Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Memories of the Unknown Busker

There was a recent post floating around which told about world class violinist Joshua Bell busking inside the metro station in Washington DC.
A brilliant violinist playing top notch music on the street for people kept just walking by completely oblivious to what was actually occuring. Normally they'd pay a couple of hundred dollars to hear him play and afterwards brag to their friends how 'amazing he was'. But because of context and location... it wasn't worth a second look.

In the late 1980's I found myself in a major funk.
A deep well of negative emotions I couldn't climb out,
-of connected to my departure from a band that I'd played with for six years,
-and the breakup of the deepest relationship I'd ever had.
My mom saw the misery I was going through dealing with all of this and sent me off to europe. She bought my ticket by I had to get by on my own.
When I did get to Berlin my money didn't really last me very long. Something that happens very fast when you're in a big city and you don't know anyone. Fortunately I had brought along a guitar and a battery operated amp. I made my living by my guitar; -playing in the cafés and on the streets. Sometimes I hooked up with other musicians when playing on the streets because the more musicians there are the more of a spectacle it tends to create.
In the late 1980's there was still a strong tradition of respect for the itinerent musician. In places like Antwerpen, in the area called the old section there were many many buskers... although we were often outflanked by the numerousness and popularity of peruvian ensembles who were students making ends meet by busking. And there was a café there by the docks where all the buskers would gather at the end of the night to drink; and a stage there where they'd perform solo or jam together.
In Gent, could go inside any café and ask to play, they'd turn the house music off and let you perform and then pass the hat. And they have a festival called 'de Gentsefeesten' that started in 1832 as a celebration of the creation of Belgium -)where the workers would celebrate for 10 days and spent the whole week and a half in the cafés listening to the musicians jam.
But that was in the past.
These days the only stages during the Gentsefeesten are reserved for "official acts", and few cafés will let musicians play in them on the spur of the moment play for tips.
There was a café in Berkeley on Telegraph Ave called the Soup Kitchen where they'd let you play for a bowl of soup and rumour had it that people like Cat Stevens and Bob Dylan had both at one time or another wandered in to play for their meals.
Yet without the wandering musicians you'd never have had the some of the most beautiful music created out of the cross pollenation of middleastern music and western celtic... although in the medieval tradition of the troubadors who composedOccitane lyric poetry and music; and spawned movements like the minnesangers who were mainly of noble birth yet still traveled extensively carrying along the influences from the places they'd been.
And of course there is no end of respect for gypsy musicians, who in many countries, were never even allowed to set down roots.
The 1993 film by Tony Gatlif titled Latcho Drom tells the story in a wonderful way through music of the travels and influences, and troubles of gypies from India to the middleast to europe.
Another musical movement that exemplified this sort of cross pollenation of styles was greek folk music called Rembetika which emerged in the 1920's. The music itself was like a blues music mozaic that often told stories personal to the singer chronicling personal tragedies caused by war, faithless love and the hardships that immigrants faced.

When I returned to San Francisco I saw a few of the musicians that I'd met in europe who I'd seen draw hundreds of spectators there and were respected for their musicianship.
They seemed lost amid the haste of foot traffic... unheard in the urban din... invisible as their talents seemed unnoticed.

Anne Coulter's ignorance and hypocrisy.

Currently she's making the rounds of TV and radio talkshows promoting her book 'Guilty' ...which she could just as well have titled 'Have I Annoyed Everyone Yet?' -she seems hell bent on trash talking everyone and everything in sight (fellow conservatives included). Part of her litany of well practiced gripes is how the liberal media is persecuting conservatives and yet she visits abuse upon fellow conservatives like Mike Huckabee as exemplified during a recent visit to his FOX NEWS show.

But one of the main talking points of her book is her claim that single mothers have created 70% of all the criminality that exists. Or that being raised by a single mother gives you twice the possibility of becoming a criminal later in life. Luckily in this day and age some people actually bother to fact check and then it gets blogged extensively it.
I have a hard time believing that she actually believes the spurious claims that she makes... simply because of the sheer volume of superficial claims she makes.
And the fact that she's is eager is to be talked about even when its to be dished on.
But for every institution that has some christian moralist drum to beat about the damage that feminism has inflicted upon the identity of the male its hastening of the disintegration of the family there are just as many studies to refute these claims and to prove that it isn't just about having both parents present to raise kids as much as it is about the quality of character of those who acts as role models or directly influence the children.
Having a jailbird in the family has more to do with if kids will wind up recidivists or not.
My own father who, after having spent hardly any time with me at all, once told me that he believed I was just going to spend my entire life going in and out of prison. I believe I was just thirteen at the time.
He wasn't around much of the time(yes, working and when he wasn't working he'd insist that we kids be as far from him as much as possible)
Yes, I've lots of issues with him. And I did wind up going to juvie quite a bit for a year or two til the court ordered me to live with other relatives.
But later, as an adult I'd gone to jail a number of times primarily for political actions where I went semi-voluntarily (or for reasons of my own choosing)
For the rest, I didn't wind up as he predicted... having picked up my own sense of ethics from
people other than him.

Bush's Political appointees just don't know when to leave.
Never mind that for the last 8 years never has the Justice Dept. spent so little time in dealing with matters of justice in the strictest constitutional sense of the word... but pursued investigations along purely ideological and political partisan lines. The Civil Rights Division which for 40 or 50 years enforced and pursued investigations into discrimination claims was effectively dismantled or restaffed with lawyers who were ideologically driven;

"Nearly 20 percent of the division's lawyers left in fiscal 2005, in part because of a buyout program that some lawyers believe was aimed at pushing out those who did not share the administration's conservative views on civil rights laws. Longtime litigators complain that political appointees have cut them out of hiring and major policy decisions, including approvals of controversial GOP redistricting plans in Mississippi and Texas"
'Civil Rights Shift Roils Staff at Office' - Dan Eggen, Washington Post
November 13, 2005

Nor did they do their job in the wake of the disasters that followed Hurricane Katrina as there were numerous incidents of black residents being shot on site in the Algiers Point area of NOLA.
With so many recent instances of racially charged incidents like the intimidation of the students of Jena, Louisiana that led to a beating of a white student after black students were threatened with nooses and countless white supremists attacking gays ...and blacks (out of anger for Obama's election victory) I don't mind saying, it'll be good to see the back's of Bush's appointees as they head home to retype their resumés.

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