Monday, April 28, 2014

Somewhere outside Paris...I think.



Can-Can!


You could say it is history. Art, music, dance...a frenzied celebration of life itself -- yet this irrepressible spectacle came to me in a dream...a very, very surreal trip through my subconscious.  And the song refuses to go quietly away.  But first, what is this all about:


The cancan first appeared in the working-class ballrooms of Montparnasse in Paris in around 1830. It was a more lively version of the galop, a dance in quick 2/4 time, which often featured as the final figure in the quadrille.[2] The cancan was, therefore, originally a dance for couples, who indulged in high kicks and other gestures with arms and legs. It is thought that they were influenced by the antics of a popular entertainer of the 1820s, Charles Mazurier, who was well known for his acrobatic performances, which included the grand ├ęcart or jump splits—later a popular feature of the cancan. At this time, and throughout most of the 19th century in France, the dance was also known as the chahut. Both words are French, cancan meaning "tittle-tattle" or "scandal", hence a scandalous dance, while chahut meant "noise" or "uproar." The dance did cause something of a scandal, and for a while, there were attempts to repress it. Occasionally people dancing the cancan were arrested but it was never officially banned, as is sometimes claimed. Throughout the 1830s, it was often groups of men, particularly students, who caused the most outrage by dancing the cancan at public dance-halls.

Ah, but the dream...

A bombed-out theatre...one wall missing, exposing a landscape of ruin draped in a cloak of black smoke. The smell of cordite in the stale air of another aftermath -- an image cast in the black and white starkness of a time worth forgetting. Some seats remain, occupied tonight by Hitler, Fat Goering and few lesser, though equally vicious SS men. To Hitler's left...two empty seats; the third occupied by a pouting little man: Napoleon Bonaparte, hand thrust down his pants, as if searching for some thing remembered, but lost.

On stage are the dancers, 24 in all, donned in petticoats and skirts, their faces painted with the grotesque false-smiles of a suicidal clown. To their left, the band...men in tattered and muddy tuxedos...clothes that seem to have been worn by bigger men.  They all look like John Cleese tonight, but their eyes are empty, as if all life had scurried out the back of their heads. Above them stands a small man in a black military uniform. He has on small round glasses and holds two brass cymbals that dwarf his physical stature. He feigns some critical importance -- the leader of this orchestra, yet he only sees the backs of these men...or perhaps what used to be men.  

There are many horns in this ensemble.  Kettle and bass drums...accordions, lots of accordions and three great tubas.  And quite abruptly, the small audience demands this show to start.  And so it begins...

The cymbals crash and the short, familiar song begins...la, la, la la la, boom, boom, oompa, la, la, la, la la la....boom.  The performance begins slowly, perhaps reluctantly, the feet light, the legs kick low...the arms like the wings of a long-crippled swan. But then the cadence seems to shift...sublimely, though quietly intent...as if a gentle thief had tip-toed into this darkened room to awaken the suffocated child trapped inside each of these reluctant dancers. Women denied, girls who never played...lives set aflame by the vulgar ambitions of the these morbid puppeteers in the front-row seats.  Men who assume...yes assume. Much it would seem of late.  And suddenly, the blood forces its way back into the bodies of these women, determined -- no, demanding to nourish anew: the muscle, sinew and bone necessary to carry this dance forward. To resist, to deny...to say, "No more..."   

And like the sweeping sickness born by some invisible plague, the infection spreads. With each new stanza, the volume rises, the notes fly faster, the feet hit the ground harder.  The stage begins to exhale the decades-old dust from the floorboards, milling around the dancer's heads in great, grey clouds -- the cymbals crash...boom! The band is on its feet; chairs and music stands kicked to the ground. The women stomp their feet -- so hard that Hitler bounces in his chair. A wry smile adorns Napoleon's lips.  Sweat rolls down the face of the bandleader...he is losing control.  Yet the dance goes on...la, la, la....la la la...boom!  Fat Goering can no longer resist. He is on his feet, clumsily shaking his enormous belly and stamping his feet to the rhythm...up and down the row he goes...the Fuhrer looks furious...the band gets louder.

Behind the stage, elephants appear, moving their enormous heads back and forth to the cadence of the kettle drums.  Monkeys fill the rafters, flamingos and storks take to the floor, wings outstretched, top hats in hand. A troupe of mice with banjos joins in and behind the dancers, horses with great feathery plumes on their headstalls join in the dance. And louder and louder the women's feet slam the ground. And now the musicians are on the move...doing a Cab Calloway number up and down the runway....and still these women dance on...in sheer joy, in love...in a mad celebration of a new and frightening kind of defiance.  And all fear seems to vacate the room, the mortar and brick itself basking in the bright light of  'new management.'

Pigs fly, cows hum along...Hitler rocks back and forth in his chair, in the rhythm of tormented anguish...his bandleader has fallen off the stage.  Yet, the musicians play on, for they know this song well now.  Napoleon wears a broad smile...he has perhaps finally conquered something.  So he stands, nods to the dancers and quietly walks out -- through the great hole in the wall; into the rubble of a sunlit day.  On stage, color is creeping back into the room....subtly, like a spring flower about to experience that first summer.   Blue, then bright white and finally a deep red.  La, la la la....la, la, la...boom. And the dance goes on...     



  So, that was my night...whew! Must have been that Thai peanut sauce. Oh, Akroyd and Belushi were stage-right and the drummers were actually Maori warriors.  And rumor has it that Stalin was in the back of the theatre drunk. Now if can just get this song out of head!      

     

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Time to abolish gang violence...no, not those gangs!


No, Not These Folks...




No, not these folks either...though they
 definitely had the right idea.



These folks actually.



I suppose what I am saying here is an end to nationalism as a viable system on a planet under siege.  Do I seriously assume that such thinking is viable?  No.  We seem to covet these stolen identities as being sacred to who or what we are, regardless of the fact that we all share a common history, a single planet and one gene pool.  We bleed red, we are all dependent on the same sustenance...we all share the impermanence of life.  And apparently, that is never quite enough for some.

And yes, I'm well aware of the Bilderberg Conspiracy.  One of many that takes a wrong assumption, seasons it with hysteria and then serves it up with a glass of Holy Water. But more on that in a minute.  The first question is 'just what is a gang?'

Well, for one thing, they are nothing new. They primarily grow to fruition in those sections of a society that have/feel/are marginalized.  Meaning, they are trying to establish a home away from home. Sometimes by choice, more often driven to a new land by economic hardship, violence, prejudice -- aka, forced dislocation.  And in most cases, the welcome mat was yanked long before their arrival....most often by the last bunch that showed up; trying to escape the same famine, violence and hate. But then, how quickly we tend forget our own migratory history once we have regained the comfort of the hearth. 

Gangs are merely tribes.  They look out for their own as all tribal systems do.  They seek comfort in familiarity of customs, language, food...even music. They seek to protect their own in a hostile environment; to find food and shelter -- make a living in an economy and society that is determined to block any form of social mobility.  And they are determined to defend their community -- violently, if necessary.  And very often, crime becomes the only job left to them.

Now before you blow a righteous gasket, consider your own 'historical gang' in time:   
Yep....New York's Irish immigrants facing down the indignation of white Protestant Americans; folks that didn't exactly come to America through the front door either.  And just like them, the eastern Europeans, the Italians, the Chinese, Russians...ad nauseum. Denied access to the mainstream (respectable) avenues of commerce, they created opportunity through the lucrative channels of gambling, bookmaking, bootlegging, drugs...in effect, supplying the less glamorous amenities to those very white Protestants who vigorously campaigned for their deportation.  Hypocritical?  Well sure...this is America after all.  

So then, what is a nation?  First off, realize that a nation and a country are not the same animal. Africa if full of countries that share no common internal sense of nationality. The same is true for much of central Asia, South America...even large nation/countries like Russia and China.  Almost all were created by external forces and have actually existed on paper for less than 200 years.  Hardly the stuff to create a sense that some kind of mutual identity holds even an ounce of validity.  Even America itself is little more than a country in the miserable throes of puberty -- an experimental democracy that has yet to endure the test of real time.  

So, on to conspiracies. The Bilderberg Group:
    
In 2001, Denis Healey, a Bilderberg group founder and, for 30 years, a steering committee member, said: "To say we were striving for a one-world government is exaggerated, but not wholly unfair. "There will always be people who believe in conspiracies, but things happen in a much more incoherent fashion... When people say this is a secret government of the world, I say that if we were a secret government of the world we should be bloody ashamed of ourselves."

In a 1994 report Right Woos Left, published by the Political Research Associates, investigative journalist Chip Berlet argued that right-wing populist conspiracy theories about the Bilderberg group date back as early as 1964 and can be found in Phyllis Schlafly's self-published book A Choice, Not an Echo,[38] which promoted a conspiracy theory in which the Republican Party was secretly controlled by elitist intellectuals dominated by members of the Bilderberger group, whose internationalist policies would pave the way for world communism.[39] Paradoxically, in August 2010 former Cuban president Fidel Castro wrote a controversial article for the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma in which he cited Daniel Estulin’s 2006 book The Secrets of the Bilderberg Club,[40] which, as quoted by Castro, describes "sinister cliques and the Bilderberg lobbyists" manipulating the public "to install a world government that knows no borders and is not accountable to anyone but its own self".[35]

As Shakespeare once lamented, "much adieu about nothing."  This was a group that was formed originally in Europe.  To understand their thinking, you must understand Europe in the context of the last century.  A hundred revolutions, two world wars, the rise of Bolshevism, fascism and mass genocide...and at the heart of the matter, nationalism.  But not the kind associated with the false and selective pride found in a long history, but the kind that says, "We're better," or maybe, "It's all your fu**** fault!"  And of course, that's when the cemeteries get pressed for space.

Later came the reluctant acceptance of the European Union, albeit primarily an economic tool to address the domestic and international commerce issues inherent in small states suddenly tossed head-first into a newly globalized economy.  But the consolidation also occurred during a period when the world witnessed the first of many, global environmental insults: Chernobyl.  The first salvo in the continuing dissolution of national boundaries as a viable defense against a neighbor's transgressions -- intentional or otherwise.    
                                            Or perhaps worse yet: the collapse of the Soviet Union. Little known or publicized here was the collapse of the SU's borders, meaning that a steady stream of commodities, including radioactive materials simply left the country for parts known and unknown.  Industrial sites, poorly maintained in better times, were simply abandoned as newly unpaid workers simply walked off.  East Germany was so contaminated by chemical and industrial wastes that even Bonn didn't want it back, despite the German public's outcry to reunify the German state.  And of course even now, in this new century, the issues of climate, resources (basic as food and water), over-population, competition for energy sources; even arable land have completely broken down the old notions that, "it is somebody else's problem."  Today, "somebody else's problem" now has the ability to destabilize the geo-political landscape of entire regions -- perhaps even an entire continent.  

The bottom line is that the environment is everybody's problem; concurrently every body's responsibility.  One planet, one mutual future as a viable specie, or perhaps another as merely a random curiosity left behind on a dead planet.  

I sometimes hear the familiar retort:  "Hell, I'll be dead anyway, so who gives a shit?" Course, that is half true.  No, not the 'dead' part' -- the 'who gives a shit part?'  And I guess that might ultimately be the epitaph to our brief stay in the Milky Way.  "They just didn't give a shit."   Hmm.