Monday, March 28, 2016

Top 10 Hamiltunes

Because I am a sheeple, I must also make a list of my 10 favorite songs from Hamilton. And if you haven't listened to the soundtrack yet, you really, seriously, no joke need to stop reading this and do so right this second. With that out of the way: onwards.

10. Say No to This [catchy, and perfect fall-from-grace song]
9. You'll Be Back [can't really pick between these songs by King George, but being first and having the great line about "I'll send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love" puts it over the top for me]
8. Cabinet Battle #2 [hard to pick between them, but I go with this one because of Hamilton's passion, though I do love the line "A civics lesson from a slaver. Hey neighbor / Your debts are paid cuz you don’t pay for labor" from #1]
7. Aaron Burr, Sir [dat line about tha bursar doe]
6. Non-Stop [great pump-up music]
5. Satisfied [Angelica is one of my favorite characters in the show, and this song is why]
4. It's Quiet Uptown [perfect sadness. "Forgiveness -- can you imagine?"]
3. My Shot ["A-L-E-X-A-N-D-E-R" foreva. also, the foreshadowing pun on the phrase "throwing away my shot". and of course young/scrappy/hungry.]
2. Alexander Hamilton [this one probably wins the award for being stuck in my head the most. Amazing how it packs his entire young life into a compelling rap.]
1. Wait for It [love the progression in this -- love, death, life -- and the melody and those harmonies and the message and everything]

Honorable mentions: Hurricane, Burn, Ten Duel Commandments, That Would Be Enough, Take A Break, One Last Time, The World Was Wide Enough--any of these could really have been in the top ten if I made this list on another day. I don't think any of my top 7 would get swapped out for these, but 8-10 are up for grabs.

And now if you haven't already, jump down the rabbit hole that is the annotations to the lyrics--including some by Mr. Miranda himself!

Agree? Disagree? I want to hear your list.

Monday, February 22, 2016

I Dreamed I Saw Joe Smith Last Night

I'm semi-obsessed with the song Joe Hill, and figured what the hey, why not re-work it to be about Joe Smith? I liked the Mormon connection in the original with Salt Lake, and of course the name fits perfectly (albeit with what's usually considered a pejorative form of Smith's name). I'm not much with lyrics, but this was still fun to tinker with. In the spirit of folk music, feel free to take what you like and fix what you don't.
I dreamed I saw Joe Smith last night
Alive as you or me
Says I, "But Joe, you're decades dead,"
"I never died," says he.
"I never died," says he. 
"The blackface lynchers killed you, Joe,
"They shot you, Joe," says I.
"Takes more than mobs to kill a man,"
Says Joe "I didn't die,"
Says Joe "I didn't die." 
"In Carthage, Joe," says I to him,
Him standing by my bed,
"They shot you through the chest!"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead,"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead."
And blazing there as bright as fire,
His eyes with pure love filled,
Says Joe "What they can never kill,
"Went on to Zion build,
"Went on to Zion build."
"Joe Smith ain't dead," he says to me,
"Joe Smith ain't never died.
"Where seekers pray to God for light,
"Joe Smith is at their side,
"Joe Smith is at their side." 
"In Kirkland, Nauvoo, Deseret,
"In every holy myth,
"Where children reach to God in faith,
"It's there you'll find Joe Smith,
"It's there you'll find Joe Smith."
I dreamed I saw Joe Smith last night
Alive as you or me
Says I, "But Joe, you're decades dead,"
"I never died," says he.
"I never died," says he.


The original lyrics (or at least, the version of them I based mine off of), is available here:
A song by Alfred Hayes, Music by Earl Robinson ©1938 by Bob Miller, Inc. 
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you or me
Says I, But Joe, you're ten years dead
I never died, says he
I never died, says he 
In Salt Lake, Joe, says I to him
Him standing by my bed
They framed you on a murder charge
Says Joe, But I ain't dead
Says Joe, But I ain't dead 
The copper bosses killed you, Joe
They shot you, Joe, says I
Takes more than guns to kill a man
Says Joe, I didn't die
Says Joe, I didn't die 
And standing there as big as life
And smiling with his eyes
Joe says, What they forgot to kill
Went on to organize
Went on to organize 
Joe Hill ain't dead, he says to me
Joe Hill ain't never died
Where working men are out on strike
Joe Hill is at their side
Joe Hill is at their side 
From San Diego up to Maine
In every mine and mill
Where workers strike and organize
Says he, You'll find Joe Hill
Says he, You'll find Joe Hill 
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you or me
Says I, But Joe, you're ten years dead
I never died, says he
I never died, says he 
And my two favorite versions are by Pete Seeger:

and Paul Robeson:

Monday, February 15, 2016

On Justice Scalia's Passing--Civility and Pain, and Making Room For Both

My immediate reaction to the news of Justice Scalia's sudden death was, like many people's, incredulity. That soon gave way to trying to think through the judicial and political effects this will have in a presidential election year. But many conflicted feelings quickly followed, too.

Let's get this out of the way: Scalia was a very polarizing guy. I disagreed with a significant portion* of his votes on the high-profile cases that make headlines, and I found some of his assumptions about how to interpret the constitution maddening. I believe that he stood in the way of significant social progress on racism, women's rights, LGBT rights, reproductive justice, and a host of other important issues. And the way he expressed his opinions--disdainful of the other side's reasoning, often sardonic, and (perhaps most painfully) very witty--didn't help make the disagreement go down any easier. (Which is a good thing, in that it certainly made me consider his and my positions more deeply.)

But all that being said, I don't think anyone who has known him (not that I did) has been of the opinion that he was anything other than brilliant, too. His writing was the most persuasive of any Justice on the Court today. He knew what he was talking about and he had many, many ardent supporters. He was a human being, with all his flaws and triumphs.

Which made it hard to read some of the pieces from fellow liberals. Most of the experiences I read from people on the left were, at their kindest, along the lines of "I'm certainly not glad a human being died . . . but he was getting in the way of progress, so . . ." And some explicitly began by stating they would be "speak[ing] ill of the dead"--and with "great enthusiasm and passion" at that! The Onion (which I absolutely adore) had an uncomfortably glib headline up within an hour or so of the news breaking.

My personality gravitates much more towards Justice Ginsburg's touching perspective, which noted that while she and Scalia "disagreed now and then," the disagreement was always very cordial and, ultimately, helped strengthen Ginsburg's own opinions. She even said she and Scalia were "best buddies" for decades, as has been well documented. I want there to be robust debate on important policy questions, but always with civility and respect for the human beings--the children of God, our siblings--on the other side of every issue.

And yet. When I said I disagreed with his stances on race, women's rights, LGBT rights, and reproductive justice, to name a few--those are all things that I have the luxury of considering academically. Fox News's bluster to the contrary, there's no such thing as reverse racism or a culture of oppressing white people in this country today (and there isn't going to be one in the future, either). I will never have to worry about whether my gender will be an issue with old boys' clubs at work. I'm not gay, bi, or trans, and my marriage in Nevada in 2014 went forward without a hitch even when other loving couples couldn't get married there. I will never have to worry personally about whether I would need an abortion, and if so, whether I would have access to a safe one. Most of the things I disagreed with Scalia about weren't personal for me. (I'm a big fan of "ask not for whom the bell tolls"-type stuff, but there's obviously a real distinction between your own life and body being oppressed or harmed versus experiencing that pain via empathy.)

Because of that, I don't feel entirely comfortable feeling uncomfortable with the posts that are not sad about Scalia's death. How many Mormons were willing to respect government authorities--whether in Missouri in the 1830s or the federal government in the 1880s--and peacefully, respectfully debate with them when they felt persecuted? While we (white people) may tend today to prefer (and caricature) Martin Luther King as the "good" civil rights leader, I can't find it in me to argue that Malcolm X, who was willing to stand up and defend himself, his family, and his people by any means necessary, was wrong. I think I can fall victim to smugness in a lot of ways myself, and one would be to glibly dismiss the real pain that Scalia's actions inflicted (and continues to inflict) on many vulnerable people in this country. I should feel uncomfortable--if not more--about that.

So I'm sad Scalia died. I didn't like his jurisprudence. I recognize his first-rate mind. I hated the real-world effects of (many of*) his decisions. I was moved by Justice Ginsburg's tribute to her friend. I honor the pain of those Justice Scalia hurt, and will not say they shouldn't feel that way or that they need to be "nicer" about it, not when it's something I can consider from my privileged perch. It's complicated.


* To be fair, he sided with the more liberal members of the court on a number of criminal procedure issues (and probably some other issues I'm not aware of/am forgetting at the moment). I appreciate that he was principled.

Update - Also, here's a taste of some of his complexities:

(Part 2 is here)