Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Noah's great rainbow



He was a german Pope, and he went to visit Auschwitz

at the end of his visit, while his words "Where were you God, those days?" still resonated in the air, a rainbow suddenly appeared at his back

for those who believes in those things, the rainbow was in the Old Testament - kind of appropriate, since who was the greatest part of people who lost their lives in that place- the sign of God and men reconciliation.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Now thats what I call a blog

Let me introduce you... the best blog ever! an old friend of mine, so cool that he didnt tell me about his blog...

now you can find the link to his blog on my links, but i think he deserve the spotlight today so that you wont miss the wonderful stuff he post, expecially the one and only Dean!

downinthegroove.blogspot:

  • downinthegroove
  • Monday, May 29, 2006

    the cult of death

    originally published in the New York Times, sept. 2004

    still, the best article i ever read about our modern times


    September 7, 2004 New York Times

    Cult of Death
    By DAVID BROOKS


    We've been forced to witness the massacre of innocents. In New York,
    Madrid, Moscow, Tel Aviv, Baghdad and Bali, we have seen thousands of people destroyed while going about the daily activities of life.

    We've been forced to endure the massacre of children. Whether it's
    teenagers outside an Israeli disco or students in Beslan, Russia,
    we've seen kids singled out as special targets.

    We should by now have become used to the death cult that is thriving
    at the fringes of the Muslim world. This is the cult of people who are
    proud to declare, "You love life, but we love death." This is the cult
    that sent waves of defenseless children to be mowed down on the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq war, that trains kindergartners to become bombs, that fetishizes death, that sends people off joyfully to
    commit mass murder.

    This cult attaches itself to a political cause but parasitically
    strangles it. The death cult has strangled the dream of a Palestinian
    state. The suicide bombers have not brought peace to Palestine;
    they've brought reprisals. The car bombers are not pushing the U.S.
    out of Iraq; they're forcing us to stay longer. The death cult is now
    strangling the Chechen cause, and will bring not independence but
    blood.

    But that's the idea. Because the death cult is not really about the
    cause it purports to serve. It's about the sheer pleasure of killing
    and dying.

    It's about massacring people while in a state of spiritual loftiness.
    It's about experiencing the total freedom of barbarism - freedom even
    from human nature, which says, Love children, and Love life. It's
    about the joy of sadism and suicide.

    We should be used to this pathological mass movement by now. We should
    be able to talk about such things. Yet when you look at the Western
    reaction to the Beslan massacres, you see people quick to divert their
    attention away from the core horror of this act, as if to say: We
    don't want to stare into this abyss. We don't want to acknowledge
    those parts of human nature that were on display in Beslan. Something
    here, if thought about too deeply, undermines the categories we use to
    live our lives, undermines our faith in the essential goodness of
    human beings.

    Three years after Sept. 11, too many people have become experts at
    averting their eyes. If you look at the editorials and public
    pronouncements made in response to Beslan, you see that they glide
    over the perpetrators of this act and search for more conventional,
    more easily comprehensible targets for their rage.

    The Boston Globe editorial, which was typical of the American
    journalistic response, made two quick references to the barbarity of
    the terrorists, but then quickly veered off with long passages
    condemning Putin and various Russian policy errors.

    The Dutch foreign minister, Bernard Bot, speaking on behalf of the
    European Union, declared: "All countries in the world need to work
    together to prevent tragedies like this. But we also would like to
    know from the Russian authorities how this tragedy could have
    happened."

    It wasn't a tragedy. It was a carefully planned mass murder operation.
    And it wasn't Russian authorities who stuffed basketball nets with
    explosives and shot children in the back as they tried to run away.

    Whatever horrors the Russians have perpetrated upon the Chechens,
    whatever their ineptitude in responding to the attack, the essential
    nature of this act was in the act itself. It was the fact that a team
    of human beings could go into a school, live with hundreds of children
    for a few days, look them in the eyes and hear their cries, and then
    blow them up.

    Dissertations will be written about the euphemisms the media used to
    describe these murderers. They were called "separatists" and
    "hostage-takers." Three years after Sept. 11, many are still
    apparently unable to talk about this evil. They still try to
    rationalize terror. What drives the terrorists to do this? What are
    they trying to achieve?

    They're still victims of the delusion that Paul Berman diagnosed after
    Sept. 11: "It was the belief that, in the modern world, even the
    enemies of reason cannot be the enemies of reason. Even the
    unreasonable must be, in some fashion, reasonable."

    This death cult has no reason and is beyond negotiation. This is what
    makes it so frightening. This is what causes so many to engage in a
    sort of mental diversion. They don't want to confront this horror. So
    they rush off in search of more comprehensible things to hate.

    Friday, May 26, 2006

    Elvis vs Johnny

    Con Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley e Johnny Cash sono stati senza dubbio le più belle voci espresse nel campo della musica popolare nord americana del Novecento. Belle voci? Direi voci di un altro mondo. Ultraterrene. Non ci saranno mai più voci come queste e qualcuno dovrebbe chiedersi perché.
    È appena uscito su dvd il film, trasmesso recentemente dalla tv americana, "Elvis - The Early Years". È ovvio fare un paragone con "Walk The Line", il pluripremiato film dedicato a Johnny Cash.
    Il film su Elvis batte di gran lunga quello su Johnny.
    Là dove, nel caso di Cash, si è scelto di fare una agiografia basata sui cliché più ovvi e banali (il musicista maledetto, che si droga dalla mattina alla sera e ha in testa un solo pensiero - sesso sesso sesso - dimenticando che anche nel periodo peggiore della sua tossicodipendenza Cash ha prodotto album memorabili mentre nel film sembra incapace anche di prendere in mano una chitara e dimenticando del tutto l'aspetto religioso che l'ha sempre contraddistinto, e infine facendo di June Carter una santa e invece gettando palate di fango sulla prima moglie, che viceversa era sempre stata vicina al marito, andando fino in Messico per tirarlo fuori di galera, il film di Elvis è storicamente ineccepible e non ha paura di mostrare le deolezze del cantante. Tipo la dipendenza morbosa dalla mamma o la voglia di emergere ad ogni costo fino ad accettare come manager il diabolico Colonnello Parker.
    Ma soprattutto si è intelligemtemente optato di utilizzare, pe rle parti musicali, la voce originale di Elvis, evitando la ridicola prestazione vocale dell'atore Joaquin Phoenix, che assomiglia a quello di Johnny Cash così come la mia voce assomiglia a quella di Bruce Springsteen. Certe voci non si possono imitare.
    Buon ultimo, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers nei panni di Elvis è quasi scioccante, per l’incredibile somiglianza fisica, là dove Joaquin Phoenix nel ruolo di Cash era solo una imbarazzante controfigura.

    Thursday, May 25, 2006

    ROCK 'EM DEAD BABY





    The Heartbreakers: a little band that came out in the 70s, sounding like the American version of the Clash, then going through and through the American legacy of the XX century music: from the Byrds to 50s rockabilly, from pure traditional country music to the psychedelic moments, really the only band able to go through about every aspect of American music, with such ability that is no wonder that they have worked with just about every great performer, from Bob Dylan to Johnny Cash to a dozen others, something that the E Street Band never was able to do. It is no wonder that without their Boss they have done about nothing, with the exception of the fantastic piano player Prof. Roy Bittan. And, also: can you imagine the E Street Band doing something like Don’t Come Around Here No More? I guess no.

    Bob Dylan meets The Heartbreakers: yes, it was the 80s, Bob Dylan was trying almost desperately to recapture an audience, something that in a way he lost during the Gospel years, and to do that he had to fight against Rock ’n’ Roll Star #1, yes Bruce Springsteen and the bombastic Born in the USA stadium tour and everything that that means (already in 1981 Bob Dylan had had to fight with him: they both played London at the same time in that year and the press verdict was hard for Dylan: “the new rock ’n’ roll #1 is Bruce”, they said, while Bob Dylan was considered a failure..) Of course we know that the music Dylan was playing that year was fabulous, but the rising star of Bruce Springsteen surely had an effect on him. Don’t forget that at least until the beginning of the NET, Dylan was always very sensible to this kind of problem: who is Mr. #1 in the rock scene?

    This is to say that everything needs to be put in a context: the 1986 tour was clearly planned with the desperate intent to fight Bruce Springsteen in his own field. Even the Bob Dylan look in that year (which I find damn cool, as much as some of you hate it... It was clearly the look of a “rock star”..) So it is very useless to compare this particular tour with every other one, I know, but in the end, while I’m writing this, I’m listening to some songs from the concert in Hoffman Estates, Ill., June 29th, I can’t help it but I’m hearing a man that is absolutely enjoying the music, having a lot of fun and trying something new.
    Yes, in a way the arrangements of many songs are very similar to the original studio versions: listen to Ballad Of A Thin Man, you can hear the same Al Kooper organ licks (but when Mike Campbell explodes his solo that’s another level), or Positively 4th Street, so similar to the original studio 65 version, but here is a man trying to find again the meaning of many of his old songs, having fun rediscovering that original sound, and to me he is sounding completely free, like sometimes he was not when performing some of his 60s songs during the 1981 or the 84 tours. And this is because he feels that the band behind him is supporting him completely. He knows that, like The Band or the Hawks years ago, these people can play just about anything.

    Then we have, during this tour (I’m quoting Paul Williams here) in “24/26 songs every night, only 8 or 10 greatest hits, 4 or 5 songs from Empire Burlesque, 4 from 1980/1983 albums and 6 or 7 covers (!! First time ever he is trying so many covers)”: and the covers are about rediscovering his youthfulness, the days of rockabilly, or the beautiful traditional American music, or even contemporary songwriters. I mean: if this is not a man free and willing to take some risks… When I listen to Across The Borderline I can hear the same man who recorded that beautiful solo take on piano, Spanish Is The Loving Tongue, a man who doesn’t care about anything other than his joy in performing a particular song he love to sings. Or when he sings I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know with Tom Petty: ain’t it stunning to hear how gorgeous is their singing?
    I’m listening to a band that can play dirty reggae music (I and I), a band that can rock like nobody else (Rock ‘em Baby, Rock ‘em Dead) and the leader of this band is having the time of his life (yes, Bob Dylan, who is no one else, here, than a member of the gang). I can hear the beautiful male voices vs. the voices of the female singers in the long ending of License To Kill (a song, that in this tour, is completely recreated to a new life), and how can I not cry during the lonesome feeling of That Lucky Old Sun? Just gorgeous.
    And what about his inspiring speeches, during this tour, like the In The Garden intro (oh I forgot how great was this band when it was about playing gospel music…) or the Tennessee Williams speech? Hey, if this is not a completely free Bob Dylan, playing freewheeling to show there is no Bruce Springsteen that can beat him…

    To me the 1986 tour was a great moment in Dylan’s career: of course I’m more than happy that it was a moment that lasted only one year, but it is a moment that, exactly like the 66 tour, or the 75/76 tour, when I want to show somebody who Bob Dylan is as a performer, I know what I’m doing.

    I remember when rock was young

    “The idea that Bruce Springsteen has of a rock concert is a simple one: it would have to be something like Christmas, something that you wait for with anxiety, that arrives slowly, with trepidation and happiness”, the writer Joyce Millman wrote some years ago. And it is probably the perfect definition.
    The first time I saw Bruce was at that San Siro concert 18 years ago, the same one Bruce remembered the evening of the 28 june (“18 years have passed, we are both grow up... hope they have been good years for all you” he said in the monologue during Growin Up, a monologue that, during that song, lacked from 1978, and has been deeply different from those back then, giving the measure of how much Springsteen has changed).

    I was a 22 year old kid with all his dreams still together and that concert was some kind of epiphany: it was like entering with a one-way ticket (at least that's what I believed) into the promised land. Naturally the ticket contained also the return from the promised land, but I didn't know that back then. I’ve learned it in these 18 years, and now that I’m 41 and a great part of my dreams have been burned through life's reality, for three hours at least Springsteen last night gave me back the innocence and all those dreams of mine. More: he has given to me “hope, faith and love” and this time, from the promised land, I do not mean to return back.

    This is may be a small thing, but it is like Christmas day, at least. This concert told me that, also when you're in your 40's', “you gotta follow that dream wherever that dream may lead you,” how Bruce has sung in a touching and surprising Follow That Dream, played exclusively for those “crazy italians” (the second time with the E Street Band in the last fifteen years, since that July 1988 when he played that in Basel upon request of some Italians).
    I believe that for Springsteen, in fact, it is not more the time of dreams: those dreams, today, it can be translated with an ideal, that it is very different from a dream. The dream is corrupted by the lights of dawn, the ideal persists every day of life. The ideal, you can find it when you live with eyes opened to the reality. Because Bruce Springsteen is realistic, a completely realistic man: “Badlands, you gotta live it everyday”, and it is from an alive look at the reality that a record like The Rising come out, and a song like My City Of Ruins (in which a chorus of 65,000 voices it has made to turn the eyes to the same Springsteen, affected and surprised, the greatest gospel chorus that that song has ever had).

    In front of the tragedy of life, in front of the impossibility to find the way out from the badlands, you can look up and only ask that Someone come, here,, now: “C’mon! Rise up!”. And it is from this realism that an approach is born to rock’n’roll, a unique approach in the history of this music: with the possible exception of Bob Dylan, but that is another story. Springsteen is not someone who for a couple of hours forgets about life and wears the rocker's clothes (the Stones come to mind, always here in Milano, two weeks before: beautiful show, but smells of entertainment from the beginning to the end. Who believes in Brown Sugar or Sympathy For The Devil anymore? Not even Mick Jagger and Keith Richards), Springsteen believes, to the end, in all he sings, it is simply any one of us that is on stage for 3 hours.
    Is it this that explains an audience like Springsteen’s audience: impressive, stunning and the reflection of the man on stage. When you see an audience like that (some German and American spectators have said they came to San Siro not only for another Springsteen show, but to see the Italian audience) the evening of the 28 june, the impression you have is to see in action a People, not only some fans.

    Although the sound was very bad (in so far as, and only in this, the Stones that I saw here, same place, just two weeks before, beated Springsteen) and although the E Street is probably not the greatest r’n’r band in the world (but a great one anyway), it was, then, an amazing concert, a concert of which I’m proud to say that was for my daughter of nine years her first rock show: in ten years I do not know what she will be able to go to see, but this evening, I’m sure, she will always remember.
    Yes, it was just like Christmas day. And although I hate to quote these words for the millionth time, there is nothing I can do it about it. They were true 30 years ago and they are still true today, in 2003: “In an evening in which I felt the need to feel young, (Bruce Springsteen) made me feel as if I were listening to music for the first time”. That gentleman who wrote this was also on stage to play the guitar and to dance (out of time...) during Dancing In The Dark and I only allow myself to add another quote, a vow that this evening I have renewed: “We swore blood brothers against the wind, now I’m ready to grow young again”.

    It was 30 years ago today (almost)





    If my mem'ry serves me well, it was late June, 30 years ago, and now is the end of May, but hey, is one day after Bob Dylan's birthday, so I guess i'm in topic


    So i was a 13 year old kid, getting 14 in few days, that late June 1976. I wasn't a big music fan at all, tho my bros and sisters, older than me, were taking home albums all the time: I remember Neil Young's Harvest - not impressed -, Cat Stevens' Buddha and the Chocolate Box - quite impressed -, lots of italian songwriters - not impressed at all.

    I remember tho coming home from school everyday and turning the radio on: there was some radio shows with lot of music, most of those mid 70s soft rock songs, hell punk rock was happening in the UK those days but we are always late in Italy - not impressed but i was keep on keepin' on, like unconsciously looking for something to happen.

    So one night at the TV there is this music show, they are talking about someone important, it seems, then they let the video on and BLAM.. this totally unknown guy, an american guy with a black lather jack and a bunch of afro hair singing the hell out of him… guess this was what i was looking for on my radio… years later i discovered that what i was witnessed that night was Bob Dylan performance at the john hammond show, performing a 'new song', Hurricane…


    From that moment, the deal of my life was to get some records from this bob dylan guy. My bros advised me: 'beware, not everything this guy have done is good' (hey mid 70s, selfportrait was just around the corner…, probably Blood on the tracks was not a big deal here)

    Dont gave a flying duck, i knew that this song Hurricane was on a new album out from few weeks, Desire was the name, and my mission was to got the money to buy it.

    The chance came only at the end of June of that year, 1976: it was both my birthday and also i was bound to start in few months high school, a big moment for me. My parents gave me some money to celebrate, and here i'm, running to the closest supermarket where i knew the album was. It was about 2 and half dollars, thats was a new LP price 29 years ago.

    “'scusme, madam” asked to the girl at the desk, “i'd like to buy bob dylan new album”


    “mmm.. we have a few, whats the name”, she asked

    “Desire”, i said, trying to spell the name right

    “Nah we dont have that one”

    total desperation

    “how come…” (about to crying)

    “let me see again.. oh here it was, Desirée…” she spelled at la francoise.. hell .. fucking Desirée or not, here it was, and it was mine!


    to make a long story short my life changed forever from that day. I remember staying at home all the afternoons, listening endlessy to it, trying to translate each single word, (looking thorugh the dictionary the meaning of “the” as well..), soon discovering the likes of woody guthrie, joan baez, all the possibile connection to dylans (THE BYRDS!) and they opened an entire world full of promises and dreams and hopes to me, thanx to bob.

    got a bob dylan GH (the one that came out in 1967) soon after, got a book of lyrics with translations… bob dylan was all that a boy could hope for a meaning in his life, or so it seems in those days.

    Not even 3 months later the italian TV showed this dylan tv special.. it was Hard Rain, christ i still can remember the shock to see that unbelievable performance.. then a 45 came out, with a song that i still love, Rita May ( gave that 45 to a girl i was in love, lost the girl soon and the 45 as well, lesson learned, never give a record to a girlfriend…).. then the new album, a live album, of corse Hard Rain…

    How great were the days of discovering, how great was to be a kid, and how cool was Desire… and how appropriate that that particoular album was titled that way.. 'desire'.. like life should be...

    They can still rock -- but not write

    By DAVID LISTER

    I keep having this strange dream. The arts world has regressed to 1968.
    There are releases of albums by the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan. A rock musical, "Hair," is about to be staged in London. There are articles about the points it has to make about the United States engaging in a conflict abroad. I wake up and it's all true.

    Fair enough. I am certainly not one of those who says that '60s icons should retire to a home for rock gentlefolk. There's nothing more boring and fatuous than adding up the ages of the Rolling Stones. If they can attract hundreds of thousands to rock concerts and give exhilarating shows then let them keep going. McCartney and Dylan also continue to give memorable concerts. It is not the live performance aspect that is a problem.

    The curiosity is that the '60s icons have lost some of their gift for
    songwriting. As The Independent's rock critic pointed out in his review,
    McCartney's album has hardly any tunes and forgettable lyrics. The Stones' album is cheered, only because it is of a reasonable standard, but no one can name a single song from it. Dylan's gets raves, but then it is an album of bootleg recordings from the '60s.

    The truth is that the aging process in rock stars does not particularly
    affect live performance, even though that is what is always wrongly seized upon. But, more than in any other art form, it does seem to affect the writing and composition. Dylan's recent albums have been worthy with the very occasional standout track. But how amazed would the world be if "Mr. Tambourine Man" or "Like a Rolling Stone" were released now. They are from a different planet. McCartney has written nothing remotely comparable to "Penny Lane" or "Eleanor Rigby" for decades.

    But why can't it happen? These are the same people with the same talent.

    I put the point to Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of The Who when I met them awhile back. Daltrey seemed to agree, saying Townshend could yet be the great chronicler of middle-age angst. We shall see if that is the case when their new album is released shortly. Townshend told me the great pop songs of the '60s relied a lot on "youthful energy." Somehow, that's not quite good enough as an explanation. Verdi retained his talent for composition long after the youthful energy had worn off; Arthur Miller's later plays never quite matched his great early period, but always repaid study;
    choreographers and film directors as often as not improve with age.

    It is in pop and rock that things seem to take a wrong turn with the onset of middle age. Elton John's last album was something of a return to form. He said he had had a long think and admitted to himself that nothing he had done in the past 30 years or so had matched the songs of his vintage period of 1970-76. It was a painful admission to have to make to himself, but it meant that he made an extra effort with the new one.

    Perhaps, before their next albums, McCartney, Jagger and Dylan should listen to one of their vintage works and not only try to match it but also try to work out why rock composers lose their way. I don't know the answer either.
    But this slightly eerie echo of the '60s provides evidence that rock
    composers lose it at far too young an age.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    David Lister writes for The Independent in Britain.