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Thursday, November 30, 2006

I caught the Decemberists on Letterman earlier in the week CBS | Late Show with David Letterman : Show Info. I believe they were doing a song off the new Crane Wife lp. This is the project where Colin Meloy writes an extended song cycle about a Japanese folktale where a mistrustful man marries a women who is secretly really a bird, but can spin beautiful cloth. This comes on the wake of a MetaFilter post chewing over a Village Voice review where some idiot village voice > music > by Chris Ott unloads on Meloy for not having the right shade of hipness Stand by your Man | MetaFilter. If you're trying to insult someone - I don't see how comparing them to XTC is going to really help with that.

I accept the argument the band X made with the song the Unheard Music. The most interesting music will never be made chasing a mass audience. But I wouldn't align music taste with heightened vain obscurity either. Most of the terms I'm familiar with describing rock are poles of false dichotomies: originality, competence, obscurity, heart.

A large part of the game is the narrative. Having an awareness of what you're doing, what you're communicating with a particular song, with a way of making songs. This is against a certain insensate imitation, which does not make connections. Where I get confused is in believing this is an art life crime only. That these narratives only exist in the stories of development we tell about literature, music, and art. Yet none of these are unrelated to who we are. Cultures exist as resistance to problems, they are defined by their solutions. The nature of the solutions, or the lack of them. It is not the most original culture I desire, or safe and comfortable, nor the loudest and fastest. Not the one drunk off its ass, but partying with a big heart. Neither the ones anthemic and crowd stirring, or influenced by eric satie only. But rather the one in touch with the unheard musics, and willing to be an opening act.

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Monday, November 27, 2006
Trans Alpine

I came across a curious thing while browsing last week. Before I could think of any intelligent frame to place it in, an open ended train of thought had already linked up and headed out. You make your journey with the train you  leave the station in. I was sorting through the press on Lebanon. Three generations of Gemayels assassinated now, Chilling Echo for Lebanon, Mirror of Regional Tension - New York Times? I've lost track. I had a Lebanese housemate one year. A marionite, he was an engineering grad student studying pre-stressed concrete. He seemed pre-stressed. Assassination, it's how you make a point apparently. A twofer: get the U S's attention and murder your political opponents at the same time Jim Hoagland - Realism, and Values, in Lebanon - No wonder the king of Jordan believes the Middle East is heading towards multiple civil wars Three civil wars loom, says Jordan's king | International News | In some circles it's fashionable to say Hezbollah can never run a government - running things just doesn't suit such fanatical groups. They are going to give it a try anyway.

Hezbollah, as part of its all-points public relations blitz, is circulating stories of Ghost Warriors (this article itself has appeared in several papers) who took active part in the "Divine Victory" TM last summer. Sounds familiar I thought, while writing a post on Arthur Machen last spring - this was after reading Hill of Dreams set in his home town Caerlon Wales. I had read of the Angels of Mons story and his part in it Angels of Mons - Wikipedia. Briefly Mons was one of the critical battles in the opening weeks of World War I. The British army held up a much larger German advance at Mons Belgium for a day or so towards the end of August 1914. About half a year afterwards persistent tales of Saint George, angels, and supernatural soldiers from Agincourt appearing above the battle field to drive the German assaults back circulated through Britain. These stories were remarkably similar to a short and trite piece of fiction, the Bowman, Machen had published a month later at the end of September. Machen tried pointing this out, but it had a life of its own by then. A bizarre obscurity I felt then, but maybe not so much. Turns out; century-old British occultism is just what Hezbollah is looking for.

About this same time last spring I was somewhat startled to hear a song called Arthur Machen which is done by a band from California called [the] Sic Alps. I'm not sure what kind of band the Sic Alps are? I know what low-fi is (more or less), and would inclined to regard what the Alps do as more sub-fi. They have a new record out, Pleasures and Treasures, so recently I have heard more of what they do, if only on selected radio stations. They do a song called the Battle of Breton Woods. They have a nice video for the song Semi-Streets. Hezbollah is lining up for their copy.

A small coincidence here. It seems that one of the members of the Sic Alps has a side project called The How, who have released a single on slumberland records of Berkeley California. I had to laugh at this, Slumberland was an endeavor of a group of people I knew at Maryland: Archie, Dan, and Mike Schulman. I can remember when it was just an envelope of photocopied cut-outs of Little Nemo being arranged on a piece of paper. King Morpheus calls now, so I'm off. I will dream of Joanna Newsom singing a ballad of the Alps' VW bus's epic drag race showdown with Flipper's panel truck. But then I dream that every night.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Upper Echalon

 My Admiral died last week.  He was my Admiral the last two years I was in the Navy. I didn't see him every day. He was the DNI, our bosses boss, but he probably came through our spaces in the briefing section three or so times a week. This was at the point when I went to the Pentagon after RVAH-7 decommissioned, and Mark Emunds got a billot with the Key West Contingency Task Force. That was a unit formed to reassure those convinced that Fidel Castro was eternally swimming over the white caps towards Florida with a knife in his teeth and a copy of the communist manifesto in his back pocket. These days such Task Forces have Hugo Chavez to contend with. The reaction of most to Chavez is "meh". Has anyone seen the tv commercial, running at least in the DC area? A little girl wearing her winter coat indoors plaintively tells her mother she's cold. A narrator comes on and announces that now no one will have to be cold thanks to Venezuala and Citgo. Citgo is a national corporation of Venezuala and Chavez has arranged to donate discounted oil to a Boston based nonprofit heating fund Venezuelan-funded heating aid to expand .  I guess Hugo just wants to be loved.

  There was an obiturary in last Thursday's Washington Post for the Admiral Sumner Shapiro, Long-Serving Director of Naval Intelligence - . "The Admiral" is generally how we referred to him; though, if we typed his name on something for any reason it was always Rear Admiral Sumner J. Shapiro (upper division).  He died at age eighty of cancer. In the paper version of that story there is even a picture of him, which does not seem to be in the online version.  I have a letter I got as I was leaving signed by him. The sort of thing you could show to a prospective employer.  I've never had occaision to show it to anyone. I no longer remember what it says. I have it still, somewhere. I should try to find that. He was known for passing out these nice PR booklets (I still have two of these) on Capital Hill, listing all the assets of the Soviet Navy; dedicated to the proposition that the Russian were all steel and drove battleships of gold. Still, unlike some, we never called a Blinder a Backfire.

 I have to confess I thought he was already dead. And am surprised he was still with us until last week. That may seem a little callous, but he was retiring around the same time I got out of the Navy and he was not well then. You see boys and girls, the Admiral chain-smoked. He chain-smoked old school too - at times. Don't smoke cigarettes, cigarettes are bad.

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Monday, November 20, 2006
Torn Rotator cuff blues

I didn't get much written last week, but in my defense last Monday on the way to work I hit a pile of wet slippery leaves on my bicycle - at which point the bicycle gave up any responsibilities it saw itself as having - as to remaining vertical or even attached to the ground at all. And my right shoulder drove into the concrete sidewalk a somewhat unresilient surface at about 15 miles an hour. This is at that patch of road where New Hampshire ave. sweeps down hill onto Piney Branch.

I have been able to do very little with my right arm since then. It does not lift, it does not bend in many of its former directions. It aches if I type more than a sentence or two at a time. My sister Ellen, who is a nurse, tells me this sort of thing takes six to eight weeks to heal. I intend to write more short length posts for a while.

The previous post (below) was about two thirds finished when this happened. And was something of a bear to complete. Especially that last part where I go over it move worlds and phrases from subject to predicate and vice versa. Arrange commas randomly, to make the whole seem more rational than it actually is. I've often forgot what I was trying say by that point.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006
Engagement: neoliberal globalization

President Bush is off on his trip to asia and the APEC conference Bush leaving next week for trip to Asia - Yahoo! News. There is a planned agenda for these things. For this event trade agreements WTO membership, and it seems, a lot of background talk on North Korea. In the run up to this trip a sideshow developed, a monkey wrench in the public relation works A Prisoner of Global Impact . There were arrests U.S. urges Vietnam to resolve case against Americans | US News |, trials BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | US citizens face trial in Vietnam, convictions, and opportune release BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | US citizen deported from Vietnam. But not quite opportune enough; Sen Mel Martinez (R. FL) in whose state Ms Cuc Foshee (Nguyen Thuong Cuc) lives still worked to block then defeat a bill that would grant Vietnam permanent normal trade status with the US. It is noteworthy that she was joined by Dennis Kucinich (D, OH) in this House defeats Vietnam trade bill - Yahoo! News. Without question this was embarrassing for the White House and wasted what could have been a harmless feel-good moment for the President Online NewsHour: Analysis | President Bush Begins Asia Trip | November 16, 2006 | PBS. This little crisis was put in motion by an exile group from Orange county called the Government of Free Vietnam Government of Free Vietnam - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (considerably aided by the truculent reaction of the Vietnamese government). This group which may or may not be the political front of an armed insurgent force is committed to ending communist rule of Vietnam. My own inclinations are to view the activities of such groups as counterproductive. Surely investment and trade, as I said in an earlier post,  Boger All, - is the best thing for Vietnam. Again I found as I discussed this with Tran, this is not the way she feels. She knew of, and is sympathetic with this GFVN. There can be no engagement with the communists, they can't be trusted, they can't be reasoned with. They will never willingly retreat from their dogmatism and hold on power. And she added, I know nothing of this. I've never lived under communist rule. Point taken.

I came away from that, wondering where exactly my faith in the power of engagement comes from. What do we mean by engagement: dialog and trade against, well nothing, is how I think it's viewed. Bargaining at minimum. Globalization Capital culture and labor flows as the ideal state. Outside that there seems only poverty and regime change dreams. A box of trouble The limits of free trade | | Guardian Unlimited Business.

I looked into the ideology of free trade and liberalization. Zibigniew Brzezinski in a book called the Choice 1 refers to it as the Natural Doctrine of Global Hegemony. Something he feels is "Transcending economics to become a national creed", an "explicit norm." He quotes President Clinton:

Globalization is not something we can hold off or turn off. It is the economic equivalent of a force of nature [^] like wind and water ...we can not ignore it [^] and it is not going away. (Vietnam National University 17 November 2000)

Further he points out this Neo-liberalism is a joint American ideology. It appealed to Wilsonian Idealists with their utopian aspirations of openness and cooperation, encompassing transnational outlooks, and belief in perfectibility. It also appeals to business elites, free marketeers and market expansionists with its promise of goods and profit transportability. It lends legitimacy to both. Legitimacy is required by both dominant and dominated. In its markets and cultural flows, rising ppp standards of living. It engenders merged outlook, lessened resentment. Essentially this doctrinal legitimacy, Mr. Brzezinski says, reduces the costs of the exercise of power. This dubious edge with with he regards Neo-liberalism, formulates itself in a handful of myths of free trade engagement. These briefly are that in Russia we saw democratization, in China we see development and structural change, and last that the benefits of trade are neutral they do not favor one group over another, one nation over another.

Benjamin Barber (who teaches in the GVPT department at Maryland) in Fear's Empire 2 looks at distinctions and relations between capital markets and democracy. He lays this out in two adjacent chapters. In the first on exporting Macworld (a reference to his previous book) he sees a cause and effect question: free markets originated and flourished inside national democracies. Democratic states and their institutions of democracy tempered and channeled capitalism allowing its success. Globalization has altered this precarious balance: "Democracy remains trapped inside the nation state box, leaving global capital utterly unchecked." Investment and development in such circumstance does not aid a culture and can be like pouring gasoline on discontent and wealth imbalance. In the next chapter he looks at the fixed belief Americans have in Exporting America. Not merely limited to preventative democracy, but a compulsion. However these institutions their authority, their particular development, the instinctual habit of those living within and among them do not aggregate to a single transportable thing. Democracy is not a commodity, but an inaugurating process, Barber seems to think if there is a underlying germ to democracy it is the love of argument and ability to allow argument. Avenues of procedural argument must be found within a culture and the mechanics of civil society consensus built up on this before elections will accomplish anything.

Seemingly in another corner from all this is Neo-conservatism, and its more proactive approach to spreading democracy. Some critics of trade such as Neil Smith in a book the Endgame of Globalization 3 see no essential difference between neo liberalism and Neo conservatism, both examples of re-territorializing globalism, ie imperialism. They ask does liberalism survive the transition to Neoliberalism [really modern American post progressive liberalism back to the Classic liberalism of Burke, Locke and such]. Can liberalism be compatible with anything colored with nationalism. Speaking for myself I would take an ambitious universalism over internationalism, everytime.

Another book I looked at was the Hero's Journey 4 by Michael Salla This book featured a model (more descriptive than predictive) similar to those that speak of generation x,y, & z  seeking to explain waxing and waning periods of the American psyche, in how we view and engage the rest of the world, our great revivals through hero's quests and Jungian archetypes. Which aims to illuminate the nature of the crises of a period. While a theory doesn't need to predict the future, it shouldn't be undone by it. Salla (writing in 2000) has the current period of engagement starting with President Carter's Quest to lay American foreign policy on a foundation of human rights.

For my friend Tran, freedom is not about free markets. Nothing about markets and trade tariffs, shiny electronic goods in stores matters. Vietnam has some of that stuff, and there is plenty more in Montgomery county. It's not about just a job (she works where I work - it's /not/ about the job). It is about whose hands the markets are in, the hand that is never invisible. It is about the autonomy a job gives you, not what you have to give up for it. It is about your financial and personal security not being based on someone's whim. It is about institutions of underlying value. For Tran it is about being fiercely Catholic. She was viewing a picture in her email a week or so ago. This was a few days after the conversation that provoked this post. She was in the picture standing on the steps of the National Basilica (Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Catholic University Washington DC) singing with a combined choir. It was an event commemorating Our Lady of La Vang. In the late 1790's the government of Vietnam (according to this story) decided they didn't trust their catholic population, in development for a hundred years at that point. They decided they must all be persuaded to give it up or be killed. And there was great slaughter in the land. One group fled to a forest in what is now Quang Tri provence to hide, but became sick with an illness, at which point a woman with a child appeared among them and advised them to take leaves from a particular tree and make a herbal medicine from them and they would be cured. And as long as they remembered her they would be safe and secure. The Catholic church regards this a visitation from the Virgin Mary. For Tran freedom consists of the choice to so believe and so remember. Engagement delivers this, or it brings nothing.

1. Brzezinski, Zbigniew, 1928- The choice : global domination or global leadership/ Zbigniew Brzezinski. New York : Basic Books, c2004.
2. Barber, Benjamin R., 1939-  Fear's empire : war, terrorism, and democracy / Benjamin R. Barber. New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c2004
3. Smith, Neil. The endgame of globalization/ Neil Smith. New York : Routledge, 2005
4. The hero's journey toward a second American century / Michael E. Salla. Westport : Praeger 2002

11:24:35 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Friday, November 10, 2006
Terry Reid

Is there some sort of Terry Reid revivial going on that I don't know about? Reid was, well I always thought of him as this post Donavan, pre Jeff Beck, or Peter Frampton, Humble Pie, English rocker figure. Frankly I always like him better than any of those people. I remembered him vaguely from when I was quite young and used to play him occasionally when I was a college Radio dj. I think I have one of his records, I don't have a working turntable, but I got a record. Reid is not a particulary well known figure.

Recently; however, all three radio stations I regualarly listen to (only one of which I actually hear via radio broadcast) have played him. This shouldn't be; I thought, and like Rosencrantz when all those heads started coming up I grew concerned. Turns out he went out on tour at the end of last year. Had a record out the year before Terry Reid - Wikipedia . Guess I haven't been paying attention. Some things you can't predict.

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Monday, November 6, 2006
Management Xq

 During this fortnight time, adaptable for reflection. A cross platform criticism for those holding executive political offices, came to mind. It's not restricted to the current President, but to anyone holding that office or a similar one: governor, mayors and so forth. One thing thats gets George Bush into trouble, places him at dead ends Dan Froomkin - Bubble Trouble -, and masks a way forward is the CEO metaphor. Which during his first term and the campaign for the second term he and people wishing to explain him talked about a great deal. The fault is not the conceit itself rather it is carrying, pushing the CEO notion too far. The idea that he is the chief executive of the nation the way one might be a chief executive of a corporation. Which in the past he reminds us he was. For this analogy he is the pinnacle of all authority in a closed system President Who Sees in Absolutes Awaits Voters' Definitive Answer - There are no other institutions or repositories of mores, of credible information. There is no Sarbanes-Oxley, there is no Taft-Hartely. The nation is hierarchally organized through the republican party, those in the organization owe the leader absolute loyalty and obedience. It is public power he has, not because he got it from us, but because he faces us individually with private power and creates a public of coequals (among us) as he does so.

 An examination of the analogy is in order. First he didn't hire us, he can't fire us. He often seems bothered or needful of our fealty regardless of competence or production of positive result. Moreover are we co-owners or W's employees? Are we Stockholders or shareholders? That is to say I can think of three general models here of how he might think he relates to us, each different: Privately held joint ownership, publicly traded stock, or employee shareholding ownership. The last is closest to what is and generally the one everyone seeks to avoid.

 The way he manages ,the way he leads, is a cascade of closed styles. Closed information style. Closed decision making style. Full of nebulous big picture thinking. Grand visions, attempted comprehensive solutions, thrown out to the wolves of unintended consequence. It is the opposite of the conscious style of small and incremental steps producing results capable of analyzed and confirmed of causal relation. This might seem cautious and not worthy of a far thinking transforming political leader. But I would argue it is the truly bold approach because it will lead to verifiable result. It will produce change. Pressed forward, profound change. Rhetorical gestures don't. They are merely campaigns taken up and abandoned. You don't get much in the way of explanation when this happens either. His is a relentlessly unaccountable decision making style. And it is a divisive style His sloganeering Uniter not Divider is a perverse irony, which has long been noted. Usually with some puzzlement. He looks out those who acknowledge they work for him. For the rest it is as though he has fired us out of the nation. Out of our rights our security, our citizenship. His rhetoric tirelessly and forcefully works to negate our sense of belonging. The key to his perspective is that if you are not on his team, and a team player. He feels no responsibility towards you and is not your president Eugene Robinson - Now the Decider Must Listen -

  No where was this clearer than with his grandest policy move, the Iraq war. At the risk of repetition what this war is about is the economy... The US Economy = Oil. It fuels our technological way of living, and we do what we do well. But not alternate sources, alternate usage of energy. That would be experimental, an unknown unknown. Our activity in Middle East equals an attempt at direct mercantilistic control of raw resources (someone in the Washington Post wrote column on this noting that the Chinese are replicating our own "embrace the supply" strategy for their own needs in Africa, I've misplaced the link for that). An attempt to capture control of oil not just for the sake of US industry in general, but the US petroleum industry in particular; as several other nations have industries capable of managing large oil-fields. This is opposed to a market approach where you would trust a market to sell you the oil if you had the wherewithal to pay for it . That ain't gonna happen. We have set out to meet the supply side, physically. This war was about  moving a garrison out Saudi Arabia where it had been since the last gulf war, but where its presence was becoming increasingly problematic, and invading and overthrowing a seated government to move it to Iraq (where coincidentally there are many more oil fields). Does this set of moves equal transforming the middle east? No, it doesn't really. 

 The full debate on this was not held; to forestall examination of its suppositions and underpinnings. It will now have to be held and decided on its merits. There will be no settling or getting out of the situation in Iraq without this Sebastian Mallaby - And Now, Back to The War - . Does the west (the US) have to act as guaranteer of Middle east stability for the sake of oil-burning first world economies? Will a garrison accomplish this, or will it always be seen as neo-colonistic and resisted, fueling opportunistic reactionary movements such as al Qaida? To the extent we grant ourselves complete freedom of action is sovereignty in abeyance as long as any dominant nation can make vague reference to its needs? Over the last thirty years a mission to use a rapid deployment force to seize the oil fields in the event some agency tried to shut production down, to cause a crash of western economies existed and been acquiesced to by both major parties. Has it been decided such a force must now necessarily be deployed in Iraq. For the remaining duration of the fossil fuel era? This may sound presumptuous but it seems to me that in fact such a consensus may exist, but no one wants to own up to it. Similarly has a decision been made to project US military forces in a light, mobile casting permanently to the worlds frontiers? To fight al Qaida (and other new world order resistance movements) collaterally with these forces. The time I suppose would be now, before everyone decides they need to have a nuclear weapon arsenal. Seeing that the front-line of the GWOT seems to be Britain, should we garrison Birmingham? I would, but then I'm from Massachusetts.

 It did not help or even truly decided things to act as if only George Bush's, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld's opinion mattered. The last six years accomplished nothing. We can only hope (Bush Shows He Can Turn on a Dime - we've got his attention now.

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Friday, November 3, 2006
Catfish and..

 I thought I would write on politics today - with the election coming up and all. But I can't think of anything right now. I like the posts I write occasionally where I talk about radio and bands. I was in a Tower records recently. They are going out of business everything must go. Everything. I came away with a greatest hits record by the Band, and Substance by Joy Division. They didn't have any Decemberists, I have the Roir cassette of the Penelope Houston's Avengers already. And, well, I simply forgot to look for the Hunters and Collectors, an Australian band from the 1980's which isn't available on iTunes for some reason. They didn't have Baltimore's Wilderness either, but you can get that on iTunes. Wilderness is another of the bands on the Jagjaguar label. Beautiful Alarms would be a good song to try. I never bought that many records or cds. I am one of the people the digitized music model of MP3s and iTunes, backing up a handful of decent radio stations suits well. As long as stations like WFMU stream over the internet, the ultra narrow-casting of satellite radio or the remaining broadcast music radio, neither interests or bothers me.

 Also I've been reading a book. Which I only do when I remember it's something that can be done. On the recommendation of Mir- who runs the Web log Dim Sum Diaries.  I started reading Catfish & mandala : a Vietnamese odyssey. She mentioned it again last week, but I had already bought it by then; on the strength her earlier description Saturday, October 07, 2006 Its 2 am.... My library (U MD College Park) does not have this! It is a memoir travelogue of a Vietnamese American (a writer/reporter by trade) Andrew Pham, born in Vietnam, but emigrated to the US, who returns to undertake a bicycle tour of Vietnam. I'm about a third of the way through, so far it's an excellent book. It has great appeal to me, and on a number of levels. It can be admitted that my friend Tran is on these levels. But the curriculum is different for each. Life is learning.

11:13:36 PM    comment [];trackback [];

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