Sunday, July 22, 2018

Selected Shorts #04 - Honkey, Please

Honkey, Please

I have a message for some of my fellow White peeps in the USA. I wish to assure you that, contrary to what you hear on a daily basis from our current President* and his media enablers, the people you think are out to get us are not out to get us.

- Immigrants are not out to get us. The overwhelming majority of them are, like our ancestors, people looking for a better life for their families in the Promised Land. And by the way, “They’re not taking our jobs. They’re doing our jobs.” (h/t, Jimmy Tingle)

- Black folks are not out to get us. They’re simply demanding a level playing field. That, and the luxury of not getting 9-1-1 called on their ass for no good reason and/or being killed by the cops for the crime of “existing while Black.”

- The government is not out to get us. Although it should be noted that a lot of White people are also falling through the cracks due to certain foolish social, fiscal, and trade policies. (Nothing personal - just collateral damage in the art of the deal.)

- The media is not out to get us. Seriously, the quantity of solicitous anthropological updates cranked out about “middle Americans” or “working class Americans” or “forgotten Americans” or whatever-the-hell euphemism du jour for White people is currently in vogue is stupefying. (Nothing personal - just good for business.)

I know that White folks, especially we White men folks, have gotten use to having the run of the place, but seriously, it’s just not all about us anymore. It’s past time to grow up, and enough already with the whining. Should you experience pushback for acting like a racist Honkey chowderhead, either (a) own up to your BS or (b) consider a different approach. For example, not acting like a racist Honkey chowderhead? That might be worth a shot.

If, however, some White people are so desperate to justify feeling dispirited, downtrodden, and generally put upon, well, I have a thought. Obviously, whoever came up with the notion of White racial superiority clearly wasn’t, dermatologically speaking, paying attention. The fact is that many (most?) so-called “White” people have skin that is susceptible to splotchy and cancerous ugliness. (I’m one of ‘em.) So…

Looking for an enemy? Try the Sun.

- The Sun abides, absolutely essential yet supremely indifferent to our very existence.

- The Sun does not register our complaints nor recognize White privilege.

- The Sun will - as a matter of course - burn, blister, and kill us if we are not vigilant.

Enemies? We don’t need no stinkin’ enemies; we already have a nemesis. That should be more than sufficient, even for White people.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Selected Shorts #03 - Motivation


I was maybe nine years old and had been playing the accordion for three years or so. I was pretty good at it, but because I was immersed in a pain-in-the-ass “I’m bored” phase, I had gotten lazy and was not practicing like I should. But every week, my Mom dutifully continued to drive me to lessons at the Central School of Music in downtown Louisville, where she would sit patiently in the corner, quietly observing the proceedings.

One week, I had a substitute teacher, a gentleman unknown to me. I was faking it, pretending that I had actually practiced my lesson assignment, when he stopped me. Turns out he had some points to make, politely, but in no uncertain terms:

1. You have talent, but you are lazy and unprepared.
2. You are wasting your time.
3. You are wasting my time.
4. You are wasting your parents’ time and money.
5. If you are not going to practice, quit.

All of this in front of my mother. I was mortified.

On the suddenly very long drive home, Mom didn’t say a word about this epic dressing down. In fact, she never mentioned it, like, ever. I am so very grateful to her for that.

After the initial shock and humiliation, I understood that I had a choice to make. More out of wounded pride than received wisdom, I decided that I would show this guy (whom, incidentally, I never saw again) and my mother that I was not about to give up. I was still a whiney-ass kid, but I realized what it would take to become a really good accordion player. So, I got serious about doing the work.

And it paid off. A few years later, I was placing in national competitions in the exotic municipalities of Chicago (twice), St. Louis, and - the ne plus ultra - Cleveland.

The more you practice, the luckier you get.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Selected Shorts #02 - Nostalgia


At the beginning of my eighth decade, I find myself immersed in resistance, and not simply the unremitting struggle to persuade people that human hatred, greed, and stupidity are screwing up, like, everything. Nope, I mean the personal age-related variety of resistance, in which all of us who are fortunate enough to achieve “old age” engage.

Since so much depends on genetics, we are immutably limited in what we can do about physical deterioration. Don’t smoke, eat right, exercise, avoid stress, wear sunscreen, all that stuff. The mental part is trickier, however, assuming one does not fall victim to some godless, horrible degenerative disease. Keeping the mind engaged and the spirit strong takes work.

In my case, I read, practice music, and every so often write snarkly (snarkily?) about the ultramaroons in power. And, though I refrain from making a habit of it, occasionally indulge in a bit of nostalgia.

Nostalgia for its own sake is not helpful. The whole “but things were so much better when…” perspective is inherently flawed and can lead to some world-class dumbass thinking. For example, the 50s and early 60s were indisputably a damned good time to be a White male living in the U.S., so why can’t we just MAGA (“Make America Great Again”)? Which is transparently NARB (Nostalgia As Reactionary Bullshit).

But once in a while…

In 1963, The Beatles recorded songs for a BBC radio programme called “Pop Go The Beatles.” One of these was a cover version of “Soldier of Love,” first recorded by Arthur Alexander, an American soul singer and great favourite of the Fab Four. I had never heard of this song before now. The lyrics aren’t all that special, but it has classic chord changes, and the Beeb recording features a great lead vocal by 22 year-old John Lennon with marvelous background vocals. (The Beatles may have been the first great “boy band,” but they also had their “girl group” chops down cold.) All in all, it is a terrific piece of pop music. Naturally, I had to check out the original.

The basic arrangement is the same, although Alexander’s version, in a different key, is slower and more soulful. The instrumentation is basically an R & B combo instead of a guitar band, and it is a better recording. (The sax part is all kinds of awesome.) But the effect of both versions - the original by a young Black man from Alabama and the cover by a quartet of young White men from Liverpool - was, for this 70 year-old White man from Kentucky, the same: Exhilarating.

This is music from my teens and, although I had never heard “Soldier of Love” before, it took me back. I was reminded of that brief time when the musical integration of Black & White artists, what we called “Top 40,” was a wildly popular radio format and highly successful business model. It was a glourious thing, but of its time and not likely to return. The recordings, however, are still out there.

Sometimes it only takes an echo to give the spirit a lift.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Reflections From Roma #06

Reflections From Roma #06
03 luglio 2018

Hello there… Rodger French here.

July 4, 2018

U.S. embassies typically organize two events to commemorate Independence Day. There is an official reception for host country dignitaries and assorted other poobahs, and a separate community event for American and local staff, and their families. These community gatherings tend to be more relaxed and fun, as there are no tricky protocol issues, fewer security hassles, and definitely no suits.

The Ambassador hosts the official July 4 affair at the residence, and sometimes, if the embassy is unable to accommodate the crowd, the community festivities as well (on a different day, of course). Since the Rome Tri-Mission compound is ginormous, the 4thof July community party takes place in the parking lot, complete with tents, BBQ, a band, and activities designed to distract the kids. All in all, not a bad day to be part of the embassy community and celebrate what we have somewhat arrogantly come to call “American independence.”

But not for me, not this year.

I am profoundly ashamed of and for my country. The ideals that we purportedly gather to celebrate on the 4th- truth, justice, freedom - are under premeditated and relentless attack. The current regime is hell-bent on destroying the institutions and social contracts, foreign and domestic that, however imperfect, have served us well for many decades.

My country is in the hands of sleazy grifters and remorseless extremists, enabled by constituencies malevolent in their greed, appalling in their cruelty, and breathtaking in their hypocrisy. There is apparently no limit to their destructive disrespect, and I find celebration to be a hopelessly compromised and inappropriate response.

Patriotic expression takes different forms. On this 4thof July, my love of country is rooted in and kindled by a deep, smoldering rage at, and resistance to what we as a nation are becoming: A racist, paranoid, isolated state; dismissive of our allies, manipulated by our adversaries, and indifferent to simple decency.

Perhaps some folks will look for a way to use this Independence Day as an opportunity to reclaim those ideals that have traditionally made this desperately flawed “American experiment” worthy of redemption. Good on them. I hope they succeed.

But not me, not this year. I choose to sit this one out. See you on the other side.

Resist. Onward.