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Tuesday night we don't normally get out but somehow I'd managed to
miss El Vez on all his previous trips through town. So we packed up
the Thunderbird and headed to East Atlanta with our out of town guest
in tow. We checked out the merch table, giggling at the clever
t-shirts and albums, my fave being the "Che It Loud" t-shirt with El
Vez in a Guevarra beret on the front and the slogan "If there is any
hope for America it lies in a Revolution" on the back.
The opening act was on stage, some pretty femme playing an acoustic
guitar, but we opted to hide in the back bar chatting until it was
time for the headliner.
The backup band, The Memphis Mariachis, came out all dressed in El
Vez' record label t-shirts, "Graciasland." Then the Elvettes, a
couple of cute girls in short skirts, followed by the man himself
done up as a nutcracker, marching across stage to a pumped up version
of Little Drummer Boy. He started into the song, but replaced the
"bah rum pum pum pum" chorus with "Come on come on" a la Gary
Glitter, and the line about "glory" with "Gloria" a la The Troggs. As
the song drew to a close, he whipped off the toy soldier outfit to
expose black vinyl and moved into a SLIGHTLY more Elvis-centric set.
But no matter what he sang there were constant inserts of Espanol and
other rock references. Some tunes had been all but gutted, such as a
pro-Zapatista song done to the tune of "Johnny B. Goode."
The Christmas theme dominated the night, such as a moving rendition
of John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" for which the
stagehands brought out a massive US flag with "NO WAR" written across
it. (For those war-mongers playing the home version, this generated a
loud cheer. Apparently not everyone is behind the prez...)
But for my money, the top tune of the night had to be "En El Barrio"
an East LA version of "In The Ghetto" that including a bit of Oasis'
"Champagne Supernova", but modified to "souped-up Chevy Nova" for
low-riding reference. I just about coughed up a lung the song was so
damn funny.
We stuck around for the encore, "Feliz Navidad" of course, then they
left the stage and up came the house lights. The place emptied out
except for a few of us that wanted to meet the man, and out he came
for another encore to the half dozen of us still in the room, a
stripped down quick couple of songs before finally wrapping the show.
We slipped back stage and talked briefly with him, letting our
out-of-town guest wrangle a photo op, then finally called it a night.
The show as a whole was a brilliant mix of Elvis, countless other
musical references, Latino culture, costume changes, and political
statements all wrapped up with a bow and handed over with a big grin
that makes you wary to open the package. Finally something to enjoy
about Christmas!
For more on El Vez check out
or look for a special on him on PBS coming in February.

If you have ever sat for hours debating or considering the effects of
technology on psychology or sociology, you should read this
interesting short story:
Add this to the recent creation of the Sim world online version and
soon you'll wonder if anything you do online is "real."
Meanwhile, on a totally different subject, I believe we're watching
the beginnings of the end of fundamentalist Islam, something I think
will happen in our lifetime, with each scene played out on CNN
nightly. The history books will point to 9/11 as the critical moment
when it all began, much like the invasion of Poland as being the
spark that set off WWII.
Unless you were there, you probably didn't witness the death of a
nation, a movement, or a religion. At best, you could read about it
in the paper, maybe see a few black and white newsreels. As a kid, I
grew up watching full color images beamed in from Vietnam. But at no
point in history did so many people witness such a worldwide
phenomenon in such detail. I think the reasons behind the immanent
fall of fundamentalist Islam are shown clearly in Nigeria -
It used to be that if you hated a race, religion or any group of
people there was a good chance you could live in a place where you'd
never encounter this group, or you'd get a whole bunch of you
together and go kill the other group. But thanks to technology, now
you have to look at them on your TV, get their opinions in your
newspaper, they might even fly into your country and set up a
McDonald's overnight. And that's a problem for intolerant people.
But communication and travel suddenly become impossible, that problem
isn't going away. In fact, I think it's only going to get worse. Take
Nigeria for example. You couldn't have held the Miss World pageant
there 30 years ago. People would have asked, "Nigeria? Where the hell
is Nigeria?" The logistics of getting the people and equipment there
would have been difficult, getting the pageant covered and broadcast
impossible. But now you can host an event practically anywhere any
time and have full coverage beamed worldwide. The phrase "local
population" is quickly becoming useless. Anyone could go anywhere
almost any time with comparatively little money and effort. And even
if you can't get there yourself you can look at it on TV, the web,
full color glossy magazines - there are fewer and fewer places the
intolerant can stake out territory to rule as they see fit.
Like it or not, someone somewhere is doing something you don't like.
And you're going to hear about it, watch it, maybe even witness it in
person. Now you've got to learn to live with it. (That, or vote
Republican and support groups like the Christian Coalition. If we all
vote together to stop allowing anyone to do anything they want to do,
we'll all be unhappy together.)
Or, as Salman Rushdie wrote in a recent New York Times:
If the moderate voices of Islam cannot or will not insist on the
modernization of their culture - and of their faith as well - then it
may be these so-called "Rushdies" who have to do it for them. For
every such individual who is vilified and oppressed, two more, ten
more, a thousand more will spring up. They will spring up because you
can't keep people's minds, feelings and needs in jail forever, no
matter how brutal your inquisitions. The Islamic world today is being
held prisoner, not by Western but by Islamic captors, who are
fighting to keep closed a world that a badly outnumbered few are
trying to open. As long as the majority remains silent, this will be
a tough war to win. But in the end, or so we must hope, someone
will kick down that prison door.

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