Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ride of Silence

For me, this ride was about two main themes; community and awareness. Community in the sense that there has been this basic idea being bounced around lately, perhaps mostly in my own head, but also most prominently by Pier Giorgio Di Ciccio (from a past Agenda), that community is one of the sure fire ways toward sustainability. Sustainability, as most anything I think, is best achieved when there is a strong incentive for the participating individuals to achieve.

Many people are choosing not to have kids, or, when they do have kids they plan to move and raise them out of the city, and when they do have kids in the suburbs there is a general plan to care for them in a certain way as to not let them out after dark, seldom outdoors alone, etc. Individually one could deny this, but just look at the dis-inhabited parks and playgrounds in your area after school hours; people are staying inside.

When building a sustainable community there needs to be interaction within the public realm to build trust, a sense of co-dependence, co-responsibility and cooperation (sustainability does not necessarily equal livability!) within that community, to be able to build that incentive for sustainability, be that economical, social, or environmental. Long term involvement is a good way to increase people's incentives towards long term sustainability and livability, and this ride, like so many other events in Toronto, is a free and easy way to get this idea on the pavement.

Secondly, awareness. People's deaths, caused by city limits should not be ignored. When charges aren't laid in the aftermath of a collision between a cyclist and a vehicle operator - as I understand is the result in most cases - this provides evidence toward consistent systematic errors within the system. If there are systematic errors involved in these collisions, then not only should addressing these errors be a goal of the government, but it is also their responsibility. These deaths should not and can not continue to be ignored and blamed on human error time after time. It is abundantly clear in the data (given that a large number of cities are doing things differently and resulting in intrinsically safer infrastructure) that this is not just human error.

Nathan Abshire (and Happy Fats)

No reason not to speak French...

Short interview and, uhhh, such a great live performance.

Filmed at Fred's Lounge (Fred Tate's) in Mamou, Louisiana in 1976.

Pine Grove Blues - 12-bar blues, accordion, live Cajun, 1976, one microphone.

Biography by John Bush

Nathan Abshire helped bring the blues and honky tonk to Cajun music and repopularized the accordion with his recordings during the 1950s and '60s, but still never managed to make a living from his music. Born in Gueyden, LA, on June 23, 1913, Abshire began playing professionally in the 1920s, and he first recorded in the early '30s with Happy Fats & His Rayne-Bo Ramblers. Abshire went to work at the Basile, LA, town dump around that time, and he held the job for most of his working life.

His fortunes began looking bright by 1936, however, when the Rayne-Bo Ramblers began backing him on sides for Bluebird. After serving in World War II, Abshire cut "Pine Grove Blues" -- his most famous single and later his signature song -- for D.T. Records. He recorded for Khoury/Lyric, Swallow, and Kajun during the 1950s and '60s, meanwhile playing local dances and appearing on sessions by the Balfa Brothers.

A renewal of interest in Cajun and folk music during the '70s gave Abshire a chance to play several festivals and colleges and star in the 1975 PBS-TV Cajun documentary, Good Times Are Killing Me. The title proved prophetic, however, as Abshire fought alcoholism during his last years. Several sessions for Folkways and La Louisienne followed in the late '70s, but he died on May 13, 1981.

Nathan Abshire

More on Happy fats:

In 1966, however, Fats was the subject of national controversy when he signed to producer Jay D. Miller's segregationist Reb Rebel label to record the underground smash "Dear Mr. President," a spoken word condemnation of Lyndon Johnson's civil rights policies that sold over 200,000 copies despite its appalling racism. "We didn't have any problems with that, not at all," Fats maintained in an interview. "There wasn't anything violent about it -- it was just a joke. I had a car of black people run me down on the highway one time coming in Lafayette, and they said, 'Are you the fellow that made " Dear Mr. President"?' I said I was, and they said, 'We'd like to buy some records.' They bought about 15 records. There was a big van full of black people and they loved it . . . Either side at that time, they didn't want integration very much. They wanted to go each their own way." The commercial success of "Dear Mr. President" launched a series of similarly poisonous Fats efforts including "Birthday Thank You (Tommy from Viet Nam)," "A Victim of the Big Mess (Called the Great Society)," "The Story of the Po' Folks and the New Dealers," and "Vote Wallace in '72." After a long battle with diabetes, Fats died on February 23, 1988.