Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Ballad of the Rambler

¡Hola! Everybody...
First, allow me to send out my apologies for about the one million people who are without electricity because of yesterday huge snowstorm across a major swath of this great nation of ours. I apologize because, while we have a deeply embedded, knee-jerk, Pavlovian tendency to give the Fat Cats in our society huge tax breaks and handouts, we don’t feel the same way about our national infrastructure. So, my apologies, though I know it doesn’t do much to keep you warm...

I honestly don’t get it: Obama makes these gestures for creating a more reconciliatory tone in DC, actually changes the stimulus package to appease the neocons with the end result that not one repugnican voted for the bill. They want more corporate tax breaks! There’s a report out, no not the non-existent report the neocons were citing in order to trash Obama’s bill. This report, or study, actually exists and was put out by a socialist, left-leaning entity, Standard & Poor (<--- sarcasm).

I was watching Rachel Maddow, one of the most intelligent reporters around, period. Aside from explaining in simple language that economic stimulus is really about stimulating the demand side of the supply and demand equation, she cited a study by Standard & Poor that showed that every $1.00 spent on food stamps, for example, brings back $1.73 in economic activity (that’s a net gain of $.73). Similarly, every dollar spent on infrastructure, generates $1.59 (a net gain of $.59).

How about that sacred cow of conservatives, tax cuts, you ask? Well, tax cuts could have a positive effect on the economy, generating $1.03 for every dollar (that’s a net gain of $.03). How about corporate tax breaks, or, as it should be called, welfare for the rich? Corporate tax breaks have a negative effect on the economy. Every dollar spent on welfare for the rich generates $.30 of economic activity (that’s a net loss of $.70). (click here to watch this segment of her show).

Knowing all this, why would the Obama administration bend over backwards to appease a wing deeply wedded to an ideology and subservient to their corporate masters?

I think this was a misstep on Obama’s part and he spent political capital on a political bloc that sees friendly overtures as weakness.

* * *

-=[ Ramblings ]=-

I love being raised in NYC. I was exposed to different cultures, different ways of seeing things at an early age. I grew up in a city where almost language you can think of is spoken. Not only that, I mean, enough people can say they lived here and there, or were raised in different countries, blah blah blah...

It’s not the same...

Some things are, well, as the cliché goes: only in New York.

Many people aren’t aware that street corner singing influenced much of American popular music. At various times, it was called Doo-wop, and other names. Nowhere else was this tradition practiced as it was practiced on the streets of New York City. What people also don’t know is that street corner singing had a wide array of root influences. Of course, there was the black experience and the blues, as well as R&B and what have you. However, Doo-wop also had influences from the European balladeer tradition. In neighborhoods across The City, all these traditions would come together in a rich melding of musical expression.

This brings me back to a tradition that no longer exists, but was really cool. If you look at a photo of NY’s skyline, the sheer number of buildings immediately strikes you. In most cities, that kind of skyline is limited to the ‘downtown” area. Not so in New York: all the boroughs, for the most part have this great mass of buildings. There’s a street culture in New York that you just don’t find anywhere else (the closest I’ve been to was Chicago).

What you may not get by looking at a photograph is that all these buildings have basements and backyards, alleyways and here is where the balladeer tradition thrived. Back in the late 70s, I was staying at my sister’s apartment in the Bronx, and at about 9:00 AM I heard a man singing “Pennies from Heaven.” He had a great voice and was actually doing a great interpretation. And the whole experience was life-affirming: it was early Spring, and as the man sang, the birds in the trees chimed in with their own songs. Furthermore, people were opening their windows and throwing out change for him.

I was amazed! My sister laughed and told me the man would do that on weekend mornings.

One day, I managed to track the man down. He was an older gentleman, retired, but he was smartly dressed, his crisp white shirt worn but ironed and buttoned at the neck, a Cavanaugh on his head with a threadbare, but clean sports jacket and slacks, his shoes shine to a high polish.

He was Irish, and he told me that at one time balladeering wasn’t that uncommon, that the route he took on weekend mornings would have three-four singers and that most entertainment took place in the basements and nooks and crannies of the prewar buildings of that neighborhood. He told me of that rich tradition, a tradition that influenced luminaries such as Frank Sinatra and the doo-wop singers that would come in the early 60s.

I remember that, and I am filled with gratitude for having lived in such a place.




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[un]Common Sense