Friday, March 31, 2006

EEOC v. Honda: Nothing seems right in cars

Honda claims to support diversity. Why, there are even three Black women in the front row of the photo on this page:
Honda is committed to maintaining a diverse workforce. We strive to attract, employ and retain a talented, diverse pool of associates from communities throughout the United States. Honda recognizes the value of outreach activities to ensure that we can accomplish our goal of developing a workforce that represents today's multicultural society.

Nice. Now if were only true.

According to the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch:

A former Honda manager in charge of diversity and ethics says the company violated her civil rights when she was fired nearly two years ago, according to a lawsuit.

. . .

Ways, who is black, was the senior manager responsible for diversity and ethics at Honda corporate offices in Marysville until April 2004. That’s when Honda fired Ways "after she protested racial discrimination in employment," according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Courty by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Ways’ behalf.

. . .

Ways was responsible for "auditing personnel actions and processes; and increasing diversity and integrity in reporting of diversity matters to federal agencies," according to the commission. While at Honda, she opposed conduct she deemed discriminatory on "numerous" occasions, the commission said.

In one example cited by the commission, Ways intervened on behalf of a qualified black engineering applicant who was not hired. Ways also alleged that Honda management showed a pattern of denying her workforce data and information that she needed to do her job.

. . .

Honda and other Japanese automakers have faced more allegations of racism in hiring practices than domestic companies, said James Rubenstein, a Miami University professor who has written books on the industry.

"The Big Three (are) associated with Detroit, which is a heavy African-American city," he said. "The Japanese carmakers, when they first came to America, they didn’t locate in Detroit. They didn’t locate in big cities. They located in rural communities that are predominantly white."

Rubenstein comes with some serious cred. From his U of Miami page, we see he teaches:
  • Global Forces, Local Diversity
  • Geography of the Auto Industry
  • Geography of Urban Diversity
and his bio states:
I am an auto industry analyst. I study current trends and issues in the auto industry. As a geographer, I am especially interested in where factories open and close - and why. I am author of two books on the auto industry Making and Selling Cars: Innovation and Change in the U.S. Automotive Industry and The Changing U.S. Auto Industry: A Geographical Analysis. I am currently working on a book with Thomas Klier Who Really Made Your Car? which looks at the growing importance of parts suppliers. I am a consultant at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, working with the Regional Analysis Group in the Research Department.

So what does this all mean? Did Honda screw up? The EEOC doesn't file suits, especially under the Bush administration, unless they think something is really going on. The last time I wrote about the EEOC it was in re: Tyson Foods in Arkansas and Whites Only bathrooms. (Note: It is doubtful that Tyson corporate knew about this, yet local management didn't stop it.)

And that was just plain ol' American racism. Honda's situation seems different, as it is a Japanese owned corporation, with different ethnic issues likely unclear to westerners. Yet it still seems troubling. Especially since the person fired was the Manager of Diversity. Maybe she did her job too well. I don't know.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

DeLay: With God on our side.

A bemused Andrew Sullivan wonders:
I have no idea where people could get the idea that the Republican party has been turned into a religious sect, do you?

Actually, Andrew knows the answer, since he's responding to Tom DeLay's statement:
But this was not the time for a DeLay confessional. Instead, he gave his view on the War on Christians. "Sides are being chosen, and the future of man hangs in the balance!" he warned. "The enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won, and if we put our trust in Christ, they never will. . . . It is for us then to do as our heroes have always done and put our faith in the perfect redeeming love of Jesus Christ."
Because Jesus was so supporting of lobbyist's contributions, and golf trips, and gambling casinos, and ...

Dana Milbank's piece is really quite good in describing the religious fervor that grips the far right:
"I believe the most damaging thing that Tom DeLay has done in his life is take his faith seriously into public office, which made him a target for all those who despise the cause of Christ," Scarborough said, introducing DeLay yesterday. When DeLay finished, the host reminded the politician: "God always does his best work right after a crucifixion."

I mean, DeLay was actually crucified, with nails and everything? I'm guessing the object of their affection might have another thought or two:
21Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

22At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"

24The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is[e] to enter the kingdom of God!

25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
I'm just saying...

On a side note, with all the immigrant bashing going on these days (Sensenbrenner, I'm talking about you), the Christianists might want to remember this:

35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,

36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?

38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?

39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Sunday, March 26, 2006

There's a devil in the bottle

My friend Wintermute emailed this to me, in which we see Hank Williams, Jr. hasn't quite given up his "whiskey bent and hell bound" ways:
A 19-year-old waitress at The Peabody told Memphis police that country singer Hank Williams Jr. choked her after trying to kiss her and cussing her out.
The attack happened just after midnight Saturday and was witnessed by at least one other hotel employee, Holly Hornbeak told police.

. . .

Brown denied hotel managers tried to discourage Hornbeak from contacting police, as she told police.

Hornbeak told police she was waiting tables when Williams started asking her questions. She said he called her a "dumb bitch," then asked to kiss her, a police report said.

After more name-calling, Williams put her in a choke hold and lifted her off the ground, she said.
Nice. There's some Red State country music traditional values for you.

I worked it out wrong

Frances Fukuyama, one of the smartest Neo-Cons, once said this:
"What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government." (quoted from "The End of History?", 1989)
All I want to know is, how's that working out for you now?

Fukuyama has changed his mind. He self consciously picks the scabs on his conscience during an interview in Der Spiegel:
A lot of the neo-conservatives drew the wrong lessons from the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism. They generalized from that event that all totalitarian regimes are basically hollow at the core and if you give them a little push from the outside, they're going to collapse. Prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, most people thought that communism would be around for a long time. In fact, it disappeared within seven or eight months in 1989. That skewed the thinking about the nature of dictatorships and neo-conservatives made a wrong analogy between Eastern Europe and what would happen in the Middle East.

. . .

Iraq has become a breeding ground for terror. The upside to the war is not very high. We could get a government in Iraq, but it will be relatively weak. There will be a continuing level of violence and continued instability in that area. A model democracy is not going to emerge and set off a further wave of democratization.
This from a guy who, while active in the Project for the New American Century signed the now infamous letters to Clinton and later, GWBush. In these letters, the PNACers stamped their feet and demanded that we invade Iraq now, "even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack."

In all fairness, Fukuyama called for Rumsfeld's resignation:
In addition to distancing himself from the current administration, Fukuyama told TIME magazine that his old friend, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, should resign.
And in an essay that I'm sure got him dis-invited from the Kool Kidz club, he wrote in the NYTimes that:
Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.
Still, we can't get too excited by Fukuyama's new-found reasoning. After, he is on the steering committee of the Scooter Libby Legal Defense Trust.

Also, just so we never forget, the other authors of the GWBush letter included these fine folks:

Richard V. Allen
Gary Bauer
William Bennett
Elliot Cohen
Charles Krauthammer
Richard Perle
Norman Podhoretz
Jeane Kirkpatric
Clifford May

and many other thoughtful Neo-Cons. Thanks, kids.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

I want to be in a band, when I get to heaven

When I was a young guitar player, in bands, I used to mourn when someone I knew went straight. You know, got a real job and joined the working class. Talented musicians who never got or made a break for themselves sell insurance, deliver the mail, teach your children everyday, and no one ever know about the musical beauty in their souls.

I'm less sanguine about it now, as I realize that not everyone will get that break. Artistic success is less about democracy and more about a combination of talent, luck, and hard work.

Having said that, I understand this kid. I was him once, staying awake into the wee hours developing chops and skills, trying to further my understanding of my beloved instrument. He may go on to be a welder, pediatrician, telemarketer, or maybe even a professional guitarist. Regardless, he clearly loves playing his guitar. I'd identify him, but Google Videos has no other information.

Watch this kid have fun with one of the loveliest (and over-played) Baroque pieces, Pachelbel's Canon in D:

Kid does Canon on Guitar

By the way, shred playing may be "over", but there is still no substitute for skills. Absent some level of skill, your musical ideas will never be expressed with the completeness they might deserve. And don't confuse simple with unskilled.

And as I have said here before, you don't need to play all the notes. You just need to know where they are and when to play them to be a master of your instrument.

Update: From a commentor at HuffPo we learn that the kid is Jerry C., from Taiwan.

2nd Update: It appears from (ahem) further research that the video I posted is a kid named "funtwo" who used the backing track available at Jerry C's site and recorded his own version of the Canon. Here's the actual link to Jerry C's original performance of the piece.

Props to both, but Jerry got there first, so best to him.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Blame Canada! We need to form a full assault...

Our favorite Canadian (well, other than Neil Young) David 'Axis of Weasel' Frum is back, and, like, kinda wonders if we missed him:
One question I was asked a lot in my sabbatical from the blog: Did I still think President Bush "the right man"? Often the question was asked with heavy sarcasm, followed immediately by a grim roll call: Iraq, Katrina, prescription drugs, Dubai, immigration, etc.

There's a loaded rhetorical question.
There are many things to say about George W. Bush, positive and negative. But with his numbers dropping into the mid-30s, and even many of his friends having to acknowledge doubts and disappointments in his performance, here is one verdict that remains true, the same that Lincoln delivered on General Grant. "He fights."

And farts and burps too. Sadly, Frum continues:
When I wrote The Right Man in 2002, I tried to do justice to the president's personality, both virtues and vices. I carefully reread that book as part of my preparation for writing this next one. It itemized so many of the faults that have had their cost over the past year: the president's sometimes over-hasty decision-making, his disinclination to ask sufficiently probing questions, his aversion to detail, the overcentralization of decision-making, his often surprisingly poor personnel decisions, his unwillingness or inability to explain himself as fully and convincingly as a president ought.

Still delusional. No, David, we really didn't miss you.

In another part of the piece I can't bring myself to cut-and-paste, Frum digs into Spain after the 3.11.2004 train bombing, and conflates the Spanish response with Bush's single minded fervor for Iraqi war.

For starters, Dave, the subsequent election results had exactly nothing to do with not being "legendarily brave people" and everything to do with the Aznar government trying to sell the idea for its own political gain that ETA, the Basque separatist movement, was responsible for the bombings. The Spanish people's rage about the attacks, fueled by their disgust for Aznar's actions led to the election of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of the Socialist Worker's Party.

Well, we know anything uses the words Socialist and Worker's in a positive way is likely to annoy Frum. But in what is clearly the punch line of the piece, he derides Zapatero for, you know, following the clear will of the Spanish people by removing Spanish troops from Iraq.

David, you were wrong about Iraq, you were wrong about GWBush, you are wrong about Zapatero.

Three strikes. As Rex Hudler says, "You got to go."

Note: I just had to add these lyrics:
Blame Canada
Shame on Canada
The smut we must stop
The trash we must bash
The Laughter and fun
Must all be undone
Before someone thinks of blaming uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuus!!!!

I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters

Fron the Department of Unintended Irony, we have Mickey Kaus in Slate:
A Springsteen/Seeger album seems entirely pitched to a subset of the already-converted--no red-state audience there. And Seeger's a bit of a self-righteous twit, no?

Ahem. You see, Bruce has announced an album and tour featuring long-time political activist Pete Seeger's music. You know, Pete Seeger, the guy who
  • wrote "If I Had A Hammer"
  • wrote "Where Have All The Flowers Gone"
  • wrote "Turn, Turn, Turn"
  • along with his group The Weavers was blacklisted during McCarthy's HUAC
  • founded The Clearwater Group, which cleaned up pollution in the Hudson River
  • served in the Pacific in WW II
  • left the Communist Party long before other socialists did, when they found out about Stalin's crimes
  • said "I like to say I'm more conservative than Goldwater. He just wanted to turn the clock back to when there was no income tax. I want to turn the clock back to when people lived in small villages and took care of each other."
So Seeger, who is and was a genuine folk hero and political warrior, who actually made a difference in the world during his life, is a self-righteous twit?

Jeezus, Mickey, look in a mirror.

Friday, March 17, 2006

They're livin' it up at the Hotel California

Do we need any more evidence that California screwed up really badly when electing Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor? Just in case anyone out there still thinks he's:

  1. Competent
  2. Compassionate
  3. Honest: "As you know, I don't need to take any money from anybody. I have plenty of money myself. I will make the decisions for the people."
  4. Altruistic: "My relationship to power and authority is that I'm all for it. People need somebody to watch over them. Ninety-five percent of the people in the world need to be told what to do and how to behave." –in a 1990 interview with U.S. News
Well, you might want to look at this SF Chronicle article:

Voters will not consider any part of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's landmark public works spending program on the June ballot after legislators failed Wednesday to agree on the size and shape of the proposal.

. . .

Republicans, for instance, wanted the bond deal to include new rules that would relax environmental regulations on levee repair, and new rules to allow more contracting out for school and highway building.

Many Democrats wanted money for environmental programs such as habitat protection and clean-fuel projects. Affordable housing was also on the table.

. . .

Republicans rejected the plan, saying it spent too much on such things as land preservation and clean-fuel systems for buses -- programs that were not considered part of the state's infrastructure.

More from the CSEA
(California School Employee's Association, a union my mom belonged to for many years as an elementary school librarian):
Negotiations fell apart, partly due to the fact that the Governor and members of his own party have hinged their support for the bond package on the elimination of protections for working families, contracting out of school employees’ jobs and exemptions to the state’s basic environmental protection law. The conditions of the Republican’s support have been reported by Tom Chorneau of the San Francisco Chronicle.

. . .

Despite stating that the bond package was his highest priority, Governor Schwarzenegger spent the weeks before the deadline flying out of state attending various fundraisers as well as a bodybuilding conference in Ohio.

More quotes from the Austrian idiot, because, well, it just fun:
  • "If they don't have the guts to come up here in front of you and say, 'I don't want to represent you, I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers ... if they don't have the guts, I call them girlie men." –describing Democratic lawmakers in California
  • "All of a sudden, we see riots, we see protests, we see people clashing. The next thing we know, there is injured or there is dead people. We don't want to get to that extent." –on the dangers posed by gay marriage
  • "That was another thing I will never forgive the Republican Party for. I was ashamed to call myself a Republican during that period." -on the Clinton impeachment
  • "My friends don't want me to mention Kurt's name, because of all the recent Nazi stuff and the U.N. controversy, but I love him and Maria does too, and so thank you, Kurt." –on his friend and fellow Austrian Kurt Waldheim, a Nazi war criminal
Jeebus, what a tool. He manages to make that other action star Steven Seagal (originally pronounced like Seigel, back when we were in 2 bands together, just sayin'...) seem actually intelligent.


Note: all Schwarzenfartzen quotes from

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Big ol’ jet airliner, don’t carry me too far away

More evidence, from the AFL-CIO, that the War On Terra©™ is complete fiction:

Yesterday, the same day a House committee recommended the Dubai port deal be scrapped, the House Appropriations Committee directed the Bush administration to freeze for 120 days its plan for foreign control of the nation’s airlines.

The Bush administration has long sought to allow foreign companies to control U.S. airlines. The Bush administration tried to do this in 2003, but Congress quickly said ‘No.’ But now they are trying again, having promised the European Union they would give it another shot.

Edward Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department says the move by the House committee “is the latest indication of the growing bipartisan opposition to foreign control of U.S. airlines.”

Both Republicans and Democrats understand the severe implications of allowing foreign interests to decide whether or not a U.S. airline helps transport U.S. troops and equipment…in time of war, what country our airlines purchase their aircraft from, and whether aircraft flown by Americans are maintained here or overseas where safety and security standards may be lax.

As with the debate over a United Arab Emirates company running major U.S. ports, the Bush administration has shown a careless disregard toward protecting our homeland security and our nation’s vital assets. This is yet another example of globalization run amok.

Outsource jobs.

Outsource port management.

Outsource airline management.

Outsource American debt.

Outsourcing security forces (Custer Battles).

Outsource corporate tax breaks.

Time to outsource the country:

Top Ten Signs The Government Is Running Out Of Money

9. Country renamed United States of

Gotta laugh at something.

Thanks, Mom (a life-long union supporter, bless her heart).

Monday, March 13, 2006

Good Golly Miss Molly

Molly Ivins, as usual, says it best:
Mah fellow progressives, now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the party. I don’t know about you, but I have had it with the D.C. Democrats, had it with the DLC Democrats, had it with every calculating, equivocating, triangulating, straddling, hair-splitting son of a bitch up there, and that includes Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I will not be supporting Senator Clinton because: a) she has no clear stand on the war and b) Terri Schiavo and flag-burning are not issues where you reach out to the other side and try to split the difference. You want to talk about lowering abortion rates through cooperation on sex education and contraception, fine, but don’t jack with stuff that is pure rightwing firewater.

I can’t see a damn soul in D.C. except Russ Feingold who is even worth considering for President. The rest of them seem to me so poisonously in hock to this system of legalized bribery they can’t even see straight.

Look at their reaction to this Abramoff scandal. They’re talking about “a lobby reform package.” We don’t need a lobby reform package, you dimwits, we need full public financing of campaigns, and every single one of you who spends half your time whoring after special interest contributions knows it. The Abramoff scandal is a once in a lifetime gift—a perfect lesson on what’s wrong with the system being laid out for people to see. Run with it, don’t mess around with little patches, and fix the system.
Read the whole thing. And then act. Nothing more need be said. This is gospel.

He had a nasty reputation as a cruel dude

It didn't take long for the bed wetters to start Swift Boating Feingold. In the 2nd irregular (and I don't mean in the "Honey, where's the Ex-Lax?" way) edition of Right Is Wrong, we find this gem, from the un-ironically named Conservative Voice:
Is Senator Russ Feingold A Traitor?

If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, then Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, and Osama bin Laden are buddies. If the definition of a traitor is a person who tries to undermined the Commander and Chief during time of war, then Senator Russ Feingold is a traitor.

In time of war we see the best and the worse in our leaders. President George W. Bush has shown a steel backbone and the ability to make hard decisions that benefit each of us and which have saved American lives both here and abroad. I have two sons now in the Army and I thank God that their Commander and Chief is President Bush.

Wait, it gets better:
Unfortunately, in time of war we see the small "men" coveting lofty positions they neither deserve or are qualified to have. Their words and deeds are often indistinguishable from cow dung which must be scraped off your boots after crossing over a cow pasture on a Texas ranch. As President and as a rancher President Bush has experience carving off the dung that cows produce as well as the dung their dim witted cousins produce in the Democratic Party, that is with every word they say and scrap of paper they generate.
First obvious point of correction is that "rancher President Bush" has likely never scraped anything off his boots, he has staff to do that ("Hey Stretch, polish the Tony Lamas for me, mkay?").

Second, it's his skull, not his backbone, that is made of steel.

Even Peter Beinart, warflogger extraordiaire, would disapprove of this rhetoric:
This column should not be necessary. A more decent president would not accuse his opponent of assisting terrorists and harming American troops merely because he criticizes U.S. policy. A more decent conservative movement would call such accusations anti-democratic, rather than mindlessly parroting them, as National Review Online's Jed Babbin did this week. But the president is who he is. And so are his supporters. And so, in response to John Kerry's increased criticism of U.S. policy in Iraq, Bush and his surrogates have essentially accused Democrats of helping insurgents kill American troops.

And while we're on the topic, here's former Congresscreep Bill McCollum (R-Katherine Harris) in '98 re: stature of Commander-In-Chief guys:
The president is the chief executive officer of the nation, the chief law enforcement officer of the nation, and our military's commander in chief. If we tolerate such serious crimes as perjury and obstruction of justice by the president of the United States and fail to impeach him, there will be grave, damaging consequences for our system of government.

Back to the issue at hand, the writer, Joseph Gutheinz, Jr., sure has a way with words. Here he disapproves, ungramatically, of the Nobel Committee:
Harold Pinter is what the Swedish Academy calls a playwright, which they did when they awarded him the Nobel Prize for literature. In reality he a vile clump of dung who attacks America to draw attention from the decline of his art, that is, if the garbage he writes qualifies as art outside of the deviant capital of the Socialist world, Stockholm.

And in a politely toned essay of implicit support for Tom DeLay, we learn that:
If you venture to Austin Texas, which is situated in Travis Texas you might encounter a white haired prune face Democrat named Ronnie Earle. Ronnie Earle was an ugly child who grew up to be an even uglier man. The old saying ugly on the outside beauty on the inside doesn't apply to Mr. Earle, as he is ugly inside and out. However, as a Democrat, a member of a party which values all that is unholy and ugly in America, this ugly little man has standing.

And then we find him complaining that Senators who threw softballs at Supreme-to-be Roberts are (gasp!) just like the N-word guys. You know, that word that causes wingers to tsk-tsk and tut-tut, and even complain that's just so unfair!
Watching John Roberts get grilled by Democratic senators in his confirmation hearing gives me a real glimpse into history.

In Nazi Germany the Holocaust was perpetrated often with the active assistance of that country's judges and prosecutors. When Hitler came to power many judges and prosecutors opposed Hitler and his campaign of death; yet by opposing him they risked death themselves, so they either agreed to participate in the death industry that Hitler generated or they abandoned the legal profession.

The first salvo against the legal profession in Germany came in 1933 when Jews were barred from serving as judges. Yet the German legal community acquiesced. By 1940 Germany began a campaign of forced sterilization programs and the judges not only acquiesced but actively took part in ordering these sterilization. Finally in 1942 Hitler ordered the mass slaughter of the disabled , Jews, Gypsies and others and the Judges not only failed to prevent these atrocities from happening, but on many occasions their court orders helped facilitate this campaign of death.

The modern day equivalent to the Holocaust is abortion on demand; and America's modern day Nazi's are found within the Democratic Party, with their leaders proudly now on display in the Roberts confirmation hearings. Like their German counterparts they are hungry for human sacrifices and demand that the judiciary offer up unborn human beings for slaughter. The Nazi's of Germany and the Nazi's within the Democratic Party believe that there are unwanted people and they have no tolerance for those who do not subscribe to their prejudices. If Roberts survives this ordeal with his principles intact perhaps it is the beginning of a better day in America.

Yep, he calls them Nazis.

So many points of sad irony here, but I'll just pick two.

Here's a re-write of the 2nd paragraph:
When GWBush came to power many judges and prosecutors opposed GWBush and his campaign of death; yet by opposing him they risked death themselves, so they either agreed to participate in the death industry that GWBush generated or they abandoned the legal profession.
Yeah, I know, a little bit of a stretch. But wait, there's more.

"...a Democrat, a member of a party which values all that is unholy and ugly in America"
"they have no tolerance for those who do not subscribe to their prejudices"

Sometimes it's just handed to you. This is the voice of winger America.

Gawd a'mighty, what do we do?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sister Bluebird flying high above

One of her proudest moments, and mine for her, was when she bought her cabin in the mountains. With no family help, she found and bought a wonderful escape hatch, somewhere she could go and leave the world behind.

I wasn’t so sure at first, as I tried to play “Practical older brother” guy. But when I saw how excited she was, it seemed perfect. She could fix it up exactly the way she wanted, and have a place to go where nothing else could get in her way. And she could make a little income from renting it out, as it was in a popular vacation area, so that made the deal even sweeter.

The last time she saw it was when our other sister and her kids drove her up there for the day. By then she was pretty sick, and that drive was almost too much for her. She never saw her beloved cabin again.

My sister Kristin died, 4 years ago today, from complications of cervical cancer. It was a painful and humiliating experience for her, yet she made it seem more graceful than I can even still imagine. She showed strength, humor, determination, and ultimately wisdom as the journey quickly ran its course.

So I take special interest in hearing that Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council is quoted as saying:
"Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex," Maher claims, though it is arguable how many young women have even heard of the virus.

My new friend & associate Lambert at Correntewire also wrote about this topic just this week:
From the print-only version of this week’s even more than usually stellar New Yorker,

. . .
To prevent infection with HPV, and to mimimize the risk of cervical cancer, girls would need inoculations before becoming sexually active. … Vaccinations for contagious diseases like measles and mumps are required before a child can enter public school. That won’t be the case with the HPV vaccine, however. The Bush administration, its allies on Capitol Hill, and the religious base of the Republican Party are opposed to mandatory HPV vaccinations. They prefer to rely on education programs that promote abstinence from sexual activity, and see the HPV vaccine as a threat to that policy.
I would have done anything to keep my sister alive. I would have given her any treatment, any drug available. I would have eaten any poison given me if I was assured she would live. So when I see this crap, I really wish these people could have held her hand at the end, as we all did. She was not an abstraction, an agenda, a political viewpoint. She was a real live human being, with worth, with a soul and mind. She died, because of a virus that might be preventable.

Shakespeare said:
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?
Easy words, noble in spirit. Yet Kristin's "outrageous fortune" ended her life. Would we be so noble as Willie when we consider the lives of those we love, cherish, and value? Would right-wingers so bent on theocracy be as quick as Willie to consider death as an honorable consequence of their agenda, if it was their loved one doing the dying?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

I watched my sister die. She knew she was going to Heaven. I felt, at that moment, that there indeed was a Heaven for her. Ms. Maher, until you watch someone you love die, don't lecture me, or anyone, about morality.

Kristin Carol Anderson: Sep. 19, 1959-Mar. 9, 2002

“She was in many ways the finest human being we have ever known, and we will try to walk in the delicate but giant footsteps she has left for us to follow.”

Sunday, March 05, 2006

You're The First, The Last, My Everything

White folks are in trouble, so I'm told. Or at least their music is.

Not so fast, though. According to the Small Business Administration, 75% of all businesses are owned by whites, and only 12.3% are owned by blacks.

Still, the white culture and race are in big trouble. Or so I'm told by these idiots, Lamb and Lynx Gaede, otherwise known as musical duo Prussian Blue.

Here's a bit from their web site (Note the careful attention to punctuation and grammer):
Today, if you are White ,and proud to be White , it is considered Politically Incorrect by the media. The music that Prussian Blue performs is intended for White people. They hope to help fellow Whites come to understand that love for one’s race is a beautiful gift that we should celebrate.

. . .

Lynx and Lamb live with thier mom and stepdad and baby sister Dresden.
For starters, when you're 13, your opinion of anything other than your favorite cereal is really not worth my time. Second, Dresden? WTF? And I suppose the cat is named Himmler?

Here is some of the dreck they sing:
He fought so strong for our race. We're finally back in our place. It took his life, my dear son, and now it's over the war is won. Our Race was saved because the lives that were sacrificed: those men that died...

Sacrifice , they gave their lives. All those men who have died. Sacrifice, they gave their lives, all those men who have died.

Warrior poet, I sing his songs. Ian Stuart, with his voice so strong. Remember his words, as we sing along.

Rudolph Hess, man of Peace. He wouldn't give up and he wouldn't cease, to give his loyalty to our Cause. Remember him and give a pause.

Robert Matthews knew the Truth. He knew what he had to do. He set an example with Courage so bold. We'll never let that fire grow cold.

Dr Pierce, a man so wise, helped so many of us open our eyes, and see the future for what it could be: a future for our Race’s eternity.
Yeah, that Rudolf Hess was a really sweet guy.

That these girls are tools of idiotic parents is clear. Yet sadly there are many bigots, racists, and revisionists who feel the same. Other's linked to from the PrussianBlue site include where you can find historical scholarship like this story about the dreaded Communist Rosa Parks:

AS A VETERAN ACTIVIST, Rosa Parks earned a major role in a Communist production entitled "The Civil Rights Movement." She played her part convincingly for fifty years, from 1955 to her death last month: that of the courageous little seamstress who refused to relinquish her bus seat to a White man.

Parks wasn't the first Black to be arrested for refusing to move to the back of the bus, just the first to pass the audition. The other two candidates were rejected as wholly unsuitable as they exemplified the violent-prone nature and low-average I.Q. that makes segregation a necessity. More importantly, unlike Rosa Parks, they had not been properly inculcated in the writings of Karl Marx or tactics of the Party.
This reads like a Daily Show sketch:

Martin L. King: Communist
W.E.B. DuBois: Communist
NAACP: Communist
Marcus Garvey: Communist
Highlander Folk School: Commie through and through
J. Edgar Hoover: Swell Guy

Doing a little more digging into the feared Highlander Folk School, we find, from a FOIA request via the FBI, the following report dated 1936:

wherein it is referred to as a, get this: "hotbed of Communism and Anarchy." Pretty heady stuff. Reads just like an old thriller your grandpa might have read back in the day. Except that it was written by real people about a real school. Their crimes? From Wikipedia:
In response to the work of Center, during the late 1950s the press attacked Highlander for ostensibly creating racial strife. In 1957, the Georgia Commission on Education published a pamphlet entitled "Highlander Folk School: Communist Training School in Monteagle, Tennessee." In 1961, the State of Tennessee revoked Highlander's charter and confiscated its land and property. The same year the Highlander staff reincorporated as the Highlander Research and Education Center and moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where it stayed until 1971, when it moved to its present (as of 2005) location of New Market, Tennessee.

You get the idea. What striked me as really absurd is that some people still are just crazy for the commies. Such Cold War ferocity, aimed at...well, the Soviet Union is gone, Cuba is, well, dopey old Cuba, that leaves China, which is a pretty grim place, and yet it's one of our Favored Nations in trading, so who can we really crusade against?

I guess that just leaves that fierce warrior, that powerful symbol of the Red Menace and tyranny everywhere: Rosa Parks.

She would laugh.

Friday, March 03, 2006

But he could play the guitar like ringing a bell

As I work daily in the recording industry, I am almost daily reminded of how far we haven't come. My thesis: we can't record anything better today than we could 50, 60, or 70 years ago.

Case in point: during my years at Capitol Studios, I had many an opportunity to transfer some music from Capitol's library for use in a new album or soundtrack. One assignment was to transfer some Nat "King" Cole songs to digital 48 track for David Foster to use in making another "Song With My Dead Dad" album for Natalie Cole. I rolled an ATR 104 into Studio B, installed the 3 track heads, calibrated the repro electronics, and placed the master tape on it, and hit "PLAY."

I first listened to tracks 1 & 3, the stereo orchestra. Folks, they might as well have been playing in the room with me. The only sense of another time was that the bass was a little light by today's standards. But that's an editorial critique, not a process one.

Then I solo'd track 2: Nat's voice. I heard the orchestral leakage over the 'gobos' (portable baffles used in studios), I heard the slight rustle as he handled the lyric sheets, a slight smacking of the lips as he drew a deep breath, and then...My God, that voice! Like warm honey, it dripped with sensuality. No wonder the guy was a superstar. We forget sometimes, as we get caught up in current styles, that other forms of music have power and grace. Cole's voice brought that home to me that day. I realized that there was not one improvement in recording technology that would have made his voice sound any better. State-of-the-art German microphones, quality American made tape machines, and talent, buckets full of talent.

This revelation was reinforced tonight as I copied some CDs into iTunes so I could load them into my iPod. As a former guitarist, I am a sucker for great guitar playing. And I hadn't listened to this album in some time: The Legendary Segovia. These recordings go back as far as 1927! Sure, they are a little bit noiser than state of the art digital recordings made today, but they still sound exactly like a guy playing great guitar sitting right in front of you. This was Segovia as a passionate younger guy (born 1893, these recordings were made from age 34 to 43), who was still trying to establish the classical music cred of the guitar, an instrument primarily associated with gypsies and 'pop' music of the time.

The bottom line is that great music is always rock'n'roll. It has emotion, danger, passion, and that undefined greatness that characterizes art. Listen especially to track #1, the Bach Cello Suite in G Prelude. This just rocks! And as you listen, realize that it was recorded in 1935! And track #4, the Sor Theme And Variations, holy crap! Sounds like 2 guys playing at once.

We've come along way, only to realize we haven't really gone anywhere at all. Great performances still trump everything. Sample this.

Oh, and for all you metal freaks, Yngvie would sell his left testicle to play this well. Probably both, actually.

Update: here's a video of Segovia playing Sor's "Variations on a theme by Mozart":

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

While my guitar gently weeps

One of the towering figures of both 20th century jazz and guitar playing is Django Reinhardt. His spectacular playing, even by today's standards, is technically breathtaking. But when the truth is revealed, that he did most of his soloing using only the first two fingers of his fingerboard hand, his dexterity seems impossible. His ring and little finger were damaged in a fire when he was young, and thus, other than a little use during chording, those fingers were useless. His facile playing is thus even more amazing.

From the unlikely source Boing-Boing, we find this link to a clip of Django and his Hot Club de France Quintet ca. 1938 (his fingering style is very clear):

Other info about Reinhardt can be found at wikipedia, as well as many other sites.

To modern guitarists his playing seems prescient. Almost all of the tricks or ornamentations used today, bent notes, trills, hammer on-and-offs, and arpeggiated chords, were used by Reinhardt extensively.

But there is one thing he had that is missing from the repertoire of many of today's otherwise fine players: line. Melody line.

Since the development of blues playing and all its descendents, there has been a tendency to play "positions" or "forms." Blues, based on simplistic Pentatonic scales, provided plenty of variation for most guitarists, while allowing the use of standard fingerings and positions, and "licks" or "riffs.". Upon learning some basic vocabulary of licks and riffs, guitarists could solo in any key merely by moving the riffs up or down the fretboard. Play at the 3rd fret, it's in the key of G. Move to the 8th fret, you're playing in C.

Nothing wrong with this. Listen to Stevie Ray, Jeff, Eric, Jimi, Jimmy, and even today's Pentatonic devotees like Slash, Jack White, or even Prince, and there are plenty of spine tingling riffs to absorb. But listening to Reinhard, who played with a freedom dictated by complete grasp of melody and chords, one is struck by his very inability to play from within positions because of only being able to only use two fingers. He had to move to where the notes were that he was hearing inside his head, rather than play the notes that fell under his position-based fingers.

When I used to teach guitar, starting in my senior year of High School and going on through the first 3 years of college, I used to have students ask: "Why do I need to learn to read music? Eric/Jeff/Jimi et. al. can't read, and they claim that reading music will stifle their creativity."

The answer of course is bullshit. The more tools one has, the more one can create. Eddie/Eric/Edge would be even better players than they already are if they knew the fundamentals of music. Imagine how richer would Clapton's playing have been if he had learned the notes in a V7flat9 chord with explanation by a teacher, instead of accidently stumbling on it one day. Sure, I love self discovery, but it's pretty inefficient. Picasso, as an example, was a superbly skilled classical artist, which later gave him the skills he used to help his talent develop cubism, a new and radical expression of art.

Having said that, a complete understanding of music theory won't make you a great player unless you are already a great player somewhere deep inside, any more than all the hitting instruction on the planet won't make you into Sammy Sosa. Technique, tools, and theory can be taught. Talent can't.

When one really has knowledge of where all the notes are, along with scales, modes, chord substitution theory, then one can play as well as one's talent has to offer. When all you know is basic blues pentatonic positions, that's all you'll play. But if you know blues, and have a great education to back it up, you can play anything.

Any musicians who read this, go back and listen to Django. Don't get sucked in to the whole "Gypsy Style" homage of many of his followers today, because that's not where his greatness lies. Instead, listen to the melody, the soul in the fingers. This guy played rock'n'roll, he got it. He could play that way because to him, the fretboard wasn't positions to riff over, but simply all the available notes. And he clearly knew where all the notes were.

And please, don't think that I don't appreciate the primitive. The Ramones, Link Wray, Dick Dale, Robert Johnson, their talent was transcendent. What I'm talking about is virtuosity, the ability to wrest from your instrument any sound or emotion you can imagine. You don't have to play all the notes, sometimes one or two are enough. But it helps to know where they all are.