominent among the colors.
The Kenyans did not disappoint. There wasn't actually a lot of blood in the run-up to Wednesday's election. Only two people were killed: a bagatelle compared with, most notably, Kenya's 2007 election, when eleven hundred people were killed and several neighborhoods destroyed.
However, those two dead have to be added to the fifty-odd killed during and since the original election this past August. That election was both presidential and parliamentary. The parliamentary result stands, but the presidential result was nullified by Kenya's Supreme Court after the losing presidential candidate complained. This Wednesday's election was a re-run of the August presidential vote.
The loser — it was the same guy who lost in August — tried to have this one nullified, too; but only two of Kenya's seven Supreme Court judges showed up for work the day his petition was to be heard, and there needs five for a quorum, so the petition failed.
It's all been very African. Issues? Eh, there are issues in play. Kenyan politics, though, is mainly ethnic — like politics elsewhere in Africa, and like politics in the U.S.A. thirty years from now, if we don't get seriously to grips with the National Question.
The winner, Uhuru Kenyatta, belongs to the Kikuyu tribe; Kenya's biggest at 22 percent, but allied with other tribes like the Embu and Meru. The loser, Raila Odinga, is a Luo. They're 13 percent of the population, but again allied with other tribes like the Luhya.
What mainly strikes the eye of a British follower is the antiquity of those candidate's names. Kenyatta, Odinga: I remember them from the early 1960s, when Kenya got its independence from Britain. I was hanging out with Africans in London at the time, listening to their gossip.
Jomo Kenyatta was the first president of independent Kenya; this guy who won on Wednesday, Uhuru Kenyatta, is Jomo's son, sixth of his eight children.
Wednesday's loser Raila Odinga is likewise the son of Oginga Odinga, independent Kenya's first Vice President, and a thorn in the side of Jomo. Come on: How can you forget a name like Oginga Odinga?
You think we Americans have a problem with dynasties of Kennedys, Clintons, and Bushes? Spare a thought for the Kenyans, who are apparently stuck for ever with Kenyattas and Odingas.
Raila, by the way, is the second of Oginga Odinga's seventeen children. Kenya's current Total Fertility Rate is 3.1, quite low by African standards, so there's been some falling-off there.
I should add too that Raila Odinga — this is the junior, the one who just lost an election, in case you're losing track — Raila Odinga is a Marxist, or what passes for one in Africa. He graduated from a university in then-communist East Germany and named his oldest son after Fidel Castro. This guy is so far left, he could be Mayor of New York City.
There's an actual connection with U.S. politics here. Odinga and his son belong, as I said, to the Luo tribe. That is also the tribe of Barack Obama, Sr., the father of our 44th President. Oginga Odinga was the elder Barack's patron for a while.
In 2006, when Raila Odinga was running for President, Barack Obama Jr., at that time just a U.S. Senator, went to Kenya and campaigned for him, out of either tribal or ideological solidarity. Quote from The Washington Times, October 12th 2008:
Mr. Odinga and Mr. Obama were nearly inseparable throughout Mr. Obama's six-day stay. The two traveled together throughout Kenya and Mr. Obama spoke on behalf of Mr. Odinga at numerous rallies.
Alas, Obama, Jr.'s support didn't help Odinga, Jr. Odinga lost that election, leading to the afore-mentioned tribal massacres. In one particularly nasty incident, Luo rioters burned down a church where Christian Kikuyus had taken refuge, incinerating at least fifty people, including many children.
That's from a report in January 2008, by which point Barack Obama, Jr. was busy doing something else.
That's African politics for you. Oh, did I mention that Kenya ranks 145 out of 176 on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, with Denmark at number one and Somalia at 176. There, I mentioned it.
Czechia is at number 45 on that index, by the way; Japan is at 20, just below the U.S.A. at number 18.
So, three elections in three different continents, each with a radically different color and flavor to it.
Europe: electorates turning against demographic replacement and their political establishments. Asia: Japanese minding their own business and determined to stay Japanese. Africa: tribalism, dynasticism, corruption, and mayhem.
Taste the diversity!
05 — Prophets without honor. I recently got to meet social psychologist Lee Jussim of Rutgers University. Back in 2001 I had reviewed a book Dr Jussim had written in collaboration with two other scholars, book title Stereotype Accuracy, subtitle "Toward Appreciating Group Differences." My review was titled "Stereotypes Aren't So Bad," which is more or less the message of the book.
So here I was a few days ago meeting Lee Jussim for the first time, sixteen years and ten months after reviewing his book. I remarked to him that this sets my own personal record for longest interval between reviewing a person's book and actually meeting the person. Dr Jussim, who is a cheerful and good-natured fellow, laughed appreciatively.
Here's another much-too-long delay featuring Lee Jussim.
In May last year, Lee Jussim and another social psychologist, Jonathan Haidt — Haidt is the author of that excellent 2012 book Righteous Minds, about the moral psychology of our political beliefs — in May 2016 Jussim and Haidt published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, title: Hard Truths About Race on Campus.
That op-ed pointed out a thing that would be obvious if we had not all been so heavily indoctrinated to not notice obvious facts about race. Affirmative action policies in college admissions, wrote Jussim and Haidt, along with "diversity" indoctrination and the rest of the college "social justice" rackets have caused the intense and bitter racialization of our campuses.
Their argument went, that because of affirmative action, quote:
Asian students enter with combined math/verbal SAT scores on the order of 80 points higher than white students and 200 points higher than black students …
That op-ed was published May 6th last year. A week later, on May 12th last year, Jonathan Haidt put up a very striking post on the Heterodox Academy website. I missed that post at the time, and just recently had it brought to my attention.
So that's a year and a half between news item and my commenting on it; not as long as between me reviewing Lee Jussim's book and finally meeting him, but embarrassingly long none the less.
So: Jonathan Haidt's post last year at Heterodox Academy — why did I find it so striking?
I'll let Jonathan Haidt explain. This is taken from his post at Heterodox Academy. He's referring back to his joint Wall Street Journal op-ed with Lee Jussim the previous week. Quote:
As that essay was going to press, Heterodox Academy member Amy Wax sent us the text of an astonishing letter written in 1969, at the dawn of racial preferences, from Macklin Fleming, Justice of the California Court of Appeal. Judge Fleming had written a personal letter to Louis Pollak, the dean of Yale Law School.
End quote. So Yale Law School had implemented race quotas, and this California Appeals Court judge had something to say about it. What did he say? Quote from the judge.
The admission policy adopted by the Law School faculty will serve to perpetuate the very ideas and prejudices it is designed to combat. If in a given class the great majority of the black students are at the bottom of the class, this factor is bound to instill, unconsciously at least, some sense of intellectual superiority among the white students and some sense of intellectual inferiority among the black students.
This was written in 1969, remember. The judge continues, edited quote:
No one can be expected to accept an inferior status willingly. The black students, unable to compete on even terms in the study of law, inevitably will seek other means to achieve recognition and self-expression. This is likely to take two forms. First, agitation to change the environment from one in which they are unable to compete to one in which they can … Second, it seems probable that this group will seek personal satisfaction and public recognition by aggressive conduct, which, although ostensibly directed at external injustices and problems, will in fact be primarily motivated by the psychological needs of the members of the group to overcome feelings of inferiority caused by lack of success in their studies.
End quote. Judge Fleming's letter says much more than that; it is 2,500 words long. You can read the whole thing online. The main point here is that near the very beginning of affirmative action, Judge Fleming saw with perfect clarity how it would lead to the resentments, frustrations, and discord that characterize the racial situation today.
In Jonathan Haidt's words, quote:
If you read Judge Fleming's predictions after watching the videos of student protests, and then reading the lists of demands posted at TheDemands.org, the match is uncanny.
End quote. Indeed it is. Judge Fleming died in 2010 aged almost 99. I wonder how he felt, seeing all his dire predictions come true.
A prophet is without honor in his own country, we are told. That has proved nowhere more true than in matters related to the National Question.
Judge Fleming's letter, once again, went out in 1969, on June 9th of that year to be exact. A little over a year previously in Britain, Enoch Powell had made his famous speech predicting the future consequences of mass Third World immigration. The opening words of that speech were, quote: "The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils," end quote.
Powell was denounced and ostracized by the entire British establishment for his predictions, which of course have all come true. Judge Fleming seems not to have suffered that level of ignominy. His predictions were merely ignored.
Moral of the story here: When clear-eyed prophecies about the future consequences of present actions contradict fashionable dogmas, they will be ignored. If the prophet is a person of national prominence, he will be unanimously denounced by what George Bernard Shaw called the Great and the Good, and stripped of his honors.
Indeed, "The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils." And one of the functions of responsible citizenship for mature authority figures like Judge Macklin Fleming is to sound the alarm bell when they see preventable evils in the ascendant.
It is the tragedy of the modern West that prophets like Enoch Powell and Macklin Fleming have no honor in their own countries.
06 — Real estate and the National Question. Abroad again, this time the Antipodes.
Here's a National Question issue — an issue about government putting the interests of its own people before the concerns of foreigners — that doesn't get aired as much as it should, in my opinion.
The issue is, foreigners buying up residential property.
News story: The government of New Zealand is going to ban foreign buyers from purchasing existing homes in that country. There's a serious housing crisis in New Zealand, and foreign buyers are making it worse.
J.R.R. Tolkien is partly to blame. The author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit left us 44 years ago, but the movies made from his books more recently, many of them filmed among New Zealand's gorgeous landscapes, have got the attention of people worldwide looking for property in an exceptionally beautiful country.
New Zealand is a stable Anglo-Saxon country, too, making it doubly attractive to investors from countries whose politics are more fraught. I mean politically stable, of course; you have to not mind the occasional earthquake.
Furthermore, New Zealand is nicely remote, making it trebly attractive to people pessimistic about the world's future. Writers of catastrophe science fiction have favored it as a refuge for humanity's surviving remnant at least since John Wyndham's 1955 book The Chrysalids.
Our own tech billionaires seem to be prominent among those pessimists. Peter Thiel not only bought a spread in New Zealand; six years ago he took out New Zealand citizenship.
So the place is a beautiful, stable, remote bolt-hole. Did I mention it has low interest rates? Not surprising foreign property buyers have been piling in.
Here as elsewhere the Chinese have been leading the pack. Among wealthy Chinese, buying residential property, either as an investment or, abroad, for a bolt-hole against political uncertainty, is close to a mania. Chinese people deeply distrust their country's financial system — wisely so, as it's unstable, and rigged to the advantage of the powerful. When they have money to put anywhere, Chinese people put it into property.
The West coast of North America — both in Canada and the U.S.A. — knows all about this. In Vancouver things got so bad — I mean, foreign buyers, mainly Chinese, were jacking up property prices so high — that last year the provincial government imposed a fifteen percent property tax surcharge on foreign buyers. That just sent them to Seattle, though.
San Francisco likewise. There was a fuss there a few weeks ago after it emerged that Chinese investors in 2015 had bought an entire street in a tony neighborhood.
The ChiCom authorities are starting to get worried about this — not on behalf of us round-eyes, but because the capital outflows are helping make their financial system even shakier than it already was. Late last year the ChiComs imposed some controls, cooling the mania some, though so far more in the commercial-property market than in residential.
Reduced access to foreign property markets has also got China's domestic market overheating, worrying the leadership. ChiCom President Xi Jinping, in his 3½-hour speech to the Nineteenth Party Congress last week, alluded to this in the Chinese-domestic context. Stern quote from him, quote:
Houses are for living, not for speculating.
From a National Question point of view, it seems to me the Kiwis have the right idea. First dibs on a nation's housing stock should go to citizens of that nation. If working New Zealanders are living in their cars because they can't afford a home, something needs to change.
Likewise, if a Chinese murder suspect in San Francisco can put up $62 million dollars worth of local property as bail money, as happened back in April, while middle class Americans can't afford an apartment in that city, something needs to change.
I congratulate the New Zealanders on recognizing this. I wonder when our political leaders will follow them.
07 — Brexit: the long goodbye. It's been a year and four months since Britain voted for Brexit, to quit the European Union.
With this accent of mine left over from the mother country, I get asked a lot about Brexit. How's it going? people want to know.
Short answer: not well. Short, cynical answer: It's hardly going at all.
There are a number of issues in play. To quote from a rather good article by Stephen Castle in the New York Times last month, quote:
The Europeans insist that before discussing future trade ties, there must be progress on issues like the rights of European citizens in post-Brexit Britain (and those of Britons in continental Europe); the future of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland; and Britain's agreement to pay billions of euros to settle commitments made as a member nation.
End quote. None of those issues is insurmountable. I can't even see that any of them needs a year and four months to settle.
European citizens in post-Brexit Britain would be resident aliens. They'd have to register with the police periodically, as resident aliens in most countries have to (and resident aliens in the U.S.A. used to have to).
Britons in continental Europe likewise. A Briton living in Spain would have the same status, rights, and obligations as an Australian, a Bangladeshi, or a Chinese living in Spain. How is this difficult to arrange?
The Ireland / Northern Ireland border would be an international border between two friendly countries, like the one between Canada and the U.S.A. This isn't a new thing in the world. Why is it hard to arrange?
If Britain has monetary obligations to the EU that are enforceable in international law, of course she should pay them.
These aren't hard issues to sort out, surely not for a national government with legions of lawyers and other experts at its disposal. So why, in a year and four months, is it the case that, to quote Stephen Castle, "There has been almost no progress in Brussels on the issues that need to be resolved before a long-term trade deal between the two sides can be addressed"?
The answer seems to be two-fold: Internecine bickering among British politicians, and weak British leadership. Both were made much worse by the general election this June, which Tory Prime Minister Theresa May called in hopes of increasing her party's majority in parliament. Instead, the Tories lost their majority altogether, and are struggling forward in a coalition with a small unionist party from Northern Ireland.
It doesn't help that the British establishment — corporations, universities, the media — George Bernard Shaw's "the Great and the Good" again — are all hostile to Brexit. They regard those who voted for it the way Mrs Clinton regards Trump voters: as deplorables — ignorant snaggle-toothed hillbillies at best, fascists at worst.
The Brexit vote was of course anti-establishment. For Brexit not to happen, for that vote to be annulled somehow, would be a political earthquake comparable to President Trump getting impeached, convicted, and removed. The establishment would have won, but at a terrible cost to national harmony.
Yet it's hard to see how the Brits can ever get to Brexit at the present pace.
Stephen Castle tells us that the ruling Conservative Party contains a hard-line faction that wants to pay nothing at all to the EU and simply engineer a clean break with Europe, whatever the economic damage.
It looks to me as if the future lies either with that faction or with an establishment defeat of Brexit, followed by the consequences I just foresaw. Neither is a cheerful prospect; one or other is, I believe, inevitable.
08 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: Everybody and his brother sent me this story from campusreform.org. Headline: Prof: Algebra, geometry perpetuate white privilege.
The "Prof" in that headline is a rather comely young lady named Rochelle Gutiérrez who teaches at the College of Education in the University of Illinois. Professor Gutiérrez's scholarship, we learn from the college website, quote, "focuses on equity issues in mathematics education, paying particular attention to how race, class, and language affect teaching and learning," end quote. Well, isn't that precious.
Wait a minute: Gutiérrez … Illinois … is this prof any relation to Luis Gutiérrez, congresscritter-for-life from Illinois' 4th District and passionate Hispanic supremacist? If she is, I haven't been able to find the connection.
Whatever the case may be there, Professor Gutiérrez has just published a book arguing that, sample quotes, "On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness … Curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans." End quotes.
I can't even get mad about this. The lady teaches in a College of Education, not in a math department. Colleges of education are junkyards for affirmative action hires, we all know that.
It's a bit sad that the taxpayers of Illinois will pay this nitwit a professor's salary, when she should be serving behind some Dunkin Donuts counter; but I guess that's their business. Perhaps it's for the best; I doubt she'd be able to make change correctly at the donut shop.
Item: Last week I passed comment on the pronunciation of Harvey Weinstein's name, saying that since I'm not personally acquainted with the chap, I don't know how he likes his name pronounced, so I just go with the rules I learned in high school German class.
The common American pronunciation of these German-Jewish names — Wein-steen, Bern-steen, and so on — needs some explanation, though. What happened to the proper German pronunciation: Wein-stein, Bern-stein, etc.?
A friend of mine came up with an answer that sounds plausible to me. "Steen," he says — I think correctly — has a Dutch sound to it. Jewish immigrants with names ending "-stein" thought that "-steen" sounded classier.
My friend supports his case with a reference to the movie Young Frankenstein:
[Clip — Marty Feldman: "Doctor Frankenstein?" Gene Wilder: "Fronken-steen." Feldman: "You're putting me on!" Wilder: "No. It's pronounced 'Fronken-steen'." …]
I don't know how much support that gives to my friend's thesis; but having gone to YouTube to extract that sound clip, my nightmares will now be haunted by Marty Feldman's eyeballs for a month at least.
Spoke to President Xi of China to congratulate him on his extraordinary elevation. Also discussed [North Korea] & trade, two very important subjects!
End tweet. A friend asked me if I thought this appropriate — the elected President of our constitutional republic gushing to a communist dictator.
Eh, sometimes, in the national interest, politicians have to hold a candle to the Devil. If President Trump thinks that tweeting some sweet nothings to the ChiComs will help us get what we want, I hope he's right.
Was the President's tweet too gushy, though? You could argue it, I guess.
Xi Jinping's elevation was extraordinary. Our President got that right. The current Preamble to the Chinese Constitution contains a sentence much too long to quote in full but which begins, quote:
Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thought of Three Represents, the Chinese people of all nationalities will …
End quote, followed by a long list of things the Chinese people will do, if they know what's good for them.
Well, last week's party congress voted to add to that list of guidances the following phrase, quote: "Xi Jinping Thought for the New Era of Socialism With Chinese Special Characteristics," end quote. The guy's name will actually be there in the Constitution, at least until the next factional squabble makes him an unperson like Trotsky and Zhao Ziyang.
Item: Finally, our headline of the week, from NBC News, New York, October 26th. Headline: Nose-Picking Masturbator Terrorizes NYC Subway Riders.
The story comes with a picture taken by a fellow passenger — a picture, I hasten to add, of the nose-picking, not the other thing.
For some reason this reminds me of a challenge that used to be posed to small children in England: to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time. It's harder than you'd think, at any rate when you're six years old.
And I must say, in the matter of journalistic standards, the wording of the story and that headline are unnecessarily alarmist. There were certainly gross breaches of social decorum there, even by the standards of the New York subway; but there's no reported evidence of anyone being "terrorized."
The reporter tells us that, quote: "No injuries were reported," end quote. Why would there have been? I know we live in a hysterical age, but, while certainly the perp here needs some lessons in basic good manners, so far as I can tell he is harmless.
So just another case of breathless over-the-top news reporting, then. I think the NBC reporter here needs to get a grip on himself.
09 — Signoff. That's all for this week, ladies and gents. As always, thank you for listening, and may your Halloween pass without any untoward incidents: smashed pumpkins, zombie invasions, or lawsuits over inappropriate costumes.
Fats Domino died on Tuesday. I can't say Fats was much of a presence in my life, though I remember his big hits as part of the background wallpaper of the late 1950s. Scanning my archives, though, I see I quoted him once, four years ago, by way of responding to a commenter on one of my pieces at Taki's Magazine.
The commenter had asked me how, given my pessimistic outlook, I make it through the day. I replied by quoting Fats; or rather, by slightly mis-quoting him. Fats had been asked by some interviewer for life advice. Fats had answered, quote: "Clean living keeps me in shape. Righteous thoughts are my secret. And New Orleans home cooking." End quote. That had stuck in my mind somehow — words to live by.
The only other thing I recall about Fats was that when Chubby Checker became famous around 1960 for popularizing the Twist dance craze, he was famous for quite a while before anyone — well, anyone known to me at the time — realized that his stage name was a tribute to Fats Domino. Fats … Chubby; Domino … Checker. Get it? Possibly there was a whole raft of lesser talents that tried the same thing: Portly Dice, Stout Backgammon, Morbidly Obese Parcheesi Token,… I don't know.
Well, of course, we must have some Fats Domino music to see us out. Here is the man's biggest hit in its most definitive rendition, by Russian R&B sensation Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week. I already have the sign-off music lined up: Ray Charles' cover version of the Volga Boatmen …
[Music clip: Putin singing "Blueberry Hill."]