Category Archives: politics

More thoughts on HONK!

We went to the parade today, and while my video from that is uploading, I have some amendements to make from my prior post.

I was sort of sour on the whole politics angle of the HONK! bands. I think what I said was true, that basically, if the goal is to convert the unconverted, spectacles like this aren’t going to be the forum where that happens. My experience is that the only time peoples’ minds are changed is when there is some personal connection between two people that transcends politics, and then they have to reconcile their feelings to their viewpoints. Anyway, so, maybe people are not going to hear the Leftist Marching Band’s song about Wal-Mart and are suddenly going to see the light and say, yeah, they treat their workers like crap, I’m not going to shop there.

But I think there is something to the politics of the music itself that I basically buy into. First off, it’s just a total non-product. Very few of the bands there were even selling CDs. None of these people are making their living from their music, they are just out there for the joy of the thing. (I’m guessing here, to be fair: but I suspect that only a relative handful of people are making a living from music these days, and the folks in the HONK bands have not given up their day jobs). But the format of this kind of music is just not salable; it can barely even be recorded well. I mean, it technically can be recorded, and it can even sound pretty good. But unless you have a really crazy sound system at home, it’s just not going to sound like 10 horns and 5 percussionists (or more) standing 3 or 4 feet away from you, there’s not going to be a crowd dancing all smelly after a day of dancing.

I also feel like it opens a viable door for popular music. I guess it’s not popular in the sense that a lot of people like it. But it is pop music in the sense that you don’t need any kind of specialized cultural context or background to have an immediate visceral human reaction to people blowing horns and banging drums in front of you. It’s a popular music that you can participate in just by listening to it and ditching the snobbery and admitting that you like it– you don’t have to buy a T-Shirt, you don’t have to participate in some kind of record store nerd snottery, you don’t have to claim your turf as part of a subculture (there were townies, trustafarians, old crusty Cambridge folkies, new somerville yuppies with their kids in their maclaren strollers, and Click and Clack the Tappett Brothers for god’s sake). You can just listen and shake your butt and be happy to be in the middle of something great on a couple of gorgeous New England autumn days.

... and it was beautiful... but so's Maine

And I love that it just harkens to a time when if you wanted music, you just made it. You didn’t go shopping.

Thoreau and the news

The first time I read Thoreau was in 8th or 9th grade English class, and I had no use for the guy. I grew up on a farm, feeling pretty disconnected from the modern world, and was pretty actively trying to connect to it. So I had little patience for some earnest jackass who preached about renouncing it.

But clearly, I had a pretty strong reaction, and he definitely touched a nerve. And I find little bits of Walden coming in to my head from time to time.

Every time I find myself getting a news addiction, I think of this:

After a night’s sleep the news is as indispensable as the breakfast. “Pray tell me anything new that has happened to a man anywhere on this globe” – and he reads it over his coffee and rolls, that a man has had his eyes gouged out this morning on the Wachito River; never dreaming the while that he lives in the dark unfathomed mammoth cave of this world, and has but the rudiment of an eye himself.

… And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter – we never need read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications? To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea. Yet not a few are greedy after this gossip.

…What news! how much more important to know what that is which was never old!

I find this kind of thing comforting when news cycles seem to be heating up, when world events seem to be impossibly dire. And I am occasionally attracted by more contemporary variations of this attitude.

I guess what I ultimately don’t buy is that withdrawal from the world is somehow the answer. I think that it’s better to stay engaged, while keeping it all in perspective. People have been feeling like the world is spinning out of control for thousands of years — O tempora! O mores! — and sometimes it is, but usually it isn’t. A coward dies a thousand times, etc. (which also comes straight to you from 8th grade English class…)

Every time you say “Sarah Palin” God kills a kitten

Seriously, I’m going to just stop talking about her (after this post).

She’s completely derailled what was an interesting presidential campaign, made it petty and predictable, and completely polarized the country along the same boring lines we had 4 years ago. Being a subscriber to Hanlon’s Razor, and with no clear Rovian evil genius strategist on the McCain team, I think her appointment was an act of desparation rather than evil genius. Still, just talking about her plays to McCain’s favor, so I’m stopping!

That’s “Palin” with a long “a”

Since I read news more often than I watch or hear it, I have had a hard time knowing whether Sarah Palin’s last name is pronounced with a long “a” or a short “a”.

And then I read that she gave her son the middle name “Van” because “Van Palin” rhymes with “Van Halen”, so now that’s all cleared up for me.

She was governor of a state that’s right near Russia, and she named her kid after a band who had a hit in the 80′s with a song called “Panama”. And you thought she didn’t have foreign policy experience…

Obama, Moon River, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Disclaimer #1: I know I’m about four days late in bothering to write about this; sorry, gang, I do sort of have a Real Life. Disclaimer #2: I’m going to assume you are aware that last week was the Democratic National Convention, that Barak Obama gave a speech, that you watched it, and that if you wanted a full rundown and insightful commentary that you have already gone elsewhere.

OK, here’s the line that caught me most:

Instead, it is that American spirit that American promise that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; That makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

Now, I’m glad I’m not the only one who instantly thought of Moon River at that line.

Two drifters
Off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world
To see…

We’re after the same rainbow’s end
Waiting around the bend
My Huckleberry friend
Moon River and me…

I love this. I think it totally taps into a deep well of What It Means To Be American™, the sense that our hearts desire is somewhere out there just beyond reach…

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter-tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further…and one fine morning—

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Hitchens gets waterboarded

I can’t decide if Christopher Hitchens’ article in Vanity Fair in which he willingly submits to being waterboarded in order to help him decide if it’s torture or not qualifies him to be considered like one of those spunky courageous first-person journalists of yore like Orwell or if it’s just an audition for Jackass: Celebrity Journalist edition. I’m guessing a little of both, leaning toward the latter. Because while it certainly shows a little more guts than many of his milquetoast bretheren, there are actually a lot of fairly courageous journalists actually covering the war at real, great personal danger. And it’s ultimately sort of a pointless stunt: maybe Hitchens personally wasn’t sure waterboarding was torture, but honestly, I don’t even think the Bush administration lawyers really believe deep in their hearts that it isn’t.