Sunday, 21 July 2013

tex mex ruminations

Although I've never been to Texas, and don't plan
to, there are some bands that make me wish I'd
been. It's the music, the attitude and the surrounding

Here are some tunes that make me think of that
part of the US, and there's a story below.

some mexicali

checkit: Guardian

Texas and New Mexico: arid desert, ZZ Top, the blues and UFOs
The borderlands of Texas and New Mexico are an Anglo-Hispanic world where the scenery is widescreen and the culture has deep roots
    John Phillip Santos          
     Saturday 22 June 2013 
Kitchen Mesa, Abiquiu, New Mexico View larger picture
The Jemez mountains, New Mexico. Photograph: 167/Ocean/Corbis. Click on the magnifying glass icon for a larger view of this image
Take a break from the American mammon groove during your walkabout in the United States and wend your way to the south-western borderlands. Slowly traverse a swath of terrain between Austin and the environs of Albuquerque, Santa Fe, out to the ancient ruins of Chaco Canyon.
These are lands of America's other origin story, taking you into the deep time of the new world. This route moves through the deserts, austere and verdant landscapes, mostly wild and unpopulated, an itinerary with ample promise of getting lost, travelling in time and undergoing inadvertent epiphanies.
Texas and New Mexico have deep-rooted, large and rapidly growing Hispanic populations (Texas 38.1%, New Mexico 46.7%, in the 2010 census), and both are "majority minority" (an oxymoron much in use), indicating that a majority of people are from non-white ethnic groups. You're a majority, but you're still minority.
This reconquista has brought a tide of new, transforming ways of understanding our history and this very geography, that lately is attracting artists and visionaries from all parts.
This is my widescreen homeland, encompassing my birthplace (San Antonio, Texas) and my longtime spiritual refuge (the Jemez wilderness of north-west New Mexico), a land I've long harboured an inexplicable sense of belonging to. I first sensed this attraction travelling there with my family as a 14-year-old. Coming from parched south Texas, north-western New Mexico seemed impossibly alpine, its primordial forests fragrant, mysterious and sheltering.
El Santuario de Chimay, Chimayo, New Mexico El Santuario de Chimay, New Mexico Photograph: Arnold Drapkin/ZUMA Press/Corbis
Jose Limón, the director of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana, calls the region "Greater Mexico", preponderantly Hispanic and uniquely forged in all the epics of North America – indigenous genesis, the conquest and colonisation of Mexico, myriad migrations and the revolutionary birth of the United States.
The Texas state capital of Austin (only founded in the 1830s) sits on the fault line separating Anglo and Hispano worlds, ever touting its difference, if still harbouring a wariness of fully embracing all things Mexicano.
Growing up in San Antonio (founded in 1718), the comparatively rural redoubt of shipwrecked Texan Mexicanidad, Austin was our Athens up the road, an eclectic gathering place where auspicious hippy world wisdom was dependably in foment. Then, it was the prophetic psychedelia of Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators rock band; the searing postmodern blues of Townes Van Zandt. The sounds and words of ZZ Top and Willie Nelson, blues-y, rebellious and rough-hewn, were ubiquitous, familiar and fitting for the time.
In the summer of 1979, making a pilgrimage to the now long-gone venue of the new Austin sound, the Armadillo World Headquarters, it was Talking Heads (Fear of Music tour), with the B-52s opening. The world was changing. These days, at Waterloo Records you might hear the psychotropic songcraft of Davíd Garza on the sound system, mantric drone rock from The Black Angels, or the post-punk siren songs of Alejandro Escovedo or Spoon.
Austin's hardscrabble Texas Hill Country setting belies its blessed geographic location, a city conjured over the Edwards limestone aquifer, filtering precious rainwater into a vast underground reservoir. In such an arid, unforgiving land, cooling springs abound, from Barton Springs in the city to Krause Springs in nearby Spicewood (don't miss Opie's Barbecue there).
An hour west is the 6m-year-old Enchanted Rock, a massive, pale-pink granite pluton dome with peaks jutting out from a sandy valley of mesquite trees. It beggars belief the first time you see it; many say it's a sacred place.
We climbed and circled the hoary igneous batholith like it was David's Jerusalem or the very Ka'bah. The vista spans miles in every direction, surveying tiny mesquite stands, specks of cattle, a few dusty ranch houses in the distance. If you're not a poet when you climb it, you might be one when you descend.
For my family, San Antonio was the cradle of antiquity, a secret Mexican city, on American soil. It was founded in the last push of the Spanish colonisation of Mexico, early in the 18th century. A constellation of beautifully restored missions on the modern city's Southside echoes these distant origins. The legendary Alamo, living testimony to how badly an immigration policy can go awry, was itself a Spanish mission.
During the Chicano movement, activists and intellectuals reclaimed Texas and New Mexico as Aztlán, the mythical land from which the Aztecs came, an old homeland rediscovered. San Antonio imparted a different way of being American, open to identities emerging from the deep time of these lands – indigenous, Hispanic, Anglo and beyond.
UFO festival in Roswell, New Mexico UFO festival in Roswell, New Mexico Photograph: Ted Soqui/Sygma/Corbis
My preferred road to New Mexico is Highway 90, through Castroville, Hondo (full of Santos family members), and Uvalde, careening then into the astounding desolation of West Texas. Past Del Rio, there's Seminole Canyon State Park, where you must hike down into the deep canyon to view ancient, indigenous stone wall paintings depicting a people in pilgrimage. It's testimony to how long people have journeyed across these lands, long before there was a border to be policed.
Marfa has become a cultural destination of late: hipsters heading out there as if the tap water gives you visions. I don't get it. There's a great radio station (KRTS), bookstore and a cafe next door with a fantastic green chilli, but I prefer to head south to visit Presidio and Ojinaga, which is on both the US and Mexican sides of the border.
From there, I climb into the nearby mountains to Chinati Hot Springs, an exalted desert oasis. On an open plain, you can soak in a stone tub fed by a steaming geothermal spring under the vast, glimmering heavens, meteors streaking by.
Spaniards ventured into the lands that became New Mexico in the late 16th century, searching for mythical cities of gold. Santa Fe was founded in 1609, Albuquerque 1691. A sense of the mythical is there today. Nearing Albuquerque, there's Alamogordo, where the first nuclear bomb was tested in 1945, or Roswell, where in 1947 extraterrestrial visitors famously scuppered a flying saucer in the desert.

what has done most to take God out of our lives?

In this etude, I will parade before you many evil
people whom you will think are the devil and
then ask you whether God is going missing.

Who's fault was it:

Osama Bin Laden?
Married Gays?
Edward Snowden?
Bradley/Chelsea Manning?
Hussein Obama?

or is it the #OMG hashtag?

some pictures to help you ruminate about God

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

no punks, new wave

over the next few days, I'll update this
entry that's about a book I just finished
called "New York Rocker" by Gary

This guy was the first bassist for Blondie.
I picked up the book in the library discard.
As you can see from my "top of her game"
entry, I am impressed with some of Blondie's
works and Debbie particularly.

Gary was the kind of quietish guy who
sat in the corner, writing in his journal.
But thankfully he did, because we learned
about  a lot of the early days of punk and
how it grew.
I know, you're saying Blondie was not punk.
How true that is. It seems that Gary was
unsure about whether he was in a punk or
a new wave band even though he always said
"punks in ripped clothes,
us in skinny ties"

It was amazing that a guy who played music
and was idolised by kids, could be so pedantic
and boring, and small minded, but he was. Not too much,
but he did complain about stuff a lot.
Gary was a voracious reader, but his writing
was not all that entertaining.

The guy wrote a few songs, in his days with
the Blondies and even had one single as the 
leader of his own band.  I will not link to it
because it's such a saccharine song, it would 
be perfect for K-Tel Kids Kollection. How this
guy thought he was a punk, I'll never know.
I'm sure he was trying to make money, but
that is not punk, either.

He did however, get a chance to be in a punk
group of sorts, after his solo stuff. 
he was in Iggy Pop's band 
for 6 months
\m/ much respect
He got to play old Stooges
toons. wow. tons of groupies too.

Gary started out in Jersey, then ran away from home
at 18, and lived with his starving buddies in a bad 
neighbourhood of Brooklyn. 
Then he chanced upon Debbie Harry and Chris 
Stein, through a mutual friend. Without being
able to play a note, he was taken on as the bassist
because he could play a bit of piano and had 
written some poetry.
How simple things were, back in 1975.

[early song]

[early song. their rockingest. probably a cover]

The band had to live together, sometimes in their 
practice space because they were always broke.
I read the whole process of how they slowly 
came to success as the scene was going wild
with the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith,
Richard Hell, Talking Heads.
And Gary was around the Cali punk scene which
started later. Again, Gary wrote about it, he was not
a punk. He was playing pop nearby, let's say.

We learned a lot about his girlfriends and other
conquests. NY, Cali, tour bus
We learned about his fascination with magic 
and witchcraft (like Chris Stein) that led to him
following a charlatan who had him sitting in 
positions at particular times of the day. Wacko!

A lot of drugs were going around in those days.

In the end, you cannot take the opinion of one 
band member when he complains about how his
friends turned their backs on him. He quit when 
he realised that Debbie and Chris were ready to
kick him out. I figure he's mostly right, but he
doesn't know why he was ousted. Chris and
Debbie manipulated the others into hating Gary.

[Gary absent from this pic, on their first Cali tour.

Debbie was very new wave, and the others indicated
various psychoses]

He did mention how the band signed a bad 
management contract in 1976 that Gary was
all against, but they screamed at him to do it.
In the end he was right, as I'd heard from other
sources that the band had been swindled all
along. Of course they were. They were drugged
up artists and the wolves were circling.

[The wolf. what does the manager do? take 15%, er 25%]

They signed a bad record deal. but the producers
were not stupid and pasted Debbie's boobs front and
Smart move because the rest of the band
looked like evolution, backwards.
[Gary behind The Hair. more about devolution, later]

However, the he-said she-said makes everybody 
seem small. So here's what I think was going on:

Debbie had started in a 60s hippy band 
The Wind in the Willows
I'm serious. If you knew where 
the name came from, you'd think they were insane.
[check Youtube. they were insane]
Debbie was a backup singer with the Stilettos
[also on Youtube. a cultural nightmare
mishmash of cliches]
There, she met Chris Stein, and they both quit to strike out
together.They gathered up a band, thinking that everybody
else was a simpleton employee, so that those 2 could have all
the glory and cash.
That is true, and Gary said it. Even though they got gypped
by managers, Debbie had a  mansion. But the other band
members had a hard crash into reality. Jimmy Destri went
into construction. Chris was supported by Debbie, and Clem,
the drummer, played with Gary on Iggy's show.
Back to poverty for most.

But Gary could write songs so, it seems like Debbie and Chris 
felt that if they were to ever make it, they had to get rid of Gary.
That anger also probably meant that they had to take their
music up a notch, because, until then, Gary was the best 

[OOPs! a cover of a song from the 60s?!]

[a Gary song. Gary on guitar, pogoing. Chris in GREEN]

[a Gary song. Gary's gone. If punk means scrawny, ugly,
weird white guys, then Blondie qualifies. Deb is wow]

Indeed they did step up to the plate. Their three big albums
came in succession after that. I am still so impressed with
aspects of their history, that I commented
how they seemed on top of the world. But then, BOOM,
in 1981, it all disintegrated. Probably stress-related. They
all went a bit nutso. You could tell from the last big Blondie
video, Tide is High.

In reality Debbie was not very confident, even though she
was stunning. Gary had to admit that. But, she and Chris
were a battery and they supported each other. and it worked.
She told everybody Chris was a genius, and Debbie needed
Chris to tell her how lovely she was. So Chris was a genius
because he knew Debbie's beauty, and whatever talent he
saw in her, was his meal ticket.

You will soon understand how nutso Chris was. This guy
was trying to get famous and yet in TWO early videos
he wore a suit.
it wasn't the worst shade of green, but it was green

[Gumby strikes again. Chris in Green. Deb is wow]

the other stuff in the story
-Gary was fond of his pogoing, but the others wanted
to kill him. It wasn't punk pogo cuz he looked like a
suburban high school kid anyway. 
-Debbie acted in Roadie (sh*tty movie) and Cronenberg's
I-Forget. She looked ravishing, but was not an actress
and did not look mentally well.
-Patti Smith hated Blondie and undermined it by getting
band members to quit. In the end, most band members
came to resemble Patti- gaunt, translucent skin, bug-eyed
-They crossed paths with a lot of the artists and non-artists of
the era.

[blank generation documentary. all the early bands, even the NY Dolls!]

Sunday, 14 July 2013

they gag most of the news too

one thing I've noticed about the 24-hour news channels. Even
though they are supposedly competing, they do seem
very similar, as to their content, and the fact that they
can milk 5 inconsequential stories all day long.

They have a shared monopoly on the news, and
they tell you what you "need to know"i.e. nothing.
They are tools of the government, as regards big national
and international policy.

That's why The BBC is now destroying the image of the NHS
as they've been told to do.
They denigrate immigrants and the long-term sick.

They seem to have forgotten the lepers in the Banks.
They are untouchable, not because they're disgusting
but because the government is protecting them.

So, why wouldn't the BBC gag its employees to keep
them from talking? They gag everything else too.

The  important principle here is :
how the F$^&k you can legally tell someone
to shut the F$%^&k up! what happened
to free speech?

checkit:  Telegraph

BBC spent £28m of licence-fee payers' money gagging 500 staff
The BBC has used licence fee payers' money to buy the silence of more than 500 staff with payouts of up to £500,000 each.
By Steven Swinford and Neil Midgley
10:00PM BST 18 Jun 2013
According to figures released under Freedom of Information, in the past eight years 539 staff have signed gagging orders at a total cost of £28million.
The scale of the pay-outs led to accusations that the BBC was using the agreements to silence potential whistle blowers and victims of bullying or sexual harassment.
They were disclosed to The Daily Telegraph ahead of the publication of what is expected to be a highly critical report by the National Audit Office next month.
Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust, has already admitted that the findings will prove "difficult" for the corporation.
Stephen Barclay, a Conservative member of the Public Accounts Committee, said: "These payments are at odds with the fundamental values of the BBC and a betrayal of the licence fee payer.
    The BBC were right to broadcast the North Korea exposé
    17 Apr 2013
    BBC 'tying itself in knots' over song mocking Thatcher
    12 Apr 2013
"They expect their hard-earned money to be spent on supporting creative talent and world class programmes, not on payments to silence people."
The BBC confirmed that almost all of the settlements, known as compromise agreements, contained confidentiality clauses.
Tony Hall, the new director-general of the BBC, was so concerned by the scale of the payments that he introduced a £150,000 cap on severance payments in one of his first moves in his new role.
The biggest pay-offs were made to BBC managers, with 77 executives receiving more than £100,000 and 14 over £300,000.
They include George Entwistle, the former director-general who received a £450,000 pay-off, double the amount he was contractually entitled to.
He resigned last year in the wake of the Jimmy Savile and Lord McAlpine scandals after spending just 54 days in the job.
Two unnamed individuals were given pay-offs worth £500,100 and £524,681, while Sharon Baylay, the former director of marketing, received £392,000.
The pay-offs were also BBC staff who signed the orders after claiming they were victims of bullying or sexual harassment.
Miriam O’Reilly, the former Countryfile presenter who won a landmark case against the BBC for age discrimination, was offered a five figure settlement by the corporation in exchange for her silence.
She rejected the offer. "These gags are so legally binding that people cannot even speak to their spouse about them," she said. "They are wrong. The BBC as a public service broadcaster is renowned for honesty, truth, and freedom of speech. They should not be stopping people from telling the truth."
The true cost of the agreements is likely to be significantly higher, as the figures do not include the costs of legal advice for the BBC and employees or other benefits such as health cover, counselling and training.
A BBC spokesman defended the use of compromise agreements as “standard practice”. He said: “The BBC always insists that individuals take independent legal advice before entering into them.