Beat Diaspora: Beats, Buses, Bricks

an omnivorous take on music of the beat-based variety and the urban spaces that nurture it

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Get Domestic

"If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal."
--Emma Goldman

Off the French political beat for a hot minute -- not that I tend to stay on it for too long, of course. We're two days out from the first Tuesday in November. In (dis)honor of that occasion, here are some words&sounds to get you through it.

It's bizarre to be sitting in Paris, contemplating absentee ballot choices for a suburban county in Maryland. I've lost pretty much all attachment to such mediocre local politics. I credit a few candidates for spending the postage to actually cull my name from the absentee rolls and send pamphlets transatlantic. Not that it helped -- it's far from thrilling to watch county executive candidates duke it out over who can best maintain Howard County's suburban landscape. Or who's got a more compelling vision for "downtown Columbia" (marked most prominently by a shopping mall). Bleak prospects in a town that's gone from '60s social experiment to management by a company that specializes in shopping malls. . . . I need to get registered somewhere else. Here's hoping I'll have a more exciting U.S. address come November 2008.

For now, I'm absolutely torn on this race. For all those Howard County orphans' rights experts, any suggestions?

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anniversary, for worse.

Update: I spoke a bit to soon about no violence around the one-year anniversary of last year's "riots". As reported here (among many other news outlets), some youths set fire to a bus in Marseille, seriously injuring a female student who remains in the hospital with burns over 60% of her body. I've loosely followed the story in the papers, where it's gotten considerable attention from Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who fanned the flames last year when he publicly decried the banlieue youth as "racailles", a verlan word that inverts the French derogatory term caillera (loosely translated as "rabble", but more complex -- see the links). The Guardian offers excellent etymological analysis of the term, while Urban Dictionary throws it a heavy dose of irreverence (I promose to watch out for alligator logos next time I'm in Ch√Ętelet-Les-Halles late at night).

But back to Sarko. He's a conservative (by French standards) in Chirac's government who's positioning himself for a run at the presidency next spring. The left reviles him as much as they despise Bush -- when a pair of women from Gambia joined a political conversation I was having with a friend at a restaurant the other night, we came up with the following comparison: Bush started a war abroad, while Sarko started one at home.

I'm sure he legitimately cares about the Marseille attack, but his finger wagging smacks of self-righteous indignation and political posturing: The prevailing theory of the pundits is that law&order will be the big issue come election time. I don't want to trivialize what happened -- it's obviously an awful event, and for once there's something personal & human about it, a name, not just flames everywhere you turn (à la the pics I posted of last year). But it has to be seen as something of a positive sign that at least the nervous fears of "anniversary" attacks didn't turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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