Friday, May 25, 2007

Here is an interesting article about babies and language identification. Pretty fascinating stuff. My sister and also k's uncle are part of a bilingual household and what I've observed in both seem to bear this out.

I also picked up "An Ordinary Man," by Paul Rusesabagina yesterday. Paul was the manager of the Hotel Mille Collines in Rwanda, and inspired the film Hotel Rwanda. It is extremely well written. He breaks it down this way:

"Between April 6th [1994], when the plane of President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down with a missile, and July 4, when the Tutsi rebel army captured the capital of Kigali, approximately eight hundred thousand Rwandans were slaughtered. This is a number that cannot be grasped with the rational mind. It is like trying--all at once--to understand that the earth is surrounded by billions of balls of gas just like our sun across across a vast blackness. You cannot understand that magnitude. Just try! Eight hundred thousand lives snuffed out in one hundred days. That's eight thousand lives a day. More than five lives per minute. Each one of those lives was like a little world in itself. Some person who laughed and cried and ate and thought and felt and hurt just like any other person, just like you and me. A mother's child, every one irreplacable. "

"At the end, the best you can say is that my hotel saved about four hours' worth of people. Take four hours away from one hundred days and you have an idea of just how little I was able to accomplish against the grand design."

The same thing, over a longer arc, is happening in Darfur as we speak. 400,000 have died so far.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

1-800-GENOCIDE

As promised earlier, I am now going to elaborate on the subject of Darfur:

1-800-GENOCIDE (436-6243) is a toll free hotline set up by High School students concerned about the genocide taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan. When you call the number, it will ask for your zip code, then route you to a tree with four options to press:

1. To contact the Governor's office of your home state
2. To contact the U.S. Representative of your district
3. To contact one of your U.S. Senators
4. To contact the White House

With each choice, information is provided about pending legislation to urge support or co-sponsorship for, or to enact policies to help stop the killing. File under: Why didn't I think of that? Easy to remember, hard to forget. Awareness of genocide requires repetition. 1-800-GENOCIDE: A child can remember it.

A lot has been written on the subject of Darfur, but for those who aren't aware, here it is in a nutshell:

The Sudanese government is funding a militia of paid mercenaries, called the Janjaweed, which is targeting non-Arabs in the Darfur region of Sudan. The Janjaweed are brutally gang raping women and girls, burning villages, throwing children into fires and dropping the dead bodies into wells to contaminate the water supplies of a very parched region, all in the name of "cracking down" on a rebellion. They've killed at least 400,000 people since this campaign began in 2003. There are complexities behind the origins of the conflict, but what the Sudanese government is doing can simply be called genocide. And even more simply: this cannot stand. Not on our watch!

This is the same thing that happened in Rwanda 13 years ago, but in a slower, more methodical way. And this is the same government that once provided refuge for Osama Bin Laden to plot things like the 9/11 attacks, among others. U.S. influence, working with other countries in the region forced the Sudanese government to kick Bin Laden out in 1996, and we can do the same to stop the killings in Darfur. As of now our actions have not backed up our official declaration of the situation in Darfur as genocide. Colin Powell called it genocide, Condi Rice said it, and so has President Bush. But little has been done beyond paying lip service at this point.

Sound familiar? Surf on over to the History channel, or if you're in D.C., pay a visit to the Holocaust Museum. The former? Let's just say I'm willing to bet there are more than a few who see footage of Auschwitz and assume this kind of thing could never happen again. The latter is actually fitting, because the Holocaust Museum is very much involved in trying to get people to notice and take action regarding the Darfur genocide now.

The late U.S. Senator Paul Simon surmised that if each Senator and Congressperson had received 100 letters from their constituents urging an American response when the Rwandan crisis first surfaced, U.S. policy would have been different. This is where placing a call to 1-800-GENOCIDE comes in for the current situation in Darfur.

Make no mistake: We are not calling for direct military action, but divestment from support for the Sudanese government in any way. This means sanctions, in short. A divestment strategy worked to end Apartheid in South Africa almost a generation ago, and it can work again now. Plans are in the works for both the Bush administration and for Congress, and 1-800-GENOCIDE addresses these in detail depending on where you're routing your call. As the saying goes: "Stand and be counted."

For those who say we can't do this, not now, because Sudan is our ally for the war on terror, think again. Does the word "double agent" come to mind? It sure does for me. Do you think a man like Salah Gosh should be considered an asset? I don't. Think for a moment about all of the things that have come back to bite us in the ass. For me, that picture of Don Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in 1983 comes to mind (trepidations with certain aspects of YouTube notwithstandng). Continued support of the regime in Sudan is one of those things. We know better. It's time to act. But how? 1-800-GENOCIDE.

There's a book credited to Don Cheadle (actor in the film "Hotel Rwanda" among others) and John Prendergast, called "Not On Our Watch." My good friend Heather Bourbeau was very heavily involved in both the writing and editing of this book. I highly recommend it. Hell, I'll buy you a copy if you'd like. It means that much to me.

Think this is a liberal, bleeding heart cause? Check out the introduction of "Not On Our Watch," co-written by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Barack Obama (D-IL). This is a cause that conservatives and liberals can agree on. Here's a link to "Not On Our Watch":

http://www.bookbrowse.com/excerpts/index.cfm?book_number=1982

For those interested in further reading, the following organizations could sure use your support, or at least your time:

http://www.enoughproject.org
http://www.sudandivestment.org
http://www.genocideintervention.net
http://www.savedarfur.org

Yes, there's a lot of suffering and evil in the world. But when it's genocide, I consider it our moral obligation to do all we can to try and put a stop to it. Please help to spread the word. Call 1-800-GENOCIDE. Vote early and often, as they say. And consider placing a call to your local news station. At present, our major media outlets seem to think the color of Britney Spears' wig is more important.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

For the last day or so, I've felt compelled to try and post something here to corroborate what Miles has said on the subject of why I was the only ex-Beulah to not participate in his soon to be released solo record. I plopped something up here only to delete it and start over.

Let me simply say that I concur 100% with what he has said, there are no hard feelings, we do stay in touch (I still manage the Beulah site, for one, and there's always the subject of the Packers v. Steelers or Giants v. A's to fall back on), I just didn't feel like participating at that particular point in time which, according to my recollection, was a decision made way back in September of 2005 with no rhyme or reason other than it felt better to sit out and see what he could do with calling up some other horn players from the farm. I was feeling kind of spent back then and had a sense that I would do a half-assed job, perhaps a parody of myself ending up on the cutting room floor? As usual, being too hard on myself I suppose. I seem to forget that we moved to Santa Clara around that time too, so that might have had something to do with it. The fog of too many glasses of red? Quite possibly that, too.

Anyway, I'm very interested, like everybody else, in what the result is going to be. It's kind of fun that way. And I'm sure it will be great, and I'll bet I'll be jealous that I didn't take part. But...I am happy to know that Steve LaFollette has plugged back in, he's an amazing musician, and very much underrated. His impact was all over Heartstrings and Coast and didn't always get a lot of credit since he played the bass onstage. He played some wonderful piano for the Bye Bye Blackbirds record I helped out with more recently and was very patient hanging in there through some technical issues we had on that particular day.

Also, Eli is the man. I can't think of anything he's not good at, unless he hasn't had his morning cup of coffee (then he's useless and irritable). First rate engineer, first rate bass player, easy to work with, quick on the draw, great translator, able to eschew the pretensions that many of his peers in the graduate musical program no doubt exude (akin to how I chose to write this sentence, perhaps?), and on and on. Roger Moutenot probably put it best: "It's great to work with a band with a member who knows how to 'op a tape."

As for Miles records, I imagine I'll be back around sooner or later in one form or another (tambourine or triangle?). But all of my attention now is focused on the birth of our first child in October, and I'm not taking on any new musical projects now other than the occasional one off, and likely trumpet, since there seems to be more of a demand for that and trumpets are easy to carry. Old debts are almost paid off and new responsibilities are soon to follow. Time for all of that, work, family time as well as time to unwind, is the most precious of all.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Old memories are conjured up with this news report about a fish virus that they think originates in lake Butte des Morts, near Oshkosh, WI, where my parents live and not far from Berlin, where I was born and raised. As kids fishing in Lake Winnebago for Walleye, Jon Thompson (rest in peace, my friend) and I would always hate it when we'd reel in a Sheephead. But eight times out of ten, we'd either catch one of those or a White Bass. Talk about a worthless fish, that was it. And now it's spreading a virus that threatens the rest of the fish population? Ick.

Just doing a quick lookup, I didn't realize there's a California Sheephead, and the fish we grew up calling "Sheephead" is technically called "Sheepshead." Go figure.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Is it me, or is the mainstream media's treatment of Jerry Falwell's legacy far too kind? Newsweek calls him "Passionate and Resless," for example. Fuck all that and read the Rude Pundit's eulogy. Pretty much sums it up. Jerry Falwell was not a nice man.
Amendment to my previous post: A Senate bill has just been introduced as of last week. Please write your Senators to support Senate Bill S. 1353 as well.
Anyone who supports internet radio and wants to keep it free of payola and subject to corporate radio influence should contact their local member of the House of Representatives and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 2060. Unless you like the fact that radio decides what to play based on the highest bidder.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

1-800-GENOCIDE

It's been four years now since we began hearing stories of genocide taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan. In the interest of brevity, I urge anyone reading this to call 1-800-GENOCIDE (here is their site), a number set up to connect constituents to their politicians, urging action to stop the genocide in Sudan. Two organizations are worthy of your support:

http://www.enoughproject.org/

and

http://www.genocideintervention.net/index.php

I will have more to say on the subject when time permits.