highwayscribery wanted to update readers as to the progress of friend and poetic collaborator Omar Torrez as he winds his way through the American heartland and Europe as Tom Waits' guitarist on the "Glitter and Doom Tour."
These excerpts and links are taken from Omar's blog on his my "My Space" page.
"The magic in the evening didn't solely belong to Waits himself, he's anchored by guitarist Omar Torrez and Vincent Henry, who played on double sax ...Torrez and Henry made the second half of the show, including Real Gone standout "Hoist That Rag," filled with Spanish guitar licks and jazz movements."
"Before I start raving about Tom Waits, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge his backup band. They were truly wonderful, and it wouldn't have been the same show without them. In particular, the guitarist and the reed man stole the show - or, at least, stole as much of the show as Waits let them have.
Omar Torrez handles a guitar like he's just releasing sounds that really want to come out - sounds that have been around longer than you or me, and which will continue to reverberate until long after we're gone. When he plays he doesn't even look like he's trying - he looks humble, unassuming and serene. His fingers are a blur and at times his sound carries the entire ensemble - and yet he manages to blend into the background as he plays. Waits couldn't have picked a better guitarist to play with him."
Also weighing in were:
"Omar Torrez, who kept his utterly delightful nastiness buried previously, started "All the World is Green" with a dextrous Spanish guitar intro. "
THE PITCH, KANSAS CITY:
"Omar Torrez, the newest member of the band, seems to have learned every guitar part from every record, and then said quietly to himself, "Fuck you, Ribot, Verlaine and especially G.E. Smith. Here's how it really goes." And his acoustic guitar work on "All the World Is Green," as the red velvet backdrop changed to blue, was its own chromatic world of wonders."
"The versatile Omar Torrez added Spanish-style guitar solos and Italian-folk mandolin runs without stepping on Waits' toes or overstaying his welcome."
EL PASO TIMES:
"New find Omar Torrez is another in a tradition of superlative guitarists to join Waits' band."
TOM WAITS FAN BLOG:
"Omar was fantastic, in my opinion. He isn't afraid to play Ribot-style and the songs are much better because he can pull it off. But he still adds his own touch and style to the overall sound. I was shocked to not see Larry Taylor behind the bass."
"The bowler hat seemed to take Tom and his unreal crack band to new heights. Tom out in front with enormous spastic energy and voice…Omar Torrez a huge standout in the band with a flamenco guitar style along with Vincent on double sax, etc. Front row, section A…I will never be the same."
"A beautiful flamenco intro by guitarist Omar Torrez led it in that, though it had little to do with the main section itself, was breathtaking enough that it didn't matter. The talented but shy guitarist of last night shone brighter today, feeling his way into bolder solos and riffs that eluded him before."
"Next up a recent live favorite among fans, Hoist That Rag off of 2004's Real Gone. Tom led it in with some hard-shook maracas, and it was the first show spot for new guitarist Omar Torrez. His off-beat solos and wildly unpredictable runs recalled old sideman Marc Ribot in the best way possible."
If the Senate's passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) had gone otherwise thanks to Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill) valiant and principled opposition, we would not be moving on quite so quickly as we are now.
Obama would be hunkering down taking on fire from FOX, and everything to the left of it (which is everything), for his softness on terror and latest manifestation as the "National Journal's" MOST LIBERAL SENATOR.
Although just one vote in 97 total, Obama's support of (p)resident Geo.w.bsh's snooping wish list rightly earned him special mention in the "New York Times," account of the tally:
"The issue put Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in a particularly precarious spot," the piece observed. "After long opposing the idea of immunity for the phone companies in the wiretapping operation, he voted for the plan on Wednesday. His reversal last month angered many of his most ardent supporters, who organized an unsuccessful drive to get him to reverse his position once again. And it came to symbolize what civil liberties saw as a 'capitulation' by Democratic leaders to pressure from the White House in an election year."
Hillary Clinton, whose political antennae are nothing if not wacky, voted against the bill.
Of course, Obama knew he could easily survive criticism on his left flank and gain from it politically.
And sure enough, he was out on the road yesterday, asserting his "progressive" credentials, while painting himself as a post-ideological guy willing to reach out, or occupy the center, on certain issues crucial to the country.
Bully for him, bad for America.
Rather than attacks from the right, what we're getting is a lot explaining from Democrats who should know better. It is easy comprehend. They have a great candidate running against a rather hapless one and nobody wants to rock the boat.
In a wonderful article, "Barack by the Books," Laura Miller of "Salon" says we could have seen this Obama in his choice of literature.
We say "wonderful" article since its subject matter fits well within highwayscribery's tagline of "Politics, Poetry, and Prose," and because it gives the candidate's cynical vote some intellectual underpinning.
That's important for a party of thinking elitists.
"If Obama is elected, he'll be one of the most literary presidents in recent memory," Miller writes, and that takes some of the sting out of his FISA vote, although it won't work forever.
She details the Illinois Democrat's heavy reading during two years at Occidental College in Los Angeles, two more at Columbia University, and, even later as a Chicago community organizer, where he lived in spartan fashion, devouring philosophy and literature.
Those readings included Toni Morrison, Herman Melville, and one of highwayscribery's favorites, E.L. Doctorow, whom the article says was also an Obama favorite until being dethroned by Shakespeare.
A big influence was Chicagoan Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals," which we are not familiar with. Miller spends some time on Alinsky whose rules were all about practicality, an acceptance of the toilet bowl politics can be, and the value of a good compromise.
She notes that groups formed on the Alinsky model, such as ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) "get things done," which is to say they give something up to get something else and sometimes get called on their backsliding or shortsightedness in the process.
"In the 1980s," Miller writes, "when Obama was organizing on Chicago's South Side, the pieties of the '60s-era leftism -- from identity politics to the idea that, provided with the right social environment, people can be rendered peaceful, industrious and altruistic -- had become kind of dogma. Alinsky's ruthless demolishing of these and other utopian illusions would have been even more bracing then than it was when "Rules for Radicals" was first published, at the height of the counterculture's idealism."
Reinhold Niebur's "Moral Man and Immoral Society," is another book Obama likes that highwayscribery hasn't read, but we can boil down Miller's paragraphs on this philosopher to the fact he was leftist, but realist, with a theo-political point of view that empowered Bushian neocons in the lead-up to "Iraq II: The Endless Occupation."
Still another tome popular with Obama is Doris Kearn Goodwin's "Team of Rivals," which depicts Abraham Lincoln as a savvy politician who kept his enemies close, made them part of his political project.
Miller suggests that Honest Abe's approach is akin to the Obama campaign's "primary selling point," and the prism through which his disappointing reversals on FISA, Iraq withdrawal, and gun control can be viewed.
"American conservatives are not fools," she falsely intones, "and while a sympathetic ear and a considered reception of their ideas may turn down the temperature in the debates between left and right, sooner or later they will require something more substantial."
"We now have a moment in time to move full force to the White House, down to the local races and get the 'D' in those slots. Sorry, I don't like Obama's stance on FISA, but I will be DAMNED if I am going to sit on my laurels over a bill that most of America not only don't know about but could give a damn about. Should it be this way? No, but I have learned that you can not win this war, but you must pick the battles that you can win. This was not one of them, in my view."
And Miller concludes that, "bipartisanship means that sometimes the other side -- those people you've come to regard as the devil incarnate over the past 30 years -- will get what they want and you won't."
Which is all well, good, and rather predictable.
highwayscribery has this to say:
If the "Yes We Can," speech will amount to more than fodder for a cool music video, if together with our candidate we really can "heal this nation" and "repair this world," then folks need to know that a bill like FISA is the wrong way to go about it.
They need to know that if compromising means giving an administration that would appear, on the merits, to be criminal in its defiance of the laws protecting us, then it is not worth it. That if bipartisanship means losing now and again, it should not have been on this issue.
highwayscribery sees no reciprocity in this compromise. The windfall profit tax on oil companies failed, the war drones on, the administration refuses to respect congressional subpoenas, and the Republican Party has broken the record for filibusters in the Senate.
Being centrist is easy as giving the other guy what he wants and Democrats don't need the White House to continue that practice. They need someone who uses his unique position to move the center and to reassert what's truly precious about our country.
After eight years of having things stuffed down our throats, the same policies are no easier to swallow coming from the new guy because he's for universal health care, is younger, or African-American.
It's still spying and its still right-wing, police-state stuff.
We will vote for and help fund Senator Obama. It's not about that. It's about seeing where the "change" is going to be and it's about divining what he's made of.
It would be change if our guy were open to hearing the opinions of those who helped get him where he is, and change his political calculation on their behalf.
It would be change were Obama to promote progressives rather than count them as a lock and less important than those who "don't care" about a bill that makes spying on them legal, if never correct.
And it would be change if people who support a candidate made demands of him based on policy rather than sitting by with the simplistic goal of beating the other team.
We've watched Republicans, who knew better, sell-off their every principle to ensure w.'s repeated victories over the hated and "un-American" liberals. Getting into the White House to behave with the same slavish passivity would be to buy a pig in poke.
John Powers of the "L.A. Weekly," who followed the Obama campaign throughout the mano-a-mano with Hillary, said in February, "I'd feel a lot better about him if he'd ever cast a courageous vote."
the highway scribe is learning how to surf this hot summer.
He’s been out on the waves eight times since April, has some kind of torn rib ligament, and actually tread the black night waters off Marina del Rey ‘neath a dome of Fourth o’ July sky fire, which, by the way, raises the minor and obvious point that we Americans really like our gunpowder.
Surfing at 47 is pretty dangerous, the scribe will admit, but it’s certainly fun and very physical and when you’re facing your third mid-life crisis since the age of twenty-five, a most worthwhile endeavor.
The allure is this: once you've placed yourself in the correct place, are lifted up by the surge, pull into a stance, and begin dropping into the wave (none of which happens easily or often), you simply are, or feel like, the coolest guy/girl in the world.
And, besides, it’s a good way to go. (How’s that for facing up?)
Some will note that there are plenty of surfers out there in their forties, fifties, and sixties even.
And that would be true, but those guys know what they’re doing
the scribe, to continue, has also read two issues of “Surfer” magazine from cover to cover, can tell you that a “Grom” is surf talk for beginning surfer, what a "rash guard" is, and certain rudimentary things about tides, waves and currents the existence of which he was only vaguely aware prior to his new passion.
This mid-life crisis can’t be nearly as fun as the one at twenty-five. That guy was nuts and is lucky to be alive. The one at 36 was the bad one and it was born of the realization teenage girls were pretty much a thing of the past.
Once you’ve accepted that, death is a cinch.
This current crisis is proof life keeps getting better, that you don’t enjoy your fun less than when you are younger: You enjoy it more because you have less of it.
If you follow.
Mid-life crisis is not a crisis at all, it’s a wake-up call to take advantage of what’s around you; a reminder that time is passing and that what is, will soon have been.
Perhaps this is cause for great depression in some people, but those people just don’t get it...dance before you lose the use of your feet.
Mid-life crisis was invented by young and not-so-young people who are afraid of life beyond 40, or 50, or whatever age it is that you’re supposed to feel old at (they keep raising the bar on it).
And don’t get the scribe wrong, all the surf excitement does not signal agreement with Dennis Hopper and his big financial company sponsor’s hooey about baby boomers “redefining” retirement.
Here’s a newsflash. The redefining’s already been done, you're not doing that redefining, and its spells NO RETIREMENT!
Nobody wants to pay for it, not your employer and not your government. When you read about the relatively new president of France and his promises to end benefits that are “too generous” that’s what he's talking about: a pension payment that permits you to stay home when you're old.
As ampm mini-marts reminds us, “You can’t have too much good stuff.”
And you can’t have too many mid-life crises; can’t have too many breaks from the grind because commitment to the grind is enough without proving how commercial cool you are by doing it forever.
You need to do some other stuff and do it before it’s too late. If you still have the option, consider it good news and don’t sit around lamenting what is past.
Mexico is like a noisy neighbor you do your best to avoid. A lot of the noise is unintelligible; in a different language.
Politicians want to build a wall to keep Mexican migrants out physically, but they might feel differently about our neighbors if language and culture were not the real barriers to that which might bridge the distance between us.
Mexican authoress Elena Poniatowska, for example, needs a translator. Barring calls from some important New York publisher seeking to enlist the scribe's bilingual talents, a brief discussion covering two of her books will have to serve as a small step toward the goal of mutual comprehension between our two cultures.
The writer was born Princess Helene Elizabeth Louise Amelie Paula Dolores Poniatowska Amor in France circa 1932. Her father was a Polish nobleman and her mother of Mexican nobility; something they must have had either prior to the revolution of 1910, or perhaps earlier, before the reforms of Benito Juarez.
She fled to Mexico during World War II and, in spite of her blue-blooded lineage, took up with the international left. This inclination comes forth loud and clear in her literature and in the columns she still pens for the progressive "La Jornada" out of Mexico City.
Her most famous work is "La Noche de Tlatelolco"; a journalistic work that recreates, through interviews and the perusal of public documents, the government's massacre of Mexican students in 1968.
Like Benito Juarez, Mexico's first indigenous president, Vallejo was an Indian from Oaxaca who grew up speaking Zapotec and had to learn Spanish along his difficult and arduous life path.
According to "The Story Page," Poniatowska interviewed the union leader extensively back in '70s and that work served as basis for "The Train Passes First."
It is a story in line with another book of hers, Tinisimaabout the actress, photographer, Soviet spy, and hospital nurse Tina Modotti in its scrupulous renderings of how rebels and militant leaders suffer at the hands of power.
Vallejo, a self-taught intellectual and telegraph worker employed with the then-national railway lines, took up cudgels against the government and the unions it was in cahoots with by forming a truly effective syndicate that delivered on bread-and-butter issues its members demanded.
So effective was Vallejo that in 1959 he paralyzed the country with a strike, forced the government's hand, and was thrown in jail for 11 years where he spent a lot of time defying brutal beatings, organizing common criminals against prison administrators, and hunger-striking.
Poniatowska opts for a shuffled narrative; later events recounted first, his odd youth as an overweight mama's boy in the tropical jungle next, followed by a strange and poignant epilogue wherein, if our Spanish is up to snuff, Vallejo/Chinas rides off (by train) into the sunset with his niece and loyal supporter Barbara, carrying his baby in her belly.
It is the story of an incorruptible public man with many private shortcomings that may ring familiar to those linked with the famous or supremely driven. He goes through women like water, his only wife leaving one day with the children never to see him again.
Very resourceful, Vallejo/Chinas manages to get himself a sultry, curvaceous women friend while in jail, but after he gets out and returns to "the fight," she tires of the routine and leaves, too.
In both books, Poniatowska spends a lot of time listing names of union members and leftist militants long-forgotten and, perhaps, known only to their contemporaries in the first place.
She seems to understand that rebels and outcasts are, well, cast out, pushed to the shadows by those who won the battles they lost and that, in writing a book, she can in some small way, recuperate them; inscribe their legacies on pages born of her own fight.
Kind to the workers movements of Mexico, "El Tren Pasa Primero" is also a loving tribute to the railroad itself. Poniatowski weaves beautiful passages that remind us that before there was a union of workers, endless meetings, and unmet demands, there was the powerful steam engine that promised escape from the mosquito-infested waterholes populated by peasants only waiting to be touched by word of that wondrous Mexico diverso.
Peasants like Vallejo.
"Tinisima," is the superior book probably because, all his nobility aside, Vallejo/Chinas can't hold a candle to Modotti in the personal story category.
A fox lady by anyone's standards, Modotti migrated with her family from Italy to San Francisco in the 20th Century's first years. Grown up fast, Tinisima went to Los Angeles and made for a fabulous flapper in silent films, made a lover of photography pioneer Edward Westin, who made a fabulous photographer out of her in turn.
Together they traveled to post-revolutionary Mexico and befriend Diego Rivera, Leon Trotsky and other politico/cultural luminaries of that scintillating (or so Poniatowska makes it seem) place and era.
A rampant seductress, Modotti met her match in a Cuban exile and communist revolutionary assassinated by government agents as they walked arm-in-arm down a Mexico City street.
Leaving everything about her sexy past behind, except for the cigarettes, Modotti became part of the 1930s international communist ferment, moved to Russia, and barely escaped the Gulag before going to Spain where she worked in a war hospital on the Republican side.
Modotti was forced to flee the advancing fascist army over the Pyrenees into France, assisting the famous Spanish poet Antonio Machado to peace and sad death on the other side.
Being a player in history can suck, but Modotti's story, especially the Spanish chapter as rendered by Poniatowska, is one of the most heart-wrenching renderings to be found in contemporary lit.
From there, with a few more dramas betwixt, Tin-EEEEE-sima winds up on a boat full of Spanish Civil War refugees denied port entry the world over. Somehow she gets to Mexico, which was very kind to Spanish expatriates, and tries to reconstruct a life, while being disillusioned by what she sees as a betrayal of the revolution's promise.
Like the many cigarettes she smoked throughout every sacrifice and adventure, Modotti, 48, extinguished quietly in the back of cab, exhausted by the life Poniatowska masterfully transmits to print.
Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Camp Pendleton Marine
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Maj. William G. Hall of Seattle, WA:
“We are forever grateful for Major William Hall’s service to this country. He answered the call to defend freedom with pride and honor — traits which define our men and women in uniform. Maria and I join all Californians in paying tribute to William’s sacrifice and offering our sincere condolences to his family and fellow Marines as they mourn his loss.”
Hall, 38, died March 30 from wounds he suffered while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq , on March 29. Hall was assigned to the 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Corps, Camp Pendleton , CA .
In honor of Maj. Hall, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.
Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Imperial Beach Soldier
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. James M. Treber, of Imperial Beach , CA :
“Sergeant James Treber was a courageous patriot who sacrificed his life to defend our nation's freedom. James’ commitment to his fellow soldiers is an inspiration to all Americans and his service will always be remembered. Maria and I offer our prayers and condolences to James’ family and friends as they mourn the loss of their loved one.”
Treber, 24, died June 29 in Khosrow-E Sofla, Afghanistan , from injuries sustained when his vehicle rolled into a canal. This incident is under investigation. Treber was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), U.S. Army, Fort Bragg , N.C.
In honor of Sgt. Treber, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.
Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Camp Pendleton Marine
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Staff Sgt. Christopher D. Strickland, of Labelle , FL :
“Staff Sergeant Christopher Strickland fought with pride, valor and an unwavering commitment to protecting the ideals that are the foundation of this country. Christopher honored America with his profound selflessness and integrity, and Californians are forever grateful for his outstanding service. Maria and I extend our deepest condolences to Christopher’s family, friends and fellow soldiers at this difficult time.”
Strickland, 25, died June 25, while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan . Strickland was assigned to 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, U.S. Marine Corps, Camp Pendleton , CA . In honor of Staff Sgt. Strickland, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.
Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Reseda Soldier Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Staff Sgt. Du Hai Tran, of Reseda, CA:
“Staff Sergeant Du Hai Tran dedicated his life to serving and protecting the people of this country. He answered the highest call of duty and his courage will forever be remembered by the people of California . Maria and I extend our prayers to Du’s family and fellow soldiers during this difficult time. ”
Tran, 30, died June 20 in Baqubah , Iraq , of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit while on patrol during combat operations. Tran was assigned to the Fires Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, United States Army, Vilseck , Germany .
In honor of Staff Sgt. Tran, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.
Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Deaths of Two Twentynine Palms Marines
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the deaths of Capt. Eric Daniel Terhune, of Lexington , KY , Lance Cpl. Andrew Francis Whitacre, of Bryant , IN :
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Captain Eric Terhune and Lance Corporal Andrew Whitacre. Both served our country bravely and their commitment to protecting their fellow soldiers, citizens and the ideals of freedom will never be forgotten. Californians will always honor their service and their sacrifice. Maria and I send our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of these American heroes.”
Terhune, 34 and Whitacre, 21, died June 19 while conducting combat operations in Farah Province, Afghanistan. They were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force , United States Marine Corps, Twentynine Palms, CA.
In honor of Capt. Terhune and Lance Cpl. Whitacre, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.
Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Twentynine Palms Sailor
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of U.S. Navy Hospitalman Dustin Kelby Burnett, of Fort Mohave , AZ :
“Hospitalman Dustin Kelby Burnett was a true patriot who fought to preserve the freedom our country was built upon. His pride, courage and ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten by the people of California . Maria and I send our thoughts and prayers to Dustin’s family and friends during this difficult time.”
Burnett, 19, died June 20 while conducting combat operations in Farah Province, Afghanistan. Burnett was assigned to First Marine Division Detachment, Twentynine Palms, CA.
In honor of Hospitalman Burnett, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.
Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Hemet Sailor
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of U.S. Navy Hospitalman Marc A. Retmier, of Hemet , CA :
“We are forever indebted to Hospitalman Marc Retmier for the extraordinary sacrifice he made to defend America . As California honors the memory of this fallen patriot, we are inspired by Marc’s courage, devotion and incredible selflessness. Maria and I join all Californians in sending our thoughts and prayers to Marc’s family and friends as they mourn his loss.”
Retmier, 19, died June 18 as a result of wounds suffered from an enemy rocket attack in northern Paktika province, Afghanistan . Retmier was assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Sharana in Afghanistan .
In honor of Hospitalman Retmier, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.
Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Escondido Soldier Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Cody R. Legg, of Escondido , CA :
“Maria and I extend our sympathies to the family of Sergeant Cody Legg, who fought with pride, honor and an unrelenting commitment to democracy. Californians are forever indebted to his service and sacrifice. Our thoughts and prayers are with Cody’s family and friends during this difficult time.”
Legg, 23, died June 4 in Tikrit, Iraq, of wounds suffered in Sharqat, Iraq, when his unit was attacked by enemy forces using small arms fire and hand grenades. Legg was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), U.S. Army, Fort Drum , NY .
In honor of Sgt. Legg, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.
Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Los Angeles Soldier
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. 1st Class David Nunez, of Los Angeles , CA :
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Sergeant First Class David Nunez, who fought with pride and honor to preserve the liberties of his fellow citizens. We will forever remember his service and sacrifice given in the name freedom. Maria and I send our thoughts and prayers to David’s family and friends as they mourn this extraordinary loss.”
Nunez, 27, died May 29 in Shewan , Afghanistan , of wounds suffered when he encountered small arms fire while conducting combat operations. Nunez was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, United States Army, Fort Bragg , NC .
In honor of Sgt. 1st Class Nunez, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.