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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Monday Wake Up Call – Dixie Chicks Edition, June 29, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Delaware Water Gap, NJ – 2020 photo by Craig Conklin

OK, Wrongo was wrong, again. He said on Saturday that changing the name of the Dixie Chicks to the Chicks wasn’t going to do anything for them. Wrongo ignored the power of a great protest song, and what it can do for your career.

And the Chicks have such a protest song in the just-released “March March” which is featured below.

But first, a few words about the mostly-forgotten Dixie Chicks. They were country, but not the faux patriotic kind. Their name came from the song by Little Feat, “Dixie Chicken”. If you’ve never heard it, you’re in for a treat, so listen at the link above.

Despite the name, they were pretty progressive in their music and lyrics. And they got in trouble for it in the Bush II administration. From Wikipedia: (brackets by Wrongo)

“On March 10, 2003, nine days before the invasion of Iraq, the Dixie Chicks performed…in London, England. It was the first concert of their Top of the World tour in support of their sixth album, Home. Introducing their song “Travelin’ Soldier”, [Natalie] Maines told the audience the band did not support the upcoming Allied invasion of Iraq and were “ashamed” that President George W. Bush was from Texas.

Many American country music listeners supported the war, and Maines’s remark triggered a backlash in the United States. The Dixie Chicks were blacklisted by thousands of country radio stations, and the band members received death threats…”

This was a huge deal back then. The entire country music industry ostracized them. At roughly the same time as the Chicks were blacklisted, the House GOP pushed to rename french fries and french toast in their cafeteria to “freedom fries” and “freedom toast”. Freedumb!

But the Chicks were correct. It wasn’t simply the Iraq war, it was illegal torture, the rise of the unitary executive, the attacks on free speech, and the destruction of the Iraqi state, and how that destabilized the Middle East. The Dixie Chicks’ protest grew to include all of that.

Looking back, Nashville didn’t have a clue about how to respond after 9/11. In their simplistic view, we had WWII, a story about the good guys vs. the bad guys. We also had Vietnam’s multiple shades of gray. But from a marketing perspective, and based on their collective ideology, Nashville wanted Bush’s Iraq war to be perceived at the WWII end of the spectrum.

In retrospect, the Chicks were a lot closer to where most of America was on the Iraq war than their Nashville gatekeepers. If you have any doubts about their political bona fides, listen to their anti-Vietnam song, Travelin’ Soldier, written by Bruce Robison in 1996.

So onward to the Chicks’ new song. Watch it full screen, it’s worth it.

This is protest music at its best. There have been protest songs all along, but the last time they were truly relevant was in 1970, with the CSNY song “Ohio” memorializing the Kent State shootings.

In 2020, it’s taken a pandemic, a maliciously negligent government, and disgusting abuses of authority to maybe slap us wide awake. Time to wake up America! Listen to the Chicks do “March March”:

Full Lyrics:

 [Chorus]
March, march to my own drum
March, march to my own drum
Hey, hey, I’m an army of one
Oh, I’m an army of one
March, march to my own drum
March, march to my own drum
Hey, hey, I’m an army of one
Oh, I’m an army of one

[Verse 1]
Brenda’s packin’ heat ’cause she don’t like Mondays
Underpaid teacher policin’ the hallways
Print yourself a weapon and take it to the gun range
(Ah, cut the shit, you ain’t goin’ to the gun range)
Standin’ with Emma and our sons and daughters
Watchin’ our youth have to solve our problems
I’ll follow them, so who’s comin’ with me?
(Half of you love me, half already hate me)

[Chorus]

[Verse 2]
Tell the ol’ boys in the white bread lobby
What they can and can’t do with their bodies
Temperatures are risin’, cities are sinkin’
(Ah, cut the shit, you know your city is sinkin’)
Lies are truth and truth is fiction
Everybody’s talkin’, who’s gonna listen?
What the hell happened in Helsinki?

[Chorus]

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Letter From London – Saturday Soother Edition

On Thursday night, we saw “An American in Paris”. It played on Broadway, winning four Tony awards before moving on to Paris and now, London. It is based on the 1951 film with George and Ira Gershwin’s music that won six Oscars. Since it was just six years after the end of WWII, the movie is played as a lighthearted romp, filled with tap dancing.

On the stage, the focus is on the romantic story of a young American soldier and a beautiful French girl in Paris, each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war. The American GI, Jerry, a painter in Montmartre meets Lise, a young saleswoman. Lise however, is loved by Henri, a rich kid singer of middle-of-the-road popular songs.

The stage version is balletic, even to the point of including a 15+-minute classical ballet when Jerry and Lise reunite, after it seemed their love would be unfulfilled. The sets are magical. A swastika flag turns into the French Tricolor before our eyes. Backlit screens showing Paris are conjured in line drawings that are slowly sketched in, like our hero Jerry, the GI artist might do on the streets of the city. All of the sets are animated by 59 Productions. As the images float in, computers project these scenes exactly on time with the set as it moves into place. (Sorry no photos are allowed in the theater!)

This was a wonderful experience, and Wrongo and Ms. Right, who missed in on Broadway, were delighted to see it here. “Who could ask for anything more?

After the show, we were fortunate to meet with Leanne Cope, the Tony nominee who played Lise in NYC, Paris and now in London. She was joined by Zoe Rainey and Julia Nagle, featured members of the cast. Cope is a member of the Royal Ballet and brings those skills to the role of Lise, plus she also has a beautiful singing voice.

It is incredibly difficult to perform the dancing sections for eight days each week, and Leanne said that the fear of injury is always present. She only performs seven of the weekly shows, and thus gets a long weekend each week for rest and recovery.

On Friday, we traveled out of London to Highclere Castle for dinner:

2017 photo by Wrongo

This is the big highlight of a highlight-filled week in London. Obviously, we did not dress for dinner like Lord and Lady Crawley did in the 1900’s, but the Castle insisted there should be no stilettos or sneakers. Turns out they have been doing private dinners for a couple of years. They have the occasional marriage on site as well.

We had a brief tour of the bedrooms shown on the series, but what was the most interesting was our tour of the Egyptian antiquities that were discovered by the fifth Lord Carnarvon. He and Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb. Much of the Lord’s collection was sold in the 1920’s to NYC’s Metropolitan Museum. Howard Carter catalogued what remained and said he had stored a few unimportant items at Highclere.

Those items were hidden within the Castle, until re-discovered by the family in 1987. An incredible story.

We had dinner in the dining room that is featured on the show, and it was outstanding. But a big thrill for those who watched “Downton Abbey” on PBS was that after the meal, someone said, “Shall we go through?” And we retired to the magnificent library for coffee, and single malt or cognac.

We can marvel at the manner in which some at the very top of the wealth pyramid lived back then, but remember, the castle still doesn’t have central heating. Highclere was part of a lifestyle on a grand scale that, for both social and financial reasons, can no longer exist, probably not even for the most obscenely wealthy hedge fund guys of today.

Here is the theme music from the show for our Saturday Soother. Our driver had the CD playing as we drove up to the main entrance of the castle:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Letter From London – October 12, 2017

A day off, with “American in Paris” on tap for tonight. But today was throwback Thursday, so Wrongo and Ms. Right visited old haunts from Wrongo’s time in London with the global bank. A visit to Harrods was our first stop, where we saw this outrageous jacket:

2017 photo by Wrongo

Wrongo asked a young Harrods employee if this was the most garish jacket in the Men’s department, and he replied “Sorry, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.” And apparently so. There was even one that seemed to be a faux royal military outfit that might have been worn by Michael Jackson back in the day.

We then went to the Food Halls for some sweets:

Hard to believe, logo chocolates! 2017 photo by Wrongo

We moved on to visit the public school Wrongo’s sons attended, which is co-ed now, these many years later. Then to the flat that Wrongo lived in on Cadogan Square in Knightsbridge. It sold recently for about £7.5million, a tribute to how out-of-reach real estate has gotten in central London in the intervening years.

We went to Ottolenghi Belgravia to purchase spices; sumac, and black garlic specifically. By now we were hungry, and moved on to Dishoom, one of the best Indian restaurants in London. For Connecticut residents, quality Indian food is very difficult to find, without driving at least an hour. So when one of the best is a ten-minute walk from your hotel, you have to visit. Maybe twice.

We loved Dishoom’s Mahi Tikka, the Lamb Boti Kebab, and the House Black Daal, among others that were simply terrific.

Last evening we saw “Apologia” at the Trafalgar Studios. The play is about a disastrous family reunion between a Boomer career mother, her two grown male children, and the women in their lives. Stockard Channing is the mom (Kristen) who became an eminent and successful art historian, but was unable to keep custody of, or stay connected to, her two sons when they were young. Joseph Millson plays both sons very effectively. Some in our group didn’t realize the same actor performed both roles. Simon says:

I have to tell you now that the thing I remember most about you is your absence.

Things do not go well at Mom’s birthday dinner. The triggering point is Kristen’s recently published book about her life, in which she fails to mention either son, Peter or Simon. When the sons and their partners Trudi (Downton Abbey’s Laura Carmichael) and Claire (Freema Agyeman) show up for Kristen’s birthday, they want only to confront her about her decisions, both about her career and the book that represents it. Over the course of the evening, Kristen is forced to confront her sons’ antipathy for her, because of her commitment to career over family.

There is plenty of humor to cut the tension of the many confrontations, but ultimately, Kristen is left alone and unloved, a prisoner of the choices she made.

Stockard Channing is the lead, and turns in an excellent performance as Kristen, but it was Laura Carmichael as Trudi, the “Wisconsin nice” fiancée of Peter who knocks it out of the park. Trudi is a born-again Christian who seems naïve, possibly insipid, and a less-than-worthy opponent for Kristen. But it is Trudi who delivers the coup de grace to Kristen in the final moments of the play.

Excellent. See it if it comes to the US.

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Letter from London – October 11, 2017

A quick report from London’s theater district. Last night, Wrongo and Ms. Right saw a new version of the old Broadway musical, “42nd Street” at the Royal Drury Lane Theater. We originally saw it on Broadway eons ago, when Jerry Orbach and Tammy Grimes were in the cast. Frankly, it wasn’t a great night back then in 1980 when we saw it with daughter Kelly.

This Drury Lane revival however, was fantastic. It’s a true crowd pleaser with great sets, a huge and extraordinary cast, fabulous costumes, and wonderful choreography. Our arranged backstage visit was preempted by Rod Stewart, who attended and sat in the Royal Box:

2017 photo by Wrongo

So, the aging English rock star with eight kids, who is worth at least $150mm, got the tour instead of an aging blogger from America with just six kids.

Today, we visited Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, the reproduction of the storied stage where Shakespeare had many of his plays performed before it was demolished in 1644. While there, we saw Mark Rylance, the actor who played Thomas Cromwell in the 2015 BBC miniseries “Wolf Hall, for which he received an Emmy nomination. You may remember Rylance as Rudolf Abel in 2015’s “Bridge of Spies”, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He was at the Globe conducting a class for visiting Rutgers University students:

2017 photo by Wrongo

And here he is demonstrating something we were too far away to hear:

2017 photo by Wrongo

Later, we stopped in next door to the Globe at the famous Swan restaurant for drinks and a leisurely lunch before heading back to the hotel to prepare for the night’s play, “Apologia”. It’s another juicy drama about messed-up families. “Apologia” is headlined by Stockard Channing, who most will remember as the First Lady on the TV drama, “West Wing”.

More tomorrow.

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