Saturday, December 24, 2005

I want to thank Jerry for his generosity and encouragement, and thanks to those of you who've read, those of you who've commented, those of you who've communicated with me personally.

I've been spending most of the past week or two posting more on BoB than over here on BDRIB, rantingly bemoaning or bemoaningly ranting on, well, you all know on what. I have no idea what BDRIB will be in the future - and thank goodness new music is about to be released, and lots of it - but I do hope to spend much more time thinking about this than thinking about that (though that isn't really dependent on me).

Meanwhile, have more music:

A Martian Sends a Postcard Home

by Craig Raine

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings—

they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain.

I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand.

Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on ground:

then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.

Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colours darker.

Model T is a room with the lock inside—
a key is turned to free the world

for movement, so quick there is a film
to watch for anything missed.

But time is tied to the wrist
or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.

In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet, they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to suffer
openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt
and everyone’s pain has a different smell.

At night, when all the colours die,
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves—
in colour, with their eyelids shut.

The Enemy is Us

No one thought that the revelations of Bushco illegal spying were over, so
today’s story in the New York Times comes as no surprise. Of course they are spying on Americans, and of course they are spying on Americans who have nothing to do with Al-Qaeda, nothing to do with terrorism, and everything to do with their disdain, contempt, and loathing for all things Bushco and all things Bushcoesque about the modern American radical Right.

We moonbats on the loony Left have been correct in our assessment of this administration from the start. It is the most corrupt, dishonest, malevolent, incompetent, and disastrous administration in modern American history, and I’m certain we don’t know the half of it. We’re the people they’re spying on, those violent vegans and animal rights supporters and war protesters. Maybe Bushco is spying on members of the American Family Council and the 700 Club and the white supremacists over on - and I’d be curious to hear how those patriots feel about illegal wiretapping of their phones - but I doubt it.

Anyone who thinks that any erosion of civil liberties desired by the radical Right will be restored if by some whimsy they ever declare an end the War on Terror is stupider than stupid. Even if we grant that overreaction in the immediate aftermath of 911 is understandable, once Bushco discovered all the wondrous illegalities employable to squelch domestic dissent and entrench radical Right and corporatist rule and power, any changes in policy they make will be towards greater illegalities, not less. At the very least, they now have to cover-up all their illegalities.

But consider this: suppose, just suppose for thought experimentation’s sake, that Bushco motives are pure, that their concerns are for American lives and keeping Americans safe and protected from attack by terrorists, and in exchange for that safety Americans must sacrifice some of their civil rights. I’m with Patrick Henry: Give me liberty or give me death.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Anthony Hecht:

More Light! More Light!

For Heinrich Blucher and Hannah Arendt

Composed in the Tower before his execution
These moving verses, and being brought at that time
Painfully to the stake, submitted, declaring thus:
"I implore my God to witness that I have made no crime."

Nor was he forsaken of courage, but the death was horrible,
The sack of gunpowder failing to ignite.
His legs were blistered sticks on which the black sap
Bubbled and burst as he howled for the Kindly Light.

And that was but one, and by no means one of he worst;
Permitted at least his pitiful dignity;
And such as were by made prayers in the name of Christ,
That shall judge all men, for his soul's tranquility.

We move now to outside a German wood.
Three men are there commanded to dig a hole
In which the two Jews are ordered to lie down
And be buried alive by the third, who is a Pole.

Not light from the shrine at Weimar beyond the hill
Nor light from heaven appeared. But he did refuse.
A Luger settled back deeply in its glove.
He was ordered to change places with the Jews.

Much casual death had drained away their souls.
The thick dirt mounted toward the quivering chin.
When only the head was exposed the order came
To dig him out again and to get back in.

No light, no light in the blue Polish eye.
When he finished a riding boot packed down the earth.
The Luger hovered lightly in its glove.
He was shot in the belly and in three hours bled to death.

No prayers or incense rose up in those hours
Which grew to be years, and every day came mute
Ghosts from the ovens, sifting through crisp air,
And settled upon his eyes in a black soot.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Defend This
The Ohio Patriot Act has made it to the Taft's desk, and with the stroke of a pen, it would most likely become the toughest terrorism bill in the country. The lengthy piece of legislation would let police arrest people in public places who will not give their names, address and birth dates, even if they are not doing anything wrong.
Like say, someone standing on a corner waving an anti-Bush sign at the King's motorcade?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

For Your Consideration

The new talking point for the King's lieges is that since the US has not been attacked since 911, that makes authoritarianism not only A-OK, not being authoritarian would be irresponsible, and those of you who don't appreciate their selfless authoritarianism are the moral equivalent of the terrorists (and need to be observed).
Digressive Question: what has Bushco touched - anything, anything at all - that it hasn't screwed up? What would make anyone think that the efforts of Bushco clowns are the reason Al-Qaeda has not struck again since 911? Bushco? Competent? Please.
Does anyone else notice that the cities most likely to be targeted by a terrorist attack (New York, DC, Chicago, LA) are full of Liberals outraged by Bushco's illegalities and attacks on our privacy and civil rights, and that the President's staunchest defenders tend to live out in the middle of nowhere a terrorist would bother blowing up?

I live two miles from NIH, two miles from Bethesda Naval Hospital, three miles outside of DC and work in Georgetown, and spend free time often in the proximity of the National Mall. I'll take my chances with the terrorists, thank you, just give me back my country.

So here's my plan: go spy on, er, protect the militias in Montana and the violent anti-abortion protesters in Kansas and the KKK in East Texas and the gaybashers in Wyoming. Save them from the terrorists planning on nuking Helena and dirtybombing Topeka and car-bombing Galveston and gassing Laramie. I mean, we're ungrateful terrorists ourselves. We don't understand the sacrifices you endure to promote totalitarianism. So don't put yourself out, waste money surveilling, er, protecting us. Just point that fucking camera somewhere else.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Artistic City Limits

On All Things Considered this past Friday (Dec 16), NPR broadcasted this audio article about an upcoming appearance on Austin City Limits by Coldplay. The drift of the article seemed twofold: to complement Coldplay for their "savvy" decision to appear on ACL, to question ACL for asking Coldplay to perform. The article suggests that Coldplay’s appearance represents a watershed in ACL’s history and perhaps a permanent change in ACL’s musical mission.

I’ve never watched much ACL, though not by deliberate design. When I’ve seen it on while channel surfing I’ve stopped and watched, but the local PBS station in DC has either buried the show at three o’clock on a weekday morning or not bothered with showing it at all in the thirty or so years the show has been produced. I associate the show with music variously labeled alt-country and folk and alt-folk and rockabilly, and a glance back at the rosters of previous years’ guests fairly bears out that association. Lyle Lovett makes yearly appearances, and Richard Thompson and Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris and many others I would associate with these musicians have appeared.

But before Coldplay, ACL had invited Spoon and Franz Ferdinand and Rilo Kiley and (repeatedly) The Pixies and The Flaming Lips and Modest Mouse and Guided by Voices. Coldplay may have sold more records than these bands, but none of these bands could fairly be called alt-country or folk or alt-folk or rockabilly. If All Things Considered wanted to report on the beginning of a paradigm shift on ACL, they needed to have started at least a year or two earlier.

I’ve nothing for or against Coldplay, but the idea that their music is so significantly different from the music of all guests on thirty years of ACL is just silly. I happen to think that The Flaming Lips and Modest Mouse and Guided by Voices and certainly The Pixies make far more interesting music than Coldplay, but what Coldplay has done is sell more records than all of those bands combined. It’s not the uniqueness of Coldplay’s music that merits this story’s airing, it’s the bigness of Coldplay the record-selling juggernaut. The issue is not whether Coldplay’s music belongs on ACL, the issue is whether ACL should offer stage time to a band as already huge as Coldplay is. In other words, is ACL selling out?

The irony? Coldplay made its decision to appear on ACL - or at least it’s implied in the story - as a tactical move against their critics accusing Coldplay of selling out. By choosing to appear on a show that offers them a much smaller stage than they could command, Coldplay hopes to remain critical darlings, or if not critical darlings, at least stave off being stamped sellouts. Perhaps they’re trying to recover their artistic bonafides after allowing Starbucks to feature their last album on the register display of every Starbucks in the universe, up there next to Rod Stewart and Sheryl Crow and something called Michael Buble.

I am not decrying their decision regardless of whatever motivations they have, and they may very well be good and honest motives. I wouldn’t want to be called a sellout just because an album of mine sold more records than anyone anticipated and I became a much huger band than I could have dared imagine. Bands often do sellout, putting out lesser dreck than the music that made them famous and taking the money while the taking’s good, but just as often bands can put out music they seriously wrote, produced, and anguished over and still be called sellouts just because they made money. The old joke of my friends: that band was great until everyone else liked them, and then they sucked.

Which is not the band’s fault. It is a bit of a mobius curve though: in order to not seem to be sellouts, Coldplay claims artistic integrity by appearing on downsize ACL because Coldplay thinks it can sell more records in the future if people don’t think they’ve sold out now. It’s an anti-sellout sellout. Maybe it’s good for their own esteem, maybe it’s good for business, maybe it’s both.

As for Austin City Limits, buried at 3:00 in the weekday mornings in some major markets, not on at all in others, if putting on Coldplay is selling out and selling out is the price of survival, selling out is good business. Going broke is a poor reward for not selling out.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Not Just Cowards

George Bush could order the summary execution in the streets of anyone who looked sideways at a policeman, and his backers would applaud him for his genius and foresight, and those same people would claim that anyone who protested these summary executions clearly want the United States to be attacked again, wants Americans to die, and wants Islamic fundamentalists to conquer and control the United States.

Who has faith in America and Americans here? Those of us who believe we are a strong enough country to afford the risks that an open society offers in exchange for the rewards an open society provides or those who believe in torture chambers and spying on civilians? Those of us who believe that the President is bound to the constitution or those who dramatically and demagogically proclaim that America is the greatest country in the world and the constitution is inviolable as they endeavor to discover and implement ways to undermine that very constitution?

This is what pisses me off: they hate this country. They put on their flag shirts (and really, how is a flag fashioned into a shirt and sold for a hundred dollars less of a desecration than an honest protester burning it in an honest expression of dissent in a free country?), slap a yellow ribbon on their bumper, approve of an administration that purposely, steadily, works to undo two and a quarter centuries of separation of powers, to establish laws smacking of monarchy, to wreck the fence between church and state, to roll back civil liberties and women's rights, and then say I hate this country?

An old adage holds that one begins to resemble one's enemies, and in the fight against radical totalitarianism Bushco has chosen to use totalitarianism, and the people lining up in support of this erosion of American moral principle are those who claim to be most American. In their beliefs and actions they prove to be anti-American, anti-freedom, anti-openness, anti-religion. They are cowards, they are pussies. If they believed in this country like I believe in this country they wouldn't be destroying it to save it.