First, Slate carried an interesting commentary by Amy Sullivan on Sen Obama's speech to the Pentecost 2006 meeting, mentioned in this earlier post. I confess that I didn't know how much venom was being spewed Obama's way (and also at those writing sympathetically about his speech) until I followed some of the link trails in her essay.
The Waterfront Blues Festival was a great success, reaching its goal of half a million dollars income for the Oregon Food Bank, and providing us blues music lovers a solid five days of ecstasy.
It was, however, sobering to see the demographics of the attenders. Perhaps 10% or fewer of the people I saw were what I'd call young adults. Most of the time I felt that my 53 years put me at the low end of the age range. Music aside, it felt like a boomer convention much of the time. A very NICE boomer convention, but chronologically sobering....
This year's harvest of performers I didn't know about before, but will be watching for, included the two International Blues Challenge winners who appeared at the Festival: Eden Brent, a wonderful keyboardist with a rollicking sense of showmanship and a voice like Janis Joplin; and Joey Gilmore, who could easily qualify as a young and mellow version of B.B. King. ("Mellow" refers to his easy stage personality, not to his guitar playing.)
Lauren Sheehan, whom I commented on last year, was back for three appearances, including two on the intimate Workshop stage. I arrived on day one just in time for her first appearance and was delighted to be greeted with a beautiful gospel song.
Blues music only accounts for about 5% of today's U.S. recorded music sales, if I remember correctly, but it's really an umbrella term for a whole bunch of subgenres, many of which were part of the festival. Saturday, for example, was zydeco day, and one of the best bands that day was T. Broussard and the Zydeco Steppers. Sunday was jug band day. (The Delmark Goldfarb Quartet were a high point.) Bill Rhoades' Harmonica Blowoff took place on Tuesday. British blues guitarist Ian Siegal appeared both in the acoustic segment and the big-stage full-out band context, doing well in both settings.
Speaking of blues, a few weeks ago I was in Atlanta, sharing a cemetery picnic lunch with a couple of co-workers and a human rights activist who told us about his search for music of all kinds that incorporate human rights themes. Right after I got back home, I was listening to the Roadhouse blues podcast and heard Corey Harris singing a song about police brutality, "5-0 Blues." The song is fascinating, both lyrically and musically—(featuring a tuba, which I don't hear much in a blues setting!). There's a link to the song in the playlist for that week's Roadhouse podcast.
George Lakoff, the "reframing" guru, posted an important suggestion on the Rockridge Institute website: The "war" in Iraq is not a war, it is an occupation, and we should stubbornly refer to it as such. To the average American, in wartime "these colors don't run," but every occupation must end.
The US won the war three years ago when Bush said, “Mission Accomplished”. Then the occupation started, and our troops were not trained or equipped for an occupation under predictably hostile circumstances. Finally getting the courage to tell the truth that the US is an occupying force drastically changes the picture in Iraq. You cannot “win” an occupation. “Cut and run” does not apply to an occupation. Occupiers have to leave; the only question is when and how.Back in December 2004, I challenged the use of the word "war," but my challenge was essentially one of outrage. Maybe more of us could get behind a simple issue of accuracy. Especially us Quakers, who have a conceit about being "publishers of Truth" and about "speaking truth to power."
C. Wess Daniels wrote a helpful article for Quaker Life concerning the budding "convergent" movement among Friends, which I see as a movement toward converging dialogue, a source of new energy and creativity and renewal, rather than an actual large-scale convergence among Friends.
The secret truth that many Quaker leaders of the past don't mention is that, among the leadership of the larger Friends organizations, similar dialogues have taken place for decades, in venues such as Friends World Committee for Consultation, and the annual gatherings of the Superintendents and Secretaries of Yearly Meetings. Some of the participants in those dialogues probably treated them as personal retreats, not to be talked about much back home. But the tendency among some of the Evangelical Friends leaders to boycott these events is relatively recent.
The refreshing difference now is that the dialogue is taking place under people power, not just for the benefit of the managerial circles. (Note: I am NOT minimizing the importance of that benefit—I'm not a hypocrite; I benefitted!) Nobody requires official authorization or budgeting to participate. The ripples may go a lot further, thanks both to technology and to the fact that the participants in this converging dialogue acknowledge no organizational taboos. They're not afraid of being seen with each other.