Wednesday, March 30, 2011

If the hat fits...

     "The cool was a whitened degenerative form of bebop. And when mainline America was vaguely hipped, the TV people (wizards of total communication) began to use it to make people buy cigarettes and deodorants . . . or put life into effeminate dicks (uhh, detectives). The white boys slid into all the studio gigs, playing 'their' music, for sure.
     So-called 'pop,' which is a citified version of Rock 'n' Roll (just as the Detroit-Motown Sound is a slick citified version of older R&B-Gospel influenced forms) also sees to it that those TV jobs, indeed that dollar-popularity, remains white. Not only the Beatles, but any group of Myddle-class white boys who need a haircut and male hormones can be in a pop group. That's what pop means. Which is exactly what 'cool' was, and even clearer, exactly what Dixieland was, complete with funny hats and funny names . . . white boys, in lieu of the initial passion, will always make it about funny hats . . . which be their constant minstrel need, the derogation of the real, come out again."
-LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), "Jazz and the White Critic." 1966

Monday, March 28, 2011

Decline and/or Fall.

From The New York Times, an exercise in agonizingly strained optimism: Opportunities and Perils for Obama in Military Action in Libya. How many ways can one find to say "If it works..."?
The Course of Empire: Destruction. Thomas Cole, 1836.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Two fun facts.

"There are only two things more beautiful than a gun: a Swiss watch or a woman from anywhere. Ever had a good...Swiss watch?"
- Cherry Valance (John Ireland), Red River, 1948
Seeing these sexy dudes size up each other's guns made the Duke feel all funny inside.
At the start of filming for the 1948 Howard Hawks film Red River (which I reluctantly watched and thoroughly enjoyed thanks to the great Roberto), there was concern that John Wayne and Montgomery Clift would not get along due to their matching outspokenness on opposite sides of the political spectrum. They agreed to steer clear of politics on set, but Wayne and Walter Brennan both made it a point to avoid Clift off-camera because he was a known homosexual. Shit really hit the fan when a rumor made it to the Duke that Monty was having an affair with John Ireland, at which point the Santa Ana Airport's namesake actually lobbied to have his costar fired.

So I can be dragged kicking and screaming into admitting that John Wayne made some (some!) really good films, but I maintain that the guy was a complete jerk-off. 

Thank you, Public Enemy.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Brave New World.

An exchange between my father and a friend of his, both of whom were raised in villages on the island of Terceira, upon hearing that their sons (myself and a friend, both of whom were raised in southern California) hung out together on the east coast:

"These guys go to New York easier than we used to go to the city."

"It's true. We hardly ever left the village. Maybe once a month. But we used to have to walk."

"Yeah, I guess if they had to walk they wouldn't make that trip so often."

Friday, March 25, 2011

"You daggone right."

I think that as a nation we need to be reminded that what's passed for country music over the past few decades is actually a popular offshoot several removes from what the term "country" once referred to. I don't mean this as an argument about authenticity--that's a discussion that tends to give me hives--but merely to suggest that most members of my generation who subscribe to the "I listen to everything but country" position don't know what they're actually missing.

How can you dislike someone who threatens to kick your ass with such a winning smile?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Pow, you're dead." (1932-2011)

The Westboro Baptists have come to serve some practical purposes in American society, not least of which is to paradoxically confer honor on their declared foes. If you've earned a Westboro Baptist picket line at your funeral, you're okay by me.

So the fact that they've announced their intention to picket Elizabeth Taylor's funeral shouldn't just elicit anger. Rather, it should enable us to chip away at the patina of celebrity craziness with which Taylor's been tarnished for at least as long as I can remember.

Also: damn, she was pretty!
Many of the people most repulsed by the Westboro Baptists today seem to have conveniently forgotten that for a while back when they lived in Reaganland it was perfectly acceptable and quite common to talk about AIDS much as the Phelps family does now: as God's punishment for the abomination of homosexuality, or at least as the natural consequence incurred by a population for living in sin. And while most everyone else with a high profile was either maintaining a cowardly silence or running in the opposite direction, Taylor came out and voiced her unequivocal support for a segment of the population whose suffering was for most Americans little more than the butt of tasteless jokes.

So child star, addict, alcoholic, home-wrecker, serial monogamist, odd religious convert, narcissist who did and said some crazy things in that long strange second half of her life--whatever. Dame Elizabeth has earned her Westboro tribute, and whatever else one might say about her career or her very public personal life, that gets a tip of the hat from this humble blogger.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wheezy 'n' Breezy

Are we there yet?

No, and we'll never get there. Wherever we are is here, and there will always be somewhere else. We're just chasing the horizon. There will never be here and here will never be there. We'll never get there, and that's the most important thing to remember. The joy's in the voyage, in the constant chasing and the knowing that it's never to be caught.

Shit, we wouldn't know what to do if we did catch it.

A haunting on the Newburyport/Rockport line, or...

Friday four pm, Newburyport/Rockport line from Salem to Boston, after a day of maritime mansions museums witches handless wax figures and colonial Newengland homes in biting harbor breezes, coupled like pigeons on the spacious cushioned bench awaiting departure anticipating this last lovely evening of a sweetest week Cambridge Portuguese food followed by a gentle nighttime walk and Greenline back to the Northend a stroll to Caffévittoria for coffee and pastries and peoplewatching, you lazily cock your head right to lean on her shoulder maybe steal a kiss on the neck a nibble of the earlobe but your hatbrim impedes tenderness so you remove it and lean in again longingly nestling, she brushes back your hair caresses your neck kissing your forehead and you can feel the warmth of her gaze as her right hand slips over yours fingers interlocking in your coat pocket squeezing tight as you turn to stare into widebrown longlashed eyes glistening above plumpdimpled coldbitten carnation cheeks the most welcoming of smiles housing a neat file of white teeth interrupted by a wayward speck of ancient errant coastal sand from erstwhile colonies, a laugh a kiss on the lips prolonged with heavy lidded tired eyes closing closed in suspended touch as the train commences chugging picks up speed rumbles louderlouder louderstill almost like a jet engine buildingrisingbuilding to a pitch lurch and jolt beneath your seat.

Head cocked left slowly unlidding eyes suddenly stabbed by lightblade through tiny square window over massive shoulder of baseballcapped collegestudent whose right elbow violates the claustrophobic seat threshold, to your right leatherjacketed Dylaneque computerprogrammer plies his trade on seatback tabletop devoid of smiles or dimples or kisses oblivious to frigid breezes and fugitive sands, no Friday shoulder beneath your head no fingers interlaced with yours on this Saturday three pm flight from Boston to Denver to Orangecounty, only Bostonharbor receding beyond a bulky baseballcapped collegestudent frame, only retreating Massachusettsbay cloaked in mist a cumulus roof over Friday fickle a floor beneath train rumble become jet engine hum on Saturday ascending, longing, ascending.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"This land was made for you and me."

"Go home!"
In response to the video of their hate speech having gone viral, the purveyors of OC’s ugliest fighting words have gone on the defensive, with Ed Royce condemning hate speech and distancing himself from the nastiest bits of that video while reminding us that the speakers at the CAIR event were deserving of criticism. Deborah Pauly says her words were taken out of context by deceptive editing, and Gary Miller continues to cower in the shadows.

To be fair, Royce’s distancing of himself temporally from the screaming hate-gasm makes sense: it’s clear from the video that the elected officials in question spoke during the late afternoon, whereas the shrieking took place at night.

The problem with using that fact as a defense is that the video has audio, and in it Royce sure seems happy to receive applause from these same people whose beliefs he now claims to find detestable.

But, Royce reminds us, event guest Abdel Malek Ali is himself still a pretty detestable figure; and it’s true that the man’s said some detestable things in his loud and strange career. Yet despite what these speakers and a few fringe right wing blogs and organizations would like to have us believe, neither he nor his fellow speaker Siraj Wahhaj have any links to terrorist organizations.

As for Pauly’s statements, she’s right: the video is heavily edited. So if her words were taken out of context, then it should be easy enough to see how wrong we’ve all been about her. All we need is the full video, or a transcript of her speech.

Interestingly enough, despite the pride Pauly’s shown for participating in the event (see her twitter feed—or, you know, don’t), she’s refused to release a written transcript of her speech. Furthermore, the blogs defending her as having been taken out of context (you can google them, I’m not giving those fools traffic) when she seemed to be advocating the murder of Muslims don’t bother to show her in context.

Why might that be?

Perhaps it’s because the full video (posted below—Pauly starts around 00:43) doesn’t exonerate Pauly of the charge of wholesale Islamophobia. Yes, when she talks about Marines sending “these terrorists” to paradise, one might (but one also might just as easily not) infer that she’s talking about actual terrorists. However, what emerges from watching her entire speech is a sense of just how completely she lumps all Muslims together as a terroristic monolith. If anything, context worsens the impact by making it clear how inclusive her vision really is.

That’s all I’ll say about it. I'm sleepy and tired, and besides, you can see for yourself how the thing unfolds "in context." I have no reservations about continuing to call these people hate-mongering cowards and laughing bitterly at the irony of their freedom jabber. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.

"I confess to you, Lord, that I still do not know what time is, and I further confess to you, Lord, that as I say this I know myself to be conditioned by time. For a long period already I have been speaking about time, and that long period can only be an interval of time. So how do I know this, when I do not know what time is? Perhaps what I do not know is how to articulate what I do know. My condition is not good if I do not even know what it is I do not know."

- St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Rosinha dos Limões

A haunting and playful daydream of a fado on one of the genre's seemingly (some would say annoyingly) inexhaustible themes--unrequited love--A Rosinha dos Limões has always reminded me of childhood. This, for me, is comfort music.

The title literally translates to "Rosie of the Lemons," but when I was a teenager in a traditional Portuguese guitar group we used to jokingly call it "Rosie and the Lemons," thus seemingly transforming the song's eponymous protagonist from a lemon-selling peasant girl to the lead vocalist of an arena rock band. I got in the habit of calling the song by its wrong name, and still catch myself doing so from time to time.

It's been in my head lately, so I thought I'd share.

This is the original recording by Max. Below the video I've copied the lyrics in Portuguese and then attempted an English translation, which doesn't quite do justice to the clever simplicity of Max's lyrics. There's almost no attempt at proper versification, and only the slightest hint at puns subtly analogizing the coquettish Rosie with the Virgin Mary. Well, that's how I read them anyway.

I'm no translator.

“Rosie and of the Lemons”

Thursday, March 3, 2011

OC = Outrageous Cowardice?

You should watch the video posted at the bottom of this blog entry. It's difficult to swallow, but I recommend that you take it in. Sit through all five minutes and fifty-two seconds of rabid, uninhibited hate, just so you know what still persists--with enthusiastic support from elected officials--in a region that never sickens of lauding itself for being one of the most tolerant and diverse in the United States.

Listen to demonstrators tell American citizens to "go back home," taunt them by insulting the Prophet Muhammad, accuse them of spousal abuse and child rape.

"All terrorists go to heaven."
Watch Villa Park councilwoman Deborah Pauly stand in front of a fundraiser for women’s shelters and homeless relief and call it “pure, unadulterated evil.” Listen to her refer to its attendees (private citizens, including whole families enduring harassment by a mob of bigots) as “these terrorists” and elicit raucous applause by saying that she knows some Marines who would be "happy to help these terrorists to an early meeting in Paradise.” Remember, many of "these terrorists" are children, nearly all of them American citizens.

"Tolerance is intolerable."
Let Congressman Ed Royce's wisdom wash over you as he maintains that tolerance for those of different cultures and creeds from our own is what's wrong with modern America. See if he convinces you that his condemnation of a fundraiser to help abused women and the homeless is part of a principled stance against an "odious" ideology, a stance culled from "critical judgment" against the paralysis inflicted on Americans by multiculturalism.

Bask in the accolades of Congressman Gary Miller, who showed up just to give everyone a flag and let them know how proud he is of them for employing intimidation tactics on entire families at a charity event, all in the name of not letting "people we disagree with" destroy this fine nation.

"David Duke? Doesn't ring a bell."
Pauly can publicly hint at death threats to private citizens, Royce and Miller can stoke that fire by declaring a lawful assembly an assault on the very principles of a free nation, but Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is using your tax dollars to prosecute eleven Muslim college students for speaking their minds to a public official.

Does this pass as fiscal or social responsibility?

Congressman Royce should be reminded that nobody has ever successfully protected anything with cowardice, and this is simple cowardice.

Congressman Miller may be interested to know (of course, perhaps I'm giving him too much benefit of doubt) that the Ku Klux Klan also passes out flags and Bibles. They don't wipe away the taint of moronic bigotry.

Councilwoman Pauly should be investigated by the Department of Homeland Security for advocating terrorist acts against American citizens, or at least checked into an asylum.

These people are cowards. They're bullies who take solace in the roar of angry crowds against those whose voices they mute with xenophobic shrieking. And lest anyone object that they don't represent Orange County residents at large, let me note that they quite literally do exactly that. It's their job. These are not wackos on the fringes, these are your elected officials, Orange County, and you're with them or against them.

So pick a side.

Contact Villa Park Councilwoman Deborah Pauly:
Or follow her on twitter! Yay!

Contact Representative Ed Royce:

Contact Representative Gary Miller:

Contact District Attorney Tony Rackauckas:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

friendly advice.

Text message conversation:

"How are you doing?"

"I've got some serious heartburn."

"Ah! That acid reflux! They need to find a cure!"

"Or I can be more careful about what I consume."