Archive for November, 2004

Happy Birthday to Me!

Saturday, November 20th, 2004

The big 21… I went to Albertson’s to buy something to wet my whistle and didn’t even get carded! Totally…. anticlimactic.


Monday, November 15th, 2004

Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! support our troops! SUPPORT our TROOPS! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! support our troops! SUPPORT our TROOPS! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! support our troops! SUPPORT our TROOPS! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! support our troops! SUPPORT our TROOPS! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! support our troops! SUPPORT our TROOPS! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! support our troops! SUPPORT our TROOPS! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! Support our troops! support our troops! SUPPORT our TROOPS! Support our troops! Support our troops! (Repeat ad infintium).

The Flogging Molly Paper

Saturday, November 6th, 2004

[Keep in mind that while I had lots of fun writing this paper, it still has lots of academic windbaggery. Also, I had to integrate texts from other readings we’ve done into the paper, so if you don’t know what No Telephone to Heaven Is, don’t blame yourself.]

Flogging Molly is at the forefront of a new niche in punk rock music: the Irish punk band. In the tradition of the Pogues, Flogging Molly combines traditional Irish music with the more contemporary sounds of rock ‘n roll. The band takes this fusion one step further than the Pogues, however, because their songs typically incorporate the madcap, four-on-the-floor rhythm and energy of punk rock. It is fitting, then, that on their newest album, Within a Mile of Home, there is a song about the Caribbean, called ‘Tobacco Island.’ Like the plantation slaves who melded the music of their homelands with that of their white oppressors (which would eventually become rock ‘n roll), Flogging Molly’s song does something similarly subversive: it combines punk rock, a creation of Ireland’s former oppressors, and its own traditional songs. Through the mixing of genres, the song subverts. ‘Tobacco Island’ similarly undermines this oppression through its lyrics. The song transforms a kidnapped Irish slave into one of the African slaves, throwing into question the notion that skin color makes one the slave and another the master.

Traditionally, songs about the Caribbean have been about the surf, the sun, and the sand. Probably the ultimate example of this trend is ‘Kokomo’ by the Beach Boys: the song is plea from one lover to another to come to the sunny islands of the Caribbean. ‘Tobacco Island’ throws this convention out the window. Instead of treating its island, Barbados, as a tropical paradise, the song addresses the slaughter and destitution of slave life, drawing parallels between the African slaves and the oppressed Irish people. The song’s speaker is an Irishman sold into slavery, and he makes no mistakes about where he is going in the song’s chorus: “All to hell we must sail / For the Shores of sweet Barbados / Where the sugar cane grows taller / Than the god we once believed in.” These initial lines set up the parallels between the Irish people and the African slaves by leaving little room for misinterpretation about where the speaker is going (and his displeasure at the thought) while simultaneously leaving open to interpretation the origin of the speaker. The first four lines give no hint as to who the speaker is; he is merely another passenger on a slave ship and could be of either race. The speaker, if he is an Irishman, has lost his faith in God; if he is an African, then he will eventually lose the religion and culture of his homeland.

The first verse draws parallels between the invasion of an African village by slavers and the massacre at Drogheda, Ireland in 1649. Oliver Cromwell was sent to Ireland to quell Catholic uprisings, and Drogheda stands out as his campaign’s most shameful moment. Although Cromwell had instructed his soldiers to hold their fire, negotiations broke down and they stormed the city. Almost every person in the city was killed, including women and children. There were about thirty survivors who were rounded up and sold into slavery in Barbados. Although this verse specifically mentions Cromwell, if we disregard these lines then we can see the connection already established between the Irish speaker and his fellow slaves on Barbados. He speaks of how he and his brethren were “Blackened from the sun,” becoming similar in appearance to the African slaves who toiled alongside him. Seeing no hope for rescue, the speaker proclaims, “This rotten cage of Bridgetown / Is where I now belong.” The speaker becomes a nomad, a recurring theme in the Caribbean literature we’ve read: Clare from No Telephone to Heaven feels the same way, as does the speaker in ‘Wherever I Hang.’

Another repetition of the chorus follows, creating a transition between the Irish and African people on the island. The second verse of ‘Tobacco Island’ could come from either a slave from Barbados or one of the banished Irishmen. It is filled with imagery of suffering and torture, of blisters and blood and “floggings… aplenty.” The speaker laments the fact that he was ‘”Paid for with ten shillings.” Slavery dehumanizes all by putting a price on each slave’s head, regardless of race. Master and slave alike are dehumanized by this transaction. As in the chorus, it is difficult to tell who this speaker is, and this ambiguity reinforces the idea of combination, of intermixing culture. The final lines provide additional insight into this theme of hybridity. After a day working in the fields, the Irish and African slaves join under the moon, ‘together danc[ing] as one.’ The two peoples may have been different in their home nations, but slavery has united them, both as the merchandise they have become and through their resistance through song and dance. The idea of musical resistance is a theme repeated throughout the texts in our course, from the singing mob at Leopold’s arrest in Sugar Cane Alley to Christophine’s singing to protect Antoinette in Wide Sargasso Sea. Another theme that recurs in the literature we’ve read in our course is hybridity. The Irishmen and Africans in the song become two of one, like Harry/Harriet in No Telephone to Heaven or Antoinette in Wide Sargasso Sea. They belong nowhere, and it is this feeling of homelessness that unites them.

The song’s bridge reduces the suffering of the slaves of both races to its simplest terms. “Agony, will you cleanse this misery?” the speaker asks, lamenting that “it’s never again I’ll breathe the air of home.” The African and Irish slaves have been unified, and this is their final resistance. Skin color was all that separated slavers and slaves, and since white men too are slaves, the question as to why some people are slaves and others are not arises. This hybridity sews the seeds of doubt, and this can be viewed as an act of defiance on the part of the slaves. If there are white slaves as well as black, what is keeping somebody from making the masters into slaves themselves?

Interestingly, at the Flogging Molly concert I attended in Spokane a few weeks ago, the band’s singer, Dave King, dedicated this song to Walter Cromwell himself. This dedication added another ‘layer’ of resistance; by facetiously dedicating his song to the song’s villain, King pointed out the fact that he and his people were still around and free. He was able to both write the song and sarcastically dedicate it to Cromwell, who King was free to denounce. When the crowd around me proceeded to boo Cromwell, King told them not to. “Don’t worry,” he said, “the bastard’s dead!” The ultimate resistance comes from what the slaves created: the hybridity in song and unity of race, despite initial differences in skin color. While the slavers could only tear apart and destroy, the slaves managed to create: they melded and assimilated, despite their masters’ best efforts. The slave songs and musical cross-pollination survive to this day, and the traditions of the slavers do not — there is no such thing as a ‘slaver song.’ As the African slaves prevailed through their music and their open nature, so too did the Irish.

Answer Me This

Saturday, November 6th, 2004

Current Listening: Warren Zevon – “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (The Wind)

Mama take this badge off of me / I don’t need it anymore / It’s getting dark, too dark to see / Feels like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door / Knock knock knockin’ on heaven’s door

If our voting systems are so safe, despite the fact that Diebold’s CEO told Bush that he’s committed to delivering him votes in Ohio, then why don’t our officials soothe our fears and suspicions and give us proof of how secure and reliable this voting system is?

Just let us know. That’s all you have to do.

Hope For Tomorrow?

Thursday, November 4th, 2004

Current Listening: CCR – “Fortunate Son” (Chronicle)

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand, / Lord, don’t they help themselves, oh. / But when the taxman come to the door, / Lord, the house look a like a rummage sale,

Okay, so the votes are counted, and Bush won. For better or worse, we’re looking at another four years of Republican control. Since several Supreme Court justices are to retire sometime during Bush’s second term, there is a very real possibility that conservatives will control all three branches of US Government. This is a scary thought. But could it have a happy ending?

Take my state, Montana, as an example. Montana actually has one of the most progressive constitutions in the US, and for a long time was a left-leaning state. Then, something started happening. The economy started going downhill; Republicans started blaming the Democrats, and all of a sudden conservatives controlled all of Montana’s government.

That’s the way it’s stood for about a quarter-century. Our economy has been sliding into the crapper ever since. Businesses have been leaving, and we’ve been attacking the environment frequently. Things were beginning to look quite dark to some of us Montanans. Why are people consistently voting for Republicans when they’ve made the mess worse, we were asking ourselves. There weren’t easy answers. All we knew is that Montana was heavily leaning toward the right, and the poor Democrats couldn’t do anything right. I fact, they looked like everything, trying all sorts of tricks to regain control.

Then, Judy Martz was elected governor (governess?). And boy, did she screw up. If there’s any politician who could possibly be a challenger to George the Younger’s claim to Biggest Idiot in Office, it would be her. She kowtowed to corporations. She proclaimed herself the ‘lapdog of industry.’ She was an accessory to a vehicular homicide when she washed the defendant’s bloody clothes. And the people hated her. Not just the Democrats, who’ve been programmed from their teens to hate the other team. Everybody.

And she was enough to get the Republicans out of office. This election, we voted in a Democratic governor, state attorney, and one of our houses switched control to the Democrats. For the first time in some two decades, our government was balanced again. All because of an idiot politician, elected because of her party’s sway.

So, maybe Montana is ahead of the curve. Maybe Americans will see that, while George Bush is likeable, he and his ilk are not the best choice to lead America. Maybe Montana is a kind of oracle for the rest of the country.

Something to think about.


Thursday, November 4th, 2004

You perverts deem her a virgin vision of

stroking. I see not the value

of the pen-stroke, the prick-stroke.

Tongue wagging, drool-sprayed hands

grope for her, but she resists.

The beauty there is lost

in the grunts and pants

about the ankles of chest-thumpers

grasping in vain for a feel on the page.

Tender flesh, the picture, cannot be felt

or change through the screen of paper.

But lasciviously you persist: a reproduction

borne of hedonism, not love.

My — what a beauty she was.

Form — flawless. Heart — golden. Prose — beautiful.

Still. But now she reposes on a

wrinkled page, yellowed with age and sweat and your strain,

(your stain), genesis of spilled seed.

You holf her aloft only to size her up,

a self-serving firehose of recycled sputum

directed at her. Sticky soak-rags pale

next to the pale skin provoking the stroke, the coax.

The rag rests in the trashcan,

the other secreted away for another go-round,

chaste against the deepest probles of your thrusting

pen. Is it repoduction? Yes and no.

Facsimile, a child scribbling, masturbation,

you bastard, you pseudofucker,

you scholar.

The Homework… She Never Ends!

Thursday, November 4th, 2004

Current Listening: Tom Waits – “Calliope” (Blood Money)


Just finished reading The Return. It’s about the fifth book about genocide that I’ve read this semester. Now I have to write a one-page response. Three-page paper on Flogging Molly due Friday. Philosophy paper due Friday, too.

Weekend? Paaaart-aaay.

I’m glad I have something to think about besides politics.


Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004

Current Listening: Social Distortion – “Cold Feelings” (Somewhere Between Heaven & Hell)

Yeah I got faith / But sometimes fear it just weighs too much I don’t want to feel / Cold winds blowin’ through me with an icy touch.

Please, vote. If you’re thinking about voting for Bush, consider the debacle in Iraq, the amassing national debt, his war against science and the environment, and the fact that he claims Osama Bin Laden isn’t a threat anymore. * Shudder*