By John Ruberry

Synesthesia: “A sensation produced in one modality when a stimulus is applied to another modality, as when the hearing of a certain sound induces the visualization of a certain color,” so says Dictionary.com.

If there is a void in your musical life and you are a fan of the Kinks and the Beatles, or perhaps Oasis, then I suggest you explore the career of XTC, the most unappreciated band of its time.

And what a time it was. XTC was part of the Class of 1977, rock and roll’s last great year in my opinon, when the Clash, Blondie, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello and many more burst onto the musical scene. By 1999, after a seven year strike against its British label, when they released their penultimate album, Apple Venus Volume 1, only Costello and XTC remained as active acts.

Like the Beatles, XTC evolved musically into a much different group when it was all over.

Late last year in Great Britain and early this year in the United States, the documentary, yes, rockumentarty, XTC: This Is Pop was released. It’s available where I live on Showtime and Xfinity OnDemand.

What became XTC began in the southwestern English city of Swindon, the onetime home of the Swindon Works of the Great Western Railway, with a band started by its de facto leader, Andy Partridge. Bassist Colin Moulding and drummer Terry Chambers rounded out the nucleus of the group. London keyboardist Barry Andrews, the only XTCer who is not interviewed for This Is Pop, later joined; he appears on the band’s first two albums, White Music and GO2, which comprise the band’s punk period. After Andrews’ departure he was replaced by another Swindonian, guitarist Dave Gregory.

“I actually think we started pretty damn good and then got a lot better. And there’s not too many bands can say that’s their arc,” Partridge immodestly but correctly boasts about XTC.

Yet there is some humor in This Is Pop that offsets the braggadocio.

“Don’t you dare have-into this documentary,” Partridge waves off “that lugubrious keyboard player from that prog-rock group,” Rick Wakeman of Yes, who makes a hilarious cameo.

Partridge says of his troubled childhood, “I never thought I was good at anything until I got more and more into drawing and painting.”

Imagine if legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, who early in his life aspired to be a painter, formed a rock group instead. It just might have sounded like XTC.

The band’s breakthrough in 1979 came not from a Partridge-penned tune but one by Moulding, “We’re Only Making Plans For Nigel” from their third album, Drums and Wires, which Little Marathon Pundit said of the other day, “That’s one song I like.” If its sonorous drum patterns seem familiar, that’s because engineer Hugh Padham discovered that effect while recoding “Nigel” before bringing the technique to Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight.” Many other 1980s acts swiped that sound.

The next two albums, Black Sea and English Settlement, brought more–albeit modest–success and momentum to XTC as it rounded out its New Wave period. But as the Kinks often bungled their career, XTC’ sabotaged things too, although not intentionally as I’ve always suspected the Kinks did. The effects of Partridge’s Valium addiction, which went back to when he was 12, and the withdrawal effects, led to a nervous breakdown during a Paris concert–which is shown in This Is Pop. The lads from Swindon still traveled to the United States for their first tour as a headliner. But what should have been an American victory lap lasted just one show. Outside of a smattering of radio and television appearances, they never performed live again.

XTC’s pastoral era brought three albums, Mummer, The Big Express, and Skylarking. But within that period XTC’s psychedelic alter ego, the Dukes of Stratosphear, released two collections that outsold those last two in the UK.

Before recording Skylarking, Partridge tells us, their record label issued an ultimatum: You need to grow your American audience and hire an American producer. Presented with a list of unfamiliar names, Partridge chose the only one he had heard of: Todd Rundgren. The result was the band’s masterpiece, Skylarking. On it you find the conceptual orchestral greatness of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But because Partridge and “Runt” butted heads–they probably had too much in common–the studio atmosphere mirrored the angst of the Beatles’ White Album recording sessions. XTC came close to blowing this moment too as the original pressings of Skylarking omitted the best song from the Rundgren sessions, the controversial atheist anthem “Dear God.” It was the B-side of the “Grass” single. American deejays elevated “Dear God” to prominence. Their record company was right, XTC needed a jump start from America.

Earlier I mentioned synesthesia. “How I write a lot of the songs, I will find a chord or a chord change on a guitar or on a keyboard,” Partridge describes his songwriting technique, “and I’m playing those but not I’m not hearing music–I’m seeing pictures. That’s how I write songs, it comes usually from the synesthesic level.”

And I wager you thought I was overreaching with the Akira Kurosawa comparison.

“Synesthesia is where you get stuff mixed up,” Partridge expands on his thoughts, “someone will say a number and you’ll hear a noise, or someone will show you a color and you’ll think of a number, or you’ll hear a peace of music or a chord and to me it makes a picture.”

And that is why XTC’s music is different.

The follow-up to Skylarking was 1989’s Oranges and Lemons, another success as XTC entered its proto-Britpop era.

Chambers left during the pastoral period and Gregory departed shortly after XTC’s recording strike ended. Their band’s final album, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2), was released in 2000.

An eclectic group of commentators contribute context to This Is Pop, including Stewart Copeland of the Police, Blondie’s Clem Burke, and a veteran mockumentary performer, Harry Shearer, who, unlike Wakeman, plays it straight here.

Woven into This Is Pop is the countryside of southwestern England and a model train set winding through an intricately-reconstructed Swindon, because it doesn’t seem possible to separate XTC from their hometown.

XTC: This Is Pop is an essential film about an essential band, a group that belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The documentary can be streamed on Amazon.

John Ruberry, who has been an XTC fan since 1979 after hearing “We’re Only Making Plans for Nigel” on WXRT-FM in Chicago, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Deep in southwestern Germany in the Rhineland-Palatinate state lies the small village of Kallstadt, which has about 1,200 residents.

It is well-known for two reasons. It’s a stop on the German Wine Route and it’s the ancestral home of Henry J. Heinz, the founder of the H.J. Heinz Company, and President Donald J. Trump. In fact, Heinz and Trump’s grandfather, Kallstadt-born Friedrich Trump, were second cousins.

I was digging deep–very deep–on Netflix for something interesting to watch when I stumbled across Trump’s face on a movie poster for Kings of Kallstadt, a documentary by Simone Wendel, a Kallstadter. It was filmed in 2012 and released in 2014; her movie probably would have been forgotten outside of Rhineland-Palatinate had the Trump Train not steamrolled into Washington last year.

Much of the dialogue is in German–with subtitles of course.

There is a Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon feel within Kallstadt, because Wendel tells us that “the sun always shines and the wine never runs out.” And while Kallstadt has only 1,200 inhabitants it counts 1,600 members in its 27 clubs. “That amounts to 135 percent of love,” Wendel beams. Does Kallstadt have a Miss Kallstadt? No, it has a Wine Princess. No, make that two of them, which is a situation you might expect to find in the Andy Griffith Show’s Mayberry. Kallstadt’s culinary delicacy is saumagen, that is, stuffed sow’s stomach.

Yummy!

Trump is interviewed here, along with the family historian, Trump’s cousin John Walter. If you ever imagined what our president would be like if he was a modest accountant–that’s Walter. Because he’s a modest, albeit retired, accountant.

Fascinatingly, even before he officially entered the political world, the man who was then simply known as the King of New York felt compelled to bring up his troubled relationship with the media.

“Okay, I think (there are) a lot of misconceptions about me,” Trump explains to Wendel in a Trump Tower conference room. “I’m a lot nicer person than the press would have you think. I don’t want to ruin my image by telling you that, but I believe that.”

Not discussed in the film is what Donald and his father, Frederick, said about their heritage–the Trumps were Swedish–which the legions Trump-haters jumped on during the presidential campaign. But the Swedish fib is an understandable distortion of the truth. During World War I it was quite common for German-Americans to hide their ethnicity. I regularly run into people who tell me stories of a grandfather or great-grandfather who changed his name from say Muller, to Miller, after being hounded out of a town as Americans fought the Kaiser’s army. After World War II Trump’s grandmother, Elizabeth, and Frederick rented many apartments and sold many houses to Jewish New Yorkers, who understandably had extremely uncomfortable feelings about Germans.

“He had thought, ‘Gee whiz, I’m not going to be able to sell these homes if there are all these Jewish people,'” Walter told the now-failing New York Times last year about the dilemma of Trump’s dad.

More on Grandma Elizabeth in a bit.

“After the war, he’s still Swedish,” Walter continued. “It was just going, going, going.”

As for the Swedish tale, Donald repeated it for his best-seller, The Art Of The Deal. Frederick was still alive then. But by 1990 the Swedish stuff was dead lutefisk.

Outside Chicago’s Trump Tower in 2017

Friedrich Trump left Kallstadt at age 16 for America where he enjoyed great success in Seattle, Yukon, Alaska, and then New York. Walter tells Wendel that Grandfather Trump married Elizabeth Christ, a Kallstadter. She demanded that he sell his American properties and return to Kallstadt, which, in a story Trump confides to Walter that he never heard, Prince Leopold of Bavaria deported Friedrich. Yes, a Trump was deported! Friedrich died in 1918 in Queens, likely an early victim of that year’s flu pandemic. Elizabeth and Frederick then founded Elizabeth Trump and Son Company, now known as the Trump Organization.

Back to the almost present: a group of Kallstadters are invited as guests of New York’s German-American Steuben Parade. Trump was the parade’s grand marshal in 1999. They also visit Pittsburgh and the Heinz History Center, where amazingly, no members of the Heinz family meet them. Say what you will about Donald J. Trump, but he earnestly tries to make himself accessible except to those who are openly hostile to him. Trump could have easily dismissed Wendel’s request for an interview for her quaint little film. But Trump has alway been a salesman.

The Kallstadters attend a Pittsburgh Pirates game–big league baseball–but one cranky woman constantly complains that there is “no action” in the game.

But is there is a lot of action in a 0-0 soccer match, frau? Other than the brawls in the bleachers?

Then comes the Steuben Parade. As the Kallstadters–two of whom are carrying a giant model of a saumagen–and Walter gather on the route, an “Obama 2012” sign is seen from a window behind them.

Blogger in Washington State last year

Late in the film Wendel asks Trump if would like to visit Kallstadt. “When I’m over there I will certainly visit,” he replies. “Absolutely.”

The president will be in Germany next week for the G20 summit. No word of a Trump homecoming yet, along the lines of his visit to the birthplace of his mother in Scotland in 2008. Although Trump isn’t very popular in Kallstadt, at least according to media reports, since his political rise.

“Believe me,” Trump just might respond to such stories, “that’s just fake news, believe me.”

In addition to Netflix, Kings of Kallstadt is also available on Amazon. It’s an enjoyable, wunderbar, and yes, big league movie. Even if you hate Trump. Believe me.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Bob Woodward: Hunt’s come in from the cold. Supposedly he’s got a lawyer with $25,000 in a brown paper bag.
Deep Throat: Follow the money.
Bob Woodward: What do you mean? Where?
Deep Throat: Oh, I can’t tell you that.

All the President’s Men 1976

Old friend Tom Bowler from Libertarian leanings who was once a regular on my old radio show sent over this post a few days ago that got to the heart of the Russia/Special prosecutor line of the left:

Democrats would once again like to execute from the Comey-Fitzgerald playbook. As with the case of I. Lewis Libby, there is no underlying crime to investigate, only a lot of partisan hyperventilation about ordinary and proper contacts, such as those between then Senator Jeff Sessions and the Russian ambassador. The element of intrigue is introduced only by the ridiculous and farfetched story that Russia interfered in the November election in order to help Donald Trump become president, and that the Trump campaign colluded with them. That fantasy hangs on because without it there is no rationale for conducting an investigation, and Democrats are desperate to investigate.

They are not really after Attorney General Sessions, though they would welcome his forced resignation if they could get it. They want Trump.

After debunking the Russia hacking story Tom talks about the real reason why the left is so zealous here.

I thought of Thomas’ post when I saw the ending of Robert Stacy McCain’s latest:

…feminists spent a couple of years insisting that every college boy who so much as hinted at an interest in heterosexual activity on campus was a potential rapist. “Consent training” became a mandatory part of freshman orientation, and “affirmative consent” laws were imposed, shifting the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused.

Here in 2017, however, when campus rape cases make headlines, we await the feminist reaction and . . . Nothing. Silence. Crickets chirping.

For some reason, feminists haven’t said a word about Jonathan Henry-Walker or Kishawn Holmes. Nor have I noticed feminists commenting on the brutal attack against Priyanka Kumari, or the rape and kidnapping charges against Evan Xavier Little, or Oliver Funes-Machado, who decapitated his own mother, or Henry Jose Garcia who allegedly raped a girl from the time she was 11 until she was 15. All this violence against women, and yet feminists don’t seem to notice these crimes.

It’s almost as if there’s a pattern or something . . .

And both of these stories brought to mind this piece at of all places the Hollywood in toto about a documentary concerning race:

“People in the film business are afraid of it,” says Steele. ”I’m challenging the narrative at the table. It’s pissing people off.”

I Am, or How Jack Became Black” lets the filmmaker use his own biography to explore the impact racial politics are having on the nation. It’s a fair but withering look at a system that puts the emphasis on ethnicity, not the content of one’s character.

And Steele should know. He’s part black, part Jewish and deaf. His two children also have Latina ancestry from his ex-wife.

The film opens with Steele trying to figure out which box, or boxes, to check on his children’s school forms. Sound easy? Not so fast. How should he identify his own mixed-race children? And why can’t he simply opt out and let them simply be … Jack and June?

It’s a starting point for a serious, and seriously personal, examination of race in America.

What is the tie that binds these three stories together?  The secret comes from the final lines of the Hollywood in toto piece:

“Racism will never go away … that’s part of the human condition,” he says. “What makes today different … is that people make a living off of it. That’s a huge issue. Once you make a living off of race, what’s your motivation for it to go away?”

And that’s the key to the lock of this puzzle, as Tom put it when talking Trump’s goals

If he is successful, he will also have stripped much of the power from the party of big government

And big money from the Government for the left’s interest groups was the big reward of the Obama years as well as the potential reward if Hillary was elected.  And not just from taxpayers alone, after all what do you think the Justice department’s “settlements” that sent corporate cash to groups providing foot soldiers of the left was all about.  That’s why as Stacy put it the “rape epidemic” story was big during the end of the Obama years and in anticipation of a Clinton White house, but once both were over a different tack was made.

Readers will recall that feminists recently spent many months decrying an alleged “epidemic” of sexual assault at colleges and universities…Since last November’s election, however, we see that the focus of feminist activism shifted from the “campus rape epidemic” to organizing mass protests against the Trump administration. Does this mean that campus rape has ceased to be a priority for feminists? 

As we’ve already learned there is big money to be made in fighting Trump, the groups supporting a day without women for example had $246 million reasons to march and cry out.  It’s not about changing the world or social justice it’s to keep the checks coming that would explain this difference in attitude spotted by our filmmaker

You might think shooting “I Am” would leave Steele embittered about the state of American culture. Not even close.

“It made me much more positive, gave me more faith in the people,” he says. The strangers he met during the filmmaking journey proved more open-minded and fair than those showcased in press reports.

That’s because those strangers away from the camera who aren’t on the gravy train have no incentive to keep the scare up.  I’ll give Stacy the last word

Go check the Twitter feeds of Jessica Valenti, Laurie Penny, Amanda Marcotte and other prominent feminists and see if you get any sense of concern about the alleged “epidemic” of college girls being sexual assaulted. It’s as if the whole thing instantly evaporated just about the time the networks called Pennsylvania for Trump on Election Night.

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2016 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

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Everyone is talking about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy either razing her for getting pregnant or pointing out that she is being true to her pro life values and upholding a principle I believe that no parent should ever regret the existence of their child.

But while everyone is paying attention to this Bristol Palin post at Patheos I think this one is much more interesting:

What happens when a preschool is housed inside a nursing home?  The upcoming documentary “Present Perfect” gives us a glimpse into just that.  The filmmakers follow elderly residents at The Mount in Seattle, Washington as they interact with preschoolers who attend class within the walls of the retirement center.

The site of the film is here.  I think this an incredible idea.