Saturday Night Gypsy Swing

Reading up a bit on the history of swing music at Wikipedia, it apparently developed out of 1920s & '30s jazz. "The name derived from its emphasis on the off-beat, or nominally weaker beat." Not being a musician, I don't really know what that means, but I have been called off-beat before, so I've got that going for me. 

Wikipedia explains the "off-beat" like this: 

In typical Western music 4/4 time, counted as "1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4...", the first beat of the bar (downbeat) is usually the strongest accent in the melody and the likeliest place for a chord change, the third is the next strongest: these are "on" beats. The second and fourth are weaker—the "off-beats". Subdivisions (like eighth notes) that fall between the pulse beats are even weaker and these, if used frequently in a rhythm, can also make it "off-beat". 

There are sound samples there if you want to hear the difference.

Anyway, the French Romani jazz musician Jean "Django" Reinhardt (1910-1953) picked this up and developed what is called gypsy jazz or gypsy swing. His band was called the Quintette du Hot Club de France, so some call his style hot club.

Here's one of his famous swing pieces.

Hillbilly Thomists

Via D29, who says I'm "the only quasi-hillbilly I know." I reckon I'm a true hillbilly: my folk have been up in Appalachia since before the Revolution, and in their family Scottish mountains since time immemorial. I call all these mountains "Cimmeria" collectively. The Vikings who sailed down to fight us stayed instead, the ones who survived the encounter. If anybody is, I guess I am.

So here's some Catholic strings.

Heighty High

This is a good song for rolling on a motorcycle. You can be high on that, no lie. At its best it’s like nothing else. 

Bin Laden's Letter to America

There is controversy over this becoming popular with many of the young, who do not remember 9/11 and have been raised to believe in such narratives. As such, it is being pulled down in many places. 

I reject censorship and embrace freedom of speech and expression from first principles, so even though Osama bin Laden was an enemy of mine and I participated in the wars of revenge against him and his for 9/11, I will reprint the entire letter below the fold. Everyone who wishes to read it and understand his perspective should do so. It is far from the worst thing that enemies should understand each other: not only does it sometimes create the possibility of peace, it is also a necessary condition for successful war. As Sun Tzu said, to be successful in a thousand battles one must know one's self, and also one's enemy.

Separately I would note that his argument in section (3) -- as to why it is justified to attack American civilians and not just American military forces -- is a part that these young people should consider. With the exception of (3)(f), those arguments all apply to the people of Gaza, who have accepted Hamas as their leaders, allegedly elected them and certainly not attempted to overthrow them, and supported them with their tax revenue. If you are one who thinks that maybe 'Osama had a point,' well, that same argument applies to the civilians now caught in the war in Israel. If you think we need a ceasefire to protect those civilians, then you are in fact rejecting Osama's model of 'resistance,' or Jihad, or whatever you'd like to call it. He calls it both.

What follows past the break is his letter. 

Confidence in Government

So today I saw this chart, which claims that Americans' confidence in government is 'far below the global average.'

You can see at the bottom that the source is the Gallup World Poll. Obviously there are a lot more dots below the line than above it, which led me to wonder how the poll was weighted. I thought perhaps it was population, as maybe big countries in terms of population counted more but only represented one dot. China doubtless expresses massive confidence in government, because otherwise you lose social credit and can't get loans or a job, so that would undermine the idea that the poll is fair.

Here are the top countries expressing high confidence in government:

1) Tanzania (!)
2) Uzbekistan (!!!)
3) Singapore
4) Bangladesh (!)
5) Mail (!)

The one they chose to label was "Finland," but the top five are -- with the exception of Singapore -- dysfunctional hellholes. In the next ten you get real governments like Switzerland and Luxembourg, but also Kazakhstan and Mozambique (most famous cultural contribution: the 'Mozambique drill,' a triple-tap shooting pattern that involves putting one in the head and two in the chest "to be sure"). 

So maybe the fact that Americans express distrust in their government should ironically be confidence-boosting: at least we're still free to say that the government stinks on ice. It does, and more so every day. At least we're still free to talk about it. 

Tolkien and the Italian Right

Anybody who has watched a few spaghetti westerns knows that Italy's take on American stories is going to be wildly different from the American one -- recognizable, but still very different. Japanese takes on American westerns (often in the guise of samurai films) are also this way. 

Now, it turns out that the Italians also have their own take on J.R.R. Tolkien. (There's a paywall, so I'll quote enough to give you the idea.)
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni quoted an unlikely source: Faramir, son of Denethor, who battled the orc hordes at Osgiliath.

“I do not love the bright sword for its sharp edge, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for its glory,” Meloni, referencing J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, told an April conference in London. “I only love that which I defend.”

Italy’s first female prime minister — and its most far right since World War II — has channeled Daenerys Targaryen from “Game of Thrones,” posing atop a smoke-spewing dragon at a 2018 comic convention in Rome. During last year’s election campaign, she briefly posted an image of herself next to an Iron Throne alongside the caption: “A mass invasion of foreigners? Not today.” Her far-right brethren from the Brothers of Italy party retreat each year to Atreyu, a summerfest named after the dragon-riding warrior in “The NeverEnding Story.”

Yet for Meloni and a horde of fantasy-loving politicians in Italy’s far right, nothing is more precious than the works of Tolkien, in whose writing they see themselves as a ragtag fellowship battling the Lidless Eye of the European left. Italy’s post-fascist far-right hosted “Hobbit Camps” for young conservatives as far back as the 1970s. In her autobiography, Meloni concedes to a lifelong adoration of Tolkien’s works, including dressing as the hobbit Samwise Gamgee with other politically aspirant youth.

Now, Meloni’s government has transformed her greatest literary passion into a massive new Tolkien exhibition at Rome’s National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art. 

"Post-fascist," eh? So, progress, then?

I have to admit that I never considered identifying myself with Samwise Gamgee, but rather with Gandalf or -- obviously -- Beorn and his son Grimbeorn. I wouldn't think that someone whose takeaway from the story was that Sam was the real hero would be much of a threat to anyone -- rather, perhaps, that they were unusually clear-eyed observers of the book. 

The opposition is not amused.

“The problem is not Tolkien or the Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit, but the fact that this is being put through a political lens and used as a tool for revenge by right-wing culture,” said Matteo Orfini, a national lawmaker from the opposition Democratic Party.

He added, “I mean, I loved the book too … when I was 15.”

That's the sort of claim to being too sophisticated for Tolkien that one often sees from people who would like to think of themselves as intellectuals, forgetting that he was himself a scholar of great depth, who wrote large parts of the Oxford English Dictionary as well as the best scholarly article ever penned on the Beowulf

It's somewhat akin to the take mocked in this parody video, in which a contemporary fantasy writer claims to be 'Rock 'N Roll" compared to Tolkien. The riposte the authors wrote for Tolkien is outstanding.

The Shepherd of the Hall

Proudly modeling his new collar.

A Reshuffling of Alliances

It's noteworthy that the present war in Israel is producing so much turmoil within nations that are not properly involved in the war at all. For example, in Russia:
Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a high-level meeting of security officials immediately following the recent anti-Israeli riots in Dagestan and elsewhere in the North Caucasus....  Perhaps more notable is what appears to be a major purge of security officials in Dagestan itself and the beginning of major preventative measures among the youth in Russia to prevent any recurrence of such actions....

Moscow is clearly trying to present itself as being on the right side of condemning anti-Semitism.... In addition, these moves clearly reflect unease in the Kremlin. There is fear that the situation in the North Caucasus and other non-Russian regions is rapidly coming to a boil.... The anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli attacks in the North Caucasus could well be followed by attacks on ethnic Russians and Russia itself, especially as the war in Ukraine grinds on, a war in which North Caucasians and non-Russians have suffered large and disproportionate losses[.]

 Also in France.

On Sunday afternoon thousands of people heeded a call from the Speakers of the two houses of parliament to show their support for French "Republican" values and their rejection of antisemitism - this in the face of a steep rise in antisemitic actions since 7 October.... For decades French politics erected a bulwark against the far right, whose views - not least on Jews - were deemed "anti-Republican". The old National Front under Marine's father Jean-Marie Le Pen was seen as beyond the pale, and it was shunned.

The far left meanwhile - the Communists, the Trotskyists and the new formations like Mr Mélenchon's LFI - were certainly attacked for their views, but they were never excluded. They were part of the broad political family, in a way that the Le Pen franchise clearly wasn't.

A few years ago, for a far-left party not to have been part of a march against antisemitism would have been unthinkable. For a far-right party to have been there instead would have been unconscionable.

Also in the UK.

To appreciate the depths of the ideological cesspit that Britain’s cops have climbed into, consider this. This week, police in Northumbria interrogated a woman, a lesbian, under caution, for tweeting that ‘trans women are men’. ‘What did you mean by this?’, the Orwellian creeps asked the lady whose only speechcrime was to state biological facts every six-year-old knows. Meanwhile, in London, the Metropolitan Police ruled that ‘no offence’ was committed by an imam at the Greenwich Islamic Centre who, 13 days after Hamas’s 7 October pogrom, preached about ‘the usurper Jews’. ‘Curse the infidels’, he said. ‘Destroy their homes.’

So in 21st-century Britain the cops will come knocking if you say people with penises are men but they’ll leave you alone if you demean Jews. They’ll drag you to a station and grill you on your separation of the letters LGB from TQ – as those tyrants in Northumbria did – but shrug if you issue curses against Jewish people. The ideological capture of our police is complete. 

Also in America (although the US has deployed thousands of troops and thus may not be considered "uninvolved").

Sympathy for Israel tends to be far higher among conservative and older voters, who remember the Holocaust, at least from their parents’ telling, and usually embrace the Judeo-Christian tradition. Contrast their attitudes with those of younger people, who are notably ignorant about history. Little wonder perhaps that voters under 34 are far more likely to support Palestinians and even Hamas over Israel than older voters.

Remarkably, it’s under a Democratic president, not some imagined white nationalist right-winger, that Jewish people in America feel threatened in ways not seen since the 1930s. Jews are finding colleges and public space in places like New York uniquely hostile. In schools, ‘anti-white’ identity politics has now been extended to justify the murder of Jews.

I note the inversion between the last sentence and the Russian concern: "The anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli attacks in the North Caucasus could well be followed by attacks on ethnic Russians and Russia itself." In the famous poem, 'first they came for the Jews,'* and Russia is worried that Russians and Russia might be somewhere down the line. Here they came for "white" Americans and America first, and the Jews are down the line. 

Wild to see Le Pen's crew wising up to that and getting themselves ahead of the problem, at least if you know the history of antisemitism in France. 

UPDATE: Related.

"We need to start making people who support Israel actually afraid to go out in public," Chambers said in a Friday Instagram post. "We need to make all of white America afraid that everything they have stolen is going to be burned to the ground. That's what makes them listen."

* In the poem socialists and trade unions were before the Jews, which is perhaps more similar to the present case here: first it was the Confederate statues. I recall a certain orange-haired President warning that they'd come after Washington and Jefferson if you let that domino fall, and everyone laughed; but they did come after Washington and Jefferson, and later the whole thing. 

Fire College

The Hazardous Materials course I attended this last four days was part of a larger 'Fire College' being held. This was a pretty impressive event, what I saw of it in breaks between class sections. Lots of different departments from all over came out to practice everything from high-rise firefighting to flammable bulk liquid firefighting, to rescue things like rope rescue rappelling or dealing with bombs and booby traps.