Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Review: Boz Scaggs

Mountain Winery, Saratoga, CA

I have never been here, despite growing up in this area. My high school bus route dropped some kids off near Carneil and Wardell just down Highway 9. Fabulous venue. Four Year Bender did a short opening set, and they were very pleasant and competent. They are a local band, so maybe some of you have heard them.

About a half hour later, the band (minus Boz) came out, and some woman behind us said "Which one is Boz?" They started with "Lowdown" which was very tasty. The sound level and balance was superb. Boz was so relaxed, everything had a kind of timeless calm to it. The band was real good, not my favorite band, but I've seen Boz so many times over the years, starting as a member of the Steve Miller Blues Band at Fillmore West, it's hard to compare. He's almost as big a chameleon as David Bowie, but more sincere about it. Other songs were "Jo Jo," "Harbor Lights" (real spacy), a couple of songs from 'Dig' which I didn't know, but they went over well. He even gave one of his backup singers, Monet, a solo turn on "Street Life." The crowd loved her. Martha remarked it felt like being at our high school reunion, as far as the age of people at the show. I was so pleased when he started in to "Slow Dancer" but some of the clueless women behind us kept chattering. I guess if it's pre-"Lowdown" they don't get it. He did at least three encores, starting with the oldest song of the night, "Runnin' Blues," which was basically a showcase vehicle for the band to stretch out on. We left during the third encore, "Danger, Breakdown Straight Ahead," since we were warned we might get trapped in the parking lot. If he did "Loan Me a Dime" after that, I won't forgive myself!

I say you owe it to yourself sometime to catch a show there. Perhaps the most intimate and beautiful place I've seen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

RIP: Jeff Himelfarb

I got a call from Alice Spears, who told me that Jeff had died last Saturday of a heart attack. This hit me in a strange, hard sort of way. I had only seen Jeff once in the last decade, and talked to him on the phone a few years ago, but at one point during college, we were very close friends. We did the normal college stuff of staying up all night, discussing politics, the meaning of life, and poetry, especially T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets.

[photo of Doug Turner, Nancy and Jeff from wedding pix]

Adam Gordon, a mutual friend, responded to the news: "The news was a watershed – the last time a contemporary friend died I could respond “he, she, we are so young for ‘X’ to happen”, but this time we are all of the age where nothing should be surprising. Ah well."

I had no information about a funeral or memorial, nor could I have gone to LA to attend one, but nonetheless, it left me with an empty feeling. I feel Jeff deserved something from me, some mention. He was fabulously flawed, like all of us, but was also extremely sincere. When he sat down, and asked "How are you? How have you been?" and laughed nervously, knowing how clich├ęd it might sound, he really meant it. He really did care.

Gone are the days of staying up late at Jeff and Leon's, listening to "Electric Ladyland," talking politics, or joking about "Less donkeys, more corn."

At his first wedding, where I was involved in the wedding party, I recited some poetry from T. S. Eliot, which had to be slightly edited due to a death in the bride's family, but it seems fitting to close with it here. Goodbye Jeff.

In that open field
If you do not come too close, if you do not come too close,
On a summer midnight, you can hear the music
Of the weak pipe and the little drum
And see them dancing around the bonfire
The association of man and woman
In daunsinge, signifying matrimonie—
A dignified and commodiois sacrament.
Two and two, necessarye coniunction,
Holding eche other by the hand or the arm
Whiche betokeneth concorde. Round and round the fire
Leaping through the flames, or joined in circles,
Rustically solemn or in rustic laughter
Lifting heavy feet in clumsy shoes,
Earth feet, loam feet, lifted in country mirth
Mirth of those long since under earth
Nourishing the corn. Keeping time,
Keeping the rhythm in their dancing
As in their living in the living seasons
The time of the seasons and the constellations
The time of milking and the time of harvest
The time of the coupling of man and woman
And that of beasts. Feet rising and falling.
Eating and drinking. Dung and death.

Dawn points, and another day
Prepares for heat and silence. Out at sea the dawn wind
Wrinkles and slides. I am here
Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Karl Rove and the Briarpatch

Short, Sharp Shock
In what should come as no surprise, Karl Rove has been implicated in leaking the identity of a CIA agent. I'm not going to spend any time explaining the details, you either want to know about this or you don't. But what I want to do is deliver my knee-jerk response about how the Democrats should handle this, which is the opposite of what they are doing, and will continue to do.

It's hard to blame the Democrats for getting on the bandwagon, and asking Bush to fire Rove. Bush said he would fire anyone who took part in this, and it's certainly what needs to be done, but it's not likely. Karl may resign, in one of those moves designed to protect Bush, but what I think we should do is focus more on Bush's reaction to Rove, not caring if he actually leaves. The whole attitude should be to say:
"See? See what kind of people Bush has in his closest circles?"
The longer Rove hangs around, the dirtier it looks.

Yeah, it would be nice to see him taken out in handcuffs, but right now, he's more valuable as a symbol of corruption, than if he resigns.

Friday, July 08, 2005

What Would Jefferson Do?

Beware the Originalists!
As everyone knows by now, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has given George W. Bush her letter of resignation. Most people were expecting that cancer patient and Gilbert and Sullivan wannabe William Rehnquist would be the next one, and that it would not be that big a deal. Renquist has been very right wing, and replacing him with another very right wing judge would not substantially alter the balance of power on the court. But O'Connor, far from a flaming liberal, has often been seen as a swing vote, a relative moderate compared to the (expletives deleted) like Thomas, Scalia, and Rehnquist.

Finally, it is starting to seem real, the possibility that the forces of control and exploitation will run amok in America. It's like some sort of cartoonish nightmare you just don't believe will really come true. Most of the names bandied about in the media are men in their fifties, so Bush looks to impact the future for a long time. At least one, if not two more justices are likely to retire before the reign of W is supposed to end.

So there I was, watching Fox News, which I sometimes like to do just to see what the Evil Empire is up to. Usually I end up screaming at the TV, and can only take so much. The extremely biased Hannity and Colmes show was on, but I started hearing a term I have not heard before: originalist.

You've probably heard the phrase "judicial activist" before, and it's another of those ridiculous terms people bandy about, and expect you to believe them. Usually it's used to describe so-called 'liberal' judges, even though the majority of judges tend to be Republican. Someone from the National Organization of Women was actually referring to some of the more conservative members of the courts as 'judicial activists' and some other talking head started talking about the 'originalist' member's of the court. Dictionary.com describes originalism as
The belief that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted according to the intent of those who composed and adopted it.
My BS detector circuits immediately activated, and I started googling 'originalist' in the news area, and found the judicial equivalent of religious 'fundamentalist.' Here we find people who seem to draw the line as a struggle between literal readings of the texts of the Constitution, and the wishy-washy liberals who look at the Constitution as a 'living document' that can be twisted into any form they wish. If you look at it their way, hey, I'd be an originalist too! But like most Orwellian doublespeak, once you buy this premise, you're lost.

In Christianity, the term 'fundamentalist' implies one is firmly rooted in basic truth, but in reality, it's more of a practice of selective literalism, reducing what should be a deeply spiritual book to a two dimensional amalgamation of ink and paper. Even the conceit that one is capable of a fundamentalist understanding of the Bible is flawed, and any communication of ideas in print involves levels of personal interpretation to make any sense out of what we read. In the Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot wrote:
Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.
TSEEliot considered himself a fundamentalist, yet he clearly understood the problem of communicating from one person to another. In the very first page of the Four Quartets, he says:
My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.

If it's that hard to communicate with someone in the same time frame, how can we presume to know what was in the mind of 'the framers' over two hundred years ago, not to mention thinking about who wrote the Bible a couple of millenia ago? The real missing term here is 'transcendent.' A document as important as the Constitution (or the Bible for that matter) needs to anticipate future needs, and not just leave us out in the tough-luck cold. It needs to transcend current events. I think this is logical, especially since the Constitution was setup with a very high bar to reach, if you want to make an amendment.

The Framers, as they are often referred to, were revolutionaries at the time, and yet the originalists take their names in vain, almost always to support reactionary views. There will never be an ironclad way to know what they would have thought about gay rights or abortion, but they were definitely pushing the envelope at the time. It's hard to imagine that given another 80 years to evolve, that these same revolutionaries would not have seen their inconsistencies in the original document that were so careful about preserving individual freedoms, yet slaves were only counted as 3/5 of a person. The fact that the Fifteenth Amendment had to be created reflects the originalist point of view, that since slavery existed at the time, it would exist forever unless the Constitution was amended. I'm no historian, but I understand that Jefferson owned slaves, yet opposed the slave trade. I find it hard to believe that the same Jefferson, if born a couple of centuries later, would cleave so tightly to keeping things in the status quo. Sometimes it just takes time for the fog of "the way it's always been done" to clear, and we see the obvious.

Although it's probably too late to wrap up what has been a typical rambling Geoff-rant, here's the point of all this talk about 'originalists:' Because the framers did not specifically mention privacy, or many other specific fruits of the tree of freedom, a Supreme Court packed with these throwbacks will roll back a generation of freedoms with no more than a "if you don't like it, amend the Constitution" in our faces.

The only way to block this from happening is for people in the states that have Republican senators, but a pro-choice majority of voters, to lean heavy on their senators. It's too late to talk about the 2006 elections; the time in now. For those of us here in the 'blue states,' it's frustrating. I guess we can support the movements in the'red states.'

I'll end with the words of John McCain, from a New York Times article:
Of course, Mr. McCain said, President Bush's nominee will be a conservative. "He campaigned for re-election and made no bones about the fact that it would be a conservative nominee," Mr. McCain said. "Elections have consequences."

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Stupidity is Universal

"I read the news today, oh boy!"

Today, coordinated terrorist attacks occured in London, and at least 40 innocent people have been murdered. The terrorists are stupid if they think it will have any effect on the UK position in Iraq. In fact, even though the war has been highly unpopular in the UK, I wouldn't be surprised if support for the war increased there in reaction to the senseless violence.

It's also clear how stupid George Bush and his British lap dog Tony Blair were if they thought this war would make us safer. We took our eye off the ball when we gave up looking for Bin Laden, and started fixating on Saddam. We have stoked the fires of jihad for sure.

What we have now are two stupid, vicious opponents, warring with each other while innocents are caught in the crossfire.

Stupidity is endless...