Sunday, October 30, 2005

Tedy Bruschi and Bob Kraft: Brass and Class

Tedy Bruschi is playing a balls-out tough game against the Buffalo Bills tonight, less than six months after a stroke. As he put it, "I kept looking for some doctor who'd tell me I shouldn't do it, and none of them would." The ESPN staff talked to Patriots owner Robert Kraft during the half-time and confirmed that (a) it was Bruschi's decision to come back and start, and (b) that he (Kraft) had refused his lawyers' advice to demand a waiver of responsibility from Bruschi, in the event that Bruschi was hurt again. Kraft said "I like lawyers and trust lawyers, but that's not the kind of relationship we have with our players."

Bruschi and Kraft: brass balls and a class act.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Yalies 0, Fitzgerald 5

Patrick J Fitzgerald, who today indicted Scooter Libby on 5 counts including obstruction of justic and perjury, has refused to make the "outing" of Valerie Plame the focus of his indictments. Instead, he has focused on the cover-up that went on to try to conceal the White House's despicable vengeance-seeking against Plame's husband Joe Wilson. As a number of commentators have said, this is very much parallel to Watergate, in which the initial knuckle-headed burglary was seen as representing the tip of an iceberg, and brought on a huge coverup that brought Nixon down and to Iran-Contra (same thing).

What I haven't seen is an commentary on Fitzgerald himself. The right-wing pundits and spin-meisters are doing everything they can to claim that F is a "rogue prosecutor" (and it's wonderful to see the same people who wanted to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about a blowjob now claiming concern about the "criminalization" of perjury), but what none of those punk-ass silver-spoon Yalies and Stanfordites have remembered is that Fitzgerald is the US States attorney from Chicago.

This is a tough Irish DA from the most politically corrupt city in the country, folks. This man has prosecuted for, closed loopholes on, and gotten convictions on blackmail, graft, and political tactics the neo-cons haven't even thought of yet.

He indicted Libby--but he didn't close the door on Rove et al. He delivered indictments at the end of the commission's first term--but he got permission from a federal judge to open a second term. He used FBI agents and investigators from Chicago--not those corrupt, sold-out leftovers from the Louis Freeh administration.

Fitzgerald knew that the WH was expecting indictments for Thursday 10.27.05, and he knew that they'd issue some bombshell to try to drive the indictments off the front page. So he let them withdraw Harriet "you are the greatest governor ever--I hope the girls know how 'cool' their parents are" Miers on Thursday--and then he issued no indicments. So the Bushies roasted HM for a whole day, to no purpose.

And you can bet that he indicted Libby first, w/out mentioning Rove, because he knows the lessons of Watergate are that if you indict one or two rats, one of them will roll over on their bosses. Wouldn't be surprised if Fitz has talked to John Dean.

He's going to nail more people. "Toby, come quick, Cheney's getting his ass kicked by an Irish cop!"

this will be fun.

FW: conclusive evidence that animals are in fact superior to humans...

Conclusive evidence that animals are in fact superior to

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Bush baseball curse

Has anyone noticed George HW Bush and Barbara Bush sitting behind home plate at the Sox-Astros games in Houston? No surprise that they'd be following the team--after all, their son was briefly a Texas baseball team owner before he blew that enterprise, too, into the ground. But the Astros are getting spanked like little girls by the vastly more talented White Sox.

I notice that the color commentators are pointedly not mentioning the Bush presence. Presumably they'd claim that it's an attempt to lower security risks--but in that case, why the hell are George and Barbara (and she's the real villain in that family--as distorting a person to her progeny as Joe Kennedy was to his) sitting squarely in-frame of the home-plate camera?

Maybe the color commentators are refraining mentioning the Bush's because of GW's current political embarassment? Or maybe they think that, with the Shrub's approval ratings lower than ever, the Bush curse (irresponsiblity, absentee management, careless disregard of others, egocentricity, a sense of silver-spoon entitlement) is coming home to roost in Houston as it did in New Orleans, S Florida, Iraq and now in Patrick Fitzgerald's special prosecutorial investigation? Maybe the Astros management wish they wouldn't sit behind home plate?

Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

[10.27.05 12:04pm: corrected to accurately reflect GWB's ownership of Texas Rangers, not Astros, as reported by an anonymous poster. Thanks, Mr Anonymous.]

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Millions without power? For a month or more? Say goodnight, Jeb

If there was any question about the degree to which the storms resulting from global warming (and thus, realistically if indirectly, in part from the Bush family's support of oil dependency and their denial of the Kyoto Accords) are deep-sixing the family's political future, consider the impact of Wilma on Jeb Bush's chances. Katrina revealed the despicable cronyism that's been at the heart of the Bush/Cheney regime since before they were even elected (Enron, Halliburton, FEMA), and Wilma is revealing the absurd neglect of basic infrastructure under the Bush governorship. A million without power, for as much as another month? Say goodnight, Jeb. You and George will have lots of time to work on your golf swings. You're damned sure not going near the White House during the 2008-12 Democratic presidency.

[10.27.05 Jeb says "Blame me, not FEMA." OK, you punk--we will.

As Zappa said "they really hate it when you laugh at them"

The latest:

The White House, claiming there is a possibility of fraud, is attempting to enjoin the satirical newspaper The Onion from using the White House seal.

They say there is some possibility that readers might be confused and think that the Onion is an official publication.

Well, considering the absurdities coming out of the "real" White House these days, that's not as outrageous a claim as you might think:

No, he really is that stupid, folks.

As Frank Zappa said "The best way to deal with politicians is to laugh at them. Boy, they really hate that."


[10.26.05: The blogosphere agrees.]

External threats and internal spying

In any totalitarian regime, those in power use the fear, or claimed risk, of external threats in order to erode civil liberties. The dept of Homeland Security, NSA, FBI, and (to a lesser extent) CIA do not care about protecting Americans from terror threats--they care about maximizing their mandate and justifying their budgets. Now the Washington Post is reporting that illegal domestic surveillance, scrutiny, and invasion of privacy by FBI is far greater than had been feared. Same thing happened in the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations, with the same external justifications ("threats from outside") and the same internal motives (control of dissent).

From Wag the Dog:

Why do people go to war?

Why do people go to war?

I'll play your silly game.

Why do they go to War?

To preserve their Way of Life.

Would you go to War to do that?

I have.

Well, I have, too. Would you do it again...? In't that why you're here? I guess so. N'if you go to war again, who is it going to be against? Your "ability to fight a Two-ocean War " against who? Sweden and Togo? Who you sitting here to Go To War Against? That time has passed. It's passed. It's over.
The War of the Future is Nuclear Terrorism. It is and it will be against a Small Group of Dissidents who, unbeknownst, perhaps, to their own governments, have blah blah blah. And to go to that war, you've got to be prepared. You have to be alert, and the public has to be alert. Cause that is the war of the future, and if you're not gearing up, to fight that war, eventually the axe will fall. N'you're gonna be out in the street.


And you can call this a "drill," or you can call it "job security," or you can call it anything you like. But I got one for you: you said, "Go to War to protect your Way of Life," well, Chuck, this


is your way of life. Innit? And if there ain't no war, you can punch out, go home, and take up Oil Painting.
And there ain't no war but ours.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Congressional Republicans: P*ssing themselves with fear

In a post a good while back, I predicted that Bush's falling numbers, the range of scandals and mismanaged disasters both at home and abroad, and voter disgust would cost the Republicans in the 2006 Congressional mid-term elections. Now Time (hardly a bastion of radical prognostication) agrees:

"Since 1962, when a President's approval ratings have dipped below 50%, his party has lost an average of 43 seats in the House of Representatives."

The 'Pubs currently hold only a 28-seat majority and the Shrub's approval ratings are below 40%. The Dems will take at least the House (and even or overcome the deficit in the Senate), he'll be the lame-duck I predicted, his last two years will be a comedy of ongoing and failed attempts to scrub his image and avert indictments for key staffers (Rove and Libby will be indicted this week, almost for certain), and the Dems--if they ever manage to grow the slightest bit of ethics, courage, or agenda--will have a good shot at the White House in '08.

Oh, and both Bill Frist (under investigation for insider trading) and Jeb Bush (tarred by incompetence, absolutely asinine political intervention--in the Schiavo case--and incompetence--in the wake of Rita) can kiss their presidential aspirations goodbye.

Not much consolation in knowing that half the rats will flee and the other half will go down with the sinking ship though...because we're still sinking.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Celtic Backup Clarification

[from a Celtic Backup owner]

Here are a few comments in response to your apt questions:

Your text doesn't reference tuning changes until the Appendix 2 section.

Yes, that’s more-or-less intentional. My basic premise in making the book non-tuning-specific (and in providing accompaniments on the CD in an array of tunings and instruments) was to emphasize that the principles behind improvised accompaniment remain the same across instruments. However, see below discussion regarding strengths/weaknesses of various tuning choices (I’m assuming you’re interested in guitar only). I would encourage you, no matter what tuning you settle on, to build your own personalized preferred voicings in that tuning based on the Celtic Backup principles.*

>My Question: for the initial exercises in the book, the 15 point plan, it appears that drop D tuning is best: DADGBE. Yes or Other?

Actually, for the 15-point plan (as much as I remember how I conceived it at that time), the priority would be to ensure that you can get open-string drones in useful keys: e.g., the root and/or 5th degree of the scale on the fundamentals G, D, A, and E. So, a tuning that gives you, respectively, G-D, D-A, A-E, and/or E-B as open strings helps make these open-string drones especially feasible.

Strictly for accompaniment, I personally prefer to use some kind of tuning which supports low (6th-string) D and (5th-string) A, as that gives me root/5th in D, the 5th of D (and lets me play bass runs that lead up to the 6th-string/5th-fret G, approaching the fundamental of below), gives me the root of A. It also mimics the low D bass drone of the pipes. So, for me either DADGBE or DADGAD is preferable.

Here are the advantages, as I see them, of the above two tunings:


Has the advantage of permitting a very triadic/chordal approach (familiar fingerings, full 3-note triads) while also supporting the low D-A drone strings. So we can have moving or droning bass lines under triads. Best for D major/minor, G major (can use the low drones the most). Less good for A mix/min (can use the low A drone some). Less good for E minor (can’t use the low drones at all).

Permits the adaptation of familiar triadic fingerings to omit the 3rds from chords. So, a D chord without the 1st-string F#, a G chord with the 2nd-string B altered to a 3rd-fret D, and so forth. Calls for quick thinking and conscious choices from the player in order to avoid adding a “triadic” flavor to tunes which don’t require it.

I tend to use DADGBE myself because I like the flexibility of being able to shift from a very droning/modal orientation to a very triadic one within the course of a single accompaniment.

Best exemplar: Arty McGlynn (my very favorite Irish-style guitarist, but one who I like primarily for his rhythmic and textural sense).


Has the very major advantage of providing useful drones on treble as well as bass strings. Readily permits the incorporation of root-5th treble drones (in D), 5th-2nd treble drones (in G), 5th-4th drones (in A). Still rather problematic for E (many DADGAD players will capo at the 2nd fret and play D minor/modal fingerings to get E minor).

Has the additional very major advantage of really supporting the contrapuntal approach laid out in Celtic Backup. You can play moving lines above, below, or even between low and/or high drones. Really is the best solution I know for making the 6-string guitar “behave” in a bouzouki-esque fashion. Very good overall for counterpoint.

I use DADGAD when I pick up the wife’s guitar in a session, and have come to appreciate its droning/modal/zouk-like characteristics much more over the years. Lets the instrument really function as very effective drone/percussion—takes it a long way away from triadic/”guitaristic” approaches.

Exemplars: Philip Masure (Belgium; the most staggering DADGAD player I’ve ever heard. Philip, with whom and the Coyne Brothers I sessioned a couple of times in Liverpool, is absolutely frightening. Definitive DADGAD playing. Second-place: Randal Bays, who’s irritatingly brilliant at fingerstyle and accompanimental DADGAD guitar in addition to his fiddle virtuosity.


Think of DADGBE as a kind of “pianistic” approach, where you can have “right-hand” (treble) chords, of triadic or modal nature, over a moving bass line (McGlynn).

Think of DADGAD as a kind of “bouzouki/pipes” approach, where you can contrapuntal accompanimental lines moving above, below, or within drones.

*Having said that, I can also point you at Han Speek’s DADGAD guitar pages ( Han is a great musician, a true gentleman, and very generous with his knowledge.

Good luck!


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Building (and tearing down, and rebuilding) community: the case of Lubbock

Well, it had to happen. I used to joke with other session members that the true mark of our little scene having reached a kind of "maturity" would be when feuds and cliques developed. It's kind of like the old joke defining "Irish Alzheimer's": e.g., "when you forget everything except the grudges." By that mark, the Lubbock Irish scene has finally "grown up".

An angry person over on the Yahoo caprockcelts list has posted a screed accusing me of selfishness, opportunism, and about 6 other things. This despite the fact that I created the list for free, made sure that all members could post and add links, listed links of numerous other organizations besides my own band, have played hundreds of free concerts, sessions, and fundraisers over the years, have taught hundreds of hours of free lessons and have never charged a dime, took students to Ireland for summer schools, and so on. She is still convinced that I'm a selfish opportunist. Fortunately, people on the list have responded in more adult ways.

But the joke (which is funny) and the above anecdote (which is sad) get at something important about how communities are built or are torn down. And the Wife reminded me of another anecdote which has helped me get past the anger at being attacked and move toward constructive responses which help mend things.

Years ago in Indiana we had some great friends and revered teachers who were members of a small Tibetan monastery in Bloomington. These men had been a very powerful positive influence on our lives and we felt we owed them a lot.

At one point, a traveling ensemble of Tibetan monks presenting a program of ritual, choreography, and chanting came to town. One of our local teachers, a Lama, had formerly been a member of this ensemble and its members contacted him to invite him to the concert.

Unfortunately, members of another monastery in the area were vehemently opposed to the Lama's attendance, as a result of old and vicious temple politics in Tibet (sadly, the politics, opportunism, and repression associated with organized state religion are not limited to the West): lives had actually been threatened (though thankfully not by any locals). I was asked to attend the event with the Lama, because at that time I was very active in both martial arts and Buddhist practices, because I was a former bouncer and had worked security, and because it was felt that I might be able to help avert any kind of confrontation. I was honored to be given this opportunity and I would, quite truthfully, have run any risk to protect my friend.

In the event, I went with the Lama, stayed at his elbow, sat next him in the theatre, and kept a close eye on those around us. Afterward, by chance he and the chief representative of the rival order encountered one another in the theatre lobby. And the Lama did something which I and others experienced as a great teaching: seeing Mr X across the lobby, he walked over to him, greeted him in very friendly fashion, and held out his hand, which Mr X took.

And that was a great teaching: in a situation in which it might have been very understandable and very human to respond with anger, resentment or frustration, the Lama instead chose to literally reach out to the other side. I can't speak for how Mr X experienced that moment, but I know that I, and other students present, saw it as a profoundly skilful way of changing, and improving, the climate between the two groups.

Anger destroys community. Compassionate acceptance helps rebuild it. That's a good lesson for me/us to remember, particularly when we are attacked.

[3:16pm: a bunch more people have stepped up, in essence to say "you can't tear down this community--we'll do what we have to keep it strong." Hope the attacker learned a lesson.]

Next day: lovely turnout at our regular Thursday gig: friends, families, students, people with kids. Nat Cooper sang a song, Stacey Houck got a birthday cake, and the community was stronger than before.

Positive energy works.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"Do-over" politics in the Miers nomination

Since when do candidates for the Supreme Court, submitting responses to appropriate questions posed by the appointed body (the Senate Judiciary Committee) which that body calls "inadequate, incomplete, and insulting", get a "do-over"? We know that the worthless little punk in the White House who has spent his whole life getting "do-overs" for his own incompetent performance--in oil, baseball, gubernatorial politics, national economics, and now international armed conflict--thinks this is OK, but just how arrogant can his handlers be in their contempt for Congress? Sooner or later, even the idealogues are going to be shamed into more responsible action.

You don't get "do-overs", Harriet. Prepare for the private sector.

Clean work in Public Radio

Radio is going a lot of strange places in the new millenium (and is perpetually under attack by Republicans trying to blame Corporation for Public Broadcasting for an unbalanced budget) but public radio is still clean work. Nobody in public radio gets rich, most could make more money elsewhere, almost everybody involved does it because they believe in the way that it adds to local communities' quality of life. Donate here to Lubbock's KOHM (89.1,

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Spring courses in musicology and ethnomusicology at Texas Tech

I'm teaching my usual load in Spring 2006 (including MUHL2303 Music as Cultural History: The Modern Period, and MUHL5336: Music in the United States), but am also pleased about having added an overload course taught through the TTU Honors College, as follows:

HONS 3304-H02:

Music, Folklore, and Tradition in Irish Cultural History

It should be an interesting and enjoyable challenge for all concerned. Here's hoping I can do justice to my heroes.

Great post on Irish fried breakfast

Serena-abroad has a great post on the traditional Irish fried breakfast. Mandatory reading for my Honors seminar in Spring 2006: "Music, Folklore, and Tradition in Irish Cultural History."

What she neglects to mention is that the single advantage of the traditional fry is that it'll carry you through until dinner--and it's including in the B&B price. Excellent for youthful budgets and digestive tracts.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Jean Ritchie

Jean Ritchie and her husband George Pickow were here in town this week, for a series of elementary educators' workshops and a gala concert. At 83, born in Viper, KY, Miss Ritchie brings a Cumberland Mountains/coal-mining experience and music from a place that is now gone. She's the mother of Appalachian dulcimer players everywhere, and is the single person most responsible for bringing the dulcimer to the folk world. She also made the first field recordings of many Anglo-Irish source musicians (including Bess Cronin, Seamus Ennis, and Sarah Makem) during a 1950 Fulbright. She's a splendid person and a wonderful musician, and it was a helluva learning experience for all of us. Banjo-player Mason Brown came down from the hills above Taos, Susan Brumfield brought her SweetPeas women's chorus, LNF was the backup band, and a good time was had by all. Not too many opportunities available like that for us anymore. We're very grateful.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

When the Bush White House threatens a veto to PROTECT torture

So far has our leadership sunk. When the Senate (at the instigation of veterans, former POWs, and those members of Congress with a shred of humanity remaining) moves to regularize, limit, and oversee the treatment of "detainees", the Bush White House threatens a veto. This is where we stand: when the Cheney/Bush/Rumsfeld axis takes a public, political stance that torture should be protected.

Let's be clear: Guantanamo Bay is a concentration camp, wherein are held individuals who may have committed no crime other than ethnicity or the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bush and the architects of Gitmo are guilty of war crimes. They will (like Henry Kissinger, another monster masquerading as a political) eventually be charged with these crimes, probably by the International War Crimes tribunal at Den Haag, but they will never respond to these charges as long as the US uses its force-dominance to ignore international law.

I would not expect the Shrub--a draft dodger who served a few days in the Air Force Reserve, but whose records were mysteriously "lost, or Cheney--who spent the Vietnam Era informing on anti-war activists, or Rumsfeld--who as a non-vet civilian has cost thousands of American and tens of thousand Iraqi lives needlessly--to care about either the practical or the ethical problems with defending torture as official policy.

But John McCain, Colin Powell, and John Shaliskavilii are intimately acquainted with the human, military, and ethical repercussions of torture. The White House stance must make McCain, who spent almost six years in a tiger cage in North Vietnam, want to vomit.

Even the Shrub's father, who fought in a War aimed at defeating ethnic fascism, must be appalled at the acts of his offspring. These are evil, evil men.

[October 25: They're still defending torture. Now they want exemptions for the CIA.]