Archive for March, 2007

Paul Pena: Genghis Blues

March 26, 2007

I would encourage you to check out Paul Pena, whose name rightfully should be synonymous with Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Marvin Gaye and many other great American musicians.

Pena was a great songwriter and guitarist who possessed a voice and spirit touched by God’s hand. (God forgot to touch Paul’s eyes, but that’s another story.)

I learned of him recently when I watched Genghis Blues, a documentary based on Paul Pena’s second life as a great friend of the people of Tuva and a naturally gifted master of the Tuvan throat music style of singing, in which a single human being can sing up to 10 octaves at one time.

Paul learned of Tuvan throat singing by listening to shortwave radio broadcasts from Moscow. He had to learn the Russian language in order to interpret the Tuvan language.

Genghis Blues was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary film. The film is based on Pena’s invitation to Tuva, a (nearly) lost land and culture between Russia, Mongolia and China, to participate in (and ultimately win) the nation’s singing tournament.

I am sad to write this entry in the past tense. I only learned today that Paul died a couple years ago after a long battle with diabetes.


A Picture That Says It All

March 12, 2007

This photograph from the 1965 Portland Rose Festival was reprinted in today’s paper. It shows a local high school rock and roll band with the futuristic name EPIX jamming on the stage of the Memorial Coliseum while a row of Portland police officers wince and cover their ears.

I think this picture says it all. And I would give just about anything to know what their set sounded like.

Click here for a larger version of the photo.

Courtesy of The Oregonian.

Destruction of New Orleans Laid at Feet of US Army Corps of Engineers

March 10, 2007

I lived in the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans for 2 years until deciding that the blazing hot Delta summers were too much for me. (I packed two cats and everything I owned into my car on a 90-degree morning and fled back to Portland.)

Even after living there and learning of New Orleans’ risk of catastrophe from a powerful hurricane, I never believed that the city would be destroyed in my lifetime.

Turns out the utter destruction of most of the city was entirely predictable (and predicted), as shown in these short video clips from Louisiana State University scientist Ivor van Heerden. He states that the Army Corps ignored federal law and underbuilt the levees for over three decades!

A few weeks ago, I recorded a short video by Chris Rose of the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper. His guest column about conditions in the city 500 days after Katrina was featured on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer.

Lastly, here is a link to an earlier post about Hurricance Katrina from one of my earliest entries on this blog in January 2006.

Tao Ruspoli: Just Say Know

March 9, 2007

Months ago, I read an interesting article about a short film called “Just Say Know”. In the 20-minute story, filmmaker Tao Ruspoli interviews his father (Prince Dado Ruspoli), mother (Debra Berger) and brother (Bartolomeo) on the subject of the lifelong addiction to narcotics that each has shared. Dado Ruspoli is reputed to be one of Fellini’s inspirations for the lead male character in the classic Italian film La Dolce Vita.

I found a link to the DVD of the film, but I could not find it for rent in Portland or at Netflix.

This week, Counterpunch and Ruspoli published the film in 5 parts free of charge. It is a very important and intriguing documentary. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.