Si monumentum requiris, circumspice Alan Lomax, musicologist and the perhaps the greatest living American you never knew, died yesterday at the age of 87. Behind him, however, he left a motherlode of recordings that put disappearing American folk traditions on disc for the world to hear.
You may never have heard of him, but you and millions of others -- if you've listened to Play, sweated to Muddy Waters, or sung "This Land Is Your Land" to yourself -- owe the man gratitude without even knowing it. Thank him now.
The best way to do that, might be to learn about his work. He left so much music behind that mentioning a starting point is silly. Still, any disc from the Southern Journey series should give you a clue about what Lomax was all about. If that whets your appetite, get out the Songs of the South box set [out of print] -- or plow right into The Alan Lomax Collection, which is pretty much bottomless.
The World at My Window I'm here late at work, finishing off a mass mailing I should have done while I was spending all that time blogging -- =, -- but as far as Friday nights as the office go, this one's pretty fetching, because I've got a piece of the National Black Arts Festival, which kicked off today, unfolding right out my office window.
I work out of a loft complex with a ton of studios, in a converted warehouse about five blocks down the street from the King Center. Some of the galleries here are having shows for the festival next week, but tonight, organizers have taken over the courtyard and staged a poetry slam/a cappella concert. There's some beautiful sounds wafting through the balcony door right now. [Well, there's the smell of barbecue coming through the door too, which certainly ain't doing wonders for my concentration. =, ] The stage is just a floor down from where I'm typing.
You know, as much as I feel more at home in smaller towns or bigger cities than this one, sometimes, in a good moment, this town is alright. I'd say this is one of those moments.
But enough of this typing -- I'm gonna shut this down and enjoy myself. I'll catch y'all tomorrow. =)
Tour News: Resistance Is Futile VeloNews chronicles another Armstrong victory in today's stage of the Tour de Lance. He romped through the hills once more, widening his overall lead to 2 minutes and 28 seconds.
"Sellers remained firmly in control in the last half hour of trading Friday, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke below its September low, as a criminal probe at a major drug company and weak outlooks from several technology companies sidelined buyers." --"Dow Shatters September Lows," TheStreet.com, July 19, 2002
"'In terms of the state of the economy, I see nothing that would suggest the need for any change in policy,' said R. Glenn Hubbard, chairman of [President] Bush's Council of Economic Advisers. 'What the president has already done, plus the monetary policy stance, is an awful lot already at a time when the economy is doing reasonably well.'" --"Bush Resists Taking New Economic Steps," The Washington Post, Jul. 18, 2002, A19.
"The plunging stock market and recent corporate implosions won't stop the White House from driving ahead with plans to overhaul Social Security to allow personal investment accounts." "Pension options still alive," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jul. 18, 2002, A1.
Got 'Im Wondering where you can find the vice president? He was here in Atlanta this Wednesday, inspecting the troops at the Centers for Disease Control during a supersecret jaunt Down South. The news blackout stayed pretty tight the day before, but the Secret Service cordon and police roadblocks kind of blew his cover.
He'll be in Georgia again today when he speaks at a fundraiser for Senate candidate Saxby Chambliss this evening down in Macon. I just got off the phone with someone at the Sierra Club who tells me some members are planning to picket the event. Sounds like fun to me. Anyone game? [I'll pass around the time and location to anyone who e-mails me this afternoon.]
Critics Gone Wild! Have any 'great' albums in your collection that never get played? These guys do, and they had a merry time making mincemeat out of them. Some putdowns are just cheap shots -- dudes, lay off the Wilco and the U2, would you? -- but people who breach protocol and finger Arrested Development as "rap-lite for sensitive white liberals who want to 'keep it real'" deserve kudos in my book.
I'll say this, though: when even conservatives treat trashing gays and lesbians as the bash that dare not speak its name, you've got to think the right's losing some of its courage, eh?
BTW: Don't go to Chuck's page just for the blog, y'all; go for the food. That boy can cook. This jambalaya, for instance, tastes so good you'll want to slap your mama. And these sweet potatoes can knock a man out for days.
Far-Flung Friends I just stumbled over a big ol' column by compadre and fellow onetime revolutionary Joe Gross, who's apparently alive, well, and covering the music scene for the Austin American-Statesman. It's a great piece of writing that makes me wonder more than ever why he spent four years slaving away on briefs and pleadings at the Department of Justice -- a neat trick, considering that the article's about a punk-rock/spoken-word icon I'd never heard of. =,
Writer and former Yellow Journal editor C.S. has an article in the latest Details that made me cock an eyebrow. The title: "How to Tell Your Ex-Girlfriend That You're Gay."
I know C.S. and his ex-girlfriend, A., fairly well, and I like 'em both -- which makes me hope he didn't trot A. out there for laughs. [That said, C.S. writes as well as ever, and he nails A.'s tone so well that I could almost hear her with me at the newsstand . . . ]
Esta Jarrett tells me that a great little foodie marketplace -- complete with bakery, chocolatier, Provençal takeout and fresh seafood, cheese and butter -- has opened up in C'ville on West Main, just a few blocks short of the Downtown Mall. If that had been around back when I was in law school, I suspect someone would've had to cart me around in a wheelbarrow. =, I can't wait to check that out.
Privacy? What's That? Thanks to Michael Powell and his minions at the FCC, your friendly telephone service provider can now sell your customer data -- run-of-the-mill stuff, really, like records of "where, when and to whom [you] place calls" -- to other communications companies without your permission.
Learning Through Living The highlight of my day? Running into a woman from the Environmental Leadership Institute (ELI) we held along the Georgia/North Carolina border in March. ELIs are hard work, but the stress has a purpoe -- it forces the participants to learn how to acknowledge other points of view. [They have to, or else the other people in their groups chew their heads off. =, ]
We organize ELI around simulations, and one of the simulations in March was about environmental justice -- in layman's terms, the disproportionate environmental harm often done to marginal communities or people of color. We wrote a storyline featuring a local utility planning to build a power plant in a down-at-the-heels black neighborhood with an incerator. Sounds like a blatant environmental justice scenario, right?
Not to this woman. In spite of what two UNC-affiliated environmental justice lecturers kept saying, that group spent half the week building campaign plans about clean air, local health, acid rain, strip mining -- anything, in short, but environmental justice. They were so scared of race that they wouldn't talk about it, even when that meant sacrificing their best issue. Their campaign stank as a result, and the training team basically had to intervene at midweek just to get them to acknowledge the subject.
Fast forward to today: I'm talking with one of the chief see-no-evil participants in that simulation, and we're catching each other up about what she's up to. Her big news? She's working on stopping a landfill that -- get this -- someone wants to build in a poor black community. She's hooked traditional environmental groups up with churches and community organizers already, and she says she's loving it.
If she's come this far in four months, then some of what she learned in March must have stuck. I'm loving that.
Whew! Light bloggage today? Yeah, but I have a good reason. The other two folks in the office went to Colorado this week, so I'm more or less running things while they're gone. That's kept me plenty busy, take my word. [How long ago did I start there, again? A month? =, ]
Just got back from a conference on water out at the Georgia Wildlife Federation's retreat out past Covington, Ga. There was a great crowd out there, with about 70 activists or so in attendance from all over the state. For me, it was a great chance to meet some environmental activists from other parts of the state; most
We spent the day hashing out a political agenda to hand to the governor after the election. [Gov. Barnes says he plans to make water issues a centerpiece of his next two years, and given how Atlanta appears to be running out of water, it's not a moment too soon.] What struck me, though, was the gargantuan scale of what we had to deal with: to have a comprehensive agenda, we're going to need to talk about erosion, stormwater runoff, livestock and poultry farming, household bug and weed sprays, construction, land use, wetlands . . . we could go on for days and not exhaust the subject.
The challenge going forward, then, is going to be keeping ourselves from making our plan a big, sprawling mess. I see the outlines of a great case -- we're great on laws, just short on enforcement -- but before taking that to the public, we have to forge a consensus to keep the message simple enough for people to understand. Average Americans only think about politics for five minutes a week, after all -- and I'll bet you $50 they won't spend all that time thinking about water.
I feel pretty good about getting a good agenda out of this, because I think people realized, by the end of the afternoon, just how much we need the public on board before we can make governor do anything. At the start of the conference, public outreach hadn't even made the agenda; by the end, it had its own committee. Considering how much we activists tend to preach to the choir, I call that progress.
Let's see here: the Muppet that has House Republicans in a tizzy would be on television in South Africa, where AIDS is spreading out of control. Forty percent of childbearing-aged women there are HIV-infected, and their kids -- who Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and others piously invoked in a letter to PBS -- probably know that. If the congressmen want "other PBS programming, aimed at an older age group, which may be more suitable for such sensitive messages," let me suggest one: Washington Week in Review. Ready for your closeup, Mr. Tauzin?
I love that guy. The comeback from cancer is great, but what nails it for me is how he manages to stay an ordinary guy -- an ordinary guy, that is, who wipes the floor with the competition nine days out of 10. Call him Tiger on a bike. Maybe the crash the other day nicked his aura of invincibility and emboldened the field -- but who knows.
I put on my best blank-minded act, and told them I'd seen a website that said tolls would cost $7.50 "just to drive one way on that sucker. Who on earth's gonna pay that much?!" [Yeah, I was getting into it.]
Cap'n stammered for a sec, then said the tolls haven't been set yet. That was no good for us, so I came back with plan B: tell 'em my source. "Well, that website said it was using the Department of Transportation's own numbers, and I'm just thinking that $7.50 is a heck of a lot of money."
The traffic correspondent from the Journal-Constitution cut in at that point and said, correctly, that his paper said tolls might get that high, but that he doubted they ever would "because you're right -- nobody would ever drive the thing."
By then, though, Cap'n had caught his breath -- so he pushed the mute on my line and went on a tear. (As much as you can with a thick-as-molasses drawl in your mouth, at least.)
"Well, I think we need to clear the air around here, and we need to find some solution ..."
(You'd build a new highway to clear the freakin' air?!?)
"... and we've got to find some way to clear all that traffic, and all that truck traffic, off the north end of the Perimeter ... "
(... neither one of which the DOT's numbers say the Arc would do ... )
"And I think a lot of people at the Department of Transportation -- not the employees, but the bureaucrats, have been causing some trouble ... "
State Insecurity I’m a First Amendment absolutist, so when I read stories like this -- about a National Review reporter detained by the State Department – I turn a million shades of crimson.
Apparently, State got mad because the writer had the temerity to question the country’s Saudi policy. Apparently, our ambassador in Saudi Arabia cabled home, in a leaked memo, to give headquarters a piece of his mind about ‘Visa Express’ – a program designed to help Saudis glide into the U.S. without interviews.
This comes just a couple of weeks after State denied an Indonesian maid a visa to return to America for the trial of a Saudi princess who pushed her down a flight of stairs. The maid had flown home to Jakarta for her mother’s funeral, but State wouldn’t let her come back – she might, State said, have tried to stay in America illegally.
And the Saudi princess? Oh, she was long gone. State let her go home in February, even though the Saudis and the U.S. have no extradition treaties. Anyone surprised that come the trial date, she was nowhere to be found?
Pandering to the Saudis is awful enough. Harassing people who raise questions about that, though, is a flat-out disgrace.
BTW: I’ll be sure to let y’all know what detention’s like. =,
French police quickly arrested a man in the crowd found trying to turn a rifle upon himself. The suspect, 25, a student and part-time chauffeur, has connections to neo-Nazi groups. He carried the rifle to the parade in a guitar case.
(Here's a thought: how much faster than the speed of light would the Secret Service have been all over that?)
Chirac should thank his lucky stars that the suspect only had a .22 caliber rifle, which was too small to cause much harm at a distance. But here's what I wonder: could this be the thing that knocks down the canard about simmering left-wing violence in western Europe?
But enough of that -- break out the Pernod, put on some Edith Piaf, and fumons nos cigares, eh? Vive la France!