Friday, August 29, 2008

Only in America

I needn't have worried, he knocked it out of the park.

I am left wondering if the lackluster tone of the Democratic National Convention (up to this point) was deliberate, lowering expectations considerably... all leading up to the gangbusters-fireworks speech I just heard. Alright!

If you didn't see Barack Obama's speech, go watch it.

~*~

I have worked my butt off this week, so I deserve a nice Labor Day. We are off to the illustrious Dragon*Con. Taking the whole weekend this time! Last year was great and we are hoping this year will be even better. Photos to come! Also, taking some time to visit my husband's family in Atlanta.

Have a great holiday weekend everyone!

----------------
Listening to: The Beatles - She Said She Said
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, August 28, 2008

On the importance of demonstrations (or not)

After demonstrating against the Republican National Convention in Detroit (1980), I also joined the Yippies in demonstrating against the Democratic National Convention in New York City the following month. It was very different. In Detroit, our every move was clocked. As I said in my piece on that convention, unmarked cars containing unmarked law enforcement followed us everywhere. Not only were we harassed, there were carefully-targeted arrests of leaders. But in New York? Nobody cared. Nobody thought we were worth following. The multiple demonstrations got all swallowed up by the general cacophony of the city. At peak hours, there might be several protests going on simultaneously, separated by saw-horses in strange configurations arranged to allow continuous traffic-flow outside Madison Square Garden. I recall Irish Nationalists demonstrating alongside PONY (Prostitutes of New York), replaced later by some unnamed Cold War hawks demanding the head of Jimmy Carter.

We didn't necessarily have a grudge against Carter, as we did against Ronald Reagan. But the Yippie tradition (since the banner year of 1968) was to demonstrate against both parties.

The big event was the anti-nuclear die-in, blocking the delegates' entrance, which was even covered in Newsweek. This was the only time I remember New Yorkers just off the subways, actually stopping and looking confused for a few minutes. I remember a couple of them blinking for a second: WHAT ARE THESE PEOPLE DOING, LAYING IN THE STREET? Some of the activists sported radiation-burn makeup, which did give one pause, as they moaned, gurgled, groaned and got into the whole street-theater of the event. (One activist spoke from the podium: "If you people at the curb aren't into dying, you know, laying on the ground and everything, you could just stumble around and throw up, if you'd like.")

I don't remember any other event bringing New York to anything remotely like a standstill. I made note of the fact that if you think your convention will be trouble, take it to New York. The DNC, still smarting from major riots in 1968 and 1972, took their party to New York in both 1976 and 1980, and managed to neutralize the rowdy opposition of street-demonstrations, quite admirably. As I passed out leaflets during the die-in (I wasn't going to LAY ON THE NASTY CONCRETE), several New Yorkers asked me what was going on. Oh yeah, the convention. Shrug. New Yorkers aren't impressed by much.

Left: The Yippie flag.


That night, we stayed at the Chelsea, with countless radicals crammed into a room and sleeping all over the floor. The first room we entered had the words NANCY SPUNGEN SLEPT HERE scrawled on the back of the door in red paint. Ha ha. "I'm not sleeping in this room!" one guy hyperventilated, "Is this the SAME ROOM??!" and he sufficiently spooked us into going to another room. (We never did find out if it was the same room.)

It was hot, stuffy and uncomfortable. I didn't enjoy it. I questioned if any of this was doing any good. In Detroit, the constant harassment by law enforcement made us feel like we were engaging in some important revolutionary act. New York? Forget it. We were just part of the circus.

Signe Waller, widow of Jim Waller of the Greensboro 5, managed to get inside the convention during Carter's acceptance speech and explode a firecracker, getting herself hustled off the convention floor forthwith. There were periodic busts outside for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest... and that was it. I did not attend another national political convention's counter-demonstration after that.

I have seen precious little coverage of any demonstrations in Denver. Are activists saving their ire for John McCain and the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis? One can only hope. Or are demonstrations simply not the happening thing these days? Why do you think that is? Certainly, we didn't have blogs and the internets to broadcast our POVs in those days. Climbing up on the proverbial soapbox, starting a picket line or writing commentary in alternative newspapers were our only outlets.

Demonstrations were focal points then, and now they seem almost like mere formalities.

Cross-posted at Feministe.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hillary Clinton's DNC speech

What did you all think of Hillary's speech at the Democratic Convention last night? Who watched, who didn't? Speak up!

I hardly know what to think about the whole thing. My initial reaction is that the entire convention so far has been decidedly lackluster. Polls are down. It just looks haphazard... which is not a good thing to communicate to the voters. I watched four different networks last night, and came away with the same conclusion.

Roger Simon, at Politico, writes:


At her speech to the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night, Hillary said the right things. Nobody could accuse her of going overboard, but she said the right things.

“Barack Obama is my candidate,” she said. “And he must be our president.”

Her daughter introduced her on stage as “my hero” and her husband cheered her from the balcony. But she directed many of her remarks to her other die-hard supporters.

“To my supporters, my champions — my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits — from the bottom of my heart: Thank you,” she said. “You never gave in. You never gave up. And together we made history.”

It was history. Of a sort. She showed that a woman could win the nomination. But she did not win the nomination. And the guy who did made some history, too.

She is due respect nonetheless. But there is a point when a demand for respect turns into an aura of entitlement. And some have been acting as if it were preordained that Clinton would win the Democratic nomination this year — she was the candidate of inevitability, after all — and that somehow Barack Obama stole it from her.

True, if it had been a normal presidential year, Clinton would have been the nominee. She certainly was no worse a candidate than Mike Dukakis, John Kerry or Al Gore, all of whom won their party’s nod.

But it was not an ordinary presidential year. Clinton came up against a magnetic campaigner with a compelling message — change — and with a staff that was prepared to win a drawn-out, deep in-the-trenches battle for delegates.

And the hard truth is that, while Hillary became a first-rate campaigner in the end, she put together a second-rate campaign. And this was not a year when second rate was going to do.
As I mentioned previously, I am guest-blogging at FEMINISTE, where there is presently an open thread on the conventions, particularly discussing Hillary Clinton and Michele Obama. Polerin writes:
Michelle’s speech was smooth but left me pretty much untouched because, as Cara said, it was a “see, we’re an all-american family, too!” effort. It was strong and well delivered, but was far more focused on humanizing the Obama’s than on politics or what she personally cares about. It is sad that they have to spend so much time breaking down the wall of otherness that has been erected around them by rumor and fear, but I understand they do.
Planet Janet replies:
It’s too bad there’s so many groups springing up for Hillary voters that won’t vote for Obama. I wonder how much of that is legitimate and how much is being stoked by Republicans. I know they’d love almost nothing more than for every Clinton voter to question voting for Obama this November.
Also, there are some great observations at Feministing. Supersarah says:
unfortunately, i think HRC could tattoo "i support Barack Obama" on her forehead, and the MSM would still describe her as "bitter" and "divisive"...
Vertigo says:
I have always been a Hillary Clinton fan and seeing her today... it was just brilliant. I hope all the negative talks about her not being a team-player and her dividing the party stops, because she really nailed this speech.

Also, she did something that has not been done in full force in this convention -- attack McCain!

The video intro got me teary eyes. :)
Crooks and Liars also has a fascinating thread about the speech. Many believe that Hillary MUST campaign for Obama to solidify and reinforce her message of last evening. Pissed-off Patricia (whose comments I always look forward to!) remarks:
Not to offend a single soul, but whoever said that, leading the democratic party was like herding cats, was so right. We come out of the gate and go in every direction. From the speech was useless to the speech was great. There is something good about that. We don’t fall in line, we seek our own path. The good thing is that most of the time we all arrive at the same spot eventually.

Now where is our attack cat/dog? We have Bill and Biden left before tomorrow night when Obama speaks. Bill could do some ripping tonight if his heart is in this thing. He could talk about himself and rip at the same time.
Most comments I have read agree that ATTACKING JOHN McCAIN IS CRUCIAL!!!

As Bill Asshole O'Reilly likes to ask: What say you?

Classic Country Feminism

Latoya has inspired me to write about the feminism of Classic Country music.

Although country music is considered a conservative genre, there have always been women who challenged the status quo. The first on my list would be the amazing Wanda Jackson, properly known as the Queen of Rockabilly.

Wanda Jackson - Hard-headed Woman



~*~

If you saw the film Coal-Miner's Daughter, you know this song is the truth, and 13-year-old Loretta Webb started having babies almost immediately after her marriage to Doolittle Lynn (known as Mooney, for running moonshine). He cheated on her fairly openly, even once while she gave birth to one of their six children (four of these born before she was 18 years old). Loretta and Mooney fought in full view of everyone, usually with fists: "He never hit me one time that I didn’t hit him back twice," Loretta was frequently quoted as saying.

This song, recorded as late as 1975, was nonetheless banned on country radio stations. The lyrics, by TD Bayless, are too good not to reproduce here:

You wined me and dined me
When I was your girl
Promised if I'd be your wife
You'd show me the world
But all I've seen of this old world
Is a bed and a doctor bill
I'm tearin down your brooder house
Cause now I've got the pill

All these years I've stayed at home
While you had all your fun
And every year thats gone by
Another baby's come
There's a gonna be some changes made
Right here on nursery hill
You've set this chicken your last time
Cause now I've got the pill

This old maternity dress I've got
Is goin in the garbage
The clothes I'm wearin from now on
Won't take up so much yardage

Miniskirts, hot pants and a few little fancy frills
Yeah I'm makin up for all those years
Since I've got the pill

I'm tired of all your crowin
How you and your hens play
While holdin a couple in my arms
Another's on the way
This chicken's done tore up her nest
And I'm ready to make a deal
And ya can't afford to turn it down
Cause you know I've got the pill

This incubator is overused
Because you've kept it filled
The feelin good comes easy now
Since I've got the pill

It's gettin dark, it's roostin time
Tonight's too good to be real
Oh but daddy don't you worry none
Cause mama's got the pill

Oh daddy don't you worry none
Cause mama's got the pill


Loretta Lynn - The Pill



~*~

More true stories... the incendiary marriage of the late Tammy Wynette and George Jones was also quite legendary in country music. Although known for singing (and co-authoring) Stand by your Man, at one point, Tammy had enough standing by George. (In fact, she had five husbands in all.)

In this song, she warns him she is gonna go out and party just like the women he seems to prefer. (And she backed it up, too, publicly beginning a relationship with 70s icon Burt Reynolds.)

Tammy Wynette - Your Good Girl's gonna go bad



~*~

And the best for last! My mother sang this song in her band, and I can remember her rehearsing it when I was three or four years old; it was originally recorded in 1952 and has been recorded countless times since. The line, "It's a shame that all the blame is on us women" impacted me even as a child; it was the song that gave me my earliest heads-up. I listened carefully to the lessons given in the song, which also has the distinction of being the first Billboard #1 country song by a woman.

Kitty Wells recorded this song as an "answer song" to Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life"--wherein Hank preaches self-righteously to the woman who left him:

I didn't know God made honky tonk angels
I might have known you'd never make a wife
You gave up the only one that ever loved you
And went back to the wild side of life

The glamour of the gay night life has lured you
To the places where the wine and liquor flow
Where you wait to be anybody's baby
And forget the truest love you'll ever know


Nashville-native Kitty Wells wasn't having any. These lyrics (by JD Miller) constitute her pointed reply to Hank. Most country-music historians agree that it was probably the first time a large number of women bought a record that their husbands didn't like, establishing a fan-base that they didn't even realize existed.

As I sit here tonight the jukebox playin
The tune about the wild side of life
As I listen to the words you are sayin
It brings memories when I was a trusting wife

It wasn't God who made Honky Tonk angels
As you said in the words of your song
Too many times married men think they're still single
That has caused many a good girl to go wrong

It's a shame that all the blame is on us women
It's not true that only you men feel the same
From the start most every heart that's ever broken
Was because there always was a man to blame

It wasn't God who made Honky Tonk angels
As you said in the words of your song
Too many times married men think they're still single
That has caused many a good girl to go wrong


Kitty Wells - It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels



I hope yall enjoy these. They all mean a lot to me! (Cross posted at Feministe)

Monday, August 25, 2008

I am guest blogging at Feministe this week...

... and next. I didn't want to say anything about that until I knew for certain I wouldn't botch it beyond all recognition. (Wordpress, which I had not had the pleasure of meeting before.)

I didn't botch it; it's more or less readable and I didn't frighten the horses:

TIME OUT FOR GRANDMA

... and my beloved grandbaby! (Photo at left) Yes, I posted her photo on FEMINISTE, utterly shameless. But I was also thinking of acting stereotypically "old" in some way, to emphasize that there is (haha, you guys!) A GENERATION GAP (I had to greatly restrain myself from using that Austin Powers-era phrase over there, I love it so much). One thing old people do, is pester everyone endlessly with toxically-cute photos of their grandchildren, so I just had to do it. Also, I love the idea of my granddaughter's photo on a cutting-edge feminist blog, quoted in the New York fucking Times, okay?!

I realized, shortly after Jill asked me, that I would not be able to resist posting it. I love seeing my granddaughter there! (((sniff)))

~*~

Meanwhile, I am getting all kinds of emails from Joe Biden and Michelle Obama! Am I important or WHAT? Michelle tells me to tell all my friends (I guess she means you guys) to go here and watch the little movie. I like how they purposefully gear that stuff to political wonk-heads and election junkies; they know we love that unrehearsed backstage patter and insider-vibe.

How do they know this? Highly-trained focus groups?


----------------
Listening to: Sonic Youth - Teen Age Riot
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dead Air Church - The last time I saw Richard

Songs don't hardly get any more perfect than this, do they?

I had a "Richard moment" recently and wanted to share it. Decided it was too private... so I am sharing the song instead.


~*~

The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in 68
And he told me all romantics meet the same fate
Someday cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark cafe
You laugh, he said you think you're immune
Go look at your eyes, they're full of moon
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies, pretty lies
When you gonna realise, they're only pretty lies
Only pretty lies
Just pretty lies

He put a quarter in the Wurlitzer, and he pushed
Three buttons and the thing began to whirr
And a bar maid came by in fishnet stockings and a bow tie
And she said drink up now it's gettin on time to close
Richard, you haven't really changed, I said
Its just that now you're romanticizing some pain that's in your head
You got tombs in your eyes,
but the songs you punched are dreaming
Listen, they sing of love so sweet, love so sweet
When you gonna get yourself back on your feet?
Oh and love can be so sweet
Love so sweet

Richard got married to a figure skater
And he bought her a dishwasher and a coffee percolator
And he drinks at home now most nights with the TV on
And all the house lights left up bright

I'm gonna blow this damn candle out
I don't want nobody comin over to my table
I got nothing to talk to anybody about
All good dreamers pass this way some day
Hiding behind bottles in dark cafes
Dark cafes

Only a dark cocoon before I get my gorgeous wings
And fly away
Only a phase
these dark cafe days




~*~

Joni Mitchell - The Last Time I Saw Richard

[via FoxyTunes / Joni Mitchell]

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The attack dog has been chosen!

Please go rough up McCain, now, please? Thanks, Joe!

Friday, August 22, 2008

National Enquirer Kitty!



... has an inquiring mind.








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Listening to: The Replacements - Alex Chilton
via FoxyTunes

LeRoi Moore 1961-2008

Left: LeRoi Moore, photo from A Choice of Weapons.

~*~

LeRoi Moore, saxophonist and founding member of the Dave Matthews Band, has died unexpectedly from complications of an all-terrain vehicle accident. He was 46.

He also co-wrote a song of cosmic truth, that I periodically meditate on, Too Much.



In Memoriam: LeRoi Moore

Moore and Matthews first teamed up in 1991 in Charlottesville, VA. After pulling together the rest of the band, they released the album Remember Two Things. Seven studio albums later, the Dave Matthews Band has become one of the most popular bands in America. Moore brought jazz and blues influences to the band's easygoing jam-rock sound: From the deep rumble on “Bartender” from the Lilywhite Sessions, to the high-pitched bounce of the tenor notes in “Stay,” Moore brought both life and a playful sensibility to his music.

Moore was one of the less vocal members of the group, preferring to eschew the spotlight. Back in 2001, Dave Matthews spoke with Entertainment Weekly music critic Chris Willman, and said of Moore, “He's a tortured soul, but man, when he plays, he plays the most pretty melodies in the world, instantly. And LeRoi plays melodies that are brand new that sound as if he's been playing them forever.”

The band announced Moore's passing at their show last night at L.A.'s Staples Center, with Matthews saying, “It’s easier to leave than to be left.”
Our deepest Dead Air condolences go out to the family and friends of LeRoi.

And like the song says--

I told God, I'm coming
To your country
I'm going to eat up your cities,
Your homes, you know
I've got a stomach full it's not
A chip on my shoulder
I've got this growl in my tummy
And I'm gonna stop it today

I eat too much
I drink too much
I want too much
Too much


Ohhhhhh, me too. But I am sure God respects the fact that we admit it, fight it, try to deal with it... and attempt to work with this fact any way we can. LeRoi brought the fact home, pointing the finger at himself and all of us, all while wailing on the sax.

Resquiat in pace.


More at the Dave Matthews Band website.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Odds and Sods: Leave the driving to us edition

In 1981, I ran away from home (haha, joke, I was 23 years old) and rode a Greyhound bus for three solid days, from Columbus, Ohio to San Francisco, CA (approx 2500 miles). It was one of the major turning points of my life.

The AA part of the story is that I promised myself: not a single sip of alcohol, NONE. NADA. ZIP.

I lasted until Cheyenne, Wyoming.

At this point in my journey, some nice ex-Vegas showgirl (obviously recognizing my increasing agitation for what it was) sympathetically and politely passed me some vodka in a Mountain Dew can. I remember that she was listening to Kenny Rogers' THE GAMBLER on her boombox, and I thought the song was just so apt as my accompaniment for falling off the wagon, yet again: I was gambling. I gambled frequently in those days. AA people would later compare it to playing with a loaded gun: just one sip. And yes, there I was on that Greyhound, unable to stop spinning the cylinder.

But I loved the trip, as only a young person could.

I also took long Greyhound bus trips in 1999 (1000 miles) and 2003 (700 miles), and the last one nearly did me in. Sitting on buses for long, long periods is actually painful after you develop arthritis and other aging issues. (Have you ever tried to SLEEP on one of those things?)

And so, I swore off the Greyhound, after I limped off the last one.

And now, Bamboo Blitz finalizes the decision for me, by reporting the following incident. Good Lord in HEAVEN!

40-year-old suspect held in gruesome Manitoba bus killing

Passenger decapitated, witnesses say; story contains graphic details

A 40-year-old man is in custody in Manitoba after a young man was stabbed — and, witnesses said, decapitated — aboard a Greyhound bus travelling through the province overnight.
...
[Passenger Garnet] Caton, the driver and a trucker who had stopped at the scene later boarded the vehicle to see if the victim was still alive.

"When we came back on the bus, it was visible at the end of the bus he was cutting the guy's head off and pretty much gutting him up," said Caton.

The attacker ran at them, Caton said, and they ran out of the bus, holding the door shut as he tried to slash at the trio.

When the attacker tried to drive the bus away, the driver disabled the vehicle, Caton said.

"While we were watching the door, he calmly walks up to the front with the head in his hand and the knife and just calmly stares at us and drops the head right in front of us," said Caton.

"They did an awesome thing, holding him in there, because if not, what would have happened?" said [Passenger Cody] Olmstead.
I can't believe this happened in Canada and not the USA. The next time the Canadians sneer at us for being trigger-happy, uncivilized brutes, we can sneer back and say "Does the word GREYHOUND mean anything to you?"

~*~


(Graphic at left from Radical Women.)


Winter writes a fabulous post titled What do I want? on TEXT AND THE WORLD:
A de-centring of the word “feminist” from actions/campaigns/events etc. in favour of re-formulation in terms of women’s rights/liberation. This should be rooted in an appreciation of the fact that a feminist identification is not possible (and perhaps not even desirable) for many women, but this does not mean that they are any less concerned about their rights.

A move away from protecting the identity and towards protecting the work -- whatever we call it. Feminism is not a religion and we shouldn’t be thinking in terms of conversion. If we do the work and we do it well, people will be inspired to join us. If people are not inspired to join us, then we need to work harder.

A general rejection of “I can’t work with anyone who disagrees with me on such-and-such an issue” or “”I don’t want to work with anyone who isn’t the right kind of feminist” type thinking. How privileged do you think you are if you can choose who you work with? Ok, there may be a few cases in which certain individuals working together would be impossible, but most people on the planet struggling against oppression do not have such luxury and in general I think we should get over ourselves.

Rigorous effort to ensure that no one type of person’s experience/positionality is being constantly centred, along with awareness that this will be hard and will require a heck of a lot more than lip service to achieve.

Actions/events/campaigns/discussions that result in something concrete. I don’t care whether it’s a zine, newsletter, leaflet, getting chained to some railings, invading your MPs office, just as long as it’s something tangible that has some kind of impact. Sitting around talking is enjoyable but what does it really achieve?
READ IT ALL, right now. (Winter also writes astutely about recent "feminist" attacks on Madonna, which you must also read immediately!)

~*~

OPEN LEFT educates us about DEAD ZONES worldwide. Yes, it's a depressing and scary phenomenon, as befits anything named after a Stephen King novel:
[Fertilizer] runoff from industrial agriculture and fossil-fuel use are causing catastrophic "dead zones" in our oceans, "killing large swaths of sea life and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage," according to Scientific American.

It's Agribiz vs. Aquabiz, and at the moment, the farmers are beating the waders off of the fishermen. Scientific American notes that "there are now 405 identified dead zones worldwide, up from 49 in the 1960s." And once a marine habitat falls victim to hypoxia, i.e. oxygen deficiency, the outlook is grim [...]
You are hereby ordered to read all of this, too. And you are also ordered to STOP EATING FISH and DEPLETING THE OCEANS, which I know you carnivores WON'T DO, but I will issue this executive order anyway.

But before I get too righteous in that direction, The Partial Muse provides us with the pertinent reminder of how goofy, obnoxious and even violent, some animal rights activists can be.

Existential note: The Middle Path, people, the Middle Path. Extremes will eat you up and spit you out! AVOID!

~*~

Left: Fired Up Creative Lounge, Asheville, NC.



And finally, an article titled Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization (which is of course why I saved it for last) has garnered an astounding 1560 (!) comments, over at the Adbusters site. The comments are as good as the article. I love to see people seriously engaging this topic. The article by Douglas Haddow is deliberately provocative:

[After] punk was plasticized and hip hop lost its impetus for social change, all of the formerly dominant streams of “counter-culture” have merged together. Now, one mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior has come to define the generally indefinable idea of the “Hipster.”

An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the “hipster” – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.
...
With nothing to defend, uphold or even embrace, the idea of “hipsterdom” is left wide open for attack. And yet, it is this ironic lack of authenticity that has allowed hipsterdom to grow into a global phenomenon that is set to consume the very core of Western counterculture. Most critics make a point of attacking the hipster’s lack of individuality, but it is this stubborn obfuscation that distinguishes them from their predecessors, while allowing hipsterdom to easily blend in and mutate other social movements, sub-cultures and lifestyles.
...
The dance floor at a hipster party looks like it should be surrounded by quotation marks. While punk, disco and hip hop all had immersive, intimate and energetic dance styles that liberated the dancer from his/her mental states – be it the head-spinning b-boy or violent thrashings of a live punk show – the hipster has more of a joke dance. A faux shrug shuffle that mocks the very idea of dancing or, at its best, illustrates a non-committal fear of expression typified in a weird twitch/ironic twist. The dancers are too self-aware to let themselves feel any form of liberation; they shuffle along, shrugging themselves into oblivion.



Speaking of decapitation, several of the comments seem to be unapologetically demanding the head of Douglas Haddow:

Again the disdain for anysort of "movement" or "anti-movement" is shat upon by a fool who denies being apart of the very thing he wishes to be.
...
No, they don't have the solutions, the answers, but at least they don't pretend they do. Hipsters, then, are the great barricade, the strikers that will not be moved. No, we're not making specific demands for employee benifits (we know that doesn't get us as far as we really wanna go). So, call it the forming of an army via blog, an international coke-disco V.I.P. list for future e-mails to be sent.

Call it what you want, but please don't waste another tank of natural gas insulting another harmless part of culture where the real criminals go un-blamed.
...
One of his points was, hipsters are harmful BECAUSE they're harmless. Every other subculture in history has had something to say - even emo kids!

My favorite part of your post was where you tell him to stop insulting your culture because you have no voice. Even better, if you distrust the revolutionaries so much and their worldview is so 'skewed' - why not do it yourself instead of being a slave to whatever mass media tells you?

Conformity is not a culture. Ignorance is not strength. Slavery is not freedom, despite what you see on TV.
This is some great conversation, highly recommended!

~*~

*For non-baby-boomers, the title of this post is from the famous Greyhound bus advertising slogan of the 50s and 60s (possibly even through the 70s?). My newest TV addiction, MAD MEN, has me remembering all the innovative advertising of the era. (See #54 here.)

----------------
Listening to: The Breeders - We're Gonna Rise
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why Rick Warren is on my last good nerve

Left: Cross by Wes-Wilson (1968)

~*~

In these parts, Rick Warren first hit the big time over two years ago, during a dramatic hostage situation is Atlanta. The Baptist Press covered the story on March 14, 2005:

ATLANTA (BP)--Ashley Smith, the Atlanta-area woman taken hostage by the subject of the largest manhunt in Georgia history March 12, calmed the alleged killer by reading an excerpt from [Rick Warren's] "The Purpose-Driven Life" and talking with him about God. She escaped by persuading him to let her pick up her daughter from an AWANA children's program at a Southern Baptist church.
Certainly, it was a riveting, amazing story. At one point, like something out of Flannery O'Connor, the two connected on a spiritual level:

The alleged gunman, Brian Nichols, overpowered an Atlanta courthouse deputy as he was being escorted to court for a rape trial March 11. He then shot and killed the presiding judge and a court reporter before killing another deputy as he left the courthouse. Later he killed a federal agent in an attempt to flee authorities.

Nichols, 33, held Smith at gunpoint outside her Duluth apartment around 2:30 a.m. March 12, apparently having chosen her at random as she returned from a trip to a nearby store. Once he removed his hat, she recognized him as the man wanted for the killing spree and chose to cooperate with his demands. He tied her up and then began to converse with her.

Smith asked Nichols not to kill her because she was scheduled to pick up her 5-year-old daughter the next morning. Four years ago, Smith's husband died in her arms after being stabbed in a knife fight, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Smith was concerned that her daughter would become an orphan.
...
As time passed during the early morning hours at the apartment, Nichols and Smith talked about God, family and life experiences while the fugitive apparently became more comfortable with the hostage. She began to help the gunman consider the families of the victims he had shot that day and asked him if he thought about how they might be feeling.

"After we began to talk, he said he thought that I was an angel sent from God and that I was his sister and he was my brother in Christ and that he was lost and God led him right to me to tell him that he had hurt a lot of people," Smith told reporters. "And the families -- the people -- to let him know how they felt because I had gone through it myself."

Nichols held photographs of Smith's family in his hands and said repeatedly that he did not want to hurt anyone else, according to a CNN transcript of Smith's statements to reporters.

"He said, 'Can I stay here for a few days? I just want to eat some real food and watch some TV and sleep and just do normal things that normal people do,'" Smith said.

As they continued to talk, Nichols mentioned that he considered his life to be over.

"He needed hope for his life. He told me that he was already dead," Smith told reporters. "He said, 'Look at me. Look at my eyes. I am already dead.' And I said, 'You are not dead. You are standing right in front of me. If you want to die, you can. It's your choice.'

"But after I started to read to him, he saw -- I guess he saw my faith and what I really believed in. And I told him I was a child of God and that I wanted to do God's will. I guess he began to want to. That's what I think," she said.
Smith convinced Nichols to let her go pick up her child. When safely in her car, at the first stop sign, she dialed 911. The SWAT team surrounded Nichols in Smith's apartment, and he surrendered. (I watched the whole thing on TV, amazed that she had essentially TALKED her way out of there.)

And Rick Warren became a multi-millionaire, if he wasn't one already.

~*~

The Crucifixion (stained glass), St Mary's Church side chapel, Greenville, SC.


I haven't quite known what to say about Rick Warren's recent Saturday night follies at Saddleback Church, in which he did a great impersonation of a catechism teacher before Confirmation, thoroughly interrogating presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. He questioned them extensively about faith, ethics, morality, religion, whether evil exists, and other existential matters. What does any of this have to do with the gig? I don't like FAITH being a litmus test for office, as it obviously is, now that we have Pastor Rick Warren (a feel-good combination of Dr Phil and Billy Graham) conducting the job interview. Why is faith more important than being able to do the job correctly and representing the voters? Do we include these questions in any other job interview?

I am a Christian, as most of you know. But you can count me with the atheists on this one. The government is NOT supposed to be Christian. (WHY would anyone want that? Do you want to corrupt the Church? How do you think it originally got corrupted in the first place?) We are supposed to render under Caesar, that which is Caesar's. We are not supposed to institute a Christian government. I think the Protestants have forgotten what-all they were protesting against, and oddly enough, we Catholics have not. Europe was once ruled by the Holy Roman Empire, and it got to be a sticky, unpleasant business, with periodic ethnic-cleansing, Crusades and Inquisitions. Have the Protestants not learned ANYTHING from their own criticisms of Catholicism? (Or do they think THEY will get it right, where we didn't?) Church and state should BE SEPARATE, dammit. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

And you know, what about the atheists? Obviously, they were totally shut out of the proceedings. It is understood that the Rick Warren follies were simply not open to them, not their thing. They can't participate. Aren't they citizens, too? On the Happy Atheist forum, a fellow named rlrose comments:
why weren't there any atheist or humanist groups at the "Compassion Forum" that was held with Hillary and Obama in, what was it, May? ALL kinds of Christian groups, asking questions about how they will preserve the Christian beliefs of this nation (!?!?!), but no one representing the non-believers asking how they will preserve our SECULAR beliefs.

And you admitted that an outspoken atheist wouldn't stand a chance. SO... your folks can spew their religious beliefs from every mountain and they are praised and worshipped, but let an atheist even MENTION they're a non-believer and they might as well be handed a shovel to dig their own grave
He's right, you know.

One thing I dislike about the radical atheists, they would call me stupid for being a believer. But when they are right, they are right, and we should have the honesty and integrity to step up and admit this. THEY ARE RIGHT.

A Person Who Exists writes on The Arrogant Atheist:

I remain resolute in disagreement that this [Saddleback Church forum] should have happened. Even if we ignore the fact that the crowd appeared biased toward McCain, the religious test for public office we have put Obama through so continuously is disgusting. Still, Obama joins in and allows his faith to be tested by them. He allows his religion to be questioned, and gives very faith based answers. It bothers me.
Yeah, Person, but the truth is likely that he feels personally peeved and/or hurt that he is being trashed like this, up to and including the Stealth Antichrist Campaign. I believe he is answering honestly. But unless you give the proper right-wing replies, your FAITH is questioned. Right wing politics have also become the litmus test for faith.

Ironically, when Obama does answer honestly, they get angry at him. Another atheist, Amanda Marcotte, writes on Pandagon:

I was quite pleased with Obama’s response that the question of when life begins is above his pay grade. I remember Pastor Tim Russert asking, I think, Claire McCaskill a similar question and she was like, “What are you asking? When does an embryo become ensouled?”

Believe what you want, but the important question for politicians is how such things get translated into… policy. And when McCain says he believes life begins at conception (cheer!) it’s pretty meaningless unless he’s asked to explain how that would be translated into policy. Are blastocysts entitled to child support? Do all late periods need to be reported to the Ministry of Health? And, of course, my favorite: Are those who implant multiple embryos during IVF treatments, knowing full well that most will die, guilty of negligent manslaughter?
Indeed, what kinds of questions are these? Obama is totally correct, this is above his pay grade. Søren Kierkegaard, call your office.

Amanda adds:
I get that the joke was a faux paus because the piety set abhors jokes of this nature, mostly because said jokes draw attention to the fact that they believe horrible things (in this case, that “life begins at conception”, a euphemism for the belief that sperm have more rights than women), and that those horrible things are protected from criticism because they call themselves “people of faith” and are reliably so touchy that most people are scared off the hard questions.
And here, I would have to disagree. The piety set abhor jokes of this nature because of the kind of faith they have, not because they are "people of faith." Like patriotism, artistic ability or any other quality, faith is not one-size-fits-all, and there are as many types of faith (and approaches to religion/spirituality in general) as there are people who have it.

The fact is that these people are neo-fundamentalists, the mellow California pseudo-Dr-Phil variety. As befits their religious tradition, they believe there is nothing they cannot answer or somehow account for in their theology. For Obama to show humility and say, in effect, that's too much for me, is something that makes them uncomfortable.

There is nothing they believe they do not already know, and they want a president who similarly shares this delusion.

Monday, August 18, 2008

We are currently experiencing technical difficulties

... in ohhhh, so many ways.

First, can anyone explain why I can't see any of my previously posted videos in Firefox, but I can see these same videos in Internet Explorer? Also, a few random widgets are missing in Firefox as well.

This appeared to happen right after I deleted Google's Adsense in a fit of pique, for putting "Osama Obama" ads on my blog. Then, I wake up this morning and can't see any of my videos. We'll teach you to diss Google, missy! Chastened, I put the Google Adsense box back, but it looks different this time. Also, I could not access my full layouts page (had to re-install Adsense through Internet Explorer, also). The bottom half of the Page Layouts (in Blogger) is gone, random widgets and links disappearing just like the videos did. The Template tab has also disappeared, along with my Dead Air Library widget. It was exactly like Flow my Tears, the Policeman Said, by Philip K Dick, the only logical outcome being that I would soon start disappearing, as well. There will have been no record of me OR my blog, and I will (necessarily) have to go around trying to convince people that I exist.

Like anyone else in such a situation, understandably, I did panic.

~*~

This hasn't been a good week. Two days ago, while my arms were full of (not kidding) dog vitamins, I tripped over a badly-stacked bottled-water display and ended up splayed out on the floor--SPLAT. (Dick Van Dyke redux, for you baby boomers.) I badly bruised both elbows and my left knee, but as my regular blog-readers know, I'm a well-padded gal of hardy peasant stock who ingests every supplement ever invented (and then some). I am relieved and grateful I didn't break anything, but if I had, I would have talked to a few bone-building supplement manufacturers and demanded an explanation.

Anyway, already a bit jarred, and then last night I watch Rick Warren and the presidential candidates engage in some depressingly predictable repartee.

My supervisor is changing jobs, as noted before, and will be leaving us this week. I ate lunch with her today; I am crestfallen over her departure and feel an acute sense of loss.

And then, I see that I am disappearing! Where's my videos?! ((screams))

~*~

Comically, I attempt to leave messages for the Blogger Help Group, which also advertises for ESCORTS from various warring countries. Gollee, I had NO IDEA! No, wait... that is SPAM that the Blogger team is too lazy to clean up. You figure a place that tolerates all of this sex-spam ain't gonna be much for answering my question. I dutifully type "disappearing videos from blog" in the little search box provided, and promptly find a dozen people with my same question, spread out over the past four months.

And not a single answer.

Why do they bother to tell us about a Blogger Help Group, if they have no intention of helping? Is this some new, creative form of postmodern torture?

Anyway, I apologize for being slack lately. I wanted to blast the Rick Warren follies good and proper, and may well do so. I have a tight schedule the next few days.

And I might disappear entirely by then.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dead Air Church: Cortez the Killer

He came dancing across the water, Cortez, Cortez...

This week for Dead Air Church, I wanted to recognize the Feast of the Assumption (which was the 15th) by commemorating the victims of one Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marqués del Valle de Oaxaca. The Aztec Empire fell on August 13, 1521.

One account of the massacre in the Main Temple of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan (May 1520):


Here it is told how the Spaniards killed, they murdered the Mexicas who were celebrating the Fiesta of Huitzilopochtli in the place they called The Patio of the Gods

At this time, when everyone was enjoying the fiesta, when everyone was already dancing, when everyone was already singing, when song was linked to song and the songs roared like waves, in that precise moment the Spaniards determined to kill people. They came into the patio, armed for battle.

They came to close the exits, the steps, the entrances [to the patio]: The Gate of the Eagle in the smallest palace, The Gate of the Canestalk and the Gate of the Snake of Mirrors. And when they had closed them, no one could get out anywhere.

Once they had done this, they entered the Sacred Patio to kill people. They came on foot, carrying swords and wooden and metal shields. Immediately, they surrounded those who danced, then rushed to the place where the drums were played. They attacked the man who was drumming and cut off both his arms. Then they cut off his head [with such a force] that it flew off, falling far away.

At that moment, they then attacked all the people, stabbing them, spearing them, wounding them with their swords. They struck some from behind, who fell instantly to the ground with their entrails hanging out [of their bodies]. They cut off the heads of some and smashed the heads of others into little pieces.

They struck others in the shoulders and tore their arms from their bodies. They struck some in the thighs and some in the calves. They slashed others in the abdomen and their entrails fell to the earth. There were some who even ran in vain, but their bowels spilled as they ran; they seemed to get their feet entangled with their own entrails. Eager to flee, they found nowhere to go.
~*~

He came dancing across the water
With his galleons and guns
Looking for the new world
In that palace in the sun

On the shore lay Montezuma
With his cocoa leaves and pearls
In his halls he often wondered
With the secrets of the worlds

And his subjects gathered round him
Like the leaves around a tree
In their clothes of many colors
For the angry gods to see

And the women all were beautiful
And the men stood straight and strong
They offered life in sacrifice
So that others could go on

Hate was just a legend
And war was never known
The people worked together
And they lifted many stones

They carried them to the flatlands
And they died along the way
But they built up with their bare hands
What we still can't do today

And I know she's living there
And she loves me to this day
I still can't remember when
Or how I lost my way

He came dancing across the water
Cortez, Cortez

What a killer.


~*~

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Cortez the Killer

Friday, August 15, 2008

Jerome Corsi is a freak, and other updates...

Left: Senator Barack Obama at Furman University, during the South Carolina primary. Photo from Greenville News.

~*~

Is he in trouble? I think so.

The big news this week has been all about Jerome Corsi's best-selling attack-book, titled The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality.

Jerome Corsi, you think... Corsi? Where have I heard that name before? Aha. He is one of the guys who swift-boated John Kerry, co-authoring the similar 2004 hit-book Unfit for Command.

The Obama campaign has issued a 41-page pdf file itemizing the falsehoods in the book. And yeah, they come out swinging. They expose Corsi as a world-class right wingnut who buys into various popular conspiracy theories (North American Union, 9/11, Obama's a closet Muslim, maybe) among other bizarre documented beliefs. Jonathan Martin of Politico.com believes the real purpose of the aggressive response is to make it very clear that Obama is NOT John Kerry, and won't take it lying down:

But, as made plain by the title and faux book jacket, the goal is also to demonstrate to fretting Democrats, Republicans plotting attacks and reporters watching it all that they won't be "swift-boated" in the way John Kerry was in 2004 starting with Corsi's book, "Unfit for Command."

To prove this point, they don't stop at merely fact-checking each questionable claim in the book -- they also set out to attack Corsi for his fringe views, discrediting the messenger.

Of course, the lies in “The Obama Nation” almost pale in comparison to the bizarre, conspiratorial views that Jerome Corsi has advocated in his broader work," writes the Obama campaign in what amounts to an introduction, noting the author's fear of a purported North American Union, belief that there was a government coverup of 9/11 and past anti-Catholic comments.

In moving so aggressively to prove that they aren't Kerry, Obama's campaign seems to have taken a page out of the 90s-era Clinton playbook. Obama may decry the partisan rancor of the past two decades, but by launching a withering counter-attack against his enemies he's also aping one of the most effective elements within the Clinton arsenal. When they came under assault from the right-wing, they gave no quarter, responding with not just a vigorous defense but an equally vigorous counter-offensive aimed at discrediting their enemies.
Well, thank God for that. I'm one of the people who thought John Kerry looked like he had his thumb up his ass while he was under vicious attack by the swift-boaters. Responding intelligently to random nastiness is part of the job description as Commander-in-Chief, and Americans need to see if Senator Obama is up to the task.

But I can't help but worry. If you keep throwing shit, some of it always sticks. The Republicans are very desperate, and they are pulling out the stops. As a result, I think Obama is in trouble. The dog-whistling Stealth Antichrist Campaign has not abated. And now, we've got this nutso book to contend with. I say, roast Corsi on a spit. It shouldn't be too hard, since he sounds like a member in good standing of the Black Helicopter Faction of the GOP:
Corsi is an unabashed partisan. In 2006, he mulled a run for president under the hard-right Constitution Party’s banner and last year he signed on as a senior strategist for a group that intended to become to the right what MoveOn.org is to the left.

But his outrageous assertions and fringe theories — which include allegations that President Bush worked to eliminate the borders with Mexico and Canada and the assertion that Kerry is a Communist — have hurt his credibility on the right, as well.

Corsi’s co-author on the Kerry attack book, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth spokesman John O'Neill, downplayed Corsi’s role after the left-leaning press watchdog group Media Matters exposed Corsi’s venomous postings in the conservative blogosphere.

On the blog FreeRepublic.com, Corsi wrote that pedophilia “is OK with the Pope as long as it isn't reported by the liberal press,” that “RAGHEADS are Boy-Bumpers as clearly as they are Women-Haters” and that Kerry is “Anti-Christian, Anti-American.”

Last year, Corsi released a book charging President Bush was secretly plotting to create a North American Union by merging the U.S. with Canada and Mexico.
And Number One on the best-seller list!

This sort of thing makes me hyperventilate.

~*~

Some time ago, I linked Michele Obama Watch, while neglecting to mention this in a post. My apologies! This is a great blog, carefully chronicling (and to some degree, analyzing) media coverage of Michele Obama.

For example, recent analysis of an article in NEW YORK magazine titled Black and Blacker, the Racial Politics of the Obama Marriage:
Having read and re-read this article several times, however, I think the point that [author Vanessa] Grigoriadis was attempting to make was that the Obama’s - and particularly Michelle - don’t “act” the same when fundraising, campaigning, and trying to win a presidential campaign as they do when the cameras are not on or when they are among “friends”. As Grigoriadis puts it:

Michelle is the type of woman rarely seen in the public eye. She’s a well-educated woman who is a dedicated mother, successful in her career, and happens to be black…Michelle must project herself as black to one community, but she also must act white to another,…

“Acting white”? What if anything any of this has to do with the “racial politics of the Obama marriage”? Perhaps in reading the entire article, MOWers might be able to discern what the point of this article was intended to be. Cause I really need to understand exactly what she meant by it being so rare to see a a well-educated woman who is a dedicated mother, successful in her career. Isn’t that what we not only expect but demand from our First Ladies? Surely we don’t expect her clothes to come from a stores not ending in “Mart”.

As I said, a great blog, and they are ON the case.

Speaking of Michele in the media, there is a lovely article about Michele in EBONY magazine this month. The article isn't online, but some good clips of Michele at the EBONY site.

I hope Michele will address the Democratic Convention in splendiferous fashion! Stay tuned, sports fans!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How I learned to stop worrying and love the Tarot

Left: The High Priestess, from the Rider-Waite tarot deck.

~*~

Can I really tell people's fortunes?

Someone asked me, as I was idly reading the tarot for myself, sitting alone and drinking coffee. I told them: I read the tarot.

Isn't that reading people's fortunes? Telling the future?

At that point, I launched into a rather flaky Philip-K-Dick-inspired explanation of pre-cogs. PKD's particular pre-cogs saw a collection of futures and then, one future would appear prominent and more obvious than the others.* Interestingly, two pre-cogs may not agree. In one of his most famous stories, three pre-cogs are used to arrive at a conclusion and it is discovered that one of them frequently dissents from the other two, and this account therefore disregarded. (This dissent was known as the Minority Report.)

In various of PKD's tales, when the pre-cogs tell the future, that future may suddenly vanish. It has changed, in the telling. It was prevented by saying it aloud; also the intention in Minority Report--to actually prevent what the pre-cogs see from ever truly coming to pass. (It was called the Department of PreCrime.)

And then there is Dickens' version. After being shown his unpleasant fate, Ebenezer Scrooge notoriously pleaded with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to please clarify: Is this what CAN be, or what WILL be? And the spirit, dressed like the grim reaper (who never says much in fiction, you'll notice), didn't answer but kept pointing to Scrooges' gravestone. The only thing certain is death.

When I read the tarot, I feel I am getting a series of random snapshots from that person's psyche, all measured in archetypes. The best reading is interactive, when I read the archetypes and the person tells me who/what these represent to them and what it means when they see the images and I repeat the words: The Lovers, The Chariot, The Moon, Strength, The Fool. Who is the Queen of Swords? Who is the King of Cups? They will usually tell me, unless guarded and distant (and some are). They unwind their selves for me, confiding and reaching out. I feel then that I truly know them, even if I have just met them. They have shown me their vulnerability and I show them whatever I think they need: kindness, encouragement, reproach (yes, some come to confess their sins; usually at least one card always gives open permission for this to happen), interrogation, an overall lightness, fun. Every person is different. I ask them what they want from the reading and I try to deliver it as best as I can.

Sometimes, as was true for my friend JW, the person invigorates my spirit and helps me see myself better, too. And I know the reading was also for myself.

People know what they want. They know what future they want. They want permission, encouragement, warnings, best wishes. Perhaps in the past, they had kindly relatives living close by, who could offer these. Maybe they had a priest, a rabbi, someone who delivered the periodic warnings and the necessary checks and balances to the ego. But lately, people have fewer spiritual authorities, even as their existential options have exponentially increased. They want to be in charge (and on some level, realize that they ARE), and yet, give some quiet assent to tradition, old ways, the unpredictability of life and fate. They want to go to a grandma-hippie figure and be comforted or upbraided. Their own grandmother might be in another country or on the other side of this one. This is the reason people have psychics, shrinks, therapists, life coaches.

~*~

Left: the Eight of Coins (Craft) from the Nigel Jackson tarot.


I could never have read the tarot when I was young. I just wouldn't have had the nerve to look at a bunch of cards and talk about what they mean. I studied the cards and knew about them, but I don't know when it was that I saw a reading and realized I could do it, too. The first time I read the tarot for another person, I could clearly see that they were trusting me implicitly with their honest life-questions... and it was THEN and only then, that I understood the tarot's purpose; it is a process, an interaction, an exchange of knowledge, impressions, emotions. As I read the cards, it all unfolded before me--my own future too.

During the advertising campaign for Sam Raimi's film THE GIFT, screenwriter Billy Bob Thornton made waves when he said he based the lead character on his own mother, a small-town psychic in Arkansas. More weird shit from Billy Bob, said the press, rolling their collective eyes heavenward. But I heard him when he said that in certain parts of the south, people don't trust educated counselors and professionals the way they would trust his mother. It was also a matter of class, money, motive and overall style. People will either get it, he said, or they won't.

The easiest tarot reading is the skeptical person who has never had it done before. The archetypes represented by the tarot deck freak them out in a big way; they didn't realize they had consented to Jungian psychoanalysis as conducted by a hippie herbalist.

"Who's the Emperor?" I asked one such skeptic. "Your father?"

"You're supposed to tell me that!" he barked, condescendingly.

"Okay, your father."

He grunted.

And let's not forget: Occam's razor works well for tarot, too.

***

*In Ubik, a group of pre-cogs hired by one corporation is neutralized by another. They do this by making all futures (as foreseen by the pre-cogs) equally probable, thus canceling out any prominent ones from manifesting. (Of course, this essentially made them just like anyone else who could vividly imagine a future.)

Wordless Wednesdays: Three doggies in the window

First class art work from a gallery window near Grove Arcade in Asheville. I regret the artist's name was nowhere to be found.



----------------
Listening to: Grateful Dead - Estimated Prophet
via FoxyTunes

Monday, August 11, 2008

Isaac Hayes 1942-2008

Left: Isaac Hayes, from the WASHINGTON POST.

~*~

They say this cat Shaft is a bad mother!

Well, he really was.

Isaac Hayes dead at 65

ASSOCIATED PRESS • August 10, 2008


MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Isaac Hayes, the baldheaded, baritone-voiced soul crooner who laid the groundwork for disco and whose "Theme From Shaft" won both Academy and Grammy awards, died Sunday afternoon after he collapsed near a treadmill, authorities said. He was 65.

Hayes was pronounced dead at Baptist East Hospital in Memphis an hour after he was found by a family member, the Shelby County Sheriff's Office said. The cause of death was not immediately known.

With his muscular build, shiny head and sunglasses, Hayes cut a striking figure at a time when most of his contemporaries were sporting Afros. His music, which came to be known as urban-contemporary, paved the way for disco as well as romantic crooners like Barry White.

And in his spoken-word introductions and interludes, Hayes was essentially rapping before there was rap. His career hit another high in 1997 when he became the voice of Chef, the sensible school cook and devoted ladies man on the animated TV show "South Park."

"Isaac Hayes embodies everything that's soul music," Collin Stanback, an A&R executive at Stax, told The Associated Press on Sunday.
The first of his records I ever heard was called "Hot Buttered Soul", the name he later assigned his trio of female backup singers.

The album "Hot Buttered Soul" made Hayes a star in 1969. His shaven head, gold chains and sunglasses gave him a compelling visual image.

"Hot Buttered Soul" was groundbreaking in several ways: He sang in a "cool" style unlike the usual histrionics of big-time soul singers. He prefaced the song with "raps," and the numbers ran longer than three minutes with lush arrangements.

"Jocks would play it at night," Hayes recalled in a 1999 Associated Press interview. "They could go to the bathroom, they could get a sandwich, or whatever."

Left: SHAFT album cover.

Next came "Theme From Shaft," a No. 1 hit in 1971 from the film "Shaft" starring Richard Roundtree.

"That was like the shot heard round the world," Hayes said in the 1999 interview.

At the Oscar ceremony in 1972, Hayes performed the song wearing an eye-popping amount of gold and received a standing ovation. TV Guide later chose it as No. 18 in its list of television's 25 most memorable moments. He won an Academy Award for the song and was nominated for another one for the score. The song and score also won him two Grammys.

"The rappers have gone in and created a lot of hit music based upon my influence," he said. "And they'll tell you if you ask."

Hayes was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
As a 14-year old, my favorite song from the SHAFT soundtrack was Ellie's Love Theme, a sweet, lovely piece of music I later taped (long after the vinyl wore out) and used as walking accompaniment, with my walkman and headphones. I listened to it for over 30 years. I have included it below.

At the risk of sounding ancient, can I pause to say I am still amazed you can find ANYTHING on the net? I was thrilled to find this old piece of music again! It's also wonderful to be able to share this private pleasure with all of you here. Just take a listen to the delicate beauty and elegant, early-70s cool of that composition.

A self-taught musician, he was hired in 1964 by Stax Records of Memphis as a backup pianist, working as a session musician for Otis Redding and others. He also played saxophone.

He began writing songs, establishing a songwriting partnership with David Porter, and in the 1960s they wrote such hits for Sam and Dave as "Hold On, I'm Coming" and "Soul Man."

All this led to his recording contract.

In 1972, he won another Grammy for his album "Black Moses" and earned a nickname he reluctantly embraced. Hayes composed film scores for "Tough Guys" and "Truck Turner" besides "Shaft." He also did the song "Two Cool Guys" on the "Beavis and Butt-Head Do America" movie soundtrack in 1996. Additionally, he was the voice of Nickelodeon's "Nick at Nite" and had radio shows in New York City (1996 to 2002) and then in Memphis.

He was in several movies, including "It Could Happen to You" with Nicolas Cage, "Ninth Street" with Martin Sheen, "Reindeer Games" starring Ben Affleck and the blaxploitation parody "I'm Gonna Git You, Sucka."

Left: South Park character CHEF, from the Comedy Central network.

In the 1999 interview, Hayes described the South Park cook as "a person that speaks his mind; he's sensitive enough to care for children; he's wise enough to not be put into the 'wack' category like everybody else in town -- and he l-o-o-o-o-ves the ladies."

But Hayes angrily quit the show in 2006 after an episode mocked his Scientology religion.

"There is a place in this world for satire," he said. "but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry toward religious beliefs of others begins."

Co-creator creators Matt Stone responded that Hayes "has no problem -- and he's cashed plenty of checks -- with our show making fun of Christians." A subsequent episode of the show seemingly killed off the Chef character.

Hayes was born in 1942 in a tin shack in Covington, Tenn., about 40 miles north of Memphis. He was raised by his maternal grandparents after his mother died and his father took off when he was 1. The family moved to Memphis when he was 6.

Hayes wanted to be a doctor, but got redirected when he won a talent contest in ninth grade by singing Nat King Cole's "Looking Back."

He held down various low-paying jobs, including shining shoes on the legendary Beale Street in Memphis. He also played gigs in rural Southern juke joints where at times he had to hit the floor because someone began shooting.
We'll miss you, Chef.

But mostly, I'll miss the ultra-cool cat who wrote/conducted/produced this:

Isaac Hayes - Ellie's Love Theme (SHAFT soundtrack)



Resquiat In Pace.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Last date

For those of you who have always wondered what this haunting, bittersweet piece of piano-music is called, that's the title.

Etched in my memory, I have visions: A young man with a DA haircut accompanies a young woman with a poodle skirt... neon signs reflecting in dark puddles, late at night, as the couple leave the bar to cuddle in the warm car, motor idling. Maybe they turn on the car radio, and hear this song.

They were my parents.

Not sure how I got the memory, unless it was just so strongly conveyed by their presence. No matter how nasty they brawled, even after they divorced, they would be brought together by the song. (Yes, they continued to see each other long after they were divorced and married to other people, plural. I'll get around to writing about THAT convoluted and complicated state of affairs, one of these days.)

When my mother heard the song, even decades later, she would always politely excuse herself to go to the restroom. (And shed tears for my father, no doubt.)

This song, recorded in 1960, was used in country-and-western-bars (and maybe still is, in some areas) as a "last call"--a signal the bar was closing; time to drink up and leave. Folks would often dance this song with their ex-lovers, or someone they believed they would NEVER have as a lover. They would dance with their best friends' wives, in full view of the best friend. Women would also dance with each other (men never did). The song was transcendent; it said "We have shared this space and time together, and now, this night is over." Something about the wistful melody made the saloon-denizens suddenly thoughtful, quiet, melancholy, sentimental, aware of their mortality. People might break out in fights during rowdier songs... but never this one. Last date signaled a graceful 'good night'--an always-tender parting of the ways.

I just love it.

It's best listened to VERY LATE on a Saturday night... maybe 2:30 am, when the bars in my hometown closed.

~*~

Floyd Cramer - Last Date