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    None Dare Call It Groovy

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011, 5:50 PM [General]

    I keep hearing people say Obama is a socialist. Well, not saying it, but writing it in postings at BeliefNet and on the right-wing blogs I click on by accident or read about in the real world. And I've heard that the talking androids on the TV are saying it, although I don't know how much cuz I don't got no TV myself.

    I always say to myself when I hear that, "Yeah. I wish."

    Folks who see the world in nice, neat categories, stowed away in little boxes, may find this hard to believe, but Karl Marx and Adam Smith are not irreconcilable.

    Free enterprise can exist and thrive alongside Social Security and Medicare. In fact, free enterprise and socialism can co-exist and both be better because of the association.

    And make no mistake, as Barack might say, Social Security and Medicare are socialist programs. It's silly to pretend they're not.

    Just because we have Social Security doesn't mean we're going to end up a communist dictatorship. That's a right-wing fallacy known in logic as the slippery slope argument.

    Whatever best serves the people is the constitutional ideal. The government exists to serve all of us, not just the privileged few. If it doesn't serve us, it needs to be abolished.

    "Oppostion is true friendship" said William Blake. And the world is neither black nor white.

    Seein the world in ideological terms abstracts it. The real world is not an abstraction or a computer model.

    We need small-scale free enterprise, and a return to family-owned businesses and small farms, where people compete to do a better job and, if successful, make a lot of money. Such people used to inhabit all the small towns of this country, where they owned a home and a business building, were integral parts of their communities, served on the library boards and chambers of commerce and school boards and PTA's, and were citizens in the truest sense. They tended to be conservative. And I mean that in a good way.

    That was before the corporatocracy moved in on small communities with their Wal-Mart and their Burger Kings and their Midas Mufflers. And now most of those towns are ruins, with shabby looking but frequently busy strip malls on their peripheries. This is not what people need.

    And we need Social Security and Medicare for all.

    Power to the people. Viva Carlos Marx.

    0 (0 Ratings)

    The Gypsy Road

    Monday, August 15, 2011, 4:47 PM [General]

    "Latcho Drom," ("Safe journey" in the Rom language) is a musical odyssey, the story of the Gypsy diaspora. It follows the trail of the Gypsies from their oldest known homeland, the Rajasthani Desert in northwestern India, through Egypt and across the Mediterranean to Turkey and Rumania, then westward across Europe to Spain's Atlantic shore. Filmed in all these locations in the early nineties by Tony Gatlif, it was for a short time available on DVD, but now is once again only sold on videotape. At the moment, Amazon has access to several sellers vending used copies of the tape for reasonable prices (around $60).

    Although the whole movie is an education, I found the most exciting parts near the beginning, where families of nomadic herders with goats, camels, and donkeys, carry their few possessions through the desert in carts and barrows. Precious-metal wealth they wear as they glide over the landscape, still finding time and an inclination to celebrate their lives. This is a purely tribal and almost completely illiterate society, whose songs, stories, instrumentation, and dances are transmitted orally from one generation to the next, and necessarily learned by rote.

    Memorization for permanent retention and recall is a powerful learning tool, and underestimated in literate societies where written records have made it obsolete. It empowers learners to absorb and then transmit information with strict attention to the tiniest details, as these three young women have obviously done in learning the words, the timing, and the accompanying choreographed movements of the traditional tribal song they perform here near the beginning of Gatlif's movie.

    Understandably, learning by rote has a bad reputation among educators nowadays. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the power and beauty of what was for thousands of years the one indispensable tool for learning and the transmission of civilization and civilized values, and is still, among obscure people in a few remote and barely accessible places, a family tradition.



    0 (0 Ratings)

    9th SS and 71st

    Saturday, August 13, 2011, 2:50 PM [General]

    The 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen is a topic suggested to me by a random blog topic generator. As it turns out, my young father crossed paths with these  9th SS Panzers Hohenstaufen when that command surrendered near Steyr, Austria in May of '45. Dad was with the 71st Infantry, the "farthest east" US division, which reached Steyr at the same time as units of the Russian Red Army advancing from the east.

    The 9th SS Panzers was moved around a lot during the short history of its active role in combat. They first saw action in Poland in the spring of '44, but were quickly moved to Normandy and from there took part in the general retreat inland which occupied most of the next year.

    The pictures from my dad's wartime divisional chronicle* don't show the Panzers, but they do show American and Russian troops meeting up and eating together, along with the obligatory group portrait of the high generals on the scene, Inset at the bottom of the page is a destroyed German #88 anti-aircraft gun near Steyr.

    History from the troop's eye level -- that certainly gives a different kind of view. At the troop's eye level you see the individual nuts and bolts on the machines that drive modern war along, Nowadays, killing mechanisms are more dependent on electronics and less mechanical than in the past, still nothing has changed much since gunpowder came along.

    *Clinger, Johnson, Mazel, and Nichols, The History of the 71st Infantry Division (1946, Augsburg, Bavaria: 71st Infantry Division (self-Published).

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Stencil Graffiti

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011, 3:27 PM [General]

    The ugliness of freestyle tagging is increasingly taking a back seat to stencil graffiti.

    Under the influence of the U.K.'s great stencil artist Banksy, stencil graffiti has become a major influence in public art in the world's more cosmopolitan cities. Not all of it is great, or even good, but a surprising amount of it is very high quality.

    In this city most of the stencil graffiti is executed on the sidewalks rather than private buildings. This puts it squarely into the realm of public art, as opposed to vandalism. But even though it's more polite than tagging, it expresses an anti-authoritarian, outsider aesthetic. As such, it is revolutionary.

    Other traits of the revolution to come include anonymity, the uncompensated production of free art, goods, and services, a tendency to use hit-and-run tactics rather than prolonged confrontation with the powers that be, and humor, especially satire and sardonic ridicule.

    Photo © by Dave b, 2011.

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Pyrates & Strumpettes

    Monday, August 8, 2011, 5:41 PM [General]



    I'm 169 pages into the 600-page "A General History of the Pyrates," (the modern book with soft covers, not the original letterpress edition with all the f's), and finding it very uneven. This newsy book is most often cited as a work by Daniel Defoe, who wrote enormous amounts of stuff very quickly and never revised, although nothing I've read by him ever shows any weakness whatsoever. credits Defoe with the authorship of "Pyrates," but the reference article at Wikipedia raises the possibility that publisher Nathaniel Mist wrote it.

    Either way it's lively as hell, and what I've learned from it so far is that these desperate men (and a few women), colorful and romantic according to our modern portrayals of them, were drunken, sleazy, illiterate, mostly sadistic, violent gangsters. They often eased into the life by first becoming privateers, an arrangement in which known thugs obtained government licenses to engage in legalized piracy, as long as they didn't attack their own king's vessels, and the king got his cut of the action.

    When the license was eventually withdrawn, and it invariably was, these professional robbers and cutters of throats usually continued their chosen profession without benefit of a license, and no longer restrained themselves from attacks on their own country's ships.

    The worst pyrate was Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. He was such a villain that when the brave Leftenant Bobby Maynard went after him without a single cannon, just pistols and cutlasses, and did a David-and-Goliath turn by cutting off Blackbeard's head and hanging it from his bowsprit, I found myself cheering inwardly.

    Pirates are perennially marketable in any era's pop culture, and "Pyrates" was a commercial success, as was Daniel Defoe's most famous book, the historical novel "Robinson Crusoe." However his masterpiece, a work Virginia Woolf described as "one of the few works in English that is indisputably great," was his account of an abandoned child who became a part-time prostitute and petty thief, Moll Flanders.

    Although it was written as quickly as any of his other productions, "Moll" sustains an amazing intensity from beginning to end, and the writing gets both feet off the ground and flies. DeFoe was, I think, wrestling within himself over the thorny question of who was to blame for Moll's criminal life. Was she herself responsible? Defoe portrays her as a morally weak and spiritually bankrupt voluptuary who never, after her first youthful infatuation, gave a thought to anyone but herself.

    Or was her turning toward crime and the seamy London underworld as a part-time sex worker and full-time pickpocket forced upon her by a callous, stratified, male-dominated, hypocritical society, an environment in which a poor woman with no family connections, no dowry with which to snag a well-off husband, and no friends in high places had no other way to live?

    My reading of the novel is that DeFoe was never able to answer his own question.

    --Dave B

    0 (0 Ratings)

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