". . . 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, May 31, 2009

Elizabeth Sifton Speaks Re Publishing Industry Woes

In The Nation. Not that any of what she writes is unknown or news around here. Duh.

I have just a bit of a different tilt upon her analysis. It is the sameness, the lack of nurturing of new writers, that will ultimately kill the publishing biz in any form that we have known it all our lives and the lives of our grandmothers too.

Example: The New Fiction shelves at my most commonly visited NYPL branch have fewer and fewer books on them, due to the economic catastrophe that has engulfed every aspect of our lives. However, even so, and previously, there were fewer and fewer books on those shelves that sparked even an iota of interest in this reader desperate for a novel.

She'd read a few chick lits -- even before they were called that and became a forumlaic marketing genre -- and thus had no reason to ever read another one.

Historical novels mostly aren't, but rather literary experiments in consciousness, of which reading a few leaves the reader enthusiastic about Scott and Dumas, Bradshaw and (some) Cornwell with no need for more. (Thank goodness for the novelists who have been coming with historical fiction out of the post-colonial realms, like Marlon James, Vikram Chandra and Amitav Ghosh.)

Then, there are all the novels that would never have been written if someone else hadn't written them. A novel about Daphne du Maurier AND a novel about Rebecca -- Her Own Story are on the shelves. By count, no less than 12 novels ABOUT Jane Austen, the members of her family or about the characters she created in her novels, at any one time sitting on those shelves! Not to mention sf/f and novels ABOUT Jane Austen and / or her characters -- wtf? And that isn't all of the novels about Jane Austen and her family and her characters by any means. The others presumably were checked out. Not to mention Shakespeare and HIS family and even other writers from his period as characters. Stop this, RIGHT NOW!

Then the wereworld detectives -- hundreds of authors are writing those it seems, and they turn out at least 4 - 5 titles a year. Gack.

Thousands of time travel romances to the past of Scotland. Oh, Diane Gabaldon, what hast thou wrought! It's not your fault, and this reader isn't blaming you. But this reader DOES blame the publishers.

You could say I'm complaining that publishers are forcing me to work harder than I like to find a novel that I want to read.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Embarrassed Up To My Gringo Roots

Listening to the NPR dorks pronouncing Judge Sotomayor's name. I blush and I cringe.

Even worse is that they are giving all this time to grassley, blowing wind about her demerits. Blech. What an a$$hole.

She's no leftist, by any means. She's not even particularly pro-choice, though she seems to have some sympathy, at least, for gay, lesbian, transgendered rights.

She is very intelligent, she KNOWs law, has enormous active, working experience in jurisprudence. She's a working judge. She has more judicial AND law practice experience than all of the rest of the SCOTUS put together. She'd be the first WORKING lawyer - judge with the Supremes in a very long time.

The rightwingnutz radio dorkdongs are naturally pronouncing her name as 'sodomizer,' since these whackjobs are obsessed with the practice.

Here is the full text of her Judge Mario G. Olmos Memorial Lecture in 2001, delivered at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, that has given the rightwingthugz such a heart condition.

Africa Leads

The capacity to tell good stories and to create lovely things is part of survival. This, about the !Kung Kalahari desert people, from the NY Times Science section, in an interview with anthropologist Pauline Weissner, explains how it works. She also postulates that this capacity was what allowed humans to move out of Africa in the first place.

Africa's natural resources continue to be exploited by richer regions of the world, and thereby further impoverishing Africa's own environment and the people who have depended on them for millennia. Now it's the baobab tree, which almost all of us surely encountered for the first time in Antoine Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. His own planet was too small for the baobab to flourish ....

It's been the annual DanceAfrica dance festival here. The author tells us he's ignorant of the vast variety of African dances. Accordingly, he's also ignorant of the music, so his description doesn't help too much. Part of his criticism is that the festival didn't include dances from East Africa, Egypt and Morocco. The title of the festival, "Rhythmic Reflection: African Legacies Revealed," refers to the Atlantic slave trade into the New World. Thus groups from these regions weren't part of the slave diaspora to the New World. Maybe he should read Cuba and Its Music?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Robert Fisk Gets Cosmic About Egypt

"Robert Fisk’s World: When I look at the Pyramids, I wonder why I tire of Egypt"

[ "But we did discuss death and age and I told him that there are only three great Egyptians: the pharaoh Ramses, Nasser, and Mohamed Hussainein Heikal. He led me into the garden of his farm in the Egyptian delta and we sat amid the bougainvillaea and agreed that we had never been in the Middle East in a worse or a more dangerous war. I also pointed out to him that since he already lived in paradise, there was no point in dying." ]

"How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music

(Oxford Press) by Elijah Wald is now officially published and available.

You can learn more about the book and Elijah's tour here.

Opinion of this work here in Casa de la Zorra is very, very high. If you have an interest in music and / or the history of this nation, this is a book you need to read.

Elijah describes his book in his own words in this a.m.'s e-mail:

[ "Basically, after writing "Escaping the Delta" it began to bother me that virtually all pop music history has been written by roots, jazz and rock fans--people like me--who tend to take pride in our unique tastes and despise mainstream pop. And we tend to write the history of what we like
rather than the history of what happened. So this is an attempt to give a clearer picture of how
pop music evolved, looking at changing dancestyles, technologies, and the lives of working musicians and regular listeners from the dawn of ragtime to the dawn of disco--with some fun stories to back it all up." ]

This is a summer and fall of music and history books -- very good books -- published by our friends, including Greg Grandin's Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City (Metropolitan), also in June. Not to mention The Year Before the Flood (August)!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Obama Requested To Not Honor The Confederacy

[ Presidents since Woodrow Wilson have annually sent a commemorative wreath to the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Up until the presidency of George H.W. Bush, the wreath was sent on or near the birthday of Confederate president, Jefferson Davis. Since then, the wreath has been sent on Memorial Day.

One might think that this is a practice birthed in a generosity of spirit and healing of the war that had so deeply divided the nation. Unfortunately the truth is that the monument commemorates not the dead so much as the cause of the confederacy, and stands to this day as a rallying point for white supremacy.

This is why scholars Edward Sebestaco-editor of "Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction," University of Texas Press, and James Loewen, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Vermont, joined by some 65 others (including me) sent a letter to president Obama asking him to end the practice.

Frederick Clarkson's diary :: ::

The many prominent scholars who signed the letter include: James McPherson, Professor of History, Princeton University; and William Lee Miller, Scholar in Ethics and Institutions at the Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia; Jon Weiner, Professor of History, University of California, Irvine; and David W. Blight, Professor of American History, Yale; and Roger G. Kennedy, director emeritus of the National Museum of American History.

The monument was given to the Federal Government by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and in 1914, and was, Sebesta and Loewen write, "intended to legitimize secession and the principles of the Confederacy and glorify the Confederacy."

The Daily Beast has an account of the effort, but so far, the media, and for that matter, the blogosphere have not yet picked-up on the story. The History News Network, however, published the letter along with the names of those who had signed on at the time. ]

Full story and letter follows the above here.

Ron Reagan Jr. Let Fat Drug Boy Have It

Ron Reagan Junior: 'Limbaugh Hasn't Had a Natural Erection Since the Nixon Administration'

Go Here for full story plus links to audio and video.

What is also kinda cool about RR's discharge here, is that he gets in a reference to what Whoopi Goldberg called Glenn Beck's lying ejaculation about her and Barbara Walters: "a lying sack of dog mess," which got loads of media attention.

These guys are the model for the kind of loser we experienced going off on us this week. There is absolutely no point in attempting to engage with them in any manner that involves facts, intelligence, information, bibliographies, research, etc. If they are backed into a corner where everything they see show them to be wrong, they flip off and start racist, sexist and personal insult bs. That's who they are. No point, none at all. So either you have to take the route of RR and Whoopie Goldberg, or just stay so far away from them that they are effectively isolated in their bubble of hateful solipsism.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Torture & The Regime

One wonders whether the unrelenting attacks on President Obama concerning the use of torture by the bush regime, particularly from Cheney, and the accusations that Pelosi knew torture was employed by them (but insisting that they didn't do it too) will force judicial action. It seems an ill chosen choice of strategy. But then, they're professional power players. What do I know?

Pelosi hasn't taken kindly to turning this issue into all about HER, when it is THEM.

Do they realize that their constant attacks are forcing into being the very thing that they evidently believe their attacks is supposed stop -- i.e. their usual tactics of yelling sit down and shut up or else! But, um in 2009, what 'or else' do they have to make people sit down and shut up?

True Blood

HBO's promotion of True Blood last spring is how I got alerted to Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire Tales featuring the somewhat unusual Sookie Stackhouse. I read a few of them and was impressed with Harris's abilities. She tells jam-packed tales of mayhem and good humor and generosity of spirit -- while also killing off people you really really like, and in so few words that all of the books barely make 300 pp. in production, yet you feel as though you've traveled years and worlds. These books are to be read for recreation. In fact, if Sookie life wasn't so filled with people and events, she would read these books for fun, and so would her marvelous grandmother. This kind of talent a writer's born with. The writer can hone it, the writer can become more practiced, but the author can't be taught to have it.

Nevertheless, the books actually are about what matters: prejudice and fear. Perhaps why I vibrated with them so much is that they are set in a Louisiana I know. I love Louisiana and I hate it at the same time. It's the violence and the prejudice, and no group of people is immune from committing both.

The first episodes then, of last summer's season one of True Blood (second season starts in June) arrived this week. Some of the blood and mayhem are more than I can actually look at -- I never can watch a sequence in which a woman is getting the sh*t beaten and kicked out of her, well, I never can watch this happen to a man either. In terms of the story arc though, and the characters, and the landscape emotional, political, moral and botanical they move in and which acts on them as much as they act up it, this is one of the good things on television.

True Blood is employing some of the actors who made a mark in other HBO series: Chris Bauer, who played Frank Sobatka on The Wire's season 2, plays Andy Bellefluer, and William Sanderson, who played E.B. Farnum in Deadwood, plays Sheriff Bud Dearborne. True Blood has a big cast of fascinating characters, and a lot of them are really attractive to look at, without much of that manufactured Hollywood look (other than in some of the younger males, who are so gym sculpted that you know nobody can look like that without devoting at least 6 hours a day to it, everyday, with a trainer, which nobody could afford to do in True Blood's neighborhood). It is Anna Paquin, who plays Sookie, on whose shoulders the series ultimately stands or falls. She's perfect, without being perfect. She is very attractive, but she's got a gap between her front teeth -- no Hollywood caps here (unless these are special cosmetic caps for the role, which is possible -- that's how much attention I pay to actors, you see, until one shows up in a story I like).

In the tradition that HBO has established, the music is exciting, memorable and signals immediately where you are, and you won't get tired of it during the series' run (though it does sound to my ears as though the score composer, Nathan Barr, has bitten some signature bars right from Deadwood's signature score). The same for the location shots for the repeated opening of each episode of the show. They feel recognizably HBO, and I mean that it in a good way. You know you're in for first class, unembarrassing and probably fairly smart entertainment.

Flights to Cuba -- New Orleans WANTS Them

From Mayor Nagin's final state of the city address:

[ "Further, Nagin said Louis Armstrong International Airport officials are "aggressively pursuing direct flights to Cuba" and are in talks with a major airline about become a hub for direct flights to more Central and South American destinations." ]

Though he's universally reviled, we seem to have a soft spot for this mayor over here in Fox Home. He was in absolute crisis with no tools and his arms and legs both cut off.

Allen Toussaint At the Village Vanguard

Jon Pareles reviews.

Going to be there tonight with some of the Tremé crew, who are in town.

Much more music from New Orleans in NYC than there was prior to 2005.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Second NYC Death From H1N1

The first one was a young woman, assistant principal of a school in Queens. The second one is an infant.

More schools are closed every day now.

It's shown up in the Rikers Island population, the city's big 'corrections' facility. The supervisors are saying it needs to be evacuated and sanitized from top to bottom. The mayor's office says otherwise, and that such an evacuation is impossible in any case.

Friday, May 15, 2009

"How I Spent My Summer Vacation"

Dear amiga, Lissa Hattersley, member of Austin's venerated Greezy Wheels, has released her own cd, How I Spent My Summer Vacation. She's the lead vocalist and plays acoustic guitar. Most of the musical arrangements are hers. The songs include a combination of her own and covers of others', whom she admires. She did Our Own Vaquero the honor of covering his "The Nightworker's Song (Blue Time).

Here is more information about the album from the bass player, John Jordan. According to my search engine, references to How I Spent My Summer Vacation are popping up in various places, like here.

Lissa waited for the dust to settle from South X Southwest to have the launch party at the Cactus Cafe, and, dayem, I couldn't be there. By all accounts it was a wonderful and wild time.

There's so much I love about this album:

Little things -- such as how she starts off "Moonstruck Love," in her own sweet and clean melodic voice, "lahahlahlahha," that rolls right into "I love you." It's kept simple (meaning plain -- ornaments are functional, such as this roll of lahahlahlahha) and beautiful, while lyrically, vocally smart -- still, soft and sweet. That's Our Lissa -- 5 es's -- strong, simple, smart, soft, sweet.

The material doesn't all sound the same, which few singer-songwriter performances and recordings avoid, whether on stage or in the studio. There's also sense of humor here, as well as musical wit! The album is a unity because the organizing principle -- or principal -- is Lissa's own musical sense and sensibility. Part of it is Lissa's clean and unpretentious presentation.

This listener has her own identification with the material on How I Spent My Summer Vacation. A lot of us come from that emotional location where the cut, "Peace in The Valley," comes from. This song in particular carries us way back into our regional and historic family roots, all of which are contained within this great big baggy music tradition called "Country" that includes Appalachian folk and bluegrass, western, cowboy music, and then "swing" gets in there too. So many of us from the Midwest, the South, the Southwest and the West grew up with those kinds of musics, and those singers. Hank Williams is our patron saint, but Ernest Tubb is probably the guardian angel -- and what about Tennessee Ernie Ford and Dolly Parton? There are musical nods on How I Spent My Summer Vacation to these regional and historical roots.

Congratulations, Lissa! You and your friends are the best!

[Dayem, I hate blogspot's refusal to format as I style it.]

"Stand By Me"

One of the best versions you'll ever see and hear of the classic made popular by the Drifters' Ben E. King.

This cover of "Stand By Me" was recorded by completely unknown artists in a street virtual studio around the world. It all started with a base track-vocals and guitar-recorded on the streets of Santa Monica, California, by a street musician named Roger Ridley. The base track was then taken to New Orleans, Louisiana, where Grandpa Elliot, a blind singer from the French Quarter, added vocals and harmonica while listening to Ridley's base track on headphones. In the same city, Washboard Chaz added some metal percussion to it. From there, the producers took the resulting mix all through Europe, Africa, and South America, adding new tracks with multiple instruments and vocals that were assembled in the final version you are seeing in this video. This was all done with a simple laptop and some microphones.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's Not Over By A Long Shot

In a de-centralized manner, the Explorers, affiliated for 60 years with the Boy Scouts of America, are being given training to fight 'terrorists, illegal immigrants and border violence. Just what I need -- a 13 year old armed kid screaming at me to 'spread em!"

[ "The law enforcement programs are highly decentralized, and each post is run in a way that reflects the culture of its sponsoring agency and region. Most have weekly meetings in which the children work on their law-enforcement techniques in preparing for competitions. Weekends are often spent on service projects.

Just as there are soccer moms, there are Explorers dads, who attend the competitions, man the hamburger grill and donate their land for the simulated marijuana field raids. In their training, the would-be law-enforcement officers do not mess around, as revealed at a recent competition on the state fairgrounds here, where a Ferris wheel sat next to the police cars set up for a felony investigation.

Their hearts pounding, Explorers moved down alleys where there were hidden paper targets of people pointing guns, and made split-second decisions about when to shoot. In rescuing hostages from a bus taken over by terrorists, a baby-faced young girl screamed, “Separate your feet!” as she moved to handcuff her suspect.

In a competition in Arizona that he did not oversee, Deputy Lowenthal said, one role-player wore traditional Arab dress. “If we’re looking at 9/11 and what a Middle Eastern terrorist would be like,” he said, “then maybe your role-player would look like that. I don’t know, would you call that politically incorrect?”

Authenticity seems to be the goal. Imperial County, in Southern California, is the poorest in the state, and the local economy revolves largely around the criminal justice system. In addition to the sheriff and local police departments, there are two state prisons and a large Border Patrol and immigration enforcement presence." ]

Put this together with Jesus Camp, the 2006 documentary of born again kids, their parents, their communities, those who run them, and a camp they attend, outside Devil's Lake, North Dakota.

The Born Agains are not going away quietly. They are building this national movement, targeting children, to create their own suicidal lock-step warriors in order to fight satan here and everywhere else, just as they've built an entirely alternate system to everything, including hiphop, cheerleading and heavy metal.

This is as much child abuse and beating and sexual exploitation. (The Times article includes the information that there's a fair amount of sexual abuse of the kids by their Explorer leaders. Watching Jesus Camp I thought those creepy adults are very likely to do the same.)

The central male figure -- he's 10, or maybe 12 -- he could well have been a child actor cast in a fiction movie to play the fascist world dictator, er savior hero warrior pince as a child -- he's that self-possessed, dressed in camo gear, prowling the stage with his microphone light sabre, working the other kids into a frenzy for the lord, while the adults follow him with their starry-eyed, yet slyly calculating gazes, while barely controlling the drool provoked by their leader-in-training.

Jesus Camp is our time's version of Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here, except that this isn't a novel, fiction, but a documentary of what is going on. The adults don't have a clue how contradictory and lying they are either. "We're not political," the central adult figure, the Reverend Becky insists, as she hauls around a full-size cardboard cutout of bush2 and orders the children to tell him they love him. She lambastes the kids for not being able to fast all day like muslim children do during Ramadan, while she's at least 400 lbs. Surely the kids notice these things?

28% is definitely a large enough springboard to bring it on this revolution that they pray for, speak in tongues for. Especially with a charismatic, young, good looking, talented, smart, very well trained spokesman-leader.

It's not over, not by any means. Particularly while the traitorous Senate won't even cap credit card rates at 15%.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hopeful Dispatches From the 40th Jazz & Heritage Festival

By Larry Blumenfeld, in the Village Voice, here.

[ "New Orleans inspires even inveterate Twitterers and Facebook correspondents to release their thumbs and touch real life. Except the guy at the bar of a club called DBA one recent Monday, who just leaned harder into his BlackBerry, typing feverishly as Glen David Andrews—trombone in one hand, mic in the other—upped the tempo of "It's All Over Now." Some people just don't get it.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which celebrated its 40th year through two long weekends from April 24 to May 3, is the grandest showcase, the tourism calling card, for a culture that defies the virtual. At the festival's Gospel Tent five days later, Andrews stirred fervor with hymns from his new CD, Walking Through Heaven's Gate. Monday, secular. Friday, sacred. Same effect. These are the two sides of New Orleans' musical coin, and nowhere is that truer than Andrews's old neighborhood, Tremé: He recorded his album at Zion Hill Baptist Church there, where he was baptized 30 years ago." ]

Are Bono And Bob Geldof Good For Africa?

This isn't new, of course, but it is seldom covered.

Journalists often peg stories about the continent to what two of its most visible advocates say. "Africa aid levels a disgrace, says Bono," "Give us your "effin money, says Geldof."
Some say we journalists are lazy, others say their fame gives us a convenient way of getting stories that otherwise might not be heard past our editors and into the Western media.
I've sat with Ethiopians in gardens lush with greenery and laughed about a land where, according to the pair's famous 1984 Band Aid song, "nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow."
And I've heard people, in this nation that is largely Orthodox Christian and Muslim, laugh at the inappropriate nature of the song's title for them: "Do they know it's Christmas?"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

David Simon - Democracy Now

"As Profit Motive Guts Newspapers, Communities Lose Out"

[ "Testifying before a Senate hearing on the “Future of Journalism,” former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon, best known as the creator of the award-winning HBO series The Wire, addresses the decline of the newspaper industry in the age of rabid media consolidation and the rise of the internet. Simon calls for a non-profit model in the newspaper industry, saying “raw unencumbered capitalism is never the answer when a public trust or public mission is at issue.” [includes rush transcript]" ]

Thursday, May 7, 2009

HBO Takes Full First Season of David Simon's "Tremé" Series

HBO to produce full season of "Treme".


Gads, I hope this is as good as The Wire. I know they've done their homework, and they've got the right consultants and advisors, and that many of the people involved are New Orleanian bred and born.

The Next Three Days

Will be here.

Looks like a lot of fun, including the opportunity to meet some old friends and make new ones.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Silvio Rodríguez "Delayed" From Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday

U.S. State Department fails to issue visa for Silvio RodríguezAct NOW to demand entry for Cuban artists and professionals US-Cuba Cultural Exchange:


May 3, 2009

Following is the text of an email from Silvio Rodríguez (trans. into English), regarding the failure of the United States State Department to issue him an entry visa.

Rodríguez, Cuba's premier singer-songwriter and co-founder of that country's New Song Movement, was to perform at Pete Seeger's 90th birthday concert in New York today, Sunday, May 3.

Rodríguez's entry into the United States to perform might have been a major break through following years of wrong-headed U.S. policy towards Cuban artists and professionals. Instead, the State Department, while not explicitly denying the visa, allowed it to be tied up such that it was not approved, at least not in time (as of this writing) for the very performance for which it was solicited.

You can help. Take a moment and call the U.S. State Department and express your sentiment that Cuban artists be allowed to enter the United States to share their work with appreciative and deserving American audiences. Tell them that it is an embarrassment that an artist of the stature of Silvio Rodríguez be denied entry into the country to join hands with Pete Seege ralong with the dozens of other performers who joined with him today.

Thanks to Bill Martínez for all the work involved in the visa solicitation. U.S. State Department Switchboard: 202-647-4000

Also, call the White House Comment Line and express your feelings: 202-456-1111

Thanks, L H

Message from Silvio Rodríguez to his sister in Havana, also his manager:

Today is May 1 and it is 8:40 pm in Paris. I just connected online to the United States Embassy site in France, where information is published regarding visa solicitations. My visa application is listed as being in process, the same status that it has maintained since I made the application. Today being the day that I was to fly to New York, and given that the visa has still not appeared, tomorrow I will leave instead for Havana.

You can pass this message to Pete's grandson Tao, and to Bill the attorney, along with my gratitude for their efforts as well as my sorrow resultingf rom the lack of respect shown by the State Department to them for havingi nvited me to celebrate the 90th birthday of our dear friend Pete Seeger, living legend of North American song.

I believe that the attitude of the State Department is very contradictory, given the desire expressed by President Obama to bring the United States closer to Cuba. As a Cuban cultural worker, I continue to feel blockaded and discriminated against by other governments. Hopefully this will truly change someday.

Thanks for your help.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Nigeria - PEN world Voices Festival of International Literature

Full reportage for this segment of the weekend here.

[ "Thousands of miles of oil pipelines run through coastland occupied by the Ogoni people, one of 250 ethnic tribes in Nigeria. Noxious fumes, spills and development have turned much of the area into a wasteland, causing severe deforestation as well as desperate poverty.

Going off on his own and writing, untroubled by politics, has “been a dream for 30 years,” said Mr. Wiwa, who is Ogoni, like his father. But he added, “A lot of my most profound thoughts originate from being involved in this struggle. It compels you to consider the idea of what happens if you just go away and write. Because you may not have anything to say.”

Mr. Ndibe asked about sacrifices his family made because of his father’s commitment, but Mr. Wiwa demurred.

“All of us have a choice, to make our children safe in the world or to make the world safe for our children, and there are implications to that,” Mr. Wiwa said, referring to others he has met who share his situation, like Nelson Mandela's daughter Zindzi and Nkosinathi Biko, the son of the South African activist Steve Biko. “Our fathers chose a different path.” ]

Monday, May 4, 2009

May Day, Central Park Vistas, Twilight Rain & Fog

We were on our way to meet Garnett and Madison at Florence Gould Hall for the concert by Ram in the French Cultural Institute's series "World Nomads." This year the series, which includes film, music, literature, art and all other cultural expression, features Haiti.

Jon Pareles - 40th Annual Jazzfest

As described via the eyes and ears of Jon Pareles.

It turns out this is the most heavily attended one since Levees' - FEMA Fail05 , (peak year Jazzfest attendence was 2001).

Jon did a rundown on the Ponderosa Stomp here.

Jon and Jazzfest: "Zydeco at a Bowling Alley" here.

Jon, Jazzfest and "Soul Men" here.

Jon, Jazzfest and "Voice of the Wetlands" here.

There are more links following "Voice of the Wetlands," which are equally interesting and valuable to read:

"A Bit of a Stretch;" Behind Threadhead Records; "Other Glimpses From Friday;"

Jon is one hell of a reporter. He does his legwork as well as his earwork. I know just how arduous what he's doing is. I've been with Vaquero while he's done the same thing. It is not at all the same as running around from one stage to another while drinking a lot of beers, and running into your friends. Well, yes, that is part of it. But you have to somehow remain clear-headed enough to make notes and recordings that are usable, and then pull it all together when your body aches and your legs are like rubber, and you're starving and there's no place to get anything to eat, and somehow get back to where you are staying, while sneezing from all the dust and itchy from the sunburn because you sweated off your sunblock and if your wife isn't there to make you re-apply it, you didn't (unless it rained all day, then you're covered with mud). And it's late and you have to go out to hear these other esssential acts who are not exactly playing Jazzfest, or are playing this gig too, and you then have to get up really early and do it all again. While looking for breakfast and coffee while the rest of the world is doing the same in the city that isn't about fast, efficient service on little bit.

If I have this right, Jon started coming to New Orleans with Mardi Gras, 2006 (I remember running into him then, and don't recall that from previous years). He's learned so much. This is a really good job.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Best Take Away So Far This Weekend:

"You can't get satisfaction from kicking a skunk."

Purportedly reported uttered by Cornelius Vanderbilt about Jay Gould, whom he hated. However, as best his biographer, T.J. Stiles, has been able to determine, this, like many things the corporate mogul supposedly said, is either entirely fiction, or a distinct re-work of something he did say.

Two titles have emerged this week as shoe-ins at least for Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award nomination: T.J. Stiles's The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt for biography(can you believe that the NY Times got it WRONG in their first review of the book, printing it as the title of the book by F.Scott Fitzgerald, The Last Tycoon? They had to print a correction.) The other is Colson Whitehead's Sag Harbor for fiction. How do we know? Because the NY Times reviews both of them more than once, plus articles-interviews, and because both works were backed by the 'right' people from the gitgo. For instance, at T.J.'s presentation-interview (his interviewer was Kevin Baker) so many 'right' people were present, who aren't there for the other presentations in the Cullman Center's series that features authors who have had worked on their books via fellowships at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. So, as today is the running of the Kentucky Derby I'll announce now that I'm putting my money for the Pulitzer / National Book Award on these two titles.

There's another significant book award that is discussed at length this week - weekend. This year we have a very close friend who is part of the process that chooses the winner. What he had to say was, shall we say, illuminating? Or maybe not. It's not a surprise that if you don't travel with these people yourself, your book isn't going to even get on the long list, much less the short list, much less be the winner. I'm sure this is no surprise to anyone. It's a surprise to him though, which is probably why he talked about it (no, he wasn't under the influence either -- he doesn't drink alcohol). He's just that sweet, and also, since he's always been in those circles, it never occured to him before that there are writers who are not.

A long weekend of books and writers, Haitian music and musicians.

Also I / we are getting to hang a lot with someone who has long been high on my list of favorite bests, the author of Soldiers Joy. Soldiers Joy is one of my most vivid reading experiences: this discharged Vietnam vet protag in rural Tennessee decides to learn to play the banjo. The choice of protagonist's woodshedding piece is the classic contest piece, "Soldiers Joy." I can recall exactly where I was semi-reclined during those late spring days devoted to reading Soldier's Joy, the widening of my eyes as detail after detail of this rural life comes to life, details which I know intimately from living it myself, though on the plains, not in southern valley. While I'm reading this novel, Vaquero is learning the banjo because a composer-musician friend of his wrote a banjo part into a composition he would debut at a July 4th concert. The composer bought a banjo, handed it to Vaquero and told him to learn to play it. So Vaquero's been woodshedding for weeks in in our kitchen, day after day, b*tching about how HARD a banjo is to play, how heavy it is, etc., while I'm reading the same b*tches in the novel.

Turns out the author had heard Vaquero play and sing "Soldiers Joy" at a concert here back in the day, when Vaquero was working with this musical group from New Mexico composed of elderly musicians who played (and won) a lot of fiddle contests. Vaquero was taking them to Europe, to the international festival in Nice. One of them had never even been on a plane before, and here they were, playing fiddle for the hippest of downtown NY scenster audience. Didn't fae them a bit.

So much fun of the best kind, in the best of company.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Fidel's May Day Address


[ The last word cannot be said yet on the future evolution of the present US administration. There are new elements, both objective and subjective. We are carefully watching and studying its every step. We are not incendiary assome would imagine, but neither are we fools who can be easily duped bythose who think that the only thing important in the world are the laws ofthe market and the capitalist system of production. We all have the duty to struggle for peace; there is no other alternative. However, never should the adversary be under the illusion that Cuba will surrender.

We hope that every May 1st thousands of men and women, in every corner of the globe, will share International Workers' Day with us, a day which wehave been celebrating for 50 years. It was not in vain that long before January 1st, 1959, we had proclaimed that our Revolution would be theRevolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble. Theaccomplishments of our Homeland in the areas of education, health, science,culture and other fields, and especially the strength and the unity of thepeople, are demonstrating this, in spite of the ruthless blockade.

Fidel Castro Ruz

April 30, 2009

6:18 p.m. ]

The full text of Fidel's address is here.