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Elliot: Borderlines

BY BEAU ELLIOT | APRIL 16, 2013 5:00 AM

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There’s this obnoxious radio ad (yeah, I know — only one?) on commercial radio featuring an obnoxious (not to use that word again or anything, but some days you discover you’re overdrawn at the word bank) woman with an extraordinary condescending voice says something along the lines of, “Did you know children born in the winter are more talented at music?” And the other two in the commercial agree — “Oh, yeah, I knew that.” It’s an Ad Council commercial.

Except that it’s false. The winter thing, I mean.

I looked it up. (Yeah, I know, that’s what you’re supposed to do when your mind says, “Wait minute — really?” That’s what you’re supposed to do —look it up — but so few do these days. See the whole “Obamaphone” malarkey.)

OK, musicians born in winter — Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Max Roach, Tony Williams, Bob Marley, and Philip Glass were born in the winter, which, I admit, is a pretty good start for winter. Winter gets the early innings here.

But Brahms, Vivaldi, Debussey, Ravel, Robert Johnson, Eric Satie, George Gershwin, Tchaikovsky, Art Tatum, Buddy Bolden (the inventor of jazz), Louis Armstrong, King Sunny Adé, John Cage, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Mississippi John Hurt, Sonny Rollins, and Bob Dylan were all born in the spring, summer, or early fall. (Two of the best musicians I happen to know — Greg Brown and David Moore — are both born in July.)

I didn’t include Joni Mitchell, who, at Nov. 7, is kind of on the borderline, depending on where you live. Last I heard, she lived outside of Malibu, Calif., but she comes from Saskatchewan. (“Sweet Bird” is one of her best songs, by the way. “Out on some borderline / Some mark of in between / I lay down golden in time / And woke up vanishing.”)

Meanwhile, speaking of false things, back at Obamaphone (not that we were there or anything) — everything Republicans say about it is wrong. It’s a return to the whole birth-certificate thing, about which Republicans knew nothing, but that didn’t prevent them from discussing it, and its supposed falsity, for years and years. Ignorance is bliss, the Republicans have adopted as a mantra.

The so-called Obamaphone is a 28-year-old federal program (it started under President Reagan) that gives low-income people discounts on phone service. Under President George W. Bush, the program was expanded to include cell-phone service. So for Republicans to contend that the program is somehow a creation of Obama is about as true as claiming kids born in the winter are more adept at music.

Then there’s former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who passed away recently. Not to speak ill of the dead. But.

As Jon Anderson of The New Yorker (April 10) points out: “In a tribute Monday, President Obama said Margaret Thatcher had been “one of the great champions of freedom and liberty.”

Here’s what I remember about the “Iron Lady” — praising the neo-fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet for “returning democracy” to Chile, when, in reality, it was 180 degrees the opposite: He had overthrown (with the help of the CIA and ITT) a democratically elected Salvador Allende and instituted a dictatorship that rounded up, killed, or imprisoned so many of the people who his security forces suspected — suspected — of being leftists or opposition members.

If that’s “returning democracy,” I can fly to the Moon by flapping my elbows. (Which would save NASA a lot of moolah but probably leave me needing Tommy John surgery.)

(I wrote this on April 12. Monday afternoon, news of the tragedy at the finish line of the Boston Marathon came in, and in the face of that, everything I wrote seems ridiculous, even if true. President Obama is right; on a day such as this, there are no Democrats or Republicans. My heart, and my hopes, go out to the victims and the families of the victims. Often, events demonstrate to one how miniscule one’s concerns are.)


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