Archive for June, 2010

On Y Va – Let’s Go

June 25, 2010


   See the US v Slovenia soccer game June 18?  That’s the one during which ref Koman Coulibaly called back a US would have been game winning goal.  Big deal certainly in a contest of such importance, but shit happens and the US ended up playing through anyway.

  Interesting thing is that the ref’s last name brought to mind a favorite track on a great CD.  Coulibaly is a common surname in the Bambara language spoken in part of West Africa.  (ref Coulibaly is Malian).  Biton Coulibably (1689 – 1755) was a pre-colonial empire builder of whom there is great regional pride.  Below is a photo of his grave near Segou Mali.

  A track eponymously entitled on Dimanche a Bamako (Sunday in Bamako) laments “Where is Coulou against whom one can lean?”.  It’s a great album by two known as the “Blind Couple from Mali” – Amadou and Mariam – with a lot of help from the guru of world music Manu Chao.

  The record starts almost sweetly, conversationally, with expressions of love.  Tone changes and momentum builds quickly with ‘Coulibaly’ sweeping one up and along.  Dang tough thereafter to disengage. 

  A broad range of subjects are addressed including: the stark reality of daily life in Africa; difficulty of being an artist; sorrows wrought by politics; the fundamental beauty of weddings; first person pleas for fidelity; and more.

  ‘Taxi Bamako’ is another favorite of mine.  The phrasing and easy pace induce a vision of just what a cab ride in the capital city might be like.  Earnest, but not too.  Neatly anthropocentric.  Would have been perfect in the flic Cars.  On y va.  Come on let’s go.

  The lyrics are in French, but relatively easy to translate, although those sung don’t exactly match the accompanying hard copy.  Doesn’t matter if you chose not to try though for the music, voices, and wealth of ambient sounds combine for a hypnotic experience.  Don’t attenuate its potential by downloading just one bit.  That’d be like reading one chapter of a book or watching one act of an opera.


Taxi Bamako
Ou tu veux, je t’emmene
Taxi Bamako
Tu m’appelle je suis la
Taxi Bamako
Je suis le plus rapide
Taxi Bamako
Tu est ma seule cliente
Tu t’assois, je conduis
On traverse le pont
Je fais ma course au ciel
J’evite tous les traffics, les problemes
Je suis le pus rapide
On traverse le pont
Je fais ma course au ciel
Tu t’assois, je conduis 


Taxi Bamako
Where you want, I take you
Taxi Bamako
You call me, I am there
Taxi Bamako
I’m the fastest
Taxi Bamako
Your’re my only fare
Sit down, I’ll drive
We’ll cross the bridge
I make my way by the sky
I avoid all the traffic
And mechanical problems
I’m the fastest
We’ll cross the bridge
I’ll make my way by the sky
Sit down, I’ll drive

*Ref in yellow shirt is Komar Coulibably


June 21, 2010


   That’s  the light tower on Michigan Island in the Apostle archipelago on Lake Superior.  This National Seashore area holds the highest concentration of light towers in North America.  They take a variety of forms and shapes, are in good condition, and all quite picturesque.  The day after this visit we sailed to Devil’s Island, the northernmost.  We’d hoped to go ashore there to, but the winds were shifting so we listened to the NOAA weather report.  Big storm coming.  Strong winds from the south.

   Change of plans. Checked the chart and made for a bay approximately fifteen miles away that opened only to the north and set anchor.  Did then ‘batten down the hatches’, had a great chicken curry dinner, and slid into our sleeping bags to get what rest we could before the sound and fury.  It arrived at about 10:30PM.   We were obviously protected from the worst of the wind, but were still violently rocked by the waves.  They rolled us so severely that the mast nearly slapped the water repeatedly on both sides.

  Fortunately, it wore out before did we and a fitfull sleep ensued until about 8:00 AM.  It was our last day and we were anxious to set sail for our last stop – Madeline Island – the only inhabited one of the group.   We’d heard it was a neat/funky sort of place and a fine spot to celebrate my birthday.   After brewing the coffee I went forward to raise the anchor.  “Better hold off on that” said wife from the cockpit.  “Engine won’t start.”

  Thing turned over ruling out electrical issues.  We figured that the storm had either shaken up sediment in a fuel filter overdue for change or somehow introduced air into the system.  Having no spare filters or tools we going to have to do everything the old fashioned way.  Which we knew was going to be brutal because we were a long way from home and the wind was a steady twenty-five to thirty nm/h blow directly down our course.

  Wife at helm I pulled out the headsail a bit while son took anchor just off bottom ready to reset if necessary.  Breeze took the jib and bow with it around and to a downwind course.  Pulled the sail the rest off the way out and stowed the anchor.  Raised the main and into the channel we made it.   Unfortunately another problem soon presented itself.

   Sailing upwind requires one to beat back and forth as far toward the direction of the wind as sail design will allow, in this case about fifty degrees off.  In strong winds it is important that the main swing fully from one side to the other  so that some of its force is allowed to spill off and you’re not overpowered.  On the Marcie however, the apparatus that positions the boom (“traveler”) would be moved only with great difficulty.  Fearful of it getting stuck in the middle during a change of course we decided to furl the jib so that problems couldn’t compound during a tack.  This made the helm a bit heavier and forward progress slower.

  Though, as son pointed out, we were up there to sail and that we surely did.  The island’s rich red cliffs and dense green forest salved the chafe of the elements.  Wind seemed to calm a bit and we raised the jib.  Quite better progress until the problem we foresaw above did manifest.   Son put his considerable back into the traveler and we furled the jib for the rest of the day.

  Some ten hours later we were sunburned, wind whipped, exhausted, but portside.  We furled the sails, cleaned up, hosed off, and enjoyed a very fine birthday spaghetti dinner with billowing pink cumulus providing the pyrotechnics.  Drank a bit of wine and sat around philosophizing.



June 11, 2010


  In the June 10, 2010 New York Review of Books noted British American physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson reviewed a new book by Nobel Prize winner physicist Steven Weinberg.  The tone is largely positive, but toward the end Dyson makes an interesting observation.

  He says that Weinberg juxtaposes “militant atheism” on the one hand and absolute faith in the ability of science to explain everything on the other.  He tells us that Weinberg believes that science will soon have developed a “Final Theory” with a set of mathematical rules precisely describing every aspect of our universe.

      Dyson: “I distrust his judgment about philosophical questions because I think he overrates the capacity of the human mind to comprehend the totality of nature.”  I couldn’t agree more.  I think that our understanding of the universe has grown and will continue to grow at the exact pace of the evolution of our consciousness.

  A hope that absolute truth exists is misguided and a belief that one does often gets sublimated, cathected, and comes out as arrogance at best and fundamentalism at the extreme.  To make a contribution to the common consciousness and enjoy the experience, one need only find a way to be comfortable living in the question of it all.

  And next Wednesday being Bloomsday, of what better example might one think than Ulysses?  June 16 was the day of Leopold Bloom’s perambulations about Dublin in James Joyce’s great novel.  It is long, complex, and of beautiful erudtion.  One of its themes is the concept of parallax which in this case can be defined as the enhancement of an observation by the integration of differing perspectives.

  The three main characters provide this in great measure.  Molly Bloom’s famous final almost unpunctuated forty plus page stream of consciousness reconsiders many aspects of her life and relationships and concludes with joy and affirmation:

“…as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

*Joyce picked June 16 because that was the day of his first date with the woman who would be his wife.      

**There is beauty in the video clip, but it is no match for a reading of the prose.  Yes?

An Unplanned Allegory

June 4, 2010

  Smoking is nasty, dirty, and deadly.  I know that all too well.  I’ve tried it though and have been in the sway of its allure for many years.  In fact, I was in a cigar smoking club while in kindergarten.  We lived near a farm and a friend whose father always had a box of stogies on his desk would purloin a few and meet the rest of us in Farmer D’s apple orchard.

  I was the only one who could finish one.  Maybe that’s why I’m the shortest in the family.  I smoked a pipe for a while and tried cigarettes.  Thankfully, nothing stuck.  My favorite part was fidgeting with the paraphernalia – lighters and all.  I became quite proficient at rolling my own, but, uh, that’s another story.

  What is interesting to me now is how cigarette smoking is portrayed in modern cinema.  The actual act, I mean.  Next time you’re watching a movie and someone has a butt in hand notice carefully what happens when it gets to a mouth.  You will almost certainly witness a very poor bit of business no matter between whose even Oscar winning fingers it is held.

  Anyone can be cool, graceful, tremulous, or whatever’s appropriate to the role from pack through ignition.  However, lips once pursed, chest has to raise as lungs fill or it looks fake and taints the whole dang flic.  99% of the time you get the feeling that the actor either is worried about his/her own health or else is stealthily furthering his/her own antismoking campaign.   

 What would be the right thing to do?   Faithfully portray the character, as imagined by its creator, to the best of one’s ability or ask for a rewrite?  The solution I’ve just described is a compromise that I’m surprised to see condoned by today’s top talent.

  When this issue comes to mind, I’m drawn back to the opening sequence of The Client in which a young boy sneaks a couple cigarettes from his mother, goes into the woods with his brother, and they light up.  Looks real to me and the sequence conveys more about those two characters than dialogue ever could.

  The tragedy though is that Brad Renfro won awards for his portrayal of the older brother, but died of an overdose at age twenty-five.  Perhaps the bright lights were more than he could handle, but I wonder if instead that the long draw at age ten evidenced a naïve slipping of his skin to such a degree that it could not be made snug again once shooting stopped.