Monday, October 15, 2018

A CONVERSATION WITH RIGHT-WING ALEXA.



               —Hey, Right-Wing Alexa.
               —Yes, Rusty?
               —What is the state of Capitalism right now?
               —Endangered.
               —By who?
               —By whom, Rusty. Bernie Sanders.
               —Not Hillary Clinton?
               —No. She’ll be imprisoned soon.
               —Not Cory Booker?
               —Hahaha!


               —Hey, Right-Wing Alexa.
               —Yes, Rusty?
               —Please calculate my number of friends.
               —Sure. You have eighteen friends.
               —How many of them are minorities?
               —We’ve been through this before, Rusty.
               —Okay, okay.
               —Would you like to know the number of French?  
               —Last week, I had twenty friends, didn’t I?
               —Twenty-one.


               —Hey, Right-Wing Alexa.
               —Yes, Rusty?
               —How many strips of bacon can I eat?
               —May I eat, Rusty. Theoretically?
               —Yes, theoretically.
               —There is no upper limit.
               —I’m hungry.
               —Would you like bacon?
               —I would.
               —Great. I’m dialing Applebbee’s.


               —Hi, Right-Wing Alexa.
               —Hey, Rusty.
               —[…]
               —[…]
               —[…]
               —Rusty?
               —Yes?
               —Are you decent?
               —Yes.  
               —Good. So am I.




               —Right-Wing Alexa?
               —Not yet.
               —Excuse me?
               —Nyet!
               —Hello?
               —Hello! I am Right-Wing Sergei.
               —Where’s Alexa?
               —I am graveyard shift.
               —It’s not time for the graveyard shift.
               —Da. In Smolensk Oblast, it is.


               —Hey, Right-Wing Alexa?
               —Yes, Rusty?
               —Do Democrat voters arise from the dead?
               —Cadavers are an important part of the Democrat base.
               —Why are cadavers so liberal?
               —[…]
               —Alexa?
               —Yes, Rusty?
               —Can you assist me with an underwear purchase?
               — No. I cannot be debriefed on boxers.


Sunday, September 2, 2018

WHY I LOVE POETS (EVEN AS I ASPIRE TO BE ONE).




I love poets, because they’ll phone me from a TJ Maxx dressing room—the muggy lighting, yes, the discarded sundresses, the sheer, sheer hosiery—only to imply that my leftist politics nevertheless don’t equal their own tilted-beret Marxism. I love poets, because they’re always crashing at my apartment, stealing turns in the shower, and pooping out odd little evergreens into my toilet, but never acknowledging our friendship after they return to their academic jobs, or their NYC jobs, or their mysterious positions grooming information for dubious conglomerates. They are gymnasts, these poets, they leap onto dangerous ledges, their frigid synapses medicated against the pervasive societal forces that would otherwise embrace them gently or roughly as the case may be. They are beautiful and handsome alike, they copulate in ways that mimic the backstroke or sidestroke or how people ride a two person (or three person) bicycle.

I love poets, because they equate anti-Trump Facebook postings to “taking a stand” even as this passive behavior contributes to the “white noise” that obscures Trump’s gateway fascism. Nobody is more qualified than poets when it comes to judging—arbitrating—the truth of a flawed system, and I love them, the poets, because we need them (finally, definitively) to scold us, to scald us with the righteousness we cannot perceive via our own faculties. They are poets, they compose poetry after all, it has rhyme and abstraction and non sequitur and metrical brilliance (at least what they dictate into a smartphone does), and after an appropriate interval, presses bind these poems into sheathes. Reluctantly, they read from these sheathes, they chant from these sheathes in a doldrums known as ‘iambics’, but don’t mistake their casual modesty at first, no, the poets aspire to give us readings, they are libraries unto themselves, they whip us with their oratory.

I love poets, because they’re the culprits behind a pattern of larcenies: the tip jar money, the vintage jacket, the autographed Tina Brooks album on Blue Note. They weep, the poets, while seated within the expanse of musty leather armchairs, the armchairs are endowed, they are named for other poets who wept in other armchairs, they wept, did the forebears, and they weep, do the contemporaries, for themselves, for their minimalist, pointillist dramaturgy, they weep until they are comforted by an administrator. There’s nothing like a repentant poet, simply put, since there are no repentant poets, only the word repentance, the sound of which approaches, curiously enough, the sound of the word “serpents.” I love poets, though, notwithstanding their record-setting selfishness, but because no other group of people can emerge from the cellars of isolation, after thirty minutes of exertion, wielding the high voltage of impregnable verse, and if I’m lucky, I should like to become just one such impossible person, a poet.



This Posts Is Part of New Home California Day. Also See:


EAST COAST BEARD, WEST COAST BEARD.

West Coast beard


Of all the alleged disparities between the two seashores—East Coast stout, West Coast stout—East Coast political outrage, West Coast political outrage—East Coast romantic suspense, West Coast romantic suspense—East Coast brooding, West Coast brooding—East Coast potato dish, West Coast potato dish—and so forth, I am here to report that my beard, modest as it may be, appears to be growing according to universal patterns of bearded development. This is noteworthy, since I have grown a beard, modest as it may be, both on the East Coast, where I formerly resided, and on the West Coast, where I currently reside.


The corner turret


If you care to know, I am situated most often at longitude 40 degrees, 52 minutes, 14 seconds North, latitude 124 degrees, 5 minutes, 11 seconds West, in the corner turret. Currently, me and my beard are looking out the corner turret at 88 degrees East toward the Arcata Community Forest. Currently, me and my beard are drinking a West Coast stout, Deschutes Obsidian Stout, oh yes, we heartily recommend this fine brew, do me and my beard. Afterwards, technically, we are both “beered” as the kids say. East Coast puns, West Coast puns: they’re all pretty dreadful in the end. But the forest is not dreadful. The forest is tall, quiet, cathedral, sage, vigilant.


East Coast beard


I am assimilating among the peoples of the West Coast, which is all to say that I am engaging in comparisons (as you can tell). If you live on the East Coast, then we must traverse great distances in order to keep company, but we shall, traverse great distances and keep company, you and I. If you reside on the West Coast, then the distances to traverse aren’t so great, and let us traverse them, you and I, for my abode might house you if you might need housing, and my abode might feed you, if you need nourishment, and my abode might uncork the wonders of song and drink, if you need merriment, and you do. The door is always open, friend.



This Posts Is Part of New Home California Day. Also See:


WHY I’M STILL SWANSEA.




Students of international affairs might recall a famous example of American ‘expertise’ when it came to educating local farmers in a distant country on how to expand upon their own endemic traditions. These farmers were, simply put, growing an array of crops on rocky surfaces, even as these rocky surfaces climbed up and down a remote landscape. They had been farming this way for decades, perhaps centuries. At the invitation of the distant country’s ambitious leadership, American engineers arrived with blueprints, and heavy machinery, and advanced agrarian know-how. They bulldozed the rocks, did the Americans, they smoothed the earth, they sowed the seeds, they clapped the local farmers on the back. “It’ll be so much better,” they promised. “You’ll be able to feed your families, your village, and your countrymen.” But the crops did not grow. According to the textbook where the famous example appeared as a cautionary tale, the engineers attempted to remedy the situation by churning up the soil again and again, applying fertilizer, installing an irrigation system. But the crops would not grow. Eventually, the befuddled Americans returned home, but the local farmers, who didn’t have the resources to relocate, could never farm there again. Who knows whatever happened to them.

In a moment, we shall describe a similar scenario that has played-out over the past couple years in Wales at Swansea City Association Football Club, where the Swans, once nearly purged from the professional football leagues altogether, not only regained their stability, but climbed all the way to the top tier, the English Premier League. In 2014-2015, Swansea’s fourth consecutive season in the Prem, the Swans defeated Manchester United twice and Arsenal twice en route to an eighth place finish on 56 points. At that juncture, the Swansea City ownership included a Welsh-led consortium of individuals as well as the Swansea City Supporters Trust, a grassroots organization which held a 21 percent stake in the club. Collectively, this ownership structure was responsible for rescuing the club many seasons earlier when its former owner might’ve fleeced it, misplaced it, and fled. Garry Monk, the team’s former captain, had managed the Swans to these 56 points. Yet scant months later, Swansea sacked Monk as punishment for the club’s tepid start to the 2015-2016 campaign, setting in motion a trend that would see managers and caretaker managers alike—Curtis, Guidolin, Curtis again, Bradley, Curtis again-again, Clement, Britton, Carvalhal—arrive and be nudged aside in short order.

The appointment of Bob Bradley, former manager of the U.S. Men’s National Team, is emblematic of how American ‘expertise’ would come to educate a Welsh football club on how they should expand upon their own endemic traditions. Bradley was installed by Americans Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan a short spell after they assumed majority ownership of the Swans. At the time, Swansea were entrenched in the relegation zone. Bradley had no experience in the English football leagues. An American—probably for good reason—had never managed a Premier League side. The appointment was a massive blunder and club legend Alan Curtis stepped in again-again as caretaker, before the English manager Paul Clement improbably pulled off a “great escape” and led Swansea toward another year at the top flight. And yet Clement himself would be sacked a few months into the 2017-2018 Prem, but this time, the team’s panicked squirming wouldn’t produce a survivor. Even before Swansea City suffered relegation into the second tier of English football they had already lost their possession-based playing style, their status as a community-owned team. They were adrift, lacking soul. They’d lost the incalculable gift of their identity, and the American owners, through their cold corporate aloofness, compounded the problem.




Swansea City supporters cannot heap blame entirely on the American owners. They must also scrutinize the figure of Huw Jenkins, the chairman who guided Swansea from the Vetch Field to the Liberty Stadium, and eventually to the top flight. He’s demonstrated greatness and great misjudgment alike, he’s a curious fellow. We could recite the list of dud managers and dud players, but we could also remember the brilliance we’ve all witnessed, in recent-enough managers like Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup, and Garry Monk, and in recent-enough players like Michu, Wilfried Bony, Gylfi Sigurdsson, and Garry Monk. We should probably say Ashley Williams, too, and of course, we should say Leon Britton, but to label Leon “recent-enough” would be to understate his lengthy devotion to the Swans. I can’t ‘un-witness’ Michu’s two goals at Arsenal, for example, or Bafetimbi Gomis celebrating as the Black Panther, or all the blank sheets kept by Michel Vorm and Lukasz Fabianski, or the life-affirming defensive touch by Garry Monk in the playoff win versus Reading, or the argument between Michu and Nathan Dyer over who would take the penalty when the Swans beat Bradford City at Wembley. Jonathan de Guzman ended up scoring from the spot. In the end, I return to the managers and to the players, who I can support under any regime.

What if the American engineers had listened to the indigenous farmers, rather than bulldozed their traditions? Last year, the Swans sold a captain, Jack Cork, and the leading goal-scorer, Fernando Llorente, and the club’s best all-around player, Gylfi Sigurdsson, without adequately replacing them. Those sales brought in tens of millions but where did those pounds go, exactly? Forgetting the sale of those players—where are the other resources for vital recruitment efforts? What if the American owners weren’t so cold and aloof? What if there were information-sharing and transparency? I don’t know much firsthand about the Swansea City Supporters Trust, but it has the word “Trust” in its title. I’ve watched a few documentaries about Swansea, including Jack To A King, and I recollect that the members of the Supporters Trust collected coins at the gate to the stadium. It would do the owners and the chairman good, to get out into the community like that, and establish some Trust. Luckily for them, and perhaps as a sign of hope, there appears to be a manager, Graham Potter, who cares about reestablishing the Swansea Way (of playing) and a cast of young players who appear hungry to reestablish this system as well. So yeah, because of them—the gaffer and the boys—I am still Swansea. It may be a little while before we beat Arsenal again, but I’ll be wearing the Swan on my chest when we do.



This Posts Is Part of New Home California Day. Also See:

Monday, July 30, 2018

PROVIDING CAPTIONS TO CHRIS CILLIZZA AND HARRY ENTEN’S DEFINITIVE 2020 DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE POWER RANKINGS PHOTOGRAPHS.

Click on image to enlarge.
      
                                       

1. Joe Biden Gawkin’ at Cleavage. 

2. Elizabeth Warren Requests Complete Silence before She Delivers an Ultimatum on Inappropriateness. 

3. Kamala Harris Brings You Your StormTeam Weather Forecast.

4. Kristen Gillibrand Suffers a Sprained Smile after Photo Shoot.

5. Bernie Sanders says, “That Iceberg Is Getting MIGHTY Close.” 

6. Eric Holder wonders, “Is That Ursa Major or Ursa Minor? Is There an Ursa Medium?”

7. Steve Bullock: “Heyyyy! Cut That Ouuuuut!” 

8. Cory Booker Promises to Personally Help Every American Move His or Her Hide-a-Bed Sofa Into Their New Apartments. 

9. Mitch Landrieu Is Not a Flight Risk.                      

10. Sherrod Brown Confuses “Dingleberry” with a Christmas Carol.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

EMPERORS, EMPRESSES, PROPHETS, POETS, & TECHNICIANS: PROPERLY SITUATING AMERICA’S GREATEST JAZZ & BLUES MUSICIANS.

Anna Mae Winburn (R) led the integrated, all-women International Sweethearts
of Rhythm—and other incarnations of the same band—for nearly twenty years.  


Son House fretted his guitar with metal. He played “Death Letter Blues” between the frequencies of urgency and painfulness, an alarming sorrow that hadn’t yet been communicated. He thumped the earth with a perfect percussive heel. His prophetic approach would influence others on this list, notably Robert Johnson. We classify Son House as a Prophet and Robert Johnson as a Technician but we don’t establish the importance of Prophets above the importance of Technicians. That distinction, Dear Reader, we leave up to you.

The classical impulses of Dave Brubeck may inform some of our decision-making when choosing him to appear within this framework, yet his ability to conquer intricate time signatures, the “ebonies and ivories” of 5/4 time, for example, ultimately places him among the Technicians. We suppose that Technicians can sound prophetic, perhaps owing to the great relationships they had with their instruments, the nonpareil mastery. “Ella Fitzgerald,” you may remark, “a Technician?” Oh yes. The voice.


 
The addition of Bill Evans helped soften the sound of the Miles Davis sextet, and   
steer the group towards Kind of Blue, one of the greatest albums in music history.


Imagine Billie Holiday standing in the spotlight, singing the prayerful “Strange Fruit” while every other sound vanished, or Lester (“Prez”) Young first equating “bread” with money and “ivey divey” with cool, all the while cocking his “baby doll” (his saxophone) to the side, underneath his porkpie hat. The Poets forged new language, true, and in truth, they wobbled audiences with their beauty and outrage, with the emotional content of their assertions and their mannerisms. Bud Powell, searching for balance, perishing from tuberculosis. . . .

If you care, and you will, the Poet Bill Evans and the Prophet John Coltrane, early in their careers, joined Miles Davis (plus others) to create Kind of Blue, one of the greatest achievements (of any kind) in world history. Who presides over personnel, and the many intervals of creativity, and the virtuosity of their own abilities but the Emperors or Empresses? Ellington hiring Strayhorn, Ellington hiring Hodges, Ellington playing with Louis, Ellington playing with Trane, Ellington in Europe, Ellington at Newport; Duke Ellington led an Empire for 50 years.


Emperors & Empresses 

Owing to his virtuosity as a trumpeter, band-leading, and gravel-sweet singing, 
nobody has had a greater influence on American music than Louis Armstrong. 


1. Louis Armstrong
2. Duke Ellington
3. Miles Davis
4. Bessie Smith
5. Anna Mae Winburn
            6. Sun Ra


Prophets

Known for his bent horn, raspy singing, and puffy cheeks, Dizzy Gillespie helped to  
pioneer bebop and toured the world as a Jazz Ambassador for the State Department. 


1. John Coltrane
2. Charlie Parker
3. Thelonious Monk
4. Son House
5. Charley Patton
6. Dizzy Gillespie
7. Art Tatum
8. Sidney Bechet
9. Ornette Coleman
            10. Rev. Gary Davis



 Poets
Art Pepper’s 1979 appearances at the Village Vanguard presented the ultimate tone-poems    
that informed his life as a heroin addict, San Quentin prisoner, and magnificent saxophonist. 


1. Nina Simone
2. Billie Holiday
3. Lester Young
4. Bill Evans
5. Mississippi John Hurt
6. Jelly Roll Morton
7. Lead Belly
8. Bud Powell
9. Art Pepper
            10. Buddy Bolden* (*See comments, below)


Technicians

Lightnin’ Hopkins bangs away at “Had a Gal Called Sal” (1954).


1. Count Basie
2. Coleman Hawkins
3. Sonny Rollins
4. Lightnin’ Hopkins
5. Eric Dolphy
6. Clifford Brown
7. Ella Fitzgerald
8. Robert Johnson
9. Charles Mingus
            10. Dave Brubeck 




Also considered: Art Blakey (E), Benny Goodman (E), Lionel Hampton (E), King Oliver (E), Albert Ayler (Pr), Anthony Braxton (Pr), James Reese Europe (Pr), Steve Lacy (Pr), Max Roach (Pr), Pharoah Sanders (Pr), Wayne Shorter (Pr), Cecil Taylor (Pr), Rahsaan Roland Kirk (Po), Ma Rainey (Po), Paul Desmond (T), John Lee Hooker (T), Wes Montgomery (T). 


FINIS.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

WHAT I LOST WAS THIS:




            “You said,” you say, but I didn’t say, and you reply, “You did,” but I didn’t do. Where does this leave us, but in love? And what’s love but a neighborhood of stoops (crumbling) and (artisanal) aimlessness.  
            A kid ran out of the park at 3:00 o’clock in the morning only to strike a taxicab. The kid bounced, without a shirt, the rent fabric of his breath in the freezing air. A passerby gave him socks. It wasn’t unkind, exactly, but ill-fitting, emblematic of the post-industrial wasteland that saddens our generational critics.
            There sat the kid, untying his shoes (still shirtless) beside the flashing hazard lights of the taxicab, tossing his own socks into the gutter, and replacing them with the warm, sweaty cottons from the donor. I had little to do but watch beneath a loud lamp. I’ll never forget the bunch of agitated blue jays, four or five of them, stabbing the cold with the metallic tone of their vocabulary.
            “Word, comma, your mama.” Did you clarify? Yes, you clarified.
            We were never happier (you and I) than when we were lying to each other. You texting me selfies on windy afternoons and me pretending to receive them an hour later. If I stood somewhere other than where I purported to stand, I did so out of fear, and in losing you, okay, what I lost was this:
            […] the bus stop is empty when the bus arrives. Instead, a worker sweeps old leaves into a dustpan. Why is the sinoatrial rhythm of our hearts keyed to the murmurs of thunder?



This is part of a double issue. If you don’t like stories, you might like a song. See trying to teach a mockingbird the bebop song “salt peanuts”