Friday, March 6, 2009

One more thought on Bobby Jindal

There is one thing I never hear discussed about a particular passage Bobby Jindal's speech responding to President Obama's joint Congressional address last week that has been bothering me. The principal theme of the speech was that "Americans can do anything", but the federal government cannot, is inept, is incompetent, or should generally "get out of our way," etc. Bill Maher tonight made the point that this is a false dichotomy, that we (Americans) are the government. Without the government building roads, bridges, electrical grids, enacting sensible regulations to keep us safe etc., none of what "we" accomplish is impossible.

But the specific thing that jumped out at me was the passage near the end of the speech, when Jindal cites a laundry list of what "we" Americans have accomplished:

"Don't let anyone tell you that America's best days are behind her. This is the nation that cast off the scourge of slavery, overcame the Great Depression, prevailed in two World Wars, won the struggle for civil rights, defeated the Soviet menace, and responded with determined courage to the attacks of September 11, 2001. "

In every example he cites, the a federal government was, by far, the principle actor, if not in some cases almost the exclusive actor (and certainly the dominant one). So how can someone get away with railing against the federal government holding "us" back, saying "Americans" can achieve anything, then cite as evidence only federal government-led actions. I guess you can make the point that there was significant non-governmental activity in some or most of those achievements (the private actions of Martin Luther King's non-violent protest campaign), but anyone who has had remedial civics (let alone a state governor and former Congressman) should know by heart the role federal government played in all of these things.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Monday was a Fun-day

After a long day at work, I stopped by the Broadway Oyster Bar before heading home. The Voodoo drummer, Kirk Gryce, is the Soulard Blues Band's drummer, and Kirk and SBB hold forth every Monday night at the BOB. I don't know if it is officially a jam session but they treat it as such, at least with folks they know. I wanted to show support for Kirk--Mondays are generally a tough slog after Sundays at Hammerstones--Kirk never mentions it, but you can tell he truly likes when his buddies show up.

A lot of familiar faces were there--Jimmy Stevens, a great alto player, and as well as the Voodoo's own Raul. The Soulard Blues Band's personnel has shifted over the years, but now is pretty regularly Kirk, Art Dwyer on bass and Tom Maloney on guitar, with another rotating player. I thought Matt Murdick (keyboard) was going to be there (that's what Kirk thought Sunday), but Matt apparently couldn't make it, so they called in trumpet player Brian "Big B" Casserly.

And boy what a treat. Brian used to be a mainstay of the SBB, but has developed his own career, principally with a group called Cornet Chop Suey, as well as the Big Bamou. He is a wonderful singer and an incredible trumpet player. He has got that style down pat. And they were inside (not on the roofed over patio), which meant it was a mellower sound. Brian plays a wonderful Selmer trumpet, with a big, buttery sound. He is the best blues trumpet player in town in my book. Jim's comment to me after a particularly memorable solo: "He doesn't suck." (If you haven't, go out and hear Brian some time.)

I was reluctant to sit in, but the fellas were having none of it. I'd never played with Brian, and he'd never heard me play before. At most we'd had a few quick conversations and I'd mentioned I was a trumpet player too--and he gave me that look ("Oh, isn't that niiice")--I don't say it with any mean-spirited-ness toward Brian (I've given that look many a time too, and I can spot it a mile away--hey I would've given me the same look!). It was nice, no blasting away, but some very fun ensemble playing. I felt good in that I played a couple of tunes then made it clear I'd had fun and was skedaddling off the stage and Brian said very gently but sincerely, "Where you going, man? Stay up here until you have to go." (Didn't hurt that it was a small crowd--felt like we were all just playing for our mutual pleasure.) Trumpet players don't often "play nice" with each other, but this was a true exception. I popped off some serviceable solos (and even some good ones) and was enjoying watching Brian work his magic (and learning--I was glued to those fingerings up close and I'll be copying some of those licks come Sunday). John Wolfe stopped in with his new E flat alto trombone and it was just a gas, especially when Raul also came up.

Fun playing with friends.