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January 4, 2011

Gerry Rafferty has passed

Just learned it from the tweeter. RIP to a great musical hero. Here's my fave of his:

That singing guitar, so sweet and understated. Perfection.

October 10, 2010

Quotable: Amy Wilentz on Haiti

"The figure of the Haitian living abroad is one that evokes bitter comedy and, often, envy among Haitians living in Haiti. Haitian Haitians can quickly spot someone from what is called the diaspora visiting Port-au-Prince. A Haitian friend once told me that the big difference, aside from a visible discrepancy in wealth, is that someone from lòt bò dlo (or the other side of the water, which means "abroad" in Haitian Creole) walks with purpose and studied intent, as if he or she has a destination in mind at every moment. Island Haitians can find such goal-oriented behavior strange, unreal, even ridiculous, since the poverty of life in Haiti means that goals are often unachievable."

--Amy Wilentz, in the New York Times

October 9, 2010

Somebody help me, I'm going nowhere...

...all in all, I'm just another brick in the wall.

I'm glad someone besides me noticed how similar these two songs are...and how seamlessly they mash together. Pink Floyd, meet...The Bee Gees:

Who knew that marching neofascist hammers could be so...funky?

October 8, 2010

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Happy Birthday, John Lennon!

This weekend, John Lennon turns 70. ("I never died," says he.) Here's a roundup of all the best bits...

Salon reviews the film "Nowhere Boy", which sounds like it deserves a much wider distribution than it's currently getting. (Shall I spring for the DVD? Decisions.)

NY Magazine reviews various John Lennon films as well, on the basis of "who nailed him and who failed him". With clips.

Jon Friedman speculates that Lennon--an inveterate sloganeer and scribbler--would have loved social media such as Twitter. Well, we know that Yoko Ono does, she's on it:

ono-tweet.jpg

Incidentally, I recommend her for Follow Friday. That's today. And if you're not on the tweeter yet, get busy!

Can you believe that after all this time, the FBI is apparently still keeping a file on him? Or at least, they don't want bits and pieces of it leaking out as memorabilia? He'd probably find that good for a laugh and a half. Especially since another fingerprint card of his was auctioned by Sotheby's, no problem, back in 1991.

Here's Ringo, who also turned 70 earlier this year, wishing John the same. With (short!) clip.

And finally, the Quarrymen, John's first band, will be reuniting, and appearing with folk-rock legends such as Pete Seeger and Tom Paxton, to play a birthday gig in Manhattan, not far from John's last home at the Dakota. Strawberry Fields forever!

A few random thoughts on Mario Vargas Llosa

vargas-llosa-prize.jpg

Understand that writers are not necessarily good teachers, or even good people.

- T. C. Boyle

Hearing that Mario Vargas Llosa won the Nobel prize for literature this year was like hearing that a ghost had won it. That's because the Vargas Llosa who wrote the great book that won the prize no longer exists.

Sure, he's still there physically. But other than that, it's like he's just a whole other person. He's no longer that great writer. He's the body that the spirit abandoned. A great writer's shambling, moaning zombie, perhaps. But he is no longer that person.

This isn't easy for me to write. A lot of people I like, admire and respect are unreservedly pleased for him. They've read his good stuff, no doubt, and that's why. The stuff of 40-odd years ago. I have yet to read it. Perhaps if I had, I'd feel differently; at the very least, I'd be sighing with happy nostalgia for the Vargas Llosa that was. But I've read his recent stuff--that is to say, his shit, and I have to say, the Vargas Llosa of today is not a writer I can admire. Maybe the one from 40-odd years ago is, but he's dead, Jim.

What killed the great Mario Vargas Llosa? Was it an illness, an accident, a suicide? Or was it murder?

To understand how Vargas Llosa went from being a great writer to being the ghost of one, you have to look at what happened to so many others over the last 40-odd years. They started out young, idealistic, typically somewhere on the left end of the political spectrum. They were progressives. They were poets, they were songsters, they were political militants. They weren't afraid to tell all the truth, and tell it slant. They were full of a fiery energy that bade fair to frizzle up everything old and stagnant and unfortunate enough to stand in its way.

But then something happened between then and now. They lost it, that fire. Instead of frizzling up the old and stagnant, they became it. And they frizzled up from within.

Look what happened to Christopher Hitchens. Or to David Horowitz. Both started out as rather good writers, promising Trotskyists; both ended up as loathsome, lying neo-cons, vile enough to make a saint retch. Just something inherent in Trotskyism, some virus, some flaw that makes the adherent turn from perpetual revolution to perpetual imbecility? Just something inherently weak and debilitating in the left in general?

Hardly.

There are plenty of other writers from that era who did not abandon their initial political leanings. Ursula K. Le Guin is still a feminist, still opposed to war, still asking radical literary questions as an elder stateswoman of American Lit. She has only grown more brilliant over time. Gabriel García Márquez stayed on the left, won his Nobel and kept writing, and remains beloved and admired (by me, and yes, I have read his latest. It's not shit. He is still true to his own voice.)

It is entirely possible, in other words, to be a great writer, and a leftist, up to one's dying day. One's physical dying day, that is, since great writing is about as close to immortality as anyone can get.

Even those who did not physically live out the era still kept their gemlike flame. Che Guevara, who died the year I was born (just a little over two months after, in fact) is not only more popular than ever, he is also recognized as a fine writer in his own right. His diaries all stand as classics. And why not? A man who could turn phrases like "Let's be realists and do the impossible" deserves to be an immortal.

I'm sure the great Vargas Llosa, who won the prize posthumously as it were, is an immortal, or ought to be one. And that's what makes the zombie who schlepps around wearing his name and face and clothing such a sad travesty. We're still getting around to how he got dead, though.

As leftist politics fell out of vogue in Latin America through the latter 1960s, and into the '70s and '80s, a lot of lefties went right. Teodoro Petkoff, a guerrilla in early-1960s Venezuela, wound up in the 1990s as the finance minister to conservative president Rafael Caldera--and, not coincidentally, overseeing one of the worst financial catastrophes in Venezuela after the Caracazo. His policies were orthodox neoliberalism--pure Chicago School stuff, all by the Bretton Woods book. And they just about ruined Venezuela, not to mention any credibility that Petkoff ever had. His leftist guerrilla cred was as the dodo. He may have remained a pithy and scathing writer--even somehow managing, in the midst of economic collapse, to scare up the money to start his own newspaper, now sacred to the purpose of attacking Venezuela's current president. But he has become a corpse himself. Hardly anyone buys Tal Cual. No one can take him seriously, not even the opposition with whom he now runs (and still gets into vicious verbal brawls, when not busy slinging mud at Chavecito.) Washington may sponsor him, and the foreign press may fawn on him, but at home it means nothing. His own presidential efforts have been a flat failure.

So, incidentally, have those of none other than Mario Vargas Llosa. How flat? Well, he fucked off for Spain soon after. Suddenly, Peru was no longer good enough for him? Draw your own conclusions. But yes, he ran as a neoliberal or neo-con, and yes, he failed dismally as one. Just like Teodoro Petkoff.

What made these two once-fine writers dead? Just some wasting disease inherent in ex-leftism, I guess.

But the zombie of Vargas Llosa, like that of Petkoff, gives a convincing impression of still being alive. It walks, it talks (mostly gibberish, nowadays), and it gets into fights. (It once, famously, sucker-punched the still-leftist, very-much-alive Gabo--who metaphorically clobbered his ex-friend by grinning, black eye and all, for the camera, knowing himself to be blameless.)

Sometimes the zombie-Vargas Llosa takes its son Alvaro along for the ride, tag-team fashion. Alvaro Vargas Llosa isn't a ghost, he's an unborn wraith. He was never alive. But like his father, he's a very lifelike spook. He, too, writes fictions, even if they're not labelled as such. (An egregious error? Au contraire, it's part and parcel of the overall degeneracy that's seeped into western culture as the right has become ascendant.) He'll never win any prizes for them; none that matter, anyway. Vargas Llosa père has passed his degeneracy on to Vargas Llosa fils.

It really is frightening to watch the two of them somnambulating--or would be, if it weren't so comical. Because neither one enjoys any great credibility in LatAm anymore, not since the people keep electing and re-electing leftists, ignoring the groans of the living dead. Both Vargas Llosas regularly get trucked into Venezuela, where they give big speeches to tiny audiences, gibberish to the effect that there's no freedom of speech anymore since that Castro-communist Chavecito came to power. Meanwhile, public, independent and community media have multiplied in Venezuela, thanks to government funding, greatly diversifying the spectrum of political views expressed. The thing is, it's all happening on the left. On the right, the commercial media remain stagnant, and no one seems to want to talk about how many eyeballs they've lost. Or how the loss of RCTV's public-airwaves licence was actually due to repeated violations, most dating back decades before Chavecito, of Venezuelan broadcast standards, and not censorship. No one on the right, indeed, is saying anything worth paying attention to at all. (That's why they keep losing elections, too.)

But I guess it's uncharitable of me to point all that out; after all, we're supposed to speak no ill of the dead. I really should look up the works of fiction that Vargas Llosa wrote before he became a zombie. I'm sure I will appreciate them, in the same abstracted way I can appreciate the genius of poor, batshit-crazy Ezra Pound--by divorcing the brilliance of the language from the worm-ridden fascist skull from whence it sprung.

And then, perhaps, I will wish the ghost of Mario Vargas Llosa all happiness in his posthumous prize--a prize no less surreal, in my eyes, than Barack Obama's pre-emptive Nobel for peace, or that of Henry Kissinger.

October 6, 2010

Quotable: Anne Sexton on the composition of poetry

"Those moments before a poem comes, when the heightened awareness comes over you, and you realize a poem is buried there somewhere, you prepare yourself. I run around, you know, kind of skipping around the house, marvelous elation. It's as though I could fly, almost, and I get very tense before I've told the truth--hard. Then I sit down at the desk and get going with it."

--Anne Sexton, interviewed by Barbara Kevles for The Paris Review

September 3, 2010

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Chavecito waxes poetic

Did you know that Chavecito's not just a president, he's also a slam poet?

Okay, that's not his own poem he's reciting there (with guitar accompaniment by the great Cuban folk singer, Silvio Rodríguez). It's a poem by Alberto Arvelo Torrealba about Simón Bolívar, called "Por Aquí Pasó" (Through Here He Passed). Here's my (admittedly rough) translation:

Through here he passed, comrade, toward those distant mountains.

Look at that trail through the grasses,
look at it, comrade,
it's like the clear rains
in the dust-dry landscape,
like a well among tablelands,
like a star in a tunnel,
like the heron in the rushes,
like flights in the evening sky,
like the snow on the mountaintop,
like a fire in the night,
like a firefly in the air,
like the moon among sand dunes,
like the white horse on the coat-of-arms
and the tricolor in the sky.

Through here he passed, comrade,
toward those distant mountains.
There goes his only image,
grave, but aquiline,
saddle of burnished leather,
dapple-grey horse, brave of heart.
His cape like a flag,
his horse in the lead,
artist engraving villages,
man restoring nations,
tasting glories, great herdsman!

Through here he passed, comrade,
toward those distant mountains.
Listen!
Listen to that suspended voice
over the sun-gleam of those sand-dunes.

The voice that shouts the loudest,
listen to it, comrades!
It's like the sound of the conch-shells
when the mule-drivers pass,
like the breeze in the palms,
like the eagle in the ceibo,
like the thunder in the distance,
like the four-stringed guitar in the air,
like the anguish in my song,
like the rooster in the silence,
like the gunshot in the attack,
like the bull in the rodeo,
like the horse's whinny in the air,
like the helmet in the silence,
like the cry of the centaur in the Queseras del Medio,
like the Homeland in the anthem,
like the bugle on the wind.

Through here passed Bolívar, comrade,
toward those distant mountains!
In the evening sun today his profile
will rise, to return
over this immense desert.

August 9, 2010

Quotable: Iain McGilchrist on poetry

"Poetry engraves itself in the brain: it doesn't just slip smoothly over the cortex as language normally does. It has all the graininess of life, as it rips into being from deep within the limbic system, the ancient seat of awareness and affective meaning. Sometimes this is most obvious in a foreign language, because there the smooth, familiar words recede, and the sheer awesomeness of what is meant comes refreshed by the new encounter. As a child I was bewitched by the poems of Heine that my father would recite to me while shaving. Im Abendsonnenschein . . . I remember thinking then that the real word for sunshine was Sonnenschein. So, too, something seemed missing when things disappeared: they only truly disappeared when they were verschwunden. This is odd because my father was a Scot and my mother English. It seems like a sort of latent knowledge."

--Iain McGilchrist, "Four Walls", in Poetry Magazine

August 8, 2010

Music for a Sunday: Two from Dame pa' Matala

Two more consciousness-elevating songs from Venezuela's finest folkies:

First, "Roba Caminos":

Best line: "Shuddup muddafucka!"

Sounds like he's tired of something. Hmmm, I wonder what?

July 18, 2010

Music for a Sunday: On the hill where he went when he ran from a raging storm

When this Payola$ song first came out in '83, it was considered unusual and a bit shocking for telling what life is like for children of abusive, alcoholic parents. It was inspired by an actual story, told to one of the band members by a kid with a badly blacked eye, who was painfully frank about his alcoholic dad. After that, the song practically wrote itself; I can remember reading about how it came about, and how satisfied the entire band was with this very strong piece.

I was a little shocked at first, but I also liked it. It was courageous, and I badly needed courage. I was bullied at school a lot that year, so I could somewhat relate. A few years later, the full significance of it finally sank in. This tune saw me through a bad time, five years when I was intermittently seeing a boyfriend who drank (and whose father had also been an abusive drunk.) It gave me the strength to survive, and eventually dump the drunk.

I still consider it their strongest song, all these years later. And I absolutely love it.

July 16, 2010

Festive Left Friday Blogging: A fresh can of whup-ass from Calle 13

Grab a can opener! Here comes some cool tunage from some VERY cool Puerto Ricans:

And here are the lyrics, translated (very roughly by me):

I was born looking up on the 23rd of February
After I finished school, I became a rapper
My family is big, there are eight of us at home
And the lower-middle class doesn't get Plan 8
It's normal that my behavior doesn't suit them
The governor put my mother out of work
I disconnect myself when I write my frank lyrics
So I don't end up going off in the White House
My rhymes make you tense and they give you cramps
I'm the one who brings the bacon so they don't starve
I mix what I see with what's melodic
I'm here to tell you what the newspapers won't
This is the moment for independent music
My record label isn't Sony, it's the people
Those who follow me listen to the message
That's why they defend me, with their fists that haven't sold out

CHORUS:
Chill out people, 'cause here I am
What they won't say, I will
What you feel, I feel too
Because you're like me, and I'm like you

(repeat chorus)

What I write offends you
Your playback offends me
When you lip-synch in concert
I'm offended when you bribe the radio stations
So they play you every day
Even the Beatles didn't have four songs
Playing at the same time on the radio
This looks almost like a "bizco"
You sell out because you buy your own records
Don't tell me you don't, because they offered to do that for me
Half of all artists should be in jail
I don't care if they call me crazy for talking so much
You don't say much because you don't know much!

CHORUS

I use the enemy, nobody controls me
I hit the gringos hard and Coca-Cola sponsors me
In the whole barrel, I'm the only bad apple
Adidas doesn't use me, I use Adidas
My strategy is different, I come in through the "Out" door
I infiltrate the system and exploit it from within
Everything I tell you, it's just like Aikido
I use the enemy's force in my own favor
So take off your suit now, your skirt and your t-shirt
Take off all your clothes, your brand names, your labels
To change the world, you have to bare your courage
Honesty has neither clothes nor makeup
Don't talk to me about cartels or The Sopranos
The biggest mafia lives in the Vatican
With the trick of faith they screw all the people
They screw anyone who thinks differently
They won't screw me, I believe in those who love
I believe in the people, I believe in my flag
I believe that those who point the finger at me
Are scared of me because I'm not scared

CHORUS (repeats several times)

July 4, 2010

South of Teh Stoopid: or, who reviews the reviewers?

the-critic-stinks.jpg

Okay. I have a confession to make: I haven't seen Oliver Stone's latest film yet. Or at least, not the whole thing. I've only seen a few clips, presumably representative of the tone of the whole. What I have seen has me feeling very ambivalent: On the one hand, it's clear that he's one of the few US filmmakers willing to give Latin America a fair shake, and its progressive leaders some positive coverage. Which is good; we need more of that. And he seems genuinely concerned with getting to the truth. Which is also good--we REALLY need that. On the other, his rough-hewn style and his embarrassing inability to pronounce Chávez, even after he's spent so much time among people who can, just grate on my nerves. It's obvious that he's got a learning curve ahead of him there, still. Maybe it's too much to ask for smoothness from a filmmaker whose name is synonymous with sensation (remember JFK? Good movie; factually accurate and highly persuasive, but still...yow.)

But I think we can ask for much higher standards from the would-be critics, no? So, with that in mind, I've got about a dozen Google Alerts sitting untouched in my inbox. I've merely skimmed the contents, but dayum, they sure seem to be overflowing with bile and pus where Ollie Stone is concerned. How shall I handle them?

Shall I wax on about how some smirky, suit-clad amateur at The Examiner has decided, ahead of time, that SotB has "bombed in Venezuela"? It's only just come out, and already it's a flop. Wow, how quick was that? It should be noted that the suited smirker, one James Hirsen, doesn't offer the slightest proof that "Many of the theaters are reportedly empty. During the first twelve days of the movie's release, 'South of the Border' brought in only $18,601 on 20 screens, according to Global Rentrak. That's what Venezuelans refer to as La Bomba." Oh, cute. Next time, at least include a link, loser.

BTW, that meme seems to be a going theme in all the usual right-wing places. Hmmm, I wonder why.

But you know what makes me laugh? Hirsen, obviously a FUX Snoozer wannabe, gets in a swipe at MSNBC in the end. So, what does NBC have to say about SotB? Well, they don't let ideology get in the way of their reporting, I'll give them that. They note that Chavecito is an Ollie fan (only now? I bet he saw JFK long ago!) and that never once did Stone not feel safe in any of the progressive LatAm countries he visited, nor anything less than welcome, even if he IS a gringo who speaks Spanish poorly and says "Shah-VEZZ". This, I'm sure, must really have the "Venezuela is unsafe" crowd in a tizzy.

Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly is rather predictably patronizing with this short review, which gives the movie a B+ grade. Guess that deduction was for the "rose-colored agitprop", which I can assure you (having watched more than my share of Venezuelan news programming) is actually truth, not "agitprop". It does make some attempt at fairness, though, in noting that Stone is "onto something larger than the cult of personality." I should say he is--Chavecito's election in '98 paved the way for leftists (and other progressive types) in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Honduras. The Right is on the run. That's not something that mere personality alone can accomplish, as all these leaders have their own individual styles. And if Ollie Stone has caught "a current of history", then he has done his job well.

The "agitprop" meme can also be seen at hyper-capitalistic Forbes, where Tim Ferguson thinks this is all some kind of lefty plot to "humanize" Chavecito. As though the man were somehow a demon. Ferguson, too, waxes patronizing, preferring to look at the movie through his own accustomed distortive lenses. The man is an idiot, but he's no doubt useful to the corporatist bosses. That's why he dutifully describes the 'Cito as "hostile" and "a dictator", while praising the weak left in Chile as "democratic" (because it didn't say boo to the IMF, no doubt) and pooh-poohs the thirteen electoral tests that Chavecito and his supporters in the PSUV and other Venezuelan left parties have successfully stood since 1998. It's not a film review; it's capitalist agitprop. I guess asking a Forbes "journalist" to leave his ideology at the door is like asking a sewage lagoon to stop stinking. You can do so till you're blue in the face, but it just ain't gonna happen.

And speaking of stinking that ain't gonna stop, how about Stephen Whitty of the New Jersey Star-Ledger? I'm sure it hasn't escaped your notice that his surname is just one slip of the keyboard from "Shitty". His entire review, however, requires no slippage. It's all the way into the ol' cesspit, baby.

By now, I bet you're wondering what the Wall Street Urinal--sorry, JOURNAL--has to say. I do too, but judging from the headers on the excerpt, I'd say it's not worth subscribing or paying for. As it stands, you can find this same feces-fingerpainting objet d'art, obligingly copied out for you at no extra charge, by those "media" wannabes who just can't get the fuck out of their goddamn jimmyjams. Somehow, that just seems so appropriate. Turns out that this sucky old would-be Ebert, Ron Radosh, has decided to position himself as a critic of the critics, and he criticizes them all for not being critical enough (of Stone? or Chavecito? take yer pick). Well, doesn't that just make ME feel so...so...so meta?

Meanwhile, there's another shitty little right-wing blog posing as a news site that quotes, of all things, the Socialist International to make its fallacious point that Chavecito is a dictator, and Ollie a useful idiot. This is a laugh, as there IS no Socialist International at the moment to speak of. The Fourth fell apart like rotten Roquefort some time ago, and Chavecito only recently raised the possibility of convening a Fifth. That thing calling itself the SI is, in fact, nothing but a bunch of neoliberal corruptos. (And for those who know Spanish, I highly recommend this video. Alberto Nolia nails their crooked little Adeco nuts to the wall.) How lame--and how funny is it that a right-wing site is using a bunch of capitalists calling themselves the Socialist International...to try to discredit socialism?

Meanwhile, PopMatters.com tries very hard not to whine, and doesn't quite succeed. Care for some cheese with that? Oh wait, you included it, too: "It's surely helpful to see Chávez and his peers outside of their usual derisive media frames. But this is, after all, another frame, another stage, and another show." And this corporate website posing as a blog isn't? Feh.

And speaking of cheese to go with that whine, take your pick as to which is which between the so-called NewsBusters (which busts nothing) and the very ironically named Big Hollywood (which is not big, and is dedicated exclusively to kvetching about the imaginarily liberal Hollywood). Both come off as alternately whiny and cheesy, so there's no doubt something there for every right-wing ideological carper to nurse his antisocial grudges till they're nice and fat. Like, oh, say, Brent Bozell's ass. Or Andrew Breitbart's.

And oh look! Ollie's supposedly "feuding" with "film critic" Larry Rohter. When did Larry Rohter become a film critic? I thought he was one of the Old Grey Whore's two resident LatAm bovine-feces generators (the other one being Simon Romero, whose bons mots on the oeuvre of Ollie Stone I have yet to see.)

And speaking of dreck-writers named Romero, who is this Dennis chap? Sure sounds like a relative of Simon. Smells like it, too.

Well. After all that sulfur, how about a little palate-cleansing sorbet? A former screenwriter for Ollie Stone, who could well be credited with opening the auteur's eyes to the situation in Latin America, has actually provided a reasonably nuanced, unbiased review. And just for good measure, here's another, from someone who actually DOES movie journalism for a living. Hallelujah!

On to the next course. But does anyone really care what Maria Conchita Alonso "thinks"? Last time I saw her, she had a bad facelift (and an ugly boob job), and was trying to revive her career by showing off her denuded nether regions. Clearly none of that worked, so now she's back to spitting venom. Maybe Ollie will take pity on her, and make his next documentary a nature film...on poisonous snakes from Cuba Venezuela. Then Coochita will finally get that elusive starring role she dreams of. Yippee!

WTF is the matter with Alternet? Nik Kozloff is NOT an unbiased reporter either--he strives for "balance" by "balancing" facts with spurious shit that smells suspiciously like hit-piece. I've had my issues with his crap in the past, and I continue to have them--he seems keener on appeasing the powers-that-be than challenging them, and that's NOT balanced.

And finally, I was going to do this stoopid Turan SOB, but you know what? Otto beat me to it. And I'm glad that he has. Read him and laugh. And then, for more laughs, read the good guys at Structurally Maladjusted, too.

And when you're ready to get serious, there's this piece, vital to understanding what all the fake film-crit is really all about.

June 30, 2010

Heroes for Today: Johnny Cash, Black Bloc anarchist?

Johnny answers a sartorial question with a song:

Jesus Christ. Just listen to those lyrics. Aren't they a brick through the window of your smug bourgeois sensibilities?

May 17, 2010

Promised You a Miracle

Thanks to a friend on Facebook, some music for this fine Monday morn:

Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr teams up with Canada's own Martha Wainwright to remake an '80s classic for Oxfam. The message for G8 leaders is clear: No more promises, time for action. Time to do what it takes to keep women from dying in childbirth or shortly thereafter.

(And yes, abortion SHOULD be included in that plan. Suck it, Harpo, you fundie panderer.)

May 11, 2010

We are all Greeks now, or soon will be

lord-byron-at-missolonghi.jpg

"Arrival of Lord Byron at Missolonghi", by Theodoros P. Vryzakis, 1861. National Gallery of Athens, Greece. The English Romantic poet sailed with his own fleet of ships as an aid agent of the London Committee in December of 1823, and stayed on to fight, eventually leading a Greek brigade. Four months after his arrival, he died of a fever at Missolonghi while preparing to launch an attack.

The isles of Greece! the isles of Greece!

Where burning Sappho loved and sung,

Where grew the arts of war and peace,--

Where Delos rose and Phoebus sprung!

Eternal summer gilds them yet,

But all, except their sun, is set.

--Lord Byron, "The Isles of Greece"

Lord Byron was either nearly two hundred years ahead of his time with that pronouncement, or else history is now by way of repeating itself, amplified. The struggle for Greek independence of Byron's day looks pale now in comparison to what lies ahead. Back then, it was only the Ottoman Empire the Greeks were up against. Today it's a vaster, more nebulous, and infinitely more bloodthirsty one, that of international capital.

Yeah, hi, it's me again. The pissed-off pedantic dissident of crapitalism has another axe to grind. And it's going to get swung over Greece--as far afield as Germany, France and even a whack or two at the good ol' Yankee military-industrial complex. You may want to grab yourself a big bottle of retsina, or ouzo, and a plate of Kalamata olives before you read on; this one's not for taking on an empty stomach. Plus, you may need something to throw when all this is over, although I doubt you'll be shouting "Opa!"

Y'okay. Let's begin.

Over at Ten Percent, blog-buddy Rick B has some good insights into the situation:

The quote 'inability of the Greek government to live within its means' is such a poisonous falsehood, as if financial institutions did not for years bribe key people into endless debt restructuring not because it helped them but because it made money for the banks. This is a merry game played by elites with the costs passed onto those not allowed to participate, yet the besuited oligarchs have the chutzpah to project their irresponsibility onto their victims. This is a rescue package within the rules of the game, better than what could have happened but ultimately it prolongs the scam. Neoliberalism, does not work, financialisation in place of actual productivity does not work (excuse the pun), capitalism unregulated and unconstrained does not work, Adam Smith was actually very clear on that despite what Randroids and laissez faire fundamentalists prefer to read into his works (by current standards he'd be labeled a socialist by corporate media). What we are seeing is a rolling breakdown of systems of human activity because we are serving the economy not making the economy serve us.

Right on, Rick, and you'll get no arguments from me. For the banksters to call the Greeks, along with the Irish, the Portuguese and the Spanish "PIGS", is gross projection from the overfed slop slurpers at the global trough. It's not the pampered people of those countries who are to blame; it's their lousy leaders, who opened the markets to foreign capital. Alas, it's the citizens who must reap what the politicians sowed, and of course, it's all tares; the banksters have already made off with the wheat. An economy where people serve capital, rather than the other way 'round, is one doomed to fail for all but those who have always had more than they could possibly have known what to do with anyway. A pity capitalism can't die of clogged arteries half as easily as its fat-assed proponents--being inanimate, it's infinitely capable of being resurrected by Victor Frankenstein and his electroshock machine!

I did promise to tell you what the role of the Germans in all this was, and I keep my word. So here's the ugly rotten maggoty meat of the matter, via Defense News:

France and Germany, while publicly urging Greece to make harsh public spending cuts, bullied its government to confirm billions of euros in arms deals, a leading Euro-MP alleged Friday.

Franco-German lawmaker Daniel Cohn-Bendit said that Paris and Berlin are seeking to force Prime Minister George Papandreou to spend Greece's scarce cash on submarines, a fleet of warships, helicopters and war planes.

[...]

"It's incredible the way the Merkels and Sarkozys of this world treat a Greek prime minister," he declared, adding that Papandreou had recently met Sarkozy and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon in Paris.

"Mr. Fillon and Mr. Sarkozy told Mr. Papandreou: 'We're going to raise the money to help you, but you are going to have to continue to pay the arms contracts that we have with you'," Cohn-Bendit said.

"In the past three months we have forced Greece to confirm several billion dollars in arms contracts. French frigates that the Greeks will have to buy for 2.5 billion euros. Helicopters, planes, German submarines."

Despite its economic woes, which recently deepened spectacularly when its credit rating was downgraded, Greece is one of Europe's biggest arms buyers, seeking to keep pace with its regional rival Turkey.

See why I'm angry? I'm a Bad German; "Deutschland, Deutschland Über Alles" is just the old Nazi version of the national anthem, as far as I'm concerned, and I have about as much use for that sentiment as I do for the Nazis. And since my mom's side of the family is from the Rheinland-Pfalz, right next to what's now Alsace-Lorraine, the tiny little soupçon of French blood I got from her means I'm also très fâchée about the whole steaming heap of merde coming from Sarko. This makes me hang my head about my ancestry, and doubt seriously of the goodness of humanity on the whole. Epic internationalist FAIL!

The only Greek I have is two years' worth of the ancient university stuff, just enough to foolishly convince me that I could almost translate Sappho if I wanted to, but like her poetry, it's very fragmentary. Greek history is what I'm now learning on the fly, also by snips and snaps. But it doesn't take a historian to see how stupid this whole arms race is. Greece is in the EU; last time I checked, Turkey was also, or well on its way to it. There is no logical (that's Greek) reason for an arms race between the two countries. And if it came down to it, Canada wouldn't be able to supply peacekeepers to get them off each other's throats, as it did in Cyprus. Our troops are too busy now making the world safe for pipelines capitalism "democracy" (another Greek word, and notice that I put it in quotes) in Afghanistan, don'cha know?

Meanwhile, Truthout has some good stuff on the Greek crisis and the growing resistance thereto. First, a little insight from a French analyst, Maurice Ulrich, of l'Humanité:

There are those who call for political unity in Europe right now, without which, they say, there will be no salvation. But to carry out which policies? What's come to the fore, today is the extreme noxiousness of a liberal Europe for its people. In the race for free and undistorted competition the poorest countries could only keep up with the richest by social dumping. The richest countries could only compete by playing on the same field. The message Europe is giving to Greece today - the same one it will give to Spain and Portugal tomorrow - is that the only way to keep in with a liberal Europe is to shatter salaries, pensions, and public services. But who really believes that tomorrow, or after tomorrow, our very own public services, pensions and salaries will be able resist?

[...]

What's happening in Greece isn't a fluke. Even as the media incriminate, and not without justification, the policies of Greek leaders, we must remember that they were aided and abetted by the very same players who now want to strip Greece of its hide and make a golden fleece. It's only the first of the crises that this capitalist Europe has in store for us. And it's precisely this Europe that we have to change. We want a Europe of cooperation, a different role for the European Central Bank (ECB), and we want the ECB to lend to Greece at 1% interest. It's what our petition calls for, a call that has been widely heard and one that must be amplified.

As Marx himself said: the free worker who goes to the free market to sell his hide 'has to expect to get it tanned.' The same is true for the people on liberal Europe's great competitive market. Yes. Now is the time to start resisting, to start working towards another kind of Europe. Now is the time to call up the people.

Then, sociologist Jean Ziegler, interviewed by the same French publication:

Caramanlis' right-wing government, which preceded the current PASOK (socialist) government, was a machine for systematically pillaging the country's resources. As in a banana republic, Greece's resources were privatized on a large scale even while tax evasion became massive. A reliable estimate by Swiss banks puts Greek tax-evading capitals in Swiss banks alone at 36 billion euro. In addition to this, some of the largest Greek ship-owners transferred their headquarters abroad: first among them, the biggest, namely Latsis, moved its own to Versoix near Geneva.

The scandalous end-result of all this is that the onus of paying heavily for the State's quasi-bankruptcy now falls on the Greek people, on Greek workers, while the ruling classes themselves have taken the precaution of transferring almost all their fortune abroad. The Greek public debt stands at 112% of the country's GDP.

[...]

With the European tax-payers' money (in the euro-area's fifteen countries and in Switzerland), draconian conditions are imposed on the Greek people. Under the guise of rescuing the country, the resources of whose State were pillaged by the previous, right-wing government, the rescuers make them suffer a considerable social backlash (a wage freeze, cuts in social benefits, in the number of public workers) and more privatizations - which has the advantage of bailing out the big European banks that were massively involved. This actually gives Europe and its financial institutions an opportunity to dismantle the Greek social welfare even though PASOK has been voted into office on a social justice platform.

[...]

The Europeans and the ECB could have lent funds to Greece at an exceptionally low rate to enable the country to meet its obligations in a short time. Instead, Greece was forced to choose between either borrowing at very high rates or accepting the EU and IMF's plan and the economic strings attached to it. Greece was reluctant to submit to the unacceptable conditions imposed by the EU and the IMF and had been hoping to get loans by itself on the international market. All it took to prevent this was for Standard and Poors, one of the private rating agencies, to lower its rating of the Greek State's solvency. And immediately Greece was barred access to the free capital market, or only at prohibitive rates of interest (almost 20%). Greece was left with no other choice but to submit to the conditions laid down in the EU and IMF's plan.

What gives me some heart in the midst of this massive Beschiss is the fact that the loudest internationalist voices against it are all, if their names are any indication, Franco-German (or Germano-French) leftists. People who are ethnically and ethically (woo! more Greek!) a lot like me, in other words.

And this leads me to the recent regional elections in Nordrhein-Westfalen (NRW). That's the most populous of the 16 German "lands" (states), and it also happens to be where my dad's side of the family hails from. The state recently dealt rightist Angela Merkel a huge bitch-slap by electing the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) to the Bundesrat (upper house of the German parliament; the Bundestag is the lower). The Greens also doubled their percentage of the NRW vote over last time, and the socialist Left party is making its debut in the parliament thanks to this vote. All in all, it's a heavy blow to the CDU/CSU and the so-called "grand coalition", and it's gonna make it that much harder for Merkel to shove anything else filthy down Germany's collective throat.

So what motivated this heavy hitter among German lands to tack portside? The Greek crisis, and the fact that Angela Merkel decided to pillage German social services in order to make that hyper-conditional "bailout", i.e., to force the Greeks to buy all that aforementioned military hardware. Germans like their social services as much as we Canadians, go figure--and they are not at all impressed by international crapital taking a pound of flesh from those who are already skin and bones.

Of course, the major Anglo-Amurrican media (especially the bizmedia morons) deliberately choose to misinterpret the situation as merely a matter of Merkel being a weak sister, missing the overbearing crapitalist tyrant angle entirely (or worse, praising it.) All of them have one thing in common: they blame the Greeks, leaving out entirely the military-industrial angle. And no wonder: if they had to point the finger at the correct culprit, three more accusing fingers would be pointing right back at them in England and the US.

Who do you think started this damn snowball rolling, anyway? France? Germany? Gimme a break. As strong as the German economy has long been, historically, it's been sucked dry by two far bigger leeches than the so-called PIGS. The exsanguination of the German economy is the dirty little secret of London and New York during the Roaring Twenties. Bankers and stockbrokers, not Jews, were the real collective enemy of the Weimar Republic. They were, as Ike Eisenhower found out to his chagrin, also backing the collective enemy of the United States, relying on an endless weapons shopping spree to keep the economy rolling their way. But since it's hard to identify them just by looking, and they're well enough off to laugh at anyone who tries to make them wear a badge of shame, they'll never be rounded up and sent off to get a taste of their own medicine...

arbeit-macht-frei.jpg

...more's the pity. Because if true justice prevailed, they'd be the ones forced to eternally work off the debt they created, for slaves' wages. Or to put it more poetically, they'd be made to roll that stone endlessly up a hill, like Sisyphus in Hades, never reaching the top.

Meanwhile, Lord Byron is stirring in his grave. And the Greek Resistance is rising, phoenix-like, from its own pyre...I dare to hope. But unless we all join in, it will be as futile as the one Lord Byron tried so bravely to lead.

We are all Greeks now, or soon will be.

'Tis something, in the dearth of fame,

Though link'd among a fetter'd race,

To feel at least a patriot's shame,

Even as I sing, suffuse my face;

For what is left the poet here?

For Greeks a blush---for Greece a tear.


May 1, 2010

Quotable: Eduardo Galeano on May Day

"Chicago, 1886. May 1. When the general strike paralyzed Chicago and other cities, the Philadelphia Tribune diagnosed: The labor element has been bitten by a universal species of tarantula, and has gone stark raving mad. Stark raving mad for fighting for an eight-hour workday and for the right to organize unions.

"The next year, four labor leaders, accused of murder, were sentenced without proof in a kangaroo court. Georg Engel, Adolf Fischer, Albert Parsons and Auguste Spies marched to the gallows. The fifth condemned, Louis Lingg, blew his brains out in his cell.

"Every May 1, the entire world remembers them. With the passage of time, international conventions, constitutions and laws have proven them right. However, the most successful businesses still refuse to recognize them. They prohibit unions and measure the workday by the same molten clocks once painted by Salvador Dalí."

--Eduardo Galeano, "The Universal Tarantula". Translation mine.

April 30, 2010

Canadian comedy is eerily prescient--and better than US news

Dave Foley of The Kids in the Hall anticipates Glenn Beck, back when the latter was still mumbling drunkenly behind a 7-11 store somewhere. Keitho (when he's on, he's really really on) points out the eerie parallels.

And yes, the paranoid hysteria is being whipped up against Russia again, and "killer bees" (i.e. the Latin American left, which was always independent of Moscow--and yes, even Cuba had its squabbles with Teh Russkies). So this is even more eerily prescient than even Dave and Keitho could know.

See, this is why we export so many comedians to the US. We could export political commentators, too; trust me, when Jon Stewart is their number-one newsman, they'd never know!

April 21, 2010

When Copyright Goes Bad

15-minute documentary on the abuse of copyright by big industry, and the clampdown on creative engagement.

April 1, 2010

A song for the day

No joke, this one's good. Back in the day, these Torontonians opened for Rush. Word is they've recently reunited, too.

March 14, 2010

Music for a Sunday: The Ballad of Hugo Chávez

A little birdie told me this song won some kind of award. No kidding! What a rum old world.

March 5, 2010

Festive Left Friday Blogging: A certain famous photo turns 50

Alberto Korda's iconic portrait of Che, mourning the loss of his compañeros, is 50 years old today. Here's the story behind it:

Three in the afternoon. March 4, 1960. The steamer La Coubre was anchored in the bay of Havana. In its hold were 44 tons of grenades and 31 of munitions. Romualdo Díaz, in the first compartment, was unloading boxes. José Antonio Díaz was commenting on what a lovely day it was. It was rather cool out, agreeable. The bell rang for the changing of the watch, and Manuel La O headed for the ship to take his post on guard. José Antonio went to the pier for an afternoon snack. Romualdo stayed a few minutes, conversing with the stevedores who had come to relieve him. Around 3:10 pm he disembarked, and walked a few steps toward the pier...

Suddenly, an explosion shook the earth. The electrical posts trembled and a black-edged mushroom cloud rose over the harbor. Romualdo was thrown through the air. When he came to again, he saw that the landscape had changed: the warehouses had no roofs, and La Coubre, its prow blown open, had been tossed to one side. José Antonio woke up up on the ground, bleeding from his head and leg. Manuel had fallen unconscious, and on recovering consciousness, he had a coughing fit because of the dense black smoke.

Rebel soldiers, police, firemen, people in general, arrived to provide first aid. They began to rescue the injured and recover the dismembered bodies of the dead. A second explosion swept away those who, defying danger, had made this gesture of human solidarity. The total number of dead would never be known. The remains of 101 persons were found, but only 95 were identified. The number of injured surpassed 200.

Weeks before, the Yankee consul in Brussels and a military attaché from the embassy had pressured the manufacturers and the Belgian foreign ministry not to sell those arms to Cuba. Western European experts who investigated the sinister event affirmed that there had been no negligence in the discharge. The Cuban people never had any doubt that the ship had been sabotaged. To this day, there is the full conviction that it was all the doing of the CIA.

[...]

That March 5, Fidel gave a speech and alongside him were the commanders of the revolution, among them Che Guevara. Che was accompanied by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.

The photographer of the daily paper, Revolución, Alberto Korda, covered the event. Che was not in his line of sight. He later related:

"I was some 8 to 10 metres from the dais where Fidel was speaking, and had a camera with a semi-telephoto lens when I noticed that Che was approaching the rail, where Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were. Che had been on a second level. He drew nearer to look out at the sea of people. I got him in my viewfinder, took one and then another frame, and then Che drew back. It all took place in half a minute." Later he heard Fidel say "Patria o Muerte" (Homeland or Death.)

"After I had developed the film and made the contact sheets, I told myself 'Damn, what an expression this man here has!' I made a blow-up and hung it in my studio. I had to spend the evening at the burial of the victims of La Coubre, for Revolución. My photo of Fidel talking on the stage with the hand-grenades that remained after the explosion was published the next day in the paper, but the photo of Che was not published. It would not be published until April 15, 1961, in a press release announcing Che as Minister of Industry...this was confirmed later. Many times people have asked me if Che knew of my photo; I replied no. I imagined that since he read the paper closely he must have seen the photo, but we never spoke of it.

"In Cuba the photo was used for the first time as part of the funeral ceremony for Che in 1967. It was made into a large line drawing which was attached to the side of the building housing the Ministry of the Interior. They raised a platform there, and the next day all the daily papers published pictures of Fidel on their front pages, with the flag at half-mast and below it, my photo of Che. I never knew who rescued that photo nor how they did it. Maybe it was Celia or Haydée. That day I had a leg in a cast, and it took me a lot of effort to reach the National Library and the platform to take pictures. It was one of the largest crowds I've ever seen, and there was an impressive silence in the square. Getting to the stage with my gimpy leg was so hard that I really don't recall if I felt anything special when I saw that practically-forgotten photo.

"Four or five months before October 1967, when Che was killed, there came a man, unknown to me, looking for a photo of Che and with the recommendation of Haydée Santamaría. I showed him the photo in my studio. He said to me, 'Could you make me two copies?' The next day he came to collect the 11 x 14 enlargements. 'How much do I owe you?' It's a gift, I told him, since you were sent by a person I admire greatly. And the man left. He was Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, who had come from Bolivia, trying to intervene with the government of that country for the freedom of Régis Debray. I imagine that somehow, Feltrinelli had information that Che was in Bolivia, which few people in the world would know. This image became famous thanks to Feltrinelli's poster, which I did not suspect he would reproduce.

"I was not known in the world even after Feltrinelli's poster came out. The copyright did not include my name. I lent the negative to an Italian journalist in Mexico, Giuliana Scimè, for her photography workshop, which published an article in the Italian magazine, Progresso Fotografico (June 1983), in which she told how her students, upon seeing the negative, were crying from sheer emotion. The photo was famous and no one cared who had taken it."

[...]

The famous photograph of the Heroic Guerrilla, taken by Alberto Korda, is, in the opinion of the great critics, one of the ten finest photographic portraits of all time and is the most-reproduced in the history of photography in all the world.

Translation mine. Linkage added.

In the uncropped original, you can see that Che, while clearly the centre of focus, is not in the foreground:

che-original.jpg

...indicating that it really was just a chance occurrence that Korda happened to catch him in that pose, and wearing that rather characteristic intense expression--which you can see in various forms in several shots, most notably those in Jon Lee Anderson's excellent bio of Che. One striking example is a Mexican police mugshot of a much younger Che, sans beard and with shorter hair, apparently in the grips of an asthma attack, which contorted those handsome features quite a bit. This pic actually looks relaxed compared to that one.

Alberto Korda's attitude toward his iconic portrait is interesting; he did not object to it being widely copied and distributed without permission, so long as it was done in sincere tribute to Che and what he stood for, and not for crass profit. A dedicated revolutionary himself to the very end, Korda did, however, take a vodka company to court for using Che's picture to sell their booze, asserting (with some reason) that Che himself would strenuously object to such a commercial use of his face. Che, while not teetotal, was notably contemptuous of anyone who drank too much, feeling it reeked of undiscipline. Since he was a morale-conscious guerrilla leader during the Cuban revolution, and many of his bitterest enemies were casino-owning mafiosi, it's not hard to see why he felt that way.

Lest anyone get the idea that Che was dead serious all the time, though, here's my personal favorite pic of him. I don't know who took it (probably not Korda), but I love it because it shows his other side, which had a wonderfully wicked sense of humor:

che-grinning.jpg

Viva el Che, carajo.

February 20, 2010

Padre Nuestro Latinoamericano

Cuban actor Héctor Quintero recites Mario Benedetti's great poem to a capacity crowd in Havana's Revolution Square. Orchestra directed by Leo Brouwer.

Translation (mine) follows:

Our Father who art in Heaven
with the swallows and the missiles
I pray you return before you forget
how we came to the south of the Río Grande

Our Father who art in exile
almost never do you remember mine
of all the ways wherever you are
hallowed be thy name
not those who hallow in thy name
closing one eye so as not to see the dirty
fingernails of misery

in August of nineteen hundred and sixty
already it's no use asking you
thy kingdom come
because thy kingdom is also down here
in the midst of rancors and fear
amid vacillations and filth
amid disillusion and somnolence
in this eagerness to see you in spite of everything

when you spoke of the rich man
the needle and the camel
and we all unanimously
voted you into Glory
at the same time the silent Indian raised his hand
who respected you but resisted
to think thy will be done

but once every so often
your will melds with mine
dominates it
inflames it
duplicates it
it is much harder to know which is my will
when I believe for sure that which I say I believe
in your omnipresence as in my solitude
on Earth as it is in Heaven
always
I will be more sure of the earth I tread
than the sky that ignores me

but who knows
I won't decide
whether your power makes or unmakes
your will the same when creating in the wind
in the Andes of snow
in the bird who fertilizes his mate
in the chancellors who murmur yes sir
in every hand which turns into a fist

of course I'm not sure if I like the style
in which your will choses to assert itself
I say it with irreverence and gratitude
two emblems which will soon be the same thing
I say above all thinking of our bread
of every day and every little piece of the day

yesterday you took it from us
give it to us this day
or at least the right to give ourselves our bread
not only that which was the symbol of Someone
but that of crumb and rind
our bread
now that we have few hopes left and debts
forgive us if you can our debts
but don't forgive us our hope
and don't ever forgive us our credits

later tomorrow
we will collect what is owing
tangible and smiling foreigners
those who have claws for the harp
and a pan-American earthquake with which to wipe away
the last spit-wad hanging from the face

it doesn't much matter if our creditors pardon
like ourselves
once
by mistake
let us pardon our debtors

still
they owe us like a century
of lost sleep and beatings
like three thousand kilometres of injuries
like twenty medals for Somoza
like a single dead Guatemala

lead us not into temptation
to forget or sell off this past
or rent a single hectare of its forgettance

now that it is time to know who we are
and having crossed the river
the dollar and the repaying love
let us take heart to the last beggar
and free ourselves from all pangs of conscience
Amen.

January 25, 2010

The Haiti disaster, through Haitian eyes

The Ciné Institute of Jacmel, Haiti, is a young film school, both in terms of its time in operation (only since 2008) and the age of its students. But in spite of the difficult economic conditions in Haiti--and they have never been more so than now--they've been able to produce powerful documentaries of what life is like there since the earthquakes.

I defy any so-called news organization to do better at conveying the human scale of the catastrophe than this.

PS: Speaking of the human scale, read Rebecca Solnit's piece in The Nation. She nails it, too.

January 21, 2010

Paul Quarrington, RIP...

Yesterday, I found this song echoing through my head for the first time since...oh, about 1995 or thereabouts, when I was at journalism school and you couldn't turn on a radio anywhere in Toronto without hearing it:

And today, I found out why I suddenly had this little adolescent earworm. Paul Quarrington, singer/songwriter, novelist, and filmwriter, has passed away. He wrote this song along with the Rheostatics, and lobbied for them to be in the soundtrack of the film version of his novel, Whale Music. Until then, no one knew who the Rheostatics were; a damn shame, because they're a fine, still underrated band (and recently reunited just to pay tribute to the ailing writer who once gave them such a big, generous career-boost.)

I still haven't read that book (yeah, I know--shame on me!), and I only saw parts of the movie when it finally came onto TV. But it was big, big news while I was in j-school. All my classmates were talking about it, and this haunting song was everywhere. I still have memories of intoxicating darkroom chemical vapors swirling around my head while this was playing in the background as I did my job as photo editor of my j-school paper. Somehow, it was very appropriate: quirky, funny, poignant, meditative.

I dare you to listen to it and not find yourself absentmindedly singing along with the "ba ba ba ba, ba ba ba ba" chorus at some odd, unforeseen moment...

January 12, 2010

Avatar--WTF?

avatar-plot-fail.jpg

While everyone else is all agog over how Evo went to see Avatar with his daughter (and loved it), I found something very different regarding that film in Russia:

Soviet sci-fi writer, 76-year-old Boris Strugatsky, has accused Oscar-winning director James Cameron of plagiarism.

One of the authors of "Roadside Picnic" is claiming that the plot of Cameron's latest 3-D sci-fi adventure, "Avatar", has been taken from his "Noon: 22nd Century" novel, released in mid '60s.

"The Americans have borrowed our idea - it's very unpleasant," Boris Strugatsky was quoted as saying. "But I won't take them to court. Or shall I?"

[...]

"Avatar" is set on Pandora, a moon with an Earthlike environment that orbits a gas-giant planet called Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri-A star system, our nearest stellar neighbor.

Meanwhile, the collection of "Noon Universe" novels written by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky in the 1960s features a number of planets, including Pandora.

[...]

According to the Soviet writer, "Avatar" is akin to an illustration to Strugatsky's books. For instance, their "Disquiet" novel focuses on a biologist, Mikhail Sidorov, who finds himself on Pandora among the native population. In Cameron's film, according to Strugatsky, he has morphed into a former Marine, Jake Sully.

In Strugatsky's books, the inhabitants of the planet resemble dogs, while Cameron's creatures have the features of cats.

Boris Strugatsky (who, along with his late brother Arkady, is a very leading name in Russian SF, BTW) may be mulling suing, but the Communists of St. Petersburg have already taken things a step further:

The organization "Communists of Petersburg" has demanded to arrest the creator of Avatar James Cameron for being "the plunderer of Soviet science fiction". The statement has been published at the official website of the organization.

According to the secretary of Volkhov Department of the Communists of Petersburg Organization, James Cameron "lifted his hand against the creative legacy of the late sci-fi writers Arkady Strugatsky, Ivan Yefremov, Kir Bulychev, and film director Pavel Arsenov, making use of the fact that the dead authors cannot go to the law".

"Cameron deserves a place in prison and not at the Oscar ceremony" - communists of Petersburg claim.

This movie is now one to watch...on more fronts than one, it seems.

(Although, if the illustration I found on FailBlog is any indication, it looks like Cameron may have lifted the plot of Pocahontas, as well--throwing a further kink into the whole matter.)

UPDATE, 11:38 am: Commenter Alexander, below, says this was a hoax, and that Boris Strugatsky has not threatened to sue.

January 11, 2010

Juanes: Opportunistic, anti-Chávez douchebag?

A popular Venezuelan journo-blogger seems to think so, and after reading this, so do I:

Colombian singer/song-writer Juanes seems to be in agreement with those users of the Twitter website who demand the downfall of the government of Hugo Chávez. At least, that's how it looked on Saturday on Juanes' Twitter account.

Juanes has some 293,000 followers on Twitter, who read his writings daily. The Twitter corporation assures that his account is verified and that it really does belong to the Colombian artist.

The singer asked on Saturday, around 1:35 pm: "Anyone from Venezuela here? What's going on? How are things going there?" This generated hundreds of responses, of which Juanes decided to "re-tweet" two. One, by a user named LuisEwando, read: "Juanes, in Venezuela the politicians have allowed themselves to be bought, and only a people's uprising can bring down this oppressive government." Juanes also retransmitted the thoughts of user DavidMorante, who said: "Juanes, everyday there are more governmental restrictions here in Venezuela, but we Venezuelans will never give ourselves away."

On Twitter, people can "re-tweet", or retransmit, messages from other people, something they generally do when in agreement with that user's thoughts and want others to know it. In this case, the 293,000 followers of Juanes on Twitter received those two thoughts, re-tweeted.

Until now, Juanes has maintained a supposed neutrality and has never pronounced openly in favor or in opposition to President Chávez, or his Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe Vélez. He generated much controversy with his "Peace Without Borders" concerts, one of them on the Colombia-Venezuela border in March of 2008, and the other in Havana in 2009.

Translation mine. Linkage as in original.

Here's the screenshot Luigino Bracci took of the tweets in question:

juanes-twitterings.jpg

Be it now known that Juanes is a douche who only does the "peace" thing to raise his own profile (and bank account). He doesn't care that the twits he's re-tweeting are openly calling for the overthrow of a popular, elected president.

So glad I'm not on Twitter, OR a fan of his very mediocre music. I'll stick with real socially conscious rockers, like Ska-P, Dame Pa' Matala and Buena Fe, muchas gracias...

January 5, 2010

Venezuela: Commie pinko national studio releases award-worthy film

And here's a sample of it:

That's "Zamora: Free Lands and Men", by Román Chalbaud, a Venezuelan fimmaker. Produced by the national studio, Villa del Cine. And a finalist for the Goya Prize.

Ezequiel Zamora is a 19th-century hero of liberation in Venezuela, one who continued the battle Simón Bolívar began, and one of the "three roots" of Bolivarian ideology as propounded by none other than Hugo Chávez (the other two being Bolívar and his friend/mentor, Simón Rodríguez). His rallying cry, as you can hear in the clip above, is "Tierras y hombres libres"--free lands and men.

Zamora's name is also attached to a Venezuelan peasant front dedicated to reclaiming unused arable lands stolen by oligarchs, and farming them collectively, as in the olden days. They in turn are part of a larger movement toward food sovereignty and self-sufficiency in Venezuela, which until recently had to import as much as 80 percent of its food--not because it lacked arable land or willing workers, but because of all the land grabbing by big owners who did nothing useful with it. Those who wanted to farm were shoved out, forced to either occupy inhospitable lands, or else emigrate to the cities, where they ended up in crowded, miserable slums.

Even today, the war Zamora fought for "free lands and men" is not over, as peasants are still being slaughtered by big land-owners, with the aid of imported Colombian paramilitaries--and in this context we can see why Chavecito considers that the biggest immediate menace to Venezuela hails from Colombia. Those paras are a big part of the problem, and they are more than happy to serve as mercenaries to anyone who can afford them. And who better than the big landowners, who stand to lose what they or their ancestors stole to the very popular land reform programs of you-know-who?

But what am I saying? Everyone knows Chavecito's just a crazy commie pinko, right? And this film is just more commie propaganda (portraying events that were still unfolding while Marx was busy in Europe, penning his manifesto)...right? Right?

(H/t Ceti Alpha, here.)

January 4, 2010

Farewell, Lhasa...

This morning, I was saddened to learn (via DAMMIT JANET!) that Lhasa de Sela has died of breast cancer.

For those who don't know who she is, she's the closest thing Canada has ever had to its own Mercedes Sosa (who also, sadly, passed away recently.) In fact, she covered a Fito Páez song that "La Negra" Sosa also did, "Yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón". This cover was used to great effect in the documentary The Take, by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, about the struggle of the occupied-factories movement in Argentina. That was my first contact with that haunting voice.

Here's one of her last pieces, which feels hauntingly prescient now:

Sleep well, Lhasa. You are loved and missed.

January 3, 2010

Music for a Sunday: Pilot

Underappreciated Canadian talent? We haz it...

One of my all-time faves of his. Whimsical, poignant, and full of questions still unanswered as to whether we will survive our own worst innovations. Re-hearing it recently for the first time since high school, I finally realized what it was about. The Manhattan Project and the bombing of Hiroshima. Of course! What bigger fire would we rely on a pilot to deliver us from?

December 27, 2009

You can never trust those feckin' old ladies...

...except to make you laugh until you wet yourself.

Gawd, I hope they put this on the telly.

December 24, 2009

Grandma got WHAT?

BTW, this one's got a nifty back story. Who knew that an eggnog-swilling grandma could be so profitable?

And no, this is NOT Pee-Wee Herman:

...although he DOES have that kind of vibe going on.

BTW, this song's got a fun back story, too.

Have yourselves a campy little Xmas, kiddies. Aunt Bina is off to take a long winter's nap.

December 20, 2009

Music for a Sunday: Best untrained voice EVER.

And really, if it were professionally polished, would Astrud's voice still have that lovely understated wistfulness?

And if there were more to the lyrics, would this play on rhythms (of women's swaying walks, no less!) be as much fun?

And would this song be ruined by those who forget that often, less really is more?

December 17, 2009

Helicopter Canada: a centennial documentary

A little treat from our commie-pinko National Film Board for all you documentary buffs out there:

"Helicopter Canada", by Eugene Boyko, 1966. Made just in time to celebrate Canada's 100th birthday the following year. Hands-down one of the most charming documentaries you'll ever see; shows my home and native land from coast to coast to coast. And barely dated, to boot.

December 3, 2009

No great harm without some gain

amy-goodman-card.jpg

Well, it looks like Amy Goodman's run-in with our meshuga border goons has not been a total bust. Her book, which she was in BC to promote, is now a bona-fide bestseller, if this note from her publisher (Haymarket) that landed in my mailbox is any indicator:

Featuring overflow audiences, as covered by the Los Angeles Times and Mail Tribune, hundreds of people across the country have been "Going Goodman" instead of "Going Rogue," listening to stories from Breaking the Sound Barrier, that put in the place of the usual suspects, voices and viewpoints the corporate media exclude and ignore -- a model which clearly caught the attention of the Canadian Border Patrol, who outrageously detained, questioned, and searched Goodman for over 90 minutes this Thanksgiving, over fear of what she may say about the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

And unlike the Paliness's poo-pile, Amy's book will not be a "daggered" entry on the bestseller lists. Nor will it become a "featured" giveaway with any book club's introductory offers. It's gonna go on selling steadily on the basis of its own considerable merits.

Congrats, Amy, it couldn't happen to a more deserving soul!

November 29, 2009

More Music for a Sunday: Buffy Sainte-Marie takes on greed and wins

"No No Keshagesh", from her latest record, Running for the Drum. You can hear Buffy talk about this song and so much more with Amy Goodman here.

This Buffy really IS a vampire slayer!

November 20, 2009

Festive Left Friday Blogging: A song of solidarity

"Bases of Infamy"--a beautiful statement against war and imperialism!

November 10, 2009

The day Mississauga became a ghost town

Since I'm on a Gordon Lightfoot kick today, I might as well include another apt song of his to introduce this entry and set the emotional tone:

Thirty years ago today, the local nighttime news was filled with some of the scariest scenes I've ever watched. A Canadian Pacific train, number 54, en route from London, Ontario, had derailed near Mississauga, just west of Toronto. Several tankers were on fire. The contents were styrene, toluene, propane, caustic soda, and chlorine--any one of which could cause a nasty explosion if set alight.

The cause of the Mississauga wreck was seemingly small and insignificant, but it's something a trainman overlooks only at his peril. A wheel box on the 33rd car in the 106-car train had run dry of oil and overheated. Locals seeing it pass thought the train had already caught fire; the hot box was smoking and giving off bright orange sparks. As the train passed the level crossing at Burnhamthorpe Road, the axle broke and the wheels went flying, tracing a fiery arc in the air. The undercarriage of the crippled car then sagged toward the rails, eventually snagging on a switch and collapsing near Mavis Road.

The chemical tankers behind the damaged car were ruptured as they slammed into one another and then fell off the tracks. A column of flame more than a kilometre and a half high erupted into the night sky. People from as far away as 100 km could see the fire burning. Towns as far as 10 km away felt the shock waves from the blast.

In the caboose, conductor Ted Nichol was thrown against a stanchion. He looked out the window, saw the orange-and-white column of flame ahead of him, made a quick attempt to contact Pruss by walkie-talkie, then leapt out of the still-moving train, CP 54's cargo manifest in hand, and ran for his life.

Then CP 54 came to a grinding halt, followed by a second explosion.

Brakeman Larry Krupa, 27 years old at the time, took a life-saving action: he got dangerously close to the fire in order to release the brake-line couplers of the 27th car, which was the last one standing--thus freeing the front end of the train, and saving his life and that of the engineer--his own father-in-law, Keith Pruss, 52.

Then came a third explosion, so massive that it was seen as far away as Kingston, Ontario--and Buffalo, New York. Pruss and Krupa got the unharmed remainder of the train--27 cars and three locomotives--out of the area as fast as they could. The shock wave knocked down everyone standing within a kilometre radius of the scene.

Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion was 58 at the time. She got little rest that night as she made sure the first few thousand evacuees were safe in their designated disaster relief centres, then drove to Mavis Rd. to see how the fire crews' work was progressing.

Meanwhile, the first police officer at the scene, Constable Doug Rielly, who had stopped his cruiser just 400 feet away from burning cars, was trying to disperse a crowd of about 300 people who had gathered to watch, oblivious to the danger. The gawkers were none too happy to see the uniformed party-pooper, and came at him with threats and cursing. Rielly called for reinforcements. That got rid of the gawkers.

And it was a good thing, too. As Carsten Stroud wrote in "City in Flight", published in the March 1980 edition of the Canadian Reader's Digest, all of them could have ended up cremated on the spot:

Of all the disaster workers, the firemen were exposed to the greatest risk for the longest time. Struggling with bulky hoses each time they approached the fire to change the streams, they knew that sudden, violent death was at their elbow. They had all seen a training film of propane tanker fires in the United States. In one, a tanker explosion killed a camera crew 2500 yards away. These Mississauga firemen were less than 500 feet from a tangle of propane tankers already ablaze.

Emphasis as in original.

Compounding the danger of the propane fire was the tanker loaded with 90 tons of liquid chlorine "somewhere in the middle of the inferno at the Mavis Road crossing." Writes Stroud: "If it ruptured or blew up, an enormous spill of chlorine gas would bring agonizing death to everyone it enveloped." It was an extra layer of fear on top of what the firefighters were already experiencing as they strove to bring the propane blaze under control.

Luckily, the city had been prepared for just such an emergency. Mississauga did not even exist on the map until 1974, when three smaller towns, which had remained separate for over a century, were amalgamated. Any residual separatist sentiment was melted that night in the heat of the fire. Hazel McCallion, elected as mayor in 1978, had every right to feel proud of how her city was coming together in the hours and days of adversity. As an ever-expanding series of concentric circles were evacuated around the disaster zone, she oversaw the movement of 225,000 people. Not one of them was harmed--save the mayor, who sprained an ankle in all the bustling, and kept hobbling on from duty to duty regardless.

Eventually the fire crews brought the propane fires down. But the cars were still too hot to handle, and the chlorine tanker was leaking. Several firefighters inadvertently inhaled some of the gas; one, John Engel, then 33, had to be hospitalized. The danger was far from over.

Writes Stroud,

As it turned out, only about 20 tons [of the liquid chlorine] remained. Experts concluded that over 70 tons had indeed leaked out in the first six hours after the derailment. Normally, it would have moved across the ground and collected in valleys and hollows; there, it would have turned into deadly gas. Instead, because of the propane explosions around the tanker, hot air currents had propelled the chlorine thousands of feet high. This had saved Mississauga.

Given that chlorine was one of the most feared gases of World War I trench warfare, the danger Stroud describes would have been horrific if a comprehensive evacuation plan had not been in place. For nearly a quarter-million citizens to be moved out of harm's way is quite the logistical achievement, and it went off without a hitch. Luck was also with Mississauga in that the explosions carried off most of the chlorine to a level where it could do no harm, and would eventually disperse in the air.

It was five days before the authorities gave the all-clear, and the people of Mississauga could finally return to their homes.

Mississauga has become a textbook case in how to handle large-scale emergency evacuations. Until Hurricane Katrina flattened New Orleans in 2005, in fact, it was the single largest peacetime evacuation in North American history. Hazel McCallion is now 88, and still mayor of Mississauga, never having been defeated at the polls. Her nickname is "Hurricane Hazel", and she remains a feisty old bird--a real pistol. I have a hunch she won't leave City Hall until they carry her out, feet first. Fortunately, she is extremely popular--her popularity cemented, no doubt, by the terrific way she handled the disaster!

And yes, the explosion was visible from my own town, too--it lit up the night sky, though none of us could see the column of flame. It was the talk of my middle school for several weeks.

My own favorite memory of the whole shebang, however, has got to be this weird little New Wave song by Eva Everything and The Gas, recorded in a studio in Toronto--aptly named "Great Shakes" because of its proximity to the railroad tracks. It's very rare and I couldn't find any video of it, but I remember it well from the news footage at the time. While looking for it, I found out that Eva Everything has since become a science writer and has a quirky, fun-looking book out. She also has a Facebook page, here. It would be fun to see her wacky song YouTubed, if anyone can find it and the news footage of the explosion.

Meanwhile, because I too now live right next to some CP tracks (in a house I find myself often referring to as "Great Shakes"!), I find myself watching the trains a lot. And on the neighboring CN tracks, too. Lots of tankers go by on the rails every day; hundreds, maybe thousands per week. Yet, strangely, I'm never afraid, even though I know full well what might happen. Maybe it's because the Mississauga disaster has made everyone more vigilant since then--and no one more so than the trainmen who, like Keith Pruss and Larry Krupa, have to handle vast tonnages of dangerous materials every working day. Who knows how many times they've gone to bat against corporate execs who are too often tempted to cut corners--and who try to influence parliamentarians into allowing safety lapses for profit's sake? The trainmen are the unsung heroes of our railroads, and I hope they never let up.

The gales of November came early...

A well-made tribute to the 29 sailors who went down 34 years ago in the most famous Great Lakes wreck of all time--that of the Edmund Fitzgerald. They all came from the US, but because they went down in Canadian waters, the empathy for their families and friends is shared across the border. This song is a Canadian classic.

"Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?"

I can't think of a more haunting line in any ballad than that. This song is so eerie, in fact, that one night a few years ago I actually heard it in my dreams, pitch-perfect right down to the steel guitar that echoes the wailing of the north wind. I woke up in a flash, unable to get back to sleep. The Witch of November had come stealing, all right--and with her, she took my nerves.

But this song is more than just a haunting ballad. It's also accurate in many concrete details. The Edmund Fitzgerald, as the lyrics say, carried 26,000 tons--26,116 to be precise--of taconite (iron ore) pellets, bound for the US Steel mills in Detroit. The account of the disappearance is in line with the actual events (although the dialogue, especially between the cook and crew, is probably poetic licence, since the last words via radio from the ship's captain were a terse "We're holding our own"). It happened so quickly that no one could quite believe it. And after the sinking, there was much confusion for years as to what could have caused it; there were so many conflicting theories. At the time the song came out, the cause was still unknown.

But Peter Unwin, author of The Wolf's Head, a compendium of history and folklore of Lake Superior, seems to have cracked the mystery once and for all. I'll let Unwin lay out the facts, and draw my own conclusion in a bit:

At seventeen years of age, the Edmund Fitzgerald was a neglected and ailing vessel. It had also taken its blows. In 1969, in a serious grounding, the ship suffered damage to its bottom and internal superstructure. A year later, it collided with the S. S. Hochelaga and sustained damage above the waterline. Three times the ship suffered injury above the waterline in collisions with the lock walls at Sault Ste. Marie. Welding cracks in the ship's keel area were discovered in 1969 and again in 1973. The Fitz also had an unusual bow action, what [Captain] McSorley called "that wiggly thing"--in hard weather the bow of his carrier flipped to one side and took forever to return. "If she starts to do the wiggling thing, let me know. This thing scares me sometimes," he told a mate. His stated opinion of his own ship was that it was "not as great as you might think."

In five years its hull had been damaged five times. In that condition, bruised, possibly sailing with a loose keel and its twenty-one hatch covers held down by a minimum of clamps, it headed full speed into the worst storm to strike Lake Superior in more than half a century.

[...]

Despite the circumstances on that dreadful night, of all the ships on Superior only one sank, the relatively young Edmund Fitzgerald. It is possible this massive carrier had been sinking for hours, that as its captain ploughed hard into the mounting waves, it was sinking. With every nautical mile, the ship slipped another degree below the surface. Even with pumps spewing thousands of gallons per minute, the ship was sinking. Inch by inch the distance between Superior and the spar deck decreased. What had once been compartments filled with air were now filling with water, tons and tons of water, coming from the top, perhaps from below.

[...]

From the time the ship was built in 1958 to the time it disappeared in 1975, the United States Coast Guard allowed the Edmund Fitzgerald to load an extra three more feet of cargo. A single inch of increased draft on a ship that size meant an extra 130 long tons per trip. Multiplied by forty-five trips per year and then the ship's lifetime of perhaps fifty years, that inch translates into millions of dollars.

Year by year the Edmund Fitzgerald was riding lower in the water. In 1958 nautical engineers had concluded this ship could be safely loaded in winter to 24 feet 6 inches. In 1973 the Fitzgerald's load line for the critical late-fall sailing season was increased a full 20 inches. Fully loaded, it now floated closer to the bottom of Lake Superior than it had the year before. When the Fitzgerald left Wisconsin for the last time on November 9, it was cargoed to a draft of 27 feet 2 inches forward, and 27 feet 6 inches aft, low enough that a twelve-foot wave would board it. A fifteen-foot wave hurled three feet of water across the deck. A thirty-five-foot wave like the ones encountered on November 10 put the deck nearly twenty-five feet beneath the surface of Superior.

After the investigation the Coast Guard's first recommendation was to rescind its own reduction in freeboard brought about by changes in 1969, 1971, and 1973. The Lake Carriers Association issued its own report in which it complimented itself on its safety record through the years, and demanded that no changes be made to current load-line regulations: the Edmund Fitzgerald had struck a shoal and sunk.

Just a shoal? Hardly.

It was greed that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald. Greed that kept the Fitzgerald in such poor condition; greed that left so few clamps on the hatches, allowing water to seep in from above; greed that kept raising the load line above what the engineers had decreed, time and again; greed that sent the vessel out on its final voyage when winter weather was already setting in, and the shipping lanes would be closed by law in a matter of days. And in the end, the shoal otherwise known as greed cost 29 lives, plus a highly-valued ship--once the biggest "laker" in the world--plus 26,116 tons of iron ore that has never been salvaged.

And who would salvage it? Who would dare brave the fury of the world's greatest lake? Is anybody that foolhardy?

I was born in Northern Ontario; I lived there for the first ten years of my life. I was a little girl when the Fitzgerald sank. I don't have any personal memories of the sinking. But I do have a visceral memory of what Superior is like; by concidence, burned in my brain not long after that fateful sinking.

It's clean, unbelievably big, deep blue, ruggedly beautiful, and full of excellent fish, the freshest I've ever tasted. I remember one family trip we took there; I remember wandering along its shore, picking up handfuls of rusty-brown agates, and jade-green, water-smooth pebbles (epidote, according to my gold-prospecting rockhound dad.) My senses were singing. Eventually, the lure of the big water was too much for me to resist; I took off my sandals and waded in.

And suppressed a scream.

It hurt horrifically for a minute or so; then my feet went numb. I dropped my rocks and stumbled out, teeth rattling in my head, my legs dead below the knee. It felt as though I'd been in it forever, but I had been in for much less than five minutes. It was the height of summer, and Lake Superior, inviting as it looked, was in fact bone-hollowing cold.

In an instant, I grasped the macabre horror of what awaited anyone unlucky enough to get caught by its rough waves. And they were rough--even on a calm day, you could feel them sucking at you like a live thing, hungry for a human sacrifice. Even wading in the shallows, you felt it. I was maybe nine years old at the time, and I've never forgotten.

Now, just imagine what it must be like in early November, as fall gives way to winter, and freezing rain turns to sleet and snow. Imagine that great blue water turning a flinty, taconite grey, tossed by hurricane-force winds. Imagine it coming in 30-foot-high swells. How long do you think a ship's crew would last, if they went down in that?

"The waves turn the minutes to hours" is an understatement. Seconds would feel like eternities. Death might not be long in coming, but it would still be long enough that its utter horror would be inescapable.

Lake Superior--Gitchigami, its Ojibwa name, means "Big Water"--is not to be trifled with. Nor is its power to be underestimated. Like all the Great Lakes, it is so large that it can create its own weather and climate patterns--a trait otherwise limited mainly to oceans. "The gales of November come early", all right--and nowhere more than on Superior. Pushing through a last shipment of heavy iron ore pellets--an oversize one, at that--at such a time, really is the worst kind of hubris. Were I the owner of a vessel like the Fitzgerald, I would never take such a risk. No amount of money to be made would be worth the loss, especially with a lake as legendary for its hunger as Gitchigami is.

And, pagan that I am, I would probably feel compelled to propitiate the Mishipashoo--the legendary feline water-spirit of Gitchigami--with regular rites of bonfires, native-style drumming and chanting, and prayers for mercy. (Not to mention binding-spells against human hubris--a sentiment far too easily felt when confronted with such a large body of navigable water, daring one to brave it...)

Here's a nicely-done metal cover of the Gordon Lightfoot song:

It's missing the piercing intonation of the steel guitar that rang with such eerie clarity through my dreams one night, but I think it still does justice to the ballad.

PS: Read here about the efforts of a Fitzgerald victim's nephew's efforts to save the ship that tried to rescue his uncle and 28 crewmates. It's a very moving story. I hope that even if the Arthur M. Anderson doesn't continue to sail as a working "laker", it will still be preserved for its historic value. Perhaps it could be turned into a floating museum in honor of those lost on Lake Superior--the human sacrifices, counted and uncounted, of Gitchigami.

November 9, 2009

Berlin Wall/German Reunification: Still believe in the Evil Russians?

Then you're about to get a nasty surprise. Svetlana Savranskaya of the National Security Archive in Washington, DC, has some news for you:

Mikhail Gorbachev didn't need no Ronnie Ray-Gun telling him to tear down that wall; he was already doing his part by refusing to resort to repressive measures of any kind. He deserves a lot of credit for letting things progress peacefully. My respect for Gorby just keeps on growing. (And so does my contempt for that shameless usurper, Boris Yeltsin.)

Meanwhile, here's how the Germans (not U2, NOT MTV) celebrated the 20th anniversary in Berlin today:

Three generations of German women give their views of history and what the fall of the Wall means to them. They don't say what the western media expects to hear, let's put it that way!

An English-language Russian channel gives a nuanced, thoughtful, artist-friendly view with a few interesting surprises of its own. (Dmitri Medvedev speaks German! Who knew?)

I especially love how the "domino wall" was a collaborative work of art--thousands of children painted it, expressing themselves freely. Some are from divided countries, such as Cyprus, where a wall between Greeks and Turks still stands. A much more fitting tribute than a walled-off, profit-mongering, "free" concert that relies on the personality cult, adulation and passivity, no?

November 1, 2009

Dame Pa' Matala violently attacked in Aragua

This just in...

In the early morning hours on Sunday, the members of the musical group Dame Pa' Matala were victims of an act of violence, when four armed men assaulted the vehicle in which they were travelling after leaving last night's concert, "A Song for the People", in La Carlota, Caracas.

[...]

Guitarist William Alvarado told Radio Nacional de Venezuela (RNV) that the incident occurred in Tejerías, in the state of Aragua, where the vehicle was hit by bullets.

Translation mine.

This band is strongly Chavista, so it may be an act of political violence or intimidation. They are well known for their appearances on La Hojilla.

More later, as more facts become known.

October 22, 2009

I know, they're only rock 'n' roll...

...but I like them, like them, yes I do...

This just landed in my inbox from the National Security Archive listserv:

Washington, DC, October 22, 2009 - On behalf of a coalition of U.S. and international musicians, including R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Tom Morello and Jackson Browne, the National Security Archive today filed a series of FOIA petitions requesting the full declassification of secret U.S. documentation on the strategy of using music as an interrogation device at Guantanamo and other detention centers.

The Archive also posted several declassified documents and published reports that refer to the use of "loud" music to "create futility" in uncooperative detainees at Guantanamo. A 2004 Defense Department report on abuses at the military base in Cuba, for example, stated that the "futility technique included the playing of Metallica, Britney Spears and Rap music."

Archive analysts filed the FOIA requests with the CIA, U.S. Special Operations Command, and the FBI, among other agencies, requesting all documentation pertaining to how the music was chosen and the specific role it played in interrogations of detainees at the Guantanamo base.

"At Guantanamo, the U.S. government turned a jukebox into an instrument of torture," said Thomas Blanton, the Archive's executive director. "The musicians and the public have the right to know how an expression of popular culture was transformed into an enhanced interrogation technique."

No word from Brit-Brit on whether she authorized the use of her music as torture (or if she approves of that kind of airplay.) But I can well believe that it IS a torture, because I always cringe when I hear it, at any volume.

The others, on the other hand, who object to their use of their work for such purposes, are real musicians and deserve a lot more respect.

You can find the press release here, and join the National Security Archive's listserv here, if you're so minded.

PS: They've also got a blog! 'Rolled!

October 17, 2009

Calle 13 tells it like it is

calle-13-shirt.jpg

Puerto Rican rapper "El Residente" René Pérez of Calle 13 shows off a shirt that pissed off El Narco. I'm now officially a fan!

October 11, 2009

Music for a Sunday: Not to say I did not speak of flowers

A small reminder of why it's so important that Brazil has lent its embassy as a haven to democracy in Honduras. Just twenty years ago, they emerged from a 25-year era of military dictatorship, in which generals ran the show, and the CIA pulled the strings behind the scenes, training the death squads in the not-so-fine art of thuggery. Torture, disappearances and murders were the lot of many who protested.

This tune has been on my mind for many a week now. Geraldo Vandré's beautiful folk song, celebrating the common courage of people in simple acts of bravery, dates to the late 1960s, when people marched en masse in the streets demanding an end to the dictatorship. It took a long time, but when that day came, it was inevitable. In the meantime, voices kept rising, and this man was just one of them. Others, like Caetano Veloso and his friend and sometime brother-in-law, Gilberto Gil, were first imprisoned and tortured, then had to go into exile. When Lula came to power, he made Gil his minister of culture--a fitting role for one who helped build it in the teeth of a culture-hating junta.

A salute to the people of Brazil, who know what democracy is worth from having lacked it too long themselves.

October 7, 2009

Culture vultures: Peru haz them.

Oh, for SHAME:

peru-theft.jpg

If you go to Peru to see the Gate of the Sun, you will be sorely disappointed. You have to cross the border into BOLIVIA. That's where you will actually find Tiwanaku and this ancient indigenous landmark.

If you ever wondered why Bolivians complain so much about Peruvians stealing their cultural patrimony, the answer is simple: Because that's just what happens. Happens all the time. Never mind that Peru has Machu Picchu, Cuzco and all those other Inca treasures, which ought to make them feel pretty damn secure about their own cultural patrimony. No, they just won't be content until they claim all the Quechua and Aymara treasures too...and if that means a stealth-plundering of Bolivia, so be it.

Good luck getting that big, heavy stone gate across the border, though, guys.

October 4, 2009

More Music for a Sunday: So pretty, so plagiarized

The other day, El Duderino uncovered a shocker: A German group called Cordalis (a father/son/daughter group apparently, never heard of 'em till now) has plagiarized this beautiful song by Bolivia's revered folk group, Kalamarka:

...which I took it on myself to translate. (Apologies if the Aymara words are wrong, I found several different versions and just went with the ones that looked most like what I heard.)

Cuando Florezca el Chuño (When The Potatoes Are In Bloom)

If your parents hate me now
It's because I did you so wrong
If my panpipes don't whistle now
It's because you've been gone so long

They say you're coming back, come back
Like the river to the lake
They say you're coming back, come back
Like the river to the lake

Human pi, kayan pi
When the potatoes are in bloom
Augua yogua
When the potatoes are in bloom

Don't tell me you've forgotten
The land where you were born
Don't tell me you've forgotten
The land where you were born

They say you're coming back, come back
Like the river to the lake
They say you're coming back, come back
Like the river to the lake

Human pi, kayan pi
When the potatoes are in bloom
Augua yogua
When the potatoes are in bloom

As you can see, it's a very succinct, compact song about lost love and--not coincidentally--betrayal of country. The lover mourns his sweetheart, who has left not only him, but all of her native Bolivia behind. This is kind of interesting when you consider what Cordalis has done to it:

Gawd...even for a German Schlager (a very cheesy genre--it means, roughly, "hit parade"), that's just low.

I wanted to translate the lyrics to show you just how banal they are compared to the original, but I can't find them anywhere on the web now. I don't suppose it matters. The irony of ripping off a very Bolivian love song about not forgetting one's roots, and turning it into a generic, globalized "dance" tune with hackneyed lyrics, should be apparent anyoldhow.

EDIT, October 28: See comments below. I've learned (thanks, Maria Eugenia!) that the chorus can now be translated as follows:

They say you're coming back, you'll be back Like the river to the lake Me with you, you with me When the dried potatoes bloom...

Which makes me wonder if she'll ever be back. It's an ironic statement, as my commenter points out, because rivers only flow one way and can't go back to their headwaters again. Unless it evaporates, the river won't be coming back; dried potatoes, for obvious reasons, can't bloom. In other words, it's a song about futility and being unable to come home again. Even more poignant when you consider how many Bolivian campesinos, particularly indigenous ones from the Altiplano, have had to migrate to the cities and lowlands in order not to starve to death as the glaciers and alpine lakes dry up due to climate change (a product of capitalism).

I love a song that makes me think (as well as being so lovely!), even if it ends up making my head and heart ache...

Music for a Sunday: You can't say that on television!

Wanna bet? Dame pa' Matala can:

And they look so cute doing it, too!

September 29, 2009

Stupid Sex Tricks: What blooming idiot came up with this one?

fresh-cut-penis.jpg

According to my friend Corey, who passed this on to me:

Captured at 115th and Allisonville Rd. in Fishers, Indianapolis, Indiana.

The sign is real and was up for two hours before someone stopped and told them how to spell PEONIES!

This in turn reminds me of a poem...

There they are

drooping over the breakfast plates,

angel-like,

folding in their sad wing,

animal sad,

and only the night before

there they were

playing the banjo.

Once more the day's light comes

with its immense sun,

its mother trucks,

its engines of amputation.

Whereas last night

the cock knew its way home,

as stiff as a hammer,

battering in with all

its awful power.

That theater.

Today it is tender,

a small bird,

as soft as a baby's hand.

She is the house.

He is the steeple.

When they fuck they are God.

When they break away they are God.

When they snore they are God.

In the morning they butter the toast.

They don't say much.

They are still God.

All the cocks of the world are God,

blooming, blooming, blooming

into the sweet blood of woman.


--Anne Sexton, "The Fury of Cocks", 1960

But at least, with Anne Sexton, the floral metaphor was conscious and intentional.

September 28, 2009

Lucy is now truly "in the sky with diamonds"

From Yellow Submarine, the song.

Sadly, the "girl with kaleidoscope eyes" is gone:

Lucy Vodden, who is widely believed to be the inspiration behind The Beatles' 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds', has died.

Vodden, 46, had been receiving treatment for the immune system disease Lupus. She passed away last Tuesday.

'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds' was featured on The Beatles' 1967 album 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'.

Critics originally thought the track was about drug use, but John Lennon always maintained it had been inspired by a picture of Vodden drawn by his son, Julian.

He is understood to have shown his father the drawing, and said: "It's Lucy in the sky with diamonds."

The pair, who went to a nursery in Weybridge, Surrey together in 1966, reignited their friendship when Julian discovered Vodden was ill.

Here's the picture Julian drew that so enchanted John and inspired what may be the Beatles' most misunderstood song:

lucy-in-the-sky-with-diamonds.jpg

Rest well, Lucy.

September 13, 2009

Music for a Sunday: What's wrong with going around in the buff?

"En Cueros", a rockin' number from Cuba's own Buena Fe.

September 9, 2009

One more to get the wingnuts shrieking

Michael Moore and Chavecito--together in Venice. They shot the shit for about three hours. Gee, maybe this will give Michael some ideas for his next project?

Video in Spanish; exploding heads in the US.

September 6, 2009

Music for a Sunday: Neil Young for the geek brigade

A rare 1983 reworking of his Buffalo Springfield hit from the late '60s, "Mr. Soul", this time with electronics. This is actually an extended version of the single from the Trans album. Proof that a good song can sound outstanding in any format, including the electronic. Proof, also, that synthesizers can take on a humane undercurrent when a great musician is at the helm.

September 2, 2009

Isabel Allende's tales of passion

Do. NOT. Miss.

(Thanks to Corey for sending me the link!)

August 21, 2009

Michael Moore is at it again!

This one promises to be even more explosive than the last...which was more explosive than the last...which was...

Jeez. Where is there left for this man to go? He's taken the mick out of the Big Three, out of gun nuts, out of 9-11, out of the insurance industry, and now, capitalism itself.

And have I told you lately how much I love him?

August 12, 2009

Dame Vera commits a heresy! Oh noes!

She's most famous for "We'll Meet Again", as well as the translation of the German song in the video above. She's 92 years old, and still clearly in possession of all her faculties--including an important and underestimated one called critical thinking. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Dame Vera Lynn, singing a song you've never heard from the veteran wartime entertainer before:

Dame Vera Lynn has questioned Britain's role in Afghanistan.

The 92-year-old is critical of the campaign which has cost the lives of 196 personnel, saying: 'I don't know what Afghanistan's all about, I don't know what we are doing there.'

Dame Vera, who entertained troops as far afield as Egypt, India and Burma during the Second World War, said: 'At one time, our soldiers would fight for the country they came from to stop the enemy invading, but now they are involved in other countries' problems.'

She was less than complimentary of the Government, which has been criticised for seeking to challenge the amount of compensation for wounded soldiers.

Dame Vera told The Times: 'I don't know why there should be a problem. I mean, they are out there fighting, helping other people.

'They are our boys and they should be looked after. The money that is wasted on stupid things and then they quibble about this.'

That, my friends, is the heresy: Dame Vera supports the troops, but not the war. In an age when "Support the Troops" is often another way of saying "get behind the war, you unpatriotic wimp", she is brave enough to challenge the conventional belief that the war in Afghanistan has anything to do with protecting the West's "freedom". And to utter what the younger and cockier of us seldom find the nerve to say when some raging wingnut is in our faces doing his best to shout us down.

July 24, 2009

Festive Left Friday Blogging: An unlikely hero takes the streets of Caracas

From Venezuela, a cinematic offering that promises to be full of Bolivarian fun:

He's likable, a gentleman, well versed in the ideals of Simón Bolívar, respects traffic lights, and...he's a biker. His name? Libertador Morales, "The Justicer", who will be making the rounds of movie theatres as of July 31, in this year's first showing by the Villa del Cine.

The author and director of this film is Efterpi Charalambidis, a Venezuelan filmmaker whose first feature film is based on the daily reality in which she was born and grew up: the centre of Caracas and its various denizens.

In this scenario, she developed Libertador Morales, a young mototaxista and messenger who is affected by crimes occurring in his neighborhood. So he creates an alter ego: "El Justiciero", and by night, with a black outfit and a fast motorbike, he breaks all the rules to stop a band of thieves terrorizing his community.

This contrast, according to Charalambidis, defines various aspects of this character, who comes into conflict with his concept of justice in assuming this attitude, and must face the consequences it brings.

[...]

Regarding the message she wants to send, the filmmaker commented that it's also a reflection on the topic of justice and powerlessness against insecurity, and that she also wanted to vindicate the motorcyclists, given that the public has a negative image of them.

"There are lots of guys like Libertador, I've known them, but the city doesn't put limits on them either and, as I said to one of the actors of the film, the one who plays Libertador's best friend: It's not a case of evil, but of practicality--they have to move by the rhythms of the city."

Translation mine.

Incidentally, there are literally hundreds (or thousands?) of real-life Libertadors buzzing the streets of Caracas on their motorbikes. Not only do they ferry ordinary folks around on their daily errands, they were heroes during the coup of '02, when they became alternative-media messengers who carried the truth about the events--a truth the lamestream media refused to show--from street to street, shouting it from their bikes. They also helped carry the injured to hospital, and were active in the protests against the Carmona dictatorship.

I wonder when and if this film will be made available on DVD up here. I'd love to see it!

June 4, 2009

"UP" meme takes off

detainee-balloons.jpg

I'm not so sure setting them loose on a tepui in Venezuela is such a good idea.

May 30, 2009

Mario Vargas LOSER!

vargas-loser.jpg

"Must smash that pesky insect! Why does he taunt me so?"

Well, Mario--maybe it's because he's a popular, elected leader, while you're a sad, old, sold-out fart with no new ideas of his own, who lost his own election bid rather badly for that and other reasons. Kiddies, this is what the bitter old guy came to Venezuela for. Basically, to preach the same old racist-putschist-capitalist gospel that he thinks should pay off far more handsomely than it actually does:

Hundreds of right-wing political leaders and representatives of pro-capitalist think tanks from across the world gathered in Venezuela's luxurious Caracas Palace Hotel this week for an exclusive event titled "International Conference for Freedom and Democracy: The Latin American Challenge."

A major theme of the conference was how to put an end to the political changes been carried out by President Hugo Chávez and a wave of other progressive presidents who have been elected across the region over the past ten years.

Peruvian author and former Peruvian presidential candidate Mario Vargas Llosa, one of the high profile keynote speakers at the event, framed the Chávez government as the chief obstacle to the progress of capitalist free markets in the region.

"The path of progress is not the path of collectivism, it is not the path of state-ism, it is not the path of social property," said Vargas Llosa, referring to new forms of social property that the Chávez government has promoted to co-exist with private property, which remains protected by the Venezuelan Constitution. "Property is individual and private or it is not property," said the author.

Gee, that's about as original as an old, worn-out cookie cutter. Hey Mario, ever hear of public schools? Public hospitals? Public roads? For that matter, how about the public airport at Maiquetía, by which you arrived in the country whose leader you came to insult? All of those and more are property--and they're not individual OR private!

Vargas proceeded to encourage the wealthy and powerful conference attendees to impede the Chávez administration's progressive policies, which have been approved by a decisive majority of Venezuelans in more than a dozen democratic elections. "If this path is not interrupted, Venezuela will be converted into the second Cuba of Latin America," said Vargas Llosa. "We should not permit it. That is why we are here."

This is hilarious, coming from a man who once ardently supported and defended Fidel Castro, back before the plagues ate his brain. Kiddies, allow me to present and translate for you the words of one Mario Vargas Llosa, back in the day:

mario-llego-la-hora.jpg

That was his 1967 speech upon receiving the Rómulo Gallegos prize for his novel, The Green House. Here's what it says, in my own translation:

The American reality, clearly, offers the writer a veritable banquet of reasons to be a conscientious objector and live in discontent.

Societies where injustice is law, a paradise of ignorance, of exploitation, of inequalities that blind one with misery, of economic, cultural and moral condemnation, our tumultuous lands submit to us sumptuous materials, examples, to show in fiction, in a manner direct or indirect, after facts, dreams, testimonies, allegories, nightmares, or visions, that reality is badly made, that life must change.

But in ten, twenty or fifty years, the time for social justice will have come for all our countries, as it has for Cuba today, and a united Latin America will have emancipated itself from the empire that robs it, the classes who exploit it, and the forces that today offend and oppress it.

I hope that this hour arrives as soon as possible, and that Latin America enters, once and for all, into dignity and modern life, and that socialism will free us from our anachronism and our horror.

Emphasis as in the original.

Gee, Mario, what the hell happened? You've gone from being an ardent, pan-Latin-American socialist, to being a neoconservative imperialist--living in Spain, no less! But I suppose you don't remember having said that. After all, it was more than 40 years ago, and a lot of things have happened since then. No doubt you took one look at what happened to Chile and Argentina a few years later, not to mention Bolivia that same year, and decided that maybe this whole rebellious, dignified socialism thing wasn't such a good idea after all. It's not hard to see why; the iron heel of fascism was a pretty good persuader that maybe capitalism was the way to go after all--eh, Mario?

Of course, there are other great writers, your contemporaries, who haven't given up on socialism. Eduardo Galeano, who lived in Argentina after fascists had driven him out of his native Uruguay (and just before the junta took over there in 1976), was menaced frequently at his office by the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance. They threatened him with death. His response? "The schedule for calling in threats, Sir, is from six to eight!" He wrote this incident up in his book, Days and Nights of Love and War. It was originally published in Cuba. He, too, is an award-winner. He also has not stopped being a socialist; he's a great observer of Chavecito's Venezuela, and these days, I daresay, his oeuvre is more keenly appreciated there than your old stuff is. (Have you read it, Mario? Does it shame you? Or did you quit touching things with Cuban germs on them before that amazing book came out?)

It would certainly give pause to me, Mario, if I were like you--an old sell-out. Fortunately, I'm not there yet; if I'm lucky and if I keep my head, I never will be. I can't help thinking of what Che Guevara once wrote in a letter to his mother: "Not only am I not moderate now, I shall try never to be. And if I ever detect in myself that the sacred flame has given way to a timid votive flicker, the least I can then do is vomit over my own shit."

But like I said, I'm not there yet. I'll have to vomit over other people's shit instead. Yours, Mario, will have to suffice.

May 27, 2009

Nice to see those music lessons paid off

A couple of FAO Schwartz employees show off their mad organ skillz:

The tune is the "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" by Johann Sebastian Bach.

May 14, 2009

They're shuttin' Detroit down

A country song for all you city slickers.

PS: Detroit's not the only place hurting. Closer to my home, Oshawa is feeling the pain from the closure of a GM plant.

May 3, 2009

Music for a Sunday: Infinitely crankable

For what you are about to receive...well, I really can't put it better than one of the commenters at YouTube did:

Let me explain to anyone under the age of 40 that stops by here: this is rock from the far side, the wild side, this is eyes-out-on-stalks, ears-in-a-flotation-tank heavy metal. These guys were outré, avant garde. I bitch slap any weedy modern-day pretenders. The Webster were insanity with a Marshall stack. Try and wrestle this song and the album if you've the brass balls to do so. I don't think you can. So run along, kids, and leave this to the real men! Bust the busters!

Ahem. Well put!

And with that said, here's Max Webster, featuring Kim Mitchell and a secret guest vocalist whose screeching alto you might recognize:

There's an incredible amount of Max Webster stuff on YouTube, BTW...and Kim Mitchell solo ain't bad either:

Rah, rah, olé!

Here's another of his Max Webster greats, which proves that he's good for much more than just the loud noodly stuff:

April 12, 2009

Music for a Sunday: The only capitalism I care for

Of course, it's foreign:

April 8, 2009

DeviantArt not so deviant after all

You'd think, with a name like DeviantArt, a website would commit itself to uncensored free expression, right?

Wrong.

Take the case of Ben Heine, a Belgian artist. Recently he decided to express what he thought of the Pope's anti-condom stance. Here's what he said:

god-love-condom.jpg

And here's what DeviantArt did to his free speech:

god-love-censored.jpg

They also banned him permanently. For apparently living up to the site's name all too well.

Apparently, no one is allowed to deviate from the orthodox stance of a celibate old man in a skirt who presumes to tell young people what to do with their sex lives (i.e., not have any until marriage, and then only to procreate without restriction). This is what they call being "pro-life": People are dying of AIDS, and the Vatican's response is to play the ostrich and stick to the same old same old. Even if it costs lives, Jesus must never be portrayed in a condom. He isn't supposed to even have a penis.

So what's the message here? Abortion is a sin and so is birth control, but AIDS is okay, I guess. There's God's love for you, with a vengeance.

March 16, 2009

A song for El Salvador

Alí Primera, the Venezuelan folk singer, dedicates a number to the people of El Salvador during a peace concert in the 1980s:

"The Blue Hat". With subtitles.

March 1, 2009

Music for a Sunday: Two you're not likely to hear on commercial radio

From Venezuela's own Dame Pa' Matala, my latest musical crush:

"En favor de la paz". Crazy hippie peacenikkery never sounded better! Stick around till the end and you'll even hear a bit of German.

And one whose chorus requires no translation. Something tells me these guys don't like Daddy Yankee. Or misogyny.

I think it's only fair to warn you that these are both extremely infectious. If you get earworms (especially from the latter!), don't blame me. Just get up and dance, 'kay?

February 25, 2009

Ashy thoughts for a Wednesday morn...

ash-wednesday.jpg

I'm not Catholic, so this whole penitential post-carnival thing is kind of opaque to me. Rather than atone for sins (actual or imaginary), I prefer to do the right thing in the first place, if I can. Which means I tend to think before I act. I probably miss out on a lot of fun that way (which kind of also negates the need for Lenten deprivations, at least for me).

But on the other hand, there are some sobering realities to face when it comes to carnivals, and invariably they crop up after the festivities are over. Case in point: this thought-provoking piece from the ABI website, which I decided to translate in its entirety:

La Paz Street, in the northern zone of Oruro, is a hectic place. At three o'clock last Friday afternoon, young people, devotees, dancers and folklorists in general hurried to pick up their costumes and colorful masks, some of them made with natural feathers and the skins of armadillos, a species in danger of extinction.

If you look a little closer, in the market stalls you'll also see rattles, bird crests and bills, plumes, shells and other items made from severed parts of animals en route to extinction.

It's the dark side of Carnaval, the festive Oruro Carnival.

The artisans and embroiderers are aware that the trade in animal parts is prohibited, but in fact there is no law to stop or prevent the killing of wild animals and endangered species.

On one side of La Paz Street, a few metres away from the Flores Tailor Shop, lie the scattered remains of armadillos whose hides are sought after by the makers of dancers' costumes. Each skin costs between 100 and 150 bolivianos on the black market.

The "quirquinchos", as they are commonly known, are in danger of disappearing from the sandy area of Oruro.

The next day, during the Entrada de Peregrinación, and on Carnival Sunday, the Morenada Central and Morenada Comunidad "Cocani", the largest folkloric societies, carry ostentatious rattles made from armadillo hides. The masked dancers wear ostrich feathers which adorned the heads of beautiful women whose hats are also trimmed with peacock plumes.

Where do these animal parts come from? "From La Paz Street," is what you'll hear from a dealer.

Flamingo feathers are sold as some kind of legal product in central bazaars, two blocks away from the Plaza 10 de Febrero, on Adolfo Mier Street in the heart of Oruro. Each one costs between 50 and 70 bolivianos (around $5 US.) Embroiderers make crests, to be worn on the head, for $300 apiece.

It's a great deal.

The mask-makers, also known as "hojalateros", use stuffed condors--a species near extinction, and a national emblem--in the costumes they build for the "diablada" fraternities, such as Ferroviaria, Auténtica, Artística, Urus, and others. Each mask of this type costs at least $300.

But there are also manufacturers whose specialty is condor suits. Each one, made from the feathers of the actual bird, costs ome 250 bolivianos, a little under $30.

Carnival Saturday and Sunday is also observed by the Suris fraternities, who perform a dance from the Andean altiplano as thanks to Pachamama, the Earth Mother. They use the feathers of the suris, birds of the same family as the flamingo and the parihuana. Each suri feather on the dancers' hats is valued at between 20 and 30 bolivianos, around $5 US.

These are some of the extremes incurred by the Oruro Carnival, declared by UNESCO as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.

According to Anakarlem Mercado, folklorist and member of the Society for the Protection of Animals and Environments, "a specific law is needed" to regulate the mechanisms for the protection of the lives of animals, whose bones are sold as expensive merchandise in Bolivian folkloric activities.

"The authorities must take into account that Bolivia is one of the countries most rich in biodiversity and for that, we need to have a specific law for the protection of animals, and so prevent the depletion of endangered species in folkloric events such as the Oruro Carnival," Mercado tells ABI.

Mercado reminds us that in Bolivia the Law of the Environment, promulgated on April 27, 1992, is still in force. It regulates hunting and prohibits the indiscriminate trafficking in endangered animal species. It reads, "Whoever introduces, captures, promotes and/or commercializes the products of hunting, possession, stockpiling, transportation of animal or vegetable species or their derivatives without authorization, or those which are declared out of season or reserved, placing the same at risk of extinction, shall suffer the penalty of up to two years' deprivation of liberty."

Just something to think about next time you watch those dancing queens go twirling by in their elaborate feathered costumes.

And here's something else, for those who are dragging themselves out of the sack kind of hung-over this morning:

At least 24 people are dead and dozens injured as a result of the festivities of the Bolivian Carnival, according to the provisional report distributed by the police on Tuesday.

The majority of the deaths occurred as a result of traffic accidents.

Also to blame was the excessive consumption of alcohol and street violence, according to the report.

The police report indicates that the deaths occurred in the departments of La Paz, El Alto, Santa Cruz, Oruro, Cochabamba and Chuquisaca.

Colonel Miguel Narváez, commander of operations, said that in La Paz alone there were five deaths and 74 injured persons reported.

The most notorious case was the death of a retired police general, Antonio Pardo Montalvo, last Saturday in a traffic accident on the road between the cities of Oruro and Cochabamba.

Police reports also indicate that last Saturday, a cyclist was struck on the road to Copacabana, and on Sunday a married couple were killed on the road to Oruro. On Monday, an indigent was murdered in a party at a butcher shop.

"This year there were more accidents than last year. The number of deaths in the city of La Paz was smaller. Of 82 accidents reported, 15 were caused by drunkenness," Col. Narváez reported.

In the Hospital Clinic of La Paz there were 17 persons brought in during the early hours on Tuesday morning, the majority of them with stab wounds or cuts received in brawls, according to Dr. Jaime Mancilla.

"There were 15 patients with cuts in various places, and two suffering from alcohol poisoning," Dr. Mancilla said.

In Chuquisaca, the police reported five deaths between Saturday and Tuesday.

"We must lament the fact that amid the festivities of Carnaval, there were five deaths, among them a girl of 16 who died as a result of an induced abortion," said the commander of police in Chuquisaca, Juan Córdova.

To guarantee the security of the citizens during Carnaval, the police deployed 15,237 officers nationwide.

Translation mine as well.

The induced-abortion death of the teenager is not really carnival-related (it happens all year round, particularly in predominantly Catholic countries where abortion is illegal, birth control hard to come by, and medical resources poor. Countries like Bolivia, for example.) But the drunkenness, violence and the road fatalities are all preventable. As is unwanted pregnancy, come to that.

Prevention beats the shit out of penitence, as far as I'm concerned.

February 23, 2009

Rosenmontag!

It's carnival time around the world! Here she is, folks, the lady you've all been waiting for, laid bare. The Chancellor of Germany (and latest Extreme Makeover recipient), Angela Merkel:

merkel-float.jpg

Der Spiegel explains the meaning of those markings on her nude form:

The float shows Merkel before (left) and after she has her "problem zones" lifted, such as the plunging economy and government debt, to name a few.

I guess this explains why her cleavage looks so unexpectedly good. Too bad the rest of Germany's not looking so hot at the moment.

BTW, here's a weird little bit of rare audio for ya:

"Rosenmontag", by A Flock of Seagulls, from the cassette of their album, Listen. It's not available on CD, to my knowledge anyhow.

February 12, 2009

A patriotic country song that doesn't suck

Here you go--enjoy. (I promise it will make you cry. Thanks to Corey for sending me the link!)

January 14, 2009

It's 22 degrees below freezing tonight...

...with a windchill in the minus-30s. Do you know where your music is?

Here's a little something by Bruce Cockburn, for all my fellow deep-freeze-bound North Americans.

Stay warm, y'all.

January 13, 2009

A dirty old bastard finally goes to meet his lord

And no, it ain't Jesus for this racist SOB:

William Devereux Zantzinger, the Southern Maryland tobacco farmer convicted of manslaughter in the death of barmaid Hattie Carroll in a celebrated 1963 case, died Jan. 3, according to the Brinsfield-Echols Funeral Home in Charlotte Hall. He was 69.

No cause of death was reported. His burial was today.

The victim in that case, a 51-year-old black barmaid at Baltimore's old Emerson Hotel, died after being struck with a 26-cent carnival cane used by Zantzinger after he complained that she was slow in bringing a drink he had ordered at a society ball there. Carroll, the mother of 11 children, had a history of heart problems. Zantzinger was convicted of manslaughter, fined $500 and given a six-month sentence.

His trial, held in Hagerstown at the height of the civil rights movement, was the subject of many news stories and gained national attention in a Bob Dylan song, "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll."

Zantzinger made news again in 1991 when he charged rent for ramshackle properties he no longer owned. Charles County State's Attorney Leonard Collins charged him with one count of unfair and deceptive trade practices, accusing Zantzinger of making "false and misleading oral and written statements" in his rental arrangement with a couple who formerly lived in Patuxent Woods, a community of houses without indoor plumbing.

Zantzinger owned Patuxent Woods properties until May 1986, when the county foreclosed on the half-dozen houses because of his failure to pay more than $18,000 in property taxes and penalties. Court documents said he continued to charge residents rent, sometimes taking them to court when payments were overdue, according to court records.

Read this, and tell me if you don't think he deserved all he got and more:

According to press accounts of Zantzinger's trial, he and his wife arrived at the ball, a charity event called the Spinsters' Ball, at the Emerson Hotel on Friday evening, February 8, 1963. He was in top hat, white tie, and tails, attire with which a cane is optional. Unlike other guests, Zantzinger didn't check his cane at the door because, as he said, "I was having lots of fun with it, tapping everybody." Tapping turned to hitting; a bellboy named George Gessell said Zantzinger struck him on the arm, and a waitress named Ethel Hill said Zantzinger argued with her and struck her several times across the buttocks. At about 1:30 a.m., he ordered a drink from the bar from Hattie Carroll, one of the barmaids. When she didn't bring it immediately, he cursed at her. Carroll replied, "I'm hurrying as fast as I can." Zantzinger said, "I don't have to take that kind of shit off a nigger," and struck her on the shoulder with the cane. Soon after, Hattie Carroll said, "I feel deathly ill, that man has upset me so." She then collapsed and was taken to the hospital.

"What makes it hard to bear was that no one at the party challenged him, no one stopped him," Rev. Jessup said. "He was bold enough to behave like this in the presence of many people, and not one of them intervened. Maybe they had connections to him, maybe they came for business, or their hands were tied by who he was. But not one of those people stood up for her."

[...]

Zantzinger was sentenced in the Hattie Carroll killing on August 28, 1963. As it happened, that was the day of the March on Washington, when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Baltimore Sun all ran stories about the sentencing; the Times gave it a short, single-column write-up on page 15; the stories in the Post and the Sun were not much larger. None mentioned that anybody objected to the lightness of the sentence.

All three papers devoted pages and pages to the march; and it is striking, to a reader with the perspective of four decades, how blind (for want of a better word) the coverage in all three papers was. What comes through in the stories about the march is a vast relief -- shared, presumably, by the reporters, the papers' management, and their readership -- that the 200,000-plus assembled Negroes hadn't burned Washington to the ground. All three papers used the adjective "orderly" in their headlines; all reported prominently on President Kennedy's praise for the marchers' politeness and decorum. The Post and the Sun gave small notice to Dr. King, and less to what he said. Neither made much of the phrase "I have a dream." Only James Reston of the Times understood that he had witnessed a great work of oratory, but even his story veered into brow-wiping at the good manners of the Negroes.

Listening to "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" today, you can hear Dylan shouting against exactly this blindness. The song he wrote took a one-column, under-the-rug story and played it as big as it deserved to be. Dylan's voice sounds so young, hopeful, unjaded, noncommercial -- so far from the Victoria's Secret world of today. Even the song's title is well chosen: Before I went to Hattie Carroll's church, I hadn't quite understood why her death was "lonesome." But of course, as Rev. Jessup noted, "not one of those people stood up for her"; in a party full of elegant guests, Hattie Carroll was on her own.

At the time of his death, Bill Zantzinger was working as a foreclosure auctioneer. This man profited off the less fortunate all his life, and it's clear that he had nothing but contempt for them. Deeds speak.

Rot in hell, Zantziger...and may the demons eternally cane your worthless, sorry ass to this tune:

January 6, 2009

Two for Palestine

Spanish punk group Boikot (how do YOU think it's pronounced?) featured in two videos--a photo-collage set to their "Wall of Shame", and a live rendition of the power-rocky "Scorched Earth".

Enjoy!

January 2, 2009

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Yes, I WOULD like some salsa with my revolution, thanks!

Grupo Madera brings you the new year's big hit:

Those red blouses and white skirts on the dancers are super-cute (and in Canada, they'd be downright patriotic). I especially like the rappin' muchacha at the end.

December 30, 2008

Dear Big Publishing: You suck!

And do you know why? Salon.com does:

Thanks to conglomeration and corporate distribution models, some of publishing's biggest houses were laid very low by the current stock market collapse. And scary holiday book sales figures compounded the industry's woes, with recent news of a 20 percent drop in sales in October from last year's book market. Even worse, Nielsen Book Scan reported a 6.6 percent drop in unit sales during early December. Not even the holiday season could bolster book sales.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was particularly vulnerable to the Wall Street crash. Since the turn of the 21st century, investors have struggled to spin gold out of the different companies that now make up the conglomerate. In 2001, Vivendi Universal bought Houghton Mifflin (which has been publishing literary and educational books since the late 1800s), but then sold it to private equity firms a year later. In 2006, an Irish firm bought Houghton Mifflin; within a year, they had merged with one of Houghton Mifflin's largest rivals, Harcourt. The publisher's parent company is now saddled with billions in debt.

"There were hedge fund guys with no background in publishing buying up publishing houses," says André Schiffrin, founder of the New Press and author of "The Business of Books: How the International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read." He explains that corporate owners of major publishing houses expected impossible 15 to 20 percent profit margins in an industry with traditional margins of 3 to 4 percent. "They were part of that whole feeling that you could make money by buying and selling companies, rather than by selling books. At some point it comes to a dead end."

Free us, oh, please FREE us from the "free market"!

December 4, 2008

Prop 8, the Musical

And you'll never guess who plays Jesus!

November 25, 2008

RIP Kenny MacLean

"Somebody Somewhere", the hit written by Kenny MacLean for Platinum Blonde, a Toronto band, in the mid-1980s. Kenny, the band's bass player from their second album onward, was found dead today of a probable heart attack. He was 52.

November 21, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Just a bunch of happy Spanish ska-punks...

...saluting Chavecito:

November 16, 2008

The wiki-wacky way to talk Argentino

So there I was, last night, googling around for silly stuff. I think I was looking for something on that perverted old freak Carlos Menem and his horrible facelift. (I suspect he had more than just his cheeks done, because his lips look like overstuffed frankfurters, and they hardly move when he talks. Gortex implants anyone?)

Well, I found something else. Did you know there's this place called the Uncyclopedia, and its entry on Argentina is hilarious?

Here's a sample:

Argentina is mostly purple and large areas of it are injection-moulded from polypropylene. Argentines are very proud of their national sport of selling their daughter´s asses, which contrary to popular belief, is more popular than football (or soccer as those no good, un-civilized, ignorant, down-syndromed americans would call it).

It is not advised for small children (under 3 years) as small parts of Argentina may easily be swallowed. Do not immerse Argentina in water and do not feed it after midnight. It is strongly requested that you do not cry for it.

Argentina is equipped with three USB ports, a full-colour monitor, and a small shovel. Aforementioned shovel is usually employed by Argentines to bury themselves in cow excretement for ritualistic purposes. Argentina also has periodic cameo appearances on the critically acclaimed soap opera, Boat de Love, where she plays the deadly foreign half-robot sex slave of the aristocrat, Dobby the house elf of Harry Potter II: Return to the Thunderdome. Only £39.99 from all good pet shops*.

All of which is good to know, but the really priceless part is the lesson on how to talk Argentino. I just recently got a copy of The Motorcycle Diaries (the film, which is beautifully shot--and, unusual for an adaptation, is very nearly as good as the book). And I could not make head nor ass of what the Ches were all saying. This REALLY cleared it up for me.

Let it never be said that wiki-pages aren't good for SOMETHING.

November 14, 2008

Death of a President

Video in Spanish, 1 hr. A special presentation at the Teresa Carreño Theatre in Caracas, of Argentine playwright Rodolfo Quebleen's dramatic monologue. Starring Roberto Moll as Salvador Allende, the martyred president of Chile, who died defending the presidential palace, La Moneda, during the coup d'état of September 11, 1973. Stick around for the last 4 minutes and you'll see "Allende" get a hug from a living president, one of his biggest followers in both socialism and constitutional democracy.

November 9, 2008

Chavecito gets punked!

Ahem. Make that SKA-punked. A Spanish anarcho-socialist bandleader learned how to see through the media lies, and now he's a Bolivarian. Aporrea has the story:

The program "Skaravan, the Caravan of Ska", broadcast on RNV Activa, Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., interviewed Pulpul, the leader of the band Ska-P, who was in Switzerland on tour supporting the band's latest CD, "Lágrimas y Gozos". Ska-P will be coming to Venezuela to give a concert in Caracas on Saturday the 15th, and in Valencia on Sunday the 16th, along with the "Caravan of Happiness" which the youth wing of the PSUV is staging in advance of the regional elections.

The leader of the Spanish ska-punk band, whose lyrics are profoundly socialistic and libertarian, said that he wrote the song "El Libertador" in honor of the revolutionary process, after having researched Hugo Chávez and his revolution on the Internet.

Interviewed by Freddy Clark, Pulpul said, "Here in Spain, Chávez is seen as a dictator who is generating poverty. I started to investigate a bit, and got into more depth on the Bolivarian Revolution thanks to a friend of mine, a Frenchman, who told me that I had to look to the Internet, which is the only information source that could show me the truth." He added, "I started to read, saw the work of the missions and how they got rid of illiteracy in only two years, the agrarian reform, the Lands Law, the distribution of land to peasants. I got to know more and more, and saw that this demon they were selling us was not such a demon. I told the rest of the band about what was happening over there, and together we investigated, got into more depth, and decided to write a song in honor of this process, which is so important to all the people of the left in the world. It might be the most improtant revolutionary movement of the century."

Translation mine; MP3 of the song at the link (give it a listen, it's good).

Pulpul goes on to say that he still doesn't believe in leaders, but "when there is a good leader, you have to recognize him." Like many other Spanish leftist punkers, he's linked to the anarchist movement, which has much in common with the socialists but doesn't believe in vertical hierarchies of power. Venezuelan anarchists, on the other hand, largely support the Boliviarian Revolution, because it has enabled them to create their own non-hierarchical communities. (Yeah, find a REAL dictator who not only WON'T crack down on anarchists, but actually aids and abets them, ye oafish oppos.)

Here's the band playing one of their hits, "El Vals del Obrero" (The Workers' Waltz):

"Yes sir, yes sir, we are the revolution, your enemy is the boss."

October 30, 2008

Canadian pop does feminism

"Women Around the World at Work", by Martha & the Muffins. Still the coolest keyboard and sax riffs around. And still some of the punchiest lyrics.

October 20, 2008

Dig this, bitches!

First, a little mood music, maestro:

Alas poor Lorca, they don't know where he is, Horatio...but maybe now, they'll finally get to the bottom of whatever mass grave the great Spanish bard disappeared to:

Judge Baltasar Garzon opened the first formal probe into murder and repression during Spain's fascist era on Thursday by filing a 68-page writ ordering the immediate exhumation of 19 mass graves -- including one thought to contain the remains of poet Federico Garcia Lorca.

Garzon, a National Court judge, is best known for his tenacious campaign to prosecute former Argentinian dictator Augusto Pinochet. His new order cites 114,266 people as missing or "disappeared" under General Francisco Franco. Garzon says the repression and systematic extermination of political opponents during the Franco era amount to "crimes against humanity."

An estimated 500,000 people died in the Spanish civil war, and both sides committed atrocities against civilians. Garzon's initiative focuses on those who, like Garcia Lorca, were on the losing Republican side.

Of course, the worst atrocities were committed by the fascists against the Republicans (who were small-d democrats, as the fascists were not.) And that's exactly why people like this don't want those graves being dug up:

Spanish conservatives in general oppose the investigation. "I am not in favor of opening the wounds of the past," said conservative People's Party Mariano Rajoy last month.

Stands to reason. The "People's Party" were what the Franco-fascists morphed into once the dictatorship officially ended. And since it was their side that got the amnesty for the atrocities, of course they don't want it all getting back out into the light of day! And what does that say about "democratic" Spain today?

The left-leaning daily El Pais wrote, "The public lynching Garzon is being subjected to gives an idea of the democratic deficit that Spain suffers, derived in great measure from failing to confront ghosts when it should have."

Bingo. First truth, THEN reconciliation. Not the other way around.

October 9, 2008

Two by Bruce Cockburn

"If I Had a Rocket Launcher"--a peaceful man's anger at war on the poor.

"Call it Democracy"--still relevant today.

This is the kind of great Canadian artist that Harpo thinks is irrelevant to regular folks. Remember this when you go to vote!

October 8, 2008

Quotable: Margaret Atwood on the arts in Canada

"At present, we are a very creative country. For decades, we've been punching above our weight on the world stage - in writing, in popular music and in many other fields. Canada was once a cultural void on the world map, now it's a force. In addition, the arts are a large segment of our economy: The Conference Board estimates Canada's cultural sector generated $46-billion, or 3.8 per cent of Canada's GDP, in 2007. And, according to the Canada Council, in 2003-2004, the sector accounted for an 'estimated 600,000 jobs (roughly the same as agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil & gas and utilities combined).'

"But we've just been sent a signal by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he gives not a toss for these facts. Tuesday, he told us that some group called "ordinary people" didn't care about something called "the arts." His idea of "the arts" is a bunch of rich people gathering at galas whining about their grants. Well, I can count the number of moderately rich writers who live in Canada on the fingers of one hand: I'm one of them, and I'm no Warren Buffett. I don't whine about my grants because I don't get any grants. I whine about other grants - grants for young people, that may help them to turn into me, and thus pay to the federal and provincial governments the kinds of taxes I pay, and cover off the salaries of such as Mr. Harper. In fact, less than 10 per cent of writers actually make a living by their writing, however modest that living may be. They have other jobs. But people write, and want to write, and pack into creative writing classes, because they love this activity - not because they think they'll be millionaires.

"Every single one of those people is an 'ordinary person.' Mr. Harper's idea of an ordinary person is that of an envious hater without a scrap of artistic talent or creativity or curiosity, and no appreciation for anything that's attractive or beautiful. My idea of an ordinary person is quite different. Human beings are creative by nature. For millenniums we have been putting our creativity into our cultures - cultures with unique languages, architecture, religious ceremonies, dances, music, furnishings, textiles, clothing and special cuisines. 'Ordinary people' pack into the cheap seats at concerts and fill theatres where operas are brought to them live. The total attendance for 'the arts' in Canada in fact exceeds that for sports events. 'The arts' are not a 'niche interest.' They are part of being human."

--Margaret Atwood, Mel Hurtig lecture at the University of Alberta, October 1, 2008.

October 1, 2008

An underrated gem of the '80s

Danielle Dax, "Cat-House":

I have only one CD of hers--Dark Adapted Eye--and yes, every track on it is as hallucinogenic, quirky and utterly addictive as this one. She plays practically all her own instruments, AND looks gorgeous to boot. Her lyrics are wildly original. Why was she not a superstar?

September 23, 2008

Quotable: Wajdi Mouawad on art and politics

"Now, as one functionary to another, this is the second thing that I wanted to tell you: no government, in showing contempt for artists, has ever been able to survive. Not one. One can, of course, ignore them, corrupt them, seduce them, buy them, censor them, kill them, send them to camps, spy on them, but hold them in contempt, no. That is akin to rupturing the strange pact, made millennia ago, between art and politics."

--Wajdi Mouawad, "An open letter to Prime Minister Harper", at The Wrecking Ball

September 17, 2008

A little song for the prefect of Pando

My fellow Canuck, Kim Stockwood, says it so much better than I ever could. (Dishonorable mentions also go out to Philip Goldberg, Patrick Duddy, and all the Media Luna-tics.)

September 16, 2008

Chavecito's "Blue Period"

A painting by Hugo Chavez

Actually, this one's called "The Yare Moon". It was recently auctioned off to raise funds for the PSUV's latest electoral campaign. Chavecito painted it while in Yare Prison after his failed coup attempt of '92.

The caption under the barred window reads "The Mill of the Gods grinds slowly!"

I'm guessing this was the actual view from his cell. And look! There's a guard tower, and some scraggly weeds in the yard, and those hooky concentration-camp-things that they hang barbed-wire fencing off of, too.

August 28, 2008

Two "prestigious" Chavez-haters get owned by a Russky

Yes, folks, I'm talking about those two once-notable authors, Mario Vargas Llosa and Carlos Fuentes, who have both decided to keep their names in the news by turning their pens to machetes in the name of right-wing hackery.

Since it's currently fashionable in certain circles to bash Chavecito for everything from his impoverished background to his military career to his friendship with Fidel to, yes, his nonwhiteness--well, when talent deserts you, you just gotta turn your hand to something, and why not something fashionable? It's either that or the bottle of Victory Gin (and I wouldn't put that past either one of these sour old boys, either. Hey, it worked out fine for Christopher Hitchens--he gets to crapagandize and drink himself insensible with the proceeds.)

Now, Russia doesn't have a notable journalistic tradition that I'm aware of. (Mind you, Pravda may not be the best thing to go by on this one.) No more than it has a lengthy and illustrious history of parliamentary democracy. But I can see I shall have to visit Tiwy.com more often, because this is one Russia-based news site that strives to get things right.

Case in point: Nil Nikandrov's excellent piece on the two writers-turned-crapagandists. Nikandrov definitely seems to have Vargas Llosa's number--and on speed-dial, at that:

Continue reading "Two "prestigious" Chavez-haters get owned by a Russky" »

August 24, 2008

Disco that doesn't suck

"I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You". The Alan Parsons Project.

July 23, 2008

Charlie Rose in conversation with Neil Young

Canada's elder statesman of folk-rock strips his soul--buck naked--on his Living With War album, his latest film, creativity, ecology, love and more:

Young doesn't use set-lists in his performances; he proceeds naturally and organically, as the feeling takes him. He repeatedly emphasizes the notion of creativity as a gift, a mysterious impulse to be followed as it strikes: "Respect the source. Be there for the source."

Words to live by, whether you're talking about creative impulses, or anything else.

April 11, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Viva Zapata!

Hugo Chavez in a replica of Emiliano Zapata's sombrero

Why is Chavecito wearing a big sombrero? Because the daughter of a rather important Mexican hero has just delivered a big honor to him.

Continue reading "Festive Left Friday Blogging: Viva Zapata!" »

January 19, 2008

Gore Vidal on The Real News

A set of interviews with Gore Vidal, the shocking, provocative and painfully honest elder statesman of American literature.

January 5, 2008

The face of fucking craziness

I'm sorry to inflict this on y'all, but...

Continue reading "The face of fucking craziness" »

December 27, 2007

More proof that Dubya doesn't read

...and neither does he, nor any of his lackeys, have the slightest concept of a little thing known as reading comprehension.

Think Progress has ferreted out the real source of Dubya's antipathy to embryonic stem cell research--a total misinterpretation of an improbable scenario from Aldous Huxley (read aloud to him, of course, by one of his loyal flunkies, since Dubya can't be bothered to bestir himself):

Continue reading "More proof that Dubya doesn't read" »

December 25, 2007

Oh look! I found The Frantics!!!

And now that I've said that, I'll have to put them back again.

(Seriously, folks...you haven't seen Canadian comedy until you've seen these guys.)

("SHUT UP!!!")

December 21, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: I wanna wish you a merry Yuletide...

Feliz Chavidad...

Feliz Chavidad #1

Continue reading "Festive Left Friday Blogging: I wanna wish you a merry Yuletide..." »

December 10, 2007

Omar Sharif regrets

In a celebrity culture replete with vapid idiots like Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton, et al, it's easy to get cynical about celebs in general. The antics of the young, rich and stupid often make us forget that their elders exist, let alone that among them are ones like Omar Sharif--a great actor whose conscience refuses to be silent:

Omar Sharif still regrets having played Che Guevara in a 1969 film which was "entirely manipulated by the CIA", which he regards today as the biggest mistake of his life.

"I asked to make a movie that didn't take a fascist tone," he said in an interview in Cairo, where he just finished filming his latest, Al Musafir (The Traveller), with young Egyptian director Ahmed Maher.

In 1969, it was just two years after the guerrilla war had ended in Bolivia, "and Che was still an incredible hero," said Sharif.

The actor, 76, bitterly remembers that his "Che" had a certain dignity because he demanded it in his contract, "but Jack Palance's Fidel Castro, and the movie in general (directed by Richard Fleischer) resulted in a fascist product."

"The CIA was behind it, and wanted to make a film that would please the Miami Cubans. I alone cared about the outcome," he recalled, adding that a movie house on the Champs-Elysees in Paris was burned by audience members incensed by the negative image the film gave of Che and the Cuban Revolution.

Translation mine.

BTW, I could not find this story ANYWHERE in the English-language media. The closest I could get to a recent news story about him was this unflattering item. Which makes him sound a bit like a male Lindsey Lohan.

Don't you love that liberal media memory hole?

November 19, 2007

The Warning

Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame) has created a powerful video that rings all the right alarm bells. Crank your speakers.

November 10, 2007

One less thing to lie awake about

What? No suitcase nukes? Damn, there goes my fantasy of blowing up the world by sneaking one through customs.

Members of Congress have warned about the dangers of suitcase nuclear weapons. Hollywood has made television shows and movies about them. Even the Federal Emergency Management Agency has alerted Americans to a threat - information the White House includes on its Web site.

But government experts and intelligence officials say such a threat gets vastly more attention than it deserves. These officials said a true suitcase nuke would be highly complex to produce, require significant upkeep and cost a small fortune.

Counterproliferation authorities do not completely rule out the possibility that these portable devices once existed. But they do not think the threat remains.

"The suitcase nuke is an exciting topic that really lends itself to movies," said Vahid Majidi, the assistant director of the FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate. "No one has been able to truly identify the existence of these devices."

Continue reading "One less thing to lie awake about" »

October 19, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Hasta la victoria siempre!

I'm a little late in paying tribute to Che Guevara on this blog, but better late than never. Here's a rap song dedicated to El Comandante Amigo:

October 18, 2007

Quotable: Tori Amos on archetypes

"What do I say to people who don't know how to interpret my songs? You don't read the Bible literally. I thought parables were very clear, yet a lot of people have problems with them when they pop up today. I can't tell people that maybe they need to read some books, brush up on their archetypes. They could probably go on a website and figure it out. But literalizing is very much part of the patriarchy. If you want something made concrete, I'll give you some shoes and pour some cement in them and we'll drop you off in the river."

--Tori Amos, from the introduction to Tori Amos Piece by Piece: A Portrait of the Artist: Her Thoughts. Her Conversations.

September 28, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: If Sharif don't like it...

"Rock the Casbah".

(I figured that in light of all the recent hysteria in favor of bombing Iran, a little levity and perspective were called for.)

September 25, 2007

Kevin Spacey: Another Chavista?

Sure looks that way!

According to Aporrea, the actor was in Venezuela yesterday to meet with President Chavez. Spacey is another strong critic of the Bush regime, and interested in the Bolivarian revolutionary process in Venezuela, like Sean Penn, who recently did some journalistic coverage of it. The two-time Oscar winner also expressed his support for Chavecito's mediation between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels. He's in good company--fellow actor Danny Glover and singer/songwriter Harry Belafonte are both also US Chavistas.

Viva el Spacey!

September 23, 2007

And now, a moment of silence...

...for Marcel Marceau, who said so much without uttering a peep.

Continue reading "And now, a moment of silence..." »

September 21, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: A tribute to Che

Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko reads two poems in Spanish at the Poetry Festival in Caracas: his passionate ode to Che Guevara, and a humorous selection called "More or Less".

September 7, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle has tessered

A splendid 88-year wrinkle in time has, alas, come to an end.

Author Madeleine L'Engle, whose novel "A Wrinkle in Time" has been enjoyed by generations of schoolchildren and adults since the 1960s, has died, her publicist said Friday. She was 88. L'Engle died Thursday at a nursing home in Litchfield of natural causes, according to Jennifer Doerr, publicity manager for publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Continue reading "Madeleine L'Engle has tessered" »

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Viva Pachamama!

A video collage with a cool, catchy tune. Starring all my favorite revolutionaries. From Ecuador!

September 6, 2007

Addio, Luciano...

Today, we have lost a Caruso.

Nessun dorma.

Arrivederci, maestro. Mille grazie.

September 3, 2007

MI5 = clueless gits

Really. It took them HOW long to figure out that George Orwell was not a (gasp) COMMUNIST?

MI5 did not believe George Orwell was a mainstream communist despite monitoring the socialist writer for more than two decades, records have revealed.

A Scotland Yard Special Branch report in January 1942 said the author of 1984 had "advanced communist views".

However, an MI5 officer responded that Orwell "does not hold with the Communist Party nor they with him."

Continue reading "MI5 = clueless gits" »

August 17, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: The art of Chavecito

No, this is not one his own paintings. I just find it interesting how once in while, Chavecito crops up in a work of fine art:

Chavecito in an art poster

I can't remember where I found this on the Internets, but it's a very cool poster. He seems to have a halo composed of news clippings, and the artist has emphasized the black part of his heritage, right down to the power salute. His features are more Africanized, and his complexion is a bit darker than it is in reality. The message is clear: Chavecito stands with, and for, the oppressed peoples of the world--particularly those of color.

July 25, 2007

Bolivar Bolivariano...

An homage to the Liberator, on the 224th anniversary of his birth. The ballad is by Ali Primera.

July 7, 2007

FBI: J'accuse!

Puerto Rican reggaeton group, Calle 13, calls out the FBI for the cold-blooded murder of Puerto Rican independence activist Filiberto Ojeda Rios.

There is no more blatant expression of imperialism than when the federal police of the United States show up in full SWAT drag in a foreign country, and kill its most prominent independence fighter on the very anniversary of the day that country rose up against another imperial nation. Some call it a botched arrest attempt, but if that were true, they wouldn't have left him to bleed to death for 12-15 hours from what need not have been a fatal wound. They would have taken him right then and provided him with medical attention. He might still be a prisoner today--but he would be alive.

Did the FBI take up openly what the CIA does covertly? I do believe it did.

July 2, 2007

The EU--who knew?

Would you believe this is a PSA?

Holy. Mother. Of. GOD.

June 4, 2007

Ray Bradbury, right and wrong

From the Stranger Than Fiction Department, this little article on Ray Bradbury in the alternative LA Weekly--in which the author claims his most famous novel is "misinterpreted":

Bradbury still has a lot to say, especially about how people do not understand his most literary work, Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953. It is widely taught in junior high and high schools and is for many students the first time they learn the names Aristotle, Dickens and Tolstoy.

Now, Bradbury has decided to make news about the writing of his iconographic work and what he really meant. Fahrenheit 451 is not, he says firmly, a story about government censorship. Nor was it a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose investigations had already instilled fear and stifled the creativity of thousands.

This, despite the fact that reviews, critiques and essays over the decades say that is precisely what it is all about. Even Bradbury's authorized biographer, Sam Weller, in The Bradbury Chronicles, refers to Fahrenheit 451 as a book about censorship.

Bradbury, a man living in the creative and industrial center of reality TV and one-hour dramas, says it is, in fact, a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature.

Continue reading "Ray Bradbury, right and wrong" »

June 3, 2007

It was the Third of June...

Bobbie Gentry gives a wonderfully understated performance of "Ode to Billy Joe" on the Smothers Brothers show. (Thanks to King Daevid for the video link.)

April 25, 2007

Milton Nascimento: Song of America

The students of Virginia Tech have resumed classes. It seems to be the only thinkable thing to do after last week; there are educations to complete and lives to get on with. The mourning, however, doesn't end with the memorial ceremonies which are being sadly conducted in public and private, one by one.

Since I can think of no better way to honor the lives lost, I'll post this sweet, sad song by Brazil's inimitable Milton Nascimento:

Continue reading "Milton Nascimento: Song of America" »

April 22, 2007

The PEACE on Terra

In honor of Earth Day, a singer by the name of Terra Naomi crafts a video with help from people who sent in images of themselves "answering the question 'what would you do/want if anything were possible?' in three words or less."

Happy Earth Day to you!

April 15, 2007

Quotable: Joan Baez (and Bob Dylan) on holy wars

April 13, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: A musical ode to popular victory

First, one from Lloviznando Cantos:

"Y Bajaron", which celebrates the people who rescued democracy five years ago today in Venezuela. It means "And they came down"--referring to the poor barrio dwellers who came down from the hills around Caracas to protest the fascist coup and demand the return of Hugo Chavez. Tens of thousands surrounded Miraflores Palace and chanted so loudly that the fascists were spooked and ran. Then the soldiers of the palace guard moved in, took some prisoners, and flashed the victory sign from the roof (you can see it in the video.) People power at its finest!

Then, one from Sontizón: "A cada 11 le llega su 13"--"To every 11th comes its 13th".

April 12, 2007

God Bless You, Mr. Funnyguts

From the wires, a sad but not unexpected item about one of my favorite all-time writers:

American literary idol Kurt Vonnegut, best known for such classic novels as "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Cat's Cradle," died on Tuesday night in Manhattan at age 84, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Continue reading "God Bless You, Mr. Funnyguts" »

April 8, 2007

Quotable: Ursula K. Le Guin on extremes

"Almost anything carried to its logical extreme becomes depressing, if not carcinogenic."

--Ursula K. Le Guin, from the introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness

March 31, 2007

Why not a chocolate Jesus?

Because some people's religious sensibilities are waaaaay too easily offended.

A New York art gallery has decided to cancel an exhibit of a chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ after protests by a US Catholic group.

The six-foot (1.8m) sculpture, entitled "My Sweet Lord", depicts a naked Jesus Christ with his arms outspread.

The sculpture, by artist Cosimo Cavallaro, was to have been displayed from Monday at Manhattan's Lab Gallery.

Continue reading "Why not a chocolate Jesus?" »

March 24, 2007

Repent, George Lucas!

Or I shall torment thee with the stylings of...

...Weird Al Yankovic making well-deserved hash of your prequels.

March 22, 2007

One of our submarines

...is missing

tonight

seems she ran aground on manoeuvres...

Continue reading "One of our submarines" »

March 19, 2007

Gabo snubs the IAPA

From Aporrea.org, a startling little announcement about Gabriel Garcia Marquez:

We were truly concerned about the broadcast homage that the IAPA was going to give to the celebrated Colombian writer. But in a masterful move, at the last moment he excused himself, saying he was "too tired".

Continue reading "Gabo snubs the IAPA" »

March 10, 2007

I closed my eyes and I slipped away...

RIP, Brad Delp, lead singer of Boston.

Here he is, making "More Than a Feeling" unforgettable:

March 6, 2007

Happy birthday, Gabo!

80 years young.

Just 20 more years of solitude to go!

March 4, 2007

Beatniks find Sputnik!

Beatniks find Sputnik?

Story at the Beat Museum; judge for yourself whether they're onto something.

February 27, 2007

El Caracazo: Today in 1989

A Google video to refresh the memories of those who have them, and inform those who need to know:

"El Caracazo", a docudrama about a shattering event in Venezuelan history. In Spanish. New York Times description here. History of the events fictionalized in the film here.

Enjoy!

February 24, 2007

Dubya gets what he's got coming, again

Poor Dubya, he's been having such a rough week. First he gets spanked in Germany by Ms. Liberty, and now this:

Millions of people the world over will now realize a cherished dream: to give a big, fat kick in the ass to King George Bush. In New York, an English artist offers this cathartic service. See the brilliant photo.

British artist Mark McGowan went out this Thursday in the streets of New York dressed as US president George W. Bush, inviting people to kick him in the backside to "ease some of their frustrations".

Continue reading "Dubya gets what he's got coming, again" »

February 23, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Representing at Carnival!

A couple of weeks ago, I featured Caetano Veloso, performing his great "Tropicalia". This week, it's his old friend (and sometime brother-in-law)'s turn:

Gilberto Gil, Son of Gandhi

Gilberto Gil, Brazilian rocker turned minister of culture, rockin' out here in the garb of the "Sons of Gandhi", his longtime favorite samba school in his hometown of Salvador, the capital of Bahia.

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February 19, 2007

Quotable: Lee Stringer on writing and recognition

"This is not a science. We're not making porcelain. We're not out cutting two-by-fours. It's kind of crazy stuff just to sit in a room and click away at a--in my case, if you'll forgive me, a Mac--for eight or nine hours. It is a very unnatural thing to do. And there's no one there to tell you whether what you're doing is right or wrong. It's a very scary thing, to spend a year or so doing that. And the real fear is that you'll look back and say, 'Gee I've wasted a year doing nothing.' So in the midst of that loneliness to have another writer say 'You know, you did all right,' is a great thing."

--Lee Stringer (with Kurt Vonnegut), Like Shaking Hands With God: A Conversation About Writing

February 12, 2007

Neil Young sticks it to BushCo

All the reasons why Bush, Cheney and the entire vile bunch MUST be impeached.

February 2, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Viva a banda-da-da!

The original Festive Leftist, Brazil's Caetano Veloso, still kicks ass. This is "Tropicalia", a surreal collage of images that dates back to 1968 and sounds every bit as relevant today.


January 25, 2007

Talking to Americans, Australian edition?

Rick Mercer, watch out. Here's a comedian claiming to be Prime Minister John Howard--and NO ONE catches on. But they sure do say the darndest things.

December 6, 2006

Harry Potter Harry Potter Harry Potter!!!

I'm not sure I like Harry's extra-short haircut here (I preferred him with a floppy forelock, which he needed to conceal the scar Voldemort inflicted on him as a baby, anyway.) But I do love that they have Helena Bonham Carter for the sexy-spooky villainess, Bellatrix LeStrange. And Professor Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) promises to be even more sweetly sickening than she was in the novel. Yuck, and YUM!

November 27, 2006

Remember Reagan?

Gil Scott-Heron does:

He remembers him as a B-movie actor who co-starred with a chimp.

"The monkey was all right. The monkey was cool."

And now, the monkey is president and some of us, who never thought we'd see the day, wish it were Reagan.

November 26, 2006

They call THIS blasphemy?

Via the Revealer, I found out that the American Family Fascist Association is up in arms over a concert video showing Madonna, wearing a crown of thorns, first rising up on and then slowly stepping down off a glittery, mirror-tiled cross. The reason? IT'S BLASPHEMY! O, the HORROR!

Continue reading "They call THIS blasphemy?" »

November 19, 2006

"Sir! No, Sir!" A must-see preview!

12 minutes of radical brilliance. Can't wait for THIS to come out on DVD.

November 18, 2006

How clueless are the pop tarts?

Even if no one asks, they'll still tell.

Unfortunately.

Continue reading "How clueless are the pop tarts?" »

November 8, 2006

"If I wasn't Muslim..."

Best takeoff on "If I were a rich man" (from Fiddler on the Roof) I've ever seen:

Trenchant social commentary on bigotry, xenophobia, ignorance and fear from a European Muslim viewpoint. This one's from Bosnia, where ethnic cleansing has long been a source of unrest.

Someone, please send this to Mark Steyn, that fearmongering fascist purveyor of the "Eurabia" meme. And tell Maclean's to dump the terror-baiting fraud, whose racist rants and inane excuses therefor (no excuses, bitch!) should have no place in Canada, let alone its leading news magazine.

October 21, 2006

Death of a President: a review the Right doesn't want you to read

Warning: This entire post is one big, fat spoiler--and I'm not just talking plot. If you really don't want to know what Death of a President is like, stop reading now.

Just saw Death of a President on Google video. It's been available there since October 15. And before anyone screams "piracy", let me tell you that it isn't--if anything, it will promote sales of the film, which got rave reviews at the Toronto Film Festival last month. Why? Because Death is simply brilliant and well worth the money to see in theatres (assuming it gets the broad distribution it deserves), or, better still, buy on DVD. This is a dense, nuanced movie you will want to watch many, many times.

Continue reading "Death of a President: a review the Right doesn't want you to read" »

September 29, 2006

Read a book! Don't be afraid!

Sometimes, Google Alerts turn up some real gems in one's e-mail box. Take, for example, this lovely letter to the editors of the Arizona Republic:

Continue reading "Read a book! Don't be afraid!" »

August 11, 2006

A sad but unsurprising revelation

A great German author, outspokenly anti-Nazi, has something he's long wanted to get off his chest. Let's hear him out:

Nobel Prize-winning German writer Guenther Grass, author of the great anti-Nazi novel The Tin Drum, has admitted serving in the Waffen-SS.

He told a German newspaper he had been recruited at the age of 17 into an SS tank division and served in Dresden.

Previously it was only known he had served as a soldier and was wounded and taken prisoner by US forces.

Speaking before the publication of his war memoirs, he said his silence over the years had "weighed" upon him.

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August 4, 2006

Boy bands suck in any language

Don't believe me? I have proof.

First of all, a very lame German trio singing (???) "Where are you, my sunshine?" With a lisp that makes me cringe.

Then, the hilarious rebuttal.

Continue reading "Boy bands suck in any language" »

June 27, 2006

A most literary funeral

It's the stuff of a Gothic romance writer's dreams: A loving and famous couple, parted by death and grief, are reunited in the grave more than a century later.

No, it's not fiction. Read on:

The remains of the wife of 19th Century US writer Nathaniel Hawthorne have been reburied next to those of the author, after more than a century apart.

Sophia Peabody Hawthorne left the US with her children after her husband's death in 1864. She went to England, where she died six years later.

Her remains and those of daughter Una were exhumed from a London cemetery, after their plot fell into disrepair.

Continue reading "A most literary funeral" »

June 26, 2006

Macondo remains fictitious

And meanwhile, Aracataca remains real.

The Colombian town of Aracataca, birthplace of Nobel prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, will not be renamed to honour its most famous son.

The town's mayor proposed renaming Aracataca after Macondo, the fictional setting for the writer's most famous work, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Continue reading "Macondo remains fictitious" »

June 24, 2006

What's in a face?

What's in a name?

--Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

The less clear we are about "who wrote Shakespeare", the more "Shakespeare" can be idealized and indeed idolized. ... Just as "man bites dog" is a more eye-catching headline than "dog bites man", so "Oxford is Shakespeare" makes a better story than "Shakespeare is Shakespeare"--at least in some quarters. The brouhaha about any portrait is beside the point if the subject of the portrait didn't write the plays.

--Marjorie Garber, "Looking the Part" (in Shakespeare's Face, 2002)

It all began in the spring of 2001. Stephanie Nolen, a young reporter for the Toronto-based Globe and Mail, was chatting on the phone with her mother. Seems the parents' up-the-street neighbor in a suburb of Ottawa, Lloyd Sullivan, was the proud heir to the only oil portrait of William Shakespeare painted in the Bard's lifetime. The modest-sized likeness, dated 1603, was rendered on oak board by one John Sanders, Lloyd Sullivan's distant ancestor. Sullivan had gone to a lot of trouble to trace the painting (which had spent many years under his invalid grandmother's bed in Montreal!) to its source. He had spent ten years and thousands of dollars to have it authenticated by the best experts in the field, and now he was finally ready to make it public. Nolen, captivated from the first moment she laid eyes on "Willy Shake", as Sullivan had dubbed the picture, was more than happy to break the news to the world. And everyone who heard the story was agog.

Why such a fuss over a little old oil painting?

Continue reading "What's in a face?" »

June 8, 2006

Okay, listen up...

...today, we're gonna talk about FEAR!

But don't blink, or you'll miss Geddy Lee's faaaaaabulous cameo.

May 22, 2006

So much for the superiority of the private media...

The Beeb...living evidence that commercial radio just plain sucks, according to the UK Guardian:

The BBC's radio services have "badly bruised" its commercial rivals and Radio 1 and 2 should be sold for £500m, according to an influential report.

The UK radio market is suffering from "stunted growth" owing to the commercial sector's inability to compete against the BBC's budget and cross-promotional abilities, according to the report from the European Media Forum, an arm of independent research institute the European Policy Forum.

Continue reading "So much for the superiority of the private media..." »

May 20, 2006

Oh, my virgin eyes!!!

I swear...I'll never look at Dr. David Suzuki the same way again:

Nude David Suzuki

Continue reading "Oh, my virgin eyes!!!" »

April 9, 2006

One of the few celebrities actually worth celebrating

Susan Sarandon is one; Tim Robbins is another; Sean Penn is a third. Why? Because they dare to take a stand for what's right, whether or not it's popular at the time. Now, Charlize Theron makes four:

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation presented its Vanguard Award to Theron at the 17th annual GLAAD Media Awards for increasing "visibility and understanding in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community."

Continue reading "One of the few celebrities actually worth celebrating" »

March 28, 2006

Stanislaw Lem, R.I.P.

From the Beeb:

Polish author Stanislaw Lem, most famous for science fiction works including Solaris, has died aged 84, after suffering from heart disease.

He sold more than 27 million copies of his works, translated into about 40 languages, and a number were filmed.

His 1961 novel Solaris was made into a movie by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky in 1971 and again by American Steven Soderbergh in 2002.

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March 19, 2006

Spencer Tunick goes Bolivarian!

Mass nudity for art's sake--in Caracas? Por que no?

More than 1,500 Venezuelans shed their clothes on a main city avenue Sunday to pose for American photographer Spencer Tunick, forming a human mosaic in front of a national symbol: a statue of independence hero Simon Bolivar.

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March 16, 2006

Wish I'd been there too

The K Chronicles goes to a Thomas Dolby show

Yes, I realize this probably gives away more about my age than I'd care to admit.

So what?

March 6, 2006

For those in need of a Monday smile...

Oh, this is so Brokeback.

I mean, what could be better than six hot cowboys?

Shaking their booties?

To Elvis?

On SKATES?

Well...the ending of this clip sure could be. Heh, heh, heh.

(And they say women aren't visual? HA!)

March 5, 2006

Soy loco por ti, Simon Bolivar?

At last, my suspicions can be laid to rest--the provenance of the tune for Vila Isabel's winning samba (in the Rio carnival) is revealed:

According to percussionist and composer, Jose Carlos Capinan, the chorus, title and even the samba beat was composed by himself and current Brazilian Culture Minister Gilberto Gil in 1967.

Capinan says he has sent a letter, complaining of copyright infringement to the Samba school and the Venezuelan government.

Continue reading "Soy loco por ti, Simon Bolivar?" »

February 17, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging, Too: Tropicalia comes to "London, London"--again

Anyone know where I can get really, REALLY cheap airfare from Toronto to London so I can catch this?

Chacrinha poster from Tropicalia exhibit

Wacky TV variety-show host Chacrinha (José Abelardo Barbosa de Medeiros, 1916-1988), an inspiration to the Festive Left artistic movement, adorns a poster from the "Tropicalia" exhibit, coming to the Barbican in London, UK. The exhibit runs from February 13 to May 22, 2006.

(This'll teach me to jump the gun when it comes to FLFB! --Your Humble(d) Author.)

Festive Left Friday Blogging: The art of Marti

Passing a painting of Jose Marti

Raul Martinez's painting "Marti y la Estrella" during the first day open to public of the "Art of Cuba" exhibition in São Paulo, Brazil. (Photo credit: AFP/Mauricio Lima)

February 10, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Where's Hugo?

Can you spot Huguito Chavecito on this banner?

In good company, of course. Marching through downtown Caracas, February 4. (Photo credit: Luigino Bracci)

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January 29, 2006

A shot of Victory Gin (and tonic)

Here's a little free advice for y'all: Don't EVER watch "1984" all in one sitting. It will depress the shit out of you.

In fact, even in two sittings, it's damn near unbearable.

That's what I've been up to in my spare time, these past couple of days. Getting the shit depressed out of me. By a goddamned movie.

Continue reading "A shot of Victory Gin (and tonic)" »

December 15, 2005

A rare film review

There aren't many movies out there that I'd want to watch twice, but Donnie Darko is the happy exception. It's not only worthwhile; it's also necessary if you really want to get it. I'd recommend two viewings as a bare minimum. In fact, I'd even recommend buying the director's cut...

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March 11, 2005

A shot from the Gonzo Cannon

Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads? Who among us can be happy and proud of having all this innocent blood on our hands? Who are these swine? These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced and fooled by stupid little rich kids like George Bush? They are the same ones who wanted to have Muhammad Ali locked up for refusing to kill "gooks". They speak for all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the American character. They are racists and hate mongers among us--they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these Nazis. And I am too old to worry about whether they like it or not. Fuck them.

--Hunter S. Thompson, sadly missed

Continue reading "A shot from the Gonzo Cannon" »