Saturday, December 21, 2013

Invincible ignorance

I have to say I didn’t know what Duck Dynasty was, since I don’t have cable TV (or even a TV set now, after the flood.)  But  the self-righteous homophobia and clueless racial mythologizing is certainly familiar enough to me.  I grew up in Victoria, Texas in the 1950s, when it was all around, every day.  And I’m not unfamiliar with Mr. Robertson’s fashion sensibility, having found myself in  Haight Ashbury in 1967, where bearded guys dressed like that were thick on the ground.  Of course they were younger.

The combination of the opinions and the costuming, not to mention the age, is  nevertheless unfortunate.

That being said, I don’t think someone should be fired from a reality show where he and his family were in fact hired to depict the outlandish people they are, just because he expressed opinions anyone with a lick of sense could have predicted from day one would be there.

It’s like finding a real Archie Bunker, hiring him to do a reality show,  and then firing him for being Archie Bunker.

Removing a guy like that from his employment won’t cure him of his views, or deter others from having them, or change anyone who shares them.  Maybe finding him some gay friends would help.  Or maybe not.  He apparently believes he had black friends, happy contented sing-along field hands he worked beside as they all picked cotton together working for the Man when he was a boy.  Or so he said in an interview.

The Catholic Church once had a theological category called “invincible ignorance” which, contrary to what you might think, could save pagans from everlasting condemnation, on the grounds that they had never had an opportunity to know anything but what they grew up with.  The term was later given a different meaning in logic as a category of fallacy, denoting willful, pigheaded refusal to accept evidence.

Maybe there is some  of both kinds of invincible ignorance going on here.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Some language peeves, but not the usual ones

For the past two and a half centuries, from Robert Lowth to Henry Fowler to Strunk and White,  self appointed language scolds have been trying to tell us how to speak our mother tongue.  Fortunately, they have not much influenced the actual evolution of English. Unfortunately, they have made a lot of perfectly capable native speakers feel, incorrectly, that they weren't competent in English, and more importantly, made those native speakers feel unhappy about that imagined non-competence. 

They have done so by confusing matters clearly in the realm of class and status  with issues of linguistic capability, eloquence, style, and beauty.  

The occasional (and usually unfortunate) practical need to speak or write in a formal register of conventional standard English is one thing, and is part of our larger ability to navigate the complicated shoals of the social structures we live in, but our ability to communicate fluently both in speaking and writing day to day with the people we are at ease with is quite another. We learn our language in an informal register as children, but even at that level we learn some class and status language modifications.  I grew up addressing most (but not all) of my elders as "ma'am" and "sir."  Happily, this custom has since mostly disappeared.  (Personally, I am delighted when I am not addressed as "sir" now that I am in my dotage.)  

The custom of my Texas childhood was in the realm of what was then living English, a regional variety, of course, and the current standard of sirlessness and ma'amlessness, are part of today's living language.

The kind of language prescriptions that I am talking about are the heroic but hopeless efforts to revive the dead. Or worse, to revive mythological language standards that never were alive.  If I were to say Strunk and White stood for Zombie Standard English I would enrage all those people who imagine that the passive voice is a bad thing (often  without knowing very well what the passive is) and that a split infinitive is a moral transgression; but if they can feel rage, hey, it's a sign of life, at least.  Alas, that rage only drives them to write a letter to the editor full of peeves about the sad state of our language.

The "prescriptive ideologues" (as Geoffrey Pullum calls them)  defy the barbarians from behind the ramparts of correct English, or what you can more accurately call a prestige dialect of modern English, but as imagined by the ideologues, not necessarily as spoken or written even by them.

Prescriptivist zealots will insist that it's not just a matter of class and status and hierarchy, and the occasional practical requirement that we submit to the tyranny of  class-and-status speech demands, but a matter of actual standards, the notion that there is an underlying…something…somewhere, justifying the dictatorship of long-dead grammarians. What might that  be?  

Well, Pullum classifies such standards-claims under headings of authority, esthetics,  logic, efficient communication, self-discipline, and a posited golden age of English for which a self-selected few now yearn.  (I think I may have forgotten one.)  The problem obviously is that none of these constitute a bedrock that anyone could call  objectively real.  Several of them, like esthetics and alleged requirements of communication, are not only bogus but blown out of the water by the tortured writing and fractured logic of most of the standard-worshippers themselves.  (WRT alleged "logic", anyone who has ever learned a European language knows that a double negative does not somehow imply a positive except to a computer, and an unimaginatively programmed one at that.) 

Turtles all the way down.  

You'll notice this is written mostly in a formal register of standard English. I apologize.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Thoughts on the latest slaughter...

...this time of first graders.

Over the years I have occasionally tried to talk about guns with gun fanciers (I am using the most polite word I can think of for them) and they seem to have three main reasons for their gun fetishism. 

Some of them want guns for self defense.  Some believe that the 2nd Amendment is their last line of defense against governmental oppression.  Some want guns for hunting. There is considerable overlap, of course.  

WRT the self defense gun fanciers, they  think that only professional criminals,  maniacs, and psychopaths  commit gun crimes, and argue that these individuals,  if thwarted by not having a gun, would invariably kill and rob with knives or baseball bats instead.  But if you ask why they themselves want a gun instead of a club under their bed  if their statistically unlikely nightmare fantasy of home invasion should ever occur, they don't see the point.  And if you present  the statistics showing that having a gun in your house actually increases your chance of dying of gunshot wounds, they simply refuse to believe it.  I think I can safely guarantee that they won't get it even if you mention Nancy Lanza, who had an arsenal in her home.

With the 2nd Amendment fans, the "shall not be infringed" clause is so vivid in their minds that the "well regulated militia" part disappears.  It stays disappeared even if you quote it.  They just can't process the words, not because they are stupid, but because they are smart enough to see that actually parsing the sentence would wreck their adolescent fantasy of facing down muggers with a gun pulled from under their coat.

Hunters are marginally more reasonable.  I think you might be able to convince some hunters that it's more sportsmanlike to hunt animals with a single-shot bolt action rifle than with an assault rifle that will shoot as fast as you can pull the trigger--those of them who just like to hunt deer, and who are not caught  in the toils of Walter Mitty fantasies of  leading an armed insurrection against the United Nations troops sent to enforce Obamacare.

Most  gun fanciers are not very amenable to the idea of even moderate gun restrictions, to put it mildly.  I am sad to say I think they are perfectly willing to continue to sacrifice  classrooms full of first graders indefinitely.

My only hope is that someday reasonable and sane people can convince the very large number of Americans who are not gun fanciers, hopefully still a majority, that we need some very strict regulation of handgun and semi-automatic rifle ownership, and ammunition purchase limits as well.  

Despite the ferocity of their rhetoric, remember  that most  gun-fanciers are middle-aged-to-elderly suburbanites, generally pretty law-abiding, if only out of timidity and poor physical condition, who would in fact obey laws restricting gun ownership if we could get such laws passed.  

And there, of course, is the problem, given that legislators seem quite content with the blood money they receive from the NRA and allied conservative groups, and being thus bought and paid for, will probably, once again, do nothing.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Homeland of warriors

About seven years ago I wrote an entry in this blog on our present bizarre usage of the word "homeland."  

I should probably expand this into a general essay on linguistic corruptions arising from empire.  I am thinking at the moment of the word "warrior" as used to refer to  American soldiers.  Unfortunately, despite Google Ngram and some academic linguistic databases, as far as I know it's not possible to find out if this word was used for soldiers in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, simply because that kind of search requires that the database classify general context in a way that such databases--again, as far as I know--don't do.

So I will go with my impressionistic memory, which may well be wrong.  Maybe this usage, which seems to me to be a neologistic amalgam of jingoism, macho chest-pounding, and adolescent fantasy, has appeared in times of war fever before.  If so, I will stand possibly corrected, in advance. 

But I think the present meaning of warrior as  "one of our soldiers" is unprecedented.  In fact Americans generally reserved the term for adversaries we considered barbaric, as in "Comanche warriors attack wagon train."   The word was commonly used for Viking looters, Genghis Khan's cavalrymen, and any and all nomadic raiders plundering their citified neighbors throughout history.

Despite our thinking that such people were barbaric, there is nevertheless an undertone of attributive personal prowess, which, in times like ours, appeals to the male adolescent imagination.  And there's the problem.  Even though I don't think the "Army of One" recruiting geniuses came up with the present use of the word, I am sure they love it.  I am not even sure that American exceptionalism-worshipping Republican ideologues dreamed it up, but again, I am sure they love it too.  And Democrats, always on the defensive and perpetually quaking with fear of  being labelled less patriotic than Republicans, have jumped on the warrior bandwagon.  So it's a bipartisan usage…unfortunately.   It would be good if a major political party had the courage  to stand up and point out that calling our soldiers "warriors" is both stupid and demeaning. I am not holding my breath.

Anyway, I was reading a NY Times book review of _No Easy Day_, the account of the raid to kill bin Laden.  The book was written by one of the commando team, Matt Bissonnette, with the help of a ghost writer.  No doubt there will be a movie.  I was surprised, given the excesses of SEAL admiration by the reviewer, that the word "warrior" appeared only once.  The phrase "killing machine" appeared twice, the second time with a resonance of irony, but even if it was irony (I hope it was) it was pretty muted.

Monday, August 27, 2012

New look for senescent blog

Ever since Haloscan decided to end their support of the comments utility I've been using since 2005, I have meant to re-enable regular Blogger comments and get rid of the code that substituted the Haloscan comment template.  I think I have done that, but I am not altogether sure.  In any case, Haloscan (aka Echo) comments will soon disappear totally, so there is no point in delaying enabling regular Blogger comments.  We'll soon see if my changes work.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Found photographs

While cleaning out a storage room I found some old photographs belonging to my wife's father Tom Sutherland. These photos had been put in a box after the 2001 flood on Onion Creek, and have suffered some damage due to neglect since then. I have found out who some of these people are, but the identity of the others is a mystery.

This is Kay's great-grandfather Maclin Robertson outside the family home at a ranch near Salado, Texas. The house still exists, essentially unchanged. Kay and I visited the place once when her father was still alive; it is where he grew up.

This woman is unknown; although it is very likely she is one of Kay's great-aunts.

This woman is unknown to family members I have asked.

The only clue I have about this picture and the next is that they were in an envelope sent to Kay's grandmother Mary Elizabeth Robertson from a photo studio in Houston in 1954, where she had probably sent negatives to have copies made. The photos were obviously taken long before 1954. I am guessing they were Robertson family members.

This boy's photo was in the same envelope as the previous.

This is Kay's great-aunt Minnie Bell Sutherland.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Occupying Austin

I went by the "occupy Austin" event today at City Hall. Several hundred people were there early in the afternoon. As of about 2 o'clock it was quite peaceful and uneventful. Austin police are generally not hostile to events like this, but there were a lot of police officers in attendance, including, to my surprise, Chief Acevedo himself, who walked around talking occasionally to the top button of his shirt, which presumably contained a microphone.

There was a surveillance team on the top of the building to the west of City Hall, three guys with binoculars, plus a still camera and a video camera set up on tripods. I took some photos of 'em with a 200 mm lens, and when I got home I realized that they were military. Two of the three were in what I'd guess are Army uniforms. The third guy in a t shirt could have been a cop, or a soldier who took off his fatigue shirt.

I am interested in why the military is watching this demonstration. Anyone have any ideas?

Photos below (click on any of the images for more detail):

And of course I have to show you Chief Acevedo talking to his shirt:

Plus an impressive array of motorcycle cops parked in the shade across the street

And that was to keep this...

...from getting out of hand

It was peaceful enough when I left.

Monday, August 01, 2011

When the lesser of two evils argument fails

(Note of explanation: A month and a half ago I wrote the following more as an internal soliloquy than a normal blog entry--given that my irregular posts have left this blog with essentially no readers--but I realize now, some time after the fact, that if a reader does come along, there is no clue in the post what I was talking about. Mea culpa. The occasion was Obama caving to the Republicans when they held the economy hostage on raising the debt ceiling. A more extended internal soliloquy would include ruminations on whether to vote in the Republican primary in hopes that Romney as president would do less damage to the country than Perry, or whether to seriously look at living in another country. And I would direct the very hypothetical reader to my other blog, equally irregular but far less political, at Brass nor Stone.)

In the case of this deal with the devil that Obama has made, I am not sure that for Democrats to support it, and to support Obama in the next election, is in reality the lesser of two evils, so my title is probably misleading.

If the Republicans are not bluffing, then surely for Democrats to join with them in destroying the economy gradually is better than letting Republicans alone destroy it suddenly. Yeah, maybe. You would think. But not in this instance. Two or three years down the road, the country is going to be in the same sorry state regardless of who is president, thanks in large part to Obama himself.

And the worst possible case would be for the next Herbert Hoover to be a Democrat, or rather, to call himself a Democrat.

So I've arrived at the slightly consoling thought that the next Herbert Hoover is likely to be a card-carrying Republican, and that with a Republican Congress the ex-Party of Lincoln will completely own, as they say, the subsequent catastrophe.

I knew a lot of angry liberals who refused to vote for Hubert Humphrey in 1968. I think I still believed in the lesser of two evils argument in those days, and I duly held my nose and voted for Humphrey.

In hindsight I think I made the right decision. But I feel pretty good about the idea of writing in some third party candidate's name in 2012. In defense of my 1968 vote for Humphrey, he never agreed in ADVANCE to sign on to the bombing of Cambodia, or to the Watergate burglaries. Obama on the other hand has capitulated in advance to everything the Republicans want.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Birth of a Nation

I had never seen Birth of a Nation. I don't know why I watched it, I guess it came up when I was browsing in Netflix on-demand titles, so I started watching on a whim. I was blown away. I watched it all the way through, all three hours.

I'm not a fan of historic film, or silent film, or propaganda, artful or otherwise. For example I wasn't much interested in Triumph of the Will, though I did watch it all the way to the end. If I were a film history buff (obviously I'm not) Triumph of the Will might have held my interest more. I just saw it as ugly and dated, and more to the point, as Nazi crap.

Birth of a Nation was racist crap...but I've never seen anything like it and I have been trying to figure out why it fascinated me. Part of it may be that it gave me a sense of the permanence of some of the right wing sentiment in this country, a vision of America that's still around, mutatis mutandis of course--nobody justifies the Ku Klux Klan now.

I don't think I would call it a movie at all in the present-day sense of the word. Maybe you can think of silent film as a kind of extended mime-melodrama--in this case very extended, as I said, three hours long--accompanied by music, originally played in the house.

I can't tell you why a moving-picture mime performance three hours long with captions and music worked, but it did. In 1915 a ticket cost the equivalent of over $40 in 2010, and the film was a runaway hit, the biggest grossing hit in movie history until the late 1930s.

I guess I haven't been patient enough to sit through many restorations of silent films, but my impression, and I hasten to say, not a very informed impression, is that they were accompanied by rinky-tink and slightly comic player-piano sounds, but until now I never thought much about the music in the originals.

With Birth of a Nation I think the music was actually the key to its power, even more so than the amazing photography--or so it seems to me--much like in Alexander Nevsky, though that was not a silent movie. (An aside: I originally saw an unrestored version of Alexander Nevsky many years ago, and thought the Prokofiev score for the Battle on the Ice was absolutely perfect in its majestically satanic quality, but later I discovered in hearing a restored version that a lot of that was the distortion of the degraded sound track. The restored version seemed like hearing a Tom Waits song performed by Loreena McKennitt. Oh well.)

I wonder if Lee Atwater and Donald Segretti and Karl Rove and Frank Luntz didn't watch Birth of a Nation, secretly, and find in it something that could still be used. I don't mean that they saw it and discovered music as a tool of misinformation--Republican propaganda has gone in other directions--it was the whole deal, the idyll of America that was being sold to the viewer, a vision of an ideal America that Republicans have to like, excluding the overt racism of course. But the music had to be really important in why Birth of a Nation succeeded.

The score was selected by Joseph Breil with a lot of help from, or (I have read) argument with, Griffiths, and was played by house orchestras, at least in the case of performances in major cities. (I read somewhere that Breil's score was not played at the Los Angeles premiere, but only later at the New York opening.) At any rate the Breil score seems be the soundtrack of the film's presently released version. And that soundtrack is fascinating.

What do we hear? Orchestral and kinda tarted up versions of Dixie, Bonnie Blue Flag, Camptown Races, My Country 'Tis of Thee, O Tannenbaum (which at that time must have been familiar to Breil as also being the socialist anthem the Red Flag) the Ride of the Valkeries, Gary Owen, and at the end, the Star Spangled Banner as the new nation of Aryan white brotherhood, north and south, is born. And of course there was a lot of original stuff by Breil. I'd guess he wasn't a very good composer, but Dixie has an emotive spin on it, on its own.

So I think what kept me with the movie was the music, and the simplicity of mime. Plus the cinematography, but that's obviously not news. A simple, mythic message, pulling out all the stops in the delivery. Which, unfortunately, seems to be what the right-wing in America is good at. Even more unfortunately, maybe better today than in 1915.

An irrelevant-to-my-point footnote: I have not looked into real scholarship on Birth of a Nation, but the online commentary always notes that the major black roles were played by white people wearing blackface. That's not really true. I noticed a few, but only a few, white people in stereotypical blackface playing minor black roles. A great many of the black crowd members and extras actually were black. Black actors and extras were clearly available in Los Angeles and were hired for the movie.

The major black characters in the movie, who were villains, were supposed to be "mulattos." I think that's important. Race mixing was a big deal in Birth of a Nation, representing contamination and corruption, not just of whites but of blacks as well. The villains did not appear in blackface; they were obvious white people whose skin had been made to appear dirty. Nothing more. Just dirty. The symbolism is obvious.

Trivia: I suppose the rocky terrain could pass for Appalachian foothills, and ponderosa pines for loblolly pine, but I had to laugh at a big agave that persistently appeared in the background scenery during one sequence toward the end.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

OK, I may have misspoken

...when I said I was through with this blog because I was tired of political negativity. I still am tired of it, but when Robert Gibbs, the President's mouthpiece, attacks _liberals_, for Christ's sake, because we have been insufficiently appreciative of Mr. Obama, I have to differ. So let me get a couple of things off my chest.

Obama has broken promises on everything from ending the war in Iraq to gay rights. He has sucked up to the Wall Street bonus junkies. He has backed away from a meaningful stimulus program, or from doing anything about foreclosures or unemployment. He has actually revved up a war in Afghanistan that George Bush had definitively lost by 2002, which is at this point absurd as well as un-winnable. And did I say we are still in Iraq, a war originally based on falsehoods--and now Obama is lying about our "leaving" when in fact we still have 50,000 "non-combat" troops there and that he proposes to keep them there indefinitely?

His government claims the de facto right to assassinate American citizens abroad. He believes, like Bush, that he has the right to imprison people without charges indefinitely, possibly for life. Guantanamo is still open. He has claimed the right to deny habeas corpus. He has given de-facto immunity to the criminals who dreamed up and approved the torture policies of the previous administration. His economic team is essentially the very Wall Street insiders who crashed the economy. He has sold out the public on the environment, among other things giving the oil companies carte blanche that they used to create the most enormous oil pollution disaster in world history.

He has pandered to the Republicans on their immigration hysteria. He is unwilling to fight for anything that he claimed to believe in when we voted for him. He has shown himself totally spineless (or totally duplicitous) on doing anything about global warming.

He sold the public out on the public option, so the health care bill will now benefit far fewer people than it should, and cost far too much. He has shown every sign of buckling under to the Republicans on gutting Social Security. He is a TERRIBLE president.

Yes, you can say he is better than Bush. But so little better, in fact, that he is still deeply in the realm of terrible. If he doesn't step up to the plate I am pretty sure he will be a one-term president. I personally have never voted for a Republican and never will, but at this point I don't see much point in voting for Obama again either.

Update, as of Dec.21, 2010:

Obama only a few days caved to the Republicans on the tax bill benefitting the upper 2.5% of income earners and screwing the economy fairly long-term in the process, and today has torpedoed net neutrality with Bush-era Orwellian language, calling his betrayal of net neutrality, a "victory" for net neutrality.

His administration continues to make the hysterical manhunt for Julian Assange into a major project, with a grand jury convened in northern Virginia to find a pretext for charging Assange with a crime in the United States, even as the criminals from the Bush era mentioned above continue to go free. Meanwhile our government places private Bradley Manning, the soldier accused, among other worthy and honorable things, of leaking the videos that expose the aerial murder of journalists from a helicopter in Iraq, under a form of arrest that amounts to torture--the supermax solitary confinement regimen his administration subjects him to is considered a war crime if we treat prisoners of war that way--and the helicopter gunners of course have not been punished, nor have those who gave them their orders.

I am beginning to feel about this Democratic president the way I felt about Lyndon Johnson, although Johnson at least had a redeeming virtue that I have not so far seen even a glimmer of in Obama, which was a commitment to civil rights. Obama is about as bad as Johnson on murderous foreign military adventures, and worse than Nixon or Eisenhower (FAR worse than Eisenhower) on everything else.

It says something remarkable about where this country has gone that the only presently visible alternative to Obama and his Democratic Party is the Republican Party of Sarah Palin.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Impermanence, revisited

When I started this blog I chose to subscribe to a free commenting utility called Haloscan, which at the time seemed more user-friendly than Blogger's native commenting system. For one thing it would notify me by email if I got new comments on an old blog post. Blogger did not do that, and as far as I know still doesn't.

Looking back on several years of blogging at Stone Bridge it has some of the usefulness of a diary: I can find out what I was doing, say, in July of 2006. Otherwise I would not have a clue. Additionally, there was an ongoing conversation with regular, and occasional irregular, visitors, in the comments. A certain sense of community arose, which possibly would still be going on, if I had not gotten burned out on the political negativity which had overtaken most of my posts.

Haloscan has now been sold to a company that will allow the comments to stay, but we have to pay a very modest fee for them. I am probably going to let the comments go, not because of the money, which is insignificant even for a pensioner of my very limited means, but because the blog itself is inactive, and I only rarely get new comments. The Blogger comments will still be possible for such stragglers.

I have downloaded and archived the old comments for my own personal use, (many of the comments were interesting and some memorable.) Unfortunately I can see no way to restore them to the original posts as blogger comments, but on the other hand I see no real need to.

So in a few weeks the comments will disappear.

It occurs to me that some people may still have RSS feeds for Stone Bridge, and will notice this entry, and hopefully be reassured that I did not erase their comments out of some late-blooming aversion to the comments, or to them.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I do not expect to be making any new entries to this blog, although as in all things, I could well be mistaken. I have had little taste for writing lately (I spend most of my spare time taking nature photographs), and in my opinion fwiw the best writing on this blog was at the beginning, when I had several years worth of accumulated ideas (and in some cases, previously written stuff to upload.) So, in the unlikely event you are a new person coming to this blog, I suggest you go posthaste from this entry to the first, rather than read any of my recent posts, which have deteriorated toward the political and the opinionated in keeping with the times. To such a hypothetical reader I especially recommend my obsolete travel notes, found here and there in the early months of this blog.

I started a test blog once, called Brass nor Stone, which I am now thinking of using for any stray impulses to write, if they arise. The reason is that its template allows larger photos. I could try to re-format this blog to use a new template, but that way lies madness, or disaster, or both, so I think it is better to refer readers, if any, to more interesting material toward the front end of this blog, and to new material, probably mostly photographic, at Brass nor Stone.

Checkered skipper

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Yesterday's rabbit

Yesterday's rabbit

My yard is regularly visited by a couple of rabbits, and I sometimes have a moment to snap a picture of one before my little dog Bella goes crazy when she catches the scent or--occasionally--actually spots it, and begins a frantic and yapping pursuit, always with the same result, of course, which is the rabbit disappearing through a small hole in the back fence which, for better or worse, is too small for Bella to get through. This ritual effectively constrains my rabbit-photo-op window of opportunity to one click, because when Bella hears it she knows that I am taking a picture of something, and charges off to investigate.

Occasionally two clicks.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Everyone loves a parade

As you get older certain things lead to a sense of time standing still, or what year is this? It can be disquieting. Especially when you leap whole decades and at least for a second it feels like 1968 except for the old people whom I unaccountably resemble marching beside me in the peace demonstration. (In 1968 we were all young, as all of you old enough to remember will know.)

Yesterday's springtime (well, technically, late winter) peace march in Austin was almost a duplicate of last year's, and the year before, and the year before that, with many of the same faces, immeasurably more geriatric, perhaps. The parade was billed as the Million Musicians' March For Peace, and although it came up a little short numbers-wise, it was a loud and robust event musically, with a brass section at the front (which someone in the crowd, not me, joked had been provided by AARP) plus drums, tambourines, tin whistles, ukuleles, cowbells and supposedly a pots-and-pans rhythm section bringing up the rear in memory of Molly Ivins, though I was closer to the front and can't vouch for that. Just as last year, the mainstay tune of the brass was When the Saints Go Marching In, which gave several musicians opportunity to display some outstanding tuba and trombone virtuosity.

In the middle of the throng we had a guy in a kilt playing martial airs on the highland war pipes. I am not sure what to make of that.

Our parade went through the middle of the entertainment district, which this week is the same as South by Southwest. One of the first posts on this blog, in 2005, is an account of what seems, upon re-reading, to be this year's parade.

I also wrote a post on last year's event. If I were lazy I would simply link to the two earlier posts and be done with it.

Small differences are what I am left to write about, which leave me with a certain optimism. I didn't have the feeling that any onlookers along the route considered our actions unpatriotic, even when we passed by the Salvation Army soup kitchen. (Down and out alcoholics tend to be more sentimentally patriotic than the rest of us, I dunno why.) If Bush's war has lost its appeal to drunk people, maybe our country is on the road to recovery.

Just as in previous years, the street crowd, already festive at one in the afternoon, seemed a little unsure what the hell was going on, but whatever we were doing, they approved of it. Some guy came running out of a pub with his electric guitar, and feigned consternation at discovering it unplugged and thus useless for joining in.

We walked a circuitous route from the capitol building to city hall, where various post-march performances were booked on the front steps. Even if there hadn't been a parade, a free venue during SxSW will always draw a crowd, so several hundred stayed for the music, shading themselves from the unseasonable heat under the awning of solar panels.

A few photos of the event follow, plus one of a runaway bride.

Click on any picture for a larger view on flickr.


Singer songwriter in front of the capitol building, before the parade
Austin peace march 3-15-08

The march begins
Austin peace march 3-15-08

The trumpet section
Austin peace march 3-15-08

Code pink
Austin peace march 3-15-08

Stereotypical tuba player

The bagpiper
Austin peace march 3-15-08

Afterwards, on the steps of city hall
Austin peace march 3-15-08

Now, the runaway bride was before the parade, on the capitol grounds. As the marchers gathered, I spied this young woman taking to her heels and departing. (You can see anything at our state capitol building.) If our gathering march had frightened away the wedding, the groom had apparently bolted in another direction. We will never know.
Runaway bride