Sunday, September 28, 2014

Never Heard This One Before

Kenny Baker was one of the greatest American fiddle players ever. He spent many years playing with Bill Monroe, and he'd come to Union Grover Fiddler's Convention when he had the time, and also was a friend of Tommy Jarrell's.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

How to Win a Fiddle Contest

Mr. Kessinger was 71 when this was recorded. I turned 71 back in January of this year. I saw Mr. Kessinger a few times at the Union Grover Fiddlers Convention, in the late 1960s. He won every time he entered, hands down. I bought his LP but I couldn't figure out a lick of what he was doing. Well actually, thinking on those early days in more detail, I do believe there's one phrase in "Ragtime Annie" that I got from this master of masters. There's a man named Bobby Taylor, from Charleston, WV, who did figure out Mr. Clark pretty well. He's probably 60 or so, and has a CD out. And I think maybe Mr. Taylor has a family connection to the wizard of St. Albans, so he probably was soaking in the brew before he could read. That would have to help.

Friday, September 12, 2014


Here's some weekend reading, with footnotes no less:

We've got a lot of these anniversaries piling up right now: there's Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and also 9/11. Just this week Mr. Obama seems to have capitulated to the din of howling which has plagued his presidency from day one. Much like the NFL scandal, which mirrors in microcosm the same decision-making process, the purely sensational has been allowed to drive major foreign policy decisions. Mr. Obama, who provided an antidote to the Bush administration's devotion to theatre, has finally been beaten down. Theatre it will be. And just as in the Ray Rice story, the facts were already there and quite unable to drive policy, until a spectacular and ghastly event was televised for everyone to see.

On the one hand, the two American journalists were victimized in brutal view. On the other, ISIL had executed thousands of "ordinary" people for months on end. While the American public didn't see these anonymous murders, surely the West's intelligence apparatus did. And yes, the Americans were utterly victimized. And, yes, they had of their own free will inserted themselves into a complex war zone and surely knew exactly these dangers and many others lurked around every corner. Are we then to move entire Armies (so to speak) at every such atrocity? Compare the coming campaign against ISIL, not to mention the coming political furor, with the events just this spring, where another radical "islamic" group, Boko Harem, kidnapped hundreds of anonymous children. Or for that matter, compare our anemic response to a ghastly epidemic of the ebola virus, which may in the next year prove to be the true danger to our most exceptional heimat. According to NPR we've decided to contribute a 25 bed field hospital, which will give succor to medical professionals who've been infected. As someone pointed out last Sunday on the Melissa Harris Perry show, when the tsunami destroyed parts of Indonesia, we engaged the entire US Navy, at a cost of billions. Of course in those lands our coffee supply was endangered.

One might even wonder just why it is brown people in distant lands have grown so enraged at the West that they embark on these campaigns of terror and destruction: beheadings, murders, suicide bombings. Can a West so enamored of its exceptionalism have anything at all to do with the reactions of whole peoples who are essentially beneath our notice? Even after the 9/11 events, the people in power at the time scoffed at a response to Afganistan with the shrug that there's nothing to bomb there.

Yet in that very moment of contempt and derision the ISIL was conceived.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Talking to the Demographic

I watched a little bit of the Hagan/Tillis US Senatorial Candidate "Debate" (my scare quotes) this past week. That's the Senator in the photo above. I turned it off in favor of "The Third Man" after about fifteen minutes. I wrote my Senator, Ms Hagan, a brief "review" on her "connect" window at her website, and her connect window thanked my by email (do not reply to this email). I'm sure she's too busy with a million more important things than my small suggestions anyways. Hopefully one of them is spending some extra time imagining what Mr. Tillis is likely to say in upcoming speeches, debates, and advertising, and offering sensible and obvious rejoinders. It's a hope. As I said "to" Ms Hagan, I will certainly vote for you in November over yet another hard-right ideologue who has no idea what he's talking about, has already contributed to the significant wounding of the North Carolina Public School System, as well as working in his last legislative term to make voting much harder for persons of color, for young people, and for the elderly. Why any North Carolinian would want to send Mr. Tillis off to represent the Koch brothers in Congress is beyond me. Surely anybody dependent on clean drinking water would form a cohort majority for Ms Hagan. Tillis' primary cudgel is, after all, the assertion that "Kay" voted with the Kenyan Pretender for the most part. Duh.

I hoped, as I watched the "debate," that Ms Hagan would at least defend her sound record, and to some degree at least defend the Affordable Care Act, which is a great help to many of her constituents, and a hindrance to almost none. She seemed, instead, to be working towards some bland middle ground which would offend absolutely no one. And indeed, when one looks at an election such as the Hagan/Tillis election in a certain statistical light, it is true that both of the contenders actually need to somehow convince some very small number of at the moment unsure voters to, for some reason or other, vote for them. Ms Hagan did not need to convince me, in other words. I changed the channel, but I did not decide to write in Joseph Cotton, Trevor Howard, or Orson Welles.

Thomas Sowell, ancient conservative hack (boy I wish I had a job like that!), wrote a column this week aimed at the same sort of demographic target. Libby brought his column home last night from Greensboro. Why the News and Record wastes its precious space on his droolings I can't imagine. My guess is, he's cheap. His "argument"--aimed at whatever demographic might be defined as "them what aims to vote for a woman qua woman in 2016,"--such reasoning is not sensible, vote for the person instead. He offers as "proof" that a significant percentage of people who voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 and 2012, presumably their vote being reasonably understood as "approval" for Mr. Obama, now "disapprove." This utterly un-shocking statistic (see, e.g., George W. Bush's similar statistics graphed from 2000 to 2008) goes to show, Sowell says, that people who voted for Mr. Obama because he was black made a mistake. He does not go ahead and do the obvious math--that the exact same thing might be said of those who voted for Mr. George W. Bush (or all the 42 other white guys who've held the office since the Founding Slaveholders started the joint.

But what Mr. Sowell is doing is not really arguing with us. He's striking a tiny blow towards that very special demographic--namely those so undecided that in November, 2016, they might actually hit the Hillary lever because of her gender, i.e., well, we need one of them for a change. Mr. Sowell, that is, aims to sow just a tiny seed of doubt in a particular spot in the crowd. He doesn't know who's standing in that spot, but political statistics do tell us that some voters are. Whoever they are, Sowell wrote a column "to" them this past week. He thus strikes a tiny blow for the right wing that pays his salary.

This is how it is. It should be much more remarked on by whatever news media cares to keep people truly informed, versus the large cohort of media which aims to propagandize and manipulate the electorate--all of us--in whatever direction their goals and policy plans lie. But it's sad, I think, to see the same agenda reflected in a good candidate's public statements, and particularly when they might have done much better. The very same Greensboro paper editorialized that Mr. Tillis "won" the debate.

People used to joke that a good public school system was the last thing the folks who wield power want. People used to say that my county still produces good mill workers for its high school graduates, even though the mills are pretty much using folks who speak other languages now, which is understandable given that the mills are pretty much in other countries. Mr. Sowell senses a flicker of an idea amongst a few possible voters. It's not a great idea, but it is an idea--if you like, a "reason." He rushes to the spot and tosses a bucket of water on the little flame. Mr. Tillis, the same week, tells Senator Hagan "Kay, you just don't understand math." She splutters and says "do too, I worked for my dad in his tire store when I was but a teenager."


My most enjoyable moment of the week was watching the utter dismay and shock from the McDonnells up in Richmond. Who knows how it'll turn out in the sentencing but it's pretty great to see a guy who was just fine throwing his wife under the bus (and I think she colluded in that defense as well) finding that he can't just lie and god-bother his way out of everything, forever. I told my boss yesterday that before McDonnell gets too self-pitying he ought to hunt up the Ceaucescu mom'n'pop trial and execution over in Romania. You don't need to know Romanian to understand the whole thing, start to finish. These two servants of the people didn't get a second act. I won't be a bit surprised to see Governor McDonnell pontificating on the 700 Club, or on Fox News, in a few years.

Rachel Maddow made a very good point of the fact that Mr. McDonnell is the first convicted felon to have been once Governor of Virginia, living in the same residence as such vaunted Founding heros as Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. It was a good point. She might have also noted that Jeff Davis also lived there for a spell, and spent his retirement years in a Federal Pen, writing his racist memoirs, and that his doings, and the doings of the Virginia elite that helped kindle the Civil War in 1860, got Richmond pretty much burned to the ground in 1865. Below, photographic evidence. Just sayin'. But if Rachel had said that, she would have been wrong, for Virginia had a governor during the Civil War years, and he wasn't Jeff Davis, and he didn't invite Jeff Davis to live in his house, and he wasn't jailed after the war. For most of the war, Virginia's governor was John Lecter. In 1865 the Governor became Samuel Matthews.* Perhaps all of Virginia's government colluded to create the conditions by which Richmond (and Atlanta, and several other southern cities) were burned down. But Mr. McDonnell still remains the first Governor convicted as a felon.

[*I corrected this account of gubernatorial succession in the Commonwealth of Virginia at the behest of a worthy constituent, after this piece was initially posted with the erroneous assumption that Mr. Davis had lived in the Virginia Governor's Mansion. Mr. Davis lost the race to become Mississippi's Governor before the outbreak of hostilities, becoming a Senator instead.]

Speaking of which, Henry Adams, grandson of Founder and non-slaveholder John Adams, opined after the recent unpleasantness that they shoulda hung Marse Lee for his part in it. Again, the McDonnells live in much kinder and gentler times.