Thursday, November 27, 2008

Peaceable Kingdom

Some ten years ago, Wonder Woman took a hankerin' for a puppy. She got to haunting the local animal shelters, returning home with heartbreaking tales of lost and abandoned creatures, doomed to fates of euthanasia and perhaps worse.

One day, she called me at work from the Loudoun County Shelter. "I've found him!" she breathed. "He's a pointer-lab mix, eight weeks old, and we'll name him Brown Fang!"

I allowed that this was jake by me.

"There's only one problem."

"Oh?" Me thinking, what, he's got canine herpes, transmittable to young children.

"He's got a sister."

Two dogs for ten years, a parakeet, an elderly mackerel tabby, two guinea pigs, and two gerbils later, we're down to the dogs. Thinking we might be pet-responsibility-free for our Empty Nest Years.

But no.

Betty, about to turn seventeen, began following us around the house, sighing wistfully and tugging at our sleeve-hems. "For my birthday present, I wanna kiiiiittennnn..."

Ugh, thinks I. Litterboxes. Cat-pee smell. Fur-shedding. Shredded furniture. Who'll take care of them when we're traveling? Yuck.

Monday evening found me and Betty at the Loudoun County Animal Shelter, looking at cats. Betty finds a calico kitten, about as adorable as can be, in a general category that pretty much defines the concept of adorable. I call Wonder Woman.

"We've found the kitten. There's only one problem."


"She's got a brother."

So I invite you to meet the newest members of the Jingo household, fresh from the Spaying-and-Neutering Academy. Betty has chosen the names Lexie and Sam for them -- slightly baffling, I'll allow, but perfectly acceptable.

Here's Lexie:


And here's Sam:

Yeah. Pretty damned adorable. No question.

Here Sam meets the dogs. Reading from left to right, that's Ring Ting Ting and Brown Fang:

All things considered, the meeting was a peaceable one, and Brown Fang has displayed a mothering instinct that surprises no one, given that we've always suspected he's gay as a french trombone.

Somewhat later in the very eventful evening, the kittehs settled into their temporary safe-spot, the downstairs bathroom. (Until their spaying-and-neutering sutures heal, they're medically enjoined from climbing stairs.) We got them perfectly serviceable cat-beds, but they preferred the Costco box with a towel. But of course.

After a short ti;pppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppo, they (No, I'm leaving that in. That was Sam, writing his first blog post on my laptop keyboard.)

After a short time of quiet, they settled in and caught some shut-eye -- not just ordinary shut-eye; environmentally friendly shut-eye:

Meanwhile, upstairs in our bedroom, Ring Ting Ting and Brown Fang, who have never spent one night apart since they were born at that same Loudoun County Animal Shelter ten years ago, put on an Olympian display of their amazing skill: Symmetrical Sleeping...

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Me, I give thanks for kittehs!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Not Quite Sure What to Make of This

Subjected premises to GenderAnalyzer...


Silhouette of a womanWe guess is written by a woman (57%), however it's quite gender neutral.

Hmmm. My lean, Hemingwayesque prose, which I had thought was the butchest thing about me, turns out to have been a sham. I think I'm going to sit down and have myself a good, long cry. That always helps.

(Hmmm again. Shakesville and I Blame the Patriarchy, two of the most feminist blogs I know of, scored 67% and 74% male respectively, so I'm beginning to suspect a wee smidgen of fraud.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

An Aging Crank Asks...

I was at the grocery store last night, in line at the self-checkout behind a rather elderly gent who did not understand the system at all. He was being helped through the process by a solicitous young clerk, who showed him the card-reader, the little device for the signature, where the receipt came out, and so on. The scene depressed me a bit; the poor old guy had met technology that had defeated him.* He'd lived through a world war, driven increasingly complex cars, used telephones, seen the rise of radio and television, ATMs, computers -- and lived through it all conditioned into the happy confidence that no new thing would faze him. Yet here he was in his golden years, unable to do the most rudimentary task, buying groceries, without assistance.

I'm convinced that with the ever-quickening spirals of development of new technology, this phenomenon of finally being defeated by some new system will happen to us at younger and younger ages. It may not defeat us at the user-interface level -- I see more and more standardization of interactivity in Web design, and innovations that add value without adding confusion -- but I think more and more of us will be confronted at younger and younger ages by some innovation sufficiently baffling that we simply fail to understand why the new thing even exists at all.

I believe I've reached that point.

Can someone please, please, please explain to a rapidly aging old fart:

What the fuck is the point of Twitter?

*The system seems designed to be as confusing as possible, even to young folks -- and no two stores' layout is the same. Awful, awful design, but that's a post for another day.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Folk Process

The origin of the phrase "folk process" has been attributed to musician Pete Seeger – as well as the most accessible definitions – but the action Seeger was labeling had originally been described by late 19th-early 20th century music historian Cecil Sharp in his book English Folk-Song: Some Conclusions. Sharp describes the evolution of the folksong and folktale (Seeger’s "folk process") as encompassing three principles: that of continuity, variation, and selection. "Continuity" refers to the idea that, in the norm, "types" (or motifs, themes, narratives, etc) should remain constant, and variation should be considered the exception; "variation" refers to the phenomenon of changes being introduced to folksongs by singers, whether unconsciously or with intent to change for artistic reasons, reasons of preference, or for the hiding of errors; "selection" refers to the theory that "the musical taste of every community must vary, and, as that taste is the controlling factor in the evolution of the folk-song, national peculiarities must ultimately determine the specific characteristics of the folk-songs of the different nations."

Man, I wish I understood Pashtun...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Well, That Was Fun...

Shall we now speak of other things?

In 1954 and 1955, two singles were released: Elvis Presley's "That's All Right, Mama" b/w "Blue Moon of Kentucky," and Chuck Berry's "Maybellene" b/w "Wee, Wee Hours." Neither can claim to be the first rock-n-roll records -- that honor should probably go to Ike Turner's "Rocket 88" -- but between them they pretty much defined the genre.

They're weirdly reflective of each other; the A sides were, respectively, a white Southerner singing black blues, and a black native of St. Louis singing hopped-up white western swing. Both B sides reverted back to racial type -- "Blue Moon" a reworking of Bill Monroe's breakthrough 1950 hit and "Hours" a slow Chicago blues as black as you can get. The records stare at each other through the racial mirror of the Jim Crow South, perplexed at the reversed-color image.

Historians tell us that the original title of "Maybellene" was "Ida Red," but a current record was on the market with that name (possibly the 1952 recording by Chris Powell And The Five Blue Flames -- which featured a young Clifford Brown on trumpet) and producer Leonard Chess wanted a different name. Berry and co-composer Johnnie Johnson spotted a box of Maybelline mascara in a corner of the studio, noted that the name fit the scansion, and went with it.

This causes some confusion. There is an "Ida Red" fiddle tune that appears in a Civil-War-era songbook, arranged for guitar and banjo. Riley Puckett, among many other hillbilly-era musicians, recorded it in 1926 and it was the second-best-selling record of the year. Charlie Poole used bits and pieces of it and combined them with the chorus of "Cripple Creek" in his 1929 record, "Shootin' Creek." "Ida Red" was a number one for Bob Wills in 1940, and it is this version that Berry is supposed to have modified to make "Maybellene."

But listen to Wills' version of "Ida Red."
How the hell do you get from there to "Maybellene"? About the only thing the two songs share is accent on two and four; the line lengths, lyrical scansion, structure, verse shape -- they share virtually nothing. The "Ida Red" story is mighty fishy indeed. In fact, I'd sooner assert that "Ida Red" inspired Bill Monroe's "Uncle Pen" than it did "Maybellene."

[Later edit: I'm cooling on this idea now. You actually can fit "Maybellene"'s verse into the verse of "Ida Red." But the choruses still are night and day.]

At any rate... What a song! Berry's casual pun -- "motorvatin' over the hill" doesn't really work; it's more a visual than an auditory pun. But you have to give him credit for putting it in anyway. He gets in three automotive brand-names in as many lines in the first verse -- the man knew his Krazy Kar Kulture audience. It's an interesting subtlety: Berry enunciates his words very carefully -- he knows that the story of the car-race with Maybellene will be lost on his audience if he doesn't get the rush of words out clearly.

But it's the guitar solo, isn't it. Good God, the guitar solo. We'd heard exactly those notes before -- T-Bone Walker played exactly that two-note bent riff, and Berry makes no secret of the debt he owes him. No, the beauty of the solo is the way the rest of the band really digs in -- the drums pop with extra force, the piano pounds away. A tremor of delight runs through these musicians; they know they are participating in a very exciting thing indeed.

Here's a 1958 live version from German television. If you don't let it play until at least the guitar solo, you should be taken out and shot for the L-7 square you are. And if, after the solo, you don't want to run out and buy a Gibson ES-335 and try a few of those moves yourself, I don't want to know you. (Also, golly, was Jimi Hendrix watching this?)

Sarah Palin Gets Off

...and all-a those jessamine and geraniums that we love and cactuses and Idaho as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yah when I put one-a-them roses in my hair like those Arapaho girls we like so much used or am I gonna I wear a red yah and how he kissed me under that good ol' Wasilla High hockey rink we need so much more of and I thought well, ya know, as well him as another and then I asked him with those eyes of mine to ask again yah and then he asked me would I yah to say yah my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yah and drew him down to me so he could feel those breasts he likes so much all perfume yah and that good old heart o' his was goin' like mad and yah I said yah I will Yah. You betcha!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

OMFG, a Human Being

Barack Obama, after learning of the death of his grandmother, addressing a crowd during a rally at University of North Carolina on November 3, 2008 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Dear God, I love this man.

Attention, North Carolina Libertarians...

Your secret plan is working perfectly.

Tears of Joy

The ravagement of his voice only heightens the poignancy.

Terrorist fist-bump, everybody!

Update: They've made an utterly wonderful change over at PalinAsPresident...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Yes We Can

It's down to it.

This will in all likelihood be the last Neddie Jingo post before the election.

The last before I can wake up in the morning knowing I helped, in whatever small way I could, to push that huge stone up that hill. It's been said that an Obama victory would be the final outcome of a battle for America's soul that began with the Civil War. I would argue the battle began even before that, when the first African slaves stepped off their boats in chains.

Yes, it is that historic.

And Yes. We. Can.

Old People Stick Together!

The scholarly and infallibly decorous Jon Swift dissects McCain's shocking, come-from-behind victory:
This year old people have a chance to make history instead of just being history. They have an opportunity to elect the oldest human to ever serve as President, someone who is as crotchety as they are. Old people don’t care if their daughter marries a young man, they just don’t want one running the country.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Adventures in Campaigning

As I type this on the screened porch (a lovely Indian Summer evening out there), a small herd of white-tailed deer flits peacefully across the lawn, all seems right with the world, and a general magnanimity toward humankind pervades -- aided materially, I'm sure, by the second Samuel Adams Winter Lager that twinkles benignly at my elbow.

It was not always thus, today.

Eleven o'clock this morning (that would be noon to you spring-forward-fall-behind rebels out there) saw Betty Jingo and myself darkening the door of the Obama office in Purcellville, Virginia, ready to offer our services in any way that might help. "Oh, but we don't start canvassing until noon," the office manager, Natasha, purred. Pointing to my watch indignantly and averring that it was already past noon and damned well time to start knocking on doors, I was, I'll grant, a bit chopfallen when reminded of the biannual ritual of clock-mucking. Sighing heavily to cover my embarrassment, I enquired as to what might be the best use of our time until the actual hour approached. The answer was Visibility.

This entailed wandering Purcellville's Main Street, waving homemade "Vote Obama!" signs at passing traffic. For the edification of young minds about what a dreadfully conflicted country we remain, I can offer no better exercise.

Many, many cars hooted approval. Quite a few offered thumbs-up signs. Not as many assayed the pollice verso, which was gratifying. Thus a little less than an hour passed. (Young Betty, nearly seventeen, was utterly mortified to watch Daddikins make a fool of himself on the thoroughfare, and spent the hour skulking behind a mailbox.)

An Obama campaign worker appeared at the corner of Twenty-First and Main, signaling us to return to base. It was still fifteen minutes before the "real" noon, so I was a bit puzzled. As I began to comply with his orders, a police cruiser shot in front of me and its driver signaled me to stop in my tracks. Puzzled, I complied. He informed me that a complaint had been filed, asserting that Obama workers had been obstructing traffic and causing trouble outside the local gun-shop, a couple of blocks away. That the gun-shop had the largest McCain/Palin sign ever seen in this county prominently displayed over its door might have offered the good officer a hint as to the complaint's motivation, but I held my tongue, accepted the censure politely, and prepared to move on. The officer then offered this gem:

"Look, you just can't be out here causing trouble, or even the appearance of it. Think of the guy you're working for. He needs you to be on your best behavior. To be honest with you, I'm voting for the guy myself, and that's really why I'm telling you this...."

You rawk, officer.

And one more thing. To the young man who leaned out his truck window and snarled, "It's called the White House" to me and Betty, I thank you. Really, I do. There, just outside the White Palace -- in the 1920s, the headquarters of the Purcellville chapter of the Ku Klux Klan -- you did me a great service.

You reminded me exactly why I'm doing this.

Thank you.

You asshat.