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Showing posts from January, 2010
If you are a fan of Celine, you should read this review of his unpublished, astoundingly anti-semitic writing. I knew he was a fascist but never really appreciated the extent of his depravity in this regard (or the truly terrible writing it produced).

It is always (and it is a real 'always', since it is so common) so disheartening to see creative geniuses displaying themselves as such venal and corrupted souls. A waste.

Past Coups, and future ones

I have a theory about the 1994-2000 period which I think is worth describing as a way of clarifying what it seems is happening today.

The impetus for my retrospect is the astoundingly bad decision made by the Supreme Court today to allow corporations to spend as much as they want to buy seats in the Congress. In the marketplace this is called "campaign finance."

This is a bad idea for so many reasons it is hard to know where to begin. But let's just consider for a second how this is going to run up the cost of buying votes and politicians! This simple decision is going to create a bubble economy in core Washington corruption....

I am a believer in first amendment rights of free expression of course, but I am not in the least convinced that when corporate entities spend money that it is political speech. If there is any role at all for the federal government besides the post office and keeping Smithsonian Folkways alive, surely it is to restrain the greedy and evil corpor…
This is it, the official last day of my sabbatical.

True, I have had my Winter Session Appalachian music class, but that was a partial return. Tomorrow is a day of meetings. There is no clearer sign of the end of a sabbatical than a day of meetings.

Returning to the fight means of course something approximately a million emails a day to wade through. My former and returning students know that I delete all emails that lack a proper salutation or contain spelling errors, improper capitalizaiton, grammatical mistakes, or texting language. Actually, I have an Autoresponder which immediately deletes these emails for me. I have had this policy in place for many years and it has eliminated emails that look to have been sent by clowns.

I am of the mind that people should sign emails and get used to writing messages that show evidence of brain activity. It is good practice for communicating with future employers. Plus, I just don't like emails which aren't signed, it seems abrupt…

on the American voting public, or, smearing feces on the walls

It is always interesting to me that when there is an election in a single state the talking heads of various stripes can then make large pronouncements that "the American people have spoken." The Massachusetts voters definitely spoke in this election, but in the Kennedy era wasn't that considered to be an outlying voice? Suddenly Massachusetts is being held up by the right wing as the salt of the earth. Somebody make note of this.

Anyway, it still seems to me that the "American people" spoke quite a bit clearer when they elected Obama and an overwhelming majority of Congress.

Given that there is still a strong Democratic majority in Congress (though no longer overwhelming), it is interesting how quick the mood and tone of public discussion shifts despite popular realities. When you consider what a tiny portion of the American population the minority senators represent it is even more striking how quick there is a rush to discuss the supposed voice of the A…
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My friend Todd builds incredible guitars (see his page here), particularly nice guitars crafted in the style and with the materials and techniques of old time guitars back when they were made by craftsmen in the US rather than machines overseas.

I wrote about his guitars and old time music here a few years back.

He just made a pretty sweet new ad (actually this guy made it)for these guitars which aficionados of the old Sears catalog will recognize right off the bat.

It sounds like something from the Onion, but apparently the gun sights used by the U.S. military are all minutely inscribed with Christian fundamentalist verses. How could this possibly be a bad idea? This is kind of like the football players putting biblical verses in their eye grease paint, the only difference being of course that those are athletes in the private sector and these guns are being paid for by tax dollars they take from me every month (and you) and being used to kill people we are constantly telling we are not killing for religious reasons.

It could be worse, I suppose. We could be printing the words of Jesus in red on every bullet. Note to Nunal marketing!!




"The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.

U.S. military…
Even if Obama's populism (as represented by the bank tax) is a faux populism, at least it is the right kind of faux populism.

The wrong kind of faux populism, for those of you keeping track of these things, is the cynical faux populism of the current far and Christian right, which is rooted in a disdain for what are actually the bedrock American ideals and institutions such as individual equality, free speech, freedom of religion, and the right to privacy. They are willing to use cynical ploys to gain support for attacks on what they really despise, which is diversity, complexity, intellectualism, environmentalism, and other such suspicious elements of an advanced liberal democracy. This is the type of faux populist who pretends to be shrinking government for the little people by cutting taxes on the rich or simply lifting government oversight over the full array of rapacious capitalist fat cats.

But the new Obama faux populism that results in a tax on the biggest banks to raise…

"all of them"

Palin on the Founding Fathers:

Asked the (dumb) question "who is your favorite?' her response was "all of them." She then effectively stalled chattered on until she managed to conjure up a name: George Washington. A truly audacious and unexpected choice.
This NYTimes interactive satellite photo comparison of the devastation in Haiti is interesting.
Speaking of poor corporate decisions, why did the ever-useless Virginian Pilot run a "story" which almost verbatim reprinted Pat Robertson's idiotic and vaguely racist statement about the earthquake in Haiti being the result of a deal with the devil without once at least quoting someone about the reality that Pat Robertson is a clown?

The Pilot also ran a stomach turning, full front page photograph of an arm stuck in rubble in Haiti, which surely stands at a low point for this bottom-feeding paper.

But the paper is useful for detailing how often teenagers are murdered in Norfolk, especially in the Park Place neighborhood. That is at least two teen athletes murdered in Park Place in the last year.

I have a friend who is a cop who said that the level of shooting deaths in the area is actually very small compared to the number of shooting injuries which occur all the time without being reported. You never hear about the ones that don't die. He told me that just in the a…

supping with a long spoon, etc.

Google was shocked to find out that Chinese censorship means that China actually controls information within its borders and would flex its muscle whenever it was in the state interest to do so. And the U.S. news stories on the extent of Google's shock all helpfully reported this suppposedly wide eyed astonishment (following closely behind the bootlicking, widespread reprinting of Google's press release for the Google Phone).

It is awful shocking, isn't it? All this time I thought that free-speech throttling was metaphoric. And here those dastardly Chinese really mean it when they say there is no such thing! I wonder who is going to win this game of chicken? The powerful (quasi-fascistic) government of the most dynamic economy on the planet filled with billions of actual and potential customers or the money-loving corporation with an established track record of accomodationism (though not as toadying as Yahoo) seeking to maximize profits within a rapidly evolving bus…
A friend of mine came to give a musical performance at VWC on Monday night, part of which featured him playing a National resophonic guitar with a steel body.

It made the whole evening worthwhile when the first question a student asked was, pointing at the National-- "what is that?"

This is just why to bring new and interesting people to play new and interesting music on the campus. Last year another friend of mine came and played some Klezmer music and a student had the same response, just sheer awestruck wonderment.

The sheer spontaneity and joy of that question --"what is that?" -- hopefully will propel him to learning to play one.
That picture of the collapsed presidential palace in Port-au-Prince is flabbergasting.

I wondering though why the media feels it necessary to run all of these pictures of grieving people holding their dead loved ones. I can only imagine the images they are running on tv. What good can possibly come from exploiting people's grief like that?

Yes, an obvious and even hackneyed question, but that doesn't mean it is not a good one to keep asking.
Apparently Juárez is the most violent city in the world, its second year at #1. Yes, this is the same world that includes Afghanistan and Iraq.

Since 2007, the murder rate in Juárez as increased 800%. This is a hell of a distinction.

But this is really nothing in comparison to this figure (in the Guardian and CNN too)that 20,000 women and children are trafficked across the border every year. Can that really be possible? The news stories are sensationalistic and manipulative in the worst and most typical sort of way, but even if it is even a little possible it is the most horrifying thing imaginable.

Certainly the most profound single treatment of the murder of women in Juárez I've read, even if it is fictionally presented, is Bolaño's 2666. The sheer relentlessness of the section of that book on the murders, which makes it impossible to avert your gaze from the deaths or to consider what it actually entailed and meant (if it means anything) was unforgettable.

Gives a new meaning to Rudolph's red nose

Unless you're a parent you may have skipped over this story in your morning paper (assuming you are retrograde enough to get a morning paper) but really it is relevant to anyone interested in the law of unintended consequences or more broadly in how capitalist markets function. Just when you might think Chinese manufacturing could not be any more careless, this is this story.

With all of the news about lead in toys, and the product recalls, the toy making wizards in China had stumbled on the seemingly great idea of using radioactive cadmium to make kid's jewelry. "On the CDC's priority list of 275 most hazardous substances in the environment, cadmium ranks No. 7."

What could possibly go wrong with using toxic materials in kid's jewelry if it is not illegal! It is a brilliant substitution. And not just a little cadmium either. Some of the tested items were 89-91% cadmium. Pure.

The AP story has this great paragraph:

"A patchwork of federal consumer pr…

It is What it Is

Lark names the stuffed and plastic things that populate her life in a pretty straightforward fashion. Her bunny rabbit is called "bunny," her mermaid is "mermaid" and her ducky is "ducky". A girl doll is named "girl." That dinosaur that I posted a video of her saying "dinosaur" about a while back is still called "dinosaur."

This pattern is well developed and ongoing. I gave her a small lion yesterday and she told me his name was "lion."

There are a couple of variations. She has two other toy dinosaurs. One is named Wyatt and the other is named Jamal. These are after kids at her school. The sock monkey I made her she named "Ghost". A great name for a sock monkey.

This morning Skye had a small bag that Lark really, really, really wanted. A tugging match ensued. Skye pointed out that it was hers, as the "S" on the bag demonstrated. Lark, determined, shouted "no, that's a L!!"…
Obama certainly has made an excessive show of apologizing for the failure of the global surveillance system to observe the beam in its own eye. That is good, albeit excessive, since he should admit it was a failing and also hold responsible those who failed to do the minimum due diligence. It was definitely a screw up.

What is incredible is how seriously this failed non-attack is being taken as far as government responsibility goes in contrast to the Bush years when not one person was held responsible for the multiple, years-long failures that allowed the 9-11 attacks to occur. Nobody.

This is in part why we elected this man president, because he said he would take this kind of incompetence seriously and because he believes in at least some level of accountability and speaks to the public with respect. A bit refreshing--if it actually means future competence.
Mountaintop removal is suddenly in the news (for example, this pretty good Diane Rehm show segment yesterday) since the Obama administration just ok'd a permit for a new mine.

It is interesting that Obama chose to do that precisely as scientists had agreed to what is already common sense: "Mountaintop removal is causing 'pervasive and irreversible damage' to Appalachia's forests, streams and wildlife and new permits should not be granted unless a way is found to prevent such impacts".

Why cherry pick the science so global warming fears are highlighted and emphasized as national policy but the science on mountaintop removal is ignored? Could it be because it is happening in the impoverished, colonized area of the nation where money talks most loudly?

Here is a problem that can be stopped immediately with instant, obvious, and essential benefits, and to fail to do so immediately and completely is a massive moral failing in which we are all complicit.

Sure, you…

The banjo is considered "a deadly weapon" under Colorado law

link to story here


"ASPEN, Colo. (AP) - A banjo player accused of assaulting another man with his instrument will get to keep pickin' while awaiting his trial.

Thirty-3-year-old Joseph Stancato of Denver faces second-degree assault charges after allegedly hitting another man upside the head with his banjo on New Year's Eve. Authorities say Stancato got into an argument with two men at a bus stop.

District Judge James Boyd on Monday approved Stancato's request to be allowed on the road to tour with a band while awaiting his next court date Feb. 6.

The banjo is considered "a deadly weapon" under Colorado law, so Stancato could face prison time, the Aspen Daily News reported."

Is "hitting another man upside the head" really in the AP style book? Can you hit someone upside the head with bassoon or a viola, or would that be termed "assault"?

Insert your joke about my banjo playing being a deadly weapon here_____________________________________…

The Statistical Corner

The annual tally of murders in Mexico for 2009 was 2,657 in Juárez, and 3250 in Chihuahua, and 7,724 for all of Mexico.

The tally so far for Juárez in 2010 is a stunning 38 (fourteen of whom were killed on Monday). It is January 5.

Thinking globally but murdering locally, Norfolk leads The 757 in the murder rate, jumping from 29 in 2008 to 43 in 2009. While that is how many people have been killed in five days in Juárez, it is still completel, utterly crazy.

all of the news at the end of the year was about the falling crime and violence rates in the U.S., but I saw virtually no mention that maybe this means we can switch gears as a country. Except for this great editorial in the Des Moines Register calling for a reassessment. (But, seriously, who the hell reads the Des Moines Register?)

fyi: Des Moines is in Iowa.

The Register wrote:

"For decades, politicians have exploited public anxiety about crime to enact increasingly tougher laws and longer prison sentences. Prosecutors ha…

"No I'm not living, I Only Exist"

actually that title is a line from a Ralph Stanley song.

El Paso apparently has published an official tourist map that leaves Juárez off of it completely.

It does exist though, at least for those that haven't been killed so far. I wonder if they can figure out a way to cover up the lights so people can't see the city of 1.5 million at night.
By now you probably have seen or read about Brit Hume's monumentally stupid comment in counseling Tiger Woods to ditch Buddhism for the forgiveness of Christianity (which was only a lateral away from Fox News' general Christianist views anyway, but that is another story). If you have somehow missed this story, you can get depressed here. The followup is to see how the Christian right views these types of things in Pat Buchanan's defense of Hume, which features him saying "I don't know what the Buddhist religion is" and "I don't know the Buddhist faith"

But as usual the best thing to watch is the great take by Jon "my circumcision just grew back" Stewart on this which is definitely one of his better bits.
Certainly one of the best lessons in impermanence is having a sabbatical...

My sabbatical officially ended last night when I returned to the classroom for the Winter Session.

Though it is truly hard to complain about returning to my class called "Music and folk culture of the Southern Appalachians." Can you think of something better? Well, besides, "music and folk culture of South Texas" or "music and folk culture of Southern Veracruz"?

Turns out that one of my students this semester is related through her in-laws to the Hammons Family, and as I always kick this class off with their music that was a nice little connection.

There will be a couple of live old time music performances this term on Monday nights as usual. Next Monday, Jan 11, Gregg Kimball playing fiddle, banjo, and guitar, and on January 18, Mark Campbell playing fiddle and banjo. All told, not a bad way to ease back into things.
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Happy new year.

Nunal should return to greater regularity this winter after my territoriality book is mailed off, which will be the end of this month if all goes as planned and projected (anticipated, hoped, dreamed, desired).

It is pretty good, I think. All things being equal I will miss having it as a constant presence in my life. Though I will be pleased as punch to send it downstream and move one to other things like long neglected music making.

Here are some images of the Lil Buddha for you to kick off 2010--hard to catch standing still but a beautiful little being and just a tremendous amount of fun.