October 24, 2009

Unclear On The Concept

Our local upscale supermarket is having a weekend "Buy Local" promotion with all sorts of stalls and counters outside in the parking lot. Right in the middle there's a stall selling some sort of organic drink with a whole bunch of claims about how it helps the body; bang in the middle of the other signs there's one saying "Made In New Zealand!!".

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October 20, 2009

East vs West

Watching the excellent Whitehouse-hosted "Fiesta Latina" on TV the other evening, I'm struck by just how Mexican my Latino music experience is compared to the more usual conception of "Latino" in this country (and especially Back East). Say "Latino" and I suspect most Americans think Cuban or Puerto Rican music translated through New York or Miami (Gloria Estefan, Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, Ruben Blades, Papa Yankee, etc., or Hector Lavoe, Willie Colon, or the Afro-Cubans if they're older), but around here it's more likely Flaco Jimenez or Los Tigres or even Selena. You can't walk far in my neighbourhood without hearing Norteno or Tejano or Conjunto leaking from the bars and shops, or a burst of Mexican pop, or Mariachi in front of St Elizabeth's. Country vs. Jazz, in so many words.

(The program's high-profile music director was actually famously-local Oaklander (born-and-bred) Sheila E. (daughter of Pete Escovedo), which makes the disconnect a little more pronounced).

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October 13, 2009

Don't Rain On My Parade

Today, another early first rain. At least this time it tries to be convincing, but it's never rain enough to match the media hype, the scrolling "Stormwatch!" crawls on the TV newscasts, and the breathless live news reports of sundry battening-down and sandbagging across the region after the long dry season. But at least it did rain, and while (as always) there was no "storm" in any sense recognisable outside coastal California usage, there was a bit of wind and low cloud with the rain, and the puddles were fun to walk through. In my experience early first rains tend to presage a dry wet season; we've had three or four dry seasons in a row, and if I have to go through another rainless wet season with people cheerily commenting on the "beautiful weather" again, I think I'll scream. Water crisis? What water crisis?

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October 10, 2009

Mystical Maths

In Moe's this morning I buy a copy of Alain Badiou's "Number and Numbers", and present it to the clerk, a guy who's sold books to me here for years.

Him: "Ah, Badiou! Man of the moment!"
Me: "But I bet you thought you'd never sell any copies of this book…".
Him: "It's Berkeley. Someone's going to buy a copy eventually…"
Me: "Yeah, that someone's me, I guess. I just love reading stuff like this to see what happens when philosophers try to take on math; it's nearly always some sort of semi-mystical train wreck."
Him: "Ha! A friend of mine used to read Badiou — and Deleuze and Derrida and all those guys — a lot, but he was always high, and he never stopped giggling and chuckling his way through it all. Made me kinda wonder what was in those books."
Me: "Yeah. Treating it as a species of entertainment is probably the best way to cope."

I'm hopeful of a little bit more than entertainment, though: there's evidence in a quick flip through the book that Badiou's not just interested in waving his hands ostentatiously in front of the usual mathematically-ignorant philosophy types. We shall see….

Later, in the supermarket, with some typically overheated Dylan song supplying a smooth soundtrack, the (huge) woman behind the deli counter has a (huge) black and white badge on her chest that says "God is good — all the time!". Somewhere out there, God's rolling in his grave.

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