". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Here We Go Again

Gustav is even larger in terms of area than Katrina was, and Katrina was humongous.

If she floods this time, this is probably all she wrote. New Orleans really is history.

Cuba's been bashed and creamed. So has Haiti, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. By tomorrow afternoon we should know.

I'm sick.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin Polar Bear Killer

She's a polar bear killer.

Hammer, hammer, hammer away at that. She likes to kill polar bears with guns, and you can't even eat them.

No kid in the country will allow their parents to vote for that. Yes, I know. Me telling my parents who to vote for / not vote for would have gotten me killed. But a large number of people I've encountered volunteered their support for either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama was based on what their often very young -- 3 - 4 - 5 years-old -- children told them.

Kids adore polar bears. Think of the campaign ads you can make with this information!

Wasn't in the least happy with Clinton's response to this. This wasn't a bold move breaking the glass ceiling. This was outright pandering and desperation, the Hail Mary play. Nobody wants to run with that evil and evil-tempered old bug. He wanted Lieberman, and Rove said no. Rove wanted Romney and the 'cain said no.

Yup. The crazy righwing xtians love her.

But that doesn't change the fact that children lurve polar bears and Palin loves to kill polar bears. With guns. So not even fair bear hunt, like with a spear the way the Inuit did it. Or used to do it.

Gads, the 'cain and women -- the ads you can make! This is behind him: the woman he deserted for a younger vastly wealthy woman. This is now: the woman he's married to that he's driven to stealing drugs. This is the future: the woman who loves to kill polar bears.

The question isn't, "Would you want to have a beer with this guy?" The question is, "Would you want your daughter married to him?" The other question is, "Would you want his choices to be vice president of your nation?"

Why New Orleans Matters To Us All (One Reason, Among Many)

From The World That Made New Orleans: Spanish Silver to Congo Square (2008) by Ned Sublette, the conclusion to Chapter Two, "The Gift of the River:

[ As of this writing (August 2007), it's too soon to tell how the city will recover, and it's unclear whether there is sufficient protection against a future flood that might once again wreak havoc on the city. The French Quarter's still there, as are other historic neighborhoods. But what made New Orleans such an eloquent piece of living history wasn't only its elegant, termite-ridden housing stock. It was the people of the city, two-thirds of them people of color. The destruction of buildings in 2005 was fearful, but so was the loss of something intangible: African America took a terrible blow when the collective knowledge of black New Orleans was scattered to the four winds. Dispersing that population was like tearing up an encyclopedia in front of an electric fan. This book is dedicated to the people who are trying put that book back together. ]

Without that population, the living cultural history of New Orleans, and further than that, the political and cultural history of this nation, there never would have been Jazz, Louis Armstrong, Dr. John, and Rock and Roll, all the many other great, great music artists and music forms that made the twentieth century the century of this nation. Without them, in their cultural milieu, there will never be another musical genius on the level of Louis Armstrong, and thereby, never another chance for another period in which this nation can be great.

I posted the above, yesterday, elsewhere. Today Larry Blumenfeld posted the same sentiments at TruthDig, at greater length. You can see it here.

Here is the introduction:

[ Yes We Can Can
By Larry Blumenfeld

Sunday night, when Allen Toussaint played "Yes We Can Can" for Democratic convention delegates in Denver, the song sounded tailor-made for the Obama campaign. But he wrote it in New Orleans, in 1970, inspired by a different era of change.

No wonder. New Orleans musicians have for more than a century anticipated and articulated just what this country needs. Now, three years past the floods that followed Katrina, Mr. Toussaint and other bearers of the city's unique (and uniquely American) culture -- jazz musicians, brass-band members, Social Aid & Pleasure Club second-liners, and Mardi Gras Indians --call on the country to respond to their needs, for the good of us all. We must recognize this culture as essential to New Orleans recovery, not to mention the restoration of our damaged national identity. ]

WWOZ, by the way has packed up and gone off the air, evacuated. They will continue streaming content via the web, but there's no one in the studios.

Friday, August 29, 2008


There was much to like from Denver last night.

The audience in the stadium was authentically multi-cultural. It looked like the nation as it really is. The shoji-like screen backdrop was quietly elegant. The colors were warm.

And then they set off fireworks! So that's why last night's events were moved to the stadium! As well as to accomodate the evidently 85,000 plus crowd, who went through hell to be there -- standing in long lines, the mandatory hours early arrival, and then they couldn't leave once admitted, couldn't bring food or drink in with them. Yet I heard from the endless blithering of broadcasters that the crowd, inexplicably to them and their superior sense of entitlement, seemed to be having a good time all through the day as they gathered and waited for the main events to start.

Michelle Obama did look rather stunned a few times when they all gathered together after Senator Obama's acceptance speech. She and Mrs. Biden probably don't know each other at all yet. So I'm wondering about that. They will probably be spending a lot of time with each other in the next 60 and change days.

In the meantime, Mayor Nagin walked out of the CON's screening of Trouble The Water. You can read a transcript of what happened when Kimberly and Scott talked with the mayor here.

There evidently were many events during the demCON related to Katrina, but none of the chattering classes with national platforms mentioned them -- until Gustav finally hoved into their superior perview. I swear most of the bs around the Clintons and women that say they will vote for McCain because Senator Clinton was denied the nomination has been created by the chattering classes -- and rethugs, of course. Dirty Trix R reThugs.

Some of our friends are expecting the mandatory evacuation order to come on Saturday. One wonders if the state with get contra-flow vehicular traffic right THIS time ....

Vaquero is doing an hour on a music radio program this afternoon that wants to observe the 'anniversary.' He's not in a good mood about this. He doesn't want to talk about the words 'gumbo' and 'funky.' Which is just all that most people can come up with when they want to talk about New Orleans and her history and her culture -- particularly when they don't know what gumbo is, but of course, think they do. Kind of like the chattering classes who all know better than anyone what's what about everything, while missing what's right under their noses.

Also in the meantime sources such as the L.A. Times and The WaPo are reporting the reThugs are considering postponing their Minneapolis nomCON, if Gustav hits the Gulf and New Orleans hard.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The reThugCON re Gustav


[ Storm could swamp GOP convention
By: Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin
August 27, 2008 07:35 PM EST

Planners of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul held emergency conversations Wednesday about what to do if a tropical storm continues on its track as a potential Category 3 hurricane threatening NewOrleans.

Gustav’s projected path suggests possible landfall on the convention’sopening day — Labor Day.

The storm could threaten everything from President Bush’s Monday night address to the broader Republican message of effective governmentmanagement. Local officials fear a Katrina II — a rerun of the storm that ravished New Orleans and badly damaged Bush’s image. The liberal group Progressive Accountability planned to try to embarrass Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Friday for his response to the Katrina strike, claiming his was the 40th senator to visit New Orleans afterwards.

“We will be making sure everyone knows it is not just Bush who has a Katrina problem,” said the group’s Eddie Vale. “McCain was eating birthday cake with Bush after the levees broke. And then he voted against oversight, against medicaid for victims, and against unemployment benefits for victims.”

Government forecasters said the target area runs from south Texas tothe Florida Panhandle — including the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts devastated by Katrina. The president, Laura Bush and Vice President Cheney are all scheduled to speak Monday on the convention’s opening day. Friday is the third anniversary of Katrina’s landfall.

The sloppy government response still haunts the Bush administration, raising questions about whether the president would address a political gathering if the Southeast coast was being battered by another monster storm. The president is scheduled to fly into St. Paul on Monday, speak at the Xcel Energy Center at 9:40 p.m. Central time, then fly home to spend the night at Camp David.

Spokespeople for the organizations involved in convention planning said they were not ready to comment. “Stay tuned,” e-mailed an official involved in the conversations. ]

Don't you love what they are all worried about re Hurricane Gustav:

"The storm could threaten everything from President Bush’s Monday night address to the broader Republican message of effective government management."

What about the people, the city, the region, the nation? But no, we are worried about the political CON.

Last night Clinton mentioned New Orleans -- the first mention I've heard during the demCON; he referred to the regime's response as "Katrina cronyism." Friends in New Orleans are outraged at how Gustav is what put the levees' catastrophe and New Orleans in play at either CON -- and as a political manuevering, not humanitarian concern.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

As it was this week three years ago I come out of sleep with my stomach clenched, in a state of anxiety.

Hurricane Gustav's trajectory appears to be heading for New Orleans at the end of this week, or start of next. It's already creamed poor Haiti, and is likely to smash into eastern Cuba. I have much love, much connection to both those islands, just as I do with New Orleans.

Like with Hurricane Ivan, like with Katrina, again this is just at the start of the new school year and fall semester. Lesson learned: end of August, start of September, is the most dangerous time to be in New Orleans. A good friend -- TR, he who is the host DJ for the Afropop Shout Out to New Orleans that Vaquero produced recently -- gives some hope. I'm paraphrasing here what he said last night:

"The extensive flooding from the midwest this year poured rivers of colder water into the Gulf, thereby reducing its temperature some degrees, which has an effect on the power of the hurricane, and even its directon. I think it may go to Texas, not here. In any case I think there is going to be mandatory evacution, and that it is going to organized and will go more smoothly than we fear. In any case we won't have to wait for the National Guard and the army. They're still here."

Here's another friend in New Orleans discussing Gustav.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sometimes I Don't Like My Work

Back reading Arlene Croce pieces in The New Yorker, attempting to properly ascertain just how much of her political agenda penetrated her critical point of view, and how she utilized her position as dance critic to push her political agenda.

Since she concentrated on pre-Russian Revolution classical ballet, it seems she could present many reactionary agendas 'between the lines.' But it's difficult to judge that, when I bring such an opposite perspective to what I'm reading. That's why I got drafted to do this, because I know the ballet vocabulary, I have watched many of the ballets, I know ballet history and I love ballet, whereas Vaquero and the others don't. But Croce is becoming an increasingly unpleasant writer to spend time with, as her nasty world view seeps through an ever-thinner mask.

As well, this week is hard. Our New Orleans friends, both those who were relatively unscathed materially (but that doesn't exclude trauma) and have been able to return and those who lost everything and cannot return, are hurting so badly. Or else they are pretending that they've moved on, when with every e-mail, every word their grief and trauma appears.

So, I get to watch Fred Astaire and Errol Flynn movies this week, every night around dinner time. Last night I saw The Master of Ballantrae. Tonight it shall be Robin Hood. The Story of Irene and Vernon Castle, Virginia City, and Birth of Blues are on the schedule. So is The Outlaw. No, that's neither Flynn nor Astaire, but it is Jane Russell.

Do you think anyone at the demCon will mention New Orleans and the shameful neglect and denial meted out to her citizens?

Katrina, the Pain Index by Bill Quigley

The story in numbers.

0. Number of renters in Louisiana who have received financial assistancefrom the $10 billion federal post-Katrina rebuilding program Road HomeCommunity Development Block Grant – compared to 116,708 homeowners.
0. Number of apartments currently being built to replace the 963 publichousing apartments formerly occupied and now demolished at the St. BernardHousing Development.
0. Amount of data available to evaluate performance of publicly financedprivately run charter schools in New Orleans in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007school years.
.008. Percentage of the rental homes that were supposed to be repaired andoccupied by August 2008 which were actually completed and occupied – a totalof 82 finished out of 10,000 projected.
1. Rank of New Orleans among U.S. cities in percentage of housing vacant orruined.
1. Rank of New Orleans among U.S. cities in murders per capita for 2006 and2007.
4. Number of the 13 City of New Orleans Planning Districts that are at thesame risk of flooding as they were before Katrina.
10. Number of apartments being rehabbed so far to replace the 896apartments formerly occupied and now demolished at the Lafitte HousingDevelopment.
11. Percent of families who have returned to live in Lower Ninth Ward.
17. Percentage increase in wages in the hotel and food industry sincebefore Katrina.
20-25. Years that experts estimate it will take to rebuild the City of NewOrleans at current pace.
25. Percent fewer hospitals in metro New Orleans than before Katrina.
32. Percent of the city’s neighborhoods that have fewer than half as manyhouseholds as they did before Katrina.
36. Percent fewer tons of cargo that move through Port of New Orleans sinceKatrina.
38. Percent fewer hospital beds in New Orleans since Katrina.
40. Percentage fewer special education students attending publicly fundedprivately run charter schools than traditional public schools.
41. Number of publicly funded privately run public charter schools in NewOrleans out of total of 79 public schools in the city.
43. Percentage of child care available in New Orleans compared to beforeKatrina.
46. Percentage increase in rents in New Orleans since Katrina.
56. Percentage fewer inpatient psychiatric beds than before Katrina.
80. Percentage fewer public transportation buses now than pre-Katrina.
81. Percentage of homeowners in New Orleans who received insufficient fundsto cover the complete costs to repair their homes.
300. Number of National Guard troops still in City of New Orleans.
1080. Days National Guard troops have remained in City of New Orleans.
1250. Number of publicly financed vouchers for children to attend privateschools in New Orleans in program’s first year.
6,982. Number of families still living in FEMA trailers in metro New Orleansarea.
8,000. Fewer publicly assisted rental apartments planned for New Orleans byfederal government.
10,000. Houses demolished in New Orleans since Katrina.
12,000. Number of homeless in New Orleans even after camps of people livingunder the bridge has been resettled - double the pre-Katrina number.
14,000. Number of displaced families in New Orleans area whose hurricanerental assistance expires March 2009.
32,000. Number of children who have not returned to public school in NewOrleans, leaving the public school population less than half what is waspre-Katrina.
39,000. Number of Louisiana homeowners who have applied for federalassistance in repair and rebuilding who have still not received any money.
45,000. Fewer children enrolled in Medicaid public healthcare in New Orleansthan pre-Katrina.
46,000. Fewer African American voters in New Orleans in 2007 gubernatorialelection than 2003 gubernatorial election.
55,000. Fewer houses receiving mail than before Katrina.
62,000. Fewer people in New Orleans enrolled in Medicaid public healthcarethan pre-Katrina.
71,657. Vacant, ruined, unoccupied houses in New Orleans today.
124,000. Fewer people working in metropolitan New Orleans than pre-Katrina.
132,000. Fewer people in New Orleans than before Katrina, according to theCity of New Orleans current population estimate of 321,000 in New Orleans.
214,000. Fewer people in New Orleans than before Katrina, according to theU.S. Census Bureau current population estimate of 239,000 in New Orleans.
453,726. Population of New Orleans before Katrina.
320 million. The number trees destroyed in Louisiana and Mississippi byKatrina.
368 million. Dollar losses of five major metro New Orleans hospitals fromKatrina through 2007. In 2008, these hospitals expect another $103 millionin losses.
1.9 billion. FEMA dollars scheduled to be available to metro New Orleansfor Katrina damages that have not yet been delivered.
2.6 billion. FEMA dollars scheduled to be available to State of Louisianafor Katrina damages that have not yet been delivered.
Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola UniversityNew Orleans. He’s a regular contributor to CounterPunch, and can be reachedat The NUCLEAR RESISTER, is published 5 to 6 times ayear. It can be contacted at

Monday, August 25, 2008

Trouble The Water

My heart broke all over again. Though it's been broken since August 29, 2005.

All the good Christian people -- particularly those out of the Midwest this summer, who said "those people" were too lazy to leave and then just sat around with their hands open waiting to be taken care of should view this film several times, preferably in their churches, with the other members of their congregations around them. But you know they won't. Can't have facts getting in the way of their ugly, selfish and dearly beloved bigotries, our myths about ourselves (we Midwesterners are different than those people!). Over and over you see how it was faith, faith in Jesus, their Jesus, that keeps those people going. Their Jesus is very different from that of other Christians, it appears. One gets a feeling that their Jesus is much more like the Jesus of the New Testament than is the Jesus of these megachurches and self-righteous Christians who are waiting for Rapture and -- yes, the 'left behind.' These are the left behind, and they love Jesus, and they know who left them behind, and it wasn't Jesus

This is one of the projects of Danny Glover's Louverture Films. You can learn more about Trouble The Water on their site, or on the Trouble The Water site.

Every new documentation that comes out shows another dimension of the catastrophe. For instance, for Kimberly and Scott, their location in the Upper 9th Ward subjected them to flooding earlier than the other areas. So they were flooded while the hurricane was still blowing and raining.

The strength of these people is overwhelming. What their relationship has been through and subjected to -- the Katrina devastation was just one more thing. Their relationship is clearly as strong as any two people's can be.

Since it was hard on us to watch it, I can only begin to imagine what it was like for those who actually experienced all this. This group is just one of tens of thousands who have gone through this, and are still going through this. For the victims of Katrina and the failure of the levees, it is still going on.

The uglies out there mistake 'uneducated' for stupid. They are anything byt stupid. In fact, they were better prepared by their life to survive this abandonment than any college educated, middle-class suburban white person who might be trapped like this, with NO HELP COMING FOR DAYS AND DAYS.

They know exactly why what happened to them happened. They knew they needed to get out of NO, but there was no way for them to get out. They had no car, no credit cards. They prepared for the hurricane as best they could. They had food, water, drinks prepared. They had prepared their house as you do for a hurricane, covering the windows and so on. When the area began to flood, they brought in their neighbors and shared everything they had. Scott rescued so many people -- by himself, and then with the help of another member of the neighborhood, a person who was his enemy prior to the flood, and who now is a brother for life. Everyone in this nation's black communities knows what happened, how it happened and why. As a cousin of Kim's in Memphis said, "My boy was telling me he wanted to enlist, join the Army. After this I'll scrub floors every day of my life to keep that boy going to college. He is not going to put his life on the line for this country that doesn't think we are a part of it."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rum and Comics

In Cuba around 1863 the Bacardi family began to distill rum. Their logo is a bat, modeled on the families of fruit bats that nested and swooped through the Bacardi cane plantations and distillaries. Among Cubans, fruit bats are considered bringers of good luck. The same bat logo is still employed today by Bacardi.

Bob Kane's Batman arrived in 1939 -- he's nearly 70. One wonders if there was any bit of subliminal influence from Bacardi to Kane's Batman logo? There was an awareness of Cuba and things Cuban, particularly rum and music, back in those days that's difficult for people who came of age in the post-embargo era to realize.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

From Vaquero

[ the afropop worldwide episode i produced, "shout out to
new orleans," withguest WWOZ DJ t.r. johnson, is up and streaming at
all the music in the show is post-flood, so it's a pretty intense
hour. and definitely check out the number by brother tyrone.

the interview + songs i did on laura flanders GRITtv is at
i haven't watched it -- i don't like watching myself on TV -- but i think i
spoke in complete sentences and sang about as well as i ever do. (i did
"kiss you down south" and laura's request, "cowboys are
frequentlysecretly.") this was part of a whole week of new
orleans-themedprogramming, all available on the site on demand. it's worth
poking around in. if you haven't checked out GRITtv, bookmark it and check
in, because laura flanders does great work with a great team. their new
show, up today,includes a segment about matthew gossage and lily keber's
documentary, "t don hutto, america's family prison

and in new york this afternoon (saturday) expect a megacrowd at
lincolncenter out-of-doors, for their free 5 p.m. new orleans show:The Hot 8
Brass Band featuring Shamarr Allen, Betty Harris with the MarcStone All Star
Soul Band, The Campbell Brothers’ Sacred Funk (NY Debut) featuring Kirk Joseph’s
Backyard Horns, John Boutté & the Hot Calas, and Irma Thomas & the
Professionals. ]

Disappointed But Not Surprised

That Obama met my expectations and has chosen Mr. Belongs To The Credit Card Companies, Mr. Who Loves Surveillance On U.S. Citizens, Mr. Voted For The Iraq War & Appropriations Whatever Demanded By the Crime Syndicate Every Goddamned Time, Mr. The NeoCons Prayed To Be Obama's VP.


But Obama lost whatever little faith I'd dared put in him weeks ago already. As I said way back the differences between him and Hillary are miniscule, and make little difference. She's paid way more maybe by the medical insurance syndicates. He's in the pockets of the credit card syndicates. Both love suveillance on U.S. citz, and secrecy. Neither one would roll back the gutting of the Constitution. Neither of them give a damn about women's rights. They are just more polite about it than McCain and the other syndicates.

The only thing positive about this is how the announcement cut the useless, idiotic talking heads and other so-called expert syncophants out of the loop.

By the way, New Orleans is nearly empty of musicians. They are all on their way to Colorado, to play the great big expen$ive glitzy partie$ in A$pen and Vail. And then off to Minneapolis, to do the $ame for the rethug$. Never think a mu$ician is not a whore, so declare$ Vaquero, who is one too.

Friday, August 22, 2008

AfroPop Shoutout to New Orleans is Streaming Now

The "Shout Out to New Orleans" music program Vaquero produced for AfroPop Worldwide, which aired a few weeks ago, is now uploaded for streaming.

You can listen here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Another Day In The Police State

At JFK Airport, Denying Basic Rights Is Just Another Day at the Office, by Emily Feder.

A first person account of the petty power pukes who are paid with your money to harrass and humiliate, insult and keep YOU out of YOUR country. Collateral damage -- every single day making enemies around the world who hate the U.S. With cause.

Global Fly By

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Future A Half Century Ago

Vaquero On Laura Flanders GRIT-TV Tonight

From Vaquero's List:

i will be a guest on laura flanders's GRIT-TV tonight, which airs at 8 pm
& 1 am ET, on Free Speech TV (DISH Network ch. 9415) and will be available
on demand at
laura asked me to bring my guitar, so it looks like i will sing as well as

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Katrina Fatigue

Today's NY Times film section does a story on New Orleans documentaries about the post Katrina devastations and catastrophes.

Here's a problem we've got to face too. Within about 16 months publishers saw any project that concerned "New Orleans" as a "Katrina book," and, "Katrina books don't sell." They call it "Katrina fatigue." (That was because, as any fool could have told them was GOING TO HAPPEN, they rushed a passel of badly writte and repetitious books about Katrina into print and yeah, they didn't sell.) So foreign publishers don't want our New Orleans books, though they aren't about Katrina at all. Yet, foreign readers who get hold of them, devour them and praise them, citing them just the way USian readers do, for giving them history within a cultural and political matrix that they can understand, and which they've never known before, because no one else has ever pulled all these strands together, and connected all these dots. (Just for starters, unlike Vaquero, most music writers aren't musicians and don't have his vast range knowledge of musics, which he's internalized so deeply that knowledge is there to draw on, effortlessly.)

[ If most Katrina films have had a hard time getting beyond the festival circuit and into theaters, it probably stems from an industry belief that these projects are uncommercial. While trying to raise financing for “Trouble the Water,” Mr. Deal said, “we heard the word ‘fatigue’ a lot.”

This perception may stem from the sense that Katrina reached media saturation point almost immediately. Or it may reflect more pernicious biases: Mr. Deal said one executive asked “if we could find some white characters.” The tagline for “Trouble the Water” — “It’s not about a hurricane. It’s about America” — speaks to the film’s deft handling of race and class but also reflects a reasonable defensiveness. ]

[ Implicit in claims of Katrina fatigue is the assumption that there is only one story to tell. In reality there are almost as many approaches as there are films.

Cauleen Smith’s “Fullness of Time,” a commissioned companion piece to last year’s outdoor production of
“Waiting for Godot” by the artist Paul Chan and the Classical Theater of Harlem, experiments with science fiction, an apt corollary for the alienness of the wrecked landscape. Phoebe Tooke’s short documentary “Circles of Confusion” contemplates the suicide of Stevenson Palfi, a New Orleans filmmaker. One of the most accomplished Katrina films, “The Second Line,” a 20-minute drama directed by John Magary and shown at Sundance, is a simmering moral tale about a young man driven to extremes after his FEMA trailer is burgled. { Fox here: Several of our friends had this terrible experience, including a doctoral student at Tulane, a brilliant young Jamaican, who lost all four of his computers, with his four different books-in-progress and all his research to his neighbors looting his house. FYI, his neighbors were not people of color. }

Standing apart from the other Katrina movies, Benh Zeitlin’s “Glory at Sea,” a 25-minute film that screened at South by Southwest, displaces the tragedy to the realm of myth even as it evokes the celebratory rituals of New Orleans as it used to be. In this exuberant fantasy, a ragtag band of storm survivors build a boat from materials found on the streets — car parts, a bed, a bathtub — and set sail in the hopes of reuniting with their loved ones at the bottom of the ocean.

Vaquero's going to be on radio and television in the next couple of weeks, re the disaster of the levees' failures. He may have been the first on a national broadcast to call for the impeachment of the puppet currently holding the Oval Office, which he did on Labor Day, 2005, Al Franken's show on Air America. Like the rest of the 'important people" in this nation, he went on vacation. He went on vacation even though Air America as a progressive talk radio network had just gotten started. You cannot establish presence while not being present. Another really stupid move, broadcasting frivolity, not seriousness of purpose, the same as just about every other damned institution and organization in this nation since the days of Reagan. Laura Flanders was filling in for Franken and she called Vaquero.

We're even more angry now than we were then. The puppet is still. They have not been incarcerated, but instead are still rampaging and pillaging the nation. Their actions continue to destroy the Constitution and Iraq and Iraqi people. Who would have thought that to be possible? Ah, we're suffering Katrina fatigue, so how can you expect poor us to do anything about them or anything else?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Edna St. Vincent Millay

It seems what has provoked this article plus slide show of Steepletop, home of the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, where she wrote, lived, loved, kicked a drug dependency and, a year after her beloved husband's death, died, is the planned restoration of the place.

It's not that a study of her work or a new biography has been recently published about this American poet who was regarded as one of the greatest of lyricists, and then, dismissed, as a, well, girl. Her poems have been a life's companion since I first discovered them in the spring of my 9th grade year. I worked at learning to type by re-typing her poems in my unheated bedroom during North Dakota winters. I pressed the flowers brought back from my baby sister's funeral in my Collected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay. I recently re-watched Steepletop, the short film about the farm, in which the viewer sees Millay's sister, Nora, attempting to inhabit her sister's life.

The Millay family, and their dynamics, are an American mythic family, like that of the Wyeths, as are the Brontes and the Rossettis in England. The more or less mysterious and convoluted intra-familia dynamics around the larger talents and characters of the public-name members, are of such enduring fascination that they've spawned a meta literature of their own. It's eerie, seeing this dynamic in action, with Nora, in the Steepletop documentary.

The WaPo's Arts & Living magazine / section for Sunday has done an article on Steepletop and Millay, with accompanying slide show. Unlike the documentary film footage of Steepletop, these photographs are in color. It's heartening to see this house, which protected the poet in her darkest times, so brilliantly lit by the warm summer sun.

A Garden of Verses: "Edna St. Vincent Millay's poetry was nurtured by her deep knowledge of the natural world" can be found here. The concluding paragraph:

[ "A man telephoned to ask if he could bring his girlfriend to Steepletop. "She felt she couldn't die without first seeing where Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote," he said. On the appointed date, "there were these kids, he was 24, she was 23, and they were soldiers who had just been assigned to Afghanistan. This is what they wanted to see." ]

Millay is judged a poet who speaks to the young (as if this is a lesser achievement, that goes along with her being a woman who presumed to write poetry, and achieve great success. My own relationship with her work confirms that does speak to the young. Perhaps the first book I ever bought (buying books was not a simple or easy thing out there in rural North Dakota, not even in the big city of Fargo, before the blast of chain book stores) was her Collected Poems. For reasons known only by my heart, it is shelved next to A.S. Byatt's Possession. This is in the small bookcase of essential books that include the likes of Bambi, Louisa May Alcott, Ivanhoe, George Eliot, Zora Neale Hurston, Mary Chestnut's Civil War, the medieval Romance cycles of the Matter of Britain, the books of Yoruba Odu, Robert Farris Thompson, Lincoln Kirstein's history of theatrical dance.

But as one inevitably gets older, one's relationships with what pre-occupied one's younger decades change. It seems that Millay speaks to that change of maturing life as clearly as she does to the more youthful preoccupied celebrations of romance, eros and the passionate dream of justice for one and all. Considering what her last works were, in condemnation of the nazis in Europe, her contemptuous passion for those who destroy in their quest for political / economic power, that passion did not, does not, fade.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Shape of Cuba's Reforms

An assessment by Saul Landau and Nelson P. Valdéz:

[ In 1959, after waging numerous wars and uprisings since the 1860s, Cubans won independence. Cuba then defended its revolution against US belligerence while simultaneously establishing an egalitarian system based on rights –to eat, have housing, medical care, education, etc… As gravy over their meat of success, Cubans danced – and still do -- on the world stage: liberators of parts of Africa, slayers of the Monroe Doctrine, purveyors of emergency medical teams providing vital services to Pakistanis, Hondurans and others who suffered from natural disasters. Cuban eye specialists have saved the vision of countless third world people. Cuban artists, athletes and scientists have etched their names on the honor roles of talent throughout the world. And Fidel ranks as one of the 20th Century’s great leaders. When he would enter international public spaces, even some of his ideological opponents applauded – because of the respect he gained by courageously challenging US dictates.

The US media does not report on Cuba. It provides silly coverage of peripheral issues such as posing the Cuba issue as Fidel v. Raul. The story typifies rumor-based US journalism on Cuba. Ironically, the “superior” US press dismisses Cuban media as non-objective. ]

Thursday, August 14, 2008

You've Got (Snail) Mail

An mp3 burned dvd-rom with all the Number 1 Billboard hits from 1940 - 1970 for Pop, C&W and R&B categories. In reality the Pop category goes back to 1930; in 1930 Billboard didn't have a C&W chart. (It was WWII that made C&W blow up nationally, earning itself a Billboard chart of its own.) This was a gift from another music writer friend, who is currently working on a book about the Beatles, which will be, I promise, disturbing to Beatles-lovers, among whom this Casa is not. Now you know that big dark heresy in our hearts.

Plus, American Mediterranean: Southern Slaveholders in the Age of Emancipation, by Matthew Pratt Gurerl. (2008) Harvard Univ. Press. This arrival, thanks to la Amiga who hosts Gotham City Soul.

Plus -- two more discs for The Wire, Season 5, from netflix.

Sometimes its worth the trouble of opening the mail box.

No chex though, which remains far and away the best thing to find in the mailbox.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Fidel

He's 82 today.

The Arkansas Dem Party Chairman Who Was Shot Has Died

Suspect managed to get himself injured in the chase, and he died previously.

America, America, God Shed His Grace On Thee.

We Need To Be Very Afraid

New York Times calls it humanitarian aid, backed by troops.

The Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, hailed the decision as a “turning point,” but also immediately cast the American presence in military terms.
“What I expected specifically from America was to secure our airport and to secure our seaports,” he said, in a telephone interview minutes after Mr. Bush spoke. “The main thing now is that the Georgian Tbilisi airport will be permanently under control.

However, it looks different from the U.K. Independent's viewpoint.

Mr Bush said military planes would deliver supplies in a move which would put American forces in the heart of the region.

McCain needed this, he thinks, since the Georgian president called him on it.

But make no mistake. What this is, is a war between two oil corporations, Gazprom and Chevron. That's why so many mercs there. Of course, paid for by our money. Lordessa save us if the corpses had to pay for their adventures with their own profits!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Crimson Grail

Vaquero is an under-conductor for this guitar and bass extravaganza. 6-hour rehearsals begin tomorrow. Thus this week our casa will be dominated entirely by an outside force. The sound you hear at this moment is Foxessa's sighs. She remembers when it was like this all the time, and admits to not having missed it at all.

From Playbill, describing this August 15 Lincoln Center Out of doors event:

[ Rhys Chatham, who will lead an army of guitarists through the world premiere of A Crimson Grail for 200 electric guitars (Outdoor Version),” has spent much of his career exploring the border of popular and art music. After studying with the New York minimalist La Monte Young and founding the music program of the downtown experimental space, the Kitchen, Chatham became engulfed in New York’s punk rock moment of the mid-‘70s. As a result, he began composing pieces representative of both the loud, electric energy he experienced at clubs like CBGB’s and the extended, repetitive overtones of composers like Young, Terry Riley and Steve Reich—his breakthrough being 1977’s Guitar Trio, which used three retuned guitars (along with a bass guitar and drums) playing as a loud, harmonic wall of sound, and revolutionized the sound of New York’s underground rock scene for the next decade. Chatham also started adding additional guitarists for his compositions, and by the time A Crimson Grail debuted as an indoor piece in Paris’ Sacré-Couer Basilica in 2005, he was using 400 of them. The very nature—and the needed expansive setting—of creating a piece for so many players (most of whom were chosen through an open volunteer application process), speaks to the communal longings present in Chatham’s music. ]

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The 254 Minute "Gettysburg"

Made by Ted Turner, released theatrically in 1993, it was a box office success --despite its 4 hours plus running time, that allowed only two screenings per day.

I've read the Mike Shaara novel, Killer Angels, from which Maxwell adapted the movie's script, and now I'm watching the film, 30 - 45 minutes at a time at the end of the day.

Since a trip to Gettysburg is out of the question at this time, I'm hoping the movie might help me with visualization skills of the spatial relationships of various parts of the two armies over this 3-day meatgrinder battle.

I fail at reading battlefield placement and encounter maps. I can't 'see' what any of those blocks, etc. mean. I don't understand why they would use little boxes to represent troops. Nor I can I decipher the directional arrows they use to show movement. So often the arrows don't seem to be moving in the direction they should be. I can read road maps and so on. I'm good at conceptualizing through inner visualization a website and how it should be organized to be constructive, accessible and attractive. But I cannot read a battlefield map. (I'd wash out of West Point!)

What I did manage to grasp from Shaara's book is why that 'high ground' knowingly grabbed by Gen. Buford for the Federals, the cupola observation spot, and Jeb Stuart off chasin' his own fame (farkin' thug-thief on a horse like the James Gang) mattered so much to the outcome -- outcome being that both armies suffered nearly equal devastation, but Lee lost his throw to smash all the Federal armies and have the opportunity to present Lincoln with a letter offering him peace (at least, according to the novel -- Killer Angels is a novel, not history, and this Gettysburg is a movie, not history.)

Since the battle was essentially a draw. As I understand it Lee's army didn't have the back home capacity to replace the men, the munitions and the horses he lost at Gettysburg that the Federals had. Which then, as I see it (and I may be called on this by people who understand battles and war better than I do, particularly a war with as many significant battles as our nation's Civil War did), made it impossible for Lee to ever go on the offensive -- invade -- again, instead, he had to stay home, in an every shrinking defensive home ground. Fighting only on defense, as I understand it (and surely there must be exceptions) is not a way to win a war. A battle perhaps, or even a campaign, but not a war. So this is the turning point in the Civil War.

In March of 1864 Lincoln was able to appoint Grant to be in charge of all the armies. Lincoln was still purging the key copperhead/traitors, that the traitor Buchanan had put in place, who blocked so many effective decisions, tactics and appointments, from his administration. The Battle of Gettysburg was July, 1863, and yet another in the ineffective commanders, Gen Meade was in charge. Gen. Buford and Maine, saved the Union until Grant's intelligence took over, because they did such damage to Lee's forces early on. If I understand all this correctly, that is.

Buchanan intentionally moved the army and navy out of the country while the Southerners were preparing for war, and sent army supplies -- not to Fort Sumter and other designated munitions dumps, but to locations that were convenient to the centers of the projected Confederacy.

Buchanan went down in history as The. Worst. President. Ever. Even his biographers despise him. (Though polls indicate Buchanan recently was knocked out of the top spot.)

From "The List"

Vaquero writes:

[ I just produced "Shout Out to New Orleans," an episode of Afropop Worldwide that uplinks this Thursday, in which Georges Collinet talks to special guest deejay T.R. Johnson from WWOZ.

The music is particularly strong, from, among others, Dr. John (his new album "The City That Care Forgot" is tremendous), Big Sam's Funky Nation, Dumpstaphunk, Donald Harrison Jr., Dr. Michael White, Terence Blanchard, and there's a killer track from a forthcoming album by Brother Tyrone.

If APWW is on your local public radio station, it will probably be the episode on air this week (it's at a different time on every station, so i don't know exactly when.) At some point, the program will be available for streaming on, but that lags a few weeks behind. (There is a podcast, but the podcast is only a few minutes long and doesn't include most of the music for legal reasons.)

In New York City, APWW is on six nights a week at 11 p.m. on 91.5 FM. Five of these nights are reruns, but the music doesn't age. ]

Who Do You Love?

"Who Do You Love?" is up on the Smithsonian Magazine website, under Arts and Culture. That Subject button is at the bottom, at the end of a row of several other Subject buttons.

One of the consequences of writing this farewell to Bo Diddley is that Mike Fleming, who is in the article, and then played with Bo for so many years, called, and talked with Vaquero about his days and times since then. Mike's still living and playing in Albuquerque. He says there's nothing online or anywhere else about those days and Roach Ranch West, which was such a center of vitality, so he and his buddies were extra glad about the article.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Summer Sunday's Thoughts Drift South

I'm cutting and pasting passages from the Guttenberg Project site's Personal Memoirs, Vol. 1, by Ulysses S. Grant, to avoid the vision-bustiong drudgery of re-typing all of this text into my own document. It still needs a lot of format editing though, to conform to manuscript submission standards. It's work, particularly for somebody as visually-impaired as I am.

I switch off from Grant to a lighter interest, vampires. Meyer's 4thTwilight book published on the stroke of midnight Friday night, has been big weekend entertainment news. The forthcoming HBO series, True Blood, based on Charlaine Harris's series, also has been big news this weekend. Meyer's books are set in the Pacific Northwest, while Harris's are set in small town northern Louisiana. An interesting cultural contrast there, kind of like Dark Shadows vs. Buffy The Vampire Slayer, in terms of economic class, social acceptance and the place of violence in a society.

The radio's playing the "Tennessee Border" show. This Sunday's program is all songs about cheating on your partner or being cheated on by your partner, or your partner cheating on his / her partner, and how you feel about that. This is the South too. Do the writers of this music live in a milieu where infidelity was more common than in others? But the fans who make this music so popular are religious and concerned with doing right and care about what people think about them. Grant is easier to understand because he knew what he thought about everything and why he thought it.

I have another hero to stand with George Washington now. Grant too was a general, who became POTUS. Unlike Washington, Grant's press has been bad -- part of the historical propaganda strategy by the former Confederacy and sympathizers to discredit the Union and Reconstruction.

This article in Newsweek,"The Mind of the South," says that studying Grant this summer is about the most contemporary thing I could be working on:

[ For many of the hobbyists the delight is in the details, right down to the paper cartridges in their muzzle-loading rifles and handmade buttons on their hot woolen uniforms. "We all know slavery was wrong," says Donald Davidson, whose day job is with the water department in Nashville. "War is not a nice thing. Hopefully we can show we can live together by reliving history like this."

But the subtext of old prejudices keeps creeping in even among the very young. Walking down to The Point one morning, a 12-year-old "private" in this particular Confederate unit told me what he'd heard tell in school about the elections. Next to nothing about McCain. But Obama? "There are too many chances we would take if he became president, you know what I mean?" I said I wasn't sure I did. "I don't know if it's a myth or it's true," said the boy, "but they say that they caught him trying to sneak Iraqi soldiers into the United States."

I remember all the things I heard tell in elementary school in Atlanta during the civil-rights movement of the 1960s, when the schoolyard talk was about a Roman Catholic running for president, and the threat that he'd be putting nigras (which is what you said if you were halfway polite) in Atlanta schools. Certainly much of the similar talk you hear now comes from the obvious suspects, people like Dent Myers, a relic collector and self-caricaturing bigot in Kennesaw, Ga., north of Atlanta. (His shop, Wildman's, is full of the crazy literature of the unreconstructed South, as well as guns, swords, Ku Klux Klan hoods and scurrilous bumper stickers.) Dent argues that when Southerners criticize Obama, "They say, 'He's a Muslim, he's a mulatto Muslim, or quadroon Muslim … [only because] they don't want to use the old N word." ]

The conditions of the 19th century, from the Mexican American War and the Second Great Awakening, the Southern slave-owning determination to go to war to expand slavery, through Reconstruction, in comparison and contrast with what this nation's been experiencing since Reagan, throws a light that illuminates better both the past and the present.

I take consolation from history.