Saturday, December 24, 2005

What might Jesus' message sound like if he were to come back today?

I think it might go something like this:

"Try not to be a dick."

Merry Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

New word

I've coined a new word. There's a point when petting my cat, Mr. Kitty, that goes beyond mere contenment. He's not just enjoying a little affection. His whole being is involved. He gets so happy that he almost convulses as he purrs. There are snorting sounds coming from him; deep, throaty, gutteral noises; involuntary movements, his body almost convulses.

The new word for this?


Maybe Iraq has an American style democracy after all?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I hate Sen. Ted Stevens (AK)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Farewell to my favorite all-time radio show!

Today was the final broadcast of my favorite radio program. No, not Howard Stern, that's my wifes favorite.

I'm talking about Air America Radios' "Morning Sedition". I've been listening since day one, and have grown to love Marc Maron, Mark Riley, and the gang. The Mortensens, the Milfingtons, Sammy the Stem Cell, Johnny K Street. Everyone. K-Lo, Bredan, Dan. I am going to miss the Liberal Confessional (I have some confessions I never got to make). I won't know what to do without my Liberal Agenda from the Streisand Compound. This was the best show on the network by a long shot, and their decision to pull the plug boggles my mind.

I will also miss Brian from Everet and his inconsistent mental disposition.

I'm glad Riley will still be around, and I love Rachel Maddow, so I guess I'll start listening to her in the morning (I have been known to get up at 5:30 just to catch a little of her brilliance). But she will somehow feel like a Stepmom that we're fond of, but don't really love.

I hope Maron gets back on the air. And I regret not picking up a copy of his book used on Amazon when they were a dollar, instead of waiting till now when it has become a collectors item. I may purchase the digital download to printout and read. I think I'll be suffering some serious MS withdrawal.

Goodbye geniuses, philosopher kings and queens, working class heroes, progressive utopians with no sense of humor, lurking conservatives, etc....

That's what I said!

Morgan Freeman says the concept of a month dedicated to black history is "ridiculous." "You're going to relegate my history to a month?" the 68-year-old actor says in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" to air Sunday (7 p.m. EST). "I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history."

Addendum - Not having seen this interview yet (since it hasn't aired yet, as far as I know) I based my understanding of what Mr. Freeman meant on the article linked to above. It seems that either I completely misunderstood what he was getting at, or all the folks jumping all over him are in error as to just what point he was making.

I took his statement to mean that Black history should not be relegated to a single month of study, but that the Black American experience was worthy of inclusion in American history. It seems that many people have taken his meaning as there's no need for a Black history month because there's no real separate issue to study.

I have never before so strongly believed that there IS a very different history to be told by Black America, and that it has to be understood and integrated into American history in order for us, as a nation, to reach a deeper understanding of who we are.

I guess I'll have to watch the interview to find out how he meant his comments.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Last Class of '05

Tomorrow night is the last class for this semester of my Jazz History class. This is the opening lecture I prepared.

Listening – Wynton Marsalis playing "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?"

We’re back where we started the semester. In New Orleans, listening to a young trumpet virtuoso. We’ve traversed Louis Armstrong to Wynton Marsalis. What have we explored this semester?

College should be savored. It’s been said that it’s the last time you’ll have the opportunity to learn just for the sake of learning. Ideally, you’re broadening your perspective on the world.

Why study jazz? Because it’s uniquely American music. Because it is American culture.

What is it that I hope you learned? A little about music. A lot about how to listen to music. Something about history – music history, American history, African-American history, about the way that art reflects the world and the time when it’s created. In his book of 1956 "The Story of Jazz" Marshall W. Stearns writes:

The only group of social scientists who have attempted a partial explanation of the appeal of jazz are the psychiatrists. In 1951, Dr. Aaron H. Esman outlined the basic theory and, in 1954, Dr. Norman M. Margolis enlarged upon it. Their hypothesis: ‘Jazz is essentially a protest music’, and they support it with careful and lengthy arguments. Stripped of technical terms, the main point of their theory is that, just because jazz is looked down upon by the general public, people who love this music choose jazz – in part – as a way of expressing resentment toward the world in general.

America was born on the backs of slaves – this is the harsh reality of our birth as a nation. Understanding this is key to coming to grips with the Black experience in America. Understanding the impact the fact of slavery had on generations, and its enduring legacy still has – and it has and does endure in the form of lynchings, Jim Crow, discrimination – is key to understanding the America we live in. And until the Black experience is seen not as a sidebar to the American experience, but integral to it, and until we as a nation have come to terms with that fact, all the Equal Rights Amendments in the world will not help us to become a truly integrated society.

Jazz has been the voice for those marginalized by society – black and white alike. Music that is at once both a serious art music that is worthy of study and intellectualization, and a true folk music that only survives in its purest, most vital forms through its oral traditions, it embraces the great dichotomies of American life.

A country that holds nothing more dear than freedom wouldn’t have been able to come into being or survive economically or socially without the ugly fact of slavery. Our very existence is a dichotomy. At the time the Constitution was written slavery was specifically taken off the table as a topic to be addressed so that Southern states would stay a part of the fledgling union. This came to a head first obviously in the Civil War, and again during the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s.

Clearly, however, there’s more work that needs to be done. How the general populace of this country can allow themselves to become so distracted only a few months after the most devastating natural disaster we have ever faced (remember, we’re back in New Orleans again) – and forget about the displaced, the homeless, the unemployed, the people who not only lost everything they owned but lost the very city they called home – shows that there is still work to be done.

Because of this state of affairs jazz is still vital, and will remain so. Voices of dissent, voices of protest are needed, are always needed. Too often criticism is (intentionally) confused with disloyalty. It’s not a contradiction to say "America is the greatest country the world has ever known" and "America can do better". Those positions are not mutually exclusive.

Jazz calls us on our bullshit. Jazz is a mirror. Jazz tells the truth because it has to. It isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always difficult, either. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, serious, fun (and funny), ironic, self-righteous, passionate, too cool for its own good – often in the same song! - it embraces contradiction. But it always seeks to be one thing – cathartic. It tries to take us and make us honestly face the world, often saying things in notes that we would be afraid to say ourselves in words. Revealing aspects of ourselves we know about but may chose to keep hidden away. It seeks to change us by making us face things honestly.

Jazz is a call to action. Cornel West has a beautiful phrase, "jazz freedom fighters". He says in his book "Race Matters":

I use the term "jazz" here not so much as a term for a musical art form, as for a mode of being in the world, an improvisational mode of protean, fluid, flexible dispositions toward reality suspicious of "either/or" viewpoints, dogmatic pronouncements, or supremacist ideologies. To be a jazz freedom fighter is to attempt to galvanize and energize world-weary people into forms of organization with accountable leadership that promote critical exchange and broad reflection. The interplay of individuality and unity is not one of uniformity and unanimity imposed from above but rather of conflict among diverse groupings that reach a dynamic consensus subject to questioning and criticism. As with a soloist in a jazz quartet, quintet or band, individuality is promoted in order to sustain and increase the creative tension with the group – a tension that yields higher levels of performance to achieve the aim of the collective project.

This is serious, important music, with serious, important things to say. If you’ll listen.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Better than radio!!

My new favorite web site!

Just type in a favorite artist, or style, and you can find a radio station that plays it exclusively. My favorite stations at present are:


The first - Scorpions, UFO & MSG Forever - focuses on the brothers Schenker and all things related. The second - Music Mavericks / Crunchy - deals with avant-garde music, mostly 20th and 21st century classical, but I heard "Sun Ra and John Cage" on there before, so....

I would be remiss if I didn't mention:

Pat's Jazz Guitar station. I think he may even have a few tracks of mine on there.

I guess you can see why I like it so much. Where else could I find sources for music of such specificity? Makes being at work bearable. Almost.