Better not look down

31 03 2014

It is apparently only okay to talk about how bad things used to be if you contrast it with how great things are now.

Things used to be overwhelmingly terrible and are now just ordinarily terrible! Progress!

And if it’s progress, then maybe it’s not so terrible, hmmm? So maybe you should just turn that frown upside down, Mr. Coates and go back to talking about stuff that makes us feel good.





Where can I go

27 03 2014

Oh, this caught my ears.

Nothing earthshaking or odd—the sound is a bit a throwback (The Band? Van Morrison?), really—but that snatch of lyric: No one comes to take me home.

A lament. A recognition. A sigh. A shrug.

A night.

h/t: Jian Ghomeshi, at Q





Declare the pennies on your eyes

26 03 2014

Finished my taxes early.

Yeah, early: the last couple of years I’ve completed them on or just before April 15, so finishing them 3 weeks out counts as early for me.

When I first started doing taxes—paper forms, natch—-I almost always completed them in early February. Of course, it helped that I knew I’d be getting a return, so why not file early; given how rarely I’ve ever had to pay in, however, I don’t know why I started lagging.

Actually, last year might have been the first year I had to pay federal (I had that terrible independent contractor job, so got socked when I reported that income), but since moving to New York I’ve paid state taxes a couple of years.

Anyway, my income was lower in 2013 (boo!), which means I get decent returns from both the feds and the state (yay!).

Oh, and what prompted me to take care of all of this now? Welllll, I’m bumping up against a deadline on student loan paperwork which requires tax info. . . .

Yeah, there had to be a reason.





Hear me roar

25 03 2014

I cannot fucking believe that the Supreme Court might rule in favor of Hobby Lobby.

It just. . . it’s. . . it makes no fucking sense what.so.ever.

One law. One fucking law for all. Is that so hard to understand?

You’d think Scalia would get this, he of the Smith decision who wrote that

We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs [494 U.S. 872, 879]   excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition. As described succinctly by Justice Frankfurter in Minersville School Dist. Bd. of Ed. v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586, 594 -595 (1940): “Conscientious scruples have not, in the course of the long struggle for religious toleration, relieved the individual from obedience to a general law not aimed at the promotion or restriction of religious beliefs. The mere possession of religious convictions which contradict the relevant concerns of a political society does not relieve the citizen from the discharge of political responsibilities (footnote omitted).” We first had occasion to assert that principle in Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879), where we rejected the claim that criminal laws against polygamy could not be constitutionally applied to those whose religion commanded the practice. “Laws,” we said, “are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. . . . Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.” Id., at 166-167.

[. . .]

[re US v. Lee] . . . There would be no way, we observed, to distinguish the Amish believer’s objection to Social Security taxes from the religious objections that others might have to the collection or use of other taxes. “If, for example, a religious adherent believes war is a sin, and if a certain percentage of the federal budget can be identified as devoted to war-related activities, such individuals would have a similarly valid claim to be exempt from paying that percentage of the income tax. The tax system could not function if denominations were allowed to challenge the tax system because tax payments were spent in a manner that violates their religious belief.”

[ . . .]

Precisely because “we are a cosmopolitan nation made up of people of almost every conceivable religious preference,” Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S., at 606 , and precisely because we value and protect that religious divergence, we cannot afford the luxury of deeming presumptively invalid, as applied to the religious objector, every regulation of conduct that does not protect an interest of the highest order. The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind. . .

[. . .]

It may fairly be said that leaving accommodation to the political process will place at a relative disadvantage those religious practices that are not widely engaged in; but that unavoidable consequence of democratic government must be preferred to a system in which each conscience is a law unto itself or in which judges weigh the social importance of all laws against the centrality of all religious beliefs. [emph added]

Now, yes, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed to counter the Smith decision, but when individuals tried to use RFRA to argue against paying taxes, the Court say, in effect, “nuh-uh”, that the requirement of tax payment met the “compelling government interest” test.

Ensuring that women have access to a full range of medical care, including that of counseling and advice regarding our birth control options, may not, however, be sufficiently “compelling”.

Taxes: yes! Control over one’s body and health? Nah.

As Dahlia Lithwick observes,

The rights of millions of women to preventive health care and workplace equality elicit almost no sign of sympathy or solicitude from the right wing of the bench today. Nor does the possibility that religious conscience objections may soon swallow up the civil rights laws protecting gay workers, women, and other minorities. Religious freedom trumps because we’re “only” talking about birth control.





Let it go and so to fade away

24 03 2014

I’ve been circling around and around this post by TNC; still not thinking in straight lines.

Scattered bits: the bad faith of American triumphalism, of progressivism (as Whig history); the shock of my students when I speak plainly about white supremacy; how it is harder for me to speak plainly of male supremacy (/patriarchy?); how white supremacy doesn’t just hurt black people; how male supremacy doesn’t just hurt female people.

And then the posts on waning Christendom in the US, on the erosion of religious structures, what it all means. More circling.

But this: to look to God is to look away, that religious belief seems to me a form of alienation, a scrim between oneself and the world.

Of course, to the believer, it is I who am alienated.

How any of this relates to kenosis, I don’t know.

And through a side door: we carry our troubles with us. If I have a morality, it is that we should carry our troubles with us. We have to learn how to carry them, so they trouble us less, and when memory is enough.

This is one way to find out who we are.

The troubles are ours; they can’t be given up to God without giving up ourselves.

But then, that might be the point. To some.

I’ll try to think better, to gather these flyaway threads.





The lady don’t mind

24 03 2014

Trickster doesn’t care that I have work to do.

She doesn’t care that I’m eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

008

She doesn’t care that I just want to sit where I want, how I want, or how comfortable I am.

Trickster wants in my lap.

004

Now.





Listen to the music: The beat goes on

19 03 2014

I bought a lot of albums, and then a lot of cds, from the Electric Fetus on Fourth Avenue, in Minneapolis.

It was right across the bridge over 34W separating Phillips from Whittier, although it didn’t really seem like Whittier until you crossed Nicollet. I lived in and around Stevens Square for a few years, and the feel in that neighborhood was different from—gritter than—Whittier.

Anyway, 4th Ave near Franklin Avenue was kind of shitty, what with cars screaming by on the interstate below. Above Franklin there was a huge brown wall to try to block out the noise, but it wasn’t clear that the wall was much of an improvement.

The Fetus was on the other side of Franklin, on the southwest corner. It was, initially, right on that corner, crammed into this tiny space next to an Ace Hardware. When the hardware store moved (into a space in a mini-mall on Nicollet & 18th), the Fetus stretched itself into that new space. It was a bit discombobulating, at first, but they made good use of all that room, expanding both the head-shop portion at the front of the store and the music in the rest. The classical section was the most spare, but the jazz and blues kicked ass, and the international selections were a revelation.

In addition to African and Brazilian music, I got into Nordic and Scandinavian tunes when I lived there (it didn’t hurt that NorthSide Records mainlined that stuff into the city): Hedningarna. Hoven Droven. Väsen. Garmana—have you listened to “Gamen”? Jesus. Go listen to it!—and my beloved, and still missing, Finnish Ambient Techno Chant.

I bought both new and used cds, and a lot of them. The Fetus had a policy that if you bought 3 or more cds, you’d get 10 percent off; three or four times a year everything in the store would be 20 percent off. It wasn’t my only record store, but they did get a lot of my money.

The folks who worked there were the Minneapolis version of the stereotypical sullen music snob, which is to say, not that sullen, and not that snobbish. And every once in a while they’d throw a free promo cd into your bag, sometimes because it was there, and sometimes because there was something you bought that made them think you’d like this new music, too.

They tossed in an Esthero ep, which worked: I bought the full-length cd. A Beth Orton ep led me to multiple cds, and if you asked what they were playing on the store’s sound system, they’d toss you the jewel case and let you inspect if for yourself.

They didn’t do the hard sell; the music was enough.

I found that same attitude in the guy who ran the used cd shop on lower St Denis in Montréal. I bought a lot at a shop on Mont Royal, but had almost no interaction with that shop’s staff; at this store—and I cannot remember it’s, or his, name—the owner loved to talk early punk and new wave. I was the right age (if a bit young) to have caught that music when it first hit, but, boxed in by AOR stations out of Milwaukee, I wasn’t exposed to most of it until I left Sheboygan Falls.

(I’ve told you the story about my first extended exposure to Patti Smith, right? Where the fuck was she when I was in high school?!)

He’s almost certainly closed up shop by now; he was thinking even back in 2003 that he wouldn’t last long, so I’d guess the collapse of the cd market has since wiped him out.

I can get any cd (or cd’s worth of music) I want  online, now, so as a music consumer I don’t really need the music store any longer.

But as a music lover, I miss the curators.

~~~

188. esthero, breath from another
189. Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams Are Made of This
190. Eurythmics, Be Yourself Tonight
191. Eurythmics, Revenge
192. Eurythmics, Savage
193. Everything But The Girl, Walking Wounded
194. The Falcon and the Snowman
195. Marianne Faithfull, Kissin’ Time
196. feelies, Time for a Witness
197. Feist, The Reminder
198. Christine Fellows, the last one standing
199. Aretha Franklin, Spirit in the Dark
200. Aretha Franklin, The First Twelve Sides
201. frente! marvin the album
202. Peter Gabriel, So
203. Peter Gabriel, Us
204. Peter Gabriel, Shaking the Tree
205. electronica gainsbourg
206. Gang of Four, A Brief History of the Twentieth Century
207. garbage, G
208. Garmana, Vengeance
209. Garmana, Hildegard von Bingen
210. Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On
211. Gear Daddies, Billy’s Live Bait
212. Gentle Waves, The Green Fields of Foreverland
213. Lisa Gerrard, Duality
214. Stan Getz and Joao, Gilberto, Getz Gilberto
215. Giant Sand, Chore of Enchantment
216. Giant Sand, cover magazine
217. Giant Sand, Swerve
218. Giant Sand, Is All Over the Map
219. Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man, out of season
220. Astrud Gilberto, eponymous
221. Bebel Gilberto, tanto tempo
222. Estair Godinez Band, Live from the Dakota