I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
-Bertrand Russell

What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell

July 14, 2012 - 7:48 p.m.

100 Years of Woody

I'm writing late today. That's partly because I didn't get enough sleep last night, the main culprit for that was very bad leg cramps. I had to draw a hot bath in the middle of the night. Now I've been sleepy all day.

I didn't do much during the day yesterday than do some shopping. Last night I went out. It was the first Friday of the month so I went to Bev and Carolann's First Friday series at the Two Moon Caf. I love that it's a venue I can walk to. I don't even save that much time over taking the subway, it's only a stop away. Bev was joined by Ina May Wool her partner in Wool & Grant. The special guest was Honor Finnegan. So here's the thing. I just wrote about Bev & Grant and Carolann last month. I've written about Honor a ton including On Your Radar. I'm at least temporarily out of things to day about them. The First Friday shows have the feel of going over to a friend's house and hanging out. It's small, it's intimate, and even though I didn't know everybody I think I was no more than two degrees of separation. My friends in the audience were Fred, Aviv, and Piper. Piper's parents were there too. I love that I her father and I just jumped into having a conversation immediately. It pretty much felt like I didn't go out but it in a good way.

I took the subway home because I went with Carl, Honor's husband. Of course I only went one stop. The air felt like soup so I didn't mind being in the air conditioned car.

I vegetated today and just remembered that I was supposed to go to home depot to buy a pipe wrench. Oh well I'll pick it up tomorrow.

Today's fun was playing on turntable.fm with Carey. I told Carey my idea, the most brilliant idea in the history of the universe. I can't tell you what it is. You'll steal it from me, or have me committed, or simply lose all respect for me. But Carey knows it's the greatest idea ever.

Today is Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday. Happy birthday Woody! WFUV did plan some events for it and I want to discuss what they did yesterday.

The Question of the Day was "All Things Woody Guthrie" Here is what I wrote in:

I usually object to songs by an artist QotD but Woody is different. He doesn't get near the airplay he deserves. When you talk about Roots you are talking about Woody. Part of me says just play every recording you have of his; every version of every song. If he's not the greatest American Songwriter he's damn close. Devote the entire day to him. but I guess I have to pick some songs. I was thinking of suggesting some covers and modern collaborations but as this is the only time we'll get to hear Woody I want to hear Woody himself.

I'll go for a sampling of topics. Song followed by album if I know it. They are all on multiple albums.

"Do Re Mi" - "Dust Bowl Ballads" - A song of the Oakies
"1913 Massacre" - Struggle - Union Song
"Sinking of the Reuben James" - The Asch Recordings Vol. 1 - WWII Song
"Hobo's Lullaby" - He didn't write it but it was his favorite song.
"New York Town (My Town) - The Asch Recordings Vol. 2
"This Land" - This should be our National Anthem.

Please don't play the covers that get regular air play and for the love of god NOT the Sharon Jones version of "This Land."

"Do Re Me" was the first song played. That was good. After that what I was afraid of happened. All the other songs were covers. On the day they were honoring Woody it was the only song sung by Woody. Can you imagine if they were honoring Dylan or Springsteen or the Beatles and all they played was covered? And it isn't as if they did that because they play Woody Guthrie all the time. The only one at the station that ever plays him is Bob Sherman and his show is called "Woody's Children." It's only an hour a week and Bob tries to play new music so he doesn't actually play that many of Woody singing.

I looked at the Question of the Day group and the WFUV blog and I am the only one that suggested an actual recording of Woody Guthrie. The WFUV audience is apparently totally ignorant of him. I bet they think of him as somebody that the songwriters they know collaborate with. They might know he's dead. But they don't appreciate his place at the summit of American music.

I didn't buy my first album to college. But I then started making up for lost time. I bought new albums, made my way back to the 60s and then realized that the music went back well before then and I did research. I went back to the roots. I discovered Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, and the Weavers. I spent hours at the Lincoln Center record library listening to the pioneers of the blues, and jazz, W.C. Handy, Jellyroll Morton, and the rest. I listened to the giants of the 50s and 60s Greenwich Village folk scene. And of course the Anthology of American Folk Music.

That's what I expect a public station to do for its listeners. Do the research and expose them to what's important. That's exactly what WFUV isn't doing. It's abdicating that responsibility. It's saving the bulk of the Woody Guthrie material for the weekend which has a different audience than during the week, a much smaller audience. It is also the audience of people that are already in the know. The ones that least need to be educated. The difference between a public and a commercial station should be that commercial stations play what people know they want to hear. A public station should be more ambitious and teach people to expand their horizons. The public station listener should want their horizons expanded.

WFUV did have one great piece of programming, a radio documentary on Woody largely put together by Jeremy! He's one of the engineers, a devotee of traditional folk, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger. He took off his engineer's hat and interviewed Pete Seeger. There's no one at the station more suited for that than Jeremy.

I don't know what you're doing today but take the time and listen to not one but at least two songs sung by Woody Guthrie. Not only that but "This Land" can't be one of them. His Centennial only comes once every hundred years. You can afford to take the time. I promise it won't be painful. It won't be a chore. It will be a joy. Tell you want I'll start you out with one here.

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Horvendile July 14, 2012
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