Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Coyotebanjo ships!

Good news! My CD of traditional Irish music Coyotebanjo, with fiddler Randal Bays and bouzouki master Roger Landes, plus guest vocals from Angela Mariani and bodhran from John Perrin, has shipped. Look for the website to go up in the next week or so.

Here's the descriptor (excuse the hyperbole--it's part of the process):

Coyote Banjo: Traditional Irish Music from America is a celebration of the traditional music of Ireland, played on tenor banjo, fiddle, and Irish bouzouki by three virtuosi in the field of Irish music.

In the great tradition of Irish dance music and song, a premium has always been upon the interaction of musicians: in exchanging songs and tunes, in sharing the music as it has migrated worldwide everywhere the Irish have found themselves, and in passing on the tradition to subsequent generations. Some of the greatest recordings in traditional Irish music have been the result of fortuitous, sometimes chance meetings of compatible musicians who share the common language of dance tunes. Coyote Banjo digs deep into that common language, finding new and innovative things to say in a centuries-old tradition. Recorded live in the studio, in the style of great folk and jazz discs of the past, these musicians capture the excitement of a meeting of old friends making music together.

Sorry for down-time

See header. We're gearing up for beginning of the semester and things are very hectic (also have a tenure dossier due Sept 1).

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Gas guzzlers exempted by Bush administration

Living in West Texas, where people almost have to drive long distances regularly (like it or not), but where there is also a real old-fashioned "big cars and pickups 'cause we've got our own wells" mentality, we regularly see massive gas guzzlers on the road. The most notorious though not the most ubiquitous is the Hummer, the ridiculous civilian version of the military Humvee (which the Bush/Rumsfeld DoD is too cheap to armor adequately for Iraq service).

With gas prices over $3, you'd think that even the border-watching, lawnchair-overflowing, Minutemen-promoting, channel-surfing civilian Rambos would think about a more energy-efficient car. But why should they? The Bush administration is about to exempt Humvees from efficiency requirements.

And why wouldn't they? Being in the oil business, the last thing the Bush family wants is for people to use less gas (or for the Saudis to drop the price). It's still boom-time for the oil companies.

The tragedy of Gaza

The current turmoil in the Gaza Strip is ultimately the result of colonialism. In Palestine during WWII, the Brits, in hopes of maintaining their colonial base in the Near East, persuaded Jewish settlers who fought for them that there would be a Jewish homeland. Unfortunately, there was no land not already occupied--if sparsely--and so the Brits tried to wriggle out of the commitment when the War was won. They failed: settlers came in through the blockade, the Stern Gang bombed hotels and trains, and a pattern was set: Israelis, whose leaders (Sharon, Rabin, etc) would for decades be veterans (in other contexts, they would have been called terrorists) developed and maintained a seige mentality.

This had some positive impacts: social, community, or military service was expected as the price of citizenship; kibbutzim worked hard and selflessly to reclaim land and build the economy. But we're now seeing some of its negative impacts: a willingness to see any encroachment on Zionist rights or land as attempts at genocide, a willingness only exacerbated by Palestinian, Egyptian, and Syrian leaders' willingness to pander to their own demographics using the most inflammatory, violent rhetoric; a terrific ethnocentrism; political naivete; inability to escape a zero/sum mentality (cf Protestant/Catholic in Northern Ireland).

The seige mentality went further and led to great injustices: Gaza and some of the occupied territories became essentially large concentration camps, from which Palestinians were allowed to leave only to work in Israel. This led to an artificially-enhanced standard of living for many Israelis, just as the same sorts of "tribal homelands" had done for white minorities in South Africa--they are described by authoritarian military governments as independent states, but in fact they simply provide a docile, poor, desperate-for-work source of cheap labor.

The Israeli government should never have encouraged settlements in the first place, and the only reason they did was to gain political advantage in negotiations with the Palestinian authority, "possession being 90 per cent of the law." Now they're reaping the painful, internally-divisive results of that selfish opportunism.

It's tragic that the settlers are losing their homes, but it's far more tragic, and far more revealing, that they're calling the soldiers carrying out the evictions "Nazis." When you breed generations of ethnocentric religious fanatics, you sacrifice any sense of political sophistication, moderation, or history. Chris McGreave of the Guardian agrees; "messianic minority" is a good description both of Intifada members and of Zionists.

Daoud Kuttab also agrees, saying "unilateralism is not a rational long-term and effective policy." Words our own president-by-proxy would do well to consider--but he won't.

Musical taste is enculturated, not innate

It just happens early.

As reported in the Manchester Guardian, Cornell and Toronto researchers report that Bulgarian infants under 12 months "can detect subtle variations in complex rhythmic patterns of Balkan folk dance tunes. . . Erin Hannon, of Cornell University and a colleague at the University of Toronto report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that a seemingly innate musical awareness in infants seemed to falter as the months went by, and the babies heard more Britney Spears, Charlotte Church and the Crazy Frog."

Another argument for local and participatory music-making. Corporations do not want babies to distinguish or prefer local musics--because then corporations can't sell Britney Spears to local cultures.

Teaching and playing music is a revolutionary act. That's why I do it.

Returned wounded, vet disses the Shrub

As reported in the Washington Post, Terry Rodgers, who lost buddies and was himself severely wounded when his Humvee was hit by an IED, refused to see Bush during a hospital visit.

""I don't want anything to do with him," he explains. "My belief is that his ego is getting people killed and mutilated for no reason -- just his ego and his reputation. If we really wanted to, we could pull out of Iraq. Maybe not completely but enough that we wouldn't be losing people -- at least not at this rate. So I think he himself is responsible for quite a few American deaths."

That won't hit CNN, but it's the truth: nobody knows better than the grunts and the Gold Star families just how specious this war is.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Military Families Speak Out

These are service families (those with relatives currently serving) and Gold Star families (those with relatives killed). They're Cindy Sheehan's support group. Go here to support them.

Excellent new bumper sticker: "Nobody died when Clinton lied." Share with friends; pass it on.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Just a note of thanks, one more time, to my teachers:

Dean Magraw, Larry Guitar Baeder, Hariprasad Chuarasia, Suzy Fulkerson, Mikey Bevan, Charlie Banacos, Dory Latta, Grey Larsen, Dave Baker, Tom Hojnacki, Heather Maxwell, Peter Burkholder, Tom Binkley, Austin Caswell, Tom Mathiesen, Thomas Thompson, Dick Bauman, Joe Dyer, Bob Prins, Marek Zebrowski, et al.

Nine bows.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A real American hero: Cindy Sheehan

Her son was killed in a bad war. Now she's in Crawford asking why.

What we did on our holidays

Why Iraq IS like Vietnam

Bush/Rove/Cheney/Rumsfeld are all at pains, whenever the above analogy appears, to discount and cite all the statistical reasons why there is no comparison between the two situations. In terms of economics, world-support, local infrastructure, nature of resistance force, they may be right--though I don't trust Rumsfeld's military insights as far as I can spit.

But ultimately and more importantly they are WRONG in terms of Gulf II's domestic impact. If we step away from irrelevant comparisons of Viet Minh/Taliban, Uncle Ho/Imams, et cetera at nauseam, and look at the domestic issues, then the analogy is very real.

Both wars are massively divisive of the electorate, of individual communities, even of individual families.

There is no clear mission.

There is no clear plan for withdrawal.

The electorate are justified in fearing that the war was begun and continues for bad, concealed, and political reasons.

Both presidents are lying constantly about scope, motives, casualties, and cost.

The human cost among civilians is uncounted and much higher than admitted.

It's disastrous for domestic economy: social programs, other military programs.

It's disastrous for recruiting.

Poor kids are fighting the war while many rich kids are against it.

The administrations recycle tired manipulative slogans in attempts to blame those opposing the war. E.g., "Support our Troops." (Yeah: "Support our troops--bring them home!")

The conflict is eroding international support for US policies.

Large corporations are making millions/billions while the foot soldiers go without basic supplies.

The list goes on and on. Here's hoping that those opposing the war can learn to make the anti-argument in domestic, rather than foreign, policy terms.

Human greed, animal suffering

The header says it all. For at least 5000 years (but massively increasing with the Industrial Revolution, and massively increasing again with the 20th century degradation of the environment) human greed has caused animal as well as human suffering. The latest? The New Jersey Fish and Game Council has voted unanimously to support a bear hunt to reduce a population "increasingly in evidence" in human-populated areas.

But there's a reason for this increased black bear presence, and it's once again human greed. In the Pine Barrens, and other parts of the far west of the state (and as in other places throughout the Northeast and Northwest) increased destruction of animal habitats to make way for human development is pressing animals into smaller and smaller wildspaces. So of course bears, and coyotes, and deer, and many other wild animals are more and more evident in human-populated areas: they have nowhere else to go.

If the native Americans were right, that when humans died they entered the real world in which they encountered not only the spirits of all their ancestors but also the spirits of all humans, trees, and other natural phenomena, then we're going to have a lot to answer for.

The Fish and Game Council ought to be protecting animals and their habitats, not conniving with the NRA to allow fat-assed Conan-the-Barbarian wannabees to kill bears.

Same thing happening for similar reasons with lions in Africa.

Back in the saddle

Away from Internet access--and that's become an infrequent and increasingly disorienting experience--for the past 10 days. Back in the saddle now.

In memoriam Peter Jennings

Jennings's retirement and lamented death from cancer mark the end of an era: that era when network news anchors were expected to display any intellectual capacity whatsoever. Jennings, Cronkite, Sevareid, all reached back to Ed Murrow, who though he hated doing TV had the prior journalistic experience, and the breadth of insight, to be able to synthesize information in real time, on camera, and help to interpret that information. Consistently, in the big stories of the last 15 years (Iran-Contra, Gulf I, Bosnia/Herzogovina, Serbia-Croatia, Rwanda, Sudan, Gulf II, 9/11--and isn't it curious how many of those stories have involved greed, stupidity, falsehood or negligence from career politicians?), Jennings had the guts, balls and stamina to sit at the desk hour after hour, reining in the wild speculation, providing thoughtful commentary (and commentary on the limitations of commentary) in the midst of the chaos.

The era of such news anchorage is over. Nothing reveals the intellectual adequacy and conceptual narrowness of contemporary news anchors (CNN, Big 3, Fox, doesn't matter) than those painful occasions when the TelePrompTer breaks down or they are otherwise called upon to improvise a coherent sentence: they simply are not smart enough to do so.

[Interpolated 8.18: To confirm the above analysis: just look at this NYT article, and check out the picture of John Roberts.]

Jennings could, and did, with a commendable dedication to clarity and sanity.

He was a gallant gentleman.