Quite without meaning to, I’ve built up a liturgy of mournful tunes and made a habit of listening to them every year on the eleventh of September. Three of them are from Tom Waits; I listened to both “The Fall of Troy” and “Yesterday is Here” on 11 September 2001, and was struck by how well lines like “There’s a world where nothing grows” (from “The Fall of Troy”) and “Today’s grey skies, tomorrow is tears,/ you’ll have to wait til yesterday is here” (from “Yesterday is Here”) fit the events of that day. I also tried to listen to “Jersey Girl” that day, but it hit a bit too close to home; I still cry when I hear that song, but not so hard that I can’t hear it.
Two other songs I listened to that day have also become part of my annual liturgy. One is by Phranc, the “all-American Jewish lesbian folk singer.” It’s her remembrance of her brother Gary Gottlieb, who was murdered in 1997. Another is “Deportee,” with lyrics by Woody Guthrie and music by Martin Hoffman, about a group of people who died in a plane crash in 1948 while being deported from the USA. That day I played an old record I had of Guthrie himself singing it; I can’t find that recording online, but here’s a link to Joan Baez doing her version of the song.
Twice already on this site I’ve posted about Martin Espada’s poem “Alabanza,” a tribute to the 43 members of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 100 who died that morning after reporting to work at the Windows on the World restaurant in the World Trade Center. I still think it is the best 9/11 poem. Since most of those 43 had Spanish names, the chorus of “Deportee” (“Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,/ Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria “) reminds me of them, and of Mr Espada’s poem.
My favorite patriotic song, aside from “The Star Spangled Banner,” is “The House I Live In”; Paul Robeson’s recording of it usually helps me to remember that September 11, 2001 was a day when ordinary citizens rose to extraordinary challenges. That’s a lesson the USA’s political leaders, military officer class, and securocrats of various stripes have spent the last eleven years working feverishly to obscure, but the record of the day’s events is unequivocally clear. American national treasure Rebecca Solnit and Tom Engelhardt wrote admirably succinct articles about this a few years ago, which I noted at the time and which repay reading today.
It may not qualify as patriotism, but it is at least stereotypically American to commemorate sad public events with a performance of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. I’m particularly fond of this recording of the piece, from the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein.
Posted by acilius on September 11, 2012
Since our most recent substantive post here, we’ve posted all of this stuff on our Tumblr site:
-a recent Jem Cooke video
– a picture of a funny sign
-a link to the announcement of a new comic book a friend of ours made
-a video of classical ukuleleist Valèry Sauvage playing Ken Middleton’s arrangement of a traditional Irish tune
-a little joke about a political controversy that’s been raging in the USA
-a one-panel comic about Botticelli’s Birth of Venus
-a video of ukuleleist The Bradlands playing Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter, accompanied by a link to Phranc’s ukulele version of the same song
-a video of Bosko and Honey performing with The Uke Box
-an animated short, made in 1973 and narrated by Orson Welles, dramatizing Plato’s allegory of the Cave
We haven’t moved from this site to that one. It’s just that we’ve all been a bit busy, and it’s been easier to find a couple of minutes to slap a video or a link on Tumblr than to do the sort of writing we usually produce for this site. We’ll post more stuff here soon.
Posted by acilius on September 24, 2010
Everybody’s favorite all-American Jewish lesbian folk singer, Phranc, has posted a new installment of her YouTube variety show Phranc Talk. Since tonight is the first night of Hanukkah and there’s nothing more appropriate to an all-American Jew than a Hannukah celebration, that’s what she and Pickles have. Of course she plays the ukulele.
Posted by acilius on December 11, 2009
Here’s the latest installment of “Phranc Talk.” No music in this one, but dog lovers will be fascinated.
Posted by acilius on February 21, 2009
Phranc as Neil Diamond
In the news it says that there’s a big tribute to 70s crooner Neil Diamond going on tonight. That reminds me that Phranc, the all-American Jewish lesbian folk singer, did a Neil Diamond tribute act in the 90s. No word on whether she’ll be there tonight.
Posted by acilius on February 6, 2009
Here’s her latest installment of Phranc Talk, her youtube variety show. She sings about the sea, accompanying herself on the ukulele. Then she talks about seashells. Pickles squawks a lot throughout the whole thing.
Posted by acilius on December 6, 2008
Phranc earns the “all-American” part of her favorite sobriquet (“the all-American Jewish lesbian folksinger”) with this song about one of the USA’s national icons and its meaning for the past and present.
Posted by acilius on October 23, 2008
Via Counterpunch, a case that Sarah is the wrong Palin to send to Washington.
Posted by acilius on September 12, 2008