Saturday, January 29, 2011

Long Live the King

By Bernie Reeves
January 29, 2011

What to make of the success of The King's Speech? In today's cacophony of over-juiced films targeted at juveniles, the movie is an anachronism reminiscent of dramas on Masterpiece Theatre in the 1970s, raising the question: how can a movie with no pyrotechnics, promiscuity, car chases, or gratuitous violence draw large and appreciative audiences and several Oscar nominations?

The nearly rapturous reaction to the film by American audiences is partly due to the revelation that they had been duped by the melodramatic interpretation of the abdication of Edward VIII as the "love story of the century" about "the king who gave up his throne for the woman he loved." In this maudlin hyperbole, expressed in films and books since 1936, the new king, George VI, the real hero in the history of this dramatic transfer of power, was passed over in the popular culture. Now we have a different take.

Edward, who gained the throne for eleven months, agreed to step down and marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson. After much consternation at Buckingham Palace and Whitehall, he was styled the Duke of Windsor and offered insignificant posts abroad. He was appointed Governor of the Bahamas for the duration of World War II, but he did not refrain from expressing pro-Nazi views, which contributed to his estrangement by the royal family until the ice was broken by his niece Queen Elizabeth II in 1965. He died in virtual exile in Paris in 1972.

George VI was the opposite of his polo-playing, party-animal brother. He was a quiet man who embraced middle-class values and sought a sedentary life as the Duke of York. Thrust into the role of king and ruler of the vast British Empire by a twist of fate, he personified the British ideals of duty, honor, and rectitude. His queen consort, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, descended from the royal house of Scotland, became perhaps the most popular "royal" in British history in her role as Queen Mother to Elizabeth II.

Providence seems to have placed George on the throne at the moment when a man of his character was required to lead Britain through World War II -- just as the hand of fate moved simultaneously to elevate Winston Churchill to prime minster. As the British held on alone against the Nazi menace for nearly four years until America entered the war in Europe, the leadership and example of these two resolute men held the nation and empire together.

George's decision to keep his daughters Elizabeth and Margaret in London during the blitz, when most middle-class families removed their children to the countryside, Canada, and the U.S. to protect them from Nazi bombing raids, is acknowledged as a key factor that galvanized the citizens of London to endure the constant German bombing. The qualities of George VI are personified in his daughter -- and the monarchy has flourished in her reign. Had Edward kept his crown, history may have turned out far differently.

Another more subtle and refreshing aspect of the film is the acceptance by audiences that the British Empire is not flogged in the film. Instead, the producers are starkly unapologetic when our hero calls on his subjects worldwide to unify behind the coming war with Nazi Germany. After 65 years of unrelenting criticism of imperialism from academics, journalists, and film and TV producers, few if any comments have been uttered condemning The King's Speech for its unvarnished pride in the empire.

It is coincidental that the former British empire is undergoing reexamination by scholars. Several recent books have concluded that peoples and nations connected to the empire benefited more than they lost from colonization as they moved on to independence after World War II -- especially when compared to new nations that emerged from French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Belgian control. The British, in comparison, gave as much as they got, instituting stable governmental footprints; organized trade, communications and transportation systems; and most importantly, common law -- the paramount contribution of the raj. And the empire actually carries on in the institution of the Commonwealth of Nations. The Queen, as "head" of this organization of former British colonies and territories, plays a major role in British foreign policy via her back-channeling with the 54 member-states.

The King's Speech represents the victory of truth over popular sentiment -- and balances out the incessant criticism against the British Empire. On a more prosaic level, the film began its rise to mass popularity due to Boomers, who found a film they could appreciate. The movie industry has ignored this key audience to pander to juveniles and, in the process, further debased our culture. Long live the king!

Bernie Reeves is editor and publisher of Raleigh Metro Magazine and Founder of the Raleigh Spy Conference.

Uncle Sam in the driver's seat

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Sunday, January 30, 2011

Disregard Barack Obama's rhetorical cotton candy about aspiring to be transformative. He is just another practitioner of reactionary liberalism and champion of a government unchastened by its multiplying failures.

The word "entitlements" was absent from his nearly 7,000-word State of the Union address - a $183 million speech that meandered for 61 minutes as the nation's debt grew $3 million a minute. He exhorted listeners to "win the future" by remembering the past.

On May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, in the Utah Territory, a golden spike was driven to celebrate the joining of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads. In the 1960s, the United States sent men to the moon. Obama said: Today's government should take more control of the nation's resources so it can do innovative things akin to building the transcontinental railroad and exploring space.

The nation heard: You should trust the government whose recent innovations include the ethanol debacle that, four days before the State of the Union, the government expanded. And you should surrender more resources to the government whose recent innovations include the wild proliferation of subprime mortgages.

Obama spoke to a nation limping into a sixth year of declining housing prices (housing accounts for about one-quarter of households' assets), with an additional 10 to 20 percent decline likely. With 5 million households at least two months' delinquent on their mortgage payments and 5.5 million households with mortgages at least 20 percent larger than the value of their houses, more housing foreclosures will probably take place this year than the 1 million in 2010, when sales of new homes hit a 47-year low. It is indeed amazing what innovative government can accomplish.

The day after Obama told the nation that the key to prosperity is creativity defined by this government and propelled by more government spending ("investment"), the Congressional Budget Office said that this year's budget gap is widening to $1.5 trillion, making the national debt 70 percent of gross domestic product, up from 40 percent in 2008.

But Michigan's Levin brothers remain faithful to Obamanomics, which holds that prosperity is just around the corner - if government spends more on innovations it imagines. Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. Sander Levin have a combined 60 years of Capitol Hill tenure, and an innovation. Like most liberals' new ideas, theirs is to make an old idea more expensive. The day of the CBO's dark forecast, the Levins said that the government should double the scope of its program to bribe people to buy a kind of car the government likes much more than do buyers of cars.

The government already offers $7,500 tax incentives for people who buy electric cars such as the $32,780 Nissan Leaf and, more to the point, General Motors' $41,000 Chevrolet Volt. As The Post's Peter Whoriskey reported, these prices are "well above" those of "comparably sized cars with gasoline engines that can cost about $20,000."

Obama's goal of getting 1 million such cars on America's roads by 2015 cannot be met unless innovative government rigs the market. Introduced in 2008, the $7,500 bribe was limited to the first 250,000 cars. Under Obama's stimulus, it was expanded to 200,000 per manufacturer. The Levins, uttering liberalism's timeless rallying cry ("More!") want it to cover 500,000 per manufacturer.

The Levins' applied liberalism is regressive because it conscripts all taxpayers into subsidizing a fortunate few: As Whoriskey reported, the subsidy would flow to "early adopters" of a new kind of car, and they "generally tend to be affluent." But this is "all about economic and national security," says Robbie Diamond, president of the Electrification Coalition.

It represents, among others, people who sell electricity and related products and those who want to sell electric cars. The coalition's leaders include Carlos Ghosn, Nissan's chief executive, and Jeff Immelt, GE's chief executive and (simultaneously) chairman of Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Diamond says that electric cars will help prevent America from being "hostage to one fuel source produced in the world's unstable and often-hostile regions." America's two largest sources of imported oil are Canada and Mexico. Both Levins oppose tapping the large oil reserves in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Levins' innovation could cost $19 billion over 10 years, but if it does, says Sander, "it means that the program worked." So, a program "works" if it pays people enough to get them to do something they otherwise would consider irrational - to buy something so overpriced it would fail in an unrigged market. If it "works," the cry will be: "More!"

Friday, January 28, 2011

The old Obama in new clothing

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, January 28, 2011

The November election sent a clear message to Washington: less government, less debt, less spending. President Obama certainly heard it, but judging from his State of the Union address, he doesn't believe a word of it. The people say they want cuts? Sure they do - in the abstract. But any party that actually dares carry them out will be punished severely. On that, Obama stakes his reelection.

No other conclusion can be drawn from a speech that didn't even address the debt issue until 35 minutes in. And then what did he offer? A freeze on domestic discretionary spending that he himself admitted would affect a mere one-eighth of the budget.

Obama seemed impressed, however, that it would produce $400 billion in savings over 10 years. That's an average of $40 billion a year. The deficit for last year alone was more than 30 times as much. And total federal spending was more than 85 times that amount. A $40 billion annual savings for a government that just racked up $3 trillion in new debt over the past two years is deeply unserious. It's spillage, a rounding error.

As for entitlements, which are where the real money is, Obama said practically nothing. He is happy to discuss, but if Republicans dare take anything from granny, he shall be Horatius at the bridge.

This entire pantomime about debt reduction came after the first half of a speech devoted to, yes, new spending. One almost has to admire Obama's defiance. His 2009 stimulus and budget-busting health-care reform are precisely what stirred the popular revolt that delivered his November shellacking. And yet he's back for more.

It's as if Obama is daring the voters - and the Republicans - to prove they really want smaller government. He's manning the barricades for Obamacare, and he's here with yet another spending - excuse me, investment - spree. To face down those overachieving Asians, Obama wants to sink yet more monies into yet more road and bridge repair, more federally subsidized teachers - with a bit of high-speed rail tossed in for style. That will show the Chinese.

And of course, once again, there is the magic lure of a green economy created by the brilliance of Washington experts and politicians. This is to be our "Sputnik moment," when the fear of the foreigner spurs us to innovation and greatness of the kind that yielded NASA and the moon landing.

Apart from the irony of this appeal being made by the very president who has just killed NASA's manned space program, there is the fact that for three decades, since Jimmy Carter's synfuel fantasy, Washington has poured billions of taxpayer dollars down a rat hole in vain pursuit of economically competitive renewable energy.

This is nothing but a retread of what used to be called industrial policy - government picking winners and losers. Except that in a field that is not nearly technologically ready to match fossil fuels, we pick one loser after another - from ethanol, a $6 billion boondoggle that even Al Gore admits was a mistake, to the $41,000 Chevy Volt that only the rich can afford (with their extended Bush tax cuts, of course).

Perhaps this is all to be expected from Democrats - the party of government - and from a president who from his very first address to Congress has boldly displayed his zeal to fundamentally transform the American social contract and place it on a "New Foundation" (an Obama slogan that never took). He's been chastened enough by the election of 2010 to make gestures toward the center. But the State of the Union address revealed a man ideologically unbowed and undeterred. He served up an insignificant spending cut, yet another (if more modest) stimulus, and a promise to fight any Republican attempt to significantly shrink the size of government.

Indeed, he went beyond this. He tried to cast this more-of-the-same into a call to national greatness, citing two Michigan brothers who produce solar shingles as a stirring example of rising to the Sputnik moment.

"We do big things," Obama declared at the end of an address that was, on the contrary, the finest example of small-ball Clintonian minimalism since the days of school uniforms and midnight basketball.

From the moon landing to solar shingles. Is there a better example of American decline?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Obama's oxymoron: government innovation

Debra J. Saunders
San Francisco Chronicle
Thursday, January 27, 2011

The problem with left-leaning elites trying to run the U.S. economy from the top down is simple: They think the answer to America's economic woes is to create more jobs that replicate managers just like them.

They cannot comprehend that, to a good number of American voters, the theme of President Obama's State of the Union address - government innovation - is an oxymoron.

And so they nodded their heads in recognition of their own greater wisdom as the president intoned, "We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology and especially clean-energy technology - an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet and create countless new jobs for our people." As if more of the same deficit spending is the answer.

They fail to recognize that so-called green jobs are the most over-hyped jobs in America. (After years of subsidies and special treatment, they represent 174,000 jobs - less than 1 percent of the total - in California, according to the public policy group Next Ten.)

In light of the country's high unemployment rate, you would think it would make more sense for the administration to focus on creating jobs in industries that hire lots of workers. But many of those sectors - manufacturing, energy production - don't reflect liberal politics. So Obama is big on "jobs of the future."

Research and development - who can argue with spending money on that?

Except that in this economy, technology and environmental research means funneling government money into high-profile projects staffed by like-minded college graduates, a group with an unemployment rate of about 5 percent. Then, if the project actually produces something commercially viable, the new gadgets can be manufactured by low-skilled workers in a sustenance-wage corner of the world. Think solar power and China.

This is not an anti-government rant. Washington has, and should have, the lead role in national defense, interstate transportation, public safety, a safety net for the truly needy and more.

But as Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., put it in the GOP response, "Limited government also means effective government. When government takes on too many tasks, it usually doesn't do any of them very well."

For his part, the president is supposed to take control of the federal budget. Yet in his speech, Obama recognized that the government spends more than it takes in - which is "not sustainable." Then he let it be known that he would not push the painful proposals set forth by his own bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

In effect, Obama passed on doing the toughest part of his job. Instead, having shirked the dirty work, the president prefers to choose which commercial enterprises deserve your tax dollars - call them the winners who get money for endeavors they wouldn't do on their own dime - and which businesses deserve only the honor of bankrolling his "jobs of the future" - call them the losers.

I understand that compared to tackling the growing deficit, it's a lot easier to hand out grants and underwrite subsidies to like-minded venture capitalists, who are happy to soak up taxpayer dollars as they credit you for creating private-sector jobs.

But please, don't call it innovation.


This article appeared on page A - 14 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gretzky at 50: Superstar's maturity matched skill

By Kevin Allen
January 26, 2011

Wayne Gretzky takes in a Kings-Lightning game at Staples Center earlier this season. (Kirby Lee / US Presswire)

The arrival of Wayne Gretzky's 50th birthday Wednesday simply means that his body has finally caught up with his mind. Even when Gretzky was a young man, he seemed to have the wisdom of a 50-year-old.

His 50th birthday gives us cause to recall what a remarkably dominant athlete he was. We can pick your favorite Gretzky NHL record. He only has 60 from which to choose. How about 215 points in a single season? Or, do you like 50 goals in the first 39 games in a season? Certainly, Gretzky's 51-game points streak is hockey's equivalent of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak.

But as impressive as Gretzky's athletic accomplishments were, his ability to maturely, intelligently handle his stardom was probably even more impressive.

The first time I met Gretzky was 1983, when he was at a news conference in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. That was the season he netted 87 goals and every sportswriter in America wanted to talk to him. He went to the podium in every city he visited. In Detroit, the late sportswriting legend Joe Falls asked Gretzky whether he enjoyed being peppered with questions in every NHL city.

Not really, he answered truthfully. But he said his father had taught him that if he was planning to take from the sport of hockey, then he was going to have to put something back into it.

Gretzky said he planned to remember his father Walter's words each time he was asked to do an interview.

Gretzky was 22 then, and he seemed much older and wiser than most of the people in the room. Certainly I can verify that Gretzky fulfilled the promise he made in Detroit that day. Gretzky became rich and famous through hockey, but I always felt he put everything he had back into the game.

On his hockey card, his position should have read center/ambassador. The two vivid images I have of Gretzky in my head is his pull-up move, curling at the blue line and hitting the trailer with a perfect pass. The other lasting image I have of Gretzky was him walking into an interview room. He was a player on and off the ice.

Every season, Gretzky's news conference at the All-Star Game was a can't-miss event. It was his state-of-the-game address. He answered every question thoughtfully, and he could speak knowledgeably on any issue in the game.

Gretzky was always fascinating. In the 1980s, he announced he would wear a visor in practice. The idea was he might wear one in a game if it didn't hinder him in any way. It was reasonably big news because not many players were using visors back then. Gretzky understood that if he wore a visor, it would have an impact. I flew to Minneapolis to talk to him about it after a practice at the Met Center in Bloomington.

He told me after practice that he was sorry to say the visor experiment hadn't been fruitful. He offered the standard complaint about losing sight of the puck in his skates, and then he said something that was both surprising and enlightening at the same time: He didn't hear as well when he wore a visor.

Instantly, I understood the sixth sense that Gretzky seemed to have about where everyone was on the ice at all time. He used everything he had, including his hearing, to give himself an advantage. The visor had blocked his own personal surround-sound.

New York Rangers senior advisor Mike Barnett, Gretzky's close friend and former agent, was reminding me this week about when Nike tried to design a skate that was identical to the Dauost skates that Gretzky had worn for years.

According to Barnett, Nike X-rayed Gretzky's boot and measured it. The belief was that Nike had a perfect replica.

"Wayne would go out and try them and he said, 'I feel like my toes are going downhill and it's too tight on my toes,'" Barnett recalled.

The Nike officials said that couldn't be true because their measurements had been precise.

"But Wayne insisted that something wasn't right," Barnett said.

Eventually, Nike officials figured out that the slope of the blade under the boot was one-tenth of an inch higher in the heel of Gretzky's old skates than the skates Nike had designed for him.

No one understood all aspects of the game better than Gretzky. His dad had the same awareness of equipment. Barnett recalls that Walter Gretzky would note that his son's batch of sticks were too long. "Wayne would cut a quarter-inch off and he could tell the difference," Barnett recalled.

Gretzky also understood how to be a teammate. Former NHL player Tom Laidlaw remembers when Gretzky came to Los Angeles, he thought he would be playing with a guy who would be bigger than the game.

"One day, Gretzky came back to talk to me in the back of the bus and I'm thinking if Wayne is coming to talk to me I'm either in trouble or I've been traded," Laidlaw said. "But he tossed me a beer and ended up talking about all the players I played with in junior hockey. He remembered some guys on my team that I didn't remember."

Laidlaw said he quickly realized "Wayne just wanted to be one of the guys."

Throughout his career, Gretzky always tried to do or say the right thing. Some would say that Gretzky's well-manicured demeanor was his way of preserving his public image. They would make it seem like that was a negative. But shouldn't everyone be trying to do that? Don't you try to teach your children that their reputation is important. I remember former NHL player Bill Gadsby told me the story that his father once told him. "I've given you a good name and I want you to keep it that way."

It was unsettling to see Gretzky's name dragged down the dirt road a bit during the Phoenix Coyotes' financial crisis. With his high coaching salary and the team's poor performance, he was an easy target for frustrated fans.

But on the occasion of Gretzky's 50th birthday the overwhelming sentiment I have about the Great One is that the NHL needs him back in the game. When you consider what classy Mario Lemieux had done as owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins or the success that Steve Yzerman is having as Tampa Bay's general manager or the smooth transition Luc Robitaille made from player to president of the LA Kings, it suggests to me that Gretzky is better suited for management than coaching. Yzerman passed his final exam to become an NHL general manager by leading Canada to an Olympic gold medal in 2010. Gretzky did the same in 2002.

The NHL needs Gretzky. It needs his wisdom, insight and his willingness to be a good teammate for the sake of the sport. Hockey doesn't need him behind the bench. It needs him in a place where he has a pulpit.

Cash for Education Clunkers

Government-run schools are a boondoggle.

By Michelle Malkin
January 26, 2011

‘We’re going to have to out-educate other countries,” President Obama urged this week. How? By out-spending them, of course! It’s the same old quack cure for America’s fat and failing government-run schools monopoly. The one-trick ponies at the White House call their academic improvement agenda “targeted investing” for “winning the future.” Truth in advertising: Get ready to fork over more Cash for Education Clunkers.

Our government already spends more per capita on education than any other of the 34 wealthiest countries in the world except for Switzerland, according to recent analysis of data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Overall inflation-adjusted K-12 spending has tripled over the past 40 years, the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy points out. Yet American test scores and graduation rates are stagnant. One in 10 high schools is a dropout factory. And our students’ performance in one of the most prestigious global math competitions has been so abysmal that the U.S. simply withdrew altogether.

Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget already represents “one of the largest increases” in federal education-spending history, hiking total discretionary spending to nearly $51 billion. Toss in another $35 billion for mandatory Pell grants. And add another $4 billion for the illusory “Race to the Top” charade to improve academic standards.

Then there’s the $10 billion for the Education Jobs Fund signed into law last August — a naked payoff to the public teachers’ unions, which also includes $50 million for the Striving Readers comprehensive literacy development and education program; $82 million for Student Aid Administration; and $10.7 million for the Ready to Teach program.

Oh, and don’t forget the $100 billion in federal stimulus funding for school programs and initiatives administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

As he extols the virtues of “innovation” and “accountability,” the last thing Obama wants you to think about is the actual results of these profligate federal ed binges:

— Here’s how education analyst Neal McCluskey accurately described the real impact of the $4 billion Race to the Top paperwork theater: “States must say how they would improve lots of things, but they actually have to do very little. It is decades of public schooling — from the Great Society to No Child Left Behind — in a nutshell.” You need a chainsaw to cut through the bureaucratese of the winning state applications, but the bottom line is that the “race” is “won” only when school reformers get buy-in from the teachers’ unions — the most stalwart enemies of introducing choice and competition to the atrophying system.

— Despite massive multibillion-dollar “investments” in teacher training, America’s educators are horrifyingly incompetent at even elementary math. Explaining why American grade-school students can’t master simple fractions, one math professor confessed: “Part of the reason the kids don’t know it is because the teachers aren’t transmitting that.” Instead, they’ve ditched “drill and kill” — otherwise known as the basics — for costly educational fads ranging from “Mayan Math” to “Everyday Math” that substitute art, self-esteem, and multiculturalism for the fundamentals of computation.

— Among the supposedly cutting-edge programs funded by Obama’s federal stimulus program is a $49 million technology initiative for the Detroit public schools. The urban school system is overrun by corruption, violence, and incompetence. The teachers’ union sabotaged classroom instruction and denied schoolchildren an education through an apparent illegal work stoppage. Yet Washington went ahead and forked over a whopping $530 million in federal porkulus funds to reward yet more Detroit government school failure and bail out the reckless-spending boobs who mismanaged the DPS budget and engineered a fiscal crisis. The $49 million technology program distributed some 40,000 new (foreign-made) ASUS netbook computers, plus thousands of printers, scanners, and desktop computers to teachers and kids from early childhood through 12th grade.

One teacher was caught late last year trying to pawn his shiny new booty. No doubt he has company. Nationwide, in both urban and rural school districts, large and small, these technology infusions have turned out to be gesture-driven boondoggles and political payoffs that squander precious educational resources — with little, if any, measurable academic benefit. Mark Lawson, school-board president of one of New York state’s first districts to put technology directly in students’ hands, told the New York Times in 2007: “After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none. The teachers were telling us when there’s a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way. It’s a distraction to the educational process.”

That about sums up federal intervention in public schooling: It’s a taxpayer-subsidized distraction to the local educational process that throttles true competition, rewards failure, and mistakes blind government largesse for achievement.

— Michelle Malkin is the author of Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is

© 2011 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Film Reviews: 'The King's Speech'

BY ROGER EBERT / December 15, 2010

"The King's Speech" tells the story of a man compelled to speak to the world with a stammer. It must be painful enough for one who stammers to speak to another person. To face a radio microphone and know the British Empire is listening must be terrifying. At the time of the speech mentioned in this title, a quarter of the Earth's population was in the Empire, and of course much of North America, Europe, Africa and Asia would be listening — and with particular attention, Germany.

The king was George VI. The year was 1939. Britain was entering into war with Germany. His listeners required firmness, clarity and resolve, not stammers punctuated with tortured silences. This was a man who never wanted to be king. After the death of his father, the throne was to pass to his brother Edward. But Edward renounced the throne "in order to marry the woman I love," and the duty fell to Prince Albert, who had struggled with his speech from an early age.

In "The King's Speech," director Tom Hooper opens on Albert (Colin Firth), attempting to open the British Empire Exhibition in 1925. Before a crowded arena and a radio audience, he seizes up in agony in efforts to make the words come out right. His father, George V (Michael Gambon), has always considered "Bertie" superior to Edward (Guy Pearce), but mourns the introduction of radio and newsreels, which require a monarch to be seen and heard on public occasions.

At that 1925 speech, we see Bertie's wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), her face filled with sympathy. As it becomes clear that Edward's obsession with Wallis Simpson (Eve Best) is incurable, she realizes her Bertie may face more public humiliation. He sees various speech therapists, one of whom tries the old marbles-in-the-mouth routine first recommended by Demosthenes. Nothing works, and then she seeks out a failed Australian actor named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who has set up a speech therapy practice.

Logue doesn't realize at first who is consulting him. And one of the subjects of the film is Logue's attitude toward royalty, which I suspect is not untypical of Australians; he suggests to Albert that they get on a first-name basis. Albert has been raised within the bell jar of the monarchy and objects to such treatment, not because he has an elevated opinion of himself but because, well, it just isn't done. But Logue realizes that if he is to become the king's therapist, he must first become his friend.

If the British monarchy is good for nothing else, it's superb at producing the subjects of films. "The King's Speech," rich in period detail and meticulous class distinctions, largely sidesteps the story that loomed over this whole period, Edward's startling decision to give up the crown to marry a woman who was already divorced three times. Indeed, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (as they became) would occupy an inexplicable volume of attention for years, considering they had no significance after the Duke's abdication. The unsavory thing is that Wallis Simpson considered herself worthy of such a sacrifice from the man she allegedly loved. This film finds a more interesting story about better people; Americans, who aren't always expert on British royalty, may not necessarily realize that Albert and wife Elizabeth were the parents of Queen Elizabeth II. God knows what Edward might have fathered.

Director Tom Hooper makes an interesting decision with his sets and visuals. The movie is largely shot in interiors, and most of those spaces are long and narrow. That's unusual in hi storical dramas, which emphasize sweep and majesty and so on. Here we have long corridors, a deep and narrow master control room for the BBC, rooms that seem peculiarly oblong. I suspect he may be evoking the narrow, constricting walls of Albert's throat as he struggles to get words out.

The film largely involves the actors Colin Firth, formal and decent, and Geoffrey Rush, large and expansive, in psychological struggle. Helena Bonham Carter, who can be merciless (as in the "Harry Potter" films), is here filled with mercy, tact and love for her husband; this is the woman who became the much-loved Queen Mother of our lifetimes, dying in 2002 at 101. As the men have a struggle of wills, she tries to smooth things (and raise her girls Elizabeth and Margaret). And in the wider sphere, Hitler takes power, war comes closer, Mrs. Simpson wreaks havoc, and the dreaded day approaches when Bertie, as George VI, will have to speak to the world and declare war.

Hooper's handling of that fraught scene is masterful. Firth internalizes his tension and keeps the required stiff upper lip, but his staff and household are terrified on his behalf as he marches toward a microphone as if it is a guillotine. It is the one scene in the film that must work, and it does, and its emotional impact is surprisingly strong. At the end, what we have here is a superior historical drama and a powerful personal one. And two opposites who remain friends for the rest of their lives.

Note: The R rating refers to Logue's use of vulgarity. It is utterly inexplicable. This is an excellent film for teenagers.

Cast & Credits

King George VI - Colin Firth
Lionel Logue - Geoffrey Rush
Queen Elizabeth - Helena Bonham Carter
King Edward VIII - Guy Pearce
Winston Churchill - Timothy Spall
Archbishop Lang - Derek Jacobi
Queen Mary - Claire Bloom
King George V - Michael Gambon

The Weinstein Co. presents a film directed by Tom Hooper. Written by David Seidler. Running time: 118 minutes. Rated R (for language).

The King's Speech

Although it doesn't cut quite as deep as it might, Tom Hooper's film is fraught and fascinating with some excellent performances.

By Sukhdev Sandhu 5:00PM GMT 06 Jan 2011
The Telegraph

Rating: * * * *

At first, The King’s Speech, directed by Tom Hooper, looks awfully familiar, a musty historical drama full of monarchs and period costumes and atmospheric fog. Peer a bit closer though, and it’s a thoroughly modern tale, the true-life story of a king’s efforts to overcome his stammer in order to face his public, constructed like a contemporary makeover narrative.

The chap in need of help is Albert, Duke of York (Colin Firth). For as long as anyone can remember he’s had difficulties enunciating. His father, King George V (Michael Gambon), is an emotional despot who mistakes chiding for medicine. Real doctors are of little help either: they stuff Albert’s mouth with marbles and tell him that smoking will relax his lungs.

Nothing seems to work. Albert struggles even to tell bedtime stories to his children. He mooches around as if he’s seen the future: it’s grey. The top hat he sports at social functions appears to droop like a wilted flower. He sinks to new sloughs of despond after he delivers a speech at the 1925 British Empire Exhibition; it’s so nervous and jolting it can’t help but, to our ears, prefigure the end of empire.

In desperation, Albert and his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) seek help from an unlikely source: an unsuccessful Australian actor named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who is working in London as a speech therapist. To say they don’t get on is an understatement. One is a commoner, the other a future monarch. One comes from Down Under, the other is accustomed to looking down at people as they bow before him.

The tension between them is at least as much temperamental as it is cultural or economic. Logue prizes informality. He calls Albert “Bertie”, begins one of their sessions by asking him if he knows any jokes, insists – rather boldly – “In here, it’s better if we’re equals.”

This Gok Wan-like figure performs a reverse Pygmalion-ism by asking Albert to become less posh. In so doing, he’s also anticipating the present day when the Royal Family maintains a Twitter account, appears in the pages of Hello!, and seems sometimes to be only marginally more aristocratic than the likes of Cheryl Cole or Alan Sugar.

The double-handers between them, courtesy of screenplay writer David Seidler, are fraught and fascinating affairs. Logue’s spacious yet rather shabby office in Harley Street becomes a battlefield as the pair spar and joust. “My game, my castle, my rules,” insists the Australian. But Albert, for long stretches, isn’t having it. Stomping out at first, even when he returns, he’s often grudging and sullen.

Their encounters turn into therapy sessions. Logue’s belief that stammering has psychological as well as physical causes seems, in some measure, to be borne out by Albert’s revelation that he was left-handed as a boy but had been forced into becoming a right-hander. When he was young he’d also had to wear metal splints for his knock knees.

A new image of him emerges: a man without friends, one who fears he may suffer from the same epilepsy as his brother, and who frets that he might, rather like his ancestor “Mad King George the Third”, be known as “Mad King George the Stammerer”.

It can’t be easy to learn how to stutter. But Firth’s vocal performance is wholly believable, and he is absorbing throughout, out-plumbing the depths of isolation he achieved in A Single Man. He never tries to soften his character or to make him a mere object of pity.

Rather, Albert is prone to self-pity, to lashing out, and to snobbish disdain. When he cries, “I’m a naval officer, not a king”, the effect is as resonant as Eliot’s Prufrock lamenting: “I should have been a pair of ragged claws/Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”

Hopefully, Firth’s excellence – and Rush’s, too; his Logue has a touch of the spiv, but also rueful eyes that have never forgotten the shell-shocked soldiers he treated when he first arrived in Europe – won’t obscure the film’s compelling portrait of the evolution of sound in 20th-century Britain.

Hooper’s framing and shot composition often leave something to be desired, but an early close-up of a microphone, resembling nothing so much as a mini-Zeppelin, establishes the critical roles played by new technologies as agents of sonic democratisation.

That’s what makes the 1925 Wembley scene so compelling. Albert’s stammer, the echo in the stadium, the distortion caused by a poor PA system: all combine to create a dissonant medley that, while it mimics the jangle in his head, disobeys the new rules: royalty can no longer afford just to look right; it has to sound right.

Sounding right is something Albert’s older brother, David (Guy Pearce), also fails to do. Crowned as Edward VIII, he’s clearly unsuitable to be head of state; partly because he wishes to marry Wallis Simpson (Eve Best), and partly because he’s happy to turn Balmoral into Charleston, allowing revellers to whoop it up to jazz and rhythm-and-blues music.

This clears the stage for the film’s biggest set-piece: the moment when Albert, now King George VI, has to step up to the microphone and tell the nation that it’s at war with Germany.

Unfortunately, Hooper fluffs this scene. Opting to go for Oscar glory, to create as rousing a strength-through-adversity momentum as he can, he swamps Albert’s words with orchestral music.

This isn’t the film’s only miscue: Pearce looks far too young for his part and doesn’t sound at all English; Timothy Spall as Churchill resembles a distended bulldog who’s been chewing wasps; Bonham Carter and Jennifer Ehle (as Logue’s wife) are under-used.

Still, if The King’s Speech never quite cuts as deeply as it might, it’s at least as enjoyable an exercise in humanising royalty as The Queen or The Young Victoria, one whose emotional pay-off the makers of Supernanny or How to Look Good Naked would surely envy.


The King’s Speech, Seven Magazine review, by Mike McCahill

Seven rating: * * * *

The King’s Speech concerns itself with the historical implications of a stutter. In one corner, it has Colin Firth’s Duke of York, soon to be George VI, wrestling with the speech impediment that has rendered public speaking a nightmare. In the other, we find Hitler, a leader whose very appeal lay in his oratorical skills.

Closer to home, George V (Michael Gambon) is marching towards the gravest of silences, and the Duke’s brother, Edward (Guy Pearce), can talk solely of that Simpson woman. The need for someone to step up to the plate – or radio microphone – grows ever greater. This is a film in which the Empire is threatened not by war, but by dead air.

Drafted in to address this vacuum is Harley Street speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a garrulous Australian with a fondness for garish interior design. The duke’s sessions with Logue form the film’s dramatic meat, but a full British repertory is on hand to observe their progress. Helena Bonham Carter is loving, eccentric, and nigh-perfect casting as the young Queen Mother; Derek Jacobi is a fretting Archbishop of Canterbury, approaching the coronation like a church fête threatened by rain; and Timothy Spall offers a sly Churchill.

You soon intuit why they were drawn to David Seidler’s fine screenplay: its raw material is language itself. Unsurprisingly, Shakespeare becomes a touchstone: Logue auditions as Richard III for a local am-dram group, while George finds some solace in Hamlet.

In the part of real-life troubled prince, Firth continues his series of increasingly skilful variations on a very English stiffness. Last year’s A Single Man, stylish yet silly, looked like a dress rehearsal for major prizes. This could well be his accession: a sustained and wholly sympathetic piece of precision-technical acting that allows us to feel every word catching in George’s throat like a rogue fishbone.

It would be easy to underestimate Rush’s contribution here. Logue is hardly the most fragrant character – he first emerges to the sound of a flushing lavatory – but his role is pristinely clear: to relieve the verbal and emotional constipation central to so many Firth performances, his treatment eventually cueing a most un-kingly torrent of curses.

In such scenes, director Tom Hooper stresses his characters’ vocal rhythms, deploying off-kilter camera choices to suggest George’s unbalance: the king-to-be is rendered dumbstruck at one turn by the looming portraits of his illustrious predecessors.

Like Stephen Frears’s film The Queen, The King’s Speech is a way of getting us to think about the Royal family less as an institution than as individuals weighed down by pomp and circumstance. George struggles with his words, Edward with his deeds, and both realise they must embrace New World modernity – whether American or Antipodean, radio or therapy – if they are to survive.

Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret are on hand, with corgis, to assure us there will be a happy ending of sorts, yet this quietly subversive drama approaches royalty with something

Islam and the State of the Union

Don’t expect the president to tell the truth about Islamic doctrine tonight.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
January 24, 2011 9:09 P.M.

‘The state of our union is . . . denial — at least when it comes to Islam.”

I’m not holding my breath waiting for President Obama, as denier-in-chief, to make that pronouncement when he addresses the nation this evening at one of Leviathan’s more notorious wastes of time, the State of the Union address. Indeed, Washington’s annual celebration of itself, high on pageantry and bereft of substance, is unlikely to dwell much on the “religion of peace,” notwithstanding its centrality — acknowledged or not — to much of U.S. policy. Such silence is fitting, as is its flip side: to brand as “Islamophobia” any deviation from the party line — a bipartisan party line if ever there was one. An adult discussion of Islam would bring down the house of cards on which our policy is based. Better to say nothing.

Thankfully, the Jeruslam Post’s Barry Rubin won’t play along. He disrupted our sweet dreams last week with a pronouncement from al-Azhar University.[1] Al-Azhar is the centuries-old seat of Sunni scholarship in Egypt, a status that vests its sharia scholars with unparalleled doctrinal influence over the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims.

It is conventional wisdom among the West’s Islamophilic opinion elites — and thus prototypically among Obama administration officials — that jihad, the Islamic injunction to struggle in Allah’s cause, has been distorted by sharia-obsessed Islamophobes into a summons to destroy the West. Jihad, this wisdom holds, is just an internal exercise in self-betterment — kind of like greening the planet and brushing after every meal. Jihad becomes confrontational and even violent only in self-defense, when Muslims are truly under siege.

Au contraire, says al-Azhar’s Imad Mustafa. To be sure, he agrees that the doctrine of “defensive jihad” calls for war against non-Muslims who “attack” Muslims. But defense, for purposes of this doctrine, is in the eye of the beholder — or, more accurately, in the eye of the mufti who decides what sorts of provocations constitute an “attack.” Implicitly, that leaves room for lots of pretty offensive jihad if the mufti construes the concept of “attack” broadly enough. What is bracing about Mustafa’s new fatwa, however, is that he’s not leaving anything to chance. He’s making what is implicit unmistakably explicit.

Besides the defensive variety, Mustafa expressly endorses “offensive jihad” as the license to attack non-Muslims living in non-Islamic countries. It is the consensus of sharia scholars, he instructs, that offensive jihad is “permissible” in three different situations: (a) “to secure Islam’s border”; (b) “to extend God’s religion to people in cases where the governments do not allow it”; and (c) “to remove every religion but Islam from the Arabian peninsula.”

The unapologetic aggression affirmed here is breathtaking. Ever wonder why Muslims demand a right of return to Israel for Palestinians but impose the death penalty on Palestinians who sell land to Jews?[2] Why Muslims demand the right to build a grand mosque and Islamic community center on the lower Manhattan site of radical Islam’s 9/11 atrocity but think nothing of barring non-Muslims from Mecca and Medina pursuant to their scriptures? It is because Islam — not radical Islam, political Islam, or Islamism, but Islam itself — is threaded with an intolerance that would be undeniable to anyone not in denial.

This is not something al-Qaeda dreamed up. Mainstream Islamic scholarship is reflected by Mustafa’s first and third claims: a right to brutalize non-Muslims in order to ensure that an Islamic territory remains Islamic, and a right to purge non-Islamic influences from the Arabian Peninsula. The latter, in fact, explains not only Saudi Arabia’s official policy of apartheid in Islam’s major cities but al-Azhar’s prior green-lighting of attacks on American troops in Iraq.

More immediately alarming for us, however, is the second justification Mustafa offers for offensive jihad. As Rubin correctly contends, this injunction “to spread God’s religion” is not limited to circumstances in which a government has imposed an absolute prohibition on Islam, or at least driven Islam from the public square as Ataturk did in Turkey. It would also approve campaigns of aggression against countries that bar any aspect of Islamic belief or practice that Muslim scholars deem “necessary” to the full implementation of Islamic law.

Al-Qaeda seeks to spread Islam by brute force. The Muslim Brotherhood and its American confederates — CAIR, the Muslim American Society, the Islamic Society of North America, etc. — agree with al-Qaeda on the endgame but part company on methodology. Theirs is a sophisticated potpourri of political agitation, legal extortion, public-relations legerdemain (such as Imam Feisal Rauf’s claim that the U.S. Constitution is perfectly consonant with sharia — which is true only in the sense that the Constitution does contain the seeds of its own undoing), and clever campaigns to legitimize terrorism practitioners while ostensibly condemning terrorism in the abstract. But whether we are talking about violent jihadists or stealth jihadists, notice that there is no real daylight between what these forces seek to achieve and what the most influential Islamic scholars would authorize.

Nothing about that would surprise us at this point if we were watching as yet another terrorist murderer of yet another moderate Muslim politician is celebrated as a hero in Pakistan; if we saw the new Iraq, of which we are midwife, purge Christians and other non-Muslims from its territory; if we noticed the Ahmadi, a Muslim minority sect, being brutally persecuted for beliefs that are heretical to Muslims taking their cues from al-Azhar; and if we were studying polling that tells us most Muslims in Islamic countries would like to see a strict application of sharia.[3]

But we are not watching, seeing, noticing, or studying. President Obama just announced the appointment of Quintan Wiktorowicz to the National Security Council as “senior director for [what else?] global engagement.” A perfect fit for the administration, Wiktorowicz is a former Rhodes College professor whose claim to academic fame is the trendy theory that, as NPR admiringly put it, “very religious Muslims were in fact the people who ended up being the most resistant to radicalization.”[4]

Who, then, becomes a radical, Mr. Wiktorowicz? They tend to be (in NPR’s description of his theory) “people who don’t have a good grounding in the religion.” Grounding in what aspect of the religion? We’re not told — just left with his insistence that Islam is ecumenical and non-violent, end of story. The game, though, is given away with our new engagement director’s explanation that any effective “counterradicalization” campaign must include “beefing up education about Islam among Muslims themselves.”

Alas, real “education about Islam” would include such discomfiting texts as Imad Mustafa’s latest fatwa. Wiktorowicz is not talking about teaching the Islam that is. He’s talking about teaching the Islam of his dreams. On the Islam that is, al-Azhar has the ear of Muslims. The Obama administration has the ear of NPR.

Denial is not a river in Egypt. Turns out it’s a university in Egypt.

— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.






Monday, January 24, 2011

Italy's greatest misunderstood artist: Pietro Annigoni

by Brenda Dionisi
The Florentine
(issue no. 99/2009 / April 9, 2009)

‘Impulse alone does not make a work of art.' These are the words of one of Italy's most internationally renowned twentieth-century artists. Despite receiving many accolades from the international art world late in life, during much of his career, the artistic brilliance of Pietro Annigoni remained largely overlooked by his contemporaries.

Increasingly stirred by the innovative experimentation of the emerging Modernist and avant-garde movements, Italian and international art criticism failed to give much importance to Annigoni's unique vision and style. Although no one questioned his exceptional talent in the figurative arts, critics were divided: was his artwork passé or was it still relevant in the face of the dominant Modernist culture and informal arts? Because of the wide divergence of opinions, Annigoni would have to wait until the late twentieth century before receiving the deserved critical acclaim from the public.

Self Portrait

Born in Milan on June 7, 1910, Annigoni moved to Florence with his family in 1925, where he attended the Scuole Pie Fiorentine on via Cavour. He displayed considerable talent at a young age, and in 1927, he was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. There, he received training from some of the most acclaimed artists of the time, such as painter Felice Carena, sculptor Giuseppe Graziosi, and engraver Celestino Celestini.

In 1930, he participated in his first public exhibit in Florence, as part of a group of other painters, and in 1932 he held his first individual show, at Florence's Palazzo Ferroni. His artworks were very well received and earned him not only the prestigious Trentacoste award, but also the recognition of his contemporaries, like that of fellow painter Giorgio De Chirico, a lifelong admirer of Annigoni's work.

In these years, he traveled extensively throughout Italy and northern Europe. A solitary, alienated figure, Annigoni was very much disengaged from the dominant culture. However, during his travels he discovered he was not alone in rejecting the modernist ideals of the time, and he developed friendships with other artists who, like him, sought to defend the merits and importance of Realism.

In 1947, Annigoni signed the Manifesto of Modern Realist Painters along with seven other artists, including Gregory Sciltian, Alfredo Serri and Antonio and Xavier Bueno. Annigoni often proclaimed his disdain for the superficial social and artistic trends of the twentieth century: ‘I am convinced that the works of today's avant-garde are the poisoned fruit of a spiritual decadence, with all the consequences that arise from a tragic loss of love for life'. It was in this period-the late-1940s-that Annigoni made some of his greatest and most important works.

Soon thereafter, he became noticed in Britain and participated in an exhibition held at the Royal Academy in London in 1946. His works were very well received and marked the beginning of a series of exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe that earned him widespread international acclaim.

In 1955, at the climax of his career, Annigoni painted a portrait of Queen Elisabeth II. The romantic portrayal of the young Queen made him the ‘unofficial' portraitist of the royal family and the English nobility. He went on to paint the portraits of many other important international figures, including the Shah and Empress of Iran, Princess Margaret, Italian shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo, Florentine author Luigi Ugolini, ballet legend Dame Margot Fonteyn, American actress and poet Vanna Bonta (as a girl), and the Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur.

In the 1960s, Annigoni was commissioned seven covers for Time magazine, including, in 1962, a portrait of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who was the magazine's Person of the Year, and in the same year, a portrait of Pope John XXIII. Other noted subjects were Ludwig Erhard and U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson for Time covers in 1963 and 1968, respectively.

On November 14, 1975, Annigoni was conferred the Cavaliere di Gran Croce Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana. In May 1988, he underwent emergency surgery for a perforated ulcer, but he never fully recovered. He died in Florence five months later, of kidney failure. He is buried in the Porte Sante cemetery at the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte, Florence.

Crucixion (1983), Basilica of St. Anthony, Padua

Because Annigoni refused to accept the already widely acknowledged abstract and informal arts, both his personal vision of transcendence and artistic excellence and his artwork were relegated to the margins of the dominant culture. Working against most of the artistic currents of the twentieth century, Annigoni was, indeed, one of the most misunderstood artists of his epoch.

He sought to express the transcendental nature, profound truth and integrity that lie in man, life and nature. His representational, realist style was greatly influenced by the Renaissance masters. With his exceptional talent, he depicted a vast array of subject matter, from still lifes, landscapes, city streets to portraits of strangers, friends and loved ones.

He had his champions. He was considered by some critics to be an artist who possessed a superior ability to find the truth in all things. One of these was art historian and expert in the Florentine Renaissance Bernard Berenson, who considered Annigoni not only one of the best painters of the century, but one of the best in history. Nonetheless, his work was commonly dismissed as being anachronistic. In response, he frequently denounced modern artists for lacking the most important skill in the process of creating a visual work of art-that of being able to draw.

Although he is best known today for his portraits of prominent personalities of the twentieth century, a large part of Annigoni's life's work was dedicated to religious and allegorical compositions in bas relief and on canvas, both large and small, as well as frescos. His masterworks decorate churches across Italy. He began his largest fresco, in the Abbey of Monte Cassino, south of Rome, at age 70 and completed it five years later. An adjacent fresco cycle was completed by another Florentine artist still working in the city today, Romano Stefanelli.

Today, Annigoni's artworks are housed in museums across the world, including the Uffizi Gallery and Pitti Palace in Florence; the Benedetta Bianchi Porro Foundation in Dovadola in Forlì; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Royal Collection of Windsor Castle; the National Portrait Gallery of London, England; and the Vatican Museums in Rome. Among his many frescoes located in Florence, where he lived and worked for most of his life, are those in the San Marco convent (which can be viewed on request) and the Monte Senario Sanctuary.

Twenty years after his death, in November 2008, a permanent museum dedicated to Pietro Annigoni was inaugurated in Florence's Villa Bardini. It is the most extensive collection of Annigoni's masterworks yet assembled. The paintings and bronzes there originally belonged to Annigoni and his family and were purchased by the Ente Cassia di Risparmio di Firenze.


Villa Bardini • Costa San Giorgio, 2

Tel. 055/2638599

Hours: From April 1 to September 30, open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm. From October 1 to March 31, open Wednesday to Friday, 10am to 4pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 6pm.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rockabilly Queen Prolongs Her Party

The New York Times
January 21, 2011

Top, Chad Batka for The New York Times; bottom from left, Jo McCaughey; Wanda Jackson Enterprises (2)
Top, Wanda Jackson performing at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. From left, Jack White, producer of her coming album; a publicity shot; Ms. Jackson with Elvis Presley.

THE crowd was rockabilly through and through: girls in pegged jeans and crimson lipstick, boys in flattops and pompadours, shrunken leather jackets. When Wanda Jackson, 73, took the stage with her guitar for a sold-out show at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn recently, it was all cat growls, howls and hip swivels — and that was from Ms. Jackson herself. The audience followed suit, with a chorus of fans joining in on her song “I Gotta Know.” She first recorded it in 1956, not long after she met and began dating Elvis Presley.

“Now girls, don’t get ahead of me here,” Ms. Jackson said, telling the story from the stage as the crowd hooted. “It was 1955. My daddy traveled with me and kept my reputation intact.”

Elvis, though, changed her life. In 1958 Ms. Jackson recorded “Let’s Have a Party,” which he originally performed (as “Party” in the 1957 movie “Lovin’ You”). Released as a single two years later, her version became a hit on the pop charts — cementing her place in music history as the first woman to record a rock song. In the years since, she has swung from rock to country to gospel, earning a cult following as the Queen of Rockabilly. Now, like Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and Mavis Staples before her, she is the latest veteran artist to work with a devoted younger producer, in the hopes of a third-act career shift.

On Tuesday, Third Man and Nonesuch Records will release “The Party Ain’t Over,” Ms. Jackson’s first studio album in eight years and the first produced by a paragon of contemporary rock: Jack White. The collaboration, with Mr. White playing guitar, is largely retro, a collection of covers recorded live with a 12-piece band. But everyone involved hopes it will introduce Ms. Jackson to a new audience, affording her a level of attention that’s closer to her more famous contemporaries like Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, all of whom she performed with. “She’s influential to every modern female singer, whether they know about her or not,” Mr. White said. “She broke down those walls in the beginning, when it was the hardest to do.”

Since she was discovered at 15 in Oklahoma City, Ms. Jackson’s career has been etched by men: Hank Thompson, the country star who got her signed after hearing her on local radio; Elvis, who encouraged her to wield her singular voice — a graveled purr — in rock instead of country; Wendell Goodman, her husband of 50 years, her tour manager and constant companion; and now Mr. White. But through it all she has become a shimmying emblem of female independence in a male-dominated industry, testing boundaries with her forward style and lyrics about mean men and hard-headed women (and those are the love songs). As she allowed, winkingly, at the Knitting Factory show, “No wonder I have a bad-girl reputation.”

Terry Stewart, the president and chief executive of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, said, “She’s still working sort of a wildcat sound, and she had it as a young lady, which was pretty much unheard of at the time.” Vouched for by the likes of Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen, Ms. Jackson was inducted in 2009 as an early influencer, and she will be a spokeswoman for the museum’s “Women in Rock” exhibition, opening in May. And she continues to tour, as many as 120 dates a year in the United States and abroad. (Mr. White will join her for a few concerts this year; she plays the Bowery Ballroom in New York on Feb. 24.) “They all point to her as the source of the Nile on this stuff,” Mr. Stewart said of early rock fans.”

For Ms. Jackson the album with Mr. White is the latest surprise in a career full of them. “You can’t hardly name anything that I haven’t experienced somewhere along the way,” she said in a recent interview in a quiet Midtown hotel. Her husband sat nearby, typing on a computer, pausing to offer a cough drop. Ms. Jackson wore gray slacks, a gray cardigan, and a gray sequined top — she favors sparkly — and her blue eyes were sharp. “I always liked fishnets,” she said, complimenting a reporter’s. Her taste can be grandma-sweet too; she called Mr. White “so cute.”

“He’s not one of these sloppy dressers,” she explained. “I said, I’d like to just take you home, Jack, and set you up on the mantel on my fireplace and just get to see you when I walk by.”

She knew his name mostly from a 2004 record he produced for Ms. Lynn, “Van Lear Rose,” which was well received and earned two Grammys. But she was not a fan of the White Stripes. “I told Jack too, I love him, but that type of music, I just don’t relate to it,” Ms. Jackson said. “It kind of goes over my head.”

Initially Ms. Jackson and her husband hoped to make a Sinatra-and-friends-style duet record. “I think those kind of albums should be made illegal, they are such a bad idea,” Mr. White wrote in an e-mail. Instead he preferred to get Ms. Jackson in the studio at his home in Nashville, recording an album of her own.

She was reluctant at first. “I was nervous about it because I didn’t know what he was going to expect,” she said. And she worried that her rockabilly fans would rebel at more contemporary stuff. “Wendell kind of had to drag me into the studio kicking and screaming,” she added.

Chad Batka for The New York Times

Brooklyn, New York. Wanda Jackson (sitting - left) meets a fan (right) after her show at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, New York.

Mr. White, who first heard “Let’s Have a Party” as a teenager in a cover by the 5678s, an all-girl Japanese garage-rock group, put her at ease quickly, helped by the familiar songs he selected: the Andrews Sisters’ “Rum and Coca-Cola,” Bob Dylan’s “Thunder on the Mountain” and the country staple “Dust on the Bible.” Ms. Jackson suggested an Elvis tune, “Like a Baby,” and they both loved “Teach Me Tonight,” recorded by the Cuban-born De Castro Sisters.

One song that Mr. White offered made his singer balk — Amy Winehouse’s “You Know That I’m No Good.” Some of the raunchy lyrics were too much for Ms. Jackson, a born-again Christian since 1971. So Mr. White rewrote them. “He sang in my headphones with me to teach me the melody,” Ms. Jackson said, “and then once I got it I said, ‘Oh yeah, this is a great song.’ ”

But he was a demanding producer. “I’m not really used to that,” she said.

In the studio Ms. Jackson likened his approach to a “velvet brick,” which he said was one of the best compliments he’s ever received. (“It’s got me wondering about coating my tombstone in red velvet flocking,” Mr. White said. “I’m looking into that.”)

They played with the song selection to achieve the right mix of inspiration and believability. “Making an album of rockabilly covers would’ve been too easy and boring,” he said. “The idea was this woman has an attitude in her that can work in calypso, funk and yodeling, just like it can in rockabilly. Wanda and I wanted to get someplace further out there and see what she could pull off at this stage in her career.”

Ms. Jackson had a string of country hits in the 1970s, and in the ’80s and ’90s she was kept afloat by European fans, alongside the nostalgists who make up the rockabilly scene in the United States. Now she is being discovered by a younger generation of vintage-loving artists. “I watch YouTubes of her all the time,” said Zooey Deschanel, the actress and one-half of the indie-pop duo She & Him. “I’m obsessed with her. She can growl and she has amazing rhythm. She does stuff that no one else can do.”

That unique sound is still evident on “The Party Ain’t Over,” which begins with a yowling, sped-up version of “Shakin’ All Over,” by the ’60s English group Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. With the exception of the album’s last track, which showcases Ms. Jackson’s yodeling — a skill her husband told Mr. White about — the arrangements are pulsing, not stripped down, with bits of surf rock and oompah driven by guitar. (Members of Mr. White’s other bands, the Dead Weather and the Raconteurs, sat in, along with his wife, the model and singer Karen Elson, who sometimes also fixed lunch.)

Ms. Jackson’s style is a throwback too. For the album she’s photographed in one of Mr. White’s vintage cars, wearing a pair of her own ’50s sunglasses. She was one of the first Southern artists to reject the fussy cowgirl outfits of her era in favor of pencil skirts, high heels, big jewelry and bouffants. (When she toured Japan after her song “Fujiyama Mama” became a surprise No. 1 hit there in 1958, she learned how to tease her hair by imitating the geishas, she said.) Told she couldn’t wear a strapless gown to the Grand Ole Opry, she adopted a tight, fringed shift dress — sewn by her mother — as her costume. “All I had to do on that dress was tap my foot and everything moved,” Ms. Jackson said, pleased.

She still wears fringe to perform, and plays guitar at home in Oklahoma City. She and Mr. Goodman raised their children there, and now two of her granddaughters have taken up music. The couple is devoted to family — Mr. Goodman gave up his career at I.B.M. to work with his wife — and church. Which doesn’t mean that Ms. Jackson is above gossiping about her ex.

When she and Elvis were performing together and dating, he took her outside to his car during a break between matinee and evening shows. “He asked me to wear his ring and be his girl,” Ms. Jackson said. He gave her a ring off his finger, with tiny stones — “itty-bitty,” she said. “They were diamonds. I had them checked.” She laughed. “I’m bad, I’m no good.”

(Or as Mr. White put it. “She was cool before they had a name for it.”)

Did she ever wish she’d had as much fame early in her career as her contemporaries?

“Well, yeah,” Ms. Jackson said. “Wouldn’t you?”

She’s jealous, she said, of country artists today, with their magazine covers and cosmetics deals. “I expected to be a big star and I got to be a star, but not that big star I wanted to be,” she said. But, she added, “I have more celebrity status now than I ever had in my life, and I appreciate it more. I’ve paid my dues in the business, but I’ve been rewarded for it. Almost every night someone will come and say, ‘After hearing you and seeing you on YouTube, I’ve always wanted to form a girl band — and I’ve done it.”

After her show at the Knitting Factory she signed autographs until 1:30 a.m. “The fans keep me young,” she said, “the spirit of those songs and the way the kids love it.” Without making much of a fuss about it Ms. Jackson has outlasted nearly all her male contemporaries.

She wears Elvis’s ring sometimes, on a chain around her neck. “Yes, girls, he was a good kisser,” she told the crowd.

“You were too!” a female voice shouted back.

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