Thursday, July 31, 2008
Metaphorically speaking, you were formerly just an ass but now you've dug a hole to add to your name
Creepy Joe™ says: "Relax." And while we're speaking of metaphors, he's saying exactly what Frankie Goes to Hollywood was saying in that catchy little pop hit about sodomy.
"Relax. Me and my buddy Johnny Mac are about to probe the depths of political muckery."
Strangely, CJ™ was not so sanguine when Ned Lamont was poking fun at him in the Senatorial race.
And now for a musical interlude, and in a video you've likely not seen.
Stephen Devoto describes the dueling press conferences this week in Middletown as "weird bookends."
On Monday, Congresswoman Rosa Delauro held a private meeting with concerned citizens and local government officials to address the issues surrounding the proposed Army Reserve Training Center in Middletown. The press was locked out of the meeting, and in the case of Middletown Press reporter Sloan Brewster, asked to leave when she had the audacity to enter the room during citizen testimony. A press conference was held after the meeting complete with a podium that held the official seal of the US Congress.
Today, the Army Corps of Engineers will return a volley with press conference of their own, which is "press only" and not open to the public, or to public officials. In fact, when questioned, the Army representative indicated that members of the press will be asked to show credentials - something which rarely happens outside of top-security visits from high heads of state.
According to an article in yesterday's Middletown Press by Brewster, the Army seems a bit confused as to the resistance they are encountering. Still, they seem adamant that the Boardman Lane site is perfect for their needs. A large contingent of townspeople, and elected officials happen to disagree.
In town, there's an official position that the Army is welcome, if they will consider building on two recommended sites (one on River Rd, and one on Saybrook Rd - both technically in Maromas), or on another site, owned by Pratt and Whitney, on River Road.
Still, there are many in town opposed to the construction of the training center in Middletown, anywhere, because it is one more large parcel off the grand list, and a parcel which will then be outside of local regulation. I'm one of those who think the Army should look elsewhere.
As for how this will all be settled? It appears that at least part of it will be argued in the press.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Citizens, tonight we can sleep soundly. For a monstrous criminal, of such proportions as to spread fear, and yes terror, in the bosom of every American, a villian, who has wounded the security of our very way of life, has been remanded to the most secure dungeons of our penal system. Now, with him behind bars, our Constitution is safe. Now our flag waves freely. Now our children can feel unencumbered to carry themselves like their heroes - tatooing arms, and legs, arguing and brawling gratuitously, woofing like the sickest athlete on any hardwood floor across this beautiful land.
Yes, the NBA is safe to overpay spoiled athletes, and to reap the filthy lucre of the advertising dollar, broadcast contracts and merchandise deals, because Tim Donaghy's in jail.
Yes, our daughters are safe, once again to travel to the casino, purses heavily laden with silver to feed the one-armed bandits. Our grandparents are at liberty to empty their retirement funds for hundreds of scratch tickets, which promise everything, which exploit hope, and which deliver the joy of screeching, "Shit, sell me another." And our sons are free to worship the gods of Texas hold 'em, our fathers and mothers unshackled to wander the gaudy halls of Circus, Circus and flush their greenbacks away.
Because Tim Donaghy's in jail.
And while we can't determine the right method to imprison those who have raped the Constitution, defiled our civil liberties, relieved us of the lives of our brave service people, squandered our treasure, impoverished our nation and trampled our laws, we can breathe easy.
Because Tim Donaghy's in jail.
Don't mourn the freedom of Bush and Cheney, Rove and Yoo, Addington and Pearle, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, Gonzales and Mukasey, for these men are above the law which they have sworn to uphold. They are like gods among men. Servant to no ink scrawl on any parchment. And they will keep themselves free, and we will be safe from the terrorists which lurk behind every tree.
Because Tim Donaghy's in jail.
And Tim Donaghy should thank the judge who sentenced him that he won't be sent to Gitmo, or Pakistan, or Poland, or Syria, and that he'll serve his term in the sanest and safest of fortresses where every prisoner is treated like an equal animal. And we will watch Donaghy, as he grows frightened, and dim and demented on the next episode of MSNBC's Lockdown. And we will praise his conversion.
Because Tim Donaghy's in jail.
And I ask you, what the fuck is wrong with us?
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
From the "tell us something we didn't already know" department, the GAO has found that the Bush Justice Department has violated civil service laws.
In two years, we'll find out that they're still violating laws. Oh, my.
In the next few weeks the Department of Homeland Security will be playing the terror card as they "heighten awareness" about possible terror attacks during the Olympics and the conventions in Denver and Minneapolis.
Count on lots of talk about 9/11 and al Qaeda.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Representative Rosa Delauro invited Westfield residents, city councilors, and the owners of the property coveted by the Army, to talk about the proposal to build an Army Reserve Training Center on Boardman Lane in the Westfield section of Middletown.
Because it was a private meeting, I agreed not to report on the meeting itself, but only on the press presentation which followed.
Delauro reported that at the meeting Westfield residents, and others from Middletown, council members, the mayor, Sebastian Giuliano and Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, discussed and debated the proposed Army Base. Westfield residents oppose the siting of the training center in Westfield for a number of reasons, from environmental and traffic concerns, to questions about the economic impact of the base. New concerns about water, sewer and flood issues surfaced.
At this point Delauro, Giuliano and Bysiewicz are all opposed to building the training center on the site in Westfield. All cited the intractability of the Army, and their lack of communication on the topic, as problems in solving the siting issue. Delauro and Bysiewicz are also amenable to having the training site built outside of Middletown, while Giuliano stills supports building the training center on one of three city-recommended sites, a site adjacent to the Pratt and Whitney plant on Aircraft Road, a site next to the Kleen Energy plant on River Road, and a site behind an auto junkyard on Saybrook Road. All three sites are technically in Maromas.
Delauro has promised to lobby Secretary of the Army Geren, and along with Bysiewicz has authored a letter to Governor Jodi Rell, who is commander-in-chief of the Connecticut National Guard, and may have some influence in determining where the training center is built.
The press conference drew all four local TV stations, two newspapers, the state TV station CTN, and at least three radio reporters. Delauro, Bysiewicz, Giuliano (the three political leaders who are most deeply involved in the issue) and Jennifer Mahr, a representative of the Westfield Residents Association addressed the gathered reporters. Then a parade of less-directly-involved, though concerned, politicians including state representatives Ray Kalinowski, state senator Paul Doyle and state representative Joe Serra (who was not at the meeting with residents because of a dental appointment), took the opportunity for a little political grandstanding before the gathered cameras. Also in attendance was state representative Brendan Sharkey who represents governor Jodi Rell's push for smart growth.
It's become clear that the Army will have a fight on its hands if it insists on the Boardman Lane site, but it's not clear whether they will abandon Middletown, or reconsider building on brownfield sites.
The Middletown Common Council meets on August 4th to consider a resolution which will oppose the Army Corps of Engineer's choice of the Westfield site.
As Mayor Giuliano indicated, that to make the site buildable, "thousands of tons of trap rock will be shifted into wetlands. If the city had asked the Corps of Engineers to approve the site for the building of the new high school, they would have stopped us."
Call me a blockhead.
And while there's exquisite truth to Sam Johnson's words, there's an internet full of blogging blockheads, like me.
But in a Comment exchange with Connecticut Bob, one of those very blogheads, I asked a question that needs to be asked: Is the Hartford Courant exploiting bloggers when it uses excerpts from their blogs without pay?
As CT Bob recognizes, the Courant is in the midst of the biggest layoff of writers ever, and they are cherrypicking blog posts to fill their opinion pages. Bob is justifiably gratified with the attention, and with the ability to get his progressive opinions out in the world to a larger audience. And while Bob does not consider himself a professional writer (he doesn't currently accept advertising on his site), he, and bloggers like him, are arguably the future of political, social and cultural communication. His perspective is valuable and unique, his columns logical, interesting and clear. His writing is as good as anything the newspaper offers, and he's often closer to the ground than a lot of reporters can be. He was skewering Senator Lieberman (that stairwell video is a classic) when the Courant was giving the creepy lawmaker a pass (hell, they even endorsed him).
Newspapers which haven't figured out how to use the web are so John McCain. Re-printing blogposts with ink and paper, isn't "conquering the web." It's more like the folks who need to print the attachment to read it, because they can't read a Word doc on line.
Aside from Letters to the Editor, the Courant pays for every other word of editorial copy it prints. Shouldn't the paper at least pay a nominal fee to bloggers whose words they excerpt? The blogger who wants to remain pure can give permission to print without a fee, but the very idea that the Courant hasn't made the offer is exploitative.
They've been in the business for a long time, and they must surely understand that while the web is extraordinarily freewheeling when it comes to sharing and borrowing information, if you are a major media outlet, who makes money for your newspaper/website, then "borrowing" without pay is impolite, if not immoral.
Finally, the Courant edits the blogs without an approval. As if they know better than the person who wrote the damn thing.
There is a solution. A little © on your site will probably mean the Courant won't come calling, but it will assure you that if they want to use your stuff, they'll have to ask permission.
Speaking of blockeheads, here are some of the originals.
Yes, I'm being relentless, but Roy Zimmerman is really worth supporting. He's smart, funny and idealogically sound (sounds idealogical?) This is the only Connecticut stop in his pre-election tour of the lower 48. Anyway, it's all about getting an audience for him on a Tuesday night in the summer when everyone's brain is on vacation. The only one making money at this gig is Roy, and the sound engineer.
Tuesday August 5
Wilde Auditorium, University of Hartford
Box Office: 860-768-4228
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Eric Danton, or the Hartford Courant, has a nice piece this morning about alternative methods musicians are using to raise enough cash to record albums.
As a contributor to Mark Erelli's cause, I'm happy to say that the new album, Delivered, is his most accomplished yet, the bonus CD is filled with interesting alt takes of album songs, and song which didn't make the final cut, and the letterpress poster by Bennett Holzworth is beautiful.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
(Director Jeff Lipsky directs Drea DeMatteo on Main Street)
The movie crews rolled into town early this morning, and Main Street from Washington to College was shut down to accommodate the shooting of Once More With Feeling, directed by Jeff Lipsky.
(Mayor Sebastian Giuliano on set)
The crews, mostly from New York City, all t-shirts and tattoos, set up for two hours before cameras rolled for the first time. The initial shot involved shooting from the corner of Main and Washington, on the North of Main, from a dolly. This was not something town officials anticipated, and the mayor was not completely happy that the result was a Route 66 traffic jam which was stopped all the way West to Middlefield. Beachgoes honked their horns in frustration over the delay for shooting. Even after the first scene was shot, traffic, on a perfect beach day, was slow for hours.
(Councilman Ron Klattenberg speaks with producer Paul Jarret)
The first scene involved the character played by Drea DeMatteo being stopped by a policeman for a traffic violation, and then roaring off in her car in anger. It was shot from several angles before the cast and crew broke for lunch and a company move down the block for the shooting of a second scene, involving a tour bus.
While there was a lot of excitement having four grip trucks, a generator truck, lights, camera equipment, crew and actors on the street, most observers found that watching a film being made is like watching paint dry, only slower, and with more assistants.
It was definitely an unusual occurrence for Main Street, and Middletown officials. The lack of organization, the extreme traffic tie-up, and the informal communication between the movie makers and the police, were indications that the set wasn't swimming with experience. The traffic issues could have been solved with simple detours through other neighborhoods. The film company needed a strong line producer to make sure town officials new what to expect. At one point I found myself informing the crew that the camera car (the tow truck used to tow a moving car and crew) had arrived and was causing a major traffic problem on Washington Street.
Shooting was expected to be completed by 4 p.m. at which time Main Street will be reopened once again for traffic.
A report from Channel 8 will appear on the 6 p.m. news.
Friday, July 25, 2008
It's worried me, since he's begun saying it, when Barack Obama talks about escalating the war in Afghanistan. On the one hand, we all can agree that the Bush administration took its eye off the ball when it turned from partial victory in Afghanistan (where, regrettably it rounded up a lot of non-terrorist, terrorists and gave them a one-way to Guantanamo), and invaded Iraq.
On the other hand, no matter how horrible Iraq has been, I'm frightened that Obama's sabre rattling about chasing al Qaeda into the mountains of Afghanistan, is a recipe for disaster not unlike that which pulled down the Soviet Union.
And now, Zbigniew Brezinski, seems to be saying exactly the same thing.
While his thoughts on Afghanistan serve as a counsel to Barack Obama, his words of warning on a John McCain president are far more stark. He says: "Well, if McCain is president and if his Secretary of State is Joe Lieberman and his Secretary of Defense is [Rudolph] Giuliani, we will be moving towards the World War IV that they have been both favoring and predicting,"
The Army's shameful lack of concern for its own wounded enlisted men and women is a disgrace that only makes worse an immoral war that has gone on for too long, and with little gain.
The New York Times editorialized this morning about the Army's broken promise to wounded soldiers.
The promise of improved treatment was made after the Walter Reed Scandal. The Army never kept its word. Are you surprised.
With some reports of 300,000 troops suffering brain injuries, we must ask, surge or no surge, if the price we've paid has been worth it.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Political songwriting satirist Roy Zimmerman is making a pre-election tour of the lower 48. His only Connecticut stop is at the Wilde Auditorium at the University of Hartford, in a show to support freedom of speech and independent radio at WWUH, WHUS and WESU. Tickets are available at the University of Hartford Box Office.
I encourage my fellow Connecticut lefty bloggers to pass the word.
McCain shows little ability to grasp the subtleties, or the even the larger, more transparent issues of international affairs. Worse, when he demonstrates his stupidity with an unbelievable gaffe, he complicates it with a ludicrous justification for his incredible claims.
And so it begins.
Residents of Westfield have voiced their opposition to siting an Army Reserve Training Center in Westfield on Boardman Lane.
According to a report in the Middletown Press today, the Army Corps of Engineers is "adamant" about building the center in the Westfield section, despite a letter from Representative Rosa DeLauro which cites several reasons why the location is undesirable.
The Corp's Diane McCartin addressed the objections, but her responses, as reported by the Press are less than convincing. The Army "promises" traffic studies (and we are to believe the results of a traffic study conducted by the army?). The Army is convinced the center will be an economic boon to Middletown (though it will take the property off the tax base, be located closer to commercial districts in Cromwell and Meriden, and only concedes that local businesses will be "allowed to bid" on services needed at the Center).
McCartin also insists that the law requires the center to be built in Middletown, though as several knowledgeable people have pointed out, that's true only if a "suitable site" is found. When a townspeople agrees that the chosen site is not suitable, I would think it's not suitable.
DeLauro is upset at the inflexibility of the Army. If you think the Army is inflexible now, consider what will happen once they acquire a site.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
To their credit, the Hartford Courant has provided in depth coverage of Senator Creepy Joe™ Lieberman's speech to John Hagee's group, Christians United for Israel, last evening. On their website, they provide a complete copy of Lieberman's speech.
It's a speech premised on a fairy tale. I'm a non-believer in the miracles and mysticism portrayed in both the Old and New Testament. But I see their value as a metaphorical, and symbolic approach to a set of moral codes and beliefs. What I can't countenance is a political leader of any country, using the "words of God," as justification for any political or governmental action. It is, in fact, what Lieberman suggests in his speech - that "Americans and Israelis alike are the children of freedom and know alike that our rights to life and liberty come from our Creator."
To begin with, I don't think Lieberman, Hagee, or anyone else will find the United States of America name-checked anywhere in the bible. The "promised land" is mentioned often, and the Israelites can, indeed, claim they have a geographical promise from God, if one is willing to believe that such a God exists.
What's more, the founding fathers of this country were clear in their efforts to keep church and state separate, after suffering under the indignities of a government in which a king acted with "divine right."
But beyond this, Lieberman makes a broad argument about fighting mightily for the security of Israel and America, using the bible as evidence that is shall be so. In one sentence Lieberman dismisses the "demi-gods" of ancient Greece as mythology, and in the next, lauds the heroics of the "great humans" like Moses and his sister Miriam, who had regular conversations with God.
Coincidentally, Moses is considered a Muslim prophet, so it doesn't matter whose God is whispering in whose ear to destroy which enemy, it is downright frightening to think that any leader, of any country, is relying on the word of god to make policy, and to make war.
Aside from the fact that it's now clear that Creepy Joe™ Lieberman uses the bible more readily than the Constitution to justify his policy decisions, he also spent a good part his speech denouncing partisanship (though, for once, he didn't use the word.)" Apparently Joe hates to be hated, but he loves to hate.
In the defense of the indefensible Hagee, he says: "A person should be judged on the entire span of his or her life's works. Rather than searching for ways to tear each other apart, we should be searching for ways to close the gap that separates us from each other, to better understand each other, and to judge each other with the humility and certainty that each of us is imperfect."
This from the man who has spent the past four Sundays on news talk shows searching for ways to tear his political opponent, Barack Obama, apart.
One final note, Lieberman borrows generously from the book of Exodus for his speech - citing the story of Moses and his human failings. In what's typical of conservative religious zealots he cherry-picks verses that will suit his need. What he fails to acknowledge is that Exodus also contains these injunctions from God, among many others, in which God condones slavery, instructs his people to have love of enemy, and warns against sharing the idolotry of false religions:
Thou shalt not molest a stranger, for you know the hearts of strangers: for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.
If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six years shall he serve thee; in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.
If any man sell his daughter to be a servant, she shall not go out as bondwomen are wont to go out.
If she displease the eyes of her master to whom she was delivered, he shall let her go: but he shall have no power to sell her to a foreign nation, if he despise her.
If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lie underneath his burden, thou shalt not pass by, but shalt lift him up with him.
Thou shalt not enter into league with them, nor with their gods.
Thou shalt not follow the multitude to do evil: neither shalt thou yield in judgment, to the opinion of the most part, to stray from the truth.
Neither shalt thou favour a poor man in judgment.
He's your God, Joe, and he has spoken.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
A group of rightfully concerned citizens gathered last night to discuss how to derail the agreement for the city of Middletown to extend the lease of Harbor Park with current lessee Frank Marotta.
While much of the concern is with the sweetheart deal about to be handed, again, to Marotta, who has proven not to be a thoughtful neighbor, others are wondering why Mayor Sebastian Giuliano has had a change of heart about the property.
Some have said that as late as this March, the mayor was adamant that the lease would not be extended, only to be surprised when it was, a few months later, in preliminary negotiations.
Why the flip-flop?
Insiders have told me that the mayor, who thought he had the support of council members and political leaders in town to end the deal, was approached by those same leaders and council members to "back off" and extend the deal.
The same people tell me that with enough public groundswell, the mayor could be convinced to return to his original stance. It appears with a bit more support, the anti-lease group may very well allow the town to reclaim the "jewel of the waterfront."
Creepy Joe™ Lieberman is being abandoned by an obvious constituency, Jewish voters. In a recent poll, 48% of Jewish voters viewed him unfavorably, while 37% held a favorable viewpoint.
I can think of many things which would turn voter away, but Exodus 23:1 might hold the answer:
"Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness."
Tonight Lieberman provides malicious witness at a gathering hosted by the most wicked Reverend John Hagee (who Lieberman has likened to Moses), at what is being called a Washington-Israel Summit of Christians United for Israel.
Hagee, who is on record with vicious anti-Gay, anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic comments has been condemned by none other than John McCain.
Today, Glenn Greenwald, of Salon, take Lieberman to task for his support of Hagee. I think Lieberman ought to re-read Exodus before he takes to the podium and makes any more Moses analogies.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I don't know what's worse, that humorist Gina Barreca so clearly misses the point about the infamous Barack Obama cartoon New Yorker cover, or, as a professor of English literature at UCONN, that she so clearly misses the entire concept of satire.
There are a variety of definitions of satire (e.g. here, here and here) available using a simple Google search. But what is common among all these definitions is that satire is work that holds human folly, fault and wickedness up to censure, through the use of humorous devices which can include exaggeration, ridicule, irony, mocking, parody, comparison and wit. In the strictest sense, satire is supposed to edify those being satirized to demonstrate how they have strayed from a shared moral code.
As I've written before here, satire should shock all who read or observe it, into recognition of human faults. Satire should have an identifiable target. At it's best, it should make the observer gasp.
Under any of these definitions, the New Yorker cover qualifies as satire. But to all the densest of viewers, the cover belittles those who are so afraid of the possibility of an African-American president, that they would assign him qualities which are ludicrous to even imagine.
That Gina Barreca, and many others, don't like it, is meaningful only from the standpoint that most satire is meant to instruct by offending.
Barreca writes that the cover art: "was about as sophisticated a piece of satire as a penis drawn on a desk," which further illustrates her misunderstanding of satire. How a penis carved into a desk could ever be construed to be satire (unless it were a masterful, woodcut replica of Michelangelo's David's penis), or even humor, is beyond comprehension. A penis etched into a desk is meant to offend, or titillate, plain and simple.
Now, a vagina carved into a desk would be satire. The vandalizing vagina would satirize the juvenile, self-indulgent preoccupation with the phallus which has driven men to leave impressions of it everywhere in art history.
Barreca continues with an example of Neandrathal cave drawings. Somehow she construes a drawing of "a mastadon stomping one of the stick figures" as satire, "or an attempt at satire." While actual cave drawings show human figures being gored by wild bulls, it's a lot easier to imagine these drawings as being instructive, and not satirical. Who, exactly, does Barreca think is being held up for mockery? Now, if in the next panel of the cave drawing we see the same group of Neandrathals eating leafs, roots and berries, then we might consider it a satire of the beginnings of a vegetarian movement.
I believe Barreca has drawn the tortured Neandrathal comparison simply to be able to imply that the cartoonist and editor of the New Yorker, are beneath the intelligence level of your average Neandrathal. It's a non-joke. Or a joke that's simply not funny.
Finally Barreca says the New Yorker cover is "an equivalent of a football stadium of boors on Coors singing "Born in the USA" as if Springsteen's lyrics were a national anthem celebrating the caring, generous, nurturing attitude of the U.S. government toward its veterans rather than the heartbreaking, darkly satirical, deeply fatalistic song it actually is."
Barreca's predjudices are showing. Who are these "boors on Coors?" Are they the same people who might not understand the satire on the New Yorker cover (after all they can't understand a plainly straightforward Springsteen song). Are they alcoholics who don't listen to anything but the choruses of songs? Is there anyone, save Ronald Reagan's campaign consultants, who on hearing the song once, don't understand it as an indictment of the promise of the American dream?
BTW, I'm not quite sure Springsteen's song is "satire." While there's some irony implied in the chorus (which was taken, neary whole cloth from Ron Kovic's book Born On the Fourth of July, a title, itself, which might seem like a satire of the jingoistic, patriotic George M. Cohan song, Yankee Doodle Dandy, if it weren't for the fact that Kovic was actually born on July 4), the song's target is complex - it's the twisted entitlement, and the attendant disappointment, expressed by the song's narrator, of having a life at least as good as the one promised in recruitment ads.
So the comparison between people lustily singing "born in the USA," and completely misunderstanding the lyrical intent, and a cartoonist who seems to understand the vicious damage of those who claim things that aren't true, is lost on me.
In the end, Barreca's essay is so poorly thought out and argued out that I would suggest it's dishonest. It's clear she neither gets the satire implicit in the New Yorker cover, nor likes it. And that's what her essay should have said. It would have been a whole lot clearer, and not left the impression that the State of Connecticut employs a professor of English who doesn't know what she's talking about.
Well, what do you know? The Hartford Courant has finally recognized that Senator Creepy Joe™ Lieberman may be the least popular person in Connecticut.
His former Democratic colleagues, union associates, and Congressional cohorts creep away. Meanwhile, his Republican presidential candidates, congressional leaders and strategists creep closer.
While here in Connecticut, we're just creeped out. Eeeeeyewww.
Saturday at the Green River Festival, was, as to be expected, hot and humid as the inside of a soup pot.
The music was also as to be expected rootsy, danceable, exciting and adventurous. Whether it was the arcane Appalachian-based string music of Crooked Still, which features a cello as a serious component of the old-time tradition, or the Sacred Shakers who reshape gospel music into something nearly profane.
(Singers Rani Arbo and Miss Tess sharing secrets at the Festival)
Viewing music on the main stage was torturous without an umbrella or other portable shade. The dance tent provide shelter from the sun, but the infectious invitations to dance usually propelled the below-tarp humidity to near precipative levels. The Primates Fiasco twisted New Orleans style jazz into a funky gazpacho of street parade classics yoked with disco, punk and pop. Their BS dance contest provoked those gathered to similarly twist themselves into human pretzels, then led the entire crowd, and dozens of costumed children and adults in a parade through the festival grounds.
Highlights? Big Sandy singing lead, unmasked with Los Straightjackets. Mavis Staples reviving the sixties and seventies. The Sacred Shakers rocking out on Samson and Delilah. Me learning to use a hula hoop for the first time in my long life.
The spectacular weather display from Friday evening left some incredible damage in river towns South of Greenfield. A reported microburst knocked trees to the ground, toppled power lines, collapsed barns and otherwise wreaked enough havoc to have the governor declare a state of emergency in Sunderland and Hatfield.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Barack Obama is making a tour of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other port of calls.
It's protocol for these kind of trips, especially into war zones, to remain secret to guarantee the safety of VIP travelers.
So it's peculiar that John McCain would publicly announce Obama's plans from a podium during a campaign stop before Obama's plane was even in the air.
McCain's inadequacy for the job of president becomes ever more evident.
In addition, Mr. Surge™, John McCain has gone negative with this ad that is coincidentally about Iran and Afghanistan:
The weather in Greenfield Mass, and at the second day of the Green River Festival, was spectacular in a way that doesn't mean "pleasant" but "dramatic."
The evening show opened on the main stage with Lafayette's Red Stick Rambler bringing a touch of Texas swing, and Louisiana dance hall to the New England stage. But before their set was finished, dark thunderheads gathered over the mountain behind the stage. The skies opened with a quick, but drenching downpour which sent many of the large crowd to the dance tent, a new feature at the festival, which was about to be christened with music, dancing, and a summer thunderstorm.
As Boston's Miss Tess and the Bon Temp Parade took the stage, the storm went from spritzing to soaking, and this newcomer to the festival found herself with an audience driven in by the rain, but convinced to stay by Miss Tess's beautiful, and powerful voice, and her mix of old jazz, blues and vintage dance music. The tent remained packed and swinging until the end of her set.
On the main stage, Eilen Jewell and her band hit the boards, but the crowd was quickly distracted by a second storm, which skirted the festival, a double rainbow and an unusual cloud formation called white mammatus (mammatocumulus), and lighting which streaked across the sky horizontally in the distance. The thunder, however, did not steal the thunder from Jewell's impressive set.
Back at the dance tent, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys moved the dancing into high gear with a set that had the assembled shouting and strutting. Outside the tent, the intrepid balloonists gathered for the annual illumination, and Jimmy Vaughn, with the help of Lou Ann Barton blasted blues into the night. The evening ended with a reprise of the Red Stick Ramblers in the dance tent, abetted by musical friends, until the music finished just past 10:30.
Today, the festival producers are expecting the largest crowd ever for the event, and it's not surprising with headliners Mavis Staples and Lucinda Williams.
Friday, July 18, 2008
KBR continues to rake in war profits from their contracts in Iraq, and in the process, their shoddy work is killing Americans.
When pious political hypocrites like Creepy Joe™ Lieberman crow about Iran making bombs that are killing Americans in Iraq, shouldn't he also be saying the same thing about KBR?
Benny Morris, a professor at Ben-Gurion University, predicts an Israeli airstrike on Iran's nuclear facilities within four to seven months in the New York Times today.
He hopes for the complete destruction of Iran's nuclear capabilities, and barring that, he predicts a nuclear war in the Middle East. His views are based on the assumptions that the intelligence agencies of the world are correct in saying that Iran will have the capacity to produce nuclear bombs within a few years, and that diplomacy, or even a nuclear standoff with the "fundamentalist, self-sacrificial mindset of the mullahs who run Iran" would be impossible. Not that the leaders of Israel share any of the same faults as the mullahs, eh?
Morris' editorial is interesting in that it assumes what has been unspoken - that Israel has nuclear weapons, and is ready to use them. And that the US should be the power to make the pre-emptive strike, but probably won't because of a public fed up with a war which began with a pre-emptive strike.
Morris' doomsday scenario should be the kind of insider warning that alerts the world, and particularly the US, that diplomacy is the first answer, war the last.
On entering Greenfield's Energy Park, the first person I bumped into was Richard Shindell. The rumors of his gangrenous arm are hugely exaggerated. He wore a modest bandage on his index finger, and confirmed that he lopped off a tiny piece while chopping wood with an ax.
When I asked him if it was "against the rules" for musicians to use such like sharp objects he laughed and said, "No, musicians shouldn't be so precious. They ought to be doing things like chopping wood, and living life."
(photo: SF Hansen)
The injury didn't prevent him from delivering a complete set, and somehow he was able to form chords, even with his deformed digit.
The show opened with Mark Erelli, singing as strongly as I've ever heard him, and greeted warmly by a large crowd which filled every flat space in the tiny park which borders a well-used rail bed. In fact, one announcer challenged the musicians to sing "Folsom Prison Blues," if a train passed. Fortunately for Caroline Herring, a train entered the scene, with the engineer waving, just as she finished her last song. Her set was a revelation of her skills as another in a line of talented Southern storytellers.
This free concert, in the center of Greenfield Massachusetts, was a kickoff for the 22nd Green River Festival. Producer, and founder of Signature Sounds Records, Jim Olsen didn't seem to be worried about anything but rain. "It's been nine years since a drop of rain has fallen on this festival," he confided. It seems like we're past due."
The forecast if for hot, humid weather - typical for the festival weekend. And with a new dance tent, and some great acts, including Lucinda Williams, Mavis Staples, Crooked Still, The Red Stick Ramblers and Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, it ought to get steamy.
(photo: SF Hansen - Mark, Flora and me)
Thursday, July 17, 2008
I was happy to see the media pay some attention to the siting plans of the Army Corps of Engineers for an Army Reserve Training Center on Boardman Lane in Westfield. Happier still to see that the Middletown Eye, had a more complete accounting (Eye reporters tend to stay until the end of important meetings and events, and as residents, observe with a different concern than most reporters).
Undoubtedly, Common Council member understand how important it is to keep the residents of Westfield happy. They are a large, cohesive, vocal, voting block. And right now, they are pissed. Democratic council members seem clear about how important it is to keep the WRA on their side. Not so sure about the Republican members.
It's also becoming clear that despite the many professions of patriotism and cooperation, there aren't many neighborhoods in town which want to host a gargantuan military training base which, in the end, will have a negative economic impact on town.
And now, the Army needs to get the message loud and clear - look elsewhere.
What struck me simultaneously as hilarious and tragic, is the angle taken by the Middletown Press, and by Channel 3. With all the negative impact that this army base might have, both of these news organizations focused on the poor farm animals that will be displaced. Typically Americans seem more apt to react strongly to some distress experienced by a cat, dog, dolphin, bear or donkey, then they will to a starving family in Darfur. And the members of the media understand this. So we get front page photos of the poor miniature donkeys who will be sent far from their homes and lead stories on the 11 0'clock news covering the same thing.
But if these asses can prevent other asses from building an Army Reserve Training Center that townspeople don't want, then I'll be the first to kiss those asses.
After the showing of Casablanca last night, I bumped into Barrie Robbins-Pianka who told me she had scored a hat trick last night in Middletown, attending three important events in a very busy Wednesday evening. Barrie had run in the Not Your Typical 5K Road Race on and around Main Street. She had attended a part of the contentious informational meeting about the proposed construction of an Army Reserve Training Center in Westfield, and she made it to the Goldsmith Family Cinema to see Casablanca.
I only made two out of three (knowing the Westfield contigent was a powerful voice in City Hall).
At the Wesleyan film center, actor, and friend of Wesleyan, Edward Herrman gave some interesting insights into the film we were about to see. Herrman, who first saw the film in New York City in 1971, at a time he described as "most cynical" and full of antipathy for anything that was associated with "the establishment." To his own astonishment, in a revival movie house filled with marijuana smoke, he was among an audience who fell in love with a film that is admittedly romantic, idealist and, in fact, patriotic. Herrman read from screenwriter Howard Koch's book on the film (and who better than Herrman to read in his sonorous baritone), which seems to indicate that the film that emerged from a chaotic film process has turned into a classic which still works its magic on an audience.
On this evening, laughter and applause filled the room. I sat rapt, thinking once or twice in amazement, that this old relic once again had me by the neck.
Here's looking at you kid.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
As I suspected, all the worry America's pundits have flooded upon the "dreadful" New Yorker cover, is nothing but crocodile tears.
There are smart people all over this country who know how satire works, and how worthless pundits are.
From the NY Times, this morning, an explanation.
I don't get the folks at Buzzflash. First they skewer Ralph Nader, and now they rail against satire.
They actually write a headline that reads, How About A New Yorker Cover With The Editor's Head Up His Ass?
Ho, ho, now that's funny, in a childish, unsophisticated, sophomoric kind of way. The editorial is the most stupid misunderstanding of satire that I've ever read. How about a Buzzflash headline that reads, "This Just In: Stephen Colbert Is Not A Right Wing Asshole!" Mark Karlin, better re-read your idiotic "editorial" (notice the "ironic" use of quotation marks, Mark), because your own predjudices are on display.
At Salon, Gary Kamiya diagnoses a severe "loss of sense of humor" on the left, as a result of cynicism overdose.
Where's Kurt Vonnegut when we need him?