Saturday, December 12, 2020

Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell, one of the true living legends.  BIOGRAPHY has an article on Joni Mitchell's BLUE.  It's interesting but I expect a lot more from something credited to "BIOGRAPHY."  I expect facts, for example.  Joni was in Malta in 1970, she wrote Carey based on the man she met there (Carey Raditz).  But to read BIOGRAPHY it was "Europe" in the sixties.  Malta isn't Europe and 1970 is the "sixties."  Meanwhile, Daniel Levetin (NEW STATESMAN) interviews her:

DL You seem to be working all the time. At one point about 16 years ago, when you were 61, you were working on a ballet, preparing a new set of multimedia art about war, and recording an album. And your involvement in all of these was intense. You had a hand in the choreography and stage design for the ballet, you got involved in the lighting and staging at the art gallery. You played me one song several times over a six month period and you still weren’t finished – you kept tinkering with it to get it right.

JM The problem is that most people in the business of bringing art to the public, the people who exploit artists, lack imagination. And they just want to do what’s worked for them in the past. If I’m not involved, it won’t get done right. And it’s my work. I know what I want and I’m not afraid to stand up for the work. People misinterpret this. They think that I have an inflated sense of ego, that I’m saying I’m smarter or better than they are. I’m not standing up for myself, I’m standing up for the work, being its advocate and caretaker. And with the songs, well yes. It’s always like peeling back the layers of the onion. I keep peeling and peeling until I get to the real truth, the real core of what I’m trying to say.

People misinterpret my lyrics, they project them on to me as autobiographical, psychological revelations. But they’re not. I’m really the playwright and the actress. The songs aren’t about me. I’m writing and singing in the first person, but they’re not all about me. I’m giving voice to a character, to a set of feelings. And to explore that character and those feelings, just like a playwright, I need to keep at it, keep working at it until I know it’s right. Sometimes that means revising the music, sometimes the lyrics, sometimes the presentation, the mixes, the whole thing.


DL Donald Fagen said that he and Walter [Becker, his co-writer in Steely Dan] never talk to journalists or anyone else about what the songs mean or where they come from. They’re just there for everyone to bring their own interpretation to them, and they want to keep it that way.

JM I don’t know if he really feels that way or is just trying to be obscure or provocative. I bet he doesn’t really feel that way. My songs are about very specific things and people often get them wrong. Like you did with “Amelia”.


DL To me, the narrator was singing about a lover, with whom she is realising she is really not in love – the “false alarm”. So many of us can identify with that – thinking you’re in love and then realising you’re not. And the metaphor for all this – an alarm – is so apt, because love does feel like bells going off, fire alarms, sirens… It’s as though the character is saying, “Those bells that were going off in my heart were wrong, this isn’t love.” In my defence, David Crosby and, well, just about everyone I know, understood it that way.

JM Just because it’s common doesn’t make it correct! Look. The false alarm was the end of a relationship. We were both Scorpios and, you know, we cling to things. We couldn’t let each other go. It was done, but we couldn’t let go. We felt we belonged to each other. That whole relationship was winding down and I was driving solo without a driver’s licence across the country. I thought of Amelia Earhart and her solo flight. I can’t remember how many hotel rooms later the song was complete.

[See also: Yungblud’s Weird!: bland, indistinct pop-rock]

DL That is a thread I see in your life – you keep working at something until you’re happy with it, never mind that someone else might be happy with less.

JM Well, I’m not writing or painting or doing any of the things I do to please other people. I don’t know what they’re going to like or not like. My spirit guide reminds me I am not in their heads. I have to be satisfied with it. And I’m harder on myself than anyone. I didn’t write for years because every time I started to write, I gave myself a block. I’d go “been there, done that” or “I don’t want to write social commentary” or “I don’t want to do this” – and finally I just got so angry at this routine that I had to use my old catharsis method. I had to get it out, but I wouldn’t want to put out just raw anger.

Some might say, “Ooh, how powerful!” but it doesn’t do any good. So in the process of tempering, tampering, tinkering with it, you learn; you educate yourself. Working through your crap, trying to make it suitable and subtle. It’s not that you whitewash it, but it’s like you look for the magic mushroom in the turd. Or something like that that’s useful. You try to find the transcendental point of your own mishegas [craziness] so to speak. What are you working on these days? 

FAR OUT's Joe Taysom writes of Joni's issues with Madonna:

Mitchell would let slip about her uncomplimentary opinion on the pop star in 1991 whilst in conversation with Rolling Stone. The topic turned to how Mitchell had never been widely perceived as being a feminist hero, despite everything she had achieved in her wildly pioneering career. The reason why the conversation turned to this topic was due to Bob Dylan who had previously made a remark about his disdain for watching women using sex to sell themselves on stage. Dylan then went on to pay a backhanded compliment to Mitchell, by noting how she was more like a man in the sense that the quality of her songs was her selling point.

“The thing is, I came into the business quite feminine,” Mitchell declared. “But nobody has had so many battles to wage as me. I had to stand up for my own artistic rights. And it’s probably good for my art ultimately. I remember early in my career somebody wrote that my work was ‘effeminate,’ which I thought was pretty odd. So over the years, I think I’ve gotten more androgynous — and maybe become an honorary male, according to Bobby.”

She then expanded on why she controversially agreed with the sentiment of Dylan’s comment: “Music has become burlesque over the last few years — video’s done that. Every generation has to be more shocking than the last. But at a certain point, you’ve got to reel it in because decadence ultimately isn’t that hip. Our country is going down the tubes from it. It’s rotten to the core. And I think women can be more than decorative.”

Mitchell then brought Madonna into the conversation, damningly stating: “Yet someone like Madonna can be seen as a feminist hero because she’s exploiting her own sexuality rather than being exploited by some man. That’s an interesting idea, but what’s the difference between her and a hard hooker, you know? Who’s being exploited there? She’s revelling in herself, too. But she can take it. I guess that’s what it is. It’s just being able to take it, you know.

“She’s got that whore-Madonna thing built-in [laughs]. She’s like a living Barbie doll but a little bit on the blue side. There’s always been that type of female. There’s always been a market for it, but the danger is that she thinks she’s a role model. And it’s a terrible role model. It’s death to all things real.”

Madonna? I think her career is over and has been for nearly two decades now.  She was a hit maker and in the 80s no one could touch her.  She didn't produce art, she produced hits.  Songs like "Holiday," "Dress You Up," "Into The Groove," "Lucky Star," "Material Girl," "Like A Prayer," "Like A Virgin," "Cherish," "Express Yourself," "Angel," "La Isla Bonita," "True Blue," "Crazy On You" . . .

Then she hit a wall.  She seemed to recover every now and then. The 90s saw "Justify My Love," "Rain," "The Power of Goodbye," "Ray of Light" and "Beautiful Stranger."  Those were great pieces of pop candy.  Sadly, that's only five singles and she released 29 that decade.  In the '00s, there was "Music" and that's really about it.  I mean, toss in "Die Another Day," if you want.  Even so, she released twenty songs and that's just two. ("Music" was her only number one.  She had three other singles -- counting "Die Another Day" -- that made the top ten.)  In the '10s, she had 11 singles and only one made it into the top ten. 

Joni made art.  Madonna made candy.  I like candy.  But Madonna's good candy ceased some time ago.  

If you're not getting it, Madonna's released five live albums -- not one of them even went gold in the US.  She's a candy maker, she's not an artist.  No one wants to pay money to hear her sing live.  

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

 Friday, Decemeber 11, 2020.  Protests continue in Iraq while the Pope notes the continued violence and the refugees.

Starting with Pope Francis.

He says of Iraq and Syria in the video above:

My thoughts go notably to the people who had to leave their homes to escape the horrors of war, in search of a better life.  We must work to ensure that the Christian presence in these lands continues to be what it has always been: a sign of peace, progress, development, and reconciliation between peoples

Here's a video segment from ROME REPORTS on the Pope's remarks.

Carol Glatz (CNS via THE TABLET) explains:

Pope Francis encouraged every effort, big or small, to foster peace amid the crises unfolding in Iraq and Syria, and to help Christians remain.

Highlighting the desire of refugees to return to their homes, the Pope appealed to the international community “to make every effort to encourage this return, guaranteeing the security conditions and the economic conditions necessary for this to happen”.

Ines San Martin (CRUX NEWS) adds:

Close to 50 people, between Vatican officials and representatives of local Catholic Churches took part in the Dec. 10 virtual summit organized by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Though the Zoom dialogue focused mostly on Syria and Iraq, the cases of neighboring Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan – all hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees – were also considered.

Pope Francis has announced his plan to visit Iraq in March of the new year (March 5th to March 8th, see Wednesday's snapshot).  If the visit takes place, it will be the first time a pope has visited Iraq.  VATICAN NEWS notes:

Even though details of the visit have not been decided, the bishop said that Pope Francis wishes to go “to Mosul, a stronghold of the Islamic State for a long time, where the worst crimes of jihadist madness were committed.”  “The Pope wants to go to Mosul and pray for the victims of the Islamic State” and the violence that took place in the city.

Catholics, Bishop Yaldo said, are “a small flock, but of great relevance.”  “This Christmas will be special as we wait for the visit.”  In the meantime, “we must do our best to ensure that it has the historical, cultural and religious importance it deserves.”  “This visit,” he said, “will give an enormous boost to the country’s future and will guarantee great visibility to Christians. The Pope will give great significance and relevance to their presence and their suffering.”

According to the bishop, the stop at Ur of the Chaldeans, regarded as the birthplace of Abraham, will be the high point of the visit because Christians, Muslims and Jews regard him as a prophet.  Abraham “represents the sign of unity for all of us who inhabit this land, for us who are in Iraq”.  “Seeing Abraham’s house will be a great symbol of unity for all religions that have this element in common,” Bishop Yaldo said. 

Like the rest of the world, Iraq is experiencing the pandemic.  XINHUA notes, "The Iraqi Health Ministry reported on Thursday 1,380 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total nationwide infections to 571,253, while the recoveries surpassed 500,000."  In the face of the pandemic, Kevin Clarke (AMERIA: THE JESUIT REVIEW) wonders about the safety of the announced visit:

While a visit from the pope will no doubt provide a spiritual and psychological boost to Nineveh Christians, under the current pandemic conditions it is a prospect that must give local public health officials pause. “The people will go to see him even if there is coronavirus,” Mr. Towaya assures. “They don’t care about that; they will not stay home; they will go, and they will receive him.”

World Health Organization officials and the Holy See Press Office did not respond to questions about how the pope’s visit and related public events could be conducted safely, but W.H.O. guidelines currently in effect urge “that all countries with community transmission should seriously consider postponing or reducing mass gatherings that bring people together and have the potential to amplify disease.”

Though rates of Covid-19 in Iraq have declined since October, on average more than 2,000 new cases have been confirmed each day throughout November and December. More than 571,000 Covid-19 cases have been reported in Iraq since February, and more than 12,500 Iraqis have died.

Even as announcements are made of vaccine breakthroughs and wealthier nations like the United States and United Kingdom line up to reserve millions of vaccine doses, the World Health Organization predicts widespread distribution of a vaccine for coronavirus will not begin until sometime in the middle of 2021, long after the dates currently proposed for the pope’s visit to Iraq. A W.H.O. program to accelerate development and distribution of an affordable coronavirus vaccine faced a $28 billion shortfall in December.

A visit by the Pope would provide many benefits -- including uplift and excitement -- at a time when many Iraqis suffer -- continue to suffer -- in the ongoing war.

Let's again note this video about abuse in Iraq.

We'll again note The Wilson Center's Hanaa Edwar:

This year, we have launched the mapping report on Sexual and GBV in Iraq 2003-2018, which was developed by Iraqi Al-Amal Association, Impunity Watch and PAX. The report is part of a broader project entitled “Engendering the Transition to Peace and Security in Iraq” funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In addition, since the outbreak of protest demonstrations on October 2019, we have documented the killing of six female demonstrators and activists in different provinces. The latest was Dr. Reham Jacob in Basra in August 2020. Plus, many demonstrators encountered assassination attempts, death threats, abduction, or sexual assault. Many activists went into hiding to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

Due to the influence of militias in the political and security apparatus and the spread of corruption in Iraq, women’s rights defenders, activists and journalists lack basic legal and social protections. We are seriously concerned about the impunity of death threats, abductions, sexual assault, intimidation, online harassment, and smear campaigns against them. We call on the international community to exert pressure on the Iraqi government to adhere to justice, accountability, and transparency through effective investigations of these crimes. Without protections for activists and civil society leaders, Iraq will never move forward on ending GBV.

Iraq is a war zone.  It remains one.  The US-led invasion of 2003 set off an ongoing war and just because the US press largely withdrew at the end of 2008 doesn't mean that the war ended.  The violence continues.  UNICEF notes:


In Sinjar, two children were killed and another two injured when unexploded ordnance went off. This is a stark reminder that landmines and explosive remnants of war continue to threaten the lives of children in Iraq. In Sulaymaniyah, at least one child was killed during the ongoing wave of protests in the governorate.UNICEF strongly urges all parties to protect children and keep them out of harm's way. Children should be safe everywhere, in their homes, in neighborhoods, and on the streets. This continued violence and disregard for children's safety should stop. Children's right to live in safety, protected from all forms of violence, is a right that is enshrined in the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child. Iraq is a signatory of the Convention and must therefore do all that it can to ensure that every boy and girl can live in safety and dignity.

School in the midst of a pandemic?  Not easy even outside a war zone.  In Iraq?  One Nation is working to provide education centers.

The people of Iraq have been living a war for many years now. Thousands have been killed and almost a million people have been displaced, forced to flee their homes. We would like to say a huge Jazakallah and thank you to everyone that donated to our ongoing projects in Iraq. Please continue to donate by visiting 100% donation policy 0300 500 1000

In the US, idiots puffed out their chests for wearing pink hats and marching (for nothing, by the way) in DC to protest Donald Trump's election as president in 2016.  It was a waste of time.  It's the Sam Seder of 'politics.'  It's meaningless.  It's a statement where none is needed.  Sam Sader doesn't do issues.  He does partisan talking points.  The late Kevin Zeese spend his life fighting for issue -- Medicare For All, an end to war, etc.  These are real issues and these are issues to go into the streets.  Corruption, violence against the people, a living wage, etc.  Putting on a pink hat and stomping around DC because you don't like an election outcome is, at best, really bad performance art/street theater.  It's not risking anything in terms of personal safety and it's not demanding anything.  

It's nonsense.  Get out in the streets to protest police violence, to demand a living wage, to scream that Congress gets off its ass and starts working for the people, real issues.  "My itty bitty feelings are hurt that my favorite person didn't win the election!"  That's cry baby nonsense. 

Well off or well funded cry baby nonsense, we should note.  Most Americans don't have the luxury of being able to travel to DC to stomp their feet over an election -- either they lack the funds or they have demands -- jobs, children, caregive for family members -- that don't allow them to just up and travel.

Real protests matter.  And real protests are taking place in Iraq.

Protests have been taking place in Iraq for over a year now.  You don't see our US 'left' outlets noting those protests.  But those protests take place.  And the Iraqi people risk their lives protesting.  Bullets are used on them, tear gas, sonic bombs.  They are bullied at protests by the security forces, they are often stalked on their way homes from a protest.  Many of the protesters have been disappeared -- an issue that Amnesty International is supposedly watching (according to a friend with Amnesty UK).  They are risking everything to make demands.  For?  Jobs.  An end to corruption.  Basic services like electricity and potable water.  A government that works for the people.  

They are making real demands. 

Nasiriyah has been carrying out protests for some time now.  At the end of last month, cult leader Moqtada al-Sadr turned his goons loose on the peaceful protesters.  Some were wounded (around 80) and some were killed (6 to 18 depending on the outlet).  Still they protest.


Today in Nasiriyah, protesters are rallying in support of the protests in the Sulaymaniyah and other parts of the KRI:
Quote Tweet
Ali Al_Mikdam علي المكَدام
محافظة ذي قار الآن خروج محتجي مدينة الناصرية بمسيرات حاشدة تأييدا ومناصرة لمحتجي إقليم كردستان العراق. #السليمانية_تنتفض

We'll note this Tweet as well:

Heavy large circle
To all the Iraqis, let us raise our voices to protest the arbitrary arrests carried out by the Nassiriya Crisis Cell against Al-Haboubi activists with orders from Al-Sadr? Who wants to silence those who demand the freedom of a nation.. #Nasiriyah will not-be subjugated

Another hot spot for protests in the last few weeks is Sulaymaniyah.

This morning, Hoshang Waziri Tweets:

Only one word to describe such a intimidating show of force; fear! While authorities in #sulaymaniyah #KRG try to show their teeth, they fail to conceal their fear of unarmed jobless, hopeless, & angry young people who have nothing to lose but their despair. #KurdistanProtests

Renas Hassan Tweets:

#securityforces firing rubber bullets & tear gas over peaceful protests in #sulaymaniyah #kurdistanprotests #krg #Kurdistan

Ibrahim al-Zobeidi (ARAB WEEKLY) offers this view:

What happened and is happening in Sulaymaniyah is no different from what happened and is happening every day in Baghdad, Nasiriyah, Basra and other Iraqi cities. Same reasons, same motives, and same results.

Yes, it is the same anger that is driving the masses to take revenge on the ruling parties, and the same cruelty that is used to suppress the demonstrators with batons, gas bombs and, finally real bullets, if they are not deterred at the first sign and return to their homes obediently, so that they do not, after today, dare attack their masters.

What is evidenced by the details of the Sulaymaniyah battles between the oppressed and robbed Kurdish citizens and their oppressors and exposed robbers, is that all that talk by Kurdish political leaders, from complaining about being oppressed for a long time to calling for protecting the citizen’s dignity, guaranteeing his security and independence, and restoring his legitimate rights to justice, equality, job opportunities and prosperity, was nothing but a smokescreen.

And they were no different in this from their Islamist allies who have monopolised power, money and weapons in the Arab half of Iraq; they are all made of the same clay and in the same mould.

The following sites updated: