Monthly Archives April 2022

Brilliant Songs #28: Mike Batt’s “Market Day in Guernica”

Eighty-five years ago this past week, April 26, 1937, was a market day in Guernica, Spain. It was a Monday, when farmers from the surrounding countryside would bring their crops into the town square to sell to residents and others who flowed in from surrounding towns in the autonomous Basque Country.

The Spanish Civil War was raging at the time, pitting the Republican government against General Francisco Franco’s rebel Nationalist faction and fascist allies Germany and Italy. Guernica, with a population of some 5,000, had not been a center of combat, but it stood some 30 kilometers east of Bilbao, population nearly 200,000, which Franco coveted as a strategically important possession to bring the government to its knees.

Batt was looking back to Guernica when he wrote this song, but nearly 20 years on and still active, the Twitter hashtag he features next to his name @MikeBatt is #StandWithUkraine.

That ma...

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Elie Weisel and Volodymyr Zelensky’s Unanswered Questions

“The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.”
—Joseph Conrad


Last week while reading through the latest reports of Russia’s continuing atrocities against Ukraine, I found myself suddenly bursting with indignation, yelling at my laptop as if I were 10 years old and made aware for the first time that the world can be a horrible place in which horrible things happen to undeserving people.

Many nations of the world are ‘doing something.’ Many things, actually, costing many dollars. But a powerful and potentially world-altering question lurks under those commitments: Is it enough?

Muttering obscenities about Vladimir Putin, indulging the thought that I would happily strangle him with my bare hands had I the opportunity, I was struck yet again by how incredulous it is that one nation (one man, actually) can simply decide to eliminate anothe...

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Resurrection for Non-Christians: A Poem


                                  By Andrew Hidas

Stay with me now, you non-Christians (of which I am one).
The hard believers will insist there’s nothing for you here,
Irredeemable heathens that you persist in Being.
But believe not, I say, in those believers, their binaries
Blinding them to nuance, context, symbol, the
Dusky liminal depths of myth more real than reality.

Resurrection is yours, too, for the taking.

You need not wear a cross on your chest,
Nor hang on one for the many sins you
Share in common with your brothers and sisters,
Perfection being the chimera that the
Christ himself was said to dispel.

Sinning is yours, too, for the committing.

You need only behold the tulips of spring,
The spring in your own step as day beckons
Or night falls with the slow revelation of stars.

Death and rebirth suffuse our lives, all life it...

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Three Ages, One Disparate Self: Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women”

Near the end of Edward Albee’s 1994 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Three Tall Women,” two of them, cryptically named “A” and “C,” finally profess their general dislike for each other. (“B,” the third woman, fills the Switzerland role of studied neutrality.)

Though not particularly surprising given the multiple barbs and eyerolls A and C have been sending each other’s way, it is a sad interchange for any reader or viewer who has followed their interaction through the play’s two acts.

That’s because A and C are the same person at different stages of life. (B is part of the mix, too; more on her below.)

C is 26, most of her life ahead of her, with the kind of self-assurance often begat by innocent, optimistic youth that is yet to be bruised and chastened by experience.

A is 92, obviously intelligent and refined, but just as obviously bitter, some for the ruins of her past but also for ...

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Brilliant Songs #27: Joanna Newsom’s “Baby Birch”

Sometimes, all we want and need is a short declarative bellow hooked into something hummable and danceable.

“I wanna hold your ha-aa-aa-a-anddd!”

“I can’t get noooo….satisfack-shun!”

“I seeee the ba-ad moon a-risin’!”

Other times, we slow the pace, lower the volume and still ourselves for a close listen to a story as it unspools from the mind and imagination of a singing poet as she frames a multi-layered tale across time, space and memory.

Her songs consistently beg big questions but just as consistently refuse the beggar, short-circuiting our Need to Know…

At 40 years old, the nearly unclassifiable Joanna Newsom has been telling such tales for two decades now as a singer-songwriter and harpist. (Yes, the harp!)

Hints of classical music accompany the harp, of course, like wispy clouds joyriding in an aural mashup that wafts along with strains of indie folk, “chamber folk,” avant garde, jazz, and hybrids c...

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