"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Friday, March 23, 2007

And speaking of clueless neofacists...
Debito has the kind of roundup I'm too lazy to put together on the charming Japanese Foreign Minister, who thinks Japanese will be better at solving the Middle East diplomatic Gordian knot because of the colour of their eyes and skin. I'm sure you won't be surprised that he is the forefront of the "War? What War? You Mean Japan's Glorious Anticolonial Crusade to Free China (In Which We Never Committed Any Atrocities)?" movement. He also ran his family's coal company before he got into politics, a company that took full advantage of forced labor during the war. Not that you'd have read about his comments in much of the Japanese Press.

By any other name...
If Stephen Harper were Mr. Potatohead, he'd be a dick-tater. Scott Feschuk nails it down with his advice to Stephane Dion about how to handle Harper's verbal thuggery, though personally I'd rather see him take the Trudeau approach and offer him a nice steaming-hot cup of fuddle duddle.

Even kids this young know the best way to handle a bully is to smack him on the nose the very first chance you get, and keep on smacking him until he stops acting like a dick.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dis and dat
The most dangerous professor to ever play wing, maximum leader and president for life of the We Are All Giant Nuclear Fireball Now Party, the blogtastic Michael Berube, has returned to the interweb tubes! When he shut down his popular blog back at the start of the year, was an occasion for much weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. The last thing he wrote there is one of the most eloquent and informed explanations of agnosticism you are likely to read. Now he is making his triumphant return at Crooked Timber, hopefully with Theory Tuesdays and Arbitrary but Fun Fridays and hockey blogging in tow. Welcome back Michael, but remember, the Rangers still suck.

Kevin is home. Hopefully, his parents will get to stay.

Hold the presses, Peter MacKay did something right, though it did take him a few weeks to get around to it.

A South Korean protester invaded the Japanese embassy grounds in Seoul yesterday, but for some reason the Japanese media stuck its fingers in its ears, chanted Kimigayo and pretended it didn't happen.

Finally, a question about the Canadian budget: Wasn't the rise of the Western populist movement of the 80's and 90's that gave birth to the Reform Party and its current incarnation as the Alberta-centric Conservative Party of Canada largely sparked by Western outrage over equalization payments and federal spending giving Quebec a disproportionately larger slice of the pie than the west. Wasn't this the greatest sin the Liberals could be accused of, that they were siphoning off money from the West and using it to buy votes in Quebec to stay in power?
Glad to see the Gnu Gummint of Kanada has put a stop to that.

Sunday, March 18, 2007



My Name is Buddy

Warner, 2,680 yen

Call it a folk opera, a roots song cycle or even a musical socio-political analysis of modern U.S. history--whatever label you stick on it, Ry Cooder's new concept album My Name is Buddy is an entertaining road trip into America's past.

Best known for his 1997 project (and the subsequent Wim Wenders film) Buena Vista Social Club, an attempt to preserve the music of prerevolutionary Cuba, Cooder is a keen musicologist who dabbled in African music on his Grammy-winning 1994 collaboration with Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toure, Talking Timbuktu. He's also scored several films.

Artistically, My Name is Buddy picks up where Cooder's previous album Chavez Ravine left off. While that album used jazz, Latin-infused rock and pop and mariachi band music to tell the musical story of the Los Angeles barrio that was bulldozed to make way for Dodger Stadium, Buddy uses blues, rags, union anthems, bluegrass, dust bowl folk, country and roots rock to trace the history of the American progressive movement from the early days of the labor movement ("Strike"), through the Jim Crow era ("Sundown Town") and Red Scare ("Red Cat Till I Die") to the current frustration of those turned away at the polls in the most recent U.S. presidential election ("One Cat, One Vote, One Beer").

To keep things from getting too serious--the usual fatal flaw in political music--Cooder tells the whole story through a group of talking animals. The titular Buddy is a wandering cat who teams up with Lefty the mouse and the Rev. Tom Toad. One Internet wag at CD Universe aptly described it as "Woody Guthrie meets Beatrix Potter."

While there is anger in many of the songs, Cooder vents his frustration over injustice through not-too-subtle humor. Sings Cooder: "God help us J. Edgar, nothing's safe from you" in a song about a voracious hog named for a brand of vacuum cleaner.

Cooder wears his political heart on his sleeve--Karl Marx's Das Kapital is pictured on the inside cover of the accompanying booklet that provides the narrative context for each of the 17 songs.

Pete Seeger, the last of the great progressive activist-folksingers, plays banjo on the album and is feted alongside the legendary labor organizer and singer Joe Hill on the terrific "Three Chords and the Truth." Cooder and Seeger are joined by a number of guests including the Chieftains' Paddy Moloney, famed session drummer Jim Keltner, Van Dyke Parks and Flaco Jimenez.

If there is a weak spot in this hootenanny opus, it is that aside from some elegant country slide guitar on "Hank Williams" Cooder never really stretches out and delivers any of the scorching solos longtime fans might expect. While this will pass unnoticed by the casual listener and in no way detracts from the finished product, it is a little disappointing not to see the guitarslinger ranked No. 8 on the Rolling Stone list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time showing off his chops at greater length.


Hot Cakes: Live in Japan

P-Vine, 2,100 yen

When one thinks of funk, the first places that spring to mind are not Bournemouth, England or Tokyo, but P-Vine Records capture and release of Britain's fraternal funkateers' energetic Nov. 2006 performance in Japan's capital may put both cities on the list. Often reminiscent of the Meters, the Baker Brothers' jazzy old-school R&B sound is bound to put the cut in your strut, the glide in your stride and separate the funk from the junk. This disc is an instant party.

(Mar. 17, 2007)

"comfort women" - the story that will not die

Japanese politicians keep harping on the same nonsensical point about how there "no historical proof" that the comfort women were coerced and how it depends on your definition of "coerced" -- I wonder how those same politicians would react if the North Koreans said there was no evidence Megumi Yokota or any of the other abductees had been forcibly taken to North Korea? For a considerably less factually challenged approach to the issue, have a look at this excellent scholarly article from Japan Focus.
Surely, we can expect a free exchange of ideas in the media on a subject like this - after all Japan has a free press doesn't it?