Django, in case you’re wondering, was one of the planet’s most extraordinary guitarists and arguably the first great non-American jazz artist. (Yma Sumac excepted, he also had the coolest name of any recording artist.)
Born a capital-G Gypsy, Reinhardt was only 18 when he almost burned to death in the 1920s equivalent of a mobile home. The young guitarist’s left hand was charred so badly that he retained the use of only its index and middle fingers.
During months of recovery, Reinhardt improvised a new way to play guitar, using the nubs of his left hand to chord and the two workable fingers to play individual notes.
His aggressive chords, paired with the smooth virtuosity of violinist Stephane Grappelli in the landmark Quintet of the Hot Club of France, set a new standard for string music. Django’s jazz swung all right, but like a punch.
Maybe that’s why Steve Jobs selected a Django track (“Swing Guitars”) to accompany the rollout of the new Apple iPad. The Wall Street Journal, always trying to solve the mystery of the computer giant’s success, engaged Will Friedwald to suss out the deeper meaning of Jobs’s theme music. “Possibly Mr. Jobs was mindful that the Reinhardt Centennial had occurred Jan. 23, just a few days before the iPad presentation,” he wrote. “But probably not.”
One suspects that the brains behind iTunes and the iPod is in fact a stone music junkie and therefore quite aware of Django’s 100th birthday. Besides, Steverino also ran through some Dead, some Dylan, John Mayer and Lady Gaga whilst putting yon iPad through its paces. A little Vampire Weekend bumped against Glenn Gould, and he would have had something for everybody.
Anyway, before I could read any of the Djangology on the WSJ page, I bumped into the unsettling advert. A photo array of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, the latter looking even more than usual like Mr. Potter from It’s A Wonderful Life, stood beneath the dire pronouncement, “OBAMA’S HEALTH CARE RAISES TAXES — CUTS MEDICARE — BANRUPTS MEDICAID.”
Oh, and the images of the three amigos were shot in black-and-white.
Woe betide you should you ever get your picture into a commercial and the producers skip the color processing. Black-and-white is tantamount to a scarlet letter, ironically, damning you as either a person not to be trusted, one of shady morals or just Hitleresque.
(Note that this axiom applies only to political commercials. If your image appears in black-and-white ads touting wrist watches, haberdashery or jewelry, you are instead to be envied, emulated and, where possible, sired with.)
Among the malevolent black-and-white Democrats was a red button clamoring, “Click here to stop them!” Under the button was revelation that the ad was underwritten by Byrne for Alabama, Inc.
Really? Bradley Byrne, beloved of builders and contractors, is our last defense against encroaching Obamaism? Upon clicking the button to stop them — could I resist? — I was whisked to the gubernatorial hopeful’s website, bannered at the top with REPUBLICAN BYRNE GOVERNOR 2010, apparently for the benefit of his target demographic, to whom given names and prepositions are anathema.
I was then treated to a quick video, during which jerky camera movement almost disguised the flicker of the candidate’s eyes toward the teleprompter. Byrne’s message to the world, or at least to unwary readers of Wall Street Journal online, is that he “will stand up under the 10th Amendment”, the Founders’ leaky umbrella, to keep the pernicious federal gummint out of our individual lives.
All that was missing was a tasteful chamber group playing “Dixie.” We eagerly await Mr. Byrne’s pledge to return every dime of that tainted Federal money soiling Alabama’s coffers to its rightful place in the petty cash account at the Trilateral Commission headquarters.
It is entertaining, though, that Bradley Byrne is spending a gob of campaign cash to run against Washington when he might make more inroads running against Montgomery. As a guy trying to be elected governor, shouldn’t he be trying to convince voters that he can drag the obdurate machinery of the Alabama legislature into the 21st century?
Inspired by a state constitution over a hundred years old and certainly 50 years overdue for demolition and rebuilding, Alabama legislators and their patrons have profited handsomely off the 20th century. For example, keeping property taxes low so that corporate landowners need not be burdened with anything resembling a fair assessment, the legislators see their campaign funds benefit after said corporate landowners convert the money they’ve saved to stimulate the economy through generous political contributions.
The 21st century might prove less agreeably synergistic, so it’s better for the legislature and its patrons not to move the calendar too far ahead. Maybe that’s why Bradley Byrne, like so many other erstwhile leaders, is in no particular hurry to wind the clock: “A constitutional convention is not the only road to constitutional reform. A task force of interested citizens should be formed to review the Constitution article-by-article and submit their proposals to the Legislature for consideration and placement on the ballot for the vote of the people. This would insure a fair and deliberate method of consideration.” Emphasis, if you please, on “deliberate.” What’s another hundred years?
There’s a free movie you ought to see at the Carver Theatre Friday night at 6:30. It’s a short film called Open Secret, the true story of how Alabama legislators conspired to disenfranchise poor white men and all blacks and women. Then they wrote a state constitution to codify that discrimination, and it’s the same one under which we dysfunction today, 109 years later.
Should someone ever roll out a new Alabama constitution, I wouldn’t mind hearing some Django to accompany it. “Chasing Shadows,” maybe, or “If Dreams Came True.”
Want to see Open Secret for free Friday night? Hit www.constitutionalreform.org for all the intriguing info.