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4A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, September 29, 2003

OP/ED

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420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
letters@michigandaily.com

EDITED AND MANAGED BY
STUDENTS AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
SINCE 1890

LOUIE MEIZLISH
Editor in Chief
AUBREY HENRETTY
ZAC PESKOWITZ
Editorial Page Editors

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
'We came to
play with
Chinese girls!"

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of
the Daily's editorial board. All other articles, letters and cartoons do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

SA M B U T ER '-w SOAPBOX N L o
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- An unidentified Japanese tourist, who
traveled to China with 400 other men to
have sexual intercourse with prostitutes, as
reported by the BBC. The escapade has
caused widespread controversy in China.

The Blues
STEVE COTNER My BACK PAGES

14

was in Starbucks the
other night scamming
free coffee from a
friend (you think I would
pay those people?), when
I noticed the CDs on sale
at the counter: Johnny
Cash's "Artist's Choice"
collection and a compila-
tion,"Got a Feeling Called
the Blues." I was sad to
see Cash's ghost next to a Grande double
caramel mocha latte, but I was inconsolable
about the blues. The album cover looked like a
bubble bath ad, though the artists on the back
looked like a good sampling of old blues music,
and the paradox plunged me into a fog of uncer-
tainty from which I have only recently emerged.
Why are trendy coffeemakers recommend-
ing old Delta blues to trendy coffee drinkers?
Should I protest the loss of authenticity to corpo-
rate compilations, the corruption of the music's
spirit by sharply dressed aesthetic taste-makers?
The Ann Arbor Blues Fest and Martin
Scorcese's PBS series "The Blues" (airs all this
week, 9 p.m.) are floating around me, and I can't
tell what is up or down Li the music world.
I am worried about Starbucks because the
compilation/reissue trend really affects how we
perceive music. The Rolling Stones have given
arm-chair afficionados Super Audio CD ver-
sions of old songs, making every home theater
system that much cooler. The living room is
becoming an acceptable substitute for the con-
cert hall or the bar room stage. Scorcese says in
his film that blues music is "everybody's
music," and as we get further into consumer
technology, we see he is right: Anyone can own
it. But the blues was never for the espresso set,
and if you only know it for B.B. King's Whop-
per ads, it's not for you.

There used to be a time when the blues did
not exist in white people's living rooms. It was
the sound of dusty front porches and stomping
bare feet. It came from old men and women
who sang about the devil and drinking alone,
and it existed for its own sake. In the mid 1930s,
a young guy named Alan Lomax went into the
deep south and made the first recordings of peo-
ple like Leadbelly and Muddy Waters. He cap-
tured the intimacy of those artists, the intensity
of feeling they had in person and the deeply
affecting sound of whole families and towns
singing work songs together.
Since then, white people have been discover-
ing the blues over and over again, including the
hip college students of the '60s and the studied
imitators of the British invasion, but none ever
learned more than what Lomax found in those
legendary days in the '30s. Beyond that point,
you might say, history is shrouded in darkness.
As time passes, the blues will seem more
and more irrelevant to most Americans. The
model of the ascetic bluesman, sitting on his
steps with an acoustic guitar and harmonica,
will mean less and less to a culture that only
validates the products of high technology and
neat packaging. It will mean even less to the
coffee drinkers who will buy up these compila-
tions thinking they had sprung from a vacuum,
or worse yet, from the corporations that sell
them. The real artists and their life experiences
will seem irrelevant in a world so aesthetically
driven. So I have qualms when Scorcese calls
the blues "everybody's music," but it would
still do a body good to watch his film. And as I
sit through the hours of unearthed footage, I'm
sure I will think back often to my own Lomax
moment...
It was this past summer, when I spent time
traveling through southern Africa and on a few
occasions was fortunate enough to hear the

music of local people. I had brought a handheld
tape recorder to capture the sounds of busy city
centers, of village life along the Zambezi River
and animal noises in the Game Parks. I soon
found myself trying to capture the music too,
and though I was discrete, I was as enthusiastic
about it as Alan Lomax ever could have been.
Somewhere in my room now is a plastic tape of
Zulu schoolchildren singing and clapping
together; it does not contain the great welcoming
hymn the whole school sang - hundreds of stu-
dents in unison with a little girl singing up and
down over them all. But it will be enough to
remember what it was like. And I did not think
to bring the recorder one night to a village on
Lake Malawi, where the people treated us all to
a huge meal and sang harmonies next to a camp-
fire, the women shuffling their feet to a drum
and all of us laughing together. There are a few
photos, and I tried to write about it in my jour-
nal, but some experiences are not translatable.
In a few years, I might still have the tape of
the Zulu children, but it will be much harder to
remember the scene at Lake Malawi. At some
point, I may completely forget it. But I was there
for it, and the tapes were never the point. They
were just a poor effort to hold on to something
good.
I imagine that, for all the Leadbellies that
Lomax brought out, he must have had his share
of Lake Malawis as well - the places, artists
and songs that always existed but never found
their way to tape. And in some ways it is a
shame that history passed them by without men-
tion. But they were not for us to see in the first
place. The blues did not exist for the archives -
no real music does - and none of us today will
ever really understand.

Cotner can be reached
at cotners@umich.edu.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Said will be mourned, but
his writings will live on
TO THE DAILY:
Edward W. Said, one of the most coura-
geous and fiercely independent intellectuals of
our time, passed away in New York last week at
the age of 67 after a long struggle with
leukemia. A world-renowned cultural critic, pro-
fessor of comparative literature at Columbia
University and the author of numerous scholarly
books, Said received an honorary degree from
the University in 1997. Said was born in
Jerusalem when Palestine was under British
mandate. In 1948, when the State of Israel was
created and over 700,000 Palestinians became
displaced into refugee camps, he left Jerusalem
with his family to Egypt, and later moved to the
United States, where he earned his bachelor's
degree at Princeton and master's and doctorate
degrees at Harvard.
Said is the author of over 20 books and
countless articles and speeches. His most semi-
nal work, "Orientalism," established his acade-
mic reputation and forged new grounds in
post-colonial studies in the humanities. In the
book, Said maintains that reductionist represen-
tations of the East in literature reflected and rein-
forced Western imperialist enterprises of the
time. Orientalist discourse seeks to transform the
East into an alien other that is inferior and unen-
lightened, a situation in which the West, by
virtue of the misrepresentation of the East,
emerges as enlightened and progressive, and jus-
tified in its imperial endeavor. Said continued
expanding and elaborating on this thesis
throughout his life in works such as "The Ques-
tion of Palestine," "Covering Islam" and "Cul-
ture and Imperialism." After Sept. 11, Said
spoke passionately against the heightened vilifi-
cation and "othering" of Islam and Muslims in
America, while at the same time uncompromis-
ingly condemning terrorism in all its forms.
One would need pages to list all of Said's
scholarly publications, honorary degrees, and
professional awards. What propelled Said into
prominence as a popular and organic intellectu-
al, however, was his steadfastness in advocating
for social justice causes and speaking truth to
power at all cost. Said was one of the most vocal
and eloquent advocate of the Palestinian cause
and a staunch critic of Israeli state terrorism. He

passion and conviction against lies and half-
truths presented as knowledge by those in posi-
tions of power. His scholarship and his
unwavering commitment to social justice inspire
generations of Muslim- and Arab-American
scholar-activists. While we, as Muslim and Arab
American students at the University, mourn the
loss of Said, we are consoled by the fact that his
life-long accomplishments arm us with a new
paradigm to contribute to a universal intellectual
tradition that incorporates our empowered voic-
es and narratives.
SAWSAN ABDULRAHIM
School of Public Health
Coordinator, Muslim Graduate Student Association
CARMEL SALHI
LSA junior
Chair, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality
OMAR KHALIL
Rackham
President, Muslim Student Association
Detroit Project allows
students to reject stereotypes
To THE DAILY:
I would like to thank Tim Reed for his let-
ter to the editor, Article damages view of volun-
teerism; students lazy, hold wrong views on
service (09/26/03). Reed raises many excellent
points, but I would like to clarify the position
of the Detroit Project for the benefit of the
Daily readers.
It is an unfortunate problem that many stu-
dents hold negative stereotypes about Detroit
as truths. At the DP, we feel that the best way
to break down these stereotypes and participate
in change is to get people to Detroit and see for
themselves what this great city is all about -
the communities. As anybody who has partici-
pated in one of our service projects can attest
to, our projects always involve dialogue with a
community member and educational activities
throughout the experience aimed at helping
volunteers understand root causes of urban
issues. We strongly believe that this aids in the
process of creating social change.
A fact we have come to understand is that
many students are extremely busy already,
and when they want to get involved in ser-
vice, whatever the impetus, we want to pro-
vide them an opportunity to do so and get

are committed for more than one project,
many of them making weekly commitments.
To close, I would like to reaffirm my
belief that even a student participating only
once can make a difference. As an example,
many community members that we are in dia-
logue with inform us that abandoned houses
are a blight on their communities. They fre-
quently refer to them as "negative energy
zones" because absolutely nothing positive
can happen around them. They want to tear
them down, and ask for our help. If one per-
son signs up, shows up, and participates in the
demolition, they have helped that community
by participating in creating change. We know
that greater structural inequalities will not be
changed in just one day, but by participating
in these projects we believe that students can
gain a greater understanding of the communi-
ty they enter.
JONATHAN GLEICHR
Business senior
Executive director, Detroit Project
Gephardt, not Dean, is
the right choice for workers
To THE DAILY:
America's working people and labor unions
are strongholds of America's progress, and pros-
perity and constitute the main backbone of the
Democratic Party. I am insulted and offended
when someone like former Vermont Gov.
Howard Dean not only claims to be from the
"Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," but
does it in front of the American Federation of
Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, one
of the strongest voices for working Americans
(Dean makes Michigan campaign stop, 09/26/03).
In actuality, Dean does not have the support of
America's labor unions and has a terrible track
record on worker's rights. The only major labor
union in the state of Vermont, the teacher's
union, refused to endorse him in any election
after Dean borrowed money from the union and
not only forgot the return the money, but then
cut the education budget and initiatives for new
teachers. Dean also supported free trade policies
that sent American jobs abroad and exploited
millions of low-wage foreign workers. There is
one good thing coming out of this Dean fraud:

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