Tuesday, February 16, 2010

End or limit the use of the Filibuster

Today I started the Facebook Group:

Reform the filibuster

 There is an excellent discussion of this in a clip from The Rachel Maddow Show:

 The Rachel Maddow Show:

Feb. 15: Chris Hayes, Washington editor for The Nation, talks with Rachel Maddow about the growing opposition to the filibuster rule and the likelihood that it will be removed, even separate from the effort to pass specific legislation.




Friday, February 12, 2010

A Little Night Music, Kalani Style

Scott Huckaby performs in Maui. Dar heard and saw him last night at Kalani:

Scott Huckabay's performance on Maui; Sam Small Dirctor, Editor from samsmall on Vimeo.

Scott Huckabay is a brilliant guitarist whose groundbreaking style incorporates elements of Rock, Blues, Jazz and Fusion. To watch Huckabay play the guitar today, you are struck by his overall mastery of the fretboard and the way in which his fingers fly up and down the neck of his acoustic guitar. Including using a meteorite for a guitar pick, Scott utilizes every known guitar trick and then adds a few of his own just for fun. Behind the explosive dynamics and pulsating rhythm of Scott Huckabay's alchemical guitar work lies an inspiring story of healing and recovery that is perhaps, more powerful than the music itself.
Sam Small Director, Editor, Writer, Camera, Producer


Darryl's account of the evening:

Scott Huckaby's performance last night was simply amazing. It was incredible, in the strictest sense of the word.

His first song lasted almost 20 minutes, which sounds like a lengthy piece, until you consider that in that amount of time he used a violin bow on his guitar, he twirled around a speaker with it to produce feedback noises, he french-kissed it, he karate-chopped it, he kicked it with shaman bells wrapped around his ankles, he plucked, picked, and strummed it, he banged the back of it with his closed fist and open palm, he played it over his head and behind it, he held it over an electronic crystal that rotated through a spectrum of colors and emitted some sort of energy that changed the frequency of the sound depending on its proximity to the guitar -- I fully expected to see him lube it up and use it as a dildo. What an encore *that* would have been!

Even with all the manhandling of his instrument, his music was still remarkably ... musical, and furthermore it was danceable. Lots of people danced throughout, in fact, including one young girl with long blond hair who wore a shawl but no panties -- an incongruent fashion choice to my mind. It would be the same if be as if a fellow took to the dance floor wearing gloves but no boxers, tighty-whities, or jock. But even that wouldn't be as apparent to everyone assembled as was this girl's, especially given her propensity to twirl en pointe like a music-box ballerina (albeit one blessed with the body of a Rubens model).

The only dancer who commanded as much of my attention was a squat middle-aged woman with curly reddish hair cut short above her ears but left to explode violently upward as she danced, as if she has been electrocuted shortly before she took to the dance floor. She also twirled as she danced and took it even further than the blond by keeping her eyes closed throughout. This decision -- or side-effect of electrocution? -- gave her an errant dancing style strongly reminiscent of a child's top at the point when its rotation has slowed down so much that the stabilizing effects of centrifugal force have been completely nullified, leaving her with only a herky-jerky inertia to propel her around the dance floor in an orbit so erratic that it was impossible to predict -- while simultaneously impossible not to *try* to predict -- if, or when, the top would suddenly swerve toward them, or collide with a potted plant, or topple over a microphone stand, or crash into
a filtered water dispenser, or bounce off a mirrored wall. To music.

Exciting stuff!


I would be remiss not to say this, even if no one believes me, but at no time did twin twirlers Muffy and Puffy (nor, for that matter, the juggler, the firespinner, or the woman who sang in tongues) manage to ever upstage Huckaby, not his persona and certainly not his music. All credit goes to the man's enormously combustible performance that such potential distractions remained solidly peripheral and, at the same time, peripherally solid. Like the Pips, or the Staggering Harlettes, you couldn't imagine the show without them but, nonetheless, no one would ever suffer under the illusion that they *were* the show.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Cold Day in Washington

Photo: Time

Paralysis has stricken Washington, D.C. The deep freeze and the blinding snow are living metaphors for the standstill that grips Congress. Now one of two futures opens before us, either progressives bury themselves in the snow and let the ice men cometh and take over, the icy Republicans ready to shovel progressives out of power, or the Democrats replace milk-toast Reid with a fiery leader who can melt the ice-jam, break the filibuster threats, and let reform flow. The Democrats, especially the progressives, need to find fire in the belly. Only then will the thaw come and Health Care, jobs, and all the other sorely needed social improvements happen.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Movie Review: Love Songs (Les Chansons D'amour)

photo from

At first glance and hearing, Love Songs (Les Chansons D'amour) seems to be a light-hearted musical about a menage-a-trois. Set with existential loveliness in the rain washed streets of Paris, this film is much more. Early in the film tragedy strikes and the characters suddenly change from playful to anguished. What is amazing is that the songs go on. This is French film at its best. The fourteen songs of the film, the creation of songwriter Alex Beaupain,  express every imaginable emotion. Director Christophe Honoré blends the performances of gorgeous lead, Louis Garrel, who plays the enigmatic Ishmael, and his lovers into a passionate harmony with the songs. The cast also includes Chiara Mastroianni, the daughter of actors Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni. The voices in the songs are those of the actors. 

photo from

The music, which was written before the film and independent of the plot, is nonetheless moving and creates a fascinating dialog between the characters. It is Honoré who works story and song into such a convincing blend.  The story of love, loss, and love rediscovered is one that Simone De Beauvoir would have loved as it explores her themes of commitment, death, bisexuality, and existential authenticity. The revelations of the characters, their coping with the death of a loved one, and the brilliant dialogue in and out of song, not unlike that of the best Stephen Sondheim plays, make this film a classic. That the story and the songs are also a tribute to the joy of same-sex love place the film high on any list of great gay films. Sadly, it may be the gay relationships that have kept this film from its rightful place alongside the films of Truffaut, Chabrol, and Demy. Chosen by John Waters as his pick at the 2009 Maryland film festival, and an official selection for The Cannes Film Festival,  Love Songs is a masterpiece that all serious film enthusiasts ought to savor.

Jack Miller

Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Tea Party

If you want to know what tea bagging is all about, watch John Waters' film "Pecker."

“It would be absurd to not consider what it is that I can potentially do to help our country,”
Sarah Palin, splitting infinitives but not the GOP.

This movement of Republican zealots ought to stir progressives to form a counter movement. Make no mistake-- the tea baggers are Republican to the core and any attempt by Democrats, blue dog or otherwise, to join them will just mean more defeat for the Dems. Libertarians who do have the tea bag point of view will be duped once more into supporting big business and corporate puppet representatives in Congress. The tea for them is going to prove bitter indeed.

What progressives share with the file and rank tea baggers is pure frustration at the inability of Congress, especially the outmoded, tradition-steeped Senate to do anything at all. Month after month we have  heard pundits on TV predict whether the "super majority" will please this senator or that senator and pass some overly compromised bill. Harry Reid may mean well, but he has made muck of his majority. Imagine what Republicans would pass if they had 60- or even 59- senate seats. The term "blue dogs" ought to mean the progressive Democrats who won't put up with the delay and the coddling of the Republicans. The Democrats need some bite.

The news programs are already controlled and run with brilliant subtlety with a corporate slant. They are, after all, owned by big corporations that have a vested interest in keeping Republicans in power and preventing the reform progressives want. The recent 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court means even more direct corporate control of Congress. Progressives will have to "shake the windows and rattle the walls," to paraphrase Dylan, if they want to be heard. I say it's time to Shake, Rattle and Roll with reform before it is too late.

Jack Miller


Friday, February 05, 2010

Merwin in Seattle

New Orleans, 1971
Photo Copyright
Jack Miller

Last night, W.S.Merwin and poets honoring him gave readings in Seattle. Here is friend Brenda Skinner's account of the evening, followed by the announcement of the event from the Seattle P-I.

Dear Jack,
A little recap of the evening. 
Four ‘younger poets’ (how Copper Canyon Press had written of the event) along with W.S. Merwin shared the stage.  The other poets typically read only 2-3 poems, they were:  Erin Belieu, Ben Lerner, Valzhyna Mort, and Matthew Zapruder  I was anticipating hearing from Erin B. in which she read two very short poems, sort of disappointing for me as I wanted to hear more.  Each poet opened with declaring or summarizing Merwin’s influence on them.  This seemed a bit awkward to me, as their declarations seemed placed or tucked in for the event, since the event was for Merwin.  Two of the poets poked and punned with Merwin’s name, not knowing how to address him:  they wrangled with Bill, William, and Mr. Merwin.  Hope he took that in fun, I would have thought they might have worked that out spending the course of the day and lunch with him.
Next up was Ben Lerner, a poet I have not heard of.  Very articulate in his opening to William, and he ran laps with long sentences and wordiness.  And Ms. Mort’s dedication seemed to have some authenticity.  She spoke of finding Merwin through the translations of a Russian poet, Osip Mandelshtam.  When Merwin took the stage, he turned and thanked her for mentioning O. Mandelshtam, and the struggle Osip had gone through to smuggle the poetry out of Russia, also he mentioned Clarence Brown as inspiration. And lastly, Matthew Z. said he thought and thought for several weeks of what he would say…  He began with, um.  I’m sure the honor of reading with him was overwhelming and some weren’t sure how to handle that. 
Merwin took the stage.  He made mention of Blake’s “Tyger…”  He brought that up as he was stating how poetry is not often understood, when we first begin reading poetry, it’s terrifying.  Thus, the terrifying effect of the tiger.  The poetry he read went back 25 years ago, to his current book, ‘Shadow of Sirius’ and newer poems.  (I wrote them down as well; if you want them just give me a shout.)  He took a moment to preface a poem with stating how there is depression, and lack of hope in the world.  He said there has never been an unmutilated world, only one that is mutilated and that is the one that needs us.  Not to turn our backs to it.  (This must have been something I needed to hear, it lifted my thoughts.)  He read many recent poems, and in them I heard a man of acceptance, humbleness, gratitude, a man of places, people, bodies, love, words: poetry, a deep homage to all he has been given. 
A very humble, insightful man.  His words are resonating with me today.  I wouldn’t call him a political poet, but I feel he is deeply moved with the conditions and writes of them too.  He seems to be a man of peace.  A great man indeed.
He received a standing ovation.  Long applause. 
Jack, I had every intention of going to him with your words, though the event was full, I think there were at least 500-600 ppl, and I could be underestimating.  The event’s organizers gave instructions on how signing was going to work.  Indicating there would be no time for dedications or talking with the poets, only a signature.  We were to move along briskly, blah, blah, blah.  She also pointed out how the line would form and wrap around the room.
Though carrying your message was foremost in my thoughts. 
Also, it was pointed out many Copper Canyon poets were in the audience and had come from near and far.

W.S. Merwin & Friends: Four Poets Share the Stage and Their Thoughts

The pressmark of Copper Canyon Press.
The Chinese character for poetry. Comprised of two parts: word and temple.

One of the edicts of Copper Canyon Press is to publish books "by both revered and emerging American poets."

On February 4, this commitment comes to life when two time Pulitzer Prize winning poet W.S. Merwin will read with four younger poets from the Copper Canyon stable in a benefit for the press. Joining Merwin at Seattle's Town Hall will be Ben Lerner, Erin Belieu, Matthew Zapruder and Valzhyna Mort.

To celebrate the event Book Patrol has asked each of the younger poets to share a Merwin experience; whether it be his influence, a favorite poem or a first encounter, we left it pretty open.

For the next four days we will feature one of their responses.

If your in the region: Tickets are $15, $10 for students. For $100 donation you get to hang out with everybody before the reading. They will all be signing books after the reading and Cooper Canyon has produced a letterpress broadside printed by Urban Editions in honor of the event which will also be available.

Must listen: KUOW's Weekday will have Merwin on for an hour-long interview with call-ins on the morning of the 4th.

For now, we leave you with 'Far Along in the Story,' a poem by W.S. Merwin

Far Along in the Story

The boy walked on with a flock of cranes
following him calling as they came
from the horizon behind him
sometimes he thought he could recognize
a voice in all that calling but he
could not hear what they were calling
and when he looked back he could not tell
one of them from another in their
rising and falling but he went on
trying to remember something in
their calls until he stumbled and came
to himself with the day before him
wide open and the stones of the path
lying still and each tree in its own leaves
the cranes were gone from the sky and at
that moment he remembered who he was
only he had forgotten his name

W.S. Merwin books
at Copper Canyon.

Jay Parini's piece in the Guardian, Why W.S. Merwin deserves his second Pulitzer prize, April, 2009.