Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

More on Obama 2.0

"Regular blogging" (whatever that is) will recommence soon (or whenever my other brain gets back from the shop). In the meantime, please read this quick piece by David Sirota. It's about the election, and stuff.

Aw hell, let me just quote Sirota quoting Sirota:

"[Obama]'s like any politician. He's cautious," Sirota said. "He's a potential vehicle for change, and I think he is a good vehicle, but he is just a vehicle."

His presidency may represent fundamental change, but that doesn't mean he will initiate such sweeping changes if he's elected.

"Politicians, even the best-intentioned ones, are weather vanes," Sirota said. "If the wind isn't blowing in the right direction, they will perpetuate the status quo."

It will take more than a presidential candidate to change the status quo; it'll take a movement, Sirota says.

"My concern is that people will think that by simply electing Obama, change will come, whether it's on race or economic justice issues," he said.

"If people believe that, then real change will not happen."


As I was reading through the angry responses to Obama's statement on FISA yesterday -- many of which were explicit rejections of the Obama candidacy by disaffected former supporters -- it occurred to me that, combined with the fact that (even after the last week) McCain is not getting laughed off the national stage for some of the idiotic things he's saying, Democrats may actually manage to lose this fucking election.

Wouldn't that be something? I would have thought that we had witnessed the full monty of stupidity in this country by electing Bush twice (I know, I know, he wasn't really elected, but it still astonishes me that those elections were even close). But if McCain hangs in there and pulls this shit off, well, we ain't seen nothin' yet.

One of the comments on the FISA thing (don't remember exactly where I read it, alas) said something to the effect that: "Damn! If Russ Feingold were our nominee, all this moving-to-the-center stuff wouldn't be happening!"

Bullshit. I love Russ Feingold as much as the next progressive, but come on! First of all, we did have a candidate who had a Feingoldian cut to his jib. His name was Dennis Kucinich. He didn't make it. Why didn't he make it? Because this is not a progressive country.

Would that it were. And would that it were a country in which more than 2% of the population actually had a love for jazz (or anything beyond the pablum peddled by the major labels). Maybe someday it will be both of those things (hurray, activism! hurray, advocacy! hurray, education!). But right now it ain't.

Secondly, Ghandi himself could not negotiate his way through our broken election system without having to occasionally talk out of both sides of his mouth. Sure, the problem is exacerbated by the politicians themselves, and sure, systems are made of people, and people have free will and can act differently if they so choose. But there are simultaneously other forces at work too: big, bad forces. Inertia forces. Id forces. Zeitgeist forces. Irrational, cultural forces. Technological forces (I'm looking at you, media!).

That system needs to be fixed, and those forces need to be altered, but such things are not going to happen simply by electing a certain president -- though of course it does matter who we elect to that job. (Complicated, eh?)

I repeat and paraphrase: if we screw this one up, the horror has just begun. Please, fellow lefties, I beg of you:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Happy Sunday

Do you remember when having long hair was a more or less clear symbol that you were a member of the counterculture?

Wow, those days are long gone, aren't they? Watch as some dude who could pass for a young Ozzy Osbourne interrupts (mid-sermon) an openly gay Anglican bishop who could pass for an old Ozzie Nelson.

What's with kids today, anyhow?

Oh, and by the way: if I live to be a thousand, I will never understand why anyone gives a shit what anyone else does in the privacy of their own bedroom. Alas, we humans are a petty lot.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Speaking of blogs...

...I just got wind of the LA Jazz Collective's online journal.

I've known about this group for a while, but I didn't know they were delving into the whole blog thing. Note to LAJC: Get out while you can, guys! Save your sanity!

Anyway, go check it out; it's a good read.

Alas, any realistic jazz blog is gonna be peppered with heartbreaking posts like this postmortem of a gig gone bad, written by pianist Gary Fukushima. An excerpt:

Dolores told me she felt disrespected by the musicians for a number of things, including the coffee cups, band members complaining about their food, and the fact that I advertised this gig in the LAJC newsletter starting with the phrase, “on a smaller scale…”. Of course, what comes to mind when hearing something like that is all of these little things that she took offense to were probably generated by the fact that no musician in their right mind thinks they’ve invested a lifetime’s worth of study and often times very expensive college tuition at a first rate music school so they can play at a place that won’t invest a dime of its own money into the music. The resentment is there from the beginning, which can be mitigated if the club respects the musicians and the music. Well, the bartender was grumpy at best and sometimes unbelievably rude, the band had to buy their own drinks, and tonight they wouldn’t even feed the band, so Robby bought drinks for his band instead. This on top of making $6 each at the door.

It’s an intolerable situation. The club feels like they’re doing the musicians a favor by providing a space for them to make music. The musicians feel like they’re doing the club a favor by providing music for their space. If business is good, that agreement is fine, if it’s bad those sentiments turn toxic in a hurry, which is exactly what happened.

Robby said something very important after our ill-fated evening. He said one of the main reasons why we have started the LAJC is to avoid these situations, and he’s right. We should have the power and the resources to make sure this thing doesn’t happen again, to set up a situation that will be both beneficial to the musicians and the venues that host us.

I recently fell into a situation where I may have an opportunity to present a music series of my own here in PDX... but when I'm reminded of scenarios like the one Gary describes, I have to wonder if I reeeeaaaally want to get into that. We'll see.

Friday, July 04, 2008

"Friday" Muxtape no. 10 (belated as hell); Obama 2.0

Yup, this shoulda woulda coulda gone up on Friday. [Insert the usual excuses here, tour planning, life intruding, blah blah blah.]

Mea culpa. But don't hold it against me: the mux is still worth a listen!

Paticularly: track two features Kris Tiner's splendid lil' ensemble, referenced in a previous post o' mine. The album (and the band) are highly recommended, of course.

The Sonics: "Have Love Will Travel"
Empty Cage Quartet: "Old Ladies"
Lee Wiley: "A Hundred Years From Today"
Pink Martini: "Lilly"
Jerseyband: "Lord Magnificent"
James Brown: "Down and Out in NY City"
The Louvin Brothers: "The Great Atomic Power"
James Kochalka Superstar: "Monkey vs. Robot"
Angelic Gospel Singers: "Back to the Dust"
Johnny Otis: "Castin' My Spell on You"
Lee Hazlewood: "I Move Around"
Spoon: "The Underdog"


* * * * *

[Oh, boy, here he goes shooting his mouth off on the subject of politics again. Goddamn, but I thought he was done with that -- Ed.]

Okay, I can't resist any longer. How about that Barack Obama, eh? It's been a busy few weeks.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that I have been an Obama supporter for a long time -- well before the primaries, in fact.

But honestly, I have never felt swayed by the "rockstar" thing, the in-the-tank mentality, or the halo-allegations that seem to have attracted many of his supporters. I didn't get the Obama girl concept, I thought the man came off as a bit of a buffoon on the Ellen Degeneres show, I thought the video was about 35% too precious, and although I liked most of the speeches, I know full well that we can not live by rhetoric alone. (And, incidentally, I don't get Barry's tendency to use prompters planted on diametrically opposed sides of the room -- it usually gives the impression that he's watching a very slow-motion tennis match while speech-ifying. Awkward!)

So the more extreme, ethereal, emotional form of Obama-mania always frightened me, at least partly because it was inevitable that the bubble was going to burst at some point. Predictably, for some folks it has been bursting practically every day since the primaries ended.

The mainstream media, in their infinite wisdom, have a phrase for this burstification. They call it "moving to the center." Maybe that's what it is, maybe it isn't. (I'd like to believe 'em, really I would, but it's hard to know how to process information given to you by people who seriously entertain the notion that getting shot down in Vietnam may actually be a qualification for being president).

Look: I can hardly blame leftward-oriented folks for feeling more than a little on-edge in the wake of post-primary developments (FISA, Supreme Court decisions, Muslim photo ops, faith-based initiatives, etc.), or in anticipation of this election. After 7 years of Bush (not to mention the brave new world of the Internets), whaddya expect? Plus, when it comes to the future of this country, there's so much that has all the texture and aroma of Armageddon that the late great George Carlin may have been right when he declared that "this country is finished."

But shit, people -- now is not a time for purism, either. I mean, we don't want to lose, do we?! Here's someone named Sara opining on the brouhaha over Obama's FISA stance:

I don't understand what all the fuss is about Obama's statement. To me it seems like a pretty typical case of working within the system to rise up through the system in order to change the system. Is patience such a rare quality in a politician that we don't recognize it anymore and misperceive it as cowardice?

Prioritizing the present and the future over the past--with an end date in mind for this prioritization--is hardly a glaring warning sign of ethical fluidity or weakness. It's basic triage.

He doesn't want to try to fix everything from the floor of the Senate. That's why he's running for President. I'm OK with that approach.

Indeed. And here's insightful MandyW (same post):

In a democracy, unelected activists are free to take extreme, uncompromising positions. They succeed insofar as their arguments convince the majority of the people of the correctness and importance of their views (e.g. abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison). Thus, they can transform unrealistic ideals into practical possibilities.

Elected politicians, otoh, MUST compromise to reflect the mainstream of public opinion. (What's the point of democracy if elected leaders pay NO attention to the "will of the people"?) That means the reforms they can accomplish are by definition less sweeping than what outside activists would prefer, but at least they can actually accomplish something (e.g. Presidents like Abraham Lincoln).

For democracy to work, we need BOTH outside activists AND elected politicians. It's silly for activists to denounce ANY deviation by a politician from their view of what's "perfect" as a sellout. It's equally silly for politicians to dismiss ANY deviation by an activist from their view of what's "practical" as not worth considering.

Yes, I'm disappointed at the stance that the Dems, including Obama, are taking on the FISA Act. I assume it's because they fear that a stronger stand would encourage 527's to pop up to attack them, citing FISA as proof that they're "soft on terrorism".

Sadly, imho, such 527 attacks would probably be effective. It could make it a lot harder for Obama to get elected and/or for the Dems to get a large enough majority in Congress to actually accomplish anything on things like Health Care after the election.

These ladies have it exactly right. How much stupider could Obama be than to get hamstrung by the "PETA syndrome" -- political stances that may draw attention and engender a certain degree of moral satisfaction (for those who grasp and sympathize with their meaning), but that ultimately fail to break through the deadlock. It would be like, oh, I don't know, a jazz composer declaring that there was no redeeming value in pop music, thereby shoring up the quaint but useless notion of "high art."

When I taught writing in college, the primary criterion for evaluating student work was cogency. All freshman writing assignments presented students with a basic debate into which they were supposed to position themselves effectively. The idea was to write an argument that had the potential to actually convince someone on the other side, rather than taking up the rhetorical bludgeon and simply attempting to insist and assert the reader into submission. Students had to start by trying to find some common ground with their opposition, giving whatever counterarguments existed a fair shake (without, of course, weakening their own position).

That's not an easy thing to do, but Obama would have aced that class. I just hope his supporters can figure it out too.

* * * * *

And besides. Specifically:

I learned long ago, when working as an organizer on the South Side of Chicago, that when citizens join their voices together, they can hold their leaders accountable. I’m not exempt from that. I’m certainly not perfect, and expect to be held accountable too.

I'd like to see John McCain say that without choking.

* * * * *

By the way, phenomenal PDX-based saxophonist Lee Elderton -- who will most likely be joining the IJG for our Pacific Northwest tour this September (fingers crossed!) -- has a blog. It features much better Obama rally pix than the ones I posted here.