Friday, July 29, 2005

No excuses, many justifications

Hello, everyone, many apologies for my absense of late. Although I don't have excuses, we have had two family birthdays, sandwiched by two trips out of town, within the last 14 days.
The first trip out of town was to Okemah, Oklahoma, for the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival. I will hopefully have a detailed post son, but my first attempt at trying to encapsulate it was just getting out of control, so I put it aside until the other events were out of the way. But what a fantastic festival. I'll leave it at that for now.
Well, the Red River Red turned 37 eleven days ago, and our daughter Zora (should I call her Little Pink) turned five six days ago. The motif for the party reflected her current obsession with My Little Ponies, otherwise known to her mother and myself as the Steeds of Satan, ushering in the corporate apocalypse with their braided manes and pastel coats. This too shall pass, right? Hell, I once owned an Air Supply tape, and I turned out a committed foe of Kenny G, George Bush, the New York Yankees and all of the other personifications of pure evil loosed upon the world in our time.
It's past midnight, the wife and daughter are back tomorrow, and my 48 hours of bachelorhood are almost over. Laundry is done and put away, dishes are washed, books and cds and records are put away, and I'm exhausted. Vacation's over, and I promise, with my hand on a stack of Baseball Encyclopedias, that a steady stream of wit, trenchant analysis, barely contained rage and assorted whimsy will follow very soon. Peace, y'all.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Big Weekend in River City

Ever have one of those weekends where you were on the go constantly, receiving intellectual & artistic stimulation at such a pace that you ended up energized rather than exhausted by the end of it? Well, that's exactly what yours truly, the Red River Red, experienced this past weekend.
Gee, Red, where were you?, you're probably asking. New Orleans, Dallas, the Left Bank of Paris, Scotland for the G8 protests, Provence, Tuscany, Cannes, Monte Carlo, Kathmandu, Minden, Stonewall? As a matter of fact, dear readers, I never left the cozy confines of Shreveport, and still didn't take advantage of all the cultural opportunities offered.
The Red and family began our day with the opening of the Multicultural Center of the South downtown. Although the lack of food was a major oversight, the exhibits portraying the cultural contributions of immigrants from Africa, China, Japan, Vietnam, Mexico, Greece, Scotland and many, many other places were informative, often interactive, and integrated the features of the former bank in very creative ways. The former room-sized safe is a bright and inviting children's area, although it's hard to tell which toys are just for display and which are for play. But there is a good amount of room for events, lectures, panel discussions and the like. I don't know what ongoing programming plans there are, but it has the potential to be an important place for cross-cultural communication in a community that seems to lack places for such dialogue.
After a brief lunch at the conveniently located Artspace cafe, I went to to Tower Books for the book signing by Tracy Laird, who has written Louisiana Hayride: Radio & Roots Music Along the Red River. I had a chance to speak to the author for a few minutes. Laird is a Shreveport native and Caddo Magnet graduate with a Ph. D. from the University of Michigan. Despite that, the book is very readable (or at least the first 50 pages), while Dr. Laird herself is very personable and down-to-earth. A full review of the book will be in this space before, and very likely an interview as well. She takes a big-picture view of the Louisiana Hayride, a jumping-off point for innovative roots musicians from Elvis Presley to Hank Williams to Johnny Cash to Johnny Horton to Faron Young, among many, many others. Racial, technological, economic, geographic and religious factors, among others, figure into her analysis, and as soon as I finish writing this, I'm going to get back to the book.
Later in the afternoon, several of the Red River Red clan attended a Moveon.org house party, at which several of us discussed the upcoming Supreme Court nomination and proper responses. Of course, there's always the chance that Bush will nominate someone whose allegiance to the Constitution is as great as his or her allegiance to (take your pick: fundamentalist jihad-style Christianity, anti-worker corporate oligarchy, or just unadulterated jackboot crypto-fascism. It could happen, right? But just in case Karl Rove doesn't end up in a prison jumpsuit in time to scare some sense into Bush's stegosaurus-sized peanut brain, we should be prepared for Bush to not have the moral compass necessary to nominate the equivalent of Hugo Black or Thurgood Marshall.
Finally, the wife and I ended up at Artspace's Coolspace in the evening for a performance by the fantastically original Jr. III. I don't know where these guys have been hiding, but it's time to shine a light on them. Guitar, upright bass and drums, assisted ably by Dirty Redd on trumpet. Musically, they reminded me of the combinations heard on the soundtrack album of the Hot Spot, a neo-noir directed by Dennis Hopper in the 1980's and starring Don Johnson. John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis, Taj Mahal and Roy Rogers play in various permutations, with no lyrics except for some suggestive moaning and grunting by Hooker at various points. As he always did brilliantly, Davis provides an indispensable but subtle elegance to the guttural guitars, and a similar dynamic played out with Jr. III. I never caught the names of the personnel, but the lyrics of the guitarist and lead singer reminded me of Morphine, if they had come out of a Delta blues tradition. Add in some outstanding covers of Willie Dixon and Leadbelly, and the deltas of the Big Muddy ain't got nothing on the Great Raft.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

4th of July sentiments

Greetings, everyone. I hope your weekend has been as enjoyable as the Red's, spent with friends and family enjoying some of the finer things: good food, adult beverages, music, baseball, wonderful conversation and deep personal connections. This is the last opinion piece I submitted to our local fishwrap. No response. I'm hitting about .333 with my submissions to them, which is respectable, I suppose. Anyway, here are some of my thoughts:

There is much to like in Alan English’s column in Sunday’s Times (6/26). He has a good grasp of the constitutional complexities of the flag-burning issue, a grasp much more nuanced than that of most members of Congress. However, there is also much intellectual dishonesty in the column, and he must be called to task for that.
It truly is a blessing that so many are willing to fight to defend our constitutional freedoms. To in any way equate a fight for constitutional freedoms with support for the current commander-in-chief, however, is a disservice to every American, in or out of uniform, who is working to bring the Constitution to life, to make those words more than just hollow rhetoric for all Americans, Iraqis, Afghans, Haitians, Venezuelans and others who get caught in the crossfire between the Bush Administration and their fellow enemies of freedom. From the hijacked 2000 election onward, the actions of this president have made opposition to him, and eventual impeachment and imprisonment, the only honorable course of action for committed citizens, and the truest sign of support for the troops.
I would ask all those in uniform to heed the words of 26-year Special Forces veteran (Vietnam, Panama, Haiti) Stan Goff. In his commentary “On Loyalty: An Open Letter to US Troops in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he refers to Vietnam:
“(One) thing many soldiers did was become part of the political resistance at home. They looked at this question of looking out for their buddies and for fellow soldiers in the short term, (weighed against) staying in a barbaric and immoral war in the long term. And they realized the best thing they could do for their buddies - not as soldiers, but as human beings – was to enlist in the opposition to the war and bring it to an end.
“In the process, many of them discovered that it took a lot more endurance and a lot more courage to oppose the war than it did to demonstrate that macho bullshit they were expected to display as they continued to do terrible things to those other human beings whose country they occupied.
“Here’s how you can exercise a deeper loyalty to the troops there now, and to all those who will continue to go as long as this obscenity continues:
“Do everything you can to stop the war.
“Question every order, and base those questions on the Geneva Conventions and the Law of Land Warfare. Let them see you keeping a detailed journal of your experience. Send your stories home in letters. Open up discussions about the legitimacy of the war when you are in your billets, even if it does spark controversy. Spread around information you get about the war from sources other than those loud-mouthed news-mannequins on FOX“ (stangoff.com, 6/12/05).
I would encourage everyone to read the entire commentary, as well as others by Goff. I will be flying my American flag on July 4, as I do everyday. I will remember those who have sacrificed defending the Constitution, whether it was at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, Iwo Jima or the Battle of the Bulge. But I will also honor those who, like Thoreau, Eugene Debs, Ralph Chaplin, Father Dan Berrigan, Abbie Hoffman, Brian Wilson and Marla Ruzicka, who have sacrificed in their struggles against the commanders-in-chief who have gotten this country into war after of imperialism, colonialism and other concepts antithetical to our Constitution, including Polk, McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Bush. Happy Fourth of July to you all.