Thursday, March 09, 2006

More Things I Need to Know More About

I was running errands last night, daydreaming in traffic. The radio or a CD is always on; I can daydream better to a radio I'm not paying attention to than I can daydream to the absense of that noise. All of a sudden I hear a song I not only know but love, and a song that had no seeming reason to be on that radio station at that particular time. And then I hear another song by another band I like.

All Things Considered is running a four part series on what it calls Latin-Alternative: what is it, who's making it, how's it marketed, what's its future. The song I love, Me Gustas Tu, is by Manu Chao. Here is Bongo Bong off All Songs Considered. I've mentioned Chao before, that time in his role as the producer of last year's wonderful Abadou and Mariam release Dimance a Bamako. Here is their M'Bife/M'Bife balafon, also from ASC. The other band whose song I heard is Ozomatli, a favorite of my favorite DJ in Seattle. Here's their Street Sign.

Here are Tuesday's and Wednesday's segments. I'll add Thursday's and Friday's when they're made available.
Eating His Own

So, members of the House, who belong to a party whose leader is ostensibly the President, threaten to derail a business deal much beloved by the President, choosing as its only means of leverage to attach that bill to a bigger bill that sends money to the President's beloved war of choice. What do you do if your President Rove, er, President Cheney, er, President Bush?

If you're the Bush Administration you attack your own, accusing the Republican Congress of underfunding Katrina recovery.

I have this image: here's Bush, lamely playing carpenter, tool belt around his waist, and he hears that Congress has stapled the anti-Dubai port deal to his war funding, so he rushes to an open microphone and petulantly spits his outrage over his minions' disloyalty - Oh Yeah? Well you cheated hurricane victims! Nyah! - but while petulance is never absent from anything Bush, the attack was not impromptu or accidental. Bush has never considered the House or Senate any more than hosannahing choruses, and that congressman - freaking Representatives, for effing's sake - would defy His Eminence, well.

Dick Cheney emerged from his undisclosed location (and let me digress and mention that if his staff has indeed learned from past mistakes we would not know yes or no whether he's shot anyone in the face within the past two weeks, now would we?) to buzzsaw supplicant Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee to abdicate their power and responsibility. I don't imagine for a second a whore like Pat Roberts costs much to tipple, but what threats must Cheney have made to topple moderate darling Hagel? And now Bush directly blames the GOP-controlled House for the - well, one can't say signature mistake of his presidency, can you? How can you choose but one? - post-Katrina debacle.

A king can maintain fealty by fairness, bribery, or forced coercion. Knowing this administration, guess. And considering the coattails GOP Senators and Congressman were so slobberingly, fawningly, greedily ready to ride, it'd be a pleasure to watch them fry in their payback if only their blind rush to support this President on everyfreakingthing hadn't help land us in this cowpie in the first place.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ali Farka Toure

His obituary on and The Guardian and All Things Considered (with music).

Two more (with music)

It's easy to love an artist's music, easy to hate an artist's music, easy to be indifferent to an artist's music. What's hard is evaluating a new release of an artist that I like, like a lot, like enough that I want to make a commitment but just haven't been able to make that leap to love.

Two albums have just been released by artists I want to love. One, Neko Case's Fox Confessor Bring the Flood, is generating much buzz: here's a Wash Post review in today's paper, though Case is on the cover of Harp and can be found pretty much everywhere now. She's going to be famous.

Her voice is simply unique, powerful and passionate, unmistakable. She doesn't sing on most of the songs on the New Pornographers' albums, but the songs she does sing dominate the albums. (Click on that link and find the audio files - click on Letter to an Occupant; you only get 30 seconds, but quite a good taste.) And this, perhaps, is a key to my resistance to the solo work: she has this big, animal instrument of a voice which she never lets off the leash the way I want her to. Maybe my formative years listening to Kate Bush has created in me a need for emotional theatrics, a need for the timely screaming climax in a song. I listen to "Hold On, Hold On" off Fox Confessor, it's almost, almost, perfect. Almost.

Similarly, The Gourds new Heavy Ornamentals.

As long as I've been listening to The Gourds, they've almost been one of my favorite bands, enough so that I own most if not all of their albums. I've often wondered if my acquired taste for what can be badly if necessarily be called alt-country or roots-rock or whatever hindered my appreciation; of the bands I listen to who could be grouped together under that limiting label, The Gourds are my favorite. This picks at the scab of genre that seems to be so popular at picking, and in this case indicts me: in order for me to commit my love I am asking them to exceed my expectations of what alt-country should be. There is always a point in my favorite Gourd songs where I feel if they just kicked it into some indefinably sublimer plane, gush would go my heart. The first cut off the new one, "Decline*O*Meter," starts strikingly, the chorus is catchable, but the bridge... almost, almost.

I've bought both albums without regret, and they are in my rotation and will stay there for awhile, and I will in all probability buy Neko Case's and The Gourds' next albums, but when I stock up the car for the family trip this summer I doubt these albums or any of the previous will make the cd case. I recommend both, and hope the listener loves them. I wish I could.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Return to the Womb

It occurred to me that since the time I began reading Best of the Blogs through when I was invited to contribute through today, I recall little if any discussion of abortion. We've all acknowledged the existence of the cultural war, that it exists in reality - some issues do devolve to yes or no, that most believe are personal choices - but it exists in politics more: yes or no issues have great value as moneyraisers and base-rallying (on both sides). Lots has been written here and elsewhere on gay marriage, on how Republican state legislatures, at the behest of or in conjunction with Rovian dictates, added anti-gay propositions to ballots in 2004 to give pro-Bush supporters extra incentive to vote.

It may be coincidental that anti-abortion legislation is making its way through state houses just as George Bush's presidency seems daily to reach new bottoms of popularity, but it is not accidental that anti-abortion forces had legislation ready in time for Sam Alito's elevation to SCOTUS, and it is certainly not inconvenient for a White House in desperate need for anything diversionary that the culture war moves from sodomites to babykillers. Or is it?

This is a culture war not on homosexual men but on heterosexual women - the one's who were supposed to dampen at the sight of Maximum Leader in his sock-stuffed flight suit. This has never been about fetuses, this is about controlling women's sexuality: if all life is equally sacred, there wouldn't be exceptions to save the mother's life, there wouldn't be exceptions for rape and incest. Crooks and Liars now has up a recording of a telephone conversation betweeen a caller who asked another dumb rightwing radio host Jane Hamsher's hypothetical question, if you were in a clinic and there were five fertilized eggs and one two-year-old child, and the building caught fire, and you could only save the five fertilized eggs or the two year old child, which would you save if all lives are equal. The General today sends out word that legislation is proposed in Tennessee that will ban the selling of dildos. If that's successful, I suspect legislation will be proposed that will ban the female orgasm except those deemed permissible by the woman's male partner. And when that happens, with this administration, women better not confide anything to anyone over the phone.

Because we're going back

and Margaret had sex three times in her life.
She never had an abortion.
She never had a dildo. She never had an orgasm.
And America was safer. And men were secure.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Opening game, four weeks from today.

Sestina d'Inverno

by Anthony Hecht

Here in this bleak city of Rochester,
Where there are twenty-seven words for "snow,"
Not all of them polite, the wayward mind
Basks in some Yucatan of its own making,
Some coppery, sleek lagoon, or cinnamon island
Alive with lemon tints and burnished natives,

And O that we were there. But here the natives
Of this grey, sunless city of Rochester
Have sown whole mines of salt about their land
(Bare ruined Carthage that it is) while snow
Comes down as if The Flood were in the making.
Yet on that ocean Marvell called the mind

An ark sets forth which is itself the mind,
Bound for some pungent green, some shore whose natives
Blend coriander, cayenne, mint in making
Roasts that would gladden the Earl of Rochester
With sinfulness, and melt a polar snow.
It might be well to remember that an island

Was blessed heaven once, more than an island,
The grand, utopian dream of a noble mind.
In that kind climate the mere thought of snow
Was but a wedding cake; the youthful natives,
Unable to conceive of Rochester,
Made love, and were acrobatic in the making.

Dream as we may, there is far more to making
Do than some wistful reverie of an island,
Especially now when hope lies with the Rochester
Gas and Electric Co., which doesn't mind
Such profitable weather, while the natives
Sink, like Pompeians, under a world of snow.

The one thing indisputable here is snow,
The single verity of heaven's making,
Deeply indifferent to the dreams of the natives,
And the torn hoarding-posters of some island.
Under our igloo skies the frozen mind
Holds to one truth: it is grey, and called Rochester.

No island fantasy survives Rochester,
Where to the natives destiny is snow
That is neither to our mind nor of our making.

Say I've just gone down to the basement CD racks to browse and rediscovered all my Mazzy Star albums, and in listening to So Tonight That I Might See I remember precisely why I loved this band, and I'd like to be able to make available to those who'd like some of the songs. How could I make them available? I know I could go create a radio station on Live365, but I have neither the time or ambition to do that. What I'd like to do is occasionally compile a podcast and make it available here for anyone interested. How? What programs? Through ipod? Are there copyright hoops I'd have to jump through? Any advice would be appreciated. Email is up in corner. Or here in comments. I also found some Beat Happening and Pylon and The Gits and Tsunami and Velocity Girl. And all the Pere Ubu you'd want.
* * * * * * * *

UPDATE: Slate's going to be running a debate all week on Rip it Up....

New York Times has a review of

It's just been released in paperback. Good read, though I'd still recommend

I said, in the context of the Bush Administration and torture:
They are working harder at making sure you don't hear about torture than they are working to stop the torture itself.
When a few weeks ago I met Dana Priest, the Washington Post journalist who broke the CIA secret prison story, to give her the first Krugie Award hardware, she told me that - and I'm paraphrasing here, please note - reporting on this administration was getting harder and harder because the White House was coming down hard and viciously on anyone perceived to be suspect on the inside and threatening legal action against anyone perceived to be suspect in the media.

The lead paragraph in a front page story in today's Post:
The Bush administration, seeking to limit leaks of classified information, has launched initiatives targeting journalists and their possible government sources. The efforts include several FBI probes, a polygraph investigation inside the CIA and a warning from the Justice Department that reporters could be prosecuted under espionage laws.
Read the whole article. Then consider the news that Bill Frist, being held by the short hairs of his presidential ambitions by the White House, proposes changing the rules of the Senate Intelligence Committee so that instead of being the only truly bipartisan committee in the Senate - the idea being that national security oversight is above partisan politics - becomes instead a regular majority dominant committee that will squelch any investigations into Bush Administration illegalities.

And then consider the man ordering this, who flys in and out of Pakistan in the dark with windows drawn on his airplane so to avoid seeing his protesters. Consider his vice president, who has not been seen or heard from since his forced non-apology for a shooting you'd not have heard about if he'd have found a way to keep it quiet. Consider his key political adviser, whose gameplan is to accuse anyone who dissents of treason.

A coward, a psychopath, and a sociopath: Think of what we know they've done. Think of what they're capable of doing, think of what they've done we don't know about. Think of how far they'll go to keep us from finding out.