Saturday, December 23, 2006

Notes from the Bandstand

I know there are those songs that people just love. Songs that if they are absent, they diminish the emotion and enjoyment of the holiday for people.

Two things came from my stint of carols at the mall. I will share them with you now.

The first was a very fetching young thing who came up to me on a break and asked me if I knew her favorite Christmas song. It was "yadda yadda blah blah child" or some shit like that. I said "No." She asked me if I would like to hear it. She said it was a Contemporary Christian Christmas Carol. I'm glad that I had my hair in a ponytail so she couldn't see how the hair on the back of my neck began to curl at the syllabic emphasis she was using. But, as I said, she was fetching, and I'm old and don't get to talk to all that many cute young ones anymore, so I figure "What the hell, how bad can it be?"

I listen, and maintain my composure. She asks "What do you think of it? Isn't it just great? Do you think you could play it?" I say:

"The thing that gets me about most of these kind of songs is that along with being lyrically trite they are musically uninspired. Without the insipid lyrics the tune couldn't compete with such classics as Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Plus they have this whole thing that I simply hate this time of year (remember, I'm on the job right now so I'm trying to watch my langauge, otherwise I would have said fuck at least five or six times by now and thrown in a few shits and craps for good measure)

The song starts out all frilly and fluffy and sweet "Ohh, look at the baby! Sweet little baby in the manger" (Then I switch to my thrash metal System of a Down voice for a totally dissonant) "HE'S GONNA DIE! YOU EVIL BASTARDS ARE GOING TO KILL HIM DEAD DEAD DEAD DEAD. What is about you people that you cannot stand a solid dose of peace and love? I would much rather play my Palestrina, Handel, Bach and Pretorius. Those songs have survived all these hundreds of years because they are good music. This new Christian garbage is not only bad theology, it is bad music."

Then I sat down to play my next set. Halfway through the first tune I looked up, she was gone.

Every set, every night, somebody wants to hear "Carol of the Bells." Being your servant, I cannot refuse. It wouldn't be right.

These are the lyrics running through my head while I play for you.

This song is long
Goes on and on
Three fucking notes
Learn them by rote
Repeat again
Three with no end
They will not stop
Until you drop

Now we get to play six more notes
Now we get to play six more notes
Back to the three
Oh, woe is me
This song is long
Goes on and on. . .


Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday Random Ten

This is a fairly surprise "on the road" edition. I am driving to California to pick up my Mother and bring her back to Arizona for the holiday. This is my little gift to every other driver on the road this holiday season. Mom's not driving.

Sugar, Sugar - - - The Archies
When Love Comes to Town - - - B.B. King (live in Memphis)
Changes - - - David Bowie
Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone - - - Billie Holiday
Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem - - - Andy Williams
Since You've Been Gone - - - Aretha Franklin
Loser - - - Beck
Stars and Stripes Forever - - - Vladimir Horowitz
Mozart Horn Concerto in F, number 4 - - - Barry Tuckwell (playing a natural horn, no valves, just lips and incredible technique)
Hazy Shade of Winter - - - The Bangles

Bonus Track

Ridgetop - - - Jessie Colin Young

Remember I'm saving lives out there on the road today. What ya'll listening too?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Photo Captioned

This was a "caption this photo" blip over to Shake's and I got all excited and garbled my caption. So, I offer it here. Please, feel free to add your own. The set-up is that Bush is speaking from "The Indian Treaty Room" at the Executive Office Building.

After much soul seaching, President Bush has found the most appropriate room in Washington for a white man to walk right in and start lying.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Notes from the Bandstand

Front Man:

When the band starts to swing with this I want you to really come in with the bottleneck.


Wouldn't it be safer for you to just point at me?


Monday, December 18, 2006

random flickr blogging 9684

Sir Geoffry Feathersnitch was pleased to accept the Queen's appointment as Ambassador to Iraq. He promises to outdo the King's ambassador from the 1920's and make up at least two completely brand new nations. Maybe 3.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

La Noche Triste

“But I declare, that I do not know how to describe it, for neither cannon, nor muskets, nor crossbows availed, nor hand-to-hand fighting, nor killing thirty or forty of them every time we charged, for they still fought on in as close ranks and with more energy than in the beginning.”

-- Bernal Diaz del Castillo The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico

What the writer is describing was the initial foray of the Spaniards to break out of the fortress at Tenochtitlan, June 24, 1520. They fought on, all day, every single day for another three weeks. They fought through most of the nights too.

The odds were stacked hard against the Spaniards. Outnumbered on a magnitude that defyed calculation. Hemmed in by the tall buildings and narrow streets, which negated the Spanish tactics that had made them absolute dominators of every field they engaged. Only the carefully timed and managed volleys from the harquebusiers and crossbowmen, cannon fire from the walls of the citadel and the swords and lances of the mounted knights allowed the intrepid Diegode Ordaz to lead his men back behind the walls to report to Cortez that they were unable to achieve a break in the Aztec lines.

Cortez had gone back into the city against the best advice of his lieutenants, his native allies. The reasons he gives in his journals are twofold. The first was that the emporor of the Aztecs, Monteczuma and his vast, unimaginable stores of gold were in the city, and Cortez's most trusted subordinate, Pedro de Alvarado was there along with nearly one hundred of his finest horsemen.

Cortez had been on the coast, where he had put down an attempt by the governor of Cuba, Panfilo de Narvaez, to curtail his conquests. He was better armed than he had ever been in the entire campaign. More than a thousand Spanish troops. He had formed alliances with Totonacs, the Tlaxcalaan, Otomis and Cholula nations who were eager to trade Spanish domination for the murderous domination of the Aztecs.
Until this night there had been no force assembled by the natives capable of withstanding the Spanish. The “iron cornfield” squares of the “tercio” infantry, mounted lancers, muskets, cannon, crossbows, ferocious mastiffs wearing spiked collars and chainmail, toledo swords, all of these had proven to be unstoppable. Until this night.

Now they were trapped. Their cannonades which would bring down scores of Aztecs with each volley were not breaking the ranks. No matter how many of the foe were spitted on the lances of the mounted, they still kept on coming. From the rooftops rained a steady hail of rocks, tiles, anything loose at hand that was heavy and jagged, thown by women and children. Cortez sat in his study and pondered the death of his dreams. He had envisioned a new Venice. A center of learning and commerce from which he would rule as the good right hand of his king.

The trouble had really begun to brew when, in the absence of Cortez, de Alvarado had massacred thousands of the Aztec nobility and begun a campaign of unrestricted murder and violence against the civilian population. Alvarado claimed that the nobility had resumed their practice of human sacrifice and cannabalism and that he had acted under the banner of God. A more likely explanation is that he had become greedy at the sight of the gold and jewels worn by the nobility as they did their every day business in the city. It might even have partly been the exaltations of a mounted warrior as he rides through a crowd of his enemies, hacking to the right and left. The Spanish under de Alavarado killed over 8,000 in a single day. Years later Aztec survivors reported to the Franscican scribe M. Leon-Portilla that

They attacked all the celebrants, stabbing them, spearing them from behind, and these fell instantly to the ground with their entrails hanging out. Others, they beheaded: they cut off their heads, or split their heads to pieces. They struck others in the shoulders, and their arms were torn from their bodies. They wounded some in the thigh and some in the calf. They slashed others in the abdomen and their guts spilled all over the ground. Many attempted to run away but began to slip on the stones of the street which were wet and slick with blood. Many had their legs become entangled in the entrails of the fallen.

It had been a month since that night. The water had been cut off for the Spanish. What little they had remaining was brackish and full of algae. His engineers had constructed mantalets, crude wooden tanks from the looted beams of the palace. The nightly missle attacks from the neighboring rooftops had made remaining in the center of this hostile town no longer an attractive proposition.
Cortez tried one last parley with the inhabitants of the city. He brought the shackled and chained emperor to the roof of the palace. Monteczuma was stoned by the citizens he used to rule. Whether he was mortally wounded by his own citizens, or murdered in a rage of disappointment by the Spanish really didn't matter to Monteczuma anymore. He was dead.

Cortez convened a council of his officers and men. They said that they saw but two options. They could flee empty handed or stay and die with the gold. Cortez chose neither option. He would attempt a night retreat in force under the cover of the fog and the darkness. They had constructed a moveable bridge unit to cross the canals. Golden bars were loaded upon horses, the men were allowed to enter the storerooms and take whatever they wished to carry with them. A survivor of that night, Francisco Lopez de Gomara, wrote
Among our men, those who were most encumbered with clothing, gold, and jewels were the first to die, and those who were saved were those who carried the least and forged fearlessly ahead. So those who died, died rich, and their gold killed them.

There was no moon visible through the clouds that night. There was a gentle, steady warm rain falling. The Spanish almost made it. They had crossed over three of the canals that bisected the causeway leading to the shore of the lake to Tlacopan where their native allies were waiting. As they were crossing their fourth canal a woman who was fetching water saw them and sounded the alarm “Mexica! Come quickly, our enemies are leaving!” Within minutes the canal's water was full of war canoes. The streets and the causeway were packed with angry men. Now,

When the Spanish reached the Canal of the Toltecs, the Tlatecayohuican, they hurled themselves headlong into the water, as if they were jumping from a cliff. They all came to the brink and plunged over it. The canal was soon choked with the bodies of men and horses; they filled the gap in the causeway with their own drowned bodies. Those who followed crossed to the other side by walking on the corpses.

M. Leon-Portilla

The vangaurd of the unit reached the far shore of the lake. Once there, Cortez rallied five of his best and most audacious horsemen, Avila, Gonzalo, Morla, Olid, and the stalwart Sandoval to plunge back into the city to carve out a pathway for the rest of his men. At least once during this action Cortez was nearly captured and bound. Once he was pulled from the clutches of the Aztecs by the suicidal courage of his colonels Olea and Quinones.

Pedro de Alvarado had been fighting the rear guard action. He might have been arrogant, he might have been cruel and greedy, but he was one fighting son of a bitch. Refusing to move himself until he was assured of the safety and escape of his squadron he found himself stranded on the far side of the canal. He seized a lance from the grip of a fallen knight. Plunging it into the bodies of the drowned and wounded in the canal he vaulted across.

More than half of the Spaniards died that night. There was never an accounting of the losses of their native allies. Cortez rallied what was left of his little band and led them into the night, putting as much distance as he could between himself and the Aztecs. Once he felt they were in relative safety he dismounted. He took a few steps and collapsed sobbing. La Noche Triste was over.

Substitute the Aztec citadel for the Green Zone. Change the name of the city from Tenochtitlan to Bagdhad. Think about the eight miles of highway, the most dangerous road in the world right now between the American fort and the airport. Think about nearly eight hundred miles of a single highway to get to the relative safety of Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. Remember that the last time the Prime Minister of Iraq appeared before his citizens he was pelted with stones. As much as I want this war to be over, I don't think that a graceful exit is something in the realm of possiblity. I don't believe that history really does repeat itself. I agree with Mark Twain who said “it rhymes.” This is not a poem I want to recite.


Flying Spaghetti Monster Christmas Lights

From the good folks at BSAlert.