Wednesday, April 30, 2008

She left me for Jesus

Everytime I play this on my radio show someone calls and says "Play it again."

From the new album by Hayes Carll Trouble In Mind.

Mcenroe channels Obama, brilliantly

George you ignorant slut.

I wanna know when McEnroe is going to challenge Buddy Vicevich to a live, on-air debate. If it happened, and if Colin can manage not to be nice, polite and willing to humor even the lamebrained, then Vicevich would have to change his name to mincemeat.

This is hilarious even though it's at the expense of people like me

Read this an learn that "what I have to say about the Reverend Wright scandal," and "you won't look at Reverend Wright, or his scandal, or what people have to say about his scandal, in the same way ever again."

My predicition on the Reverend Jeremiah Wright

As I posted yesterday, I think that the most recent Wright outburst was intentional, and designed by Wright, and/or Wright and Obama to allow Obama to distance himself permanently from Wright.

If I'm right, I think we won't hear any more from Wright until after Obama is elected President (and then I think we'll hear a lot more). If I'm wrong, then Wright will be out there swinging, and maybe Obama won't be elected president.

BTW, I support Obama, and Wright, and I think it's disingenuous for pundits to say that Wright is off-kilter for his wild views. Think of what he says that's considered most outrageous:

- He thinks the government may be responsible for AIDS. Okay, you can disagree on the details of this one, but the underlying assumption is that our government is capable of some really terrible things. Start with the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, and work your way through the bombing of Cambodia, the support of the Contras, the arming of Saddam Hussein, extraordinary renditions and torture of prisoners, and you have to admit Wright is right.
- He thinks, as an ex-Marine, that our military sometimes can be equated with terrorists. I don't know anyone who doesn't support every service person who is doing their duty conscientiously, but you'd be completely naive to believe that there aren't some military personnel who have murdered, raped and tortured. If that's not reprehensible, I don't know what is. So, again, you have to admit Wright is right.
- He says that Louis Farrakhan is one of the most influential voices of our age. I'm not sure on this one, but it may be true that Farrakhan has far more influence amongst the black population than any of us white observers can suspect. But given the pronouncements of people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, and the political connections they have had, it's easy to see that nut jobs have far more influence in all politics than we would care for them to have. So Wright is right again.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The wheels on the bus go thump-thump-thump, thump-thump-thump

It's a dive. It's a set-up. It's a thrown fight.

Barack Obama needed to shed the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, completely, but he couldn't do it based on past statement (Obama had already taken his stand on those). So he needed Wright to be just a bit more outrageous. Just a bit more offensive. A bit more flamboyant in his criticism's of politics, politicians and America.

And Obama got what he wanted from Wright. A speech so distasteful to so many Americans (I can't include myself in that group - I enjoy Wright, and agree with most of what he says), that Obama could jettison him like yesterday's New York Post, and be done with him for good.

Now, who could challenge Obama about Wright. The deal is off. The relationship severed. The friendship abandoned.

It's a shame that politicians can't speak the truth in America. But whatever we have to do to get Obama elected...

Take that Rush Limbaugh. Hope you weren't betting on Sonny Liston, Hillary.

You know what you do with an anchor, don't you?

Let's just say that Brian William's sensibilities are as leaden as his opinions. A Pulitzer for Peggy Noonan? Why yes, and another gold star for General Petraeus.

Glenn Greenwald observes the irony of a talking head who should leave the blogging to experts.

Man overboard?

Privatizing immorality

Bad enough that Bush is fighting an immoral war with hired contractors. Once again, one of those contractors seems to be involved in bad business that has nothing to do murdering and injurying innocent civilians.

It appears that DynCorp, a major defense contractor, has been caught transporting prostitutes in armored vehicles designed to carry employees - one of who died because the armored vehicle he was supposed to be using was otherwise occupied.

A real hero risks everything

And in the case of Air Force Colonel Morris Davis, he has risked his career, his relationship with fellow officers, his own reputation as a military leader at Guantanamo. Yesterday, he testified for the defense in the military commission trial of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, the alleged driver for Osama bin Laden. Morris has declared that the procedures are illegal and unconstitutional, and he is staking his entire career on exposing this truth. This is a neck upon which a Congressional Medal of Honor ought to hang.

UPDATE: Salim Ahmed Hamdan has declined to have his case heard by the military commission claiming that justice would not be served.

The script for the press conference

I'm listening to a press conference from the Rose Garden, and the least-liked President in history is taking softball questions from the White House press corps. Each of the questions seems designed to allow Bush to make pre-scripted talking points. Where are the questions on torture, domestic spying, food shortages,

The chumminess is simply an extension of the joking and buddying-up at the star-studded White House Correspondent's dinner where important people like Jenny McCarthy chatted up Colin Powell, and Rob Lowe fawned over Condi Rice.

Monday, April 28, 2008

And now a woman artist with real talent

Santogold. Another Wesleyan next-big-thing alum, and Jon Pareles agrees.

Manipulated by the mouse

Judging by the number of people who are checking out my humble blog for news of Hannah Montana, I'm guessing that this "scandal" is manufactured and will make Disney, Vanity Fair and Miley Cyrus bushels of cash.

First, the "nude" photo itself is ridiculously modest. Miley Cyrus is as nude as she is under jeans and a blouse. For god's sake, she's covered with a sheet, and is only "nude" in the small, dirty minds of those who would think of her that way. You can see "nuder" fifteen years olds on any beach in America.

Second, Disney accuses Vanity Fair of making money by taking advantage of a 15 year old. And how many years has Disney exploited this pre-teen for their benefit.

Third, Miley Cyrus is on the cusp on not being a wholesome pre-teen anymore, and in America, my friends. a wholesome teenager just doesn't sell. Disney and Cyrus are working hard to make their young starlet into a vixen.

Fourth, this is the nonsense that America is working at when we are struggling with war, poverty, hunger, torture, loss of liberty, criminal leaders, and hundreds of other problems that we don't have to worry about if we are concentrating on the bare shoulders of Hannah Montana.

This is a show business kid, and you know what Steely Dan says about show business kids, "making movies of themselves. You know they don't give a fuck about anybody else."

Hannah Montana scandal not

Several months ago I published a piece under the title Hannah Montana scandal concerning the scalping of concert tickets, and comparing it to the practice during the Bruce Springsteen tour.

I have continued to get hits on the "Hannah Montana" blog, particularly now that folk are looking for a glimpse of Miley Cyrus in a state of dishabille.

You see, there's a new scandal. And aren't we shocked as Americans that a fifteen-year-old Hollywood star has posed for photos baring some skin. It's not pornography, and it's far from explicit. But America can't be more abashed. We create these monsters and can't wait to tear them down.

For you idiots who will read this post hoping to find out more about Miley Cyrus, consider this: your president has given approval to torture people. Now that's something to be concerned about.

An all-American smear job

Bigotry and intolerance are ugly no matter the source of the bile.

Debbie Almontaser realized a dream of creating an Arabic language public academy in New York City.

Here school, her career and her dreams were smashed by a bigot disguised as a patriot and defender of Jewish rights. McCarthyism hasn't died. It's merely been transmuted by the right-wing scream machine.

What has happend down here is the wind has changed

According to the New York Times, Randy Newman writes folk music. He'd probably be a bit surprised but his Louisiana 1927 has become a folk anthem for all New Orleans, and for the people who love it. He'll be singing it Thursday at the second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

The conservative love affair with Hillary Clinton

Andrew Sullivan has figured out why there is a sudden outpouring of support for Hillary Clinton (often expressed as a vitriolic distasted for Barack Obama) among conservative Republicans like Limbaugh, Buchanan, Scaife and Rove. They want her to win so they can beat her.

Moyers gets Wright what the press got wrong

Erica Jong points out the inadequacy of the press in its discussion of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and how Bill Moyers trumped them all.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The strobe light press

On the Sunday New York Times editorial page, Elizabeth Edwards shares a version of her critique of the press and the campaign (and the press in general), and Frank Rich scoffs at the easy conclusions that same press have arrived at concerning John McCain's alleged victories at the hands of the long Democratic race (and the implication that Hillary Clinton somehow still has a chance to catch Obama).

Torture on a sliding scale

For as much as they insist that they don't torture, the Bush administration has done its damnedest to readjust the definition of "torture" and the restrictions agreed to under the Geneva Convention.

Now, it's revealed, that the CIA has the right to torture under certain circumstances - to prevent a terrorist act. Since the Bush administration thinks terrorism can be anything from protesting the war to blowing up a humvee, it seems like the CIA can torture at will.

This latest argument is featured in Sunday's New York Times reporting on a letter of clarification by Brian A. Benczkowski, adeputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department in response to requests from the Senate Intelligence Committee, and in particular, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon.

According to Benczkowski, as cited by The Times:

“The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act,”


“to rise to the level of an outrage” and thus be prohibited under the Geneva Conventions, conduct “must be so deplorable that the reasonable observer would recognize it as something that should be universally condemned.”

Just wonder who in the Bush administration that "reasonable observer" might be.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The last of the great folk music archivists

There's not a link to it on the New Yorker site yet, but there is a wonderful article about folk music, field recording, folk music collecting, and folk music collections, by Burkhard Bilger, called The Last Verse. There is a great audio interview with Bilger under the title The New Yorker Out Loud at the New Yorker website. The audio interview is also available at iTunes.

The story profiles Dust-To-Digital collector and producer Lance Ledbetter and collector Art Rosenbaum, and their attempts to track down the last of the folk songs (many songs released recently on the album The Art of Field Recording. In between we meet John and Alan Lomax, blues singer Sweet Petunia Bryant and folk singers Bonnie Loggins and Mary Lomax.

I've been lucky enough to meet a few of these song and record collectors, and to hear the family music played firsthand. (Let me clarify, I've not met Ledbetter or Rosenbaum, but collectors, producers and archivists like them. And the musicians I've heard sing old songs in kitchens are primary Cajuns and Creoles in Louisiana.)

For any music fan, this is an article to seek out and read.

The demented state of state secrets

The down-the-rabbit-hole, switch-back logic, absurdity of it all is frightening.

Though it's against the law, and against your Constitutional rights, the government can spy on you with impunity. Because if you find out they are spying on you, you can't demand to make the evidence public, even if the government has mistakenly made the evidence public. And if you challenge the government, particularly this administration, they will claim it's a state secret so that it cannot be brought to justice before a judge, much less a jury.

Patrick Radden Keefe's article in the New Yorker documents the trail of a secret made public. A trail which inevitably leads to dead end after dead end.

Just pray they never throw you in an unmarked van and haul your ass off to some secret prison in Arkansas.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I hate to give any credit to this gasbag, but...

Rush Limbaugh is encouraging Republicans to switch party affiliation and vote for Hillary Clinton in a mobilization of his dittoheads called Operation Chaos designed to disrupt the Democratic campaigns. He's claimed victory in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and while no one in the news media seems to be taking his claims seriously, the news media is not necessarily the place to search for real answers.

A mission of mercy

George Bush visited the North End of Hartford today (one of the poorest neighborhoods in one of the poorest cities in the country), and talked about malaria. Of course, it's not malaria that's the problem in the North End, it's lack of health care, jobs, educational opportunities, poverty and the attendant scourge of drug abuse and violence.

He artfully ignored those topics, instead making a deft analogy. Eradicating malaria is the same as eradicating terrorism.

The act of defeating malaria in developing nations, he said, was a mission of mercy and an act of hopefulness.

He went on to say that the only way to defeat terrorists was through "acts of love and hopefulness." Yes, he actually said that. So when you figure out how storms of bullets and bombs are "acts of love," please drop me an email.

I wasn't able to get out to one of the "free speech" protest pens, but I'm disappointed that no one in the crowd had the nerve to call Mr. Danger out as the hypocrite that he is.

The wind, or the weathervane?

Huffington Post's Thomas Edsall sees the press "jumping ship" from "support" of Obama to a favoring of Hillary Clinton.

Given the fact that the press has been so wrong about so much during this campaign, and given the fact that the press has not spent the time to do the hard work of actually examining issues, it's hard to accept Edsall's premise.

It would be foolhardy for Obama and his supporters to deny the fact that Hillary Clinton, abetted by a press who is willing to print what it is fed, has demonized Barack Obama as if he were a bomb-throwing member of the Black Panthers. It would be equally foolish to deny that a white backlash against a black candidate is possible in the dark heart of this nation.

So, if they have jumped ship, it's into a boat that they have built themselves.

The press is supposed to report news, not make it. With a 24 hour news cycle, and non-stop broadcast and web coverage, the most worthless shit gets reported and repeated as if it was worthy of consideration.

Edsall sees a shift in the reporting of Joe Klein (March 19), the New Republic (March 19, 2007) and Politico (June 6, 2007)? When exactly were they supportive of the campaign of Barack Obama?

Festivals: the green and the yellow

NOTE: I hope you were smart enough to look more closely at the poster for Feet To the Fire and see that the festival is two weekends from now, on May 10.

As the weather warms up, the idea of outside activity is natural.

Coming up there are two big festivals in the area.

The very first Feet to the Fire Festival takes place Saturday May 10 at Veterans Park in Middletown, with music, a farmers' market and demonstrations of ways in which we can live in ecological balance on this small planet.

Over in Meriden, it's the annual Meriden Daffodil Festival at Hubbard park, and while the carnival rides, the fried dough, and the horrendous parking, are distractions, the music is always great.

Appearing as headliner this year is Eric Burdon, with the current lineup of the Animals. Word is that Hilton Valentine, an original Animal who now lives in Connecticut, will be part of the band. Other music includes a Connecticut panoply of roots and rock, including the Reducers, Mark Mulcahy, Mighty Purple, Stacy Phillips and Paul Howard, River City Slim and the Zydeco Hogs, the Manchurians and Christine Ohlman and Rebel Montez.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

He is not one of us?

Then I don't want to be one of us either.

The New York Times this morning quotes Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center as saying that the perception of Americans is that Obama is "not one of us." The article also examines the problem of race in the election.

Despite an amazing speech on the topic or race, despite the fact that he epitomizes the America success story, Obama has been hammered by the press and by his opponents for being radical, a black extremist, marxist, elitist, islamic, unpatriotic and the New York Times wonders where white, frightened xenophobic middle Americans come up with this idea?

These voters are just upholding a long held tradition of racism in America.

American Music Club at the Iron Horse

Lucy and I decided at the last minute to head to Northampton to see American Music Club last night, and the babysitting tag team of Monica and my sister Patty made it possible.

Since I heard the album California 20 years ago, I've been a huge fan of Mark Eitzel's brooding, moody, romantic, confessional, loosely structured songs. The band produced half a dozen complex, sometimes hard to fathom, but always interesting albums before they broke up, and Eitzel released an equal number of solo albums.

They got together again a few years ago and produced Love Songs for Patriots, and this year released Golden Years both of which recalled the fire of the earlier albums tempered by time passed.

Last night the band, which now only includes Eitzel and Vudi from the original combo, sounded as powerful as ever. Eitzel sings with passion in a rock crooner style which reaches deep to unleash the demons. As Lucy said, he even sings the old songs as if they were brand new. Vudi's exotic solos, couple with Eitzel's intriguing guitar style mixed rock with roots and exotica. The show was sublime, and the audience lapped it up.

Eitzel joked that the band had changed its name to Enduring Freedoms, with a slogan of "hot love" shouted with a pumped fist. He said, "You know, "enduring freedoms?" There aren't any left." The band played songs from throughout their careers, including several from the new album, and two of my favorites from California, "Western Sky" and "Blue and Grey Shirt."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Welcome to Hooverville

You may not be old enough to know what a Hooverville is, but surely you understand the meaning of shantytown.

And now, American has begun to spawn largescale shantytowns on the outskirts of major cities. The BBC reports on a homeless tent city in Ontario, CA, just outside of Los Angeles. We can thank our president for making us part of the third world.

And what shall we call them? Bushtowns? Bushland? Bushgardens (oh, that one's taken). I kinda like the sound of Bushburghs.

On the wings of a mosquito

Connecticut Opposes the War points out that the reason George Bush will speak about malaria at a Boys and Girls Club in Hartford is that it allows him to charge us taxpayers for the cost of his trip to Connecticut for a fundraiser.

They also point out that they're organizing a protest of the event. You can register to attend, here.

Interestingly, Bush will be at the residence of Henry Kissinger. I wonder if he'll be getting advice from another war criminal who got away with it.

She's right, the tide is turning and the seas are parting and a burning bush has spoken to her and...

Hey that's me on cut 13

One of the side benefits of hanging around with musicians is that occasionally I get featured on their albums. I'm part of the chorus on Erin McKeown's "La Petit Mort" (her French, not mine) from the Distillation album, and I'm also on the chorus of Hugh Blumenfeld's "longhairedradicalsocialistjew" from his Rocket Science.
Susan Forbes Hansen reported to me that she heard my voice coming out of the speakers when she played a cut from the new Savoy Family Band album Turn Loose But Don't Let go, on Arhoolie. Sure enough, there I am after the band plays a live version of "Two-step de Prairie Soileau," recorded at the Rhythm and Roots Festival in Charlestown RI, as I take the band off the stage after their set.

I've never been paid a royalty for my recordings, but that's okay. I feel like royalty being immortalized with these great musicians.

The bigot ballot

I suspect that Hillary Clinton's victory in the Pennsylvania primary had more to do with race than any of us want to talk about. Clinton worked consistently to portray Obama as a black, radical, elitist. To the extent that white middle and lower class male voters went for her and not Obama, I would have to surmise that his race had something to do with it.

Greg Mitchell at the Huffington Post seems to be thinking the same thing, and he grew up in Pennsylvania.

On the way in this morning, I heard Courant columnist, and former counselor to Bill Clinton, Bill Curry say on the local public radio affiliate, that we shouldn't take these results as saying that as a country we are swayed by race, false patriotism and petty politics. I think another former Connecticut resident got it right. PT Barnum is reported to have once said: "No one ever got rich overestimating the intelligence of the American people."

He also said: "There's a sucker born every minute."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

One killer addresses another

When it comes to striking down innocents, malaria has it over George Bush by a long shot. Malaria kills a million people a year. George Bush has been responsible for far few deaths every year for the past seven, but he's no slouch.

George Bush is coming to Hartford Friday, (Hartford's North End to be precise), to talk about Malaria Awareness Day. And the connection to Hartford is.....?

Where's the outrage?

Sunday it seemed like news that would shake the world. The Pentagon had unleashed its minions disguised as "experts" on a gullible press corps, and the mainstream media had lapped up the bogus testimony like kittens over a tea saucer filled with milk.

And the righteously indignant press corps filled front pages and talk shows with defiant and fiery invective about remaking the media, and rediscovering the truth. Or not.

The story, as outrageous as it is, is dying with a whimper.

I guess it doesn't have the import of a flag pin.

Is it any wonder that newpapers are dying and that TV and radio news commentators resemble less the front page than the comic page?

So it goes

I haven't been keeping up thoroughly with the songwriters' blog that the New York Times is hosting, but today there was a particularly interesting blog by Roseanne Cash in which she explains the creation of a song, via email, with songwriting partner Joe Henry.

Henry is one of those singer-songwriters who is admired by fellow songwriters, and by critics, but is largely ignored by the listening public. His latest album, Civilians, found its way onto a lot of top 10 lists at the end of last year.

This songwriters' email exchange, and the finished demo (included in the Times blog) demonstrates how talented he is, and how a gifted songwriter like Cash benefits from having a co-writer.

BTW, another Nick Lowe addendum. Lowe wrote a great song titled So It Goes, on his debut solo album, Jesus of Cool, just remastered and re-released.

"So it goes," was a signature phrase of Billy Pilgrim, the main character in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five.

Where are the strong? Who are the trusted?

I've listened to Elvis Costello's version of Nick Lowe's "What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?" hundreds of times, but never with tears in my eyes. That changed Saturday when Lucy and I went to see Morgan Spurlock's new film "Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?"

I have mixed feelings about the documentary as a whole. I've never been a huge fan of the filmmaker as intrusive on-camera narrator, and the hip graphics and video-game title segment, and the wise-guy humor, though all of it does bring a sense of humanity to the topic.

The parts of the film which work best are when Spurlock travels to the dangerous nations of Saudi Arabia, Israel, Afghanistan and Pakistan and meets with the people who live there. These human interactions say more about the condition of the world than any report by any pundit, more than any speech by any politician, more than any governmental public relations report.

The film ends with a series of portraits of these people as Elvis Costello sings. And it made me cry listening to those words and seeing those faces. I guess it says something about me and my state of mind, but it's a musical question for the ages.

BTW, Nick Lowe is playing a solo show in Northampton on Thursday May 1 at the Calvin Theater.

Some journalists are actually doing their jobs

Bill Moyers interviewed Leila Fadel, a journalist who has been covering the war in Iraq for McClatchy since 2005. She was in New York to receive a Polk Award for foreign reporting.

For a sense of what Iraq is really like (since the Pentagon has proven itself totally untrustworthy in providing information), listen to the interview here.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The wrong people are running for president

John McCain dismisses legitimate criticism aimed at his so-called "health plan" by Elizabeth Edwards, as "a cheap shot." It was his way of not having to answer the question.

In her response, Elizabeth Edwards proves again that she is the one who should be running for office.

Now that's diplomacy

Condi Rice demonstrated her skill as Secretary of State by mocking and taunting Moqtada al-Sadr. Of course, she works for the guy who famously taunted insurgents with the line "bring it on."

She said: "He is still living in Iran. I guess it's all out war for anybody but him. His followers can go to their death and he will still be in Iran."

The result was one of the worst nights of fighting recently in and around Sadr City.

You see, Condi can taunt al-Sadr from the relative safety of the Green Zone while American and Iraqui soldiers have to deal with the rebellious Shites.

What next? Insulting al-Sadr's mother? Condi: "Moqtada, your mama's so fat that Osama bin Laden is hiding in her navel."

New York Times exclusive - Creepy Joe™ Lieberman is a Republican

You never know what will happen when the entire editorial board of the New York Times gets to blogging. But it seems that they have discovered something entirely unheard of, unthought of and undiscovered.

Al Gore is acting more liberal then when he ran for president.

And Creepy Joe™ Lieberman is acting like a blindered Republican hawk.

Unbelievable. I want to see their sources.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Son you were doing 65 in a 40 mph zone, and homeland security calls that terrorism

You'll notice that Homeland Security begins its rehearsal for martial law in smaller media markets where the word doesn't reach the networks as quickly. They obviously haven't considered the Google or the internets.

So, you make ask yourself, why are local law enforcement agencies handing out traffic citations during a "terrorist roundup?"

Operation Sudden Impact, eh? Glad we got those leadfooted terrorists off the highway, at least for a few minutes. They will not find traffic court in Guantanamo a day at the beach.

H/T to SF Hansen, again.

"Good evening, I'm respected, four-star general (insert name here) to tell you that we are making significant progress in Iraq"

In a long, detailed and well-researched article in this morning's New York Times, David Barstow makes clear what many of us have felt in our gut for years - the military analysts, mostly retired high-ranking military officers, who showed up on talk shows, and op-ed pages in support of the war in Iraq, were reading from a script written by the Pentagon. Most of these retired officers were simultaneously working as consultants to military vendors hoping to procure large war goods contracts from the Pentagon.

In a cozy, perverse daisy chain of cronyism, the Pentagon rewarded these "analysts" (who the Pentagon called, "message force multipliers) their support of Pentagon causes, by giving them access to leaders who could help guarantee contracts for clients of these on-air war cheerleaders.

Most networks and print media outlets allowed these analysts to propagandize without checking their credentials. Another argument about the failure of the press to deliver accuracy to their readers and viewers.

As a child of the sixties, who learned that trusting the government, the military or the press was a mistake, I can only say, "Sing that chorus one more time General Petraeus."

Throwing the dreadful snake and the little girl out with the bathwater, or wasted away in margaritaville

In the long run there's little to worry about. Ask Pete Seeger if you doubt me. Folk song, folk music is strong enough to withstand the depredations of commercialism, the influences of pop culture, the dilutions of broadcast and narrowcast, the seductions of fame and fortune. These songs, and this attitude is built to endure. These are sturdy songs appreciated well by front porch gatherings, and tiny coffeehouse crowds, and even legions of fans at folk festivals.

Speaking of which. Folk song, like John Barleycorn himself, is strong enough to endure the changes wrought in the transformations of some of America's oldest folk festivals.

Last year, while at the Newport Folk Festival, I learned that it would be the last one produced exclusively by Festival Productions, the company founded by impresario George Wein, which founded the folk and jazz festivals at Newport. I was told that the festival, along with several others produced by Festival Productions had been sold to the Festival Network, which hoped to turn the Newport Folk Festival into the next Bonnaroo, the amazingly successful multi-genre (but mostly rock and pop) festival held every year in Tennessee.

And so, it has come to pass. The Newport lineup has been announced (thanks to SF Hansen for the heads up) with headliners for Saturday and Sunday featuring the Black Crowes, and Jimmy Buffet respectively. There are some interesting bookings for the frestival including the Avett Brothers, Cat Power, Levon Helm, Gillian Welch, and the much overrated Jim James and M. Ward. The good news is that Bob Jones, formerly of Festival Productions, is still at the helm, and that the temporary swing toward pop cred is balanced with the thought that after re-establishing the festival, more traditional performers will be sought to fill the stage in future years. And even Jimmy Buffet indicates he'll do a folkie set, instead of a Coral Reefer band "parrothead" set.

Whether Newport can ever approach the mass popularity of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (which starts this week), Bonnaroo, or California's Coachella (next weekend), is debatable. Part of the worry at Newport is that crowds have thinned over the past few years, only reaching a half or two-thirds capacity. To be honest, I've been at the festival when it's been a sell-out, on a hot August afternoon, and it's been, umm, uncomfortable, to say the least.

While Newport struggles to achieve Bonnaroo status, other smaller roots festivals, which don't have the same necessity to meet outsized commercial goals are booking amazing lineups and drawing large enthusiastic crowds, there's everything from the Dewey Balfa Heritage Week taking place this week in Ville Platte, Louisiana, the Augusta camps and festivals in West Virginia, to the Green River Festival in Greenfield Mass, the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival (at a new site this year), the bluegrass and cajun music festivals at Strawberry Park, the Rhythm and Roots Festival in Charlestown RI, the Blackpot Festival in Lafayette Louisiana, and that's just scratching the surface.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Protecting the brand

This is what Kleenex sued about so many years ago. The right to keep their brand name from becoming a generic description of a product, in the case of Kleenex, a "facial tissue."

In the case of al Qaida, it's George Bush and John McCain who threaten to lump every middle Eastern terrorist organization under the al Qaida brand. Shame on them, and I wouldn't be suprised to see Osama bin Laden taking them to court.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Danny Federici, RIP

Keyboard player Danny Federici who may forever be known for the evocative accordian riffs on Springsteen's 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), died yesterday at age 58 after a long battle with melanoma. Federici was the first one to invite Springsteen to join a rock and roll band.

I wanna spit in the face of these badlands

The role of mercenaries: pillage, burn and rape

Defense department contractors, and apparently the military branches of the Pentagon, have a serious sexual assault problem which they seem unwilling to address. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has held a hearing to find out why the Justice Department hasn't addressed the issue (too busy going after Democratic oppenents, I guess). Florida's Senator Bill Nelson has pressured the military, who seem incapable of handling the problem.

The next big thing, live, reviewed

MGMT returned again to the middle and to Wes, and the Argus tells the tale.

Who's the scaredy cat?

To properly list all the illogical, disjointed, contradictory arguments WTIC-AM conservative chickenhawk announcer Jim Vicevich makes on a daily basis, would take a blog longer than any of you is willing to read.

Vicevich hates Barack Obama. In emulation of the great Joe McCarthy, Vicevich calls Obama a "marxist." And Vicevich, for who stammering is nearly an artform, had the nerve to call attention to how many times Obama said "um" in the most recent debates.

Also, lately, Buddy V, has taken to disdainfully calling Barack Obama "the messiah" while simultaneously disputing Obama's Christianity. Maybe Mr. "I gave my soul to Jesus" Vicevich ought to re-read the gospel, in particular, Matthew 7, chapters 1-5:

1Judge not, that ye be not judged.

2For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

3And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

4Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

5Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

Today Vicevich called Barack Obama a "scaredy cat" because Obama has indicated he is not planning another debate with Hillary Clinton. And who could blame him after the travesty on ABC Wednesday evening. In fact, Vicevich spent hours of his show repeated the slurs of Sean Hannity about Obama and his relationship with 60's radical Bill Ayers (for more on the truth about Ayers, see here).

But Vicevich should be the last to call anyone a "scaredy cat." Consider this:

- Vicevich is old enough to have served in Vietnam, but despite his support of the military, war (and yes, the Vietnam War), and patriotism, he did not serve
- Vicevich consistently hides behind vets who have served (including his sometimes co-host and co-blogger, Sergent Mel)
- Vicevich is consistent in his support of the troops except when he isn't, never speaking out against the outrages of the Bush administration who sent ill-prepared, ill-equipped troops into a poorly planned assault from which the volunteer troops have no escape (blocked by repeated call-ups and stop-loss orders)
- Vicevich consistently hangs up on callers who back him into a corner - when he can't come up with a response to someone who challenges him, he simply hangs up, says, "this conversation is over," or shouts over the caller. Typically, he will spend the next fifteen minutes making fun of the caller who found the fault in his illogic, without ever giving the caller the opportunity to respond. For the record, I've made three calls to the show, and have been hung up on each time
- Vicevich will never allow a guest who disagrees with him on his show into the studio with an open mic. Why? Not sure, but it certainly prevents all those (and they are legion) who could prove what an imbecile Buddy is from having the opportunity to do so
- Vicevich has a blog, but there is no area on the blog for comments from readers. A sure sign that someone is afraid of a little truth shining on their innuendoes
- Vicevich consistently supports hard line public policy for which he will never have to really show support. Support the troops, but don't ask me to volunteer to help with homeless vets, or wounded veterans at the VA hospital. Support the boycott of the China Olympics, but don't ask me to tell my management that we will not accept commercials from sponsors who are aligned with the Olympics. Abandon those who need medical, welfare or social services help from the state, but don't ask me, as a Christian to spend my time and money helping them, even if Jesus would. Don't help those who have been hoodwinked into high-risk mortgages, but when my own business goes belly-up, allow the government's bankruptcy laws to protect me from my creditors

Seems to me that Jim Vicevich should be considering the beam in his own eye before calling Obama a "scaredy cat."

Last time I heard someone called a "scaredy cat," was in the third grade. I think the response was: "It takes one to know one."

Things are swell in Sadr City

(New York Times photo)

If you can't beat them, build a wall around them. Perhaps if the US could get enough concrete to build a wall around each and every individual citizen of Baghdad, they would achieve the security they have proclaimed, intermittently, for years.

Of course, the same concrete might be used to build schools in the US, or roads, or repair bridges, but defeating the great satan of Islamofacism appears to be more important to this administration.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

She twists the knife again, he brushes it off

The advantages of being a Wesleyan neighbor

Okay, so once the windows are open in the Spring, there are a few Thurs-Sat early mornings when drunken Wes students come shouting down Pearl Street. But the minor inconvenience outweigh the cultural advantages.

Vijay Pinch informed me of two really interesting events not posted on the external Wesleyan calendar.

Thurday evening, at 8 pm, April 17, Ajit Kelkar presents a one-person play entitled The Common Man, based on a caroon series about postcolonial India which was drawn by R.K. Laxman over five decades in The Times of India.

Friday April 25, it's Sufi-rock (not surf-rock) with Salman Ahmad at 4:30 pm in the Memorial Chapel on campus. Ahmad is guitarist and singer for Junoon, the most popular rock band in South Asia, blending sufi (mystical Islam) and rock. It'll be a documentary, followed by questions, followed by Ahmad unplugged with a tabla player.

Checking out the rest of the calendar, I find that if you were shut out of the Bushnell performance of the NPR hit show, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, you might get into a lecture with Peter Sagal and Doug Berman at Wesleyan's Beckham Hall, thought the calendar lists the events on two different days, April 16 and April 17.

And Amy Bloom, author of the acclaimed, Away, will be lecturing Friday April 18 at the Film Studies Center.

M.I.A, is m.i.a, but hold still, it's the Hold Steady

It has to be 25 years ago that I sat on Foss Hill with my family and watched Beausoleil play the Spring weekend concert at Wesleyan. The students were largely disinterested, but there was nothing more fun on a warm Spring day at the height of the Cajun music craze.

This year, rumors were abroad that M.I.A. would be headline, but apparently, it's not so, and much to my joy, the great Brooklyn band The Hold Steady will anchor the day. Of course, you're not invited, but there's no fence around Foss Hill.

The news media is broken

I went to bed last night after watching the debate, actually after tuning in to Keith Olbermann to see a bit of analysis about the debate.

I was already disgusted at the quality of the questions by Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous. They dwelt on the petty and trivial minor issues discovered by bloggers and inflamed by a media who don't know how to address important issues and maintain an audience. I was furious at the questions chosen by Pennsylvania voters who seem obsessed with nonsense like Barack Obama's flag pin and Hillary Clinton's exaggerations about Bosnia. I was appalled that Stephanopolous followed the wing of right-wing bloviators and questioned Obama about a 60's radical with whom he had a very tenuous relationship, and then Clinton amplified the ridiculous inference.

And after determining that Clinton was being as negative as she could be while hoping not to alienate the last of her supporters, and that Obama handled the nonsense with as much dignity as he could muster, I heard NBC Political director Chuck Todd tell Olbermann that Obama had been pummeled and appeared "shaken." I couldn't believe my ears about a debate I had just watched myself.

And if you think I'm the only American disgusted with the quality of the questions delivered by Gibson and Stephanopolous you can begin by considering that the audience at the debate booed Gibson, and that many commentators are as furious as I am, including Greg Mitchell, Colin McEnroe, Josh Marshall, Marty Kaplan, Greg Sargent, Tom Shales, Niall Strange and Andrew Sullivan.

And then there are the nearly 13,000 people who commented directly to ABC.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shot with her own gun

Swallowing the bitter pill

If you read the news, or listen to the radio, or watch TV, you would think that Barack Obama's comments about the bitterness of small town, lower and middleclass Americans was controversial and somehow worth debating.

It's another manufactured controversy and the way the media has swallowed it and spit it out proves again that there is very little thought given to much of what is printed and broadcast. Yesterday, to his credit, Colin McEnroe printed Obama's remarks in context to demonstrate that they have a ring of truth.

Unfortunately, McEnroe had spent an entire hour the previous day discussing the remarks as if they were really worthy of remark. Worse still, he had two political consultants who pretended to have worthwhile things to say, while they said absolutely nothing of worth. And this is exactlty what's wrong with the media's coverage of this campaign. It is without substance. Whether it's Hillary's cackle, McCain's homage to the Beach Boys, or Obama's minister, the press has focused on everything but what is truly important. In the hunt for headlines and ratings, newspeople have focused on slips of the tongue, petty disagreements, bad jokes and minor details, and have ignored the issues of substance - the war, the economy, education, poverty, justice, because none of these things is easy to explain in a soundbite.

I urge you once again to take an hour and watch Elizabeth Edwards address at Harvard. Would that she were running for president.

I believe in the hope

Bruce Springsteen has endorsed Barack Obama. There are Bruce fans in legion who won't listen, but it's one more big voice of reason saying yes to hope.

Also a nice video on the Springsteen website of a Danny Federici reunion.