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Showing posts from January, 2015

Lady Liberty, hot dogs, and etc.

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A sure sign that you live in a blighted, low income area is that there are a number of income tax preparers around. In our neighborhood it is Liberty Tax.  Unsurprisingly, there are eight of these in Norfolk, the Queen City of Blight and Low Income.

It is well known that these tax prep places are basically loan shark operations preying on poor and underbanked areas. I think a while ago I linked to this fine Mother Jones piece about this, it is worth reading.

I think it is very possible to live in certain enclaves in American and not think much about tax prep places like this. It sure isn't possible in a place like Hampton Roads.

My question is how the dudes dressed as Lady Liberty gyrating next to busy intersections make people want to go in these places.  I see this everyday when I drive to and from work, a man (always a man) with headphones on, dressed in green robes, gyrating. Why does this work? Do the dancers share the gowns?

Liberty Tax is proud of the dancers. They say, on
This is a really worthwhile article from the Atlantic chronicling the divide in Virginia between the poor, unhealthy, and brutalitzed coal towns in the western part of the state like Grundy, and the wealthy imperial core towns in Northern Virginia
Here are some eye opening numbers, from Nick Turse writing about the  projection of U.S. military power:

"During the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2014, U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) deployed to 133 countries — roughly 70% of the nations on the planet — according to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bockholt, a public affairs officer with U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). This capped a three-year span in which the country’s most elite forces were active in more than 150 different countries around the world, conducting missions ranging from kill/capture night raids to training exercises. And this year could be a record-breaker. Only a day before the failed raid that ended Luke Somers life — just 66 days into fiscal 2015 — America’s most elite troops had already set foot in 105 nations, approximately 80% of 2014’s total."
Peter Spiro has a thoughtful approach to the question of constitutionality and Boehner's invitation of Netanyahu


"The question is appropriately raised but I think ultimately the Boehner move will go down as policy stupid but constitutionally legitimate.

...The fact that it was left to a niche blogger to raise the constitutional question this time around pretty much proves the fact that this is now water under the constitutional bridge."
I've been writing about conjunto music and sustainability for some time (for example here and here), and recently have been working on a book project titled Conjunto Music: Sustaining the Texas Tradition, which I am co-authoring with Cristina BallĂ­ from Texas Folklife.  The book is going to be great, I am very excited about it.

I argue that the conjunto programs in Texas a model for the creation of sustainable cultures for vernacular, regional, and ethnic musics, and other "intangible cultures" in the United States and around the world.

One of the best examples of the sustainable structures in Texas are the several conjunto ensemble programs in the schools.

Now Roma High School has unveiled a new conjunto program, one that is fronted by not one but two woman playing accordion.  This is a fantastic development!

here is a link to a story about the program:

Roma High School Debuts Conjunto Band
Two of my students in my "Radicalism, Terrorism, and Violence in American History" class are working on protest music--one on hip hop and one mostly focusing on popular metal. This led me to explore some music I haven't heard before.

No surprise, it turns out there is quite a bit of it.

Possibly the most radical thing I have heard this week is this song from Immortal Technique.   I'll put a version with the lryics, and then a live version that is way less powerful, I  think,





This is visceral challenging stuff, to say the least, I can't think of another thing I have played for a class that had such an impact (and this includes when I played this, as I do each semester

The rich get richer plan

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A new report from Oxfam reveals that the 1 percent is consolidating its control of wealth at a rapid clip:

"In 2014, the wealthiest one percent owned 48 percent of the overall wealth, while everyone else had 52 percent combined. Their share of the wealth has steadily risen in recent years and is poised to surpass 50 percent by 2016, the study found."

Oxfam also reports that EIGHTY (80) PEOPLE, that is Eight-Zero people, own as much wealth as 50% of the world population.  That math is interesting, is it not? It looks like this:

80 fat cats = 3.5 Billion people

Below is a great chart. it is rare to see such an absolutely perfect expression of how screwed up this situation is.


"None should be too big, none should be too poor"

Don't take my word for it, ask old Huey Long





My various projects have been reviewed all over the place, but never before in the McAllen (Texas) Monitor, where the Texas Folklife cd Traditional Music of Texas, Volume 1: Fiddle Recordings from the Texas Folklife Archivesgot a very positive review.
Here are some videos from the first VWC square dance. That's the great Derek Larimer on fiddle, me on banjo, Michael Ismerio calling and playing guitar.

The turnout was even better than I had hoped, and the enthusiasm was really high despite I think a bit of trepidation on the part of the inexperienced. It was a great dance and a hell of start to square dancing at the school.

This first one features some just insanely cute footage of the Little Buddhas dancing at 1:30, so take a look. The videos include the walk throughs, so you might want to fast forward through them to get to the music and dancing (about a minute in)

Thanks very much to my students for shooting so many videos and taking pictures.









It is a busy week of fun musical things going on.

Tonight, in conujunction with my Appalachian music and folk culture class, we are about to have the very first VWC square dance, called by old friend Michael Ismerio and with music from Richmond fiddler Derek Larimer (last seen representing Virginia old time fiddle at the Festival of Texas Fiddling) and yours truly on the old five string banjo.

Once I have some photo and video of the dance I will post it.

Tomorrow night I am performing with Alaska Fiddling Poet Ken Waldman at the Miller Studio Theater at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. It has been several years since Ken came through so I am looking forward to seeing him. Not sure exactly what I am going to play, but I hope it is "Burnt Down House," a song about house fires that is off of his children's cd...

On Thursday, I am happy to have banjo, n'goni, and Kora virtuoso Seth Swingle coming down from Earlyville to play a set. You can read a Q & A I did wi…
In an act wich will help to spread the negative effects of fracking far and wide into this state from neighboring operations in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, Dominon Power is seeking to build a 42-inch pipeline through some of the most beautiful parts of the state, and the Commonwealth will be using eminent domain to confiscate the private property in the way. The full story, which appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch, is here


"The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is one of three 42-inch pipelines proposed through western Virginia from the Marcellus shale fields in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania that are fueling a surge in domestic energy production through horizontal drilling and fracturing techniques known as “fracking.”

Environmentalists cheered the decision by the U.S. Forest Service in November to prohibit fracking in the George Washington National Forest except on existing gas leases and private mineral rights that total 177,000 acres of the 1.1 million acres of sensitive…