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نوروزتان مبارک

20 Mar

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A reader from New York writes, on “No hay cama pa’ tanta gente”….

17 Mar

“What do you mean? The Coronavirus? Homelessness? Or the sadistic refugee disaster [in the Mediterranean]?” [my emphasis]

Smart question. I guess I mean in the “End Times”. Never know. Pack a bag.

No hay cama pa’ tanta gente is one of the Gran Combo‘s — perhaps the most famous salsa band of all time — greatest hits. “No hay cama pa’ tanta gente” there aren’t enough beds for all these people!

The song is about a party where so many people show up that they trash your house — a Hispanic or Mediterranean problem; white folks need not worry. And anyway, a mob of guests inviting themselves to your house is a bracha.* Things can be replaced; shit happens; and, of course, you’ve made more food than any amount of people could possibly eat, so open-door to every-any-body: queens and publicans and rich, young princes and harlots. It is Christ’s b-day after all.

And the opening line is the moving: “En Navidad fui invitado a la casa de David…” “This Christmas I was invited into the House of David for a tremendous feast…” If you don’t know what the “House of David” means, I don’t have time just now; sorry; you’re not invited. :)

The song though is a plena, not salsa. Plena (“fullness”) was a purely percussive genre — like the Cuban rumba was in its beginnings — in that way that Africans can make stupendous walls of sound and music out of just percussion — from the very Black southern Puerto Rican city of Ponce, from the very Black barrio, even more specifically, of San Anton. In the 50s and 60s it had started moving from a folk genre into a big band, orchestrated style and commercial, vinyl world. But the form’s development got cut off by the tsunami of New York salsa that wiped everything else away in the 60s.** (Like crappy too-fast-to-dance-to merengue and the shitty vallenato out of Colombia later did in the late 80s — one of New York’s richest vernacular cultural traditions destroyed.)

SALSA IS FROM NEW YORK. Let me say this again: SALSA IS A MUSICAL GENRE CREATED IN NEW YORK CITY; and easily defined, in fact: an amalgam of Cuban genres, son and mambo and guaracha especially, combined with American jazz big band and nascent be-bop orchestration, formed and played by PUERTO RICANS in New York, and danced to in a particular style by the first load of New-York-born children of Eastern European Jews — only in New York. And don’t let anyone else tell you any different.

The two songs I posted into this piece about A0C’s comments on “bootstraps” were very famous socialist-minded plenas, a good example of the wry, socio-economic content of much plena. Here again; sorry; you can look up and post translations for us:

But at Christmas, Puerto Ricans like to remember their folk past, so plena is heard more often and everywhere to the point that it has come to be considered, like “No hay cama…” Christmas music for Puerto Ricans; though their other Christmas megahit and the PR Christmas national anthem is salsaLa Fiesta de Pilito and its piercing, austerely spiritual lyrics:

“A comer pastel***, a comer lechón, arroz con gandules, y a beber ron, que venga morcilla, venga de to’, y que se chave to’ compay, olvidemos to’ ok…”

“Let’s eat pasteles***, let’s eat roast pig, rice and pigeon peas, and drink rum, bring on the blood sausage, bring it all on!!! And fuck the rest, my man, forget about it all, ok?”

It’s not Christmas. Quite the opposite, in fact, or in tone, it’s Lent. But the Gran Combo’s tone seems more apposite in these times of panic we seem to relish falling into. So deja que se chave to’ compay… Please.


* bracha: Yiddish/Hebrew for “blessing” — probably the same root as Barack, Mubarak, Akbar. (I think…)

** The chicken-or-the-egg dilemma between salsa and the hustle is an interesting one, given how they both came to popularity in New York culture at around the same time, perhaps with the hustle at a slight delay between the two, and with the conduit between the forms being Hispanics, African-Americans and gay guys. I don’t know if there’s any work been written on the subject. Somebody look it up.

Ha, see. Wiki says:

Early hustle was a 5-step count with no turns, created by Puerto Rican teenagers in late 1972 as a direct result of Puerto Rican Elders objecting to young teenagers doing a grinding slow dance known as the 500. Created in the South Bronx among Puerto Rican teens it was originally done at house parties, hooky gigs and basements club dances in the South Bronx.

(And Jesus was of the House of David, in case you didn’t know.)

*** “Pasteles” are like Mexican tamales, except that instead of cornmeal, they’re made of mashed guineos (a type of unripe plátano), filled with peas and salt pork and chunks of chicken and green and red peppers and olives…and not as spicy as Mexican tamales can be. They’re yummy and can be eaten any time of the year, but for PR-ans, they are practically synonymous with Christmass, like an English plum pudding is for a Brit, and really delicious. And not necessarily with the Royal Copenhagen porcelain shown in the pic.

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Jadde take on panic: “No hay cama pa’ tanta gente”

17 Mar

Just chill…


New homepage pic…

14 Mar

…is from Pasolini‘s Il Vangelo secondo Matteo — it’s in the link in its entirety and with English subtitles (Took a break from my Paradzhanov images.) Watch it at some point this Lent/Holy Week. It’s as powerful — more — as Orthodox matins for Good Friday (the “Twelve Gospels”) or Bach.

The photo is of Enrique Irázoqui. I guess Pasolini needed a Spaniard’s ferocity to convey Matthew’s Jesus, the angriest of the four Christs. (As such he’s probably the most problematic for Jews). For me Irázoqui is the most beautiful Christ that has ever been portrayed.


The Nation: the brutal Blanche-du-Bois-ation of an innocent, loving and creative woman

29 Feb

Bloomberg Forced Me From My Teaching Job After He Learned I’d Been a Sex Worker

Elizabeth Warren’s devastating confrontation with the former mayor over allegations of sexual harassment made “billionaire” the dirty word—and made me feel respected.

By Melissa PetroTwitter

Democratic presidential candidates Michael Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren on the debate stage. (John Locher / AP Photo)

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I’ve never felt more alone in my life than I did 10 years ago when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for my removal from my job as a public-school teacher after he learned I had worked in the sex industry prior to becoming an elementary school teacher.

When Bloomberg said in the South Carolina presidential primary debate that he supported New York City teachers, he lied. When Warren confronted Bloomberg in the pre–Nevada caucus debate about his abusive treatment of women, my heart soared.

I was an idealistic 30-year-old when Bloomberg came for my job, a writer by education who had been working as a public-school teacher for a little over three years. Spurred by an op-ed I had published on Huffington Post, “Thoughts From a Former Craigslist Call Girl,” a New York Post reporter discovered that I currently worked as a teacher, and brought my current and former occupations to the mayor’s attention in a salacious cover story.

In response, Bloomberg abruptly yanked me from the classroom, going so far as to call for the City to take legal action against me.

“Friday night when I was informed that, of the situation of this teacher saying that she had been a sex worker—I think was the term she might have used—I said ‘well, you know, call her, tell her that she is being removed from the classroom,’” Bloomberg is quoted by the New York Daily News as saying.

“We’re just not going to have this woman in front of a class,” he said.

His reaction was based on his assumptions about sex workers rather than the facts of my case.

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Even after a months-long investigation into my professional conduct, my competence as a teacher was never called into question. I assumed they would let me return to teaching when they confirmed I was good at my job, despite the misconceptions we harbor about sex workers. Instead, I was slapped with the vague charge, “Conduct Unbecoming a Professional.” I was wrong. The Department of Education cited passages of my writing in which I’d admitted to having worked in the sex industry, implying this fact alone made me unfit to teach; it refused to release its findings.

Unemployed and unemployable, I struggled for years.

Although my life is better today, I doubt I’ll ever fully recover from the trauma of being publicly shamed and ridiculed, which made it all the more gratifying to watch Elizabeth Warren wipe the debate stage floor with Bloomberg’s smug face during the pre–Nevada caucus debate.

With nothing to lose and mad as hell, Warren pummeled the former New York City mayor for his well-documented abusive treatment of women. Her attacks were precise and devastating. It felt as though she were speaking for me, and while watching her felt good, reading the reactions on social media of other women the following morning felt even better.

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“Whatever else happens in this debate and in any of the others…I just want it known that as a woman, as a survivor, as a person who was hurt and silenced…I felt repped today,” tweeted New York State Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou.

It’s rare to see the men who take pleasure and profit from their abuse of women held to account. So much more frequently, we see women publicly punished for their own victimization, as was my experience.

At 19, sex work presented itself as a solution—a way of paying for school and covering my living expenses when I saw no other options. Stripping and, later, prostitution, made education attainable, a goal Bloomberg claims he will champion if elected president.

Hearing Warren attack Bloomberg for calling women “fat broads” and “horse-faced lesbians” felt as if she were defending sex workers against the slur “cum dumpster” or calling out “no human involved,” a term used by police to describe crimes committed against people in poor black communities.

Warren achieved the impossible: Without fear or hesitation, she held a white, male billionaire accountable for his sexual harassment on national television. When Warren suggested Bloomberg was an “arrogant billionaire,” her intonation made it sound as if it were a charge worse than “whore.”

When I started working in the industry, I didn’t dwell on the fact that to be or have been a sex worker is considered a mark of failure and shame, or that those who’ve sold sex are tainted in the eyes of others. I didn’t know that targets of stigma often internalize society’s negative beliefs. But for years after, I blamed myself for the suffering I had endured in the name of getting an education and the resulting misfortune that befell me.

Like nearly all women—on and off the job, and no matter the occupation—my boundaries were repeatedly violated. After a particularly negative experience, I left the sex industry for good. I applied for a coveted New York City Teaching Fellowship. To my surprise and delight, I was selected. I began teaching art and creative writing to children in kindergarten through fifth grade at a high-needs elementary school in the South Bronx. I worked hard to make a difference in my community, and I loved my profession.

It was taken from me in one fell swoop, starting with one New York Post headline: “Bronx Teacher Admits: I’m an Ex-Hooker.”

Michael Bloomberg and the media firestorm that followed humiliating me and undid years of work I’d spent recovering my sense of self. Bloomberg made me feel worthless, wrong, and utterly alone.

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On top of the struggles of everyday life, women often forced to survive the retelling of the stories that shaped us into who we are today. When Warren confronted Bloomberg, she made it clear: We deserve a president who respects us—all of us—and she would be that president.

Bloomberg shamed me—he felt entitled to that—but the shame belongs to him. Throughout his political career, he has demonstrated little respect for women in general, and now he feels entitled to the presidency? The gall.

NYTimes: “As Israel Votes Again (and Again), Arabs See an Opportunity, Arab leaders hope to improve on their strong showing in the last election, when they helped to nearly topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

28 Feb
Iman Khatib Yasin, an Arab politician running for a seat in Israel’s Parliament, campaigning in Abu Queider last week.Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

Article by David M. Halbfinger and Allison McCann

Good! Yes! Excellent! Calm down! Chill! Endure. Israeli Palestinians and those in Occupied Territories alike. I know it’s easy for me from the outside to counsel patience. But time, demography and fertility are on your side. Just wait a little.




27 Feb
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