Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Daily Growler Wisdom Excerpts--to the Wise

Foto by tgw, "Southwest Sky Over Lower Manhattan," 2010
Overlooked Wisdom From the Past

Our surrounding institutions, customs and public opinion calls for conformity: they require us to act in masses like herds of cattle: they do not recognize the fact that we think and feel individually and ought to be at liberty to act individually.

Laws and governments are professedly instituted for the security of person and property, but they have never accomplished this object.

The greatest crime which can be committed society and which causes poverty and lays the foundation of almost all other crimes, is the monopoly of the soil.

Laws cannot be adapted to the individuality of cases, and if they could, laws are language which is subject to different interpretations according to the individuals who are appointed to administer them. Therefore, it is individuals rather than laws that govern. Every election illustrates this: we are told that our destinies depend on the election of this or that man to office. Why? It is men not laws or principles that govern society. There is an individuality among judges and jurors as among all other persons, so that he whom one judge or jury would acquit, another would condemn.

Citizens cannot know today what will be lawful tomorrow; laws made this year are unmade the next and their repeal is often our only intimation that they existed. All these uncertainties must exist even when laws are framed with greatest wisdom and administered with the purest devotedness to the public good without the least tinge of personal feeling or private interest, provided such phenomena are to be found, but every newspaper that comes to hand convinces that such are not found even in the proportion of ten to the population of Sodom; but that, notwithstanding all that revolutions have cost the world, laws and governments still are what they always have been, viz. public means for private ends.
josiah warren

The above quotes are from Josiah Warren's The Peaceful Revolutionist, a small pamphlet he printed himself in 1833.
Wisdom Now
From this week's Freeman:

In the early 1980s, while the U.S. economy was suffering through a severe recession, Lester Thurow, dean of the business school at MIT and a Newsweek columnist, came up with what he thought was a great idea: a value-added tax. According to Thurow, a VAT would encourage production and discourage consumption, making it what he called a “true supply-side policy.”

Thank goodness not many people listened to Thurow. I hoped his suggestion would fall into the dustbin of Really Bad Ideas forever, but unfortunately, less than three decades later, the policy wonks in Washington are promoting this bad idea as the Next Economic Elixir.

First, what is a value-added tax? It is something like a sales tax, except that it is levied on the “value added” at each stage of production. Politicians and bureaucrats love it because consumers cannot separate the tax from the price of the products they purchase. They simply become used to paying higher prices for goods than they normally would pay without the tax.

From The Freeman--see "Blog List" to the right side of The Growler.
Delightful Introduction to a 1972 Volume: The Sleeping Brain
"Sleep, like any other biological structure or process, has a history. In common with other historians, we who are attempting to reconstruct the history of sleep have several problems. Our primary sources are irretrievably lost. We can interrogate informers, but how reliable are they? Is this turtle telling me the truth about his 232nd grandfather or is he only talking about himself? Historians also have self-made problems. They are apt to be as ignorant and biased as anyone else. If I believe that I descended from a chimpanzee, who in turn evolved from a lemur, opossum, alligator, and so on into the primeval ooze, the history of sleep derived from this model may be entertaining, but entertaining nonsense. Even the best evolutionary models we now have are fragile things, full of holes and thin places. If we ignore the distant past and merely try to write the history of living animals, problems still intrude. We can ask our fellow man for correct answers and often get them (the answers may be incredibly complicated, but that's another matter!). But in order to obtain information from other species we must take prisoners, and prisoners, out of boredom or frustration, tend to lie. In short, we are just beginning to reconstruct a credible history of sleep. What will it tell us? I like Walls' answer. In a postscript to his classic study of the evolution of the visual system, he wrote: 'Looking at any biological system, I may wonder about it in several ways; but one of my wonders will always be, how did it come tobe as it is -- how did it get this way' (Walls, 1962)."

From: The Sleeping Brain, ed. Michael H. Chase, Perspectives in the Brain Sciences, Vol 1, Brain Information Service - Brain Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, 1972, "Introduction," Truett Allison, p. 1
From Jose Ortega y Gasset's Wonderful The Revolt of the Masses Published in 1932

--"Physical space and time are the absolutely stupid aspects of the universe" (p. 27).

--"Speed, which is made up of space and time, is no less stupid than its constituents, but it serves to nullify them. One stupidity can only be overcome by another" (p. 27).

--[Because of man's mortality] "he needs to triumph over distance and delay. For an immortal being, the motor-car would have no meaning" (FN, p.27).
Now that to me is wise thinking--brilliant thinking in fact. Think about what Ortega y Gasset is writing: the stupidity of space and time; Speed = space and time = stupidity=nullification of space and time: meaning: "One stupidity can only be overcome by another." Yahoo! shout I. Which leads Ortega y Gasset to determine that because we die we instinctually desire "to triumph over distance and delay"--thus--why would an immortal need a motor-car? Whew, that sort of reasoning rattles me timbers and opens up valuable space and time in my mind's universe.
From the Mighty Mind of the Very Wise Thorstein Veblen From 1899
"The thief or swindler who has gained great wealth by his delinquency has a better chance than the small thief of escaping the rigorous penalty of the law; and some good repute accrues to him from his increased wealth and from his spending the irregularly acquired possessions in a seemly manner" (p. 89, The Theory of the Leisure Class, New American Library Mentor Edition, 1953).
I thought of the above excerpt as I was listening to the Goldman-Sachs thieves and swindlers lying like lying low-life mangy dogs by excusing their piracy on the grounds that Goldman-Sachs is too big to fail; therefore, they are also too big to do WRONG! Trust me, too, nothing really bad's gonna happen to Goldman-Sachs--I guarantee you--they'll be back stealing another few billions of our wage-earnings taxes in a matter of another quarter when once again they'll turn in billions of dollars of profits and will be praising themselves and rewarding themselves with bonuses for being thieves and swindlers too wealthy to be under any worry of being penalized by the law.
We Continue Our Wisdom Issue With Something Written by a Man Named H. Christopher Longuet-Higgins, a Very Wise-Sounding Name
"The fact that people can associate ideas, such as names and faces, or sounds and symbols, is too obvious to need documentation. If there were a limited number of possible ideas, the developing brain could allocate a separate neurone to each, and connect every pair of such neurones by a modifiable synapses, to be facilitated if and only if the two ideas occurred in association. Ideas can, however, be very complicated, so the number of possible ideas is enormous--far too large for each to be assigned a neurone on the off-chance of it turning up. Complex ideas, 'patterns', must therefore be indexed by the association of simpler ones, 'features', to which neurones can be allocated without extravagance. By recording the pairwise associations between the features of a pattern we can set up a simple associative memory (Marr 1969), from which the pattern can be recovered by activating enough of its features and allowing these to activate the remainder. Memories of this kind not only solve the problems of 'store allocation' and 'content-addressability', but are also relatively robust against partial corruption of the contents" (p 3, Parallel Distributed Processing, Ed. R.G.M. Morris, Oxford Science Publications, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1989).
I love neurobiology because of its purposed complicated binary way of thinking--the above wise collections of neurobiological wordings reminds me of my own theory of parallel aligned likes--the complications solving each other's problems in such a relationship.

From the same book (Parallel Distributed Processing):
"Neuroscientists study firing rates, excitation, inhibition, and plasticity; cognitive scientists study rules, representations, and symbol systems. Although it's relatively easy to imagine ways to run cognitive symbol systems on digital computers, how they could be implemented in neural hardware has remained obscure. Conversely, it is easy to get neural networks to execute simple forms of associative learning, but learning a language or engaging in logical reasoning is quite another thing . Any theory of this middle level faces a formidable set of criteria: it must satisfy the contraints of neurophysiology and neuroanantomy, yet supply the right kind of computational power to serve as the basis for cognition.

"Recently there has been considerable enthusiasm for a theory that claims to do just that. Connectionist or parallel distributed processing (PDP)...." (p 182, Parallel Distributed Processing, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1989, "Rules and connections in human language" by Steven Pinker and Alan Prince).

These dudes go on to describe what they call "A connectionist model of language acquisition." I understand this stuff and praise all lords for giving these poor "professors" the leisure time needed to come up with these complicated systems of cognitive reasoning, thinking, figuring out, applying, evolving.... After all of this reading, I'm still questioning: if I came from a chimpanzee, who came from a lemur?...or an alligator?...or an o'possum? Most of my fellow human beings seem to have ascended like I from the chimpanzee. I know no one of them who resembles a lemur--though I did once know a guy in college who did look like an o'possum--that little hairless baby face. Except we called him Skunker, because though he had a sweet o'possum baby face, he smelled like a skunk.

and austinhighchew,
The Daily Growler managing editor,
for The Daily Growler Book of Wisdom
Note: The The Daily Growler managing editor has ordered marvelousmarvinbackbiter to either file a sports report or "Hit the Road" Marv. I mean, come on, he has time to call basketball games.... Marv reports he'll turn one in soon or else give the job over to Mr. Met.

The Yankees, by the bye, are in second place behind Tampa Bay...
The Mets--Hey, they're tied for second with the Marlins and the Nats. The Braves are in the basement.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Morning in New York City: thegrowlingwolf on Kitty Kelly

Foto by tgw, New York City, 2010
Breakfast With Kitty Kelly
I was in Allentown, P.A., all day yesterday (Saturday, April 24). First time I'd ever been (pointing west) "over there," as a person living in New York City would refer to it--in its direction rather than actually where it is. Pennsylvania is a big old rambling state. There are parts of it north of New York City, parts of it west of New York City, and parts of it south of New York City. Yet, I still think of it as being "that way" (pointing west). Even Philadelphia is "over there" to me, which is south of me as I sit here at this machine--and don't get me started on computers--I'm pissed off at PCs this week--now the fur on the back of my neck is rising and my snarl is revealing my extra-long canine teeth dripping with venom.

All of that to get back to Allentown, P.A. and all day yesterday.

I was in Allentown with a couple of my old musician buddies and friends of many years attending of all things a paper show, one of the biggest and best in the East (don't get me into defining what I think is east of me--though it is interesting. Like right now I'm thinking of what's east of me and all I can think of is the East River, though the following are east of me, Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island, Montauk, the Atlantic Ocean, Iceland, my true love...to name a few, and yet I can only think as far as the East River. Manhattanites, thinking Manhattan is the center of the universe, especially are so inwardly thinking all the time. Inwardly thinking about outward appearances, I might add.

One of these friends, my old drummer friend, is into airline-related paper: post cards, tickets, on-board passes, ticket holders, schedules...the works. He'd brought 500 smackers with him; that was his limit. The other friend, Major Contay of Canebrake Rattler fame, when talking about his paper interests, pulled me aside and in a low voice told me he was into serious paper. What's serious paper? I asked. And he answered, like pages out of old books. Aha, like a page of an old 17th Century bible? Well, you're on the right track but way off really. Turns out he collects handwritten and hand-painted (illustrated) pages out of 12th, 13th, and 14th Century prayer books or sermons which the monastery monks used to create--all by hand--and by special commission, prayer books (Book of Hours, I think they're referenced as) for both church and secular royalty. These were very expensive made-to-order items even in those Medieval times. But then the Major is a collector whole hog. Though he totally denies that he is a collector since he thinks of himself more as a museum director (and he is a legitimate museum director and it is his own museum), meaning he's simply purchasing things for his museum, which is his collection, thus making the museum the collector and not he.

Jesus, I get enswirled in the eddys of my own stream of consciousness; yet sending sentences out like lariats trying to rope in a reader is the bright light I'm following--and oh my God, now I'll have to aside to a comment about my bright light theory of genuine reflection.

I, though most people don't know me as a collector, am, though I wasn't in Allentown for the paper show. I was in Allentown because I had never hung out with these two characters from my past life as a New York City musician and band singer together at the same time before. Plus since all three of us had a very close relationship with the late great Bob Guida (a true man of all seasons), it had the potential of becoming a hell of'a musician-bullshit-session as we drove over and back to and from the paper show. And, folks, to old musicians there's nothing more fun than reminiscing about our pasts--story after story--"Do you remember when we played Paradise Alley out in Queens?" "Yeah, the night we did 'My Gal Is Red Hot' for 15 minutes and you were playing that fucking Korg remote keyboard." "Yeah, I was there...I was there, guys...remember the fight and that Marine they almost beat to death...he was sitting out on the curb bleeding like a motherfucker wearing his gyrene uniform, remember, and we had to move him out of the way to get our equipment into Bob's van...."

So that's what I was doing in Allentown, P.A. all day yesterday.

I didn't get back from Allentown until around 9 last night--they dropped me off a little before 34th and Broadway and I took advantage of that to walk up to Broadway, put my back up against the side of Macy's and look at it--Herald Square--in all its old glory--on the left was once the New York Herald Tribune newspaper building; Horace Greeley's newspaper. And then I walked down Broadway (or sadly what our mall-mad mayor has left of it) to Greeley Square and that little park there under the statue of old Horace himself sitting in a big office chair--the statue all green with patina like the nice little park is green with trees and shrubs and flowers in pots. And I sat there and looked back up toward the Firemen's Memorial Clock Monument that sits right across from Macy's front door. So I didn't get in my apartment until around 10. Next thing I know, I'm waking up this Sunday morning.

I walked up to Fifth Avenue and got my morning breakfast, a pecan roll, a pomegranate juice, and a Styrofoam cup of strong coffee and came back and climbed back into bed and flipped on the old teevee. Boom, crackle, and bam, up popped the CBS "Sunday Morning" show--remember it was started by old Charlie Kurault--remember, Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. Sophisticated, Mr. Know-it-all--turned out he was a bigamist--had a wife he kept on his Montana ranch unbeknownst to his New York City wife. What a life these overpaid talking heads have--a lot of them started as weathermen--what a drain on our economy to have to give these celebrity phonies these expensive, big tax-break, privileged lives?

And it was on "Sunday Morning" (now hosted by a true American fop who still wears a bowtie to get him the right sophisticated attention) that I spied a segment on the great Kitty Kelly. And immediately the "reporter" interviewing her (a cool thirtyish blonde, I thought; I was more interested in her than I was Kitty Litter Kelly) started grilling Kelly on her surefire new bestseller big fat bullshit celeb gossip book just out. Another one of Kitty Litter's trademarked "unauthorized biographies," this latest one ditching the dirt on our billionairess, big, fat, cow Oprah Winfrey (I call her what I see--she's on her way to matching Aretha Franklin in a most obese celebrity race--I mean Oprah could now play Precious herself in that precious movie she just backed for big-time bucks). I'm sitting there watching this crap, not pissed off at Kitty Kelly, hell, she's a successful American author--I'm jealous as hell, but wondering who in the holiest of fucks is excited by a rumor as to whether or not Oprah's mother lied to her about her worthless real father--or Kitty Litter's hinting that Oprah and her gal-pal Gayle, also becoming a fat-cow, are secretly licking each other's pussies--while Steadman, who we all know is gay (don't quote me on that), watches--isn't presenting this kind of shit as news actually a form of human degeneration? End-times worship of these filthy rich beings as gods and goddesses, these filthy rich personalities who on becoming richer and richer get filthier and filthier in their attitudes and habits as well--and how these clowns, these teevee talk show hosts, especially Oprah, lecture you on how to live your life according to theirs--blah-blah-blah--and yet look at how they get to live life--they can balloon up to 200 pounds and then balloon down to 160 pounds only to balloon back up to 215, while traveling around the world blowing money on shopping sprees, staying at fabulously expensive hotels and spas--Oprah brags about visiting P Diddy and his several illegitimate children and his not-yet-married-to wife in St. Tropez--P Diddy's another filthy rich slime-ball motherfucker--don't get me started on these creepy celebrities. Oprah and P Diddy and Jay-Z and all these people are worth enough money they could rebuild Haiti out of their pocket change--and instead, what do they do with their fabulous wealth--blow it on pleasure, baby. And so would I, I don't deny that. And I am jealous, as an artist, of how richly these to me untalented people are rewarded.

Kitty Kelly doesn't bother me at all. Kitty came to Washington, D.C., believe it or not as an aide to Senator Eugene McCarthy--old "Get Clean for Gene"--the poet candidate for President. Then she went to work at the Washington Post (that rag of a worthless newspaper). Her first celebrity dirt book was her Jackie Oh! in which she supposedly ditched a whole frontloader's worth of dirt on the lullaby-brained Jackie Kennedy, later Onassis (and check out depressed Jackie Oh's machinations against poor old Maria Callas in stealing from her the slimy, greaseball, Ari (headed) Onassis. The big accusation in that first Kitty Litter unauthorized biography was that Jackie Oh had gone through electro-shock treatments for her depression. She seemed to get over her depression mucho pronto after JFK was in his eternally enflamed grave.

Oh how trivial and boring. Who the fuck gives one fucking bullshit crap in hell about whether Oprah Winfrey's father was a black snake or whether she and her gal pal Gayle are burying their faces in each other's vaginas?

I had a ball at that paper show in Allentown, P.A. by the way. On the way home, like all collectors and museum directors, we all took out our buys and started telling wowser tales about the buying of each one. The Major was the most excited. He scored big by finding a whole slew of treasures--which he paid dearly for--including 5 or 6 pages from the Book of Hours--his most treasured a small page handtexted and handpainted by monks in Ghent from the 12th Century--all handwritten in black ink--all designs done by hand in gold leaf and the very expensive aquamarine color, which, according to the Major, the monks fought over in terms of getting their hands on it. I was pretty excited when he pulled out a big double-page hand-done copy of a Gregorian chant--only the three-line staff had been invented by then--the five-line staff coming later. The pages had to be large enough so they could be read by the chanters easily. The Major scored bigger than the drummer or I did. The drummer scored big, though, too, when one of his airline postcard dealers took him out to his van and brought out a trophy for him to contemplate buying--a Trans-World Airline silver-plated coffee pot (what the stewardess (bar maid in the sky) poured your coffee out of when she waited on you--"Freshen up your coffee, sir?).

And, me, did I score? You bet I did. I bought three old 1941 Metronome magazines and some old mills (state sales tax tokens), one a red plastic one from Oklahoma like the kind my father used to give me to play with when I was a little man in Enid, Oklahoma. But my big find was in a Philadelphia book dealer's booth. The Major was already sitting in this guy's booth bullshitting with him over some items he'd found in the guy's collection--they were items having to do with Hawaiian steel guitars, one a brochure on Hawaiian guitars by the greatest Hawaiian guitar player ever, Sol Oopie (pronounced "Oh-Ohpie"). The bookseller turned out to be a nice guy, from Philadelphia, a book dealer by expertise who had just recently gotten into Afro-American paper collectibles--right off I noticed a great Nat "King" Cole Trio poster (from 1942) on his booth wall. I sat down and started getting into the bullshit. The dealer was a blues enthusiast and he had some photographs of an old Phillie blues guitarist street musician who not only was blind but had lost his first two fingers of his picking hand--the Major knew all about the guy. Then the Major officially introduced me to this guy. Bob was his name. And Bob said he and the Major had been talking about me--the Major telling him stories about me before I got there. "Was it true Sonny Boy Williamson the 2nd taught you how to play the harmonica?" And I spieled out that story and then he asked me, "Well, do you collect like the Major?" and I told him I'd recently gotten into jazz photographs from the golden age by photogs like William Claxton, etc. He said, "Look over there in that box. There's a huge lot of prints from a photographer I know nothing about, Hans Knopf...." "Oh yeah," pipes up the Major, "check out those pictures of Leadbelly in there."

The first print I saw was of a black woman with a flower in her hair singing live with the Babe Russo Band, an all White band, at the Sherman House in Chicago. I knew she looked familiar--I turned it over and Hans had marked it "Billie Holiday at the Sherman House, 1941." Holy shit. I dug deeper. And then I saw them. There they were, several prints of Hudie Ledbetter performing on his 12-string live with another guitarist accompanying him on a 6-string. I flipped it over. Hans had marked it "Hudie Ledbetter at Village Vanguard with Josh White." There was no date on it, but I know for sure about when that famous event happened. I immediately thought of L Hat's ( www.languagehat.com ) lovely wife's father, the great Richard Dyer-Bennet (never with two ts, please), and how he was on that same bill with Hudie during that time at the Vanguard--and I was thinking, heck fire, surely Dick Dyer-Bennet was there when this photo was taken and L Hat's wife was a baby then who went along with her father and mother to his gigs and they made her a bed in her father's guitar case backstage.

From 25 November, 1941, until the spring of 1944, Huddie performed a great deal at the Village Vanguard, which is located in Greenwich Village on Seventh Avenue at 11th Street. In it's Night Life listings, the New Yorker magazine described the Vanguard as "a low-ceilinged cellar spot, specializing in folk singers." After the war began, the place was often referred to as being "something like an air-raid shelter, except for Huddie Ledbetter singing folk songs." At the beginning, Huddie shared the billing with "Joshua White and other folk singers."

Excerpt from a nice blog: misterhuddie.blogspot.com/ So I've narrowed my photograph down to 1941 to 1944--probably 1941. One reason I think it's from 1941 is because the next Hans Knopf's print I saw in this box I wanted was of Peewee Russell the great wonderful old jazz clarinetist and artist--live at some gig, and on the back it's marked "Peewee Russell 1941."

I picked out what I thought was the coolest Hudie (I've always spelled it Hudie, but a lot of people spell it with two Ds. I think Hudie is correct, but then I always thought Richard Dyer-Bennet's spelled Bennet with two ts and I was wrong on that count) and the Peewee. How much, I asked: "$40 for the two." But when I fished my money out of my pocket, I found I only had 40 bucks left to my name--and we still had to get back to New York City. "Shit," I said, "I can only afford one...I'll take the Hudie...." "Take 'em both for twenty," Bob the Book Dealer said. Which I did. And I'm glad I did because they look fabulous hanging on my apartment wall. Check out my treasures:
There's Peewee Russell, taken in 1941 by Hans Knopf. I'll have to research it--find out where in NYC Peewee was playing in '41--probably with the Eddie Condon Band--I don't recognize the bass player.
And that's my real treasure, Hudie playing his 12-string Stella guitar, with Josh White (Joshua White at first) accompanying him on a 6-string at the Village Vanguard--dig that mural. I assume since most of these prints were marked 1941, that's when this one was taken, too--Josh was billed along with him then. Hudie died in New York City. His body was taken back to Louisiana to be buried.

Hans Knopf, though there's not much personal info about him, in 1941 was a staff photographer for PIX. During those years his work was in publications all over the place. In later life, Hans became a sports photographer on the first Sports Illustrated staff, where he was from 1956 until 1964 when he died. Hans was celebrity famous when he married Amy Vanderbilt, called the Staten Island Vanderbilt. Hans and Amy lived life to the fullest!

And that's the story of my trip to Allentown, P.A.

And as far as Kitty Kelly is concerned: "Right on, Kitty," milk these sorry celebrity worshipping trash for all there spare monies. Like who in his right mind would pay $35 to read trash about Oprah Winfrey? I say take that person out in the back alley and give a good beating before you rob 'em blind. Don't worry, they can always become street musicians. Maybe I'll photograph them one day down in the subway.

for The Sunday Daily Growler

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Living in New York City: thegrowlingwolf Goes Artsy Fartsy

Foto by tgw, New York City, 2010
The Complications of Progressivism
By progressivism I mean the attitude among creative folk that they must ever so often, generationally, break out into never-before-known spaces and come up with new frontiers. The drive to be different. (This drive is in everybody, don't get me wrong, but I only know creative folk so I'm limiting my speculations to that crowd, my crowd--my friends, my acquaintances, and those with whom I socialize and frequent and even those with whom I fall in love.) The drive to be experimentally daring. The drive to like take a single object and see how many imagined things you can turn that object into--like a painter painting a beautiful woman nude--how can he transpose what he sees in that naked glory before him onto a common ordinary old cheap piece of canvas using the tools of his trade. And, yes, I believe we creative folk are tradesmen. Of course we are. There are even unions available to us. The problem: most creative folk are independents, stone loners in some cases, isolationists, rebels. They don't really want to be protected in terms of solidarity. As artists they seek total freedom, including anarchy, through art. They seek a whole new world through art. An escape from the imprisoning rules and regulations that rule the academically run world, the institutionalized world, the world of boundaries and perimeters and encampments and mores. You feel the sociopathic anger I am experiencing in even writing about this DRIVE that drives creative folks to progress...to move on...to hurdle limits...to exceed far beyond common expectations.

Of course I am comically aware of another side of art--a laissez faire side--a side of conformity and collective teamwork. Aren't the designers of those Mickey Mouse teeshirts that sell like there's no tomorrow in New York City's big Disney stores artists? I call them commercial artists, but then I'm moldy-oldy when it comes to artist designations these days. [New York City's biggest of about 4 Disney stores is on the corner of East 55th and fashionable Fifth Avenue, ironically just up the street from Saks Fifth Avenue where the snobs and the wannabes shop--though you can catch these people in the Disney Store, too, don't worry--primed with the logical answer of why they're there: "I'm shopping for my children." On the Disney store Website, you can shop by "Characters"--and currently, they're offering "Little Girl's" swimsuits for $15 each. By the way, they don't guarantee this, but I can, those "Little Girl Swimsuits" are made in Commie China by real "Little Girls"--you betcha. China's great child labor force, that labor force that creates today most of our clothing (we had a child labor force in the good ole USA until we were deep into the 20th Century--why I hear rumors there are sweatshops out in Flushing Queens where they even today use child labor). Chinese children are working 14-hour days to produce those crummy, cheap, contaminated Disney children's wear. (And, too, there are child labor forces in India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia.)

I got sidetracked into this "creative folk" side street, this wondering why we are driven to be different by listening to a local radio interview show--an artsy-fartsy program with a high-falutin' host who knew every little tiny insignificant aspect of today's current world of ART, in this program's case, today's NOW world of DANCE. She was interviewing the woman who created SLAM here in New York City. [I know where dancers who form troops get their money--from patrons (sponsors) and grants and through benefits and teaching seminars and commissioned works--the ones who sell their ideas are hustling geniuses.]

The woman who created SLAM (Streb Lab for Action Mechanics) is Elizabeth Streb. Elizabeth is into dance being more than just human bodies dancing within the limitations of feet-on-the-stage dancing, either on their own or in a uniform troop manner. Elizabeth has a troop, but her form of dance incorporates a whole slew of folks and equipment, like trapeze artists and movie stunt people and circus clowns and on-stage fliers. You see: action mechanics. All people in motion are dancers to Miss Streb. Not a new concept at all. What's new about it is the way Miss Streb presents it.
It's performance art to me, but dance to Elizabeth Streb. But then isn't all art entertainment? And isn't all life in a way dance? And Streb's dance troop is entertaining to say the least. One article I read on Liz she's called the Evel Knievel of dance. How does Liz Streb make her money? How did I just tell you dancer's make money? Through grants. Liz won one of those John and Catherine MacArthur genius grants--what are those, half-a-mill or something like that? She spends money like it's water; look at the above stage setting.
Elizabeth Streb, striving to look different; being different means attracting a following. SLAM's rehearsal space is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the new artsy-fartsy community that has evolved just across the East River from Manhattan--there's still cheap loft space over there--it's an area of old warehouse buildings that runs all the way down to the Brooklyn Bridge from up at Metropolitan Ave. on the border between Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

[I'm old enough to remember the days of "mills." These were metal, wood, or plastic coins about the size of a nickel that were used to pay the sales taxes on items.
A Missouri 1 Mill. When I was a kid in Enid, Oklahoma, I remember playing with red plastic mills--during the period in my life where I began thinking and discovering and figuring out on my own--I was 2 years old.]

Here's what Charles Ives wrote about this drive that drives artists to go beyond the tried and true, beyond the classical, beyond the moderne, beyond the near future.

"The futility of attempting to trace the source or primal impulse of an art inspiration may be admitted without granting that human qualities or attributes which go with personality cannot be suggested, and that artistic intuitions which parallel them cannot be reflected in music. Actually accomplishing the latter is a problem, more or less arbitrary to an open mind, more or less impossible to a prejudiced mind.

"That which the composer intends to represent as 'high vitality' sounds like something quite different to different listeners. That which I like to think suggests Thoreau's submission to nature may, to another, seem something like Hawthorne's conception of the relentlessness of an evil conscience--and to the rest of our friends, but a series of unpleasant sounds. How far can the composer be held accountable? Beyond a certain point the responsibility is more or less undeterminable." (Charles Ives, Essays Before a Sonata and Other Writings, Norton, 1964 edition: p. 70.)

With me it's excitement that drives me to do whatever I do that is creative. I've been a "semisuccessful" poet, briefly successful short-story writer, and a very successful trade book writer (two books on a Pope Johnny the 2nd, the Polish Pope, one a Catholic bestseller though it wasn't Pope approved--the Pope said I was too kind to Communism. Hellfire, you're Holiness, I'm a atheist who thinks you're a warped-minded fool, so be glad I wrote as nicely about you as I did--oh, that's right, that His Holiness has gone on up to heaven already--he's supposedly going to be speedily made a saint--he married a Jewish girl during WWII in order to save her--that's a miracle, ain't it?--but that was a vicious rumor started by somebody vicious in the Polish State press--the same bunch who wired me one time that Pope John Paul #1, the Pope prior to Johnny II, was stabbed to death in the Vatican. Don't tell anybody you heard these rumors in The Daily Growler, please. Remember the criticism of me as being a divulger of suspicious facts and a user of bad grammar.) I've also been a published songwriter; I've been a recording "star" (within my own circles); I've been on others's recordings; I can sometimes play a piano with virtuoso brilliance; and I've been known to wow a roomful of fans with my singing. I am currently driven to learn how to play the guitar--not the common ordinary folk or rock guitar--that's a snap--any junior high rock wannabe can play a guitar--run scales on 'em and wah-wah pedal sustained chords and sustained twangs and quivers--you'll never top Jimi Hendrix on the rock guitar--never--but I'm driven to playing my own style of guitar playing. I may be the Evel Knievel of the acoustic guitar like Liz Streb is the EK of dance.

One of my past loves was in the chorus of the Arthur Mitchell Dance Theater of Harlem with ambitions of being a lead dancer though she struggled with it due to bad feet, her inability to keep weight off, even though she ate like a ballerina--almost a bulimia diet--while I was eating a steak she'd be eating a bowl of lettuce with cottage cheese on the side--and finally just flat too old to continue on at the rigorous pace Arthur Mitchell put his people through. She was a tiny wonderful woman but better at fashion than dancing and she finally gave up the ballet and became an accessories designer for a major jewelry company.

Then later I met and dated for a while the business manager for Arthur Mitchell's troop--her sister was his lover--and soon I got bored with the staid rather mean drive of Arthur Mitchell and his women and moved on to meet a woman I fell madly for and who drove me wildly and madly and almost insane and who I hurled the love calls at and the admiration for for 7 years--though it finally dissolved sort of in midair. This woman's son who I first met when he was three, went on to become one of the current leading world dancers with his own highly-thought-of dance company--and this guy amazed me with what he conceived in terms of dance, a street-level-urban yet different kind of kinetic dance--wonderfully timed and astir with very dramatic movements and spins and leaps and muscular lifts and throws--just electric stuff choreographed to electric music performed live or via recording.

When I was a very young man I saw Oklahoma live and during that performance--and this was right after Oklahoma was premiered on Broadway--I actually saw Martha Graham dance--that dance that made Oklahoma so daring at that point. Later, I was to see the Martha Graham Dance Company in which Rudolph Nureyev was dancing in the mid-1970s.

In college, I studied ballet, from a student side--I mean I didn't dance but I read
Sergey Pavlovich Diaghilev and Stravinsky on dance and watched films of Maria Tallchief (from Fairfax, Oklahoma, on the Osage Reservation in North Central Oklahoma, just 30 miles east of Enid where I was raised--Betty Tall Chief was her given name--Agnes deMille changed her name to Maria Tallchief (Betty's sister Marjorie also became a world-famous ballerina). Maria later married George Ballanchine (oh how the women loved this Georgian dude)--and her last marriage was to a Chicago real estate mogul with whom she had a daughter, Elise Paschen, who became a famous poet), and reading Isadora Duncan's autobiography and watching films of Michael Fokine staging dances. At one time I could tell you about all the "arabesque" moves in Classical Ballet because of a college class I took: Arabesque en promenade; Arabesque a la demi-hauteur (I've seen a demonstration: the "working leg" is raised at right angles to the hip); Arabesque fondue; or how about an Entrechat cinq. From that brief college dilettante experience, I became fascinated by choreography writing--how a dance creator creates a dance and puts it down on paper. How does one compose a dance? As a result of this curiosity coming up again while listening to Liz Streb talking about her dance drives (one is she wants to limit her stage to a box six feet wide and five feet tall, something like that), I found this great Website posted by Jody Sperling, the founder of Time Lapse Dance ( www.jodysperling.com):

Check this out:

How do you write down choreography?

Example of "Joyous Movement" in Labanotation

As a choreographer, the number one question I get asked is: “How do you write down a dance?” It’s surprising to me how often this comes up. In itself, the question reveals a a literary way of thinking about choreography, as something that can be written. It’s also akin to the question my actor-friend is frequently subject to: “How do you remember your lines?” While there are notational systems for dance (eg. Labanotation), they are extremely complex and too cumbersome for “everyday” use. Labanotation certainly has uses, mainly as a tool for those recording and reconstructing master-works (visit the Dance Notation Bureau), but this is not how choreographers generally “write” their dances.

When you say “write” a dance, does it mean: 1) How do I make choreography up? 2) How I teach choreography to dancers? or 3) How do I document choreography for posterity? I hear all of these things.

Check out the rest of this post at jodysperling.com/process/how-do-you-write-down-choreography/

That's beautiful stuff to me--Labanotation--you've got to like that term.
Of course, as a dancer, I can't dance for shit. I had a lover one time who got me on the dance floor and taught me how to dance with her--an eight-step move, starting on the left foot and ending on the right foot--starting on the one and ending on the eight. I danced for about an hour with her that night before her husband broke us up out of jealousy. He had a right to be jealous, too, the way we were dancing.

Otherwise, during the disco craze I was in the Manhattan discos quiet a bit, though not many women would dance with me. I do, however, remember this one girl named Mary who danced with me all night at Ipanema who said I was a great dancer--Mary got the best of me for about a year.

I watch the current "Dancing With the Stars" teevee show and I wretch. It is such a vulgar show. West Hollywood dance instructors for the babe celebs and some of those ballsy Vegas-type dancer babes for the male celebs. Horrible teevee dancing; judged by a bunch of Rollos (Charles Ives's put down for fakirs) with about as much imagination as a book of matches. Awful dancing. All this bucking and winging and bending back a la Tango and whipping out in spins Apache like--though remember Apache dancers?--I once saw an Apache show in Paris (where some doubters say I've never been--take me to Paris and I'll fool you with taking you places you'd figure I didn't know how to get to if I'd never been there--Paris is a moveable feast, remember?)...but perhaps that's for another post when I feel like dancing.

Right now, I've got ants in my pants and I want'a dance.

for The Daily Growler

Just a few posts back, thegrowlingwolf warned you that President Obama was fixing to throw a value-added tax at us. Well, yesterday, he came right out and said yes it was on his mind. He was evaluating it--thinking about it--he liked it but he wasn't ready to push it on us. The problem: Paul Volcker. Value-added Tax is Paul's latest recession-fighting tool. Paul is noted as being a recession buster when he was Chairman of the Federal Reserve, appointed by Jimmah Cahter (President Jimmy Carter), and kept by Reagan, though Reagan later fired him and gave us Allan "Ayn Rand" Greenspan. Obama loves Paul Volcker.

On April 6, 2010 Volker told a Global Economic Panel that the United States Should consider adding a National Sales tax similar to the Value Added Tax (VAT) imposed in European Countries, stating "If, at the end of the day, we need to raise taxes, we should raise taxes". The value added tax does not replace current taxes but is an additional tax on top of existing sales taxes. In European countries, the tax averages 20% with a 25% maximum by law.

Our recession is not due to us not being taxed enough. A value-added tax is assessed through every process of production--taxes on production, taxes on distribution, taxes on exportation, taxes on the retail sale. The last time something similar was tried it pretty much put an end to independent farmers in this country.

Obama has to raise money. This nation is broke. He's desperate for money. Will he impose the proper taxes on the rich? No. Will he impose taxes on the already overtaxed? Yes. You and I, our taxes are going up--either via the value-added way or else by stealing it out of our earnings, taxes of which We the Common Man already pay an unfair portion. Obama doesn't know how to create new jobs. His highway reconstruction program has only created about 12,000 new jobs. His other job-incentive methods aren't working either, though to hear Obama talk about it you'd think everyone in this country was back working at an average salary of $50,000-a-year, saving their homes, refinancing their SUVs, back to wildly using their credit cards, and those who don't own homes, hell, they're lining up to get all the bargains out there on the worldwide real estate market.

I watched a young twentyish couple the other day on a local teevee show that shows you the choiciest real estate in Manhattan and the New York City area, hosted by these cheesy real estate agents (young superdressed very gayly enthusiastic men and a little plump haggard-looking women showing potential buyers this choice real estate). This couple was being shown a newly renovated preWar upper West Side apartment and then one of those newly built hi-rise luxury joints with superviews but rather ordinary construction souped up with all this aluminum kitchen appliances and plastic see-through coffee and end tables--embraced by minimal black and white living room decors (a la the old "Mission Impossible" teevee show's leader's living room--and Peter Graves just died a couple of weeks ago, though Peter Graves wasn't the first leader of the Mission Impossible team--but that living room used a black and white chessboard type of decor in its opening shots where Peter is picking the team members he needs to carry out his latest directive mission). And here was this ditsy couple, he a young Princeton-looking type who you figure is in banking or insurance adjusting and his wispy blonde wife, who besides being goofy looking didn't look like she was more important than an executive secretary--and they were looking at and really seriously considering buying this rather small pre-War upper West Side apartment--renovated--I saw thin sheetrock walls through which you can hear your neighbor's conversations and music--and the price was 1 million six. Can you imagine a young couple living in Manhattan and paying mortgage and interest on a 1 million six closing? I mean, at the end of 30 years, they'll have paid way over 4 million dollars for an apartment that at one time you could RENT for $500 a month. How about putting extra taxes on these hi-rise luxury real estate deals?

Or how about putting back into law a stock transfer tax? Every stock trade coming and going pays a 5-cent stock transfer tax--add it up; most days there are millions of stock trades happening. New York City used to collect a 2-cent (actually it might have been a penny) stock transfer tax--but Wall Street threatened Democrat Ed Krotch (Koch) that unless he took that tax off of 'em they were moving to Jersey. I said let 'em move to Jersey, the bastards, but Ed said they were too important to lose, so he did away with that tax and instead raised property taxes and bridge tolls and sold our asses into bondage with his bond issue that gave us Ed Krotch's pink elephant, the max-tacky Javitts Convention Center.

Our current mayor, Mike "the Billionaire" Bloomberg (you think Mike has investments in derivatives?) is bringing up this same old Wall-Street-moving-to-Jersey bullshit as he opposes Obama's regulating Wall Street. Bloomberg says if we tax Wall Street, they'll move to Jersey (Ironically, Jersey is currently getting that second face showing of that fat little two-baby-faced Repugnican Federal prosecutor governor they just elect. This little piggy looking clown said in his campaign ads that a Democratic governor only knew how to raise taxes to get the state's budget under control--why this little fool was going to lower taxes--did you hear me, LOWER taxes. So what does the little prick do instead; why he's cutting the school system to ribbons and raising taxes at the same time--says, he's sorry, he can't help it.) The reason I mentioned above that Mayor Bloomberg is probably reaping billions off derivatives and foreclosure hustling, is that derivatives trading is still going on big time: Bank of America, J.P. Morgan-Chase (check out Paul Volcker's relation to the Rockefellers and Chase Bank), and Goldman-Sachs, those pirates, just turned in multi-billion-dollar quarterly profit statements, and just at the same time Goldman-Sachs is being investigated by the limpwristed, powerless SEC on charges of fraud--oh hell yes they committed fraud--all of them did--same as Charlie Keating and the Bush boys did in the Savings and Loan scams We the People had to eventually put up the bail-out money for--Jeb and Ned Bush dumping their Silverado stock at just the right time--ripping We the People off for millions going into the Bush Family Empire's many money socks socked away all over the world--remember, Pappy Bush's grandfather was a banker--why, hell, he was Adolph Hitler's money manager. He was investigated by the Justice Dept. but he got off Scot free. You and I would have been executed as traitors had we been caught handling Hitler's finances for him.
Hillbilly Hillary Clinton, our Sec'y of State, in case you're interested, is in Tallin, Estonia, today trying to save NATO, the totally unneeded WWII North Atlantic Treaty Organization that today is our military presence in Europe--it's been in business since WWII, folks--WWII has been over for 64 years, so why do we still need NATO?! Oh, I forgot, the Afghanistan War is now NATO's war, right? Didn't Georgie Porgie Bush, our previous commander in chief, turn that war over to NATO? Oh, that's right, it's now President Obama's Nobel-Peace-Prize-Winning war. What's the UN doing in Afghanistan, too?

By the way, there is never any mention of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on teevee news these days--I assume, like the economy, we're back in total control of them. I see where one of those Iraq al-Queda commanders has been killed by American forces for the THIRD time now.

Get ready for that sleigh ride to hell, folks. Save your gold so you can afford it. Gold's up over 1,000 dollars an ounce now. And thegrowlingwolf ridiculed this numismatist dude who advised coin collectors and dealers to invest in gold bullion 15 years ago--horselaughing in the face of this man who dared predict gold would one day exceed 1,000 an ounce. The Wolf Man hooted at the guy--gold at the time was around 200-an-ounce and dropping. Unfortunately I sold all my gold at those prices on the Wolf Man's advice--I made good money at 200-an-ounce since I bought most of my gold at 80-an-ounce. So hoard that gold, folks, you're going to need something of value to trade with when the day comes Obama announces the dollar is now totally worthless--we're going on military script instead.

Managing Editor: The Daily Growler

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Living in New York City: thegrowlingwolf Growing Old Gracefully and Enviously

Foto by tgw, New York City, 2010
Books, Publishers, Readers
L Hat ( www.languagehat.com ) introduced me to a woman I'd never afore heard of, Helen DeWitt. Her book L Hat trumpeted as a great one: The Last Samurai. She's a weird one. I was immediately attracted to her. After reading her Wikipedia entry I imagined I may even know someone who knows someone who knows her. I mean she went to Smith. I just wrote a post a few weeks back about Smith girls.

I've been reading such magnificent American women writers lately like this Toni Morrison novel Jazz I'm reading over and over for several years because the writing is so original; Jazz is a truly magnificent piece of all-American writing. Can Miss DeWitt top Toni Morrison?

In The Last Samurai, Miss DeWitt imagines this wonder kid, which I assume, being so Freudian, is "her own child," a tyke she calls Ludo. Little Ludo is a natural-born genius--not an idiot savant, oh no. Little Ludo is a prodigy, and that's how he's described in the book. He shows sterling promise to his mommy dearest, who I again assume is a role being played by Miss DeWitt, by teaching himself Greek, Japanese, god knows, several languages--and I must assume Miss DeWitt speaks several languages--and he teaches himself to solve intricate math problems that nobody else can solve--and I notice Miss DeWitt is interested in puzzles. I haven't read the book just a synopsis. How slipshod a critical approach is this to this woman who just yesterday I knew nothing about?

Miss DeWitt's (I sound like a NYTimes obituary writer) Website is rather young and naively girlish, though we know Helen ain't naive and she ain't no spring chicken any longer either. www.helendewitt.com/ She may be overtalented. I'll have to read The Last Samurai to see if I'm right or simply suffering from clitoris envy. Smith girls do foster clitoris envy in men.

Right off the bat, I realize I'm not as worldly as Helen wants you to believe she is on her Website, though I must admit on first glance I don't have any idea which is Helen, who is Helen, (she lives in Berlin), what is Helen, or if she's fucking that tacky-looking Australian journalist she's co-written Your Name Goes Here with. She like Joyce Carol Oates seems to be into sports, especially boxing. I'm categorizing poor Helen. Still she went to Smith.

By God, I may soon find out I am only 4 people away from meeting Helen DeWitt (and that could be in Berlin, too).

I must stop right now writing about this woman.... I'll have to do some more investigating. Further parallel lines old Helen and I may be taking, she's into Diderot; plus she mentions lying with statistics! If you know me you know my Sociological way of reasoning, a reasoning depending on the manipulation of statistics for most of its opinions--to reach the supernatural aspects of its continuum where it poses as a pretend religion. Oh hell, I'm drifting off into the same snow drifts poor Smith girls find themselves snowbound by many a winter up in Northampton.
Helen Dewitt after her famous rescue--kidnapped on Staten Island and found later at Niagara Falls. Could she have found the Last Samurai on that trip?
I Am an Old Jazzman
I try and listen to "the latest" jazz. Ugh. It's tough. I just listened to a pianist named Bill O'Connell, something he recorded in the 80s. It's elevator music. Bill has discovered the synthesizer--and he takes full advantage of it as a "commercial" sound effect. Dammit, Bill, you're playing what they play on those phony "cool" jazz radio stations. Worse than Bob James's crap he put out in the 70s and 80s--or Deodato--oh god how Deodato used to pain me.

And another pianist I just listened to is Ted Rosenthal. And Ted uses some of the hip new jazzmen like the Tonight Show bandleader, Kevin Eubanks (I've never considered Kevin a jazz guitarist) and saxophonist Donald Harrison and some old cats, too, like Bobby Hutcherson, Eddie Gomez, and trumpeter Lew Soloff. But Ted, too, has discovered the synthesizer and what had potential turns out to be so programmatic it, too, becomes elevator music after only a few bars into the very first track--on which Donald Harrison sings lyrics that are so fucking juvenile I couldn't finish the track--it was awful. Minus 4 stars. The rest of the tracks were the same. Ted's a good pianist and he has a blue streak in his playing, but this example is dull, like I said overprogrammed in terms of the synth and how no matter how hard you try, you can't swing as heavy on a synth as you can on a Steinway grand.

The problem with the music of these two 1980s dudes is that it didn't swing and it wasn't blue. Jazz to me has to contain blue notes and it has to swing. It starts like a gospel tune and builds into a devilish volume and pace--and a lot of jazz guys learned their instruments in church--I must add here that those church-trained musicians were mostly black--white jazzmen learned their jazz off recordings; their instruments in high school bands, army bands, or in the woodshed. I learned jazz off the late-night radio--having to remember tunes by heart because I was too young to buy records yet--and besides, records were still 78 rpm when I started trying to understand jazz. I had already felt boogie and blues in my bones--I just took natural then to jazz--the first jazz I really listened to being be-bop.

After listening to Bill and Ted, I put an old Best of Oscar Peterson on my player. HOLY JESUS! Right off the bat on a tune called "Love You Madly," a tribute to Duke Ellington (that was Duke's sign-off phrase: "...and always remember, We Love You Madly"), Oscar, Ray Brown, and Herbie Ellis kick Bill and Ted's ass all over the studio floor or the live stage in the case of OP, Ray, and Ed Thigpen playing "Sometimes I'm Happy" at Chicago's London House in 1961--on this one Ray Brown plays Lester Young's solo on his 1945 recording of the tune note for note--then Oscar tags it with Lester's tag.

I'm just an old jazzman. You'll never see my kind again when I'm gone. We are a dying breed. Our music died back in 1964 when the Beatles were brought to the US by the White recording industry that was pissed because small labels, like Atlantic, Epic, Impulse, etc., were getting rich off our greatest Black artists--like Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Ike Turner, Tina Turner--plus the Whiteys lost Elvis to the US Army--and, son of a bitch, Little Richard reported back that he'd discovered a white boy band in Germany. Did you know the Beatles first US recording, not a success, was released on the Vee Jay label, the Chicago label that Jimmy Reed had put on the map in the 1950s? Vee Jay also put out some really great old jazz records, too--they introduced me to Wynton (Winetone) Kelly and Gene Ammons and Eddie Harris (Eddie's Vee Jay version of "Exodus" put him in the starlight spotlight). Another Chicago blues label, Chess (Muddy Waters had put Chess on the map--even the great blues man and Chess recording star Elmore James put out "Elmore's Contribution to Jazz" in the 1950s), also got into jazz about the same time. The result was Ahmed Jamal's (Andrew Johnson) first two albums, At the Pershing-But Not for Me, and Poinciana (a couple of tunes off these albums made it into the Top 20). The Pershing Lounge one was recorded in 1958 and was issued on Chess's Argo label. Chess was already known for putting out the Eddie Jefferson and James Moody version of "Moody's Mood for Love"--later made more popular by King Pleasure. Ahmed's trio on those Argo albums comprised Israel Crosby, one of the great jazz bass players of all time, and the New Orleans-born drummer Vernell Fournier.

I still listen to this music that is now considered moldy and oldy to this new breed of American musician who was born in the 1980s and 1990s and who were born into a digital age, a computer programmable age, with all kinds of electronic devices--like ProTools--and all kinds of instrumental ensembles--mostly White boys--mostly guitar-based bands--though yes all the big show White boy singers can accompany themselves on piano, a la Elton John and Billy Joel--like this little prick I can't stand Josh Groban--holy jesus--this little prick plays the piano like the girls--like Alicia Keyes--and suddenly I'm thinking, Aretha Franklin could really play the hell out of a piano--gospel wild style--her very first album made for Columbia under John Hammond's direction--it was a jazz album--Aretha on piano with a bass and drums--a la Carmine McRae, also a fine pianist and organist. Ella Fitzgerald could play the organ, too. And Sarah Vaughan played the piano in the Billy Eckstein Band--and Sarah, too, could play the organ. James Brown made an organ album; James also made what he called a jazz album. And Ray Charles played the organ on one of his great Tangerine (his own label) recordings featuring the greatest r and b singer and songwriter ever, Percy Mayfield.

God how I loved Percy Mayfield--especially his "Dirty Work at the Cross Roads" and the haunting "River's Invitation," a tune that is on that first Tangerine album. Ray owed a hell of a lot to Percy for his own style. In fact, Ray had featured Percy's "Two Years of Torture" on his first successful recording: Ray Charles: The Genius, on Atlantic (the first stereo LP I ever bought).

In 1952, after he'd had a big success with "Two Years of Torture" recorded on Art Rupe's Swing Time label, Percy was involved in a horrible automobile accident that left his face grotesquely frightening it was so mangled and badly rebuilt.

Ray Charles helped Percy out so much; signed him to his Tangerine label like I said but also signed him as a songwriter--Percy wrote "Hit the Road, Jack" for Ray.

"River's Invitation" became a big hit off Percy's first Tangerine album on which Ray Charles plays the organ.

Percy's Vietnam song, by the way, "Please Send Me Someone to Love," became a classic in the blues and r and b and jazz world.
One of My Music Mentors: the great Percy Mayfield

Percy died of a heart attack in 1984. He was 64 years old. Sadly, Percy died in obscurity.

Here's a YouTube vid of Percy doing his famous "Life Is Suicide"--a companion piece to "The River's Invitation."

for The Daily Growler

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Living in New York City: thegrowlingwolf Contemplates His Own Demise

Foto by tgw, "Sky Streaks," New York City, 2010

Contemplating one's own demise...disappearance...departure...passing...euphemisms for that for which we have a Grim Reaper: DEATH. And, yes, I've contemplated death in a collective sense many times, but only recently have I been contemplating it in an individual sense. In terms of myself. In terms of my self. In terms of my own being being swooned off the coil by the call of the highly perfumed DEATH.

And DEATH does call us. Its calling is coursing through our instinctual veins. We are all being compelled to shuffle on toward it by this calling, this wooing, as a master calls his or her dog; as a mother calls her child.

We also since we are two-sided resist the call. We drag our feet. We collapse and make out like we are dying anyway. We are dying too soon! Help us! We want to live so we can plod on to the beckoning of the call. Hell. we're gonna die anyway so save us now so that we may live.

We hear the calling through our instinctual ears. We hear it beckoning all through our lives. We never know when the Grim Reaper is going to step out of our peripherals and grab us. We never know when WE ARE GOING TO DIE!

And I feel ridiculous worrying about my own death while all around me from where I am right now on out like rays around and around the world and back to me, in the continuing present, millions of people are being called to step off the BRINK and into the devouring black hole of DEATH, many many millions of them before their time, many, many millions of them living way beyond their time. "Their time." Define that phrase, I can't. Besides, I haven't got the time to define it.

One of the ironies of DEATH that amuses me is how in the midst of its worst catastrophes men keep making love to or raping women and these women are forced by this wild hunger of the male to seed and destroy at the same time to bear the children that are the ultimate results of this loving and/or raping. War and disasters obviously making males horny. War giving males the rights to use all captured women as they wish. To the victors go the spoils. And women in such instances are reduced to spoils. And of course during and after disasters, chaos is in control, and during chaos again there's both lovemaking and rape going on and children being born and being conceived on an hour-to-hour basis.

In the aftermath of the recent earthquake that killed the 300-to-400 thousand men, women, and children in Haiti, women were giving birth--even women dying were giving birth at the same time--from death to birth and from birth to death--think of the babies being born in the Port-au-Prince hospital when the earthquake happened! DEATH! Being born on the Planet Earth means DEATH.

Philip Wylie, an American writer (Opus One, Finley Wren, Generation of Vipers), wrote in his little Jungian-inspired book, An Essay on Morals, that living things gave up eternal life in order to have the ungodly wonderful unearthly pleasure of sexual intercourse and reproducing. His point, if there was such a thing as eternal life, there would be no need to procreate. As aboriginal Garden of Eden or Garden of Allah residents we'd be asexual. How do you distinguish males from females in an eternal setting? There's no need for genderization in such a state. Only when the human monkey realized there was no such thing as eternal life--and he did the first time one of his aboriginal tribe died and he tried to explain it to himself--did he further realize that's what his or her genital organs were for? How exciting aboriginal sex must have been. And don't you think before it was empirically figured out, men were buggering men and women were experimenting with what Sappho would later write poems about? I have often in my literary visions seen men as women turned inside out--the clitoris becoming the penis--the ovaries the testicles.

When we're young we challenge the calling of DEATH. We challenge the Grim Reaper to try and grab us early, as though life is instinctually a mortal game of combat with the assassinating agents of DEATH. And stop here and think of how many agents of DEATH there are attempting to assassinate us every day of our lives. Like when you are crossing a street against the light and a car coming at you starts blaring its horn rather than slowing down to courteously allow you to pass safely on in your anxious quest to reach the other side of wherever you are. A quest so important to your ego that you are ready to defy DEATH in the process of being driven to perform it, the driver of the DEATH agent automobile blaring his horn in doing DEATH's will rather than slowing down courteously and ruining your ego's DEATH-defying determination, or whatever it was that compelled you to play such an insane game.
Oscar Wilde said death had to be a beautiful time, a time of no yesterday, no tomorrow, of no time, of pure silence, and, therefore, pure peace.

Mark Twain
said a man who lived life fully was fully prepared to die at any moment during that life.

I think I've mostly thought like Mark Twain in contemplating my own coming death. I try to pack as much life into my daily affairs as I can so as not to think of death much at all and certainly not to worry about it when I'm contemplating doing something that may in reality be defying it. I don't even dwell on the unexpected deaths of friends, associates, or family members. Since 2002, I've lost my best friend throughout life from adolescence to maturity; I've lost my brother (my only brother); I've lost two of my nephews (death got one on a Los Angeles hospital operating table/and death tricked the other one into putting the barrel of his prized shotgun into his mouth and then adroitly pulling the trigger with his big toe); I lost my ex-wife; and just last year, I lost my old blues pal of 30 years--one of my truest of soul brothers.

It's hard, though, to avoid the contemplation of your own DEATH when you reach an age where you are suddenly vividly aware that you've topped the allegorical hill and have started down the steps of the narrow path you know in your mind leads down to your personal hole in the earth, that hole gaping openly armed awaiting your "coming home." As my grandmother the poet used to say, "We're all clay bound," meaning we're all headed back to being the clay from which we at some ancient time came forth from as the slime that crawled out of the slimy oceans and became us. And look how clay has been so beneficial to our surviving--we plastered our cave walls with clay; we made bricks from clay; we made cooking utensils and food-storage utensils out of it; we made our dinnerware out of it; we made our smoking pipes out of it; we smeared our bodies with it to repel insects and heal cuts and cure snake bites and stop itches; we used it to make ovens and kilns; we now use it to make the heat-resistant tiles on the sides of our adventurous space ships--what are they searching for out there?.

I mean, look how important DEATH is in our everyday lives. Our media keeps us constantly aware of the many ways there are for us to submit to DEATH's beckoning and that fatal swipe from the Grim Reaper's sickle (the sickle interestingly a symbol of life--as a mower of wheat as symbolized by the sickle used in the old Communist flags--and death in terms of it being in the hands of the Grim Reaper as well as Old Father Time.

DEATH via war. DEATH via murder. DEATH via accidents. Death via plane crashes. Death via ships and ferries sinking. DEATH via inhumane ways of punishment by those who rule. DEATH via execution and assassination. DEATH via suicide. DEATH via starvation. DEATH via drowning. DEATH via suffocation. DEATH via famine. DEATH via plague. DEATH via DEATH.

DEATH in crossing the street.

In the Haitian earthquake stories in the media it was the number of dead that was important--the record number of deaths from a disaster was being challenged and the talking heads kept you up-to-date on that score. Two hundred and fifty thousand had died in the big South Asian tsunami only a few years back so the media scoreboards concentrated on the Haitian earthquake maybe going to break that record! And it did.

Here in New York City we breathed in the stench coming from the Haitian earthquake every day for a while after it happened. Surely that stench in the aftermath of that earthquake was in the air and blown into our nostrils from across the Atlantic by the northerly winds, don't you think? DEATH is in all the air we breathe. Don't you think we breathe in DEATH daily?

I know all that first night after 9/11 here in my apartment far uptown from Ground Zero I kept being awakened by the odor of something sickly in the air, and on fully awakening, I surely also tasted something putrefied in my mouth--like the dusty ashy taste of the wind-blown dust of those pulverized bodies of the nearly 4000 who had died that morning.

We depend on DEATH for life. Look at all the animals we slaughter daily in order to sustain our carnivorous cravings. Isabella Duncan wrote in her autobiography, she was a vegetarian because she couldn't stand to eat DEAD flesh, and wretched when she thought of swallowing it and then having that DEAD flesh living inside her.

You know something ironic, there's more death going on than birth most days of the week. More people born; more people to die. I highly recommend parents encourage their children to become morticians.

Here was a man who now for the first time found himself looking into the eyes of death--who was passing through one of those rare moments of experience when we feel the truth of a commonplace, which is as different from what we call knowing it, as the vision of waters upon the earth is different from the delirious vision of the water which cannot be had to cool the burning tongue. When the commonplace 'We must all die' transforms itself suddenly into the acute consciousness 'I must die--and soon,' then death grapples us, and his fingers are cruel; afterwards, he may come to fold us in his arms as our mother did, and our last moment of dim earthly discerning may be like the first.

GEORGE ELIOT, Middlemarch

In photographing sky after sky after sky, I long to LIVE in the sky, to escape into it. The sky is so beckoning. Yet, the sky is so dangerous to my life, so full of delusions and illusions. It is like, yes, the earth represents a final resting place but the sky beckons us to chance to live on, to thrust ourselves out into it and leave ourselves at the mercy of it--of course, in our dumb minds we know there is no mercy anywhere in our universe, so walking off into space is to face most probably DEATH though it also theoretically does offer a possible collective escape from the inevitable earthly DEATH we are all (all earthbound living things) doomed to face--our irrational hopes being that perhaps there is escape from death via the sky.
Foto by tgw, "Abstracted Sky #3," New York City 2010.


for The Daily Growler
Another Jazzman Bites the Dust

Steve Reid, 66, American jazz drummer, cancer

Monday, April 12, 2010

New York City Living--Laughing at Fate

Foto by tgw, New York City, 2010
I have developed several theories of life over my term of existence. As an armchair Sociologist, I have plenty of "thinking" time to sit around and develop life theories. These are not scientifically thought out or even scientifically tested theories, they have been simply deduced from my own experiences--I'm my own lab rat.

One such theory is: the law of coincidental equalization. In more common terms, I call it, the Even-Steven Factor.

Here's how it works. You go play poker with the gals or guys. You unexpectedly win $100. The next day you check the mail, and damn, there's an unexpected bill for $100 you'd forgotten about.

I got hit by an occasion of this factor evening up on me this morning. I had made a wonderful business deal with a Russian banker (I know, my Georgian-Russian friend who lived in Moscow for years told me I was nuts for trusting a Russian banker, but, hey, I am nuts, so this was not going to affect my sanity no matter the result). The Russian banker paid me quickly and securely and I socked the money away in my bank and forgot the matter.

In the meantime, in another deal, this time with a Hong Kong dealer, I had sent him 3 invoices with no response. Finally I sent my collection hounds after him and, by golly, he immediately paid me what he owed me--a big sigh of relief and I thought: case closed.

This morning, I opened my email and right off up popped an email from the Russian banker. He has yet to receive his purchase. I said, SHIT!, and supposed the package was lost in the Russian mails--and since I have no way of tracking Russian mail, I agreed that if by the end of the month he hasn't received it, I'll refund his money.

The irony: The money I got from Hong Kong is, and this is what drives me crazy, for exactly the amount I'm going to have to refund the Russian banker. Exactly to the dollar and cents.

This sort of thing amazes me. It happens so often in my life that I must consider this factor in not only business deals but even in everyday life deals.

I have been an Even-Steven sort of guy all my life. Like in college, inevitably if I made an A in one of my courses, I'd make a C in another course. This became so ordinary that I gained assurance from the fact that every time I made an A I'd make a C or vice versa. It worked out fine: all through college I maintained a B average without ever making straight Bs--the Even-Steven average for a guy who had to keep a 3.0 grade average (a B) in order to stay in the graduate degree program I was in.
It's Time I Mentioned H.L. Mencken
I think I've mentioned H.L. Mencken before in terms of his The American Language, a book I delved into before I even knew who the man really was. But I don't think I've ever delved into the total overall appreciation I had for this man as a young open-minded thinker. I came to Mencken via an LP recording of him talking about his life and journalism as a profession.

In 1969, I bought a batch of Caedmon LPs in Bryant Park, which used to be a lovely little Midtown Manhattan park behind the big library that had used book stalls and used record kiosks--a charming place now taken over by the Corporate bozos and turned into a commercial venture. Caedmon was the recording company (I think two women started Caedmon--one of my up-in-the-air ways of remembering facts) in the late fifties and early sixties that put out a list of LPs featuring the voices of famous literary figures reading from their work (Jimmy Joyce, William Carlos Williams, Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Carl Sandburg, Vachel Lindsay, just to mention a few). Among this batch of LPs was one featuring the voice of H.L. Mencken. What he said on that recording wasn't particularly controversial, it was just good sense said in a very witty way, some cockiness in his voice but also a humorous tinge of out-of-the-side-of-his-mouth cynicism that dealt with his personal form of a jaunty live-and-let-live way of living, the way I myself had decided I wanted to live before I came across this wickedly critical but fair man.
H.L. Mencken--typing the old two-finger journalist way. My brother, a journalist, typed this way all his life.

Mencken was a controversial man. He was a proud American of German descent from Baltimore, Maryland. His father was owner of the Mencken Cigar Company of Baltimore and old man Mencken's son was from adolescence on until his death (from cancer) a side-of-the-mouth cigar smoker and unlit cigar chewer. Mencken always had a cigar in his mouth. He always smelled thickly of cigar smoke and cigar-smoke-laced sweating. His first employment in fact was working in his father's cigar factory, which he left on his father's death to become a cub reporter on the Baltimore Sun newspapers. Mencken stayed with the Sun throughout his life, though he did move to New York City in the early 1920s where with George Jean Nathan he started a magazine called The Smart Set, a publication that became very popular among the US literary, music, and show biz crowds for his and Nathan's cracking sharp wit and especially his rather rude portrayals, criticisms, and reviews of the goings on of so-called Liberal Americans--Liberal Arts Americans.

Over the years, Mencken developed what he called his Creed. Here it is courtesy the Mencken page at www.io.com :

Mencken's Creed

I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind - that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.

I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.

I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty...

I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.

I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech...

I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.

I believe in the reality of progress.

I - But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave.
And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.

Now that's a Creed with which I can find no wrong. It fit me to a tee and I subconsciously adopted it as my own. As a result of this kind of thinking, I became a gulper of Mencken's writings.

Soon though I learned from the politically correct folks I hung with that Mencken, though a sharp wit, was also a Friend of the Nazis (he was of German descent, yes), he was a racist bigot, and he was a rabid anti-Semite, which also made him a Friend of Hitler in the eyes of many Americans at the height of his editorial influence.

Here is an example of his ironic wit. This is his assessment of living in the USA:

We live in a land of abounding quackeries, and if we do not learn how to laugh we succumb to the melancholy disease which afflicts the race of viewers-with-alarm... In no other country known to me is life as safe and agreeable, taking one day with another, as it is in These States. Even in a great Depression few if any starve, and even in a great war the number who suffer by it is vastly surpassed by the number who fatten on it and enjoy it. Thus my view of my country is predominantly tolerant and amiable. I do not believe in democracy, but I am perfectly willing to admit that it provides the only really amusing form of government ever endured by mankind.

from "The Mencken Page" at www.io.com

I love the fact that he backs up my own feelings by saying the only way to enjoy living in the US is by getting a good laugh out of it.

Gore Vidal addressed the many ironies involved in understanding what made Mencken Mencken in his introduction to Marion Elizabeth Rodgers' The Impossible H.L. Mencken:

... A babble of words that no one understands now fills the airwaves, and language loses all meaning as we sink slowly, mindlessly, into herstory rather than history because most rapists are men, aren't they?

Mencken is a nice antidote. Politically, he is often right but seldom correct by today's stern standards. In a cheery way, he dislikes most minorities and if he ever had a good word to say about the majority of his countrymen, I have yet to come across it. Recently, when his letters were published, it was discovered that He Did Not Like the Jews, and that he had said unpleasant things about them not only as individuals but In General, plainly the sign of a Hitler-Holocaust enthusiast. So shocked was everyone that even the New York Review of Books' unofficial de-anti-Semitiser, Garry Wills (he salvaged Dickens, barely), has yet to come to his aid with An Explanation. But in Mencken's private correspondence, he also snarls at black Americans, Orientals, Britons, women, and WASPs, particularly the clay-eating Appalachians, whom he regarded as subhuman. But private irritability is of no consequence when compared to what really matters, public action.

Far from being an anti-Semite, Mencken was one of the first journalists to denounce the persecution of the Jews in Germany at a time when the New York Times, say, was notoriously reticent. On November 27, 1938, Mencken writes (Baltimore Sun), "It is to be hoped that the poor Jews now being robbed and mauled in Germany will not take too seriously the plans of various politicians to rescue them." He then reviews the various schemes to "rescue" the Jews from the Nazis, who had not yet announced their own final solution.

I came to find Mencken on a parallel line with me in terms of thinking. He's as typically American to me as is Mark Twain, a fellow American also accused of being pro-Confederate and as such a racist and of also being an anti-Semite.

And as to the current goings-on and shenanigans in the District of Corruption, yes, they are ruining us, but oh how hilarious they are in their juvenile efforts to be BIG MEN! I'm laughing my ass off at this nation's falling...and it is falling--deeper into debt; deeper into WARS; deeper into depriving people of their rights; deeper into dumbness; deeper into devastating corners we may never find our way out of...aren't you laughing your ass off by now? You'd better be. Or you'll see it for real and then you'll say as Molly on the old "Fibber McGee and Molly" radio sit-com of the 30s, 40s, and 50s used to say to one of Fibber's bad jokes, "T'ain't funny, McGee."

for The Daily Growler

Molly and Fibber McGee (Jim and Marian Jordan)