Monthly Archive for February, 2009

Café Mouffe: It’s Eric Dolphy Day!

Never mind the swallows at Capistrano or the buzzards in Hinckley. In my seasonal calendar, winter ends when I find a patch of mud by my back door. I stepped in it this morning, and even though it will freeze up tighter than the bark on a beech tree tonight, I can legitimately certify this to be Eric Dolphy Day!

I learned this arcane tradition from college friends from Syracuse who cut classes and partied on the day enough snow melted to reveal mud. Most of them didn’t care at all about Eric, but I venerate the master on his day. I beseeched the Muse once to give me poems that “grunt and moan like Eric Dolphy in the owl-light.” His legendary solo performance of “God Bless the Child” inspired that line. The sound is chthonic, like the orgy songs of the Maenads or Walt Whitman’s barbaric yawp.

You can no longer access”God Bless the Child” on YouTube, thanks to copyright miserliness. Listen to Eric’s bass clarinet solo with Charles Mingus in Oslo (1964), and you’ll want to get down with the Maenads, too.

Dolphy joined the John Coltrane Quintet for Impressions. No other documentation accompanies the clip, but the time is probably 1961-62, and the venue European. Dolphy plays second horn on Coltrane’s creative breakthrough, but his alto matches the tenor with inventiveness and melodic force. Listen to them take it home after McCoy Tyner’s piano solo. It isn’t two horn players trading bars — it’s the counterpoint of harmonic geniuses.

Encore: 245 and GW are excellent takes from a 1961 Berlin broadcast of the Eric Dolphy Quintet. And there is more Dolphy with Mingus out there.

Café Mouffe opens on Fridays at 3:00 p.m. Please drop by for a listen and a chat. Sometimes the embedded videos don’t work here due to bandwidth constraints, but you’ll always find links to video sources in the set notes. Try them. If you’re curious about the Mouffe, here’s the original idea behind it’s creation.

Let’s Drink the More-With-Less Kool-Aid!

If you want to do more with less and smile along the way, Bobby Jindal has some Kool-Aid for you. Americans can do anything. [AP TV/NYT]

If you haven’t had any yet, you will. As NPR’s Chana Joffe Walt points out, the more-with-less trope has a long history stretching back at least as far as Ben Franklin (though Nero and Caligula probably served up something similarly uplifting). The wisdom of the ages? It hasn’t always meant what your boss thinks.

The government says 7.6 percent of Americans are unemployed. That’s a scary number, but it means most workers still have jobs. These days, many employees are hearing four familiar words: Do more with less. Listen.

First Fans Honor Stevie Wonder at White House

CNN - President & First Lady Honor Stevie Wonder at White House 02/25/09: Anderson Cooper reports on the President & First Lady Honoring Stevie Wonder at White House

Smokin’ with Some Barbecue for Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras sneaked up on me this year. Sadly, it’s felt like Ash Wednesday for months. What else can we give up in the name of austerity and abnegation? This is a sure sign that I need to second-line!

Some Mardi Gras flashers would put me in the mood. I have beads, an illicit Cuban cigar, and spicy andouile sausage. I could excavate a snow pit for my grill. Tonight I’ll kick back with Kermit Ruffins for a little Smokin’ with Some Barbecue. Happy Mardi Gras, y’all.

Psst… just in case you don’t know, here’s How To Second-Line.

Teaching Whooping Cranes To Migrate

This Way Survival: An ultralight plane piloted by an Operation Migration team member guiding whooping cranes from Wisconsin to their winter nesting grounds in Florida. [Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux/NYT]

Ever since childhood, Whooping cranes have animated for me a personal mythology of freedom and wildness endangered. Read my essay, Whooping Cranes, Family Values, and the First Amendment.  So I was thrilled to find this photo in today’s NYT Magazine. I knew immediately what it was about. Twenty years ago. I visited the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin, where I saw whoopers for the first and only time and learned about the experimental process of imprinting used to teach captive-bred cranes how to migrate. This magazine story brings it vividly to life.

Rescue Flight - Taking to the Skies With the Endangered Whooping Crane - NYT 022209:

People started gathering at the Lighthouse Missionary Baptist Church in southwestern Kentucky before sunrise. First there were just a few, sealed in their cars with the heat blasting, but before long there were close to 100, standing in the parking lot in multiple coats. It was the first Friday in December, 23 degrees at dawn and nearly windless. Everyone was looking up.

Operation Migration’s four ultralight planes floated into view over some oak and maple trees, then passed over the small, white chapel. An ultralight is powered by a massive rear propeller. In the sky, it looks like a scaled-down Formula 1 car dangling under the wing of a hang glider. Because the little planes taxi on three wheels, pilots call them trikes. At 200 feet, the first pilot, Chris Gullikson, was perfectly visible in his trike’s open cockpit. He was wearing his whooping-crane costume, a white hooded helmet and white gown that looked like a cross between a beekeeping suit and a Ku Klux Klan get-up. Gullikson and the other trike pilots were going to pick up the 14 juvenile whooping cranes that they were, little by little, leading south for the winter. Traditionally, and for many millenniums, cranes learned to migrate by following other cranes. But traditions have changed. Outside the church, a plucky, silver-haired woman named Liz Condie was explaining to the spectators why, exactly, her team has had to dress up and step in. Read more |

Surveying the snow and ice that once again veneers my wood yard, maybe this afternoon should be devoted to staying warm while reading magazine articles. Two others that got my attention this week are Richard Florida on creative destruction vs. economic crisis and Robert Darnton on the future of books.

Fashionista Street: So What’s the New Gray?

Bill Cunningham saw shades of gray everywhere On the Street at New York Fashion Week, and it didn’t bum him out. Even Paris Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld (below right) skipped regulation black. When gray is matched with nuanced accents such as sapphire-blue pants and chartreuse gloves, Bill says it’s a cause for optimism,  even in February.

Café Mouffe Encore: The Medium is the Massage

McLuhan - The Medium is the Massage 2.1 by MyCluein: The Medium is the Massage excerpt from the 1967 audio book of the same name. The entire recording is at Ubu Web Sound.

Café Mouffe: Marshall McLuhan

While reading W. Terrence Gordon’s biography of Marshall McLuhan, I came across a McLuhan pronouncement so absurd that I need to figure out how to fit it into my MiT6 presentation:

In North America … TV has not been the friend of literacy except to encourage depth involvement in language as a complex structure. In other words, TV fosters the Finnegans Wake approach to language.

Huh? Like almost everything McLuhan ever said, this “probe” is at once intriguing and preposterous. I watched a lot of TV as a kid, and I’ve read (which means I’ve listened) to enough of the Wake to surrender to its word-horde, but I never found a deep structural convergence between TV’s commercial blather and Joyce’s mythopoetic text.

Gordon’s “authorized” biography follows a trove of McLuhan family letters and sprawling unpublished manuscripts. The book is long on cryptic quotations and short on social history that puts McLuhan in any kind of context  that explains how the nutty professor got so far out there. As a teenager in the late 1960s, I wondered what he was smoking, and I wanted some. The medium is the massage.

Musing on this led me back to Finnegans Wakes McLuhans, presented first in the Mouffe last May. I love the counterpoint of McLuhan’s deadpan voice with the outrageous video shots. My thanks to MyCluein for pushing the probe into other post-Gutenberg galaxies.

Encore: Time for a little oral amputation? “If Homer was wiped out by literacy, literacy can be wiped out by rock,” says Marshall in McLuhan - Rock On. “A strip-teaser puts on her audience by taking off her clothes. I put you on by bearing my mind. I put you on as an audience. I wear you as my coat.”

Café Mouffe opens on Fridays at 3:00 p.m. Please drop by for a listen and a chat. Sometimes the embedded videos don’t work here due to bandwidth constraints, but you’ll always find links to video sources in the set notes. Try them. If you’re curious about the Mouffe, here’s the original idea behind it’s creation.

In New Delhi, Driving By Ear Leads To Road Rage

Readers of this blog know that playing by ear is one of the blind flaneur’s greatest joys, and foot rage is one of his worst fears. So he is conflicted, to say the least, by this radio story by NPR’s Philip Reeves which tells how motorists in New Delhi manage to conflate driving by ear with road rage. A blind flaneur wouldn’t stand a chance there!

If you’re not enjoying your commute this morning, we offer this consolation: It could be worse. You could be driving in India. Motorists in India like to honk their horns to alert other drivers. One man is trying to reform drivers’ behavior. Listen.

In Paris, Even Day Care Has Edible Drama

Chef Martine Belaud prepares the pasta salad with decorative roses. In Paris, hot meals are prepared on the premises of each of the city's 270 public day care facilities. The cost is about $2 per meal per child. [Photo by Eleanor Beardsley/NPR]In my very distant and provincial past, nutrition at the nursery school amounted to Graham crackers and red jello. On feast days it was peanut butter and jelly. Not so in Paris, where preschoolers learn to savor their repast with French flair. According to NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley: “It’s no accident that the French cook and eat some of the best food in the world. Table traditions and knowledge of food and eating are cultivated from the very youngest age. In Paris, hot meals are prepared on the premises of each of the city’s 270 public day care facilities. Nothing is mass produced, ingredients are more often fresh than frozen, and the chefs try to use organic products when they can. And the cost … is not exorbitant — only about $2 per meal per child.

At La Margeride day care, delicious smells waft out of the kitchen. By 9 a.m., the preparation of lunch is well under way. Chefs Elizabeth Morel and Martine Belaud have been happily working together for the past 14 years.

A giant pot of apples and clementines simmers away on the stovetop, and cauliflower au gratin bakes in the oven. While Morel cuts up garlic and onions to season the braised lamb in fresh rosemary, Belot peels tomato skins to fashion decorative roses for the pasta-salad appetizer.

Morel says it’s worth decorating dishes for 2-year-olds.

“It builds their appetites, and they love when we decorate. Presentation is very important. Before tasting, you look. So when you see something nice, you want to eat it,” she says.

The savory lamb is a big hit at La Margeride. Most of the kids eat nearly everything, and even if they don’t, their delight in discovering the meal is obvious. While the food is delicious, the meal is clearly about more than what’s on the plate. The tots are encouraged to use their silverware and are reminded to say please and thank you, and to sit up straight in their chairs.

Sandra Merle, a dietician for the Paris day care system, says it’s important to start young to lay the foundations for a lifetime of healthy eating.

“These lunches help children develop the potential to enjoy a proper sit-down meal with an appetizer, main plate, cheese and a dessert while taking their time in a convivial atmosphere,” she says. Listen to the radio story.

About the image: Chef Martine Belaud prepares the pasta salad with decorative roses. In Paris, hot meals are prepared on the premises of each of the city’s 270 public day care facilities. The cost is about $2 per meal per child. [Photo by Eleanor Beardsley/NPR]